Saturday, July 26, 2014

'Wish I Was Here' isn't bad no matter what I say for the next 900 words

I’ve promised myself that I won’t mention Zach Braff’s 2004 writer/director/actor debut feature or compare his latest effort in those fields, “Wish I Was Here” to it in any way during this post. That way I can really focus on “Wish I Was Here” as its own entity.
                In fact, this clarifying sentence you’re reading now will be the last time I’ll even vaguely hint at it. Just go ahead and put it right out of your brain. Right. Out.
                So 2004’s “Garden State” was really awesome and … Shish kabobs! Sorry. Starting now. Get it out of your mind, will you? Geez.
 “Wish I Was Here.” That’s what we’re talking about.
                This movie, the new one, it’s not bad. If you head over to, it looks really bad, but it’s not. It’s rough around the edges. The first act is decidedly not great, plot points are introduced and forgotten about on occasion and some of the plot threads we did stick with, I’m not sure we needed to.  
                But it also features that blend of laugh out loud funny and poignant “What does it all mean” moments that the world expects, nay, demands from a Braff movie.
                In “Wish I was Here” Braff plays a guy who is what would kindly be described as a struggling actor. More accurately, he’s a long-term unemployed guy who occasionally shows up to be rejected at auditions.  He’s married to Kate Hudson, who supports the family by doing data entry for the water department and has two kids, a daughter, tweener Grace, who’s really into their Jewish heritage and the younger one, Tucker, who’s into video games or something.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Homeward Bound III, or How to Build a Shed in 12 Easy Steps


Where once there was not, now there is shed.
                And if I figured out how to get that picture I took off of my phone and onto this blog, then you can see proof of that fact just to the left side of your screen. If I didn’t, well enjoy this picture of a cat dressed like a carpenter and take my word for it.
                I, as a single individual, constructed that shed all by myself, using very little more than my own two hands, the rest of my arms, my legs and I feel like my internal organs and probably my brain played pretty important roles in the process as well.
                I mean, you should be impressed by that, even though for a skilled constructioner such as I, the amount of work I put into building a structure of that magnitude was pretty much equal to me just walking outside and announcing “Let there be shed!”
                It was just that easy.
                Of course, nothing I said there was in any way accurate. My girlfriend’s father did literally all of the hard stuff. My role was more of the grunt/go-fer variety. Something I could handle.
                I did a lot of smaller stuff, put in a few screws, nailed some stuff down, held a thing or two in place. It’s all very technical really, but in my own not humble opinion, I am a damn fine helper very nearly some of the time.
                The reason I can’t commit to any more than that is because I’m almost embarrassingly easy to distract.
                Case in point, about two weeks ago, we were working on putting the front, or as I like to call it, the face on the shed and get its teeth (the doors) all straightened out.
                Things were rolling along nicely when it happened: A dog appeared in the yard behind ours.
                Now look, it would be a lie to say that the very presence of a dog wouldn’t be enough to distract me a least a tiny bit from the task at hand under normal circumstances. But I usually have the wherewithal to get it together after a few minutes of shouting “PUPPY!” both vocally and in my mind.
                However, these were hardly normal circumstances. The house behind ours, the one with this dog suddenly running around the yard, had been empty for months.
                Even weirder, the dog looked familiar.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Good & Bad: '24: Live Another Day' (7/14/14)

