Wednesday, July 23, 2008

On A Happier Note

Just a heads up - we're down in Utah until Wednesday, so my posting is most likely going to be sporadic. I have a few ideas that I'm still working out, but be patient

It's pretty sad out there. I'm looking at the latest headlines from the best news website, The Drudge Report, and here's what he's got on there:

NYC lawyer suing DELTA for $5 million over stressful flight...
Cancer chief sees cell phone risks...
Airport Shock: TSA Agents Force Woman To Remove Nipple Rings; Pull Down Pants Of Disabled Man...
Bank Accused Of Giving Counterfeit Money To Customers...
Man jailed after allegedly stealing 42-cents from mall fountain...
TOYOTA beats GM in worldwide sales... (sad one for my dad, who's a 20 year GM worker)

And that's just a few of them. But I was laying in bed thinking about some happy stories that we as a people need to hear.

1. We bought our kitties from a Four Paws shelter. This woman rescues kittens from pounds, where they would be put to sleep, and nurses them back to health and tries to give them to good homes. She told us about how particular she can be, because these kitties become her babies, and she wants them to have a good life. Luckily we passed her test, but she told us about a trip to Idaho Falls she had taken. She had gotten contacted by someone who was interested in having a kitten. As she got the directions, and drove down there, she noticed it was in kind of a rough area. She looked at her kitty and told her "Don't worry, I'm not going to let him take you, we're going to go back to Rexburg, don't worry, I'm not going to give you to him." She finds his apartment, and before she walks in his door, she notices it's kind of run down. Frankly, it's an apartment that a single man has if he doesn't have a lot going in his life. This man invited her into his apartment, and she immediately noticed that he had a biker's look to him (long hair, scraggly beard, a bit overweight). She talked with him, and as she talked, her heart was softened. He proudly showed her that he went to the store, bought his new kitten a kitty litter box, a food and water dish, a place for the kitty to sleep, and toys. He seemed so worried that the kitty would like it, if there was something that he was missing, and if this would be ok. As she told us this story, she was half in tears as she humbly stated to us that at first glance, she didn't think this guy would be right for her baby. But as she realized how much he cared about this new addition to his family, and how alone he really was (he was 35, dead-end job, and looking for company), she knew that he needed the kitty more than the kitty needed him. He now has totally cleaned up (clean-shaven, short hair), and her statement was "That little kitten saved his life, and gave him something to look forward to every day. That kitty depended on him, which made his life worth something."

Moral: Find something that makes your life worth living. Whether it be a little kitty who depends on you and loves you, or a family who can't wait to see daddy come home, your life is precious to someone

NOTE: This is what was told to me by Ashley, so any mistakes in historical facts can be attributed to her
2. This is an Ashley story. When her younger sister Emily was first learning to ride a bike, she was riding on the neighborhood street. it was the first time she did not wear her helmet. A little girl, on another bike, got in a collision with Emily, knocking her to the ground. She ended up with a concussion, and spent the night at the hospital. She had a stuffed animal that comforted her during the dark lonely hours at the hospital. She was pretty messed up. Her face was scratched and beat up, but that wasn't the hardest part. She kept crying, and one of the things she said was "I don't want to be here! I don't want to eat breakfast here! I want to eat pancakes with peanut butter!" (it's OK to laugh there). Ashley's mom and her were at Young Women's Conference, and everyone was trying to call them, but their cell phone was turned off. Ashley's mom stayed with her all night, and Emily wasn't happy because they kept waking her up every few hours to check her vitals. She was released with a mild concussion, and was allowed to go home the next day. A few years later, Emily (10 years old) still hadn't forgotten how much the teddy bear was comforting to her while she was at the hospital. She earned and collected as much money as she could that year, and went to the dollar store, and bought as many stuffed animals as she could. She took 2 garbage sacks full of stuffed animals to the hospital for other children, so they wouldn't feel lonely in the hospital.

Moral: Don't forget the little things that get you through, and don't forget the impact it could have on others

3. This is one quite dear to my heart. A guy gets shut up in the hospital for 8 days. He's half a country away from his family, can't move his leg, and is being monitored every day for death. He has to learn how to walk again, has to learn how to curl his toes, and flex his ankle. He can't even get up himself to go to the bathroom. A dear friend comes up, and helps him. This friend moves his leg 2 cm when it gets uncomfortable. This friend buys him pizza because he's sick of hopsital food. The friend spends every night sleeping on a couch in his hospital room, wondering if he's ever gonig to have a normal life again. The friend wakes up in the morning, goes to a cousin's to shower and clean up, and drives back to make sure he's all right.

