Thursday, December 15, 2016

Day 1847 - Rogue One

Rogue One

Or as many people are going to call it - Star Wars: Episode 3.5.  It's pretty great.  But before I talk about about it, I really want to stress that I'm going to be as spoiler-free as possible.  There's a lot of fun stuff in this movie, and I really want people to experience that for themselves. 

Okay, down to brass tacks.  This movie takes places right before Episode 4, and it details how the Rebels ended up with the plans to the Death Star.  What's that, you say?  You haven't watched any of the previous Star Wars movies, and everything I've just written is just nonsense.  Well, let's amend that.

The movie starts off with Mads Mikkelsen playing a farmer (Galen Urso), who's visited by representatives of the Empire.  They want him to work on a weapon of mass destruction for them.  Apparently he's a super-smart scientist, and has been in hiding.  He sends his family off to safety, so the Empire can't use them as leverage against him.  It doesn't go well.  Fast-forward 15 years, and Galen's daughter, Jyn (as played by Felicity Jones), is forcibly recruited by the Rebels to find her father, and get information on the Death Star (that weapon of mass destruction).  All of this leads her to become inspiration for a small group of followers who believe in her mission to help fight the tyranny of the Empire.  And here's where the movie really shines.

Earlier in the year, there was a forgettable remake of The Magnificent Seven.  This movie appropriates a lot of the same plot, but it does so in a way that succeeds where the Seven remake failed.  It introduces characters slowly and deliberately.  Each character becomes fully formed throughout the film (even the main bad guy).  You have Jyn, who is on a quest to follow in her father's footsteps, but also trying to find him, so she can get some much needed closure.  Then there's Diego Luna's Cassian - a daring rebel fighter who still has moments of humanity, even amidst the terrible decisions he has to make.  And I can't forget about the reprogrammed Imperial Droid K-2SO.  In, what could have been a very dark and dour film, K-2SO provides the much needed comic relief.  And it all stems from his character.  It's never forced, and that's an accomplishment.  Riz Ahmed does a great job of taking what could have been a throwaway role of defecting Imperial pilot Bohdi Rook, and turning him into a character that you have real empathy for.  And finally, there's the fantastic duo of Donnie Yen and Wen Jiang, as they portray a blind man (Jedi?), and his best friend/protector.  This magnificent six are given so much room to grow as characters, that when all the action really starts to come, we have become fully invested in them. 

And that action.  For me, the last forty minutes were so involving and breathtaking, that I barely breathed.  We all know what's going to happen.  But we don't know how.  I still remember watching Return of the Jedi and being stunned by all the space ships doing battle.  This movie takes all of that and leaves it in the dust.  When a squadron of tie fighters fly out of a hanger, you can do nothing but be both amazed and terrified for the Rebels that have to face them.

This reminds me of an older style of movie, because of all the emphasis on the characters.  And also, because of its reliance on practical effects.  Don't get me wrong, there's a ton of digital effects (especially during scenes that I don't want to talk about), but when the movie creates alien creatures that are people in costume, it just feels comforting.  And it makes things seem more real.  Like real characters are sacrificing themselves for the greater good.

So, yeah, I liked it.  It has heart, great characterization, and treats aplenty for those of you who have actually seen any of the six movies that have come before.  It's worth avoiding the spoilers and seeing it as soon as possible.

***1/2 (maybe even ****)

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Day 1842 - Seeing John Cleese (and it was everything I hoped it would be)

Earlier this year, I got to say "Hi" to Terry Jones and get his autograph.  For those of you who don't know who he is, he's one of the six members of Monty Python.  Tonight, while I didn't get to say "Hi" or get his autograph, I did get to see John Cleese in person as he answered questions and talked about Monty Python and the Holy Grail, as well as Life of Brian (Meaning of Life never gets any love, except from me).  The tickets cost me a pretty penny, but I figured that I had a very limited window to see someone I consider a true comic genius in person.  And he really was a treat.  From stories about fellow cast members, the difficulty of crafting a story for films, religion, politics, and what might cross the line of good taste, he was everything I hoped for.  I'm never going to get a chance to meet Graham Chapman (who passed away in 1989), but I can still hope to see Eric Idle, Michael Palin, or Terry Gilliam before it's too late.

And that's the thing.  I like doing this.  I honestly don't know how many other people like doing stuff like this.  I mean, the show sold out (or was close enough), so I know there's at least that many people.  But I have a little catalog in the back of my brain of the people I've met or seen perform, and it gives ME a warm little glow.  A couple of years ago, I was figuring out what some of my favorite concerts were, and I ended up just listing as many as I could remember.  Each one has it's own special place in my heart, and I haven't seen THAT many concerts.  For someone who let all that go by in high school and college, I feel like I did a good job playing catch up over the years.  I've seen a variety of musicians, and I feel satisfied that I haven't wasted the opportunities that have come along.  Tori Amos stealing my pen, an Easter Bunny rocking out to Garbage, Tom Waits singing "What's He Building in There?" are moments that will forever be etched in my brain.  Seeing Davy Jones in the "Real Live Brady Bunch," pushing my way into an auditorium to listen to Paul Williams talk, saying "How're you doing?" to Thomas Hayden Church on the way to a screening of the film The Specials are all just treasures that I've been lucky enough to force myself upon.

I like my life.  I like the fact that there have been many, many things and people that have shaped it into the way it is.  And when I get the chance to see someone (or even tell that person) that has helped mold me into the person I am today, it simply adds more to the whole package.  There are more than a few things that I regret not doing in my life.  But sometimes, rather than looking back on those, I find it comforting to look back on the things I don't regret.  Seeing John Cleese in person cost me a good chunk of money and I could have sat there and listened to him talk for much longer than he did, but I don't regret it, because I got to see, in person, a performer who added just a little bit to my own personality.  And that's satisfying.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Day 1837 - Recent Movie Roundup

So... It's been a little more than a month since I last wrote something.  And that last thing was on the election and its results.  I had more people read that piece than anything I've written since I started this second go around as The Critic Wannabe.  Let me tell you, that gives one pause.  I hate politics and the strife that it brings, but let me tell you, there was a tiny part of me that wanted to continue in that same vein.  Thankfully, like gas, it passed.  Instead, you get my thoughts on some of the movies I saw in the last month or so.  It's not going to crush in the views, but I hope you enjoy it anyway.

The Handmaiden - Chan-wook Park directed Oldboy.  If you've seen that movie, you know that he's a director who likes to push the audience's buttons.  For good or bad, he wants to get a reaction out of you.  The Handmaiden is no different.  That being said, for its three act Rashoman-like structure, The Handmaiden tells a story that is twisty, sensual, violent, gorgeous, and one of the best things I've seen this year.  Enough time has gone on, that I'm able to think about the "twists" and recognize them as legitimate storytelling devices.  The story follows four people - Count Fujiwara, a swindler who hires a thief, Sook Hee, to be his accomplice as he tries to marry  Lady Hideko before her Uncle Kouzuki can do so. 
Act one is all about the set-up, as we meet all the players, and we have a pretty basic understanding of what each of them want.  Act two goes back, and shows all sorts of scenes from different points of view, as well as additional scenes that reveal more about the characters.  And act three ties it all together as different players realize that they're being played be the others.
This is sometimes not an easy movie to watch.  Uncle Kouzuki is a reprehensible man, and only in the second and third acts do we really see the depths that he exists in.  Sook Hee has never known anything other than being a thief, so any change from that routine is a completely new experience, and we see her transformation over the course of the film, and it's astonishing.
Again, this is a movie that's not for the casual viewer.  I'm happy I got to see it in the theater, because when that happens, you can't be distracted by outside forces. You're forced to either engage (which I gladly did), or not.  It seems that every scene is there to either be beautiful or move the story along (and sometimes both).  Simply great.

Doctor Strange - Ah, the new Marvel movie.  Like the previous Marvel movies, it's simply a good time.  Is it slightly derivative (egotistic know-it-all has it all stripped away and has to rebuild from the ground up - check)?   Sure.  But it's all in the casting and execution, and this movie has that in spades.  The movie is a fun time (love the cloak of levitation/magic carpet), but where it really succeeds is in creating another pocket in the Marvel Film Universe, and showing us where it fits into the larger picture.  And it does it pretty effortlessly.  It rests pretty squarely in the middle of the Marvel Films, and that's really all we want, isn't it?

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them - The J.K. Rowling-penned screenplay that sets up the magical world pre-Harry Potter is a solid flick.  It takes a little time getting a move on, but when it does, it really starts to work.  My problem with the movie, and I couldn't put my finger on it until I read author Carrie Vaughn's review of it, is exactly what she said - the movie is about the wrong person.  Instead of concentrating on Eddie Redmayne's Newt Scamander (the wizard), the movie would have been better served if it had focused on Dan Fogler's Jacob Kowalski (the human).  That would have brought a whole different viewpoint to the film, and might have made it a touch more magical (excuse the pun).  (Carrie's pretty great - read her blog here... ) And I never believed that I would ever want more of Dan Fogler in anything.  It might be a Christmas miracle.  I still don't care for Katherine Watterson as an actress, but that's my own personal bias (she plays the by the book, eventual love interest to Newt).  And I still enjoyed the film, but I could have watched another hour of Jacob and Alison Sudol's Queenie (the mind-reading sister of Katherine Watterson's character) and been fine.  They were completely charming.  In a wizarding duel between this and Doctor Strange, Strange takes this one down easily, but they're playing to different crowds.

Arrival - Been wanting to see a great sci-fi movie recently?  Here you go.  Aliens come to Earth, and here in America linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is teamed up with physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), as they try to communicate with the aliens.  It's a complicated process, but they seem to be getting it.  But, while America is cautiously being open about some of the things they've learned, other countries are getting scared and war against the aliens is being planned.  This is a very personal story told on a very large scale, and it posits some very deep ideas about time, honor, and what we do with the information we have (on both a small scale and a large one).  I liked it, and I like talking about the story that it's based on (Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang), and how and why they differ.  If you've seen the movie, I think it's worth it to either read the story it's based on, or see what the major change was.  I think it enhances the experience.

