Monthly Archives: September 2017

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Movie Review – It

Category : Movie Review

Director: Andy Muschietti

Starring: Jaeden Lieberher, Finn Wolfhard, Sophia Lillis

Year: 2017

As a huge Stephen King fan, I knew I had to go back and read the book, one of the very few that I had missed, before I watched the movie.  Honestly, it’s not King’s best.  It’s long, it’s uneventful, it’s laden with metaphor, but it isn’t exciting enough to make the reader want to slog through the work.  The parallel storyline is a big problem, it cuts all the drama out of the plot, and I’m not sure why he chose to do that.  Actually, that’s one of many choices I’m not sure why King made while fleshing out this idea, including a group sex scene involving 11-year-olds, which was put at the end of the book for a reason, since he may have guessed that many readers would throw the book away at that point.  But the movie seems to have been very thought out, with conscious decisions made in a number of areas that resulted in a high quality scare.  Problems is, I don’t really like getting scared that much.

Derry, Maine, a town with more deaths than average and a spooky way of immediately forgetting those who die.  Every 27 years, give or take, an evil rises from the underground water systems to kill children and eat their bodies, minds, souls, and fears.  This power, It, feeds for a year, and then disappears back underground, only to repeat the cycle.  Adults don’t notice It, they forget the carnage, but kids can feel the darkness, and they know their town isn’t safe.  A group of seven children, the Losers, are determined to destroy It, who takes the form of a clown but who can also change to be whatever you are afraid of.  Together, they will rid the world of this sickness once and for all.

Full disclosure; I don’t love scary movies.  I watch horror, I keep up to date on the surprising frightening hits of the year (The Babadook, It Follows, The Witch),
but I don’t really appreciate the constant jumping-out-at-ya horror that is all too common.  I’d rather be creeped out, I’d rather be unnerved, I’d much rather watch real people be terrifying than something supernatural be spooky.  It definitely banks on the fact that casual audience members want a certain type of terror; unnerving noises, peaks around corners, sudden pauses in sound followed by HHHHNNNNGGAAAA!!!!!  That’s what’s regular, but I don’t like that, and I had hope that this film would be something a little more than standard.

Now, the story isn’t typical, that’s what makes this movie cool.  They took the book, made it much more interesting, and broke it into two parts, which was a great choice.  They also “borrowed” almost everything from Stranger Things, which was another smart decision, since it’s so incredibly popular.  They even set the story in the 80s, when the book sets the kids’ timeline in the 50s.  Again, I think that was the best option, the film smoothing out all the wrinkles of the novel until it was something much more consumable.  They left out the sex scene, they cut the adults (for now), they focused on the little town, they made the parents other-worldly, and I think they got much more right than they got wrong.  Still, I wish, like Stranger Things, the terror hadn’t come from something scary standing still and then suddenly rushing toward the camera; that’s the opposite of original.  Last note; Lieberher, Wolfhard, Lillis, Jeremy Ray Taylor, and Jack Dylan Grazer were all great, while Wyatt Oleff and Chosen Jacobs (Stanley and Mike) were so bad I wanted to scream.  Five out seven ain’t bad, the movie works as a whole, it will definitely scare you, it’s probably better than the book, just know what you’re getting into.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 

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Book Review – It

Category : Book Review

Author: Stephen King

Year: 1986

As you may know, Stephen King is my favorite author, and although I know that isn’t an extremely original choice, I’ll defend my love for his books to the last breath.  He’s so much more than a horror writer, his stories have a depth that is quite literally genius.  You can read them for the surface scares, or you can look for the meanings hidden within the characters.  And then you can also, if you read enough, connect the tales to one another until you enter a wonderful, frightening universe that is as magical as it is well-written.  When the movie version of this book was approaching, I knew I had to read it, since it was one of the very few of his that I had never sat down for.  It’s over 1000 pages, perhaps that’s why I shied away, but it’s also not that great, which is a good reason for you to do the same.

Derry, Maine, a town with more deaths than average and a spooky way of immediately forgetting those who die.  Every 27 years, give or take, an evil rises from the underground water systems to kill children and eat their bodies, minds, souls, and fears.  This power, It, feeds for a year, and then disappears back underground, only to repeat the cycle.  Adults don’t notice It, they forget the carnage, but kids can feel the darkness, and they know their town isn’t safe.  A group of seven children, the Losers Club, are determined to destroy It, who takes the form of a clown but who can also change to be whatever you are afraid of.  In a parallel story, the seven, who are now grown, begin to understand that they didn’t finish the job the first time, that they’ll have to go back to Derry together to rid the world of this sickness once and for all.

