All posts by Jesse

Jesse

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

Mexican Roulette

In addition to writing about I, Frankenstein, I also sometimes write fiction. I’ve been working on a story recently that involves a potato gun. You might say that I am somewhat obsessed with potato guns despite little experience with them in real life. For example: years ago I wrote this extremely short story that also involves a potato gun. Now that I’ve written a second story with a potato gun, I have to either make a potato gun-themed short story collection, or maybe set this other piece aside. Or: maybe I set it free, and nothing says setting free like SportsAlcohol.com. It was either this or try to discreetly slip it into a literature textbook and get fired. Enjoy?

MEXICAN ROULETTE

Dawson, Pete, and Sophie are planning a trip to Mexico. They go over the checklist.  It’s in Sophie’s handwriting, which looks sort of like normal girl handwriting, soft and round, but messier, like if a boy possessed her hand.  Sophie is recording secretary. Sophie keeps things civil by telling people to shut up.

“Blankets.  Matches.  Juice boxes—apple.  Pillows.” Sophie reads, and Pete and Dawson nod in unison several times, until Pete looks at Dawson’s nods and stops.

“A box of change for tolls.  One BB gun.”

They are in Dawson’s van. It used to be a minivan, but he took the back seats out to make room for the stuff on the list.  It’s summer and it’s hot inside the van, but Dawson never wears shorts. Sophie would say it is because he never figured out how to look dignified in them (even though nobody has). Pete would say it is because he is an asshole. Dawson would say that he doesn’t have any shorts.

“Batteries.  Photographic film.  Marshmallows.  BBs.”

“Hold up,” says Dawson.  “BBs?”

“For the BB gun,” says Sophie.  Pete looks at the floor.

“He’s allowed to load the BB gun?”

Pete looks up. “Of course I am! BBs are on the list!”

“True,” says Sophie.

“If I thought we were gonna let him have BBs, I never would have agreed to buy that BB gun,” says Dawson.

“It was implied,” says Pete. “So I added them.”

“You doctored it!  You added BBs without my approval!”

“Shut up, Dawson.  I’ll cross them off,” says Sophie.

“Don’t cross it off.  What am I supposed to do with a BB gun and no BBs?” says Pete.

“You should’ve gone for the potato gun,” says Sophie.  “I told you.”

“No,” says Dawson.  “No way would I supply him with potatoes.”

“I would’ve brought potatoes from home.”

“You don’t have any potatoes from home.”

“Well I know where I could get some.”

“Even now, without a potato gun, potatoes aren’t on the list.  Do you think I’d put them on the list if you had a potato gun?”

“Enough!” says Sophie.  “Pete, do you have a potato gun?”

“No.”

“Do you even know where to get one?”

“Not exactly.”

“Dawson, do you even know what a potato gun looks like?”

“I saw one once.”

“Dawson, do you know?”

“No.”

“Then let’s shut up and move on.”

“If I ever get a potato gun, Dawson, I’m coming for you.”

The next night, Pete sneaks into Dawson’s bedroom with a potato gun.  This sounds impressive until you consider that Pete and Dawson live in the same apartment.  Then it sounds very simple, until you consider that Pete went outside and came back in through Dawson’s bedroom window.

“AHHHHHH – hey, is that a potato gun?” says Dawson.

“You’re goddamn right,” says Pete, immediately forgetting to use his menacing whisper.

“And it’s loaded with potatoes?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, Jesus. I’m pretty impressed.”

“Honestly, you didn’t think I could find potatoes?”

“I figured you’d spend most of your energy not being able to find a potato gun,” says Dawson.

“You figured wrong,” says Pete.

“Why did you just start whispering?” says Dawson. “Anyway, can I go back to bed now?”

“So I can bring it?”

“No,” says Dawson.

“Okay then,” says Pete. He points the potato gun at Dawson’s head. “We’re gonna play a little Idaho roulette,” says Pete.

“I don’t really see how it’s roulette,” says Dawson, “since there’s no way to partially load a potato gun. So I’m going to get it in the head no matter what, unless it jams. And knowing you, you didn’t buy a cheap potato gun. You probably cashed in a savings bond you had since you were a baby or something to get yourself the best potato gun in the catalog.”

“Website.”

“Plus shipping,” says Dawson.

“I’m a man of taste,” says Pete.
The next day, Dawson comes home from the store with bread and a flower for Sophie and sees Pete on the steps of their building with two potato guns at his sides.

“So when I told you that you couldn’t bring a potato gun,” says Dawson, “you decided to ask if you could bring two?”

“I found a way to do roulette with potato guns,” says Pete. “I have two.  One is loaded.  One isn’t.  Get the picture?”

“I get a picture,” says Dawson. “But I don’t exactly see where roulette comes in.”

