What’s Good? (Best of Winter TV 2017… & Iron Fist)

I haven’t done one of these in a while.

I guess it’s hard to make lists of what’s good in the world of entertainment when the real world is going to hell in a hand-basket… a hand-basket made of shit.

Once again, Legion, you’ve summed up my feelings precisely.

I know we can’t read tone and inflection on the internet. And sometimes the actual meaning of what we want to say is lost in its misinterpretation. So I’m gonna need for all of you reading this to picture the next sentence with ALL the sarcasm. (ALL OF IT!!!)

“The United States is in a really good place right now.”

“Is that supposed to be some kind of a joke?” “Hey. Hey. Hey. He didn’t mean it like that.”

So instead of spending all day in fear, I have chosen to escape to the land of nod. You know what I mean. While we wait for the next embarrassment, the next offense or the next outrage, I’ll be looking for the next distraction until the revolution starts. (which will not be on TV by the way).

Personally I blame the internet for all of this, but that’s a story for another time.

“Does that mean we WON’T be needing the goat?”

The goat stays.

What follows is a list of TV shows that are freaking unbelievably good and entertaining and well-written and sexy and escapist and brilliant and words fail me. And while it is true that I have talked about most of these in the past… THEY’RE STILL AMAZING.

I think Winter is my favorite TV season.

Let me explain…

“Get on with it, Melvin.”

The Americans is back and better than ever. That show has been consistently good from day one and will go down as one of the best in history.  Bates Motel is having their best season as well. Vera Farmiga has actually turned it up a notch (give the woman an Emmy already). Girls on HBO, just a couple of weeks ago, aired the best episode in its entire series run. A brilliant stand-alone story, that featured Matthew Rhys from The Americans by coincidence, which was just a conversation between a young writer and her creepy literary idol. (Rarely do I watch a show and then watch it again right after. I’ve already watched the episode three times. I wish it were a movie). The Superheroes on the CW are kicking ass on a weekly basis (even DC Legends has gotten better now that it’s embraced its fundamental silliness and monumental nerdy-ness).

Jane the Virgin lost its virginity but did not lose its creativity or its charm. And there are lots of new bisexual characters on my favorite shows. (That list is coming soon… it’s mostly women this time. Not my fault. There’s a shortage of bi men and an abundance of bi women recently. I’m not complaining. Well, I’m kind of complaining. I’m both complaining and not complaining. It’s confusing… that’s a joke). Star Wars Rebels has been amaze-balls this season. Running almost parallel with the events of Rogue One and setting up A New Hope (I almost want to spoil it but I can’t). BEN!!! (I couldn’t help it). Black SailsHomeland the list goes on.

But I’m not talking about any of those shows here today.

“Am I wrong or did he not just talk about them?” “Here comes the part we’ve been waiting for, sire.” “Well don’t just stand there. Keep cranking that monkey.”

What follows is a list of ten absolutely fantastic (relatively new) TV shows (with one notable exception…One of these shows is actually complete and utter garbage. But we’ll get to that one later… okay it’s Iron Fist… I can’t keep a secret).

So ask me the question already…

Go ahead.

Ask me.

Not THAT question, you idiot.

WHAT’S GOOD?

I’m glad you asked.

The Expanse (SyFy)

Developed by Mark Fergus & Hawk Ostby

Based on The Expanse series of novels by James S. A. Corey

Starring Thomas JaneSteven StraitCas AnvarDominique TipperWes ChathamPaulo CostanzoFlorence FaivreShawn DoyleShohreh Aghdashloo & Frankie Adams

“It’s been too long since we’ve had a really kick-ass space opera.”  – George R.R. Martin

We’re in season two now, so if you don’t know The Expanse, you’re a little late to the party but there’s still time for you to catch up. There are three main factions in the 23rd century: Earth (Earthers, Inners, Tumang), all the power, all the resources, United Nations controlled, corrupt bureaucrats and corporations;

“Is that a gun in my pocket or am I just happy to see you?” “It better be a gun.”

Mars Colony (Martians, Inners, Pomang), lacking in resources but making up for it in military might, they put all their effort into building a strong military because they were tired of being Earth’s red-headed step-child;

“Unte kowlting gut, to pochuye ke?”

and The Belt (Belters, Outer Planets, Beltalowda), the workers, born in space, mining asteroids and the moons of Jupiter for water and other resources, no resources of their own, no military, but without them Mars would have no way to get water. Without them Earth corporations would have no leverage over Mars.

Kewe to pensa ere The Expanse, beratna?

There’s a war coming between Earth and Mars. I don’t know for sure because I haven’t read the books but it’s like winter in Game of Thrones; that shit is right around the corner. And yes I just compared it to Game of Thrones. The Expanse is THAT good. Great performances, great story, great direction, fantastic special effects. The Expanse is quite possibly the best thing on TV right now with a language all its own.

But while The Expanse might be the best thing on TV right now, it is not my favorite thing on TV right now. My favorite thing is…

The Magicians (SyFy)

Created by Sera Gamble & John McNamara

Based on The Magicians by Lev Grossman

Starring Jason RalphStella MaeveOlivia Taylor DudleyHale Appleman, Arjun Gupta, Summer BishilRick Worthy & Jade Tailor

“Did you bring me little cakes?” – Umber (Horned Golden Ram God of Fillory)

The Magicians is like if Harry Potter and Buffy the Vampire Slayer had a baby and that baby grew up to be as hot as Emma Watson is right now. Oh my god, I love this show so much. Seriously.

Queen Margo and King Eliot

The Magicians is also in its second season and if you’re not watching it… I don’t know, I question your judgement. This show is sensational. And I know I’ve said this a bunch of times but I’m just going to keep right on saying it. I love everything about this show. I love the cast. I love the writing. I love the world. I love the story. And I love that it is the most bi-friendly TV show since True Blood (and you know how I love to see healthy bisexual representation on my TV).

“Is he talking about bisexuality again?” “We get it. You like guys and girls. We’re over it.”

This show has it all. Magic. Mystery. Adventure. Comedy. Time travel. Six-fingered bad guys singing show tunes. Large magical creatures wearing diapers. Hot teachers. Hot librarians. Hot students. Hot teachers and hot librarians hooking up with hot students. Little cakes. Did I mention the little cakes?

The Royal Family

Just watch the show.

Next… more magic.

Emerald City (NBC)

Directed by Tarsem Singh

Based on the Oz book series by L. Frank Baum

Starring Adria ArjonaOliver Jackson-CohenAna UlaruMido HamadaGerran Howell, Jordan Loughran, Joely Richardson & Vincent D’Onofrio

“Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.” – Dorothy Gale

Okay Emerald City just ended its first season and I see a lot of people putting it down but I, for one, enjoyed it. You know me. I’m all in for a good re-imagining of the classics. And with Emerald City, Tarsem Singh created my favorite version of the Land of Oz. A steam punk meets Song of Ice and Fire meets Cirque du Soleil, Land of Oz with giants and warring factions and flying monkey drones and outlawed magic and witches… and guns. And witches with guns. I really liked this show.

‘I am the Wizard of Oz.” “I thought you were the Kingpin.” “Can’t a man be both?”

In fact, I loved it. And I sincerely hope it comes back for another season and I hope Tarsem directs every episode again. Because it’s so gorgeous that I wanted to watch each one again… and I probably will. If I ever find the time. There’s so much good TV.

Next… I don’t even know what to call this one. It’s not a superhero show.

Legion (FX)

Created by Noah Hawley

Based on Legion by Chris Claremont & Bill Sienkiewicz

Starring Dan StevensRachel KellerAubrey PlazaBill IrwinJeremie HarrisAmber MidthunderKatie Aselton & Jean Smart

“What is your name?”  – Jesus (from the bible)

“My name is Legion. For we are many.”  – Legion (also from the bible)

Okay. Okay. I watched the first episode of Legion, the new comic book based show from the creator of Fargo, and I was like, wow that was pretty bland. Then after the second episode I felt like I knew more what they were trying to get at and felt it was worth my time. After episode three I was seriously hooked. I loved the characters. I loved the sixties fashion. The tongue-in-cheek attitude. It’s amazingly original and fun and I was completely wrong about it. Well anyway, we’re six episodes in and it’s the best thing I’ve ever seen in my fucking life… IN MY LIFE!!! It is frightening how good this show is. Frightening. (I think I’m gonna cry… seriously)

“So tell me are we inside your mind or outside your mind right now?” “I don’t know.” “Well that’s kind of scary don’t you think?” “Scary is not the word for it.”

