Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Now, this is what God watches right here.

It probably wasn't everywhere, but it felt like it was. 

Radio commercials, T-shirts, the occasional belt buckle, highway signs and a Hell of a lot of bumper stickers all combined forces to provide a constant reminder of how I better keep myself in line. But I didn't really understand the warning. Like, how do you start something with that many people? Or were they just talking about the giant guy at the fair? I wasn't gonna f--k with that dude, believe me. I was six years old, I didn't want any trouble. Dang, y'all. I just wanted to go to 7-Eleven with my brother and play Shinobi. Again. Maybe get a pack of Garbage Pail Kids and a Coke.

But now? Looking back? Oh, I totally get it.

Don't Mess With Texas.

And also don't mess with just about anybody in David Mackenzie's latest, Hell or High Water. Written by Taylor Sheriden (the same dude that penned Sicario [review]), this flick is equal parts heist-film, new-school western and revenge drama. Anchored by three dazzling performances, this is quietly one of the better films I've seen in quite some time. Well, at least one that didn't have people dancing across the stars, anyway...

Set in the decidedly unromantic and thoroughly dusty towns found deep in the heart of Texas, Hell or High Water jumps right in as brothers Tanner and Toby Howard are robbing a local bank. It's not quite smash-and-grab, but it's close, as this amateur duo is really only interested in the loose cash in the drawers, eschewing the safe altogether. The robbery isn't much of a success, but between you and me, these two are just getting started. 

Further down the road in another part of West Texas is Marcus Hamilton, a soon-to-be retired Texas Ranger. The Feds aren't terribly interested in two local jerks knocking off a couple of small-town banks, so Hamilton and his partner Alberto head out on what looks like their last ride together. Regardless of what side of the law any of these men find themselves on, safe to say everybody involved is getting too old for this shit.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Pee on yourself! Pee on yourself!

I'm currently reading Ghost Boy, the memoir of a South African man named Martin Pistorius. When Martin was very young, he became sick with a mysterious illness that rendered him damn near non-existent.  As he sat in the corner unable to communicate or show any signs of basic awareness, everyone basically gave up on him. He could twitch, he could drool, but that was about it.

And so he sat there. Unable to let anyone know that his food was too hot, their hands too cold. For over a decade.

Perhaps worst of all, throughout his years in care-based institutions, there were times when he was not only physically abused, but sexually as well. The only solution he could come up with to survive this repeated trauma?

During the worst parts, he floated away into a void of nothingness, praying for the end.

Turns out there's another dire solution to coping with years of abuse, something known as Dissociative Identity Disorder (aka Multiple Personality Disorder). In M. Night Shyamalan's latest thriller Split, this condition is front and center. But instead of a young boy in South Africa named Martin, our story focuses on a young man in Philly named Kevin.

Well, sort of.

When we first meet Kevin, he's actually Barry, one of his twenty-three distinct personalities. Under the watchful eye of Dr. Fletcher, Barry, er, Kevin is a fully-functioning member of society. He has his own place, a steady job, and it seems like he's keeping it altogether. For the most part.

About seventeen miles up the Schuylkill (or three hours, if it's Friday), three teenage girls are abducted in a parking lot at the King of Prussia Mall. They awake to find themselves in some sort of ramshackle chamber, windowless and dreary, minus an oddly impeccable bathroom. While their methodical captor definitely isn't Barry, he sure looks a Hell of a lot like Kevin.

Monday, January 23, 2017

People prepare for the worst, hope for the best.

I can't smell. At least not very...well.

So, if science class taught me anything (and it didn't), it would only make sense that I can't taste very well, either. But how the f--k do you quantify one's ability to taste and or smell something...well? It's impossible!

Can you see the giant f--king 'E'? No? Congratulations, asshole. You're blind. Hey, did you hear that buzzer? No? Looks like your ears are useless. Enjoy that piano recital.

I know, who the f--k can't smell? It sounds f--king ridiculous, doesn't it? Like the stupidest f--king thing ever, right?


Clearly I don't get out all that often (like my wife wants to drag around a nose-blind dickhead all day), but what the f--k is Perfect Sense? And why has it taken me six years to find it? (And how the Hell did it get made!?!)

While all initially seems right in David Mackenzie's 2011 flick, rather quickly, it seems that yet again, our planet is about to get f--ked in the arse pandemically. No, it's not Korean train zombies, or the monkey rage virus, or whatever the Hell those things were in I Am Legend. Instead, it's a mysteriously rapid onset of overwhelming emotion. Wait, what? I'm going to get a massive boner for an hour...and that's a bad thing? Well...

Actually, the emotions are going to vary, sure, but that's not the kicker. See, once the rush of rage/joy/sadness/whatever is gone, the price paid is, uh, one of your senses. Yeah, week by week the entire population loses its shit for an hour, then a sense forever. Uh huh. I know. F--king weird, that.

Friday, January 20, 2017

It feels really nostalgic to me.

I recently got a new laptop. It's not as sexy as my old one, can't do nearly as much, but it's reliable and does the few things I ask it to do very well.

The old one? Man, we had some good times. It was my first laptop, and I went all in when I purchased it. Not only did it house most of my professional documents, but thousands and thousands of pictures and songs that essentially defined me as a person. Hell, this website you're reading was born on that old rig.

