Saw a Takashi Miike picture called The Great Yokai War. "Yokai" is a Japanese term for monsters from folklore, as opposed to the more familiar kaiju. It's a kids' picture, about a young boy from Tokyo sent out to live in the countryside with his older sister and his intermittently senile grandfather. When a vengeful spirit appears, the boy gets caught up in a war between warring groups of yokai and must find his courage to become the "Kirin Rider", the hero who will set everything to rights. It's not a bad picture - nothing deep, but an amusing story. Some of the yokai are really trippy, Japanese folklore can get pretty "out there", apparently.

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I've been meaning to see that -- I've heard nothing but good things -- but still haven't gotten around to it.
I watched it this morning for the third time, this time with the "cast and crew" commentary on. They make some good-natured jabs at themselves and the fans of Primer.

"You've got the brain of a four-year-old boy, and I'll bet he was glad to get rid of it." -Groucho Marx

Check out the Secret Headquarters (my store) website! It's a pretty lame website, but I did it myself, so tough noogies

Listen to, it's the future of rock-n-roll!

I finally got around to Shattered Glass (the family was stalemated on what to watch, so I pulled rank and popped it into the machine). The based-on-a-true-story of Stephen Glass, a graduate of the Janet Cooke School of Journalism -- he was a whiz kid at The New Republic in the '90s, the guy whose stories always had that perfect quote or that fascinating anedote ... mostly because he made them up.

As a hotshot freelancer, he was making a name for himself with articles not just in The New Republic, but in George, Rolling Stone, and elsewhere. He progressed from making up quotes to making up anecdotes to fabricating entire articles -- and the notes, too, because he had to fool the fact-checkers. But he was tripped up because one of his stories was just too good: He wrote about a 15-year-old kid who hacked into a major Silicon Valley company, Jukt Micronics, and posted salary information from all the executives on the Internet. Instead of prosecuting the boy, the company hired him, the article went, describing him meeting with executives at some hackers' convention in Bethesda, Md. and negotiating the terms of his employ -- "I want money, and a sports car, and a lifetime subscription to Playboy", etc.

That story was so juicy that the inevitable happened: Some other publication wanted to write about it.

Cut to: Forbes magazine, where, at spinoff publication Forbes Digital Tool, which focuses on Internet-type stuff, an editor shows the article to his ace reporter and says, "Why didn't we have this story?" Ace reporter gets to work on his own article, but -- funny thing -- he can't find the kid. Or Jukt Micronics. None of his sources have ever heard of either of them. The company isn't registered to do business in California. There's no record that it paid property taxes or business taxes. There are no listings in the phone book for anyone named in the article. Etc., etc., and so forth.

The Forbes editor and reporter contact Glass and his editor at The New Republic with their findings. The way the conversation goes, Glass leads everyone to believe he's been conned by a prankster ... but his editor isn't totally convinced, when Glass shows them the Jukt Micronics website, which didn't look like one from a major corporation but something somebody slapped together overnight (and would a major corporation use America Online as its host?), and the kid's agent's business card, which looked like something somebody made on a home computer and printer. And given that there's been some doubt about another of his articles, this editor is really queasy about the whole thing.

The best part of the movie comes when his editor demands that Glass take him to the hotel where the hackers' convention was -- and sees that the area in the conference center was much too small to have held the thousands of people mentioned in the story. And then he asks a security guard about that convention last Sunday and is told "The building is closed on Sunday." And then Glass tells him the group went to dinner and they go to the restaurant -- and finds it closes every day at 3 o'clock. And Glass is just tapdancing as fast as he can -- "But, but -- they let us in at 2:58!" Oy.

And later -- much later -- it occurs to the editor that if this story was bogus, then it probably wasn't the only one.

Hayden Christiansen is much better here than in any of the Star Wars movies; he conveys Glass as a sweaty sociopath who has a needy need to be liked. Indeed, after he's caught, the staff almost mutinies on his behalf, because he's ingratiated himself with everyone, and because he's been bad-mouthing the editor behind his back for months, too.

The DVD comes with a 60 Minutes profile featuring the real Glass and his real-life editor. Fascinating stuff.
An amazing story.

When I was reading your review, I vaguely remembered a similar story from a few years ago.

wiki on Jayson Blair

I'd got the two mixed up, so I thought Haydn Christiansen looked like 'creative casting' until wiki cleared away the fog.

Are they both one-offs, or do you think they are symptomatic of the sorry state of print journalism recently?
Finally saw WATCHMEN - The Director's Cut on Blu-Ray.

The good: some tech bits are brilliant.
The question: This version boasts 24 minutes of additional footage. I can't imagine what a mess this would have looked like with 24 minutes cut out.
The bad: Much of the acting (Haley was fine - everybody else was about at the level of a Syfy movie and whoever played Ozymandias was so bad he reeked "bad guy" from the start.) And most of the non-CGI makeup was abominable. As bad as the end of "A Beautiful Mind."

But the movie was, overall, so bad (IMHO) that it makes me wonder if the comic, which I haven't read for 20 years, was as bad. The political background of the story always seemed a little murky to me, and having the scenes replicated seems even murkier. And, unlike the comic, you never really get a sense of impending atomic doom.