Legion is about a powerful mutant. The back-story is that he’s Professor X’s kid (they may or may not keep this for the show but it doesn’t matter) and he’s got reality warping powers. Basically he’s the most powerful mutant on the planet (possibly in the universe) with awesome god-like powers. Now, that would be boring for a story because basically he can do anything he wants at any time but… you see… he’s not entirely sane in his mind. Also he’s not entirely alone in there either. So most of the comic book takes place in his mind. His main bad guy is inside him. And if you’re thinking, well how the hell are they going to bring that to TV and make it enjoyable. They did it. They fucking did it. And I think I’m going to cry. It’s so good.

“What’s for dinner? Is it chaos again? Are we having utter chaos again?”

Legion is really good and done very well. Noah Hawley has done an excellent job. Fargo is one of the coolest shows on TV and Legion is right up there with it. But it still kind of frightens me because it could go so wrong so fast. I really hope it stays grounded.

And I also like seeing heroes coping with mental disorders in my fiction (almost as much as I like seeing bisexual heroes) It’s refreshing and it’s identifiable.

Oh shit.

To the list!!!

Top Ten Fictional Heroes with Mental Disorders:

10. StormX-Men – Severe Claustrophobia

9. Martin RiggsLethal Weapon – Suicidal, Manic Depressive

8. Tony Stark/Iron Man – Extreme Narcissist (comics), PTSD (movies)

7. Carrie MathesonHomeland – Manic Depressive – Borderline

6. Jason BourneThe Bourne Identity – Amnesic, Dissociate

5. Bruce Banner/The Incredible Hulk –  Multiple Identity Disorder, (Split Personality)

4. David Haller/Legion – Schizophrenic, (see also Demonic Possession)

“That’s me. Everybody dance.”

3. Bruce Wayne/Batman – Obsessive, Compulsive, Social Phobic

2. Sherlock Holmes – Obsessive, Compulsive, Narcissistic, Sociopath

1. James Bond – Dissociate, Extreme Sociopath (Bordering on Psycho)

It was a quickly thrown together list with very likely mislabeled or misdiagnosed disorders but it was fun to compile.

But anyway. I love Legion on FX. I love the casting. I love the story. I love that it’s funny and absurd and romantic. I love that they respect the source material, making it the most original and creative television show in history. Legion is almost too good. Nope. It is literally too good. Because shows that are this good do not last for long (And just thinking about it going away makes me want to cry).

Next… Aliens

Colony (USA)

Created by Carlton Cuse

Starring Josh HollowaySarah Wayne CalliesPeter JacobsonAmanda RighettiTory KittlesAlex Neustaedter & Isabella Crovetti-Cramp

“I’m sorry if I still have a little crush on Sawyer and Carl’s mom.”  – Mel 

Colony is finishing up its second season and it was better than the first. Colony is the story of Earth after alien invasion. Humans are separated into colonies by force and into two factions; Collaborators and Resistance, by necessity.

“Sawyer?” “Yeah, Carl’s mom?” “Do you think Mel will be able to imagine us as anything other than those two characters?” “With our clothes on or off?” “Good point.”

The two lead actors are both very hot, which adds to my enjoyment of the show (sue me. I’d like to have sex with both of these people Is that so wrong? Should I keep that to myself?). Josh Holloway and Sarah Wayne Callies play Will and Katie Bowman. One works for the authority and the other runs with the resistance. But it’s not like they’re on opposite sides. They are on each other’s side. It makes for a great story. And the writing is what I like best. Colony has a good premise. And a good mystery. And Carlton Cuse doesn’t slowly drip out the answers like he’s done in the past. We start learning about the aliens early on. But there is still a lot more to learn.

“Just as long as nobody moves and nobody mentions Prison Break we’ll be fine.”

The stories are gritty and cool and suspenseful. And the action and the political drama make Colony one of the best shows on TV right now. And season two cranks up the suspense and brings the rest of the family into the story. So they’re turning into a family of bad-asses and I love that shit.

Let’s move over to Netflix

Love (Netflix)

Created by Judd Apatow, Lesley Arfin & Paul Rust

Starring Gillian Jacobs, Paul Rust & Claudia O’Doherty

“I once had sex w/ a guy whose dick was so small I thought it was a clitoris.” – Bertie Bauer

Love is the story of two broken people trying to make a relationship work. It is quirky and funny and absurd (but in a yeah that could totally happen sort of way). It stars Gillian Jacobs and Paul Rust, one of the shows creators, who is not the best actor but embodies the character to a Woody Allen type level. But Gillian is the stand out here for me. She plays this fragile warrior sex addict to perfection and I just want to scoop her up and plop her on my couch. Him, not so much.

“Him not so much? What does that even mean?” “Well at least he doesn’t want to plop you on his couch. Plop me? Is that a euphemism? Is that a sex act?”

I find him more annoying than likable but it’s not a deal-breaker because it’s a very well-written show. And he is a three-dimensional character. I just sometimes wish he had cast another actor to play his part. But look at me, I’m finding fault in something I love. Blowing a little problem out of proportion. Like some kind of self-sabotage. Ignore me.

Do people still smoke? Is that like still a thing? I don’t get out much.

Love is very funny with a lot of great minor characters. The two main characters both work in entertainment, her in radio, him in TV. And the show spends a lot of time on their separate lives. On their work and on their friends. So when they come together, it’s almost like two separate shows connecting through them. It’s a brilliant structure.

“I’m not Woody Allen. I’m not even Jewish. I’m Catholic. And this… this is not Annie Hall.”

And I’m sorry I insulted it before. It’s always only been about them. I mean I like Catastrophe too. Catastrophe is a great relationship show on Amazon. But the characters aren’t as likable. Don’t get me wrong, I think Catastrophe is very funny. And it’s not like I like Amazon more than Netflix. And it’s not like me and Netflix were exclusive or anything. But look at me, talking about another show and another network in my review. I really suck at this.

“This oughta shut you up.” “You said that into my mouth.”

Let me explain. You see, I’m sort of TV addicted and it’s hard for me to commit to just one show or just one network. But I think I’m ready. Can we start over?

Travelers (Netflix)

Created by Brad Wright

Starring Eric McCormackMacKenzie Porter, Nesta Cooper, Jared Abrahamson, Reilly Dolman & Patrick Gilmore

“I distracted myself from the fear and terrorism by thinking about things like how the universe began and whether time travel is possible.”  – Malala Yousafzai

Here’s a show I just discovered on Netflix and was completely blown away. Travelers is a time travel drama like Continuum meets Quantum Leap meets 12 Monkeys. It is some of the tightest time travel writing around. This show is extremely well-written and intelligent and deals with Time Travel paradox in a smart and original way.

Protocol 4 – Don’t Reproduce

But, by far, the best thing about Travelers is the characters. Each of the “travelers” from the future assume the identity and take over the body of a person from our time who is about to die. Seconds before they die. So, first they have to save their own life and then they become that person. And from that moment on they have to pretend to be that person who should actually be dead, all the while knowing only what they learned about them from social media and computer databases in the future. Not the most accurate.

Protocol 1 – The Mission Comes First

The travelers have a precise list of protocols that govern their actions. This is another fantastic part of the show. Like mini prime directives (from Star Trek) that control their behavior so that they don’t do too much damage to the time-line. But if you know time-travel shows then you know that’s laughable.

Protocol 3 – Don’t Take a Life. Don’t Save a Life.

