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C. T. Mikesell RSS Feed (near Dallas, Texas)

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Creature Comforts
Creature Comforts
DVD ~ Julie Sedgewick
Offered by It's the Kismet, Stupid
Price: $47.19
33 used & new from $0.21

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Cheap Presentation, January 10, 2004
This review is from: Creature Comforts (DVD)
While considerable time and money were spent producing the four short films presented on this DVD, very little went into producing the DVD itself - and it shows.
Individually, the four shorts are nice, although the vocal tracks are muddy and overpowered by the musical soundtrack in places. Closed captions or subtitles would have been helpful, but they aren't included.
Unfortunately, you can't watch the features individually. Even though there is a "Play All" option on the menu screen, if you start with "Creature Comforts" all four shorts will play.
"Creature Comforts" is the best of the four, but because of the poor sound it also suffers the most. With no commentary track or making-of bonus feature the irony of the interviews (talking with kids about zoos and seniors about retirement homes) is lost.
"Wat's Pig" - with its minimal dialogue - comes across nicely, although the parallel storylines can be hard for younger viewers to follow. As with all four of the films a commentary or making-of feature would have been nice.
"Not Without My Handbag" has a good Tim Burton-esque style, but unless you're prepared to discuss the afterlife, the underworld, or the intricacies of contract law, it's not really appropriate for younger viewers. This is where the individual-play bug in the main menu is most apparent, as you have to manually stop the DVD after "Wat's Pig" (or hit the Skip button) to avoid this one.
"Adam" is my second favorite, and with its minimalist soundtrack it comes across the best of the four. Yes, there is cartoonish nudity. No, it doesn't conform to the Biblical chain of events. Nevertheless, it is a very witty story with three or four big laughs in its brief play time.
Ultimately, this DVD is worth less than the sum of its parts. Wait for something better to come along.

Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid
Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid
DVD ~ Steve Martin
Offered by ET OnLine Store
Price: $8.49
55 used & new from $1.98

36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspired Genius, January 7, 2004
This review is from: Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (DVD)
Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid is one of those movies that are so jaw-droppingly brilliant that you can't believe what you're seeing.
While the acting is a bit stiff in places, and Steve Martin's occasional use of "dangerous words" doesn't fit with a 40's noir film, the premise and near perfect execution of intercutting old and new films is incredible. For instance, Steve Martin's character's name is Rigby Reardon. On the surface it has that alliterative "Sam Spade" quality so you chalk it up the pastiche. Later however, actors from the old movies refer to someone off-screen as "Mr. Reardon" or "Rigby," and you realize how things were set up from the beginning. Likewise, Rigby's reaction to the words "cleaning woman" seems like just an odd quirk at first - until later, when it gives him an excuse to strangle Bette Davis. The scene of Rigby and Alan Ladd sharing a plate of cookies is simply amazing.
The DVD skimps on extras, but as it's an inexpensive title you're still getting full value for your movie purchasing dollar. Don't miss the original theatrical trailer, though; I don't recall having seen it before and Steve Martin's narration as funny as anything in the film itself (who else could include "sliding" as a major reason to see a movie?).
If you're a fan of the old 40's detective/suspense films, you'll really appreciate this movie. If you're a newcomer to the world of film noir, the movies spliced in here (conveniently listed in the end credits) are some of the best. If you're just looking for laughs, the gags are spaced out quite a bit in parts, but that gives you an opportunity to appreciate the dramatic side of Steve Martin you don't always see.
Steve Martin and Carl Reiner should be very proud to have made this movie. You should be proud to include it in your DVD library.

Galaxy Quest (Widescreen Edition)
Galaxy Quest (Widescreen Edition)
DVD ~ Tim Allen
253 used & new from $0.01

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "That Was a Hell of a Thing", January 5, 2004
Sometimes you're taking a chance when the only description in the review on the front of a DVD box is the single word, "Funny." Is it "ha-ha" funny or "my soda tastes funny, try it" funny? Fortunately Galaxy Quest delivers more than great laughs, it has well-done special effects, good writing and characterization, and acting that's well above average. Tim Allen does a good job of distancing himself from the Home Improvement Tool-Man character, while Sigourney Weaver and Alan Rickman portray their characters with a vulnerability they don't usually show in their more commercial work. Tony Shaloub is excellent as always.
Plot-wise, Galaxy Quest is little more than "The Three Amigos in Space" (of course, Star Trek was pitched as "Wagon Train in Space," so perhaps the similarity is apropos). It does enough new and differently with the premise, however, to make this a good film in its own right. The inclusion of the Sci-Fi convention fanboys in the climactic scene was hilarious, and at the same time managed to ring true. Cmdr. P.Q. Taggart, having to fight the twin El Guapos of the alien, Sarris, and egomania - well, that's one more El Guapo than The Three Amigos had, isn't it?
There are a few bonuses on the DVD, but an actor and/or director commentary would have been nice, too. The Thermian audio track is of the native Thermian squeaking variety, not the mis-inflected English spoken most frequently in the film. Usually deleted scenes are cut for a reason: they're not very good. Several of the extra scenes on the DVD, however, could have been included in the final release without any problem (one clears up a continuity problem involving Sigourney Weaver's uniform zipper). The "making-of" documentary is nice. The cast/crew bios are good and provide a nice little Easter Egg Hunt, as well.
I really enjoyed this movie. More than just funny, it's clever and witty, too. If the DVD packaging is ever redesigned, that's three words they can put on the cover. Check it out.

