Josh Hornik Blog

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June 21, 2005

Batman's Mysterious Moving Castle's Skin Begins

I have been remiss in my Roger Ebert imitation, and I've seen a few good ones recently. Here are the capsules:

Batman Begins
Yes, it's true. This is the best Batman movie. It's very entertaining without being stupid, like most action/superhero movies. In fact, what is great about it is how well it manages to show the origin story of Batman and completely plausibly explain all of the things that have always seemed so ridiculous in Batman. (You know, like how, if he hasn't been hit by Gamma rays or come from another planet, can he be so good at fighting and never get killed, and, as Joker said in the first one, where does he get all those toys?)
Christian Bale is good, especially when playing Bruce Wayne (I could have done without his Batman growly voice), and all the cast not engaged to Tom Cruise play and fit their parts well, especially Michael Caine, who plays Alfred perfectly. I didn't love the way Nolan directed the fight scenes, but the look of the movie and the special effects are just right.

Howl's Moving Castle

The latest movie from Hayao Miyazaki (of My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away fame) finally made its way over from Japan, and it is more of what you would expect. In other words, incredible animation, weird unexplainable things happening to charming characters, led by a strong female lead, and social messages (in this case, war is futile, and there are more important things than beauty).
Though it's not as successful as Spirited Away at bringing the viewer into its world, it's still a fun story with a few surprises and a satisfying ending. And any kid who could follow Spirited Away and stay involved should love this one, too.

Mysterious Skin
Entertaining is not quite the word for this movie, but it is a powerful and extremely well-written look at the horrors of sexual abuse. What is striking about the movie is that it uses the parallel stories of two victims without blame or hatred for the abuser -- one actually felt honored and loved by the abuse, while the other has blocked the experience entirely -- to make the audience feel the truly terrible and long-ranging effects of the abuse. The acting by the two leads is great, as is the acting by the child actors, who couldn't possibly have known what they were really acting out. Gregg Araki wrote and directed and, while there were a few heavy-handed hints showing the direct cause-and-effect between one boy's abused past and his unseemly present situation, the story and dialogue were real and powerful.

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June 16, 2005

Another slow news day...

Someone got paid to do this poll. Someone else got paid to report on it. U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!

Click for the most important news of the day.

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June 08, 2005

Look out, Wal-Mart

Because my Reclining Pig store is growing faster and faster. More products being added daily (because it is too much fun making them to stop).

Now available: Vampire Pig and Where's ET merch, too.

And check out this must-have for your car's bumper.

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June 07, 2005

Is Stephen Colbert the funniest man on TV?

Quick, name the funniest two minutes on TV each week.

If you said Andy Rooney's weekly segment on 60 Minutes, the first segment of Two And A Half Men, or even the C-SPAN presentation of President Bush's weekly radio address, I'm afraid you are very wrong.

The answer is Stephen Colbert doing "This Week In God" on The Daily Show (Jon Stewart's show on Comedy Central).

"This Week In God" is so consistently funny, it almost makes me believe it was created by a higher power. Of course, when the entire world of religion is yours to make fun of, and you can be as smart and insouciant as The Daily Show always is, there's a lot of opportunity. Oh yeah, and events like a new Pope being elected and a brain-dead woman being kept alive inspiring a fight in Congress help, too. But the jokes are always original and surprising.

And sold to their fullest. On a show with a lot of comic talent (Jon Stewart, Lewis Black, Steve Carell, etc.), Stephen Colbert is the funniest of them all. He commits 100% to even his most absurd jokes, though always with a knowing wink to the audience (and Stewart). He just got a deal for his own show to follow The Daily Show, in which he'll spoof personality-driven political shows like Hardball. I'm sure it will be hilarious.

Anyway, I don't even know if "This Week In God" (click here and you can see an old segment) is really a weekly segment. It doesn't seem to be on any set day. So I suggest just Tivoing The Daily Show every day and watching for it.

