myspace layouts, myspace codes, glitter graphics Totally Biased Book and Movie Review: 12/01/2006 - 01/01/2007

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Rocky Balboa Movie Review

Rocky Balboa


Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Antonio Tarver, Burt Young, Milo Ventimiglia, Geraldine Hughes

Written and Directed by Sylvester Stallone

Rated: PG for boxing violence and some language

102 minutes

There is something about the Rocky movies that always pulls me in. Even the really, really bad # 5, where Rocky has this protégée named something silly like Tiger, no, wait, it was Tommy Gunn… same difference, and the young, hotheaded punk turns on his mentor and picks a street fight with him… we could have told him he wasn’t going to win against Rocky, any more than he would win against a rock wall… but that’s the movie. I have to say, I hated that this was the supposed end to the Rocky series. Rocky V was ridiculous and a sucky ending, but I chose to simply not think of it. Instead I liked to think of the original Rocky. Like other Stallone movies, (Think First Blood- an awesome, totally righteous movie that was spoiled horribly by the sequel, a little silly ditty called Rambo) the original movie was a piece of work, and I mean that in a good way.

So…in every other Rocky movie, I was certain of one thing… in the end, Rocky was going to win. No matter how badly he was getting beaten, I knew at some point, the tables would turn, and the Italian Stallion would make mincemeat out of his opponent.

So when I went to see Rocky Balboa, the improbable sixth (and final) installment to the series, I was understandably worried.

To tell the truth, when I first heard of this movie, I thought it was a joke. Doesn’t it sound like a joke? Sly, sixty years old, is getting in the ring in another Rocky movie…? Laughter, groans… what? You mean, for real? Yeah, for real. He’s making another one. Well, I was not seeing this… this travesty! I would ignore it, and hopefully, it would go away quietly. I could pretend that the series ended with Rocky triumphantly telling the Russians that we could all get along, ending the Cold War single-handedly with his supreme butt-kicking of the scientifically enhanced, almost inhuman Dolph Lundgren who... let us not forget… killed Apollo Creed! The thought crept up on me. If they would kill off Apollo, wouldn’t they possibly… gulp… let Rocky lose?

OK, I’m not going to spoil it by telling you…. awwww, I know… but I will tell you this, it doesn’t matter.

Rocky Balboa is a great movie. You heard me. Not just good, but great. A fitting, perfect finish to the Rocky mythos. Stallone takes us back to the beginning, staying true to the original Rocky, both in personality and in heart.

Yes, Rocky is old, but he is old in the way a warhorse is old, still tough, but possibly gentler and smarter. Still not a horse you want to get kicked by. Stallone is in truly impressive shape. I will not blame you if you find yourself choked up on more than one occasion during the show… Rocky’s darling Adrian is, gulp, dead. She died three years previously of cancer, and it is obvious to even the most hard-hearted viewer that Rocky has not exactly gotten over her loss. This is evidenced by the chair he stashes in a nearby tree at the cemetery where she is buried, for the long hours he spends sitting in front of her flower-bedecked headstone, talking to her as if she were alive. One particularly “ouch” moment has Rocky waking up, alone, and staring sadly at the pair of turtles on a stand in his bedroom. You can practically read his simple, honest heart as he watches them, acutely aware of being a remaining half of a pair, probably never going to be comfortable as a single piece again.

He is estranged from his son, who has grown into a stiff-necked asshole who resents his father’s larger-than-life legend. (He doesn’t like people always asking him about his dad. He doesn’t like being known as Rocky junior, and as we look at his stick-thin figure, we can see why. Rocky looms over him like a bear over a fawn.) Yet Rocky is filled with a forgiving, tender love for the distant child, and continues to seek his affection and presence in his own lonely life. When about halfway through the movie, they reconcile, the viewer is relieved that she doesn’t need to despise young Balboa any longer, especially as once he decides to be on daddy’s side, he is unbendingly there, for the remainder of the film. Adrian’s brother Paulie, is still around, as crusty and cantankerous as ever, but impatient with Rocky’s unrelenting grief.

Rocky, the owner of a fairly successful restaurant (an Italian restaurant where the cooks are Mexicans, as Paulie points out humorously, and correctly) spends his evenings in an ill-fitting suit jacket, going from table to table, telling people stories of the good old days. It is a pretty depressing end for the once glamorous champion, but Rocky seems reasonably content in his life, especially once he renews an old friendship with a neighborhood girl and her son, whom he quickly takes under once massive wing, becoming role-model and mentor unhesitatingly, because well, Rocky is just a damn good guy.

