Saturday, August 30, 2008

Dear Charlie:

Woot! My boys won the Governor's Cup! Yeah, it's a silly preseason game, but the Chiefs and Rams seem to take it at least as seriously as the ProBowl.

And I, for one, am just glad we finished the preseason 2-2. Even is good. Now...for the regular season. And our first game is against the Patriots.

Just. Ducky.

Sorry, Darcalus, but I would not shed a single tear if we stomped your boys. We won't, but it's fun to think about. Heheh.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Dear Charlie:

Just found out that the trailer for the dreaded DragonBall movie will finally see the light of day. It's supposed to be attached to Max Payne, which comes out in October.

Now, I dunno if this is a teaser trailer (the movie doesn't come out until April '09) or a full-length virtuosity, but it's about stinkin' time. I mean, all this "no press" stuff is really starting to wear on those of us who fear the worst from this flick.

Put it this way: I saw a Tropic Thunder trailer way back in February, and I could not wait to see it. Even went to the midnight showing, just to see it sooner.

Now, if FOX was sure of its product, wouldn't they assume that their DragonBall trailer would do much the same? Would pump up the long-standing fans and welcome new ones at the same time?

Not only has FOX put off the opening date until next Spring, but it has also been ridiculously clutch-fisted with its promotional materials. Posters have trickled out from fan cons and such, but I've only heard of a very short, very generic teaser trailer being seen at one fan con, and no one has any leaked footage.

So...is this supposed to build hype...or signal that FOX dreads this production as much as I do?

I guess we'll all find out in October.

Oi. I still can't believe Goku is in high school. What a disaster. Although Edy, bless his hilarious heart, has posited a few of his own plot points and populated his ideal DB movie with everyone from Burt Reynolds and Chuck Norris to Patrick Stewart and Chris Rock. In fact, he has so amused me that I'm tempted to write out a script just for those fascinating casting choices.

Heh. If nothing else, it would make for some seriously twisted fanfiction.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Dear Charlie:

You know, I think Hollywood is trying too hard these days. They made a lengthy, flashy trailer for Death Race with hot cars and hot women and hot men and gruesomely good humor...and all they really had to do was show that two- or three-second scene of Jason Statham doing pull-ups without a shirt on.

Well, it worked for me, anyway.

So, yeah, I went to see Death Race. What? You thought that after such gluttonous pleasures as Iron Man, Dark Knight, and Tropic Thunder, I'd just sit at home and miss He of the Mighty-Sexy Back Muscles driving an armed and armored Mustang of any vintage (except those atrocious '80s models that looked like Pintos with vents on the sides)? Geez. I'm perpetually broke, not a saint.

Now, I know quite well that critics will probably pan this flick. Call it a "popcorn movie" or a "guilty pleasure". Considering how much popcorn is sold per year at theaters world-wide, I think it's safe to say that all movies, even the dullest documentaries, are popcorn movies. And if enjoying yourself for anywhere between an hour and a half to three hours is a guilty pleasure, well, I guess I really will be driving the bus to Hell because I won't repent of my many offenses, there.

But I think what really bothers me is this exerpt from a disturbingly preachy and totally-missed-the-point review by Roger Ebert:

Let us conclude that “Death Race” is not a brand that guarantees quality. That it will no doubt do great at the box office is yet another sign of the decline of the national fanboy mentality.

Look, I agree whole-heartedly that this flick is a form of exploitation. I mean, seriously. It's cars and women, and it admits it freely -- even having one of the characters say just that. My problem with the attitude in that oppressive statement is...what's so wrong with that?

I guess a point could be made that the mentality the film exploits is a mentality that could easily become reality. After all, the first words on the screen are that in a few years, the economy will collapse, crime will run rampant in the streets, the prisons won't be able to keep up, and corporations take over the penal system to make a profit where none else can be made. This leads to the equally entertaining and space-creating sport of setting the prisoners against each other in deathmatches that are then pay-per-viewed on the internet, turning a tidy profit for companies and making room for new prisoners every night.

