Like a gigantic guy doing a cannonball into a kiddie pool, a big movie release like Iron Man 3 tends to tsunami all the other movie releases out of the way. For those of us destined to watch several movies per week this can sometimes lead to a dearth of options. However, I appreciate it as these weekends are often a good chance to get caught up on independent films that would otherwise slip my net.
Thus we come to Mud, a Stand by Me-esque coming of age story with snakes and bounty hunters. Independent films I try to treat differently from movies with an actual budget, yet ironically they often come out better than multi million dollar fiascoes like the Last Stand. When the credits are rolling you come to realize that all the star power and slick special effects mean nothing if the writing sucks, and a good story with good acting will shine through all the budget limitations in the world.
That’s not to say this movie has bad production or lacks star power. I was kind of surprised at the cast, including Matthew McConaughey and Reece Witherspoon. The acting, direction, and camera work had the same production values as any number of bigger Hollywood films. On the other hand I’m not going to say the story and writing were flawless. It was good, and a fun, interesting story but there were a number of sub plots that did little but add to the considerable 130 minute run time and secondary characters that were either worthlessly emphasized or not emphasized enough. I will say however that most movies tend to fall back into the wailing mass that is my movie memory in short order and this one has caused me to reflect on it quite a bit. Take that for what you will.
The story is of two young boys Ellis (Tye Sheridan-the Tree of Life) and Neckbone (Jacob Lofland-first movie credit) living on the Mississippi delta. They sneak out on a small boat to check out a boat wreck stuck up in a tree on a small island. While there they meet Mud (Matthew McConaughey-Magic Mike, the Lincoln Lawyer, a Time to Kill), a drifter living in the boat. Mud offers them the boat when he leaves if they bring him so food. Ellis is intrigued by Mud.
Back home Ellis goes to work with his father (Ray McKinnon-the Blind Side, O Brother Where Art Thou, Apollo 13) delivering fish. His father is not going to win any father of the year awards and is having trouble with his wife (Sarah Paulson-Serenity, Down with Love, What Women Want (she was the doctor in the hologram from Serentity. Firefly image courtesy of the Firefly T Shirt category)). She wants to move to town but if she does they will lose the houseboat they live on and his livelihood. Ellis does not want to leave. He goes back to the island with some canned food for Mud.
Turns out Mud is wanted for killing a man. Mud tells Ellis a story about how this man hurt his girlfriend Juniper (Reece Witherspoon-Walk the Line, This Means War, Legally Blond) and he shot him. He is back in town to meet up with her. Meanwhile he decides he needs the boat to make his escape and works a deal for the repair supplies he needs in exchange for his pistol. Neckbone wants the gun but Ellis is more into the story of romance. It is established that he wants to believe in love as his parents are splitting up.
Bounty hunters hired by the dead man’s father (Joe Don Baker-if you want to laugh your ass of find the MST3K cover of Mitchel. Golden Eye, Cape Fear, Tomorrow Never Dies) and brother (Paul Sparks-Edge of Darkness, Trust Me, Boardwalk Empire) are all over the town. Juniper shows up and hangs out at a hotel. At that point the kids go on a Easter Egg hunt, more or less stealing the supplies Mud needs to get the boat out of the tree and in the water without sinking. He asks his old father figure Tom (Sam Shepard-the Right Stuff, Black Hawk Down, Safe House) for help but is refused. Meanwhile Ellis is dealing with his family breaking up and a tertiary romance with a girl in his town (Bonnie Sturdivant-Ol’ Daddy, the Great Mistake). Neckbone’s uncle (Michael Shannon-Bad Boys II, Vanilla Sky, Pearl Harbor) shows up to dispense some Delta wisdom and show what a good guy he is. At that point the plot thread frays into a bunch of sub plots until it all comes to a head.
Matthew McConaughey kind of kicked ass acting-wise. One star. The entire cast actually did a great job, especially the two kids. Two stars. The story was not your typical Hollywood crap, which I appreciate. Two stars. I kind of have a secret love of Southern culture and it was well displayed here. One star. I like movies that show kids doing stuff like we used to do as a kid, which is run around unsupervised and getting into trouble (in the perfect world in my head anyone who utters the phrase “play date” in a non disparaging manner will simply be sterilized for the good of humanity). One black hole. Overall a good movie, and one that has stuck with me. Two stars. Total: nine stars.
The black holes:
Not a lot really. I will give one for the numerous and unnecessary sub plots and minor characters, and for all the secondary characters who should have had more development time (Ellis’s parents, for example). One black hole. Somehow the last ten minutes shifted gears from a cool character story into an action film. One black hole. I could give one for this movie seemingly padded out and running long, but I suspect the director was purposely using that as a tool to show the slower life style of Southern river culture. Also the characters kept me from feeling it too much so I will forgo. Total: two black holes.
