6 Years of this Excellent Blog

Hey 3.5 readers.

Your old pal, BQB here.

I began this fine blog 6 years ago, deciding to try my hand at the blogging game.

I did it on a whim and had I put some thought into it, I would have done a lot of things differently.

My initial idea was that I would just create a little web presence.  I’d blog once in a blue moon and I was going to focus on book reviews.  In the mean time, I’d concentrate on writing books of my own.

As time went on, I found followers and things got silly.  I developed the persona of Bookshelf Q. Battler, a nerd in secret, was an adventurer who fought zombies, werewolves, chupacabras, aliens, traveled the world, time traveled, went to space and so on.

In the past couple years, I got old.  Relaxing and watching TV at the end of the day became more appealing than blogging for the entertainment of 3.5 readers.  (No offense, 3.5 readers.)

On top of that, I decided the little time and I energy I do get would be better spent focusing on novel drafts.  I always have something in the works and hold out hope that I’ll be a successful novelist one day, though the older I get, the more I realize this is something I can’t bank on.

I’m not crazy about the pen name “Bookshelf Q. Battler.”  It doesn’t really sound like a name and if I could do it again, I might have picked something that sounds like an actual name.  The actual name could have been given a fun backstory of being a reclusive adventurer or something.

Anyway, here’s to another 6 years and hopefully by then, you 3.5 readers will multiply and there will be 7 of you.

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Resurrection Inc.

BQB NOTE: Hey 3.5 readers.  I’m thinking about getting into the short story market.  My thought is I could occasionally self-publish a short story, around 10-20,000 words and when I have enough of them, package them as a book.  I’m not sold on the idea because I have found that whether short or long, it takes me at least a year to self publish anything.

But anyway, I rattled this first part out yesterday and I was quite pleased with it so far.  Let me know what you think.  It takes place in a world where a comedy has perfected the art of bringing people back to life so much that they have franchises on every corner like they are fast food joints, teenagers being paid minimum wage to bring back the dead….and of course, all the ethical dilemmas that ensue.

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In the span of a mere five years, the process of resurrecting a deceased human being went from a very complicated procedure that could only be performed by the renowned Nobel prize winning physicist, Dr. Elijah Benjamin to a rather simple set of tasks that could be performed during an after school shift by a high school senior earning minimum wage.  Resurrection Inc. franchises had popped up on virtually every street corner in America and while Benjamin enjoyed the fruits of his labor on a beach in Malibu, the Wall Street jackals he appointed to control his life’s work were aggressively pushing into Europe and Asia, yearning to dominate the global back from the dead market before the numerous upstart rivals seeking to patent their own life restoration techniques could get off the ground.

At one such franchise location, seventeen-year-old Liam Tate gnawed on the end of a lengthy licorice rope, playing a game on his cell phone as the office television blared in the background.  In truth, the lad had the attention span of a fruit fly, and as such, he had been fired from part-time gigs as a fast food joint cook, big box store stock boy and movie theater usher.  Ironically, the position of junior resurrection associate was a lot easier.  Just listen to the AI voice emanating from the B.A.D.S. or “Benjamin Automatic Death Stopper,” the large, boxy machine in the center of the lab and do as it said.

Ding! “Insert DNA sample now.”

Liam ignored the request, too engrossed in beating his high score to earn his meager paycheck.  No worries.  The B.A.D.S provided a prompt reminder.

Ding! “Insert DNA sample now.”

Liam unleashed an uproarious sigh, as though taking a moment to do his job was going to literally kill him, not that such an event even mattered anymore.  In fact, homicides had reached an all time high in the free world, largely due to murder parties in which unruly young folk would schedule their resurrections in advance, and then have a wild, carefree time chasing each other around their dormitories with knives, hatchets, military grade weaponry and the occasional chainsaw.

Ding! “Insert DNA sample now.”

              “Alright, alright,” Liam mumbled.  The kid stepped over to a filing cabinet and pawed through a series of manilla envelopes.  “Who’s up next?”

Ding! “Harper, Mary Ann.  Age 18.  Passed March, 10, 2085.  Cause of death – collision caused by distracted driving.”

Liam located an envelope with Harper’s details scrawled across the front.  He reached in, fished out a pink toothbrush, then pushed a green button on the side of the B.A.D.S.  A metal tray popped out of the contraption.  The toothbrush was inserted, the tray was retracted, and various lights flashed as the machine made a humming sound.

Ding! “Printing body now.”

Liam looked at an invoice, then gazed at one of many screens attached to the B.A.D.S. This one displayed the schematics for a young human female.

“B.A.D.S.?”  Liam said.

“Yes?”

“Looks like the family paid for the upgraded package.”

Ding!  “All upgraded packages are to be entered prior to…”

The kid flipped one page of the invoice, then another, studying it intently.  “Another botch job at the call routing center.  Mr. Harper’s credit card didn’t go through but he called back and put it on his debit and…yeah, right here.  Those dummies forgot to log the upgrade.”

Ding! “Implementing upgrade package now.”

Liam tried not to stare as the female form on screen grew in breast size and declined in waist size, but stare he did.  Various blemishes and flaws were erased as Mary Ann’s new body went from ho hum to hot-cha-cha.

