Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Hostiles

Cedar season is once again upon us and as you can imagine, it has absolutely floored me! I can’t see, breathe, smell, or feel anything but pain! And because it has completely incapacitated me, I’ve had plenty of time to reflect on the past; most of which has brought back some pretty sad memories. I looked back and realized that most of the people that I considered to be my heroes in life have either turned out to be complete scrubs, creeps, or in some cases both! And it was upon this realization that I immediately became angry and refused to acknowledge any positive contribution they’ve made to society. But as is always the case with me, I, for whatever reason, cannot hold a grudge! I start off on fire but I inevitably cave in and wind up forgiving them after simply sipping on a beer or two and listening to an old school Radiohead album.

We all know what allegedly happened between Michael Jackson and those kids at that ranch of his but after thinking about it for a bit, I figured if something awful like that really took place, there’s no way in hell a Macaulay Culkin would have ended up with Mila Kulnis. After an experience like that, you either turn into Pee Wee Herman and get caught jerking off in a porn theater or you end up married to Oprah Winfrey and wind up jerking off in your own private theater, while Gayle watches of course; there really is no in between. And while neither of those actually sound all that bad, they are still a far cry from the Russian beauty that is Kulnis!

Bill Cosby is yet another hero of mine who let me down but he also gave me Lisa Bonet so that automatically gives him a free pass. Now Christian Bale’s antics on the other hand, took quite a bit longer for me to forgive and forget. Is it simply because he’s a pompous white male? No but that certainly is a fair question for you to ask. It took me longer to forgive Bale because he played the role of Batman, yet another childhood hero of mine. Was he the best Batman ever? No but The Dark Knight is easily the best Batman film to ever grace the big screen and you certainly expect someone who is a part of something that big to carry themselves in a respectable manner. You can’t be caught on camera berating the behind the scenes people who helped you get your $15 million per movie. Now is this the same as getting little kids drunk or serving women roofi coladas just so they’ll have sex with you? No but neither of those actions led to the making of Terminator Salvation! How can you ruin the Terminator franchise with just one film?!?! It’s an American treasure; the Sci-Fi version of Huck Finn! This is nearly an impossible feat!

Well once I ran into Bale at the Austin City Limits Music Festival and witnessed just how awesome he was being to a little kid who simply wanted to meet Batman, I immediately forgot about his tirade and forgave the guy who also ruined Michael Mann’s (Heat, Last of the Mohicans) career with his performance in Public Enemies. And this is what the movie Hostiles is all about; facing those who have done you wrong and trying to find it in your heart to forgive them. In Hostiles, writer/director Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart, Black Mass) gives us a Western that is not only beautifully shot but is also reflective and atmospheric. And instead of simply copying some of its genre’s most world renowned classics, he instead uses those films as inspiration to build off of.

In it, Bale plays Captain Joseph J. Blocker, a Union soldier who is visibly worn down and almost defeated after years of war and corralling hostile Native Americans in the Western United States. He has become a legend of sorts for both his acts in the field of battle and for taking down some of the country’s fiercest tribal leaders, one of which happens to be his biggest rival, Chief Yellow Hawk. Hawk has killed and scalped some of Blocker’s closest friends while also brutally murdering anyone he and his tribe considered to be invaders of their land. Now some would argue that they had every right to do so seeing as how this land belonged to them in the first place but for Blocker, political reasons didn’t play a role in his feelings at all. All he witnessed was the death of his friends and the savage murder of innocent women and children. So this is purely personal for him. Well as fate would have it, his final assignment as a member of the U.S. army is to escort Yellow Hawk and his family back to their homeland so that he can die in peace. This is strictly a P.R. move for a country that is facing its fair share of scrutiny for the way it has handled Native Americans in both the taking of their land and the treatment of them after their capture.

