Saturday, May 29, 2021

Lucky for you, I don't have any standards.

My 11th grade teacher grade English teacher was a dude named David Clarke. Mr. Clarke was amazing, honestly probably 27% of the reason I'm a teacher is because of him (I owe him a stiff punch in the balls, it would seem). Anyway, he ruled, and as a recent USC film student and graduate, he loved talking about movies, er, cinema.

One of his assignments was to keep a journal, and being that he actually read our stuff (I don't read my student's journals...because...*shudder*), I always wrote about movies, either random thoughts or something resembling a review, and usually in the order I saw them. (oddly enough, that's pretty much the same thing I do here...two and a half decades later). Anyhow, I remember these two 'reviews' verbatim:

Bridges of Madison County (PG-13): Maybe it's because of my age and sex (15, male), but this one probably one of the worst movies I have ever seen.

Mortal Kombat (PG-13): Maybe it's because of my age and sex (15, male) but this one was probably one of the best movies I have ever seen.

You'd think I might have changed in 26 years wandering this planet, but you'd be wrong. Maybe it's because of my age and sex (41, male) [or an undiagnosed head injury], but I was stoked as Hell when the new Mortal Kombat debuted on HBO Max, even it was potentially an exercise in futility. 

See, updating the characters (and violence) is one thing, but could anything remotely improve on that guy screeching MORTAL KKKKKKKKKOMBATTTTTTT over some techno jams? Is it even possible that the reboot could live up to the hype?

Or, and maybe even more pressing, does it even f--king matter?

If you've played any of the Mortal Kombat games - you're more than up to speed (and can gladly ignore 98% of what Sonya says). But if you haven't, um, weird, and uh...here's what you need (seems like the wrong word) to know...

For control of the world/universe/scary forest place, a secret fighting tournament is held...secretly?...over an undisclosed amount of time. Earthrealm sends its best warriors, cattle-branded with a rad dragon logo...against human-ish monsters from the Netherrealm, which, as far as I can gather, is basically straight-up Hell. Or at the very least, the Lava Level in every game ever. Got it? Really? Because I'm pretty sure I don't...

Sunday, May 16, 2021

I don't see yo' name in lights.

 You never know. And I hate that shit.

I want to be frustrated with the kid that always sleeps in class. I would love to say something to the old lady that doesn't pick up her dog's greasy shits in my yard (maybe even bag it up and stuff it her mailbox). I'd kill to smash my car into the driver's side of that a-hole that drifted in front of me while doing eighty and clearly on his phone.

But I can't. Or, at least...I won't. Because you never know what people are going through, right? Maybe that kid's house is an absolute nightmare. Maybe that lady has serious back problems and it's all she can do to get outside with her pup. And that dickhead swerving around the highway recklessly? Nah, no matter what...f--k him.

And f--k Levee Green, the protagonist of 2020's Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. Unleashed upon us by an intermittently charming/unflinchingly terrifying Chadwick Boseman, Levee is a tortured soul on work release from his own personal Hell. Levee's got demons for sure, and depending on who you ask - just might be one his own damn self.

Set in a sultry late 20's Chicago, a quartet of musicians assemble for a day's worth of recording with the larger-than-life Ma Rainey. Rainey's worked her way up, way up in fact, and can be counted on for a hit record. She's good - real good - but like any star, she's a bit of a pain in the ass (to put it mildly), too. But it's not like she doesn't have her reasons, as her second-tier status as a black woman undercuts the shit out of her value as an artist (not to mention person). Ma knows this, and ain't playing in the least. These white dudes are making bank off her soul, swagger and sweat (lots of sweat), right? So she digs in. Always. And you should too.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Monsters exist.

My kids don't really like movies

Hopefully, I can double back in a few years and change that don't to didn't, but for now, watching a flick isn't a thing they are consistently into. Aw.

Unless - UNLESS - giant monsters are involved. Then it's like let's f--king do this shit (minus the profanity, of course).

In preparation for Godzilla vs. Kong, we - as a family (gasp!) - watched the somewhat dubious Godzilla: King of all Monsters [review], and despite all the rainy, electrical storm battles during the darkest night ever recorded, that viewing experience was a resounding success. Please sir, I want some more. Logically, Kong: Skull Island was our next stop along the way, right? RIGHT?

It should have been. But after consulting some family-centric websites, I couldn't do it. Not with the kids. Not with my wife. Check that, not with my kids AND my wife. I get in enough trouble as it is. And allegedly...there was some stuff. Stuff ol' Mrs. Two Dollar Cinema might find objectionable. Aw.

Anyway, after years of sitting in my VUDU account, I finally unleashed heck and dialed up Skull Island and can I tell you, I effing loved it. Not only is Kong somehow infinitely cooler than Godzilla (blasphemy, I know), I COULD SEE EVERYTHING. Like, the sun was out and it was shining directly into my eyes (while cool shit was going down, no less). My retinas were torched, and I couldn't have been happier.

