Eradicating Thanksgiving Calories on a Landice Treadmill

IMG_20181125_152921003_HDR

It’s another year, another Thanksgiving has come and gone, but those damn calories are still incredibly difficult to burn off. Among the many things I am thankful for this holiday, other than the Democrats taking back the House of Representatives, is being able to train for the 2019 LA Marathon for the ninth year in a row, and this gives even more reason to exercise my buns off to maximum effect. Yes, it is a nice ass, but it could be a bit smaller.

As always, I am up here with my family in Sea Ranch for our yearly Thanksgiving feast. I did get a couple of maintenance runs in which had me going through several of the various trails this place by the ocean has to offer. However, I had forgotten how much energy can be expended running on dirt, grass and sand as opposed to running on asphalt. It’s like a weird sort of taxman is following me around and saying “nope, you haven’t paid nearly enough!”

My runs were cut short by the heavy rainstorms which seemed more relentless than usual, and I am happy to say I got back in time before I could have relived the 2011 LA Marathon (a.k.a. the monsoon marathon). Still, these rains were a blessing for California as it helped to put out those raging wildfires which many brave souls fought against endlessly to where they never get much sleep, if any.

IMG_20181125_152928483_HDR

With this Saturday’s run, I had a choice of going through the streets of Sea Ranch or going to the Physical Gym in Gualala where I could run seven miles on a treadmill. Granted, running on a treadmill is not really recommended by our coaches as running on asphalt tends to better prepare us for the big day, but I prefer it to nothing. And considering how I woke up a little later than usual and wanted to spend more time with my sister-in-law and niece before they drove home, it became apparent my best option would be to go to the gym. Plus, I was looking for an excuse to get a bite to eat at Trinks Café or see what I could buy at the Four-Eyed Frog Bookstore which was next door.

Landice Landmark Challenge

Upon arriving at the Physical Gym in Gualala, I met with an old friend of mine, the Landice treadmill. This same treadmill features a number of graphics designed to make running in one place seem a lot more interesting than it typically is, and we all know how interesting running on a treadmill can be. They always feature a digital man or woman who looks very svelte and in far better shape than I ever do, and this ends up leaving me bitter and resentful. Of course, if said digital man looked like me, I would be quick to get depressed.

IMG_20181124_151426866

Aside from bringing myself to the gym, I also brought along my trusty running partner, Mark Antony Eeyore. He keeps me on the straight and narrow, makes sure I don’t give up unless money is involved, and he proved to be a big hit when I took on the trails with me. Women remarked how cute this Eeyore is to where it was like they wanted to hug him, and I still wonder why women don’t treat me the same way (damn you Eeyore!). There was also a man who saw the two of us and remarked, “There’s the guy who steals stuffed animals!”

Eeyore sat atop the treadmill and stared intently at me as if to say, “Don’t half-ass it!” Of course, he had a bit of trouble holding on and ending up falling down to where I had to jump over him to avoid tripping. After a bit, I decided he better sit on the treadmill next to me.

IMG_20181124_152512023

For this seven-mile run, I decided to go at a 3:1 pace as I thought it would allow me to finish sooner rather than later. I also increased the grade on the treadmill to 3% as running on a flat surface was not going to be enough. But as soon as I began running, I felt an intense burning in my legs which I haven’t felt since I was a Cross Country back at Monte Vista High School. Back then, we had to run up that torturous hill in Oak Hill Park, and it never ceased to punish us with an intense burn which no amount of Icy Hot could tame. And just when you thought you made it to the top, you discovered you didn’t.

Throughout this run, I changed the grade from 3% to 0% every so often, but I ran most of the miles at 3%. I also adjusted my pace from 3:1 to 2:2 as it eventually became very apparent I needed more recovery time. My pace per mile went from 14:38 to 15:00, and this was when I was running. All this time, I was reminded of the sign in front of me which points on the same thing at every gym:

“Please allow yourself to use the cardio equipment for only 30 minutes unless no one else is waiting.”

There are now three treadmills in the Physical Gym, so I assumed nobody would be quick to bother me. But as the day went on, they became increasingly occupied to where I wondered if it would have been better to run through Sea Ranch instead. Miraculously, I managed to get through my run without anyone coming up to me and saying, “GET OFF! CAN’T YOU SEE OTHER PEOPLE ARE WAITING YOU SELFISH ASSHOLE?!”

