Wednesday, April 30, 2008

I Scream for Cheap Ice Cream

Hey everyone. Somehow, and I can't quite explain it, but I totally missed yesterday's free Ben & Jerry's ice cream day. Today I won't make the same mistake. It's 31-cent scoop night at Baskin Robbins. From 5pm to 10pm, head on over to your local scoop shop and pick up a cheap serving of Mint Chocolate Chip or whatever your favorite flavor is. And tell 'em Martin sent you — maybe they'll throw on some sprinkles or something. (Or, more likely, they'll just give you a free spoon. Think of it as my gift to you. You're welcome.)

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Something Borrowed, Something Blew

The mild and easygoing Made of Honor is certainly entertaining enough. But don't get any ideas: This is no My Best Friend's Wedding Lite. Sure, it's basically the same story in reverse — a guy realizes he's in love with his best friend just as she's about to get married to someone else, and he tries to break up the wedding — but it's not as good. Not that it doesn't have its charms. Patrick Dempsey makes an appealing lead, and he and Michelle Monaghan have good chemistry. But too many of the plot points feel tired, and overall, the film feels longer than its 97-minute running time. So I'll give Made an average grade of C. Not terrible, not great. But not worth paying admission to see.


Monday, April 28, 2008

Just What I Need: More Junk

The funny thing about moving into a new place is that people all of a sudden want to give you stuff. No, I'm not talking about the housewarming gifts I've received from family and friends. I'm talking about the endless stream of junk mail that's arrived in my mailbox ever since I first put my key in the door a month ago. Within days of activating my mail, I was receiving "welcome to to your new home!" mailings from the U.S. Postal Service, Pottery Barn, Crate & Barrel, Whole Foods, Bed, Bath & Beyond, Welcome Wagon, Welcome Neighbor U.S.A., and other companies and organizations filled with coupons and other special offers and tchotchkeys (like a magnetic message board) just for moving to a new condo and being a homeowner. And that doesn't include the endless mortgage protection mailings I've been sent, informing me about what will happen to my mortgage should something tragic happen to me, or the postcards telling me about blinds and drapes specialists or gardening companies or other servicefolk who offer things I don't need.

Don't get me wrong: I like getting mail. I may subscribe to a lot of magazines, but other than that, my mail is generally just bills. Still, I assumed that one of the benefits of moving to a brand new place (not just for me, but completely brand new) was that I wouldn't be on any pre-existing mailing lists and thus, I'd be safe from the catalogs and other direct-mail stuff I got at my old place. No dice. I suppose when I was signing all those forms at the closing, one of them must have read "Please add me to all the mailing lists that exist for residents of Newton." That'll teach me to read what I sign.

It's nice that people want to give me stuff, even if it is coupons and discounts for things I don't really need. But if these companies really wanted to earn a new customer, they'd give me something I actually want, like a high definition TV. Oh, how I wish that would fit in my mailbox. Oh well.


Saturday, April 26, 2008

High Times

How much do you really need me to tell you about Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay? If you liked the first film, you'll like this one too. It's got laughs, racial humor, an obvious but still amusing scene where George Bush gets high, and lots of jokes about the U.S. overdoing the post-9/11 security. Oh, and yes, it's also got Neil Patrick Harris back again, tweaking his image in hysterical fashion. I don't think Guantanamo as good as I remember White Castle being, but it's certainly enjoyable. And that's probably all you really need to know. I'm giving the movie a B.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Goodbye, Superstar

I've always known American Idol was a total crock, but tonight, with the premature ouster of Carly Smithson, the show proved again that the voters clearly don't recognize talent. This video below is of Carly's performance last night of "Superstar," from Jesus Christ Superstar (it was Andrew Lloyd Webber night), and damn if it wasn't one of the top 3 of the night (another being Syesha Mercado's performance of "One Rock & Roll Too Many"). Brooke White and/or Jason Castro definitely should have been in the bottom two, and one of them should have gone home. Sigh ... Oh well. Goodbye, Carly. Best of luck to you.

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Monday, April 21, 2008

Go, Speed Racers, Go!

