Friday, March 28, 2014

Cinematic Corner's Spin-Off Blogathon!

Not only is she one of my absolute favorite bloggers, but her support of this trainwreck inspires me endlessly. So when Sati over at the brilliant cinematic corner. decided to host her first blogathon, I was powerless to resist (oh, and I'm pretty sure she could take me in a fist fight). The premise? Find a supporting character, no matter how minor, and explain why you would want them to get their own film. There may be some other rules (in fact, there are), but f--k it. Rules are for pussies. I mean, who follows rules in a blogathon? Nobody I know. Here are my picks for the Spin-Off Blogathon. Enjoy.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Flowers, but with garbage.

I'm a terrible person. At least as far as the blogging community goes, I assume. I almost never read anybody else's work. Seriously. It is not because I don't want to (or am uninterested), it's that I'm late to everything. I'm so worried I'm going to inadvertently lift something from someone, I stay the Hell away entirely. Inspiration (and homage) is one thing, plagiarism is another.

It's not stolen, and likely not even a tribute, but David O. Russell's Oscar-nominated American Hustle feels a lot like a Martin Scorsese film. Well, Scorsese-lite, anyway. Perhaps Scorsese has inadvertently cornered the market on ensemble epics loaded with seedy wiseguys and double and triple crosses, or perhaps Russell has seen Goodfellas more times than he can remember. Either way, I simply couldn't shake the notion that this was a new-school attempt at a Scorsese flick. And while that's not the worst thing in the world by any stretch, it's kind of tough to swallow when the master is not only still alive, but arguably at the top of his game [review].

Anyway, the mostly (partly?) true story begins with a couple of small-time con artists fleecing some scumbags for five grand at a time. This duo, Irving (a fantastically lovable Christian Bale) and Sydney (a solid and super-hot Amy Adams), are living the dream when they unknowingly run their game on Richie, an undercover federal agent. Richie (an amusing Bradley Cooper), sensing Irving's feelings for Sydney, forces the master con man to work for him in exchange for the girl's release. The deal? They get him four larger busts and all will be forgiven. Shouldn't be too hard, right? Well...about that...

Thursday, March 20, 2014

I can't feel anything. I can't feel anything!

When my lesson would end early, there would be instances where the only thing I could do was allow the dreaded free time. One afternoon, minutes before the end of the day, a half dozen students were gathered around a laptop, laughing hysterically. Usually, I handled this ominous sign with a simple close it gesture and moved on to something else. But the kids insisted it was okay and that I should take a look. Against my better judgement, I walked toward them, quietly wincing as the laughing only got louder. I parted two of the bigger kids and there, on the screen, were the images and sounds that were making them laugh so much.
They were watching an execution.

When it comes to seeing something truly shocking and disturbing, I'm not sure there's anything left. As my students showed me, the bar has been raised so high, Hell, it might not even exist. Sure the o-face posters might have raised an eyebrow or two, but by the time I finished Lars von Trier's Nymphomaniac Vol. I the only thing shocking was how tame it was. Now, let's not Redbox this one with the in-laws just yet, but after suffering through von Trier's own Antichirst [review], I truly feel I have seen it all. And if something worse (er, more surprising) exists, I think I'll pass, honestly. I mean, there's only so much a guy can handle. If only the same could be said for the ladies...

Nymphomaniac (to this point) tells the story of a young woman named Joe. Joe has been taken in one night after being found basically left for dead in the middle of an alley. She's clearly been through some shit (her face is bloodied and bruised), and her savior, seemingly nice-guy Seligman, is there to help. More than providing a warm bed and some hot tea, this curious gentleman also lends her an eager ear to simply listen to her story. And Joe, it turns out, has got quite a story.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

You taste like a burger. I don't like you anymore.

Don't tell my wife, but I was a camp counselor one summer. Wait, she knows that already. But what she doesn't know, that toward the end of camp, I was invited to an end of summer party, by a very attractive (and seemingly slutty) female counselor. When I told her thanks, but no thanks she stared at me insisting that I should make an appearance, and that it would be a real good time. Perhaps she had just fallen on her seventeen year-old head and was incapable of rational thought, but there was no f--king way I was going to her party. I was too old for that scene, in fact, too old to be working at a f--king camp in the first place.

