Ewan McGregor and Amr Waked in "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen," which opens in the Milwaukee market today.
Ewan McGregor and Amr Waked in "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen," which opens in the Milwaukee market today.

"Salmon Fishing in the Yemen" is an exercise in cinematic balance

Based on a novel, parlayed into a screenplay by the man who helped bring "127 Hours" and "Slumdog Millionaire" to life and directed by the man behind "The Cider House Rules" and "Chocolat": "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen" has some serious heft behind it. And with due cause; there's a lot going on, and without this collective experience "Salmon Fishing" could have easily been swept away under the current of its own story.

"Salmon Fishing" follows the work of fisheries expert Dr. Alfred Jones (Ewan McGregor) and professional consultant Harriet (Emily Blunt) in their efforts to bring the sport of fly fishing – and the environment and fish needed for it – to Yemen at the request of Harriet's wealthy client, Sheikh Muhammed (Amr Waked). The project gets put on the fast track after entering the orbit of enterprising British government PR woman Patricia Maxwell (played brilliantly by Kristin Scott Thomas) and forces the odd collective to bring the sheikh's dream out of the realm of impossibility and into the arid lands of the Middle East.

The monumental task also brings the two leads closer together as they overcome their own opposition and unite through their work. Not Hollywood's usual tawdry love connection, the duo is motivated by mutual respect and affection, yet countered by their individual romantic complications (his stifling marriage and her soldier boyfriend). This plot line rides alongside the main story as a respectable passenger, taking the wheel long enough to get the audiences invested in the characters but not so long that it hogs the driver's seat.

The main driving force, of course, is the quest to bring fishing to the desert. It's the spiritual and idealistic intentions of the sheikh that add substance to the story and help both plot and subplot thrive as a literal/metaphorical yin and yang.

Much of "Salmon Fishing" is infused with this dogged optimism, including its pleasantly surprising leaps into comedic territory. Despite being yet another cog i…


The lost concept of found money

Landmark Credit Union has a semi-new commercial talking about the joys of finding surprise sidewalk money (or parking structure money, or borrowed library book money).

I've seen it probably a handful of times and something always felt kind of off about it. Then, last night, it hit me: I can't remember the last time I found money. Actual cash money, not the "Oh look, a penny!" kind.

Naturally, I blame society – specifically, its increasing reliance on plastic. I'm guilty, too; I use my debit card for everything. It's just easier. But, the more money gets exchanged via computer transfers instead of people's hands, the less there is to drop or get carried away on a sudden breeze, to be found by some lucky schmuck like me out for a stroll.

It's a little sad, really. I still remember the day I found a $10 bill on the floor in my video store and how it literally made my week. And how I wouldn't shut up about it for just as long.

I'm not about to climb up to the roof and start raining Hamiltons down on the city, but I do have two singles in my wallet that I had forgotten about that I'm considering letting escape out my car window on the drive home, just leave something to brighten somebody else's day.

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in "The Hunger Games," out today.
Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in "The Hunger Games," out today.

"The Hunger Games" will have you dying for more

After much anticipation, "The Hunger Games" has arrived. The big-screen adaptation of Suzanne Collins' first young adult novel in her Hunger Games trilogy is almost guaranteed a blockbuster smash from its literary fans. "Hunger Games" should not, however, be relegated to "Twilight" status by the uninitiated – this newest YA sensation packs serious substance and has been translated into a powerful movie experience.

"The Hunger Games" follows 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives in the futuristic remnants of today's North America known as Panem. Katniss, like her little sister Prim and every other child ages 12-18 residing in Panem's 12 districts, must annually be subjected to the "Reaping," an assembly which selects one boy and one girl from each district to battle to the death in the Capitol's Hunger Games. After Prim's name is drawn, Katniss volunteers to take her place and literally fight for her life for the Capitol citizens' entertainment.

Lacking the inner monologue of a first-person voice, "Hunger Games" blends in elements of the second book to provide a greater perspective of the Capitol and its sinister omnipresence in the districts. While many of the details in the original exposition are sacrificed to move the story along, the majority of them are inconsequential to the more abbreviated storyline of the movie.

However, there are a few points in the beginning which – while trivial – could trip up viewers who haven't read the book initially. These moments pass quickly with the introduction, which mirrors the choppy, ragged environment of Katniss' gray and weary District 12.

The movie hurries to whisk Katniss and her fellow "tribute," Peeta Mellark, off to the games and introduce the audience to the meat of the plot. Loyal readers of the first novel should not be disappointed at early omissions, as some of the background information that was skipped over to streamline the exposition gets woven into the action leading up to and during the games.

Hop aboard the bus for a free - and safe - ride this St. Patrick's Day.
Hop aboard the bus for a free - and safe - ride this St. Patrick's Day.

Be safe and save some green this St. Patrick's Day

Nothing says "drinking holiday" quite like St. Patrick's Day. And since it falls on a Saturday this year, revelers have even more occasion to hit the town and fill up on their share of whiskey, Guinness and green beer.

Whether you're hitting up your local Irish standby or bar crawling into the wee hours of the morning, however, this is no occasion to get behind the wheel of a car.

Just to make sure the thought doesn't cross your alcohol-addled brain, MillerCoors and the Milwaukee County Transit System have teamed up once again to provide free bus service Saturday, March 17.

The Miller Lite Free Rides program will run from 6 p.m. until the end of regular service on all MCTS routes for St. Patrick's Day. Get route and schedule information by calling (800) FREE-RIDES (1-800-373-3743), texting "FREERIDE" to 90464 or visiting the Free Rides website.

Stay safe and have a happy St. Paddy's Day, Milwaukee.