Rants and Raves

Forget Denmark, Steve Carell thinks something stinks on Wall Street.

Forget Denmark, Steve Carell thinks something stinks on Wall Street.

The Big Short is being billed as a comedy, which is funny. Hilarious, really.

Yes, it has some funny lines and devices, but it’s a tragic film and an essential one every American should see.

Director Adam McKay doesn’t need green screens and CGI magic to depict catastrophe and humanity put on the brink, he just needs a cast of banksters and greedy Wall Street goons in suits with computers, placing bets and rigging financial markets with bogus financial instruments. The film’s shot with a lively pace and curious camera showing how the sleight of hand of pop culture infatuation lulls us into complacency as visions of The American Dream are manufactured out of whisper-thin air.

Sure, the financial rigamarole hocus pocus is complex stuff, but the script by Charles Randolph and Adam McKay breaks it down into palatable chunks you’ll comprehend. And when you put all the pieces together, you see the inevitable train wreck coming. When it finally occurs, you’ll wonder how and why it was allowed to happen.

And why in the hell just one person went to jail.

The fix was in. The fix is still in. Too big to fail is now bigger and starting to play the same games. This movie peeks behind the curtain and shows how the magic trick was done to decimate so many financially.

This is entertainment of the highest order–– intriguing, entertaining, provocative and compelling, with great performances by Steve Carell, Christian Bale, Melissa Leo, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt and many more.

This may be the best film of the year, and certainly it’s the most important. See it and weep.

Trouble ahead, bad acting notification–– beware!

Trouble ahead, bad acting notification–– beware!

I fed the beast. Ponied-up some money to see Jurassic World. If you’re one of the 316 people left on the planet who has not seen it, let this serve as a warning.

Don’t! It’s a steaming pile of dino dump.

All the money and attention is paid in the service of the technology that creates dinosaurs in ones and zeros, and by that measure, the film succeeds. You will believe dinosaurs exist and they won’t make very good house pets.

As for the protoplasm side of the equation, this film is chocked with B and C level talent. Okay, except for Chris Pratt, who has star power and does what he can given the lameness of the script. Vincent D’Onofrio chews up some scenery, and the rest of the cast feels like a community theatre production. It’s as if IMDB had a lottery and the cast was selected on the basis of their “luckiness.”

Bryce Dallas Howard is the lead. Huh? Why?

I won’t bother going on. The message is that people and their greed are bad. Special effects good. Who am I kidding–– you’re going to see it, aren’t you?

Welcome to modern cinema, where computers rule and humans pay to see their handiwork.

No new  taxes mean you'll be seeing a lot more of him.

No new taxes mean you’ll be seeing a lot more of him.

Americans greet the prospect of raising taxes as if it were a bubonic plague-HIV-leprosy-cancer cocktail. A fate worse than death itself.

But if local governments can’t get money through taxes, they’ll get their dough a different way–– through badge-wearing-revenue-generators. Those flashing cherry tops are like cash registers ringing for the locals, and if you think you’ve been seeing a lot more speed traps and cop-feeding frenzies, it’s because you have eyes.

This reporter for The Lint Screen got busted yesterday in a small South Carolina town. I turned off an interstate, was on a two-line highway where I saw no speed limit sign, and BAM, had a cop flashing his lights in my rear view mirror. I was speeding, quite a bit according to him (for the record, there were no animals or children in the front grille). He wrote me up and told me I had to appear in court, or, I could pay by mail with a certified check and, if I acted fast, he’d do me a solid and reduce the fine and correlating points. It was like getting busted by a telemarketer. At the golf tournament I was going to (in such a hurry), I met another guy who was popped by the same cop in the same place.

The last speeding ticket I got was in North Carolina. In that case, I hired an attorney by phone who went over to the courthouse and magically got my ticket price and points reduced. All it took was money to pay him his legal fees.

I suppose I could obey your laws and stay out of trouble, but it’s getting to be a police state out there, a natural byproduct of our anti-tax obsession. I believe cash-strapped municipalities put it to the cops simply–– if you don’t generate $XXXXX in fines, we may have to cut your position.

