Friday, September 25, 2009

Death rides an Econoline van

I don't know how, but an old friend I haven't seen for years got my contact info and now I'm getting calls and letters from him in prison. He's excitingly going on about how he's getting out in December and how he's going to change his life around (attempt number 6, I believe) and how he can't wait to kick it with me like old times. This is a man who supposedly shot a rival gang member in the belly at his doorstep, by the way.

I guess what I'm trying to say here is that if you don't see any more ramblings on this site about a month after December, that's probably because I'll be fuckin' dead, most likely having caught a volley of 9mm and .22's that were meant for him, courtesy of one of the many malcontents he's probably wronged. Merry Christmas. To be honest, the state of my depression kinda has me wishing for death anyway, but I want to be the one who calls it, not some shaven-headed asshole who thinks the two greatest movies ever made are American Me and Blood In, Blood Out: Bound by Honor.

Mimi, the main character from Massacre Mafia Style (aka The Executioner) would probably hate those movies, since he doesn't seem to be a fan of the gangs anyway. (How's that for a segue?) Not that he's any better; the guy is a gangster who will give long monologues on how the Mafia ruins the image of the Italian (Sicilians, in particular) but then has no problems putting a motherfucker on a meathook in such a way that the poor schmuck's eyeball is poked out -- and that's after strangling him to death.

Yeah, this Mimi is something else and so is his story, for which I will be giving a rundown to ya'll. At the age of 15, his "Lord of Organized Crime" father was deported back to Sicily, so Mimi had to leave as well. For the next 16 years, Mimi lives life, gets married, has a son, and becomes a widow (cancer, not gunfire). He decides to go back to the good ol' U.S.A. and get a piece of that American Dream (Mafia Style) that was so rudely taken away from his father -- so what if the old man was acquiring said dream illegally?

Mimi arrives in Los Angeles, hooks up with an old fat friend of his named Jolly, and off they go. Now, I was completely fucking hammered on Sobieski when I watched this, so mine is not the most clearest of memories when it comes to what exactly happened, but here I go. Mimi and Jolly kidnap a mob boss named Chucky from church, cut one of his fingers off and send it over to Chucky's underlings along with a ransom demand. They go ahead and pay it, so Chucky is let go. Then Mimi and Jolly go to Chucky's son's wedding to talk to him about going into business! What balls! Because Chucky used to work for Mimi's old man, he lets bygones be bygones and allows Mimi and Jolly to do their thing. I don't know, man, that's something I'd always be a little sore about. I don't think they reattached that shit, so it's gone for good. I would at least have to take off a thumb or two before forgiving a motherfucker, that's for sure.

Having forced Chucky's hand (by way of finger), Mimi and Jolly decide to hit the streets and take down the bookmakers and pimps who are cutting in on the action. This is done by apparently going to the same bar over and over again (this is a very low budget movie) and shotgunning them point blank. Again, maybe I was too drunk, but I swear Mimi was killing a lot more women than men. They also try to scare a huge black pimp named Super Spook into giving them his girls (to use in porno flicks, but more on that later) but he's not having it, so instead, our boys figure they could sweet talk him by calling him nigger. For some odd reason, this does not sit well with Mr. Spook. So they crucify him (for real) and make some kind of joke involving Jesus Christ being black.

Oh yeah, there's a lot of matter-of-fact racism in this flick, and as off-putting as that might be, I guess you can say that the filmmakers were just keeping it real. I mean, you're gonna make a film about hardcore criminals who are just as hardcore about their heritage and then you're going to have them regard people of other races and ethnicities as equals? Nah. Having said that, some of it does feel a little like wish-fulfillment from the writer/director; you have a skinny short dude and a fat out-of-shape dude, both of Italian heritage, giving a tall strong black man the business to his face. They're acting like that bit Eddie Murphy did about Italian guys coming out of a Rocky movie, only without the Jujyfruits up the ass.

