Featured Posts

Jay and Silent Bob Reboot

Hollywood had it coming... Again.

Coherence

So you think you could beat yourself in a fight?

Total Recall

See you at the party.

Star Wars Episode III

Let me put my Force into you.

Arrival

Now with 100% less Charlie Sheen.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back... Again: There's a Little Reboot in All of Us

"Who wants a free joint?"

This was the call not of the wild, but of exactly the type of fan you'd expect to be in line at the Jay and Silent Bob Reboot Roadshow. It was the equal parts depravity and generosity that would have made Kevin Smith proud; a true disciple, doing Alanis Morissette's the good lord's work (or a reasonable facsimile thereof). It was because of Mr. Smith and his collaborators that Ryebone and I found ourselves waiting in line outside in the snow in downtown Toronto at 9:15  in the evening on February 1, 2020, along with hundreds of our fellow anonymous compatriots. We were, in fact, suffering from the same mass depravity, being members of a Secret Society that has for countless years united people from around the world in peace, harmony, laughter, and blue smoke; we were Kevin Smith fans, and we were legion. 

My own initiation into this particular cultural club began back in my second year of university. It was a Saturday, and I was on the slow road to recovery from the worst night (that I can (partially) remember) of my university days. I had spent a good part of the night previous getting the most drunk (that I can (partially) remember) that I had ever been at my university's student pub with friends, and the remaining part of the night lying in bed vomiting all over myself and shivering in the dark waiting for the blessed release of the total black-out-drunk sleep that the sober can never really truly appreciate and the inebriated welcome enthusiastically.

I awoke to find myself and my bed drenched in the regurgitated food-stuffs that had been swimming around in the depths of me the day before and a weakness of mind and body I could not have imagined had I tried. By the time I managed to drag myself to the shower and stealthily strip my bed and get my sheets into a washing machine in the laundry room down the hall, it was already three in the afternoon. I was able to choke down a Pillsbury mini-pizza before my roommates--led by Ryebone--dragged me out to see a film that would forever alter the course of my destiny (even though I didn't know it yet):

Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Go Then, There Are Quieter Places Than These

Pop quiz, hot shot. What's the first film that comes to mind based on the following description:

A group of isolated survivors try to escape from a group of strange, alien creatures that hunt their prey by sound alone. These seemingly unstoppable creatures stalk their prey relentlessly, as the survivors try to make as little noise as possible to avoid detection. Eventually, the survivors are able to fight back and defeat the creatures by exploiting their reliance on sound, the very thing that made them such effective predators to begin with.

If you said Tremors, you'd be right.

If you said A Quiet Place, you'd also be right.

I make the comparison not to try and point out that A Quiet Place is simply copying Tremors, because that's not the case. I just thought it would be clever to point out the similar concept unifying these two films (an eerily similar concept, if one were to be honest), though for most audience members (especially those of a certain age), I'm sure this comparison was (almost) immediately obvious.

I thought it was appropriate, because A Quiet Place is a movie that revels in its own cleverness. It wants us to know how clever Lee Abbott (John Krasinski) and his family are for using trails of sand and walking barefoot to cut down on sound when making supply runs in the town near the farm they call home. It wants us to know how clever Evelyn Abbott (Emily Blunt) is for making a soundproof nursery and crib for when the baby she is expecting is born. It wants us to know how clever the Abbott family is for reducing the risk of causing sounds that might attract the creatures by removing all of the doors from their home and clearly marking with paint the creaky floorboards to be avoided.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

2019: A Year in Review

Like most years, 2019 seemed to pass by all too quickly, like KFC through your digestive tract. On their own, every moment seems so insubstantial, but each one bears the weight of each that preceded it, so that to examine one in any detail is to stare into that terrible abyss of all of the other moments that had to happen for that single one to come to pass. How many civilizations had to rise and fall, how many people had to die, how much cosmic chaos had to unfold just so that I could buy a couple more blu-rays or spend time at the finest amusement parks Canada has to offer?

