Mynagirl’s Top Ten Movies

Posted on April 8th, 2005 in Entertainment,Movie Reviews by mynagirl

Full Metal Jacket — This movie embodies all things I normally can’t stand — war movies, people shouting at each other, and yet it’s hypnotic and I can’t not watch it. It’s a shining example (so to speak) of Kubrick’s directorial skill. To this day when I see Vietnam-era movies with infantrymen moving through wastelands I keep waiting for that jangling rusty-swingset sound to come in and fray my nerves and am disappointed when it doesn’t. Plus, where else can you learn so many creative and voluminous insults?
The Princess Bride — How this movie ever even got made is beyond me. How do you pitch this to a studio? “It’s a humorous mythical period piece with periodic interruptions by a grumpy sick kid and his forgetful grandpa.” And it’s so pitch-perfect, every frame, every nuance, each expression and turn of phrase. It’s endlessly quotable, so full of warmth and humanity. We got the privilege of seeing it once at the midnight movie here at the Landmark River Oaks and there is nothing like a theatre full of one hundred people saying in unison, “Drop…your…sword!”
Romeo + Juliet — Baz Luhrmann’s lush visual feast is more than a modern-day retelling of Romeo and Juliet transposed onto a pseudo-modern-day world infused with low-riders, pistolas, and Catholic iconography… it’s actually still an entrancing and heartbreaking tale, even more captivating and otherworldly for its use of the original Shakespearean language. Clare Danes and Leonardo di Caprio are unbelievable (along with Paul Sorvino, Brian Dennehy, and M. Emmet Walsh, and a very babyfaced Paul Rudd), and this movie makes me bawl every single time.
Dangerous Liaisons — Because one lush visual feast wasn’t enough… I have to include this movie. It’s so easy to dismiss or make fun of this as a corset-intensive bore-fest, but it has a lot of layers. First of all, it’s the defining Malkovich role (as far as I’m concerned, he’s played this role since), and Glenn Close’s closing scene is worth the Oscar nomination the role garnered her. Yes, you have to pay attention to what’s going on in the story, but in my opinion, it’s well made and actually very gripping. Besides, you get to see Keanu Reeves in knickers. That’s pretty funny.
A Christmas Story — The best use of voice-over narration, hands-down. The movie is wonderful because it is heartwarming and precious but not saccharine (when the kids are not around adults they call each other the sort of rude names that unsupervised kids would). The movie hits all the right notes, and the absolute icing on the cake is the the fact that the narration is indeed by the guy whose childhood the movie depicts and who wrote the screenplay. Perhaps that’s why it rings so wonderfully true.
Beverly Hills Cop — This is a classic Hollywood action comedy / action movie, and it’s a bonus that every line is perfectly written and the main character beautifully realized for Eddie Murphy in his comedic prime. I know every single word

The Terry Schiavo Tragedy

Posted on April 8th, 2005 in Commentary,Health and Fitness by EngineerBoy

Terry Schiavo passed away recently, 13 days after having her feeding tube removed. Depending on who you ask, one of the following is true:

Terry Schiavo has been in a persistent vegetative state for over a decade, and prior to her demise she expressed (on multiple occasions) her wish to never be kept alive as a vegetable.

-or-

Terry Schiavo has been suffering from an untreated bout of reduced consciousness that could have been treated if only her husband would have spent her settlement money on it.

However, if you track the timeline of this case and include the relevant public information, one thing becomes clear, and that is that nothing about this case is clear. As far as I can tell from the public record, every single doctor that has directly examined Terry Schiavo, including dispassionate, court-appointed doctors, have confirmed the medical diagnosis of persistent vegetative state. However, a handful of other doctors, some also dispassionate, have said the exact opposite, or at least indicated that her condition should be re-evaluated before a final diagnosis is made, basing their conclusions on the available medical records and videotapes.

