Happy Birthday, Honey!

Happy Birthday to the love of my life, Jenny!

I trust I sang the praises of my wife enough on our anniversary that all and sundry know what an incredible human being she is (and not just because she puts up with me). She enriches the life of everyone she meets.

Thankfully she also has a wonderful sense of humor. I say thankfully because her day so far:

The Surgeon

Anxiously awaiting word of our youngest daughter, who underwent a fairly serious surgery this morning. Happy Birthday #1! (She came through just fine.)

Krispy Kreme

She needed to go into work today so, because it was her birthday, she stopped at Krispy Kreme to pick up doughnuts for her co-workers.

Jen Overheating

While there, her car overheated. Happy Birthday #2! She waited for the car to cool down and limped over to Dale’s (our local fix-it shop). I came over and picked her up and drove her in to work (snagging a doughnut from the work boxes – yoink!).

Whew!

I hope the rest of her day goes better but we have been celebrating all month. Around here, May is known as Jennapalooza because there is no reason such a wonderful woman should only celebrate her birth on a single day.

BSG Hot Tub

The theme of this year’s Jennapalooza has been pampering. We’ve had a visit to Shoji Spa for two hours of hot-tubbing at sundown in the mountains. She’s gotten a mani-pedi and tomorrow she is getting a massage (thankfully paid for before the car broke down). This Saturday, provided vehicles are working, we are using our annual passes to take the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad to Dillsboro.

Train

Still her actual birthday has been less than inspiring so far. Chin up, honey! I love you! I’ll pick you up at work when you’re ready.

The Genius of Ben Wheatley – Kill List

Ben Wheatley’s first two feature films, Down Terrace and Kill List are currently available on instant Netflix. His third film, Sightseers, is just starting to see U.S. distribution.

Ben Wheatley’s genius is not in the enjoyability of his films. His particular genius is an ability to populate his films with real people, (forgive the expression) warts and all. He avoids making his characters archetypes but it does mean that they are difficult to like as they are terribly flawed.

One-Line Review: Sophomore effort lacks humor of debut but rewards patience with chills.

Kill ListKill List (2011) – Not rated

“In this white-knuckle crime flick, out-of-work hit man Jay teams with his partner, Gal, for a three-contract job that rapidly turns from routine to obscene as the call of duty takes a twisted toll on Jay’s sanity and sense of control.”

Wheatley continues to serve as director, writer, and editor but drops the producer credit from Kill List. The accents of the two main characters are both different (from each other) and, at times, indecipherable. Kill List is also a lot less humorous than Down Terrace but no less violent.

Kill List essentially boils down to “what if we had a retiring hit man movie that turned into another type of movie”. I won’t say what because of spoilers but it is a very interesting concept with one heck of a payoff in the final act. As with Down Terrace, Kill List rewards patience. Hardly anything happens for the first forty-five minutes as characters are established.

Kill List is not the ensemble piece that Down Terrace was. Neil Maskell is the star and carries the film as semi-retired hitman Jay. Michael Smiley, so good as Pringle in Down Terrace, has a much bigger role here as Gal and is quite excellent. MyAnna Buring (Sam from The Descent) is quite lovely and good as Shel. Her looks would have taken me out of the picture had it not seemed, plot-wise, as though she was Jay’s trophy wife.

Kill List is highly recommended for a slow burn but Down Terrace is the better and more accessible film. Watch Down Terrace all the way through and if it is your cup of tea, move on to Kill List.

People Watch (Down Terrace edition): Besides the aforementioned Michael Smiley, Robin Hill, Karl in Down, is Stuart. Mark Kempner, Councillor Berman in Down, plays the Librarian. Robert Hill, Bill in Down, plays the High Priest. Sara Dee, voice of a radio reporter in Down, plays a news reader. Gareth Tunley, Johnny in Down, plays the Priest. Whew! Wheatley also uses much the same cast for Sightseers.

