‘Blade Runner 2049’: An art house film masquerading as a blockbuster

Fuck the box office, this is a masterpiece!

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Fuck you, box office numbers!

When Blade Runner 2049 ended and the credits rolled, I was ready to watch it again. I didn’t want to leave the brilliantly crafted world of visionary director Denis Villenueve.

That’s how good this movie is. A sequel made for a reason and executed in a way that makes you want to watch the 1982 original with a fresh palette and wonder about the years in between and how they connect to to this new adventure, but also creating an entirely new and highly invigorating world to dive into.

The story picks up in California in 2049, with a younger blade runner named K (Ryan Gosling) tying up old loose ends for a new boss, Lieutenant Joshi (Robin Wright, appearing in everything these days). Times have changed since Rick Deckard vanished 35 years ago. After the blackout wiped everyone out, a new manufacturer named Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) is bio-engineering new replicants-and doing so with more sinister plans, causing K and Joshi to work in between the lines of good and bad intentions.

When a dark secret is brought to light by K that could change the game, he enlists the help of Deckard to bring down the bad guys. What follows is a good old fashioned adventure-and one with a huge functioning brain. Continue reading “‘Blade Runner 2049’: An art house film masquerading as a blockbuster”

Here’s What I Know, Volume #12: Soccer, NFL-less, and Harvey filth

Live from Courtesy Diner on Kingshighway after a seven hour Uber shift, let’s talk.

~How about that USA soccer team? 

Disclaimer: I care as much about soccer as I do the safe passage of decaf coffee towards my table. Fine sport and all, but there’s only so much time in the world to play with, and soccer just doesn’t do it for me. Perhaps a few garbage fires on the field would help. However, the most casual fan in the world can’t avoid the heartbreak and letdown that occurred Tuesday night when the soccer team failed to qualify for the World Cup. In losing to a team nobody has heard of, the country was embarrassed on a large stage. I drove someone home from a bar that simply couldn’t understand how the country couldn’t find 11 worthy players to win a single game. So much for that.

I woke up today feeling the same way about the team as I did yesterday. Is Landon Donovan still playing?

~What’s happening in the NFL?

I am asking because I clearly have no idea, nor do I want to. I hear the New York Giants are in trouble and the Dallas Cowboys are losing. The Green Bay Packers are winning, but the Patriots aren’t perfect. I really don’t care. 2017 marks the first time I haven’t watched at least a full quarter of football. And I have no regrets about missing the action. It’s an absolutely selfish sport, where the Commissioner clearly has no regard for the players or the fans. Without fantasy football, the sport would be half as relevant. Players are leaving the sport every month. Parents aren’t letting their kids play.

Why? Check out this scenario. “Hey son, you can grow up playing a sport for your entire life, possibly make a little money but probably not, and end up with a deadly brain disease from it for which the NFL will do nothing about.” Think about it.

It is true that Roger Goodell and Jerry Jones gave Stan Kroenke the leash to jam a fleshy tubesnake up the ass of my city and take the Rams from St. Louis-and in a horrible way. But that’s not the real reason I don’t watch the NFL. I just feel nothing for the sport. It gives nothing back and is the biggest hypocrite of all sporting events. Fuck it. Continue reading “Here’s What I Know, Volume #12: Soccer, NFL-less, and Harvey filth”

Mother! is a cinematic mindfuck of the highest order

A WTF cinema blend!

I can’t get Mother! out of my head.

A full 12 hours after leaving the theater and the imagery of Darren Aronofsky’s over the top yet boldly provocative new film is seared into my cerebellum, like a strange visitor that won’t get out of my house.

Strange visitors, odd husbands, and bizarre activity flood the plot of this original yet maddening movie. The audience meets our unnamed heroine (Jennifer Lawrence) in a large and mostly empty home in the middle of nowhere, a tranquil existence set up with her husband (Javier Bardem), who happens to be a famous poet. With her husband experiencing writer’s block and her mind busy decorating their new home, a series of strange events befalls the couple, starting with the arrival of unannounced guests in a man (Ed Harris) and woman (Michelle Pfeiffer).

Right off the jump, Mother! establishes an eerily proposition with the audience which is quite blunt: follow me down the rabbit hole as far as you can. The director layers the suspense and shock throughout the two hour running time wisely, slowly turning up the crazy one twist at a time. Continue reading “Mother! is a cinematic mindfuck of the highest order”

Throwback Thursday: Vinny fighting for his life

Vinny learned to fight at a young age. We all did.

The first thing I remember is how blue and gray my son’s face was. 

It didn’t look natural or alright, and after the color didn’t go away, Vinny went to the Children’s Hospital clinic. I was at a work function and waited for the call. As parents, you are programmed to think about the worst and hope for the best. The text message and phone call I got fell directly into the worst category.

