Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

I saw this on Buzz Dixon’s Facebook and thought it would be fun. Because I don’t want to flood people’s Inboxes for the next month, I’m going to post this first one on my substack, and the rest of them here at and my facebook, so you can follow along for the next 30 days or however often I end up doing it. I may not even last more than a week. Anyway, here goes:

I’m not sure what’s so challenging, except I might just get busy or run our of ideas, and some of them might not necessarily be films I find interesting or really want to write a lot about, but I usually have something to say about movies, so I’m sure I’ll come up with something. Maybe that will be the challenge.

Day 1: The First film You Remember Watching:

The Black Hole

This was surprisingly difficult (maybe even challenging?) because I at first assumed it was probably Star Wars, or Wizard of Oz on TV, or something along those lines. And perhaps it was, because this is certainly not an exact science, and my powers of recall are certainly not what they once were, but I have very distinct memories of the finale of this movie, and since it was released in 1979, when I would have been three, and Empire Strikes Back (which I know I saw in the theater several timeswas released in 1980, I’m going with this one. I also remember having nightmares about the finale of the movie, when the bad guy falls into the black hole and they show a really creepy close-up of his face. Maybe I thought that since he was in the back hole, he could come find me in my sleep. I don’t know. I was a very small, impressionable child. I also think I had some kind of V.I.N.CENT toy, which is probably worth a ton on eBay now.

If you have never seen this movie, the storyline is pretty simple, for 70’s sci-fi. Courtesy of “A research vessel finds a missing ship, commanded by a mysterious scientist, on the edge of a black hole.” If you like that kind of thing, it’s worth the watch (In fact, go now if you want to, because I’m going to spoil some of it here. It’s over 40 years old. Do I really have to warn you?) That logline doesn’t really tell you anything about the movie, though, because despite the fact that the movie features Anthony Perkins, Ernest Borgnine and Robert Forster, to me, the real star was V.I.N.CENT, the little robot who is basically R2-D2 and Spock (two of my favorite characters) rolled into one. In fact, in researching this post, I only just now discovered that he was voiced my Roddy McDowell, which makes him infinitely cooler. For those unaware, V.I.N.CENT is actually short for “Vital Information Necessary CENTralized,” which makes no sense at all, but was a cool name for a robot, I guess.

After the fearless crew board the Cygnus to suss out this black hole mystery, V.I.N.CENT is soon joined by another robot, B.O.B. (Bio-Sanitation Batallion, which makes even less sense as an acronym), a sort of beat-up version of himself who tries to warn the V.I.N.CENT and the crew of the impending danger. In the end, he sacrifices himself to save them, but dies kind of happy to have made a friend in V.I.N.CENT.

This is definitely what drew me to the film; the bullied robot who was physically and emotionally abused by his peers had found someone like himself, and he cared about him so much that he gave his life so that his friend could live on. This is really the only message I can take from this movie, because the human characters are honestly pretty lame cardboard cut-outs of sci-fi characters of the era. Little kid Matt Dursin did love seeing small, flying robots stealing the show. When you throw in the fact that the big evil was a bad-ass-looking robot named Maximillion, well, is it any wonder that when Transformers came along a few years later, I was hooked?

In retrospect, was he really that bad-ass looking? Or does he look like a coffee machine?

The real kicker is, despite the fact that I have fond memories of this movie (apart from the nightmares), and it is available to stream on Disney+, I have yet to watch it in its entirety since the early eighties. I remember the day I signed up for Disney+, being really excited to see The Black Hole on there, and turning it on. And then turning it off after about 15 minutes, wanting to see what else was available and figuring I would come back later. I’m not sure if it was the slow-pacing of movies of that time and my short attention span, or the fact that it wasn’t as fun as I remember, or I just didn’t really care. That’s basically how nostalgia works a lot of the time. I really am glad that The Black Hole is available to watch whenever I want, but I’m not sure I will ever go back and watch it. I mean, this country just went through fifteen months where we were basically trapped inside with almost no new entertainment, and I didn’t even think about watching this movie. When will I actually make the time for it? But if it was suddenly taken away for some reason, I would definitely feel sad. That’s how this stuff works, I guess.

The good news is, the 30-Day Film Challenge doesn’t say, “The First Movie You Remember Fondly and Watch Consistently to this Day.” It just asks the first one you remember watching. There was tons more Star Wars, Star Trek, Transformers, Star-Blazers, Force Five and a crap load of other nerdy stuff for a young nerd like me to get into, so the fact that The Black Hole only cracked open the door is enough for me.

So, come back tomorrow for a long-winded post about a movie that starts with the first letter of my name. Will I pick M or D? That’s the challenge! Meanwhile, check out my linktree to find out what else I’m up to. There’s tons of podcasts I’m on here, comics I created here, and t-shirts and stuff I “created” here. It’s all for your consumption!

Thanks for reading and keep on keepin’ on.

Movies That Settle: Thor

Posted: April 16, 2021 in Uncategorized

It’s been awhile since I posted here, because of life stuff, and also because I was attempting to move over to Substack, which I am still working on, but I figured I pay for this domain, too, so I might as well post stuff here. This post was actually a Dursin Sub-Stack original, but I figure the statute of limitations has run out on it and I actually was kind of proud of it, so I figured I would put it here, while also encouraging anyone reading to head over to Substack for a little more Dursin flavor. Bon appetit!

With movie theaters around here mostly closed due to the pandemic, and not a lot of movies being made for the same reason, probably the biggest franchise of all-time (if you count the Marvel Cinematic Universe as one big franchise) has stalled. I didn’t think this would matter to me all that much, because after Avengers: Endgame, we probably needed a break. Technically, Spider-Man: Far From Home came after, but that was kind of dessert to the Endgame meal. Or an after dinner Scotch. We now have WandaVision, and tons of news all over the internet about upcoming projects (I just read that Brie Larson is scheduled to make an appearance in Thor: Love and Thunder… in 2022), so there’s always something to keep fans like me occupied, but still, I will admit that there is a void in my life.

Recently, however, I caught the original Thor on cable, and realized that it is now ten years old, and was reminded of a simpler time, when Marvel movies could pretty much stand alone and weren’t setting up massive stories to be paid off in another movie. Of course, I am a huge MCU fan, but I do understand that some people see them as
meaningless blockbusters that are just big-budget commercials for the next movie.
Maybe because I read comics, I just see that as “story-telling.” Plus, as someone who studied film writing, I actually think it’s pretty impressive to have 20+ movies all made by different people over the course of a decade be paid off the way they did. I mean, a lot of franchises can’t make it work when there are three movies in a series. And of course, I fully realize that Thor was setting up for the eventual Avengers team-up, as were the other Phase 1 movies, but if these first few didn’t work, creatively and commercially, then we never would have made it that far.

Still, 2011 was indeed a simpler time when it came to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In fact, before Thor, the entire Universe at the time consisted of one Iron Man. And technically Rhodey, but he was played by a different actor and didn’t wear armor, so he doesn’t count. I think most people know the story, so I won’t go into the history of the MCU, but to boil it down: when they were nearing bankruptcy many years ago (long before Disney bought them), Marvel Comics sold the film rights to many of their top characters to various film studios, so we had X-men and Fantastic Four movies being made by Fox, with varying degrees of success, and Spider-man movies being made by Sony, again with varying degrees of success, and a Hulk movie made by Universal and directed by Ang Lee with zero degrees of success. In fact let’s never speak of it again.

Side-note: around this time, Christopher Nolan had killed with three pretty awesome Batman movies and even Hellboy was making waves with a couple blockbusters. Remember when Marvel was way behind in terms of cool comic book movies? Different world…

Anyway, Marvel had what had been considered in the comic realm as B-list characters, at best (and with the Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man, maybe way down the alphabet.) Bear in mind that the X-Men franchise rights, for example, pretty much includes all mutants and anyone mutant adjacent, and even the word “mutant,” which any Marvel fan knows is a big deal in the comics. This not to say that The Avengers weren’t interesting or popular characters, but as far as non-fans go, they were relatively unknown compared to Spider-Man and the X-Men. Let me put it this way, when rumors were spreading about a Thor movie, my brother asked me if anyone was actually clamoring for such a thing, and even I, as a long-time fan, had to admit probably not.

So, Kevin Feige and his team did the smart thing and copied what worked with Iron Man in 2008: get a known director that people will buy in Kenneth Branagh, and a star that definitely looks the part. I’m not even that big a fan of Kenneth Branagh, but if you want to make a Thor movie that features people talking in that old, English-style and has a hero from a magical realm who wields an enchanted hammer, get the Shakespeare guy, and then get a big, handsome dude to play said hero.

