Tag Archives: Movies

I’m glad the future didn’t turn out like it did in Back to the Future II

I’ve been seeing it every once a month or so for the past several years, someone posts a picture on the Internet, it’s a screenshot of the clock inside the Doc’s DeLorean. “Today is the date that Marty McFly visited in Back to the Future II!” and, the first time I saw it, I thought it was really cool, but then it kept popping up, someone just photoshopping a new date to match the current one. Super lame.


But it does raise some interesting ideas. Back to the Future II is a movie made in the eighties that attempts to portray what life in America should look like right about now. Obviously there aren’t too many similarities between the real world and that fantasy land where every homeowner has access to his or her personal flying car. But it’s a movie. That’s one idea of what a future might look like.


It makes me wonder, which version of 2014 is better, ours, or the one imagined way back when? While there’s a lot to consider, I’d have to say that the real 2014 has shaped up to be far superior in almost all respects to the one from the movie. And yes, I’m taking into account the fact that mostly everything made in the eighties looks super cheesy in hindsight. But even after acknowledging and compensating for that handicap, the real future is still so much brighter.

That’s not to say that they got everything wrong. I’m obviously talking about Hoverboards here. And while this futuristic neon pink play toy only had a minor role in the movie, it’s lasting grip on our collective imagination only serves to underscore its very noticeable absence from the future that we inhabit today. Yes, the flying cars were also pretty cool, as were the sneakers that tied themselves up with a push of a button. But come on, why do we not have Hoverboards yet? It’s almost enough to make me want to rule in favor of the eighties future, if only to encourage us to realign our modern priorities, shift away from whatever it is we’re currently working on and reorient our goals to making Hoverboards a viable consumer technology.

Almost. But the rest of the eighties future is depressing enough that I can forget for a few moments that I live in a world where Hoverboards remain a distant fiction. Which is weird, because from a cursory glance, the future in Back to the Future II looks bright. Everything is clean and hi-tech, people seem to be happy, in essence, it’s not Mad Max or Robocop or any of the dystopian visions of the future commonly portrayed in the eighties.

But it still kind of sucks. Marty McFly had dreams of becoming a rock star, but in 2014, he instead finds himself living in some highly automated cage where his foreign boss can appear anytime he wants on giant wall mounted TVs. When they decide to fire McFly, it’s not enough to just tell him that he lost his job, they start streaming in commands to all of the printers around the house, “You’re fired!” printed in giant type for his whole family to read. Talk about lack of privacy, I’d rather have the NSA reading my emails than my boss having the ability to weasel his way into my off-the-clock hours.

And speaking of work, why does everybody in the eighties future have to wear two ties? In my version of the future, we’re all wearing less ties, zero ties, not an additional tie. A tie is the stupidest must unnecessary piece of clothing currently in every man’s closet, and yet it’s somehow required for any sort of formal event. What’s the point of looping a piece of fabric around our neck? It’s just dumb. Dumb, dumb, dumb. And yet someone who made this movie thought it would look a little more advanced if we all got to wear an extra.

It’s just a subtle way of showing how maybe their future wasn’t meant to be as appealing as its glossy coated exterior made it appear. Everybody in the house is working. Work, work, work. Everybody’s so busy that they barely have enough time to feed themselves. They can’t cook dinner, they don’t even have time to go out for a bite to eat. No, instead, Marty’s mom comes over and rehydrates a Pizza Hut pizza in some futuristic kitchen appliance. So not only are the people of the twenty-first century forced to eat dehydrated junk food, they have to fit their houses with expensive appliances that deny them even the ability to enjoy their fast food outside of the house.

And why do Marty and his future son appear to be identical twins? It’s too easy of an answer to say that they just wanted Michael J. Fox to play both roles. No, I think that in this vision of the future, gene therapy has advanced to a point where parents could customize the DNA of their offspring, mapping their appearance to the most minute detail. Of course, Marty being a total self-absorbed rock-n-roll wannabe narcissist, he basically molds his son into his clone, ensuring and predicting a perpetual stagnation of the human race, of eighties American decay, endless suburban sprawl, and lame retro-themed diners.

Yeah, the real future is so much better. Seriously, they didn’t even predict the Internet. How do you not predict the Internet? And the further we march ahead, the sillier Back to the Future II looks in the rearview mirror. I say we leave it all behind, stop airing Part II on TV, and try to forget all of those unexplained temporal paradoxes (Like, when Biff steals the time machine, he comes back to the future after having dropped off the sports almanac, but nothing’s changed yet. Why? Shouldn’t he have come back to a future continued by the timeline in which he’s a ruthless billionaire? It doesn’t make sense.) Except, let’s not forget about the Hoverboards. I’d really, really like a Hoverboard. But I said that already.

