As the saying goes: everything old is new again. Whether it is trends in fashion, styles of music, or even the food and drink we put in our bodies (the “Paleo diet” is from how long ago?), our society has an interesting penchant for liking something, forgetting that something for a while when newer and flashier somethings come along, and finally rediscovering that something and saying “y’know, this something is actually pretty cool.” Even though a timeless work of fiction – such as a Jane Austen novel – is really never truly forgotten, sometimes it does take an infusion of a new idea to bring a classic “back to life,” as it were.
Ironic, then, that the catalyst to reanimate wide-scale interest in Austen’s bourgeois-eschewing “Pride & Prejudice” is a creature that is, by its own nature, reanimated in and of itself: the zombie. Yes, the separate components of Pride & Prejudice & Zombies may not break any new ground on their own, but when these two disparate pieces are “mashed up” together, they become much like Paula Abdul and MC Skat Kat, with opposites attracting in the most delightfully random of ways. Continue reading MOVIE REVIEW: “Pride & Prejudice & Zombies” is Deliciously Irreverent→
There’s an old saying that goes “the truth is stranger than fiction.”In the case of the ever-evolving saga of the story behind Maroon 5’s music video for their song “Sugar,” the lines between truth and fiction seem extremely blurred.
If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the video in question:
As a quick caveat before I dive full-on into this article: I’m not out to bash or “hate on” Maroon 5 or anything like that.Regardless of whether you like or dislike the band for whatever reason (and the right to your opinion is certainly your own), it’s the story behind this uniquely-styled video that has captured a lot of attention.
In the opening sequence of the music video, lead singer Adam Levine is ready to hop into a few cars with his fellow band members and a few roadie-type folks, and he stops to look into the camera and say “It’s December 6, 2014; we’re going to drive across LA and hit every wedding we possibly can.”Obviously the inference here is that what the viewer is about to see is indeed the band going and “crashing” multiple weddings without the prior knowledge of anyone involved.By my count, the video shows seven different weddings: different couples, different venues, and different stage set-ups for the band themselves.Every single person at the weddings seems not only extremely surprised, but they seem extremely well-timed with their surprise on camera; can you really be that surprised with multiple cameramen coming in and swarming everywhere around the party?The situation begs the question: are all seven weddings actual events with real-life people tying the knot?This is where the truth-versus-fiction aspect starts to get fuzzy.
A PR representative for the band made this statement to Entertainment Tonight: “Only the grooms knew in each case.However they disclosed it to their bride and the wedding party, we’re not sure, but they all wanted it to be as equally a surprise as we did. They had stages set up for their actual wedding band already. All we did was some simple continuity changes to match each one as best we could.”This statement seems to present the “official” word is that the band did indeed go to several weddings, all of which had wedding bands performing and all of which had only one person – the groom – that was “in the know” prior to the band’s arrival.
Through some digging, reaching out, and fact-checking, I can confirm that at least two of the seven weddings featured in the music video were, in fact, real-life weddings.I had a chance to ask a few questions of Liesl Kadile, who owns Liesl Diesel Photo and was one of two photographers shooting for a couple at a reception on 12/6/14, a reception at which Maroon 5 did indeed do a surprise performance.
Liesl was able to confirm for me that the performance was an unknown part of the wedding for most of the people there; the groom, the DJ, and the venue manager were aware, but other than that, “no one else knew,” she told me. She went on to explain that “[Maroon 5] did build a stage, and a huge white curtain was surrounding it. Considering what they were doing, it was shockingly minimal. I think that’s part of what made it so successful.”
Liesl told me that the band did two takes of “Sugar,” then they asked that the dance floor be cleared of everyone except the bride and groom; the band then serenaded the newlyweds with an acoustic version of their song “She Will Be Loved” before congratulating the couple and leaving the reception.Oh, and what about those cameramen everywhere?“There were several cameramen at every angle,” Liesl recalled.“We all shot side by side with no problem.”
