of the ass-pain better known as The Holidays is knowing
that a set of vaguely interesting (at best, and usually
not that good) movies will be released in an effort
to capitalize on the season. Mix that with some annoying
relatives with a penchant for The Sauce; people who will
without hesitation stick a carpenter’s knife in your ribs
for the hottest toy this season; and the same milquetoast
Christmas music recycled for the last twenty years and
repeated until you can’t remember what exactly is wrong
with slaughtering everybody in a department store, and
it’s easy to see why suicide rates are so much higher
around this time of year. Anyone who claims he hasn’t
gotten the Gun In Mouth Blues on Christmas Eve is not
only a bald-faced liar, but has completely ditched their
humanity for gas money or an Xbox 360.
thankfully, Hollywood decided to show a little mercy this
year. And that pulled punch comes from The Ice Harvest.
It’s an Elmore Leonardesque, multilayered caper about
a good-natured mob lawyer (John Cusack) and a shady smut
peddler (Billy Bob Thornton) who steal a couple million
dollars from a local mob boss. And of course with it being
a holiday, anything that can go wrong will. The movie
cleverly walks the line between dark humor and gruesomeness.
It makes a trip to the movies around this time of year
bearable, the same way a few bottles of Mad Dog 20/20
takes the sting out of being at grandma’s on Christmas
it looks good to you, see it. I don’t know what else to
say about The Ice Harvest. All I know is that I
took part in my cousin’s treacherous game of death known
as Mall Madness. The rules are simple: X number
of contestants show up to the mall opening. Each contestant
drops $50 and the last one to leave earns the pot, fear
and respect of his opponents, and commemorative ring that
his bested foes must thenceforth kiss while genuflecting.
In addition, you can’t go to the movies and you can’t
sleep on a couch in the Bon-Ton home store. You also have
to wait in line in at least 25 stores, pretending each
time that you’ve left your wallet in your other jacket.
year’s battleground was the Boulevard Mall, 6am to 11pm.
We all agreed to up the ante this year by taking only
one trip to the food court, and only two bathroom breaks
all day. Vouchers were handed out and one of the guys
had an in with mall security, who agreed to referee in
exchange for 15% of the pot. I hate malls in general,
but around this time of year they’re downright loathsome.
Ugly and wrong. I was the oldest contestant, which gave
me the edge in experience, along with an arsenal of dirty
tricks. On the downside, however, my body’s been in steady
decline since I turned 30. I knew damn well my nerves
wouldn’t withstand much before I totally collapsed.
ensure victory, I dosed three members of the opposition
with a heaping helping of homemade LSD. Within an hour,
they were running across the parking lot screaming. I
planted some coke on two others, paying off some Tonawanda
teenagers to narc on them to security. I greased the seat
on the carousel and another contestant flew off and was
rushed to the emergency room. The rest posed no threat
and hung themselves with the proverbial rope I provided.
is not to say I achieved victory through dirty tricks
alone. I meditated while sitting on Santa’s lap for about
ten minutes (no small feat when you’ve got a mile and
a half of rotten screaming kids and their shitty parents
pissing and moaning in the background) and found the intestinal
fortitude necessary to claim victory. And I only had to
use one bathroom voucher. I wrapped the whole thing up
by 4pm and after giving security their cut I still came
out ahead over $500. The commemorative ring’s a perfect
I saw the original Superman movie recently, I thought
it incredibly dumb that the Man of Steel should mention,
in a news article about himself, his lone weakness. I’m
going risk making the same mistake by mentioning that
my kryptonite is musicals. More specifically, people suddenly
bursting into song. The difference between Superman and
me is that I’m very confident no one gives enough of a
shit about me to bother exploiting my weakness.
is part of what made Rent such a difficult watch
for me. The inappropriate singing did irk me on one level,
but what really kicked my ass was the characters. You
see, Rent is based on a stage musical about a bunch
of bohemians in the late ‘80s and the oncoming AIDS scare
facing them. That’s not too bad a premise for a
movie. But between the singing, the utter ridiculousness
of the songs and the nails-across-the-blackboard self-importance
of the characters, I felt an overwhelming urge to snap
the necks of the theater majors sitting in front of me.