And, as the opening titles explain, like the great Roman colisseum crowds of old, the audiences grow jaded and bored with such predictable exploitation and demand more. Thus, the Death Race was born. Revving engines and flaming gun muzzles and explosions galore...and the ever-present possibility of a gory and likely painful death at any moment.

It could happen. And I suppose we shouldn't find our own possible future so damn entertaining without thus opening the very way to it.

But that's not what this flick is really about, and it's really not for the philosophical lot that would think that way. Just because I understand the possibility doesn't mean I didn't heartily enjoy watching a swerving car smash into and liquefy a guy who'd just laughingly declared that he couldn't be killed. After all, it's just special effects. And pretty damn funny.

That doesn't make me a Roman-in-waiting. It's funny because it's not real, and it cracks me up to no end that people so easily forget that fact. And if it ever became real, I'd be first in line to condemn it. Greed has never been my favorite sin, and I have a hard time forgiving anyone for it.

Which is why I can laugh at it with a clear conscience.

So seriously, folks, don't go into a movie like Death Race expecting an epiphany or even a social commentary. Go to it expecting to be entertained and aghast and even amused. Go to it expecting squealing tires and napalm. Ripped bodies and testosterone. And all that rumbling, growling, gorgeously-sculpted muscle.

No, I'm not talking about Jason Statham. Heh. This time, I'm talking about the car. God, but I love a Mustang. I love it even better when it's winning and blowing stuff up.

I have only one problem with this flick, and it's not in the presentation. It's only that...what kind of idiot thinks any mechanic worth his salt wouldn't know every bolt and weld on his baby of a race car...and wouldn't look said baby over before sending it out into the world? Pssh. Said idiots deserved what they got, if for no other reason than such gross underestimation of a mechanic's powers of observation. Geez.

Heheh.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Dear Charlie:

Okay, so I know I'm beating a dead horse. Yeah, I'mma talk about Tropic Thunder again. Because I watched it again, and the more I think about it, the more it slays me. Heh.

The protestors. They're the ones who crack me up the most, I swear. Without even watching the movie, they condemn it for buzz words like "retard" and "blackface". Or even having watched it, they don't "get" it. Why it's funny. Why it's not offensive or intended to denigrate anyone but the actor mentality itself.

It's like this: Robert Downey, Jr. plays Kirk Lazarus, a white Australian method actor, who plays Sgt. Osiris, a rock-throated fast-talking black soldier. At one point, Sgt. Osiris plays yet another character, giving Downey a whopping four personalities to juggle at the same time, which he does without the slightest sign of effort. But the funniest part of the whole deal?

While Kirk Lazarus has absolutely no idea why anyone would question his playing a black man dangerously close to an ebonics-slinging stereotype, he blows his top when Alpa Chino -- an actual black man -- starts knocking back on Australians.

HA! How is that NOT funny??

I mean, seriously. Chino reams Lazarus for portraying the black sergeant as an Uncle Tom, damn-near-pickininny kind of stereo type, which Lazarus brushes off as method acting. But let Chino adopt an Aussie accent and poke at the famous "dingo ate your baby" line, and Lazarus lectures him on crossing lines because that was a true story.

It's classic blame-displacing rationalization, and Lazarus doesn't even realize that he's exposing such a blatant double standard in himself. And Downey's play on it -- with Brandon T. Jackson's enthusiastic help -- is frackin brilliant. But people don't get that.

And the whole retard thing. Oi. Lazarus' spiel on why, if you want an Academy nod, you don't go "full retard" in a movie -- with examples, I kid you not -- could be an equally effective spiel on the portrayal of "mentally challenged" people in movies in general. The Academy doesn't want an actor going full retard in a movie because they don't want to be blacklisted by rights advocates for portraying "special needs" people without any redeeming skill or feature. Ie., without any hope. It's not politically correct.

This over-vocal overprotection is understandable, but misguided. As is most intolerance. Oooohhh, I am SO already feeling the hate-vibes from that one.

