Thursday, January 14, 2016

"Now I have a machine gun. Ho. Ho. Ho."

There is a Hans Gruber-sized hole in my heart today.



It’s hard to overstate the impact that DIE HARD had on me when I first rented the VHS from Safeway in the mid 90s. The movie, John McClane, Hans Gruber, saying "Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker!" to my shithead friends…..all instantly became obsessions of mine and like a fine wine, the movie has only gotten better and better with age. Alan Rickman’s performance is a huge part of why it’s so rewatchable. He chews scenery effortlessly and without making it obvious that he’s hamming it up. His line delivery is slow, enunciated, and precise. Yes, it is plainly obvious that he is an English Shakespearean trained actor playing a German person, but he just. fucking. owns it. His character is complex. He’s not just evil, though he is certainly a bad man, but he is after a specific goal of the Nakatomi fortune and uses brilliant subterfuge to hide this intention only to be undone by a scrappy New York cop in the wrong place at the wrong time. Can’t plan for everything, Hans.



Think of how many action movies you’ve seen since 1989 or so where the plot was basically "Die Hard on a plane/boat/spaceship/national park/white house" and the person playing the villain is like "welp, better channel some Hans fuckin’ Gruber for this role and just go for it." Countless flicks.


As a lifelong action movie devotee, DIE HARD is basically my Sistine Chapel. Yes, there are other equally worthy monuments to violence and excess in cinema, but DIE HARD stands on it's own in an era full of amazing action flicks. A huge part of that movie is now gone and we're all poorer for it. We'll never see another era like the 1980s cinema and we'll never see another Alan Rickman.

REST IN POWER.




Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Accidental Sons

Here's something I wrote in May or June 2012 that I never published because I was embarrassed or something. Not sure. Well, Merry Christmas, I guess? 

About a year ago, my band Envision played the Friday show of Rain Fest 2011 with Trial, Xibalba, Black Breath and bunch of other bands. It was the biggest show attendance-wise we ever played, by a long shot. A few weeks later, we played a sparsely attended basement show in Bellingham with Trees & Stars and Tempest. We haven't played since and I'm pretty certain we won't ever again. And that is perfectly okay.

We tried to get things going again a few times, but it just wasn't happening. Some good show offers popped up, but things just wouldn't line up schedule-wise for someone and instead of it really bothering me like it used to, instead I'd feel relief. That's a pretty clear sign that it's okay to stop. It's better to not force it. I can't remember the last time I picked up my bass.

I can only speak for the rest of the dudes to a certain extent, but we all kind of lost the motivation to play shows at the same time without ever really talking about it until much later. I know I definitely lost the motivation and desire. That deep-dwelling need express myself musically that has driven me to play in bands since I was 16 or so has mostly stopped bothering me. It'll pop up every now and again, though. I'll listen to our record and get really stoked on it for a while, but then it passes.

After my mom died, I fully lost whatever drive I had left to play shows. Then it came back briefly. It felt like I should just do it. I had, well, still have, a lot of anger and frustration and grief to get through and playing music always helped me get through that kind of stuff in the past. It can be therapeutic. My mom always, ALWAYS supported me playing in bands. She always appreciated that I had such a hobby and an outlet, even well into my mid-20s when most people's parents are probably saying things like, "You know, maybe you should stop driving to Bellingham to play a free show for 19-year-olds." She always had my back because she knew there was personal value in it and I am eternally grateful to her for that.

But, it's just not to be. All of that is ultimately irrelevant to whether or not Envision should play again. There's obviously more to the band than just me. Our time has passed and it's okay to let it die. For good. Playing again would feel inauthentic, which is something all of us detest.

The EP we recorded is the best piece of music I've ever been a part of. I'm very, very proud of how it turned out. We played a lot of super fun shows. Getting to know the musically like-minded guys in Mourningside AD and Xibalba and bringing them up to Washington play shows with them is something I'm very thankful for. We played a bunch of shows with our friends in Unrestrained and Not Sorry. Good times were had.

