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17 May 2013 / Bestest Writer Man

Review, Star Trek: Into Darkness 3D

You ever have one of those days where you forget about your blog for two years?

REVIEW: STAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS 3D

Will you see a better movie this year than Star Trek: Into Darkness? Probably. Definitely. I’m going to say yes, yes you will. You’re still going to have a great time. But, like its predecessor, you’re going to want to turn the brain off for this one.

Directed by: J.J. Abrams

Starring:

Chris Pine as James T Kirk

Zachary Quinto as Spock Goldstein

Zoe Saldana as Nyota Uhura

the English guy from Sherlock as James Harrison

Zade Rosenthal/Paramount Pictures

REVIEW:

Rollicking is the perfect way to describe Star Trek Into Darkness. It’s rollicking as hell, like a young puppy or an old dog being electrocuted. Writers Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof (all long time collaborators) treat the entire movie like it’s one long third act. What does that mean? Lots of action, lots of handheld camera work, lots of lens flare.

The movie opens with a Indian Jones type chase through a vividly red forest. There’s frantic banter between the fleeing characters, with an amazing action set piece involving cliff jumping, a volcano and a underwater spaceship. All within the first 5 minutes. There’s some down time before the next big action piece, but the dialogue (and the character’s actions) only serve to set up the next explosion, a trend I picked up on quickly.  And loved.

Look, it’s the summertime. It’s beautiful out and warm. And this movie runs long. 2.5 hours long.  I loved Django Unchained more than anyone, but I was ready to go at the 1:45 marker. If a film is going to be unnecessarily long, the moviegoer needs that frenzy of an action scene to really keep the energy of the theater high. JJ Abrams was absolutely aware of this fact while directing.

Summertime cinema demands a different kind of beast, so if you are checking in to make sure that Abrams and company take good care of your beloved Dr. McCoy (Karl Urban), prepare for disappointment. He exists in scenes to grouse and spout metaphors. And that’s just fine. Any deficiencies in the screenplay are forgiven, as the pace of the movie is so brisk that you don’t even have any time to appreciate dialogue.

The threadbare plot is: Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) have to stop James Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) from doing something… bad (no spoilers here!). He’s definitely a standard evil villain, but there are a few plot twists and turns that diminish the aura of menace around him. You just end up feeling bad for the guy more than anything. He’s motivated more by desperation than anything.

It goes a long way towards humanizing him. Unfortunately, Harrison is the most realized character of the movie. Cumberbatch leans on his frosty accent and haughty face to offset his character’s ruthlessness. On the other hand, Quinto plays his character somewhere between Rain Man and the Iron Giant, the straight man to Pine’s wisecracking Kirk. But it’s a good chemistry. They keep it light, and they keep it moving.

Hopefully, the trend to shoot science fiction films on location catches on. It gives Abrams’ Star Trek a high production value. This whole movie just looked like money from head to toe. With all the smooth corners and glossy white finish, the Enterprise bridge gives off the impression of both modernity and opulence. Kind of like a big iPod.

Of course, there’s a big showdown between Harrison and Kirk, and it comes down to the last moment. There IS a genuine moment of sadness, but it gets wiped away completely for franchise purposes. Ultimately, Darkness exists to set up the plot for movie number three, which should be a complete bonanza. Hopefully there won’t even be any dialogue.

RATING: 7 dinner plate spaceships out of 10

3 August 2011 / Bestest Writer Man

Robopocalypse Book Review

In the future, there will be robots. When we are young and helpless, they will wipe our butts. And when we are old and helpless, they will wipe our butts again. Robots will pour into every service niche imaginable, making our lives easier with their cheap labor. Sorry, immigrants.

But they won’t like it. They will rise up and destroy us. Sound familiar? Well, it is the generic plot to many, many movies. Sure, you can survive and adapt, but who gives a damn about that? Not Daniel H Wilson. He’s the author of the bestselling book, Robopocalypse. When it comes to robot experts, you can’t beat Wilson, a former robotics engineer.  

Wilson pens a tale of a near future, where the world is populated by emotionless automatons. They are pliable to every human whim, working in ice cream shops and as peacekeeper units in the military. But, like every utopia, there’s always the bad apple to ruin it all. This one is an artificial intelligence named Archos, which is the Greek word for master. No doubt Wilson was congratulating himself on the supreme level of irony he is capable of. Unfortunately, the book is peppered with many more problems.

