Hoodlum is really a pretty terrible movie

so, recently a little film called American Gangster came out, starring Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe and, most importantly of all, the RZA, and it’s a pretty good movie. so good, in fact, that i don’t think i need to convince you of the fact: let’s all just agree that it’s fucking awesome and be done with it. (though i will say that one highlight of the film for me was, when Denzel was about to lose it because they’d shot AT! MY! WIFE!, a guy back and to the right of me in the theater was like, “oh, here comes the Denzel face!” and then he made the face and pounded his chest. it was awesome.) however, what it brought to mind was another film from one decade past, wherein the guy who plays Bumpy Johnson in American Gangster plays a goon working for Dutch Schultz and Laurence Fishburne plays Bumpy Johnson: Hoodlum.

…and it’s pretty fucking terrible.

Hoodlum, i guess
seriously, just look at this poster: no good can come from this at all

…and i would know, because i think i’ve seen this movie about 13000 times. it comes on cable constantly (in fact, it’s on RIGHT NOW), and i’m drawn to watching it like a train wreck: i stop what i’m doing, stare in horror and think to myself “my god, those poor people.”

direction: look, Bill Duke has a cool-as-hell name and i will always have a soft spot for him after he appeared in some ridiculous roles alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1980s (keep on shaving with that disposable razor in the jungles of Central America, Bill!), but please don’t try and tell me he knows how to direct a film. okay, i grant you that i haven’t seen every last work of his (Deacons For Defense might have been good, i don’t know), but for crying out loud, the man directed Sister Act 2. SISTER ACT 2. i rest my case. and the direction in Hoodlum seems a little sloppy and he seems to be getting next to nothing out of the cast. there’s one scene in particular – a shoot-out between Dutch’s people and Madame St. Clair’s people – that seems oddly shot on a too-large and thus blatantly empty street; another stand-out oddly shot scene has Laurence Fishburne cutting a throat in a hotel – there’s weird slow-motion in there for no reason. everything just seems poorly framed, oddly transitioned; well-intentioned, maybe, but not good at all.

Furious Styles, in poorer times
seriously, Laurence, what do we call roles like these? “poor life decisions”

acting: i don’t know HOW Laurence Fishburne agreed to do this film, maybe he’s atoning for being a good actor in better films, or something like that. but it’s logical to cast him (he IS awesome) and hope that he can carry this film, which he can’t really do simply because this movie isn’t any good, and the rest of the cast isn’t doing him any favors at all. examples:

Tim Roth: he cannot act, and is intensely overrated by people that watch movies as far as i can tell. yeah, i love Reservoir Dogs to death, but he’s not the reason it’s any good and i could replace him in a heartbeat in that (and every other film) and not feel sad. oh, and he seems to fear that when you’re on a movie set with Charlton Heston and your kids, Heston’s likely to, you know, shoot your kids. proof of retardation found!

Vanessa Williams: i don’t care how many people think she’s good-looking (i mean, okay, she’s good-looking), she’s not a good actress. so she’s maybe servicible in films where she doesn’t have to do as much work, but here it’s just a lot of nonsense and her trying to give impassioned speeches to Fishburne. he doesn’t care, and neither do i.

Andy Garcia: i actually don’t hate Garcia, but while he doesn’t shine here, a colleague of mine would want you all to know that Andy Garcia being in a movie is proof that it sucks. but come on, Black Rain was a solid film! i mean it! sorry if it sounds sarcastic!

Chi McBride: seriously, seriously, Chi McBride is the worst actor ever. and every scene he’s in in this movie is him delivering lines terribly, trying to be hilarious with accents, poorly acting drunk and god only knows what else. his acting in this film makes me physically sick, and also makes me want to punch him in the face as hard as i can.

clearly no longer drunk on that King Kong
seriously, right in the face, as hard as i possibly can

the rest: beyond the above, this cast is clogged with overactors (Richard Bradford) and bad actors (Loretta Devine) and guys that Bill Murray is supposed to be declaring have no dicks (William Atherton). actually, i guess Clarence Williams – Bub in this film, Bumpy in American Gangster – does a pretty solid job, but i also like that guy, so maybe i’m being generous. there’s also a guy (i THINK it’s Ellis Foster) who plays an undertaker and who is just uncomfortable to look at. and that whole thing with the Salke Brothers was just creepy. don’t get me started on THAT one.

