Tuesday, November 30, 2010

McBone Mini-Reviews; The McBone Week in Movies

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 - After Chris Columbus manufactured a pair of total duds in debuting the first two Harry Potter adventures to the big screen, Alfonso Cuaron gave the third effort an artist's touch, a welcome breath of sexiness and a sorely needed sense of humor.  HP 3 remains my favorite adaptation in the series, and is the chapter that all subsequent films have had to live up to.  Most have done so.  Happily, the first half of the finale does not disappoint.  I'm not sure there was any good cinematic reason that JK Rowling's lousy final installment of her septilogy should have been split in two, but Potter diehards can rejoice over studio greed since the material has found its way into the competent hands of director David Yates and writer Steve Kloves. The book, which features a gaping 300 page dead zone sandwiched between a fine beginning and end, could have easily been sliced and diced into a single feature film.  That said, 7.1 is a supreme upgrade over the book, in spite of the paucity of the best stuff, namely: Alan Rickman, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Gambon and Maggie Smith.

So, here we are in year seven and the bad guys are winning. HP and friends are on the run and trying to piece together the puzzle that will destroy You Know Who once and for all.  Director David Yates gets my applause for making something suspenseful out of Rowling's mess.  The kids (never better as actors, by the way) are dodging Death Eaters and trying to keep out of sight in a world where Harry has been labeled 'Undesirable no. 1'.  Stripping away dialogue and musical scores gives the film an unsettling kind of quiet as the three amigos tiptoe across Great Britain in search of Horcruxes.  Sound boring?  Well, what some might find slow, I found spooky, and there's just enough action to keep things moving along.  Another deft touch is a breathtaking animated sequence that explains the book's rather ponderous plot line about the Deathly Hallows. If Horcruxes and Hallows sound like too much mumbo jumbo, just know that it's really seeing the kids grow up together (and seeing Helena Bonham Carter wreak havoc as a classic villain) that strikes a nerve. This is the third Potter project undertaken by the Yates/Kloves team, and it marks their third success.  Thus I look forward to their next/last effort.  3.5 McBones (my outraged sometimes popular wife disagrees with my rating so much that she wants you to know that she gives it 5.0 McBones)

Elephant - A strange application of Gus van Sant's admittedly formidable artistic talents to a subject of the utmost sensitivity: school shootings. This to me felt nothing like the high school experience and nothing like tragedy, but rather a stringing together of strong visuals and Hitchcockian long takes.  Van Sant builds up to the event in the way Titanic builds up to the sinking.  I don't get it and I didn't like it.  1.0 McBones


Friday, November 26, 2010

On This Thanksgiving

I'm thankful for you, gentle McBoners, for continuing to read. Mayonnaise abuse remains a scourge, so we'll keeping fighting the good fight.

And I'm thankful for the fact that this never, ever gets old:

Thank you, moustachioed turkey slaughterer, for making the most of your fifteen minutes.

And thank you, Sarah Palin, for being risible, mockable you.


Monday, November 22, 2010

En Lieu of Movies...Boeuf

No movies to review today, so I'll use the opportunity to point out how enormous this strip of beef jerky is.  I've never been the one to engage in hyperbole, but is 'ginormous' too big a word to describe a full 24 inches of smoke-cured meat?  I think not!  When I spotted the vast curtain of dried bovine swinging from a rack in a truck stop somewhere in western Illinois, I knew I had to have it. I was headed toward Iowa City for the much anticipated Ohio State-Iowa matchup. The stakes?  Big Ten bragging rights. The tailgate was on; people would be hungry.  On an occasion like this, nothing less than an entire cow's worth of jerky would suffice.

So how did it taste?  Honestly, I'm not sure.  Ravening, we ripped open the plastic and tore the salty snack to shreds.  Seconds later, it was gone, barely a memory as our snapping maws sought new flesh.

