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And that was the last time… — By Michael

Michael

 

Let me tell you the last time someone conned me. I was 19 years old and I was a stupid 19. Somehow I ended up in London, wandering around the back streets of Piccadilly Circus. I see this gorgeous girl standing outside some strip club next to a sign that says “beer and a show £5.” Now this girl has got the thinnest smoothest legs I’ve ever seen. She could have been selling cancer in a pop can and I would have gone over to listen to the pitch.

“£5 pound for a beer and a show. That’s it?”, “That’s it,” she says. I give her a 5. She puts it in her purse and hands me a laminated white card and we go downstairs. She leads through a dimly lit lounge with a couch (occupied by some black guy with a girl on each arm)  and old woman behind a coat check, and into the next room. Then she asks me if I’m ready for the show.

In the next room there are dozens of couches and a stage with a single pole.  An even more beautiful woman comes up to me with my beer. This girl has straight blonde hair, gorgeous smile, and is only wearing black lingerie. She sits down next to me and starts asking me questions. Where I’m from, where I grew up, and she’s talking to me like I’m the most interesting person in the world. These days anytime anyone is that interested in me, I get suspicious, but 19 me kept yakking away.

After a couple of minutes, she stops me and says, the show will start as soon as I pay the bill. I hand her the white laminated card the other girl gave me, and blondie says, “No that’s for the show, I mean the bill.” I have no idea what she’s talking about but then she hands me the menu. She points to the bottom which says in fine print, Services of the companion £277. Everything comes to a screeching halt and I demand to talk to the manager (as if this were a respectable establishment).

I find myself back in the lounge arguing with the old lady behind the coat check. Blocking the stairs is the black guy from the couch, but now his arms are crossed, ready for any shit I’m going to pull.  Coat check lady is telling me the menu is clearly marked and that I have to pay for services. Normally I wouldn’t care, I’d just say “fuck you I don’t have any money.” But I had £500 on me for an… errand. That 500 needed to go where it was going. “If you don’t have any money, just open your wallet and show it to the camera.” I turn around and face the brother blocking my path. “You going to stop me if I leave?” and he comes back with “You wanna try me?”

So that’s when I pull out my cell phone. “Put that away. You can make calls down here.” the old lady commands.  And I know something’s up. “If you’re so sure the £277 charge is legit, why don’t I call the cops, they come down here, and if they say I owe you, I’ll pay.” Now I’m bluffing. Because that errand I was doing… well I still had some of the product on me. And believe me if the cops came down here, I’d be in a ton more trouble than she’d be.

She’s staring me right in the face and I’m staring right back. “We had a party of rich Arabs in here last night, they were more than happy to pay.” I spout back “I’m dialing 999. ” “I said put that away.” I can see the old lady making nods at the black guy, probably to grab the phone out of my hand. “I’m pressing send.”  Then curtly and with an air of superiority I hear “Get the fuck out!” And for some reason I reply with “Thank you.” And I bolt.

Now I’m outside making sure the black guy isn’t following me, heart racing, and I’m so fucking pissed at myself. All the little clues I should have seen are now painfully obvious. The cheap show, the black dude on the couch, the empty room.  And that’s when I decide right there, I’m not going to be a sucker for anyone ever again. That I would always been on the other end of it.  Couple of years later I see that old lady come into Vinney’s in New Jersey. Same woman, I swear to God. Right there right in front of me. So I… well that’s a story for another time.

—Michael
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Once Upon A Time – By Victor

The Glory

The Glory

 

Can you ever know where you’re supposed to be in life?  Some people will tell you, “you just know. “

Six years ago, the Viper Room. We may not have been the headliner, but still. People come to the Viper Room, not just your fans, and not just the bar regulars. People that can make things happen.

We get there for warm up and the place is heaven. But I got this nagging feeling. The crowd. No matter how nice the venue, a bad crowd can mean the difference between getting signed with a label or never playing there again. That’s when Sticks can’t keep his shit together.  His girlfriend dumped him Friday or some shit and he’s had a few fifths between last night and now.

