Vacation Movie Watching

Lest everyone think I did nothing but work on vacation, I thought I’d throw out the movies that I watched during the break, that we haven’t had time to get to over the past few months:

  • Rob Zombies Halloween – Unrated Director’s Cut with commentary – Saw Halloween in the theaters, but we have the DVD and watched the commentary. Enjoyed it a lot
  • The Number 23 with Jim Carrey. Hated it. Ridiculous and totally predictable.
  • I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry – Stupid. Hated it. I’m not a big Adam Sandler fan, especially with cornball movies like this
  • Chain Reaction with Keanu Reeves. Didn’t like it at all.
  • Hostel – Part II – a little more predictable than the first, but kind of liked it.
  • Amadeus – I’ve seen this a bajillion times and love it. Jonna had never seen it so I watched it again with her. Still love it after all these years …
  • Crimson Tide with Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman. I’ve been told multiple times that I had to see this, so we put it on the netflix queue. Awesome. Loved it.
  • I Am Legend – Will Smiths latest movie, which we went to see on Saturday. I really liked it. I didn’t like the ending too much, and the zombies were a little ‘too CGI’, but otherwise I thought it was a great movie.
  • Village of the Damned – starring Christopher Reeve and Kirsty Alley. We found this at Menards for $1.98 and bought it because we had nothing to watch that night. We thought it would be pretty cheesy, but we actually enjoyed it. It was a good movie for the price
  • The Lord Of The RingsThe Two Towers and The Return of the King – We’ve had Two Towers for some time, tried to watch it and thought there was something wrong with the DVD. Later we found that the center channel on our surround sound was out, so we just couldn’t hear anything. We decided to watch it this week. Loved it, and went out Sunday to buy the other two. Watched Return of the King yesterday and loved it. The Fellowship of the Ring is on the schedule for New Years Eve, as we stay home anyway. One thing I will say is that these movies are LOOOOONG but definitely worth it. As I was watching it, I was thinking that it would be great if someday someone could make a movie like this on the The Silver Sun and its trilogy, which were some of my favorite books I had read as a kid (still haven’t gotten our kids to read them though). I think these books would make great movies as well

We’ve done a lot of catch up in the last couple of weeks. We saw one new movie and the rest were things that were on our list that we just “haven’t gotten around to”. While there were quite a few disappointments, the ones that we liked made up for the time we spent on the ones we didn’t. At least we can say that we’ve seen all of them now.

Now I’ve Heard It All: Management Lessons from RoadHouse!

One of my favorite “bad” movies that I just cannot switch past when its on is the movie “Road House“. As a matter of fact, we went out and bought the DVD so that when it is on TV, I can pop in the DVD and watch the “unedited” TV version of the movie – thats how addictive the movie is to me for some reason. I just cannot “not” watch it when its on.

So imagine my surprise when the latest episode of Manager Tools used Roadhouse as one of their examples when discussing Handling Peer Conflict When Your Directs Are Involved. The example was around one of their steps in handling conflict, which was “Turn the other cheek”. In the movie, there is a scene in which Patrick Swayze is laying down the rules for working in the bar now that he has been hired as a cooler. Oddly, the scene really does illustrate the point Mark was making quite well:

DALTON:

1. Never underestimate your opponent. Expect the unexpected.
2. Take it outside. Never start anything in the bar unless its absolutely necessary.
and 3. Be nice.

EMPLOYEE:
C’mon

DALTON:
If someone gets in your face and calls you a <bleep>, I want you to be nice.

EMPLOYEE: OK …

DALTON: Ask him to walk, but be nice. If he won’t walk – walk him – but be nice. If you can’t walk him, one of the others will help you – and you’ll both be nice. I want you to remember that its a job. Its nothing personal.

EMPLOYEE 2: Uh, huh. Being called a <bleep> isn’t personal?

DALTON: No. Its two nouns combined to elicit a prescribed response.

EMPLOYEE 2: [laughs] Well what if someone calls my mama a whore?

DALTON: Is she? [pause with employee laughter] I want you to be nice until its time to not be nice.

EMPLOYEE 3: Well, uh, how are we supposed to know when that is?

DALTON: You won’t. I’ll let you know. You are the bouncers, I am the cooler. All you have to do is watch my back – and each others … and take out the trash.

