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Saturday, May 21, 2016

Like/Don't Like: May 15 - May 21, 2016

America's new favorite feature is back, baby!  Like/Don't Like has taken the internet by storm.  The perfect storm.  The kind of perfect storm you might think George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg won't survive, but then they do.  Cloons makes it to the end of that one, right?  Granted, it's been a long time since I've seen The Perfect Storm, but there's no way they kill off Cloons, right?  I mean, yeah?  Anyway, here's something I liked and didn't like this week.  #RIPClooney

Like: The Sword and Scale podcast is a true crime podcast that takes you so deep into the minds of the weirdos and degenerates whose stories it highlights, you may find yourself at the end of an episode--brain in a haze, stomach in knots--questioning why you just voluntarily subjected yourself to a full hour of depravity.  The show can be a horrifying, scary, depressing, engrossing, vile, fascinating and mind-altering experience, but one worth trying.  Maybe.

Remember when the first season of Serial came along, and you listened to every new episode the moment it appeared in your podcast app because the story was so interesting and twisty and it felt important sorta?  And then remember when the second season of Serial came along, and you realized while updating your blog one Saturday night that you were roughly seven episodes behind, but you didn't care because Serial didn't feel essential anymore?  Well, Sword and Scale is like the first season of Serial, only shorter and sicker.  And better.

I can't listen to every episode of Sword and Scale.  I had to turn one episode off when during the cold open a detective was heard describing his arrival upon a grisly murder scene in which the victim had been decapitated and then had his head replaced on his spine in an unnatural way.  Even a horror fan like me can't stomach stuff like that these days.  Plus, I don't particularly enjoy serial killery stuff, so, I skip those episodes, but most of the stories host Mike Boudet chooses to tell, while undeniably upsetting, are engrossing in the way a good episode of 20/20 used to be, you know, when you didn't go out on Friday nights and watched 20/20 crime stories instead.  Remember that?  We all did that high school, right?  Chose to stay home and watch glossily produced "news" stories about homicidal pastor's wives and angry teenaged parent murderers?

I'm currently taking a small hiatus from Sword and Scale to catch up on the live Comedy Bang! Bang! tour episodes, because as a new and enthusiastic listener to the podcast, I kind of overdosed.  I listened to a few too many stories about murderous husbands and vicious killers who post their deadly handiwork on social media for all the world to witness, and I found myself a little dizzy and disconnected.  It was the two-part episode about Luka Magnotta (Episodes 33 & 34)--the Canadian psychopath who ruined New Order's "True Faith" FOREVER!!!--that made me step back for a second and take a much needed breather.  The show is that intense.

If you'd like to take the plunge and check out Sword and Scale, something I do recommend, but only if you like this sort of thing, I recommend starting with Episode 62, which recounts the story of Jenelle Potter, a severely sheltered young woman who somehow convinced her parents she was a CIA agent and encouraged them to murder a couple in town she'd had a series of social media altercations with.  It is one of the strangest stories I have ever heard, and it's made all the better by having the district attorney who prosecuted and wrote a book about the case as the guest.  I also enjoyed the two episodes highlighting incidents of "Satanic Panic" both here and abroad (Episodes 47 & 51); a nearly two hour episode about cult leader Jim Jones (Episode 50), which includes most of the infamous "Jonestown death tape," which is so deeply depressing and something I regret listening to so much of; Episode 49, which is one of the craziest stories I've heard in my life, but one I cannot even begin to explain here; and Episodes 45 & 46 about the Carnation Murders.

Don't like:  Look, I don't know what you call it--The AM Sausage Crunchwrap; The Breakfast Crunchwrap w/ Sausage; The Tortilla Filled With Breakfast Shit--I just know it sucks.

I love Taco Bell, but I have been avoiding Taco Bell's breakfast menu for years, convinced they'd give it up eventually, like Wendy's before them, and return to what they do best: late night eats to soak up the booze.  But, nope, Taco Bell has hung in there, wrapping breakfast meats and scrambled eggs inside tortillas, and serving it to the public without a second thought.  They should be ashamed.

The Taco Bell Breakfast Crunchwrap tastes how I imagine those protein bricks in science fiction stories about dystopian societies taste: bland, rubbery, possibly made out of people.  The Crunchwrap, for those of you who haven't tried one, consists of a fried hashbrown square (think McDonald's hashbrown, only devoid of all flavor), topped with the blandest sausage patty money can buy, which is itself topped with college-cafeteria-grade scrambled eggs and shredded cheese made of some variety of space age polymer that doesn't melt.  This tower of meh is then wrapped in a tortilla, crisped up somehow, and served in a paper sleeve for easy consumption while commuting to work.

It is important to note that I was eating the Crunchwrap while driving to work, so I was unable to apply any of Taco Bell's wide variety of sauces to it.  Perhaps with the application of a packet or fifteens-worth of "Hot" sauce, the Crunchwrap becomes more palatable, but that's bullshit, because the Crunchwrap is clearly designed to be eaten while driving.  There's no mess since everything is contained in a tidy, edible package.  So, arguing that the flavorlessness of my Crunchwrap is my fault is a notion that I wholly reject.  Maybe some people feel comfortable tearing sauce packets open with their teeth while driving to the office, but I don't, and I refuse to run the risk of being pulled over by a police officer or cause a horrific multi-car accident killing thousands of commuters that might one day be a story featured on Sword and Scale just because I want to add a little pizzaz to my gross, fast food breakfast pouch.  Put some salt on the hashbrown or toss some pico into that tortilla before you panini press it, and give me something that tastes good in my mouth, not a brick of sawdust wrapped in paper towel.

