Monday, January 16, 2006

The Cowboy Cabaret

Brokeback Mountain
Directed by: Ang Lee (The Ice Storm, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Hulk)
Starring: Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhal, Michelle Williams, Anne Hathaway

It seems that every year that I watch the Oscars I am completely baffled by the selections for best picture, most notably because I haven’t seen half of them or simply don’t see eye to eye as to what Hollywood feels were its best films of the year. I usually catch these movies on DVD and from time to time I’m pleasantly surprised to see that the film(s) isn’t a pile of dogshit.

So, given the critical acclaim and golden-statue worthy recognition along with its controversial subject matter, I took a trip to “Brokeback Mountain.” And now I’m gay.

Just kidding.

I laughed aloud at the promo trailers for “Mountain” and had a morbid curiosity to see the movie for its Mystery Science Theater 3,000 qualities. I never thought I’d actually see it in theaters and had a good time making fun of people that said or thought they might.

Now, the jokes on me.

Most people are aware that I am a Christian Conservative, or a Bush-lovin’ war mongerer, however that doesn’t prohibit me from opening myself up to just about any and all kinds of movies. I must admit, at first, this movie did not appeal to me, with the exception of a possibly hilarious movie a la “The Other Sister.”

So, you just want to know if it’s any good, right? Is there any butt sex or blowjobs?

Well, allow me to calm your nerves. Yes and sorta.

“Brokeback Mountain” is surprisingly good, very well directed, exceptionally acted, and subtly well written.

The story focuses on two drifter cowboys who meet on a job herding and protecting sheep on Brokeback Mountain. Neither of them are flaming homosexuals belting out Wizard of Oz tunes or talking about their love of everything Cabaret. They both come off as simple ole’ boys trying to make a living with a poor education and western-style values.

The problem arises when they both fall in love for one another. It’s a deep, secret love and one that neither of them has a good grasp or understanding of. It simply is and they have no idea how to handle it.

Now, I have to clarify my standing on the whole “gay” thing. I don’t pretend to have the answers on why people are “gay.” I don’t know for a fact if they’re born gay or if they grow into it or simply choose it as their lifestyle. I honestly don’t give it enough thought.

I do believe that it exists, obviously, and has existed since the dawn of time. For whatever reason. I’m not God (or Darwin for those of you so inclined – Monkeys building rockets…oh my!)

I am not gay. Yep, big surprise. I don’t hold a grudge against anyone that is. I’m not a fan of the flaming gay types and not because they’re gay…it’s because they’re fucking annoying. I’m not PC either. I don’t feel right about gay people getting married. That’s me. Love it or hate it.

Anyways, that’s getting off the topic. Just wanted you to have a warm and fuzzy on where I stand on the issue as it relates to the review of the film.

Now, when the first “love” scene took place, I was, in fact, jabbing my wife and giggling like a ten year old that just saw boobs for the first time. Since I’m not gay and have not experienced the act of “gay love” I am rather uncomfortable and put off by it. I wasn’t quite sure of the characters motives but plead ignorance in the face of gay sexual attraction. I have no grasp on it.

Fortunately, like the first time you watch a Sex Ed video, it happens quickly and the film moves on and you’re able to settle into the story and not focus on Jarhead and Casanova having man-sex.

Heath Ledger is really great as Ennis Del Mar, a drifter with traditional values in his head and very non-traditional desires in his heart. Ennis (or Casanova), after the job on Brokeback is over, marries Michelle Williams and goes on to father two daughters and live an otherwise “normal” life.

Jack (or Jarhead), played by Jake Gyllenhal, goes on to be a bull rider and ends up meeting and porking Anne Hathaway (Ms. Princess Diary) and fathers a child of his own, later becoming a farming equipment salesman.

All seems to be taking its course, but the two men can’t stop thinking of each other and one day Casanova receives a postcard from Jarhead and they meet up. Unfortunately, their passion ignites instantly and Michelle Williams catches them making out and lives with this throughout her marriage and subsequent divorce.

