Sunday, August 31, 2014

I'm a hard guy to impress.

He loves the show. Absolutely loves it.
Loves the toys, too. Just got a bunch for his fifth birthday, in fact.

So I couldn't believe it when he said, rather emphatically, he didn't want to see the movie. There are few things I can recall him ever being so passionate about. It even got to the point where he said, You can go, Dad. I'll wait in the car, okay? Eventually he copped to being scared of them, but you know what? Maybe he just knew that the movie wasn't for him. Or me.

Or anyone?

Thanks for the offer, but my hands aren't going anywhere near your staff.
That might be a bit harsh, but seeing the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, without my son, was a bit of a letdown. Even with fairly low expectations. That actually should be considered shocking, though, as just about every single thing in the movie works for the most part. Except for one thing: the turtles.

Yeah, it's not so much Megan Fox being miscast as April O'Neil, the fact that Foot Clan aren't even ninjas (more like volunteer terrorists), or even that Splinter is impossibly horrifying to look at. No, the main problem with this film lies squarely on the shoulders on the man or woman who decided that the turtles should look like deformed pirates on steroids. Green deformed pirates on steroids.

Anyway, if you can manage to look beyond the creepy character design, everything else is serviceable enough. When the turtles actually show up, they kick just enough PG-13 butt to entertain boys (and probably not girls) under the age of ten. Unfortunately, I have the mentality of someone at least three years older than that, so I was left wanting more. More of what, I'm unsure. Though, a little Casey Jones would've been appreciated.

Right now, I sorry I speak English.

I've been reading Life of Pi for probably over a year now, in between other books, and it's becoming increasingly clear that I wouldn't last a minute adrift at sea. In fact, the last section I read went into great detail about eating fresh tiger feces (he catches it from a squatting Richard Parker) and I just shut down my Kindle, folded my arms, and shook my head for a solid five minutes. I mean, being out at sea for months is bad enough, but when the highlight of your day is a tasteless little shit? Well, that's where I draw the line.

As my last film for Fisti's Twice a Best Actor series, 1937's Captains Courageous wasn't my cup of tea. Sure, Tracy was engaging enough as the Portuguese Mr. Miyagi, Manuel. But even his charm and goofy accent couldn't rise above how much I hated the kid, a scene-devouring Freddie Batholomew.

Victor Fleming's Captains Courageous (based on Kipling's novel) tells the tale of a little rich bastard, Harvey, who is essentially the worst kid on the planet. After some nonsense at school, it appears that Harvey's rich father needs to spend time with his a-hole kid, and decides to take him on a business trip to Europe, via a luxurious passenger ship. Harvey, ever the f--ker, eats too much ice cream and falls off the damn boat. 

But instead of being eaten by a tornado full of sharks as I was desperately hoping, Harvey is rescued by a fishing boat. There, he meets Manuel, the most wise and handsome Portuguese man this side of Cristiano Ronaldo. Though Manuel teaches Harvey nothing of bicycle kicks and slide tackles, he teaches the kid just about everything else in life. And by doing so, becomes the father that Harvey needed so badly. Aww.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

I'm a bit lost, really.

If there's one thing you should never do when you're tired, we all know it's operate heavy machinery, right? Right. It almost goes without saying. I mean, you could really hurt yourself driving a forklift on two hours sleep. F--king lose an eye, or a toe or something.

Recently, I found something else you should never, ever do half-asleep. Luckily, the only thing I lost was my bones. All of them. Oh, and my f--king mind.

Honestly, I didn't have a f--king clue what Under the Skin was about before (or after, sadly) I 'watched' it. Deafened by the buzz, I had stayed away from anything resembling a review and went in totally blind. And exhausted, apparently, as I found myself routinely making those gasping noises one makes when their head -mouth wide open- snaps back into place after a seconds-long coma. Obviously it's no way to watch any movie, but I'm telling you, it makes this one literally impossible. I probably had a better chance of being invited to Brad and Angelina's wedding then ever making it through this um, experiment film.

Days after, I had checked out a review that Sati at cinematic corner. linked to (it was Angela's review at Cinema 13), and at last got some clarification. Had I not read that, this post simply would have been random letters and numbers as I would have likely typed it exclusively with my tear-strewn face.

Anyway, according to Angela, this movie is about an alien. A fairly hot alien, that is (even if a little dirty, and dressed like a Romanian hooker), who drives around in a van, luring men into some sort of death trap. If you can call an infinite ocean of black goo a death trap. Anyway, this chick is pretty content at devouring the random douche from the club, until one day she sees something that sort of derails the mission. Apparently, she develops a bit of humanity and everything is knocked on its sexy ass. Again, this is my poorly written version of a much more elegant post.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

There is no such thing as a bad boy.