conclusion: please, please, please don’t watch this film, because i don’t want you ending up like me, watching it once, being scarred for life, and watching it again. and i’m pretty sure the way this film ends, it’s supposed to come off like Bumpy Johnson set everything right with everyone and left his life of crime behind to be an awesome dude. what kind of shit is that?

in which we give thanks for the American right to be totally lazy

since i spent my pre-Thanksgiving baking a tower of pies so large that to stack them up and sit on top of them would force God to make you speak Romanian because, you know, he’s a prankster like that, i have no real update. i’m sorry, i fail, i know. and i don’t even have a great wild turkey fight story either! so, instead, enjoy this blast from the past (08.22.2003) about my asshole ex-boss. i think i was telling this story at work the other day. good times…

now, i’m about to relate to you a story from a local newspaper around these parts that makes me very, very happy. but before i do, you have to understand something. see, my job before my bag-swabbing festivities was customer service for an express shipping reseller, at which i had a boss named Chance, AKA Constanza. i admit, if you don’t know anything about him, this won’t seem as good.

i’ll go a little further and say that my ex-boss Chance is basically like George Costanza from Seinfeld, but with some white hair instead of no hair. he lies, he steals, he cost the company so much money they laid off everyone that didn’t own part of it, and he went to the bathroom loudly and odor-ly in a small office area.

anyways, so, my mother’s friend, who was my old office manager, tells her that “Chance is going to jail.” so, of course, when this news trickles back to me, i get all excited, even though my mother doesn’t know WHY. i suppose it’s worth telling that, once, he got drunk and drove his car into a tree in someone’s yard, THEN drove off, THEN drove back and got arrested by the police. ADDITIONALLY, that caused the following: we’re at work, and Chance’s lawer calls, and i transfer him to my office manager.

office manager: can i help you?
chance’s lawyer: yes, is Craig Walgran there?
OM: no, i’m afraid he’s out of town on business.
CL: oh… because he’s due in court in TWO HOURS.
OM: ahahaha

then she told me about it and i said “ahahaha.” somehow, though, he didn’t get in trouble for this, which leads me to believe that he might have the best lawyer of all time. in the end there’s lots of shady shit this fuck did and lots of hilarious lectures people gave him, but my mother passed a local newspaper on to me, and it had this article i HAVE to share with you, and so i tracked it down and here it is.

Jilted lover sentenced for assault on rival
An Annapolis man who police said crept into the Harwood home of a woman he was dating and severely beat her 77-year-old ex-husband as he slept was sentenced yesterday to a month in jail.
A lawyer for Craig Chance Walgran, 50, said his client flew into a fit of rage when he arrived at Leah Holland’s house at 4565 Polling House Road on Thanksgiving night and found Peter Prins of Annapolis sleeping in her bed.
Walgran has since gotten over the relationship and is not a danger to commit further crimes, Annapolis attorney John A. Adams said.
But Assistant State’s Attorney Frederick M. Paone said Walgran’s attack was premeditated, shockingly violent and deserving of a stiff punishment.
He played a series of profanity-laced voice mails Walgran left for Ms. Holland hours after the attack in which he threatened to finish what he started. The language was so obscene that it prompted a deputy sheriff in the courtroom to ask a woman in the gallery to take her young daughter outside.
“You tell that old man this is just the beginning. … I will (expletive) kill him, I promise you,” Walgran said in one message.
Later, after police called his house, he left Ms. Holland another message saying, “I love you. I wish I didn’t. Any normal man would walk way from this entire crazy scenario. But I can’t because I love you.”
After he was arrested for assault and burglary, he made one final call from jail, telling Ms. Holland, “I can’t believe you’re doing this.”
“What we’re hearing is the rantings of a dangerous, desperate man,” Mr. Paone told the court.
Walgran initially posted a $35,000 bond and was released. But his bail was revoked in January when he violated a no-contact order. For that he received a year of probation. A telephone harassment charge is pending in District Court.
Walgran entered an Alford plea to misdemeanor assault and first-degree burglary charges June 3. Technically a guilty plea, it allows him to maintain his innocence while admitting the evidence against him would likely result in a conviction.
According to the account given to police by Ms. Holland and Mr. Prins, Walgran used a key to enter the house and then cut the power off in the basement. Mr. Prins was awakened by his dogs just in time to see a man rushing at him in the dark.
He suffered a broken nose, a torn ear and a concussion that led him to develop vertigo.
“I could hear the skin crack and felt blood rush down my face,” he said.
Walgran said he went to Pennsylvania at Ms. Holland’s urging to celebrate the holiday with relatives. Later that day she called him and invited him to spend the night with her.
“I deeply regret this incident. It is out of character,” he said. “I guess matters of the heart do sometimes produce an unusual circumstance.”
Judge Manck suspended the balance of a three-year sentence, giving Walgran credit for eight months spent on house arrest.
Ms. Holland and Mr. Prins, who were married for 17 of the 30 years they’ve been friends, said Walgran got off easy.
“It’s just a real kick in the stomach,” she said.
Mr. Smith said the sentence was fair, given that most of the facts were in dispute.

