Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Because I have seen enough blood and death. I know what's coming.

Every summer when I was a kid, I was shipped off to my grandparent's house. I'm not talking for the weekend, either, as I would stay there for the entire summer. When I was around ten, it was really exciting and I always looked forward to it. As I got older, it was still a good time, but it became a little more work to fully appreciate them. Then, as I headed into college (nearby, actually), everything became so familiar, that it wasn't special anymore, it just was. Stories started to repeat themselves, day-trips were to the same places, and the meals, as delicious as they were, the meals had little variety. But no matter what, deep down, it all meant so much to me. I mean, who else almost cries every time you leave, other than your grandmother? Huh? Even when you tell her, I'll be back.

A part of many summer memories as well, is another all-time favorite of mine, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Looking back over his filmography, I can recall countless trips to the theater or video store, seeking out an Arnold flick. In the eighties and early nineties, everything was pure gold. From Conan the Barbarian to  Predator, The Running Man to Total Recall, each was more entertaining and quotable as the next.

Even as things would take a depressing turn in the late nineties, with flicks like The 6th Day and Collateral Damage, I was still showing up with a smile on my face. Whether it was because it reminded me of being a kid, or simply because I wanted to keep supporting someone who'd meant so much to my youth, I just kept going. And last Saturday, I went again.

The Last Stand isn't that good, frankly, though probably not as bad as the box office numbers would indicate. Schwarzenegger plays a sheriff, who is, you guessed it, too old for this shit. In his youth he was a narcotics cop in L.A., and apparently had been involved in some deep shit. While undercover as a kindergarten teacher, he killed a pregnant man and his borderline-midget twin brother. Or something like that. So, he ends up in a tiny border town in Arizona, in charge of quite possibly the least intimidating group of deputies ever assembled (including Fat Guy, Pretty Girl, Fodder Kid and Newly Trusted Criminal). Their mission? To stop a Mexican drug lord, who has escaped federal custody in Vegas and is now heading their way. Fast.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

It's all the deep end.

It seems like Hollywood is remaking everything from my childhood. I'd say slowly but surely, but it's more like the opposite, quickly and f--king cluelessly. Month after month, it seems like studios are firing up the Nova Laboratories created Reboot 5000 and unleashing (unoriginal) Hell upon movie-goers. Last night, I knew I was in for yet another remake, but I thought it was of a flick I saw theatrically eighteen years ago. Instead, it was just like something I saw nine months ago.

I can't remember the original Judge Dredd at all. In fact, I thought the three seashells bit was from it. My bad. But I do remember The Raid: Redemption [review] quite well, as I consider it one of the best action movies I have ever seen. Intentionally or not, last year's Dredd essentially shares a premise with the Indonesian ass kicker. In both flicks, outnumbered cops are trapped in massive tower controlled by a psychotic drug lord. And while a similar plot may have put a slow-motion bullet through the face of my enthusiasm, somehow it didn't kill it altogether.

Dredd's um, redemption, comes in the form of its unrelenting style. Gloriously violent in all the right ways, director Pete Travis presents Mega City One as the ultimate shit hole. The color palette purposely looks like day-old vomit. Browns, yellows and grays dominate, with the occasional streak of neon color. But things get beautiful quickly, whenever someone takes a hit of Slow Mo, the drug ravaging the city, and more specifically, the apartment complex Dredd and his partner Anderson end up in . Slow Mo seems like some good shit too, as it slows perception (and the perception of bullets, thankfully) down by 99%. Sounds like a good time, right?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

I was trying to be romantic.

Long before we were married, my wife was just another pretty girl that I obsessed over. I met her at a party for a mutual friend, and then began to strategize how I could see more of her. This gameplanning, had become a seemingly semi-annual tradition since high school, as I would systematically figure out how I could accidentally bump into her as frequently as possible. If you knew how much casual conversation I would go through for the one bit of pertinent information, you would probably think I was nuts. But, that's what love is, right? Batshit insanity, at least early on. I mean, what normal person would spend hours in a McDonald's parking lot (because that's where they got the best cell-phone reception) registering for classes for someone else, before registering for their own? I mean, not me of course, 'cause that shit's crazy.  

