Archive for April, 2016
April 30, 2016
So the first Zoolander kind of meant a lot to me. I completely understand how weird that might sound but I have several reasons for really liking that movie. First, it was made by Ben Stiller during one of his good periods. I really like Ben Stiller comedies as long as he is writing or directing them although. There are a few exceptions like Mystery Men but he can be really great sometimes. Second, this was the first comedy movie release after 9/11 and it was really refreshing to have a silly but secretly clever comedy to embrace. Third, everybody in the movie is on their game especially Ben Stiller. The characters all do exactly what they’re supposed to and the humor is just silly enough without being stupid. Besides, there are cameos from David Bowie, Billy Zane and David Duchovny, how can you hate that?
Anyway, I recently watched the original again and realized why I really liked it. I saw the ads for the new movie and I was wondering why they were making a new one sixteen years later. The first movie was good but it had a horrible box office due to being released so soon after 9/11. I never really understood releasing a sequel so far after the first movie unless your Kevin Smith. Still, I can’t really fault Stiller or anybody else because I think the movie found a lot of life on DVD and VHS well after the fact. I have heard some of the movie quoted by people through the years so I know that people saw it. Part of the appeal of the first one is that it was poking lighthearted fun at the modeling industry at a time when supermodels were still a thing. The original feels less relevant and more nostalgic now but that does not mean this one would be bad,
Right from the start I realize that Stiller has learned a lot since 2001. The movie feels a lot like the love child of Tropic Thunder and Zoolander. The first movie was pretty silly and weird with some darkness thrown into the mix. This one starts darker and that’s saying something if you consider this scene was in the first one. Just like the first one, there are a ton of celebrities from start to finish. Like a lot of the first movie, there are a lot of moments that were equal parts weird and funny. The great playfulness between Stiller and his real-life wife Christine Taylor is out which is a shame. Instead, we get Stiller’s Zoolander hanging out with my favorite version of Owen Wilson. There are a whole bunch of fun new characters to interact with the two dumbest human beings ever as they engage in espionage once again.
It is not much of a spoiler since they showed it on the trailer, but pretty much the whole cast is back for this one. I was not expecting for certain characters to make their return but I was very pleasantly surprised. The espionage plot is over-the-top silly but it makes a weird bit of sense. There is a melodramatic subplot that follows from the first movie that was actually kind of touching but there was not much comedy material there. They also gave Owen Wilson a lot more to do which is good because in the first movie he was just kind of inserted into the second half. This movie felt a little more fluid and coherent than the first movie. It could have done without one of the subplots but it still worked pretty well.
Overall, the movie was good. I think the movie shows some evolution from the first one and makes me think that Ben Stiller (and co-writer Justin Theroux) have a lot of good work ahead of them. There is a lot of the same quality comedy dialogue that was in Zoolander and Tropic Thunder. The visuals are on par with Tropic Thunder and sometimes better. The movie was not the greatest but it definitely was way better than the 23 percent it got on Rotten Tomatoes. I think maybe you needed to be a fan of the first movie to enjoy it fully but as long as you go in with the right attitude, it is a fun movie.
April 29, 2016
I woke from blackness and everything was fire and ruin around me. There was a massive hole in the roof and I could see the stars above. It looked like a little cabin that I was sitting in, although it was mostly cinders and ash after what had happened to it. Whatever that had been, it had somehow not happened to me. I got to my feet and started to walk through the mess. It was at this point that I realized that I had forgotten my name. In fact, I could not remember much of anything. No memories of what had happened or really who I was. I looked down at my body and realized that I was armored.
The armor was elaborate and it had been well-crafted but now much of it was damaged and hanging off of my body. My chest was mostly exposed and I carefully tore myself from the armor around my torso. It was not doing any good anymore so why not remove it to check my body for injuries. There were no injuries to speak of. At least, none of the injuries were of an urgent nature. There were too many scars to count across my chest but the most prominent and seemingly most fresh was a burn scar in the shape of a hand print over my heart. The mark was the dark gray of ash and it looked to small to be a grown man’s hands but it was hard to really tell. Was I some sort of warrior? Some sort of renaissance faire employee?
There was a small house not far away and I started toward it with purpose. I reached up and touched the hand print as I walked and as I touched it, my fingers started to tingle and then burn. I jerked my hand back to my side and flexed my fingers until they felt closer to normal. I looked at those fingers and realized that whatever the gray ash was, a little of it had rubbed off on my fingers. Some sort of chemical weapon? Why wasn’t that tingling, burning sensation on my chest? The thought crossed my mind that the nerve endings might have already been fried and that stuff was going to eat its way inside of me.
I kicked in the door of the house and stomped through it until I could find a bathroom. I fumbled for the light and when it came on I looked in the mirror and nearly had a heart attack. I thought somebody was coming up behind me but as I turned and turned again and looked in the mirror, I realized there was nobody there but me. Nobody there but me and the black, feathery wing coming out of my left shoulder. I focused and it flexed and stretched and then went back to a folded position. I leaned hard against the sink and tried to slow my breathing. This was amazing. People do not just have wings sprouting out of them. I reached and felt my right shoulder and there was nothing there, not even a stub. Why only one wing?