'24: Live Another Day' Hours 12-24
Plot: Last night, Audrey got herself stuck on a bench for very nearly the entire episode under the watchful eye of a sniper. Not that watchful though, since she was totally able to keep having speaker phone conversations with Kate in plain sight. Anyway, the deal was, she stays there until Cheng says it’s cool to leave, meanwhile Cheng would be fleeing the country.
                Cheng tells Jack to leave him alone or else Audrey gets it. Jack don’t play like that.
                He finds some way to track Cheng in the Russian mustache aficionado’s house and goes after him. Kate has to go rescue Audrey.
                On the way to Cheng, Jack stops by the wilderness and picks up Chloe, who is conscious again and wants to make up for the whole “accidentally working with the guy who was selling gadgets to the guy who wants to end the world” thing.
                The pair gets to Cheng’s boat and then out of NOWHERE Jack’s helpy helperton guy shows up, making this a triple threat. Chloe sets up shop to provide techy stuff and the two dude start machine gunning their way through the ship.    
                Elsewhere, Audrey sits on a bench. Eventually, Kate shows up and watches.
Cheng’s men realize something foul is afoot, they boot Chloe out of their system and get ready to counterstrike. In a panic, Jack tells Kate to save Audrey before Cheng orders the sniper to take her out.
                Then out of NOWHERE Kate’s own back up team shows up and they all take out the sniper, rescuing Audrey, making the world once again safe for people who try to help but don’t. Backs are slapped, a lot of “Atta boys” are thrown around. Everyone’s happy. Then a car pulls up, one of Cheng’s men gets out and kills Audrey.
                Kate calls Jack to say “her bad” and Jack immediately hulks out and starts killing everyone with everything. He John Cenas his way through the remaining guards, has a brief kick fight with Cheng, before capturing the season’s final big bad. Jack grabs an ill-placed katana (ill-placed for Cheng anyway) coerces Cheng to say who he is on tape so the Chinese know he’s not dead and stop that whole WWIII thing they were on about.
                Once that’s over with, Jack chops off Cheng’s head presumably because there were no windows nearby for him to unceremoniously toss Cheng out of as has become tradition this season. At some point during all this, Chloe goes missing.  
                Everyone is sad that Audrey is dead. The full weight of what awaits him thanks to his Alzheimer’s finally hits home for Heller, the full weight of being a traitor finally hits home for Mark, the full weight of not being able to save Audrey or her own husband falls on Kate and the full weight of being dead really hits home for Cheng.
                In a move absolutely everyone could see coming, Jack trades himself to the Russians – who’d captured Chloe – so they’ll let her go and then he hitches a ride back to Moscow with them where lots of torture likely awaits.  

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The fine art of people-watching at a baseball game

My father and I have developed a pretty unique, sort of out there summer tradition over the past few years: At some point each summer, we go to a baseball game together.
                I know, weird right? Fathers, sons and baseball. If that oddball mix can somehow work then by god I guess there’s still hope for my peanut butter and spaghetti sandwich idea.
                Baseball is a great sport to see live. Game aside, how can you beat sitting outside on a beautiful summer evening with a beer, peanuts and some good company?
                Even better, the very meandering nature of baseball, the thing that makes it borderline intolerable to watch on TV sometimes, makes it the perfect relaxing night out activity.
                There are a few brief minutes of action here and there that require your undivided attention, but the rest of the time you can just kick back and soak in the atmosphere.
                Or you can partake in one of my favorite pastimes in both baseball and my day to day life: People-watching.
                Which I did and here are a couple of things that I noticed during last night’s game:

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Good & Bad: '24: Live Another Day' (7/7/14)

