Sunday, March 31, 2013

Release the baby!

Last week, there was an envelope left in the back of my Jeep. Even though I was the one who asked for it, I didn't even want to handle it, let alone actually look at it. And while this envelope literally contained a single word, it was a word that could potentially change everything. In our house, this envelope was the equivalent of the briefcase in Pulp Fiction. We wanted to see inside it so badly, but it was even better to endlessly speculate.

The poster? Awful. The movie? Not so much.
This letter has, shockingly, nothing to do with The Croods, but everything to do with how I felt about it as the credits rolled. I wasn't thinking about it for the first third of the movie, but when it finally dawned on me, I couldn't shake it. Trust me, this will be relevant.

The Croods, in case you don't have a three-year old son (who watches channels that feature the preview extensively), tells the story of one family trying to survive the dangers of prehistoric times. Oh, and by family, I mean the only family, as numerous catastrophes have claimed the rest. The result? An overprotective dad (solidly voiced by Nic Cage) figuratively and literally smothering his wife and kids to preserve his family as long as possible.

The safety-first plan is working out just fine for Dad, until his teenage daughter, Eep, meets a boy named Guy. Guy's arrival signals the end of the world, both for Dad's control over the family, and in a greater sense, too. The landscape, it seems, is changing rapidly.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

For Your Consideration - LAMMYS 2013

One of the smartest things I ever did with this silly blogging endeavor was to join The Lamb. There, I have become friends with some really cool people who have some really cool blogs (all of which you should check out). In our invisible community, I'm essentially the village idiot, rambling about God knows what (likely breasts) when I should be talking about the 'film' at hand. For some reason however, a few of these fine folks consider Two Dollar Cinema worth being considered for an annual blogging award. Nuts, right? I'm thinking auto-fill got the best of them as they were likely typing three entirely different words. With what is probably an extreme lapse in judgement, I would like to give a tip of the cap to all (okay, both) of you that support this site. Despite my constant jackassery, I endlessly appreciate it.

Speaking of people I have the utmost gratitude for, I'd like to take a quick second to thank my wife for whipping this together. What took her twenty minutes, likely would have taken me ten times that. And, I likely would have given up and just cut an pasted an actual dollar.

To my screen.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Don't you know that words ruin everything?

While my writing suggests otherwise, I actually love words. In fact, they are my livelihood. Though as a middle school English teacher, I feel like the only ones I use with any regularity are please stop talking and try to be less annoying. Anyway, this blog, as ridiculous and juvenile as it is, allows me to string words together however I want, free of the shackles working with children provides. I honestly revel in sitting down to a blank screen and attempting to tell a story, even when I ultimately botch it. And when I do, which is more often than not, there's still a level of satisfaction in creating something that has never existed before. Even when a post ends up a steaming pile, I'm still proud because it's my steaming pile.

In The Words, that handsome devil Bradley Cooper plays struggling would-be author Rory Jansen. Rory is actually a decent writer, but he can't get anyone to publish his novel. It's good, but he's a nobody and the publishing company is at a loss at how they would market it. Basically, it's tough break, kid. As the bills begin to pile up, the stress of not making it begins to take its toll. Rory thinks he should call it a day, give up the dream. But then, after inadvertently stumbling across a magnificent yet unpublished manuscript, Rory makes a decision that will change everything.

From the outset, it's obvious where this movie is going, but despite that, I had a good time along the way. Any positives will be immediately attributed to the cast, and that's completely warranted. While Cooper is the posterboy, I found the supporting turn by Jeremy Irons to be the most interesting. Obviously, the guy's a legend, but as I watch primarily bad movies, I've deprived myself of the force that is a pissed off Irons.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

On a scale of 1 to 10? Pretty bad.

Occasionally, I'll get asked the question what is your favorite movie of all-time? Immediately I begin to stammer. Well, it depends. What genre? Favorite newer movie? Or, like, a classic? Is it something to watch over and over again? Or do you mean favorite theatrical experience? And on and on it goes. My go to answer, depending on the day, is usually Fight Club. But, sometimes I might say The Big Lebowski or Jerry Maguire. Possibly even Psycho or Tim Burton's Big Fish. But after I watch O Brother, Where Art Thou? or Moulin Rouge!, I might opt for either one. It's hopeless, really.

