Saturday, January 31, 2009

Review: Frost/Nixon

I was slightly dreading Frost/Nixon as I knew it was very heavy on dialogue and heavy on politics.  Ron Howard manages to pace the film well throughout and builds the tension for the interview portion of the movie.  The interview between David Frost and Richard Nixon plays out like a four-round heavyweight fight.  Instead of jabs, hooks and crosses, the two key combatants trade barbs, interjections and long-winded answers.  Howard goes a good job in hyping the interview and peaking out interest.  Both leads, Michael Sheen (Frost) and Frank Langella (Nixon) do a quality job with delivering their scenes effectively.  Langella probably gives his best performance since he played Skeletor in He-Man.

Overall the movie kept my interest throughout but the film seems to tail off after the final interview session and I found myself not being fully satisfied with the result.  Thus-far this is definitely the worst of the Best Picture nominees I have seen (still need to see Milk and The Reader).  I'm not sure how/why the Academy decided to nominate this over The Dark Knight or Wall-E, but I do give some kudos to Howard on this one.  He managed to make a movie about the production and execution of an interview into a gripping drama.  3.5 JRs on this one (check my slick new rating scale images above).

Friday, January 30, 2009

Get on Your Huh?

U2 is one of my favorite bands of all time (along with Pearl Jam, Coldplay, Smashing Pumpkins, etc...). I've been eagerly anticipating their new album No Line on the Horizon (due out on March 3rd). The first single from said album is out now and titled Get On Your Boots. Take a listen to it below. I have to say I'm a little dissapointed. Sure the riff is pretty good, but the chorus sucks and they lyrics are kinda sub par for U2's standards. Hopefully the album will be better.  I hate the title of this single.

Wii Punch Out

Those of you who were Nintendo kids like my brother and I, grew up playing games like Super Mario Bros, Metroid, Zelda and the like. One of the highlights in the sports category of old-school NES games was Mike Tyson's Punch Out. The sole goal of the game was to fight your way up the ranks (as a scrappy boxer named Little Mac) until you battled Iron Mike himself (this was before he decided that ears were delicious). The gameplay was simple but each opponent had his own weakness you had to exploit to beat the game.

Like most everything in entertainment and media nowadays, Punch Out is getting a reboot; this time on the Wii. Nintendo recently announced that Wii Punch Out will be released in the first half of 2009 and will most likely used the nunchuk/wii remote combo of punching seen in Wii Sports. This will be a must-buy for me since it is a game I grew up with (as Mario Kart was). The gameplay footage looks pretty sweet (see below).

Really Weird Dream

I'm assuming I probably have some sort of dream every night. Most of my dreams vanish as I wake up and I completely forget what they were about. Last night I had a very strange one and remember it vividly.

I was on a vacation with Lori and the kids somewhere in Florida. For some reason the Olympics were being held nearby and I wanted to go. I bought a single ticket for myself (not sure why) and the next thing I know I'm in a small indoor arena. Apparently the sport is indoor rugby (wtf?) and I look at my program and notice that the defending champion is the University of Pittsburgh (I told you this was weird).

The game is about to start (I think Pittsburgh was playing another school... IN THE OLYMPICS) and the punk next to me (a tattooed rocker guy) starts taking a video of his girlfriend while leaning over into my lap basically to shoot the video. He is pushing me out of the way and I get mad at him (his girlfriend tells him to stop too). He ends up shoving me, I get up push him down and start to punch him several times in the face until he is crying and bleeding on the floor next to the seat. I tell his girlfriend I'm sorry but she says "he deserves it". I decide at that point that I don't care about the game and leave the arena and drive back home. On the way home on the radio I hear a report about the guy I beat up and that he's the bass guitarist for Def Leppard (in my dream he seemed to look more like someone from Good Charlotte).

