Monday, December 31, 2012

It's gonna make your Olympic training look like finger painting.

As the last few hours of 2012 wind down, many of us will look back on the year that was. News channels, sports and entertainment programs, hell - everywhere you go, highlights will be shown and lists will be made commemorating both the best and worst of the year. And as we get closer to midnight, the focus will inevitably shift from looking backward to forward, and the quiet birth of the New Year's Resolution will happen a million times over. I've broken just as as many as I've made, but this year's going to be different. Here at Two Dollar Cinema, I'm making the resolution to stop watching (and writing about) so many shitty movies. Around here, 2013 will focus on incredible, life-affirming stories and the indelible art of film-making. No more sarcastic bullshit.

But it ain't 2013, yet.

I didn't know what I was getting myself into with Gymkata, I promise. I saw the stupid title, read the ridiculous plot summary from the program guide, and thought f--k it, why not? Little did I know I was sitting down to one of the worst movies if all time. 

But, here's the thing. It f--king rules. 

Released a year after the US smashed in the Russkie-free 1984 Olympics, someone must have thought this idea would amount to even more guaranteed American gold. Combining the ridiculousness of mid-80's action with the sweaty awfulness of male gymnastics would have been enough. Hell, it would have been more than enough. But then to throw in the weirdest final twenty minutes of any movie ever, and things spiral into utter madness.

The story is actually more,if possible, absurd than that poster, but I'll give it a shot regardless. Government agents recruit a male gymnast to participate in an obscure game on the other side of the planet. If he wins, he gets a, wait for it, request. Seriously. And with this request, presumably he'll ask for the safeguard of numerous satellites in the Star Wars missile defense program, and not a proper haircut and shorts that actually cover his ballsack. And with that, we're off to training montages, guys with massive tits, probably over two-hundred unnecessary backflips, and the infamous battlecry of Yamkala!! Indeed.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Typical Ringelfinch behavior.

Did you read the story about that college student uncovering the dark side of humanity? No, it wasn't what college guys do to their unconscious roommates, but instead an experiment using, of all things, rubber turtles. See, this kid, Nathan Weaver, was studying the declining population of box turtles in South Carolina. He placed a realistic-looking rubber turtle in the road and tracked how many people deliberately swerved to crush the poor thing. About 3% of drivers destroyed the turtle, and a few tried and missed (dumb bastards on multiple fronts, clearly). I think it's very sad to imagine a cute, little-bitty thing, trudging along, only to have some a-hole go out of his way to kill it. But what if it wasn't cute? What if it was a gigantic, menacing beast? Then what? Well, in that case...

Troll Hunter, released in 2010, tells the story of a trio of college kids also investigating the senseless slaughter of animals. In this case however, replace South Carolinian turtles with Norwegian bears (sounds like the matchup from Super Bowl CCXXVI) as the crux of the story. Seems numerous bears have been found dead and these three, armed with their HD camera, go all Scooby-Doo and decide to get some answers. But being that this found footage was compiled under less than ideal circumstances, it appears that not everything is coming up Milhouse in the Land of the Midnight Sun.

A few minutes in, we discover that the dead bears are part of an elaborate cover for the larger problem of, you guessed it, trolls. Seems these giant f--kers have been wreaking havoc throughout Norway for years, and our college kids track down the man responsible for hunting them. But, awesome Blogger Guy, trolls aren't real. Well, no shit. But, outside of some spotty special effects (but certainly good enough, all things considered), there's enough of a silly story to make you think otherwise. The lore is presented with steadfast appreciation, for sure. And, this isn't one of those flicks where they bitch out and make you think you saw a troll. These goofy bastards get ample screen time. I might even go as far as saying too much, even. But then, I remember that trolls are obviously, like boobs. You can never see enough of them. Oh, and the bigger the better, clearly. Though not too big, because that just looks fake and unnatural.

Friday, December 28, 2012

No, mate. That's adorable.

If the holidays are a time of family and traditions, I thought it was about time I started my own family tradition. Surprising no one, I decided that we should go to the movies on Christmas Day. Every year. It'll be our thing. My wife countered, Well, us and all the Jewish people. Fine. Whatever.
As we merrily drove to the mall, it was interesting to see how few people were out. All the parking lots, normally full of meandering, elderly shoppers, were completely empty. As we looked out the windows...