Ding! “Isolating consciousness from the beyond realm now.”

“Soul” was a word that Dr. Benjamin never liked using.  How he cracked the code that allowed B.A.D.S. to extract the set of beliefs, memories, attitudes and quirks that comprised one’s state of being from a metaphysical dimension that could not be seen or touched was proprietary information that he heavily guarded, refusing to share it with religious leaders despite their numerous pleas and lawsuits.

Liam sat down and grabbed a remote control.  He flipped through the channels on the office television.  First up was a news channel where a debate between two pundits was underway.

“Look, I’m not knocking the guy, but the Constitution is very clear on this.  Two terms and that’s it.”

“But the Twenty Second Amendment wasn’t in effect while…”

              “That doesn’t matter.  It’s in effect now.”

              “He never finished his second term.”

              “But he was elected twice and that’s all you get.”

              “Are we sure about that?  I don’t think the Supreme Court has definitively weighed in on…”

              “Sarah, don’t you think we’re putting the cart before the horse?  I love Abe as much as the next guy but he hasn’t even expressed in running againDid you read his new book?”

              I Preserved the Union for This?  Yes, it’s topping the bestseller lists and making the third coming of Jeff Bezos a ton of scratch.  I, for one, was fascinated to learn that Abe and Mary Todd have decided to see other people, but even so, you can’t discount the possibility that…”

Flip! Liam was now watching a game show.  The host held a blue card in hand as he addressed the camera from behind a podium.

“Welcome back to Canoodling for Cash, the only game show where celebrities are subjected to all sorts of madcap, wacky shenanigans, all in the name of raising money for charity.  Boy, oh boy, if you’re just tuning in, you missed a heck of a spectacle as Marilyn Monroe dominated all challengers in the raspberry gelatin wrestling competition.  Norman Mailer, Sir Winston Churchill and Shaka Zulu are backstage, picking little bits of that super slippery low-calorie desert treat out of their nether regions as we speak.  Coming up in the next hour, Biggie and Tupac are going to settle their differences in a best two out of three rock, paper scissors competition but first, who is the best piano player to ever tickle the ivories?  Liberace and Beethoven are about to square off, so don’t touch that…”

Flip! Liam watched an infomercial featuring a man with a stern face and slicked back hair.

“Hello.  I’m Jimmy Hoffa and it turns out I was in the last place everyone thought to look.  You might know me from days as an infamous labor leader or my alleged and totally unproven ties to organized crime, but today I’m here to promote a new venture.  Operators are standing by to help you order your very own Jimmy Hoffa Brand Convection Oven, the last kitchen appliance you’ll ever need to cook a plump, juicy, moist…”

Flip!  Another news channel.  Two more pundits.

“I’m sorry, but there are certain people who should just never be allowed to come back.”

              “That’s not your decision to make.  Two years ago, the Constitution was amended to declare resurrection an inalienable human right.”

              “Monica, you insufferable cow, are you really going to sit there and tell me that Hitler’s existence is a benefit to society?”

              “Of course not, Steve, but he’s not hurting anyone, is he?”

Liam watched as footage rolled of Adolf Hitler in an orange vest, holding up a stop sign in front of busy intersection as he blew a whistle and waved a gaggle of schoolchildren through a crosswalk.  An irate mother sipping from a coffee cup blared on her horn.

“Come on, Hitler!  You’re slower than molasses!”

Hitler’s face went red and spittle sprayed from his lips as he wagged his finger through the air.  His hair flopped about as he screamed at the driver.  “Nein, Fraulein Hotchkiss!  You vill vait patiently in your Subaru Outback for as long as it takes for das kinder to crosszen zie streetzen!  You vill shutzen your mouthzen and drinken zie delicious frappucino beverage while I do mein job for the glory of the father land and forge a new reich of crosswalk safety that vill last a thousand years!”

The pundits returned to the screen.

“It looks like he’s learned the error of his ways and is trying to become a productive member of society.”

“Monica, I’ll never be able to get used to…”

              “Well, get used to it, Steve, because once Congress passes the Affordable Resurrection Act…”

              “You mean my tax dollars will go to bringing history’s greatest assholes back to life?”

              “Everyone has a right to live again, Steve, even those whose descendants have either forgotten or don’t care about them, or who can’t foot the bill for…”

Flip!  Another news channel.

“The last funeral home went out of business today.  I took a moment to speak to ex-Funeral Director Martin Sinclair of this now defunct Sheboygan, Wisconsin establishment, and he informed me that people just aren’t willing to splurge for send-offs for their loved ones anymore, not when those loved ones are expected to return within seven to ten business days.  Like many of his colleagues, Sinclair intends to roll with the punches and convert his building into a Resurrection, Inc. franchise.  Yes, the days when you’d call the undertaker to cart off your dearly departed are long gone, folks.  All you need do now when your loved one kicks the bucket is collect a few hair snips, fingernail clippings, and any used toiletries left behind, pack them up in a handy DNA collection kit and mail it to your nearest Resurrection Inc. facility.  Police departments across the country are reminding older generations that it is perfectly legal to leave dead bodies at the end of their driveways for curbside pickup.  Meanwhile, 50 state legislatures have passed a controversial law that absolves alleged murderers of any and all homicide charges provided that they pay for their victim’s resurrection procedure within 48 hours.  Coming up next, I’ll be talking to Ray Goodman, Chairman of the Grave to Save project, a new non-profit initiative that seeks to dig up and bring back the long buried, so that cemeteries can be turned into affordable housing projects.”

