Wednesday, April 11, 2018

A Quiet Place

If you’re looking for an actual quiet place to go, the last option on your list should be anywhere where Black people are. "Oh no, that’s so racist!" No that’s not racist, that’s just real talk. I’m Black, so trust me, I know. Everyone knows that you don’t go see a scary movie in a Black theater because all you’ll hear the entire time is Lakeisha yelling "Aww hell naw girl! You better get yo ass up outta there!" Black BBQ’s? We set up the sound system for our music well before we set up anything else. And once it gets going, you can Kendrick and Biggie blaring from the speakers from miles away.

I was at a party this weekend with a Black friend of mine where 95% of the people who were there just so happened to be Caucasian. And as my friend and I started talking and laughing, I felt so sorry for everyone else who was in attendance because there was no way in hell they could even hear themselves think, let alone carry on an actual conversation. Why are we so loud, you ask? Is it because we are so happy that we can freely sing and talk without having to worry about being cracked with a whip? Or is it just a natural reflex to let everyone know our whereabouts just in case a cop decides to get in some target practice before deer hunting season rolls arounds?

Who knows but what I do know is that we wouldn’t last two seconds in a horror film simply because we’d be the first person the killer finds. I used to get angry at the fact that Black people always died in horror flicks; I used to think it was just the filmmakers being racist, but after A Quiet Place came out, I was finally awaken to the truth; we are just too damn loud. If we could just learn to use our inside voices every now and then, we might actually stand a chance. Stay woke son, stay woke!

Well thankfully they spare us the gruesome death scenes of any minorities in this film but that certainly doesn’t mean that it’s short on terror. In A Quiet Place, The Office’s John Krasinski introduces us to a post-apocalyptic world where the only way you can survive is if you don’t make any noticeable sounds. There are apparently creatures nearby who can only detect sound and the second they do, they appear from seemingly nowhere and immediately pounce on and kill their prey. So if you snore or get caught watching the wrong porn flick, it’s a wrap for you.

Now while there does appear to be other survivors in this story, the filmmakers decide to put their attention solely on Krasinski and Emily Blunt’s family. And despite losing a young child to one of these creatures and having to deal with the grief and self-imposed blame that comes along with that, the couple decides to have another baby to go along with the two they currently have in an attempt to try and lead a somewhat normal life. Naturally this decision leads to some rather intense moments in the movie but more on that in a second.

What’s so cool and unique about this film is the fact that the family doesn’t do anything silly like whisper quietly to one another but they instead actually utilize sign language to communicate. Which not only means you’re reading subtitles for the majority of the film but it also means you’re experiencing the creepy silence along with them. So the second you hear any sound or simply suspect that a sound could be created with a footstep or a baby contraction, you’re freaking out because you know it’s just a matter of time before the creatures, or whatever they are, show up.

And that’s yet another thing I loved about this film, not everything was spelled out for you. As the plot develops, you not only learn more about the family and what actually happened to society but you also see more of and learn more about the beings that are wreaking havoc on this farm. To a certain extent it’s a bit predictable but that’s to be expected, it’s a horror film. It was just refreshing to see the story stray from most of the typical clich├ęs that have plagued this genre for decades.

Now while I still do hate on Krasinski for stealing Emily Blunt from me, I do have to give him credit for making a decent film. And he certainly did owe us after that awful football movie he made with George Clooney. Do yourself a favor and go check out A Quiet Place as I give it a rating of very FRESH!
Image result for a quiet place

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Ready Player One

As I celebrated my 86th birthday this week, I had the opportunity to reflect on some of the better birthday celebrations I had when I was still a bright eyed and hopeful youth; the best of which was a fish fry my dad threw for me in his best friend’s epic backyard. I’m from a small town where there wasn’t much to do, so fish fries were a big deal; they gave everyone the chance to unwind from a long week, catch up with old friends, gaze at the stars, listen to some of the best artists RnB and Jazz (at least for my family) had to offer, and of course drink all of the Bud Light, Budweiser, and Crown Royal the local market had to offer. I mean, if I were old enough, I definitely might’ve impregnated someone that night but at that time my game was pretty weak, so sadly I was dateless at my own party. All I could do was enjoy the family and friends who gathered there and temporarily forget the fact that I lived in country Texas.

