Tuesday, November 29, 2016

There is nowhere you could go, that I won't be with you.

In fifth grade we had this lady named Kumu Liana as our Hawaiian Studies teacher. She had light brown skin and wore a straw hat with a lone red and black feather sticking out of one side. Even as a kid I knew she wore too much makeup, sure, but it wasn't the local legend's looks that dazzled me. It was her recounting of many legends of the Pacific. She was an incredible storyteller.

And while she certainly looked and sounded the part, the next year we would get Kumu Pili, an oddly effeminate Asian man, likely in his early twenties. Kumu Pili didn't appear to be someone that would tell you an epic story of religion and humanity, but rather someone who would gently knock and your door and give you a pamphlet about one instead.

But even the Good Book shouldn't be judged by its cover, as Kumu Pili would tell my sixth grade class the most insanely riveting story of the gods and goddesses of Polynesia and Hawai'i, He never consulted any notes, never stammered or stuttered one bit. He just glided into the room, sat down, and spun a tale that we didn't believe...

...and couldn't forget.

Disney's latest animated feature, Moana is a lot like one a lesson from Kumu Pili, except, well, he didn't break into (an impossibly catchy) song every nine minutes. Set on and around the fictional island of Motunui, the latest Disney tale celebrating girl power checks all the boxes we've come to expect. And that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Moana is your typically antsy teenager, finding herself trapped in the purgatory of burgeoning freedom at the same time her family is asking the most from her. Somewhat luckily (for her), she gets to finally leave home, but only in a desperate attempt to save her dying homeland. The Gods are angry for some reason, and it's up to this relentless young woman to set things straight. First stop? Find the jerkface responsible for this whole mess in the first place.

That dude just so happens to be a demigod by the name of Maui, and he isn't exactly psyched to see Moana. Yeah, he's a legendary figure responsible for many of the gifts bestowed upon mankind, but he's also a legendary jerk. A huge one, actually (uh, in just about every sense of the word). Begrudgingly, he signs up for Moana's mission, but only after she convinces him he'll be worshiped because of it.

Weak move, bra. For reals.

Friday, November 25, 2016

I ain't got the brains to make this up.

I was definitely late to the party the first time. Very late.

I wasn't even sure what the Hell the big deal was, honestly. A series of beloved books being turned into an epic film anthology? Uh, I'll take the one with Samwise Gamgee, thank you very much. Who needs a bunch of wee British wankers wankering about with wands and brooms, when the fate of Middle Earth was in the balance? Dumbledore's a fine gent, sure, but he ain't got shit on Gandalf,

But this new party? The one firmly out of the shadow of Mordor? I refused to be late. Hell, I might have even got there early.

Maybe too early, in fact.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a film that many people were counting the days till its release, but one I was counting the minutes till its conclusion. Impossibly long and unnecessarily dull, J.K. Rowling's latest entry in her Wizarding World is (hopefully) the Phantom Menace of a new series of epic adventures: brimming with lame exposition that will ultimately pay off years from now.

Instead of the Daniel Radcliffe's Harry Potter constantly brooding through his time at Hogwarts, Beasts gives us Eddie Redmayne's Newt Scamander, awkwardly shuffling through the streets of early-twenties New York City. The title and trailers may lead one to believe that Newt's on a mission to gather up, um, fantastic beasts, but he's actually there to leave one behind. It's when he accidentally loses the world's shittiest briefcase that the few creatures actually get out and wreak havoc. The quest to collect them all!, howeverseems oddly secondary, as Newt inadvertently wanders in the plot of all the X-men films instead. We're more focused on politics, equality and us vs. them than as Jay from Life Vs. Film puts it: Newt Scamander playing Pokemon Go. Which is totally what I thought I was signing up for...dammit.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Dazzle them with the basics.

I don't want to know. Ever. I've got enough to worry about as it is.

Overwhelmingly joyous, or heart-crushingly awful, please, whatever you do, don't ruin the ending. Whether we're talking a DVR'd sporting event or a new theatrical release, the less I know the better. And if this happens to be Big Fish and you're the old lady with the eye, do us both a favor, and don't flip up that patch. There's not a single cell in my brain curious to know when my heart will beat its last beat.

But when we do get to the end, when the big show's over and the house lights come on? At that point? Yeah...

...feel free to explain everything to me.  And don't leave anything out.

I'm not entirely sure what to make of many of the events in director Denis Velleneuve's latest film, Arrival, but I'm quite positive I loved what they coalesced into. Bordering on hypnotic, this mysterious piece of science fiction has stayed with me long after the credits rolled. And try as I might, I can't seem to shake much of what I saw...even if I can't make sense of it.

