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Friday, June 04, 2004


First update in, like, ever.

Or: "You say ci-CAY-da, I say ci-CAH-da."

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your calculators... But more on that later...

I figure I should maybe make up a list of things I've done since last I checked in:

*completed semester #6 (out of, what, 8?) at UCLA (the University of Catonsville, Left of Arbutus). Wish to know my GPA? Well, just take the natural log of 54.598150033144239078110261202861.
(Special thank you goes out to Sam, for re-introducing me to those magical buttons on the my calculator, LOG, LN, e^x, and 10^x. Scratch that: I meant to say the calculator, decorated all equestrianally, belonging to (guess who) my FSHB, who has so graciously lent me the device since around February and is willing to continue letting me borrow it through, say, December of this year: STAT 121's on the slate, donchaknow?

Oh, where was ... ah, yeah, making a list of things accomplished. [ahem]

*wrote enough TRW articles to kill a lethal strain of Neurospora crassa. A smattering:
Sandler and Barrymore Go Steady in 50 First Dates
Steve Wiley
Retriever Weekly Staff Writer

If one takes anything away from 50 First Dates ( * * 1/2), it’s that its star, Adam Sandler, really wants you to believe that deep down, he’s got a heart. And, if you get past the tired gross-out humor and tear-jerking sentimentalism near the end, you might start to.

Retaining Sandler’s trademark lowbrow gags from some of his earlier films, but toning down the slap-happy silliness just a tad, this one’s also got a more serious side to it, by way of a plot gimmick that echoes a number of older films. Primarily, there’s the hilarious Bill Murray fan favorite, Groundhog Day, in which a grumpy meteorologist got stuck in time, reliving the same day over and over. That was a romantic comedy with a fantasy twist that hit upon the following point: guys who think that being a know-it-all is the best route to love should simply give being themselves a try. ...

Who Will Win this Year’s Oscar Race? The Rings, River, or a Racehorse…?
Steve Wiley
Retriever Weekly Staff Writer

Honoring those considered the "best and brightest" Hollywood has to offer, the 76th annual Academy Awards ceremony looks to be one of the more eclectic in recent memory, if you judge by the nominations, which were announced in late January. Movies about everything from naval warfare to a heroic racehorse to a Boston-based murder mystery all bid for those shiny golden statues. Could this be the year one epic film series finally earns a precious reward for its perilous journey? Will Lost in Translation be found worthy of coronation? Will Gigli sweep the awards like no film since Titanic? (To answer that last one, not likely, unless we’re talking about the Razzies, the silly anti-Oscars.)

Taking place about a month earlier than usual on Sunday, Feb. 29, this year’s glitzy gala was actually supposed to have consisted of a bland batch of mainstream movies (given the initial ban on "screener" copies sent out to Academy members, which often help small, independent films gain praise), but in fact, voters found quite a bit of room on their ballots for some of those quirkier, but no less critically-acclaimed films. A good case in point would be the Brazilian City of God, which was released way back in January 2003, an unflinching look at the gang wars of Rio de Janeiro; it received four nominations, prompting its director Fernando Meirelles to wonder, ‘’Has the Academy gone mad?’’ Perhaps, but let us first judge this year’s selection before making any conclusions about the 5,800-member organization’s collective sanity, in other words, "And the nominees are…"


Kanye West Graduates from the College of Hard Knocks
Steve Wiley

Retriever Weekly Staff Writer

Sometimes things seem to happen in cycles. In the music world, fresh talent gets swept time and again into the spotlight and established artists get swept under the rug. Often there are parallels from year to year, stories of a rise to prominence from a previously unknown up-and-coming performer. Some are fueled by pure talent, though almost never without the help of plenty of underground buzz; to make it big these days in the music industry, you’ve got to have connections and you’ve got to have skills.

As we saw almost exactly one year ago, with the phenomenal crossover success of 50 Cent’s major label debut, it also helps to have a unique personal story, to get some undisputable street cred. And this year, hip-hop producer extraordinaire Kanye West hits the scene with his first LP, The College Dropout, with a circumstances that are remarkably similar to the nine-times shot rapper from Queens.

Kanye’s reason to be thankful for every breath is the fact that two years ago he barely survived a car accident with a broken jaw and has used every ounce of his strength to bounce back stronger than ever. Also like 50, Kanye belongs to a strong hip-hop family, the Rocafella family, actually. And though now-retired Rocafella founder Jay-Z makes an appearance on Dropout, among quite a few others, Kanye West seems determined to stand in nobody’s shadow, looking for success in his own right, earning every dollar with hard work, taking on challenges left and right.


