Coffee Bean Wifi = LAME (RippleTV shows its rookie stripes)

I love my Coffee Bean. And one of the many things I loved about Coffee Bean was that it had nice super reliable and super fast wifi — which I can use because I have AT&T DSL at home and work (of which I’m not a big fan — wifi great, dsl not so great).

But I am writing this blog at Starbucks. Yeah, can you believe it?

Coffee Bean, probably being roped in by whatever slick-in-law-ex-dot-commer dumbass from RippleTV (the people who run the TV ads at Coffee Bean), decides to switch to them as their Wifi provider. I think RippleTV in turn, contract out with another company called Sputnik to do their work.

The whole idea is that the new improved WiFi is supposed to be FREE. You get the access code for your free Wifi by looking at the RippleTV — thereby actually looking at the RippleTV flatscreen rather than ignoring it like you would normally.

So get this — Coffee Bean doesn’t allow former AT&T Wireless users to login, but they won’t let people use their “free” Wifi for another week. BLEH.

It’s minor, it’s not a big deal, but it is annoying — considering that Starbucks performed their transfer from T-mobile Hot Spot to AT&T WiFi pretty seamlessly. And AT&T usually screws everything up (yeah, they’re the number #1 reason why I will NEVER EVER get an iPhone).

So it just goes to show you that things change all the time. I’m praising Starbucks, sitting here at the Starbucks and actually talking trash about my beloved Coffee Bean . . .

WALL-E for Best Picture or Disney you’re soooo screwed . . .

Saw Wall-E this past weekend. GREAT movie. Yes, this is another over the top enthusiastic endorsement of the Wall-E movie, despite it being a product of the Diseny juggernaut. And yes, it’s a cartoon. A story is a story, especially if it’s well told.

I’m not inclined towards animated features (for kids) and I don’t worship the Pixar brand.

HOWEVER, with Wall-E, they really outdid themselves.

I mean, really, the story is about robots and you care that it’s about these robots. When did we ever care about ROBOTS?

TV/The Movies/Books (esp. sci-fi) have raised me to be prejudiced and bigoted towards Robots:

They are our servants, they are our enemies, they must be crushed, they are jealous of our status, etecetera.

1. Terminator Series: Beware of robot masquerading as a big ass buffed out human — he’ll kill you. Beware of robot masquerading as a skinny ass LAPD officer — he’ll kill you. Beware of robot masquerading as a hot chick — she’ll kill you.

2. I, Robot: Robots needs rules (three really), because without them, they’ll kill us.

3. The Matrix series: Computers will rule the world and use robots to farm us of static electricity. And kill us.

4. Blade Runner: They wanna be us. And kill us.

5. Battlestar Galactica: Robots are better than us. Hotter than us. Holier than us. And they want to kill us.

6. Transformers: Decepticons are bad robots. They want to kill us. Autobots? Whatever, if there were no robots, no Decepticons, no Autobots, no problems.

7. Star Wars Ep.1, The Phantom Menace: Robot armies lead to Clone Armies, which lead to the Empire becoming taken over by a Sith Lord.

Etcetera.

Robots = Bad.

The protagonists of WALL-E are robots and they aren’t particularly warm looking. They look like this:

Together

And yet we really care about them. They are imbued with such humanity that they become better versions of ourselves. How subversive is that?

And there’s the oft discussed lack of dialogue in the first half of the movie. Brilliant. BRILLIANT. Coming from a guy who was a fan of the rapid-fire-way-too-erudite-bombastic dialogue trend of recent times (really, I think started by Dawson’s Creek (Season 1 only please)). Was.

Best Picture Contender. But this movie was way too ahead of its time for the popularity machine that is the Academy to understand (I’m still bitter about how City of God was treated by the Academy). There’s no way the Academy will ever treat animation as a serious form of film — it may put them out of a job. Just like you would never vote for the talkies if you were a silent movie star. Plus, they’re idiots.

And the social commentary . . . I love how a giant invisible finger was pointing at the audience saying you are the antagonist and this is all your fault and it was still a great movie. Nothing destroys a great movie like putting in a guilt laden lecture in the middle of it. The rightwingers hate lectures because it’s everything they hate about the sanctimonious left and the leftwingers hate it because really, do you think choir members really enjoy being preached to? But here it’s done well.