A grand total of seven stars. An excellent movie overall. It’s not going to blow up like Argo did but it is kind of in the same indy camp. If you can see it please do. Nothing here requires a big screen but see it in a theater if you can, if only to help encourage more good indy films. Date movie? Absolutely. This movie will warm her heart, and since the best looking guy in the film is a smelly homeless man you should far pretty will in comparison. Just be careful if she is a big Magic Mike fan. Bathroom break? The May Pearl romance is the most worthless and undeveloped of the sub plots so any of the scenes involving her and Ellis can be missed with no real problem.
Thanks for reading. More coming out this weekend, including the Great Gatsby and Peeples. I will see them both and get you a review ASAP. Follow me on Twitter @Nerdkungfu. If you have comments on this film or my review feel free to leave it here. Off topic questions and suggestions can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Talk to you soon.
Just continuing with my thoughts on genres and specific movies with regards to how they will work for movie night.
Horror-it is something of an urban myth that all women react to horror movies with a need to be held and an increase in libido. This can be true of some women, but a lot of others might be so creeped out that they just want to lock all the doors and sleep with the lights on, especially if the movie in question featured a young couple making love while the monster sneaks up to impale them both on a sharpened lacrosse stick. If she suggests a horror film than odds are good that she is in the former camp, but if she doesn’t you should not be the one to do it. Also, be aware of the gore factor. I can’t imagine any woman wanting to do anything remotely physical or intimate after watching Dead Alive.
Artsy foreign films-regardless of who suggests these, your date and your future relationship have just been smeared with the pungent oil of pretentiousness. If she suggests it and you like foreign films than by all means go with it. Just plan on being the couple all your friends secretly hate. If she suggest them and you don’t like them, do a quick mental calculation of how horny you are for her versus how much inane artsy film school prattle you can stomach in an evening. If you suggest it and she doesn’t like them know that she is doing the same exact calculation, only odds are she is a lot less horny. Also, subtitled films tend to require more attention from the two of you, giving you less opportunity to pay attention to each other. Furthermore, be aware that you can never really predict what a foreign art film is about from the title. Man Bites Dog really isn’t about dogs, and has a grim violence level that will most likely put her off. City of Lost Children really isn’t about children, and the surrealness of it does not make for great date material. Do your research.
Artsy domestic films-a weird phenomenon is when trying to think of movies to suggest, your brain will tend to fall back onto the artsier films in some kind of attempt to impress her with your depth, rather than just pulling out something you will both enjoy. The fact is most artsy films do not make a lot of money for a reason. I won’t say that reason rhymes with “muck”, but you really have to be of the right mindset and mood to appreciate movies made for the art of it. Don’t get me wrong. I love artsy independent films. I just would not suggest one of them for a first time hanging out with a girl.
Firefly-believe it or not, Firefly episodes make for a great date, as well as an awesome coolness test for your date. Even if she has never seen it before, it is hard not to love it. If she sees it and loves it you will have a great date and will have helped to create a new fan. If she sees it and doesn’t like it then kick her ass out of your newly cleaned apartment for being a soulless, evil robot probably bent on extracting your life essence in a painful and protracted process. You are better off without her. If she is the one to suggest this then when you finally screw things up be sure to send her phone number to me (Jayne image courtesy of the Firefly t shirt category).
Actually, any decent Joss Whedan will work.
That’s it for tonight. More tomorrow.
So you’ve successfully kissed her without her screaming, punching you in the balls, or macing you. Congratulations. Now what.
You have just crossed the border into the make out zone. This is a good zone and one that women actually like, as it is fun and doesn’t have all the baggage associated with actually having sex has (as a matter of fact, in my dating history I have successfully answered the question “What do you want to do now?” with “I don’t know. I thought we could go back to your place and make out” and had it work. I don’t recommend you do this yourself as it is both situational and potentially explosive, but there it is).
Before we get into how to proceed, let’s set our definitions. In an effort to cater to every American cliche possible I will be using the classic baseball base system. For those of you unfamiliar here are the base definitions:
First base: Kissing with tongue, for the most part. You should already be here in this part of the progression.
Second base: Feeling under shirt, but over bra and undergarments. This is usually as far as you can reasonably expect to get on the first make out session.
Third base: Everything but. More or less nudity without actual, full on intercourse. Getting stopped here makes for a bad drive home.
Home run: Congratulations. You have now joined the procreating portion of the human race. Share this URL with your less apt friends and try to not disappoint her.
In truth, there are about 20 other bases between second and the home plate, but we don’t have any sports with 24 bases so the metaphor kind of falls apart. Furthermore, that is as graphic as I intend to get, so if you really need more instructions when you hit a home run I am sure you can find it elsewhere.
