Friday, October 31, 2008

5 Halloween Movies For The Chicken

I'll be the first to admit it: I hate being frightened. I don't like Halloween Haunt at Magic Mountain or Knotts Scary Farm, because I don't feel like paying fifty bucks to have some creepy guy in a mask follow me all around. Also? I have a pretty high belt in tae kwon do, and have something of a quick reflex, and fear getting arrested the minute some zombie gets too close to me and I freak out and high kick him.

Besides, my very own haunted house is enough of a scare tactic for me, so while I like the idea of the creepies, I also like to sleep at night.

Here are five movie recommendations for your Halloween night if you're a chicken like me, but with enough of a chill factor to not make you come off like a COMPLETE loser. Note: it helps to have kids with you. At least that gives you an excuse.

Oh, and I'm not including 'A Nightmare Before Christmas' because... you know... everyone should have already seen it. And if you haven't? I can't help you.

1. Hocus Pocus - imdb link - clip on youtube

Bette Midler is at her comic best in this Disney flick about three wicked sisters brought back to life on Halloween to wreak havoc on modern day Salem. Ably backed up by a hilarious Kathy Najimy and a brilliant Sarah Jessica Parker, the Sanderson sisters are creepy, hilarious, and just scary enough to make you really really afraid they might suceed in their goal to suck out the lives of the children of Salem.

A hilarious classic. If you haven't seen it, you should.

Memorable Quote:
Winifred Sanderson: We're just a couple of spinster ladies.
Mary Sanderson: Spending a quiet evening at home.
Sarah Sanderson: Sucking the lives out of little children!

2. The Adams Family - imdb link - clip on youtube

Movie remakes are never as soon as the original series from which they were spawned, but this is a happy exception. Angelica Houston and Raul Julia light up the screen with their carnal interpretations of Gomez and Morticia, and a wee Christina Ricci does her best Winona Ryder impression as Wednesday, the world's smartest and evil and loyal kid. Charming and creepy and hilarious.

Memorable Quote:
Wednesday: Pugsley, sit in the chair.
Pugsley: Why?
Wednesday: So we can play a game.
Pugsley: What game?
Wednesday: [strapping him in] It's called, "Is There a God?"

3. Casper - imdb link - clip on youtube

Another tv remake of a show starring Christina Ricci, and just as charming. The friendship between Casper and the human he befriends is sweet, human, and engaging. And this friendly world of ghosts makes you wish you had a ghost friend of your very own. (You don't, though. Really.)

Memorable Quote:
Casper: I begged and begged my dad to give me this sled, but he acted like I couldn't even have it, because I didn't know how to ride it. But then one morning, I came down for breakfast and there it was, just for me, for no reason at all. I took it out, went sledding all day. And my dad said "that's enough" but I couldn't stop, I was having so much fun It got late, got dark, got cold...and I got sick, and my dad got sad.
Kat: What's it like to die?
Casper: Like... being born, only backwards. I remember, I didn't go where I was supposed to go. I just stayed behind, so my dad wouldn't be lonely.

4. Teen Witch - imdb link - clip on youtube

It's cheesy. It's silly. It's got the worst musical numbers in the world. It's horribly dated, and yet this movie, about the unpopular nerd who discovers she's actually a witch and sets about transforming herself into the most popular girl in school is one of those eighties cult classics that you just can't forget. Wanna know how I know? Two cousins, aged 8 and 18, have both immediately picked this DVD up and watched, captivated. It's timeless.

If you're a girl, at least.

Memorable Quote:
Kiki: Oh yeah? You're too lazy to even cover your roots!

5. Beatlejuice - imdb link - clip on youtube

Before there was 'A Nightmare Before Christmas', there was Beatlejuice. Who can forget Tim Burton's zany descent into the madness of the underworld, and the plight of the two left behind ghosts who aren't sure how to navigate through it?

Memorable Quote:
Lydia: They don't wanna come down.
Delia: Charles...
Otho: Why not?
Lydia: I think the reason is, is that they were trying to scare you away, and you didn't get scared.
Delia: Please, they're dead. It's a little late to be neurotic.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Ski-Lucy & Thalia

Ski-Lucy & Thalia , originally uploaded by Mistiec_Flores.

