It’s weird: sometimes you go on a date and the sparks just don’t fly. It’s not always clear what the problem is. The other person is attractive enough. They weren’t necessarily super-witty, but they weren’t dull, either. You have enough things in common that going out together seemed like a good idea. But it just… didn’t work. Whatever causes people to have chemistry just wasn’t there, and there’s no point in analyzing it farther than that, because it was definitely a one-off; you’re never going to see that person again. Better to just forget it and move on.

I feel like I just went on a bad first date with Sahara. This is a movie that just didn’t work, and I don’t know why because the ingredients were all there. Sahara is a globetrotting adventure tale anchored by two attractive Hollywood stars (Matthew McConaughy and Penelope Cruz) and that sounds great - adventuring and attractiveness are generally exciting things that I generally enjoy observing. It’s also got a wacky sidekick played by Steve Zahn and I like sidekicks AND I like Steve Zahn. It’s got a reasonably solid thriller plot about an African warlord who is poisoning his people, and then there’s also an evil industrialist who is in bed with the warlord, plus there’s a missing stash of American Civil War era gold, so it’s got positive and negative stakes for our heroes, since they have to avoid death and find a pile of fancy money. And between the boat chase and the helicopter chase and the fistfight on the roof of a skyscraper it’s got a reasonable amount of action…

But that spark just wasn’t there. I don’t know why I found it so boring. McConaughy did his McConaughy thing reasonably well, so I suppose I should have found him charming, but he just lacked… something. Maybe it’s that he’s too sunny to play an Indiana Jones type? Maybe he needed to be surlier or meaner, especially in such a (literally) gritty context? I don’t know. But I don’t want to spend too much time harping on him, because Sahara's tediousness is not really his fault – everyone comes off as bland in this movie. Zahn doesn’t have any good jokes, nor does he seem particularly wacky, and the reoccurring bit about how he’s always losing his hat in the middle of dangerous situations is definitely been-there done-that. And the action scenes… Ugh. I didn’t pay enough attention to them to be able to analyze why they didn’t work, but that should tell you more about them than a long winded breakdown would.

So, let’s just put this in our rearview mirror and pretend this didn’t happen. Instead, let’s use this space to do a regular feature on the blog called “Talkin’ Bout the Cat.”

The big news with the cat is that I just she got Anne Franked… Twice. You see, when I moved into my new apartment I didn’t pay the pet deposit. This is not because I am a wanton criminal who loves flouting the rules. No, it was because the rental company kind of sucks and I didn’t mind sticking it to them. (Plus they charged a $57 “lease fee” on top of the application fee, and I felt like paying the unnecessary “lease fee” karmically cancelled out not paying the pet deposit.) Anyway, I knew I could get away with it because the management company has to provide 24 hours notice before they enter the building, so as long as I hid the cat every time they notified me that they were coming I would be fine.

So, they announced they were coming two Thursdays ago, and thus I had to hide the cat in a friend’s basement overnight. However, the day after I returned the cat back to her natural habitat I got an email notifying me that they didn’t actually get inside my place because they couldn’t figure out how to work the front door. (They blamed me for their incompetence – they accused me of changing the locks. Like I said: they kind of suck.) That meant that they were going to come in for a second inspection. Which meant hiding her again. She certainly wasn’t happy about this development and I wasn’t happy about it either, but I had no choice. It was now too late to simply pay the damn deposit; at this point there would be surely be a fine on top of the initial fee.

Anyway, the multiple trips back and forth across town with the cat in a cat carrier were emotionally rough on everyone involved but they all worked out fine – the cat was AWOL at the time of the second inspection and thus no fines were levied. Actually, it turned out to be better than fine, because after the second inspection I found out that in addition to charging a pet deposit this rental company also charges a monthly “pet rent” fee. That’s right – these people want to be paid a monthly fee for owning an animal. Which is ridiculous, since the cat has no money to pay for her share and even if she did have money she wouldn’t spend it on rent since she would (quite frankly) be quite happy to spend most of the summer sleeping in a bush in the yard for free.

I don’t know who invented the idea of “pet rent” but they are a total bastard. They are the sort of scumbag who sees a chance to hustle an extra nickel out of the average Joe and then dives at it, even though America’s insistence on constantly monetizing everything is obviously a net negative for us as a society. Bottled water, gourmet coffee, separate rent for pets – we’ve become a nation that’s accepted the notion that we should all have to pay for things that should be free, or overpay for things that should be cheap, or the idea that animals should have access to all the same extravagances that humans do. It’s nuts how many places greedy entrepreneurs have found to squeeze blood out of rocks – all the little exploitative ways they can find to profit on people’s everyday existence by tacking on new fees to old expenses.

At least the pet rent problem is fixable, because I can just keep Anne Franking the cat every time an inspector wants to come over. Of course, my decision to not pay this pet rent fee means that I have accepted a series of inconveniences for myself, but that’s fine; I’d rather have a yearly hassle than a monthly bullshit expense. Of course, I’m not happy that those are my two options because who likes making no-win choices? But what are you gonna do, live in a world that doesn’t constantly ask you to pick the lesser evil and like it? (For the record, I’ve saved almost three hundred dollars by not admitting that I own a cat and I do like the fact that I have saved that cash.)

The worst part of the whole situation is that this is the exact type of frustration that causes my latent OCD tendencies to come out – it turns me from a generally laid back person to an obsessive weirdo who can’t stop thinking about how dumb the world is. I shouldn’t be thinking about that! I should be thinking about movies! Which reminds me: I think I was supposed to be writing about one right now? What was it called again? I dunno… Ah well, it can’t have been too important.

Winner: Draw

Sahara on IMDB