Monday, November 30, 2015

I don't know how to make this work!

Before the internet, us kids had to earn our naked women. And I'll never forget the day in ninth grade when one of my friends stole an issue of Playboy from a touristy general store a few miles from where we lived. I actually didn't think he had done it, till we got to his car and he pulled up his shirt. There, tucked into the front of his plaid boxers, was a cellophane-encased copy of The Best of Pamela Anderson. It was a glorious magazine dedicated to every spread (ahem) that Pam had ever done. In a word, amazing.

Weeks/months later, it was my turn. While this will go down as the lone heist of my shoplifting career, the thought of naked women was worth a life in prison (ah, the irony of that sentence). Anyway, I couldn't figure out the whole stuff it down your pants maneuver, so I used my head. I blindly grabbed the magazine, placed it in a newspaper, walked away for twenty minutes, came back in, and bought the paper. Danny Ocean ain't got shit on me. It totally worked. 

The problem? I had stolen a copy of Penthouse Letters. That's not a clever title. It's a monthly magazine...of f--king letters. Yeah, they were dirty letters, but are you f--king kidding me? Words?

I needed action. People getting it on (whoo weeee) and such. Not some stupid written correspondence between people I could give a damn about. I mean, who gives a f--k about some stupid letters? 

At the behest of my lovely wife (who doesn't know that story, by the way), earlier this week I Redboxed 2015's The Longest Ride. Being it was a book that she had finished not too long ago, curiosity about the film version had totally gotten the best of her. While she wasn't sure that I would be up for it, she left the acquisition of the flick solely in my hands. And as I loved (loving) The Notebook and really loved (hating) Safe Haven [review], I'm always down for some Nicholas Sparks-fueled insanity romance. 

As my wife consistently informed me, a lot was changed from the book, so here's the story, watered-down as it may be: Sophia (the super-hot Britt Robertson) is months away from graduating from college and heading to New York for a fancy-pants, art-related internship. But instead of doing extra-credit homework for the tenth time in a row (or some shit), young Sophia is begrudgingly dragged to a rodeo. Aww. Lucky for her, she meets Luke, a handsome bullrider with adorable dimples, rock-hard abs and...a puppy. 

No, wait. A secret. Luke's got a secret. Didn't see that one coming!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Everyone in here knows they've seen something special.

For as long as I can remember, my cousin Tony always loved all things Rocky. I'll never forget when he showed me this awful talking-Stallone statue he bought for his classroom, as he was beaming at it the whole time. Hell, even his XBOX Live username was spiderrico34, a fairly obscure Rocky reference if you ask me. And for a guy who didn't annoyingly quote movies all the time (um, like I did), he would manage to work Thunderlips into as many conversations as possible...whatever the Hell that meant (I back then I smiled along cluelessly).

Since Tony succumbed to cancer in late June, I've found myself, perhaps foolishly, smiling and glancing upward anytime something crosses my path that reminds me of him. And as I sneaked off to the movies alone, on a school-night, wellit's safe to say that I saw the ceiling more than once...

Obviously I'm incredibly biased, but I thought Creed was a Hell of a movie. Totally delivering on the greatness of an awesome trailer, Ryan Coogler's film remarkably makes the seventh Rocky film feel both fresh and nostalgic. While full of nods to the original (and subsequent sequels, too), Creed's story manages to proudly stands on its own, too.

Coogler has crafted a visceral tale of a young boxer on the rise, allowing the camera to make sure we fell every single blow. And as the literal punches certainly make an impact, it's the figurative ones that really leave a mark.

Michael B. Jordan f--king crushes it as Donnie, a rather determined young man fresh off a promotion at work. That should be enough for this handsome kid - a sweet-paying gig in downtown L.A- but his desk job is likely a cover. At night, Donnie slips down to Tijuana, kicking ass in a host of unsanctioned bouts..

But Donnie's doesn't really know what he's doing. He's quick, he's strong, but when he finally heads into a local gym and runs his mouth...well, he basically gets knocked the f--k out. You'd think this little lesson would encourage him to hang up the gloves, but shocking no one, he does the opposite. Donnie quickly trades in a City of Angles for one full of Brotherly Love.

If only he could find someone there to mentor him?

Sunday, November 22, 2015

That's a boss hog.

It's strange that I'm now the one steering the ship when it comes to familial holiday traditions. Well, co-steering the ship. Fine, along for the ride on. er, running alongside choking on my own tears. 

Anyway, as Dad, the only innovation I've offered up - going to the movies Christmas Day - crashed and burned after only one attempt (though utter failure does seem to occur annually). And as a kid, it was only marginally better.

In fact, the only thing I really look back on and remember from my youth, is this annual Christmas football game we used to hold in our yard. We grew up in Texas, so the weather was warm-ish, and post-Christmas morning was that time where all the neighborhood kids, coming down off that plastic packaging high, would shuffle up and down the street to our house on the corner of Cartwright and MacArthur. We might play five-on-five, but it might swell to ten against ten. It was a pretty f--king great time, the more I think about it, but there was one problem:

It never ended well. But more on that later...

