Kick Ass – The sequel to The Professional that Luc Besson didn’t have the cacahuates… eh… “les noix” …to make

•April 25, 2010 • Leave a Comment

The glory of seeing a movie that you know nothing about! Somehow I managed to show up at the cineplex on April 16, untainted by trailers, reviews, or the knowledge that Nicolas Cage was in the film (hell, being more than a bit off the grid these past months, I kinda thought I was going to see a Woody Harrelson flick… which I’d still like to see). Verdict? It fucking kicked ass!

An extremely well crafted homage to Tarantino and his precursors, the film is like a mash-up of Karate Kid, The Professional, and Kill Bill Vol. 1.  And while Matt Vaughn repeatedly tips his hat to the smorgasbord of films and pop culture phenomena that made Kick Ass possible, the movie maintains a coherent and compelling story line that is brought to fruition by impeccable acting and an intoxicating aesthetic that walks a careful albeit playful line between the credible and the fantastic.

We could discuss how british actor Aaron Cera-Eisenberg distinguished himself from the nouveau-Brat Pack of jewfros that have dominated the teen flick genre of late, but Aaron Johnson’s true talent (aside from impregnating women twice his age… dude makes Ashton Kutcher look like an impotent cradle robber) is in his ability to let Chloe Moretz and a surprisingly authentic Nicolas Cage dominate the film. Chloe is pure genius and Cage shows us what we could have seen so much more of these last 15 years if he hadn’t gotten those nasty hair plugs and started doing shit brick films like Face/Off and National Treasure. If nothing else, you gotta give credit to Vaughn for diving deep beneath those plugs and eliciting the Cage of old. It’s comforting to know that somewhere out there, underneath a pile of misguided cosmetic hair restoration and cinematic turds, the Nicolas Cage from Raising Arizona and Wild at Heart still exists.

If there’s any disappointment in the film, I’d point to Christopher Mintz Plasse. He doesn’t suck, but Red Mist is little more than a caricature of his previous roles in Superbad and Role Models. He’s a talented kid but you get the feeling that he’s starting to run up against the limitations of his acting chops. Although, in his defense, it seemed a bit like Vaughn and his team might have run out of steam when it came time to explain how and why CMP’s character shifts back and forth from semi-sympathetic rich kid to semi-likeable d-bag/nemesis. They knew they wanted some McLovin in the film but didn’t really have the patience or the space to tease out his transformation during some of the movie’s darker moments.

But whatever. That was the most fun I’ve had at a movie in a long time.

El Pollo Rico gives Kick Ass: Dos pulgares para… ARRIBA!

Aviso: While EPR loved this film, the violence is pretty brutal and gratuitous. Not for everybody. Por ejemplo, le dije a mi mamá que no le gustaría … y ella está de acuerdo.

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Serie: Imágenes ABAHAKA. Primera instalación – la reinterpretación de un clásico. Hecha por la diseñadora gráfica Julia Beynon

•April 10, 2010 • 1 Comment

Post-Modern Protest – Can Dov Charney save higher education?

•March 13, 2010 • 5 Comments

A vision of the past - The moustache has made a comeback, but the activism? Not so much...

With the steady gentrification of public higher education in California, perhaps it isn’t at all shocking that students at the United States’ most prestigious system of state-run universities have responded with a collective yawn to the ever-increasing tragedy that is the administration of the UC system. In a matter of months, we have borne witness to 32% fee hikes and a growing movement to eviscerate those academic programs that are not deemed “revenue generating” — or as most of us call them, the humanities. However, as Yudof et al. flail their arms in a feeble attempt to keep the UC’s from becoming glorified trade tech’s, not everybody is taking the matter so lightly. Last week at UCLA, a mass of 300 students mobilized a sit-in to protest the failure of leadership, lack of imagination and general cowardice displayed by the administration in the face of difficult times. The number of participants was inflated in part by students who were also expressing outrage at recent racist incidents that have transpired at the UC San Diego campus and the general decline or stagnation of under-represented minorities in the UC system.  