Taco Bell should just serve their entire menu all day.  In fact, that's what every fast food joint should do.  I could care less that McDonald's serves breakfast morning, noon and night now.  Let me order a Quarter Pounder with Cheese Value Meal on my way downtown in the morning, and you've got a customer for life.  I don't want breakfast tacos, well, ever, really, I want a good old Doritos Loco taco for breakfast.  I want to roll into the office with my fingers stained orange and my ass ready to explode.  Because that's how I like to start a morning dammit!

(I think you can get steak in your Crunchwrap rather than sausage.  I haven't decided if that's worth giving Taco Bell a second chance yet.  Stay tuned.)

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Saturday, May 14, 2016

Like/Don't Like: May 8 - May 14, 2016

Welcome to Like/Don't Like.  Every Saturday, I'll take a look back on the week that was, and find one thing I liked about it, and one thing I didn't care for much.  It's as easy as that.  It might be the laziest regular segment I've ever come up with, which means it'll probably stick around for a good long time.  Anyway, here's the first one.

Like: This week I finally caught up with Hulu's The Path, which is absolutely not about Scientology.  It is, in actuality, a fictional television program about a made up religion, called Meyerism, that involves praying to The Light, strapping electrodes onto your forehead from time to time and making your way up a mystical ladder, which was revealed to Meyerism's founder during an ayahuasca trip.  Defectors of the faith are hunted down and intimidated, members who "transgress" are expected to participate in a program that looks a whole lot like imprisonment and the de facto leader is megalomaniacal secret alcoholic who has definitely murdered someone.  See, no relation to Scientology at all.

This show is like catnip to a cult/religion enthusiast like me.  I find it endlessly fascinating.  And the cast is amazing, from Aaron Paul as the onetime lost soul who just happened to marry into the most intense and influential Meyerist family around, but has started to have doubts after his own journey down the ayahuasca highway; to Michelle Monaghan, who plays his wife, whose devotion to the Meyerist movement is both inspiring and terrifying; to Hugh Dancy, who plays Cal, the sociopath left in charge while the founder is, um, elsewhere, who can't seem to keep his temper in check or his dick in his pants.  Dancy is truly frightening in his role as a man whose hunger for power, history with alcohol and penchant for horrifying violence has turned him into a demigod capable of commanding unwavering loyalty in his followers, but a lax attitude toward maintaining an even temper when it comes to the bloody work of maintaining his position of power.

The Path is a great show, and one I wish was on Netflix, only because Hulu makes you wait every Wednesday for a new episode.  I started late, so I was able to binge the first 8 episodes, which I did in three days.  There are only 2 episodes left, and things are really ramping up.  I recommend you give it a try.  Just remember: It. Is. Not. About. Scientology.

Don't Like: Without any hesitation, I am able to say Wendy's is my very favorite fast food chain.  I enjoy those wacky square burgers oh so much, and their fries, well, don't get me started.  And as far as I'm concerned, Wendy's Spicy Chicken Sandwich is the greatest innovation in fast foodery since the drive-thru window.

That said, I hate when Wendy's thinks outside the box.  Whenever Taco Bell introduces a new tortilla-based goodie, I'm front and center, my fat man beard dripping with taco grease before I'm even halfway home (On my list of noteworthy fast food items, the Doritos Loco Taco comes at #2 right behind Wendy's Spicy Chicken).  But when Wendy's trots out something new--like pork barbecue or a gouda burger--not only am I not interested, but I'm usually actively disgusted.  Wendy's has got a good thing going.  Nothings broken, so nothing needs fixing.  The 4 for $4.00 combo is great, so, just stop there.  You're King of Grease Mountain, Wendy's!  Revel in it!

I lied.  There actually was a limited time only sandwich Wendy's released one time that I LOVED: 2007's 4-Alarm Spicy Chicken sandwich.  If you were lucky enough to cram one of these tasty creations into your mouth 9 years ago, you'll remember how truly special it was.  I believe I enjoyed 3 total before they disappeared into the ether forever and ever.  And nobody remembers these things.  I bring the 4-Alarm up all the time--I always refer to it as either the 3-Alarm or 5-Alarm Spicy Chicken sandwich--and people stare at me like I'm some kind of headless freak talking out of his tooth-lined neck hole.  The 4-Alarm did exist, but like everything beautiful and perfect in this world, it was destroyed by society's indifference and condemned to the warehouse of forgotten foods, along with IHOP's International Burrito, the discontinuation of which is truly the worst tragedy in chain restaurant history.

But Wendy's is back with another riff on the spicy chicken situation, and, guess what, it sucks.  The Jalapeño Fresco Spicy Chicken sandwich is a joke; a damp sack of lies between two pieces of disgusting bread.  

First, the "ghost pepper sauce" that covers the requisite spicy chicken filet like a scum-slicked pool cover is as bland as a Trump Tower taco bowl.  The ghost pepper is pretty high up on the Scoville heat scale--about three rungs down from actual pepper spray--but somehow Wendy's ghost pepper sauce tastes like nothing.  The only heat comes from the diced jalapeños trapped within the viscous yellow sauce, and it's not a pleasant heat.  It's aggressive without being tasty.  I like spicy foods a lot, but if they aren't also tasty, I've got no time for them.  I'm not competing on Fear Factor hosted by Joe Rogan, I'm eating dinner.  That said, I wouldn't mind the ghost pepper sauce, if they fished the jalapeño bits out and called it what it actually is: cheese sauce.

