Thursday, December 31, 2015

I don't think I'll ever understand why so few people care about history.

New Year's Eve is that magically awful place where many of us find ourselves looking either forward or backward, simply because that shiny new desk calendar we got for Christmas compels us to.

Typically, I find myself at the end of December not (really) ready to embrace the New Year, but instead shaking my fist at all the time/opportunities I squandered in the previous one. Maybe 2016 will be better, but outside of seeing my kids grow up right before my eyes (a fine barometer if there ever was one), I have this sinking suspicion that this upcoming year will be one thing, and one thing only.

The same as it's always been.

But at least I get older, right?
Getting older, not to mention fatter and balder never really seemed like something I should appreciate, naturally, until my wife and I fired up The Age of Adaline. The film, from director Lee Toland Krieger, tells the science fiction-y story of a woman (the smoky/smokin' Blake Lively) cursed with the inability to age. Adaline, after a car accident and a series of (un)fortunate events, is permanently stuck at age 29.

Wait, this is a bad thing? 

Of course it is, silly goose, as the inability to age dooms Adaline to a life of endless loss, frustration and disappointment. Due to the sideshow nature of her condition, she lives by a strict code consisting of roughly three rules: no permanent residence, no photographs and no relationships. Hell, that's not so bad, right? Well, I might need to amend that last one...

When we meet Adaline, at this point referring to herself as Jenny, she's at a fancy party with that ol' typical movie best-friend, a blind woman who plays the piano. Jenny, easily the hottest chick in the club, attempts an early exit to head home, presumably to archive historical documents and snuggle up with her adorable pup. Actually, one of her pups, as poor Adaline/Jenny has outlived more than her fair share.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

I had quite a revelation tonight.

We're all adults, right? Of course we are, as children don't read words on the internet. And if there's one thing adults know, it's that you shouldn't ever, ever look behind the curtain.

I don't know about you, but in every industry I've ever worked in, be it retail, restaurant or even education (shit, what a lousy career path that is...yikes), in my opinion, the less you know about what really goes on the better. Yes, ignorance is bliss, it's true, but unfortunately, it's also ignorance. And no one likes feeling stupid.

Not even football fans.

And remember, those are the kind of people who will give up a perfectly beautiful Sunday with their sit inside all f--king day and watch commercials for beer and boner pills with the occasional exciting play thrown in. Those are the kind of people who will not only pay an obscene amount of money to go to the stadium to watch millionaires play a game, but they'll pay even more to have that stadium built in the first place.

I should know. I'm one of those people. But I'm trying to be better. Really.

This past Sunday...instead of watching football? Well...I watched a movie. About football.

After missing two chances at lighter fare (late arrival for one, sold out for another), my wife and I actually managed to successfully enter a movie theater to catch Will Smith's latest film, Concussion. While the preview essentially told you everything you need to know (a frightening trend, no?), director Peter Landesman's film still manages to remain engaging for its just-over-two-hour run time. Interesting? Yes. Enjoyable? Not really.

Will Smith is quietly fantastic in his portrayal of Dr. Bennet Omalu, the man responsible for discovering the traumatic brain condition known as CTE. Omalu, born in Nigeria, was a small-time forensic doctor in Pittsburgh, before he pieced together the long-lasting implications that playing football has on one's brain. And in doing so, angered the then (currently?) invincible behemoth known as the National Football League. Talk about a one-sided matchup.

Omalu's story is certainly worth telling, but for whatever reason, something's missing. Maybe it's that they left something out, or maybe it's that I knew too much, but Concussion, despite a tremendous performance from Will Smith, isn't the blow to the...heart...I was expecting.

Monday, December 28, 2015

You don't meet a girl like that every dynasty.

You know how for the last few weeks you couldn't stop thinking about Christmas? Well, neither could my students. And as we limped headed toward holiday vacation, it became increasingly difficult to get them to pay any attention to what I was teaching them. Though to be fair, that's not exactly something new, so let's not blame eight pound, six-ounce Baby Jesus, in his golden, fleece diapers for their inability to focus. No. Trust me, the problem is much bigger than a day on the calendar.

Anyhow, on the final two days of my social studies class, I decided to show a movie. Clearly this isn't any sort of revelation in my classroom, but I am always at least a little leery as to what I'll put on for them. I like it to be that priceless combination of interesting and topical, with a dash of not terrible

And what I chose? Well, let's just say I totally nailed it. 

