“Anvil: The Story of Anvil”

I just got in from dinner and a movie with my friend Pepper. We went to see “Anvil: The Story of Anvil“. It’s a documentary film about a heavy metal band from the 1980s that never quite made it but, now in their 50s, is still dreaming about becoming famous rock stars.

Anvil: The Story of Anvil
Anvil: The Story of Anvil

As you might guess, the movie was at times inspirational and at times depressing. Honestly, it’s a great film and I highly recommend it but there are times when it is hard to watch. It’s a live, honest-to-God “Spinal Tap”. It’s like an over-the-top caricature of a past-their-prime rock band still trying to make it big. Just as in “Spinal Tap”, the band is huge in Japan. It’s laughable. But these are very real people. Sometimes it becomes way too real. It’s painful.

In the beginning of the film, you follow these guys on a disastrous tour through Europe and you just want them to succeed. You want to see them make it. But you can see the huge trainload of fail coming their way. You know it’s going to be bad. You know it’s going to be ugly. You hurt for these guys. You want to turn away and hide your face. But you can’t. You just can’t.

Through all the setbacks and failures, though, these guys keep on trying and from thence comes the inspiration. Many of people would’ve given up years ago and almost everyone around them has given up on them.

But they don’t quit. And from that never-say-die attitude comes this film, a film that, even if you haven’t heard of it, got a lot of critical press. Apparently, it’s given the band a new life. The film follows the recording of their 13th album. A quick trip to their website shows them working on number 14. Whatever else happens, they’ve done well enough to keep on playing.

If you get a chance, go see the movie. You might not like metal music but I promise you will not see a story with more humanity in it this year.

You also will probably not see another movie this year that has a guy playing a guitar with a rubber penis. “Cause this movie has that. I don’t want anyone complaining that I didn’t warn them.

Because I clearly have.

Creepy “Coraline”

Went to see “Coraline” at the movies last night. I hadn’t heard a whole lot about it. I knew it was based on a Neil Gaiman novella and I must’ve seen a headline saying it was decent but, other than that, I went in blind. I knew the basic premise was that a young girl found a secret passage in her house but that was about it.

What I found out when we got to the theater was that a.) it is a Henry Selick film, much in the vein of “A Nightmare Before Christmas”, b.) it is in 3D and you have to wear 3D glasses and c.) it is all sorts of creepy. It’s not scary. It just gives you the vague creepys.

I think it’s because of the button eyes.  As I said earlier, the movie is about a young girl who finds a secret passage in her home. By following it, she comes to an alternate world that mirrors her own. The main difference is that, instead of regular eyes, people and creatures in the other world have button eyes, much like a doll might have.

Ever see a person talk to you with unblinking button eyes? Try it some time. It’s creepy, I tell you. Like, hair-standing-up-on-the-back-of-your-neck, chills-running-down-your-spine creepy. Especially when at least one of those persons doesn’t talk but just smiles and stares with those big black button eyes.  It gave me the heebie-jeebies.

The 7 year-old girl behind me didn’t seem to be phased in the least. Maybe it’s because she’s used to staring into the button eyes of her dolls.

Maybe she just hasn’t seen the things I’ve seen.

Other than being creepy, the movie was entertaining. It seems to start rather abruptly and it doesn’t really give you a lot of back story. You figure out that Coraline’s parents moved her to the countryside from some city and that they are writing some kind of gardening catalog. You don’t get much else in the way of character development and one of the main characters jumps out at you early in a full-formed state. Being that the movie is animated, I don’t count lack of character or story development against it much.

At just about an hour and fifty minutes long, the movie ends just about the time it seems to start dragging. I was entertained but was definitely ready for the credits to roll. For one thing, I can’t watch a movie without a bucket of diet cola.

For another, the Hispanic guy behind us picked up his phone in the middle of the movie and started talking in a very conversational tone. I had to turn and shush him rather loudly and was looking for the opportunity to call him out when the lights came up.

Seriously, how self-absorbed do you have to be to pick up the phone in the middle of a movie and start having a conversation? And this is coming from a guy who talks through almost every movie. At least I do it in hushed tones to whomever my partner in crime happens to be for the evening and not to the theater at large.

I never got to confront the guy, unfortunately. As soon as the credits rolled, he gathered his family and left. It’s a good thing too. I’d been combing my memory for all the Spanish swear words I could remember and was prepared to unleash them upon him. He had a fair amount of Spanglish abuse headed his way. I think he knew it was coming. That’s why he left so quickly, I’m sure.

Or it could be that he was just creeped out and had to leave. I’m telling you, those soul-less button eyes…it was enough to make your skin crawl.

