Sunday, October 24, 2010

Dear Charlie:

Ah, with a lovely Chiefs win in the can -- 42-20 over the maddeningly inconsistent Jaguars -- I can turn my mind to other loveliness.

Yes. I'm talking about RED. I'm also talking about KickAss. Watched both this last week and... dude....

But first, I wanna congratulate my boys. Yes, the Jags were playing with an untried last-string quarterback who was driving a tractor when he got the call that he was back on the active roster and... um... starting in five days. That said, until an interception by Derrick Johnson threw off his mojo, Bouman was playing smart football with astonishing poise. He's a hard man to sack, as he can shrug off the most imminent attacks until he can throw the ball away.

However, our defense just wore their offense down. And our offense wore their defense down. In all, despite that back-n-forth first half, this was the Chiefs' most complete game yet. Offense and defense agreed that they wanted it, and special teams pitched in with some excellent return coverage. Beautiful.

So... RED. No, I don't think it's generally capitalized, but I like it that way. Reminds me that it's an acronym.

Someone called this flick a more cerebral Expendables, and I can't really disagree. I loved Expendables, but for different reasons. This movie takes these actor-type stars and turns them into action-type stars... and still manages to succeed.

Of course, Bruce Willis is always just candy to watch. He can play it straight, he can play it funny, he can act, and he can do the action. You put him in a movie, and he gives you what you want. And his retiree pension-check-havin Everyman persona in the beginning is just... sweet. A little socially awkward. Very sweet.

And then people break into his house and he turns into someone else entirely. Except he really doesn't. He's one of the few guys in the world who can keep that endearing, sweet awkwardness while being a stone-cold killing machine. The kinda guy who'll save your life and still open the car door for ya.

Then, they go and surround him with a cavalcade of stars. Brian Cox is also always a joy, as is Morgan Freeman. I'm loving Helen Mirren lately. She was sparkling as Nick Cage's mother in National Treasure 2, and she is equally sparkling here. She has this ladylike sassiness that I hope to have now, let alone in another thirty years.

I'm kinda hit-or-miss with John Malkovich. He is undoubtedly an excellent actor, but that doesn't mean I like all his movies. However, he spends the money here and sells out to his crazy-pants persona here in a major way. And it's believable because he believes it himself. His paranoia and confusion and child-like lack of reasoning (compounded by his eerie-accurate nose for Washington plants) make him a fun character to interact with.

And who knew Mary-Louise Parker could hang with this kind of crowd? But she does, and she doesn't get lost in the scenery. Her kooky pension-office mundanity contrasts nicely with Bruce Willis's "how's retirement working for you?" awkwardness and sets off some very mild, very amusing, very enjoyable chemistry between them. It's not the ridiculous firestorm of a Mr. & Mrs. Smith. Instead, it's... sweet.

And, in my opinion, much more satisfactory.

This flick is a character study that just happens to also be an action flick. Because of that, it works on every level. Good times.

And then, there's KickAss. Again, pretty sure there's a space there, but I like it all smushed together. Deal.

I like comic books. I like graphic novels. And most of the time, even with the inevitable losses encumbent in a changeover to movie format, I like movies made from comic books and graphic novels.

But I love this one.

It starts off simply enough. You have your average kid. Drowning in mundanity. He's not a geek, but he's not a jock. He's not the head of the class, but he's not the tail of it, either. He isn't an artist, a musician, a chess whiz, or D&D basement-dweller who dresses up like an elf every weekend. He's just average.

Of course, he doesn't want to be.

He wants to be a hero. He wants to stop handing over his spare cash to the gangs in the area (and his comic books). He wants to take a stand for something. And, of course, he wants to get the girl. Or at least get her attention.

Enter... Kick Ass. The newest superhero. And perhaps the shortest-lived.

In his debut outing as a superhero, he gets stabbed and run over by a car. In a way, that's the perfect backstory, as he ends up with Wolverine's skeletal structure (well, not adamantium, but hey) and a pain tolerance that makes a masochist look perfectly healthy. But in all, he still doesn't have any super powers. He can shrug off a hit because it doesn't hurt, and he can take a knock to the leg without a broken bone, but he's no stronger or faster or better-trained than before. And he doesn't have the gadgets.

