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Arrival

Now with 100% less Charlie Sheen.

The Shallows

Just when you thought it was safe to go surfing in Mexico.

Star Wars Episode II

The Anakin Strikes Back.

Bridge of Spies

Espionage is as espionage does.

Battlestar Galactica: Season 3

My Triumphs, My Mistakes.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

A Horse Named Terry

"Do you want to come and meet Terry?" Her brown eyes wide. Sparkling. The embodiment of child-like wonder. If ever I'd had cause to use the phrase, this had been it.

"Sure, kiddo." This was not a request to be refused. Hearts of stone would rumble from the look in those eyes. Ravaging marauders would have given pause at the look at my daughter's face before continuing their rampage. The village would be burned, but that skip in time, that temporal record scratch, would have marked the moment forever.

I followed my daughter through the stables to the very end of a row of stalls, past other horses, to find Terry, the smallest of the lot, and my daughter's mount for the previous week. More of a pony, really, than a horse. A dwarf amongst giants. But when my daughter had ridden him a mere twenty or so minutes before, her head had practically been obscured for all the clouds.

Some familiar smells: the hay, the manure, the wood from the old barn, hide and hair. A thousand different odours combined that most people knew as "the farm smell:" a brown sludge. But to those versed in such things, there was an entire palette there with all kinds of data ripe for the taking. I'd grown accustomed to my (sub)urban environment and the accompanying smells, but some things would not--indeed could not-- be forgotten, and I still had a vocabulary for such things, limited though it was.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

The Future is Now: The Good, The Bad, and The Irreversible

If ever there was a movie for which the phrase "Your reputation precedes you" has applied, Irreversible is it. Written and directed by Gaspar Noé and released back in the halcyon days of 2002 in complete defiance of all that was ever considered good and holy, Irreversible quickly established itself in the cinematic cannon among cinephiles of all varieties, amateur and professional alike, as a rite of passage. Especially in the circles in which I travelled, it was considered required viewing, on par with other emerging and cult classics like Memento and Donnie Darko, part of a dark ritual of initiation. For whatever reason, it was a rite that I had never performed until fifteen years after the fact, even delaying nearly a year after picking up a used copy of the DVD (in pristine condition) at a local shop that deals in such wares.

Well, it wasn't for whatever reason. Irreversible is known for two things even by people who have never seen it: the reverse chronological structure of the narrative and that scene. You know, the scene where Monica Bellucci is brutally raped. Yeah, that scene.

I'm usually not squeamish when it comes to all varieties of fucked up shit portrayed in cinema. But something about Irreversible curled itself around my brain and wouldn't let go. As is usually the case with these things, my mind took those small kernels, planted them in the fertile earth of my imagination, watered them with ambiguity, and watched the Legend grow.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Life, Death, and Aliens... The Arrival of Something Bigger Than Ourselves. Also, Weird Spider Monsters

Perhaps one of the oldest questions that has plagued humankind throughout the ages is the question of whether or not we have free will. Well, I guess considering the totality of human history, it might be tied with "What the hell is this thing that's killing me?!" The free will question seems tantalizing specifically because it's intangible. We may not always have known what was killing/eating us, but there was always concrete evidence of death, whether it be a plague-riddled corpse or some bones in mound of lion shit. Free will is "fun" to speculate about because, currently, there's no way to prove it either way. The significance is clear: are we free agents, forging our destiny and boldly splitting infinitives where nobody has split them before, or are our lives and the choices we make merely the end result of forces beyond our control? In our relationship with the cosmos, were we pitching or catching?

It's a tough question to square away, what with the lack of any current means of quantifying it, but it's also kind of central to our lives as sapient beings. It's also kind of a loaded question. The implication in most cases is that having free will is preferable to not having free will, and that in the demonstrable absence of free will, we would lose any sense of agency and accountability.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Game Over Man: Bill Paxton Shuffles Off His Mortal Coil

