This entire weekend, my Muse has been perpetually hyperactive, careening from one idea to another without rhyme or reason, lobbing ideas casually at me at breakneck pace, none of which are suitable to the things that I really should be writing.
I would suspect my Muse of dabbling in either meth or cocaine, however, he is my Muse, and I know the much likelier culprit is probably him chugging down several Dr. Peppers (or Mountain Dews) and consuming several boxes of Coco Puffs, then refusing to allow the inevitable sugar crash to overcome him.
This is not to say I am ungrateful for the ideas. I value them, I do, but his generally unhelpful bent this weekend means that I still have other writing piling up because he was busy saying “Know what we should do? Huh? This is a great idea, I think we should totally write it, you know? You want to do this instead, I mean, look at the possibility here. Oh, and if we did this…”
He’s ecstatic about NaNoWriMo and thinks that multiple projects are in order for it. He’s kicked into overdrive for all kinds of neat stuff we can do now. I’ve got all kind of notes for myself. The ideas are popping into existence like mushrooms in a Millipede game. That aspect is great. The actual finished product output this weekend, though, not so much.
Still, that makes me feel like throttling him into at least temporary submission only slightly less.
I got to see an advance screening of “John Wick”. In the simplest terms, it’s a fast-paced revenge flick.
Keanu Reeves plays John Wick, a man who’s just lost his wife and receives a dog from her as a final gift. He drives a beautiful Mustang and seems to be an ordinary albeit grieving man. When he gets robbed, however, things go to hell in a handbasket very, very quickly. John Wick used to be a hitman, not just any hitman, though, he was the best.
Reeves’ voice has come a long, long ways from his Ted days, thankfully. Those early action movies that he did gave him zero opportunity to show any range and tone or timbre modulation seemed to be beyond his reach.
"John Wick" gives him a chance to show that yes, Keanu Reeves can act. He can cry heartbreakingly convincingly on film. Sure, for the most part, he just has to convey sixty types of grumpy, but he’s good at it. When it comes down to it, he makes the character believably badass. There’s a point where he comes striding around a black SUV and he’s the most compelling lead to ever control a bullet laden dance of death you’ve ever seen. John Wick is a virtuoso of the handgun and Reeves pulls off that deadly confidence with both style and grace.
Ian McShane makes an appearance as an elder statesman of the underworld. He runs a high-end safehouse of sorts for the killer elite. The place has a rule-“No Business on the Property” and anyone staying there is required to keep to it. McShane has the deceptively lazy air of a reclining lion as he presides over his kingdom. It’s heavily implied in his initial appearance, however, that he is not a man to be crossed, ever.
Then there’s Willem Dafoe ‘s Marcus. Marcus knows John professionally. He doesn’t quite have John’s flair, nor does his reputation seem to have reached the same level as John’s. It doesn’t make him any less dangerous, it’s just that their world is full of all kinds of dangerous people.
"John Wick" isn’t all doom, gloom, and body count. There are some fantastically well done moments of dark comedy in the midst of the tension of the hunt. You’ll never look at hotel concierges or laundry services the same way again. The impact of a well-placed, simple "Oh" bringing a frothing rant to a screeching halt conveys nearly everything you need to understand to explain why robbing John Wick was a very bad idea. It’s not just in the pitch perfect delivery, but in the context of the character delivering that single syllable. You realize immediately (at least if you have any common sense) that a whole string of horrible things are about to happen because the chain of events was set into motion.
The soundtrack is hard, crunchy guitar work and thumping drums. It’s as driving and relentless as the character of John Wick.
If you’re looking for a movie that has car chases, organized crime, and a nearly non-stop plot and you don’t mind a high body count (with surprisingly little spatter), then go see “John Wick”.
Below the thunders of the upper deep;
Far, far beneath in the abysmal sea,
His ancient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep
The Kraken sleepeth: faintest sunlights flee
About his shadowy sides: above him swell
Huge sponges of millennial growth and height;
And far away into the sickly light,
From many a wondrous grot and secret cell
Unnumbered and enormous polypi
Winnow with giant arms the slumbering green.
There hath he lain for ages and will lie
Battening upon huge sea-worms in his sleep,
Until the latter fire shall heat the deep;
Then once by man and angels to be seen,
In roaring he shall rise and on the surface die.
-Alfred Lord Tennyson, “The Kraken” (1830)
The Smithsonian is no stranger to sea monsters. In the 1916 Annual Report to the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution, the curator of marine invertebrates, Paul Bartsch, introduces us to the molluscan class Cephalopoda, with the biography “Pirates of the Deep–Stories of the Squid and the Octopus,” Go to page 347 of the Annual Report to read more, although he doesn’t get to sea-serpent myths until 364.) It’s from this report that we’ve pulled these images to celebrate Kraken Day of Cephalopod Awareness Days.
Are they real? Most assume that the giant squid is responsible for most of these myths and legends. In the Oceans Hall of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, there is a long, counter-height tank with a specimen of a giant squid available to see in all its glory. It wasn’t until 2006 that anyone had actually documented video of the giant squid in its natural habitat.
Our upcoming exhibition, Fantastic Worlds: Science and Fiction, 1780-1910, opens mid-2015. If you’re a fan of the intersections between science and fiction, it’ll be worth the wait! We might even include something sea-monster related from Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. You might also like a t shirt bearing an image from another aspect of the exhibition–space travel.
