Sunday, December 4, 2016

Manchester by the Sea

Every time I see one of those prescription drug commercials on television, I always think to myself that I’d rather die from what I currently have than to die from the side effects of their stupid drugs. Wanna quit smoking? Try Typhllax! Side effects may include suicidal thoughts, HIV, and sudden heart failure. Having problems sleeping at night? Try Ghostweedaphin! Side effects may include uncontrollable coughing, over eating, and failed drug tests at work. I like how we as Americans make fun of Mexico and their practices yet their medicine is probably far more safer to take than any of ours; assuming you don’t drink their water to do so that is.

Well I always say that I love listening to tortured musicians and watching depressing movies because it’s comforting for me to see and hear people who are more fucked up than I am. But after listening to Radiohead’s latest album and seeing Manchester by the Sea, I think I’m going to take up a similar philosophy in regards to my entertainment as I do my medicine intake, in that I’d rather just be comfortable in my own misery than to pay and witness someone else’s.

Manchester by the Sea is the story Lee Chandler, a low level handyman who lives in Boston. Lee spends the majority of his time getting into random bar fights and generally sulking whenever he has to actually interact with other human beings. He seems to be merely existing rather than actually living, until one day when he gets a call from a Manchester hospital telling him that his brother Joe has died.

He immediately takes off and arrives in the town that he has seemingly forgotten. He and his brother grew up in Manchester and they both wound up having families of their own there. And during their time in this close knit community, Lee formed a special bond with Joe’s son Patrick. The two of them are seemingly inseperable until one day something happens that drives Lee away from the town and into total seclusion in Boston.

Well upon his arrival back in Manchester, he is forced to face his past and at least temporarily deal with family issues as he sets up the funeral arrangements for his brother. And his life is once again completely turned upside down when he finds out that his brother has left him as the sole guardian to his nephew Patrick. So now he’s stuck between actually having to raise his nephew and trying to find someone to dump him off on.

Now if you were like me and you saw the previews for this film, you said to yourself, there is no way in hell I’m wasting two hours of my life on that boring drivel! It looked like the typical lame Oscar bait that always comes out around this time of year. Why can’t action movies ever get Oscar noms? Why is it always the overly sappy tearjerkers that get all the love? Well in the end, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by this film. As it turned out, the previews couldn’t give away too much of the plot without taking away the necessary punch that’s used to make this film’s storytelling work.

Now I will say that it is way too long but Kenneth Lonergan is a more than adequate storyteller, so you’re not exactly scrolling through Facebook during points of the movie. The problem however is it’s way too depressing. It’s not quite Precious depressing but damn it’s close! It’s a 135 minute tale of death and coping; and let me tell you that that’s a sure fire recipe for a terrible Friday night! This is probably Casey Affleck’s best effort to date and I find myself liking him even more after finding out that I’m in better physical shape than he is. There’s one scene where he takes his shirt off to have sex with his wife and it reminds you of seeing your uncle after he’s just had a rib plate at the family picnic. Props to that dude for not giving a damn! Michelle Williams, as usual, almost effortlessly steals every scene she’s in, so you can certainly expect her and Affleck to earn Oscar nominations for their roles in this film. There’s one scene with the two of them towards that end that even had me on the verge of tears and I’m as heartless as they come! Damn you Flonase for making me weak!

I strongly suggest you check out this film, just be sure to have one of the best days of your life before doing so. I give it a rating of pretty FRESH!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Nocturnal Animals

When it all comes down to it, it just isn’t in my best interest to have a lot of money. The one time I did get a big check from my former employer, I spent half of my summer that year gallivanting around Spain like I was one of The Fugees! "Oh la la la, now I’m broke again and begging for money as I sing…" Yes, I know that was kind of lame but it’s true! It’s like Rick James told Eddie and Charlie Murphy after he messed up their couch, "They should’ve never you n’s money!"

