Friday, June 23, 2017

Screenwriters are obsessed with ending the world

"Happiness cannot thrive within the prison of obligation."
~ Jonathan Lockwood Huie

So I was asking myself the question today, "When will I ever learn?" I ask this because I always study reviews aggressively of any movie before I watch it, unless it's a title that I have absolutely no doubt I'll enjoy. There are so many movies out there that I always end up disagreeing with most critics on, but every now and again, I stumble upon one where I wish I had actually heeded the warnings of those paid to criticize bad filmmaking. Then I also stop and realize... that I myself am also a movie and television critic... I'm just not getting paid. So I ask the question again, "When will I ever learn?" The answer is, "I never fucking will!"

Case in point, my latest venture into the shortcomings of Hollywood. A film that was released in theaters just 3 months ago. Now I have learned that if a movie goes from theater to DVD in under 3 months...that usually means it's pretty fuckin bad. Not always... but most of the time. This one has to be one of the worst I have seen in a while. Now those who know me, know that I own a lot of damn movies and I love to watch them. When I say that a movie sucks, there is something to that. The above quote actually goes along with my critiquing of this movie today, because it channels a certain type of film that, I am sorry to say, is now being milked to fucking death!

The movie is called Life. Now when most people hear that title, they think of the mid '90's comedy with Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence set at a prison camp, but this is far from that. This movie is not funny, however I did feel like I was in a prison, and just like in the above quote, I feel that this film's writer and director were also in a prison... of obligation. They felt obligated to continue catering to the vast group, myself included, that just love apocalyptic style movies. The problem is that you can only take one idea so far. Eventually the storyline, the one-liners, and even the aliens themselves... become too cliché. To sum it up, you will milk it to death!

This movie is set in Space, more specifically, just beyond our atmosphere at the International Space Station, orbiting the Earth. As the story begins, a group of astronauts are returning to the station after an 8 month exploration of the planet Mars. Now there isn't much explanation into what's really happening, you kind of just have to put it together. But don't worry, you get the first half-hour to figure out the plot during the slowest 33 minutes of your fucking life. Eventually you see an organism that the group brought back from Mars, growing to life in an incubator. It seems to be some miracle of science, the organism looks almost breathtaking... and then it attacks.

Suddenly the movie has a little bit of character... but only a little. The alien itself is pretty easy to figure out. I soon compared it to that of a vampire bat, feeding off the blood of it's victims. One such poor soul has his entire body I think liquefied on the inside. This isn't explained, but more implied, and let me tell you, it was quite disturbing to watch and I will never be able to un-see it. Especially being that the actor was someone who you would not expect to see in that type of position. But in any case, the show had to go on, and I being someone who has to "see it through to the end,"  had to finish this abomination just out of hopes that it would properly come to fruition. It did not!

With each passing scene, I was calling every moment as if I had written the fuckin thing myself. Several times over, I was actually comparing this movie to the Alien franchise. It was boring, bland and honestly, just copied from other stories and made disturbing in its own, sad way. And when it ended, I knew exactly what to expect. The poor attempt to throw in a massive plot twist at the final scene, again was so cliché. To go back to such other abominations as Skyline or The 5th Wave, the story isn't finished. The alien has in short won over humanity, and you're just left there, wondering. As I always like to say... "It's kind of like masturbation, without the payoff."

Now there is actually one thing that I can say positive about the movie, and that is in relation to the alien creature itself. I was quite fascinated by it really. While I was sitting there looking at its unique design, I was finding myself comparing it to a couple of past creatures. I feel that it was a lovechild of the aliens from Independence Day and the man-eating plant from Little Shop of Horrors. This thing was fucking smart though. It knew every move they made, and it anticipated every move they were going to make, and it knew exactly how to counter-act. It was brilliant right up to the very end when it outsmarted the supposed hero and won.

But honestly, even if you still have any sort of shear, morbid desire to see this movie... just don't. I can't stress it enough... stay away! For the dear love of everything that is great in the world, stay away!

"Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results." 
- Rita Mae Brown, also attributed to Einstein

Friday, June 16, 2017

Are aliens invading??? I'm not really sure...that doesn't seem to be the issue here...

"Standing in the inspiring vision of my future, I boldly take every step - large and small - with courage and intent."
~ Jonathan Lockwood Huie

Well kids....I'm back! It's been more than 10 months since my last blog...holy shit! I promised I would do this more often, but we all know that life happens. So much has transpired. It's been very difficult making this Cali venture work, but Linz and I are doing it. It's not easy, that's for sure, but it's still proving easier than Tucson living was towards the end. Needless to say, we are doing just fine and moving forward.

So anyway, the original point of this blog was to keep my mind busy by critiquing what I love the most in the world...television and movies. I've watched plenty of both in the last 10 months, but it is so rare that I feel so strongly about a certain show or picture that I feel the need to get on here and voice my opinion. Well that time is upon us. I am not going to be kind however and if you have not seen this movie and wish to...don't read forward.

The movie we are going to discuss is a little old because, well let's face it, even us movie buffs tend to get a little behind. It was released in January of last year, and it is called "The 5th Wave." For those who don't know of it, it is yet another installment into one of my deepest alien invasion of Earth. But as much as it wanted to be great, it lacked immensely. Hollywood unfortunately never fails to disappoint as much as they pleasure.

The movie stars Chloe Grace Moretz, who also narrates throughout the film. It starts out fantastic, with that eerie vibe that only this genre can deliver on. She goes into mild detail about the first four waves of this alien invasion as the director brings them to life, but this is unfortunately very brief and as such, it is rushed. It was like 5 minutes of great sex....and then one of you suddenly falls asleep. Not exactly how you want to look at a movie going experience, but I digress.

The plot of the movie was not so much about the aliens or what they wanted, although that is briefly covered at one point towards the end of the film. It was actually about love, more directly the lead character's love for her brother who is taken by the alien race, and her attempt to rescue him from their grasp. After she accomplishes this task, the movie quickly ends. The aliens are not beat and are in fact, still in the process of invading Earth.

At the end of the movie, while I was morbidly pissed off about wasting almost 2 hours of my life, I noticed in the credits that it was based on a novel. It made sense because the storyline sounded like it came out of a poorly written book. I takes me to another film from nearly 20 years ago that also came from a poorly written book and also covered an alien invasion of Earth. That movie was called Battlefield Earth.

I remember being so incredibly excited for that movie. John Travolta playing a 7-foot tall alien who, along with his army, conquered the Earth's defenses in 9 minutes. I thought to myself, "Fuck, that is going to be an amazing sequence. Did that show up in the film? Nope. It was only briefly discussed. The whole movie was rather boring up until the end when the aliens are actually defeated and Earth regains its freedom.

But as bad as Battlefield Earth was as a movie, I liked it better than The 5th Wave. I will say that parts of the story had me intrigued, and I did enjoy Chloe Moretz's character, as well as Liev Shrieber as the military commander that played host to the alien leader, but overall...those are nearly 2 hours that I don't get back, just like with Snakes On A Plane. Don't make me hate the villain and then not allow me to watch them pay at the end. That's just plain shitty.

"I set my own course through the ocean of life."
~ Jonathan Lockwood Huie

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

A Little Something Different

When one door closes, another opens. But often we look so long, so regretfully, upon the closed door,
that we fail to see the one that is opened for us.
- Helen Keller

Well I've been gone for a few months...sorry about that. I got the job at the grocery store, and fell into a routine, and before I knew it...boom, four months! A lot has transpired in the last few months. There has been some heavy drama, but there has also been some incredible growth. The last week alone was just phenomenal. I've acquired a new job in food industry management, Linz is doing beyond amazing at her job. We finally purchased a car, and we got ourselves some new phones that we desperately needed. Things are really coming together now. God is doing some of His finest work now that I myself have finally been able to embrace this land as my new home...and left Tucson in my rear-view mirror.

