The Cycle

Within the heart of every man there is a constant battle raging.  Many would have you believe the sides are Good and Evil, Light and Dark, Angel and Demon.  Those people are boring.  The real battle is between the clean-shaven Dandy and the burly Lumberjack.  As soon as a boy gets his first crop of “yes-it’s-there-you-just-have-to-get-close-and-turn-the-light-on-oh-my-gosh-mom-you-don’t-understand!” on his chin, his personality is split into two halves that, unless he fully indulges one, will clash his whole life.  He’ll buy quality razors and brushes and creams that he wouldn’t be caught dead with otherwise, only to hear the siren call of facial follicles, leaving his equipment unused on his counter for months on end.  I’ve decided to chart out this natural cycle for educational purposes, with the hope that future generations of boys will achieve the inner peace that has alluded me.  My dream is that it will become a poster in middle school Health classrooms everywhere, nestled in-between images of a couple catching an STD by holding hands and a boy selling his baby brother for pot money.

 

The Call

#1

 

 

Crossing the Threshold

It doesn't work, in case you wondering

It doesn’t work, in case you wondering

 

The Test

#3

 

The Reward

#4

 

A month later

#5

 

The Return

#6

 

3 to 6 months later

A funny thing happens when you’ve been smooth-cheeked for an extended period of time- the follicle cells release a hormone that, much like certain post-pregnancy hormones in women, makes the man forget all the bad parts of his beard and magnifies the good.

Seen here

Seen here

#7

Rebirth

#8

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Review: Mac and Me

mac-and-me

I like to consider myself a man with good taste in movies.  I love the first two Godfather films, I stayed awake for most of Schindler’s List, and Apocalypse Now is my favorite movie when I want to impress people (it’s Tommy Boy if I’m being honest).  However, when given a choice between an Oscar-winning biopic or something in the clearance bin of a gas station, I always go with the latter.  I’m like someone in a bad relationship- I know the movie isn’t good for me, I know the relationship isn’t going anywhere constructive, but I  have such a soft-spot for it.  Plus, you don’t know what it’s like when no one else is around!  It can be really sweet!

tv-bad-for-eyes-1

“We don’t need them baby.”

Mac and Me might be the most cynical cash grab of a movie I’ve ever watched, and I loved it.  The basic summary is a family of aliens comes to Earth, the baby (Mac) gets separated and spends the rest of the movie with a mother and her two sons, trying to find his family.  Also, they whistle instead of talking.  Don’t worry, it doesn’t get annoying until about minute five so you’re good.

If you even glanced at the above poster you probably won’t be surprised to know that this movie was made to get some of that sweet sweet E.T. money Spielberg was rubbing in everyone’s face.  Trying to capitalize on the success of another movie is nothing new, but what I think makes Mac a special case study is just how bad they missed the mark.  All during the movie I kept making notes of the moments that were taken directly from E.T. and how this movie completely missed what made those moments great in the first place.  Let’s run through the elements Mac and Me “borrows”: 

The flying bike scene

Even people who haven’t seen E.T. can recognize the flying bike scene.  It easily became the iconic moment from the movie, one of triumph and magic and wish fulfillment for anyone who has ever wanted to fly.

Here’s how Mac and Me reinterprets it:

That’s the movie’s wheelchair-bound protagonist flying off a cliff.  Watch it again and let it sink in.

It’s as if they watched the flying bike scene and thought “Two wheels are ok, I guess, but you know what’ll really sell tickets?  Four wheels!”

A perfect example of quality over quantity.

The Reese’s Pieces

While I wasn’t there due to not-being-born, I’ve heard about how crazy people went for Reese’s Pieces after watching an alien eat them and say their name in a funny voice.  People are idiots.

There is no movie magic to this moment.  It’s product placement, pure and simple.  It is, however, done with a little subtlety and finesse.  It’s underplayed and only appears in the movie when the story calls for it e.g. as a trail for E.T.

Mac and his family need good ol’ refreshing Coca-cola to survive.

He was literally on the brink of death before this moment.

He was literally on the brink of death before this moment.

It’s very loosely explained as being similar to a liquid they drink on their home planet, which makes sense if they’re from the World of Coke in Atlanta.

The Earthlings discover this because they more or less freebase Coke throughout the entire movie, always making sure the label is clearly visible and facing the camera.

He might as well wink at the camera

He might as well wink at the camera

When not hooked up to a Coke IV, Mac enjoys eating Skittles.  Imagine how they came up with that one.