This is all to say that nobody, probably even Kevin Feige, knew that tens years from the first Thor movie, we would be eagerly awaiting the fourth one, which has to make it a success no matter how you slice it. But there’s more to it than that. Thor is also a fun, well-constructed action movie on its own, that introduces some weird elements that people had no knowledge of, or as my brother would say, weren’t clamoring for, and made people care about them. Of course, there are millions of movies about heroes from space or other realities or galaxies far, far away or whatever, and yeah, sometimes we care about them and sometimes they stink and we don’t care. But I think people are made to care about Thor (Fourth movie. Hello?), and think about how hard that is, because he’s a really powerful, ridiculously attractive man. But they did it with one simple story-telling trope: take the powers away. And using the ideas in the comics, literally tell the audience that he is “unworthy” and make him earn those powers. he starts off as incredibly arrogant and pompous, feeling that he should be king, and his father strips all that cool stuff away, and he has to learn to become worthy to get it back. It’s a very simple, “hero’s journey” type-of-thing that works in all kinds of stories, and it works because people get it and it makes them feel good. Luke has to learn The Force, Harry Potter has to learn magic (Right? I actually have never seen or a read any of it), and Thor has to become worthy to wield the hammer and be able to do Thor stuff. The only thing he didn’t have to earn was being handsome, but some guys are just born lucky.

Of course, Thor has a love interest, as all hunky, male Avengers do (Hopefully, Black Widow has one in her solo movie, which has been delayed a million times thanks to this stupid pandemic, otherwise it would be pretty sexist of Marvel.) The thing that I like about Jane Foster is that she’s not a toughie that can go toe-to-toe with the bad guys like Thor does. She is strong in other ways. Besides being really smart, if you have read any of the news about Thor: Love and Thunder, she is also “worthy.” But she is also a pretty normal young woman, who is really into Thor. And who wouldn’t be? But unlike most movie heroines, she doesn’t play hard-to-get, or go through some wacky adventure and learn to love the hero, or like another damsel played by Natalie Portman in a different Disney franchise, just fall in love with him all of the sudden, even though he’s kind of creepy. She is into him from the moment she meets him. Well, after hitting him with her truck, but still, she likes him. It’s so obvious that it is written into the scene where Thor and Eric Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) are at a bar sharing a drink, and Eric says to his drinking partner, “I’ve seen the way she looks at you.” In an interesting character moment, Thor doesn’t respond with a resounding, “Well, yah!” He actually seems a little surprised by the comment, and assures Eric that he means her no harm. We should also remember that Thor is over 1500 years old at this point, and has probably met a few women in that time, and bedded more than his fair share. They also lightly hint in the second Thor film that he could probably hook up with Lady Sif if he wanted to, but he doesn’t seem interested, instead his heart belongs to this “mortal.” It’s sort of a role reversal from most movies, as here the female lead is ga-ga from the beginning while the male has an important job to do, but I like it and am very curious to see how it is handled in Love and Thunder.

One of the other things I like in this movie is the use of Foo Fighters’ “Walk” as a theme song. Of course, it’s been a long-standing – and sometimes annoying – tradition for big-budget movies to shoe-horn in a popular band’s song to get some crossover appeal and boost music and ticket sales. In this case, however, it’s a little more than that as the song is about, as the chorus says, “learning to walk again.” Dave Grohl had written some of the lyrics of the song after helping his first daughter literally learn how to walk, and then marveling at how she could eventually walk on her own. He intended it to be on their album Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace, but then decided to put the finished version on the next album, “Wasting Light,” because he felt it fit with the themes of “time and second chances.” According to some of the information I read (on the internet, so hopefully it’s right), Grohl, felt that he had “lost his way” a little bit, as the song says, and this album was about getting back to his roots as a garage band, literally, in fact, as he recorded the whole album in his garage with his friends. As the song builds, he says, “I never wanna die,” which I take to mean that he has found his way again and is happy with life and wants it to go on forever. This totally fits with the themes in Thor, as he has been stripped of his god-liness and has been told that he will not be king of Asgard, and he has to basically learn to walk again.

While this all sounds great for an essay in a college Film Analysis class (I guess. I usually got B’s and C’s in those classes), there is another reason that I am writing about this movie ten years after it was released, and after a lot of people have mostly forgotten about it. Back in 2011, I had my own Thor-like adventure, and I too had to learn to walk again, figuratively. Thor was released on May 2nd of 2011, between a couple of my several stints in the hospital that year for a severe lung infection. At the time, it was called Wegener’s Vasculitis, but Dr. Wegener was apparently a bad guy, so now they call it Granulomatosis. Basically, my nose, throat, lungs and kidneys became inflamed, my white-blood cell count went way up, and then my body said, “Well, we have enough of those,” and so my immune system shut down completely, and my lungs filled with goo (pretty much hyper-pneumonia). It’s a pretty rare disease, so it took the doctors took awhile to figure out what was going on. I pictured it like one of those conversations on an episode of House, where the doctors sit around trying to figure it out, and House yells at them all and tells them that the patient is lying. Anyway, this disease sucks and can be fatal if untreated, so go to the doctor if you start to feel sick.

From around March until June, I would get admitted to the hospital and then get released, and then have to go back because I was still sick, so often that the cafeteria workers got to know my dinner order, but in-between, I saw Thor on opening day with a friend of mine. Because I had been released, I assumed I was fine and took the train to meet my friend and he would then drive us to the theater. For some timely perspective, here’s what I wrote in my blog back in 2011 about the whole ordeal:

Thankfully, I was a few minutes early [to meet my friend], because after exiting the train with an unbelievably scratchy throat, I went into the men’s room and coughed my brains out, (sorry if this will be gross) spewing up gobs of brown liquid.  Now, this should have been cause for concern, of course, but since my doctors had told me to specifically be alarmed for coughing up blood and not chocolate milk, I figured it was part of the recovery process.  In fact, I was fine throughout the whole movie, got on the train, rode home, and had another couple coughing fits before going to bed.  Of course, I was back in the hospital a few days later with a very serious infection that the doctors now tell me should have pretty much killed me, or at the very least hindered me from going to the movies.

Can you imagine how different this post would be if seeing Thor had actually killed me? The real interesting thing to me is that I don’t remember a whole lot about the movie that first time, other me sitting in the theater thinking, “Don’t die.” I did see it again a few weeks later, after being released for the final time, and I remember bringing tons of hand-sanitizer to the theater. I also had a small chest tube attached to my ribs that was draining the brown liquid out of my lungs that I had to change once in awhile. That was pretty nasty, and at the time, I remember thinking, “Why am I not still in a hospital bed being taken care of?” But here’s another piece of medical wisdom that I learned; sometimes, if it is possible, you are better off in your own care at home. I was told that by my visiting nurse, who came by every couple days for awhile. I had millions of appointments, a bout of thrush, which is just gross, and I also had to give myself daily infusions of anti-biotics for a couple months, but it was better than being in the hospital. At least I could go to the movies. And on that note, that summer also saw the release of X-Men: First Class and then Captain America: The First Avenger, and by the time Cap came around in August, I was a lot closer to normal. And I’m still here ten years later, so I guess it all worked out.

This is all to say that I viewed Thor as more than just a silly Marvel movie, and a small part in the whole Universe that became known as the MCU. I felt that Thor’s struggle to find himself after being found “unworthy” and stripped of his powers mirrored my own struggle to just get back to my normal life. Maybe I was searching for anything to latch onto after that ordeal, and in reality maybe it is just a silly action movie, but it got me through a tough time and caused me to take another, longer look at it. Maybe too long, but it does show you that sometimes movies deserve a second look. There may be themes and ideas that you never thought of before.

Even without seeing the fourth one yet, I think that out of all the characters in the MCU, Thor has shown the most actual growth. He’s gone from a guy who smashes everything with his hammer, to a hero who fights for the “mortals” and even learns to love one of them, to an Avenger, to someone who loses his parents and has to battle his sister, to a warrior who feels he caused half the universe to be snapped out of existence because he didn’t go for Thanos’ head, to a fat, drunken oaf, and then back to warrior who helps defeat Thanos and restore all those lives. And he did all that while becoming funnier! And it all started here, with this “simple” action movie. Which in a small way, ended up being kind of a life-saver.

I’ve set up a! Check out my comic, podcast and Teepublic merch all in one place! Click here for all the Dursin you can handle!

I would like to say that this selection is pandemic-related, that rediscovering passions I had in my youth is an attempt to find some joy during these sad and troubling times. And there might be a little truth to that, but I can’t necessarily blame the pandemic. Not only have I been doing a pretty childish and nerdy podcast for over ten years, but this movie has been one of my favorites my whole life, and my friend John and I saw a big screen re-release a few years ago and enjoyed it just as much as we did as kids. I’m not even going to say that the pre-movie drinking had anything to do with it. Ok, maybe a little bit.

However, recently on the afore-mentioned podcast, my friends and I (including the afore-mentioned John) interviewed one of the writers of Transformers: The Movie, as well as several episodes of the cartoon it was based on, Flint Dille, and that definitely reignited my interest on this film. You can listen to the interview with Flint here, as well as our previous episode where we did a deep dive into the movie here. But for a more personal take, read on:

First, a little background: The Transformers has been through a lot of changes (or should I say “transforma… nah, I won’t) over the decades, but for my money, and probably a lot of other fans agree, it doesn’t get any better than what we like to call “Generation 1.” I’m talking mid-80’s, benevolent Autobots, led by Optimus Prime, battling evil Decepticons, led by Megatron. Prime turned into a big red semi, and Megatron turned into a gun. The gun part was only changed because it became controversial, not because a toy company was trying to make a buck, but overall, in its purest form, that was Transformers in the early-to-mid-80’s. I was 9-10 years old, and getting both the Prime and Megatron toys on one Christmas might have been (say it with me) “the best Christmas ever.”