So much to discuss, so few ways to make it clear without putting the book in your hands and talking to you some months later.  It’s both actually long and feels very long, it took me a while to get through.  One reason is that nothing happens.  With the two stories occurring at the same time, it’s 800 pages in before the kids start understanding what to do and the adults start getting ready to repeat what they tried 27 years ago.  There’s much too much character development, which sounds like a stupid critique, but we don’t need chapters of every person’s exploits, both when they were young and when they’re grown, over and over and over, especially when none of them are really that exciting.  King goes long-winded, which is not like him, and it doesn’t work, as is does so well in The Stand.

The book does draw heavily from metaphors and allusions, which is great, letting the reader figure out for themselves what It is, what Derry represents, what each child fears, how adulthood and childhood are compared and contrasted.  It’s a well-written book, I won’t tell you it’s not, but it’s just not one that is worth the extreme effort.  I have to mention one more thing, which is the under-aged group sex scene.  It’s at the end, and I can understand why; I think some people would have put the book down were it to happen at the beginning.  It’s inappropriate, I don’t know why it’s a part of the story, six 11-year-olds having sex with one girl in the sewers can’t possibly be the only way to make whatever point King was trying to make, and I’m glad they decided to settle for a kiss in the movie.  The film takes the horror elements and leaves behind the deeper themes, so pick up the book if you’re curious, just know it isn’t King’s best work.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Trailer – Swing Away

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Michael A. Nickles

Starring: Shannon Elizabeth, Viktoria Miller, John O’Hurley

Release: October 13th, 2017

I’m sad that a human thought to themselves that Shannon Elizabeth in a golf movie would be a good idea.  And then they made it, and people actually signed up to be in it, and now here it is in front of me, the worst film ever created.  This will be not just a disaster, but an offense to cinema and something worth cursing, either in Greek or in English, you choose.


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Movie Trailer – Gotti

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Kevin Connolly

Starring: John Travolta, Kelly Preston, Spencer Rocco Lofranco

Release: 2017

Did John Travolta just enter the Oscar race?  Is that even possible?  We love this type of transformation film, and we love crime dramas, we eat up mob stories.  But it’s John Travolta, the guy’s a goof loon, how can we take him seriously?  I don’t know though, I hate to say it, but this movie kinda looks great.


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Sports – NFL Picks 2017, Week 4

Category : Sports

Here are my NFL Week 4 Picks

(7-9 last week, 26-21 for the season)

Bye teams: none

 

Chi @ GB – The Bears are coming off their first win of the season, at home last week vs Pittsburgh.  Nobody saw that game coming, but Chicago showed up, so give them some credit for fighting when they know that they season won’t end well.  I don’t think we need to predict the Steelers doom, or a Bears championship, chalk that game up as home field advantage and nothing to lose.  I highly doubt Week 4 will go as well.  The Packers narrowly escaped with a win at home vs Cincinnati, a feeling that must have been frightening when the game went to overtime, like, “how can we possibly let the Bengals beat us?!”  Well, Green Bay got the W, which is all that really matters, but they’ll look to improve upon a performance that wasn’t perfect.  I think Rodgers will come out firing in this one, throw 5 TDs, and we’ll start feeling much better about the balance of the world.

NO @ Mia – Another London game, and the first one was so unpredictable (setting the tone for an extremely wacky week) that I have no idea how to call this matchup.  Also, look what these teams did in Week 3.  New Orleans goes on the road and beats Carolina, something no one was predicting.  Brees woke up, he found Thomas, things are good in the Big Easy.  On the flip side, Miami goes to New York, and gets pummeled by the Jets, the worst team in the league.  Last week was definitely odd, there’s no arguing that, but I think this week things will settle down and return to normal, just like Week 2 did after Week 1.  The Saints have a great offense still, but they need to figure out what is going on with their run game.  Ingram, Kamara, Peterson; I get the platoon idea, but it isn’t working.  They don’t run much anyway, when they do they need to let someone get in rhythm.  I have faith that the Saints will make it work.