When people aren't getting Massacred Mafia Style or being called "moulinyan", they're given heartfelt soliloquies by Mimi. These monologues are things of beauty; they start off slowly, and then when you think paisan's gonna wrap it up, he goes into overdrive. It is then that you realize that you are no longer hearing dialogue, but in fact getting a lengthy discourse on What's Wrong In Society from the writer/director, Duke Mitchell, who also happens to be the same guy who plays Mimi. It's like somewhere along the way he got off the script and started to speechify his real thoughts. Something tells me that many a friend of Mr. Mitchell have been addressed similarly after a few drinks or so with the dude, or maybe that wasn't the case at all and this was paisan's chance to let it all out.

Among the things that bother Mimi (and perhaps the filmmaker as well) are the loss of the good ol' days, when there was a code to being a scumbag piece-of-shit criminal; and the destruction of the Italian image by scumbag piece-of-shit criminals like himself (at least he's self-aware). Mimi gives one of these diatribes to Chucky, and rather than telling him "Motherfucker, aren't you the same guy who chopped off my fucking finger one reel ago?!" he just nods solemnly, like he just got dropped some major fuckin' science.

With each following scene, Mimi's hair turns from dark to gray, which I means that years are going by. Either that, or being a Mafia Style Massacrer ages you as fast as being President of the United States (have you seen how Obama looks now?).

So the film follows Mimi and Jolly living life, while ending everyone else's; at one point they even go as far as shooting a motherfucker in the eyeball on live television. In between whackings, Mimi hooks up with this chick and Jolly has a little gay dog that he's real fond of, so you probably know how THAT'S gonna end up.

Meanwhile, back is Sicily, Pops is getting news of Mimi's exploits and is none too happy about it because it doesn't look good or some shit like that, I don't know. He has his guy go to L.A. to beat some sense into Mimi, which he does: SMACK "This is from your father!" SMACK "This is from your son!" SMACK "And this is from the Holy Ghost!". He then gives him fifty-grand and an ultimatum -- stop the killing and start a legitimate business or suffer the consequences. Some more gray hair and a mustache later, Mimi and Jolly are now dipping their toes into the water that is the porno movie biz. They decide to make their own porn flicks by using Super Spook's stable as talent, and well, you already know how that ends a few paragraphs ago.

Killing a pimp so you can steal his women and use them in your porno movies does not qualify as standard legitimate business practice, in fact, it draws a hell of a lot of heat on you. Mimi's girl Liz understands this all too well, since she overheard one of Chucky's guys drunkenly blab about how they're going to set Mimi up and do a little Mafia Style Massacring of their own. Liz tells Mimi all of this during a post-coital chat, doing the audience a favor by having her breasts hang out during the whole scene.

They don't know who exactly in Chucky's crew is going to do the dirty work, so Mimi and Jolly decide to go out and start shooting, strangling, stabbing & eyeball-impaling the fuck out of anyone remotely connected. They shoot up an office building consisting of mostly black employees, and once again it makes a drunk motherfucker like me wonder if this was just a coincidence or if shooting holes into many an African-American did for Mr. Mitchell what Arnold blasting pigs in a police station did for James Cameron (and me). Whatever. On their way from another completed massacre, they bump into Chucky's son and kill him as well, dropping his body off in front of Daddy's house.

It's all for naught, all this killing, because Chucky hires some outside hitters to take Mimi and Jolly out. Jolly is MMS'd first; he goes to a restaurant by himself, and the servers arrive with a plate of Recently Deceased Gay Dog before filling this fat fuck full of .45's. Later, Mimi comes home and not only finds Jolly's body on his bed, but Liz hanging dead in the shower. His calm and rational response is to blow up Chucky and everyone else at the son's funeral by way of hidden explosives. At least Chucky and his wife don't have to live the rest of their lives missing their boy. That's me justifying Mimi's horrendous (but ballsy and awesome) act.

Mimi then goes back to Sicily, giving up on trying to do Cosa Nostra American Style. His father welcomes him with open arms and is glad to see that he's back and here to stay. Mimi then goes on another beautiful tangent about how the old ways are no longer respected "out there", and that the street corners that were once run by the Italians, Jews, Irish and Polish are now all run by the black man -- how dare they seems to be the subtext -- and that Organized Crime is on life support and that there is no law to lawlessness anymore. The young criminals no longer respect/fear the old ones, long-haired hippies are bringing dope home for their parents to take(!) and the shadowy secrecy of the Mafia Don lifestyle is now common fodder for books and movies ("The most successful fuckin' motion picture in the history of show business is you!").