First off, hello from a pissed-off Thalia and a happy-go-lucky Lucy, who are trying on their Christmas sweaters and their new goggles which were bought for their bike rides.

Thalia was not happy with her fashion statement, and let me know it.

But alas, as tortured as the pooches are, they are the lucky ones. There's a beautiful little dog who lives a few houses down that used to belong to my cousin, until her father gave her away to the neighbors. This puppy is just a gorgeous little girl, happy as a lark, but a bit of an escape artist. She has decided that she wants to belong to us now, because she now has a frequent habit of escaping, and then coming and hanging out all day on our porch. I don't have the heart to turn her away, and the other day I actually went over and told them that the dog was running around. She had run into the street and I was terrified she was going to get hit. Their response? "Oh she's fine. She'll come back when she's ready."

Me: *blink*
Them: Does she bother you?
Me: ... well, no... but... street...

Anyway, the dog spent the rest of the afternoon on our porch, where she would wag her tail until someone opened the door and petted her, and then played with our pooches, and then settled back and waited for another treat or for someone to come out again.

I really just want to take her and tell them their dog has picked us. Phooey.

Speaking of animals, my aquarium has been ALL kinds of weird lately. The other day I went and bought two frogs and three guppies to replace my poor little Tubby and my little frog that died, and apparently, there was some additional specimens playing stowaway.

After I put the frogs and the guppies in the tank, I began to peer into it to see if they were getting acclimated. I discovered, nestled in the lily pads that I keep uptop for the frogs to chill on, something that looked like a little black worm. Very much alive. I also discovered two more ghost shrimp. But the worms worried me. Were they worms or were they tadpoles? Were they even alive or where they just pieces of poo that looked to be swimming by the current?

Just to be sure I did a couple water changes and cleaned up the tank.

The worm things kept moving.

Last night, the worms were still stuck in my head, and I had a dream where they grew over night into these ... snakehead fish like the kind I saw on the discovery channel. They grew a foot had banged the glass open and my fish were all flopping all over the floor. Yeah. That was a nightmare.

So I get up this morning prepared to leave and once again look in the lilypads before I go. My search for worms becomes quite a shock when I blink and see two... things swimming around in the lilypads. Are they baby guppies? Are they tadpoles? I have no idea. But they're ... in there. And I have no idea where they came from. Did the change in the environment scare the female guppies so much that they pooped out two baby fish? Did the frogs come knocked up?

I have no clue.

But I guess I'll find out.

In other news...

1. I had an impromptue pumkin carving on Saturday. I carved four that night. Sometimes I wonder what's wrong with me. And then I remember it's called hyper-focus and it's from the ADHD.

2. I bought this candy bowl on sale that's like this skull... and it's motion sensored so when someone grabs a piece of candy, the eyes light up and this skeleton hand comes out of nowhere and tries to grab your hand. Teehee. I'm not sure if it's work appropriate but damn that's going to be funny.

I hope.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

30 Rock: Season III: It's baby time! is streaming tonight's premiere of 30 Rock and it's lost none of its shiny. Though Tina Fey is more known for her Sarah Palin impression on SNL than she is for her actual show, nowadays, hopefully enough people are intrigued by her to tune in.

The show is consistently hilarious and the beloved characters are back to doing what they do best: Jack and Liz continue to be each other's odd couple soulmate, Jenna and Tracy continue to want to one-up each other, and Kenneth continues to be... Kenneth.

Kudos to fabulous guest star Megan Mullony for playing her character intensely straight, and letting the madness work around her.

I'm so happy. 30 Rock is back!

Ghost Adventures: Tough Guys Get Stupid

So Mom and I were watching television last night as we each enjoyed a place of Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia (don't judge us), and as we were flipping channels we came up on this show called 'Ghost Adventures' on the Travel Channel.

We've always been fascinated with ghosts, particularly because our house was at one time haunted (it was. i have family members who still refuse to be alone in the house). So we tend to watch ghost-haunting programming, particularly things like the badly acted but supremely frightening 'A Haunting' and 'Most Haunted'. Basically if you make a program about ghosts, we're probably gonna watch it.

