Posted by mike in Internet,News at 10:42 pm on September 16, 2010

For about a week and a half now, I’ve been moonlighting at another blog called Get the Big Picture. I’m contributing daily articles on movie news, and starting tomorrow you’ll be seeing the occasional review of mine showing up there as well.

While I’m excited to be writing for a much wider audience, my hope is that I don’t neglect my own blog because of it (at least, not any more than I already do). There’s a writing staff at Get the Big Picture of 5 or 6 people, and I’m really a tertiary reviewer at this point, so the primary source for my reviews will still be right here at 1000 Monkeys. I’ll still link any reviews I post there from my reviews database, so searches will result in write-ups of every movie I see no matter where it’s posted. I intend to post a link here any time one of my reviews goes up over there, too.

My real goal for this site is to get back to it being more of a personal blog, with a wider range of topics covered. I think having a separate, purely movie-related outlet that I post to should help with this.

The Big Picture uses a different ratings scale than I do, so I’ve developed a handy equivalence chart for easy reference:

Big Picture Rating 1000 Monkeys Rating(s) Brief Description
Five Damn Dirty Apes **** Phenomenal
Four Damn Dirty Apes ***.5 Great
Three Damn Dirty Apes ***
**.5
Good /
Pretty Good
Two Damn Dirty Apes **
*.5
Okay /
Not Very Good
One Damn Dirty Ape *
.5
Pretty Bad /
Bad
No Damn Dirty Apes 0 Really Bad

Note that the Damn Dirty Apes really belong to Colin, the sole writer for The Big Picture up until a couple of weeks ago (who has moved on), so we’ll be changing to something new soon. The zero-through-five scale will most likely remain the same, though.

You can see all of the articles and reviews I’ve posted at Get the Big Picture here. Feedback remains the best reward for any sort of writing, so check it out if you get a chance and let me know what you think.

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Posted by mike in Film,News,Reviews at 11:58 pm on May 4, 2009

I don’t know if anybody other than me will find this useful, but I thought it’d be neat to have a little database of my movie reviews, with a relatively easy-to-use query interface for it, so I went ahead and made them. (In truth, I’ve been keeping the database all along, I just finally got around to making the search interface over this past weekend). There’s a new link on the right, now present on every page, which will take you right to it:

Search Movie Reviews

I’d appreciate any feedback anybody has, both regarding bugs or problems you find with it, as well as suggestions for improvement. I’m thinking of experimenting with querying the IMDB in order to add ways to search by director, writer, actors, etc., as well as by genre, but that’ll be in version 2.0 if I ever get around to it. For now this is good enough for me, but if you’d like to see something else please feel free to let me know.

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Posted by mike in Entertainment,Film,News at 9:25 pm on July 21, 2008

Some sad news quietly came out today without much press coverage of it, but I think it warrants recognition: Both Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper, of “At the Movies with Ebert & Roeper,” have opted to part ways with Disney and the show that’s borne their names since 2000 (and bore the names of Gene Siskel and Ebert for well over 20 years prior to that). It’s been a sad time for this show the past couple of years as it was, with Roger’s health not allowing him to appear. Still, Roeper has done a decent job of carrying the torch in his absence, and the guest reviewers have been generally enjoyable.

Things had been going downhill for a while, including Disney’s abrupt ending of the use of the trademarked “Thumbs™” and resultant blame game played between them and Ebert. Hopefully there’s a Disney-less future for this format. The good news is that the huge archive of episodes and individual reviews remains online, and should remain available in the future, barring any further fallings out.

On a positive Ebert-related note, an Ebertfest documentary recently premiered on the Big Ten Network. It’s well worth checking out—hopefully it’ll be replayed (keep an eye out for “Illinois Campus Programming” on the schedule).

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Posted by mike in News,Sports at 10:37 pm on July 13, 2008

I generally make it a point to see at least one or two Cubs games every year in person (it’s hard to afford any more than that). Last year I was even fortunate enough to attend the sole playoff game at Wrigley Field. With our recent move, I’ve found myself needing to get creative in order to follow my favorite teams. DirecTV with the MLB Extra Innings package helps, although due to MLB’s stupid blackout rules it can be frustrating at times. For live game experiences, though, one of the first things I checked when we decided to move was the Cubs’ schedule, to see when they would be traveling to San Francisco to play the Giants. They had a 4-game series at the start of this month, and Megan and I were able to attend the middle two of those games.