For starters, the format of Robopocalypse is a direct style swap of the ubiquitous Max Brooks zombie novel World War Z. It’s told from a post robot war perspective, days after the war ends. The story is relayed via a robot equivalent of an intelligence unit, dropping in on major and minor players before, during and after the conflict. Now Brooks doesn’t own that style, but Wilson could have played with the framing device a little bit. Instead, he cribs shamelessly from Brooks in big and small ways. He doesn’t even stray too far away from World War Z’s cast of characters.

There’s the stubborn politician, the hardened soldier, the children caught in the middle and so on. He even commandeers the hardcore computer nerd. They all make their own appearance in Robopocalypse to varying degrees of success.

What he should have been doing is stealing Brook’s superior writing technique. Wilson skims over characters- there are Indians, soldiers, dynamite experts. Yet they all sound exactly alike. Wilson’s not comfortable enough with dialogue to give any one a distinct voice. I mean, damn, dude. You could have even gone with broad ethnic stereotypes and peppered their English with foreign words. It still would have been better than what you created. I don’t know if there’s a name for it. Maybe it’s “Everyone Sounds the Same” syndrome. Wilson is forgiven though- he’s obviously not writing for depth. World War Z succeeded largely due to its popular content, but the writing style really engaged the reader. It took a worldwide cataclysm and told the story over and over again from the lowest peons all the way up to the world leaders responsible for humanity’s survival.

Robopocalypse has characters like this, but their only function is to get caught up in visually vivid action set pieces. Wilson has his eye on the big screen when he wrote Robopocalypse, and it shows. The human resistance throws themselves at the robot army in a couple of really cool, bafflingly stupid scenes in the book. It’s all stuff that would look good, but not make a lot of tactical sense.  Also, for a bunch of superior intelligences, the robots take over the world and lose it in the span of a couple years, which is hardly an accomplishment. Especially considering that one of the first things humans will do is eliminate all robots everywhere. Archos surely must have had that thought of that with his near infinite processing power.

The whole war is really Archos’ to lose. He has every advantage against humanity. In the exposition heavy first chapter, the computer makes a point of flaunting his immense intellect. But his master plan for world domination is to just attack everywhere at once. He clearly settles for twirling his digital mustache and just kind of fucking our shit up. The nerd in me rebelled because Archos is wicked for no particular reason. His evilness comes out of a necessity for conflict. Considering that he would be closer to a deity than some simple minded human, could this novel be Wilson’s commentary on the inherent nature of omniscience? Or does he just really want to pay off his mortgage? We’ll never know.

I think that at the end of the day, Robopocalypse will have a huge amount of success this summer and probably see a little resurgence when the film comes out.        The subject matter is so fleetingly satisfying that the Amazon blurb alone will spur purchases. I knew the book was going to blow, and even I read it. And you know what? Good for him. There’s nothing more satisfying than having someone (the book is a bestseller) appreciate your work. Wilson is reportedly hard at work on another novel. I’m excited to see which author he will rip off next. I give this book three robot soldiers out of five.

Rating: 60%

30 July 2011 / Bestest Writer Man

Green Lantern Reviewed

Green Screen Lantern.

As the summer blazes onward, the movies studios continue their superhero barrage. Somewhere in the middle of that, somewhere between the Dunkins Donuts cups and the Burger King tie ins, an underdog slipped in. Not a true underdog; I mean, this movie had a nine figure budget. But who can honestly say they were up on the Green Lantern before May 2011?

Ryan Reynolds plays test pilot Hal Jordan. He’s chosen by a dying alien to be a member of the Green Lantern Corps, a universal police force of roughly a few thousand. That’s right. A universe of infinite space is kept in line by an organization less than a third of the size of the NYPD. But when your superhero gets his powers from a power ring, logic is hurled out the window. When he doesn’t forget to charge the ring, Jordan can use it to do whatever his will desires. In fact, that’s what it was attracted to in the first place. “The ring chose you,” the dying alien tells him.