It’s a boon for the insurance industry who will jack premium rates 20-30% for a speeding ticket. It’s a huge business for “billboard attorneys” who advertise themselves as ticket fixers. It’s a big business feeding off the citizenry.

But me, I’d rather just pay a little more in taxes. Going to go play some Bobby Fuller Four now…

Can you feel the hate radiating off the page?

Can you feel the hate radiating off the page?

I was guilty, not even Saul Goodman could have pled my case.

It was Saturday, the office parking lot of 22 spaces was empty when I pulled into it, so I slid into a space closer to the elevator than my own.

I figured this was my right as a lazy American. Why should I be subjected to unnecessary exercise? I took squatters rights on the vast expanse of parking; I was only going to be there a short time. It was a drive-by parking job, no big deal.

Wrong-o, boy-o. It was a HUGE deal. When I came down, twelve minutes later, another car was in the lot parked next to mine. Now there were two vehicles occupying the expanse of concrete.

Under my windshield was the piece of paper pictured above. Apparently I was in HIS/HER parking space. I assume it was a man, a very angry man. A very angry and possessive man. I’d knocked his world off its axis. I had invaded his space, inconveniencing him by forcing him to walk an extra two or three steps to the elevator.

I read his raging words with the underlined emphasis on “MY” and decided I’d keep it handy. The note is posted at my desk at work (not far from my latex glove collection) as a reminder that many Americans are bubbling cauldrons of rage primed to erupt at the slightest provocation.

We all need to chill, or, at the very least, fence in our parking spaces.

POSTSCRIPT: I felt somewhat guilty as I slashed his tires, gave the car a world class key job and lit it afire.

Pick up the pace, Reese, please pick up the pace!

Pick up the pace, Reese, please pick up the pace!

“Wild” is a movie based on a book, Cheryl Strayed’s memoir called “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” about hiking more than 1,000 miles with no prior experience, unless you count walking as a skill. I used to on my resume.

I didn’t read the book, but my wife did and she wanted to see the movie and I was mildly curious. The film stars Reese Witherspoon, the pretty woman from the “Legally Blonde” franchise, and she scruffs up her beauty in that way Hollywood scruffs up beauty (dirty, but still attractive). Oh, and get a load of this–– in the movie, Reese apparently stinks to high heaven as she hikes across America!

We’re talking Oscar catnip, people!

Throughout the journey, there are all sorts of flashbacks in which we see Reese’s miserable life raised by an abusive alcoholic father and a free spirit mother who showers her and her brother with love, laughter and wisdom while you wait.

Reese apparently gets married to some good guy and then her loving mom gets cancer. Mom dies quickly. This makes Reese’s character very sad so she does what you’d expect–– she has lots of sex with many men and smokes heroin, but that high apparently takes too long so she shoots heroin and lives like an animal and somewhere in her descent she decides she’s got to get it together so she buys a ton (literally) of camping equipment and food and begins hiking the PCT.

The movie follows this journey intercutting all the flashbacks of her life and you go along for the hike and honest to God all the while I kept wishing Reese would walk faster to get the damn thing over with.

It’s a slog. I stayed awake through most of it, and I feel like that’s an accomplishment, one I achieved without having to sleep with many strangers or shoot heroin.

Enter this cinematic journey at your own risk. If you do find yourself caught in a theater with this film, at the first signs of boredom take my advice–– walk!

Ain't romance something?! Yeah, you betcha it is!

Ain’t romance something?! Yeah, you betcha it is!

For anyone who’s suffered through mindless romantic comedies, They Came Together covers some familiar territories with sharp sarcastic teeth.

It does for the genre what Airplane did for disaster movies (not nearly as hilarious, but with plenty of laughs, characters and memorable scenes). Just to be clear, this is not a classic like Airplane, but it’s got many more laughs than most contemporary comedies.

If you’re looking for a fun way to spend 83 minutes, grab this baby on demand and let Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Ed Helms, Ken Marino and over a dozen more comic actors deliver the goods.

The plot is as stupid as any modern romcom, and the script by Michael Showalter and David Wain (who also directed) delivers sophomoric laughs throughout. This is mindless entertainment at its best.

Order it up and enjoy the ride.

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