Sunday, September 24, 2017

HHFF '17: Block D Recap: Shorts

My grandfather, Richard Brown, passed away last week at his home in Bristol, Connecticut. He was surrounded by two of my aunts and two of my uncles, and apparently it was as peaceful a passing as one could ever hope for. He made it a day past his 92nd birthday, which was two days after I turned 38. Shocking no one, I was sitting in a movie theater when I got the call. 

I didn't answer my phone, but seeing that it was my own father calling from Hawai'i (and it was not on a Sunday), I knew the contents of the voicemail awaiting me. Though I'm sure he made his fair share of mistakes, and was far from a perfect man, he was an excellent grandfather. He always had time to listen to my nonsense, but even better, he had time to tell me some nonsense of his own. And when one of his ridiculous stories would end, he'd often sum it up with a favorite go-to phrase:

You don't have to be crazy, but it helps...

Had he been sitting in the third row with us (shoot, maybe he was), my grandfather could have turned to my wife and I and used his old punchline once again to perfectly sum up how we, attending our third consecutive Harrisburg-Hershey Film Festival, felt as each short ended. All of the films were well-made, and one could assume, deeply personal, but as likely the only people in the sparse crowd not in the cast or crew of the entries, it's safe to say we didn't enjoy them as much as everybody else seemed to, you know? 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

That's not something you get to talk about.

Last year, I had just enough time to see Sully [review], and when I returned to work that night, I was rattled to say the least. I had to meet and greet the parents of my new students less than an hour after sobbing my way through the Miracle on the Hudson and I recall not really giving a damn about what anybody was saying.

This past Wednesday, a day shy of one year later, I managed to sneak in another flick before the dreaded Back-to-School Night kicked off. I wasn't the shell of a person I was in 2016, but my head clearly wasn't fully in the game (not that it ever is). See, it's hard to talk about some kid's future...

...when you've just spent two hours thinking about your own kid not having one.

Wind River, despite being set in the cold, hopeless dead of a snowstorm is an absolute f--king fireball of chaos and anguish. Anchored by men who've seen it all but don't say much, writer/director Taylor Sheridan's latest film is one of the best films I've seen in quite some time, and easily the highlight of the summer. But didn't you see it on back to school night, dickhead? Hey! Get that logic the f--k outta here.

I don't imagine working for the Fish and Wildlife Department is typically a life-or-death job (unless, you know, bears), but when Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner, cementing his status as the absolute f--king man) is recruited by FBI agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen, incredible as always) to help with a homicide case, the body count has just begun. And while the people we'll lose along the way will certainly sting, it's the people that died along time ago that absolutely destroys us.

Cory is an expert tracker, with not only a vast knowledge of the unforgiving Wyoming landscape, but also an expert of many of the people that make their home on it. When Banner shows up to the Wind River Indian Reservation to investigate a homicide, it's pretty clear she ain't exactly dressed for this party. She's smart and incredibly resilient, but she's young. And these old men aren't exactly thrilled to be answering to a girl that's old enough to be their daughter.

About that...

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Glad I got to meet you before you died.

Where did you get these stains from?

As a young man, this question could quickly test your ability to craft a quality tale of fiction, but in this case, I opted for the stone-cold truth.

Oh, I got those in the sewer. 

My mom, as I recall, didn't bat an eye, and likely didn't even offer a follow-up question. She was more concerned with how the Hell she was going to get this brown stuff off the back of my white T-shirt. See, as a chubby sixth grader in the fall of 1990, along with a rag-tag crew of my friends, I used to explore the sewer system that ran throughout our quaint Hawaiian town. Crouching, we'd enter the small drain that emptied out into Josh's backyard and then find the main drain that flowed through the center of town. It was so tall we couldn't touch the ceiling, not that you'd want to in the first place. And being that it didn't rain much in our town, there wasn't really much down there of note. Well...

...until we found a dead body. 

