Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Guest Review: "Hocus Pocus"

A young Sean Murray, who plays Agent McGee on NCIS, is a featured actor in this made-for-Disney Halloween film.

The movie opens in 1600s Salem, Massachusetts, where a widower is raising his two children. The widower doesn't take his parenting responsibilities or his other duties very seriously. His son Thackery tries to be responsible and manage the adult duties on his own while his father drowns his sorrows at the local pub.

One day, Thackery's little sister Emily is playing in the woods, where she stumbles upon a dusty old cottage. Three witch sisters live there. They capture the young girl, intending to use her spirit in their potion (well, kill her, really). Thackery becomes concerned when his sister doesn't return home. He goes to look for her, finds the witches' house, watches through the windows, and sees Emily inside.

Thackery attempts to rescue his sister by climbing through an attic window and distracting the witches by shouting. Although momentarily thrown off, the witches recover. They kill Emily and turn Thackery into a talking cat who will live forever. The witches are subsequently hanged by a mob of townspeople, torches and all. The sisters vow to come back from the dead.

Cut to the 1990s. Max the California surfer dude is new to Salem. He gets stuck taking his little sister Dani trick-or-treating while their parents ignore them and get trashed. They go looking in the witch shack with Max's hottie female classmate. Max lights a magic candle; he's a virgin and it's Halloween night so the witches are able to return. Thackery has been wandering through Salem for the past 300 years, witnesses the witches' return, and decides to help the kids send the witches back where they belong.

After a prolonged drama, the witches are defeated by sunlight. Poof! Into dust! Thackery the talking cat who longs for death has his wish granted and rejoins his sister Emily.

The movie was terrible but worth watching. It was great to make fun of! It was interesting to see Sean as a much younger actor. However implausible and drawn-out the story was, I would rate it as 3 cauldrons full of sludge for the fat, old hags.

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Thursday, October 18, 2012

"Pitch Perfect"

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This weekend, I rounded up 10 of my closest sorority sisters to see Pitch Perfect. I knew from seeing the trailers that this could go either way: a couple of hours of mindless fun or of me constantly checking my watch to see if it was almost over.

The plot is paper-thin, but I'll explain it anyway. Punk girl Beca is starting her freshman year at Barden University, but what she really wants to do is move to Los Angeles to become a music producer. Her father, who teaches comparative literature at Barden, has secured a scholarship for Beca and says she can drop out if she sticks out the year but finds college isn't for her. Part of the bargain is that Beca has to get involved in at least one club on campus.

Beca goes to the student activities fair and is recruited to join the Barden University Bellas, an all-female a capella troupe that hasn't updated their set list since the '80s. Barden, it turns out, is home to 3 other a capella groups: the coed High Notes (stoners), the all-male Treblemakers, and the coed Bu Harmonics. Beca thinks the Bellas need to shake up their routine a bit if they want to have a prayer of landing in the national finals. She also breaks one of the Bellas' cardinal rules when she falls for Jesse, a member of the Treblemakers.

It definitely succeeds as a comedy; my sisters and I could barely stop laughing. Fat Amy and the quiet Asian girl absolutely stole the show. Not to mention the Treblemakers deluding themselves into thinking they were genuinely cooler than the fraternities and athletes. That isn't to say I'd turn down a date with one of the a capella boys from my school.

As a former high school choir nerd, I found an element of Pitch Perfect that related closely to my own experiences. Sopranos at my school, like the ones in the Bellas, tended to be VERY snobby and rude to anyone not in their section. Beca is singled out by the lead soprano, Chloe, for bullying just because Beca is an alto. I could commiserate with that. I was listed in all our concert programs as an alto, but I was also a "utility voice." When we only had 4 boys in choir for our Christmas concert, I sang tenor on a few songs; if we were short on mezzos (soprano IIs), I was drafted by my teacher to fill in.

I was inwardly cheering that altos were featured so prominently in the movie. When I was in choir, we tended to be ignored. For the most part, we were stuck singing the same 4 notes while everyone else's parts were a little more challenging.

If you enjoy musicals in general, you can't go wrong with Pitch Perfect. The cast is very talented. Expect a lot of modern pop and rap. There's spectacular versions "No Diggity" and "I'll Make Love to You" during an a capella "riff-off."

FUN FACT: My college actually does have an a capella troupe called The Treblemakers, only ours is all-female.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Chicago Fire: "Pilot"

Or as I like to call the series Backdraft Lite.

