Category Archives: Reviews

Netflix Instant Classic: Ghost Cat

(Note: I’ve found multiple titles for this film, including “Mrs. Ashboro’s Cat,” and “The Cat That Came Back.”)

Genre: TV Movie, Family Friendly

What’s it about? An old lady and her cat kick the bucket, but the latter returns from the after-life to foil a land grab.

Who’s in it? Ellen Page, Margaret the Cat

You’ll like it if… You like ghosts, cats, or ghost cats.

So, a widower shows up in small town New Jersey with his daughter, pulls his car over and immediately tries to buy a house he’s never seen before from a lady who doesn’t want to sell it.

And he’s the most normal guy in the movie.

Of course, that’s plenty fair when you consider the premise here is that a cat comes back from the dead to settle an inheritance claim.

Truth is, I love a good ghost story. And too often, animals are omitted from them.

If people can die and come back to life, why not animals? I like to picture the ghost world as populated with all kinds of crazy, extinct creatures with unfinished business.

I’m not the only one who thinks that way, either.

That is, this isn’t the first story about a ghost cat.

Edgar Allen Poe wrote a short story called “The Black Cat.” It’s a chilling, and even disturbing, tale that really sets the bar for feline-based paranormal fiction.

Another master of the craft, Steven King, took his shot, too, with Pet Semetary (one of my all-time favorite movies).

This movie, Ghost Cat, doesn’t stack up to either of them, but it’s a fair enough effort for a made-for-TV movie that aired on Animal Planet 10 years ago.

It stars Ellen Page (*Wistful Sigh*), who is hands down the best – and really, only capable – human actor in the whole thing.

In fact, she won an award for her performance, the prestigious Gemini Award for the Best Performance in a Children’s or Youth Program or Series.

Me-ow.

Still, Page’s performance notwithstanding, the real breakthrough star here is, without question, Margaret the Cat.

Margaret the Cat delivers a tour de force performance.

Being a cat, and therefore unable to speak, Margaret relies on her gazes, body language, and subtle vocal cues to express her character’s inner-workings – those of a cat returned from the dead.

It’s no small feat.

Ghost Cat’s convoluted plot and blurry characters are so cumbersome as to nearly capsize the entire film. You can actually feel the movie teeter, driven to imbalance by the director’s inarticulate approach and the stale performance of its cast (sans Page, of course).

But when Margaret takes the helm, the ship is instantly righted. The waters calm and sails billow as the story cruises atop the uneven waves.

Margaret rescues this film just as she rescues livestock from a barn fire in Ghost Cat’s climactic scene.

So while this movie starts off in a free fall, seemingly destined to splatter on the cold, unforgiving ground of banality, it manages to land on its feet thanks to the performance of one precocious feline.

Just have a look for yourself…

Netflix Instant Classic: Dirty Wars

Genre: Documentary, Political

Who’s in it? Jeremy Scahill

You’ll like it if… You have reservations about the War on Terror, you just want to see some real reporting for a change.

I woke up this morning and started watching “Meet the Press.” The topics were tabloid, the panelists were petty, and the discussion was shallow.

And this is the high end of mainstream political discourse in the United States.

So, it’s refreshing to watch a movie like Dirty Wars, written and produced by a journalist who went where he wasn’t supposed to go, and asked questions he wasn’t supposed to ask.

Jeremy Scahill is a legitimate journalist – a rare thing to find in the “information” age.

In 1998 he want to  Nigeria, where he investigated Chevron’s role in killing two environmental activists. A year later, he traveled to Belgrade to report firsthand on the war in Kosovo.   And throughout the 2000s, he ventured to Iraq and Afghanistan, where he covered the U.S. war effort.

His first book,  Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army, was an international best-seller that detailed the private military contractor’s role in the Iraq war .

However, it’s his second book, Dirty Wars: The Word Is a Battlefield, that forms the basis of this movie.

Dirty Wars starts in Afghanistan where a nighttime raid conducted by U.S. special forces goes terribly wrong.

Believing some 50 Taliban members are present, U.S. troops crash a wedding of Afghani civilians, shooting one innocent man (a high-ranking member of the U.S.-trained security force at that) and two pregnant women.

After attempting to cover up the crime the soldiers flee, leaving a broken family in their wake.

