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Filipino Man Upset At Trader Joe’s, Demands A Trader JoMar’s Label

(Editor’s note: I know I just posted a TJ’s piece, and I swear I’m not picking on them. I just wanted to try my hand at satire, despite being thematically identical to my last post.)

Daly City, CA – National grocery chain, Trader Joe’s, has come under fire in the past year for labels they place on some of their products such as: Trader Ming’s, Trader Jose’s and Trader Giotto’s. According to this KQED article from July 2020, a change.org petition started by high school senior, Briones Bedell, titled, Trader Joe’s Remove Racist Packaging From Your Products alleged that, “The Trader Joe’s branding is racist because it exoticizes other cultures — it presents ‘Joe’ as the default ‘normal’ and the other characters falling outside of it — they are ‘Arabian Joe,’ ‘Trader José,’ and ‘Trader Joe San.” and “belies a narrative of exoticism that perpetuates harmful stereotypes.” The petition is no longer accessible through change.org‘s site.

Filipino Bay Area local, Danilo Lim, 43, is upset about the labels for a different reason. “I know you can’t tell if I’m Brazilian or Korean but that doesn’t mean I just want a bunch of Trader Jose’s and Trader Ming’s and Trader Joe San’s products,” Lim said as he filled his cart with Trader Jose’s Taco Shells, Trader Ming’s Mandarin Orange Chicken and Trader Joe San’s Sokayaki sauce. “Filipinos have a rich culinary tradition that deserves to be introduced to the rest of the world! Where are all the Trader JoMar’s products? How about some Trader JoMar’s kare kare sauce or Trader JoMar’s sinigang packets? Everyone loves sinigang, especially in this crappy Daly City weather.”

When informed of the change.org petition and asked if such labels could be considered racist, he countered with, “Who started that petition? I bet it was some white kid, right? Listen, Trader Joe’s found a cool way to showcase food from all around the world. What’s racist about that? Point being, we’re the second largest Asian population in the US. Why are we so invisible?”

Ramesh Gupta, 38, also a Bay Area local who was shopping on the other side of the aisle replied, “Third largest now.”

“What?” Lim called back.

“Filipinos used to be the second largest Asian group in the US, but now you’re third. Behind Indians. But I’m not out here complaining that there’s no Trader Sanjay’s even though they sell stuff like this,” said Gupta, waving a packet of Jaipur Vegetables bearing the Trader Joe’s brand.

“What are you, a census taker?” Lim asked, clearly irate.

“Yeah,” Gupta replied.

“Oh.” Lim seemed momentarily stunned into silence.

“What you really should be asking is: What is this supposed to be?” Gupta asked, brandishing a package of Trader Ming’s Kung Pao Tempura Cauliflower. “Are they using Ming, a traditionally Chinese name, as a catch-all for all Asian food? I ain’t mad about Asian fusion, in this case Chinese and Japanese, but don’t put it under a Chinese header. That’s just disrespectful, man.”

“Does it taste good?” Lim asked.

Gupta paused. “Actually, yeah,” he said and tossed it into his cart. “ You should try it.”

Lim walked over and placed a package in his cart. When asked if he plans to boycott Trader Joe’s for their lack of Filipino representation he replied, “No way! I get all my groceries here! I’d starve to death without this place.” He then paid for his groceries and left with a friendly wave at Gupta.

Hey, Trader Joe’s! Not All Asian Food Is Chinese.

Probably should have taken this photo before opening the bag.
Photo credit: me. Yes, I took that photo. I know you thought it was done by a professional in a studio but, no. Just me, taking a photo of an open bag of food, half of the contents of which was consumed the week before.

I vaguely remember Trader Joe’s making noises about getting rid of all their ethnicized sub brand naming conventions like Trader Ming’s, Trader Jose’s, Trader Giotto’s. 

According to this July 2020 eater.com article, bowing to accusations of racism put forth by a change.org petition, Trader Joe’s was gonna rebrand all their international food as just Trader Joe’s. (I would link to the original NY Times article buuuuut paywall.)  That article is 10 months old and, at the time, TJ’s spokesperson, Kenya Friend-Daniel said they were already in the process of changing out those names a looong time ago and not as a frantic response to some petition.

