For Your Queue

When is a time travel movie not really about time travel? When it’s Safety Not Guaranteed, a love letter to the geeks, nerds and outcasts who were nice and all, but just a little too weird to hang with the cool kids.

Aubrey Plaza (April on TV’s Parks and Recreation) gets a breakout film role as Darius, a bored intern for a Seattle magazine. When staff reporter Jeff (Jake M. Johnson from TV’s New Girl) sees a classified ad seeking a partner in time travel, he takes Darius and fellow intern Arnau (Karan Soni) on a journey to find the ad’s author and get his story.

The movie is based on a real classified ad, placed as a joke in 1997 (by a man who appears briefly in the film). It works best once Darius gains the trust of the curious Kenneth (Mark Duplass), who’s planning a trip back to 2001, and not for the reason you think.

Duplass, a veteran “mumblecore” filmmaker/actor, gives Kenneth a depth that resonates, and Plaza delivers a star-making performance that takes Darius from condescending hipster to caring human being with nary a false note. Their scenes together are never less than touching.

Director Colin Trevorrow and writer Derek Connolly both make stellar debuts. Their first feature is more about seizing the possibilities of the present than about erasing the mistakes of the past, and they infuse it with heart, soul and wit.  (i.e. “She needs to go back in time and kill whoever gave her that haircut.”)

Don’t expect dazzling time-travel wizardry, or you’ll be disappointed. Or maybe you won’t, as the charming Safety Not Guaranteed is bound to win you over.

If you enjoy Safety Not Guaranteed, have a look at 2007’s Spanish import Timecrimes. Like Safety, this film’s most appealing element is its deceptively un-SciFi setting. The offbeat time travel mind bender never actually leaves a single neighborhood, taking a borderline comic approach – think Groundhog Day – to pique tension and engage viewers so that, when the film turns dark, the human aspect of the story goes unforgotten.

For Your Queue

Hooray – Moonrise Kingdom is now available on DVD and BluRay and other assorted whatnot, allowing you to watch it in your own home. So, by all means, do that!

In the dreamlike world of Wes Anderson’s seventh feature, simple scenes are woven together into a funny, rich love story that captivates from start to finish.

Admittedly, director/co-writer Anderson can be an acquired taste. Deliberately quirky and full of droll humor, his films have fluctuated from deep and meaningful (Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums) to groundless and uneven (The Darjeeling Limited). Moonrise Kingdom is perhaps his most complete to date.

Set in an island town off the New England coast in 1965, it follows youngsters Sam and Suzy, kindred spirits who look to each other for comfort as they navigate the minefield that is puberty.

The script is an endearing and never-condescending tribute to adolescence, not only a celebration of it but also a subtle yearning for innocence lost. The direction, production design, cinematography, cast, music—you name it—are all impeccable. Together, they render Moonrise Kingdom downright poetic, and easily one of the best films of the year.

Make it a double feature with an underseen, early Anderson gem, Bottle Rocket. Anderson’s first film as director, working from a script he co-wrote with star Owen Wilson, is an endearing, off kilter heist comedy that ranks among the best films Owen Wilson, his brother Luke, or even Anderson has ever made.

So that happened…

Snap, Crackle, Pop

With the help of my determined husband George and an orthotic boot, I once got to meet Duran Duran. If you’ve met me, you no doubt know that. It’s not like I keep it a secret. And if I hadn’t been a gimp, it couldn’t have happened.

My routinely broken bones get me into stuff, and they get me out of stuff. Like manual labor. So I hate to look a gift horse in the mouth, but seriously, I should not break this easily. I’ve had eight confirmed fractures in my adult life. Seeing as I am not a stunt driver, this strikes me as excessive.

Given that my tendency to snap bone goes back to grade school, it doesn’t seem like an age related bone loss issue. I take in lots of calcium and vitamin D, I exercise, blah blah blah. I am clumsy, I’ll give you that, but still, 8 is a high number.

So I discovered via paranoid web sleuthing that cola leeches minerals from your bones.  But the expert says an average human intake of about 3 colas a month should not put you at risk.