Oh, I desperately want to see this exhibit. When science and fiction intersect, I get giddy with the possibilities. So much mythology and folklore was created because humans wanted to understand how the world around them worked. Through those stories they started a slow progression towards science, even if it was through sewing seeds of curiosity in those who couldn’t take those explanations at face value.
There are some things it’s worth dragging your ass out of bed freakin’ early on a Saturday morning to go do. One of the movie theaters where I live gives a fantastic discount if you get to a showing prior to 11 am. Depending on the show you want to see, it can mean freakin’ early so you can get parking and get your popcorn and your other concessions.
Sometimes, I get disappointed. Other times, I walk away astounded.
I’m used to hearing Tom Hardy speaking loudly and, at the very least, walking like he’s carrying the biggest stick in the room. I’m used to seeing him affable, in one version or another flamboyant, and, most of the time, as one of the most disarmingly charming thugs you’ll ever see on screen.
There is none of that charisma in Bob Saginowski, the character Hardy plays in “The Drop”. Instead, Bob is quiet and mousy. He’s soft-spoken and talks haltingly, like he’s expecting to be either dismissed or belted upside the head for stupidity. Bob is that guy you always overlook because he just never really does anything that would make you take notice of him. He doesn’t seem stupid, nor does he appear calculating. There’s just something a little bit off about Bob. Overall, he gives the impression of a nice, socially-awkward man who probably works as the bartender in his cousin’s bar because it’s the only place that never made him interview for the position.
The bar in question is one that serves as a “drop bar”, a place where money is laundered for the criminal underworld by dropping and exchanging it. Someone gets the bright idea to rob Cousin Marv’s Bar in an attempt to cash out big time. When an organized crime family’s money goes missing, though, you can be sure it’s more than just cops who will come looking.
Bob finds himself being pressed from every side, by the cops, by the crime family who wants their money back, even by his own cousin. The last thing he needs is another entanglement. Then, he finds a pit bull puppy in a garbage can. The dog has been beaten and left for dead. Bob has a decision to make, whether he’ll keep the dog or not. It’s even more complicated by where he found the puppy.
The puppy had been thrown in a trash can in a woman’s front yard. The woman’s name is Nadia. As Bob gets to know her, they tentatively start to date. Things just get messier from there.
Noomi Rapace is both tough and surprisingly fragile as Nadia. She’s the kind of woman who has no trouble haranguing Bob into keeping the puppy, but when Bob confesses he has no idea how to take care of the dog, she is also willing to help teach him what he needs to know. She’s obviously very taken with not only Bob, but with the protectiveness he shows towards his dog. At the same time, when an old boyfriend shows up, Nadia offers initial resistance, only to fall back into long standing patterns of behavior.
Cousin Marv is played by James Gandolfini. He’s a fast-talking, know-it-all, been-there-done-that, tougher-than-you’ll-ever-be entrepreneur. Marv just doesn’t actually know as much as he thinks he does. That never stops him from bullying Bob when he gets the chance. It doesn’t matter that Bob is the one who remains calm during dangerous moments, nor that when he’s allowed input he volunteers not only solid ideas but good reasons behind them. Marv fancies himself the brains of the outfit and Bob is just his loyal workhorse, there to tend bar and occasionally pull his ass out of the fire. Marv’s not exactly hateful, nor is he despicable. As the movie unfolds, Marv is revealed to have deep familial attachments and a sense of loyalty that helps the audience understand why Bob would stick around.
The movie is peppered with big reveals. Those reveals never feel like cheap shots and they never come from left field. “The Drop” is a good, tense story and the cast brings it to life beautifully. It’s a different kind of mob story, one about the little guys, the bit players you’ve always known were out there but you just don’t see stories about. “The Drop” proves it’s not because those stories are any less interesting.
The Guillermo del Toro Cabinet of Curiosities: Limited Edition ultimate fan collectible now available at Sideshowcollectibles.com for fans of Hellboy, Cronos, P
OO. Look. More reason for book envy. Yes, I would really like to have this. It would go beautifully in the bizarre hodgepodge that is my library.
The Pinkwater Podcast
My first Daniel Pinkwater book was “The Blue Moose”. I do not think you’ve lived until you have heard Daniel Pinkwater read “The Blue Moose” to you himself.
Which you can. For free.
Bless you, Mr. Pinkwater, because tomorrow, when someone asks me why I seem tired tomorrow at work, I will not answer “Because I was working on my laundry and the stupid machine decided that it would only spin and rinse instead of doing full wash cycles”. Instead, I will answer “I am a responsible adult and I spent last night downloading MP3s of the fantastic Mr. Daniel Pinkwater reading “Lizard Music” and “The Blue Moose” and “Return of the Moose” and I regret nothing.”
Happily, this will not be the weirdest thing they’ve ever heard me say.
Fictional crime has shown a strong presence in this year’s Fall TV season. There’s the fantasy comic book crime of “Gotham” and the soap-opera flavored crime of “How to Get Away with Murder”.
I like “Gotham” for the back-stories, and “How to Get Away with Murder” for the way Viola Davis is playing such a marvelous badass.
"The Boxtrolls" is a beautifully animated movie with a nasty, creepy villain. "The Maze Runner" is a dystopian movie squarely aimed at teenagers. Both have their merits, but if you want a movie that will cheer you up, you’ll want to proceed with caution for at least one of them.