Lori and the kids are eating dinner at home, watching the Olympics on TV and are surprised to see me come in the door. For some random reason (as if any of this is NOT random), my brother Nate and my friend Rob Whitney are at the house with Lori and the kids. Nate is in the process of scolding me and telling me that I should not have paid $30 for the Olympic ticket and should have just written a letter to NBC asking for a free ticket. In the process of listening to Nate's rant I wake up, thankfully before this got any stranger. I'm not sure what it all means, but I hope I don't have that dream again.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Things That Just Shouldn't Cost THAT Much

We need a new tire for our Toyota Highlander (thanks to a rogue nail) and in looking around at tire stores, the price of a SINGLE tire runs about $130 these days. If you're looking at replacing all four tires get ready to spend about six-hundo to do so. It just doesn't seem that rubber circles should cost that much. Here are a list of other products that amaze me with their price tags:

  • Printer Cartridges (they run out of ink in a month or so but cost about $30 each)
  • Vintage Wine (is a $200 bottle REALLY that much better than a $20 bottle?)
  • Diapers
  • Concert Tickets (although this is making more and more sense with dwindling album sales)
  • UFC Pay-Per-Views ($50 for 6 short fights? Really?)
and of course, the big one for guys

  • Diamonds (there's no way of getting around this one though)

Any other ones I missed?

The Rise of Kevin Durant

In the NBA this season there are 5 marquee players who are clearly the top stars in the league. Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul and Dwight Howard are at the top of their game and are all being mentioned in the MVP race. Another young superstar is knocking at the door of the top 5 and is probably the best scorer right now in basketball. The problem for Kevin Durant is that he plays for the Oklahoma City Thunder, a team that has the 2nd worst record in the league (behind my dynamite Washington Wizards). Durant is a local kid out of the Baltimore area that spent one year at the University of Texas and was drafted #2 overall in the 2007 NBA Draft.

Durant is an interesting specimen. 6'9'', 215 pounds and skinny as a twig, but the guy can shoot the rock from anywhere on the court. When you watch him play it looks at times as if he might snap in half if a stronger player runs him over, but he has proved his durability and proficiency for scoring as he's dominated games of late (including a career-high 46-point game last week). Over the last month he's averaging 28 points per game putting him in the same company as King James and Wade. He's doing all of this on a god-awful team in a Midwest market that gets no national coverage. I'm betting that if he continues to improve his scoring, rebounding and defense over the next few years that we could be talking about Durant as one of the top stars in the NBA and start making comparisons of Portland's selection of Greg Oden as #1 in 2007 to the mistake they made in drafting Sam Bowie over Michael Jordan in the 1984 draft. It seems that NBA GMs disrespect Baltimore high school basketball talent as my man Carmelo Anthony was passed up in the 2003 draft for Darko Milicic as well.

True story: I was heading home from Seattle last May on business and noticed a very tall skinny guy standing in front of me waiting to board the plane. When he turned around I realized it was Durant. It's not too often I run into people taller than me. He was of course sitting in first class and when I passed him I congratulated him on being selected Rookie of the Year. He said "Thanks man." At least I didn't tell him he was on my fantasy team as I did with Allen Iverson at Union Station a few years ago as we road the escalator together.

UPDATE:  The All-Star rosters were named today and Durant did not make the West team even though he is having, in my opinion, a better season than David West or Shaq (both made the team).

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Meet Your New Amazing Racers


The 14th (GASP!) season of the best reality show on TV, The Amazing Race, kicks off next month. CBS has posted bios on all 11 race teams including a team featuring the first ever deaf contestant. We have the usual standard cookie-cutter teams like the cheerleaders, the old people, the sistahs and of course the token Asian team. Another team is comprised of two middle-aged men under 5 feet in height. I would reveal my favorite but I will probably be participating in a pool for this season so I will not give my competition an edge.

Here's an interview clip from the best looking racers on the show (Miami Dolphin Cheerleaders Cara and Jaime):

V - The Return?

For those of us who grew up in the '80s with popular TV fare like the Cosby Show and Family Ties, the V miniseries was a break from the norm. Looking back at it now, I'm not sure why my parents let an 8-year-old watch a show about gerbil-eating lizard people from outer space. Thanks Mom and Dad! I loved the series and it actually ended up paving the way for movies like Independence Day and Speilberg's War of the Worlds which featured the iconic mothership-hovering-over-city scenes. It became a cult phenomenon that was one of the original "water-cooler" dramas.