Living right on the marathon route has its disadvantages. Knowing that Comm Ave would be closed at 9 a.m. today meant I had to leave New York — where I was for Passover — by 6 a.m. Thankfully, at that hour, there's not much traffic, so I got home around 8:30.

And the good news is that it was totally worth it, of course. Watching at B.C., at the bottom of Heartbreak Hill, was a lot of fun, what with all the loud and rowdy college kids all around. It was fun to see the wheelchair racers come zipping down the street, but when the masses of runners started to turn the corner and come down the hill, ahem, en masse, it was like a wildebeest stampede (I kept picturing the scene in The Lion King). The area is totally wide open, so there are plenty of good places to stand and watch — and take pictures. When I felt like going inside for lunch, I could still watch all the action through the window. And best of all, I knew two people running, and amazingly, I was able to pick both of them out of the herd (only one of them heard me screaming her name, though). The only bad thing? Because it's Passover, I couldn't get any fried dough or ice cream or any other food. Oh well.

Anyway, it's the marathon; you know what it's all about. If you want to see more pictures I took today, just click here. One warning, though: they're mostly pictures of random runners, but I did try to also capture some of the "flavor" of the day.

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Saturday, April 19, 2008

Back to Books

The nice thing about having a longer commute is that I get a lot more time to read now than I had when I took the C line from Coolidge Corner. In fact, I get almost double the time. It means I can plow through the latest issues of Entertainment Weekly in a day, for example. But then it leaves me with all sorts of time to fill. So, I've gotten back on the book-reading train. Perhaps you'll be amused to know that while I dove right in to A.J. Jacobs' The Year of Living Biblically last summer, I hadn't read much of it since the end of October. Well, now, nearly six months later, I've finally finished the book. Yeah, it sure did take me long enough. But now I'm wondering what I'll read next. Thankfully, I have a cleaned-up bookshelf full of options. Perhaps I'll go back to Honeymoon with My Brother. Maybe I'll finally read Tom Perotta's Little Children. Or maybe it's finally — finally! — time for me to read Faithful, Stephen King and Stewart O'Nan's document of the 2004 Red Sox season. Something tells me I'll leave those on the shelf and instead pick up a fun little collection called Things I've Learned from the Women Who've Dumped Me. That might be just the book I need to ease me back into this habit.

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

I'm Just Saying ...

Getting off the T at Park Street/Downtown Crossing is so much nicer when there's not a Boston Now hawker waiting for you at the top of the stairs. It's a small thing, yes, but it makes the morning commute a little more pleasant.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Kids Ask the Darndest Things

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Monday, April 14, 2008

B Not So Bad

You know, people (myself included) give the B line a bad rap. But now that I've taken it to and from work for a week, I have to admit: I'm changing how I feel about this dreaded line of the MBTA. Sure, maybe it's because I get on at the very beginning, way out at Boston College, and I get a seat every day (actually, I've gotten the exact same seat every day). But the fact is, I get on the train at 8 a.m., get out a magazine, and less than 45 minutes later I'm at Park Street. Total time, door-to-door: less than an hour. Of course, this changes if I'm out at 8:10, and it means the train ride takes closer to an hour. But the fact is, for me, the ride is a smooth and enjoyable one. Not getting on somewhere further on down the line means I don't have to squeeze in and find room to stand. I'm actually quite comfortable, and I don't even notice how crowded the train is or where we are until we're somewhere around Packard's Corner. Heck, I didn't even notice all week that the block I used to live on (around 1322 Comm Ave) is now totally different. I know some stops have been eliminated in the first half of the route over the past few years, and I'm telling you: this train moves a lot faster than it did when I last took it regularly, in 2001. A lot. The weirdest part of the whole thing is that now I get to work much (for me, at least) earlier than when I used to live closer to the office. It's a little disorienting. And I also know that if I'm on the way home and a B train comes that's too crowded, all I have to do is take a D line train and transfer at Reservoir/Chestnut Hill Ave. It's just that simple.

The commute was my biggest concern about buying a condo so far out of the city, but so far, it's a non-issue for me. So, at least for now, you won't hear me complaining about the T. Nice.


