Wednesday, January 30, 2008

At the Movies: Music & Lyrics

If cinemas go the way of drive-ins, Bobby and I will share in the culpability. We rarely go out to see a movie. A film has to have really good buzz or cinematography that demands a big scope before you’ll find us sitting before the silver screen.

If the actors are tried and true favorites, we’ll just buy the movie when it comes out on DVD. If it has potential but there’s still some doubt about its multiple-viewing worthiness, we’ll just rent it.

We have a pretty large DVD library. For us, the decision to buy or not to buy is multifaceted. There are the rare DVDs for which we are willing to pay the full $20. However, most of the new releases we purchase are the $14 ones we pick up on Tuesdays (the weekday movies are always released) at Wal-Mart.

A good portion of the movies we own, we didn’t buy when they were first released. They have to hit the $9.99, $7.50 or even $5 displays before we plunk down our hard-earned greenbacks for them. Thanks to a sale at Best Buy, Music & Lyrics recently fit in the $7.50 category.

We usually like Hugh Grant and his costar in this film, Drew Barrymore, has made some cute movies, but neither of them were enough to completely sell us on a film. We had originally rented this just because it sounded sweet. And sweet it was.

A friend of mine wrote about it while it was still being shown in theaters. [Here’s her take on it.] The two main characters are winsome, the dialogue is witty and the music is good. It’s a trip down memory lane for people in their 30s and 40s who remember when there was “U2 and Blondie and music still on MTV”. I dare you to watch it and not hum “Pop, goes my heart” or “Way back into love” for days afterwards.

[Do you recognize the "other guy" in Pop? He's currently one of the stars of a hit TV show.]

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Secret of Sequel Success

There’s a 1996 movie called Multiplicity where a man whose life is out-of-control busy decides to clone himself to get everything done. The problem is each clone is of continuing lesser quality than the preceding one.

That’s usually the case with sequels: Start with a good idea and then water it down into a bad movie. I loved the first Matrix, but the second and third installments were disappointments. I loved the original Pirates of the Caribbean and even liked the second installment, but the third wasn’t so hot.

However, there are success stories. The Lord of the Rings trilogy is wonderful. The Bourne trilogy left me hoping they make a fourth! And then there’s the Oceans’s 11 sequels. The first was great, the second blah, but thankfully the third came full circle with another fun movie.

So how does one sequel succeed while others fail? It’s all in the formula. When movies stick to the original formula, you’ll have success. Deviate from the formula, flop city. The Ocean’s movies are a good example. The first and third movies were breezy, fun flicks with lots of inside jokes and old movie references. The second installment tried to inject a serious subplot. Kiss of death – they tried to add an ingredient to a recipe that was fine as it was!

We recently saw National Treasure 2. It is just about as much fun as the original. The writers kept the basic plot and just changed locales and it worked.

[Warning: Minor spoilers ahead] When the movie opens and Ben and Abigail are broken up, red flags went up. “Oh no!” I thought. “They’re changing things!” But my fears were groundless. Ben and Abigail’s breakup just helped to recreate the playful tension present between the two characters in the original. And Riley was still comic relief.

This is where Pirates messed up. Will and Elizabeth are the central lovers, Capt. Jack is the comic relief (even if he is a hero in his own right). The sequels muddied the water in the second and didn’t clear it up properly in the third. Mess with the formula and you get uneven results.

The lesson: If it ain't broke, don’t fix it!

Which brings us to another upcoming sequel which has me a little nervous. I loved the Mummy movies. The first and second did a marvelous job of sticking to the formula and both were fun films. The upcoming third is changing things. Rachel Weisz, Oscar firmly in hand, declined the third installment. Then the writers changed locales and in doing so they have omitted two of the main characters from the old movies – heroic friend Ardeth Bay and archnemesis Imhotep. This gives me pause. Replacing an ingredient (Rachel Weisz) was challenge enough, but omitting two others as well could ruin the meal!

Maybe as the Writer’s Strike continues, these insights will occur to the idled scriptwriters and we’ll get more successful sequels in the future!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Sears: Epilogue

Seems my voodoo pins are working! An AP story today says:

CHICAGO (AP) — Sears Holdings Corp. told investors Monday that it would likely post fourth-quarter earnings well below Wall Street forecasts as eroding sales push its profit down as much as 57 percent. The retailer said it expects to earn between $350 million and $470 million, or $2.59 to $3.48 per share, for the quarter ending Feb. 2 — far less than the $4.43 per share sought by analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial. Sears earned $820 million in the fourth quarter a year earlier. [Entire story here.]

Don't mind me, I'm just sitting here gloating.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Sears Saga: Conclusion

Thanks for all the concern about my culinary impairment!

A new oven is in place. My opinion of Sears is still extremely poor. I told the local store General Manager even an "I'm sorry" would have gone a long way in easing tensions and she said, 'Well, realistically you're not going to get that.' 'Nuff said.

I put a protest on my account and had what little finance charges that had been applied credited back. I will be closing my account this week.

Sears dodged a bullet. As those of you who know me can attest, normally I would have fought the former Wishbook company tooth and nail until they begged for mercy!! With everything else going on right now, I just don't have the energy to mount the fight. They will simply lose a 25+ year account and get a whole lot of bad word-of-mouth publicity from this disgruntled customer.

I do take comfort with the rather dismal stock market reports regarding Sears. In November, the company said its third-quarter profit shrank 99 % because of declining sales and weak margins at its Sears and Kmart stores. This past Friday (01/04/08), Sears closed down 5 points to $104 which was within a few points of a two-year low and down considerably from the 2007 high of $191. Slumping sales at Sears and K-Mart aren’t helping their bottom line or 2008 forecasts. According to Yahoo! Finance, Sears Holdings has a current Overall Rating of F (Lowest Rating).

So, I'll let the free market handle Sears.

Well, actually I may stick voodoo pins into their sales circulars (until my pastor husband catches me, that is!!)

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Not Just Another New Year's Eve

New Year's Eve usually finds Bobby and me surrounded by friends. We enjoy each other's company, laugh, enjoy some adult beverages and usually, at some point in the evening, sing. This continues until 11:45 when the television is turned on and we keep tradition alive by watching Dick Clark's countdown while a crystal ball descends in New York City.

This year we again watched Mr. Clark do his 10-9-8. . . bit, but we only shared it with my Mom and only after a visit to the hospital. Bobby's Mom is in ICU. Thankfully, we have the hope of bringing her home in a few days. Other familes in that part of the hospital don't have that hope. They didn't celebrate on 12/31/07.

On New Year's Eve 2007, there was another group of people not out at parties. My Mom-in-law was being attended by some wonderful, caring nurses. There were doctors on duty, night guards at their desk and myriad other people that I have never thought about or needed before who were working and serving as a New Year approached.

This year I resolved to never again take for granted a New Year's Eve of frivolity. I also resolve to remember and be grateful for those who work and serve as one year passes and another begins.