A “computer match” between Rocky and the now Champion, the unpopular Mason “The Line” Dixon (real life boxer Antonio Tarver), brings Rocky back to the public’s attention again as it is argued who would win this impossible match. The computer says Rocky would kick Dixon’s butt, but there’s no way to know for sure… or is there?

Rocky, unable to explain the complex emotions he is experiencing as he considers an Exhibition Match with the champ, still tries to explain to disbelieving family and friends. His grief over Adrian, his confusion over growing old and being considered washed up and done, while inside, he still feels vital and strong, struck a chord of understanding in me, the viewer, as I watched him struggle. Fighting again would release the “beast” he has felt living inside his gut since Adrian’s death. The essential training montage is painful and wonderful, the music raising our hopes even as we wince at the thought of this old guy going glove-to-glove with the young and arrogant Dixon.

The entire movie can be summed up in the line that quickly takes on the essence of the entire plot. Rocky, rueful grin in place, tells Paulie, and the rest of the world, about being older, but not being done.

“There’s still some stuff in the basement.”

Indeed there is.

I give Rocky Balboa 5 &’s

&… it was a fitting end to a much-loved series of movies

&… Stallone was particularly perfect in the familiar role, to which he stayed TRUE

&… the storyline was gentle, sad, beautiful… much more than just another fight movie

&… it still had the ability to make my throat swell when he reached the top of those stairs

&… come on, it was Rocky, as Rocky is meant to be done!

P.S. I loved this quote from Sly himself… perfectly summed it up.

SYLVESTER STALLONE: “In the beginning of this film, "Rocky Balboa," I thought if his life is still intact then you really don't have a, a launching pad, a starting off point. But, if the most precious thing is taken away from you and your stability is askew, your best years supposedly have come and gone and you're alone. Alone full of grief, full of rage, full of anger, you know, what do I do now? What's the last chapter of my life? There is your starting off point. And I think that people need a mountain to climb. And I also read about a few men who, you know, in their late 50s, who decided to climb the seven largest peaks in the world just to, you know, do it. Well this is literally going out and trying to find a mountain to climb, which is going to really change, not just his life, but the lives of the people around him.”

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Friday, December 22, 2006

Stephen King's "Lisey's Story" Book Review

Lisey’s Story

By Stephen King

Published by Scribner

528 pages

Lisey’s Story does not “start out” like most Stephen King books. I’ll give you the loud and clear on that. In fact, as I commented to a friend, if a person wasn’t a slave- err, I mean fan of The King, a person just might get a little fed up with the beginning of the book and maybe drop it, concluding it to be not worthwhile. That person would be wrong, but anyone who is reading it is probably a King fan to begin with, so they’ll know, as I did, that the point, when he gets to it, will be either glorious, terrifying, or, more likely, both.

It is two years since Lisey’s husband, Scott, has died. She has wrestled with grief and anger, anyone familiar with loss will sympathize. She is only now beginning the arduous task of cleaning his office, with the help of her slightly-off sister. However, the meandering tone set in the beginning of this book could get a little long for some. King trails around, not really seeming to get anywhere, and we dash between characters and times abruptly. There’s a whole lotta thinking going on, and not quite enough action. However, when the story does take off, it does so in grand King fashion.

All at once, the seemingly loose threads of the book begin to come together. Lisey finds herself the unwitting victim of a psychotic fan of her late husband, a man insanely reasonable and impossible to placate. She also finds herself dredging up old memories, some that she has buried on purpose, such as the magical, beautifully threatening world that Scott visited frequently during his life, Boo’ya Moon

Scott has left Lisey a legacy, a treasure hunt of clues leading to the answers to the mysteries surrounding Scott and his adventures in Boo’ya Moon. As she follows the sometimes-gruesome trail, Lisey overturns stones with squirmy, classic King stuff beneath them- Scott’s traumatic childhood and very unusual family, for instance, but it quickly becomes very possibly the only path that will allow Lisey herself to survive.

Lisey’s Story is a horror novel, yes, if such an indescriptive title can still be placed upon the work of Stephen King. Personally, I think we need to make up a brand new word to use as a description for his writing…. Something that implies the greatness of it, the yumminess, the chocolate chip cookie dough ecstasy of reading his books. Ok, maybe that’s just me, but dammit, it is not a coincidence that he’s so aptly named. Back to my point. Yes, it’s a horror story, and a fine one… creepy crawly thoughts will plague your mind when you read it before bed… but more than that, this is a love story. We the readers get a glimpse through the door of a marriage that is based on love, deep and true and undeterred by death. In short, we get to see Mr. King’s romantic side here, and it’s just as deep as his imagination. Very, very touching.

