Saturday, June 29, 2013

I think the real damage was to my dignity.

I love my sister-in-law. I do. Not only has she had a huge hand in helping us raise our son, but she's genuinely a very good person. But, there's one thing she does that routinely baffles me. When she rents the kids a movie from Redbox, she won't allow the case in the house. Absolutely not. Oh, she'll bring in the disc. But the plastic case it's housed in? No way. It's filthy. Who knows where that thing's been.

If only I had one-upped her and left Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, disc included, in my Jeep, we'd all be better off. In fact, I should have just left it in the machine altogether. But damned if I'm not a sucker for a hot chick and a short runtime. Quite the diabolical duo, or so it seems.

Anyway, picked up on a whim as a naptime feature and even with zero expectations, I was still left utterly disappointed. Almost angry, in fact. I'll be the first to admit that I was in a shitty mood when I started it, but by the end I wanted vengeance. First, whoever greenlit this shit? They need an arrow to the balls and/or vagina. Secondly, most of the cast? You bitches need to be pushed into a hot oven for even signing up for this one. I just watched it. You a-holes made it. And finally, I blame myself. I might deserve a troll stomp to the groin for wasting $0.32 renting this one. Or slightly more valuable, my time.

If you care, and likely you don't, this flick tells an updated/reimagined/dumber version of the original Hansel and Gretel fairy tale. We still get the siblings lured into a strange candy house. And they still end up outsmarting her and cooking that nasty witch in her own oven. But these kids talk a little shit while they're at it, potentially severing all ties with the original German children's story. And from there? Basically all bets are off. From there it's all bad acting and even worse effects, with terrible dialogue delivered in atrocious accents. But just when you think you'd rather jam a lollipop in your eye than continue watching Witch Hunters, writer/director Tommy Wirkola wins you back with an awesome kill or some chick's shapely ass. To which I reply, as only another famous hunter of wretched beasts could, Clever girl.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Welcome to Heaven, motherf--kers.

A hundred years ago, I was a communications student focusing in film and television production. And while it clearly didn't amount to anything, the four years I spent in the program were a real good time. There were few things better, well, during the day anyway, than getting together with my closest friends, shooting some ridiculous project and being allowed to call it schoolwork. And if we ever pulled good grades for those um, productions? Pure bonus.

Also pure bonus, is damn near every minute of This Is the End. Easily the funniest movie I have seen this year (maybe even the last few), Rogen and his crew completely deliver on the promising premise. And unlike some of their previous flicks, This Is the End doesn't hold back. At all.

The flick starts with Jay Baruchel landing in L.A. to spend some time with Rogen. They hang out, get high, play video games, and attempt to end the night hitting up a party at James Franco's house. After a couple of awesomely awkward minutes, and a trip to a nearby convenience store, all Hell literally breaks loose. A giant hole opens up in Franco's front yard swallowing the famous partygoers, both of the very and not at all varieties. We're left with the six guys featured on the poster, all delivering hilarious versions of themselves. With limited supplies and even less patience, these men must try to survive the end of the world. Together. I won't tell you who makes it out alive and who doesn't. But I will tell you that I cried during this movie. Actual tears.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Save your children. Take me outside.

Every year, without question, I participate in a cult-like tradition that divides my family. I feel like it's for the greater good, but my wife and friends think it's terrible and unnecessary. And despite it making me look and feel like a crazy person, there's something cathartic about gazing into the mirror and seeing that I've truly let go. Once a year, I distance myself from the pressures of adult society and succumb to a more primal state of being.

In other words, I grow a playoff beard.

Similar to my annual facial-hair disaster, The Purge may be slightly better in idea than execution. An impossibly clever setup ultimately ending in thriller-movie goofiness, this flick is better before you actually see it. And if you happened to catch the highly-effective trailer? You might be good. Just sit back, search your brain for any home invasion movie you've ever seen, microwave some popcorn, have the well, what would you do? conversation with your friends and save yourself ten bucks. Done.