While the cartoon that was inspired by the toys was still popular, Hasbro figured those toys weren’t selling anymore, so the bigwigs got together with the creative folks and decided to make a movie to introduce a bunch of new toys. And since they weren’t going to make those old toys anymore, the mandate was to kill off all those old characters. Hey, it’s just business, right?

However, the commercial that I referred to did have a little bit of a spoiler in it, saying, “Does Prime die?” The accompanying visual was Optimus Prime getting shot a bunch of times. Of course, as a small child who didn’t understand how the world works, I thought there was no way that Optimus Prime would die, because no one ever died on Transformers or any of my cartoons. The good guys always won and they moved on to the next episode, and rarely did any episode impact the others, unless there was a new toy that was introduced. I had no reason to believe this movie would be anything other than a longer episode of my favorite cartoon.

Well, I hope you haven’t seen it, because I’m dropping the spoiler here; not only does Optimus Prime die, but a whole bunch of Transformers die. In fact, most of my favorite characters died (or if they were Decepticons, their dying bodies were made into newer Decepticons, Megatron included, which was a pretty cool way to introduce new characters, in retrospect.) Looking back now, I realize that this is high on the list of influential things that happened to me. I mean, finding out Darth Vader was Luke’s father or finding out there was no Santa Claus were rites of passage for me, but watching Optimus Prime literally turn grey and die? That was heavy stuff for a ten year-old. And it happens in the first 30 minutes of the movie. How do they do the rest of the movie without the main character? This was unprecedented, to say the least.

Another spoiler, they do finish the movie, the good guys do win and a new Autobot leader arises, Rodimus Prime. And the new characters weren’t that bad. And then the TV show picked up where the movie left off (in the year 2005) and basically my whole world changed. Even when they brought back Optimus Prime, things were different. And it all started with this movie. That’s why I’m still talking about it, nearly 35 years later. But this movie wasn’t a cultural touchstone, like Star Wars, so what gives? Well, I’ll try to put it into words.

I was at a party once and had a conversation with a friend about why our generation wasn’t able to “let go” of our childhood, as we phrased it (as if it was something to be ashamed of.) He theorized that our generation had no Vietnam War-type event that thrust us into adulthood, and basically we just liked this stuff, so we never felt the need to move on. I think about Bruce Springsteen’s line in “Thunder Road,” when he says “Maybe we ain’t that young anymore,” and how he was 24 years old when he wrote that, but his theory on that was the Vietnam War had just ended, and nobody was that young anymore. The theory posited by my friend made sense then, but I’m not sure if it still holds true (maybe because we were drunk). I often quote John Hodgman when it comes to this stuff, who thinks that “Nostalgia is our most toxic impulse,” but I don’t always know when it applies and when it doesn’t. See, like cholesterol, there’s good nostalgia and bad nostalgia. Nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake is just living in the past and hoping things can be that good again, and that’s bad. Good nostalgia is just appreciating things that were, and still are, great, like Transformers: the Movie. Does it bring back feelings of joy from my youth? Of course, but do I long to be ten again? Not really.

Unfortunately, for many years I hid my nerdiness from the world as best I could, because I wanted to be cool. Needless to say, I failed at this miserably, because there’s nothing more uncool than not being who you are.

More Nostalgia for you…

I remember many years ago, when I was in high school, getting together with some friends to play baseball or whatever, and one of our friends drove to the neighborhood with the Transformers: The Movie soundtrack blasting through his tape deck with the windows down, and we all made fun of him a little, because it was the early90’s, and Transfomers: The Movie wasn’t really the cool thing for a high schooler to like or listen to. Looking back now, I definitely regret it. I wish I had come to the realization that Transformers: The Movie was really cool no matter what decade you are in. Not that it would have been some kind of Back-to-the-Future-style life-altering moment, but I think I would have been happier if I just embraced these things instead of trying to pretend I didn’t like them. Not only like them, but in the case of this movie, really liked them. And having a conversation with the writer of the movie, and reading his book, and realizing that he had the same passion that I did, that it wasn’t just some gig he got all those years ago, that was pretty cool. They say that you shouldn’t meet your heroes, and I can’t even say Flint Dille was a hero of mine, just a name I saw in the credits of my favorite movie and some of my favorite shows. And yeah, in 1986, there was a part of him that thought writing Transformers: The Movie was a gig, because he had other writing gigs, and still does (The guy had his hands in Pokemon Go, for God’s sake!) But knowing that he looks back at that time in the mid-80’s, when he wrote for Transformers and G.I. Joe and Visionaries and Inhumanoids, with fondness, like I do, that makes even my angry years worth it.

Of course, 2020 has been rough for a lot of people, but I will leave you with this; we should be at least happy that we live in a time when, after a hard day at work, you can get in your car and go to your chosen music-streaming service, punch up the Transformers: The Movie soundtrack, and blast it through the speakers while driving home, and all will be right with the world for that brief time. I know because I did that the other day, and all was right with the world. Even after the death of Optimus Prime.

It may be a silly title, but since no one is making new movies, I thought it was time to cover Brie Larson’s Youtube channel. If you didn’t know, during quarantine, Brie started Youtubing her life a little. Probably because she was bored, like the rest of us. Maybe not. I read an article recently that said she was doing it to stick it to the haters, or to quote them directly, “Brie Larson’s laid-back YouTube channel is a radical act of anti-troll defiance.” I don’t know if I buy that. For one thing, can you be laid back and radical at the same time? I literally think she just wanted a creative outlet, and literally everyone else has a podcast (even jerks like this), so she went with Youtube.

Believe what you want, but in a way, I think it’s an interesting look into the life of a famous person, albeit one who doesn’t really live like we think they live. Clearly, even before COVID, brie’s life did not read like an episode of Entourage. Yes, she has a very nice house, and she no doubt cleans it before shooting her videos, but it seems like a very simple life. If there’s one thing the pandemic has taught us, it’s that all the Marvel money and Oscars in the world can’t save you if you have nowhere to go, and literally cannot work.

So, maybe that is her anti-troll message, after all. For those out of the loop a little, before Captain Marvel’s release, she got some flack from internet whiners because she made a comment that she would like to see more representation in the entertainment media landscape, after sitting across from white male after white male during her press tour. I believe she had made statements like that before, but now that she was playing an Avenger, she had a bigger platform. People noticed. For any non-comic fans, this was not new to fans of the character, as she used to be called Ms. Marvel and wore a costume that let’s say Disney probably wouldn’t have approved of.

Yeah, the comic nerds dug it, but got their knickers in a twist when they replaced the costume and promoted her to Captain. See, back in the day, Captain Marvel was a man, and comic fans never forget anything.

Now, I don’t think Larson was channeling her character or anything like that. Maybe she is just trying to show the trolls that she is just a regular girl. Maybe she does just want to help people relax, like in her latest video. I’m going to be honest here, this video was not what I was expecting, especially when I looked at the thumbnail of her using the face-roller thing. I thought it would be one of those preachy videos where celebrities try to tell me how to live when they clearly have it much easier than the rest of us. It’s not like that at all. It’s actually hilarious. (Ok, the playing guitar bit is her having it better than me, because I can’t play a lick.)

By far, my favorite videos of hers, though, are the Audition Story time ones. You rarely, and I do mean rarely, get to see this kind of inside Hollywood stuff where we learn what could have been when it comes to movie roles. Once in awhile, you get to hear that Tom Selleck almost played Indiana Jones or whatever, but it’s only once in a blue moon. You never see a celeb busting out a long list of roles that they auditioned for and did not get. It’s like me listing off all the jobs I’ve applied for and got turned down. You also get a glimpse into the kind of creepy side of it when she tells the story of the casting director who had a thing for girls in jean skirts, so told his people to tell the agents to tell all the prospective actresses to dress in jean skirts, so this lech got to see them all day. That is a genuine wake-up call, for sure.

So, whether Brie decided to “I’m gonna send an anti-troll message with my Youtibe channel,” or she was just bored, I think it actually works on both levels. But you check it out and see for yourself.

AND while you’re out there surfing, my long-awaited Envy Adams “Clash at Demonhead” (Brie’s band in Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World) T-shirts (and mugs, onesies, etc.) are available from Teepublic! It’s pending review, so get them while you can!

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This may be the most difficult thing I have ever written. If you’re reading it, that means I came up with something that I felt was suitable for consumption, but I’m probably not the most reliable source for something like that. You can let me know.

I need to say right at the top that I am a white male, and I have received all the privileges that come along with that. I like to think, however, that I have not abused those privileges, nor have they made me an ungrateful or all-around bad person. I also know, however, that I have made a lot of mistakes when it comes to judging people, and I have said and done things (mostly pitiful attempts at humor) that I will regret for the rest of my life. And if I ever did anything noteworthy, someone could certainly scour the internet and find horrible things I said a decade ago and discredit me. But I also have to confess that I don’t do enough to try and change the minds of the actual bad people.

