Archive for April, 2016

Redcross Pt. 5

April 21, 2016

Redcross

The smoke cleared as Sarah walked toward the head of the mine. She had only been out here the one time before, shortly after her father had died and she had gotten the job of sheriff. She had ridden out to the mine but it was severely boarded up and those boards had been very secure. She had been satisfied that there would be no sneaking into the mine, not even by curious little children. She had no idea why anybody would try to blow the thing open. Everyone had told her that the thing had dried up a long time ago, longer than anybody could remember. At that point, the town had all but withered but somehow the smaller population thrived without it.

The mine was still smoking as Sarah approached but the smoke was not stinging her eyes anymore and she could breathe easy again. There were wood shards all over the ground and Sarah kicked them aside. If there were nails, she sure as hell did not want them going through her boots. She looked up as the smoke cleared and she saw that the boards had all been broken away like ribs broken away when gutting a deer. Sarah thought there should have been an opening in the rock. There was no such opening. The rock face was dark and glossy. She looked back and Simmons was standing there, his rifle still in hand. He gave her a sheepish smile.

“I’m sorry, Sheriff Redcross. I got curious and had to see what the fuss was all about.” Simmons said, taking some round-framed glasses from his pocket and putting them on.

“Careful of the debris, Preacher,” Sarah said. He had already left his post, he might as well see what there was to see.

“Have you ever seen anything like this, Mr. Simmons?” Sarah asked. She brushed some soot and dust from the surface of the wall. It fell away in a little cloud.

“No, I definitely have not. Am I mistaken or is there some sort of writing here?” He asked.

“What?” Sarah asked. She looked closer at the black, glossy surface and there was definitely something carved there. Actually, the whole thing was carved with something that was not writing or at least was not writing that Sarah recognized. She found herself shaking her head in confusion but realized that might be confusing. “There is something carved there but it’s not English. I don’t know what it is, Preacher.”

“It’s a mystery, Sheriff. I wish I knew which language it is. I could try and find out for you  if you want.” Simmons said. He got even closer to squint at the carvings.

“What do you mean? How would you do it, Pastor Simmons?” Sarah asked. She was intrigued. She had never really seen Simmons do anything besides drink and attend to his ministerial duties. She had no idea what his qualifications for translating mysterious writings.

“I have a couple trunks full of books. I can order more. I have plenty of time between services.” Simmons said with a smile. “I love a good mystery too.”

“You’re just full of surprises today, Preacher. First, you prove yourself a crack shot and now a scholar. Are you sure you’re just a simple pastor from Lochiel?”

“Last I checked. Though I have been many places before there and though I am still young, I have lived quite a life.” He replied.

“Roy Simmons, I’ll have to keep my eye on you,” Sarah said with a smile. Though she wondered if she wasn’t missing something about him. “I would appreciate your help with this. They wanted this for some reason and we have to find out why.”

“Well, I guess I’m at your service, Sheriff,” Simmons said. He had shouldered his rifle and was scribbling a few notes in a small pad of paper.

“Listen, Roy, can I count on you keeping this a secret?” Sarah asked.

“Why, Sheriff Redcross, I thought you swore to fight for truth and justice,” Simmons said with a mocking smile.

“Don’t sermonize me, Preacher. Sometimes truth takes a backseat to justice when I have to worry about keeping my town safe,” Sarah said. She walked past Roy and headed toward the gap in the rocks. Simmons followed behind her, putting his little notebook away.

As they turned the corner, the first thing they noticed was that the body was gone. Sarah cursed and spit on the ground with feeling. She had not heard a single sound from the area around the area of the body. She looked over at Simmons who looked embarrassed.

“I’m sorry, Sheriff. My curiosity lost us a large piece of evidence,” He said.

“Don’t worry, Preacher. I’ll solve this one way or another. Let’s just get back to town before something else tries to kill us.” Sarah said. She headed for her horse with a really bad feeling in her stomach.

Quick Lass

April 20, 2016

Madeleine Price found herself tangled in her bedsheets as she woke up. She rubbed her eyes and squirmed her way out of the sheets, knocking them to the floor. Madeleine yawned big and rolled out of bed. Her legs wobbled and almost gave but she stood up nonetheless. It had been a hard night after all. She had foiled three hold-ups and one bank robbery. She had done it all by herself which left no time to do her math homework. Mrs. Belle was going to be so pissed off. This was the second time this week and if she kept this up, there would be no getting out of sixth grade.