Then a few weeks later, TJ’s was like, “Hang on, that change.org petition was started by some white high school kid?? Run it back!!” I don’t have the official minutes from that board meeting, but I’m sure that’s close to verbatim. This massive.com article quotes the store’s statement from July 24, 2020, “We want to be clear: we disagree that any of these labels are racist. We do not make decisions based on petitions.” “Especially by white high school kids,” was left unsaid.

Way to hang Kenya Friend-Daniel out to dry like that, though.

In today’s edition of trying to gin up controversy because I clearly have nothing better to do … Are we good with labeling this Trader Ming’s? Kung Pao is Chinese so that checks out, but tempura is Japanese. Has Trader Joe’s fallen victim to the worn out all-Asians-are-the-same trope and is using Trader Ming’s for all their Asian food? *gasp* (Should I maybe find another hobby besides trolling the aisles of Trader Joe’s? Signs point to “Maybe.”) Well, don’t grab your pitchforks yet ’cause …

A tasty Trader Joe San's sauce is the terrible cook's saving grace
A tasty Trader Joe San’s sauce is the terrible cook’s saving grace.

Hang on. How come China and Japan are the only Asian countries that get their own label? Filipinos are the third largest Asian population in the US. Plus our food frikkin’ rules. We demand a Trader JoMar’s ™ label! (As I arrogantly advocate for all Filipinos everywhere, not having focus grouped this idea with anyone at all.)

I digress.

Shouldn’t the Kung Pao Tempura Cauliflower be under the Trader Ming San label? Under the Trader Ming’s designation, it saddens me that the tempura part of the dish may feel neglected and disrespected. Will no one think of the tempura??

Listen, I don’t have a problem with combining food from different cultures. That’s what fusion cuisine is, isn’t it? I mean, Trader JoMar’s™ Kare Kare Pad Thai sounds interesting. They’re both peanuty. It could work. (Ok, I’m now invested in this non-existent dish. Someone who is less of a catastrophe in the kitchen please make some vegetarian Kare Kare Pad Thai and lemme know how it goes. I take no responsibility if it lands you on the toilet for a week or the hospital but will take all the credit if it’s a culinary home run.)

It might be problematic when you label that fusion dish under only one culture, though. It’s like when kids take on their father’s last name, like their mother didn’t contribute half their DNA. Filipinos solve this thorny issue by making the middle names of all their kids the mother’s maiden name. True story. Oh, I guess you could hyphenate last names too. There’s that.

Before you decide to boycott Trader Joe’s or write them a sternly worded letter for making you waste your time mulling over whether their labels are racist or not and writing overly long blog posts about this internal conflict, know this: that bag of frozen Kung Pao Tempura Cauliflower? Freakin’ DELICIOUS. My oven is broken (naturally), but it warmed up perfectly fine in my little convection style toaster oven. Some of the pieces came out with lightly toasted edges.

Check out them delicately toasted bits!
Check out them delicately toasted bits! Makes it look like I know what I’m doing in the kitchen.

The sauce is on the spicy side, being Kung Pao and all but wasn’t overpowering. Well, what would it even overpower? Cauliflower tastes like air and weight loss. The point is, this was a very tasty dish and fairly healthy. Or at least, not chock full of heart attack inducing ingredients. So, questionable labeling practices aside, this still gets 10/10, would buy again. 

Wow. That looks surprisingly similar to the picture on the package.
Wow. That looks surprisingly similar to the picture on the package.

I still think Trader JoMar’s ™ is a winner. Contact me, Trader Joe’s!

 

10 Tips For Restarting (Or Starting) A Gym Routine

Photo by Victor Freitas from Pexels

Have you been away from the gym for a while and now want to go back to weight training? Were you perhaps subject to a government mandated lockdown that closed down all gyms in your area and forced you to become a recluse, shunning all forms of human contact? And has that lockdown now been lifted, but it’s been so long you’ve forgotten how to wear pants and shoes let alone what you should be doing at the gym? 

Or maybe you’ve never been to a gym before and want to start a new weight training regimen.

