Music Video of the Day: Out of Control by The Chemical Brothers (1999, dir by W.I.Z.)


The revolution, as they used to say, will be televised.

Of course, those who used to say that were being rather short-sighted.  Today, we know that the revolution will be streamed, live tweeted, and it will probably trend until Beyonce knocks it off the list.  Revolution, itself, is a term that gets tossed around a lot.  Everyone tends to claim that their revolution is the one “true” revolution.  It takes a little bit of concentration to keep track of which revolution we’re supposed to support and which one we’re supposed to find horrifying.

With all that in mind, revolution has always been good for sales.  The commercialization of rebellion has been around forever.  The music video above was released in 1999 but it feels like it could have been released yesterday.  When Pepsi thought it would be a good idea to have Kendall Jenner change the world with a can of soda, did they realize they were essentially copying this music video?

Of course, that’s Rosario Dawson, playing the spokesrebel.  Rumor has it that Rosario Dawson is currently dating Sen. Cory Booker, who might be our next President.  Senator Booker got some attention for himself last year when he announced that he was having an “I am Spartacus” moment, a reminder that even sitting U.S. senators like to fancy themselves as being revolutionaries.  Being a rebel pays.

Enjoy!

Film Review: 25th Hour (dir by Spike Lee)


(SPOILERS)

First released in 2003, 25th Hour is one of those films that gets better and better with each subsequent viewing.

Monty Brogan (Edward Norton) may have done some very bad things in the past but nearly everyone has benefited.  His childhood friends, a trader named Frank (Barry Pepper) and a teacher named Jacob (Philip Seymour Hoffman), both get to live vicariously through their friend, even if neither one of them is quite willing to admit it.  Monty’s father (Brian Cox) is a retired fireman who now owns a bar that was largely purchased with the money that Monty made from dealing drugs.  Monty’s girlfriend, Naturelle (Rosario Dawson), is “living high” off of the profits of Monty’s drug deals.  For that matter, so is Monty.  Monty has a nice apartment, a loyal dog, and a supportive boss named Uncle Nikolai (Levan Uchaneishvili).

Of course, Monty understands that he’s in the business of destroying lives.  When Monty first met Naturelle, he had just completed a transaction with a well-dressed businessman.  Years later, when Monty is sitting on a bench with his dog, that same man approaches him and begs for more drugs.  The man’s no longer wearing a suit.  Now, he’s apparently homeless and so addicted that he takes it personally when Monty informs him that he’s no longer in the drug-selling business.

Why is Monty no longer selling?  Someone told on Monty.  When the DEA showed up at his apartment, it didn’t take long for them to find the packages that he had hidden in the cushions of the couch.  For all of his swagger and confidence, it would appear that Monty wasn’t quite as clever as he thought he was.  Monty was arrested and subsequently sentenced to seven years in prison.

The majority of 25th Hour takes place during Monty’s final night of freedom, a night that he’s planning on spending it with Frank and Jacob, both of whom could have made the same mistakes that he did but, for whatever reason, they didn’t.  Needless to say, Monty’s got a lot on his mind.  For all of his attempts to hide it, Monty isn’t as tough as he pretends to be.  He knows that it’s not going to be easy for him to do seven years in confinement.  He’s terrified of getting raped in prison and he worries that he’s going to be locked in a holding cell with 200 other criminals.  Both he and his friends know that, even if he does survive, he’ll be a different man when he gets out.  Frank suggests that he and Monty could open a bar when Monty is released but they both know this is an empty promise.  Not only is Monty is scared of the future but he’s haunted by the past.  Is he getting what he deserves?  What if he had made different choices?  Will Nautrelle wait for him or, as some of his associates suggest, is she the one who betrayed him in the first place?

Over the course of the night, both Frank and Jacob are also forced to deal with their feelings towards Monty.  Frank is a Type A personality, the one who spends his day screaming into telephones and who eagerly looks forward to exploiting bad economic news for his own financial gain.  Frank says that Monty is getting what he deserves but, as the film progresses, it becomes obvious that Frank knows that he has more in common with Monty than he wants to admit.  Jacob, on the other hand, is a socially awkward teacher who is struggling to deal with a crush that he’s developed on one of his students (Anna Paquin).  If Frank fears that he’s more like Monty than he wants to admit, Jacob wishes he could be more like him.  At first, it’s hard to imagine that these three men could ever have been close friends but, as soon as you see them together, it all makes sense.

