9.15.2014

Beloved - Book Reviews 2014

Beloved - Book Reviews 2014 | Crappy Candle
by Toni Morrison

Every time I planned to read Beloved, I managed to find something else to do beforehand. Perhaps I needed to find some vintage rings I could not buy, or maybe I needed to check my website stats for the fifth time that day, and come now, Dawson's Creek won't watch itself. I am also proud to say that I procrastinated for a whole hour and a half before sitting down to write this review.*

I realize I did this because reading Beloved felt like a school assignment.

Yes yes, I'm feeling guilty about this. I really wanted to devour this book. I know Beloved is a classic. It's an important piece of fiction because it gives us an insight into the real horrors of slavery and the on-going horror of post-slavery America for black citizens of our country. Oh it's heavy:

Beloved Quote - Toni Morrison

I'd like to say that Beloved felt like a literary gift, as if Morrison wept golden tears from heaven then covered them in honey and wildflowers and delivered them to us lowly mortals in book form. In reality, Beloved felt like a chore.

Unlike most of the tripe I feed my brain, Beloved is straight up Literature. Toni Morrison's legendary book is dripping with poetry, elaborate metaphors, and elegant allusions. It melds unimaginable beauty with unimaginable ugliness and touches on the experience of African Americans through the Civil War and over four generations. Every line of Morrison's seminal novel feels like a verse of a poem, all while effortlessly intertwining the authentic dialect and vernacular of the people of this era.

All this results in a story that is dense and difficult to navigate for a casual reader, inexperienced in the ways of this kind of prose. It took effort to amp myself up enough to read Beloved because it took serious energy to digest each page. Perhaps I'm not an advanced enough reader to delight in a book like Beloved. Maybe poetic language just isn't my cup of tea, but I don't think I missed out on anything because of this.

Beloved wasn't a page-turner because it wasn't intended to be one. There are lots of hidden bits in this book, and I could see how one would want to read multiple times. There is no devouring going on here. Beloved is meant to be eaten slowly so you can reflect on each bite. If you are a contemplative reader, Beloved is a rich read.

Random thoughts (*spoilers* here):

  1. Throughout the story, I had nothing but the most sympathy for Sethe. I couldn't wrap my head around why everyone hated her so much. Is it because she's got a holier-than-thou attitude? Is it because she killed her baby? Geez people. Cut the woman some slack. 
  2. Okay, is it because Oprah ended up playing her in the movie, so you were picturing Oprah in your head the whole time? 
  3. At one point, I misread a paragraph and thought Sethe had literally never escaped from Sweet Home and had a mental break, making her entire life of freedom an elaborate fantasy. I was in shock for a good 5 minutes before I came to my senses and realized that modern cinema has completely warped my fiction expectations.
  4. I can't imagine how much work would have to go into writing a novel like this. To gather a knowledge of the era, the language, the customs, and then weave together such an intricate story. I tip my hat to you, Toni Morrison.
  5. I suppose you don't need my hat-tipping, you Pulitzer Prize Laureate you.
  6. If I make a collage of my favorite quotes, do I get extra credit?

Beloved Quote Collage | Crappy Candle

Optimal Reading Situation: The softest most luxurious spot in your house. Light a candle or something.
Optimal Reading Snack: A cup of coffee mixed with melted ice cream topped with whipped cream, chocolate syrup drizzle, and crumbled Heath Bar bits.
Optimal Reading Followup: I need a nap.
--

*You don't even want to know how many times I consulted a thesaurus while writing this review.

This review is from my Summer Book Club series. 

Next up: Bossypants by Tina Fey




9.08.2014

Zit Creams in Review - The Acne Experiment


In honor of The Acne Experiment, I've decided to post a retrospective and review each and every product I've used to treat acne, Perioral Dermatitis, and/or whatever has been happening on my face over the last 15 years. Memories are what keep us wise, memories of our youth keep us young, and memories of our zits keep us inflamed.

Benzoyl Peroxide
My first memories of zit creams involve giant generic tubes of Benzoyl Peroxide I'd buy from the pharmacist. I upped my dosage while working at Islands the summer after my first year of college. My face dried up like a husk. I remember thinking it would be a good idea to explain my cracked face to my manager, a 40-something Orange County dude-bro. I remember him visibly recoiling. I remember never using Benzoyl Peroxide again.

