Bells ring; drums, ring; hell, even freedom rings.
This is not a ring.
More akin to a whistley whine.
Or a whiny whistle?

That never stops.
It’s not a pulsating, or a sireny whine;
It’s one, single, unbroken note,
Like a dead guy slumped over his car horn.

That’s always there.
I can’t ever not hear it.
Even when I’m not listening to it,
I’m still hearing it.

It’s not deafening.
I still hear the chirps of crickets, the coo of an infant.
I hear everything. And I also hear this.
It’s like putting ketchup on your ketchup.

Many things in this life are fleeting;
Here today, gone tomorrow.
Friends, lovers may leave, but never you,
Tinnitus, my lifetime companion.

Coming 2 America: “Sequel to an old movie nobody asked for.”

That tagline is not mine; it’s a line uttered by one of the characters in the movie, during one of its many moments of self-awareness.

Coming 2 America isn’t so much a sequel, or a movie, for that matter, as it is a showcase for black talent, both old and new, and an embarrassingly high amount of “Remember this from the first movie? Well, here it is again, with absolutely no embellishments! Laugh, dammit!”

The showcase is more star-studded than the last twenty Tyler Perry films combined. I ain’t kidding–everybody is up in this piece. Except Tiffany Haddish, even though she was in some of the promo posters. Not sure what happened there. Anyway, it feels like the writers were instructed to come up with convoluted scenes to cram in celebs and up-and-comers, and worry about the story later.

Ahem. The “story.” Upon his father’s passing, Prince Akeem is now King Akeem of Zamunda, a vibraniumless fictional African nation. To help prevent war with the neighboring country Nexdoria (facepalm), a male heir must be found who can marry the Nexdorian general’s daughter, because even still, women are not allowed to rule because, tradition. Akeem must go back to Queens to find his bastard son because, tradition. Lavelle is resistant at first, then he isn’t, then he is again because, reasons? Never mind. Here’s another clip from the first movie.

The costumes are okay, with the possible exception of these Black Panther throwaways.

The “jokes.” Every single throwback joke can be seen coming from miles away. Miles. And, while there were quite a few times when I laughed out loud, most of the new humor elicited far more groans, coming off like material even BET sitcoms would’ve rejected. A scene of the Nexdorian soldiers training with Shake Weights (2009) and Dance Dance Revolution (1999) is either an attempt at some Airplane!/Naked Gun-type humor, or a commentary on how behind the times some African nations are. Either way, NOT. FUNNY.

This scene? Not in the film. Too bad, because women+guns=HAWT.

Leslie Jones and Tracy Morgan show up to do their Leslie and Tracy schtick, and they hit all the appropriate and expected notes. If they’re your cup of tea, you’ll laugh. And, as film franchises like National Lampoon’s Vacation, Police Academy, and Revenge of The Nerds have shown, making toothless PG-13 sequels of R-rated comedy classics does everyone a disservice. Really, Hollywood. Stop it. Learn from Borat and Deadpool. Keep it R.

Coming 2 America might have been better received as some sort of made-for-TV reunion special with musical numbers and dance routines. I will admit though, Eddie Murphy and Wesley Snipes acted their butts off with this mediocre material. They simply must do more movies together. If you haven’t seen them in Dolemite is my Name (excellent movie; 5 out of 5 stars; it’s that good), watch it. Now. Jermaine Fowler is better in Sorry To Bother You. Actually, everybody’s better in everything else. Coming 2 America isn’t the worst movie ever, but it’s not good, either. More cringeworthy than actually funny. One and a half out of five stars.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

My Bandcamp release: Free download.

The Wordsmith is also a Soundsmith.

I’ve been a fanatic of the good folks behind Mystery Science Theater 3000, Rifftrax, Cinematic Titanic, and many of the offshoot projects of Joel Hodgson, Michael J. Nelson, Kevin Murphy, et. al. So, I figured what better way to pay homage than by taking some of the songs from some of the infamously bad movies they’ve riffed, and remixing, reediting, and flipping them.

Have a listen to It Stinks. Then download the entire album for free. I’d love to know what your favorite track is.

Crawley: My first #storyamonthchallenge entry.

Having successfully completed an entire year’s worth of daily very short stories, also known as #vss365, I’m taking on my next writing challenge: One short story a month for 12 consecutive months.

My first story was inspired by the prompt: An accountant has lost his umbrella.

You can read it over on Wattpad, for free even.
Jan. 2021 #Storyamonthchallenge: Crawley – Crawley – Wattpad

Disney/PIXAR’s Soul: I know you got it.

Family films don’t come any cuter than this. Soul is a very strong contender for my most favorite of the Disney/PIXAR films, threatening to knock Finding Nemo from its top spot. Probably after I’ve watched it as many times as I’ve watched Finding Nemo, it’ll be my #1.

Stories about what happens to your soul after it leaves (or before it comes to) your body have been told and retold in many different ways, and it’s a fun concept to play around with. Lots of authors and film directors have crafted tales about the afterlife, pre-life, or that fuzzy grey area between life and afterlife. Heck, I myself have a few. So, the main idea behind Soul isn’t exactly a new one. But they do such a fantastic job of putting a fresh, entertaining spin on it.

Our hero is Joe Gardner, a piano playing man who is eternally hopeful that his big break is just around the corner. He makes ends meet by being a middle school band teacher, but that gig does little to feed what he feels is his true passion. He thinks he’s on his way to the big time when he lands another substitute gig in a jazz quartet fronted by one of his idols, but because of a freak accident, he’s fast-tracked to the Great Beyond.