Well as you can imagine, the icy relationship that exists between the two almost comes to a head on many occasions but once they run into Rosalie Quaid (Rosamund Pike), a recently widowed woman who had to witness the brutal murder her entire family by an Apache tribe, Blocker is forced to reconsider his view of Hawk. This blood thirsty tribe is still out there and they have proven that they don’t live by an honorable code of any sort; so they will kill anyone who gets in the way of whatever it is that they want. Does Blocker continue to treat Hawk like a dangerous prisoner who can kill him at any moment or can he trust him and his family to help him fight off these wild Apaches?

Now keep in mind what I mentioned earlier, this is not your traditional Western; it takes its time in telling its story and sometimes it simply uses shots of the landscape to help in doing so. There are some killer shootout scenes in it but there are also quite a few moments where the film seemingly creeps its way to a slow halt. Perhaps a better editing team could have helped in this regard but it’s not like you’re watching the four and half hour long Dances with Wolves or the 10 hour long Wyatt Earp; you’re watching a wonderfully told story of love, family, regret, and forgiveness all wrapped in one!

I must admit that it’s refreshing to not see a Western that has Johnny Depp playing the role of an Indian with a stupid dead bird on his head! I mean, seriously, I think he had one too many go rounds with the peyote out there at The Joshua Tree. So once you take into account the fact that Hollywood didn’t force any of its typical racism in this film, you can’t help but give Hostiles a rating of FRESH!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

I, Tonya

Everyone always talks about how weird the 80’s were but I think that’s only because we were so full of anger and angst during the 90’s that when bizarre stuff actually went down during that decade, we chose to immediately condemn it rather than simply appreciating it for its beauty. For instance, I was one of the few who actually appreciated the awful but awesome RnB group, Color Me Badd! And yes, that’s Badd with two D’s because their music had that much of an effect on the ladies; if you know what I mean. This group had everything you could ever want in a young professionals boy band, including amazing song titles like I Wanna Sex You Up and I Adore, Me Amore. They also represented the very best of America at the time. They had the Black guy with dreads who looked like a bigger version of Chappelle’s Jamaican stoner in Half Baked, "I’m from the beach, booooooy!" They had the Don Johnson look-a-like with the permanent 5 o’clock shadow, a wannabe reject from the hip hop group 3 rd Base, and of course a pasty white guy who rocked a ponytail and a pirate shirt.

Now while most people hated on the dude with the pirate shirt, I had to give him mad props. Do you know the kind of balls it takes to rock a ponytail AND a pirate shirt?!?! I’ve only seen one other man come close to such greatness and that was when MC Hammer rocked the greasy Jeri Curl mullet and Hammer pants; his personal ode to Patrick Swayze when he paired the OG mullet with tight sweat pants in Roadhouse.

Well the point of all of this is that we didn’t truly appreciate all that Tonya Harding brought to our lives when her idiot associates decided to break Nancy Kerrigan’s knee just outside the skating rink on that unbelievable day. Their hope was that this would give Tonya a free path to competing in the Olympics in the event’s most watched sport at the time. I know that it’s hard to believe now but everyone loved figure skating at the time; watching young women skating to the sound of symphonies while dressed up in half bathing suits/half formal dresses was the highlight of your winter. It was a sport for high society and only people of a certain ilk were allowed to be a part of it on this level. And this is why everyone was in awe when Harding and her bat shit crazy family tried to literally bully their way in. It was like the white trash version of Goodfellas but on ice! But once the video of Kerrigan was on the television of every household in America, it was a wrap for poor Harding; she was instantly hated by everyone and at the same time became the butt of every comedian’s jokes.

Well in I, Tonya, director Craig Gillespie (Lars and the Real Girl) tells the side of Harding’s story that no one ever cared to listen to back in the day. He shows you how her crazy mother (played by Allison Janney) almost turned her love for skating into a nightmare by pushing her too hard and practically sabotaging every relationship she tried to form, including her relationship with her coach and her first ever boyfriend, a boy who eventually became her husband.

