Congrats to The Rangers


I don’t know a damn thing about baseball but I do know that the Rangers are going to the World Series and the Rangers are apparently from my hometown.  Oh, and the Ranger Josh Hamilton is apparently not the same guy as the actor Josh Hamilton.

Anyway, for now, I will also extend hearty congratulations to Arleigh because his team is apparently going to the World Series as well.  I learned today that apparently, San Francisco’s team is called the Giants and not the Phillies.  Apparently, the Phillies are actually Philadelphia’s team.  Actually, that makes a bit more sense.  I also found out that the Giants have a player with the exact same name as the former lead singer of the Beach Boys.

Anyway, congratulations to the Rangers (who I guess are now my team) and the Giants.  The song below is dedicated to both teams and to baseball fans everywhere…

Congrats to NLCS Champs SF GIANTS!!


Short but sweet…Congratulations to the San Francisco Giants for winning the National League Pennant to move onto the Fall Classic aka The World Series to the bandwagoners.

This team has taken torture baseball (almost as painful as watching torture porn flicks) and brought it to a new level. The nation will now learn and discover The Beard, The Freak, The Boss, The Kung Fu Panda and The Rally Thong.

No matter what happens in the World Series this Giants team has been fun to watch even if it has brought me to having a coronary more than a few times this year. But as the song says…

DON’T STOP BELIEVING!

The Regal Keystone Park 16, R.I.P.


 

Earlier this week, I discovered that, without warning, the Regal Keystone Park 16 had closed its door for good.

The Regal was not my favorite movie theater in the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex.  That honor would have to be jointly awarded to the Dallas and Plano Angelikas.  In fact, if anything, the Regal was somewhat trashy.  It was located right off of Central Expressway (which meant that traffic both entering and leaving theater was insane) and it sat directly across the street from a free clinic.  Whenever I went to the Regal, I was always very much aware of the constantly patrolling police cars.  There always seemed to be something dramatic happening at the apartments across the street from the theater. 

Despite the police presence, I could always count on being accosted by one at least one homeless person.  Most of the time they would just ask for money though other times they just wanted to tell me about who was actually in charge of the world.  Most of the time, it seemed to be the Vatican.  I would smile politely and hope they were too busy ranting to notice the St. Vitus medal around my neck.

One of the few times I actually made the mistake of going to the Regal by myself, I was greeted in the parking lot by a bearded, foul-smelling man who was about a foot taller than me and who outweighed me by over a hundred pounds.  He started walking towards me as soon as I got out of my car and even though I quickened my pace, he quickly caught up to me.  Walking less than a couple of inches behind me, he loudly asked me if I liked to perform a certain sexual act.  He kept following me, asking me this all the way to the theater doors but he didn’t step inside the theater after me.  The whole time this was going on, the parking lot was filled with other filmgoers who heard what the man asked and saw how quickly I was walking away from him.  Not one of them said a word or, as far as I know, even called the police.  That’s the type of theater that the Regal was.

(Incidentally, I called the police as soon as I got inside the theater.  I’m not sure what happened exactly but the man wasn’t there when I left two hours later.  The movie I saw, by the way, was Lakeview Terrace, starring Samuel L. Jackson.)

Still, I’m going to miss going to the Regal.  For one thing, it was close to where I live now and it was close to where I lived previously.  So, even if it was by default, it was kind of my theater.  As trashy as the outside was, the inside was usually pretty clean.  Plus, I went enough times that I got to know — at least on a visual level — most of the people who worked there.  For instance, there was the elderly gentleman who — no matter what time of day I went to the Regal — always seemed to be working behind ticket table.  Usually, he’d end up giving us tickets to the wrong movie but he seemed like a nice old man and he always had a smile ready for me whenever he saw me stepping through the front doors.  I’m going to miss him.

No, the Regal wasn’t perfect but it’s a place where I spent a lot of hours and I’ve got a lot of memories of that place.  To an extent, I’m not surprised that it closed its doors.  It was, obviously, located in a terrible neighborhood and often times it did so little business that me and whoever I had come with would end up watching our movie in an empty theater.  That’s good for those of us who like to have sex while watching movies but, as a question of simple economics, it’s not a formula for success.  Still, I would have liked a chance to say goodbye.

