43 in 8

Can you name all 43 presidents in 8 minutes? We got all but 11. The late 19th century is the black hole of presidents. Courtesy Mental Floss.



44 is our new favorite number.

Knee-jerk review: "Slumdog Millionaire"

1. Overall, we'd have to say... yeah, it really is that good.
2. There's movies, there's films, and then there's cinema. This is cinema. Kinetic, lush, urgent, and wholly immersive. It really is a tour de force.
3. The artistry isn't really apparent until the last 20 minutes or so. Only at the end do the many pieces start to align, the themes come together, and the magic emerges. It's a cumulative effect. When the credits roll, you'll feel it. And it will stick with you.
4. Don't let the Fox Searchlight advertising campaign fool you, though. There are uplifting moments here. But it's also, you know, about life in the slums. Where survival isn't easy and is often harsh, unfair, and ruthless. It's rated R for a reason.
5. Freida Pinto? Wow.
6. Much is made about American director Steven Soderbergh (required viewing: Out of Sight, The Limey, Ocean's Eleven, Solaris) and the way he skillfully handles all kinds of genres and styles. Danny Boyle is surely the UK equivalent. The movie he made before this one was a brainy sci-fi thriller called Sunshine.
7. As expected, there's a debate starting to brew about the movie's artistic integrity. Look for more of this when the film gets Oscar nominations, as it surely will. Are the filmmakers honoring Indian culture by exporting it around the world or ripping off the fizzy Bollywood aesthetic and claiming it as their own? Is the movie exposing ugly realities about Indian slums or exploiting the poverty for drama? Does the movie make India look good or bad? Should that even be a concern for the filmmakers or should they focus on simply telling a good story?
8. On one hand, Salim is a really bad guy. Then again, it's only because he's willing to get his hands dirty that Jamal has a chance at a decent life.
9. The Cheese Fry hasn't yet seen The Wrestler, but so far, Slumdog is far and away a better film than the other supposed Best-Picture Oscar contenders The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, or Milk.
10. How can you not love the dance number?
11. Would you have said B or D? When you see it, you'll know what we're talking about.

Knee-jerk review: "The Reader"

1. It's hard to think of another respected, A-list actress who likes to get naked on screen as much as Kate Winslet. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
2. The first half hour is fairly predictable. You've seen the older woman/younger man thing played out many times before. It's not that fresh.
3. But then the movie takes an unexpected turn that, as they say, Changes Everything.
4. The final half hour packs a big punch and raises sticky, complicated questions about justice, love, and morality.
5. Ralph Fiennes first got noticed playing a villainous Nazi in Schindler's List. It was a brave, riveting performance. Since then, however, he's made a career of playing milquetoast wallflowers. He continues that trend here.
6. The old age makeup for Winslet? Not so good.
7. It's definitely one of those movies that feels designed to win awards and wow critics. It's a textbook indie prestige movie: adapted from a book, European period setting, non-American actors, big important themes, tasteful (if explicit) nudity, tortured introspection, tragic death. If you like those kinds of movies, this is a good one.
8. The climactic scene with Fiennes and Lena Olin and the little tea tin is dynamite.


Knee-jerk review: "Frost/Nixon"

1. We thought we'd like it more than we did.
2. It's solid, expertly crafted as all of Ron Howard's films invariably are.
3. But it's lacking something. In our brains, we know it's a good movie. Smartly written, sharply acted, all that. But in our guts, we didn't connect.
4. When it was all over, you may find yourself just sort of shrugging.
5. That said, Frank Langella is most impressive as Nixon, doing what many would find impossible: making our 37th president seem likable and even somewhat sympathetic as a tragic, lonely figure full of regret and sadness for what might have been. He's at the top of his game, no question.
6. The highlight may be the drunken late-night phone call Nixon makes to David Frost. This phone call probably didn't even happen. But by the end of it, you realize that Nixon's angry tirade is unexpectedly giving Frost the pep talk he so desperately needed. It also clearly lays out for the climax just what these two men have at stake. That's good writing, people. Screenwriter Peter Morgan knows what he's doing.
7. Rebecca Hall? Hottie.
8. Los Angeles residents surely get a kick of seeing local sights circa the 1970s, like the Beverly Hills Hilton and the Cineramadome.
9. Supposedly, this and the overrated The Curious Case of Benjamin Button are Oscar front-runners. We cannot support nor endorse such a thing. The Dark Knight, which we also find overrated, is a far superior movie to both.


Knee-jerk review: "Milk"

1. See, Sean Penn really can smile if he puts his mind to it. We always knew he was a good actor when it comes to scowling and yelling, but now his range seems complete. His sunny energy here is infectious.
2. Josh Brolin continues to impress. There's nothing he can't do, it seems.
3. The same goes, really, for Emile Hirsch and James Franco.
4. If anything, this is a movie that reminds one that the more things change (Prop 6, 1978), the more they stay the same (Prop 8, 2008).
5. Diego Luna's character is annoying and Luna does everything he can to be as annoying as possible. What purpose does this character serve in the story?
6. More of an important history lesson than a traditionally entertaining movie. But it's exceedingly well done.
7. The movie provides an unexpectedly interesting look at the maturation of a politician, as Milk repeatedly runs for office and fails... but learns from his mistakes and continues to fine-tune and improve his strategies and platform.
8. Credit goes to the filmmakers, who could have easily vilified assassin Dan White. Instead, he gets a fair and balanced depiction, making him almost as much of a tragic figure as Milk.
9. Could you walk up onto a stage in front of thousands of people just moments after getting a death threat?
10. Poignant epilogue in which we see the real-life people featured in the film.

