Step Up Revolution

What happens when you expand upon an idea from Step Up 2: The Streets and combine it with a recycled love story from its predecessor?  You get Step Up Revolution, the dullest movie in the franchise thus far.

In Step Up 2, there’s a scene where a group of street dancers film themselves breaking out into an elaborate routine inside a subway train freaking out the unsuspecting passengers and alerting the local cops.  After fleeing without being arrested, they post the video online to get themselves a little buzz.

In Step Up Revolution, smug Sean (Ryan Guzman), a working class orphan like Channing Tatum in the first Step Up, leads another group of street dancers nicknamed The Mob (because they’re a flash mob, get it?) who orchestrate multiple public displays of dance, capture them on video and then upload them to the Internet.  Why?  To win a contest.

You see, if all their public dance videos can collectively generate 10 million hits, they win $100,000.  (We have no idea what they plan to do with the money.  Not that it really matters anyway.)  Curiously, they appear to be the only crew in the contest.  We never see any videos of their competition.

The best routine happens at the start of the film as the dancers file out of their parked cars and start dancing on the roofs.  But then things get a little over the top as low rider cars start acting like trained elephants at the circus, rising until they’re only on their back wheels.  As all of this is happening, a mostly mute graffiti artist (who you know will say something by the end of this movie), quickly puts together a multi-layered art display consisting of spray paint on several standing glass sheets.  It’s something of a calling card for everyone in Miami to see.  It’s not that great, really.

Somehow, this becomes the top story on the local news (which must mean this is a pretty boring place to live if this is the lead).  Reviews are mostly negative.  Two out of the three citizens interviewed for this report are more annoyed than impressed, which is how I ultimately felt about Step Up Revolution.

The Mob moves on to less memorable, mostly indulgent routines in an art museum (where they blend in with the paintings and sculptures) and a restaurant (where they wear masquerade masks).  Somehow, they’re always able to avoid being arrested for trespassing and being public nuisances.  Their stunts aren’t exactly tight, y’all.

After the parked car sequence, Sean meets rich girl Emily (a very stiff Kathryn McCormick who is no Jenna Dewan) at a daytime beach party and the quality of the movie dips considerably. They have zilcho chemistry.  She can’t get a drink at the bar (or recite a line with conviction) but can become a finalist in another contest to get accepted into a ritzy ballet studio.  (Dewan had a similar ambition.)  She’s one of five nominated students vying for a residency.  All she has to do is win over an impossible-to-please Mia Michaels, a judge from So You Think You Can Dance, the reality TV show that only seems to exist in order to cast these Step Up movies.

Sean works for her divorced father (Peter Gallagher), a cold-hearted real estate developer who makes the mistake of wanting to tear down Ricky’s, a favourite hangout of The Mob where they celebrate their successes (Sean never has to pay for drinks, for some reason), and other commercial & residential properties in that neighbourhood in favour of a gaudy tourist attraction.  (Sean is a waiter in Gallagher’s hotel restaurant.)

Traditional Emily is repeatedly told at the ritzy ballet studio that her technique is good but she lacks originality.  (How did she become a finalist, then?)  So Sean tries expanding her repertoire but he doesn’t really teach her anything new, to be frank.  He just holds her and lifts her and dips her.  She wants to join The Mob but Sean is worried she won’t be accepted because of the neighbourhood issue with her father.  Plus, Sean’s best friend, Eddy (Misha Gabriel) is immediately suspicious of her.  (Gallagher fired him from the hotel restaurant for being late to an employee meeting.  How villainous.)  So, predictably, they keep it a secret as Eddy rather quickly gives in.  They will both regret this decision.

Meanwhile, Gallagher is close to getting City Council approval for construction of his new tourist attraction which inspires The Mob to lead protest dances to save Ricky’s and all the other properties in their neighbourhood, much to the appreciation of the lazy residents there.  (How come these people don’t conduct their own traditional protests with signs and chants?  Like street dancing would be more effective?)  They stage a flash mob in the lobby of Gallagher’s office building (to a strange Radiohead remix) after pulling the fire alarm.  Then, without the approval of Sean, Eddy organizes a slightly more effective stunt during a gala for the project where The Mob neatly sabotages a video presentation (which unfortunately reminds us that Kathryn McCormick can’t act).  This is the only time they get caught and promptly arrested.

Freed from custody the next day (the movie is so disinterested in this part of the story there’s no follow through or resolution, it’s simply dropped altogether), Sean and Eddy come to blows and split up.  Before the foolhardy stunt at the gala (which disqualifies them from the online contest after being only a few hundred thousand hits away from victory), Eddy and The Mob discover the truth about Emily.  Afterwards, Sean fails to convince her he had no genuine role in the public debacle.  (A deleted scene on the DVD reveals he was against the idea from the start.)

With the situation looking bleak, can the neighbourhood still be saved?  Will Eddy and Sean make peace and reform The Mob?  Will Sean and Emily rekindle their boring romance?

Only a naïve child will be kept in suspense.  Step Up Revolution ends with one final dance protest that enlists the services of a number of cast members from previous Step Up movies including that guy that does a killer robot and Moose with his irritating exploding fist bump gimmick.  (We still don’t know the origin of his nickname.  I’m guessing it’s because he looks like one.)  It goes on forever although I did enjoy the breakdancing segment.

Call me crazy but I’m not sure the power of dance is so undeniable it could instantly melt the heart of a ruthless industrialist or that someone connected to a powerful ad firm would suddenly make an offer to a desperate dance crew once they finally stop protest dancing but the filmmakers are determined to have their obligatory, happy ending even if it completely lacks credibility.  If the anti-Dakota Access Pipeline water protectors started flash mobs, would that change Donald Trump’s mind about the project of which he has a personal, invested interest?  Wigga, please.

The Step Up movies have had a longstanding marriage with formula storytelling but you could always count on superb, sometimes innovative dance sequences to get you through the dull bits even if they weren’t nearly enough to overcome all this chronic predictability.  Up to this point, the movies have been slightly less than average.  Step Up Revolution, the fourth installment, is the first entry where you can’t even count on the dancing to alleviate your mental fatigue.  After the opening car dance sequence, the movie begins to drag considerably and despite a welcome moment here and there, you remain deeply disinterested in what you see overall.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, February 9, 2017
8:13 p.m.

Published in: on February 9, 2017 at 8:13 pm  Leave a Comment  

Step Up

Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan have such an obvious chemistry the moment they lock eyes for the first time in Step Up, it’s no wonder they ended up marrying in real life.  But because they’re trapped in a formula dance picture, the movie forces them to deny their feelings for a full hour.  And then it forces them to temporarily split up again just to make the final act more dramatic.

But that’s the problem.  Step Up isn’t dramatic nor romantic.  It’s routine business with otherwise entertaining dance sequences thrown in to fill out the overlong running time.

Tatum plays an adopted, street-dancin’ wigger with Black friends who steal cars for quick cash.  Dewan is a single-parented, classically trained ballerina in a bit of a crisis.  Her dance partner breaks his ankle and she needs someone to rehearse with before a big showcase that is crucial for her professional future.  Her partner is expected to recover in time for the performance.

Thanks to Tatum taking the fall for his friends after they all vandalize Dewan’s arts school upon leaving a house party (where Tatum gets into a fight with a jealous boyfriend over his Vanilla Ice-like dance moves with his girlfriend), his punishment is to perform 200 hours of community service there.  How convenient.

In the beginning, all he does is clean.  But after seeing Dewan, he wants to fill in for her injured partner.  (It sure beats vacuuming.)  She only agrees after some of her fellow students bomb their auditions with her.  (Really?  You guys can’t lift this tiny human being without falling?  Please.)