Alone, this incident would be tragic enough. But, as Scahill finds, similar incidents are occurring all around the globe, many in countries where the United States isn’t officially conducting military operations.

In Yemen, a U.S. cruise missile, ostensibly targeting supposed terrorists, kills more civilians. And in Somalia, warlords discreetly acknowledge taking money and arms from U.S. suppliers to fight as proxies.

As the movie unfolds it becomes clear that the U.S. government has given its special ops unit, JSOC, carte blanche to kill whomever it deems a threat to national security.

Ultimately, this raises two important concerns:

1) A secretive branch of the military has become the judge, jury and executioner for an ever-expanding list of suspected terrorists.

2) The the number of civilian deaths (essentially murders committed by the U.S. government)  is rising along with the scope of the raids.

These are very real concerns.

It’s now estimated that three civilians are killed for every one person of interest targeted in a special forces strike. That fact is not only brutal, it’s dangerous. It’s damaging to the reputation and credibility of the United States, and it’s creating more terrorists, as the family members of the fallen seek retribution.

This is highlighted by Scahill’s visit to the family in Afghanistan, whose surviving members weep over pictures of their dead family members and swear revenge against the “American Taliban.”

Equally disturbing is that these operations are all the work of a single specialized unit. There’s no transparency or accountability,  just an ever expanding list of targets.

Indeed, since the start of the Iraq war the list of  JSOC’s “terrorist” targets has grown from 55, to 200, to more than 2,000.

That includes one American citizen whose only crime is speaking out against and inciting violence toward the United States.

Given that, it’s easy to see why Scahill is nervous. Civilian deaths aside, he worries that these targeted assassinations – which are rapidly expanding in both number and reach – contradict America’s founding principles and corrode to our moral core.

Yet, as Scahill notes, it’s JSOC that hunts down and kills Osama bin Laden. And that’s where the debate comes in.

No doubt, Scahill’s critique is valid. His criticisms of JSOC can’t be dismissed, but neither can the threat of legitimate terrorists like Osama bin Laden.

So the questions linger…

What degree of injustice abroad will the American public tolerate for the sake of domestic security?

Should the unit behind these operations continue to operate with no oversight or accountability?

Will these missions ever end or will they go on in perpetuity?

Are we creating more terrorists than we’re killing?

Is there a chance, however small, that the practice of preemptively killing American “terrorists” overseas one day comes home?

These are difficult questions and they may not have any answers at all – much less clean-cut ones.

But at least Jeremy Scahill is asking them. That’s more than I can say for David Gregory, Meet the Press, and the rest of mainstream American media.

So if you have the stomach for it, give it a watch and make up your own mind.

Note: The trailer for this movie sucks, so here’s Jeremy Scahill talking about it on Real Time.

Netflix Instant Classic: Out of the Furnace

Genre: Gritty Thriller

What’s it about? Hill people literally duking it out for money and their lives.

Who’s in it? Christian Bale, Woody Harrelson, Willem Defoe, Casey Affleck, and Forest Whitaker

You’ll like it if… You like movies like Winter’s Bone and A History of Violence. (If those two movies had a baby it would be Out of the Furnace.)

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before…

Big Brother flies straight. He’s a wise, hard worker who follows in his father’s footsteps.

Little Brother is a wild child. Determined to break the mold – and a tradition of perceived failure – he desperately tries to punch is way out of poverty and into a better life.

But instead of finding fortune, Little Brother is confronted with the moral destitution that comes with his own poor life choices. He gets in over his head and Big Brother has to come bail him out… If it’s not too late, that is.

Either way, things are bound to get messy.

It’s one of Hollywood’s favorite formulas and it is very much at work in “Out of the Furnace.”

Of course, I wouldn’t be reviewing this movie if it didn’t do a damn good job. (It’s worth noting Out of the Furnace was produced by Ridley Scott and Leonardo DiCaprio, which accounts for the star power and strong direction.)

Just look at the cast. It’s fucking loaded.

And in addition to being well-acted, it’s well shot.

Set in primarily in Pennsyltucky, we also get a look at New Jersey’s Ramapo Mountains. Both locations are desolate.  The two regions are portrayed as being more than just poor areas – they’re lawless lands governed by the insular silence of their close-knit  and clannish townsfolk.

In fact, some of the locals took exception to being portrayed as drug-addled “inbreds,” even going so far as to file suit against the filmmakers.

