Saturday, August 02, 2008

Bad, Bad X-Files, Or, I Want To Believe I Didn't Actually Pay Good Money For This

Girl Kid is at work and Boy Kid is off playing nerdy games with friends, and you know how it goes, I was in the mood for a movie—nothing too elevating or which might make me think too hard, and yet also something that the spawn would not grumble at me for seeing without them. I was on the prowl for Big Stupid Fun, and what was available at the right time you say? The X-Files, I Want To Believe.

I admit it, I was never an X-Files groupie, and I barely remember the premise of the original television show. I knows there was a story line involving a Smoking Man and a couple of FBI agents with the hots for each other and some aliens and stuff. I remember that the girl agent Scully, like a good little enabling female, was always gamely trying to keep the seriously gullible boy agent Mulder from going off the deep end, but then he always turned out to be right—goopy space critters with x-ray vision were always trying to abduct bohunks off Texas highways, presumably to complete their "Universe's Most Idiotic Life Forms" collection. I know the show was on the air for approximately 108 years, and I would hope that fat residual checks and DVD sales have ensured that the principle actors never have to work again. After seeing this movie, I really wish they had stayed at home and pounded back some more mojitos or whatever, you know?

So, based on my slim understanding of what this movie might be about, and all on my lonesome and looking for fun, I motored off in my completely uncool Kia Spectra in reasonable expectation of cinematic thrills, dark hallways, spooky bad guys and rip snorting sexual tension, middle-aged style. (I mean, David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson are getting on in years, you know? Let's see...Wiki Wiki...yeah, Old David is turing 48 on Thursday and Gillian is.....damn, she turns 38 on Saturday. Crap, she must have been like 12 when the X-Files television show began. Sheesh. Well, both of them still look pretty good. Whatever.)

I'm not even going to attempt to tell you what this movie is about, because I'm fairly sure the film makers themselves couldn't explain to to you with the aid of a translator, an Albanian donkey and a Powerpoint presentation. I can tell you that this clunker is a very, very boring movie, and the "I Want to Believe" in the title doesn't mean aliens, it means religion. Seriously, I've been pestered by Jehovah's Witnesses who talked about God less. Also, and if you were a fan of the show you probably already know this so I won't be messing anything up by revealing it here, apparently Mulder and Scully had a kid at one point. They aren't married, and they don't live together in the remote farmland newspaper-clipping-filled cabin on the outskirts of Burnaby B.C., (Mulder seems have turned into one of those sad old men who collects newspapers), but there must have been some breeding action going on in the back story and the kid got mislaid or died or was added to Blogthorth The Invincible's collection or something, thereby allowing our leads to blather on some more on the nature of the almighty and their relationship with each other. Ugh.

Scottish comedian and Rod Stewart Wannabe Billy Connolly (have you seen that guy's hair?) plays a pedophile psychic who may or may not be a bad guy or perhaps is a messenger from God, the script is never really very clear on this point. Pert and usually watchable FBI newbie Amanda Peet brings in Mulder as a consultant to suss out if Billy is really having visions or is just a crank, and the obvious conclusion that he might know where the bodies are hiding is because he killed them himself only passingly occurs to the FBI, as played by Pimp My Ride's Xzibit. I mean, I know the FBI has gotten a bad rap of late, but suspecting the guy who first leads you to the corpse is just common sense, bleeding eyes or not. There's also a b-story involving a dying kid, and apparently in the imaginary country this movie takes place in, stem cell therapy is available to the general public, because I'm pretty sure it is not allowed yet here in the Good, Ole Puritanical US of A. Also, isn't West Virginia, the supposed location, a southern state? Do they really get six feet of snow there? I know the movie was really filmed in and around Vancouver, because 1), I grew up there, and 2), even though the license plates are sort of spray painted over, in at least one shot you can clearly see "British Columbia" embossed into the metal. Actually, even Vancouver doesn't get that much snow, so they must have had some shipped in for visual effect. There's also some stuff about organ stealing bad guys, and the plot is such a snooze-fest that the villans are Russian. Come on Chris Carter, Russian bad guys were old news even back when Die Hard was made, couldn't you think of something more original?