You also see how she fought to overcome her socioeconomic status to even be considered on the same level of skaters who weren’t nearly as talented as her but fit the overall profile that American judges were looking for at the time. It was a little heartbreaking really because all she ever wanted to do was skate and feel some sense of normalcy but that’s hard to do when your father had you hunting for rabbits so you could make your own fur coat or when your mother’s best friend is a parakeet that literally lived on her shoulder like she was the female version of Popeye.

Gillespie does an amazing job of capturing just how odd, tragically funny, and surreal this whole ordeal was. And I’m talking about everything that happened in her life before the incident. Things went up another notch after the knee breaking episode. The fact that she was still allowed to compete, that she missed the Opening ceremonies, her laces broke while trying to compete, and that her bodyguard went on national television and claimed to be an international spy makes it seem as if this was nothing more than some dark Saturday Night Live skit on a random weekend. But sadly all of this actually happened and reliving it made me feel like an idiot for not truly appreciating what I was living through at the time. However I must admit that I also felt like a sheep for falling in line with the rest of the world and instantly hating Harding mainly because I was told to do so. Now I’m not saying that this film will make you become a Harding apologist but I am saying that it will at least make you hear the other side for a change; something I think this country is in dire need of at the moment.

Margot Robbie is a bona fide star and her performance alone makes this film worth watching. I give I, Tonya a rating of VERY FRESH!
 

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Molly's Game

I am so thankful that my gambling days are finally behind me. I’ll never forget the day that I got hooked; it was like something out of one of those crappy After School Specials. I’m not quite sure how any of us really knew this guy because he didn’t go to our school or hang out in any of our circles but it was as if he just magically appeared out of thin air in our living room one day like some greasy Guido genie. He sat in the Lazy Boy chair of our apartment in between our classes (he somehow knew our schedules), and started reading off the lines of the coming weekend’s games. Next thing I know, I have $50 of my hard earned college money on Ricky Williams and UT to cover a 10 point spread against UTEP. Well wouldn’t you know it; I actually won! And after that I found myself betting every weekend and making shady calls into some random number while placing bets with a guy who I’m 100% certain looked like Drax from The Guardians of the Galaxy. But as I’m sure you’ve already guessed by now, it was just a matter of time before I wound up losing every weekend.

My lowest point came when I was in Vegas betting on my favorite team, the Dallas Cowboys, a well-known no-no in gambling at the time, and they not only lost the game but didn’t cover in the most improbable of ways. So there I was already drunk in the early morning, laying in the middle of the giant floor of the sports betting area as people literally stepped over me while laughing on their way to collect their winnings. And it was in this moment that I realized that I should probably just go back to my days of playing drinking games with my roommate while blasting random RnB artists like Barry White from our stereo. What can I say, we were pretty weird back then.

Well seeing Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut in Molly’s Game brought back all of those terrible memories for me. This film is the real life story of Molly Bloom, a single woman who wound up running two of the nation’s biggest and most exclusive high stakes poker games in history. She found her way into this shady underworld after failing, in of the most painful ways, to qualify for the Olympics. And after experiencing what she considered to be the lowest point in her life, she decided to take some time off before going to law school. And while she worked as the personal assistant for one of the biggest douchebags in L.A. she found herself running one his underground poker games which included some of the biggest names in Hollywood. It wasn’t long before she learned the ropes of the poker world and decided to break out on her own with of the game’s best players, Player X.

At first, things were going well until one day Molly found out that Player X was up to some shady antics. And after confronting him about it, his ego took over and he ultimately took the game away from her. But Molly was determined to keep her new lifestyle, so she decided to take her skills and her game to New York where she’s dealing with businessmen and Russians who turn out to be linked to the mafia. And this is where things started to take a turn for the worse.