He gets released, and can barely make his way back into his apartment. The friend goes shopping for him. The friend cleans for him. The friend does his laundry, drives him back and forth to physical therepy, and has to watch him get the snot kicked out of him while he tries to walk. The friend has to watch him fight of fatigue and pain for 3 long weeks, all while sleeping on a couch at the cousins because that's the only place that was available.

That friend was my wife Ashely. That person was me. And I will never forget what she did for me.

Moral: When a friend like that comes into your life and makes and life-impacting effect on you, don't let that friend get away.

If you have any stories to add, please email me at brandt(dot)malone(at)gmail(dot)com. I'll try to make a weekly post of three feel-good stories every week.


Sunday, July 20, 2008


Though it's about 16 days after the big celebration in America we call the 4th of July, Patriotism is on my mind.

Ashley and I took our usual walk on Sunday, and as we were walking back we talked about inspiration. With me being an advertising minor and her with layout and graphic design experience, we talked about where our inspiration comes from.

We began talking about different pieces we've done, and the two that stood out most memorable to the both of us involved invoking strong emotion out of our viewers.

This is Ashley's. It's called "The Hero."

Click the picture for a larger view. Here's me being an analytical and critical graphic designer. I find this works very well because you can't see the faces of the soldier and the boy. Faces give away so many emotions that subtleties in body language and posture can be overlooked. But though you can't see the faces, you understand exactly what's going on, and can make some great inferences. For instance, the dad has a look of relief that he made it through alive, that he can hold his boy again. The boy has a look of affection and longing, like having his dad away from him tore him apart every day.

Next is mine. I call this "The Tick of the Clock"

Again, click for a larger view. While this isn't the final design (I cannot believe I didn't save my old stuff!), I tried to show what was, and now what is. I wanted to find a lesser known quote to show people what it felt like. I spent hours (probably about 5-6 hours) making sure everything was correct, because I could see what I wanted in my mind's eye, but it wasn't coming out on paper.

The one thing we talked about was emotion. In hers, I could see thoughts of her brother-in-law, serving in Iraq, and his son Carter waiting for daddy to get home. I can see the fact that many of our armed service men and women really are the simplest and obscurest, and that's what makes them more amazing to me.

With mine, I chose something that is always going to have a soft spot in my heart. 9/11 brings a flood of emotions out of me, probably because I went on my mission right after it happened. I didn't get caught up in the politics or the conspiracies of it all. As a matter of fact, it still has a very soft spot in my heart 7 years later.

But here's what I want to say about patriotism. Again, I'm not wanting to toot my own horns, but we need to remember what is at the core of patriotism. Emotion is at the core. Why don't we celebrate our soldiers more? Why, when they come home from their service, do we not give them parades and celebrate all that they have done? Sure, we can say that we respect and honor them, but could there be more done?

That's the reason why I love the Anheuser-Busch PSA.

Some may not like it, some may say that it purposely manipulates our emotions. Yet every time I see that, I choke up a little bit. We need to remember that emotion is at the root of patriotism. If you don't feel deeply emotional about your country, especially if you're an American, you may want to research why we are they way we are.

Thank you, Kurtis, for your service. Thank you Grandpa Malone and Roy, for your service. Thank you all you brave men and women willing to stand up for what you believe in, and standing up for your country.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Movie Review - The Dark Knight

As the most anticipated movie of the year (yes, even above WALL-E) came out last night, rumors abounded as to the quality of it. Stories were circulating all the major news outlets that many theaters had 100% sold out, critics and other people who got a chance to see the advanced screening were touting this as the best Batman ever made, and that Heath Ledger was bound to get his posthumous Oscar pick for best supporting actor, and people in the know said the storyline was second to none.

I went to see it at the Edwards Theater in Idaho Falls, and was able to get my tickets on Fandago the night before (so the news releases weren’t 100% accurate). As our end of the semester fest, Ash and I decided to go see it. She wanted to see it for the movie; I wanted to see it for the review.

You all know the story – The Caped Crusader versus the Clown Prince of Crime for Gotham City. While this movie has a lot going for it from the previews (such as Heath Ledger’s death, Ledger’s twisted way of playing The Joker, the return of Christopher Nolan as Director and Christian Bale and Michael Caine as Batman and Alfred, respectively), it also had the potential to suffer from one of Hollywood’s ill-fated flaws: too much hype.