Though, then I could know exactly what classes I needed to register for..[maniacal laugh].

In my silly, um, fictional anecdote, everybody involved was rather normal and relatively sane. But in Silver Linings Playbook, that's not the case. David O. Russell's film tells the story of Pat, a fairly regular guy who has just been discharged from a mental health facility. See, Pat came home one day to find his wife in the shower with another man. Pat, probably a little unstable to begin with, lost his mind and beat the Hell out of this guy. Shockingly, his wife didn't approve of such a loving grand gesture, and she now has a restraining order against him. Pat has been away for eight months, and has likely spent every minute of that time, like a young blogger you might know, plotting how to get the girl (back, I suppose). In his head, it's going to work out just fine. He just needs to stay focused and positive.

Unfortunately, Pat's life is filled with distractions, a few of which could fall into the negative category. First up, is his family. His dad is an incredibly superstitious bastard, whose life revolves around the Philadelphia Eagles (poor bastard). Next up, is Tiffany. Tiffany is a recently widowed sister-of-a-friend, who eventually commits to helping Pat get his wife back. She's not completely selfless (or sane), as she insists that Pat help her enter a dance contest her late husband was supposed to be a part of. Seems fair enough. Well, last but not least, is Pat himself. Pat's completely selfish, obsessed with the inevitability of getting his wife back. He has no time for such things as grace and kindness, let alone common decency when he speaks. These things interfere with his plan. Pat is committed to one thing and one thing only: getting the girl.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Garbage blows in my face sometimes.

Today, the hockey season will finally begin. If you're not a fan, you likely don't give a damn. And even if you are a fan, you should do your best not to, either. See, the owners and the players couldn't get their shit together, and half the season was forfeited.  At this point, no one cares, but for a minute or two, I missed hockey. Really. I mean, few other professional sports allow two players space and time to beat the shit out of each other. 

With sticks.

Goon tells the dreaded based on a true story of hockey enforcer Doug 'The Thug' Glatt. I'm not interested enough to research the facts, but it's probably a safe bet that some liberties were taken with actual events. Let's start at the beginning, eh?

While attending a minor-league hockey game one night, a player for the visiting team foolishly enters the stands looking for an ass to kick. Doug intervenes, and completely f--king devastates the player, moments after his third corn dog. The crowd goes wild as Doug thinks nothing of it. He's a bouncer. Kicking ass is what he's good at. Scratch that. Great at.

Naturally, the home team is terrible and the coach has an idea so crazy it might just work. Let's get that random, ass-kicking citizen in here to join the team. Who gives a shit if he's never played hockey, let alone can't f--king ice skate. After a few missteps where he screws up royally, this absurd experiment will inevitably work out in the end. You know why? Because in these types of movies, it always does.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

I'm keenly aware of my aloneness.

I am not a great man.

Shit, on a good day I'd settle for being called either great or man, let alone both. I get rattled at work. By twelve-year olds. I lose my temper and yell at my son, who means the absolute world to me. And my wife, wait, my pregnant wife!, I mock her like a child (when she's not looking, of course) for even suggesting I'm not keeping up my end of things. And sometimes, I even complain about things. Ugh. It's pathetic.

Now, up until last Thursday, I honestly thought I was getting by, you know, actually contributing to humanity. But after walking out of Spielberg's Lincoln I realized that I was entirely mistaken. I don't know conflict. Hell, I've never even met turmoil. And strife? I'm not even sure that's a word.