Idris Elba plays Molly’s lawyer who is working the court system to the best of his ability to help get her off with as light of a sentence as possible. He reluctantly takes the case but eventually does so after realizing that she wasn’t as awful of a person as the tabloids were painting her out to be. Or at least that’s what writer/director Sorkin wants us to believe. If you’ve ever seen a Sorkin film (A Few Good Men, The Social Network) then you know going in to expect a lot of preachy and snappy dialogue; and Molly’s Game turns out to be no different. He doesn’t quite paint Molly as a slightly misguided saint but he comes pretty damn close. And to her credit, Jessica Chastain does an amazing job of showing you the real woman who was behind some of these questionable decisions. Was she an enabler of one of life’s most addicting habits? Yes but at least she never sold out her clients for money.

The acting and the intrigue of seeing some of Hollywood’s elite turn into complete jerks (Player X is actually Tobey Maguire in real life) is what makes this movie stand out. Elba and Chastain have great chemistry and Michael Cera actually nails the character of Player X. He’s the scariest kind of evil because to him, treating people badly is the same as eating a bowl of cereal in the morning; it’s really just a part of his mundane daily routine. And again, it’s Sorkin, so you know the writing is on point, even if it does sound like you’re attending one of those traveling revivals in a tent in the middle of the country somewhere.

In the end, I thoroughly enjoyed this film and I give it a rating of pretty FRESH!

Friday, December 29, 2017

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

I’ve had some pretty low moments in my lifetime but few beat the early morning or late night moment I had recently when I seriously spent 20 minutes looking for the piece of pizza that I had just eaten. Apparently I passed out after attempting to convince my friends to come over and keep the party going at 3 in the morning and in the process had forgotten that I had just engulfed the last slice of Via 313 in my fridge. Now in my defense, Via is the Chick Fil-A of pizza; it’s crack that will have people lining up for it a 2 in the afternoon on a Saturday! So I couldn’t help but crave it seeing as how my body was going through withdrawals! But alas, I just had to let that and any prospect of hooking up go as I decided to once again pass out and call it a night.

Well this is what poor Mildred (Frances McDormand) had to be feeling over the tragic and horrific loss of her daughter in Martin McDonough’s latest, Three Billboards. And yes, I know that on the surface the two seem like a ridiculous comparison but you’ve never had Via 313 before!

In Billboards, Mildred is dealing with the grief of losing her teenage daughter after someone raped and killed her while she was burning alive. As I’m sure you can imagine, just losing your daughter is bad enough but to lose them to this type of heinous act is unconscionable. Now I’m sure there are a few of you reading this who are thinking to yourself that this storyline already seems over the top but you forget that Ebbing, Missouri is in the title and that the country is a weird, weird place! I have a buddy who was the assistant D.A. in country Colorado and I’ve heard stories that I’ll unfortunately never forget, so to me this story is anything but far-fetched.

But this kind of dark material is the norm for McDonough as he always finds a way to put life’s darkest moments on screen. Thankfully for us, he does so in a rather digestible manner as he also incorporates quite a bit of humor in his stories. And while this isn’t as funny as In Bruges or Seven Psychopaths were, it still has a decent enough balance to keep you from subconsciously slitting your own wrists while watching it.

Mildred can’t get over the fact that it’s been a year since her daughter was killed and the local police don’t seem to have any decent leads on who the killer was. She feels as though it has become a forgotten case at this point and that she will never have any closure in her life. So she decides to rent three billboards on a little used highway to voice her displeasure over their apparent lack of progress. The billboards specifically call out the town’s Chief of Police Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) who is loved by almost everyone town. I say almost because there are a few minorities who have an issue with him employing the racist hothead Dixon (Sam Rockwell) who not only abused a Black man who was in his custody but is also just a general asshole to anyone who doesn’t look or act like him. More on him later.

The billboards cause quite a stir as people, including Mildred’s son and ex-husband, are once again reminded of something they are trying to forget. And tensions rise as the town feels the need to defend Willoughby, who at one point really did try to solve the case. But the stubborn and determined Mildred will not back down at all as she’s a walking, talking bull in a China shop. And she will not let anyone or anything deter her from lighting a fire (in one case, literally) under the police department until she finds justice.

