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ray winstone

No Cable = Quality Content

I spent three years with nine channels and the most appallingly bad commercials, truly, you cannot even fathom the writing and acting during these 30 second stints reminding you not to open 80 credit cards or to be sure not to shake your baby. These ads were aimed at young military men and women, and while it may be helpful to recognize many of those young adults may never have been taught what feels like common sense, they certainly are smart enough to mute bad commercials or torrent their favorite shows from back home. Upon the sweet smell of freedom and recession, we made the wise decision to purchase a top-notch cable plan, because dammit we deserved it. It was pretty great for that year or so. We were able to watch Home Alone 1 and 2, Cool Runnings, MacGruber and other gems no less than 20 times. If I needed a confidence boost, I just popped over to TLC, and absorbed some useless information about the disturbing greed some parents have in this world, needing 20 children, wanting to dye their children’s eye-lashes so they pop, or simply finding one more thing to argue about in a tattoo shop. What the hell are people learning on this channel? I challenge someone to share with me. Anyway, off the soap box, guilty pleasures are important, but they’re also intoxicating because they allow us to be mentally lethargic, and that’s the last thing this country needs. Get rid of cable, save a good chunk of change in this challenging economy, perhaps go for a walk, practice some yoga or pilates, play a sport, whatever you like to get the energy back to those couch sores we all acquired from hours in sedentary lockdown, and opt instead to watch a great movie from any variety of genres, a classic TV show you may have never seen or could enjoy again, catch up on your satirical news and watch full episodes of the Daily Show and Colbert Report online, or god forbid read a book. I’ve been watching significantly less TV regardless, but eliminating cable was a catalyst in being even more productive and in absorbing valuable content, material that sticks with me, requires my attention and thought and therefore seeks to better me as a human being, in one way or another. Keep your cable if you can afford it, good for you, but maybe peruse the alternatives I’ve provided below for a little boost in the brainwaves. Stave off Alzheimer’s and other mental deterioration by unwinding with quality, in food, content, and company.

I’m going to take a cue from Doug Benson and provide my own 8 word reviews that you can elect to read and move onto the next, or continue on through each review. They’re short and sweet, kind suggestions for good people to explore different options.

Paul- Two men, one lady cuss with an alien. I start off with a film you’ve probably heard of and maybe even seen. Paul stars two of my favorite comic geniuses, period. Never mind that they’re British, which makes them inherently funnier, less likely to be offended and therefore more likely to seek the smart route to the joke instead of just dressing up like a lady or throwing a bunch of celebrities on screen for 8 minutes at a time in an attempt to tell an excessively phony, non-funny story for the public to spend millions on week after week. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, the two leading gentleman from such masterpieces as Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz (if you haven’t seen either of these, I don’t know what to say), starting way back in the cult classic sitcom Spaced (also directed by Edgar Wright, an editing genius with a great feel for timing), star in Paul as two comic book nerd best friends just leaving San Diego’s famous ComicCon, driving their Winnebago to the site where the famous Roswell incident took place, Area 51 in Arizona. As fate would have it, out in the middle of nowhere, they encounter an alien named Paul, a pawn for our government for many years, now strategizing a way back to his home planet. Through his decades on our planet and in our country, Paul has learned English and a veritable amount of skills typically belonging to humans, while offering his mind and body for endless testing and use for us to gain advantage.

The information provided above is all you need to know. Sure, it’s implausible but so is Transformers and people keep giving Michael Bay billions of dollars. This has some ingredients most Bay films do not, talented writing and actors. Beyond my two favorite British actors, there’s a short list of comedic stars that I will pay to see anywhere. A personal icon for me, a woman providing laughter on all screens, Kristen Wigg, plays an important and beyond hilarious role when the boys meet her in a campground. My fantasy husband, well, one of them, Jason Bateman, plays an underling to those fat-cats desperate to catch Paul and bring him back to their control. Another SNL genius, Bill Hader, along with Joe LoTruglio, play likably idiotic cops determined to be in on an investigation they mostly know nothing about. And the lovable Seth Rogen provides his distinctive voice to animate Paul. I watched this movie at home, with my comfort food eating cohorts, and we all laughed hard throughout and were pleasantly surprised by how much we loved it. Laughter is a gift, give it to yourself. Watch Paul.

The Proposition- A bloody bearded man has really tough days. Now for a serious selection. My brother went to film school, and my husband’s currently studying cinematography at an arts school as well, so needless to say I’ve watched a slew of old, new, hardly seen, seen by all, weird, disturbing, heart-warming and every other type of film you can imagine. Many have been great, some have been meh. It’s adorable to hear what people choose to hate, basically because it’s cool and fad to hate something most people and critics loved, but then also the ridiculous nonsense people attach themselves to; I suppose we’re all snobs for something. I’m certainly writing to encourage better choices so I carry my own snobbery, but I can tell you I wouldn’t suggest something simply because it was odd or perceived as cool in some strange world. The Proposition is an Australian western worth its salt and I highly recommend it.

We watched this beautifully shot film on our friend’s projector, with my brother’s bluray copy. Not too shabby. It stars Guy Pearce, someone I’ve always found to be attractive because of his projection of depth, both in skill and in emotion. He seems perpetually unsatisfied and I like people whose minds work that way, I feel it lends to some memorable creativity, but that may just be me. Anyway, he’s understated and exquisite in this movie. After a tragic shooting and raping spree (this film is violent, but only in necessary spurts. It drives the story, forces you to deal with the reality of that time.), his younger brother is wrongfully imprisoned with the threaten of hanging unless his long-time criminal older brother is brought to justice, meaning Guy’s character must kill his older brother to save his innocent one. Heavy shit. Ray Winstone gives a gripping performance as the authority figure behind this deal, seemingly trying to save all he can, including his own wife, from the bleak reality and danger. The story builds beautifully, provides such a gut-wrenching dilemma that you’re invested the whole way through this very heart-wrenching story. Rent it, buy it, watch it somehow.

