You Learn From Your Brothers (Last Flag Flying review)

I think you can learn a lot about an institution from how it’s offspring take off into the world and live their adult lives. This week’s movie review addresses that idea with warmth, drama and humour.

And just like real life, is simultaneously messed and unresolved.


Last Flag Flying (2017)

Cast: Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston, Laurence Fishburne
Director: Richard Linklater
released on blu-ray January 30, 2018
******* 7/10

IMDB: 6.9
Rotten Tomatoes: 75%, Audience Score 70%
The Guardian: ***/*****

Richard Stuart Linklater is my all-time favourite director. And he’s been my favourite ever since I first watched Waking Life back in 2003 (even though the movie released in 2001). I was barely an adult then, so you might have to cut me some slack on the the time it took me to discover him. Point of fact, Chris and I will be sharing a Cross Talk in coming weeks about our favourite directors, so rather then dig into why I think he’s so amazing as I normally preface these posts, I’ll just share a couple of quick anecdotes now. I’ve reviewed two of Richard Linklater’s films before – Boyhood and Everybody Wants Some. And I recorded that upcoming Cross Talk episode before I watched this movie.

I’ve included the distributors synopsis below and modified it slightly to provide some context…

Thirty years after serving together in the Vietnam War, Larry “Doc” Shepherd (Steve Carell), Sal Nealon (Bryan Cranston) and the Rev. Richard Mueller (Laurence Fishburne) reunite for a different type of mission: to bury Doc’s son, a young Marine killed in Iraq. Forgoing burial at Arlington National Cemetery, Doc and his old buddies take the casket on a bittersweet trip up the coast to New Hampshire. Along the way, the three men find themselves reminiscing and coming to terms with the shared memories of a war that continues to shape their lives.

Naturalism is one of the major tools in Linklaters belt. He always manages to bring out the best and brightest of mundane aspects of life. Probably my favourite scene from the whole movie is the experience Carell’s character Doc has upon seeing his dead son when he demands that the military personal open the casket up for him. The camera pans out perfectly and we experience the secondhand emotion a third party would have normally by watching the very real and vulnerable grief someone extremely close to the recently deceased emote. I also enjoyed the interactions between Bryan Cranston’s Sal and the Colonel, that desire to challenge authority is common in many of Linklater’s characters.

And finally, the character of Doc appears very grounded in reality, though we never see him fully open up about his feelings, it is obvious how much he struggles with this unexpected turn of events.

Where the movie becomes a problem for me is in the interactions between the three main characters. They have spent a lot of time apart, and by circumstance are suddenly thrown back into each others lives, but it’s difficult to see why they ever got along or supported each other in the first place. This might be a failing on my part in not fully absorbing the awkward tension these men generate attempting to relate to each other after so much time apart. But I hope with subsequent viewings I can get to the bottom of the tone being explored here.

Pros: Linklater always manages to tell a real story, and stir up a ton of emotions running the gamet of the topic at hand. Never fully committing to one viewpoint or arc, he leaves the viewer with the choice to take something from the film or leave it. It’s difficult to swallow during a film about politics, death, and war.

ConsThat said, It does feel kind of superficial at times, and you don’t really believe the relationships these guys had could endure enough to take the road trip. Yes, they are professional actors, and they are all talented enough to sell their individual roles, but somehow it just doesn’t work thematically at all times.

Linklater has proven he can make any kind of movie, but all the elements of the film manage to conflict in such a negative way, it’s tough to accept this as film with his typical calibre of intent. It never feels especially revelatory, only sad and shallow.

And to sound even more contradictory, while I actually think the themes of patriotism, military service, and political ideologies are dealt with in a mature way, I wish at least one of the protagonists had chosen a side and let the film respond to it.

Runtime: 2 hours 5 minutes

Points of Interest: The film is supposed to be a spiritual sequel to The Last Detail. Laurence Fishburne was Richard Linklater’s only choice for the character of Mueller. Principal photography took only 32 days to complete.