This is real stuff y’all. However If I ever do get real money one day, I’ve already decided that I’m going to be the straight version of Tom Ford. If you live in a vacuum and have no clue who he is, he’s a fashion icon who has enough loose cash lying around that he’s able to turn his wet dreams into feature films. I don’t know if you ever saw his debut film, A Single Man, but all it was, was the tale of an aging college professor, who after he divorces his wife, starts dating his young, fit, and highly impressionable male students. Which is ok I guess, but all they do is walk around his apartment shirtless and giggle 50% of the time (at least that’s how I remember it), and he somehow tricked the Academy into giving Colin Firth an Oscar nomination for starring in it.

Well here’s to hoping that I can one day get my wet dream of forming an old man punk band that bangs nothing but hot Jessica Alba clones in the tour van, made into an instant indie classic. It’ll be great; I can achieve my lifetime goal of getting into Hollywood and at the same time, get Jessica Alba that elusive hardware that’s been avoiding her for her entire career! But knowing my luck, all I’ll end up doing is passing out on my buddy’s floor next to my drum kit and an old edition of Maxim magazine while attending one of his lame dinner parties! But even if that’s all I end up achieving, it’ll still be more entertaining than watching a Ford film. Just because you got bored one year and took a film class at NYU, doesn’t mean you can make good movies, dude!

It had been a while since he made A Single Man, and honestly it felt like he spent his entire time off studying the work of Steven Soderbergh (Traffic, Ocean’s 11) and Nicolas Winding Refn (The Neon Demon) to get ready for his next effort. But sadly, after he made his return with Nocturnal Animals, the end result fell well short of anything those two talented artists have ever done. And yes, that even includes Oceans 13.

Animals is the ridiculous story of Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) and her estranged relationship with Tony Hastings (Jake Gyllenhaal). Susan is a once successful but now struggling artist who lives in LA with her douchebag husband, who also appears to be struggling in the business world. It is apparent to anyone with a pulse that she is unhappy but she tries her best to keep up appearances in order to save face.

Well one day while her husband is away cheating on her, she gets a manuscript in the mail from her ex-husband Tony, with a note attached to it that says she was the inspiration behind it. It also mentioned that he was in town and that he would love to see her. And while she is intrigued by the idea of seeing him again, she decides that it would be a good idea to read the script first.

Well as she reads it, she feels an instant connection with the story as it obviously includes some personal elements of their relationship in it. The story is of a man and his wife and daughter taking a road trip to Marfa, Texas so that he can gain the inspiration he needs to finish his book. But as they travel late at night, they run into this car full of drunken hooligans who essentially run them off the road. And after a seemingly never ending interaction between the unscrupulous men and Tony, they wind up driving off with his wife and daughter while he’s stuck with one of the remaining losers who has some specific instructions for him to follow. From this point on the story takes a rather violent turn as you get see Susan’s reaction every step of the way through. Is this a recap of events that happened to them in the past? Is it a veiled threat on her and her current family? Or is it something else?

Now in the hands of a capable director and storyteller, this might have been a quality film. But as it stands, it came off more like a Tuesday afternoon soap opera. Every time the story got too intense, Ford would cut away to Susan gasping and biting her lip as the dramatic music would rise to a crescendo. Or she would throw her book at the mere thought of a violent attack. And these so called violent attacks were so unbelievably over the top that it felt like you were watching a Ren and Stimpy episode from the Simpsons.

If this was the early 80’s and made for tv films were still in, Ford would be a shoo-in for an Emmy nomination. But thankfully those dark times are behind us and we now know the difference between crap and good film making. And shame on all of my counterparts out there for shamelessly giving this film a good rating with the hopes that Ford will throw them some free gear from time to time. Most of them are too fat to fit in his clothes anyway! I give Animals a rating of unbelievably WACK!
 

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Moonlight

So apparently there’s a new popular television show out called Timeless where three main characters, one of whom is black, travel back in time to protect our present from the dastardly criminals who are out to change the past, strictly for their own benefit of course. Well being a black person myself, I’ve always wondered how the black character ever survived the first 10 minutes of the first episode. I mean, unless the farthest back they travel is the 1970’s, he’d be lynched the very second someone saw him on the streets with a pretty white woman. Trust me, I know this because it’s 2016 and I still see a number of Stephen Bannons giving me the Hail Hitler sign whenever they see me on a date with a girl. So you can just imagine how bad things were in the 30’s and 40’s; Make America Great Again indeed.

