Saturday, August 28, 2021

I'm not sure anyone here can actually believe it.

I tried with The New Mutants in August of 2020, but I chickened out when the theater inevitably became not empty (according to the app). Anya Taylor-Joy always takes my breath away, sure, but in theory I was going to need it back. 

I swore I wouldn't bail on Tenet in September, my next attempt, but the thought of bringing something home just to see John David Washington solve future crimes from the past (or whatever) felt irresponsible at best. So again, bought the f--king ticket, and stayed the Hell home.

The only time I was ever going to the movies again? I needed it to be safe. 

And I needed to be alone.

Which are more or less the exact words the Abbott family lives by in A Quiet Place Part II - the first film I managed to see theatrically since COVID-19 showed up on Earth and f--ked everything. Picking up moments after (and before, sort of) the events of the first film, director John Krasinski's follow-up is nothing short of essential viewing. But that just might be the overpriced popcorn talking...(it isn't).

Though I'm not sure why these f--king creatures came to Earth if they hate noise so goddamned much, I'm nine-hundred percent positive that I love these murderous pricks regardless (despite their poor vacation planning). This time around, the film opens with the terrifying moments when everything went immediately tits up, and it might be the most harrowing ten minutes of either film (and that's saying something, as these flicks are a combined four hours of the audience collectively holding their breath and asses). A normal New England day (which at this point in our lives seems like a Rockwellian fantasy) is jettisoned into the sun, as these creatures appear out of the sky and destroy absolutely everything. It's shocking, scary and surprisingly heartbreaking, considering we already know how this story ends.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

We're not supposed to be down here.

Greetings. And welcome. 

I want to play a game. Oh, uh, you don't have to like cut off the wrong foot or anything, just grab a pencil and some scratch paper, and number that f--ker from one to five, ten if you're feeling really saucy. 

I want you to write down the things you're most afraid of. Don't overthink it, just write! We can worry about the order after the fact. I'm going to play, too. Ready? Go.

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Yeah, we'll probably die.

Being almost nine-hundred posts in, I'm sure I've repeated myself on more than one occasion, but, uh, unfortunately, good luck stopping me if you've heard this one before...

Probably/sadly close to twenty years ago, I wrote something of a treatment for a zombie flick I intended to write called The Peaceful Dead. 

The supposed horror-comedy would have told the (lackluster) tale of an out-of-work stuntman named Eddie, who, after banking a large settlement check from a cut-rate 'film' studio (Eddie got catastrophically injured on the set of Ninja Island, obvs) heads to Vegas to let it roll. Some major shit goes down on the strip, and Eddie ends up leaving town in a hurry. Turns out, he's being followed by film company goons to collect the cash Eddie already lost. On the way out of town, ol' Edward picks up a whacked-out hitchhiker who claims there's a fully functioning town of the undead, one that the government cut off from society years ago (the driver of the lowest-bidding toxic waste disposal company spilled his load after a masturbatory mishap, naturally). Eddie ain't buying this Area fifty...two, but after the goons catch him and threaten his life, he finagles his way out of imminent death by mentioning this alleged zombie town. He figures this location would be ideal for a horror-movie shoot, as all the effects will be real. And no stuntmen can get hurt during the process. Just some undead bastards, who happen to be going about their lives, you guessed it, peacefully.

It goes on from there, but clearly, you've heard enough.

Bad news for me/good news for the rest of the world, Shaun of the Dead came out shortly thereafter, and I immediately gave up the dream. I felt that the ideas were too similar, and Edgar Wright's flick was f--king awesome - one of my all-time favorites. Why even bother fleshing this one out (for a multitude of reasons, honestly), you know?

Somewhat surprisingly, it wasn't Simon Pegg and Nick Frost who (partly) read my mind and tore up my dream. Nope.

It was f--king Zack Snyder?

Well, sort of, as his latest offering, the Netflix-exclusive Army of the Dead, somewhat reminded me of the script, uh, I never wrote. 