The Genius of Ben Wheatley – Down Terrace

Ben Wheatley’s first two feature films, Down Terrace and Kill List are currently available on instant Netflix. His third film, Sightseers, is just starting to see U.S. distribution.

Ben Wheatley’s genius is not in the enjoyability of his films. His particular genius is an ability to populate his films with real people, (forgive the expression) warts and all. He avoids making his characters archetypes but it does mean that they are difficult to like as they are terribly flawed.

One-Line Review: Delightfully dark low-key debut rewards patient viewing.

Down TerraceDown Terrace (2009) – Rated R

“Just released from jail, father-and-son crooks Karl (Robin Hill) and Bill (Robert Hill) attempt to keep their two-bit illegal enterprise from crumbling while ferreting out the snitch who squealed on them to the cops in this British black comedy. The suspects include Karl’s wife (Julia Deakin) and pregnant gal pal (Kerry Peacock), a hit man (Michael Smiley) and a reviled family friend (Tony Way). As the double crosses multiply, so do the laughs.”

Ben Wheatley serves as writer, director, editor, and producer on Down Terrace. Down Terrace is basically a one-location play, set in Karl’s house. The house and surroundings are well-utilized for this low-budget production. As with Guy Ritchie’s early movies, you may have to turn up the volume and pay close attention as the accents are a bit difficult to comprehend.

There is a general malaise to the characters in Down Terrace that extends to the film itself. Essentially nothing happens until the halfway mark of the film yet there is an early hysterical passive-aggressive dinner that rings horrifically true. Down Terrace rewards patient viewing with loads of hilarious low-key black humor in the second half.

None of the actors look or act glamorous which is a big plus. They all seem like real people, i.e. the characters they are playing. If I had to single out two of them (yes, that’s ironic), it would be Julia Deakin (Shaun of the Dead) as Maggie and Michael Smiley as Pringle, the enforcer.

Down Terrace is highly recommended BUT requires a thorough attentive viewing – no playing on your iPad while watching!

People Watch: Yes those are father and son playing father Bill (Robert Hill) and son Karl (Robin Hill). Both also appear in Kill List and Robin helped write and edit Down Terrace.

A Late Iron Man 3 Review

Iron Man 3

First, I have to stress how grateful I am for this, the age of the comic book movie. I grew up with the TV series, The Incredible Hulk, being the pinnacle of what could be achieved with the Marvel Universe. The new integrated Marvel movies are simply wonderful.

Still I have to rag on Iron Man 3. Iron Man 3 is fun if you check your brain at the door and it suffers unfairly for being the first after Whedon’s masterpiece, The Avengers but it is a pretty awful sequel.

My wife is an accountant and a darn fine one if I may say so. I value the profession but I have rarely seen a movie that smacks more of being made by bean counters than Iron Man 3.

A child factors majorly into the picture, presumably to show that Disney touch. He is a decent enough child actor but it smacks of trying to capture the youth market. As usual there is plenty of product placement throughout the film.

Obviously, comic book movies tend to skew heavily male. To combat this, Pepper Potts’ (Gwyneth Paltrow) role has been considerably beefed up in Iron Man 3. This is a very good decision and has a nice payoff towards the end of the film but I think the decision was made demographically and not say, thematically.

For the nerds, we have a wonderful after-credits sequence with a surprise guest star. For the hardcore Iron Man nerds, we have a look at a large number of alternate Iron Man suits, including one that looks like the Hulkbuster.

Iron Man 3 has one of the stupidest plots ever. You have not one, not two, not three, but four separate characters at four separate times placed in, as Dr. Evil would say, unnecessarily slow dipping mechanisms. Yes, the good guys get captured at a near constant rate and the villains keep them alive to explain their evil plans. Don’t worry though one of the major villains kills a minor villain to presumably show that they are evil. This is unbelievably lazy screenwriting.