Creighton volleyball

When I wasn’t staring at the digital display on the treadmill, I looked up at the television to watch a game of girls’ volleyball which had Marquette facing off against Creighton. I remember playing volleyball at school and finding I was better at it than most other sports. My serve always fooled the other team to where they thought I screwed up and put too much power into the ball. As they laughed at me and assumed it was going to fall out of bounds, it ended up landing inbounds and scored my team an easy point. Ha, ha, ha!

In the end, I only ran six miles instead of seven as the gym closed at 5 p.m. I kept wondering if the employees were wrapping things up, and I finally got a big hint when they turned the radio off and some of the lights. Seriously, I wouldn’t have minded if she had told me flat out the club was closing. I was not about to overextend my stay at anyone’s expense. Still, after spending over two hours on the treadmill, I think I can safely mission accomplished better than George W. Bush ever could.

IMG_20181124_170559752

I went by the bookstore briefly but did not buy anything. As for Trinks, it was closed for the day so I went to the local supermarket, bought some chocolate milk and some salty snacks and headed back to the house. Still, I am reminded of the spare tire I continue to carry. In short, one day of exercise will never be enough to dispose of it.

WRITER’S NOTE: I am running the 2019 LA Marathon in support of The Pablove Foundation which is working to find a cure for pediatric cancer. My goal is to raise $1,500, and any amount you can donate to this cause is greatly appreciated. With Giving Tuesday almost upon us, I sincerely hope you will consider donating to this wonderful non-profit group. Please click here to find out how you can help.

Advertisements

Grindhouse

Grindhouse movie poster

Grindhouse” is a double feature of movies written and directed by Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino, and it is their ode to the exploitation movies of the 70’s and 80’s which used to play in all those seedy movie theaters in New York and Los Angeles. Now a lot of those movies were poorly made and had bad acting, writing and directing, but this is not the case here as this crazy love letter to all things exploitation gets brilliant treatment from two renegade minds of Hollywood cinema. To put it mildly, “Grindhouse” was an awesome experience. How great it is to see some kick ass movies made by two guys who have such a love for movies and who love making them.

“Grindhouse” starts off with the first of four fake movie trailers. This is part of Rodriguez’s and Tarantino’s plan to immerse you in the experience of watching grindhouse movies like they did as kids; the scratched-up prints, those missing reels, the restricted ratings, the film breaking apart, and of course those insane coming attractions trailers which at times were more memorable than the movies they were promoting.

Anyway, the first trailer was for “Machete” which was done by Rodriguez and stars Danny Trejo as a Mexican framed for a crime he didn’t commit, and he ends up going after the bad guys with a bloody vengeance. This was a blast to watch and the best of all the fake trailers in “Grindhouse” as it captures the ridiculous one-liners we gleefully remember from all those over the top action movies from the 80’s. I especially liked how they had Cheech Marin playing a priest who Machete gets to kill the bad guys with him. He almost succeeds in stealing the trailer right out from under Trejo’s feet.

Then things get underway with “Planet Terror,” Robert Rodriguez’s addition to the “Grindhouse” movie. It is basically his ode to all those zombie movies which came out before we met the fast-paced zombies of “28 Days Later,” and it’s a cross between a George Romero movie and a John Carpenter movie. “Planet Terror” even features a score composed by Rodriguez himself, and he wrote and shot a lot it while listening to Carpenter’s music from “Escape From New York.” In fact, you can even hear a small part of Carpenter’s score in “Planet Terror” if you listen very closely.

“Planet Terror” was a total blast, a flashback to those go for broke action and horror movies that didn’t even try to hold anything back. It reminded me of the “Evil Dead” movies among others where everything and everybody were going nuts. Then again, with the characters running for their lives away from zombies chasing them, can you blame them?

Rodriguez has put a great cast together for “Planet Terror.” The one person who will be remembered forever from it is the ever so luscious Rose McGowan who plays Cherry, a dancer at a strip club who can’t keep from crying as she dances in front of customers. As you know from the movie’s trailer, one of her legs ends up getting chopped off and it eventually gets replaced by a machine gun which she uses to gleefully sadistic effect. It makes for some hilarious moments as Cherry doesn’t even hesitate in blowing away as many zombies as she can.