Edge of Seventeen - I thought this was pretty great.  But I'm getting tired, and running out of adjectives.  Great acting, real heart, embarrassing texts, awkward situations all highlight this very smart film.  Exactly what I was hoping for when I saw it.

There you go.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Day 1810 - The Day After

I'm not going to tell you who I voted for.  It's not any of your business.  I thought about it a lot.  I prayed about it.  I looked at all the candidates (well, Trump, Clinton, and Johnson anyway - Sorry Jill Stein).  I listened to all sorts of people on who they were voting for.  I had a talk with my dad that was probably the longest and most honest one about politics that we've ever had.  And I'm satisfied with my vote.  I still  felt empowered when I filled in that circle.

And there are people who are upset and angry, and there are people who are happy.  But I think most people are like me.  Somebody at work asked me what I thought about the new president, and I said "We'll see."  I honestly don't know what's going to happen when Trump takes office.  I personally think he's a loon, but if he keeps that speechwriter that he had at 3AM yesterday morning, I'll feel a little better.

It's such a weird thing to be a moderate voter.  It's also such a weird thing to not be defined by party lines.  I go back and forth every single election.  I try and vote for who I think is the best for the job, based off what I want in a candidate.  I suppose a little of my problem is that I'm a white guy.  If there's a cop car behind me, I'm scared that I might get a ticket.  I'm not scared of anything else.  If I'm walking alone at night, I might be scared that someone will want my wallet (although they're almost certainly not going to want my flip phone).  But that's it.  I don't know what it means to be black or be a woman.  But I try not to discount any of their feelings.  And if this election has proven anything, it's that all types of people can be jerks.  I consider myself lucky, though, because a lot (a lot!) of my Facebook friends on both sides of the issue are very considerate.  But there's still a lot of sadness and that hurts.

I have no answers for anybody.  I just know what I personally know.  But I wanted to write something.  Anything.  My own decision would have been so much easier if it had been Bernie vs Trump.  Bernie got my vote easy.  As with every politician, I don't have to agree with them on every issue, but if they connect with me on some inner level, and actually have something to say, then I'm more than willing to listen.

Here's the thing - At my heart I'm a conservative.  But as I get older, I've become more liberal.  That's not usually how its supposed to work.  But this year's election threw all of that out the window.  Here's the thing that I don't think most Hillary supporters understood - How they thought about Trump (misogynist, racist, evil, sexist, etc), that's what Trump supporters thought about Hillary.  Not those specific terms, but they equated her lying and shadiness on the same equal level as Trump's sexism and racism.  Obviously, those are two very different ways of looking at each person, but the anti-Hillary group (because not all of them were actually Trump supporters) felt just as valid in their dislike of her, as the anti-Trumps did in theirs.  And I only wonder if Bernie had been the candidate if he would have been able to pull over those with Republican leanings who just didn't like or trust Trump.  I don't think people really knew how many Republican-leaning people wanted a viable alternative to these two, even if that viable alternative was a Democrat.  Yes, yes, there will always be people who just blindly follow the party line, but there are still a lot of us who want a candidate to actually make a stand, even if it alienates some people in the short run.

My biggest concern with Trump becoming President is different than a lot of other peoples'.  I'm more concerned with Free Speech and the Freedom of the Press.  That's my own hot button topic.  And the moment I see it in jeopardy, I'm going to have to do something  Creatively anyways.  I never (ever) want to be censored for what I write, and nor do I ever want to see anyone else in that same boat.  There's all the Facebook "friends" who have an opinion.  I'm glad about that.  I may not like looking at all of said opinions, but I'm happy to be able to judge for myself (and do the research), to validate what people are saying.

This will be the only time that I may write about politics.  I hope so, anyways.  I try to avoid it.  But this has been such a polarizing result, that I felt compelled to write something.  I'm not trying to change minds.  But I am hoping to crack open some of the doors that have been shut.  And like I said, "We'll see."

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Day 1719 - Suicide Squad

We'll get to whether or not I liked the movie in a bit.  First, I want to set up the movie itself.  The plot is right out of The Dirty Dozen - a number of incarcerated super villains are given a chance to knock some years off their sentence by participating in undercover operations that might end with them not coming back.  And as added incentive, they have little bombs injected into them to keep them on the straight and narrow.

The players are Harley Quinn - Joker's girlfriend, super smart, and certifiably crazy.  Deadshot - A hired killer who never misses what he shoots at, and has a daughter who's the only person he cares about.  Captain Boomerang - An Aussie who drinks a lot and throws trick boomerangs. Diablo - Basically DC's version of the Human Torch, who's a tortured soul because of what he did to his family.  Killer Croc - A super strong crocodile looking fella.  Slipknot - Apparently he can climb everything (and in the most unintentionally funny scene, he's introduced and we know immediately that he's cannon fodder).  Enchantress - an ancient witch who is controlled by... the team's boss - Amanda Waller.  She holds the Enchantress' heart in a box.  The two "good" guys on the team are Katana - a Japanese swordswoman whose sword captures the souls of those it kills.  And Rick Flag - A normal human who's in love with the Enchantress' human host.  Whew.  And that's not even talking about the Joker.

Here's my problem with the movie (and, yeah, I just thought it was okay) - it's one of characterization, and I don't know what I would do to change it.  The two main characters of the movie are Harley Quinn and Deadshot.  As played by Margot Robbie and Will Smith, they are as close to their comic counterparts as they possibly could be.  But Harley Quinn is so crazy that I had a hard time sympathizing with her.  And the opposite is true for Deadshot.  He's so focused as Deadshot that I couldn't believe that someone who loves his daughter as much as he does would allow himself to be as bad as he's supposed to be.

That being said, the supporting bad guys kill it.  Captain Boomerang is easily one of the best bad guys I've seen on screen in a while.  He has no tortured history, he's unapologetic in his depravity, and he's an unabashed coward.  In other words, he's perfect for the team.  Diablo is perfectly tortured, and I believed everything he went through to get to this point.  And Killer Croc has the perfect mix of menace and self-reflection.  If the whole movie were about them, I probably would have enjoyed it that much more.

But the real elephant in the room is Jared Leto's Joker.  And he's fine.  He's not going to make anyone forget Heath Ledger's Joker (or even Cesar Romero's), but he is perfectly acceptable.  The only problem is that while everyone thinks he's given short shrift in the film, he's a much bigger part of it than he should be.  The whole premise of the movie is that these bad guys take on missions that no one else can do, and, yet, their first mission is one that it seems like any government agency could do.  And their second mission (which is just a continuation of their first one), while it meets those requirements, doesn't have the gravitas that it should.  It's probably because the big bad doesn't seem like much of a threat.  But Joker is the monkey wrench that throws everything into upheaval.  And if their mission was to catch Joker, or if he had more interactions with the other characters, then I might have been able to appreciate him that much more.  But it seems like he's auditioning for his placement in a Harley Quinn movie.

It might seem like I didn't like the movie, but the acting in it really elevates the film.  Viola Davis' Amanda Waller is just as brutal and conniving as the one in the comic.  Robbie and Smith are spot on.  And Joel Kinnaman really becomes the backbone of the film with just the right amount of gruffness and military precision.  It's a solid film, but there wasn't a lot at stake for me, and I wanted to care more.


Thursday, July 14, 2016

Day 1692 - Ghostbusters

There are going to be a lot of preconceived notions going into the new Ghostbusters movie.  There are people who think any remake is going to be a bad idea.  There are people who hold the first movie in such high esteem, that they won't even think about seeing a new version no matter who is in it.  There are the chuckleheads who think an all female cast Ghostbusters is ridiculous.  There are the people who don't like Melissa McCarthy.

As for me, I like the first movie.  I watch it whenever it's on TV.  I have the DVD and throw it in every once in a while.  But it's not the be all, end all.  I'm sometimes excited when a movie I love is remade.  Peter Jackson remaking King Kong?  I'm in.  The remakes of Robocop and Total Recall?  I saw 'em.  (meh.)  So when this one was announced, it never really bothered me.

My preconceived notions stem from the fact that I'm a fan of Kristen Wiig.  I think she's a smart and clever actress, and I'll watch a Ghostbusters movie that has her in a leading role.  I'm also a fan of the woman-centric narrative (Nancy Drew will always be better than the Hardy Boys).  And I've enjoyed just about everything director Paul Feig has done.

And the movie is good.  Not great.  Not awful.  Just good. 

I think I had a little trouble during the first third of the film, because a couple weeks ago, my buddy John wanted me to match up the characters from the new movie to the old one (who was Ray, Egon, etc), and as I watched the movie, I realized there were no real analogs to the original characters.  For better or worse (and in my opinion, better), this is a completely new take on the idea of what it means to be a Ghostbuster.  It's not a remake.  It's a new film, with new characters based on the same concept.  Obviously there are going to be some callbacks to the previous film (stay all the way to the end past the credits), but this movie is its own creature. 

Plot - Well, the plot is similar to the original in the setting up of the concept.  Where it differs is in why the ghosts are active.  There's an outside force actively making things happen.  And since this is the era of easy to make computer effects, there's a mother of a blowout at the end. 

Say what you will about the actresses in the film, but they run the gamut of emotions and energy.  We're not talking too deep or anything, but the camaraderie that the women share is the glue of the film. 

I realize Melissa McCarthy might not be everyone's cup of tea, but she very nicely underplays her role as team leader Abby.  Wiig is solid throughout, although giving her character a bit more strength would have gone a long way.  Leslie Jones' Patty is quite good at giving us the every(wo)man point of view.  And then there's Kate McKinnon's Julian.  She makes the weapons, she's got a wonderfully twisted worldview, and I wanted to like her character so, so much more than I actually did.  It's not bad.  It just seems a little... too twee.  And I'm not sure where the fault lies.  I think it's a combo between the script and interpretation.