Casanova and Jarhead head out to Brokeback Mountain on “fishing trips” and build their relationship over time, all the while leading their double life as a good father and husband. This part of the story I found troubling, due mostly to the fact that they would even try to have a normal life, but looking at the time that the story takes place (1960’s and beyond) the U.S. was in a turbulent time. Civil rights movement, Vietnam, Burning Bras, Free love, Tie Dye, etc., etc. I don’t think the country was ready for the next sexual revolution involving gay rights.

Anyways, Jarhead wants to run away and start a ranch with Casanova, but Casanova believes that their love is completely forbidden and should be kept secret for fear of persecution and death, having seen the results of a man that had outed himself when Casanova was a child, the man beaten, dick torn off and left for dead in the desert.

It leaves him the message that basically says, “Don’t be gay…or you’ll be killed.”

So, Casanova continues to try and be “normal,” meeting women and carrying on, never having any kind of sexual relationship with any other man except Jarhead, who wants nothing more than to run away with Casanova.

It’s really just a love story in the same vein we’ve seen again and again. It’s Romeo and Romeo. In the end, the parts that I giggled so much over while watching the trailer were actually very emotional in the film.

The film is long and it tracks a long time span of more than 20 years, which surprised me and actually gave the film a lot more depth than just being about two guys fucking on a mountain.

We watch these men grow and change and struggle with their everyday lives as well as trying to maintain this love that is kept secret.

Now, don’t go thinking I’m all pro-gay and that I’m putting a rainbow sticker on my truck and buying tickets to a Streisand concert. I still maintain my personal beliefs and feelings on the issue, most of which were stated above. However, despite my lack of understanding or complete acceptance of the gay lifestyle, I still found “Brokeback Mountain” to be one of the most engaging, thought-provoking, emotional, and resonating films out this year.

I think that there will be a lot of people that simply will not see this film based on their personal or religious beliefs and that’s fine. Everyone has the right to disagree or choose not to support any film out there. Now, why they’re not boycotting shit like “Big Momma’s House 2” instead of “Brokeback Mountain” I’ll never know.

By conventions, I never should have seen this film. However, I’m glad I did. And when the worthless Hollywood self-congratulating Golden statues are tossed around in March, I won’t swear at the TV and wish for Hollywood to burn to the ground if “Brokeback Mountain” takes home some awards.

This is a great movie to see and debate about when it’s over or simply just to enjoy and discuss. There’s a lot going on and I’m sure there will be a divide in audiences.

Also, for the hetero-crowd, we are treated to both Anne Hathaway’s and Michelle William’s bare breasts.

It’s at least a lose-win situation for everyone involved.

Movie Grade: A

Friday, January 13, 2006

Blood and European STD chicks

Directed by: Eli Roth (Cabin Fever)
Starring: Jay Hernandez and a bunch of stinky European whores.

Hostel is the sophomore effort from Eli Roth, whose first entry was the bloody cult hit “Cabin Fever.” While not a big fan of “Cabin Fever,” I did recognize the talent involved. Roth had an eye for gore, cinematic manipulation, and a feel for the B-movie creepiness that is nearly gone today.

With “Hostel,” Roth is able to further explore his gory B-moviedom with glee. A very mildly budgeted film, Roth makes the most of the material, cast, crew, and locations.

The story centers on three men backpacking through Europe looking to fuck as many women as possible in as many places as possible. And maybe go to a museum. The trio is led by Jay Hernandez, who you may remember as the guy that was fucking Kirsten Dunst in the uber-turd “Crazy/Beautiful.”

Hernandez is your typical frat-boy male, full of testosterone and arrogance, while his best friend is a repressed writer. Their third friend is an Icelandic man named Olie who says “Of Course, my Horse” a lot.

There’s a lot of set-up as we get to see these guy’s misadventures in getting prostitutes, getting kicked out of clubs and drinking themselves stupid. Your typical Eurotrip.

