Thursday, January 31, 2008

Man on Film: Rambo

Where to begin?...

"Rambo" can be succinctly described by two words: The Balls. This is a film with more than enough balls to go around, for men (and women) with balls, by a man with balls. The result is a film that is The Balls. The Balls. Not balls. The Balls.

As an auteur, Stallone knows exactly what he needs to provide for his audience. In last year's stirring "Rocky Balboa", he tore down Rocky's support structure and pushed the affable aged puncher back into the ring in a heartfelt coda much more faithful to the spirit of the series than its predecessor. With the fourth installment of the Rambo series, Sly brings his damaged super-soldier back as an anonymous old man navigating the Salween River on his ragged longboat, pushing the survivalist into the fray after reluctantly agreeing to guide a group of missionaries into the depths of war-torn Burma to help the brutally oppressed Karen only to have the missionaries captured by the vicious Burmese militia. Stallone draws the intensely private and now reticent hero in by way of an infusion of just a shred of humanity into his spartan life. Being the only man who can show a group of mercenaries where he dropped them off, he is called to action by his new code.

And when John Rambo is called to action shit hits the fan. What unfurls is a righteous spree of unimaginable violence that cinema has never been so lucky to have seen up until now. Tyrannous oppressors meet their maker, and the agent of their maker is clearly John Rambo. To speak of the retribution in exact terms would be a disservice to the shock and awe that any member of the audience should rightfully experience. The inventiveness is simply inspiring.

As to whether this film is faithful to the series, the answer is yes. Bryan Tyler's score carries the Goldsmith torch well. The dialogue is meets the requisite sparseness of a Rambo film. The pacing is brisk; exposition doesn't bog down the opening, and the action comes hard and fast as soon as our hero is thrust back into soldier-mode. The villains are sufficiently deserving of Rambo's wrath. "Rambo" serves as an apt bookend to the series if it ends here. If it doesn't end here, all the better.

"Rambo" does force one to wonder, "What if..." What if Sylvester Stallone had been allowed to helm the previous installments. He is attuned to what drives his characters psychologically. He is conscious of what strings to pull to draw the emotions of the audience into the fold entirely. He is gifted with the ability necessary to fully realize his vision. What could those first three "Rambo" films, which were already great in their own ways, have been under the control of Stallone the auteur?

Perhaps this is unfair. Perhaps he has been able to come around to this incarnation as skilled action filmmaker through the wisdom attained through time and experience, but the fact remains that he has been able to achieve exactly what he has set out to twice in as many years, and his future projects (he owns the rights to "Death Wish", "The Mechanic", and "The Lion's Game" and has long been trying to get an Edgar Allan Poe film into production) will surely lead to more success. Will we get to see Sly play handball with this generation's Jan Michael Vincent? Only time will tell.

What can be said is that a world in which Sylvester Stallone gets to make films as he knows how is a much better world than we all deserve.

Personal Addendum: There have been an inordinate amount of negative reviews of this film (but not from the paper of record). When reading these reviews, it becomes abundantly clear that these are from the desks of the weak. If reading a bad review of "Rambo" doesn't make you want to see it even more, I can't help but wonder what you are even doing at this site.

I'm back.

My junk's all in. Much of it is even put where it needs to go. On to brighter things in bigger places...

Monday, January 28, 2008

Apology

Unfortunately, I am in the middle of a move (this is a furtive entry while on the clock), so I'll be unable to post what you all have been waiting for for a couple of days. I can say this: Holy Fuck.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Truckers

The new Drive-By Truckers album, Brighter Than Creation's Dark, hit shelves today. Go out, support a local business, and pick up the record. Here's a little day-of-release treat. It's one of the two things Pitchfork has that's worth reading every week or so.

Color me shocked.

Apparently, Heath Ledger was found dead in his place in New York. I tend to err towards being a jaded asshole (I'm in a dead pool for money for Christ's sake), but this is pretty fucked up. Word is he was found with sleeping pills strewn all over the place around his body. This is not one I would've expected. I generally liked him in films. He was just about the only part of I'm Not There that I liked or wasn't disappointed in. It's all too bad, really.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Political Irony

While listening to NPR's news brief at 2:00, they spoke on how Bush gave a speech to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. In that speech, he said that to honor Dr. King's memory, we needed to look out for those in need. That seems just slightly disingenuous considering his entire presidency has been spent ignoring those most in need. Life for the young, the impoverished, and the ill has only gotten worse under his tender, loving care.

Football thoughts...

My condolences go out to Packers fans across the country. The Packers are probably the only team in the NFL I actively root for outside of the Kansas City Chiefs. I have a lot of friends and family who are die-hard Packers fans. It was a tough break. They're young, though. Hopefully next time they get to go at things in a little better weather, as this team seems to be much more reliant on a passing game that is aided quite a bit by less inclement conditions.