As always, King beguiles with well fleshed-out characters. These are people that think the way people think, act the way people act. That is with the exception, of course, of the psychotic villain who acts as only people in King’s imagination acts. What a very, very scary place to live. But I’m so glad he lets us visit!

I give it a PINK on the Reading Rainbow.

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Superman Returns Movie Review

Superman Returns
Starring: Brandon Routh, Kate Bosworth, Kevin Spacey
Directed by: Bryan Singer
Rated: PG-13 for some intense action violence.
154 min

Warning- you know I’m going to spoil you, so don’t read it if you don’t wanna know about it. Spoilers start about mid-way.
Let’s talk about heroes. Who was your favorite when you were a kid? There was Wonder Woman for me, with her kick-ass lariat (she could rope the bad guys, how extremely cool is that?) and Belt o’ Truth. Let’s not even mention the invisible plane, or we’re gonna be here all night. Smile and think of all of the members of the Justice League. My brother, who never wanted to be like anyone else, loved the Green Lantern. Batman was pretty cool with his vast wealth and innumerable gadgets. I went through a brief, intense passion for The Bionic Woman, who if not a super hero, exactly, was certainly super, and personally my hero. I’ll tell you a secret. In the bathtub, I used to submerge in the water and drift up and down in the water, so that my hair would wave around me. This was my personal fantasy of being Jaime Somers, in slo-mo, with my hair bouncing in glorious waves upon my shoulders as I ran to fight the bad guys, my faithful Max, the Bionic Dog, at my side.
But now, let’s stop and consider the Real Deal.
Mr. All That.
The Original, The Perfect, the Absolute Super Hero of all superheroes.
The Man.
The Superman.
When I popped Superman Returns into the DVD player, I wasn’t expecting to re-experience the swell of wonder and sweet delight that Christopher Reeves brought out in me when I was a little kid. I thought I’d sit back and watch a fairly good action flick, and read the new Stephen King book at the same time.
I am as shocked as you when I report that I actually set “Lisey’s Story” aside.
(Of course I stayed up the rest of the night to finish the book, but the point is that I chose to watch the movie over the book… the new, never-yet-read Stephen King book, ya’all.)
The action was fairly good. What was better was that already-mentioned feeling. I couldn’t help it, I was a prisoner to my emotions…when the cascading theme music filled my ears, when Superman busts a move and stops a plane (carrying his beloved Lois) from fiery destruction in the first real action scene, my heart felt like it was going to bust.
Singer is totally faithful to the Superman legend. He was obviously one of the kids who loved the red-caped butt kicker and brings him to life again in this movie, reminding us of Superman’s’ unshakeable confidence and do-good attitude, his gentle, unassuming Clark Kent, and the horrors of kryptonite, keeping it real by slight modern twists to the storyline.
Here’s the story, Morning Glory.
Superman has been gone for five long and lonely years. It seems that scientists believed they had found his home planet, Krypton, and he had an inescapable need to go look-see for hisself. Five years in vain, apparently, and we are not bored with long stories of his un-discovery. It was a ruin, period, end of the talk of Krypton. Whew says me, who hates unnecessary dialogue about things not pertinent to the point of the movie.
Here we get to consider Superman’s human, little-bit-screwed-up side. Lex Luther has been paroled from his million year prison term because Superman was not there to testify in his case. DOH! Lois, deserted by the super bastard, has hooked up with this damned likeable pilot, who treats her the way a man should treat a woman. Oops. She has also won a Pulitzer for her “Why the World Doesn’t Need Superman.” Ouch. The biggest shocker is that she’s now a mama, and her adorable, asthmatic son is the real love of her life nowadays. Gasp.
Luther is, of course, up to no good, and this time, he just might succeed. Lois must be turned from her anti-Superman ways and the world must be saved and can he do it, we ask, even though he’s Superman??? With chaos exploding around him, our caped crusader is put to the test. And with the faith of the young, we watch with a tingle of anticipation, knowing that yes, he will succeed, and we will be there to watch it, and isn't this just like the olden days?
Yeah, it kinda is. I'm a sucker for nostalgia, and this case is no different.
There’s a twist to the plot that I’m choosing not to divulge, but it’s fairly obvious and you’ll see it coming a mile off. I felt it added spice to the storyline and promises future Superman Movies to come.
I, for one, look forward to them.