Now, I've lost my way in the universe (both the films and...ours), but best I can gather, the sneaky bastards at the Government want to map out the Bermuda Triangle-esque Skull Island, and naturally, weaponize motherf--king Kong. They send an elite team of Marvel Superheroes (Loki, Nick Fury and Captain Marvel) to complete the job, but thankfully, everything immediately goes tits up. Kong goes ape-shit on all of them - but with, alas, good reason.

(isn't that always the case?)

Monday, May 10, 2021

Today is his birthday and it is a tradition that on his birthday I get up extra early and make him his favorite kind of dessert.

You and me. 

Us. 

We made it. Barely, but we effing did it.


F--king madness, is all I can think blame, as there is no good reason that this blog survived a decade, and even less of a reason that you find yourself reading it, whenever/wherever it is that you're doing so. 
But without you, I would have called it years ago, even if seems that I indeed, called it years ago. 

What started late one night after a colleague showed me a blog about her newborn son, grew into a place where I'd spend a quarter of my life talking to a combination of no one, anyone and everyone. Well, everyone is a bit of a stretch, as there's been a core group of brilliant bloggers that have shown Two Dollar Cinema an infinite amount of love and encouragement, and this annual tradition is dedicated to them. 

Thursday, April 29, 2021

It's very effective.

 Animated movies used to be simple: pretty colors, catchy songs, everyone lives happily ever after, who's up for the accompanying chicken nuggets and plastic toy?

Lately, scratch all that. It's less hakuna matata, more cogito, ergo sum. Animated films, at least what the fine folks at PIXAR have been putting out entertain the kids, sure, but simultaneously have the adults questioning their existence. I find myself so deep in personal reflection...

...not even my meals are Happy.

I will never look at Joe and not see Roy Wood, Jr. 

Oh, Soul, what have you done to me? I'm not sure if this movie made me need therapy, or is therapy, but either way - whoa. Toeing the line between light-hearted and heavy-handed, PIXAR's latest wasn't exactly what I wanted, but maybe more what I needed?

Me and Joe, we're the same. Middle aged middle school teachers just trying to make the best of it? Pretty sure that's what it says under name on my driver's license. But while I've got a wife and kids, Joe's riding solo for the most part. He's got his mom, some good friends, his...uh...students, sure, but what really gets him up in the morning is his dream: playing jazz. Joe, maybe a bit long in the tooth, is holding out for his big break.

And he gets it. Finally. [yes!]

But then he dies. Immediately. [nooooooooooooo!]

Yeah, he does, but to Joe's immense credit, he ain't having it, and walks down the up escalator into the Great Beyond. There he teams up with 22, a fledgling soul not quite ready (or interested) in primetime. Joe and 22 get back to, well, life (back to reality), with the mission of reuniting his wayward soul with his body. And it works...mostly. Instead of Joe being inside Joel, 22 inadvertently gets to steer the ship. And our main dude? Well, he ends up in a cat. While this may seem like the freakiest of Fridays, it actually benefits both of them. Joe gets to see his impact on the world from adjacent eyes, and 22? 22 gets to try pizza

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Playing fair is a joke.

I used to think the only thing worse than dying young, would be living so long that your brain calls it way before your body does. I've had some relatives that have dealt with dementia and frankly, that seems like the dickest of dick moves that life could pull. Hey, you made it old-timer, you've lived a long life, but you're going to forget everything about it. Mostly. To f--k with you even further, it'll all kinda depend on the day.

But, and just the holiest of craps, it turns out there might be something worse than either of those two scenarios waiting for me at the end. It wouldn't be my brain or my body taking everything from me.

It would be some ruthless blonde.

No, it's not my (lovely, ahem) wife I'm talking about silly goose, but instead one Marla Grayson, the main character of 2020's gloriously vicious horror-comedy, I Care a Lot. Starring Rosamund Pike, in a role that would win her a Golden Globe, this little story starts out as a small-scale nightmare and kind of ends up...as something resembling...the American dream.

Wait, what?

Marla Grayson is in control. Her business, her love-life, her f--king hair, the tightness of my pants- all of it. That shit is locked down. When we meet her she's in court, offering guidance and wardship to yet another old person allegedly incapable of taking care of themselves. Aw, that's nice. Helping those who can't help themselves? Honorable, right? Uh, well...

Not in the slightest.

See, Marla, caring as she may be, is an absolute f--king shark, the top predator in a food-chain constructed of equal parts best intentions and worst-case scenarios. Her and her team are going to help take care of your elderly mum, sure, but there also going to take everything she has in the process. I'm not a hundred percent sure if it's win-win or lose-lose, but after the first fifteen minutes or so, I was damn sure it's totally f--ked up. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

It kind of feels like everything is impossible these days.

In a few short months, I will reach the point where I have been with my wife longer than I've been without her. We're hovering around the twenty-one year mark, and I'm not quite forty two. Arguably, that's the most romantic math I've ever done.

I mention this because we are long past the point of grand gestures and blindly hitting the accelerator to the chorus of Meat Loaf's I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That). I would do anything for her, sure, but it's not like the opportunity, thankfully, ever really presents itself. I mean, it's not like there's hulking monsters waiting outside to devour us all.

They're pretty small, actually. Like, the size of Ted Cruz. 