So today we're going to do something a little off-pudding from the normal movie and television reviews. So one of the things that I decided would help in my healing and adjustment here was to write a book about the trauma of my mother's death and how it caused my life to take the course that it took, bringing me to my 18 years in Tucson and now here to Northern California. Well it's been tough to sit down and remember all of the details of that experience. Losing a parent is never easy, and it's definitely that much tougher when you are so young and sheltered by that parent. But I will say that I am proud of myself for deciding to share this with the world.

Well here is an excerpt from the first chapter of my book. I warn you that I cried a little as I was writing it, so have tissues nearby just in case.

I guess it all started the day my mother got sick. That's when this journey truly began. For my entire life, up to that point, I was always under her wing. I was home schooled and heavily sheltered. I had very little interaction with the outside world. I was allowed time with the neighborhood kids, and with kids from the other home school families within the Christian Home School that my mother had founded with one of her friends. We did regular functions such as skate days, where we went to the local roller rink, and park days, which is self-explanatory. As far as I knew, that was the way life went. I didn't know any better. But once she got sick...everything changed. My mother was my everything. She was my best friend, my confidant, she was all I knew really. My friends were great, but the time that I spent with them as opposed to my mother...was hardly comparable.

For six months, she had the absolute worst headaches, I mean they were bad. They would last for days at a time. There was no aspirin strong enough. There was no “getting a good night's rest,” because she just couldn't. Schooling me had pretty much stopped. From what I can remember, I did my own thing. I had workbooks that I could navigate through on my own, so my education continued to a point...but most days I couldn't concentrate. I was too worried about her. See my siblings were so much older, and both married, so my mother was able to focus all of her time on me...and that she did. When I say that she was my best friend, she really was. The only other friends that I really had at the time were my neighborhood friends Jackie (she spells it Jacci now) and LaDenia. I've within the last year reconnected with them (thanks to Facebook), so they will get the opportunity to read this particular section and most likely remember it well.

When we finally broke down and took her to the doctor, the news was the worst we could have ever imagined. A very rare form of liver cancer, caused by stress if I remember correctly. A trait that my family knows all too well, and for those who know me well...know that it's one of my strongest traits unfortunately...this can partially explain that. I had to watch my mother die, and it was no picnic. We had her in home hospice care, and a nurse that at least stayed there during the daytime. When she got worse, and we knew that the time was approaching, we moved her back to the hospital. I still remember clear as crystal, the last time that I saw her awake. I just leaned forward and rested my head on her for about 45 minutes, until my father said it was time to go home. As I left the room I kept my eyes on her, and we stared at each other until we were out of view. She fell into a coma the next day.

Well there you have it, a taste of things to come. Now it will probably take me a few months to complete this book, but the outlines are all laid out so its just a matter of getting the chapters written.
For now, call it a tease. Maybe this is the book that I will actually finish. It could also inspire me to finish my first literary project that I started nearly 20 years ago. Till next time y'all!

Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.
- Brian Tracy

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Face your fears, or live in regret

"It's a lot easier to run away from the problem than it is to face it head on and take a chance on gettin' hurt. But in the end all you're left with is emptiness, and regret."
~ Barry Corbin in Born Wild

Well yesterday I decided I needed a movie to clear my head. I picked a random movie that I hadn't seen least I thought it was random. I know now that God directed me to watch this movie for the message it delivered. It's called Born Wild from 2013. It looks like it was one of those straight to DVD type deals and I only gave it a chance because I saw that Kix Brooks was in it. Very weird to see a country music superstar as a villain by the way. Anyway, it's a very intense character study about the effects of running from your problems, and the consequences that come with it.

The story is about a character named CJ Jennings, a former member of an underground biker gang who has just been released from prison for murdering a fellow member of the gang. That part of the story dies very early on as it not a very important factor in the overall plot. Basically, we find out that CJ left his hometown of Banshee, Texas twenty years ago, leaving behind a young girlfriend, and all of the familiar that he apparently didn't want. Instead of sticking with the simple life, he decided to run and find something new.