Then, they run into a creepy guy named Alex, who shows them pictures of lots of hot, naked European sluts and tells the men where to go to find a bevy of women just like that. The boys eat it up and take the first train out.

The train takes them to a Slovakian country (the real name escapes me) and they head to the local Hostel (in case you don’t know, hostel is the same as a hotel in Europe…stupid.)

Anyways, the poor boys are forced to stay in a room with, yup, you guessed it, two hot European sluts. The sluts invite the boys down to the spa and they follow. We are treated to lots of nudity, but nothing shocking.

The two European sluts are hot in that heavy make up, Russian accent, twigged bodied kind of way. To me, they seem to ooze the word STD. If I were single and in Europe and on a backpacking trip (fuck it, while we’re creating what ifs, I also have super powers and ten million dollars in my left pocket) I’d probably wear at least three condoms and pour alcohol and hydrogen peroxide on the bumping uglies, just to be safe.

Then, I’d burn the bed.

Anyways, the boys get lucky and pork the Euro-sluts. It’s a great night of drunken debauchery. Then, the next morning their buddy Ollie is missing and they look around for him. No dice.

They start to feel weird about it and decide to take off. Enough is enough. But, the allure of the Euro-sluts drags them back in and they give it one more night. This time the wussy-writer passes out and awakens in a dungeon-like room, filled with all types of sharp tools and power tools.

Obviously, he’s fucking scared.

Then a man enters the room, wearing a rubber suit and gloves and SARS mask. He approaches and is revealed to be a man from the train the boys rode in on. The wussy-writer pleads for his life but is instead tortured, cut, drilled, etc. He’s toyed with and then finally killed.

There, I ruined the movie for ya.

Anyways, Hernandez wakes up the next day and can’t find his pal so he goes searching. He finds the Euro-sluts in a bar and questions them. They’re different this time, no make up, pimples exposed, eyes dead. They look like dried up prostitutes that are in need of a fix.

Hernandez demands to know where his friends are and one of the sluts tells him she’ll show him. Hernandez rides in the car with her and they head to a big, abandoned industrial complex. The Euro-slut escorts him in and leads him down a darkened hallway.

Apprehensive, Hernandez follows and walks by a series of rooms, each one containing a man torturing someone in some very creative way. Obviously he freaks and is suddenly grabbed and taken into a room to be tortured himself.

Now, I’d ruin the whole thing if I told you what happened from here, but rest assured it’s one of the best “revenge” plots to come around in a while. The audience was cheering and laughing with each little incident from this point to the end, all of which wrapped the movie up in a nice little package.

“Hostel” is a nicely crafted B-movie, done with style, wit, and a sharp eye towards the great movie horror tricks. Roth is a true talent and I look forward to seeing what he has to offer up in the future. With a $20 million opening weekend a “Hostel 2” is already in the cards and that’s good. It’s nice to see a filmmaker work with a small budget and put some heart and creativity into his work, rather than take a huge chunk of change to make some paint-by-numbers summer tent pole flick.

The gore is pretty good, but not above and beyond. Perhaps I am desensitized to gore, having seen way too much of the real deal to ever make a comparison, but the gore here is good, not great. It’s enjoyable enough to fit the film and I’m sure that’s enough for most people.

Movie Grade: B+

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Stirring the Controversy bowl

Well, I wouldn't call this controversial personally, but there's plenty of cotton-headed ninnymuggins that will. For those not quite in the know, Hollywood is churning out at least two new films this year about 9/11. It looks like the first to hit will be Flight 93, the plane that was taken down in Pennsylvania.

The filmmakers have taken some dramatic license as nobody on God's Green Earth truly know what happened, but with the flight recorder, transmissions, and phone calls made from the plane a good chunk of what happened can be pieced together.

I guess I could be somewhat offended by the material if a family member were on that flight, but in my personal view I know I would want the story to be told, ESPECIALLY if I had a family member on the flight.