Despite writing (and speaking) like a pre-teenage girl, I wasn't overly familiar with Dylan O'Brien, and even less informed about his latest flick, Love and Monsters. Released (theatrically?) in the wasteland of 2020, and starring the affable lead from The Maze Runner trilogy (and Styles from MTV's Teen Wolf...which is/was apparently a thing), this little monster flick is gigantic fun. 

Moments after romantic parked car time, Joel (O'Brien) and Aimee (the striking Jessica Henwick) arrive home to find the world in absolute chaos. Massive creatures have appeared and Hell, has officially broken loose. Joel and Aimee split up, but with the promise of seeing each other again. Uh, about that...

It's seven years later and Joel is possibly the least-valued member of a small band of survivors, all of whom are hiding out in a fairly rad underground bunker. Seems mankind attempted to nuke the monsters, but it didn't work, and not only was everyone forced underground, but the radiation mutated whatever the Hell is still living on the surface.

One day after a pretty costly breach, Joel, not so much alone but very much single, manages to contact Aimee after all these years, and makes a very hasty decision: he has to get to her. Unfortunately, she's 85 miles away, and if Joel were a bear, he'd be more Paddington, less Grylls.

But love is love. Rather than live for nothing, he'd rather die for something, you know? So off he goes.

Friday, February 5, 2021

I finished last, Hermione.

I don't know where this is headed, but my daughter, Violet, is a lot like me. A lot a lot.

In addition to being annoying and overbearing, obviously, she's smart, silly, and when she's interested in something, it becomes something just short of an all-encompassing obsession.

A couple of months ago, she had to catch 'em all, and all we would/could talk about is Pikachu, Eevee, Scorbunny and the like. But now, thankfully, she's moved on the Wizarding World of one Harold J. Potter. Once she got wind of all things Hogwarts, it was over. She politely demanded we watch all the movies immediately, and I said we could, but only if she read the books first. Well, at least the first two (I cut her some slack, she's seven).

And she did. Immediately.

Look at Ron's luxurious mane...

After revisiting the first three Harry Potter flicks with Violet, this was, perhaps shocking to you dear reader, my first time seeing Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I was a little late to reading all the books, but once I started, I read them consecutively. This level of dedication didn't translate to the films, apparently. 

Oddly enough, and I know I'm in the vast minority, but Goblet was my favorite book. How it was the only movie adaptation I missed is beyond me. I guess I was super-busy in '05...

Unless I'm reading the room incorrectly, isn't this the flick that most people consider the worst in the franchise? Maybe you hardcore types can point out the inconsistencies or whatever, but coming back to it a decade and a half later was an absolute blast. Especially when you take into account that I had my young daughter along for the ride. And, AND, I had no idea that Team Edward was in this. Holy moly, I didn't expecto that patronum.

*crickets*

Screw you, guys. Anyhow, not that anyone cares anymore, but is there anything cooler than the Tri-Wizard tournament? No, no there is not. In my head it was rad enough, but actually getting to see it play out with the best effects that 2005 could muster was a seriously good time. Honestly, it's hard to really evaluate any of this, as the Nostalgia Machine was cranked to eleven, leaving me impossibly stoked to see something 'new' from the old gang. And having Violet there squealing along with me? Can't beat it. It's impossible.

Friday, January 22, 2021

When they find out who you are, they will show you no mercy.

I love the idea of bringing honor to one's family. It's a bit old-school, sure, but that doesn't make it any less romantic. You just imagine some noble person, wind blowing in their rugged face, doing something grand...and it's just...well, is it getting hot in here? 

Personally, my ultimate goal, whenever I haphazardly take a moment to think of someone other than myself, is to simply not embarrass the people around me. *has blog* Okay, not embarrass them tremendously. *reads blog*

I have brought great shame to us all. 

Shockingly, after it's somewhat lukewarm reception, it turns out Disney has not brought any great level of shame upon the mouse-house with it's live-action re-imagining of Mulan. Okay, remaking all of their timeless classics (which are each essentially rip-offs of classic tales) is pretty flipping shameful, I suppose, but still - the movie doesn't suck. At least not hard.

Sure, absent are the rad songs like I'll Make a Man Out of You (Donny Osmond!) and, uh...others? Forget about Mushu and anything resembling light-hearted fun, 'cause they's gone, too. Turns out there's no honor in humor, right? But left in their absence, is a beautifully photographed epic, with a pleasing mix of action and intrigue, woven into a tale as old as time. Oop, I think I got my live-action remakes confused again...

Anyway, it's not a stretch to say that you've seen this movie before, because obviously, you have, but even on my TV (and not the big screen this should've debuted on) the new Mulan still felt pretty epic. Newcomer Yifei Liu does an admirable job with the title character, even though I've always found Mulan's raging internal conflict ridiculous (girl, you can kick all these dude's asses...and we want you to. Remove that staff from your arse and get to it already). But for me, it was the presence of stalwarts Donnie Yen and Tzi Ma that kept me enlisted, not to mention Jason Scott Lee and a fairly unrecognizable Jet Li, too. While none of these fine gents has a large part, it's still highly enjoyable seeing them all together, shouting instructions and/or looking on stoically.