Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Rickey's Film Corral: Rounding up Moves You Were too Damned Lazy to See

[Rickey's in-depth analysis of the various cinematic offerings currently showing at a movie theater near you. Rickey will use his critical skills to weed out the dreck from the moderately watchable, thereby saving you money and vastly improving your quality of life. Don't say we never did anything for you, OK?]

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Erika and I saw this one overseas in San José (there’s very little to do in San José other than avoid being mugged) and paid roughly $5 for two tickets to an evening showing. Even that small amount felt like a rip-off. This movie isn’t just offensively dumb, it’s mean, manipulative and violent. Now, unfortunately, I’m on the record as having enjoyed the first Transformers movie for what it was: a mindless fun flick showcasing large robots punching each other. But this one expands upon everything that was bad in the first movie and runs with it full tilt. We’re talking terrible acting, overwhelming use of indiscernible CGI, shoddy editing, and a runtime that extends about 100 minutes too long. Want to save yourself ten bucks at the movies? Try eating paint chips while staring at a poster of Megan Fox—you’ll get pretty much the same effect.

Granted, nobody was expecting director Michael Bay to craft a modern day version of “The Seventh Seal” from a Saturday morning children’s cartoon, but still… something feels very unwholesome about watching flag draped coffins of U.S. soldiers being escorted off a plane by giant robots in a military base somewhere in the Middle East. Kitsch I can take, but perverted patriotism is another thing altogether. And the less said about the movie’s insinuation that the Obama Administration would attempt to negotiate peace with a villainous race of alien robots the better. Oh, and what are your feelings about paying to see a minstrel show in the year 2009? Because this movie features two gorilla shaped robots with gold teeth who “don’t read too good” talking jive to each other. It’s a pretty shocking thing to watch, especially when you consider that Steven Spielberg, the director of “Amistad,” and the upcoming biopic "Lincoln” is the executive producer on this film. I honestly can’t come up with a single reason to recommend this movie to anyone, and I liked “Armageddon” for crying out loud.

Brüno. (I just want you to know how difficult it was to get an umlaut symbol to appear in this post). Well I suppose that this movie attempts to push your buttons in a better way than the previous one we just reviewed. If you consider Sasha Baron Cohen attempting to lure Ron Paul to bed more sublimely enlightened than an alien robot humping Megan Fox’s leg, that is. Brüno operates in the same way that Borat did: it attempts to mine comedy from the conceit of an outsider illuminating our inner prejudices. The problem is that Cohen targets some very low hanging fruit – talk show audiences, a group of redneck hunters, Paula Abdul – and the movie comes off more as a series of cheap shots than a witty social commentary. While it’s true that all good comedy is born from a certain degree of derision, I feel the same way about this movie that I do about some of Andy Kaufman’s stuff: going to an extreme length to rile up and upset people just isn’t all that funny. Also, there’s serious full frontal male nudity in this one. Regardless of how enlightened you may consider yourself to be regarding alternative lifestyles, nothing can prepare you for the first twenty minutes of this movie and the sight of a singing dancing penis. Nothing.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Every year, I get dragged to one of these films about children magicians brandishing wands and saying funny made up words. I agree to this because sitting through these movies morally entitles me to pick the next eighteen films we watch together. This installment of the Potter franchise focuses on some sort of magical book, a talking sofa, and children magicians falling in love. Yay. Between these movies and “Twilight,” I’m seriously concerned about one day having “the talk” with my bewildered progeny and needing to explain that adolescent romance doesn’t necessarily include spells, potions, or general supernatural tomfoolery.

Bottom line, if you liked the last few Potter films, you’ll probably like this too. They’re all kind of a blur to me at this point. You’d think that after six semesters of sending their kids to this Hogwarts place, the parents would’ve sued the pants off anyone associated with a school that subjects it’s students to trolls, giant spiders, dragons, and similar outlandish dangers. (I’m assured that all this will be resolved in the upcoming “Harry Potter and the Order of the 2nd District Court”). Also, they’d better hurry up and make the final movie because the kid playing Ron Weasley looks like he’s about 30 in this one.

On the Docket !

[These are movies that I haven’t yet seen but after watching the last one, am COMPLETELY ENTITLED to see because they are undoubtedly incredible and cannot possibly be any worse than that Transformers train wreck that I convinced Erika was totally worth seeing. Ahem.]

District 9. A sci-fi action movie about aliens arriving on Earth then being rounded up in a ghetto in South Africa? Shot in documentary style by a newcomer director that nobody has ever heard of? I’m telling you, there’s absolutely no way this can fail. I am dead serious about this.

