Friday, July 20, 2012


I woke up this morning thinking about how I was going to see TDKR in a couple hours and that it would be a good day. Then I read the news and felt like I'd been hit by a truck. I couldn't believe what I was reading. Throughout the day, the more I heard about the tragedy in Aurora, CO, the more anger & sadness I felt. The events of last night have stirred me more than any other similar event in the past; keep in mind I was in high school during Columbine. It resonates in me because for all intents & purpose, I could have been in that theater.

As a devout cinephile, I spend plenty of time (often by myself) in movie theaters. Just this week alone, I went to four different theaters to see a film. I spend more time in theaters than most people do in church or their local bar. You see for me, the theater is my sanctuary because film is my passion. There's nothing in this world I enjoy more than watching a film. The theater is my place to find peace and for some worthless piece of shit to contaminate that makes me utterly sick to my stomach. Most people go to the movies to escape. I go to the movies to connect, to connect with different ideas & emotions, to connect with art, and to share thoughts with people who have similar interests.

It's really belittling to say, "oh it's just a movie." No one that waits in line for a midnight screening is "just seeing a movie." These people spent nearly a year looking forward to this event. They purchased tickets months in advance and waited patiently in line for hours in anticipation. For someone to destroy that joy is just gut wrenching. Badass Digest pointed out that these victims are our kin. They are people like you & me who love going to movies. They are our community and need to be remembered & honored.

I don't want to give the piece of shit responsible for this senseless act any recognition. I don't care to know anything about him or why he did this. Absolutely no explanation is reason enough for destroying so many innocent lives. I won't stop going to movie theaters and neither should you. No one stopped going to school, malls, Luby's, or McDonalds after tragedy affected those places in the past. This vile piece of shit is NOT gonna take away what I love. He does not get that satisfaction.

It's cliched to talk about how precious life is, but we should always live like it is. Let this be a reminder to not take anything for granted.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises

I’m not going to call out SPOILER ALERT because there is nothing in this film the average fanboy/girl did not already know about (myself included). So I was fortunate enough to see THE DARK KNIGHT RISES two days prior to its release at a special screening at The Bob Bullock Texas History Museum. Special thanks to Chris P for hooking me up with a ticket. I have never seen a film in IMAX and it was truly a remarkable experience. I wanted to reach out and touch the screen; it was so close and encompassing. Over an hour of the film was specifically shot in IMAX. You never really noticed the scenes that weren’t IMAX which was amazing. The cinematography is just sensational! I really wanted to like this film and for the most part I do. I have a love hate relationship with Nolan, but I am interested to see what he does next. I made it a point going into this film to not judge it by continuity, but by the actual nature of the film. On the surface, it’s a really good film. There are some truly amazing actors (Oldman, Cotillard, Bale, and JGL), it’s visually stunning, and the story fairs well. Now to the meat of the matter: I don’t necessarily think this is a film strictly about Batman or his rumored demise. I think Nolan is trying desperately to make a statement about the socio-economic climate in the US which is an interesting concept coming from an English fellow. Keep in mind this film started shooting a little more than a year ago when the Occupy Movement really started gaining momentum. We had already seen the stock market crash (which is a huge plot in the film) and bank bailouts take place. In the film, the key phrase is, “there’s a storm coming.” All across the world, there really was a storm approaching. As much as this film highlights these events, it also misses the mark at times with dialogue that can be construed as a bit trite. So what happens when the 99% take back what’s there’s? According to Nolan, pure anarchy ensues. This is where I disagree; you cannot divide the world into two categories: good guy/bad guy. People are a lot more complex than this. Wherever your opinion stands on the Occupy Movement, there are a million other presumptions about it. Like Nolan’s assessment, they should all be taken with a grain of salt.
Batman was always my favorite superhero as a kid. I still think he’s the most important and powerful superhero. He isn’t a mutant, alien, lab rat, freak, or science experiment gone array. He’s a regular ass dude who by his own will becomes extraordinary. Obviously, regular ass dudes are not generally billionaires, but that’s a whole other story. All the same, Batman gave regular ass kids (like me) something to believe in: themselves. Anyone & everyone could be exceptional and that power only exists within you. I think Christian Bale really captures this theme. He does a phenomenal job of encompassing Batman’s complexity. In this storyline, Batman is supposed to be 55yrs old and retired. I guess adding a couple gray streaks to Bale’s hair are supposed to achieve this. My only complaint with this performance is the lovelorn pining he does throughout the trilogy. The real Batman would never let this weakness consume him. It’s lonely being a superhero, but that’s all part of the job.
I’m not going to rant about Bland Hathaway. Obviously, I was disappointed in this casting choice. She wasn’t as bad as I expected, but her breathy purr got a little annoying at times. I was also disappointed in the Juno Temple character (Holly Robinson) because it was completely misplaced and unnecessary. I love Juno Temple and really feel like she’s going to do big things soon, but this was definitely a waste of time for her. I also didn’t really feel the chemistry between Bland & Bale, not like with Keaton & Pfeiffer.
Marion Cotillard was great as Talia al Ghul. It was no surprise to me that the Miranda Tate character was really Talia; IMDB had already cast the child version of Talia who looked remarkably like Cotillard so that wasn’t too hard to figure out. In the comic book, Talia is also a very complex character, often times blurring the lines between hero & villain. Having grown up with the League of Assassins and a father like Ra’s al Ghul, she has an affinity for the criminal life. But, falling in love with Batman has pulled her in another direction. Later on we see Talia become the baby mama of Batman. We also see their son, Damien, become Red Robin.
I’m a little indifferent towards the Bane character, not to disregard Tom Hardy (he’s a wonderful actor). They really could have brought a little more savagery to the character. I realize the reason they chose not to was to keep a PG rating. We must remember that Bane is Batman’s mortal enemy. Their showdown could have been a lot fiercer; this is the character that literally breaks Batman! I think Bane is the most dangerous villain in the Batman universe following the Joker. My initial thought was that the fight scenes between Bane & Batman were a lot tamer than Rocky v. Drago/ Drago v. Apollo. I also wish there were subtitles because I couldn’t understand a fucking thing Bane said.
Some added touches I loved in the film include the Scarecrow cameo. Cillian Murphy did such a fantastic job in that role; it was great to see him back for a brief moment. Also, one of the orphan kids was supposed to be Tim Drake. Drake later becomes Robin as well in the comic book. Gary Oldman is great as always; he can do no wrong and neither can Commissioner Gordon. I was always a bigger fan of Michael Gough’s Alfred, but Michael Cain really got me this time. His climatic scene was probably the most moving thing in the entire film. Nolan always said he would never include Robin in his trilogy. Bale even said he wouldn’t do the movies if there was a Robin. Why is everyone so averse to Robin? Robin is an incredible character! I think it’s because Schumacher turned Robin into an irresponsible frat boy which couldn’t be further from the truth. I really wanted Robin in this film because he’s a pivotal part of the story. Initially, Batman enlists Azrael to take over following his near fatal battle with Bane. This causes a huge rift between the dynamic duo. Robin resents Batman for overlooking him. What Robin doesn’t realize is that Batman only wanted to protect Robin and deter him from taking on Bane himself. Even before I knew JGL was cast in the film, I thought he’d make a great Robin. Nolan quickly dispelled that rumor. Then I saw the very first trailer released with the football scene. The message boards pointed out that a particular fan sign in the stadium spelling out R-O-G-U-E-S (the fictional Gotham City football team), the "R" just happened to be in the same font as the Robin comic book. Sometimes such conspiracy theories turn out to be true. The more I thought about it, the more I realized JGL had to be Robin! The scene where he reveals his “real” name is none too subtle. He should have used one of the other aliases like Jason Todd, but then no one would have known who that is.
I still think the Burton Batman films are the best. Burton brought the darkness back to the bat. Prior to this, Batman was very kitschy (not to disrespect Adam West). Even Caesar Romero’s Joker was a little more comical than and nowhere near as menacing as Nicholson. Nicholson really brought out the sinister side of the Joker. And if you read the comic books, the Joker has done a lot more fucked up things than shove a pencil through some guy’s head. I’ve said before that I do not appreciate Ledger’s performance so I won’t get into it again. It’s just so hard to condense years (literally) worth of story into one film which is why TDKR is almost 3 hrs long. Keep in mind that Nolan’s trilogy is basically the Cliffs Notes to the Knightfall & No Man’s Land storyline. I’ve read some of the negative reviews and I am not really surprised. There are only two kinds of people who watch this film: the ones who read comic books & the ones who do not. Remember that Nolan wanted to make a film for both audiences so it is impossible to make everyone happy. Overall, TDKR is an enjoyable film. It may not be totally accurate, but nothing is without flaws (except Tarantino). Yes, they leave the door open for someone else to pick up the franchise but what do you expect? Nolan did what he could with what he had. Would you prefer to have Zack Snyder or Brett Ratner direct? Or god forbid another Schumacher train wreck! This trilogy showed me that it’s possible to separate yourself from a film and still have fun watching it. If anything, TDKR made me want to go back and buy all the seasons of the Animated Series from the early 90s. I’m certain this trilogy will inspire a whole new generation of Batman fans just like the Burton ones did for me. My only hope is that it also inspires people to dive into the rich history of Batman through the comic books. After all, everyone needs something to believe in.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Raisin Arizona

