2006 Summer Movie Preview

I am so excited over this summer’s movie outlook that I may wretch. No, really. Originality rules in this season of blockbusters. And it all starts with Tom Cruise’s (“Marrying a daughter near you next!”) new movie, in which he stars as a secret agent trying to keep corrupt antagonists from taking over the world. Included in the film will be explosions, car chases, gun fights, and sex. That’s never been done before! As the days get longer, the hot, new idea of making sequels will push the envelope of moviegoer patience, and will end late this fall in a brash array of explosions, car chases, gun fights and sex. I don’t want to spoil the surprise finale of this season’s big budget melodramas, but let’s just say that this movie’s leading man drinks a lot of shaken vodka martinis.

When was the last original Hollywood movie? After much extensive research, I found that it was made in 1594. It ended up flopping, but that’s just because it was pitted up against the second James Bond movie on its opening weekend. America, this is a problem. Year after year we are fed leftovers from so-called creative geniuses claiming that this season “is the best ever!” In an effort to learn from our repetitive diet of gruel, let’s discuss what we’ll be viewing this summer.

First up after Mr. Cruise is the finale of the X-Men trilogy. People with super powers will be trying to kill other people with super powers. Soon after that, the Man of Steel will make his long-awaited return to the silver screen, this time played by a former soap opera actor wearing a costume that looks more like a gigantic condom than the much beloved blue tights and red underwear. And lastly we anticipate the return of Captain Jack Sparrow, a fruity rock star turned pirate who searches the Caribbean seas for ways to be a good man and a pirate at the same time. I’m sure it will be a swashbuckling adventure with him fighting alongside Legolas (sporting short, brown hair and badly sparse facial hair), our elfin hero from the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

As we can see, Hollywood (“Striving to bring you the same movie again and again”) is lacking for original content. Thus, I am going to break out of my journalistic routine of criticizing everyone else while sitting here typing in my underwear and give our famed movie makers a new idea. I’m still not changing out of my underwear, though.

SCENE ONE
Picture an office on the ground floor of a dilapidated office building on the south side of Chicago. Inside the office sits a man, wearing a leather fedora and who hasn’t shaven in days. On the office door hangs a sign that reads “Lt. Hugh Cruise, Private Detective”. Enter the voluptuous blonde.
“Hello there, ma’am, may I help you?”
“Yes, I’d like a Big Mac extra value meal with Diet Coke and a salad shaker.”
“I’m sorry, but McDonald’s won’t be in business for another fifteen years. This is the olden days, and I am a private detective.”
“Oops! I apologize; it’s just that I haven’t eaten all day! I’m on the run from my husband, the violent drug lord Al ‘The Pacino’ Luthor. If he finds me, he’ll surely kill me! Can you help me?”
“Of course I can, but I’don’t come cheap. I have to pay rent, you know.”
“My husband has all my money. Would you like me to make love to you instead?”
“No! It’s not that kind of movie. Well, at least not until the final scene. You see, we’ll be on the beach laughing about how your dead husband killed himself while trying to kill me. Then we’ll make love under the moonlight on top of his pile of money that he foolishly left to you in his will. Why don’t you just take me out for a drink; I’m in desperate need of a Roy Rogers—shaken, not stirred.”

SCENE TWO
Our ruggedly handsome and witty protagonist rushes to the airport for a flight to British Columbia, the winter home of the notoriously evil Al Luthor. He has kidnapped his wife and is holding her for ransom until Detective Cruise turns himself in, allowing for a very elaborate and easily escapable death scene.
“Hello, and welcome to ‘No Fly Air’. May I help you?”
“Yes. I need to get on the next flight to British Columbia.”
“And which country is that in?”
“The home of the only country who failed to win a gold medal in the Olympics they hosted.”
“I’m sorry, but we don’t fly to Canada. We only have flights departing from Canada, since no one wants to go there. The lady at the next counter might be able to help you.”
Trotting over to the next counter, Hugh repeats his question. “Do you have any flights to BC?”
“We do sir. We have one departing in about an hour. One ticket will cost you $5,384,586,657.99. Would you like me to book you a seat?”
“If I have to. Do you take credit cards?”
“Yes we do.”
“Here’s my Discover card.”
“I’m sorry, we don’t take Discover.”
“Mastercard?”
“No.”
“American Express?”
“No.”
“Visa?”
“No.”
“Fine. Here’s cash.”
“Thank you sir, have a nice day.”
Forced to run through the gigantic labyrinth of airport concourses, Hugh barely makes it to the gate by the departure time. Unbeknownst to him, the flight has been delayed for two weeks.