In two weeks, the Patriots can hopefully put to rest the '72 Dolphins champagne ritual. Good. I'm tired of that nonsense.

Now, I'm sure if you've been watching football this season, you've seen that irritating ad where Howie Long pulls up in his truck and offers to pick the guy who's stranded on the side of the road. It was on about 30 times today. During the first game, I turned to my not-yet-crushed Packers fan friend, Chad, and stated that were I in Stranded Guy's situation and Howie Long pulled up, I'd say, "Keep drivin', asshole." An hour or so later, my friend Mark, a fellow Chiefs fan who had since joined us, saw the same commercial and without any knowledge of what I had said earlier, stated, "If I was stranded in the desert and Howie Long pulled up, I'd say, 'Keep drivin', asshole'." The moral of this story is: Firestorm sucked.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Catching up with a Rambo Primer 4.5

I've been busy with moving, so I've been unable to tend to you IP fan(s).

I did get to see a certain movie two nights ago (think DDL and PTA), but I want to see it again before writing about that.

Also, the new Drive-By Truckers album comes out on Tuesday. Turn up the couch cushions and root through your car for loose change. Isbell & Co. came to town last night, but I ended up spending my night packing, so I didn't get to see him.

Now, what you were definitely waiting for:



Monday, January 14, 2008

Moving on

Now that I've spewed forth that venom, I'd like to share something with you, dearest reader.

Seeing the Rambo poster at the top of this blog brings me an inner peace that no amount of yoga and meditation will ever be able to do. If there is one thing that will right my world, it is the release of that film. What the world needs now is John Rambo blowing evildoers straight to hell with his brutal brand of justice. I know that's what my world needs now. Doesn't yours, too?

Here's an unofficial primer. A gift for you denizens of the internet.

Things I can't stand: Take two

I'll preface the story that follows with two biographical elements to keep in mind: Generally, I do not like people; and I'm looking (unsuccessfully) for a new place to live and time is running out, so--as hard as it may be to fathom--I'm more irritable now than I normally would be.

So tonight my old lady and I went out to eat at Hyde Park Bar & Grill, which we eat at fairly frequently, and we got seated in one of the smaller front rooms. In these rooms, you are occupying one of three tables. It's pretty close quarters, as these rooms are probably 10' x 5'. Now in close quarters, I think it's generally regarded as being gauche to talk too loudly. Luckily, we were seated two feet from a table of three middle-aged women, who were having an especially stimulating conversation about things ranging from "helicopter parents"--who the fuck even says a phrase like that? I know I've never heard anyone say anything like "helicopter parents" in my life, and I hope I never hear it again--to "I mean I've lived in Texas my whole life and I've never been to Terlingua". This conversation would not have been that problematic had it taken place at some reasonable decibel level. Instead, in a very small room with people sitting around them, it was an offensively obtrusive conversation. For starters, how the fuck could you have lived in Texas your whole life and never been to Terlingua? I've lived here for less than five years, and I've been there. What the fuck? Second, I don't need to hear that you love shoes. No one needs to hear that. And when I'm eating, I don't want anyone at the table next to me lifting their feet above the table level. I didn't say anything to this table because I must have some shred of politeness in me (which I am currently undermining, but if there is a better place than the faceless internet to spew forth my ire, I've not come across it), but I can't imagine my irritation went unnoticed.

Now I can't imagine I've never been too loud at a restaurant. I know I've been loud (or perhaps lewd) enough to get escorted from my seat at Miller Park (I did not curse at all, and we did get escorted back to our seats fairly quickly), but never did I lift my feet up near the table for all to see my shoes. That's just gross.

The moral of this story is: Keep your feet on the floor when you're eating dinner, or you'll get an angry blog written about you. And try to keep it down. I will.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Rambo Primer 3

Playoffs???



Now that that obligatory clip is out of the way...

The Patriots probably had the toughest draw of the weekend. They took care of business but did not look like world beaters. They have tons of weapons and made plays when they needed to, but they got bailed out by Garrard throwing a pick late, which they certainly cannot have been banking upon, as he threw three over the course of the entire regular season.

Ryan Grant spotted the Seahawks 14 points on the Packers' first two possessions deep in their own territory by coughing up inexplicable fumbles. Honestly, I didn't see any way they were coming back from that. It started snowing. It was cold. There was no way they were going to be able to put up enough offense after those decimating series to start the game. I was dead wrong. In blizzard conditions (and this is the same Packers team that looked absolutely lost in Chicago in Week 16 in a biting cold), the Packers scored 21 unanswered points and ended up dropping 42 on the Seahawks, largely due to a redemptive performance by Ryan Grant. They also sat on the ball for much of the fourth quarter. A 42-20 throttling of the Seahawks after spotting them two TD's in blizzard conditions makes me wonder what chance the Giants could possibly have.