There are three scantily clad young ladies, I.e. eye candy, that are not apparently evil yet are strangely in a position to know all about the evil plot without doing anything (as is a fourth character but no spoilers). The entire last act makes absolutely no sense but, again, no spoilers. Let’s just say that there is almost no aspect of the chief villain’s plot that makes a lick of sense.

The only redeeming qualities are the cast and some nice action sequences. Robert Downey Jr. spends a lot of time out of the armor. As in Avengers, Paltrow spends a lot of time barefoot so she doesn’t tower over Downey yet she wears high heels in the presence of Rebecca Hall to assert her dominance. Fun but dumb is okay for summer I suppose.

More May Movies New to Netflix

Here’s a smattering of new offerings from streaming Netflix (now with 7% more Jennifer Lawrence!).

Beowulf

Action: Beowulf, F/X (you can watch a double feature with the sequel)

Erik the Viking

Comedies: Hit & Run, Erik the Viking, Price Check

Drama: Defiance, The Red Violin, Tucker: The Man and His Dream, The Other Woman

Foreign: Antichrist

House at End of Street

Horror: House at the End of the Street, Hellgate

Television: Tron: Uprising, Jake and the Neverland Pirates, and Borgia – Season 2

Jury Duty – The Trial of the Lincoln Lawyer Conspirator

Well I’m actually off to court today. I haven’t been selected in the last fifteen years or so so I guess I was overdue for jury duty. I just hope it is more interesting than the real estate case I was on back in the twentieth century. Meanwhile here are some legal thrillers I’ve been meaning to watch to tide you over.

Lincoln Lawyer

The Lincoln Lawyer (2011) – Rated R

“Tasked with defending rich lothario Louis Roulet, who’s been charged with assault, lawyer Mick Haller finds himself and his family in danger when he deduces the truth behind this and former cases he’s worked on.”

The Conspirator

The Conspirator (2010) – Rated PG-13

“Robert Redford directs this gripping historical drama that follows the efforts of young lawyer Frederick Aiken as he reluctantly defends Mary Surratt, a Confederate sympathizer accused of conspiring to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln.”

The TrialThe Trial (1962) – Not rated

“Director Orson Welles’s brilliant adaptation of Franz Kafka’s existential novel casts Anthony Perkins as Josef K, a bank clerk who finds himself at the mercy of a powerful and bizarre judicial system when he’s arrested for an unnamed crime.”

More FREE Movies at the Mart of Wal

FREE is such a compelling price point. Yesterday I described various FREE movie ticket offers. Here are some more movie related offers.

vudu

* Wal-Mart has $4 Vudu credit coupons on their 6-pk., mega roll of Scott Towels ($6 at my store) and their 24 pk. of Scott Extra Soft Bath Tissue.

Redbox

* Also at Wal-Mart, they had one FREE Redbox rental with purchase of Dr. Pepper 12-packs, some of which had dollar coupons attached.

* Of course you can get 4 FREE DVD credits at Redbox simply by signing up for a FREE trial month of Redbox Instant. Just remember to cancel the service in 30 days if it isn’t worth $8 a month to you.

Red Baron* Wal-Mart still has plenty of Iron Man pizzas (specially marked boxes of Freschetta, Red Baron, and Tony’s). Entering the codes from four of them nets you a FREE movie ticket to any movie (you do NOT have to go see Iron Man 3).

It Must be Summer – FREE Movies are Everywhere!

Cereal

I am still eating Cinnamon Toast Crunch from their movie promotion. I’ve had to debox a bunch of them to redeem for tickets and I should be through with the cereal sometime in the fall. I no longer see this promo in stores so here are some others:

* Fandango has a buy one get one FREE ticket promotion if you use a Visa Signature card and purchase a Friday movie ticket. “+1 Movie Fridays” is good until August 2nd but you are limited to one FREE ticket a month so start early.