Pirates of the Caribbean 3 did this. Spiderman 3 did this. Ocean’s 13, The Happening, Shrek 3, Terminator 3 (wow, notice all the sequels?), they all had all this hype and excitement surrounding the franchise (or director, or theme) yet totally dropped the ball.

Ironically, this was a lot tougher for me to review that many other movies. I couldn’t tell if it was an epic masterpiece, or if it was an absolute FUBAR (Fouled Up Beyond All Recognition). I’m hoping the rubric will help.

Without further ado, here’s my rubric for The Dark Knight


Stunning would be an understatement for this movie. I found myself, from the very beginning scene, wanting more and more of The Joker. I found his mannerisms to be creepy yet natural, as if in his mind everything normal seemed out of place. Maggie Gyllenhaal, who was a good replacement for Katie Holmes (who, as Rachel Dawes, was utterly forgettable), and Adam Eckhart (an LDS buddy) gave a very strong performance. And then there was Christian Bale, who is soon becoming one of the strongest actors of the last 5 years, and his ever faithful butler Alfred (by the always strong Michael Caine).

But with a movie of this magnitude, it would feel like I would be doing a disservice if I didn’t hold a higher standard. The Joker was very strong. While I think it’s one of the best acting jobs done this year, I don’t know if I would go as far to say I think he should win the posthumous Supporting Actor award (which will undoubtedly go to him just because that’s how Hollywood is). I don’t think that’s any fault of Ledger, who did a great job of embodying the creepiness. I think I fault the writers for not giving us more of a back-story to the Joker. I also found myself tiring of Christian Bale’s blatantly obvious attempt to give Batman a different voice from Bruce Wayne. It sounded like he was a 50-year old female smoker, not a menacing Batman. All in all, the characters were very strong.

SCORE – 16


I’m sure you’ve heard of Hans Zimmer (the composer for the Dark Knight), but in case you haven’t, here’s some of his credits: Kung Fu Panda, The Simpsons Movie, Pirates of the Caribbean movie trilogy, The Da Vinci Code, Batman Begins, Matchstick Men, The Ring, Blackhawk Down, Pearl Harbor…I think you get the point.

I am usually not a huge movie soundtrack guy. I would much rather have the soundtrack add to the movie rather than listen to the soundtrack by itself. I LOVED the theme that he used for Batman. Every time I heard it, I got chills. With titles like “Introduce a Little Anarchy” (the best song, in my opinion) and “And I Thought My Jokes Were Bad,” the music really helped to add to the creepiness of the Joker (who, oddly enough, you can feel throughout the entire soundtrack), the tragedy that is Harvey Dent, and the inner struggle our Masked Friend goes through.

SCORE – 20 (perfect)


If anything, the Joker’s laugh could stand on it’s own in this category. I would have liked to hear more of his laugh, but it was really good when he did it. Many of his one-liners were very good, and when I say very good, I mean creepy (not funny, see end)Batman, of course, has some pretty spotty dialogue (Bruce Wayne isn’t that bad), but from what I remember, even in the most stressful situations he can come up with a bad pun (“This time, the joke’s on you”). I would have liked to see more of that. Many of Ledger’s lines were very well written and performed by him. Could have been better by others, though.

SCORE – 17


This is the hard part. My wife, being an analytical and critical English Major, thought this was the weakest part. I think it’s the strongest part. Here’s why.

This movie is 152 minutes long (2 hours 32 minutes for those who don’t want to do the math). While Ash found it to be too long and trying to cram too much stuff into the movie, I found it to be very complex that will take multiple viewings to sort it out. There is no “introduction” of the Joker, no back-story, no nothing. All you know is that he’s a psychopath. Harvey has a bit of a back-story, and we already know Batman’s. While I think they should have given Joker more of a back-story (even if just through a 2-sentence blurb in the police file), I won’t hold this against the writers that much. Batman doesn’t have the history with the Joker that we are used to. As a matter of fact, I see this movie taking place within a matter of weeks, at longest a month. How can one know the back-story and all the intricacies of this nemesis within that amount of time?
But that doesn’t mean that the story doesn’t have its flaws. I didn’t like how Rachel Dawes flip-flops between Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent. I almost think that this movie could have been two movies (the rise of the Joker, and the fall of the Joker). But I found the story to be strong and complex, and many subtleties that will keep watchers analyzing

SCORE – 18


Because of the complexities of this movie, I feel sheepish in even posting my review without another viewing. I was very immersed in the movie and action as portrayed on the screen, and didn’t get a chance to think during the movie about what is being portrayed. For that reason alone, I give this a high rewatchability rate (I can even see the DVD purchasing and rental numbers breaking records). Yet the one thing holding me back is my wife. She told me she wouldn’t be interested in watching it again, and anyone who’s married knows how much influence the spouse can have on your viewing habits.

