People often ask me what I think about whichever recent football or basketball game just aired and was terribly important to at least them. I never have the answer they’re expecting as I don’t waste my time with such banalities. No, I follow two sports only. The two only real sports of any consequence: professional hockey and professional wrestling. Say what you want about either because a) I can’t hear you and b) while violence is a central theme of both endeavors, disagreements get handled on the ice or on the mat and not usually in a nightclub or Vegas elevator. Plus most hockey players and pro wrestlers are decent if not exceptional on a microphone. They can conjugate verbs and form complete sentences. Listen to that kid who just got drafted after supposedly graduating from Wherever State and tell me you can understand one thing he’s saying. “You’re a bigot, Tentacle Chris! Stop belittling our culture!” Illiteracy is not a culture you philistine. And ”philistine” has more than one meaning, look it up. You can’t change what color you are (and shouldn’t have to) but you can change if you’re fucking ignorant (and fucking should!)
I was ignorant to the mysteries of Mexico at one time in my life but now embrace her with open, damn near needy arms. Her greatest export, besides Jarritos and upsetting crime statistics, is the masked wrestler: the luchador. Hailing from place unknown, with face unknown, but talent, charisma and machismo totally known these bemusing badasses fling storylines and themselves around with obvious dexterity. They are national heroes and your next door neighbor, for all that stands between you and lucha glory is a cover for your face and cojones for your balls! I was swelling with excitement then (you know exactly where) when I stepped into the ring with Guacamelee: Super Turbo Championship Edition. I may never actually be Mexican but I could be an actual pretend Mexican wrestler. So after turning into a chicken with “Pollo Power” and training with a part goat, part man, ALL goat-man named Uay Chivo, playing the demo became buying the full game because chickens and goddamn goatman!
Uay Chivo’s the name and giving you shit is just his game. Like mocking your outfit or deriding your interpersonal communication skills before he grants you one awesome super power or another. So both kinds of shit he will give, insults and assaults. The former is great for starting a scrum, the latter for ending it. Like this enemy ending Rooster Uppercut for instance:
Thanks Uay, that is some cool shit. Your boy Juan, or your boy you, depending on how into character you get, will need an arsenal full of acrobatic attacks to stem the tide of nightmarish creatures that have flooded into Pueblucho, the humble hometown of our hero, and the surrounding areas. Aluxes (sort of Mexican gremlin things), alebrijes (sort of Mexican chimera things) and skeletons (skeletons) all seek to thwart your every effort to save the love of your life, El Presidente’s Daughter, from the clutches of a bastard charro returned from the grave named Carlos Calaca.
You’ll fight Carlos and his minions in both the living world and the world of the dead, once you learn how to swap dimensions of course using the aptly named “dimension swap”. And swap you will! Like a 70s swinger, you’ll be back and forth and back again till you don’t even know which way is up or whose dick is in you mouth. The taste of adventure, not unlike that of an inexplicable dick, is fresh on your tongue now! You’ve got twice the game to explore as you did before and twice the game to suplex some ass all over:
What the hell is all that? Don’t look at me, I’m not sure either. I’m just drinking tequila, mashing buttons and drinking tequila. Confusion and concussions! The only thing I know for sure is that a lot of things are getting punched in the face and it’s my fist doing the punching and some other face (not mine!) doing the getting punched in itself. Plus I look good doing it!
Numerous humorous wardrobe choices are just one more reason to love Guacamelee. This skin here’s called “Mighty Warrior” and hearkens back to when the majestic Mayan ruled much of Mexico. That hawk on the bottom right is actually you as a chicken dressed up as a “Mighty Warrior”. It’s a cock in a hawk in a Juan, it’s dick-ception. Call it whatever you want, but it’s awesome, because whether you’re a football goaltender, piñata or the Devil himself, you and your poultrified alter ego will both get to play dress-up. By the way, that girly on the right is Tostada, a playable character in co-op so a friend can help you on your way towards destiny. She’s in both of the above pictures but don’t risk the madness of that battle scene. Looking into it is like staring down Ghost Rider. You’ll just end up in a pool of sweat, disoriented and full of shame about that time you masturbated twice while watching Troll 2.
No shame in this here game though. The score is fantastic, the locations plentiful, the action unceasing. Clever, heartfelt and well researched, this game is a feast of quirky quesadillas for all your senses. Available on the PS4, Xbox One, and 360, plus the Wii U means the only reason you wouldn’t play this title is if you have something against fun or Mexicans. Either way you’re racist. So race your black, yellow, brown, red, white and/or blue bitch-ass over to that console and grab some Guac! Es muy delicioso (if you can’t read that you are still racist!)
Not me though. Hell no. I’m 100% fake Mexican just like the made in Toronto by way of Nogales Guacamelee: Super Turbo Championship Edition. Our friends to the North and those South of the border came together to craft an experience fabulously cheeky in its execution yet completely respectful of what inspired it. I luch-adored it and reckon you will too. 6 rounds strewn about the ring for this worthy opponent. They’d be in the cylinder but this game gave me what for and gave it more than once. Most of the gameplay is of average difficulty making for a lightly challenging run through if you possess even modest platforming skills but two specific levels tested my dexterity, patience and sanity. Completing them was truly monumental and they’ll stand as the greatest trials I’ve ever faced in gaming for a long time to come, my numb hands and bloodshot eyes are sure of it. I’m not a pro gamer but I’m no newb either and shit tons of fucking shit…this was the easiest and toughest game I’ve ever gotten through.