Sentimentality and all that.

Anyway, we started watching this show Ghost Adventurers. They were going to get locked up in Bobby Mackey's night club. It's really, really haunted. Famously haunted. Like the 'A Haunting' episode on it? FRIGHTENING. Someone was MURDERED and tossed down a well and another person was poisoned and just... a lot of slaughters and animal sacrifices happened in the basement and some dude was even POSSESSED.

So of course what do the smart tough guys do? They start screaming and shouting for the ghosts to come out and HURT them if they want them to leave. Basically antagonizing the ghosts.

And then when the ghosts make loud noises or ... you know... SCRATCH them down their backs? They run and get all scared and tough-guy ish.

So then after all of this awesomeness, they go and consult an ArchBishop of the Catholic church who does exorcisms for a living. The Archbishop basically says, "You're idiots. This is really dangerous. You need to stop antagonizing the ghosts. I would exorcise the hell out of them."

And the guy (who is a little like a ghost thug) goes, "Yeah, I'm not gonna stop." (Why would he? It's good television. Even if he gets scratched).

And the Catholic Priest just kinda shrugs and thinks, "You idiot."

We season passed it.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

This Beautiful City @ the Kirk Douglas Theatre

Thanks to the Free Night of Theatre program, I got a chance to see the musical drama 'This Beautiful City' at the Kirk Douglas Theatre this past weekend.

Honestly, I had no idea what to expect, but the play was free and I had always wanted to visit the Kirk Douglas Theatre. Nestled in the middle of downtown Culver City, I drove past it every day on my way home from work, but my type of theatre-fare tends to be fast-moving musicals, not slow moving plays. Mostly because I find it impossible to sit still for any length of time unless I'm totally absorbed (thanks to my ADHD).

And when I heard what the play was about I nearly choked in a disbelieving guffaw. 'This Beautiful City' was crafted together by a group of playwrights from a theatre company called 'The Civilians' who visited Colorado Springs. I know nothing about Colorado Springs, except that that is where Focus On the Family is from. Apparently, according to the play, it is also the Christian evangelical capitol of the world. And the lady who wrote 'America the Beautiful' wrote the song there. Because of the Rockies.

So basically, at first glance, this play is about a city. My inappropriate urge to laugh came not from snarky wonder, but from an unfortunate image of sitting through something of 'Waiting for Guffman' proportions.

What instead unfolded was a fascinating character study of life in an area where the Christians are working hard to 'take the city for Christ' while the other denizens work just as hard to claim bits and pieces for themselves. It didn't hurt that the team descended on the town in the midst of a proverbial (and relevant, considering what is going on in California today with Prop 8) firestorm, in which an amendment to the consitution was on the ballots to ban gay marriage in Colorado, and another measure was requesting equal rights for civil unions. Also, there was this head preacher of the New Life Church (with 14000 followers), who unfortunately chose this brilliant time to get caught for solicitating homosexual sex and drugs.

Interesting time to do interviews.

The cast was strong, and the music, in the vein of the Christian revivals resonated strongly with me. I may not have grown up Evangelical, but sitting through some of the 'church' sermons, I found myself transported, and nearly had to sit on my hands to keep from raising them or bowing my head in prayer when prompted. The majority of the second act consisted of this type of performance, and as a result felt weaker for me. Sitting through ONE sermon on Sunday was always tough on me, but sitting through ten? It brought back memories of my church heavy childhood, somewhat bittersweet. I may still love God and will always be a Christian, but the division of the church on matters that I support (gay rights being a big one) is nothing new to me.

The result was an interesting contrast of experiences for myself and my friend, who grew up in Catholic churchs and was fascinated by the differences between them.

Religous experiences aside, the play delves into the town without favoritism and with ferver, quite a feat considering the hot topics presented. Worth seeing, but beware, depending on your experience with the church, you'll be challenged to disengage.

A much more coherent review of the show is here at the LA Times.

And for logical argument regarding the great Prop 8 Debate, head over here.

