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The luster has worn off the lore of a no-hitter. Look at recent history and you’ll find ridiculous names like Bud Smith, Philip Humber, Hideo Nomo (twice! once in Coors Field!) and even Chris Heston from earlier this week. But 45 years ago, the most remarkable athletic achievement in sports happened.

On June 12, 1970, Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Dock Ellis hurled a no-hitter while high on LSD.

I can’t begin to describe the difficulty of that accomplishment. Most people would struggle to stagger in anything that resembles a straight line when dropping acid. Dock Ellis scoffs at those amateurs.

The course of events that led to Dock Ellis’ LSD-driven dominance sounds like something from a rejected Major League sequel: Dock overslept and dropped acid because he thought it was still the previous day instead of his scheduled start against the San Diego Padres. Unbelievable. Is it too good to be true?

“One time I covered first base, and I caught the ball and I tagged the base all in one motion. I said, ‘Ooh, I just made a touchdown!'”

Unfortunately, MLB has apparently suppressed footage of Dock’s special adventure.

As a lifelong baseball fan and pitcher, I’ve been drawn to this astounding feat of freakishness. Imagine my excitement when I learned about No No: A Dockumentary. However, very little actual evidence from the no-hitter makes it into the movie (aside from a shot of the scoreboard) presumably because of MLB’s alleged mandate to blackout every piece of proof from this notorious performance.

Directed by Jeff Radice, this documentary finesses its way through Dock’s recollection of the no-hitter while interspersing augmented snippets of him pitching against various teams over several years. Considering the constraints due to the likely MLB embargo, it is an interesting and artistic way to represent the story.

Damn if I don’t want to see the entire game itself. How did he maintain his balance?

Just look at the box score from June 12, 1970, to get a glimpse into the chaos of that unlikely game. In his very first inning, Dock Ellis walks two batters. He walked two more batters in the 5th inning. And again, he walked two more batters in the 6th inning. In total, Dock Ellis struck out six while walking eight batters.

Effectively wild is an understatement. If one thing is clear, Dock Ellis could handle his fucking high.

Tongue

Instead of focusing exclusively on only one infamous day, No No provides an in-depth examination into Dock Ellis’ life by highlighting his tumultuous struggle with addiction and other noteworthy events in his notorious career. Dock claimed to have never pitched in an MLB game without being under the influence—one variety of drugs or another. But he wasn’t controversial simply for his drug use.

During the 70s on the heels of the Civil Rights Movement, black athletes were still not widely embraced. Keeping your head down and going about your business quietly probably seemed like the safest way to survive. Dock Ellis didn’t give a shit. You have to admire the man’s balls and brazen personality.

Even in today’s standards, Dock Ellis would be a breath of fresh air…and hair. Yes, Dock was such a pimp that he once wore hair curlers to produce sweat on his hair so he could throw a modified spitball. A security guard didn’t recognize Dock when he tried to enter the stadium with Big Willie Stargell so the guard decided to mace him. On May 1, 1974, Dock Ellis decided to launch a single-person assault on the Cincinnati Reds by hitting the first three batters of the game and unsuccessfully trying to hit the next two batters.

Why? Because Dock was high and crazy. They also probably looked at him wrong.

Curlers

Dock Ellis was unapologetically black. The man exuded charisma.

No one was going to stop Dock from being himself.

His cadence and storytelling flair elevate No No from a standard sports documentary into something slightly more meaningful. If you didn’t like him, you could go fuck yourself. Forget about Michael Jordan’s ball-less and bullshit stance about Republicans and Democrats both buying sneakers.

Dock Ellis wasn’t afraid to piss anyone off—fans, teammates, coaches, front office management. These flaws were contributing factors to Dock bouncing around from team to team before finding his way back to Pittsburgh for one last hurrah. Though troubled, Dock definitely comes across as a good, genuine person if you can manage to forgive some awful instances of violence against women while high.

The best insight into his true character can be found in a scene where Dock reads a letter he received from Jackie Robinson. Coming from such an important figure in our culture, I cannot envision any higher honor for Dock than that praise and encouragement heaped on him. It is an absolutely endearing moment to see and hear his tough exterior wilt as he starts to literally wail while reading the letter.

Despite turning his life around, Dock will surely be remembered forever as that guy who threw a no-hitter on acid. To the credit of No No: A Dockumentary, this movie shows that the man was much more than the myth of his legendary moment in the sun. Shining yet shameful at the same time.

Dock Ellis still deserves to be celebrated: the man, the myth, the legend.

Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test

4 out of 5 stars

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Early spring has been a tough time for movies.