Casually, she picked the first shirt off of the floor that looked clean and slipped it over her head. She reached down and slipped on some gray denim pants that were only slightly torn. She grabbed her sneakers from under the bed. The right one was actually pretty difficult to find but she found it behind a small pile of socks and underwear eventually. She paused in front of the mirror and thought she looked pretty good but she knew her mother had one minimum requirement. She reluctantly grabbed the hairbrush and dragged it through her hair, wincing each time it snagged. She had to admit it looked a little better as she tied her hair securely into pigtails. Still, she despised getting up in the morning, especially when getting up was followed by school.

Maddy picked up her watch carefully from its place of honor on her dresser and attached it around her wrist. Now, the watch was the only possession Maddy had that she truly cared about. It had been designed and built by her sister Jan in total secrecy from any of the adults. It held the ability to “phase” in her hero costume by rearranging the fibers in her clothes. She had no clue how that worked but it worked and for that she was very grateful. After all, if Maddy was going to run around as the superhero Quick Lass, wouldn’t she need a costume? It paid to have it so close at hand and accessible with the flip of a switch.

Maddy looked up at the old poster of Comet Man above her bed and smiled. She had watched the auction for weeks, stayed up until six in the morning and had spent plenty of allowance to get it. The fact that it was now a little vintage made her like it even more. Comet Man had been one of the pioneers in the superhero business and Maddy admired the hell out of him. When her super speed powers had begun to develop, she had put on her costume because of him. If it were not for guys and girls like Comet Man, she might have ended up using those powers for evil purposes. Hell, it would be so easy. Speed powers would make theft a cinch.

She walked down the stairs to the kitchen and picked up the bagel off of her plate. Jan hardly looked up from the coffee machine she was taking apart. However, her mother turned around and gave her a sly little smile that said ‘good morning’.

“Hurry up, Maddy. You’ll miss your bus,” her mother said. Maddy merely nodded and kept chewing her bagel. “No superpowers.” She threw in as an afterthought. Maddy nodded and got up and got out the front door with only a sigh in response. She hated that rule her mother had thought up one day after Maddy had cleaned her room in record time. Even extraordinary girls should experience an ordinary life. What good was a bus to a girl who could run faster than the speed of sound? Actually, what good was a bus that was presently starting to pull away from the curb a few yards down the street. Maddy’s eyes went wide and she ran to catch up but she had to suppress any superhuman bursts of speed and the bus pulled away well before she could reach it.

She changed directions and ran behind her house a little bit until she reached the old aqueduct that still ran from the city to out here in the suburbs. As soon as she had climbed down into the aqueduct she typed in her access code on the watch, spun the dial and activated it. With a flash of light, she could feel her clothes change instantly. Her loose cotton clothing constricting into lightweight but tight spandex. The costume gripped her skin so it would not catch on anything as she ran and it was designed to be more frictionless than normal clothing. She could feel the mask adhere to the area around her eyes like a weird suction cup. It felt weird and nice at the same time. Swinging her backpack back onto her shoulders, she began to stretch briefly. Then she took off running toward school.

Pee Wee’s Big Holiday

April 19, 2016

So I have Attention Deficit Disorder. I was diagnosed very early in first grade when I was about five or six years old. It can make it difficult to focus on certain tasks but it also makes multi-tasking so much easier. In my experience, being ADD is different from being ADHD which is Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. ADHD is similar but also includes a hyperactivity component that I do not have. Why am I going on about this right now? You obviously already read the title of today’s post and the letter A was on April 1st. Well, one of my favorite shows growing up was Pee Wee’s Playhouse and it was the most ADHD thing I can think of. Paul Reubens created a character during his time with the Groundlings named Pee Wee Herman. Pee Wee is a boy who grew up to be a man but still enjoys doing a lot of stuff that kids do and didn’t exactly mature with age. Some people may have found this to be annoying but I found him to be pretty funny and the highly kinetic nature of his show was exciting. He eventually got to do some movies which captured a lot of the child-like whimsy and offbeat humor that the show had.