Ten @ Hou – Here’s a good game, the team we’ve been touting as playoff-ready vs the club that just almost beat Brady & Co. in New England.  Also, this is a key divisional matchup, with Tennessee going to 3-1 if they win, Houston 1-3, which they just cannot let happen.  The Titans are starting to roll on offense, and they are coming off a win vs Seattle, which is always a badge of honor.  This team is for real, they can score and they can stop you, and I think their best games are still ahead of them.  For the Texans, they show up in spurts, but never consistently enough to make you nod and say “this team can win”.  They have had the Patriots number in recent years, so that explains that, but I can’t imagine they win too many other games against other teams.  I’m going with my bandwagon team of the year and picking the Titans to win here; I think they are better on all sides of the ball, playing away being the only thing that scares me.

Jax @ NYJ – The Jags went to their second home in London last week and dominated the Ravens, a team people were talking about as one of the best in the league.  Now, Baltimore had only played Cleveland and Cincinnati, so perhaps that was premature, but their defense looked solid, and Jacksonville walked all over them.  There’s no reason they can’t do the same this week vs a Jets team that is coming off their first win, but shouldn’t be picking up too many more as the year goes on.  New York might have showed up vs the Dolphins, but they have too many problems to me to pick to win too many weeks.  I think they may have just gotten lucky, and the Jags are a much hotter team than the Dolphins.  Actually, some people think that Jacksonville has an elite defense, but we’ll see what they can do against a team that they really ought to beat.  I’m going with the teal green over the grass green, how’s that for a Color Rush.

Car @ NE – The Panthers were undefeated going into Week 3, but that was because of their defense; their offense had not yet found a rhythm.  Well, then the Saints came marching in, and their defense failed, their offense also following suit.  Cam doesn’t look right, McCaffrey isn’t doing anything, and these Panthers are beatable.  Now, a good defense will take you far, and we can expect Newton to improve as he continues to shake off the rust, but it needs to happen sooner rather than later, and I don’t think we’ll see it this week.  The Pats are awake, that’s for sure, and they don’t want to lose another game, not after they lost Week 1 at home after everyone was saying they’d go 16-0.  Well, they’ve won two in a row now, their offense is lights out, and I don’t see Carolina stopping them, unless they can absolutely destroy Tom Brady.  NE has too many weapons to stop, and they’ll win this game.

Det @ Min – Matt Stafford has fallen back to Earth after lighting up the scoreboard in Week 1, and since he’s my fantasy QB, I’ve not been happy.  This is a team that can play well on both sides of the ball, they just need to show that they can win the big games when it matters.  I thought they had won last week vs Atlanta, but the TD was called back, which is just about the sort of luck the Lions always have.  Let’s see if they can find better in this matchup, because this is one of those important, divisional games that you need to win if you want people to take you seriously.  The Vikings were surprising winners vs Tampa last week, and I keep predicting them to fail, but they keep proving me wrong.  I just don’t trust their QB situation, although Cook has really taken over and has shown what he can do.  If the defense (especially the secondary) brings their A-game, Minnesota will win this contest.

Buf @ Atl – You know which team allows the fewest points per game this season?  The Buffalo Bills.  That’s right, the Buffalo Bills, who are also currently tied atop the AFC East with the New England Patriots.  They beat my Broncos last week, and that was pretty big statement game, letting the league know that no one comes into their house and walks away with a W.  Road games have been a different story this young season for the Bills, but they’ll look to remedy that this week, if they can.  I wouldn’t put money on it though, because the Atlanta Falcons will have something to say about that.  The Falcons are one of the two undefeated teams left standing after three weeks, and they aren’t about to drop a home game to the Bills just because they have a good defense.  Atlanta has one of the best offenses in the league, they’re playing in dome sweet dome, and they’ll move to 4-0 in what could be a fun game to watch.

Pit @ Bal – Both of these teams lost badly last week, the Steelers on the road vs a poor team, the Ravens in London in a complete blowout.  Both are 2-1, both are undefeated at home, and both want the AFC North title as their own.  We’ve seen this matchup plenty before, but these teams are so evenly matched, this time it will be more competitive than ever.  Pittsburgh is going to rebound from their loss, you can guarantee that, it’s just a matter of if they’ll be ale to overcome Baltimore rebounding in Baltimore.  The Ravens will be feeling embarrassed after their loss in England, and they’ll want to show the world & their fans that they are indeed a team to be taken seriously.  They aren’t scoring enough, that’s their problem, and the defense can’t always bail them out.  They’ll have to find a way to get the run game going, and a way to stop the Killer Bs of Pittsburgh, but I think they can definitely do it.