I guess it just goes to show you that there are leadership lessons everywhere, you just have to be looking for them. Road House, honestly, would have been the last place I would have looked, but damned if they aren’t there as well.

As an aside, I’ve just started reading a book called Leadership Sopranos Style: How to Become a More Effective Boss. Again, another place I would not necessarily look for leadership lessons. The book is pretty good so far. I’ll probably write something up on it when I finish it.

I like books and lectures that use pop culture to make the concepts more accessible. We need more of this in the world, rather than the dry theory of most leadership related material.

Movies: Rocky Balboa

Yesterday the family went to the movies. Normally the way this works is that Jonna and I will go see one movie, and the three kids will go to another. Its rare these days that we all want to see the same movie.

Yesterday was different. The family wanted to see Night at the Museum, the new Ben Stiller film. I had decided that I was going to break down and see Rocky Balboa, the newest and final installment in the Rocky series.

Now, when I first heard that there was going to be a new Rocky movie, I had decided pretty firmly that I was not going to go see it – I would wait for video. But as I continued to see the trailers leading up to its Christmas release, the urge to see another Rocky movie (which overall is probably my favorite series of movies of all time next to the Godfather) gradually took over – to the point where I decided to go see Rocky by myself while the rest of the family went to see Museum.

I approached the movie with quite a bit of trepidation. Rocky 5 was a huge disappointment – not the best way to end a series of movies like Rocky. But as I sat down in the theater and the movie started, I began feeling that same feeling of excitement that has accompanied every Rocky movie I’ve seen since my first viewing of the first Rocky movie back in the late 70’s.

I thought the movie was excellent. While the tag line for the movie is “It’s not over until its over”, a great little quote from Rocky during a conversation with his son sums up the movie quite well:

But it ain’t about how hard you hit… it’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward… how much you can take, and keep moving forward. If you know what you’re worth, go out and get what you’re worth. But you gotta be willing to take the hit.

This quote basically sums up what you get out of every Rocky movie. That inspiring life lesson about going one more round – getting up one more time in the face of adversity. Rocky Balboa wound up being just as inspiring as the rest of the movies – and finally puts a fitting end to the tale of Rocky Balboa – something that Rocky V failed miserably at doing. While you walked out of Rocky V feeling down and depressed, Rocky Balboa has you walking out feeling that the world has been set right in Philadelphia.

Now, on the flip side, there were still some cheesy scenes, but those happen in each of the movies. But overall, it was a great experience. I think the only real disappointment for me is that the rest of the family doesn’t share the same soft spot in their hearts for the characters in this series as I do, so I walked out feeling great with no one to share the experience with.

I do think though, that this is definitely the way the series should have ended. It was great to see the series end on a high note. I give Rocky Balboa 4 out of 5 stars.

New NetFlix User

We finally broke down a few weeks ago and got a Netflix account, after finally getting fed up with local video stores. I know – we’re a little behind the times in certain areas.

I have to say, I’m enjoying the experience.

On the average we rent about 2-3 movies every other week. That comes down to around $16-$24 for 4-6 movies a month. Inevitably, we will wind up with late fees, due to either not having time to watch everything within the allotted time frame, or just plain forgetting that the movie is around.

We joined the “three at a time” plan at the beginning of the month, which runs us $17.99 a month. Since October 30, we’ve had 11 movies delivered right to the house (between all 5 of us). Without Netflix this would have run us $44 for the month of November – not counting late fees. We paid $17.99. A 59% savings for the month.

Normally, I’m not the person worried about saving money in the house. Its one of those things that I’ve never really cared about, as bad as that might seem. My thing has always been convenience. So lets talk about the convenience that I’ve received by using NetFlix over the conventional “go to the rental store and find a movie to watch” experience.