It’s actually fitting that the movie should prove so contentious, because there’s a lot of fighting onscreen, as well.

Russell Baze (Big Brother) is fighting to walk the line. He’s a diligent worker fighting to keep his head up in a dying steel town.  He fights his emotions.  He fights the impulse to drink. And most of all, he fights for his family, especially his little brother, Rodney.

Sometimes he wins sometimes he loses.  But the struggle, as the kids say, is real.

Rodney fights, too. He’s an Army man that gets deployed overseas to fight Iraqis. When he gets back home he fights the memories. He also fights people.

That is, Rodney participates in a bare-knuckle boxing ring on behalf of the local sleaze merchant.

And, as I said, things get messy.

I’m not going to go into anymore detail regarding the plot, because one of this movie’s strengths is that it keeps things interesting, even while clinging to a tired form.

The one twist I do feel comfortable revealing, however, is that it’s Forest Whitaker who usurps the infamous “Batman voice” from Christian Bale.

That, and maybe one other thing…

I didn’t understand the final shot of the film – the very, very end. So I looked it up and found an explanation here [SPOILER ALERT, obviously]. So if you do watch it, and you’re confused like I was, there’s your answer.

Here’s the trailer…

J-Money Mix Tape: Alien Invasion

I’ve been thinking about ways to review music here for a while now…

What I’ve decided is to assemble short playlists with each individual song sharing a broader theme.

It’s a new feature on Drunk and Humble: J-Money Mix Tape.

Today’s Theme: Alien Invasion

Earth People – Dr. Octagon

 

On the whole, Dr. Octagonecologyst is one of hip-hop’s most influential albums. It’s ground-breaking for its unique lyrical style (Kool Keith as Dr. Octagon) and inventive production (Dan the Automator).

Make no mistake about it, this is a modernist work.

I had a professor in college who used a famous quote from Ezra Pound to explain modernism: “Make it new,” he said.

And that’s exactly what Dr. Octagon did.

There’s a small niche genre called “Afrofuturism.”

Afrofuturism combines elements of reality with science fiction and fantasy. But whereas the larger science fiction genre is traditionally white (Captain Kirk, Luke Skywalker, etc…) this sub-genre focuses on Afrocentricity.

That is, it’s a genre through which black people (a people whose history has so long been oppressed, repressed, fractured and forgotten) can either re-imagine the past or conjure up a whole new future for themselves – a future outside the bounds of predominantly white culture.

The artist Sun Ra gets credit for pioneering Afrofuturism in music. And Parliament Funk expounded on it.

But it was Dr. Octagon who brought the genre literally into the future by melding it with hip-hop. And the result was a whole new type of music, Trip-Hop.

Kool Keith was so bored/dissatisfied rapping about this world that he invented one of his own, along with an extraterrestrial alter-ego – a gynecologist and surgeon who transcends both space and time.

So his rhyming goes beyond guns, gold chains and clubs, and even the more nuanced social commentary of hip-hop’s early pioneers. It’s a mash-up of medical terms and techno-speak.

In a recent article for Vulture, Questlove describes Kool Keith’s lyrics as “scatological, philosophical, philological, neurological, at times defiantly illogical. They thrum with the thrill of discovery, of what’s unknown and — despite the torrent of terminology — only half-articulated.”

They even almost make sense sometimes, but sense isn’t the point here. This is an elaborate sci-fi fantasy played out through stream-of conscious wordplay that is complex, visceral and imaginative.

This is a kaleidoscope of rhyme that, seemingly disparate, connects a sophisticated tapestry of words through assonance, consonance, and internal and slant rhyme. Ryhmes appear, disappear, and reappear at unexpected times and places.

At first glance, it looks like a mess, outerworldy even. But it’s really controlled chaos.

What’s more, is that for all the subtly, sophistication, and imagination Dr. Octagon brings lyrically, Dan the Automator matches him every step of the way. His driving beat, symphonic layers and sci-fi nuances turn the rantings of a linguistically gifted madman into a rich and varied soundscape.

It’s like we’re being taken for a ride on Doc Oc’s spaceship. And you better buckle the fuck up.

It’s achievement enough to create a metaphysical universe in which this lunacy can exist, but to bring that universe to life through sound is something else entirely.

Turbulence – Deltron 3030

 

Dr. Octagon comes from the year 3000. And just 30 years later comes another intergalactic anti-hero Deltron Zero (Del the Funkee Homosapien).

