Monday, January 16, 2017

Are you guys really gonna go camping out in those woods?

The summer of 1999 was over seventeen years ago.

Back then, the twenty year-old version of myself didn't have a wife and kids to worry about. Nor did that handsome bastard have a career to waste seven and half hours a day on (I consider lunch to be rather productive). He didn't even have a home, really, as when he wasn't moving into or out of a dorm room, he slept in his little brother's bedroom (subsequently relegating that punk to the den).

However, that twenty year-old kid and I aren't all that different. I'm still obsessed with seeing as many new movies as a can, still get quietly giddy at the thought of going to the movies. And I'm still hopelessly willing to give a film a chance whether it's hyped as the next big thing, or a boring rehash of the same old shit.

Oh, and when it comes to movies, yeah, I'm still not scared of bundles of f--king sticks.

And you're boring, and you're totally ordinary, and you know it.
What the f--k, Blair Witch? Don't you know how this sequel thing goes? You're supposed to shit the bed of the original by deviating from what the made the first one good, not to ruin it by doing the same f--king thing again. That's what remakes are for, silly goose! (And f--k you if you think you can do both at the same time, 'cause that shit's impossible...ish. [I'm still not what to make of Evil Dead II, honestly...]).

Just like last time, the film is comprised of the found footage left behind by some nosy f--king college kids, who had headed into some Maryland woods looking for a mysterious witch. While in the original we had three annoying a-holes to account for, like any shitty sequel, we're gonna go bigger and double that number to six. Now we get to pitch our tents with White Guy and White Girl, Black Couple, and the impossibly stupid duo, Local F--kwads, They probably have names, but by the end of another eighty-plus minutes of running and heavy breathing, you definitely won't care what they were.

But just in case you do, or will, here's what else you need to know: White Guy's sister was that girl with the runny nose in the first one, and some recent footage has been posted online showing her reflection in a bathroom mirror. White Guy was little when his sister (Heather?) disappeared in the woods, so of course it makes sense that he heads back into the same ones to find her. Now, if say my brother had supposedly died while riding a go-kart down the wrong way of an interstate, I probably wouldn't pull the same move to go find him. But White Guy doesn't roll that way. Nope. He decides that not only must he go into the scary woods to find her twenty years later, but that, yes, he's totally going to film it, too. It worked out so well the first time....

Monday, January 9, 2017

That's a heavy story, Pop.

I see my dad once a year. Twice if there's a funeral.

Typically, when he's not serving us contextually exotic meals (he's a chef), one of the few acceptable (and expected) activities we partake in as a family is a trip to the movies. He'll see anything, which is appreciated, but I always feel this odd pressure. This is the one movie he'll see in the theater this year. There's not a lot of wiggle room, you know?

But my dad? I'm telling you - he's incredibly easygoing.

Unless you suggest fast food for dinner, you don't really have to worry about upsetting him.

Not gonna lie, Manchester by the Sea was sold out.
If only the same could be said for Troy Maxson, Denzel Washington's character in 2016's Fences. While I'm sure my own father fought through some adversity in his day, Chef Brown's journey couldn't hold a candle to the constant tragedy of Maxson's. Somewhat arduous but steadily compelling, Washington's directorial effort capably shines the light on one man's darkness.

Set in 1950's Pittsburgh, the story opens with Maxson and his best/only friend Mr. Bono riding through the hills of the Steel City on the back of a sanitation truck. It's fitting too, because for these men, there's a lot of garbage to be dealt with.

Initially, Troy appears to be an honest guy making honest money, collecting his pay and heading straight home to his loving wife, Rose (a typically mesmerizing Viola Davis). But as the hours and days pass, waste management takes on a whole new meaning.

Like many of Denzel's most memorable characters, I found myself unable to get any real footing with Troy Maxson. He was simultaneously boisterous and charming, which I liked, but he was pretty f--king terrifying, too. Even just sitting there in the theater, I felt I better sit up and fly right or else, you know?

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Did he put his puppet in your mouth?

If each of our lives has a million moments, the moment your child is born is like, top two or three. I know it's cliche as f--k, but of my thirty-seven years on this planet, the births of my two little ones are battling it out for the image most seared into my memory.

The making part is a bit blurry (I was going to say fuzzy, but opted against it), sure, but the moment those punks entered this world is simply unforgettable. Especially if you're down low. For my son Matthew, icechips in hand, I stayed high. Whispered little bits of encouragement into the bravest person in the room.

But for Violet, perhaps seeing the fear in my eyes, the doctor nudged me with her left elbow and gave me this nod like, get in there, P-ssy (poorly phrased, I realize). And so I did.

And what happened next...changed my life forever.