Pregnant Pause

In the category of Pleasant Comedies, you can add Baby Mama. It's a better than average film, with some decent laughs — none of which come close to, say, Forgetting Sarah Marshall — that's never quite as good as you want it to be. That's because the script isn't as sharp as it should be; unfortunately, it strands stars Tina Fey and Amy Poehler in Mediocre Land. We've definitely seen them better on "Weekend Update" back on Saturday Night Live.

Baby Mama is the story of Kate (Fey), a successful single woman who has decided that after years of putting her career first, she now wants a baby. Learning that she is unable to conceive, Kate hires Angie (Poehler), a working-class woman of questionable morals, to be her surrogate. This seems like a setup that could let Fey make fun of celebrity adoptions and career women and other timely subjects. If she had written the script, maybe she would have. But instead, writer/director Michael McCullers aims his arrows at subjects like Jamba Juice and Whole Foods–like stores, and they don't really stick. Fey and Poehler have real chemistry and are generally enjoyable to watch — more so than Steve Martin, who looks embarrassed in an unbilled role as Kate's boss — but they almost look pained to be put in such lame situations. Hopefully these two will get the chance to star in a Fey-written comedy in the future. (That is, another Fey-written comedy — both appeared in Mean Girls.) For now, their Baby Mama only rates a B– from me.

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Not So Smart

Full disclosure: I also saw Smart People this week, on Monday night. It's the story of a dysfunctional family with all kinds of Independent Movie Quirks, and there's not too much of a plot, and I wasn't really enjoying it, and, well, I fell asleep in the middle, so I missed about a third of it. (What? I was tired from the move.) I'm not going to bother giving the movie a grade (though C comes to mind), but I wanted to at least mention that I'd seen it, just in case you saw it advertised and wondered what I thought.


I'm not really sure how I totally forgot about this clip, given what happened with the move on Saturday and all, but better a few days later than never. This is one of my all-time favorite scenes from Friends, and minus annoying Ross, it's pretty similar to what happened when we tried to get my couch into my new apartment. Enjoy.

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

Anyone who's ever been dumped knows how hard it is to get over someone you love. For Peter Bretter (Jason Segel), it's near impossible. His girlfriend, Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell), is seemingly perfect, and even though she has the lack of courtesy to break up with Peter while he's completely nude (not the last time he'll be nude in this movie, by the way), he still pines for her. To escape the constant reminders of their relationship, Peter goes to Hawaii, where, what d'you know, Sarah's there with her new boyfriend. It turns out Forgetting Sarah Marshall is more challenging than Peter thought.

Thankfully, liking this movie is much easier. Written by Segel, it includes many quotable lines and doesn't fall for the typical romantic comedy cliches. Yes, Peter meets an equally engaging young woman (That 70s Show's Mila Kunis) and sure, Sarah's new boyfriend is an idiot, but things don't always go as expected with this foursome. Delivering the dialogue is this very appealing cast, led by unexpected leading man Segel. As with Knocked Up, the leads here are a pretty unlikely couple, but you can believe why they'd actually be together. Knocked Up writer/director Judd Apatow produced this film, and things are rounded out by amusing performances by a supporting cast that includes his regulars Jonah Hill, Bill Hader, and Paul Rudd. The laughs here aren't as big as Knocked Up or Superbad, but FSM is definitely worth seeing. I'm giving it a strong B.


I'm Loving This "Angels" Instead

Memo to David Archuleta: This is how "Angels" is supposed to be performed. Not the way you did it last night on American Idol. Granted, you had a smaller crowd to sing to than Robbie Williams does in this clip, but you damn near drained the song of any emotion and made it sound pretty limp. "Angels" is a bigger song than you could ever sing. It's a fantastic song, and a great song choice — but not for you. Just watch as Robbie sings it in front of thousands and thousands of people, and listen as they sing along with him. Look at the passionate response he gets, and the way he engages a crowd that large. You could never do that, David. I hope you're voted off this week. And if not this week, then next week. Or the week after. You shouldn't win this competition. You're overrated. You always have been. And maybe after you're voted off, you can use the time to find a personality. When you're not singing, you just stand there with your goofy grin and not much else. I don't like you, David. I want you off the show.