As directed by Spike Lee, one of American cinema’s greatest provocateurs, 25th Hour is more than just the story of one man’s last night of freedom.  Over the course of the film, Monty becomes a symbol of not just New York City but of America itself.  Driven by self-interest, Monty has spent his life ignoring the consequences of his actions and, now that he has no choice but to confront them, it’s too late.  During the film’s most famous scene, Monty stares in a mirror while his reflection rants against every single neighborhood and ethnic group in New York City.  The rant is such a powerful scene that it’s easy to miss the most important point.  Only at the end of the rant does Monty’s reflection admit that he’s as much to blame for his life as any of them.

Oh yes, the Rant.  The Rant is so famous that I was almost tempted to not mention it in this review, just because it doesn’t seem as if there’s much left to be said about it.  Even people who dislike the film seem to be in agreement that the Rant is one of the most powerful and incendiary moments in early 21st century cinema.  The Rant gives us a portrait of a divided and angry society in collapse and it’s a portrait that is probably even more relevant today than it was when the film was first released.  The Rant feels like such a classic Spike Lee moment that it’s surprising to discover that the Rant was included in the script even before Lee was attached to the film.

A few things about the Rant:

  1. The film deliberately leaves it ambiguous as to whether or not Monty is actually speaking.  We see the back of his head and his reflection but the movement of his head rarely seems to match the movement of his reflection.  Regardless of whether Monty is actually speaking or just imagining the rant, the scene does make clear that, even on his way to prison, Monty can only truly express himself while alone.  Of course, once he’s locked up, Monty’s not going to be alone for at least seven years.
  2. “Enron!”  I have to admit that, when I recently rewatched film, I laughed when Monty started ranting about Enron.  I can vaguely remember a time when everyone was obsessed with Enron and Halliburton and all that other stuff so I found it funny that I briefly had to struggle to recall just what exactly Enron was.  16 years from now, I wonder if people will watch old movies and TV shows and say, “Why are they all so obsessed with Russia?”

As well-done and brilliantly acted as it may be, the Rant has tended overshadow an even better moment.  It has been said that the key to a successful work of art is a good ending.  As a writer, I can tell you that endings are a hundred times more difficult than beginnings.  Fortunately, 25th Hour has an absolutely brilliant ending.

After having finally convincing Frank to beat him up (in an effort to make himself look tougher once he arrives in prison), Monty is being driven to the prison by his father.  As they leave New York City, Monty takes one final look at the city and it’s citizens enjoying freedom that he’ll never again have.  (This is such a New York City that you can’t help but feel that it’s adding insult to injury that Monty’s going to have to serve his time upstate.)  As he drives, Monty’s father begins to talk…

It’s all about decisions and consequences.  Monty made his decisions years ago.  Over the course of Monty’s last night of freedom, Frank, Jacob, Naturelle, and even Uncle Nikolai made their decisions.  And now, as he drives his son to prison, Monty’s father is forced to make a decision of his own.  There’s so much great acting to be found in 25th Hour but, during that final soliloquy, Brian Cox upstages all of them.  Brian Cox is one of those character actors who seems as if he’s been around forever.  He’s the type of dependable actor who, much like Monty’s father, is often taken for granted.  If nothing else, you have to be thankful for a film like 25th Hour because it gives everyone a chance to be reminded of just how brilliant an actor Brian Cox truly is.

(Here’s a random bit of a Brian Cox trivia.  While everyone knows that, in Manhunter, Brian Cox was the first actor to play Hannibal Lecter, he also played Winton Churchill the same year that Gary Oldman won an Oscar for playing the same role in Darkest Hour.)

25th Hour is not an easy film to watch.  At times, it’s one of the most depressing films ever made.  It’s tempting to say that, as bad as things ultimately turn out for him, you’re glad that Monty has his father and his friends but that’s really not true.  No matter how much his friends care about him or how much Naturelle and his father love him, Monty’s going to prison and his story is simply not going to have a happy ending.

And yet, 25th Hour is one of those films that you can’t look away from and, after you watch it, you simply can’t forget.  Every time I watch 25th Hour, I find new details to appreciate.  With each subsequent viewing, the pungent dialogue becomes even more multi-layered.  With each subsequent viewing, Monty becomes even more of an intriguing and tragic figure.  This is a film that makes you appreciate the brilliance of Edward Norton and mourn the fact that Barry Pepper rarely gets roles as good as his role here.  With each viewing, 25th Hour reminds you of what a great talent we lost when we lost Philip Seymour Hoffman.  It’s film that gets better with each viewing.