Like Dr. Octagon, Deltron is joined on his journey by Dan the Automator who takes his considerable skills with production to the next level.

The layers of instrumentation, sound effects, and texture are both multiplied and amplified, giving Del (maybe the most underrated emcee I know of) a huge playground for his linguistic talents.

His vision is also somewhat clearer and more consistent (not to say better) than Kool Keith’s. Deltron interacts directly with alien technology and creatures in a post-apocalyptic universe. Indeed, only the force of Deltron’s rhyming powers, fortified by the Automator’s beat, can save us from total subjugation.

That’s made perfectly clear in “Turbulence” where the planet earth is revealed to be nothing short of hellscape.

It’s so bad, in fact, that Deltron himself is ready to blast off to Mars just to get away. But before he does he makes sure to paint us a not-so-pretty picture.

A small group of elitists and an all powerful ruler govern society. Workers are forced to conform through brainwashing and propaganda. And resistance to the order means imprisonment, or even a lobotomy.

Does Deltron save us? I’m afraid not. There’s only so much one man can do. And despite all of Deltron’s juice he’s incapable of overturning the new world order.

He may battle the odd spacebeast here and there. Every now and then he jumps to the defense of a citizen. But he also spends a surprising amount of time smoking weed and reading Cosmo, resigned to the fact that change is a lost hope.

I guess Deltron is more like a Han Solo-type, who’s more content to make a living than try to save the world.

Still, his journey is a remarkable one. And in what is largely a sequel to Dr. Octagonecologist, Deltron matches and even surpasses his predecessor.

Clean Elvis – Dan Reeder

 

Departing from the realm of sci-fi trip-hop we come to a completely different genre, indie folk.

Here we find one of my favorite artists in Dan Reeder.

Reeder usually sings about really concrete, tangible things. Other songs of his include “Three Chords, “Food and Pussy” and “Work Song.” These are very straight-forward, almost hymnal songs.

That makes “Clean Elvis” something of a departure. It keeps the lulling melody but it replaces the folksy lyrics with abstract ruminations on bio-enhancement, technology, and of course, alien invasion.

As with all of these entries I have no idea what this guy was thinking when he wrote this.

It’s fucking insane.

Still, I’ve listened to it enough to formulate my own interpretation…

The lyric that always strikes me when I listen to this song is:

“When I say Vietnam it sounds just like Coca-Cola.
I believe most anything as long as it’s not real.”

Again, I can’t speak on Reeder’s behalf and say this is a commentary on the commercialization of warfare but that’s the association I make.

It makes me think of of the war-for-profit military industrial complex, as well as the more subtle corporate invasion.

Coca-Cola is the most iconic U.S.-based multinational – a company whose trademark is recognizable throughout the world. It, like many others, has planted its flag on foreign soil around the globe.

Now, I try to keep things light on this blog, and I’m not going to get too far into this…

But I think we can all agree that many wars have been fought on behalf of business. And it’s no stretch to say warfare itself has been the United States’ chief export over the past few decades.

Literally. We are the No. 1 arms exporter in the world. And through a policy of pre-emptive strike, we’ve ensured that our products reach our perceived enemies just as quickly as they reach our customers.

Just as bad, our soldiers themselves have been commodified and leveraged to extract financial gain for powerful people.

That dehumanization is what brings me to the second part of Reeder’s lyric, “I believe most anything as long as it’s not real.”

It seems to be a tacit acknowledgement of one’s own mental illness.

So whereas the first line of couplet is a nod to commercial warfare, the second line acknowledges the frequent result, mental illness.

It’s not just that lyric that makes me think of post-traumatic stress syndrome, either. It’s the mash-up of “I Will Always Love You,” and “I Can’t Help Falling In Love” that echo through the refrain.

The song is sung in the first person, as Reeder lists his super-human efforts to combat extraterrestrials, but his monologue is interrupted by the refrain of pop music. It’s almost as if the narrator’s imagination has conflated its fantasy with catchy music from the radio (maybe he’s got a plate in his head).

We’ve all had tunes get stuck in our head before, just imagine you’re an afflicted combat veteran who can’t distinguish between flashbacks from Vietnam and paranoid dreams of an alien invasion.

I think we’d all be pleading for help from Elvis.