But things eventually went south. The battery couldn't hold a charge anymore, programs would crash at the worst possible times, and unwanted malware coursed through the entire system. Eventually, I lost everything.

But before that final boot, there used to be a desperate move I would always exploit. One trick to prolong our time together?

I could find a restore point.

Unfortunately life doesn't work that way, and we can't go back to the exact moment when everything was going smoothly. We have to grind to the bitter end, left only to imagine what could have been.

La La Land isn't about a computer in the least, but it captures the infinite possibilities and hopeless optimism of life and love with machine-like precision. Residing on the outskirts of an intoxicating world of fame and fortune, hope and reality, Damien Chazelle's award-winning film is a dream about dreaming. But while I tend to forget most of my dreams in the morning, La La Land will likely stay with me forever. Especially in those quiet moments of my day where I find myself compelled to whistle. Wait, what?

Set in that magical time of all our lives where anything is possible, La La Land tells the interconnected story of twenty-somethings Mia and Sebastian. Mia (a flawless Emma Stone) has moved to L.A. to become an actress, fulfilling something akin to her destiny. Sebastian (Ryan Gosling, charming the audience into the fetal position) has a different dream, putting everything he has into his one true love, jazz. Initially, they are not a match made in heaven, and it's only when the stars align do these two finally take a chance on one another.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Are you guys really gonna go camping out in those woods?

The summer of 1999 was over seventeen years ago.

Back then, the twenty year-old version of myself didn't have a wife and kids to worry about. Nor did that handsome bastard have a career to waste seven and half hours a day on (I consider lunch to be rather productive). He didn't even have a home, really, as when he wasn't moving into or out of a dorm room, he slept in his little brother's bedroom (subsequently relegating that punk to the den).

However, that twenty year-old kid and I aren't all that different. I'm still obsessed with seeing as many new movies as a can, still get quietly giddy at the thought of going to the movies. And I'm still hopelessly willing to give a film a chance whether it's hyped as the next big thing, or a boring rehash of the same old shit.

Oh, and when it comes to movies, yeah, I'm still not scared of bundles of f--king sticks.

And you're boring, and you're totally ordinary, and you know it.
What the f--k, Blair Witch? Don't you know how this sequel thing goes? You're supposed to shit the bed of the original by deviating from what the made the first one good, not to ruin it by doing the same f--king thing again. That's what remakes are for, silly goose! (And f--k you if you think you can do both at the same time, 'cause that shit's impossible...ish. [I'm still not sure what to make of Evil Dead II, honestly...]).

Just like last time, the film is comprised of the found footage left behind by some nosy f--king college kids, who had headed into some Maryland woods looking for a mysterious witch. While in the original we had three annoying a-holes to account for, like any shitty sequel, we're gonna go bigger and double that number to six. Now we get to pitch our tents with White Guy and White Girl, Black Couple, and the impossibly stupid duo, Local F--kwads, They probably have names, but by the end of another eighty-plus minutes of running and heavy breathing, you definitely won't care what they were.

But just in case you do, or will, here's what else you need to know: White Guy's sister was that girl with the runny nose in the first one, and some recent footage has been posted online showing her reflection in a bathroom mirror. White Guy was little when his sister (Heather?) disappeared in the woods, so of course it makes sense that he heads back into the same ones to find her. Now, if say my brother had supposedly died while riding a go-kart down the wrong way of an interstate, I probably wouldn't pull the same move to go find him. But White Guy doesn't roll that way. Nope. He decides that not only must he go into the scary woods to find her twenty years later, but that, yes, he's totally going to film it, too. It worked out so well the first time....

Monday, January 9, 2017

That's a heavy story, Pop.

I see my dad once a year. Twice if there's a funeral.

Typically, when he's not serving us contextually exotic meals (he's a chef), one of the few acceptable (and expected) activities we partake in as a family is a trip to the movies. He'll see anything, which is appreciated, but I always feel this odd pressure. This is the one movie he'll see in the theater this year. There's not a lot of wiggle room, you know?

But my dad? I'm telling you - he's incredibly easygoing.

Unless you suggest fast food for dinner, you don't really have to worry about upsetting him.

Not gonna lie, Manchester by the Sea was sold out.
If only the same could be said for Troy Maxson, Denzel Washington's character in 2016's Fences. While I'm sure my own father fought through some adversity in his day, Chef Brown's journey couldn't hold a candle to the constant tragedy of Maxson's. Somewhat arduous but steadily compelling, Washington's directorial effort capably shines the light on one man's darkness.

Set in 1950's Pittsburgh, the story opens with Maxson and his best/only friend Mr. Bono riding through the hills of the Steel City on the back of a sanitation truck. It's fitting too, because for these men, there's a lot of garbage to be dealt with.

Initially, Troy appears to be an honest guy making honest money, collecting his pay and heading straight home to his loving wife, Rose (a typically mesmerizing Viola Davis). But as the hours and days pass, waste management takes on a whole new meaning.

Like many of Denzel's most memorable characters, I found myself unable to get any real footing with Troy Maxson. He was simultaneously boisterous and charming, which I liked, but he was pretty f--king terrifying, too. Even just sitting there in the theater, I felt I better sit up and fly right or else, you know?