I failed and failed and failed with failure on top. Then I failed before failing a few dozen more times. It was failure after failure. But I never stopped fighting. Sounds trite, sounds silly, but it sounds like Life and like the ring of fucking truth. My life has been full of missteps and mistakes and falling short more often than not. But every bit of that has made every success so goddamn sweet I can barely even remember what defeat tasted like. I say “barely” because it’s important to stay hungry for what you want most. Past all the pitfalls and fuckups, hunger for the good stuff, the great stuff, the best stuff.
That’s out there for all of us amigos, don’t settle for anything less.
Sunset’s sweet sadness
Sand in my heart and out there
I must stop staring
By now you’ve probably heard about “Florida Mom” Susan Schrijver’s seemingly successful crusade to have figures based on AMC’s seminal series Breaking Bad removed from shelves at Toys’Я’Us. We can debate till we’re blue(sky) in the face whether Walter White is awesome or really fucking awesome but you can’t argue against the venerable and vulnerable toy chain for making attempts to stay relevant next to other struggling upstarts like Wal-Mart and Amazon. For a few years now every Toys’Я’Us I’ve visited has featured a collectibles section for the mature collector. By “mature” I mean twelve year old kids in forty year old bodies who love Ghostbusters, Robocop and old horror movies. They play violent video games and watch Flash Gordon on a regular basis. Sometimes they think they might want a highly detailed replica of their favorite wide receiver or goaltender but they know they want one of Walter White. Because he’s really, really, really fucking awesome.
Susan Schrijver does not know this.
But I know a few things about Susan.
First off she leads an excruciatingly disappointing life. She’s never followed her true dreams and never jumped, not even once, without looking. She and her husband don’t have sex. Not because she’s fat or unattractive but because, like many husbands and wives they never share what they truly want or, more importantly, who they truly are with one another. Her life has become the upper-middle class, Judeo-Christian societal norm and she spends her child defending days ignoring or consciously beating down any piece inside of her that doesn’t fit perfectly piece like into that vanilla puzzle. Denying herself allows her to focus on you, your particular, maybe private, proclivities and why everything you do is crass and the reason for the fall of all humanity. Walter White became a monster. But he became his own monster grown from a perverse petri dish of self-determination. He was horrible but he was honest with himself and so, despite meth and murder, ends up less horrible than Susan. His toy is a slap in her face, she sees it and recognizes a personal freedom she simply cannot allow. She’s teaching this worldview to her child? Bad parent alert! But it gets worse.
She is without a doubt highly uneducated. She can’t explore nor explain, so allow me. Susan lacks any ability to use this unique action figure to open a dialogue with her progeny about the risks of drug use or, more philosophically, the dangers of any downward spiral. You can discuss, you don’t have to purchase. You don’t even have to go down the goddamn aisle Susan. It’s one part of one aisle in a retail location with dozens or aisles. Aisles clearly marked with what goods can be found within should you dare venture inside them. Skip the trip Susan but don’t sugar coat your kid’s eyes. Removing consequence from the educations of a child removes any impetus towards nurturing a healthy sense of responsibility.
I was raised on Mel Brooks movies and Saturday morning cartoons. Never had a problem differentiating fantasy from reality or when best to use the word “fuck” as my folks were always opening my eyes and teaching me to understand those things I was seeing. I knew about sex from an early age and was allowed a small glass of wine with dinner should I choose. So when classmates were getting hammered and/or pregnant I sat aghast at their naivety. Did no one tell them that alcohol impairs and even damages your body? Did no one tell them a dick in a vagina might make a baby? These things weren’t taboo to me and as such never seemed like tools with which to act out teenage rebellion. Sure I had sex, safely. I even drank some then and drink a helluva lot more now but I was educated on such things from damn near day one. That taught me the risks and the rewards but better than all that it taught me that my decisions, good or bad, were mine.
Sure we protect our kids, with our lives to every last ounce of energy, but intentionally blinding them sets them up to become targets. Either for the cruelty of others or the indignity of their own sadly ill-informed minds. Susan’s kind of shielding is setting her kids up for failure. Again I say, bad parent!
Or maybe an even worse parent? Did Susan let her kid wander off on his own? Is that how he ended up where he did, staring down a six inch Jesse Pinkman doll dare I say, like a bitch? Is she acting so offended just to cover up her own offensiveness? And why even shop at a place that enforces illiteracy with a backwards “R” right there on the storefront? This lady and those like her hate the way you choose to live your life. Your choices are flinging shit onto her white pickets. A Crusade of Conformity then is the only solution. For surely if I have white pickets too they’ll be no reason to rebel. But what Susie doesn’t get is that any of her shit I have to choke down just gives me more ammunition. Also, I don’t ever want white fucking pickets. People like her scream about The Golden Rule but no matter the volume they don’t hear a word of it. I’m not bitching about your primitive parenting, so leave me and my toys alone.
The easiest thing in the world to do is not care about what others think of you. Susan, you might think I’m an abnormal, arrested, sexually permissive and misguided person. I might find you to be the very capstone of self-righteous cuntitude. But I’m rather certain that this world is big enough, even the goddamn toy store is, for us to happily never cross paths. We can be blissfully ignorant of one another’s disagreeable life choices and stop wasting time on all that childish imposition.
I can simply ignore you, you can simply ignore me.
In the end, aren’t we both better off that way?
Yes, yes we Я.
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.