So he returned to find his mother dead, his bestfriend dying, his former girlfriend now divorced from the afore mentioned Kix Brooks, and a son he never knew he had. This movie kind of dragged for a little bit, and I was really wondering where it was going to go...and then it started to take shape. CJ was a drifter. He ran away from his life and decided to go be a bad boy, joining a dangerous biker gang and ending up getting involved with all of the wrong people, and as a result he paid the price with a prison sentence.

The quotes I included are spoken by his father. They reunite after about 40 years of not seeing each other. As we learn in this scene, CJ's father was a runner too, leaving him and his mother when they were young, blaming all of his issues on the war, and instead deciding to find his comforts at the bottom of a bottle. They reconnect over time and it is quite serene to watch. These quotes stuck with me immediately. They are what made me realize that this movie was not so random and within seconds, I had the material for my next blog. The Lord sure does work in mysterious ways.

This movie was actually very, very good, and it really helped me in understanding some personal issues. I've been a runner quite a few times in my life. I ran away from my home in Riverside when I was 17, and set off a chain of events that led my father to drop me off in Tucson just a few months later. I ran away again from my sister's house not even a year later, and ultimately ended up almost homeless in Tucson. Nobody, on their 18th birthday, should get the reality check that I did, but I brought it on my self. I paid the price for trying to run from my problems by hitting  rock-bottom.

Over the years I've run from several other situations. I've run from jobs, probably because I momentarily just didn't like something my boss said, and instead of facing it, I burned a bridge that could never be repaired. I've run from relationships, for various reasons. If a situation isn't working, I tend to flee. I honestly don't know if any of it is from my mother dying when I was younger, or it is just the result of some faulty wiring in my brain, but I know that I have in fact done more than my fair share of self-sabotage, and in some cases I have paid dearly for it.

Ultimately, I have learned a major lesson recently. I have been putting way to much pressure on myself to be the absolute best I can be. I want to be the bread winner, but I'm no good as a provider or a husband if I can't get a handle of my own mentality. I have to give things time. I must learn to live in the moment instead of worrying so much about the long term outcome. Nobody knows what the future will bring, that's the mystery of life. You can't waste your life in worry, and you damn sure can't run from your problems. If you don't face your fears, all you'll have is regret.

"You don't have to be a great man, a good provider, be a good husband or a just have to BE THERE."

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Battling Inner Demons

"He who makes a beast of himself, loses the pain of being a man."
~ Laurence Fishburne in Standoff

Well sorry kids, I've been out for a couple of weeks. I did write a blog post last week, but for personal reasons, I decided to keep it private. But alas, here we are, back at it. I was able to sit down last night and watch a new little gem called Standoff. An absolutely phenomenal character study about the battle with personal demons. It actually worked out very well that I just saw this movie, because I myself am dealing with some personal demons of my own right now, and this one made me think on a very deep level. See lately I have not been dealing with the move all that well. At first it was what I believe was homesickness, but then it turned into a little bit of self-sabotage. On some level, I feel that maybe I have been fighting myself on my attempts to settle in here. Jobs have fallen through, which also doesn't help. It gets discouraging, but in the end I know better.

So about the movie, Standoff. It stars Laurence Fishburne as an assassin with the same ole "all dressed in black" cliché, but this time there's another not so often used touch. He wears a black beanie over his head to keep his victims from seeing his face. If he chooses to, he removes the mask just so it guarantees that the mark is going down anyway, simply for the fact that they've seen his face and it can't be risked that they can identify him later. Anyway, the movie begins with this assassin doing a job which included shooting up a funeral. Never fun to watch, but that was how the director wanted it. So, as it turns out, a little girl just happens to roam into the cemetery with a camera and catches multiple pictures of the assassin, which he then notices and chases her to a nearby house. This is where the true nature of this story begins to unfold.

