Tuesday, October 22, 2013

You gotta be strong to survive out there.

Last week, I quit my job. I prefer the term resigned, but I guess it really doesn't matter either way. While I'm 99% sure I'll have another job in just a few weeks, the timing was, personally speaking, perfect. Not only did my wife's maternity leave expire today, but the school I was working for ultimately appears doomed. Our charter has not been renewed and the school district is shutting us down. And while I'm hoping it works out for the dozens of teachers (including some of the best people I've ever met) still there fighting the good fight, their fate is likely already determined. The ship, it seems, is starting to sink.

In my new career path, ship captain was never considered. Sure, there's the whole not at all qualified thing, but honestly, after seeing Captain Phillips last Saturday, the main reason is fear. Not just ooh, that looks kind of scary uneasiness, but full-on I'm never going on a boat again level of fear. Seriously, Jaws ain't got shit on Somali pirates.

Captain Phillips is an excellent movie. The acting, the cinematography and direction, the score, everything really, all effortlessly coalesces into something so compelling and so tense it's almost hard to watch, even if you can't turn away. And that's presuming you know the ending beforehand (I'm assuming you do). It's truly an incredible story.

And there's the rub, huh? The story. I'm not really interested in debating the facts, as I will personally never know what happened over those days in 2009. What I do know, is that director Paul Greengrass is a brilliant filmmaker. I also know that Tom Hanks is one of the greatest actors of all time. Everything else, it seems, is debatable. For my money, the greatness of their collaboration is not.

Please copy...

Jason Voorhees is not scary. He's killed countless people in countless ways, but it's all kind of silly. What I saw last Thursday? Now that was terrifying. The thing is, Jason should scare me more. Easily. I mean, at least Jason is possible. The deaths, as ridiculous as they may be could happen. I could have sex in a bunk bed. Unlikely, sure. But it could happen. And after that, an arrow could be jammed through my neck from below. Yeah, it would suck, but I'd manage. At least I'd die in a bed. In a house. On Earth. 

With all due respect, f--k space. F--k everything about it. Those serene shots of the sun rising over Earth? Bullshit. That shit ain't peaceful. That's certain, quiet death. 

I loved every minute of Gravity. Well, not while I was watching it, actually (you can't love something that's choking you), and not immediately afterward, either (my equilibrium was f--ked up). But the next day? Very much so. And while its box-office success is bringing out more and more detractors, I am obviously not one of them. Gravity is a cinematic experience unlike anything else I've ever been a part of. The film literally took my breath away.

From a technical perspective, the film is unquestionably brilliant. But while numerous films have stunned me visually, few, if any, have also packed the emotional weight of director Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity. Not only did I want everyone to make it home safely, I needed them to. 

The story is actually quite simple, and takes place in what feels like real time. After surviving an accident in outer space, astronauts Ryan Stone (a never better Sandra Bullock) and Matt Kowalski (George Clooney, consistently perfect) must improvise a plan to stay alive and get home. The challenges they face are relentless, and the overwhelming emptiness of space exacerbates everything. And making things somehow even worse (though, ultimately, great), the whole story is presented so seamlessly, in these fantastically long shots, you can't help but feel a part of every decision, every catastrophe.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Can we do this again? Like, all the time?

Last Wednesday, I had to take our four-year old to the doctor's office. Dad Doing Official Business is challenging enough, but this instance was even more trying. Matty needed to have blood drawn. See, since birth, the kid's been allergic to milk and eggs, which, unsurprisingly, are found in everything. Well, everything reasonably priced, anyway. Anyway, Matty was slightly concerned that they were going to suck all his blood out. To ease his fears, and award his bravery, I told him that immediately afterward, we'd grab some food and head to the movies. Deal? Deal.

In Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs 2, the characters have the opposite dilemma. Instead of worrying about the food they eat, these unlucky souls are worried about food eating them. Maybe it was the McDonald's prior to showtime (a chicken McNugget Happy Meal is dairy free...just sayin'), but this one definitely wasn't as tasty as its predecessor.

We liked the first Cloudy With A Chace of Meatballs. A lot, actually. Honestly, I suggest we fire up the original more than my son ever does (I will do anything to avoid the Cars films, anything). The initial tale of Flint Lockwood and his FLDSMDFR has just the right mix of laughs and heart. The second one isn't bad, it's just not as surprisingly fun and warm as the original. Outside of catching it in 3D (which is likely pretty sweet), my vote is rental, at best.

Anyway, after the events of the first one, where Flint Lockwood (voiced by the brilliant Bill Hader) made it rain food, the town of Swallow Falls has been evacuated. The displaced citizens want to go home, but otherwise, no one seems to care about their old town. Well, no one except food mogul and master scientist Chester V. (Will Forte, doing that great delirious old man voice that he does so well). His intentions are a little more nefarious.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Please, God. Pull the trigger.