"We're ready to believe you!"

The Den of Geek looks at the top 25 fictional ads in science fiction movies, which includes a nice nod to a 1980s guilty-pleasure cable staple called Looker.


Five best movie summers of the 1980s

The Cheese Fry has fond memories of certain movie summers from his youth, most of them spent sitting in the uncomfortable molded plastic chairs at the Northtown Mall or Walnut Hill 6 theaters. (Both of which are long gone now, of course.) And this was all pre-stadium seating.

1. 1984
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (released May 23), Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (June 1), Gremlins (June 8), Ghostbusters (June 8), The Karate Kid (June 22)

2. 1983Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone (May 20), Return of the Jedi (May 25), WarGames (June 3), Octopussy (June 10), Superman 3 (June 17), Twilight Zone – The Movie (June 24), Mr. Mom (July 22)

3. 1981
Raiders of the Lost Ark (June 12), Clash of the Titans (June 12), Superman II (June 19), For Your Eyes Only (June 26)

4. 1982
Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan (June 6), E.T. (June 11), Firefox (June 18)

5. 1985A View to a Kill (May 24), The Goonies (June 7), Pale Rider (June 28), Back to the Future (July 3), Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (July 12)

Remember the General Cinema "feature presentation" open? Dig the groovy high-hat.

Five funniest sitcoms on the air right now

1. "30 Rock" (NBC) - With its jigsaw-puzzle plotting, extremely quirky minor characters, pop culture non-sequitirs, and taste for the deadpan absurd, it's "Seinfeld" with heart. I want to go to there.
2. "The Family Guy" (Fox) - You either think it's pure genius or you don't. We can't help you if you don't.
3. "How I Met Your Mother" (CBS) - This one takes the "Friends" mantle, looking at friendships and dating among five 20-somethings who are far better looking and wittier than you ever were. Surprisingly insightful and clever for a show that seems on the surface to be so ordinary.
4. "The Office" (NBC) - The elder statesman of the group, powered by a strong ensemble of weird-but-mostly-plausible characters. Though perhaps losing a step recently, it's still the king of the awkward moment where you're not sure whether to cringe or laugh.
5. "The Big Bang Theory" (CBS) - It'd be a funny show even without Jim Parsons' scene-stealing Sheldon character. The one show on this list we bet you've never seen.

For the record, CBS' "Two and Half Men" can be funny, but every episode is fixated on sex in a way that can be fairly creepy given the show's 12-year-old co-star. Some of the R-rated jokes they get away would have never been allowed on "Friends" just ten years ago.


Knee-jerk review: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"

1. Tedious, bordering on boring.
2. Technically, it's dazzling. Sumptuous production design spans 60 years with the kind of detail that suggests no expense was spared.
3. The New Orleans setting (taking place in the hours before Katrina hits, no less) is certainly trendy and fresh, but the flashback structure seems needless in a film that already feels overlong by 45 minutes. The same goes for the backstory involving Julia Ormond. And the business with the giant train station clock that runs backward. It's all too much, too indulgent. None of the subplots and narrative tangents really feel necessary. They just all sort of lay there.
4. The special effects that age Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett (making them seem at times younger and older) is impressive, to say the least.
5. Which is the problem with the movie. It's a clever gimmick (two lovers: one getting older, one getting younger) in search of a story.
6. Nothing really happens. It's all very episodic, a connection of moments without any real conflict or emotion to raise the stakes. Bad things happen and you probably won't even care.
7. Instead, you might be looking at your watch.
8. The submarine encounter is pretty cool, however.
9. We can't decide if Taraji P. Henson was brilliant or a complete ham.
10. It's just too long. Rambling and sprawling.
11. That said, the last 15 minutes or so are pretty poignant.
12. Let's recap: director David Fincher's best film remains 1995's Seven. If you haven't seen it, go do so immediately. Seven and Silence of the Lambs are the definitive serial killer movies - it's hard to imagine anyone ever finding a way to offer a fresh take on that genre. A close second is 1999's visionary Fight Club, followed by 2002's sweaty Panic Room. Number four would be 1997's The Game and then last year's Zodiac. That leaves Benjamin Button in the slot just above 1993's unsatisfying Alien3.

Knee-jerk review: "Gran Torino"

1. "Get off my lawn."
2. Clint Eastwood is a national treasure.
3. A case could be made that it's perhaps Eastwood's best film since Unforgiven. Unlike so many film snobs, we're big fans of the Oscar-winning Million Dollar Baby, but that film was operatic and exaggerated where Gran Torino is smaller and somehow subtler.
4. The ending is a bit of a letdown, but upon further review we do understand the reasoning behind it. It's not completely satisfying. But it stays true to the characters. And it plugs in nicely with the film's themes of violence and guilt.
5. There's a lot of humor here. And it's fun to see an Eastwood character show some real heart and levity, particularly as he warms to his immigrant neighbors. It can't all be the squinty scowls, can it?
6. The script is a little on-the-nose, the dialogue sometimes telling us things that Eastwood's camerawork has already communicated.
7. Much delight comes from seeing Eastwood threaten and beat up no-good street thugs. It's like 1983 all over again. Would you want to see him come after you with a big monkey wrench shoved in his belt? He can take you.
8. We haven't tried Pabst Blue Ribbon, but something tells us it's an acquired taste.
9. Who knew there were so many epithets for Asians?