But my least favorite of all-time? That shit's easy.

If you own this on Laserdisc, you're due a high-five or an axe to the face.
Stewardess School is the worst f--king movie I have ever seen, hands down. It's not even in the ball park of so bad it's good. It's so bad, I'm actually doing all I can not to f--king punch the shit out of my monitor now, simply because it features a picture of this abomination. It's like someone not only took a massive dump in my eyes, but also in my soul. This one hurt. Bad.

What compelled you in the first place, jerkface? Well, two things: First, I genuinely like to throw the occasional random-ass movie on here, and I thought an 80's sex-romp would entertain, like my first [blogged] foray, Private School [review]. And second, sometimes, the worse the movie, the better the post.

If that holds true, this should be the best post I've ever written. Though, that isn't saying much.

Somewhere, in some terrible place, possibly at gunpoint, someone decided that Police Academy was just too good. So, they took the premise of a ragtag mix of lovable goofballs, and instead of setting them in the rigid world of serving and protecting, elected to send them to the God-awful titular location instead. There, they could learn the ins and outs of air-hospitality. But as shitty as that sounds on paper, the final product is infinitely worse.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Don't tell me you watched that debacle?

When you see a couple at the movies, it's doubtful that you've ever wondered how'd they end up here? For my wife and I last Saturday night, a few things had to occur. Initially and most difficult, we had to get my mother-in-law to watch our son overnight.  Next, we devoured our dinner, so that we could make it to the dirt mall in time. And finally, I gently talked her out of Safe Haven (bullet dodged?) and persuaded her to something, ideally, not as awful. All things considered, nothing too surprising, right?

Turns out, green cleavage is my second favorite...right behind all other colors.
Now, that was an origin story that no one asked for. Oz the Great and Powerful, judging by recent box office numbers, has proven itself to be the exact opposite. When I first saw the preview, my initial thought was no f--king way I'm ever seeing that mess. But when pitted against a flick starring Fergie's husband, I changed it to  Yeah, could I please get two tickets to that delightful Oz movie, good sir? Pretty sure that's how I talk.

Look, I respect The Wizard of Oz. I do. I'm sure I've seen it, all pieced together, at least twenty times (including that time in college where some hippie kid had something amazing to show us!). But I don't revere it. I'm not like that kid in my film classes who answered every question with, Well, in the Wizard of Oz, Victor Fleming decided to....Nope. Not that guy. So what the shit was I doing opening weekend watching the seemingly ill-advised prequel with a tired, pregnant lady? Outside of avoiding Juliana Hough's mysterious past, well, I'm not exactly sure.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

I don't deserve to be sitting at your table.

I've had some bad Thanksgivings. The three worst ones, in no particular order, go something like this:

#1. 1993. As is tradition, my family gathered around the TV to watch the Cowboys game. In an unusually snowy Dallas, the Cowboys looked to have the game in hand against the Miami Dolphins. I won't go in to much detail, but the words Leon and Lett are forbidden on Turkey Day. A special f--k you to my friend Haspe on this one.
#2. 1997 or 1998, not really sure which. I was in college, and ended up having Thanksgiving at my grandmother's house. Things are going well, plates are being cleared, when all of a sudden, my uncle bursts in with his gigantic then-girlfriend/ex-wife. Both of them are all smiles. We just got married! [again]. The vibe in the room went from actually joyous, to canned happiness at best. My grandmother's cooking skills were unrivaled, but her acting skills? Anything but.
#3. 1990. My sister was born. And while that's a really good thing, accidentally seeing my mom completely naked in the hospital later that day wasn't. Damn you, bathroom mirrors, damn you. She was peeking around the door, but I had inadvertently taken a bad angle, to say the least. [sorry, Mom]

It's fair to say that my trio of less-than-awesome family gatherings doesn't really compare with the Thanksgiving shenanigans in Deadfall. I mean, yeah, the Cowboys loss might've made me want to jump out the window, but at least I didn't get tackled through it. And while my aunt and uncle ultimately ended up divorced again, at least they weren't brother and sister. And my mom? Nope. Not even gonna try to connect that one.

