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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

SCOTUS, Wendy Davis, World War Z (Review)




Congrats to my gay friends that happen to live in a select group of states! Congrats to Wendy Davis for making abortions accessible to the backwoods of Texas for another month! Congrats to Brad Pitt and the Human Race for surviving the Zombie Plague!! Suck it, Black People who live in the South!!

We have so many things to be thankful for this week, it's hard to pick one, but there are certainly similarities in all of them.

Let's start with the way our country works. In all cases, we are dealing directly with the laws of the land;

We have a Supreme Court, the nation's highest court of judges, that vote the same way on everything they do.  Will Antonin Scalia ever vote in favor of my new Gays For Marijuana Law? No. He won't. Is that the way a judge in our highest court should work? Even if it is totally Constitutional?

At the same time, will Ruth Bader Ginsburg ever vote in favor of my new Send All The Blacks and Jews To Work On Oil Rigs amendment? No.
So how can we begin to grow as a nation if our HIGHEST COURT is stagnant in their OWN opinions?

Wait a second, how does the law even work in the goddammed first place?

I heard that some lady in Texas didn't want a law to pass, so she just stood there yapping her fat mouth for 13 hours.

You can do that? You are telling me that in the most advanced country on Earth, you can literally just keep talking, and when the clock strikes midnight, a bill is dead in the water?

That can't be true.

Now listen, I am all for abortion clinics being everywhere. She was protecting nearly 30 abortion clinics all through Texas. I think everyone should have abortions all they want, and there should be some mandatory abortions all throughout Texas but doesn't this law seem a little bizarre?

First of all, how can the salaried people that we elect just call it quits on a bill they have spent months making because the clock strikes midnight? Can you imagine if you did that at your job?

"Hey Spencer, are you finished with the Henderson Account?"

"Oh man, I was working on it, and I realize it was due today, but unfortunately my wife started talking at me about abortions or some shit, the clock struck 12am, so...no."

I don't know about you, but if Spencer worked for me, I would be pissed. Spencer, you can forget all about that $5 Starbucks Gift Card you thought you were gonna get.

Do our elected lawmakers give each other Starbucks Gift Cards?

But this all raises a much bigger point for those of us with no law degree and no understanding of the nuance of our insane political system...

None of us know what is actually happening.

How could we?

There is too much to know! Most of our elected officers don't know what's going on either!

Get ready for a fact:
38% of our elected officials have law degrees. The rest were carpenters, doctors, rich kids, actors, magicians, and candy makers. That's not even 40%. But almost 50% of both the House and the Senate are just career politicians. There is also a ski instructor, a female cosmetics saleswoman, a prison guard, a mountain guide and a casino dealer.

So, if we don't know what's happening, and THEY don't know what's happening, what are the real laws?

Well, in World War Z, we learn the greatest laws of all:

1. Don't Die
2. Find Water
3. Kill Everyone Who Fucks With Your Family
4. No One Is Going To Help You When The Shit Goes Down
5. Brad Pitt Is The Hottest Dude Ever

You cannot change these laws. They are from God.

World War Z is a movie based on a book by Max Brooks. It is sort of a Studs Terkel style "oral history" of how people survived the great zombie invasion and where we are socio-politically afterwards.
It gives us some lessons about what is truly important, including family, farmland, communication with others and not blindly letting a huge corporate government basically imprison us all and stop giving us information.

The movie makes none of these points, but is still super good. It is fast and the action is great. A lot of people are turned off of zombie style things because of the gore, and I can understand why. I don't need to see 10,000 people get beheaded in 90 minutes either, but because WWZ was such a huge budget flick, the corporation that made it won't allow for that sort of thing anyway, so we all win.

We can introduce our children to horrible nightmares of everyone they love turning into mindless eating machines and we can stare at Brad Pitt at the same time.

Holy god, have you seen the lady playing his wife?

Brad Pitt with Mirielle Enos

They look like if you put a can of cat food next to a Porterhouse.
Do they honestly think that we will believe that these 2 people would be married? Frankly, in WWZ, his handsomeness is the only downfall of the picture. It is seriously distracting. This part would be perfect for a Mark Ruffalo type or a John Goodman.

I am done convincing you to go see a $200 million budget movie.

BUT, if you are like me and are sick of Scalia and John Roberts swappin' deals for Popeye's Chicken then now is the time to act. Or next year, or maybe you can just wait to the Zombie Apocalypse comes.