Snyder's second foray into the lives of the undead opens when a couple of soldiers inadvertently unleash heck just outside of the Vegas strip. The mysterious cargo wasn't aliens as its drivers had guessed, but instead a mini-Hulk looking dude, existing solely on a healthy diet of violence and chaos. It doesn't take long for the virus to overtake Sin City and its slew of hookers, magicians, and of course, hooker-magicians. Naturally, the plan is to wall the whole place off and blow it straight to f--king Hell. Seems reasonable, I suppose...

Also making small-kine sense (Hawaiians love them some Vegas), is the assembling of a ragtag squad of zombie-horde survivors, ass-kickers and masters of general unsavoriness, in an effort to breach the wall and head back in. But, uh, why would anyone want to do that, with all the biting and the dying and such? Well, when everyone got the f--k out of there, a lot of the money stayed behind, see. And the bigshot assembling the crew says there's two-hundred million dollars inside his casino's safe, and Dave Bautista's Scott Ward can keep a quarter of it. Sounds like a good deal to me, you know? Assuming everyone, uh, plays fair and makes it out alive, or at the very least not...undead.

Monday, June 28, 2021

You may find Narnia a more savage place than you remember.

It used to be horror. Then action. Or a combination of the two. And that carried me for years. 

In college it was typically comedy, though that VHS of Pam and Tommy wasn't all that hilarious. My professors had me dabble in the classics, which was appreciated, but didn't really stick. But my all-time favorite genre of film? Like, the tippy top of the Paramount mountain?

End-of-the-Year cinema.

Oh, 2020-21 academic school year, how I've hated you so. While staying at home for more than half of the school year should've made you a contender for Best Year Ever, somehow, you dropped the ball big time. With multiple COVID outbreaks in my homeroom, the death-by-a-thousand-cuts component of concurrent teaching (teaching online and in-person simultaneously), and more general assholery than one should endure in two lifetimes, more than once I was looking for an escape from reality. And during the last week of school, thank Aslan, I found it.

Earlier in the year, the district-approved curriculum somehow allowed the viewing of Disney's The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (after reading the novel, obvs). Shockingly, it went over fairly well, despite the fact that some kids were unable to correlate the two (someone actually said, aloud, WHAT? ASLAN WAS A LION!!??). While I attempted to parlay the movie interest into the blasphemous idea of 'maybe you should read some of the other books' (which I said with the same inflection I'd have if suggesting 'maybe you should eat a baby'), it didn't work. At all. But some of the more studious students did inquire if there were more movies. So there's that...

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Assume catastrophe. Act accordingly.

You ever have a bad day? Like a monumentally shit day? Not just regular shitty, but shitty to a degree where with time, you almost appreciate how f--king terrible the whole day turned out to be? One of those that's so f--ked up, something that would have been day-ruining on a previous day, doesn't even crack the top five.

When I was little, maybe six or seven, my mom was in a really bad car accident (with my older brothers [and their idiot friend] in tow, no less). Her Jetta was totaled and her back was pretty f--ked up, too. I remember our old neighbor Mr. Brown had to pick me up at school, and I was super hesitant to get in his car. When he said, get in, your mom has been in an accident (for real, in the 80s, this is how all kidnap movies started) I was like f--k this (while fastening my seatbelt, naturally). Anyway, when I got home, word was my brothers were fine, and Mom would be coming home later that night.

Or she would have, had she not rented a car after being discharged, and then immediately having that one totaled, too. For f--k's sake...

But in a movie? Two major car accidents ain't nothing. In a movie, you could literally get struck by lightning...

...and it wouldn't even make your day unlucky.

Oh, Those Who Wish Me Dead, with that immense pedigree, I had the highest of hopes for you. And while you were definitely ...entertaining... as all Tyler Sheriden flicks are, you also felt a bit ridiculous, too. Which, when compared to his previous efforts, was a bit of a new wrinkle, you know?