The answer: a lot. I honour their memory in my own way and at my own pace, which is the only way one can, really. And so it is that I mark the passing of time with this rundown of some of my own personal memorable moments from 2019, that likely have no significance to anybody else in the universe.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

The Joke's On You... We Are All Clowns: Some Days, It Just Seems to Rain Crazy

The door to Ryebone's apartment was slightly ajar when I arrived, and immediately the hairs on the back of my neck were standing on end. I didn't know what this omen boded, but I knew better than to let my guard down whenever he was involved. Carefully, I pushed open the door and closed it behind me as I entered the apartment into near total darkness. Almost immediately, I nearly tripped over a pile of empty beer bottles and the body of a semi-naked woman. After checking her pulse to make sure she was still alive (I'd learned my lesson the last time I found a body in Ryebone's apartment), I made my way further into what can only be described as a den of debauchery.

I flicked on the nearest light switch to find the place littered with an array of empty bottles and cans, pizza boxes, and bongs of such multitudinous shape and variety that it would put most head shops to shame. As I made my way into the living room, I found the heart of what was surely one of the last Great Banquets. Even more refuse cluttering nearly every available surface was all that remained of an extravagant feast of apparently nearly every type of alcohol and fast food imaginable. The only obviously clear path on the floor was between Rybone's couch and the bathroom.

Sunday, September 08, 2019

Decoherece of Expectations. Into the Inevitable Beyond

We all aim to be the best possible version of ourselves, however we choose to define the specific benchmarks by which we measure our achievements and our character. Who we are is the sum total of the choices we make, and in the absence of an alternate reality that we could use as a control group, we have no idea whether those choices are the best possible considering the circumstances or, barring all alternatives, the least worst choice.

And no, this is not about that expired yogurt I ate from the back of the fridge this week for lunch. At least, not entirely. (Seriously, the expiry date is like the Pirate Code: it's more like guidelines. Right? RIGHT?)

Coherence is one of the best films of the last decade that you've probably never heard of and one of the greatest cinematic theses on this very topic. (The identity thing, not the yogurt thing.) In an era where blockbusters dominate the cultural conversation in terms of film, truly inventive, experimental, or otherwise deranged movies tend to get lost in the shuffle. Coherence (directed by James Ward Byrkit) is one of those films that falls into the latter category, a movie made for the love of the game rather than as another puzzle piece in cracking the formula for cranking out billion dollar films. Don't get me wrong; I love a crowd-pleasing blockbuster. I also love smaller movies that expect a little bit more out of their audiences, and require more engagement but also delve deeper into the human condition. Sometimes you crave the orgy; some nights you just want to cuddle.

Monday, April 08, 2019

Son of a Gunn: Checking the Urine Content of Your Local Digital Swimming Pool

So, you're a giant megacorporation and you've fired a talented director from one of your most profitable movie franchises based on a targeted campaign of hate from a real-life lewd, crude, rude, bag of pre-chewed food dude. What do you do? Trick question: If you're Disney, you can do whatever the fuck you want, completely unchecked by law, reason, or decency.

Last July, Disney fired director James Gunn from the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. III film for some off-colour jokes he made on Twitter a decade previous. This was based largely on a malicious and converted effort led by Mike Cernovich, Internet troll, conspiracy theorist, men's rights activist, and all-around despicable human being.

A little less than a month ago, Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn seemed to completely reverse course as Disney announced that they had rehired Gunn for the Guardians Vol. III gig. While this seems like a victory for James Gunn, audiences and fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and decency at large, I still can't help but feel like there are no real winners here.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Supernova: Of Combustion and Cosmic Matter on the Big Stage

A Star Is Born is a story that seems destined to be retold as long as a single Hollywood producer has even a single dollar left to their name. It makes a certain kind of sense; like most people, people in Hollywood like to talk about themselves. There's a reason movies like The Artist and Birdman tend to get a lot of recognition come awards season, and it's the same reason the dicks of every man you know get a lot of extra attention on lonely Friday nights at home alone. The masturbatory urge isn't self-destructive or antisocial, rather it is as comforting in its familiarity as it is reassuring in its final, inevitable result.

Each iteration of A Star is Born is built on a foundation of anxieties unique to Hollywood and the entertainment industry in general. The 2018 version follows the same mould as its previous versions as far as basic plot points go: a male music superstar, Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper), mumbling his way through life one sold out show after another has a chance encounter with an struggling, female singer, Ally (Lady Gaga), they fall in love, he helps catapult her to success, their relationship goes through a rough patch, his own star begins to fade, he dies tragically,  and she moves forward through the grief while honouring his legacy.

