Friday, February 6, 2015

Cider & Movies

Good Afternoon Ladies & Gentlemen,
So a week or so ago, I watched a movie & completely forgot to tell you about it… because I feel like I already did. The movie is called “Brick Mansions” and is probably most famous for being the final film of actor Paul Walker (“Fast & Furious” franchise, “Into The Blue” & a bunch of other stuff you forgot he was in like “Timeline”, “Eight Below”, “The Skulls”, “Joy Ride” & even the timeless classic “She’s All That”). The reason that I felt like I already reviewed this movie… was because I did. The movie is an almost exact remake of the “French” action movie from the mind of director Luc Besson “District B13”. Basically that movie that was a reason for parkour with explosions? You remember, right? There was even the sequel “B13: Ultimatum” that I think I was the only one in America that watched. The story is set in the not-too-distant future Detroit where due to… I guess Detroit being Detroit, they separate a really rough part of the city off behind giant containment walls… but somehow, a crime lord (THE RZA!!!) gets a hold of a few nuclear weapons… and it’s up to an undercover cop (Walker) & some random decent dude who happens to be a be a badass parkour enthusiast (David Belle from the original movies) to save the city… and of course the eye candy girlfriend Lola (Catalina Denis). Look… if you’re looking for plot… look elsewhere, but there’s plenty of jumping from roof-to-roof, using the existing environment to make getaways, implausibly bad shooters, explosions, all that jazz that you look for in an action movie when you just want to shut it off. The acting… eh… the important thing is that they’re pretty… and not completely horrible (well, some of them). All the staple characters are there… nothing really that interesting or distinctive… but kudos to the fight / stunt coordinator for putting it all together. You can also watch the two original movies… but then again, they don’t have Paul Walker. RIP homey…
Sunday night, Izzy & I watched a comedy on Netflix called “In A World…” written by, directed & starring Lake Bell (“Children’s Hospital”). It’s about a voice coach (Bell) who is the daughter of one of the most prolific movie trailer narrators in cinema history (Fred Melamed) but when he’s thinking about retiring the Golden Pipes… she wants to step into the limelight… but there’s some stiff competition from her father& his arrogant protégé (Ken Marino). Basically it’s a bit of a “coming of age” movie for a young lady who hadn’t done much… but now wants to be a pioneer for women in an industry that has never really had them. Is it “Norma Rae” with baritones? Not at all… but it’s pretty damn funny and there’s a great cast of comedians like Nick Offerman, Rob Corddry, Demetri Martin, Tig Notaro, even cameos from “real actors” like Jason O’Mara, Geena Davis, Cameron Diaz & Jeff Garlin. I’d say check it out… but you’ll see why it didn’t get a big release in theatres. It has that in-betweener tone of “Is it a rockus comedy? A statement against sexism in any industry? A stirring family emotional relationship pic?” but overall it’s a good 90 minutes with some great jokes… and you’ll be trying out your own movie announcer voice. Guaranteed.
Wednesday night, Izzy & I watched a flick that… oddly enough, was the last movie that my dad saw in movie theatres a few months back & he raved about… and of course I’m talking about “John Wick” starring Keanu Reeves and a pretty decent cast including Willem Dafoe, Ian McShane, Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen, Adrianne Palicki, Lance Reddick and a few cameos from John Leguizamo & Bridget Moynahan… and the director is primarily a stunt coordinator for movies like “The Matrix”, “300” and such making his debut (Chad Stahelski). The plot is about an ex-hitman John (Keanu) who has recently lost his wife (to Disney disease?) and is grieving… when he receives an odd package a few days later… apparently his wife sent a puppy-gram with a note saying that he would need somebody to love… and so she left him a beagle. Side note: If this is a real thing… then you should all of my enemies must fear getting animals if I pass in an untimely manner. It sounds horrible to me. Arrangements are being made. Anyway, after… maybe a day of having this puppy, he’s out filling up his ’69 Mustang at the gas station… when that prick from “Game of Thrones” (Alfie Allen) as a Russian stooge comes up and ask him how much for the car. It’s not for sale. Well, later that night, he breaks into John’s house… jumps him with the help of a few other goons… and basically steals the car & kills his puppy. There’s only one problem though… he’s John f**king Wick!!! The Ultimate Hitman (which apparently this son of a Russian arms dealer/druglord doesn’t know for some reason) and so then… (quick, deep breaths) RAMPAAAAAAGE!!! For the record, this is a total guy movie… and I f**king loved it simply on the premise when my dad told me about it. That being said… here’s the breakdown:
What I Liked:
·         The Premise – It’s awesome in its simplicity. This guy got out of the Hitman game, had a normal happy life… and then somebody took it from him (may be some transpositioning involved with the wife’s death & the puppy being so close, but the puppy was his wife’s last wish/gift for him), now it turns into a simple revenge film. He has nothing to live for… but to kill those you wronged him. I’m also totally down with the antihero with really no backstory other than “He’s John Wick!!! You don’t know? He’s like… the perfect killing machine. You’re all dead!” Just this legendary, seemingly impossibly proficient hitman… and you’re like “There’s no way anybody’s THAT good in real life… but then again… this is an action movie. Let’s watch!” I think I mentioned my infatuation with vague characters in the Buddy Revell issue last time… but yeah, Man wants Vengeance. Done.
·         Perfect Role for Keanu – Look, it has been said over & over again… if you need an emotionless character that’s decent looking & athletic, the role has to go to Keanu. Whether it’s the Matrix, Day the Earth Stood Still, whatever else… his best roles are when he’s basically a cold, calculating, systematic, robotic shell of a human being… and that’s basically this role. Yes, there are a few scenes where he kind of breaks down a little & gets furious… but for the most part, with this being a rampage/vengeance movie, 95% of his screen time is just him speaking monotonically & every movement is precise & exact.