The point is that the whole "retard" debate about this flick is moot. Again, the joke is on the actors, on the Academy, not on the characters being portrayed. For crying out loud, it's a spoof, not a personal attack or a nationally publicized dissertation on the limitations of mentally challenged individuals. It's not insulting and insensitive. It's not a hate crime or an invitation to school bullies the country over to beat up and make fun of special education kids. It's...a joke.

Besides, school kids shouldn't be watching this flick, anyway. It very much earns its R rating, which is another reason it's frackin hilarious. I and most of my similar-aged friends are really tired of Hollywood dumbing down adult-centered movies and taking out a few F-bombs to get that coveted and crowd-friendly (and money-generating) PG-13 rating. Why rip the nuts off a ballsy flick? What does that leave?

I dunno. I just think people take everything way too seriously, and this is a comedy that makes fun of that. Which is why the joke works. It's a comedy, people. It's supposed to be irreverent. It's supposed to take pot-shots. And it's supposed to push boundaries and even overstep in places.

Not all comedies succeed on even one of these fronts. This one succeeds on them all. Many, many congratulations for that.

See, there's so much seriousness hovering around us every day that it's borrowing trouble to get all fussy over one hilarious riot of a movie in a summer full of awesome movies. Why do you think I paid out increasingly good money that I could have used to fill my gas tank to go see so many films this summer? It doesn't take a rocket scientist (or a method actor, heh) to figure that one out.

1. There were a load of good flicks this year, and
2. I want to get AWAY from reality for a couple of hours, not mire myself in it further.

And that's what movies are for. Entertainment. Distraction. Suspension of disbelief. Hell, at its heart, cinema is about escape. If you can't escape reality for a couple of hours without coming up with something to complain about or protest or organize a boycott and political march over, it says a lot more about you than about the movie you so hate.

At least...I think so.

Here's one of my mottos for life, and it has served me well. If you don't like it, don't watch/read/eat/drink/touch/play with it. See, that saves you from having to deal with things you don't like, but it leaves those things for others who don't have the same hang-ups. It's freedom at its most general and forgiving.

I mean, seriously. I don't like fish. Nasty stuff. Love seafood, hate fish. 98% of the fish I've tried over the course of my life has tasted like Missouri river bottom, no matter what body of water it came out of. And if it's left out even a bit too long in the wrong temperature, it can kill you. Or at least make you so sick you'll wish you were dead.

But you don't see me picketing Long John Silver's. You don't see me petitioning Congress to have that nasty, disgusting, and potentially harmful fish-yuck banned from every menu in the country. You don't see me condemning Wal-Mart for continually stocking such offensive (well, offensive smelling) grotesqueness for all the world to see and purchase.

Because some people, contrary to all logic, actually seem to enjoy fish. I can't for the life of me imagine why, but there it is. And who am I to deny them that small, inexplicable pleasure in life? Just because I abhor it myself?

Yeah, it's an over-simplification. But sometimes, it takes that big a leap in perspective to make people see how retarded -- oopsie! -- they're being about something. And that's what great comedies are for.

So, in essence, if you really wanna get down to brass tacks, Tropic Thunder is more of a much-needed and entirely undervalued public service than, say, an offense against decency.

So take that, rights advocates. HA.

And in the words of the mentally challenged but Academy-friendly-because-he-changed-the-world-by-playing-ping-pong-in-China Forrest Gump, "That's all I have to say about that."

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Dear Charlie:

Okay, so an in-depth analysis of Tropic Thunder, which I haven't stopped thinking about all day, without giving away any heavy details that might ruin someone else's fun. Yeah, I know. I'm a geek. Sue me. Heh.

A good chunk of this movie's success comes from the actors themselves. Everyone threw themselves into their parts with gleeful and total abandon. Leaving ego at the door, they all -- from the main heroes to the most anonymous bad guys -- committed themselves to being their characters and making them as open to humiliation as possible. It plays in a big way and makes you believe even the most ridiculous set-up.