The old man is like Whatever and tells Mimi about the young son he left behind. He tells him that he's been raised clean, going to the best schools around the world and living a life that has nothing to do with the Mafia, and he will not grow up to be his father or grandfather. A tearful, hug-filled reunion follows; Mimi and his son go for a walk to catch up on things and to meet the boy's special lady friend. Later, they get together with other family and friends for dinner. The son cuts a loaf of bread and tosses the first piece to Mimi. Just as Mimi catches the slice -- BOOM -- he takes a blast of gunfire to the chest. Turns out there was a four-barreled gun hidden in the loaf, and the son used it on him. The old man then looks at the son, and I guess this means that he's now a man and I guess this is the movie's way of telling us that the sins of the father, the child is father to the man, evil never dies, the circle of life, etc, etc, blah blah blabbity blah. Whatever it means, it's an awesome way to end a movie. The End.

This is a mob flick done Grindhouse-style, featuring some very raw acting and visuals, but it's a lot of fun and I was surprised by how much I ended up liking it. Usually you have to deal with a lot of dead spots in these kinds of movies, even when they have brief running times like this one, but there's always something to keep your interest here; tough guy talk, violence, titties. Some scenes have a darkly comic approach to them, sort of a proto-Tarantino type of thing going on; the opening scene featuring Mimi and Jolly killing a bunch of people is done to a cheery old Italian song. The dialogue can be very funny at times too, and while I don't know how serious those speech scenes are meant to be taken, I don't care, because they are awesome to watch either way. I understand that's the third time I've used the word "awesome" in this rundown, and for that I win an award: The Small Vocabulary Dumb Schmuck Award. I'd like to thank my teachers for trying to teach me and I'd like to thank myself for not learning.

Duke Mitchell (né Dominico Miceli) was a nightclub singer and all-around entertainer, most famous for hooking up with a Jerry Lewis lookalike and doing their spin on Martin & Lewis. He wrote, produced and directed this, his first movie, and you can definitely see that he had more entertaining flicks (and hopefully better made) in him. Unfortunately, he passed away a few years later, leaving behind an unfinished film titled Gone with the Pope. Based on the footage I've seen for that flick, it looked like he was definitely taking things up a notch in Awesome. Shit, that's four times now.

The cool news is that Sam Raimi's editor and Sylvester Stallone's son have been busy putting Pope together for a DVD release. Massacre Mafia Style, meanwhile, is coming out next month in a two-disc DVD set in October, but get this -- it's limited to 500 copies. So if you want your racist Italian mob killers in crystal clear digital picture and sound, you better snatch up a copy right quick. Me, I'll stick to my shitty VHS version (under the title The Executioner); in a weird way, I think the poor quality adds to the seediness of the movie. Besides, booze and gasoline take up most of my budget nowadays, anyway, so I have to come up with something.

Now if you'll excuse me, I now have to look up some gothic designs online to print out and mail to my friend in prison so he can have them tattooed to his leg. Because that's what friends do for each other (especially when they're afraid of getting shivved at their front door in the middle of the night). I need a time machine. I need to go back and tell the 3rd grade version of me to say No to friendship. Then I'm gonna go to the 7th grade me and tell me to make a move on Ms. Travers in Social Studies. Worst case scenario, she says no. Best case, I get a whole lot of much-needed confidence and my life begins a trek through a different path, one that will most likely lead to bigger and better things. I guess the lesson here, people, is this: If you're a school teacher, pick the biggest loser in class and sleep with him. And if you're a student lucky enough to have that happen to you, SHUT THE FUCK UP ABOUT IT.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

One character ends up shirtless and another is clad in black leather, so maybe it's more Schumacher-esque than I originally thought

Every once in a while, I'll open up the Calendar section of the paper, check the movie listings, and find the name or an ad of a film that is completely new to me and I have no fuckin' clue what it's about. It comes with no commercials or internet buzz or anything, so it might as well have come from the fuckin' ether. I then decide to take a chance and seek out this unknown movie, getting all giddy-schoolgirl in anticipation. In 2005, I saw The Great Raid and Dangerous Men this way and both flicks were richly rewarded risks for completely different reasons. It can also go the other way and not work out at all, like when two of my buddies decided to check out a flick called Hard, which turned out to be a terribly made softcore gay movie about a serial killer -- and when you're as homophobic and bad-movie-phobic as these guys, that's just double servings of hell, right there.