Monday, October 20, 2008

MAX PAYNE + Guns - Stubble

* Beware - this is a review of a movie of a videogame by a gamer geek. As a result? There are spoilers for the movie and the video game, and a few comparisons. Because when it comes to Max Payne, I'm a gamer geek. And proud of it.

I have to admit, I was approaching the premiere of the Max Payne movie with both a sense of excitement and a little bit of dread. While there are probably fans of the Max Payne franchise that are a little more hard core than I am, I have a great, deep love in my heart for the video game and it's sequel.

It's the first first-person-shooter that I could literally NOT stop playing, and a lot of that had to do with not just the controls and game play itself, but the story. The noir-ish over-the-top voiceovers, coupled with the dark and imaginative comic book panels unfolded a story and a hero that was both deep and dense, disturbing and exciting. What sets apart Max Payne as a character and as a franchise from every other 'brooder with a gun' storyline is the richness of the world, the vitality of the characters, and Max's haunting gravely whisper, who gets into your head and reveals his intentions and feelings in poetic, complicated analogies and adjectives. He drowns in his emotion to the point where he can't function without it. It's what wills him to live and drives him half-insane in his quest to avenge the senseless murder of his family.

And the game itself? It's a barrage of shooting, pills, death, frigid climates and dreary backdrops. Characters emerge from the underbelly of the city Max inhabits, and they change loyalties and agendas midway through the game, keeping Max and the gamer on their toes every step of the way.

So maybe I was expecting too much when I waited for the Max Payne movie. I was hoping beyond hope that the tone would be there. The homages would resonate, and while I wasn't expect the exact same story, I was expecting the same tone.

There's two ways to judge the movie: in comparison to the game and on it's own. Unfortunately, for me at least, although it fared better as a standalone (thoough by no means exceptional), the video game was just miles better.

A lot of the failure is atributed to the lack of tone. The comic-panel's dark mood was definately mimicked, but gone were the voice-overs that narrated every step along the way. Instead, we hear only a voice-over at the beginning, one at the end. But nothing in between. We're left to navigate the world alone, and unfortunately, Mark Wahlberg's brood, one-expression Max just leaves us with a man who feels nothing but rage. Okay, fine, but is that Max Payne? It's hard to tell. It could be any other broody Punisher-Wolverine-Broody-Anti-Hero out there.

Another interesting note: the PG-13 rating. Understandably something most movie execs want, because it generates bigger box-office, but Max Payne is not a PG-13 game. It deals with drugs, with murders, with sex. Strip away its core elements and you again lose the tone. For a movie about a first person shooter, there is not a lot of shooting. And the result? It lags.

As Mona Sax, Mila Kunis steps up to the plate gamely, but the mysteriousness and fierceness of Max's future soul mate gets lost when she becomes regulated to 'semi-love-interest-with-possible-weakness-for-max(for no discernable reason'. Mona Sax is a bad ass, and she has her own agenda and her own conflicts. In the regard, the movie did her a disservice.

Of course all this whining and complaining comes from a fan of the game. As a movie goer? The movie could satisfy. Is it the next Iron Man? No. But it's well-filmed and put together in a pretty package. It's just disapointing because based on the source material? It could be so much better.

But I'm still hoping for the sequel. Max and Mona deserve their chance. Maybe the second time's a charm.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

WICKED Savings...

If you haven't seen WICKED at the Pantages in Hollywood, you're running out of time. The musical about the untold story of the Wicked Witch of the West (who, it turns out, might not have been so wicked after all) will be leaving the Pantages at the end of the year.
I highly reccomend you see it. Even if you don't want to. Why? because EVERYONE has seen it, and that way you can either be like, "OMG! I saw it too! I can't wait for the movie!" or you can be like, "I saw it. I don't know what the big deal was. It's not even that good."

I tend to fall in the middle of either opinion. I traveled to London to see Idina Menzel play the part she originated on Broadway, but when I go to see Idina Menzel concerts and hear people singing 'No Good Deed' or texting the lyrics to 'The Wizard and I' the big chyron up front, I want to commit mass murder.

But it IS the Halloween season, and what better way to celebrate than getting some of your Wicked on?