Honestly, I was hoping that the movie would be a little funnier.  When it gets the laughs right, it gets them right (Slimer is a real treat).  But there's a lot of "just okay" and I don't know if that'll be enough.  But the action sequences are pretty spot on.  The prelude to the final battle  is a rousing scene with some solid character bits.

So, a bit of a mixed bag for me.  I might actually enjoy it more once I can focus on these ladies as their own characters.  But the cameos - pretty great.

Somewhere in the **1/2 to *** range

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Day 1673 - Summer television

I have a lot of paper lying (laying?) around the house, with half-finished thoughts scrawled on them.  I would write on here more often if I actually started those thoughts on the computer versus actual paper.  And even now I have a number of unfinished thoughts.  I want to write about books and TV shows.  Not movies, though, because I haven't really watched a bunch recently.  And there's nothing that I am jonesing to see.  I want to see Finding Dory, Independence Day, and Now You See Me 2, but I'm having a hard time motivating myself to go to the theater.  I'm sure they'll all be fine, and maybe even better than that, but I want something that's going to transport me and fill me with awe that sometimes only a summer blockbuster can do.  And, amazingly, Tarzan seems like it might do that.  Each new trailer makes it look better than the previous one.  But until that comes out, there's TV.

I've been watching BrainDead on Monday nights starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Tony Shalhoub.  It's such a breath of fresh air (for me) to watch a show that's as canny about politics as it is about alien ants taking over all of Washington infecting people by crawling into their brains.  Sometimes it doesn't work out and a head might explode.  CBS was promoting it more as a comedy than anything else, and while it does make me smile, I find it more of a sly science fiction series that's instilling the right amount of dread and hopelessness that a show like this needs in order to remain compelling.  I have no idea how (or if) the good guys are going to win, but I can't wait to see what they're going to do next.

I also finished Friday Night Lights Season One.  Yeah, yeah - for all those of you who have already watched it, you know how good it is.  I'm finally jumping on the bandwagon.  For those of you who haven't watched it, you probably should.  It's pretty great.  I've got season two sitting here from the library, and I feel that once I start, then I might be incommunicado for the following week.  It's both intimidating and exciting.

Finally, there was the ScyFy show The Expanse that came out last year.  The first season was 10 episodes long, and that seems like the perfect length.  Apparently it's based off a series of books and season one is based off book one.  It's a compelling story because it follows three different factions (Earth, Mars, and the Belt) and people from each of them as they get tangled in a conspiracy and end up on a collision course.  The season finale is a great episode that gives us all the pieces that we need in order to know what the conspiracy actually is, as well bringing the main characters together.  Space opera at it's finest, because it has some great spaceships, but its real strengths are its characters.  Flawed and broken people who are just trying to do the right thing.

As for books, I've been on a tear recently.  I'm in the two books at a time mode that I haven't been in a while.  It feels great.  Currently I'm reading Transparent by Natalie Whipple (a dollar store buy) and Neil Gaiman's American Gods.  And comics - so many comics.  It feels great.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Day 1666 - Father's Day and the scariest book I've ever read

I am absolutely dying here, as I (like I presume most Clevelanders) am watching the NBA Finals.  It might be the quickest way to incite a heart attack.  So I've decided to distract myself a little.

I was talking with my buddy Kevin yesterday about what it means to be a dad today vs 30 years ago.  He's a dad to three kids,and we talked about how you connect with your kids and how much time you get to spend with them.  And I thought about my dad.  His influence is all over everything I do (and like).  He taught me how to play baseball (and I loved it and was good at it).  He taught me the history of the sport.  He bought me baseball cards (lots and lots of baseball cards).  And Star Wars cards and King Kong cards.  He took me to baseball card shows and even let me set up my own table at some of them.  It was great earning my own money selling off stuff that I didn't need.  He even coached my 5th grade basketball team, even though I was pretty terrible at the sport.  And today, he's helping me with my Amazing Spider-Man collection (in return, I get him coverless Batman and Superman stories from the 50's and 60's because he likes the stories). 

But one of the coolest things he's done is get me books that I politely ask for during birthdays or Christmas.  One year I asked for Edward Levy's Came a Spider.  I first read this during my senior year of college.  I was at the Athens' library and I saw the title and picked it up off the shelf.  I had read James Patterson's Along Came a Spider within the last year, and I'm sure that's why I picked it up.  Came a Spider was about a big tarantula-type spider that attacks a young boy, injects its eggs into him, and then they burst out of him and attack a suburban L.A. town.  For someone who grew up on movies like Them!, Tarantula, and The Deadly Mantis, this was right up my alley. 

One sitting.

I read the whole thing in one sitting in my dorm room that day.  As I started, my legs were out and it was light out.  By the time I finished the book, it was dark and my legs were curled up under me, and I was probably in the smallest possible human ball as I could be in.  My heart was racing, and I knew I had experienced something special.  It's probably tied with my experiences of reading Stephen King's The Stand and Gordon Koman's I Want to go Home.  Since it was a library book, it had to go back (although the thought did cross my mind to tell the library I "lost" it).  So, years later, I asked my dad to get a copy for me for Christmas.  It took a couple sittings to get through that time, but I still loved the book.  I started it again this afternoon, and if it weren't for this game, I'd be reading it right now (although maybe not, since Game of Thrones is on).  But every time I pick up the book, I will always thank my dad for getting it for me.

Happy Father's Day, Pop!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Day 1658 - Money, money, money (but more of a lack thereof)

Remember that ALS ice bucket challenge from a few years ago?  Well, I get to do that for the next few days as apparently my hot water is not working at all.  I went to clean the kitty litter this morning, and as I walked towards the box, my foot went "goosh"onto the little rug I have near there.  My hot water tank was leaking from the top, which meant that I had to change the fittings on the hot water tank, not the tank itself (thankfully).  Three hours and some jury-rigging later the leaking has stopped, but now the hot water isn't working.  Honestly, while it sucks, I'd rather have that than the excess water.  I have a  plumber coming Wednesday to see if we can get all this straightened out.  I just hope it doesn't cost me an arm and a leg.

But all that just really caps the last couple of weeks of money suckage.  A few weeks ago I got a speeding ticket.  It was on a residential road, and it was from a state trooper.  Nope.  Not getting out of that one.  I sent in my 200 bucks, but apparently it arrived a day late, because I discovered a new type of fear (and a new experience) - that of having a warrant being served out for my arrest.  Thankfully that only lasted one day, but it's still disconcerting getting that notice in the mail. 

I feel like the worst movie fan in the world, because I've barely been to the theater to see anything.  I still haven't seen X-Men, and I feel like, no matter how bad it might be (and at least we know it's not going to be Superman vs Batman bad) it's a movie I really need to see in the theater.  And previous to the last few months, I might have gone on a non-discount day, but now there's very little chance of that.

The silver lining in all of this are a few things - I've been watching Friday Night Lights Season One and it's as good as everyone says it was.  I've been reading more comics than I have in a while (so much good stuff out there).  And I've actually gotten more sleep than I have in a while.  It's not a lot, but I'll take it.

It's weird.  I can really get down on myself sometimes, and with circumstances like these it would be easy to do that now.  But I'm doing okay.  Sure things could be better (when can they not?), but I guess I'll be okay.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Day 1635 - I've never walked out of a movie, but I've seen people who have.

As I'm sure you can tell, I've watched a lot of movies.  I'm nowhere near some people, because I work a ton, and try to read a lot as well.  But I have probably seen more than most.  In all that time, whenever I've gone to a theater, I've never walked out of a film.  The closest I ever came was when I saw 10 Things I Hate About You.  The mediocre Heath Ledger/Julia Stiles Shakespeare in high school flick.  I had already seen something beforehand, and decided to hop into that theater for a double feature.  (I'm a scofflaw, I know.)  The first ten minutes of that film were so excruciating, that I almost left the theater.  Instead, I stayed, and the movie got better.  It's not a classic, but I didn't feel like I wasted my time.  But I did almost leave.

So, instead of writing about something current, I thought I would spend some time writing about the times where I've been in a movie theater and seen people leave, never to return.  I've written about this topic before (briefly), but I find it fascinating, so I thought I'd revisit it.

The very first time I experienced someone walking out of a film was during Katt Shea's Streets.  The year was 1990.  Probably January or February.  Married... With Children was on Fox and to this 17 year old, Christina Applegate was the hottest woman on the planet.  And she was starring in a film where she played a prostitute being stalked by a killer cop.  There was no way I wasn't going to see that movie.  I was also savvy enough to know that I had a mere one week window to see this film, because there was no way it was going to last longer than that in the theater.  I feel that I saw it on a Wednesday or Thursday (probably Thursday).  There were two people in the theater.  Myself and an older gentleman (we'll say somewhere between 30 and 50) made the trek.  The movie started, and pretty quickly you could tell that this wasn't your normal exploitation film.  The movie had much more on its mind than simple exploitation.  It was tragic, violent, and gripping.  I was immediately able to shift gears as I was watching the film (something I'm still able to do today, thank goodness).  That guy who was in the theater with me, though?  Nope.  After about an hour, he got up and left.  I have the feeling he was hoping for something way more salacious than what he was given.  I know that's what got me in the seat.  But personally, while the movie may have it's flaws, I consider to be a true undiscovered classic. 