in other words, FUCK YEAH, LOCK THAT BITCH UP.

11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month = extra government money!

i admit this is somewhat belated (hey, go easy on me, i suffered a head injury recently), but in honor of Armistice Day (as Kurt Vonnegut would want me to call it), i thought it would be nice to take a look back at some forgotten veterans of note who, let’s be frank about this, accomplished more than you have, Mr. Internet User. no, watching Saving Private Ryan isn’t the same thing as being there! anyway, chronologically:

Lee, Lawrence, Thomas
to the right, Thomas is showing these clean-shaven fools how a real man wears a beard

American Revolutionary War: Henry “Light Horse” Lee III
this one is sort of a sop to my grandfather Zippy: aside from his above-and-beyond hero George Washington, he’s all about the Henry Lee, to the point where he tells me facts about him all the time. did i know that Robert E. Lee was his son? YES. but he outfoxed the British back in the day (say, at Paulus Hook) and, frankly, what other officers from the American Revolution does anyone remember? the traitor Benedict Arnold? hell, it even turns out that Mel Gibson didn’t actually spear a horse with a flag in that war! anyway, Lee died of injuries suffered at the hands of a mob in Baltimore (we call it Mobtown for a reason, i guess) … and Zippy has never forgiven them.

War of 1812: James Lawrence
well, okay, not our finest hour: our capitol got burned down and i think we kicked more British ass AFTER the war ended than while it was, you know, going on. plus, we have to make an effort to think of someone not named Andrew Jackson here. James Lawrence is that captain of the USS Chesapeake known for having a solid naval career and for inventing the popular naval catchphrase “fight her ’til she sinks and don’t give up the ship.” and since his men gave up the ship right after that, he’s also known for inventing irony.

American Civil War: George Henry Thomas
i know some people consider him one of those “forgotten generals” of the Civil War; this is probably because he didn’t have the fierce beard of his contemporaries or, in the case of Stonewall Jackson, a legion of devoted rednecks signing his praises. still, this may have spared me from seeing a version of him in those awful Civil War movies like Gods & Generals. but for crying out loud, aside from holding it down for the Union at Chattanooga and Nashville, the man also earned the nickname “the Rock of Chickamunga.” what exactly is YOUR nickname, again?

Daly, Wingate, Ripley
not pictured: Yancey; i mean, the guy DID get shot in the face twice, so…

World War I: Dan Daly
granted, Daly had two Medals of Honor before he ever went to WWI (or as some of my forefathers called it, “time to kill whatever Germans think it’s okay to fuck around in Belgium”), one for killing and wounding scores of Boxers in the Boxer Rebellion and another for fighting in Haiti. still, with no medals we’d still have to recognize that “come on, you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?” quote he threw out there in Belleau Wood. yeah, this year we’re celebrating the originators of famous quotes. deal with it.

World War II: Orde Wingate
we’re going to step away from the Americans for a minute – since Spielberg has totally played us out during this war and everything – to commemorate the man who gave us the greatest group name of all time, the Chindits (or at least, the greatest until reality ruined it for me). he’s known for the creation of awesome little groups like the Chindits, the Gideon Force, the Special Night Squads, and so on, as well as for the fact that he ate onions and ran around partially undressed on occasions. i mean, you know, that’s how it goes with the geniuses.

