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Ice Harvest, Rent, Walk the Line and more!

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BEAST ARCHIVES

 

The Ice Harvest

Part 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.

But 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 Day.

If 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.

This 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.

To 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.

This 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 fit.


Rent

When 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.

This 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 for Christmas.

Aside 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.  


Just Friends

I 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.

If 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?

I 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.

The 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.

“You gotta have a bite of this stale cookie.”   

“The one leg on this chair is broken. Try it out!”

That’s 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.


Yours, Mine and Ours

As 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.

One 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.

For, 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. 


Walk the Line

Remember 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.

That’s 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.

The 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, Jack.

But 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.

I’ve 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.


Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Well, 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.

“Fucking cosksucking faggots!” he angrily spit through gritted teeth as the credits rolled.

I’ve 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.

My 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 a bitch.

The 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.

The 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.

“Cliffhanger ending?” she asked as she checked his vitals.

“Kind of,” I said.

“You 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.”

“Is he going to be okay?”

“He’ll 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 gun.”

“In proper working order?”

“Always.”


Zathura

Author’s 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.

There 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 wall.

I 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.”

It 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.

Within 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.

But 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 me now?

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

   
 

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