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Monday, April 07, 2008


Free ice cream and Opening Day at Fenway Park — what could be better? To celebrate the start of home games over on Yawkey Way, J.P. Licks is giving away free ice cream all day tomorrow, Tuesday, at every one of their locations. Woo hoo!

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In Fact, It's a Gas

As with the recent U2 3D film, Shine a Light is a document of big-time performers that must be seen on a very big screen. This film of two 2006 performances by the Rolling Stones at New York's Beacon Theater does more than just demonstrate why the Stones are such a legendary band; it also, ahem, shines a light on the men in the band, giving us insights into why they've stuck together all these years.

Director Martin Scorsese is a huge Stones fan; he uses a song by the band in most every movie he makes. In fact, in recent interviews, Mick Jagger has joked that Shine a Light may be the only Scorsese film that does not include "Gimme Shelter" in its soundtrack. Point is, this is a guy who knows his subject.

Shine a Light begins with a 10-minute black-and-white segment about how this master director intends to make his film. The band (specifically Jagger) is a bit hesitant about the cameras getting in the way and the fact that the moviemaking is coming before the musicplaying. For his part, Scorsese does some exaggerated fretting about a lack of set list, and demonstrates how he's over-preparing for the shows.

Jagger had reason to be concerned — when the concert starts and the picture goes not just from black-and-white to color but from big to huge, the action is being captured by 16 or 17 cameras. But Scorsese is just as much a pro as the Stones, and he's hired a team of cinematographers that includes Emmanuel Lubezki (Children of Men), John Toll (Gone Baby Gone), and Albert Maysles, who directed the classic 1970 Stones documentary Gimme Shelter, to work those cameras. Let's just say that although these guys have every possible inch of these shows covered, it doesn't affect the Stones one bit. They're as good as ever, and they appear to be having a great time making the film.

In between great songs like "She Was Hot," "Just My Imagination," and the Keith Richards solo "You Got the Silver," Scorsese inserts vintage clips of interviews Jagger, Richards, Ron Wood, and Charlie Watts have given over the years, including one in which Jagger, after just two years of touring, says the band probably will only be around for another year. The show itself is enhanced by guest stars Jack White, Buddy Guy, and Christina Aguilera. And it all adds up to two hours of hard-rocking, exciting showmanship both behind and in front of the camera.

Shine a Light is playing on both IMAX and regular screens, but for the best experience, this film must be seen on an IMAX screen. If you're a Stones fan, it's essential viewing. If you're not, this film will show you why some bands have long careers and others just fade away. Simply, the Stones are pros; even when playing songs like "Start Me Up," they give it their all. Scorsese has made a fantastic tribute to one of his favorite bands, and the affection he feels can't help but transfer to the viewer. I'm giving Shine a Light an A–.

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Sunday, April 06, 2008

Honey, I'm Home!

If there's one thing I learned this weekend during the move, it's that I, Martin Lieberman, am quite good with the spatial relations. You see, all was going pretty well Saturday morning. Other than some early-morning mist, the rain mostly held off. The elevator in my building was on the fritz, but somehow it worked until the last load had been brought down, and then it died. The movers got to me a little bit later than expected, but it gave me some extra time to take care of some last-minute packing I didn't do the night before. So it was all good. But when we got to my new place and started to unload the truck, my couch wouldn't fit through the apartment door. The movers tried multiple ways of fitting it through the door, but none worked because the doorway was too thin, the stairway was in the way, and the sprinkler system was inches too low from the ceiling. They were giving up, and the couch was going to have to go down in my storage unit; I would have to buy a new one.