But these days, there is no room for white guilt. There is no room for worrying about the mistakes of the past. There is only room for the present and the future. However, sometimes the past can tell us stories that help illuminate the present, and Just Mercy, starring Jamie Foxx, Michael B. Jordan, and Brie Larson, is just such a story.

I had always intended to see this movie, but after the horrible murder of George Floyd and the events that followed, I saw that it was streaming for free on multiple outlets, and felt that the universe was telling me to watch it now. Warner Bros. made it free to try to educate people “about our past and the countless injustices that have led us to where we are today,” as they posted on Twitter. You know it’s time to take a stand when even a money-grubbing Hollywood studio is putting their greed aside and releasing a movie for free to try and help a cause.

Joking aside, I hope you all took advantage of the free streaming and watched it like I did. Not because it is the greatest movie ever made, but because it’s the kind of movie you watch and think, “That seems like it would never happen,” until you realize that it is a true story, and it did happen.

Just Mercy is based on the book by Bryan Stevenson, a Black , Harvard-educated lawyer who took his degree to Alabama and decided to found EJI (Equal Justice Initiative), a non-profit organization that fights for the rights of “the most vulnerable people in American society.” One of his first cases is an attempt to overturn the wrongful conviction of Walter McMillian, played by Jamie Foxx. McMillian was convicted of killing an 18 year-old white girl, despite the fact that there was no evidence to support the charge. But a white girl was murdered in Alabama, so the white sheriff and white D.A. needed to pin it on someone. McMillian was given the murder rap because people were angry at him for having an affair with a white woman, and the all-white jury had no problem convicting him, even though the evidence was flimsy, at best.

McMillian spent six years on death row, until Stevenson found proof that the key witness against him (played brilliantly by Tim Blake Nelson) was coerced into saying McMillian did it, despite the fact that he was three hours away at the time, and the verdict was overturned.

What amazed me the most about this movie is that it happened in the 80’s. And not the 1880’s, either. This happened in my lifetime. There is an image of Larson’s character, Eva Ansley, who worked for EJI for many years, watching a piece about the case that aired on 60 Minutes with hr family, and there’s an original Nintendo on the floor. The same kind I had back then. It’s a small detail, but nothing is placed in a movie by accident. Whoever dressed the set put it there, probably because Ansley’s family had one, and also because it added the element of reality, to drive home the point that this horrible thing happened, and it happened pretty recently. And as evidenced by recent events, these kinds of things are still happening.

At this point, I usually take a few paragraphs to rip on the movie I’m discussing (Unless it’s a Marvel movie). How the writing could have been better, or whatever, and yes, this movie it not perfect. For example, I wish there was a little more drama in the climactic “overturn” scene. It all seemed rather simple. The D.A. basically knew he was beat and changed his mind. I know reality is reality, but maybe just filming it a little more dramatically would have helped. But that’s just me nitpicking. It’s an amazing story that needs to be told. I don’t do star ratings or letter grades, and the acting and storytelling is great (Foxx, Jordan and Larson are definitely three of the best working actors right now), but this movie gets an A+++++++++++ and a thousand stars just on pure emotion.

And now at this point I usually try and say something funny or put an Amazon link to the movie I’m talking about to try and make a few pennies off this. This time, however, I’m putting a link for someone else to hopefully make money: Please donate to the EJI here. If you can’t donate, show support in other ways by following their social media here for facebook, here for the Twitter, and here for The Gram. I’m betting it’s not something you’ll regret.

Being quarantined as we have all been over these past few months, I have found myself channel-surfing a little more frequently, and I often find myself stopping on movies that I normally probably wouldn’t go out of my way to watch. I don’t know if you would call these Anti-Shawshank Movies or what, but I have to say that there are almost no circumstances where I would watch Blue Chips with Nick Notle and Shaq, but it’s on Showtime if I ever want to. (In case you didn’t know, there’s a theory floating around online that there are movies, like Shawshank Redemption, that you always have to stop and watch if they are on, no matter what you are doing.)

In my surfing recently, I came across the 1990

Flatliners-Posterversion of the thriller Flatliners, a movie that I enjoyed quite a bit back in the 90’s 

but is definitely an Anti-Shawshank Movie today, because I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to watch it again. But after watching it recently, I’m not sure why. Not because it’s a great movie, but because of what it represents. It’s a fine movie, but it’s a better time capsule for the era in which it was made. Even though it was 1990, and the 80’s had just ended, there are virtually no vestiges of the 80’s in it, other than Kevin Bacon. It’s not necessarily “evergreen,” because Julia Roberts has some very 90’s jeans, and William Baldwin’s VHS tape collection is pretty dated, but overall, the story could be placed in any decade, as evidenced by the fact that they tried to remake it in 2017. I didn’t see it, and I don’t really think very many people did, but Kiefer Sutherland came back for it so I guess he felt it was worthy, or they paid him enough money. He plays a different character though, which I feel is a totally missed opportunity. I guess that’s what makes it a remake and not a sequel. Maybe I’ll talk more about that later (I’m literally making this up as I go, if you couldn’t tell).

Anyway, the 1990 Flatliners sees 5 young actors playing 4 young med students, and just as the med students are trying to unlock the secrets of the afterlife, the 5 young actors are trying to unlock the secrets of Hollywood, with varying degrees of success.

flatliners-flatliners-8459662-800-529Yes, we had just seen Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, Kevin Bacon in Tremors, and Kiefer in Young Guns 2, and you might have even caught Oliver Platt in Working Girl, but they were not quite superstars yet, although they were definitely on the cusp. You could argue Roberts was already there, and Platt and William Baldwin never got there, but still, to see these young actors still plying their craft because they need to get to that next level is fun to watch. It’s also fun to recall that Sutherland and Roberts starting dating during filming, and were actually engaged until she broke it off at almost the last minuet and decided to marry Lyle Lovett instead. Weird.

For anyone unfamiliar with the plot, it goes something like this; Sutherland’s Nelson is a med student who has a cockamamie theory that the afterlife is the final frontier, and he has deigns on fame and fortune by exploring it. His plan is to have some of his fellow students stop his heart for one minute and then bring him back with the secrets of what happens when you die. What could go wrong?

At first, not much. They bring Nelson back after one minute of brain-death and he seems fine, although he has a few weird visions of his deceased dog. The rest of his team wants to try it now, and William Baldwin’s Joe outbids Roberts’ Rachel and is next up to die, this time a little longer. There are a couple of complications when they are trying to revive him, but he is finally revived, and his experience was strangely female and erotic (It was established earlier that Joe is a total playboy, despite being engaged. Not only is he a jerk for sleeping around, he also secretly videotapes the women that he beds. That’s definitely not a very #MeToo thing to do.)

Bacon’s David now outbids Rachel and wants to die next, because he’s an atheist and wants to see if his two colleagues are full of it. Then things start to get weird. First, Nelson is visited by a young boy who proceeds to beat the crap out of him, then Joe starts seeing visions of the women whom he has betrayed. Everyone is a little freaked out, but David’s experiment does work, and he does experience something, but feels that there’s no reason to continue and it’s only courting disaster if they keep dying for longer periods.Flatliners

Undaunted, Rachel insists on getting her turn, not telling anyone why she has such an interest in death. David, meanwhile, obviously has a thing for her and is trying to protect her, while Nelson, who had a thing with her before all this, wants to get started on that fame train. He’s also getting the shit beat out of him every night by this little kid.

Meanwhile, David is on the train on the way to “kill” Rachel and is suddenly confronted by a literal vision of his past: Winnie Hicks, a girl he used to make fun of in elementary school, swearing at him in front of the other passengers, and she is still only ten years old. He takes this new information to his friends, and insists they revive Rachel before her appointed time. It goes really bad and she almost dies for real, but she is revived after five minutes of being dead. As she recovers in the bathroom, David reveals what happened to him, and Joe also comes clean about seeing the women from “The Joe Hurley Video Library.” This forces Nelson to reveal why his face is all bruised and battered, saying that it was done by Billy Mahoney, a kid they used to pick on in school. He still blows it off, though, just saying that, “sometimes the kid gets carried away.”

The movie starts to get off-track a little here because the characters seem rather unimpressed that their sins are being manifested physically. Nelson is still obsessed with the fame factor, thinking that Rachel will come out of the bathroom with the answers to life and death and that the world will worship her, “just like you do,” as he tells David, which is a really good dig.

Rachel doesn’t, in fact, come out of the bathroom with the secrets of life and death, but we do learn why she has been obsessed with it this whole time; when she was a child, she walked in on her Dad doing heroin, and he was so ashamed that he ran out of the house and shot himself in his truck, and she always felt responsible for his death. Now she is seeing him everywhere she goes. It’s sort of unclear if she was ever fully aware of what her Dad was doing in there before this point, and she was just feeling guilty because, well, he’s dead. I’m not sure if it was just the script revealing it in pieces or I was just being naive, but probably a bit of both. I mean, in 1990, I was 14 and definitely knew very little about heroin.

We’re not really sure if Nelson has just taken too many blows to the head at this point, but he is still not moved by any of this. In fact, he sort accuses them of being a little dramatic, saying that David’s playground story is a bit flimsy, that Joe merely getting “caught with his videotapes down” was deserved (and he’s not wrong about that), and Rachel, well, her he just seems pissed at over the whole David thing.