I knew this show couldn't possibly compare to Denis Leary's masterpiece Rescue Me, which ended last fall. I was wary of the previews, a scene in which blatantly rips off one of my all-time favorite movie moments: the "You go, we go" scene from Backdraft. But I had I high hopes for Chicago Fire, helmed by Dick Wolf, creator of Law & Order and its spin-offs Special Victims Unit and Criminal Intent. It took roughly 10 minutes for Chicago Fire to ruin my hopes. Why?

  • The opening scene of the episode is almost identical to the beginning of Backdraft with two minor exceptions. 1) Both firefighters trapped in the building die as opposed to Axe surviving. 2) A firefighter's youngest son does not witness his father's tragic death and wind up on the cover of Time magazine.
  • The crew operates out of Firehouse 51, the same house designation that was used way back in the '70s for the show Emergency! Did Dick really think nobody would notice that?
  • How unprofessionally the firefighters behaved during their station tour for an elementary school class. Guarantee these kids won't wanna grow up to be firefighters.
And these are just the general things that annoyed me. I'm friends with a lot of firefighters and EMS personnel. I've had some firefighter training myself and I'm a licensed EMT, so I noticed a few things that other people might not.
  • Where on God's green earth did the props department find masks that old? Long glass in the front, "elephant trunk" style hose...Oh wait, I know, probably leftover from, you guessed it, Backdraft. The most laughable part is that they were hooked up to NEW model Scott Paks. Most likely, the hoses would be incompatible.
  • This also goes back to the equipment issue. This show is set within the CHICAGO Fire Department. Even the most underfunded volunteer departments in small-town Kentucky have late-model Scott Paks and masks. (It's actually required by law in order to run calls, but I digress).
  • The female paramedics wore their hair down with just their Chicago FD jackets and matching T-shirts (which fit more like baby-doll shirts). Even in my mid-size college town in Kentucky, our county EMS requires everyone to wear uniform shirts. And it's general practice in most lines of work that if a girl's hair is past her collar, she has to wear it up.
  • More on the humorous side, every EMT or paramedic I've ever known keeps a stethoscope handy around their neck. These women did not.
  • This one was the last straw for me. The female medics, both department veterans, respond to a shooting and Chicago PD is already on the scene. They tell the police officer to leave the apartment so they can treat the patient. No one knows where the shooter is but the cop leaves anyway. Guess what? The gunman pops out of the closet, holds the medics at gunpoint, and threatens them. The medics now have negotiate themselves out of the situation.
I know it makes for good drama, but drama should have a hint of realism. Let me tell ya, something like what I described would NEVER happen these days. The number one thing they preached in my EMT class and continue to in my paramedic school classes is scene safety.

The police should (and in most cases must) clear the scene of a violent incident before EMS personnel are allowed inside. In my state, this became standard practice after a very tragic and very public incident where a female paramedic was killed in the line of duty while responding to a shooting. The police officer certainly would not leave the room while the shooting victim was treated in case he got violent.

I don't plan on finishing the episode or watching another one. If I was Ron Howard, I would sue for copyright infringement. If I were a representative for Scott Paks or American Lion turnout gear, I'd reconsider their current product placement.

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Sunday, October 7, 2012

Top 10 Quotes: "Remember the Titans"

This coming Saturday (October 13th) is my college's homecoming, which has put me in a football kind of mood. My favorite football movie is Disney's Remember the Titans, so I'm reposting this entry from my blog's previous incarnations.

  1. Blue: (reacting to Alan's country music) Does the term "cruel and unusual punishment" mean anything to you?
  2. Coach Yoast: There's a fine line between tough and crazy and you're flirtin' with it.
  3. Julius: Attitude reflects leadership.
  4. Louie: I'm roomin' with Blue, sir, and I noticed that he wears those leopard-spotted underwears. Bikini-style, sir!
  5. Coach Boone: You will wear a jacket, shirt, and tie. If you don't have one, buy one. If you can't afford one, then borrow one from your old man. If you don't have an old man, find a drunk and trade him for his.
  6. Coach Yoast: This is a time for reflection and for prayer...
    Gerry: Coach. I'm hurt. I ain't dead.
  7. Sheryl: I hate playin' with dolls.
    Nicky: I'm not playing. I'm accessorizing.
  8. Blue: Coach, we need a water break. We been out here all day.
    Coach Boone: Oh, you need a water break? Water is for cowards. Water makes you weak. Water is for washin' blood off that uniform and you don't get no blood on my uniform. Boy, you must be outside yo' mind!
  9. Coach Yoast: We want them to remember forever the night they played the Titans.
  10. Coach Boone: We're gonna take a little run through the woods. If you get lost along the way, don't bother comin' back to camp. Just hitchhike your hindparts on home.