Travelers is an action and adventure show that’s good just from that perspective but it’s the drama in assuming and continuing the life of some one who would have died, that makes Travelers truly outstanding. This is some brilliant writing. With good performances. And a great cast.

Protocol 5 – In The Absence of Direction, Maintain Your Host’s Life

Travelers is fantastic and it has been renewed for a second season… THANK THE DIRECTOR. (that’s a Travelers joke. It’s very funny. Just watch the show)

Next… from Brazil…

3% (Netflix)

Created by Pedro Aguilera

Starring Bianca ComparatoJoão Miguel, Michel Gomes & Rodolfo Valente

“People who would go to an art house cinema and watch a (foreign) movie and read subtitles… it’s a small percentage.” – Steven Zaillian

The 3% is a science fiction drama from Brazil. Watch it with the subtitles people. I know that means you have to actually pay attention and you can’t look away for a few seconds to check your phones but it’s worth it for the original performances and not just the English dub. But if you need to watch it dubbed then watch it dubbed. I’ll just sit in quiet judgement. It really doesn’t matter. The story is awesome either way.

Michel Gomes as Fernando Carvalho

3% is an intriguing story about an overpopulated city in the future and a “process” they use to decide who gets to live in a Utopia just offshore. Only 3% get selected, young people, and they only get one chance to make it through the trials… the process.

Bianca Comparato as Michele Santana

Of course there are other things going on. There are machinations behind the scenes and politics and a rebellion against the process. And then of course there is a love story. And a story of survival. And redemption. And… the show is awesome. I kid you not.

3% has Tough Guys with pipes

But the main story follows several “candidates” as they go through the trials. It’s like The 100 meets The Hunger Games meets Logan’s Run. It’s very good. There are eight fantastically suspenseful episodes of the first season. But I honestly don’t know if it’s as good dubbed as it is with subtitles. I watched it with the subtitles on because I’m all like sophisticated and shit. But you can always switch back and forth, if you’re easily distracted. (I’m just kidding. I kept forgetting that there were subtitles. And I would look down to check my phone. And then realize that I didn’t actually understand what they were saying when I wasn’t looking. It was awful… the internet has destroyed us).

3% has Heartbreaking Romance

3% is a really cool Brazilian Netflix series that has been confirmed for a second season.

And then there’s…

Iron Fist (Netflix)

Iron Fist Poster Not Found. #IronFisted

Created by Scott Buck

Based on Iron Fist by Roy Thomas & Gil Kane

Starring Finn JonesJessica HenwickTom PelphreyJessica StroupRamón RodríguezSacha DhawanRosario Dawson & David Wenham

“His fist glows, he’s got a beard, he has enemies. Boom. Now let’s do the team-up thing.”  – Marvel Television

I know. I know. Let’s slam on the brakes for a second. Iron Fist is horrible. It is awful. It’s like instead of a script they had an eleven year-old kid flailing his arms and making kung-fu noises. “And then Iron Fist goes BAM. And then the bad guy is like POW. But Iron Fist’s got him in a headlock and WOOSH and then a kick and then a punch… got it? Okay? ACTION!!!” and yes the kid was also the director.

He actually farts and was trying to play it off by beating one of her students and that makes more sense than what happens on the screen in Marvel’s Netflix’s Iron Fist.

No honestly, it’s the worse show. But look at it this way. The Defenders can only be better. There’s no way it could be any worse. Iron Fist is total garbage. Netflix had painted themselves into a corner. Daredevil was amazing. And then Jessica Jones was even better than that. So then season two of Daredevil was only pretty good and we’re like maybe they leveled off but then… Luke Cage was fucking great too. It was too much good. And they had already committed to release The Defenders. So all they had to do was put out an Iron Fist series. And you get to a point where there is just too much good. And all that’s left on the creative pile is crap. The Defenders or Iron Fist or both was going to have to be crap. It’s the nature of the universe. It’s just basic physics.

Sometimes they have to sacrifice acting for fighting ability and sometimes they have to sacrifice fighting ability for acting chops. It’s rare when they sacrifice both for naturally curly hair.

So what Iron Fist did was it took one for the team. It used up all the negative space. It sucked up all the crap. And it lowered expectations for the team-up. Iron Fist is as relatively bad as all three of the other Marvel Netflix origin seasons are good… combined. It’s that bad. It’s so bad that The Defenders is going to be Earth-shattering by comparison. You can’t get worse than Iron Fist without losing subscribers. You also can’t make something that cheesy looking and not realize it. The sets are laughable. I thought I was watching old Star Trek reruns. They show the kid being beaten by monks in what’s supposed to be a monastery in a mystical city but they look like they’re in a re-purposed janitor’s closet. It’s bad.

Why does Iron Fist have an erection? Does anyone know? And why is he on a Star Trek planet?

It’s impressively bad. The dialogue is practically offensive. It’s so awful. They used to sneak out of the monastery to have donkey meat? Where is this donkey meat cart located? Or are they killing someone else’s donkey, eating a very small part of it and leaving the rest to rot? Unless he’s talking about sucking a donkey’s dick, it makes absolutely no sense. I can’t start talking about the show critically because I’m just going to get angry.

“No questions… yes, you have a question?”

But I’m still recommending that everyone watch Iron Fist. You’ll want to turn it off after episode three but don’t. And no it doesn’t get any better. It actually gets worse. There’s no humor. There’s no romance. And the so-called bad guys are totally right. Danny Rand is an awful person. As one guy puts it. He’s the worse Iron Fist ever. But… Oh my god. There’s a scene where Iron Fist is being chased through a crowd and to blend in he picks up a mask and puts it on his face. DOESN’T CHANGE HIS CLOTHES or his jacket or anything. He isn’t facing the guy chasing him… like as if that would matter anyway. But then he loses the guy because he doesn’t see him wearing that dumb mask. There is no way they couldn’t tell what they were making was garbage. There’s no way they couldn’t tell. It had to be made shitty on purpose.

“Yes we did just fly to China on a private jet and kidnap someone and take them back to America with us on that same private jet… why do you ask? Is that hard to do?”

So now I’m convinced that Iron Fist was made bad on purpose. And I want to thank the makers. They took a bullet for the team. Pour out a little for the dead on arrival Iron Fist. I mean it is monumentally awful. Truly, truly awful. But it can only serve to make The Defenders look incredible by comparison.

And lastly one pilot from Amazon…

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon Pilot)

Created by Amy Sherman-Palladino

Starring Rachel Brosnahan, Tony Shalhoub, Marin Hinkle & Alex Borstein

“Women are smart and funny. Get over it.”  – Eric Cartman

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is about a 1950’s housewife who decides to become one of the first female stand-up comics. It is a fantastic period drama about comedy from the creator of Gilmore Girls. And it has that quick-witted Gilmore Girls style to the writing and the dialogue. But the best part is the marvelous Rachel Brosnahan in the title role.

“Who makes a toast at her own wedding? I do.”

Mrs. Maisel is the story of the most amazingly funny and smart and cute and remarkable woman. It is hard (really hard) not to fall in love with her. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is like Mad Men meets 30 Rock meets I don’t know Buffy? It’s the story of a pioneering female comedian in the late fifties. Maybe she’s Phyllis Diller. Maybe she’s Carol Burnett. Maybe she’s amazing.

“Yes my phone has a cord connecting it to the base. That’s how you know it’s the fifties and not the eighties or the nineties. Why do you ask? And where the hell is my microwave oven?”

She’s awesome. I love funny women and the show makes you fall in love with her almost immediately as she deals with the 50’s era and then accidentally discovers that she has a talent for making people laugh. It’s just a pilot right now but please check it out. It’s the best they have this season on Amazon. I watched them all. There’s not a lot of good there. And I hope The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel doesn’t get buried in that pile because it’s great even when compared to established shows. It’s just a thousand times better than the other pilots this season.

“Dear Diary. I can do so much better than this schmo. Love Midge. PS. I have half a mind to tell the driver to take me to Mel’s house. But it’s the fifties and he’s a negro.”