Short post for now. Next post I will discuss how far to push the bases as you make out with your girl.
Yesterday’s question, Jar Jar Binks versus Chaka (yes, I know I spelled it wrong yesterday. Stop spamming me about it please), kind of annoys me. I can only hope that Jar Jar gets beat up by everything surrounding him on a regular basis including plants and fungus, but the truth is he seems quicker and has the reach on Chaka. Also, while Chaka looks fairly primitive he seems to lack the feral teeth and claws that would make him a true combat beast. I have to regretfully bet on Jar Jar.
Today’s question is more serious: Jayne Cobb with Vera versus the Punisher (Jayne image courtesy of the Firefly t shirt category).
So a few weeks ago at the worst convention I ever did I had the pleasure of meeting a super nice guy, Danny Nero. He notice the Jayne Cobb Damage My Calm t-shirt and said “Oh, I’ve never seen that Adam shirt.”
(shirt image below courtesy of the television t shirt category)
While I know many fans who refer to characters by the actors name, there was something a little more familiar in the way Danny said it that caught my attention. I started talking to him and it turns out he had worked as a stand in for both Adam Baldwin and Nathan Fillion on Firefly and Serenity. Furthermore, he has worked in Hollywood for years on any number of sci fi or horror films, and has had the pleasure of working for Joss Whedan several times.
For me this was like finding a winning lottery ticket in my wallet. I asked if he would be willing to do an interview with me for this blog and he was kind enough to agree. We then began corresponding via email with me sending him questions and he responding. I have done this before and have gotten good results, but nothing prepared me for the wealth of material Danny provided me. Great stories and awesome insights into the nuts and bolts of working with Joss and in Hollywood in general.
I will now present the interview over several blog posts. I think you will all agree what a great guy Danny is (also, he gave me some great behind-the-scenes photos).
Dave: Danny, you were a stand in on Firefly for its entire run, yes? Could you describe for those readers not familiar with film production what it means to work as a stand in? What are your duties, and what function is served by your role?
Danny: Yes I was both Nathan’s and Adam’s stand-in for the entire run which I believe went from July to December. It went by so quickly! If Nathan and Adam were in the same shot together, then we had an additional guy. Being the same height of the actor is important so the camera crew can line up on you as you proceed through the setup of the scene. We watch carefully everything the actor does and then become the “2nd team” as the “1st team” goes off to makeup, wardrobe, hair, or the comfort of their chair. It saves wear and tear on them and if any changes need to be made, we give the actor the notes concerning the change. It might be just something regarding where they should look or a slight change in their position.
D: Is it a good job? Would you recommend it for any viewers wanting to work in Hollywood? If so how could one get into it?
Danny: I really enjoy the job but it’s not for everyone! It requires a concentration and focus that not everyone is able to do. It also usually only places you in front of the camera when it’s not rolling, which is fine with me! I hate seeing myself on screen! There are times on my current show “Grey’s Anatomy” that we stand-ins double as doctors but it’s almost always deep in the background. I really just got into it on a fluke when the guy who was standing-in for Craig T. Nelson on “Poltergeist 2” quit because he hated the bluescreen work in a harness on cables. It was 1985 and I had been doing Extra work off and on for about 4 years so I jumped at the steady work with extra pay for the wire work. Yes it was uncomfortable as Hell but it led to me doing the rest of the feature and every job since! If you want to be a stand-in, you really have to work your way into it from being an extra most of the time. It also requires you to be a member of the Screen Actors Guild or AFTRA. You might get lucky if you can work on a show that’s non-union somewhere. Along with height, your skin tone should be close as well as your hair color. I never could get close to George Hamilton’s skin color when I stood in for him on “Jenny” several years ago!
D: Did you work directly with Joss Whedon? If so, what is he like to work with?
Danny: I met him some time that first week of episode 1 season 1 of “Angel”. I’d heard of “Buffy” but had never seen it so I didn’t know much of the back story of the character I was going to stand-in for. I think Joss was directing and several crew members thought we were brothers! I watched him as he effortlessly set each scene both with an artistic eye and practical eye for what would be possible to do with the least amount of camera setups. That’s the luxury you have on a feature film when you can take 3 months to shoot a 2 hour film but must shoot an hour TV show (42 minutes actually) in 8 or 9 days. It didn’t take me long to realize how Joss could juggle 2 shows and who knows what else he had in development at the same time. He has one of those remarkable minds that is going non-stop and has more memory and knowledge than is humanly possible!