At this point we meet Carter Greene, a military veteran played by the amazing Thomas Jane, who is dealing the loss of a close family member and is slowly killing himself. It is called Standoff because once the killer gets into Greene's house looking for the child, it becomes a battle of wits, between the two men. For a while, the assassin either doesn't take his mask off, or hides behind a corner, making sure that Greene doesn't see his face. At this point you see that the assassin is battling inner demons, because he is not just "going in for the kill" as the saying goes. He is actually giving this man a chance to "do the right thing" and hand over the girl so that the assassin can tie up a loose end. This movie, remarkably enough, did not drag as I thought it would, despite the fact that the action started right up with very little character development in the beginning.

Over the course of the hour and twenty-two minute movie, the director brilliantly tells the story of two men and a child, all three alone in the world, and all three brought together to somehow find inner peace through an incredibly traumatic situation. Though the dialogue is incredibly profane, some of the best quotes that I have heard in a long time are found in this movie. As you have already noticed, the two best ones are at the beginning and end of this post. You actually get to see a wretched, cold-blooded and ruthless assassin, start to question his own existence, and it is just amazing to watch. I did not expect this movie to be what it was. I just thought, "Oh cool, Laurence Fishburne is going to be a villain! And this movie is going to have a lot of action!" But the director throws a brilliant curve ball, making this one of the best character studies I have ever seen.

I could so easily go on, but eventually I would end up telling the whole story, and if any of you decide to give the movie a try, then I don't want to spoil it for you. Let's just say that I truly believe that God purposefully pointed me to this movie last night, because He knew that its message would be pivotal in my growth as I push forward in this new endeavor. Whether you are a cold-blooded assassin, or just a normal everyday Joe Schmuckatella, the battle is real. Inner demons will tear at your heart strings, and they will destroy your sanity if you let them. If you lower your defenses, and you let the red guy with the horns down below see your inner most fears, you will find yourself fighting a battle that is very difficult to win. The best that anyone can do is to take life one day at a time, and don't let fear or anger rule.

"You don't see the Devil's face without taking the ride to the bottom."
~ Laurence Fishburne in Standoff

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Driven to pursue...even in discomfort

"What lies behind us and what lies before us
are tiny matters compared to what lies within us."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Well last week I watched the pilot for what is now one of my new favorite shows, Billions. It stars one of my favorite actors, Paul Giamatti, as U.S. Attorney Chuck Rhoades. He decides to take on the case of his life by pursuing hedge fund king Bobby Axelrod, played by Damien Lewis. So far both of their performances have been phenomenal. It is the ultimate battle of wits against two very powerful figures. While watching this 59 minute episode, I found myself entranced by both political and financial slang, that I would normally get bored with very quickly. This show somehow is different though. I am not sure what it is, but it has got me hooked. Suddenly I am doing research into certain aspects of criminal studies, as well as financial investing, to better understand the kind of mature and overwhelming dialogue this show spews out at an alarming rate. It was refreshing for someone like me, who at certain times prefers to go for the show or movie that is more likely to just blow shit up, instead of bore with mindless chatter.

The thing about this show that I am ultimately loving is that it drives me to want to do better, to want to be better. Just listening to one side, an evil and corrupt financial investor, who throws around a lot of percentages and mathematical certainties to in the end make millions of dollars a day. Then listening to the other side, a powerful and morally driven attorney, hell-bent on delivering justice to those who have wronged his city, and doing it the right way. It somehow has given me the drive to pursue my dreams, which in my current situation, is something that I have really needed lately.

So on the day that I watched this pilot, I had my first interview here in Northern Cali, at a little locally owned establishment in the town of Folsom. Taking this drive I had from the show, I nailed the interview and was quickly asked back later that evening for what they called a "working interview," where I would work along side the chef for a couple of hours, off the clock, and learn the menu. This establishment, while having a reputation in the community, was a huge disappointment. I was there on a Friday evening so the dinner service was busy, but the chef despite his training was not very professional with his handling the situation.

