Meet President Lincoln

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Lincoln is a movie about the 16th President by Steven Spielberg.  This a rare movie from the award wining director: it is a small personal picture instead of a grand sweeping epic.  I think the change of pace was good for this prolific director.

Lincoln is about the last few months of the President’s life as he was trying to push through the 13th Amendment to abolish slavery, and win the war with the south, but this movie is about backroom politics, not the Blue vs. the Gray, so while there are a couple of war scenes, this movie is mainly a bunch of meetings.

Don’t let the thought of a bunch of old dudes arguing keep you from watching this movie.  This movie is riveting in much the same way that 12 Angry Men is: as you watch the President use all his power and influence and his cunning to get his amendment to pass.  It is amazing to watch the political process work, and the kind of shenanigans they were willing to pull off to make this bill pass. Sadly we all know this movie ends in tragedy.

It was great to see Spielberg take a break from making big movie, and do a stripped down human interest political drama.  This movie has three main sets it would be very easy to convert to a play.  It proves that he can direct anything, and should not just be thought of for his big budget epic blockbusters.

The casting of this movie was spot on.  Daniel Day-Lewis gives another award worthy performance, as do Tommy Lee Jones and Sally Field.  They really bring this movie and time period to life.

Lincoln is a great movie, and one that everyone involved in will be remembered for.  Spielberg adds another gem to his collection of films, and this is definitely a movie everyone should watch.

It is not a Good Day to Die Hard

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Finally after five movies the Die Hard franchise appears to have lost its steam.  Bruce Willis still looks the part of John McClane, but they have run out of interesting stories for him to dispatch bad guys in.

The movie is setup when John McClane finds out that his son, Jack, is in prison in Russia, and he decides to go check it out.  He then gets in the way of his son rescuing a Russian national with dirt on a top Russian official, and then they shoot pretty much everything in Russia.

The main problem with this movie is that they seemed to forget what makes the Die Hard movies great.  It is not the hard core action, which this movie did have, but the witty dialog.  Bruce Willis is a good comedic actor, so his delivery on one-liners is probably the best in movies, but for some reason in this movie they decided to replace that with him and his son talking about how crappy of a father he was.  Absentee fathers make some interesting movie stories, but they kind of drag down what is supposed to be fun shoot-em-up.

Another problem is that they decided to make John McClane pretty much invincible in this movie.  I started to think that maybe we were watching another Terminator movie where the robots sent back a John McClane look alike to repair his relationship with his son.  In the first Die Hard movie he was barely standing at the end of that movie.  In this one he seemed to be doing alright, and the stuff he lived through was much worse, so I guess he is getting tougher with age or something.

Not to give anything away, but now that John and Jack have made up if they make another Die Hard I hope they get back to having it be fun again, and not a story about two moping dudes murdering Russians.  There are worse action movies, and the action itself is still good, but everything in between the fighting was a let down.

Do Battle in the Happy Wars!

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Happy Wars is a free down-loadable title for the Xbox 360.  It is a cartoon style game where two sides try to destroy each other’s towers, and finally the enemy castle.

The game is simple enough to play: the X button swings your weapon, and the other buttons launch your skills at the opposing team.  The more you play the more weapons you find and more skills you learn.  There are three types of player: the soldier who just has attacks up close, the mage that enchants other players and shoots them from far away, and the cleric that supports the battle with healing and deploying build-able things like battling rams and siege letters.

The big draw is that you can customize your character any way you want before you head in to battle, and there are some zany looking people when you play.  If you want really customize your player you can buy new skins and items from the store.  No doubt were Microsoft is hoping to make its money.  You can also buy new weapons instead of waiting for them to be randomly dropped as you play.  This is unfortunate since it gives those players an advantage to the cheep players like myself.

I was not expecting this game to be any good, but for the price of free it was pretty decent, and it is worth a look if you got a few minutes to spare.

Living in Portlandia

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I found a quirky show on Netflix awhile ago, Portlandia.  It stars Saturday Night Live player Fred Armisen and writer/musician Carrie Brownstein. It is sketch comedy show about all things Portland, and to a greater extent the Pacific Northwest.

The show is always setup Fred and Carrie living in Portland and observing the random things that happen, but after that they go in to sketches with a whole range of Portland themed stereotypes: super hip bike rider, feminist book store owners, crazy animal rights activists, hippie liberal mayor, and many more.

Some of the sketches miss the mark or are to overly risque for my taste, but some of them are dead on: there is sketch about a couple that find a dog tied up outside a restaurant and freak out and try and find the owners, and they can’t believe how inhumane that is, and the pay off is that their baby is tied up around the corner, or the couple that had to visit the farm where their chicken was coming from at a restaurant before they would order it.

It is a pretty funny show, and you can tell the humor is coming from love and not hate.  Carrie Brownstein who writes most of the sketches grew up in Seattle and still lives there, so her observations are pretty spot on.  The show is good for a laugh and there is good chance if you live in the Pacific Northwest you have met most of the characters in the show.

Are We Headed for an Idiocracy?

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Idiocracy is another cult classic from the creator of Office Space and Bevis and Butthead, Mike Judge.  It is very funny even if the thesis it based around is flawed and quite classist.  Its premise is that unintelligent people are breeding faster then intelligent people, and because of this by the year 2505 the human race will be dumb as rocks and headed for collapse.

Luke Wilson is a soldier with completely average intelligence, so they decided to use him as a guinea pig to test out a freezing chamber for one year.  They don’t have a female soldier that fits the criteria, so they use a local woman of the night played by Maya Rudolph.  Sadly they get forgotten about, and end up in the year 2505 as the smartest people in the world.

The best part of this movie is the first twenty minutes where they show a smart couple discussing how it would irresponsible to have kids during the current economy, and that they should wait until they have enough money saved.  Meanwhile a guy in a trailer park has like five different women and kids all over the place.

Like usual Mike Judge’s sarcastic take on the world really shines through here.  While the premise is flawed it plays on our fears so it seems like it is true, and it gets us all thinking that the future may truly be full of moronic degenerates, but as we all know money and breading have nothing to do with inelegance, but the movie knows that we forget that sometimes.

It is a shame Mike Judge has never really had mainstream success because he does know how to write a funny movie.