Before I get into the dating advice, I would like to mention that as of tomorrow morning I will be at the big Creation Entertainment triple show this weekend. The three shows are a Farscape convention, Stargate SG1 convention, and a Buffy/Firefly/Dollhouse convention all at the same time in the same hotel. As I am a rabid fan of all these shows (Firefly especially. Jayne Cobb image courtesy of the television show t shirt category) and also sell products from all these shows on my retail site, it is not only appropriate but pretty much required that I be there. If you are a reader of this blog and are near LAX this weekend be sure to stop by and say hi. I love getting in person feedback, and you may inspire a whole new post direction (especially if you are a single, intelligent, nerdish brunette girl between the ages of 29-39 with elfin features, if you know what I mean).
Anyway, let’s talk more about cheap dating. We’ve discussed how to avoid expensive stuff, how to eat, and how to not discuss your current financial situation, but we have yet to go into what to actually do while on your date. Here is the first of some great, cheap ideas.
I am giving you the best idea first, if only because it is a great date whether you have dough or not: hiking. Women love, love, love hiking. It is outdoors, typically with beautiful scenery, moderately physical without the danger of making you look like an out of shape couch potato, and costs little more than the gas to get to the trail and a decent pair of shoes. It is romantic, solitary, and a great time to talk to and get to know your date.
However, like everything else I present to you, it is not quite as simple as that. There are some thinks you need to do. Like we used to say in the Boy Scouts, Be Prepared (or as my friends from the Marine Corps more accurately put it, Proper Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance. Words that I live by). The first thing you need to do is some basic research in finding a trail that is scenic yet not terribly taxing. There are any number of site out there to help you with this. I think Trails.com is pretty good, but look around. Things to consider are:
1. Trail length-pick a distance you are reasonably certain you can make. If you pass out from exhaustion 2 miles into the hike you will not really score any points with her. Also, odds are very good you will be passed out in the wilderness 2 or more miles from civilization with little to no cell phone coverage. If she has to get help for you or carry your sorry ass back you will never hear from her again.
2. Water-will it be present or will you have to hump a ton of it in? You should always bring water with you anyway but find out it it will be your little steel refillable water bottle or a freaking Sparklets jug.
3. Trail difficulty-some trails are like pleasant walks in the park (literally) while others can be like crossing the Alps without a Sherpa. Make sure there are no unpleasant surprises such as cliffs to climb up and down, log and rope bridges to fall off of, and inclines that seem like climbing up a fire escape for a million miles. Also be aware if there are any creeks or other water obstacles you need to cross on foot. Nothing worst than soaking wet sneakers and socks for the last 5 miles of your hike. Also note that just because the map says there is a creek or something there does not mean drinking water. Very little natural water is safe to drink. This should be obvious to most adults, but then I remember who I was speaking to for the most part and figured I had better be explicit.
4. Wildlife-squirrels, beavers, birds, badgers, raccoons, deer, and elk is a great thing to see while hiking. On the other hand, rattlesnakes, grizzly bears, bobcats, wolves, and mountain lions are incredibly bad to see, and by some mysterious coincidence both sets of animals seems to like to hang out in the same areas. If I have a single goal in life (besides conquest of the planet) it is to never end up as food for something at the end of my life. Also, while I would more or less not hesitate to leave any of my male friends behind as a distraction for whatever horrific denizen of the wild was currently mauling them, like most males if I had a woman with me my natural hormone levels and social training would overtake my common sense and survival instinct, leaving me wrestling with a grizzly while the girl I was probably just a few hours away from getting rejected by escaped to safety. Not that I’m bitter. (Incidentally, it has been my experience that, like there are no atheists in foxholes, there are no feminists when it comes to determining who gets to go Greco-Roman with a cougar and who gets to run to find more help). With these thoughts in mind, keep local wildlife at the forefront when picking your hiking path. Be aware, there is no wilderness area on this planet that doesn’t have something both capably and eager to kill you.
5. Check what hunting season it is, and wear something brightly colored (red, preferably). You don’t want to get killed by some hillbilly redneck for the sin of wearing a brown coat during deer season. Although it seems like most of them are drunk off their ass anyway, so if something vaguely human sized is in season maybe you need to look for an area where hunting is not permitted.
6. Finally, be sure to check the weather and dress/prepare accordingly. While the idea of a hike through a light summer shower might sound romantic, it is pretty common for those light summer showers to turn into torrential downpours pretty easily and make your trip miserable. If the heat will be higher than high 80’s bring extra water and/or just reschedule. Also, always bring sun block, sun glasses, and a hat of some kind. Don’t look like this is your first time off pavement, whether it is or not.
That’s pretty much it. Other than all the prep work and worry about something trying to kill you hiking is a great activity and makes for a wonderful date, followed up by that all important cheap ethnic meal later that night.
More activities next post.