Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Holiday Movie Preview Take 3!!!

Hot off the heels of the last exciting holiday movie previews, this is released! It looks so amazing, I'm (almost) not even annoyed anymore that they split it into two films! It's going to be epic, I tell you, EPIC! What a great Christmas season it's going to be for movies this year.

It's almost like the movie powers-that-be are giving us something exciting to make up for the lameness of this week's amazingly overrated movie release of you-know-what...

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Traditions & Toys: 2 Journeys

Journey 1: 

Last Saturday we had our traditional annual family Strawberry Days 5K.  It took some convincing to get all usual parties in attendance this year (and of course we missed Grandma, who couldn't make it down this year), and as it turns out, there was good reason.  The price had gone up since last year, and many other changes had taken place:

• The race is now sponsored by the Pleasant Grove Police Department and Fire Department, and as such is now called the Strawberry Days "Guns and Hoses" 5K.

• The price has gone up significantly, which you would think means better prizes and/or treats...

• Prizes included a certificate (not even a medal??) for the top three in each age group for their gender, and an inexplicable "finisher's coin."

• Treats included questionable water and Krispy Kremes.  I mean, everyone loves Krispy Kreme, but is that REALLY what you want after a serious race?

• The course has changed as well, and is no longer the nice, mostly downhill run we usually look forward to, but a there-and-back course through another part of town.  It's still a pretty nice, level course, but who wants to retrace their steps?

• And... NO STRAWBERRIES.  What's the deal??

Of course we still had a good time, but some things are just better left the way they are...
I amazingly placed first in my age group, and was promptly awarded with this... certificate... filled out by hand right there in front of me...  Classy.  (21:14 was the time on the finisher's card, but I maintain that the 20:56 on the timer as I crossed the line is more accurate.)
It was still fun.  I was glad to have a family run again, and it was good to have Amber back in the game (and Brady of course).  We probably won't go back next year.  We're thinking of writing a professional but adamant letter of complaint.  Guns and Hoses... More like Guns and Hosers...

Journey 2:

Then, after a very quick shower and an even quicker breakfast burrito (which almost cost me a broken finger), we were off to the theater...

For the last two weeks The Wife and I have been plowing through the Disney/Pixar catalog in anticipation of the release of their latest, Toy Story 3.  14 days, 11 Pixar films, 11 Pixar soundtracks, 20 Pixar shorts.  Quality.  It was quite a feat (just ask Julie), and at times I didn't think we would finish in time, but we finished Up on Friday night, in perfect time for our matinee plans the next morning.  I will say this about Pixar's films:  They are all excellent.  (The Incredibles is still my favorite.)  Pixar knows how to write characters and tell a story in a way that any studio could emulate, and their continued partnership with Disney is a stroke of genius.  The last two or three of their films, while impressive to me, had been the first that didn't blow me away.  Toy Story 3 brought them right back up.

What can I say about this movie?  First of all, I won't post any actual spoilers, so don't be afraid to read on if you haven't seen it.  I don't want to go on too long for fear that people will skim, or worse, skip over entirely!  I will try to be succint:  IT WAS BRILLIANT.  It was a perfect capstone to the Toy Story trilogy, and brings characters and relationships full-circle in a way only Pixar could.  A little darker, deeper, sadder and funnier than the first two, it kept me guessing from start to finish, and took the audience on an emotional roller-coaster that I don't think anyone expected.  The first two films had their moments of heartstring-tugging emotion, but nothing like in this installment.  It wasn't heavy-handed or cheesy (which you would think would be the case, as the characters are, well, toys), it felt real and relateable and true.  It resonated with me on a personal level, and is the first Pixar film to bring me to running tears (and more than once).  It's a film about growing up, making changes, letting go and then holding on.  I laughed heartily (Pixar's films have a really unique sense of humor about them) and I cried openly (this was more than a sigh and an "Oh, how sweet").  Based around the question of the fate of toys once their owner has grown up, I really wondered what would happen to our core characters when Andy went to college.  The entire voice cast is back, with minor exceptions (Jim Varney, having passed away, as Slinky Dog, has been perfectly recast, for example), including even the original voice of Andy, having grown the same amount of years as his character since the first film.  There's a slew of new and amusing characters, as well as a few new baddies, and some who really make you wonder on which side they'll end up.  Technically, it was excellent as well.  They have come a long way since the cringe-worthy designs and animation of the human characters in their first film.  Even the toy characters have more nuanced and believable animated performances.  We grew up with these characters, and they have a history and background that allows the audience to immediately care about them.  Bravo, Pixar.  Another home run. I loved it.  Go see it.