It was so long ago that I don't even remember what we were talking about, buy I vividly recall my dad asking me something that has stuck with me since the moment he said it. He asked me, his index finger bobbing up and down as he did, Do you think there's more good in the world, or evil? Without hesitation, a young m.brown replied, Good, obviously.

He shook his head. If there was more good in the world, we could do away with the evil. There's equal parts of both. It's a balance. I nodded, because that's what I do when I agree (or more likely, have no f--king clue what to say next). If that's really the case, if such a balance really does exist, then in 1930's Nebraska? Well, there must have been some bad ass motherf--kers. 

Turns out, there was. About five hundred of them.

In 1938's Boys Town, Spencer Tracy plays Father Flanagan, quite possibly the goodest person ever to walk the planet. Fine, goodest isn't a real word, but Father Flanagan as portrayed by Tracy, appears to be the most agreeable, compassionate and understanding man alive. And even more impressive? He never wavers. Not once. 

Boys Town, (loosely?) based on a true story, details the lengths that Father Flanagan went to in creating a place for wayward, well, boys. Initially starting with a half-dozen troublemakers, eventually Flanagan builds a facility/compound housing nearly a hundred times that. Along the way we see ol' Padre use the powers of persuasion to convert many a non-believer. I'm talking adults - investors, and the like, not the kids. 'Cause the boys? They fall in line real fast, see. 

One day, however, trouble blows into the idyllic Town, as Whitey Marsh (an irritating Mickey Rooney, all of 18 years old) struts in, laughing in the face of Father Flanagan's laid-back approach. Whitey, without a doubt, is a real f--ker, Hell bent on destroying every single thing that Flanagan has built, not to mention being a real dick to every kid at the place. In fact, he's such a little shit, I was actually rooting against his inevitable change of heart, even if it made for a real sappy happy ending.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

This is the essence of discrimination.

Last week, I was on the West Coast for the first time in almost twenty years. At dinner on our final night, I saw this sign on my way into the bathroom:

Now, living in the small mid-Atlantic town (/Hellhole) that I do, I'd never seen anything like that before. In fact, it kind of took me by surprise. Not only because of my own ignorance on the topic (I'd honestly never even considered this was an issue), but that a place of business would be cool enough to make it policy. 

I've been home now for almost a week, and it has occurred to me that there are likely dozens, maybe even hundreds of groups that face persecution, that well-meaning (though uninformed) people such as myself know nothing about. We don't know their struggles, and know nothing of what it's like to walk a mile in their shoes. If only mainstream cinema could help.

Please don't think I'm making light of the socially aware movie, because I think that if done properly, they can make a difference.

I was too young to gauge the importance and social relevance of 1993's Philadelphia at the time of its release (I was 14), but seeing it for the first time recently, I feel it's safe to say that it mattered. Watching Tom Hanks (as Andrew Beckett) deteriorate firsthand while battling not only AIDS but the stigma that comes with it, must have opened eyes. Now, however, it almost feels dated, if not altogether primitive, to see the open persecution of a regular guy simply because he's gay.

Actually, Beckett was more than a regular guy, in fact, he was a damn fine employee. But when an older partner at the law firm where he works notices a lesion on his forehead, people begin to talk. Eventually, Beckett is terminated, not because of his lifestyle or illness (officially, anyway), but due to incompetence. Well, manufactured incompetence, actually. And after trying eight other lawyers to take his wrongful-termination case, Beckett turns to an old rival, Joe "the TV Guy" Miller, played by Denzel Washington. Miller is privately disgusted by homosexuals, but takes the case after seeing Beckett chastised in a local library. From there, it's a heavy dose of courtroom drama, liberally sprinkled with a clear social agenda: to thoughtfully portray the lives of people living (and dying) with AIDS in America.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Don't just stand there. Kill someone!

I hadn't been to the theater in a while, so I was willing to see just about anything. But, there were some stipulations...

I wanted to see a character, known only by a single name, wow me with feats no regular person could ever accomplish. I wanted this person to be attractive, with wavy hair and a massive chest. And I wanted them to lay waste to countless, faceless adversaries.

Turns out, I had two choices.

Being that I'm an average schmuck who only uses 10% of his brain capacity, I was unable to slow time and make it to Luc Besson's latest, Lucy. Instead, I ended up at Brett Ratner's Hercules, somewhat bummed, but still happy to be at the theater.