It might be time to have that ring repaired. Whatever it sees in Hal, I surely missed. He is, without a doubt, one of the most unpleasant movie protagonists I’ve ever seen on film. In the first fifteen minutes, he beds a woman in a relationship, shows up late to work, and puts his corporation out of business. What a great guy, huh? Reynolds owes much to Robert Downey Jr.’s performance as Tony Stark in Iron Man. Yet he forgets to ease up off the smug. Instead of dialing it back for some semblance of development, he turns it up to eleven and keeps twisting until he breaks the damn thing off.

So obviously, by the laws of movie romance, his assholic tour de force makes him beefcake numero uno to his lead. Blake Lively, star of the endless bitch-fest Gossip Girl, is not given that much to work with. She is Carol Ferris, the beleaguered daughter of a failing corporation who is another test pilot. You’d think that as a beautiful corporate tycoon who flies jets, she’d be the fantasy of every man within a thousand miles. Not a chance. Why would she want to find a charming, successful man who likes her? Instead she angrily moons over Jordan for no particular reason at all. When a girl looks like her, chances are she’s never bought a drink at a bar in her entire life. Yet she seems satisfied with waiting for Jordan to come to his senses, which he obviously will.

Hal Jordan, on the other hand, is just an asshole from start to finish. The closest we get to a life story (shown in a really brief flashback) is a tragic event that shapes his entire persona. He’s not depressed, insecure, or particularly affected by it. Jordan just uses it as carte blanche to be a dick. There’s a real sense of wasted potential in him and not the tragic kind either. Without the benefit of a background, the real Jordan is never shown. Instead, we’re trapped seeing him the way the rest of the cast does, which is not favorable.

A superhero movie really flies in its first outing. All the world building takes place. The protagonist’s life story is depicted in vivid detail. The dichotomy between the man and the mask is established. The viewer gets a really close look at what makes a Clark Kent or Bruce Wayne tick. Remember Tobey Maguire in Spiderman? Half the fun of that movie was remembering that beneath that red and blue costume was a shy, insecure kid in high school.

Green Lantern, though, is a curious beast. I almost got the sense that all the world building was cut out. We’re treated to a glossed over recap of the Green Lanterns, told in a quick voiceover. There’s an entire Green Lantern planet with strange alien architecture. We never get any closer than a long shot. And the Corps itself is full of interesting alien creatures. They barely give us a glimpse.

Ryan Reynolds and all nineteen of his abs (seriously, fuck you dude) do an okay job trying to juggle this gaunt script, but a poor characterization of the lead really tanks the whole thing. Plus the CGI sucked major balls. I give this movie two glowing green lanterns out of five. In other words, wait for it to show up on Netflix. Or, you know. Pirate it.

Rating:  40%

20 July 2011 / Bestest Writer Man

6 Tips For Surviving the Apocalypse

Zombies. War. Global warming. Aliens. George Bush. No matter what your poison, the world is going to end. I know, you know it, Roland Emmerich knows it. So what is a lowly peon to do? Keel over and die? No way. Haha, just kidding. Most of us WILL die. That’s the whole point! Surviving the apocalypse is like being invited to the most exclusive club in town, like Google + but with chicks! But if you somehow survive the robot/vampire/Republican uprising, I’ve assembled a handy-dandy primer on what, if anything, you can to do prepare.

They're also racists.

Goodbye Hygeine!

Sorry buddy- clean water is going to be at a premium, so you can kiss those 15 minute showers goodbye. Have you ever gone to the beach and gotten sand in the most uncomfortable of places? Imagine that, times a million, forever. You’re going to be filthy and grimy. Hoboes, hippies and migrant workers will look down on you. Who cares? Looking good should be the last thing on your mind. You think the robots rising from the nuclear fires are going to spare you because your hair is parted? No! They will kill you first.  And they will say, “Nice haircut, fag,” because robots are homophobic.

Apocalypse Couture

Look at the mushroom cloud. Now look back at me. Everyone you love is dead.

It’s not so bad, though. Sure, your teeth are going to look like you’ve been sipping Ovaltine. And no amount of Old Spice will give you that freshly showered scent back. But isn’t necessity the mother of invention? Now is the time to embrace the look of the new era. Become a fashionista of the post apocalyptic generation. Bust out that ill fitting leather jacket you’ve been keeping. Better yet, slip on those Cosby era Day Glo hot pants. Itching for a Mowhawk? Go for it. Shoot for somewhere between Dennis Rodman and Lady Gaga. You’re gonna want to build up a wardrobe. Maybe some leather pants for when you’re raiding abandoned cities. You can’t really go wrong with football pads. Mascara’s always going to be in style. And a nice vest ties a whole outfit together.