“24: Live Another Day” Hour 11

Plot: I don’t want to say things I can’t take back, but this episode wasn’t terrible. Not terrible at all.
                Jack and Kate win their shootout with the Russians thanks to a helping hand from the back up crew that was following behind their car. They soon find themselves in the command center which was recently occupied by Cheng and his cohorts. Thanks to a clever ruse by Chloe involving a cell phone audio recorder app, they find out Cheng is not only not dead, but he’s very much involved in the day’s predicaments.
                While people are finding out stuff, Jack tells the Prez that Cheng is still among the living, Audrey overhears this and then Jack finds out the Russians found him because of Mark. Uh-oh. Jack goes and yells at Mark, the Prez is all “Treason!” and stuff, but Jack has other plans.
                He sends Mark into the Russian guy with two moustaches’ pad to help find out where Cheng is. Russian guy is working with Cheng by the way. Jack and Kate storm the place shortly after, shots are fired, Mark wrestles moustache guy and eventually moustache guy ends up dead with a giant piece of glass in his neck. So … no Cheng.
                Meanwhile, Cheng. He’s driving around with Chloe in tow, planning on leaving the country and then causing more mischief. At some point Chloe elects that she’s done being a hostage. So she beats up a bunch of Chinese dudes with a pipe, jumps out of a moving truck, rolls down a giant hill, hits her head on the ground and goes all unconscious. I guess, as far as escape attempts go, we can call that a … push? Cheng’s dudes are looking for her, but the British army shows up and scares them off.
                Near the end of the episode, China is getting ready to attack America since it thinks America blew up its ship and it’s up to Audrey to prevent this.
                Which means you might as well start the prep work for WWIII now.
Anyway, Audrey goes and meets up with the Chinese leader’s daughter and gives her some evidence that will hopefully get America off the hook. Naturally, since this is an Audrey mission, everything goes wrong, everyone ends up dead but Audrey, who finds herself captured by the enemy and in need of saving. Awesome. 

Good: Cheng don’t care ‘bout China since China don’t care ‘bout Cheng. Cheng teamed up with the Russians and plans to break the world. He’s like a small, Asian version of WWE’s Rusev. Only instead of a gorgeous blonde by his side, Cheng has a portly Russian dude with a moustache on his upper and lower lips.        

Good: Chloe playing games. She picks up that cell phone and the mind reels with possibilities. What’s she going to do? Use it to hack into the CIA database and alert them to her location? Reprogram it to be a laser? Text Jack the word “H3lp?” Nope, she knows she’ll get caught with it, hits record so when Jack finds it, he knows what he’s up against. That’s the opposite of Audrey in every way.

Good/bad: I don’t know. I honestly have no clue what Mark’s motivation is. Sometimes he seems like he was genuinely trying to help by forging the Prez’s signature and turning Jack over to the Russians. Other times, he just seems like a dick who just doesn’t like Jack.

Bad: Jack is now 12 years old. In one episode he says: “I don’t want you to hate me forever” and “He’s a covert Intel operator, you idiot!” You do know that if you don’t show a little hustle here, forever could be like 7 minutes and then the Chinese start nuking everything in sight. You idiot.  

Bad: Not to be outdone, Mark chimes in with a “I know you hate me for what I tried to do to you,” of his own. Well, when you put it like that, it kind of sounds like you tried to hook up with his girlfriend while you were drunk. Not, you know, tried to doom him to a good solid life of extreme torture and prayers for death.

Good: Chloe kicks some butt. Looks like she’s picked up a thing or two after spending all those years hanging out with Jack. Has Chloe rubbed off on Jack? I think the 12:00 that’s currently flashing on his VCR at home answers that question.

Bad: Kate spends the entire episode just scowling in the car and she still did more than Audrey. Zero and angry faces is better than what Audrey managed.

Good: Mark goes into the mustache house. Everything about this is tense and awesome. It’s way too short, but it’s nail-biting, even though I don’t know if I’m supposed to like him or want him dead or not. One of, if not the best sequence of the season. This is “24” at its best.

