Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Not My President, Again

Not My President, again. You know, I really really wanted to post my Spider-Man: Homecoming review today, or talk about the cool Valerian or Captain Canuck animations I found online, or even the new Coke Zero, but then something happened that simply enraged me. You guessed it, it has to do with the Orange Hobgoblin.

The monster Trump, who cannot be stopped from Tweeting just as a liar cannot stop lying, Tweeted some horrific stuff this morning. And as many in the media fear, his Tweets are soon to become policy. His target this morning was the transgender community, despite his Tweets before the election (which he still whines about winning, eight months later) that indicated he would support the LGBTQ community and fight for them.

His Tweets this morning indicate 'a military decision' despite 15,000 transgender individuals already serving in the US military, and calls them a burden. That doesn't sound like supporting or fighting for them, that sounds like targeting them and discriminating against them. And while this stinks of a diversionary tactic to steal focus from the Russian investigations, and discord within his administration and even his own family, he's still doing it, and it's very real.

Already former allies are turning against Trump, like Caitlyn Jenner, and transgendered soldiers are speaking up as well, like Navy SEAL hero Kristin Beck. Questions at a White House Press Conference earlier today were casually deflected as if unimportant, like will the transgendered currently in the military be pulled from their positions, their jobs, their combat operations. There is no plan, only Trump's discrimination, betrayal, and Tweets.

Later, Trump addressed the American Legion Boys Nation and Auxiliary Girls Nation at the White House. He spoke of loyalty, something he betrayed some Americans earlier, and while he didn't tell any salacious stories as he did yesterday with the Boy Scouts, he did tell the children they should pursue their dreams, and all I could think was as long as they're not transgender and want to serve their country. I imagined transgender children in that audience crying silently.

At the end of his speech a reporter yelled out a question about Trump's policy on transgenders in the military, to which he called her "rude." A chill ran down my spine as he spurred the children to start chanting "USA USA." Surely I'm not the only one who wondered about the youth there and what they would be like as adults. I also wondered what happened to the 'rude' reporter. Was she roughly escorted out like the dissenters verbally threatened at his election rallies? I can only fear that today's 'rude' is tomorrow's criminal. Freedom of speech? What's that?

Back on topic, to a point. My friends in the LGBQT community are among the bravest and strongest people I know, and if they want to serve in the military, they should be able to. Strength is important for that gig. I don't have it. Those targeted today do.

For most of the first two decades of my life I was bullied, from roughly fourth grade right through to senior year, and for most of that time the epithet of choice was 'faggot.' I'm not gay, but it didn't stop the constant verbal abuse, getting beaten up almost every day, and whenever I hear someone say that anything other than heterosexuality is a lifestyle choice, I get angry. No one would choose that. I still have emotional and physical scars to prove it. And it comes back to strength. To be LGBTQ and out is the bravest choice of all, and only the strong can do it, and there is no one else I'd rather have defending me and my country.

Now we have a bully president, just like the monsters I encountered in school, and he has to be stopped. Today he stabbed his transgender supporters in the back, will you be next?

Please join and/or donate to ACLU, vote, or register to vote if you haven't already, support People for the American Way, Human Rights Campaign, Planned Parenthood, Lambda Legal, and Public Television.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Quickies 7-25-2017

Zoolander 2 ~ I hated Zoolander or at least I remember hating Zoolander.  Now I think I might want to give it a serious re-watch.  My mind on the subject has been changed.  Seeing the sequel, Zoolander 2, I understood what was being gone for. Just sit back, relax, and enjoy the stupidity. While before I thought I was looking at a bad "Saturday Night Live" sketch that had gone on far too long, this time, I got the camp, and I saw the superhero parallels, at least in the sequel, and kinda loved it. And if nothing else, the opening gave me new respect for Justin Bieber, and that's saying a lot.

The BFG ~ This film adaptation of a Roald Dahl story is fun, but not as interesting as his other stuff, until they get to the giant meeting the Queen of England, and then it's great. Great fantasy that becomes great funny on a Monty Python scale. The kids will like it more than you will, but they won't get half the jokes. Fun for a rental.

The Wedding Planner ~ One of the terrible things about being in the hospital is that you will watch anything, because sometimes you either can't move or can't find the TV remote to change the channel. When this simple rom-com came on one night, I thought I was in for two hours of hell, but it wasn't half-bad. Predictable from start to finish, but I have to say I quite enjoyed this one… or maybe the IV was just full of good drugs.

Frankenhooker ~ I loved this movie when it first came out, thought it was hilarious, and bought the videotape when it came out. When I worked in a video store, I would push the button on the movie box when I walked by, and it would say, "Wanna date?" and "Got any money?" Hilarious. I saw it recently, the story of a deranged young man who brings his girlfriend back to life using body parts from dead chopped up prostitutes, and I'm sad to say – either I've grown up, or it doesn't hold up at all. I still think the talking box is funny though.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets ~ I have been waiting for this flick since my brother-in-law hipped me to it several months back.  We're both, as are millions of others, fans of another Luc Bessom film, The Fifth Element, a movie which thematically and visually Valerian resembles.  Based on that, we were psyched, as well we should have been.  This is a stunning film, with two major problems that spoiled it for me.  Still, by all means, you should see this movie.  It's a popcorn blockbuster and a treat for the eyes, and yes, 3-D is recommended if available, I don't say this often, but it’s worth it.

Based on the French/Belgian comic series Valerian and Laureline, and therein lies one of my problems with this flick.  There are two lead protagonists in this film, and yet only the male one gets title billing.  Laureline is just as much a lead and a hero, in some cases a better hero than Valerian, and yet, where is her name in the title?  Besson, and whoever else might be responsible, should have kept to the source material on this one point. 