Then read on, my intrepid soon to be gym goer. Here are 10 tips to kickstart your gym routine.

1. Have a plan. Plan out that day’s workout. Know what muscle groups you’re working and what exercises to do. This includes having alternate exercises in mind in case the machine or equipment you need is unavailable. Wandering aimlessly around the gym doesn’t count as a workout.

More broadly, have an overall workout plan that spans at least 2 months and maps out your workout split. A typical split would be: lower body day – legs and glutes, upper body pull day – back and biceps and upper body push day – chest, shoulders and triceps. Sprinkle in some abdominal work and cardio a few times a week as well. 

2. Warm up and stretch. You’ve heard it before but it bears repeating: warming up and stretching before your workout are key to avoiding injury, activating the day’s working muscle groups and improving mobility. You don’t have to be a Cirque du Soleil level contortionist but do give some love to the muscles you’re targeting before you beat them up for an hour. They’ll treat you kindly in return and won’t force you to collapse in a broken whimpering pile as you try to make your way down the stairs and to your car post workout.

3. Know your limits. Maybe you were able to squat twice your body weight pre-lockdown but you haven’t been able to do weighted squats since then. A challenging weight, rep and set range is important but more so is not injuring yourself. Start off with lighter weight and go from there. 

4. Take breaks and hydrate. Your body is already freaking out enough. No need to further punish it with fatigue and dehydration. This is also a good way to kill time while you wait for the machine or equipment you need. 

5. Track your workouts: weight, reps and sets on a spreadsheet on your phone. Not only will this help you plan your day’s workout but will also show the progress you’ve made.

6. Actively assess what your body is doing at all times. Establish a mind muscle connection while performing exercises. Be mindful of your form and technique to avoid injury and to maximize the benefits of that particular exercise. Recruit the right muscles by bringing your focus and awareness to the specific muscle group the exercise is targeting.

Another aspect of this is paying close attention to pain cues. Know when the pain is from usual muscle soreness due to appropriate load and reps and stop before it gets to, “Oh, I have mistakenly detached parts of my body due to poor form and/or too much weight, and now I am lying in a heap of agony on the floor drenched in my own tears.”

7. Mind your own workout cause everyone else is minding theirs. In general, ain’t nobody looking at you so there’s no need to feel self-conscious. Everyone is in there to train. They should be anyway. If anyone is creeping on you, report that person to gym staff right away. On the other hand, if you’re the creeper, stop that. Stop that this instant. 

8. Be prepared for your workout to be tougher than you remember. Your body likely isn’t as strong and/or flexible as it was before. Don’t let this frustrate or discourage you; instead use it as motivation to improve. Give your ego some Benadryl and put it to sleep. Focus on the day’s workout and don’t get so bogged down with where you are in relation to where you were. Strength and endurance can be built back up with time and effort. 

9. Be patient and have fun. Enjoy being able to do a normal routine thing again.

10. Feed yourself something healthy, delicious and protein packed post workout. Your muscles just did all this work for you. Reward them with nutrients. Don’t undo all your hard work by depriving your body of much needed sustenance.

When in doubt, always seek the help of a professional. All gyms have at least one trainer on staff available to answer any questions you have or help you create a workout plan.

So get back in the gym and get those gains!

 

 

 

Best and Worst of Mortal Kombat 2021

*SPOILERS ABOUND*

You’ve been warned.

This is not a good movie. (That’s not the spoiler.) Don’t be fooled by the slick trailer or well-meaning but woefully misguided acquaintances. This movie is not worth an hour and 50 minutes of your time. It is worth precisely 11 minutes of your time. I know this because I timed it.

THE BEST

The aforementioned first 11 minutes.

We open on the Hanzo Hasashi Compound in Japan, 1617. Tokugawa period setting means one thing: some epicness is about to go down. A society so emotionally repressed that a husband has to surreptitiously lean into his wife to whisper, “I like you. Do you like me? Check yes or no.” for fear someone in his household staff should overhear him acting like he even knows the woman? Yes, please. (What he actually says is quite lovely and I would be so blessed should someone ever express such a sentiment about me.) After he hies off to fetch more buckets of water, we get a close up on Chekhov’s kunai: lightweight and versatile, it is the discerning old timey Japanese farmer’s and ninja’s implement of choice. Hanzo’s wife is using it to plant some … plants and Hanzo will later fashion his “Scorpion tail” weapon out of it and some rope and then lay total and bloody waste to Bi-Han’s henchmen.

