Leave my daughter, take the car: A few words about Gerard Grandzol

When a good parent meets evil, tragedy happens.

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Sacrifice. That is the first thing that a good parent willingly accepts when their child enters this Earth. Selfishness becomes selflessness. Your life is no longer as important as the child’s future. Status quo for the people who cut the shit when they become parents.

Today is a sad day all around. 16 years ago, terrorists cut America to pieces with three planes, costing 3,000 innocent lives. Every 9/11 anniversary, a few fresh heartbreaking tales of heroism emerge like leaves trapped under a rock. Currently, Hurricane Irma is ripping through Florida, after Harvey did a number on Houston. Streets, houses, people, cars, and pets are under siege. You’ve heard about all of that, though, and while it’s all terribly sad, I want to talk to you about Gerard Grandzol.

When I was scrolling through my Twitter timeline today, I read a painful story that is currently buying up real estate in my soul at the moment, so I have to talk about it.

Grandol, 38 years old and a Philadelphia native, was a fine citizen. He did a lot of good work in his community and when people heard his name, smiles and nods were abound. Isn’t that the way to be when you get into your late 30’s and 40’s? People hear your name and sing your praises, instead of wincing and walking away. Grandzol did the right thing often. Last Thursday, he did the right thing and it cost him his life.

He was taking his two year daughter and his dog on an outing to the park. Fun was to be had and good times collected for memory. When Grandzol returned to his home later that night, two men approached him and demanded his car. Grandzol, thinking wisely and going into protective mode, agreed to give up his ride-but wanted to get his kid out of the vehicle first. Then, one guy shot the man twice in the head right in front of his daughter.

This isn’t a movie. In real life, heroes die all the time.  Continue reading “Leave my daughter, take the car: A few words about Gerard Grandzol”

‘The Only Living Boy in New York’: Vintage Jeff Bridges carries charming love story

Stellar acting carries this New York love story

Thomas Webb (Callum Turner, channeling a young James Franco) has a big problem: he can’t tell the difference between true love and infatuation. A young wannabe writer dangling his heart around the streets of New York City between three women, Thomas gets a little help from his new neighbor, W.F. Gerald (a never better Jeff Bridges), who is as almost as mysterious as he is wise. Webb’s struggle reminds of the British loverboy Alfie’s movie ending line: “Love. What’s it all about?”

Director Marc Webb and screenwriter Allan Loeb craftily mix writer’s block, lover quarrels, and a coming of age tale into a smooth talking and moving 87 minute film called The Only Living Boy in New York.  While self-indulgent at times and a little too smart for its own good, the film charms the worry out of its viewer and allows its majestic city to play a tiny role in the film. This is a film that a young Woody Allen could appreciate, because there are laughs and heartstring tugs happening here.

Thomas is ready to lend his entire heart to the affections of Mimi (Kiersey Clemons), who has more feelings for a trip to Croatia than a romance with our young protagonist. When Thomas finds out his father (Pierce Brosnan) is cheating on his mother (Cynthia Nixon) with a beautiful young copy editor (Kate Beckinsale), the rug on his already complicated life is yanked out from under him.

Does Thomas tell his mom-who has already experienced breakdowns due to depression and bipolar disorder-such horrible news–or does he confront the mistress himself, and get the whole story? Webb’s film moves in mysterious ways at times, so it’s a good thing Turner handles the slinky aspects of Thomas’ plight.

The kid loves one woman, feels loyal to another, and then develops an absolute crush on a third. It’s a good thing the always savvy speaking W.F. is around to drop pearls of wisdom on him when he needs a jumpstart.

Turner and Bridges carry the best scenes in the film. Two guys, one young and another much older, debating the how many layers of the onion you have to peel off in order to find love, before you risk being hurt. Whether it’s Thomas’ writing (which has been rejected by his publishing house boss father) or his troubles with women, Gerald is there to help.

While Brosnan, Beckinsale, and Nixon acquit themselves quite nicely, The Only Living Boy in New York doesn’t make such a huge dent without Bridges’ work. In a supporting role, he cuts an intriguing character from a haze of familiarity, which lends the big third act reveal a much needed dose of power.

That’s right, folks. Webb and Loeb’s late surge of a plot reveal really brought the film home. Without it, the few story threads are left dangling and great performances would be wasted. When you watch the trailer for The Only Living Boy in New York, it’s easy to just appreciate the slick features, fast talking, and roll with it for 90 minutes. The final twenty minutes adds a layer of gravitas to the story that took it to another level for me.