Also, you may be wondering where the name “Mac” comes from in the first place.  The aliens don’t have a whistle that translates to Mac, so why does the family call him that?  To answer that, I give you the best scene in the entire movie:

In case you didn’t notice, they’re at McDonalds.

The cute alien

E.T. isn’t cute in the traditional sense, but he was nonhuman enough to where it wasn’t upsetting.  He had a huge head, waddled back and forth and had hot dog fingers.  The creators of Mac and Me decided that was a good start, but what people really want to see is horrific aliens that are this close to being human burn victims.

I had to keep reminding myself that the guy with the gun was the bad guy, not the hero

I had to keep reminding myself that the guy with the gun was the bad guy, not the hero

They walk upright, their skin is peachish, they have all the right number of arms and legs and ears, and it makes them TERRIFYING.  The more human they looked, the more off-putting they became.

The worst by far is the dad.  His eyes are always half-closed, he sways when he walks while somehow also managing to thrust his pelvis forward and just generally looks like a surly drunk.

"Donchu sass mee"

“Donchu sass mee”

The cherry on top, of course, is their perpetual state of nudity.  You’d think if they were going to make anthropomorphic aliens they would have at least given them clothes.  Seems logical, right?

There I go again, confusing logical for nightmare-inducing

There I go again, confusing “logical” for “nightmare-inducing”

Conclusion

Who should see this? People who thought E.T. was good, but didn’t quite hit the mark for traumatizing children.

There’s so much more to be said about this movie but it really should be experienced firsthand.  It’s on Netflix Instant or you can probably get a free copy with a Domino’s promotional pizza somewhere.

Family Business

The man and his boy sit at the table, the remains of dinner still scattered about.  They sit in silence for a moment, digesting and picking teeth before the father breaks the meditation.

 

“Big day comin’ up, huh son?  It isn’t everyday you graduate college.”

 

“Yeah I guess.  I haven’t really thought about it much,” the boy responds.

 

The father ponders his next move carefully, not wanting to spark another fight.

 

“Have you, uh, given any more thought to what we talked about?” he timidly asks.

 

“Duh-ADD!” the boy exhales, sounding fifteen again.

 

“I know you don’t want to hear it, but I really think it’s something to consider.  You yourself said you don’t have a plan right now and I know we could find a place for you.”

 

“But I don’t want a place!  I don’t want your life!”

 

“Now son, hold on a minute….”

 

“No, you hold on a minute Dad!  Grab a handful of minutes!  I have dreams!  Ambitions!  I can’t give up on them just because it’s the “safe” thing to do.”

 

The silence resumes.  The boy is embarrassed at using the word “dreams” in front of his dad.  He hates to get so emotional but he feels unheard.

 

Misunderstood.

 

Ignored.

 

The man tries to recall if his oil needs changing this weekend or the next.

 

Next weekend for sure.

He finally breaks the second silence.

 

“Look son, I know you have big plans, and far be it from me to keep you from them, but you need to be reasonable.  There’s nothing wrong with middle management.”

 

The boy groans in disgust.

 

“Yeah, maybe if you don’t mind TIES and….MEETINGS and….and….PORTFOLIOS!”

 

“Now hold on mister, there’s a lot more to middle managing than all the ties and meetings you see in Hollywood.  Those movies make it look glamorous, sure, but you’re doing your country a service!  What would happen if there were no middle managers?  Well let me ask you this-ever yank out the middle piece of a Jenga tower?” he asked with a sly grin.

 

The son is not amused.  He hates Jenga.

 

“It topples right over.  Now imagine if that tower was America and the piece was middle management.  Not so funny now, is it?”

 

“Was it ever?”

 

The father sighs, massaging his temples.  He doesn’t know how to get through to the boy.

 

“Look son, I only want what’s best for you.  I want you to experience the satisfaction that comes from managing people beneath you while also answering to an equal number of people above you.  You are the cream filling of the corporate Oreo.  That’s everyone’s favorite part!”

 

The boy slowly looks over at his old man.  Cookies were a sure-fire way to grab his attention.

 

“But what if I’m not good at it?  I didn’t do any internships in school and I barely passed MIDMGMT 5050.  How can you think I’ll succeed?”

 

“Because it’s in your blood!  Your ancestors were managing the middle as far back as written history.  Squires, bishops, bourgeois nobles who were better than most but still had some who were better than them.  When your great-grandfather was nine he was put in charge of all his friends in the steel mill.  That kind of responsibility runs deep and it runs through you.” he says while placing his hand on the boy’s shoulder, causing his scowl to soften.

 

“Actually Dad, I have a confession.  It’s, uh, kind of embarrassing.”

 

“What is it son?”