Well while the streets remain tough at times, we have at least made progress when it comes to the big screen. We aren’t quite to the point where a black man can have sex with a white woman outside of a porno but Will Smith sure has dated his fair share of Latinas in recent comedies. And once studios realized that this was a possibility, it opened the door for Heath Ledger to spit in his hand before getting with Jake Gyllenhaal in the mountains. And now that we’ve reached that plateau, who knows what’s next; maybe Rush Limbaugh will finally feel comfortable with releasing the sex tape he made with his farm’s pig just in time for next year’s Thanksgiving rush. One can only dream.

Well before that paramount moment is upon us, Hollywood has found somewhat of a middle ground in Moonlight. I honestly believe that this is the film critics wanted Brokeback Mountain to be all those years ago, but instead they all they got stuck with was a raunchy tale of two dudes who wanted to get buck wild (see what I did there) in the woods. And while being gay is universally accepted in the Black community if you’re the church’s choir director (only slightly kidding), it’s usually frowned upon in any other circumstance. This is why Moonlight has resonated with so many audiences.

It’s a look into the three most important phases of Chiron’s life, a young black man who grew up in the rough streets of Miami. Early on as a small child everyone in the neighborhood could tell that he was a little different, so naturally they branded him as gay and he was teased and bullied mercilessly as a result of it. He really didn’t have an outlet for his frustration because his crackhead mother (Naomi Harris) was more concerned with getting high and banging dudes than she was with raising a son. So his only refuge came in the form of a local drug dealer named Juan. Juan and his girlfriend (the almost unrecognizable Janelle Monae) take him in and help him out whenever they can, or whenever his mother allows them to, but he is so shy and clearly damaged that he has trouble opening up to anyone. The expressions on this kid’s face alone almost brings you to tears as you don’t expect him to survive the first act of the film given all of the crap he has to go through.

But thankfully he does, as director Barry Jenkins does an excellent job of not turning this into a clich├ęd tale that resembles a classic Greek tragedy. As you see Chiron’s evolution from scared little child to timid teenager to local drug kingpin, you see him constantly searching for some meaningful connection in life. And even though he at times he seems to be surviving, he clearly hasn’t found a safe place in life where he feels comfortable.

What I found remarkable was that even as you travel through each stage of his life, he looks dramatically different, yet you can easily tell it is him given his glaring vulnerability. Even as the convincingly tough drug dealer, you just want to go up and hug him and tell him that everything is going to be alright. Drug dealers can be sensitive too y’all; just remember that the next time you order your ounce for the weekend. While we may not all be as unsure about our sexuality as Chiron was (in spite of what Moby says) we all can connect with him on some level as we have all struggled with who we are at some point in our lives. And I truly believe this is what makes this film so special. I for one don’t get excited to see gay sex scenes but the short one that does exist in this film is about as honest and as tastefully done as you can expect in a culture that relies so heavily on shock value to fill the seats. Moonlight is a sure fire hit for this Oscar season and I give it a rating of FRESH.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

I am well aware of the fact that the older you get the more pathetic you look to women if you continue to show signs of having the now dreaded Peter Pan Syndrome. At a certain point they want a man who can provide them with some stability and doesn’t need more than one Viagra pill to get himself hard in the morning. And I totally get this, as rubbing one out before heading off to work would be a total pain in the ass if I had to reach over and find my pill box first. It’s hard enough for me to find my glasses and toothbrush before 8am, let alone having to hunt and peck for some little blue pill before getting my mind right for the day. But hey, I can’t help if I’m a 75 year old scrub who still rides a Huffy with training wheels and wears a backpack with my lunch in it everywhere I go! Some things in life are just too hard to let go of.

And I know that I’m not alone in my thinking because look at how many scrubs ran out to see the new sort of Harry Potter this weekend. You can’t tell me that cramming into a crowded movie theater on a Friday night to see a bunch on introverted wizards perform magic is the definition of adulting. I even know some teenagers that looked at me with the side eye and said "Fuck that shit!" when I asked them if they were going to see Fantastic Beasts this weekend. So please, the next time you see me attempting to breast feed at a bar, first think about calling the cops, and second, cut me some slack as I am clearly not the only one who has an issue with getting older.

