Review: Captain Fantastic

Captain Fantastic

Captain Fantastic is not a Marvel comic super hero come to life. Not even close. He is a man who raises his six children to be hunters, self sustaining farmers, survivalist, and very well educated philosophers with an emphasis on political science. If that sounds a little weird, it’s because it is. But the weirdness, is in a sort of Utopian, hippie, Grizzly Adams (google it) sort of way. Everything’s just peachy for this cultish little family unit, until they need to go to their mom’s funeral on a mission to give her the type of burial, she, as a buddhist, requested in her will. Naturally, the antecedent of the plot, the Grandfather, wants to have a typical Christian style funeral service, and does not approve of the way his grandchildren are being raised. This is not the only conflict however. The father played convincingly by Viggo Mortenson, has to do some soul searching on whether his decisions throughout, are what was best for the mother, who suffered from mental illness, and if his style of living was best for the children, who are incredibly book smart, but socially awkward. Some of my favorite scenes happen on “Steve” the big converted school bus. It is true, I am biased toward movies that include converted hippie school buses, just can’t help it because I used to own one. It was a red, white and blue 1957 Ford school bus with a porch on the back, converted into a camper by a very talented truck mechanic; and I loved my bus. In this movie the bus (Steve) get’s a lot of screen time, and that is just fine with me. The scenery throughout the movie is very beautiful in it’s own right, but the most beautiful part was not the scenery so much as the scenes of the entire family dancing and singing Guns n’ Roses “Sweet Child of Mine” around the mother’s burning corpse that they rescued from the graveyard, only to flush the ashes down an airport toilet. If this all sounds like some sort of new age weirdness, then you are getting the right idea. The family celebrates Noam Chomsky day, instead of made up fantasy holidays like Christmas. I suppose what you really want to know: Is the damn thing any good? Great question–you get two stars. Let me say this: It won’t appeal to everyone, but I found some of it refreshing and lighthearted. Whatever political points it may, or may not, be trying to make, sort of get lost along the way. One part in particular exemplifies this–when the whole family creates this big ruse to “free the food” from the grocery store. Most people call it–stealing. This scene seems out of place for this man and his families Utopian lifestyle. I can only assume the point was to emphasize that even this great father figure has faults, but I don’t think turning him and his kids into glorified boosters was the best way to express this idea. He spends all sorts of time teaching them how to be self sufficient in the world, but then turns them all into a pack of shoplifters? Just was a little bit off to me. So class, what have we learned so far? That this movie sucks? No, that is incorrect. This movie does not suck. Nor does it come close to sucking. Actually it’s pretty good. Not for everyone. But pretty good. My opinion is biased, because of my affinity towards converted school buses, therefore I may have to recuse myself from the jury pool. There you have it. You are gonna have to check it out for yourself, I have been disqualified as a neutral observer due to preconceived prejudices towards “Steve” and everyone (thing) like him. It happens. Rock on party trolls. I give this movie three out of a possible four, reconstituted road kill entrail burgers. Yum. The Smyth has Spoken.