Flip!  Liam switched off the television and dumped the contents of a brown paper bag on his desk.  He decided to save the cheesy chips for later, opting to nosh on his baloney on rye first as he scrolled through the latest headlines on his phone.  One caught his eye: “Skydiving Excursions Become the New National Past Time; Smoking, Substance Abuse, Overeating and Reckless, Indiscriminate, Unprotected Sex with Multiple Partners on the Rise.”

Ding! “Consciousness extracted.  Melding body and consciousness now.”

              Liam sipped from a juice box as he perused another headline. “Stalin Projected to Win 2086 Democratic Primary.  Rival Trotsky Disappears Under Suspicious Circumstances.”

              The lad checked his social media profile, laughed at a joke posted by a friend, then clicked on a video that had been shared by several of his contacts.  A group of unshaven, unkempt doctors in stained lab coats warmed themselves by a dumpster fire on Skid Row.  One doctor blew into a harmonica as he song a sad little ditty:

“I used to fix your headaches,

              Your heart and your liver too.

              I wrote indecipherable prescriptions,

              And hit the golf course before 2.

              Oh, I got the out of work doctor!

              Out of work doctor blues!

              Lord have mercy!

              Yes, I got the out of work doctor,

              The out of work doctor blues!

              Hey, I went to Harvard, people!  Yeah!

              Oh, from my head down to my shoes,

              I got the out of work doctor blues!”

Liam looked up from his phone and took a bite out of his sandwich.

Ding! “Resurrection complete.”

Liam set his lunch and phone down, stood up, and approached the machine.  He turned a crank and steam poured out of a nearby valve.  Once it dissipated, Liam grabbed two handles, one and in each hand and pulled out an elongated slab about which laid the newly returned customer…naked as the day God, or well, in this case, as an eighteen year old who was getting a C- in Civics had made her.

The boy tried not to stare, but stare he did.

The resurrected’s eyes popped open.  She took a deep breath, then exhaled.  She then sat up and screamed wildly.  “Arrrrrrrggggghhhhh!”

Liam held his hand out in front of Mary Ann’s eyes and snapped his fingers.  He then moved his fingers to the right.  Mary Ann’s eyes followed.  He snapped and moved his fingers back to the left.  Her eyes followed.

The boy scribbled some notes on a clipboard as he mumbled to himself.  “Motor skills test passed.”

Liam recited a tongue twister.  “Rubby baby buggy bumpers.”

Mary Ann remained silent and confused.

“Repeat after me,” Liam said.

“Pootie tay,” Mary Ann replied.  “Pootie tay tay regaldo malan fraz, mimbo bibby?”

“Rubber baby buggy bumpers.”

“Pootie tay tay tay zeebo zeebo zeebo glarf.”

“Rubber baby buggy bumpers.”

“Rubber pootie tay tay…”

Liam shook his head.  “No pootie tay.  Rubber baby…”

“Rubber baby…”

“Yes, that’s it.  Rubber baby buggy…”

“Rubber baby buggy…”

“Rubber baby buggy bumpers.”

“Rubber baby buggy pootie tay tay tay…”

Liam slapped his forehead.  Mary Ann followed suit and slapped her forehead.

“Rubber baby buggy bumpers.”

Mary Ann nodded.  “Rubber baby buggy bumpers.”

“Good,” Liam said as he jotted more notes.  “Subject was slow to pass speech test but eventually got there.”

“I got there pootie tay blimmel rabba mmmmmm’wippo!”

Liam read from a prepared statement.  “Your name is Mary Ann Harper.  You were born in the year 2067.  Your parents are Dave and Karen Harper.  Your father is a prominent tax attorney and your mother recently quit her position as a public relationship specialist to start her own online designer soap business, which your father griped about at first but is now onboard ever since it started making money.  You have a younger sister, Molly, and a dog, Mr. Scruffles.  Your favorite color is purple and you enjoy the musical stylings of the Melancholy Trio.  Your best friend is Susan Kinitsky.  Last year, you and Susan were suspended from school for three days when you were caught buttering up a ham with…”

Mary Ann shook her head to the left, then the right.  Left, then right.  She sat up.  “Liam?”

“Mary Ann?”

“Uh…yeah.  Who else would it be?”

“No more pootie tays?”

“No.  What’s a pootie tay?”

***

Mary Ann was dressed in a surgical gown and standing upright now, looking at her gorgeous new body in a full-length mirror.

“Damn,” the girl said as she made a pouty fish face and threw up a peace sign.  “If Tommy Miller doesn’t full on jump my bones now then it’s never going to happen.”

Liam hung back.  He cleared his throat with a cough in his hand.  “So, you’re uh…satisfied with the work?”