And this is why I think Ready Player One is even more of a fantasy than the writers intended it to be. Again, I was in a small town and this was 70 years ago, so this was well before the days of virtual reality. In order to escape my daily misery, I had to rely on ghetto VR which consisted of me day dreaming about hitting the game winning shot in the Final Four and then banging every woman from the James Bond movies as a reward afterwards. And trust me, I can feel your judgement as I write this but I think I deserve some credit for not turning into a Children of the Corn psychopath who stored bodies in his closet just before running off to get some late night Taco Cabana. Victoria was that awful of a place.

The point is, if Ready Player One was a nonfiction story, it would’ve been the most boring movie ever made because all teenage boys care about is Pikachu and getting laid. You seriously would’ve had 2400 hours of footage that focused solely on some dude chasing a yellow looking doll around a park while finishing way too quickly once a girl sticks her hands down his pants. I guess there’s the off chance that he’s an early developing Furry and you see Pikachu sticking its hands down his pants but that’s seriously the best you can hope for.

Well thankfully they decided to go the route of fiction and gave us the story of Wade, a kid who lives in a depressing version of our future where the only escape from the poverty and awful living conditions is the virtual reality world called Oasis; a place that was created by the genius programmer, Halliday. Halliday loved 80’s and early 90’s pop culture and most of his VR world featured some of most iconic things from those eras. It was such a great escape that literally everyone played his game, especially after he made the announcement that whoever found his three hidden Easter eggs would not only inherit his fortune but would have control over the Oasis.

Wade and his best friend Aech are two of the remaining few who continue to try and solve Halliday’s tricky puzzles. And in the process, Wade falls for the mysterious Art3mis, another gamer who has a shared hatred for the big corporation that’s trying to not only win the game but also have even more control of this dystopian society. Will they find the eggs before the corporation does? Can Wade even trust Art3mis? And is his friend Aech hiding the fact that he’s really a Furry who’s trying to lure him into his dark underworld? These are all things you must find out on your own.

But in the process you’ll have fun doing so because the VR world Halliday has created is so cool. It’s not all about the game; in his world you can literally make all of your dreams come true. Whatever you can imagine is brought to life in his world, so even if you don’t get all of the 20 and 30 year old references, the visuals in this movie alone will keep you engaged. Not to mention the fact that the challenges Halliday requires you to pass before you find each egg are fun; the first of which was the most exciting of the film. It’s a race that you must win, which sounds easy enough, except for the simple fact that no one has ever been able to actually finish the race. You not only have to fight off your opponent but the tons of obstacles that are thrown in your way, like the T-Rex from Jurassic Park or King Kong who basically destroys the entire race track. And it’s in this race that you see the bulk of the pop culture references Halliday implements, 70% of which are all from Spielberg movies; the same guy who directed Ready Player One. I personally thought that if he were really fresh, Spielberg would have also included a few nods to some of his depressing films like Schindler’s List or The Color Purple. You too can have sex with Whoopi Goldberg or mow down Nazis while trying to free people from a concentration camp. Admit it, you were expecting a more offensive joke than that, weren’t you? Come on, I’m not a monster!

Anyway, even without those additions, this movie was highly entertaining and I strongly suggest that you go see it in the theater. I give Ready Player One a rating of FRESH!
Image result for ready player one

 




Saturday, March 31, 2018

Isle of Dogs

There was a time in my life when I used to giggle at the thought of another country and their citizens treating their cattle as equals to human beings. I just couldn’t imagine letting something that my family threw on the BBQ pit with regularity walk around my living room while I was trying to watch The Cosby Show. But after some guy let his dog run up to me the other day and basically eat my headphones while they were still in my ear, and essentially laugh it off as if it was his cute baby taking their first ever poop, I realized that we as Americans are now treating our dogs as equals.