Also great in “Planet Terror” is Freddy Rodriguez who brings a total rebel quality to his role as El Wray who is a very cool customer indeed. You also have Michael Biehn playing the sheriff, Josh Brolin who plays Dr. Block whose wife, Dakota (played by Marley Shelton), has been cheating on him with another woman, and even Bruce Willis shows up as a military commander who knows more than he is willing to let on.

One of the people I was especially impressed with was Jeff Fahey who I have not always been a big fan of as he always seemed to me to be playing himself in every role he takes on. But here he is loads of fun as J.T., a gas station and restaurant owner who continually claims to have the best barbecued meat in all of Texas. It ended up making me look at Fahey in a whole new light, and as a character actor, he proves to be invaluable.

“Planet Terror” is one gory ride, to put it mildly, but then again what do you expect when you have Tom Savini playing one of the sheriff’s deputies? Have you even seen the movies he has worked on in the past? Rodriguez gets all the gross details down like body parts getting blown or ripped off in an ever so disgustingly precious fashion. Those same body parts are, as a man, the last things I ever want to lose! Ever!

After “Planet Terror” ended, we were treated to the other three fake movie trailers that “Grindhouse” had to offer. Edgar Wright, who directed “Shaun of the Dead,” did the trailer for “Don’t,” and it was endlessly hilarious as it showed us all the things we shouldn’t be doing when we’re in a horror movie. Then there was Rob Zombie’s “Werewolf Women of The S.S.” which was as funny as it was bizarre. Don’t worry, I won’t spoil this one for you as there are cameos here that are too inspired to just give away. And finally, there was “Thanksgiving” which was directed by Eli Roth, the same man who gave us “Hostel.” Thanksgiving does seem to be one of the few holidays left which have yet to be turned into a horror franchise where horny teens get slaughtered in a creatively bloody fashion.

Then we get to Tarantino’s addition to the “Grindhouse” movie: “Death Proof.” It stars Kurt Russell as Stuntman Mike, a serial killer who uses a car instead of a knife to murder young women. No reason is really given as to why he does this, but in a movie like this does it even matter?

“Death Proof” has its share of gruesome moments including a car crash that is shown from different angles as you see how each person gets horribly injured in a head-on collision. Suffice to say, if you have been in a nasty car accident, you probably won’t want to see this. It also features one of the more exhilarating car chases in recent memory where Russell tries to run a Dodge Charger which is occupied by a trio of women off the road. One of these women, Zoe Bell (Uma Thurman’s stunt double in “Kill Bill”) is riding on the hood of the Charger like the insane stunt woman she is. Seeing her struggle to stay on the car makes the scene all the more frightening and exciting as a result. Tarantino clearly has no interest in throwing all sorts of CGI effects at us. He wants to give us the real thing, and that he does.

Of the two movies in “Grindhouse,” I have to say that “Death Proof” was my favorite. Although it takes a while to get to the action, the dialogue is fabulous in a way only Tarantino can come up with. He continues to come up with great lines which make the characters much more distinct than those in your average action movie filled with stock characters. One of the actresses involved with “Death Proof” said Tarantino really knows how to write for women and knows how they think. Now, this might be open to debate for a lot of people, but I think that is absolutely true as it is shown here and in other movies like “Pulp Fiction” and “Jackie Brown.”

Russell remains one of the most underrated actors working in movies today as he can go from genre to genre and from playing a good guy to a bad guy pretty easily. He is great in this role where he plays a pure psychopath who is clearly schizoid as he goes after his next trio of soon to be victims, and it resembles the kind of work he did in movies like “Escape From New York.” Russell is perfect as Stuntman Mike that it got to where I just could not see Mickey Rourke playing this same role even though he was originally cast in it. Rourke wouldn’t have been bad, but this role feels like it was tailor-made for Russell.

