• The Game Plan may have a poor Tomatometer rating of 29%, but we saw it yesterday and it was cute. If you're seeing a non-Pixar Disney movie, do you not expect it to be formulaic? Isn't the formula a formula because it works? We all liked it. It was funny. It tugged at my heartstrings. (Seriously! I was in tears for 20 minutes. Am I hormonal?) The little girl was adorable. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson was funny and charming (not to mention easy on the eyes...and frequently shirtless). And the movie came down on the side of men (jocks, even) learning to appreciate ballet rather than scorning it. If you want to see a movie that's suitable for a family with kids, this isn't a bad choice at all. Hey, how will your kids learn to be cynical teenagers who reject formulaic fare if they don't first come to understand what the formula is?
Another plus for the movie is that we've got The Rock, a person of color (I think he's half black, half Samoan), playing a football player who, unbeknownst to him, had fathered a child with his white ex-wife. And race wasn't at all an issue in the movie. We don't get to see a ton of mixed-race families in popular entertainment and advertising. And those little "ethnic doll family" toys, they assume that everyone in a family is the same race. So while I don't expect a Disney movie for kids to delve into 21st century race relations, I'm delighted that the studio released a movie in which people date and marry across racial divides.
• After the movie, we went across the street to Fat Willy's Rib Shack for dinner. Good food, decent beer and wine (particularly for a BBQ joint), good desserts (the brownie is baked to order in a cast-iron pan and then covered with a mountain of whipped cream (really—I think it had about two cups of whipped cream on top) and caramel. The food's not cheap, but it was good. If you're catching a movie at the City North 14 or passing through Logan Square, consider Fat Willy's.
• Last Thursday, we missed the season premiere of The Office. Last season, we picked up missed NBC episodes on iTunes (I bought the full season of 30 Rock because I got hooked on it halfway through the season). This year, NBC is refusing to play with iTunes because they wanted to charge a lot more money. NBC's solution is to offer the shows via their own site for free—but there ain't no such thing as free TV. NBC has decided to increase ad revenue instead, so you get a 42-minute episode of the show with, apparently, 18 minutes of commercials. And you can't skip 'em, can't fast forward through 'em. If you slide the progress bar back to rewind and you bump into a commercial you've already seen, you gotta watch it again. And we saw the same three commercials multiple times. We didn't get to see the whole episode, either, because we got trapped in one of the commercial breaks and it refused to proceed to the next segment of the show. We tried starting over and moving ahead to the "chapter" we were on, but the chapter labels weren't too accurate and we never could find our spot again—but the commercials were ready to play again every time. And those commercials? Deafeningly loud. If you turn down the sound on the ad, when the show comes back, you can't hear a thing. The rewinding functionality is so clumsy, it's a pain in the ass to even try to catch what you missed.
NBC's "free" show downloads SUCK ASS. So if my DVR and I miss an episode, NBC won't be getting my money, and they won't be getting my eyeballs for their advertisers.