David’s solution to his Winnie Hicks problem is to find her and apologize. This part is definitely dated because he ends up looking her mother up in the phone book and gets Winnie’s address. He is about to drive out to her house when Nelson shows up and asks to come along, saying he doesn’t want to be alone because that’s when Billy Mahoney shows up to beat on him with a hockey stick. I guess when you’ve already died and come back to life, the idea of a kid from your past showing up and physically beating on you is small potatoes, because no one is freaking out about this.

David finds Winnie living a quiet life in the suburbs, with a husband and a daughter and a garden. He apologizes for the way he made her feel, and she at first blows it off, saying she couldn’t remember what he could have said. He presses a little, and her husband shows up to ask if everything is ok and see who this strange man is in his greenhouse. She shoos him away, and points out to David, rather sternly, that she has a family and “hasn’t been that ugly, little girl in quite some time.” David assures her that she was never ugly, but realizes that he is probably bringing up some bad memories and excuses himself. On his way out, however, Winnie calls back to him, and thanks him for the apology.

Meanwhile, back in David’s car, Nelson is once again attacked by Billy Mahoney. David shows up just in time to see Nelson struggling in the car with no one. So, right there, David the Scientists should probably just have written the whole Winnie Hicks thing off as day-dreaming and written Nelson off as just a nutjob. But when they get back to the city, they find out that Rachel saw her Dad again and freaked out.  David tells Joe and Oliver Platt’s Randall (who never attempted the experiment and is basically here for comic relief) to help Nelson find Billy Mahoney, while he decides to stay with Rachel and tell her about his Winnie Epiphany. The only real hang-up there, as Rachel points out, is that Winnie is alive and her father is dead. Bummer.

Nelson’s comrades drive him to see Billy Mahoney, and are shocked to discover that they are in a cemetery. Nelson says he knew Billy was there because he put him there. As kids, Nelson and his buddies chased Billy up a tree and started throwing rocks at him. Nelson apparently threw the fateful rock that knocked Billy out of the tree and Billy impaled himself on a branch on the way down. His dog also got crunched with a branch in the incident. Nelson then says he was taken away from his family and sent to a school for wayward boys when he was eleven, thinking that he paid his dues. But that’s not really how guilt works. He believes that the only way to atone for his sins, as David did, is to flatline himself and go talk to Billy Mahoney in the afterlife. He takes off and leaves them in the cemetery at night, which is just creepy.

As this is going on, David and Rachel have hooked up, but she’s still seeing her Dad everywhere. David has to leave to rescue Joe and Randall, and when she is alone, Rachel decides the only way for this to end is to confront the visions. When she sees her father again, she sees him (and we see him) with the spoon and the needle and the whole set-up, injecting himself. She speaks to him, and he says he’s sorry and they hug. So, I guess we’re to assume that she just needed that confirmation that it wasn’t her fault? That he was just ashamed and she shouldn’t feel responsible? I don’t know, but her spirits seem lifted. There are articles online about the misogyny of this movie as it relates to this plot, and the Joe plot, but anyone who thinks that is probably giving the writer too much credit. I think it’s actually just lazy writing.

Anyway, Nelson calls her to tell her his plan and to say good-bye. She tries to tell him that it’s all good, but she doesn’t know the whole “I killed a kid” storyline, so she can’t convince him not to flatline. He does, and in the afterlife, he has switched places with Billy Mahoney and he is in the tree and Billy is chucking rocks at him, laughing. Billy hurls the fateful stone, as we saw Young Nelson do, and Adult Nelson falls and impales himself on the branch.

In the real world, Nelson’s comrades have arrived and are trying to revive him, to no avail. After twelve minutes of being dead, they are ready to give up, and Rachel points out that in his voice on the phone with her, she could hear that he felt he deserved to die. But David refuses to believe it, saying that one mistake in his childhood doesn’t mean he deserves to die. He keeps trying, and in the afterlife, Nelson awakens and can hear his friends calling him back. Standing over him is Billy Mahoney, this time smiling. Billy and Nelson’s dog then calmly walk into the light and wave good-bye. I guess Nelson realizing what it was like was enough, and he is absolved of his guilt. In the real world, he is revived, and everyone is happy. Yay?

In 1990, I definitely missed a lot of the themes that were at work here. I think I just saw all the beautiful people and thought it was just a fun movie about dying and coming back, but there’s a lot more going on, obviously. For one, that Joe was a real creep, even though he’s never really portrayed as a bad guy. He gets what’s coming to him, of course, when his fiancee’ shows up unannounced and sees his video tape collection and leaves him. She claims that she’s not leaving him because he cheated but because he betrayed all those women by video-taping them without their knowledge. It was probably a little of both, but the reality is he was a scumbag and she could do better. I don’t think he technically atoned for his sins, like the others, but he paid the price. And let’s face it, I know he didn’t know his fiancee’ was coming, but he probably should have hid those tapes in a better spot, so he definitely deserved it.

Rachel’s story is a little more complex, and I suppose it should have been obvious to me all along that her guilt of not knowing the real reason he committed suicide was what was driving her to study death. So, what normally would have taken years of therapy is resolved in minutes by just flatlining and then having a hug with the old man. But there are other, more subtle moments here; for one, her father was a veteran who had just come home and they were having a party for him the day he died, so it’s never mentioned but clearly implied that his time in the service probably led to his drug addiction. Also, during her flashback, after Young Rachel sees her Dad shooting up, and he runs out of the house, we see her mother scolding her, saying, “It’s all your fault.” Heavy stuff. No wonder she felt bad. Because it’s just one plot out of several in the movie, it’s never really dealt with that this guy was a veteran who had served his country, probably in Vietnam, now that I think about the timeline, who had a serious drug problem, and his life ended tragically, and this is the sadness that he left behind. You could have done the whole movie about that.

There’s some interesting storytelling in David’s plot, as well. I mean, kids making fun of classmates unfortunately was something that went on a lot back in the day, but the filmmakers put a spin on this one by making Winnie Hicks black. It’s never mentioned once, and that’s fine, but it obviously adds to the weight of the scene because David and his friends are all white boys making fun of a black girl in school in suburban America  in what was probably the late-70’s. At no point does the script address any racial undertones, but you definitely feel for little Winnie Hicks, and probably more than you would if she was white. fl-e1506773257424

But that’s why David’s story is actually the most powerful (Ok, I know Nelson’s is pretty powerful, but there just aren’t as many layers there. He killed the kid and the kid wanted revenge.) David represents kids all over the country who probably said and did regrettable things, especially in the days before cyber-bullying (and all bullying, really) became totally forbidden. I don’t know if people thought as much about it back then, but I got made fun of a lot (rightfully so, in some cases. I was a weird kid), and I did my share of making fun of people. I don’t know if I was ragging on kids because I myself got ragged on, so I was lashing back, or what the reason was, but it was pretty bad all around. It was the 80’s. and we all got wailed on, sometimes even by the teachers themselves. And I can’t speak for everyone, but I had a perfectly stable and happy home life, so I have no excuse. I guess we were all making up for inadequacies in some way, but whatever the reason, most of us can identify with either being Winnie Hicks or being David Labraccio. So, sure, when he went to see her, at first it’s just opening up old wounds, but after she thinks about it, she decides, with a tear in her eye, to thank him. Based on the dialogue, it seems like she had some bad memories of school, and the people she dealt with there, whether they were racists or just plain bullies, and him apologizing made her feel just a little bit better about it. If one of my grade school bullies came back and apologized to me, would I have the decency to thank them, or would I still just be angry?

What we have then, is a film about guilt and absolution. Overtly, you could just call it a   horror movie, or a twist on your basic ghost story, even though Winnie Hicks and Joe’s harem are all still alive. But so many ghost stories are about the dead person having “unfinished business” or whatever, and this one isn’t about the ghost’s unfinished business, really. It’s about living people having to deal with things they have done. We have done something that we wish we could take back, and this movie is really about learning to live with that guilt, by dying.

***Quick Note: I know I mentioned earlier that I would get into the missed opportunity of not having Kiefer Sutherland play the same guy but I couldn’t really weave it in, so here goes: I have a weird interest in what happens to characters after the credits roll in movies. In my mind, most of these folks graduated med school and became doctors and probably saw a lot less of each other (And Joe hopefully met a nice girl and treated her right.) But Nelson probably still had a lot of baggage, and if you want to stay in the world of the movie, he was dead for twelve minutes so probably brought a lot of crap back with him. So, even though I never saw the 2017 version, a quick read-through of the plot doesn’t indicate anything that links the two movies together. Either the studio didn’t think anyone would remember the 1990 version, or they thought crap like that had just been done enough times, or maybe it was a creative choice, but whatever the reason, I say it stinks, because it definitely would have added a layer to the movie that probably needed a couple more.

It’s been awhile, but I figured since we’re all stuck in, this is a good time for me to get back to writing (and you to reading).