The concept is strong, and I can see what Linklater would have been drawn to it in the first place, but in the end it’s not strong enough in each of it’s parts to overcome the challenges presented and commit to a real anti-war message, instead choosing comedy and drama outbursts to convey the consequences.

theories Summarized

Taken together, each of the three protagonists add their own layer to this film about enduring after war-times. Brotherhood is strong, and I am reminded of the film The Deer Hunter, if only because the challenges of psychology, disruption, and resolution echo throughout both films consistently. Showcasing how two or three men raised in the same household (so to speak) could take different paths. It’s a profound statement to make, and as I mentioned earlier, a lesser director would have definitely missed all of the subtleties and disparate viewpoints within the issue. But ultimately, Last Flag Flying falls short for me, and is only a good film, not a great one. And that’s my theory.

That said, I have a really solid Watch Culture video that directly addresses the effects of war on the soul, and it serves as an excellent metaphor for impotence and decay. Surprise, surprise, a comic book movie was able to get an R rating and tell an engaging story. Can’t you tell how excited Mike and Chris are to discuss Logan? I can!

Logan will likely make you cry, but in a good way. And better still, it resolves so many threads of The Wolverine, while paying tribute to Hugh Jackman’s tenure. Check it out! And remember… Like! Comment! Subscribe!


Like A Fine Wine (Willie Nelson, God’s Problem Child review)

You only get one shot at life, and sometimes the kid with the most problems ends up being the adult that saves the day, over and over again. Like a fine wine, it is only with age that they continue to become better versions of themselves.


Willie Nelson – God’s Problem Child

released April 28, 2017
********* 9/10

Willie Hugh Nelson, better known as Willie Nelson, is an American musician, singer, songwriter, author, poet, actor, and activist. In other words, at eighty four years old, he’s done much more than most of us could ever hope to achieve. Interestingly enough though, he didn’t see accolades or critical success of any kind until the 1970s with Shotgun Willie, Red Headed Stranger, and Stardust. Nelson was into his forties at this point, so something to consider if you haven’t made it yourself just yet.

As such, Nelson is one of the most celebrated country music artists of all time and a main contributor to the popularity of outlaw country in the 1970s and 1980s. If you aren’t familiar with it, outlaw country is a subgenre of country music that developed as a response to the conservative nature of music coming out of Nashville, Tennessee at the time.

Much has happened in the years following, with Nelson having acting in over thirty films, authored books, joined the supergroup The Highwaymen with Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, and Kris Kristofferson, and paid off over thirty million dollars in debts owed to the IRS. And we haven’t even really touched upon his activism. But I don’t have the space for that in this post.

Today I’m going to talk about God’s Problem Child, both the album and the eponymous track tucked in the meat of this record.

God’s Problem Child, the album, is one tackling mortality and also have a sense of appreciation for a life well lived. Between David Bowies’ Black Star and Leonard Cohen’s You Want It Darker, this is another album on the subject of death from an artist well into the final stage of life. Nelson just happens to be sticking around a bit longer than those two gents, and for all we know, this might not even be his last offering.

Featuring a range of songs on the topic, from Little House on the Hill and Old Timer, to Your Memory Has a Mind of Its Own, to the hilarious Still Not Dead, and especially It Gets Easier, this album has all the grace and humour of Willie Nelson, with the first touch of reflection on a life well lived.

Little House on the Hill explores the afterlife and what Nelson’s eternal home will be like, and Old Timer shows the realities of geriatric heartache – a well oiled engine, but a rusting frame with bad suspension. True Love is a demonstration of unending compassion, and Delete and Fast Forward is a political number that reminds us we’ve messed up like this before Donald Trump came along.

Hell, even the song Butterfly is a metaphor for transformation and fleeting nature of life.

As for the track, God’s Problem Child, we see Nelson featuring the late Leon Russell (in one of his final recordings) and efforts from Jamey Johnson and Tony Joe White on lead vocals.

This album might not win over legions of new fans, but it definitely has content there enough to win over some millennials here and there, while satisfying the die-hards and people who love classical fingering of the guitar. Trigger shows up in full force, with holes in the soundboard from decades of playing unseen.

