Operation Empire

This is obviously my personal site but my online content arsenal is vast. It includes Greater Gotham: Going Global, a blog about being out and about in New York City and what happens when you turn Gotham Girl lose on the UK; Fabulous Foodie, where food and food culture are served up a la carte. Last but not least, there is Modern Parlance -- home to my hard-working writer alter ego and headquarters in my nefarious plan to take over the world. It is also home to my work blog - Personal Parlance, where I hold forth on publishing, books, social media, communication, indexing, writing, education – and anything else content-wise that catches my eye. 

I had wanted to call the whole thing Operation Empire but several of my friends suggested that might put people off. Upon consideration I decided that a) they were right (so went with Modern Parlance) and b) to effectively take over the world, I would need fewer friends and more minions. Applications being accepted now.

Scribbles & Notes

Of course, the word-smithing started long before the plan for world domination. At one time or another, my personal writing projects have included:

Take 2 Movie Reviews which proved indirectly that I once had a social life where as TV Rants & Raves suggested perhaps that I didn't. (I take comfort in the fact that I haven't updated it lately - which suggests that things are looking up.)

The only thing my ongoing Bibliomania ever suggested was that I needed more shelves and the patience to wait for  paperbacks. Publishing Grunt's Bible came about because working with books isn't the thrill ride that reading or buying them is. 

There were pure flights of fancy like Staving off Ennui, the Server Sees the Sights; there were answers to hypothetical questions like "what should go in a toy hall of fame and then there were the snarkathons - first site website I ever did - Alias Smith & Jones Site and the Dark Shadows Snarkathon.

Much older material is kept in the Ephemera Archives - moved to the backburner but not completely forgotten. Who knows what'll end up catching my attention next...

Dante's Peak

I've been hearing complaints that TWISTER created a sudden eruption (yes, it was deliberate) of disaster epics. Why else, people are saying, would we be we getting DAYLIGHT, ASTEROID, VOLCANO, and TITANIC? Could it be that the people running the studios are the ones who grew up thinking that THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE was the greatest story ever told? Could it be that 70's retro-chic has manifest itself in all its forms, not just in the rebirth of velour?

Sure, it could be. But it's not.

The simple truth is that tons of you went to see TWISTER. If you are unhappy, you have only yourselves to blame. I, for one, am thrilled. Thrilled to the core. Fie on you people who dismiss disaster movies as meaningless fluff. Hey! I love fluff. Keep your proverbs and moving meaningful subplots. Away with your Henry James and Shakespeare. Let me have my vulgar fun. So it was with great anticipation that I went to see Dante's Peak. Few things make me happier than watching stuff blow up, burn up, get washed away or sink. If you throw in Pierce Brosnan, all the better. If you told me that my geologist would look like that, I'd live near a volcano too.

The story starts during the opening credits, in Colombia, where volcano expert Harry Dalton (Pierce Brosnan) and his fiancée flee an erupting volcano and she doesn't make it. Four years later, Harry (who still has a picture of said fiancée in his home to show that he is not over it yet) is sent to investigate possible activity at the long-dormant volcano Dante's Peak. Harry finds enough evidence to cause concern and urges the town mayor (and cafe owner), Rachel Wando (Linda Hamilton), to call a city council meeting and alert the town. Harry's boss Paul (Charles Hallahan), unwilling to cause unwarranted panic, says they need to wait and see. So they do...for a week. Paul monitors the mountain, Harry flirts with Rachel; Paul monitors more, Harry flirts more...and so on. Still, the movie is about the volcano and sooner than you can mutter Pompeii, the mountain takes center stage. Finally even Paul sees enough evidence to agree to a town meeting and not one person in the theater where I was in attendance was surprised that it was too late.

- Bridges collapse.
- Helicopters crash.
- Cars explode.
- Churches crumble.
- Dams give way.
- Houses burn.
- Lakes turn into acid and fish die.