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The Burning Face of Destiny

The Burning Face of Destiny

We didn’t know each other, Scott and I. We did, on any given day however, find ourselves at the same cafeteria table during lunch in middle school. I sat at the same table every day, but I was really sitting by myself, because I had few friends. I wouldn’t say I was shy by any means, what I was, was awkward. Most of the kids from our small town came from housing developments, where the next house is a stone’s throw from yours and they all look like architectural clones with minor variations. My mother’s house, however, was at the bottom of a hill surrounded by fields on all sides. The next closest house was a ten minute walk. Even when I went up the hill, which I frequently did, the kids were much older than myself. Games like baseball, football and soccer were few and far between. There was however one sport that I really took a liking too. It required no team. Just me and an opponent. Fighting… I loved to fight.
I wasn’t looking for conflict, that day when I turned my spoon into a kitchen utensil catapult and decided to launch the peas across the Timothy Edwards school cafeteria; I was simply looking for adventure. Not attention either, for the idea was to remain anonymous. Unfortunately, in the best laid plans of mice and men, failure lurks over success. So the peas did not fly, did not land amongst the follicles of some random kid, whom I could laugh at as he tried to figure out from whence the lentils came. On the contrary, the peas only made it across the table and landed on the arm of one Scott Cersosimo, who I might add, did not look pleased. I thought to myself… now this could be a problem.
Scott, for his part was already very well known and had several converging reputations. He gave me the look. The look that said, We don’t know each other, and you just violated my personal comfort zone with flying food particles, so now I have no choice but to retaliate. The look that also said, this is not personal, it’s just the way things are. So…you can either accept the punishment…or we can fight. I know it sounds like a lot for one look, but Scott had a very expressive face.
I accepted the punishment for two reasons. The first reason was, that I never wanted to fight unless I was in the right–which I clearly was not–because that was the root of all my strength. The second reason was, we had mutual respect for one another’s ability, so neither one of us wanted to find out what the other one was capable of. Luckily for me, the punishment consisted of him walking casually over to my side of the table, giving me a nice sharp punch right in the ball of my underdeveloped bicep, and calling us even. He even let me choose which side. I could live with that.
If Scott was not the biggest Frank Zappa fan in the western hemisphere, then he had to be running a close second. Nobody could have known more lyrics or owned more of Zappa’s music than Scott; with the only possible exception–being that of the maestro himself. I could not have possibly known this, or all the other facets of his dynamic personality, simply from sharing a table in a crowded lunch room. It would not be until several years later that we would become so close, and I would tell a crowded room in a small church, at his funeral, that it felt like I was losing a brother.
It took over three full years, after his death on his 21st birthday, for me to make some sense out of the frightfully ghastly and horrid vision that appeared to me as I awoke suddenly one evening. I clearly saw a vision of an event that had yet to transpire, an occurrence not yet occurred, a moment in frozen future time. I would spend the next thirty plus years trying to understand how this process of precognition actually works. Eventually, I came to believe the message received is as much about the receiver as the subject. Somewhere between the shadows of human relationship lies a system of communication that runs on emotion and has the ability to transcend time itself.
I was not dreaming; no, clearly wide awake; clearly conscious in every way. The apparition floated, suspended in space, above my head. Terrifying. At first, I was frozen in place, paralyzed with fear. Later I would sit up, on the edge of the bed, hands over my eyes, head shaking, repeating the words “ it’s not there, it’s not there, it’s not there.” Too petrified with fear to even look. When I finally gathered all my courage and took my hands away from my face, then opened my eyes, to my relief the image was gone.
I had seen Scott’s face as he looked at the time. His bodiless head suspended in mid-air. Then right before my eyes his face began to change. His skin began to stretch. Blisters appeared and bubbled. The skin began to crack from underneath, then split. Small fissures broke open across the surface, and as I sat transfixed, grew wider. I watched as the sanguine color between them moved from shades of red, to the purest black. While the crevices grew in size and depth, edges curled, giving his skin the look of old paint peeling off a tired surface. I sat up in my bed completely stunned and mortified. It was as if Scott, whom I barely knew…Zappa…was somehow being roasted from the inside out. Later when we became close, I would tell him about it. I would warn him about driving his car, about the possibility of a fire at the house his mother left him when she too died from Cancer, about something terrible, something I couldn’t wrap my head around, something to do with him…and with fire. But I was guessing. At age twenty-one Scott died of cancer, and as he requested, had his body cremated. Three full years after his funeral I realized the image that appeared to me was of the actual cremation itself.
Let the skeptics be skeptics, but in my world, in my corner of the universe, men sometimes see into the future. I am still searching for answers on the science of it all, but I do have some theories.

Consider this an excerpt from my upcoming second book, Don’t Shoot the Paperboy, which will be entirely dedicated to the subject of psychic ability and my thoughts on the biggest premonition of all time–Revelations. This will be the culmination of thirty years worth of research and experiments, and dedicated to our friend Scott Cersosimo.

