Saturday, January 31, 2015

Single advantage of being me? I'm hard to surprise.

In my illustrious career as a server (despite being referred to as waitress on more than one occasion) I made a killing on drinks. Alcoholic drinks at night, oh yeah, but during the day - it was all about the smoothie. That f--ker was $4.50 and some little shits would have/demand more than one in a sitting. Combine that with a burger and fries and you were looking at dropping twenty bucks easily. And no one ever ate alone.

As for those delicious smoothies, we served the standard flavors: banana, strawberry, pineapple, coconut, peach and even mango. And if you pressed me (or were super hot), I'd let you know about the hush-hush flavors of peanut butter, oreo or chocolate. The bartenders hated making those.

Anyway, as was often the case, someone would get what they thought was a unique and potentially brilliant idea: what if we go ahead and combine all the flavors? I mean, sure one or two is probably enough, but being that I clearly hate myself, and you, naturally, I'm going to throw caution to the wind and cram as much good things together, ultimately making something horrible and unsatisfying. 

Between you and me, I hated just about every single minute of last fall's This is Where I Leave You. Rented by Mrs. Two Dollar Cinema this past weekend, this movie lands just north of those awful holiday movies that feature 900 celebrities all getting stuck in an elevator. But instead of cashing in on New Year's Eve or Valentine's Day, here the reason for the half-baked hilarity is the, get this, death of their father! Let the party begin!

I wasn't overly familiar with sitting shiva, but according to this movie, it's where a bunch of people who don't look at all related look irritated for a couple of minutes before they go do something hilarious! And while there might have been a decent family dramedy (is that something only assholes say?) tucked under that yarmulke, instead we are left with capable actors acting like idiots. It's like one of those new-school Adam Sandler movies for adults.

Look, I wasn't expecting brilliance, but I was, at the very least, looking for honesty. Unfortunately, anything even remotely bordering something an adult would do was nixed in favor of a moment that would play well in the preview.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

I have learned so much from the bears.

I've spent just over a decade as a teacher, and though there are many awful things about the job, the worst has to be how often I'm lied to. On average, I'm probably lied to fifty times a day. Somehow more insulting, most of them aren't even good lies, either. Someone tells me they didn't get the homework with about as much conviction as the person at the drive-thru says May I take your order? Eventually this nonsense beats you down, and you stop believing most of what you hear.

But when one of my students (a good dude, too) recommended that I take my son to the movies later that day (because the movie is sooooo good), I suppressed ten years of misplaced guile and said simply:

Okay. I'll do it.

Poster? Awful. Movie? Brilliant. Marketing department? Fired.
Paddington is an excellent children's movie. In fact, I might even suggest those of you currently living the dream (i.e. having no kids) should check it out as well. My student was absolutely correct: it's really, really good.

For me, the preview did the film no justice, as it looked like another steaming pile of talking animal poop, but that is certainly not the case. There is no unnecessary singing, no annoying little bastard kid (living next door or otherwise), and no misplaced all star celebrity cast! Paddington eschews all of the typical kid movie dreck, and opts for being nothing short of lovely. I look forward to seeing it again.

I'm not really sure how the story goes in the books, but in the film, Paddington arrives in London after his home on Darkest Peru is destroyed. While I thought the whole it's a talking bear! thing would be a big deal, charmingly enough - it isn't. People accept that he can talk, it's Paddington himself they reject. Flatly.

Eventually, despite Dad's pleas otherwise, a family stops and offers to help Paddington. He's so gracious, and so polite, it's a wonder they don't just adopt him on the spot.  The plan, however, is to reunite the bear with famed British explorer Montgomery Clyde, who just so happened to discover the bears years ago. Dad, played by delightful Hugh Bonneville, is a cautious guy, and this bear business it risky. Paddington can stay...for one night. That's it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Sounds like torture.

Look, I get it.

