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Saturday, May 17, 2014

2014 Summer Movie Stomp Down: Godzilla

The blockbuster season is upon us, friends, and I'm making a promise right now that I will most likely break almost immediately, to see as many of the big ones as possible.  Why?  Because, dudes, I love movies just that much, especially the ones released during those lazy, hazy days of summer; films usually based on comic books or some other pre-existing property, and specifically designed to appeal to the widest audience (from the cinematically stupid to the summer movie cynical) as possible.  It can't all be Shakespeare and subtitles.  Sometimes I need to see things blow up real good, while shoving handfuls of buttery popcorn into my mouth. That's my plan for this summer, so get ready!  And I can't think of a better film to start the season off with than my personal Most Anticipated Release of Summer 2014, Godzilla.   

(Oh, hey, this post could possibly contain spoilers, so, you know, proceed with caution.  I'll try to avoid too many of them, but you should know that this review was created in a factory that does also produce movie spoilers)
"Ow, dudes.  Quit."

3 Sentence Plot Synopsis: Legendary reptilian super predator, Godzilla, emerges from his home on the ocean floor to assert his dominance over two giant insects who just want to get it on in peace (and in the biggest pile of rubble possible).  Unfortunately for mankind, but mostly the citizens of San Francisco, this results in a whole lot of death and destruction.  Bryan Cranston sports the worst wig in cinema history.

Stuff I Liked

Oh, man, there is a lot of stuff to like here.  First of all, the filmmakers got Godzilla right.  He is portrayed as a hero-of-sorts here, and that's how I like my Godzilla.  Godzilla is most likely unaware that he is doing anything heroic of course--as mentioned before, his motivation to engage in fisticuffs with the film's sex-crazed insectoid antagonists is largely to remind everyone of his position at the top of the food chain--but that doesn't stop the fact that, in the end, his actions cause a lot fewer deaths than a certain Man of Steel's I could mention.  This "Godzilla as hero" thing also makes the film's story 100-times more compelling than that of 1998's Godzilla, which, if you remember, is a colossal pile of MUTO shit.

All of the monster action--from the devastating collateral damage to the MMA-style behemoth beatdowns--are viewed from the perspective of the human beings that have unwittingly found themselves in the center of a beast war.  This naturally makes each set piece more intense, kind of like Jurassic Park if the velociraptors were each roughly the size of an ocean liner.  You are right there in the middle of ground zero with all the poor saps unfortunate enough to live in or be visiting the Bay Area.  In fact, one of my favorite shots in the movie is when Elizabeth Olsen is running with a crowd of frightened fellow San Franciscans to a subway station for shelter.  She turns around just in time to see Godzilla and one of the MUTOs clash for the first time just as the shelter doors close, obstructing her view, as well as, the audience's.  And that's all you get.  The film moves on.  It's a great little tease, which I poorly described to my filmgoing companion, Jonathan, as being akin to "having sex with your lady, and someone barging into your room and physically removing you from her vagina just as you are about to finish."  I was an English major everybody!

And, of course, I loved the monster fights.  I want to spoil the big final fight so much!!!  You know what, I'm going to.  Skip over this and go straight to the "Stuff I Didn't Like" section if you don't want to go in knowing the sweetest part of the film.

If you're reading this, I'll assume you've agreed to move forward.  Godzilla's finishing move on the female MUTO, after murdering the male with a tail whap to the chest, is to grab her by the face, force open her jaws, vomit radiation down her throat, and rip off her head.  It is glorious.

"Oh, God.  My wife.  And my wig."

Stuff I Didn't Like

In the grand tradition of the Godzilla films of the past, we don't get a whole lot of monster fighting until the final, I don't know, fifteen minutes of the movie, maybe.  That's fine and good, but it ultimately results in a movie that feels--and, well, quite frankly is--very, very slooooooow.  Godzilla's runtime is 123 minutes according to Wikipedia, and you feel every single one of them.  I don't mind a build up, but c'mon!  I thought maybe I was being unfair, sitting in my seat quietly, genuinely enjoying parts of the film playing in front of me, but wondering when it would "kick in" and "jump to the next gear" (I don't know anything about cars, but I hope I'm being clear enough), until I conferred with Jonathan during the end credits, which we sat through dutifully, being trained by Marvel to stick around for "stingers" (There aren't any.  Go to the bathroom.).  He too felt that Godzilla was slow going.  I no longer felt crazy and/or wrong for being bored during long stretches of Godzilla.  Knowing this helped me sleep better.  Well, that and the fact that I didn't get home from the theater until around 1:15 AM.