As with almost all Alan Moore's work, the beginnings are swell, the middles are amazing and the endings leave a lot to be desired. The ending of "Watchmen" never made real sense -- it didn't really make sense when a version of it appeared in every third issue of Tales to Astonish in 1960 and I didn't buy it in 1986. To his credit, Snyder tried to deal with the ending head-on, but his version, while bringing the characters into it, is maybe more unsatisfying and unrealistic. Part of it is that, in 1985, the notion of the world being so scared that the US and USSR work together or whatever was a common motif, in a post-1991 real world, the idea of the US and USSR joining forces is a TERRIBLE notion! In 1985, no one could have predicted the Soviets had six years to go, you see.

Also, Ozymandias' presumptive notion of a new form of energy seems weird when the Owl-Ship seems to run on magic. Speaking of that, the tenement fire was very poorly shot, and Rohrshach's mask made no sense (having the face change in the comic works because it's art; having it actually change "in real life" indicates some alien technology that appears nowhere else and doesn't seem to be available to someone like Rohrshach. Oh, and where did everybody learn to fight like that???)

And -- in a "real life" character -- why does Rohrshach talk like that? (Sometimes, that is.)

Color me quite disappointed.
Holly and I saw 500 Days of was a refreshing take on the romantic comedy film...and I liked everyone in it.
My book club got free tickets to an advance showing of the new movie "Zombieland" a couple weeks ago (We had just recently read World War Z; it was on the club's website). It's out in theaters in tomorrow, and to repay the promo departments investment, I would just like to say - it's a really funny movie. Not terribly deep, and it doesn't have anything new to say on the human condition, but it's a well done mix scary/gory zombie horror and humor. I highly recommend it.
The journalism establishment would like to think Steven Glass and Jayson Blair are one-offs; what I say to that is that the likes of guys like that don't last long and are weeded out fairly quickly (usually; don't get me started on Mike Barnicle). But I don't think they are symptomatic of the "sorry state of print journalism recently." Print journalism has bigger problems than creeps like those, especially different kind of creeps like the Glenn Becks and Michelle Malkins of the world. (Yes, I know they aren't in print, but they aren't journalists either, and this is the movies thread, so I'll stop.)
We saw Whip It! last night. If you aren't familiar, it's the directorial debut of Drew Barrymore, and it's the story of a small-town Texas girl (Ellen Page) who discovers a love for roller derby, and so joins a team without her parents' knowledge. On its face, it's pretty much just another coming of age / teenager finding herself movie, but Barrymore directs this movie very competently, and knows when to get out of the way and let her characters shine. It's also got a pretty strong cast (Page, Barrymore, Alia Shawkat, Kristin Wiig, Marcia Gay Harden, Juliette Lewis) who don't phone in their performances, even with their somewhat cookie-cutter coming-of-age-movie characters. (Actually, one of the weakest performance is from Barrymore herself, who could've — ironically — benefited from a stronger director discouraging some of her worse impulses.)

Final rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
Saw Zombieland today. It's a lot of fun.
Last night we saw Julie & Julia. It was a "good enough" movie, in that it had (mostly) enjoyable characters, entertaining moments, and all-around excellent performances, but not the strongest of stories. I'm of the opinion that it could've been better served by fictionalizing the stories a bit more, because as-is, Julia's story was a bit too lacking in serious conflict, and Julie's lacked in strong motivation. Still, Meryl Streep did an excellent job, and Julia Child is a delightful character, so it's worth it enough just for her performance.
A few weeks back, I saw 17 Again, starring Zac Efron as a man who wishes his life had taken a different turn. As the movie begins, he's on top of the world: He's the captain of the high school basketball team, it's the night of the big game, there's a college scout in attendance just itching to hand him a full-ride scholarship ... but his girlfriend gives him the news that she's knocked up.

He runs out of the big game, goes to his girlfriend and pledges his undying love and to do the right thing and marry her, which, while nominally noble, seals him to a horrible fate ...

... he grows up to become Matthew Perry.

Almost as bad, he's apparently spent the past 20 years whining that he never went to college, thus causing that undying love to curdle. His now-wife is fed up with him and is divorcing him, and he's alienated from his teenage daughter and younger son. One day, while he visits them at the high school, he is looking at the trophy case -- something he apparently does quite often -- and a kindly janitor with a twinkle in his eye strikes up a conversation and then vanishes. Later, he encounters the janitor about to jump off a bridge -- they don't even try to pretend they stole this bit straight out of It's a Wonderful Life --- but falls into the water himself. And when he makes his soggy way home, he learns he's been turned back into Zac Efron.

From there, with the help of his best friend -- back in high school, he was the waterboy; now he's an Internet millionaire rich enough that he never had to bother with growing up -- our guy Zac tries to win his wife over anew and reconnect with son and daughter.

This was the first time I'd seen Zac Efron outside of a song-and-dance role (the High School Musical movies, and the Hairspray remake), and I noticed something I hadn't before: He can't act. But that doesn't sink the movie. It was an amiable time-waster, nothing more.

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