Friday, July 22, 2011

Breaking the Silence

It's been a busy couple of weeks since returning from Europe.

I had fully intended on using that first weekend to load this place with tales from the journey, but instead we turned around almost immediately to get on a plane to Florida for Meaghan's G'Pa's funeral. Unbeknownst to us, he had suffered a stroke while we were gone and was placed into hospice. To our relative good fortune, he managed to hang on until the day after we returned so we were able to visit with the family at least a little as opposed to missing it completely. I only knew him for a small fraction of his 92 years, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a kinder soul.

We returned to Minnesota again to the news that one of Meaghan's students had committed suicide, so we attended our second funeral of the week that Saturday. Between that and trying to get acquainted with the current goings-on at work, it was a difficult week.

For this past week, I don't really have an excuse beyond working too much. We saw a couple of movies in the theater that I'll be writing about before too long, and as I write this we're in the midst of completing Disney movie #3. There are scads of bonus features and multiple commentaries on our copy of Fantasia, so it's taken us a long time to make it this far. Dumbo comes next for those of you tracking our progress.

None of that is the real reason that I'm making the effort to break my silence at such a late hour, though. My reason? Sunday morning, Meaghan and I become WARRIORS! Or at least, we're going to make the attempt. As a fan of "American Gladiators", "Ninja Warrior", etc. it'll be fun to try something that's even a tenth of what those contestants do. I'll let you know how it goes next week.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Moral of the Story

So what was the point of all this? Good entertainment aimed at kids does exist. I know that none of my regular readers have children that are the right age for any of this stuff, but someday they will. Since we now know it exists, I urge you to take an interest in what your kids are watching and listening to. Help them differentiate the bad from the good so they don't fill their heads up with the mindless drivel that so many Americans waste their time on these days. Future generations will thank you for it.


Epilogue: I just had to know if my crap sensor was broken, so I went out to YouTube and watched a random episode of "The Suite Life on Deck". Yep, it still sucks.

Thank goodness.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Deaf is the New Down

I'd tried Disney. When that failed, I moved on to campy werewolves. Another failure. There had to be a show targeted at tweens or teens that wasn't any good. After all, they're not supposed to be good. Looking over my list again, I decided to try a new ABC Family show, "Switched at Birth". I've seen a couple episodes of different ABC Family shows before, and absolutely none of it was good. Surely this would be an easy target. Just look at the name. Nothing with a premise that ridiculous (yes, I know it's happened in real life before) could possibly be any good.

I'm wrong yet again. Ostensibly, the show is about two teenage girls who discover that they were switched at birth. This raises the natural issues of identity and the importance of nature vs nurture. In and of itself, this could make for an interesting show, but the main thing this show really has going for it is that one of the two girls who were switched at birth is deaf.

Remember "Life Goes On"? It was that show from the early 90s that was essentially a regular family drama, except for the fact that one of the kids, Corky, had Down syndrome. It brought a whole new cultural awareness to the plight of the mentally retarded. "Switched at Birth" is absolutely going to do the same for Deaf culture. So many of the scenes, with good reason, focus on what it means to be deaf and how deaf people and the hearing interact, that it's obvious that this is what the show is really about.

The fact alone that it's doing something that's completely new to television (which is so rare in this day and age) would probably make it worth watching. Add the fact that it's decently written, well acted, and treats its subject matter with the utmost respect and there's absolutely no reason to not give it a try.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Howl at the Moon

Shaken by my unexpected enjoyment of "Sonny With a Chance", I decided that I needed to make sure I could still tell the difference between something that was good and something that was crap. I'll admit that I have the annoying ability to find the good in almost anything, but I can usually still tell when something is actually bad. Perusing my list of new summer shows, I settled on something I was sure would fit the bill, MTV's new remake of "Teen Wolf".

Everyone remembers the cheesetastic movie starring Michael J. Fox, right? Some high school kid becomes a werewolf and consequently becomes the best basketball player in the world all while wearing a ridiculous hairy wolf-man suit.

Well, this new show is not that.

In fact, much to my chagrin this new "Teen Wolf" is actually pretty good. For one, it's played completely straight. No camp, no cheese, and it employs a lot of tricks used in modern horror (tense scoring, dim lighting, and decent effects). For another thing, it's not another stupid show about vampires. Sure, it has a supernatural bent and is probably trying to cash in on the Twilight/"True Blood"/"Vampire Diaries" phenomenon, but it's refreshing to me that it's taking on a different fantastical creature for once.

Storywise, it probably employs a few too many cliches, but at least it's cliche done well. Our protagonist, Scott, is bitten by a werewolf while walking in the woods alone at night (yeah, I know), transforming him overnight into both a werewolf and his school's best lacrosse player. Props for showcasing a non-traditional sport, by the way. Unlike in the movie, though, this isn't common knowledge. It turns out werewolves are scary things that prowl moon-filled nights meting out death and destruction. Consequently, his best friend is the only guy in school to know his secret.

Add in a group of "hunters" whose mission in life is to stamp out all the werewolves in the world, a jealous team captain who used to be the best player on the team, and a new girl in town who takes a romantic interest in Scott (and oh yeah, happens to be the daughter of the lead hunter), and you have all the necessary ingredients for good teen drama. Seriously. If you're a fan of this kind of stuff at all, I recommend you give it a try. I think all of the episodes to date can still be viewed at the MTV website.

Friday, July 1, 2011

For Kim, Part 5/5

I know the suspense has been killing everyone, but now after a month's delay I'm finally ready to reveal who my 5th and final male actor is. Drumroll please...

It's none other than Paul Rudd.

Rudd first came to my attention back in 1995 when he played Cher's "total Baldwin" of a stepbrother in Clueless. He was the cute, charming straight man in an otherwise highly stylized and over the top teen comedy. This launched a brief period of popularity back when I was in high school where he most notably acted alongside Leo DiCaps in Romeo+Juliet, but none of that is why he makes this list.

In 2003, Meaghan and I were on our first vacation together in Winnipeg. (Don't knock it until you try it; it's a great city.) When on vacation, we often try to find some time to catch some movies in the theater wherever we are. On that trip, we decided to see Neil LaBute's The Shape of Things, which happened to star Paul Rudd as the bamboozled Adam. This dark exploration of how we all shape each other in our lives (intentionally or not) still ranks among my favorite movies of all time, and it catapulted Rudd back onto my radar screen.

He followed this up with a notable recurring role in the final seasons of "Friends" and a series of roles in Judd Apatow's comedies (The 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up, among others). Most recently, I've seen him in 2009's I Love You, Man alongside Jason Segel ("How I Met Your Mother", "Freaks and Geeks"), which was easily amongst my favorite comedies of the last few years. He plays the funny everyman so well, it makes me think that he's the kind of actor I would be if I were a giant movie star. Looking at his IMDB page, I can safely say that I'm looking forward to seeing how Rudd brings the funny in 2011 & 2012.

I'll leave you with this rather silly (and ultra-specific) celebration of Rudd's career.