On a similar note, someone on Twitter posted something about a horror movie coming out that I never heard of, Blood Creek ("Town Creek" on the IMDB) and it caught my interest. Lionsgate Films is distributing it, and since this flick isn't about people set up to die in elaborate traps by some asshole with cancer or didn't involve an old fat black woman played by a young thin black guy, they decided to throw it away in a few cities without any promotion -- relegated to discount dollar houses, no less (no more?). They did this about a year ago to another horror flick called Midnight Meat Train, and while I missed the train on that one (har har har), I wasn't going to miss out on the Creek. So off I went.

Blood Creek begins in 1930's U.S. farmland, I don't remember where exactly. A family of German immigrants take a Nazi into their home (in exchange for some paychecks from the Fatherland) so he can work on his experiments involving the occult. You know, basic Wolfenstein kinda stuff with the intent of making the Nazis and their mono-testicled leader immortal and unstoppable. The Nazi is played by Lt. Archie Hicox from Inglourious Basterds, and he's a spooky Kraut; motherfucker's so deep into the black magic, he can bring dead birds back to life -- and he's only getting started.

After a bit of that, we cut to the present day and we're introduced to an EMT with a missing brother and an old angry, ailing father. When he comes home, we're shown close-ups of newspaper clippings on the wall about how EMT's bro vanished two years ago. But because this is a Hollywood movie, the people in charge can't trust us dummies in the audience to comprehend the visual language of film, so they give us EMT's father in the background telling us everything: Goddammit, son. You went out with your brother and you lost him and now he's not around and I can't believe you think he's dead, well I'm not giving up, he's still alive and goddammit, he's a war hero who fought in Iraq and you're a coward who didn't go to Iraq and you'll never be like him and goddammit, I guess I just established the personal goals your character is going to have to accomplish by the third act.

Right after that, there's a scene where EMT goes into his trailer and he takes off his shoes and plops down onto his bed. The motherfucker just finished a 15 hour shift and is beat, but RING RING goes the phone, and it turns out to be his nephews, reminding EMT that he promised to take them trick-or-treating. Ain't that a bitch. That reminded me of all the times my mom took me to the movies after work (dad came home late) when I was a kid. Back then, I was too much of a spoiled selfish brat to even remotely entertain the consideration of the possibility of giving a fuck whether or not she was too tired. I was going to the movies come hell or high agua, Stay Tuned was not going to watch itself. (This is why I would be okay with it if my mom or dad one day decided to start beating me with a belt as a sort of retroactive payment for past sins of the douchebag child)

EMT eventually goes back home and gets some shut-eye, but guess who suddenly shows up? EMT's long-lost bro, that's who. Looking at EMT Bro's long unkempt hair and long scraggly beard, I wondered for a moment if this was Rob Zombie's Blood Creek that I was watching, but no, that's not the case. The director is none other than Joel Schumacher, the guy responsible for Batman Forever and Batman and Robin. But I'll get to him later. So EMT's bro is back, and immediately he's all business, no time for a reunion. He tells EMT to grab the rifles, grab the ammo, and bring supplies, because they're going on a mission. A mission to do what, EMT has no idea and neither will you because I'm going to stop right here.

Every few months or so, some new low-budget flick comes out, usually in the horror genre, and everyone on the Internet privy to a preview screening comes out praising that shit to the high heavens. Then I get around to finally watching it and after I'm like, It's all right, but what's the big deal? Blood Creek feels like one of those movies, and if the director was some twenty-something newcomer, guys like Harry Knowles would be posting love letters and comparing it to the filmmaker going down on you or something. But because it's the guy who put nipples on the Batsuit, everyone will trash this flick more than it deserves. I mean, I can see why someone might not like it, but if the motherfucker goes on about how insulting and retarded it is and how it's a cinematic abortion that is an insult to horror flicks, my guess is he or she is bringing some Bat-baggage to the review.