Assuming that Monty survived and managed to stay out of trouble, he should be out of prison by now.  Hopefully, wherever he is, he’s doing okay.

For the 10 Year Old in All of Us: THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE (Warner Brothers 2017)


cracked rear viewer

lego1

Before I start this post, allow me to introduce you to today’s co-reviewer:

james

This is my young friend James. I first met him when I was working with his mother. He was a shy three-year-old whose father had disavowed him. He was mistrustful of most adults, but for whatever reason, he took a liking to me, and “adopted” me as his best friend. I’ve become somewhat of a mentor to him, and we have lots of fun going places like Chuck E. Cheese, the park, the zoo, and the movies. He’s ten now, and a big Lego fan, so naturally we saw THE LEGO MOVIE together. When I asked him if he wanted to see THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE, he got super-excited. I must admit I was too, being a huge Batmaniac myself.

So today we went to check it out. James told me his school friends said it was “cool”…

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Back to School Part II #32: Kids (dir by Larry Clark)


kids_film

The first time that I ever saw Kids, the 1995 directorial debut of Larry Clark, my initial response was to wonder what the Hell everyone was talking about.

Seriously, I couldn’t understand a word that anyone was saying.  The two main characters — 15 year-old Telly (Leo Fitzpatrick) and his friend Casper (Justin Pierce) — talked almost constantly.  In fact, Telly even narrated the film.  But both of them had such thick Northern accents and both of them were so inarticulate that I spent 75% of the movie trying to understand what they were going on about.  (Add to that, Casper is pretty much either drunk or stoned through the entire film.)  Don’t get me wrong.  I understood enough to know what was going on in the movie.  I knew that Telly was obsessed with having sex with virgins and that he didn’t know that he was HIV positive.  I knew that Casper considered himself to be the “dopest ghost in town,” and that he ended the film by coming out of his daze long enough to look straight at the camera and ask, “What the fuck happened?”  But a lot of the dialogue in-between got lost as a result of Telly growling and Casper slurring.

So, when I rewatched Kids for this review, I turned on the close captioning so that I could read what it was that Telly and Casper were actually saying to each other while they were walking around New York City.  After a few minutes, I started to really wish that I had just remained ignorant.  Seriously, you may hate Telly but you’ll hate even more once you understand everything that he actually says during the opening scenes of the film.  Telly is literally one of the most disgusting pervs to ever be at the center of a motion picture.  “Virgins,” he announces at the start of the film, “I love them!”  He also infects them and what’s truly disturbing is that you get the feeling that, even if he knew he was HIV positive, Telly wouldn’t change his behavior at all.

Reportedly, Leo Fitzpatrick got death threats after starring in Kids.  Because he was making his film debut in Kids and because the film’s cast was reportedly made up of actual street kids, many viewers assumed that Fitzpatrick was playing himself.  Fitzpatrick is one of the few members of the cast to have actually maintained an acting career after Kids and, by most accounts, he’s not Telly.  That said, Telly is such a demonic character and Fitzpatrick does such a good job playing him that, admittedly, it is strange to see him subsequently play characters who are far different from Telly.  (His performance as faux hitman in Clark’s Bully is one of the highlights of that film.)

Justin Pierce also continued to act after Kids, though his efforts to maintain a career were reportedly hampered by his own personal demons.  Sadly, Pierce committed suicide in 2000, hanging himself in Las Vegas.  As raw as it may be, Pierce probably gives the best performance in Kids.  I’m sure that some would be tempted to say that Pierce was just playing himself but there’s also a sly humor to his performance that isn’t necessarily present in the script.  Casper is a despicable character who not only possibly beats a man to death but who also rapes one of his so-called friends when she’s passed out on a coach.  At times, Casper seems to almost be brain-dead.  (We’re told that he’s been sniffing glue since the 4th grade.)  But then there’s a few scenes where we get hints of who Casper could have been if he hadn’t fried his brain.

(For instance, it’s interesting to note that, alone among the male characters, Casper is the only one who occasionally behaves in a generous manner.  He may steal a piece of fruit but he then gives it to a young girl waiting outside of a dilapidated building.  In the famous scene in which a legless man asks for money while singing, “I have no legs/I have no legs,” Casper gives him money while Telly rolls his eyes.  Casper may be awful but, unlike Telly, he’s not a total sociopath.)