Duke Khodaverdian of Duke Photography in Los Angeles also photographed a different wedding (on the same weekend) that Maroon 5 did “crash.”He described to BridalGuide.com a similar experience that Liesl had at the wedding she worked, saying that “it was a surprise of a lifetime for the couple and for their wedding guests, one that no one will ever forget.”Featured on Duke Photography’s website and Facebook page, images they captured of the day show a comparable type of encounter: the band playing while the video is shot as guests dance, capped by an acoustic performance and thank-you hugs.
Other than these two weddings, however, the reality of the other five events shown in the video cannot be verified; in fact, intrepid internet users have found many signs that these other weddings were likely staged.Some of the most prominent examples:
—One of the brides shown being “completely shocked” appears to be model/actress Raina Hein, best known as the runner-up on the 2010 season of “America’s Next Top Model.”Pictures from Instagram and paparazzi show that Hein’s long-term boyfriend is not the groom featured in the video, and no public plans or announcements of Hein having an actual wedding seem to exist.
—A groom at a different featured wedding appears to be actor Nico Evers-Swindell, whose most prominent role to date was as the male lead in Lifetime’s 2011 TV movie about Prince William & Kate Middleton. According to past media announcements, he married actress Megan Ferguson in 2011 and they are still together.
—A groomsman shown giving the “ohmigawd, it’s famous people!” finger point appears to be actor Eric Satterburg. Although I can’t say much about Satterburg or his acting credits (other than nailing this scene, I guess!), it is conceivable that he was simply a guest at a wedding that weekend.A very prominently-displayed, amazing-reaction-caught-at-the-most-convenient-moment guest.
—The most damning bit of evidence: the parents of the Asian couple featured in the video are, in reality, an acting husband-wife duo known as the 2Woos; they actually came forth on their Facebook page and admitted that the wedding they were featured in was a fake.The original post (via screen captures) read: “We played the parents of the Asian bride and yes, everything was staged.In fact, all of the wedding [was] filmed at the same location over a three day period.Sorry for the buzz kill.”The post has since been deleted and replaced with a generic “who really cares if it is real or not … it’s a great music video and we are proud to have been a part of it.”
While it’s awesome any time weddings can get a little national attention, and more importantly, a few very special couples get an amazing experience on their big day like few others will ever have, it certainly seems like a convoluted and muddled affair to discern what parts of the video were reality versus what parts were purely for show.Whether this story’s “truth” is stranger than fiction or not, is up to you to decide.
For those of you who think I might have a screw loose somewhere (read: most of you) and that I’m simply a masochist who enjoys manually pushing a 50 lb. mechanical object around my surprisingly sizable front and back yards on swelteringly-hot summer days, let me clarify things a bit for you. All that stuff I just mentioned in the previous sentence? Those aspects, I don’t particularly care for so much. What I do like about my personal lawn-mowing experience can be fairly succinctly summed up in one short sentence:
Mowing my lawn is one of the few things in my life that I can control.
I know where my yard starts; I know where my yard ends. I can set the height adjustment on my mower’s wheels so that the length of the cut grass is exactly what I want it to be. I can mow my grass in rows, and I know that when I double-back and mow the next row, the area I’ve already mowed will stay mowed. I can see how much of my lawn that I have left to mow, and when I get to the end and my entire yard has been mowed, I know that I am done with this particular chore for the day.
It’s a small victory, you see, but I feel that it’s a very important one. There is so much in our lives – and I’m confident, most of us have felt this way at least once in the last year alone – that we simply can’t control. From the relatively mundane of flights being delayed to the potentially life-altering impacts of political and legal change, so much that happens in the external world trickles down to happen to us in turn. Even the things that we try hard to regulate (our health, our finances, our relationships) are not guaranteed to be as firmly in our grasp as we’d like them to be; at any moment, these things can be unexpectedly influenced by outside factors and thrown into either minor or major disarray.