I'm most proud of the fact that we got our shit together in the first place and made the band happen. It took us a while and it's funny that it happened well after we stopped living together up in Bellingham, but it was worth it. We did things right. Getting a van, bringing all our own equipment to our shows, playing short, no bullshit sets...quality over quantity was our over-arching motto, I suppose, and that's how I like to live my life in general.

Keith, Alex, John and ol' Mohtiak. Thanks, guys.

-Eric

Things I enjoyed in 2014

  • Under The Skin
  • Gilmore Girls
  • Louie
  • Blue Ruin
  • Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
  • Interstellar
  • Justified
  • The Returned
  • The Battered Bastards of Baseball
  • Game of Thrones
  • Edge of Tomorrow
  • The X-Files
  • Prince of Darkness
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Wild
  • The 2014 Seattle Mariners 
  • The Weeknd
  • Type O Negative
  • Matthew Akers
  • Jason Molina
  • Future Islands
  • How Did This Get Made?
  • The X-Files Files

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Blockbustin' 2013

Holy crap, it's been nearly a year since I posted here. Awesome. Nice work there, Hoss. Well, I got the bug to write a bit here because over this fine and rainy Memorial Day weekend I saw both "Fast Six" and "Star Trek Into Darkness" and they were both pretty damn awesome. I also saw "Oblivion" a few weeks ago, which I really enjoyed despite of it's utter lack of original ideas.

I've written at length here about how much I tend to enjoy big, dumb Summer blockbuster movies. Last Summer was pretty wild with both "The Avengers" and "The Dark Knight Rises" making buckets of money. This summer is looking a bit more balanced in that not every single big flick is a super hero movie. There's heist movies and lots of sci-fi to go along with all the origin stories and all the intergalactic villains taking turns threatening Earth.

Before I get into some "reviews," a few thoughts after going to matinee showings at a mall theater 2 days in a row:
  • I had no idea so many people aka parents and their screaming offspring go to movies on Sunday afternoon
  • If I have to sit through the preview for "R.I.P.D" again I will literally hunt down Jeff Bridges and punch him in the face
  • Same goes for "Machete Kills" and Robert Rodriguez. Really makes me question myself for ever having liked any of his films in the first place 
  • I hate literally every single thing about the trailer for "World War Z"
  • I'm pretty game for "White House Down" despite it looking terrible. Roland Emmerich rarely steers me wrong, plus my man-crush on Channing Tatum trumps all
  • I saw the "Elysium" trailer for the first time and I got pretty, pretty stoked. I was kinda lukewarm on "District 9" but this looks very promising
  • Kinda stoked for "Man of Steel." And I don't even like Superman. Like at all. All I know is hearing Kevin Costner say, "You ARE my son" to young Clark Kent is just instant tears. Wow
  • That said, I still think "Pacific Rim" is gonna be the best movie of the summer
Okay, onto some reviewin'.

"Star Trek Into Darkness" (2013) dir. J.J. Abrams

I am not a dedicated Trek fan, although I've always enjoyed the Star Trek movies and have been known to dabble in "Star Trek: The Next Generation." It's an incredibly dense and interesting sci-fi franchise more centered on science and exploration as opposed to wars and explosions. So it was really funny when "Lost" wonderboy Abrams came along and more or less turned his version of a Star Trek movie into "Star Wars: A New Hope." It was a quality take on the whole Prodigal Son story line, lots of very emotional stakes at play, and lots of explosions and destruction. "Star Trek Into Darkness" is more of same, but with an even more pronounced connection to everyone's favorite old Star Trek movie, "Star Trek II: Wraith of Khan."

INCOMING SPOILERS, SHIELDS FULL STRENGTH

Seriously, skip this stuff because I went into the movie mostly spoiler free and I'm really glad I did.

I really love how much effort they went to in trying to conceal that this movie was more or less a sideways remake/re-imaginining of Wraith of Khan. I mean in hindsight it was pretty obvious that Cumberbatch was Khan but when he finally said his name, I couldn't help but be like "OHHHHH SHIIIIIT."