Talk about a Christmas miracle...

I had never seen Disney's Mulan prior to the Tuesday before Christmas break, and somewhat surprisingly, neither had many of my students. Being that the vast majority of people in the room were born five years after the film's 1998 release date, it's safe to say this was a new experience for most of us (as was learning anything about ancient China - though we'd been studying it for most of December), even if the formula wasn't.

I'm sure everyone knows the story, but just in case, here's the short version, as told by a moron: Equal parts angry and ugly dudes invade China and the Emperor needs to build an army - quickly. Messengers head to even the remotest of villages to recruit one male from every family. Our heroine, Mulan, an only child, takes the place of her aging father in this new ragtag unit of farmers turned soldiers. But, but...she's a girl! Exactly, and a hot one at that. 

Being that No Girls Allowed isn't only for hillbilly tree houses, young Mulan cuts her hair and tapes 'em down, thereby transforming herself into Ping, a likable, unquestionably effeminate dude. Don't ask him, and he won't tell you, okay?

Monday, December 21, 2015

We'll see each other again. I believe that.

I would have gushed over Titanic. Like a schoolgirl. Probably spread my arms wide and sailed around my dorm room.

Hell, Avatar, too. In fact, I told my wife as we were leaving the theater that day, something to the effect of, that movie just changed everything (to be fair, I was kinda on to something, as 3D was officially back). I probably would have changed the title of this blog to Two Na'Vi Cinema. Yikes.

But the number one movie that I would I have lost my shit/credibility over, had I had a blog after opening weekend? It would have been The Phantom Menace. Easily. I wasn't even the hugest Star Wars fan at the time, but I saw that bastard four times theatrically.

And loved every minute of it. Even the Jar Jar ones.

I only mention these films because as the years have gone by I've fully turned my back on some of the biggest blockbusters of all time. After wholeheartedly loving them, no less. But after walking out of the first showing of Star Wars: The Force Awakens (and having seen it again less than 48 hours later), I want to nail this one down with as much permanence as the internet allows:

I loved this movie.

Not to the point where I'm calling it the best film ever, not even close, but I'm willing to say it just might be my favorite of the Star Wars films. J.J. Abrams has taken what could possibly be the riskiest directing project ever and for my money, knocked it out of the park.

Not that you need to know, but just in case, here goes: Luke Skywalker has disappeared, and with his absence, any real hope of a rebellion has too. A map to Luke is discovered, and before it can end up in the hands of the murderous First Order, it's placed in a droid for safe-keeping. This droid, the currently ubiquitous BB-8, ends up in the care of Rey (the flawlessly cast Daisy Ridley), a lonely scavenger living desperately and (perhaps?) foolishly awaiting the return of her family. Rey quickly realizes this droid is impossibly important (um, and adorable), and with the help of a nervous ex-Stormtrooper named Finn, makes it her mission to return the map to the good guys, aka the Resistance.

Simple enough, right?

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

I enjoyed the silence too much.

This is my 500th post.

I have reviewed every single movie I have completed in the last five years in the exact order I've watched them. I've taken journals and journals full of notes on both really good and really (really) shitty movies. I've watched films in every room of my house (except the shitter, oddly enough), my car, at work, damn near everywhere I could possibly fit one in. I even watched one at McDonald's. In a WalMart. 

As I often struggle to come up with an opening bit, each post probably takes me about an hour or two (should I admit that?) to complete, so if you do the math, well...that's a shitload of hours.  

My point? It's totally fitting that the movie I happened into for my 500th post, just so happened to be about divorce. Because I'm sure on more than one occasion, not only the contents of this blog, but the sheer amount of time I put into it, have certainly rubbed Mrs. Two Dollar Cinema the wrong way. In fact, I probably could have used all those hours to do something um, a little more productive.

But that's a lot of videogames, you know?

Shocking no one, my wife fell asleep seconds in to the utterly charming People Places Things. And I'll be honest, I thought about shutting it off right as the Yeti-like snoring began. Partly so we could watch it together, partly so I could actually hear it, but mainly because I really wanted to play Star Wars Battlefront (oh, you hadn't heard - I'm twelve). Luckily for me, the force is strong with Jemaine Clement, and I spent the next 85 minutes not on digital Hoth, but in cinematic heaven.