Inevitably, because they come from completely different worlds, it’s an awkward start.  She’s old school, he’s street.  She’s disciplined, he’s lackadaisical.  Tatum unsurprisingly quits right away before being shamed into coming back. (He has a reputation for giving up too easily.)  But eventually, over time, he commits, albeit up to a point (he tends to show up when he wants to, if he wants to, and not always promptly) and ultimately convinces her to do more of a hybrid routine for her showcase, something less stiff and traditional and with a group of dancers, one that the school’s director (the well-dressed Rachel Griffiths) openly considers risky.

Which, of course, is a good sign all will go well in the end.  But, of course, there are contrived complications leading up to that inevitable moment.  Dewan is dating a douchey pop singer, a fellow student, who uses their mutual DJ friend to get a record deal without bringing him on board.  The DJ friend, who is always suggesting music for her showcase routine, likes Dewan’s girlfriend but she too is dating a douchey pop singer albeit one a little older than her.

Both relationships are doomed to fail.  Dewan dumps the douchey pop singer for mistreating her DJ pal.  And her girlfriend spots her older boyfriend, the other douchey pop singer, making out with somebody backstage after they perform with the DJ friend at a club together.

When Dewan’s partner for the showcase performance recovers as expected, Tatum, knowing full well this arrangement was only temporary, takes the split personally.  He quietly mopes and refuses to take her calls.  Then, unsurprisingly, Dewan’s original partner gets hurt again, leaving her in the exact same position she was in at the start of the film.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what will happen next.

Step Up became something of a surprise success in 2006 as it would go on to spawn four sequels and put Tatum on the path to stardom.  How disappointing that the film itself is not surprising.  Consider the following:

Dewan’s mom is not supportive of her daughter’s dream, that is until we get close to the end when she suddenly remembers how important dancing is to her, a very familiar and not-so-sincere change of heart we’ve seen so many times before.  (Her dead father, a shipping executive who succumbed to cancer, was always on Dewan’s side.)  Her loud shout of “Bravo!” in the final act is a bit much and is classic overcompensation.

One of Tatum’s friends feels rejected when his wigger pal keeps bailing on pick-up games with him and his younger brother only to be sitting in the audience cheering him on during the showcase performance.  (Before then, he has a problem with rich white folks taking away his homey.)  Speaking of Skinny, the aforementioned younger brother, the second he steals a car from a notorious character in their neighbourhood, you pretty much know his fate is sealed.  By the way, that whole subplot feels completely unnecessary in a PG-film about aspiring teen dancers (it’s also not very well executed, if you’ll forgive the pun) but it’s one reason Tatum eventually makes peace with his hurt friend, yet another predictable moment.

And then, there’s Tatum’s hope to switch in his final year from his current public high school to this arts school that has changed his life.  But will he convince the always skeptical Griffiths he’s worth admitting?  Can the poor kid with nothing be accepted with all the rich kids who have everything?  It all depends on what his heart tells him to do in the final act.  Only those who have never seen a movie before will be shocked by his decision.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, February 7, 2017
9:07 p.m.

Published in: on February 7, 2017 at 9:07 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Marine

You know you can’t take much of The Marine seriously when even the villains are joking around.  Released in 2006, it was meant to kickstart John Cena’s acting career only a year and a half after he won his first WWE Championship.  What it actually did was set it back almost a full decade.

Overwrought and ridiculous from the opening frame, Cena plays the title character, an overzealous American soldier who gets honourably discharged for not waiting for back-up before singlehandedly rescuing captured POWs and blowing away their captors, one-dimensional members of Al Qaeda, during a mission in Iraq, an absurd scene that is both pure US propaganda and riddled with action movie clichés.  It’s thankfully the only anti-Arab scene.

Married to Nip/Tuck’s Kelly Carlson (here in a mostly thankless damsel-in-distress role), Cena’s the restless type, so he takes a crappy job as a security guard in a commercial building.  That leads to a confrontation with a misogynistic rich asshole who gets thrown through a glass window for provoking the hot-headed veteran after he “slut” shames his ex-girlfriend in her place of business.  Delightful.

Belatedly realizing he needs a vacation, Carlson convinces Cena to go away with her for a while.  When they stop at a highway gas station/variety store, they encounter Robert Patrick and his diverse group of dimwitted thieves.  Earlier in the film, they pull off a major diamond heist in the least ideal way possible.  They don’t protect their identities, the chatty Patrick ends up killing an inside guy for saying his last name out loud, plus a few cops get murdered before they get away.  In other words, they will be the subject of a police manhunt for the rest of the movie, something that could’ve been easily avoided.  Unsurprisingly, one of those officers is on the take.

When a nosy cop approaches Patrick as he’s putting gas in the gang’s stolen getaway car, one of his cronies overreacts and starts pulling the trigger, setting off a chain of destruction that can’t be undone.  The cop’s partner, sitting in a law enforcement vehicle, is also shot but is spared by his bulletproof vest.  Cena takes a fire extinguisher bump inside the store while the clerk gets popped by Patrick’s girlfriend accomplice.  Then Carlson gets kidnapped which might make sense if they’re hoping to collect a ransom.  But since this crew is exceedingly stupid, they just bring her along for no reason whatsoever, guaranteeing Cena’s inevitable pursuit.  Why he isn’t killed is puzzling.  He’s their biggest threat.

In one of The Marine’s most awkward moments (and there are a few), Patrick literally makes a play for Carlson while they’re hiding out in the woods.  His girlfriend is literally yards away when this happens.  Carlson wonders what the fuck he’s doing.  I’m wondering what the screenwriters were thinking.  In another scene, Patrick’s trigger-happy, cop-killing crony relates a painful childhood memory about sexual abuse at the hands of his male camp counselor that ties in with his hatred of rock candy.  It’s played for non-existent laughs but it’s so out of place, again, I question the wisdom of its inclusion by the screenwriters, especially when you consider the WWE’s long history of allegations of sexual abuse.  (Vince McMahon Jr. served as one of the executive producers.)

When the film is failing to make you laugh, it blows shit up.  As Patrick’s band of cronies speeds off, the gas station explodes into an inferno and somehow, Cena improbably survives.  It will not be the only time this happens to him.  In fact, it happens so much it will remind his many wrestling detractors of his SuperCena persona in the ring.  Cena gets beaten so much in this film, it’s a wonder he can still recite dialogue.

While chasing the diamond thieves in a commandeered cop car with no windshield, Cena manages to avoid getting hit a single time despite being bombarded by machine gun fire at close range.  How is this possible?

There’s a weird subplot where Cena gets captured by a couple of paranoid rednecks in the woods who wrongly mistake him for a cop.  (Guess they thought they were in 12 Rounds.)  We have no idea what they’re up to.  Despite tying him up, the ex-marine manages to get out of this strange situation rather easily.  His character must be a Van Damme fan.

Shortly thereafter, he gets back on track and finds the thieves & his wife who are hiding out in what looks like an abandoned cabin bar.  (Patrick and company have to wait for the cops to disburse before moving in.  They’re not the only dumb characters.)  As a couple of baddies go outside one at a time, Cena takes each of them out.  One even gets chokeslammed.  Carlson manages to temporarily free herself from her less than secure rope restraints and kick a little ass before being recaptured.  And yep, Cena manages to survive another explosion without suffering in the slightest.  More ridiculousness awaits in the typically overblown finale.

Vince McMahon Jr. got lucky with The Rock who remains one of the biggest movie stars in the world.  But he has long struggled to have other wrestlers on his roster achieve similar success.  Cena would follow The Marine, his worst movie, with so-so efforts 12 Rounds and Legendary, and his second-worst offering, The Reunion.  For a while it looked like he was the next Hulk Hogan, a massive wrestling star who couldn’t translate to movies.  But thanks to a funny cameo in the otherwise dreadful Daddy’s Home and acclaimed supporting roles in Trainwreck and Sisters, things are looking up for him.

Whatever stops him from making another Marine movie.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, February 7, 2017
8:48 p.m.