I mean, everything happens super fast in this movie so it's kind of hard to appreciate just how enjoyable everything is. The action is amazing. The scene where Kahn takes out a whole gang of Klingons was jaw-dropping. There's a lot of raw emotion on display with some pretty heavy death scenes that give the movie a bit more weight and seriousness, but there's also a good bit of humor and snappy dialogue to keep things moving. It's just a big, well-oiled machine is what I'm trying to say here.

And amidst all the big blockbuster hoopla, there are some interesting themes at play if you dig deep a little bit. The relationship between Spock and Kirk was always one of cold, rational logic versus heated emotions and a desire to break rules when needed. That relationship has been at the core of both of Abrams Star Trek movies and in this one, Spock and Kirk get to trade places in a few ways in comparison to Wraith of Khan.

I will say that my opinion of this movie would be through the roof had Kirk actually stayed dead and hadn't been revived by Khan's super blood. I really wish more action flicks would embrace the fact that it's okay to kill off a big character and have them stay dead. That's life, you know? People die and they don't come back. It gives the story real emotion and weight, and I feel like Star Trek is the kind of franchise that can handle that. Whatever, though, I'll blame Lindlehof for that part. Fuck that guy.

Fast & Furious 6 (2013) dir. Justin Lin

Of all the movie franchises out there, who the hell would have thought back in 2000 that "The Fast and The Furious," a movie obsentisively about rival street racing gangs who also steal stuff, would spawn another 5 movies over the course of the next 10+ years. Well, here we are and now there's 6 of them and the last 2 have been especially fun and awesome.

Fast 6 just gets right back to the ridiculous heist crew action from the latter half of Fast 5, with Dom and company facing off against a bizarro version of his own crew and having to deal with some sort of super hard drive security of the free world device oh who fucking cares. The Rock returns in all his glory, and so does Michelle Rodriguez as Vin's old formerly deceased girlfriend, now actually alive and with convenient amnesia. Anyways, enough boring plot stuff. Stuff explodes, cars (and humans) go flying through the air, Ludacris makes fun of Tyrese, and the world continues to spin. Overall, highly enjoyable popcorn and/or beer crushing fun. I absolutely love these movies.

So yeah, summer time fun time movies. I feel like I've already seen the two best ones of the summer but we shall see.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises (2012) dir. Christopher Nolan

All of the theatrical posters kinda sucked for TDKR and this is sadly the best one, I think.
Spoiler free review!

I knew going into this movie that it would be a bloated, overstuffed mess. A nearly 3 hour super hero movie, are you friggin' kidding me, dude? My expectations were high, but tempered. I was expecting plenty of flaws, but plenty of thrills. At first blush, it's actually less flawed than I was expecting. I'm sure repeated viewings will lead to more head-scratchers, but watching the whole thing unfold for the first time is just an absolute blast. A big ol' thrill ride made even more thrilling in the IMAX format.

One thing I can talk about without getting all spoiler-y is that Nolan basically just completely ignored every major criticism of "The Dark Knight." Most people felt like the third act was too bloated and hectic, tons of people can't stand Bale's glowering Batman voice and lots of people hated the wacky bat cycle wheel spinning trick. Well, Nolan pretty much said "Fuck y'all" and did all those things bigger, bolder and more in your face. The result is a glorious spectacle that I can't wait to watch again.

I mean, the third act goes so far over the top that it comes back around the other side again and you're like, "Oh, okay, I suppose that makes sense?" It's completely mental, but it's also the work of an incredible directer pulling out all the stops and bringing the ruckus like few can. This is why I can forgive many of the details that don't hold up under scrutiny. Like "The Dark Knight," this is an ambitious, risky and emotionally-charged super hero movie. "The Avengers" was good and fun, but lacked any weight or consequence. "The Dark Knight Rises" has real emotional weight and yet manages to keep a sense of humor throughout.

