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Thoughts on "Eastern Promises" . . .

Posted by 2 Dollar Productions Sunday, September 30, 2007 10 comments

Worth A Matinee or Full-Price Ticket: Matinee. You won't be disappointed with a matinee ticket price, but the nighttime might tax this film a bit too strongly.

Will I Own It On DVD: Uncertain. I definitely won't buy this when it first arrives on DVD, however, I might pick it up if it goes on sale for $7.99 at Best Buy like some movies tend to do after awhile.

1) I consider this a solid companion piece to Cronenberg's recent "A History of Violence," and while I consider 'Violence' to be a superior film, "Eastern Promises" is still a worthwhile exploration into the Russian mob.

2) Viggo Mortensen gives an excellent performance as a driver for the Russians. His accent is spot-on as splits his speaking time between English and Russian, and he consistently projects a quiet authority throughout the film. Naomi Watts, who is a very good actress, is solid as always, although her character was a bit underdeveloped.

3) There is a brutal steam room fight scene with Mortensen that took balls - both literally and figuratively - to film as Viggo flops around while savagely battling rival mob enforcers. It's simply one of the best fight scenes outside of the Bourne movies that I've seen in years.

4) Like nearly all of Cronenberg's work, there is some fairly gruesome violence which can be off-putting for some people. I don't personally find it as disturbing as torture porn cinema (see "Saw" or "Hostel" for example), and the gory slashings fit well into the context of 'Promises.'

5) The main problem I had with 'Promises' was the ending was a bit flat as the tension builds nicely for a majority of the movie, but then it dissipates at the conclusion. This is always frustrating for me, and just proves once again how difficult endings are to get right and satisfy an audience.

Overall, "Eastern Promises" was a good movie to usher in the fall season, a time when the films generally get bloodier, more dramatic and better than anything near the empty vacuum which develops at the end of every summer.


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$2 Dollar Productions Celebrates 500 Posts . . .

Posted by 2 Dollar Productions Sunday, September 23, 2007 28 comments

It's hard to believe this site began nearly three years ago when I had only a vague understanding about blogs. My brother suggested that we start one to promote our screenwriting, and after returning from a European vacation, I began $2 Dollar Productions with this tiny post in October 2004:

"I just arrived back to the U.S. after a tour through Italy and Ireland , red wine and Guinness and too many public bathrooms where you had to pay to enter. But it's nice to come back and find this thing off and running and chronicling our attempt to write and sell a comedy script from the ground up. We'll see. In the meantime, a brutal and savage re-write is needed before anyone should be subjected to actually reading this thing."

That was like dipping your toe in the deep end of the pool, and I quickly realized that I could not fathom a blog which focused solely on my writing experiences because there are only so many posts detailing how I:

A) Sat alone listening to music and writing
B) Drank beers with my brother and discussed plot points for the scripts
C) Sat naked, drinking coffee and cursing myself for being unable to write a decent scene

The act of writing itself is highly individualistic, and about as entertaining to the outside world as Kevin Federline trying to perform Hamlet on Broadway (which might actually be very entertaining now that I think about it).

Besides, I had scripts to write and a life in transition as I was moving from Plano to Austin, shifting careers from personal training to technology, and still figuring out the blog universe.

And so $2 Dollar Productions languished, malnurtured and neglected, while waiting to ultimately provide an island of reality in a sea of diarrhea. It wasn't until May 2006 that I began producing more than 2 - 5 posts per month.

At that time, I decided to simply write about whatever was on my mind with the exception of politics or religion, topics which I find personally interesting (and enjoy reading about from others), but don’t care to blog about because they typically lead to like-minded people affirming your beliefs or opposing forces who tend to check reason at the door.

Life is too short, and it is also too frequently irritating to dwell on depressing topics in this space. I prefer to throw humor at things, policies and people and attempt to laugh because I've always found that to be a fine way to cope. So, $2 Dollar Productions has focused on movies and music, breasts and buffoons, failed endeavors, vacations, Hollywood, pornography, and an extended fitness modeling odyssey that took me from Austin to New York City.

I also tried to come up with original series ideas, which I tend to like, and by the numbers they are:

The Greatest Sex Around - 9 entries
Bathing With The Drunken Viking - 13 entries

Lesser of Two Evils - 8 entries
Explain Yourself & Your Music - 3 entries
Up On The Mountain - 13 entries
Is It Really Cheating If - 11 entries
Quick Hit Friday - 50 entries

Since life tends to be circular, there will be much more forthcoming about the actual screenplays, and what might happen to them. Both comedy scripts are now wrapped and ready, and my brother and I are currently putting together marketing material and tapping anyone we know whose second cousin's, half-brother's ex-plumber's kid might know somebody who can read and/or help get a movie made from outside of Hollywood.

