Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Davinci Code Review

Well, the wife and I went to see The Davinci Code opening weekend. I thoroughly enjoyed it as did she. It's one of the few movies I've seen where they actually followed the book fairly closely. Sure they had to cut a few things out for times sake but I think the movie does justice to the book.

I can't really understand why the critics panned this movie. Lets look at this.

They said Tom Hanks was stiff and gave a lackluster performance. I'd have to disagree. I thought he did a good job portraying Robert Langdon. The character is a professor, not an action hero. What were the critics expecting? Harrison Ford? Robert Langdon isn't supposed to be an action hero and this movie isn't supposed to be Indiana Jones.

The movie was too slow and too "talky"? I guess with movies like Indiana Jones, the Tomb Raider movies, The Mummy, Romancing the Stone etc.. The critics expect all archeological type movies to be action thrillers. The Davinci Code is more of a thought provoking, intellectual mystery. It shouldn't be non-stop action like MI3. And besides, there were several good action scenes in the movie.

There was no "spark" between Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou. Well, there wasn't supposed to be. They aren't lovers. They didn't develop a romance in the book. It's more like a teacher-student relationship or a father-daughter one. Their relationship in the movie is exactly how it's supposed to be.

One thing the critics did like was Ian McKellan and I'd have to agree. He was perfect in the role of Teabing. He's been on a roll latley with this movie, The Lord of The Rings, The X-men and the latest Harry Potter.

I have a theory. I think most critics who panned the movie didn't read the book. Aside from the controversies played out in the media, they didn't really know what the book was like or what it was about. They were probably expecting a different kind of movie (i.e. Indiana Jones) and were thus disappointed. Aditionally, with all of the hype this book and the movie has generated over the last few years (best selling book in history other than the bible), they expected the greatest movie ever made. And it wasn't, but it was still very good. There are also probably critics who read the book and didn't like it, so were prepared to not like the movie as well.

S has her own theory. She thinks the Catholic church pressured these critics into panning the movie to try and discourage people from seeing it. Could this be another Catholic Church conspiracy? I don't think so. Some of the critics may be devout Christians in disguise who would have panned the movie whether the Church told them to or not but I can't imagine most critics succumbing to pressure from the Church. The Church doesn't have that kind of power anymore. But they used to. According to my father, when he was a boy the local bishop in the town where he grew up would release a list each week of approved movies and a list of which movies Catholics were not allowed to see. And his Catholic friends followed those orders. They wouldn't dream of seeing a movie on the unapproved list. Some of that power lingers today in the older generation. My dad said some of his Catholic friends won't go see the movie because The Church says it's blasphemous. I don't think the younger generation cares too much. It's hard to take the Catholic Church seriously these days. When I think of the Catholic Church I get a mental image of Father Guido Sarducci selling Pope-soap-on-a-rope.

The bottom line: If you liked the book then you'll like the movie. And seeing as how millions have read and enjoyed the book, the movie's going to do big business despite what the critics say. If you haven't read the book and you're not a devout Catholic you'll probably like the movie too. Even Christians with an open mind could find the movie intersting and enjoyable. After all, it's just an intersting story. A work of fiction... Just like the Bible.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Davinci Code

Well, The Davinci Code the movie premiers tonight and I'm planning on seeing it this weekend. The wife and I have been looking forward to it. We both read the book when it first came out and thought it was great.

I don't have much use for religion (or organized religion anyway). In fact, some people have accused me of being a devout athiest. But I do find religion fascinating and I think it's very useful for creating a setting or backdrop for mystery or horror novels and movies. Some of my favorite books and movies have religious themes or overtones. God vs. Satan, good vs. evil always makes for a good story. Classic horror films like The Exorcist and The Omen are about this. Adventure movies like Indiana Jones use religion as a plot device. More modern Sci Fi movies like The Matrix trilogy explores this, with obvious comparisons between Neo and Jesus

With the exception of The Passion of the Christ, I can't think of another recent "religious" movie or book that has created quite the controvery as The Davinci Code. The Catholic church is up in arms saying it's blasphemous. I find the whole" controversy" rather amusing. People are taking the book way too seriously and too literally. It's a novel of fiction for Christ's sake (sorry). I don't think Dan Brown actually believes that Mary Magdeline was the wife of Jesus and had his children. He and his wife, through research, uncovered various alternative theories about Christ and used then to create a mystery thriller. He embellished. He exagerated. He made things up. That's what fiction is. I loved the book but I don't for one minute believe the claims made in it. This stuff is made up (as is religion in general INMHO).

