Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Well done, lad.

Every year, my dad travels from Hawai'i to spend his Christmas Break with my family in Pennsylvania. And every year, him and I carve out two hours or so to go to exactly one film. Typically we leave it up to chance, but this year I knew exactly what the film was going to be.

Two weeks before he was supposed to board the plane, he suffered a major tear in his aorta. Something called an aortic dissection. Not only weren't we going to see a movie, but it felt like we weren't going to see each other. Uh, ever again. It got to the point where I was terrified of my phone, because any chirp, buzz or alarm was going to signal something terrible had happened. Living in a heightened state...ain't really living at all.

Somehow though, he made it. Though he's not likely ever to be out of the woods, this slight progress? Well, we're gonna classify as pure f--king bonus. Because, frankly?

The whole situation is totally f--ked.

1917 is a very simple story, told in the most [technically] complex way possible. Set on April 6th (the day America joined the war), director Sam Mendes' masterclass in film-making is essentially a two-hour journey from point A to point B. And it's un-effing believable.

Given the vague orders of grab a mate and go see the general, young Lance Corporal Blake enlists his friend, the slightly more battle-hardened Lance Corporal Schofield to join him.

What could have been a meeting about something minor, turns out to be one that will have major consequences for both. Their orders are to deliver a message to the Western front, where 1,600 men are heading into a trap laid by the allegedly retreating Germans. If Blake and Schofield don't make it, or are too late, the entire battalion will be killed, with Blake's older brother among the casualties.

From there, like, immediately from that moment, Blake and Schofield are off at an absolute breakneck pace. While there are moments where these two get to discuss the validity of recognition or perhaps share a funny story, otherwise they are, rightfully so, on high alert at all times. But they weren't the only ones. Despite not much happening, I'm convinced that if they had been placed in further peril, World War might have claimed another naive soul.

Mine.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

The Dump #4: Christmas Break '19

Christmas Break is one of the best times of the school year. I mean, it's right up there with Spring Break and Thanksgiving Break.

With the holidays comes not only the much-needed respite from hormonal twelve-year olds, but also a break from the drudgery that comes from the daily grind. Practices are cancelled, games are called-off, meeting postponed, as gifts need to be bought, gingerbread men demand to be iced.

Traditionally, I head into the ten day vacation with lofty goals like sleeping more and actually playing my XBOX, but this year I was willing to give up both in the name of watching more movies.

Uh, about that...

Monday the 23rd: While Violet was singing Christmas carols in a local surgical rehab facility (where her great-uncle was laid up, coincidentally), I managed to catch the first 19 minutes of The Rise of Skywalker. Apparently, that wasn't enough big-budgeted buffoonery, as later that night, likely too late in fact, I returned to the cinema to check out Jumanji: The Next Level. Honestly, I wasn't a big fan of the first one [review], but the Rock is great (and sexy) and Gillan is sexy (and great), so why not roll the dice on the sequel? Well...

Shocking no one, it's more of the same, but with someone making the inexplicable decision to have the Rock do his best Danny DeVito for six-plus hours (felt it). Outside of some pretty rad baboon-related chaos, all that I can remember about this flick is that voice. That godforsaken voice. It's not that the Brahma Bull does a bad New York (?) accent, it's just totally overstays its welcome. Good thing Kevin Hart nails it as Danny Glover, which oddly enough may have been my favorite part of the movie. Other than Gillan. Sweet, sweet Gillan...

Thursday, January 30, 2020

I think I'm just tired, that's all.

Like the rest of you, I hate feeling stupid.

I will avoid likely wondrous experiences, if there's even the slightest chance I'm going to look like an idiot. I know, I know, but what about the entire contents of this blog? That's different. The shame Two Dollar Cinema brings me can easily be dismissed as something I've done. For a decade. Nobody pulled one over on me. I did this to myself. In that regard, looks like the upper hand is on the other foot.

But this recent transgression? It made me feel so dumb, I was beyond embarrassed. Here I was thinking I'd spent my entire life believing in something, only to have it all turn out to be utter nonsense. Worse? Feeling sad about it...only makes me feel more stupid. And really, there's only one person to blame.

F--k you, Han Solo. 


Because it's been a few weeks since I've seen Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, pinpointing the exact moment I stopped giving a shit about the entire (film?) franchise, might land with the accuracy of Stormtrooper blaster fire. I think I literally threw my hands up somewhere near a certain General's crucial admission, but even before that I was firmly off-board with this latest entry. That's a thing, right? Off-board? Oh, it doesn't make any sense and seems like lazy writing? Seems like there's a lot of that going around these days...

It's too late in the game to rehash the plot, but basically, it's more of the same thing - but worse. Much, much worse. The dead speak, sure, but trust me, it would have been a lot better if they could have kept their f--king traps shut. Instead of spending serious time with Kylo Ren as our main villain, Rise of the Skywalker stitches together the flattened corpse of Emperor Palpatine and casts him as the great and mighty Oz, manning the Snoke machine on some unknown planet. That has a name.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

We will see who does the screaming...

