Thursday, October 19, 2017

It's America at it's f--king finest.

I've never done anything illegal.

Not really.

Hell, I've driven too fast, probably gone a place or two I shouldn't have, but all bullshit aside, I've lived thirty eight years on this f--king planet without getting into any trouble. You'd think an impeccable conscience would be a good thing, right?

You'd think.


Not that I'm looking to be on the run from the law and/or various factions of international drug cartels, but holy f--k American Made presented living a life of crime nothing short of scintillating. Directed by my teenage hero, Doug Liman's latest is an absolute blast from beginning to end. And Tom Cruise? Well, f--k me sideways, but this might be one of his best...ever? (shit, lately seemed like faint praise...).

Starting out in the early 70s and rollercoastering through the mid 80s, American Made tells the brilliantly twisted tale of Barry Seal, a one-time TWA pilot turned government reconnaissance pilot/international drug mule/CIA operative/jack-of-all-trades. Karl Malone can politely f--k off, because it's Barry Seal that always delivers.

Generally, I'm a real bitch about these incredible true stories, but even if only a tenth of this shit happened, Seal's story is so f--king rad I'm gonna go ahead and embrace any embellishments. And seriously, as much fun as this movie is, why the Hell wouldn't you?

As the preview so perfectly captured, Barry's a good pilot flying the friendly skies for TWA. Apparently he was their youngest pilot ever, and when he's approached by the quietly mysterious Schafer to work for the good guys, Barry isn't asking too many questions. You got a job? He'll take it. More work couldn't hurt for a young dude with a young family (and a lovely...lovely, young wife).

Sorry, I'm drooling for some reason.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

This isn't science. This is pseudo-science.

I'm not saying she doesn't earn it, but when my wife falls asleep moments after we put the kids to bed, let's just say it's...disappointing. She'll sometimes sleepily say something to the effect of, no, no...I can make it...and I just nod along, like I don't know exactly how this story ends. Maybe one minute after her pledge, she's basically dead to the world.

I could do just about anything (aw jeez, not that) and she wouldn't even remotely come back to life. She's just frozen in place, and I'm left wondering, now what the f--k am I going to do? You know, other than sulk for the next day and a half...

Anyway, I've figured out a solution. And it's a good one. When she grabs a blanket, I grab my keys.

No fair, man. I want to die next.
Look, some of you a-holes might know that I don't give a damn about the quality of films I'll see, but now that I've got a MoviePass, I don't give a damn, shit or f--k. Ten bucks a month? I'll take one ticket to...whatever the f--k you got. Which, combined with my inanimate ladyfriend, is exactly how I ended up at an opening night showing of Flatliners. Not only did the movie suck an entire bag of dicks, but it also sucked the life out of me. I was good for the first hour-plus, then my neck could no longer support my skull.

A remake/reboot/regurgitation of the 1990 Joel Schumacher flick, this updated version fails in just about every way imaginable. It's incredibly bland, entirely nonsensical, and the its biggest sin...it's not even remotely scary. Oh, and it's rated PG-13. No tits. No asses. Nothing. The only thing that gets stiff...is the dialogue.

Apparently, med school is hard and the teachers are super mean and all anyone's got time to do is study (and have sex...offscreen). Things are like, so difficult and demanding, it takes like, an extra mysterious invite to get a bunch of these Doogie Howser bitches to meet in a vacated classroom in the bowels of an all-glass hospital in the middle of the night. Seems Dr. Juno is hard at work on studying the brain...of dead people. Now she just needs a few not very good almost-doctors to assist her in this hush-hush study group. But instead of highlighters and cocaine, all you need to bring is your unsteady hands and a desire to go to prison. See, instead of do no harm, these kids are planning on killing this chick...waiting a minute (or nine) and then bringing her back. I mean, what could go possibly go wrong?

Monday, October 9, 2017

I'm not gonna cry...dad.

Buying them? The best. Shaking the box and imaging the impending possibilities is pure no matter how old you are.

Building them? Even better. Meticulously, feverishly, everything comes together. You step back like Tom Hanks in Cast Away. Yeaaahhhhhh. Look what I have createddddd. 

But then there's the third interaction. When you're not exactly sure what to do with them. You just kind of stare at them blankly. So...uh...now what?


Sadly, it feels like all the initial joy and wonder of the shockingly good duo of previous LEGO movies [reviews here and here] might have finally worn off. And there, sitting on the shelf collecting dust...is The LEGO Ninjago Movie. Built with love but ultimately doomed to a Ziploc bag of anonymity, the third go-round with the shiny plastic pieces is ultimately missing a few bricks, to say the least.

I know nothing of the lore of the television show and its (number) year run on (television network), but as any moderately savvy dad of an eight year-old boy, I was at least remotely familiar with the LEGO Ninjago franchise. Color-coded ninjas used giant mechs to stop evil. Uh, and stuff.