Point and case, I had to shuffle my way through a host of scrubs just to sit next to my idiot friend for a late night showing of Beasts this past Thursday night. And even though I like to think of myself as an outsider in this oddly proud nerd group, I went into this experience with cautious excitement because J.K Rowling was finally giving us a wizard film that didn’t involve prepubescent teens riding around on brooms. This was supposed to have adults who have actually seen breasts before engaging in magical battles. Well thankfully Ms. Rowling delivered.

Beasts is the story of the Rain Man esque Newt (Eddie Redmayne) and his decision to bring a suitcase full of fantastic looking beasts to New York City with him. The town is on high alert as it is as there seems to be some rogue spirit on the loose that’s wreaking havoc in the streets of Manhattan. And the wizard police, led by head investigator Graves (the woefully underused Colin Farrell), seems to think that it’s one of these soon to be extinct beasts that’s causing all of trouble; so they are desperately doing everything in their power to track it down before they are exposed to the humans and an all-out war breaks out. Well once word gets out that Newt has brought his briefcase full of game (that’s both an E-40 and a hunting reference in case you missed it) to the city, he becomes public enemy number one. And the only question that remains is, will Newt get his mischievous beasts to safety in time or will they cause so much of a commotion that they both find themselves sentenced to an early death?

The story itself is just an ok one as it feels all too familiar when compared to its predecessors. But what makes this film stand out are the beasts that are so prominently advertised in the movie’s title. The CGI is top notch as it brings these amazing creatures to life and you are introduced to a whole new world in this hidden universe. I for one didn’t see it in IMAX but what I saw in 2D had me awe struck at times, so do yourself a favor and pay the extra money to get the full experience in. And it certainly helped that all of the beasts were funny, in particular the two that had a penchant for expensive jewelry and shiny coins. And no, it’s not like the racist Transformers where they speak Ebonics and play rap music everywhere they go; it’s actually good natured fun.

And it’s because this film is so fun that I believe it is easily the best of the Harry Potter series. I give this movie a rating of pretty FRESH and I suggest that you pop in.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Arrival

Anyone who knows me or has ever read a single review of mine, knows that I absolutely love alien films. As a matter of fact, anything involving aliens, robots, or vampires has me in the theater opening weekend, kicking little kids to the side who are only there to see Ice Age 45. And yes, before you ask, I even saw one or two of those terrible Twilight films in the theater before throwing up at the thought of vegetarian vampires who glisten like diamonds in the daylight. No wonder why Trump got elected, our youth had never been exposed to a real life vampire until now!

I equate it to a video game nerd who grows up lusting after Lara Croft or idolizing films like True Romance and Sin City; once he goes to a strip club and actually sees a real life stripper for the first time, it’s over for him! As a young male, you know it’s probably not in your best interest to do so but you can’t help but want to make Levitra your girlfriend once those voluptuous c cups are in your face! You’ve never seen them in real life before and you kind of want to prolong the experience just to see where it goes. Well I can tell you from experience, it takes you straight to hell!!! I kid, I kid, I don’t care who the president is and I’ve never dated a stripper…for an extended period of time that is.

Well sadly I don’t think the majority of our youth has seen a real alien film either. Sure there have been a few decent flicks involving aliens that have come out in the past few years but they have both starred Tom Cruise (Edge of Tomorrow and Oblivion); and I’ve already talked about how I’m the only freak in the world that actually likes him. So this means that the majority of movie going America expects every invasion film to either be like Independence Day 2 or Men in Black 3. Damn you Will Smith!

This makes me sad because most of the people who are excited to see Arrival will walk out of the theater disappointed. If you don’t know who director Denis Villeneuva (Sicario, Prisoners) is, you should get to know him as he is probably the best director in Hollywood right now. Having said that, most of his films, while thought provoking, are pretty damn depressing. Well Arrival falls right in line with what he’s done in the past.

This film is an intellectual thriller that has you questioning not only everything that is happening in the film but humanity’s approach to life in general. Even when the film was over, I found myself in deep thought (a rarity, I know) over how I would process and utilize certain information if it was given to me at the right time. And that’s what this film is about. I’m not here to ruin anything for you by giving spoilers away but just know that you are not in for a J.J. Abrams production.