Vinny was being rushed to the hospital via the ambulance. The color in his face wasn’t good at all and something was wrong with his heart. For some reason, his heart rate was doing a raw impersonation of Jackie Joyner Kersee. It was reaching 300 beats per minute, which is very bad.

Right away, my adrenaline spiked. A friend of mine, Eric Moore, drove me back to the warehouse, and then I drove to Children’s Hospital off Kingshighway. I honestly can’t tell you if I obeyed traffic laws or even thought about other cars, or the possibility of the police. I just got there, like I was driving the Delorean.  Continue reading “Throwback Thursday: Vinny fighting for his life”

‘Wheelman’ trailer: The love child of John Frankenheimer’s car chases and Michael Mann’s action sequences

Jeremy Rush and Frank Grillo aim for something different.

Jeremy Rush’s Netflix original film, Wheelman, features a very angry Frank Grillo-and for good reason. Grillo’s expert driver is pulled away from a job right before he is betrayed and whisked around town by a mysterious voice on a cell phone. He is shoot at repeatedly while getting his daughter out of harms way and trying to figure out who kicked him down the rabbit hole of “holy fuck” bad nights.

Rush isn’t here to make a standard action film that gives you temporary arousal; Wheelman aims to be something else. In the 100 second trailer that dropped Monday, he dials up the tension by introducing old fashioned yet potent SOUNDS into the viewer’s eardrum. The burnt rubber of a tire on wet pavement. The sudden shocking sounds of broken glass from gunshots raining down on Grillo’s Porsche.

It’s like John Frankenheimer’s car chase scenes had sex with Michael Mann’s action bravado, and Wheelman is the fucking baby.

Excuse me, but I like angry Grillo. Frankly, I like all types of Grillo, but this is my favorite blend. The authentic man of action is at his best when he plays anti-heroes with nothing to lose and plenty of reason to be pissed off. When we first meet his driver with no name, Shea Whigham’s criminal is getting into the car and treating the car like a Starbucks, becoming all chatty with the man behind the wheel. Grillo wants none of that bullshit. He’s a professional and his world runs on time.  Continue reading “‘Wheelman’ trailer: The love child of John Frankenheimer’s car chases and Michael Mann’s action sequences”

Forget ‘La La Land’, ‘Battle of the Sexes’ is Emma Stone’s best work

There’s a moment near the end of Battle of the Sexes where Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) turns towards a reporter and corrects a statement. “I never said women were better than men; I just think we deserve more. Is that too much to ask?” King goes on to ask the male reporter if he would have a problem with his wife, sister, or mother being better than him at something, and he says no. Game, set, match!

That is the overall tone of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris’ new film, which chronicles the legendary match between King and Bobby Riggs in 1973. Two players on opposite sides of the career mountain-one coming into her own with the other barely grasping notoriety-Riggs and King needed each other more than they knew at the time.

What makes Battle of the Sexes a quality film is that it knows where the important part of the story lies-and it’s not on a tennis court. Sure, the tennis scenes, especially the final match between the two players, are well-staged and filmed, but it’s the moments between the games and after the big matches that carry the resounding impact in this movie.

As she was becoming a star, King was battling personal issues and carrying the boulder of women’s rights on her shoulders. She was married to Larry King (Austin Stowell), but she was falling in love with Marilyn Barnett (Andrea Riseborough), a hair dresser she meets in California while on tour. She was playing the best tennis of her career while broadcasters and retired male players (Bill Pullman’s Jack Kramer among them) said women didn’t deserve to be on the same platform as men in the sport.

Enter Riggs. A 55 year old former star of the game who had a laundry list of problems, gambling at the top of the list, but mostly putting himself over everyone else in his life, including his wife (Elizabeth Shue) and kids. What he saw in a potential match with first Margaret Court (Jessica McNamee) and King was a chance to not shoot down the idea of women in tennis, but keep his name above water.

What followed was the most popular sporting event to ever broadcast on live television, but also one of the most important battles for women’s rights on and off the court.

Stone is phenomenal in this movie, fully investing herself in the physical appearance and ability of King, as well as her emotions and struggles. This is a complete performance that easily tromps her Oscar winning work in La La Land. Playing every shade of King wasn’t an easy task, but the facial resemblance gets your attention right away, before the emotional recognition comes in later. She finds a way to be magnificent in a tough role without makeup or grandstanding.

Carell is an underrated actor who can blend comedy and drama better than most in Hollywood, and he beautifully portrays Riggs as a man of instant charm but everlasting sorrow. There’s a burning need to be relevant in Bobby Riggs, and Carell finds his way to that decrepit location with a blend of charisma and depth. While he was fighting to keep his own name above water, Riggs was unknowingly helping King cement her own.