SCENE THREE
Finally arriving in BC, Hugh manages to find the secret hideout of Al Luthor. It’s at the neighborhood Applebee’s.
“You made it, Mr. Cruise. I’ve been waiting for you. For a long time, actually; I was beginning to think you weren’t going to make it.”
“Of course you’d think that, Luthor, but I’m here and I’m going to stop you this time.”
“You say that every movie. Just once, I’d like to see you actually keep me from getting away.”
“Fifteenth time’s a charm.”
“We’ll see about that. Henchmen, come here!”
At Luthor’s call, two evil henchmen enter. The first, a chubby fellow wearing a running suit that looks like a tuxedo enters, brandishing a gigantic sea bass as his weapon. He has a laser beam attached to his head. The second, a woman wearing only green body paint and can transform herself into any tax law since 1996, came in with the voluptuous vixen clawed in her grasp.
“This movie’s henchmen won’t get me either, Luthor!”
“No, but they’ll temporarily capture you and lock you in an escapable cell which you’ll break out of quickly, assuming you have your pocket knife and a pair of tube socks.”
“I also brought some duct tape.”
“Away with him!”
As predicted, our hero broke out of the cell and tracked Al Luthor to a cliff overlooking the sea. The two evil henchmen tried to stop Hugh Cruise, but he outwitted them with a card trick. The vixen was thrown aside, and the two main characters prepared for the final showdown.
“You know, Hugh, before I kill you, there’s something you should know. I am your father.”
“No you’re not. My father died last year of consumption.”
“I know I’m not technically your father, but I was best friends with your real father while we grew up. I am your Godfather.”
“No!”
“Face it, it is true. Now on your guard!”
Al Luthor attacked and missed, plummeting himself off the cliff. The climax had ended and it was time for the sex scene finale. Tired and beaten up, Hugh walked over to the rescued damsel. His shirt was torn, revealing the chest of a twenty-year old body builder.
“Hugh, you’re hurt! And you have the abs of a gymnast!”
“I may be sixty-five, but I’m still making movies.”
“It’s almost sad my husband died. He was scheduled to receive an honorary doctorate in evil from Harvard next month.”
“There’s no telling if he’s dead, my lady. In fourteen previous movies, I’ve been unable to actually kill him. But that doesn’t matter; it’s time for us to make love.”
“Not yet! We forgot the explosion, car chase, and gun fight, not to mention the mandatory two hundred and seventy-seven curse words.”
“We’ll worry about that in the next movie.”

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Skewers, Popcorn, and Other Things to Tar and Feather

Lately I feel as if I am in a rather intense malaise. There’s nothing right now to fight for; nothing to stand up against. Of course, I could choose to fight the good fights, against such evil foes as world hunger, terrorism, or the boy band epidemic, but to be honest those topics have become a kind of “old news”. What I need is something I can sink my teeth into—something more interesting than the zany exploits of the late Rosa Parks (I believe she’s scheduled for a sit-in at Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman’s house), but not as controversial as the European dollar (I’ll show them what they can do with their multi-colored money). No, I need to pick up the fight against something that really matters; something that will make people stop on the street when I pass by and say “Who is that?” I’m going to stand up for the fight against the terrible injustice of fiction.

Recently, an alert reader sent me an article from Fox News about the upcoming movie, The Da Vinci Code. “Anger over ‘The Da Vinci Code,’ premiering Wednesday at the Cannes Film Festival, escalated Tuesday as Christian groups from South Korea, Thailand, Greece and India planned boycotts, a hunger strike and attempts to block or shorten screenings”. It appears that numerous Christian groups are attempting to block the viewing of that movie in their respective countries. To them I say “Who are you?”