 

The boy looks at his feet as he mumbles out his words.

 

“For the past few months I’ve….been…..experimenting with….”

 

He swallows hard.

 

“…synergy.”

 

The father turns away so his boy can’t see the tears welling up.

After composing himself he manages to turn to his son and feebly asks

 

“Jenga?”

The Seven Friends We All Have

By Tyler Merrels

blues-brothers

Out of all the varieties of relationships people have, friendship is unique in both variety and degree. Romance is confined to a few types (dating, engaged, married, etc.) and it isn’t possible for your brother to be “more sibling” or to have a “sometimes cousin”. Due to an undiagnosed mental condition, I can only relate to my world through pop culture analogies and references. Without further filler, I present the Seven Types of Friends we all have.

1) The Grumpy Old Mangrumpy-old-men

Constantly arguing, pouncing on each other’s verbal slip-ups, lots of “love pats” on the arm, you each diligently serve as the Library of Congress for the embarrassing moments from the other’s life. People frequently assume you hate each other and are shocked to find out you’ve been best friends for years. You’re more like siblings than friends, torturing each other without end until a third party wrongs one of you and your Wonder Twin powers of verbal abuse activate. They’ll be by your side when you get married, laughing uproariously when you mess up your vows.

2) The Green Ranger

green-ranger

You have a core group of friends who you do everything with, but every now and then this person tags along and right away you know it’s going to be a good time. As a matter of fact, their presence is usually advertised as the highlight of the evening. Everyone in the group likes and respects them, they just do their own thing most of the time. They might have another group of friends you don’t know about, a serious relationship, or just a busy schedule that prevents them from saving Angel Grove every time. They’re almost always cooler than the rest of your friends, leading everyone to try to show off when they’re around.

3) The Venn Diagram

venn-diagram

The Venn Diagram of the differences in your personalities is a stormy ocean and the overlap is the flotsam the two of you desperately cling to when having a conversation. This could be a casual friend from class or work, the quarter of a double date you just met, or just a member of a large group that you rarely interact with one on one. Either way, you share one common interest that neither of you ever strays from, even if there really isn’t enough material to fill more than a ten minute conversation. There might not have been another Packers game since the last time you interacted, but by God you are going to go through the play by play again as if your life depended on it. This is how I picture 99% of grown-up friendships.

4) The Nelson Muntz

nelson-muntz

The writers on The Simpsons constantly change the nature of Bart and Nelson’s relationship depending on what the episode calls for. Sometimes he’s his bully who he runs from, other times they are shown as allies, hanging out as if it’s perfectly normal. Similarly, the Nelson Muntz is a friend you can never quite size up. Sometimes you’re hanging out and getting along fine when another friend comes over and they give you crap the rest of the night. You try to keep your distance because it gets old but they are always inviting you to things. You think they don’t like you from the way they act but then they’re constantly planning trips with you and inviting you to their parties. It sends mixed signals to say the least.

5) The Theoretical

bush-mccain

Much like scientific theories, your friendship can’t really be proven, only disproven. You haven’t spoken to them in months and it has been even longer since you’ve hung out more than ten minutes, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t friends. Does it? This is really more of a stage in the decline of one of the other friendships, a close one that unravels for a variety of reasons: distance, running in different circles, busy schedules. They get grandfathered in and you continue to classify them as a friend, but you slowly realize you don’t actually do friend things anymore. On the rare occasion you do hang out they act like a divorced parent on visitation putting in the court-ordered amount of “quality time” before bailing. When you have big news you often forget to let them know, whereas before they would have known first. It’s sad, but like the law of gravity, you really have no choice but to accept it.

6) The Cherished Childhood Show

rocko

I loved Rocko’s Modern Life as a kid and last summer I rewatched the whole show on Netflix. Not only was it every bit as good as I remembered, but there were tons of jokes that I didn’t get as a kid that made sense now that I’m corrupted. This is your best friend from childhood. When you were kids you saw you each other everyday but as adults you regularly go months apart. It doesn’t matter though, because when you do finally see each other you always pick up exactly where you left off as though no time passed. You always lose track of time with them, much like how sitting down for one episode will easily turn into half of a season in a night. Both force you to act twelve again and lead to weird looks from your parents and siblings. You can almost feel the weight of millions of memories that come rushing back, much like how revisiting the show brought back memories of summer and your childhood home and the horrible 90s decor of the living room where you watched on Saturday morning. All the jokes are the same ones you’ve heard many times before and the references to the Clinton Administration/your 8th grade home room teacher aren’t exactly timely but they sure are timeless. However, like the dirty jokes hidden in Rocko, you can still be surprised and the friendship can mean different things to you at different stages in your life. The show you zoned out to over a bowl of Peanut Butter Crunch later reveals quality animation and clever writing while the guy you got in trouble with at church evolves into your drinking buddy in high school and then your brother as an adult.