Recently, I embarked on a road trip to the great state of Arizona. Armed with my SPF 30 moisturizer and documents proving I am a US citizen, we headed west. Ross’ family lives in Tucson, so we usually try to visit once a year. The sad truth is that it’s not that much hotter in AZ than it is in TX. It rained a few days when we got it which was absolutely lovely. Desert rain is truly enchanting. Of course we stopped at The Thing to pick up my all time favorite pistachio nuts. To my surprise, I got a call from Visa Fraud Protection asking if I was really buying $40 worth of nuts in New Mexico. I appreciate them looking out for me, but I do not appreciate being judged.
This also marked Spike’s first major road trip. Until recently, he had only traveled to South Texas and back. Spike was such a well behaved pooch. Poor Spike, he was incredibly confused by the desert terrain. He couldn’t find a patch of grass to poop on and had no idea what was going on with the gravel. He was also terrified of the doggie door at his grandparent’s house. He had a great time playing with his cousins.
We visited a couple comic book shops (none of which compare to Austin Books), antique malls, and of course Eegee’s where I indulged in the legendary teagee & ranch fries. At one particular antique mall, there was an entire booth devoted to religious artifacts. I’m pretty fascinated by religious memorabilia to begin with so imagine my delight when I set eyes of this giant bust of Pope John Paul II. We had a lovely Fourth of July with our dear friends Kevin & Daniara. They always have unbelievably delicious vegan treats. Maybe I can finally convince them to move to Austin so we can brunch it up and hunt for corgis on a regular basis.
I also visited The Loft Cinema which is Tucson’s answer to The Alamo Drafthouse. There are doing this summer series of “movie bad girls” with a bunch of classic films starring Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, and Ann-Margaret. We got to see STRAIT-JACKET which was really fun. I felt a bit of sadness because The Loft reminded me of how the Alamo used to be in the old days on 4th & Colorado St. Before everyone was talking about the Magnited States, it was our own little secret here in Austin. Back when we had the QT Fest, Fulci Fest, and Spike & Mike. A time before a bucket of Lone Star cost $21.50 and a couple potato skins cost $9. I’ve always loved and supported the Alamo, but lately I feel like our relationship has become severely strained. In recent months, they raised ticket prices and food/beverage prices. At The Loft, you can still get a bag of popcorn for $3 and if you’re a member, it’s always free. I read a lot more about the membership benefits to The Loft. The lowest tier is $50 a year and you get special pricing, occasional free tickets, and ALWAYS free popcorn! I often spend $50 on two trips to the Alamo. How come The Alamo never did anything like this? Because they’re too busy being greedy capitalists with their bourgeois priority seating. Guess what Alamo? There’s no priority seating at The Loft! Everyone is an equal, there’s no silly class distinction! Not to sound like a total ingrate, the Alamo is truly an amazing place. And now with their well known reputation, it has afforded them the ability to draw in bigger events and special guests which I appreciate. I just sometimes wish it was back to being my little theater that catered to true film fans. I really feel like they’re too focused on appealing to fans on a wider scale, like people who see MAGIC MIKE or ONE FOR THE MONEY. The old Alamo would have never screened something like THAT’S MY BOY, but they did at the Ritz. I’m just glad that places like The Loft exist around the country. The world needs a little variety.
We also spent a day in Phoenix. We had some truly amazing Mexican food at a place called La Condesa. They had a delectable salsa bar that had about fourteen different salsas ranging from pecan salsa to strawberry salsa. Every one that I tried was tasty. We also got to visit Lulubell Toy Bodega in Tempe. They have a lot of Japanese Kaiju toys. This place is a mecca for serious vinyl toy collectors. I was only hoping to see their infamous pug Winston, but apparently he was off work that day. The highlight of my trip was visiting Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Farm. It's right off the highway between Tucson and Phoenix. They had donkeys, deer, goats, ostrich, ducks, and lorikeets that you can all feed. Ross got bit by a donkey and one of the ostrich (barps) almost took off my pinkie finger. All the animals are super cute and fun, but be careful not to get bit. I told Ross to help me get this lorikeet off my head before he pooped on me and he just said, "wait let me take a picture first." Thanks a lot Turkey.
I always make a point to stop by Bookmans in Tucson. They have several stores around AZ and are the equivalent of Half Priced Books in TX. I think Bookmans is a bit more reasonably priced and they have a wider selection of other media. I picked up three books for $8 a piece which probably would have cost $12-14 each at Half Priced. Their selection also hasn’t been picked over by Hyde Park hipsters looking to decorate their brand new IKEA shelving. The best pick of the week for me was this one of a kind Justin Timberlake action figure (doll) from the “Bye Bye Bye” era.
We really had a lovely time in AZ as always. It really is nice to get away sometimes, but it’s even nicer to be home.