There's definitely some garbage in his resume, but every once in a while, the guy actually makes something worth watching, like Tigerland or Veronica Guerin or Phone Booth or that flick about Robert De Niro having a stroke and singing with Phillip Seymour Hoffman in drag. But some motherfuckers still aren't having it because of the Batman flicks. For Christ's sakes, kids, get the fuck over it. That shit was 12 years ago and I don't know if you've noticed, but two more Batman movies have come out since then and one of them is so fucking good, it should eliminate any bitching left in your cold geeky soul about some motherfucker ruining the franchise. It's over. The Schumacher period can now be seen as a low point in the series, not the fucking nerd apocalypse.

This was a decent flick; it moved fast and I was never bored, and that's two good things for a movie to have going for it. There's some occasional splatter and slimy goodness (both practical and CGI -- guess which was more impressive) and I was particularly intrigued with the first half, during which the audience knows about as much as EMT in the What-The-Fuck-Is-Going-On department. Once everything's explained and you realize what you're in for, the movie isn't as strong, but that's bound to happen when you spend so much time coming up with possibilities in your head -- the truth is usually never as good.

There's no reinvention of the wheel here, but there are a couple of cool scenes that I gotta give it up for, like a bit involving a runaway horse that just got so over-the-top I couldn't help but laugh. I certainly don't see why Lionsgate would have junked Blood Creek, since far worse movies have been given big releases (and some of them become hits, ugh). I'd bet dollars to bearclaws that the latest Saw flick isn't as entertaining. I paid a cheap DVD rental price to see it on the big screen and I had nothing else to do, so there.

As far as I'm concerned, whatever crimes to celluloid Joel Schumacher committed is evened out with two comedic contributions he's made to the cinematic world: D.C. Cab (Bruce Leigh?) and Falling Down (I understand others call it a drama, but that shit never stops being funny to me). Mr. Schumacher, when you fall, you fall hard, but overall, you're okay and I still believe...I STILL BELIEVE:

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Jellyfish are Metroids of the sea

Goddammit. I finally get myself to write something and now my computer is giving me a five-minute countdown to get my shit together before restarting. I guess I'll just wait here and continue to hum the tune I've been humming for an hour now, even though I don't know what the name of the goddamn thing is.

So I'm back now and it turns out the song was Gliding Dance of the Maidens from Borodin's Prince Igor (which was then pretty much jacked and turned into Stranger in Paradise). I am such a fag.

Anyways. When Hayao Miyazaki decides to make a kids movie, he doesn't make some pandering lame-ass bullshit like fuckin' G-Force (strictly assumptions here). Miyazaki-san's invitation basically has a note at the bottom that says "This is a kids party, but don't worry, adults will have fun too and we're serving wine and beer here, not just punch". So for a couple of hours, you'll start feeling like a kid again in the best way (and the only acceptable way, in my opinion). You'll forget all the cynical, snarky bullshit that you developed as an adult and just sit back and go Wow in the wonderful way we all used to do as children when we watched a movie on the big screen. By we, I mean me.

His latest is called Ponyo and I guess Disney wasn't going to fuck around and risk us dumbass Americans not watching it, so the poster font looks damn near Finding Nemo as a way to entice people. Hey, it's fish and it's Disney and it looks like Nemo! They also got actors like Tina Fey and Matt Damon to do the voices for the U.S. dub, and while sometimes it sounds a little awkward, I'm all right with it. Normally, it's gotta be subtitles or nothing at all, as far as I'm concerned, but the Disney people try pretty hard when doing the English adaptation and besides, it allows me to concentrate on the big-screen visuals. I can always listen to the original Japanese and read subtitles on the DVD for the next viewing.

