The Imagination and Procrastination of Jared Stern, Amiable Zany
Thursday, December 24, 2015
The Man Called Tomorrow
Hey gang... As time continues its inevitable march toward the new year, I wanted to give you something to distract you from the holiday doldrums. I'm writing from my mother-in-law's apartment in sunny Florida. Although, that isn't much of a brag considering that most of the eastern seaboard currently resembles L.A. without most of the self-delusion. Why do I bother spending the holidays in Florida if I can't shove it in the numb shivering faces of friends and family back home? Oh well. Enjoy frolicking in shorts and sun dresses in December. Mother Nature will balance the scales with a blizzard in March that will sock everyone in for a week and a half. The toilet paper aisle at Harris Teeter will make Black Friday at Best Buy look like Arbor Day at Radio Shack. It doesn't make sense now, but trust me, the metaphor holds up.
I'm always amazed at the interesting lives led by other people. As the selfie-obsessed ego-maniacs our society has evolved into, we all think that our lives are in the top percentile of interesting. If you take the time to listen to other people and what they've done, you realize maybe that fifth picture of the linguini you had last night wasn't the culinary game changer you thought it was. I attended the Christmas party in my mother-in-law's building last night and met a couple people who might be the most interesting I've met all year, possibly in the last five years. The first guy worked for the Air Force. His job? Packing parachutes into pilot ejector seats. What was my first question upon hearing this? "So, how accurate was the ejector seat scene from Die Hard 2?"
His answer, unfortunately, was that it's total bullshit. That type of plane had no canopy, and when pilots need to evacuate, they jump out of the side door. I then proved I knew what a canopy was by referencing Goose from Top Gun. Thank goodness movies provide us with a universal language for describing real life. I felt like I was in that episode of Star Trek:TNG telling him about Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra. I love talking to people about stuff that I will never do. He has also flown a jet and worn a G-suit. Here's something I never knew, the G-suit squeezes your body, so that your blood doesn't all plummet to your feet while you are pulling multiple G's. Anyway, I found it all fascinating. The second guy I talked to was in a motorized wheelchair. He wore a Harley Davidson t-shirt, a Harley Davidson necklace, and had Harley Davidson tattoos on both arms. The guy was brand loyal. As I got to talking to him, he told me that he rode a 1000 miles a day on his motorcycle, and his goal was to ride 1,000,000 miles. It was cut short at about 600,000 when he fell asleep at the wheel while riding in Alaska, paralyzing him from the chest down. He still rides, though. He's having a trike built so he can pick up where he left off. He owns 14 motorcycles, including a Harley from 1912. He's also a member of the oldest motorcycle club in Brazil. Think Sons of Anarchy, but with more plantains. He also told me about breaking one of his legs and not realizing it until someone pointed out that the bone was poking through. Two things about me: 1) I've never ridden a motorcycle. 2) I've never broken a bone. I was enthralled by his zest for life and was made very aware of the distinct lack of zest in my risk-averse life. When I asked him his name, he told me it was "Tomorrow". It's actually Tomauro, but he got tired of explaining the pronunciation to people. Anyway, I could've talked to him all night.
I should also share my thoughts on Star Wars: The Force Awakens, since that is now the dominant focus of popular culture. It's mildly ironic that, until recently, Star Wars was just the culture of unpopular people. Well, I saw it, thoroughly enjoyed it, then thought about it, and realized it was pretty much just a retelling of the first movie. Oh, sorry, SPOILER ALERT. I'm legally obligated to put that in front of anything that might give you a hint of what might happen in the movie. It's been out for a week, people. Don't get me wrong, it was everything it needed to be. It felt like a Star Wars movie, it had heart, the new characters were engaging, the old characters weren't just there for nostalgia's sake, everything fit together nicely. But, it's another droid with an important message for the rebellion dropped off on a desert planet, discovered by an unlikely hero who doesn't realize they're a part of something much bigger, being pursued by a draconian military force with a giant frickin' laser that can destroy a planet. I liken it to the 2006 reintroduction of Superman to movie audiences. A beloved franchise that newer audiences might not be as familiar with because the last installment, which stunk, came out almost 20 years ago. Superman Returns was pretty much an exact retelling of the first Superman: The Movie from 1978. The folks at Disney wanted to ease the new audience that was raised by parents that grew up on this stuff into the basic story of the franchise. That's being generous. It could also just be lazy storytelling on the part of J.J. Abrams, who wasn't above milking original Star Trek nostalgia to make his reboot seem more palatable. Either way, I liked it, I plan on seeing it again to try and catch stuff my teary fanboy eyes might've missed the first time.
