The first time I set foot in Mexico I hated it. The humid air instantly left you covered in a slimy sheen that made you feel like a bukkake burrito plus there were Mexicans everywhere. And everywhere looked dirty, I assumed, because all that air and all those Mexicans were touching every goddamn thing. Then, somewhere between the first few hours spent at a local comic convention and a few short moments swimming in a sacred cenote, my eyes were opened. I had an el-piphany right there somewhere in the jungles of the Yucatan peninsula. I knew most Hispanic stereotypes were correct because I grew up in Florida and had been to Wal-Mart. I’d been to Miami, and Kissimmee, and Disney. I saw the uneducated, entitled and ill-mannered. In the comforting arms of my now adopted Mexican Motherland I discovered wisdom, hard work and kindness.
I died there in Cancun and rose again.
A vast, vibrant world lay before me, full of color, bathed in sound, rich in old traditions with eyes looking always for new ones. Everywhere I went, from the teeming tourist districts to forgotten hovels behind roadside tchotchke stands, whether one was obscenely rich or desperately poor, few were without smiles. Despite terrible violence and depressed economies, Life smiles down on Mexico in a uniquely heartwarming way.
I could not help but smile back.
And when you see The Book of Life I’m going to bet you’ll smile too. You’ll also cry unless you’re some kind of monster that can’t cry. It’s a simple tale and not as polished as some children’s movies but “simple”, by definition, doesn’t need polish. Plus it looks like this:
It’s hard to worry about any rough edges when your eyeballs are having an orgy. To summarize with as much class as possible: this movie will fuck your eyes with color. Colors you’ve never seen before will fuck you and you will like it and welcome whatever fucking is to come from these new colors or any old fucking favorites like “Burnt Orange” or “Forest Goddamn Green”. Both actual Crayola choices by the way though one was slightly embellished.
Every last surface in The Book of Life is embellished, dripping with more crap than an Ebola victim. And I’m talking the bad kind of Ebola. More time went into crafting our hero’s jacket than George Lucas ever spent squirting out prequel screenplays. The mustaches alone in this movie are more fleshed out than Jar Jar Binks but even with the superabundance of saturated sights I never felt smothered by what I was seeing. It felt natural when it could have easily become pretentious. The producers turned matter-of-fact into magical with either the reckless abandon of a child who is wise beyond his years or a well traveled adult who never let go of ten years old. Here’s a tree:
Here’s a tree from The Book of Life!
A fucking awesome door.
Ron Perlman (is amazing):
I said Ron Perlman is amazing!
Who am I kidding? I sat next to the guy for a few minutes once and Ron Perlman is no less than fifteen bad-asses larger than life at any given moment, but you get my point.
If I had to say anything negative about this movie it’s that the dialogue can wax kiddie cliché at times. I mean rudimentary and expected, underdeveloped even, and not juvenile. Juvenile is great. Angie and I were LOLing two minutes in at poop jokes getting weird looks from four year olds nearby. Juvenile is great, however, writing that is here and there average at best is noticeable when the rest of a film absolutely shines. Yet even with those few shortcomings it manages to get its message across beautifully and without beating you over the head with a vagina shaped club like Frozen. Men, women, demigods, ghosts, a couple bulls and one fine pig are all on equal footing here. All are challenged and all are to be celebrated as they struggle and succeed to write their own pages full of adventures.
5 rounds, proud and prismatic, in the cylinder this week for The Book of Life. It might not be as finely crafted as some but it’s as magnificent as any you’ll ever behold. Not just for its looks but for its soul as well. Just like old Mexico, she’s pretty on the outside but look deeper and you’ll realize just how gorgeous she truly is. So no matter where you travel or what you watch amigos, open those eyes and see a fair piece.
Open your heart, and see it all.