I mentioned how much I liked that the story was told from the human perspective (a la Cloverfield) up top.  I should mention, however, that I didn't particularly enjoy any of those humans from whose perspectives said story was experienced.  Bryan Cranston gives a great performance, despite the awful, awful wig they made him wear, which is a minor quibble I promise not to bring up again; and Elizabeth Olsen is good for the collective two minutes of screen time she receives (You couldn't give her more to do, Gareth?).  Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who plays Ford Brody, the Cranston character's son and our "hero," is kind of a non-entity who I never particularly cared about, and Ken Wantanabe, an actor I usually enjoy, basically just stands around with a "who farted?" look on his face while staring off into the middle distance.  And did Juliette Binoche owe the studio a favor or something?  Why would she agree to be in this?  Seemed like a total waste of her time.

Arbitrary Grade & Short Explanation: C+

I liked Godzilla, but I didn't love it.  And maybe that's on me.  As mentioned earlier, it was my Most Anticipated Release of Summer 2014.  The story was compelling, retroactively making 98's Godzilla look even stupider than you remember.  The monster fights--and the fact that there were monster fights, unlike a certain Godzilla movie from the late 90's I could mention but won't--delighted the 13-year-old boy inside of me.  But the characters (with the exception of Cranston's Joe Brody) were uninteresting, action figures shuffled SLOOOOOOOWLY from set piece to set piece.   In the end, I'd rather re-watch Pacific Rim or Cloverfield or Jurassic Park, three films Godzilla borrows from and, sadly, mishandles.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

I Know I Shouldn't Eat Thee: Herr's Deep Dish Pizza Cheese Curls

There are only a few things I love more than pizza--my family; the soothing song of a babbling brook; our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, for example--but pizza-flavored things are an entirely different beast. Most pizza-flavored snacks are gross.  Pizza Goldfish are tolerable, but Pizza Combos are, simply put, the worst junk food snack ever shat into existence.  Like the McDonald's McRib sandwich and any sports drink-style water enhancer, Combos possess a secret chemical compound specially designed to fill my head with nausea and my guts to overflowing with diarrhea.  Oh, I hate Combos so very, very much.

Cheese curls--specifically cheese puffs--vary in quality as well.  Cheetos runs the best cheese curl/puff game in town, but there are a few other brands that do an OK job.  Off-brand cheese curls/puffs usually suffer from a lack of "cheese dust" coating and salt.  There is very little in this life more disappointing than a flavorless cheese curl.  I'd equate it to the death of a beloved pet for those animal lovers in our reading audience.  You're welcome.

Being skeptical of both pizza-flavored things and non-Cheetos-brand cheese snacks, I entered into to today's taste test with trepidation.  

Not really.  I ran into a snack display while picking up some stuff for a Mother's Day breakfast I was preparing for the wife, snatched a bag without half-a-thought, and ate about half of said bag in the car on the way home.  I'm fantastic.
An empty, crumpled bag of novelty cheese curls.  The aftermath of a fat man's snack binge.

I mentioned how skeptical I was above.  That's not entirely true.  You see, I trust the Herr's brand of junk food above all others.  For most of my life, I have been an Utz man.  We couldn't get Utz where I grew up, so every time we visited my relatives in Baltimore, we stocked up on Utz.  My aunt and uncle used to get me bags of Utz potato chips for Christmas.  My mom, sister, grandmother, aunt and I all went on a tour of the Utz potato chip factory in Hanover, PA.  It was amazing, and you got free chips at the end.  I love Utz potato chips to this day, my favorite being the standard barbecue flavor in the bright yellow and orange bag.  That beautiful bag is like a Siren song luring me into the deadly rocks of fatness.  Mmm-mmm!

Then I met my wife, who is from New Jersey, and she ushered me into the world of Herr's.  Here's what turned me.  Utz starting putting out some funky new flavors, so, like the corporate whore that I can sometimes regrettably be, I hopped in line and tried 'em out.  All of them sucked.  On a whim, I began to try their Herr's equivalents, and, wouldn't you know, Herr's pulled it off!  It was Herr's Red Hot and Old Bay potato chips that made me a fan for life. 

I trust Herr's.  If they say they're giving me a deep dish pizza-flavored cheese curl, then I'm ready to believe it.  So, I bought a bag, cracked it open, and began the delicate taste-testing process, by which I mean I crammed fistfuls of cheese puffs into my mouth.
Did you just eat an entire Chicago-style deep dish pizza or is that Herr's Deep Dish Pizza Flavored Cheese Curls you keep burping into my face?

Do Herr's Deep Dish Pizza Cheese Curls taste like deep dish pizza?  I don't know, probably not, but they taste damn good.  They are covered in a thick, salty layer of cheese dust and Italian spices and something I couldn't quite put my taste buds on that aped tomato sauce, which is a big plus.  They also didn't make me feel like I was going to spray vomit out of any of the holes on my body.  I mean, the eating experience was extremely pleasant.  That's probably a less crude way of putting it.  I'm sorry.  My brain is set to go "full crude" most of the time.  I should probably change it up during food reviews.