We'll see how it goes. I'm guessing people will flock to these films and I am in full support of 9/11 films being produced, as long as they're done with respect to families involved and told with truth and passion. I have little doubt that filmmakers will be very sensitive to the material and they should, but I don't think that we should shy away from such a huge historical event being translated to the masses.

There are a multitude of stories out there from that day and there's no way that all of them can be told, but I will say this: I'd much rather see a film about 9/11 than another Deuce Bigelow movie.

Anyways, here's the link to the trailer. You'll need quicktime to view it. If you don't have quicktime then what is the deal? Is your computer still running in DOS mode? Get with it!

Monday, January 02, 2006

My Fair Christmas

Well, Christmas has come and gone and it always seems like so much build up and then a quick and fast release then it's back to normal again. Just like that time with the Korean prostitute I picked up in Spenard.

Anyways, I had a grand Christmas and recieved many a gift that was unexpected and undeserving. Not that I've been naughty all year, but certainly not nice. I was surely on Santa's "purgatory" list.

With that being said, here are my top three favorite gifts of Christmas. These gifts were all a complete surprise and brought such a look of puzzlement upon my face that not even a mouse could decipher. Sorry. You didn't really think I was gonna make a whole freakin' poem about Christmas did you? Come on. Really.

Gift no. 1
"Uncle Buck" DVD

Yep. Good ol' Uncle Buck. Now, you know that this had to be a surprise. I mean, seriously, how many people actually ask for "Uncle Buck" for Christmas?

"What do you want for Christmas this year, honey?"
"Hmmm. Well, there's that Korean prostitute in Spenard. A Ferrari. X-box 360. Oh, and Uncle Buck on DVD. I freakin' love that movie!"

Now, I saw "Uncle Buck" in the theaters when it first came out and remember being moderately satisfied if not overly satisfied. It seems that, as a kid, we tend to give movies way too much credit and upon viewing them in adulthood find that these childhood favorites are pretty fuckin' awful.

Anyways, "Buck" isn't awful or great. It does feature John Candy, who was inarguably a great comedian, playing the similar role of an obnoxious fish-out-of-water character who vacuums Frosted Flakes off his shirt. Then there's the sneak preview of the little ball of joy known as McCauley Culkin, who gives us a little tease of his "Home Alone" cuteness. Just enough to want to strangle him.

Then, of course there's the message of teen sex, which says...well, I don't really know what it says. I guess it says you should least until your overbearing Uncle Buck heads out of town and then start becoming a promiscuous whore. Yeah, that was it.

Gift no. 2

Oh, you bet your ass it's real. I'm sure the elves worked extra hard on this bad boy, because it's relatively easy to play. Even so, I still suck and even though it came with an instruction manual, I think I'm gonna learn Eddie Van Halen-style and just practice til my lips bleed (why is it we must always practice til we bleed? Is that really the sign that you've worked hard? Maybe it's the sign that you're too dumb to know when to stop for the day)

I don't know how Santa knew I wanted this because, well, I didn't know I wanted it. But sure as shit, there it is, under the tree and now in my hands. It's great for scaring the dogs and playing at top volume while your wife is trying to sleep, but it's gonna take some time for me to get it right. Once I get one of those hook-up deals that connects it to your mouth I'm gonna go play in the neighborhood, right next to the kids selling lemonade. Who would pass by a lemonade stand with a guy playing a harmonica?

Uh-huh. That's right, get out your dollarbills 'cause Papa Harmonica is comin' to town. (please note, I do not know what the fuck I'm talking about here.)

Gift no. 3
1-2-3 Art Set

Okay, yes, I am an artist. Some don't know that. I draw all kinds of shit, mostly comic book-style. I am definately an above average talent in that venue, but everyone has their opinion. Now, we all get gifts from well-meaning and thoughtful people who may not have all the details about us before they throw down their hard-earned cash.

