Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Don't be a don'ter.

If the last couple of times I had seen you,  I punched you square in the nuts (or equivalent lady parts) and stole your money - you'd have every right to hate me. But what if I promised you, this time, this time it was going to be different. Instead of bastardizing history (the aforementioned nut-shot), both actual and that of a little boy's childhood, I was going to tell you a true story. A f--king crazy, true story. Would we then be cool?

Director Michael Bay and I aren't cool, but Pain & Gain is a roid-fueled step in the right direction. Thankfully 100% free of stupid f--king robots (though other reviews may suggest otherwise), this movie tells a story far more grounded in reality, even if it's ultimately hard to believe.

Before we begin, let's get a few things out of the way. Yes, it's full of all Bay's trademarks: over saturated colors, low angle shots, misguided patriotism, swooping cameras, epic run time and a script that can occasionally hurt your soul (to name a few). But it's also full of some of his other trademarks, too. The good ones. It's fast-paced, has some very cool action sequences, incredibly hot chicks (and dudes, to be fair) and style to spare. And while some of the 'good' stuff may actually be on your 'bad' list, I found this flick to remarkably entertaining.

The trailer does the job, but for the uninitiated, Pain & Gain tells the story of three body-builders, led by Danny Lugo (Wahlberg), who decide they want more out of life. Initially, they try to do things the right way, but as none of them are all that intelligent, it seems to them that kidnapping and extortion are their best chances at the American dream. As awful as the crimes are that they commit, they remain an undoubtedly likable trio.

Wahlberg's Lugo, the so-called brains of the operation, is an earnest guy who really tries to get ahead in the fitness industry. Despite his intellectual shortcomings, he actually is capable of a few good ideas. The execution of those ideas? Not so much. Dwayne Johnson plays Paul, the muscle of the crew, whose incredible physical presence and mean streak belie his devout religiousness and strangely gentle nature. At least initially, anyway. And the runt of the litter is Adrian, played by my main man Anthony Mackie, sort of the utility infielder of the bunch. He's the tag-along, seemingly involved just to hang out with the other two. Combined, these three create an impressively bumbling trio, arguably on par with Larry, Moe and Curly. Well, maybe if the Stooges were juicing, that is.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Honey, sometimes people can't be fixed.

No matter the profession, at some point, we all have to cut our teeth and prove ourselves. For me, it was a year-long internship, followed by student-teaching, then a stint as a long term substitute before I finally was awarded/cursed with my own classroom. For you, it likely was was another sequence of events, but still followed some logical, time-trusted path. Say, for example, you wanted to be a stripper. You don't just show up to some seedy bar and take off your clothes willy-nilly. No. You start out at Hooters like everyone else.

Damn, Fear. Why you always touching people?
And if you want to be a beautiful, successful young actress in Hollywood, you start out in horror. Likely, bad horror. You don't have to die onscreen, you don't even have to do nudity. You just need a low-cut tee or tank, and you need to get dirty.

I've wasted days of my life at the mere promise of seeing a pretty girl, let alone anything beyond that. Feel free to add watching  House at the End of the Street to that dubious list of precious time lost. While we're talking lists, Jennifer Lawrence, in all her curvy glory, checks off of hers star in shitty horror movie. I'm not mad at her, really, because it's a logical progression in her burgeoning career. I'm just slightly pissed that I couldn't resist watching it. But I'll go ahead and invoke the words of the late, great Alfred Hitchcock to explain my foolishness. Well, her breasts were rather large.

Anyway, this flick is a slightly inoffensive composite of numerous horror movie staples. New people in town, possibly looking to start over? Check. Scary house that no one ever goes to since it happened? Yep. Misunderstood person/people living in aforementioned scary house? Roger that. But guess what you'd never expect? The new girl in town? Oh man, you won't believe what she does! She falls for Misunderstood Guy from Scary House. Like, no way! Way, my friend. Way.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Compared to Orson Welles, he's a sweetheart.

Good evening.

While I haven't seen nearly enough of his films, I would still feel okay saying that I'm a huge Alfred Hitchcock fan (just don't quiz me, okay?). As a kid, I can vividly recall the beginning of Alfred Hitchcock Presents on television. Hearing the music and seeing this old guy stroll on screen in silhouette fascinated me, even if I wasn't quite sure why. Years later, in a college film class, our professor would show us Psycho and suddenly, everything became incredibly clear. Alfred Hitchcock, of course, was undoubtedly The Master of Suspense.

Three things I wish I could be: Old, fat and British. Wait a sec. Two down!
Sure, peering into the personal life of one of the most famous directors of all-time is fascinating enough, but watching the creation of his masterpiece is even more so. Hitchcock, released last year, follows the director's struggles to create what would become the most successful film of his career, 1960's Psycho.