My son was thinking, I wish I was home playing with my Skylanders and new Lego sets.

My wife was thinking, I can't believe we're doing this. I need to bake an apple pie for tonight.

And I was thinking, Whoa. Today would the perfect day to shoot a zombie movie. There's no one in front of that Chili's.

Proving Christmas miracles actually exist, we made it to Rise of the Guardians on time. In my head, the theater was going to be chock full of families (all led by wise, flannel-wearing, barrel-chested, like me) so we needed to be there early. Turns out, not so much, A trio of old people and a large family (not in number, but size) were the only others to venture outdoors on Christmas afternoon. Well, let's not forget the poor bastards working the theater.

Anyway, despite not really getting much fanfare this holiday season, Rise is a very entertaining film that I wholeheartedly recommend. This flick takes all of your childhood heroes, some more obscure than others, and throws them together against an evil force threatening the whole world. Basically, this is The Expendables for six-year olds.

As with most holiday films, the core of this one is believing. The big four (Santa, Tooth Fairy, Sandman and the Easter Bunny) don't have any problems in that department, but the new guy, Jack Frost, does. He has been selected to join the ranks, but hesitates as he finds the whole Guardian thing rather pointless. But then things take a nasty turn, as children begin losing faith rapidly. Seems the Boogeyman, Pitch Black, is back on the scene and is dead set on scaring little kids so much that they stop believing in anything but fear. Pitch eventually interferes with the Tooth Fairy's affairs, leaving kids all over the world waking up, finding their teeth where they left them and thinking f--- this noise. And with that, our man Jack has gone from indifferent prankster, to firmly-believing ass kicker.

Monday, December 24, 2012

I do believe the worst is behind us.

There have been few better theatrical experiences than the time I saw The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. I was in Connecticut visiting my grandparents, and on a whim, I decided to catch an early showing at the mall after doing some Christmas shopping. I don't remember having huge expectations going in (I hadn't read the book), and wasn't overly familiar with anyone involved, outside of Peter Jackson and Elijah Wood. But I had time and thought, why not?

Three hours later, everything had changed.

Clearly I was a huge dork that day back in 2001, but I left the theater an even bigger one (if that is at all possible). Peter Jackson had made one of my favorite movies of all time and shown everyone what an epic film truly looked like. I'm actually one of the few that consider Fellowship their favorite of the trilogy. In addition to being an outright great film, what was truly memorable, is that it surprised me. I had never seen anything like that before.

Eleven years later, there were no surprises as I meandered through The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. And no, it's not because I wised up and actually read the book this time (despite this blog, I swear I'm not illiterate. Promise.), but that we've simply seen all of this before. We've seen a slew of characters embark on an epic journey traversing Middle Earth.  And for my money, we've seen it with more likeable characters on a more interesting journey.

Don't think it's all bad, 'cause obviously, it's not. We still have an incredibly-realized Middle Earth, filled with fascinating creatures and epic battles. We also get to spend more time with some of our previous favorites, including Frodo, Gollum, Galadriel (I looked that up) and Elrond (that one, too). And of course, a slightly more spry (though older looking, hmmm) Gandalf, who conjures up numerous ass kickings this time around. The older, familiar characters are not the problem - it's the new batch. All fourteen of them.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Not everything has to be a big deal

Our dog, Dodger, was a rescue. When he was three years old, he ended up in the hands of a lady working for an agency who fostered dogs transitioning to new homes. Her generosity spiraled out of control, and she ended up with twenty-two dogs, our future pup being one of them. This odd story was on the table when we adopted Dodge, but at the time, it didn't seem like a big deal.
Well, it turns out that living with dozens of others under the control of someone who initially meant well, but waded into f--king madness, isn't exactly the best place to spend one's formative years. Let's just say, those affected might show up on your doorstep one day with a few...quirks.

Elizabeth Olsen is completely mesmerizing as the lead in 2011's Martha Marcy May Marlene. I thought she was easily the best part of the shit-tastic Silent House [review], but clearly, that isn't saying much. In this flick, she gets to do more than peer into the darkness in a low cut shirt. Well, come to think of it, she's still peering into the darkness, just not literally. And as for that shirt? Well, it's not low cut this time. At least when it's on, anyway.Yowza.