On Friday, me and my sister Erin drove down to the old Regal, specifically to take some pictures for this little memorial.  Unfortunately, no sooner had Erin take a few pictures before we were confronted by some fat asshole in a golf cart who wanted to know why we were taking pictures. 

To be honest, I have issues with authority on a good day and Friday was not, at that point, a very good day.  So, as Erin put the lens cap back on her camera, I sensibly replied, “I really don’t think that’s any of your fucking business.”

“Some people take pictures because they want to case a place before they rob it,” Mr. Fascist-On-A-Golf-Cart replied.

At this point, Erin had unlocked her car and was attempting to lead me over to it.  However, as I retreated, I politely replied, “Your mother sucks cock in Hell, Karras.”

That shut the pig up.  I’m still wondering if he realized I was merely quoting The Exorcist or if he thought maybe I actually was possessed.

Anyway, the pictures in this post were all taken by Erin Nicole Bowman on Friday and I thank her for both helping me pay tribute to the Angelika and for keeping me out of jail.

Here, in alphabetical order, is as complete a list as possible of every film I saw at the Regal Keystone Park 16, starting with Iron Man on June 10th, 2008 and ending with Secretariat on October 12th, 2010.

Adventureland

The American

An American Carol

The Black Waters of Echo’s Pond

The Blind Side

The Book of Eli

Brothers

Burn After Reading

Changeling

Clash of the Titans

The Crazies

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The Dark Knight

Despicable Me

Drag Me To Hell

Eat Pray Love

The Expendables

Everybody’s Fine

The Fantastic Mr. Fox

Funny People

Get Him To The Greek

Get Low

The Happening

How To Train Your Dragon

The Informant!

Inglorious Basterds

Invictus

Iron Man

Iron Man 2

Lakeview Terrace

The Last Exorcism

Legion

Let Me In

The Losers

The Lovely Bones

Machete

The Men Who Stare At Goats

Ninja Assassin

The Other Guys

Paranormal Activity

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Public Enemies

Resident Evil: Afterlife

Robin Hood

Salt

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

Secretariat

Sherlock Holmes

Shutter Island

Splice

Star Trek

Taken

The Town

Toy Story 3

Tropic Thunder

Twelve

Up

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

Wall-E

Watchmen

The Wolf Man

Zombieland

Regal Keystone Park 16, R.I.P.

Film Review: Hereafter (dir. by Clint Eastwood)


Hereafter is a very serious film about a very serious topic, death.  Following three separate but ultimately connected stories, the film attempts to explore death and the question of what happens after death from three different angles — intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually.   I really wanted Hereafter to be a great film.  So did the film’s makers, which is precisely why Hereafter fails.

The intellectual consideration of death is represented by the character of Marie (Cecile De France), a French journalist who, at the start of the film, drowns in a tsunami and is, for a few minutes, clinically dead.  Before she is eventually revived, she has a classic near-death experience: the bright light, the people waiting to greet her, the whole deal.  After this experience, Marie is compelled to investigate whether or not there truly is such a thing as an afterlife.  As she does so, Marie finds herself shunned by her resolutely secular friends and grows increasingly distant from her skeptical (and rather condescending) boyfriend.

The emotional response to death is represented in the story of twin brothers, Marcus and Jason (played by Frankie and George McLaren).  The two boys live in London with their drug-addicted mother and share a strong (and, to be honest, kinda creepy) bond.  Jason, while simply trying to return home with some drugs for his detoxing mother, is roughed up by some bullies and ends up running out into the middle of the street.  Naturally, since this is a movie, Jason is hit by a truck as soon as he steps off the curb.  Jason is killed and Marcus is taken away by social services and put into a foster home.  Marcus continues to carry Jason’s cap with him and soon starts tracking down local English psychics in an attempt to talk to his brother again.

Finally, the spiritual aspect is detailed in the film’s most interesting story.  This story features Matt Damon as George Lonegan, a psychic who can speak with the dead.  After years of being a minor celebrity, George burned out and went into a self-imposed exile.  He now works at a factory while his brother (Jay Mohr, who looks incredibly puffy in this movie) keeps trying to find ways to convince George to get back into the business of talking to dead for fun and profit.  After George reluctantly gives a reading to Richard Kind, he finds himself being dragged back into his old life.