The movie (perhaps?) adds a little more to the equation, with team-captain/Green ninja Lloyd, dealing with not only swarms of invaders on a daily basis, but the life-sucking secret that his own absentee father is in fact, their leader. After a few hilarious battles, Lloyd confronts his dad, the delightfully ridiculous Garmadon (Justin Theroux, doing his version of the Will Ferrell-lovable jerkface character), and sets in motion a series of events that will change their relationship forever. Lloyd was on the verge of throwing the relationship with his father away forever, but ultimately couldn't do it. And it's not because his dad never taught him how to throw.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

No. I don't think that's extreme at all.

Going undercover seems like it would be pretty f--king great. Honestly.

Infiltrating some nefarious organization with the hopes of blowing it to Hell from the inside out, would be like, the coolest shit ever. Yeah, it would suck when I'd inevitably end up balls deep, Donnie Brasco-style, and unable to turn off the charade, likely disappearing into the requisite facial hair forever.

But as much as losing everything in my real life would bother me, what would really keep me up at night?

All the goddamn studying. You gotta know f--king everything.



After a relatively compelling preview, I schemed out quite the f--king elaborate plan to catch an opening-day matinee of American Assassin. And after I had arranged all the fringe players (uh, my mom...and my wife, to a degree), clearly defined their roles in the covert operation, I made the soul-crushing mistake of doing a little extra reconnaissance. And by that, clearly I mean I skimmed the early, mostly shit-tastic reviews. 

While I was convinced that no film starring Michael Keaton as a military hardass could be anything less than f--king brilliant, trust me when I say this movie basically sucks. It has all the components to be a competent revenge thriller, but unless you're a thirteen year-old girl (who has never been to the movies), the only thing American Assassin kills is about two hours of your life. Good thing on that day...I had nothing but time.

Though it seems in (extra) poor taste in light of current events, the film opens with a lovely young couple enjoying a vacation at a picturesque beach resort. The dude, Mitch, proposes to his impossibly sexy girlfriend...moments before some terrorist motherf--kers show up and start indiscriminately gunning people down. Mitch gets hit, but he's going to make it. The love of his life? Uh, no. She's gone. And when we next see Mitch eighteen months later, he is too. Instead of that romantic goofball on the beach, he's basically become the f--king Terminator, training to kill anybody and everybody that had a hand in the death of his woman. Aww.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

There is bad men everywhere.

At any given moment, we're all terrible people doing selfish things, lacking any level of regard for the world around us.

But we can be redeemed.

After catching the shorts at the Harrisburg-Hershey Film Festival, as soon as intermission was announced, my wife and I ravenously burst out of the tiny theater and basically extreme shuffled our way to the concession stand. Yeah, some pretty crunchy dudes run the joint, so the popcorn is about as flavorful as a Ziploc full of gravel, but it's warm and salty so...yeah...we'll have a large. Or we would have, had that f--king stand not been boarded-the-Hell up. Turns out, not only was popcorn out of the question, but so were drinks, candy and other deliciously terrible thing you could think of. We weren't pissed...but, rather disappointed might be the best way to put it.

If you recall, I had just found out that my grandfather had finally passed. Yet here I was...

...mad about snacks.

In Happy Hunting, the feature that anchored our block of films, Warren is also a miserable bastard living his life painfully (blissfully?) unaware of what really matters. But instead of being a selfish prick like me, he's something way more honorable: a raging, knock-down drunk.

One day, Warren comes out of a stupor long enough to answer the phone, and it's mostly apparent that someone has died, and Warren needs to get his ass to Mexico to sort some shit out. That might be a tall order for any of us, an abrupt trip across the border, but Warren is a major f--k up, so this endeavor is bordering on Mission: Impossible. Good thing he's already got some crank cooking on the stove, and a pair of human shit-stains nearby willing to buy it. Um...kinda.

After the uh, transaction, Warren hauls ass down to Mexico, but ends up getting stuck in the little town of Bedford Flats (pop. 135), Texas, along the way. The townsfolk are little more than absolute f--king whack jobs, and it's all-too clear that Warren has stumbled into some impossibly weird shit. Unless you find an annual hunting and murdering of drifters not all that weird (honestly, at this point in America...it seems kind of...possible). So, not only is our main dude dealing with a bunch of blood-thirsty rednecks, but he's also dealing with the shakes, the sweats, blurry vision and maybe even hallucinations. Sounds fun, right?

Sunday, September 24, 2017

HHFF '17: Block D Recap: Shorts

My grandfather, Richard Brown, passed away last week at his home in Bristol, Connecticut. He was surrounded by two of my aunts and two of my uncles, and apparently it was as peaceful a passing as one could ever hope for. He made it a day past his 92nd birthday, which was two days after I turned 38. Shocking no one, I was sitting in a movie theater when I got the call.

