Monday, March 30, 2015

We're going to do great things, Mark.

I have never been dumped.

Yeah, surprising, right? Well, if you can manage to complete high school and college without being in too many serious relationships (I can count them on one hand, maybe even one that's missing a finger...or three), that opening statement loses a little bit of its luster. I only mention that little tidbit, because I'm not sure how I would have ever handled flat-out romantic rejection. Likely I would have opted for our family cat's final moments, crawling into the empty tub and calling it a life. Or, and I'm just kind of freewheeling here...

...I could have managed a wrestling team, in the shortest shorts possible, and simply ruined everything.

I knew almost nothing about Foxcatcher heading in. Something about wrestling? Got it. Great performances all around - got that, too. Otherwise, though, I knew zero of the sordid details surrounding John du Pont and Schultz brothers.

While the specific events that would play out in the next two-plus hours would be shocking enough, so to would be the structure of this film. Foxcatcher, despite its desolate, lab-like presentation, is a love story. And a rather heart-breaking one at that.

Set between the '84 and '88 Olympic Games, director Bennett Miller's film follows Mark Schultz, a gold-medal winning wrestler, as he lumbers his way through post-Olympic glory.

We open with Mark (Channing Tatum) delivering a cookie-cutter follow your dreams speech to a room full of politely uninterested elementary-school students. Mark's clearly struggling, and to make it worse, he's only been given this 'opportunity' because his older brother Dan (an extra-tender Mark Ruffalo), also a gold-medal winner, couldn't make it. But, hey - twenty bucks is twenty-bucks, right?


Monday, March 23, 2015

This day is so cursed.

I know everybody says it about their own, but he's funny. Really, really funny. But more importantly, his manners are excellent. And he's really considerate of other people's feelings, too. Oh, and if you listen to him carefully, he's a very sweet young man.

But my son? He is awful at watching movies. Especially if you're sitting next to him.

Standing at the Redbox machine with Matty, I half-heartedly suggested to my five year-old that we rent Disney's Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. And in that flippant/hysterical way that only little kids can get away with, he looked at me like, I guess, momrnts before hitting me with, We already read the book in school.

While the poster will likely terrify/infuriate three-quarters of you, at least it's honest. For 81 minutes, you and yours are going to be treated to one 'hilarious' calamity after another. And outside of a few boob and penis-related remarks (though the penis joke cracked me up), it's all pretty kid (and adult) friendly.

Young Alexander (a lispy, yet charming Ed Oxenbould) has had a really awful day-before-his-birthday. He finds out no one will be coming to his lame party, gets denied in social studies class for a sweet project, and then proceeds to nearly burn down his chemistry class, narrowly avoiding setting his dream woman ablaze. Rough one, huh? Well, there's only one thing to do, right? Yep. You guessed it: wish it all away.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The future bores me.

I messed up in high school. Big time. Maybe it was my parents fault (as they chose the neighborhood), or maybe some other nefarious force was at work, but looking back, I squandered many a sexual conquest. While my personality was the likely culprit, I'm going to point the finger at my old nemesis, circumstance. Time and time again, that crotchety bastard routinely f--ked me over. My family lived in a part of the neighborhood that featured a) zero girls my age and b) no super-hot/incredibly depressed mothers. Oh, and c) no one had a pool. The only thing getting screwed around my house, was the pooch.

For the record, that last line sounded much better in my head.

White Bird in a Blizzard isn't about a desperate teenage boy and his desire to become a sexual tyrannosaur. At least not really, Instead, it's about a teenage girl, who in the wake of her mother's disappearance, f--ks her way through her teenage years. While her depression may be below the surface, her indifference is spilling over. The salaciousness may be moderately overstated, it seems that sex and lust are the root of all evil in director Gregg Araki's latest.

Shailene Woodley plays Kat, a fairly typical 17 year-old, hanging out and playing Nintendo in the late eighties/early nineties. Once upon a time, her parents were a seemingly happy couple, though Kat's mom might have something to say about that. In fact, once she finally speaks up, it's not too long after that ol' Mom doesn't come home for supper. I mean, doesn't come home to cook supper. Bummer. I'll take Sesame Chicken with white rice, okay?

Mr. Connors (a bewildered Christopher Meloni), Kat's dad, would likely be the chief suspect, but not only does he pass his polygraph, he's also a huge pussy. He might show flashes of a spine, but that's only when he's bent over, taking it up the ass from his hardcore wife, Eve Connors, played by that dame to kill for, Eva Green.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Catch a ride with the tide.

Under our television, we have a small area dedicated to housing the three photo albums we own. Curiously, next to the albums of vacations and baby pictures, is my 12th grade yearbook. I'm not entirely sure why it's there, but as it's the only yearbook I own, I'm okay with it. And I'm assuming that if you stumbled across it, even if you didn't know me that well, you'd probably open it and at least turn a couple of pages. You kind of half to.

Good or bad, there's something about seeing where it all started.


Like Scotty P, I had no ragrets adding Roadracers to my Netflix queue. I just pressed the button and went on perusing the depths of Movie Hell. But as I actually went ahead and decided to sit down and watch the f--king thing, I was quickly overcome with a sense of panic. Was I really about to dedicate ninety-plus minutes to a made-for-TV movie from the mid-90's? Yes. Yes, I was.

Between you and me, Salma Hayek was enough. Early Hayek + an R rating made me think I was playing with house money. Throw in a young(er) John Hawkes, writer/director Robert Rodriguez, not to mention the timeless intensity of William Sadler and I felt like this one had a chance. And while maybe it wasn't outright horrible, it sure as shit isn't anything you have to see.