I give it 4 &’s
&… it was a trip down nostalgia lane, in a good way
&… the special effects were … well, super.
&… Superman is the man I remember him to be
&… Spacey as Luther is hilarious

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Monday, December 11, 2006

Troll Baby Blog Review

Troll Baby Blog Review

blog about life with a mellow husband, a good child, and a troll baby, or in her own words...

"Canadian Mother of two boys - one Good Child and one Troll Baby. She is married to a wonderful man who loves her with everything he has got. Throw in an anxious female lab, and a rotten childhood (her own, not the dog's), that she sometimes makes fun of, and you've got one funny, touching place to fall on a daily basis. Put some fun in YOUR dysfunctional. Every. Single. Day."

I got an email this week from a regular reader who was complaining about my lack of posts. Well, I said to myself, the nerve of some people. Didn’t he go over and read all about my exciting new job at Kaat Litter?

Then I said to him, Ohmygod I’m so sorry, please don’t stop liking me…please keep coming to my blog. I promise I’ll be good, I promise! Please please just don’t go away!

And I fully intend to keep my word, to post more regularly, and to review SuperMan Returns, another promise I have not yet kept….. just not this week.

This week, I’m bringing you a Blog Review Monday. I hope each and every reader who adores me, and those that despise me as well, will vote in the weblog awards. If you adore me, do it because you adore me! If you despise me, do it because it will be a psychological backass thing to do and it will make me wonder what you are up to, for well, hours probably. See…Troll Baby has been selected as a finalist for Best Parenting Blog right here.

And if you have been paying attention to anything I say in the past, you will know that Troll Baby is simply my favorite mommyblog of, well, ever.

Troll Baby chronicles the life of one Karen Rani, owner and operator of the fabulous Troll Baby Designs. In said life, she is joined by her husband and (probably a really easy-going guy) Daren, her eldest, a Good Child (Dylan), and her youngest, The Troll Baby (Thomas) of Troll Baby fame.

Karen has had a “rough” life. I’m not saying that because she’s a pity seeker or a poor-me’er. Not in the least. In fact, she’s plucky, determined, optimistic, and just generally, an all-around kick-ass gal. She’s a perfect example of someone who has survived a less than stellar childhood and risen to a place of peace and happiness in her present- without letting the past call the shots. So often, people let their crappy childhoods pave the way for all future endeavors. It’s an excuse, even if it’s a real one, it’s still an excuse. I’m guilty of it myself on the rare (ok, so not very rare, but kind of rare) occasion. It makes me admire peeps like Karen all the more.

Ok, enough about how golden her character is. As she reads this, she’ll probably heave. Let’s get into the real nitty gritty…the real reason she’s my mommyblogger of all mommybloggers… the truth behind Troll Baby.

It’s just bust-a-gut, roll on the literal dirty floor, make ya tinkle, FUNNY.

This week, she’s teaching us how to make nipple cookies. See photo above. I ask you, can you do too much for a woman who will teach you that?

She used to have links on her blog to the Best Troll Baby Posts Ever, and that was very handy, for when you wanted to quickly find and read classic troll baby stories. (Are you reading this, Karen? Some of your fans forgot to bookmark the important posts and now can’t FIND them!) I used to amuse (and/or annoy) my husband by reading these posts outloud, laughing almost too hard to read, while he stood patiently, leaning toward the door, his eyes getting wider and wider, his smile tighter and tighter, as I gasped, “OHMY… wait, wait, here! Here’s another one. LISTEN!” Come to think of it, he might be glad the links are gone.

But I’ve dug around for a few of my personal favorites, for your clicking pleasure.

Where Thomas learns a new word….

Where you can discover why Karen refers to Dylan as the Good Child, and admire him from afar, as I do… this kid is seriously sweet- so sweet you probably gain a pound from reading about him.

Where you can laugh yourself silly over Troll Babyisms as I call ‘em (translated: that’s when Thomas talks, and Karen writes it up, it is too frickin hilarious, man!)

Where Thomas turns TWO, post filled with delightful Troll Babyisms and guaranteed to make any mother who even remotely remembers her children/s’ toddler years with any affection whatsoever… want to bawl. Here comes the throat lumps, here they come, dammit!

These are just some samples of Troll Bloggity Goodness. I suggest if you read them, and like them, that you shower Karen with praise and ask her real nice-like to post links to her Best posts Ever. You’ll be glad you did. I’ll be glad you did. Karen will pretend to be glad you did. We’ll all be glad, and it will be a glad, glad day.