(of a pig...but still)

Oddly enough, that same sixth grade year was the first (and only) time I read Stephen King's epic novel, It. As a kid, it was surely a memorable read, but I can't honestly recall if the exploits of Pennywise the Clown started or stopped our sewer-exploring exploits. We were really dumb kids, obviously, so it could have went either way (and perverts, too, as I read that one scene more than once to this group of deviants).

As an adult who ain't got time for any of that (reading lenghty novels and/or sewer browsing), I somehow found myself dealing with that creepy f--king clown again, exactly twenty-seven years later. But instead of swinging a dying flashlight around a musty drain pipe with Josh, Aaron, Jenny and Jess, it was me and Grunden and a packed f--king house to see the big-screen adaptation of It. Regardless of what anyone actually thought of the film, it was nice to be at a f--king event. 

While the book bounced back and forth between the childhoods and adulthoods of the main characters, director Andy Muschietti and his writers instead tell the sordid tale of Derry, Maine by focusing only on the early days of Bill, Eddie, Ben, Richie, Mike and Beverly. It's an interesting (if ultimately unsurprising) decision that pays off handsomely in the hands of such a gifted and charismatic cast of young actors.  While the film is certainly unsettling at times, it is an absolute joy to spend two hours with these incredible kids. And I don't say that lightly, as you know, I'm a teacher. Meaning?

I f--king hate kids.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

When I talk to him, I feel like I'm outside.

Being that I'm four-fifths unsightly troll, I had to work really hard to get a girl to like me in high school. Really hard. I had to like, be witty and stuff. Always. I had to (not) captain our (winless) varsity basketball team for two tumultuous seasons of BIIF (Big Island Interscholastic Federation) competition. Hell, I wrote f--king poems, you guys. Actual rhyming words, for f--k's sake. Oh, and Taco Bell? It's on me, m'lady. And, yeah, f--k it. Get some Cinnamon Twists, too. I'm making those part-time high-school janitor dollars.

But maybe love shouldn't be such hard work, right? Maybe it takes more than the personality and charm of a middle-aged bus driver catch the eye of a lovely young woman. Maybe it takes something more universally coveted. Something like...

..long hair.

And a f--king skateboard.

Risk sanity...for everything...everything.
In yet another episode of m.brown is a stupid asshole who watches shitty movies like a middle school girl, I decided to give something called Everything, Everything a go. Redboxed from the gas station nearest my house (which for some reason, creepy Google has decided is my place of employment), this teen-drama made me feel like a very old man. Like, the young people were talking, but a f--k I could give. Yeah yeah yeah, your life sounds real hard, kid. 

Try being a f--king adult.

Maddy is days away from turning 18, when the edgy and brooding Olly moves in next door. While it would be nice to meet him behind the U-haul for an e-cigarette and some dry humping, ol' Maddy can't leave her house. Ever. Yep, this chick has some ultra-rare immune deficiency or something, and any contact with the outside world will kill her immediately. Or so says her mom, Dr. Pauline Momlady (possibly not her real name). And maid Carla, you know, the one who just walked in from outside and handed Maddy the f--king mail. 

You're probably smart enough to know how this one ends, but clearly I ain't exactly setting the world ablaze with my mental capacity, so it took me way too many of the 96 minutes to figure it out. While I was hoping Olly would put 'em on the glass for Maddy to gaze at longingly, these two lovers are going to surprise everyone/no one, and break all your goddamn rules in the name of true love. 

Sunday, September 3, 2017


In order to quickly find some common ground with my students, every year I begin with a short presentation about my life. I talk about my hobbies and interests, my dog, my depressing job history (they're always rather impressed I used to work at Best Buy), and most importantly, my family. And while I cover each of my four siblings (and my own kids) in some detail, I can't help but take a little more time for my favorite of the bunch: my little brother.

Obviously, everybody in my family means a great deal to me, but there something a bit more special about the goofy/handsome bastard born after me. 

It's like, even if he doesn't need it anymore, I feel like I gotta take care of him. Or at least look out for him, you know? But there's a price for that extra love.