…for a moment, El Pollo Rico felt a twinge of inspiration. Maybe this next generation has its priorities straight. In an age where our value systems have been commoditized, warped and repackaged into Happy Meal soundbites, perhaps the tipping point had been reached and the kids were getting it right. But then I made a fatal mistake and did what no idealist should EVER do… I did the math.   

After weeks of publicity and news articles and outrage, the protest garnered the active support of 300 students. Technically that allows us to say “hundreds…!” But as of Fall 2009, UCLA had an enrollment of 26,687 undergraduates and 11,863 graduate students for a grand total of 38,541 (not including 1,434 residents and interns). 300 then represents a mere 0.7% of the student population. Zero… Point… Seven. That fucking blows. EPR gets that these are times of apathy and ennui and that the brave 300 should — like King Leonidas and his band of skinny-ripped compadres — be lauded for their courageous stand. Except for one other number that keeps flashing in my head… 8000.      

A vision of the present - Hand in hand... we SHALL overcome... finals week... and abstinence!

8000 is the lowball estimate of the number of students who participated in the last official UCLA undie run. Designed for students to let off steam in the middle of final exams, the undie run is a celebration of the strive for balance between healthy intellect, healthy body and healthy soul. Relax your noodle by running around in your chonies and emerge a karmically pure being. It’s kind of brilliant – and it’s kind of radical. There is an undeniable element of protest in the run – a rejection of the prescribed norm, a redefinition of the status quo, a bending of expectations, a peaceful undermining of authority through athletic expression and sartorial subversion – ALL while students are the most busy, the most preoccupied, and the most stressed out. So why can’t the future of public higher education garner the same support from those who have the most to lose?   

The answer is two-fold: Focus and Flesh. The undie run is successful in part because its purpose has been refined (or limited) with a laser beam precision: strip to your chonies and jog. No more, no less. Focus. Of course, its success is also due in large part to the fact that 18 to 24 year olds generally enjoy being half-naked around each other. Flesh.     

It is a philosophy that is fantastic in its simplicity. It worked at Thermopylae and it worked for American Apparel. Keep the mission simple, keep the people (almost) naked. For King Leonidas, the mission was to stop Xerxes and the Persian invasion. Equipment? A shield, a sword, and leather chonies. Result? Leonidas was immortalized as a hero and historic icon. For Dov Charney, the mission was to sell lots of t-shirts. Equipment? Urban hipsters and cotton chonies. Result? Infamy as a groping perv… but tremendous success for the company. So why can’t the same strategy save the present and future integrity of the UC System? There’s no reason it can’t. The problem is that thus far, the protests have been plagued by the perceived need to appeal to different constituents in different places at different times: 8 a.m. meeting to weave unity lanyards in South Campus; 9 a.m. finger painting protest signs at the freshman dorms; 1 p.m. march to Bruin Plaza for rally and discount apparel at Ackerman Union; 2 p.m. sit-in and burrito bar at Kerchoff Hall; 5 p.m. disco dance marathon for lower fees… no, no, NO, NO! Divide and conquer is what you do to your enemies. The well-intentioned yet myopic itinerary of summer camp activities that has defined the recent demonstrations only serves to dilute and defuse the impact of the protest.     

Solution? Again — Focus and Flesh. Unity of effect / Nudity of effect. Keep it simple. Keep it sexy. One event, one place, one time, one set of chonies. A peaceful congregation of thousands of students in Bruin Plaza — in their underwear — would be powerful, symbolic, well attended and would garner unprecedented media coverage. Performed in conjunction with coordinated publication of print and online statements from student groups, academic departments, and all those with the courage, imagination and vision to seek solutions instead of retreating to save the clothes on their back, the event would serve to galvanize and propagate the spirit of unity that those who value education should all share.   

A vision of the future - Que sigue la lucha ...para un futuro mejor!