“I’ll juggle the guns around and shoot you in the head with one of them.”

“But that’s not really roulette.  I’ve got a fifty-fifty shot of getting mashed in the head, and that’s assuming you don’t maintain some knowledge, subliminal or otherwise, of which gun is loaded.  I’m guessing a loaded potato gun is significantly heavier than an unloaded one.”

“Fuck it,” says Pete. “Now I’m just going to shoot you.”

Dawson’s van pulls up to the curb, driven by Sophie.  Even though they’re already looking straight at her, she leans on the horn.

“Hey boys,” she says, and honks it again.

Dawson calls over to her.  “Sophie, do you have that Super Soaker full of mustard?”

Sophie brandishes it.

“Son of a bitch,” says Pete.  “This always happens.”

“The mustard gun thing always happens?” she says to Dawson. “Were there others before me?”

“Since forever,” says Pete. “He’s taller, for one thing.  It pretty much went from there.”

Sophie looks at Dawson, and apologizes with her eyes. She open fires mustard on the crowd of two. She shows no mercy.  She gets it in Dawson’s hair. She staves off adulthood for another week.

This is the story that Dawson and Sophie tell on their wedding day six years later, about their trip to Mexico, when they first admitted to falling in love.  They get about halfway through it before Pete charges in with roman candles blazing and wrecks two centerpieces.  As Dawson’s two biggest cousins drag him away, Pete gives the first part of a magnificent toast, trailing off. Sophie takes Dawson’s hand. They look around the room, heads turning in sync, and for a moment everyone else is a stranger.

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Major Cultural Event: I, Frankenstein (2014)

At one point in I, Frankenstein, someone in the movie reassures someone else: “This is real — all of it,” which I think really means “this is real — even the bullshit about gargoyles, swear to god.”

Let me back up. There are only four Underworld movies. You may have thought there were either one or infinity Underworld movies, but that number stands at a measly four. What’s more, the Underworld movies only involve vampires and werewolves in their dense mythology dedicated to explaining why vampires would deign to shoot guns at werewolves and, to a much lesser extent, defy the gun-shooting dictum to fuck werewolves. The Underworld movies try their best to be inclusive (vampires, werewolves, guns), but leave out monsters such as: mummies; zombies; demons; Twilights; gill-people; fifty-foot women; ghosts; Bigfoots; and Frankensteins.

So what if there was a movie about an army of Frankensteins? That is the plot of I, Frankenstein. It may not seem like this at first because “I” is a singular and also because it’s not really mentioned in the movie until around the halfway point, and not really acted upon until maybe the three-quarters mark. But that is because the first three-quarters of the movie are exposition and then only the last one-quarter is plot. I, Frankenstein has a lot of what we who pretend we are in the business call “world-building.” When you world-build, you use computers to construct vast fantastical places that look somewhat like soundstages.

This is the world Frankenstein, who as many people in the movie point out is actually Frankenstein’s Monster, and who is also called Adam after that lackluster Buffy villain, enters into after the events of the Mary Shelley novel Frankenstein. These events are recounted in the space of forty-five languorous seconds at the beginning of this movie before getting down to the real business: adapting a sham graphic novel written for the purpose of being adapted into a screenplay that rips off Underworld. After that boring Shelley stuff is over, Adam is confronted by demons, who covet his secrets to corpse resurrection, and living, shapeshifting gargoyles, who covet stopping demons from killing shit. Both sides want him to join their war, but Adam Frankenstein needs to go his own way, which Fleetwood Mac never mentioned means living several hundred years as a Jack Reacher-like hobo, slinking around in the shadows, traveling via public-ish transportation, and washing a single set of clothes in whatever sinks he can find.

The conclusion this movie has reached is that because the monster was resurrected by unnatural means, he is basically invincible (like Jack Reacher), cannot be killed by normal means (like Jack Reacher), and not particularly psyched about that (like the non-Cruise vampire from Interview with the Vampire). I’m not sure why the half-rotted flesh used to construct this pitiful creature looks so smooth; I guess it’s due to Victor Frankenstein’s previously unsung stitchwork, which also results in scars that don’t disappear, but do rise and fall, and possibly shift around on his face, although he never says “I have scars?!” a la an earlier film in this series, Young Frankenstein.

Have I mentioned that Frankenstein’s monster is handsome in this version? (Or at least Aaron Eckhart handsome.) And why shouldn’t he be, motherfucker? Sexy vampires have had their day. The era of sexy Frankensteins begins now, or whenever Aaron Eckhart puts his back into it a little more, if you know what I mean (I don’t know what I mean). Also, I really like the idea of Frankenstein’s monster roaming the Earth following the events of the Mary Shelley novel and/or Kenneth Branagh movie. I especially like the idea that maybe at some point he becomes the mysterious new sheriff of a small town.