Straight up, I hold Sheriden's Wind River [review] and Hell or High Water [review] in the highest of high regards, but this HBO Max-Angelina Jolie romp falls unfortunately short of the previously established gold standard. The good news? Even if it's a bit of a bummer, it ain't for a lack of trying. No lie, this motherf--ker goes down swinging the way Christian Grey f--ks: hard. (and, um honestly, a bit awkward at times)

It's going to be a helluva day for Jolie's Hannah Faber, a badass smokejumper who, when not rocking extreme PTSD, probably secretes Red Bull by the sexy gallon. After crashing a firefighter graduation/full-on bro jamboree, again, things quickly go Lara Croft-style (pointy) tits up, and ol' Hannah ends up embroiled in the dilliest of pickles. In a few short hours, she'll go from being haunted by demons to hunted by hitmen, all in the effort to save some punk kid. Fine, the kid's a good enough dude, but the losses on his behalf will be huge.

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Lucky for you, I don't have any standards.

My 11th grade teacher grade English teacher was a dude named David Clarke. Mr. Clarke was amazing, honestly probably 27% of the reason I'm a teacher is because of him (I owe him a stiff punch in the balls, it would seem). Anyway, he ruled, and as a recent USC film student and graduate, he loved talking about movies, er, cinema.

One of his assignments was to keep a journal, and being that he actually read our stuff (I don't read my student's journals...because...*shudder*), I always wrote about movies, either random thoughts or something resembling a review, and usually in the order I saw them. (oddly enough, that's pretty much the same thing I do here...two and a half decades later). Anyhow, I remember these two 'reviews' verbatim:

Bridges of Madison County (PG-13): Maybe it's because of my age and sex (15, male), but this one probably one of the worst movies I have ever seen.

Mortal Kombat (PG-13): Maybe it's because of my age and sex (15, male) but this one was probably one of the best movies I have ever seen.

You'd think I might have changed in 26 years wandering this planet, but you'd be wrong. Maybe it's because of my age and sex (41, male) [or an undiagnosed head injury], but I was stoked as Hell when the new Mortal Kombat debuted on HBO Max, even it was potentially an exercise in futility. 

See, updating the characters (and violence) is one thing, but could anything remotely improve on that guy screeching MORTAL KKKKKKKKKOMBATTTTTTT over some techno jams? Is it even possible that the reboot could live up to the hype?

Or, and maybe even more pressing, does it even f--king matter?

If you've played any of the Mortal Kombat games - you're more than up to speed (and can gladly ignore 98% of what Sonya says). But if you haven't, um, weird, and uh...here's what you need (seems like the wrong word) to know...

For control of the world/universe/scary forest place, a secret fighting tournament is held...secretly?...over an undisclosed amount of time. Earthrealm sends its best warriors, cattle-branded with a rad dragon logo...against human-ish monsters from the Netherrealm, which, as far as I can gather, is basically straight-up Hell. Or at the very least, the Lava Level in every game ever. Got it? Really? Because I'm pretty sure I don't...

Sunday, May 16, 2021

I don't see yo' name in lights.

 You never know. And I hate that shit.

I want to be frustrated with the kid that always sleeps in class. I would love to say something to the old lady that doesn't pick up her dog's greasy shits in my yard (maybe even bag it up and stuff it her mailbox). I'd kill to smash my car into the driver's side of that a-hole that drifted in front of me while doing eighty and clearly on his phone.

But I can't. Or, at least...I won't. Because you never know what people are going through, right? Maybe that kid's house is an absolute nightmare. Maybe that lady has serious back problems and it's all she can do to get outside with her pup. And that dickhead swerving around the highway recklessly? Nah, no matter what...f--k him.

And f--k Levee Green, the protagonist of 2020's Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. Unleashed upon us by an intermittently charming/unflinchingly terrifying Chadwick Boseman, Levee is a tortured soul on work release from his own personal Hell. Levee's got demons for sure, and depending on who you ask - just might be one his own damn self.