After enduring weeks of bland nothingness, It Follows finally gave people something to talk about this year. Critics adore It Follows—hence a 96% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Hyperbole like “must-see horror movie of the year” has been rampant in reviews. And it is totally undeserved.

It Follows is unique in that it’s not a remake or sequel. Writer/director David Robert Mitchell deserves credit for creating an original idea within the horror genre. Although it is still about some type of supernatural entity, this being comes after you have sex with someone it is haunting. You move to the front of the line. If it kills you, then it works its way back down the line to the person who infected you.

Essentially, it is a curse passed through sex. Like an STD, get it?

Close Encounter

While it is an interesting premise, I never felt enthralled by It Follows. It isn’t necessarily a scary movie in terms of jump scares or overwhelmingly gory violence. However, It Follows does indeed follow some of those themes—very effectively in the opening when you see the contortioned body of the film’s first victim. But the “monster” in this movie is mostly a looming threat of impending doom.

The intention seems to be to establish a mood of constant anxiety and fear. The execution does not follow through on this intention. In some aspects, It Follows invokes a sense of nostalgia for John Carpenter’s horror movies of the 80s. Just without the spirit. There’s no fun even though the premise is rife for it. If more camp or any remotely appealing element were mined for enjoyment, then I could potentially champion this movie. It either takes itself too seriously or simply doesn’t know what it is.

It Follows features Maika Monroe as Jay—the girl who unknowingly got pulled into this situation after a consensual sexual encounter. Maika’s performance isn’t superb (as some suggest) but it is adequate. She was suitable for the role. My faults with the movie have nothing to do with her, but I don’t think she can carry a movie. At times, David Robert Mitchell mistakenly puts more on her shoulders than she can handle.

Maika Monroe

I did not enjoy the pouty-lipped, contemplative scenes where Jay is exploring her emotions.

Much like the monster’s gait, the pace of It Follows is slow and steady. Slow enough that it renders the steadiness irrelevant. While there is a pervasive feeling of foreboding, It Follows is not terrifying. There’s nothing wrong with a psychological approach, but this movie is dull and drab.

Ultimately, It Follows cannot escape its own clutches.

Why the widespread critic appeal? I suppose it is the result of an intentionally vague storyline rich with potential for allegories. Everything can be a metaphor for anything. Most critics will seize the opportunity to wax poetic with fabricated implications of hidden meanings. Whether or not this was done by David Robert Mitchell’s design, it appears to be a genuine factor in the film’s success among critics.

Personally, I found It Follows to be a jumbled, bizarre mess.

Peekaboo

Placing the movie in an abstract time is an example of uneven decision-making. Case in point, one of the friends of the main character has a shell-looking makeup compact that’s an e-reader despite the film’s mostly retro 70s era style. What purpose does it serve other than to distract?

It is quirk for the sake of quirk.

If you managed to miss It Follows when it was in theaters during March, then you didn’t miss much. For those who are ardent fans of the horror genre, then you probably already watched the movie and enjoyed it on some level. It Follows is not fantastic but it avoids being a generic regurgitation of common tropes. It might help if you imagine your own ending because the final act is almost unbearably dumb. Keep your expectations down to the bare minimum and you won’t walk away too disappointed.

Remember you can also find It Follows by the alternate title—Close Sexual Encounters of the Third Kind. Warning: do not click on this movie’s porn parody—Shit Follows. It will haunt you.

Haunting

2.5 out of 5 stars

The Giving Tree

Image  —  Posted: May 2, 2015 in Art
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Locke literally consists of Tom Hardy driving in a car and talking on the phone for 85 minutes.

Somehow, it is riveting. In a span of a month, I have watched Locke about 5 times. I can’t get this movie out of my mind. You can have your intricately choreographed fight scenes, insanely stupid explosions, and over-indulgent sense of self like the recently reviewed Kingsman: The Secret Service.

Locke is unlike any other movie. However, I want to be clear: this is not for most people. I’ve had a difficult time trying to review Locke because I don’t know who else is interested in this type of movie. With a simplistic story and approach, it’s difficult to imagine Locke resonating with a larger audience and achieving widespread appeal. The story is basic and bare, but the dialogue is exceptionally well-written.

Beyond all, it’s a phenomenal performance from Tom Hardy. One of our finest actors with incredible range, Hardy’s portrayal of Ivan Locke—a hard-working, blue-collar concrete foreman—is transcendent. If Tom Hardy can put forth a terrific understated performance loaded with nuances, then audiences should be legitimately excited for the upcoming Mad Max: Fury Road.

There is nothing that Tom Hardy can’t do.