Ravenous is a bold and flavorful movie that tackles questions of duty, morality and cannibalism sending them all sliding down a blood-slippery slope into one fine stew of a film. Released in 1999, you likely lost this tasty treat somewhere between The Matrix and Fight Club. If you did manage to see a quirky or obscure movie that year, Office Space or Boondock Saints were the usual suspects. There was just no love to be found for this week’s little back-bacon biting bastard and it left theaters about the same day it premiered recouping less than twenty percent of its twelve million dollar budget. I remember watching Ravenous for the first time years ago with an old friend of mine but as to where or how we came across it I have nary a clue. It was probably in the electronics section of Wal-Mart hiding in a $2 bin inside of a $5 bin both of which were actually out back inside of a dumpster. Imagine my surprise then when it showed up on Netflix! Granted, there is some supremely stupid shite on Netflix and with Ravenous‘ track record they no doubt picked this title up for nothing, but I’m here to tell you it’s not any sort of shite and much, much better than nothing. In fact it’s quite something, a savory and unexpected something. Humor filled and horrible it’s dripping with delicious performances from a talented and diverse cast. Let’s meet them! And then eat some of them!
Ravenous is a fairly straightforward “let’s isolate ourselves in the woods so a Wendigo can eat us” kind of story. You’ve seen this all before but what sets it apart from the pack is that you’ve never seen anything like it. A troubled production couldn’t stop the actors involved from kicking ass and eating it too. Along with most of the other parts. All your favorites are here like “guy who is fatherly and past his prime” guy:
Damn. Ferris took one day off, poor Rooney’s metabolism took all the rest. He’s competent even if corpulent, yet reduced to little more than an aide-de-camp. At least there’s one guy on site ready to “bring it” should the need arise. He’s “extremely gung-ho soldier” guy:
Hard as nails, and with one of the greatest character intros of all time, he ranks real high on the “how fuckin’ cool is this guy” list. The other end of the spectrum features “total bum-fuck soldier” guy:
Geez, a guy who’s seen too much shit, one who’s ready to kick some shit, and one goofy shit full of chicken shit…who the hell’s running this place? That would be “guy in charge of lonely outpost who looks drunk and probably is” guy:
Followed by “guy who looks like an Indian and probably is” guy:
Plus a “David Arquette-ish guy”, played by David Arquette:
Now, let’s not forget our leads. Fending off flesh eating freaks of nature is going to take a protagonist or two. If you’re in need of heroes lad, look no further than Guy Pearce and Robert Carlyle. Because looking further won’t help. You’re in the middle of nowhere and this is all you got. A cowardly, almost deserter of the Mexican-American War and a frail, almost victim of a prior cannibal attack, respectively.
Pearce spends the film cooking in the slow-burn degradation of his soul. His decisions and inactions haunt him. His eyes say “I just watched Old Yeller, Charlotte’s Web and the first ten minutes of Up all in a row.” His mouth says practically nothing. He sloughs along getting covered in mud and filth to ensure that his outsides match up to what lies within. Carlyle conversely seems to thrive more with each passing day. Surrounded by his saviors, he’s been given a new lease on life after escaping a madman to wander aimlessly through the wilderness with neither food nor hope. He stumbles into Fort Spencer a nearly dead man but within its walls finds a new vigor, one that becomes the target of Pearce’s suspicions and jealousy. One man fallen from grace, another risen from the grave.
With a new purpose in his heart Carlyle inspires the forgotten garrison to head out into the High Sierras on a rescue mission with the belief that a few more of his original travelling companions might still be alive and in need of assistance, gripped as they must be in the clutches of a maniac. Beliefs though are meant to be shattered at times, nibbled upon in others. A few twists and turns later finds the Wendigo fully revealed and with him all the smashing, gashing and gnashing you’d expect. See!
Oh mmBllaAAArrggGGGHHaaawffuuuooaawwwGAAwwwwdNO! Wait, that’s just a steak from earlier in the movie. I get it, and if you watch, you will too. Ravenous is darkly comedic. If you’re expecting to expel more vomit than laughter you’ll be pleasantly surprised. It is gross. Disturbing, upsetting gross. But it’s over the top ridiculous and hilarious gross too. Like an 1800s America version of American Psycho we can tell the director is winking at us even with that blood on her lips the whole time. The humor makes Ravenous not just watchable but unexpectedly enjoyable.