And I really really really want to see more of her… of it… I mean the show… of the show… okay I’m in love with the character. Bring her back. I have a thing for funny smart women (Fictional, Non-fictional). I always have. It’s a sickness. I find smart and funny women sexy as all hell.

Watch The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon Prime Pilot Season… please.

So that’s what’s good.

Find these shows. Watch these shows. Love these shows as much as I do. And then you’ll be all caught up and ready for the return of Doctor Who, Game of Thrones and Dark Matter. Just to name a few.

“Om Mani Padme… um… um… I want to say Om again but that can’t be right.”

Man. When I was a kid there was like a handful of superhero shows and a few more space adventures and a couple of sword & sorcery shows, but they were mostly all crap.

You kids have it so much better than we did.

We had to watch crappy science fiction on TV all the time.

AND YOU NEVER THANKED US!!!

– Mel

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Spared or Spoiled Movie Reviews: Captain Fantastic

The rules are simple. The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.

Captain Fantastic (Bleecker StreetUniversal Pictures)

captain-fantastic-poster

Written & Directed by Matt Ross

Starring Viggo MortensenFrank LangellaKathryn Hahn & Steve Zahn

Philosophical and intellectual plot holes in abundance but Captain Fantastic is still a pretty good film. No really it is.

Captain Fantastic is the story of a family that has lived for years off the grid. Self-sufficient. Healthy and happy. Until family tragedy (the mother’s mental illness and death) forces them to rejoin the world, begrudgingly and hysterically. This is a fish out of water family. Who clearly benefit from healthy living and minimized technological distractions. But the children have no experience with modern society and very few social skills while at the same time being capable, confident, and extremely intelligent. It is a great movie. And in between yelling at it for being wrong about so many things, I liked it… I guess.

Verdict: SPARED

captain-fantastic

The kids of Captain Fantastic are all amazing. (great actors and great characters) The idea is… interesting (I use that word a lot). The kids in this movie are all smarter than me (or is that smarter than I?). I really liked how bright the children are. I liked how well-trained they were for survival. But any well-rounded training would also include etiquette and social discourse. So I felt this was a tremendous plot hole. And any reading list would include books about human interaction (at least Dale Carnegie’s How to…). But the most egregious plot hole is that they call the mother a Buddhist throughout the film and yet her children know very little about Buddhist philosophy. I guess that part of the curriculum is forgotten.

captain-fantastic

The “hippie” movement is made fun of quite a lot. And becomes a running joke throughout the film. They make fun of the idea of celebrating Noam Chomsky’s birthday. (HOLES!!!) I did enjoy the joke about not making fun of fat people (Americans are a fat and sickly population and it’s not a joke). But the children are told that it’s okay to make fun of Christians. Then they pretend to be ultra-religious Christian home-schooled kids to scare off police who come snooping around their bus. That was genius. But if you’re strongly Christian you might find that as annoying as I found the fake Buddhism.

captain-fantastic-school-bus

Captain Fantastic is very good from a pure enjoyment stand point but the way it flings around political terms and claims of being morally superior is troubling. The mother was supposedly a Buddhist but never taught her kids not to steal. Not to mention that she was wealthy and didn’t have to steal. The mother was supposedly a Buddhist but in the first scene they kill a deer. I guess the mother was a pretend Buddhist like most of the 60’s hippie children of rich parents. Not interested enough to do the research.

captain-fantastic-2

Then there’s the nonsense about the mother’s mental disorder and her husband sending her to a facility away from her children and her natural food and her healthy lifestyle. Of course she died. And yes I’m saying 100% healthy living is better than all the antipsychotics that exist or will exist for helping to handle even the most serious mental afflictions. (I know this for a fact) There were so many of these social, economic, philosophical and political plot holes in their upbringing that it became annoying. I liked the ending though. It’s a good movie (really it is). Fantastic writing (everything but the philosophy stuff). Good performances from all the kids. Viggo Mortensen is great once again. It’s just the movie pretends to be smarter than it is.

captain-fantastic-movie

But of course, if they did things my way, there wouldn’t be a movie. The mother would still be alive. The kids would be capable of social discourse. They would grow their own food. Not kill animals for selfish reasons. And they surely would not have cut off Sweet Child O’ Mine before the change. That’s the best part of the song. What the hell, Matt?

captain-fantastic-2016

Captain Fantastic is a great film about family but a horrible film about philosophy. It’s like they had all of these heady ideas and in trying to find a balance with ignorance (that seems to be a running theme these days. Ignorance gets to have its say, in our schools, in our politics, and in our fucking movies) the film-makers poke fun or completely misinterpret simple ideas about compassion and healthy living.

You know you can entertain and still inform right?

captain-fantastic-cast

Captain Fantastic features a fantastic cast and a fantastic story and a fantastic premise, it just has a very tenuous grasp on its own philosophical concepts. But it’s still a delightful story with an excellent cast of fine young actors. So I liked it, I guess.

– Mel

Eight Songs That Make Me Happy

This is a public service announcement… with guitar.

When I suffered from depression music was always my escape. When I was little it was silly songs. There was this Flintstones album in the public library that I wore out. When I was a teenager it was angry songs. Rock, Metal, Punk. Gangsta Rap. By High School and University I was wallowing in depression with dark songs, moody songs, or just some good old blues. But we’re not going to wallow in it today. Not getting angry. Or being silly. We’re going straight to happy.

woo-hoo

“Woo hoo!!”

We do this meditation in the Buddhist traditions where we wish for people to be happy. We think about people we know being happy. How everyone, all over the world, wants to be free from suffering. And why everyone has a desire to be happy. And then we form the resolution in our minds that we are going to make them all happy with our thoughts, with our actions, with our wishes, with our words

And with our blogs.

Yes Buddha does mention blogs in the Sutras. You just have to find the right translation.

snoopy-happy-dance

January 20th, 2017 is fast approaching and we all know what that means. President Donald Tr… I still can’t say it. So it’s easy to let it get you down. But I say screw that.

These songs are my surefire depression busters. I’m calling it my eight-fold path to dancing in your underwear before the world burns.

It’s a temporary fix. But it’ll help you take your mind off of it.

So these eight songs (lyrics included) are designed to put the happy back where it belongs. In your feet. In your butt. And in your face. And none of them are by Pharrell.

happy-minions

“Yebey!!”

Here we go…

First up… Crooning with a smile.

Feeling Good by Michael Buble

“It’s a new dawn. It’s a new day. It’s a new life. It’s a new life for me…”

———————————-

Next… Some Attitude.

Troublemaker by Weezer

“I’m such a special guy.”

————————————-

And now a personal favorite… I love this guitar riff and this video and Morrissey’s dance moves alone make me very happy.

What Difference Does It Make by The Smith

All men have secrets and here is mine
So let it be known
For we have been through hell and high tide
I think I can rely on you…
And yet you start to recoil
Heavy words are so lightly thrown
But still I’d leap in front of a flying bullet for you

So, what difference does it make?
So, what difference does it make?
It makes none
But now you have gone
And you must be looking very old tonight

The devil will find work for idle hands to do
I stole and I lied, and why?
Because you asked me to!
But now you make me feel so ashamed
Because I’ve only got two hands
Well, I’m still fond of you, oh-ho-oh

So, what difference does it make?
Oh, what difference does it make?
Oh, it makes none
But now you have gone
And your prejudice won’t keep you warm tonight

Oh, the devil will find work for idle hands to do
I stole, and then I lied
Just because you asked me to
But now you know the truth about me
You won’t see me anymore
Well, I’m still fond of you, oh-ho-oh

But no more apologies
No more, no more apologies
Oh, I’m too tired
I’m so sick and tired
And I’m feeling very sick and ill today
But I’m still fond of you, oh-ho-oh

Oh, my sacred one…
Oh…

—————————————–

Now here’s a song about self -love and just being a good neighbor.

