"I know we are at war with each other. How could you not be in this crazy, upside-down world? A world where on one corner you can get gourmet coffee, and in an apartment right above that someone's being raped for the last thirty years. How do you reconcile that? Unless the coffee is horrible …" –Eddie Pepitone
Greetings from the apocalypse! So, February … Is this almost over? Seriously, UNICEF needs to airdrop a good movies aid package on us pronto before our entertainment-emaciated minds starve to the point where a Dwayne Johnson flick actually seems like a good call. Speaking of which …
Friday, February 22
Ever had to kill a bunch of drug cartel bad guys in order to get your son out of jail? Dwayne Johnson has, at least in his new flick "Snitch" out today in theaters. The wrestler sometimes known under his weightier stage name The Rock, Johnson has in recent years attempted to branch out from movies with the word "Fast" in the title, and this one finds him holding his own opposite some real thespian heavyweights like Michael Kenneth Williams and Susan Sarandon. Of course, this is only the first of FIVE movies to feature Johnson that will be slamming themselves hard into your local multiplex this year, including Michael Bay's "Pain & Gain," a second "G.I. Joe" and a sixth "Fast and Furious." ¡Ay, caramba!
It is perhaps this daunting eventuality of 10+ hours of The Rock laying the smacketh down that is forcing me to reconcile with seasonal affective disorder, also known as SAD. That's right, even cold-blooded road warriors get the blues sometimes, and since my lightbox treatment hasn't been working, I thought I would try my hand at some art therapy. The following drawing was my first attempt to get through this bad patch of winter-movie-induced depression (sorry for the coffee stain):
If that drawing didn't shake you to the core, then perhaps this week's other big theatrical release "Dark Skies" will scare you into locking your windows, shutting off all the lights, and keeping a shotgun trained at the door. That's like every day for me, but this Keri Russell horror tale from the producers of "Paranormal Activity" looks to do for aliens/greys what "Insidious" did for demons, i.e. make you believe they really exist for five or six seconds.
Since "A Good Day to Die Hard" went down in a hail of critical gunfire last weekend, those who actually paid to see it may be suffering from PTSD at the creative gutting of Detective John McClane. We have the best therapy available, and it's called 1995's "Die Hard with a Vengeance" at 7:50 p.m. on Cinemax. I consider this bad boy to be the best of the five movies, if only for the winning chemistry between Bruce Willis' streetwise NYC supercop and Samuel L. Jackson's militant aversion to white people. "You don't like me because you're a racist!" "I don't like you 'cause you're gonna get me killed!" Jeremy Irons plays the brother of the baddie from "Die Hard 1" (also known as "Die Hard with a Firstness") and gives Willis lots of tricky riddles to solve while stealing billions in gold LIKE A BOSS.
Saturday, February 23
In case you couldn't tell, I'm in a bitter mood this week, and it has a lot to do with giving my last tank of gas as a Valentines gift to my girlfriend, who used it to leave my encampment in an armored school bus. Skank.
As I track her whereabouts through the wasteland, this week's "Survivor of Thunderdome" gave me solace because its documentary subject, comedian Eddie Pepitone, knows the curve balls life can throw ya, which is why they call him "The Bitter Buddha," available on iTunes and VOD. Pepitone is a 55-year-old stand-up comic whose career has only begun to take off in the last few years, and the fact that he talks like a manic 1940s-era bus driver from the Bronx hasn't made him any more commercially viable … or has it? Despite his abrasiveness, there's a warm, gooey center to this three-decade veteran of the comedy scene, and stars like Patton Oswalt, Zach Galifianakis and Sarah Silverman have no shortage of praise for his genius. Director Steven Feinartz takes great care in capturing this wild, untamed mind at its most candid, so if you always wanted to know someone who made Lewis Black look like Mr. Rogers and Harvey Pekar seem downright Pollyannaish, then this doc is for you.
For those of you living the sweet life in sunny Arizona, why not hit up the Sedona International Film Festival, which kicks off today and runs through March 3. Films include Oscar short-listed "The Waiting Room," "The House I Live In" and an opening concert by blues great Keb Mo. Did I mention there would be celebrities to stalk as well? Try Griffin Dunne ("Girls," "An American Werewolf in London," "After Hours"), the great David Strathairn ("Good Night, and Good Luck," "The Bourne Legacy") and, lord help us, "An Evening with Joan Collins."
Okay, so here's the deal: Back in the day, Dr. Seuss made a movie, a non-animated movie. Smoke 'em if you got 'em. "The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T" is on TCM at 8 p.m. tonight, and damn is it a fabulous cabdabulous confabulation of utmost craziosity. This 1953 live-action oddity had screenplay and lyrics by the good Doctor, a.k.a. Theodor Seuss Geisel, and is almost entirely the deranged daydream of a boy who hates his piano lessons. The dream turns into a surreal nightmare involving a MEGA-PIANO played by 500 tortured boys and some supremely nutty-looking sets. If you prefer your Dr. Seuss sponsored by a car company, I recommend "The Lorax" on Netflix Instant.
Sunday, February 24
What else can I say? Today is about one thing and one thing only: office betting pools. Also, cinema. We’re rolling out the red carpet for "The 85th Annual Academy Awards" at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT on ABC or, if you're Jennifer Lawrence, wherever your limo driver takes you tonight. "Family Guy" guy Seth MacFarlane will croon and offend his way through the ceremony in both human and teddy bear form while Ben Affleck quietly stews during the Best Director category. Someone please have a camera on him during the nominee announcements.
There will be many places to watch the Oscar ceremony besides your leaky one-bedroom apartment with the chalk outline in the bathroom, but if you're in Orlando, Florida you can attend the gala festivities for "Red Carpet, Bright Lights: An Oscar Watch Party" at Eden Bar and on the big screen at the famed Enzian Theater. Help yourself to a Silver Linings Cheesesteak or Spinach Unchained and wash it down with some Wreck-It Ralph Punch. Oh, and remember — every time someone says "Argo," you have to take a shot.
If you want to make that drinking game even worse on yourself, why not check out "Argo" on Blu-ray/DVD this week and relive the likely Best Picture winner in all its unnecessarily suspenseful glory. Sure, it's not that historically accurate, but if I'm ever in some kind of Iranian hostage situation (it could happen) I'd want Daredevil by my side to get me out of there.
Finally, I'd like to present a new feature of this column, which will occur whenever I damn well please, called "Star Wars Corner." Since we can't seem to go a single day without someone bringing expectations to a boil over Disney's imminent strip-mining of nerddom's most beloved franchise, why not have yourself a listen to "The Auteurcast," one of my favorite podcasts revolving around movies, cinema and film (all three). Most recently, hosts Rudie Obias and West Anthony have covered the entire filmography of "Star Wars" impresario/rich guy George Lucas, from the humble sci-fi beginnings of "THX 1138" to the drag-racing/girl-chasing antics of "American Graffiti" to all those movies where Jar Jar steps in poo. Yours truly joins them for the final episode in the series, a general discussion of "The Work of George Lucas" (Episode 169), where I espouse my unapologetic love of "Revenge of the Sith" as the second-best movie in the saga, and other inflammatory claims.
As I ride off into the distant horizon, here's wishing you fellow weekend road warriors the best outing possible from this burnt-out, blighted wasteland. Enjoy your fast Internet, clean-ish movie theaters, plentiful gasoline and all the comforts of home, for this world lives now only in my memories …