I also give him a little more shit, too.

My kid brother didn't accompany me to the early afternoon showing of Logan Lucky I somehow managed to catch this past Friday, but I left the theater feeling like he had. Turns out, when you spend two hours watching a pair of goofball brothers bumble their way through an elaborate heist, you can manage to steal time with someone you haven't seen in almost three years.

Wait, what?

Channing Tatum plays Jimmy, fifty percent of the unfortunate Logan brothers, each seemingly doomed to a failed existence. When we meet Jimbo, he's doing the single-dad thing with his adorable little daughter Sadie, and trying to scrape together an honest living. Jimmy was supposed to make it to the NFL, but after ripping up his knee, ended up working construction near his shitty home in Bumf--k, West Virginia. Which is exactly where his boss sends him, after laying him off due to the dreaded pre-existing condition. 

Shit, right? Sounds like Jimmy might need a drink. So he heads to the local dive bar, which just so happens to be run by his one-armed brother Clyde, played by the delightfully/perpetually sullen Adam Driver. Clyde is a good dude, even if he doesn't have much to show for it. And when Jimmy decides to rob the Charlotte Motor Speedway, shit, Clyde doesn't bat an eye. His brother needs help. It's not like he'd ever say no. He's just gonna talk a little shit first.

Friday, August 25, 2017

He slammed into something he shouldn't have slammed into.

Being that it's late August, and having completed ten glorious weeks of basically being nineteen again, regrettably, I have to go back. To work. 

Back to the classroom. 
The one with kids in it.

And as I sleepily drive to school every morning, I start to (once again [this is an annual event]) fantasize about all the other jobs I'd rather be doing. At my lowest moments, it's essentially anything else, but there's been a steady top 3 for years.

  1. UPS Guy: the shorts! the truck! the solitude!  
  2. Landscaper: listening to music! driving a small car with blades on it!
  3. Garbage man: um, when you're not hanging on the back of a moving truck, your jumping off of it, lifting something heavy, and throwing it into a hole where it gets smashed to Hell. *squeals*
Deep down, I know I'm not ever going to be any of those things, but it doesn't hurt to dream does it? But maybe I need to step a little outside the box, you know? Maybe fantasize about doing something so might just work. Something like...

...butter sculptor? Or, better yet, used car salesman.

One of my best imaginary friends (we've never actually met, but still) has a thing for a certain actor, and there is, at this point, no way I can disassociate the two. I think of her, I think of the the actor. I think of the actor, I think of her. And when I stumbled onto a little film called Butter (barely) starring said actor, there was simply nothing I could do. I had to watch it. 

Especially when I was pretty f--king sure that she hadn't seen it. 

I say all this, because I'm thinking an elaborate and /or nonsensical story is the only way one ends up watching director Jim Field Smith's 2011 goofball comedy. Like, it was the only DVD Grandma had...or, after visiting the World's Largest Rocking Chair, we needed to wind down with a movie...

Set in the world of competitive butter carving, this flick tells the the story of Laura Pickler, the domineering wife of a newly retired state champion named Bob. Despite the nice house and affable husband, ol' Laura ain't really got all that much. Except a flaming stick up her ass, frankly, as Bob's glory was what she hung her hat on. Now that he's bowed out, she's Hell-bent on taking the title herself. Unfortunately, Laura will not go unopposed in the run up to the big show. She's going to have to beat a trio of upstart competitors: a kooky cat-lady, an angry stripper, and of course, a talented orphan.

Hmm. I wonder who's going to win? Here's a hint: not us.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Let the pain run through you.

She comes in, and you can just tell, something isn't right. On many fronts.

She's talking to everyone in the theater, and though I can't hear what they're saying, it's obvious that she's asking them to check their tickets. Eventually, she clamors up into my section, and stares down at the good folks also seated in Row D. Through the glasses clinging to the tip of her nose (I'm assuming that prior to the movie, she had been reviewing ingredients for stew), she eyeballs everyone, before noisily demanding that the people to my left are in her seats. She keeps saying, I have 7 and 8. I have 7 and 8. But she's talking to 5 and 6 (after already badgering 2 and 3). 