All the usual clichés were there --a small quaint town of people who don't get out until it's almost too late; an emotionally wounded loner who is the only one who knows what's happening and who no one listens to; adorable children (endangered, of course), a family pet (also endangered) and just in case there wasn't enough to worry about, a curmudgeonly grandmother determined not to leave her homestead. The effects are outstanding. Brosnan and Hamilton are both likable and believable. Neither of the children were "annoying adorable" movie children but came across as fairly normal real life kids. The rest of the geological survey team did their duty as "comic relief" as well or better than a similar group in TWISTER. 

No, there is not intricate plotting or in depth dialogue but the tension as Rachel and Harry go from one seemingly impossible situation to another is diverting and enjoyable. Sure, we had to get through almost an hour of exposition to get to the good stuff -- flowing lava, an ash snowstorm, an acid lake, a pyroclastic flow of super-hot gases -- but it wasn't as painful as it might have been. After all, Pierce was in shot nearly the whole time and with that and special effects, who needs plot.

The Others

I've just come back from seeing The Others (the new scary Nicole Kidman flick). Thank goodness I saw this. It was fabulous and fun and certainly balances out my week from the earlier movie I saw this week - the dreadful Jurassic Park III. Jurassic caused an extreme bout of IFA (instant film amnesia - a rare affliction that causes you to actually forget the film AS YOU ARE WATCHING IT). It's terrifying to snap out of it at the end with the lights coming up and you have no idea how long you've been there or what's been happening.

But The Others was terrific fun. I shan't spoil the twists and turns but I will say how much I enjoy being scared at the movies and how happy I was to see there are still people who want to do that without special effects or whirygigs or anything. I love "heavy atmosphere" and this piece was just dripping in it. The thickening fog was the closest thing to an effect. There are thumps and whispers and the standard mysteriously playing piano but if there's a computer generated anything, I didn't see it. Thank goodness a ghost story that remains a ghost story and doesn't become a monster movie.

The house is as much a character as anyone else in the film. The use of light and lack thereof creates a house that embodies the idea of claustrophobia and if you didn't get a couple of long shots of the house and seen how really big it was, you'd swear it was a tiny cottage and not a massive gated manor with extensive gardens and grounds.

The two children were wonderful - particularly James Bentley, who plays the little boy named Nicholas. I couldn't find any other information on young Mr. Bentley but I am SURE we will see much more of him. I particularly like the fact that the children "stepford" movie children. The older sister teases and torments baby brother like all good older sisters do. They push mommy's buttons just because they can and they argue and call each other names even as all this weirdness is going on around them. They are disturbed by the weirdness but as admittedly movie children do, accept the weirdness a lot more easily than their mother. I think that's true of kids anyway though so it falls into the "Gee, just like real kids" theme

The Gift 
(review by Patrick)

Sam Raimi's return to thriller territory looks promising, A tried-and tested premise, an atmospheric Southern setting, a screenplay by Billy Bob Thornton, and a starry cast all make this psychic-solves-murder venture sound like a good idea.

It's a real shame then, to find that "The Gift" blows it so badly.  It falls into every cliche trap, and sacrifices suspense on the altar of Sudden Shock.

When Young Rich Girl Katie Holmes disappears, it falls to town psychic/card reader Cate Blanchett to find the missing girl, and then of course solve her murder.  She solves the crime using all of her psychic powers, and none of her common sense.  It's unfortunately one of those films where the only psychic person is the last one to know what's going on.

This narrative foible is compounded by the lack of a reasonably challenging  central mystery.  Billy Bob Thornton's screenplay completely lacks narrative drive, leaving Sam Raimi to rely on shock tactics and endless ominous swamp shots. The plot twists may come thick and fast, but they do so with a numbing sense of inevitability, robbing the ludicrous finale of any suspense.

Blanchett gives a committed performance, managing to etch a palpable sense of pain and loss, but she's constantly undermined by a script that doesn't really let her do much more than look alarmed.  In supporting roles, Keanu Reeves is surprisingly effective as a wife-beating redneck ,Greg Kinnear reprises his Nice Wasp routine, and,  inevitably, Giovanni Ribisi plays the village loon.  Hilary Swank, playing Reeve's abused wife, is almost lost under  monstrously bad hair, the like of which has not been seen since Bette Davis in "Beyond The Forest".

And no, I didn't like it.

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