Then there was the college experience.  This one wasn't in a theater, it was in a classroom.  In one of my film classes, the teacher was going to show us a movie called Sweet Movie.  He prefaced it by saying that it was pretty extreme, and if anyone decided at any point that they wanted to leave, it wouldn't be held against them.  People have asked me since why he was showing it to us.  That explanation has been lost to the sands of time.  All I know is that I wish I had left.  I feel that about a half dozen students left at some point or another.  I stuck it out.  Sadly.  It was, and still is, the most disturbing film I've ever seen.  I do not recommend it.  I don't recommend searching it out.  I'm still gobsmacked by the fact that it's part of the Criterion Collection.  I know there's worse movies out there, but I also make it a point to not experience them.  I know better.  I'm all for expanding my boundaries, as it were, but on my own terms.  I even opted to revisit it at one point a few years ago, just to see if I was being a wuss (and be a glutton for punishment, apparently).  I made it through the first 20 minutes, and then I tapped out.  I blame no one for leaving that one.

Post-college Happiness happened.  There was a group of us who went to see Todd Solondz' Happiness.  I loved Welcome to the Dollhouse, his previous film, and this one was getting rave reviews.  It's possibly the bleakest film ever made.  None of us liked it.  Obviously, it made an impact, but I still don't like the movie.  And, apparently, neither did the audience.  It wasn't just one or two people who left.  It was a steady stream of people.  It was like each successive person was going, "I just sat through that scene, so I should be good.  Oh, crap!  I'm out!"  And it wasn't just any one scene that got people out of the theater, it was the movie itself.  Again, those people were smarter than we were.

By far, the most dramatic exit came during City of God.  This is an amazing film that follows a group of kids living on the streets of Rio de Janeiro.  Some aspire to a better life, and some just aspire to live.  It's legitimately a great film.  In a movie filled with scenes that would bring lesser people to their knees, there is an astonishingly tense scene where a little kid (6 years old or so) is holding a gun, all ready to shoot.  There was a guy in the theater who literally jumped out of his seat and ran out.  My buddies and I looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders, and nodded in silent agreement.  No judgment, dude.  I get it.

How about The Aristocrats?  It's a documentary about the filthiest joke ever.  It's not a funny joke, but the idea is that comedians use its template to one up each other in debauchery.  My buddy Kevin and I went to see it at the Cedar Lee Theatre on a Monday night, so there was a pretty decent crowd.  Signs were posted throughout the entire theater telling patrons that The Aristocrats was Unrated, and no children under 17 were permitted.  Also, the signs seemed to tell you what you were in for.  Sometimes signs don't work.  Within the first 10 minutes or so, there was a mass exodus of people.  I feel that it was about twenty people or so who fully underestimated what they were in for, and made a mad dash for the exit.  But after that initial rush, not a single person left after that.  We were the ones who knew what we paid for.

One of the weirder walk-outs was during the film Compliance.  This is a staggering piece that would seem  fantastic if the reality it was based on wasn't so incredible.  It's about a fast food worker who's sequestered from the other employees because a guy on the phone, identifying himself as a cop, says she's been stealing from the register.  He has the manager search her, and more.  It's shocking, depressing, and jaw-dropping.  A few people left as the movie went on.  But most interestingly was the couple in front of me.  At a certain point in the movie, she got up, whispered something to her companion, and left.  He stayed and she never came back.  I had never seen anything like that before...

Until it happened to me.  The movie was A Walk Among the Tombstones, the film adaptation of Lawrence Block's novel starring Liam Neeson.  The subject matter is dark, the movie is grimy, and the buddy I went to the movie with was clearly getting uncomfortable as the movie was going on.  And just as the movie was getting to its darkest point, he got up, said, "Sorry" and left.  I didn't know what to do.  Do I follow?  Do I stay?  Was he coming back?  Was he really gone?  I stayed.  The movie, from that point on, got considerably less bleak, but he wasn't coming back.  I didn't blame him for leaving, and he didn't blame me for staying.  It was just one of those things. 

People have their own thresholds for movies.  I know people who've left a movie because they thought it was boring.  I know others who've left because they thought the movie was bereft of any merit.  I'm not really a fan of those excuses, but I understand them.  I'd just prefer to see someone get so upset or pissed at the film that they have to leave.  I want the movie to provoke them.  That makes things fun.  Out of the movies I've seen people walk out of, they're all challenging, but only two of them are ones I hated.  But the others are what I would consider "good."  As a spectator, I guess I just like seeing what's pushing people's buttons.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Day 1631 - Terry Jones and Monty Python and The Meaning of Life

When I was growing up, I never watched "R" rated movies.  This was both a personal choice and some good parenting (not that I'm knocking the parents that allowed their kids to watch "R" rated movies under their own supervision).  Through age 16 I watched a lot of movies from the '30's to present.  I got a quality film education, at least in my own eyes.  But then there came the fateful day when I borrowed a videotape from a neighbor that had both Monty Python's The Meaning of Life and Robocop on it.  I'm sure I've told the story before, but it's fun enough to tell again.  Both movies blew my mind.  I'll talk about Robocop some other time.  Tonight it's all about The Meaning of Life.

But before I get into that, let me back up a few years.  From grades 1 through 4 I went to Catholic school.  Every once in a while they would show us a movie (maybe the teachers needed a break).  And it was always the same three movies: The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima (pretty self-explanatory), The Devil at 4 O'Clock (Spencer Tracy and Frank Sinatra versus a volcano), and Oliver! (a musical version of Oliver Twist)  Being anywhere between the ages of 6 and 9 when I saw these, I thought they were all fine.  But there was something about the musical Oliver! that grabbed me.  Besides the music (which I can still hum today), I'm sure Oliver Reed's Bill Sikes and Shani Wallis' Nancy were part of the equation. 

Fast forward a couple of years.  I was at my cousin Scott's house, and he was showing me Monty Python and the Holy Grail for the very first time.  Watching that movie with someone saying every line as it was being spoken is not the optimum viewing experience.  I walked away from the experience underwhelmed.

Then I watched The Meaning of Life.

I saw it on the big screen a few years ago at the Capitol Theatre, and the guy in charge of choosing the cult movies was disappointed in the turnout.  There were not many of us there, whereas Holy Grail and Life of Brian really packed them in.  That's okay.  I'm ecstatic that I got to see my favorite Python movie on the big screen.

For those of you who have never seen The Meaning of Life, it's a series of sketches detailing the different stages of life, from birth to death.  It's filled with fantastic songs, unforgettable scenes, and maybe as much blood and gore as Robocop.  It's interspersed with odd and sometimes off-putting sequences (that interlude ranks up there as one of the strangest things I've ever seen).  And once you've seen Mr Creosote, you can never un-see him. 

Up until this point, I had never (ever) seen anything as bold and graphic as this film.  Whether it warped me for life or opened my eyes to what movies can do, I leave up to you.  But, suffice to say, after that initial viewing, I don't think I was ever the same again.

But what really makes Meaning of Life sing for me (figuratively and literally) is the insanely long and brilliantly choreographed number "Every Sperm is Sacred."  It's completely reminiscent of any one of the musical numbers in Oliver! and I immediately gravitated towards it.  And it made me laugh when I found out that director Terry Jones spent most of the movie's budget on only that scene. 

Which brings us to today.  That's when I decided to take a road trip to Michigan and go to the Motor City Comic Con.  Terry Jones would be there signing autographs for a mere 40 bucks.  I hemmed and I hawed, but ultimately it comes down to this - when am I ever going to get a chance to see him (or any other member of Monty Python) ever again?   Let alone, tell him how much I love The Meaning of Life

There was no line.  None.  I walked right up to him.  That's insane!  This man is a true comic legend, and I got to shake his hand and tell him how much his work has impacted me, and I wasn't rushed at all.  I don't understand it.  I'm happy to have made the trip.  It was worth it in every way, but the fact that I think one of the Power Rangers had a bigger line than he did makes me sad.  But then I remember his smile as he shook my hand, and a warm feeling flows over me.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Day 1614 - Hardcore Henry

Have you seen the trailers for Hardcore Henry?  The movie was in theaters for all of three weeks, which I guess is to be expected.  But the idea of an action movie that was filmed entirely from the first person perspective was too revolutionary for me not to try and experience theater.  Too bad the movie wasn't very good.

Henry is a cyborg who wakes up to a pretty lady telling him that she's his wife.  Score one for Henry.  But then a crazy telekinetic psycho shows up, and Henry (who, conveniently, hasn't had his voice box activated), goes on the run with his wife.  When they get separated, Henry has to team up with Sharlto Copley's Jimmy in order to track her down and kill all the bad guys in his way.

The main fault of the film is that it is completely hollow.  Henry is silent, because he's supposed to be us. We get to be an unstoppable killing machine.  Unfortunately, the movie decided that was the only thing it cared about.  There is a movie out there, with this plot, that will examine the ideas that this movie brings up, and then ignores.  Such as -does an unstoppable killing machine have the right to be happy?  Is he even human?  Does he still have a conscience?  Are clones real people?  Is it okay to create clones for the express purpose of killing them off?  What are the responsibilities of the government when it comes to fallen soldiers?  This movie has all these questions at its very fingertips... yet never even examines a single one.

And you might ask me, "But how was the action, because that's all I came here for?"  And I say, "It's okay."  As you watch the movie, it's less about immersing yourself into the character, and more about watching a friend play a first person videogame incredibly well.  It seems to cross off all the prerequisites for that sort of idea.  There's a mission (rescue the wife).  Henry is given a phone with a location that he has to get to.  He has to fight long odds in order to get to the "boss."  Sure, Henry has a lot of guns and grenades, but everyone he fights is so devoid of personality, that when bodies go flying, that's all they are, is just bodies.

Really, it's all just so pedestrian.  And that's disappointing from a movie that had a pretty great hook.  And even more surprising, because the movie really makes no sense.  The bad guy's motivation?  I still don't know what his plan was.  Jimmy's reasons for helping out Henry?  Yeah, I'm pretty foggy on that one, too. 

I think what really sinks the film is a complete lack of humor.  Copley does what he can as a sometimes object of amusement, but it's all just so forced.  That may be the film's biggest fault, in that it's just not genuine.