 

A crisis of courage

•November 20, 2009 • 2 Comments

Pin the tail on the jackass

Yesterday the Regents of the University of California voted unanimously to raise undergraduate fees 32%, effective immediately (NOTE: the lone vote in opposition was cast by the token “student regent”, hence EPR still considers the vote unanimous).  I repeat, 32%…effective immediately.  While El Pollo Rico could carry on ad infinitum as to why this was a tragically flawed and myopic decision, EPR will limit himself at the present moment to the following comments and save further analysis for a later time and place, preferably with incriminating photos of the Regents engaging in some sort of deviant porn.  Then again, who wants to see a Regent naked?  THAT would be deviant. 

So what really gets EPR’s huevos in a supertight nudo is that by voting to increase student fees (i.e., place the burden of poor fiscal management on the students), the Regents have demonstrated they are entirely lacking in the sort of courage and imagination that is required to responsibly solve serious problems.  Rather than being heroic, innovative, and in a word “leaders”, they have chosen the most cowardly solution they could possible find: shift responsibility for their  failure of leadership to those who depend on that leadership for guidance and protection.  The Regents’ job and the job of California politicians isn’t to resolve budget crises, it is  (1) to AVERT them, and (2) to protect the fragile academic and economic interests of students while they study and train to become revenue generating members of the economy.  You don’t compound the failure of Job 1 by proceeding to abandon Job 2…!

If you don’t think the decision is morally and ethically bankrupt, imagine your reaction if your landlord increased your rent 32% mid-lease.  First, many tenants would be de facto  evicted.  Second, it would be a violation of the lease.  Third, rent control in many neighborhoods caps dooshbaggery like this at 10%…why? …because it is good public policy!  What EPR is trying to say is that under this model, the Regents are essentially criminally corrupt slumlords.  By jacking fees, they are de facto expelling low income students.  They have violated the reasonable expectation that fees will remain stable throughout the school year and have pissed on the basic tenets of public policy that dictate a steady change in fees (if any) to keep costs in line with fluctuating economic indicators such as inflation and the cost of living index.

[Have I bored you yet? Maybe. Is the landlord-tenant deal a sexy analogy?  No.  But other than the students getting totally fucked, this has nothing to do with sex, so stay with me.]

Dr. ...Yudof?

But someone  is doing something  right…   right?  Well, yes …and no.  In times of great crisis, there is nothing like a charismatic, innovative, and inspirational gesture to settle people’s growing anxiety.  It is how great leaders show their true mettle – they dig deep and provide both strategic and emotional leadership.  So no surprise that chief punk, UC President Mark Yudof, today sent out an email to all students announcing Project You Can.  Pursuant to the stated goals of Project You Can, the university will be raising ONE BILLION dollars in private funds to help students pay the costs of higher education.  Thank you Dr. Evil.  An awesome idea… if you’d done that BEFORE boosting fees 32%…!

And don’t act like this was some unforeseeable catastrophe.  By Yudof’s own account, “State per-student support has shrunk by half in the last 20 years.”  Really.  And it’s just now occurring to you and the other Regent punks to seek alternative funding.  For twenty years, the UC has been letting the goons at the Department of Corrections and other union muscle and bureaucratic turds steal its share of the pie, watching the financial support for its most precious resource – the students – shrink like Costanzas nards when he got out of the pool… but now…NOW it dawns on you to look for some loose change under the couch cushions?  That is some true vision Costa… er… Yudof.  True vision.  You and Costanza might have more in common than you think.

Those who serve pretzels should be spicy and hot like mostaza… not cool and icy like a Cottonelle

•October 12, 2009 • 2 Comments
Colonel Mustard is no stranger to big pretzels...!

Colonel Mustard is no stranger to big pretzels...!

EPR frequents a certain cafe in Venice that has some of the best baked goods (arguably) anywhere in Los Angeles… at least west of the 405.   Now EPR  has a theory that they only hire people to work at this eatery who have a fundamentally bad or poorly developed sense of humor.  This conclusion stems from the incontrovertible fact that EPR may not be the most charming guy in the world but when he makes a funny, it’s usually kinda funny… HOWEVER, every time he tries to bring a little sunshine and some fun witty banter to the sad bitter lives of the uber-jaded croissant jockeys at this establishment, they shoot him a cold hard stare that says one thing – pendejo.

