Monthly Archives: October 2012

Date Night Movie: “Cloud Atlas”

The other day I realized that Hollywood award season is almost the only time of year that my wife and I see movies outside of the house. And when we see movies, we see a lot of them. Like, a whole year’s worth in two or three months. Then we’re burnt out and don’t see anything on a big screen again until summer. Thank God for Redbox!

So, I decided to highlight some of the movies we’ve been seeing lately in a new, hopefully regular, series I call “Date Night Movies”. Here I will blog about movies that I think are not only worth seeing on the big screen but, also worth dressing up and hiring a babysitter for. Now, before I get to the main event, let me touch on something we saw last month…

A few weeks back, Mrs. Yeti and I went to a screening of Argo and it was incredible. The acting, writing and directing was all first-rate and not only was the whole movie edge-of-your-seat thrilling, but it was also funny as hell, even if you don’t get all the insider Hollywood jokes. So, it’s definitely worth checking out, especially if you like to see all the possible Oscar nominees — judging by the reaction so far, Argo is sure to snare a Best Picture nod — before they get nominated.

That said, the movie I want to talk about today is Cloud Atlas. My brother and I went to a screening of Atlas the other night and, despite a few flaws, we loved it. Actually, I think the flaws made me like it even more because they highlighted the colossal effort it took to make something this bold. I don’t want to go into too much detail about the plot, but, as you’ve no doubt seen from the trailer, the movie is as big and epic as Hollywood movies get these days.

The acting is great, the writing and cinematography is gorgeous but the real star of the movie is the theme. Much of the pre-release chatter about Atlas has focused on the fact that Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Grant and the rest of the cast play multiple parts in multiple time periods, which is cool, but, the message at the heart of the movie is much more interesting. The movie theorizes that everything is connected, love, hate, good, evil, life, death, every single thing we do in our lifetimes touches someone else’s life in ways we could never imagine.

I know what you’re thinking: great, an essay about life from the creators of The Matrix Trilogy and the guy who directed Run Lola Run. Well, in a way that’s kinda true. The movie is an essay, or, a love letter if you will, about the eternal, transcendent power of love. I know that sounds corny and mildly student-film-ish and maybe it is a little of both. I mean, honestly, there is a lot going on in this movie, and it does require a bit of patience on the part of the viewer. Hell, up until the half-hour mark, my brother and I were so confused and annoyed that we were ready to bolt. But then something happened — it was a different scene for both of us — that changed everything and from then on, we were caught up in the whole crazy-beautiful, time-tripping swirl of it all.

I don’t want to ruin the experience for you guys, so, I’ll stop gushing about it for now, but, if you’re on the market for a deep, heartfelt, truly original movie about ideas and emotions and the power of human connection, then this is the date night movie for you. As I said before, it might not be for everyone, as it is a little weird and challenging in spots, but, man, if you’re up for a little three-hour, mind-bending adventure, Cloud Atlas will rock your world!

Oh, and make sure you budget in some post-movie chat time afterwards because this is definitely a movie you’ll want to discuss. My brother and I have been dissecting it for two weeks now and our heads are still swimming!

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Life of Dad’s “Part of your World”

Just heard about an awesome site called Life of Dad, which is a social networking site for, you guessed it, Dads! Very cool. But, where were you guys when I was pulling out my hair that first very long, very lonely year “on the job”? Hmmm. Either way, I’m glad you’re here now and I can’t wait to explore your rocking site some more.

That said, you guys gotta check out the latest clip from their site. Greta and I have been watching the hell out of it this week and it hasn’t gotten old yet. But, this is the same kid who watched the library’s copy of Hercules so many times that it actually broke…so, you never know.

Either way, the clip is hilarious. Especially if you’ve sung this song aloud (among others!) as many times as I have over the past three-and-a-half years. Enjoy!

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Fall TV 2012: Winners & Losers

Most people look forward to watching the new fall shows like, the minute they air. My Mom actually writes the air dates down in her datebook, so she can remember to watch. Yes, she still has a datebook, but, mostly because she’s an esthetician. Anyway, in year’s past I Tivo-ed like, every new show and watched them all right away. But, that’s been a little harder to do with Greta in the picture.