We had a thoroughly enjoyable time visiting AT&T Park, the Giants’ home since 2000. For the first game we went to (game 2 of the series), we drove to the ballpark and paid $30 to park. While exorbitant, the price was almost worth it for the walk around McCovey Cove from the parking lot to the ballpark.

McCovey Cove Cove-side entrance

The second night, we wizened up (and I left work earlier), and we took the BART downtown, the round-trip price for both of us adding up to less than half of what we’d paid to park the night before.

Thanks to the Giants having a poor season, we found great seats for both nights on StubHub for less than face value, and got to see a game from either side of the park.

July 1st view July 2nd view

The second game we went to (game 3 of the series) was a military servicemen appreciation night, and both teams wore special American flag-inspired hats, which they would continue wearing for the next several games, joined by the rest of MLB the following day and throughout the Fourth of July weekend. As part of this event (and general Fourth of July festivities), a fireworks show was scheduled for after the game. In another of those “welcome to the Bay Area” moments that we’ve been experiencing a lot since the move, there was unfortunately too much fog over the bay that night to really enjoy the show. They went ahead with it anyway, though, and we stayed along with a decent percentage of the crowd (many of them staying despite the fact that the home team had lost the game) to see as much of the show as was visible.

Foggy fireworks More foggy fireworks

Like most baseball fans, I always enjoy having the opportunity to visit different ballparks, and it’s made all the more fun when I can see my favorite team playing there. It’s also made more convenient–which also contributes to the enjoyment of the experience–when the park is only a 10-minute drive (or 20-minute train ride) from where I live. I’ll surely make the Cubs-Giants series an annual event while living in the area. I’m planning on taking a visit to the other side of the bay next month, too, to see that “other team” from back home when they come to McAfee Coliseum to play the A’s.

On the way home from the fireworks display, we realized we’d forgotten to take the obligatory “here we are at the game” pictures, so we took a picture of ourselves riding the BART instead.

Mike and Megan on the BART

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Posted by mike in Film,Friends,News at 12:59 am on June 20, 2008

Largo, the film my friend Andy has made (which I’ve written about a couple of times previously), is finally set to premiere this coming Sunday, June 22, at the Los Angeles Film Festival.

Andy, the artist
Not only am I super-excited for my friend (who looks really “artisty” in his publicity photo for the festival), but I’m really looking forward to seeing the fruit of his labor in its finally-completed form. Having had the opportunity to see parts of the film at several stages over the past few years, including being present for a few of the performances that will be showcased in it, it’s going to be really cool to get to see it in its polished form on a big screen, not to mention with a big film festival audience (which should naturally be pretty receptive to a non-narrative film).

Interestingly, in the time since Andy completed shooting footage for the film, the club (in its original incarnation) has closed. It just opened in its new larger location last week, in fact, making the debut of the film particularly timely, in addition to giving it additional cachet as a chronicle of a club that is now made even more legendary due to the fact that it no longer exists (at least, not physically; from everything I’ve heard and read, all intentions are to ensure that the spirit of the club transfers to its new location). I think that this can only help build excitement for the film, and hopefully increase the amount of people interested in it. I’m really looking forward to the premiere, and will be sure to report back early next week with some thoughts on the movie and a report of how the premiere went.

Along those lines, now that we’re finally settled into our new home, and I’m more or less settled into my new job, I’m done with excuses for slacking off on my movie-reviewing goal, so I’m going to work on getting caught up (I’ve got a lot in the queue). I can’t think of a better movie to use as my first full-length review than Largo, so that seems like a worthy plan. I don’t know if I can hold a pace like Chas did when she first started blogging, with an entry every day, but we’ll see– there’re enough movies I’ve seen since my last roundup that it might require a review a day for a couple of weeks before I’m caught up. My intention is to work backwards, chronologically, so that at least the first few are somewhat relevant and timely; the rest will be more for archival purposes and just to force myself to not abandon the reviews I’ve started. The release of the new Batman movie seems like a good date to shoot for to be caught up by, so that’ll be my aim.