Should I even bother trying to explain what the fuck this flick's about? There's a comedian named Daniel Tosh and he had a bit about how sometimes a motherfucker can come off like a raving jackass loon when trying to explain a dream to someone else. That's how I feel trying to explain what Ponyo's about. I mean, I already come off as a rambling douchebag and I don't need to add to that shit by telling you about the fish girl with a human face and red hair and how she licks blood off a little boy's finger and that gives her the power to will herself into sprouting arms and legs and she has a thing for eating ham and her father lives in the deep sea creating marine life by using a wand and mixing various elixirs and satellites are falling to Earth and the moon is coming closer and fucking everything up. I don't want to risk it.

But yeah, that's the kind of shit that happens here. Some boy named Sosuke lives in a fishing town with his Tina Fey-voiced mom, and he finds Ponyo the fish girl washed up and stuck in a glass jar. He breaks Ponyo out and gets real friendly with her, even telling his girlfriends at school to fuck off 'cause he's busy palling around with Young Splash. Meanwhile, Ponyo's dad is looking for her, and I don't know what his deal is; he looks human but constantly needs to water himself when he's on dry land. He's voiced by Liam Neeson, and the last time Liam Neeson had to look for his daughter in a movie, motherfuckers got OWNED. Also, whenever he's back in his underwater castle, he's mixing potions and talking to himself, and the last time Liam Neeson did that in a movie, motherfuckers got OWNED. Now you got him doing both in this movie, so I was a little worried for Sosuke and his mom.

But the worries didn't last long, because it's not that kind of movie and even if it was, Miyazaki's never been one for making it black & white in the antagonist department. The closest thing to a bad guy might be the old lady with Lily Tomlin's voice, but it's easy to see things her way, she just happens to be wrong. You know, like human beings in general.

If you ever become friends with Ponyo, you better look forward to her company because she will run on giant waves with eyes (I know!) and chase after you just to hang out. She means well, but that kind of shit can look a tad desperate, is all I'm saying. Also, she appears to suffer from the same malady Austin Powers suffered from when he came out of cryogenic hibernation, she can't control THE VOLUME OF HER VOICE AND SHE ALWAYS TALKS THIS LOUD AND IT NEVER GETS LOWER THAN THIS.

Despite Ponyo's loud voice, there's something about this flick -- and all of Miyazaki's movies -- that feels so chill. Even when there's crazy shit going on, there's a calm sense to it all. I dig that. And yet as relaxed a movie as Ponyo is, nearly every shot is busy with stuff going on. You have characters talking to each other but over at the edge of the screen there's always a crab walking by or a little octopus slowly creeping its way through the backdoor or something else kinda awesome like that. I don't know how this motherfucker can make a baby slowly closing its eyes such an intriguing thing to watch, but he sure as fuck does it.

Like the Catbus from My Neighbor Totoro, there's stuff here that walks a fine line between Awww, How Cute and Jesus Christ What The Fuck Is That! But you're in Miyazaki's hands, so it's all good. I'm not gonna let you get hurt, trust me, he seems to be telling us, the Catbus won't eat you and neither will these scary-ass ancient species of extinct fish with big-ass fangs.

Some motherfuckers always have to make it about fucking. That's why they're getting all disturbed and posting shit on the message boards, talking about Eww, how could a 5-year-old boy be in love with a young (fish) girl? Maybe I'm wrong, but perhaps Sosuke doesn't think of her in that way. Maybe it's the kind of love one would have for a family member (insert hack Deep South joke here). Why does it have to be about romance? I'll give you this; when the dude gets into puberty age, then yeah, he'll probably start looking at Ponyo differently, but even then, that's gonna be at least a few months of jackin' it like crazy before he works up the nerve to try hit Little Ms. Thing.

Cate Blanchett is the voice of Ponyo's mother, some kind of Queen of the Sea or some shit. She and Neeson do the best with their adapted dialogue, which probably has something to do with being great actors with the ability to make even the lousiest lines sing. Fey and Damon, on the other hand, do not fare so well. I don't know who the fuck does Ponyo's voice, but Sosuke is voiced by a Jonas brother, because apparently that kind of shit matters to kids. Joe Hisaishi composed the music, and goddamn, it's some beautiful stuff. I don't know about the end credits song, though. Whatever. I'm only familiar with his collaborations with Miyazaki and Takeshi Kitano, and as far as I'm concerned he's right up there with Morricone, Williams and Herrmann when it comes to making great soundtracks that could stand on their own, without the visuals.