Cin @ Cle – Ugh, gross.  Here are the other teams of the AFC North, both 0-3, both pretty pathetic.  The Bengals are coming off finally scoring touchdowns and almost beating the Packers in Green Bay.  That’s something to hang your hat on, but it isn’t a win, and so I have to imagine that the Bengals still feel pretty hopeless.  Good Andy showed up last week, but that only means that Bad Andy is due an appearance in Week 4, so look out for some INTs and some decisions that make you question your fandom.  The Browns have rallied behind QB Kizer, but that hasn’t translated into a win quite yet.  Don’t worry, a few will come, though not many, and maybe just maybe they’ll get their first W this weekend.  The Brownies have some talented pieces, but so do the Bungles, it’s just a question of who learns how to use them correctly first.  I guess I’ll go with the home team here, in the Battle for Ohio.

LAR @ Dal – Who’s scored the most points this season?  It’s not the Patriots or the Chiefs, it’s the Los Angeles Rams.  Goff & Gurley are on their way to proving that they’re the real deal, and the Rams are winning the NFC West, over the Seattle Seahawks.  Pretty big stuff for a team that wasn’t supposed to be any good, but it is early, and things do have a way of changing.  I don’t think that LA can keep up their scoring all year, I think it’ll taper off at some point, and this week might be when it starts.  After losing to the Broncos, the Cowboys rebounded with a big road win, and now seem back on track.  They’re in a 3-way tie for the NFC East lead, and can’t afford to drop an important game like this, so look for them to come out firing.  Also, their defense is actually stout, so if anyone is going to stop the Rams, it’s going to be this team, at home.  Zeke woke up last week; that’s not what the LA defense wants to hear.

Phi @ LAC – Jake Elliott is the rookie of the year, at least for now, thanks to that 61-yard game-winner last week that helped his team beat the rival Giants.  The Eagles look good, Wentz is playing well, and Philly is 2-0 within the division, so everything is pointing up for the Cheesesteak Champions.  But isn’t that usually when things take a turn for the worse?  Just when you think you’ve got it made as a team, that no one can beat you, it all goes south, and I just have a sneaky suspicion that might be the case this week. The Chargers are winless, and I just can’t see them staying that way for long.  I’m not saying that they’re any good, but they’re better than the Browns/Bengals/Jets/Bears/Niners; they’re going to get wins at some point.  It could happen now, at home, vs a good but not incredible Philly team.  Hey, I despise Phillip Rivers, I hope he loses every game and then retires, but I just have a feeling LAC will get the win.

NYG @ TB – Wow, the Giants can’t buy a win this season, and things are starting to look grim.  I’m been supporting them all year, saying that they’re going to rebound, counting on them to wake the hell up.  But I don’t know, I’m starting to think that it’s not going to happen.  Odell did catch some balls last week, Philly did have to kick an improbably FG, but the GMen are still 0-3, the numbers don’t lie.  They’ll get some wins, I’m not leaving their bandwagon completely, but I don’t think a W comes in Week 4.  The Bucs, who are everyone’s darling team in 2017, lost big time last week in Minnesota, and will look to play mad this week to make up for it.  Once this offense gets rolling, there won’t be any way of stopping it, so best get out the way when the Bucs shake off the offseason rust.  I think they’ll take care of business at home this week, the Giant will fall to 0-4, and we’ll start hearing calls for Eli’s retirement.

SF @ Ari – The 49ers were another team I expected more from, but it’s obvious that they’re a ways away from becoming the team that they would like to be.  Hoyer is OK, but he’s not taking a team anywhere, and the rest of the team is a few draft picks away from being good enough to elevate their QB, a la the Chiefs.  The Niners are winless and on the road; not a good combination and reason enough not to pick them to win this game.  The Cardinals aren’t much better on paper; they’re 1-2, score the same as the Niners, allow as much as the Niners, and didn’t win their only home game of the year.  It’s a tenuous season for Arizona, with their big loss of David Johnson, and Carson Palmer’s advancing age.  They’ll get Johnson back later in the year, but what shape will this team be in at that point?  They need to pick up as many games as they can now before he returns, starting here with what should be an easy one.