In some countries, they have even gone to the courts to try and force this movie out of the theaters. I think it’s wonderful that these groups have found something so worthwhile to spend their time on. Since the story is fictional, thus made up entirely in the author’s head, it should be banned from all places public and Dan Brown (the author of the book) should be strung up by his code-breaking fingertips to be tarred and feathered. I’ll be there, standing in the front row eating popcorn. But not the plain kind, I prefer my popcorn with salt and extra butter.

And I won’t be coming alone to the lynching either, I’ll be bringing the real culprit of this movie fiasco—Richie Cunningham. To some of you he might be known as Opie Taylor, Ron Howard, or that annoying guy who directed Russell Crowe in that movie about a crazy mathematician who won a noble prize for being a boxer during the Great Depression. But then again, Mr. Howard’s just the director. I’m personally outraged that Forrest Gump would abandon the flattop and don a shoulder-length poof as main character in The Da Vinci Code. Besides, who’s going to believe that Forrest is actually that smart? “Breaking Bible codes is like a box of chocolates; you never know who’s going to get tired of this movie quote.”

As disturbing as that news is, there are even more important things to fight against, such as the growth of the evil empire known by the public as Fox News. It’s owned by a man named Rupert Murdoch (a.k.a. Darth Vader), who is known internationally as the only man who can belch the entire alphabet while bankrupting millionaires, and break-dance to a Justin Timberlake song all at the same time. Then again, no one is really sure whether he is actually break-dancing to the song or undergoing a series of violent seizures due to intense shudders from hearing something so unmusical. Yet it’s common knowledge that Mr. Murdoch is very multi-talented. In fact, he has been very busy these days acquiring the rights to own things such as the personal web-page phenomenon Myspace (“Satisfying the porn market for the age 6-12 demographic”) as well as purchasing Hillary Clinton. The transition from Democrat to Republican just got expensive.

According to the Seattle Times, “Media mogul Rupert Murdoch, whose Fox News Channel and other conservative news outlets have been skewering Hillary Rodham Clinton for years, will host a summer fundraiser for the Democratic senator, mystifying some observers and enraging others.” This absolutely drives me batty. Who does a skewer anymore? Everyone knows that barbecue is all the rage today. If his fundraiser is going to be successful, he better take the skewer off the menu. Concerning the choice of menu, Liberal blogger David Sirota complained: “The brazenness of this move is almost too much to stomach.” Oh well, I guess that’s what you get from a man who break dances to Justin Timberlake.

Now that I think about it, my malaise is simmering down to a low-level boredom, yet which can easily be brought up to a boil at the mere thought of getting on another airplane. Where else are Americans willing to pay so much to be herded in and out of tiny cylindrical tubes with wings, all the while at the leisure of the flight attendant? This topic may just be enough to make me explode, but that would cause quite a mess. I’ll save that for another column, but before I go, let me persuade you to join the fight for the most important cause known to humanity—something that effects more Americans than can be counted: spontaneous combustion. It can happen anytime, anywhere, and for seemingly no reason at all (yet I would avoid lighting a match near Aunt Betty after she spent two hours in the bathroom turning her hair into a permanent sculpture). It could even happen to…..BOOM

Phil’s Guide to Dating and/or Pet Grooming

Note: Do not try these activities at home; certain death may occur.

Let me begin this week’s column by stating that I am currently single and in no way bitter—I look forward to owning a dog in the future. But I do consider myself somewhat of an expert in these topics, as I have personally broken-up with many women and managed not to kill any of the pets I’ve had (unless you count fish; as far as they are concerned, I’m the kiss-of-death). Yet I have stared certain doom in the eye numerous times in both arenas, and I am here to tell you they are not all that different. Chances are you will have permanent scarring due to your counterparts excessive use of claws (just keep them away from your eyes). And ladies, this advice is for you as well, as men’s claws can be just as sharp if not trimmed properly.