I mean, sure, I still Tivo everything. I just don’t get around to watching it until weeks, sometimes months later. That said, here is my very belated list of the best and worst of the new fall shows. Enjoy!

The Best New Shows

Ben & Kate (FOX):

Oddly enough, my favorite new show has my least favorite title of all time. I mean, seriously, does it not sound like that horrific Jon & Kate Plus 8 show? Yikes! You couldn’t have thought of a better title for a sweetly funny show about an adult brother and sister living together with her young daughter? Anyway, ignore the title and watch the show. It’s beautifully written and hilariously funny. We love it!

The Mindy Project (FOX):

Although I’m still on the fence a little with this one, I do love the cast and the writing is terrific. And how cool to see a female lead that isn’t a perfect freaking stick figure! Go, Mindy!

Made In Jersey (CBS):

I know what you’re thinking. First: You watched that? And the answer is: “Yes, I did and I loved it.” And secondly: Didn’t that show just get cancelled? Again, sadly, the answer is “Yes.” But, let me tell ya, the lead actress, the stunning UK import Janet Montgomery is destined to be a star. Seriously, I got goosebumps the first time she was onscreen. I haven’t seen someone with that much star-wattage to burn since Sandra Bullock in While You Were Sleeping. Jersey might be gone, but, mark my words, Montgomery will be around for a while.

Go On (NBC):

Mrs. Yeti fell in love with this show immediately, but, it took me a little longer to warm up to it. But, now that I have, I cannot wait to watch it every week. The cast is great, the writing is crisp, heartfelt and original and I gotta tell ya, I’m a sucker for therapy groups in movies and TV shows. Be it the darker skewing therapy scenes in Fight Club or the hilarious, angry women’s group scenes in About a Boy, people sitting in a circle contemplating life is comedy gold in my book!

And now, for the worst new shows. As you can see, they totally outnumber the good shows this season. Which is fine by me, I mean, I’m just glad I didn’t get hooked on more dramas since one hour shows are so much harder to watch with Greta running around the living room. Whew!

The Worst New Shows

Revolution (NBC):

Total crap from start to finish, this show feels like it was put together by a freaking computer. “Insert Plot Device A, add a little bit of Movie B and TV Show C, then stir vigorously.” Yikes! And I know it shouldn’t matter, but, even the cast is dumpy. Sorry, but, they are. And that main girl, oy, don’t get me started. Why she is still on TV and my sweet-faced Janet Montgomery is not is a riddle for the ages.

The Neighbors (ABC):

All I can say about this crapfest is: WTF?! Seriously, I want the twenty minutes I spent watching this hopelessly-dated, terribly-unfunny aliens-next-door show back. When it was all over, I actually felt kinda bad for Jami Gertz and I usually hate her in anything. Run, Jami, run!

Partners (CBS):

I was really looking forward to this one and it was disappointing on every level. I mean, the pilot was almost unwatchable. Wait, we stopped watching halfway through, so, I guess that makes it all the way unwatchable. Either way, Partners is a total bomb filled with really annoying characters that will drive you up a wall. Literally!

The New Normal (NBC):

Speaking of annoying characters, this might just be the worst thing Glee creator Ryan Murphy — the king of smug, topical humor that will age as gracefully as Glee has. Which means very badly! — has ever unleashed on the public. There is nothing new or normal about this show and frankly I’m surprised the gay community isn’t picketing the crap out of this mess. Yikes!

Guys With Kids (NBC):

Oh, and while we’re on the subject of picketing shows. I’d like to start a movement to picket this piece o-crap pronto and I’m not just saying that because I’m a stay-at-home-dad. I really expected this show to be better, I mean, come on, Jimmy Fallon is one of the producers! I don’t know what happened, but, the episodes I’ve watched are not about guys or kids. Again, it’s like some marketing flunkie at NBC came up with the poster and the title and then hired people to write the show and fill in the blanks. Urgh…a total trainwreck!