I was 25.

Speaking of too f--king old to work at a camp, let's talk about Wet Hot American Summer, shall we? Set in 1981 (but filmed in 2001) this camp-movie satire is loaded with famous faces, all playing far below their age at the time. And while having actors in their twenties and thirties playing high school kids may seem like goofy fun, like the rest of the flick, the results are more strange than funny. 

The plot, if such a word applies, concerns the last full day of summer camp. That night, the end-of-summer talent show will be held and both campers and counselors are feeling the pressure. Not about the show, silly, but everyone is making a last-ditch attempt at summer love. For campers, that might mean a first kiss, a slow dance or possibly a hand up a shirt. But for the counselors, it's all about getting laid. Again.

If you were a camper or counselor yourself, this film, seen now, might be ninety minutes of absurd nostalgia. But if your parents actually wanted you around in July and August, you might want to set your tent elsewhere. For the most part, I thought this movie was an unburied turd too close to the campfire. Funny for a minute, but ultimately a drag to my entire evening.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Take a bow, Woody!

My closest friend in high school used to say that he wanted to die at 50. He was convinced that after that, life was simply not worth living anymore.  Who would want to be old? was his argument. Now at the time we were teenagers, so despite our deepening voices suggesting otherwise, neither of us really had a f--king clue as to what we were talking about. But, in a way, it made sense.

Just like every single other aspect of life, once you have kids, things change. You have to be there for them. Period. You quickly realize that there are many things worse than being old. How about being miserable your whole life? Or broke? Or, shit.

How about being all three?

In Alexander Payne's Oscar-nominated film Nebraska, main character Woody Grant personifies the unholy trinity mentioned above. He's legitimately old (he's in his eighties), he's fairly miserable (his wife basically hates him), and he's got no money. Oh, and he's also a drunk who never really gave a shit about his kids. But in a final act of desperation, ol' Woodrow might be able to redeem a life full of disappointment and drunken indifference. Woody, it seems, has a golden ticket.

Less chocolate factory, more Publisher's Clearing House, Woody believes he has received a letter stating that he has won a million dollars. Instead of mailing it in ("I'm not trusting the mail with a million dollars"), his plan is to shuffle himself eight-hundred plus miles from Billings, Montana to Lincoln, Nebraska. Even knowing his father hasn't really won anything, Woody's son David reluctantly decides to drive him. At the very least, David thinks, he'll get to spend some time with his Dad.

While the movie tends to move at a pace similar to an old mad dragging himself down the shoulder of an interstate, Nebraska never bored me. Woody appears to be a uniformly bad person, but through the eyes of his ever-loyal son, a different truth is slowly revealed. Sure, Woody's not much of a hero, but seldom of us are. We just try to do the best with what we have. And the way I see it, Woody didn't really have much to begin with.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Hi. Can I take your order?

Just do it.

Three simple words made famous by Nike, but more or the less the mantra of authority across the world. From bosses to parents, siblings to spouses, countless times in our lives we are expected to act simply because we're told to. Often we fear what will happen if we don't do as instructed. But, as history has told us time and time again, the real problem doesn't stem from us questioning authority, but from not questioning in enough.

Inspired by true events, Compliance tells the gut-wrenching story of decidedly normal people simply following orders. And while that may sound boring and monotonous, the film is anything but (though, the same awful thing seems to happen over and over).

Set in the awful yet ideal location of a fast-food restaurant on a Friday night, things begin in tragic fashion. Somebody left the freezer door open the night before, resulting in a $1500 mistake. Translation: they're out of bacon.

While that seems laughable at first, it's one of the reasons that things escalate as far as they do. See, when something bad happens, even those not involved inherently feel guilty and do their best to make up for it. And when the police call regarding the unscrupulous actions of a young, female employee, everyone is quick to pitch in and help. Too quick, in fact.