Arcade Fever The Fan's Guide To The Golden Age Of Video Games
Arcade Fever The Fan's Guide To The Golden Age Of Video Games
by John Sellers
Edition: Hardcover
32 used & new from $14.40

18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Trip Down Memory Lane, January 2, 2004
Arcade Fever is not a perfect book, but it's still quite good. A number of reviewers have taken the author to task for the book's shortcomings. Lighten up! It's a fun book about a fun topic. Don't be so serious, you'll get an ulcer.
First off, the book is subtitled: The Fan's Guide to the Golden Age of Video Games. As a "fan's guide" it works well - it's less a doctoral thesis in the field of Arcadeology than a simple overview of games the casual 1980s arcade visitor would know and likely love. If you want obscure references and arcane knowledge, this is definitely not your book.
Second, whenever I get together with my brother and sisters I revert to the maturity of a late teenager (my wife hates this). It seems that Sellers has reverted to that same level of maturity in his commentary, and probably for the same reason: It's fun to go back in time and try and relive our favorite moments. Cut the guy a break and get in on the fun. If you can read the word "poopy" without grinning, you're not ready for this book. If the Beavis and Butthead voice in your head says "he wrote `poopy' heh eh heh," you're ready to dive right in.
Third, I like the year-by-year history snippets. It provides a context for what else we were doing when not playing the games. Was it necessary? No. Does "Who Shot J.R.?" have anything to do with video games? No. Does it help get you back in the mindset of The Golden Age? I think so.
Fourth, I like the mix of games in the book. There are games you loved, liked, and hated. There are the popular games and the sleepers. Are one or more of your favorites neglected? Probably (I'd have liked a page for Tailgunner or Omega Race, myself). I wish Sellers hadn't ragged on Bosconian (but I was an English major, so that's probably why I like it so much). I liked Cliff Hanger more than Dragon's Lair, but I can concede that DL deserves the full review, CH the snippet.
Finally, the sole purpose of a book like this is to kindle the feeling of nostalgia in its reader. I had forgotten some of the things in the book: some of the games, some of the trends - I had totally forgotten about putting quarters up on marquee lip to reserve the next game. I feel better for having remembered them. If you were born in the late-'60s/early-'70s, no longer live in your parents' basement, and enjoy a fun, light read, you'll probably like this book too.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 21, 2007 12:33 AM PDT

The Children of Men
The Children of Men
by P. D. James
Edition: Paperback
30 used & new from $0.01

39 of 50 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars No Emotion, Please. We're British., January 1, 2004
This review is from: The Children of Men (Paperback)
The premise of this novel is intriguing. Unfortunately, the intrigue ends there and is replaced with a drab portrayal of a depressing future.
The greatest problem is I have with this book is the detachment with which the year 2021 is explored. Objective perspective may work well in a detective novel, but in The Children of Men, James' prose is affected by the same ennui that has overtaken her Twenty-First Century world. In the opening chapters, for instance, there is a scene where one woman brutally destroys the porcelain doll another woman has been treating as a baby. The initial moment of violence is shocking, but beyond that the scene lacks emotional impact: We see the people around her react by not reacting, simply continuing on with their lives. Unfortunately, the ultimate result of James' technique is that we don't care if England is living under a totalitarian regime because none of her citizens, her protagonist chief among them, seems to care either.
Another problem comes from the fact that nothing exists in 2021 that didn't exist in 1992 when the book was written, and for the most part little that existed in the 1980s is present either: no computers, no cell phones, etc. If James took little risk in exploring the emotional depths of her characters, she took even less in exploring the potential for the use (or misuse) of hypothetical future technology. Cloning, an obvious solution for the book's dilemma, is never even mentioned. Why set the book in the future if everything about it is identical to the past? Sure, things won't come to pass exactly as you imagine, but 1995 came and went without global infertility and that's the element people enjoy most about the book.
Finally, the novel fails to look at the situation in England, which we are told - but never shown - is despotic, by comparing it to the situation in any other European country. At the end of Book 1 Faron travels to France, Spain and Italy, but we're never told if or how things fare better or worse there. His travels serve only to provide a reason for the time gap between Books 1 and 2. James misses an opportunity to provide a context for or comment on the political situation in England, and all the reader can do is shrug his or her shoulders and keep reading (the ennui is contagious).
Maybe there's a subtext I'm missing - maybe James is saying that people can numb themselves into accepting totalitarianism, or that nothing really changes, or that life's the same all over - but if she is she's doing it far too subtly for most of her readership (based on the majority of reviews here). I don't regret reading this book, but I can't find much in it to recommend to others.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 2, 2012 6:50 AM PST