The bun has jalapeños baked into it, I guess.  I saw no proof of this.  It sucked.  Its consistency was slightly gummy, kind of like Play Doh, only less flavorful.

It was also covered with raw onions sliced into very thin rings.  I liked that quite a bit.

Wendy's needs to bring back the 4-Alarm, and shove this monstrosity back into the pits of fast food Hell where it came from.  You're still my boy, Wendy's, but we've really got to talk about where your head's at.

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Saturday, April 9, 2016

I'm lovin' it? Meh.

Look, I love McDonald's.  I know they're a giant evil company, and their food is bad for you, but come on, man.  I'm old.  I'm tired.  This is a fight for the millennials to wage.  I've done my time in the "pretending-to-care-about-issues" trenches.  Now I just want to eat the occasional Quarter Pounder with Cheese (or once, by accident, the Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese) Value Meal, alone and fat in my garage after getting out of a late showing of 10 Cloverfield Lane, and not feel like I've compromised my liberal values.  Or cram a greasy Sausage-N-Egg Biscuit into my face, wash it down with a large Diet Coke and two salty hashbrown slabs and crow about how tasty it was on social media without having a Bernie Bro vegan accuse me of hate crimes against my "barnyard brethren," while at the same time mourning my own death preemptively.  I don't eat at McDonald's a lot, but when I do, I don't want to have to explain myself.  Deep down, I kinda hate myself, and when that self-hatred reaches a particular notch in my psyche, I push it back down with a 10 piece McNuggets and a large fry.  Simple.

What I'm not particularly fond of regarding Micky D's is that current slogan.  McDonald's used to introduce a new slogan every few years or so.  Remember "Food, folks and fun?"  I loved that.  It was the perfect distillation of every McDonald's experience I had when I was a kid: The food I craved, eaten with the folks I loved, and the post-meal fun/high that one experiences after eating American fast food, you know, the one that makes you feel like a million bucks for roughly five to ten minutes before you find yourself sweating on a toilet, cursing the creation of the drive-thru concept?  That probably wasn't the fun they were talking about.  They were probably referencing that awesome McDonald's dance party scene in Mac and Me.  Damn, that looked so fun!

"I'm lovin' it" has been around since 2003.  That's a long time.  Too long as far as I'm concerned.  But it works.  I mean, I guess.  I'm pretty sure people would continue to line up at McDonald's counters all over this great land if McDonald's commercials were nothing more than a list of heart disease facts and figures accompanied by somber acoustic guitar strumming.  People know it.  Let's put it that way.  If you run into a middle school cafeteria or a prison yard at recreation time or Bingo night at a retirement community or graduation at a School for the Deaf, and shout out "Da-da-da-da-da...," you'll get a resounding "I'm lovin' it," in return.  It's become canon.  Scripture.  It is wired into the brains of newborns from birth.  It must be something they coat the fries in.  It worms into your DNA.

But is it accurate?  Are we, in fact, "lovin' it?"  Short answer: Not really.
"But, Matt, you started this whole thing off saying you loved McDonald's.  What gives?  Are you a dirty, godless liar?  I don't get you, man."

Look, I love McDonald's like I loved cigarettes when I smoked.  I knew what they were doing to me, but, wow, did they ever make me look cool and feel good.  I looked cool until I realized my t-shirts smelled like shit, and I felt good until I woke up at 2:30 AM unable to catch my breath most nights.  McDonald's feels good on the way to the restaurant--I call this the "I'm Lovin' It Phase"--and it is enjoyable going down, but when I reach that final, aforementioned sweaty bathroom scenario, yeah, I'm not really in the mood to declare my love for anything. So, am I lovin' it?  Yes.  Kinda.  I love the idea of McDonald's and it tastes so good in my mouth.  But then I find myself at 37-years-old at the doctor's office being warned that if my fatty liver gets any worse I'm going to die (it wasn't said that way at all--I'm being dramatic...for comedy?). I can't really say I love something that is killing me.  "But the act of living is killing us," you might say.  Then, ok, I can't say I love something that is killing me faster.  Does that work for you, person I just made up?

I think it's time for a new slogan, and I think I actually found a good one this week.  And I mean this.  I didn't write all of the preceding to end on a hacky joke slogan that I dreamed up in the midst of a Taco Bell coma last night (That's right--the wife and I ate Taco Bell at 11:00 PM last our bed.  Marriage is awesome, guys!  Don't let anybody tell you any different!).  No, this week a woman in Dallas, TX came up with the greatest, most perfect slogan for McDonald's that has ever been.  It didn't hurt that she was overdosing on a variety of synthetic marijuana known as Brainfreeze at the time, in fact, I'm pretty sure I should be giving the manufacturer of said product the credit.  Anyway, here's what happened:
Police say a Dallas woman was driving with her two children last week when she overdosed on a drug called Brainfreeze.
Angela Williams, 37, remains in the Dallas County Jail on a charge of driving while intoxicated with a child under 15, as well as a hot check charge. Her bail is set at $7,000.
About 8:20 p.m. last Thursday, Williams parked on a median at Samuell Boulevard and St. Francis Street, apparently having a seizure in her Chevy Malibu, a witness told police.
Her two children, ages 11 and 13, told officers that Williams was driving “crazy” and acting irrationally, laughing at nothing in particular. The witness removed both children from the car for their safety, the police report says.
Officers found two packets of Brainfreeze, a synthetic cannabinoid, in Williams’ purse, according to police documents.
When police got her out of the car, Williams grabbed one of the officer’s gun belts numerous times and repeated, “I want my McDonald’s,” the arrest warrant affidavit says.
Officers took her to Baylor University Medical Center for treatment. She was later released and booked into jail.
And that's what McDonald's is, man; the salty, greasy, delicious fuel only a crazy person would want to ingest.  You are grabbing at the gun belt of life when you invite a McDonald's Big Mac into the fragile ecosystem that is the human body.  You don't "need' your McDonald's.  You "want" your McDonald's, and you're willing to reach for a police officer's weapon to get it.  Obviously, Ms. Williams is a terrible mother, but even terrible people can stumble into something brilliant.