Speaking of the visuals, they're just as lovely as you'd expect from a Miyazaki production. This guy's old-school, using hand-drawings rather than CGI, and while I'm not against those other kinds of animation, I think it's cool to see amazing work still being done in this manner. Storywise, Miyazaki-san's done better, but even his worst is still pretty fucking good, so I liked it.

They had a couple of trailers to other animated movies that didn't look so bad at the time, but directly following Ponyo, looked real shitty in comparison. Like the Planet 51 trailer that features a scene with a little robot rover thingy getting so scared that it leaks oil. Get it, it pissed itself! HAR HAR HAR! PEE PEE BE FUNNY LAFF LAFF! These motherfuckers are working their asses off with their fart and piss jokes and along comes Miyazaki, making entertaining the audience and keeping them enthralled look so goddamn effortless. They can't even use the "Well, this is a kids' movie" excuse because Ponyo is pretty much just a kids' movie. What a bunch of fucking assholes.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Surprisingly not starring Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown

This past Wednesday, I went to the supermarket to buy some booze -- I can always get food at a drive-thru. As she took the black plastic guard off the top of my bottle of Sobieski, the cute checkout girl said to me "You'll feel a lot better after some of this, huh?". I didn't know whether to hit her or propose marriage. If this was the 50's, perhaps one followed by the other, but this is the 00's, so I just smiled and told her that she had no idea how right she was. Of course, I entertained myself on the way back home with thoughts of What If? The good and the bad with me and the checkout girl. By the time I parked my car, I was well into an overly romanticized Days of Wine and Roses style relationship with her.

The truth would be a lot uglier, I suspect, something closer to the shit that happens to the characters played by Illeana Douglas and Asshole Chef from Dinner Rush in this movie I saw the other night called Life is Hot in Cracktown. Or maybe not, because me and Checkout Girl would be booze hounds, not crack addicts like those two jokers.

This flick is an ensemble piece about people who are all about the rocks and I guess they got pretty fuckin' lucky to find themselves living in a city named after that shit. Here in Cracktown, everybody's on crack (except for the odd few who dig heroin and probably couldn't afford bus fare to Smackville) and everyone wears clothing that is either stained, worn-out or both. The cops in Cracktown are pretty nice and mellow guys without an ounce of dickhead in them, which is probably why crack and crime runs rampant here.

So back to Illeana Douglas and Asshole Chef from Dinner Rush. They go around town looking to score while leaving two kids to fend for themselves in their rundown, roach-infested apartment. The older son has to go out and beg for change to feed his little sister, and when Mom and Boyfriend come back and find out, the first thing these jonesing motherfuckers ask him is if he has any money left. That's the kind of parenting we're dealing with here. What makes it even more sad is that the mom has moments of displaying honest-to-goodness love and concern to her children, but then here comes Asshole Chef from Dinner Rush with a fresh hit of crack to bring her back to the City of I-Could-Give-A-Shit-About-My-Kids-It's-All-About-Meeee (current mayor: Joe Jackson).

The husband and wife played by Shannyn Sossamon and Some Latino Dude, on the other hand, give a plentiful amount of shits about their baby. She's busy being a good mommy and he's busy working two jobs and studying for his GED so they can get the fuck out of Cracktown. I mean, it's really gotta suck to live in Cracktown when you don't even do crack. That's like living in Las Vegas and not gambling or living in Aspen and not skiing or living in Boston and not hating black people. I had to hit the Mute button and read the closed captions for half of their scenes, though, because baby boy Ramon is like one of those babies from the Godfather movies, this little motherfucker is crying 24/7. Part of Sossamon & Latino Dude's story involves them getting despondent over this kid not shutting the fuck up, and I understand this, but I hear enough at that shit at Target, Walmart, movie theaters, restaurants, airplanes, outdoors, indoors, everywhere on this goddamn planet, that I will fuckin' exercise the shit out of that Mute button on my remote, tout de fuckin' suite.

