Friday, June 29, 2012


I just saw one of the best movies I have ever seen in my life. Seriously ... "TED"

Okay, I know I just did a mini review on That's My Boy ...  and it's probably overkill to do two in a row. BUT I HAVE TO.  (Well ... this one I reprinted from one I found online but it's just what I wanted to say and I'm too lazy to write it).


Ted starts in a flashback which tells the story of a lonely boy named John who wishes that his beloved teddy bear was alive. When John's wish comes true, the film smartly shows what the reaction in the real world would really be, namely, that Ted would first freak the crap out of people, then would become a celebrity.

Flash forward about twenty years and John (played by Mark Wahlberg) and Ted (voiced by MacFarlane) are still best friends living in Boston. The problem is that in a lot of ways, neither of them have grown up -- John is struggling to keep his crappy job at a rental car company since he'd rather hang out smoking weed and watching bad TV with Ted, and with Ted now a has-been with no responsibilities and nothing expected of him, he's happy to have John's company. But Lori, John's successful girlfriend of four years (played by Mila Kunis), feels that John's friendship with Ted is holding him back and is starting to get in the way of their relationship, so she recommends that John put some distance between himself and his childhood pal.

Basically, that's the story, though there's a subplot with Lori's slimey boss (played with douchey perfection by Joel McHale) who wants to get with Lori, and another with a creepy father and son (played by Giovanni Ribisi and Aedin Mincks) who want to buy or kidnap Ted. But the simple plot provides plenty of time for just hanging out and talking, and that's where Ted is at its best, since most of the film's jokes, and almost all of its best ones, aren't from big gags and set pieces, but from quick comments, observations, and moments that come up in the course of conversations. This should be familiar to fans of MacFarlane's cartoons, where a joke hits every few seconds, but it's quite an accomplishment that MacFarlane and screenwriters Alex Sulkin and Wellesley Wild are able to keep this up for an entire film without it sounding contrived.

Despite what you'd think, this talking teddy bear isn't a gimmick, but a character as real and thinking as his human co-stars, where Ted being a former celebrity is more important than him being a talking doll. The story is really about John being caught between his childhood and adulthood, his future with Lori or his past with Ted, where Ted could be a human and the story would hardly change. It was really a genius move for MacFarlane's first film to have an animated main character, something he's definitely comfortable with, and despite the movie's opening scenes, the fact that Ted is a toy is treated as normally as the talking animals in MacFarlane's cartoons, which is helped by the fact that Ted looks so real that you rarely think of him as a CG creation.

My biggest complaint with Ted is the kidnapping subplot, which is totally unneeded and adds a comparatively joke-free 15 minutes to the end of the film. But aside from that, Ted is a terrific achievement with a wonderfully original comedic voice that, unlike the recent Adam Sandler movies Ted mocks, actually respects its audience. A lot of jokes in Ted are racist, sexist, and un-PC, but it's because the filmmakers believe viewers are smart enough to know that they're just jokes. I think we'll be seeing a lot more MacFarlane movies in the future, and that's great news for comedy.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Is It Father's Day Again?

Remember Father's Day? (I'm a little behind in my blog so please allow me to digress )

I celebrated with my son, Josh, the way that any Dad would love to celebrate: A baseball game (The Rays beat Miami) and a movie that every dad and son should see together: "That's My Boy".

The movie had everything: obscenity, poor personal habits, a deadbeat dad and a successful son.

Here's the story line ...

In 1984, 12-year-old Donny Berger (Justin Weaver) has sex with his 22-year-old teacher, Mary McGarricle (Eva Amurri). She becomes pregnant, leading to her crime being discovered. McGarricle is arrested, and Donny gains custody of their son, whom he names Han Solo Berger. Donny becomes a celebrity because of what happened, but is forgotten as he becomes an adult, and loses contact with his son.
In 2012, Donny (Adam Sandler) is now a slacker who has long-since squandered all of his money, drinks beer constantly, and spends his time at a local strip club with his friends, bartender Brie (Ciara) and stripper Champale (Luenell). Donny's son (Andy Samberg) no longer speaks to, nor associates with him, angry about Donny's incompetence as a father; he has changed name to Todd Peterson, tells acquaintances that his parents died in an explosion when he was nine years old, has gone on to become a successful businessman, and is about to marry rich young woman Jamie (Leighton Meester).

I won't tell you any more because it would spoil the ending (and the middle) and, what's more, the movie trailer spoils the entire story before you get there.

Needless to say, we had a great time on Father's Day and we HIGHLY recommend this hilarious, silly, non-award winning comedy.

Note: If you are married to a Catholic who regularly attends church and never uses the "f" word (not talking fire truck here), go solo or with the boys.

Debbie made me put that in.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Cool ... you know?

 Here I sit ... Sunday morning at home. The skies are dark and the rain comes in sheets pounding the roof and filling our swimming pool. Tropical storm Debby (named for my sweet wife) is "hanging out" in the gulf. The weather forecasters call Debby a storm that's all over the place and more dangerous than she looks.

That's my Debby(ie).

I love these days. I can stay in and write my novel (no excuses), put down a few thoughts in my blog and eat comfort food (which I do every day but today I can justify it ... well, try to justify it).

There's a great article in the Times today. Bob Trigeaux wrote about the Tampa Bay "coolness" factor. Are we? I don't know ... I'm probably too old to really judge but I do appreciate the fact that when I tell people that I live in St. Pete, I no longer have to hear: "... and you look so much younger than that." I was happy to see USF mentioned alot in the "coolness category" with CAMLS, Draper and SRI, the Bulls and the campus transformation itself. Just about a month ago, we were listed in The Washington Post as one of the top 5 coolest Universities in the country.    

