"As a kid I decided that a Canadian accent doesn't sound tough. I thought guys should sound like Marlon Brando. So now I have a phony accent that I can't shake, so it's not phony anymore." – Ryan Gosling
Greetings from the apocalypse! I gave up hunting for Cadbury Creme Eggs on my front lawn for Lent, so this Easter holiday comes as a huge relief. Let's celebrate this holiest of weekends with a story featuring death and glorious resurrection … of Hasbro toy characters.
Friday, March 29
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POW! IN THEATERS
Get locked and loaded as Dwayne Johnson brings out the big guns for "G.I. Joe: Retaliation." Ever since the trailer debuted in 2011 I've had visions of mountain-climbing ninjas dancing in my head, but what the good lord giveth, the good lord taketh away, and the summer 2012 release got delayed so they could add more Channing Tatum. That better not be at the expense of Snake-Eyes on Storm Shadow throwing stars in 3-D. Bruce Willis plays the original action figure, General Joseph Colton, because it wouldn't be a proper dumb movie without at least one literal reference to the title.
BASIC CABLE BLUES
As far as "BIG DUMB STUPID MOVIES" go, Stephen Sommers' "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" takes the cake, and lucky you because it's on at 8 p.m. on USA. F**k yeah, America. While Michael Bay's "Transformers" movies try (and fail breathtakingly) to elevate their material (toys) to mythic levels, 2009's first "G.I. Joe" feature captured the cocaine-high-level joy of a six-year-old playing with action figures in a bathtub. Sommers knows this movie, about an evil paramilitary terrorist group called Cobra blowing up Paris from their underwater lair only to be stopped by super army guys in robot suits, is dumb. He embraces that dumbness like Bono embraces kids at the Special Olympics, and that's why this is possibly the greatest movie based on a piece of plastic ever made. Yo Joe!
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NEW ON BLU
Shout Factory has been putting out some awesome collector's editions of cult genre stuff like their recent "Phantasm II" release, but my most hotly anticipated reissue on Blu-ray comes in the form of "From Beyond," this week's highly recommended "Survivor of Thunderdome." Stuart Gordon's second venture into H.P. Lovecraft country after "Re-Animator" involves that film's Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton using a special machine that opens the floodgates of imperceptible horrors by stimulating the pineal gland. This leads to all sorts of phallic, flesh-eating creatures and deformities, as well as Crampton in S&M gear. Crampton had more beauty and brains than any other scream queen of the '80s, and the fact that this was made the same year she posed for Playboy means you're in for a treat.
Beantown's historic Brattle Theater is playing host to the Boston Underground Film Festival, and that means plenty of bug-nutty indie flicks snapping your synapses. On deck for East Coast Premieres is the acronym-friendly pregnancy thriller "See You Next Tuesday" tonight at 7:30 p.m., the betting gone awry comedy "Cheap Thrills" Saturday at 9:15 p.m. and the monster mashiness of "Big Ass Spider" at 8:30 p.m. Sunday. Love that dirty water.
Saturday, March 30PAY CHANNEL PAYBACK
I wanted to give you a little Ryan Gosling-related homework before you head out to the theaters today, but "Crazy, Stupid, Love" at 11:30 a.m. on Cinemax is no chore. What could have been a formulaic romantic comedy about sad sack Steve Carell trying to find his romantic footing after getting divorced by Julianne Moore takes an interesting turn once Gosling's smooth-talking player comes into the picture. Gosling and Carell have a hilarious mentor-mentee relationship, with the young GQ-type showing this middle-aged suburbanite how to close the deal with the ladies.
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POW! IN THEATERS
After "Crazy, Stupid, Love." you will appreciate how much acting range the Gos-man has when seen alongside his quiet, violent loner Luke in new film "The Place Beyond the Pines." Written and directed by Derek Cianfrance ("Blue Valentine"), it tells an ambitious, generation-spanning story of two men on opposite sides of the law whose children wind up connecting 15 years after their confrontation. It's an oddly structured film that boldly shifts character focus with each act; Gosling and his dirt bike holding down the first, Bradley Cooper the second and dynamic "Chronicle" actor Dane DeHaan re-energizing everything with his third act quest to discover the truth about his family.
One of our preeminent indie auteurs is Jim Jarmusch, who for 30 years has been examining eccentric outsiders with his equally eccentric storytelling style. You can get hip to this hipster hero now that glorious Criterion transfers of his first five films are available on Hulu fo free, yo. That includes his debut "Permanent Vacation," meandering road film "Stranger Than Paradise," Tom Waits-led prison escape picture "Down By Law" and the "one crazy night" Memphis anthology "Mystery Train." Of all of them, though, my fav might just be 1992's eclectic cabbie short story collection "Night on Earth," which relates five distinct vignettes of cab drivers and their oddball fares that range from gut-busting farce (Roberto Benigni) to outright tragedy (the aggressively downbeat Helsinki segment). Check that one out right here:
Sunday, March 31LOCAL EVENTURES
Let's start off this Easter Sunday right at the Aero Theater in Santa Monica, California where they have an amazing double-header, starting with a 4 p.m. showing of a ton of classic Warner Bros. Bugs Bunny cartoons. Unlike the Easter Bunny, Bugs is open about his transvestism. The Toons are preceded by an egg hunt at 3:30, either for the kids or that one creepy fat guy who really shouldn't be there. Then at 7:30 you can bask in the epic splendor of 1959's "Ben-Hur," in which Charlton Heston plays a Jewish prince who becomes a slave to the Romans and is given a glass of water by Jesus. Later Ben watches Jesus get crucified and is all like, "Hey, I know that dude!" There's a little more to it than that (a lot more — it's four hours long), but if you're not in Cali just tune in at 7:30 p.m. on TCM.
We're continuing the bunny motif with a classic piece of childhood trauma, the 1978 British animated version of "Watership Down." Based on Richard Adams' awesome book, it involves eight rabbits who leave their warren after an apocalyptic vision leads them to scramble through the countryside. Biblical undertones abound as they fight for survival against territorial super-rabbits, led by the vicious Woundwart, in their quest to find peace and suitable female bunnies. It's available in its entirety on YouTube:BASIC CABLE BLUES
Let the festivities continue with an enjoyably post-post-post feminist comedy from way back in 2008 called "The House Bunny" at 8 p.m. on Comedy Central. The always-game Anna Faris plays a bubbly Playboy Playmate wannabe who leaves Hef's mansion to become a house mother to a sorority full of awkward ugly ducklings that she transforms into slightly more shallow swans.
Our last stop on this Easter theme may in fact send you straight to hell as we explore Clifton, Virginia's legendary Bunny Man Bridge. You know this is a formidable gateway to darkness when it has its own Yelp review page, but the gist of it is there were a bunch of sightings in the '70s and '80s of a dude dressed in a bunny costume wielding an axe. He would terrorize thrill-seeking teens who came by the Colchester Overpass, with some claiming he's the spirit of an escaped convict who hung rabbit carcasses (and people) from the bridge, and that he comes out on Halloween night to f**k folks' s**t up. You be the judge …
As I ride off into the distant horizon, here's wishing you fellow weekend road warriors the best outing possible from this burnt-out, blighted wasteland. Enjoy your fast Internet, clean-ish movie theaters, plentiful gasoline and all the comforts of home, for this world lives now only in my memories …