The average human takes in 3 servings of cola in a month? One every ten days? That’s impossible. That’s like saying the average height for a woman is 5’4”.

It just cannot be, because that would make me some kind of freak.

Let me walk you through my habit.

I pound two or three 16-oz bottles of Diet Pepsi each morning. Then I eat at Chipotle, loading up on at least four refills of my medium beverage. Yes, I could splurge on a large, but refills cost nothing and I sit close to the soda fountain for convenience. Saves me like a dime, although it does nothing at all for my dignity.

How much I drink after lunch depends on any number of things. Am I eating dinner in? If yes, then maybe another two cans before bed. Am I eating out? If yes, then at least another 84 ounces (4 x 16 ounce drink).

If I eat out and go see a movie – I’m a film critic, so the likelihood here is higher than average – I could conceivably consume in excess of 200 ozs in an evening.

Which makes me a pig, and likely an addict. Let me articulate. Recently, the pop machine on my floor ran out of Diet Pepsi (can’t imagine who went through it all). I made the short trek to the deli on the first floor. I was horrified to see their vending machines unplugged and pushed to the other side of the room. Bob’s Deli was retiling its floor. It was like a bad dream.

I ran back up to the fourth floor, slowly, lumberingly, with legs of caffeine-depleted lead. I limped in a rage back to my office, then remember something important.

My son Riley, who spent the summer doing odd jobs no one else at my office wanted, used to roam the building looking for some kind of adventure. What he found were vending machines, including one mystical, magical pop machine that dispensed beverages for a quarter. A quarter!

I called him. In school. It’s a disease, people.

He told me the magic pop machine is on the 9th floor.

I go. I wander the halls of Floor 9 looking for the right business.

And then I spy it, glowing like a refreshment beacon. Relief is mine – or is it? Hold the phone.

They’re out of diet pop!

 Moderation being an alleged virtue – and sugar substitutes being an alleged toxin – I understand that I need to gain control over my problem. I can’t just have bones snapping and popping every time I fall down some stairs because, you know what? I’m uncoordinated. It’s going to happen. So I’m weaning.

Nothing in the morning. Nothing at work. Nothing in the car. Nothing at home. Nothing at the movies. 

All told, I’m down to 4 servings a day.

God damn it, I’m sleepy.


For Your Queue

If , unlike us, you have room in your Netflix queue, here’s the first of some weekly suggestions for worthwhile choices you may have missed.

Last week, a fascinating but underseen indy flick about cult leaders, time travel, under cover reporting and faith was released to DVD. Sound of My Voice takes those well-worn paths of melodrama and exploitation, and bends them to its will, creating a hushed and fascinating story like little else you’ve seen.

Relying on the inventive storytelling of director Zal Batmanglij and the mesmerizing performance of his lead and co-writer, Brit Marling, the movie quietly grabs your interest and never lets go. Marling is a talent to watch, a fact established in this, only her second film.

Cleverly written to generate tensions and keep you guessing, Voice challenges your imagination as it solidifies Marling’s standing as an artist with a promising future.

For more of Marling, you may also want to check out Another Earth, her engaging sci-fi flick from last year. Also working with a screenplay she co-wrote, Marling captivates as a young woman whose life is altered in various ways by the discovery of a “duplicate” Earth.

The production values are stripped down, but the thought- provoking script and Marling’s performance make it worth a look.

So that happened…

Cedar Point Scares the Shit out of People

I’m from Northwest Ohio originally, not exactly the state’s cultural hub. We have corn, soy, New Riegel’s Ribs, but not a lot else. What we have to hang our hat on is Cedar Point, the best amusement park on this or any planet.

And the time to go is now, during HalloWeekends.

The season boasts a few quickly constructed haunted houses, loud speakers blaring Monster Mash and Psycho’s theme, and Halloween-related what-not decorating the midway. Zombies roam about. Awesome.

But Cedar Point is scary enough on its own for some.

Like that Millennium Force rider who shit himself last time we were there. Just dropped a load right there in the seat. Thanks to poopy pants, a HazMat team had to come fumigate and the ride was closed. Bad for those in line, worse for Mr. Loose Bowels and his pantload, walking past the denied would-be riders in a march of shame toward some new drawers. It was at least 90 degrees out, and as he passed, it was just like you hit a wall. A stinky, stinky wall.