I think St. Pete has its own coolness factor by the mere fact that it just kinda does its thing. There are many new "cool" restaurants sprouting up all around the downtown area, the Saturday market, music and food events in the park and lots of younger people investing in the area.  It doesn't have to have a label. It just is ... cool.

"Coolness" is the confidence that you don't have to be cool.

I love rainy days. I feel so much smarter and kinda ... cool, you know? 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day, Sammy

"Have you ever thought about how people look like they become later in life?" Sam said out of nowhere.

"What? What was that you said?" I asked right before my scrabbled eggs arrived.

"I've been thinking about the way people looked when they were younger you know?"

"Like who?"

"Well ... like you, Joel. I never thought you looked like an executive."

"I didn't? What did I look like?"

"I dunno ... like a guy having fun ... not serious ... not sure what you looked like."

I pointed to Josh sitting next to me. "How about Josh?"

"Oh ... he looks like an office man."

"And Debbie?"

"Professional ... very professional."

Debbie gave a great big smile to show off her braces. "Well Sammy," she said, "How about you? What do you like?"

Sammy stopped and thought long and hard. "I am ... a man of the people!"


What did he mean I don't look like an executive?

Monday, June 11, 2012

What's Up With Kids These Days?

My nephew Kyle got engaged to Kate on Friday night.

He planned it for over a week. He decided to rent a helicopter to fly over St. Pete and show Kate a video that he carefully edited with a poem he composed, music and pictures of both of them. At the end of the video were the words:  "Would you marry me?" He would be on one knee when she finished the video.

Such a romantic.

Well ... the poor guy had bad luck from the start. It poured Friday night. No way to take out a helicopter. So, his aunt Debbie came to the rescue. She got him a room at the Vinoy Hotel. He took Kate to the Vinoy for drinks keeping the rest a secret and although he had reservations across the street at ZGrill ... he couldn't get there because of the rain.

Change of plans ... he told Kate they had reservations at Fred's at the hotel. He didn't. She still didn't have a clue when the hostess said they didn't have them on the list. Kyle insisted ... and they gave them a table.

Kyle told her he had a surprise and took her to the room. He then handed his phone to Kate to look at a "funny" video. Kate finally got it when she looked at him ... on one knee.

Kyle is so much like me.

When I asked Debbie to marry me, she was hung over and barely awake when we went to a movie and I romantically pointed to the screen which said "Sue Will You Marry Me? Love John".

Debbie said ... "So?"

I said ... "What do you think? Should we?"

Debbie said .... "You are such a romantic ... how can I turn you down? By the way ... you think you could've at least bought an ad yourself?"

I'm so glad she was hung over ... she would have never said yes.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Sammy's Shoes

This was a big day for Sammy.

His new shoes arrived! I knew how happy he would be when I brought them over to him. He had very specific instructions when we ordered them for him.

"I want Haban (the mail order company has been around since about 1652 and has never changed the pictures in the catalogue). Tan shoes that are VERY light weight." He pointed to the picture. "That's them! They are perfect."

"What size Sam?" Debbie asked.

"8 and a half D."

"You sure?"


So today they came and I rushed them over to Sam. He was watching TV. (surprised?) "Hey Dad."

"Hey Joel. What's that?"

"Open it!"

He opened the bag and pulled out the shoes, put them on the bed and started to look at all the ads in the envelope. "Look at this! These people really know how to market you know?"

"Dad ... did you see the shoes?"

"What? Oh yeah ... nice."

"Wanna put them on?"

He put his foot up for me to help him. I pulled off his favorite white leather and looked down at his white thick woolen socks. "Dad ... there look a little thick. Should I put on a pair of thinner socks?

"No ... these will work."

I pushed on the new shoes but they wouldn't get over the socks."

"Shoe horn...use a shoe horn." He muttered.

"It won't work."

"Too small. These are too small. What size are they?"

"8 and a half D"

"Send them back .... here ... here is the slip."

"Dad .... let's just try different socks."

"These are the wrong size. Look at the difference between these and the old ones."

"They are the same." I pulled out some different socks. He complained the whole time I struggled to get them on ... finally .... put the new shoes on ... they slipped on easily.

Sam looked down. Perfect! I KNEW it was the socks."


By the way ... thanks to Dr. Stu Silverman and Judy Kane for sending Sammy this great USF cap (and umbrella) with a wonderful note. We love you guys.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Telethon Memories and Blogging Excuses

The Telethon for All Children's Hospital was this past weekend
Had a chance to be with my old buds Steph and Mike and the rest of the gang from the hospital and Channel 8.

I did a couple of interviews about my late friend Bill Ratliff and his early involvement with the telethon. Bittersweet.

The 2012 Telethon was very successful, by the way, raising over $3.7 million ... I'm proud of the staff ... Ann, Steph, Mike and all the Foundation/Creative Services crew. They even aired Mike and Joel's Body ToonUps (see the link at the lower right of the blog) as interstitials throughout the program: I Am Not A Little Ant, Sunburn Serenade and Chicken Named Mac.

By the way .... I apologize for the sparce blogging of late. It's because my creative energy is once agan turning to writing the novel that has been about 20 years in the making.

But ... I'll keep you "posted".

Ballad of the Big Prostate

Here’s a little country tune I wrote just yesterday to commemorate a dark day in my history. I don’t have a tune but realized you can use an...