Case and point: The display case had as its glorious centerpiece today a giant pretzel – probably about two feet in diameter… maybe bigger… it was striking – a Peter North of pretzels if you will… that is, if Peter North could bend his cock into a knot…which he probably can. Now the girl working the register today seemed a tad bit more charismatic than the uptight automatons that normally man the counter so EPR took the liberty to offer up a couple potentially entertaining tag lines for this porn star of a pretzel, such as: (1) “You think you got the mustard?” and (2) “You should see the sausage…”

Weak material, I know, but worthy of a chuckle…or at least a “Vamos compa, you can do better”… or so we thought. The young lady’s response to (1) was a confused grimace – EPR didn’t explain that you put mustard on pretzels and that a big pretzel would require mucho mostaza and that “mustard” is a loose metaphor for chutzpah/gonad, hence the irony and light humor of asking whether one has the literal and/or proverbial mustard to handle a pretzel of such overwhelming size and girth.  Harumph.

Hmmm...

Hmmm...

Her response to (2) was, “I don’t get it, we don’t sell sausage”. Yeah, claro que sí, but as EPR kindly pointed out, street vendors that sell pretzels often sell sausage (he did not connect the dots between big pretzels, big sausages, and big double entendres).  Our lovely server replied: “Pretzels aren’t served with sausage…you do know pretzels are german, right?” Yeah, and what the flying cabrito  do you think sausage is you smug fartfuck?  It was around this moment that EPR felt his angina act up… but being muy caballero  he maintained his composure and with a playful smile gently asked if she’d tried finding anything OTHER than sausage to eat in Germany.  Her answer was that she’d only been in Germany for 20 minutes… for a flight change in Frankfurt. EPR took a deep breath and sighed.  He didn’t point out that the question was in fact rhetorical…nor did he point out the blinding flash of the obvious –“Frankfurt, Germany”… “FRANKFURTER”! …SAUSAGE!! ….asshole!!! Why oh why does the cheddar jalapeño roll at this petri dish for sphincters have to taste so damn good! A veces el mundo es rico pero hay que pagar la cuenta. Oy.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: El Pollo Rico has and continues to withhold the name of the establishment in question for fear that they will revoke his baked goods privileges.  Revolution is for those with uncompromised principles…but sometimes you have to choose your battles.)

(EDITOR’S NOTE 2: The abahaka Nation acknowledges that this is a family friendly space on the interwebs and apologizes for any gratuitous profanity.  It seemed like a good idea at the time.)

Four the last time…Geoff Boucher asks, EPR answers – give us another dude with fuzzy feet but let Spidey, Jack, and the Mutants go their separate ways.

•October 6, 2009 • Leave a Comment

LA Times’ Geoff Boucher posed the following question on his web log: which of these films should not  add a fourth installment to the franchise – LOTR, Spidey, Jack Sparrow, Hombres Equis?  A gratuitous and rhetorical question really, short answer being whichever would lose money.  But EPR has never been one for short answers.  Hence, thus, and obviously therefore… he provided Geoff with the following response:

Foot Merkin...the Prequel

Foot Merkin...the Prequel

Estimado Compañero Jefe: The question posed appears to be backwards. The issue is less about which franchise should fade away (this assumes the other three all deserve to sail forward) but rather which single franchise should in fact continue (this suggests that the remaining three soap operas should ride off into the blissful post-celluloid sunset of DVD rentals, cable reruns, and eternally attenuating residuals…which they should). That being said, the Lord of the Rings “franchise” is the only one that makes any sense whatsoever. This is because there is actually a book to base it on and – more importantly – nothing else. As the fourth (well, first) and final book of the Hobbit/LOTR epic, a Hobbit project is a logical prequel to LOTR and unless the lost works of JRR Tolkien are suddenly unearthed, the audience can achieve a sense closure with the series. Pirates is simply played out. Each installment was entertaining but painfully forced. X-Men has already abandoned the core franchise in favor of spinoffs so what point would there be in getting the gang back together? And Spiderman…well…if people are going to keep paying money to see over-budget pieces of poop… you certainly can’t blame Raimi et al. for continuing to make them… but I would vote they put Spidey out to pasture. With a glut of superhero movies in the pipeline – most of which will probably be better than any 4th incarnation of Peter Parker – Spiderman’s only guaranteed audience is the extreme Stan Lee stalker / Comic-Con types and the little kids who like the Happy Meals – two categories that are not mutually exclusive, so beware of double counting. Moreover, LOTR has continued to build momentum (critical as well as box office) while the others seem to be withering on the vine – a lucrative vine – but not a pretty one to look at. Finally, LOTR fans are big dorks of the highest caliber (and I say that with pure admiration). They will go ape for another flick if only for the opportunity to love it or hate it or spend many celibate nights debating its fidelity to the book.