As humans we laugh in the face of danger because we’re unafraid holding hands with scared shitless. The cannibalism in this film can act as a metaphor for whatever lengths you might see yourself going in order to achieve whatever goals you’ve set in life. The brutality here reminds us we can all become monsters. The levity, that we should avoid taking others and ourselves too seriously. Satirizing anyone you’ve ever known who’s gone a little loopy and pushed a bit too far, you realize also that perhaps you haven’t pushed far enough at some points in your own life. Everybody wants something but so few are really willing to do what it takes to have it. Unless you’re a Uruguayan soccer player, cannibalism should be avoided. But chances are there’s something else out there, in Life, that you won’t take a bite from, not because it’s right or wrong but because you’re scared.
One of the hardest things in the world to choke down is failure. But swallow it, then go goddamn succeed.
4 rounds in the colander, uh, cylinder, for Ravenous. It’s a high adventure whodunit and a fabulous frontier what-the-fuck all tucked inside the beastly burrito that is human nature at its most aggressive. Dirty and charming. It’ll leave an odd coppery taste in your mouth before leaving any warm fuzzies in your heart, but, it’s miles beyond your standard “slasher” flick. Given the budget and difficulties the production encountered it’s an enormously well done film. Well done indeed despite the fact the subject matter is so rare and bloody. Witty dialogue, desolately beautiful scenery, one tremendous soundtrack, a mesmerizingly unforgettable antagonist and the best knock-down-drag-out between two ragged bastards I’ve seen since They Live, this crock pot of crazy makes for one appetizing evening amigo.
No matter your palate.
The Outlaw Josey Wales is a fantastic film. It’s sweeping, humorous and meaningfully heavy. It’s every reason movies exist. A challenging pleasure every time I watch though it’s not my favorite Western, not in my top 5 and maybe not my top 10. It’s not even my favorite Clint Eastwood offering in the genre. Yet, it’s one of the dearest films I will ever know for a few reasons. For starters it’s a revenge flick. Josey Wales was a farmer and family man whose farm and family became collateral damage during the twilight of Lincoln’s War. Hard to stay at home content with wife and child when your wife gets raped and your child burned alive in the name of keeping the Union together. Sounds despicable but William Tecumseh Sherman has a tank named after him for reveling in such degradation. Long before mechanized infantry however, men took their misery and the soothing thereof literally into their own hands. Covering the flesh of their fingers and the depths of their souls with the blood of those that done them wrong. Josey joins a Southern militia but once they’re double crossed it’s just him against the world. Him and all his guns that is.
Clint’s compliment in this movie would make The Punisher jealous. He’s got big guns and small guns and every other goddamn gun. He even gets to use a Gatling and a Sharps. The Sharps he uses twice. Once, to send some varmints on his tail for a little boat ride with a shot of several yards as the original designer surely intended and then later on with an up close “fuck your mom in the ass” kind of shot. It’s called that because the dude Clint pops from 10 feet away, with a sniper rifle shot from the hip, gets fucked so hard even his momma knows it! Knows it in her ass! Such is the might of retribution in the hands of Josey Wales. Besides burning black powder, another thing Josey is great at is opening doors. This door:
All doors dude! It would almost be comical, the way thresholds bend over and grab their ankles for him, if it wasn’t so badass. Long before the first supermarket, Josey Wales seemingly invented automatic doors. It’s as if his manliness produces an unseen shockwave that clears the way for him and announces, it case you hadn’t been listening, that everything’s about to change for the Josey. That is, if’n you ain’t with the Josey, you’re against him. And if you’re against him, that taste in your mouth is your own balls because Josey just strangled you to death with your scrotum. Terms like “brutal” and “unflinching” come to mind along with sentences like “I want to be him when I grow up” and “that’s not weird that I’ve been hard since the opening credits is it?”