But there are a couple of folks in the city who do. Enter... Hit Girl and Big Daddy.

Both have a backstory also worthy of graphic novel status, and both have a grudge against the big drug-and-crime pusher in the area, Frank D'Arnico. Mark Strong. Just sayin.

I'm lovin me some Mark Strong. I even like him when he's not exactly a bad guy... though that's pretty rare. I mean, c'mon. He's a pretty good bad guy.

At any rate, this is where the movie goes from formula "make fun of what you love while lovingly embracing it" territory to the true sublime. This movie pulls no punches. Little girls just mowing down grown men, grown men beating the crap out of a teenager in a costume while torching another guy, a grown man beating a little girl within an inch of her life....

Definitely not PC. No wonder Matthew Vaughn insisted on finding his own funding instead of going with a Hollywood house. He wanted to keep in all the graphic pain and frustration that make this flick about the characters instead of about the over-the-top violence.

Because again, this is a character study. These aren't cookie-cutter Hollywood walk-ins. These are people you feel like you've met before. Even Hit Girl and Big Daddy, who are bona-fide psychotic and know it and are okay with it, come across as perfectly believable and legit. They're vigilantes of the most vicious and ruthless sort; they care nothing for the law because they know it can't and won't protect them, and so they have no limits when it comes to dealing out their revenge.

Contrast them with Kick Ass, whose weapons are basically police batons as opposed to guns and who is more armed with good intentions and a sense of right than with a blind need to dish out a vengeance buffet.

Yes, this is an action flick. Yes, it's even a comic book movie. But this is nothing like Spider-Man or Superman or even Batman. There are homages and in-jokes, yes. They poke fun at the heroes that spawned Kick Ass's need to fight back.

But at the same time, they succeed where those classic heroes fail. Spider-Man was mutated by spider venom. Superman wasn't even human. Batman had all the money in the world to fund his ventures (though, seriously, of the bigguns, he's my favorite because under all the gadgets, he's just a man bent for justice, which is hella cool).

Kick Ass? Well... he has a cell phone, but that's about it. He even has to ride a bike to the scene of a given crime. He's truly an Everyman, and he makes us Everybodies watching feel like we could put on a borrowed jetpack with mounted Gatlin guns on the shoulders and... ya know... not do too shabby, either.

And that's a good feeling. It's why the movie works.

Watch it.


Mark Strong. Just sayin. Or... ya know... repeating. Mark Strong.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Dear Charlie:

Okay, two quick things:

1. My flashy website is back up. Yay! Technical difficulties and that whole starving artist thing, mainly, but we're back in business with updates to the News page and soon-to-be-updates to the Freebies page. Double yay! And hopefully news (and maybe snippets?) from the latest work in progress. With pirates. Triple yay? Or would the pirates make it quadruple?

2. Pretty please cross your fingers for me for jobbage. I really liked the place where I interviewed, and it'd be way cool to wear jeans to work for the first time since college. Yeah. Let's not talk about how long ago that was. Our little secret and all that.

Okay, three things:

3. My only comment regarding the upcoming Jacksonville game and my beloved Chiefs is this: while the Jags are maddeningly unpredictable from week to week, I think the sting from that oh-so-close Houston giveaway last weekend will have my boys cruisin for a major win. Like when they stomped San Fran to quash the rumors that they could only beat so-so teams, my boys will prevail to quash the rumors that they can't handle play-offs contenders and might as well not bother taking up the play-off slot they might win.

Totally not true.

As usual, my boys just gotta get the O and D working at the same time. When that happens, we go 13-3. Remember 13-3? Weren't those good times? We could be there again.

Just sayin.

And again, let's just not remember exactly how long ago that was. Time and tides and all that.

Oh! And remind me later to pop up a quickie review of RED. Yeah. Watched it.

