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FIERCE ANTICIPATION: The Kev Stock Edition [Pennsylvanophilia Is In Season at the Movies!]

a substitute blogumn by Kev Stock

Okay, so I never blog. And when I say never, I mean never.

“But, Kev,” you may well plead, “you’re an American, and Americans have opinions. Therefore it is your patriotic duty to assail the rest of us with your priceless musings on all things trivial and profound.”

Ah, but you’ve shown the flaw in your Post-Bellum logic. Typical.

I am, in the spirit of the founding fathers, as much a citizen of my native state as I am of my federal alliance. Thus, I am hard pressed to relinquish the values of my sylvan homeland in the Keystone State where, far from William Penn’s original egalitarian ideal, we don’t share and share alike our valuable, sparklingly polished thoughts, but rather shun the slow-witted, punish the uninformed, and amass great troves of knowledge that we hide in abandoned coal shafts!

So, this is a rare glimpse for you lucky devils into the mind of a real-life Pennsylvanian. And what better topic to discuss than the upcoming release over the next three weeks of this year’s slate of love letter films to Western Pennsylvania? So, let’s dive right in. I watched the trailers of these three gems, and here’s what I think.

Fiercely Anticipating

The Next Three Days (Nov. 19):

Two words for what grabbed my attention in the ad for this thrilling Russell Crowe action-stravaganza: costume design. Russell Crowe’s character, while breaking his wife out of the Allegheny County Jail, is wearing a Pittsburgh Pirates jacket. What an amazingly adroit symbol for the underdog whose wife is falsely accused of murder by the woefully mistaken totalitarian force of the Pittsburgh police force! For anyone familiar with the esoteric, underground phenomenon known as American sports, this is a powerful visual castration for the character as the Pittsburgh Pirates are the most consecutively losing team in any North American Professional sport.  Seventeen straight seasons of finishing with a losing record weigh heavily upon anyone wearing an article of team fan wear. Put him in a Steelers jacket, and it’s all wrong. No other team has won six, count ‘em, six Super Bowls. Why not just put him in a solid gold tuxedo that shoots bullets from the pockets? The same goes for a Penguins jersey as Sidney Crosby and the gang have heralded the team into a second coming of Stanley Cup glory.

So, apart from featuring a cameo by Liam Neeson speaking a decidedly non-Pittsburgh dialect and the joy I hope to derive from that, it’s the level of attention to symbolic sports detail that encourages me to believe that someone was thinking enough on this one to use the backdrop of Western PA to its full potential.

Kinda Wanna See

Love and Other Drugs (Nov. 24):

This one is sort of perfunctory, because I have to pick something for “Kinda Wanna See.”

In honesty, this looks entirely terrible. The trailer pitches me two unlikeably pretty characters in Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway, who share an affair based on their mutual fondness for casual sex and disdain for commitment. My only real wish is that the train from Unstoppable could crash into their overinflated senses of self-involvement, killing thousands in its wake.

However, I was intrigued by the fact that the narrative hinges on Gyllenhaal’s character marketing Viagra immediately upon its creation. Now, this gave me pause because, the invention of Viagra? What a weird time to set the story in. Because who knows when that was? What a strange and nebulous era to try to conjure. That’s like saying the story is set when watch batteries were invented. The other possibility that I’m hoping for is that the movie is set in an alternate dimension wherein no one has yet encountered the wonders of chemically-induced, male, sexual stimulation and ancient demon-gods terrorize all humans save for those who worship in their slave cults, but that’s a longshot.

On a personal note, the trailer offers a glimpse of PGH in the transition of seasons, a huge plus for the West-Sylvanian transplanted to a land with seasonal distinctions so subtle as to pass unnoticed by someone accustomed to seeing a 30 degree (Fahrenheit, you Commies) shift from sunny and 70 to 40 and raining in a regular week.

Wouldn’t If You Paid Me

Unstoppable (Nov. 12):

Here’s why this runaway train movie looks like it sucks. It’s an exploitation movie without the rules. Why do rules make movies awesome? One word: Gremlins. Who among us doesn’t remember reciting to a playground chum the fact that you can’t expose Gizmo and his Mogwai kind to sunlight, get them wet, or feed them after midnight without dire consequences?

Likewise, when I think of “runaway whatever” movies, I immediately think of everyone’s favorite Dennis Hopper vehicle, SPEED, wherein, as we all know because the trailer told us, the bus CAN’T go under fifty or it will blow up. Bam, there it is. Right up front. The simple rule-based complications in the trailer are the immediate way for me to digest the conflict, because that’s what idiot exploitation action movies are all about.

And the worst thing that the filmmakers could do when making this kind of movie is to mistake it for something else, like, say, a character-driven drama, which is exactly what I begin to suspect because what does the Unstoppable trailer feature? Character development and motivation! Are you kidding me? It’s a train that’s out of control in an action movie. I don’t care about the motive of someone who wants to stop that train, just like I don’t question why people kill Germans in action movies. They’re Germans, and that’s reason enough!

Beside all that, the runaway train action bar has simply been set too high for this ham-fisted, softball effort. I mean, can anyone say Atomic Train?! Are you trying to tell me that you can somehow improve on Rob Lowe, Kristin Davis, and Edward Herrmann (as the President of the United Freaking States) riding an unstoppable train laden with a nuclear bomb about to go off? And what about Under Siege 2: Dark Territory? At least I’d have Steven Segal’s half-hearted martial arts style as the Navy Seal turned loveable chef to keep me entertained.

It’s because I’m so offended by the assumption that I’ll watch the less interesting version of the kind of cinema gold—or television gold in the case of Atomic Train—that I’ve seen so many times before because it has Denzel and a Captain Kirk (I only recognize Shatner) that I have to label Unstoppable… WOULDN’T SEE IT IF YOU PAID ME.

Okay. That’s my take on things. But if I can be honest, I’m most excited for the Steelers v. Pats game on Sunday.

God Save, Mike Tomlin!