Joe is understandably reluctant to say goodbye to his life. Truthfully, this brings up one of the few issues I have with the story: It’s presented as if Joe is the only soul who doesn’t want to ascend. With the way people are, I’d expect there to be millions of souls every day, trying to escape back to life. But sure, let’s pretend that Joe’s the only rogue. Anyway, he stumbles into becoming a mentor for souls who are on the brink of becoming lost. Some of these souls belong to living people, while others have yet to descend to Earth.

Heck if I know how to tell living souls from non-living ones. They all look like peppermint Mentos to me.

Joe is tasked with helping an “old” soul known only as 22, and while I think unassigned souls should be genderless, 22 is identified as a she. 22 has tried the patience of literal saints, so she’ll be a tough nut to crack. Joe cuts a deal with 22 that he thinks will get him back to his body before his chance at stardom goes by the boards. Many hijinks and shenanigans ensue along the way, and Joe and 22 learn quite a bit about what it means to be truly alive. And to be a cat.

Soul is a pleasing watch, with the jokes coming at you rapid-fire (one of the reasons it warrants repeat viewing), and giving you the feels while not becoming sickly-sweet and sappy. It’s visually stunning, especially on a 4K television, and contains lots of music without becoming a musical. See it if you haven’t, and see it again if you have. Four out of five stars.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

WW84: Oh, how I wish…

…it were a better movie. Or at least shorter by about an hour.

I’ve always been a believer that in the big Marvel vs. DC movies, the DC films get a bad rap; that they lack the bombast and grandiosity of the blockbusters featuring Iron Man, Cap, Thor, et. al. Indeed, there’s room in my comic book geeky heart for both film universes. My favoritest among the DC films contained equal parts action, comedy, spectacle, and a little bit of human interest to glue it all together. WW84 is disappointingly short on action, and there are many overlong chunks of movie when neither Wonder Woman, nor Diana, are even on the screen. I watched it on HBO Max at home, and, to be honest, if I were watching it in a big dark room with comfy reclining seats, I would have nodded off more than once. Bad DC films like Green Lantern and Suicide Squad may have been poorly-written, hammily-acted, and sloppily-directed, but at least they weren’t boring. WW84 slow burns and never catches fire.

How do you follow up a film where the hero helps to end World War I (or “the war,” as it was known then), then battles and defeats the Greek god of war? I dunno, how about a greedy wannabe tycoon and a mousy Catwoman knockoff? Um, how about not. And the questionable movie moments don’t stop there. An ancient stone that grants wishes (at a price, of course) becomes a guy who grants wishes, Diana’s long-deceased first love comes to inhabit the body of some nameless schlub, and demure Barbara Minerva transforms into a furry killing machine. As with all superhero flicks, there’s a certain amount of handwaving necessary to keep the viewer engaged. WW84 strains our suspension of disbelief to such uncomfortable extremes, that after a while you just roll your eyes, shrug and sigh, “Fine. Let’s move on.”

It starts off promisingly enough, with a flashback to preteen Diana kickin’ butt back on Themyscira, and learning a lesson about truth. Then it switches to a shopping mall in suburban D.C., where grownup Diana mops the floors with a gaggle of petty thieves. The momentum abruptly dies off after that. The title of the film, of course, alludes to the year in which the action is taking place: 1984. There’s big hair, shoulder pads, day-glo colors and Reaganomics everywhere. The only thing that doesn’t look period is Wonder Woman herself.

“Okay Gal, take a few days off, cuz you’re not gonna be in the movie for quite a while.”

We first saw Diana as some sort of anthropologist in present-day in Batman v Superman and Justice League, but she’s doing the same gig here, so she must have gotten into it several decades ago? So, is this a prequel? Well, kinda. At the very least, we already know Diana won’t die in 1984 if she’s still around today, so her little encounter with mortality holds no tension at all.

Diana, despite being an Amazon demigod, still carries a torch for regular human Steve Trevor some sixty-plus years after his death, and she wishes he was back in her arms. So, no other stand-up guys crossed her path in all that time? Even newly-resurrected Steve has trouble believing that. Wishing Steve back almost costs Diana her life, so she’s even willing to sacrifice her mission on Earth for him. Will she come to her senses and unwish her wish (which is, apparently, something everyone can do)? Well like I said, this takes place 36 years ago, so…

The concept of the infamous Invisible Jet is thrown in strictly for fanservice, and does nothing to further the plot, and is quickly forgotten about when Diana realizes she can fly. No, she didn’t remember her mother telling her that she was given the gift of flight by the gods; she remembers some throwaway dialogue from Steve about taming the wind or something like that. Thank the gods for Steve, huh?

Besides Barbara/Cheetah, there’s another seemingly nonevil person letting power corrupt him: Maxwell Lord finds out about the Dreamstone um…somehow, and takes over it, then it takes over him. Then, the Dreamstone grants wishes to everyone on the planet, even without them touching it because…reasons? And Barbara becomes a half-human/half-animal because…more reasons. Sigh. Let’s just move on.

The golden armor and wings that’s been seen all over promotional posters and bags of Doritos makes a brief appearance, and is summarily dismissed almost as quickly as the Invisible Jet. The battle between Wonder Woman and Cheetah is so poorly lit, it might as well have been one of those robots-in-a-blender fights from the Transformers movies.

Bottom line: While the first movie was a four-star affair, WW84 only garners two out of five stars from this DC movie lover. I liked Green Lantern better (three stars), if that tells you anything.

Rating: 2 out of 5.
13 year-old me would have been inside the Time-Out video arcade, and would’ve missed the entire fight.