 A lot of viewers and critics have compared Hereafter to Alejandro González Iñárritu’s 2006 masterpiece, Babel.  Both films follow three separate but connecting stories and both films are concerned with the theme of death and how it connects us all.  As well, Babel featured Brad Pitt in a serious role and Hereafter features Matt Damon.  The main difference, however, is that Babel was a great film but Hereafter is basically an uneven mess.

Whereas Babel featured three strong stories, Hereafter features 1 compelling story (that would be Damon’s) which is compelling solely because Matt Damon is a talented enough actor that he can apparently perform miracles.  He’s probably about as likable as he’s ever been in the role of George but he also wisely plays the role as being just a little bit off.  Even though the film makes the mistake of never really going into the details of just what exactly caused George to give up being a psychic, Damon is so good in the role that you’re willing to take him at his word that he had a good reason.  Probably the highlight of the film (and one of the few sections to really inspire any sort of real emotional response) is an extended sequence where Damon befriends and the manages to alienate an insecure, single woman played by Bryce Dallas Howard.  Damon and Howard have a scene that involves eating while blind-folded that manages to be both powerfully erotic and wonderfully romantic at the same time.  If the entire film had been about them, Hereafter would have been a much better movie.

Unfortunately, we’ve got to slog through two other stories. 

Cecile La France gives an excellent performance as Marie and the opening tsunami scene is truly terrifying.  For someone like me, who cannot swim and risks having a panic attack if she even stands near the deep end of a swimming pool, the tsunami scene was almost impossible to watch.  I had to put my hands in front of my eyes and watch the scene through my fingers.  However, once she drowns, Marie sees a vision of the afterlife that — as a harbinger of things to come — is rather dull.  I mean, with everything that can supposedly be done in movies today, the best that Hereafter can give us is a bland white light.  Once Marie returns to Paris and starts her investigation, La France remains a sympathetic presence and the film actually does a pretty good job of showing just how condescending most supposedly “liberal” men are whenever a woman starts to stray from the established orthodoxy.  But, unfortunately, her story is just never that interesting.  Marie decides to write a book about the afterlife.  As a writer myself, I have to say that there is nothing more boring than watching someone else write.

As for Marcus, I was shocked just how little I cared about him or his attempts to contact his brother.  I come from a very close family and I have a very strong bond with all three of my sisters and, among them, I am notorious for crying at any movie that deals with that sort of sibling bonding.  Yet I sat through the saga of Marcus and Jason without shedding a tear and I felt terrible about it.  I really wanted to cry.  I really wanted to have some sort of emotional response to the story but I just never believed it.  I hate to say this but honestly, a lot of this was due to the fact that the McLaren twins are such bad actors.  Director Clint Eastwood has said that he specifically cast them because they weren’t professional actors and therefore, they wouldn’t introduce any false “sentimentality” into the mix.  But dammit, it was a sentimental story.  Sentiment is not necessarily a bad thing and just because something is sentimental, that doesn’t make it false.

So, what exactly went wrong with Hereafter?  The film opens strongly with a terrifying tsunami and the final 30 minutes are also undeniably touching (if also a bit contrived).  It’s everything that happens in between those two points that ruins Hereafter.  Director Eastwood, obviously looking to avoid that dreaded curse of being sentimental, keeps the whole film very low-key and realistic.  Other than the opening tsunami, there are no big wow moments but to be honest, isn’t that what movies are for?  If you’re going to make a movie that specifically shuns the wow moment, you better have something compelling (a perfect script or an entire cast giving a compelling performance as opposed to just a handful of them) to take its place.  Hereafter doesn’t and, as a result, the movie drags.  This, honestly, has got to be one of the slowest, most boring movies I’ve ever seen.  If director Eastwood’s westerns and actions films can all be seen as homages to Sergio Leone and Don Siegel, I think Hereafter must be an homage to some of Andy Warhol’s intentionally dull films.  Whereas Warhol, at the very least, gave us Joe Dallesandro to look at, Eastwood gives us Jay Mohr.  It’s not a fair trade.

I don’t know how much of Hereafter should be blamed on Eastwood and how much should be blamed on the script written by Peter Morgan.  Here’s a quote from Morgan that appeared in The Hollywood Reporter:

“It’s quite spiritual material, and quite romantic, too. It’s the sort of piece that’s not easy to describe and in the hands of different filmmakers could end up as wildly different films. Quite unlike some of my other material, which I think there were only certain ways that you could shoot it. It’s really not just another boring Hollywood movie with the same old boring Hollywood actors, although I see the point that the public and sick of paying $10.00 to see a movie with same old faces and the same gramma of story telling.”