“Yes,” Mary Ann said.  “It’s amazing…it’s…it’s…like you kept the best parts of me and replaced the worst parts with better parts.”

Mary Ann looked down at her newly ample bosom.  “Way better parts.”

Liam jotted more notes down.

“I didn’t know you worked here, Lee-Dubs.”

“Yeah,” Liam said.  “About a month now.  You know, Mary, you really shouldn’t…”

“What?”

“Text while you’re driving.”

Mary Ann turned around and faced her classmate.  She broke out into laughter.  “What?  Is that what the cops said?”

“Distracted driving.”

“As if,” Mary Ann said as she turned her gaze back to the mirror, running her hands through her long, full blonde hair.  Previously, her locks had been a drab shade of brown and quite stringy.  “You know how many times I asked my dad if he’d hook me up with the upgrade package if I killed myself?  You know how many times he said no, that there was too much risk involved?”

“So, it wasn’t an accident?”

“Duh.  I straight up rammed that wall.”

“Morbid,” Liam said.  “But I’ve seen too much here to judge.  Can you answer some feedback questions for me?”

“Sure.”

“On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being least happy and 10 being most happy, what number would you assign to your new vessel?”

“My vessel?”

“Your body.”

“Ah,” Mary Ann said.  She pulled her upper lip out and checked her teeth.  Perfectly straight for the first time in her life.  “Nine…maybe nine and a…well…hmm…”

Liam looked up from his notes.  “Hmm?”

“The nose.”

Liam stepped closer and stood over the subject’s shoulder.  “What about it?”

“It’s a little big, isn’t it?”

“Is it?”

“I don’t know.”

“I’m not saying it looks terrible.  I just…aw, crap.  I shouldn’t have said anything.”

“It’s fine,” Liam said.  “Resurrection Inc. encourages feedback.  That’s what the survey questions are for.”

“Yeah,” Mary Ann said as she tapped the tip of her pointer finger against her nose.  “All I’m saying is that if it were, say, the teeniest, tiniest millimeter smaller, I’d give this thing a 10.”

“OK.”

“But…ugh.”

“What?”

“It would be gross to go again, wouldn’t it?”

“It’s up to you.”

Mary Ann clicked her tongue.  “I mean, nothing’s perfect.”

“Perfect is in the eye of the beholder.”

“This is great as it is now,” Mary Ann says.  “I go again and it could get worse.”

“You have unlimited do-overs,” Liam said.

“I do?”

“All part of the upgraded package.”

Mary Ann flashed a wicked grin.  “That dad of mine.  What a guy.”

“You called his bluff.”

The subject shrugged her shoulders.  “What the hell?  In for a penny and so on.  How do we do it?”

Liam cleared his throat.  His cheeks flushed.  “I…you know, this is the first time I’ve resurrected someone I know.”

“Really?”

“Yeah,” Liam said.  “There’s a company policy against employees resurrecting their own family members but it doesn’t say anything about friends.  I’m wondering if maybe I should have assigned your case to another…”

“You did fine, Lee-Dubs.”

“Anyway,” Liam said.  “There’s a problem with the sleep cocktail.”

“The what?”

“The mixture of drugs we usually use to inject the resurrected with when they aren’t happy with their vessels and want to start the process over again.”

Mary Ann raised a quizzical eyebrow.  “Sleep’s a euphemism, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” Liam said.  “The board of directors of the company that makes it believes it is immoral for Resurrection Inc. to use it over slight defects in a new body.  They won’t sell it to us anymore.  There’s a big lawsuit going on.  No one tells me anything though because I’m just an underling.  All I know is what I heard on the news.”

“So, without the drugs, how do we…”

Liam opened a nearby desk drawer and pulled out a lock box.  He punched in a code and pulled out a large, shiny .45 Magnum revolver.

Mary Ann’s newly blue, formerly hazel eyes widened.  “Holy shit.”

“Yeah,” Liam said.  “Listen, I hate to ask this…”

“What?”

“I mean, I’m supposed to…be professional but…”

A single tear rolled down Liam’s cheek as he sniffed snots of sadness up his nose.  “Don’t make me do it, Mary Ann.  We had play dates and made pillow forts while our moms baked cookies and…”

Mary Ann looked at the weapon.  “You want me to…”

“If you wouldn’t mind.”

The classmates were quiet for a moment.

“I mean, your dad paid for the upgrade package,” Liam said.  “So, if you want me to do it, I’ll do it.  I do this like a dozen times a week, no problem.  It’s just a lot easier when it’s people I don’t know.”

Mary Ann winced, then smiled.  “I’ll be right back?”

“Yes.”

“Like nothing ever happened, right?”

“Exactly.”

The young woman took a deep breath, then exhaled.  “Fine.  Hand it over.”

 

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Happy March 3.5 Readers

What is new with all 3.5 of you?

Movie Review – Parasite (2019)

Get lots of references for your new hires, 3.5 readers.

BQB here with a review of this Oscar Winner for Best Picture.

I know a lot of people won’t watch movies with subtitles, not out of an aversion to foreign films but because if they want to watch a movie, they don’t want to read.