All I'm saying is try it, McDonald's.  "I want my McDonald's."  I mean, that's a slogan right there!  No tweaking, no focus groups necessary.  We aren't eating in your restaurants for nourishment.  We're addicted.  Our parents threw a Happy Meal into our laps because they were too tired/lazy/angry to cook a proper dinner, and we've continued the trend because we're heroin addicts, only for French fries.  We're grease zombies with dead, Mayor McCheese eyes, wandering through the night with ketchup on our shirts and sesame seeds in our beards.  We want our McDonald's, and we don't care how many cops we've got to manhandle to get it.

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Monday, March 21, 2016

Food Newz Presentz Food Reviewz presents The Foodz Canon

Another election year is upon us; that magical period in America where we the people choose a brand-new leader to soldier us onward into oblivion.  Personally, I'm still on the fence.  Am I a Ted Cruz man?  Sure, he's the candidate a majority of Americans say they would want to party with because he looks so fun and cool, but then there's John Kasich with his apparent saneness and his boast that he's been to exactly one gay wedding.  However, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't at least a little bit excited about that wall Emperor Trump says he's gonna build and force Mexico to pay for.  From what I've heard, it could "trump" the Great Wall of China, and that's a pretty substantial wall.  My own thoughts and ideas are probably most in line with those of Bernie Sanders, but Hillary Clinton is certainly still in the running, even if she starts her first few months in office from the inside of a jail cell.

Look, I'm not going to pick a president right now, OK?!  What I am going to do is pick a cereal, in fact, I'm going to reveal to you, gentle reader, my choice for THE BEST CEREAL OF ALL-TIME.  The answer may shock you.  It may anger you.  But, dammit, you will respect my choice and eventually you will come to accept it as fact.  Ladies, but most likely, gentlemen, I give you my favorite breakfast cereal of any and all times...
That's right, my choice for best cereal is General Mills' Superman cereal, based on the upcoming film Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.  My favorite cereal is a promotional tie-in.

I know what you're saying, and I shall address your concerns point by point.  

First, why would a 37-year-old man with a documented weight problem pick a sugary cereal for children as his favorite cereal of all-time?  Good question.  My answer: Superman cereal's deliciousness makes it nearly impossible to consider any other cereal for this highly coveted honor.  It's sweet, though not sickeningly so, with enough of a caramel twist to give the appearance of decadence while remaining down-to-Earth.  After all, though he himself is an invincible alien being who could easily snuff out all of humanity in no time if he needed too, Superman is essentially a man of the people, and I think the cereal that bears both his name and the shape in which his emblem is enshrined on his muscular chest, represents this dichotomy effortlessly.  

I understand I should choose something like Cheerios or Special K or Grape Nuts or Kashi or Gluten-Free Oat Clusters With Iron, and by refusing to do so, I am setting a bad example for America's youth, specifically my 4-year-old daughter, but, as the millennials say, sorry not sorry.  Perhaps it would ease your mind if I informed you that I am the only person who eats Superman cereal in my household.  My wife refuses to touch it (though she has no problem keeping me supplied with boxes--thanks, honey), and the one time Quinn tried a bite she responded, "Gross!"  She's wrong, by the way, but see, I'm not setting an innocent child on the road to diabetes.  I'm taking a bullet for her.  A sweet, crunching, carmally bullet.

Allow me to speak to your next concern.  I picked a sugar-packed children's cereal as my favorite cereal of all-time, by which I mean in all of the history of the planet, but I picked one that a) literally just appear on shelves last year and b) is a promotional tie-in to a movie a weird cross section of the internet is not excited about.  Look, I'm not here to get you pumped up for Dawn of Justice, OK?  Maybe you're not excited about it, like 90% of the people I'm friends with on Facebook.  I can't help that all of those people are wrong idiots.  I'm super stoked.  Go ahead and hold you're weird grudge against Ben Affleck, nerds.  This March 28th, while you're whining on the internet, I'll be grabbing a box of my favorite cereal and taking it down to my favorite cineplex and watching Batman and Superman punch the crap out of each other.  And it's gonna be great!

To answer your first point, sure, there may be some Saturday morning classics more worthy of holding such a lofty title--Captain Crunch, Fruity Pebbles, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Apple Jacks, Kix, Frosted Mini Wheats, Nintendo Cereal, etc.--but I refused to let my choice be dictated by pure nostalgia--there's too much of that around right now anyway.  I had to be true to myself.  Superman boasts an interesting flavor, bold, yet simple packaging, and, most importantly, it doesn't fuck up the milk!  Your milk starts white, and it ends white, and as far as I'm concerned, that's half the battle.