Bill Paxton died unexpectedly on February 25, 2017, at age 61, and my first thought was that he was so young. My second thought was that I had to watch Twister that night in tribute, only to discover--to my further dismay--that somehow Twister was not yet part of my collection. Apollo 13 seemed like a fitting substitute (watching Tombstone with Paxton's death scene seems a herculean task now), but my mind kept drifting back to that first thought. I can remember a time when 61 seemed ancient. Sixty-one was how old grandfathers were. Sixty-one was old. Almost inconceivably so. Now in my mid-30s, 61 seems like it's just around a few more corners. Jesus, most of us won't have even retired by that point. To lose Bill Paxton at 61 is still something I'm trying to wrap my head around.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

The Curse of Moana

Some days, I seem cursed by the fates themselves. After being emotionally coerced into spending one of my precious few yearly movie theatre outings on a children's movie, the animal-karaoke-showcasing Sing, I was hit with a double-whammy when I found myself out with the kids once again, this time for Disney's latest, Moana. Mother. Fucker. This time, I was completely cut out of the decision-making loop as my wife made plans with a friend family to meet for lunch at East Side Mario's (Apparently to take advantage of some strange deal where you buy an entree at regular price and get a frozen entree for free to take home, just to really hammer home how much you hate yourself. I guess it's one way for a restaurant chain to clear out expired stock from their freezer...) and then go catch a movie. For the kids. Think of the children.

Disney, proving once again that there is literally no culture that they aren't will to appropriate, this time around they "draw inspiration" from Polynesian mythology to craft a tale of--everyone together now--a young princess's journey of self discovery where she seeks to expand her worldview and ends up either finding contentment in the pastoral home from which she originally sought escape and assuming her rightful place at the top of the Great Chain or Being and/or proving herself worthy to and being whisked away by a member of a royal family and assuming her rightful place at the top of the Great Chain of Being.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Miguel Ferrer, In Memoriam

In a choice between being overrated or being underrated, I would have to go with the latter. You're almost always in a better position exceeding people's expectations than failing to meet them. (I suppose it's better that most of us fall somewhere towards one of the extreme's on this scale; everyone being rated exactly correctly would either result in a sparkling utopia--which would be utterly boring--or an inescapable dystopia--which would be horrifying.) One of the actors at the top of that list for me has always been Miguel Ferrer, whose performances for me always left a lasting impression. Unfortunately, the word was deprived of his gifts as of Thursday, January 19, 2017 as Ferrer died after a battle with throat cancer.

I refer to Ferrer as underrated as the highest compliment; I never felt he really got his due in Hollywood. For me, seeing his name attached to anything was always a selling point. He appeared on my radar at an early age, as he appeared in my introduction to R-Rated films and Paul Verhoeven's genius as Bob Morton, the guy who created Robocop in the movie of the same name. In addition to acting next to a man in an aluminum suit (and sometimes not wearing pants) pretending to be a cyborg, he also had to hold his own against archetypal 80s bad guy and occasional Starfleet Captain, Ronnie Cox, which he did beautifully.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Sing It Like You Mean It

I don't get to go to the theatre that often, so when I do, I usually don't want to go see some kids movie. Don't get me wrong, there are some great animated films out there (see: The Incredibles), but typically, these types of "family friendly" films are geared more towards kids than families, with a few "adult" jokes thrown in to try and keep the parents from gouging their eyes out in boredom and frustration, which, to the studios' credit, has a decently high success rate. Especially considering that taking a family of four to the movies, including tickets and concession, is somewhere in the sixty to seventy dollar range, it's rubbing salt in the wound when I also have to shell out that kind of cash for a movie I have zero desire to see. Cue the "Won't somebody think of the children!" Simpsons meme here.

Sing, the latest and greatest from Illumination Entertainment, seemed even less appealing to me as it seemed from the trailers and everything I had read that it was little more than an excuse to show animated, anthropomorphic animals singing pop hits from both past and present. I tried to push the kids towards Moana, which seemed like it had landed among Disney's more palatable fare, or a second theatrical outing to Rogue One, but I was outvoted by both the kids and wife. I'm not sure when the fuck this family became a democratic republic, but I followed my typical strategy in most social situations: go along quietly, bide my time, and implement a silent campaign of espionage and misinformation, manipulating events until the perfect time to strike.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Carrie Fisher One With the Force

It's virtually impossible at this point to overstate the cultural impact that Star Wars has had. Its iconography has become a permanent part of our cultural landscape and has had an influence on the lives of millions of people across the world. There's something eternal about the mythology now, something that transcends time, which is maybe why it was all the more shocking to learn of Carrie Fisher's death on December 27, 2016. Official reports were saying that she died of a heart attack, but as the evidence mounts, it has become clear that she drowned in moonlight, strangled by her own bra. As part of the Star Wars mythology, there was something timeless about her. Death seems like too mundane a thing for stars that shine that bright.