Theater majors who sang along and oozed the most contemptible
egotism. I hope I get that pair of nickel-plated .45s
from being completely boring and annoying, Rent was
lacking something. The audience interaction you’d get
with a stage version as opposed to a screening would prop
the damn thing up. Aside from emotional blackmail on the
part of my [wonderful] editor, the only reason I saw this
movie was because of the lovely Rosario Dawson; who, incidentally,
is the only reason for anyone to see this movie. On a
final note, I noticed that Chris Columbus directed Rent
and I wondered why during the entire movie. I came
to the conclusion that either he wasn’t allowed to direct
another Harry Potter movie (he directed the first
two) or his wife made him do it. Makes you want to run
out and get married, doesn’t it? You can excuse the dumbest
shit just by explaining your wife made you do it.
saw the funny-as-a-knock-knock-joke Ryan Reynolds in yet
another bad comedy. With an equally weak supporting cast
that included the plot-circling vulture, the surefire
sign of a haggard comedy: the dreaded fat suit.
the prospect of a generic comedy playing a lot of the
same notes as last year’s Ben Affleck holiday folly Surviving
Christmas wasn’t enough, I had this low-grade ache—almost
a Spidey sense—driving me nuts through the whole thing.
It was like having someone talk to you about Reaganomics.
As you bite into the inevitable cold spot in a TV dinner.
While you’re watching an Extreme Makeover Home Edition
marathon. With a serious peach schnapps hangover. All
with a vibe more upsetting than the entire scenario. It
was Bad with a dollop of Worse on top. But what was the
Worse? WHAT WAS IT?
left the theater with the same feeling you get when you
can’t think of the name of that rotten-but-catchy song,
or the artist, that’s been stuck in your head for three
weeks. I started to let it go when the door was opened
for me. The new issue of Premiere came in the mail and
on page 29 I found all the answers to the question that
tormented and plagued me. It was Ryan Reynolds all along.
Those shifty eyes, that stumbling delivery, timing completely
off. To make matters worse, I found out he’s Canadian
and engaged to Alanis Morissette. Had I known this
while watching Just Friends I would’ve fallen victim
to no fewer than eight life-threatening medical conditions,
not counting my sporadic recurring case of Tourette’s
syndrome, which acts up only when I watch bad movies.
whole thing reminds me of a “Saturday Night Live” episode
that Tom Hanks hosted in the early ‘90s. There was a family
who kept coming across gross and unfortunate things around
the house (spoiled milk, a trick stair, you get the picture),
which they felt the need to share with each other.
gotta have a bite of this stale cookie.”
one leg on this chair is broken. Try it out!”
the whole feeling I got when I saw the trailer for Just
Friends. I was stupid enough to eat the moldy cheese,
only to puke my guts out.
Mine and Ours
I mentioned when I talked about The Ice Harvest,
the holiday season is a veritable minefield of crappy
family movies. Their intent is to keep the kids distracted
and stationary in a darkened theater while their relatives
get in cockfights over overpriced crap at a nearby store.
This is a great time for hack filmmakers to work their
black magic, producing eighth-rate movies that require
very little work and even less thought.
of this year’s assaults on the intellect is Yours,
Mine and Ours, which precedes the onslaught of Cheaper
by the Dozen, due out right before Christmas. They’re
basically the same movie working—or not—on the same heinous
premise: two middle-agers with entirely too many kids
get married and the whole gang moves in together. Her
kids don’t get along with his kids and a series of comic
mishaps ensue that will put your libido into a coma until
after the new year. The only difference with Yours,
Mine and Ours is that one set of kids looks like a
Benetton ad from the early ‘90s.
as much as I complain about these wastes of every imaginable
resource, they’re almost always good for a much-needed
epiphany. With Yours, Mine and Ours, I came to
the realization that many others have come to before me:
to survive this particular holiday season I must become
a full-blown alcoholic.