I get it and I admit, the subject matter really has to intrigue me to watch a subtitled movie.  Ultimately, to read the subtitles requires a lot of concentration.  You can’t do other things during the movie, and you definitely can’t get up to take a wizz or microwave a chimichanga.

Thus, I waited for an evening where I could give my TV my full, undivided attention and I’m glad I did.

This movie starts out strong as a fun, lighthearted comedy.  The Kim family are poor in cash but rich in spirit, taking their impoverished lives as basement dwelling pizza box folders in stride, making jokes as they search for free wi-fi, all the while dodging the various bug and homeless bum urine streams that threaten to wreak havoc on their cramped home.

When Son uses forged credentials to defraud his way into a position as a tutor to the daughter of the wealthy Park family, inspiration strikes.  One by one, the Kims paint a humorous masterpiece of deceit, setting up the Park family’s servants to be fired so that they can, whilst posing with fake identities, take on those jobs themselves.  Sister, Dad, Mom all get in on the act and before you know it, they are all on the Park family payroll and able to pay for luxuries like wifi and pest extermination.  Alas, the peeing bum never stops peeing.

It’s hard to not root for the Kims.  They are poor through no fault of their own.  We learn that Dad has suffered through one lousy job after the next, being laid off or having companies he worked for go out of business.  The world economy has suffered greatly over the past several years, and when there is a mention of a security guard position that gets 500 applicants with college degrees, one can’t help but think that poor folk like the Kims can’t pull themselves out of the gutter without a bit of subterfuge.

Meanwhile, the Parks are lovable but hopelessly naive and trusting.  Having not suffered much in life, they never developed that inner bullshit detector that causes them to question certain situations so as to avoid being duped.  Mother Park is all about fancy parties and doting on the children while servants do all the heavy lifting.  Father Park is all about business.  You eventually come to love both families.  You want the Kims to succeed, but you don’t want the Parks to be hurt.

Unfortunately, at the midpoint, the film takes a dark turn and goes from witty comedy to blood soaked horror fest.  The laughs are lost and the mayhem ensues.  While I get the film had to go somewhere, I don’t agree with the direction it went at all and feel there were plenty of other options.

I won’t give it away, though I’m not sure it jived with the film’s overall message, or at least my interpretation of it.  I thought the film was trying to say a) sometimes a family can do everything right and still be poor and when the economy tanks, it’s hard to blame them for trying to fib their way to the top.  B)  When you juxtapose the plenty of the Parks with the little of the Kims, it can be easy to hate on the rich and demand they turn over all of their shit to the poor.  But then again, keep in mind that there are nice rich people and kneecapping the people who are winning the race of life doesn’t really do much to help those who are losing win.

A happy ending would have been great but….for some reason, there was just a lot of murder.  Maybe there are no happy endings when it comes to class warfare.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.  I’d like to see a re-cut with a happy ending.  There was actually one point in the film where I thought it was going to ramp up the silliness and lead to a silly ending but…nope.  That point was abandoned for murder.  So much murder.

Maybe after you 3.5 readers have a chance to see it I’ll say how I thought it should have ended.

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Everything You Need to Know About Life Can Be Found in Call of the Wild (And Why Harrison Ford Should Get An Oscar)

Hey 3.5 readers.

This won’t be so much of a review as an opinion piece.

Having seen the ads for Call of the Wild earlier this year, I read Jack London’s classic novel of the same name.  If you haven’t, you should.  It’s only like 60 pages, but he covers a lot of ground in a short amount of time.

For the uninitiated, it’s the story of Buck, a pampered dog who lives a life of luxury as a pet on a rich judge’s California estate.  His carefree life is uprooted when a dirtbag swipes the pooch and sells him into doggy servitude, sending him up north where he ends up on the dog sled team of a pair of French Canadian mail carriers.

From there, he’s passed from one owner to the next, beaten and abused, forced to fight for his life and so on.

Essentially, it’s a story about learning to adapt and persevere when life throws a monkey wrench into the machinery of your plans.

The movie is good, though it’s a Disney product full of schmaltz.  It has to be to cater to its primary audience of kids. While in the book, Buck goes from being weak and timid to becoming a murderous, killer alpha dog, whereas in the film Buck grows in spirit and strength by doing good deeds and saving others along the way.  Further, I’ll admit the book has plenty of politically incorrect moments (it was written in early 1900s after all) that understandably had to be cut out in the movie version.

Anyway, see the movie, but also read the book and just try to ignore the non-PCness and learn the various lessons.  Don’t crumble when life throws you a curve ball.  When you learn something new, you’ll fail and it will hurt but stick with it and you’ll get better (how Buck sucks at first as a sled dog but keeps at it and becomes a great sled dog, for example.)

Also, lessons about leadership, from Buck’s early masters who get his obedience through club beatings, to John Thornton, who is just such a good man that he inspires Buck to blind loyalty.

Is this movie an award winner?  Not really.  It will probably come and go without a lot of fanfare.

However, I think Harrison Ford should be considered for a Best Actor award for this one.  He was in some great films in the 70s and 80s, not just nerd faves like Star Wars and Indiana Jones, but thrillers and dramas as well.