(It’s also interesting to note that, while we meet Telly’s mom and hear from her that Telly has a strained relationship with his dad, we never meet or hear about Casper’s family.  While Kids may be critical of Telly and Casper and their friends, it’s true scorn is reserved for the frequently unseen adults who all either seem to either be in denial or just incredibly callous as far as their children are concerned.)

And then there’s Chloe Sevigny and Rosario Dawson, both making their film debut in Kids.  They play friends who, at the start of the movie, both go to a clinic to get the results of their HIV tests.  The promiscuous Ruby (Dawson) is negative.  Jennie (Sevigny), however, is positive.  Since she’s only had sex with one person, she knows that she caught it from Telly.  What little plot that Kids has deals with Jennie’s efforts to track down Telly before he has sex with another virgin.  From the minute that Jennie starts searching for Telly, you know that it’s a pointless mission.  Even if Jennie did manage to track down Telly, it’s doubtful he would listen to her.

Kids was the directorial debut of Larry Clark.  It was also the screenwriting debut of Harmony Korine and reportedly, it was considered to be very shocking and controversial when it was first released.  I have to admit that, even speaking as someone who grew up far away from the streets of New York on which Kids was cast and filmed, I’ve never been that shocked by Kids.  Don’t get me wrong — it’s a raw and powerful film and the scene where Sevigny sits in a cab and repeats to herself that she’s not going to die brought tears to my eyes.  But, no — the idea of kids and teenagers having sex, doing drugs, and getting violent is no longer shocking (if it ever was).

It’s just another day.

Her Name Is Jessica Jones


Jessica Jones

The Daredevil series on Netflix was a hit with both critics and audiences. It helped lay the foundation in the street-level corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Now, we have the second of four planned original series with the upcoming Jessica Jones which looks to continue the mature themes and tone of Daredevil.

The series will star Krysten Ritter in the title role with Mike Colter appearing for the first time as the Marvel superhero Luke Cage aka Power Man. It also stars David Tennant in the role of main antagonist and just all-around creepy villain Zebediah Kilgrave aka The Purple Man.

Where Daredevil only scratched the surface of superpowers in the more down-to-earth, street-level part of the MCU, it looks like Jessica Jones will introduce a wider variety of abilities (superhuman strength and endurance, unbreakable skin, mind-control just to name a few) and an even more mature series than Daredevil with it’s depiction of psychological damage and trauma to it’s treatment of Jessica Jones’ sexuality throughout the series.

While the Avengers fight gods, alien invasions, sentient killer A.I. and terrorist groups bent on world-domination, the Matt Murdock’s and Jessica Jones’ look to keep the street-level safe for the people of Hell’s Kitchen.

Jessica Jones is set to premiere and release all 13-episodes on Netflix this November 20, 2015. Time to set that date for another Netflix binge watch.

Daredevil Has No Need For Iron Suits or Magic Hammers


daredevil

“I accept your conviction. The lone man who thinks he can make a difference.” — Wilson Fisk

Today we saw the release of the official trailer for Netflix and Marvel Television’s first of five series based on characters from the Marvel Universe. Daredevil will be the first out of the gate and it looks to darken things a bit in the Marvel Cinematic Universe by bringing to the small screen one of it’s street-level heroes.

Daredevil (aka Matt Murdock) will soon be joined by Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist in their own web series on Netflix before teaming up for the Defenders series.

Under the guiding hands of showrunner (and Whedon alum) Stephen S. DeKnight, Daredevil will soon be available for bingewatchers everywhere on April 10, 2015.

Trailer: Daredevil


daredevil“Bless me father for I have sinned.” — Matt Murdock

Marvel has pretty much been dominating the big-screen with it’s yearly event offerings. 2015 will not be an exception with Avengers: Age of Ultron set for a summer release expected to rake in the box-office by the money bins. Now, Marvel has set it’s site on the small-screen with it’s first Netflix Original Series that will be the first link in a five series set that will culminate in a team-up series called the Defenders.

This first link will be a new, and hopefully better take, on the street-level superhero Daredevil aka the Man With No Fear. The blind lawyer by day and vigilante by night whose blindness since childhood has helped him developed the rest of his senses beyond human levels. We shall not speak of the film adaptation starring Ben Affleck over ten years ago.

Marvel’s Daredevil will release all 10-episodes on Netflix this April 10, 2015.