In conclusion, The X-Files, I Want To Believe manages to be stupid, gross, boring, tedious, proselytizing, confusing and dumb all at the same time, which is grounds for a refund, if you ask me. (Yes, I know "stupid" and "dumb" are the same thing, but I'm telling you, it really warrants mentioning twice.) In the making of this movie, did not one grip, extra, script supervisor or second unit director say, "Hey, um, guys? This movie sucks rancid camel balls, you know? Maybe it needs a re-write." I'm really, really surprised David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson agreed to even enunciate some of the more ridiculous lines, although I'm pretty sure I caught Ms. Gillian rolling her eyes just a tiny bit after one particularly awful pronouncement. Dear Zeus, what a bad flick. I'll happily sit through a lot of crap as long at there are at least some funny bits, some man candy or at least big explodies periodically, (just for you dead reader, just for you), but this one really made me mad. What a waste of human life, and by that I mean my own. Go see a Miley Cyrus movie or something instead, it would seem like high art by comparison. I'm sure Miley, who seems to be taking over the world one lunchbox at a time, is available at some entertainment venue near you right now. Speaking of which, Billy Ray Cyrus must have given the Devil a beejer or seven, if you know what I mean. Seriously, the dude got away with that mullet and a had a hit song in the 90's and now the billion dollar Hannah Montana franchise is his daughter? The man must have a pillow permanently adhered to his knees is all I'm sayin'.

I reiterate in all sincerity and in regard for your mental health, save yourselves the time, money and brain cells citizens, and avoid The X-Files, I Want to Believe like the plague that it is.

Love, Your Mistress

Friday, August 01, 2008

The Dreaded Bus, and Some Movie Reviews

Yes, I've been out of touch a good long while. The reason why needs only a small sad recap:

Our cat Toaster suddenly developed symptoms of diabetes (read, peeing everywhere), which first manifested on my birthday no less. Earlier, less invasive, symptoms had been ignored by us because we thought the cat was just bummed out by our recent move to much smaller digs. The month of April was a long dark tunnel of pee, trips to the cat doctor, new apartment carpet ruination, rapid decline of much-loved pet, and massive expenses followed by the forced medical removal of cat from life by a kindly vet while Girl Kid and I bawled our eyes out. This was followed by more egregious expenses when we had the cat cremated at Girl Kid's insistence and then had the carpet extensively cleaned by qualified professionals (also known as "Julio"). Toaster (named by a 4-year old Girl Kid in honor of the movie The Brave Little Toaster, recommended) now resides in a tasteful and tiny jar on the bookshelf. In the course of the same month, Girl Kid was jestfully tackled by a co-worker and received such a deep contusion on her shin that we had to have her leg x-rayed and now she has no feeling in a 4-inch square region of her lower leg. And then a few weeks later she sliced open the other leg with a box cutter trying to cut open a door in the new cat box. Did I mention we have no health insurance? Let me tell you, because this country sucks enormous donkey balls, it is to my shame that we had to spend the first post-injury 45 minutes calling everywhere to find a cheap clinic that could do stitches while Girl Kid held a, soon to be blood soaked, cloth to her knee before we could drive off erratically to the nearest place we could afford—which turned out to be practically in Canada. So, all in all, a very expensive and sad spring for your Mistress and her spawn. And oh yeah, because of a book deadline I spent 37 out of 41 days during May and early June at work. And then I was horribly sick for three weeks. Joy.

And Now for Something Completely Different,
AKA "It's a Gas, Gas, Gas!

Guess what America! With a two-term kid of the oil baron Bush family in the White House, the price of oil has never been higher! What are the odds, right? Gas costs something like $4.25 per gallon even at the cheapest place in Seattle, which luckily happens to be fairly close to our house, so bully for us. Two years ago when I started working again (after going back to school) and my 28-mile round-trip commute cost me upwards of $110 per month, the $72 monthly bus pass didn't seem like such a good deal in exchange for having to get up 45 minutes earlier. As we all know, Mistress Squidia needs her sleep. Plus, my old bus routes from our last house were not that great, as the trip required a transfer and a one block hike up or down a very steep hill in "Wino Slash Smack Town USA" (also known as the area around 3rd and Yesler in Downtown Seattle). But, at our new advertised-as-swanky but actually kind of crappy and surprisingly expensive apartment, the express bus to the downtown bus tunnel has a stop right out in front, and a few weeks ago I was finally driven (forgive me) by high gas prices to consider the bus again. And it turns out it's not half bad, if you follow some careful rules of etiquette and self preservation.