Also, if you can possibly remove your eyes from the beef, please take a moment to notice my outerware.  McBone wants to let the good people at West Lawn Park know that they are not alone in the wearing of fleece.

More tales from the tailgate to come.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

McBone Mini-Reviews; The McBone Week in Movies

The Social Network - I spend as much time on Facebook as the next guy, I'm not too proud to admit, but it's never long before status updates and Farmville notices have me feeling all icky inside--kind of how I felt coming out of The Social Network.  Now don't misunderstand me; I'm with of the critics on this one.  Director David Fincher crafts a hell of a flick in retelling the founding of Facebook, its meteoric rise and the concomitant plunge into petty squabbling, betrayal and litigation among its inventors.  Is it good enough that I can forgive him for Benjamin Button?  No, but it's still pretty darned good.

The creation of Facebook, as Fincher and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin would tell it, is a story of overprivileged and talented Harvard douchebags simultaneously changing the way we interact as humans and never missing a chance to make total jackasses of themselves.  Chief among them is Mark Zuckerberg, whose foray into social networking begins one reckless and beer-fueled night in his dorm.  Slighted in love, he takes aim at a whole gender by giving fellow students the chance to 'rate' the hotness of Harvard coeds on a network called Facemash.  Thus are the noble origins of Facebook.

I don't know if Zuckerberg is as condescending as Jesse Eisenberg plays him, or if the Winkelvoss twins, whose idea he allegedly stole, are as maddeningly aristocratic in real life.  I can't help wondering if Napster inventor Sean Parker is the world's biggest prick, or if this is Justin Timberlake almost overplaying his role.  Movies exaggerate, and Fincher lays it on thick.  By the end, there is a lot of sleaze and very little sympathy to be squeezed out of this narrative.  Exceptions are Rooney Mara, as spellbinding as she is unceremonious in dumping Zuckerberg in a tour de force opening scene.  Every verbal whiplash that she lays on him feels good, because you know what?  The little shit deserves it.  I haven't been knocked out by Andrew Garfield as an actor in his short career, but you do feel for his Eduardo Saverin, Facebook's co-founder and CFO, whose role in the company is jeopardized when Parker waltzes in with big talk and a charlatan's swagger.  I'm not sure why Rashida Jones is in this, but it sure was nice to see her, even in a throwaway role.

Aside from feeling like I spent two hours rolling around in fresh manure, there isn't much to complain about here.  A snappy script, slick direction and strong performances merit a good rating.  I'm giving it one.  Facebook may not be forever, but it is a phenomenon.  500 million users made this a tale worth telling, and The Social Network does its job in capturing a bit of the Zeitgeist.  4.0 McBones

Wendy and Lucy - Agnes Varda's Vagabond meets Old Yeller.  I've always thought Michelle Williams was a swell actor without ever being blown away by her...until now.  Williams astonishes as Wendy, an itinerant young woman on her way to Alaska, her only companions a yellow dog named Lucy and an ancient and unreliable Honda Accord.  Trouble begins when the auto craps out in Oregon.  Getting arrested separates Wendy from Lucy, and thus begins her journey through frustration, loneliness and heartbreak as she seeks out her best friend.  4.5 McBones

Paranormal Activity 2 - I have a fondness for small budget films that make a splash simply because they're well crafted.  That was Paranormal Activity.  Somewhat better endowed with cashflow, the filmmakers make the right choice in sticking to their roots for part 2. Watching PA2 in a theater packed with nervous students was great fun, and a reminder that we watch movies foremost to be transported.  Though slow to get rolling, PA2 packs in more scares than its predecessor, and manages to weave the two tales in clever way.  3.5 McBones

The Bond Project: My sometimes popular wife and I will be watching the James Bond movies in chronological order and offering succinct yet cutting-edge insight into the evolving world of 007.