And that’s how I think of this song…

In my interpretation it’s not just about about aliens, it’s about alienation.

Teenagers From Mars – Misfits

 

Before there was Eminem… Before there was the Insane Clown Posse… Even before there was Gwar…

There was the Misfits, a punk band founded in 1977.

Just as Dr. Octagon invented Trip-Hop, the Misfits’ aggressive, sexual and violent overtones established the framework for Horror-Punk Rock and Horror-Core Rap.

A lot of punk bands aired their grievances with society, attacking specific institutions, beliefs, and people. But Glenn Danzig of the Misfits sang about JFK’s shattered skull and Jackie Kennedy giving him fellatio.

Glenn Danzig eventually left the band, believing he was more talented and more dedicated than his bandmates. He was right, and his later work is darker and more personal. So much so that I wouldn’t attribute to it any amount of camp value.

He’s a serious and talented guy, and he was the force behind the Misfits. But as a band, the Misfits are decidedly campy and even self-deprecating.

This is even alluded to in the first few verses of Teenagers From Mars:

“We land in barren fields
On the Arizona plains
The insemination of little girls
In the middle of wet dreams

We are the angel mutants
The streets for us seduction
Our cause unjust and ancient
In this “B” film born invasion”

Obviously, there’s the explicit sexuality, but it comes in the form of a “B” movie.

That’s kind of what the Misfits are, a B-movie – even if they set out to be something more serious at the time.

But they also happen to be a really good B-movie. Think Evil Dead or Killer Klowns From Outer Space. Indeed, there are a lot of B-movies out there that have more artistic merit than today’s blockbusters.

That’s really the point: The mainstream is boring, monotonous, and governed by powerful (often shitty) people.

That’s where the whole punk rebellion stems from – a lame, out-of-touch mainstream.

And so, with the Misfits, there may be a lot of sex and violence on the surface, but the intended victims aren’t the ones who find their bodies bloodied or their skulls cracked. It’s the squares and parents that cringe at words and phrases like “insemination” and “wet dreams.”

The lyrics aren’t just there for shock value. They’re the barbed wire fence that keeps the establishment at bay, or better yet, puts it on the defensive.

The Misfits want to disrupt the system. They want to give their audience and their own teenage rebellion an avenue for expression.

Simply put, they don’t give a fuck. And they want you to know they don’t give a fuck. That’s what this song is about.

That’s why the refrain is:

“Teenagers from Mars
And we don’t care.”

As with Reeder’s song, the theme of personal alienation is personified with actual aliens. I mean, not to state the obvious, but they are called the Misfits…

So these aren’t earthbound teenagers, we’re dealing with. They’re teenagers from a whole other planet, here to blast your mindless structure and inferior connection. And they don’t care.

And as with many B-movies, I find myself rooting for the aliens in this case. In fact, I just might be a pod person – acting out my human duties like a functioning member of society, while secretly indulging in its disorder and hastening its destruction.

Maybe Danzig and I will hitch a ride with Deltron and Dr. Octagon. Reeder can stay. I think he needs to work through some issues.

 

Netflix Instant Classic: Thelma and Louise

Genre: Early 90s Action

What’s it about?  Two women with no real responsibility prove that they deserve no real responsibility by setting out on a vacation that quickly devolves into a crime spree.

Who’s in it? Shooter McGavin, Dottie “Queen of Diamonds” Hinson,  Susan Sarandon, The psycho from Reservoir Dogs, and Brad Pitt’s abs.

You’ll like it if… You like domineering/submissive women, old cars, big sunglasses, and random early-90s actor cameos. Or if you hate men, rationality, and consistent plotlines.

I know that you know what Thelma and Louise is.

Even if you haven’t seen it, we all know how it ends.

But there are 128 more minutes in this film, and I do think they’re worth exploring.

So here it goes…

First off, my favorite character in the film wasn’t Thelma or Louise. It was Darryl, Thelma’s brutish, misogynist, philandering, deadbeat husband.

He’s a scumbag, no doubt, but he’s played by Christopher McDonald, who we all know better as Shooter McGavin.

If you’ve seen Happy Gilmore you know how much McDonald excels at playing a douchebag. Well, in this movie, he takes his schtick from the country club to the country – small-town Arkansas to be precise.

Darryl has the look and charm of Kenny Powers and the small-town Regional Manager-pride of Michael Scott.  He drives Camaro with a T-top that just screams “You’re fuckin out!”