( if you will permit, a short digression)

Even if he didn't make this stuff up, are his claims any less valid than those made in the bible or by todays religious establishment? There's a serious lack of proof that any of this stuff is true. The Gospels could easily be works of fiction written by the Dan Browns of their time. It's just as likely that the gospel according to Biff as detailed in Christopher Moore's witty and most excellent book Lamb is the one true story of Jesus life.

Then there's the whole "my religion is right and yours is wrong" thing. According to a friend of mine, who is intelligent and otherwise rational about most things, I'm going to burn in hell because I don't accept Jesus Christ as my savior. If that's true, that means the vast majority of people alive on the planet today are going to hell. What about the millions of Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, Taoists Wiccans, Pagans who don't believe Jesus is the son of god. Are their souls damned? What if they're good people who spend their lives helping others and try to always do the right thing. They're going to burn because they're not Christians? That's ridiculous. Who's to say that Christianity is correct and Hindu's are wrong? Or vice versa. Many Muslims belive that everyone who isn't a Muslim is an infidel and deserves to die. If there really is a god, is that what He/She/It would want? I find it truly ironic that the most deeply religious people tend to be some of the most intolerant people. I thought that some of the major tenets of most religions are to be kind to people, treat them as you would be treated, respect others and their beliefs, turn the other cheek etc.. Not to mention the fact that the majority of the major wars throughout history have been fought over religious differences. And it's still going on today. Look at the Middle East! Talk about intolerance.

(end of digression)

An entire industry has sprung up around The Davinci Code. There have been more books written about the Davinci Code than Dan Brown has himself written. Books that purport to tell you "the real story" behind the code. Books that support it. Books that try to tear it apart. Books just trying to cash in on Dan Brown's success. There are guided tours of the sites visited in the book. There's The Davinci Code game for xbox and ps2. You can buy the Davinci Code Cryptex on e-bay. The list goes on and on.

Many in the catholic church are calling for a boycott of the movie but that will only increase the interest in it. It's sure to be a blockbuster unless...unless...

...unless the movie sucks! And unfortunately it looks like it might. I've read 3 reviews of the movie so far and none of them were good. 2 out of 4 stars was the best rating I saw. It's been described as slow, boring, talky and overly long. Lacking suspense or tension. Apparently, the more controversial aspects of the book are downplayed in the movie. Was this an attempt to appease the catholic church and give the movie wider appeal? They could have pushed the envelope with this one and instead it looks like they may have chickened out. Oh Opie, I'm so dissappointed in you.

I'm still planning on seeing the movie. I'll let you know what I think of it in another post. In the mean time, lets all hope that Tom Hanks has gotten a haircut.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

boys will be boys

The other day my wife walked into the kitchen and saw our number 2 son, N (who is 6 years old and in kindergarten) sitting on the couch with his best friend J who is also 6 years old. They were looking at a magazine together.

S approached to see what they were looking at. It was the Victoria's Secret catalogue.

As she got nearer she saw N point to a picture and say:

"Hey J, look at that hot chick!'

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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

the vacation (that wasn't)

I know it's been about two weeks since I've posted, but I've been busy.

Last week my wife went on one of her annual "girl trips". This is where she and 4 or 5 of her friends take a trip without the guys. This year they went to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. I stayed home and took care of the boys. Doesn't seem quite right does it. I take a week off work so my wife can go on vacation. While she's gone I have to do all the work at home that she'd normally do and then some. And then when she gets home, I get to go back to work. What a deal.

I think they had a great time. I didn't get all of the details and I'm not sure I want to know them anyway. What I do know is this: the sun was shining every day, she spent a lot of time at Cabo Wabo, only bathed twice the whole week and says she can't look at tequila or margaritas again for a long time.

My "vacation" went something like this.

On Saturday morning I had a load of 20 yards of mulch dumped on my driveway to be spread in the flower beds and around the trees in our yard. For those of you who don't know how much that is, it looks something like this:

(not at all an exageration*)

*well, maybe

My plan was to spread the mulch on Saturday and Sunday but as usual the weather got in the way. It rained off and on every day of my vacation except for the last day. Of course the boys wanted to help me do it. And they wanted to get paid for it. Their idea of "help" is to fill their little red wheelbarrow with mulch, get about half way to the flower bed, and acidentally dump the mulch in the grass. I quickly decided that rake detail might work a little better so I gave them both rakes and said "I'll dump the mulch, you guys spread it out". That worked pretty well. They actually helped me for about 2 hours on Saturday which is about 1 hour and 50 minutes longer than they helped me last year. It took me till Monday afternoon to get the mulch spread and I did about half of it in a cold drizzle.