Go to the movies to cure cancer

I went to the movies last week, someone gave me a bunch of free movie passes, these were physical tickets, pieces of paper that I had to redeem at the movie theater box office. And so I couldn’t buy my tickets in advance on the phone, I wasn’t even able to use one of those self-service kiosks by the entrance. I actually had to wait on line and interact with a human being.


Which is fine, I guess, it should be fine. All I could think of though was how much easier this could have been had I been able to just walk in and not have to wait on this line. There were all of these other people in front of me, and only one employee actually taking money and printing out tickets. I was curious as to what other people were doing on the line, and so I paid close attention.

They asked for the tickets, handed a credit card, waited while the ticket booth clerk gave it a swipe, and handed them their tickets. I really had to restrain myself from acting out on the urge to get involved. I’d be like, “Guys, why did you wait on this line? There are like eight empty kiosks over there. All you have to do is select your movie and swipe your card. You really feel it necessary to wait on this dumb line? You’re not even going to bother trying to figure out how to do it yourself?”

But you can’t say stuff like that to random strangers. That’s how you get punched in the face. And what am I going to say to the security guard as they escort both of us off premises? “You don’t understand, I was just asking a question, and this doofus punched me!” No, nobody’s interested, now neither one of us gets to see the movie.

But for real, why do you think they only have one person behind that window? Because they’re discouraging you from standing on line. Just use the kiosk. There’s only one person standing there because there are really only a very limited number of reasons as to why you might actually need someone to help process your movie theater transaction. Like my case with the gift tickets. Unfortunately, there’s no option on the touch-screen to scan my passes in.

Do you know how I know that? Because I tried. I at least gave the kiosk a shot. It’s not my fault that I had to wait in line, but I did, and so here I was. What’s everybody else’s excuse? There is no excuse.

And then I finally got up to the window, I got my ticket, and the cashier said to me, “Do you want to donate a dollar for kids with cancer?” and I was just like, “No.” Because I know this game, OK, they do it at the drug store, sometimes they do it at McDonald’s. Let’s guilt you into donating some money. Come on, it’s just a dollar. And it’s for kids with cancer. Pay up.

Don’t think I’m cruel, or that I’m against charity. It’s just that, these movies cost like twenty bucks. Everything about going to the movies is a rip-off. I still enjoy going, and so I’m stuck in the position where I have to pay. But come on, don’t ask me another dollar. Why don’t you give a dollar? Why don’t you donate to charity and leave the fundraising to someone who’s not charging me twelve dollars for a small soda?

It was the same at the concession stand. I bought a small popcorn, that small soda that I was talking about earlier. “Do you want to donate a dollar for kids with cancer?” It’s like, one, how do you know that I didn’t already donate at the ticket booth? I didn’t, but you don’t know that. And two, again, how about you donate a dollar?

And that’s where I had to resist another urge to start a fight with another random stranger. “No,” I said. And the concession lady just looked at me and said, “Really?” Which, I don’t know why she said that, I’m sure I’m not the only person that’s declined to donate before. Maybe it was the blunt way in which I delivered my answer, unashamed, maybe a little annoyed.

But come on, I’m here to watch a movie, not to have some faceless mega-corporation force it’s minimum-wage paid employees to solicit an extra dollar from its customers along every step of the way. I wanted to ask the popcorn girl, “Hey, you, can you give me one dollar? I want to use it to donate a dollar to kids with cancer.” I didn’t, remember that whole me-trying-to-not-get-kicked-out-of-the-theater thing. But I ran through the scenario in my head, I guarantee you I wouldn’t have been given a dollar. And then what, could I have done that whole, “Really?” thing to her? Like, I can’t believe you’re not donating. Don’t you care about kids? Kid with cancer? Come on. Jeez.

When are we getting more Avatar movies?

Nobody talks about Avatar anymore. How did that happen? I remember leaving the theater after watching Avatar for the first time, and yeah, I kind of felt a little cross-eyed from wearing those 3D glasses for so long, but I thought that nothing would ever be the same again. Fast-forward four or so years later, and everything’s exactly the same. I can’t remember the last time I’ve even thought about Avatar, let alone heard anybody else talk about it.


Avatar was supposed to usher in a golden age of 3D movies. But it didn’t. If I ever have the option between 3D and 2D, I’ll always go for the 2D. Again, a lot of it has to do with the creeping sense that the pressure building behind my eyes is always about thirty seconds away from exploding into a full-blown headache. But I’ve seen a few other movies in 3D, and it was all totally unnecessary. Like The Great Gatsby. I would’ve actually been OK with only one dimension for The Great Gatsby.

And what about sequels? After Avatar crushed every box-office record in the books, there was all this talk of future films set on the moon off that blue Jupiter-like planet. There were rumors about underwater adventures. Like maybe the Na’vi can swim, and instead of having giant birds to fly them around, maybe they’d have cool dolphins or something to help them swim really fast.