While I'm not really well-versed in the series, it's safe to say the events of Bridget Jones's Baby will also alter some lives forever, I'm just not sure which ones exactly. See, it appears that after a couple of incredible (and altogether improbable) evenings, the 43 year-old Ms. Jones has found herself rather knocked up. As any expecting mother north of 35 would tell you, this is a high-risk situation. And that's assuming you already know who the father is.

As yet another of my seasonal cinematic olive branches extended to Mrs. Two Dollar Cinema, I thought this one would be an excellent pick. Consistently charming and just funny enough, the third (right?) Bridget Jones flick essentially delivered what each of us were looking for. For her? A delightful comedy about having a baby starring two handsome men. For me? Two more hours with Dorothy Boyd, all grown up, and with a British accent. 

Though the narrative flow was interrupted by my wife's predictable flat-lining (and me immediately switching to Train to Busan), Bridget Jones's Baby quickly locks you onto the edge of your seat. Even if you don't find the jokes all that funny, or if the constant profanity turns you off, I'd put money on the fact that you'd still be interested in seeing who the father ends up being. Maybe it was predictable, or maybe it was something everybody already knew, but I was nervously rocking in my seat, waiting for the big reveal. 

Or maybe I thought that sound outside was a Korean zombie, coming to eat my face, Either way, I needed some f--king answers.

It's a crucial period for her, too.

If movies have taught me anything, there's an undeniable magic when it comes to riding the rails.

Literally so, I suppose, when Harry and Ron first boarded the Hogwart's Express. Or when those creepy dead-eyed kids headed to the North Pole with Tom Hanks in The Polar Express.

Remember the trip the three brothers took through India in the Darjeeling Limited? It was so enchanting it made trekking through the set of Slumdog Millionaire look something I'd give my right arm for. Hell, even in something like Nymphomaniac Vol. 1 [review], even a simple commute home from work on the train had the chance to be a (mind)blowing experience.

But what movies have also taught me about the train? Well, when it's not romantic and whimsical?

It's an inescapable, unrelenting clusterf--k of pain and suffering, where your life expectancy goes from number of years to number of cars in an instant.

So, yeah. It's pretty f--king magical regardless.

Yet another foreign film that could have killed at the domestic box-office if given the chance, South Korea's Train to Busan is everything action/horror junkies could ever ask for. Set aboard a high-speed commuter rail in the early stages of a zombie outbreak, Sang-ho Yeon's flick is as brilliant as it is relentless. Even if bloodthirsty Koreans are chasing you down, this is one train you've got to catch.

Yoo Gong (the dude from Silenced [review]) plays Seok Woo, a father so entrenched at work that his family has become an afterthought. After yet another dismal birthday has left her broken-hearted, Woo's lovely little daughter Soo-an begs to be taken to her mom's house as soon as possible. It's an hour's train ride away, but Woo has no choice: they'll leave first thing in the morning.

Like any of us getting up to travel up when it's still dark, Woo is a bit bleary eyed as they board the high speed train. He doesn't even notice the weird lady who staggers aboard as they're is just about to depart. Hell, he doesn't even notice the incident unfolding at the station they've just left. He's got to be at work soon. Just a quick round trip to Busan and it's back to work, you know? No big deal. Hell, might even catch a few more winks once this train gets moving.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Real talent. From real life. That's what audiences want to see.

I was kind of all in with Justin and Kelly. Even hung around for Ruben and Fantasia, if you can believe it. Eventually though, like the rest of the world, I grew tired of singing competitions. It wasn't ever the music, frankly, as I unabashedly love a good pop song. I've even been known to belt them out on occasion.

In my car. Loudly. Every single day of my life.

Horrific visuals/sounds aside, the real reason I've thrown in the towel on these damn competitions is every single thing about them other than the singing. Sure, that story about the kid from the small town with big dreams was compelling the first twenty times. But now? Who gives a shit. Sing the f--king song and shuffle back to your van down by the river, okay?

Keep your (nicely packaged) personal tragedy personal. Because, between you and me, I'm just here for the music. I ain't got time for all that other stuff.

Unfortunately, that other stuff comprises way too many of the one hundred and eight (!) minutes of Illumination's latest animated feature, Sing. With a moderately charming trailer (that has been seemingly placed in front of every movie I have seen theatrically since 1985) full of adorable singing and dancing animals, it seemed like writer/director Garth Jennings' flick would not only charm Paula and Randy, but also that a-hole in the v-neck, Simon Cowell as well. Uh, no. Not so much.

*holds hand in air* Thank youuuu....

After a fairly rad opening sequence swooshing all around town and introducing us to the major players. Sing inexplicably rushes through the auditions to instead focus on the failing theater of Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey). Moon, despite being a wee bit sheisty, is a likable little koala desperately holding onto an old theater that's been in his family for years.