The Night Before isn't about a bunch of fat kids playing football on Christmas Day, but it could be about them twenty years later. Set on Christmas Eve, Jonathan Levine's holiday comedy is a story about three childhood friends ending the Christmas tradition they started fourteen years prior. It's consistently vulgar, intermittently hilarious, and momentarily heart-breaking. But starring the trio of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anthony Mackie and Seth Rogen, it's entirely enjoyable, too.

JGL's Ethan is floundering through his early thirties. Haunted by the tragic events of a decade and a half ago, he seems to come alive only for the Christmas tradition put on by his best friends, Isaac and Chris (Rogen and Mackie, respectively). See, each Christmas Eve, these three guys run all over New York City in hopes of ending up at a mythical party known as the Nutcracker Ball. While it's usually Chinese Food, karaoke, and mild disappointment, this year it's finally happened: they've scored three invitations. But now they've got to score some drugs, too. Well, more drugs.

Friday, November 20, 2015

I used to have a romantic streak.

I'll admit, I'm no less shallow than the next guy when it comes to what I find attractive in a woman. A great body, long legs, beautiful eyes, uh...winning personality, all that typical, ultimately unimportant bullshit. But, and I can't stress this enough, there is one (potentially [more?] ridiculous) thing that will turn my head so fast, it's likely to pop off and roll across the floor in a bloody semi-circle, somehow maintaining a creepy smile.

Her voice.

I don't want her to be able to kill my dog with a sigh, or be asked anything else, sir? at the drive-thru, but a higher or lower pitched voice has always driven me wild. Smokey like Scarlett Johansson, or even squeaky like Joey Lauren Adams, I've always appreciated (/totally lusted over) women with unique voices. Maybe I'm a freak, or maybe I just love good aural. 

But if you happen to sound like a regular person when you talk? There's still a good chance that I will still love you endlessly, prior to ever laying my eyes upon you: have an accent or be able to sing. One of those will do, too. Just keep it at one, okay?

As both just might make my heart explode.

After holding a boombox over my head outside the window of Begin Again [review], it was apparent I needed to see director John Carney's earlier ode to love and music, the 2006 film Once. Clearly, Carney has the market cornered on acoustic guitar-laden, bittersweet romances, but there's an undeniable charm to these remarkably similar films.

But even while I enjoyed Once, that's also the number of times I'll watch it. Begin Again? Turn it all the way up, and put that shit on loop.

Set in Dublin, Once initially seems to be about an unnamed, down-on-his luck street musician. By day, this charming gent (coolly played by Glen Hansard), when on break from the vacuum repair shop, croons popular music. But by night he f--king belts out original numbers. And like every guy I've ever known within a three-foot vicinity of an acoustic guitar, he's doing it for the ladies. Not necessarily the one he wants, but rather the one he had.

Things begin to change when a lovely, though mysteriously coy young woman shows up. She may be interested in this Guy, it's possible, but she also really needs her Hoover fixed, too. No, seriously. She does. But after an impromptu jam session in a music store, it's altogether obvious that this dude has fallen for her. So hard in fact, you might want to just vacuum around him.

But that's when Carney does his thing.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Aimy, I need you to stop being so crazy for just one minute.

As a teacher, I'm routinely forced into situations where I feel hopeless and utterly trapped. Surrounded by strange people and screaming on the inside, it can get pretty desperate, if not altogether lonely.

And that's just in the faculty meetings. 

A few years back, in one of these moderately inspired 'professional development' situations (likely the result of someone freshly Googling How to have a fun meeting!), my colleagues and I were handed a box of what appeared to be leftover scrap-booking pieces. Random shapes of various sizes, sea and farm animals, and of course, a shit-ton of bubble letters made of foam, were all cascaded indiscriminately in front of us. The directions? Make something that represents you and your educational philosophy. 

With a limited supply of glitter glue, a 3 x 5 foam rectangle and all the feigned enthusiasm a thirty-three year old man could muster, I arted-and-crafted three simple words: 

Respect the story.

And it's with those three words in mind that I tell you, quite sincerely, I f--king loathed the Bitcoin-funded Aimy in a Cage. Contacted by a member of the production company's public relations department for a review, I went in to this experimental film with an open mind and no bullshit, wanting to like it. Clearly, we're pretty small-time around these parts, so the fact that I could help anyone with anything would have been pretty f--king rad. But, alas, that wasn't the case. 

And it wasn't even close.

Set in some weird mishmash of time periods, and during a mysterious world-ending outbreak, Aimy in a Cage tells the intimate tale of one young girl's struggle to fit in. No, it's not like Aimy is a tomboy in a house full of debutantes (anything that straightforward need not apply), no, she's just a vastly different kind of crazy than anyone else is. What exactly that means is anyone's guess, as the 79-minute runtime is composed of nothing but strange images, irritating f--kers and a cinematic record for shouting. And screeching. And impromptu dancing

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

We do what we do. And we do it together.