SCORE – 19

TOTAL SCORE – 90/100

IMDB Rating – 9.6/10 (#3 IMDB Top 250, but this will come down within a month)

Rotten Tomatoes Rating – 94%

Random side note:
PLEASE, whoever reads this, do not go into this movie and laugh at every line that the Joker says. This isn’t meant to be a comedy. There are funny lines, don’t get me wrong, but we had people sitting right next to us that laughed at everything the Joker said, and I found it took away from his character. He’s not trying to make people laugh. He’s twisted. If you were in situations with him, you wouldn’t be laughing. As a matter of fact, you would probably be peeing yourself silly because you wouldn’t think hat a man could be like this. It’s NOT SUPPOSED TO BE FUNNY. You’ll know the funny parts.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Movie Review - Lars and the Real Girl

At first glance, “Lars and the Real Girl” seems to be a humorous play on the awkwardness that comes with people making inanimate objects real. Like the little boy who tells you that you’re sitting on his invisible friend at the dinner table, and how you need to give “Tommy” some more Mac and Cheese because it’s his favorite.

But if you watch that movie with the intent of laughing out loud, or having a knee-slapping guffawing good time, go see “Zoolander” or “Dumb and Dumber.” This isn’t that kind of movie. I wouldn’t even put this on par with most intelligent comedies like “Arrested Development” or “The Office.” The humor comes in spurts, and from my point of view, the most humorous parts come when there is no dialogue. I’ll go through and give a blow-by-blow critique, then give additional thoughts that I had.

“Lars and the Real Girl” is about a socially inept man named Lars (played by Ryan Gossling), and the relationship he develops with a full-sized doll, who he names Bianca. Bianca comes from “the tropics, she’s Brazilian,” and both her parents died at her birth. She always likes to hug people, and lost her luggage on the way to America. She actually becomes a character in the movie, though inanimate.


Ryan Gossling, from the first scene, develops an emotional connection with the audience. I think in some sense you could say the creators specifically manipulated it that way. Oddly enough, I’m ok with it. They let you know up front that he’s innocent, that he has some social issues, and that he’s not like everyone else. But Gossling’s character was different in the sense that you don’t pity him. Sure, you can feel sorry for him, but it’s not a pity thing (which I think happens more often than not). As a matter of fact, I found myself pulling for him more and more. I wanted Bianca to be real, because I wanted Lars to be happy. Supporting cast is good, and I think that Gus and Karin (his brother and sister-in-law) could have been stronger from the beginning (they make up for this towards the middle of the movie), but I find that his office workers (Margo and Kurt?) were solid. I actually find the doctor to be well played, as the directors meant her to be the semi-narrator. I think that her caring and her interactions with Lars were great.



Nothing groundbreaking here. Decent music to help set the mood and to help you understand how to feel, but I think that it could have been stronger. I think it’s apparent that it takes place in rural community, and I think they could have brought that out a little bit more. I also think it would have been nice to have more prominent music setting the mood for the times when he was with Bianca and other times.



Again, nothing to write home about. I can’t see this movie being one that is quoted ad nauseam, or one that will have people going for a while. There is humor, don’t get me wrong (“Call 911.” “911?” “I don’t know, why do you always expect me to know what to do?”). But I think what’s going to endear to this movie, and save it, is going to be the quotes among the followers of this movie. Like “The Kings of Kong,” (a VASTLY underrated documentary on competitive classic video gaming), I think the subtle lines will come out. But this isn’t a quoteable movie in the funny sense. I think that many of the lines in this movie (for instance, Karin’s speech to Lars about selfishness, Gus’ speech to Karin about living in the garage and becoming what he does, and the obvious yet intentional emotional speech by the reverend) will be quotable in a sentimental and touching sense, not a knee-slapping sense.