At this point, you are probably thinking I am a total loon for suggesting that the pre-marriage ritual in humans is the same as grooming your domesticated animal. You’re right; I am a loon. But that doesn’t change the fact that they are similar activities. Here are some examples: 1) the end product is never the same as the plan you set out to create, and 2) you’ll always smell different at the end of the night. Before you brand me a lunatic, let me explain. It all starts a long time ago, around the same the Christian conservatives popped on the scene.

Back in the days of Emperor Constantine, the thought of having an animal in the house was a crazy notion. So was dating. But one day, one of the Emperor’s wives decided she was lonely and wanted to have a companion. Yet since there was such a strong economy for eunuchs, unemployment was low and there were none available. He decided instead to have his servants tame a fox that had been caught while hunting for rabbits. At the same time, Emperor Constantine thought it would be a good idea to become a Christian (“Controlling Your Government for You”) and change the face of politics for the rest of eternity. This conversion angered one of his other wives, who was upset because that would mean she’d have to start cooking beans so they could go to the church pot-luck dinner. That made the Emperor wish he had actually gotten to know his wives before marriage through casual, social experiences instead of arranging the marriages with other foreign heads-of-state. Thus, the concepts of dating and pet grooming appeared almost simultaneously.

The next big wave of changes came in the middle ages when a leader of an Amazonian tribe decided to get married. Soon after the honeymoon, she became annoyed because her home always smelled of elderberries after her husband returned from a hunt. She figured it was because of the dog that never left her husband’s side. As an idea to help fix this problem, she implored her new man to bathe his hunting dog and clip its hair to a shorter length, hoping that would alleviate the odor. This allowed her to be in the same room as the dog, but her husband’s smell grew to resemble an old bowling shoe left in overly humid conditions. She quickly began to wish she had found a mate via the help of her friends—or at least an online dating service—instead of making a political deal with the neighboring tribe to marry their leader’s youngest and sloppiest son. Dating and pet grooming have come a long way since then, both becoming very popular rituals (except in Canada, where both Amazon women and soap are illegal). There would not be another major trend shift until the late 1990s, when a man named Joshua Harris revolutionized the world of dating. His work had absolutely nothing to do with grooming your pet, but groomers didn’t have to wait long for changes of their own.

Mr. Harris did this by writing a book. I won’t reveal the name of that book, but let’s just say he’s kissed dating good-bye forever; though I am sure not by choice. He wrote it to be a guide to dating for Christian teenagers, but its impact has permeated through the fabric of society’s relationship habits. His book proposed a new idea to dating, which is to not date anyone at all until you get married; and only then under close supervision. A person first decides exactly what they want in a partner, then waits for that one person to hit him or her over the head and drag them home. His belief is that you can determine your life partner, not by getting to know them, but by observing them from a distance (preferably with binoculars). There should be absolutely no physical, visual, audible, or emotional contact until the veil is raised. The only thing he left out was how many cows you were to receive in the dowry.

That same trend has appeared in pet grooming as well. It used to be that a woman would get to know her pet before choosing a trendy seasonal outfit to put on it (before you label me a sexist for saying that only women buy clothes for their pets, I ask you to show me one receipt of a man buying a Halloween costume for his dog—in an all male world, he would be placed in front of a firing squad). Now, instead of basing the outfit on the personality of the pet, today it’s popular to pick out pet clothes before you get the pet. That’s like buying a computer game before starting a new job (you should at least know what kind of computer you will have at work). I would like to thank Mr. Harris for this. Seriously. Personally, I think this is pointless, and have thus decided that I don’t want to date anymore; I have too many doggie sweaters in my closet already. One of these days, I’m just going to find a woman, make her my best friend, and marry her. Maybe her father will offer me his old doggie sweaters as a dowry. I’ll just add them to my own collection.
Or perhaps I’m better off just getting a dog. A boston terrier would look really cool in a leather jacket, don’t you think?