From Russia with Love

N: Revisiting this masterpiece reminds me why FRwL was once, and may still be, my favorite Bond flick.  Miles above Dr. No, Terence Young infuses this saga with the spirit of North by Northwest as Bond makes his way by car, train and boat from Istanbul to Venice.  Most shameless moment: Gypsy catfight that sets feminism back decades.  4.5 McBones

A: This used to be my favorite Bond movie but it didn't shine much upon revisiting it.  I liked this one better than Dr. No because the Bond 'girl' is much more central to the plot and wonderfully endearing (though I'm still recovering from the Gypsy fight myself). What a way to look at the Other these films have.  The big scary Russians are the ones who get it this time. Yikes.  3.0 McBones


Monday, November 15, 2010

Men Are from Mars, etc

While I was in the yard listening to the football game, knocking back a few cold ones and doing a man's work...

Have fun in the compost pile, bitches!

...my sometimes popular wife was in the kitchen doing what she does best:

'Dinner's ready, fuckhead.'

Yes, for one Sunday, all was right with the world.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Pardon Our Appearance

McBone is making some minor modifications to our appearance. We are working to correct these issues as soon as possible.

Thank you for understanding and please feel free to continue McBoning as we complete our upgrades.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

McBone Stuff

Every now and then somebody will accuse me and this left-leaning blog of being anti-capitalist.  Not so!  I recognize as well as anyone that we, as Americans, live in a consumer driven economy.  The fact is that on any given day you may very well catch me in the act of buying things.  That's just me doing my patriotic duty, folks. I take it seriously, and so should you!

Well, thanks to the miracle of CafePress and the artistic talents of Kid Shay, it's easier than ever to meet our responsibilities.  Behold the first ever item of McBone merchandise: The McBone Bier Stein.*  Featuring the Cleveland skyline and the towering form of singer/songwriter Cat Power, this finely crafted vessel is a handsome addition to any desk or mantelpiece.  To maximize its true potential, however, fill your Stein not with pens and pencils or loose change but with 22 ounces of your favorite ale, lager, porter or stout.  We promise the last sip will be as delicious as the first in the McBone Bier Stein.  That's right, ladies and gentlemen; McBone makes beer taste better!

Normally retailing at $799.99, the McBone Bier Stein, fashioned from certified authentic white rhino horn, can be yours for the crazy-ass low price of $20 dollars (plus shipping and handling).

Act now!  By purchasing the McBone Bier Stein you will not only be giving the economy a little boost and benefiting our resident cartoonist, you'll be saying 'I care' to endangered species.  For every 500 Steins sold, CafePress will pledge one dollar toward efforts to save the white rhino.


*Made in China

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Just to Reiterate

In case my previous post did not make it clear enough:

Peter Luger Steakhouse is the reason bucket lists were invented.

I implore you, McBoners one and all, to make this a life's destination.

As a bonus, you can tour scenic New York City, maybe even catch the Pee-wee Herman Show


Monday, November 8, 2010

Now I Can Die Happy

My sometimes popular wife and I deferred our 10th anniversary celebration this year.  Why?  Because ten years is nothing to sneeze at, and we wanted this to be big.  Real big.  Like, as big as Uranus.  We had planned a enchanted weekend in sunny Indianapolis (the Brickyard is beautiful this time of year), but then an idea came a tapping, gently rapping at our chamber door.  Suddenly it made perfect sense to celebrate the event not in Indy, but on Halloween weekend in New York City.  Why?  Let me show you:

I'll admit I was reluctant.  As much as I heart Pee-wee, a weekend jaunt to NYC seemed a luxury we could ill afford.  Fortunately, Alex's reason prevailed over my anxiety: When, exactly, will you get another chance to see your idol in person?

Well, that shut me up in a hurry.  Thirty seconds later I had booked two tickets and a flight.

This was about more than just Pee-wee, however.  This was to be a celebration of a true love, a pure love, a love high in fiber and loaded with antioxidants.  That kind of diet has not only kept us regular for a decade; it had us in tip-top condition for the marathon day we had planned.