The New Dare to Discipline
The New Dare to Discipline
by James C. Dobson
Edition: Paperback
439 used & new from $0.01

84 of 130 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Parenting Book (with a Few Problems), December 30, 2003
If you make it through the first four chapters of this book thinking that it's all about spanking, please go back and read them again. Sound out the words as you go. Look up long or difficult words in the dictionary. Spanking is advocated in limited situations and at limited times and never as an angry response from a parent. Other methods of discipline are advocated in most cases, but to purposefully leave this tool out of your parenting toolbox - or to keep it there, but not know how to use it effectively - can spell disaster if you are ever in need of using it.

This book has been influential in helping me think about how to raise my son. The best wisdom Dobson imparts is that a child must feel loved and secure in his or her home before any kind of discipline will be effective. I have seen marked improvement in my son's response to discipline since I have begun spending more one-on-one time with him doing the things he enjoys, rather than just the things I want him to do.

As much as I liked the first half dozen chapters, I found the "Discipline in Learning" section less useful. Perhaps once my son begins grade school they'll be helpful, but for now it seems like it's just information to tuck away until later.

Dobson really lost me, however, in Chapter Ten: Discipline in Morality. The chapter should really be entitled "Discipline in Abstinence," because premarital sex is the only aspect of immorality discussed therein. It could also be entitled "I Hate Planned Parenthood, Teddy Kennedy and the Makers of Trojan-Brand Prophylactics, and by the way, STDs and AIDS Can Kill You or at Least Mess up Your Life," because that's really all the information you'll come away with after reading this chapter. Dobson comes down against classroom sex education, and while he suggests you provide age-appropriate information to your children, he never suggests what specifically - or even generally - that should be. As with the section on classroom learning, maybe this information will come in handy later, but the vitriolic writing style and advice-free content come as such a complete departure from the first nine chapters that I wonder.

All in all, a good book, that unfortunately gets a bit shaky toward the end. Parents of young children will get the most out of the first six and eleventh chapters. Parents with school-age children will likely get a lot out of chapters seven through nine, as well. Chapter Ten is problematic, make of it what you will. There is also an appendix that focuses on drug use that is big-on-data/low-on-advice similar to Chapter Ten, minus the biliousness.

Jakks / Namco Arcade Classics Plug and Play TV Games
Jakks / Namco Arcade Classics Plug and Play TV Games
Offered by Dominic's Warehouse
Price: $159.99
110 used & new from $11.99

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Acceptable Compromise, December 28, 2003
The games on this device are not identical to their arcade counterparts, but very few emulations from the Atari VCS/2600 to the PC or beyond have been. I don't know how hard it is to get 5 arcade games onto one ROM device, but it doesn't surprise me that there would have to be some compromises made, nor am I disappointed with them. These are good renditions, but it may take awhile to condition yourself to the differences.
Here's my take on the line-up (I've tried to limit my criticisms to those not mentioned in other reviews):
Bosconian: The radar overlay gets hard to read as on-screen hazards increase in later levels. The digitized voice cues have been dropped, as has diagonal movement/shooting (since 3 of the 5 games feature 4-way movement - and 1 has only 2-way - the 8-way movement of Bosconian was probably scrapped for cost savings). Still, this is my favorite of the five.
Dig-Dug: Fun, but the final enemy seems to bolt for the surface very quickly. It's also very hard to turn and shoot successfully if a Pooka or Fygar is anywhere close behind you.
Galaxian: Enjoyable, but it's hard to tell where the right-hand movement limit is; a vertical line separating the black playing area from the black score-keeping area would have been nice (as long as the line wasn't also black). Other than that, I have no complaints about the game.
Pac-Man: Fun, no complaints.
Rally X: The radar overlay can be very confusing at times, particularly when the maze color/pattern schemes change. The game preserves the "Engrish" interstitial screens ("Charanging Stage No. 1") and the car tumbles nicely when colliding with maze walls.
As with Toymax's Atari 10-in-1 joystick game, an A/C adapter option would have been nice.
Despite these limitations (and those mentioned by other reviewers), I'm very pleased with this unit. The games are still fun after 20+ years, even if they're not identical to the original (there's no ledge for your drink or to put a quarter on for the next game, either). I hope Namco is able to put out additional compilations of games in the future (hopefully more faithful to the originals); I'd love see Frogger, Moon Patrol, Joust, Elevator Action, and, Qix - if they can include speech synthesis, Berzerk would be excellent.