And here's another reason. If you go on a Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday to see the event before October 31st, you can buy your seat for up to 40% off.
Use code FALL12 when you CLICK HERE TO ORDER ONLINE or call 213-365-3500 to buy the tickets.

Don't tell them I sent you. They won't know who the hell I am.

I'd like it to stay that way.

Monday, October 13, 2008

In Which Melissa is Very Grateful that AAA thing finally payed off...

Yesterday evening, I swear to you, my car was possessed. Not the fun posessed either. The lights dimming, non-starting, cd-changing reeling, cigarette-lighter-charging, weird kind of possessed.

It was frightening. And then I realized I just had a dead battery on my hands and it was less frightening and more annoying. Luckily, my AAA Plus membership has saved me yet again. Within twenty minutes, a hunky tow-trucker driver was there with this little battery guage and charger and had my on my way. He told me my battery just needed to charge a little and I should be fine.

He lied. My car was still dead this morning. Luckily, in addition to AAA I also have 'THE DAD'. Who is better than the AAA because he will get me a battery and save me the confusion of trying to navigate PepBoys.

Still. My car hath burned me before. But usually it's just the tires. Or the gas mileage (stupid SUV). Never the battery. Oh car. Why hath though forsaken me?

Upside, I at the very least, did manage to have a GREAT dinner at this funky place on Sunset called La Isla Cantina. We ate there via gift certificate, and we met up with Igor, the really really excited owner, who welcomed us to the establishment and also introduced to the chef. The place has only been open for three months, but the meal was fantastic, the margaritas were wonderful, and the souffle we had for dessert? Decadant. They also have Tequila Thursdays, which features tapas and tequila tastings and an amazing happy hour.

A great experience and I highly recommend checking out. Reasonable prices, amazing food with some home cooked flair and high class presentation, and did I mention the tequila? You should go. Tell them Melissa sent you. They won't remember me, but I'm sure Igor will be thrilled regardless.

Also, here's a pretty fantastic deal if you want to get to a theatre but, like me, you don't necessarily have the budget to get there all the time.

Free Night of Theatre 2008, which features free tickets to select theatres around the country for featured plays in over 120 cities in the month of Octobor.

But you need to reserve your tickets now, beacuse they're free, and because of that? They're going really really fast. To be honest I shouldn't even be telling you this. Because I want them for myself. And now you know. And you will steal my ticket.

That's mean of you.

Monday, October 6, 2008

ELITE XC:HEAT: Carano Delivers, Kimbo Fizzles

Saturday night was the second ProElite event on CBS that featured both of the MMA camp's biggest stars: street brawler Kimbo Slice and Muay Thai American Gladiator Gina Carano. This needed to be a success for Elite XC; they're dangerously close to failing, unable to cover their own costs.

Needless to say, it was quite a blow to them when their heavily hyped headlining fight featuring Kimbo against aging MMA legend Shamrock went south when Shamrock sustained a cut over his left eye hours before the fight. He dropped out. In his replacement? Unknown fighter Seth Petruzelli. Who dropped Kimbo Slice fourteen seconds into the first round.

Fortunately, Gina Carano, though barely able to make weight this time, performed nicely. Her fight against Kelly Kobold was a fight she was expected to win, but Kelly Kobold, scrappy and determined, wasn't going to give her an easy victory. Still, Kelly seemed impulsive and afraid (with good reason) of Gina's strike and reach. As a result, she spent most of her time pressing Gina against the cage, doing her darnedest to secure a take down and try to beat Gina on the floor.

Gina was just too strong, and although Kelly did manage a takedown near the end of the second round, the three minute mark proved her enemy. It was also her savior, because Gina came back hard in the third round, and won by unanimous decision.

See the fight on youtube: Intro & Round One Rounds Two & Three

Three minute rounds are just too short, in my opinion. There's no reason why the girls can't go five minute rounds, just like the boys.

Of course, the big fight everyone's looking for is actually the highly publicized showdown between Gina and Chris 'Cyborg' Santos, who put up a really good fight on the undercard against Yoko Takaheshi and won via uninamous decision.

Expect that fight on Pay-Per-View.

Because EliteXC needs the money.