And no, it’s not a game changer in the opus of Willie Nelson, but God’s Problem Child does remind us of his iconic status and continued relevance, well into his golden years.

theories Summarized

If you take away the IRS battle, marijuana activism, all of the americana and competition over the years, it’s still clear as day that Nelson can drum up new material with the best of them, creating music that sits with you and leaves a mark. The kind of work worthy of an outlaw. I can only theorize he continues to keep this pace and we get a few more years in the era of Willie Nelson.


John McCrae (Remembrance Day)

Remembrance Day is an especially trying time for veterans and surviving families of war. They recall the good times and the bad, in particular those members of the armed forces who have died in the line of duty.

This day has been in place for almost a century now – It was established on November 11th in the majority of countries to honour individuals and recall the violence sieged during World War I and resolved with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on June 28th 1919.

In case you didn’t already know, the poppy has become synonymous with Remembrance Day due to the poem In Flanders Fields. I read this poem, and about this poem when I was growing up. It was a pretty big deal in school because it was written by a Canadian physician by the name of John McCrae. McCrae was a Lieutenant-Colonel that served as a soldier in World War I and a surgeon during the second battle of Ypres in Belgium.

McCrae was an artist through and through. He was an author and a poet, but he didn’t make it through the end of the war unfortunately. He died of pneumonia near the end.

It’s a beautiful poem, and one which reminds us all of the urgency of the war, and the eternity that the dead moved into. It’s rather sobering, but I think worthwhile to read and remember. An exemplary instance of the power of art.

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

As for the inspiration, it’s a rather touching story once you shed some light upon it. And though I don’t remember the exact moment I heard this poem for the first time, I do recall that it was during my secondary education, and that the concrete walls which shaped the school around my peers and I, was rather cold and old itself. It served as a great backdrop to learn that McCrae likely wrote In Flanders Fields shortly after the funeral of his close friend Lieutenant Alexis Helmer.

Helmer had been killed during the second battle of Ypres. The battlefield was home to countless poppy flowers which featured in great numbers and even in its cemeteries. Thus the poppy grew in popularity because of this poem.

Though it has been quite some time since this war broke out, there have been others since and many more brave men and women who’ve fought for peace and given their lives doing so. Whether you are a creative professional or not dear readers, I think you can recognize rather easily that art has a place in life, and that without art there is no heart. So please take some time tomorrow to honour those who died so that we might live. It’s important, it’s not just a theory.


See The Math Of It (The Dillinger Escape Plan, Dissociation review)

Saying goodbye is incredibly tough – Particularly if you don’t know if you’ll ever meet again. When all you have are memories from a painful departure, it numbs you to your core being.

You need to be thoughtful in your farewell messages, because once you do, there is no second chance. This week’s album review is an exercise is that experience. Someone leaves and the other stays behind.

The Dillinger Escape Plan – Dissociation
released October 14, 2016
******** 8/10



The Dillinger Escape Plan are an American mathcore and heavy metal band which claimed their name from the bank robber John Dillinger. Founded in 1997 and born out of a hardcore punk group called Arcane, these guys have seen numerous roster changes over their 10 year tenure and 6 studio album showing.

Like the man, The Dillinger Escape Plan have successfully executed numerous projects which have given them creative control and an ability to dictate the course of their own trajectory despite numerous changes to the lineup, intentional and otherwise.

Dissociation marks the last time that TDEP will be performing together on tour. Initially thought to be an indefinite hiatus, lead singer Greg Puciato has since confirmed that the band will be breaking up once the tour ends in March 2017.

Let me start first by stating that I was disappointed to learn that TDEP would be breaking up after this record. As I immerse myself more fully in the music scene, especially in metal, I realize that there a number of fantastic groups that make metal music which I know absolutely nothing about. Dissociation feels like the right title knowing what we now know of the future. Whether the album is about the separation of it’s elements, literal or metaphorically, the foundations of the record are set up rather nicely with Limerent Death. A song that addresses the death of a romantic sentiment and the lingering frustrations therein. The follow up track Symptom of Terminal Illness is definitely more methodical and slow in it’s delivery.

Wanting Not So Much As To is one of my favourites on this album. I suspect it has something to do with the punk tones and howls featured throughout, plus it features melodic notes, spoken-word, and it all fits in together rather nicely in it’s instrumentation.

