Monday, December 21, 2015

The Hateful Eight

In Tarantino's latest masterpiece, a hateful group of eight (among them bounty hunters, gang members, and an old Southern general) are holed up together in Minnie's Haberdashery during a blizzard. Who's lying? Who lives and who dies? What is a haberdashery? These are the questions that fill our minds during the film.

After arriving at Minnie's Haberdashery, Minnie is notably missing. This detail eventually leads Major Warren to root out the lying and murderous Senor Bob. The loose end of what happened to Minnie is wrapped up, while the audience continues to wonder what a haberdashery is.

Is it like a stable, or an inn? Or are we thinking too simple here? Is it even a physical thing, or is it meant to be understood metaphorically? Is this the only haberdashery there is? Who entrusted Minnie with a haberdashery? Or did she make the haberdashery herself?

Nearing the climax of the film, the Hateful Eight are dropping away like flies. The beautiful camera work and Tarantino's signature gritty dialogue is almost enough to make you forget about the looming mystery of the haberdashery all together. But then it ends, and we are no closer to figuring out what it is.

I thought that after the credits we would see Minnie in a flashback to before she was killed (or she is a ghost), explaining what a haberdashery is, and why it was so important to everyone. Maybe she would also apologize to the audience, and explain how they didn't have time to work this scene into the main body of the film.

But nothing. Perhaps a sequel is on the way? "Minnie's Haberdashery: the Explanation of What is a Haberdashery." I hope so. I hope so.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Shining

A talking finger, whose hobbies include being attached to a young boy, and seeing into the future, stops Jack Nicholson from killing the boy it's attached to, and his mom.

If you like talking fingers, hotels, and sexy ghosts who turn out to be really disgusting when you start making out with them, then chances are you will love The Shining.

The Shining has all of these things and more. Yes, that's right, I said more. There's also a hedge maze, a pantry full of goods, and a snow plow.

4 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Conjuring

I grew up in a real-life haunted house, so The Conjuring was of particular interest to me.

One day, my Mom was taking me along to go grocery shopping. "Tommy," she said,
"Don't be scared, but there's a ghost living in our house. I know there's a ghost here, because it keeps moving the car keys off the hook and leaving them in strange places."

"Did you hear that?" she said to my father. "I said there's a ghost that keeps moving the car keys off the hook, where we both agreed we would always leave them."

"Mmm... Sounds like a ghost, alright. Did you check the kitchen table?"

"I found them already."

"Then what are you complaining about?"

"I shouldn't have to look for them! They should just be on the hook!"

The ghost was causing my parents to argue. And it really seemed to like playing with the car keys for some reason.

I got an idea. That night I took the car keys and flushed them down the toilet. "Follow the keys, ghost!" I yelled. "Follow them and don't come back!"

The next day, I told my parents what I had done. "Now the ghost won't have anything to play with, so maybe he'll go away." They just stared at me, and said nothing. Probably they were wondering why they hadn't thought of it themselves!

Sure enough, the ghost must have disappeared, because my parents never mentioned it again.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Hunger Games

First of all, I know what you are all thinking, and the answer is no.

The Hunger Games is not about a game of chicken at lunchtime in the office cafeteria, which results in one lucky (and some would say foolishly brave) marketing director named Steve Jenkins winning everybody's lunches. And he'll sell them back to you, but he's going to make a tidy cut by the end.

But Steve only takes cash, and if you don't have any of that, well good luck trying to talk him into giving you a freebie just this once.

No, this Hunger Games is about something else entirely. It is about fighting and vengeance. And, uh, there's a whole lot of images. Images and sounds combining to create a distinct feeling, or mood.

But you can't focus on what is happening. All you can think about is that roast beef and pickle sandwich you were going to eat, but that that asshole Steve ate instead.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

One of the most celebrated children books of all time has finally made the silver screen. What you may not know is just how much the Hobbit reveals to us about the secret life of the legendary writer, linguist, and grifter, J.R.R. Tolkien.

The Ring
Tolkien won his prized gold ring at a pub over a game of riddles, by stumping the then riddle-master, C.S. Lewis. Tolkien asked his now immortalized riddle: "What have I got in my pockets?" The answer, of course, being the gold ring he had previous lifted from Lewis's own pocket only a half hour before.

Tolkien was nearly killed that night by Lewis's wrath, and a broken pool cue. But the daring writer escaped from a bathroom window, and was never seen at the likes of the Goblin Hole again.

Neither of them spoke a word of it anyone after that night. But as an ultimate gloat, Tolkien replicated his triumph in the riddle game of the Hobbit, and then had it published.


While writing the Hobbit, Mr. Tolkien would spend weeks at time locked away in his room. Sometime his body and clothes alike would become incredibly foul. What should have been a simple task of delivery his clothes to the local Chinese laundromat proved difficult due to Tolkien's inexplicable and deep mistrust of laundromats.

Tolkien's personal breakthrough comes at the same time as writing about Thorin Oakenshield, the leader of the company, overcoming his strong mistrust of elves, and giving his family's treasured treasure map to be examined by Elrond. So does Tolkien finally overcome his own prejudices against laundromats, and finally gives Mr. Chang his smelly, smelly clothes.