Andre and Sarah Charboneaux: pendejos que cocinan comida chingona, Amuse Bouche is culinary genius served with emotional abuse and francocentric neuroses

•October 4, 2009 • 1 Comment

 

Amuse Bouche - Andre and Sarah Charboneaux

Hispanohablantes have always had a love/hate relationship with the French.  From the Iberian Peninsula to the Americas, the French have been the continued subject of both infatuation and repulsion – oftentimes a combination of both.  To explain this internally inconsistent dynamic, EPR can think of no better case study to point to than Chef Andre Charboneaux of Amuse Bouche.

How does one describe Andre? In a word, he’s a dick. He is everything that you think about France when you don’t want to think about France.  Arrogant, smug, self-righteous, confrontational, capricious, chauvinistic…and painfully good at what he does. Andre has come to the United States in part to demonstrate to the powers-that-be in food television that he is equally as capable – if not superior – to any of the newly famous TV cooking personalities that have emerged from the Food Network, Bravo’s Top Chef, Travel Channel’s No Reservations, and the other culinary programming that has inundated the airwaves of broadcast and cable TV over the last several years.

Amuse Bouche - Andre and Sarah CharboneauxWhile Andre is brilliant in the kitchen, there are several obstacles that stand between him and his goal of showing us all that he is, as he puts it, “number one chef…in the world”…namely, that he is arrogant, smug, self-righteous, confrontational, capricious, chauvinistic…and I think I left out “abusive” – which anyone who has ever worked for or with Andre would most certainly include on their list.  Another bump in the road that Andre will have to navigate is his partnership with kitchen assistant and wife, Sarah Charboneaux.  While Sarah was born and raised in the United States and thus is unafflicted by Andre’s patently French idiosyncrasies, she has her own set of quirks that could prove fatal to the team’s commercial success.  Most notably, Sarah seems unable or unwilling to make any distinction between remarks that are appropriate, politically incorrect, and flatly racist.  If it were certain that some of her sociopolitical commentary were in jest, one might find her to be edgy in a comedic sense… but it just isn’t clear whether Sarah can grasp the import of the unfiltered verbal ejaculations that periodically burst from her mouth…that is, when Andre allows her to speak.

However, if one has the opportunity to partake of Charboneaux’s cooking, your taste buds will delight in his decadent yet elegant creations….but when dining in the presence of this dysfunctional couple, avoid direct eye contact and resist the temptation to slap Andre when he and his wife insult or offend you…which they most definitely will…remember, he works with sharp knives and Sarah has spent time in prison (this is true).  At the moment, Andre and Sarah have put their brick and mortar aspirations on the back burner while they commit full time to developing an on-air presence, however, they periodically host live recordings of their cooking show where all audience members get the opportunity to taste Andre’s latest creations while sampling an array of wines chosen by Andre himself.  If you are willing to swallow your pride in order to swallow the most delicious foie gras you have ever tasted, look for the next live taping of Amuse Bouche with Andre and Sarah Charboneaux.

EPR can’t say that this couple is necesarily blazing a trail para un futuro mejor… but damn, ¡que rico la comida de este pendejo frances!

RATING: ***1/2   (EDITOR’S NOTE: EPR deducted a star when Sarah Charboneaux threatened him with a sharpened chopstick after he asked for some Tapatio)