Christopher-McDonald-Thelma-and-Louise

That McDonald is fun to watch makes up for the fact that his character exists only to engender sympathy for wife Thelma, when she finally flips her shit.

Sure, she could just leave him or file for a divorce, but she’s the submissive type. She’ll put up with any amount of shit from anyone.

And so enters Louise.

It’s kind of funny that Louise is clearly supposed to be the force that liberates Thelma from her overbearing husband, but in actuality, she’s just as domineering as Darryl is.

Louise bosses Thelma around throughout the movie, eventually making her an accessory to murder, and by the end, costing her her life.

That’s the kind of friend Louise is, a psychotic one (though it is Thelma who puts the hand gun her purse as the two prepare for their “fishing” trip).

And so these two powder kegs pile their shit into a convertible, take a polaroid selfie, and speed off.

Of course, they get hungry and have to stop off for a bite to eat. For a reason only God knows, that means swinging into some honky-tonk, country-trucker rube-fest with a band fronted by (I shit you not ) Matt Dillon with a two foot long pony tail.

(Editor’s Note: Since I wrote this review four years ago people Googling “Is Matt Dillon in Thelma and Louise?” have accounted for maybe 90% of my tiny little blog’s traffic. If you’re looking for an answer to that question, the truth is I don’t know for sure but I’ve freeze framed it multiple times and I don’t think that’s him. Sorry.)

It’s here where we meet Harlan – the second sleezebag man to manipulate Thelma.

He’s trying to get it and Thelma is trying to have a good time. And so, after some alcohol and line dancing we find ourselves in the parking lot, where Harlan attempts to rape Thelma.

He almost succeeds, but Louise shows up with Thelma’s gun.

Now, shooting Harlan for trying to rape Thelma would have been fine in my book, or even if he’d made an aggressive move to assault Louise, making a justifiable case for self-defense.

That’s not what happens, though.

Harlan’s busted and he stops. All Thelma and Louise have to do is walk away. But then Harlan makes the fatal mistake of calling Louise a bitch and saying a few other unsavory things.

That’s when she shoots him. It’s a dumb but necessary plot twist. Obviously, if it were a clear-cut case of self-defense, Thelma and Louise have nothing to do but call the cops and wait. End of movie.

But the fact that Louise blows Harlan away in cold blood means they have to book it, which is what they do.

Thelma immediately suggests they go to the cops, and Louise tells her to shut up. In fact, Louise even tries to pin the blame on Thelma for getting caught up with Harlan in the first place.

This is what I mean about Louise being just as bad as Darryl, and it really undermines the whole notion of liberation and sisterhood.

The fact is, Louise really is a bitch. We find out later that she, herself, was the victim of sexual assault years earlier. But that doesn’t justify her hostility towards men or towards Thelma.

Still, that doesn’t make it a bad movie. It’s okay. It moves along well enough and the carousel of celebrity cameos keeps things somewhat interesting.

I was just surprised to learn this movie won an Oscar for best original screenplay.

Especially with lines like: “I may be the outlaw but you’re the one stealin’ my heart,” which comes courtesy of Brad Pitt.

05 THELMA E LOUISE

The acting isn’t bad though. Both McDonald and Pitt have a lot of fun with two detestable characters, and both Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon were nominated for Oscars. (They lost to Jodie Foster who won for Silence of the Lambs.)

Taken lightly, it has plenty of camp value, and its place in pop culture pretty much demands at least one viewing.

If I was a little disappointed it’s because I expected to see two women pushed over the edge by an oppressive patriarchy; what I got was two brats on a poorly planned (albeit entertaining) crime spree.

My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic

To be perfectly blunt, when I heard adult men were watching this show, I immediately suspected it was a sexual identity thing.

But having seen it, I no longer believe that’s the case.

I think it’s a suspended adolescence thing.

That is, what I saw in the 22 minutes I spent watching My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic was a cartoon intended for children… but not necessarily little girls.

In all honesty, I didn’t see anything in this show that was inherently feminine.

Yes, the six main characters are female, but they’re not gender specific stereotypes.

They’re gender-neutral stereotypes.

One’s kind of a brain – self righteous and responsible. Another is wild and rebellious. One is kind of ditzy. Another is rural and industrious. One has ADHD, I think… Whatever. The point is, these are all traits that could just as easily be applied to boys.