I didn't answer my phone, but seeing that it was my own father calling from Hawai'i (and it was not on a Sunday), I knew the contents of the voicemail awaiting me. Though I'm sure he made his fair share of mistakes, and was far from a perfect man, he was an excellent grandfather. He always had time to listen to my nonsense, but even better, he had time to tell me some nonsense of his own. And when one of his ridiculous stories would end, he'd often sum it up with a favorite go-to phrase:

You don't have to be crazy, but it helps...


Had he been sitting in the third row with us (shoot, maybe he was), my grandfather could have turned to my wife and I and used his old punchline once again to perfectly sum up how we, attending our third consecutive Harrisburg-Hershey Film Festival, felt as each short ended. All of the films were well-made, and one could assume, deeply personal, but as likely the only people in the sparse crowd not in the cast or crew of the entries, it's safe to say we didn't enjoy them as much as everybody else seemed to, you know? 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

That's not something you get to talk about.

Last year, I had just enough time to see Sully [review], and when I returned to work that night, I was rattled to say the least. I had to meet and greet the parents of my new students less than an hour after sobbing my way through the Miracle on the Hudson and I recall not really giving a damn about what anybody was saying.

This past Wednesday, a day shy of one year later, I managed to sneak in another flick before the dreaded Back-to-School Night kicked off. I wasn't the shell of a person I was in 2016, but my head clearly wasn't fully in the game (not that it ever is). See, it's hard to talk about some kid's future...

...when you've just spent two hours thinking about your own kid not having one.

Wind River, despite being set in the cold, hopeless dead of a snowstorm is an absolute f--king fireball of chaos and anguish. Anchored by men who've seen it all but don't say much, writer/director Taylor Sheridan's latest film is one of the best films I've seen in quite some time, and easily the highlight of the summer. But didn't you see it on back to school night, dickhead? Hey! Get that logic the f--k outta here.

I don't imagine working for the Fish and Wildlife Department is typically a life-or-death job (unless, you know, bears), but when Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner, cementing his status as the absolute f--king man) is recruited by FBI agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen, incredible as always) to help with a homicide case, the body count has just begun. And while the people we'll lose along the way will certainly sting, it's the people that died along time ago that absolutely destroys us.

Cory is an expert tracker, with not only a vast knowledge of the unforgiving Wyoming landscape, but also an expert of many of the people that make their home on it. When Banner shows up to the Wind River Indian Reservation to investigate a homicide, it's pretty clear she ain't exactly dressed for this party. She's smart and incredibly resilient, but she's young. And these old men aren't exactly thrilled to be answering to a girl that's old enough to be their daughter.

About that...

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Glad I got to meet you before you died.

Where did you get these stains from?

As a young man, this question could quickly test your ability to craft a quality tale of fiction, but in this case, I opted for the stone-cold truth.

Oh, I got those in the sewer. 

My mom, as I recall, didn't bat an eye, and likely didn't even offer a follow-up question. She was more concerned with how the Hell she was going to get this brown stuff off the back of my white T-shirt. See, as a chubby sixth grader in the fall of 1990, along with a rag-tag crew of my friends, I used to explore the sewer system that ran throughout our quaint Hawaiian town. Crouching, we'd enter the small drain that emptied out into Josh's backyard and then find the main drain that flowed through the center of town. It was so tall we couldn't touch the ceiling, not that you'd want to in the first place. And being that it didn't rain much in our town, there wasn't really much down there of note. Well...

...until we found a dead body. 

(of a pig...but still)


Oddly enough, that same sixth grade year was the first (and only) time I read Stephen King's epic novel, It. As a kid, it was surely a memorable read, but I can't honestly recall if the exploits of Pennywise the Clown started or stopped our sewer-exploring exploits. We were really dumb kids, obviously, so it could have went either way (and perverts, too, as I read that one scene more than once to this group of deviants).

As an adult who ain't got time for any of that (reading lenghty novels and/or sewer browsing), I somehow found myself dealing with that creepy f--king clown again, exactly twenty-seven years later. But instead of swinging a dying flashlight around a musty drain pipe with Josh, Aaron, Jenny and Jess, it was me and Grunden and a packed f--king house to see the big-screen adaptation of It. Regardless of what anyone actually thought of the film, it was nice to be at a f--king event. 

While the book bounced back and forth between the childhoods and adulthoods of the main characters, director Andy Muschietti and his writers instead tell the sordid tale of Derry, Maine by focusing only on the early days of Bill, Eddie, Ben, Richie, Mike and Beverly. It's an interesting (if ultimately unsurprising) decision that pays off handsomely in the hands of such a gifted and charismatic cast of young actors.  While the film is certainly unsettling at times, it is an absolute joy to spend two hours with these incredible kids. And I don't say that lightly, as you know, I'm a teacher. Meaning?

I f--king hate kids.