Black Dynamite- A perfect man gives us lessons in charisma. This is a movie I’d been wanting to see forever, somehow I saw the preview or read something about it a while back and was never able to get my hands on it until now. Luckily, it now lives in our household, so I can watch it whenever I want, alone. This is a satirical Blaxploitation film, taking place in the 70’s, led by the most beautiful man I’ve maybe ever seen. Michael Jai White plays Black Dynamite, an ex-CIA agent, master in Kung Fu, seeks revenge for his brother’s death and will roundhouse any drug dealer and screw any hoard of women on his path to justice. This movie parodies the many films made by white men in the 70’s, seeking only to exploit black stereotypes. They were written, directed and therefore also acted quite poorly. They’re an important part of our cinematic history and for the genre to be spoofed by brilliant minds who created a genius script, adhering to old directing styles for humor and brilliantly casting the lead and supporting characters made this film a success on many levels. I want more people to see this.

Whether you’re a man or a woman, you’re going to have to adjust to Black Dynamite’s inherent magnitude, sexuality and charisma. He’d charm the pants off of Hitler and is certainly welcome in our house, in any of our rooms and surfaces. Michael Jai White is a gentle, sweet, epically talented actor who carries 8 black belts and the discipline and stillness of a martial artist. That fact alone makes his transformation into Black Dynamite a feat of modern acting. Sure, the character is a brilliant action star, and MJW performed the impressive stunts, but listening to his very interesting take on Blaxploitation and their approach to this film, then watching him transform into this enigmatic, larger than life persona on screen is mind-boggling. I’d imagine his wife enjoys this role very much. The costumes alone should win this film an Oscar. The plot is supported by some stellar actors, like comedy great Tommy Davidson, pure genius here, along with Sally Richardson-Whitfield as one of the female archetypes, oldie but goodies like Arsenio Hall and a long list of other talent providing many laughs and perfectly delivered irony to this delicious film. Can’t wait to watch it again.

The Perfect Host- Which one is the creepy weirdo in this story? We came across this film on our Netflix Instant Queue options. It is a bit frustrating that the company raised their prices, but you have to give them credit for pioneering rentals at home and giving us the ability to do what we do best, veg out on the couch, not even needing to get up to rent a flick, just scroll or search your options and see what happens. It’s nice to go into a film with limited knowledge or expectations, and that’s how this film was for me. I had no clue what I was getting into and I was happy to be brought through this creepy, darkly funny, psychological crime drama in a perpetual state of awe, disgust and confusion. This is a odd-ball pick, but it’s worth watching because it’s fairly original, well acted and pretty damn entertaining.

The main reason this movie succeeds is because of David Hyde Pierce. That’s right. The slightly effeminate brother from Frasier lends his acting chops to this very dense role as a man hosting a sought out criminal, played by Clayne Crawford (sounds like the next winner of Nashville Star). Through various flashbacks and editing we conclude Clayne’s character has committed some sort of robbery and has sustained an injury on his foot, quickly realizing he has not committed the perfect crime and needs a safe hideout, cleverly choosing a rich neighborhood and ultimately settling on a lone David Hyde Pierce. Although we lack details initially, waiting for those important facts to emerge as the story evolves becomes an engaging game of cinematic Clue, leading down a dark, bizarre road, constantly questioning motives, truth and who to pull for. Describing additional events and plot details would only spoil the fun as this is a twisty, turny, wacky genre bending film you should see for yourself and make up your own mind. It was a selection and winner of many great film festivals and deserves the viewership it’s building. Hope you can catch it.

Now, I’d like to casually recommend some great TV on DVD (or the internet), whether you seek it out for purchase, or find some way to rent it, watch it online. I’ve have years worth of musings and scribe detailing my love for what I believe in my soul to be the greatest situational comedy ever made; past, present, future yet to be determined. This show is Arrested Development. If you consider yourself to have a good sense of humor and you’ve yet to see AD, shame on you. It stars my aforementioned dream man, Jason Bateman, and a handful of the best comedic actors of this or any time. I’ve watched every single episode numerous times, and still find new ways to laugh, tiny comedic nuances, and a life-time of humor funnier than anything on any network at any time. If you think you have taste in comedy, then I dare you to watch Party Down. This is akin to Arrested Development, but on Starz, so with nudity, creative use of curse words, hysterical cameos and very entertaining plots for each episode. AD and PD are two of the smartest, most irreverent, witty shows with uniquely hilarious ensemble casts that were taken away from us too soon, but now given life due to critical and cultural success, with movies and future episodes along the way. I cannot fricken wait!

I humbly request we up the ante on how we spend our free time. There is some quality television out there, I’ve written about a few (Breaking Bad, Wilfred, Louie, some shows on Comedy Central), but we seemed doomed to the reality tv bullshit that drains our synovial fluid and wastes our neurons, for good. Our bodies regenerate every 7 years, so with care and good nutrition, we can stay on top of aging. Once hitting adulthood, our brains start to deteriorate, with the only option being how slowly we allow it to dissolve. By wisely choosing what we absorb, even through the joy of entertainment, we can stay ahead of the rate and quality with which we age. It seems a very redundant message at this point, but quality in life is all that matters; in the food you digest, content you ingest, and those you allow to lay on your chest. Choose wisely.

Laugh. Think. Cry. Demand more. Seek more. Be more. Enjoy.