Even if Arrival was completely void of dialogue, I could’ve sat there and watched it for two hours anyway as it was basically a beautiful masterpiece. But this isn’t the 1930’s so thankfully there was some dialogue in it and this dialogue just so happened to be crux of the story. 12 alien pods have landed in seemingly random locations throughout the world and each country has brought in their best linguists and scientists to hopefully figure out why they have come to our world.

For the U.S., this includes Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner. Adams is a brilliant but sullen linguist who uses creative ways to communicate with the aliens. And as she begins to gain more ground with them, she starts to see and experience some pretty strange things. Well Renner seems to think that these happenings are just part of the territory when you learn a new language as your brain is now wired to think differently, but you can’t help but wonder if it’s more than that.

You won’t truly know how you feel about this movie until a few hours later after you’ve had the opportunity to marinate on it a bit. And to me, that’s the best kind of movie experience there is. I give an unbelievable amount of credit to Villeneuve for crafting yet another gem as I give Arrival a rating of pretty TIGHT!

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Hacksaw Ridge

The 2016 election was the best thing to happen to Mel Gibson since Jim Beam decided to release two for one specials in those tidy little Christmas boxes of theirs. I mean seriously, before Trump and Hilary, he was easily the most hated American in the world. Lance Armstrong, Bill Cosby, and even Kanye West all tried their best to knock him off his perch but the second any of them even came close to achieving this feat, someone would inevitably release yet another recording of Mel ranting about a pack of wild niggers to help put a stop to their runs. A pack of wild niggers?!?! Has he been to one too many Kid Cudi parties or something? And if so, could someone please add to me to the guest list next time?!? I swear I’ll be a good little nigger and only go after the left over groupies once the night comes to an end! ("Ooh the racism is just killing me inside" Dave Chappelle)

Well wouldn’t you know it, good old Melly chose to take advantage of this wonderful window of opportunity that magically presented itself and went back to doing what he does best, directing gory action films. Say what you want about this nut job but Braveheart continues to be one of the greatest films ever made, and I can guarantee you that he was just as crazy then as he is now. Well after being slightly disappointed by Doctor Strange, I decided that it was high time for me to feed my need for blood, guts, and mayhem; so naturally I went out and saw Melly’s latest film Hacksaw Ridge.

Now if you’re not familiar with the film’s background, Ridge is the story of a scrawny army medic named Desmond Doss. Growing up, Doss was your average run of the mill American kid from the south who loved climbing rocks and annoying the cranky old couples in the neighborhood, until one day he and his brother got into a fight. The fight was so intense that it nearly killed his brother, and from that moment on, his life was forever changed. He decided right then and there that he would follow the ways of God and would never again pick up another weapon of any kind to take the life of human being as long as he lived.

Well once he and his brother get older, WWII broke out and the two of them felt as though it was their patriotic duty to volunteer and enlist in the army. Doss does this in spite of the fact he had just met the love of his life in Dorothy and that his father’s life had been forever ruined by the horrific events he encountered during WWI. Times were definitely different back then!

Doss eventually gets to boot camp and everything seems to be going great until it comes time for him to pick up a rifle. He refuses to do so and from that point on no one in his battalion trusts him, even after he survives his leaders’ desperate attempt to court martial him. Gibson seemingly belabors this point but it all makes sense once the film’s second and third acts roll around and you see Doss’s courage come to light once his group is asked to take Hacksaw Ridge in an attempt to conquer Japan.

Now this is where Gibson starts to shine! He pulls no punches when it comes to showing just how gruesome war can be. However he doesn’t do so with the intent of being anti-war (Melly anti-war??? Please!!!) he does so just to show how dangerous he conditions were for a medic who refuses to protect himself with a gun. People are being shot, burned, and blown up all around him, yet Doss continues to defy all odds and tries to save everyone he comes into contact with.