Bi who?

Bi-Han, later Sub-Zero, (who I resorted to calling Bi-Itch as the movie wore on because I am 12 years old, evidently) clearly has some kind of age old grudge to settle with Hasashi and his entire bloodline. As far as we non game playing viewers go, he’s some kind of amalgamated Kung Fu master with a nasty attitude and supernatural powers who relishes menacing women and children with his icicle hands.

There’s so much pathos and genuine emotion when Hanzo finds his wife and son slaughtered and encased in ice; that moment of tenderness he and his wife shared earlier now eclipsed by their murder. Hiroyuki Sanada does a lot of silent heavy lifting here and earns even more of his paycheck when his face hardens, and he turns into ninja terminator on a dime. Straight stabbing dudes through the crown of the head! You could give me three hours of this and I wouldn’t tire of it. The grace and precision with which Hanzo slices and dices his foes set against the idyllic setting of his home now defiled deserves a chef’s kiss; the geysers of blood more artful than gory also earns a hat tip.

I cackled at Bi-Han giving his speech, gloating about exterminating Hanzo’s bloodline and Hanzo’s like, “Yeah, no idea what you’re saying ‘cause I don’t understand Chinese, but I’m gonna lay down a whooping on you all the same.” Did Bi-Han tell his Japanese language tutor, “Yo, I need just enough Japanese to terrorize Hasashi’s wife and kid, but I don’t wanna have to memorize my whole triumphant screed about how I’m finally gonna succeed at eradicating his bloodline. He can probably figure that out from context anyway.” Did he learn to say two things: Where is the bathroom and where is Hanzo? Tourists, man. Hanzo was probably like, “Are you still mad I didn’t invite you out to karaoke that one time? It was totally last minute and they were my college buddies who you don’t know anyway. Slaughtering my family is kind of a disproportionate response, don’t you think?”

The fight choreography in this opening sequence was stellar with both Hanzo and Bi-Han near flawless in their fighting styles. Had they kept the rest of the movie as the story between these two foes, it would have been a far better viewing experience. Unfortunately for Hanzo and all of us because it meant the birth of the rest of this, for lack of a better word, “story,” Bi-Han does succeed in delivering the killing blow thereby depriving us of the best character in this whole movie. You’re the worst, Bi-Itch. The worst.

THE WORST (Besides Bi-Han)

The rest of this movie.

The first eleven minutes is what suckered me into watching the whole thing as I vainly hoped that rad opening wasn’t just a fluke. It was just a fluke. It’s like two different movies Frankensteined together. And like Frankenstein’s monster, it leads to disaster. Everything after Raiden makes his attention whoring entrance with a cheesy lighting display and engages in some light babynapping is a boring generic mess that nobody, not even the characters themselves, cares about. You can see the will to live ebbing from their expressions with each passing scene. Kung Lao, who gets his soul sucked away by Shang Tsung, was probably wishing it could have happened several scenes earlier just to free himself from this steaming pile of fetid nonsense that’s been fermenting in the hot sun so long that not even the raccoons will give it a glance.

No, giving this an R rating doesn’t make it a less sucky movie. It just makes it a terrible movie with f bombs and blood spattered around. So like when you carpet bomb the bathroom with some floral scented room spray after annihilating the commode with the remains of your Taco Bell extravaganza. You only made the doo doo smell worse by hot gluing dead rotten flowers to your turd grenades and now the stench is clinging to your clothes and hair making you radioactive for the next week.

To be fair, there’s probably enough for fans of the game to enjoy here. There are a ton of fights, all of them bloody, all of them fatal, though no actual tournament. All game characters deliver their signature finishing moves so there’s plenty for past players to feel nostalgic about and present players to feel smug about since they can point out all the Easter eggs to their non playing friends who, trust me, do NOT care.