As for the Giants, who would have thunk Eli would be the Manning waltzing into a Conference Championship game this weekend? Not me. They did the Packers a favor, beating the Cowboys in not-so-convincing fashion. The Cowboys stopped them twice in the last five or so minutes of the game, had chances to score, and could not capitalize. Romo still has that hump to get over, tossing a pick in the end zone with less than 30 seconds to play. Not what the kids would call clutch.

And on to Peyton... Will we be seeing a Peyton Manning commercial every commercial break next football season? I hope not. If we do, it won't be based on what he did these playoffs. Losing at home after getting that bye was something I thought was reserved for my Chiefs. Guess I was wrong there, too. Unfortunately, that means that punk Philip Rivers is still in the playoffs. I don't really hate the Chargers. As far as divisional foes are concerned, I could generally care less what happens to them. If they win, as long as it is not against the Chiefs, I'm not too bothered. If Philip Rivers wins, however, I'm not happy. Champ Bailey has it just about right:

A better illustration of why I can't stand Philip Rivers is the way he deals with his offensive players as opposed to how, say, Tony Romo deals with his. On a play in the third quarter of today's game, Rivers' center, Nick Hardwick (I think) couldn't hear the snap count and the Chargers ended up getting a delay of game. Of course, Rivers berates him in the throes of a childish temper tantrum, like any good quarterback does. In a similar situation in the Giants-Cowboys game, Cowboys center Andre Gurode was slow to snap the ball, and the entire line jumped up out of their stances, resulting in a false start penalty. Gurode had been slow to snap the ball for much of the second half, and this happened while the Cowboys were down four with 0:31 left in the game. What did Romo do? Like an adult, he walked up to Gurode and said something to him and patted him on the back. No tantrum. No arms flailing. He acted like a man, not a petulant child. It's not a coincidence that the Chargers ended up winning behind Rivers' replacement, Billy Volek. I wonder why LaDainian Tomlinson doesn't seem to like Young Philip much...

It doesn't much matter because the Chargers get to take a trip to Foxboro next weekend. I don't see them making the voyage back west to Arizona. If they do, it'll be to watch the game from the stands.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Hall of Fame reflections

Obviously, yesterday was a big day for Goose. Now someone who gets a Hall of Fame vote actually voted for Todd Stottlemeyer. The gents over at firejoemorgan.com think maybe this is why.

I, for one am glad Jack Morris did not make it in again. For arguments against his inclusion (or at least against the misguided notion that he was the best pitcher of the 1980's), you can go here (the entry on January 8th), here (and his follow-up here), here,
or maybe here, and lastly here. I'm glad there are so many who have done my work for me because I'd really hate to argue my point to the extent that these folks (and so many others like them) have done.

Now I'd love to wax poetic on why guys like Dale Murphy should be in the Hall, but I'm tired.

I'll leave you this little nugget, from another also-ran...

Me and Robbie Dupree

Not that I want to bury the House confessional (because I'd like to keep it at the top of this blog forever), but I've got news. Now, you may remember almost a month ago I posted a neat little video for my boy Chad. As you might be able to decipher, both Chad and myself are pretty big fans of Mr. Dupree, and I'm dead serious. I'm not talking in some veiled hipster irony or some duplicitous sarcastic tone here. I own his self-titled 1980 release. If you need a refresher as to why Robbie Dupree reigns supreme, here is just one of the many reasons:



Chad and I have been converting the ignorant for coming up on two years, indoctrinating all to our secret little club.

Last week, I decided to send an email to Mr. Robbie Dupree wishing him a most excellent 2008 and hoping that he may find it in his heart to make an appearance in or around Austin. Out of respect to Robbie, I'll refrain from posting his response. Suffice it to say, we Austinites, or at least Texans, may be able to indulge in a little Dupree delight at some point in the coming year. Cross your fingers, Texas. Cross them all and keep the dream alive.

Full Disclosure

I have a confession to make. I watch House.

It used to be that I would just watch it if it happened to be on. If I was at the old apartment on a Friday night before going out--well, to be truthful, I more than likely was not going out--I would usually catch an episode on USA.

And I enjoyed it.

He's an asshole. A prick, if you will.

Like me.

I used to feel some shame about this secret viewing habit of mine.

Now I don't. In fact, I've been renting (well, renting implies a payment is being made, which does not happen) the DVDs because I wanted the full backstory on all of the characters. I'm getting that and so much more.

House fucking rules.

There. I said it.

Now I am going to go to the gym, probably do more harm to my body than good, and then I'll watch an episode of House or two. Hell, I might even watch three episodes. Then I will convince myself that I have multiple illnesses and await my imminent death over the coming night.