While my wife was likely more interested in the film's primary focus of Hitchcock's working relationship and marriage to Alma Reville, I was quietly devouring all things Psycho. Anchoring each story, is yet another inspired performance by the legendary Anthony Hopkins. To have such an icon playing yet another, is a very, very cool thing. Seeing Hitchcock's reserved confidence (and cheekiness) brought to life is joy enough. But when it has Hopkins behind it? It's all kinds of awesome. You can almost see all the fun he's having.

Not having as much fun, is his wife and production partner, Alma Reville, played by another living icon, Helen Mirren. And while both characters are a bit downtrodden, it seems that Alma's life is damn near void of joy. Her husband is betting the house on a movie that no one wants to be made, and she continues to support him despite zero reciprocation. Not too surprising, like countless stories of great men, it turns out there was a woman keeping the whole thing going. Except in Lincoln [review]. That Mary Todd was a real bitch.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Ah! Badder they are, bigger the reward.

Oh, revenge. I've been thinking a lot about you lately. How do you square up with someone who has wronged you? Do you deliver an exact amount, eye-for-an-eye style? What if that's impossible, then what? What do you do, huh? And what about those people who take the high road and don't seek revenge at all? Those amazing bastards have always baffled me, honestly. Maybe the feeling of getting even doesn't actually feel good, and provides no real pleasure. Maybe exacting revenge is joyless, but watching someone get theirs? Well, that shit's gold.

Admittedly late to the party, I had a real good time with Django Unchained. Skipped theatrically due to its epic runtime and holiday release (an unfortunate combo for a family man), I jumped at the chance to rent it. In fact, I actually considered purchasing the blu ray, but ownership removes any immediacy from actually viewing it. That nasty buck and a half redbox late fee is just enough of a kick in the balls to motivate the uninitiated. Oh, and this texted threat from my good friend, Haspe [hass-pee].

if you don't watch Django the second it's released I will fly out there and pistol whip you.

See, back in 1994, Haspe and I went to the Hualalai Theaters in Kailua-Kona, Hawai'i and had our minds f--king blown by a little film called Pulp Fiction. This was likely a watershed moment for our appreciation of cinema as the bar had not only been raised, but also smashed over our fragile, little minds. Quentin Tarantino, a director we then knew little about, had shown us the way. There was no going back.

Django Unchained, not that I need to tell you, continues the streak of impossibly cool cinematic spectacles Tarantino has unleashed upon audiences. Set in 1858, Django tells a fairly straightforward tale of bloody revenge, set in a pre-Civil War South. And while I think Kill Bill was (marginally) better in terms of revengey-ness, Django features something that not enough films do: motherf--king Christoph Waltz.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

We're not the only smart guys in the world.

As the economy has sputtered and bottomed out, it's an utter grind being a working stiff. In my own line of work, education, higher-ups have flat-out told us, eventually, we'll have to pay you more. The market won't be so bad forever. Well, thanks for that.
Currently, many of us are being vastly underpaid. But, with a glut of teachers out there looking for work, not to mention school budgets (which are based on property values) being slashed left and right, there isn't much we can do. Our hands are tied. We take a big ol' bite of that shit sandwich, and hard as it is to do so, swallow it down, smiling the whole time. Mmm. That sounds good, I'll have that.

Now, as I typically worry about myself and my field, rarely have I thought about how these hard times affect, say, scumbags and lowlifes. Well, different scumbags and lowlifes.  

Killing Them Softly, 2012's allegorical tale, puts these degenerates front and center in a dilapidated post-Katrina New Orleans. Turns out, things are hard for those unsavory types, too. And like the big businesses and corporations that helped financially devastate this country, a few of these crooks decide that they'll make money any way possible. In fact, these guys are too lazy to sell drugs or set up elaborate ponzi schemes. So, they do the next best thing. These guys decide their best play is rob each other. Bad move, that. The solution? Send in Brad Pitt to make sure this type of shit doesn't happen again. Well, again again.

If you can get past the fact that damn near every person who appears on screen is a piece-of-shit lowlife, you might have a good time with this one. About ten minutes in however, my seemingly angelic wife gave up and shot me the you thought I'd like this? look, to which I logically replied, Well, yeah. It's got Brad Pitt, doesn't it?

Saturday, April 13, 2013

I feel much better now.