There is one particular criticism about how Nolan portrayed Batman throughout all three movies that holds water for me. There is major difference in how Bruce Wayne/Batman is depicted in the Nolan Batman films and how the character has been written in the comics historically. The most well known, popularized Batman comic canons have him starting off rough and clumsy in his early days as a crime fighter, but then with experience he becomes a world class crime detective and an unstoppable, ass-kicking force of nature.

With Nolan's films, we get plenty of Batman's unsteady beginnings. Even in "The Dark Knight" he's still fucking up left and right, working out the kinks in his bat gadgets and being really moody and stuff, which he has every right to be. But Nolan never makes him out to be this incredibly intelligent and skilled detective that he becomes in the comics. Comic book Batman is constantly analyzing his options and is almost always one or two steps ahead of his opponents. Nolan's Batman is a well-trained fighter and has every ounce of passion in the world for fighting evil, but he's kind of flying by the seat of his pants when it comes to everything else. He relies a lot on his gadgets and comes across as unprepared far too often.

This depiction continues in "The Dark Knight Rises." It makes sense at first because Wayne has gone into seclusion for 8 years, so when he first gets back in the suit he's a bit rusty. But then he just kind of keeps under estimating things and keeps fucking everything up. You know how Batman got completely upstaged by The Joker, and even Harvey Dent and Commissioner Gordon in my opinion, in "The Dark Knight"? Yeah, that totally happens again in TDKR. Bane, Joseph Gordon-Levitt's character, Gordon, old ass teary-eyed Michael Caine and even Anne Hathaway as Catwoman; all of them outshine and upstage Bale's Batman. And it's not even Bale's fault. Bale kills it yet again in every way possible. But, it's almost like Batman isn't the main character of Nolan's Batman movies because there are always so many other things going on all at the same time.

On one hand, it's a much more realistic take on a super hero like Batman, and it definitely melds well with the real world aesthetic that Nolan's version of Gotham City conveys. It's not a deal breaker for me at all, just a very different take on the Batman character when compared to over seven decades worth of comic book canon.

Anyways, go see this on IMAX as soon as you can. I was hoping this movie would be the end-all for super hero movies, and I think when you take the trilogy as a whole, it pretty much is. I think it will be a long while before there's a superior take on the super hero narrative in movies, and as always, I look forward to whatever Nolan comes up with next.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Summer Blockbuster Progress Report Numero Uno

4 words: Come. At. Me. Bro.
  Here we are, smack dab in the middle of July and 4 days away from the release date of "The Dark Knight Rises." I wanted to do a lil' posting of thoughts since I haven't updated for a while now and because HOLY SHIT DKR COMES OUT IN 4 DAYS.

So, I've been trying my damnedest to remain spoiler free for DKR, to the point where I don't even try to watch any trailers...which are fucking everywhere now. Now, I fully realize that my expectations for this movie are way, way too high. Like, I want it to come out and just fucking demolish movies as we know them. I want people to see it and just be like, "Well shit, man, that's pretty much it for super hero movies. Time to find something else to make movies about." Because man, the market flooded for super hero movies and it will continue to be flooded until they stop making boatloads of cash. All the news coming out of the San Diego Comicon this last week has been like 90% super hero movies, 5% Del Toro's wacky live action version of "Neon Genesis Evangelion" (what in the fuck, dude) and 5% new stuff from Edgar Wright and crew (WOO!).

We're already fatigued and sick of the super hero stuff, guys. Let's just let Christopher Nolan blow our brains out our assholes one last time and be done with it. Please?

Okay moving on, what else is new....oh yes, "Prometheus".............(huge sigh).

Listen, you may have noticed (you didn't) that I never wrote a review for "Prometheus." Well, it's been over a month since I saw it and I still don't really know what to make of it. I need to see it again. But not the theatrical version, although the IMAX 3D version looked absolutely sublime. No, I need to see whatever the fuck Ridley Scott took out of this movie to make it more ambiguous or shorten the run time, whatever the hell his reasons were. It felt like a whole reel was missing and lo and behold, there will apparently by 20+ extra minutes put back into the DVD release version. Wow, nice job guys.