Nashville (ABC):

We waited for this show for a month and lemme tell ya, it was not worth the wait. The music was great and I loved seeing all the real-life Nashville locales featured in the pilot (long live The Bluebird Cafe, whoo-hoo!) but by the thirty-minute mark this show was dragging big time. It could improve over time, but, sadly, time is not something a parent of a toddler has, so, for now, Nashville has left the building. Or, um, you know…our Tivo Season Pass.

And finally, I want to give a heads up to some of the shows that don’t really fall into either category. They were good enough to watch once or twice (and maybe revisit, now that Made in Jersey bit the dust) but, I don’t know if I’d Tivo them on a regular basis. That said, all of the shows listed below are worth checking out if you have the time.

Good Enough to Watch Once

Last Resort (ABC):

I initially Tivo-ed this show because a buddy of mine from The American Mall is in it. She was fantastic in both of the episodes I watched — Autumn plays the ruthless nuclear submarine designer desperately trying to save her “baby” from destruction — and so was the rest of the top-notch cast. The biggest problem I had was that the show’s mythology is already, at just a few episodes in, a little thick for my taste. I mean, I’m all for a good geeky mythology, but, I don’t know if I wanna invest in something that dense right now. Sorry, guys, but, the show is still very good. So, rock on!

666 Park Avenue (ABC):

I know a lot of people didn’t like this show from the get-go, but, I gotta tell ya, again, it all boils down to the hot chick in the lead role. Just kidding. Kinda. But, the lead character here is the plucky, ever-resourceful Rachael Taylor and, well, she’s really pretty and really smart and I’m kinda worried about what kind of trouble she’ll find as she digs deeper into the mystery of this spooky old Manhattan apartment building. So, if you’re along for the ride (like me!) you might dig it. But be forewarned, this show is definitely not for kids. Way too scary!

Elementary (CBS):

Of all the shows I sampled this is the one I think I might reconsider adding to our Season Pass. Lucy Liu, as always, is fantastic and the guy who plays Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) is much better than I expected him to be considering his lackluster movie performances of later. I mean, really, could he have looked worse in Dark Shadows? Egads! The show is light, entertaining and, well, did I mention that I have a thing for Lucy Lui? Definitely worth watching!

And that’s it. Sadly, we don’t have the greatest cable set-up, so, we don’t get to watch all the fancy cable shows like Homeland and Boardwalk Empire. But, quicker than you can say library, the DVD’s will be on the shelves of ours. And lord knows we love our library…so, we’ll catch up then!

Dying to hear what new shows you guys are watching, so, fire away.

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The Purple Plague

Oh, the joy of sick kids. On Tuesday, Greta came down with a nasty stomach bug that left her unable to keep anything down. Actually, she did eat two mini Popsicles yesterday, but, aside from that, nothing. Even water and juice came right back up. It hasn’t been pretty.

The only good thing is that she slept a lot, which meant that I got to sleep a lot too. So, I think that almost balanced out all the sleep I lost from getting up every couple of hours to help her yak and change her nightgown and stuff. Mrs. Yeti, on the other hand, has been totally screwed sleep-wise. Sorry, honey, I owe you a few good naps!

Oh, and then, another wonderful thing happened last night. I wear a tiny mouthguard when I sleep to keep me from grinding my teeth and last night it felt out of my mouth and landed in the toilet while I was peeing in it. Nice, huh? Luckily (or unluckily, as the case may be) for me, I was so immune to cleaning up disgusting things by that point that fishing my mouthguard out of the pee-filled crapper was easy. I mean, at least it didn’t land in Greta’s barf bowl!

And on top of all that, Greta checked out her first Barney DVD from the library. Yes, that Barney. Mrs. Yeti took Greta to the library on Monday night, and, in her sleep-deprived stupor apparently forgot about our ban on the purple demon. Urgh…forget about Greta’s measly stomach flu…the purple plague has been unleashed on our home. Enter at your own risk!

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“Judge not lest ye be judged…”

Had our annual garage sale this past weekend. Not much new to report on that end other than it kicked our asses. Weeks of prep, careful sorting and pricing, the psychological roller-coaster of: “Should we get rid of this precious piece of Greta’s infancy?” (the answer is usually “Yes”, by the way) seriously, everything about garage sales are hard. But, we’re kinda hooked. This is the fourth one we’ve had and, despite proclaiming that this year’s sale would be our last, we still carefully packed up a few boxes for next year’s sale, so, if you’re in the market for an electric can opener, talk to me in October 2013!