Salicylic Acid
You're a good egg Salicylic Acid. You're a far superior spot treatment than your cousin Benzoyl Peroxide. You can tell him I said that too.

Various Neutrogena Products
In high school hoped Neutrogena would turn me into an all American white girl like the ones in the commercials. Instead, I looked into the mirror and saw brown skin and a big honking nose. Adolescent self esteem, ain't she a bitch.

Various Dermalogica Products
It's Neutrogena for rich people.

Cetaphil Facewash
Did you know Cetaphil contains Parabens and Sulfates? That's not gentle! Cetaphil is a liar. LIAR! LIAAAR.

Witch Hazel
Get back witch. (you smell kinda stanky.)

Retin-A
Retin-A was my go-to for about 7 years. It was probably the best acne product I've ever used. Unfortunately, it stopped working as well in recent years. I completely cut it out because of a (irrational) fear that it was damaging my gametes.

Glycolic Acid
Glycolic Acid is a recent development for me. I started using it about 2 years ago and gradually had it replace my Retin-A. I don't know how much Glycolic Acid helped the acne, but it smoothed the shit out of my face. Devita is my jam.

Proactiv
Fuck you Proactiv and the Adam Levine you road in on.

Oral Antibiotics (Doxycycline)
They should put this on the bottle: "Zit pills for people that are too weenie-ish for Accutane, oh and honey, it is a only like 10% as effective." Doxycycline was supposed to be a magic pill that cleared up my face, even if only temporarily. Instead I got 30 zits... on my ass. Nothing has replicated the horror of cupping my bare butt and feeling an active pimple war zone.

Spironolactone
My former co-worker with the flawless skin said these pills cleared up her hormonal acne. I think I got the placebo.

Clindamycin
Prescribed by the same doctor that told me that not touching my face would stop the zits, Clindamycin was about as effective as not touching my face.

Birth Control Pills
Birth control and I went out for nearly a decade, but when I told it I wanted to break it off because I didn't think it was good for me, it gave me the worst hormonal acne I've ever had. You are one vindictive son-of-a-b. control.

Grapefruit Seed Extract
It's supposed to treat Perioral Dermatitis when applied topically or taken as a supplement. It's so bitter that I had to do the "exhale-drink-inhale" trick to get it down. I've convinced myself it did something.

Manuka Honey
Dear Goddess, I've gone full hippy. Manuka Honey didn't work so well for active acne, but it's good for healing things like my mind, my heart, and my deflated pimple that I picked at for 30 minutes.

Plain Yogurt Masks
I've never felt more in touch with my femininity than when I smeared greek yogurt on my face for a week.

Origins Charcoal Mask
This mask is currently separating in my medicine cabinet. I can't bring myself to throw it out. It expired 2 years ago.

Over the Counter Anti-Fungals
Please know that putting jock itch cream on your face is a cry for help.

AmLactin
Some people put AmLactin on their face and swear by it. I put it on my face swore a lot (because I was so greasy). Sorry, that was an awful joke. I'll do better next time.

Aztec Healing Clay Masks
Clay masks make me feel one with the earth. I want this stuff to work for me because it's the most natural thing for acne next to rinsing your face with your own tears. (That wasn't much better, was it?)

Vitamin C Serum
Big girls wear serums on their faces. The day I can start wearing mine regularly without breaking out will be the day I've crossed the threshold into womanhood. There will be tea and crustless sandwiches. You're all invited.

--

I'm wrapping up "Phase One" of The Acne Experiment -- aka my month of not washing my face -- very soon. I'll be posting a follow-up, complete with gory pictures, in two weeks time. FYI, "Phase two" is where the magic happens (I hope). Stay tuned my pets.




9.02.2014

The Unauthorized Saved By the Bell Story - Movie Reviews 2014

The Unauthorized Saved By the Bell Story | Crappy Candle

Oh, of course I watched Lifetime's Unauthorized Saved By The Bell Story last night. 80s and 90s nostalgia are my not-so-secret obsession; the kids of Bayside burnt a pineapple upside down cake in my heart long ago. Like so many in my generation, I grew up with Saved by the Bell, blindly devouring it week after week.

The Unauthorized Saved By The Bell Story follows the arc of the show over 5 years from the casting of the original Miss Bliss series through the awkward fourth season, notorious for its unexplained, intermittent absence of Bayside's signature hotties, Kelly and Jessie. The story is told from the perspective of Screech, aka Dustin Diamond, and is supposed to be based on Diamond's tell-all book "Behind the Bell." Given the safeness of the show, it seems a tell-all would have had nowhere to go but juicy.