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Review: Lights Out

Lights Out

It is really very difficult to not be afraid of mental illness. The mainstream media news is constantly and relentlessly bombarding us with images of mentally ill individuals committing the most heinous atrocities. View the carnage; count the dead. Is this really the new normal? This film also has a dark mental illness theme running through its cinematic veins. Let’s be honest, mental illness is some scary shit. And the action is immediate. Right after the previews, better strap yourself together and hang on to a loved one, the ride gets bumpy…and fast too. The monster, or the source of all the scariness in this movie, comes from this girl/demon entity type thing, who looks a little like Babadooks first cousin. She clings on to the mentally ill mother, and uses her mind as a portal to terrorize the others. This friend, named Diana, can only materialize in the darkness, and has a nasty knack for knocking out any light sources. The two met while the mom was locked away in a mental hospital. Talk about the friend you can’t seem to shake…this one actually comes back from the grave to hang out with you. That’s how we know it’s not based on a true story…friends are never that loyal in real life.
I thought all the acting was decent. The girl who is the main character is “do-able”, yeah, and her acting isn’t bad either, but it was that wholesome Lindsey Vonn look that makes her so captivating at times. The girls boyfriend (whatever his name is) does a convincing job until the end, when he reaches the apex of his acting ability, and runs away like a little girl, while his girlfriend and her younger brother are still trapped in the mother’s basement with the demon friend monster trying to hurt them. There is always something extra frightening about old broken dolls and mannequins, this movie uses them sparingly, yet convincingly, as a set up for another “jump right out of your seat gag” in the cellar. Overall, this is pretty well made for this genre. These type of movies usually come with poorly timed comedy and really dumb punch lines–this one does neither. I can’t think of too many things I didn’t like in this movie, that doesn’t mean it was all great though, it just means nothing stands out as so annoying it has to be put into words. The younger brothers acting, I thought, could have been better, or should I say contributed more to the element of fear. His fear is our fear when it comes down to it. He wasn’t horrible, but he could have made us feel more uneasy if his fear felt more palpable. You won’t be soiling yourself over this one folks, maybe a few jump-out-of-your-seat gags, but you can safely leave the depends at home (depending, I guess). This movie is a fun ride though. It knows what it is, and doesn’t turn into a bad comedy, or an epic adventure, just fits neatly into that genre of movies made to entertain, by simply freaking you right the frick out. And if I dare say…does it quite well. Ba-ba-dooook! Sorry…not sure what came over me just then…Ba-ba-doook! Oh shit…..where’s my meds… This movie gets a few of these, and a couple of those. The Smyth has Spoken….

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Review: Star Trek Beyond

Star Trek Beyond

It is my view that noone should ever be writing a review on any Star Trek movies unless they have let people know where they stand on the entire series. If you hate the series, for instance, than we can surmise your view of this movie will not be all that positive, or, if on the other hand you are a die hard Trekkie (you know who you are) than you will certainly be sharing the opposite opinion.
I fall somewhere in between. I used to love the series as a kid, and still have a positive opinion of the original Gene Roddenberry classic. I also enjoyed the other movies, for the most part, the only thing that didn’t thrill me is when they tried to expand the series into something new. That, to me, was just like when Coke tried to change the recipe after so many years. Ain’t broke–don’t be a dumb ass–and leave the damn thing alone. The first series worked for me because it was intelligent science fiction. Actually eerily prophetic in it’s genius. But we aren’t here to talk about the old series…now are we class (all together…nooooo), of course not. We are here to talk about the new movie that just came out in theaters this week. Oh…I’m sorry…nobody told you…yeah, well see there’s this movie…yeah, it’s called Star Trek…fuck it, beam me up Scotty-bag…no intelligent life.
Seriously though, this is a good movie, by most standards, it’s a great movie by Trekkie standards, and it’s quality science fiction, by any standard. The humor is used sparingly and very appropriately. That is to say, not so much as comic relief to break the tension, but more like just characters saying some seriously funny shit, simply in the course of normal space exploration. And those aliens. I don’t know about you, but I always enjoy a good weird alien scene, with all sorts of strange characters participating in bizarre alien activities. Love that shit. This is Star Trek, so you best believe the special effects are extraordinary, especially when you plop on a pair of those, super stylish, sexy, 3D sunglasses, that make you look ten pounds lighter. Actually it might take more than cheap sunglasses to pull off that science fiction–like maybe stuffing less popcorn in your gummy hole–which also might help reduce the cling-ons around Uranus–hopefully preventing a full scale leggings alert. Red alert! We are under attack! The leggings… OMG, their transparent!…phasers on stun. Everybody take a chill, we are not being invaded…digression is my super power. One more note, the alien chick in the commercials, yeah..she’s kind of hot, in a sexy, alien, striped face ninja, kind of way. I can actually rate this movie using stars..3.5 out of a potential 4–works for me. It’s worth seeing if you are already a fan, or, if you just like science fiction movies, or, if you want to keep the kids busy while you go about accomplishing whatever it was you needed to accomplish without them around. I care not to speculate further on what that might be. Either way, enjoy it. Thanks for reading the loop-hole. The Smyth has Spoken.