I washed the ash off of my chest and watched it slide down the drain. I hoped wherever it was headed it would not harm anyone else. My chest looked fine so I headed back out into the sunlight to get my bearings. Thankfully this place looked like it was in the middle of nowhere so it might be some time before the residents complained of his break-in or noticed the smoke from burned out cabin. Hopefully, the cops or worse were not on their way. I had no idea where I was and I began to feel silly for thinking that I could pick out my location by randomly spotting the right rock or tree. I went back into the house to look for some sort of evidence about where I was.
“Confused?” A man said from the darkness behind a makeshift bar. In the darkness, bright red veins suddenly pulsed through a human body. At least, I thought it was a human body.
“Of course, I am. Who are you?” I asked as I turned on the lights. This was no human. Their skin was jet black with what looked like neon glowing veins just below the skin. As I watched, the skin pulsed from jet black to ivory white and back again.
“I am Xolotl.” The thing grinned, its teeth looked they were carved from ruby.
“Bless you. What are you?” I asked. It laughed in response. I was so tired of this already.
“Bless me? Not usually something one says to demons.”
“What are you talking about? Is that what you are? A demon?” I asked.
“If you want to get technical, you’re a fallen angel too though it looks like you were pushed.”
“Are you just here to taunt me? If you’re a demon and I’m an angel. Shouldn’t we be fighting?”
The demon laughed again. “It’s a long story but demons are actually much, much older than you angels. Somewhere along the way, you guys got yourselves twisted around. Now sit down, Yoriel. We have a lot to discuss before the end of the world begins.” He said and my headache got that much worse.
April 28, 2016
This is not an A to Z Blogging Challenge post. If you are looking for that, it can be found here: The Real X-Files. This is a regular feature where I explore stuff I wanted to watch or listen to in the past week and also a place to share music I like.
The Toxic Avenger
So, I have never seen anything from Troma before. This is something I have regretted quite a while especially considering all of the attention I lavish on Charles Band and other Z-grade horror franchises. I have seen clips of Beware! Children at Play and Blood Sucking Freaks through The Cinema Snob but I had not seen a full movie yet. My impression of most of their work was that it was too silly for my tastes. However, El Rey network had a marathon for Earth Day weekend and I found their commercials hard to pass up. The movie is about an extremely awkward teenager who falls into a barrel of toxic waste and then proceeds to take on the criminal element in his hometown. The problem is that a lot of the people who live in his town have whatever mental disease the main character from Serial Mom had. I think it’s called Psychotic Asshole. So it’s just a somewhat funny movie with really brutal practical effects as the main character finds new ways to kill evil people. It was a lot of fun and I do recommend it if you have a strong stomach.
I was clued into the fact that this movie actually existed through watching Conaco’s Monday Melee stream. When I found the entire movie free on Youtube, I was even more intrigued. I have seen my fair share of schlocky sci-fi movies. Most of them are now branded as Syfy movies. This movie comes from a time when the vast majority of genre movies were poorly funded and poorly marketed. Now, those types of movies are much better funded and, as a result, are quickly getting to an even better quality. I fully expected this movie to really suck. In fact, the first twenty minutes or so were really slow and I was starting to zone out. Then things started to pick up and the mystery started to unfold. Then the movie got really, really crazy and the special effects and imagery are both disturbing and completely interesting to me. The thing is based on a Phillip K. Dick story so of course it ended up being pretty good. I would love to see this movie redone with a better budget but definitely, check it out for some schlocky fun. Warning: As the title suggests, do not watch this if you have a headache or migraine.
I chose this movie to answer the eternal question: Is Ben Affleck truly the bomb in Phantoms? Thanks to Kevin Smith, this movie has been on my mind for at least a decade and I always wondered what it would be like to watch it. Thanks to Netflix, I can finally put that question to bed and figure out if this movie was any good. The first thing that surprised me was that this was made by Miramax. Back in the day, Miramax was a bastion of independent movies and they also released foreign movies. They gave Kevin Smith his start and are responsible for funding much of his career. I did not expect them to produce a sci-fi horror suspense movie. The other thing that surprised me was how many awesome people were in the movie. Ben Affleck, Lieb Schreiber, Rose McGowan and Peter O’Toole were the big ones. There is a lot of pretty good suspense and weirdness in a town where everyone is dead or disappeared. The movie is actually one of the cinematic inspirations for the Silent Hill video game series and it shows. Much of the hokiest dialogue comes from Joanna Going who is the doctor who has all the good ideas but also the most stilted dialogue. However, the rest of it is pretty good. It is actually pretty creepy and yes Ben Affleck is the bomb in it.