Oak @ Den – It’s Raider Hater week around my house, I’m just glad that they’re coming to us, not the other way around.  Oakland is coming to Denver after a primetime loss against the Redskins in which they just didn’t look like themselves.  They didn’t run the ball well, they looked over-matched, and it wasn’t the Raiders team we were expecting to see; usually they play well on those east coast road games, unlike other west coast teams.  Whatever the reason, they’ll want to bounce back quickly, the Broncos just have to hope they can get on top early before Oakland gets rolling.  Denver wanted to be taken seriously, but then they lose to the Bills, which isn’t an embarrassment but still, you need to win that road game if you want to be considered an elite team.  Denver needs to bounce back, Siemian needs to protect the ball, and the defense needs to dominate.  This should be a very good game, a close one that comes down to the wire.

Ind @ Sea – This Sunday Night matchup looked better when they made the schedule than it does right now.  Indy has been struggling since Luck has been out, though Brissett did look much better last week, and Hilton exploded for a ton of yards.  Word is Andrew is on his way back in a couple weeks, but we’ll see what kind of rust he has, and how long it’ll take him to get going after so long sitting out.  Meanwhile, the Colts aren’t scaring anyone, especially the Seahawks, even though they haven’t started off very well either.  The offense just can’t get going, and that’s a big problem.  They can’t run because they can’t block, they can’t throw because they can’t protect, and so no one moves the ball anywhere.  The defense can only hold out so long until they get tired, and so right now the Seahawks are a beatable team.  What they need is an easy game to get some things figured out; Merry Christmas.

Was @ KC – Another primetime game for the Redskins, who are feeling good about their defeat of the Raiders.  Cousins is doing well, they have a team of running backs who can do some damage, and they’re tied atop the division.  I just don’t trust this Washington team very far, and I think they lose this game pretty easily.  The Chiefs are just too good right now, they’re undefeated, and I don’t think that changes at home on Monday Night.  Anything can happen under the lights, but this KC squad is currently doing everything right, and they’d have to completely drop the proverbial ball to get me to predict a home loss.  Andy Reid knows how to win in the regular season, he just needs to show us that he can coach a playoff team as well, one that can do damage in January.  If the Chiefs can keep a solid record, if they can get some home games during the postseason; watch out.

 

Fantasy Players To Watch – presented by The Fantasy Footballers

Visit thefantasyfootballers.com

for the best fantasy football rankings each week.

 

QBs – Aaron Rodgers vs the Bears.  Jay Cutler vs the Saints.  Blake Bortles vs the Jets.  Phillip Rivers vs the Rams.  Jameis Winston vs the Giants.  Carson Palmer vs the 49ers.  Russell Wilson vs the Colts.

RBs – Mark Ingram vs the Dolphins.  Leonard Fournette vs the Jets.  LeSean McCoy vs the Falcons.  Chris Johnson vs the 49ers.  CJ Anderson vs the Raiders.  Carson vs the Colts.

WRs – Jordy Nelson vs the Bears.  DeVante Parker vs the Saints.  Allen Hurns vs the Jets.  Julio Jones vs the Bills.  Mike Evans vs the Giants.  Demaryius Thomas vs the Raiders.  Doug Baldwin vs the Colts.

TEs – Coby Fleener vs the Dolphins.  Rob Gronkowski vs the Panthers.  Hunter Henry vs the Eagles.  Jimmy Graham vs the Colts.  Travis Kelce vs the Redskins.

Ks – Mason Crosby vs the Bears.  Jason Myers vs the Jets.  Matt Prater vs the Vikings.  Matt Bryant vs the Bills.  Justin Tucker vs the Steelers.  Phil Dawson vs the 49ers.  Brandon McManus vs the Raiders.  Blair Walsh vs the Colts.

DEFs – New England vs the Panthers.  Tampa Bay vs the Giants.  Arizona vs the 49ers.  Seattle vs the Colts.

 

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Movie Trailer – 1922

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Zak Hilditch

Starring: Thomas Jane, Dylan Schmid, Molly Parker

Release: October 20th, 2017

I was just talking to some critic friends about how I often have read the book before I watch the movie, and such is the case here.  This is a novella from one of Stephen King’s more brutal books, and we all know how brutal he can be.  His novellas are his best works by far, that’s where his talent really shines; scaring us, sure, but also creating characters within a few pages that you feel like you’ve known all your life.  This was a good story, it should make for a good movie, and with the success of It, I’d be surprised if more & more of his ideas didn’t make their way onto our screens.  Zak Hilditch directed These Final Hours, which was good, so I have some faith that he can get these b-level actors to do a-level work.  We’ll see.