The Hollywood Reporter announced yesterday that V is coming back via ABC as a new series. Apparently a lot of the original cast members are interested in returning in some sort of supporting role. I can't wait! I hope ABC doesn't drop the ball with this alien series as they did with Invasion. Any other closet V fans out there?

For those of you who didn't see the show back in the day or forgot how kick-ass it was, here's a classic clip of the resistance in action:


And here's another clip of THE SCENE that made the series. It looks so terribly fake now, but when you're 8 and motion capture hasn't been invented yet, it works.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

200th Kill for Jack Bauer

As the 7th season of Fox's 24 gets rolling (pretty drastic show of force by Dubaku last night), I wanted to make sure 24 fans are aware of the official kill tally for Jack Bauer. Last night's monumental 200th kill spans over 6+ days of ass-kicking. These stats can be found at www.bauercount.com, an online database that catalogs everything you could ever want to know about Jack's kills. The site chronicles kills from all seasons as well as the Redemption mini-movie from last year. The name of the deceased, the weapon used and the episode in which the kill takes place are all logged. I especially enjoy the images posted that depict the exact moment of each kill.

So far, season 7 is a little light on BauerViolence. I'm pretty sure Tony Almeda is beating him right now in the kill department (just checked and yep, almedacount.com is available). The previews for next week looks pretty intense through, so hopefully Jack can get his stats back up. After all, he's RUNNING... OUT... OF... TIME!!!

Let it Snow!


Today in the DC area we're seeing our first REAL snowfall since LAST winter (I know Puneet must be happy). I hear reports of 1-2 inches today with an additional 2-4 inches of snow and then ice tonight. I may need to figure out a way to work from home tomorrow (which will be hard since my current client requires me to be on-site). The picture above is from the parking lot adjacent to my building.

Interestingly, the main roads (beltway) were fine this morning and just a little wet. The Franconia-Springfield Parkway was a mess though and I got stuck going up a hill behind a Mitsubishi Montero SUV. Now I drive a little Honda Civic Hybrid and I only have front-wheel drive. The Montero is sliding all over the road going up this hill while I follow behind, stopping at times and never getting stuck once. I'm not sure if this was a driver error or if the Montero could possibly be equipped with just real-wheel drive. If only the snowfall could be accompanied by sensible snow drivers.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Review: The Wrestler

Daron Aronofsky's The Wrestler is a raw look at the world of professional wrestling that brings a similar gravity to the subject matter as Rocky did for professional boxing. The movie chronicles the struggles of Randy "The Ram" Robinson as he tries to hang on to the sport he's been immersed in for the past 20 years. Mickey Rourke (who has had a career path that almost mirrors the character he is playing) gives a very real and authentic performance in the lead role as Randy. We see the snot beat out of him time and time again as he clings to the sport he loves while trying to make ends meet financially. He deals with troubles out of the ring with his estranged daughter (played by Evan Rachel Wood) and a stripper/mother (played by an often-topless Marissa Tomei) who befriends him. Throughout the movie, Rourke really embodies the role of the everyman who does what he can to make ends meet. This is a role of a lifetime for Rourke and it's either him or Sean Penn (from what I hear) who will be taking home Oscar in February. In fact, I change my previous pick of who I WANT to win Best Actor from Richard Jenkins to Rourke. He hit this one out of the park.

The highlight of this movie for me was the portrayal of the wrestling industry. People don't realize that while professional wrestlers put on an act to "stage" their fights and feign aggression and animosity towards each other in the ring, they also share a deep camaraderie backstage that the audience never witnesses. The wrestling business is like one large fraternity where even the most hated rivals in the ring can go out and celebrate a quality match at a local bar later that night. Since everything is scripted, the wrestlers need to know each others' tendencies and ring move preferences to properly pull off a perfectly choreographed match. Aronofsky lets the audience enter this backstage world of wrestling and understand everything that goes into promoting and executing a match. The depiction of the fandom associated with wrestling is also very well done. In one particular scene during a hardcore match, "The Ram" is offered to beat his opponent with a prosthetic leg from a wheelchair-bound fan. The crowd chants "USE HIS LEG, USE HIS LEG!!!" in a typical wrestling-style chant. Pretty funny and actually something that a mob of wrestling fans would do. I know this because I've been to a few WWE shows.