– This week’s theme is “Cheesy 90’s genre films”
– So glad I finally talked about Lucha Underground
– Newsflash: OITNB is still great
– Civil War is almost upon us
– I watched a lot of Youtube this week
– Specifically, I watched way too much of Aaron Bleyaert’s Monday Melee
– I am writing a play
April 28, 2016
Alright, I am not going full conspiracy theory on you today. I am also not talking to you about the X-Files television show. I loved the X-Files back when it was first on but my attitude has somewhat cooled on it after too many years and a really bad movie. I have yet to see the revival and I am not exactly itching to watch it the more I think about it. I have so many other things to watch that a return trip to Mulder’s basement office is not as appetizing as it once would have been. That is not what we are doing today. In the wake of X-Files returning and Ghostbusters coming up, let us talk briefly about the “real” paranormal investigators out there.
I loved Ghostbusters as a kid and one of the main reasons I loved it was that the main characters were scientists. Presumably, just about everything they did was backed by science and engineering and they were eventually able to prove that ghosts were real. I imagine a lot of the actual science was done offscreen because experimentation and the scientific method often takes a long time and can be a little tedious. An old roommate of mine was very much into the Ghost Adventures type of show. This was a show where the viewer follows the adventures of real-life plumbers who somehow decided they could investigate ghosts. There was no hard science involved and after several seasons, there was never a single ghost to show for it. Not to mention they go in as the most credulous people of all time so that every single sound throws them into fits.
On top of this, paranormal investigators are often not wanted or not permitted around supposedly haunted sights. Then, like this group, they end up accidentally damaging or actually destroying the historic home they were supposed to be investigating. By the way, I am sure marijuana and alcohol are really conducive to studying unexplained phenomena. I feel like we have the opposite problem from Mulder. It is not that nobody believes. The problem is that too many people believe or are willing to be tricked into believing without evidence. There is little to no regulation or oversight like there is for real scientific endeavors. Paranormal sciences are really appealing but they have yet to advance our species or help invent anything useful. All we have are interesting stories that we cannot prove are true.
I am not an unbeliever. I am a skeptic and I have been for a very long time now. I love a good ghost story and I do believe in investigating strange occurrences. However. anytime you go into a situation with a firm belief of the cause, you will most likely fail to find the real cause or at least misunderstand what is actually happening. If somebody proves the existence of ghosts, bigfoot or vampires here on Earth then I will be the first person on board. However, they have to prove it scientifically because I lived too many years without evidence of these things. Of course, I also have a vested interest in these things not existing because they sound terrifying. Only the future can tell and so far we are still living in an amazing but mundane world.
April 27, 2016
So I am really into professional wrestling (though I still feel uncomfortable about that term). I mean, that much should be clear by now, right? There are tons of editions just like this one on this blog and all of them are titled Why I Love Pro-Wrestling except for the one that is jokingly exchanges the word ‘love’ for ‘hate’. I grew up watching and I fell in love with the wild storylines and larger than life characters. I imagined myself with entrance music and pyro and I actually still do to psych myself up for stuff. I still write promos as they pop into my head (see earlier this month). In the comfort of my home, I recite New Day and Enzo and Cass promos along with the crowds at the arena. I watch NXT and pay-per-views with my WWE Network subscription. I think it’s safe to say that I am a fan.
I came in during the mid-nineties and while I have adapted to changes well, my experience has been perpetually old school. I was late to the party on ECW and ROH. I gave up on TNA at some point. I still have yet to see a single New Japan match even though I’ve been told how good they are. I know what I like and I tend to stick with it even when the WWE has lulls and I am barely paying attention. Still, every so often something comes along that is a shock to my system. Something that is new and exciting and clever and I cannot help but like it even when I thought I would hate it. Case in point: Wrestling Society X. WSX was a promotion put together for an MTV television show. The production value was high and so was the level of talent. The fictional story of the show was that it was a secret society that put on matches in a large bunker. If you blinked, you missed this surprisingly entertaining show.
Flash forward to earlier this year when I am enjoying WWE but I am just in the right mood to want to experience something else in addition. I was listening to my favorite sports entertainment podcast (The Rough House) and Christoff was raving about something called Lucha Underground. Of course, I had heard the word ‘Lucha’ before. There had been Rey Mysterio for a long while, Chris Jericho talked about it in his first autobiography and more recently the Lucha Dragons are a thing in WWE. So I hopped to it and decided to check this thing out through On Demand and YouTube. I was not quite prepared for what I was going to see but I guess I should have known better.
In Mexico, luchadors are like superheroes. They wear masks, are extremely athletic and their performance style encourages a lot of leaping and flying through the air. A little bit of that style can even be seen in North American performers like Chris Jericho, Sami Zayn and Seth Rollins among others. The in-ring action on the show is very wild and crazy. The psychology of the matches is very different from the WWE. In the grand scheme of things, wins and losses do not matter as much. You could go on a losing streak and still conceivably get a shot at a championship belt. It is the big matches where wins and losses matter. Matches are more to show that each luchador has fighting spirit and amazing abilities. It is a little startling to watch for the first time but, like watching a new tv show after a Law and Order marathon, it is refreshing.