I really don't want to say anymore, as I think that the less you know the better (or, um, worse) the experience will be. Even knowing essentially the entire story beforehand did little to soften what I saw play out before me. It will shock you. It will anger you. And will get worse. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

When you're ready, it's all rather mysterious.

F--k Elton John. F--k the circle of life. I'm serious. Yes, getting older and growing up is part of life (and I'm actually really enjoying it right now). But the fact that everyone I know will be dead some day, well, that doesn't exactly thrill me. As much as I love seeing my son grow up, it means that my own dad is headed toward his final days. Then, hopefully, I'll be old and get to see my son have a child. Then it will be my turn to go. And then his. If only there was something I could do...

Before I saw this, I thought she was wearing a giant red flag.
According to writer/director Richard Curtis' About Time there is, but only for one special family. Recommended by the very rad Elina at the very rad Films and Coke, About Time tells the story of the Lake men, all born with the ability to go back in time. Based in the familiar reality of growing up and becoming a family man, it's very interesting to see time-travel on such a small scale. But, be warned. This isn't the quirky rom-com set up in the previews. Shit. I probably would have cried less if I'd slammed my junk in the doors of a DeLorean.

Okay, I might be overselling the gooey bits, as the bulk of the movie is a quirky little story about a dopey British bloke (think a marginally more confident/less magical Ron Weasely) trying to land an eccentric American chick. With the ability to essentially redo any stumble, verbal or literal, our man Tim ends up as the perfect guy. His girl? Eh, she's okay, too. Just a little light upstairs, if you know what I mean. Nudge, wink, wink. Nudge.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

But she couldn't stop babbling about her life.

We all have problems. If you're sitting there thinking, Well, I don't have any problems - that's your problem. You're clueless. That said, it's not about how much shit you're dealing with, or severity they are in the grand scheme of things (because, who's to say?), it's all about how you let them affect you and how you decide to handle them. Don't think, by any means, I'm one of those guys who takes charge and immediately addresses anything weighing me down - far from it (I'm a fan of duck and cover). The only advantage I have? I'm one of the guys. Meaning? I'm not a woman. At least I have that going for me.

As someone who has a wife, a daughter, a sister and of course, a mother, please don't read that as sexist. I've been just been around enough women to know that the same qualities that make them interesting, caring, nurturing and compassionate are also the same things that can make their world fall in on itself. Case in point? Jasmine.

From iconic writer/director Woody Allen, Blue Jasmine painfully tells the story of a woman in the midst (or wake) of a nervous breakdown. Hauntingly brought to life by the luminous Cate Balchett (in an Oscar-winning role), Jasmine is a woman who after seemingly had everything, has completely bottomed out. Or, it would appear that way, until she routinely digs herself an even deeper hole.

Having been forced out of her picturesque upscale life in NYC, Jasmine has turned to the only person on the planet capable of tolerating her, her likable younger sister Ginger (played by the lovely Sally Hawkins). Despite living in the shadow of Jasmine (and her better genes), Ginger does her best to keep her drowning sister afloat. You would think she should really appreciate this. You would think.

Is it okay to loathe someone who, due to a variety of quirks, deficiencies, and mental problems, has become borderline insufferable? I hope it is. Because the more time I spent with Jasmine, my pity and sympathy turned to indifference and rage. Maybe she can't help being a joyless bitch, but I had a hard time cutting her slack. Yes, that seems heartless and cruel, but she was so ungrateful, so petty it made me care less and less about her as the film went on (I probably should have been doing the opposite). But her worst offense? The way she speaks to people. Her constant but casual venom undercut her failing mental stability. I felt bad, sure, but not really. 

Hopefully, my room in Hell has a DVD player.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

I hope I never see you again.

There have been many things from my past that I have wished would have come together. While a few have been honorable like a certain job and my availability and qualifications, most have been something not so honorable, like my fist and that guy's face. Some even stray into pervy territory, like the supposed joining of my face to say, her breasts.