Now complimenting Olsen and her fantastic performance, is a well-told story of a young girl who has lost her way. For whatever actual reason (the death of her mother the likely culprit), Martha found herself living in a commune with a bunch of people who are off the grid. What appears to be a pretty harmonious group of hippies, is actually a cult full of miscreants. You need proof that shit ain't right? Well, the leader of this clan is played by the frighteningly awesome John Hawkes.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


Way back, I remember driving home from somewhere with my dad. It was a hot, Texas day, and we had the windows rolled down (probably each of us with one arm more tanned than the other). My dad slowed his rickety VW van, and said something semi-excitedly to the effect of, Hey, do you smell that? And despite never really having a reliable sense of smell, I did. Sweet Jesus, I did. Yeah, I smell it. What is it? My dad smiled and quickly pulled over. C'mon. This was yet another time that my dad would do something crazy in the name of one thing: His collection.

Of skulls.

This past Thursday, I caught the last possible showing of The Collection before the influx of Friday's new releases. I know, lucky f--k, right? Well, not so much. This movie was laughably bad and I had no business seeing it. But, as has been the case countless times, I had an expiring free pass and felt obligated not to waste it. My wife had come home too late for me to catch Killing Them Softly, so this was the only thing starting that I hadn't seen. Well, Red Dawn was a possibility too, but that movie actually received worse reviews, and I was convinced that it was just the Expendables minus all the famous guys and violence. Sounds promising enough...

Anyway, I sat down alone in theater 10 (like, completely) , and began to stare at the screen with mild indifference for the first of the 82 total minutes. I had heard somewhere that this was a sequel, but shockingly, I missed the first one. Well, f--k, guess I'll get my stuff and lea---hold on. Was that Shooter McGavin? Oh shit! Dude just got f--ked. Up.

And with that, we're off to Shit Town, with the occasional stop in the vicinity of Mediocrity. I mean, Horror Shit Town, and Horror Mediocrity, of course. Yes, in a genre where at least three-quarters of it is downright awful, The Collection does little to separate itself.  We've got a creepy-looking, speechless Bad Guy, who is also is like a Jedi version of Kevin McCallister. Just replace the pony-tail with a gimp mask.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

I can't find the wrench.

There was a death in the family yesterday and me and my wife (and ever our young son, Matty) are not sure how to deal with the loss. It was one of those unexpected things that came out of nowhere and blindsided all of us. As we pick up the pieces and make final arrangements, I honestly think that there was an amazing act of nobility in the final moments, as truly frightening as it was. This post will be a sincere tribute to that brave soul. Godspeed. You left us too soon.

My 50-inch plasma television tried to save me. I swear to you it did. I was watching Lars von Trier's Antichrist and my TV f--king exploded. I'm not bullshitting you in the least.

As my son slept soundly upstairs in his room, my dog Dodger and I were trying to stomach this film. Antichrist opens inexplicably enough, but my pup and I had made it to a scene where Willem Dafoe finds some strange thing in the woods. He bends down to touch it, and he is startled (and we were scared shitless oursleves) to find it's a fox. The fox sort of hisses at him. Dafoe stares at it, bewildered. But there's another fox, and this one is a bloody f--king mess. It unfurls itself, ripping apart its flesh and exposing its internal organs. We cut back to the first fox, and it says in a rather sinister voice:

Chaos reigns.

And I swear to you, f--king promise you, this is the moment my TV offed itself in one of the loudest f--king noises I've ever heard. BOOM! For a second, I thought it was the movie and was thrilled (though I might've half-pissed myself). But once I realized it was simply my eleven hundred dollar television saying goodbye/f--k you? Well, I understood then I'd made a bad decision. No, not that I wasted that much money on a television. And no, not the fact that I didn't buy a warranty for that television. What I did that was truly a bad call? I continued watching the movie (on my laptop).

Saturday, December 8, 2012

I come in here and see you playing Hee Haw with the f--k around gang.