7) The Cherished Childhood Show (that really doesn’t hold up)

saved-by-bell

Ever watch an episode of Saved by the Bell now? I know people love to talk about it with nostalgia dust in their eyes, but I don’t think they’ve actually re-watched an episode. I thought my spine was going to break from all the douche chills. Same goes for other shows like Boy Meets WorldThe Brady Bunch, and Gilligan’s Island. I loved them all as a kid but now I can’t get over the bad acting, the dumb and formulaic scripts, etc. This is that friend who was your pal in elementary or middle school but who you would walk twenty minutes out of your way to avoid now. As a kid, you don’t have much choice in who your friends are so this is usually someone who lived in your neighborhood or played sports with you but as soon as you grew a little older and had a license, you kept your distance. You also don’t have a lot of choice in what shows your parents will let you watch and all the above are “kid friendly”, a synonym for brain dead. You see their racist Facebook statuses and photo albums that lead you to believe they might actually live at a bar that’s established itself as the hangout for failed TapOut fighters and start to feel like they owe you for the calories burned riding your bike to their house. You also wonder if they look at you and think the same thing, like maybe they have a real grudge against success and handsome late-bloomers.

The 6 ways Skyfall is actually a remake of The Dark Knight Rises

By Tyler Merrels

WARNING: massive spoilers for both movies. Honestly, if you haven’t seen either by this point, you’re probably on the wrong website.

Batman and James Bond. The closest thing America has to royalty. Except…James Bond is…shut up. Most famous characters in popular culture are bound to share similarities-the whole reason they get so popular is by striking similar chords with the general population: both are rich, both are orphans, both can have any woman they want, both are trained in every form of fighting known to man.

However, the similarities between the two go much deeper than that. Here are 6 reasons why the new James Bond movie, Skyfall, is in fact a remake of the recently released Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises.

Last chance to avoid spoilers.

1) Both protagonists let those close to them believe they’re dead

Bond takes a bullet and falls into the opening credits while Batman appears to take a nuke in the end of his movie, with neither survival making much sense or being explained. Both are presumed dead by (the closest things they have to) loved ones. Batman does this so he can retire the only way possible. Bond does this to use up his annual leave before it expires, ultimately returning since it would have been a very different movie otherwise. Both retreat to another country with a woman in tow.

2) The main villains were trained by the same secret organization as the protagonists

In Rises, main villain Bane is the teacher’s pet of the League of Shadows, the same almost-ninja cult that trained Batman in Batman Begins. In Skyfall, Silvas is a former MI6 agent taking revenge on his former boss. In both cases the heroes are meeting the better/stronger/Frencher version of themselves.

3) The villains have a traumatic mouth injury

Bane was the victim of a brutal prison beating that left his mouth disfigured and required his Dolby Surround Sound mask to hide/give out painkillers. Silvas bit down on a defective cyanide capsule that transformed him into a character from Breaking Bad and left him in need of dentures. Both were protecting someone close to them in the process (Bane was protecting Talia, Silvas was protecting M).

4) Both heroes are worn out

Both movies go to great lengths to show that their heroes are not up to fighting condition anymore: Batman is explicitly told so by Dr. Lt. Dangle while Bond is shown to have failed all of his tests to re-enter the field. Both are also troubled by old scars throughout their movies: Batman has his leg injury that is fixed by the power of MacGuffin and Bond has two gunshot injuries from the beginning of the movie, although he can never make up his mind which hurts him worse.

5) Both villains use “hacking” to distract from their real plan

In a scenario out of Freud’s dream journal, all Silvas really wants is revenge on surrogate mother M. However, he goes about this by getting her attention through hacking MI6, stealing hard drives, and, most evil of all, posting to Youtube. Bane wants to finish what the League of Shadows started by watching Gotham burn, but first he hijacks “Totally Not Wall Street” and bankrupts Wayne Enterprises. Both show that Hollywood still thinks “computers=magic”.

6) A fan favorite character is revealed in the last minute

In Rises, this character is JGL’s Robin. In Skyfall, this is a decidedly much sexier Moneypenny than was ever seen in the old movies. Both characters feature heavily in the entire movie but it is only when their full name is said that the audience discovers who they are and proceeds to blog about their disgust at the tactic/casting/decision.

So there you have it. You wasted your money seeing the same movie twice.