CP scares the shit out of others in a more figurative way.

Years back I tried to convince Riley to ride a favorite ride of mine, the old school Demon Drop – a rickety death trap that hauls you 130 feet in the air in a sort of open-air elevator shaft only to lock loudly into place, holding you in mid-air for a few seconds before dropping you screaming back to earth. Riley declined, but his friend Ryan with me. Ryan’s one of those smiling, polite kids, and my guess is that he felt sorry for me. His mistake.

The ride malfunctioned at the exact moment that it held our car out over the abyss. Three seconds became 30 seconds and then ten minutes as poor Ryan went from an excited flush to a ghostly pale to an alarming shade of chartreuse. By the time the contraption finally let loose, he’d already wished aloud for death.

But the most terrifying moment was yet to come.

By the time we were freed from Demon Drop’s clutches, everyone needed lunch, so we headed to the Subway we’d spied coming into the park. The menu was limited. We ordered 2 footlong subs, 2 six-inch subs – all cold – four bags of chips and four small fountain beverages (no refills allowed).

Guess how much this mediocre feast ran us.

They charged us –

wait for it …

seriously, wait…

seventy five fucking dollars.

I swear to god. $75 for four cold cut sandwiches, chips and pop.

For that price I  should get to punch Jared in the face.

Scary shit, indeed.

So that happened…

What Would Mayor McCheese Do?

My husband joined 4Square, in case anybody needs to know whether we’re at the movies or at Chipotle. We are always at one or the other.

In fact, he’s checked in from the Chipotle nearest our house so often that he was recently named mayor via 4Square. Apparently a cyber-mayor needn’t adhere to any kind of platform, and an honest one-man-one-vote election is needless. Just like in real life!

This makes me Chipotle’s First Lady. It’s the role I was born to play! Would there be a tinfoil crown and scepter, I wondered with glee.

Meanwhile, George mulled new Chipotle legislation. His first bill would outlaw the extra small serving. Burritos the size of a human head – that’s what we’re looking for. It is Chipotle, is it not?

He calls it the No Scimpasaurus Bill.

In retrospect, maybe his first act as mayor should have involved the parking situation. Like many Chipotle lots, the parking at the Grandview site is strictly kill or be killed.  Within minutes of his strictly imaginary swearing in ceremony, we witnessed a parking lot tragedy.

We watched through the window as a couple in a pick-up hit George’s new Harley. Less than 1000 miles on it. They just took a weirdly wide turn when pulling out of their space and bashed right into it.

Don’t they know who he is? What’s the point of pretend-governing a local Mexican fast food joint if the citizenry will wantonly damage your really nice motorcycle?

Of course, Mayor McCheese always had the Hamburglar to deal with.  Restaurant politics will kill you.

So that happened… Vermonsters

A Bigger, Hairier Vermonster

I’m in Vermont with these two – Ruby and Vivian: Vermonsters.

 But today, they are Ruby and Vivian: school children. Today Ruby starts third grade, and Vivian is officially a kindergartener. They are giddy! Ruby will be the envy of all with her well-organized pencil case, while Vivian kicks butt in PE with her smart new Hello Kitty sneaks.

Yesterday, while their parents were at work and they were left for the day with sketchy Aunt Hope, the girls were Ruby and Vivian: dog owners.

I’m very fond of dogs, and their golden retriever mix is a peach. An enormous, very strong, 18-month-old peach. The wee ones and I decided to take him for a walk, and Ruby recommended the trail – a path through the endless woods surrounding their home. This is not the first time she’s talked me into this. It has yet to end well.

These are the only humans on earth who could talk me into the woods, and as we entered – me with my two little nieces, one big and excited dog, and one bum foot – I wondered again why I am so prone to making bad decisions.

Last time, the catastrophes were entirely a result of my hotwired-for-carnage brain. On this second occasion, the crises were real.