I particularly like the way Aronofsky shoots Rourke in most of the scenes from a camera angle positioned directly behind the actor. We see him walking to a bar, walking to his side job at the grocery store, walking out of the hospital all from the same back-of-the-head angle that we initially see when "The Ram" is making his entrance into the ring at the start of the film. This visual conveys the fact that while Randy attempts to get away from the sport and try to fit in with "the real world", he we always be viewed as a wrestler.

Overall I give this one 4 out of 5 "JRs" and the main distraction for me was the character portrayed by Tomei. I don't think enough time was spent building their relationship and as a result, the end scene did not pay off for me emotionally. How Tomei got an Oscar nomination for this role is beyond me unless the Academy is awarding her for being in amazing shape for a 44-year-old). Rourke drives the film though and it is worth seeing for his performance alone.

The Jordan Blog

Good morning readers. I decided to follow the suggestion of my online poll and launch www.thejordanblog.com. Please bookmark this new URL (the existing blogspot.com URL will still forward to the new domain). My idea for this .com domain comes from the famous book written by the other famous Jordan.

I'm also in the process of formalizing my movie reviews. Down the line I plan on segmenting my movie review posts from my normal everyday random pieces. I enjoy watching and reviewing movies but would like to keep these posts semi-separate from my normal posts. I haven't decided on the best way to do this yet but when I do, you'll see a change on the front page of thejordanblog.com.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Birthday Girl

Last night Lori and I went out to celebrate her birthday (which is today actually). I will not divulge her age as I'm not sure if she wants me to, but to me she doesn't look a day over 25. She was looking radiant last night in a new white winter coat (you can see pictures here and here if you are one of my Facebook friends). With the boys being watched by Nonna and Pop-Pop (Lori's parents are in town), we had planned on heading out to Ray's the Steaks, a popular steakhouse on Wilson Blvd in Arlington. Unfortunately, Ray and his minions do not take reservations. When we arrived at 6:15 we were told that we could have a table by 9:30!!?!? Well that put an end to that idea so we headed a bit West on Wilson and ate at The Boulevard Woodgrill. We had eaten here before at a client event thrown by our financial advisor.

The food was good and we both enjoyed the Balsamic Beef Bruchetta appetizer. I had a tasty Pork Tenderloin and Lori got her steak fix with a Gorgonzola Fillet. I enjoyed a glass of Tommyknocker Butthead (yes this is the actual name of a beer). For desert I had a pretty standard Peanut Butter Pie while Lori almost passed out eating a delicious dish titled Chocolate Coma. All in all, the dinner was pleasantly appetizing and the Woodgrill filled in nicely as a backup venue.

After dinner, we headed further West over to Ballston Mall to take in Doubt at the movie theatre.  Unfortunately none of the big three I need to see (Milk, Frost/Nixon, The Reader) were playing at a reasonable time.  Why do movie theatres never stagger their starting times?  You can either see a movie at 7:30 or 10:30.  Movies rarely play in the 9:00 time frame.  Fortunately Doubt was playing at 9:10 at Ballston so we targeted that one considering all four main actors are nominated for Oscars.  I have been and always will be a Meryl Streep hater.  She just bugs me as an actress and I can't stand her (along with Glenn Close and Sally Field).  In Doubt, however, I enjoyed Streep's performance immensely.  She plays a tough-as-nails nun in a 1960's Catholic school and manages to come off as stern and hilarious at times.  The other three performances (Seymour Hoffman, Viola Davis and Amy Adams) were extremely well done and each is well deserving of their nomination, but Streep powers this film and I would certainly be OK with the Academy giving her another Oscar this year.  The plot of the film keeps you guessing throughout as to whether one of the central characters did or did not commit a despicable act.  I would recommend this to people who enjoy quality acting performances.  The story is adequate but the showcase of the film is the actor and three actresses that power the narrative along.  I don't normally get into movies set in the '60s that involve religious themes, but the quality acting kept me awake and engrossed throughout.  My rating for Doubt would be a 4 out of 5 and puts it solidly in my top 20 movies of 2008.  

An extended trailer for The Wrestler played before the movie and only made me want to see it even more.  I hope to see if over the next week and will have my review up on the blog soon.