Then in the late 90s, early 2000s he, no offense because it happens to all of us, but he got old and seemed in many of his roles like he’d rather not be there, like he was phoning it in.  Ironically, I know that’s part of his personality and charm, that he comes across as though he could take or leave fame.

Long story short, he shines in this role and is full of emotion.  As a depressed old man who moves to the Yukon to get away from humanity only to find his humanity again with the help of Buck.

Overall, Ford looks like he enjoys what he’s doing in this movie and that he had a good time making it.

At 77, I doubt he will get a chance at many more plump, juicy roles, so I think a case could be mean that he deserves it for this one, if not for the performance but to recognize his body of work.

Hopefully someone in the Academy is one of my 3.5 readers and will make this happen.

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An Ode to Robocop

robocop

Robocop!  Oh, Robocop.

You are the oft-forgotten,

Not nearly celebrated enough gem of 1980s times,

What with the way you defeated those who would dare to commit crimes.

In Old Detroit you patrolled,

While OCP used its mind control,

Though you could never let go of the man you used to be,

And that man was once named Murphy.

 

Yes, Murphy!  A beat cop with a kid and a wife,

A cop who came to the end of his life,

When he was shot to hell by that guy who went on to play Eric Foreman’s dad.

No, that experience was not very rad.

But thanks to OCP, your survival was a guaranteed lock.

They brought you back as a cyborg, a man-machine without a…penis.

Is life worth living without a ding dong?

At that point, it could become insufferably long.

 

Robocop, you were #MeToo before there was a Twitter.

The way you shot that rapist in the Johnson made my heart flitter.

You put an anti-violence against women message on the silver screen,

Nearly 40 years before the mass media had to come clean on Harvey Weinstein.

 

Robocop!  Anne Lewis was your number two.

Not that hot by today’s standards but in the Reagan era, she’d do,

Though it’s not like it would have mattered to you, for you did not have a bait and tackle anyway.

She was your friend and confidant and together you overcame many challenges to take down OCP and Eric Foreman’s old man.

Then peace and harmony erupted all over Old Detroit Land.

Until Robocop 2 and the Nuke drug crisis almost destroyed you.

Robocop 3 is when your franchise began to flounder.

Though honestly, I don’t think we can blame C.C.H. Pounder,

For an actress is only as good as the script she is given, for words are used like a smith uses a tool.

And your 2014 reboot is the only reboot that I ever found cool.

Will they ever make another?

I sincerely hope so my steel clad brother.

But in the future, I hope OCP gives you a robo-wang that will make the ladies hollar.

No doubt they will cry, “I’d buy that for a dollar!”

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Movie Review – Jay and Silent Bob Reboot (2020)

Snoochie noochies, 3.5 readers.

I don’t think there was a single 90s kid who wasn’t in possession of a well-worn “Mallrats” VHS tape, quoting lines from Jay and Silent Bob and acting like this somehow made them all very subversive.

Personally, I’ve always found Jay and Silent Bob Strike back to be the funniest film in Kevin Smith’s View Askewaverse, the series of flicks he made that featured recurring characters stuck in the nightmare of New Jersey suburbia.  While other films were funny, they also tried to channel some kind of message, whereas there was no real message in JASBSB.  It was just laughs for the sake of laughs.  The pot dealing protagonists start out knowing nothing and end up knowing less.

You might remember in that 2001 film, Jay and his hetero life mate Silent Bob had to travel cross country to stop a movie from being made about them.

Well, turns out this reboot is about Jay and SB travelling cross country to stop a reboot of the movie that was made about them from being made.

As author Thomas Wolfe reminded us, you can’t go home again.  After all, you’ve changed and grown so much and there are too many painful reminders of your dumb, wayward past at home.  While many films would try to avoid this, J and SB cash in big time on 90s nostalgia, asking what kind of a “broken fuck” would want to watch a reboot of an old 90s movie before looking knowingly past the fourth wall to the viewer that plunked down an exorbitant amount for an on demand rental.

Sadly, the film didn’t get a big movie theater release, one can only assume because everyone who gets the 90s references is as old and wrinkly as all the actors who usually do cameos in Smith films.  That same cast of characters came back this go around, albeit with grayer hair and more lines in the face.  What can I say?  Time is a bitch.

While humorous, especially to those of us who get 90s humor, there were times when this stroll down memory lane saddened me, making me wonder where did all the time go?  It seems like just yesterday I was fapping it out to Shannon Elizabeth of American Pie fame.  Now, she returns in her role as Jay’s ex-girlfriend, except you can tell from her face that time has paid her a visit to her as well, as it does to all of us.  I’m not knocking her.  I’m just saying it is sad what time does to all of us sooner or later.

Eh, not gonna lie.  I’d still fap one out to her.

Long story short, as it turns out, Jay and his ex, Justice, had a daughter that Jay never knew about.  For reasons too stupid to bother explaining, Jay and Bob must give Jay’s estranged offspring and her friends across country without outing the secret of Jay’s father status to the young woman.

Jay’s daughter, Millie (short for Millenium Falcon) is played by Harlee Quinn Smith, and yes, Kevin Smith did that to his daughter, but I guess if you’re born to a famous dad you can survive a wacky name.  Jokes about nepotism and Millie referring to Kevin Smith (who appears in the film as himself as well as Silent Bob) as a creepy old fuck abound.