While I almost opted for House at the End of the Street, at the last minute I decided to deny myself the bouncy goodness of Jennifer Lawrence and rent Deadfall. Being that I had never heard of it, I was swayed by a shorter runtime and a solidly eclectic cast. Eric Bana, though criminally absent from a lot of mainstream flicks, has always been a favorite.

Over a snowy Thanksgiving, siblings Addison (Bana) and Liza (the sexy Olivia Wilde) find themselves wandering through the woods after the car they were riding in crashes. Seems they've done something unsavory, as there's a large amount of money to gather in the wreckage. Larceny aside, something else is amiss as Addison's gaze lingers a little too long on his sister as she adjusts her short skirt. Oh, and you wouldn't like him when he's angry as he kills everyone he meets, too. Other than that? He's a good dude.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

I just wanted my dog back.

Of all the perfectly clever things comedian George Carlin ever uttered, one thing has always stayed with me. When discussing the dogs he had and lost over the years, Carlin boiled it down to a simple truth. He talks about the moment that we all decide to buy an animal, and the unspoken agreement that comes along with the decision. It's going to end badly. You're purchasing a small tragedy.

I've lost three dogs over the course of my lifetime, and it has completely devastated me each time. My current pup, Dodger, is seven. He has officially reached senior status.

That 'From the director of Alice in Wonderland' bit is a joke, right?
The second movie in our snow-day double header was Tim Burton's Frankenweenie. This was supposed to be something we could watch as a family, but surprising no one, I was left alone for the bulk of it. My son Matty, convinced this movie was terrifying, actually went to sleep instead, a move basically unheard of for a three year old boy. My wife, lover of both dogs and sleep, thought she was game, but blamed her inability to stay conscious on the movie being all black and white. So, while two-thirds of my house bailed on it, I'm going to go ahead and recommend it. Consider the whole flick a small triumph.

A remake/extended version of an earlier short, Frankenweenie tells the touching story of a boy who brings his deceased dog back to life, in an effort to spend more time together. The aptly named Sparky, is/was a great dog, and was the best friend young Victor ever had. But when his pup meets an unfortunate fate (the same as my second dog, Koko) Victor is crushed. But being the bright kid that he is, Victor figures out how to reanimate Sparky. Despite my son's fear, there's nothing inherently scary about any of this, except for the townspeople's narrow views on science, of course. This is old-school Burton, mixing cute and clever, with a dash of creepy for good measure. It's also surprisingly Depp-free.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Protect yourself.

Have you ever heard of Kidzbop? It's one of these seemingly weekly collections of pop music churned out for the masses, performed by nameless, cookie-cutter teens and pre-teens. It's like an intro to the scary world of actual music, but made safe by angelic, prepubescent voices. Also, all the naughty bits are scrubbed clean and made ridiculously innocuous. When I was younger, I would passionately berate these collections endlessly, lamenting that they suck and that they have no artistic value. Man, I was so cool back then. 

The first movie in last Wednesday's family snow-day doubleheader was Kevin James' latest, Here Comes the Boom. While not the outright horror show of his last family outing Zookeeper [review], Here Comes the Boom is yet another family flick aimed solely at kids and old people. And while a part of me wants to cry foul at its simplicity and curse all the wasted talent!, I'm starting to understand that there's an audience for this kind of stuff. And that there's nothing really wrong with that, either. It's simple, momentarily amusing and ultimately forgettable. But it's also sweet and innocent, too.

Kind of like a bunch of twelve year old boys singing Gangham Style.