It's probably obvious if you know me, but, uh, I read a lot of Stephen King as a kid.

Like, if I wasn't reading The Hardy Boys, I was pretty much all in on King. It was either wholesome crime-solving capers with my dudes Frank and Joe, or navigating the f--ked-up mind of the King of Horror. Sadly, there was no in between.

I don't remember a lot of particulars, but it seemed, in the King way of looking at things, there were some ground rules:

a) mysterious forces were always in play
b) people were divided into two distinct camps, good and evil
c) bad things were going to happen, and almost certainly to little kids

Even if my rules are figments or fractures of thirty year-old memories, Doctor Sleep goes a resounding three for three. An entirely more digestible sequel to The Shining, director Mike Flanigan's latest plays more like an action movie than a horror flick, but don't take that as a knock against it. The pace is nothing short of electric. And while the scares are really good, they weren't the reason I was stiff. 

The overwhelmingly sexy Rebecca Ferguson, ahem, plays a mysterious woman named Rose the Hat. Rose is the leader of this fairly chill/totally f--ked -up crew of vampires, who get their jollies off of eating little kids. Well, more like inhaling them, but either way it ain't fun for the wee ones. The catch, is it ain't just any kids that they're after - it's the kids with psychic powers - kids that can shine.

Decades after whatever the f--k happened at The Overlook, Ewan McGregor plays Danny, a now grown-up version one of those kids Rose would desperately love to sink her teeth into (uh, is there a sign up sheet being passed around? I brought my own pen). Danny is now a raging alcoholic and all-around piece of garbage, not that I blame him. Clearly, this dude is haunted by his past (to this day, if I'm alone, I sprint through all hotel hallways), and drunk sex with single moms seems to be his best bet for surviving the day (again, the pen works, I just didn't see the form). Danny's gotta get his shit together, fast, so he does what all winners do. He heads to New England.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Love is the strongest thing in the world.

There are a lot of teachers, especially male teachers, who love to pull struggling students outside of the classroom to have a heart to heart conversation. Maybe, they put an arm on the kid's shoulder, maybe dispense some life wisdom in way that feels authentic, and maybe, just maybe...it works. The kid becomes a role model,goes to college immediately, as beautiful flowers spring up through cracks in the concrete.

I have never been that teacher.

I think that most kids, in most situations, to really learn something that matters, are going to have to figure it out for themselves. 


I was in a pretty rough spot when I finally caught Taika Waititi's latest feature, Jojo Rabbit. Not only was it day four of a Thanksgiving beach vacation with my in-laws (read that again), but I was still secretly reeling from news about my dad, who had just suffered some mysterious (and near fatal) cardiac event. Not great, you know?

But when I discovered that twenty minutes up the road I could catch a film I thought I'd never see, I jumped at the chance to think about something else, and headed to the Tilton Square theater in Northfield, New Jersey. Alone. And if that somehow sounds depressing, trust me, it's not supposed to. I was beyond stoked.

The only reason I mention any of this, and it seems silly I realize, is I didn't enjoy the movie nearly as much as I thought I would. I liked it, found it rather charming and clever, but I just didn't adore it like I had hoped. Maybe it simply isn't as good as Waititi's similar-ish Hunt for the Wilderpeople [review], or maybe, just maybe, my head wasn't in the game. I left the theater thinking I enjoyed the idea a bit more than the execution. Between you and me, kind of like this whole Thanksgiving vacation if I'm honest...

Thursday, January 2, 2020

I bet you're wondering who we are and why we're here.

The first time, I got the story.

Parents die. Sister gets hurt. Other sister leaves. Rock trolls show up for some reason. Someone sings an epic ballad. Hearts thaw. Everyone lives happily ever after. Getting it was equal parts easy and peasy.

It was the phenomenon that I didn't understand.

This time around, the phenomenon makes sense (as much as anything that people lose their minds about ever does), but it's the story I can't wrap my head around. Wait...why are they fighting? Why is there a salamander, and more importantly, can I buy it in Funko Pop form?

While my wife was absolutely riveted by every single aspect of Frozen II, to me it felt like nothing more than the prettiest cash-grab ever. But in this case, the sequel wasn't necessarily unwarranted, but more just...indecipherable. 

Yeah, it's been a minute or two since we caught Disney's latest animated feature, but I don't think it's the elapsed time that's making my head foggy. Instead, it's a story written by five people (probably the industry standard for a Disney mega-sequel, but still) that is way more complicated than it needed to be. Well, that, or I was just really tired that day (code for: I'm not that bright).

Anyhow, because clearly, I've got nothing, I decided to call in some experts to lend a hand in all things Anna and Elsa (and unfortunately, Olaf [he's literally the worst thing since Mater]). Some other people around the Two Dollar Cinema compound/abandoned warehouse have been a bit miffed about my daughter being the only one featured in 'reviews', so this time, and hopefully only this time, the whole gang is going to contribute. Their job? To tell you, dear reader, what exactly this movie is about. Up first? In a shocking turn of events, my lovely wife, Kim.

Friday, December 27, 2019

The guy practically lives in a Clue board.