The character of Cole Young, predictably a MMA fighter past his prime and instantly forgettable, (played by Lewis Tan who auditioned for Marvel’s Shang-Chi but lost out to Simu Liu because they wanted a lead with comedic chops, if that and the casting of Awkwafina gives you an indication of the tone of that movie) isn’t an in-game character and was created specifically for this film. Which makes me ask why the character had to be a dude at all? Why couldn’t we have an ass kicking female descendant of Hanzo’s defending Earthrealm from Outworld’s incursions? Did they think viewers would be confused since Hanzo’s daughter was the sole survivor, and we’d think the present day character, hundreds of years later, is his actual daughter? Or did they think that one Earthrealm lady fighter in the form of Sonya Blade was more than enough? I shouldn’t have to point out how stupid that is. If you can have five (four and then three depending on where you are in the movie) dudes as Earthrealm’s champions, you can have two ladies at minimum. That was a missed opportunity.

The most annoying part of this movie is not that the majority of it was so terrible, it makes you lose all faith in humanity. It’s that there was a much better story lurking around the edges of this devil’s spawn gift that keeps on giving. Hanzo Hasashi was on screen for a fraction of the entire movie’s run time and yet he was a much more compelling character than all of Earthrealm’s champions put together. I would have much preferred to watch his backstory leading up to Bi-Han’s attack on his home and/or his journey to hell and how he conquered its fires. Stop teasing me with these poseur badasses when you had the real deal engaging in awesomeness off camera. It’s like the John Wick movies without John Wick, just a bunch of rando assassins.

They’re planning four more movies, hoping to capture some MCU style magic and box office success, but that’s easily six movies too many. Just give me one movie focused solely on Hanzo Hasashi and I might forgive you the atrocity that was this first one.

 

 

MOEMOE (CURIOSITY), an original Tahitian legend

There is an island in the middle of the ocean upon which sits a lone banyan tree. It wasn’t always thus. Legend has it that this strange island had once been inhabited by women with beautiful voices. No one had ever seen these women but sailors would return from their travels spinning tales of hearing the tones of melancholy singing in the dark of the night. Whenever they tried to approach the island, they were rebuffed by treacherous waters. The voices were silent during the day; this island still but for the rustling and flight of brightly colored birds circling above.

There was a man in a village named Onoono. A curious sort. He had been so all his life, and he had heard story after story of this mysterious island and its elusive inhabitants equally long. Naturally, he longed to see and hear such things for himself. One day he managed to convince his mates to seek out this mystical place and away they went. They found an island encircled by brightly colored birds. Unsure if this was the place, they made landfall and decided to explore. Without warning, they were set upon by that same flock of colorful birds. Seemingly fearless, the birds flew close around the men, brushing their hair with their feathers, chirping at them lively. Onoono’s friends were unnerved by this unnatural behaviour and tried to swat away the birds, but the birds were undeterred. Onoono, however, gazed upon these creatures with wonder and noticed one bird in particular whose feathers were the color of the sunrise, and who, in turn, took special interest in him. His mates began to fear these aggressive birds and urged Onoono to leave. So enamored was he of his bird, who he called Maruao, however, that he refused. “Come back for me later,” he said distractedly, entranced by his bird. Frustrated, his mates left him and made their way back to their boat. But they had tarried on the island too long and the previously calm seas around the island had given way to a frenzy of tumultuous waves. Their boat had been destroyed by the roiling waves, dashed upon the rocks, leaving them no hope of escape. Realizing they were trapped, they went back in search of Onoono.

They found him among the flock of birds, keeping a watchful vigil on the one the color of sunrise. The men were still wary of the birds and tried to keep their distance, but as night fell the men were greeted with an unexpected sight. When the sun had dipped past the horizon and darkness blanketed the island, all the birds began to transform into women. Frightened, the men hid themselves away but Onoono stepped out from their hiding place, eager to speak with the women, excited at the prospect of learning more about them. The woman who had been his sunrise bird saw him and approached him, a smile upon her lips. Seeing the two getting closer, her sisters descended upon them in a panic and pulled Maruao away from him.