Finally, she's next to me, 9, and she's trying to put her drink she brought from home in the cup holder to my right, and it's not fitting, because, you know, it's holding my phone. But she ain't giving up. I eventually intervene and unearth my Galaxy, and after collapsing into her seat, she looks up at me and says, why's it so dark in here? It's at this point I see the little boy she's towing behind her. I kind of shrug to myself, thinking, it's usually pretty f--king dark in the middle of the goddamn movie.

And when she finally looks at the screen, she notices Idris Elba is shooting everyone in his path, and she asks 5 and 6, what movie is this? Their response contains only three words, but their tone suggests many more.

Ohhhhhhhhhh, she bellows. We must be in the wrong theater!

I'm assuming that crazy lady was trying to take her grandson to see The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature, but somehow ended up tits deep into The Dark Tower. And while I truly commend anyone taking a little kid to the movies on a hot summer day, her noble attempt was nothing short of calamitous. See, even if you mean well, you can still f--k up a good thing.

Despite having read a shit-ton of Stephen King books when I was a kid, I don't recall reading any of The Dark Tower series. When the film was announced, the general consensus seemed to be a combination of it's about f--king time and don't f--king bother. Apparently, these books were so good, there was simply no way one film could do them proper justice. Especially if it was only ninety-five minutes long...

...and f--king terrible.

About that...

Honestly, as I've said countless times before, expectations are everything. If you're like me and head into this one not knowing the books and knowing that its currently just getting its drivers license over at Rotten Tomatoes , you're not going to expect all that much. Which might work in the film's favor, oddly enough. Clearly, it's not the worst f--king movie ever, which would have been pretty cool, but instead? It's the one thing a film starring Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey shouldn't be: inexplicably boring. 

Friday, August 18, 2017

I look for pleasure in the details.

I'm not sure if other dads do this, but I tend to say lots of ridiculous and untrue things to my children.

I invent countless fictional characters, give them horrible accents, and try to make my kids laugh by detailing the horribly unfortunate lives these accident-prone individuals lead. This summer was dominated early by the unholy trio of Trixie Biscuits, Skooch MacGillicuddy, and Pumpkinspice Malone.

But when my son came home from camp one day and told me that there was a pair of German siblings in attendance, everything changed. Otto and Gunther, two young and very serious German boys became my go-to characters.

And it turns out, perhaps surprisingly, lost of crazy shit happens in Germany.

If I had to take a test concerning the finer plot details of Atomic Blonde, I'd probably be rolling the dice on at least half of the questions. That's not to say that I didn't enjoy the movie (um, as someone who appreciates beautiful women, that would be f--king impossible), it just gets to a point where who's working for who and for what reason becomes about as relevant as anything in this post that's not a giant picture of Charlize Theron.

Basically, this flick plays out like most spy films (at least in premise), with a coveted item unfortunately ending up in the wrong hands. Shocking no one, this hugely important thing is likely to be sold off to the highest bidder, a.k.a the guy with the thickest accent and/or deepest voice, so we're going to need an agent in there yesterday to recover that sumbitch. Like, a secret one, right? Like...someone that will just blend in. Not a nine-foot tall goddess made out of equal parts porcelain and adamantium. Because, you know, no one would notice her.

Turns out, buried deep within a wrist watch that I imagine, at some point, was up the ass of Christopher Walken, just so happens to be a list with the true identity of every single undercover agent in the Cold War. And being that no one knows who the f--k is who (including me, the viewer) or who the Hell they work for, heads are certainly going to roll in the process of securing this timepiece. Well, I guess they're not going to roll, exactly, more like cave in or explode. The Berlin Wall came down on a Thursday, but trust me, leading up to that? It's quite the Blue Monday.