Ray? It was good in its way—an inspirational tale
of one of America’s favorite musicians overcoming adversity
on all sides, while churning out likeable, but not particularly
incredible music. Ray won some Oscars, got a lot
of props and was generally dry humped by critics everywhere.
And when you’ve got a good thing going the first thing
you do is beat it into the ground.
what Walk the Line almost, but doesn’t truly
do. It’s the real-life tale of the world-famous “Man In
Black,” Johnny Cash, recounting his story from his childhood
in Arkansas, to his amphetamine habit, and ultimately
ending up with the love of his life, June Carter.
story is pretty much standard. Rising from obscurity,
succumbing to fame and/or drugs and/or booze and, pending
survival, becoming an icon. From a man who wrote the line
“I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die” and a badass
who beat his first wife, you’d expect more. Of course,
if Vivian Cash was anything like her onscreen portrayal—a
nagging, cantankerous malcontent—she certainly had it
coming. (Fun side note: Cash’s oldest daughter, Roseanne,
walked out of a private screening for Cash’s family five
times out of disgust because of its portrayal of her mother.)
But what we get instead is a sensitive and sweet man almost
consumed by the childhood death of his older brother,
it’s not so much the story of one of the coolest men and
greatest musicians to ever walk the earth that is compelling,
but rather the performances by Joaquin Phoenix as Cash,
and more notably Reese Witherspoon as June Carter. They
both do all of their own musical performances, but when
their characters aren’t on stage, they make you care about
Cash and Carter. You pull for them, even though that little
chunk of their history you’re aware of tells you everything’s
going to be okay in the end.
heard a lot of naysaying about casting Phoenix. Walk
the Line has been in production since before Cash
and Carter Cash passed away in 2003. Johnny not only approved
of, but wanted Phoenix portraying him on screen.
Phoenix was good enough for Johnny and that should be
good enough for you.
Potter and the Goblet of Fire
well. All the Potterheads who were getting worried because
its been more than a year-and-a-half since the last installment
in the Harry Potter series are resting easy for
the time being. Yes, yes. The fourth installment in the
series, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is
here. This episode realizes the darkness hinted at by
the previous films. It features more kooky characters,
heroin mullets and even higher levels of awkward pubescence.
And with the aforementioned descending doom comes the
appearance of Lord Voldemort, played by Ralph Fiennes.
Very creepy and (judging by the PG-13 rating) definitely
scarier. I personally was elated by the shedding of the
cuteness of the prior Harry Potter films, but my
partner-in-crime for the day—my father—was by no means
amused. A few days have passed and I still, for the life
of me, can’t explain what it was about this movie that
sent him on that rage bender following the movie.
cosksucking faggots!” he angrily spit through gritted
teeth as the credits rolled.
heard the man speak like this on only one other occasion:
when he was watching pro football. His reaction to bad
passes, worse plays and the resulting pathetic final score
of many a Buffalo Bills game over the years completely
turned me off to the sport. Slurred obscenities, fist-sized
holes in slammed doors and uncomfortable silences were
all a trademark around my house on many a Sunday afternoon
throughout my childhood. After many years had gone by,
I thought the monster was finally subdued. I should’ve
known that brand of anger can’t be silenced forever—at
least not completely.
father either kicked or picked up and tossed at least
half a dozen small, traumatized children on the way out
of the theater. There’s that point in every man’s life
when he knows he’s going to have to find out if he can
take his old man. It was really beginning to look like
this was the day, as Dad punched out the butchy mother
of one of the injured preschoolers. I couldn’t stop him
at the time because I was hyperventilating from laughter.
He yanked a driver from his vehicle and smashed its headlight
with the guy’s head. All I could do was play hype man
to my father’s rampage and call the unconscious driver
Old Man’s style of road rage was proved after he dusted
it off in a residential neighborhood. I knew better than
to ask if we were going to partake in our post-movie meal
tradition. There was only one way to deal with this particular
madness: buckle up, ride it out, and hope the lunacy subsides.