So, let's make it official: General Mills' Superman cereal you are the first inductee into the GIANT ELECTRIC PENGUIN FOOD NEWZ FOODZ CANON!  

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Saturday, March 5, 2016

#DLMChallenge: End of February/Beginning of March Update

Sorry, dudes, but I just now finally got over my Leap Day party hangover.  Wow, did we ever get wild!  I'm still finding empty wine cooler bottles in the backyard! The guest room toilet is never going to be the same, that's for sure!  And for those who've been asking, Jerry has been moved out of intensive care, and on Wednesday was able to swallow applesauce for the first time since "the accident" (as always, my prayers go out to Jerry and the family of possums that perished as a result of "the accident").  Anyway, everything is finally back to normal, so I thought I'd take a moment to update everyone on my DLM Challenge progress.  I'm still 20-something movies behind schedule, but I can make that up before the end of the year.  I'll get 366 movies in before you can say "Auld Lang Syne."  Trust me.

27. Fuck Buddies (short film): I learned about Fuck Buddies from the AVClub, and I kinda had to watch it; I mean, when you describe something as "icky, sad, and surprisingly terrifying," it's kind of like catnip for a fan of weirdo movies such as myself.  Fuck Buddies is all of those things: "icky" because it features A LOT of "sex-related" fluids flying/oozing around; "sad" because it's never not depressing to watch a relationship fall apart in front of you; and "terrifying" because 1) the male lead's penis turns into a horrifying, uncontrollable rape tentacle at one point and 2) an eyeless ghost boy "watches" everything go down.

I never had a fuck buddy myself, but if this is what it's like, I'm glad I went the committed-relationship-then-sex route.

28. Masters of the Universe: A He-Man movie without all that He-Man stuff.  You know what would be cool?  A Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings-style He-Man movie with all the cool stuff that made the He-Man toy line so legendary.  Unfortunately, Masters of the Universe was made in 1987, so we got this, a cheap, sci-fi garbage heap with a handful of recognizable characters and a teenaged Courtney Cox, but nothing that remotely resembles the cartoon or the adventures me and my best friend, Graham, created in his basement.  And yet, I didn't hate Masters of the Universe.  It probably helped that I barely paid attention to it, but it's not as bad as you've heard or you remember, it's just not a He-Man movie.  So, not terrible, but thumbs down because no Orko (Sorry, but Gwildor is in NO WAY an appropriate substitution).

29. Eddie Murphy Raw: Eddie Murphy's follow-up to his HBO special, Delirious.  I don't know.  It's dated for sure (a bit about Bill Cosby is funny-ish, because Murphy's impression is so good, but, you know, Bill Cosby...) and I can't relate to a lot of the material (i.e. an extended riff on the "fact" that all men cheat), but Eddie Murphy is a great stand-up?  Maybe?  Maybe I need to watch Delirious.  He certainly mentions it enough during Raw.

30. The Naked Kiss: Kelly, a former prostitute, moves to the tightly-knit suburban community of Grantville to make a better life for herself.  Even though she (somehow) becomes a nurse in the children's ward at the local hospital, the police chief, Griff, ain't buying Kelly's change of heart.  Griff becomes even more unhappy when Kelly begins a romantic relationship with his best friend and the most beloved man in town, J.J. Grant.  Kelly and Grant get engaged, Griff accepts that Kelly isn't a dirty whore anymore, and then something I didn't think was allowed to happen in movies made in the 60's happens.  Without getting too spoilery, someone is murdered, and the last 20 minutes of the movie is spent trying to sort all of that out.  The way it is sorted out makes absolutely no sense to me, so, please, someone I know, see this movie immediately, so we can talk about it.  And while you're at it, watch the first season of Fargo, because the same sort of thing happens at the end of that.  I tried to discuss The Naked Kiss with my friend Jonathan over burritos last weekend, but he expressed a desire to watch it, so I held off.  I need to talk about it though.  PLEASE!  SOMEBODY!  HELP!

Anyway, it's good.

31. The Witch: Right after that aforementioned Mexican dinner, Jonathan and I took in an opening night showing of The Witch.  I got to sit next to a 10-year-old girl.  Fun.

The Witch is about a Puritan family who is banished from their village in 17th century New England, and after moving in next door to an eerie forest, have their lives systematically dismantled by the forces of evil, personified by some forest-dwelling old hags and a shaggy goat named Black Phillip.  It's a creepily beautiful film that will probably appear on my year-end best of list.  It was also super disappointing.

The reviews of this thing promised a deeply disturbing experience, a film straight out of Satan's personal Blu-Ray library, so that's what I went in expecting, that's what I went in wanting.  It's been a long time since I've been, for lack of a better phrase, "fucked up" by a horror movie, and I thought The Witch would be the one to do it.  It wasn't.  I loved it though.  It is masterfully crafted and expertly acted, but it doesn't deliver enough of the dread and nightmares its herald promised.  That isn't the movie's fault though.

32. Hellraiser:Hellworld: For years I've maintained that Pet Sematary is the dumbest horror movie ever made.  Well, move over, Pet Sematary, there's a new dum-dum in town.  Hellraiser: Hellworld, the 8th film in the Hellraiser series, a franchise that descended into a sub-basement of brainlessness pretty early on, is not only full-on, unapologetically stupid, but it makes no sense whatsoever and kinda doesn't even really involve Pinhead or his Cenobite chums much at all.  It's about an angry dad, played by Lance Henriksen, who gets revenge on his dead son's friends for duh duh duh fart noise clown horn.  The only thought that kept running through my head during Hellworld's 95-minute runtime was, "Is that Henry Cavill?  That actor looks a whole lot like Henry Cavill, but, nah, it can't be.  But is it?  Maybe?  Is that Superman hanging from a rusty hook bleeding to death?  Nah.  But?"  Fun Fact: It was Henry Cavill.