As one the women sang a song of woe. There once was a sorcerer named Tuputupua who was envious of Oro’s powers of creation. Wanting to be like the god, Tuputupua began to bring into being creatures of his own on this island. However, when he created human women, that’s when he drew Oro’s ire. “You are no god! For your arrogance, I curse your human women to live as birds,” thundered the god. But Tuputupua pleaded with Oro for mercy, “Punish me if you must, but please spare my creations. They are innocent of my wrong doing.” Taking some pity on the women, Oro cursed them to live as birds only while the sun is up, allowing them to keep their human form at night. “Beware, no human creature of yours can ever touch a human of my making. Heed this warning and I may yet be more merciful toward them. Defy this and they will suffer even worse consequences.” Many years had since passed, and their sorcerer father was dead and gone, but the women prayed to Oro every night in the hopes that he would return them to their full human forms.

Moved by this tale of sorrow, the men emerged from their hiding place and walked cautiously toward the women. The women tried to shy away from them but could not help but be drawn to them as well, fighting between their desire to meet with human men they had never seen before and knowing that a worse punishment awaited them should they defy Oro’s wishes. Free from the prying eyes of her sisters, Maruao sought out the curious man again. Though she knew it was forbidden, she reached out a hand to stroke his hair and his cheek, wanting to know if it felt like her own. Onoono was delighted and inspected her just as closely. They clasped hands and smiled at one another. Sensing that something was amiss, the sisters turned toward the couple and were aghast to see their fingers entwined. As they tried to run to the couple to separate them, all the women suddenly fell to the ground. The men watched in horror as the women began to transform into strange and savage four-legged beasts covered in fur and possessing multiple eyes. The beasts snarled and snapped their jaws then turned on the terrified men and chased them deeper into the island. Only Maruao, the sunrise bird, ran away from all of them with the Onoono trying to follow her.

The beasts cornered the men and viciously attacked them. The men tried to defend themselves, but in the end man and beast only succeeded in killing one other. Onoono, having lost track of the beast he had been chasing, stumbled upon this carnage and began to weep for his dead friends, blaming himself for the fate that had befallen them. Onoono sensed quiet footsteps behind him and turned to see the remaining beast stalking him, all traces of the woman and bird he had gotten to know seemingly gone. “Please,” he implored, “don’t kill me.” Maruao only growled in response. Onoono pulled out the knife he always kept with him as, with a howl, Maruao lunged at him.

Once a Month

ONCE A MONTH
Written by
J.F. Acosta

Pages: 3

Characters:
Alice, 20’s
Karen, 20’s

Synopsis:
Karen’s got a date, but she forgot that this isn’t a good time.

Copyright © 2019 by J.F. Acosta
All rights reserved. No part of this work may be presented, performed, reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the writer.

 

INT. APARTMENT LIVING ROOM – NIGHT

ALICE is lounging on the couch, scrolling through her phone.  KAREN bursts into the living room, in a panic, an earring in her hand, the other in her ear.

KAREN
Oh, god!

ALICE
(not looking up her from her phone)  I know I’m good but “god”? That’s a little —

KAREN
Is it a full moon?  It’s a full moon, isn’t it?

ALICE
(still engrossed with her phone)  So what if it —
(beat)
Oh.

ALICE gets up from the couch and approaches an increasingly agitated KAREN.

ALICE
Hey, hey, hey, it’s ok. We do this every month. We got this!

KAREN
It’s not ok!  I totally forgot and now Eddy’s on his way!

ALICE
Why is —

KAREN
‘Cause I forgot!

ALICE
Just call him and cancel, then. Tell him you have a —

KAREN
A what?!

ALICE
A thing! Like a lady thing. 

KAREN
A lady thing??

ALICE
Yeah, guys are scared of that stuff.

KAREN
Will you be serious?!  He’s gonna be here any minute.
(beat)
Oh, god. It’s happening. 

KAREN starts writhing and contorting.

ALICE
Ok, ok. Deep breaths.

KAREN
Those don’t help!

ALICE
For me!!!

KAREN
Do something!!!

ALICE
How about some Xanax?

KAREN
How’s that gonna —

ALICE
Valium?

KAREN
What, for you?