My father is a chef. An egotistical a-hole chef, that considers himself a God in the kitchen, alienating countless people along the way, type-of-chef, er, chef.

Well, according to my mom, anyway.
(Spoiler alert: They're not together anymore).

But for me, while I respect my father's immense talent (and my mom's pointed opinions), and endlessly appreciate anyone that's willing to prepare food for another person, part of the whole restaurant/chef thing has always baffled me. Flawless presentations? Silly. But even worse? No matter how good the meal, no matter how fresh the ingredients, in the end?

It's going to turn to shit.

For our seventh anniversary, my wife and I pawned off the kids and headed out of town to do what we do best: no, not that silly, dinner and a movie. And as I was secretly hoping to spend a romantic evening in a three-way with my wife and Daniel Craig, she jumped at the chance for a little face-time with Blue Steel himself, Bradley Cooper. Oh, and I'd be there, too.

Burnt isn't a movie you need to see on the big screen, and quite possibly not one you need to see at all. It's not terrible or anything, it just didn't have the kind of emotional impact I was hoping it would. Not a tear was shed, nor a palm sweated, and outside of two big moments, the (shockingly) capacity crowd seemed rather subdued. This film, directed by John Wells (August: Osage County) isn't really gonna move the needle. Unless you have a thing for Bradley Cooper. Or montages. Or montages of Bradley Cooper. Then...well, you might need a box of tissues. And a change of pants. Chef pants.

If you've been lucky enough to miss the ubiquitous preview, here's the short-ish version: Cooper plays Adam Jones, a once mighty chef who, after burning every bridge possible, heads to New Orleans to shuck oysters. Once his shucked-o-meter hits a million, he decides he's atoned for his sins and heads to London to take another shot at being a giant asshole, er, master chef. Too bad no one wants to see his impossibly gorgeous face ever again.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

We'll make sure all this has value.

It's really, really stupid, I know, and I probably shouldn't even type the words...but I've always hoped I would break one of my legs. Preferably doing something (or someone, ahem) really adventurous, but ultimately it doesn't matter. I just need one of them broken.

What are you, a f--king moron?

Probably, yeah. But hold on a second.

Look, a good portion of this femur-shattering scenario is your fault. Yeah, you and your handsome blog have recommended me more fantastic films to see than a lifetime of Saturday nights could ever cover. So, the way I figure it, I need to be down for a long time. And not so bed-ridden that I can't function, mentally or physically, just long enough to watch the shit out of some great films.

What about your family, asshole? They'll be fine. It's not like we live in the Wild West or anything.

What the f--k, Bone Tomahawk, really? How does a movie so f--king badass, so unrelentingly intense, totally elude theaters? How does a film starring Kurt Russell, set in arguably his most formidable genre, find itself as something I'd never heard of? This is entirely ridiculous.

It's a good thing I've got Comcast's VOD service (even though Comcast is chaired by Satan, I'm sure of it), so I could track this one down. But it's an even better thing I've got Sati at cinematic corner., whose wholehearted recommendation is why I've even heard of S. Craig Zahler's directorial debut in the first place. Yet again, she comes up huge.

Set in the sleepy frontier town of Bright Hope, Bone Tomahawk grabs you by the throat from the jump. And then slits it. Two smooth-talking unsavory types, after murdering some sleeping cowboys, stumble into a very creepy Native American tribe. These dudes are some scary f--ks, and quickly dispatch one of the thieves. The other? Well, he gets the f--k outta there. And eleven days later, makes his way back to Bright Hope.

And that's when all Hell breaks loose.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

I'm not gonna die here.

Science was always my worst subject. Followed by math.
Following long, complicated directions? Not really my strong suit.
And when things go wrong, I'm a big fan of sulking. Like, huge fan.
But the number one reason why I would never make it?

I get dizzy. Easily. And once it starts, I'm going to have to lie down for awhile. That, or clean the vomit out of my helmet.

Over and over again.
Go ahead and drop him off at our house.
While my head remained still, for the most part, it was my heart that was spinning end-over-end. Undoubtedly one of the best cinematic experiences of my (movie-going) life, The Martian bordered on big screen Hollywood perfection. Seen in 3D with my wife on a quiet Fall Saturday, Ridley Scott's latest is the perfect blockbuster. Equal parts crowd-pleasing and pulse-pounding, the film based on Andy Weir's book was an absolute joy to watch. I know they can't hear me scream in space, but can they hear me squeal?

Matt Damon plays Mark Watney, an astronaut left behind in an emergency evacuation of a manned mission to Mars. Fortunately Mark is a botanist (a job title now neck-and-neck with ninja or Patriots QB as most badass ever), and quickly formulates a plan to survive where things simply don't. His problem is essentially a series of seemingly insurmountable obstacles, but with Damon's charm (not to mention Watney's a f--king genius), anything is possible. And leaving the theater that day? I couldn't have agreed more.