Just hold on to those assault rifles and stay away from the WalMart.



SCOTUS D-
Wendy Davis A-
World War Z A+


-Anderson Lawfer, Eric Roach














Monday, June 17, 2013

Man of Steel (movie review)


Superman is back in MAN OF STEEL, he has returned, he has blown away box office records already, there are sequels booked, toys made, shirts printed, and merchandise aplenty at your local CVS.

But...is it worth it? Did Snyder and co. do what they set out to do, which is wipe the slate clean and give us a new Supes for a modern age while sticking to the character and tropes that we are all familiar with?

The answer, like my attraction to Henry Cavill's chest rug, is very complicated.

Let's start with the good and work our way down. There's plenty of ground to cover and you and I both have work to do so let's get on with it. Henry Cavill is a GREAT Superman. His physique is cut from the comic book pages themselves and his face is chiseled out of marble. He looks like what we all think Superman should look like...impossibly beautiful, a God on earth. Cavill also seems to get the inherent politeness and empathy that Supes possesses. Superman is not called the Big Blue Boy Scout for nothing...he's nicer than anyone you've ever met (unless you go with the Superman is a Dick theory, which they get at quite a bit in this film...Superman doesn't have to destroy a 12 million dollar surveillance drone, but he does...mostly because he thinks it's pretty funny) and is so charming that I thought Stabler wanted to make out with him. Stabler was pretty good in the movie too, but there were no special victims for him to unit so he seemed out of sorts. In fact, acting-wise, this ensemble is strong. Russel Crowe gets really into being science-Zen master Jor-El, Amy Adams is a pretty serviceable Lois (although she's basically around to get into scrapes that Superman has to save her from...but that's been her thing for years, so deal with it), and Michael Shannon as Zod does Chicago actors proud by treating this admittedly campy and hammy script like it's True fucking West. Get that cash, Shannon, you ever loving psychopath.

The film opens with a looooooong sequence on Krypton, and I gotta say, if you loved Flash Gordon you are gonna cream in your Ming the Merciless pantaloons over this shit. Luckily, I am a science fiction nerd, and this weirdo prog rock planetoid was just great. Uncanny bio-computers? Check! Dragonfly mounts? Check! A council of old freaks in Cher's outfits from the 80s? DOUBLE CHECK!

Oh, and Zod wants to take over the planet at the worst time and is sent to Dildo Jail.

All of the Kryptonian technology tiptoes right up to the campy line and then drops a skyscraper on it. Full-on stoned-out...and pretty show-offy really. But, hey, is it any stranger than the over-saturated crystal castle 70s Krypton, with its ultrawhite robes and hulahoop prisons? Not really, it's a wash. This film, more than any of the others in the Superman canon, is unapologetic science fiction (maybe more Space Opera, actually, but let's get nerdy later on, we're gonna have to) and very much underscores the idea that Superman is an alien and his presence on Earth will change everything.

But, before he changes everything, he's gotta grow up in Kansas with Ma and Pa Kent (adroitly played by Diane Lane and American hero Kevin Costner, in full baseball and apple pie mode here). The youth and adolescence of Clark Kent is played out in a series of flashback sequences, which some people may think of as sort of pretentious and art-housy what with the fragmented timeline. Well, those people are annoying. Although if Superman always has a flashback to a traumatic event from his childhood when he sees a yellow bus he better stay out of school zones, brahs.

Before he dons the tights, he humps it place to place looking for people to help, and then disappearing. See, Pa Kent makes it clear that the world is not ready for him. So, he's a little afraid to go full-on Supes just yet. It's fine, I get why they did it, but there is no SPOILERING way that Supes would not save his dad from being murdered by the world's most inconvenient tornado just cuz people might see his superspeed. Come on, Glenn Ford had a heart attack in Superman One and that showed Christopher Reeve that even with all of his power he still couldn't save him. A tornado killing Superman's father is inconceivable, and it's deviation from canon number one that I took umbrage with. UMBRAGE!!!!!!

Wait until we get to deviation from canon number two, gang. It's a doozy.

Well, Clark finds an old Kryptonian ship in the arctic ice and talks with his pop and gets the blue suit and learns to fly and all that jazz. By the by, Superman flying in this movie is astounding...Snyder's visuals in the flight scenes are impeccable and thrilling. You truly believe in it, which is ambrosia.