Public Enemies. This one shouldn’t take too much arm twisting to convince the Mrs. to go see. She gets to see Johnny Depp play the charming John Dillinger and I get to watch a slick Michael Mann movie about a bank robber. A win-win situation if I’ve ever heard of one.

500 Days of Summer. Hey look, the kid from “3rd Rock from the Sun” has resurfaced! That alone has me intrigued for this indie love movie. As does Zooey Deschanel. Yes, every now and then, I am capable of picking a sentimental date flick…

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Monday, July 27, 2009

While You Were Out...

Yeah, I’ve been lax with new material. I will now attempt to fabricate lame excuses for this. Turns out that returning to one’s job after a month hiatus doesn’t leave much time for blogging. And then there are the errands. The endless errands. (Those Netflix movies don’t just return themselves, you know?) But most importantly, the wifey and I are starting to search for a dwelling of some sort to purchase. We’re busy, got it? Also, we’re pretty much looking for excuses not to sit in a poorly air-conditioned apartment and write out several dozen heartfelt wedding thank you notes. Ugh. I do have several key updates worth mentioning however:

After much deliberation, we’ve decided to start talking in the first person (the editorial voice remains remarkably intact however). You’ll notice a noticeable increase of the use of pronoun “I” here at RwR. In order to better demonstrate this, here’s an example of how this will work, derived from a real life situation:

Under the old system: “This morning, while brewing his cup of coffee, Rickey bumped over his coffee press and spread shattered glass and hot coffee all over the kitchen floor. Rickey nearly scalded his genitals off.”

Under the new system: “This morning, while brewing my cup of coffee, I bumped over my coffee press and spread shattered glass and hot coffee all over the kitchen floor. I nearly scalded my genitals off.”

Because let’s be honest here, if you’re going to discuss the topic of horrific genital scalding, it’s far better to do it in the first person. Do not be alarmed by this first person speaking development. Change can be a terrifying thing, but fret not: I’m just as capable of blogging like an ignorant pompous schmuck in the first person as I was in the third person.

Judging by the modest uptick in Google hits (I can’t decide which keyword search I like better: “Rickey Henderson shirtless” or “Rickey Henderson batshit crazy”) something rather noteworthy happened to Rickey Henderson over the weekend. You’d think that after three years of pilfering someone’s good name, I’d take the time to honor their induction into Cooperstown, but you also forget how much of a magnificently lazy bastard I am. Maybe I’ll get around to writing a proper HOF speech in a few days, but I’m concerned it would deteriorate into one of those cliché life story speeches about how Rickey single handedly liberated a small Brazilian village using only a paperclip, some string, and his moral fortitude. As always, your input is greatly appreciated.

I am unmoved by the Mets’ current two game winning streak. After a month entirely removed from baseball, it’s difficult to get excited about an injury ravaged team with a lineup that I can only identify 12% of. I am however quite concerned that they’ve decided to steal one of my trademark maneuvers from this past softball season:
Damn you Francoeur, the “curl into the fetal position to avoid the ball” is MY MOVE, not yours. 14 RBIs in 12 games does not excuse you from this blatant theft!

I do however, approve of the Mets organization’s decision to foster a bit of off-field drama. It livens things up a bit when your VP of player development tears off his shirt and challenges minor league players to a fistfight. Who wants to watch a timid and mediocre team anyway? If you’re going to screw up, at least make it fun. Make it big. Hats off to Tony Bernazard for acknowledging the 2009 Mets season as what it really is: one massive episode of “Hell’s Kitchen.”

I, for one, was absolutely delighted by the Erin Andrews scandal and the resulting media uproar. For an entire week, we get to listen to the lunacy of sports experts telling us “Look, I don’t care what your reasons are, you SIMPLY CANNOT bore a hole into a locked hotel room and take photos of a woman undressing!” Uh, thank you very much professor. Way to take a stand there. Your Peabody is in the mail.