The beloved series Saved by the Bell was a cheese-fest with schlocky dialogue and shallow characters. At the same time, it was comforting, much like a slice of soggy milk toast. The "easy listening" of TV shows, you could let an episode of Saved by the Bell wash over you without having to think much or navigate an emotional reaction. Enjoy the bright colors and the pretty faces. They won't disappoint you because they aren't doing much of anything rooted in reality. We loved it so.

The story in Unauthorized gives us an uninspired, cursory look at what it was like behind the scenes while achieving the sentiment of the show it was supposed to be exposing. The plot was one-dimensional and stopped miles short from anything that could be considered juicy. The most dominant ongoing theme, Dustin Diamond's ostracism from the rest of the cast, was both unsurprising and unconvincing. I never bought his awkward weirdness or felt sympathy for his situation. This was sealed nicely in the end when Mark-Paul has a heart-to-heart with Dustin, washing over any kind of drama that could have hypothetically been brewing there.

And what of romance? This is where the juicy is, right? Unfortunately, Lifetime washes over this part as well. We see that Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Lark Voorhies had some kind of thing going on, as he probably did with Tiffani-Amber Thiessen, and that Mario Lopez could indeed have been some kind of man whore, but none of these plot points get explored as much as they should have. Unauthorized felt like a summary.

A really sexy summary though, right ladies?

My biggest criticisms revolve around the cast:
  1. Kelly's mole missed it's mark by at least an inch. The way it changes size and intensity throughout the movie was distracting.
  2. Jessie's hair should have been much larger to accommodate all her brains.
  3. Zack's 12 inches of missing height must have removed an equal amount of charm.
  4. If I squinted, Screech looked like Screech, but no amount of squinting added the goob.
  5. The whole cast was dressed like the mannequins at H&M, so our fashion queen Lisa was left without a personality.
  6. It looks like they got AC Slater from the discount AC Slater bin.
CGI Screech Chest | The Unauthorized Saved By the Bell Story
If you squint, it still looks like a really crappy CGI.
Given all this, the movie was not a complete disappointment. It felt exactly how it should have: safe, cheesy, with bright colors and pretty faces. It was entertaining and blandly interesting enough without giving the viewer any kind of icky-ucky feelings. It was as if the "Saved By The Bell" movie was made by the people who brought us "Saved By The Bell."

There were a few delightful moments, however. In one scene, we get to oggle Dustin Diamond's wonky CGI'ed chest during a dream hot-tub sequence. In another, we get to watch a guy on a motorcycle drive in, tear around the lot, and do a bunch of wheelies/expert stunt-stuff. The rider pulls up to Mario Lopez, removes his helmet, and reveals himself to be Mark-Paul Gosselaar. He then tells Mario that his mom is not the boss of him. I wish I had made this up myself because it was gold.

Had the filmmakers allowed themselves to fully commit to this kind of cheesy goofiness, i.e. the same kind of cheesy goofiness that gave Saved By the Bell a heart, this movie could have had become a cult classic in its own right. We'd have gifs for days.

I'll file this one under opportunity missed.

8.24.2014

The Acne Experiment

The Acne Experiment | Crappy Candle

Trying to cure acne is a lot like being a detective:

  1. Determine the Crime Being Committed = Find out what kind of acne you have.
    Do you have whiteheads, blackheads, under-grounders, a fine rash, or actually, no that's just an aggravated mole? Hey it might not be acne at all! Maybe it's rosacea. Perhaps it's dermatitis or a bug bite. You silly butt, you are actually having a serious allergic reaction. No more strawberries for you!
  2. Identify The Suspects = Find out what is causing your acne.
    Maybe you have hormonal acne. Maybe your foundation is clogging your pores or maybe your brand is fine, it's just old and loaded with bacteria. Maybe's it's your makeup brushes or your dirty fingers that are the problem. MAYBE ITS STRESS INDUCED! Maybe your night drools are giving you acne, or perhaps your 20+ years of excessive cheese consumption have finally caught up with you. Maybe it's genetic. Fuck genetics.
  3. Assign The Punishment* = Find out what cures your acne.
    You've got your topicals; Retin-A, Clindamycin, Benzoyl Peroxide, Salicylic Acid, A Clarisonic, Peels, Fire. Your pills: birth control, antibiotics, ACCUTANE, spironolactone. Your hippy dippys: clay masks, manuka honey, greek yogurt masks, tumeric scrubs, oils. And behaviorals: change pillowcases daily, stop using fabric softener, stop washing your hair, only eat spinach and flax seed, throw out your camera phone, break all your mirrors. 