A mostly exposed (female) breast later, mixed in with some early action scenes, and I was feeling a little bit better about paying seven bucks to see this one in the first place (the preview screamed Redbox!). Throw in The Rock and a pretty badass crew of sidekicks, and this year's second Hercules flick actually rounded into a solid PG-13 adventure. Yes, it's goofy, and probably completely unnecessary, but with Dwayne Johnson (and Ian McShane!) kicking droves of ass, you can't really hate it. Okay, you can, but still. Don't be such a dick.

Honestly, I don't think I knew anything about Hercules, other than that he was a strong dude in ancient Greece, but I actually enjoyed the legend as told here. Hercules, as big and badass as he is, is simply a regular dude. In fact, all the heroic feats he's accomplished have been with the help of a ragtag crew of ass-kicking outcasts, in debt to Herc for whatever reason. They like the myth though, as it will only encourage enemies to give up quicker. And then, Hercules and his crew can get paid and call it a life.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

How's that supposed to make me feel?

I worked in a hotel for years. Years. Specifically, I worked at a restaurant on the grounds, that had a beach on one side and a dolphin lagoon on the other. One night, minutes before closing, this family sits in my section and the mom dramatically waves me over.

Are you still open?

Um, (I look at the bartender who's formed his hands into a pistol and is aiming it at his own head) well...(I look at the lone cook and he's calmly pointing his largest knife at me out of his tiny service window) yeah. We're still open.

Good. Now listen up.

She begins to tell me how her children have some condition or something, and as a result, everything must be burned. Hot dog? Burn it. Bun, too. Put the fries in the deep fryer as long as you can, take them out, and do it again.

Let me tell you something, dear reader. The only thing worse than entering a restaurant minutes before closing, is asking for every single item in your meal to be well done. But as an indentured servant server at major hotel, my job was to make you happy. The way I saw it, maybe I'd get 15%, maybe you'd put me in your will. Oh, what? My request is ridiculous?

In The Grand Budapest Hotel, writer/director Wes Anderson's latest, ridiculous requests are the norm, and each seems to set off a seemingly endless cavalcade of bizarre people doing bizarre things. While that's generally my cup of herbal tea with the teabag on the side and a thimble full of fresh honey, I'm going to be completely honest with you when I say that it didn't really work for me. Almost at all. I consider myself an ardent Wes Anderson supporter, and with Grand Budapest his trademark quirk lost eventually lost its appeal. Instead of laughing out loud as I had anticipated, I found myself merely smiling politely.

It's not all bad, so please, fellow Anderson defenders, chill the f--k out, okay? Put the meticulously crafted knickknack down and go back to your hardcover book. I didn't hate the movie. I just think that the style finally caught and killed the substance, and it was a bloodbath. But an entertaining one nonetheless.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Maybe he could sing, but he couldn't fly.

Thanks to Fisti inviting me to participate in his Twice a Best Actor project, I've been watching a lot of classic movies - which is something I rarely do. But prior to accepting, I hesitated because I felt completely out of my element. I knew I'd be exposed for the idiot, at least in cinematic terms, I am.

And while I'm sure that's the case anyway, I've settled in and seen some fantastic performances in some fantastic films. Recently, we covered Marlon Brando's two wins, and I was excited to revisit The Godfather again (I'd only seen it once prior). After that, I  told a friend, I'm gonna watch that Brando movie with one of the most famous lines ever! Oh yeah. What line? Hey, Stellaaaaaaaaaa!

What's even worse than generally having no idea what I'm talking about, even as I was three-quarters of the way through On the Waterfront, I was still expecting the line. Yes, even though the lead female character's name was clearly not Stella (it's the decidedly un-Stella, Edie), I kept wondering how they were going to pull it off. When it comes to having a working brain, well, it's quite obvious, I coulda been a contender.

Anyway, I enjoyed On the Waterfront, even if I didn't watch it under ideal circumstances (I started it at 1:30 in the morning, after work). The story revolves around Terry, a handsome and likable, do-nothing guy, doing odds and ends for one of the local union heads. One night, he unwittingly sets up one his pals to be murdered by some unsavory individuals, and slowly vows to make that right. Terry isn't the sharpest tool in the shed, but he used to be prizefighter, and the kid's got heart. And with the encouragement of an energetic (and possibly insane) priest, not to mention the affection of the dead guy's beautiful kid sister, Terry's gonna see this through. Even if it could cost him his life to do so.