Instead of paying them the 5 dollars I'd promised, I took them to the comic book convention on Sunday morning which ended up costing me a lot more. This is a local convention they have every other month in an old, rundown Holiday Inn on the east side of town. Have you ever been to a comic book convention? Let me tell you about this one. First, my boys were about the only kids there. The clientelle was mostly men age 30-55, most of whom are probably single and still live with their mothers. There was a seperate room where these guys sat in folding chairs and watched Japinese anime on a 17 inch TV. Most of the videos featured scantily clad young girls with big eyes and big breasts who fought demons and villians while managing to act vulnerable and helpless at the same time. Those are fantasy women for these guys. It's the closest many of them will ever get to a real live girl. There seemed to be a brisk trade in bootlegged Japinese anime porno which sold about as well as the comic books. There were also a lot of action figures and comic related toys for sale. I heard one guy say he really wanted some Darth Vader figurine from 1982 but it had to be "mint in box". Does it make him any less of a loser if he doesn't actually play with the figurines? After about 45 minutes the boys had picked out their comics and the inevitable Yu-Gi-Oh cards and they were ready to go. Back out into the rain.

In addition to the mulch I had many other projects planned for the week.

Last fall I built a fire pit in the back yard. S said "I either want a swimming pool or a firepit". That was an easy one for me. "I'd be happy to build you a fire pit honey". So I got about one ton of stone, several bags of mortor and built one. It turned out pretty nice and only took about 9 hours to build. Now S wants a patio around the pit so she can put some furniture around it so we won't have to drag the folding chairs out and sit them in the grass. No problem, I've worked with stone before.

I went to the local stone center to pick out the flagstones I was going to use. I'd also decided to go ahead and get stones to build a walkway from our driveway to our deck that I'd been planning to do for a couple of years but had never gotten around to. I calculated the square footage of stone I'd need to cover the areas, picked out my stone, then asked my friend Pat from the stone center how much stone I'd need. "About two and a half tons" he replied. "Ya gonna take that with you?" I just looked at him. The prospect of laying that much stone was daunting and I didn't think I could fit it in the trunk of my car. "No Pat, I think I'll have it delivered". "That'll be eleven hundred dollars. We can get that out to you on Wednesday". Great.

Tuesday it rained all day.

Wednesday it rained all day.

Thurday morning I start on the stone. First I have to dig up the grass (possibly the worst part of the whole project), then I have to put down a layer of sand, level the sand, lay the stones and put more sand on top to fill in the spaces. Sounds simple right? It's not. First, the stones aren't uniform thickness so to get a relatively flat surface you need different levels of sand under each stone. The stones aren't flat on the bottom either. You have to lay a few stones together then pick them back up to adjust the level of sand underneath. Pick it up, put it down. Pick it back up. Scrape off a little more sand. Put it back down. You also have to put the stones together like a jigsaw puzzle. None of the shapes are ever quite right. I would use a rock hammer to try and shape the stones but inevitably they'd break in the wrong place. I started the patio at 9 AM. By 5 PM by back ached, my legs were sore, my fingers were raw and I was convinced the mole that's been digging tunnels in our back yard was standing there laughing at me, but the patio was done.

Friday morning. The sun is out for the first time that week. I start to work on the walkway and quickly realize that my friend Pat has greatly overestimated the amout of stone (non-returnable) that I'd need for the project. I finished the walkway in about three hours and still had about 3/4 of a ton of rock left. What to do with it? Why not build another walkway? This one would extend from the other side of the deck through a small garden area around the side of the house. By this time however I was sick of laying stone. And most of the pieces I had left were smaller and didn't go together very well. I basically threw the stone out in a semi-random fashion, poured sand over it and flattened it out as best I could. This is the least stable of the structures I built and I hope no one actually walks on it cause they'll probably trip, break a leg a sue me. It's nice to look at though.

Amazingly, despite the rain and the countless hours spent working in the yard I still managed to run the household in S's abscence. I got the kids up, got them breakfast and off to school everyday. Helped them with their homework, read to them at night, brushed their teeth, cooked, did the dishes, did the laundry and cleaned. Took the boys to a movie, The Wild, (I don't know about you but I think these computer animated movies from Disney and other studios have been awfully boring and unoriginal of late. Even my boys are starting to think they suck), took them out to dinner, took number 2 son to tennis lessons (number 1 son can't play right now because of his fractured tibia) and went swimming in the neighbors pool (in the rain) twice. We also managed to watch all nine hours of The Lord Of The Rings on DVD. The boys loved those movies. All-in-all, a pretty productive week. What I need now is a vacation.

The week was almost over and I was physically wiped out so I bagged the other projects and decided to spend my last 2 days off drinking. Pale Ale and red wine in varying quantities over the next 2 days soothed my aching muscles.

In the end it was all worth it. S came home and saw what I'd done and was thrilled. It looked better than she had imagined. I scored some big points with this one. Haven't figured out how to cash them in though. Any ideas?