I'm a teacher (average, at best), but my knowledge of American history is passable, as it's not my content area. That said, seeing the inner-workings of the American government in the mid-1800's fascinated me. What I thought may have been a bit on the tedious side at 150 minutes, Lincoln turned out to be anything but. Turns out the passing of the 13th Amendment makes for very compelling viewing, even for someone like me (that initially thought otherwise). And while the story is told by a master director in Spielberg, most of the credit is justifiably aimed at the peerless Daniel Day-Lewis. The whole cast is first-rate (well, there's an occasional misstep), but Day-Lewis is undeniably majestic as President Lincoln. I'm still not sure what intrigues me more, the performance as Lincoln, or simply getting to see what Lincoln faced. Either way, I'm chalking it up as a win.

Where things went awry, for me, was any minute of runtime not dedicated to politics. I realize that Lincoln's personal issues make him more human and add to the weight of the burden he carried, but it didn't make them any more interesting to watch. Even with fine actors involved, it all came off a bit schmaltzy. Maybe it was just me, but the sub-plot concerning his wife and eldest son seemed forced. And I'm not even asking for twenty fewer minutes, that's not the issue. Just more politics, maybe even more battlefield action. And more Spader. Definitely.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Maybe she was wearing underwear that has a vagina painted on it.

Close your eyes. Think about whatever it is in your life that brings you stress. It could be work, school, money, family, relationships or any responsibility that weighs you down. Whatever the answer, there's one thing that further f--ks everything, er, complicates all of the above. Kids. 

Hell, even if you answered kids initially, it still holds true. Adding more basically elevates crazy to insane. And this is coming from a guy who has just one kid. One. Ish.

This is 40 is a heartfelt, though surprisingly crude look at the overwhelming chaos that raising a family is. And like any typical family gathering, it has moments of hilarity and joy, endless bickering and frustration, uncompromising children (lost in electronics), and more than one awkward blow up. It also might drag on a little longer than everyone would like, too.

But unlike most family functions, at least around these parts anyway, it's got Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann. Either is good. But both? Oh, that's great. They guarantee a good time.

I remember liking Knocked Up, but that was before I decided I hated Katherine Heigl (well, outside of looking at her, which is fun). This sort-of sequel is a lot funnier because instead of Izzie Stevens and The Green Hornet, we get the dynamic duo of Mann and Rudd. I've loved her dating back to The Cable Guy. And Rudd? Shit. You can't not like that guy. It's impossible.

What also seems impossible, is the notion that director Judd Apatow can make a short movie (Funny People is 146 minutes!). Now, if you're enjoying it like me and my wife were, it doesn't really matter if it routinely meanders (a lot like this blog, actually). But, if you're one of those people that likes say, structure or a focused story, it'll likely infuriate you (a lot like this blog, actually). I don't think Apatow cares, either way. He makes things personal, his way, and includes true family stories as often as possible, likely to his own amusement (hmmm...).

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

I gotta make my wife fall in love with me. Again.

Now more than ever, I would take a bullet for my wife. Literally, I would. For this blog, she takes them for me, figuratively of course, all the time. She watches my son as I haul ass to countless late night showings of Uh, can I get one ticket to... all the time. Never does she ask what I'm watching or what the Hell is all this crap on the DVR? Though, I think Nude for Satan [review] raised an eyebrow or two. So when Mrs. Two Dollar Cinema says I want to watch a movie I try to oblige. And when she makes coffee for said movie? Well, then I know. It's business time.

Cue The Vow, starring the nightmarishly cute duo of Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams. Seemingly ejected from the Skynet-created ROMCOM 9000, Magic Mike and Regina George team up to make one of the most groan-inducing feel-good dramas I have ever seen. Please don't misconstrue any part of that as praise, as I hated almost every minute of this turd. But my ladyfriend? She wept. Not a single tear down the cheek (that I could stop with a single finger as I gazed into her eyes), but I'm talking an inconsolable deluge of tears. To be fair, I cried too. Though my tears were pure rage.