Ah, Those Videotapes…

Family members have reported that Terry Schiavo responds to them, smiles, tracks movements with her eyes, and even tried to speak when her feeding tube was removed. The news networks have shown (ad infinitum) the same 2-3 minutes of videotape showing Terry’s mother kissing her and holding balloons in front of her, and Terry smiling and tracking the balloons with her eyes. When I first saw that videotape I was stunned that anyone could think she was vegetative. However, if you look deeper at all the available video evidence, what you find is that even though her parents have had decades to videotape her and show her being aware and interacting, that one video clip is the only one I can find in the public record. However, there are also significant other medical videotapes of her examinations, showing her making the same faces and eye movements, but not in response to any of the stimuli in the area.

Many of the talking head doctors on the news, as well as those that have examined Terry Schiavo, have stated that her smiling, head movements, and eye movements are simply involuntary reflexive reactions and are not based on external stimuli. There are videotapes (which have been shown on the news, but only rarely, as they are not “controversial”) showing doctors clapping in her ears, talking to her, stroking her cheeks, shining lights, moving colored objects, etc, while all the while Terry Schiavo sat there making smiles and grimaces and head movements, but not related to any of the attempts to get her attention. They appeared random. In fact, in the context where they movements were not related directly to anything, they appeared to be a bit spastic. Which is exactly what one would expect from someone in a persistent vegetative state.

So, the Inescapable Conclusion Is…

Based on all

Hot Yoga (Check it and See)

Posted on April 7th, 2005 in Health and Fitness,Mynagirl by mynagirl

The Time Has Come

I’ve been waiting to write this article because I wanted to have more breadth of exposure to yoga (and in particular this kind of yoga) before expounding to any degree on this exercise or this particular studio in an article on our web site. I wanted to try another hot yoga / Bikram yoga studio in Houston to be able to compare and contrast experiences. I thought maybe trying other types of yoga might be good, too… nice to have a range of experience before shooting one’s mouth off about something, especially something as trendy and popular as yoga seems to be at the moment.

However, the time has come for me to yap at you about yoga, and it has to be now. Despite the fact that I haven’t gone to any other studios yet. Despite the fact that I haven’t tried any other forms of yoga. It has to be now because this stuff is just too wonderful for me, and the studio where I go now is just so great I can’t bring myself to try another place, even though intellectually I know I should. I mean, if I’m liking and looking forward to exercise this much right now, why should I mess around with that?

Bikram Yoga, or Hot Yoga

Ok, not that I am a yoga historian or anything, but here’s what I’ve gathered. (Insert standard CleverDonkey disclaimer here: feel free to check yer facts elsewheres, as you won’t hurt my feelings). Bikram yoga is not a “traditional” form of yoga, inasmuch as yoga as a discipline is, oh, 5,000 years old, and Bikram, the dude who came up with Bikram yoga, is still alive and holding court in Los Angeles. His philosophy, near as I can make out, is that doing yoga in a heated room gives the body greater pliability and more ability to really achieve something wonderful in the postures. I think there might also be some concept thrown in there about getting toxins out of the body via sweat and that in India, the birthplace of yoga, it’s pretty hot, so you should try and do yoga in an environment more like where yoga was invented and originally practiced.

Bikram himself (full name: Bikram Choudhury), after inventing this type of yoga and presumably getting some folks to really like it, began at some point churning out certified instructors. They go through an intensive training course of some number of weeks where they live on site during the instruction. He also certifies yoga studios, in that they can be “franchises” and authorized to use the Bikram name for their yoga classes. I think there’s even a lawsuit at the moment regarding name licensing against some studios that use the word “Bikram” if they’re not an authorized Bikram franchise. Very zen stuff.

Anyway, onto the yoga itself. It’s a series of 26 particular postures, all of which (to my knowledge)

Recommendation for House Cleaning in Houston

Posted on April 7th, 2005 in Houston by mynagirl

Maria Rodriguez

Home: 713 413 1659

Cell: 832 875 8115

If you’re anything like us, you like having a clean house but hate housecleaning. Or you don’t have time. Or it’s a point of marital tension — differing definitions of “clean” and differing tolerances for “dirty”. To solve any or all of these issues you might be willing to give up a portion of your otherwise “fun” money to have someone (or some service) come in and clean up your house every so often, if only…

…if only. And there’s always the trouble I’ve had. If only you can find someone you like. Someone you trust. Someone who will come into your house and do a good job, and you can trust to be in your house with your things (and your pets!) but won’t leave you feeling like your personal space has been invaded. Truly the only way to find someone like that is with a personal recommendation. I mean, you can’t really trust a cleaning service, can you? Where different people will be coming in every time, someone new handling that key to your house / apartment / condo every single week?