Oh yeah, and Ken+Barbie=TLA.

Also, I'm not the only one to have noticed a certain similarity between me and college-bound Andy...  The fashion sense, the hairstyle, (probably) even down to our first name, I thought I saw a lot of myself in his design...  Julie didn't really see it, but, well... you be the judge:

 I love how I used that "smoldering" bowling picture.  I tried to find a better one (I even have a shirt kind of like his), but it was the right angle and close to the right expression, not to mention lacking the beard and glasses and chubbiness.

P.S.  The "Day & Night" short that ran before the film was innovative and interesting, pretty much like no animation I've seen before, but it was kind of weird and turned sort of propagandistic at the end.  That was an unpleasant surprise.

Wii Bought a New Toy

Before I get to my highly-anticipated thoughts on Toy Story 3 etc., I should share this bit of exciting and ground-breaking news from a few weeks ago.  Sorry to those who may have been tricked by my sneaky facebook status update ("Drew Graham and The Wife are pleased to announce a new addition to the family.  It starts with W and ends with two Is," but you know how it is when you're newly-weds.  If people are going to keep asking us if we're having a baby, I'm going to have a little fun with it.), but here it is!

*cue 2001 theme*
The Wife has been wanting one for quite some time now, and since she provides a significant chunk of the income anyway, it's not like I could be like, "Um, NO."  This is a partnership, and anyway, sometimes it's fun to make relatively big/fun purchases together.  We found a great bundle deal online, and then began the waiting, but before too long, it finally arrived:
So excited!  Just to open the box!  Those who know me well know this is a HUGE step for me.  This is the first gaming system ever for which I've participated in the purchase.  Video games have just never been in my realm of interests, and as they simply were not a mainstay in my house growing up, I've just never cared much about them.  But after a little coaxing and convincing, I realized that if I were to invest in or care about any gaming system, it would certainly be the Wii.*  The games seem so much more active and interactive, and seem to be less time-consuming and addicting.  The growing feeling we had made a good decision was corroborated when we woke up the morning after first playing with sore muscles from good, wholesome activity (canoeing is really a workout).  As we only have a couple of games as yet, my favorite activities so far have been wakeboarding, swordplay, frisbee, archery, and of course table tennis and boxing.  I'm even improving a little when it comes to Mario Kart (if there's a ledge, I guarantee I'll fall off of it).  I've had a great time already making Miis (my cast of LOST character-based Miis is building up quite nicely, and Julie's original characters are ever amusing), and the free netflix instant streaming disc has already proven useful and convenient (and what great picture quality!).  We had a great time when Mom and Dad came over to try it out.  They are quite good at tennis, and take it really seriously.

Like I said, I think it was a good decision.  How could I ever have denied or refused this excitement?
She calls it Twii.

* I still think the spelling is kind of dumb, by the way, but I get it now, thanks to a little explanation from Julie. 

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Holiday Movie Preview Take 2

The Narnia news just keeps on coming--Hot on the heels of my last post, the trailer has been posted!!!  It was beautiful to see online, but it was even more incredible to see on the big screen playing in front of Toy Story 3 (Toy Story 3... OMG).

It looks perfect!  Everything exactly as it should!  I have every highest possible hope for this movie!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Holiday Movie Preview

Updates on two movies I'm really excited about seeing this Christmastime:

First, we went to see a movie a couple weeks ago and my eyes popped and my jaw dropped when I spied this little display:

I was so excited I had to take a picture of me at the helm.  This is pretty much the first official advertising product I've seen for this third installment in the Narnia series, and I was ever so thrilled.  For some inexplicable reason, Disney decided to give up their production of it last year, but another studio picked it up and luckily, it seems to be really consistent to the previous two.

Not long after, I found this online:

I must have missed seeing this official teaser poster when it was released a while ago.  I just love seeing things that tell me that this is definitely coming out.  Of course, it has to come out in the ubiquitous 3D, but I'm just glad it's Narnia.

Second, here's the first decent trailer for Disney's Tangled.

I'm a little tentative when I see this...  I think this trailer might focus more on the male lead though, so maybe when I see one that's a little more about Rapunzel herself I'll be more on board.  I don't know why Disney princesses need to be sassy and hardcore anymore (or why their hair needs to be sentient and prehensile...), but I reserve my judgment because it looks pretty, and the 3D isn't as off-putting as it has been in previous human-cast animated films.

Still, I'm so excited to see it, I had to take this picture on our recent trip to Disneyland:

It's good because it seems like it's been quite a while since I've been really excited about seeing a movie in the theater.  Plus, it'll be winter by then!