Are you kidding? Of course I watched it! But more on that later. For now, I must sleep. I've been a wee bit short of it lately, and I'm hoping like crazy I have to juggle two jobs for a while because, ya know, day job! Eee!

*crosses all applicable appendages*

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Dear Charlie:

Okay, I don't want to be the whiny, blame-pointy fan who jumps on every holding call as bull, but... my boys were robbed.

Just sayin.

A bogus "false start" that even the announcers (who invariably don't like the Chiefs unless they're actually from KC) admitted should've been a neutral zone infraction on Houston in the first half, then an even more bogus "defensive passing interference" that shoulda been an offensive interference in the second. Both came at turning point kinda moments, though we didn't let the early one stop us from moving the ball, but that second one was just a game-stealer. You can't give a team that's #1 in 4th quarter scoring a gift 30 yards on a bogus penalty call. Might as well gift-wrap a TD for 'em.

Especially when a player like Brandon Flowers -- a consummate professional who knows what is and isn't a penalty -- is so certain the flag is on the receiver that he's not even watching the refs deliberate. Again, even the announcers said they saw no infraction on Flowers' part, while the Texan receiver gave a very significant and obvious push-off.

No offense to Houston, really (though we totally OWNED them up to the end of the third quarter). They are excellent in the last half and especially in the fourth quarter, but that bogus call put them in the position to undercut our lead by 7 instead of the 3 they would've had to settle for, and that's a game-changer. Give us the penalties we've earned, but in a game that comes down to one score, one referee screw-up can completely undo a team's extraordinary effort.

Yeah, I know error is part of the game, but I get really frustrated when it's twice in the same game against the same team, even if it isn't my Chiefs.

On the other hand, how about that Chiefs offense, eh? Think they worked on not leaving the defense hanging this last week?

I think so.

Great job, O. You did indeed step up. And Cassel played a helluva good game. Smart football. Protect the ball, dominate the clock (up to a point), pass and run until the opposition is off-kilter and can't catch you quick enough. Good times.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Dear Charlie:

Well, let's look at the positives.

As the last minute ticks off the clock and the Colts take a knee on their victory, you might think there isn't much to cheer about for the Chiefs. Their first big test of the year, and they come up 10 points short, right?

Maybe yes, maybe no. All I know for sure is that those 10 points don't tell the whole story.

My boys frustrated one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game. Down after down, the camera showed close-ups of that "what the hell?" expression on Peyton Manning's face. Our defense foiled him, hurried him, even roughed him up a bit. They harrassed him all day long and held him to field goals in all but one instance and even forced punts in crucial situations.

However, while our defense was stellar today, our offense struggled. We got FGs when we needed TDs. We had one gift-wrapped, handed-down-from-the-football-gods touchdown... and Dwayne Bowe dropped it. And then dropped the next pass, too.

Lots of people will immediately jump on Matt Cassel for this loss, but honestly, it wasn't his fault. He played smart football. But his receivers dropped like 8 passes in a row, and you can't expect the QB to put up good numbers when his receivers have butterfingers.

On the other hand, Tony Moeaki showed up again. He came to play and made some game-changing plays.

But we needed touchdowns. And we didn't get them.

The defense can't win the game by itself. The special teams -- and boy, did they do a sparkling job of being on the spot with the crunch -- can't win by themselves.

The offense has to show up. Everyone has to have their heads in the game.

And Cassel, I love ya, but you gotta never ever drop the ball again. I'm just sayin. I know you were under tremendous pressure and your next play was an astonishingly good strike for a first down, but... wow. If your receivers have butterfingers, you can't. That's like Football Rule #18.

But honestly, we held one of the most exciting, score-mongering teams in the league to field goals for the bulk of the game. We intercepted on one of the best QBs to ever play. And we forced that same QB to fumble the ball for the first time in like 3 years.

Not all bad. Build off it, guys. I know you can.

We're still 3-1, after all. You got a season building here. Just keep fanning those flames, and we'll see what happens.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Dear Charlie:

Ya know, I've never really understood the BDSM scene.