My initial reaction after seeing the movie was to give it two stars.  But as I write about it, and think about it it doesn't deserve them.  So...


Sunday, April 24, 2016

Day 1609 - Everybody Wants Some!!

Here's the thing... Everybody Wants Some!! is probably one of the most plotless movies to come out in a long time.  It's good, but you won't figure that out for a while.  Richard Linklater (the writer/director) likes this type of film.  His first feature, Slacker, literally just followed different people around as they talked about their philosophies on life.  I hate it.  I think it's boring and pretentious.  But his Before... trilogy (starring Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke) follows two people as we see them on three single days, 9 years apart, and all they do is talk.  But they're brilliant films.  These are two intelligent people who fall in and out of love (and perhaps back again) while talking about life (the universe and everything).  Everybody Wants Some!! is set in 1980 and follows Jake (Blake Jenner), the new freshman pitcher.  He hangs out with other baseball players, and we see their attempts to hook up with the incoming college women.  There's some philosophical talk towards the end of the film, but otherwise that's the movie.

Not really a ringing endorsement, is it?  Let me try and explain why the movie is worth seeing.  Any time that you see a movie a second time you are able to plug in all the information that you have already ingested.  As a director or editor, you probably have to see that movie hundreds of times.  The idea of seeing your movie like you did for the very first time is long gone.  The first time, we, as viewers, watch Everybody Wants Some!! we're spending the first 30 or 40 minutes trying to figure out who all the characters are that are being thrown at us.  And because none of these people have any deep philosophical leanings, all we can do is watch what they do.  They're not dumb people, but they only care about two things - girls and baseball.  Through simple immersion, we begin to know and care about these kids.  One of the best things about the film is that it convinces us that we are actually watching something taking place in 1980. 

So all that immersion and all the building of character creates a film that is less about anything, and more about showing us three and a half days in the life of these guys.  And this is where Linklater (minorly) fails and (mostly) succeeds.  Because he's seen the movie so many times already, he knows these characters inside and out.  But we're seeing it for the first time.  We don't know these characters, yet.  We're waiting for something dramatic to happen.  We, as an audience, have been primed for that.  Instead, by the time we realize nothing is really going to happen, we know who every character is.  It's a real achievement, but because it takes as long as it does, the experience of the film is a little less than satisfying.  But, I have to figure that any additional viewings of the film is much more rewarding.  We would then know who all the players are, and we can enjoy the film as a two hour time capsule of an era gone by.

However, the other negative aspect of the film is that this is as testosterone-filled as any action movie out there.  There's one female character of any consequence and that's Zoey Deutch's Beverly.  She's smart, she's funny, and she steals every scene that she's in... in the last fifteen minutes of the film.  All the other women in the film are simply there as objects to be won.  Sure, they may be on equal footing with the guys, but we don't get to know any of them.

And while any of this might seem like I'm bad-mouthing the movie, I'm really not.  Like I said, the deft touch Linklater wielded to make you believe that you're watching a 1980 time capsule is impressive.  And all the ballplayers are truly unique individuals.  It took a lot of time and effort to make it seem as effortless as it does.  So it's really a lot of fun, if just a bit vacuous.


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Day 1603 - A new car, comics, and Fred Astaire


I bought a new car this week.  It's a blue Chevy Cruze.  I needed it.  My Dodge Neon was 12 years old, and only had 73,000 miles on it, but I honestly didn't think it had more than a few weeks left to go on it.  Rather than dumping a truck ton of cash into keeping it running, I decided to spend a truck ton of cash over six years on this new vehicle.  As an experience, it was interesting.  I know nothing about cars.  I know even less than nothing about purchasing them, so having a friend in your corner who knows all about them is key.  And my buddy Brian was on it.  When I first contacted him about the possibility of me getting a new car, he perked up.  Actually, let me put it like this - On Sunday night, Ben from the comic shop called me and left me a message that I might want to take a look at the comic collection that he bought.  So at 10PM, I drove to Carol and John's and stood in awe at a small collection of classic comics.  Amazing Spider-Man, Captain America, Daredevil, and Fantastic Four.  It was great.  Ben got me out of the house, into a treacherous car, and up to the shop with a phone call.  I think Brian had that same experience when I called him.  This was what he lives for.  On Monday, at the dealership, he was fully prepared - numbers had been crunched, logarithms had been calculated.  It was impressive.  It was so impressive, in fact, that the normal back and forth dance was a mere three exchanges.  He gave his offer, we gave ours, and then he came back with a number that hit the number we wanted.  Done and done.  And I've driven it all of about 12 miles since then.

And for Brian, I know that was a great day.  Like I said, this is what he lives for.  I was actually happy that we got to basically sit around for 3 and 1/2 hours just catching up.  But for me, as satisfying (and finally stress-free) as it made me, today might have been more personally satisfying.  I got home from work, mowed the lawn with the "new" lawnmower I got last year (thanks, Bill!), and marveled at the fact that after 14 years I finally have a lawnmower that has a grass catcher.  It really is a game-changer for me.  Then I spent two hours reading comic books while listening to Debbie Gibson.  Yep.  Debbie Gibson.  The last MySpace review I ever wrote was a review of a concert that I went to where she co-headlined with Tiffany (who was fine, but wasn't Debbie).  So I say that with my head held high.  But honestly, spending two hours reading comics was glorious.  From Alex De Campi and Carla Speed Mcneil's brutal "No Mercy" to Robert Kirkman's return to "Invincible" (he's been writing this as long as "Walking Dead" and it might be even better than that), to a really great Beast and Dr. Strange team-up in the newest issue of All New X-Men (#8) written by Dennis Hopeless.  It's been a while since I let my geek flag fly, so there you go.

After a couple hours of that, I decided to walk to Marcs and pick up a gallon of milk and some bread.  But on the way, I figured I'd treat myself to some Chinese food.  But what to watch when I got home?  Two thousand movies and nothing to watch.  Life's hard.  I opted for a movie I picked up a couple years ago - Three Little Words.  Starring Fred Astaire, Red Skelton, and Vera-Ellen, it told the story of songwriting-composing team of Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby as they crushed it on stage and in films (they wrote Groucho Marx's "Hooray for Captain Spaulding").  As I watched the movie, all I could think of was, that except for the two guys and the music, everything else was probably fiction.  But I don't care. 

The debate will always rage as to who people prefer - Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly?  You can appreciate both (and I definitely do), but I'll always choose Fred Astaire.  His dance choreography is just so on point, that I always compare it to the best kung fu movies I've seen where the fight scenes are just variations of dance moves.  It didn't hurt that his partner in the film, Vera-Ellen, looks like she is having the time of her life or that Red Skelton plays it almost entirely straight, with next to no mugging at all.

And that was my night.  It was glorious.  I sit here typing this with my Pandora station on in the backround, and I feel content.  There's any number of things we can complain about or bring us down, but sometimes you just have to have a night where you create your own happiness.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Day 1601 - Every Which Way But Loose & Any Which Way You Can

How do you write about two Clint Eastwood movies that co-star an orangutan, are filled with bare-fisted brawls, inept motorcycle gangs, and Ruth Gordon?  Do I write about how the real-life couple (at the time) of Eastwood and Sondra Locke, while solid on-screen, becomes more uncomfortable when you think about her future allegations against him?  Do I write about how disconcerting it is to watch these movies back to back, knowing that Clyde is played by two different orangutans?  Do I write about Eastwood's struggle both professionally and personally that is represented through the fights that comprise both these films?

Any one of these could be ripe for discussion.  But these movies aren't very good.  They are watchable, however, and the reason that is, is because they are an update of the 1960's Frankie and Annette beach movies.  They're almost beat for beat the same type of movie.  Clint is Frankie.  Sondra is Annette.  Clyde is any one of the animals that popped up in those movies.  Geoffrey Lewis is Bonehead.  The Black Widows are the Rats.  Country music replaces pop music.  Ruth Gordon is Buster Keaton/Don Rickles.  I don't know why this has never been brought up before.  (That being said, I may be the only person to have been able to make that connection without having to look up any of the information that I just wrote about.  I might know a little too much about the Frankie and Annette beach movies.) 

With the two previous paragraphs, I've probably spent more time on Every Which Way But Loose and Any Which Way You Can than anybody in their right mind should, but there is a reason (beyond my recent watching of each of them).  When I was 11 or 12 years old, I watched them at my cousin's house.  At that age, all I cared about were the bare-knuckled fights.  That's it.  Clyde was no Cheetah from the Tarzan films.  The music did nothing for me (although the theme song for Any Which Way But Loose really did become a life-long ear worm).  The bad guy bikers had so little personality that I couldn't engender any like or dislike for them.  I knew, instinctively, that these were not good movies.  But sometimes you simply want to revisit what you saw in your youth.  So that's what I did.

For those of you who've been sitting on the edge of your seat wondering what these movies are actually about because you haven't seen them (or, like me, haven't seen them in years), here you go.  Every... is about how Eastwood fights to get some extra cash, meets singer Locke, and tries real hard to get her enough money so she can get out from under the thumb of her abusive boyfriend and make a demo.  However, things don't go as planned, and the movie ends on what be one of the most melancholy endings you've ever seen.  Any... picks up a little after the previous film, and Eastwood gets hired to box the best bare-fisted fighter east of the Mississippi.  None of his friends want him to do it, so he backs out.  Of course, things don't go as planned, and the movie ends on a fight that seems like it's the longest in film history.

These two movies border on surrealism.  Clyde is an ape who's human in just about every way.  The fights are unbelievably long.  They go from ridiculous to awesome and back again.  The Black Widow bikers are so stupid and inept that you wonder how they even could have afforded motorcycles in the first place.  This is a universe that should be completely foreign to any of us, except for the fact that reality is the subtext in these films.  That melancholy ending of Every Which Way But Loose?  That shouldn't exist in this universe.  The honor and grit and resolve that Eastwood's character has?  It's what makes these movies both quintessentially Eastwood and more than just throwaway films.  And that honor, grit, and resolve?  None of that is even explicitly said in the movie.  Clint just lets his thoughts and actions spell that out.