Published in: on February 7, 2017 at 8:48 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Purge: Election Year

Maybe we deserve a movie like this, one that dramatizes even in an exaggerated way how corrupt our politics have become.  Maybe we need to be reminded that when we allow governments, police departments and militaries to commit heinous acts of violence without consequences, this leaves the door wide open for future atrocities and inspires ordinary citizens to dehumanize at will.  And maybe we shouldn’t be surprised when this becomes general fodder for a pop culture supremely hostile to people who aren’t white and rich.  This is what happens when we don’t push hard enough for justice in the real world.  The wicked go unpunished and bad filmmaking gets rewarded.

If you’re keeping track, this is the third movie about an insane annual holiday implemented by far right religious fanatics who have hijacked the American federal government rebranding themselves The New Founding Fathers, which sounds like a heel tag team on Raw.

In the opening scene, a young girl is the sole survivor of a Purge massacre that eliminates every other member of her family.  (Why is she spared?  I have no idea.)  18 years later, she’s a US Senator running to become President.  Naturally, she’s opposed to The Purge but she’s running against an administration that has been in power for decades and has not suffered in the slightest for instituting a policy that disproportionately targets the poor and people of colour, although supposedly after all this time, it’s now suddenly a massive controversy.  A TV news anchor reports “dozens” of protests which seem a little small and late after all this time, quite frankly.  God knows these protests didn’t exist in the earlier films in this series, minus a few outspoken online rebels.

The NFF has long viewed The Purge as cathartic and cleansing, a way for Americans to purify and wring out their sin-soaked souls.  (How it survived non-existent court challenges, we’ll never know.)  But their grip on power is slipping which has them spooked.  For this year’s officially sanctioned 12-hour slaughterfest, it’s painfully obvious what needs to be done.  Only one murder needs to happen.

In the meantime, because of this supposed, belated backlash against The Purge, for the first time ever, no one is safe from danger.  If citizens want to off government officials, have at it.  (Maybe I’m daft but I don’t recall this earlier restriction in The Purge: Anarchy.)  Remember, all crimes committed between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. on March 21 (or 22, I don’t always remember the date correctly) are immune from prosecution.  This newly expanded policy is a desperate and doomed attempt to counter the growing evidence that most of the targeted victims are the poorest of the poor with little means to protect themselves and a sure sign of inevitable defeat for the NFF, one way or another.  No authoritarian government ever gives up power willingly or survives.

As always, we briefly meet a few, thinly sketched characters a couple days before the shit goes down.  Forrest Gump’s Mykelti Williamson is a variety store owner, J.J. Soria is his loyal employee, a formerly undocumented Mexican who became a citizen two years ago, Betty Gabriel is a loyal customer who tries to help the wounded on Purge night and Frank Grillo returns as the ex-cop who almost Purged over the death of his son in Anarchy.  This time, he’s the constantly paranoid chief of security for the Senator (Elizabeth Mitchell in her sexy specs), the aforementioned Presidential candidate, who decides to stay home during The Purge.

Grillo’s not happy about this and with good reason.  As it turns out, there are traitors on his security team.  As the NFF’s military goons, led by a white supremacist with bad facial tattoos, infiltrate the Senator’s pitifully protected residence, our two heroes barely sneak their way out but not before Grillo takes a bullet in the chest when they think they’re in the clear.  It’s only later he realizes why he was shot and not killed.

They eventually get tazed by a bunch of “murder tourists”, foreigners who have specifically travelled to the States to become willing participants in The Purge, but like many a villain in a James Bond film, they yak too much which gives Williamson and Soria plenty of time to wipe them out before they hand the election over to the NFF.  (They first spot them on the roof of their variety store which faces its own threats.  An obnoxious teen who gets caught trying to steal a candy bar (I’m not making this up) uses that as an excuse to lead an attack on Williamson’s business.)

As always, Purging incidents provide the ugly soundtrack and background visuals for most scenes as our main characters walk around and ride around looking for a safe place to hide until the 12 hours of brainless mayhem are up.  None of these moments are particularly scary.  How can they be when none of this is particularly different from the earlier chapters in this series.  As I noted in my review of Anarchy, it’s Assassination Porn and nothing more.

The Senator is determined to stop a secret rebel plot to assassinate the NFF’s leader, a super-religious conservative who enjoys making Purge sacrifices in church with his followers watching ever so intently, because she’s worried he’ll turn into a martyr.  (She also worries America is “losing its soul”.  That ship has sailed, Senator.)  The true legality of such a killing is never a concern.  And again, that’s been my biggest problem with this franchise.  It seems highly unlikely that such a murderous policy would ever be legal without a ruthless resistance in the first place.  When you consider the worldwide outrage over President Donald Trump’s Executive Order to temporarily end the influx of refugees from seven mostly-Muslim countries, which has thus far been curbed because of a court ruling, the idea of a Purge happening is very remote indeed.  That said, any politician who thinks the soul of a country can be saved after it allows such a terrible policy to flourish for a quarter century is kidding themselves.  You can’t revive what’s already dead.

The Purge: Election Year ends pretty much the way you expect it, although I am wondering why Election Day is in May and not November.  At any event, it seems pretty clear that we’re not yet finished with this thin, brain-dead concept.  Another resistance is brewing.  Too bad it’s not a real-life protest against this junky franchise.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, February 7, 2017
7:20 p.m.

Published in: on February 7, 2017 at 7:20 pm  Leave a Comment  

Stubborn Young Fool

I’m so sorry you’re an idiot
I regret that you’re so dumb
Who cares about my identity?
What does it matter where I’m from?
It’s sad you just can’t handle
This inconvenient truth
Your candidate is garbage
Her losing is the proof

You asked a sincere question
How could she possibly be worse?
So I supplied the answer
And you began to curse
“Check your privilege, cis white male!”
A reply that made no sense
“I’m embarrassed that you’re a follower”
I didn’t know you were this dense

As I tried to explain
How I came to my position
You were seething in response
And made an impulsive decision
You refuse to listen to facts
That can never be refuted
She’s hurt people of colour
So many it can’t be disputed

In the end you revealed
You’re a stubborn young fool
Who just didn’t appreciate
Being taken to school
I was kind and supportive
And you were once the same
But when I noted her flaws
I was the one to blame

I wasn’t looking to fight
Or to sour your mood
I’ve always been respectful
This time, you were fucking rude
I will always remember
Your derisive scoff
So take your own advice
And kindly fuck off

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, February 6, 2017
10:43 p.m.

Published in: on February 6, 2017 at 10:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

How To See All The Feature Films Nominated For The 89th Academy Awards

It was a good day for people of colour and white misogynists.

The nominations for the 89th Academy Awards were unveiled earlier this morning and there weren’t too many surprises based on media expectations.  Unlike last year, the acting categories aren’t completely dominated by whitey in 2017.  Almost half the nominees are black or brown.  The 2016 #OscarsSoWhite campaign has obviously proven highly successful.

On the flip side, accused sexual harasser Casey Affleck managed to snag a Best Actor nod for his lead role in Manchester By The Sea, one of the nine Best Picture nominees.  And Mel Gibson, who was exposed as an explosively violent asshole in those notorious phone calls to his ex-girlfriend many years ago, is up for Best Director for another BP nominee, Hacksaw Ridge.

However, there was no such luck for accused rapist Nate Parker.  His highly acclaimed Birth Of A Nation was completely snubbed by the Academy.  Not a single nomination whatsoever.  If only he was white.

Meanwhile, besides the acting categories, the shortlist for Best Documentary Feature is also diverse thanks to the inclusion of well-regarded pics as Ava DuVernay’s prison expose 13th, Fire At Sea (which deals with the refugee crisis), the James Baldwin-penned I Am Not Your Negro and the epic OJ: Made In America.  All in all, it sounds like the Academy was listening.

Before the golden naked eunuch statuettes are handed out on February 26, you have plenty of time to check out as many of the nominated feature films as you desire.  Some are still playing in theatres, some are coming soon to theatres, some are readily available on home video, some can be seen through online streaming and the rest already have DVD/Blu-ray release dates.  Here is the complete list of nominated titles.  As always, I’ll update whenever new information become available.