If it doesn’t soon, get him to my mother, and hope she
keeps the tranq gun in proper working order. The pissed
off gibberish dad spouted in the car made George Carlin’s
Seven Dirty Words bit sound like a retirement announcement.
I learned a lot of new terminology.
Old Man managed what would normally be a twenty-minute
trip home in seven and collapsed behind the wheel in the
driveway. I managed to pull the emergency brake and sling
him over my shoulder to get him into the house. My mother
rushed out from the hallway with the response time of
a battle-tested EMT. She didn’t seem surprised.
ending?” she asked as she checked his vitals.
of,” I said.
should’ve seen him after the first Lord of the Rings
movie. He bitched for two straight weeks about how he’s
got to wait a whole year, ‘what a rip-off, blah,
blah, blah.’ I’ve never seen anyone hold that forehead
vein for so long.”
he going to be okay?”
still be mad for a few weeks and he’ll probably grumble
right up until the next one comes out, but it shouldn’t
be too bad. If he gets too surly I’ve still got the tranq
proper working order?”
note: The following review was originally intended for
publication in issue #88, but was deleted for what I understand
was a lack of space. Admittedly, it’s definitely more
appropriate for reading on the toilet as you fight to
overcome the effects of tryptophan, but I feel this story
must be told and will submit it for publication
every issue until it sees print, if necessary.
are certain circumstances under which you must absolutely
do something. You’ve just got to. A relative or friend
is hospitalized—you go visit them. Someone spits in your
face—you scrape your heel down their shin, hit them with
several quick knee-drops to their cash and prizes, then
follow up with grinding knuckles to the back of their
jaw, and apply a full nelson. But most importantly: if
something so incredibly random and odd happens, just run
with it—ride the wave and push the envelope for as long
and hard as you can until you inevitably hit that brick
had this adventure recently, on my way to see Zathura.
What followed was not only, tallying the likely penalty
of all counts, punishable for up to 493 years in accordance
with county, state, and federal laws, but also completely
unplanned and improvised. I was a good way down Elmwood
near Buff State. Knowing this place, it was likely to
be the last nice fall day of the year. I decided to take
advantage and walk down. Completely evading my own personal
and malfunctioning radar, this guy carrying two cases
of beer while riding a ten-speed bike throws a case under
his arm and uses the free one to stop the bike on a dime.
He was a hulking Indian wearing Blue Blockers and a sleeveless,
Day-Glo t-shirt with an image of Larry the Cable Guy screaming
“git ‘r’ done.” He handed me a beer and
chillingly said “Zathura.”
struck me as unusual and coincidental that an Indian on
a ten-speed carrying two cases of imported Canadian beer
dropped the name of the movie I was on my way to see.
moments Zathura (his name, I guess?) was pedaling, still
carrying the beer, and me riding the handlebars, sixth-grade
style with my road pop, steering with my ass. Zathura
and I outmaneuvered five cop cars. I still had time to
take a dump and shotgun eight beers with him before the
previews started. We got maybe a half-hour in when the
little bastards we gave beer to narced on us. Next thing
you know, Zathura’s fighting off eight cops in the theater.
He valiantly held his own as I snuck out the emergency
exit and stole a cop car. I honked and Zathura busted
through the emergency exit door and did a “Dukes of Hazzard”
slide over the hood. We got the hell out of Dodge and
hung out in Atlantic City the rest of the weekend.
from what I was later told, I understand I got everything
there was to get from what I actually saw of Zathura.
It’s a sci-fi Jumanji, written by the guy who wrote
Jumanji. That’s right; a magical board game.
The only thing that’s missing, thankfully, is Robin Williams.
All I know is that, for remembering to get the two cases
in the back seat of the cop car, I am now Zathura’s brother
and an honorary member of his people. How you like