Alas! You now have skin that is dried-out/flaking but somehow still oily, skin so thin and fragile that you bleed randomly then burn whenever you walk outside, skin covered in strange bumps and hyper-pigmentations from zits you had 3 months ago, and cabinets overflowing with mostly full products and miracle cures that haven't helped. Or maybe they helped a little? Oh, and what the hell, you're starting to get wrinkles because you have adult acne now and that's what adults have to deal with.

Enough. Enough I say.

I have been dealing with breakouts and hormonal acne for over a decade and perioral dermatitis (POD) for the past 2 years. I'm sick of trying to guess which products are causing me to break me out, which products are helping, and which products aren't doing anything. I'll be 31 in two weeks. I'm too old for this shit.

After complaining to my husband for the umpteenth time, he suggested I approach the situation scientifically. How can I know what is working if there are so many variables that I'm not controlling? This is my attempt to regain control. I'm hanging up my detective fedora and putting on a white lab coat.

I call it "The Acne Experiment."

I will not wash, wear makeup or use any kind of skincare product on my face for a month. 

I'm only allowing myself lip balm and oil absorbing sheets. Everything else is off limits including cleansers, acne medication, lotions, serums, and sunscreen.* I will only clean my face with warm water and a washcloth each evening. Each washcloth will only be used once and will be cleaned with dye/fragrance-free detergent, borax, and white vinegar.

I'm creating a baseline, a control group if you will. My hope is, by purging the skincare routine I've been "perfecting" since I was 13, I'll be able to to build a new one from the ground up. I'm hoping that I'll not only get to put together a routine that is simpler, but I'll be able to put together one that actually works.

Are you ready to look at my face? I'll offer it up, un-retouched, without comment. This is day one:

Day 1 | Crappy Candle
I uploaded it smallish because I'm not a sadist. Oops that was a comment. :(

I'll report back with my progress.



Oh hey there. I'm not done yet because I have a confession to make: I am actually 2 weeks into my experiment at the time of posting. I decided to write this, then hold off on publishing it until I was sure this experiment wouldn't result in my face turning into one giant throbbing zit. Because then I would have written a poem about my giant zit.

--

*Detectives don't assign punishment, so perhaps finding a cure for acne is more of a Judge Dredd-ism. I am the law. At least he got to wear a mask, lucky bastard.

**I have olive toned skin that is pretty hearty, I hardly ever leave the house, and I actually hate being in the sun. I don't recommend "no SPF" for everyone, but I don't anticipate burning to be a problem for myself. Also, HATS.


The Acne Experiment Posts

Zit Creams in Review (a retrospective in which I review every product I've ever used to treat acne)


I Didn't Wash My Face for a Month | Crappy Candle



8.14.2014

Carrie - Book Reviews 2014

by Stephen King

There will be spoilers in this post, but if you haven't read the book, or seen any of the movies, or heard the story at any point in the last 40 years, then heaven help you child. Plus the book is set up in such a way that you know what's going to happen before it happens. There aren't many surprises.

I've seen nearly every single Stephen King film, but Carrie was my first Stephen King book. For some reason, as I write this, I think of My First Sony. Carrie is simple with only a few buttons and knobs, but it gets the job done. It's also a good introduction to the greater brand. Oh, and it also has an awesome jingle* and is great for children.**

Carrie is about 250 pages long and divided into 2 sections plus one teeny followup: the events leading up to the prom, the prom, and the aftermath. The plot is simple, but the POV jumps around from Carrie, to Sue Snell, to Margaret White, and other characters to "post prom" interviews and various pieces written on "the event." It was a very quick read and good first step into the horror genre. Did I mention this was also my first horror novel?

I got my copy of Carrie from the local Library and as I was reading, I noticed that a few sentences in the book had been rubbed out. In the first instance, nothing had been written in, but in the second, the perpetrator decided to write in a censored version of the line. I normally choose to not deface books that aren't mine, but Library Prude took it too far:

Exhibit A: Please note that Library Prude so vigorously erased
"Carrie White eats shit" that they ripped the page. I rectified it. 