I can be quite stubborn at times (no kidding), and this was one of those times. I was not going to let the couch end up in basement storage. I did not want to have to buy a new one. So I kept looking at it and thinking and finally came up with a solution for how it was going to get inside. I said to the men, "Turn it upside down so the taller part is on the opposite side, lift it over the staircase, then tilt it down and into the door." (Vinny — yes, one of my movers' names was Vinny — called it "planing.") It seemed so simple to me. The men were skeptical and explained the math to me, that the width of the door and the width of the couch wouldn't allow it in, etc. They were also worried that the couch could get scratched or dirty in the process. I said I'd rather have a slightly stained couch in my apartment than a clean one in storage. So for my piece of mind, and to show that they did, in fact, try everything, they said they would try my idea.

And you know what? It worked! In fact, it worked so well and so smoothly that the guys were making jokes that they should hire me. Sure, the couch did get a little stained, but that was on a part of it that's obscured by pillows, and they gave me $100 off the move costs so I could hire a cleaner to deal with it. Awesome! Now, before I make too big of a deal about this, I don't want to make the movers look too bad. They were good guys, and they did try a few times to get the couch in, and this was a company I had used twice before and probably would use again. In truth, I just got lucky. (To put a more sentimental spin on it, the rest of the day I kept telling myself that my plan worked because of Bubby, who was clearly with me in spirit, making sure everything went well.) Regardless, I can't remember the last time I was that happy or that proud of myself.

So now I'm all moved in. Not all unpacked, but what's the rush? After all, I have 30 years to pay off the mortgage, so I'll be here for a while. I've turned in my keys to my old landlord, and I even gave the old apartment a once-over to get rid of all the dust bunnies I had left behind. As it turns out, having two storage areas in the basement was a great idea; I can't believe that all the stuff I've, um, stuffed in there used to be in my apartment. And, get this: a salesperson at Jordan's today suggested an easy way to get the paint stains off the couch — and it worked! Oh, and as if things couldn't get any sweeter, Mitzi and Jason sent me a platter of cookies from Cookies by Design (yum) that will surely keep me stuffed for the next week or more.

Which, I guess, brings me to the end of my moving saga, and means I can now say that I am a Newton resident. I can start orienting myself to my new neighborhood, I can prepare myself for endless commutes on the B line, and I can join the opposition to the $197.5-million school construction project that will surely increase my taxes. It's all good. I know a few of my readers have enjoyed reading about my condo-buying process, and I hate to disappoint, so allow me to make this announcement here and now: tomorrow I begin the selling process on this place and will seek to buy a new condo, just so I can keep having stuff to write about. Just kidding. But if you'd like to see more pictures of my move, just click here. While you do that, I'm going to go unpack some more boxes. Till next post ...

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Cincinnati Music Factory

Sometimes local news is so random. Like this early-morning broadcast on channel 12 in Cincinnati. I'm sort of happy they don't do stuff like this here in Boston ... although it would be awesome if VB, Doug, or Cindy busted out some moves one morning on the F0X 25 morning news. Anyway, for your viewing pleasure, I present this clip. (Thanks to's PopWatch for the heads up.)


Friday, April 04, 2008

Movin' On Out

One last post before I pack up my computer here at 110 Babcock — or simply "The 'Cock," as someone called it last night. The apartment is pretty empty; other than furniture and books, most everything else has been moved to my new place. As expected, packing has been a fun experience; I've found all kinds of stuff I hadn't seen since I moved in (old photos, a bag full of Louis, etc.) and taking a week to move in gradually before the actual movers came has turned out to be a great idea.

After more than six years in one place, it'll be a real adjustment to have my life centered elsewhere, but I'll be fine (of course). There's a lot I'll miss about this building (the location, mostly), but in the end, I'm very happy to be moving on (thank you, violin players and noisy, insensitive neighbors and price-gouging management company). In fact, it gives me immense pleasure to know that I'll be going out with a bang — my movers are scheduled to arrive at 8 a.m. tomorrow. Now, you know how I feel about noise on Saturday mornings when I'm trying to sleep late. But after all these months of tolerating the violins and the flutes and the pianos and the loud talking and smoking outside my window and the late-night phone calls next door and the smelly cooking and all the shoes left in the hallway and the rude neighbors who don't hold the door open when you're right behind them and the heavy-footed upstairs neighbors and the folks who park their minivan next to me and don't know how to open doors without hitting my car and the side doors being propped open, etc. etc. etc., it only seems right that I disturb my neighbors for a change. So, goodbye 110. I'll miss you. (But not too much.)