There are a lot of things that suck about being a teacher. Like, a ton. But depending on the day (of course), one of the worst things that can happen is some seemingly stupid kid handing in something brilliant.
They've sat there for the entire marking period, making fart noises or playing that damn tapping game on their iPad (the goal is to tap the screen...that's it), and all of a sudden, out of nowhere, they just absolutely destroy an assignment. A carefully thought-out response that includes relevant evidence and maybe even a dash of dare I say...style? It's as beautiful as it is maddening.
I mean, if this is what you're capable of, what the Hell were you thinking before?
My wife and I actually managed to see an early-screening of Rian Johnson's Knives Out, hoping to avoid any spoilers before it hit everywhere, and in that sense - mission accomplished. The secondary objective of the sneak peak was that I'd get this published before it hit all the screens, but that's a negative, Ghost Rider. But, trust me, that was the only negative.
Maybe it was the buzz of being early, or maybe it's just that this movie is really f--king cool, but I don't think I could have enjoyed Knives Out any more than I did. Quick, clever and just so much fun, this whodunit is easily one of my favorite films of 2019. But it also makes me furious, but more on that in a bit.
In a setting fit for one of his murder mysteries, legendary writer Harlan Thrombey gathers his massive family at his home to celebrate his 85th birthday. Unfortunately (depending on who you ask, of course), ol' Harlan doesn't make it to the next morning, as sometime during the evening, the old man is murdered. Almost immediately, a private investigator named Benoit Blanc shows up to solve the mystery, which is good news, though it might help if anyone knew who hired Blanc in the first place.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Like my cars, I'll make this fast.


Volkswagen.
Jeep.
Hyundai.
I'm not entirely sure if these car companies are based on some eccentric automotive legend or not, but either way, I don't really give a shit (though Mr. Hyundai sounds remotely intriguing). Regardless, these are the (imaginary?) dudes I've rolled with in my illustrious two-and-a-half decade driving career, which when put into Google translate, comes out to he doesn't know anything about cars and/or doesn't have a good job.
And that's totally......fair.
But better than fair, perhaps even far better, would be James Mangold's latest biopic, Ford v. Ferrari. Seen with an old man (and an old kid) after Midway (of all movies!) was sold out, this Matt Damon and Christian Bale...wait for it...vehicle...was an absolute crowd-pleaser. And I should know, because I was sitting in the very back corner of the theater and could see absolutely EVERYONE.
[if we didn't split up, we were going to leave...and I couldn't let that happen]
After a hilariously failed bid to buy Ferrari, Henry Ford II (hereby referred to as The Deuce) angrily assembles a team to build, and I quote, the best motherf--kin' racecar in the history of this motherf--kin' planet, goddammit. Fine, he didn't say that, but it wouldn't have been the first artistic liberty taken, I can assure you.
Anyhow, The Deuce's team comprises of some men whose gib have cuts that are quite likable, namely Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and Ken Miles (Christian Bale). These two guys, kind of the Cousin Larry and Balki Bartokomous of the automotive industry, are tasked with designing a racecar that can win LeMans, the highly prestigious twenty-four hour road race.

Friday, November 29, 2019

I mean, who buys this stuff?

When my middle school 'girlfriend' (not really, I was too much of a wuss) moved away after eighth grade, she sent me a letter (ah, the past) after arriving in San Francisco. I don't remember much of its contents, but there was a bit in there that I will never,ever forget.

She was such a sweet girl and toward the middle she said something to the effect of, I was missing you so much, but then I heard our song and it made me feel think it was going to be okay.

Aw...but, uh, we had a song? *adjust reading glasses* And it's...Faith? By George Michael? *removes glasses, bites tip*

I mean, that's sweet and all...but...who the Hell likes George Michael that much?

Apparently, Emma Thompson does, a lot, and after what I imagine was a merlot-fueled bender for the ages, cooked up the idea for Last Christmas. Allegedly based on the music of on one half of Wham!, upon further review, it seems more like one half of one song from one half of Wham! was the real foundation for this...but who's counting?

Unseating Zooey Deschanel as the sexiest holiday retail employee ever is Emilia Clarke, here playing Kate/Katarina, the lone employee at a year-round Christmas shop. The job basically sucks, even in if it's guaranteed that a painfully mysterious man will come in and jingle your bells.

For her boss, Santa (if only I was joking), it's Mr. Bean's stoic accountant, Boy. And for Kate, it's this chipper fellow in really tight tan pants, Tom. Tom and Boy? Welp, it's been fun. *politely jumps off cliff*

Kate is your typical movie wreck. A person you'd loathe in real life, but adore in a goofball comedy: she's basically homeless, has a dead end job she's constantly on the verge of losing, can't really land a guy (*furiously punches self in sad face/stiff crotch*), and is currently/mostly estranged from her fractured, immigrant family. Good thing it's all presented with quirky hilarity, so much so it's borderline enviable. But if I can be frank, what the bloody f--k is this? It's not that I expect her to be trafficking meth in her hollowed-out uterus to make rent, but the way these problems are handled is a bit, well...much.