Where else can a dog maul a 4 year old child to death and the parents of said child decide to still keep him around as a pet? In what other country will someone come up to you and threaten to take your life simply because you decide to take target practice with a photo of a dog while they practice shooting at a human target? Ok, so full disclaimer, I actually saw that last example on the show Atlanta but we all know that most fiction is based off of reality so that example still counts in my book. The point is, have we as a society lost our collective minds or am I simply just a bitter old Black man whose ex-girlfriend’s obsession with her stupid dog caused me to reach this point? I’m willing to admit that it’s probably a mixture of both.

Well in Wes Anderson’s latest flick, Isle of Dogs, he introduces us to a world where the Japanese have decided to protect their citizens by shipping all of the country’s dogs off to a deserted island. Now this is an agenda I can actually get behind! In this stop motion animated alternate universe, society has turned its back on dogs in favor of cats and because of this a war breaks out and dogs are brought to the brink of extinction. But thankfully for dog lovers everywhere, this brave young warrior steps in and saves the day. This salvation however is apparently only temporary as the remaining dogs have somehow developed a rare disease that not only threatens their existence but that of humans as well as there’s a chance it can cross species. The leaders in charge decide that it’s in the best interest of our race to isolate them despite the fact that a possible cure is imminent.

Well as the dogs are being sent off to this island full of trash, there is one young boy who refuses to let his beloved pet die on this disgusting island alone. So he sneaks off in a single engine plane to find his dog Spots despite the fact that it was his uncle who put the order into effect. And once he arrives, he soon realizes that he must now rely on this rag tag group of dogs who spend their entire days scrapping and clawing for whatever little food is left on the island while reminiscing about the good ole days of yesteryear where they were show dogs, bird hunters, or simply had owners who put them ahead of anything else. Everyone is onboard with helping the boy except for the packs toughest member, Chief (Bryan Cranston), who goes along with the pack but only because he has to. Will they find the boy’s dog before his uncle finds him? Is his dog even alive? And if he isn’t, how long before the other dogs all join him in death and leave the world to the evil cate to rule?

Wes Anderson’s humor is known for being a bit esoteric but in this particular film it seems to be more so than usual. If you’ve never seen an Anderson flick before or you’re only a casual fan at best, this is not the film for you. All of his movies try and bring humor to some of life’s darkest or most difficult moments and this is certainly no different. In Isle, he takes on abandonment, desperation, government corruption, and yes, even love, the last of which gives this film the lightheartedness the story so desperately needed.

Forty minutes into the film, the running joke that there are dogs who talk and act like 40 year old white men gets a little stale, so Anderson had no choice but to focus on a universal theme that both dog and cat lovers can identify with. Despite all of the awful things that are happening in this world, love somehow conquers all. You see it amongst the group of dogs who were forced to band together to simply survive, you see it in the boy who will do anything to reunite with his pet, and you even see it in the gruff Chief.

This film is entertaining and Anderson is still at the top of his game but just know that Isle is not for everyone. This is like going to see a side project of your favorite band, you may be freaking out over the fact that James Murphy is playing an all acoustic ukulele set at Stubb’s BBQ but that doesn’t mean that everyone who’s heard an LCD Soundsystem song will be down.

I give Isle of Dogs a rating of FRESH and suggest that all Anderson fans pop in. And for the record, I don’t really hate dogs, just my ex, so please don’t call the ASPCA on me and have them throw red paint on me while I’m eating my hot dog (pun intended) at lunch.
Image result for isle of dogs

Monday, March 12, 2018

SXSW: Rock n Roll and Pop Preview

I know that I’m not bringing up anything groundbreaking with this next observation but I love witnessing the fast but awkward transformation that happens during SXSW. The first few days before the festival officially starts you see all these bright eyed and bubbly intellectuals walking around wearing matching t-shirts while waiting patiently in perfectly formed single file lines as if they were grade school kids on their first ever field trips. And it doesn’t take you long to realize that they’re not actually Scientologists in training but in fact some of the country’s best educators who are all in town for the education portion of SXSW. Now I know it’s tough to differentiate the two, especially after Tom Cruise cloned himself and claimed that he and Katie Holmes actually had sex to produce offspring, but you have to get used to it sooner rather than later because that jackass will have an entire army at his disposal before you know it!