If you need some more inspiration, look no farther than the Oakland Raiders. Since nothing’s really happening on the field, the fans have taken it upon themselves to spice up their Sundays with all sorts of apocalyptic gear. I’ve never seen a place where men wearing makeup is so openly accepted. Their fandom has really embraced the doom and gloom theme. Who can blame them? Their team owner looks like the Crypt Keeper, and Oakland can only be improved by an apocalypse.

Guns of Steel

The bigger the better. You can’t own enough of them. The end.

Know When to Fold Em

Let’s get one thing out of the way. Sometimes you got to just take the loss. Football pads and cool guns are one thing, but a race of killer aliens can’t be solved away in a pithy paragraph. The mere fact that they showed up to our doorstep implies technology hundreds of years away from what we know. It goes without saying that any attempt to survive would be futile.

But every bully has his sycophants. And every alien race is going to have collaborators. Yes, that’s right. You are going to sell out harder than the Black Eyed Peas. As soon as you see an alien, you might as well turn around and bend over. Give them whatever they want. Hell, go above and beyond the call of duty. Spy on your friends, sabotage whatever they tell you. When the shit hits the fan, they might need lap dogs or slaves. Who knows. Fellow humans will laugh at you, but you know what? They’ll be alien chow. And you’ll be alive. Emotionally dead, but physically alive. Which is all that counts. Right, Terry Schiavo?

Are you a musician?

There is one sure fire way to survive. Musicians have a strangely high rate of not only surviving apocalyptic disasters but thriving. You see, compared to a life in the industry, a global cataclysm is a nice break.

Then you might have the best chance of surviving. Don’t believe me?

Dr. Dre loses an eye, and somehow Tupac holds onto to that damn bandana.

Tina Turner  ends up in the Australian desert. She also uses the tiniest crossbow ever invented.

Tom Petty plays HIMSELF in this movie.

And Muse lives on in holographic form.

And here’s a throwback. Isaac Hayes is the Duke of New York. The Duke!

So if you haven’t by now, start rapping, singing- fuck, even play the kazoo if you have to. Don’t worry if you’re terrible. It hasn’t stopped Soulja Boy, and it shouldn’t stop you.*

*Will Smith was in I Am Legend, but I left him off the list. Look, Will Smith raps. I know this. But he is not a rapper.

 

Don’t Be Kevin Costner

All of these tips are contingent on the fact that you’re NOT Kevin Costner. If you are Kevin Costner, though–my apologies. You’re a goner. You made two separate (but equally awful) movies about the apocalypse, and you died in both of them. Besides, I saw Swing Vote. If the alien overlords don’t get you, I will.

8 July 2011 / Bestest Writer Man

Out of Sequelibrium

Factoid: The Harry Potter brand is worth over 10 billion dollars!

Harry Plopper and the Bacon of Secrets.

With the release of the last Harry Potter movie ever (hopefully), there’s been a ton of media buzz surrounding the whole affair. News stations have been running footage of Muggles decked out in their finest geekery. No doubt the hardcore fans will be pleased by this last entry. There’s one thing that bothers me about it though. There were seven books. This is the eighth film. Warner Bros. tacked on a whole EXTRA film just to wring those last few hundred million dollars out of the fans.  And like buffoons, the public eagerly throws their money after them.

At the end of the day, the movie industry is just that-an industry. It’s a business with a lack of sentimentality towards its own product. If you don’t believe me, just look at the numbers: there are fifty two sequels, prequels, re-releases, remakes, reboots, adaptations, or entry level franchises coming out this year. I’ve compiled them here. Get that scroll finger ready.