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Review: The Infiltrator

Infiltrator

This is a movie about a snitch. And who better than to play a snitch on the big screen, than Bryan Cranston, the famous teacher turned meth dealer of “Breaking Bad.”By now just about everybody on the planet knows Bryan Cranston is an amazingly talented actor, this is not news. His character is an undercover agent working on one of the biggest drug cases in history, and he does a more than convincing job. His real wife (in the movie) and his bogus undercover wife, both compliment his brilliance by pulling off terrific performances of their own. As part of the plot, this movie seeks to explore all the relationship issues that come with undercover work, from the agent’s own life, to the life of some of the people eventually betrayed by the sting operation. There is some fairly graphic violence, but it is used sparingly and only to show how dangerous and risky this type of work can be. The movie is based on a true story…how much artistic liberty is taken by the producers, is anybodies guess. Overall, it’s a decent flick, definitely not over the top, and has a strong story to tell. Using Bryan Cranston to tell it, just makes it that much better. It does include it’s own fair share of stripper scenes, but unfortunately for me, not a lot of straight hooter shots (oh well, can’t have everything now can we). The story moves along at a smooth pace, not too fast, not too slow, it doesn’t have some of the big suspenseful scenes of say a Scarface, but still has it’s own version of dramatic effect. Being what amounts to: the world’s best snitch–cannot be easy, nor do they present it as such. A few parts (blow job scene) might actually be considered funny, but only in a very graphic and very tense sort of way. It is rated “R” after all, so “Lucy” you might have some “splainin” to do if your kids thought they were going to see “Secret Lives of Pets” and ended up watching some sleazy drug lord dude, getting his ham smoked by a pole dancing skeezer, right before their virgin pre-pubescent eyes. Ouch. No offense to pole dancers or drug lords, I’m sure, in real life, they are very nice people. Yes, this movie is consistent with all the other drug lord/ informer type flicks, and yes, maybe it doesn’t have much more to offer than the rest of them, but it does have one thing that the others don’t, that being one very talented Bryan Cranston which turns a somewhat ordinary cartel story into something mesmerizing and truly compelling.
It get’s three out of potential four Ki’s of some really outstanding Columbian powder. Good shit man. The Smyth has Spoken.

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Ghost Busters Reboot–Review

Ghost Busters Reboot:

Following in the spirit of it’s predecessors, this modern entity has shown itself to be hauntingly familiar in story, however, it is not re-born, but seemingly un-dead, as the third edition of the series. Even with the transparency of an already played out plot, the comedy portion of this apparition deserves another look. Don’t be afraid to scare up a few frightened dollars, this is a movie the whole family can enjoy. Since I am fast running out of ghostly (or ghastly) puns, let me just say, what makes the movie worth seeing is the comedy element. It is pretty darn funny, not roll over in your grave funny (couldn’t resist) but funny enough that you can actually hear people around you laughing, unless most of those people are really just choking on popcorn spiked with botulism, and instead of calling 911, you just sit there cracking up. In today’s world…it could happen, but at least you will be in air conditioning so all those popcorn bloated corpses won’t start to stink until way past the time the movie ends. None of the actors are deserving of awards, unless you count the ghost, because in the grand spectrum of specters, they were pretty bad ass. If you are in search of a flick that is profound, or makes a powerful statement, then better off to skip this one, it is about as deep as a body dump in the frozen tundra. Comparisons to the past editions are pointless, so save those for the review in the back “Star” or some other Hollywood gossip rag. Most of you know what to expect from this movie, a bunch of ghost being neutralized by four ladies who try their best to make you laugh while saving the city from the mad scientist and his crazy paranormal producing machine. If that seems like it’s worth your time, then you just hit the jackpot, if not, then maybe you can dig something else up. There really isn’t much else to say about this particular film, you know what it is, you know what it’s about, and you know who’s in it, anything else would just be robbing an old grave. See it if you want to; it’s your money you urned it. I give it 2.4 out of 5 potential disgruntled spirit entities, let’s hope you don’t feel like one after you see it. The Smyth has Spoken.