BUT, General Zod finds out where he is (Earth, for those not keeping up) and threatens the world with total destruction if Supes doesn't surrender. But, of course, Zod wants to remake Krypton on earth and get the codex and blah, blah, blah this is some REAL comic book nerd shit here...with big shades of The Matrix as well. A large theme in the film is predestined vs. free will. Of course, this is philosophy ala Zach Snyder and David Goyer, so you should never write a thesis paper on this film for your Ethics class because I will make sure you get an F PLUS. CLICK!

And then the REAL action begins. Superman punches things...a lot. He punches cars. Trains. People. Faces. Buildings. Lexcorp tanker trucks. Bank vaults. Corn. He punches more stuff in this movie than any Superman ever did. The battles in Smallville and Metropolis are gorgeous violence porn, and I do eat that stuff up...it's pretty fun. But, a nitpick: Superman never really tries to save anyone during this. Maybe he could have flown Zod to Saturn and fought him there, where there were at least no people around. But, no, they fight in a city the size of New York and wreck the joint. And let's be perfectly clear here...

MILLIONS OF PEOPLE WERE KILLED.

Now, usually, Superman cares about things like this. And with all the shit stuffed into this flick, they could have added a line or something to cover it. But, they didn't, and that was a bit weird. And I was mostly ok, until the deviation from canon number two:

SPOILERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRS

Superman kills Zod. Straight up snaps his neck. Not often do you see that kind of behavior from the defender of truth, justice, and the American Way. I suppose a case could be made that that IS the American Way now-a-days, but I'm no philosopher. Zod threatens a family with his heat eyeballs, all of the sudden Supes gives a shit, and he drops Zod like a bag of potatoes. No sequels for this dude. I hope Shannon got a good back-end on his contract.

I wasn't really happy that Supes had to kill Zod...because he didn't have to. They jailed Magneto and Loki and SPOILERS Khan for Pete's sake...they couldn't figure out how to jail Zod? The script just wasn't good enough to justify that huge deviation from Superman's morality, and I won't make apologies or defend it like some nerd who just loves Superman too much. Not a brilliant choice, Goyer. I know from experience that snapping Michael Shannon's neck gets you NOWHERE.

Also, Snyder, it doesn't take a lot of imagination to knock down a bunch of skyscrapers. They could have tunnelled through the earth, had a brawl at the core, gotten sucked into an alternate universe, Zod could have transformed into a giant giraffe with Michael Shannon's face, Superman could have offered to rap battle him for ultimate supremacy, they could have thrown monkeys at each other for a really long time like something from Family Guy. I reject the fact that all you could conjure up was "Hey, derp...SKYSCRAPERS!"

But, all in all, this is a summer blockbuster and a lot of my complaints are nitpicks. I was very satisfied with this movie, it's the best onscreen Superman since Superman One, and it absolutely eliminates the sorry SUPERMAN RETURNS from America's memory banks.

I think the potential for sequels is incredible, and I'll gladly go watch more Cavill-as-Supes. Now that they got this bizarre, three act, disjointed, sci-fi fantasy origin story out of the way they can really make headway on making Superman truly great again. But, please, maybe Goyer should sit the next one out...buddy, it's called subtext. When your dialogue is just the themes of the movie over and over again, maybe you need a script doctor. Or a superpunch to your adrenal glands.

MAN OF STEEL: B+

-Eric Roach, Anderson Lawfer

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

UPSTREAM COLOR (Movie Review)


Carruth's first film PRIMER still manages to remain relevant today, a treatise on time and love and the lengths people will go to change something they regret. I'm not sure if his follow up UPSTREAM COLOR will have the same staying power, but it does stand alone as a supremely challenging piece of expirimental sci-fi. It is truly mind-bending, and I spent the first hour of the film with my mouth agape simply unable to make sense of a film that mostly works on a subconscious non-narrative level. Following the story is nearly impossible, but that doesn't stop the film from being an intense and hypnotic overload of ideas and emotional resonance. If you have ever been into Lynch, Cronenberg, Jodorosky, Tarkovsky, or even Gaspar Noe you might owe it to yourself to chill out with this one. Warning: it's a complete brainblower, so don't go STRAIGHT to the theatre for this one. Cheech & Chong-style, brahs. Available on the Netflix Streaming.

B+

-Eric Roach, Anderson Lawfer