So, what had us both leaking from the face? Deep breath. McAdams plays a woman who, after a pretty awesome car accident, loses all memory of her current husband, played by Tatum. Guess what he vows to do? No, you know what? Don't guess. In fact, just smash your face into your phone or monitor and hope that you can forget this movie exists. And, as I hold your perfect face in both of my masculine hands, I promise you. I will never remind you. Every day, I won't. For the rest of your life.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Don't you want this crime revenged?

I've been pulled over four times. Got tickets in every instance. I'm probably down five hundred bucks in just those damn speeding tickets. Closer to seven hundred, if you count the parking citations I've received for being the ultimate dick, and parking in front of my house.  So, sure, there's been a time or two where I've thought f--king cops, always screwing me over. But, outside of not giving me a break and letting me go on my law-abiding way, I've never had a real issue with the police. Apparently, I've never run into a bad one.

Just over twenty years ago, Bad Lieutenant was let loose upon the world. I don't know what audiences thought of it then, but now? Well, it's nothing short of absolutely f--king crazy. Some play by their own rules, taking matters into their own hands. Others play both sides, having their hands in countless illegal affairs. But Harvey Keitel in Bad Lieutenant? That ain't even the half of it. This a-hole plays with himself.

If that poster to the left bothers you in the least, consider that a gigantic heads up to stay the f--k away from Bad Lieutenant. This flick doesn't shy away from anything. Incessant profanity, extremely graphic drug use and some of the most surprisingly gut-wrenching sexual acts, all run amok in director Abel Ferrara's despicable version of NYC. This place is so unrelentingly filthy, it's hard not to look away. And I did. Oh, trust me. I did.

Set during an imagined playoff series against the Mets and  Dodgers, Bad Lieutenant centers around the miserable life of one of New York's finest. The nameless Lieutenant, is an absolute mess of a person, stumbling through his days in and out of control. Mostly out. He drinks, smokes, steals, gambles and does just about every drug imaginable, on and off the job. As his sports gambling debts mount, he gets deeper and deeper into a personal pool of shit, putting his life and family at risk. Professionally, it's no better. He's involved in a case where a nun was raped, but can barely contribute to the investigation because he's so hepped up on goofballs.

Every frame of this is an ugly mess, but it's cinematic worth is anchored by a jaw-droppingly raw performance by Harvey Keitel. He literally goes balls-out.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

How about the inside of an ambulance?

In my teaching career, I have come across many kids with questionable names. You get the roster, and your heart sinks. Sometimes, it's goodness, I'll never be able to pronounce this. Other times, you think this poor kid. Doomed from the get go. For example, I once had a young girl that had two apostrophes in her name. Worse? They were surrounding an L. She struggled with logic at times, and got into some major fistfights, but overall meant well and was pretty likeable (depending on your mood). But first, you had to get past that name.
If the title Jack Reacher isn't suggestive, perhaps the placement of it is.

I know there's a sect of you out there that can't stand the guy, but I'm still a major Tom Cruise supporter. I can't think of a better example of someone who is a f--king movie star, plain and simple. That said, this is another one of those familiar flicks where Cruise plays the brilliant, handsome guy who's all about ass (kicking, stomping and even occasionally, tapping that). But where Jack Reacher strays from the typical formula, is that our main man is a real sarcastic asshole. He's like Vincent from Collateral, but not as well, murderous.

Jack is one of these good guys that isn't afraid to do bad things. He's a beast in every sense. Only slightly better than his countless one-liners, is the fact that he almost always sincerely attempts to talk people out of the ass-kicking he's about to give them. It's funny every single time it happens, trust me.

What isn't funny however, is the somewhat-too epic story attached to the all the wisecracking and dick punching. Reacher blows into town to help assure that the open and shut case against a lunatic sniper is exactly that. But guess what? Turns out that the random killing was anything but. The only person that can reach Reacher (sorry, had to), is Helen, the shooter's attorney, who happens to be the prosecuting D.A's daughter and the owner of some gloriously misplaced cleavage. Can Reacher and Tits McGee Helen uncover the truth and save the day? I'd never tell and ruin a Tom Cruise Production. Aww, my bad.