Set in a sultry late 20's Chicago, a quartet of musicians assemble for a day's worth of recording with the larger-than-life Ma Rainey. Rainey's worked her way up, way up in fact, and can be counted on for a hit record. She's good - real good - but like any star, she's a bit of a pain in the ass (to put it mildly), too. But it's not like she doesn't have her reasons, as her second-tier status as a black woman undercuts the shit out of her value as an artist (not to mention person). Ma knows this, and ain't playing in the least. These white dudes are making bank off her soul, swagger and sweat (lots of sweat), right? So she digs in. Always. And you should too.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Monsters exist.

My kids don't really like movies

Hopefully, I can double back in a few years and change that don't to didn't, but for now, watching a flick isn't a thing they are consistently into. Aw.

Unless - UNLESS - giant monsters are involved. Then it's like let's f--king do this shit (minus the profanity, of course).

In preparation for Godzilla vs. Kong, we - as a family (gasp!) - watched the somewhat dubious Godzilla: King of all Monsters [review], and despite all the rainy, electrical storm battles during the darkest night ever recorded, that viewing experience was a resounding success. Please sir, I want some more. Logically, Kong: Skull Island was our next stop along the way, right? RIGHT?

It should have been. But after consulting some family-centric websites, I couldn't do it. Not with the kids. Not with my wife. Check that, not with my kids AND my wife. I get in enough trouble as it is. And allegedly...there was some stuff. Stuff ol' Mrs. Two Dollar Cinema might find objectionable. Aw.

Anyway, after years of sitting in my VUDU account, I finally unleashed heck and dialed up Skull Island and can I tell you, I effing loved it. Not only is Kong somehow infinitely cooler than Godzilla (blasphemy, I know), I COULD SEE EVERYTHING. Like, the sun was out and it was shining directly into my eyes (while cool shit was going down, no less). My retinas were torched, and I couldn't have been happier.

Now, I've lost my way in the universe (both the films and...ours), but best I can gather, the sneaky bastards at the Government want to map out the Bermuda Triangle-esque Skull Island, and naturally, weaponize motherf--king Kong. They send an elite team of Marvel Superheroes (Loki, Nick Fury and Captain Marvel) to complete the job, but thankfully, everything immediately goes tits up. Kong goes ape-shit on all of them - but with, alas, good reason.

(isn't that always the case?)

Monday, May 10, 2021

Today is his birthday and it is a tradition that on his birthday I get up extra early and make him his favorite kind of dessert.

You and me. 

Us. 

We made it. Barely, but we effing did it.


F--king madness, is all I can think blame, as there is no good reason that this blog survived a decade, and even less of a reason that you find yourself reading it, whenever/wherever it is that you're doing so. 
But without you, I would have called it years ago, even if seems that I indeed, called it years ago. 

What started late one night after a colleague showed me a blog about her newborn son, grew into a place where I'd spend a quarter of my life talking to a combination of no one, anyone and everyone. Well, everyone is a bit of a stretch, as there's been a core group of brilliant bloggers that have shown Two Dollar Cinema an infinite amount of love and encouragement, and this annual tradition is dedicated to them. 

Thursday, April 29, 2021

It's very effective.

 Animated movies used to be simple: pretty colors, catchy songs, everyone lives happily ever after, who's up for the accompanying chicken nuggets and plastic toy?

Lately, scratch all that. It's less hakuna matata, more cogito, ergo sum. Animated films, at least what the fine folks at PIXAR have been putting out entertain the kids, sure, but simultaneously have the adults questioning their existence. I find myself so deep in personal reflection...

...not even my meals are Happy.

I will never look at Joe and not see Roy Wood, Jr. 

Oh, Soul, what have you done to me? I'm not sure if this movie made me need therapy, or is therapy, but either way - whoa. Toeing the line between light-hearted and heavy-handed, PIXAR's latest wasn't exactly what I wanted, but maybe more what I needed?

Me and Joe, we're the same. Middle aged middle school teachers just trying to make the best of it? Pretty sure that's what it says under name on my driver's license. But while I've got a wife and kids, Joe's riding solo for the most part. He's got his mom, some good friends, his...uh...students, sure, but what really gets him up in the morning is his dream: playing jazz. Joe, maybe a bit long in the tooth, is holding out for his big break.