The rest comes, like in any good comedy, from all the layers. First and least important -- though most obvious -- is the surface layer of one-liners and fart jokes. Simple humor. Easy stuff. No explanation necessary.

Next is the inside humor. Making fun of Hollywood is a time-honored tradition in Hollywood, with varied success. This time around, it's definitely a success.

The big, bad movie exec -- a freakishly crass and foul-mouthed Tom Cruise with acting chops like you've never seen from the lately more "serious" actor. The action lug trying to slip into more demanding, more serious roles. The Method Scion of award-winning acclaim who will do anything...anything...to occupy his role. The over-exposed and low-brow comedian more known for his fart jokes than his witty repartee and more for his drug habit than his charm. The token black guy. The lame and quickly-forgotten "other" guy. And so on.

But those characters lead to yet another layer: the play on those expected stereotypes. Sure, the movie pokes fun at archetypes, but it also makes fun of those who exhibit them. And the actual actors know this and play it up hard-core, even jabbing at their own reputations on occasion.

Another layer is parody. This movie hits on war movies -- most notably Platoon -- and comedies and industry movies and more. Buddy movies. Redemption movies. You name it, TT parodies it. Good times, here.

And then, there are the actors themselves. I could go on and on. I'll try to keep this under epic length, though. Heh.

For me, Jack Black was the big surprise here. I didn't see High Fidelity, so I didn't get to see him in probably his best role up to now. The other movies of his I've seen seem to feature him as a basically good-natured slacker, a little boy refusing to grow up. That's all well and good, but nothing ever really grabbed me.

In this role, though, he does what all the actors in this movie do -- throws caution to the wind. And in doing so, he gives one of the best performances of his life. It's surprisingly...restrained. Considering that he's playing a tweaking drug addict, he pretty much sticks to the nitty-gritty, then puts his own dash on it. Extraordinary performance. But he doesn't play that tweaking druggie for pity, and that might be why it works so well. You don't feel sorry for Portnoy, but that doesn't stop you from wanting him to step up when it really counts. Heh.

And Ben Stiller shines as he hasn't since Mystery Men. Don't get me wrong -- I got a kick out of Zoolander and Dodgeball and especially Starsky & Hutch. But most of those parts were variations on the same theme. Here, I think he makes fun of that image of himself, as well as that of bulked-up action heroes that then try to do something else. But he does it so well that you only laugh when Tugg Speedman falls so deeply into his own mental morass that he even trips up the other characters. When he starts making...dun-dun-duuuunnnn...sense.

And then there's Robert Downey, Jr. As impressed as I was with the other actors in this flick, I could honestly write pages about him. Like Jack Black, Downey's prior roles just kind of seemed to flow over me. Not that they weren't excellent or that he didn't do a good job on them. Mercy, no. Just that I didn't catch most of them. Other genres, I guess.

Until Iron Man, that is. That was definitely my genre, and I was instantly hooked. The man can act. Remember when I said "At this point, I'd watch Mr. Downey in a six-hour romance/drama in black-n-white with no sound. On a 12-inch screen. In Latin with no subtitles."? I meant it.

In TT, though, he acts on a whole 'nother level. He plays, what, four separate personalities? Five? Because Kirk Lazarus is a method actor, he fully immerses himself in whatever role he's playing -- even in his personal life. And because Robert Downey, Jr. is playing Kirk Lazarus...yeah. You do the math.

Best of all, though, are the subtle changes Lazarus goes through even as he stubbornly clings to his Sgt. Osiris persona. The "black man" front goes from a forced and overt (and hilarious) caricature to a much more quiet, more natural (though still false) personality. Ironically, this is when he's the most subject to attack from the outside about his method acting. Heh. God love the irony, there.

But that's what makes the flick great. The irony is thick enough to hack with a machete. Good times, there.

Brandon T. Jackson as the rapper-turned-actor who felt the need to "represent" because the only other good black role in the flick was given over to Crocodile Dundee -- heh, gotta love those trailer moments -- is frackin hilarious. His frustration with Lazarus' characaturing of his race is a constant wellspring of material. It really never gets old. And Nelson plays it with expert panache, fitting right in with the other three and carrying his weight easily. Excellently done.