But any speculation is just a waste of time. Because are you even working on any more Avatar movies James Cameron? The last I heard, he was too busy playing Scuba Steve, building that bullet ship that took him down to the deepest reaches of the ocean. How was that James? Did you have fun? You see any cool giant squid or anything?

You know what I was doing while you were underwater James? I was sitting here wishing that you’d never made Avatar in the first place. Because I want more Avatar so badly. Everybody does. There were all these reports about people getting actually depressed when they’d stare at themselves in the mirror, realizing that they’d never get to walk around inside a nine-foot tall blue body.

People were seriously immersed in your alien world, OK Cameron? And then you just disappear, you’re like, “Actually, I think I’m going to turn my attention toward oceanography.” Guess what? Nobody cares about the ocean. Not unless it’s an ocean on Pandora, OK, and not unless we’re staring at that ocean through a pair of 3D glasses, unable to believe that what we’re looking at on the screen isn’t real. Because it all looks so real.

Don’t you feel like it’s all a little arrogant of you? You’re sitting there thinking, it can wait, I can work on a few other side projects if and when I ever decide to get back to doing what God put me on this planet to do: make more Avatar movies. James, nobody knows how much time they’ll have left on this planet, OK, you could die at any moment. A car accident. Food poisoning. Avian flu. And I’m not even including any of the dumb stunts you’ve been pulling lately, like building your own experimental submarine and traveling to the Mariana Trench.

Even if you started working right this second, dedicating the rest of your waking life to working exclusively on future Avatar projects, you’d only be able to accomplish so much. Don’t you want to maximize the amount of Avatar the world has to consume? Why are you doing this to us James? Was this part of your plan all along? To create the first part of what should have been a thriving franchise by now, all to ultimately put everything on the backburner, causing all of us to slowly forget that Avatar ever existed?

And now I remember it, and I’m flooded with despair, that it’s been so long since I felt what I felt four years ago. Avatar. Cameron, get back to work, man, call a huge press conference, OK, tell us that something’s coming, soon, that we just have to be patient. But not too patient, OK, because I’m going crazy here. Just stop being such a dick and give us more Avatar.

The Wolf of Wall Street, and other random thoughts about the movies

For a while I was going to the movies every week. I’d pick out a new release and see it either Thursday night at midnight or early Friday morning. And then I’d come back and write up a review. This lasted for a while, all the way from last March up until I saw Gravity. But then I missed a week and I just never got back in that groove again, which is too bad, for me anyway, because going to the movies is great.


I’ve seen a few since Gravity, but I didn’t want to get right back into the reviewing. For example, I saw Twelve Years a Slave, but way after the initial release, and so I didn’t want to show up much later with my two cents. There was also this rule that I made up where I wasn’t allowed to read other reviews before I had seen the movie, and I found that, if I wasn’t doing it immediately, of course I’d wind up reading a review, or even just hearing other people talking about it.

Like Anchorman 2, I haven’t seen it yet, and I haven’t even read any reviews. But I heard that it was terrible. Which, I have no idea what my original reaction would have been had I just seen it before talking to anybody else. Maybe I would have laughed. But now, I’ll never know, I’ll eventually see it, either just before they pull it from the theaters or, more likely, sometime much later after it’s out on TV or Netflix, and I’ll go into it thinking, eh, not that funny.

I don’t know why I had to go into my movie watching lull now, the one time of the year where there are like twenty-five huge movies released every week. When I was doing the weekly reviews, I’d have back-to-back weeks where all of the options were terrible movies. Like Burt Wonderstone, or The Host, or The Internship. And now it’s like, even if I wanted to play catch up, there’s no way I’d be able to watch everything. American Hustle is out, there’s a new Cohen brothers movie.

Tonight I saw The Wolf of Wall Street, which came out on Christmas, so yeah, it’s too late for a review. But I wanted to write something about it, and so this is what I’ve got so far, half a blog post about movies in general. But this movie, and here’s the spoiler warning, lots of spoilers, I’m basically going to be writing here as if everyone’s already seen it, so if you’re at all interested in not having someone who has seen the movie talk to you about what happened in the movie, stop now.

The whole movie, it’s about this real life guy who makes a ton of money as a con man on Wall Street. I was sitting there in the theater, I was thinking, OK, there’s not much going on here. Leo is making tons of money and living like a rich prick king. There’s nothing really being said, it’s just the main character acting like an asshole, leading up and up and up and finally he gets in trouble and goes to jail.

I was thinking, it’s boring, there’s not much of a story. And then there’s the ending. He’s out of jail and he’s giving a speech at one of these “How to get rich” seminars somewhere in New Zealand. And he’s just doing the same shit, over and over again, and the camera faces the audience. The last shot is of the people in their seats, looking up.