But long before I was incapable of thinking about anything other than women, I thought about men. Big, sweaty men. With their massive muscles and super-deep voices. I wanted these man to come together and do one thing, and one thing only.

I wanted them to beat the shit out of each other.

Seeing Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Scwarzenegger come together in Escape Plan made me happy. Not motorboating happy mind you, but happy nonetheless. At times, the flick filled me with a sense of nostalgia and childlike joy, and I couldn't help but smile. But like many childhood fantasies, upon closer inspection, the whole thing is pretty much pointless.

Sure these two aging titans have shared the screen in both Expendables flicks, but something was different here, a little more intimate perhaps. If only it had been good.

Sly plays Ray Breslin, security expert and prison system consultant. Breslin, after a career as a lawyer, has dedicated his life to making sure prisons are escape proof. How, you ask? He thoroughly examines the blueprints from his cushy office and makes recommendations via conference call, obviously. 

Wait. That's not it.

Actually, going deep undercover, Breslin gets locked up posing as a degenerate scumbag, then breaks out from the inside, exposing the prison's flaws firsthand. Bitch.

Because, you know, that's a job that guys have. I'm sure of it.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Mt. Rushmore of Movies LINKS

To celebrate President's Day (um, for the first time in my life), I decided to host my very first and likely last blogathon. The rules were simple (or so I thought): choose four things cinematic and create a monument honoring them. Shockingly, many quality blogs signed up and carved some pretty epic faces into the side of an imaginary mountain. Below are the links to all the blogs that participated, listed in the order I received (and/or found) them.

If it's many years later, and Skynet still allows humans on the internet, feel free to post a link anytime. I'll update it with a link back to your blog.

To everyone that participated, I'd like to say thank you for the time and effort. Unless your Fisti. In that case, there simply aren't words.  - m.brown


Created by: asrap virtuoso
Monument: The Mt. Rushmore of Actor's Voices. 
Materials: Cigarettes and manliness.
When visiting: Close your eyes and listen carefully.
Created by: Sati
Monument: The Mt. Rushmore of Favorite Male Characters
Materials: Testosterone and profanity
When visiting: Don't say anything foolish, as these guys will f--k you up.

Created by: Szever
Monument: The Mt. Rushmore of Lesser Known Comic Book Movies
Materials: Rage and a troubled past
When visiting: Leave the spandex at home (you won't need it)

Created by: Fisti
Monument: Mt. Spankmore
Materials: VHS tapes and Kleenex
When visiting: Leave the children in the car (or at home) and please, for the love of God, watch your step! That ain't birdpoop all over the monument's faces.

Created by: Brittani Burnham
Monument: The Mt. Rushmore of Awful Cry Faces
Materials: Still untapped emotions, onions, editors who work for free
When visiting: No laughing, please. This is serious business.


Created by: Bubbawheat
Monument: The Mt. Rushmore of Independent Superhero Movies
Materials: Homemade costumes and delusions of grandeur
When visiting: No flying. No powers.

Created by: Dani
Monument: The Mt. Rushmore of Collaborations
Materials: Typewriters, checked egos

Created by: Ms. Mariah
Monument: The Mt. Rushmore of her Favorite Male Characters in Space
Materials: Spacesuits and red undies

Created by: Wendell Ottley
Monument: The Mt. Rushmore of Morgan Freeman Characters
Materials: Gravitas and class

Created by: Angela
Monument: The Mt. Rushmore of Best Books to Movies
Materials: Library cards and a love of the source material
When visiting: Make sure you have lots of time and a comfy seat.

Created by: Elina
Monument: The Mt. Rushmore of Voice Acting in the 2010's
Materials: Sexy bitches and lots of Guglunk.

Created by: Thanezra
Monument: The Mt. Rushmore of Actress Entrances
Materials: Low-cut shirts and high-speed film.

Created by: Josh
Monument: The Mt. Rushmore of Women Overlooked by the Oscars
Materials: Epic talent and estrogen
When Visiting: Dress lightly, as it's going to be pretty hot there. Though I suppose that's how some people like it.