Hell, comedies are cheap, and if they're funny, they make a profit. We'll see.

But regardless of my initial reason for this blog, it's been a highly enjoyable ride, a journey that has given me a unique chance to interact with people from around the world. One of the best things about this medium is the opportunity to discover others that you would likely never come into contact with, yet the Internet makes it possible to be suddenly thrust into their minds - for good or ill.

It's been more than fine from my perspective, and just like people you see in everyday life, bloggers drop in and out at random. Others are dependable for the long haul, and it's the general diversity of ideas across the spectrum and the people that express them which keeps things interesting for me.

I feel very lucky to have made it this far, to have come into contact with interesting people and survived these past three years relatively unscathed. "Buy the ticket, take the ride" as Dr. Hunter S. Thompson used to say, and I believe that to be true just as strongly as my own opinion that the best is still to come.

{Editor's Note: $2 Dollar Productions will be taking the week off to re-charge some creative juices, and recover from the 500 post celebration}


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Quick Hit Friday . . .

Posted by 2 Dollar Productions Friday, September 21, 2007 11 comments

"Now I know I'm pretty, but I ain't as pretty as a couple of titties," - Gary Oldman, "True Romance"

I spent my week trying to recover from this past weekend and avoiding O.J. Simpson coverage, and although I was only somewhat successful on both fronts, I am looking forward to a relaxing few days that can start as soon as I wade through the tough stories like:

Britney Spears has been ordered to undergo random drug and alcohol testing twice a week, according to court documents in her custody dispute with ex-husband Kevin Federline.

The order was issued Monday by a judge who required both parents to refrain from drinking and using drugs around their two young children and 12 hours before either cares for them. Only Spears was ordered to submit to testing.

Spears responded with "then I just won't care for them at all" and left to go club-hopping.

Madonna toasted the Jewish new year with Israeli President Shimon Peres and declared herself an "ambassador for Judaism," local newspapers reported Sunday. The singer, who is not Jewish, arrived in Israel Wednesday on the eve of Jewish new year to attend a conference on Kabbalah.

Peres later clarified that Madonna is only the ambassador inside of her own head.

An animal rights group says Alicia Silverstone appears naked in a television ad promoting vegetarianism that was to debut Wednesday in Houston. The 30-second ad was to air about two dozen times in Houston on Wednesday, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said.

Most people attempt a comeback by posing naked for "Playboy," but then again, Silverstone shot to fame by being "Clueless."

In Touch Weekly claims that Jennifer Lopez is pregnant with her first child, and due to give birth in the spring, according to an insider.

If this is true, I really hope the child looks like the mother.

Barry Manilow, a long-time friend of Rosie O'Donnell, backed out of his scheduled appearance on "The View" after the show refused to pull Elisabeth Hasselbeck from the interview.

Producers were very angry as they were hoping that Manilow's extreme masculinity and machismo would add some testosterone to the show.

Kanye West won in a landslide in his face-off with fellow rapper 50 Cent as West's Graduation outsold his rival's Curtis, 957,000 to 691,000 in the first week of release, according to Nielsen SoundScan figures.

Meanwhile, I continue not to care about this contrived event with absolutely no legitimate stakes or resolution.

Chris Crocker, who posted on a passionate defense of the pop singer after her performance on MTV's Video Music Awards, has been signed to a development deal with 44 Blue Productions, Variety reports.

I saw this clip, and although it was unintentionally funny, I find his continued public presence moving forward to be a total 'Crock' of shit.

But let's end with our usual gold image:

I'm a fiend for competition, however, I will admit that I do play dirty, so keep a rule book handy, watch your back and . . . Happy Friday!


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Come Early Morning . . .

Posted by 2 Dollar Productions Wednesday, September 19, 2007 15 comments

Nobody looks their best the first thing in the morning.

Your hair is mussed, the eyes are puffy and let's not even discuss your breath which is only slightly better than the average yard hog after feeding time (though not by much). It's not a pretty picture despite how good you might have looked the night before your head hit the pillow.

I'm not a huge proponent of early morning sex for these reasons as well as the fact that the whole experience is usually lethargic and clumsy because you're still half-asleep.

But even my passing interest in early morning sex was forever altered for me and Stanley after I stumbled across this recent picture of Amy Winehouse after she just woke up:

I guess there's rough and then there's Winehouse rough, which takes things to an entirely different level and gives me the Fear.


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No Juice Ever Again . . .

Posted by 2 Dollar Productions Tuesday, September 18, 2007 17 comments

I don't recall where I was for many newsworthy events, but I do remember my circumstances vividly when O.J. Simpson was flying down the freeway in his white Bronco more than a decade ago.