Satellite Mind by Metric

Hold it I’m about to drop off
Let me tell you my last thought
Drift into a deep fog
Lost where I forgot to hold it
I can feel you most when I’m alone

Coming home cause I want to
Hang out with a starlet
Stare out at the ceiling
Preview of a screening
Flashback of a feeling
Sixth sense of the call and
I heard you fuck through the wall
I heard you fuck

When I’m bored
I send vibrations
In your direction
From the satellite mind

I’m not suicidal
I just can’t get out of bed
I drift into a deep fog
Lost where I forgot to hold it
I can feel you when I’m alone
I can fell your ghost when I’m alone

Coming home cause I want to
Hang out with a starlet
Stare out at the ceiling
Preview of a screening
Flashback of a feeling
Sixth sense of the call and
I heard you fuck through the wall
I heard you fuck

When I’m bored
I send vibrations
In your direction
From the satellite mind

When your voice
Became vibrations
From the satellite mind

It sounded like mine

——————————————–

Next… A happy tune about getting everything you could ever want for just one dollar. (make sure to read the fine print)

Step Right Up by Tom Waits

“Only a dollar. Step right up.”

—————————————-

Next… Denial (but with an infectious melody)

Everything’s Just Wonderful by Lily Allen

“Oh well I guess I mustn’t grumble. I suppose that’s just the way the cookie crumbles.”

———————————————-

Next up.. a little more self-love (of the less erotic kind)

i (love myself) by Kendrick Lamar

“The world is a ghetto with big guns and picket signs. But it can do what it want, whenever it want, I don’t mind.”

————————————————

And lastly… The happiest bass-line in the world.

Feel Good Inc. by Gorillaz

City’s breaking down on a camel’s back.
They just have to go ’cause they don’t know whack
So all you fill the streets it’s appealing to see
You won’t get out the county, ’cause you’re bad and free
You’ve got a new horizon it’s ephemeral style.
A melancholy town where we never smile.
And all I want to hear is the message beep.
My dreams, they’ve got to kiss, because I don’t get sleep, no
Windmill, Windmill for the land.
Love forever hand in hand
Taking it all in on your stride
It is sticking, falling down
Love forever love is free
Let’s turn forever you and me
Windmill, windmill for the land
Is everybody in?

Laughing gas these hazmats, fast cats,
Lining them up like ass cracks,
Ladies, homies, at the track
Its my chocolate attack.
Shit, I’m stepping in the heart of this here
Care bear bumping in the heart of this here
Watch me as I gravitate
Hahahahahahaa.
Yo, we gonna go ghost town,
This motown,
With yo sound
You’re in the place
You gonna bite the dust
Can’t fight with us
With yo sound
You kill the INC.
So don’t stop, get it, get it
Until you’re cheddar header.
Yo, watch the way I navigate

Windmill, Windmill for the land.
Love forever hand in hand
Take it all in on your stride
It is sticking, falling down
Love forever love is free
Let’s turn forever you and me
Windmill, windmill for the land
Is everybody in?

Don’t stop, get it, get it
We are your captains in it
Steady, watch me navigate,
Ahahahahahhaa.
Don’t stop, get it, get it
We are your captains in it
Steady, watch me navigate

Hahahahaha


I love you guys.

Remember to smile even when you don’t feel like it because it will probably make someone else smile and then someone else… traveling from person to person and before you know it you’ll see your original smile on someone else’s face.

And then you’ll smile for real.

– Mel

Social Encounter X

Hey.

Hey?

Hey. I’m talking to you.
Excuse me!!!
What now?
How is this new person going to hate me?
How is this encounter with a total stranger going to go wrong?
How will I be misunderstood and hated forever?
Hey.
It’s just a word. I can ignore it.
It is my right as an American to not respond.
I have the right to remain silent.
It says so in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Excuse me. I know you can hear me.
I don’t want to know what happens next
How this new person will dislike me.
Find me incredibly annoying.
It’s too painful.
Excuse me?
How is this going to end?
How will they misinterpret my silence as a rejection and resent me
Resent me until I can’t stand to look at myself.
HOW WILL THIS RANDOM PERSON HURT ME TODAY?
Hey.
How will this next encounter hurt me?
Will they make me fall in love with them and then disappoint me horribly?
Or will they fall for me too hard, too fast and make me fear them. Fear their “love”???

You ever have an ex… yes I’m talking to you… You ever have an ex who uses every pause in a conversation to tell you how much they “love” you? Not a current. An ex. Well I have.

(in the middle of telling a joke or a story) “…And then the dog took this big dump on the grass.” (stops talking to drink because, you know, your throat gets dry)

“I LOVE YOU…. (long awkward pause) You don’t have to say it back.”

“Yeah yeah but I’m sort of in the middle of telling a joke about dog poop right now.”

“It’s okay. You don’t have to say it. (another pause and then a quick) loveyou!”
Heeeeeeeeyyyyyyyy!!!!!!
That’s not love. If you loved me I wouldn’t fear you, if you loved me.
That’s not love.
You wanna be with me.
You don’t want me to be with other people.
You want to fuck me.
I don’t know what that is
But
That’s not love.
Hey. I know for a fact that you can hear me.
Oh come on.
Now what.
Are they gonna flirt with me?
Make me feel attractive… wanted… sexy
Am I going to laugh?
Blush?

Or am I going to turn around and try to flirt with them
Only to find out that I’m standing on a scarf or something?
How is this human encounter going to ruin my self-esteem today?

How the hell will this random human interaction reshape my world view?
HOW WILL I OBSESS ABOUT THE MANY WAYS I WILL MIS-HANDLE THIS SOCIAL SITUATION UNTIL THE DAY I DIE OF EMBARRASSMENT AND… I DON’T KNOW… FOOD POISONING… RICKETS
Come on. I can tell you hear me. I know you can see me. What’s wrong with you?
Oh god. I have to say something. I have to say something. I have to say something. I have to say something.

(Turns head around and says sweetly) Yes?

(Long pause breathing harder and harder in anticipation and fear)

What. Whatdoyouwant? WHAT? WHAT? whaaat?

(Now crying) What?

(Pleading) whaaaaat.

(Wipes tears and straightens, composes self then turns head back around and says calmly) What is it?

 

No not you. I was trying to get THEIR attention.

– Mel

To All My Friends (Who’ve Wondered Where I’ve Been)

I know I haven’t been around much lately. Too much anger. Didn’t really want to get it on you. I have a tendency to spew hate when I’m angry. I hate it when the bad guys win… I’ve been experiencing a what-the-fuck few weeks. The American election was hacked and I’m surrounded on all sides by people waiting for their chance to say “I told you so.”

“I told you so.” Among the bodies of the dead.

“I told you so.” Brought to you by the makers of Pepsi and Xanax.

“I told you so.” Translated from the original Russian. (actually, little known fact, it was in German before it was in Russian)

I’ve reached a point in my life where more people are younger than me than older. I’m surrounded on all sides by the children of the damned. Social media misfits more concerned with likes and dislikes. Trolls without bridges. History books unopened. But mouths that will not stay shut.

chinese-farmer

I haven’t been around much lately because I know me. The thoughts racing through my head should not be shared with anyone. My doctor doesn’t want to know. My lawyer doesn’t want to know. The fake twitter accounts of Russian trolls, who successfully influence the tired liberals into hopelessness and fits of screaming, don’t want to know.

For one misguided instant I considered self-immolation as a form of protest. Nothing else, it seems, can penetrate the walls of the corporate pay-to-play media and so-called social media’s cavernous, echo-amplifying, bottomless pits of ego and frustration. Setting myself on fire in front of some monument to our fallen democracy seemed like a good idea at the time… for like, literally, a second. For like one scary second.

So I’ve been away.

And I apologize. I figure there’s like 25 or 30 people who read my blog. And I love you guys. And I’m going to post some good stuff. Life goes on no matter how dire. I know my friend Alex misses my movie reviews. New shows, some of the best stuff I’ve seen on TV, came and went. Anybody watch Atlanta? That was amazing. Donald Glover is knocking it out of the park on the daily. Speaking of which, my list of the best albums from this year includes more genres than you can shake your rump at. Who knew I’d like Trap Music. OMG I like Trap Music.