It started Saturday morning, when we hopped into our rental McBonemobile and sped from my sister's upstate pad to midtown Manhattan.  The first order of business was to fuel ourselves up.  Alex spied a bakery offering a wide assortment of sandwiches and confections.  Having ordered our 'baguettes' (a goofy way of saying 'bread'), we sat down among the well-heeled diners, all of whom were conversing in some funny dialect Alex referred to as 'French.'

Here she is double-fisting dessert for breakfast, dizzy dame!

Our repast finished and appetites comfortable sated, we made for Central Park.  We had some time to kill and we decided it would best be killed by...a FEROCIOUS POLAR BEAR!!!  Well, far from the terror of the frozen tundra, this bloated excuse for a man-killer was more or less enjoying the life of Riley:

With 'Gus' content to wallow in his own crapulence, we exited the zoo and made haste to Broadway and the Stephen Sondheim Theatre.  The show started at two, leaving us a few moments to snap some hilarious photos:

I was terrified going into this thing.  Doubt came a gnawing, clawing at my stomach walls.  What if Pee-wee had lost his touch?  What if the crowd reacted with a collective yawn?  What if it bombed?  I was aware of the good reviews his show had scored in Los Angeles, but still I cringed at the idea of a balding, corpulent Pee-wee Herman trying to pick up where he had left off 20 years ago.

No need to worry.

It was great!  Better than great!  The Pee-wee Herman show is something I recommend to ALL McBoners, young and old alike.  Alex and I and the entire matinee crowd spent a full hour and a half laughing our collective asses off, screaming the secret word, chanting mekka lekka hi, mekka hiney ho!  Pee-wee was as good as ever, blending together elements from his canon and throwing new material into the mix.  High marks for the rest of the cast, too, including original members Lynn Marie Stewart and John Paragon who reprised their respective roles as Miss Yvonne and Jambi the Genie.  Rarely have I so delighted in a live performance.  Rarely have I been so sad to see one end.

Afterward we hoped to get a glimpse of the manchild himself, but he gave us much more than that:

I know you are, but what am I?
I don't make monkeys, I just train 'em!
That's my name, don't wear it out!
Why dontcha take a picture?  It'll last longer!
I took this one chance to tell Pee-wee that I loved him.  It's true, after all, so why not say it?  Very few artists have impacted me as profoundly as Paul Reubens.  Bob Dylan, Alec Guinness, Tolkien, Shel Silverstein, Beethoven, Gary Larson.  This list isn't very long, so I was perhaps understandably trembling, yes trembling, when he emerged from the stage door.  His reply to my sincere if unoriginal flattery was an equally sincere 'Thank you!'

Alex, ever the astute one, seized this rare chance to engage Mr. Herman and ask when the forthcoming movie (to be directed by Judd Apatow) would be released.  'I have to write the movie first,' was the answer.  'But before that I have to rewrite some of the show.'

'But it's perfect,' protested Alex, to which he replied that it was 'almost perfect.'

Pee-wee wasn't signing or taking pictures with people, but he seemed genuinely grateful for the turnout and curious about where people had traveled from.

'Venezuela!,' declared Alex in a moment of semi-truthfulness.

'Oh!  Venezuela!  Wow!' cried Pee-wee in a moment of semi-astonishment.

'Indiana!' I shouted, but received no reply.

Alas, time is fleeting, and Pee-wee took his very gracious leave.  The crowd roared and, like that, he was gone.