Amy Adams is Dr. Louise Banks ('plays' felt like the wrong word), a linguistics professor quietly trudging through life at a small university. Shortly after twelve massive spacecraft appear all over the globe, the United States military recruits Dr. Banks in an attempt to communicate with the extraterrestrial visitors. Banks is reluctant, but knows she is the best person for this impossible mission. Moments after taking the job, Banks is whisked away to Montana, where the 1,500 foot ship awaits her.

Like falling down a rabbit hole in glorious slo-motion, Arrival has this dreamlike trajectory that is simultaneously serene and utterly intense. At first glance, a film about the relationship between words (and time?) may not seem like something to propel one to the edge of their stadium seat, but exhausted as I was, that's where I found myself. Every action, every conversation, Hell, just about every moment carries a weight that's rare in a mainstream science fiction film. From start to finish, everything matters. 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

There's always a bright side!

As a kid, coming home covered in it was likely the sign of a very good day at school. Probably made something really nice for mom to stare at for years to come.

As an adult, coming home covered in it was likely the sign of a very good night after work. Probably stared at a really nice mom while trying not to...nevermind.

If there's one thing in this awful world that makes everything it touches infinitely better...

...it's glitter. Lots and lots of glitter.

Movie God may strike me dead for even typing the words (and the blogging community may stone me in the streets), but I doubt there will be a movie I enjoy more this year than Dreamworks' Trolls. Arguably the most consistently charming film I have ever seen, this little animated flick was exactly what a post-election crowd needed: an effervescent rainbow of joy suggesting, no, demanding, that no matter what, if we work together, everything is going to be okay.

The Bergen are a miserable race of hideous creatures slogging through a joyless life (no, they're not public school teachers [I checked]). Soon, it is discovered that these sorry bastards can actually get a taste of happiness simply by eating a Troll. The Trolls aren't exactly thrilled with this, and get the Hell out of Dodge right before the annual Troll-eating holiday (uh, Trollstice) commences. Their escape, is literally balls out.

Twenty years go by and while the Bergen's lives have somehow gotten shittier, the Trolls, despite being borderline homeless, have overwhelmingly prospered. Seriously, these day-glo f--kers perpetually exist in the raddest rave ever (assuming, of course, your idea of a kickass soiree is scrap-booking and elaborate dance numbers where everyone is high as a f--king kite...on positivity). If you don't smile during at least one of their jams, do the rest of us a favor, and find a bridge to live under. Or a wall to build.

Monday, November 14, 2016

All I need is...possible.

For a couple of months in my twenties, I worked in the dank bowels of an urban hospital. It was mindless, windowless work, where I essentially shuffled pink papers for eight hours a day. My female co-workers had a little more responsibility than I did (I didn't even have a computer), which led to very few conversations among us. And if I ever did start talking to one of the ladies, each feature of the supervisor's face instantly converged on one another in an attempt to stifle rage, and I would quickly stop talking and pray she didn't dragon punch me in the chest.

For those months, my only friend was the pleasantly monotone female voice periodically emitting  from the loudspeaker. She didn't say much, other than page three of the (in my mind, anyway) most handsome and heroic doctors on the planet: Dr. Burns, Dr. Watts and Dr. Quick.

Paging Dr. Burns. Dr. Burns. Dr. Burns to the cafeteria.
Paging Dr. Watts. Dr. Watts. Dr. Watts to the basement, please.
Paging Dr. Quick. Dr. Quick. Dr. Quick to the third floor.

Man, I loved those guys.

Well, until I found out a little more about them, anyway...

Also aptly titled and also not very heroic, is Marvel's latest cinematic hero, Doctor Strange. Somehow, the faceless behemoth that decides what C-list comic book character is suddenly our total favorite! threw a dart made exclusively of Bald eagle talons and landed on Stephen Strange. Dr. Stephen Strange, that is, who just so happens to be the least likable character Marvel has ever rammed down our throats. Like, even worse than Terrance Howard's War Machine. Or the guy that kills an adorable sheep in Ant-Man [review].

While I would have been happy with Black Widow leaning out of a steamy shower to tell Bruce Banner something along the lines of Hey, we got a new guy on the team, an asshole who makes portals with his jazz hands! (and Bruce indifferently going oh, then returning to beakers full of green stuff), we're instead treated to yet another mostly lifeless origin story. Though this time, with more Tilda Swinton!