When presented with the same lose-lose situation as Locke, most men would have driven off the road and straight over a cliff. Ivan Locke is not like most men. Despite the potential consequences, Locke makes a decision and drives in one direction towards a destination that will likely alter his life. In many respects, this movie could’ve been easily called Ivan and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

Tom Hardy

What sets this awful day in motion is the result of one lonely unfaithful night.

At the very beginning, Locke gets a phone call from the woman with whom he’s had an affair. On this fateful evening, a woman who is not his wife is giving birth to his child. With the biggest non-nuclear or military concrete pour scheduled early in the morning, Locke is abandoning his job so he won’t abandon his child. Although everything is crumbling around him, Locke is doing his best to keep it together.

As the movie rolls on, Locke’s sleeves are rolled up progressively higher as he wades through the shitstorm he has caused. Locke is a man on a mission to right his wrongs. Regardless of how bad something may seem, you can always get your hands dirty and make it better.

Even though Locke is clearly physically sick, he doesn’t use that as an excuse. While driving to the mother of his unborn child, Locke is going through his list and checking it twice to make sure he is doing everything he can to keep the morning’s humongous concrete pour on-schedule without complications. No one can see him sweat, but Locke takes great pride and responsibility in being accountable and serving as the rock for everyone else even while he’s crumbling to pieces.

Ivan Locke is a man that is all about practicality.

Once a mistake is made, you can’t go back in time and undo it. But Locke’s hope is that you can make it better. He has to believe it. He must. It is that hope that keeps him going.

Mirror

One of the more beautiful moments in Locke happens when Tom Hardy is describing what will happen if the foreman screws up the mixture of the concrete…

“My building will alter the water table and squeeze granite. It will be visible from 20 miles away. At sunset, it will cast a shadow probably a mile long. Now, if the concrete at the base of my building is not right, if it slips half an inch, cracks appear. Right? If cracks appear, then they will grow and grow, won’t they? And the whole thing will collapse.

You make one mistake—one little fucking mistake—and the whole world comes crashing down around you.”

It’s an allegory for Locke’s life.

While Ivan has taken great pride in his craft, he wasn’t as accountable in his personal life as he was professionally. The only time Locke stepped outside of his marriage has now resulted in a new life being brought into the world. That one (not so little) mistake has caused his life to slip beyond his control and now the rock-steady foundation he has cemented over years is crashing down directly on Locke.

As the Tom Waits of film, Locke is an experimental undertaking that is often uneven yet always captivating. Upon repeated viewings, there’s even more treasure to mine and more connections to make. While this Locke isn’t for everyone, this is my type of movie—cerebral, thought-provoking, and relatable in terms of being the type of man you want to be every day of your life.

A common theme in Locke revolves around what makes a man good.

Can Locke still be a good man despite cheating on his wife and fathering another child?

“The difference between once and never is the whole world.
The difference between never and once is the difference between good and bad.”

Good and bad, we are all a collection of our decisions and their consequences.

Frustration

4.5 out of 5 stars

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I don’t understand the appeal of Matthew Vaughn movies.

His relatively short directing career: Layer Cake, Stardust, Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class, and Kingsman.

Is there a good movie among them?

I’ve never watched Layer Cake, but it might be his best work. Stardust was an atrocious, unwatchable bomb. Kick-Ass is the most celebrated, but it was an overhyped turd that would’ve been unwatchable without Nicolas Cage. James Gunn’s Super was superior with better characters, writing, and acting. X-Men: First Class was occasionally interesting but still boring despite being an origin story for an iconic superhero group. All of these movies are either approaching 2 hours or even longer.

Someone needs to take a machete and start hacking away at the superfluous bullshit. Matthew Vaughn makes good use of visuals, but there is absolutely nothing beneath the surface. Kingsman is no different.

I get it, Kingsman is supposed to be a tongue-in-cheek take on the spy thriller genre. Trust me, there are enough references to James Bond to make you painfully aware that this is a parody of its overly serious tone. I’ve never cared about any 007 movie, which is a sure sign that this probably isn’t my type of movie.

Colin Firth

Colin Firth is fantastic as Harry Hart—codename Galahad—who is a select member of the secret spy organization responsible for stopping all major crimes around the world. However, Harry is perpetually scarred after his Kingsman recruit jumped on a bomb to save his life. Harry even delivered a bravery medal to the man’s wife and son with a hidden message that basically serves as a Get Out of Jail Free card should the young lad find himself in trouble.