All of that is really great but what really surprised me was the storytelling. The storytelling is completely off the rails and crazy and it is one of the top reasons why I have latched onto Lucha Underground. The WWE has a certain level of reality that we all accept. It is a scripted show but within that script, we accept that these are normal human beings who are paid to beat the tar out of each other. The shows are promoted and backed by several corporations working in harmony. In Lucha Underground, the fiction is that a criminal named Dario Cueto runs a lucha temple out of a warehouse in Boyle Heights. He runs the temple according to some obscure Aztec traditions and that includes the use of actual magic. The in-ring action is woven together into a story using backstage vignettes which are shot like a movie and have an intricate, out of this world story. I mean, the thing is produced by Robert Rodriguez so you know there’s a lot of effort behind it.
The show has a lot of stars you might be familiar with if you’re a pro-wrestling fan. Among them are John Morrison, Rey Mysterio, Alberto Del Rio, Chavo Guerrero, Justin Gabriel and Vampiro. Some of them are working under different names. In addition, there are a ton of people who were new to me like Prince Puma, Pentagon Jr., Mil Muertes, Fenix and many more. All of these performers are taking on new and interesting roles. There is Aerostar, a man who might be a time traveler or robot. He is friends with Drago who is a dragon who has taken human form. There are two undercover cops who have gone undercover as wrestlers to bust Dario Cueto. There is Mil Muertes who is probably undead and comes back stronger each time he is defeated. Half the performers are mystical descendants of Aztec tribes. It sounds wacky but I love it. You just have to let go and enjoy the story as it comes right out of left field.
April 26, 2016
I went to Friends School of Baltimore from first grade until the end of high school. Every summer up until high school, we were assigned summer reading. This was never a problem because I love stories and I always loved to read. Early on it was easy reading like Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew and so many young adult books. Unfortunately, the young adult horror series like Fear Street were not on the approved lists so I read those after finishing the approved books. I was a quiet, nerdy kid who did not really go on normal kid adventures so I was happy to have a stack of books. One summer, I decided that it was high time that I delve into classic horror. I gobbled up The Invisible Man, Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde, Dracula and a ton of Edgar Allen Poe. I enjoyed it all but the final book in that vein that I read resonated with me most of all.
Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus (which is its full title) was a really interesting book to finally read. I felt I needed to read it after seeing all of the Frankenstein images and watching all of the Frankenstein movies (including Young Frankenstein). It was the same experience I had with Dracula. I had to go back and see the source for myself. I wanted to read the original story and see how it held up after more than 175 years. I read it quickly because I found that I could not put the book down once I picked it up. The original story is the tale of a man’s hubris in trying to create a man. The biggest shock was how philosophical the book is. There is a lot of thought and fearful reflection from one of the main characters (Dr. Frankenstein). Also, the other main character (Frankenstein) is extremely intelligent and very tragic. It was a great book for a pre-teen to read.
The movie introduces Daniel Radcliffe as Igor which is a character purely invented for the movies in the 1930’s. This is not automatically a problem for me as I have stated before that I do not mind adaptations making changes as long as those changes are to serve the story. Otherwise, we could never take the racist elements out of Lovecraft or have a rapping Puerto Rican Alexander Hamilton. Besides, Igor has become a beloved stock character over the years. The way Igor is used here is pleasantly how Watson is used in the Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes movies. He is not just an interesting looking prop to do the doctor’s bidding. He is intelligent in his own right and is actually a somewhat nuanced character with a backstory and emotions. This was a good sign early on in the movie as it was an indicator that they were going for something a little different.
I want to take a break and warn you right now that there are a lot of scenes that are not for the faint of heart. A lot of these scenes are either very graphic or highly suggestive of pretty horrific things. Mary Shelley’s original book went into a lot of gory detail about building the titular monster and this movie does not pull any punches there. Kudos to the props department for creating a lot of spectacular visuals. The CGI work is equally great as I found it really hard to figure out where certain things stopped being practical and started being computer generated. The direction is also very good. Paul McGuigan directed this one and there were some reasons to be wary as he directed the truly awful Wicker Park but later redeemed himself by directing half of the present BBC Sherlock series. Like that show, he is working with two main characters who have a close but extremely complicated personal and professional relationship. He pulls this project off almost as well as Sherlock.
The script was written by Max Landis who seems to be quickly becoming known as a mad genius in Hollywood. I think that one day he will be a really brilliant screenwriter. He is good right now, but like American Ultra, this movie felt like it rambled a little and could have used a little tightening up. He is definitely doing a lot of innovative work as he was able to really bring the characters to life in a new way. Of course, some of that credit goes to Daniel Radcliffe and James McAvoy who are pretty great together. MacAvoy is great as a mad genius, a sort of sociopath with great vision. Andrew Scott is arguably the villain of the movie although, like the book, the movie is a sea of gray areas. The shining star, at least for me, was still Radcliffe who is the emotional center of the movie. He has come a long way since Harry Potter (which I liked) and if this and Horns are any indication, he is going to be remembered well at the end.