At a surface level, A Star is Born is a romantic drama, but at its heart, it's a retelling and reinforcement of a core part of Hollywood mythology. In an industry and a profession where success is as fleeting and as fickle as it is difficult to attain in the first place, it makes a certain kind of sense that fame would be integral to its lore.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Total Recall and Other Tall Tales. Reality is as Reality Does... When is an Alien Artifact Not an Alien Artifact?

Paul Verhoeven's movies are almost as well-known by this point for being chronically misunderstood as they are for their over-the-top violence and sex and their underlying subversive social commentary. His storytelling style is perhaps one of the most unique in the history of film, and it is both the most significant factor in understanding the core messages of his films and the largest hindrance. This is not the fault of Verhoeven, but more of a testament to the failure of educational systems to truly instill a foundation of media literacy in audiences at large.

The films of Paul Verhoeven are almost paradoxical in their execution; they simultaneously revel in and rebel against the actual literal content being shown on screen. On the one hand, they can be enjoyed by audiences at face value for the sheer visceral absurdity of the whole spectacle, but for all of their ultraviolent bluster, their core messages are almost always the exact opposite of (or at least vastly different from) what you might assume they would be considering the subject matter. The thing that causes so much confusion among audiences in understanding Verhoeven's films goes beyond the normal complexities that can be involved in decoding various garden varieties of irony and satire; his work is simultaneously completely obvious but intentionally cryptic. It's like being invited into somebody's house for dinner while standing there watching a wrecking crew demolishing that same house. The intention is genuine, but the execution is enigmatic.

Saturday, December 08, 2018

Yours, Enemy Mine, and Ours

Enemy Mine tells the heartwarming story of how Dennis Quaid overcomes space racism in either the not-too-distant or incredibly distant future. I'm not sure exactly, and the film isn't too big on specifics of chronology. The movie is truly an artifact of its time, that time being the 1980s. In fact, if one were to describe the genre of Enemy Mine, it would be "The 1980s", with "drama," and "science fiction" close second- and third-place finishers.  It was the kind of one-shot, high-concept sci-fi story that wouldn't get made today without studio interference insisting on a shared universe or a movie trilogy or decent editing.

I'm not going to argue that Enemy Mine is some masterwork of cinema, though. I love this film dearly, but by god, there are a lot of elements in terms of editing, writing, and special effects that are either glaringly, objectively bad, or have not aged well at all. Especially considering that the director, Wolfgang Petersen, had just come off of a career high with the critically acclaimed submarine war drama Das Boot, something just doesn't add up. I mean, this is the guy who is also known for other big budget films like Air Force One and Troy that were well-made films.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Under the Gunn: Disney and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Decision

By now, you've most likely heard the tragic tale of the firing of James Gunn as Disney decided to go in a different direction with the director of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3. It's a tale as old as time: man begins his film career with low-budget, ultra-violent films and develops fan following, that same man makes some off-colour jokes on Twitter involving paedophilia, years later that man is hired by a giant megacorporation to direct a movie starring a lesser-known pantheon of comic book characters that fits into a larger cinematic universe, after making that megacorporation a shitload of money an angry, belligerent Internet troll digs up those old jokes, the megacorporation - who was already well aware of those jokes - summarily fires that director to get out ahead of a controversy that doesn't even exist. Classic.

What should have been a mere blip in the cultural radar turned into a full-on, foot-long shit sandwich with all the fixings. This whole crazy ride is extremely troubling for several reasons. Not only did a global corporation very publicly summarily dismiss somebody without any pretense of due process or the slightest evidence of forethought or careful consideration, they did it based on off colour remarks he made in his own free time in his private life. Even worse, Disney's decision to fire James Gunn seems to have been entirely based on the campaign of a well-known and admitted shit-disturbing troll who set out with the express purpose to specifically get Mr. Gunn fired, and shows no demonstrable proof that he actually believes that the director's jokes about rape or paedophelia were indicative of any actual real-world wrong-doing.