Unfortunately, all of that came to an end when Paul Reubens was arrested in 1991 for masturbating in an adult theater. The whole event became a media circus mostly because the media can sometimes blow things out of proportion for the sake of selling papers and getting ratings. His reputation was tarnished for doing something in public that he should not have done but was sort of understandable. He never hurt anybody but he was unfairly tried in the court of public opinion and cast aside. However, he eventually started to make his comeback as an actor. He revived his stage show in 2010 (on which his television show and movies were based) and is now finally making another movie over twenty years after Pee Wee’s Playhouse went off the air. As I got older, I became even more fascinated with the show and movies. The character still resonates with me because he represents that child-like energy and wonder that I strive to hold onto in my life. Paul Reubens is also a great comedic mind and I am always interested to see what he has going on next.

First, the movie is not connected to any previous incarnation of the character. That means it is not connected to the Pee Wee Herman Show, Pee Wee’s Playhouse, Pee Wee’s Big Adventure or Big Top Pee Wee. All of those were excellent but this movie was made nearly thirty years after Big Top Pee Wee so it’s actually the perfect time to throw out continuity. Besides, the character never was incredibly consistent within its story. However, the movie does have one actress from Pee Wee’s Playhouse and four actors from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure in it playing different roles as a nice easter egg for fans. In fact, the feel of the movie is kind of similar to Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. It is a road picture where the main character takes a journey and must overcome a lot of obstacles to reach his destination. The overall arc is that it’s ok to leave your comfort zone and challenge yourself with new places and experiences. If you don’t take chances, you could miss out on what makes life worth living.

Even though all of his history was erased, it really felt like the character of Pee Wee had matured somewhat. While he did use all of his famous catchphrases and mannerisms, he also used a lot more subtle humor and commentary. The timing on certain things felt a little tighter than his previous movies and the movie felt like it flowed better. Pee Wee has a certain selfless selfishness to his character making him react certain ways in different conditions. At first, it was a strange concept but then I realized that most human beings are willing to act selflessly until they hit a limit and then they turn 180 degrees to protect their interests. I love the character of Pee Wee and the cartoon-like reality that follows him around as well. It also does not hurt that I do not find his voice annoying even though I can imagine some do.

While Paul Reubens is great in this movie, he’s joined by a lot of other very funny actors. The big one is Joe Manganiello who I was not really familiar with since I have not watched True Blood or Magic Mike yet. Manganiello is really funny as a fictionalized version of himself. By the end of the movie I was really impressed with his comedy skills and he ended up working really well with Reubens. Of course, most of the charm of this movie comes from watching Pee Wee interacting with a whole crowd of characters throughout the movie. They were all really well-written characters, mostly akin to improv comedy characters. I have to say though that my favorite were Stephanie Beatriz, Alia Shawkat and Jessica Pohly who played a parody of characters from Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!

Overall, I really enjoyed the movie. I found myself smiling a lot as I watched it but it wasn’t exactly a laugh out loud kind of comedy for me but Pee Wee never was. I enjoyed just about every minute and I would probably watch it again if I did not have so many other things I want to watch. I recommend you check it out, it is not just a nostalgic cash-in, it stands alone. Also, if you are a Pee Wee fan then it definitely compares well with his previous work.

Oh Canada

April 18, 2016

It is time for another awkward tale from my college years where weird things happened because I was still extremely introverted and I was also very sleep deprived. I went to class all day, rehearsed at night and then stayed up into the early morning so that I had recreation time. I got along pretty well with everybody even though I was strange and I was also one of the few guys in my major. I really liked the people I worked with but since I was guarded and private, most of them knew very little about me. This led to one of my favorite moments in college history.

Now, as I mentioned on Saturday, I went to college with every intention of becoming a stage manager. I had been an assistant stage manager and a production assistant and I liked the responsibility. Very quickly, though, I heard the siren call of design. I felt at home in design classes and I was friendly with a lot of designers who were a little rougher and tougher than my put together, female compatriots. I got along with them too, don’t get me wrong but more and more I remember feeling better in the shops than in the office.

I started to minor in sound design. At first, it was just for fun. The studio was a fun place to hang out during the day between classes as it was both pretty chill and very interesting. We worked under a teacher who used to be a rock and roll roadie for bands like Steely Dan and AC/DC. He was by far the coolest teacher I ever had which was saying something because I actually had a lot of cool teachers. Before I started to actually sound design my own shows, I assisted quite a few people. We were the black sheep and the red-headed stepchildren of the design family all put together. We were practically unofficial but appreciated and we tried to do a lot more than we were authorized some of the time.