It bears repeating: things happen to us. That’s one of the hardest things to come to terms with, especially for people who like at least a modicum of control over their lives. Now, I’m not here to inundate anyone with the sob stories of the things that have been happening to me recently. There are people out there who are dealing with major illnesses (either of their own or of a loved one), death or other extreme loss, and any number of life-changing events that can cause extreme financial, emotional, and mental hardship. I’m not alone in being a person who is struggling with something, and I know that many people out there have been struggling longer and harder than me.
So. What can we do? What options are left to us when it seems that (however valid the perception truly is) our world is coming crashing down around us and nothing will ever make it better ever again? How do we make ourselves able to, to put it in Python-esque terms, look on the bright side of life?
We’re often told – by motivational speakers, self-help books, empowering music, and even feline-dangling positive-thinking posters – hang in there; don’t sweat the small stuff; let it go; don’t stop believin’. These messages are all well and good, but to me, they keep you focused on the negative stuff, even if you are supposed to be mentally discarding it. So I’m suggesting a different, simpler approach. Instead of trying so hard to let go of the bad stuff, focus instead on getting a firm mental grasp on the awesome stuff in your life.
In other words: grab your Good.
Yes, I could spend my time staring at the copious amounts of bills to be paid. I could take the better part of my evening and gripe to whomever might listen about how I can’t afford the nicest things. I could post a piteous status update on the Facespace lamenting all the things that just don’t seem to go my way and how I’m sure I’m the only one on the planet that things like this happen to. Instead, I choose to play a game or watch a movie with my lovely wife, chatting the whole time and reveling in the fact that I’ve got someone in my life who lets me be me and loves me for who I am. I choose to spend my time playing with my adorable 4-year-old daughter, who physically does not know how to worry about such things and is always content and happy doing whatever, whenever; the imagination and laughter exhibited during our playtime is alone worth the price of admission.
Don’t make excuses as to why you can’t grab your Good. My wife’s at work and I’m stressed out? My daughter is only with me on certain days because of a custody agreement? I’ll play with the dogs, whose unconditional love knows no bounds. I’ll call or text a friend or family member, and we can trade jokes and silly stories. I’ll look at pictures or watch videos of past good times and remember why my life isn’t even a fraction as terrible as I sometimes make it out to be in my head.
We can all do this. We all have Good in our lives that we can make a conscious effort to grab onto. If a little, green, wrinkly-skinned dude who lives in a swamp and suffers from chronic verbal dyslexia can figure out that focusing on the light side is better than focusing on the dark side, then we can too. Heck, start here if you like: post a comment below or back on my Facebook status with the #GrabYourGood tag and tell me what’s good in your life that you’re thankful for – something as simple as writing it down and reading back to yourself will go a long way towards making you feel better. I guarantee it.
The next time you mow your lawn, see it less as a chore and more of you controlling your own life. And when you’re all done, take a gander at that fine-lookin’ lawn and bask in the pride of it.
The Last Witch Hunter is an intriguing entry into the world of cinematic fantasy genre. While it doesn’t particularly revolutionize the way we see witches and warlocks nor does it herald “the next great franchise” of feature films, it is a solid tale packed with great special effects, excellent pacing, a presentation designed for an intellectual audience (relatively speaking, of course), and charming characters that are fairly believable in terms of their place in this witchy world.
WARNING: Mild spoilers ahead – I did my best to keep quiet about the big stuff, but some parts of the film required a little explanation in the review.
I know what you’re thinking – that’s a mighty bold statement you’re making there in the title, sailor. Now hold up, Guardians of the Galaxy and The Avengers, I’mma let you finish… but Ant-Man just may truly be one of the greatest Marvel films of all time. Of all time!
