As kids, parents use cards to teach us counting and colors.  They also use them to teach strategy — How else would you explain people growing up with a love for Uno?  As we get older, we start wanting to play more advanced games of cards.

When I was 8, one of my Christmas gifts was a game called Riverboat Showdown.  It featured a deck of cards, plastic chips and rules for a game called poker.   I would play this game a lot, learning what beat what.  At the same time, I also learned Yahtzee!, which is just a dice version of poker.  When I hit my teenage years, my friends and I would play in the garage when it became too hot to play basketball outside.  Then I stopped playing for some years.

I picked up the game again in 2001 when some friends invited me over for “home” games.  That’s when the bug hit.  I enjoyed my weekly games for a few years, but then life caused the games to spread out more and more.  Then in March of this year, I found a way to play in an amateur league for free.  So now I get to play every week.

Of course, one of the fun parts of playing cards is the social aspect.  Get a bunch of card players together and ask them about movies, they start talking about Rounders.  I had watched Rounders a couple of years ago and agreed that it was a good movie about poker.

Rounders centers on Matt Damon’s character.  Like all good stories, we see Damon’s fall from grace, his fight to climb back up, and his biggest obstacle.  Damon and Ed Norton do a great job of portraying the deep friendship of their characters.  The brilliance is in the casting of the side characters: Famke Janesson, Gretchen Moll, John Tuturro, Martin Landau, and John Malkovitch.  The story is kept simple, and, much like a poker game, the stakes are raised higher at every turn for our main character.

The DVD contains the following extras:

  • audio commentary with poker players — very good commentary — it is how I watched the movie this time
  • audio commentary with actors/director
  • poker tips — not very revealing
  • heads-up hold ‘em game — clunky game and not very good
  • behind the scenes features

My advice: regardless of your interest in cards, this is a good character story; check it out one afternoon — you will not regret making this bet…

Shhhh! The Audience is Listening…

Gotta love slogans that become part of American culture. Who knew that this simple line would mean so much?

In other posts, I promised that I would look at doing some editorials. My original idea of the site was to simply offer reviews, but in my reviews I editorialize. Then the writers’ strike happened, forcing me to think about my opinions on movies and TV.

So what has sparked me to write now? ran an article on Tuesday, November 13, bemoaning the death of the movie theme song . The author of the article presented the idea that, with rare exception, there had been no readily identifiable movie theme songs over the past 5-7 years. In fact, the only two offerings that the writer presents are Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” and “It’s Hard Out Here For A Pimp” from “Hustle & Flow”; but even then, the writer complains about the lack of radio-friendliness each song had.

What is interesting are the songs that the writer uses to contrast the decades of the 70s, 80s, and 90s. The ones mentioned are:

  • “My Heart Will Go On”
  • “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing”
  • “Evergreen”
  • “Arthur’s Theme”
  • “(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life”

All of these are definietly recognizable theme songs (except for maybe “Evergreen”). However, that does not mean that we have been missing original theme songs from movies, particularly on the radio. Think back to a year ago — every time you turned on a Top 40 station, you could not escape the voice of Jennifer Hudson singing “No No No!” from the movie “Dreamgirls”. A quick review of the list of Oscar nominations from last year showed 3 songs from that movie nominated. A couple of years before that, you had The Counting Crows get nominated for “Accidentally In Love” from the movie “Shrek 2″.

Then the article gets confusing — it jumps from lamenting the lack of songs to talking about what it takes to create that iconic song, using “Say Anything…” as the movie example. After time with that, the article then makes remarks about how someone like Burt Bacharach would not be famous if he had started today.

Overall, the article has that high-school journalism feel mixed with a certain bias from the writer.

The general public would have been better served had the writer focused on how music in the movies has evolved. As in sports, you can not compare theme songs from yesteryear to present-day. Each song must stand the test of time based on its peers. Just because a song is not an Oscar-winner/nominee does not mean it can not evoke thoughts of the movie it is from.

So what was the article writer trying to prove?