Bad: Audrey. Audrey, Audrey, Audrey. We need to talk about this “helping” thing you keep trying to do. Sometimes the best way to “help” is to lock yourself in a small room and wait until the coast is clear. Or go somewhere else. Like Kim Bauer is currently doing. That way, no one has to worry about saving you AND the world. Doing one is hard enough.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Fourth of July: Put down that burger and pick up a VHS tape
I don’t do much to celebrate the Fourth of July.
                It’s not because I’m secretly a dirty Commie so and so with red in his veins and hatred towards Uncle Sam in his heart. I can assure you, none of that is true. There’s just not much there for me when it comes to America’s bday.
The big thing with Fourth of July is the parading and the fireworks.
                I’m ok with fireworks, I don’t love them but I’ll watch and enjoy them in person for a bit. Usually by the quarter pole the allure of bright and loud things in the sky starts to fade, my neck and back start to get sore and my attention wanders.
                Parades though. Those I vehemently dislike. There is nothing more boring than standing outside and watching other people walk by you slowly in a straight line.
                My favorite part of any of the parades I’ve been to is when the line backs up and I get to watch the paraders (parade participants?) awkwardly wave to the same section of the crowd while they wait for things get moving again.
                Outside of that brief bit of “Office”-like squirm-humor, it’s just a lot of walking, loud noises and the occasional silly costume. I could go to any mall in the country on any day of week and get the same experience by watching old people do laps from outside of a Hot Topic.
                There are also the BBQs which I like, but there are lots of BBQs during the summer, I cook on my own grill at least once a week, so there’s nothing very special about them.    
                The one tradition that I hold sacred is watching the movie “Gettysburg” on VHS tape every single July. All 4 ½ hours of it.
                The Ted Turner-produced Civil War epic is one of my all-time favorite movies. And there’s no better way to celebrate America in my opinion then spending about the time it would take the average person to run a marathon watching a movie about that time when America almost divorced itself.
                Sure, it might be better to make the pilgrimage to Gettysburg or some other Civil War site. God knows I could drive to Gettysburg and back in about the time it takes me to watch the movie.
                But then I’d be deprived of the fun of dusting off my ancient tape-playin’ device, remembering what channel the TV needs to be set to in order for it to work and dicking around with the tracking every ten minutes to keep the picture at just the right level of blurred fuzziness.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Good & Bad: '24: Live Another Day' (6/30/14)
“24: Live Another Day” Hour 10
Plot: So let’s see, what happened last night?
                Michael Wincott sneakily rendezvoused with Benjamin Bratt. Wincott got the suddenly all-powerful device, Bratt got a passport but no car and then was immediately captured by Jack Bauer and assorted law enforcement officers.
                Wincott gets away with the device and then explains his whole evil plan to Chloe about how he’s going to use the device to give all countries equal footing on the world stage and she’s on board for a few minutes, but then her inner ‘murca takes over and she tries to betray him. Wincott prevents the betrayal, and keeps stringing Chloe along instead of just killing her because he loves her or something and this is the “24” season where the bad guys choose the worst possible times to be noble.
                Our star-crossed lovers go to meet up with the rest of Wincott’s team, but when they get there the rest of the team has been killed and the Chinese are now running the show. I think I’m supposed to remember the crazed leader of this gang from past seasons, but I don’t really so he’s Chinese Leader Guy.
                Chinese Leader Guy doesn’t like Wincott’s plan to make everybody equal either, so he tricks Chloe into helping him reprogram the device then kills Wincott because we can’t have nice things.  
                Elsewhere, Jack gives a long impassioned monologue about how only he possesses the fortitude to crack Benjamin Bratt and find the all-powerful device before it’s too late. For only Jack is man enough to scare a battle-hardened warrior like Bratt, a man who’s been trained down to his very core to withstand all manner of punishment and torture and who in no way would ever spill his guts to one of the underlings he used to boss around. It would probably take a full 60 minutes of Jack-on-Bratt crime just to get Bratt to say when his own birthday is.
                A few minutes after Jack says all that, Kate runs in with a gun, points it at Bratt and he tells her EVERYTHING. And he does that even though, by giving up the location of the device, he’s effectively sentenced himself to death for treason and murder. That was his only bargaining chip! No matter how PO’d Kate is at him for that whole framing her husband thing, she can’t kill Bratt, he’s the only one who can find the device. But yeah, squeals like a pig at the first sight of a mad blonde woman with a gun. Awesome.
                Mark and Audrey are still fighting and no one cares, the Russians finally get a chance to capture Jack but they seem to be struggling and then the episode ends with the Chinese guys tricking a US sub to blow up a Chinese boat presumably setting the stage for a WWIII-style super power bro-down.