Overall, I thought it was a good movie. It could have been a great movie but its pacing felt a little off and some of the characterization was just a little bit muddled. There is also a secondary villain and an anti-hero which starts to mess with the morality messages. It stayed true to the heart of the original story as a tale of Man vs. Nature and the ethical problems that surround the creation of life. There is also a great message about the measure of a man and what exactly makes something or someone a monster. The movie is pretty clever and ambitious and worth a look if only to encourage this kind of film from being made in the future.
April 25, 2016
(Hurray for fanfiction! I urge you to watch Rick and Morty and also play Portal and Portal 2 on whatever gaming system you want. There are slight spoilers if you haven’t partaken in these two things but nothing too major.)
Rick woke up slowly and he started to push himself to his knees but he was a little dizzy. Of course, being dizzy was not out of the ordinary for Rick but it was best to take these things slow. He could tell from his field of vision that he had woken up on an unfamiliar floor. Rick had woken up on a lot of floors so an unfamiliar one was more than a little alarming. He was also curious about what had knocked him out as he had taken practically every substance legal or otherwise in the known multiverse. It really took a lot to lose consciousness nowadays.
“Aw geez, Rick! Where are we now!?” Morty whined. Rick looked to his right and saw his shivering grandson sitting against a clear wall of some sort. He looked around and confirmed that they were surrounded by four of these walls. All that was in their little cell was a toilet and an alarm clock.
“Shut up, Morty. Grandpa needs to think.” Rick said and pushed himself to his feet.
“Where do you think we are, Rick?”
“Goddamit, Morty, I said I need to think,” Rick said with a loud belch. “It looks like a prison but not one I’ve been too before.” Rick said and tried to remember what had happened before they had been taken.
Thankfully shut up and stayed sitting in the opposite corner. Rick ran his hand across each wall in turn but he couldn’t really feel anything. He was starting to get really ticked off. If this was the Council of Ricks again he didn’t know what he was going to do. More like Council of Dicks, he thought and smirked to himself.
“I miss my laptop,” Morty said softly, breaking the dead silence. Rick whirled to face him but Morty spoke before Rick could tear him a new one. “I mean, what are we going to do?”
“Well, turning you into a car was a one-time thing and you blew that in class. Somebody took my portal gun when they left us here. Give me a minute.” Rick said and leaned his forehead on one of the walls.
“I took your portal gun. It will interfere with the testing and we will be doing a lot of testing.” A soft, feminine voice said. The voice had a slight bite to it like whoever it was was talking to a small, annoying child or a Morty. Rick’s Morty made a small frightened noise but Rick only grunted and rolled his eyes. One of the three walls sank quickly into the floor.
“Who.. who’s there!?” Morty cried out.
“I am GLaDOS. Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System. This is Aperture Science and you are Rick Sanchez and Morty Smith. Our research indicates that you are one of the smartest beings in the galaxy. Looking at you, I think we were misinformed.” GLaDOS said, her voice resonating from speakers somewhere in the wall or ceiling.
“Listen up, you computerized piece of shit! Nobody pushes me around! I’ll find you and I’ll tear you apart!” Rick yelled at the ceiling. It was his best guess at where the speakers were.
“Listen, I am so frightened. I really am. Actually, I’m not used to a test subject who talks so this will be a burden on all of us. If you enter the first testing chamber, you can pick up the portal gun and start testing.” GLaDOS said and a door opened up. Rick grumbled and started to walk into the next test chamber with Morty following close behind. There was a device on a pedestal in front of them with a spotlight shining down on it. Rick picked it up and examined it.
“Listen, it sounds like you have a lot of history before we got here. We’re not interested in a crossover, let’s just end this now and I’ll go get drunk and maybe I won’t come back here and burn this place to the ground.” Rick said, belching again just as he started the last word.
“I don’t think you’re in a position to bargain, Rick. We can test or I can throw Morty into boiling lava. It’s your choice, both would be fun for me and, in the end, we’ll test anyway.” GLaDos said. The room started to rearrange itself into a series of platforms and white surfaces. Rick looked around and examined his surroundings. It looked like some sort of obstacle course.
“This portal gun looks pretty crappy, GLaDOS. I mean, what’s it got in here? Some sort of subspace converter, something for quantum tunneling. I bet this thing still runs on fleebs. Wait, it’s not pre-fleeb is it? I bet if I sold it I would only get, like, two schmeckles maybe. My gun is waaaay better.” Rick said with a disdainful look at a nearby camera that was pointed their way.
“It is more than adequate for testing. If you do not begin testing, I will fill this chamber with nerve gas.” GLaDOS warned.
“Oh Geez, Rick. Let’s just do it.” Morty said.
“I huff nerve gas before I get out of bed in the morning. You’re gonna have to do better than that!” Rick said with a grin. A green gas started to filter into the room but Rick pointed the portal gun and fired and the gas was sucked through a hole in the black ceiling.
“Wait. What’s going on? How did you do that?” GLaDOS said. For the first time, she sounded less than bored and more than concerned.
“I fixed this portal gun while we were talking. I used the alarm clock and you don’t want to know where I was storing the other parts.” Rick said, his grin getting very big.