And to clarify the above title about how Disney is screwed — really they are — after this movie, there are rumors that the bulk of the creative team at Pixar (whom Disney owns) that brought us Toy Story I & II, The Incredibles, Finding Nemo are leaving. Disney will probably be able to make a few megabucks off of the next two or three Pixar “branded” movies and merchandise the crap of them, but seriously, they’ll slowly kill off genre off like they did with their 2D animation movies.

Seriously.

But for now, enjoy the darling buds of May and watch Wall-E.

Why They Should Do A Remake of “To Catch a Thief”

Alfred Hitchcock’s “To Catch a Thief” is one of my favorite movies of all time. It had that classic vibrant color print (VistaVision baby!), the awesome locale (the classic French Riveria, before the high rises), humor, romance, and of course, the dramatic thirller elements. At the risk of sounding like the curmudgeon that I am, they don’t make them like they used to.

Yeah, as noted before, the movie is right up there with “Good Will Hunting” and “Karate Kid Part II” as my favorite movies — Some people try to impress you with their favorites — clearly that’s not the case with me — I speak the truth.

But back to “To Catch a Thief” — it should be remade. Yeah, yeah yeah yeah, I know, the original is really cool, there was the whole Psycho remake fiasco. If it ain’t broke, why fix it, right? I’m not suggesting that one do a shot for shot remake, but rather a redoing and an update. The only way a new generation of moviegoers are going to be exposed to this very different side of Hitchcock is if they remake To Catch A Thief. I know I sound like a Hollywood suit, but something in me would to see another version of this set in the here and now and I think I would enjoy it.

Hollywood has gone through a recent mini-rash of redoing/ripping off Hitchcock. Disturbia is Rear Window. Flightplan with Jodie Foster is a remake of The Lady Vanishes. Both Hitchock remakes were slickly produced by a creatively depleted Hollywood machine. Now there is talk of remaking the Birds. And there are so many others that have redone Hitchcock. So why not with this film?

So bear with me in my little fantasy about how I would remake To Catch a Thief.

George Clooney = Cary Grant

Obvious. The older man good looks and the self-deprecating humor, along with the smirk. Basically he plays the same character that he did in Ocean’s 11, Ocean’s 12, and of course, Ocean’s 13 (they really should have called the last one, Ocean’s Baker’s Dozen). He’s made his mark with Michael Clayton (a great ‘lawyer’ film, right up there with My Cousin Vinny and A Few Good Men — seriously), so he can go back to making light movies where he plays a charismatic scallawag. Perfect as John Robie. If that’s not the new coming of Cary Grant, I dunno what is.

The young French girl, Danielle, played by Brigitte Auber, needs a remake as well. In the movie, I found her character annoying (or maybe it was just because she was overshadowed by Grace Kelly). If one keeps the setting in the south of France (which is one of the reasons the movie worked so well), then the actress playing her has to be French. I’m not in any shape or form up on my French cinema — I only know Sophie Marceau (good non-native English speaking actresses from overseas should never agree to act here in the states in English — it kills their career, and I mean you Gong Li and Aishwarya Rai).

But I think an actress from Mr. Bean’s Holiday (yeah, I watch Mr. Bean) might fit the bill, Emma de Caunes (on the left):

Not a great picture of Brigette Auber (on the right), but if you’ve seen both movies (I’m not recommending anyone go out and watch Mr. Bean’s Holiday, unless you’re on a 12 hour transpacific flight, like I was), you’ll see that both actors can play the “spunky” ingenue Danielle.

But the big question is: Who would play Grace Kelly’s character, Francie?

I dunno. Someone beautiful but classy. Hard to do . . .

This would be the most difficult part of my purely academic excercise.

Hard to find that rare combination of beauty, poise and presence these days. Yes, I do realize that I’m on the verge of heroine worship here. There are great actresses in our era and it’s really unfair to compare them to someone from a different era (you know, Michael Jordan v. Lew Alcindor, Rocky Balboa v. Mike Tyson, Jackie Chan v. Bruce Lee, etcetera). It becomes more unfair when you realize Grace Kelly actually became a PRINCESS. That kinda takes the cake.