Such is the case here. A generous and thoughtful gift to be sure. However, it is a surprise as I haven't done color work that wasn't through a computer in a loooong time. Now, perhaps this could spark a new shot of inspiration into me. Who knows. I'll stare at it for a while and see what happens. I may stare at it so long that I end up walking next door and giving it to the neighbor kids.

Anyways, with 44 jumbo oil pastels, 36 color pencils, 24 watercolor cakes(?), 12 6cc watercolors, 1 HB drawing pencil, 2 2B drawing pencils, 1 paint brushes, 1 eraser, and 1 sharpener, I could certainly paint the fuck out of some caves. God bless Mrs. Claus for sending this along, but it is a head-scratcher. Yes, I realize that children in Afghanistan would love such a gift, but you forgot one thing. They don't celebrate Christmas, so too fucking bad for them. I gave them a shitload of fruit roll ups when I was there so screw off, I'm goin' to Heaven, okay?

So, with these three gifts I am armed to have a successful 2006. I am unstoppable. I am the harmonica wielding artist who travels from town to town in order to spread the message of Uncle Buck while painting pictures of my journey in caves and helping neighborhood children sell lemonade.

If you'd like to join in my quest, please bring your three best Christmas gifts and a good pair of walking shoes and your $2,000 membership fee to my house and leave it at the door. I will shoot off some fireworks nearby to let you know when we begin.


I Love Beavers

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe

Directed by: Andrew Adamson (Shrek)
Based on the book by: C.S. Lewis
Starring: A bunch of British people and Liam Neeson's voice.

Beavers are soft. Beavers are cuddly. Beavers are wet. Beavers are hairy. Beavers are a little smelly. And yes, some Beavers talk, as is the case in “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe” (phew!).

There are many talking animals in “The Chronicles of Narnia” and they’ve all got something important to say, mostly about the four British brats that stumble into their magical land of Narnia and are prophesized to save it.

We meet these little “Britbrats” as they flee their native England in order to escape Nazi bombings and to remain safe in the countryside. There are four kids, two boys, two girls, all within the age range of 8-15 and all with British twang.

A game of hide-and-seek reveals the wardrobe where the youngest girl Lucy hides and crosses over into the world of Narnia. She meets a goat/man named Tumus (or some shit like that) and they have tea and watch the fire and…

…Right. Boring. All right. So, the little brat goes back and tells her brothers and sisters and they don’t believe her but find their way into the wardrobe anyways and end up all going to Narnia. Of course the youngest boy, Edmond, follows the white queen for some Turkish delight (I’m not fucking with you).

The other three set off to find their brother, led by the aforementioned Beavers, who take the Britbrats to Aslan’s Camp. Aslan is this big fucking Lion that talks like Liam Neeson and growls so loud that little kids in the theater started crying. Pussies.

Anyways, on the way to see Aslan, the Britbrats run into Santa Claus and-

-What? You don’t believe me? Dude…

…So they run into Santa (a.k.a. Father Christmas) who gives them a bunch of weaponry which none of them know how to use, but hey, it’s Christmas and I’m sure that even Ralphie learned how to shoot that fucking Red Rider BB gun like the chicken hawk he aspired to be.

I don’t know what the fuck a chicken hawk is, but whatever.

So, the white queen, played by Tilda Swinton, who is probably best recognized as the crazy bitch that fucked Leo DiCaprio in “The Beach,” is pretty evil, but we don’t know why. In fact, we learn nothing about her, except that the bitch likes ice a lot and somehow has powers to turn creatures into frozen statues.

For some reason, this chick has frozen all of Narnia for more than one hundred years and it’s been winter ever since. Supposedly this has stopped Christmas from coming, but I don’t get that, because, shit, who doesn’t want a white Christmas? No excuse. Maybe the white queen blocks trade routes and taxes the hell out of elves and, oh hell, who cares, it’s a fantasy movie right?


Okay, so, the Britbrats are hunted by this pack of wolves commanded by the white queen (or is it Ice Queen, fuck, I can’t remember). The lead wolf sounds like Michael Madsen, y’know Mr. Blonde from “Reservoir Dogs,” but I read in the credits it was some other dude. Whatever.