But there was no time for tears.  On to round four.  For this very special day we chose a restaurant we felt could stand up to the occasion: merely the finest steakhouse on the entire east coast:

Almost we didn't make the reservation phoned in two months in advance. The streets of New York were filled with spooks, spectres and ghosts (and not a few Lady Gagas), all of them riding yellow cabs to whatever haunts they were bound.  Meanwhile, we hungry mortals were shit out of luck.  Nary a taxi was to be found, so we flagged down a private car and negotiated the fare to Brooklyn.  Our driver got us there by some mercy, and so we didn't miss out on this:

The thickest, most delicious bacon on planet Earth
Peter Luger's porterhouse.  There is nothing like it.  And check out that creamed spinach!
We dined at Peter Luger's once before.  I always remembered that first experience as not just the best steak I've ever had, but the best food of my life, period.  Ten years later, I was skeptical of my memory.  Perhaps time had exaggerated how good it was.  Turns out I had probably understated the excellence. Here was the menu du jour:

Beefeater martini on the rocks with a twist and an olive
House Merlot
Sizzling bacon appetizer (2 strips)
Peter Luger specialty ale
Steak for 2
Creamed spinach
French fried potatoes
Hot fudge sundae

The bacon was so rich and buttery that even Alex, a sworn bacon hater, dove in.  To eat an entire strip would be to spoil the appetite, so a few bites bridged the gap between cocktails and main course.  Porterhouse is all that is offered--perfectly marbled cuts aged on the premises and broiled until tender, juicy nirvana is achieved.  The waiter's suggestion of medium rare was more of a command than a choice.  On a whim I asked if anyone ever asked for theirs well done.  The waiter sneered his reply in a Russian accent: It happens from time to time, but the steak is so thick it's not possible without ruining, really, and so no.  No, no, no!  He was getting more agitated.  Flames leapt from eyes that zeroed in on me as if I had dared to make such an infamous order: Not here, no.  Go somewhere else!

We ate until we could eat no more.  As bloated as any Central Park bear, we rolled out into the streets where the doorman had a taxi waiting.  Next up was a cabaret show staring Lady Rizo and the Assettes.  Quite naturally my sister had been recruited to get on stage and shake her tookus as an honorary Assette.  That we couldn't miss, and so we found ourselves back in Manhattan, where everyone it seems was in costume; everyone, that is, except Stanley Tucci*, who we watched have better luck flagging a cab than we did.  A perk of being Stanley Tucci?  I don't know and I didn't care, for there was much booty-shaking to see on this special night:

An example of an ass being shook (not my sister's)
Well, you'd think that Lady Rizo would have finished us off, but we weren't done yet.  With just enough gas left to catch a flick before calling it a night, we took in Never Let Me Go.

Though disappointing, the day had been far too exhilarating for a movie to spoil our moods.

The last traces of our energy got us back to the car, and, ultimately to my sister's crib, where we arrived safe and sound but without strength enough to brush, floss or gargle.  All we could do was haul our corpses up three flights of stairs and collapse in the warm afterglow of a day so perfect that even the Two Lous would approve.

Thank you, my lovely, not just for a memorable Saturday, but for making it a perfect 10.


*Alex was thrilled to see Stanley Tucci, as her only previous NYC celebrity sighting had been Monica Lewinsky.

Friday, November 5, 2010

McBone Presents: A Friday Robots Third Anniversary Exhibition

On November 9th, 2007, on what otherwise seemed like a pedestrian fall day, my partner blogger at Welcome to Falling Rock National Park quietly posted his first four Friday Robots.  Since that fateful moment, Kid Shay has been faithfully populating our little world with robots every single week.  What sparked this kind of creative output?  Was it the promise of a young and energetic candidate for president?  Were the stars aligned just right in the firmament?  Did this geyser of inspiration lay dormant for years, gradually building pressure until the whole thing had to blow in a mad orgy of circuits, electrodes and gears?  Hard to say.  All we know for sure is that Friday Robots were here, and Kid Shay promised they were here to stay.