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Review: The Secret Lives of Pets

The Secret Lives of Pets

Let me let you in on the secret part of the “Secret Lives of Pets” the secret is it’s really not that funny. Sometimes I could say “it’s just me” while other people around me are cracking up, and I’m sitting there thinking how totally asinine the scene is. This is not one of those cases. Based on the amount of laughter I heard around me, and the comments of the two individuals who accompanied me to this debacle, I would say “it is not just me.” The secret life of a disappointment might be a better title. Sure anyone who has pets knows they do lots of funny stuff. Just look at the view count for cat, dog, and other animal videos, and you can see how popular the subject matter is. The problem is this: those are all short clips, nothing longer than a few minutes. When I first saw the trailer, I thought to myself– “hey self, that looks really cute and funny, but how do you make it into an hour and a half movie?” The answer is–you don’t, because it won’t work. The little scenes of creatures taking on human qualities really are entertaining, if they stay as little scenes. It’s when they try to morph into a complete film that they fail. Don’t get me wrong here, the kids will probably still love it. Maybe it’s me who screwed up thinking this was an adult movie and a kids movie, or, maybe I’m a cynical old bastard who doesn’t find humor in shit that is essentially cartoon slapstick, or, maybe I’m right and if you have seen the trailer then you have seen the best part, and don’t need to spend your hard earned greenbacks. I’m betting on option three.
One redeeming factor was the voices. The cast behind the characters did a convincing job of bringing these animals to life with voices that you find yourself trying to put to faces of actual people. Most of my guesses were wrong. I thought the big brown dog was Seth Rogen…not even close. Great for the kids, not so great for adults…the BFG was much better, and “The Purge” was actually funnier. This is the wisdom of the Smyth.

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Review : The Purge–Election Day

The Purge: Election Day

The purge election day comes with a little surprise. The surprise is–it isn’t terrible. What might appear to be another slasher flick on the surface actually cuts a little deeper on the big screen. It has real plot, character development, decent acting, and relationship building, not just bloody scenes of gore and dismemberment. So how about a little depth with your killing? I say why not. When I say depth I don’t mean profound and compelling, and when I say killing, I mean good old fashioned macabre homicide performed on a national scale. Sure, some freaky looking characters will jump out at you when your not expecting it, sure some of the bad guys will be good, and some of the good guys will turn out bad, sure there will be hero’s and villains, but what you don’t expect is the humor. The humor is done in such a way that it really works. The trick is in the mockery of itself, as if Purge day was a real event, and the killing was an accepted solution to poverty. Even the politics are not designed to be serious and thought provoking, but ridiculous and satirical, that’s why it works. If there is one thing that really bugs me, it’s the idea that every movie, and every sitcom, has to have some form of built in political correctness so no one feels left out. I don’t need a television show or a movie to explain to me what is or isn’t considered normal. What is not funny about the movie is it’s take on human nature. If you think it is so ridiculous that the leaders of a country would allow and encourage such blatant brutality against it’s citizens, you needn’t go back to far in the history books to find situations comparable. The idea that laws are made to protect those in power is not a new one either. None of these themes take anything away from the fun of this flick, which might be akin to taking some really bad acid and having a scary ass trip right in the the middle of Mardi-Gras. Maybe it’s your civic duty to see this film, after all the leaders of this have a long history of being purgers, oh…I’m sorry…our leaders don’t purge…they commit perjury…my bad. I bet we all know a few people we wouldn’t mind seeing out alone on purge night…Dick Cheney is that you…all by yourself…on purge night…? The Smyth has Spoken.