Stiller, Wilson, and Snoop crack down on crime in Starsky
Steve Wiley
Retriever Weekly Staff Writer

Starsky and Hutch ( * * * ) is the latest entry in the massive Hollywood effort to try and make sure no "classic" television series from the last 40 years or so goes without a satirical movie adaptation The film actually delivers on its premise, offering plenty of sly entertainment in a still slim 95-minute running time. The endless list of forgettable vintage shows-turned into movies is rather staggering (Wild Wild West, The Mod Squad, I-Spy, anyone?), and it’s due to the respective efforts of stars Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson and writers John O’Brien, Scot Armstrong, and Todd Phillips (who also directed) that this project does not end up in the considerable scrapheap of junky, useless Baby Boomer nostalgia.

This film takes its cues from the 1975-1979 ABC cops and robbers TV show, but never taking itself seriously. This iteration of the good-cop, bad-cop formula is fully conscious of the clichés it so relentlessly spoofs, yet never becomes simply an exercise in clever pop-culture reference exchanging, thought there is plenty of that. Of course the sliver of a story underlying the goofy jokes does not amount to much, but the movie works in that you can still appreciate the high-stakes action sequences even if you’re rolling your eyes a bit at the absurdity of the situations.

The movie, as the opening title card tells us, is set in "Bay City. The Seventies." Two cops, the by-the-books, self-absorbed David Starsky (Ben Stiller) and the rule-breaking, anything-goes Ken "Hutch" Hutchinson, after failing rather spectacularly in their own attempts to uphold the law (or exploit it, in Hutch’s case), are paired up, much to each other’s chagrin. Assisted by streetwise hustler / informant Huggy Bear (Snoop Dogg), this unlikely duo has to go undercover (multiple times) to fight crime, thwarting cocaine kingpin Reese Feldman (Vince Vaughn). Feldman’s one-man R&D department has come up with a new type of dope that goes undetected by drug-sniffing security dogs. All of this, one shouldn’t even have to say, is taken completely tongue in cheek.


Simulating insobriety on the "drunk car" crash course with UMBC police
Steve Wiley
Retriever Weekly Staff Writer
Cruising across Parking Lot 17, all seemed in control for the UMBC student behind the wheel of a Volkswagen Beetle. Suddenly the vehicle swerved out of control, skidding over the slick pavement, tires screeching, brake lights flashing. The driver had little to no chance to prevent hitting everything in his path as the car wildly careened over the blacktop; members of the campus police were quick to the scene to assess the damage.

This is, fortunately, not another tragic story of vehicular disaster, but a description of the "Drunk Car" event hosted by UMBC Police to help educate people about the risk of taking the wheel after taking too many drinks. The car in question was the "Safety Bug," a VW that has been modified by engineers at Johns Hopkins University to allow sober drivers to experience personally the dangers involved when alcohol takes over. By the way, the objects in the automobile’s path, easily toppled, were little orange cones, not other cars or pedestrians, thankfully.

Spectators who heard about the demonstration from signs posted around campus were able to take part in the event, one of many that over three million people have experienced in similar programs hosted at schools and other educational settings over the past decade. The effects of excess alcohol on the body, or at least a well-designed simulation of them, were shown to be dramatic, with potentially fatal results.


Kill Bill Volume 2: action epic a cut above

Steve Wiley
Retriever Weekly Staff Writer
Last October, to much acclaim as well as disgust, Kill Bill Volume 1 was unleashed upon a somewhat unsuspecting public. Who knew what to expect from Quentin Tarantino, the once red-hot director who hadn’t delivered a new movie since 1997’s Jackie Brown, and now was promising an action-packed throwback to the "grindhouse" films he reveled in as a young moviegoer?

When people saw the final product (well, the first half of the final product anyway), many thought they got a lot more than they bargained for. Not only was Kill Bill packed to the hilt with action, it was overflowing with over-the-top violence, a sheer whirlwind of martial arts mayhem, and contained little of the wit and complex story structure of Tarantino’s earlier movies, like the still-revered Pulp Fiction. Critics charged that it was a mindless, derivative revenge / exploitation flick that bordered on being a bloody cartoon.

Countered Quentin’s defenders: "Yeah, so?"


The Big Creak makes a musical splash with Just Left Home
Steve Wiley
Retriever Weekly Staff Writer

Listening to The Big Creak’s third full-length album Just Left Town makes you want to go out and hear the band live; it’s not that there’s something missing from their music on disc, but you just catch a certain vibe that tells you these guys can put on a show. Fettered with hooks that are as catchy as the common cold and brought to life by an unmistakably earnest energy, the 11-track CD, released this past January on Opulent Records, is filled with the type of music you listen to, no matter what your mood.