I thought, man, it’s like a mirror, everybody in this theater looking at the screen, everybody in the movie looking back in the opposite direction. The film ends, the screen goes black and a title card reads, “Based on the book by …” and I don’t even want to write this guy’s name, I don’t want to acknowledge his presence more than I already have, I don’t want this blog post to pop up on a list of results for his name.

But it was this huge joke. He goes to jail, whatever, he’s still a rich con man. He wrote a book. He optioned the movie and a huge director took on the project. And here I am, I’m staring at these people in New Zealand thinking, man, who shells out money for these garbage seminars? And then it hit me, I’m sitting here, I just shelled out twenty bucks for this garbage movie, a plot as cheap and nonexistent as the junk he peddled on Wall Street.

And so yeah, he got me, I contributed to this guy’s fortune, his fame, even totally unknowingly, I was still part of this mass fleecing. I thought, wow, I’m so stupid, but really deep for having such a great insight, but mostly stupid, but also really, really deep.

Tell Frank I say hi

If you see Frank, tell him I said hi. Tell him, “Hey Frank, I just ran into Rob, and he says hi.” And then give me a call and tell me if he says anything back. Like maybe Frank’s going to be like, “Oh, that’s really nice. Tell Rob I say hi also!” And then I’ll text you back, I’ll say something like, “Tell Frank I say thanks for saying hi. Ask him how he’s doing.” Just ask him. Just be like, “Frank, I just got a text back from Rob, he says thanks for saying hi back. He wants know how you’re doing.”

Let me know what he says. I’m assuming it’ll be something like, “I’m doing great. Ask Rob how he’s doing,” to which I’ll have you tell him, “Rob says he’s also doing great,” onto which I’ll change topics slightly, tell him, “Rob wants to know if you’ve seen Riddick.” If I know Frank like I think I know Frank, the answer’s going to be something like, “Rob, Frank says he hasn’t seen Riddick yet, although he liked Pitch Black when he was in high school.” I need you tell him, “Frank, Rob wants me to tell you to do yourself a favor, to go and see Riddick. Rob says he saw it last week and it was awesome. Even though he saw it already, he said that he’s more than happy to go see it again with you next weekend.”

And then I think I know how things are going to play out from there, let me know what he says, because I’ll bet you anything it’s going to be something like, “Well, tell Rob that I’d love to go to the movies with him, but you know, with the wife and kids, it’s really not as easy to get out like it was when we were younger.” Frank’s always saying stuff like that, like, “Another time maybe,” or, “Yeah, we should make plans to do something sometime soon.”

I’ll be like, “How’s next week?” and he’ll be like, “To make plans to do something?” and I’ll say, “No, to do something. This is the making plans.” He’ll give me some nonsense, last time it was something like, “Well, next week I might be able to make plans for something in the future sometime, but I don’t know. You know how it is. Wife. Kids. But hey, let’s think about maybe calling each other up someday, maybe we’ll eventually figure something out.”

So tell him, tell Frank, “Frank, look, Rob wants you to know that he knows where you’re headed with all of this. He says not to worry about it. He hired a sitter. He told his sister that your wife can come over and hang out with her. Also, Rob says that he bought two tickets for Friday night. It’s Riddick. It’s IMAX. Look, I don’t want to get in the middle here, but you should totally go for it. I mean, a free night out? Not having to worry about the wife and kids? IMAX? That sounds too good to be true.”

Come on, just tell him that. Well, if the conversation gets that far, just please, tell him about the tickets, about the sitter, remind him that we were supposed to go see Pearl Jam back in 2009, and that even after I bought the tickets, he texted me a month before the show, “Is it too late to back out? I think it’s my sister-in-law’s birthday that night.” And those were not easy tickets to get, no. Just, you don’t have to mention Pearl Jam, but keep it in your head. I guess use it if you have to.

Exactly, if it gets that far. Start by telling him I said hi. Eventually get to Riddick. It’s a ten-fifteen show, which, I know, it’s kind of late for a dude with kids, but it’s an all-night sitter, I found her on craigslist. We could even go out afterward. Like, we could really go out, bars, clubs, everything. My sister could take his wife out too, if she’s into it.

All right, well, tell him I said hi. Tell him “hey” for me.

Hey Steve! If you see Shaun, tell him I say “What’s up,” and also, tell him, “Shaun, Rob wants me to remind you to tell Frank that he says hi, and something about Riddick and maybe Pearl Jam, he didn’t give me all of the details, but he says you’ll know what I’m talking about. Here, he wrote it down. Do you want me to read it to you? Do you want me to come with you and read it to Frank? Can you just give me Frank’s new phone number to give to Rob? He says he promises no more late night phone calls. Just tell him hey. Tell everyone Rob says hi, it’s been too long, we all really need to get together soon.”