Exhibit B: Please note is says "stupid" (which I crossed out
and corrected). I imagined Library Prude had to sit in the devil
closet for a whole day after reading this book. 

When you read Stephen King after seeing the film versions, it's difficult to not make comparisons the whole time. Admittedly, I haven't seen the original 1976 film in many years, but I made lots of mental notes regardless:
  1. The interviews and articles throughout the book give the reader a lot more to chew on than the film gives the viewer. If you are scientifically minded, you will appreciate this aspect.
  2. Carrie is plump and pimply in the book. Sissy Spacek is neither of these things. (Hollywood, ain't she grand?)
  3. In the book, Margaret White looks less like a crazy witch and more like a school marm
  4. The book makes it seem as though "the event" was the result of childish foolishness. The lack of clear finger-pointin' villainy (outside of the abusive mom) made for a more horrifying premise.
  5. I'm concerned by the lack of child protective services in Chamberlain, Maine. Real life horror.
  6. The most horrifying part of the book, however, was at the very end when Carrie crawls inside Sue Snell's mind as Carrie is dying. Hot damn.
  7. Just kidding. The most horrifying part of the book was the forward written by Stephen King in which Stephen King states that Carrie was based on two girls he grew up with who both died at a young age, then haunted him.
  8. (metaphoracally, natch)
  9. Just kidding, you big dumb pudding. The most horrifying part of the book is this photo of Stephen King on the back cover:
Okay I'm going to go watch the movie on Netflix now.
Optimal Reading Situation: In your closet with the blue lights and the creepy Jesus painting.
Optimal Reading Snack: A four pack of Snack Pack Chocolate Pudding.
Optimal Reading Followup: I'm going to go watch the movie on Netflix. I already told you that.
--

*PER-iod, PER-iod, PER-iod! (tosses a handful of tampons up in the air like confetti)
**Not at all. Not at all good for children.

This review is from my Summer Book Club series. 

Next up: Beloved by Toni Morrison

8.08.2014

Golden Girls Nails

This is a super quick post to share with you, my pets, the glory that is GOLDEN GIRLS NAILS.

Golden Girls Nail Art | Crappy Candle
awww yiss

Greg bought me Golden Girls decals off Etsy as part of my Christmas gift and I sat on them for 7 months so I could bust 'em bust 'em bust 'em out for SDCC (San Diego Comic Con, dang son). It took me 2 hours to do these, and they still kinda looked like shit. 

Golden Girls Nails | Crappy Candle
wizza wut wizza woo woot pizza hut

The decals were on what is called "water slide" paper. The way it works is you paint your nails one color (I did white), cut out the decal in the shape of your nail, place them in water for 10 seconds, separate them from the backing, then place them on your nail. You kind-of mash 'em down, then cover 'em with a few layers of top coat. I chose NYC's In a New York Minute Clear polish, which is damn good for $2.50, whats up my drugstore bidgte-hehs!?

Golden Girls Nails | Crappy Candle
bling bling dingaling mah Golden Grils

If you have an aversion to lengthy manicurings, or are anal retentive about how neat your nails look, these decals are not for you.

If you enjoy looking like a baller and want to take Dorothy, Blanche, Rose and Sophia, slather them in cream cheese, sugar, and a graham crust, then eat them in the middle of the night, these decals are perfect for you. You can get them from NailSpin on Etsy. I make nothing if you click on this link. I just want you to look swip-a-dip swiddly-tits swagged UP. 

--

♪ And if you threw a parteheh and invited evreh-wohen yoo-new-hooo. You-would-see  the-bigga-gift-wuh-be-fruh-me  and-the card. attached. would. say. THANK YOU FOR BEING A FRIEND.  


8.05.2014

The Girl Who Played With Fire - Book Reviews 2014

The Girl Who Played With Fire - Book Reviews 2014 | Crappy Candle
by Stieg Larsson

First off, let me say how proud I am of myself for finishing The Girl Who Played With Fire in a timely fashion. I started reading this book not long after I read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo way back in 2012. After reading about 40 pages over the course of a few months, I shelved the old broad. I picked it up again at the beginning of July and read the whole damn thing in about a week and a half. This has never happened to me before.