I laughed.  I cried, not at the nostalgia, per se, but at the fact that twenty years have gone by and all I have to show for it is this blog read by 3.5 readers.  The me who was alive when J and SB came out for the first time would be very disappointed in himself.

But kudos to Smith, who keeps finding new ways to make dough off of Gen X’s pop culture fixation.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

 

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Movie Review – Downhill (2020)

Vacations are hard, 3.5 readers.

BQB here with a review of the dramedy, “Downhill.”

Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell play Billie and Pete, a couple who go on a luxurious European ski vacation.

Long story short, there’s an avalanche.  It’s scary as F, and Pete loses his husband/father of the year award big time when he books it, leaving his wife and kids in the dust.

Turns out no one was ever in any real danger.  The avalanche was a controlled burst meant to shake some snow off the mountain and while it looks scary to tourists, they were never in any real danger other than getting snow all over themselves.

But Pete didn’t know that at the time, right?

Without delving into spoiler territory, the rest of the film is a slow meditation on love, marriage, human frailty, fragility, aging and the overall notion of whether or not there can ever be a perfect person.  Could Pete have helped it?  Perhaps he moved based on pure instinct.  Or maybe he was just a wuss.  We may never know.

STATUS: While it’s worth watching and it is nice to see Julia in a feature length film, I’d save this one for a rental.  The setup is great but the rest of the film is a slow burn, and although various questions posed are eventually answered, this one feels less like a movie and more like an extended sitcom episode.  I feel like if they’d handed this script to Larry David, we would have had a better time watching that old curmudgeon high tail it from snowed upon family.

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Movie Review – Birds of Prey (2020)

It doesn’t stink, but it could have been better.

BQB here with a review.

I might be the only one who doesn’t think this movie was a total stinker, and the theories as to why this one bombed at the box office are running rampant.

The set-up?  Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) breaks up with her infamous boyfriend, The Joker.  Alas, this means that she is no longer under the protection of the most fearsome criminal in Gotham City, and to the many, many, many people she has wrong through her assholish behavior, it’s open season on her head.

Amidst this chaos, the Black Mask (Ewan McGregor of Obi Wan Kenobi fame) and his henchman Victor Zsaz (Don’t feel like looking the actor’s name up) seek a diamond and a kid, both of whom are important for reasons I’ll let go at this time so as to not spoil everything.  It falls on to Harley to protect the kid, with the assistance of Detective Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), the Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), collectively “The Birds of Prey.”

Sounds like a pretty awesome set-up, right?  Well, you’d be wrong.  Sure, the film has its moments.  Margot Robbie gets to ham it up as Harley in this go around whereas she was a bit more subdued in Suicide Squad.  There are some humorous moments as Harley, the last person you’d ever want to take care of a kid, ends up being the world’s worst babysitter.  There’s plenty of action as well.

Ultimately though, the flick fails, so first, let’s talk about why it didn’t.

Feminism run amuck?  Eh, not really.  Sure, this movie is all about girl power, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  It’s all in how it is handled.  The recent Charlie’s Angels reboot tanked because the angels openly lectured us about the virtues of third wave feminism.  In essence, you were told that if you have a dick then you are inferior, and then also if you are a dick, you are an asshole if you didn’t like this movie.

There wasn’t much in the way of man bashing in this movie, nor was there any lecturing or claiming that we should all live under vaginal rule.  The best female action flicks just have their heroines kick ass without claims that a snootch causes one to be a better ass kicker, ergo Buffy, Ripley and Wonder Woman will always maintain their claims to fame.

It wasn’t that men rejected this movie either.  If anything, I’d wager men were well represented in the audience because many of us are dorks who will see any comic book movie.

So, why did it bomb?

The unnecessary R rating.  Look, I’m no teetotaler.  My ears won’t burn if I hear the F word.  But let’s face it.  Comic book movies are by and large the domain of the young, whereas adults will go to these things if they’re uber nerds or to bring their kids to them.

As I watched this movie, it dawned on me that what caused this movie to get an R movie wasn’t the sex (there wasn’t any) nor was it the violence (there was a lot but not more than Suicide Squad, which always surprised me with its PG 13 rating.)

What put this movie over the top was the naughty language.  The F word is used gratuitously and while I’m not against a well-placed swear for comedic or dramatic effect, the swears flowed like water here, for no real reason other than the actors were allowed to say it, so say it they did – a lot.

I got the impression maybe the producers thought they were making a female version of Deadpool, which attracted adult fans by the boatload with its dirty jokes.  The big difference though is Ryan Reynolds is a Rembrandt who can paint a hysterical picture with obscenity, whereas the F word was just repeated over and over again here for a sense of faux-grittiness.

Long story short, had they cut out all the unnecessary fucks, this movie could have been PG-13 and its teenage fan base could have been allowed to attend in droves.

My second complaint lies with branding, marketing, or really, how DC has handled itself throughout its recent attempts at comic book flicks.  Love or hate Marvel, but they created a cinematic universe.  Their stories built toward something.