Here’s how the normal experience would go:

  1. Family decides they are excruciatingly bored and we should rent movies
  2. Family gets into car, goes to movie rental place
  3. One or more of family “knows” there was a movie they wanted to see, but for the life of them cannot remember what it was
  4. Family goes through the “new release” section because they are positive that there will be something there that they haven’t seen there that might look interesting
  5. Family cannot find anything that looks remotely interesting
  6. Ron or Jonna remember some movie that they saw when they were kids that they would love to see again and expose the kids to the “fine art of older movie making”.   (Lets use Scanners as an example).
  7. Family goes to the “fine art of older movie making” section, finds “Horror”, finds ‘S’, and Scanners is not there
  8. Someone goes to the counter to find out whether they actually have the movie at the store
  9. Clerk says they definitely have it, and walks us back to the Horror / S section and proceeds to look for the movie in the exact place we didn’t find it
  10. Clerk cannot find it either, shrugs their shoulders, and says it must be in another section and goes back to checking out customers
  11. Family goes through debate as to what everyone wants to see. One picks something, the others don’t want to see it. This goes on for a bit
  12. Family walks out with no movie – or some movie that no one really wants to see
  13. Family member who remembered there was “a movie” they wanted to see still can’t remember

In all, a good 60 minutes (at least) has passed and we walk out unsatisfied.

Now, since the first of the month, every time someone thinks of a movie they want to see, either Jonna or I  go to the NetFlix site and add it to the queue. Our sudden remembrance is recorded and queued to be delivered to the house – asynchronously. No clerks to deal with, no long lines, no late fees.

Here’s a great example. A few weekends ago, Jonna and I were watching the 100 Scariest Movie Moments on Bravo. We are both horror movie buffs, so there were quite a few gems that we knew we definitely wanted to see. I sat with the laptop and added the movies to the queue as we decided we wanted to see them. We got two pretty amusing films: Slither and Rest Stop – two movies we would not have found otherwise.

A few other movies we rented that we would not have agreed to rent otherwise:

  • The Aviator – excellent movie on the life of Howard Hughes
  • Blood Simple – An amusing little thriller that I added to the queue when someone mentioned it in casual conversation. I really liked this movie, though it could have moved a little faster
  • Roger & Me – This was the only Michael Moore movie I had not seen. I actually enjoyed it more than I thought I would have.
  • I finally saw Scanners again. What a great movie – as cheesy as it is.

Here’s the bottom line for me – and the base value that I’m getting out of our membership so far. I don’t have to remember these things any more. I have a place where I can just queue things up as we think of them and when they come its a pleasant surprise. We don’t have to wander around the video store anymore and waste time trying to find something that is “there but miscategorized”, and I don’t have to be on a schedule to watch the movies I’ve rented. If I dawdle, I just don’t get the next thing in the queue.

Finally, Netflix has gotten me one step closer to that dream state that I’ve been thriving for – the ability to do all of the things we normally do without ever having to leave the house.

Now – if only PeaPod served our area and my employer would institute a virtual office policy …

Movies: Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning

Kelsi, Jonna and I went to see Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning today. Kelsi had never seen the original, so this was a brand new experience for her. Her choices were to either see this with Jonna and I, or to attend a fine viewing of Employee of the Month (the Dane Cook movie) with the boys. She picked this one, and paid dearly.

Despite the pretty bad ratings the movie is getting on Rotten Tomatoes, I actually enjoyed it. I’m sure Kelsi would have too, if she could have kept her head out from under my jacket, which I generously loaned to her during one of the first “hard to watch” scenes in the movie.

This time around, you see the origin of the Hewitt family, along with the first group of kids they wound up killing. R. Lee Ermey reprises his role as “Sherriff Hoyt” and is, once again, excellent. That “Full Metal Jacket” feel to his character fits perfectly into this story. Kudos to the casting folks for getting him to play this part.

I enjoyed this movie much more than the Exorcist prequel that came out a while back. There was obviously some thought that went into this one and it winds up complementing 2003 remake very well. The thing I enjoyed the most is that the filmmakers successfully answered the biggest questions I had about the original movie ‘lo those many years ago:

  • Is Sheriff Hoyt really a sheriff?
  • How did he lose his front teeth?
  • What was Leatherface’s career before becoming the most feared serial killer in movie history?
  • How did Uncle Monty lose his legs?
  • What do these guys DO with the bodies of their victims (aside from wear their faces)?

All of these questions and more are answered in what amounts to 84 minutes of absolute gore. If you get queasy at graphic violence, you might want to sit this one out. I found this one to be actually less gory than the 2003 remake of the original, but it’s still pretty hard core and there were a few areas of the movie which made me uncomfortable. When it comes down to it, as I get older I find it harder and harder to watch slasher films. None the less, it did what it set out to do and I thought it was a good way to spend an hour and a half or so on my day off.