Maybe there's an interesting story there, sure, but it grinds any joyous momentum to a screeching halt. Combine this with the fact that our half-dozen contestants are secretly trying to win a separate contest of being the most uninspired cliche in the history of modern cinema, and this one is way off key. And trust me, I know off key.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

If you put your Bat-Signal in the air, I'll be there.

I don't care what your eyes (sometimes) tell you. Or what your heart says half the time. Or what the news says always.
And that one guy you work with? He's an aberration. A glitch in the Matrix, I'm sure of it.
Oh, and forget everything you've ever read in a comments section, or just about any interaction on the internet in general. I'm telling you...right here and now...

...the world is a very good place. 

And it's filled with very good people.

At least it was at one point in November of 2013, where thousands of people came together to do something good...for someone other than themselves. Batkid Begins, an endlessly inspiring documentary from 2015 (currently streaming on Neflix), captures a moment in time where all the darkness of the world seemed to magically vanish under the bright lights of the Bat-Signal.

Quietly a love-letter to the bittersweet brilliance of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Batkid Begins tells the story of then 5-year-old Miles Scott, a little dude fighting the good fight against childhood leukemia. When contacted by the charitable organization, Miles' wish was, on paper, rather simple: He wanted to be Batman. Oh, so like, he wants to dress like The Dark Knight? No problem. No, no. He wants to be Batman. Like, the real Batman. Oh....*crickets* Uh, okay. We can come up with something...right?

They do. And as chronicled here, this seemingly little endeavor spirals out of control in the best possible way. Like a giant Katamari ball rolling down the hills of San Francisco (and only picking up the best parts of humanity), Dana Nachman's film shows not only what is possible for one little kid, but what might also be possible for the rest of us.

Friday, December 23, 2016

This is not a slice of pie. This is a slice of heaven.

Wait, you're saying he took her out on a date, in the daytime and....and had thoughtful conversation about relevant topics? What? And people voted for him?

Talking? Art exhibits?  Community organizing? A f--king Spike Lee movie? Really? I thought when Presidential types were interested in a woman...well, I thought it was much simpler than that.

I mean, that's a lot of work. Don't you just grab 'em by the p---y?

As the Obamas prepare for their last day in the White House, Southside With You carefully chronicles their first day together outside of it. Director Richard Tanne's feature debut is much like the future couple: fairly reserved, undeniably picturesque and for some, endlessly inspiring.

In the summer of 1989, Michelle Robinson has been assigned to keep tabs on a charismatic young law student named Barack Obama. You may have heard of this dude. Even though she's his advisor, Michelle begrudgingly accepts his invitation to attend a community meeting in a rough part of town. This area is trying to keep their kids safe, but due to a lack of funding, can't get the kids a rec center. This is an important meeting, sure...but it's not a date.

Well, it wasn't supposed to be, but ol' Barry picked up Michelle about four or five hours before the meeting....and well, they had to make a day of it. Going to a gallery to see an art exhibit? Enlightening, sure. But not a date. A quaint walk through a sunny park? Totally serene. But not a date. But by the time that Barack takes the podium at the meeting and does his thing? Still, not a date. 

Okay, fine. Maybe just a little bit...

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

I fear nothing. All is as the Force wills it.

There's nothing like a surprise ending in a film. You're sitting there, comfortable in every sense of the word, and then bam! You get blindsided in the best possible way. You look at the person next to you like, did that just happen? and you almost want to run out of the theater to immediately talk about it.

For me, The Sixth Sense and The Usual Suspects are two examples of films that basically made my damn near ending it. And while I'll always love an unexpected finale...

...there's something to be said for the direct opposite.

It doesn't matter what galaxy you're in, nor your proximity to it, even in space, war is Hell. In the first of likely many, many Star Wars Stories, Gareth Edward's Rogue One eschews the good times, adorable droids and cherished nostalgia of The Force Awakens [review] and shines his lightsaber on the dark underbelly of the Resistance. For those looking for a more serious Star Wars film, these are the Droids you're looking for.

Wait. That doesn't make sense, does it?

What does make sense, like, in every possible way, is the exceptionally reverse-engineered story of episode III and a half. Maybe you serious types might have some quibbles with some of the finer plot points, but from my seat in Auditorium 1, everything checked out (and stop being such a dick about everything, okay?)

Galen Erso, is a principled/handsome family man living a quiet life on a remote planet. Unfortunately for Erso and his family (but fortunately for the rest of the galaxy that enjoys being alive) he's also a badass scientist and engineer. And when he's recruited by the Empire to help build an enormous weapon, his small family is quite literally torn apart. But what looks like a sad ending...will turn out to be something worse, actually. Much worse.