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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.

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.)

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

My First Ever Total Epic Halloween Marathon

If there's a limit to how much Bruce Campbell one can get,
I don't want to know about  it.
For some time now, I've been working towards a month-long Halloween horror movie marathon, though not always consciously. I've never been a huge horror movie buff, but Halloween always seemed the perfect time to get caught up on all the gore, paranoia, exploration of taboo subject matter, and affronts to basic human decency that defined the genre and added to the rich cultural tapestry that we all know and love/fear. So it became an annual tradition of mine to line up a roster of films to watch on that most unholy of holidays that everyone seems to enjoy more than Christmas but can't fully admit to just yet. Slowly, that concept expanded to declaring October open season for absorbing all manner of murders, disembowelings, deranged psychos, hauntings, possessions, zombies, and monstrosities of all stripes through the magic of movies.

This year, I finally fully committed to taking the bloody plunge to engage in a full thirty-one full days of depravity, in full defiance of family functions, interpersonal relationships, and physical health. It was an excuse, really, to explore a corner of the cinematic universe that I otherwise don't venture into that often. Horror is a strange genre, really. I sometimes find myself trying to rationalize the enjoyment of the genre more than I would others. Perhaps there's more of an apparent disparity between the horror genre and the purported goals of art, though I found that upon closer inspection that disparity was, indeed, merely a perceived one.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Life Lessons from Al Pacino

It's easy to lose your way in this workaday world. The path to spiritual fulfillment is often obstructed by the stress of modern living. Bills. Obligations. Family. Great asses which we've got our heads all the way up. Fortunately, there are those who have dedicated their lives to clearing away those obstacles with the metaphorical gun hidden behind a public toilet. For nigh on half a century, Al Pacino has served as such a guide. Some would call him a hero. Others, a prophet. From whatever celestial realm he was sent to us, it matters not. What matters is that the Pacino burns with such a passion that he cannot help but yell out his gospel as loud as he can, as often as he can, to as many people as he can, with as many obscenities as he can.

Through the sacred texts he has passed down to us in film, Al Pacino has presented a path to enlightenment laden with as much wisdom as there is profanity, so in other words, quite a bit. Though his wisdom is not always for the faint of heart, it is as undeniable as a straight-laced cop on a corrupt force that the Pacino is right. And when he's right, he's right, and he is right. And just like his fellow prophets who have gone before him, Al Pacino asks nothing in return for the gifts he bestows upon us. Just know that in this life, Al Pacino will be there to believe in you even when you don't believe in yourself. And the Pacino is a scary judge of talent...

#1: No, You Ain't Gonna Take It, and You Definitely Ain't Gotta Take It at Work

Listen, we all have to work in order to make money to do the things we really want to do. You know it. I know it. And Al Pacino certainly knows it. In Glengarry Glen Ross, Al Pacino portrays crack real estate salesman Ricky Roma who, at one point, is put in a difficult situation when his boss, John Williamson (Kevin Spacey), fucks up the sale that would have put him at the top of the leader board for the month. We've all been in a similar situation. You find yourself working in the service of lesser men who have dick-sucked their way to the top. It's all but inevitable that at some point while under the direction of some ass clown who's been promoted to a position of authority over you, that shit will eventually come to a head.