How might this be possible, you might ask? Well, these folks at Marvel, see, they’ve got this “fun hero movie” formula down to pretty much a science. Ant-Man will likely resonate with movie-goers in one key way that flying superheroes, mega-powered aliens, and high-tech billionaire genius playboy philanthropists can’t – the “same level” department. The “I can identify with that guy” department. The honest-to-God, trying-my-best, life-is-hard-and-I-am-flawed human department. That’s where Ant-Man lives. Oh, and it’s really funny, too.
Quick plot recap, in case you’re unfamiliar: Scott Lang is the nicest guy to ever get thrown into prison, but he did his time and is trying to get his life back together, mostly in order to be able to spend time with his cute little daughter. No one wants to hire an ex-con, though, and Scott needs money to get things going; so, very reluctantly, and with the supportive prodding of his organized-crime friends, he sets out on one last theft. Unbeknownst to him, however, the theft is actually a set-up from one Hank Pym, former S.H.I.E.L.D. big-wig and creator of the shrink-a-dink Pym Particle; Pym was testing Lang, you see, because Hank needs someone to get tiny, break into his former company, and steal the crazy new owner’s rival shrinking invention before it gets used in some seriously miniature modern warfare. Thus, the real heist begins.
Paul Rudd plays Scott Lang, and once you get past your initial “Hey, it’s Brian Fantana!” giggles, you’ll likely see that the casting is pretty spot-on here. Rudd is funny without being over-the-top about it, and the scenes with and about his daughter make you believe that he’s a father wanting to do right for his child (it may have resonated a bit more with me, being a father myself, than a non-parental viewer).
The supporting cast is all kinds of good. Evangeline Lilly borders on being almost too much of a background character as Pym’s daughter Hope Van Dyne, but her tenuous relationship with her Dad furthers the parental angst of the film and gives her plenty to do throughout the movie. Corey Stoll is a surprisingly scary bad guy as Darren Cross, the man who pushed Hank Pym out and took over his company; the fact that the shrinking compound he created drives him a little more insane each time that he’s exposed to it adds to the subtly-maniacal layers of his performance. Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the trio of Lang’s ne’er-do-well partners in crime: the scene stealing group of Michael Peña, David Dastmalchian, and rapper-turned-actor T.I. are a pretty awesome comic-relief group. They ride a fine line of being almost too much of a caricature of the Latino and African-American subcultures, but they do it with such flair that everyone should enjoy the ride.
Michael Douglas knocks it out of the freaking park with his portrayal of Hank Pym. He is intermittently fierce and vulnerable, and sincere about his interpretation of the character from start to finish. You believe he is Hank Pym, which is especially needed for those fans who are familiar with the more “classic” comic-book version of The Avengers and know that Pym is the original Ant-Man/Giant-Man. Director Peyton Reed (working off a script infamously written by, among others, formerly-attached director Edgar Wright) does a great job of putting enough comic-book-Avengers references into the film (yes, you’ll get your Wasp references, and they are subtle yet effective) without taking away from what’s going on in the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe – dare I say, actually adding to it rather effectively.
Which brings us, poetically, to how Ant-Man does fit in to the MCU. Reed and crew aren’t shy about hitting us with references early and often – heck, before the now-instantly-recognizable red comic-flipping Marvel logo even hits the screen, we’re given an ‘80s S.H.I.E.L.D. flashback featuring none other than Howard Stark and Agent Carter getting all angst-y with Hank Pym, so right off the bat you know that the powers-that-be are working hard to make sure you know this film is relevant. Fortunately, none of it ever feels forced – not even Ant-Man’s surprisingly-extended dustup with an Avenger (I’ll keep the Avenger unnamed for now, in case you haven’t heard who it is). References to the MCU, both subtle and not-so, abound throughout the film, so definitely keep your eyes peeled. And yes, stay in your seats to the very end, as you’ll be treated with not one but TWO scenes, one mid-credits and one post-credits, featuring some more familiar faces – no specific spoilers here though, sorry!