Thursday, June 10, 2010


So, at the risk of doing three posts in a row related to LOST, the time has come for my farewell to the greatest show in TV history.

Ever since I watched my first episode ever, and I went in one hour from hating to pitying and empathizing with Saywer, I knew this was something special.  I've been gushing about this show for years of course, and we all knew the end had to come at some point (in many ways it's a good thing it did--some things are better with a definite ending, and one that didn't take TOO long to reach).  A lot of people were worried that it would end unsatisfactorily, and wouldn't address most of the big questions it presented.  After watching (and subsequently rewatching) the amazing two-and-a-half hour finale, I am absolutely and completely satisfied.  There may be a few trivial questions that weren't answered directly, but I think if people really think about it and recall some of the implications of previous seasons, we can infer the answers.  A lot of people were confused or annoyed by the finale because they didn't, you know, explain where the food drop came from or what happened to Walt, but those people completely missed the point, which is actually kind of sad.  Some people even gave up on it, but you know, this is a pretty smart show and actually required more than the usual amount of thought and dedication required by TV.  If you're more of the Gilmore Girls or CSI set where relatively trivial conflicts are resolved in a period of 42 minutes, this might not be your cup of tea.  The ending brought it full circle to season 1 and it meant so much more in the end than even I expected.  (And I also refer those still confused to this link and this link.)

So yes, prone though I may be to jumping to superlatives, I still think it's the best show that ever has been or ever will be on TV.  Besides reaching heights of production quality and cinematic value most shows can only dream of, LOST focused on depth and complexity of character development through excellent casting and superb acting, and was able to balance the mythology of the island with its true intent-developing this cast of characters and their relationships.  This is more than anything a character(s) piece, and the core characters have been handled expertly since season 1, episode 1.  There are few shows that can present and handle such a seemingly daunting number of characters, but LOST's unique and innovative methods of storytelling have done just that, and expertly.  From every season's gripping premiere to every season's explosive finale, I have been captivated nearly from the start.

Besides this level of technical achievement, LOST has done wonders in the department of theme and message.  The title of the show in itself in a metaphor, and how these struggling, imperfectly human characters have found themselves and each other actually can teach us a lot about ourselves, our relationship with others, and even our relationship with the Divine.  LOST has never shied away from religious themes and references, and the powerful reveal in the final scene was nothing short of incredible.  (I recommend those still confused to rewatch the conversation between Jack and Christian before Jack enters the church.  It's very important.)  I often watched this show with my jaw dropping intermittently to the floor, but that final scene bent my brain in so many ways until it finally settled and resolved into a strange sort of peace that I have never experienced in front of primetime TV.  It was written carefully enough to be fairly universal to differing religious ideologies, but the general tilt seemed to favor the religious majority, and it was beautiful.

By the way, I have decided to appoint myself the authority on "unsolved" LOST mysteries.  If there's something you still don't understand, come to me and I will give you the answer.  In the event that I don't know, I will find out for you.  The answers are there.

This is the show that introduced me to J.J. Abrams's work, and I really think that I might have to seek out some of his other endeavors.  This report all may seem a little dramatic, but that's how I roll with this show.  Good thing, as The Wife reminded me, they are still sitting safely on my shelf, and their lasting power, I'm confident, will prove strong.  Nothing can touch it!  If I am found required to eat these words one day, I'll actually have to confess myself pretty excited.  If there's a show that means more to me than LOST one day, I will be truly astounded.  It would have to be pretty freakin' amazing.

Jack, you are my hero!  And now, those who were LOST for six years are FOUND.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A Graphic Preview

Being Tuesday, in honor of LOST Days past, and as a teaser for my upcoming final thoughts on the series finale, I offer you the following:
Ah, Jate.  I didn't think you were meant to be, but I'm happy to be wrong.

A Succinct Set of Series Summaries

3 Season Finales, 3 messages.

20 seasons in and you still manage to captivate me.  You tested me this season with your exasperating repeat contestant choices, but I was absolutely satisfied with the final result.  Scumbaggery is not (or should be not be) rewarded, in life or in Survivor.  Now get off my TV, you-know-who!

The end for Jack Bauer on prime-time TV.  There was a time when I simply could NOT wait a week in between new episodes.  Then you started to get silly, even for 24.  Not even Jack Bauer could do and survive some of those things.  Still, you had a good run and I enjoyed watching you while you were awesome.  You'll be missed, in some ways.

BEST. SHOW. EVER.  Period.  You had me at "Pilot" (even though that wasn't actually the first episode I saw).  I have so much to say about you and your finale that I think I better just blog about it separately.  Stay tuned...