All right, so the oldest boy kills that motherfucker and they knight him for it. Too bad he doesn’t live in Alaska and shoot rifles from airplanes. (*This joke meant for Alaskans only*)

So, Liam “Aslan the Lion” Neeson heads out to be sacrificed in place of young Edmond who was rescued from the clutches of the White Queen (fuck it. That’s what I’m callin’ her). This is some freakin’ Narnia tradition. It’s rather illogical but that’s the way it was.

So, Aslan is sacrificed on “the stone table” and dies. The two girl Britbrats watch and then go to the dead lion. They send a message back to Aslan’s camp through the trees (…nevermind) and the two male Britbrats form up their Army of Rhino’s, goatmen, eagles, beavers, cheetahs, and Zuckerman’s famous pig and get ready for battle.

Meanwhile, the two female Britbrats…sleep. Yeah, they take a little nap on the dead lion. The youngest chick has a bottle of magic stuff that can heal any wound and she’s about to pour it on the Lion to bring him back, but the other bitch stops her. Now…why?

I mean, why not give it a shot anyway? I would. Doesn’t that seem like something that a logical person would do?

“It’s too late. Your magic shit won’t work.”
“How the fuck do you know?”
“I just know.”
“Have you ever used this stuff before?”
“Well, no. But he’s dead. It’s too late.”
“Well, it won’t hurt to try at least. Who knows what could happen?”
“Honey, that will lead people out of the magical world.”
“What magical world?”
“We’re in Narnia. It’s a fantasy movie. We just follow the script.”
“Oh. Oh, right. Yeah. Fuck it, yeah, this shit totally won’t work. I’ll just put it away and we can get back to nappin’ on this dead lion’s corpse.”
“That’s a good sis.”

Okay, you got the point. And I’m totally nit picking, but that’s how I roll. So, the big battle comes and it’s pretty cool, but a little too PG. I realize it’s a kid’s movie and based on a kids book. I don’t care. It was as if a zoo was split in half and one side pitted against the other and they all met on a field and charged right into each other. Now, that would be a cool fucking movie!
So, there’s lots of slashing, hitting, crunching, and swordplay to make the little kids go wee wee in their diapers and the adults to nod in admiration. The White Queen gets out of her polar bear led chariot and fights the oldest male Britbrat. The fight would have been cooler if the kid was a little more versed in his choreography. The White Queen fought like Yen Woo Ping choreographed her, but this kid fought like he was swinging a baseball bat.

Yeah, yeah, fuck off, I realize he just got the sword from Santa, but I’m already suspending disbelief enough that I could surely stretch it further to believe that this kid could swing a sword better than a Granny with a cane fighting off a mugger.

So, they save the day and Narnia has sunshine again and they all become kings and queens of Narnia and we’ve all had a nice little time.

Now, I’m being totally cynical here and that’s just for fun. Narnia is a pretty good flick and I do nitpick, but hey, that’s my job. I never read any of the books by C.S. Lewis and do respect him as a writer. However, I do think a little more development was needed as far as history, motive, and origin to many of the characters.

This is like Low Fat Lord of the Rings. Similar taste, but something is definitely missing. I thought the animatronics and especially the make-up was awesome and wish to God that Hollywood would employ more of this than CGI. It truly makes a world of difference.

Anyways, a fun movie, enjoyable and easy, you won’t have to hurt your brain or google anything when you get home. You’re safe. Also, kudos to Harry Gregson-Williams who is fast becoming my favorite composer (all non-movie geeks may skip this part) Gregson-Williams continues to impress with every new score he does and with his triple play of “Kingdom of Heaven,” “Domino,” and “Narnia” he has done exceptionally well.

So, if you’re in the mood for wet, hairy, smelly Beaver and a sense of adventure and Lord of the Rings Light, then this movie is for you. It’s a good time.

Movie Grade: B+