Well, in this digital age, consider this an effusive personal recommendation for Maria Rodruiguez, the wonderful lady who cleans our house. She’s cleaned our house every other week for about four years (although there was a period of about six months where I foolishly did without her and miserably tried to do it myself) — both where we are now and the townhome before this.

She and her helpers (mostly relatives, I think) are great… I never worry when they’re here: our dogs love her (although they’re in their crates on Maid Day) and Maria & Co. take great care never to shut our cats in a room or closet when they clean. She mostly brings her own supplies, although I provide some stuff like Murphy Oil Soap for our hardwoods and generally ask her if she needs anything specific. She does laundry if I ask, any dishes in the sink (I try not to leave too many but sometimes it happens), and all the normal hard work stuff — bathrooms, floors, carpets, mirrors, etc. Our house is a particular challenge because of all the pet hair and a fair amount of technology clutter and they do a great job. The house is always AMAZING when we come home… coming in from the garage on Maid Day is the most wonderful treat. We always look forward to it, because it’s like our house has been transformed to this sparkling palace just for us.

If you’re looking for a someone to clean your house in the Houston area, I think she can do houses mostly anywhere, although we happen to be in the Heights. (She’s also cleaned for some of my friends out on the West Belt, so I think she’ll range pretty far). She’s pretty

Kung Fu Hustle (**½)

Posted on April 2nd, 2005 in Movie Reviews by EngineerBoy

So I went into this movie with elevated expectations. It was a martial arts comedy, a combination that I am predisposed to enjoy. I’m not a huge fan of martial arts movies, but I like them well enough, and I have enjoyed kung fu comedies in the past (Rumble in the Bronx, for example). I don’t really care for kung fu films (or other films, like The Matrix) that have characters participate in physics-defying fantasy fighting. I’m all for over-the-top choreography, but I prefer my martial arts to be possible under the laws of physics, even if highly improbable.

But Kung Fu Hustle has fantasy fighting in abundance, with different characters possessing different magical “styles” of fighting. In the context of this film I was okay with that conceit, but found the actual execution to be a bit cartoonish, with no attempt to hide the CGI-ness of it all. In fact, the film seems to revel in the digitality of it all.

The story follows the conflict between The Axe Gang and the residents and landlords of Pig Sty Alley. The Axe Gang members all dress like the Blues Brothers with top hats and hatchets, and Pig Sty alley is a decrepit little almost-slum that is the feifdom of the curler-haired, constantly-cigarette-ed, housecoat-wearing landlady and her limp dishrag of a husband. Our protagonist, Sing, and his partner try a penny-ante scam on one of the Sty-gians, only to find him being protected by the quite imposing landlady.

Sing’s charade draws the attention of the actual Axe Gang, and they come out in force to seek revenge on the Pig Sty. However, it turns out that three of the Stygians are actual kung fu masters with magical powers who end up fighting off the huge Axe-ian contingent. The residents of Pig Sty Alley are surprised and grateful to the three masters, but this is only the beginning of the troubles as the Axe Gang keeps raising the stakes.

The rest of the story is pretty classic kung fu movie stuff, where our protagonist must rise up to defeat his foes and fears, and face his past. Parts of it are cute, and there are some laugh-out-loud funny moments, but overall the parts didn’t gel for me.

Also, the everpresent trailers for the film use the song “Ballroom Blitz” to great effect, but it does not appear in the actual film. What a rip-off.