I’ll admit that I am a sucker for stories that throw troubled writers, the pursuit of love, and the bristled setting of New York into a blender. This film isn’t perfect by any means, but it makes you feel a lot and the acting is phenomenal.

2017 has been a year of unlikely heartfelt comedy/drama servings leaving unexpected dents in our hearts. Films like Band Aid, The Big Sick, and now The Only Living Boy in New York. You could string them together and create an anthology of heartbreak blues.

When I left Webb’s film, I wanted to spend more time with these characters. I wanted another chapter in a film that will most likely not get a sequel. You know a film is great when the immediate effect is palpable.

If you like well-written and extremely well acted films about the dire pursuit of love and all its miseries, check out The Only Living Boy in New York. Yes, Simon and Garfunkel’s song is appropriately used.

‘A Ghost Story’ is a passionate exploration on life after death

Slow moving yet ambitious take on grief

I’ll warn you up front, ladies and gentlemen: A Ghost Story is a slow moving yet ambitious piece of filmmaking. It takes aims at what we leave behind after death, and the idea that one could get the answers in death that he couldn’t find in life.

David Lowery recruits his Ain’t Them Bodies Saints team of Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara to portray C and M, a couple that go through a traumatic process when one of them dies unexpectedly. Without a ton of dialogue or moving parts, Lowery directs from his own script a tale about the many ways people grieve. Affleck’s C returns to his house as a ghost, complete with the white sheet and eye holes, to look after his wife and the home that he left. There are certain things that C needs to know before he can pass on, and they don’t have to do with M alone.

The great thing about ghost stories is the countless ways it allows a filmmaker to be inventive with. Once he returns as a ghost, C’s story line doesn’t have to deal in a pure linear form. He can visit his wife in the present, or go back to one of their existential fights, or battles over whether to move or stay in a home that carries special meaning to C. Continue reading “‘A Ghost Story’ is a passionate exploration on life after death”

Five Things I Know: Thrones envy; baseball misery; a car’s best friend

Hey! Do I have your attention? Let’s greet this despicable Monday with a few thoughts.

5. If you haven’t watched Game of Thrones yet, stop holding out. It’s worth the time. Fuck Walking Dead and Prison Break. GOT concluded season 7 last night and there are approximately 18 months until the eighth and final season, so get on it. The show’s storyline is so well written and multi-faceted that you leave every episode wanting more. Sword, wolves, dragons, sex, and utter brutality between humans wrapped around powerful character development. It’s like the medieval version of Sopranos with more fucking and killing. Do you like sword fights and action? Yes. How about sex and nudity? Yes. What about dragons burning everything in its wake? Whatever you desire, Thrones has it and tells a story that keeps you off balance and just enough in the dark.

4. We will never have enough time. I work two jobs, take care of a house, try to stay in shape, and have a family. All I hear is just relax and take a moment for yourself. Well, when I do that, who is doing my laundry and cleaning my house? Who cleans up the dog piss on my couch? Am I showing enough attention to myself and loved ones? The next day after a mental cleanse is never easy. It’s not even noon and I’ve already gotten my kid to school late and screwed up the side mirror on my car. There’s never enough time in life to do what needs to be done for you and everyone else. All we can do is try as hard as we can to get enough done. Today I need to drive to make money, write to stay sane, and also work out a bit. And be a good husband and father. There’s never enough time and I feel like I’m letting people down constantly.

*I also have to find time to watch TV shows. Can I buy a few hours of time? Bribe a clock? Persuade a day to slow down? Serious answers only.

3. Up and down baseball seasons are hard to cover. The Cardinals can’t decide if they want to drift away or flourish, so as a writer, I’m constantly juggling moods. “They’re shit”, “All they need is this”, and “Give Peace a chance” have all made appearances. Fans hate you if you’re too positive and grill you when the negativity sets in. Here’s my unfiltered: Calm the fuck down. Let’s all take a minute. More often than not, fans and writers will be disappointed. Until MLB becomes the Oscars and 8-10 teams can win the award the big prize.

PS: Get your shit together, Cardinals. To quote a man named Red, get busy living or get busy dying. I’m tired, Boss.