It's just not my kick, ya know? I'm the kind who gets irritated that you have to "submit" an order, "submit" a query, "submit" whatever. I have no problem following orders from recognized authority figures (boss, editor, parents, cops, soldiers, etc.), but just some schmuck who thinks I should do what he says because he says it?

Not so much.

Also, if someone hits me, I hit back. And not like a girl. In a sparring match, no problem. In the bedroom? Better watch your junk.

So yeah, BDSM just doesn't do it for me.

However, my beloved sister's Connagher books most certainly do.

The latest one, Hurt Me So Good (buy it buy it buy it!), is no exception. Victor is both a Master (a term that would make me snort if it didn't fit him from toes to ponytail) and a true sadist, someone who not only enjoys causing pain but actively needs to do so. To deny that urge is to deny a part of himself, like an arm or his heart.

In fact, it's exactly like denying him his heart. Which is why he's done both for so many years when we first meet him at his... ahem... interesting cable station. He let a little of that monster out the last time he let his heart run around a bit, and he's never been quite the same.

Enter Shiloh, a sassy submissive who is one of the few people I'll believe has the true power in such a lop-sided relationship. She revels in pain, revels in doing any little (or big) thing her Master wants. The problem is... said Master doesn't know he wants her yet, and she's having a spot of bother getting him to let down his guards.

See, even for Shiloh (perhaps especially for her), Victor is an intimidating man. Though he ruthlessly suppresses his sadistic side, he can't completely hide who he is, and that confidence, that charisma, that need to dominate just oozes from him. Anyone with the right set of sensory equipment can feel it, and oh, does Shiloh have the right equipment.

Of course, Joely would never make it so simple. If Shiloh could just offer her pert little butt for a whipping with Victor's favored riding crop, it wouldn't be any fun. Or any emotional torment for the reader.

It just so happens that Shiloh is Victor's employee. Yeah. As if they weren't already un-PC enough, right?

But this is a review, not a plot synopsis, so I'll move on. I don't want to tell you everything, because, seriously, the ride is all the fun. Not half, not three-quarters. All of it. You have to read this book to understand how someone who wants to be hurt and someone who lives to inflict pain can truly work out a solution without someone ending up dead.

No, scratch that. You just have to read this book.

See, it's not just about the "kink". It's not even about the sex. It's about what two people need. It's about trusting their partner to provide that need. It's about two people finding their perfect match and then fighting for that perfection.

It isn't easy. And some scenes ain't even pretty. This is a raw, pain-driven world, and people who just want a little spanking are in for a rocky, even bloody surprise. These people aren't in it for the show, and if you forget that, you'll probably wince away from what you're reading.

But if you're game to open yourself up to just a little of the intensity of a man who'd rather hurt himself than the woman he loves enough to want to damage (read that a couple of times to get the feel behind it), then this is absolutely the book you want. I've read it three times myself (not counting early drafts), and I hate hate HATE the idea of Dominance/submission in my own sex life, but... oh... when he really goes to work with that riding crop....


If I had a rating system, this one would be off the charts. Not just because it's excellent reading with snappy (occasionally blush-worthy) dialogue, killer setting, and smokin-hot romance, but because it... I dunno... shows that you don't have to be damaged in some way to want this lifestyle.

I can't tell you how many times I've seen or read how studies show that people who lead such alternative sexual lifestyles were abused as children or molested as teens or, hell, even just walked in on their parents having sex and were scarred by it. That's the wrong kind of press. Not everyone in the kink set is damaged.

That's not to say that everyone doesn't have scars, but not the kind that "cause" a "deviant" lifestyle. Not sure I'm plainly stating what I mean, but I think you'll understand when you read.

Victor and Shiloh aren't "damaged". They're wounded from past relationships, but in the same way the stiffest, most proper Regency romance hero and heroine might be "damaged" because of ill-advised affairs or match-making mamas. They fell for the wrong people and lived through it.

And now, oh now, they have each other.

What's more happily-ever-after than that?