So I remember doing a little assisting on a show called Betty’s Summer Vacation, a show that warped my little brain and has stuck with me all these years. Anyway, the designer was a good friend of mine at the time and he had the idea of doing a vocal effect using wireless microphones. We were a Meisner school and we were not allowed to use microphones unless it was for a specific effect since actors were supposed to be able to project. So I get handed three wireless mics and I am told to go out on the catwalk and help test them out. Sure, hand the shy guy microphones and make him the center of attention as the crew worked around us.

So I started to say “Check” over and over and that quickly got old as we were adjusting the sound. So somehow I must have had some sort of breakthrough or maybe it was a psychotic break. I decided the best way to continue to test the microphones was to sing. Although, now that I think about it maybe somebody I was friends with shouted out the suggestion. So the first song that came to mind was our national anthem. I got a few lines into the Star-Spangled Banner until I couldn’t remember anymore. Instead, I started to sing Oh Canada which is the Canadian national anthem. Somehow, I remembered all the words and sang until I was told the microphones were well-tested.

Afterward, for over a week people thought I was Canadian. That was the rumor going around. I was both amused and very flabbergasted. I thought I had been clear how proud I was of my Baltimore heritage. The fact that I knew all the words to Oh Canada and not The Star-Spangled Banner was used as evidence that I was Canadian. Not that I would mind being Canadian. A lot of cool people are Canadian. I mean Chris Jericho and Ryan Reynolds alone is pretty awesome. However, the truth of it is that Oh Canada was just easier to sing for one simple reason. The South Park movie. For two years I had listened a lot to the South Park soundtrack which included the track where Geddy Lee, Terrance and Phillip sang the Canadian national anthem. It was probably stuck in my head that day. It illustrated how distant I still was from some of the people I was friends with.

No

April 16, 2016

For me, ‘no’ was a very hard word to learn. When you are a kid, the word is not really feasible to use. As a kid, you fold your arms, plant your feet and say no when you do not want to do something. Just about every time I did this, I ended up doing what my parents or grown ups wanted me to do in the first place. Sure I grumbled and sulked and may have even done a substandard job but I did it. In the face of adults, the word no does not hold a lot of power. At best it is met with a ‘why not?’ before they dissect your reasons and get you to do it anyway. It is true that parents use it all the time but that never made it easier to use later in life.

I went off to college and I studied theater. Specifically, I studied stage management which is pretty much the art of herding cats. A stage manager has a dual role in theater. They are both in charge and they also serve the needs of everyone in the process. If somebody has a request, it goes through the stage manager who gets them their answer. Theater is a very collaborative art form and everybody has a voice. In that gaggle of voices, the director’s voice is usually the most powerful and important. The stage manager usually speaks in the director’s voice. However, often stage managers must use their own voice which is the voice of reason.

Gauging the difficulty level of requests is an important part of being a stage manager (and being a human being, of course). When somebody would request something of me, my answers would range from ‘Of course’ to ‘I’ll see what I can do’ to ‘No’. The last one was the most difficult. I never wanted to impede the flow of creativity especially since I am a creative myself. In my mind, saying no was the same as becoming the enemy of art. I really wanted to please the people I worked with. I wanted to ‘yes and’ their world and let it be smiles and rainbows forever. It was easy to fall into the trap of using ‘I’ll see what I can do’ as a delayed ‘no’. It was hard to start saying ‘no’ when I really should be saying it. When the answer really is no then you need to be truthful and upfront about it.

To this day, I still struggle with the word no but I have gotten better about it. I try to catch myself when I give a hesitant yes and explain to the person why it should be a no. I also try to figure out when I should be saying yes. Honestly, it can be hard to tell the difference.

The Mystery Part 7

April 15, 2016

The Mystery

If Scott was going to continue being the Mystery and keep up the superhero thing, he was going to need help. Having Heather’s support was great but things had gone really bad in the alleyway and he was unsure how to proceed. Basically, Heather had been like therapy but when you had a problem on the job it was useful to talk to a peer. Besides, he had a contact he wanted to try and get in touch with. It had been a long time since Scott had looked Frank up. He only knew where Frank lived because they had once used his apartment to recover from a really bad night on North Broadway. In the aftermath, Scott had noted the Pigtown address before slipping away.

