Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Scott Pilgrim: 1 The World: 0

I was getting a little tired of seeing Michael Cera in so many movies in the past couple of years before I saw Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.
Cera has become the go-to man for any role involving “awkward young man” and people seem to be eating it up. I, for one, was not eating it up any more — although his role in Arrested Development is still genius — and was, in fact, ready to start going on a strict Cera diet.
However, I decided to give Pilgrim a chance because of the director, Edgar Wright who has brought great joy to my life through Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.
I am glad I did.
Pilgrim is not only one of my favorite movies of the year, it is a movie I can see buying and enjoying for years to come. However, while I enjoyed it immensely, this film is a prime example of how some moviegoers will see a film as genius and others will find it both annoying and stupid.
It is a big jump, I know, but the aspects of the film I clung to with a smile on my face are the same aspects that may turn away some — and I really hate to say this — older audience members.
The film is based on the popular graphic novel of the same name. It takes place in a world which may look like our own, but is filled with people with superpowers and little hearts that appear when two people lock lips. Basically, it is a mix between the real world, a comic-book world and a video-game world.
Pilgrim (Cera) falls in love with Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), but doesn’t realize she comes with some baggage. While most people come into relationships with baggage, Flowers’ baggage is special — it comes in the form of seven evil exes.
Pilgrim discovers quickly after starting a relationship with Flowers that he must defeat her seven evil exes in order to be with her.
This is where the genius — or ridiculous — part comes in to play. All of the “battles” Pilgrim must take part in are shown like a video game showdown. People fly through the air hitting each other and throw each other through walls with little to no damage.
When an evil ex is defeated, they burst into coins and Pilgrim receives points. It is a gimmick that could easily fall flat with the rest of the film, but, somehow, Wright is a good enough director to make it seem like an every day occurrence.
The audience quickly gets immersed into the story and begins rooting for Pilgrim. It seems like a non-factor that a person gets physic powers for being a vegan. Instead of scoffing at a girl pulling a giant hammer out of her purse, the film instigates a cheer for such a over-the-top moment.
For my generation — those who grew up going to arcades and playing numerous fight games — the movie brings a feeling of nostalgia and happiness. You remember all of the crazy things that happen in those games and you don’t think, “that was so ridiculous.” Instead you think, “I really hope they incorporate...”
While my generation may enjoy the movie more than another, the film is still a great watch. If you can bring yourself to enjoy an insane alternate reality, you will find yourself in a totally immersing movie experience.
You will leave the theater with a smile on your face and wish your life was more like a video game. I also came out of the film ready to give Cera a second chance — I just hope he doesn’t ruin it.

Thank you to Premiere Cinema of Burleson for allowing Luke Harris to screen this film.

Luke Harris is the movie reviewer for the Star Group newspapers. His parents never bought him a video game system because they wanted him to focus on his schoolwork, but he fooled them, because he still found ways to not do his schoolwork. He can be reached at www.burlesonstar.net.

What I took away on my first day

There are not many “first day of school” memories stored in my brain.
I’m not sure if I blocked them out or if I just didn’t have many memorable things happen. I know on my first day of school, I was ready to get in the classroom.
I was the second child so my brother had already gone to school for a year. Therefore, I was ready to make my mark on the world of academia. My mother tells me I didn’t even look back when I marched into my first day of kindergarten.
I do, however, remember my first day of second grade. We had a small math assignment and I suddenly realized I had forgotten how to subtract.
I was nervous and I tried to glance at a few other classmates paper to get an idea, but I also didn’t want to cheat. I remembered that my brother got a cool drawing after his first day of second grade of a bear jumping over alligators. Under the picture were the words, “Congratulations, you survived the first day of second grade.”
I was terrified I was not going to be receiving one of these pictures. Would my picture be of a poor teddy bear being torn to pieces by a group of angry second-grade alligators? Was my mother going to move all of my things into the front lawn and tell me to find another family who couldn’t survive the second grade?
That is when the genius portion of my brain kicked in. If I just add everything I had a good chance of getting most things right and there was the off chance that addition was the same as subtraction.
So I added. I added for every answer. When I got my paper back, I had all the correct answers written next to the wrong ones and I remembered. Subtraction means “take away.”
I’m not sure what we did for the rest of the day. We may have read stories or played “Heads Up, Seven Up.” Either way, I do remember that the end of the day came and as I was walking out the door, I received the prize I had coveted.
They had not taken away or “subtracted” (see, I’ve still got it) my survival certificate. My bear made it across the pond and I was ready to take on the rest of second grade.
There were many first days of school to follow that, and I believe they all went off without a hitch. I never forgot how to subtract again, and I never had to worry about my first day of school. Nothing could stress me out as much as contemplating the fate of my bear, and now that he was safely across the pond, my worries were over.

Luke Harris is the editor of the Burleson Star. Once his math career got into long division, he sort of gave up on the dreams of following in his father’s footsteps of being an accountant. He can be reached at www.burlesonstar.net.