Troll baby. Best Mommyblogger in the whole dang world. Check it.

Damn- don’t forget to vote! It’ll take three seconds of your time and I’ll feel obligated toward you forever. Who doesn’t like a nice cloud of obligation over a friend’s head, huh?

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Sunday, December 03, 2006

Capensis Calamity Blog Review

Capensis Calamity Blog Review

Blog about adventures in Africa with bees

(and incidentally... my first bugs with beta are crawling if this font is all screwed up, I apologize. It's not me. It's the BETA.)

Capensis Calamity is a fairly new blog, one of my finds when I was having a day of near-record boredom, click-click-clicking away on the Next Blog button. I admit I almost gave it a big, capital P “PASS” when I read his blog description,

How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.-Henry David Thoreau”

But I gave it a lookee-look and I’m certainly glad I did. ‘Cause, my friends, this guy is standing up and doing some living! Old Thoreau would have totally approved, unlike how he’d feel about boring-as-hell, non-living folk like me who sit on their asses and worry about bills instead of trekking through Africa and being a superhero and…well, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Since June, our hero of the story, who I do not think is either female, or 104 years old, as the profile would have you believe, has been tramping about South Africa, “in search of fame, honey, and dogs with bees in their mouth so when they bark they shoot bees at you.” Well, the first month in the archives is June, but it contains only a picture of (presumably) our blogger. Yes, the one above.

I have to say this… my only complaint is that he doesn’t write enough. The last post, while incredibly awesome… I mean, it has photographs of a gigantic red grasshopper that nobody in America has ever seen… it was on November 13th. Come on now, Mr. Calamity, let’s get a move on here and start with the blogging.

(Yes, I realize the irony of me telling someone else they should ‘keep upon’ their blog. Haa haa hee hee. That’s me. Ironic.)

So, scanty as they are, the posts are quite enthralling. June holds nothing but the above picture, but in September, things started getting interesting. On September 24th, there were the daring chronicles of the search for killer bees. Did they find them? Well, yes indeed, and you can read for yourself, if you’d like. Did it involve stinging, one might ask?

At some point in the late night trip back to the guesthouse we had lost the lids of one of the killer bee hives, and in the quiet of dawn the bees were becoming restless. Getting in to the car involved a few more stings to the face and neck, though by now the swelling was as bad as was it was going to get and the pain was dulled by the lack of sleep.

Not only do the bee-seekers get themselves stung, but they release veritable havoc on the poor gas station attendants, as well. I have to wonder, is being stung by thousands of bees a normal risk a gas station attendant faces in South Africa?

We pulled up at the service station and were greeted as always in South African petrol stations by four or five attendants. Quickly they set about washing the windscreen, opening the petrol cap, checking the tyres. And quickly the Killer Bees set about f**king up all and sundry in the area. Pouring out into the petrol station the tiny weapons of death started stinging the attendants and then set out to find anything else that was moving...with dismay I watched a family pull up in 4WD and all hop out into the path of the bees.

The end of that post includes a picture of an interestingly swollen-faced blogger with what we presume are many painful bee-stings causing the said swelling. Think onthat for a wee minute. The face is swollen from bee stings. Da-yum. I ask, what more could you ask for? Aren’t we all, on some deep and rarely discussed level, quite afraid of bees and their pokey little asses? Well, I am, and I aint afeared to admit it, so this blog is a lesson in bravery. Written in that dry british-sounding sense of humor to boot. And, bonus, it’s full of great pictures like the grasshopper ones. The above-mentioned bees, of course, but there are pictures of tiny tortoises, too. Again, I ask it… What more could you ask for?

You could ask for other animal pics, and maybe throw in a photo or two of a grinning man with what appears to be a pyramid of fruit and/or feathers on his head. Up, yup, here it is. Allow me a small quote:

“….is truly the scariest man I've ever met. He moved around much like a puppet, as though he weighed nothing despite his massive headdress. He also sang through his teeth in a high pitched hum and suddenly burst into fits of staccato, monotone laughter. If anyone gave him money he danced around in circles crying "Thank-lyou, Thank-lyou". The nightmares continue.”

You could ask for colorful and intriguing dialogue such as:



Uh-huh, and check.

It won’t take you long to delve into the interesting life of Capensis Clamity and come out the other side just like me, with a big ass grin on your face and one burning question… When the heck is he gonna post next? Check it!

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