He stopped and adjusted his mask outside of the apartment complex. If it was askew, it might expose his secret identity and he and Frank had not shared that information when they worked together. Besides, it would ruin the whole effect of the sudden appearance of The Mystery. He slipped past the gate and then carefully opened the back window the correct apartment. Shimmying inside was easy even though the window was small. Scott had actually been worried he would be caught in a Winnie-the-Pooh-type situation. This would be embarrassing in a normal situation but here it would have been incredibly more awkward. Most of the time it was alright but it was times like this where Scott realize that having an alter ego was incredibly stressful. In fact, he realized he had a shift to get to the next day and he was in no condition for it.

He carefully lowered himself to the tile of the bathroom and barely made a sound. He gave silent thanks that nobody was in the bathroom at present. That would be almost as embarrassing as getting stuck in the window. So far good, though. Scott checked his equipment and opened the door to head into the hallway. The carpeting was nice and plush and hid his footfalls as he walked down the hallway. As he turned the corner at the end of the hallway, he heard something move in the dim light from the front windows. Scott stepped into the room without fear in his heart.

“Hey Frank,” he said with a smile. “Sorry to burst in on you unannounced. I have a crisis.”

Scott was not prepared for the gun in his face as somebody rose from the couch and took a firm stance, two hands on their gun. Too late he noticed that the person who had been on the couch was too small to be Frank.

“Freeze! Hands behind your head!” She shouted. As Scott’s eyes adjusted he realized that the figure was Detective Azaria from earlier. The detective from the alley. He tensed in nervousness at the memory. She was wearing a tank top and jeans but she was barefoot. Either he had made the craziest mistake of his life or she was making herself at home at Frank’s place. The gun was cocked and ready to go but Scott could see her eyes widen in recognition. This could be either good or bad for his situation. “You! What are you doing here?” She asked.

“I didn’t come here to hurt anyone. I just came to talk to a guy I know. This might even be the wrong place.” Scott said. He started to back up slowly down the hall.

“Put. Your. Hands. On. Your. Head.” the detective said in response. There was a fierceness in her eyes and she enunciated each and every word and it was too aggressive. Scott started to worry that she might actually pull that trigger. He stopped moving. He started to slowly put his hands behind his head. She didn’t look fully awake, all adrenaline and instinct.

“I’m just looking for Frank,” I said as calmly as I could.

It was at this point that something burst through the door to Scott’s right and shoved him against the wall. He was pinned against the wall and, as door pieces fell away from the thing, Scott realized that it was a giant-sized hand the size of a medium-sized dog. Detective Azaria grimaced for a moment with what Scott thought and hoped was sympathy. She holstered here weapon just a few moments before a massive head poked through the door. The guy must have been over twelve feet tall and was immensely strong.

“Oh, look it’s Frank.” Scott managed to wheeze out.

Media Update 4/14/2016

April 14, 2016

This is obviously not an A to Z Challenge post.  That was posted earlier today and it can be found here: Leon:  The Professional

Kingsman: The Secret Service

I had written a while ago that I was excited to see this movie and I was. Unfortunately, I can’t always see every movie in the theaters and then I do not buy DVDs of movies I have not seen. Matthew Vaughn is an awesome producer and director. Before this movie, he directed X-Men: First Class which was an absolutely awesome movie. He also made Stardust and Kick-Ass (somehow making Mark Millar look good). The first thing I noticed about Kingsman is that the action is very kinetic, fun and exciting. Next, the humor felt very dry and there were a lot of surprising laughs. The movie has a lot of charm and a good message about the measure of a man and how your character is what really defines you. Colin Firth is amazing as usual but he also really sold being a secret spy. Samuel L. Jackson was a total surprise but a very pleasant one. Smaller parts from Mark Hammill and Mark Strong really helped make the movie. Taron Egerton and Sophie Cookson are newcomers and really knocked it out of the park. Check this movie out because it’s a lot of fun.