And to that, all I can say is “Shut up, Peter Morgan!”

This is not spiritual material as much as it’s just a bunch of vaguely New Age platitudes being delivered by a mainstream screenwriter who apparently doesn’t have the guts to come down either firmly for or against an afterlife.  This is the type of feel-good BS that leads to thousands of people every year giving up their life savings to some fraud who claims he can deliver messages from beyond.  Morgan’s script goes out of its way not to actually define the afterlife.  Is it heaven or is it Hell?  Is there a God?  Do the worthy go to Heaven?  Are souls saved?  Or are they just ghosts who are waiting for us to be willing to let them go?  These are all questions that would have been considered by a good film but Hereafter doesn’t consider them.  Oh, don’t get me wrong.  It pretends to bring them up but only so the movie can shrug and go, “I guess nobody knows.”  And to that I say, either take a position or don’t expect everyone else to pay money just to listen to you duck the question because you’re too scared of alienating mainstream critics or audiences.

(Myself, I do believe that those who love us are always with us in some way even if I don’t believe in a literal afterlife.  And while I know that answer might seem vague, you should also consider that I’m not the one spending millions of dollars to make a movie celebrating that vagueness.)

Morgan’s script also make its a point to incorporate real-life events into his contrived narrative.  As a result, the London Subway bombings and the Thailand Tsunami are both used as convenient plot points in much the same way that The Curious Case of Benjamin Button used Hurricane Katrina.  I felt it was ghoulish when Button did it and, the more I think about it, it’s equally ghoulish in Hereafter.  It’s hard not to feel that the film’s saying, “Too bad all those real people died but what’s important is how these events impacted the lives of a bunch of fictional characters.”

Hereafter’s main problem is that it simply tries too hard to be great.  You get the feeling that every scene and line has been calculated to make you go, “Wow, what genius!”  As a result, even the scenes that work still somehow feel very dishonest.  The end result is a very insincere film about some very sincere concerns.

Quickie Review: Tremors (dir. by Ron Underwood)


I just happened to catch one of my favorite creature-feature films on cable this morning and I had forgotten just how much fun this film was and is to still watch. I am talking about 1990’s horror-comedy Tremors by director Ron Underwood (who would follow it up with the very successful and funny City Slickers a year later) and starring the comedic duo of Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward. I was still in high school when I saw this in the theaters and even then this film had me from the get-go.

Tremors is a throwback to all the Saturday matinee creature-features and monster mash films that were huge during the 50’s and through the 60’s. It’s plot was simple enough that even a little kid could keep up with what was going on. We had a small, rundown mining town in the middle of nowhere (it always happens to be one of those small desert or valley towns which dotted the landscape once the national interstate was completed) whose fortunes have seen better days, hell better decades from the looks of it. The town has its cast of characters with Fred Ward and Kevin Bacon’s roles of Earl and Val the two main leads. We even get long-time genre actor Victor Wong in a supporting role as the town’s only store owner and also it’s two-bit hustler always looking to find a new way to make a buck. One of the funniest roles goes to Michael Gross (the dad in the 80’s hit family show Family Ties) who, with Reba McEntire as his wife, play some crazy-ass survivalists who try fighting off the creatures of this feature the giant, underground worms the survivors have dubbed “Graboids” for their propensity to grab people and animals with prehensile tentacle like appendages which shoot out from their mouths.

No, Tremors wasn’t some live-action version of the ever popular hentai, though I wouldn’t be surprised if the writers of the film were subconsconsciously influenced by them. What the film ended up being was one of the funnier horror comedies which ended the 80’s and announced the 90’s. It was also one of the last few great non-CGI creature features to come out of Hollywood. The Graboids were definitely animatronic and rubber-suited props, but they moved and looked real that one didn’t question whether they were real or not. It would be these creatures who would end up the stars and highlight of this film (the ensemble cast a good second) and follow-up sequels would and could never live up to it. It didn’t help that the sequels ended up using too much CGI which just ruined the illusion built-up by the original.

So, if you ever feel bored and suddenly see that one of the many basic cable channels are showing this little horror-comedy gem from the 1990’s I recommend you watch it with snacks and drinks on hand. There are many ways to make one stop being bored by watching something on the “Tele” and I say Tremors is one of those ways.