·         The Continental – While he prepares for his vengeance, John Wick checks into a hotel called The Continental… which basically is like a Sanctuary for Hitmen. All of the biggest badasses stay there in an environment where the Code says that they can’t be attacked by others & their wishes and needs are met by an eager & understanding hotel staff. Need help cleaning up a dead body? “We’ll send housekeeping.” Grotto filled with hot chicks? “Any preferred ethnicity?” Somebody broke the rules? “We’ll take care of it sir.” Medical attention for a few bullet holes in your abdomen? “I’ll send the doctor to your room. Might I also recommend something for the pain? Whiskey perhaps?” Basically, I just LOVE the idea of this hotel… and frankly I almost thought this movie was based on a graphic novel or something a la Sin City since there’s SO much potential for other stories involving the other characters & hitmen in this one location. Sh*t, I’m curious how the guy at the front desk (Reddick) got to that position. I’m sure it wasn’t your typical interview process. He’s seen some sh*t before that gig.
·         The Action – Your attention is kept throughout the movie… between all of the fight scenes, even the stuff in between is to the point and keep you watching the screen. There’s no real lulls, which is always good. The fight scenes though… basically they’re greatly choreographed & it’s basically like watching a kung fu movie… but with guns instead of punches most of the time. By the way, the movie is rated R… so leave the kiddies away from this one.
What I Didn’t Like:
·         The Music – Now, one thing my dad loved about this movie was the music… and I didn’t particularly care for it. Some of it is really fitting and nice… but there was one song in particular that pops up a few times… great baseline & instrumental in general… but then there’s this super loud, repetitive droning called singing by Marilyn Manson (and I’m actually a bit of a fan) for lyrics like “We got guns (repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat) you better run (repeat, repeat, repeat) We’re killing strangers (repeat, repeat) so we don’t kill the ones that we love” and repeat that sequences a few more times. The lyrics have some meaning and all… and I get that… but it’s just very abrasive to the ears. Whatever, I’m sure the soundtrack sold millions and I’m just an old man…
·         Lack of Establishing Character Traits – “$teve, this is bullsh*t. You JUST SAID that you’re okay with characters without a real backstory or that are shown in the film!” Yes, I did. I’m going to sum up the first few minutes of this movie… well, the flashback portion, since the whole movie is basically a flashback, but that’s its own thing… you see John and he has sudden quick flashbacks (yes, within the flashback) of him & his wife… and you can tell that she’s dead because it’s dark & grim but the flashbacks are super bright & sunny for the most part. Anyway, it’s very quick… and basically you’re sitting there thinking like “…wait… was she shot in the head by a sniper? No? She just fell? Okay… oh… she’s dead… okay… wait… that’s it? We didn’t even get to see them share a real moment? Conversation? How do I know that John Wick is even a decent guy that I should be rooting for later on? He may be the world’s most cold-hearted killer & his basement may be full of teenage girls in chains. I don’t know… all I do know from the previews is that he’ll kill anybody for money. Period. Oh… and he’s facial hair Keanu.” Then there’s the puppy sent by courier… “Okay… weird film wish from… what I assume was a mentally unstable dead wife?” and then after… I think like 18 hours with this puppy… maybe a full day… regardless I don’t even think the puppy had its own bowl yet… how are we supposed to know that he developed any kind of real bond with the puppy? Because he let it sleep in the bed with him for about an hour before it was killed? Okay… it’s the wife’s present to him… I get that… but still, should I be rooting for this guy? Or is it just him grieving by deciding “Well… guess I’m going to take down the entire Russian Mafia by myself now. Best case I win… worst-case, I’m killed & don’t have to grieve anymore, reunited with my wife & all that jazz.” That angle of the movie really caught me weird… and I’m just NOW realizing the weird parable between that angle & my dad’s love for it shortly before his own death. I don’t know… it’s weird… and a little quirky… but maybe I’m just overthinking that part & should just keep it to “They stole his car… they killed his puppy… John Wick is Vengeance! Up’ns will come!!!” So yeah, not a huge thing… but just a little thing…
Overall: If you like action movies, go see it! It’s better than you probably think!
Thursday, I had the day off… you know, because reasons… so Izzy & I decided to FINALLY start up brewing another quick gallon batch of Cider using some fresh-squeezed apple juice that we got during our adventure to the Redlands when we visited her mom… and then of course added the other ingredients (about a third of a cup of brown sugar and a cinnamon stick) heated up to kill any possible contaminants… and then added the yeast once they were in two separate jugs. The reason for splitting them is because if we put the full gallon in ONE gallon jug… then there’s no room for yeast bubbling action to occur… and that’d be unfortunate. Besides… we now have FIVE single gallon jugs for our experiments with this recent Redlands jug purchase… so more experiments are surely on the way. Here are some pictures…

Speaking of pictures, some of Izzy’s Art is up for sale on her Etsy site (Untidy Venus)… they’re individually drawn originals, about two inches by three inches I think… and only five bucks a pop… and as you can see, they’re super f**king cute!!!
Starting tonight… SF BEEEEER WEEEEEEEEEK!!! That special week every year when the whole Bay Area gets Drunky McDrunkerton all over the place on special release craft beers & the like at nearly every single bar, every single day of the week (and another weekend). Izzy & I have a pretty full schedule too… but it’s on a fairly frugal dime… but more on that later. In the meantime, have a great weekend everybody & I’ll update you when I can!!! Please drink responsibly…

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