That kid’s name: Gary “Eggsy” Unwin. Why is his nickname Eggsy? No fucking idea. Maybe it’s the actor’s name, but he’s Eggsy for the whole movie. I guess it’s a British thing, but it would be nice to know why.

Naturally, there’s an occasion where that Get Out of Jail Free card comes into play since the young kid turns into a slightly older teenage shithead with a penchant for dumb, dangerous decisions. Kingsman thankfully picks up the pace once Harry bails Eggsy out and starts his journey auditioning to become a Kingsman—replacing the recently murdered Lancelot.

Don’t expect this to be a breezy viewing. You feel every second of this 2-hour endurance test.

Eggsy

Taron Egerton is serviceable playing the role of Eggsy, but the movie falters when Egerton is asked to carry the third act. There’s a reason he’s only been on a British TV show before this movie. Apparently, Egerton was the last actor cast in the movie. But I don’t blame Taron Egerton because it is the story that failed him. In an ideal world, this is a brisk 90-minute movie that highlights the action and tightens the script to remove all the unnecessary fluff.

Kingsman is so self-aware and reliant on spy references that it fails to realize its own faults. For a movie that eschews the typical spy conventions, Kingsman itself is pointlessly complicated and convoluted with the villain’s plan for world domination. Samuel L. Jackson plays Internet billionaire Richmond (get it, Rich?) Valentine—who has a desire to hit the reset button on humanity in order to save Earth from the devastating result of human-induced global warming.

Samuel L

Samuel L. Jackson isn’t great, but his performance is memorable even if the rest of Kingsman is completely forgettable. For the record, I’m fine with Valentine’s lisp. The decision was apparently all Samuel L. Jackson’s doing, which is incredibly ballsy but it works well with how the character despises violence and physically cannot stand the sight of blood.

Even if you don’t take Kingsman seriously, it is impossible for me to ignore the awful story and unforgivably bad ending. The third act is so unspeakably awful that it almost ruins my enjoyment of everything else. Part of Valentine’s plan involves surgically implanting a device into the necks of those who give into his demands. Disregard the fact that the surgery leaves a very visible scar and technological interference can cause the implant to explode and kill the person.

Yes, you read that correctly: you can tell who exactly is a participant in this super-secret evil plan just by looking at their neck for a scar. No, Richmond Valentine isn’t a buffoon. He’s billed as a genius tech billionaire. Valentine just happens to have a detailed, precise plan for world domination that is built on a foundation of popsicle sticks. The story is incredibly flimsy and the ending makes everything up to that point feel utterly pointless. I get it, but I don’t get it.

Find something better to do with your 2 hours. Definitely check out the ultra-violent, awe-inspiring church scene on YouTube or somewhere else, but you don’t need to sit through everything else. About half of this movie works and the other half falls flat. Let’s just hope beyond hope that there isn’t an unbearable sequel to Kingsman in the works. There wasn’t enough story for one movie, let alone two.

Don’t mistake a good-looking movie for a good movie.

There is a difference, I’m just not sure if Matthew Vaughn knows that yet.

Steam

2.5 out of 5 stars

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Hesher is a phenomenal film that is darkly funny, daring, and unique. I have never seen anything quite like this movie. It is the reason I love independent movies because it couldn’t been made otherwise.

Hesher has balls and a distinct sense of self. Joseph Gordon-Levitt transforms himself in this movie to play the titular character, Hesher. With dirty long locks and scruffy facial hair, Joseph Gordon-Levitt embodies a carefree, anarchist spirit who enjoys rolling around in the gutter. Hesher has a badass black van that he basically lives out of while galavanting around town looking for ladies and trouble.

Devin Brochu

But before you even meet Hesher, your heart is broken and trampled on when you’re introduced to T.J.—a young kid who is reeling after the devastating death of his mother. Devin Brochu plays T.J., and the incredible performance of this 13-year old kid is the emotional core of this movie. You truly, deeply feel his loss. Early in the movie, T.J. is obsessed with the car his mother died in and he even tracks it down at a junkyard when it’s towed from his house. His father, Paul (played by Rainn Wilson), is mired in his own depression and self-pity. Instead of being there for his son, Paul tries to swallow his pain by taking pills—often falling asleep on the couch in his filthy clothes. T.J.’s grandmother Madeleine (played by Piper Laurie) is the only stable adult presence in his life, but she can only do so much.

T.J.’s sole refuge is inside that car with the memories of his mother.

Whatever the cost, T.J. just wants to get that car back and gain some semblance of his old life.

Rainn Wilson

While simple, this story is heart-wrenching. All you want to do is reach out and give everyone a hug.