Some actors rise to a level of notoriety that essentially works against them. When we talk of the character, we refer to the actor (Tom Cruise was so pissed off in that one scene...). It gets increasingly difficult for them to truly get lost inside a character like a less recognizable actor (potentially) could. Sometimes they'll transform themselves physically to avert their level of fame, often to mixed results (Gary Oldman in Hannibal being an impossible-to-classify example, um, for example). But for me, even harder to swallow, is when certain actors attempt to change their voice. This can be done well to great effect. But when it's bad...it's really bad. I refer to this as the Halle Berry as Storm phenomenon.

Robert De Niro and John Travolta have very distinct voices. In Killing Season both inexplicably don accents far outside anything we're used to hearing. And like the aforementioned Ms.Berry, neither actor can maintain it for the duration of the whole movie, much to the detriment of the film's effectiveness.

Oh, let's not just blame the accents. Nyet, mye freyend. This flick is just over eighty minutes of are you f--king kidding me? Potentially, there was an interesting story here. And we've got two talented leads. But to quote Mr. De Niro from a far, far better movie, the saddest thing in life is wasted talent. 

Anyway, we're about as far away from the Bronx as possible in Killing Season. Surprising no one, this one takes place in the woods, where Travolta's Vlade Divac Emil Kovac has decided to exact revenge on De Niro's Benjamin Ford. Seems these two have unfinished business from the Bosnian War, and scores must be settled, seasons must be killed.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

You're blind to everything.

We f--ked up. Big time.

My wife and I must have been smoking some good shit the day we decided to buy our house. Well, we don't actually do drugs, but when I think about our house, substance abuse seems like a solid plan (and likely we could acquire them nearby). Now, don't get me wrong, our place? It's relatively charming. And at the time, affordable. But little did we know it's in a horrible location. Well, that's not entirely true. It's on a busy road traveled exclusively by douchebags. It's also near some ugly electrical transformer facility, where they implausibly craft telephone poles twenty four hours a day. But what pisses me of more than anything? Motherf--kers break into our cars. All the time.

Luckily for the audience, the characters in Sofia Coppola's The Bling Ring have their sites set much higher than Bumf--k, PA. These entitled little shits stake out Hollywood, and stealing valuables out of cars is only the beginning. Eventually, taking something out of an unlocked car isn't enough, and this crew rob mansions repeatedly.

I know I'm old, trust me. But peering into the lives of anybody ten years younger than I currently am immediately makes me want to fight something. And while I'll stop just short of shaking my fist from my front porch (which I don't even have, dammit) at the kids passing by, I clearly resent the youth featured in this flick, if not every teenager on the planet. Youth is wasted on the young, indeed.

Watching rich kids steal from even richer celebrities is a very odd thing. I love movies and I love movie stars, but honestly, I don't give a f--k about what they have and where they live. And I would never even consider stealing anything as I realize how hard it is to work for the little bit of shit I have. I respect talent. And if you get paid millions of dollars for whatever it is you do, good for you. Don't rub my face in it, and we're cool.

Drink up. Let's Boo-Boo.

I don't drink. Never have.

Shit, I made it all the way through college and didn't even think twice about it. On my wedding day, not even a sip of the bubbly to celebrate the occasion. Hell, I've taught middle school in the inner-city for six years, and still, not a drop. But given the chance to relive high school, in my hometown, with some of my old friends? F--king bottoms up, right?

The World's End is f--king brilliant. Despite taking place in a town overrun by blue-blooded aliens, and despite the fact that it's all kinds of ridiculous, the movie is really an ode to lifelong friendship, and is grounded in a reality more familiar than 90% of the junk I see. For me, someone long out of college, and barely able to remember high school, director Edgar Wright has made a movie that taps into how all guys look back at that magical time known as high school. Some look back fondly, some look back regretfully, and some never look back at all. And some, well, some can't look back. Only because they never left in the first place.

I'm not really into ranking shit, but let me just tell you that I f--king love Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. I don't know where The World's End falls in the trilogy, nor do I really give a f--k to say one is better than the other. Wright, Nick Frost and Simon Pegg have made three films that make me laugh endlessly. Period.

The third film in the Cornetto trilogy tells the somewhat somber (yet consistenly hilarious) tale of a group of old friends getting together twenty years after high school. The reason? Gary King (Pegg), the team-captain of sorts, believes they have some unfinished business, specifically, finishing an epic pub crawl they failed two decades prior. While the level of enthusiasm from the other guys varies, King is determined to see it through, possibly showing more determination in this evening than in his entire life beforehand. Old friends, old jokes, old flames won't stop him. Neither will a town full of aliens.