Friday, August 20, 2010


A lot of films claim to be “the ultimate action movie,” but many actually fulfill that role. Lucky for action-movie fans, you can always trust Sylvester Stallone to deliver.
There are some out there who may not respect Stallone as a filmmaker, and that is fine. He is no Steven Spielberg or Martin Scorsese and he probably won’t be winning any Academy Awards.
But he knows action.
He has proven it in the past, and in more recent years with the last Rambo installment. He has taken his action expertise and made the “ultimate action movie.”
The Expendables is what I like to call “awfulsome.” It is an awesome action film while having the awful dialogue, bad acting and over-the-top situations needed for action films.
Some people — and I apologize in advance, but it is mostly women — who can’t understand why it is OK for a guy to enjoy a movie where someone can hang onto a plane while it is taking off, but can’t get behind a film where a guy stops traffic to profess his love for a girl.
The reason is simple — it is cooler. And this film delivers above and beyond expectations for a great action movie. One of the big draws for the film is its cast.
Jason Statham, Jet Li, Stallone and Dolph Lundgren have all made themselves known in the action movie community and newcomers Terry Crews and Randy Couture also fit the bill for over-the-top-action-hero.
The film follows Barney Ross (Stallone) as he leads the Expendables, a band of highly skilled mercenaries including knife enthusiast Lee Christmas (Statham), martial arts expert Yin Yang (Li), heavy weapons specialist Hale Caesar (Crews), demolitionist Toll Road (Couture) and loose-cannon sniper Gunner Jensen (Lundgren).
When the group is commissioned to assassinate the dictator of a small South American island, they discover a deeper plot and decide to save the people of the island and kill lots and lots of people.
It is the plot of any action movie with mercenaries as the good guys. They are always heartless killers until they discover their inner feeling and blah, blah, blah. It doesn’t matter because no one comes for the plot, they come for the carnage.
The movie only has a plot to explain why the group is busy killing a bunch of people. It could be a movie about a puppy who is kidnapped by a ruthless animal shelter and the Expendables have to go in and kill everyone to get the dog home safely.
Guess what? I would still see it. I would pay $10 and go watch it because I know there would be a lot of cool fight scenes and at least one person getting blown in half. Does that make me sick? Nope, it makes me a guy.
This is the perfect movie for a group of guys to go enjoy so they can later re-hash all of the amazing action scenes and imagine what it would be like to be an awesome mercenary. If you are an action-movie fan, this is a must-see (there is always Eat, Pray, Love for your significant other if they don’t want to go.)

Luke Harris is the movie reviewer for the Star Group newspapers. He hopes they make another Expendables movie where the cast is pitted against the cast of the Twilight movies (Hint: he isn’t rooting for the Twilight folks). He can be reached at www.burlesonstar.net.

Life lessons taught by the dog

I have never been one to go out and buy a nice pair of shoes or the newest in men’s clothing. I’m just not built that way.
There are some things, however, that I am notorious for spending money on. Anyone who knows me can guess most of my money goes towards movies. If I was being really honest, I would say it was movies and comic books, but that makes me sound too much like a man-child, so I won’t tell you that.
I have recently had to cut back on my spending to afford pesky things like my house payment and electricity during these summer months, which has taught me to be happy with the things I already have and has shown me the difference between the things I want and the things I need.
The other thing that has taught me this lesson — my dog. It was cute when he was a puppy and he would get something in his mouth and run around the house, begging to be chased. In hindsight, I probably should have not enjoyed chasing him so much because he now believes it to be a fun game.
When he was small, I could chase him down, but now he weighs 55 pounds and has gotten a lot faster. Most of our belongings now go up high where he cannot reach, but there have casualties to his canine jaws.
My sister lost a cell phone, I lost a favorite movie and my wife lost a pair of shoes. This has taught me to keep my house clean and to not put so much stock in material things, but be happy with my wonderful wife and my mischievous dog. I couldn’t get the satisfaction or joy from any movie than I get from my own family.
My dog also encouraged me to quote scripture to my wife whenever she gets mad.
But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where DOGS and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. Matthew 6:20.
I changed up the words to make it more personal, but the same rules apply. All of my stuff is going to be gone someday, and that is OK because I have got other things to live for.

Luke Harris is the editor of the Burleson Star. He recently discovered that dogs will eat a plaster cell phone holder if they get their paws on it. He can be reached at www.burlesonstar.net.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Some people just can't handle the heat

I really don’t like the heat.
I am a native Texas and I would never to think to live anywhere else, so I should be at least be OK with the heat.
But I’m not.
I like it when it is cool or even cold outside because it is easy for me to stay warm. I am warm almost all the time because I have a little extra insulation around the middle of my body.
I can sit in a room with my wife who has to cover up in a blanket to keep warm and be thinking about getting another fan in the room to cool it down a little more. I also like to the cool weather because it is more fun to finds way to get warm.
When you are hot, you can drink water, take a cold shower or eat ice cream. I am lactose intolerant and I can’t stand taking cold showers, but water is OK.
When it is cold, I can snuggle under a blanket, drink hot chocolate, take a warm bath or take a hot shower — and all of these things can be done by myself or with my wife.
When I am hot and I try to cuddle with my wife, it is like cuddling with a small campfire. I’m not sure how her body gets cold at the slightest drop in temperature, but somehow emits the heat of the sun when she gets near me.
She can often get frustrated with me for not wanting to cuddle with her, and I try to explain that I love her, but I also love being alive and don’t want to spontaneously combust in my mid-20s.
I’m not sure how, but sometimes it even manages to be hot while it is raining. For me, it makes sense that if there is water falling out of the sky, it should be cooling me off and feel nice in the air. In Texas, the water manages to fall out of a cloud, warm up on the way to the ground and make me even more miserable.
Smaller people don’t understand this, but I don’t need a reason to sweat. I sweat by just thinking about things. The heat just compounds on my already annoying sweatiness. I don’t need it.
Like I said, Burleson, Texas is not the ideal place for a guy like me, but there is no place in the world I would rather be.

Luke Harris is the editor of the Burleson Star. He really didn’t mean to rhyme that last line. He can be reached at www.burlesonstar.net.