I have to actually think about it. (Natalie Portman? Charlize Theron? Rachel McAdams? Anne Hathaway?)

As a matter of fact, I think I have to get back to you on this one.

I Think My Wife Is Trying to Kill Me . . .

I think my wife is trying to kill me. . .

HA HA HA. Just kidding. I love you baby!

Michelle reads my blog and so I thought I would write this post just to get her attention. No, my wife is not trying to kill me. I thought I would be a swinging single bachelor hooking up with crazy women with self-esteem/drug/family/money/psychotic issues until I hit that strange demographic of the older single never been married live with my mother pedophile stage. Until I met Michelle. I knew she was everything I ever wanted in a soulmate (Yeah, I hate it when other people gush about their relationships, so my apologies, this is rather disgusting . . .). But of course, because she was so perfect, she ignored me the first time we met and continued to ignore me afterwards (and it wasn’t because I wasn’t trying . . .). But that’s a story for another post . . .

In a former life, I was a criminal defense attorney and I now watch my share of news shows. So, I’ve gleaned these lessons if you ever want to get away with killing a spouse (because the same things happen over and over again):

HOW NOT TO KILL YOUR SPOUSE

1) NEVER EVER TAKE OUT AN INSURANCE POLICY ON YOUR SPOUSE

It seems everyone thinks they’re being slick by taking out life insurance policy THREE months before the “accident” or whatever tragedy that they’re actively premeditating. If you want to make an easy 100K by killing your spouse via a life insurance policy, seriously, dude, look elsewhere. There are better ways of doing it. Get a better job. Kill a mid-level drug dealer. Become a prostitute. The life insurance angle always creates suspicion. Especially if you max it.  This is an old old story and the cops know it and so does the jury (please see Double Indemnity).  High life insurance policy = motive.

2) NEVER EVER GIVE OUT A MEDIA INTERVIEW

Guilty people, especially those that think they are smart enough to fool everyone. And usually these smug bastards are never as smart as they think they are. Kind of like that obnoxious guy at work who likes to correct everyone. That obnoxious guy is an idiot. Providing un-retractable statements to the media leads only to your demise. Cuz you’re not as smart as you think you are.

3) NEVER HIRE A MEDIA ATTORNEY

And what I mean by “media” attorney, is someone who is more interested in his or her own profile than in your case. Enough said.

Although the one guy who’s in the press a lot is Tom Mesereau, of Michael Jackson fame. Despite his proclivity towards double breasted suits, I’ve seen him in action and he’s good. But I don’t think he seeks publicity in the way some other attorneys do. I think he still cares about his craft.

4) NEVER HIRE SOMEONE ELSE TO DO IT

Because, as we all know, good help is hard to find.

Accents in Movies or Why Jude Law Sucks Ass

The whole idea of acting is to be a part of the great conspiracy to suspend the disbelief of the viewer. So, when one can’t act, it chips away at whatever illusion is being created. Sometimes even destroys it.

Picture me, watching the movie, Cold Mountain, starring Nicole Kidman, Rene Zellwegger, Jude Law, and directed by Anthony Minghella. Yes, by myself and on my own volition. No excuses. It was an epicene thing to do, but I did it anyways. Because that’s how I roll.

It was a good movie. It had a dreamy literary romantic feel to it. I enjoyed it. But you have to be in the mood for a slow emotionally ridden movie. After an exhausting two week trial is a good place to start. It’s even better when it’s like 2 in the morning and there’s nothing on television (and I’m including cable) and you messed up your netflix mailing system so now all of your movies are in transit somewhere. And it’s raining.

So I was enjoying this Civil War-era epic/romance, until, of course, that idiot, Jude Law, who plays a Confederate soldier returning from the war (read: southerner), completely ruins a scene and in a way, the movie. Now it was a stretch in the first place to think of Jude Law as a southerner, because I didn’t hear anything remotely southern coming out of him (I grew up in Kentucky, kinda close to North Carolina, but not really, but enough to know). He kept a neutral accent for the most part during the movie. (I mean I suppose if you had Vivien Leigh play Scarlett O’Hara, anything is possible).