And if talking to them didn’t make me feel stupid enough, talking to the tech nerds who roll into town for the interactive portion certainly does. I’m meeting people who are creating safari apps for the Google Assistant and coming up with ways that we can better communicate with deaf children while all I have to offer in return are corny jokes that I’ve written in some of my worthless blog posts. Needless to say however, I’ve made out with one or two of these geniuses fairly recently so I guess my Tyler Perry jokes are more fire than I think.

Anyway, it’s not long before you notice a plethora of Marvel t-shirts and hoodies milling about and it’s in this moment when you realize the movie nerds are taking over. But sadly their reign doesn’t last long because the scent of mustiness and PBR starts to fill the air and this is how you know the music portion has finally arrived. And this is what I want to focus on today, the 5 or 6 best Rock n Roll acts to check out this week while I contribute my scent of Colt 45 and Afro Sheen that I double as cologne. Actually I no longer have an afro, I just had leftover bottles from back in the day and can no longer afford actual cologne but moving on…

The first band I want to talk about is Francobollo from London. All of their songs start off fairly basic and to a certain extent boring but they always evolve into something chaotic and kind of creepy by the song’s end. They’re like the David Lynch of Rock n Roll and believe it or not, that’s actually a good thing. I’m happy to say that these lovely Brits are making Rock n Roll interesting again and it’s because of this that I give them a rating of FRESH!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zrjsnx3LeIY

Next up is Moaning out of LA. Imagine if The Smiths and The Cure had a baby and he got hooked on Sinead O’Conner and Kurt Cobain; well that’s this band. So if you want to wear all black, break out your nipple piercings, and dance like crazy, do yourself a favor and check these guys out. This is post-punk at its best and it definitely gets a rating of very FRESH from me.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qdNWCgnqeMY

After them, go check out Porches. He sounds like an 80’s gender bending artist who has a desperate voice and a Casio keyboard which is stuck on Samba mode but I have to say that his style is both groovy and catchy. And while he looks like the kind of guy who gets overly sentimental when it comes to reminiscing about that last piece of avocado toast he had while in Brooklyn don’t let that keep you from enjoying his music as I give him a rating of FRESH.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BO4hmxtt2dc

Billie Eilish is playing something like 20 shows this week. She’s beautiful and can sing but this kind of pop music isn’t for me. I can however see her appealing to the masses and playing festivals like ACL for the next two years. She gets a rating of kind of WEAK.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gBRi6aZJGj4


It feels as though that while they were listening to Freedom Rock (turn it up!!!) in their van in the 70’s, the dads of White Reaper all formed a pact to force their kids to listen to nothing but Cheap Trick their entire childhood. And when they were finally able to pick up guitars, this is the music the band spit out. I have to say that it’s not half bad. It’s fun, it’s easy to get into, and it’s definitely worth a listen. They get a rating of FRESH.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ahglrb_z7wQ

This last artist isn’t that new but I have feeling that not a lot of people know Gemma Ray. Well do yourself a favor and get into her because her music sounds like an electronic gothic soundtrack to a Western. She gets a rating of FRESH.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ILAFyj-0wo

Image result for moaning band

Monday, March 5, 2018

SXSW Hip Hop Preview

The weekend before SXSW is historically a dead one in Austin and this year was certainly no different. This makes sense because any up and coming band that’s worth noting is actually playing the festival in an attempt to blow up to the next level. And if you’re not playing SX that means you’re either too big for it and will only play a surprise show if your coke dealer is down here for the week or you’ve plateaued as a band and you’re stuck playing for overweight former frat boys who are trying to relive their glory days.