15 minutes before the show Mike is trying to cheer him up and get him in the game and I’m calling every drummer I’ve ever met, I mean I’m literally on the phone with a guy from my high school marching band. But then Sticks jumps up like he just had a Five Hour Enema and says “Fuck that bitch, she ain’t going to bring me down.”

We go out on stage and the place is PACKED. I’ve never played for an audience this size. I mean it was constant crowd between the stage and the bar. We start playing with “Trueno de Mexico” and Sticks is off. We know it, the audience knows it, it’s bad. We stumble though the song. So I go off the setlist and play “Impossible Yesterday” next. Now Impossible Yesterday is our best song, we were saving it for the finale, but if I don’t do something, we’re not going to make it to the finale.

The lucky thing about the song is that starts with an a cappella solo. No drums. It’s just me. Maybe if Sticks listens to me, maybe he can get back on beat. But here’s the other thing. I… L O V E  that solo. When I sing it, the world shuts out and I just crush it.

I’m feeling it all, all at once, now today.
The fears and the problems creeping up once again.
The beds just too big, I wish you would come home.
And sooth the soul of this old tired fool.

I hear “clap, cla-cla-cla, clap”, “clap, cla-cla-cla, clap”.  I open my eyes. The whole front row has become our percussion.  Michael comes in on guitar, then the rest of the band. Now the audience is singing along. Sticks wakes up and back on. It’s just magic from then on out.

For years I would have said moments like that is was what it was all about for me. So when it all dried up, it was hard. Very hard. Seeing that possibility get farther and farther away. Maybe you never know where you’re supposed to be in life.

–Victor

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See Dredd. See Dredd Fail at the Box Office. — By Jack

See this.

I’ll tell you about the car crash later. While you’re waiting you need to go see the new Dredd movie. It’s freaking fantastic. A text book example of how to do an action movie. It’s clever. Intense. Stylized. Gruesome. The stakes never cease to escalate. And every action sequence is completely different from the one that preceded it. But despite these accomplishments the movie debuted at 6th place for its opening weekend. With a paltry 6.3 million dollar take, this movie will be seen as a failure. After a summer of endless disappointments (Spider-Man, Prometheus, Total Recall, MIB3, Bourne Legacy, Dark Knight Rises) it would be a tragedy to see this film fail.

Just wipe this piece of crap from your mind and give the reboot a chance.

Here’s the setup. Fucked up future. Overpopulated. Law is up held by Judges, agents that act as on the spot judge, jury, enforcer, and executioner. Baddest of the bad, Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) has a new partner, Anderson (Olivia Thirlby.) Dredd and rookie wind up investigating a murder in a mega apartment complex. Investigation turns to drug bust as it turns out this mega complex (known as Peach Tree) is dominated by a drug cartel. Ruthless cartel leader Ma-Ma locks the building down, so Dredd and Anderson have to fight their way up 200 stories to get to her. Sounds like a tiresome Die-Hard right? WRONG.

Okay, at its heart it is Die-Hard. But that’s not a bad thing. The movie runs in directions that will blow your mind. First of all there is the style. Take 300 ‘s slow motion fight scenes, (with story driven causality for the slow motion) add beautiful colorization, and gut wrenching choreography, and you end up with sequences that amaze but never feels like spectacle. I was blown away and I saw it in 2D. But just when you’re thinking, “that was cool, but I don’t really wanna sit through anymore slow motion,” the film jettisons the conceit and does something completely different.

So you’re good on action. What about plot? Well the plot is solid but it’s no Nolan film. But what it does nail is setting, theme, and mood. Director Pete Travis has created a realistic albeit depressing world of the future. Violence in this city is rampant and you feel that in every facet of the movie. A lot of people knocked The Dark Knight Rises for not presenting the Gothamite’s perspective unlike the previous two films. That’s not the case here. Early in the film, victims of a crime gone wrong lie in a bloody mess. While the clean up crew mops up, an announcer informs the public “the food court will reopen in 30 minutes.” As Dredd and Anderson make their way up, you feel the terror as the residents are torn between following the law or facing the consequences of the oppressive gang. There are some really chilling moments here. And ultimately why the movie succeeds thematically is that it problematizes the notion of an absolute law that doesn’t have to answer to a further authority. But it does so with subtle nods and tension rather than having the hero make some big realization “this is wrong!”