33. Soaked In Bleach:  The other Kurt Cobain documentary from 2015.  This one is about how Kurt Cobain wasn't depressed and didn't kill himself with a shotgun.  It suggests that Courtney Love may have had a hand in her husband's untimely death, a theory that's been around forever and one that I first became aware of in Nick Broomfield's 1998 film Kurt & Courtney.  Like every good documentary about a conspiracy theory, I was convinced immediately.  Courtney Love belongs in jail.

34. Tangerine:  For awhile, I thought the only thing I would appreciate about this movie was the fact that it was shot on iPhones (Kinda like how the only interesting thing about Escape From Tomorrow was that it was filmed in secret at both the Disney World and Disneyland resorts.), but then Tangerine started to grow on me. What started as a "people walking around and yelling" movie turned into a funny/sad slice-o-life story about a community not often depicted on the silver screen. Tangerine features two amazing central performances and some great music. I guarantee a bunch of garbage iPhone-filmed movies will follow in its wake, so just check out the original.

35. Dope: I completely agreed with everyone's complaints about this year's Academy Awards. It was shameful. I heard a lot of people mention Creed (a movie I'd really like to see) and Straight Outta Compton (which I want to see, but I can wait), but I didn't hear anybody mention Dope. This movie is something special, a coming-of-age movie with a sense of vibrancy and fun, while also being a little bit dangerous. It reminded me of the movie Go, a film from 1999 that I absolutely loved. Dope feels like a Go for this generation. It's got a frenetic energy and a twisted sense of humor that cannot be denied. Plus, it's got the best soundtrack of the year probably. 

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Sunday, February 28, 2016

My 10 Favorite Films of 2015!

It's Oscar time once again, Hollywood's whitest brightest night!  The night when Hollywood's biggest stars win Hollywood's biggest award and Hollywood's stand-up community tweets about it live.  What will I be doing this Oscar night, you ask?  Well, I'll be front and center for the festivities...until Chris Rock's opening monologue ends, then I'll probably just mute the TV and read this book about the Lindbergh kidnapping I checked out from my local library recently.  Do you know much about this Lindbergh thing?!?  It is totes messed up, dudes!

Anyway, I don't really care about the Oscars any more, but I do love movies more than anything, besides than my family and Taco Bell, so, it is now time for the traditional unveiling of my Top Ten Films of 2015 list, or, rather, the 10 films released last year, out of the 14 that I actually saw, that I enjoyed the most.  Per usual, I haven't had the time to see a handful of films that I know should be on this list, but that's how it goes every year, so there is no use getting upset about it.  I actually have 2 DVDs sitting right here next to me--American Ultra and No Escape, both released in 2015--that could've been contenders for this year's list, but I've run out of time to watch them, and it's time to post, so, you know, sorry, bro.

Anyway, here are my 10 favorite movies from last year.  

10. Jurassic World: Look, I'm in the bag for any movie that has something to do with Jurassic anything (I'm a guy who genuinely enjoyed Jurassic Park 3!), and then someone goes ahead and puts Star-Lord in it?!?  You're on the list, Jurassic World.  You had me at raptors, and you sealed the deal with Pratt.  Also, I saw Jurassic World with my mommy and daddy, so that was fun.

9. Tangerine: For awhile, I thought the only thing I would appreciate about this movie was the fact that it was shot on iPhones (Kinda like how the only interesting thing about Escape From Tomorrow was that it was filmed in secret at both the Disney World and Disneyland resorts.), but then Tangerine started to grow on me.  What started as a "people walking around and yelling" movie turned into a funny/sad slice-o-life story about a community not often depicted on the silver screen.  Tangerine features two amazing central performances and some great music.  I guarantee a bunch of garbage iPhone-filmed movies will follow in its wake, so just check out the original.

8. The Revenant: Look, I agree with everybody's complaints.  The Revenant is overlong, overrated and, as Tom Scharpling so aptly described it on his show, it sounds like the entire cast was engaged in a Bit-O-Honey eating contest during every scene.  Also, the scene with the bear: while I can recognize that the CGI is expertly done, I was never not aware that I was watching Leonardo DiCaprio be mauled by a video game cut scene.  And DiCaprio should have been nominated and won for Wolf of Wall Street, blah, blah, blah.  All of that is accurate.  But The Revenant is a beautifully shot film, I mean, it looks amazing.  Should a film win Best Picture because of this?  No, it should win Best Cinematography.  Whatever my problems with the (lack of) story and the garbled dialogue (I love Tom Hardy in this, but he sounded like Bane and his character from Lawless had a baby and then smashed all of said baby's teeth out with a wooden mallet) aside, The Revenant was a pleasurable experience for the eyes, and that's why it made the list.

7. Ant-Man: Ant-Man was just fun, guys.  I didn't hate Avengers: Age of Ultron, but you'll notice it didn't make the list.  Ant-Man did though, and that's because it's fun and funny and the final fight between Ant-Man and Yellowjacket is amazingly clever and, I dunno, fun.

6. Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens: It's a Star Wars.  It's great.

5. Mission Impossible-Rogue Nation: I'm on record as being America's #1 Mission Impossible franchise fan (not true--there's no record of it--that would be ridiculous).  I hope they keep making Mission Impossible movies until the Earth implodes or President Trump starts a nuclear war with North Korea or Xenu's Second Coming, because I'll see them all.  They are America's answer to James Bond, and like everything America does, they're way better.  USA! USA! USA!  You don't see Spectre on this list, do ya?!  Exactly.

4. Dope: I completely agree with everyone's complaints about this year's Academy Awards. It's shameful.  I've heard a lot of people mention Creed (a movie I'd really like to see) and Straight Outta Compton (which I want to see, but I can wait), but I haven't heard anybody mention Dope.  This movie is something special, and that's why it's in the #4 spot.  It reminded me of the movie Go, a film from 1999 that I absolutely loved.  Dope feels like a Go for this generation.  It's got a frenetic energy and a twisted sense of humor that cannot be denied.  Plus, it's got probably the best soundtrack of the year.  Fun Fact: Dope is one of two movies featuring Zoe Kravitz that made my list, which officially makes Zoe Kravitz my favorite actor of all time.  Thems the rules.

3. It Follows: If you know me, you know I am a horror fan, an aficionado if you will, so you can trust me when I tell you that It Follows is one of the best horror movies I've seen in the last ten years (I will also tell you that 2016's The Witch is also amazingly great, so, see it.).  It's got a great look and, once again, an amazing soundtrack.  And it's scary.  And great.  And I loved it.

2. Inside Out: Beautifully animated, beautifully written and beautifully voice acted, Inside Out is an instant masterpiece.  Quality entertainment for everyone, but--and please don't get mad at me, non-kid-having readers, because I respect your decision to preserve both your free time and your sanity--but so much more meaningful (and gut-wrenching) for parents.  I love it, it tore me to pieces--I don't think I've cried harder at any other movie ever--and my daughter loved the French fry trees, so, see, something for everyone.

1. Mad Max: Fury Road: Pure cinema.  My favorite movie of 2015, and maybe ever.  Should win every Oscar.  

So, what were your favorite movies from last year?  You better not say Black Mass, because you're wrong.  Let me know in the comments or shoot me an e-mail at the address or above or like our Facebook page or don't do anything, I don't care.

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Sunday, February 14, 2016

#DLMChallenge: Mid-February Update

I can't tell you how many people have seen me on the street and shouted, "Hey, Matt, how's the DLM Challenge going?"  Sometimes I'll stroll over to the shouter and say, "Buy me a cup of coffee, and I'll tell you all about it."  The shouter, who was sooooo interested five minutes ago, interested enough to interrupt the weekly stroll I take with my family in fact, suddenly gets all nervous and twitchy and says, "That's OK," and I'll say, "Damn right it's OK!  I'm with my family, jack ass!  Why can't you people understand I'm just like you...I need my privacy too."  Most of the time though, I just point to my shirt--I always wear a shirt with the web address for this very blog printed on both the front and back whenever I'm in public--and say, "Check out the site!"

So, here's your mid-February update.  Oh, and Happy Valentine's Day.  I hope you got lots of chocolate and sex!

13. People, Places, Things: Nouns (as us hardcore People, Places, Things-heads call it) fits into the whole "slight, but charming, indie rom-coms starring comedic heavyweights being funny and a little sad" my personal DLM Challenge list has going on so far (see also: Slow Learners, The Overnight, We Need to Talk About Kevin).  Nouns is about a comic book writer/artist, played by Jemaine Clement, with twin daughters and a complicated love life.  Nouns is very enjoyable, thanks to a strong central performance by the endlessly funny Clement.  And, you know, nouns are a pretty great part of speech!

14. Eagle vs Shark: After watching Nouns, I was inspired to have myself a little Jemaine Clement Movie Marathon.  Unfortunately, Netflix streaming currently offers a mere two Jemaine Clement-starring films, and I'm not sure that's enough for a marathon proper.  Maybe I'll check Hulu's Jemaine Clement selection.

I hesitate to describe the movie this way, because I feel it will turn off some readers while exciting other readers into an orgiastic frenzy, but Eagle vs Shark is like the New Zealand version of Napoleon Dynamite.  There are two major differences however.  First, Eagle vs Shark has a discernible plot (Two social misfits, Lilly and Jarrod, meet, have awkward sex at a party where people are encouraged to come dressed as their favorite animals and then engage in a Mortal Kombat-style video game competition, and fall into a kind of love.  The pair then travel to Jarrod's hometown where he is determined to fight the bully who repeatedly beat him up when they were children.).  Second, I hated Napoleon Dynamite, and Eagle vs Shark, while saturated in pure, undiluted quirk, is sincerely funny and charming, and I like it a whole lot.

15. Collateral Damage: In my advanced age, I've found that I'm drawn to generic Arnold Schwarzenegger action flicks with vague titles.  This one is about firefighter who watches his wife and son perish in a terrorist attack, and instead of sitting back and letting the American government deal with things, journeys to Colombia himself to murder the bastard responsible, a bloodthirsty terrorist known as The Wolf.  Only, The Wolf isn't who he seems to be.  Huh, wha!?!  Intrigue!  It's all very dumb, but I don't regret inviting Collateral Damage into my brain.  