There really isn't much to say about Herr's Deep Dish Pizza Cheese Curls other than I absolutely love them, so I must now avoid them as if each and every bag is riddled with plague.  I could see myself binging way too hard on these things, and that's the last thing I need right now as I enter my post-Disney trip re-commitment to eat better and losing weight.  But the bag of Deep Dish Pizza Cheese Curls I ate half of on Mother's Day morning, another handful of on my way to pick up a Domino's pan pizza (I know, I know...I'm sorry...I'm sick...) for Mother's Day dinner, and the rest of in my office at work on Monday morning, shall remain a joyous memory in my history of eating salty, cheesy, pizza-flavored garbage.  They get my highest recommend, so AVOID THEM AT ALL COSTS!!! 

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Saturday, May 10, 2014

Triumphant Return

We're back from Central Florida with memories both to cherish and blot out with large quantities of alcohol.  But as I'm still basically a dad zombie, I am ill-prepared to provide you, gentle reader, with any of my usual witticisms and/or humorous observations of pop culture.  I'm bone tired, temporarily drained of my sense of humor, and I've got a pretty intense sunburn going on my bald pate, so I hope you'll understand.  Did I have fun?  Of course I did.  Am I glad to be home?  So, so glad!  

I'll leave you with one of the best things I overheard while riding the monorail to Epcot.  A trio of girls in their early-20's got on at one of the resorts and chatted about a variety of hilarious things--they also complimented my daughter on her cuteness, so, I refuse to be completely brutal--but my favorite moment came as we turned a corner and Spaceship Earth ("giant golf ball" [Q's name for it]; "giant meatball" [some weird little boy]) came into view and one member of the group said:

"Is that the giant ball from Jurassic Park?"

We'll see you next week, folks!  

Oh, the rest of May will be devoted to Disney stuff.

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Saturday, May 3, 2014

Out of Office Message

As of this time tomorrow, the wife and I will have completed our first day in Walt Disney World with a two-year-old.  Did it go smoothly?  Were there any waiting-in-line meltdowns and, if so, how many?  Time--and me when I get back--will tell, but tonight, a week at the Happiest Place On Earth before us, I am cautiously optimistic.  Whatever happens, I will have experienced it with my two favorite people on Earth in my favorite place on Earth, so it'll have been worth it.

But what are you, the loyal reader, to do while I am away?  What will you find to entertain you without a week of hilarious blog posts from your favorite pop culture blogger?  You could do what you've probably done this week, and, not noticing, lived your life in a relatively normal fashion.  For those of you who have fashioned your lifestyle and hung your eternal happiness upon this blog (I know there's at least one of you--I can feel it!), I now present a list of things you can do to pass the time until my return.

1. Learn about the band U2: I suggest you start by listening to every episode of Earwolf's "comprehensive and encyclopedic compendium of all things U2," U Talkin' U2 To Me, hosted by Adam Scott and Scott Aukerman (AKA The Scotts).  As someone who has always wanted to know more about the "Lads From Liverpool," I cannot stress enough how valuable U Talkin' U2 To Me has been in my ed-U2-cation.  And the Scotts aren't simply content sharing their vast knowledge of Larry Mullen Jr and the gang, oh no, they also talk about important films (Have you heard of this Citizen Kane?  It sounds pretty great!), money (I finally know what bitcoins are sort of!!!), and the Harry Potter series.  A must-listen for U2 super-fans and newbies alike.

2. Throw a Taco Party and invite your friends and family.

3. Do some yard work and then drink a big glass of ice water: Your yard looks like crap anyway!  And nothing satisfies like a tall glass of water after a day of working outside.

4. Catch up on the Fargo television series: FX's Fargo is fantastic television, guys.  Just look at the cast list on IMDB and tell me you aren't champing at the bit to watch this thing.  There have only been 3 episodes so far.  Find them and watch them.  There'll be a test when I get back.

5. Check out Playing House too: You're catching up on TV shows anyway, so you might as well give Jessica St. Clair and Lennon Parham's new show on USA a watch.  St. Clair and Parham are two of the funniest people in existence, and their new show is really something special.

6. Do something special for your cat:  New headshots, maybe?  Cats love to have their pictures taken.

7. Post something vague on Facebook, and watch the concerned comments roll in.

8. Go to your local library, and check out every Hellblazer graphic novel you can: Just when I think I've read every John Constantine collection available, my library puts more on the shelf.  Hellblazer is the kind of material I'm drawn to, so maybe it's not for you, but if you like drunk British practitioners of black magic who routinely rub shoulders with demons, angels, monsters and the like, this is the book for you.

9. Listen to The Andy Daly Podcast Pilot Project: Maybe the greatest 8 episodes of anything ever!

10. And go ahead and catch up on Andy Daly's Comedy Central show Review while you're at it.

11. Watch the trailer for David Wain's next movie They Came Together 100 times or so:  I'll make it easy for you.

OK!  We'll talk when I get back!  Bye you guys!!!

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