McDormand is as solid as they come playing the tough as nails mother who is trying her best to hold it together as she attempts to find a resolution by any means necessary. It’s a seemingly perfect marriage between her and McDonough as she spits out his dialogue with such rapid fire and fury that she makes you want to take on the police department yourself. And every time she confronts anyone who tries to get in her way, it’s like you’re rooting for your favorite underdog WWE wrestler. Sure she may go a little overboard at times and she may even do a few things you as an outsider may think twice about but her daughter’s dead and she wants answers; something I’m sure we can all identify with.

Sam Rockwell however is the wild card in this story. If Mildred is the wrestler that you’re rooting for, he is assuredly the villain that you’re rooting against. He’s a momma’s boy who gives in to every impulse that pops in his head and his actions do nothing but make matters worse for Mildred and the community as a whole. Will Willoughby’s blind loyalty to him be he and Mildred’s downfall?

While I thoroughly enjoyed this film, it’s definitely a punch to the gut. There’s so much pain these characters have to deal with that at some point it almost becomes too much. But the story and the acting in it are so good that I believe it’s almost required viewing at this point. It shows both the wrong and the right ways to deal with loss and grief and that no matter what you’ve done in life, there’s always a chance for redemption or resolution. I rate this movie as FRESH and I hope that McDormand, Rockwell, and Harrelson all get Oscar nominations for their performances.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

As I watched for the first time this week what most would consider to be American classics in Robert Deniro’s Raging Bull and Beyonce’s Lemonade, I wondered to myself, "Would I even like the original Star Wars movies if I was just seeing them for the first time as an adult?" I mean, characters like Han Solo, R2D2, Yoda, and of course Billy Dee Williams (who cares what his character’s name was) will always stand the test of time. But looking back, it took a while for me to like Luke because he was kind of a whiny little bitch in A New Hope. And along those some lines, furry giants like Chewbacca and furry midgets like the Ewoks might have been a little disturbing at first but I would have eventually come around on them as well. But we all know that the first time Darth Vader graced the screen with his cool voice and evil death grip, I would’ve instantly been sold. Sure there’s a ton of cheesiness in these films but there’s a reason why The Godfather is the greatest American trilogy alive and Star Wars is the world’s greatest trilogy; everyone can find something they love and identify with in these films.

Maybe this is why I can’t fully get on board with the last two installments of The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. Rogue One is probably the third best of any of the Star Wars movies because unlike TFA, it actually added something to the franchise while giving a nod to its predecessors, instead of just copying A New Hope’s storyline word for word. The Last Jedi did add quite a bit, most of which I liked, but the flaws in this film are so glaring that they overshadow any good that came out of it.

Now this review is mainly for those who have already seen the film so I won’t spend much time giving you a synopsis of the plot; but for those who haven’t, here’s basically what you’re getting yourself into. The First Order is on the attack after finding out the whereabouts of The Resistance; and for the most part they have them cornered and on the verge of destruction. That is until hot shot Poe Dameron somehow outsmarts them and destroys all of their big guns to help buy The Resistance some time; or so he thinks. The First Order has found a way to track their enemy through light speed, which basically means it’s impossible to escape them. So now The Resistance must find a way to stave them off long enough to regroup and reestablish a potent army.

Everything up until this point I am ok with. I am even ok, for the most part, with the 45 minute subplot that involved Finn and the socially awkward tech/engineer Rose sneaking off to a random planet with the hopes of finding the master code breaker. They need his help to break into and disable The First Order’s revolutionary tracking device to help keep The Resistance alive. Now the problem I do have is not only the fact that this subplot is 45 minutes long but that it shows that we as a society are still stuck in the 1960’s. Forget for a moment that their little adventure wound up being completely pointless, what I’m more concerned with is that it showed that Disney has no spine.