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Posted by mike in Family,Internet,News at 11:22 pm on May 7, 2008

I’ve been pretty negligent with the blog updates lately, but I think I have some good excuses, so it’s time to provide a rarely-seen personal update or two.

March 18 was a big day for me this year. Megan's Ring First and foremost, it was the day I asked Megan to marry me. Since people like hearing proposal stories, and I’m already going against my track record and sharing aspects of my personal life, I might as well recount it here. There are a few pieces of background information that might help to make the story better demonstrate how awesome I am:

  • When we first started dating, I told Megan that guys only buy flowers for their girlfriends when they feel guilty for having cheated on them. This set the stage for me never having to buy flowers, since she never wanted to receive them from me given my view of what they represent.
  • We both love movies, and spend a lot of time watching them together. I’d say it’s a large part of our relationship if there was a way to do so without making it sound trivial. At any rate, suffice it to say that we’ve always been able to enjoy a movie together, and we’re both equally big dorks about movies in general.
  • Like most girls of our generation, Megan is a big fan of Disney movies. Like most guys of our generation, I am not.

So, on the day in question, I “happened to” get off work early. It also “happened to” be the day that Enchanted–a movie that Megan had seen twice in the theater, she loved it so much–was released on DVD and Blu-ray. So, I beat her home from work, and had flowers waiting out on the table for her when she got home. The first thing she said upon walking in the door, of course, was, “Did you cheat on me?”

After clarifying that “I just felt like doing something nice,” she remembered that the movie she’d been eagerly anticipating was released that day, and asked if I’d gotten her anything else. At this point I pulled out the BD from its hiding spot, still shrink-wrapped (or rather, apparently still shrink-wrapped). As she ripped it open like a kid on Christmas morning, I slyly slid off of the couch and onto a knee without her noticing. The timing worked out even better than I’d planned: “Oh look, it even came with a ring–OHMYGOD!” (For those unfamiliar, Enchanted is, um, about a princess or something, so it’s not completely outside the realm of possibility for it to come with princessy things–like diamond rings. At least, it was plausible enough to fool my would-be fiancĂ©e for just the right slice of time.)

So then, of course, we (well, mostly she) had to spend the rest of the evening calling friends and family and telling them about our newly-minted engagement. And, of course, Megan had to watch her new movie. Since it didn’t really hold my attention, I diverted myself as I usually do by turning to the computer I keep next to the couch to check my email, update Facebook, chat online, and the like. And that’s when, in an irc channel, another life-changing even occurred:

21:18 gdm_> so -- any SAs looking for honest work?

This would lead to a discussion of the pros and cons of living in the San Francisco bay area (primarily focused on the cost of living differences between there and Champaign), and eventually to me sending the inquirer my resume. The company responded with surprising and impressive speed, and the next day I found myself scheduling phone interviews with them. After another round or two of phone interviews, they were flying me to San Francisco for an in-person interview. All of this went well, and I ended up–less than a month after starting the process–getting offered and accepting the job.

Things moved so quickly, in fact, that I find myself now writing this from a hotel room in San Mateo, California. My first day at Aggregate Knowledge was Monday (Cinco de Mayo), the day before Megan’s and my four-year anniversary (“Cinco de Mayo plus one”). We have settled on a place to live in South San Francisco, and will be moving permanently next week.

March 18th ended with my friends from what is now “my old job” noticing the big news:

22:43 CmdrKuehn> whoa, facebook engagement!

So, in summary, after over 6 years working for CITES, and after 9 years in Champaign (virtually my entire twenties), Megan and I are moving on to pursue a new adventure. (It also gives us a good excuse for pushing the wedding back until next summer–a much-needed chance to get settled and catch our breath before taking that plunge.)

Our cat Yoshimi was even happy for us, taking it upon himself to guard what would come to be known as our “engagement flowers.” He and his younger sister Dani will be making the cross-country road trip with us next week. I made the trip myself last week, but that’s worthy of being its own story, so I’ll save it for another day.