Lena Headey as Ma-Ma

Wood Harris

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The performances are a real joy. No villains are over the top. Lena Headey’s Ma-Ma is a smart, scary, and a lethal foil. Fans of HBO’s The Wire will recognize Wood Harris as Kay, Ma-Ma’s henchman who gets arrested and dragged along for the ride with the Judges. There’s a scene between him and Anderson that I won’t ruin here. Let’s just say it’s a scene that I didn’t expect to see in this film (in fact it was an idea I was planning on writing myself some day) and Harris and Thirlby nailed it.

Dredd and Anderson

As for Urban and Thirlby themselves? Karl Urban (Star Trek, Two Towers, Priest) completely disappears into the role of Dredd. At times his lines are laughable in their Clint Eastwood like depiction, but inexplicably it fits. Judge Dredd isn’t a character, he’s an icon, and that’s why we love him. Olivia Thirlby is charming, beautiful, sympathetic but at the same time challenged, smart, and goes some places that make us not like her. She’s human.

The movie isn’t a masterpiece but it does what it does very well.  It’s up there with The Crow and Terminator 2 in the realm of action films. And if you know me, you’d know that’s saying a lot.

So I am asking you. Yes YOU, the reader! Go out and see it. If you don’t like it, spam me with hate mail. But give it a shot. Now watch the trailer.

 

Rating?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

—Jack Out

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2012 in By Jack, Reviews, entertainment, etc...

 

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Not so Amazing Spider-Man — By Jack

Once a generation a Spider – Man is rebooted.

It’s a shame our cinema blockbusters have come to this. The mass rebooting of franchises and poor ones at that.  The newest victim Spider-Man–

That’s it! I’m not letting your poo-poo another awesome summer movie. First Prometheus, then Ted, which was freakin’ hilarious! Now–
This is my blog post, Jill. Why don’t you bitch about the subway or something?

It’s coming. And I can’t have you crap over every fun action film. No one’s trying to win an Oscar this season! Are we really doing this? You’re going to argue with me as I review Amazing Spider-Man?

Damn skippy!

***Word of warning – this is no longer a review, Jill and Jack are going to bitch about this movie with the assumption you’ve seen the film. MAJOR SPOILERS!***
Shut up Mack! Go write about Quantum Entropy!

Okay…let’s start again. Throwing out the baby with the bathwater this reboot–Looks amazing. From the first person web slinging, to the darkness of Manhattan at night–
Yes it looks good. The action is fast. This Spider-Man is lankier than the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man which is true to the comic.  But let’s talk about the plot–

Okaaaay. Peter Parker is a bullied and likes Gwen Stacy. He gets bitten by a genetic spider. Becomes Spider-Man. Bada-bing! Bada-boom web-slinging action! But this movie is desperately trying to follow the Christopher Nolan-make-a-dark-and-compelling-superhero-story-so-we-can-be-taken-seriously approach. It casts Sally Field and Martin Sheen in the smaller parts (ala Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman.) Even its opening screams Batman Begins. Hell, I thought little Peter Parker was going to fall down a well and get covered in spiders. 

So? What’s wrong with that? It doesn’t pull it off. It has plot holes you can drive a truck through (Spider-Man just gives up looking for the guy who killed Uncle Ben)  and forced emotional moments that make you want to laugh. (cough cough the construction crane scene, anyone?) 

They’re just so good together.