Three years and hundreds of automatons later, it's easy to take Friday Robots for granted, and yet their benefit to humankind is impossible to measure.  That line of thought may seem counterintuitive considering that at any given time robots are likely to turn evil and kill or at least enslave every last living being on the planet. But these are no ordinary robots, gentle McBoners; these are Friday Robots, and they have been plumbed from the remotest recesses of Kid Shay's fertile imagination. That's a strange and wonderful place, dear readers, a mystical domain where Bogeymen drink scotch with pirates and zombies roam vast desertscapes in search of owlflesh.  A strange domain, yes, but also a benevolent one; we all know the toll a five day work week can take on the human spirit.  These Robots, though strictly useless from a utilitarian standpoint, are there to uplift us every single Friday with their soaring originality.  I prefer to behold them of a Friday afternoon, when The Man has me down for the count and I'm wondering, what, what, what exactly is the point of it all.  Facing these weekly crises, I let Friday Robots usher me into the promised land that is the weekend.

To celebrate three years of weekly robots, McBone is proud to host an exhibition of 20, nay 22 (the hell with round numbers) masterworks.  The robots herein were chosen not for the purpose of offering a broad representation of Kid Shay's portfolio.  No, we choose these robots because they are the ones that have touched us most deeply in a moment of need.

But don't take my word for it.  Without further ado from your humble curator, we present our exhibition.

12/6/07 - A solitary robot soars above the stark slopes of Mt. Hood.  Where
it is bound I know not.  I like to think it soars for soaring's sake.  Robots
can be surprisingly zen like that.

4/4/08 - This diverse yet orderly gathering of robots can
only spell trouble for humans.  Just think if our
congress could pool its talents like this.

5/23/08 - The buck-toothed, slouching
adolescent daydreams of robot babes that are way
out of his league.

6/13/08 - Robots may look out of place among cacti, but they are
in fact right at home in the dry environs of the American Southwest,
where rain is scarce and the threat of short circuit practically nil.

6/27/08 - A patient gathering of robots waits for a bus that
will never come.  I enjoy the idea of them wondering when the
blabbermouth on the right is going to shut up.

8/8/08 - Robots emerge from hyperspace.  I imagine a robot invasion
would look something like this.  Breathtaking in beauty just
moments before they end our world.

8/15/08 - Four robots peer up over the mountaintops and down upon a
doomed resort town in Colorado.

9/12/08 - Friday Robots are often mistaken for animals.
By the time you realize the mistake, it's too late.

10/17/08 - These, my favorite Friday Robots of all time, took me
by surprise.  Like none that came before or any that
have come since.  They seem to me reminiscent of characters
from an Asian language.  I highly recommend clicking the link to
view all of that day's remarkable robots.

11/14/08 - Friday robots abide.

1/16/09 - I appreciate these robots for their simple beauty.  In my eyes
they are recently 'spawned' and fleeing then 'nest' for the first time.

3/6/09 - Some robots have adapted to life under the sea.  To learn
the story of these Friday Robots, watch the video by Andy K below.

5/8/09 - I suppose what I like so much about these robots
is the notion that, even in a jungle clearing, one might
chance upon some Friday Robots.

7/17/09 - Here are some Friday Robots beaming trillions of bits of information
per second into the cosmos, where a looming mothership awaits their report.  The
treeless prairie landscape allows for a clear transmission.

8/14/09 - Occasionally robots get their just deserts.  Here an elegant duo
becomes acquainted with the gnashing teeth of a rock monster.

11/13/09 - Friday Robots are familiar with the classics
of 19th century American literature.

11/27/09 - I like to believe that this installment represents fossil
evidence of rather than actual Friday Robots.

1/8/10 - A quartet of robots descends upon a sleepy

2/5/10 - Ordinary clumps of human hair?  Think again.
Friday Robots can assume nearly any shape or size.

3/19/10 - Snow blankets a city where robots rule
the land and the skies above.

10/1/10 - Overpopulation is a problem that plagues robots too, as
illustrated here in a devastating pileup.

10/29/10 - A grouping of four robots brings us full circle.
Robots imposed over a backdrop of canned fish reveals how
Friday robots has evolved over the years.

I hope you've enjoyed this brief stroll through history.  Though you will have certainly been moved to tears by now, understand that this is but the tip of the iceberg.  For the proper Friday Robots experience, make sure to visit the Falling Rock blog every Friday.