Fisher was (by far) best known for portraying Princess Leia in the Star Wars saga (and also that nun who lived by a slightly different Book than George Carlin and Jay and Silent Bob). Aside from Ellen Ripley in the Alien franchise, there are few other iconic women ass-kickers than immediately come to mind, due in large part to Fisher's performance, which had no shortage of strength and tenacity. This speaks volumes about both the positive influence Fisher had as a strong female character and, conversely, the state of the film industry (both in 1977 and in 2016) where strong female characters are few and far between. Princess Leia never went full Ripley, but she kicked her fair share of ass, and most importantly never took any shit from anybody.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Skyfell: An Ode to a Bygone Era... Some Things Always Never Change

I've always had a soft spot for James Bond. I've never been a huge fan like my brother Chris who still has the entire script of Goldeneye memorized, but Bond is an undeniable cinematic icon. I have fond memories of watching movies like Dr. No and From Russia With Love in my grandparents' basement on VHS while all the adults were upstairs talking about adult bullshit. My grandfather was a huge James Bond fan, and he really was the one to initiate our education in that regard. I remember that at my grandfather's funeral there was a picture of my him in his heyday wearing a white tux and looking every inch a clear Sean Connery doppelganger.

But I am also the first to admit that there are some very legitimate criticisms that can be leveled at the James Bond franchise. James Bond is a curious cultural artifact that feels like a holdover from a previous era, and for good reason. The character is a product of the 1950s and 60s, and more and more this is becoming glaringly obvious. Aside from Bond's appeal to British imperialism as well as his cavalier attitudes to alcohol consumption and his complete disregard for the sanctity of human life, the most conspicuous cultural relic old 007 carries from that era is the misogyny. Oh, the misogyny. And it's not like this is incidental baggage. The reason the misogyny and all the other bullshit are still present is that they are all integral parts of the character of James Bond. If nothing else, it cannot be argued that the character was not a man of his time. Likely for some, the ultimate man of his time. Bond represents an ideal of masculinity that falls apart under even the slightest scrutiny by 2016 standards. And that's saying a lot considering that the US President-Elect, Donald Trump, (still having trouble processing that one) was able to ascend to one of the most politically powerful offices in the free and un-free world alike atop a wave of blatantly sexist comments and incredibly misogynistic campaign promises. (Wait, where was I going with this again...?)

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

To the Depths, with Sharks and Everything

The Shallows presents perhaps some of the greatest bang for your buck in recent memory. It is both a loving, meticulously constructed ode to Blake Lively's ass as well as a surprisingly well-executed woman versus nature thriller. On both levels, it succeeds gloriously, and so you essentially get two films for the price of one.

For those of you out there who were on the fence over whether or not Blake Lively was attractive, your fears can finally be put to rest. Nearly the entire first third of the film painstakingly documents in fantastic, high-def detail, every curve that Lively can possibly muster. Director Jaume Collet-Serra displays an impressive level of dedication to capturing on film every sun-soaked inch of Blake Lively's body, including a few inches you didn't even know existed. It's the kind of dedication to one's subject matter that most documentary film makers would kill to achieve. In all fairness, if I had a body like Blake Lively's, I too would want it preserved for posterity and chronicled for inclusion in the historical record. Purely in the service of scientific and academic discourse, of course.

As much time as The Shallows dedicates to showcasing Blake Lively's ass, I wouldn't categorize that aspect of the film as gratuitous. Of course, I might be biased by the fact that I am a heterosexual man who is, at the moment of writing this, out of the known striking distance of her current husband, Ryan "Deadpool" Reynolds. (Incidentally, after seeing Reynolds in Deadpool, it is entirely within the realm of possibility that I would have enjoyed the film just as much (if not more so) had he been cast as the lead in The Shallows and had his ass so lovingly documented in service of the film.)