Don’t expect Hesher to give him a hug. If anything, Hesher’s presence makes T.J.’s life more chaotic. Thanks to Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Hesher is one of the most memorable movie characters. I cannot imagine any other actor pulling off this performance. Hesher lives to party and rage. Calling him unpredictable is an understatement. But Hesher is a shot of life when T.J. desperately needs something, someone.

Surprisingly, Natalie Portman plays third (or possibly even fourth banana) in this movie as Nicole—a homely young grocery store clerk that stops the school bully from bashing T.J.’s head into the pavement after he vandalizes the bully’s car. Her character didn’t need to be great, but Natalie Portman brought a certain credibility to the movie that you can’t buy. Piper Laurie is another great actress as the grandmother who rounds out a great supporting cast that bring elements of comedy and drama to this wonderful story.

Natalie Portman

The best compliment I can pay to a movie is to say that I wish I wrote it. I wish I wrote Hesher.

While Hesher is well-written, the actors and actresses make these characters come to life.

Hesher is not your standard, cookie-cutter movie. The beginning is a slow burn that builds to a faster pace once Hesher is introduced. You have no idea what to expect from Hesher. It is riveting.

For fuck sakes, Hesher has a giant middle finger tattooed on his back and a stick figure blowing his brains out tattooed on his chest. When Hesher follows T.J. and decides to crash at his house, T.J. puts up a mild opposition and Hesher asks him if he’s ever been skull-fucked. Although he’s completely intimidating when he threatens T.J. and has his hand around his neck, Hesher is then in his underwear smoking a cigarette on the couch while watching TV a moment later. Hesher doesn’t give a fuck.

Underwear

In a time when most movies meld together in a bland, colorless line of shit, Hesher stands out. It’s not just all attitude and balls. To Hesher’s credit, this movie is as emotional as another Joseph Gordon-Levitt movie, 50/50 about a writer with cancer—which is also phenomenal in a much different way.

I don’t think Joseph Gordon-Levitt gets proper credit for such fantastic acting range. His body of work is impressive and growing. While most still probably remember him as Tommy from the TV show 3rd Rock from the Sun, Joseph Gordon-Levitt has seamlessly transitioned from child actor to accomplished adult movie star. I will continue to watch anything he is in because Joseph Gordon-Levitt is one of our finest actors, and he deserves more appreciation and adulation. As a creative spirit that thrives to empower and connect other artists together, we need more genuinely good human beings like Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Jump off the deep end with Hesher and enjoy this off-kilter dark comedy.

Jump

5 out of 5 stars

Cyberbully
Cyberbully is a captivating thriller that’s a shining example of excellent limited storytelling. It’s cliché to claim a movie “keeps you on the edge of your seat” but Cyberbully builds incredible tension despite taking place entirely in a teenage girl’s bedroom. Airing this year on Channel 4 in England, this is only an hour-long movie starring Maisie Williams—best known an Arya Stark from Game of Thrones.

If you love the character of Arya Stark, then I consider this a must-watch movie.

Maisie Williams is fucking amazing as Casey Jacobs. It’s quite impressive to see Maisie’s acting range on display. This movie wouldn’t work if Maisie could not seamlessly transition between emotions and provide enough charisma and charm to make this character likable and believable.

For 99.9% of the runtime, Casey is staring at her computer screen while a creepy mysterious hacker is pulling the strings and treating her like a marionette doll. At several points, this person threatens to ruin her life by posting her nude selfies online for her school and the rest of the world. In a sense, this movie is like Compliance minus the gratuitous nudity because Maisie thankfully hasn’t turned 18 yet.

In the same vein as Black Mirror (an absolutely astounding British TV show), Cyberbully is an introspective look at how the Internet has impacted our society. Specifically, social media plays a pivotal role in this movie as it shows the way kids now communicate with one another online. We live in the Age of Trolls.

Cyberbully wastes no time delving into the story by artfully starting with a shot from the perspective of Casey’s webcam. In this age, never trust webcams. I’ve always covered my webcam with a Band-Aid or piece of tape for this very reason. It is way too easy and convenient for hackers to fuck with people. This is a lesson that Casey learns relatively quickly when she becomes the victim of the attack.

Cyberbully is smart enough to what it is and what it isn’t. Sit back and enjoy this thrilling mystery.

Written by Ben Chanan and David Lobatto, this is a beautifully simple story about bullying.

Basically, Cyberbully is the best public service announcement ever made. But that’s praise with faint damning because this movie certainly pulls some punches to fit a more family-friendly narrative. I understand the reasoning, but I like my stories darker with a bit more dirt rubbed on them.

Valar Morghulis

4 out of 5 stars