ALICE
For you! And me, sure.  Yeah.  But it might slow things down for you! Or stop it or something. It’s not like there’s a manual for this sort of thing.  Worth a try, right?

KAREN
Yeah, ok.

ALICE leaves to get the pills. KAREN falls down on all fours and starts growling.

KAREN
Hurry!

ALICE rushes back in with some pills and a glass of water. KAREN takes one and pants.  The transformation does not abate.  Fur has covered her body and a tail is starting to sprout.

ALICE
Better take the other.

KAREN
Which one did I just —

ALICE
Does it matter?

KAREN’s hands have turned into paws so ALICE has to gingerly place the pill in KAREN’s mouth. KAREN falls over on her side, trying to tuck her nose to her tail. She starts moaning.  There is a knock on the door.

ALICE
Stay here.

KAREN
(mumbling) Where else am I gonna go?

ALICE leaves to answer the door.  KAREN continues whining on the floor, half asleep.  Her transformation completes itself until she is a werewolf in a cocktail dress.  ALICE comes back holding a bouquet of flowers that she sets on the coffee table. 

ALICE
He’s sorry you’ve been puking your guts out but will call you later.

ALICE notices that KAREN has fallen asleep.  She gathers up the blanket from the couch and drapes it over her friend.  ALICE sits on the floor and strokes KAREN’s head.

(CON’T)
It’s ok. I never liked that dress anyway. 

KAREN yips and twitches in her sleep.

Why John Wick Should Be Your Desert Island Movie

There is something about this movie that fills me with glee. Is it all the shooting, punching and kicking?  Is it all the well-tailored suits? Is it The Keanu?  Yes and yes and yes again.

Action movie Keanu is my favorite Keanu. Second only to action science fiction Keanu. He only has two speeds in this movie: sad and mad. 

What’s the set up?

John Wick’s wife dies of a protracted illness. It’s all very sad.  And then Theon Greyjoy pops up and Theon Greyjoys all over the place. Which is to say, spreads his particular brand of pathetic douchebaggery all over Keanu’s very nice home. Theon, or Ioseph, as they call him in this movie, and his lackeys break into John Wick’s house in the middle of the night, beat the ever living boom boom out of John and then steal his ride because Ioseph is nothing more than a skin bag of ambulatory meat and bones awfulness. And an idiot.  So, you know, Theon Greyjoy.  In fairness, it’s quite an impressive ride. Ioseph also commits a much more heinous crime than grand theft auto. Something so terrible that anyone anywhere can suddenly understand why John Wick goes on a mighty rampage following the defiling of his home and theft of his ’69 Mustang. Come on, man, the dog. I thought there was some kind of unwritten Hollywood rule about harming animals on screen.

Ugh.

Not that I ever need an excuse to watch Keanu rampaging with gun-fu and kung-fu all through a blighted city. As per the trailers, John Wick, is a retired assassin. To hear them tell it, the greatest assassin that ever assassined for all time and space.  Ioseph tries to unload his stolen goods at Aurelio’s (John Leguizamo) chop shop but, being possessed of two grey cells to rub together, Aurelio demands to know where Ioseph got the ride and then proceeds to smack him around.  It’s… kind of awesome.  Ioseph cries and threatens to tattle on him to his daddy and Aurelio is like, beat it, pinhead.  So Ioseph takes off with the car and Aurelio sweats it because he knows.

Here is the thing about this movie.  It’s funny.  Very funny.  The laughs it elicits from single syllable dialogue is masterful. 