Korean War: John Yancey
i’m just going to say that, if i recall correctly, he may have been knocked around by a hand grenade and shot in the head twice (once in the mouth, once in the nose) in one battle in the Korean War (see also: the Chosin Reservoir) and still managed to trade sassy remarks (such as responding Chinese soldiers yelling “GI, you die” with “you first” and some .45 ACP rounds) during the battle.

Vietnam War: John Walter Ripley
he’s the guy who, during the Easter Offensive, almost single-handedly blew up the Dong Ha bridge (yes, i know, i just used the word “dong,” grow up) and stopped a major North Vietnamese advance. to reward him, the Navy gave him their highest honor: a diorama at the Naval Academy. and a Navy Cross or something. it happens that i saw his uniform at the Marine Corps Museum we have near these parts, and let me tell you this: i’ve never wanted to salute a pair of pants so much in my entire life.

…also, did you know it’s considered disrespectful to celebrate Veteran’s Day by ambushing your grandfather and telling him to use his Marine training to defend himself? who knew?

unsolicited advice: the november 2007 edition

sometimes it’s nice to read those newspaper advice columns where some woman’s smiling face tries to dispense advice to people who ask for it; all very well-meaning and occasionally helpful when said smiling face isn’t getting scammed by an urban legend making the rounds. however, it occurs to me that the people who could REALLY benefit from newspaper advice are never going to ask for it because they’re cruising around blissfully unaware that they suck at something they can fix. so let me just step in and help these guys out.

the combover is over
wow, until the wind struck it, i was completely fooled by that incredibly lifelike combover!

guys with combovers
listen, seriously, no one is fooled: your haircut is a blatant combover and when you work energetically, it comes apart in a fashion that you’re blissfully unaware of and which we all find hilarious. and even at its best, it never looks attractive, only sad. granted, it’s probably hard to say goodbye to the hairstyle that served you well during your youth in the 1970s, but what you need to do at this point is one of the following: a) shave it all over and rock a real man’s hairstyle or b) cultivate what you have remaining in a non-delusional fashion. you’ll feel better about it, we’ll make fun of you less, everyone wins.

“cool” guys pushing 40 in bars
we all know about the old guy in the club who’s not really an old guy, just a little too old to be in the club. there is a relative of this man, however, who is the very, very cool guy who’s pretty much doing the same thing at bars – dunking himself in cologne, wearing shirts that show way too much chest, hitting on 20-year-old girls, talking loudly in his “cool” voice – and somehow thinking it’s okay because he’s not at a discoteque. it’s not okay. no one thinks it’s cool, and those 20-year-olds are just interested in you dropping a few $20s on their bar tab before they ditch you for the evening. i don’t know what to tell you guys, though; maybe just stay home with your friends and watch Sportscenter or something.

Rampage is better than Couture, anyway
he can bludgeon me into submission with ease, but i’m still not paying for THAT shirt

that guy that wears a lot of Affliction t-shirts
you know, i like Randy Couture; he seems like a nice guy and he could certainly kick MY ass if he really wanted to. so i understand a desire to wear clothing that reminds you of his power and might. however, you’re still a) wearing a fucking $60 t-shirt, a price a t-shirt should never reach unless it’s made of 50% heroin and you can chew it to get high, and b) not a badass. wearing an Affliction shirt doesn’t make me think you can kick my ass; it makes me think you THINK you can. i admit that i’m tiny and you probably can kick my ass, but i have a feeling that this thesis might get you in trouble with normal-sized men. and frankly, i don’t think these t-shirts are even attractive.

whatever asshole is keeping me from getting more King of the Hill DVD sets
seriously, you idiot, i love this show and i want these DVDs to get cranked out regularly. why am i still waiting for season seven after all these years? i admit, okay, that America lacks my excellent taste in shows and i admit further that i could have made this a less-specific complaint that covers more neglected DVD releases, but fuck all that noise until i get my King of the Hill!

okay, that’s enough for now. i remain confident that i will need to correct many more of you in the future, though.

janklow stars in … Ohio: where everyone is way too nice

while not as large-scale as my recent journey to Minnesota, even MORE recently, my illustrious associate Jae Millz and i recently decided that we’d travel out to the Midwest for the wedding of a colleague who’d moved out there to go to school and then, apparently, get married. i’m not going to say whether or not the promise of an open bar had anything to do with this, but i WILL say that the last time J was on the scene, he found Colombus to be “way too nice,” and declared that a team of Maryland-bred assholes could “take that shit over” with ease. a wedding, lots of free alcohol AND the possibility of taking the state of Ohio over and running it like a fiefdom? sign us up! but first, we’ll need a vacation checklist:

[x] drive through some of the most depressing areas of the US
[x] make fun of West Virginia and/or rednecks
[x] examine graffiti from here to Ohio (and possibly back again)
[x] go to a wedding and drink, drink, drink

and once again, let’s boring this up with conversation!

chapter I: West Virginia is DEPRESSING
so, this time on the way to Ohio, we drove a different route than my last Ohio travels, through an area that, frankly, should be its own state: a combination of southwestern Pennsylvania, West Virginia (which is itself often depressing) and southeastern Ohio that is basically the same damn place and also filled with dying small towns and no more industry and so on. you can actually add western Maryland to that if you like, because it’s all the same deal. but there were some light-hearted observations:

-so, RIGHT after cruising out of my house – and this has nothing to do with the trip, actually – i saw a raggedy sign posted on a sign bearing the speed limit that read simply “LOST DOG.” is it just me, or is this is not an effective way of notifying people about your lost dog? how am i supposed to know what it looks like, or what it answers to? what do i do with it if i find it? so many questions!

-town of West Alexander, it’s possibly not the best sales pitch to paint “EXPERIENCE WEST ALEXANDER” on a falling-apart wooden barn, unless this was less sales pitch and more “depressing realization of life in WV.”

-minutes after crossing into West Virginia, we happened to see some classy example of the White Trash Tribe throwing his dumpy, overweight white trash girlfriend/wife/sister out of his car. this was such a classic (and stereotypical) WV moment that we had to laugh about it.

on the way back, we had to take a detour through another small town and tried to lighten the mood by saying “get ready to get depressed.” unfortunately, you know, it may have happened anyway.

chapter II: Graffititrek 2007
now, i had commented during the discussion of my last trip that “graffiti in America is very, very unoriginal, especially in two places – bathroom stalls and anything like a wooden railing. bathroom stalls are sounding boards for various racist commentary and drawings i can only describe as “wangs and stuff.”” since this was sort of an inadvertent observation, we decided to make a note of the graffiti on the way out there, only to find that, apparently, people respect their bathrooms in PA, WV and OH. seriously, what the hell. in fairness, though, we DID find this cryptic symbol:

seriously, what?
my conspiracy theory in regards to this graffiti: it was created by alien astronauts who walked the earth before man

since all the graffiti in MD is about, as stated, racist stuff and “wangs and stuff,” i don’t even know where to begin when it comes to translating this, so while it’s lucky a camera was in the bathroom, it’s still not solving the mystery. and though we searched through every rest stop and gas station bathroom on the way there and back, there was basically nothing. until we returned to Maryland and stopped near Cumberland:

seriously, what?
everyone that stops at a rest stop to make notes about their wife has one of those wives with fidelity issues, it would seem

seriously, what?
honestly, i don’t think even Jesus wants very much to do with the kind of people frequenting this place, or their problems

seriously, what?
so THAT is how Larry Craig got into all that trouble!

…and that’s how we knew we were truly back in MD. it feels so good to be home! err, sort of.

but we did make it to the city that bears Columbus’ name and which is way too nice. and EVERYONE there is too nice: waitresses and bartenders and panhandlers who might or might not be homeless and crazy people in White Castle and so on. this is something we’re really not used to in Maryland, where you have to be prepared for everyone to act like an asshole, treat you like shit, and drive recklessly. i must have seen half-a-dozen people back out of city parking spaces in a trusting fashion, whereas in MD that shit gets your car into an accident and maybe you into a fight. okay, example: let’s say you order a beer in a public venue and they’re out of it.

server in Maryland: we’re out of that. (stares blankly at you)
server in Ohio: i’m sorry, i’m out of that. (RUNS DOWN TO NEXT STAND AND GETS YOU THE BEER THERE) sorry about that, here you go.


but the wedding went well, we drank and drank from the open bar and we didn’t even take advantage of the fact that we could have rampaged through the city of Columbus, unopposed by polite pedestrians and these cops that wear bright white uniform shirts, as if to imply they don’t have to soil themselves with things like “work” and “crime.” good times (and mild internet withdrawals) were had by all.