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Opening Night

Forget what I said the other day: This is opening night for me. It's the first time a Red Sox game is starting in the 7 p.m. hour, when I can actually watch. Those early-morning Japan games and then the late-night Oakland ones just didn't count if I couldn't really watch them. So now that baseball is on and I can actually see it, it's like the season has just started. Woo hoo! Go Sox!

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A Parting Gift

Awwwww ... how sweet. On my last day in the apartment, as I'm packing up and throwing stuff out, feeling happy and relaxed and having fun, I've been blessed by my neighbor with yet another flute recital. How did she know that's exactly what I wanted? I guess since it's 4:45 in the afternoon I don't have a very good reason to make her stop (other than my perpetual annoyance and her seemingly uncurable lack of courtesy and the fact that I can hear it even when I go outside — and the fact that the building managers have asked her and her roommate to stop practicing their instruments in the building not once but twice), so I guess I'll just let her play. And I'll even join in the fun by blasting my music really loud and seeing how she likes it. Everybody gets something! Hooray!


The Right Stuff? Not Really.

You already know how I feel about the New Kids on the Block — ahem, sorry, NKOTB reunion. When they appeared on The Today Show this morning, tons of fans went crazy. I was driving around listening to Kiss 108 and that's all anyone was talking about. (Sure, I know, there's an ulterior motive there, but there were all kinds of stories of people driving hours to see them at a club tonight, and digging out all kinds of old NKOTB paraphernalia, etc.). Now, maybe it's because I grew up in New York and not here in Boston, but I tell you: I just don't get why this is such a big deal. I can appreciate wanting a favorite group to reunite, but not if it's a teen pop group. I mean, look at those guys in the picture; I don't really want to see them try to recreate their glory days all these years later. I don't want to hear Joey Mac stretch his voice to reach the high notes in "Please Don't Go Girl." They're grown men. I actually feel sorry for them having to do this — especially Donnie Wahlberg, who has tried so hard to get some credibility in recent years with his acting. How can we take him seriously again after this? Seeking a reality check, I asked a 30-year-old woman at Newbury Comics this morning if she was excited about the reunion, and she told me, "I lived through it once. That was enough." That seems to be how I feel about it, except I skipped it the first time around.


Thursday, April 03, 2008

Past Meets Present

It's been a week since I bought my condo and I'm somewhere between halfway and two-thirds of the way moved in. I've been packing up and making daily trips over, dropping off breakable and easily-movable items — partly to make it easier for the movers (who come early Saturday morning) and cheaper for me, and partly because I just can't wait to live there full-time. All my CDs, most of my clothes, just about my entire kitchen and bathroom ... it's all there. I've run the dishwasher a few times, I've done one load of laundry, and I've even done some cleaning. In short, I'm doing everything all according to plan and so far it's working out just fine.

There's lots to like about my condo, but I have to say, one of my favorite things about it is the boiler room. Yes, you read that right. You see, I bought a place in an older building that's been rehabbed, refurbished, redone, etc. All the amenities are modern and new and clean. And yet, in the boiler room there's a pretty cool bit of history on one wall, where all kinds of former residents wrote their names. Some of them dated their signature, and the years go as far back as the 1930s and '40s. The most recent date I saw was 1987. And being a sucker for nostalgia and stuff like this, I just find the signatures give the building a lot of random, hidden, unexpected charm. It's really impressive that over the years, and despite extensive renovation, these names have remained on the wall. Perhaps it's because I'm not alone in appreciating this aspect of the building. One day I'll have to sign my own name on one of the bricks. For now, though, I am eager to share in the history of this place I'll soon call my home.

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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Moving Sale

I've had an ad up on Craigslist for a couple days now, but I thought I'd link to it here because I'm hoping there's a reader out there who will want one of the items. I'm selling my kitchen table and chairs, desk and chair, and kitchen cart, and I'm hoping to do so before the weekend. Prices and sizes and other details (including pictures) can be found here. Please let me know if you're interested. Thanks.