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Review: The Free State of Jones

The Free State of Jones

A movie with a message, a story, and a history lesson all wrapped together. The message is woven into the story in such a way, as not to detract from epic saga, but too add to the plots credibility. By showing us the cold cruelty of war, the desperation and depravity of slavery, and the corruption of governments, we have actually been handed a mirror in which to view the human condition: a mirror may distort sometimes, but it mostly shows the truth. The story, although based on true events, does also have it’s share of tactfully interjected artistic liberties built in…and thank goodness. At two and a half hours in length, history can get boring for a lot of people, not in this one, not for me. I found the pace of the story moved along fairly well, well enough to keep me awake, and that says a whole lot. Other critics have pointed out the preachy nature of Matthew Mcconaughey’s character, but I did not find him overbearing or inappropriately sanctimonious; his sermons had purpose and were generally prudent and poignant under the circumstances. The scenery and period re-enactment were carefully choreographed with precision and detail. All the actors carried their roles convincingly, none stood out as a hack job. Overall, although this picture may not appeal to everyone, it is in my view, a decent well put together film, with good acting, a respectable story, convincingly told from the late 1800’s to the 1950’s where a young man is arrested for being one eighth black and marrying a white woman, which if it didn’t happen in the real world, it certainly could have. Once again…not for everyone…but pretty darn good, and for those who just love history…it’s a home run. I give it three out of four…of something…not sure what might be appropriate…but if there was four of them total, than this film is deserving of three out of the four, of the things previously mentioned herein. Now that I have made this review sound like a binding arbitration agreement clause, perhaps It’s time to move on…

The Smyth has spoken…

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Review: The Legend of Tarzan

Tarzan

The title of this movie should be Tarzan Recycled. It really is just a new spin on an already worn out story line. I must admit…I had hopes, hopes it would be a newer, more refreshed, version of the legendary jungle man, hopes it would have a more intriguing backstory, hopes it wouldn’t be boring. Well…what can I say except, if I never actually saw the movie, at least I would still have the hopes. Anyway, the movie was okay, and I mean just okay, not the movie you tell your friends to see (unless you don’t really like them) not the movie you call your mama about (unless you don’t like her either) not the movie you rave about around the proverbial office water cooler, which is most likely an office coffee pot because everyone is suffering from not enough sleep syndrome, but still you get the idea. It didn’t do the old loin cloth covered bastard child of big hairy primates, one iota of justice, not one single iota. Do have any idea how small an iota is? It can’t be any smaller than the imagination of the loser who regurgitated a legendary hero and turned him into a pompous tea toddling British aristocrat. Bad idea. Nobody wants to see a civilized Tarzan…I mean what is the point? Maybe they were trying to borrow from superman and Clark Kent? Still a bad idea. This movie starts off slow, and about the same time it starts moving forward, you start hoping it will end. The one redeeming factor was the animal scenes. Modern technology has made it so animals can be made to do just about anything, and it will be convincing enough, that it is actually better than anything real animals can do even with the best of trainers. Props to the lions and tigers and bears…and big scary gorillas, they were cool. Everybody else was lame as shit. This is definitely the worst part (that I know of ) Samuel L. Jackson ever decided to play, his acting is always decent, it’s just the character he played was damn near useless, and his purpose was questionable. I don’t know…with a basic story line as ubiquitous as Tarzan, maybe it’s hard to find ways to put new twist on the old tale…then again…maybe it’s not…maybe…somebody somewhere, with a nice fat budget to make what could be an awesome newer version of the old legend…should…without too much unrealistic expectations…should be able to find a screenplay worthy of the masterful original legend that Tarzan was, because this one really wasn’t. So save yourself the twenty bucks and all the extra junk food calories, and if your really bored, or just want to see the buff ass body of Alexander Skarsgard then rent it at home, because, even though it wasn’t all terrible, it wasn’t deserving of the big screen.

The Smyth has Spoken.

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