Anyway, this go around we didn’t make much money, but, we did get rid of a lot of stuff that has been junking up our garage for years, so, yay! The only thing we didn’t get rid of was some of the primo, name-brand baby gear that we had on sale. I don’t know why, but, people were not buying baby stuff this year. Or maybe they just didn’t wanna pay what we were charging. Either way, we brought a lot of baby gear home, hoping to sell it on Craigslist instead.

And then, this morning, got an e-mail from our garage sale buddies — the one’s who own the lawn we shill our wares on every October — saying that he got an e-mail inquiry about our Combi Shuttle Stroller and car-seat combo from a dude name SkumLove. Apparently, SkumLove missed the big sale and was wondering if the stroller listed in our Craigslist ad was still available.

Mrs. Yeti was, understandably, a bit concerned about inviting someone named SkumLove to our home, so, I e-mailed him back and then agreed to meet him and his wife in the Bob’s Big Boy parking lot by our house. And guess what happened? SkumLove was the coolest dude ever. Sure, he and Mrs. SkumLove were all pierced and tatted up and stuff, but, they were the most normal people we dealt with all day at the garage sale. And they were so excited to buy our beloved Combi stroller that I just wanted to cry. I know I shouldn’t care what happens to our stuff when we sell it, but, I get terribly attached to things and when they find a good home, well, that makes me happy.

And trust me, our stroller car-seat combo could not have a better home than it now has. And on top of all that, I learned a valuable lesson: do not judge a person by their e-mail handle because you never can tell. I mean, hell, I’d be $50 poorer if I had. Oh, and get this, SkumLove e-mailed me back later tonight to tell me that he and his lovely wife might want to buy our video baby monitor as well.

Yee-haw! Bring on the SkumLove!

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Movie Night with Greta

Mrs. Yeti had to work late tonight so Greta and I did what we always do on those rare Sunday nights when we’re alone, we headed to our favorite old school video store, Odyssey Video in North Hollywood, for some dollar movie madness. Yep, that’s right, not only is there still an independent video store (or a video store period!) in the valley, but, Odyssey also stocks loads of cool movies and has 99¢ rental nights on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. Not bad, huh?

So, Greta and I head over there to rent Aladdin — which we don’t own on DVD and will probably have to buy on Blu-Ray when and if it’s ever released from the dreaded Disney vault — but it was checked out. Next on our list was the cinema classic Monster High: Ghouls Rule, which just came out last week. Unfortunately, they didn’t even carry that gem of a title, so, we set about looking for something else we could both agree on.

Forty-five minutes later (!) we settled on Kung Fu Panda 2, which, shockingly, neither of us had seen. I have actually spent much longer picking out the right movie with my brother, but, trust me, forty-five minutes in a video store with a very opinionated toddler can seem like a lifetime. We fought, made-up, cried, laughed, the full spectrum of human emotions in one visit to a cramped video store in North Hollywood. It was awesome.

And though I would have preferred if we’d gone with my first choice, a lovely Blu Ray of Mars Needs Moms, Greta’s first choice (or, you know, third choice after Aladdin and Monster High weren’t there) was the live-action version of Bratz. Blech, even I couldn’t handle that torment. So, after much spirited debate — the guy who runs the store kept chuckling at our “negotiations” — we finally settled on Kung Fu Panda 2. And man, am I glad we did because that movie rocked!

Not only was it a million times better than the first Kung Fu Panda (which I also loved, by the way), but, the backstory at the heart of this movie was very sweet and tremendously moving. I know it’s just an animated movie, but, wow, they did some really great stuff with the story this time around. I think my favorite thing was the way they deepened the already very strong relationship between Po, the titular panda, and his adoptive father. I’m not kidding, man, I was weeping in spots. Lord knows I’m a sucker for father-child stuff, but, this movie earned every punch it pulled, pun intended. I haven’t been that moved in a while, really beautiful stuff.