And he gets it. Finally. [yes!]

But then he dies. Immediately. [nooooooooooooo!]

Yeah, he does, but to Joe's immense credit, he ain't having it, and walks down the up escalator into the Great Beyond. There he teams up with 22, a fledgling soul not quite ready (or interested) in primetime. Joe and 22 get back to, well, life (back to reality), with the mission of reuniting his wayward soul with his body. And it works...mostly. Instead of Joe being inside Joel, 22 inadvertently gets to steer the ship. And our main dude? Well, he ends up in a cat. While this may seem like the freakiest of Fridays, it actually benefits both of them. Joe gets to see his impact on the world from adjacent eyes, and 22? 22 gets to try pizza

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Playing fair is a joke.

I used to think the only thing worse than dying young, would be living so long that your brain calls it way before your body does. I've had some relatives that have dealt with dementia and frankly, that seems like the dickest of dick moves that life could pull. Hey, you made it old-timer, you've lived a long life, but you're going to forget everything about it. Mostly. To f--k with you even further, it'll all kinda depend on the day.

But, and just the holiest of craps, it turns out there might be something worse than either of those two scenarios waiting for me at the end. It wouldn't be my brain or my body taking everything from me.

It would be some ruthless blonde.

No, it's not my (lovely, ahem) wife I'm talking about silly goose, but instead one Marla Grayson, the main character of 2020's gloriously vicious horror-comedy, I Care a Lot. Starring Rosamund Pike, in a role that would win her a Golden Globe, this little story starts out as a small-scale nightmare and kind of ends up...as something resembling...the American dream.

Wait, what?

Marla Grayson is in control. Her business, her love-life, her f--king hair, the tightness of my pants- all of it. That shit is locked down. When we meet her she's in court, offering guidance and wardship to yet another old person allegedly incapable of taking care of themselves. Aw, that's nice. Helping those who can't help themselves? Honorable, right? Uh, well...

Not in the slightest.

See, Marla, caring as she may be, is an absolute f--king shark, the top predator in a food-chain constructed of equal parts best intentions and worst-case scenarios. Her and her team are going to help take care of your elderly mum, sure, but there also going to take everything she has in the process. I'm not a hundred percent sure if it's win-win or lose-lose, but after the first fifteen minutes or so, I was damn sure it's totally f--ked up. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

It kind of feels like everything is impossible these days.

In a few short months, I will reach the point where I have been with my wife longer than I've been without her. We're hovering around the twenty-one year mark, and I'm not quite forty two. Arguably, that's the most romantic math I've ever done.

I mention this because we are long past the point of grand gestures and blindly hitting the accelerator to the chorus of Meat Loaf's I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That). I would do anything for her, sure, but it's not like the opportunity, thankfully, ever really presents itself. I mean, it's not like there's hulking monsters waiting outside to devour us all.

They're pretty small, actually. Like, the size of Ted Cruz. 

Despite writing (and speaking) like a pre-teenage girl, I wasn't overly familiar with Dylan O'Brien, and even less informed about his latest flick, Love and Monsters. Released (theatrically?) in the wasteland of 2020, and starring the affable lead from The Maze Runner trilogy (and Styles from MTV's Teen Wolf...which is/was apparently a thing), this little monster flick is gigantic fun. 

Moments after romantic parked car time, Joel (O'Brien) and Aimee (the striking Jessica Henwick) arrive home to find the world in absolute chaos. Massive creatures have appeared and Hell, has officially broken loose. Joel and Aimee split up, but with the promise of seeing each other again. Uh, about that...

It's seven years later and Joel is possibly the least-valued member of a small band of survivors, all of whom are hiding out in a fairly rad underground bunker. Seems mankind attempted to nuke the monsters, but it didn't work, and not only was everyone forced underground, but the radiation mutated whatever the Hell is still living on the surface.

One day after a pretty costly breach, Joel, not so much alone but very much single, manages to contact Aimee after all these years, and makes a very hasty decision: he has to get to her. Unfortunately, she's 85 miles away, and if Joel were a bear, he'd be more Paddington, less Grylls.