Fugue has great electronic influences, Low Feels Blvd is jazzy, while Surrogates and Honeysuckle feature prominent opening, middle, and closing sections.

Manufacturing Disconent is heavy. And in the past this would’ve been exactly the kind of song I stayed away from, but it’s considerably more interesting to consider it with the backup vocals and sampled audio. Taken as a whole, this song represents the creative ability of The Dillinger Escape Plan almost perfectly, and other critics have labelled it as a classic sound for them.

The final three tracks are all excellent in their own right – Apologies Not Included, Nothing to Forget, and title track Dissociation. It is the light at the end of tunnel. And as mentioned before whether literal or a metaphor, this song has a simple structure and even some hope of the future ahead. I blame the strings for that. They are beautifully included and introduce us to a very different side of The Dillinger Escape Plan. It’s going to be hard to say goodbye, but I suspect a great many replays of Dissociation in the years to come.




I’ve heard this idea that true friends don’t ever really say good-bye, they just take a sabbatical from each other, picking up the pieces easily upon reconnection. The Dillinger Escape Plan have had an excellent run, and while they may be leaving to pursue other opportunities, the memories they have made will last a lifetime, even better because we have a musical record. That could just be a theory though.


Let It Go (Every Time I Die, Low Teens review)

I’m not the biggest fan of winter. Like at all. I should have a better taste for it as my ancestors are a variety of European types, but for whatever reason, I was a skinny kid with a fair complexion. So I hated winter. Like a lot.

It makes me want to scream into a microphone.

Thankfully, I found my winter jam just in time – So enjoy it along with me dear readers.

Every Time I Die – Low Teens
released September 23, 2016
******** 8/10



Every Time I Die is an American metalcore group that have been around for almost 20 years. Known for their energetic shows and ability to infuse meaning with melody, Every Time I Die have been with Epitaph records since 2008, and were with Ferret Music before that.

I probably sound like a crotchety old man, but I fucking love most artists signed to Epitaph records, so vis a vis, I love Every Time I Die. Maybe that’s a juvenile or closed minded way to look at the subject, but come on people I’ve reviewed everything from pop, to hip hop, to metal, to jazz, and everything in between in the past year, which should tell you that I may have favourites, but I play a bit of everything to continuously expand my sonic ability.

Now let’s get down to business.

Low Teens was recorded in the midst of winter, but it has a surprising amount of heat behind it – these guys decided to focus their already biting sound and circle pit tendencies on a rather somber and enduring note of the frailty of life. For instance, frontman Keith Buckley almost lost his wife and daughter during pregnancy complications while the album was being recorded.

Which is awesome, given that these guys have never had a slump of quality in their long run, despite a few lineup changes over the years.

Let’s start with album opener Fear and Trembling which is a duel between Buckley and death itself, and he stands firm in the belief that he’ll follow death straight into the pit itself if he loses the battle for his loved ones. This is quickly followed up by the speed and precision of Glitches, one of the albums singles and a great way to keep us engaged.

C++ is yet another track that explores death and that pleading for another sweet moment with a woman on life support. Seriously haunting.

Track number four, Two Summers is somewhat divisive, as it deviates from the typical sound of the band somewhat, but damn it if it doesn’t have a great southern drawl, and I cannot seem to place my finger on what song it reminds me of, so hopefully one of you will help me out.

The adventure continues onward and upward with I Didn’t Want To Join Your Stupid Cult Anyway, It Remembers, and Petal. Only gaining in steam and energy. It’s not until we hear The Coin Has A Say, that we take pause and recall a time when ETID was a bit younger and less world weary. When we finally reach album closer Map Change, the audience is primed and the stage is set for a song that really addresses the cold of winter AKA hell.

As is so consistent with their track record, throughout the years, the track record on this album is one of both chaos and order. A challenge well met.




Everything is coming up roses Buckley screams in bonus track Skin WIthout Bones, and I have to agree with him. This album is reliable and also noteworthy. If you’ve been wavering on the fence about whether you should listen to Every Time I Die, now’s the time to give them a chance. They’re made of the right stuff.