I ran for office once. Well, actually we ran for office. No, not me and you (but that would've been awesome, I'm sure), but me and three other high school seniors. We had this clever/bullshit idea of sharing the responsibilities of the four student council positions (president, VP, secretary and treasurer, naturally). But, between you and me, this was a savvy way that all of us could put Student Council President on our college applications and technically not be full of shit. This shady idea also accomplished something else. We didn't have to run against one another. That could've been ugly.

The Campaign is, undoubtedly, everything you think it is. If you think it looks like another giant turd shat upon us by that idiot Will Ferrell, well, you're right. But if you think it looks like another baby-punching, Ferrell stayin' classy, classic, you'd also be correct.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Makes me wanna sniff some lines and go fly a jet!

I have never used drugs. But, I have seen quite a few movies where drugs (and drug use) were well, prominently displayed. Now, hold on. I realize this is like saying, Well, I've never had sex. But, I do have the internet.
Obviously, the experience of watching doesn't exactly hold a candle to doing, right? Right. Though, to be fair, there is a level of education and insight to seeing such acts on the (big) screen. For example, say I've got my boss' ladyfriend overdosing on heroin in my living room, right? This is simple. I jam a needle full of adrenalin in her heart, naturally. But what if I'm in charge of an American hero who has gone on a major bender the night before an important hearing? Oh, wait. I know this one too.

Flight is an incredible film. Despite having heard nothing but great things, for whatever reason I was relatively indifferent as my sister and I sat down to watch it this past Tuesday. It took less than a minute, but believe me, I was hooked. Sure, a screen full of titties always helps (not to mention Wally Cleaver's little brother), but the film is loaded with great characters, great scenes and utterly fantastic performances. And that's not even including the guy that King Kong ain't got shit on.

Denzel. There's not much more positive to say about him that hasn't already been said, but he has delivered yet another truly epic performance. His Whip Whitaker doesn't do anything half-assed. He's an incredible pilot, who's also incredibly f--ked up. He's charming, he's outgoing and he's impossibly good at what he does (all qualities of many of Washington's roles), but otherwise - he's a mess. An absolute train-wreck of a person. And while maybe Whip could have lived his miserably doomed life in relative peace, everything changes the moment the plane he was piloting crashes in spectacular fashion.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

If it happened, it happened. Why should it 'mean' anything?

When my younger brother moved from the family house on the Big Island of Hawai'i to his new residence outside of Honolulu, Oahu, he decided to take his parakeet, Lenny, with him. Never being one to let rules and formality interfere with getting things done, my brother simply put the bird in his pocket and boarded the aircraft. Everything seemed to be going smoothly, when just before takeoff, an older woman boarded the same flight carrying a large cage. Sure enough, this woman had her cherished pet parrot in her lap, traveling, well, legitimately. Moments after the doors shut and the plane began to taxi, the parrot started to squawk uncontrollably. And passengers all over the plane must have thought, God, not only is that parrot going crazy, but I swear it sounds like there's two of them in here. Unbelievable, right?

Also unbelievable, is the fact that every frame of Ang Lee's Life of Pi is something to marvel at. From the nature-doc style of the opening shots to the fantastical middle and end sequences, Life of Pi should undoubtedly be seen on the big screen. I saw it in 2D with my older brother and sister, but we all desperately longed for the 3D version. 

More important than the visuals, obviously, is the story. Based on Yann Matel's 2001 novel, this film tells a tale about a young man stranded at sea in a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger (of all things). While traveling from Manilla to Canada, the ship Pi and his family were traveling on, sinks during a hellacious storm. Pi is the only human survivor. Told through flashback, Pi details his 227 days at sea and the unbelievable events that occurred. From the impressive encounter with a whale, to the improbable visit to an island that kills, the limits of credibility and faith are stretched increasingly thin. Whether you believe any of it is up to you, but clearly - that's the point. Decide for yourself. And be at peace with your decision.

I haven't yet read the book this film was based on, but I will. I loved the ending so much, I immediately wanted to watch the movie again. Instead, I'll think I'll opt for the novel, to dust off the ol' imagination, and also because I'm curious to see what was added and/or left out, especially regarding the conclusion. More so than most movies, the ending here was utterly vital. It's so simple, but also very beautiful. I'm not a religious person, but the message here felt perfect.