* Disney Movie Rewards periodically offers $10 in Hollywood Movie Money (good at most theaters) for 425 points. You just have to catch it in stock – limit four redemptions per household and use it on a Disney movie.

* Best Buy has a display of $9.99 Blu-Rays with $8 in Fandango cash to see Fast & Furious 6. Titles includes the Fast & Furious series (Fast & Furious 5 is more than $9.99), the Bounre series, Pitch Black, Doom, Chronicles of Riddick, Scarface, King Kong, and Smokey and the Bandit.

Epic

* Best Buy also has a display of kids movies with up to $8 to see Epic. Titles include the Ice Age series, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and a Night at the Museum. Unfortunately they are not $9.99 but $11.99-$13.99. Maybe Best Buy will run a sale the week before premiere.

Monsters University

* FREE tickets to Monsters University are available by entering your code from the blu-ray packs of Monsters, Inc or Finding Nemo.

Star Trek: Into Darkness

* Starting next week (which is odd because it opens this week), Best Buy will run a promotion where if you pre-order the blu-ray of Star Trek: Into Darkness, they will give you $8 to go see it now.

Asheville Pizza Company – Asheville, NC

Asheville Pizza & Brewing Company has three locations in Asheville but only the Merrimon location is a movie theater.

Asheville PizzaAsheville Pizza Company is a second-run movie theater with one screen. Movies are $3 for all tickets and run at 1, 4, 7, and 10. Often family-friendly fare is shown during the day and R-rated features at the 10 o’clock showing. Currently there is no upcharge for 3D films.

Asheville PizzaTheater seating is arranged so that you can have a meal while watching the film and there is a service/order window in the back of the theater. There is also a full-service restaurant in the lobby if you choose to eat before the film (a wise choice as the theater becomes VERY crowded). Shows do sell out here VERY often so come early and be seated thirty minutes prior to show time.

They also have a game room and bar in the back. Unfortunately last time I visited the game room, almost every single game was broken in some way (dance pads on DDR weren’t working properly, machines weren’t registering coins, joysticks weren’t working, air hockey had no air, etc.). As a result I haven’t even been in the back for a few years.

I have sampled many of their pizzas. They are tasty homemade thin-crust pizzas with a fabulous variety of toppings. Toppings range from traditional pepperoni to eclectic(artichoke hearts, spam, walnuts). Whole pizzas can be ordered in medium, large, or jumbo size, or simply order a slice for the movie. They have an all-you-can eat pizza bar from 11-2 which works great before attending a 1 p.m. show. Eat in the restaurant, pay your bill, then bring your drink into the theater.

The rest of the menu consists of pasta, salads, and sandwiches – almost all are movie-themed. You can have the William Shatner Quesadilla (all cheese) or a Royale with Cheese (cheeseburger). They also have many gluten-free and vegan options. Being a micro-brewery, beer choices abound and wine is available.

Movie Tiles

Inside and out, Asheville Pizza Company is decorated eclectically. I loved the tiny ceramic movie tiles decorating the walls by the restrooms.

As with Cinebarre, your food bill can grow to enormous size if you aren’t careful. Other than that, the only drawback to the theater is that it is always crowded. Last time we went with friends, we had to sit at the back of the theater as none of the front or middle rows had eight seats together and we arrived quite early.

Not only is Asheville Pizza Company our best second-run theater but it’s a nice place to take visitors. It is well worth your time – just arrive early.

Happy Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day to my mom, for bringing me into this world and teaching me to be nice to people.

Happy Mother’s Day to my wife, for giving me two spectacular daughters.

Happy Mother’s Day to her mom, for giving me my life’s reason for being.

Happy Mother’s Day to Marion, for giving me a wonderful mother-in-law.

Happy Mother’s Day to Els, for showing me that a grandchild is a child with less of the burden of responsibility.

And finally, Happy Mother’s Day to Clara and Dorothy, no longer with us in the flesh but still remembered fondly.

I love you all!