But love is love. Rather than live for nothing, he'd rather die for something, you know? So off he goes.

Friday, February 5, 2021

I finished last, Hermione.

I don't know where this is headed, but my daughter, Violet, is a lot like me. A lot a lot.

In addition to being annoying and overbearing, obviously, she's smart, silly, and when she's interested in something, it becomes something just short of an all-encompassing obsession.

A couple of months ago, she had to catch 'em all, and all we would/could talk about is Pikachu, Eevee, Scorbunny and the like. But now, thankfully, she's moved on the Wizarding World of one Harold J. Potter. Once she got wind of all things Hogwarts, it was over. She politely demanded we watch all the movies immediately, and I said we could, but only if she read the books first. Well, at least the first two (I cut her some slack, she's seven).

And she did. Immediately.

Look at Ron's luxurious mane...

After revisiting the first three Harry Potter flicks with Violet, this was, perhaps shocking to you dear reader, my first time seeing Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I was a little late to reading all the books, but once I started, I read them consecutively. This level of dedication didn't translate to the films, apparently. 

Oddly enough, and I know I'm in the vast minority, but Goblet was my favorite book. How it was the only movie adaptation I missed is beyond me. I guess I was super-busy in '05...

Unless I'm reading the room incorrectly, isn't this the flick that most people consider the worst in the franchise? Maybe you hardcore types can point out the inconsistencies or whatever, but coming back to it a decade and a half later was an absolute blast. Especially when you take into account that I had my young daughter along for the ride. And, AND, I had no idea that Team Edward was in this. Holy moly, I didn't expecto that patronum.

*crickets*

Screw you, guys. Anyhow, not that anyone cares anymore, but is there anything cooler than the Tri-Wizard tournament? No, no there is not. In my head it was rad enough, but actually getting to see it play out with the best effects that 2005 could muster was a seriously good time. Honestly, it's hard to really evaluate any of this, as the Nostalgia Machine was cranked to eleven, leaving me impossibly stoked to see something 'new' from the old gang. And having Violet there squealing along with me? Can't beat it. It's impossible.

Friday, January 22, 2021

When they find out who you are, they will show you no mercy.

I love the idea of bringing honor to one's family. It's a bit old-school, sure, but that doesn't make it any less romantic. You just imagine some noble person, wind blowing in their rugged face, doing something grand...and it's just...well, is it getting hot in here? 

Personally, my ultimate goal, whenever I haphazardly take a moment to think of someone other than myself, is to simply not embarrass the people around me. *has blog* Okay, not embarrass them tremendously. *reads blog*

I have brought great shame to us all. 

Shockingly, after it's somewhat lukewarm reception, it turns out Disney has not brought any great level of shame upon the mouse-house with it's live-action re-imagining of Mulan. Okay, remaking all of their timeless classics (which are each essentially rip-offs of classic tales) is pretty flipping shameful, I suppose, but still - the movie doesn't suck. At least not hard.

Sure, absent are the rad songs like I'll Make a Man Out of You (Donny Osmond!) and, uh...others? Forget about Mushu and anything resembling light-hearted fun, 'cause they's gone, too. Turns out there's no honor in humor, right? But left in their absence, is a beautifully photographed epic, with a pleasing mix of action and intrigue, woven into a tale as old as time. Oop, I think I got my live-action remakes confused again...

Anyway, it's not a stretch to say that you've seen this movie before, because obviously, you have, but even on my TV (and not the big screen this should've debuted on) the new Mulan still felt pretty epic. Newcomer Yifei Liu does an admirable job with the title character, even though I've always found Mulan's raging internal conflict ridiculous (girl, you can kick all these dude's asses...and we want you to. Remove that staff from your arse and get to it already). But for me, it was the presence of stalwarts Donnie Yen and Tzi Ma that kept me enlisted, not to mention Jason Scott Lee and a fairly unrecognizable Jet Li, too. While none of these fine gents has a large part, it's still highly enjoyable seeing them all together, shouting instructions and/or looking on stoically.