Anyway, not that the poster didn't spell it out for you already, but the plot is some pretty standard stuff. An uninspired teacher in an uninspired school, decides on a whim to raise money to save the school's music program. Of course, even though his heart is in the right place, seems Mr. Voss (James) also has some selfish reasons, too, namely impressing the impossibly gorgeous Ms. Flores (played by Salma Hayek [and the girls]). As these movies always go, the plan isn't something simple like washing cars and bake sales, no siree. Mr. Voss decides that, despite being old and out-of-shape, he's going to enter the world of MMA. Why would he do that? Well, here's where it gets extra kooky, they pay big bucks even if you lose. Zany, right?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

If it gives us peace, call it anything you wish.

Let's just put it out there: I'm an idiot. There are many things that I can't do because of this fact, but let's just discuss two, only because they involve the same skill: Paying attention.

The first thing I can't seem to do, is remember anyone's name in an introduction. For whatever reason, when meeting someone new, I'm so focused on correctly saying my own name and delivering a firm handshake (and perhaps a witty line) that I literally never comprehend the two or three syllables they are telling me. It's actually incredible, really. I mean never. It's to the point where I should either start carrying nametags, or saying people's names House Bunny style.

But even worse (and to the point), I can't follow directions. When someone starts to give me directions with more than say, three steps, I suddenly become this guy who, instead of getting information he f--king needs, I become more concerned with convincing the person giving the directions that they're doing a great job. It's so stupid, it's hard to even articulate.

So, the following post is a reminder that if Liam Neeson ever calls us, I'm handing the phone to you. Otherwise, we're both screwed. Wait, what do I do? And, I'm sorry. I didn't catch your name...

Though this may be a bit of a shot to the nuts of my credibility, I had a really good time with Taken 2. Rented for a buck from Redbox, this flick, while ultimately stupid and overwhelmingly pointless, entertained me throughout. If you're reading a (crappy) movie blog, and you don't already enjoy watching the mighty Liam Neeson kick an infinite amount of foreign ass, might I suggest you go ahead and hit that red x in the corner. But, if just the thought of Qui-Gon snapping necks makes your naughty parts tingle, then friends, have I got ninety two minutes for you.

Looking back, I think we all give the original Taken just a little too much credit. Sure, Neeson kind of shocked everybody with how much of a badass he could be. I mean, his phone speech/eulogy to every bad guy in the world was cinematic gold. Truly. But when you really go back and watch it, the damn movie is all kinds of ridiculous. By the end, Neeson might as well lower himself into molten steel, as that's likely the only way he could be stopped. It's still a good time, regardless.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

I'd rather be juggling bananas.

While I'm not really interested in making any, I'm a sucker for a good list. One night, stumbling from movie blog to movie blog, I found a list of Eleven of the Best Movies You've Never Seen. Rarely do I see something that I don't know at least a little about, so instantly I was intrigued. I scanned the list and found that I had only seen one of the flicks mentioned, Peter Jackson's Dead Alive. Knowing that that movie kicks ass (for the Lord!, no less), the author had completely earned my trust. I bailed on the summaries and instantly began to add the titles to my queue.

About a week later, after watching director Dave McKean's MirrorMask, my first thought was, maybe there's a reason no one has ever seen this. For me, this movie turned out to be work. Of the rather arduous variety, no less. Maybe if I'd have seen the poster, I would've known to keep it moving. But I didn't. You? You still have time.

But, if you're still interested, here's the plot as far as I can decipher it. A young girl has grown tired of working in her parents circus, and in typical teenager fashion, says something offhandedly rotten to her mother. Sure enough, Mom ends up incredibly ill, and Helena, the aforementioned lass, descends into some imaginary dream world on a quest to help her ailing mom. Um, I think. Her quest lacked urgency, and perhaps even a little bit of coherence.

People who love this film will say the story is magical, and it's a visual masterpiece. Others, perhaps like me, who don't adore the movie, will say something to the effect of, not only did I not get/care what the Hell was going on, but it looked like a Cirque du Soleil version of The Matrix airing on French-Canadian Nick, Jr. I mean, obviously, right?