If you want to enjoy these movies for things like "Right turn, Clyde," or Clint Eastwood singing a duet with Ray Charles, or bare-knuckled boxing, go right ahead.  I still say that they're not very good.  But I'll also say that they can't be easily dismissed.  And that might be their biggest victory.

**1/2 for both

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Day 1593 - "Movie Freak" and why I have to keep writing

I've been writing movie reviews ever since The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad (***1/2) came out.  There have been times when I was prolific (college and MySpace) and times when I have been less so (post-college and Facebook-era).  But the need to write about what I've seen and tell others whether I thought it was good or bad has consistently been strong.

In the last few months there have been a things that have brought my inner critic into much sharper focus.  The Roger Ebert documentary Life Itself was one of those.  Two friends, separately, have given me a ton of advice and encouragement, and that really re-energized me.  But I also just read Owen Gleiberman's autobiography Movie Freak, and that really crystallized a lot of things for me.

While there were a number of movies that Gleiberman talks about where we couldn't be on the more opposite end of the spectrum, based on his upbringing and worldview, I understand where he's coming from (even if I don't agree with him.).  My own upbringing has definitely influenced my own tastes.  My parents both love movies, especially old ones.  So I spent a lot of time in the early days of videotape watching movies starring Humphrey Bogart, Jimmy Cagney, and Bette Davis.  And of course, there were Saturday afternoons with Superhost, Cleveland's own movie host who showed all the classic Universal and Hammer horror films.  In college, I had fellow resident assistant Zach, who was a horror film freak and he passed on movies that he thought I should see - good, bad, or interesting.  Post-college I had, and still have, the Cleveland Cinematheque.  Every weekend there is like a mini film festival.  It also helped that I read about movies non-stop.  All those monster movies?  I would read about how they made them, what their influences were, and their sequels.  If I liked a director or movie I would read all about them.  And I read a lot (a lot!) of film criticism simply so I could know what was supposed to be good.  I may not have always agreed with the popular opinion, but at least I knew what was being discussed.

The lesson I really came away from his book with was this - write what you really feel.  Don't compromise.  If you don't like a movie, don't temper that dislike.  If you like a movie, try and express why that is.  I immerse myself in so many reviews and other people's thoughts that I sometimes let that influence my own opinions.   Usually it's on movies that I have mixed feelings on.  When I have a strong opinion, it's hard to get me to change my mind (I still don't like Vertigo or Skyfall regardless of how great people say they are), but on something recent, like Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I can find my initial thoughts being tempered by the people who legitimately love it, even if they can't express why that's so. 

If Gleiberman's book taught me anything, it's to be proud of what I think about a movie.  Certainly there will be times when my initial thoughts might be wrong, or outside influences will affect my initial thoughts.  Grandma's Boy and Crank would be two of those movies that immediately come to mind.  I initially disliked both those movies the first time I saw them, and I changed my opinion on them because when I first saw them, I saw them by myself.  The second time I watched them, I watched them with a group of people.  There really is nothing like the communal reaction to a movie to change your thoughts about its entertainment value.

So, I have been writing more often.  I've got a review of American Ultra (the Jesse Eisenberg/Kristen Stewart stoner assassin movie) halfway written, and I really liked this movie.  It bombed horribly at the box office and that made me sad.  As I rewatched it, I still liked it, but I was tempering myself because so many people seemed down on it.  But I know the joy and surprise of my initial reaction was the right reaction.  I just need to see if I can capture that in words. But I'm enjoying writing again.  Would I appreciate an audience?  Of course.  But for those of you who do read this, I really do thank you.  I've been writing in a vacuum for most of my life, and I'll keep doing it.  But it's definitely nice to know, for myself, that I should keep doing this.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Day 1583 - Pitch Perfect 2

I can't remember why I ever watched the first Pitch Perfect, but I'm sure it was a combination of people who said it was actually pretty good and Anna Kendrick.  Suffice to say, I enjoyed the first movie.  When the trailer for the sequel came out I found myself wanting to see it, but when the movie arrived I never got around to seeing it in the theater.  I think it was because I thought that while the first movie focused on Anna Kendrick's Beca, I thought that the second one would focus on Rebel Wilson's Fat Amy.  Much to my relief, that wasn't the case.

The basic plot of the film is that the Barden Bellas have landed themselves in some hot water and are banned from both competing and recruiting.  Through some loopholes, they can compete at the Worlds and they have a new Bella (Hailee Steinfeld), because she came to them and is a legacy.  There's lots of a cappella singing, there's a couple romantic entanglements, and there's a harsh German group that stands in the Bellas way.  Oh, and montages.

But what makes this movie pretty good is the underlying message about growing up.  There's a running joke that Brittany Snow's Chloe has been at college for 7 years, because she doesn't want to leave this group.  And it's funny, but it also has a tinge of bittersweet.  Once she leaves (and all the other Bellas, too, since they're seniors) what are they going to do with their lives?  Beca has taken an internship with a music producer, and that's eating up a lot of her time. Fat Amy is discovering that she's falling in love with Adam Devine's Bumper.  And the Bellas need to get their mojo back if they're going to do the impossible and win the Worlds.

I'm going to take a moment here, and talk about Rebel Wilson's Fat Amy.  Like I said before, I thought she was going to be the focal point of the movie.  She wasn't, but neither was she ignored.  I feel that the writers hit that sweet spot just perfectly, as she never overwhelms the film (even as she's the impetus for the Bellas exile), and is perfect (and perfectly blunt) when she appears.  Finding that balance between obnoxious and funny is sometimes a tenuous line, but the movie nails it.  Her own journey is one that she experiences and earns all on her own.

What's also impressive about this movie is the actors who just let it all hang out (as it were).  John Michael Higgins' announcer is even more clueless and sexist this time around.  David Cross kills it as an eccentric a cappella aficionado.  A number of real life Green Bay Packers show up for a throwaway gag.  And Elizabeth Banks does a fine job working double duty as co-announcer with Higgins as well as directing the flick.

This is not a movie that will be praised through the annals of time.  But it tells a funny story, has some good music, and has real heart and deeper thoughts than a movie like this usually does.  As a sequel it really wins, because the it has the characters you love (or like), has them actually grow as characters, and introduces some new ones.


Friday, March 25, 2016

Day 1577 - Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice

It was okay.  Not as bad as some people are saying, but definitely not as good as some people are claiming.  I don't really think I'm going to write about the story or plot all that much (Batman fights Superman because Lex Luthor tells them to, and Wonder Woman shows up).  What I really want to talk about is why I have the reactions I did to the movie.

I was 17 years old when the Tim Burton/Michael Keaton Batman movie came out.  I remember all the controversy that occurred when Michael Keaton was announced as Batman.  I also remember that I thought he would do fine.  I knew, even then, that comedians made for some of the best dramatic actors because a lot of them have some very dark, dark souls and that comes through their acting.  (I also remember liking the casting of Billy Dee Williams as Harvey Dent mostly because who doesn't love Lando Calrissian?  It makes me sad that the role was wasted on Tommy Lee Jones.)  And when that Batman hit the theaters, I had to have seen it about three times (usually my benchmark for when I really like a film), I bought all the trading cards, and even the comic book adaptation.  One of the first tapes I ever bought (and possibly the first one) was the Danny Elfman score to the film.  That movie hit all the right notes for me... with one exception - Batman killed bad guys.  His Batplane had guns and rockets which he used liberally.  He dropped a bad guy down the cathedral staircase.  And, really, he killed The Joker. 

I've grown up reading comic books, and one of the absolutes are that the good guys don't kill the bad guys.  Characters like Wolverine, The Punisher, and Deapool don't count, because that's been part of their character from the very beginning.  And, yes, yes, I know Batman carried a gun and killed bad guys in his early appearances, but the creators were still finding their way with him.  When he actually started gaining depth and focus in the late sixties, that was the Batman as he's really become defined.  And when Frank Miller aged him and made him grim and gritty in The Dark Knight Returns, he (or the editor) made a concerted effort to call out the beatings he gave and the lengths he finally went to to actually NOT kill The Joker. 

It was a real pleasure to me to watch Batman Begins and see that Christian Bale's Batman made it a concerted effort to not do any killing.  Even with Ra's al Ghul at the end - while he made a conscious effort not to save him, I always abided by the comic book rule of no body = no death.  I would not have been disappointed if he had shown up in either of the last two Christopher Nolan Batman movies.

And that brings us to Batman V Superman.  Batffleck kills a lot of bad guys.  His Batplane, like Keaton's before him, has a ton of ammunition.  And he uses it.  Bad guys are shot or blown up by the Dark Knight, and all I could think of was - "I don't like Batman being the Punisher."  Maybe that's why there are no crazy villains in Gotham during the movie.  He's killed them all already.

And I don't include the dream sequence in this discussion.  It's a dream, Batman is fighting parademons, and the world is a completely different place.  I have little problem giving that scene a pass.  Although, the Flash looked pretty stupid.  But hey, that's just me.

Maybe I'm just being the old guy yelling at the kids to get off his lawn.  But I want being a superhero to mean something.  For as many faults that Ang Lee's Hulk has (and it does have lots), it seems like he went out of his way to show that the Hulk didn't kill.  Yes, you can make the arguments that any of the current crop of superhero movies out there have lots and lots of collateral damage.  And none of the bad guys ever seem to be alive at the end of a movie to be put into prison.  But Batman and also Superman, in their best stories, always found a way to be better than the villain. 