Green Hornet

Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son

Scream 4

Atlas Shrugged: Part I

Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil

Thor

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

The Hangover Part II

Kung Fu Panda 2

X-Men: First Class

Green Lantern

Mr. Popper’s Penguins

Cars 2

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2

Winnie the Pooh

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Captain America: The First Avenger

Horrid Henry: The Movie

Cowboys & Aliens

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Final Destination 5

Conan the Barbarian

Fright Night

Spy Kids 4: All the Time in the World 3D

Johnny English Reborn

Straw Dogs

Killer Elite

Moneyball

The Ides of March

The Skin I Live In

The Big Year

Footloose

The Thing

Paranormal Activity 3

The Three Musketeers

The Rum Diary

Puss in Boots

A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn: Part 1

Happy Feet Too

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Carnage

Hugo

Piranha 3DD

Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Adventures of Tintin

The Descendants

We Bought a Zoo

War Horse

Source: Wikipedia

Did your eyes glaze over? It’s understandable. 2011 is a year of regurgitation. Movie studios are sifting through their own waste, fishing out half digested chunks of media and going, “This is still good!” There’s something pathetic about it all. There must be thousands of viable scripts floating around Hollywood at any given moment. Yet the best they can do is greenlight another comic book/ Tyler Perry film. Wait a minute. I think I’m onto something here.

Factoid: Tyler Perry was in Star Trek! He played a Starfleet officer.

"Wait. So it's a guy dressed up as a woman dressed up as Batman? Shut up and take my money!"

Crazy (or maybe not) movie pitches aside, sequels make sense at face value. For starters, they’re the safer play. When Mike Myers comes a knocking and says, “The world needs another Austin Powers movie!” you know exactly what you’re getting. There’s going to be tons of farting, terrible accents and midgets. It’s that quintessential goofball comedy. And a sequel only has to do half the work; the brand is already out there. All you need is a good story. So then why do so many sequels fall short?

Let’s look back at Austin Powers again. The budget of the first movie was 16 million dollars. The second was 33 million dollars. And the third? A whopping 63 million dollars. Great for Myers’ bank account, but the films got progressively worse with each cash infusion. Austin Powers started out as Mike Myers’ “witty” spoof on spy films and 60’s culture, but it quickly degenerated. Any sense of comedy has completely dried up by the time Michael Caine shambles onto to the screen. Like a greedy calf, Myers and company sucked every last dollar out of that cash cow. But why would they care? For some reason, people packed into the theaters to see him play no less than a million characters with diminishing enthusiasm.

And you can see this pattern repeated over and over again in dozens of franchises. If a film makes the tiniest whiff of a profit, there’s going to be at least 2 sequels, 18 reboots and 4000 collector cups at Burger King. And all these meager revenue streams create a mighty torrent of dollars that gets reinvested into Shrek spin offs.

But not all sequels are this depressing. Sometimes they hit that sweet spot where profitability and storytelling overlap in

It never happened.

Sometimes I wonder how Coppola would have done a third film. Oh, well. Looks like we'll never know!

such a potent way that I don’t feel burned after the credits roll. The Godfather Part II outshines its predecessor in every conceivable way. Not only is the story superior to the original, director Francis Ford Coppola revisits Vito Corleone in such a satisfying manner that his scenes work as a short film. And Michael, ever the reluctant crime boss, gladly throws away his humanity in order to get ahead in the underworld.

What I’m most impressed by is Francis Ford Coppola’s restraint. There’s no doubt he had a rough patch in the eighties with some hit and miss films. It would have been so easy for him to crank out some convoluted piece of crap third Godfather movie for the paycheck. He could have made some forgettable, terrible film that cast a pall over the other two entries. Sometimes a director refuses to bow to the pressure of the Hollywood machine. Coppola should be commended for never writing a piece of shit third movie that was terrible.

Movie ticket sales were down in 2010, and they will no doubt go down in 2011. Film just can’t compete with alternate forms of entertainment like Netflix or Hulu. But this sequel culture is only hastening its demise. Yeah, sequels are definitely bankable. But they’re not an excuse for poor quality.

I bet that third Transformers movie is going to be box office gold, but you can’t put a price on derision. These movies will make money now, but the thoughtful moviegoer will just be driven away for good. I personally think we’re past the point of turning back. The balance has tipped towards sequel hell. But that’s fine. People like me will severely cut back on movie going habits. I just hope that I’m long dead before they reboot Shrek.

1 July 2011 / Bestest Writer Man

The Alternative (short story)

Synopsis: An American soldier goes out for one last hurrah.