Working with children has afforded me the dubious honor of seeing my fair share of disgusting things. Countless incidents of vomiting, both from afar and literally at me are the most obvious choices. But nose pickers, mid-conversation snot bubbles and kids having their hands down all sides of their pants also enter the contest for worst thing I've ever seen. Let's not even get into (burgeoning) lady problems, and evidence thereof. Even potentially worse? A cute little second grader, while on snacktime at the playground, brought me what she thought was an old balloon, deflated and covered in something sticky. Gross.

But, hands down, the most purely disgusting thing I've ever experienced? I once stepped, and half-slipped, in a light-brown, freshly formed turd.

Inside of our house. 
And we didn't have a dog.

The new Evil Dead is without a doubt, the most brutally disgusting movie I've ever seen. It might be marketed as terrifying, but it actually isn't that scary. At all. But, what it lacks in jump scares, it makes up, tenfold, with unrelenting atrocities. It's not bad. I actually kind of liked it...a lot, but it's a f--king grind. You will see something horrible. The you will see something worse. And then, all Hell will break loose.

Look, we all agree this remake/reboot/rehash shit is getting a bit out of hand, but the 2013 version of Evil Dead does a lot right. It takes a relatively beloved cult flick and knocks it on its ass. Now, I'm not an expert on the first one by any means. For every time I've seen the original, I've seen Evil Dead 2 five times, Army of Darkness ten. Instead of being the moderately creepy (student?) film the first one was, the updated version is a highly polished slaughterhouse. They had millions of dollars to spend, and that cash sure as shit wasn't earmarked for anything other than graphic violence. They probably spent a hundred grand on tendons. 

The plot is simple, but effective. Five friends head to ye old cabin in the woods. But instead of drunken debauchery, the aim of the weekend is slightly more noble. There, they will try, yet again, to stage an intervention/detox for the youngest of the crew, Mia. And while I didn't really care for any of the characters or their limited backstory, the setup works. Mia's a hardcore addict, so even though they can't trust her, they're exceedingly patient. When she screams we need to leave, someone frowns and gives her a hug. When she shuffles into the room covered in most of the different bodily fluids, they think she just needs a shower and some rest. It's ridiculous, but in the context of the film, it's also a perfect cover for some crazy-ass demonic possession.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Welcome to Hell.

When you have a bad experience, if you're like me, often you're looking for some reason as to why things went south. Maybe even a person, a face, to pin the blame on. And as I left the theater that night, my list of responsible parties had been narrowed to three: myself, Jack White, and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.

All equally responsible. All equally handsome.

There's a reason he's looking down. It's called shame.
Okay, so what the Hell was I doing at G.I. Joe: Retaliation on opening night, anyway? I had finished the first one earlier that day, basically hated it [review], so what gives? Let's look at that list a little closer...

Me - Though you likely need no convincing, I really am an idiot. I hadn't seen anything on opening night in forever, and I'm a sucker for anything even bordering on event movie. Did I just call the second G.I. Joe flick an event? Reread that first sentence. But what really got me?
Jack White - Damn that awesome trailer. You could play Seven Nation Army over footage of a basket of sleeping kittens and it would come off all kinds of badass. Throw in ninjas and a mountainside instead? Oh, I'm done. But even worse?
The Rock - Even though I'm a happily married man, every time I see The Rock on the big screen I become the direct opposite. No matter how many times I've been burned by his sub-par cinematic resume, I'm helpless to his charismatic awesomeness. It's sad, really. I wish I knew how to quit him.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

I'm gonna make you very unhappy.

There's a reason I've never jumped my bike over downed power lines. There's also a reason I always get out of the water at the slightest hint of a thunderstorm. And in the unlikely event I'm out skateboarding in the worlds most improbable skate park and a eleven-year old girl shows up? Well, I'm not going to assume shit. Why not? Because I know.

And knowing is fifty-percent of the skirmish.

Pretty sure Harry Knowles was replying to, "How's your sandwich?"
Damn. Did I just screw up something that should have been so easy to pull off? Man, that's embarrassing.

You know who can sympathize with me? Every single person involved in the creation of 2009's G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. What could have been a good time with some relatively iconic characters turned into a pretty epic mess. To be fair, there are a couple of moments that I actually enjoyed. But, the same could be said for every time I've shit my pants, too.

On that horrible note, let me briefly explain why I even bothered with this flick in the first place. One, perhaps nefarious forces have commandeered my soul, but I was pretty pumped about the sequel, currently in theaters and wanted to do my homework. Two, an ex-student of mine, we'll call him JS, literally swore by this movie, and brought in a bootlegged copy that he demanded we watch in class after a big test. And if you can't trust the thought process of a kid who took at least three cracks at seventh grade, who can you trust? I mean, really. And third, as is painfully apparent, I'm an idiot who has no respect for his time, let alone the medium of film as a whole.