And this is all before I could even write about the uncomfortably long scene of Amy Adams' Lois Lane having a conversation with Supes while taking a bath.  That's where the conversation needed to take place?  I know it's hard to prove that a character is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist in about 15 minutes of screen time, but having the character spend a whole scene in a bathtub doesn't help her cause in any way.

Again, I didn't hate the movie.  Gal Gadot was almost as perfect a Wonder Woman we could have hoped for.  I want to see a whole movie based off the picture that we're shown.  And she was great in both her civilian identity as well as her superhero one.  During the last battle, her smile was one of the highlights.  She's back to doing what she should have been doing all along.  But, even in a movie as stuffed as this one is, it could have used a lot more of her.

I always say that when an actor portray a superhero (especially a masked one), then it doesn't matter how they play the superhero (because most of the time it's a stunt man in there anyway), but how they portray the civilian identity.  Ben Affleck does a fine job portraying Bruce Wayne.

Finally, I didn't mind Jesse Eisenberg's Luthor. That being said, I don't mind Jesse Eisenberg.  If you're one of those people who don't like him, this movie is not going to change your mind.  He's definitely not a Luthir we've ever seen before.  But his villainy is in full display.  And you believe that he's capable of all the bad things that he does.

It would have been nice to have at least one laugh during the movie, but what are you gonna do?  And what's with that title?  Is 'V' the new 'vs'?  Adding that 's' was too much for people?  The two main characters are fighting - don't hide it.


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Day 1574 - The Bronze

Rather than a full-fledged review of The Bronze, I've decided to jot down some thoughts about the movie.

1. By the end of the film I realized that in terms of the "R" rating, I think this movie pushes its boundaries even more than a film like Deadpool.

2. I feel like the filmmakers watched the episode of Seinfeld when he's underwhelmed by the gymnast he's with, and said, "No, no, no" and then proceeded to show us the most acrobatic sex scene, possibly ever.

3. I've heard a lot of reviews comparing this to Napoleon Dynamite.  I'm guessing it's because of the small town setting and quirky lead character.  I was more struck by its similarities to the film Young Adult.  Which leads into...

4. Young Adult was made by filmmakers who crushed it in every way.  The Bronze isn't nearly as polished or thoughtful.

5. Those accents!  Is that what people in Ohio sound like?  I live here, and I'm really gonna say no.

6. I think about characters that are hard to love (or even like) and Melissa Rauch's Hope is one of those.  Unfortunately, while she starts off unlovable, her climb back up to normalcy isn't as compelling as it should be.

7. Thomas Middleditch is awkward enough to watch without any tics.  Giving his character even more just seems like overkill.

8. I think what really got at me is that nearly every character is a "bad" person, but the movie doesn't embrace that.  It doesn't have enough faith in itself, so it tempers them, and that waters the movie down, and doesn't make Middleditch's Ben stand out as much as he should.  The contrast should be stronger.

This isn't a bad movie, but instead it's a series of missed opportunities that's anchored by a foul-mouthed protagonist who's hard to sympathize with.


Monday, March 21, 2016

Day 1572 - 10 Cloverfield Lane

I love the fact that JJ Abrams spits out surprise movies every once in a while.  Up until a few months ago none of us knew that this movie was even a thing.  Is it part of the original Cloverfield universe?  No.  But thematically, in that we, as an audience, know as much as the characters do - absolutely.

Michelle (as played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead) has broken off her engagement and is driving off to who knows where when her car crashes.  When she wakes up, she's in a cement room, handcuffed to the wall.  That's when Howard shows up, saying that the outside world has collapsed in a possible nuclear fallout and he rescued her.  Howard if played by John Goodman, who plays the role with the perfect mixture of menace, naivete, and seriousness.  Rounding out the bunker is our final person, Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.).  All we know about him is that he has a broken arm and apparently forced himself into the bunker against Howard's better wishes.

What's real?  Who's lying?  Is the world really ending?  All these are questions that we have, and the brilliance of the movie is that it answers them one at a time.  Because we're kept in the dark about so much, as each layer gets revealed, we get to see if what we're thinking is actually true.  It's a brilliant way to let the movie unfold.

Rather than talk about the movie's story (because that would ruin a lot of the surprises that are in store), I'd rather just spend a minute on the actors.  Mary Elizabeth Winstead's character is like few we've seen on film.  She spends the entire movie doing whatever she possibly can to get to the truth as to why she's in the bunker.  If she has to lie, steal, or bludgeon whoever or whatever she has to, to get at the truth, then she absolutely will.  She's rightfully scared at her situation, but she never lets that fear take over.  And John Goodman matches her step for step.  And, amazingly, as strong as a performance that he has, there's nothing more terrifying than a clean-shaven John Goodman.

That's not that much more to say.  Pay attention during the film.  Lot's of seemingly throwaway lines have real meaning.

I thought it was great.


Sunday, March 13, 2016

Day 1564 - Zootopia

Animation is not always the first thing you look at when you're watching an animated film.  When you go back and rewatch something like Toy Story, which is remarkable for its animation, you're usually paying attention to the characters and the story, because both are tremendous. And that's what keeps us coming back time and again. And Zootopia's story, which is incredibly deep and subtle, will keep you watching it as you figure out what metaphors you want to ascribe to it (and there are many).  But even more than the story (which I'll get back to), this really is a triumph of animation.  And not in the way that Pixar can astonish you, or Hayao Miyazaki can transport you, but instead it's in the "acting" of the characters. 

Zootopia is set in a world where every animal exists in harmony.  lions, and tigers, and bears work and play with mice, giraffes, and lambs.  The predator/prey cycle has been gone for years.  But prejudice still exists, as (don't call her cute) bunny Judy Hopps becomes the first rabbit police officer, and is promptly put on traffic duty.  Fighting for more responsibility, she's given 48 hours to solve a missing person case or else quit the force.  Her only lead is Nick Wilde, a con artist of a fox, who wants nothing to do with Officer Hopps.  And all this is just one of many layers of subtle digs at both sexism and racism that flow throughout the film.  It's pretty staggering that a film aimed at kids is as progressive as it is without being preachy or pandering, and is entertaining as all get out. 

But, for me, the real genius of the movie is the way the animators have focused on the characters' reactions to the events around them.  When Officer Hopps has Nick completely under her thumb, just look at the sad, defeated expression he has on his face.  He was not expecting that when he got up that morning.  And I could spend the whole movie watching Officer Hopps' ears.  They might be the most expressive thing in the film.  They're up when she's excited or happy, down when she's at work, and somehow even lower when she's feeling her worst.  She'd be perfect in a silent film, with her ears doing all the acting.  And don't get me started on the gloriousness of the sloths.  The pure joy that slowly (ever so slowly) blossoms across their faces is nothing but a treat.

Ginnifer Goodwin and Jason Bateman are the perfect voice actors for their characters.  You're rooting for the indefatigable Officer Hopps to triumph over forces out of her control.  And Bateman brings just the right amount of sarcasm and cynicism to Wilde's Fox.  When his backstory is revealed, it's impossible not to sympathize with him.

And all of this is just the tip of the iceberg.  The movie has all the action and humor that you expect in a movie like this.  It's just buoyed by a strong story and fantastic animation.  So, so good.


Friday, March 11, 2016

Day 1562 - Stephen King and Bernie Wrightson's Creepshow

Truth be told, I've never seen more than 15 minutes of Stephen King and George Romero's Creepshow.  I know I've caught some of it on TV, but that's it.  I did sit through Creepshow 2 more than 25 years ago, and I still remember how bad it was.  It takes a certain kind of movie to leave that indelible an impression.  But today, I'm here to write about the comic book adaptation of Creepshow.

I was either 11 or 12 years old (6th or 7th grade), and one of the kids a grade above me (T.J.) was casually reading Stephen King novels.  As I think about ti now, that was quite a feat for someone who was, at most, 13 years old.  One day, he brought in this graphic novel called Creepshow.  I was a comic book reader at the time, but I knew nothing about the EC horror comics (Tales From the Crypt for example), as I was in full superhero mold at the time.  This comic was making its rounds throughout the classroom when it landed in my hands.

I was not prepared.

This was a comic book that was filled with graphic violence (beheadings, people getting eaten by a monster, and a man full of cockroaches), and profanity.  And I couldn't put it down.  It stopped making the rounds at me.  I was well aware that the comic wasn't mine, and I knew I'd eventually have to give it back to TJ.  But for a brief time, I read that sucker so much that images were permanently burned into my brain. 

Fast forward to tonight.  I now own a copy of Creepshow for myself.  I bought it tonight, and this was the first time I read it at least 32 years.  Some thoughts...

1. It was much shorter than I remember.  King tells five stories in a very short amount of time.  As I've gotten older, and read much, much more, I recognize the style of what he was trying to accomplish, and there's no wasted space.

2. It has only minor profanity.   I don't think it has any of George Carlin's 7 words you can't say on TV.  I've told people that this was my first experience with profanity on the written page, and it was, but I guess I didn't know what I was in for, because the language here is pretty tame all things considered.

3. It's still pretty violent.  An image of a head with candles on top of it, acting like a birthday cake is still startling.  A swamp monster committing suicide - grim.  And the crate monster reveal is still pretty great. 

4. I can appreciate Bernie Wrightson's artwork on a number of levels now.  As a kid, it was serviceable to the story.  Now I can appreciate the artwork itself, as well as the pacing.

5. Until tonight, I never knew that the movie came out before the comic.  I thought it was the other way around.  That's a tidbit I could have lived without knowing.

Reading Creepshow again tonight, after all these years, really brought me back to grade school.  The images that were burned in my mind then, still exist for me today.  They've just come into sharper focus.  Now I just have to find a copy of a story where a guy kicks at a cat, then gets crushed by an iron maiden while the cat licks up his blood.  I read that one in high school. 