I sincerely hope that you head to the theater with an open mind on this one – if you do, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Is it Marvel’s most serious film? No. Is it Marvel’s most action-y film? No. Is it Marvel’s most large-scale film? No. Is it Marvel’s most human film? I’d say yes. Is it Marvel’s most entertaining film so far? I suppose that’s for you to figure out for yourself – but you certainly should have fun watching Ant-Man and trying to decide.
P.S. You think you’ve laughed as hard as you’re going to at Thomas the Train by seeing that bit from the preview? Think again. Just remember from the comics: shrinking isn’t the only thing the Pym Particle can do for you…
For those that aren’t as deeply invested in comic-book lore as some of us (what do you expect – one of my first real jobs when I was 16 was in a comic book store, for cryin’ out loud… being knowledgeable about comics was literally my job), the newest cinematic offering from Marvel Comics, Guardians of the Galaxy, may seem a bit more “random” than you are prepared to handle: the film is only loosely connected to the existing Marvel Cinematic Universe that audiences have come to know and love, that of Iron Man, Captain America, and The Avengers fame (among others). In fact, at this point, the only actual crossover that GotG has with the rest of the on-screen Marvel superhero crew is The Collector, an eccentric, intergalactic keeper of rare treasures and oddities; The Collector was seen in the mid-credits scene of Thor 2: The Dark World as he met with two of Thor’s compatriots and agreed to keep the powerful Aether – one of the six Infinity Stones – in his collection. He appears in GotG in a slightly-expanded-but-still-fairly-ancillary role.
The Collector is an old-school comics character, making his first appearance all the way back in 1966, and has usually existed in the nebulous area of not quite a bad guy, per se, but not a hero, either. Over the course of comic book history, he’s had run-ins with The Avengers, The X-Men, and – you guessed it – the Guardians of the Galaxy. You see, much like the first two aforementioned teams, the Guardians have also been around in print for over 50 years. From the ‘60s through the ‘90s, the team existed in the 31st Century, a band of intergalactic alien loners that come together to fight injustice (including one character, Major Victory, who possesses and uses Captain America’s very-old-but-very-functional indestructible shield). These are the Guardians of the Galaxy I grew up with, and they spoke to me, since they combined two facets that I thought were totally tubular: superheroes and science fiction.
Still with me? Good, although you don’t necessarily need to know all the above info about Guardians of the Galaxy to have a great time watching the film. All you really need, quite frankly, are your eyes and your ears.
The characters and version of the team that are featured in the film are NOT the distant-future squad and its members that I spoke of above; the group you’ll see on screen is a modern version of the team (even a slightly-past-tense version, as the movie actually opens with a scene set in 1988 before rocketing forward to 2014), with the characters that have been featured in the Guardians of the Galaxy comics from 2008 on. If you’ve been around a TV in the last three months, you’ve undoubtedly seen the previews and commercials designed specifically to familiarize you with the crew: the human Peter Quill, exotic alien assassin Gamora, fierce warrior Drax the Destroyer, genetically-altered Rocket Raccoon, and strong-but-mostly-silent half-man-half-tree Groot. In the movie, they are five loners that are forced to work together in planning a high-tech prison escape; while they all have their own agendas, their goals overlap just enough to make them uneasily rely on each other to get where they need to go. Along the way, they stumble upon the knowledge that there’s a very, very bad alien out there who is close to harnessing a power that will let him destroy the universe, and wouldn’t you know it, this rag-tag quintet are the only ones that might be able to stop it all.
The intricacies of the plot are not worth going into here; if you see the movie, you’ll pick up the minutiae surprisingly easily, as director James Gunn has done a fantastic job of pacing the movie to move along quickly while still providing the viewer with enough info to feel like he/she understands what’s going on in this cosmic landscape. What really helps this film stand out, to me anyhow, are the three Cs: the characters, the charisma, and the comedy.