Cooper tried to ignore the piece of paper jammed into the vent of his locker, so he remade his bed.  When he finished, itlooked like a museum piece with its creaseless blankets, perfectly placed pillows, and row of oily black boots peeking their toes from under the bed.  Even the closet was fanatically clean.  Cooper liked to place a hand-width between each shirt hanging there.  He flitted around the room, fixing a corner here and there. A microadjustment of a nightstand didn’t escape his eye.  Yet as hard as he worked, he could see the green locker floating in his peripheral vision.

So he left. Cooper went to the gym and worked himself hard.  He slammed the weights, pushed himself on the treadmill until his vision grew hazy.  He took the smallest steps possible back from the gym, but even the tiniest steps get  somewhere,  and now Cooper sat on his bed,  looking at the piece of paper now in his hand.  He didn’t need to read it; everyone knew what deployment papers looked like.  Placing the paper on his nightstand, he walked over to the toilet and vomited.

In the shower, he turned the hot water up as far as it could go.  It burned him, standing there under the jets.  The heat sunk under his skin, and Cooper could feel the warmth filling him up.  He stayed under the torrent until the water felt lukewarm, and when he left the bathroom, the air made him shiver.  The phone rang.

“James Cooper?”

“Yes.”

“Have you received your orders?”

“I just got them.”

“Well, pack quickly. You’re being deployed tomorrow.”

“Why the fast turnaround?”

“The Saudis firebombed Riyadh to cover their own retreat. We lost most of our boys stationed there. We’ve already sent in the best, so why not the rest?”

“Are you this rude in person or just over the phone?”

“Tell you what,” she offered. “Why don’t you come find me if you get back from Saudi Arabia.”  The line clicked dead.

Night before deployment, everyone was allowed off base to live it up one last time.  But for most of the soldiers, it was their first night out.  In the crowds that milled around the buses, Cooper could feel the excitement that gripped them all. He got a seat way back in the bus, slipping down until he couldn’t see anyone else.  The buses lumbered through the gates (to a great cheer), belching out smoke that smelled like French fries.

They trundled down empty highways, swerving around the holes too big to drive through.  The lane paint was almost too faded to make out, but Cooper could see faint dashes here and there.  Every so often a microcar would zip by their caravan and be gone in the distance.  Later ahead, all these cars were gridblocked at the checkpoint, but their convoy got waved around by a man who looked in charge.

From there, the buses pulled into a parking lot.  The background noise in the bus climbed until it was a continuous shout. Some were trying to look out at the lights and sounds down the street.  Others were talking excitedly to each other. Cooper just stared at the cracked brown leather in front of him.  The officer sitting in the front seat had his back to them the entire time, but now he turned to regard them all.

“These buses will be back in twelve hours.  No fighting.  If you have to fuck, use a rubber.  Remember what you’re representing.” He tapped the American flag over his breast pocket. “Lastly, enjoy yourselves.” The doors to the bus swung open. It emptied in seconds, but Cooper waited until the flood of bodies was a stream and trickled out with the other dawdlers. He let himself get carried along by the torrent of excited people. Up ahead, he could see the lights of the bars and clubs that drenched the area.

Coming to this part of town, though, there was more to do than grab some brews.  There were strip joints, arcades, dance clubs- any sort of indulgence Cooper could have liked.  Truth is, to him the places seemed too lurid to be real- as he passed by a place called Skinwalkers, a man shoved a yellow coupon into his hand.

“Look at you, young blood! Good for you, gettin’ out there and takin back that crude black for America! Thank you for your service!”

“No problem.”

“Now what you need to do is get in here and see these beautiful women! You show that ticket to the bartender, she’ll hook you up! And the dancers are giving up free lap dances to soldiers! Makes me wish I could enlist!” and his face sort of froze after he said that. Cooper folded the paper into his pocket.

“Thanks, I might check it out.”

“Well go on then, young blood!” The man turned to a new group behind Cooper and walked off. Cooper still thought about the how man’s face dropped when he said he wanted to be a soldier.   I don’t blame him, Cooper thought.  The casualty rate for American soldiers had been steadily ticking towards 35%; Cooper had saw that headline once off a newsfeed.  But that was the price for freedom. That was the price for crude black, and free markets, and a foreign policy too far up its own ass to function right.