Well seeing as how I’m an overweight wannabe former art student, I couldn’t just lay low for an entire weekend and wait for the other Radiohead fans to arrive, so I decided to pop in on what is usually a good and freaky art show deep on the east side of Austin. But it wasn’t long before I realized that even the good artists are saving their energy for SXSW. When I walked in all I saw was a bunch of high school level art hanging on the wall and a few kids who were trying to get in on the transgender game because stealing from Black culture is so 1990’s. Now I’m certainly not knocking true transgenders, I’m just saying that these kids were clearly posers because even I, a meat and potatoes scrub from small town Texas, know that you don’t mix a blue jean romper with Doc Martins! I mean, come on scrubs, pop in on some of the new Queer Eye on Netflix to get some fashion tips and smoke a little herb to hopefully create some better art.

Anyway, after checking out roughly 1,000 artists or so, it looks as though RnB and Hip Hop will once again reign supreme at SX this year. And this isn’t that big of a surprise as it seems as though Hip Hop and Rock n Roll are never on point at the same time. I can only remember one instance of this occurring and that was back in 1992 when Wu Tang, Gangster Rap, and Grunge music exploded on the scene all at once. But the good news is that Hip Hop and RnB are so good right now that you really don’t miss Rock n Roll, which is a good thing because from the looks of it, we’re still a few years away before the next Kurt Cobain hits us. Here a quick look at some of the best that will be playing SXSW this year.

First up is Buddy, a wiry looking dude from Compton who went to art school so he could focus on what he loved and not the other things you typically have to deal with in that neighborhood. But don’t let that fool you as he is still able to bring that hood edge to his rhymes while not focusing solely on popping Molly and banging chicks. It’s refreshing to see that artists still exist in this genre and that someone like Kendrick wasn’t a complete anomaly. Like most Hip Hop performers today, he can sing and rap and also appears to be the next big thing out of Cali. FRESH
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O3QOBYq0lBI

Next up is Kelela, this is where soul and electronic music meet to give you something you can groove to while either rolling or simply sipping on some wine while trying to close the deal on a Netflix and Chill night. I remember checking her out for the first time a few years ago but I was so deep in punk music that I really wasn’t trying to check for anything like this at the time. Do yourself a favor and don’t sleep on her like I did. FRESH
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l227G1KSWks

Next up is Jpegmafia from Baltimore. He’s angry, grimy, and a little rough around the edges but thankfully it appears as though that he’s on his way to a more refined sound so that most of the general public is actually able to digest what he has to offer. The closest comparison I can think of is Death Grips but just imagine how grumpy they’d be if they had to tour all of the time; well that’s Jpegmafia. FRESH
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=974TXFKtyls

Topaz Jones reminds me of 90’s RnB and Hip Hop, which after today, isn’t a bad thing as I witnessed a floor full of 20 somethings get wet the second Usher’s Nice n Slow came on. Is he Usher? No, but he’s the perfect blend of every fun hip hop song from that era. FRESH
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_1FL2RR0iJI

While Duckwrth is a super mainstream hip hop artist he’s still not quite Macklemore. He actually has talent brings a ton of energy to the stage; it’s just that he’s clearly in the game to make money and peace out. WEAK
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vV71CEm-svU

And the last artist that will be all over SX is Smokepurpp. He clearly has the least amount of talent of anyone I’ve previewed today as he sounds like the next coming of Lil B but because he’s from Miami and makes simpleton music, he will probably blow up and will be featured at every nightclub this summer. WEAK
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YO2WD8Fky8I

Image result for buddy rapper

Monday, February 19, 2018

Black Panther

They’ve finally arrived!!!! Our reparations have officially started to trickle in. And no, they didn’t come in the form of 40 acres and a mule like our ancestors were promised. They didn’t even come in the form of a large check like Dave Chappelle tried to prepare us for; and I firmly believe that this hasn’t happened yet because at the time he proved to Black people that we’re not quite ready for something of that magnitude as we would spend the vast majority of it on Kool cigarettes and delinquent cell phone bills. No, they, and by "they" I mean the people who control the world (Steven Spielberg and Sting- if you can have sex for 40 hours and not cum or get tired, of course you rule the world) have first decided to empower us by giving us a true superhero that we can all believe in!