They didn’t back down when the internet lost its collective mind over the fact that there was a Black Stormtrooper but they did cave in when people started complaining that said Black trooper and the movie’s white female lead in Rey were falling for each other. Did they not realize that people in Alabama just got the internet like a year and a half ago? Of course they’re going to troll the message boards! What else are they going to do in between Alabama football games? So what does Disney do after spending the entire first film setting up Rey and Fin? They force another love interest on him because Black and Asian is cool but not Black and White. If only Michael Jackson was alive to see this! I mean, really??? It’s ok for a giant fat lizard like Jabba the Hut to have Leia as a sex slave but a Black guy, well that’s taking it a little too far! Although my buddy did have an awesome take on this when he said "Please! Fin is just happy to get the attention of any girl. Janitors in the First Order get no play!" See, I think he’s wrong, I think Captain Phasma was so sexually frustrated that she would’ve pulled Matt Lauer, locked the door, and made him do a little late night cleaning; if you know what I mean. Now before you start complaining, yes, I totally realize that they could be setting up a love triangle that will work itself out in the third but even if they do, was it really worth almost ruining the second film to force this storyline? The answer is no.

But outside of this, there were bigger issues. I know I said that Luke was kind of a little bitch in A New Hope but you would think that after saving the galaxy and having a universe of groupies at his disposal, he’d put that behind him and finally turn into the man. Even after failing at his attempt to set up a Jedi school, he still had an entire planet to himself that came with his own little minions and fresh milk from the teat of some weird looking animal. Well instead we get more whining about how religious leaders who are in political control allow their hubris to get the best of them and ultimately fail. Thanks for your religious and political views writer/director Rian Johnson but this is a Star Wars film, stick to light sabers and gender confused robots like C-3PO. Luke tried to be cool at the end but instead he went out like a little scrub after Yoda talked shit to him and he used too much of the force. I guess if you use too much of the force, you just disintegrate? At least Obi Wan went out like a straight G! Oh well, that was yet another 25-30 minutes of wasted screen time. Make Luke fresh! At least give the dude one cool light saber scene before he goes away. Instead, they for some reason decide to keep Leia alive by turning her into Superwoman. She’s the only human alive who can fly through space without a spacesuit after being blown up in an explosion. I cannot express how hokey this scene was.

I have a few more issues like Kylo continuing to be a little shouting brat who sucks at using the Force but I’ll stop there. There were some cool parts like the weird connection that existed between Kylo Ren and Rey. The fact that they were able to communicate via the force was a cool little wrinkle and a welcomed addition to the franchise. Also the scene where Rey and Kylo take out Snoke was by far the coolest thing I’ve seen since Spaceballs the Flamethrower! And from a visual standpoint, this film is breathtaking. Every scene on the salt planet was cool with the red residue and the salt jackals or whatever they were. And the weird birdlike animals that befriended Chewbacca were adorable; something that every kid will love. So all wasn’t lost in this film, especially when you consider the fact that there will be a generation of kids who will grow up wanting to be the next Rey or Fin; it’s just too bad they won’t think that a relationship between the two of them is a realistic possibility.

This film probably requires multiple viewings but it’s going to be quite some time before I invest 2 and a half hours again. If only they had that one badass moment that everyone could take away from it like Empire did. "Luke, I am your father!" was something that made up for quite a few issues in that film but sadly, that moment never materialized in Last Jedi and that is why I rate this film as WEAK!
 