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Rickey's Costa Rica Travelogue Part VII: Manuel Antonio

Our final stop in Costa Rica was a beach town named Quepos, home of some of Costa Rica's nicest beaches. Upon arriving in town, we wasted no time and headed directly for the Pacific shore. I found the waves to be most excellent, usually towering above my head. Tons of surfers at this beach. And then there was me, just kind of bobbing around and doing some bodysurfing. Later on, I haggled with a beach vendor who consented to rent me a boogie board (don't knock it--it's a lotta fun). Erika quickly retreated from the sea once she realized that waves were twice her height.A word of caution: the riptides were ridiculously strong--so powerful that a coast guard boast was sitting about a hundred meters off shore routinely fishing people out who got sucked out and dropping them off back on the beach. But hey, on the bright side, no sharks were sighted.
The next day, we made for a nearby park known as Manuel Antonio. It was much more remote and less touristy than the one at Quepos (the park officials only let a few hundred people in per day) and as an added bonus, it's chock full of monkeys. Monkeys that, according to the locals, would steal our belongings if we left them unattended. I eagerly looked forward to this possibility, for it was the final item on our Costa Rica travelogue checklist: to engage a simian in hand to hand combat. I estimate that I could take no less than 23 of them on at once before they overwhelmed me.

With this in mind, got into the park nice and early. This view awaited us:We set up our beach towels a few feet away from this fellow. Behold, the Lizard King:He hung out the whole time, watching us and sunning himself. Thinking whatever it is that lizards think of in their tiny lizard brains. We stayed by the beach, frolicking in the Pacific for quite some time and quickly achieved our most severe sunburn of the entire trip. You know, one of those "it hurts when I blink" sunburns. And still no monkeys or monkey attempts to abscond with our belongings. These little guys had most definitely let me down. To say the least, we were disappointed.

Feeling that it was time to make our exit, we packed our belongings and began to head out at around midday. Suddenly, a rustling was seen in the trees above us. This could only mean one thing: monkey business was afoot.Monkeys: so much like us and yet so untrustworthy. It's a well-known fact that they've been plotting against us for quite some time. I'm warning you, long gone are the days when monkeys would jovially wear ties and smoke cigars for our amusement. Just look in this guy's eyes and tell me he's not working things out.We encountered three distinct varieties of monkeys, these capuchins being the last. I'll admit, they are exceedingly cute. Almost cute enough for me to momentarily forget that monkeys pose a clear and present danger to Western Civilization. Almost.Sadly, the opportunity to wrestle a monkey did not present itself. Park regulations prohibit feeding the monkeys, so I'm pretty sure that engaging in fisticuffs with one of them is off limits as well. Fine, be that way park rangers. Just don't come crying to Rickey when Costa Rica is ground zero for the simian uprising.
The next day, we departed Quepos and drove North to the airport in San Jose. Driving along, we paid a toll for an incomplete highway that we had to exit two miles later. Apparently the highway project was behind schedule but the toll booths were finished right on time, so the authorities figured, "hey, let's open 'em anyway!" This sort of planning isn't uncommon in Costa Rica, a country badly in need of their own version of Robert Moses. This is what passes for a bridge:Rusty steel girders supporting wooden planks. And tractor trailers are driving over this. This is actually high tech compared to some of the other river crossings we were subjected to. I feel so much better about driving across the crumbling Tappan Zee after this. You don't really drive across the bridges in Costa Rica as much as hold your breath and make a mental checklist of places you want to see before you die.

We spent out last night in Costa Rica in a hotel outside of San Jose. San Jose is... well, the it's the capital of Costa Rica. A big poor city in Central America. Our decision not to spend much time there was a sound one. That evening, while outside smoking, I heard 5 or 6 popping noises in the distance. Suddenly, the hotel guard's radio starts going off and he starts talking loudly into it. Not having any knowledge of Spanish, I just tell myself that he's saying "it's those damn kids playing with firecrackers again" and I mosey inside. Then the sounds go off again. This time four quick shots followed by one more a few seconds later. I'm pretty sure it was gunfire. We don't sleep much that night. The following day, we got the hell out of San Jose, dropped off the rental car, and made for the airport.
What did I miss while I was gone? Ironically, it rained more back home than it did in Costa Rica, the Mets are in an injury plagued tailspin, Michael Jackson and pretty much everyone everyone else is dead, and I'm pretty certain that the Riddler is lurking in the comments section of this blog.

[OK, anonymous, I figured out that another word for tiered crown is 'tiara' but I can't rearrange the letters into a recognizable name, let alone figure out the consonant swapping thing you need me to do to learn your identity. Stop freaking toying with me damn you!]

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Rickey’s Costa Rica Travelogue Part VI: The Monteverde Cloud Forest

We know, you’re wondering where Part V of the travelogue disappeared to. You miss it dearly. Well you see, after a soul-searching discussion with Mrs. Henderson, it was agreed upon that posting a deranged swimsuit calendar spread of myself on the internet might have been somewhat of a poor decision. Needless to say, rum was involved at the time. As you can see, the decision has since been rectified. Those responsible have been sacked. If you were one of the individuals who saw the post in all its beefcakey glory, please be sure to send us the bill for your psychotherapy sessions and we’ll gladly reimburse you for your expenses.