Anyways, Ridley is batshit crazy but can still make a visually incredible movie. I basically blame everything I hated in this movie on Damon Lindelhof. Seriously, fuck you, dude. Get a real job and stop writing fan fiction.

Okay, enough ranting on that subject. What else do we got here? (looks over previous blockbusters post) Oh man! So, "Battleship" totally fucking bombed, but no one really cared because it was a movie based on fucking board game. For those of you keeping score at home, that's 2 back-to-back box office bombs for my boy Tim Riggins. He may be down, but he's not out as his third, yes THIRD, movie of the summer movie season, Oliver Stone's "Savages," has gotten decent reviews and didn't have much to lose in the first place. I think he'll be okay, folks!

Bad news for fans of THE ROCK aka me, "GI: Joe: Retaliation" is getting post-converted into 3D (bogus!) and has been pushed back to March 2013. My only solace is the fact that the 7th Fast and Furious movie is currently in production with THE ROCK bringin' the pain yet again.

I have not seen "The Amazing Spider-Man " yet, but my trusted film advisers Keith and Tyler put their stamp of approval on it. Read Tyler's review here as well as some hilarious thoughts on the 3 previous Spider-Man flicks.

"The Expendables 2: Expend Harder Y'all" doesn't come out for another month or so, and I'm still not holding my breath for anything good, but I found out VAN DAMME plays the bad guy so I guess that's cool? It's not? Whatever, dude. BLOODSPORT. Fuck yeah, dude.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

"Take Shelter (2011) dir. Jeff Nichols

Hey, remember in "Twister" when Helen Hunt's dad gets sucked out of a storm shelter by a massive tornado? Yeah, nothing like happens in this movie. Sorry if I got your hopes up.

I can recall few films that convey impending doom and dread better than this one. What would you do if you started having vivid nightmares of an oncoming freakish storm with tons of tornados and motor oil raining from the sky and getting attacked by crazy people? Ignore it? Kill yourself? Build a large underground shelter in your backyard while refusing to explain yourself to anyone? The awesome Michael Shannon plays a family man named Curtis in "Take Shelter" and he chooses option C.

With a cast made up almost entirely of people who have played supporting roles in various HBO series, "Take Shelter" sets its narrow focus on Curtis's family and few friends who live in rural Ohio. It has the pacing of a slow-burn horror movie with each of Curtis's nightmares becoming more terrible and visceral than the last. It reminded me of the sort of psychological horror movies where the main character isn't sure of what's real and what's in his or her head, but it's definitely not a horror movie in most regards. It's a film about both mental illness and the possible end of the world and one man trying to discern the two. It's a thriller, I suppose, but it has its own stately grace and it's filmed very calmly. Nothing is rushed, yet it doesn't feel slow. It held my attention completely for its 2 hour run time.

There is a scene near the end where the family does end up in the storm shelter and Curtis's wife, played by the lovely and ubiquitous-in-2011 Jessica Chastain, wants him to open the shelter doors because she says the storm is over. The scene builds such an incredibly tense and paranoid vibe. My heart was beating out of my god damn chest.

The soundtrack by David Wingo is fantastic, using lots of tonal layers and sharp sounding feedback noises to build upon the film's dark, atmospheric qualities. And, in case you were wondering (and you probably weren't) the director is the brother of Ben Nichols, singer of Lucero. He contributes a nice solo song for the end credits in his own tried and true, sad bastard alt-country kinda way. It's pretty fitting.

This movie had a decent amount critical hype it seemed, but flew under the radar in general last year. It's a damn shame, because it deserves a lot more credit for being a incredibly tasteful and deeply resonating film about the end of the world, especially in comparison to most apocalyptic films of the last couple years. This is mostly due to the film's narrow focus and on the strength of the Shannon and Chastain's performances. Never a false note between them. But it's cool, let's keep giving Oscar nominations to wank-fests like "The Artist" and "Hugo."

Enough gushing, obviously I loved this movie and I highly recommend it all fans of total downer cinema.