So overall, “Grindhouse” was a kick-ass experience that I am ever so eager to see again. I already have the soundtracks to both “Planet Terror” and “Death Proof” which are fantastic to listen to. Then again, I did actually get them before I even saw “Grindhouse” because I was pretty confident that I would not be disappointed, and I wasn’t. Although it drags a little in spots, it is never boring. It’s not going to appeal to everyone, and it is as politically incorrect as any movie in recent years, but it will definitely appeal to those who have been eagerly and patiently awaiting the resurrection of grindhouse cinema they grew up watching in the past. Many had no choice but to watch those exploitation classics on video and DVD, but with Rodriguez’s and Tarantino’s “Grindhouse,” we finally get to see movies like them again on the big screen where they belong.

* * * * out of * * * *

Krisha

Krisha movie poster

Krisha” is one of those movies which can be best described as emotionally pulverizing. It starts off with a close up of the title character’s face as the sound builds to a feverish crescendo, and this is enough to tell everyone this movie is going to be a psychological endurance test for the audience watching it. It’s a powerful motion picture which is as emotionally cathartic as they come, and it’s one of the best movies of 2016.

Krisha Fairchild stars as the Krisha of the movie’s title, a deeply troubled woman returning home to the family she abandoned years ago for a life of drug addiction and self-destruction. It’s Thanksgiving and everyone welcomes her back with open arms, prepared to forgive her trespasses, but right from the start there is a palpable tension in the air as everything seems off. While her family is happy to see Krisha, they are still unsure of whether or not she can be trusted. As for Krisha herself, we find she is still struggling with her demons and may not make it through the night in one piece. She’s also cooking the Thanksgiving turkey, and the turkey is just a time bomb just waiting to go off.

It should be noted that the movie’s writer and director, Trey Edward Shults, based its story on a similar family situation he experienced when his cousin Nica came home for the holidays. She was in the throes of her own drug addiction which would end her life prematurely two months later. For Shults, making this movie was a way to confront this tragedy, and he cast many of his family members who had been through the same situation as well.

But the one family member who stands out here the most is Shults’ aunt, Krisha Fairchild.  Fairchild is not playing herself here even though she shares the same name of her character, but this makes her performance all the more extraordinary as she plumbs the depths of a drug addict struggling to prove to her son and family everything is okay with her now. As crazy as she gets in this movie, Fairchild still makes Krisha a sympathetic character who we cannot help but feel for. And when she puts on a red dress which looks a lot like the one Ellen Burstyn wore in “Requiem for a Dream,” she goes all out for an emotionally shattering climax.

The rest of the cast does terrific work, and this especially goes for Bill Wise who plays Doyle, the family member who proves to be its biggest personality and asshole. Doyle sees right through Krisha and tells her flat out, “You are an abandoner. You are heartbreak incarnate, lady.” And then there’s Robyn Fairchild who plays Krisha’s sister, the most stable of all the family members. When Robyn breaks down after a protracted argument with Krisha, it’s impossible not to feel her pain and emotional exhaustion as we all know strong family members who eventually reach their breaking point after holding it together for so long.

“Krisha” is Shults’ first feature film, and it is an incredible debut made all the more amazing by the fact he shot it all in just 8 days. He makes the film look like it was shot a lot longer and cost more than it did as he balances many different elements with a director’s masterful touch. Shults is also aided tremendously by the almost dreamlike cinematography by Drew Daniels and the abstract sounding music score by Brian McOmber which illustrates the increasing tension bubbling beneath the surface. This movie is an emotional powder keg just waiting to go off, and Shults never lets anyone off easy.

There have been countless movies made about drug addiction and the effect it has on the family members of the addict, and “Krisha” certainly feels like one of the most effective. It also rightly reminds the viewer that an addict will only seek help when they want to stop. We can’t make them stop. We can only hope for the best and pray for the addict to see the light and make a conscious decision to seek help. Watching this movie makes you want to see Krisha succeed and put her past behind her, but when things begin falling apart for her we can’t look away. Deep down we would like to, but her suffering is all too real to ignore.

“Krisha” shook me in a way very few movies do these days, and it marks the arrival of a gifted feature film director named Trey Edward Shults. Now that we have seen what he can do with the smallest of budgets, it will be interesting to see where he goes from here. As for Krisha Fairchild, she is an actress whose work has been under the radar for years, and here she gives one of the most unforgettable performances the world of movies has seen in some time. All good things to those who wait.

Copyright Ben Kenber 2016

* * * * out of * * * *