After taking a bit of a Brie Break, I decided to finally hunker down (since we’re basicallyIMG_20200330_124857 being forced to hunker) and watch Brie Larson’s directorial debut, the Netflix original Unicorn Store. Obviously, Larson is not the first actor to test her skills behind the camera, and she even made this list of 12 female “bad-ass” actor/directors. I don;t know if she has reached the “bad-ass” plateau just yet, or if she belongs on the same list as Greta Gerwig when it comes to directing, but if Drew Barrymore can make the top 12, then I guess we’ll go with it.

That is not to say that there is anything wrong with her directing. In fact, Unicorn Store is a very fine first effort, and according to The Rotten Tomatoes Critic Consensus (and Matt Dursin agrees), the film is, “easy to like — and it suggests Brie Larson has a future behind the camera.” So, here’s the rundown of what this little film is about:

Kit (played by Larson) is described (by IMDB) as a twenty-something dreamer, a recent art school drop-out, in fact, who is now living at home with her weird, earthy-crunchy parents (Joan Cusack and Bradley Whitford. Seriously, whenever Hollywood needs a weird Dad, they call Bradley Whitford). After getting some bad reviews from her art professors for her whimsical, or just plain childish art, she decides all of that art crap isn’t for her and she gets a job. She in fact gets a temp job at an ad agency, and her role is to photocopy magazine ads. Despite the fact that it’s her first job, and her boss is a creep, she starts figuring it out pretty quick, and one day receives an invitation while at work to a store that, according to said invitation, is right up her alley. Kit discovers that no one else in the office received this invitation, so she finds it a little bizarre, but decides to check it out. She follows the directions to a nondescript building, and inside finds the answer to all of life’s problems: Samuel L. Jackson.


I’m kidding. Well, sort of. She does find Samuel L. Jackson (whom Larson became great friends with while working on Captain Marvel, over the fact that he brought his light-saber to set one day), but the cure for all life’s ills is the fact that this is, in actuality, a Unicorn Store! Yes, if you can prove yourself worthy, and prove that you will love and take good care of this unicorn, you can take one home.

Kit is obviously ecstatic about this, and decides to prove she is worthy by building a proper stable in her parents’ backyard to house her unicorn. She hires a local hardware store employee, and promptly bonds with him for this task. She then sets about doing other weird things to prove herself worthy, including giving a presentation with a few co-workers that tries to make a vacuum cleaner seem interesting, and forge an understanding with her bizarre parents. It’s a little bit like Groundhog’s Day, I suppose, without the in-your-face comedy.

I won’t spoil the ending, but that’s basically what it is; a little Groundhog’s Day, with some Benny & Joon thrown in, with a side of every other movie about growing up ever made. So you might think that I wouldn’t like it because it borrows from so many other movies, but that isn’t true. It was actually a fun, harmless, whimsical movie that was sorely needed in this time of quarantine. It’s not a great movie, but it is, as the review says, “easy to like.”

My biggest problem with it at the beginning was that I thought it was a little too much like Benny & Joon, the 1993 rom-com starring pre-creeper Johnny Depp that is really only notable for giving the world “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” by The Proclaimers. Similar to Unicorn Store, Benny & Joon is “easy to like,” and most people who came of age in the early 90’s, like I did, probably remember the song fondly, but it’s not really a movie that leaves much of an impression or says a whole lot, except, I guess, love conquers all, which is what most early 90’s movies said, including Terminator 2.

I thought the two movies were similar for another reason, though, because I thought early on in Unicorn Store that Kit was, like Joon, mentally challenged. They never really say what her ailment is, but she exhibits a variety of symptoms which could point to dissociative identity disorder, OCD, Asperger’s and post-traumatic stress disorder. Really, it’s not crucial, but is why Joon is such a sympathetic character, because it is a huge hurdle to overcome. Kit, as it turns out, is really just an emotionally-stunted artist. I guess we’re supposed to believe that she’s just been living this freebird life, or that her parents messed her up with their hippie-ness, but when she has a nice heart-to-heart with her mother, it is revealed that they’re not really all that strange, but more that Kit just was too young and, let’s face it, daffy to understand. Her mother, Gladys, actually has the most quotable line in the movie when she tells Kit, “The most grown-up thing you can do is fail at things you care about.” Which is all she needed to hear, really. In fact, now that I think about it, if they had written Kit as a mentally-challenged person, like Joon, then it would have pretty much been the same movie, but you would have looked at her differently as a viewer. She does have her big moment of realization at the end, but in the end, all she really overcame was her own whackiness.IMG_20200330_124902

Still, if that’s my only complaint about a movie, then that’s pretty good, coming from me.  As someone who is hyper-critical of movies (in case you haven’t noticed), this one was actually refreshing in its simplicity. I’m glad that I can still enjoy a little movie with fun, little ideas, directed by someone who no doubt has big goals. And if Brie Larson decides to direct again, I think that will bump her up to that “bad-ass” category.



This is probably courting danger, because people seem more divided over these movies than they are over most elections. But with Rise of Skywalker being the supposed finale of the Skywalker saga (which I didn’t know was a thing until Rise of Skywalker was almost released.), I figure this is as good a time as any. And the way that this Disney Era unfolded, I was thinking that maybe it would be interesting to take a deep dive to see how these new ones may have impacted my feelings on the older ones.

I guess it’s best to just come out with it right now, so no one wastes their time reading this if they don’t agree; I was not a huge fan of the final two Episodes, or of Solo. Of the Disney Era films, Rogue One was spectacular, and Force Awakens was fine, but mostly because of Han Solo, who was a hold-over from the original trilogy.  Everyone is entitled to their opinions on them, and we have all read all the arguments for and against these movies, so I won’t reiterate them here (well, I probably will a little), but let’s just say that I personally just wasn’t feeling it. Ok, that was going easy. I hated Last Jedi.  I thought it was a poorly-paced, sad movie. And not “sad” in the way that Empire Strikes Back was a little sad, but sad in that it made the heroes look like complete nitwits. And I am willing to admit right here and now that there is a strong possibility that I wasn’t giving Rise of Skywalker much of a chance because of how much I disliked Last Jedi.

So, yes, obviously each movie impacts how I look back on the others. Some people like to point out that the originals weren’t great, either, and sure, maybe if I saw them for the first time as a 43 year-old man, I would think they were silly. But I didn’t, I saw them as a child, and I was enthralled. And when I watch them now, maybe it all is just nostalgia, the most toxic impulse, according to John Hodgman. But truly, in the last 40+ years, there probably hasn’t been too many days that have gone by where I haven’t watched a Star Wars movie, quoted a Star Wars movie, or just thought about them in some way, shape or form. So regardless of how people see the original trilogy now, I’m a fan and always will be.

The Prequel Trilogy is a different kettle of fish (or Gungans). I find Phantom Menace to be a really hard movie to sit through, and literally from the first words of the opening crawl, it’s easy to be thoroughly uninterested (What the Hell is a Trade Federation?). But we got to see a couple Jedi do some cool stuff, and it was the first new Star Wars movie that we had since Return of the Jedi in 1983, so sue me for being a little sentimental. In fact, the real disappointment with Phantom Menace is that there was actual potential to have a fun adventure movie, if only Qui Gonn had decided to defy his orders (as they allude he had done before) and free Anakin and his fellow slaves from the treachery of the Hutts with a little sword play, rather than win a bet by using The Force. But that wasn’t the direction they decided to go, so instead we got politics. Lots of politics.


I suppose I can’t honestly say how I would look upon Menace now that I’ve seen the Disney movies, because I haven’t watched it in awhile and I don’t know that I will anytime soon. You could argue that I should have re-watched it before writing this whole thing, but I’m not sure what that would have solved. I would have been very surprised if I suddenly decided that it was a piece of cinematic art just because I didn’t like Last Jedi. Sometimes, boring movies are boring movies no matter how you slice it.

However, that doesn’t squash my whole theory. Attack of the Clones is next in the saga. It’s a strange case to me. A couple of my close friends and fellow podcasters think that it is the worst of them all. Seriously, we ranked all 11 Star Wars films, and this, they say, is the worst. As I said, I think Menace takes home that trophy, and Rotten Tomatoes agrees with me that it is worse than Attack of the Clones, with Menace owning a 53/59 critics/audience score. Not that I take a lot of stock in Rotten Tomatoes, but I did find it interesting that Rise of Skywalker has a 52% critics’ score, and an 85% audience rating, while Last Jedi has the crazy disparity of a 91% Certified Fresh score, but just a lowly 43% audience score. Now, you can’t go by the user ratings at all, because they’re completely false, and the website did have to change the way they do things after users were giving lousy scores to Captain Marvel before it was even released, but I do find it interesting that the last two Star Wars movies were flip-flopped like that.