Allied – February 28

Arrival – February 14

Captain Fantastic – Now available on DVD & Blu-ray

Deepwater Horizon – Now available on DVD & Blu-ray

Doctor Strange – Now playing in theatres

Fantastic Beasts And How To Find Them – March 28

Fences – March 14

Fire At Sea – March 21

Florence Foster Jenkins – Now available on DVD & Blu-ray

Hacksaw Ridge – February 21

Hail, Caesar! – Now available on DVD & Blu-ray

Hell Or High Water – Now available on DVD & Blu-ray

Hidden Figures – April 11

I Am Not Your Negro – May 2 but still playing in theatres

Jackie – March 7

Jim: The James Foley Story – Now available on DVD & Blu-ray

The Jungle Book – Now available on DVD & Blu-ray

Kubo & The Two Strings – Now available on DVD & Blu-ray

La La Land – Now playing in theatres

Land Of Mine – Now available on DVD & Blu-ray

Life, Animated – Now available on DVD & Blu-ray

Lion – March 21

The Lobster – Now available on DVD & Blu-ray

Loving – February 7

A Man Called Ove – May 16

Manchester By The Sea – February 21

Moana – Now playing in theatres

Moonlight – February 28

My Life As A Zucchini – In theatres February 24

Nocturnal Animals – February 21

OJ: Made In America – Now available on DVD & Blu-ray

Passengers – March 14

The Red Turtle – Now playing in theatres

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – March 24 (Digital HD/Disney Movies Anywhere), April 4 (DVD/Blu-ray/On Demand)

Silence – March 28

Star Trek Beyond – Now available on DVD & Blu-ray

Suicide Squad – Now available on DVD & Blu-ray

Sully – Now available on DVD & Blu-ray

Tanna – March 7

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers Of Benghazi – Now available on DVD & Blu-ray

13th – Now available online

Toni Erdmann – Now available on DVD & Blu-ray

Trolls – February 7

20th Century Women – March 28

Zootopia – Now available on DVD & Blu-ray

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, January 24, 2017
5:55 p.m.

UPDATE:  Best Picture nominee Moonlight will be released on DVD & Blu-ray two days after the ceremony on February 28.  Meanwhile, 20th Century Women & Fantastic Beasts And How To Find Them will be out a month later on March 28.  These dates have been added to the list.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, February 7, 2017
2:35 a.m.

UPDATE 2:  Fences will be out on home video March 14.  The date has been added to the list.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, February 19, 2017
3:20 a.m.

UPDATE 3:  Entertainment Weekly reports that Rogue One: A Star Wars Story will be available for download on some sites as early as March 24 while hitting DVD, Blu-ray and the remaining on-demand sites on April 4.  Also, Passengers with Jennifer Lawrence & Chris Pratt hits March 14, Martin Scorsese’s Silence will be available March 28, Best Picture nominee Hidden Figures will be out on April 11 while the James Baldwin documentary I Am Not Your Negro drops May 2.  All these dates have been added to the list.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
10:28 p.m.

Published in: on January 24, 2017 at 5:55 pm  Leave a Comment  

Dirty Wars

I could never do Jeremy Scahill’s job.  Genuinely bored by the mundane nature of everyday civilian life in Brooklyn, New York, the muckraking journalist frequently throws himself into the most dangerous of environments – Yemen, Afghanistan, Somalia – not just for the adrenalized thrill of working in war zones, but for a deeper purpose, a faint hope that his work will lead to the possibility of accountability and justice for otherwise silent victims.  He is obsessed with doing the right thing which drives his relentless reporting.  He is either courageous beyond words or foolish in the extreme considering all the risks involved and the non-existent rewards for such actions.  Then again, to be a war correspondent, you have to be both.  I am neither and sadly, I’m not alone.

In Dirty Wars, his extraordinarily harrowing documentary about America’s secret war on Muslims, he brilliantly exposes a racist, sexist foreign policy in the grips of absolute chaos and disorder.  Begun by President Bush shortly after 9/11 but expanded beyond reason by President Obama, the so-called Global War On Terror has forever changed the nature of armed conflict.  No longer restricted by Congressional approvals and country boundaries, the United States Government sees the entire world as a battlefield where secret mercenaries under their control and absolute support do most of the invading, torturing and murdering with zero oversight and little understanding for the inevitable blowback such depraved actions will inspire in the future.  No one can stop them, not even the feckless United Nations who go curiously unmentioned.  A list of people to be exterminated, including Americans, keeps growing and growing without any due process for them whatsoever.  As Scahill notes, “The War On Terror is a self-fulfilling prophecy.”  A terrifying, ongoing cycle of death and destruction.

Unconscionable war crimes are common.  Innocent families are ripped apart by night raids targeting the wrong houses.  Drone strikes obliterate the young and the old because of bad intelligence.  A Yemeni journalist is locked up for embarrassing Obama with damning truth and kept there at his insistence.  (He was eventually released years after this film’s 2013 release.)  Cover-ups for all this American misconduct are alarmingly routine.  And almost never punished.

Sounding and looking numb from all the unjustified horror he’s observed and reported on for over a decade, Scahill nimbly reveals through his dry narration and reporting the human toll American bombs, drones and machine gun bullets, not to mention physical violence, have taken on decimated Middle Eastern families.  All of this material is already covered superbly in his epic companion book.  But the movie does what the printed word cannot.  It allows Obama’s Muslim victims to personally voice their painful first-hand accounts directly to the audience.  As a result, Dirty Wars sears your soul and leaves you wrecked and lacerated.  It should haunt Obama for the rest of his life.

You’re struck by all the young children you see, many of them with blank, angry faces.  Too young to fully comprehend why their brothers, their sisters, their grandparents and their own parents have been murdered by America.  But heartbreakingly aware of their absences nonetheless.  You can’t help but wonder.  Are they next?  It’s not an irrational thought considering how one ex-military general openly justifies attacking pregnant women.  One grieving parent pointedly observes, “If they think children are al Qaeda, then we are all terrorists.”  When a dead child is picked up by a relative in one deeply disturbing scene, the face forever frozen after being murdered by an Obama drone, there is no humanity left.  It looks like he’s picking up a lifeless toy doll.

The 16-year-old son of radical preacher Anwar Al-Awlaki is murdered by an American drone just two weeks after his father’s assassination.  The Obama Administration claimed he was “collateral damage” and not the central target.  Scahill suggests, not unpersuasively, they didn’t want to take the risk that he would eventually become an outspoken radical like his distant father who he was trying in vain to reconnect with when he was needlessly assassinated.  Scahill aptly refers to this as “twisted logic”.

As he traverses throughout battlefields both declared and undeclared in the Middle East, talking to broken families with many legitimate grievances against the American military and a couple of scary Somalian warlords fully backed by the USG, Scahill becames a political detective, slowly putting together some uncomfortable puzzle pieces that get him closer to understanding “the unseen war” not reported on by embedded journalists safely ensconced in the Green Zone, a story he himself had missed for years.  He even has a bulletin board where he pins all the evidence he’s collected thus far.

It is a lonely, thankless task.  Politicians in Washington don’t care about his findings.  There’s a startling scene where he testifies in front of one Democratic Congressman and his staffers in an otherwise empty room during a televised committee hearing.  FOIA requests go nowhere.  Few government officials including military personnel are willing to go on the record to pass on damning revelations to him.  There are clips of him facing hostility on cable news shoutfests.  Even unfunny Jay Leno gives him a hard time.

Scahill ultimately realizes that the White House has its own secret military, JSOC, which it employs out of the prying eyes of journalists and everybody else to dozens of countries for activities of “questionable legality”, as one rare, anonymous, voice-altered whistleblower puts it.  It is immensely difficult to learn much about them because the Obama Administration at first refuses to even acknowledge their existence.  (Their history dates back to the botched mission to rescue the hostages in Iran during the Carter era.)  One Pentagon official during a press briefing plays dumb claiming with a straight face that suggesting such a thing is the work of an imaginative conspiracy theorist.