In Cracktown, chicks with dicks look like Kerry Washington aka Bill Maher's Fantasy from Lakeview Terrace. She plays a transgender person with a boyfriend who digs her/him/it, even though he might not necessarily be into the same sex. Think about that; here's a straight dude who fell in love with this shemale, even though he was pretty sure he was into chicks. I mean, it's still very much like a chick, it looks like a chick and talks like a chick, and he really enjoys its company, but there's that limp and flaccid barrier between its legs that puts a damper on the whole relationship. Personally, I would tell the guy that as long as her dick isn't bigger than his, he should just chill the fuck out and love that thing till the day they die.

People in desperate situations do fucked up things, the movie seems to be telling us, some are more fucked up than others but there are no real evil villains, just painfully misguided motherfuckers. Doesn't mean you should feel sorry for them, just understand why they are the way they are. I was able to roll with that for a while, but there's one character with whom it was very fuckin' tough to do that with, and that's the character of Romeo. He's played by some dude named Evan Ross, and this motherfucker I thought they pulled from the streets. Turns out he's the son of Diana Ross and a Norwegian shipping magnate. You wouldn't know it from the performance he gives here.

Jesus, what a fucking scumbag this Romeo is! Again, the movie isn't asking us to feel sorry for the dude (at least I hope it's not), just understand why he is the way he is. We're told that his kid brother was a recent victim of street violence, so that shit may have amped up his bad behavior, but I doubt it was that big a difference. This fuckin' piece-of-shit prowls the streets with his punk-ass crew, robbing, raping, terrorizing old retirees for their social security checks, horrific shit like that. I know this would be entirely unrealistic, but holy shit, I was hoping that Charles Bronson would eventually step in and introduce this cocksucker to his friend Wildey. That would've made Life is Hot in Cracktown the greatest movie ever made, as opposed to the merely good flick it is.

I'm not kidding about the dirty clothes and faces though, and since I never grew up in Cracktown, I can't say with any certainty whether that was some overdone theatrical bullshit or the Real Thing. That was distracting, as well as recognizing the familiar faces in some of the roles. I understand that if the filmmakers didn't get people like Lara Flynn Boyle and Superman '06 to play whores and junkies, this shit never would've gotten financed, but it's still a problem that sometimes took me out of the movie. It's like if the movie Kids kept the same cast but now Leonardo DiCaprio is playing Casper and the cab driver is played by Samuel L. Jackson. It's a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't situation, and I hate to pull this armchair filmmaker shit (and what the fuck do I know about making movies?), but I think they were better off sticking to unknowns for the cast. Except for the RZA, because that guy rules and should be in every movie, even Julie & Julia.

The movie was written and directed by Buddy Giovinazzo, who came onto the scene back in the 80's with Combat Shock (aka American Nightmares), distributed by Troma, and the way they sold THAT movie, I thought I was in for a fun, trashy Deadbeat at Dawn type of flick. That was not the case at all. It was harsh, bleak, and depressing as fuck -- so it should be no surprise that the dude has a big following in Germany. But it was still a good movie, definitely not for everyone, and worth it for those that can hang. And I guess that's what you can say about Cracktown as well, except it's not nearly as hopeless and potentially suicide-inducing as Combat Shock was, and that's either a good thing or bad thing, depending on your state of mind. The toughest scene to watch in Cracktown is the very first one (a damn near unwatchable rape scene that's even longer in the director's cut), but if you can get past that, the rest is a smooth ride in comparison.

Life is Hot in Cracktown feels very Hubert Selby Jr-esque, and while it sure as shit ain't Requiem for a Dream, it's still a darker, grittier flick than most of what's come out this year. I don't know how it compares to Last Exit to Brooklyn, though, because I haven't seen that shit, I've only read the book. I know it might be hard to believe based on my terribly written ramblings, but I read. Anyway, I liked this movie and I was left hanging and wanting to see more when it ended, which I guess makes it pretty fucking good by my scale, right? I don't know, I'm fucking buzzed right now and my word can't be counted on for shit.