Those didn’t bother me. I got to see a romance blossom that was miles deeper than anything Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst were ever capable of having. Jesus, did Peter have to reveal his identity to everyone in the film? We’ve seen three movies of Peter Parker keeping his identity secret. It really struck me to see him come to Gwen’s window, bruised and beaten, to be cradled in her arms. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone had great chemistry. They’re dating you know. Duh!

So many elements just felt left out there waiting be developed but instead were forgotten while other moments felt forced. The lizard cops, Ben’s killer, the true nature of how Peter got his powers. Hell, even the tower falling from the top of Oscorp felt superfluous. Once again! Summer action film! If you want to see character development go see Moonrise Kingdom.

There is an important distinction between action sequences and explosions for the sake of explosions. One moment that did work for me was when Spider-Man was on the bridge, webbing the cars to stop them from falling. He finds the one kid trapped in the car and goes to pull him out before the car infernos. You’re really going to use inferno as a verb? The point is in that scene, Spider-Man’s holding the car with one hand, the webbing with the other and doing everything thing he can to get the kid to climb. He’s being pushed to his super hero limits and he still might fail. That what I want to see in my summer action sequences. Not a giant skyscraper antenna falling after the villain of the film has been defeated which it doesn’t affecting anything except to give the unsuccessful justification of the  3D glasses upcharge.  

I thought that was awesome. Except that I saw it in the trailer a dozen times. Okay, point blank question; were you bored?
 
No. But counter point blank. Were you satisfied?
Sure.
Really? The way you were with The Dark Knight, The Crow, and The Incredibles?
Yes. Yes I was.
I can’t believe that. 

Maybe it’s because I’m a Spider-Man fan and have been since I was 4. The movie just got what I’ve always loved about him so much more than the Sam Raimi films did. The web-shooters, the wise-cracking, and of course the sewer scene.  This was a film for Spider-Fans. 

Okay this was pretty cool.

We’ll just have to agree to disagree. I don’t agree with that.

Addendum: Jack, Jill, and I all agree, The Amazing Spider-Man has the best Stan Lee cameo ever. Period. 

This isn’t the cameo.

 

 
 

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Jack reviews Ted — by well…uh…Jack.

But teddy bears are wholesome!!

Should you see Seth MacFarlane’s new comedy Ted about a crude lecherous but lovable teddy bear come to life? Chances are you’ve already decided. If you like Family Guy and all of MacFarlane’s spin offs you’re going to laugh and have a fun time. If you don’t, you won’t like this movie.

Now for a more thorough opinion. I think Seth MacFarlane is funny. He makes jokes about things many of  us are thinking and does so through crude and clever ways. Often times it’s based around pop culture from the 1980’s, but I’m 28 and so works for me. Can he cross the line and rely on stereotype, becoming both tired and offensive? Absolutely. And sometimes it’s obvious his scrips are too short and he resorts to filler. But all in all I’m probably going to laugh when I watch him.

Ha ha…I have so much money now.

Is Seth MacFarlane a talented story teller? Not so much. His plots are vessels for his jokes. And that is very true with Ted.   It doesn’t take a genius to take one look at the poster and guess the plot.  John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) wished for a living teddy bear as a boy and hot damn it came true. Now an adult, John and Ted are still best buds. Ted (voiced by Seth MacFarlane) is crude but lovable. John’s long time girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis) thinks he needs to grow up which requires saying goodbye to Ted.  And let’s throw in a crazy guy(Giovanni Ribisi) who wants to kidnap the bear so we can have a chase scene.  Oh and Community’s Joel McHale shows up as the douche bag that wants to bang Mila Kunis. He has one good line.

The question is does the comedy work? For the most part, yes. The opening is hilarious. The humor mostly hits throughout the middle. Occasionally, I was actually sick of the jokes and wanted the damn thing to move forward.  But the ending really sags. It’s both predictable and tiresome.   Ted is essentially Peter Griffin (there’s a crack about this in the film.) When he’s on screen you’re gonna laugh. I’ll hand it to the script for making the girlfriend, Lori, actually likable. She puts up with a lot of John’s crap before she lays down the Ted or me ultimatum.