Radio play does not make a hit out of a movie theme song. If that were the only criteria, then explain how John Williams being able to find work, Disney being able to churn out hit musical after hit musical, and even creators like Matt Stone and Trey Parker being able to have recognition for songs from South Park and Team America:World Police. What is really interesting is that radio is being used as the judge, when digitally stored music counts for as many, if not more, listens to a song…

As long as we have movies, there will always be ones with those “iconic” theme songs. You just have to listen over the sounds of munching popcorn…


Like most families in America, my family had its traditional way of celebrating Thanksgiving.  Since it was just the three of us (my parents and me), we never went through the trouble of preparing a big feast.  Instead, we would sleep in and then head out for late lunch/early dinner.

But aren’t most restaurants closed on Thanksgiving?

Yep — but that did not stop us from going to Morrison’s Cafeteria.  Where we lived, Morrison’s was in the mall with the movie theater (AMC when AMC was not as big as it is now) .  So we would go eat and then enjoy a movie.  Even though I live on my own, I still try to uphold the tradition of seeing a movie on Thanksgiving.  So I found myself heading to the Altamonte AMC after a fine dinner at Brian’s and Leona’s house.

So what movie did I honor with the title of Matt’s Turkey Day Selection 07?


At this point, some of you may be snickering or downright laughing at me — so be it.  I have always been a sucker for Disney animated films and I had been hearing good things about this one all week.  So I paid my money, got my snacks and headed in to the theater.   The previews were ok — I am interested in the new Ryan Reynolds movie coming out in February; it is made by the people who made Notting Hill and Love Actually.

The movie hit its stride right off the bat by appealing to the older crowd, raised on all of the Disney classics, by starting with the storybook seen at the beginning of Snow White, Cinderella, Pinocchio, etc., and by having Julie Andrews serve as the narrator.   Then the traditional 2-D animation that people love from Disney starts.  The story is basic enough — Girl looking for true love, hero comes in and saves her, and they ride off into the sunset, singing.

Wait a sec — it’s only 10 minutes in.  How can the story be over?

Thus the twists begin.  The intro of the evil stepmother, the plunging of the princess into darkness and despair.

Except the princess now finds herself in real form in NY City — yet she still thinks of things in fairy-tale fashion.

What follows is a pleasant enough story with predictable, yet enjoyable, plot points.  I agree with other reviewers out there regarding the casting.   The use of New York City as the backdrop works as a nice contrast to the animated world.

What I really liked was the care that Disney put into this movie.  Many people, including me, have complained that Disney was forgetting its legacy.  I feel that Michael Eisner had a big hand in that forgetfulness.  Enchanted is a good start to renewing the faith of those raised on Disney classics.  Here are the things that rang true to me:

  • Julie Andrews — A double-nod to Disney legacies.  Dame Andrews has always been looked to as an example of grace and charm.  Given that Mary Poppins was the first to mix animation and live action, it is fitting that 34 years later, she serves as our guide on this journey.
  • Mary Poppins, Roger Rabbit — Every twenty years, Disney likes to combine live action and 2-D animation.  The twist here is that the worlds only collide mentally.
  • The use of Jodi Benson and Paige O’Hara — Having “Ariel” and “Belle” play small parts is testament to the impact of the characters they created voices for in the early 90’s.  Amy Adams does a nice job of reminding the watcher of past singing heroines with her own melodic voice.
  • Alan Menken — If you are going to do it big, bring in the man with the Oscars from Disney’s last animated musical heyday.  I did like the incorporation of Ariel’s and Belle’s themes into the music.

Disney also did a good job of allowing some adult humor to creep in, as with Aladdin.  What message is Disney sending when the hero defeats a huge “ogre” that looks a lot like another animated heavyweight?  The jokes were never over the line and actually showed that Disney could poke fun at itself and its competitors without being mean-spirited.

So was there anything I did not like?  Well, Patrick Dempsey’s character needed some more development; Susan Sarandon was under-utilized; and the few number of songs for a movie touting the power of song.

My advice: Grab your feinds and loved ones and go see this at the theater.  This is a movie that helps capture the idea of going to the theater and gives you a very good time.  Seeing this movie, you can’t help but feel happy the rest of the day…