Music, Movies, TV, the third chapter of my novel… but politics, fucking politics, pissed me off to such an extent that I couldn’t write but scream. I couldn’t think but scream. I could not talk because all the screaming made me lose my voice.

So I went away. Started meditating again. Got back to temple. Working out. Stopped doing the few remaining vices I’d allowed myself over the past decade. Pizza, Beer, Porn, Masturbation. It’s about time I stopped living like a 13 year boy without adult supervision. I’m gonna be 50 next year. And the US president is going to be Donald J. Tr… I can’t even say it.

The pounds flew off since I stopped eating garbage. It’s amazing how much more money I have in my budget since I stopped drinking. And the energy. The sexual energy. The mental energy. The spiritual energy… it’s through the roof. And now being channeled into less selfish endeavors.

thats-great-maybe

Doing yoga everyday. Getting to the temple at least three times a week. Working on my compassion and my mindfulness and my body. I will require these things to make it through the next few weeks. Let alone the next few years of protests and civil (and uncivil) disobedience. Gotta build my stamina for all the marching and demonstrating. Because, as you know, Donald J. Tr… I still can’t say it.

I’ll never be able to say it.

What is the true nature of reality? We see things as we want them or don’t want them to be. Sometimes a fantasy. And sometimes as our worst fears realized. We label situations and phenomena as good or bad. As helpful or unhelpful. As progress and advancement or… as the… the nightmarish, back-sliding, hateful, racist hell-scape that I can’t seem to wake up from. Somebody please wake me up.

WAKE ME UP!!!

I meditate to find love for the seemingly unlovable. I meditate to find focus amidst the din of unchecked voices (un-fact-checked and un-verified). I meditate to find the me that can help and not just criticize. That can pull his weight and not just pull his dick. That can be a calm in the storm and not just more destruction and distraction.

Because it’s looking more and more like we’re going to have to violently overthrow the US government. And I don’t say that lightly. People are going to die. People are going to die because they’ve lost their healthcare and can’t afford their treatments. Because they’ve lost their government jobs as the agencies that protect us, from emotionless and compassion-less corporations, are shuttered one after another. People are going to die because they’ve lost their minds after too many deployments in some foreign distraction called another war. People are going to die.

thats-awful-maybe

And we can’t just sit around waiting for a miracle. Like that one time that one guy resigned from being pope because he realized he was too evil and stuff to be pope so he let the cool guy be pope. We can’t wait for that. We can’t wait for lightning to strike his ostentatiously disgusting jet plane as it floats on a cloud of ego or one of his fucking hotels to collapse under the weight of his hubris. We can’t wait for that. And we can’t sit around watching our neighbors die from treatable diseases or complications from dangerous pregnancies or malnutrition. Fucking malnutrition in the 21st century.

So yeah. We need to violently overthrow the US government… but with love. Out of compassion for our fellow human beings these people have to go… on both sides. I will not be governed by hate. And also I will not be governed by hate. So that really no one has to die for idiotic and preventable reasons.

We’ve been hacked. Our election. Our government. Hacked.

And respectfully, the only course of action, after you’ve been hacked, after they infiltrated your system, installed their malware, their trojans, their porn, the only course of action is to unplug the damn computer, and reinstall the operating system.

I went away.

But I’m back.

I’m going to see Rogue One tomorrow. So I’ll let you guys know how I like it. I’m going to post all my reviews and stuff over the holiday season. There’s a lot. You know I didn’t even realize it was the holidays. This is usually my least favorite time of year (except for the Doctor Who special). Because I’m alone and everything about this time is geared toward family and friends and stuff. But ever since I’ve rediscovered my faith, going to temple and Dharma classes and meditation, I don’t feel so alone.

I feel great actually. This is the best I’ve felt in a long time. The healthiest I’ve been mentally, spiritually and physically. The best.

And to think, I owe it all to the rigged, hacked, fraudulent and fucked up election of Donald J. Tr… you know what, I still can’t say it.

You guys thank him for me.

See ya tomorrow after Rogue One (unless I’m too hyped to post anything but OMG OMG OMG OMG then I’ll post on Saturday after Dharma class)

Now watch this 2 minute video.

– Mel

High-Rise vs Circle: A Film Comparison Game Show

Time for another Film Comparison Game Show with your host: Meeeee

High-Rise (2015) vs Circle (2015)

So it’s the proverbial end of the world as we know it and people are acting nutty. We’ve only got one set. One location. Maybe a couple of peeks outside. But we’re going to show you what the human race is like when the motherfucking world is ending. This is…

High Concept Apocalyptic or Dystopian Science Fiction Without Special Effects

Let’s look at the two films we have on the show this time around.

Circle (2015)

Circle (of death)

“Wait… did someone just say, ‘You ARE the weakest link. Goodbye’ or am I hearing things?”

A film about a bunch of random Americans in a room deciding in what order they should die in… you know… just because.

and

High-Rise (2015)

Tom Hiddleston naked in High-Rise

“Yes ladies, I am naked in this movie. You’re welcome.”

A film about a bunch of Brits in a high-rise building trying to kill each other during their own little apocalypse… you know…  just because.

I watched these movies back to back (but not on purpose) so they kind of blended together. I had no idea about the similarities but they stripped my conscience bare. And I really liked both films in a “this shit is disturbing” kind of way.

So bookmark this page. And go watch them. NOW

They’re both pretty quick films. Films of this genre usually are. That way I can spoil them because you just can’t talk about these movies without spoilers. Usually you don’t even know what’s happening in these kinds of films until the end. And also you’ll know when I’m being full of shit and we can talk about it in the comments.

Go on and watch them now. I’ll wait.

We’ll ALL wait. What’s 3 hours between friends?

Are they gone?

I lied. We’re not gonna wait for them.

Let’s get right to it.

Circle 1

“That’s cold, man.”

I love this genre. When I wanted to make movies this was the kind of shit I liked to do. Because the concept overshadows everything else. You can do them on a shoe-string budget. All you need is good writing and good acting. In fact, Circle (2015) is a lot like a play I wrote in college. And High-Rise (2015) reminds me of one of the concepts in my novel. But enough about me. Let’s start the film comparison. (cue the music)

Still no music? We don’t need music.

But we do need this:

SPOILER ALERT!!!!

SPOILER ALERT!!!

spoiler alert (for the wee folk)

spoilers up ahead… I’m serious. (for the people who don’t think I’m serious)

Everything past this point is full of SPOILERS.

For the love of god go watch the movies first before reading this!!!

High-Rise (2015) vs Circle (2015)

A Film Comparison.

1) Casting & Characters

High-Rise (2015): Starring Tom HiddlestonJeremy IronsSienna MillerLuke EvansJames Purefoy & Elisabeth Moss

Circle (2015): Starring Michael Nardelli, Carter Jenkins, Lawrence Kao, Allegra Masters & Julie Benz

Circle Cast

“This is a pretty inefficient way of exterminating the population. I’m just saying.”

Circle (2015) has some well-defined almost stereotypical American characters from all walks of life thrown together in a spaceship. (They’re in a spaceship. I told you I was gonna spoil it) Trying to talk themselves into two more minutes of life.

Elizabeth Moss and Tom Hiddleston from High-Rise

“Fair warning. I’ve lost my mind.” “Me too. Isn’t it liberating?”

High-Rise (2015) has several of my favorite actors playing people who are losing their minds as their mini society begins to breakdown in their state-of-the-art self-contained high-rise apartment building as the infrastructure crumbles..

Winner: High-Rise

Sienna Miller in High-Rise

“Well, If you don’t want a smoke or a drink or want to fuck me then there’s just no pleasing you.”

You can’t beat that British cast in High-Rise (2015). Circle (2015) needed lesser known actors to promote the equanimity of their situation. But what can I say, I just like watching people I loved in other things doing wacky shit. I’m a big fan of Sienna Miller. I think she’s brilliant. And Hiddleston and Moss and Purefoy. Great cast.