Ask Mr. Fix-it Guy

Over the last several days I have received many angry letters from readers who were upset over a statement I made in my previous column—the one about taxes. I know exactly how you feel. I would be upset too if I had just learned that the government requires us to pay taxes! It’s a good thing my readers pay attention to the outside world. Actually they were complaining about my depiction of Republicans and Democrats; the former being all-too-ready to kill a harmless, defenseless, disease-infested rat, and the latter jumping up on a chair to avoid it, yet desiring to let it live and name it Rusty. Before I get into today’s topic, allow me to apologize.

The death threats are right; my depiction of our nation’s political parties is off-center. Allow me to correct this mistake. The Republicans wouldn’t be trying to kill the rat; they would be unleashing about 10 tons of nuclear weapons on it, while the Democrats give over their bedrooms so that the rat may be as comfortable as possible. Of course, the Green Party is pounding on the front door, screaming “Let me in! Let me in!” And that brings us to our topic of today…home-improvement.

Spring is upon us and just as every other home-owner in our credit-breathing country, I want to improve my home—except that I don’t live in one, I rent an apartment. So, in reality, I am no help. But before you go running off to that gigantic warehouse depot, listen to some timely advice. I want to help you make the wise decisions that are necessary in order for you to get worked over properly by the inspector when you try to sell your home. That’s why I’ve decided to bring in everyone’s favorite home-improvement guru, Bob Vila. No, wait, he’s unavailable. I believe it has something to do with an unfortunate mobbing incident outside of a Barnes and Noble on his latest book signing tour. Instead, let me introduce you to America’s second favorite home-improvement maniac, Mr. Fix-it Guy. He is going to respond to your questions using the always-popular question and answer format.

Mr. Fix-it Guy, I want to improve my home (mainly because my wife keeps threatening to make me sleep with the dog if I don’t), but it’s hard for me to get excited about home-improvement when the prices are so high. What can I do to save money while improving my home? That’s easy! Most people think that in order to “do the best job” you have to hire a contractor or landscaper to do the work for you. I say that’s poppycock. Everyone has the ability to do it themselves. So what if your lawn turns into a spawning ground for countless insects and rodents, that’s the way Mother Nature intended it. And if you’re putting in a fire-place, a few large holes in key places can make the difference. You’ll be able do anything if you have the right tools.

Mr. Fix-it Person (I prefer to use non gender-specific terms so I can always be politically correct), I want to build a porch off my back door. What steps do I need to take so that I do it right? Hire a contractor.

Mr. Fix-it Guy, I am an incredibly rich, over-paid executive who likes to waste money. I want to redecorate my home. What do you recommend I do? Allow me to give a plug to the best furniture store out there for the over-paid money wasters—Nebraska Furniture Mart (“I’m afraid I can’t answer that for you, let me find a supervisor.”). This retail establishment is phenomenal at making you pay insane amounts of money and somehow managing to not give you any product in return. I’m just impressed that they found a more efficient way to throw money away than just throwing it away.

Mr. Fix-it Guy, what’s the difference between a load-bearing wall and a “stud” behind the dry wall? That is a great question. Imagine the load-bearing wall is like Wal-Mart (“We’ll be taking over your small town next!”). You wish you could get rid of it so you can turn your basement into suburban pool hall, yet it’s not going anywhere. Of course, you always find yourself going to it at three in the morning for a late-night snack craze. The “stud” is more like Hollywood. It’s there, but if it weren’t, you’d never know the difference.

Mr. Fix-it Guy, are you available for private contracts? Absolutely! I am available any time, except for Monday-Sunday. My prices are on average with other contractors, but I give you the added advantage of never having to actually deal with me. I make you feel like I was never there. When it comes to payment, I require it upfront. I found that if I waited until the job was finished before collecting the bill, I would have to work a lot harder. I take checks, cash, and all major credit cards (except for Discover, that’s a fake company set up by the National Football League so they can spy on their viewers).

That’s all the time we have for today, but make sure to thank Mr. Fix-it Guy for coming and sharing his wisdom. I certainly learned a lot, and I even hired him to paint my apartment for me, but he seems to be running out the door now rather quickly.

“Hey, come back here, I just gave you my credit card!” Oh well, I’ll try to catch up to him. Those contractors are wily characters.