The acting talent displayed in GotG is likely the most overlooked aspect of the movie; the story easily could have spiraled into cheesy sci-fi B-movie schloppity schlop were it not for the casts’ keen understanding of how to strike the fine balance between working to make their characters (as random as they may be) relatable and simply knowing that the concept of the movie itself is, frankly, pretty far “out there,” so they don’t take themselves too seriously. Whether it’s physical talent (like star-on-the-rise Zoe Saldana creating a green-skinned killer with a sizable soft spot), voice talent (the “dynamic duo” of Bradley Cooper as Rocket and Vin Diesel as the one-line-spouting Groot could not have been brought to life any more effectively), or legitimate star talent (Academy Award winners Benicio del Toro and Glenn freakin’ Close in crazy outer-space getups? Yes please!), the actors and actresses in Guardians, quite simply, nail it. (Even non-actor and WWE star Dave Bautista gets a pass, as he does a fairly serviceable job making Drax the Destroyer mostly cardboard, as he is meant to be, with a few great one-liners sprinkled throughout the film’s 2 hour and 1 minute run time.)
And who can forget our leading man, Chris Pratt, playing the grown-up version of a boy abducted from Earth and raised among the stars? Pratt (whom I’ve been digging for years as the hapless Andy Dwyer on NBC’s faboo sitcom Parks & Rec) singlehandedly brings enough charisma to the table to satisfy even the most stone-hearted of movie-goers. Not only is his character of “Star Lord” (the nickname Quill tries and largely fails to get people to call him) entertaining in spades, but Pratt himself seems to have genuinely embraced his opportunity to not only become an action hero, but to do something good in his personal life with his burgeoning fame – just go read any interview he’s done since this film has started its publicity run and you’ll see what I mean.
In addition to Pratt, the movie on the whole really does ooze charisma; its CGI is gorgeous, and it has ample opportunity to show off its unique blend of sci-fi and action-packed goodness. Hand-in-hand with the film’s charm is the comedy that’s also on display; director Gunn is no stranger to effectively mixing comedic elements, having worked as the screenwriter for the 2004 Dawn of the Dead remake in addition to directing 2006’s sci-fi/zombie film Slither and 2010’s dark superhero tale Super. Each of these films, while primarily existing in a traditionally non-comedic genre, have a healthy dose of humor injected into them, and it’s not just jokes shoved in here or there; Gunn legitimately knows how to infuse a story with a lighthearted feel, no matter how heavy the subject matter seems to be. Guardians of the Galaxy is no different in this regard, and this mix of action and wit is a key piece of why this movie may just be the best film that Marvel Studios has unleashed in its Cinematic Universe to date.
So, in a nutshell: go see this film. It’s funny, it’s a spectacle, and it’s a surprisingly-effective character drama. I went to see it with my wife, and afterwards she told me: “I can’t believe that I laughed at and then cried for the same character – and that character was a walking, talking tree-man!”
To which, of course, I could only reply: “I am Groot.”
So, today is April 1st, a.k.a. April Fool’s Day, a.k.a. The Day the Internet Explodes with Purposely-Fabricated Lies. I feel like today is the perfect opportunity, then, to instead bombard you with facts that are 100% positively true, but they sound so ridiculous that some people might not believe ’em anyways. But I DO promise, all of this stuff below factually checks out and is the honest-to-goodness truth! Culled from the ever-popular BuzzFeed, here are some tidbits that might just blow your mind:
1. If you put your finger in your ear and scratch, it sounds just like Pac-Man.
2. The YKK on your zipper stands for “Yoshida Kogyo Kabushikigaisha.”
73. There are more atoms in a glass of water than glasses of water in all the oceans on Earth.
74. The probability of you drinking a glass of water that contains a molecule of water that also passed through a dinosaur is almost 100%.
75. At the time the current oldest person on Earth was born, there was a completely different set of human beings on the planet.
76. And at the time you were born, you were briefly the youngest person in the entire world.
77. And, finally, “dog food lid” backwards is “dildo of God.”
Author by day, DJ by night, pop culture nerd in between