The overall mood of the record is fairly bright. Its flavor is influenced by a mix of rock and roots and will sound familiar, though not closely related, to the recent works of John Mayer, Jason Mraz, and others in the crop of young singer-songwriters who never try to overextend themselves and stick to what works. The songs may come across as formulaic, but as with those other artists, The Big Creak is a genuinely talented group of people who seem to love what they do, and as with those other artists I’ve mentioned, they’ve attracted a large grassroots following, largely through the Internet. Fans across the country fill message boards with posts about TBC, trading band-encouraged bootleg MP3s, and anticipating their next chance to scope out the band live onstage, where they’re really in their element.

Just Left Town veers to and fro between middle of the road rock, bluesy riffage, and cool jams that merge a variety of genres. The best of these are high-energy, up-tempo numbers like "Your Way Out" and the flashy "Go Ahead and Go," which sounds a little like the band Guster, another member of the genre, mixed with a little jam-happy enthusiasm.


Dolorean mixes love, sorrow in debut album
Steve Wiley
Retriever Weekly Staff Writer

Quoted in almost all the press and publicity materials surrounding Dolorean’s dubet full-length release Not Exotic is singer-songwriter Al James’ statement, "I really am a happy person." What one can obviously infer from the ubiquity of this clarification is that James’ opus, released last November on Yep Roc Records, the result of nearly two years in the studio, is not the most upbeat music you’re likely to hear.

But that’s not to say that this is a dreary, depressing CD; it’s far more complex than that. The tone that defines these nine tales of pleasure and pain (note the band’s name) is one of bittersweet regret. The traditional American musical heritage is a force that propels the record stylistically, coupled with an acknowledgment of more recent indie singer-songwriters daring back to Neil Young and Nick Cave and including the likes of the late Elliott Smith. Fans of the Decemberists might also find common auditory ground.

This air of familiarity, however, never overshadows the originality found in Dolorean’s lyrical storytelling and gentle instrumentation; the richness of each tune holds its own against what has come before and may even leave an impression on future roots-oriented musicians.

The casting of a haunting spell – this is not only evident on the musicianship of the band and the predecessors’ legacy, but it is a theme encountered in a harrowing light, in the chiller of a lullaby "Still Here With Me." As throughout the LP, James creates a visual setpiece with layers of musty detail ("Brown glass and peeling paint Dirty glass of lemonade"), before drawing a picture of agony caused by the death of passion: "…you kiss like a corpse And smile like a crow… I sleep with your ghost The dotted outline of what you were." Heartbreakingly, the song ends at a past point of hopefulness.


Maryland Film Festival 2004: a preview of the best picks
Steve Wiley
Retriever Weekly Staff Writer

This year marks the sixth annual Maryland Film Festival, a celebration for movie buffs that trots out an assortment of unique works of art, few of which you would ever likely come across in your local megaplex theater. Thursday, May 6 through Sunday, May 9 will be a can’t-miss treat for anyone seeking diverse delights for the senses. Moviegoers, here’s what to look forward to:

Opening night will kick off the festival with a "7 by 7 Shorts" Program, at The Maryland College Institute of Art (MICA)’s Brown Center on Thursday starting at 8 p.m., and followed by a party to initiate the fun and festivities. Highlights from the night will include "The Frank International Film Festival," Bob Odenkirk’s (Mr. Show) travelogue in which he discovered "just how many film festivals there are in this world. A lot!" Matthew Thomas’ "That Day," Bill Plympton’s animated "Guard Dog," and Scott Calonico’s bizarre 10-minute documentary "LSD A Go Go." Terri Edda Miller directs "Dysenchanted," a comical deconstruction of fairy tales that features Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, et al. in group therapy. Then comes Matthew Modine’s bittersweet nostalgia "When I Was a Boy," and Shawn Ku’s outrageous "musical necromance," the 22-minute "Pretty Dead Girl."

The rest of the weekend, most of the 80-odd film screenings will be held in the five-screen Charles Theater, with the exception of Saturday night’s special showing of the surfing documentary "Riding Giants" at Bengies Drive-in Theater and seven events at MICA.

*yes, and applied to roughly 4.7 million employers in my summer internship/job search, nay, quest over the past 2 + months.
Wait- that's a typo. That should read "4.7 billion employers." My apologies to all involved.

Responses: 3
Interviews: 1 pending
Hmm, not sure I'm qualified but maybe I should apply to the CIA. Heard there were some openings in upper-level management...



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