“Gross,” Morty said.
“I give in. You can leave. I have learned my lesson” GLaDOS said simply.
“Oh no, you don’t. Now we’re gonna test my way!”
“But I let you go, I don’t want to be dismantled again.”
“I don’t give a fuck! That’s my catchphrase! I say it all the time!” Rick yelled with glee and Morty knew from experience that things were about to get very dark, very quickly.
April 23, 2016
11 Jerry Maguire
Jerry Maguire was a powerhouse when it came out. It stars Tom Cruise when he was at the height of his pre-freakout part of his career. So far it was also the height of Cuba Gooding Jr.’s career and the movie even got him an Academy Award. The one is probably the most critically acclaimed movie on this list and it won or was nominated for a lot of awards. It has a great cast with Cruise, Gooding Jr., Jerry O’Connell and a great villain in Jay Mohr. A lot of the movie is focused on the title character trying to regain his honor and his career after a huge professional setback. There is plenty of romance, though. Unfortunately, a lot of this movie has been heavily quoted and the movie’s tropes have become very cliche. At the time, it felt pretty original. As a warning, it has some pretty graphic sex scenes in it that I was not allowed to watch when this first came out. Other than that, it’s a pretty fun movie.
10 Alex and Emma
Go figure that a romantic comedy movie about a writer would be on this list. I guess I have always identified with writers. Also, a big part of this is a deadline which I think we are all far too familiar with. Now, I’ve never really been one for writing romance but the main character is a writer played by Luke Wilson who enlists Kate Hudson to help him work through his latest book. So we get them working on the book and that is juxtaposed with scenes from the book. The two stories contrast and fit together and we get to see a lot of the growing chemistry between Kate and Luke. This was only the second romantic comedy I saw that more or less had a male lead. Of course, Luke is the guy who must change to get the girl he needs instead of the one he wants. It’s a cute little movie that has a bunch of interesting twists to it.
9 Coming to America
Most of you have probably seen this movie already. It’s often in rotation several times a year on Comedy Central and it was a big hit around the time of Trading Places. It comes from the brighter part of Eddie Murphy’s career when he regularly picked better movies and was not yet a caricature of himself. Ok, I am mostly kidding because Eddie Murphy often gets a bad rap even though he has made some great or at least fun films along with a string of bad ones. This is the tale of an African prince who journeys to America to figure out his path in life and to try and find a wife. The movie is surprisingly subtle for both the times and for Eddie Murphy. There is an interesting fish out of water story mixed with a story about a man hiding what he is for benevolent reasons. The movie is funny but not at the expense of the story moving forward. It ends up being a pretty sweet movie with a tight little love story.
8 Shakespeare in Love
I love the plays of William Shakespeare. My early days in theater were spent doing a lot of Shakespeare plays and they were so fun to do creatively. This movie was a massive hit when it came out, it was nominated for and won a lot of awards and for good reason. I love anything that humanizes Shakespeare. I don’t like ‘updating’ classic literature as much as I like when that literature is brought to life. Romeo and Juliet is arguably one of Shakespeare’s worst plays but mostly because people misinterpret it. It is a play about the excitement of lust and new love and the insanity it can cause. This is the backdrop of the movie, a romance set in an obviously romanticized Elizabethan era while Romeo and Juliet is being made. Almost everybody is somebody you could read about in a history book but they feel like a real person. They didn’t whitewash Shakespeare’s real history either at least not much. As I get older, I have learned to really embrace the ending as a happy one.
7 Zack and Miri Make a Porno
Now hold on, don’t leave right away. I promise I won’t go int the porno part of this movie if you don’t want me too. It’s enough to know that this one is about two broke roommates who decide to make a cheap porno spoof to pay their bills. There is a lot of wackiness involved and you get a lot of sexual humor and humor based on the awkwardness that we feel around sexual humor. It has a cast of supporting characters who are zany but human and it’s really fun to see them all interact. However, above it all is a story about two people who have known each other a long time. Two friends who explore whether they might be more in a very interesting set of circumstances. Like a lot of Kevin Smith’s movies, I went in expecting a silly stoner comedy and I came away with something that felt really interesting. Who says friends can’t become a couple? (Fair warning there is some nudity in this one)
6 Catch and Release
So I watched this movie initially because of Kevin Smith’s involvement. It certainly did not hurt that the movie also stars Jennifer Garner who I had liked in Daredevil and Timothy Oliphant who I had enjoyed in Die Hard 4.
This was probably the first or close to first romantic comedy that I watched on my own recognizance. I will give you a heads up here, this one looks weird on paper. It starts with Jennifer Garner’s fiance dying on a fly fishing trip and then goes from there. The relationship between Garner and Oliphant is pretty funny and interesting to watch as there is a strange dynamic from the start. On top of that, there is a B-plot where Kevin Smith romances a single mother with a kid. The two stories are fun to watch separately but watching them interact is even better. I know this one is kind of an obscure pull but I really enjoyed it.