Shimi guards the flowers

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Posted by mike in Film,Internet,News at 2:47 pm on April 7, 2008

WARNING: Do not read this post if you have yet to see There Will Be Blood, as the main topic of it is a giant spoiler.

I’m sort of a big nerd when it comes to cheesy movie collectibles, especially the kind that are somewhat esoteric and obscure. For instance, instead of getting a regular Pulp Fiction t-shirt, in the summer of 1995 I bought a UC Santa Cruz shirt for myself.

Dorks

In a similar vein, I thought that a cool collectible related to There Will Be Blood would be replicas of the somewhat iconic bowling pin from the end of the movie. So, just in time for the release of TWBB on DVD (the Blu-ray is still forthcoming), I’ve launched a site that sells just that: therewillbebowlingpins.com, featuring novelty old-time bowling pin replicas complete with blood stains, in two sizes: a 4″ desk decoration, or a 2-11/16″ keychain.

I'm Finished.

Cheesy? Yes. Nerdy? Definitely. And it remains to be seen if I’m the only person on the planet who would want such a thing or not. But it’s been a fun little side project, nonetheless.

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Posted by mike in Computers,Entertainment,News at 10:44 am on January 13, 2008

Or, at least, it should be soon.

Now that Warner Bros. has switched from being in the HD-DVD camp to siding with Blu-Ray, the dominoes are falling and hopefully we’ll see the end of “The Format Wars, Round 2” in the near future.

My primary interest in this is the fact that I’d like one format to win outright so that everybody can get on with adopting it. It seems clear that the majority of consumers have been waiting to see who wins before purchasing an HD home video player (although there’s some speculation that adoption will be slow, regardless).

The two formats are largely the same in terms of features, but the primary difference has been that Blu-ray offers a DRM scheme that the studios view as being superior (copy-protection features appear to be the studios’ main concern, and with good reason). Another difference–albeit a more minor one, as its use hasn’t been fully explored as of yet–is the fact that the Blu-ray format includes Java support. This also might explain why Microsoft, never a fan of anything Sun- or Java-related, has sided with HD-DVD, although even that seems like it might change.

And then there’s what I still consider to have been a shrewd and ingenious move on Sony’s part, the decision to release the PlayStation 3 with a Blu-ray player built-in. This forced a lot of high-end gamers to become early adopters of the Blu-ray format, whether they realized it or not. (On the down side, it initially drove up the cost of their gaming console, perhaps to the detriment of their market share; this issue has largely disappeared, however, since the introduction of the $399 PS3.) Personally, though, the presence of the Blu-ray player was the primary reason I had for wanting (and getting) a PS3; indeed, I do not own any games for it (yet), but I have already purchased several Blu-ray movies. An additional bonus to using the PS3 as a DVD/Blu-ray player (although one that’s not often talked about, for whatever reason), is that it does a great job functioning as an upscaling DVD player for standard-definition movies, too. After adding an IR remote, so that I can control movie playback on the PS3 with my Harmony 880, I’ve found that the PS3 makes a terrific centerpiece to my home theater setup.

I’m hopeful that the chips will continue to fall, and Blu-ray will be able to announce a de facto victory sometime in 2008. Then the studios can get on with producing more content for the format, more people will jump on the bandwagon, and hopefully prices will come down as well. Of course, as with all new technology, porn may serve as the tipping point.

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Posted by mike in Film,Friends,Music,News at 4:54 pm on November 27, 2007

The Largo film that I previously wrote about is featured in an article in the current issue of Filter magazine, available now. Andy, my friend behind the film, had this to say about it:
Filter issue 28

Check out the new issue of Filter magazine (w/ David Byrne on the cover), at newsstands and bookstores now through February, for a great article on Largo and my upcoming concert movie. The article is called, “Exalting the Artistic Moment: The Meaning of a Place Called Largo.” For those of you who aren’t already familiar with the club it’s a good primer on its history and what makes it special.

The article also features a lot of stills from the movie, a great shot of Elliott Smith by photographer Autumn de Wilde, and interviews with myself, club owner & co-director Mark Flanagan, and performers Jon Brion, Aimee Mann, Mark Oliver Everett (E from Eels), Zach Galifianakis, Tom Brosseau, Grant-Lee Phillips, and Paul F. Tompkins.

The film sounds like it’s on track for its targeted February 2008 completion date. Hopefully I’ll be headed out to LA around that time to see the first screening of it there, followed by TriBeCa in late April/early May. Pretty exciting.

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Posted by mike in News,Religion at 10:31 pm on November 1, 2007

Yesterday, the Westboro Baptist Church was found liable of invading the privacy of a grieving family and inflicting undue emotional stress upon them, to the tune of $2.9 million in compensatory damages and $8 million in punitive damages. This is, of course, everybody’s favorite church, with their always-popular website godhatesfags.com (note: the site doesn’t always load; apparently God hates reliable web hosting, too). To say I have some thoughts on these people is probably an understatement.

First of all, let’s assume that we believe in a God, and we give a shit about what he thinks (I consider this premise itself to be quite ridiculous, but bear with me here anyway). So based on this belief, we probably also think that he created the universe and everything in it. Suppose, for some reason, that he creates some things that he likes and some things that he doesn’t like; some of his own creations, like “fags,” he even goes so far as to hate. And I guess even after realizing that he hates them, he’s stubborn enough to continue creating them anyway. (One can only imagine the types of self-hatred issues this might cause.) So then we’ll further assume that some of his children on earth, particularly in the great progressive state of Kansas, are actually enough in tune with this god that they are not only aware of his existence, but they actually know which of his creations he loves and which ones he hates (whether or not he is only indifferent about some creations is still up in the air, I suppose). They furthermore know that, armed with this insight, it is up to them to educate the rest of the world about which of this dude’s own creations he hates (they figure you don’t care too much about learning about those that he loves, since those aren’t nearly as interesting). So they take it upon themselves to spread this word, that of God’s hatred of fags. Naturally the most logical way to go about this would be to protest at the funerals of heterosexual soldiers who died serving their country, right?

Okay, so people are free to believe whatever they choose in this country. And they’re free to express themselves, too. But I think these people got off way too easily with only a civil lawsuit. Personally, if I’ve recently lost a loved one and am attempting to grieve that loss in the form of an archaic mourning ritual, and somebody decides to not only interrupt that ritual, but to do so in the form of actually celebrating the very death that I am mourning, that person isn’t going to be walking away from said engagement, and they’re going to be missing at least a few key organs on their way out, too.

Now, of course not many people take the parishioners from Westboro too seriously. But I don’t think enough people are questioning their motives thoroughly enough. The church is led by a man named Fred Phelps, and the parish consists primarily of members of his extended family. So it’s safe to say that what Fred believes, the Westboro Baptist Church believes. And I submit to you that there is nothing in this world that causes a man to have so much hatred for another group of people as the conflict that arises from repressed feelings clashing with indoctrinated religion. And just as the string of closeted Republicans, or the never-ending series of gay priests, are typically the most outspoken anti-gay activists there are, so too does Fred appear to fit the mold of one whose bigotry seems like it could only be the result of his own repressed feelings and his inability to deal with them.

Fred Phelps, cocksucker

Just look at ol’ Fred there, and ask yourself this: how much does he love the thought of sex with men? Do you think he fantasizes about fucking other men every hour of the day, or only on the even-numbered ones? Is there anybody in the world who would be more satisfied by a cock unloading in his mouth than good old God-fearing Fred there? I sure don’t think so.

And if you look at it in that light–as a guy who’s inherently homosexual, but so simple-minded that he can’t accept it, even in himself–then it sort of becomes a sad tale, doesn’t it? And yet, he’s so over-the-top with his vitriol that it makes it hard not to hate him whether you feel sorry for him or not (and remember, hatred is apparently a godly sentiment, so you can feel virtuous in expressing it). Not that the man deserves any sympathy; just that it’ll be sadly satisfying when his own inevitable child-raping stories finally surface. It ends up making me wish that I believed in a silly childish nightmare world called Hell, just so I could picture poor old conflicted fag Fred burning in it.

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