During the chase, I was in high school and watching NBA basketball with a group of people at friend's house. We were drinking illegally and quickly because his parents were gone, and I remember the surreal feeling we all had while shot-gunning Keystone Light tall-boys as Simpson's Bronco sped across the asphalt.

But that was a long time ago. Now, I wish O.J. Simpson would disappear forever into a black hole as he is back in the news due to a robbery in Las Vegas hotel last week.

The Las Vegas Police Department's Captain James Dillon said Simpson had been charged with two counts of robbery with a deadly weapon, two counts of assault with a deadly weapon, conspiracy to commit burglary and burglary with a firearm while trying to reclaim memorabilia that the Juice maintains belongs to him.

The circus has started once again, although this time it is certainly duller, lamer and holds absolutely no interest for me.

Screw O.J. Simpson and everything having to do with that guy. He's not even an entertaining punch line anymore, and I wish he would be placed on an island somewhere far away from the media or anyone else who might talk about him.

I don't want to hear about his books concerning how he might have committed a double murder back in 1994. I don't want to see pictures of him playing golf or signing jerseys at some card show in Des Moines. Life is too short to dedicate any amount of brain space on Simpson these days and forever in the future.

I consider him to be a complete waste of space, which is unfortunate because he was excellent as 'Nordberg' in "The Naked Gun" series - but watching Simpson on DVD is the only place I ever want to see him again.


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Sun, Sounds, Sweat & Sex Appeal . . .

Posted by 2 Dollar Productions Monday, September 17, 2007 14 comments

The litmus test for sex appeal at the Austin City Limits music festival tolled every day at approximately 6 p.m.

By this time, most people had already sweated through their clothes five times, consumed six beers and listened to seven different bands. And despite the presence of many hard bodies wearing little clothing, the brutal combination of an unrelenting sun and next to no air moving left you sweaty and splotched, stinking and swaying, yet forging a rally to continue walking to the next stage.

If a person could look past these unsavory conditions and still want to fall to the ground with someone and screw in the grass like animals, then that's love. Love.

But I digress. The Austin City Limits musical festival is an endurance test, an event that at the end of the day, is definitely about the music and not about fornicating among the limited shrubbery.

The music was excellent as I managed to catch various acts including Bob Dylan, Steve Earle, The Decemberists, Lucinda Williams, Robert Earl Keen, Billy Joe Shaver, Artic Monkeys, and others whose names escape me.

Saturday was easily the toughest day as I started at the festival around 2:30 p.m. and sweated like a whore in church until early evening when my Dad, my brother and I ran back to the car to drive home, shower and then leave to Stubb's to catch Bob Dylan at 9 p.m.

The venue only holds around 2,500 people, and it was packed tight. Dylan played for 2 good hours while I stood under a tree and drank Shiner Bock while listening to "Thunder on the Mountain" and "All Along The Watchtower." It wasn't quite as exciting as the following night when Dylan cut through "Like A Rolling Stone" as I stood among 60,000 people in Zilker Park, but I was glad I got both ends of that spectrum.

By this point, the day had already been rough, but pushing things further, we decided to drive across town to catch James McMurtry as the Continental Club at midnight. The place is tiny and was sold out when we got there as they were letting people inside only when others left.

At 11:55 pm, I thought we were screwed, but then, a small crowd came out the front door and we strolled in the doors just as McMurtry cut into his first song. Perfect.

By the time the concert let out and we found a cab (driven by a strange Nigerian man who accelerated/decelerated at consistently random times while singing along to a really bad country song), it was nearly 3 am and we staggered back to my loft and collapsed.

And then Sunday came when it was time to brave the heat and return to the festival.

It was another full day that only ended when Dylan closed the festivities around 10:15 pm and the crowd dispersed and flooded through Barton Springs and Lamar trying to find their way home. I eventually made it to the loft, and took a long shower to wash the grime off from a weekend that was great and terrible at the same time.

I need a weekend to recover from my weekend, I thought, but it was also semi-amazing that during one 24 hour period, I was able to hear Earle, Dylan and McMurtry who are three of the best songwriters alive today and that was only on Saturday. When you're able to do something like that, it's a special thing and the other discomforts and hassles melt away like a Dove bar during a 3 p.m. music set.

Regardless, this knowledge doesn't help me as I sit at my desk this morning, trying vainly to get work done when my brain feels like pudding and my body needs about 12 straight hours of RIM sleep and a transfusion to rid itself of the Heineken and Shiner still coursing through my veins.

None of that will happen, however, so it's a damn good thing that I wouldn't trade feeling like shit for missing ACL, and I'd do it again tomorrow if the opportunity presented itself.