American Ultra

I wasn’t so sure about this movie going into it. Jesse Eisenberg is very questionable right now but he’s been in a lot of good movies. In particular, I liked him in Now You See Me. The movie also has Kristen Stewart in it who has a horrible track record so far. Finally, the movie was written by Max Landis who is just kind of hitting the scene lately. He has a reputation for being a little crazy and he’s poked his nose where it doesn’t belong a few times. However, he did once make a short documentary on Triple H. So I thought why not just watch it since the trailer did look like it was pretty fun. The movie starts off slow so be prepared for a little bit of an indy romance movie. The slow build continues but if you stick with it, you will be rewarded with a different kind of action movie. There is a lot of weird drama but there’s some subtle comedy that definitely made me smile. The action was definitely not what I was used to which is refreshing. Also, both Stewart and Eisenberg did a good job acting and also Topher Grace did a great job. The movie was actually really good even if it lost my attention in a few places. Check it out.


Spectre

I thought American Ultra started really slow, this one started even slower. The first James Bond movie I ever watched was From Russia With Love and I really appreciated it. Back then, James Bond was a fun character. He had a license to kill but he also had a sense of humor about him. This continued through the years until it reached the height of ridiculousness with the end of Pierce Brosnan’s period in the role. Casino Royale was a breath of fresh air and I also liked Daniel Craig in Quantum of Solace and Skyfall. I was excited for Spectre, I said as much on this blog. The trailer made the movie look totally awesome and to tell you the truth, it is. It took a while to get into it but by fifty minutes in I was hooked. For me, the movie’s biggest and maybe only sin is that it is too long. It clocks in at 2 and a half hours which was fine, I guess, but it could have been a good deal shorter. This is coming from a major Lord of the Rings fan, by the way. Anyway, the movie is pretty good. It has an intriguing story that is filled with enough twists and turns. We see the return of a lot of familiar characters and Bond is back at it again. Check it out if you have the time to commit to it.

Links of the Week:
Ludovico Technique – Beyond Therapy
Ke$ha – Dinosaur
JY Park ft. Conan O’Brien & Steven Yeun & Jimin Park – Fire
TWRP – Makin’ a Move
The Cypher Effect – Hannah / Crystle Lightning / Kiddo / Alyssa Marie

Weekly Updates:
– Still so much Youtube
– Also a lot of pro-Wrestling
– This week’s theme is obviously “Spies”
– I still haven’t seen Zootopia
– I have stood by my vow not to see Batman v. Superman in theaters
– Civil War is coming! Cap! Iron Man! Spidey! Black Panther!
– The themes lately have fallen into my lap

Léon: The Professional

April 14, 2016

Alright, how about we talk about the elephant in the room before we get into the nitty gritty here? They say that holding things in is not healthy and besides, not talking about the big issue will distract from the rest of the review. You will be waiting for it and I will be holding it back and you will be skimming everything that comes before it. You are skimming right now, aren’t you? Of course, I am talking about the famous line delivery of “Everyone!” by Gary Oldman. I have seen it mocked over and over in various spotlights of bad or silly line deliveries. The clip is pretty funny but it is just one facet of this movie. You should not judge this movie based on that one fact as I tried my best not to. Wait, did you think I was talking about the controversial part that Natalie Portman played? We’ll talk about that in a bit.

The movie is directed by Luc Besson, a french director that I have come to appreciate greatly even though he earned me as a fan back in 1997. That is the year that The Fifth Element came out which was a movie I absolutely adored and I have seen it several times over. Besson also did Run Lola Run which is an action cult classic movie that I also enjoyed. I have not yet seen all of Besson’s stuff but it is actually one of my goals. His understanding of action scenes is right up there with Woo, Tarantino and may of the great stunt spectacular directors. There is also a lot of touching human emotion in what I have seen of his work.

A lot of the action parts of the movie are silly in all the best ways. Leon is a ruthless killer who is almost supernatural in skill. He is a very cool customer in high contrast to Jean Reno’s other appearances in movies widely released in the United States. I mean, it’s a far cry from what you may have seen in 1998’s Godzilla. He is a badass killer but he has an interesting sense of humor that you might not catch if you were in the wrong mood. And yet, there’s a side to him that still embraces humanity and yearns for a little happiness. He’s a secret goofball. This actually plays really well and the character is very balanced. The way his character works is crucial to the three-part formula of this movie.