Moving on…

Arenal was tough to leave behind. We spent our last day there once again hanging out in the springs and relaxing.When we get back home and start looking for a house to purchase in the Tri-State area, I fully plan on asking if it has pools heated by underground volcanic vents. This might lengthen our search somewhat.

Exiting the spa, we saw a guy petting something that looked like a large wooden log. Then the log moved. Quickly realizing that we were looking at a giant snake of some kind – some sort of python or boa colored black with diamond markings down its torso – we took a few steps back. The dude, who happened to work at the spa, told us he’d found this massive snake trying to eat one of his chickens at his home, so naturally, he did what anyone in his situation would have done: he adopted it as a pet. Uh, cute.

A brief aside: one time back in college, after a few too many libations, I stumbled out of my frat house and saw a stray cat in the back parking lot. Not being altogether lucid, I figured I’d bring the cat inside and adopt it as my own. It was generally (and quickly) decided by my fellow brethren living in the frat house that that was an exceedingly bad idea and the cat was cast back outside. End of story.

And yet THIS GUY, this crazy Costa Rican bastard, thinks it wise to adopt a massive wild serpent that he caught swallowing one of his chickens. I quickly decide that the time has come to depart Arenal.

From Arenal, we headed back around the lake, and drove southeast to Monteverde, home of Costa Rica’s famed cloud forests.
We passed by many wind farms—occasional urban sprawl aside, Costa Rica prides itself for being a very green country. I approve of this. I'm certain that Thomas Friedman also does.

Lush countryside abounds. (by the way, did you know that you can click on any of these images to vastly embiggen them? yes mom, I'm talking directly to you).
We drove up and up and looked out the car windows at high elevation cows dotting the countryside. Behold, the Chuck Yeagers of the bovine family:
Have I mentioned that the beef here is delicious?

Once we arrived in Monteverde, we got an interesting tour of a coffee plantation. Mmmmm, sweet sweet nectar of consciousness.... The process by which you enjoy your morning cup of joe is elaborate and fraught with labor concerns, but the bottom line is that if you want to do it properly and humanely (like they do here) then coffee is ridiculously hard to obtain. And hot damn, does it taste good. Needless to say, roughly 95 pounds of Costa Rican coffee beans are returning home with us to the U.S.The next day, we spent a full morning hiking around a biological preserve. They call this a cloud forest for obvious reasons: it’s a lush environment that thrives in the upper atmosphere. Back in suburbia, a homeowner would give his right arm to have just one of these massive trees sitting on his front lawn. Here, there are hundreds of millions of them, and if anyone so much as thinks about hacking off a limb of one of these beauties, they’ll incur a government fine too large to even fathom.

This is for good reason. I’m just going to let these pictures speak for themselves. Please note that the lens flare/glare is entirely intentional and in no way a reflection of my mediocre camera equipment. (argh, I need an SLR). Anyway, National Geographic, eat your heart out.
Stunning. Hiking through the jungle, we weren’t simply exploring a rainforest, we were also in the clouds. The wind was strong but warm and the air was thin. Immense billows of clouds drifted through the trees. The temperature felt about 60 degrees, a welcome change from the 90 degree heat we’d found in Costa Rica’s lower elevations. These are only a handful of the pictures I snapped and they don't even come close to capturing how incredible it was here.

After a while, we finally reached the summit. Apparently it's kind of a big deal up here. Something about a continental divide of some sort...Later on in the hike, the oxygen deprivation finally got to me and I found a walking stick and did my very best Gandalf impression. Behold the alarming photographic evidence that will almost surely prevent me from attaining gainful employment should I decide to switch jobs:You shall not pass! (just be glad I'm wearing a shirt this time, OK?)

We debated doing the zipline thing again in Monteverde, but our hike kind of wore us out. Later, our decision to shun the ziplines was validated by an intense rain that lasted all afternoon. Rain pelting the face at 45mph probably doesn't feel all that good I'm guessing. Trapped inside in the hotel room, we did what any red-blooded Americans staying in a hotel room with a fireplace would have done: we started a fire, a damn good one. Marvel at three years of Boy Scout training finally paying off!Please note that these photos do not portray the aftermath of smoke flooding into the hotel room and us spending 30 minutes attempting to fan the fumes outside using pillowcases. Good times all around.

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