And as far as the plot is concerned, these girls don’t spend their time doing stereo-typically girly things. They don’t sit around braiding each other’s tails or shopping for horseshoes. In fact, two are rather tomboyish.

What they do is explore the different aspects, and limitations, of what it means to be a friend .

It’s not exactly what I’d call sophisticated, but there’s enough to it to keep things interesting, entertaining, and even educational.

That’s a lot more than I can say for SpongeBob SquarePants, which is far less coherent.

In the episode I watched, one pony offered to make the other ponies dresses. They took her up on it. But then they were super critical of the designs and made her redo them over and over until they were abominations. Then they all embarrassed themselves at a fashion show where the Tim Gunn of the pony world shamed the shit out of them.

Moral of the story: Don’t be a dick. Or… Wait for it… Don’t look a gift-horse in the mouth.

Also, “Sometimes when you try to please everyone you end up pleasing no one – including yourself.”

…That’s what the dress-making pony learned.

And it may have been a harsh lesson, but it’s one she learned in style.

There was not one, but two catchy musical numbers in this show…

I’m gonna be straight with you: I love cartoons.

I grew up watching them and I’ve continued watching them well into my adulthood.

Looney Toons, Animaniacs, The Simpsons, Family Guy, Venture Bros., Archer, Bob’s Burgers, Home Movies, The Critic… I watch them all. (Not anime though. Not my thing.)

And the art behind MLP holds up as well, if not better, than any other cartoon I’ve ever seen.

It has its own distinct style that’s bright and colorful, and it uses a lot of creative imagery.

The pony world is literally full of magic, and the artists take advantage of that freedom with whimsicality  and theatrics. The scenes sweep across the screen with flourishes, sparkles and vapor trails. And they’re interspersed with crisp transitional images.

Basically this is exactly the kind of show I would recommend watching while high.

That’s what I did. And I don’t regret it. The animation and music were definitely stimulating and the plot line was easy to follow. It was like taking a magic carpet ride through Candyland or a Mario Party or something.

It’s about ponies that happen to be girls… So what? Should girls not watch Breaking Bad because it features a bunch of men killing each other? Hell no! Everyone should watch Breaking Bad.

Does that mean it’s deserving of cosplay?

No, I probably wouldn’t go that far.

But if society can accept a grown man dressed up as Darth Vader or Batman, then we can certainly accept a guy who just wants to get his Rainbow Dash on.

Of course, I will say that I haven’t watched any more than the one episode, and I don’t plan on revisiting Equestria anytime soon.

But that’s not because it’s a bad show. It’s not because it’s a kid’s show. And it’s definitely not because it’s girl’s show.

It’s because I don’t have any more weed.

Netflix Instant Classic: Wayne’s World

Sometimes people ask me what my favorite movie is…

I just about always answer Wayne’s World.

Most people just laugh. And they should.

But I’m also dead serious.

Here’s why…

First off, Mike Myers is an extremely underrated comedic talent. He’s more famous for Austin Powers, which is understandable but also kind of a shame.  Because  (while insanely funny)  Austin Powers was a parody – and one that wore out its welcome, at that.

Myers would have been smart to stop after the second movie. And he would have been even smarter to not pursue The Love Guru at all.

The latter abomination notwithstanding, Austin Powers overshadowed Myers work on Saturday Night Live. I loved watching early 90s SNL growing up. The cast was fantastic and Mike Myers was one of the highlights with characters like Simon, Lothar, and of course, Wayne Campbell.

If you’re not a member of Generation X – which I’m not, either – then you’ve probably forgotten how popular Wayne’s World was. It debuted at No. 1 at the box office and grossed over $121 million, which was huge at that time. It also spawned a sequel and even a video game for SNES.

Everyone tells those “That’s what she said…” jokes with Michael Scott in mind… But it was Wayne Campbell that got there first.

There were other one-line wonders and catchphrases too, like the less durable “Schwing” and “Not!” and the more subtle and better-aged “Excellent,” “Party on,” and “Game on.”

It’s not just those flippant phrases I crack up at when I watch the movie, though.

I think my favorite scene is early on, when Wayne’s ex-girlfriend gets him a gun rack for a present.

He says: “Stacy, I don’t even own a gun, let alone many guns that would necessitate an entire rack.”