The short version goes like this: brilliant brain surgeon/ overwhelming douche Dr. Strange is crippled in a fairly rad car accident. When he comes to, his hands look like he put them in a wood-chipper, thereby making his entire life not worth living. He makes an shitty comment to a physical therapist, travels to Nepal, and realizes he has super powers that could save the world from inter-dimensional danger. He doesn't care about that, however. Instead opts into returning to full-time douchery. For the most part.

Friday, November 11, 2016

You're all barely-functioning, self-absorbed weirdos.

A couple weeks back, my good friend Dunphy finally got married to his long-time girlfriend, Julie.

And while it looks to be one of the last weddings I'll attend (that I'm not paying for), I learned some valuable lessons that late-fall evening that I'd like to share with you, if that's okay.

  • Do get a wedding card at Wal-Mart on the way, as no one really gives a f--k about a piece of folded cardboard (especially if you write that you got it at Wal-Mart inside the card).
  • Do eat beforehand, even if it's at a gas station, as no one wants to be that guy just f--king killing hors d'oeuvres at the reception.
  • Don't forget your dress shoes at work, as no one should wear Converse sneakers to a wedding that isn't a little kid or fat, mustachioed hipster. (I'm neither...for the most part).
  • Don't change your entire outfit while driving down a fairly busy Schuylkill Expressway, as it's not only unsafe, but it's borderline impossible to not look like an unemployed gigolo upon your arrival.
  • Don't enter the front doors of the church, as you'll pretty much be a part of the ceremony. The worst part. 
But most importantly? Like, tattoo this shit on your f--king arm and never forget it level of importance? 
  • Don't, as a married man with kids, absolutely don't... go to a wedding...without a f--king date.
While my wife bailed on me for Dunphy's wedding, she hung in all the way through the decidedly-average raunch-com, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates. Essentially a movie I pledged never to see, Mike and Dave ends up being charming enough and watchable, thanks solely to, well, Mike and Dave.

Handsome man-children that they are, older brother Mike (Adam Devine) and younger brother Dave (Zac Efron) simply can't be trusted at family events. And when their baby-sister announces she's having a destination wedding in Hawai'i (naturally), the gang's father demands his sons get their shit together. The deal? Bring respectable girls to the wedding, or stay the f--k away.

But Mike and Dave don't know any respectable girls, silly goose, (who knew being young and handsome was such a downer), so before going to bed they throw an ad on Craigslist and assume a few ladies will hit 'em up in the morning. But that shit totally goes viral, and soon enough, Mike and Dave are the talk of D-list New York. 

Catching wind of this potentially free trip to the most lovely state in the Union, are two hardcore stoner chicks, Alice and Tatiana (Aubrey Plaza and Anna Kendrick, respectively). This pair may look the part of nice girls you could bring home to Mom (after hosing them down 12 Monkey's style, anyway), but surprising no one, they ain't. Unless your mom's into 27 year-old women that act like eighth grade boys, of course. Oh, she is? Soooo...you wanna hang out later, or...stuff?

Sunday, November 6, 2016

You got anything better?

Fifteen to twenty years ago, they were gonna kill us with battery-sized tumors forming on our brains.

Now, it seems they'll help us kill more than just ourselves, as we barrel down the highway at eighty miles an hour with our foot on the gas but our eyes in our laps.

But the way cell phones will really end humanity? They'll be so f--king all-encompassing, basic human interaction will be entirely superfluous. You can't create a life...

...when you don't f--king have one.
Where's J. Lo when you need her?
In the latest quietly-shitty movie adaptation of a fairly-rad Stephen King novel, a mysterious pulse transmitted through cell phones has turned most of the world's population into something resembling a zombie. Cell, from director Tod Williams (dude's apparently too cool for that second d) is a direct-to-video thriller, low on budget but high on intrigue. Initially, anyway.

After landing in a Hallmark Channel version of Boston's Logan Airport (maybe he flew Sandpiper Air?), graphic novelist Clay Riddell (John Cusack, playing Bitter Guy We Like for the 900th consecutive time) attempts to call his wife and finally share some good news. Their relationship is on the rocks, but Clay's desperate to see his young son again. Maybe the fact that his book is getting published will turn things around for the couple.

Unfortunately/fortunately, his phone dies, and in the midst of attempting to call her back, everyone in the airport loses their shit and kills each other in hilarious fashion (think The Happening with less lawn mowers). Rightfully so, Clay gets the f--k outta there and heads to the subway station and hooks up with Tom McCourt (Samuel L. Jackson, playing a...guy). These two quickly decide they need to make like David Ortiz and leave Boston in utter shambles.

Sorry, I've got something in my eye.