While the premise of a man with a doll for a girlfriend seems like the plot to another lame comedy movie (see “Weekend at Bernies”) and while the cover portrays that humorous comedy, this movie becomes one that warms your heart, and forces you to have a smile almost the entire time. I’ll admit, I was expecting hilarity throughout the movie. I was a little disappointed, but that’s because the packaging on the DVD and the portrayal of the movie lent itself to humor. But you watch the journey of a man come to grips with himself through a doll, and try to overcome himself. You begin to root for him and Bianca. By about ½ way through the movie I could see myself figuring out what was going to happen, yet instead of taking away from the film (which usually does for me), I found it added to it. I could not only prepare myself, but observe what other things were going on. But the other thing that was poignant to me was the story of the community. A small town, a small community, and a place where everybody knows everyone’s business is one I’m unfamiliar with. But the community joining together to help Lars really was beautiful, and a great statement on the potential we as a community can be for one. “It takes a village to raise a child,” or, you could say, it takes a village to help a man. I found it to be a movie I reflected on more and more after it was over. It’s a chick flick, boxed up in a drama, wrapped up in an emotional story with the strangest looking bow, but the meaning and intentions are pure and good



I think that the rewatchability is the strongest factor of this movie. Once you understand what is going on, and once you understand how to view the movie, you appreciate the subtleties, theme, and beauty of it. You realize how much of a daring step it is to have a main character (along the same on-screen potential as Gossling) that is inanimate. I liked this movie, and really can’t wait to introduce it to others who will be able to appreciate the package the creators have left us with.



“Lars and the Real Girl” is great, if you know what you’re getting into. Appreciate the human interactions and the job that the director, Craig Gillespie, focuses on the themes rather than the story. Go in to see a good story. Go in to grow attached to characters, and to feel what all of them feel (Lars, Gus, Karin, Margo, everybody). Doing this will help you to value the story. While it’s not particularly moving, nor is it a breakthrough in cinema, it takes a different path in moviemaking, tries something different, and succeeds.

IMDB Rating – 7.7/10
Rotten Tomatoes – 81%

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Seriously, Who Cares!

Satire on the Web, and why it’s so great.

Recently, I came across a website called “Seriously, So Blessed,” and I encourage people to visit and enjoy.

From the “About Me” portion of the site,
“Hi everybody!!! My name is Tiffany/Amber/Megan/Nicole and I am married to Jordan/Jason/Wes/Taylor, and we have non-stop fun all the time and are LOVING married life! We are super busy but we still love to make time for fun stuff and we just love being married and living our awesome lives. I LOVE crafts (especially Stampin' Up! and homemade jewelry) and he loves sports. I went to hair school/teach 2nd grade and we just moved so we could go to law/dental/business/medical school! It is way hard to be away from all our friends and family! But being in law/dental/business/medical school is really fun for me because there are tons of wive's clubs like bridge club, book club, walking club. Pretty awesome! Love you guys!! If you have anything you want me to blog about, puh-LEASE let me know at”

That should tell you a little bit about what goes on there.

I should warn you it is a parody of blogging within the LDS world. I sent my dad the link, and he told me he could only read through a few before he couldn’t stand this girl any more. After I told him it wasn’t a real person, just a parody on what’s going on out there, the humor finally hit him.

Yet while this is a humorous site, and I am absolutely addicted to it, and can’t stop reading it (as well as the comments), it effectively shows what I view as a bad trend developing in our culture. It’s a trend of one-upsmanship, materialism, consumerism, and outlandishness. To quote one of the commenters, “K, I laughed my buns off.
This blog is too good to be true. Nice slap in the face, too. Thanks for reminding me to chill out and try not to up one on my perky friends. :)”

Is that last line too true? “Thanks for reminding me to chill out and not try to up one (isn’t it one up?) my perky friends.” I can cite blog after blog after blog (which I do visit, because it’s kind of funny, and because I need my humor in twisted ways), where it seems as if there’s this competition of one-upsmanship and “Keeping up with the Jones’.”

So here’s what I say. RELAX. I’m sure we’d all like to buy new cars while living off our student loans, and be able to see all the new first-run movies, go to the nicest restaurants, have new outfits all the time, and live up to the hype of a fairy-tale marriage. But realistically I think many of these wives who blog about these things are just overcompensating for the reality of being newlywed and married. I think that reality is one of sacrifice and humility, not outdoing your neighbors. I don't know, am I off here?