And now, let the robot extravaganza continue!  Be sure to visit McBone's two favorite parks: Falling Rock and West Lawn.  Today, robots rule the world of blogs.


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Spronk, Come Get Your Lunch

Dear Spronk,

Just a friendly reminder: your leftover lunch is still in our fridge.  Remember?  You put it there about two months ago and told us explicitly not to throw it away?  You were pretty adamant about it too, maybe even borderline passive aggressive.  I recall you said something about 'starving kids in China,' as if to imply we make a regular habit of cooking up vast meals for the sole purpose of dumping them in the trash.  Well, we've obeyed your orders, Spronk, but we're beginning to wonder if you didn't forget about your poor little leftover lunch.  See, it's beginning to molder a bit, this Pyrex filled with pasta and what appears to be a slice of rapidly disintegrating bread.  Oh, and I think there are a couple of flaccid strands (the term 'spears' is no longer applicable) of what was once asparagus buried near the bottom.  A gaseous buildup is making the cover bulge slightly.  I tried venting the container to avoid calamity and let me tell you, the burp of advancing decomposition was pretty overpowering. 

Anyways, we'll hang on to your lunch for as long as you want us to.  It's here when you need it.  I'm not sure I recommend ingesting any of the stuff at this point, but I suppose you know best.



Monday, November 1, 2010

McBone Mini-Reviews; The McBone Week in Movies

Never Let Me Go - The future is now, and in the reality of Never Let Me Go, (spoiler alert!) children are bred and raised for the sole purpose of being organ donors.  Kazuo's Ishiguro's novel by the same name unfolds slowly into a tale of three such children who fall in love with each other so desperately that their predetermined journeys through life cannot help but be heart-destroying.  Those complex relationships being the soul of the tale, I have to conclude that director Mark Romanek and screenwriter Alex Garland didn't really get what was going on.  Together they team up to strip away dimensions Ishiguro had crafted so carefully in his book, turning Kathy (Carey Mulligan, fantastic) and Ruth (Keira Knightley, meh) into mild rivals vying half-heartedly for the affection of Tommy (Andrew Garfield, looking like he's waiting for Santa Claus to show up), who bounces between lovers in the slowest ping pong match of all time.  Sounds exhilarating, right?  It isn't, and that's because the men behind the movie let this sci-fi world define (and confine) its characters where Ishiguro lets the characters reveal, degree by painful degree, the nightmare world they inhabit.  Perhaps that's the advantage of a novel and having enough pages to let the people and their emotions spread out.  Still, I get the feeling that these two guys didn't trust their source enough; they want to tell us what's going on and plop a flaccid love story into the middle of it.

As for the acting, the film seems infused with a certain stuffiness that constrains its players (the exception is Mulligan), so that even a pro like Charlotte Rampling appears to be fighting the effects of mild sedatives.  The lethargic score, like a garage full of carbon monoxide, does nothing to awaken this tale.  Only on the operating table does NLMG ever find its potency, but Romanek's best work comes all too late to spark this dud.

It would be so easy to give away too much of what you should discover by reading.  Just trust me when I say: devour the book first, or risk having Ishiguro's masterpiece of emotional devastation spoiled irrevocably.  2.5 McBones

Red - If you're anything like me and you like the idea of seasoned vets Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich and Brian Cox portraying a band of aging master spies in contest against young whippersnappers, and if you think it's much more interesting to see Russians and Americans on the same team for a change, and if you've been just pining for a chance to watch Helen Mirren spray everything she sees with machine gun bullets, then I've got the movie for you!  Red is the story of a retired CIA agent (Willis) who has been given a death sentence from his former employers.  On the run, he snags up Mary Louise Parker, his social security rep with whom he has struck up small (but potent) phone romance.  Sound absurd?  It is!  Who cares?  The actors have a blast as director Robert Schwentke piles on the fun and laughs.  Just see it.  3.0 McBones