Without Stone and Carell’s work, this is a TV movie on ESPN. They make it great and worth the price of admission.

The rest of the cast is fine if not memorable, with Sarah Silverman’s promoter landing some very funny lines throughout the film and Alan Cumming bringing his joyful talents to the fashion designer of the women’s circuit.

Should the film be showered with Oscars? No. Is Battle of the Sexes an important film with great lead performances? Yes.

The secret power of this film is telling a wonderful story at a time where women’s rights were still climbing a mountain and daring to be championed. These days, this tale still carries a lot of weight. Without being overly showy, the film is easy to watch, enjoy, and appreciate.

While not a film that screams awards, Battle of the Sexes is a relevant cinematic treat.

5 Best Coffee Shops in STL

The world definitely doesn’t run on Dunkin!

What would you do without good coffee? Adulting would be obsolete. Chores wouldn’t be completed. Jobs would be lost. Kids would have angry parents. And so on.

As a professional coffee gulper, I am going to help you find the best shops in St. Louis. There’s a time where the half-burnt pot at the work station has to do, but October 7 is not that day, so follow along here as I list the five best coffee shops in the city.

5) Tim Horton’s Cafe and Bakery, The Pre-work Fix

Do you want that reliable diner coffee taste, but with an extra kick in the butt? Go to Tim’s. There’s a drive through off Olive and Tucker, a pitstop at Lafayette and 55/44, or the Big Bend/Manchester location. Don’t get a twenty ounce tank. Get a small coffee with two shots of espresso. Less trips to the bathroom and an extra arch in your morning grin.

4) Hartford Coffee, the Morning Gear shift

After you have polished off the hot cup of Canadian hockey player lava, head over to Tower Grove South and grab a 16 ounce Iced Americano. It’s not 40 degrees outside yet, so feel free to drop some cool temps down the throat to balance things out. A perfect Americano has a backyard firepit aftertaste to it with a bitter finish. If you have to, drop an extra sugar in there, but drink this beverage as straight as possible.

*Located at 3974 Hartford Street, 63116

3) Sump Coffee, the post lunch refuel

Throw down the Blues City Deli sandwich and then head over to Sump for a strong cup of coffee. Instead of drinking a disgusting 5 hour energy capsule, get serious with dirty water. It’s healthier. You’ll see a bald man with a long ginger beard named Scott. He may look like an extra from the Sons of Anarchy, but in reality he has the voice of an angel and is a sweet man. You’ll look behind the counter and see what looks like a science lab experiment happening with coffee. Beakers, test glasses, and pouring seminars. Don’t be intimidated by the menu. Just ask for the Kenya blend. Scott will describe it like Mick Jagger describing the writing process behind Gimme Shelter, but when you drink it, the strength will make the rest of the work day seem like a piece of cake.

*Located at 3700 South Jefferson Avenue, 63118

2) La Cosecha Coffee Roasters, the afternoon mood boost

The Maplewood gents roast their coffee right behind the counter. There’s pour overs and serious business going on like Sump, but there’s a more relaxed vibe here. One of the owner’s is a Royals fan, but that blue is still better than Chicago blue, so go in between 2-4 p.m. for half-priced happy hour, and get a two dollar Cafe Latte. I know what you are thinking: death by a thousand bubbles of foam. But these people do it right, and if you are extra nice, they will drop some honey and vanilla in there. It will almost feel like the weekend.

*Located at 7360 Manchester Road, 63113

1) Shaw’s Coffee, the finishing touch

Leave the coffee, take the macciatto. Your final National Coffee Day stop will happen on The Hill, the place where Yogi Berra called home and Frank Cusumano will eat his last meal. You’ll walk in, duck out of the way of the huge plants, and ask the lady at the counter for a tall macchiato. This isn’t your college campus preppy Starbucks macchiato, with four pumps of caramel and a dab of soy. This is espresso AND foam. Nothing else. It only takes two to make this drink tango. The real deal, minus Arnold. The good stuff. It will come in a small fancy cup sitting on a plate. Head over to a window seat. Relax. Sip. Do not drink. Sip slowly. Savor it. Certain drinks are walks, not marathons.

*Located at 5147 Shaw Avenue, 63110

That’s it. Put that coffee down. Coffee is for closers, and you closed the door completely shut. The weekend won’t know what to do with you. There could be an urge to run home. Just walk. Forget the free cups of coffee at Krispy Kreme and Dunkin Donuts. Check these places out.

The above five drinks will cost you a grand total of 16 dollars. In other words, two drinks at Starbucks.

Take my word for it. I know my coffee.