What About Bob?

Some people like him and some people hate him, but I'm in the group that is upset about today's news regarding longtime channel 4 sportscaster Bob Lobel, who, along with Scott Wahle and entertainment reporter Joyce Kulhawik, was let go by the station. I'm not going to get all mushy and teary-eyed about his departure, but I did always enjoy Bob's good humor and his knowledgeable reporting. Lobel was a fun guy to watch, and I'll miss seeing him on the air.


Touchdown, But No Extra Point

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: you've gotta love George Clooney. Nearly everything the guy does is classic and cool, not to mention totally retro. The way he dresses, the way he interacts with the press and the public, and especially the choices he makes in terms of movies — it's all a throwback to a way things used to be. His first two directorial efforts, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and Good Night, and Good Luck were informed by a classic sensibility and took place in an earlier time. Now, with Leatherheads, Clooney's third film behind the lens, it's clear he's not quite done with the past. And I'm not complaining.

From the first frames, when Clooney uses the classic Universal Studios logo rather than the current one, you know you're in a throwback kind of movie. The first 15 minutes have the breezy charm of a 1920s screwball comedy. There's a great opening score, and the quick pace effectively establishes the tone. We're introduced to our major players: Carter Rutherford (John Krasinski, from The Office), the war-hero-turned-college-football-star; Dodge Connolly (Clooney), the aging football hero who doesn't play by the rules; and Lexie Littleton (Renée Zellweger), a newspaper reporter assigned to get the real story on Carter.

In 1925, pro football was still in its infancy. Players were men who refused to grow up, and played for per-game salaries that were paid when the game was over. But its no-rules disorganization put the league in jeopardy. Dodge sees in Carter the chance to build attention and respect for his sport, so he entices him to go pro. Lexie tags along to get her story, and (surprise surprise) ends up getting caught in the middle of the two guys, both of whom fall for her. Will Lexie get her story? Will Dodge get the girl? What do you think?

I wish I could say Leatherheads was entirely as good as its opening minutes promise, but it's not. The film bounces back and forth in tone between screwball comedy and dramedy, a shift that hinders the overall pace. I wish this were more similar to the Coen brothers' Intolerable Cruelty, one of my all-time favorite Clooney films. That said, Leatherheads is an easygoing, charming flick with lots to like. Clooney demonstrates his movie star appeal, and his talent as a director is so good that even Zellweger is an attractive and not annoying presence. Krasinski doesn't have the big-screen, all-American look that his character requires (Clooney should have cast someone a little more WASPy and a little less goofy), but he's enjoyable too.

There's no real competition between Dodge and Carter, so there's not much of a love triangle. Dodge doesn't even seem to be all that invested in outing Carter as a fraud because he doesn't see him as a threat, and more importantly, he's more interested in just playing football (and getting the girl). And since there's no real competition there, you know there's gotta be a big game at the end where the two men will end up playing against each other. But, there's some fun detail in the way the games are staged, and some decent laughs to be had. And the leads are so likable here that they help to overcome many of the film's weaknesses.

So, while Leatherheads is far from an instant classic sports movie, it's a pleasant two hours and I'd recommend it. I'm giving the film a B.

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Bait and Switch

If you saw a front-page newspaper headline blaring "Honey, I Duct-Taped the Kids!" and were given the page number where you'd find the story about how a mother bound her kids to chairs and then posted the pics on MySpace, what would you expect to find there? Pictures, right? Not if you read the Boston Herald today. There are no pictures to be found. Bummer. I mean, not that I endorse this behavior at all. I find it reprehensible, as I'm sure everyone does. But that part of me that's fond of the salacious and unsavory behavior of people with no brains wanted to see the pics. I mean, I just don't believe someone would do such a thing and I had to see it for myself. You can't even see the pictures on the Herald's site. Oh well. And before you get all up in my grill about posting this, come on ... you know you wanted to see those pictures too.

(And yes, despite the date, this appears to be a very real story, unfortunately.)