Now this happened for me decades ago when Wesley Snipes introduced the badass Blade to the world but even then I realized that he was only for a niche audience. Not all Black people can connect with a day walking vampire who hates and kills all other vampires. And who knows, maybe that’s part of the reason why we can’t overcome. If you don’t think a guy who says "Some muthaf*kas are always trying to ice skate uphill" after killing the ultimate vampire isn’t the coolest guy on the planet, then you have some serious soul searching to do.

But Black kids, Black adults, and honestly, everyone needed to see a strong, intelligent, and powerful Black superhero to not only help Black youth expand their minds and tap into the far reaches of their imaginations but to also help other cultures gain a better understanding of our viewpoint. Because sadly, having a real life Black President didn’t achieve this, he was apparently too busy sneaking into the country from Ethiopia and killing everyone with health care.

So director/co-writer Ryan Coogler knew just how important this film was. It couldn’t simply just be another cheesy addition to the Marvel universe and it sure as hell couldn’t be a low budget cousin of a Tyler Perry movie that only spoke to the lowest common denominator. This film had to be more than that. And I’m happy to say that he delivered in a major way! Heck, I felt so empowered after seeing it that for the first time ever I thought about signing up for Meet Black People dot Com just so that I could meet my Nubian queen with the hopes of taking over the world. But then a day later I met and talked to this beautiful Italian girl and I was back to my old ways. But I’m also an idiot, so this in no way reflects how the rest of our culture was affected by this film.

When making Black Panther, Coogler didn’t fall into the trap that the other Marvel movies do, which is to put so much focus on the staying true to the comics that actually coming up with a good story is almost an afterthought. With Panther, he decided to go the route of making a great film that just so happened to fit in the Marvel universe. Yes, he’s still true to the comic but the story is layered and touches on so many topics that it almost requires multiple viewings to catch it all.

In it, T’Challa is about to take his rightful place as the king of Wakanda, a hidden nation in Africa that has technology so advanced that it can change the world. But as he does so, he faces a number of challenges that would cripple the normal human being. He has to survive the challenge for his throne from a rival leader, he faces the pressure of keeping Wakanda and its resources a secret as the Black nations around him suffer, and he discovers a family betrayal that could come back to haunt him and his entire nation.

And this is where Michael B. Jordan as Killmonger comes in. Kllmonger’s role was, in part, what elevated this film to another level. I say this because he’s wasn’t just some cartoonish character who was a part of the sometimes silly Hydra Klan or even some virtual reality project that went wrong. He instead represented the frustrations, regret, and to a certain extent, the aspirations of every young Black male in America. Well, maybe not those weirdos who stand behind Trump with those Blacks for Trump signs, I don’t know where they come from. I’m still holding out hope that they’re just hired extras who are simply trying to pay the bills before being cast in the next Spike Lee film.

But anyway, yes, Killmonger is the extreme version of the Black man’s psyche. I’m not saying that Black men want to drop bombs on "Whitey" or anything ridiculous like that but wanting to pool our resources for the betterment of our people versus holding on to the little stuff that we do have is certainly a goal. The way he totally disrespected royalty whenever he addressed them encapsulated Americans general lack of respect for other cultures. And he had so many classic lines in the film; the final of which was one of the most profound lines ever spoken in cinema. I basically stood up and raised the Black Power fist after that!

But thankfully the movie wasn’t all serious as there was plenty of badass action in it! Every time Panther’s suit stored up kinetic energy and then released it to destroy SUV’s or armor covered rhinos, I nearly wet myself with excitement. And Tchula’s main bodyguard Okaye (The Walking Dead’s Danai Gurira) basically stole the show. Gurira brought Michonne’s fierceness to the big screen and made you fear her more than you did the king himself. Plus, every weapon used in the film looked really cool, especially when they controlled them using their awesome VR machines.

In the end, this film was funny, cool, and more importantly, relevant! And hopefully this raises the bar for future Marvel films as I can’t help but give it a rating of very TIGHT!
Image result for black panther
   

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!