 

2) Location & Setting

The High-Rise

“Yes. It is shaped like a penis. Why do you ask?”

It’s right there in both titles. High-Rise (2015) takes place in a high-rise building high above the streets. And Circle (2015) literally takes place in a circle. Just a bunch of people standing in a circle unable to move or they get zapped by the evil unseen aliens.

Circle location unknown

“You guy’s realize this is just Duck Duck Goose with consequences, right.”

High-Rise (2015) is the more interesting location because what floor you live on has so much meaning to the characters until it absolutely doesn’t. However Circle (2015) is the higher concept (if that’s a measurable thing) I mean they’re standing there in the dark for the entire movie. Except for the stupid peak outside at the end. (My play ends with the last guy just walking off… and yes we are talking about me again)

Winner: Circle

Death in Circle

“Guys, take a minute to appreciate how bad-ass this chamber looks. Um… well… two minutes.”

If you want a high concept setting look no further than Circle (2015). You can’t even see the damn walls. It’s crazy man. It’s intense. They’re dropping like flies.

 

3) The Social Message

Circle politics and race

“Wait two minutes. Did someone just research the demographic make-up of the country and match the percentages?” “Yep.”

Circle (2015) tackles ageism then racism and xenophobia then sexism and ends up being a huge slap in the face to our concepts of good versus evil.

High-Rise Upper Class

Marvel’s The Fantastic Four (the later years)

High-Rise (2015) is a straight across the bow shot at class-ism and social standing with an over-powering moral message that tells us in no uncertain terms that if the working classes aren’t respected and stop working then everything collapses and you’ve gotta fight for your right to party.

Winner: Circle

There is so much underneath the concepts of both of these films. And interpretations may vary. I was more connected to the story in Circle (2015) (as an American) and in my opinion the anti-moral of the film seems to say that since everybody is gonna die, fuck the concept of good and evil and, just survive.

Circle 2

“Wait… Is this the Vagina Monologues? I’m in the wrong theater.”

And while you’re at it, fuck your liberal and intellectual ideals. Intellectuals are abortion loving assholes anyway. Which is a screwed up message. But I may have brought a sensitivity to a political agenda into the movie with me. However it seemed pretty blatant where I was sitting. Especially the whole abortion thing.

 

4) What Each Has To Say About Humanity

High-Rise

“I’m on a horse.”

When society breaks down in High-Rise (2015) it’s pretty much every class for themselves. Then every species. And then every man for himself. Chaos.

And when the chips are down in the very American Circle (2015) the entire system breaks into factions based on race or ethnicity or age or politics or ideology. There are factions within factions. It’s deep shit.

Circle No Touching

“Not it!” and just like that we had a winner.

While the men in High-Rise (2016) get extremely violent.

Folks aren’t allowed to touch in Circle (2015). Touching gets you zapped to death.

While the Brits lose all sense of composure like it’s some massive catharsis of anger and pleasure and ego.

The Americans become competitive and believe the last one alive should be the winner… and it definitely should be them… for reasons.

Circle 3

And then he breaks into the gang fight dance from Michael Jackson’s Bad while the rest of the group fall off their platforms laughing… The End. “Your butt is miiiine.”

And also pregnancy doesn’t give you a pass during the apocalypse in either movie.

It’s just a shit show all around in both countries.

Winner: High-Rise

High-Rise Jeremy Irons

“Aren’t you a deliciously good boy. I could eat you up. Yes I could. Yes I could.”

Personally I prefer the fucking and fighting of the Brits to the manipulating and back-stabbing of the Americans. Just my preference. Doesn’t make me anti-American or anything. Except for the part where the Limey bastards eat a dog. I could have done without that part.

 

4) Writing & Directing

High-Rise (StudioCanal)

High-Rise Poster

Directed by Ben Wheatley

Written by Amy Jump  Based on High Rise by J.G. Ballard

High-Rise (2015) gets the immediate edge by being based on a science fiction book by J.G. Ballard written in 1975 and for using 70’s items as if they are state-of-the-art future tech. Just lovely. I love that past as future crap. The building as social experiment. And the world outside as oblivious. I’ve never read the book and many of the themes went over my head but it was a very good movie.

Then there was…

Circle (FilmBuff)

Circle Poster

Written & Directed by Aaron Hann & Mario Miscione

Circle (2015) is clearly some Tea Party propaganda film with a shitty fuck all liberals ending where the one good guy and smart guy turns out to be a coward and baby killer. Thanks FOX News. In the end our liberal villain is standing outside with a bunch of children because most of the other groups let one of the kids live. But not our atheist, liberal scumbag. He kills the child, pregnant woman and fetus. And he’s unfazed.

But for the most part, both of these are good thought-provoking films. Also if you have to give lectures to explain what happened in your film, you did not do your job.

Circle 4

“I know I’m human. But how many of you are that thing I don’t know… John Carpenter’s The Thing… aw c’mon… Rent it. It’s a classic.” “Is it longer than two minutes?” “Oh yeah right.”

Circle (2015) is well-directed and for the most part well-written. With great performances from the entire cast. This is a performance-driven film. The dialogue is fantastic and there is an actual silent clock moving the movie along at lightning speed. Every two minutes someone dies regardless. The trick is that the people in the circle get to decide who it is that dies next. I love the concept. It’s a monumental study in human ego. The ultimate snooze bar. The people do anything and everything for two more minutes of life.

Circle 5

“Hold up everybody. Mel’s gonna tell us how he’s better than all of us. This should be good.”

Personally, I’m out of there as soon as I figure out what’s going on.

“Alright guys. I’m out. Do me a favor. Be good to each other. Don’t let the last thing you do on this earth be screwing somebody over. Remember the last person is not the winner but the loser. They’re the one who chose to kill 49 other people. And they’re the one who has to live in a nightmarish hell-scape with that knowledge.” And as I stepped off my platform I’d leave ’em all with a salute, a smile and comically cartoonish, “See Ya!” in a goofy voice right before I died.

Always leave ’em laughing.

High-Rise Party

“Am I in the wrong era again? Doctor! The TARDIS took us to the wrong year again. Doctor!”

High-Rise (2015) is a big old mess. However, the depths of depravity make it really entertaining. They go from the most British prim and proper stick-up-your bum-ness to THE LUNATICS ARE RUNNING THE ASYLUM, and it is a joy to watch. There is no comedy in Circle (2015). But High-Rise (2015) is funny as fuck. And the cast is phenomenal. I love Sienna Miller and Tom Hiddleston and my girl from Mad Men, Elizabeth Moss (and her English accent), and James Purefoy (the guy from HBO’s Rome). I love this cast.

High-Rise Supermarket

“Oh my. Clean up on aisle: gorgeous.” “They say the supermarket is a great place to find a date. In fact you can find a whole box of them.”

The high-rise building is a microcosm of British society and of the world under capitalism and perceived meritocracy. And once they realize that there are no rules… then there are no rules. It brings to mind the most decadent civilizations in human history right before the fall, the crash or the wrath of god.

Winner: High-Rise

Tom Hiddleston Sunbathing in High-Rise

“Drink it in, ladies… My bookmark is my penis.”

As a movie, I liked High-Rise (2015) way better than Circle (2015). Mostly because there’s a big old abortion-sized hole at the end of Circle (2015) That’s because if you’re including the bloody unborn baby as another person that’s 51 people and if it ends with the mother being last. She would have had to kill her unborn child to survive. Or have the machine kill the mother, the winner would be the unborn kid… oops no. The baby would die too wouldn’t she. Thus making this little ending stunt fundamentally flawed. A fundamental flaw of this magnitude in a film that was otherwise perfect (up to that point) pisses me the fuck off… but also because High-Rise (2015) is just much more fun to watch because again… THE LUNATICS ARE RUNNING THE ASYLUM!!!

 

5) Verdict: Human Beings Suck

High-Rise Endless Party

“Do you know whose house this is? Do you know whose shirt I’m wearing? How about my name. Could you tell me that? No? Do you wanna just have sex again?”