I figure one of the following things occurred:
a) The Girl who Played With Fire was faster paced than The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.
b) I understand/appreciate the style of Stieg Larsson better this time around.
c) I stopped being such a weenie about reading books.
d) All of the above.
I'm leaning toward d). The story feels tighter, with a more immediate danger pushing it along. Stieg does not abandon his Dickensian descriptions and character backstories to achieve this. While it would seem that a detailed breakdown of the name of each piece of IKEA furniture protagonist Lisbeth Salander purchases would be a tool to characterize her meticulous nature, it's just not so. Every character receives the same treatment. It works because it fills out the world in a plain, "police procedural drama" type way, allowing the reader to fill in the nuance. It also works because these books are mystery novels; details are important if you want to try and figure it all out before the author reveals everything. 

I'm also happy to say that I figured out quickly (*BIG Spoiler*) that Zala was the man that Lisbeth had set on fire as a kid, although it took me longer to piece together that he was also her father. (*End BIG Spoiler*) I enjoy a good mystery story, but I like it more when I can figure it out myself because it makes me feel smart. I'm also just now realizing that Salander quite literally "played with fire" in the opening scene of the book therefore birthing the name of the book, so I'm not feeling so smart anymore. 

Overall, The Girl Who Played With Fire was a satisfying, easy read. Like Dragon Tattoo, it takes a little bit to get over the hump into page-turner territory, but once you're there it's quick work. 

Criticisms? I have a few:
  1. The story starts out with an obvious lie because Lisbeth Salander would never get a boob job.
  2. Salander and Blomkvist have such little interaction that I worry about their burgeoning romance. I also worry that I won't be there to witness it.
  3. I was super disappointed that the blonde hulk was not a cyborg like Drago from Rocky IV.
  4. I've been told that Drago from Rocky IV was not a cyborg either.
  5. I was super disappointed that the "creature in the woods" was not some kind of demon. This book could have been insane.
  6. Not a criticism, but how Swedish is this:
  7. Police Volvos
So now I get to wait for the American sequel to come out. I know, I know. The Swedish Films, but I'm in love with Rooney Mara guys. I even have a Pinterest board dedicated to her. I had it in my head that I would read the first book, watch the 2011 Mara/Craig/Fincher film, read the second book, watch the sequel, then read the third book and watch the final film. I'd then watch all three Swedish films in one day and appreciate Noomi Rapace's cheekbones.

Unfortunately, US filmmaking is more cumbersome and godawful than Swedish filmmaking. US's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo did not do as well as the studio had hoped, so the budget for the sequel was cut. Because all three players (Mara/Craig/Fincher) have gotten even more popular in recent years, scheduling has been an issue. Also the script is apparently being re-written by the dude that wrote Se7en. All this means that The Girl Who Played with Fire it hasn't even moved into pre-production yet, even though it was initially slated for a 2013 release.

Mara has stated that she absolutely still wants to make these films. She also said that Daniel Craig absolutely will be in them (there was a rumor that he might be cut because of the budget, but it's apparently a load of hooey). Fincher is the biggest variable, but it seems the whole darned project is up in the air at this point. Who wants to start a petition?*

Okay, okay. This is a book review, right? I'll wrap this up.
Optimal Reading Situation: Via candlelight, in a cabin, in the woods, off the grid, no you can't tell anyone you're going there you idiot.
Optimal Reading Snack: Billy's Pan Pizza
Optimal Reading Followup: Hack the planet.
--

*Oh, what? You already started one?**
**Oh, what? You only have, like, 1000 signatures? My student loan petition has more signatures than that.***
***No, it's not my student loan petition. I'm pretty sure that if I tried to start my own petition, Change.org would legally own me.


This review is from my Summer Book Club series. 

Next up: Carrie by Stephen King

8.03.2014

The Purge - Movie Reviews 2014

The Purge - Movie Reviews 2014 | Crappy Candle

I was mildly intrigued by the premise of The Purge when it came out in 2013. It was on TV recently, and I'm still in love with mid 90s Ethan Hawke, so I thought I'd give it a shot. Plus its only 85 minutes long. How could this go wrong?

The premise of The Purge is that for one night a year, Americans can commit any crime without consequence. In the movie, people have become excessively violent, so the yearly event known as "The Purge" becomes an opportunity to legally kill. The poor become the most vulnerable because they can't afford to protect themselves, and the rich become delusional and entitled monsters. It's an attempt at social commentary, specifically the class system and violence in America, but it fails miserably.

Let's real talk, The Purge. Are you supposed to be a horror movie? Is there a genre of movie that is supposed the viewer angry? Because that's what this movie was. Not one person in this film is likeable. I am not rooting for anyone because the story is about a population that acts like a bunch of assholes for 12 hours. Am I supposed to sympathize with selfish idiots and sociopaths?