Gandalf, by far one of Tolkien's most bearded characters, is Tolkien's take on one peculiar postman Mr. Gunderman, who would stop by Tolkien's family's house, and periodically attempt to recruit a young Tolkien on various quests whenever his parents were out of the house. Later arrested (but never convicted) Mr. Gunderman would always be a source of inspiration for the writer.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Snow White and the Huntsman

I packed up my backpack full of oreos, diet root beer, twixes, fun-size snickers, and some regular root beer and headed off to the local theatre to catch a matinee showing of Snow White and the Huntsman.

I was stoked. Any movie that promises dwarves or magical talking mirrors is sure to get my attention. And one that has both - well, that's just a no brainer must-see for this reviewer. Add in some treats, and it only gets better.

I remember fondly snacking upon three musketeers bars and watching Walt Disney's raunchy production of Snow White (it's the scenes they don't show).

I had to break into some of the twixes and snickers en route to the movie theatre. The heat from sitting in the back of my car, coupled with being inside the backpack, had transformed the bars of candy into a mushy, sugary paste.

I would tear the packets open and suck the chocolate out at stoplights. The chocolate would get on my fingers and around the corners of my mouth, and in my beard. I would try to lick it off as best as I could, but I'm only just a man.

Finally I arrived at the movie theatre. "One for Snow White please," I said, minding my own business.

The pudgy ticket seller gave me a once over that I didn't think of as very polite. But whatever, I got my ticket.

The ticket-ripper person, who was barely a teenager and apparently had some sort of sweat-gland disorder, pointed his soggy hand at my backpack and said, "Are you bringing in any outside snacks, sir?"

"So what if I am?" I replied.

"I'm sorry sir, but it's against our policy to allow any outside food or beverages."

"I've been bringing in my own food and beverages into this place since before you were born." But he was obstinate. So, left with a classic Sophie's Choice situation, I did what any reasonable person would do.

I opened my bag and ate all the rest of the mushy snickers and twixes, and then the oreos, and drank the diet root beers and then washed it all down with some regular root beer.

"You made me do this," I communicated to the ticket-ripper guy with my eyeballs. I was simply in no mood to speak to him.

I spent the better part of the movie in the bathroom, puking up all that candy and soda. The ending is pretty epic though. From what I could gather, it was very meaningful and full of importance that is built up throughout a sequence of events, presumably starting at or around the beginning of the movie.

Well done.

4 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Quest for The Game of Thrones on VHS

Having heard much and more of the popular HBO series Game of Thrones, I decided it was time to journey to Blockbuster and acquire mine own VHS copy of the show. So I loaded up my VHS rack, five of my favorite dogs, and a Costco-sized box of Reese's peanut butter cups into my trusty Honda Accord.

The only Blockbuster still in business is way in the South part of town, so I was in for a long quest. If it wasn't for the sugary sustenance provided by the Reese's cups, the companionship provided by my dogs, and the listening pleasure of "The Lord of the Rings" (unabridged) on cassette tape, I could have very easily gone mad.

Although many long years had passed, Blockbuster was just the way I remembered it. The same off-white plaster, squarish building, with blocky Blockbuster lettering on the front, and the promise of a plethora of VHS tapes within.

"I come seeking the Game of Thrones," I told the young man at the counter. "On VHS. Please bring it to me forthwith."

The young man, who's naming plate said Scott, was a dubious knave, clearly of lowbirth. He squinted his vacant eyeballs and knitted his bushy, bear-like eyebrows and said, "I'm sorry, but we don't carry that on VHS."

"Do not play such games with me, boy," I warned him. "I see your Game of Thrones display right before my own eyes."

"Yeah... those are DVDs. I can rent you a DVD?"

"A DVD? Do you take me for a fool, boy?"

"Hi, I'm Adam, the manager," said a trollish-looking imp-man. He had long snaggly yellow-brown teeth, and two large, watery eyeballs that seemed way too large for his head. "Is there a problem here sir?"

"This guy wants to rent some VHS tapes," said Scott, the idiot.

"Okay. I understand. I am very sorry sir, but we no longer carry VHS tapes at this location," said the imp.

What game were they playing here? A video store without videos. A riddle worthy of my late tutor, Brometheus.

Clearly they were both liars. For some reason they didn't want to rent me the Game of Thrones, but why? What secrets were they trying to conceal?

But I was tired from my long journey. And I was starting to crash from the sugar from all the peanut butter cups I had eaten. And the sound of the dogs howling from the car reminded me that I hadn't fed them or given them water in a great while. I had no choice but to leave this cursed place.

"Psst." On my way out of the Blockbuster, I heard a strange sound. "Psst. Hey buddy. I heard you want a VHS."

There was a hairy, hunchbacked man standing half in the shadows. He was clad in stinking garments. He smelled like a rancid applecart full of old cheese and rotting apples.

"I got all kinds of VHS-es," he whispered breathily. He opened his cloak to reveal a hidden collection of VHS tapes, more than one could count.

"Do you have Game of Thrones?" I asked.

"I have Game of Throats," he replied. "It's basically the same thing."

"Fine, I'll take it." I gave him five dollars.

After watching Game of Throats several times, I have come to the conclusion that the production values are poor, and the script is pretty weak for an HBO series. But despite all that, it is just as captivating as everyone says.

4 out of 5 stars.