Monday, February 23, 2009

Pop Culture Update - the "It's Nearly The End of February" Edition

This is the post wherein I set down my crackpipe remote & type in a few thoughts about some recent stuff that I've read, heard, seen and/or otherwise "ingested". (Warning: there may be some spoilers in here - sorry.)

FILM (both in the theater & DVD)
  • Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist: I'm of two minds about this film - one side of me likes the natural interplay between Nick & Norah and their friends, the edgy soundtrack that doesn't sound like every other teen film I've seen, and the sweet visual style of the film. The other side of me was offended by the casual acceptance of binge drinking, angered by the need to have the two leads engage in a sexual encounter the first night they meet (seriously? a high school girl getting an orgasm is a key plot point?!), and confused by the "my dad is a record mogul" twist that served mainly to give Norah a reason to dump her ex-boyfriend (re-dump?!) and provide a place for the two of them to get down & dirty off the mean streets of NYC.
  • Confessions of a Shopaholic: The movie is schizo - there are moments of magic realism (talking mannequins) set alongside some very nice dramatic bits. At times, the heroine is a complete ditz... at others, she seems to know what she's doing. Weirdly enough, there's are pretty well-disguised nuggets of truth about the nature of addiction buried in here under all the slapstick and the bargain basement Sex in the City clothes-horsing. But is it a good movie? I'm not sure... Isla Fisher is no Amy Adams (though she does a nice job) and yet there's a number of high-quality people doing good work at the fringes of the film (John Goodman, Joan Cusack, John Lithgow). I'd say this will be a good DVD rental/popcorn flick.
  • The Dark Knight: I know that lots of folks feel like this is the "best comic book movie e-var"... but I found it to be technically amazing and yet not terribly compelling. I think they'd have been MUCH better off if they'd stuck with the Joker/"Killing Joke" storyline and not complicated it with the Harvey Dent stuff.


  • Ask A Mexican (Gustavo Arrellano): Everything that is wrong and right with alternative press newspapers (since the book is essentially a compilation of an alt newspaper column by the same title as the book): RIGHT - a willingness to tackle touchy subjects; a specific tone & viewpoint; a blistering sense of humor... WRONG - an overweening love for shock ("how lewd can I be?"); a tendency to beat dead horses to death a second time (we get it - it's all about sex); difficulty viewing complex problems from any viewpoint but their own... With all that, Arrellano is a good comedy writer... but the book is NOT for the easily offended. (His 2nd book, Orange County, was better.)
  • The War: An Intimate History (Ken Burns): This huge book, filled with stunning pictures, both benefits & suffers from the constraints that Ken Burns & the makers of the PBS miniseries put on themselves - track people from 4 different towns throughout the U.S. (Sacramento, Mobile, Luwerne, Waterbury) through WW2. It really is an intimate portrait of war, this particular war, and how it impacted families & towns here in the U.S. At the same time, the intimate focus of the book would make the flow of the war difficult to follow if I didn't already have a pretty decent "basic" background on WW2. Still, this is an excellent work and I recommend to anyone interested in WW2.
  • The Prodigal God (Tim Keller): A tremendous re-thinking of the interpretation & application of the Parable of the Prodigal Son - Keller renames it "The Parable of the Two Lost Sons" and does a splendid job of re-framing the story to help us see clearer the grace & goodness of God to both younger brothers (those who indulge in immoral behavior) and elder brothers (those who use their good behavior in an attempt to obligate God to perform for them). Highly recommended.
  • Nothing new, actually... but I did find FlipSideMN, which has downloads of some very difficult find CCM from the 70's & 80's, including Prodigal, Crumbacher & Fireworks. (Let's put it this way: I'm not going to run out of synth-pop and synth-rock on my iTunes any time soon.)


  • The Amazing Race: thanks to some serious re-thinking in the production department, the first two episodes of this race are the best I've seen in a long time. They are doing minimal airport ticket-buying stuff (yes!) and giving lots more time to the challenges and the scenery. Plus, the Detours & Roadblocks have all been pretty cool to watch. And, if that isn't enough, the two most irritating teams (so far) were eliminated in the first two weeks. What's not to like about that?!
  • Survivor: not sure what I think yet... but I'm pretty sure that "they rub me wrong" is a really lousy criteria for voting people off your tribe this early in the game.
  • Chuck: With the exception of the 3D episode, Chuck has been "not awesome" since coming back. Sigh.
  • Heroes: Ditto with a show I once loved... and this makes me very sad. There are good moments (and nothing as out-&-out oopidstay as Hiro opening the safe last fall) but it feels like it's falling apart. Still, I keep watching & hoping.
  • 24: Leaving L.A. was a very good idea - chunks of this may be recycled from earlier seasons, but it feels fresh.
  • Lost: My head is going to explode from all the wild & wonderful things going on here. Consistently the best show on TV.
  • Battlestar Galactica: I stopped watching the TV show back mid-season 2... but I know enough to vouch that the game captures the feel of the show very well. While I enjoy it a lot, I wish it was 45 minutes shorter (it runs 3 hours with a full table) and didn't threaten to feel a bit same-y after X number of plays.
  • Mow: This is a simple little 6 Nimmt-ish filler from Bruno Cathala that has managed to delight every group I've played it with, gamers & non-gamers alike. The cow art on the cards compliments the light play.
  • Flotte Flosse: A reminder: play kid games with kids to see if they're really good games or not. I played this a couple of years back & gave it a "meh" - it's basically a speed recognition game with fish nets. Then I found a cheap copy this year which Collin got as a Valentine gift - and we've played it 6+ times in the last week or so. The "teeth/no teeth" problem works like a charm with the kids... and they can play us pretty closely (so far, adults & kids have split winning the game). Another great Haba creation.
  • Roll Through The Ages: Yahtzee meets Civilization... and as stupid as that sounds, it works like a charm. This threatens to become the "one last game before we go" game that replaces Race for the Galaxy.
  • Zooloretto/Aquaretto: Finally played a combined game. We shouldn't have used the Savings Book expansion (it skewed the game in favor of cashiers way too much) but otherwise we had a great time. I wouldn't want to play this 2 hour version of the game very often, but there were some neat decisions involved in how you chose to develop your parks. I think both games are splendid, btw... and I love that Michael Schacht keeps developing new variants.

No comments: