Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Let the Sunshine In

Well folks, I do apologize for my lack of blogging the last couple of nights, but schoolwork has taken it's toll on me. I am behind in a few of my classes and I needed to at least attempt to catch up. I thought that was the right thing to do.

One of the things I had to do was revise my movie review of LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE. My editor-in-chief had (in my opinion) pretty well destroyed my original review to the point that I did not even want my name to be printed before it. So, we came to a (cordial) agreement that I would just redo it and we would go for it again tomorrow. So, instead of posting tonight about my boring life (you have to admit, I'm not all that interesting!) I'm just gonna post my newly revised version of my first article in the first issue of THE EXAMINER (I hope to have a total of 3 in the first issue, but we'll see). I hope you enjoy this one as much as you did the last one (I appreciated your comments then, and I appreciate them in advance now). It is much different, so I hope that it works (only on a different level, I suppose). Thanks, and I'll try to post again soon!

By Justin Gott – Entertainment Editor

Little Miss Sunshine, directed by music video directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris from a script by first-time screenwriter Michael Arndt, is a typical look at the dysfunctional family, but it is done in such a recognizable and practical way that it becomes profoundly effective.

The story follows the Hoovers, a middle-class family from Albuquerque, New Mexico. There are six members to this particular family and each has their own imperfections and quirks about them.

The first person we meet is Olive (Abigail Breslin), an average-looking seven-year-old girl with a dream of becoming Miss America. She already knows how to cry for the camera at that winning moment and how to do the Miss America wave.

Olive is trained by her grandpa (Alan Arkin) who is living with the Hoovers because he got kicked out of a retirement facility. He was not stealing, causing havoc, or having loud friends over, though. He was caught doing cocaine (“At my age, I’d be crazy not to do it.” he says) and now maintains his habit in the family bathroom.

Richard (Greg Kinnear), the man of the household, is an unfortunately unsuccessful motivational speaker. He teaches an attitude of winning and philosophizes about the importance of winning at all times, even though he has become a perfect loser. His wife Sheryl (Toni Collette) is the hard-working mom who does everything she can at every moment to keep their family together.

Uncle Frank (Steve Carell) is a former professor who claims to be the Number One Proust scholar in the world. He is also a homosexual who lost his job because a grad student of his did not return his love, and Frank ended up attempting suicide. Failing at that as well, he ends up moving in with the Hoovers to recuperate.

Then there is Dwayne, the misunderstood teenager who is in the midst of a nine-month-long vow of silence that was inspired by his readings of German philosopher Frederick Nietzsche. He “hates everybody,” or at least that is what he writes on his little notebook that he uses when he must communicate.

A daring scene (mostly because of its length) towards the beginning of the film shows the Hoovers sitting down to a casual family dinner. At least that is what Sheryl had in mind when she went through the Drive-Thru. You see, this dinner is made up of fast-food fried chicken, homemade salad, and Sprite from a two-liter. Oh yeah, and everyone has a different-looking plastic cup.

Sound familiar? It should. That dinner has been experienced by almost every American at one point or another. It is that familiarity that makes Sunshine such a great film.

These six people grow together in ways that they never would have seen coming, and it is the way that the characters change that inspires us to want to change as well. The brilliantly constructed and wickedly funny script calls for many different emotions from all of the actors, and it is the performances that make this film memorable.

Steve Carell (The 40-Year-Old Virgin), one of Hollywood’s up-and-coming stars, gives an incredibly powerful performance as Frank. His transformation from the moment we meet him (pathetically staring out a hospital window after having his life “saved”) is not only refreshing, but it is believable because of Carell’s restrained performance. His performance is not one of over-the-top hilarity that audiences have come to expect from him. His subtle humor and quiet sadness make for his most memorable performance yet.

Also remarkable is Paul Dano as Dwayne. Dano plays the tortured high-schooler to perfection and has impeccable comedic timing (even in silence). Dwayne is inspired and brilliant in his own right. His big moment comes when he learns something about himself that drastically alters his future plans. The way he explodes is exactly how we feel for him because of the sincerity he radiates.

There are social criticisms (specifically in how the pageant is portrayed), life lessons, and insightful truths into how people live their day-to-day lives, but the thing that makes Sunshine so good is its perfect cast. There is not a film out there right now with a better ensemble, because there is not a single chink in the chain – every actor is top-notch.

While Sunshine will not garner side-splitting laughs or cause tears to be shed, it does make for an outstanding two hours of entertainment. It is a poignant, noteworthy, and powerful piece of cinema that works as a great character piece and should be remembered come Oscar season. Easily the best film to come out this year, Little Miss Sunshine shines brightly amongst the weeds of all the routine and heartless summer blockbusters.

(Grade: A)

So what did you think??????????????

Thanks again,


Monday, September 25, 2006

Time For A Wardrobe Change

It's almost 0100. I'm gonna rush thru this, but there's some updates I wanna hit ya up with. Important stuff. Interesting stuff. Brief stuff. Prepare thyself. . .

Ok, so, um, I guess I'll do this in bullet form. Yeah. That works.

- Went bowling again tonight (it's now a Monday night ritual). Nothing special (no records were broken) happened. I finished one game with 4 strikes in a row though. That was cool. I won 3 games, Chels won 4, and my buddy Chris (fellow TT) took the last game with the high game of 196. Congrats man! I beat Chels that game though, so we called it a draw of a night. You're going down next week sis. . . Now, you see, I wore the same thing tonight as I had the previous two Mondays cuz I'm kinda superstitious when it comes to athletics. Next week, there will be a new wardrobe worn by yours truly. I already have the shirt picked out. Cy, you know what it is. . .

- We dissected earthworms in our LAB today. That was interesting. Took Cy and me back to both 7th grade and Freshman Biology. Fun times.

- I let my other mama (Mrs. Serrano) know today at work that I will only be doing it for two more weeks. You see, I have been getting behind in my schoolwork, and I need to focus on both school and one other thing that is coming up: Basketball. I saw Mr. Thomas on Friday and he said that he would be calling me in the next two weeks to start up preparations for the upcoming season. As I may have mentioned, I'm going to be an Assistant Coach for the Girls Varsity basketball team this year, and I couldn't be more excited! So that's coming up too. No more time for pain management charts, referral letters, and GREAT WALL runs for food. Madre said I could come back when I'm available, so maybe in December when I'm done with school. We'll see.

- I wanna sell my car. Yep. I presently owe (on the loan that I got for the car) exactly what the Kelly Blue Book says my car is worth in a private setting. So, I would break even now, and if I waited about six months, I could make some money, thus giving me a down payment for whatever I get next. I'm like my dad. I get bored quickly with cars. I'm just bored with my Jetta. It's nothing against the car, cuz it's been pretty good to me. I just want something new. Something different. So, if you, or someone you know is interested in a good-conditioned 2000 Volkswagen Jetta (white, 4-door, manual transmission, brand new cd player, 100,000 miles) then ring me up. I can now say that I am accepting offers (but I need around $7000 - so bring the dough! . .)

- Ate at Chili's tonight with my two best friends Cy and Justin. Fun times. I drank five cherry cokes. I was thirsty. We had a high school friend (Ryan Little, for those who know him) as our waiter (he was in training) and we gave him a 25% tip. That's good :D Anyway, we had fun. Good times. I love those guys.

So I gotta hit the hay. It's now 0117. That was fast.

- - - "Dissection is greatly aided by light"

Night now,


Sunday, September 24, 2006

The Weekend Grab-Bag: The Congested Justin Version

Howdy do readers! It's been since Wednesday (I've been busy as usual) but I'm here, so I guess that's what's important. I'll be bringing you up to date from Thursday through tonight as quickly as is possible for me. It's interesting how much writing that I have to do. I have this evil thing (I like blogging, I swear!), the school paper (which is being put out on October 10th, FYI), and then there is the script that George and I are working on (which, from now on will be referred to as it's tentative title: LIFE 101). That's a lot of stuff. O and then there's regular school, both jobs, bowling (Monday nights only though) and then that little thing I like to call my wonderful Heather. I'm busy. Yep - I'm a college student!

On to the GRAB-BAG goodness! Enjoy the non-chronological wonderment:

- Heather came home this weekend. This was a very cool thing for several reasons. One was that I did not have to drive to the LB, thus saving myself some money (always a cool thing). Another was that I got a little bit more time with her since she was only six miles away. I can tell you plainly that there is no greater feeling than waking up and seeing the person you love near you. It's unexplainable. Well on Friday night we went to dinner with her mom and her new friend Frank. We ate at The Torito and it was quite yummy (and Frank bought, so again, I saved some money!). Then Heather and I went to the MALL to browse for both shoes and jewelry (only the shoes applied to both of us!).

I just realized that I never divulged what our big date was going to be. So, I will now let you know. You see, when she was gone in Australia, I got an e-mail from Ticketmaster saying that THE PRODUCERS (not the big names, but a traveling version) was gonna be in Long Beach. I was interested (having seen and enjoyed both the original movie and the new one) and I went searching. Well that show didn't actually start until March or so of 2007, so I looked around at some other things. And then I saw it: CHICAGO! I have been wanting to take Heather to see CHICAGO since I took her to our first play together (GREASE, which was way back in November of 2004). It has not been anywhere near here (only playing on Broadway and in London with fancy shmancy casts) so I kinda gave up. Well this traveling version is gonna be in the LB for a couple of weeks, and I have two tickets (13 rows from the stage, near center)! Heather's excited, to say the least :D

So back to shopping. We found her some high heels that went well with her dress and then some earrings that she liked. We also went by Finish Line, which is a sports/athleticwear store. Manny works there, and he gets a 30% employee discount on stuff, so he has been spending quite a few dolares over there himself. I figured I would get in on the fun, and I tried on some shoes that I thought were nice. These shoes are the JORDAN CLASSICS, a casual shoe with the Michael Jordan logo and all on them. They retail for $110 but I'm getting them for around $80. Plus, my mom is going halvsies on 'em with me, so I am getting Jordan's for under $50. Can't beat that!!! We came back to my house, watched THE COOLER, and then fell asleep after watching the Dane Cook comedy thing that I TIVO'd. She had yet to see it (how could she have!) and I wanted her to be able to see it too. So we went to sleep and then woke up kinda late on Saturday morning. We went to lunch (Casita!) with our friend Chary (short for Charmayne) from 1300-1500. We talked for quite awhile, actually. When we left there, I told Heather how much I appreciated her. This is not a derogatory remark towards Chary, mind you!!! I'm just saying that Heather is my perfect partner, my puzzle piece that fits just right, my other half, if you will. I have not found any other person that makes me feel the same way as she does (and I don't anticpate doing so), make me laugh like she does, frustrate me like she does (so well, actually!!), and make me want to do absolutely anything for her! Heather, you are my everything. I love you!

- Ok, so either you have already thrown up or are in mid-gag from the above love proclamation. This I'm sure of. . .

- On Thursday morning, I woke up and I did not feel good. I was congested, coughing, and had crap just coming out of my nose like none other! This was not a good thing. I skipped Journalism and went to History just so I wouldn't miss any notes. From there, I went and ate some lunch and then went to UMEC for a few hours. I felt worse by the minute and I knew I could not last at JC for an entire shift, so I tried to call Chris to cover my shift. I later (last night) learned that he had left his phone at his friend's house and had no way of getting it that night. I also learned that he would have been completely able to take on my shift. . . He did not, though, because he had no idea. So I went to work and felt like crap the entire night. It was rough. I made some decent cash, but I didn't think it was worth it at the time. I felt marginally better on Friday and Saturday and I feel around 75% right now. Hopefully my busy week doesn't bring me back down. . .

- Speaking of work, I worked Thursday night (like I said), Saturday night (kinda crazy at times, but not that bad), and Sunday morning (the longest shift ever - 1100-1700 seems so much longer than 1730-2330!). I made some good money over those days, so I am glad that I kept all those days. I am only working two days this week, so I'm even happier that I got in those four days when I could. This week is gonna be better! I know it!

- I'm sitting pretty at 11-2 in my picks this week (o yes!) and I think I have a chance to win the week. Of course I won't really know til tomorrow, but either way, I'm rooting for Atlanta tomorrow night, so you should do the same!

- Well folks, I do believe that brings us up to the same page. I will probably post again early on in the week like I usually do. I'm nearing 200 posts (yes, it's true) so I am motivated to get there (this is #180). Fingers crossed. . .

Have a great week everyone! See ya when I see ya!

- - - "Hey, you look in the mirror, you don't like what you see, don't believe it. Look in my eyes. I am the only mirror you're ever gonna need."
- - - Bernie (William H. Macy) to a badly beaten Natalie (Maria Bello) in THE COOLER

Until a later moment in time,


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

God Bless Aaron Sorkin

Well it was a good Wednesday. Kinda.

I woke up this morning to my phone's alarm at 0800. I fell asleep somewhere around 0300, so needless to say, I was not pleased. I also did not feel well. My throat was scratchy, I could not swallow, and I could barely breathe, because I was so stuffed up. Well in that split second, I decided I was not going into work in the morning (I was supposed to go between 0900 and 1130 or so). I called and said sorry. I got the green light (it usually is - we are just helpers, really) and I went right back to sleep. I woke back up at 1045, but I got scared because I thought my clock said 1245 (and that would mean I was late for Biology). I got up slowly, showered, and then browsed the internet to catch up on some news and whatnot. Then I read two of the stories for English and then I had to go to class. It was time for Biology (boo!).

After Bor-ology (See what I did there!), I rushed home so that I could eat some lunch and do my English homework. I did both of those things and I was only ten minutes late to English, which I apologized (unnecessarily) for. Class was fine and we went the entire three hours (as usual). Long class. Good class. I have no issues with it.

I came home and had little motivation to do anything but watch the ol' television. I was behind on my TIVO'd shows, so I figured, since I had the living room to myself for a little bit, that I would catch up. I watched back-to-back episodes of HOUSE (last week's and this week's) and they were both quite good. This, my friends, is the best medical drama on television (Screw that GREY'S ANATOMY crap! HOUSE rules all! - And yes, I'm ready for all of your letters about that one. Bring it!). I was going to retire to my room, but my mom and sister got home, and I asked them if they would like to watch the series premiere of a certain very-anticipated NBC show we had TIVO'd. You see, I felt bad watching it on my own since they both wanted to watch it too. (Note: the pilot episode is the only time where that will be true - they are both on their own from here on out!) Either way, we clicked Play and got right into Aaron Sorkin's STUDIO 60 ON THE SUNSET STRIP.

Ok. So this show is. . . INCREDIBLE! I love it! In the entire episode, I had only one gripe (my problem is that Matthew Perry's character is named Matt - it's not a huge issue). Everything else was damn near perfect. Sorkin's writing is incredibly fast, witty, and hard-hitting. It's real. It's tough to swallow. It's exactly what TV needs. Matthew Perry is not Chandler; he's a really good character actually. Amanda Peet is surpisingly bearable and Bradley Whitford is very good as well. I really like the supporting cast. All in all, this is already one of my favorite shows, and it's only been on for one week! I really really hope that it finds a bigger audience because I would hate to see it axed. You! Watch this show! It's on Monday nights at 2200 on NBC. Watch!!!!! (and if you missed the pilot, you can either watch a two-minute replay on the website - link both right there and above - or the whole doggone thing!)

So with that blatant advertising, I'm gonna retire from blogging for the night. I probably won't blog til. . . I don't know when. I'm gonna be busy the next couple days. I'll do what I can!

Night now,


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Seriously Serious


What a two-day period I just had! I had a roller coaster of a time over these past 48 hours (or so). Sleep has escaped me, sanity is slipping, and my body is wearing down. But I'm a college student. Now's the time to do all of this...


So yesterday I worked in the morning and then went to Biology. I got my test back from last week. 76 percent. That's better than I had thought (I actually got a 66 percent, but because of the curve my teacher uses, we were all given five extra points) so I'm content. I'm aiming for a B in that class. I can still succeed with a C in it. I'm not worried. But I am stressed.

I finished my Pre-Lab in the half-hour I had between class and my Lab. Let me tell you a bit about my Lab. My teacher, Nikki Riley, is one of the better Lab teachers out there (or at least is the best of the three that I've had experiences with) and she makes the Lab quick and easy. She knows we have lives and don't wanna be there for three hours. Thanks. My Lab group rocks. It's probably the best group in the class (of course I would biasedly argue that point). Cy and I are both in said group, and there are also two girls (Jessica and Jennifer) that join us every week at our square table. They're pretty cool and they also don't wanna be there the entire time. We get our stuff done! I don't terribly mind this class anymore. If Cy was not in this class, I would not be surviving it though. A thought worth mentioning.

I left class and headed home. I was hungry so I heated up some leftovers and watched some more episodes of THE OFFICE from the second season that I bought last week. What a show! If you have yet to experience the hilarity that is THE OFFICE, then I strongly recommend you do so this second. Seriously. This moment right now. I'll even forgive you if you don't read this entire post, just as long as you're renting/buying/watching THE OFFICE. Got it?

I was extremely unproductive for those few hours after Lab. Then, it was off for my weekly bowling game! I met Chels, Kimmy, and her friend Travis at the Brunswick Lanes on Sierra Highway. Cy was able to come this week too, which was really awesome. We started bowling at 2130 and we bowled all the way til midnight. I was actually the last person to finish in the entire place! All that doesn't matter. I was struggling (and struggling for me is bowling around 120) for the most part. I had one good game (a 160 when Cy got 158 - a great game!) but then Cy ran off a 162 that made him the high guy for the night. He left at 2300 and as he left, I told him that I would beat him before the night was over. He told me he hoped so. Well I did.

But before I get to that, let me remind you of my success last week. I bowled a 180 last Monday and that became my new personal record. Well in one of my last games last night, I got in a zone. I was so "seriously serious" as Kimmy put it that I told Chels not to talk to me. I was focused. I spared to start the game but then I got a 9/0 in the second frame (I missed the last pin by a hair!). From then on was when my zone materialized. I got a strike in the third, fourth, and fifth frames (that's a turkey for you bowlers out there!) and then got spares in the sixth and seventh. I got two more strikes in a row (eighth and ninth frames) and then finished with another spare and another five pins on my last ball. My final score: 209! That's right! So, take my excitement from my last week's success and multiply it be about two-and-a-quarter and you'll get how excited I was last night. I'm superstitious, so I wore the same clothes last night as I did the week before. Take a guess at what I'll be wearing next Monday. . .

Today I had school from 0930-1215 (two classes, Journalism and History) and then I headed home to eat some delicious food (and watch another OFFICE episode). I headed to work (UMEC) and got there at 1345. I was trying the entire time I was there to get my JC shift covered for tonight, but that was to no avail. Thus, I had to leave UMEC at 1645 to head home. I was at JC a little before 1730, my sheduled time. I then worked for six straight hours and had a pretty long night. Not ten minutes after I started, a server knocked over an oil bottle. Now, you must know that this is not just a normal clean-up process. This is a PROCESS! It's actually about a twenty-minute process. The way you clean it up (or at least the way they make us clean it up) is you have to sprinkle flour (I think it's the calamari breading) onto the spill and let it sit for a little bit. Once it soaks up the oil, you sweep up the clumpy material. It sounds much easier than it is. In reality, you have to avoid glass as well as learn how to sweep up this oddly-textured material. It's terrible. Thanks Stephanie :D

I still have English homework to do before class Wednesday afternoon and Aimee left me some Math to look over too. O yeah, and it's almost 0200 in the morning. Dangit.

Thanks for reading. Happy OFFICE-watching. . . I hope.

- - - "This is an environment of welcoming, and you should just get the hell outa here."
- - - Michael Scott (Steve Carell) in THE OFFICE; one of countless quotable lines from the spectacular show!



Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Weekend Grab-Bag:

The Up, Up, and Away Version

Greetings my faithful readers. Sorry for being a little behind on my blogging. I'm trying. I really am. But, you see, it's very hard to hop on the computer and type about your day when you just finished it, especially when it's a busy one. That's why I like these GRAB-BAGS. They're this perfect combination of my days, thoughts, and interests all wrapped up into one post. I don't cheat and post little posts over several days (Cy. . .). I'm ready to go tonight, though. So, here we go!!! (and as always, dear viewers, this is all non-chronological):

- So life is pretty crazy. One of the reasons is because of lame ol' Johnny Carino's. Seriously though, if that job was not so damn profitable to me, then I would have left a long time ago. Everytime I work, even though we are slow, I make around $100 (if you add up my tips and hourly wage). So when I was down to two days, I still made pretty good money (if you again add up everything I make in a month). WELL, one of my fellow TTs quit this past week (luckily it was the one who pissed me off the most and not Chris) and now his days are up for grabs. This week, I got them both so I am now working four days at JC (Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday nights and Sunday during the day). Should be good money for yours truly. . . Despite the money, I really don't like it there. Sure, I love the people I work with (well, most of 'em) but my GM really pushes my buttons like no other. It's ridiculous. I can't wait to leave that awful place. But for now, I'll just work my ass off and get some much-needed dolares. Sounds good to me.

- George came into town late last night (Saturday) and hung around in the Lancaster area until tonight. We were able to hang out for about three hours (a little less, actually) which was really cool. I haven't seen him since the first week of August and won't get to see him again until Halloween night (the Lakers/SUNS game) so it was nice to have even a little bit of time. We got talking about our script (well, to be exact, it's my script, but I've asked him to assist me and he was very willing to do so) and we both seem inspired to begin work on it again. I hope it works out. It's a really great idea! So we ate at Casita and then he headed back to Murrieta. See ya in a month or so bud! . . That gets me thinking.

Hmmm. . .

- INSIGHTFUL INSIGHT: Friends are an interesting thing. I don't talk to George that often (or at least I don't see him that often) and whenever we hang out, it's awesome. It's funny how relationships you have in high school change over time. I had some pretty good friends in high school, but I would vote that I only communicate frequently with three of them (Heather, Cy, and Justin). Others, I only knew a little bit and am now getting to know them better because of common interests and college (Alex, David). Still others I've known for what seems like ages (I'm looking at you Tomas!) and we can always pick up right where we left off whenever we hang out or talk. Then there's people who I am so comfortable with that it doesn't matter how long I've known them, I feel like an open book with them (George, Manny). Then there are my sisters (Chelsea, Mallory) that are always there for either bowling or Coldstone (respectively ha ha) when I need it. And who would I be if I didn't mention my own sister, the too-old, too-good-looking Aimee. The best thing that came out of Heather's trip to Australia was my relationship with mi hermana. We grew closer while Heather was gone because, well, I was home a lot more. Not only do we not fight as much (if at all), we really can make each other laugh. She's a lot like me in that she's witty and even moreso because so often she says something that should not be said (Aimee: you must learn the art of the FILTER!) out loud. I love her to death (what does that even mean?) and would do anything for her (including look over every Geometry lesson she does - which I do). Friends are just that interesting. I have only a few that I would consider my "friends", you know, the ones who will be standing in tuxes when I say "I DO" someday. But I am ever-grateful for the relationships that I have with the countless close-acquaintances that permeate my everyday life. Thanks to all of you!

- Friday (known as THE LB DAY) was awesome as usual. Because of some errands I had to do in town, I didn't arrive into my lady's arms until 1330 or so. We left soon after I got there to shop. Score! It actually was a lot of fun (no one makes me laugh like Heather - no one) and we were very productive. We found her a beautiful black dress at Windsor (she didn't wanna try it on because it was a little pricey - under $100, but close. . .) but I got her to try it on. We both liked it (I mean, how could I not have!) but she was still skeptical about the price. I told her I would make a deal with her: I would buy the dress for her if she bought our movie tickets that night. She agreed (how could she not have!) and we both left the mall happy and content. And she left with a brand new dress :D - - From there, we rushed to the movie theater to go see a showing of THE LAST KISS, the number 5 film on my Movie Preview. I knew I would like it. The only question was how much. Well folks, I'm sticking with the grading scale for now, so here it goes again:


Overall Quality - 8
Rewatchability - 7
Purpose-Fulfilling - 9
Acting - 9
Discuss-Worthiness - 10
TOTAL - 43

That's a solid B, ladies and gentleme (an 86%). That sounds about right. I really enjoyed it and it was one of those poignant, purpose-driven films. Zach Braff, my boy, did a fine job as a shmuck, actually, and the supporting cast was quite strong. I especially liked Blythe Danner (of MEET THE PARENTS fame). I thought she did quite an amazing job. The story (written by CRASH-writer and director Paul Haggis) was intriguing and thought-provoking. It also brings up many possible conversation topics and inspires couples like Heather and me to discuss them. It's funny in parts, but it certainly is not a comedy. I am planning on writing a review for this one for the paper (my job as ENTERTAINMENT EDITOR - I have an official title now - includes writing as many movie reviews as possible) so I'll post that when I get something on paper. All you need to know is that THE LAST KISS is a good film and that's it. It's nothing special, but it's a whole lot better than a lot of the other options out there (I'm looking at you THE COVENANT!).

- I got a text while I was at work on Saturday (an eight-hour work day for me) from Heather that said she was coming home! My excitement ended quickly when I discovered why. The hot-air balloon guy had called her mom and asked if we could go on Sunday morning (this morning). She agreed and so we were all set up. Crap. I was really nervous about going up into the air in a little death basket. Either way, after only about four hours of sleep, we arrived at JETHAWKS Stadium at 0630 this morning. We hopped in our wicker casket and set up off the ground. Led by Don (of DON'S EARLY LIGHT - Get it?), a veteran hot air balloonist(?) of over twenty years, we ventured up as high as a half mile (maybe higher, but he didn't tell us). It was actually quite cool, and not nearly as scary as I had thought. It was still nerve-racking at first, and that's what I'm sticking to. It was fun, but dangit I was scared! Go for it thrill-seekers. You'll get a kick out of the Antelope Valley when you're floating lightly above it. . . Here's a photographic memory of us in mid-air:

Cute huh? I think it's a good one, but Heather disagrees. She must think the stubble is no good :D

- I'm sitting at 11-4 right now for the week of picks (football again, sorry) which is great. Tough game tomorrow night, so we'll hope that goes well (Go Pittsburgh!). O, and my SUPER BOWL picks are both 2-0. Just thought it was worth noting. . .

Well my faithful readers, I'm going to bed now. I am beginning another week. Whoosh! And there it goes (or at least it will be like that!). Have a good week! I'll see ya when I see ya (no promises though. . .)!

- - - "You'll never fail if you don't stop trying."
- - - Stephen (Tom Wilkinson) to Michael (Zach Braff) in THE LAST KISS

Until, well, later -


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Insightful Insights

I am inspired. In English today, I was told by a student presenter that I gave an "insightful insight". Yes, that's redundant. And it's AWESOME!!! And it's also redundant. . .

I'm so excited that I now have a new stupid phrase that I can overuse. In fact, I'm thinking about using that title as a new post (much like the WEEKEND GRAB-BAG) to post some thoughts that I might have about different things. It will be unlike a regular post cuz it won't be focused on what I did that day. It will be more like an OPINION post than anything else. . .

So what am I gonna do for the first edition of INSIGHTFUL INSIGHTS? I couldn't tell ya even if I wanted to right now. I'm running on four hours of sleep and I'm quite preoccupied reliving the second season of THE OFFICE, one of the funniest television shows out there right now. . . I don't know what to write about!

Wait. I got it. Here we go. . .

Just kidding. It's late. I do have an idea though for my first one - - Look for it before the weekend. I'll try my bestest to get it out there.

Take it easy, like the Eagles.



The Upside Of Winning

Well, there's actually many upsides to winning. I have experienced a few variations of the upside over the last couple of days. It's actually 0200 on Wednesday morning and I got back from Justin's about 45 minutes ago. We had a fun night (more on that later) and I have a little bit to do before I go to sleep - so I'm thinking about staying up all night and being productive. I won't make it, but at least stuff will get done. Like posting here, for example. Well, I'm gonna bullet this out real quick and then get to my English hw. . . Ah, the glamorous life of a college student. . .

- So, I went to Justin's tonight. Manny, Justin, and I played one game ($5 buy-in) before Cy got there to join us. I won that first game. I was short stacked the entire first half of that game, but I doubled up (thanks to an 8 on the river!) and never looked back from that. Once Cy got there, we played two more games ($10 buy-in) and guess what? I won both of these. The highlight of the night was a hand between me and Cy. I had Pocket 3's and the Flop came down 3-7-3. I flopped QUADS! I checked (slow-played to perfection) and he bet. I raised a little. He re-raised. I re-raised him right back (mind you, we combined for about half the chips in play - Manny was already out and Justin was down to about 3 big blinds) and was re-raised again by that guy. I knew I had it, but I just didn't want to lose him by going All-In too soon. Well I put him all-in with a final large re-raise and he called, claiming I was full of it. I flipped my cards while saying "You lose". It was over. I won the hand, and I took that game about five minutes later. I dominated the last game from the get-go and held on in the end to take Manny out. I got a lot of good cards (almost every time I had a pocket pair, I got my set on the flop) but I felt like I played them really well too. I walked outta there with $50 more than what I came in with and Cy owes me $20. Very nice night for me, wouldn't you say?

- I went bowling last night (Monday) with Chelsea, Kimmy (our friend from JC) and her friend Travis. If you've read here before, you know that I really like to bowl. It's probably third on my list of competitive games to play (behind basketball and poker, of course). Well the first game was awful. I bowled a marginal 103 and Chels exploded for a 172, her highest score ever. Claiming I now had a goal to defeat, I set out to take down that score. The next game I was awesome. I'm serious. I only had two open frames (I don't force the pins down - I finesse them! I'm a "spinner", if you will) and was at 162 going into the final frame. I needed a mark to beat her. My first ball was good, but left one pin standing - the middle pin. Now, if the pin in the left-hand corner (the back one) is left standing, I will get a spare everytime. I can always hit that pin with my spin. The middle pin, well, not so much. I was worried that I was gonna fall one pin short. So I took my time and went up and rolled a perfect ball, knocking that lone pin down. I got an 8 on my last ball and ended up with a 180, my highest game ever! I was beyond stoked! I followed it up with a 161 and a 130 (Chels beat me in that last game with a 132, so we split the four games - she's great competition) so I was proud of my efforts. Very proud, indeed.

- I went to CIRCUIT CITY today to pick up a few knick knacks. Three CD's came out today that I wanted: JOHN MAYER - Continuum, SUGARCULT - Lights Out, and JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE - FutureSex/LoveSounds. I got them all (all of them were under $10). I also wanted to buy the 2nd season of THE OFFICE, one of my favorite comedies on tv right now. It was supposed to be $30. That's what the ad said. I picked it up and when the guy rang it in, it appeared as $17.99, an obviously wrong price. Did I say anything? Hell No!!! I saved $12 bucks because of a computer error. Thank you Circuit City. Thanks much. O, and all of the CD's are top notch. The John Mayer CD just might be his best, and the Sugarcult one was exactly as I'd hoped. JT's sophomore solo effort is catchy, cool, and ultimately, trendy. I'm glad I'm trendy too. His music is too much fun to listen to!

- On a sour note, I don't think I did very well on that Biology test (I would be happy with a C; let's just leave it at that) and I was quite unprepared for my History test today (although I'm pretty sure I pulled off a B). O well - I bowled a 180, won lots of money in poker, and got a rebate on a great DVD. I think I won in the long run :D

- I miss Heather and I can't wait for Friday! We're gonna go clothes-shopping for our big date night on October 6th. . . I haven't told you yet, have I?!?! Next post - I promise.

- Finally, I'll leave you with the most exciting news I've gotten in a long time. George texted me tonight telling me he's on the waiting list for Laker tickets for opening night (it's against the SUNS of course!). He says that it will only cost us $220 for what he referred to as "front row seats". I have my fingers, toes, and anything else crossable on my body crossed that we can get near the court for that game on Halloween night. If we do, I might just bust loose or lose a screw, or something like that. Nothing will keep me from that game!

Well, it's running into 0230 now and English is calling. Wish me luck for Wednesday. It'll be a long day with little sleep to support me - o well. Thanks college/life/fun/money/poker/friends.

It was all worth it.

- - - "I'm bringing sexy back. . ."
- - - Justin Timberlake on his new single, coincidentally titled "SexyBack".


A Winner

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Week Grab-Bag: The Football is Back Version

I'm excited cuz the NFL is back in business as of this past Thursday night. I was able to watch some football action today cuz I didn't leave my room very often. I had a relaxing, yet productive day today. But I'll get to today later. It's been a week since I posted (you'll see why) and I'm worried that it might become a pattern. My week is so action-packed that Sunday seems to be the only possible day for me to post. Unless, of course, you want me to get even less sleep. You wouldn't want that would ya? Well I'll get you some good stuff here at least. I should be studying for my first Biology test (it's tomorrow - I'm screwed even if I study) but I'm gonna post on my blog instead. Call me crazy. . .

Alright, here we go. Enjoy the non-chronological goodness:

- So, the NFL season has begun. This of course means that the football pool is back as well. I struggled a bit early-on, but I have come on strong this afternoon, taking the last six games. I'm sitting at 9-5 with two games left (tomorrow night) and, considering how I started, I couldn't be happier. I've always said if I can win ten games a week that I'll be just fine. One out of two tomorrow will get me there. Wish me luck (or just root for Washington and San Diego). . . And do I have any Super Bowl picks? Well, I guess I should, huh? Well, before this week's action, I liked Carolina (they picked up Keyshawn Johnson to go along with the best receiver in the league, Steve Smith) and Chicago (they got QB Rex Grossman back from a bad injury last year and that defense is still, in my opinion, the best out there) in the NFC and Indianapolis (how you can you go wrong with Peyton Manning as your QB?) and Cincinnati (Carson Palmer is back like you wouldn't believe - this is my "favorite" team at the moment cuz of Carson) in the AFC. I don't believe in the bandwagon teams from Miami (Culpepper is not that good everyone! However, I think Chris Chambers is the most unsung WR in the game) and Dallas (T.O. is a poison). Watch out for the Jaguars (Leftwich is awesome and I like their coach a lot), Patriots (you can never count out Mr. Brady), and Giants (Eli's getting better and I love Tiki Barber!). And what about the defending champs, Pittsburgh Steelers? Well they won without Roethlisberger in their first game (he had to have an emergency appendectomy) and once he gets back, you better watch out. . . SO! All that to say, I have no idea who is gonna be playing in Miami at Super Bowl XLI. But here's my best guess: Cincinnati and Chicago. And the victor? Let's just say it will feel like Super Bowl XX after all is said and done! Hey, don't judge. It's called a PREDICTION!!!

So I used today to catch up (kinda) on my schoolwork. I completed my prelabs for my LAB tomorrow, edited both of my articles for THE EXAMINER (the movie reviews you read here first - they're better now - and the article I did on Dr. Jaffe), and also did my first Thought Piece for my online Psychology class. The only thing pressing for tomorrow is my Bio test. I have a study guide and everything, but I'm very pessimistic about this class. I am so bad at science. I know that's a bad attitude, but I don't care. My goal in that class is a "B". Here's hoping I can pull that one off.

- I had a (enter most descriptive adjective possible here) day with Heather on Friday. While there, we went to a place called ISLANDS for lunch (it was a Hawaiian bbq kinda place), saw HOLLYWOODLAND (the first of my top 40 that I have seen - review will appear in a bit), watched FRIENDS episodes, and ate dinner at CALIFORNIA PIZZA KITCHEN (we waited for about a half hour there - no one is better to wait with than my Heather). We also found a little arcade place next to the movie theatre and spent some time in there playing games. Um, so the review: Well, I really wanted to see it (it was 19th out of 40 on my PREVIEW). Ben Affleck was really good, Adrien Brody was surprisingly likeable (I usually don't like him in films), and Diane Lane was, well, she was weird. The film was more about Brody's detective then about George Reeves, which was interesting. Actually, because of Brody's performance, it didn't bother me. And the grade? Well, I've thought of a new way to get a more exact grade for my films. I'm going to base my grade on a score of 50 and then double it to get a percentage. That percentage will fit into a normal grade scale (90-100 is an A, 80-89 is a B and so on). The things that make up the 50 "points", if you will, are overall quality, rewatchability, purpose-fulfilling (simply put, that one is if it's a dumb comedy aimed at teenage guys, does it do what it's supposed to for the dumb teenage guys?), acting, and discuss-worthiness (does it warrant any discussion at all besides "It was ok", "Terrible", or "What the Hell!?!?"). All those are out of 10 points. So, for example, HOLLYWOODLAND gets the following report card:

Overall Quality - 7
Rewatchability - 5
Purpose-Fulfilling - 8
Acting - 8
Discuss-Worthiness - 7
TOTAL - 35

So, we double that score and you get a 70, which by the books gives us a (C-). I might have given it a C+ by the old scale, but I'm gonna go with this new scale. I might rework the other films I have reviewed this year to give them new grades. In my free time, of course :D

- I miss playing Poker, so I'm gonna play some Party Poker tonight. I'm signed up for a tournament that has almost 2500 people in it right now. My best results in tourneys like this one are out of 5570 players I finished 50th and then out of 3900 I finished 81st. Good stuff, no? Well we'll see how this one goes. . .

- I bought the new AUDIOSLAVE cd (it's good for you fans of the band - get it if you like AUDIOSLAVE) and the new RAY LAMONTAGNE cd (he is one of my new favorite performers - thanks again Zach Braff!). I also bought Heather the 2nd season of LOST so she can catch up with one of her favorite shows (the disadvantage of not having cable).

- School is starting to get the best of me. I'm already struggling with keeping up with all of that, plus the two jobs. It's only been three weeks. Shoot. . .

Well, I will definitely try to post throughout the week. I should get to studying. . . Ha!

- - - Buy the RAY LAMONTAGNE CD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Goodnight, and goodnight,


Monday, September 04, 2006

LABORing a bit. . .

Despite sleeping in a bit too late (I was out until noon today), I did complete the movie reviews for both LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE and THE ILLUSIONIST. They aren't all that bad, but I think they can improve a lot. I'll take them into class tomorrow and see the reception. But what about your reception? Well, folks, here you go. Enjoy:

The Summer movie season is one that is filled with explosions, car chases, and millions of dollars (spent, that is). However, it is also true that there are often some powerful and poignant films hidden among the brush of popcorn flicks. Two films in theatres now, both recently distributed widely after having very successful limited runs, truly define both of those descriptive terms.

Little Miss Sunshine
, directed by music video directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris from a script by first-time screenwriter Michael Arndt, is a classic look at the dysfunctional family, but it is done in such a way, that it becomes more effective than your average film. From the opening montage, which introduces us to each of the main characters (including Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette, and Steve Carell), we know that Sunshine is going to be special. The story follows the Hoover family, a struggling, middle-class family from Albuquerque, New Mexico, as they take a road trip to California. We know this family. We belong to this family. A family dinner with the Hoover’s includes fast-food fried chicken, homemade salad, and Sprite from a two-liter. Oh yeah, and everyone has a different-looking plastic cup. Sound familiar?

Young Olive (Abigail Breslin, the young girl who began her acting career in M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs) is an average-looking girl who has dreams of winning the Miss America Pageant. Circumstances arise that allow her to be admitted into the Little Miss Sunshine pageant, and the entire family tags along for the journey. These six people grow together in ways that they never would have seen coming, and it’s the way that the characters change that inspires us to want to change as well. The script, which is quite brilliant, calls for many different emotions from all of the actors, and it’s the performances that make this film memorable.

Steve Carell, certainly one of Hollywood’s up-and-coming stars, gives an incredibly powerful performance as Frank, a homosexual man who has just failed at committing suicide. His transformation from the moment we meet him (pathetically staring out a hospital window after having his life “saved”) is not only refreshing, but it’s believable because of Carell’s restrained performance. Also remarkable is Paul Dano, a young actor best known for his supporting role in the comedy The Girl Next Door, as Dwayne, the troubled teenager who has gone on a nine-month-long “vow of silence”. Dwayne is quite possibly the most normal of the group, if you can even say normal at all.

But that’s the point! The lives of average, ho-hum Americans are not normal. They are dramatic. They are funny. They are important. And so is Little Miss Sunshine, the best film, so far, of 2006. (Grade: A)

The Illusionist, masterfully written and directed by newcomer Neil Burger, is a beautiful film that asks its audience to just come along for the ride that the film provides. A twisting and turning drama, the film stars Edward Norton as Eisenheim the Illusionist, a simple man who has lived a magical life. The opening scenes that introduce us to then-called Edward’s childhood in Vienna are powerful thanks to the young actors’ performances. We see that Edward, an austere peasant, has found a love for magic as well as a young aristocratic girl named Sophie. Their love grows until one violent night when Sophie is taken away, by her parents’ authority, and Edward is left to go travel the world, which he does quickly and suddenly.

It’s when Eisenheim returns to Vienna that the film really picks up, thanks to the Oscar-worthy performance by the great Edward Norton. There has been much acclaim already about this performance, but for me, I was expecting it. Norton is one of Hollywood’s finest actors (see: Fight Club, American History X, Primal Fear) and he proves it here. His quiet, yet powerful Eisenheim is a character that is memorable and haunting. His power (supernatural?) is remarkable, but it’s how he presents himself that makes Eisenheim such a great character. His nemesis in the film, the Crown Prince Leopold (played in a delightfully evil manner by Rufus Sewell), sends Chief Inspector Uhl (acted slyly and brilliantly by the “that guy” of the century, Paul Giamatti) into the realms of Eisenheim to shut him down, or at least learn about his secrets. Throw in the fact that Sophie just happens to have grown into the woman who the Crown Prince plans on marrying, and you have an intriguing relationship triangle. The film goes deep into the workings of police investigation, performing illusionism, and the fact that, in all situations, that love conquers all. Without revealing anything about the ending (which is stunning and, ultimately, jaw-dropping), I will say that the tagline for the film is absolutely fitting: “Nothing is as it seems”. That is very true, indeed. However, the one thing that is as it seems is that The Illusionist is a fantastic film that anyone can enjoy. Sit back, relax, and enjoy. (Grade: A)

So what did you think. . .


Journalistic Justin

Sunday, September 03, 2006

The Weekend Grab-Bag: The Cinnamon Storm Version

Alright, lots to get to. . . I'm gonna jump right in on everything that's been going on since Wednesday night (the last time I posted). I've lived Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and today and a lot has gone on in those nearly 96 hours. So let's get to it! (This one might near the chronological nature, but, as always, it will not all be that way):

- I worked nineteen hours between Thursday night, Saturday night, and this morning/afternoon at JC. I made ok money (any money is good money, sure, but I would always like a little more for my efforts). Nothing all that exciting happened over those three periods (or at least that I can remember now) and I now don't have to go back to JC until Thursday night. Nice. I'm down to two days next week, which is ok, I guess, by me. As long as I'm working both jobs consistently, I'll be doing just fine.

- Speaking of the other job, the medical center thing is going just fine. I'm putting in the hours I am just to help with my payments and whatnot. I don't necessarily like doing what I'm doing, and my boss (not Cy's mom, but my direct supervisor) kinda annoys me, but it's definitely good for the time being. I like money. So sue me!