Natalie Portman is an interesting little creature in this movie. She is playing an eleven-year-old who is full of deep-seated ennui before the movie starts. She is an abused girl who feels neglected by life but not the maudlin little Dickens character you might expect. There is an intense sadness in her that is often hidden behind anger and a slight sense of humor. When the movie starts she is starving for attention but, like the Roald Dahl character of the same name, she is largely ignored by her family. There is some critical response to her character’s relationship with the older Leon but I don’t see a problem. She forms a unique bond with Leon but it’s more like friendship and family than anything untoward. The bond is intimate and there are certainly some iffy moments but reading anything else into it is kind of insulting.

Gary Oldman is a national treasure in this movie. Of course, which nation is up for grabs since this is ostensibly a French film. His character is insanity. I thought that Heath Ledger had captured insanity with the Joker. As good as that performance was, Oldman is so much better. He is barely contained insanity that could lash out at anybody around him which includes the thugs who work for him. His character is a joy to watch but you end up worried about what he will do next. He is a great villain in that he absolutely believes the horrible things he does are the right thing to do. While the clip below may seem over the top (and it is) it does grow organically from the monster Norman Stansfield is.

The soundtrack is absolutely a delight to listen to while watching the movie but Besson always has well-composed soundtracks. It is listed as a crime thriller but I think that is a misnomer even though I see those elements in it too. The movie shifts genres as it rolls along which makes it a great watch. Still, it is a hard movie to classify. Go check it out for yourself, I definitely recommend it.

The Key Part 11

April 13, 2016

The Key

Robin stumbled out onto the pavement and punched the alley wall.  She felt so helpless but so grateful to be out in the open air of the city again.  Her world had never been normal but it had been normal for her.  Now she was learning how strange things had been while she had turned a blind eye to it.  She had no idea which way was up anymore.

She walked along the alley and there was R, leaning against the wall.  He looked a little like a puppet with cut strings.  When she got near him, he looked up and for some reason, she thought he would bark.  He did not do that.  Instead, he pushed himself to his feet.

“Robin!  I looked everywhere for you.  Something told me that here would be where I should wait,” R said.  He brushed himself off but it looked he still had some dusting of broken glass on his coat.

“I’m tired of all this Nightmare on Charles Street bullshit!” She yelled at everybody and nobody.

“Are you alright?”  R asked and something in his eyes made Robin calm down a little.

“No. I’ll never be alright again,”  Robin said.

“What happened?”  He asked.  He reached out to her but she stepped even further out of reach.

“Let’s just say I think I know where the tattoos come from and I want to throw up.  Where’s my car?  The damage is bad, huh?”  Robin asked with no small amount of sarcasm.  She wanted to change the subject but there was no cheerier subject.

“It’s completely gone.”  R said.

“Well, it was being crushed when I ran.  I guessed it would be totaled.  Crap!”  She said and kicked a loose piece of concrete.

“Well, yeah that’s probably right but it’s just vanished too,” He said.  He was looking at her like he was afraid she might explode again.  “There’s not even broken glass on the street.”

Robin just stared at him for a few moments.  “What?  Oh great.  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.  The weird stuff keeps happening.”  She walked toward the front of the building and R followed.  The street was absolutely empty and the street lights were working again.  It was as if the attack had never happened.  She had half expected the car to be pristine and waiting for them there but it was indeed gone.

“When you ran, I tried to follow.  Before I could reach the building, something huge swatted me.  I flew through that window,”  R said.  He pointed toward a window that looked clean and untouched.

Robin looked up at that.  “Jeez, are you alright?”

“The coat stopped the broken glass and I’m just bruised a lot.  But thanks for asking,”  R said.

“I’m a little too self-centered sometimes.  I forget this horrible crap isn’t just hitting me, it’s happening to people like you too.  What happened then?”  She asked.

“The building kind of coughed me back out onto the pavement.  I tried the door and it was locked and then that thing swatted me again, this time into the alley.”

“You didn’t want to be in that building trust me.”

“Well, it wasn’t a picnic out here either.  I woke up in the alley and started investigating the situation.  Unfortunately, there was not much worth investigating. So I waited for you.”  R said.

“Well. I’ve had enough of the forces of darkness for tonight.  I don’t know if I can sleep but I’m so tired,” She said with a yawn and a scowl.