Ruby took point, guiding us through the forest with Girl Scout skills. Vivian followed, catching baby toads, counting salamanders, and kicking colorful mushrooms. Sunny and I took the rear. At this point in such a journey, my head immediately fills with worst case scenario images. These would generally include inbred wood folk with a taste for human flesh, but with Sunny to guard us, that seemed an unlikely nuisance.

Instead I imagined how horrifying it would be if my sister’s new dog broke his leash and I had to chase him around the forest and into the lake while still keeping track of my wee girls.

Hey, guess what happened!

God damn it.

Picture, if you will, two tiny girls chirping, “Sunny, stay! Stay! Sunny, stay!” And one lumbering gimp hollering, “Here boy! Here boy!” And one boundlessly happy 100+ pound dog leaping and frolicking through the untamed wilderness. And lake. Let’s not forget the lake.

Finally I retrieved him with the oldest possible approach: lying. I promised we’d go find this big fat black lab named Moose who lives up the road and play all afternoon.

There was no playing in this dog’s immediate future.

I am staying indoors from now on.

So that happened…

I am cranky. Yes, cranky is my natural habitat, but I’m worse than usual today. Why? Three reasons.

1)      My baby is moving across country in a month. (Yes, that says 2253 miles.)

2)      My job smells like ass. Not the movie gig – that’s awesome, as always. No, the regular job. The one that pays me in money, as opposed to Arby’s coupons. That one totally blows.

3)      Filling out the third leg of my personal Trifecta of Sadness, I am back in an orthopedic boot. Sigh.

This boot is made for walking! Seriously, I literally cannot walk without it. This isn’t my first time in this particular boot.  Hell, it’s not even my second.

No, this makes my fifth tour in three years in ol’ Ortho, and how I have missed her. Gosh, it’s been almost a year since I last broke it out – cumbersome, ugly, covered in harsh Velcro flaps and straps and now, since my last episode in it (accompanying George to the filthy-as-ever Warrior Dash), also covered in mud. In case it wasn’t stylish enough!

Given my extensive exprience, I have some tips on how to look hot in an orthopedic boot. You cannot. Just give up.

How’d I do it? So, I was airborne on George’s new Harley, pullin’ a Knievel, when a monkey came out of nowhere, grabbed at the bike in mid-air, and …. That is to say, I injured my foot doing lunges. I have a stress fracture in my left foot from lunging. My left foot has been casted and/or booted  due to a car wreck, a serious running injury, surgery… and that most dangerous of all activities, walking forward and then bending your knees.

I am officially Mr. Glass.

So that happened…

Hijinks on the Midway

It’s Ohio State Fair time and I’m going to take my state pride, as well as my love of hastily smacked together death trap carnival rides, and head right down there! No, I’m totally lying. I’m not going because I’ve paid my dues at the fair and now that the penance has been served, I will get my elephant ears elsewhere.

My son has to go, though. He’s entered that magical stage of life where you take every and all menial labor, however debilitatingly tedious or physically punishing, because you need the money. And so, he’s a carny for the summer.

No, only in my overly romantic imagination. No, he’s manning a shyster booth – trying to con fairgoers into purchasing some inexpensive bit of science. In his case, it’s little capsules that water your plants for you. Back in my day, it was Ford trucks.

Yes, I, too, took the menial and seasonal work offered by the fair when I was 19. In fact, my then-mustachioed and mulleted beau George was working his radio booth just down the Midway from me and my purple pick-ups. After our shifts we’d undertake zany, fair-related misadventures, like eating fair food, or bungee jumping.

That last one was a bad idea. I elected to go first, no doubt to prove that I was fearless or some other utterly ridiculous lie. George and I were still dating at the time. But it turns out that I should have let George be fearless because I was in for unexpected public humiliation – Oh good! My favorite kind.

So, to bungee jump, the carnies – I mean, bungee technician professionals – need your weight. Sensible, really, because they have to make sure they have the right cords. So they weigh you, then shout your weight to about eight different people up the rigging, who likewise make sure your harness is properly adjusted. And, of course, the shouting also guarantees that your cutie pie boyfriend and EVERYONE AT THE OHIO STATE FAIR is now familiar with your weight.