That was the first time I ever heard the word “necessitate”and it was because Wayne Campbell was smart enough to use it.

You see, while on the surface they seemed to embody the Gen-X slacker mentality of the time, Wayne and Garth were intelligent, polite and industrious.

Which brings me to the heart of the movie…

The reason I love Wayne’s World so much is because it’s almost a fairy tale re-imagining of the grunge era.

Characters wear grungy clothes but they still look relatively clean. We see background actors drinking, but we almost never see the main characters imbibe (Just once when Wayne shares a rooftop Champagne with Benjamin).

Obviously, there’s no heroin, either, despite its prevalence at the time, particularly among grunge-era musicians.

Indeed, it would have been easy to set this movie in Seattle, where grittier grunge cliches were running amok, but they didn’t.

Wayne and Garth are suburbanites from Aurora, Illinois. They more or less revolve around the cultural epicenter of Chicago, without being absorbed into it.

As a result, they’re the product  of a cleaner, safer environment, where they’re insulated from the dangers of the city and that era.

But whereas Beavis and Butthead spent their slow suburban nights on the couch watching TV, Wayne and Garth spent their time on the couch making TV.

And good TV at that. If Wayne’s World were a real show, I’d watch it every week. Everyone would. It was funny, absolutely, but also joyous and sincere. And its production represents another cultural meme of the time – anti-corp., grass roots, do-it-yourself artistic expression.

The grunge era was all about not selling out and there Wayne and Garth were every Saturday night on public access.

They do of course, sell out in the movie, but only for the chance to make their hobby and passion their full-time job. And when the sponsor attempts to force change on the show, sapping it of its integrity, Wayne walks out.

That’s grunge.

And that’s Wayne’s World.

There’s escapism, naivete, and earnestness in what Wayne and Garth do. They love music and they love entertaining. They embody all of the child-like ethos of the era, and none of the grim alienation or cynicism.

They go to grunge clubs and loft parties, sure.  But most of the time, you can find them munching on donuts at Stan Makita’s, playing hockey in the street, or just lying on the hood of Garth’s car watching planes take off at the airport.

And that’s really what makes me wish Wayne’s World was my world, too.

Netflix Instant Classic: The Station Agent

Genre: Arthouse, Independent.

What’s it about? A recluse who loves trains.

Who’s In It? Peter Dinklage and some other people (notably Michelle Williams and Bobby Cannavale aka Gyp Rosetti)

You’ll like it if… You can’t get enough Tyrion Lannister…

I had seen Peter Dinklage in a number of small roles. In 30 Rock, for instance, where he played the love interest Liz Lemon mistook for a little boy.

He was always THAT character actor. I could hear Hollywood casting agents going: “We need a midget. Get Dinklage on the phone.”

Except I didn’t know his name.

Then Game of Thrones happened. And I found that a very small man can indeed cast a very large shadow.

Dinklage’s Tyrion Lannister is transcendent… Fucking Transcendent.

I needed more of this actor in my life. So I prayed to the old gods and the new.

They came through with this New York Times profile.

This is where I learned of the Station Agent.

The basic plot of which is this…

Dinklage plays Finbar McBride, a ferroequinologist (someone who fucking loves trains). Guy works in a model train store when his one, and presumably only, friend hits the heavenly rails, bequeathing to Tyrion a small dilapidated train depot in New Jersey.

And that’s just perfect.

You see, Finbar is a dwarf, which is something of a novelty to just about everyone he meets. As you might expect, this makes him something of an outcast. He’s so used to being snickered at and not taken seriously that he’s devolved into this disaffected hermit who just wants to be left the fuck alone.

He finds solace only in his train hobby, which is pretty cool as far as hobbies go.

So an abandoned train depot is pretty much the perfect spot for him to dwell.

Yet, in an ironic twist, the place to which Finbar retreats seeking solitude turns out to be  the very place he ends up finding friends. Not total acceptance, mind you. There are plenty of simple-minded townies that give him shit for being a dwarf.

But there are also people that are even crazier and more fucked up than Finbar. It’s sort of like the land of misfit toys.

No doubt, the movie can be a bit dark, but ultimately it’s buoyed by a dry humor that permeates throughout and, of course, Dinklage’s performance.

In this movie, he’s not just a train enthusiast, he IS the train. It’s his performance that carries you along for the ride.