The Worst Movie You’ll Ever Love

‘Fireproof’ is still generating heat

Okay, maybe “love” is a strong word. I saw ‘Fireproof’ back in October and I’m hard pressed to think of a worse movie. The acting was atrocious, the story was thinly pieced together and it looked like it had been filmed with somebody’s camera phone.  It was really an amateur affair. Kirk Cameron was the best actor in the film, if that tells you anything.

But there was something about it. I have walked out of better movies without a second thought but stayed through the end of this one even though I thought I was going to lose a kidney to 48 ounces of Coke Zero by the time the credits rolled. My companion cried and sniffled through the last 15 to 20 minutes of the film (not me. I was a rock.) and, an hour-and-a-half later, we were still deep in conversation about the movie and about life, love and relationships in general.

It’s probably because it spoke to the reality of our lives much better than any Hollywood romance and was very relevant to the two of us.  The movie was free from any semblance of Hollywood glamour and the honesty was both refreshing and revealing.

Hollywood films may be more polished but they sell you a bill of goods that is false at it’s core. They tell you that falling in love with someone is easy and it happens the first time you lay eyes on someone. They tell you that true love is just “meant to be” and that one special relationship is always happily ever after.

In short, Hollywood is full of shit.

The strength of ‘Fireproof’ is that it completely overturns the Hollywood formula. There are no easy answers to life, love and the pursuit of happiness. There’s no love at first sight, no happily ever after and no ‘meant to be’.

‘Fireproof’ follows a marriage that is on its last legs due to disrespect, dishonor and selfishness. Unfortunately, it’s a story that’s all too real and, for me, one that hits close to home since my own marriage failed. The father of the husband challenges him to try ‘the love dare’ for 40 days instead of accepting that divorce is the only option that remains.

The ‘Love Dare’ used to turn the relationship around may be gimicky but it captures the concept of Christian love well. Love, according to ‘Fireproof’ (and the Bible) is not an emotion that makes you feel all gooey inside. It’s an action, one that must be repeated every day in order to remain in effect. It’s an act of patience, an act of kindness, an act of endurance, an act of forgiveness, an act of selflessness, an act of humility… It’s everything in 1st Corinthians 13 and none of the things Hollywood tells us it is.

In other words, it’s not easy. It’s hard. It may be the most difficult thing in the world to do well but maybe that is what makes it “the greatest of these”. Nothing that came easy ever had real value.

Anyway, if you get a chance, think about seeing the movie. I’m not saying you should see it. It is, after all, actively bad. Sitting through it is no easy thing, especially if you haven’t emptied your bladder in a goodly while.

But I’m happy I got to see it and I’m especially glad I got to share it with someone that made it very real and relevant to me, someone who has taught me how to love the way God intended, with patience, humility, grace, perseverance and endurance.

If you do watch it, watch it with someone you love. Maybe you’ll find you’re happy to have seen it too.

You could certainly find a worse way to spend Valentine’s Day, I’m sure.

Death, Taxes and Movies

I am, as I type, watching the credits role on Clint Eastwood’s “Unforgiven“. As most of you know, I don’t have television, but I do watch the occasional movie. This one I watched online from Amazon.com’s Unbox service.

Let me just tell you, I love this movie. This movie is the movie I want to make one day. I am a huge fan of Western’s in general and of Clint Eastwood’s Western’s in particular. There’s something emotionally satisfying about a movie in which a very bad man does very bad things to very bad people. It gets down to the very basics of human nature and you don’t have to do a great deal of thinking to get something out of the movie.

You can do some thinking. You just don’t have to.

Another movie like that is “Taken“, a movie I saw on Saturday night. It’s a very streamlined movie. A guy has his daughter kidnapped. A guy promises to get even with those who took her and a guy hits a whole lot of people in the face to do it. It’s so straightforward that you get the feeling that the writers knew the movie was about a guy who hurt a lot of people and then they came up with a reason for him to be doing so.

Really. The movie is sooo basic. You expect this movie to star someone like Jason Statham or Daniel Craig or Matt Damon. It’s a “Bourne”, “Transporter” or “Bond” type of film. (The new Bond, anyway.) But this one stars Liam Neeson, a person I consider to be a more serious actor. (Craig is someone I consider to have decent acting chops as well.)

This also makes you think the writers said “what if we made an ass-kicking movie with a serious actor?”

As it stands, Neeson’s acting was pretty much the high point of the movie. Sure there’s a whole bunch of emotionally satisfying ass-whipping handed out, but the plot is so cobbled together that it detracts from the movie. The movie doesn’t start until Neeson starts hitting people and ends as soon as he stops hitting people. All the rest is just an excuse to get him there.

That being said, if you like that kind of movie, definitely go see it. Just don’t expect it to win any Oscars.

Not like “Unforgiven”. I’m watching it again, as I type. I cannot tell you how much I love this movie. He kills lots of people.

I also did my taxes. It’s like death and taxes. But with movies.