I do have one question that lingers however: Why is The Wolf front-and-center at all of his various acts of terror?  That isn't typical when it comes to leaders of terrorist organizations, is it?  I mean, Osama Bin Laden wasn't in either of the planes that hit the World Trade Center on September 11th, right?  He didn't parachute out at the last minute, land in a secret location somewhere and then escape back to his cave, right?  This Wolf does everything himself.  He's there on the ground, doing the work.  He kind makes your average terrorist mastermind look lazy.  I'm just saying.

16. Snake Eyes: Nicolas Cage in bug-eyed crazy mode + Brian DePalma pulpiness + a handful of stunning one take shots = Dumb fun.

17. Flashdance: 18-year-old Alex, a welder in a Pittsburgh steel mill by day and an exotic dancer at a blue collar bar/performance art space (???) by night, aspires to be a ballerina with a prestigious dance company regardless of the fact she's never had any formal training.  Various montages ensue.

I remember watching Flashdance with my mom when I was a kid.  They showed it on Channel 20, the same crummy, local channel on which I saw The Shining and Chopping Mall (AKA Killbots) for the first time.  I believe she turned it off following the scene where Nick takes Alex out for a fancy lobster dinner, and Alex removes her coat exposing that she is wearing only a tuxedo bib and shirt cuffs underneath (and probably pants, as I assume most restaurants, even those located in Pittsburgh, require their patrons to wear pants).  I feel like I remember my mom thinking that Alex had finally gone too far, thus making Flashdance wholly unacceptable viewing for her impressionable young son.

Also, has there ever been a bar/strip club/art gallery/performance space like Mawby's anywhere in the world?  Probably, but in this sketchy section of 1980's Pittsburgh?  Really?  Maybe Pittsburgh has a higher class of pervert.  These Hardhat McGees and Johnny Lunchpails don't seem to mind the lack of nudity in this particular "strip club."  After a long day at the steel mill, these ham-and-eggers apparently want nothing more than a pitcher of PBR and a night of edgy modern dance.  Sure.  Uh-huh.

18. Witness: Harrison Ford lives--and loves--among the Amish, while protecting a boy from being murdered by Danny Glover.  Lest you think Witness is a stuffy, Oscar-winning drama filled with quiet moments of forbidden yearning, know that in its penultimate scene, a corrupt cop drowns in an avalanche of corn.

19. Equinox: Four teenagers discover an ancient book in a cave that unleashes all kinds of demonic baddies.  Equinox is allegedly the inspiration for Evil Dead.  The only thing it inspired in me was a desire to take a nap on the couch.

20. Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens: Treated my dad to a Saturday matinee.  He called it the best of the Star Wars movies because he "understood everything that happened."  I ate an entire tub of popcorn by myself.

21. The Amazing Spider-Man 2: In this sequel to the 2012 reboot, Spidey dukes it out with Electro, and the results are nothing short of 'electric' what I would've said if this movie hadn't been so tremendously mediocre.  Much like my viewing of the first Amazing Spider-Man, my expectations were super low.  Unlike my experience with the first Amazing Spider-Man, low expectations didn't help.  Look, this DVD had been hanging around my house since mid-December, I was out sick from work and I watched it.  Here's hoping the next five Spider-Man reboots are better.

22. I Love You Phillip Morris: Based on the true story of brazen con man Steven Jay Russell, I Love You Phillip Morris, is dark, funny and endlessly fascinating.  One of those stories that if you didn't know it was based on actual events, you wouldn't buy any of it for a second.  Speaking of fascinating true stories...

23. An Honest Liar: An Honest Liar is one of the best documentaries I've seen in a long time.  The subject, James Randi (AKA The Amazing Randi; Randall James Hamilton Zwinge; The Bane of Uri Geller's Existence), started out as a magician/escape artist and went on to become the foremost debunker of fraudulent faith healers, phony psychic surgeons and all manner of New Age bullshit artists.  I'd watch a four hour documentary about this guy.  Thanks to An Honest Liar, I now know who Ramtha is.  Want to take a fun stroll down Bullshit Lane, type "Ramtha" into YouTube next time you're bored.  Great film about a very important, and downright charming, man.

Love Me: I'll watch any documentary about the mail order bride industry.  This one is specifically about men traveling to the Ukraine to find life partners.  As in every documentary on this subject, some of the participants are creeps, some are pitiable, but lovable, losers and some seem perfectly normal.  Love Me features a particularly creepy creep from Australia who I did not care for, but most of the men and women featured come across as perfectly fine, well-adjusted even.  In fact, two of the stories are downright touching.

I shouldn't add that my interest in this topic has grown exponentially since a co-worker of mine began his own search for a wife via the online international dating/mail order bride route, keeping me (and everybody else in the office, it turned out) informed of his progress with weekly updates.  His nation of choice was China.  It ultimately didn't work out.  I was convinced he was confiding in me about his search because he thought my wife, who, readers who are new to the blog might not know, is Korean, was acquired by these means.  I was a little offended, but even more offended when I found out he was telling everybody about his extra curricular activities.

25. After Porn Ends: After porn ends, I usually just turn off my computer and go to bed.  Thanks, everybody!  Don't forget to tip your waitress.

It appears after they abandon their porn careers, porn actors go on to do a lot of different stuff.  They become members of MENSA, isolate themselves from society by moving to Utah, turn into raging alcoholics...and that's just Asia Carrera.

26. Frozen: I have a four-year-old daughter, so, statistically, I have seen Frozen, roughly, 15,000 times since it's release.

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