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Shape of Water

"I am human and I need to be looooooooved! Just like everybody else does!" For those of you who have never heard The Smith’s song How Soon is Now, do yourself a favor and check out what my friend calls the most uplifting yet depressing song ever recorded. Most of the music in the song makes you think of a fun time but the crying guitar and the lyrics that accompany it make you want to sulk in a dark corner with a razor blade and a chocolate bar. "There’s a club if you’d like to go, you could meet someone who really loves you. So you go and stand on your own, and you leave on your own, and you go home and you cry and you want to die"

Now naturally this is my favorite song of theirs; not because I never get any love in the club like Ice Cube but because I grew up a decade too soon. And this is important because anyone who has ever read any of my reviews knows that due to the transcendent acting skills of the Cinemax softcore porn queen Shannon Tweed, I have an affinity for white blonde girls with big boobs; it’s just a part of my DNA now. But growing up in the 90’s and in Texas, it was still a little taboo for a black man and a white woman to hook up. I mean, you could do so on the down low but when it came time to finally meet the parents, you would always hear that slow gospel music playing in the background while walking up to a house in the country that had a burning cross and dudes in white sheets standing in front of it. That’s why I never felt sorry for Ben Stiller in that stupid movie of his, if he thought Bobby Deniro lost his cool over him losing his cat while it was in his possession, then there’s no way he could handle how Jethro Tull felt after he saw his daughter lose her virginity while it was in my possession! I must admit though that I wanted to Crypt Walk every time I saw their faces. "That’s right son! Pay back for slavery!" And yes, I know that Jethro Tull is British but it’s such a country name that works here. And no, I don’t really think I own a girl’s virginity, these are just jokes…for the most part.

What was really sad was the fact that no matter how much we loved each other, her parents never saw me as an actual human being. Oh, if I was holding a football for their favorite team or working for their construction company while going home to my Black girlfriend, then everything was fine but once I crossed the proverbial line, so to speak, all bets were off!

Well this speaks to why I and anyone who has ever felt rejected by humanity can connect with Guillermo’s del Toro’s The Shape of Water. In it you meet Elisa Esposito, who was played by the wonderful Sally Hawkins in an Oscar worthy performance. Elisa is a mute janitor who works in a secret government facility. For the most part she goes unnoticed by most of society with the exception of her neighbor and in the closet gay friend Giles (Richard Jenkins) and her coworker and de facto translator Zelda (Octavia Spencer). Every day she goes through the same boring routine finding simple pleasures where she can in musicals, daydreams, or early morning masturbation (you’re sold now, right?). She seemingly has accepted the fact that she will never be seen as normal but strives to help her neighbor Giles finally achieve his dreams and become comfortable in who he is. Life is just hard for them and Zelda as they live in the middle of Cold War America where if the color of your shoes are too red you could be brought up on charges, let alone date someone of the same gender or of a different race or even species. Species, you ask?

Yes, one day the overly ambitious bully Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon) brings into Elisa’s secret lab a mysterious amphibian man who is instantly classified as dangerous. Is it a potential weapon or is it simply a scientific experiment? Either way, this thing must be kept from the public until they know what to do with it. Well little did Strickland know that Elisa would be the one to finally strike a connection with the creature while cleaning the lab at night. And in doing so, she finds out that he can not only communicate but is also able to express humanlike emotion. She finally has found someone who sees her for who she really is! This not only lights a fire in her but once again gives her hope for what life has in store for her. The problem lies in Strickland, will he destroy the Amphibian Man or even her if he finds out about the two of them?

Now I know this sounds like an odd children’s story gone awry, and to a certain extent it is as that’s del Toro’s MO, but this love story is a metaphor for humanity’s struggle to overcome societal norms. We all have to fight to become comfortable with the things that make us unique in life and we will always face someone or something that wants to destroy or get rid of anything it doesn’t understand. Are there some scenes that will make you uncomfortable? Well yes, but that’s the point as del Toro wants you to force yourself to get past what you consider normal and open your mind to new possibilities. He just goes to what can be considered extremes by using another species. True love can be found in many forms and in the process can make you and those around you better people.

I really liked this odd film and I think you will too! I give it a rating of FRESH!
 