It's not very good, nor is it f--king terrible, so essentially I can't recommend it. Oh, and it's nudity free, too. So everyone hoping to see Deputy Dewey's ding-dong? Sorry, fellas. Maybe in Scream 5.  But if you can make it past the awful opening title music (I swear Rodriguez has stock in saxophones), and the hyper-active editing (again, thanks RR), you might have a half-way decent time. My wife actually hung in for thirty minutes, so...there's that.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Ideals are peaceful. History is violent.

Possibly as you read this, my eighth grade honors Communication Arts (fancy, no?) class is reading The Diary of Anne Frank. Somewhat mercifully, I've been given the play version (with accompanying pictures of Natalie Portman as Anne) to work with, which means it won't take months for us to complete. But, that also means that the students will read the entire thing aloud. Waiting for That Kid to yet again realize it's his turn has me losing kids by the page. Surprisingly, I've been blessed with an unexpected ally to engage the enemy my students: Brad Pitt.

Fury, written and directed by David Ayer, is the perfect film - assuming you're a middle school boy. While the fourteen year-old version of m.brown would have likely loved this film, the grown up version merely liked it. Maybe even more than a friend.

Set near the end of World War II, Pitt plays Don, the hardened leader of a veteran tank outfit. Don's motley crew has seen it all, and newcomer Norman is overwhelmingly the odd-man out. In fact, Norman's first responsibility is to clean up the remains of the man he's replacing, which may be the easiest thing he does that day.

As Norman gets acclimated to the atrocities of war, Don takes the kid under his wing as they head into the heart of the shit. It seems as if the entire crew hates Norman, or at the very least resents him mightily. But after a few intense battles and close-calls, all is quickly forgiven. Norman is part of the team.

Pitt may be on the poster, but Logan Lerman (playing Norman) is the pulse of the film. While the trials and tribulations of being the reluctant rookie surrounded by barbaric veterans feels like nothing new, I was engaged in the story regardless. I'm not sure Fury has anything new to say, but it all moved fast enough I really didn't mind lending an ear. I understand how my eighth graders loved it, as it sometimes feels like an introduction to the war genre.

Friday, March 6, 2015

That's what people do.

I'm not gonna lie to you: I've thought about killing someone before. 

Usually it's fellow motorists, or even the occasional door-to-door salesman (I think these people get cash bonuses for waking my daughter), but sometimes, I'm simply overcome by the irrational need for vengeance/justice. Maybe I watch too many movies, who knows, but to my credit, generally those movies also keep my ass in line. Typically, the flicks I watch show the ramifications of momentary blood lust: the authorities get involved.

And up until a few nights ago, I would have told you that the police are certainly something I would fear in that situation. But it turns out there's something much worse than someone calling the cops after you've wronged them:

Someone not calling the cops. 


Like Big Bad Wolves [review] before it, I owe my viewing of Blue Ruin to some trusted comrades on Twitter. On probably a dozen occasions, I recall 140 characters dedicated to singing the praises of this intensely atmospheric thriller. And surprising no one, it didn't disappoint.

After an intriguingly slow build-up, this motherf--ker never lets go. In fact, I'm pretty sure I held my breath on more than one occasion. If you have Netflix and you haven't seen this movie, do yourself a favor and get the f--k out of here, asap. (honestly, that's probably good advice even if you're going to watch something else, you know?)

Anyway, without spoiling too much, the premise is simple. A homeless drifter is brought into a police station and told he's being released ('he' begin someone else, not the drifter). And while we're not entirely sure who is being released, we are at least told it's for a double-murder. Who he killed, for the moment, is a mystery.

And that ain't the half of it..

Saturday, February 28, 2015

It is what it is.

Every year my wife goes on a business trip, and every year I'm stuck home with the kid(s). This year, while she was living it up (my words) in North Carolina, I was the sole caretaker of not one, but two mobile children (last year Violet was an adorable lump of goo). Anyway, about an hour into our first night alone, I slipped down the stairs. I caught myself, but instantly had a vision of laying at the bottom of our wooden stairs, compound fracture in each limb. Instantly, I grabbed my son and had the talk. 

If something were to happen to Daddy, kiddo, call 9-1-1. And if you can't reach my phone, or if it's dead (it's always dead), go next door, okay? Our neighbor will help you.

I mean, I assume she would. Right?

While my neighbor Cindy is a quiet older woman I really don't know too much about, I still feel I could trust her a lot more than Bill Murray's character in St. Vincent. Cindy's not going to take my son to a bar. Or to the track. And she's certainly not paying a pregnant Russian woman for sex.

If you missed the trailer, Vincent is your typical movie a-hole neighbor. He's always rude, he's often drunk, and barely qualifies as a functioning member of society. And after some movers smash up his car, he's pissed. And it just so happens that the family moving in next door will come to rely on him very heavily. Yes, Vincent the selfish bastard, will have to watch her neighbor's kid, as Single Mom's gotta work late. Again.

As familiar as the whole thing sounds (at at times, feels), I can't say I didn't enjoy it. Despite most of the plot feeling rather formulaic, St. Vincent still works. Sure, the ending almost lovingly hugs the life out of the film, but the stellar cast ultimately saves the day.

Murray does a bang up job playing Vince as a (possibly) misunderstood scumbag, and Melissa McCarthy dials it back a bit as the overwhelmed single mom, Maggie. But the star of the show, without a doubt, is newcomer Jaeden Lieberher as young Oliver. This kid is the best.