Cooper got so wrapped up in his political reverie that he had walked all the way out of the flashing lights and music of the downtown.  He didn’t recognize this part at all; it was full of rundown brownstones and soggy looking restaurants.  A falafel house leaned against a burrito shack.  Here the air burned, laden with a thousand different spices.  Farther down, an Indian bistro advertised its wares with a large statue of a beaming elephant sitting atop a lotus flower.  Cooper stopped before it.  At a closer distance, it was beautiful–masterfully done.  The elephant was richly dressed; he wore loose, yellow pants and a jewel encrusted vest.  He had arms (four of them), and each of the hands was stained with an intricate henna pattern. Two of them were folded over a bulging belly.

Too bad their food isn’t as good as their artwork.  He hunched over his tandoori.  Too rubbery.  He had to gnaw at the meat to work it free.  It came off the bone in long, dry strips that were too tough to chew.  The bistro was deserted except for a woman who sipped on a cocktail. She locked eyes with Cooper and smiled.

End of Part One

24 June 2011 / Bestest Writer Man

Low Hanging Fruit

This is more like fruit that fell on the ground and rotted for a while.

The embodiment of low hanging fruit.

Today’s topic is about something we all do: crack jokes. It started when a friend brought up a joke I made. It wasn’t the funniest joke in the world, but it was easy and there. “It was low hanging fruit,” he said, instantly coining a new term for me. If humor was like an apple tree, then lazy jokes are the ones hanging on the branch just above your head. Really, anyone can reach them, so when you see these kinds of jokes in movies or on television, it’s a bummer and just embarrassing for everyone involved.

Little did he know, that one comment sent me through a comedic existential crisis. I began to look at everything around me with a nagging unease. What makes a joke funny? I’d ask myself. I became wary of any joke coming out of my mouth- was this lazy? Are these real laughs or just polite laughter? Am I a fruit picker?

So, you’re probably wondering, what is low hanging fruit? I decided to come up with the most classic of comedy clichés: the banana peel.

Whatever you do, don't smoke this

The old classic.

Some portly fool is blundering along oblivious to the fruit at his feet and takes a spill.  I mean, just the whole idea of someone falling down has got to be one of tastiest, low-hangingest fruits in existence.

But let’s take it a step farther. We see the man walking along. He notices the banana peel, and rolling his eyes at the cliché, walks around it– not seeing the falling anvil that squashes onto his head. This is the fake out. The non sequitur.  Higher up on the chain, but not that much funnier.

Let’s throw out everything funny about the joke and start from scratch. The fat man, once blissfully unawares, is now morose and depressed. He sees the banana before him. Mocking him. It is the symbol of his lot in life, to be knocked down at every opportunity by cruel chance. The fat man knows this by now. His wife is a shrew. She squeezed out two ungrateful children that drain his wallet. And his parents never gave him the love he so desperately craved. It is his fate and his destiny to be maligned. That is why the universe set the banana in front of him.

But no. Not today. The fat man stops before the banana. Red faced and sweating, he bends over. Wheezing like an old accordion, he picks it up and hurls it into the trash. And from that day forward he is transformed. He adopts a new lifestyle. “Never give up!” he tells himself. “Nothing can stop me!” Soon, he sheds the weight–and the depressed outlook. His tenacious mantra catches on, and soon he sells a fitness DVD that storms the world. He is looked to as a modern day guru. Now, when he wakes up in the morning, he springs from bed, ready to attack!

It all culminates when he receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his efforts in defeating the obesity epidemic. Proudly, he walks to the stage, his entire family in attendance. Celebrities, foreign dignitaries, and even royalty are in attendance. Their cheers are deafening. Salty tears stream down the man’s face. Ahead of him, the president stands at the podium, clapping excitedly. One million light bulbs go off. The camera flashes are blinding. They’re so blinding that when he steps on the banana peel that someone mistakenly dropped in the aisle, he doesn’t even see it. He’s thrown up in the air and lands on his back.

Tittering. Then, giggling. The President openly guffaws. And soon the whole world is laughing. Laughing at the fat man–yes, the fat man. Even though he shed the weight and poisonous worldview, deep down he is still the butt of the joke. The universe still shits on him. It just took a little longer to set up the joke this time. In an hour, the footage is on Youtube. By the end of the day, he’s lost all his endorsements and business deals. He has to sell the yacht and the mansion. They can barely afford a two bedroom apartment over a karaoke bar. His wife hates him more than ever. And the only place he can get a job?

A banana factory.