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Lady Bird

Let me first start off by saying that I’ve loved Greta Gerwig for close to a decade now! No, I don’t happen to be a pale skinned white woman who lives in Brooklyn and dates a hipster indie director to up my street cred but I do totally identify with her lust for life. She’s an artistically inclined butterfly that was forced to grow up in a small cow town that would rather deep fry a butterfly than appreciate its beauty. And if you know anything about me, then you’d know that I also grew up in a cow town that would deep fry someone like me in a second if they could legally get away with it; but I’m sorry to break it to V-town, the 60’s were a looooong time ago. And as you can see, just talking about Greta has me already making references to artistically inclined butterflies and beauty; normally the kind of stuff I’d break out when quoting Thom Yorke lyrics from his weird side projects.

But I have to admit that when I first saw the trailer for her directorial debut in Lady Bird, I said to myself "That may be a just a little too white for me." But it’s Greta so I had to pop in! And of course I was the only black male in the theater outside of the janitor who was sweeping the floors and even he looked at me puzzled and said "Yo dawg, Tyler Perry’s Madea Boo 2 is showing at the theater ACROSS the street; not here!" Ok, so maybe that last part didn’t actually happen but that’s only because I wore a hoodie over my head so no one would recognize me or see my face on the way in. But once I finally settled in and got comfortable with my inner white girl, I was able to enjoy what I saw.

Everyone remembers their senior year and how difficult it was. Sure, the parties were fun, you no longer cared about getting good grades, and you finally got that hand job from Jessica in Art class but your home life was a mess. You couldn’t wait to get out of the house and be on your own, especially if you lived in a small, nothing town. But just getting out of the house wasn’t enough, you also wanted to go to the college of your dreams, one that probably cost a ton of money to go to and was nearly impossible to get in; especially when you consider the fact that you didn’t start caring about standardized tests until those rejection letters started pouring in. So naturally your stress level was high.

Well your parents were also stressing during this time because they were about to lose their baby; one who seemingly showed no appreciation for all the sacrifices they made for you over the years. They worked hard to provide you every advantage possible in the world and in the process probably gave up on their dreams to do so. So they had to be thinking to themselves, is this what life is all about; stressing over bills, college tuition, and having fights about being out of touch?

Well this is what Lady Bird is all about; capturing all of these moments that nearly every one of any age can identify with. Christine aka Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan) is a senior in high school who wants to get as far away from boring Sacramento as humanly possible. She feels like she cannot truly live and become the person she was meant to be as there’s no true culture or life there and there certainly isn’t anything that will let her explore her artistic side; that is until she finally discovers that there’s a drama club at her school (more on this later). Her mom (Laurie Metcalf) wants her to stay in state because it’s cheaper to go to school and she will still be able to see her on a regular basis. This, as you can imagine, creates tension between the two especially after Lady Bird’s father loses his job in a community that’s not exactly a hot bed for thriving new businesses.

And the fact that they are struggling financially makes it hard for Lady Bird to fit in at her school because she goes to a rich private school where everyone is for the most part walking around with a silver spoon sticking out of their mouths. Her only connection lies in her heavyset best friend Julie who is also in a similar situation. Now I only mention her weight because that’s the only thing that’s keeping her from fitting in herself as she’s one of coolest and nicest girls alive; in the fictional world anyway. And things are great between the two of them, that is until Lady Bird falls for the head drama nerd in Danny O’Neill. At first things appear to be normal and good for her but their relationship takes this weird turn and causes Lady Bird to go off the deep end; affecting not only her life but the lives of everyone she comes into contact with. Now I’ll let you discover the rest for yourself but just know that this film will make you, as my friend described it, "ugly cry" in public. Now I personally didn’t cry but as I mentioned earlier, I totally found a connection with this film.

All of the acting in it is on point and to help keep it from being the Precious of 2017, Gerwig thankfully injects quite a bit of her trademark hipster humor in the film. So there is a healthy balance of drama, humor, and self-discovery in this heartwarming story. In a time where everyone is seemingly at each other’s throats on a consistent basis, it’s refreshing to take a 90 minute break and be reminded of the fact that we are all the same when it comes down to it. I give Lady Bird a rating of very FRESH.