But, if you do go, like my brother Nikos and I did, you'll probably enjoy yourself regardless. The Purge is breathtakingly brief and never really lets up. Yes, you've seen Dad defend his family from sick f--ks countless times, but at the end of the day, it's still fun. This logistically impossible idea of a twelve hour window of madness may be such a good summer movie idea that it's hard to resist. But it's also hard to end, too.

Though the movie is far too silly overall, I actually appreciated all the things it says about class and culture. The short run-time doesn't really allow for any personal reflections or anything (not that that's what fills seats in June), but I really got into the countless moral questions and ambiguities. It made for some solid post-movie conversation. Personally, I don't even kill spiders, much to my wife's chagrin. But given a chance to murder say...the guy who pulls out in front of me when there isn't a single f--king car behind me for miles!? That kind of sounds enticing, if only just a little bit. But then again, I am a teacher. There's probably forty five kids that would surround my house on the night of The Purge. Imagine the next day at school?

Monday, June 17, 2013

I need you to put this in your bottom hole.

Way back in the fall semester of 2000, I completed my college internship at a rock radio station in Connecticut. As much as I wanted to be on air, I ended up allowing myself to get stuck in the promotions department. Other than the occasional free Limp Bizkit CD, the real perk was working at the bars with the DJs. I'm not even sure what they did to get the crowd so crazed, but I do remember it almost always ended in topless women. In a surprising turn of events, and contrary to 99% of this blog, some breasts are actually horrible. But anyway... night, after a concert, I remember we had a problem. The lead singer of The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Dicky Barrett, needed a ride to his hotel. Under his right arm, was his wife. Under the left? Some seemingly random chick. The problem? Pretty much everyone there was completely shitfaced - except me. So when they asked if anyone could/would do it, I raised my hand. In the span of five seconds, I imagined that the four of us would end up in my VW Beetle driving around Hartford in the middle of the night. I would drop them off and in a show of gratitude, Dicky would invite me up. And in my mind, it was highly probable we would all end up having sex in disgusting fashion. It was going to be awesome.

Not as awesome, though still pretty entertaining, is 2010's Get Him to the Greek. In limited action, Jonah Hill and Russell Brand were hysterical in the earlier Forgetting Sarah Marshall. But here, it seems they do less with significantly more screen time. In fact, in a weird trend, it's actually Sean Combs minor role as their boss Sergio, who provides most of the laughs. Though, let's be clear, if he gets his own spinoff movie, I'll likely take my own life. Well, after watching it, anyway.

Just in case someone out there doesn't actually know it, the setup is simple. In fact, it's summed up perfectly on Hill's right shoulder over there. The only thing they leave out is the fact that Brand's character, Aldous Snow, spends those 72 hours drowning in self-pity. Turns out, his last album was an utter trainwreck, featuring the ill-conceived single
African Child. Worse yet for Snow, in the ensuing bottoming out of his career, he lost his super hot girlfriend, Jackie Q (played by the delectable Rose Byrne [if you're a fan of hers, check this out from FTS - zoinks!]. There is a silver lining to being sans girlfriend, though, for both of them actually. I'll let you figure that one out.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

You sure you can handle the disappointment?

My brother Nikos is visiting and we were talking the other day about how you don't really have to know how do anything anymore, you simply need YouTube. We compared lists.

                  Me:                                                                                       Him:
How to find the starter on a Jeep.                                   How to adjust the idle on a motorcycle carburetor.
How to clean an elephant-shaped air dehumidifier.       How to break a bike lock.
How good (or bad) is a certain camcorder is.                How to start a fire using a water bottle.
And probably the most pathetic, how to tie a tie.            How to generate electricity with fruit.

Clearly, I'm much cooler than he is. I mean, clearly. I kind of feel bad for the kid.
Anyway, even though it too is on there (I just checked), there's one thing I know I don't need YouTube for:

How to rob a bank.