But then Osama Bin Laden is assassinated.  “So much for secrecy,” notes a surprised Scahill as JSOC are outed and suddenly seen as heroic figures by the media, agenda-minded politicians and the gullible, celebratory public.  Now they’re openly given free reign to invade other countries which they were already doing under quiet order by President Obama.  Hero worshipping murderers gives them undeserved immunity.

Dirty Wars manages to cover a lot of treacherous ground in less than 90 minutes.  It is an urgent call to reconsider the damage America is doing to the entire planet.  It rightly questions the usefulness of an endless war, one that can continue seamlessly from administration to administration regardless of party affiliation in perpetuity because war crimes lead to angry Muslims revolting who suddenly get placed, without any solid evidence, on a secret kill list.  And there is literally no legal mechanism to stop it.

This movie repeatedly socks you right in the gut and leaves you weary about the coming storm America’s actions will eventually invite.  Nominated for a Best Documentary Feature Oscar, it is essential viewing.  And now with Donald Trump about to acquire all of these authoritarian powers from Obama, how much worse is it going to get?

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, January 15, 2017
6:10 p.m.

Published in: on January 15, 2017 at 6:10 pm  Leave a Comment  

Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka Dies Without Facing Justice For Murdering Nancy Argentino

When I became a pro wrestling fan in the summer of 1985, Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka was one of my favourites.  He looked wild in his leopard-printed trunks with his unkempt mane of curly, dark hair, and chiselled, tanned physique.  He didn’t wear boots.  He wasn’t much of a technical wrestler but his finisher was fantastic.  Near the end of a match, he would climb the top rope, give the double devil-horned salute (which he rechristened the “I love you” sign), leap halfway across the ring and splash his downed opponent waiting helplessly on the mat.  Three seconds later, victory was his.

He played a major role in the evolution of the WWF from a Northeastern territory once part of the NWA into an independent global phenomenon.  When “Rowdy” Roddy Piper smashed a coconut into his face and brutalized him verbally and physically during his second and most infamous appearance on Piper’s Pit, it led to one of the hottest feuds of the mid-80s.  Snuka ended up being in the corner of Mr. T and Hulk Hogan during their tag team match with Piper and Paul Orndorff in the main event of the first WrestleMania.

Then, he disappeared from the company.  Vince McMahon Jr. openly referred to him as a “basket case”.  After a long stint in the AWA (where he feuded with the racist Apartheid South African supporter Col. DeBeers), Snuka would make a surprise return at WrestleMania 5.  His second run which lasted until the early 90s was a huge letdown.  (He eventually started wearing traditional boots.)  The most memorable thing he did was put over The Undertaker at WrestleMania 7 which began The Dead Man’s 21-match winning streak at the event.

Before he became a popular babyface, though, he was a notorious heel managed at one point by Captain Lou Albano.  (There’s a hilarious YouTube video of him flipping out while being interviewed by McMahon at ringside in an empty arena during a TV taping.)  He challenged WWF Champion Bob Backlund in a famous steel cage match in Madison Square Garden.  He lost shortly after performing the Superfly Splash from the top of the 15-foot structure.  Backlund got out of the way in time and escaped to victory.

But after Albano violently screwed him over, another former heel “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers became his new cornerman.  Snuka started challenging The Guiding Light’s protégé, Don Muraco, for his InterContinental title which he would never attain.  After a fluky steel cage win by the champion in 1983 at Madison Square Garden, a bloodied, infuriated Snuka dragged Muraco back in, suplexed him into position, climbed to the very top with his bare feet touching the barbed wire and jumped off.  This time, he landed right on The Magnificent One, who was also a bloody mess.  This classic moment was witnessed by a young kid from New York who went on to surpass this dangerous bump in 1998.  When Mick Foley was thrown off the top of the Hell In A Cell structure by The Undertaker at the King Of The Ring event landing quite roughly on a breakable announce table, it was clearly an homage to his hero.

But Jimmy Snuka was not a hero.  Despite his accomplishments in the ring, he was a despicable misogynist, an underreported fact during his heyday.  In 1983, while married, he started dating Nancy Argentino.  He would routinely beat her.  During one fateful night in May of that year, he murdered her.  According to the autopsy, she “died of traumatic brain injuries consistent with a moving head striking a stationary object.”  The coroner further noted that she had “suffered more than two dozen cuts and bruises — a possible sign of ‘mate abuse’ — on her head, ear, chin, arms, hands, back, buttocks, legs and feet.” He argued that it “should be investigated as a homicide until proven otherwise.”

It was never proven otherwise and Snuka was the only suspect.  (He preposterously claimed it was an accident.)  But at the time, he was never arrested nor put on trial.  Ask Vince McMahon Jr. why that didn’t happen.  More than 30 years later, however, thanks to decades of dogged reporting by Irv Muchnick, Snuka was finally arrested.  But his health had deteriorated considerably.  Diagnosed with dementia and later, terminal stomach cancer, the case was dismissed late last year without any real resolution.  Much earlier, Argentino’s family successfully sued him in 1985, receiving a half a million judgment but Snuka claimed poverty and never paid.  Just a month after being told he had six months to live, he’s dead.

And now the disgusting spectacle of WWE Superstars singing The Superfly’s praises on Twitter has begun.  And I’m sure glowing tributes are being prepared right this second for tomorrow night’s Raw and Tuesday night’s Smackdown Live.  Expect a dedication at the very start of each program.  How sickening, how sexist, how appalling.

It’s Chris Benoit all over again.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, January 15, 2017
5:15 p.m.

UPDATE & CORRECTION:  There was no 10-bell salute but as expected, tonight’s Raw was dedicated to him in his memory.  There was an overly glowing video tribute that made no mention of his violent misogyny.  Smackdown Live will likely feature the same material on Tuesday.

I misspelled the name of Snuka’s long forgotten victim.  It’s Nancy Argentino, not Argento.  I’ve made all the necessary corrections in the title and text but because hyperlinks are permanent, unfortunately, that mistake will remain.  My apologies for the error.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, January 16, 2017
10:15 p.m.

Published in: on January 15, 2017 at 5:16 pm  Leave a Comment  

Remembering 2016, My Eleventh Year Of Blogging

Maybe it’s the 11-year itch.  Maybe it was a lack of enthusiasm and creativity.  Maybe I was tweeting too much.  Maybe I watched too many bad movies.  Maybe I felt too bummed out about all those celebrity deaths and the endless wars on activists, Muslims, Black people, Indigenous people, journalists and whistleblowers.  Or maybe I couldn’t think of anything original to say on a more prolific basis.

Whatever the reason, blogging in this space wasn’t a top priority for me in 2016.  (I didn’t write anything for The Huffington Post.)  As this depressing year of growing uncertainty and violent turmoil dragged on and on, postings became fewer and fewer.  Weeks and weeks would go by without anything new to say.  If not for Twitter, I wouldn’t have said anything at all.

But since The Writings Of Dennis Earl began in 2006, it has been a tradition to end the year with deep reflection and remembrance of everything that happened in this space.  So here we are again looking back, only this time there’s very little to recap.

Like 2015, movie reviews were the dominant feature here.  Despite screening more than 160 films, most of them lousy and not from 2016, I only wrote about 21 of them.  As always, horror was a priority.  In January, I finally watched the 2006 version of Black Christmas.  I wasn’t impressed.  (I later screened the original which was a huge disappointment.)  During Easter weekend in late March, there were posted assessments of Orphan and the original Omen.  I tried writing a review of the laughable Damien: Omen II but completely gave up after drafting only a few hundred words.  In the end, I just couldn’t finish it so to the trash bin it went.