“Where do you want to go?  Back to check in on the, um, ladies?”  R asked.

“Oh hell no.  I can’t deal with that anymore today.”

“Well then, where do we go instead?”  R asked.

“My place should be relatively safe now.”

“Are you asking me over to your place?”  R asked with a bit of a smirk.

“Don’t get any ideas,” Robin said but she did grin just a litle bit.

“Alright.  How do we get there without a car?”  R asked.

“I’ll call an uber.  A few people have tipped me free rides, actually.” Robin said and pulled her phone out.   The battery was completely dead.

“Damn it!  That stupid spider trap took so long that my cell is dead.  I guess we’re walking until we see a taxi,”  Robin said without explanation.

They started to walk down the deserted street.  As they approached a parked car, Robin was struck with a sudden wave of nausea.  She stumbled and leaned on the car and she felt a sharp pain behind her ear.  The car made a loud ker-chunk sound as all four doors unlocked.  Robin stared dumbly at the car.  The nausea had passed.  R watched from a few steps away.

“It was the key,”  Robin said before R could ask.

“The what?” R asked.

Robin brushed her hair aside and showed the tiny key tattoo behind her ear.  “I’ve had it since I was a baby.  Bad parenting.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure,” R said.  “Are we meant to take the car?”

“Meant to?  I don’t know if I believe in ‘meant to’ but we’re taking it because I’m tired,”  Robin said.

They got into the car and, after a moment, Robin held her hand over the ignition.  There was a sharp pain again and the car started up.

Jazz

April 12, 2016

I like Jazz music a lot. It was some of the first music that I used to expand my horizons beyond what was popular when I was a kid and what my parents were listening to. The genre has become connected with Thanksgiving and Christmas as it is neutral music that the whole family can listen to. Jazz is also often the ultimate chill music because even the hottest jazz can make me feel peaceful. So let’s explore some pieces that were formative in my jazz education.


Scott Joplin – Maple Leaf Rag

I remember being loaned a history of Jazz cd from our library in my freshman year of high school. I don’t remember why the librarian handed it to me but I don’t remember asking for it. I copied it and I remember listening to that CD all the time. I remember lying in bed and listening to this track over and over and just trying to let the teen angst drain out of me. Later I would fall in love with the soundtrack from The Sting.


Ella Fitzgerald – Blue Skies

I discovered Ella in a music class during high school. By this point (and later in college) music classes were largely spent sitting and listening to music and having a teacher explain it to us. It was both the easiest and the hardest class sometimes. Anyway, one day we sat listened to jazz music and we listened to Billie Holiday who I liked but I really liked Ella Fitzgerald. She has a certain joy to her voice that is absolutely inspiring.


Kenny Burrell – Chitlins Con Carne

At some point, I was introduced to stuff beyond elementary Jazz by my friend Cooper. I always thought that Cooper was a bit of a Jazz snob but I realize now that he was just passionate about what he liked. He tried to educate me and I did like just about everything he gave me. Kenny Burrell made great, cool Jazz and I really liked discovering him. I may not have liked the more experimental stuff I was taught but I appreciate the education.


Sara Vaughn – Speak Low

When I went off to college, I went into a theater program where I studied how to be the best stage manager that I could be. While that was fun at first, I much preferred the design and production track and I found myself spending a lot of time there. I started to hang out in the sound studio and learned to become a bit of a professional sound designer. I worked on a 1920’s version of As You Like It and so I listened to a lot of Kurt Weill because the director was obsessed with this one song. Of course, Weill was a gateway to more theatrical jazz that is just great stuff.


The Oneups – Green Hill Zone

So I already told the story of my Magfest 2016 trip back in February and how I was going to attend a Ninja Sex Party/Tupperware Remix Party concert. While I was waiting for them to hit the stage a group called the Oneups hit the stage. It was a video game and music festival but it was the last place I thought I would encounter jazz music. It just goes to show you that even video game music can be jazz in the hands of the right musicians. Jazz is everywhere and so varied. Go out and find some good stuff.

I was going to end this post right here but in the interest of proving my point about always discovering new music I pushed a little deeper. I thought I’d randomly pull up three tracks that are new to me.

Pharoah Sanders – You’ve Got To Have Freedom

David Gilmour – The Girl in the Yellow Dress

Crusaders – My Lady


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