(*Spoilers*)

Oh! Our friendly neighbor has brought cookies! Please. Those cookies are so obviously poisoned, Cersei. Don't eat them. Your neighbors are too smiley and happy to be normal. They want to kill you, and maybe they should since you keep flashing your money around. Maybe you should be less concerned about the boat you want to buy and more concerned about the dumb children you raised.

Your daughter has not only picked a boyfriend who's a disrespectful shit, she's also picked a boyfriend who's delusional enough to think that killing the father of his girlfriend would somehow lead to a lasting relationship. She's a double idiot because that boy isn't even cute. Kick her out of the house for having such bad taste in men. Let the neighbors have her.

And sorry, your son is creepy and weird. Why can no one see that this boy is Sid from Toy Story? He's going to dismember you people in your sleep. On top of that, that kid has doesn't have much of a grasp on reality since he's hell bent on opening the door and endanger the whole family. You can just hang outside the house with your dumb sister.

Why did you allow your dumb kid to have the security code Ethan Hawke? What kind of security expert are you? Also, if you're such a big cheese, why didn't you install a crazy souped up system on your house with robotic machine guns or perhaps a giant scythe that drops down from roof, chopping everyone in half. Is wanting a Resident Evil style laser dicer for your family really so much to ask?*

Lastly: Richie Rich, we need to have a chat. You're supposed to be a creepy villain, right? Well, you weren't. You were simply irritating. Your Hamptons mullet with lack of sideburns and prep-school schmarm made me furious. I wanted to take the corners of your mouth and pull them across your face and make that blub blub noise with my finger. Oh, and your Squeaky Fromme consort didn't scare me one bit. I wanted to punch all of you in your respective boobs.

I think that my biggest beef with The Purge was its failure to understand human nature. I'd like to think that if this was real life, we'd have a good amount of Robin Hood purging going on. With all the injustices in this fictitious world, hordes of Americans would either either flee to Canada or unite and organize during other 364 days of the year and rise up against their oppressors. Maybe rob a few banks, burn Sallie Mae to the ground, then kill a few Kardashians and Justin Biebers for good measure. Now that would be a satisfying movie.

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PS: I hope the sequel is all about chopping up Kardashians and Justin Biebers into little pieces with laser dicers.

PPS: And another thing, The Purge: People are not that naturally violent. I don't know where filmmakers get these crazy ideas from.

*I would normally add a video to the Resident Evil Laser Dicer here, but it's super disgusting and I don't want to freak you out without warning. Click this link at your own risk.

8.01.2014

Guardians of the Galaxy = Pure Delight - Movie Reviews 2014

I watched Guardians of the Galaxy last night with no prior knowledge of or appreciation for its canon. All I knew is that it was about an intergalactic band of misfits, which may or may not include Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, and a rocky raccoon. Oh, and they're "guarding the galaxy" somehow. What's my takeaway post viewing? Guardians of the Galaxy was the perfect science fiction movie for 80s babies. It was a delight.

Watching Guardians of Galaxy is akin to watching a live action cartoon, and (I daresay) a funner version of Star Wars. There's a lot of action going on, a ton of colorful characters, and a good amount of cheesiness. At certain points throughout the story, I found myself thinking, "This is ridiculous. Look at that dumb guy in that dumb hat. Foolishness," but without fail, the characters would wrangle me back. Chris Pratt, a charming asshole, was the chief wrangler, but that raccoon... That raccoon is going to be a star. 

Rocket Raccoon, voiced by Bradley Cooper (It didn't sound like him at all you guys), is a fuzzier, cockier version of Rooster Cogburn from True Grit. "Irritating animal sidekick" could have been Rocket's fate, but screenwriters James Gunn and Nicole Perlman successfully gave him a soul. It reminds me of the advice comic book writer Kelly Sue Deconnick gives to confused men who don't know how to write women: Just pretend they're people. It's not that difficult. More than anything, I was troubled by the fact that Rocket does not materially exist in the same way ET and Yoda do. Rocket only exists as a computer graphic and a rumble in Bradley Cooper's throat. I misted a little on the ride home from the theater pondering this.