In April, I checked out the needlessly gory WWE production No One Lives, which is even worse than See No Evil.  In May, after pretty much giving up on him after The Village, I was absolutely delighted by M. Night Shymalan’s The Visit, one of the better found footage entries.  Genuinely scary and surprisingly funny, it’s his best film since Signs.

With the arrival of a new TV and my first Blu-ray player in June (thanks Mom and Dad!), it was on to The Prowler, one of the many slasher films from the early 1980s.  Despite screening it on the best possible digital format to date, after its intriguing first two minutes, it quickly devolves into rather routine grisly business.  That was quickly followed by Dolls which was worse.  The month ended with critiques of the laughless, mostly unscary Zombie High and the depressing Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed which at least allowed me the opportunity to properly praise the cleverly satirical original which features a terrific performance by Emily Perkins.

In August, I subjected myself to the deliberately offensive Silent Night Deadly Night and its unintentionally hilarious sequel, which shamelessly recycles so much footage from its predecessor it takes up half its running time.  The month ended with an evaluation of The Boy, a peculiar thriller from earlier this year with a weak twist.  At least it tried to be different.

I enjoy a good comedy just as much as a good scarefest but as usual, I tortured myself with dreck this year.  In March, I slammed The Wedding Ringer, Born In East LA and Identity Thief.  Then, in April, I hammered the little-seen WWE production Bending The Rules featuring the retired Edge and the decidedly unsexy horndog fiasco The Last American Virgin which, to its credit, does have a decent soundtrack, one of its few redeeming qualities.  Curiously, there were more laughs to be found in the Silent Night Deadly Night films and the Jean-Claude Van Damme breakthrough Bloodsport, even if they were unintentional.

Sometimes a film is so bad you have to write about it, even if it’s old.  Five years after enjoying the original Death Wish, I finally sat down to watch all four sequels.  There was something particularly egregious about Death Wish 3 that I just couldn’t keep my thoughts about it to myself.  Death Wish: The Face Of Death, the fifth and final chapter, was a more typical sequel, bad but not extraordinarily so.  Sadly, it was the last Charles Bronson film.

Movies you treasured as a child don’t always age well when you watch them as a mature adult.  Such was the case with the badly outdated Tron and Masters Of The Universe.  I suspect there’ll be more such disappointments in the near future.  That said, I’m hoping to focus more on quality than quantity in 2017.

Speaking of disappointments, good Lord, is it just me or did a lot of famous people die in 2016, seemingly more so than usual?  In an unproductive year, I only managed to eulogize two in this space.  In January, like many around the world, I was genuinely jolted by the death of David Bowie.  Few knew he was even dying of cancer, so when the news was announced late one night in the second week of the year on social media there was temporary disbelief.  But when his son, the filmmaker Duncan Jones, confirmed the news, there was no more denial.

In recent years, I had been buying a good number of his CDs and thoroughly savouring them.  When he released The Next Day in 2013, I was thrilled.  It was his first album of new material in a decade, a tremendous return to form.  While collecting some of his back catalogue I was missing, I got the 3-disc version of Nothing Has Changed, his most expansive greatest hits collection, for Christmas in 2014.  This year, we got Blackstar and the soundtrack to his stage musical, Lazarus.  Call me greedy but I want more Bowie.  The only hope now is a whole slew of unreleased offerings in the coming years.

Prince was notorious for recording far more material than he ever released and when he died in April, besides wondering how he died, there was much speculation about what was being stored in his famous vault for all these years.  Unlike Bowie, whose music I was continually gathering and absorbing, I hadn’t kept up with The Purple One’s latest output.  I still pull out my copies of the Batman soundtrack and The Hits/The B-Sides and I’m still looking for The Gold Experience.  But unlike Bowie, I wasn’t interested in catching up with his most recent ventures.  The collective outpouring of grief for his sudden, unexpected passing is a testament to just how much of an impact he had on popular music in the 70s, 80s & 90s.  Bowie and Prince will both be severely missed.  History will regard them as titanic influences in their time and rightly so.

When Daniel Bryan retired from in-ring action in April, it was another sad moment for wrestling which is in a bit of a creative slump right now.  But because he’s a decent talker and super over as a babyface he was able to become an on-air authority figure for Smackdown.  He also co-hosts Talking Smack, the show that follows Smackdown that sometimes allows performers to break kayfabe.  During one such broadcast, Bryan got into it with the InterContinental Champion The Miz who went ballistic over The Yes Man’s criticisms.  When Bryan foolishly walked off the set as an infuriated Miz ranted, I wrote about what he should’ve said if he had decided to fight back.  He should’ve listened to me.  He would’ve won the argument.

The WWE Hall of Fame has honoured numerous iconic figures over the years but never the enhancement guys, the men paid to lose to make those same iconic figures look that much better.  So, back in April, I recommended five possible inductees.  I hope to make more recommendations in the new year.

Sometimes the best storylines in pro wrestling are accidents because the original plans fell through.  That led to When Plan “A” Goes Awry: 5 Times WWE Got Lucky With Plan “B” Storylines.

For Hillary Clinton, her long coveted dream to become the first female President of the United States crashed and burned in the most eye-opening federal election of my lifetime.  Convinced she could easily beat a highly unpopular brander with deeply held racist and sexist views and a history of sexual harassment and assault, she then proceeded to run an abysmal campaign that turned off a number of voters who supported Barack Obama.  Bernie Sanders, she wasn’t.

As a result, starting January 20, 2017, we get President Stupid.  Donald Trump’s Secret “Inspirational” Playlist was posted just before the election with the expectation that he was going to lose even though, as I noted to a friend on Twitter, there was a small part of me that still felt he could win.  Curiously, at the start of the year, I wrote Donald Trump’s Secret Song Choices To Replace Hail To The Chief.  I hope he goes with November Spawned A Monster.

As the election drew to a close, I thought about Trump’s longtime association with Howard Stern which became a major focal point throughout the campaign.  That spawned Did Donald Trump Get His Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric From Howard Stern?, the only essay I wrote for this annoying election.  In the satirical spirit of the above-mentioned playlist pieces came Rejected Donald Trump Brand Endorsements written mostly with a bad stomach ache while laying in bed.

As per usual around here, politics was a frequent theme for my poetry.  The Answer Is Never was written from the point of view of an Apartheid Israel military official.  American Gulag rails against Gitmo, an ongoing stain on America.  Choke On Your Legacy levels President Obama’s heartless drone policy.  The Arrogance Of Certainty takes aim at delusional political pundits, especially the ones who appear on CNN, who don’t know anything and pay no price for their stupidity.

Meanwhile, Fragile Entanglements is a sarcastic reference to being blocked by a young woman I was chatting with for a couple of years on Twitter.  She had mentioned wanting to get her nipples pierced and I noted how brave that was and that my ex had one such piercing.  I never heard from her again and can’t see her tweets without signing out.  Honestly, I’m not missing anything.  As you can tell from the poem, it totally broke me.

11 years ago, I met an older woman on Yahoo Messenger I almost met for casual sex but I had significant doubts and insecurities about her and so after much back and forth (I ghosted her three times), I eventually realized it was a bad idea and never talked to her again.  (We never actually made firm plans to hook up, thankfully.  We just talked about the possibility.)  Having not thought about her for a while, I once again wondered if I made the right call.  I’d already written a couple of poems about her in the past like Forever Haunted, for instance.  Dancing On The Edge Of Desire resurrected my conflicting feelings about the whole matter.  We haven’t spoken in 10 years.  As I write this, though, I’m inclined to believe I was justified in my final decision.  Why?  Because I was never fully comfortable with the idea of being with someone I didn’t know very well who I had nothing in common with, who wasn’t sober, still mad at her ex-husband and didn’t seem to know what she actually wanted.  When in doubt, go without, as the saying goes.  The drought continues, unfortunately.