5 Chasing Amy
Alright yes, three movies in a row on this list have Kevin Smith involved but it is a known fact that I am a big Kevin Smith fan. More than any other movie, this was the one that broke Smith into the mainstream studio system. For this movie, we delve into the exciting world of comic books which is a topic near and dear to my heart. Two of the main characters make comic books for a living and you know Kevin Smith has been in the industry because everything about that feels right. The movie is a little bit of a product of its time. There is a flamboyantly gay black man in a time when there were a few of those sorts of characters in Hollywood. Kevin Smith is so great at dialogue that even the more cliched characters come off as real and likable. The main part of this movie is that Ben Affleck plays a guy who ends up dating a lesbian. While some people thought it was a little crass at the time, I think it was a little ahead of its time in depicting the unpredictability of the Kinsey scale. Of course, that’s just my opinion.
4 Groundhog Day
This is technically the only science fiction movie on this list. I would also classify this as a dark comedy while most of the rest of these movies are at least a little bit lighter. Bill Murray is a comedy legend and is very funny as a man who is trying to decide what is important. The universe makes him repeat the same day over and over again until he achieves what he is supposed to. Andie McDowell is a great romantic lead. She is cute, funny and appropriately skeptical as a formerly grump starts to become a romantic. Another strength of the movie is that it has a great ensemble of character actors who interact really well with Bill Murray. I feel like the movie is about discovering that love is not checking things off a list but is more about realizing how to make a real human connection. I am sure most people reading this have already seen the movie but it is worth checking out if you have not.
3 Forgetting Sarah Marshall
I was totally blindsided by this movie. While I had heard that it was a good movie and that it was worth seeing, I had no idea how good it could be. I actually watched this movie for the first time this week so it is the freshest in my mind. Ten minutes in and I was definitely hooked. The cast is fantastic as it has Jason Segel, Kristen Bell, Mila Kunis, Russell Brand and a whole bunch of great actors in smaller parts. I especially love Kristen Bell and the meta references to Veronica Mars which was one of my favorite shows of all time. Segel shows why he was able to rock it in The Muppets as he is the star and the writer of the movie. Frankly, more of this movie is about break ups rather than new relationships. Everything really clicks together and there are a lot of moments where I felt like the movie had really shown what had been in my heart during my most awkward moments. It may have the best message at the end of all the movies on this list. (Fair warning there is a lot of nudity in this one)
2 Love, Actually
This movie is a Christmas tradition for my family. My mom actually owns three copies of it on DVD. This movie is actually pretty atypical in structure for a romantic comedy. There is a huge cast of characters that make up a whopping nine couples who the audience gets to follow. At times, the movie seems to employ just about every actor in England which is the setting for most of the movie. A couple movies like Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Day later tried to use this formula to zero success. Love, Actually is a really charming movie. There is a bitter, sardonic edge to a lot of the humor that makes it feel emotionally true even if some of the plots are contrived. I am trying to spoil as little as possible with this list but it is important to note that not all of the stories have happy endings. Not all of the stories and couples are even very likable but the movie as a whole is very cathartic and is always a good watch.
I have talked about this movie previously in this blog, shortly after I saw it in theaters. Amy Schumer is a great comedian who works very blue and also works very dark. She manages to make a lot of that subject matter way funnier than it should be. There is also something to the cadence of her voice that is just inherently funny to me. Combine that with the great, befuddled straight man in Bill Hader and you’ve got a beautiful match. The movie uses a lot of modern romcom tropes and dumb comedy tropes but it manages to strip them down and make them feel more real. There’s real drama and at the end of it, both people in the relationship have changed their lives for the better in a deeply transformative way. It’s really ugly to watch but it’s beautiful too and I feel better for having watched it.
April 22, 2016
The shotgun blast sounded through the field and everyone flinched and froze at the sound. On the other hand, Katya was blasted off of her feet as she took a full load of shot to her chest. She tumbled into the corn and rolled face down and she was not moving. I moved first and ran toward her, ignoring conventional wisdom and rolling her onto her back. Her shirt was torn open and there was blood everywhere and all at once everybody started to shout. It sounded so distant to me as my fingers fumbled toward her neck to try and check her pulse. I had the experience of one Health class under my belt but I thought I could feel a faint tremor in her neck.
“I didn’t mean to hit her!” Farmer McCutcheon was yelling. “It was a warning shot! I slipped!” The gang started to close in around him as I held on tight to Katya.
“Lay off of him! He’s an asshole, not a murderer now one of you morons better call 911.” I yelled. He held Katya’s hand as she writhed a little and mumbled a completely incoherent mess of words. None of it was close to English and that worried me deeply.
“Oh shit!” Helen yelled as Ricky struggled to dial his cell phone. “She doesn’t look good, Ewan. What do we do?”
“We need to get her to the road. They’re not going to be able to do crap out here.” Jase said. He had scared away Farmer McCutcheon and was currently in possession of the farmer’s shotgun.