The part of the movie where he confronts Union soldiers at Natalie Portman’s (and I mean her character’s) place, he yells out, [I’m paraphrasing here], “GET OUT OF HE-AH!!” IN A FULL BRITISH ACCENT. He might have had added the phrase, “by order of the his majesty, the KING!!!”

[Editor’s Note:  Michelle told me that my paraphrase of the phrase in question as incorrect.  So I watched the relevant scene again — and she is correct.  Jude Law’s character declares (still in a BRITISH ACCENT), “MOVE AH-WAY FROM THE BAH-BEE!!”  And he continues to break accent afterwards.  I stand corrected insofar as my quotation is concerned, but I am still correct in my assertion that Jude Law is an actor without much range, in terms of accents and acting in general.]

I will hold onto irrational things and use it to wage a war of unrequited hate against a person — especially actors. And that’s why I think Jude Law sucks ass. Great acting Jude. Note sarcasm.

Granted, maybe the director should have caught it, but Anthony Minghella’s British, so it probably sounded fine to him. Charles Frazier is silently stabbing his fountain pen into a little Jude Law doll.

So, if he can’t keep an accent, then who can?

1. Gwyneth Paltrow is by far the BEST example of an American actress who has an impeccable British accent. It’s awesome. AWESOME. You just have to watch Sliding Doors to really understand how she has it down. Good movie. In addition, you can see Emma and a movie called Shakespeare in Love (which won for best picture the same year Saving Private Ryan came out and I thought was a missed call by the Academy, but upon having watched it a few times, I can see why Shakespeare in Love really appealed to those appreciate great writing as oppposed to the most pyrotechnic opening sequence in a movie to date).

2. Angelina Jolie. Pretty good. Tomb Raider. She’s also hot (which is why she’s up here at #2). I’m a big fan. Her British accent is pretty good (it broke only once in the sequel to Tomb Raider). But I don’t think it’s been tested in the way Paltrow was tested with three heavy British scripts with lots of dialogue.

3. Kate Winslet. She’s just an all around great actress. Her work speaks for itself. And of course, I mean her American accent (The Titanic, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). And her Australian accent (Holy Smoke!). And her Kiwi accent, Heavenly Creatures (although if I remember correctly, Kate’s character’s family was British, but there was enough of the New Zealander in there to convince me — not that I’m an expert).

4. Cate Blanchett. Her Natasha-from-Rocky-and-Bullwinkle-esque act from the latest Indiana Jones movie notwithstanding, she can apparently do any accent. Queen’s British, American, Katherine Hepburn’s English, etcetera. I didn’t know for years that she was AUSTRALIAN. Wow.

5. Nicole Kidman. Her performance in the above, Cold Mountain, as a southerner was passable (but being next to Jude Law made her seem AWESOME). But generally speaking, I first noticed her in To Die For, where she plays a cunning mid-western weather girl — sounded utterly American.

6. Kenneth Branagh, Mr. ex-Royal Shakespeare Company has a damn good American accent. I won’t tell you to watch Wild, Wild, West, but rather, Dead Again. Great movie (and in happier times with Emma Thompson). We can’t expect Jude Law to be like Kenneth Branagh, but I sure he tried.

And as a side note, everyone’s Korean accent on the TV show “Lost” is utterly horrible, except for the actress who plays Sun. She is played by Yunjin Kim and she apparently had a career here in the States before going back to Korea to do TV and a movie (Shiri, which put her on the map). So, one can expect her Korean accent to be pretty authentic. But she plays someone who speaks semi-broken-English with a Korean accent, and it doesn’t sound like some ridiculous Margaret Cho monlogue. And since her English is pretty flawless (outside of the TV show), that’s a pretty good acting job.

The whole point is that this thing about accents is that it’s really important if you can tell the difference. The majority of English speakers here in the US can’t tell how well or not well Korean is being spoken. A lot of American English speakers can’t tell the difference between an Australian accent, Queen’s English, Cockney, or a Kiwi one. But sometimes, when you can tell or think you can tell, the inability of certain people to covince you of the authenticity of what they’re delivering, is incredibly annoying.

And that means you Jude Law . . .

How to Make a Crappy Independent Film

I go to film festivals from time to time. It helps that I live in LA and there seems to be a plethora of them for every demographic and geographic subsection that is Los Angeles.