I also wonder how much Marvel allows its stars to improvise. Chris Pratt, an actor who has proven his improv chops on Parks and Rec, had a few fantastic lines that felt lighter than the script. The genuine humor and joviality of these moments prevented the film from taking itself too seriously. The rest of the cast did not detract from the mix either: The wrestler was actually quite good! Zoe Saldana did not bug the shit out of me! Holy crap the treeman is MAGICAL and adorable! Kirk from Gilmore Girls is in it (in more ways than one apparently)!!!

Outside of the characters, the overarching 80s theme just about made my heart explode. There are a ton of 80s references that I will not spoil for you here; I want you to be 80s surprised as much as possible when you watch the film. The soundtrack was killer and expertly applied. Take note, Watchmen: This is how you do a pop 70s/80s soundtrack without making your audience vomit.

Criticisms? There isn't much that bugged me about the film. The villains didn't raise the stakes much: I found myself more distracted by Ronan's Braveheart face and pretty purple eyes than I was intimidated by him. As it is with any movie, I can always handle more female characters (love me some Glenn Close though) and I was mildly disturbed that all the no-name females were pink (thas how you know they're women!!). I'm really reaching here though, especially considering that one of the screenwriters, Nicole Perlman, was the first woman to pen a Marvel film. Suffice to say, I had a hard time finding much fault in the film.

Yes, there will be obvious comparisons to its earthbound cousin The Avengers, but it's not a fair comparison. The Avengers had the benefit of introducing 4 characters in their own respective films prior to its release, several of which were already household names. Guardians of the Galaxy had a giant task: They had to introduce 5 unknown heroes, 3 brand new villains, and an entire universe, then they have to get us invested in the characters and tell us a coherent story, all within about two hours. The film clocks in at 122 minutes, but given everything that had to be accomplished, I would have been happy to watch another 30 minutes.

At the same time, it's good that Guardians left some loose ends for the sequel. I look forward to seeing the characters developed further and learning why that big lavender prune-lipped man is such a scary SOB. Most of all, I look forward to the Rocket Raccoon stuffed animal I will receive for Christmas.

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Rocket Raccoon up top was illustrated by Greg Hinkle (and used in this article with his permission). Multiversity comics is doing an auction to benefit writer Bill Mantlo, of whom we have to thank for creating the surly rodent. Greg's original pen & ink illustration along with other original Guardians pieces will be available for purchase at the end of the summer.


7.29.2014

New Robocop vs. Old Robocop - Movie Reviews 2014

New Robocop vs. Old Robocop - Movie Reviews 2014

I watched the original Robocop for the first time about a year ago. I watched the new Robocop for the first time about a week ago. These are my observations:

  1. New Robocop's suit looks like it's made of rubber. Rubbercop.
  2. New Robocop moves like a Spiderman. Robey Maguire.
  3. Original Robocop's partner was a woman. Need more woman.
  4. Instead we get Robocop's wife. This is why I've become seriously concerned about Robocop's absent wee wee. I don't like thinking about Robocop's absent wee wee.
  5. Instead of pop up ads, we get Samuel L Jackson. (thumbs up) His rambling monologue at the end confused me. (thumbs sideways)
  6. New Robocop was not shot a comical amount of times. What a letdown.
  7. A boardroom full of people in suits were not shot a comical amount of times. What a letdown.
  8. I miss that guy that gets hit by toxic waste and turns into a sludgemen. Unforgivable sin.
  9. That yodeling prog rock song in the training sequence should have been much louder and much longer.
  10. New Robocop's bike sucks; it is too small for his giant body. It would have been better if Robocop was riding a hog. Or maybe if Robocop turned into a bike. Or maybe if Robocop rode a bike that looked like a slightly larger Robocop.

The makers of New Robocop took a beloved robot and tried to turn him into Ironman, but without all the stuff that makes Ironman cool. Instead we get a man without a wee wee. The original was a camp fest that fit perfectly with the camp fest that was the 80s; it's maddening that they thought flashy CGI, a more logical storyline, and a family that we're supposed to be invested in would be an improvement. These things belong in a Robocop movie about as much as Gary Oldman* belongs in a Robocop movie. Hell, I'm not even a Robocop fan. Real Robocop fans must have been furious.

Robocop doesn't need a fleshed out back story, one people hand, or lots of feelings. Robocop is not a superhero man. He's a robot. man. Let the robot define the man and the man be a friggin' robot.




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*Maybe if it was a Luc Besson joint, I would be yodeling a different tune.

Robocop Illustration by Greg Hinkle


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