The Interpreter (**)

Posted on April 2nd, 2005 in Movie Reviews by EngineerBoy

So, this movie could have been fairly good, if:

One of the characters didn’t just simply announce the upcoming key plot twist well before it actually happens.
Sean Penn didn’t spend the whole movie trying to act like a taciturn Clint Eastwood.
Nicole Kidman’s character (Silvia Broome) had managed to find a barette to keep her damn hair out of her face.
Sean Penn and Nicole Kidman had had any actual chemistry.
The level of incompetence of the Secret Service wasn’t so unbelievable (e.g. Kidman’s character eludes them when she doesn’t even know she’s being followed!)
The writers/directors/producers hadn’t chickened out and added a token white guy to the bad guy’s team.
The ending and denouement hadn’t been so trite and hackneyed.

Thankfully, thankfully, thankfully we don’t have to see the two leads lock lips or fall into bed with each other. They exchange some glances that I think are supposed to be smoldering, but looked more to me like two people glaring at each other at a traffic light thinking each was cut off by the other. There is one almost-tender moment where Penn’s character comforts Kidman’s character, but she ends up taking a nap on him (but they don’t sleep together).

But overall this movie is just the same old Hollywood crap. A typical waste of three Oscar winners (Kidman, Penn, and director Sydney Pollack) who are in a story that I bet started out as an interesting script, but was morphed by the Hollywood Frankensteins into “entertainment” instead of leaving it as an actual story. Shame on Sydney Pollack for ending his eight year directorial hiatus and choosing this dreck as his comeback vehicle. Has it gotten so bad in Hollywood that the combined stick of Kidman, Penn, and Pollack can’t save a film from being homogenized, partially hydrogenated, and made shelf-stable? Or did those three simply cash in without worrying about artistic integrity? It’s sad that in today’s Hollywood it’s hard to know the answer to that question.

Anyway, I wasn’t bored by the film, but I was ready for it to be done, and I began forgetting it before I even left the theater. ‘Nuff said.

Sin City (***)

Posted on April 1st, 2005 in Movie Reviews by EngineerBoy

When I saw the trailers for Sin City I knew that I would hate it. The trailers showed that the film contained all of my least favorite film elements, to wit:

Film noir, which I hate with very few exceptions
Gratuitous use of black-and-white, including my least favorite subcategory of “certain things are still weirdly colorful”
Random characters (not superheroes) who casually break the laws of physics
Reverse-anachronisms, such as skyscrapers being modern-day glass and steel towers, but everybody still drives an old gangster car and wears snap-brim hats
Incessant smoking
Growling voice-overs
Every female character is young, beautiful, armed, tough, and dressed like a slut
Mickey Rourke
Nerds romanticizing their arrested adolescence by using the term “graphic novels” when referring to comic books

The only thing that would have made this film seem like a worse fit for me is if the characters were prone to breaking out into spontaneous song. But the above list still meant that I immediately dismissed this film and made no plans to see it, and made a mental note to not only not seek it out, but to actively avoid it for the rest of my life.

But I kept hearing good things. Good reviews. Good word of mouth. Consistently good. So last night when we were heading out for an evening of a movie followed by dancing, we went ahead and decided to see Sin City.

And I have to say that it was much better than I expected (and it would have been nearly impossible for it to be worse). The movie is very gritty and violent (an understatement), and has a very comic-book feel even though it is live action. Well, it’s live actors, but virtually the entire film was shot with them acting against a green-screen, and then the sets and backdrops were added digitally. The film is a series of interconnected vignettes set in the same city, involving some of the same characters.

The strongest vignette is the one with Mickey Rourke, where his character, Marv, is a Terminator-like psycho killer with a heart of gold (really) and Jay Leno’s chin. His character teeters between sainthood and insanity (depending on if he’s taking his medication), but while his methods are sometimes extreme, his intentions are always good, even if sometimes misinterpreted. Marv has a whirlwind infatuation with a high-class call girl (off the clock) who ends up dead with Marv framed for her murder. Marv goes on a merciless, relentless mission of vengeance that is simply hypnotic. Mickey Rourke may deserve a Supporting Actor nod for this one, and I say that begrudgingly but with the highest respect for his performance here.

The second strongest vignette is the one with Bruce Willis as Hartigan, a cop being forced into early retirement by a bum ticker. But, as the cliche goes, he still has one piece of unfinished business before he goes — the kidnapping of a little girl by a sadistic child rapist/serial killer. All the cops