I just took a new job seventy miles away from my house. I'm not even sure what I'll be doing (or when I'll be doing it), but with the money I'll eventually be making, I'd be foolish not to. I mean, sometimes, no matter how absurd the whole thing might be, you just gotta make some money. F--k what anyone else says.

Then he gets in your pants.
Sure, maybe you don't hear me, but after suffering through 2014's No Good Deed, my man Idris Elba certainly does. Because financial gain can be the only reason a guy that talented (and handsome) ends up in a shit show like this.

For those of you lucky enough to not know, No Good Deed tells the story of Colin, a psychotic killer on the way to his parole hearing. It seems he's responsible for the murder of FIVE YOUNG GIRLS (they say this a lot). He might look and sound like a reformed man, but after ten minutes of a-holes essentially looking into the camera and telling us otherwise, ol' murderous Colin is sent back to prison. Apparently Con Air was overbooked, so this unbelievably soulless bastard is headed back to the pen in something Jim Bob Duggar takes grocery shopping. Good thing this van is helmed by Polite Old Black Guy and Paul Blart's angry cousin. Needless to say, after killing those two f--kers without hesitation, the first of Colin's not good deeds are done. Or his good deeds are not done. Undone? I don't even know what's going on anymore.

Monday, January 19, 2015

We are really awesome at this.

I didn't do whatever it is you must in order to make them official, but I guess I made a couple of New Year's Resolutions for 2015.  I'm not a big fan of arbitrarily setting goals, nor am I fan of reaching said goals, but this year I wanted to keep things simple.

  1. Spend more time with my kids
  2. See better movies
  3. Increase my efforts on Two Dollar Cinema (and in the blogging community)
Now #1 and #3 are clearly at odds with each other, I get that. But that second one? Well, that one I could probably stick to rather easily. I mean, it's not like I'd go and renege on all three of those resolutions just hours into 2015.  Not on purpose, anyway...

On New Year's Day, my wife and I opted to bring our son to the movies, instead of making it an afternoon among adults. And with that fateful decision came an afternoon screening of Penguins of Madagascar. Truthfully, I don't think any of us were really dying to see it. But damned if we don't all enjoy salty popcorn and dark rooms, you know?

Being that it's been almost three weeks, I don't really recall much of Dreamworks' latest animated flick. I remember it being the right kind of silly and featuring some fantastically goofy voice work, but this clearly isn't one of those movies like Up or Wall E that will resonate a decade later. This flick's sights aren't that high.

Branching off from the successful Madagascar franchise, Penguins follows the wacky foursome as they ditch the sidekick act and head off on their own adventure. It turns out a giant octopus/fellow ex-zoo attraction has decided to rid the world of penguins, after being burned by the loveable birds years prior. Skipper, Kowalski, Private and Rico are the only ones that can stop him, and concoct countless ridiculous plans to foil the eight-legged villain. As a wise man once said, hold on to your butts.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Maniacs are afraid of maniacs.

I have a daughter. I love her very much.

And if someone were ever to wrong her, well, I'm not sure what I'm going to be able to do about it. I mean, I don't have a very particular set of skills. I'm all for revenge, sure, and would surely want blood, but I don't even own a gun. I don't have a lot of knives, and only have two functioning hammers. Shit, I don't have any duct tape, let alone a basement to house the perpetrator in, duct taped or otherwise. But I'm not completely hopeless. There's one thing I actually do have.

I do have a dad.
I'm pretty sure Tarantino saw this on the January 1st.
Big Bad Wolves is one of those movies that somehow everyone has seen despite it not really starring anyone overly famous. I had initially heard about the film last year on Twitter, but avoided any further spoilers in the months that followed (all told, that wasn't so hard to do). While I had all intentions of eventually seeing it, it took a random text from an old friend to finally give me that final kick in the ass. His description?