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June 04, 2005

Get your Reclining Pig gear!

Announcing the opening of the Reclining Pig Store!

Now available: T-shirts in many styles, hats, and coffee mugs.

Coming soon: New styles, more products, maybe even some designs beyond just the Pig...

Get your Christmas shopping done early.

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June 03, 2005

Cinderella Man

The new movie Cinderella Man is about as subtle as a Max Baer haymaker. But, OK, I'll give it a break. There are lots of different styles of boxers and there are lots of different styles of movies. Ron Howard isn't the type of director to dance around the ring, feinting and weaving and setting up his viewers for a crushing blow. Ron, I've seen Million Dollar Baby, and you're no Clint Eastwood.

Instead, he's the type to come out punching with giant telegraphed swings from both sides, like Baer, the big bad heavyweight champion (and requisite villain) in this movie. Sure, some of the punches don't land, but in the end the audience is knocked out anyway.

Cinderella Man is a crowd-pleaser, and extremely well made. Except for the writing, which sorely lacks depth, everyone involved is in top form. Russell Crowe is a brilliant actor and the guy has more charisma in his little finger than I do in my whole body. Of course, it's easy to get the viewer behind you when your character is such a saint among men. As portrayed here, Braddock's only possible flaw would be his headstrongness, except that he turns out always to be making the right decision. But Crowe milks the emotional scenes and still seems perfectly believable as a boxing champion and a toughguy.

Paul Giamatti, also reliably good, makes his manager character come to life and seem almost human, rather than the archetype in the script. Renee Zellwegger is fine, in a one-note part as the supportive but put-upon wife. (Full disclosure: I don't know how I got so soured, but I can barely stand looking at Renee Zellwegger. That scrunchy face drives me mad, for some reason. Yuck.)

As an underdog boxing movie, Cinderella Man really succeeds. Howard's direction of the boxing scenes is exciting and dramatic, though I suspect none of these fights could have been as thrilling in real life as they are in the movie. Where the movie fails is in its shallow treatment of the depression, with the obligatory scenes of men looking for but not finding work, electricity being shut off, a family having barely enough food to feed the children, etc. A subplot about Braddock's friend as a union instigator feels tacked on and almost completely unnecessary.

So, in the end, just as George Foreman the puncher managed to win the heavyweight championship, this movie will be popular and well-reviewed, but of course it was Muhammad Ali, the dancer, who was the Greatest Of All Time.

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June 02, 2005

I saw Rob Reiner -- 7 points

I was at the Dodgers - Cubs game on Memorial Day and passed acclaimed director Rob Reiner (and daughter, I guess) in the arcade behind the stands.

I can think of 2 reasons he will probably get a high rating:
1. Marty
2. DiBergi

But let's go through the motions...

First, he was at a baseball game and, more importantly, I saw him as I left the game, which was after the game ended. In other words, he stayed until the end, even though his team (I assume the Dodgers) was losing. Very un-L.A. +1 point.

Two words, that I'm sure Mr. Reiner's been running from most of his life: Meat Head. +1 for being on one of the all-time greatest TV shows. -1 for his acting ability.

While we're talking great sit-coms, +1 point for being Carl Reiner's kid, which means his life was the basis for another of the all-time greatest TV shows, The Dick Van Dyke Show.

But it's all about the movies he's directed. And he has definitely directed good ones. In fact, three of the best movies ever made: This is Spinal Tap, The Princess Bride, and When Harry Met Sally. +2 points for each. (He also directed The Sure Thing, Stand By Me, A Few Good Men, and The American President, but I can't give him points for every single movie, can I?)

Of course, we can't forgive him for also directing: North, The Story of Us, and Alex & Emma. -1 for each of those.

Special demerit: -2 points for directing Misery, because most of the world thinks that's a great movie and I didn't like it at all, which makes me feel stupid.

-2 Star Wars Factor, I'm afraid.

Final score: 7 points!

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