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Quick Hit Friday . . .

Posted by 2 Dollar Productions Friday, September 14, 2007 19 comments

"Fuck you, that's my name. You know why mister? Cause you drove a Hyundai to get here tonight, I drove an $80,000 dollar BMW. That's my name." - Alec Baldwin, "Glengarry Glen Ross"

It seems like a slow week in Hollywood since the Britney Spears train wreck at the MTV Video Music Awards on Sunday, but before I start my weekend of music at ACL and other concert venues, let's cover other noteworthy stories like:

Kid Rock and Tommy Lee got in a mini-scuffle at the MTV awards show as Rock allegedly slapped/punched Lee, who was eventually escorted out by security.

I don't know the cause of the fight, however, if it was over who would be going home with Pamela Anderson that night, then I'm sure they both could have if they ever learned to share as children.

Actor Shia LaBeouf, who stars opposite Harrison Ford in the final Indiana Jones adventure, revealed that the film is called "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" this week.

I sincerely hope the actual movie is better than the title as this has been an excellent series.

Teen star Vanessa Hudgens has again sparked a whirlwind of publicity amid new allegations she sent naked pictures of herself to a Nickelodeon actor two years ago when she was 16. Hudgens recently confirmed that a nude picture that appeared on the Internet was her, and was intended to be kept private.

For Hollywood stars both young and old, the only thing you can guarantee is that if you ever take nude pictures or make a sex tape that it will eventually be leaked to the public. Think about it.

"The Daily Show" host Jon Stewart is set to host the next year’s annual Oscar ceremony for the second time after comedienne Ellen DeGeneres took her turn last year.

Stewart is an excellent choice, but I only hope that he can shorten the Oscars by at least 30 - 45 minutes as they are always as bloated as Rosie O'Donnell after an extra helping of Au Gratin Potatoes.

50 Cent announced a few weeks ago that if his new album, "Curtis," did not outsell Kanye West's new collection, "Graduation," during their first week in stores that he would call it quits. So far, West is outselling 50 Cent's CD by a wide margin.

Since I just can't seem to pick sides or care very much at all, I've decided to be like Switzerland and not buy either disc.

The White Stripes have called off their UK tour, just days after they shelved a string of US dates. The band announced on Tuesday that drummer Meg White was suffering from acute anxiety, leaving her unable to travel between concert venues.

I was going to see the White Stripes at Austin City Limits this weekend, and I don't find anything (a)cute about Meg's anxiety as I wanted to hear them for the first time.

But let's stay positive, and end with this:

Sometimes you feel the need to rebel, and other times . . . well, let's say I might conform to whatever she had to say. But in general, it's good to find your own path, so with that in mind, showcase your individuality or fight against something good and . . . Happy Friday!


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Preparing For The Onslaught . . .

Posted by 2 Dollar Productions Wednesday, September 12, 2007 12 comments

"Three days straight I've been sinking
I ain't been doing what I should," - Ray Wylie Hubbard

What I should do is stop going to the Austin City Limits music festival one of these years as I generally loathe these mass events, however, this coming weekend will be the fourth one I've attended as the chance to see a consistently diverse group of bands has proven too hard to resist.

My tentative schedule for the band list includes Queens of the Stone Age, Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams, The White Stripes, Artic Monkeys, Kelly Willis, The Killers, Wilco, Billy Joe Shaver and Bjork (to see if she'll wear/do anything bizarre). Of course, I'll also catch Bob Dylan, who closes the festivities on Sunday night.

But this year will be even more brutal than the past ones as I also have two post-festival concerts to attend on Friday and Saturday night.

On Friday, I get to hear Robert Earl Keen, a phenomenal Texas singer-songwriter, at an intimate downtown Austin club where the acoustics are supposed to be the best in town. The following night, I just purchased tickets to see Bob Dylan at Stubb's open-air venue, another small-ish concert house and easily one of the tiniest places that Dylan is ever likely to play.

I cannot wait to go to both of these concerts, yet the unrelenting days in the sun at ACL will drain the body and then the nights of drinking until the next early morning already has my body warning me that 3 days straight of punishment will cause a rebellion and potential shut-down of vital organs which simply wasn't there during college.

It's a sad state of affairs when you cannot consistently abuse your body, and expect it to rebound. Even if you can stagger onwards, you feel like a truck ran you over and then parked itself on your head which might split wide open if moved too quickly.

Sheer ugliness.

Sometimes there is a price to pay for late nights and debauchery. Hell, there is always some kind of reckoning, and I only hope that mine is not vengeful and shows a shred of kindness and human decency.

In the interim, I'll be taking a nap under my desk (like George on "Seinfeld") because I must prepare for the onslaught.


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