'F'd up drama suspense and intense'


What Dunphy boiled down to a few words, I'm going to belabor into many more. Primarily set over the course of just a few days, 2013's Big Bad Wolves is a deceptively simple revenge flick. After the brutal kidnapping and death of his daughter, a man kidnaps not only the suspected killer, but also the police officer who inadvertently botched his arrest. This guy is no nonsense, and with so little left to live for he is willing to just about anything for whatever justice he can muster. Actually, it's not even justice that he ultimately wants. It's something a lot more personal that that.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

It's the behavior of an incredibly immature person.

The more I think about it, the more I feel like Christmas is becoming an obstacle in my life, something that must be survived, if not altogether defeated. Getting everyone the perfect gift is maddening enough (essentially it's the simultaneous birthday of everyone you know), but that impossibility can't hold a scented candle to the unrelenting chaos of getting together for the holidays. This year in particular, turned out to be one for the record books in the annals of Brown Family Holiday Disasters. And while there's certainly plenty of blame to go around (myself included), it can really be boiled down to one simple thing: selfishness.

I'll tell you right now, it is truly remarkable how much Happy Christmas seemed to highlight the personal lowlights of last week's holiday festivities. Sure, it's not a carbon-copy of what happened with our brood, but damned if it didn't feel close. Really, really close.

Jeff and Kelley are preparing for Christmas with their young son Jude, when Jeff's younger sister Jenny shows up from out of town. Jenny (an intentionally annoying Anna Kendrick) is moving in, and the plan is that she'll be able to help out by watching the kid. Lucky her, she even gets to move into their sweet ass basement bar, a room Jeff rarely, if ever, uses. 

Her first night home, Jenny heads out with her friend, Carson, to some sort of hipster party where she gets impossibly trashed. Jenny's so far gone that her friend can't even rouse her, and Carson ultimately has to wake Jeff to come and carry her home. While it's really embarrassing for everyone involved, it's a good thing that it'll never happen again. Promise.

The next day, Jenny sleeps through her prearranged babysitting gig, and wakes to find family friend Kevin (Mark Webber) watching young Jude instead. This guy should probably turn and run in the other direction, but being that Jenny is kind of hot, well, you can only assume what he does next. You can also probably guess how it will turn out, too.

From there, like any holiday reunion with family, it's a roller-coaster of highs and lows, lightly sprinkled with substance abuse and misguided bonding. Oh, and it ends on a down note, further adding to its authenticity. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

I don't know what it is, but it's not bird.

They’re everywhere. In fact, their numbers seem to be steadily climbing.

As a kid, it was incredibly difficult to avoid them. In fact, I was the poor bastard that was usually trotted out as a last resort. One of those sacrificial lambs encouraged (that should read forced) to just have some fun and give them a chance.

You’d think that I would have learned my lesson by the time I reached adulthood. You’d think I’d never again willingly spend another moment, not even a second, with another loud-mouthed, ignorant jerk.

You’d think.

I'm not going to lie. I love that shirt.
Tammy was actually worse than I expected. And I expected bad.  I was thinking charmingly bad, but this is just bad bad. Melissa McCarthy, for me, is on the clock. Time is running out on her once-amusing shtick.

Presented as a comedy, Tammy might actually be more at home being labeled a drama (if not an outright horror film). Tammy, after getting fired from a fast-food joint, comes home to find her husband is having an affair with a neighbor. She storms out, and along with her grandmother (an intermittently affable Susan Surandon), hits the road in an effort to deal with her crumbling personal life. Hijinks ensue, curse words are uttered, but damned if I didn’t care about any of it.

While I appreciate that this flick was a joint effort between McCarthy and her husband, first-time director Ben Falcone, that fun fact doesn’t trump how overwhlmingly abysmal this film is. I laughed a few times, and shockingly – my wife watched the whole thing – but it’s still such an uneven mess. Maybe it could have worked as an unrelentingly crude comedy (like The Heat, for example), or perhaps as a more straightforward drama with occasional funny bits (there are some valid themes worth exploring), but the final product is an unholy mix of terrible jokes and lame attempts as saying something. When the heavy moments come, they feel out of place and ridiculous.