But my question is why Mark Wahlberg? He’s not very funny. He doesn’t pull off the every man particularly well. There’s this feeling of “I’m love this walking teddy bear, I do this infantile shit, and I’m obsessed with Flash Gordon because the script tells me to.” I just don’t buy him. The character of John (not Wahlberg’s fault) fucks up his life so many times, it’s pretty hard to stay with him by the end.

All in all I mostly had a smile on my face. $13 bucks to see it in the theater? I didn’t smile that much. It probably be better to wait for the DVD, get drunk or stoned with a group of your friends and pass out before the end.

 

 

 

 

 

 

–Jack Out

 
 

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Prometheus Review — By Jack

Hey all.  The summer movie season is in full swing. We got the very satisfying Avengers about a month ago.  Battleship sunk (easiest flop headline ever) and MIB3 is pretty much now off everyone’s radar.  The next benchmark film, Prometheus is finally here. So does it measure up to the hype? Short answer: no.

To those of you living under a rock, Prometheus is the prequel to the prolific Alien saga. It follows the crew of the ship, wait for it…Prometheus, as they search for what they believe are a race of “engineers” that created human life. They arrive on the desired moon, LV-223. Once there, they uncover the remains of an alien spaceship, littered with the corpses of dead “engineers,” and some very eerie artwork.  As they explore, the ship’s android David, played by Michael Fassbender, clearly has his own agenda as he tampers, secretly, with the  “engineers’ ” remains. His meddling leads to catastrophe for the crew members.

You know, these Aliens.

In a nut shell, the film is an enjoyable experience.  It looks good. There are some really stand out performances. It’s fun to see references to the Alien films, particularly the engineers’ ship. There is a very intense surgery scene.  And even a storm sequence that is impressive. But unfortunately, the film never rises above the average space alien disaster film.

Prometheus is directed by Ridley Scott, the director of the first Alien film from 1979 who has since has gone on to many other important and distinguished films.  (I’m very hot/cold on Scott. Loved Thelma & Louise, Black Hawk Down, and Alien. Not a fan of Gladiator, Hannibal, or Blade Runner, blaspheme I know.) And moment to moment, Scott gives us an entertaining ride that never feels boring even if it does seem cliche.  There are a few unintentionally laughable moments, but all in it’s got a great look, mood, and tone.

Most of the characters are pretty indistinguishable or completely forgettable.  There is a security officer introduced early in the film who I confused with one of the geologists. The security officer disappears after his introduction and the geologist gets lost and dies. The main character, scientist and crisis of faith heroine, Elisabeth Shaw, (played by Noomi Rapace) isn’t terribly charming or likable. She’s obsessed with meeting these engineers, but by the end of the film I can’t understand why she’s still on that quest.

Michael Fassbender as David

The real gem of the film is Michael Fassbender. He plays the ship’s android David, with excellent physicality and an eerie but captivating coldness in everything he does. The man is just fascinating to watch.  The Wire‘s Idris Elba plays the ship’s captain. And even though he doesn’t do much, we get enough of his character and Elba’s charm that you really like the character.  Charlize Theron plays Meredith Vickers, the stern and driven woman in charge.  Unfortunately, Vickers starts strong, but as the film unravels towards the end she just falls away.

Charliz Theron and Idris Elba.

So what stops this movie from being the epic classic it should be?  The plot. The movie has a lot to live up to. A legendary director, one of the most influential sci-fi and horror series in all cinema history, and it even invokes the name of Greek mythology. So when **SPOILER** the characters finally uncover the one living engineer,  the thing with the all answers we’ve been sitting the edge of our seats waiting to hear… instead of telling us, what does it do? Runs amok trying to kill everyone, becoming the monster of the film. And out of nowhere it resumes some out of left field mission to destroy Earth. It’s a momentous let down.  It changed a movie that could have been about humanity, exploration, and meddling with powers not meant for us and turned it into a run of the mill monster movie.