- I took a copy of my co-produced (with Cy, of course) magazine from my AP Language class (back in HS) in to show Mr. Carter (or Gary, as the other editors call him. . . I find it kinda awkward) what I had accomplished. I was, of course, proud of what we had done, but I showed it to him asking for pointers (almost a private lesson about making a newspaper/magazine) and did he ever show me some things!!! I learned a lot about the makings of a newspaper/magazine! I'm looking forward to the rest of my semester in this class. I'm sure to learn a lot!

- I watched KISS KISS, BANG BANG twice this weekend. I watched about 3/4 Thursday night before I fell asleep and then finished it Friday morning. As soon as I finished it, I put it back on and watched it with the commentary by stars Robert Downey Jr., Val Kilmer, and writer/director Shane Black. It was very funny to listen to all the things these three men had to say. I never got bored (even though I had just watched it) and I was throughly entertained for a good while. I had not sat down and relaxed in about a week, so it felt good to do nothing. Plus, it's a great movie. Can't go wrong there. If you haven't seen it, and you have a penchant for dark comedies with a wicked sense of humor (nothing is too obscure!), then go rent this movie now. Well, at least tomorrow. It's Labor Day for goodness sake! Take a load off and have some fun! If, in the chance that one of my other readers has already gone out and rented it (hey, it's possible - - -) then allow me to give you two other recommendations in the realm of film. You actually have to go to the movie theatre to see these, though. The two best movies of the summer were late arrivals, in that they weren't released (or at least widely distributed) until later on in the season. LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE and THE ILLUSIONIST are two independent movies that are absolutely fantastic! I honestly can't decide which one I liked better. Either way, I recommend you see them both (SUNSHINE is for a more mature audience - there is some potentially objectionable content, whereas THE ILLUSIONIST is seeable for all ages with its PG-13 rating) as soon as possible. I'm gonna write a dual review for the EXAMINER tomorrow, so I'll try to post whatever I get on paper here tomorrow. However, I give them both an A-, so enjoy that for now.

- I'm kinda bumming right now. I got off of work at 1700 and have done nothing noteworthy since I got home. Right now, of course, I'm blogging (while watching JURASSIC PARK 3, of all movies) but I wish I was curled up with Heather watching a movie, or playing poker with a big group of players, or playing PLAYSTATION with some friends. Something. Anything but this. . .

- I interviewed Dr. Jaffe Friday morning for the article I'm doing on him. It was very interesting to learn more about him and what makes him tick. I'm looking forward to writing this article so that the rest of the campus (reality shock for me right now - the whole AVC campus will be able to read my writing - kinda scary) can see more about how much Jaffe loves teaching and loves the students. Very cool stuff indeed.

- Ok, so the hours between 1600 on Friday and 1600 on Saturday were quite possibly the best 24 hours I've had in a very long time. It was that great! So I'll take this one bit at a time. First, Heather got home around 1530 so I headed straight to her house to see her. What a sight! That girl is incredible! We were kinda bored at her house, so on a whim, we rushed to the movies. We were just in time to see THE ILLUSIONIST (o man, it was so good!) and then we went to Cy's. We picked him up and headed to the Antelope Valley Fair (it was $15 night - you pay admission and get a bracelet that gets you on all the rides and the show, which that night was some sort of racing at the track, but we didn't go). We got some food and then continued to walk around. We hit some rides (I was skeptical of anything that spun - I've gotten sick one too many times on rides like that) and then Chels met us there a little bit later. We were kinda bored walking around, and Cy had already mentioned to us that we should go see a hypnotist show. We looked at the event schedule, but there was no sign of one. Bummed out, we walked towards the entrance/exit and came across the stage where the hypnotist lady would be performing later. It was 2115 and the show started at 2200. We got a little bit more food, and then found some good seats near the front. Right before (and I mean right before!) the show was about to start, Heather and Chelsea decided to get a caramel apple and they left to go get that. Right after they left, the host got up and announced that she would be picking volunteers next. Both Cy and I were very skeptical (us, skeptical?) about the whole process, believing that the volunteers were "predetermined" so that the hypnotism would "work". Well I was holding seats, so Cy started jumping up and down trying to get chosen. Shockingly to both of us, he got picked! He handed me his camera and hopped up on stage. What followed was one of the funniest 45 minutes of my life. Cy got the crap hypnotized out of him! It was so good, that I even bought the $20 DVD of the performance as a form of blackmail if my best bud ever crosses me :D . . . The best part, by far, was when Cy thought he was a contestant on America's Next Top Model. He strutted his stuff up and down the stage and claimed his name was Cinnamon Storm (a name I later learned was a joke about a female counterpart of his at HOBY, and that was her so-joked-about stripper name - adds a bit of humor to the story). The entire audience ate it up, and he ended up winning the contest based on the applause of the audience. If you want to see this performance (and man is it priceless!), just let me know - I've got the DVD. Cy told us that he remembered nothing about what he had done. That's incredible, if you ask me! It was so much fun, that we left almost immediately and went directly to his house to watch the performance again, but this time with Cy. It was tons of fun! Heather and I left his house after midnight and went to her house. I was staying the night over there (why wouldn't I? - when you're only six miles apart, it'd be silly not to be close all the time!) so we headed over there and went to sleep, thankfully, soon thereafter. It had been a long day for both of us, and we already had plans for Saturday, so we did that. We woke up and went to breakfast at KAREN'S KITCHEN. However, we were only there for a half hour (I didn't even finish my breakfast dangit!) because LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE started early and we didn't want to miss it. After the movie (that one was fantastic too!) we had to go back to my house so I could do homework (online stuff due on Saturday). That was the end of our fun, though, as I had to work at 1600. An absolutely fantabulous day, though! I will always carry those memories with me! Thanks Cinnamon Storm!

- Well, I'm spent for the night. I'm watching THE MUMMY now and I think my friends Tom, David, and Alex might come over for a little bit. . . We'll see.

Have a good Labor Day!!! It's ok to labor, though - - Don't take off the whole day!

- - - "Do what you love. F*** everything else."
- - - Dwayne (Paul Dano) in LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE; sorry about the language, but I found the quote to be pretty powerful.

Nighty nighty night,