Sunday, February 15, 2009

Gran Torino

Can I say before I begin this post that I love Clint Eastwood. I have been a fan since Sergio Leone and his spaghetti westerns. No one does the tough bad ass routine better than Clint Eastwood no matter how old he is. This much is still true in this movie. Now if you were like me and you saw this trailer you would have been like ok, this is Clint Eastwood from Dirty Harry and those bad ass westerns. After watching the trailer, you are thinking, old racist man kills hoodlums that trespass on his yard, "Get off my lawn!." Well you would be wrong. This movie is not entirely as it seems. It is certainly not an action flick.Walt Kowalski (Clint Eastwood) has just buried his wife of 40 plus years and is finding the quiet life by himself to be very difficult. He is a veteran of Korea, a point he grumbly spits out when he is annoyed with someone. He throws out racial epithets like a politician hands out promises. He seems distant with his grown children and his grandchildren. And he has an Archie Bunker like complex with his new neighbors. They are Hmong, an ancient culture originally from Central Asia. I had never heard of this culture until this film. Which in my book is a double bonus--it's great to watch a good movie but it's even better if that good movie has some interesting history to tell. So the Hmong people helped fight against the Viet Cong during Vietnam and when the U.S. left they transported them to the states so they would not be massacred. They have a whole different culture than the Chinese, Vietmese and the Koreans. Which Walt learns about from his young neighbor Sue (Ahney Her). Walt, however, has a rocky beginning with Sue's brother Thao (Bee Vang) who is caught trying to steal the old timer's kick ass Gran Torino for a local gang. Over time Walt comes to like the kid and is determined to get him an honest job away from the gangs and to toughen him up. The gang members don't take kindly to it as they turn Walt's neighborhood into a shooting gallery. He gets some interference and some spiritual guidance from the young Priest (Christopher Carley) that he likes to kick around. This has become a typical theme in recent Eastwood films where Clint challenges the higher order regarding life and death. Will Walt go all Dirty Harry on the gangs to save the neighborhood? Well don't just sit there go and see the damn thing.This is a movie about a man living in another time, and by no means is he a nice man or a gentle man, but he has certain values that allow his better side to show. Throughout the film Walt will make you squirm at least a little bit with his tirade of racist slurs, but for some reason underneath all of that is a man of honor. This is not particularly hidden in the film but it seems to come out at all the proper moments to show the complexity of this grizzly old bastard. Eastwood has crafted a very thoughtful and interesting story, that shockingly enough, has not been nominated for Oscar. This film by far is better than his oscar winning film Million Dollar Baby from a few years ago. But who am I to judge. Never the less I recommend this film highly. It's great to see Clint on screen again and the performances from these unknown stars are really something to take in.

Grade 5 Buckets

Monday, February 09, 2009

Say it Ain't So A-Rod

For starters I am angry at The Player's Union and Bud Selig and I am deeply disappointed in Alex Rodriguez.

Mr. Rodriguez, I have supported you since you've been in pinstripes. You have had naysayers from the beginning, but being the Yankee fan that I am I supported you. When they called you A-Fraud, or got pissed because you had a slump of a year in 2006 even though you had over 100 RBI's (which is still pretty incredible.), I said leave the guy alone. When you girly slapped the ball away from Red Sox Pitcher Bronson Arroyo I said, big deal. When you shouted out at Blue Jay's Howie Clark distracting him from catching a fly ball. I said that Howie was a big baby and that if he can't focus catching a fly ball because someone yelled out Ha! then he shouldn't be in the Major Leagues. When Yankee haters would wear those blondie masks making fun of your jaunt in Canada with a hooker. I just thought they were pathetic because they had no real answer for the homeruns you made them eat all season. Between Joe Torre and even Yankee fans who, from time to time, like to give up on you when you strike out a lot. I was there defending you. If you want me to keep defending you I would hope that tonight, on ESPN with Peter Gammons, that you tell the truth about steroids and what you have done. I still believe steroids or no that you are one of baseballs greatest talents and I think that you can make this better for yourself as long as you do the complete opposite of Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro and Mark McGwire.This is a witch hunt no question and one of these days the reporters will get it wrong and some athlete will suffer because they couldn't prove in a court of law these allegations. I think that in order for Baseball to recover the glory of its former years it must discard of Bud Selig and if not all or most of the heads of the Player's Union. They must impose tough new rules on steroids for future players. This must be done in the next few weeks before Spring training officially begins otherwise the list of names will keep growing with no end in sight. THIS MUST STOP NOW!As I continue this article I'm watching the interview with Peter Gammons. A-Rod has admitted to the Steroids from 2001-2003 as a Texas Ranger. To say that Alex Rodriguez was being honest seems to be mostly correct and that is a great thing. To say that Alex Rodriguez is sincere in his apology--well, that's hard to say. I have never personally liked A-Rod he always seemed to be the opposite of Derek Jeter, in one word, selfish. But I have always tried to give him the benefit of the doubt. In all honestly he has proven to be a liar, as my good friend Cody, so aptly put it. He has disgraced himself, his team and his sport and there is no getting around that. The irony here is we will see what kind of player he can truly be when you take away his stats. From this interview I don't get the impression that it has sunken in fully with this man that, no matter how much he grovels, he will never be in the Hall of Fame even if he breaks Bond's record. This will be his greatest test can he actually put numbers aside roll up his sleeves and play baseball with the sole purpose to win World Series and to help the team. Is he capable of this? I don't know but as Cody said, we're stuck with him for 9 more years. He's obviously not going to go to jail and the Yankees aren't going to boot him, so I only have this to say:

"If he can focus and get the Yankees a few World Series wins--if he can at least pretend to be a selfless player dedicated to winning championships and playing as a team, then you will not hear any complaints from me Mr. Alex Rodriguez. It is now up to you to make up for what you have done--it's time for you to set a good example to kids playing the sport and to the game itself."Baseball cannot continue to have this drip, drip of names leaking out every couple of years. I love the game of Baseball I've loved it my entire life to me it is America's Pastime and it can be again. I have to have hope that in a few years I can take my son to the new Yankee Stadium to see these players that are larger than life do the impossible things we've seen them do year after year. But I also want him to look at these players and feel, just by looking at them, that they love this game that it's not about money and it's not just about stats, it's about playing 9 innings on a lazy Sunday afternoon and taking your licks at the plate. This is the only way to get past the era of steroids I just hope the sport is up to the challenge.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

He's Just Not That Into You

Well I got voted down on yet another movie, damn this makes two. I still haven't gotten the chance to see the Wrestler or Slumdog Millionaire and I couldn't quite convince my wife and her sister to go and see either so I had to go see He's Just Not That Into You. Was it a cute movie? Yes. Was it a funny movie? Not Really. Was it a movie I would recommend? Well, I'm not so sure. Now this film had a cast of thousands, many of which I am a fan of. I like Justin Long, he's usually funny from films like Accepted, and yes, I liked him in Live Free or Die Hard. He especially shines in his small roles like Galaxy Quest, The Break Up and Zack and Miri Make a Porno. Unfortunately they don't let him do his thing here, he kind of feels like a Billy Crystal rip off from When Harry Met Sally. You also have Ginnifer Goodwin who is lovable and adorable on Big Love and she tries really hard to be in this movie, except that most of the time she comes off as annoying. Now I'm gonna cut her some slack since I think that was the purpose of her character but--it did kind of get on my nerves.This is basically a date night film, which is a great thing. I checked the gross totals over the past weekend and it seems to be hitting their demographic even better then the filmmakers assumed. This film revolves around mostly 25-30 year old singles and a few marrieds trying to figure out how to get or keep their signifigant others. I was told this was based on a book by one of the writers of Sex and the City who, I assume, wanted to explore the female agita with men in the dating pool. It's kind of Singles mixed with When Harry Met Sally. Throughout the film they utilize random couples sharing their stories about heart break and rejection. So you have Ben Affleck with Jennifer Aniston, Jennifer Connelly with Bradley Cooper. Scarlett Johanson with Bradley Cooper and Kevin Connolly. Ginnifer Goodwin with Kevin Connolly and Justin Long. And finally Drew Barrymore with Kevin Connolly. Whew! Did I mention there were a lot of couples in this fricking movie. Probably too many. Yes there were some interesting situations and some very clever and funny bits but in the end it was a bit too much. If you want a nice sweet movie to take your girl to, take her to this. You won't hate it but in the end it won't be anything memorable.

Grade 2 Buckets