And the action’s not so bad either. Greta got so wrapped up in the spectacle of it all that she started Kung Fu chopping everything in site. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but, she was so moved by the father-child relationship in the movie that she kept telling me how much she loved me. So, who am I to complain?

Anyway, if you happen to have a real-life, non-chain video store in your neighborhood, support them by checking out Kung Fu Panda 2, or hell, even the Bratz movie, for yourself. I guarantee you’ll like it, even if you’re not a sappy old stay-at-home-dad like me…

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“Cinderella Diamond Edition”

If you’re a movie geek like me, then you’ve probably bought you fair share of animated Disney films on different formats over the years. Personally, I’ve bought some Disney movies FOUR times over the past twenty years, once on VHS, again on laserdisc, one more time on DVD and finally, once again on Blu-Ray. Crazy, huh? The thing is, I kept thinking: “One day, my child will cherish these films on INSERT FORMAT HERE.” Never in my wildest dreams did I think that the viewing format would change four times before my kid starting watching movies. Yikes…I guess that’s what we get for waiting so long to have kids.

In any case, Mrs. Yeti and I decided last year that we would not re-purchase any of the classic Disney animated films when they were “released from the Disney vault” onto beautiful Blu-Ray editions. Nope. If we had a DVD of the film — which we do, for most of them, at least — then that would have to do. Yes, I know…it’s sad to think of poor Greta watching the lowly Platinum Edition of a Disney film while a sparkly new Diamond Edition was on store shelves. But, come on, how many times does a man have to buy a damn movie?!

That said, all of our best laid plans went out the window last week with Disney’s Diamond Edition release of the movie classic Cinderella. Yep, we fell for the sales pitch. Even bought the movie within days of it’s release and everything, but, we had good reason. See, this Cinderella comes with a DVD, a Blu-Ray and the all-important digital download. Yeah, I know, those sneaky bastards at Disney found a fifth format to make me buy…urgh!

But, trust me, that digital download is a life-saver, especially if you have a iPhone (or iPad!) savvy kid who likes to watch their movies whenever and wherever they want to. And, digital download aside, this is one hell of a Diamond Edition.

The Blu-Ray image is gorgeous, the new menus are beautifully rendered and the extras are truly spectacular. Sure, there are a bunch of hold-over extras from the Platinum DVD release a few years back, but, there are also loads of new extras that really make the movie shine. My favorite two are a new short film about the woman who inspired the design of the Fairy Godmother entitled:  The Real Fairy Godmother, and a quirky little short about shoe designer Christian Louboutin and his efforts to design a modern-era glass slipper. Sweet, oddly-moving and beautifully-shot, the live-action short isn’t even mentioned on the box but Greta loved it and so did I.

And if all those cool extras aren’t enough for you, the Blu-Ray disc also includes the animated short: Tangled Ever After. Picking up where the 2010 feature film left off, the short follows the goofy hijinks that Maximus and Pascal get into at Razpunzel’s wedding to Flynn Ryder. It’s very cute and surprisingly-clever, but, I still think Rapunzel looks better with blonde hair than that dishwater brown she has at the end of the movie. But, hey, who am I to criticize a Disney Princess?

Oh yeah, and best of all, since we bought our Cinderella Diamond Edition at Best Buy, we also scored a free plush Lucifer (the mean cat!) doll as a gift with purchase. I think Greta would have preferred plush helper mice instead, but, hey, free is free.

So, if you haven’t bought Cinderella a hundred times before and are looking for a cool Christmas gift for the little princess on your Christmas list, this is one Diamond Edition that’s well worth buying. And in case you were wondering, I was not paid for this endorsement, I’m just a big old Cinderella geek. I wrote a Cinderella script of my own a few years back and came to really love that plucky blonde orphan. I mean, say you will about the Disney Princesses, but, Cinderella at least had a job and, you know, a strong work ethic and stuff. And if you ask me, Cinderella is the most-modern of the classic Disney Princesses. I’m hoping that’s why she’s Greta’s favorite too. But, something tells me it’s all about those groovy glass slippers for her.

Either way, check out Cinderella on Blu-Ray today!

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