As promised, Ioseph goes home to Russian gangster daddy, Viggo (Michael Nyqvist), and tattles on Aurelio smacking him like the whiny diaper baby that he is.  And so Viggo gets on the horn with Aurelio and is like, so I hear you hit my kid?  And Aurelio is like, Yup. Viggo is like, ….?  And Aurelio busts it, He stole John Wick’s car. And jacked up his dog. And then, I kid you not, Viggo goes, “Oh.”  And then hangs up as sweaty bullets of nerves and fear leak out of every pore.  Then he goes over to his kid and punches him in the gut a few times because Ioseph is an idiot. Who then tries to swagger his way out of it like, who’s this John Wick guy anyway? Some kind of Boogeyman, he sneers.  I mean, sneers because have I mentioned?  He’s an idiot.  Just assume that for every time I type Ioseph, I am just leaving off The Idiot right after it.  And so Viggo is like, No, fool.  He’s the one you send to kill the Boogeyman. And then we launch into some John Wick back story which goes something like this: he used to work for Viggo and then one day wanted out “over a woman, of course” and whereas Viggo may be smarter than his son, he certainly rivals him in overall dickitude, he tells John Wick he can have his freedom but he has to do one last job first.  Which is the most impossible job that an entire horde of assassins couldn’t have pulled off, but John is one part ninja, one part murder unicorn and all parts awesome.  So, not only does he survive the job, but he piled so many bodies around the city, they could start their own methane plant.  Viggo says the work Wick did that night laid the entire foundation for his business today.  And his idiot son went and stole his car and then the thing with the dog.  Viggo basically tells his kid he’s screwed. Death is coming for him and despite all their best efforts, they’re not going to be able to stop the inevitable carnage. Ioseph had the good grace to look properly chastised.  Or constipated. It’s hard to tell sometimes.

Dean Winters has a marvelous supporting role here as Viggo’s lawyer, Avi. I’m so used to seeing him be the wise-cracking muscle that seeing him as this jumpy numbers guy who doesn’t even carry a gun just brought another dimension of laughs.

So now we’ve set the stage. It’s a revenge rampage film. But one of the better ones because a) Keanu and b) it’s funny.  Sure, it’s not a perfect movie by any stretch of the imagination, but I completely buy into Keanu as John Wick being a complete bad ass who ran out of cares to give the second he realized that the dog his wife gave him as her dying gift to him was no more. What can you do after that? If you answered put the remains of your puppy in a nice box, respectfully bury her in the back yard and then sledgehammer your way through your floor to get at your assassin murder tools, you win the door prize.  There are no real surprises in this movie; no hackneyed M. Knight twists at the end; no last minute betrayals; no overwrought emotional outbursts or pointless monologues. What you see is what you get. Here is a guy in a black suit and he’s coming to kill you.   

There are some brief fun interludes from the relentless bloodletting with … more killing. But it’s at least killing outside of Wick’s revenge-porn.  The Continental is the preferred hotel for discerning assassins because they are discreet and accommodating of the unusual vicissitudes of their type of work, but they are very strict about enforcing the rules. And the number one rule is: No business on Continental grounds. Winston (Ian McShane) prides himself on the hallowed neutral ground he’s carved out of this murder soaked town.  And the penalty is steep for anyone who breaks the rules, as Ms. Perkins (Adriane Palicki) discovered when she broke the rules twice over. It’s a terrible thing that both female actresses in this movie end up dead with the third one spouting such horrific dialogue that she should have also been killed.

The one criticism I have for this movie, and it’s a big one, is that it is lousy for female characters and representation. Sadly, we must all look elsewhere for that. The three aforementioned women are it for the entire run time. Passing the Bechtel test, they are not. Making one of them a codeless (and it turns out incapable) assassin acquits them of nothing here. John Wick’s wife, Helen (Bridget Moynahan), we only see in flashbacks and on a saved video on John’s phone that he rewatches every time someone pauses in their bid to kill him.  So maybe every ten minutes or so.  They introduce one fairly useless female bartender, Addy (Bridget Regan… ok, it’s weird that two of the three women in this movie are named Bridget, right?) whose only purpose is to spout dialogue so cringeworthy that I very nearly gagged in my seat. They did give her a name so there’s that at least. The writers had to find a way for someone somewhere to tell John where Ioseph was hanging out, and apparently, they couldn’t find a better way than having her leave a note on a napkin. It’s bad, not gonna lie. Oh, wait. The dog, Daisy, is also female. But talking about her makes me sad so I won’t. 

There’s a point in the movie when John really lets all his anger unfurl.  He’s trussed up in a chair with no clear means of escape, surrounded by lots of men with guns.  And Wick snarls, “A lot of people have been asking if I’m back.  Yeah, I’m thinking I’m back.”  Yeah, you are, Keanu.  Yeah, you are.