One last thing. I'm getting back on the comedy horse and I've been booked to play a show on New Year's Eve. So, if you happen to be in the Harrisburg, PA area, I'll be at the Harrisburg Comedy Zone on Dec. 31st and Jan. 2nd with none other than Dustin Diamond, Screech from Saved by the Bell. See you there.
Have a very merry and a holly jolly. I'll see about getting one last installment up before year's end.
Hello neglected readers. Again, the perfect storm of procrastination, distraction, and general malaise has lead to blog atrophy. Since I'm no longer encumbered by a day job, I figure there's no time like the present to put off the job search and give you something to wrap your eyeballs around.
The big day is on the horizon. The newest installment of Star Wars will be forcing itself on the movie-going public in a matter of days, shattering box office records and re-branding just about every consumer product in the known universe. Before it gets here and sets the new standard by which all seventh movies in a franchise will be judged, I thought we should take a moment and figure out which movie series is the current holder of the title: Best Seventh Movie. Obviously we're not going to use any objective metric like box office gross or award nominations. In many cases, except for a couple of the ones on this list, any franchise that has gone that long is at the point of self-parody by plucky number seven. Let me point out that I haven't actually seen all of these, but don't let that dampen my expert-sounding tone.
7. Diamonds Are Forever (James Bond) - I've never been a James Bond guy. Sure, Sean Connery is the definition of cool, but when I was a kid I was more drawn to his turns in Highlander and Time Bandits. Awesome as being a super spy was, I wanted to be immortal and time travel with a group of British midgets. So, this belongs in the category of "haven't seen," but since this is the first major franchise to have a seventh movie (besides the Bob Hope and Bing Crosby "Road to..." movies), I figured it deserved a mention.
6. Wes Craven's New Nightmare (Nightmare on Elm St.) - While I wasn't much of a James Bond guy, I am a die hard Freddy Kruger guy. I've seen all of them. The recent reboot, like most recent reboots, is sacrilege. With franchises that run this long there is a general rule of thumb as far as quality. With the Nightmare on Elm St. movies, it's the odd numbered ones that stand out. This first is a classic, Dream Warriors is fantastic (with a cast that includes Lawrence Fishburne and Patricia Arquette), and Dream Child is one of the campiest entries, with Freddy at his catch-phrasiest. Which brings us to the New Nightmare. This was Wes Craven's attempt to make Freddy relevant again by rooting him in the "real lives" of the people who made the original film. Freddy has now transcended the screen. He's pissed that the series is over and the only way to stop him is for Wes Craven and Heather Langenkamp (Nancy) to make another movie. They try to up the creep factor by making Heather's son, who looks like he just came home from the Overlook Hotel, the conduit for Freddy's reemergence.
It mostly pays homage to the original movie and tries to recreate some of the iconic deaths. Even if it's not close to as scary, this was the precursor to Wes Craven's Scream series about a "real life" horror killer that you have to follow a set of cinematic tropes to take down.
5. Star Trek: Generations - Like I mentioned earlier, there's a general rule of thumb when it comes to any long-running franchise. With Star Trek, it's the even numbers. Wrath of Khan, Voyage Home, and Undiscovered Country are all varying degrees of awesome. The only redeeming quality of Search for Spock was Christopher Lloyd as the lead Klingon... funny that they ended up time traveling in his ship for the next movie. Anyway, Generations had a tough legacy to overcome. Not only that, this movie was to be the bridge between the decaying original cast and the new class of Federation heroes that would carry the torch. Obviously, in order to do that, time needed to be rendered irrelevant. So, we're introduced to the Nexus, an extradimensional realm which allows those who enter to experience
their pasts over again, whenever and however they choose, to ultimate
and unending ecstasy. Kirk is stuck there and Picard must convince him to leave so they can team up to stop Soran, Malcolm MacDowell, from chewing the scenery into oblivion. It's a fun romp and we get to see Kirk get one last hurrah before taking up the mantle of Priceline Negotiator.