DC, on the other hand, has taken a lot of characters we know nothing about and smashed them together quickly, largely out of the fear that they needed to churn out product quickly before the comic book movie bubble bursts.  It’s a shame because if they’d followed the cinematic universe strategy, the films really could have built up to something.

I’m not saying that Marvel is the gold standard, just if DC had a different idea oh how to do it better, they didn’t break it out.  Wonder Woman and Aquaman are the best flicks DC has put out as of late, and that’s because those movies actually took the time to introduce us to who their characters were and what makes them tick.  And as we saw with Marvel, the beauty of taking the time to make those singular character based movies means we understand those characters a lot more when they get slapped into the broad, ensemble pieces and only get a few minutes of screen time.

In other words, why not a Huntress movie?  Why not a Black Canary movie?  Or, better yet, why not a Harley Quinn movie?  Harley is a star, after all.  Only a handful of nerds know what “Birds of Prey” means.  The rest of the public probably thought this was a movie about killer birds.  It probably should have been marketed as “The Harley Movie: All Harley, All the Time.”

Also, I don’t know why DC seems adverse to bringing Harley and Mr. J together.  True, their rocky relationship is domestic violence times a thousand and in this age of #MeToo, the last thing people want to see is a comic book couple that acts out their differences by shooting at each other, slapping each other with cartoon mallets, attempting to feed each other to hyenas and what have you, but it was funny in the comics, and the right writers could have made it funny here.

Which brings me to the writing.  There were flash forwards and flash backs.  I think there might have been a flash sideways.  There was a flash back that was so long I forgot it was a flash back because it takes up half the movie.  Harley narrates and fills in the blanks with great omnipotence.

Finally, and maybe this is a comic nerd complaint, but there are some great characters that are thrown away.  Victor Zsaz, a psycho serial killer in the Batman universe, is wasted as two-bit henchman here.  At one point, he tells a victim, “I will end your suffering,” i.e. his classic tagline as in the comics, he believes all life is suffering and thus he doesn’t believe he is killing his victims but saving them from pain.

Similarly, Harley has a pet hyena but the hyena never gets to chase anyone or anything fun.  There are many points where it feels like the writers are like “Hey, we read the comics, nerds!  Here’s a brief nod but we aren’t going deeper.”

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.  I still think it is worth a comic fan’s time, but like many DC movies as of late, it was only OK when it could have been great.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Lamentations About the Academy Awards

This was a year where I had seen many of the movies nominated for best picture and to my surprise, I liked most of them.  They were hits that really drew the viewer in and overall were supremely watchable.  Movies like Ford vs. Ferrari, Knives Out, 1917, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

Naturally, the award went to Korean foreign language film Parasite and my first reaction was “Oh, yeah, the Academy always has to award the movie no one has seen” but I’m going to reserve judgment till I see it.  It was made by the same director who made Snowpiercer so it may very well be a great movie.  I will check it out and let you 3.5 readers know what I think.

I have to say, the guild is off the lily for the Oscars, at least it is for me anyway.  These shows got so “woke” that they can’t even have a host anymore.  No, literally no one wants the job.  Can you imagine that?  In an entertainment industry where performers are vying to be seen, no one wants to get that much airtime…because maybe you made some off the cuff remark ten years ago and it will all come back to haunt you thanks to social media.

I tuned in for a moment and Steve Martin and Chris Rock were joking about a lack of diversity about the Oscars.  There was a joke about how the actress who played Harriet Tubman hid black people so well that the Academy hired her to hide black people from the nominations.

Funny but also uh…why not just nominate her?  They made a joke about Eddie Murphy being hidden but again, why not nominate him?  I didn’t see Harriet so I can’t tell you if it’s a good movie or not.  I did see Dolemite and I thought that was a good movie with a lot of heart, basically a big underdog story about a man with an impossible dream, a washed up entertainer in his fifties, everyone telling him to give up on ever being in the movies but he puts all his money on the line and to make a movie and succeeds.

When I saw it I thought if Eddie was ever going to get an Oscar, it would be for this, but of course, Dolemite was also a comedy so we can’t have that.  Not at the Oscars ever.

I tuned out and tuned back in one more time to see Brad Pitt win for best supporting actor.  Maybe it’s just me but it bugged me that here’s this guy who has been acting for so many years, has been in some of the biggest movies ever in some of the greatest roles every yet he has never won an Oscar for acting.  And sadly, he felt the need to share part of his brief speech time to complain about John Bolton.  If he feels that Bolton should have testified, I suppose it’s his right to say it, but Bolton just comes across as a charlatan and huckster out there promoting himself, trying to promote his book.  To me, it felt like Brad crapped on his own long awaited acting award speech but if that’s what he wanted to do then that’s what he wanted to do.’

Ultimately, these awards are less about the movies and more about promoting Hollywood’s pet projects, though admittedly, they did have some decent movies in the running this year.

I also wondered if Avengers: Endgame shouldn’t have gotten a little recognition – the culmination of a decade long experiment where a studio was able to make all these movies that weaved together, where none of the actors had hissy fits and were all willing to share the spotlight.

End of rant.

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