The Mighty Quinn
The Mighty Quinn
DVD ~ Denzel Washington
Price: $6.59
63 used & new from $0.48

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Laid-Back Island Fun, December 28, 2003
This review is from: The Mighty Quinn (DVD)
There's very little I dislike about this movie. Okay, the swearing's a bit much, but everything else - the characters, the mystery, the music, the scenery - is incredibly enjoyable.
Denzel Washington portrays Police Chief Xavier Quinn, a cop who struggles for respect from a lower-class that sees him as a betrayer and an upper-class that has no use for him beyond that of lap dog. His character's development is an unsuspected surprise in what could have been just another run-of-the-mill tropical thriller.
Supporting characters played by Robert Townsend, Mimi Rogers, Esther Rolle, and M. Emmett Walsh are also surprisingly nuanced, as is the murder investigation itself. The only main character I didn't quite get is Sheryl Lee Ralph as Quinn's wife; her expectations for her husband seem ill-defined in the story - in keeping with the island custom, however, I didn't let it get to me; I just went with it.
This is a budget release, so except for the trailer there are no extra features. There isn't even an insert card showing chapter listing. Subtitles come only in French and Spanish, but the film is closed-captioned if you want the equivalent of English subtitling. I would've liked more features, but I'm not going to let that get to me, either.
Get this DVD. Then get some popcorn and pour some rum in your Coke - or at least drop in a tiny paper umbrella - and enjoy the show.

Certain Prey
Certain Prey
by John Sandford
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
305 used & new from $0.01

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Never Overcomes Its Problematic Beginning, December 28, 2003
The first strike against Sandford in this book is how easy he makes it for two intelligent women to turn into stone-cold killers. Clara Rinker's rape was certainly traumatic, but to go from her vengeance with a T-ball bat to "That's how Rinker became a hit lady" is a bit simplistic. Likewise, for Carmel Loan to go from a lawyer who hires a hit lady to a sadistic power-tool user pushes the limits of credulity. There are other ways Sandford could have taken the reader from Point A to B and the book suffers for their absence.
The second strike has to do with the omnipresent Reality Commission Report B-story. Deputy Chief Lucas Davenport is annoyed and bored by the Commission, so it doesn't sustain the reader's interest. The report drags down the story whenever it's mentioned because the reader finds it as boring as Davenport does. The eventual payoff doesn't compensate for the prolonged tedium throughout the novel.
The reliance on coincidence and the seeming assurance that clues will be found if Davenport & Co. look inventively enough is annoying, but not out of character for the Prey series. Davenport is often described as being unnaturally lucky, but the distance his luck stretches in this book tests the reader's patience.
Where the book does work, however, is in Sandford's portrayal of Davenport and his team, as well as his ability to convey image and characterization with his nonchalant yet concise prose. The story steamrollers on, in spite of the aforementioned distractions. While you may not be able to suspend your disbelief fully, you still want to see where the book is going. The fact that you travel throughout the Midwest and Washington, DC (and stop briefly in the Pacific Northwest) only to wind up nowhere at the end of the book demonstrates how frustrating this book is.
An interesting book, to be sure. A potboiler, no doubt. But the book just isn't satisfying. Go ahead and read it - if for no other reason than to fully appreciate the second (and better) Rinker book, Mortal Prey - but don't set your expectations too high; this book doesn't deliver.

Jason and the Argonauts
Jason and the Argonauts
DVD ~ Honor Blackman
Offered by amazingwildcat
Price: $33.99
55 used & new from $4.68

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible!, December 27, 2003
This review is from: Jason and the Argonauts (DVD)
Ray Harryhausen has done some brilliant stop-motion effects over the course of his career, and nowhere do they shine as brightly as in this movie. The skeleton battle is unforgettable, but as I was rewatching it recently, it was nice to be reminded how good the Talos and Hydra scenes were as well.
The human actors were good, but fated by the gods to be upstaged by Harryhausen's miniatures. The film has a plot with a definite purpose behind it, something uncommon for an effects-driven film. To my eye, the film restoration looked good, especially compared to the unrestored trailer; sound quality seemed good, too (although the xylophones during the Harpy attack seemed an odd scoring choice). The lack of bonus features wasn't a problem for me; the Landis-Harryhausen interview was nice, but I don't really want more. This film stands on its own like few others; a behind-the-scenes featurette or a "how we did it" commentary would ultimately detract from this film's magic.
I can think of few movies I enjoyed as a child that have lived up to their memory when viewed as an adult. This is one of them.

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