Will Henry (Clement) is a good dude. Maybe a little passive, maybe not truly engaged, but he's a nice guy and a good dad. We meet Will during the 5th birthday of his adorable twin daughters, and unfortunately, there's a problem. A big one. Not in their picturesque backyard, not with their countless hipster friends, but upstairs in Will and his lady-friend Charlie's bedroom.  Charlie, on her daughters' birthday, is f--king Gary. And Gary ain't Will.

Snap your fingers and it's the girls' sixth birthday. While Will is still a good dude, the girls still adorable, everything else has totally fallen apart. Will is drifting through his life as an art teacher, barely aware of the students in front of him. After yet another uninspired lecture, an attractive student named Kat (the lovely Jessica Williams) approaches him, and suggest to her professor that he come to her house for dinner. Uhhhh....To meet my mom. Oh, your mom?

What the Hell? I'll meet your cute mom.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Whoever did this is a demented son of a bitch.

I don't remember when I stopped believing in Santa Claus.

Honestly, I don't ever really remember starting to believe in him, either (does anyone?). But being that I had not one, but two deviant older brothers (Ed and Bryan), I was a kid that didn't have a lot of say in things like what I chose to believe. I was the youngest in the house, my job was simply to survive whatever came my way. Hell, Pharaoh was treated better than I was.

But of course they wouldn't f--k with our dog. I mean, he was a big scary German monster.

Er, shepherd. A big scary German Shepherd.

With an impending/rare Thursday off, I decided to head to a 10:00 pm Wednesday showing of the holiday horror flick, Krampus. Good word of mouth (plus a recommendation from my girl at the corner) led me to believe that this one was going to be a really good time at the movies. And it just might have been, had I not been completely f--king exhausted.

In fact, I'm only asking Santa for two things this year: a good night's sleep, and better judgement. Not necessarily in that order, either.

With a fully operational brain, this summary may have had holes in it, but going at about half-speed, here's all I gathered from Michael Dougherty's latest scary flick: A young boy, after basically telling Christmas to eat a giant gingerbread dick, unwittingly unleashes a yule-tide demon, the pissed-off horned giant, Krampus. See, ol' Krampy shows up to rip the jingle bells off any non-believing a-holes that are out there, and young Max's family is comprised entirely of said a-holes. And what starts as an epic storm and the appearance of some creepy-ass snowmen, quickly evolves into the disappearance of his sister...and even more creepy-ass snowmen.

Oh, and Christmas monsters. Lots of and lots of f--king Christmas monsters.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

You're me, and more.

Dear Violet,

As I write this, you're laying in your crib (mostly) asleep. You've had a nasty cough the last couple of days, but trust me, it hasn't slowed you down. While there's a large part of me that hopes you never read this blog (Dad tends to say not-so-nice words at times), if and when you do, I hope you're feeling better.

I also hope by the time you read this, you've told me about your first day at high school. Or about the first time you drove a car by yourself (assuming they still let people drive), your first day at work, or the first person you kissed. Wait. Tell that last one to Mom. But, really Vi, I've got something to tell you. Let me tell you about...

...the first time you went to the movies. 

You really loved The Good Dinosaur. It's pretty safe to say that you loved it more than the rest of us combined. While Dad and Mom found it kind of simple and maybe even just a tick boring, you loved every minute of it. Though that might have been the popcorn talking, as you didn't stop eating it. 

The Good Dinosaur was clearly aimed at kids your age back then (though at 2 and a third, you might've been a little young), so the somewhat negative reaction from adults was to be expected. Watching an orphaned cave-boy named Spot and a constantly worried Apatosaurus avoid endless peril for 90 minutes may not sound like fun (in fact, it doesn't), those shapes and sounds thrilled you. So much so, you won't hear me complaining.

If you've grown up into one of those kids and never watched it again, let me fill you in. And apologize for failing you. Anyway, Arlo, our titular dinosaur, is the runt of the litter who always has to prove himself. But after screwing up task after task, his incredibly patient father finally gives him a job that he can complete: protect the food. Along comes Spot, eating ear after ear of corn, until Arlo chases him away.

During this chase, things go full-Disney, and let's just say, it doesn't end well. I hope you didn't understand what happened, but your brother sure did. And I think it bummed him out.

A lot.