I think the reason I look more highly at AOTC might have something to do with a fond memory of seeing it on an IMAX screen in 2002, when that technology was in its infancy. Back then, an IMAX theater couldn’t accommodate a movie much more than two hours. AOTC has a rather unnecessary and downright bulbous run time of 2 hours, 22 minutes, so it was edited down so it could be shown in an IMAX theater, and I noticed that it was much tighter and less boring with just some minor scenes cut out (Anakin and Padme rolling in the grass being one that really deserved to be on the cutting room floor. Or in the garbage.) You can tell that Lucas likes his old-timey detective stories as you watch Obi-Wan go back and forth trying to solve the mystery of who tried to assassinate Padme’, because there are so many scenes of him talking to people that it becomes incredibly tedious. Seriously, he asks that alien in the diner about the dart, then asks the librarian where Camino is, then asks Yoda where it is, then goes to Camino and asks that tall lady what’s going on, then meets the Prime Minister of Camino and asks what’s going on, and then meets Jango Fett, and then talks to Yoda and Mace Windu about all this, before he finally confronts Jango and they fight. While all this is going on, Anakin and Padme’ are doing nothing except making small talk and sex eyes at each other (He’s actually kind of creepy about it. He’s basically eye-raping her at one point, so much so that she tells him to not look at her “like that.” And in typical guy fashion, he responds, “Like what?”)

With a lot of that edited out, and just the bare bones, it’s not a horrible movie, despite Hayden Christiansen’s attempts to make it so. When the Jedi show up at the end to save our heroes, it actually is quite fun to watch. I had been hearing stories my whole life about how Jedi were great warriors, but I had never really seen much action from them until now. And of course, for 2002 special effects, make the movie CGI Yoda does. Of course, overall, the puppet is better for just hanging out, but the saber-fighting was still pretty cool in 2002.


However (and sadly, it’s a big “however,”) the IMAX version of the movie is not the movie that we got. Similarly, people clamoring for “the JJ Cut” of Rise of Skywalker need not waste their time, because this is the movie that we got. Take them or leave them. Any movie might be better with a few cuts, but we don’t always get them, and such is life.

Interestingly, I found other similarities between AOTC and Rise. As far as pacing, as I mentioned earlier, they are very much alike, with the heroes jumping from planet to planet accomplishing almost nothing. We also find out a lot of things about the characters and their history. At the beginning of AOTC, we learn through their dialogue that Anakin and Obi-Wan have been through a lot together, including that nest of Gundarks, which is how the writers tried to make us feel about Poe, Finn and Ray at the beginning of Rise. Both movies also had a character slowly turning to the Dark Side, and The Emperor behind the scenes, pulling the strings.

Unfortunately for Rise, it was the final chapter of the saga, while AOTC is the middle chapter, so the action is still, pardon the pun, rising. So for my money, that’s a little late to be learning this much about these characters, since Ray and Poe had never, to our knowledge, even met before. It’s also a little late to tempt Ray to the Dark Side, because, let’s face it, that would have been a bit of a down ending. I mean, we knew going in that Anakin was going that way, but we still wanted to see how it played out. I get that you have to have drama, and it mirrors The Emperor trying to turn Luke in Jedi, but Ray’s almost-turn just didn’t have that same impact, probably because we had seen it fail already with Luke. And yes, I’m going to blame Last Jedi for throwing off the pacing of Rise so much. Sorry, fans.

But here’s my big problem with Rise, and by proxy now, the entire Skywalker Saga: Emperor Palpatine was behind it ALL! I mean, if we go back to the stories told in Menace, we learn that Anakin had no father, but instead we are to believe that Palpatine could use the The Force to create life (as he tells Anakin in Sith.) We are to assume then, that Palpatine used this power to create Anakin in the womb of this slave woman, and he would be The Chosen One, who would bring balance to The Force. I guess. Maybe Palpy had no idea that would happen and just thought it would be fun to create a kid. Either way, if Anakin is about 8 years-old when he is discovered on Tatooine by Qui Gonn and brought to Corusant (and then they go back to Naboo, but that’s a different complaint), then trains to be a Jedi for another 12-15 years, we can probably assume Palpatine has been stringing him along this entire time. Anakin is definitely buddies with him during AOTC, while Palps is also manipulating the Galactic Senate, the Jedi Council, and it seems even Count Dooku a little bit. He’s a busy man.

A few years later, he finally ascends to the throne of Emperor, takes over the galaxy, kills the Jedi and takes Anakin, who is probably in his mid-twenties by then, as his Official Sith Apprentice. Meanwhile, his pseudo-grandchildren are born (more on that later) and hidden from him. It’s not for another twenty or so years that Luke comes on their radar. Eventually, when Luke is about 23, Palpatine thinks they can turn him to The Dark Side, but he also seems to think that Luke would make a better apprentice, because in Jedi he suggests that Luke take his father’s place at his side. That is fine, because he did the same with Dooku, twenty years ago. Vader doesn’t seem to agree, and thinks he and Luke would make a better team ruling the galaxy. Man, that Original Trilogy was pretty cool.

Luke refuses and Palpatine is killed and peace returns! Yay!


Nah, sorry, not so simple. We now flash-forward another 30-something years and we find Ray, another Force-sensitive being, who we eventually discover is Palpatine’s granddaughter. Palp is up to his old tricks (and I do mean, “old”) as he literally raises an Empire and tries to convert Ray, just as he did with Ben Solo, who was the off-spring of Liea Organa, Anakin’s daughter. It works out exactly the same, as Ray resists and kills him… again.

Ok, Even going back to the Immaculate Conception of Anakin, 8-10 years before Menace, all the way to the finale of the Skywalker Saga, where he supposedly met his end, we are talking that Palpatine was pulling the strings in this galaxy for around 70 years, give or take. That is one long game he was playing. At any point did he just say, “This isn’t working. Maybe I should try something else.”? Although I guess technically he was running the place for about twenty years or so.

Finally, the “It was ME all along” aspect of Rise kind of throws the whole saga out of whack because if Palpatine used The Force to create Anakin, then he is essentially his father, although I guess not biologically, but still, let’s go down that weird road for a minute. Anakin then sires twins, and one of those twins has a son, who follows his grandfather’s footsteps and becomes Kylo Ren. Meanwhile, Palpatine, even though he’s really gross and old, has a kid, and that kid has a daughter, Ray. I don’t recall if we’re told that Ray is his biological granddaughter or his Force-logical granddaughter, but for the sake of this discussion, I’m going with the fact that they’re one and the same. So, do you see where I’m going with this?

Basically, I’m saying that if Ray and Kylo are descendants of Palpatine, then all that pseudo-sexual tension during Last Jedi and that kiss at the end of Rise is REALLY GROSS! I’m sure that no one who made Rise of Skywalker was thinking of any of this when they were writing the script, and I’m the one who is reaching here, but the very fact that there is a little branch to even reach for is enough for me. With one creative choice, they suddenly turned Star Wars, the greatest space opera of my lifetime, one that captured the imagination of generations of fans, into Game of Thrones… without all the boobs.

There were tons of rumors and fan theories about Ray’s true parentage after Force Awakens, whether she was related to Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, or even Obi-Wan Kenobi somehow. I never read one theory that suggested she was related to Palpatine, and I suspect that’s because no one wanted that to be the case. But that’s the way they went, I assume because no one suspected it. Sometimes,  however, surprise isn’t always the best choice. Maybe people theorized that she was related to Luke because they wanted her to be related to Luke. The beauty of Star Wars to me wasn’t the intricate plot of the bad guy pulling all the strings. I can watch Usual Suspects for that. The beauty of Star Wars was its simplicity; good vs. evil, redemption, a little love story thrown in. It’s not Skakespeare, but it’s pretty damn close. The Scooby-Doo ending just threw all that out the window. And like I said earlier, there will be no JJ Cut, or no more movies to retcon this one (and don’t give me that novelization crap, because I can’t even…). This is the Star Wars saga that we got, and this is the one I have to live with. I’m just not sure it’s the one I wanted.

The good news is that you can own Rise of Skywalker now and make your own choice. Just click here and then tell me how wrong I am!

For anyone who thinks that The Brie Larson project is solely about Brie Larson, well, you haven’t really been reading, have you? And who could blame you?

I recently streamed Zach Galifianakis’ Between Two Ferns: The Movie, only to realize after I started it that it featured a scene with Larson, so for anyone who thought I was just a creep, suck on that. This was fortuitous because not only was it a laugh-riot, but it gave me something to write about. If you haven’t seen Galifianakis’ pseudo-talk show of the same name, you’re missing out. If you have seen it and wonder how they made a whole movie out of that, let me remind you that they made two watchable Wayne’s World movies, so put your preconceived notions to bed.

Between Two Ferns: The Movie features Zach and his merry crew taking a road trip to obtain enough celebrity interviews to win themselves their own talk show on a real network (Well, Lifetime.) Larson is one of the celebs, along with Paul Rudd, David Letterman, John Hamm and Peter Dinklage, and a host of others, all people who are notably funny, or at the very least notable.

Not only did Larson’s inclusion bring me great joy because, well, it’s Brie Larson, but it also made me happy because it made me realize that she “gets it.” For those who haven’t seen the show, Galifianakis asks unbelievably uncomfortable questions of his guests, and only sometimes are the questions and responses written in advance. For example, he says to Paul Rudd, “Some people have it all. Looks. Talent. How does it feel to have only looks?” Even though I don’t know what is written in advance and what is ad-libbed, I’m thinking Rudd has the comedic chops to handle this kind of stuff. My favorite? After being asked about being a practicing Jew, Rudd responds, “No. I don’t practice. (pause) I perfected it.”