As a rule, I don’t weigh myself. I hadn’t been on a scale in years and was taken a bit by surprise by the appallingly high number being hollered through the grounds.

Rather than pay attention to the directions being given to me as I ascended the rigging, my mind was racing through ways to remedy the weight situation. I need to start running again, I should lay off the Cap’n Crunch, cut out the maaayooonaaiiisseee…And just like that, I’d already jumped without really even noticing it.

What I did notice was that searing pain that shot from my ears to my spine when my neck snapped like a whipcord. Wow – a public weighing followed by a traumatic brain injury. What fun bungee jumping is.

I then hung upside down, bouncing with the elastic, for thousands and thousands of years while all the blood in my body collected, tick like, in my throbbing head. My head was like something that epically unfunny Eighties comic Gallagher might smash onstage with a mallet, spewing gore on the audience.

Which reminds me, Gallagher stopped by Riley’s booth a couple days ago, throwing around self-referential comments and believing himself to be hilarious. Riley, having been born nearly a decade after Gallagher ceased to be relevant, had no idea who he was and politely suggested he move on. Words were exchanged.

And see, isn’t that really the joy of menial labor? Accruing those stories?

So that happened…

Nine Inch Wall

Trent Reznor says he’s putting together materials for a new Nine Inch Nails album. This is great news for the MaddWolf household, since all three of us are fans. In particular, it means that I will recognize the sounds blaring from my bathroom while my son Riley is in the shower – as opposed to the Norwegian Death Metal, Lithuanian Punk, or Pirate Metal (I swear this is true) I might hear today.

One of Riley’s earliest concerts was the NIN show at the old Germain amphitheater. Bauhaus, a band from my childhood who sings of vampires, opened. Riley considered them “adorable.”

“They’re like 50 and they take their shirts off. The one guy’s wearing all mesh. Who does that?”

I couldn’t defend my aging goth band against these charges of adorableness, though, because some out-of-place, incredibly drunk dude in faux blonde dreads kept trying to frat-boy dance his way into our row. Riley was about 11 and I didn’t want him crushed up against the rest of the row, so I did the only reasonable thing. I planted my feet and boxed out.

NIN took the stage and Riley beamed. We sang along. Periodically the kid in the row ahead turned around to ask me which album one song or another came from, as I was the only ticketholder old enough to remember the band’s 1989 debut album. All went well, until the body count beyond Riley shifted, and suddenly a woman wearing only police tape for a shirt appeared to my son’s right.

The mesh shirt seemed epically reasonable to me at this point.

Sgt. Nipply stumbled close to my boy and murmured some, “oh, isn’t he cute” remark. I placed my right hand firmly on her left shoulder, straightened my arm (I do have an impressive wing span) and pressed.

With my right arm as a brace above Riley’s head and my left guarding against rhasta-frat-drunky, I stood as a force field for the balance of the program, in what is now known as the “Head-off the Ho’s Memorial Box-Out.” Riley danced and clapped and had a generally great time within my perimeter of party-poopitude.

Some years later, Riley got the phenomenal opportunity to meet Reznor because our glorious friend Cheryl won backstage passes, and her possibly-more-glorious husband Demetrius unselfishly decided to make a 16-year-old’s dreams come true. He gave Riley his pass. All Riley had to do in return was promise to ask Reznor how much weight he could bench press, which, to Cheryl’s dismay, he did. (FYI: Reznor didn’t give a number, but he did ask Riley if high school still sucks.)

My only job was to get him there.

Riley took his buddy Nate, both 16 but not yet licensed, so I drove the boys to Nationwide and looked for the ice cream truck where they’d meet Cheryl and the other winners.

Some of those winners were women in their twenties who (presumably) misjudged Riley and Nate as of-age. This band of tramps openly eyeballed – even flirted with – my charges.

I put a quick end to that.

George says there’s a name for people like me, and it’s not Cholesterol Blocker. But I don’t care because I’d do it again. I would, that is, if Riley and Nate would ever again be seen in public with me.

Anyway, to sum up: 1) Nine Inch Nails may have a new album soon, 2) Don’t take your mom to a rock show.

Hope Madden and George Wolf … get it?