Monday, July 2, 2012


I didn't see this film in the theater because I had a bad feeling about it. Once again, my gut was right. We went to a special screening of WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER last year with Joe Lo Truglio and he mentioned this film that David Wain wrote. He said he was playing a nudist at this hippy commune. I wasn't sure what to make of it. The State people are probably the funniest group of comedians I have ever seen. Most of the time their films are gold, i.e. THE BAXTER, ROLE MODELS, and THE TEN. Unfortunately, this film did not measure up to any of those films. I really hope this next project (THEY CAME TOGETHER) Wain is working on turns out better. WANDERLUST is filled with asinine jokes that totally miss the mark. This was the only funny part: I'm just gonna go ahead and say it: Jennifer Aniston was the weakest link in this film. I've only seem a couple films in which she starred and she's the same character in each. The attractive yet sardonic love interest. She played the same character in OFFICE SPACE and LEPRECHAUN. It was very obvious that she was the odd man out in this otherwise incredible cast. It also pains me to think that as a result of this shitty movie, Aniston developed a relationship with the beloved Justin Theroux. I generally try to avoid actors/directors personal lives. However, while researching various films, I tend to come across a lot of this fodder. I've been a big fan of Theroux since MULHOLLAND DRIVE so I have developed an affinity for him that supersedes other actors (he's no Gary Oldman though) I enjoy. He was an accomplished writer long before Aniston came along. I just can't support an artist who built their name on a haircut (a very bad haircut at that).