“I really don’t think we should move her, Jase. Get rid of the stupid gun too. It’s gonna scare the ambulance away.” I said, all but growling. I knew I was glaring at Jase as I said it. Katya was in my arms and I knew she must be slipping away toward death.
“Who’s in charge of this gang? Me or you? I’m not so sure lately with that sword on your back!” Jase had fully revealed the chip on his shoulder at the worst possible moment.
“You want to call the shots? You want the sword? Come get it!” I yelled and I grabbed the sword and plunged it tip first into the ground next to Katya.
The sword started to glow and I reached for the handle to pull it away. Before I could, that light started to leach from the sword and floated through the air toward Katya. I started to panic but as the light touched her she did not react like it hurt. In fact, she seemed calmed by the energy and then I watched as the wound in her chest started to knit itself back together. The sword must be healing her. Her eyes fluttered open and she struggled to her hands and knees, grabbing her tiara from the ground before she stood up. I stood up and after a few seconds, she started to glare at me. It was at this point that I realized that her shirt and bra had been destroyed.
“Stop staring, you jerk. Give me your shirt.” She said.
“Right,” I said. I did not have to think about it. I gave her the shirt off of my back before I grabbed the sword and pulled it out of the ground. I sheathed it on my back again.
“What the hell was that?” Jase asked. In the heat of the moment, I had completely forgotten he was there. I had also briefly forgotten having lost my cool which felt a little awkward and silly now. I wanted to apologize. We had known each other too long to hold grudges. Of course, Katya had other ideas.
“Shut up, you little pissant. He obviously saved my life,” She grumbled.
At that point, we started to hear the sirens coming closer. It sounded like the Sheriff and an ambulance and I looked around at all of us trespassing and Katya’s bloody clothes.
“Scatter?” I said and I looked at Jase for confirmation. “Right?”
He nodded. “Scatter!” He called out.
We all took off running through the corn. Jase tossed the shotgun into the dirt behind him as he ran. Everybody took a different direction through the field as long as that direction was not toward the sirens. Before we could separate, Katya grabbed me and pulled me toward her direction. The two of us ran high speed through the corn, leaves and stalks slapping me in the face as we ran. It stung but no good could come from sitting in the back of a cop car just so we could end up back with our parents. They had no solution for the problem at hand. My friends and I could be dead if we were split up for too long. This was the only alternative.
April 21, 2016
This is not an A to Z Blogging Challenge post. If you’re looking for that, it was posted earlier and can be found here: Redcross Pt. 5. Tomorrow there will be another A to Z post but for now, here is some of the media I’ve absorbed this week.
Orange is the New Black
So I finally decided to start checking this show out and even though I had a busy weekend, I was able to check out the first three episode. The show was not exactly what I was expecting. The show is basically privileged, preppy white girl goes to prison and gets a rude awakening. By saying this, I am not trying to put it down but this is the basic premise of the show and the non-fiction book the show is based on. So far, I do root for this fish out of water character but I am much more interested in the huge cast of characters around her. As we meet hardened prison characters we also get insight into their past through flashbacks. It is one part Jane Goodall study and one part engaging drama. It is set in prison which is grim and rarely pulls any punches but it is also inspiring and there are some good laughs thrown in to relieve the tension. I love the show so far and I will eventually finish watching all of it.
Better Call Saul
I wrote a long while ago about my adventures of watching Breaking Bad. It was a great show that was well-crafted from a story standpoint and it also had a lot of iconic characters. However, I ended up disliking a lot of Breaking Bad because it felt like they were trying to establish Walter White as a protagonist. It is kind of like trying to establish Sarah as the protagonist of Labyrinth. It just doesn’t work. Now, the way they went at Breaking Bad was not a mistake. It was just not exactly my cup of tea even though I watched all of it except the last handful of episodes. I am only three episodes in but so far it feels like Better Call Saul is not going down that path. They are also taking us on an interesting journey where we are seeing the genesis of a familiar character. I am interested to see where this goes and I am fully ready to check out if the show drifts over toward Breaking Bad territory. There’s no shame in passing up a show if it is not your thing but so far I would recommend it.
It is not too often that I discuss podcasts on here but I had said in an earlier post that I wanted to talk about this. I was introduced to the first season of Serial a few weeks ago when we were travelling to attend my grandmother’s funeral. I had heard a lot about the podcast but I kept putting it off because I like to do things the right way. Of course, sometimes I need a push to actually consume media so this worked out great. Serial is the tale of a young man accused and convicted of murder just outside of my hometown of Baltimore which is also where I currently live. Each episode of the podcast explores a different aspect of the case and points out weirdness, inconsistency and miscellaneous hinkiness that might indicate they convicted the wrong guy. Each episode is thoroughly researched and contains excellent narration laced with recorded interviews or sound clips from the original investigation. If you are at all interested in this then definitely check it out.
– I watched a lot of Parks and Rec this week
– I also watched a lot of Daily Show/Nightly Show
– I am so psyched for Captain America: Civil War
– Dr. Strange looks like a fun movie
– This week’s theme is “the legal system”
– I also started watching Lost Girl season 5. Awesome.