Now this story approaches dangerous territory as it can easily be told in a cheesy manner, and to be honest with you, a lot of the first act is a little hammy at times. But once you see clips of the real life Doss at the end, you realize that he truly was the guy that Andrew Garfield portrayed in the film. He’s a scrawny little nerd who just so happened to get a beautiful wife who was clearly out of his league. And as you sit there and watch him talk, you still can’t believe that this guy was able to haul soldiers who were, at times, twice his size to safety! This is an incredible story on every level and I strongly suggest that you pop in. I give this movie a rating of really FRESH!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Doctor Strange

Let me start off by saying that yes, of course I know R. Kelly is a despicable human being; peeing on underage girls and recording it is something that’s almost unforgivable. Yet, we as a society have somehow chosen to turn a blind eye to it, simply for the fact that Ignition (Remix) is such an awesome booty shaking song! Now I include myself in this nonsense as I was one of the many that was in a converted strip club to hear Robert (that’s his actual first name) swoon us with suchsweet lullabies as Pregnant, My Body’s Calling, and of course Trapped in the Closet. And had the midget from those incredible videos actually popped in for a guest appearance, that may have gone on record as being one of the greatest shows of all time.

But for some reason, people don’t like to see their guilty pleasures brought to light. For the past two years, I have chosen to dress up as R. Kelly for Halloween; complete with Zoro mask and camcorder that has the words "I want to pee on you" taped to it. And I am not exaggerating when I say that 80% of the people I ran into were genuinely offended by it. I had people lecture me, hiss at me, and some even outright yell at me. Now keep in mind that this is a ‘holiday’ where people dressed up as the actual devil himself and yet they still got more love than I did. I mean, am I asking for too much to get a little tinkle and some lovin at the same time? (Disclaimer: for those who don’t know me, I’m clearly joking about that last part)

Well it should come as no surprise that our society has a hard time when it comes to picking out the true villains in life. When I saw the trailer for Doctor Strange and I noticed that it had the evil twin of Radiohead’s Thom Yorke (Tilda Swinton) in it, I just knew that she had to be the bad guy. She has all of the characteristics: she’s pale, she looks like Dr. Evil’s skinned cat, and when she smiles, it looks as though she just ate the heart of the young. But no, as it turns out, she actually wound up being Dr. Strange’s spirit guide.

Now for those who are truly being honest and aren’t claiming to have read more than a Superman, Batman, or a Spiderman comic book growing up, let me give you a quick synopsis of our latest hero’s background. Dr. Strange is the story of a brilliant but unbelievably conceited neurosurgeon whose life is turned upside down after getting into a nearly fatal car accident. The doctors are able to save his life but his hands are completely disfigured in the accident and he no longer has the ability to perform surgery. So he goes to considerable lengths to reverse the damage done with the hopes of returning to the life he once knew, and as a result, he nearly goes broke in the process. But as last ditch effort, he finally finds himself on the doorstep of The Ancient One (Swinton).

After some initial resistance to her ways and her philosophies, his world is once again turned upside down as he is exposed to a universe that’s full of alternate dimensions and magical powers that can be tapped into by simply expanding your mind’s reach. Well once he does, he finds that his brilliant mind can allow him to do far greater things than he ever imagined; things like teleporting to another country or world, changing physical dimensions, or even stealing books from librarians. But with powers like these, it can naturally lead to someone turning to the dark side. This is where Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) and his search for immortality comes into play.

The makers of Inception helped bring the action of this comic book to life with their unbelievably creative and revolutionary set design. They were of course aided by the latest advancements in CGI but even with this technology, the film never quite drifted off into weird video game territory. And it’s because of this, Dr. Strange was able to provide us with some breathtakingly awesome scenes. Now having said all of that, this film never quite surpassed what you experienced in Inception. The story fell into the normal Marvel formula; a tale that’s not really all that challenging and spends way too much time trying to tell a clever joke rather than finding a clever twist.

Benedict Cumberbatch and Mads Mikkelsen are both solid in Strange but the director (Scott Derrickson, Sinister) never quite pushed them to be brilliant. The entire time I kept thinking that no superhero movie has come close to providing us what we experienced in The Dark Knight, and sadly, until we get a director with some balls, we won’t ever get one. I liked this film, I just didn’t love. Go ahead and check it out in 3D as that alone is worth the price of admission but do yourself a favor and lower your expectations. I give Strange a rating of kind of FRESH.