And then there's Jay Baruchel as the imminently competent (and put-upon) Kevin Sandusky -- the bottom-of-the-totem-pole grunt who is so "unimportant" that even his fellow cast can't be bothered to remember his name. He's the only one who actually read the script, the only one who's been to boot camp, and, for crying out loud, is the only one who knows how to read a map. No, I'm not kidding. Heh, he's the most capable of the lot and the most well-grounded.

Baruchel plays him spot-on, giving him a quiet, almost geeky confidence as he slowly realizes that he may be the only one who can get them out alive because he's the only one with both feet firmly in reality. Heh, possibly because he's the only one who's not really "famous" yet.

That's not all of the "main" cast, of course, but this is getting seriously long, and it's gonna be hard to talk about the others without spilling plot points that you'd probably rather not know if you haven't seen it yet. I definitely wouldn't want to do that. I enjoyed the flick too much to risk ruining it for someone else. I honestly laughed for the full running time.

Admittedly, if you know me at all, it's not terribly hard to make me laugh. But it is hard to score on such varied fronts, even for such an easy mark as I am. And it is hard to make a flick that someone as easily amused as I am is still thinking about -- and finding more to laugh about and muse over -- the next day.

The more people I told about it, the more I remembered. And the more I remembered, the more I cracked up. The more dots I connected. The more I can't wait to see it again this weekend with the group.

Oi, the hardest part is going to be waiting that long.

At any rate, in summary, I kinda see this flick as this over-sensitive generation's version of Blazing Saddles. I don't think that's too high a praise. There are a lot of parallels, and it took just as many balls to put this one out these days as for Blazing Saddles back in the day, and in this kind of comedy, that kind of grit is a necessity.

You can't do a movie like this half-ass. There's no milksop middle ground here. If even one of the actors didn't put his/her back into the character, the rest would turn into spoofs, no matter how well done. See, it's a lot smarter movie than it looks on the surface. Some moments are sheer genius. Pure gold.

If nothing else, I can't imagine it being easily forgotten. Good on ya, guys. In my humble -- and probably unread -- opinion, you've made something great. This year has been spectacular for movies in my favorite genres, and this one did not disappoint on any level.

My Dearest Charles:

Okay, so I went to the midnight showing of Tropic Thunder. Yeah. That movie I posted the trailers for. The one I feel like I've been waiting for forever. I simply couldn't wait another minute. Went to the midnight showing.

Since it's now after 2:00 in the morning and I have to get up and go to work in less than 5 hours, I really don't have anything terribly coherent to say except that I laughed my ass off. God, that movie is messed up on so many levels, but it's exactly what I thought it would be: hilarious.

I'll be seeing it again with the group this weekend, so I'll probably actually have a, ya know, review or some such then, but for now? SO worth the retarded sleepy chuckle-y mood I'll be in tomorrow.

Frickin hysterical, man. And almost painfully funny when the characters start dissecting themselves. Vivisecting themselves. Ripping their own guts out, I'm tellin ya. Heh. Good times.

Must sleep now.

...

...

Heheh. I'll damn sure never look at Tobey Maguire the same way again.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Dear Charlie:

Okay, so I finally updated my Chiefs scoreboard in the sidebar down there. *sheepish* Yeah, I'm usually a lot more on-the-ball about that, but while I'm terribly excited about it being football season again, I'm just not that riled about pre-season this year. Dunno why.

But it's up, and my boys are already on the plus side. Hope that lasts. Not holding my breath, though. Heheh.

Rebuilding year, and all that.

Woot for football! My favorite passtime in the universe is back again!

Oh, and Dave's frackin cat bit me today. He's never done that, not once in the entire time he's lived here. Even in play, he's never so much as nipped. I was just rubbing his belly and YEOWCH. Right by that knob of bone on the outside of my left wrist -- a puncture on top and a scratch on the bottom. Little potty-word.

No more petting for him. *grumblegrumble*