4. Furious 7 - This goes into the category of ones I haven't seen. I take that back. I have seen the first Fast & Furious, so I've technically seen them all. Cars, guns, bad-assery, and combinations of all three jumping out of planes, crashing through skyscraper windows, and ignoring any basic laws of physics. Not a complaint, mind you. Movies like this are about spectacle and this one bugs the viewer's eyes out like the love struck wolf in a Tex Avery cartoon...
Plus, now that I'm looking at the cast, you've got Tony Jaa as a henchman. Holy shit. If you don't know who Tony Jaa is, allow me to enlighten you...
Long story short, do not fuck with this man's elephant. Furious 7 also features the emotional goodbye to Paul Walker, who died doing pretty much trying to rehearse for the movie. Again, haven't seen it, but I plan on giving it a looksee.
3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 1 - The first half of the last in the Harry Potter series finds Harry and his pals on a quest to destroy Voldemort's horcruxes. I think that's the plural of horcrux. The plural of vortex is vortices, so maybe it's horcuces. I'm not going to try to parse the grammar of made up words. I'm just glad it's not a damn emoji or something. This movie marks the first time in the series where it wasn't super creepy to look at Hermoine in the way that most creeps were doing since The Sorcerer's Stone. This was also the first movie in the series that broke from the formula that was established in the first one: Professor of Defense Against the Dark Arts turns out to be a tool of Voldemort, Harry figures this out, wins a Quidditch match, uses whatever object happens to be in the title to beat back Voldemort, rinse, repeat.
2. X-Men: Days of Future Past - The X-Men franchise has been spotty. It's got two real quality entries, X2 and X-Men: First Class, and two that are widely regarded as two of the worst comic book movies ever made, those being X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Days of Future Past, much like Star Trek: Generations, serves as a bridge between the original cast (again with Patrick Stewart) and the prequels that have rejuvenated the franchise. Wolverine, who is basically just walking sinew at this point, is sent back in time to prevent the cataclysmic future that the X-Men are currently facing: Sentinels that can adapt to their mutations to take them out. This movie hinges on two great set pieces. The first is the prison break of Magneto with the mutant Quicksilver. Since Marvel and 20th Century Fox both technically have rights to the character, both decided to include him in their respective sweeping super storylines. This is the superior handling of the two.
The second awesome set piece is Magneto picking up RFK Stadium and dropping it on the White House lawn. The action in the movie is great and Michael Fassbender does a great job lending gravitas to a role that was previously inhabited by one of the best actors of a generation.
1. Creed (Rocky) - If you haven't seen Creed, GO. SEE. CREED. When I mentioned that many franchises that go this long become a parody of themselves, this was where the Rocky franchise had gone. People forget that Rocky won the Oscar for Best Picture. Rocky II was a good movie. Rocky's III and IV are 80s cult classics, but they're cartoonish as hell. I need to go back and watch the boxing sequences in the first two movies, because watching the matches in Rocky III and IV, it's a wonder how any of those fights went longer than 30 seconds. They just pummel each other in the head with no thought of defending. The fifth and sixth in the series are hot garbage. Creed brings the respectability back to Sylvester Stallone that makes you all but forget Stop or My Mom Will Shoot! Google it. It follows the story of Apollo Creed's illegitimate son, Adonis, who seeks out Rocky Balboa to train him. I mentioned the boxing from III and IV, well they actually make the boxing look and feel real this time. The only thing that was missing was a dream sequence that could've brought Carl Weathers into it somehow. Sort of like in Happy Gilmore. Or maybe as a ghost Jedi.
Thanks for reading. I hope I can make a regular go at this again, but I'm easily distracted...