No, no it’s not.
The Outlaw Josey Wales moves you to reach deeper than the red hot hate burning in both your heart our hero’s. Revenge can’t be avoided at times, but neither should redemption be. My hands have held both “fuck you” and forgiveness so I can relate. Life is balance and this movie balances grief with guffaws better than most any I’ve seen. You begin with this:
But before long you somehow or another end up here:
Much of that is owed to Clint’s directing. High Plains Drifter predates Josey Wales by three years and is the finest of fucking films but as much as I adore the former I must acknowledge that Clint had masterfully come in to his own with the latter. Wales is both epic and intimate as it looks across deserts or into one man’s sadly scarred heart.
Another reason this film must be considered damn near perfect is due to the ever growing ensemble that surrounds Josey. An Indian, an old lady homesteader and her daughter, a few inhabitants of a forlorn almost ghost town and one dog. He treats them all with aggravated acceptance. They treat him to reminders that once he gets even he can get on with living again and maybe even happily at that. Chief among these folks is Chief Dan George.
He plays Lone Watie, a once proud Native who finds in the strength of an angry stranger a reason to be proud once more. Much of his performance will make you laugh, some of it will make you think and one reminiscence in particular will bring quiet tears to your eyes. All of Josey’s supporting cast have an immeasurable impact on the feeling of this film. This gut-wrenched gunslinger ultimately faces his destiny by himself but that doesn’t mean he’s alone. Good thing when it’s four on one.
Well four on two, as Lone Watie rips through one of these dudes easier than alcohol and baccarat have through his descendants but I digress. Look at these blue bellied bitches! They’re all like “you’ll see, once we go and win this here ‘Civil War’ our country won’t never again be at odds over state’s rights, civil liberties or the fact that Honest Abe wants to send every black person (look it up kids!) back to Africa!” Well the three on the left are thinking that. The guy on the right is wondering if he’s Jason Stackhouse. No matter anyway, I mean I’m not ruining anything when I allude to the obvious fact that Josey will not be hindered in any way from seeing retribution paid in full by one Captain “Redlegs” Terrill.
What a bastard. He doesn’t get much screen-time and when he does says little, so he’s sort of a “Bruce the shark” kind of bad guy. He gave Josey that tear down his face and gave the order to burn his life to the ground. He’s rarely there but damn near omnipresent, sweating vinegar like the personified douche bag he so is. He’s the purpose of all Josey’s pain and the reason this movie even moves forward. But in this film as in life, curb stomping your enemies, as gloriously comforting and goddamn necessary every now and then as it is, cannot be the final measure of any man.
Hear me amigos, loud and true, that there are those in this world today I’d not extend a helping hand toward were their deviant lives hanging off a fucking cliff. I am brutal and I am base. But I am the converse as well. Just this week I reached out to an old friend turned villain for going on half a decade now. We spoke candidly and found peace. In humility, with apologies, both sides found new life in the friendship. I am not beyond a curbstomp, but I’m not adverse to a warm embrace either. The Outlaw Josey Wales has one of the best parlays ever to be put to film, one that perfectly illustrates my point.
He shares a few words with Ten Bears. More importantly he shares his heart. Never have I seen a man so fatigued and still so fierce. Honest about the outcome, Josey carries a confidence into the conversation his exhaustion might otherwise betray. If for no other reason watch the movie for this scene and know that as ready as fists are to take up arms in the pursuit of death they are just as ready to take your hand in the pursuit of life.
Fantastic fuckin’ film.
All the anger and all the absolution, all of it, leads to 6 of my best rounds ever in the cylinder for The Outlaw Josey Wales. But this one gets a few more too. 21 in fact, all for an old Navy submariner I knew. You see, in the back of a Perkins’ parking lot my new father in law Nick, minted only 48 hours prior, took me quietly aside and with watery eyes he looked at his daughter, then to me with hopeful ones. He said four of the most important words I will ever hear:
“Take care of her.”