This idea of being seduced, especially by a more experienced lover like the one I almost met in real life, is very appealing to me which led to fictional works like The Antidote and Out Of The Ruins Of Endless Despair, the latter of which views a lustful glare as a way of restoring one’s humanity.  Wheels On The Road uses the metaphor of car travel (with a Canada’s Worst Driver reference thrown in) as a means of escaping depression.  No Invitation For Peace is about being trapped by your own dark thoughts even when you’re feeling positive and content.  The first two lines in verse one had been sitting around for a long time before I finally figured out how to finish it.  All I had to do was think about myself.

This past February, The Writings Of Dennis Earl reached a milestone.  On the 19th, this website turned 10.  In honour of this occasion, I reflected on a decade of blogging.  Since the move from Windows Lives Spaces to WordPress in 2010, TWODE has been accessed over 180000 times.  This year, for the first time since 2013, annual hits are down significantly.  When 2016 ends, there should be barely 30000 hits.  The last two years, thanks to a number of Huffington Post pieces, annual page views were closer to 40000.

I shouldn’t be too surprised.  I didn’t write nearly as much this year, unfortunately, and I had nothing new to showcase on HuffPo.  I’m hoping to make up for that in the new year.

Twitter is a completely different story.  I have almost 800 followers and tweeted thousands of times.  (By comparison, a little over a hundred readers directly follow this site.)  Certain tweets can generate thousands of hits.  If only my blog entries were as popular.

Speaking of that, it was older pieces that generated the most interest in 2016.  12 of the top 20 entries were Seinfeld trivia pieces, which were first unveiled in 2008 and 2013.  Collectively, all the old Seinfeld postings generated more than 10000 hits, more than a third of the overall hit count this year.

The Gene Simmons Family Jewels essays continue to be well read as well.  What’s Really Going On With Gene Simmons & Shannon Tweed? earned another 2000 hits bringing its overall total since 2011 to over 32000.  It remains the most popular blog entry in this site’s entire history.  Before 2016, it was the only piece to reach the 10000-hit plateau.  Now, two more postings have done so, as well.

A 2012 anniversary entry on CM Punk’s famous 2011 “pipe bomb” promo on Raw earned over 3300 hits in 2016.  Its overall total to date is just over 11000.  And Interesting Things I Learned About The Seventh Season Of Seinfeld is just over 10300, thanks to an additional 2300 page views this year.

I don’t get a lot of feedback here for my work but when I do, it’s generally quite positive.  The nicest comment of the year came from Vanilla Midget Pride who thoroughly enjoyed my CM Punk tribute from two years ago.  A close second:  fellow blogger Janna Michelle who enjoyed the conclusion of No Invitation For Peace.  The best-named commenter:  hands down, Bobby Butthole.  You didn’t see the worst comment I received because I refused to allow its publication.  Someone called Hillary Clinton a very nasty word (based on the wrong presumption that she would win) and I thought that was over the line.

So, once again, as another year fades into history, I find myself asking the same questions as always.  Where do I go from here?  Will I ever make a living as a writer?  Am I doomed to be sexless forever?  And is there a life for me outside my parents’ home?

Again, I don’t have any good answers.  But what I do have is hope.  God knows we’ll all need it when Trump becomes the President.

In the meantime, keep watching this space for new entries.  I will try to write more in 2017.

Happy New Year, everybody.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, December 31, 2016
2:16 a.m.

Published in: on December 31, 2016 at 2:16 am  Leave a Comment  

The Lows Of 2016

1. David Bowie died of cancer two days after releasing his final studio album.  First, there was collective denial, then absolute shock and sadness.  His unexpected death set the tone for a miserable year.

2. Donald Trump is the 45th President of the United States.  How much considerable, irreparable harm will he cause to the world?

3. Daniel Bryan retired from the WWE due to severe, unrecoverable injuries.  He was looking like the next John Cena.  Now he’s reduced to being a powerless “authority” figure on Smackdown, a supporting player on a reality show and a punching bag for The Miz.

4. Jian Ghomeshi isn’t in prison.  Rape culture is real.

5. The Fort McMurray fire in Alberta.  Such devastation.  It will takes years to rebuild.

6. Fifty Shades Of Black.  A horrifically unfunny “parody” of Fifty Shades Of Grey.  No more Marlon Wayans movies.  Please.

7. Gord Downie’s terminal brain cancer diagnosis.  May he live as long as he can and make as much good music as he is able.

8. The armed protest at the Oregon Wildlife Refuge.  What exactly did it accomplish other than mass ridicule?

9. The rise in racist hate crimes against Muslims, trans people, gays, Black people, Jews, Palestinians and Indigenous communities worldwide.  White supremacy needs to die already.

10. Mr. Fuji died.

11. Gitmo is still open.

12. CM Punk lost his first UFC fight in the first round.  Years ago, Brock Lesnar lost his first fight as well and went on to become World Champion.  So there’s still hope for The Straight Edge Superstar.  He’ll be back.

13. Krystal on Canada’s Worst Driver 12.  An unrepentant narcissist who is an absolute maniac on the road.  The sooner her license is permanently suspended, the better.  Host Andrew Younghusband deserves a Nobel Peace Prize for tolerating this phone-addicted brat as well and for as long as he did.

14. The phony “Bernie Bro” smear from Clintonistas desperate to keep the Vermont Senator from becoming the Democratic nominee for President.  Not only did this erase the millions of women who supported Bernie Sanders (especially Hillary Clinton’s numerous feminist critics and women of colour), it was dastardly and downright insulting.  In the end, Donald Trump is the next US President, so good job, you stupid idiots.

15. Gawker went bankrupt after losing a court case to balding, overtanned racist Hulk Hogan.  Fuck you, Peter Thiel.

16. The very funny Garry Shandling died.  He spearheaded two of the most influential sitcoms of all time:  It’s Garry Shandling’s Show and The Larry Sanders Show.  He was a great Emmys host, too, and a quiet mentor to so many other comics in need.

17. Prince died of a prescription drug overdose.  The incredible legacy he leaves behind which doesn’t even include the thousands of songs he never released.

18. Zack Ryder’s one and only InterContinental title reign lasted exactly one day.  Why do his pushes always seem like ribs?

19. Doris Roberts died.  Both Barones are gone now.

20. Brexit.  The United Kingdom isn’t so united anymore.  What other European nations will follow Ol’ Blimey’s risky lead?

21. George Michael died on Christmas Day.

22. The endless civil war in Syria.  So many villains who should be prosecuted for war crimes.

23. Palestine is still illegally occupied by Apartheid Israel.

24. Matt DeHart is still in prison.

25. The lack of justice for mostly Black and Indigenous victims of police brutality.  The racist status quo cannot and must not continue to protect murderers and torturers of the state.

26. James Ellsworth.  Enough.

27. Chelsea Manning attempted suicide twice (which she was punished for) as she continues to be persecuted and tortured with solitary confinement for exposing deplorable war crimes by the American government.  Release her immediately and let her transition already.  She’s suffered enough for her uncommon courage and conviction.

28. All the terrible films I saw this year:  Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, Pixels, Hot Pursuit, Bad Teacher, The Lazarus Effect, Get Hard, the Black Christmas remake, Johnny English, Johnny English Reborn, Damien: Omen II, Born In East LA, The Wedding Ringer, Identity Thief, The Heat, Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension, No One Lives, Night Of The Creeps, Bending The Rules, The Last American Virgin, Bloodsport, The Last Exorcism Part II, Killer Klowns From Outer Space, Basket Case, Krampus, Dolls, Jessabelle, Brain Damage, Wolfcop, The Haunting In Connecticut 2: Ghosts Of Georgia, Street Trash, Zombie High, We’re The Millers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990), Masters Of The Universe, Observe And Report, National Lampoon’s Van Wilder, Silent Night Deadly Night, Silent Night Deadly Night Part 2, Here Comes The Boom, Let’s Be Cops, Death Wish II, Death Wish 3, Death Wish 4: The Crackdown, Death Wish: The Face Of Death, Three Fugitives, Evilspeak, Ride Along, Ride Along 2, Knucklehead, Hatchet, Meatballs, Meatballs Part II, The Gallows, Daddy’s Home, The Out-Of-Towners remake, 22 Jump Street, Ted, Hotel Transylvania, Hotel Transylvania 2, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, The Funhouse, Critters, Critters 2, the Conan The Barbarian remake, Swing Parade, Africa Screams, At War With The Army, Check And Double Check, The Flying Deuces, Deathouse (AKA Silent Night, Bloody Night), The Smallest Show On Earth, My Favourite Brunette, The Perfect Score, Cheech & Chong’s Animated Movie!, And Now For Something Completely Different and The Great Rupert.