Confession time! As much of a fan of Larson as I am, I recently started to doubt if she had the ability to laugh at herself. Now, of course there is the possibility that her agent told her to take this part so that all the woman-hating loudmouths who got on her for saying she wanted more diversity among film critics would like her again. But I doubt that’s the case. Knowing the nature of the show, and Galifianakis being Galifianakis, the filmmakers probably approached her and she agreed, thinking it would be fun and literally take less than a day to shoot (Probably much like the show within the show.) I know that we should all stay away from clickbait and trolls and stuff, but it’s hard to not be influenced sometimes when there’s so much stuff out there. And let’s face it, she did say a lot of things that got people riled up (Wanting more diversity among movie critics is hardly controversial subject matter). No smart people got riled up, but people did. It was enough to make me wonder if she was in on the joke.

See, as much as people like to rag on Hollywood-types for their snobbery, I mostly find them to be a funny lot, and most of them, at least the persona that they put out there, seem like they can laugh at how ridiculous their lives are (They basically “play” for a living, much like my friends and I did in our backyards in the 80’s. And I was always Han Solo, by the way.) Another great example of this from Between Two Ferns is when Galifianakis asks John Hamm for a interview in the middle of an autograph signing, and despite the fact that Hamm has never heard of this show, he gets up from his table and goes off with Zach to record the show, because, “I do whatever I’m asked to do.”

Basically, I feel like anyone who agreed to be in this movie had to be in on the joke, because they all have to take a fair amount of abuse from Galifianakis, and most of them get to give it right back to him. Larson, for example, after Zach mentions how he thinks Marvel has given up because her character is named “Captain Marvel,” asks him if his super-hero name would be “Captain Crunch.” Classic. The funniest moments to me, however, are when Galifianakis asks obnoxious questions, and the celebrity fidgets uncomfortably in their chair. I can only imagine that this is what it is like for celebrities to sit in a chair all day while scores of “journalists” get paraded through their room to ask them the same dumb questions over and over. I mean, no wonder Larson asked for more diversity in that industry. She probably has to sit across from literally hundreds of white dudes on her media days.


Despite the fact that this is a Brie Larson column, and the fact that all of the interviews are incredibly amusing, for my money, none of them top the interview that Galifianakis has with Keanu Reeves. I have another confession; Reeves is an actor that I had zero respect for until fairly recently. Not really him as a person, because I hear he’s a really nice dude, and he has never been involved in any scandals or anything worse than Point Break. Now, of course, I enjoyed Bill & Ted’s, but after that I felt like he was really trying to be an actor (My Own Private Idaho, Dracula) while playing literally the same guy, which was essentially Ted. I won’t even get on him for Speed, because everyone has bills to pay, and at least he was smart enough to not do the sequel, but then he had to make THREE Matrix movies, which might have seemed cool at the time but have not aged all that well.

Now, somewhere in the last few years, it seems like Keanu looked in the mirror, and also looked at Liam Neeson, Vin Diesel and Robert Downey, Jr. and decided that he can make good money just playing Keanu Reeves, as long as he winks at the camera while doing it. and to me, nothing cements that wink more then an appearance in BTF: The Movie. Again, I don’t know what it written, or what is ad-libbed, but no one fidgets better than Keanu when Galifianakis asks him, on a scale of 1 to 100, how many words he knows. There’s no way that anyone can ask Keanu Reeves that question under any circumstance, unless Keanu knows that he has a reputation for being, as Galifianakis puts it, “a complete bozo.” Keanu definitely “gets it,” as I’m sure Brie Larson does, and everyone else who agreed to be in this movie. And that makes me feel good, because there’s nothing more awkward than someone who takes themselves too seriously.

So, check out Between Two Ferns on Netflix, but if you really want a little primer, here’s the full Keanu interview so you know what I mean.

I had planned posting this just after seeing the movie, but then life happened and so, here I am. Just pretend like this is all new and exciting.

And so it has come to pass… After all these posts about Brie Larson movies, good and bad (the movies, not the posts. They were all bad.), we have come to the ultimate Brie Larson movie, her big-budget, franchise-launching, starring role of Carol Danvers, a.k.a. Captain Marvel. And after all the stupid, silly, inane controversies (Smile-gate, Rotten Tomatoes’ review trolls, the cat’s real name, etc.), the movie has arrived, and kicked all those asshole, do-nothing crybabies right in the nuts, to the tune of a $911 million worldwide gross (so far).


And what did I think, after all these long-winded posts? In this day-and-age of everyone with a website or Youtube channel spouting their opinions, do you really want to know? Well, if you’re still reading, I guess you do, so here we go: this white guy enjoyed it.

Now, I will be the first to say that there has never been a perfect movie, and this isn’t the first one. The middle gets a little slow, as a lot of movies do. Some of the jokes fall flat. A few of the nineties songs from the soundtrack are too on the nose (I’m looking at you, No Doubt!). But overall, the action was great, the pacing of the movie was exceptionally good, and it fits very well into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a franchise that has a powerful new hero… and it’s a girl! The great thing to me was that she just happened to be a girl. The over-arching theme, the fact that she had been under the thumb of her Kree brethren (who weren’t her brethren at all, really), and that her mentor (Jude Law) was keeping her from reaching her true potential, could have easily happened to any protagonist, regardless of gender. I’ve seen and heard reviews where people are delighted that Captain Marvel had a female bestie, or how cool it was that she had no male love interest to drive her to greatness (a’la Wonder Woman). But that’s not really the point of the movie for me. Let’s face it, in just about every movie with a female protagonist, the main character has a female best friend, and every movie with a male protagonist, he has a female love interest, so whatever. It’s all Hollywood window dressing. Why try to make it into some kind of beacon of hope for feminism?

The point of this, and hopefully, most action movies, is to tell a decent story with relatable characters and make it fun. I spend a great part of my life over-thinking movies, mostly because I know how much work goes into making them, so when I’m disappointed, I’m really disappointed. But even this film snob can just kick back and be entertained for two hours. That’s why I like so many Marvel movies. (As a sidenote; two hours and eight minutes was the perfect length for this movie. For the story they were telling, any longer would have been too much. Much shorter and it would have seemed like something was left out. By comparison, Wonder Woman, at 2 hours and 21 minutes, seemed way too long. The entire climactic battle seemed like it lasted almost three hours.)

Just a couple other quick notes before Dursin’s Final Thoughts; I didn’t love the fact that Nick Fury lost his eye to a cat scratch. It was predictable and silly (but I suppose if we didn’t see how he lost his eye, people would have complained about that, too.) I did like that they brought back the Tesseract as the maguffin here, as that has been a thread running through three Marvel movies now, until Thanos just crushes it to reveal that it houses an Infinity Stone, which makes him seem that much for of a bad-ass to me. I did not love the whole Supreme Intelligence thing. I guess I get the fact that they didn’t want to animate a gross, green blob and say that it was the representation of the brains of all the Kree, or whatever. And having it be a manifestation of someone you know fit with their story, but they probably could have come up with a better way to reveal Carol’s true origin. “Supreme Intelligence” seems like some they came up with in the comics in the 70’s that just doesn’t translate to movies in 2019 (Hell, they changed “Cosmic Cube” to “Tesseract” because it sounded cooler. They couldn’t come up with something cooler than “Supreme Intelligence?”

Finally, I loved the fact that there was no knock-down, drag-out fight at the end between Marvel and Jude Law. as cinema-goers, we’re sort of conditioned to think that it should happen, so to have her just blast the heck out of him not only was a nice surprise, but it fit with the story that they were telling (that he was keeping her down all this time, and she really is that damn powerful.) Not only did it make sense, plot-wise, but it made sense cinematically, because a long, drawn-out fight that you know she is going to win anyway would have just slowed everything down and made the movie longer and less fun (Sorry to pick on you, Wonder Woman, but that is where you fell apart for me.) Prove that she is mighty, and move your movie along to the end. Everybody wins!

In the world we have constructed for ourselves, people like to talk about stuff, and I’m the first one to fall for click-bait like, “Brie Larson says she hates white dudes.” And I honestly don’t know anyone who saw this movie and felt like it changed society’s mind on female representation in movies. Maybe they’re out there somewhere, and I’m sure they will be a sequel before too long, so that’s probably a good indication. But what I have heard is a lot of people saying that this was just a basic, decent, fun story. Of course, there are critics, as there always are. But with all the controversy coming in, “Do No Harm,” was a pretty good bar to set, and I think it beat those expectations by quite a bit. I feel like if you like most of the Marvel movies, you will enjoy this one. If you don’t, or if you’re an angry white guy who too much free time, then you should skip it. Obviously, the movie didn’t need your money, anyway.


Honestly, I don’t know what else to say. I found Captain Marvel entertaining, and am anxious to see her in Avengers: Endgame next month. So, good on ya, Marvel! You got me!

I don’t think it will change anyone’s mind on feminism, or even lead to more diversity in the film industry, but we really shouldn’t rely on our action movies to make societal changes, anyway. Let’s just enjoy them for what they are.

This is the end of my Brie Larson blogging for awhile (unless her directoral debut blows me away). It’s been fun analyzing movies and movie culture through her work, but it’s time to move on. Check back for some new stuff, if I can come up with anything. Thanks for reading, which you probably didn’t. But if you did, I hope enjoyed it.