What aggravates this seemingly small point is that this is Luc Besson, a man who in previous films like Lucy, The Messenger, La Femme Nikita, The Professional, Kiss of the Dragon, and especially The Fifth Element, has presented strong female protagonists in empowered roles. Laureline is still a strong female protagonist, yet relegated to a back seat and no billing in the movie version of the comic in which she at least gets second. Disappointing.

The other problem I have with Valerian is the actor in the titular lead role of this flick, Dane DeHaan.  He is at best a Reggie in a movie that requires an Archie.  And anyone who has seen him in Chronicle or the painful The Amazing Spider-Man 2, knows that his mischievous eyes and sneering grin are far more applicable to villainous roles than heroic.  Often here he comes off as disingenuous or hiding something.  It's just in his face and his manner - I was never able to fully trust him as the hero.  Couple this with the character's less than stellar romantic streak, and he's definitely not your usual white hat. 

And while DeHaan tries earnestly to be the hero he was cast as, Cara Delevingne pulls it off easily as Laureline, despite her previous roles.  She was in the critically acclaimed Paper Towns, and also recently and more notably played the creepy Enchantress from Suicide Squad - or was she just Junie Moon, I forget, either way, both roles were creepy.  And yet, I believe her more as the hero that DeHaan should have been. Also in the mix are Herbie Hancock, Ethan Hawke, and Rihanna shining as a shapeshifting pole dancer.

Don't get me wrong and bunch me in with the other critics who inexplicably didn't like this flick, because I loved it despite the problems I had with it. Valerian is fast-paced, exciting, fun, and visually stunning. The aliens are a spectacular special effects triumph blending Besson's Fifth Element sensibilities with Avatar caliber realism. The story of two federal agents in the future uncovering the mystery of a lost civilization in the future is as refreshing as it is simplistic, and highly watchable.

I had problems, yes, but they didn't affect the wonder and amazement I felt watching this movie. This is top of the line science fiction adventure, and if I'm being honest, I wish recent Star Wars flicks had a bit more of this and were less powered by nostalgia. Valerian is a great flick, recommended.

Friday, July 21, 2017

The Mist

Of late, the work of Stephen King has had a size problem.  The Dark Tower, much anticipated and based on a multi-book series of thousands of pages is being squeezed into a 95-minute film next month.  As bad as that sounds, I'll be the first to admit that it looks very cool and very promising.  And then there's The Mist, one of King's shortest novels or longest short stories (depending on the format in which you originally read it), now a ten-hour mini-series.

"The Mist" premiered on Spike several weeks back, vaguely based on King's novella, if only in concept.  The town is still Bridgeton, there's still a mysterious mist with monstrous creatures within, a mall fills in for the supermarket, and there are still two military suicides from Arrowhead, and a religious zealot old lady doomsayer.  The rest is different. 

New characters, new situations, new interactions, same paranoia, but with an updated sensibility.  The original story is nearly forty years old after all.  The new situations are very CW and pedestrian when all you really want are the monsters in the mist.  I suppose the soap is needed to stretch it into ten hours though. 

Frances Conroy, best known for "Six Feet Under" and "American Horror Story," is the stand out here as the old hippie whose belief in God is shattered by the mist.  Alyssa Sutherland, the supermodel who played one of my favorite characters in "Vikings," Princess Aslaug, sadly proves to be an acting black hole in this contemporary suburban environment. 

The quality and suspense varies from episode to episode.  Now at the mid-point, it has slowed to a crawl.  It does have its moments though.  This series might be better viewed as a binge with your finger on the fast forward button.  Or just read the story and skip the series. 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

RIP Chester Bennington

I had just come out of a movie with my phone off. It's amazing how much one can miss in a mere two hours. I'm not pardoning people who use their cellphones in movies, no way, I think those folks should be jailed, but I'm just saying that sometimes it is stunning how the world can change in two hours. In the two hours today, the news broke that Chester Bennington, lead vocalist of Linkin Park, had taken his own life. As I sat in the car, having just turned my phone on, I was devastated.

I had only just been listening to the band a day or so ago. Linkin Park is one of those acts who may fade from one's memory, but all it takes is a few seconds of any song, and one remembers and realizes what an amazing construct they are. I had heard just a clip of "In the End" the other day, and was soon listening to Hybrid Theory on my laptop on continuous for a bit. They were amazing.

I am old, waaay old, but the emergence of Linkin Park reenergized me in a way that is hard to describe. I've mentioned it here before, but in high school I was the kid who always carried a radio around with me, I was always on top of what was new and 'cool' in music. I had made a promise to myself way back when, that if I got old, I would never lose that. Ah, to be young and naïve.

Sometime in the 1990s however, I did get old, and my interest in new music waned. I figured, oh well, it came with the thinning hair and the crow's feet, just deal with it. Then came a music channel called MTVX. I immediately gravitated toward it, and in its heavy hard rock rotation I found new bands that I connected with - like Papa Roach, Limp Bizkit, Korn, System of a Down, Disturbed, and Linkin Park.

For someone like me who had always liked the hard rock aspects of some rap, Linkin Park's blending of metal with hip hop was a dream come true. I became a big fan. Chester Bennington's melodic howls and lead vocals contrasted with Mike Shinoda's crisp casual raps over a metal tapestry of sound. Yeah, I dug these guys. "Faint," "In the End," and "Bleed It Out" remain my all-time favorites.

Over the years Chester has also worked on side projects such as fronting Dead by Sunrise, and attempting to fill the late Scott Weiland's shoes in Stone Temple Pilots for a couple years, and left shortly before Weiland himself passed. Chester apparently died by his own hand, hanging himself, but details are still forthcoming. He was only 41.