Movies: V for Vendetta

V for Vendetta (Widescreen Two-Disc Special Edition)When the boys suggested that we rent the new DVD release of V for Vendetta, I have to say I was not really excited. The movie just didn’t look like something that I would enjoy from the previews. But, being the ultimately cool parents that we are, we gave in and decided to have a nice family night viewing of the movie. On the way home, reading the back cover, I described it to Jonna jokingly as “Phantom of the Opera meets Braveheart meets Batman”.

I have to say, my impressions of the movie from the previews was dead wrong. I enjoyed it immensely. Jonna is sticking with my original description, and when asked if she liked it gives a very flat “eh”.

The story is set in 2015, where the US is in ruins and England is under a Hitler like totalitarian rule of the Grand Chancellor. The “government rules the people” rather than the “people ruling the government”. The regime in power is using people for experimentation in the development of biological weapons and their antidotes.

Then along comes V (played by Hugo Weaving), a vigilante in a “Guy Fawkes” mask who begins to make efforts to organize the over throwing of the government using terrorist like tactics. While V is out to save the people from the government, he also has a need to “get even” with the group of people responsible for torture that he went through while experimented on by the government. I don’t think I’ve seen a movie that articulates both the altruistic goal of freeing the people along with a personal vendetta to “get even” with the people who have wronged the hero – another aspect of the movie that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Another thing that I really liked was that though you get some flashback information at a really high level of who V was, you never really get the full story – and unlike all of the Batman movies – no one, including the audience, ever gets to see who is behind V’s mask.

The final thing that struck me about the character was his complete lack of emotion through what he was doing. It wasn’t your typical “I’m angry and want to get even” type of character. The character had something he felt he needed to do, and although it was some pretty intense revenge, he approached it in completely calm way. I don’t know why this struck me the way it did, but I found it as kind of a cool character trait.

I’m not going to go into a drawn out description of the story. You have to see the movie. I will tell you that after watching and returning it to the video store, we went out and bought it. I’m looking forward to watching it again with Kelsi to get her impressions of it.

Definitely a movie to check out if you like “us against the oppressive government” kind of movies.

Ron’s rating: Two thumbs and a big toe up.

Movies: Superman Returns

We took what seems like a very long 2 1/2 hours of our day yesterday to go see the new movie, Superman Returns. I’m pretty wishy washy about this one. I don’t hate it, but its not the best either.

One of the things I’m trying to keep in mind is a quote that I heard John Carpenter talk about in the DVD extras of The Fog a few months ago. He was essentially talking about how the studios are doing a lot of remakes now to bring stories to the newer generation, as your average kid will not watch a movie that is 10-15 years old now. Updating the story line to look more current, with some current and younger stars, allows a whole new generation to be able to view the story. I totally get it, and this line of thinking got me through The Omen remake without wanting to kill myself by the end of it. Overall, for this purpose, The Omen was OK.

I think it was only a matter of time before a Superman movie came out, with the success of movies like X-Men, Batman, and Spiderman. All of these movies set the bar a little higher for comic book based movies and I’ve liked all of them, especially Batman Begins (Two-Disc Deluxe Edition), which I think is hands down the best comic book super hero based movie made so far (with Spidey and X-Men running close seconds).

I think Superman Returns is a good movie for kids who haven’t seen the original Superman – The Movie. The special effects are great, the photography looks great, and c’mon – Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor — its like butter.

But overall, for me, I enjoyed the original better. The acting was better, the story was more coherent, and the special effects were good enough. During the first half hour of Superman Returns, I had a hard time even figuring out what was going on. The flashbacks were disjointed, with no real context that I could find to place me where I needed to be mentally to understand what had been happening over the last five years.

I thought Brandon Routh did an excellent job in the role of Superman, but I think for me thats more because he totally reminded me of Christopher Reeve. I couldn’t stand this Lois Lane at all, but I can’t put my finger on why. Kevin Spacey was excellent, as usual.

If I were you, I would wait for this one to come out on DVD. Its a cool movie to watch, but if I had it to do over again, I don’t think I would pay todays movie prices to watch it. If you want a great Superman movie, go back to the original Superman – The Movie (ignore the two or three sequels, they sucked too). I think that movie was the definitive Superman movie and still stands the test of time.