You were expecting something else? It’s the only conclusion you can come to. It’s the only conclusion these movies allow. There are no good guys. In both movies, the best the human race has to offer ends up being part of the problem. There are no Bodhisattva in hell, I suppose, is what they’re trying to say to us.

Circle 6

“Okay let’s do a good show guys. Don’t die on three. One… two… three. DON’T DIE!”

Well personally I think they’re wrong. I’ve never been to hell, (just hell-adjacent) but that’s where you find them. That’s where they’re most needed. So while another jaded creative intellectual tries to tell us that everyone is just as bad as they think they are, I have a message of my own; They’re not as bad as they think and neither are we.

Tom Hiddleston in High-Rise

“We’re all going through this.”

I’m gonna leave you with this simple realization. Every day. Every hour. Every minute. Every second. Someone does something good for someone else without wanting anything in return. For absolutely no reward. It happens so often it’s not even newsworthy. It’s common. But when someone does something evil, we point all our cameras at it. Evil is news. You know why? Because evil is the anomaly. Good is our default position. And we need to realize that… especially when we’re in hell.

“See Ya!”

– Mel

Spared or Spoiled Reviews: The Big Short

The rules are simple. The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.

The Big Short (Paramount Pictures)

The Big Short poster

Directed by Adam McKay

Written by Adam McKay & Charles Randolph  Based on The Big Short by Michael Lewis

Starring Christian BaleSteve CarellRyan Gosling & Brad Pitt

There are no words. There are no words to describe how much I love this movie. I loved everything about it… everything but the plot. However that’s not the movie’s fault. The Big Short is about the housing crisis of 2008. More accurately it’s about the people who saw it coming. But not just saw it coming they bet on it happening and then made millions and billions and billions of billions while millions of people lost their homes and their jobs and their lives and their minds and their money. This is a movie about the real villains. Except with varying degrees of villainy, they are all evil. The Big Short deftly handles the amazing feat of making you root for the end of the world. Making you root for the bubble to burst. Making you root for the villains. We all know it happens. This movie makes you want it to happen. It made me feel sick to my stomach. I fucking love this movie.

Verdict: SPARED

Steve Carrell in The Big Short

“I have a question please. When you say the movie made you sick to your stomach and then you say how much you loved it, do you know how crazy that sounds?”

The Acting

Steve Carrell is astonishing in The Big Short and I had no idea he could act. This is the first movie I have ever seen him in that was good. Christian Bale from Batman Begins is his insanely great self. But he always does great work. And the movie includes beautiful cameos from some of my favorite TV actors like Karen Gillan from Doctor Who and Max Greenfield from New Girl. But each and every one of these people are dirt-bags. They play finance and real estate douches and assholes. All of them. There is this fantastic scene where they’re leaving Las Vegas and they all get into different types of cars. Into different sizes and kinds of transportation and it is amazing. You see the different levels of villainy. And then the celebrities who play themselves like Margot Robbie and Selena Gomez and I’m guessing some other people.

Margot Robbie in The Big Short

“Really? Some other people? There’s just me. I’m in a bubble bath. Margot Robbie in a bubble bath. What else do you need? Now stop all this nonsense and loofah my back. Now please!”

The Directing

Adam McKay’s direction is phenomenal. The Big Short is fantastic. He handles several narrators from several different pods and throws in a paper-thin fourth wall that anyone can break through at any time. And they do. They all do. And it’s wonderful. He allows for far-in-the-weeds economic exposition by having different celebrities in strange situations describe the various banking and mortgage jargon and laws and stuff. And it’s amazing. This is a disaster movie. This is The Day After, Earthquake the movie, The Towering Inferno and it’s funny. Even though it’s not really funny at all. This stuff killed people and ruined lives but here it’s very fucking funny. And as it turns out nobody wants to hear about banking and real estate unless it’s got tits & ass and it’s making them laugh.

Brad Pitt in The Big Short

“Am I laughing? Do I look like I’m laughing? This is serious business. Am I a joke to you? Am I a clown here for your amusement? Ahhhh I’m just kidding. Have a drink.”

The Writing

The Big Short is a great script based on a book by Michael Lewis. I love the metaphors and the language. The characters are bigger than life. And while sure they’re based on real people. These are all real people. But nobody talks that cool. Come on. This is like if Quentin Tarantino wrote about bankers. This is great dialogue. And I learned so much about credit swaps and sub-prime mortgages and CDO’s but that’s real banking. All this shit really happened. But again, and I need to keep saying this, while these guys are making a mint, many more people are losing their shirts… to Short, you see, means to bet on something to lose. To bet on people losing their jobs and their homes. This was the biggest crash since the big crash. There was a lot to lose… and a lot to gain from it.

Christian Bale in The Big Short

“You’re not gonna try to talk banking are you? Because there’s no way this is gonna turn out well. Or politics. Please don’t talk politics. It’s not gonna work without Margot Robbie in a bubble bath.”

The Banking

In my opinion, there is a real devil here. And it’s money. The love of money and the love of making money. They say what we needed back then were better regulations. But more than that, what we needed was better mental health care and screening for bankers and hedge fund managers. We needed to weed out the psychopaths and sociopaths who, no matter what rules we create, would always find a way to game the system for their own advantage. Because when you lack compassion, then the things that others would deem unthinkable become ways to win. Schemes implemented that destroy people’s lives in order to make money are set into motion with a smile. And that’s not going to end people. We’re not going to regulate out the ability for the evil to rob the innocent. You don’t stop wolves with a fence. You stop the wolves by getting a dog. Something to spot those people and prevent them from getting anywhere near that much power. Just like psychopaths shouldn’t be allowed to have guns, they shouldn’t be allowed to have hedge funds and they shouldn’t be allowed to run banks either.

“Wait… you can’t… no… there’s no way you could… that’s not something that… he knows that’s crazy, right? Mel’s blog is so weird today. Wasn’t this a movie review a minute ago?”

The Politics

And we keep electing these same sociopaths to public office. Sociopaths and career politicians. You can say we need to reward honesty, except the truth is subjective. And language is used against us to justify all manner of abhorrent behavior. Remember when the first thing on a politician’s resume was how honest they were. These days we allow people to feign sincerity and promise the world. And again and again they prove themselves unworthy of the office we give them. Because those who are worthy don’t want it. Our nomination process is horrible at all levels. Wanting to be in office should be evidence enough that these people should not be. They can say anything as long as it sounds like something that we want or that we fear. When someone comes along and tells you the brutal truth, not some wish list of what the world would look like in your particular ideological fantasy but the brutal truth about what can be done and what can not be done, then that person, that unpopular truthful person, should be nominated for office. But it seems we’d rather be lied to. And we need to stop rewarding this behavior.

The Big Short movie

“Wasn’t this supposed to be a movie review? Can you tell me what happened to that? Now we’re getting political platitudes from a guy with a blog.” “Um. I hate to tell you this. But that’s what blogs are used for. Like all the time.” “I did not know that.”

The Award Season

The Big Short is an important movie. It is an important lesson in a financial system run amok. But also a lesson in reality. There are laws and rules and regulations but because we have a system that is far and away a monster of our own creation, we have little hope of reining it in. The Big Short is a fun and funny movie about a financial disaster that actually happened and will happen again. But instead of pretending that there will be a way to control this monster. We should all stop feeding it. Divest completely. No matter what your financial planner tells you, he or she is lying or being lied to. No matter what a politician promises you, he or she knows that it’s not possible or they’re too naive to know. But either way, we need to starve the beast before it kills us all.

Christian Bale from The Big Short

“What we need is more artists in office and less bankers and lawyers and rich kids and thieves.”

How do we do that you ask? I don’t know. I’m just a guy with a blog.

The Big Short is one of the best movies of the year. But it’s also an important film that everyone should see. If it wins the Academy Award then maybe more people will.

The Oscar race is heating up this year… at least in my house it is.

– Mel