Took a moment to say, it’ll take a lifetime of moments to honor. I married Angie after knowing her for under six months and that was after dumping my girlfriend/fiancee of seven years. I was better at being risky than responsible. Now years later, Nick has passed and the upstairs drain is probably clogged, our only car (a fabulous Honda Element) is about to turn over 300,000 miles and our plans of moving out to Arizona are bolstered by little more than wings and prayers.
But that might be all we need.
There’s a line as Josey come across an old woman at a critical junction in his journey and she greets him with “so, you’ll be the Josey Wales!” It was Nick’s favorite line from one of Nick’s favorite movies. It’s as much a question as it is the answer and deeper than you’d might’n suspect. It’s a commission too. Josey had and lost then had again. All the while jumping headlong and headstrong into just about every circumstance that came his way. He was skilled no doubt, but lucky too and more than anything, determined. “Determined”. That word’ll kick you in the balls as soon as pick you up off the floor. It harrowed and humbled me to think that a man I’d just met would entrust the most precious thing in his life to my untested hands. Thirteen years later I turned 40 and keep getting older every day with no marketable skills to speak of at my disposal. Hell I tried to write this review going on a week before I deleted it all and started fresh tonight. I got trouble eeking out a few thousand words what the fuck am I doing reaching for the stars?
I’ll tell you amigo.
And I will get there.
For myself and best of all, for her. For my wife. For my Angie. Josey Wales ran into a lot of shit, a lot of the times woefully unprepared, but always managed to give more than he got. And that’s what I’m willing to do across the board and in so many ways. Ready or not, Angie and I build a wonderful life together every single day. I can hear Nick even now saying the last thing he ever said to me as he lay dying in a cold hospital bed. He looked over to me at the end of his cognizance and so close to the end of his life. He looked at me, smiled, and said ”you’ll be the Josey Wales!”
Yeah Pop, I reckon so.
Honest words exchanged
Peace coming to years of strife
You know what pisses me off sometimes? Me. I piss myself off because, even after living forty years I will still get my panties in a twist if goings-on don’t go down almost exactly as I’d expected. My wife wears a different pair of heels than I was expecting? Tension! My horse doesn’t head in just the right direction? Annoyance! Some rando exits an elevator in a terribly inefficient manner totally unlike how I, with my infinite elevator exiting experience, would have egressed? Death upon him and his for seven upon seven generations and may his greatest of great grandchildren still feel a cold shudder down their back forevermore whenever they’re asked “what floor please?”
Now, I am improving. I don’t freak out nearly as much anymore and when I do it’s not quite as paralyzing. I’ve learned from past mistakes and accept that new ones are always on the way. I’ve also learned that great and wonderful moments happen when perfect plans go awry.
I’ve never expected the best times of my life. They happen, and if you’re too dumb, too angry or too scared, you’ll miss ‘em. Two Mules For Sister Sara is a wonderful illustration of this truth.
Clint Eastwood once again plays a bristly badass with little to his name save for a pistol, a horse and an unerring commitment to look out for himself. Seeing Clint portray precisely the same dude in all his best movies you might think it’s repetitive, but you have to ask yourself ”who gives a fuck what I think” and remember that the answer is “no one!” Clint is perfectly typecast for a reason. If you have any doubts, sit through The Beguiled. By the end of that one you’ll be crying out to heaven for mercy. Good thing Shirley MacLaine is a nun.
She’s the titular Sara. I would normally make a ”tit” joke here. But she’s a bride of Christ and it’s probably bad luck to talk about Jesus’ wife’s tits. While I may be relatively refined, the men man-handling our sweet sister at the start of the film are anything but and for that crassness earn some lead up their ass-ness. Thus begins the improbable partnership between a hellraiser and a holy woman. Both are embroiled with the Juaristas in a fight to ferret out the French incursion into Mexico but have differing reason for doing so. Sara works for God, her new escort Hogan, only gold. Despite the obvious disconnect, this sacred and profane odd couple manage to work together to avoid a military detachment, escape hostile Indians and even give a French supply train a blowjob it will never forget.