Things I Have Learned On The Bus:

Bring a Book.
Yes, the bus may be jam-packed with the low-rent public, many of whom are a bit "whiffy," or with do-good yuppies who recently have discovered a deep abiding urge to save the earth (gas prices), but when you open your trusty tome and begin to read, you enter a bubble of reality unique to yourself that effectively removes you from your present circumstances and also states, "Leave me alone, I'm busy...I don't want to hear about your dog's digestive peculiarities, your crappy job (I have one too), or your theories about how the government is controlling your thoughts through OnStar." But what about car sickness brought on by reading on a fast-moving (and jiggling) vehicle you say? Trust me, after the second week you'll hardly notice it, and the benefits of at least mental seclusion from your fellow commuters vastly out-weigh a little personal discomfort. Mr. Book is your friend, don't leave home without him.

Don't Make Eye Contact
Unless you want to make questionable "friends" and real enemies quickly, this is pretty much good advice in most public places, but on the bus it's vital. See my first point about old ladies with pets, grand children and/or interesting diseases, let alone the creepy guy who keeps looking at you and then at his crotch and smiling...and then back at you and winking, over and over.

Don't Look Around At All
With the exception of a quick glance to see if your stop is coming up, avoid looking around as much as possible, for fear of seeing something that may scar you for life. While most of the bus-going public is generally presentable, you might also encounter a specimen like the old bat I sat behind yesterday who had scotch tape liberally applied to both sides of her face. I think this may have been an attempt at low-cost plastic surgery, but who the hell knows? Maybe it was there to thwart the cheek demons.

Choose Your Seat Carefully, but Quickly
I've discovered that upon entering the bus the human mind is capable of a plethora of fast, almost instantaneous, mathematical and socioeconomic calculations. First and foremost is the snap decision of who to sit next to. Your choices include the twitching guy in the ripped, sleeveless gym shirt and copious armpit hair, the elderly woman drooling on her polyester day-glo blouse with the puppy dog decals, the hip-hop "gangsta" spread out over 2.5 seats (including the one in front of him), the disaffected youth with the iPod ear buds stuck firmly in place who will hate you and plot your death the entire ride, and the nylon-legged office twinkie who is complaining loudly on her cell phone about her boyfriend who said something to that slut at the bar last night who was so totally rude you would not believe it, you know? Other seating considerations include: how soon is your stop vs. how crowded is the bus and therefore how close to the front should you sit? If you sit closer to the back of the bus, will you be able to wedge your way to the front in time to get off where you wanted, or will you end up in Tacoma? It's important to make the right decisions here people! Also, at least in the summer, always, always sit with the sun on the opposite side of the bus, or you will cook like a crab. And last but not least, if you are forced to stand, try very hard to get the first spot by the back doors, as the back-of-the-bus entry/egress alcove offers plenty of places to hang on where you won't accidentally touch someone's hair or fall in their lap, and you might also catch some breezes coming from the gap between the doors.

Rosa Parks is Rolling...
In my few weeks of enjoying the wonder that is public transit, I've noticed that all the hip brown people tend to sit at the back of the bus. I find this very odd, but maybe that's just me. I blame our crappy and still often racist public education system, but it's only been 53 years since Rosa made her brave stand (or in her case, sit), and already you are at the back of the bus again? And by choice? Weird.

Don't Trust the Web Site
Believe me, figuring out how to correctly enter the bus stop address to satisfy the extremely persnickety King County Metro "Trip Planner" web site is hard enough, (no you gullible fool, just entering the street address is not good enough, you have to guess at what the Metro Bus web algorithm calls that stop), but wait, there's more! The buses listed as being right for your destination may not be your only options! It took me a few days to realize that not only can I get on the 101 to connect to the 301, but also the 106, 150, 174 and 194, which is good to know, because sometimes the scheduled bus you are waiting for never shows up, and sometimes it is full up and blows right past you while you jump up and down screaming at the rapidly disappearing rear advertising banner. All I'm saying is that my first week I almost missed the last connecting 301 to my neighborhood and came very close to spending the night living off bugs and pity in the Northgate Mall Park n' Ride.

The Bus Driver Hates You
Potential bus commuters, get a bus pass, because shoving archaic paper money and coins through the little slot just holds up the line. I myself am still guilty of this crime because Girl Kid keeps telling me she can get a cheap pass through her work, but so far, no pass and no love from Mr. Bus Driver. Plus I can tell they get sick of all the stupid questions—I mean how many times in a row can you reply, "Yes, this bus goes downtown" before you develop a nervous tick? Based on this morning, I'd say about seventeen.