Anyway, though he doesn’t become sheriff onscreen in this movie, Adam Frankenstein eventually turns up in an unnamed city that must be somewhere in the same country as Underworld; at very least, I’m certain they take place on the same continent, a Europe-like landmass known as Eurotrash. This city also happens to be the world headquarters of the company headed by the demon prince played by Bill Nighy. If you’re making a movie like this, you have to include Bill Nighy (who I hope his friends have nicknamed Billy Nigh at some point). He will totally treat it like it’s a real job and make the movie feel substantially wittier than it actually is. He has been training for this his whole life by appearing in Richard Curtis movies that are not actually funny. Nighy employs a couple of legit scientists who never ask why they’re supposed to be studying suspiciously Frankensteinian reanimation science, I assume because they are trying to avoid spoilers.

Nighy sends out demons to kill humans and/or gargoyles, who also have some kind of headquarters in this town. As someone who is very interested in mythology built around shapeshifting gargoyles, I found the treatment of gargoyles in I, Frankenstein pretty confusing. The gargoyles sometimes take human form and discuss things while walking through doorways, a technique the Underworld people must have explained makes them look busy, and they do all of this in buildings lined with gargoyles. Gargoyles living in buildings lined with gargoyles: does this mean that when they go to sleep, the buildings are actually empty? Are the prime spots in this building on the outside, or the inside? I, Frankenstein is good at showing gargoyles swooping around and grabbing demons and killing them, but disappointingly mum about matters such as gargoyle real estate or gargoyle job descriptions. Like for another example, at one point, a leader gargoyle instructs another gargoyle to make sure there are plenty of gargoyles posted on all nearby buildings to keep watch over the plot of the movie. This for me raised many questions about what the gargoyles are otherwise doing. It seems like saying, hey, make sure there are plenty of humans sitting on their couches tonight.

Another weird thing about the gargoyles in this movie is that while the gargoyles and demons fight and kill each other, they can all see each other ascending to heaven (gargoyles are basically semi-angels) or descending into hell (that’s the demons), which hardly seems fair, in fact seems kind of like a major morale-suck if you’re on the side that descends into hell. When you kill a gargoyle and it just ascends majestically to heaven, possibly to be awarded seventy virgin gargoyles because I don’t know how this gargoyle-inclusive religion works,  I can imagine that might set off an existential crisis about the meaning of gargoyle-demon warfare.

I, Scientist

Then again, presumably you know the score with gargoyle-killing when you become a demon (however you become a demon). This does not explain what goes through the heads of the two normal human scientists (one hot lady, one “other”) when every day they report to work in a gigantic complex where they appear to be the only two non-security employees, and basically looks like it should have a giant DEMONCO sign out front. The DEMONCO science room is one of my favorite parts of the movie, even though it leaves me hanging about the fate of the successfully reanimated giant rat they use as a test subject. When the scientists try to reanimate something (which they aren’t able to really do correctly until they read the MacGuffin Frankenstein Book o’ Resurrection), their screens totally have a reanimation status bar readout that says stuff like “Reanimation 2%” (it takes a super long time to reanimate something). This raises questions — this movie raises many questions; it should include them after the credits, like those discussion sections they sometimes append to paperback editions of popular novels — about what, say, a 40% reanimated corpse is like. Is that like, the limbs do stuff but the rest of the body isn’t into it?

I just realized I may be recapping I, Frankenstein more than assessing its quality. Its quality should probably be discussed in Screen Gems terms. Though it comes from an Underworld writer and is obviously patterned after that series, I, Frankenstein more closely resembles other Screen Gems specials like Legion or Priest in the way it’s always swarming with sometimes-winged CG creatures. In fact, it’s extremely confusing that Paul Bettany does not appear a single time in I, Frankenstein. Bettany is a little more convincing at being intense during a storm of nonsense than Aaron Eckhart, who does look pissed off, but in that way where you can’t tell if Adam Frankenstein is pissed off about getting jerked around by gargoyles and demons and only having one hoodie, or if Aaron Eckhart is pissed off that he was Harvey Dent in the biggest Batman movie ever but now winds up with Paul Bettany’s non-Jennifer Connelly leftovers.

But I like the designs of the demons and gargoyles, and of some of the buildings, and I like the general level of Frankenstein-related glass-smashing though I feel that more of the CGI stained glass should have CGI-smashed; that feels like a missed opportunity. Also, there should have been a part where a gargoyle turns against the other gargoyles and the gargoyles have to fight each other. This admittedly does not have much to do with Frankenstein’s monster but remember, in my ideal post-Frankenstein story he’s off being the sheriff of a small town. There could still be gargoyles in that version, and some glass-smashing.

Also, this movie doesn’t have a secret ending; I checked. Come to think of it, it barely has a public ending. They must be saving that for the sequel.