2. Give me a movie about troubled writers trapped in a love quarrel in the beauty of New York with a great cast, and I’m all over it. I don’t care if it’s preachy or self-indulgent. I’m yours. That’s why “The Only Living Boy in New York” gets my vote. Also, Jeff Bridges is amazing in the movie. Still underrated as an actor. More than the dude. Watch this and last year’s “Hell or High Water”.

1. Drive your cars carefully. My car was new a few months ago and now it feels like it was put through a Fast and Furious film shoot. The descent is real and taking your car to a shop turns us into little kids scared at the amount of punishment it will receive. Drive slower. Be careful. Take care of your most important friend.

One more thing: Conor McGregor acquitted himself well against the best of the best in Floyd Mayweather Jr., but know one thing: the boxer toyed with Conor for seven rounds before picking off the tiring MMA champ. It wasn’t as close as some made it seem. It wasn’t a brutal stoppage either. In the end, I imagine Conor whispered to Floyd, “what took you so damn long?!”

Boxing is a sweet wonderful science. No one can step in and be great. That said, Conor did well.

Song I’m listening to: Tony Crown covering “Fly Like An Eagle”.

Show I’m watching and liking: Ozark.

That’s all. I need more coffee.

Comment, share, and react accordingly.

-DLB

Here’s What I Know, Volume #11: Night King mood swings; Trump doom settling in; Suit and Jacket greatness

Live from The Princeton Heights Night Watch, I ramble on. In no established order and without fancy flow, let’s talk.

  • We may disagree about who bats fourth in the Cardinals lineup or how greedy the NFL is, but there is no place in life for racism. Bigotry is a fucking disease and we need Marion Cobretti to kill it. The events in Charlottesville and our President’s (mouth vomit) response to those shitty occurrences confirms how fucked we are for the next four years in the White House. Our POTUS has to use twitter to properly connect and instead of shooting down racism, he talked about a winery. Where are you, Michael Douglas?
  • Too bad Al Gore is busy making sequels to An Inconvenient Truth. Trump may get us all killed before global warming does.
  • PSA: If you constantly talk about people attacking your beliefs on social media, you are an ATTENTION whore. A soapbox can only hold the weight of someone’s hurt feelings for so long. Again, you know who you are.
  • Coffee is a true mood boost. I felt like gathered and grounded shit a few minutes ago. A few sips of Great Value (yep, cheap Walmart k-cups) coffee and I feel like I can at least rake some leaves or fold some laundry.

Continue reading “Here’s What I Know, Volume #11: Night King mood swings; Trump doom settling in; Suit and Jacket greatness”

Christopher Nolan’s ‘Dunkirk’ throttles and informs

The World War II film delivers big time with an unconventional perspective.

The method of war is simple: soldiers are stationed to protect the civilians back in their homeland. But what if the civilians had to rescue the soldiers?

Welcome to Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, a vivid film that takes an unconventional route to telling its incredible tale. Nolan gives the World War II genre a fresh entry by tapping into a true story soaked in survival, grit, and miraculous efforts from a different angle.

In the depths of World War II, the British and French armies had their backs against the wall. Whether it was through the air with fighter jets or on the ground with artillery fire, Germany was closing a door real fast-and this particular battle came to a head on the beaches of Dunkirk, France. Continue reading “Christopher Nolan’s ‘Dunkirk’ throttles and informs”

‘War for the Planet of the Apes’: A potent summer blockbuster

Here’s a sequel that works and adds a soulful touch to the franchise

Paranoia and fear: deadly tools when placed in the wrong situation with two different species staring down the barrel of their fates.

Matt Reeves' latest epic saga in the world of apes and humans-War for the Planet of the Apes-shows the once innocent Caesar (breathtaking work from Andy Serkis) in a vengeful light. The humans have taken out thousands of apes, and target Caesar's camp next. An unimaginable loss at the hands of a Colonel (Woody Harrelson) with his own brand of vengeance planned.

This sets Caesar on a mission to end the human fight against the apes, but at what cost? When your actions carry repercussions that affects not only your family, but your species, how does one react to tragedy?

The most flavorful thing about the Apes trilogy is that along with the gorgeously shot action sequences, Reaves (who helms the new Batman solo film) pauses to ask important questions about the sinister ability of humanity. When threatened by something they haven't seen before or do not understand, their reaction comes from a place of fear and paranoia. Continue reading “‘War for the Planet of the Apes’: A potent summer blockbuster”