I go because when I see a “gem” of a film, I brag to everyone that I saw it before them. Plus, it’s good to support the up and coming artists who will eventually lay siege to the Hollywood establishment.

And there’s all the bad films that one must endure during a film festival circuit.

I just went to one, not too long ago, to see a friend make his debut as an actor (kinda cool — he has a bright future ahead of him).

As I was watching all of these films, I realized that there are certain commonalities that deem an independent film as a bad one. Kinda how like some people say that you can tell that someone you date is a bad because of things you notice in the first five minutes (nervous tics, mention of his appearance on To Catch a Predator (30 Rock and intertexuality babeeeee), etcetera).

To aspiring film makers, please do not put the following in your indepdendent film or it will be crappy:

1. Bad piano music as a soundtrack (composed by your friend).

2. Ugly people as your leads (and I don’t mean like plain, but just kinda repulsive ugly). No one cares about ugly people. That’s why we like to (go to) movies. Because it’s about beautiful people. However, your best best in an independent film is to go that je-ne-se-quai cute route.

3. Shocking sex premise (Sex, Lies, and Videotape was a one shot deal — no one cares in this day of ubiquitous internet porn and the infamous 2 Girls and 1 Cup video).

4. Ambiguous endings. It works for larger serialized works or fully developed features. On a smaller scale it makes it seem like you ran out of money and just copped out.

5. The girl/boy you wanna get down with as your lead. You avoid problem #2, because you avoid the unattractive actor problem, but invariably, acting prowess falls on the wayside. It’s very common to see very very attractice actors in the lead who can’t act for crap. Of course, you may have just cast that person, but most of us in the audience are wondering how much that guy/girl had to put out in order to get the part.

Saw Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Wow, Cate Blanchett is awesome, even when she is so obviously hamming it up. End of review.

Iron Man, of course . . .

I just saw Iron Man this past weekend.

Iron Man

The movie was pretty good. I’m not alone. Not that I need my opinion to be buttressed by others. I’ve been very much alone in my cinematic preferences — Karate Kid Part II was my favorite movie of ALL TIME until Good Will Hunting came along. Now KK Part Deux has been relegated to my SECOND FAVORITE MOVIE OF ALL TIME. I have no shame and I’m not recanting that assertion.

Now that I’ve confessed my love for Ralph Macchio and Tamlyn Tomita speaking broken English, my movie tastes are instantly suspect. You’re right. You should always go see a movie yourself to make your own decision. I’ve always been wary of super hero/comic book movies (except for The Superman movies and I’m only really including Superman I+II and Superman Returns).

Back to Iron Man. This was one was best of the lot thus far (except, again for the Superman movies, which I admit I have an irrational weakspot for). Yeah, even better than Batman Begins. Bite me fanboys.

I’ve never read an Iron Man comic nor did I anticipate the movie with any great anxiety or fanfare. I had heard from others who saw that it was good. So on a nice sunny Sunday afternoon, Michelle and I went to go watch it. Michelle thought the movie was excellent (and she does not share my taste in movies).

The box office returns for Iron Man indicates that it broke some record or the other for the first weekend. There’s a myriad of reasons why Iron Man did well, but for me it was Robert Downey’s performance in the first part of the movie.

Tony Stark, Downey’s character, undergoes a transformative moment and only because Downey himself sold it with his performance did it have complete credibility for me. Most times movies just gloss over the details and try to convince you that the protagonist has changed with constant flashbacks or loud music. But not here. He played it straight and with conviction. But more importantly, he didn’t overpower that moment by brooding for the rest of the movie — he constantly flashed his pre-transformative moment personality but forged ahead with his newfound mission with intensity.

The idea that his internal transformation propelled the exterior transformation with his super body gold-titanium alloy powered exoskeleton is truly a compelling one.

I’m not saying that it’s the ONLY reason why the movie good, but it was a crucial linchpin for me as I suspended my disbelief and enjoyed the movie. It’s always sooo much better when you are invested in the main character.  And too often in the past, comic book heroes substituted the costume change in the telephone booth/bat cave for real acting, but hopefully this heralds a change where they start to actually put grade A actors and actresses into these roles (sorry Ben Affleck).