If I do die tonight, I bid you all (or you zero readers) adieu.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Obama, Part 2

He just got done with his concession speech. In concession, he was more compelling, more inspirational, than Hillary Clinton has been in her life.

Again I ask, how does he not win in a landslide?

New Hampshire Primaries

I haven't delved into politics on this site at all because, quite frankly, I've felt a bit burned by the state of everything in this realm. That being said, I don't understand why people would want to vote for Hillary Clinton. Now let me preface what I'm going to say, by stating that I loved Bill Clinton. I still do. Hillary is no Bill, though. For starters, she lacks his warmth and charisma. Too many swing voters' minds are made up on her, too. She also seems much more disingenuous than some of her opponents.

Yet, the AP and MSNBC are projecting her to be the winner at 10:35 ET with 66 percent of precincts reporting. The statistic the news organizations seem to be referencing the most is that women voters turned out in droves (57% to 43% men), and they voted overwhelmingly for Hillary. I don't understand this. Because they share similar genitalia, they're supposed to vote for her? That just seems short-sighted. I'm all for there being diverse candidates in Presidential politics, but I just fail to see how she's the best candidate.

Barack Obama is so inspiring and impressive. He evokes such confidence. His stances on the issues should appeal to men and women alike.

CNN just called it for Hillary, as well.

Why?

The Goose is loose!

In honor of today's Major League Baseball Hall of Fame inductee, Rich "Goose" Gossage here's a treat. Thanks to bases on the KC Star Royals message board for the link. Not something you want to watch at work, by the way.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Best Films of 2007

Warning: This will not be a ranked list. Before the backlash from all zero readers of this blog begins, let me preface this list by saying, I've not seen every film released in the past year. I've not gotten to see There Will Be Blood yet. I've not gotten around to seeing Once, Control, or Breach, all of which have been recommended by reliable sources. I've not seen Charlie Wilson's War either. What follows is obviously incomplete.

Standout films
The Assassination of Jesse James
3:10 to Yuma
No Country for Old Men
The Lookout
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead
Rescue Dawn
Knocked Up
Superbad
Gone Baby Gone
Hot Fuzz
The Bourne Ultimatum
Sunshine
Shooter

Films I Failed to Understand People Actually Walking Out of the Theater Liking
Atonement
Michael Clayton
Juno
American Gangster
300
Grindhouse
I'm Not There

Good, Not Great
Eastern Promises
Zodiac
The Darjeeling Limited
Lars and the Real Girl
Black Book
28 Weeks Later

I Don't Care What You Say, These Were Fun
Next
National Treasure Book of Secrets
Live Free or Die Hard
Smokin' Aces
Shoot 'Em Up

Fucking Awful, as in So Bad I Couldn't Stomach Finishing It
Transformers

If I had to pick one as being the best, I'd probably give that honor to:

No Country for Old Men

Friday, January 4, 2008

Man on Film: Juno

Barring the solid to great performances by Jason Bateman, Ellen Page, and especially Michael Cera, this was an almost entirely irritating film. The plot was predictable at best. At no point was there any doubt as to what was going to happen. The graphics and opening titles sequence were gratingly reminiscent of that junior high artwork that such equally irritating films as Napoleon Dynamite incorporated. The Kimya Dawson-centric soundtrack fell victim to the film's infatuation with its cuteness, and past the presence of The Moldy Peaches, the film is littered with the stock artists that indie films seem to be enamored with like Belle and Sebastian (who grace the film with their presence twice) and, of course, The Kinks.

The most irritating aspect of the film, however, was the screenplay. Imagine a film in which the dialogue is styled after The Gilmore Girls and Dawson's Creek, incorporating the least desirable aspects of each (everyone being far too witty, and kids talking like adults). That is exactly what screenwriter Diablo Cody's script is. The grating "homeskillet" line in every TV spot and Theatrical Trailer delivered by the bewildering Rainn Wilson is more or less what this film is inundated with. Additionally, each adult is a caricature; each child is the outcast of the each year's sleeper hit. The stepmom, portrayed by Allison Janney complete with the overboard Minnesotan accent popularized in "Fargo" and bludgeoned in every movie since, is obsessed with dogs even though she doesn't own one. Juno's father is the typical, blue-collar, somewhat dim father to the unbelievably witty daughter, who always has some impossibly snarky comment for every situation.

Essentially, the film's shortcomings boil down to its love for itself. The filmmakers have created an unbelievable universe in which its characters spew forth words that surpass any acceptable degree of suspended disbelief and everyone is too cute for their own good. Its lack of grounding proves to be its undoing, and the few times it attempts to touch base with the real world later in the film are ultimately undermined by its not having been tethered to the ground in the least up until that point.
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