Now granted the kitchen was about the size of the kitchen here in our apartment, which for a restaurant setting I find ridiculous, but sometimes you have to adapt. But that wasn't the worst part. At one point I asked the chef where the hand-washing station was, at which point I was directed to simply rinse my hands off in some dirty dishwater and keep going. Luckily, I had managed to find some plastic gloves and was able to continue. As the service continued, I was unfortunately subjected to more discomforts, such as the chef throwing dishes and breaking them, one of which nearly hit me. The situation was indeed intolerable, however, thanks to the show I had watched earlier that day, it reminded me that I have a strong work ethic that would get me through the end of the shift, no matter how awful it had become.

Monday, February 1, 2016

A New Beginning

"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined."
~ Henry David Thoreau

Hey guys! Well here I am, doing what I have always done best...writing. It is a passion that I have indulged since I was about 12. It helped me escape the pain of my mother dying, and as a result, I realized that I had a gift, one that I have embraced my whole life. When I moved from Riverside, California to Tucson, Arizona in 1997, I continued to write since the rebellious teenager in me still had a lot of pain suppressed inside, and it came out on the paper with supreme precision. Over the years, unfortunately, I have slipped away from my writing. I took a couple of classes at the community college in Tucson back in 2007 that helped bring me back into it, but unfortunately, the reality of life kicked in once again and I was diverted away from my true passion. Not long after we got settled in here in the Sacramento area, my wife suggested I start a blog to not only keep me busy while looking for a job, but to also just get back into my writing. She knows me too well.

Over the last week, I suffered from some severe home sickness, which I unfortunately let consume me at a rather unhealthy level. Thankfully, I have some amazing friends and family who took the time to talk me through these issues. I had a few sleepless nights, missed a few meals, but I did make it through. There were a lot of walks around the apartment complex with my dog, and a lot of long phone calls, but in the end, I conquered. Now I know that these feelings will never fully go away. Tucson is where I grew up. As a very close friend told me just today, that city shaped me into what I am now, so there is always going to be a bond. What I must do now is find a way to move forward. Once a life has been built here, those memories of Tucson will become that of fondness, not sadness. I have my lovely and amazing wife, my precious little dog, and her family to be my support system. I also have plenty of other friends and family scattered all over that are there for me when I need them.

So here we are, a new day has come. I've got this incredible city in front of me, so much to explore, so much to learn. I've got an old friend from high school that lives here, works at the zoo. Not only will I get to see her for the first time in nearly twenty years, but it will also be fun to take my nephew to see some amazing animals. I also, through a fantastic act of serendipity, ran into one of my childhood friends on Facebook shortly before moving up here, and discovered that she and her family live only about an hour away from us. I am about a month away from seeing a long lost sister that I haven't seen in like 22 years! Insanity! But the best part about this move... I get to see my wife happier than she has ever been. For as long as I have known her, she has wanted to always be near family that loves her, all of the time. She gets that now. It has been worth the sacrifice of uprooting our lives and leaving all that we knew, in order to see the smile on her face everyday when she gets a hug from our precious little nephew, Evan.

A lot of amazing things are ahead of me here in my new home. My wife's Aunt and Uncle live only about an hour and a half away from us. They were the main reason that we chose this city as our new home. They are absolutely incredible people. I couldn't imagine my life without them. They are coming this weekend for the Super Bowl (GO BRONCOS!), and bringing their kayaks down for a little trip down lake Natoma, which is just down the street from us. There will be plenty of fun things like this in the near future. In the Spring I am even going to go fishing for the first time! Yes, you heard me right, 35 years old, and I have never been fishing. #howcanthishappeninamerica It's been a tough couple of months getting from Tucson to here. Over 900 miles in just two days. But we've pretty much settled in. Everyone is developing their routines, and we're making it our happy new home. The rest will fall into place later.