For more on Prometheus, check out Kevin Smith’s new show Spoilers on Hulu . It’s a fun new show where he and an audience see a film and bitch about or cream their jeans over it. It’s good fun.

http://www.hulu.com/embed/Db2v06F3U9TlHetIWbnonw

— Jack out.

 
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Posted by on June 12, 2012 in By Jack, Reviews, entertainment, etc...

 

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And Ode to Whedon — By Jack

I know that praising Whedon right now is sorta jumping on the super geeky band wagon. TIME magazine did an article about him.  The Avengers just destroyed the record for all time opening weekend (not adjusted for inflation.)  And his horror/deconstruction film Cabin in the Woods has already achieved cult classic status. By the way go see it as soon as you can. So among all this Whedon hoopla and craziness, what do I have to add?

Nothing really. I’d just like to point out the things I love about what he does and how I will be stealing it in my work for years to come.

Brief history on the guy. Whedon wrote the original Buffy the Vampire slayer, you know the one with Kristi Swanson and Luke Perry. He then adapted it to television a few years later. Now when the TV show first came out, my reaction was pretty much what everyone else’s was. “Oh God, I can’t believe they’re making into a show.” It seemed so cheesy and  Hollywood, so I went back to reading my X-Men comic books. (Which Whedon has written a few of.)

But eventually I gave it a try. I started in the middle of season 2. I couldn’t stand Sarah Michelle Gellar. The monsters looked like bad Star Trek aliens. The plots of each week’s episode seemed too formulaic. But suddenly, Buffy decided to have sex with her vampire boyfriend Angel and he went insane. Due to some curse, her most trusted and intimate partner was now hunting her friends and drawing her as she slept. It was cold, it was dark, it was chilling. But then to end the conflict, in the season finale, Buffy has resolved to kill Angel once and for all.  Whedon didn’t stop there. He didn’t just make it a conflict between good and formerly good.  Right when Buffy defeats Angel, he snaps out of it (due to the efforts of Willow, one of the most charming characters in all of the Whedonverse.) Angel is restored, loving, confused. But it is too late. Whatever plot evil Angel had set into motion could only be avoided by his death.  Buffy kisses him one last time and impales him sending him to hell.

Wow.  That’s when I realized, this guy has balls. As I watched Buffy over the next 5 seasons I noticed other things come about. I never really gave a fuck about Buffy Summers, but almost everyone else in that cast became so robust. They changed and grew. The aforementioned Willow started as a dorky teenager, fell in love with another woman, mastered witchcraft only to succumb to it like a drug, and finally find some peace with her burden.

The plots of most individual episodes were still nothing spectacular, but Whedon was a master of laying the ground work for incredible story arcs that spanned seasons.  This guy really knew how to get you involved.

But through out it all, there was always a mind to the formula. He knew when the show was getting a bit routine and it was clear he always wanted to be above that.  Sometimes, it was merely a sarcastic comment to draw attention to it. In the case of Cabin in the Woods, he has the whole end of the movie spiral out of control to spite the formula. And sometimes he’d fuck the formula by killing someone that by all story telling logic made no sense. It left you in a head space that no one in cast of characters was safe.

Granted they guy doesn’t have a perfect batting average. The first two season of Angel are pretty bad and I’m not nuts about Dollhouse. But then there is Firefly. All the complaints about Buffy (weak main character, individual plots kinda lame) are absent as you have an incredibly perfect cast and a flush sci fi western world. The show got cancelled far too soon, but it did finish things off with a film, Serenity (one of my favorite movies ever.) And everyone should Youtube Dr. Horrible.

And it’s because of all I’ve listed above, Avengers works. It doesn’t just work, it’s an accomplishment. It is fun. Balanced. Knows how to raise the stakes. And unlike so many summer action movies the ACTION feels fresh and specific and clever. It’s by no means perfect, but it is a hell of a lot of fun.  Go see it. And watch this video of the master talking at an Equality Now conference. It’s pretty inspiring.

 

 

–Jack out.

 

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