Admittedly late to the party, I caught Fast Five the other day in an effort to get ready for the surprise smash sixth entry, currently in theaters. I'd heard good things, and the box office numbers are ridiculous, so doing a back-to-back was going to be the plan. But after spending over two hours with Dom and his crew on blu ray, I might just pump the breaks on that shit.

Obviously, you don't go into the fifth of anything expecting genius, let alone a Fast and the Furious flick, but the reviews and buzz were generally positive. Foolishly, I thought it was going to be all pink slips and tight clothes, but not so much. In fact, the only race where somebody gets a car as a result? Oh, that shit's implied. Oh, Fast Five. You so crazy.

Also crazy, is how much this movie is like a certain George Clooney film. Seriously. If the first one is a remake/reboot of Point Break, the fifth one gives Ocean's Eleven the same treatment. Both have giant, ensemble casts full of recognizable and not-as recognizable ethnically diverse faces. Both involve robbing some unlikable jerk in an impossibly complicated manner. And, surprising no one, both flicks rode this formula all the way to the bank.

Monday, June 10, 2013

They push me so far that...that I...I want to become the bully.

Though I still have a hard time believing it, school's out. Despite there being a couple of times I didn't think we would, we actually made it. Mission accomplished.

This year, for the first time in my career, I actually attended a graduation comprised of former students. Of the seventy two graduates, I taught six of them all the way back when they were eighth graders. And by eighth graders, obviously I mean awkward, bumbling, thirteen year-old kids, doggedly unaware of their actions. And as they walked (well, sauntered) across the stage as fledgling adults, I was consumed with two feelings. The first, not too shockingly, was pride. But the second? Relief. Overwhelming relief.

Bully, at least early on, absolutely destroyed me. The documentary opens with a father looking directly into the camera and detailing the events that led to the suicide of his young son, Tyler. For at least the first half of the film, this overwhelming sense of sadness and anger permeates every aspect of Bully. It can be pretty tough to watch at times...

....which is why I showed it as the end-of-the-year film in my English class. It was seven-eighths something they needed to see with a dash of maybe they'll actually be quiet and listen. And outside of the occasional verbal outburst, this film succeeded on both fronts.

Bully tells six separate stories of varying intensity, some more effective than others. Here's a quick rundown of the first four:

Tyler: Perhaps most grueling, this segment details the suicide of a seventeen year-old kid after years of bullying. Tyler's parents seek justice from the school board and the district to limited results.Their story anchors the documentary.

Alex: The face and star of Bully, this story evoked the biggest response from my students. See, Alex is a painfully awkward kid trying to navigate the treacherous waters of sixth grade in Iowa. He's presented as a shy kid, a real goofball, in desperate need of a friend. Sadly, Alex appears to confuse bullying with his friends messing around.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Close your eyes and think of something nice.

As a married man, sometimes I feel my life consists of me helplessly shuffling from one mistake to another. Some are careless, some have been well-meaning, and some I'm still not quite sure they were even mistakes in the first place.

The last time I rented a movie for my wife and I to watch? Turns out, it was a combination of all three. And I didn't even think that was able to occur.

I rented The Impossible knowing it was going to make me (well, us) cry. I'm a huge softy, I'll admit it. But while I genuinely like a two-hour emotional journey, it turns out my wife doesn't. At all. She watches movies to smile, laugh, relax and have a good time.

My bad.

While it completely devastated me like few films ever have, I am still going to recommend that everyone see this movie. The story is remarkably grueling, but so utterly incredible I was repeatedly left speechless. Unless you count the sobs of a grown man, of course, then I was quite the Chatty Cathy.

What amazed me, almost more than the actual story of this family somehow surviving the devastation of a tsunami, is how jarringly authentic everything feels. Sure, the performances are uniformly excellent (my God those kids were brilliant), but the scope and realism of the tsunami's devastation is what has continued to haunt me a week later. Truly incredible.