29. Only some Russian Olympians were banned from competition in the Summer Games in Brazil.  Why not all of them?  All their Paralympians were barred.  Why the double standard?

30. Cody Rhodes left the WWE.  Even he got sick of being Stardust.

31. MuchMoreMusic was yanked off the air.

32. New2You quietly closed its Lime Ridge location.  I bought so many cheap CDs there over the years.  I will miss it dearly.

33. Ryan Lochte.  What the hell was he thinking?  Oh right.  He wasn’t.

34. Russ Feingold wasn’t able to get elected back to the Senate.

35. “Iron” Mike Sharpe died.  Why isn’t he in the WWE Hall of Fame as a jobber?

36. Amber Heard’s damning testimony about her abusive ex-husband Johnny Depp.  She deserves better and he should be ashamed of himself.

37. The desperate campaign to outlaw the peaceful #BDS movement against Apartheid Israel.  Try as they may, AI and their Western governmental allies cannot stop the inevitable end of violent colonial Zionism.

38. Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds both died during the same week over the Christmas holidays.  Doubly sad.

39. Montreal lost in the MLS final to Seattle.  Boring game.  Penalty kicks are a terrible way to settle a scoreless draw.

40. The Chris Jericho/Dean Ambrose asylum match at Extreme Rules.  Too long and too slow.  No wonder the audience in attendance stayed quiet for most of it.  If it wasn’t for the thumbtacks, the ending would’ve been terrible, too.  Don’t expect this silly concept to be repeated.

41. The overcrowded announce table on Smackdown Live.  Does the WWE not realize that we don’t need three terrible colour commentators all at once?

42. 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers Of Benghazi.  Michael Bay reimagines the most politicized moment of the misbegotten Libyan invasion as a long-winded action epic.  No thanks.

43. The Undertaker vs. Shane McMahon at WrestleMania 32.  If McMahon hadn’t jumped off the top of Hell In A Cell, would anybody be even talking about this match?  And what was the point of the stipulation if it was never going to be honoured?

44. Radiohead finally released a studio version of True Love Waits and it’s dreary.  I prefer the more moving live version from the I Might Be Wrong EP.

45. My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2.  Exceedingly manipulative and annoyingly sexist.  I only laughed twice.

46. Ride Along 2.  Will Kevin Hart ever make a good comedy?  Just as bad as the original.

47. The constant, dangerous scaremongering about Vladimir Putin and Russia.  Democrats will blame anybody but themselves for their pathetic electoral performance this year.  Soul searching is not their strong suit.

48. Damien Sandow was fired from the WWE.  That’s not the way you treat The Intellectual Savior Of The Unwashed Masses.

49. The Forest.  The concept is far better than the execution, unfortunately.

50. Rodrigo Duterte, the psychotic leader of The Philippines, who openly admitted to murdering his citizens as part of his horrific War on Drugs.  No wonder he’s an ally of the American government.

51. The Liberals lied about the deal to sell weaponry to Saudi Arabia.  Now it’s up to a Canadian court to decide whether it should be honoured.  It shouldn’t.

52. The overblown incident in the House of Commons when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accidentally elbowed an MP from the NDP during a contentious vote.  Trudeau wasn’t the one who needed to apologize repeatedly.  When even feminists criticized the controversy, you know it was nothing.

53. Kellie Leitch.  Loathsome, dishonest, racist, elitist.  The perfect face for the modern Conservative Party of Canada.

54. Obama & Congress will give 40 billion dollars to Apartheid Israel to help it continue propping up its endless, illegal occupation of oppressed Palestinians over the next decade.  If Netanyahu’s truly upset about the Iran Deal and the USG’s refusal to veto the latest UN condemnation of illegal settlements, he’ll reject the money.  You know he won’t, though.  Because #BDS is hurting Apartheid Israel’s economy.  And Zionism needs welfare to survive.

55. The ongoing, heartless persecution of Palestinian activist and torture survivor Rasmeh Odeh.  End her ordeal and clear her name already.

56. No one has gone to prison for murdering Baltimore resident Freddie Gray.

57. One stubborn juror led to the mistrial of North Carolina police officer Michael Slager who murdered Walter Scott as captured on video.  It’s Rodney King all over again.  Even actual footage isn’t enough to get a conviction for a white cop killing a black man in America.

58. 49 people were murdered at a gay club in Florida by a man who may have been gay himself.  Awful, just awful.

59. The news media’s early, constant coverage of Donald Trump and his long-winded rallies without much scrutiny of his record during the Republican primaries.  Are you happy now, Les Moonves?

60. The ongoing suicide crisis in the Canadian Indigenous community.  We are failing these kids.  We must do better.  We must listen to their concerns and directly address them.

61. Kurt Eichenwald.  He supported the wrong Democrat.  He’s not to be trusted.  And he’s a whiny bitch, too.

62. For the first time in about half a decade, the WWE split its roster again by putting half on Raw and half on Smackdown.  Not only that, they’ve added more championships so now each show has its own World Champion, mid-card-Champion, Tag Team Champions and Womens Champion, plus show-centric pay-per-views.  So lame.  Why return to such a failed concept?  The Raw vs. Smackdown rivalry is phony.  You all work for the same goddamn company!  No wonder your TV ratings suck so bad.

63. The failed coup in Turkey.  It gave authoritarian Erdogan every excuse to crack down on whatever democracy was still left in his troubled country.  Why hasn’t he been kicked out of NATO?

64. There wasn’t a single person of colour nominated for an acting Oscar.  Because of the public outcry, I suspect 2017 will be very different.

65. Media Matters For America going all in for a loser.  Still with Hill, jackwads?

66. Alberto Del Rio left the WWE.  Again.

67. The moral cowardice of Aung San Suu Kyi.  She doesn’t give a damn about the ruthless persecution of Rohingya Muslims in her own country.  Despicable.

68. Nat Turner and Casey Affleck are in contention for Academy Awards next year but face serious accusations of sexual assault and sexual harassment, respectively.  Turner faced a lot of scrutiny and didn’t handle it particularly well, while Affleck, a likely Best Actor nominee, just hosted Saturday Night Live and has routinely been given a free pass.  After decades of protecting Bill Cosby, the entertainment press needs to address this with Affleck directly.  Innocent lives are at stake.  Turner’s victim committed suicide.

69. The Nightly Show was cancelled just as it was finding its satirical voice in the insane world of American politics.  Comedy Central should’ve had more faith in it.

70. Bowie’s Blackstar wasn’t nominated for the Album Of The Year Grammy.  A huge, insulting oversight.

71. Muhammad Ali died.  He was an asshole to Joe Frazier but I’ll always respect his opposition to Vietnam.

72. Corey Graves and Byron Saxton at the Raw commentary table.  Absolutely no chemistry whatsoever.

73. Alan Rickman died.  He may have been a villain on-screen but he was a mensch in real life.  His public support for Rachel Corrie, an activist murdered by Apartheid Israel, should always be remembered.

74. The Wars on Drugs, Black people, Indigenous communities, trans, gay, lesbian & bisexual folks, sexual assault survivors, journalists, whistleblowers, prisoners, women, Sikhs and Muslims continues unabated.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, December 31, 2016
1:38 a.m.