Bet you thought I was going for another cheap sex joke at the sister’s expense but no, I’m better than that. I’d never allude to the fact that since nuns spend so much time on their knees with their hands clasped and eyes closed that goddamn my balls love me some nuns! Whew, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system (and into some nun’s hypothetical mouth) we can proceed. Don’t think me a scoundrel either, although Sara is first and foremost one of the Lord’s faithful servants, she still manages to tease her traveling companion along the way.
One minute she’s rebuffing poor Hogan’s advances, the next she’s all “wanna see me hold the snake?” Come to think of it, maybe there’s more to this Sister Sara than meets the eye. That’s on top of everything else meeting your eyes. Two Mules For Sister Sara was beautifully shot in beautiful Mexico. It’s easy to forget in this day and age of green screen that the outdoors still exist and people are in them from time to time. It’s winsome to take pause then and acknowledge that the hills, sky, grass and critters you’re seeing were real. Sure it’s absurd, but generations from now on will instead just assume everything presented to them is fake. And they’ll be fine with that. The background in a movie or several people in that background, their “friends” online, the key lime flavoring in their unfortunately colored key lie pie: all fake. Get some dirt under your nails amigos, get too drunk or go and get lost somewhere you’ve never been before. There’s a big, wide and real world out there to be contested. And when you find some bastards that need explodin’, then get to explodin’!
The use of dynamite in Two Mules For Sister Sara is deliciously liberal. According to historical fact, dynamite wasn’t patented by Alfred Nobel until after the events of this movie. According to huge explosions, who gives a shit? Clint tosses highly volatile death sticks around with the nonchalance of a desk jockey tossing away an old TPS report. His cavalier attitude, coupled with a body count padding accuracy rate that’ll have you cheering from the edge of your seat, further cements Clint as King of the Cocksure Cowboys. I mean in case the Dollars trilogy, Joe Kidd, The Outlaw Josey Wales, High Plains Drifter and/or Unforgiven hadn’t convinced you as of yet. He sure as hell saves the day but not without more than a little help from his friends including a rag-tag band of Juarista freedom fighters and one delightfully derpy pinata. WARNING: the following is a short clip from the beginning of the final battle. Skip it to avoid seeing a delightfully derpy pinata sacrifice himself while Clint honors his derpy memory:
A great scene from a great movie that mixes the humor of our human condition with horror from the same. War is hell, rape indefensible, despotism to be despised. But keeping a smile on your face more often than not makes all the shit we gotta deal with and all the shit we gotta do to make those deals just a bit less shitty on the whole. We all make mistakes and life’s golden path makes mistakes for us if’n we’re not ambitious enough to do it on our own. Listen and hear Hogan’s wisdom as he spits “everybody’s got a right to be sucker once!” When your own personal Mexico gets invaded by some French-like fuckery through a fault yours or not, you gonna mope or are you gonna crack a confusing smile and lob some dynamite?
So what’cha gonna do brother?
Oh I get it. A Hulk “Hogan” gag. Shirley, I must be joking.
Not funny? Fine, I’m done messing around MacLaine!
6 rounds for Two Mules for Sister Sara and my point is this: die hard! Oh man I goddamn did it again! But I’m serious. Live long enough or just wander outside to get the mail and the improbable will fall upon you easy as sunshine. Plan and plan and plan all you want, expect those plans to be realized flawlessly, and then think of me when randomness takes one hilariously huge dump on those perfect blueprints of yours. Hogan and Sara didn’t plan on relying on much more than themselves, much less each other. Funny how things work out for the best when at first glance you just don’t think they’re gonna work out at all.
So ride true amigos and be on the lookout for bumps along the way because not all of them can be avoided.
Nor should they be.