All in all, and despite the questionable humanity to be found thereon, taking the bus is actually okay. It's turns out to be faster for me than driving, and I can read Mr. Book whilst in transit, so in many ways it definitely beats grinding my way up I-5 developing my loathing for my fellow man based solely on their driving habits.

[As a side note, the idiots that designed the three freeway lanes that converge into one just before you merge with the main line below the Washington State Convention Center need to be found, killed, dug up and killed again. And the people who weave in and out of those two "merge left" and "merge right" lanes on the outsides of the one through lane to supposedly get there faster need to be dragged out of their cars, covered in honey and duct taped over an ant hill naked a dawn. Seriously, if you all just stayed in the through lane, we'd get past that four block area in three minutes tops, instead of the 25 minutes it can take on a bad day.]

Yup, as long as you have an easy connection, the bus is better, gross guy picking his scabs and all. Just don't forget your book.

• • •

And Some Movie Reviews In A Minute or Less
And yes, I know you have already seen most of these, but in case not:

Ironman: It's out on DVD or still on screen at The Crest in Seattle (say "Hi" to Girl Kid, who her coworkers call "Tree"), and there's nothing wrong at all with Robert Downey Jr. having mega fun. Just because of him, and Ben Stiller notwithstanding, I'm looking forward to Tropic Thunder. Robert Downey rules.

Indiana Jones And The Crystal Snooze: Oddly boring, and totally preposterous. Hey, um, Mr. Spielberg and Mr. Lucas, I know they made refrigerators pretty beefy in the 1950's, but there is no one, no matter how studly, who could hide in one and still survive being blown out of a house by a nuclear bomb. Even if they were not immediately vaporized, they'd be turned into Spam by the two mile joyride through the air. And then when Indy gets out and looks at the blast and doesn't immediately die of radiation sickness? Please, what a crock. Plus, Harrison Ford really does look like my dad now, and that was a bit distracting. Oh yeah, "spoiler alert!" Guess what? I'm not even sorry I ruined it for you. You are better off doing something more uplifting and useful with your evening, such as drawing elves on your toes with a Sharpie.

The Dark Knight: Holy Crap Batman! This movie is completely awesome and the "magic trick" with the pencil will blow your mind. Poor overdosing Heath Ledger will surely suck all of the awards out from under every living actor next year, and you know what? He deserves it. What a performance. It's not often you can overshadow the dreamy yet mysterious Christian Bale AND the yummy yet-also-can-act Aaron Eckhardt, but poor dead Heath blows them away. Sad, poignant, wonderful, go see it. Oh wait, you already did, twice.

Encounters At The End of The World: Okay, here's one you haven't seen I'll betcha, but you should. It's the latest from my secret passion, German nihilist documentarian Werner Herzog, over whom I have been totally bonkers since I first saw Aguirre, Wrath of God. Plus, it's about Antarctica, and I'm am nothing if not obsessive about all things remote and icy. I think I've mentioned that I lived in the Yukon for four years a long time ago. Beautiful underwater scenes, assorted science-y misfits in love with their jobs, a woman who can stuff herself into carry-on luggage, people stumbling around with buckets on their heads in a simulated whiteout exercise, and suicidal penguins. You've got to see it.

Mamma Mia: Okay, I admit it, and I'm not proud—I had fun. In my defense, there is never anything wrong with Merle Streep having a good time, and boy does she enjoy herself here. I didn't love it, but I did like it, plus I cried at one point, proving beyond all doubt that I am in fact a girl. What a sap. Also, there is nothing wrong with Stellan Skarsgard's naked butt, is all I'm saying. I may be middle aged, but he's kinda yummy. Oh yeah, and Pierce Brosnan cannot sing his was out of a paper bag, which for some odd reason cheers me right up. There are of course lots of ABBA songs, which which are in fact infectious in an "ohmygod my brain is melting" sort of way, as I'm sure you know unless you have been living on Pluto since the 1960's. Take your mom.

Well, that's it for now. Stay yummy my reader, stay yummy for me. And Mr. Herzog, if you happen to read this some day, please know that I'd happily do your dishes until the end of time, (which after 17 years as a single mom shows the depths of my devotion). Call me.