Monday, March 7, 2016

Day 1558 - MySpace and Life Itself

In 5 or so years, I've written 72 blogs on this website (this being number 73).  The five years previous to this I wrote a lot (a lot!) more. And they were all on MySpace.  We'll say it was a year ago, but I went back to MySpace, just to check it out.  All the profiles are still there (c'mon, we were all too lazy to kill that profile).  But all the blogs are gone.  For those of you who don't know, for a few of us, that was the big draw.  The MySpace blogs ran the gamut of subjects.  But the one I posted in the most was Film/TV.  And I posted on a regular basis.  And by regular, I mean up to three times a day sometimes.  And every once in a while a week might pass before I posted something.  Unlike the months of tumbleweeds that roll on by here.  And there was a community. There was a group of us that supported each other, wrote to each other, argued with each other, and read each others work. 

Then Facebook crushed MySpace like a bug, and everything changed. 

But I bring all this up, because of two things.  1.  When I revisited MySpace the last time, they had an option where you could get all your blogs sent to you on a PDF file.  Considering that I never saved a single one of them, I jumped at that chance.  Once that happened, I bought a flash drive, and put all of them on it.  Last week, the process of printing all of them out began.  Because there's nothing like having the tactile experience while you're reading them.  Half of them have been printed, and they're all in order.  It helps that all the headers start with what day I wrote each one.  There's no comments on any of them (lost to the sands of time), but they exist again.

And the second reason I bring all this up, is because I bought and watched Life Itself yesterday.  This is the documentary that looks at the final days of film critic Roger Ebert.  Here's a guy who got hit with cancer, lost the ability to speak, and parlayed that into a new stage in his life by focusing fully on his writing.  He never stopped going to movies, and never stopped writing about them until his body quit on him. 

For all of the MySpace movie critics, I'm pretty sure we consider Roger Ebert to be one of our influences.  I know he was one of mine.  I grew up watching "At the Movies" and would follow it around as it changed channels and times on an almost weekly basis.  I got to see Siskel and Ebert live at the Cleveland Playhouse.  It was a perfect experience.  I'm sure they didn't change their script from city to city, but for me, it was exactly what I wanted.  (I actually talked/wrote to Gene Siskel before he passed away, but that's a story for a different day.)

But Life Itself was not so much an eye-opener for me, because I already knew most of the stories, but it was more of a kick in the pants to me.  Watching him write, and watching the the love he had for films, combined with my own writing staring back at me, was a sobering thing.  I used to write.  I need to do that more.  I miss everybody else's opinions, too.  This isn't a call to arms or anything.  Nor do I know if it will really motivate me to keep writing, but this whole exercise has taken me a half hour, and I feel that I should be able to be distraction-free for that long every few days. 

Facebook will never be MySpace, and nor should it.  But I do miss the community that we had.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Day 1526 - The Answer Man

I've bought a number of movies for a dollar at the Dollar Store.  Some have been ones that I've already seen and liked so they make inexpensive gifts.  Other ones are ones that I've heard of and are supposed to be good.  But then there are movies like The Answer Man, where I picked it up because I liked the cast or the story sounded interesting even though I had never heard of it.

The Answer Man stars Jeff Daniels and Lauren Graham.  Because of The Purple Rose of Cairo, Jeff Daniels will almost always get a free pass from me.  And Lauren Graham - well there are many of you who know of my love of Gilmore Girls.  And both of them in the same movie?  I had hopes for it.

Jeff Daniels plays Arlen Faber.  Arlen wrote a book called "Me and God" that has turned into a phenomenon.  But now he's living a Salinger-esque lifestyle.  He's still looking for life's answers and he can't deal with people who want him to provide the answers in their own lives.  His solitary lifestyle goes into upheaval when he comes into contact with two people.  The first is Kris Lucas (Lou Taylor Pucci), the owner of a bookstore that's nearly going under because it was closed for a month while he was in rehab for alcoholism.  Arlen wants to get rid of all his new-agey, self-help books that are giving him no answers.  Kris won't take them because he can't afford them.

Arlen is ticked, and his frustration ramps up to such a degree that his back goes out.  He crawls into Elizabeth's (Lauren Graham) newly opened healing center. And it's love at first sight... for him.

This is a good movie.  The cast is uniformly strong with some solid support from Kat Dennings as Kris' co-worker and Olivia Thirlby as Elizabeth's secretary.  Each character has their own problems to overcome, and the ending, while a little pat, still leaves enough room for us to make up our own minds as to where the characters are going to end up.

This is a movie that shouldn't slip through the cracks.  It's never going to be mentioned as one of the greats, but it has enough positive qualities that it's definitely worth a watch.  Daniels and Graham have such an easy chemistry that you actively root for their characters.  And Daniels dials it back on his character's abrasiveness just enough that he's more compelling and "enjoyable" than annoying.

I liked it enough that I felt I had to put it in this blog, so there's that.

*** (out of 4)

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Day 1519 - Seeing Christina Perri in concert is awesome (and painful)

This story is completely true.  It took place about a year and a half ago.  A few people know most of the details, but I don't know if they knew them all.  I hope you find it entertaining.

I remember the first time I saw Christina Perri.  It was on a Sunday morning on VH1 (maybe MTV2) at my cousin Mary and Kevin's house.  The video was "Jar of Hearts" and Mary told the story of how her song was played on one of those singing competition shows and how it got picked up from there.

I don't know why I remember that, but it was enough that whenever the video showed up, I would watch it.  Then I followed her on Facebook, mostly so I would know when her new album was coming out.  And I bought it the first week it was released.  I did the same thing with her second album.

I liked her music more than enough to see her in concert.  So when it was announced that she's be singing at The House of Blues, I knew there was no way I wasn't going to see her.

But I wanted to make this concert special.  I almost always try to get an autograph from a performer when I see them live, and this would be no different.  However, this time I decided to call in a favor from my cousin Jim.  See, Jim was a VJ for VH1 at the time and had interviewed her a number of times already.  I simply decided to use his celebrity to my greatest advantage by seeing if he could get me backstage.  So I called him pretty early in the process, explained what I wanted, and he said that he would see what he could do.

Time went on and I didn't hear anything.  But at the same time, the volleyball team I was on was doing very well.  We played on Thursday nights.  The concert was on a Thursday night.  In fact, the concert happened to fall on the night of the volleyball championship.  The two events were slated for a head-on collision.

The day got closer and closer.  After calling Jim again (who was also in a holding pattern), he finally got the good word.  There was going to be a meet and greet before the show.  He could get me into that as long as I had my ticket (which I did).  I just had to mention some guy's name, say I was there for the meet and greet, and everything would be fine. 

And, of course, our volleyball team crushed the competition and we were scheduled to play in the championship.  I wasn't going to be there (I wasn't missing that concert), and another one of our players, Luke, wasn't going to be out of the country.  Our coach tried everything in his power to get the other team to switch days, but it wasn't happening.

The day of the concert arrived.  I was also recruited from my job at the comic book store  to type in the comic order that night.  It was due at midnight.  So after the concert, I was to make my way back to the comic book store and do that.  Nothing like a lot of multitasking.

I got to the House of Blues at the right time.  I went in, told the girl who I was looking for, and that I was there for the meet and greet.  She didn't even confirm anything that I said, she just put me in the back of the line behind all the "official" people who had paid for the privilege.  I was with the House of Blues employees (off duty) and some journalists.

We slowly made our way to her, and I finally got my chance to meet Christina Perri in person.  I had her sign my CD's, and I got a picture with her.  While we were standing there, I brought up Jim's name because he had interviewed her so many times.  I said how great he was, and her reply was, "... I love him."  I responded to that with, "I love you."

Wait.  What?

What the heck was that?!?  I don't do that.  I have met a number of cool and awesome celebrities over the years, and I've never said that to them.  I honestly don't know what I was thinking.  I also don't know if she heard me.  (I'm sure she did.)  If she did, she didn't react to it.  (Thank goodness!)  And I moved on.

At this point the guy in charge told us that if we wanted to meet the opening act, we could, or if we wanted to wait, when Christina Perri was done, we could just take our places on the concert floor.  I opted to get a good spot by the stage.  It turns out that was the right move.  I'm of the mind that the closer I am to the singer, the better the experience.  Well, unless I was onstage, I wasn't getting any closer. 

The concert was fantastic.  I had a blast.

Once the concert was over, I could boogie on out of there.  I hustled to where I parked my car.  As I made my way there,I was about 30 feet away when I saw it too late.  There was a pothole in the sidewalk and my right foot dropped right on in and my ankle just gave way.  I dropped like a rock.  My ankle was sprained, I had torn my jeans, and I had a nice scrape on my left knee.  I got up, felt my ankle and knew it was sprained. No doubt.  I hobbled to my car, and what was there waiting for me?  A ticket.  I had parked too early in this particular spot. *sigh*

So now I've got a sprained ankle, and I still have to make my way to the comic book store and type in the order.  I get there, I type it in, and I send it.  All by around 12:30.  I send a message to my boss, John, saying it's all done, and I head home.

The first thing I do is take off my shoe and sock.  Oh, yeah.  It's pretty nasty.  I had no ice in my house, so I used the next best thing.  I filled a bucket up with the coldest water I could and put my foot into it.  When I went to bed that night, I kept my foot elevated and hoped that was the end of it. 

It wasn't.

The next day I worked for a few hours at Drug Mart before heading to the comic book store.  But before I did that, I looked at my messages.  I had one.  It was from John and it simply said, "Diamond didn't get our order.  We're screwed."  So, apparently the order that I sent the night before wasn't received?  C'mon!  Three long and treacherous and painful hours at Drug Mart later, I was able to leave and go to the comic shop and find  out what happened.  The first message I got was, "Called Diamond (our distributor).  They figured it out.  We're good."


Now I could finally relax (finally) relax.

With a sprained ankle.

And the volleyball championship?  Nope.  We lost that, too.

I'm sure there's a lesson in that mess, somewhere.