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Movie Trailer – Annihilation

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Alex Garland

Starring: Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Oscar Isaac

Release: February 23rd, 2018

Whoa.  As a sci-fi fan, I’m ready to watch this movie right now.  It looks like Arrival, Ex Machina, Congo, and What Dreams May Come, which is a weird combination, but also something that I’m fascinated to see.  I love Oscar Isaac, Natalie Portman is great, I’m ready to see where this story is going to take us, I just hope the director gets it right, and I’m pretty sure he will.


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DVD Review – Lowriders

Category : DVD Review

Director: Ricardo de Montreuil

Starring: Gabriel Chavarria, Demian Bichir, Theo Rossi

Year: 2016

A Peruvian director, Montreuil attempts to capture Mexican-American tradition with his drama Lowriders, a film about art, family, and the bonds that never break.  Montreuil is a relative amateur, with two features and two shorts under his belt, but no major projects for approaching ten years.  He steps in and attempts to wrestle a heavy theme, a vibrant culture, and a few name actors, hoping that the final product will be a movie that will surprise audiences with its depth.  But Lowriders isn’t fresh at all, isn’t well-acted in any scene, and won’t catch the attention of those looking for a diamond in the rough.

The Movie

Danny Alvarez grew up in the urban jungle of L.A., not a child of the streets, but a kid who felt that the city was his for the taking, that the walls were canvases, not barriers.  Danny is an artist, his medium is graffiti, and not everyone appreciates his love for painting where you are decidedly not supposed to paint.  His father wants him to follow in the family footsteps, to work alongside him in the garage fixing cars, sure, but to also create art of a different kind.  His father is a builder of lowriders, a Mexican-American tradition since their heritage was threatened in this new place that their grandparents called home.

So Danny paints in the night while his father prepares the family’s classic car for a lowrider competition.  But there’s an extra piece to the puzzle that’s about to make its volatile presence known.  Francisco Alvarez, known to all as ‘Ghost’, just got out of prison and is coming home to see his family.  Danny’s brother has been away for years, his father disowned him, and the icing on the cake will be when Ghost joins a rival car club that means to win the competition trophy for itself.  The drama will come to a head, this family will need to heal, and Danny has to decide what kind of man he wants to become.

Montreuil tries to do some damage with a heavy punch of emotion in this film, but all he actually manages is a scrape on the face of a theme that has seen better directors, better actors, and better versions.  His attempt to capture family drama feels forced, and we’ve seen this plot a thousand times, each one cheesier than the next.  The boy, his passion, his father, his passion, the two butting heads, add in a wild card that disturbs the tenuous balance; it’s been done.  Setting the story here, in L.A., in a Mexican neighborhood, with these cool cars; that was perhaps the only thing he got right.

The cast didn’t help move the quality up the scale, so the director can’t be solely blamed.  Chavarria was college-level, I hate to say, not strong enough for a spotlight like this.  Bichir, who played his father and who you might recognize as Mexican Bob, was better, but was thrust into a role that basically had no depth.  They tried to make up a past drinking problem, but that didn’t work at all.  Rossi, who didn’t seem related to the other characters, was misused entirely.  And the supporting cast was just odd; Tony Revolori, Melissa Benoist, Eva Longoria.  None of it really worked, and the result was general disappointment.

The Blu-ray

Video – With an aspect ratio of 2.40:1 (1080p HD Widescreen), the video quality of the Blu-ray disc is better than most DVDs, not quite as good as most Blu-rays.  The cars, the graffiti, the streets; there was an eye for visuals here, but not enough to escape the lack of content within the story itself.

Audio – The Blu-ray disc was done in English 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio, with a choice of Descriptive Video Service.  Subtitles are available in English SDH, Spanish, and French.  Also, button sounds can be turned on/off in this menu.  The audio was fine, with some cool backing tracks, but not much else.

Extras – There are a number of special features on the Blu-ray disc, but they are surprisingly short.  Lowriders: Art, Love, and Family is a 1-minute summary of the film.  Ghost’s Arrival is a 1-minute character study.  The Culture of Lowriders is a 1-minute glance at the tradition.  And there are four trailers: Sleight, The Resurrection of Gavin Stone, The Darkness, Incarnate.

Final Thoughts

Rent ItLowriders doesn’t succeed in becoming more than a made-for-TV movie about family crisis, even with its alluring backdrop and honest heart.  The storytellers just weren’t good enough to raise it above its default level, and audiences will find themselves let down by the quality.  The video, the audio, the extras; they’re all OK, but nothing stands out as a reason that you should run out to watch/purchase this film.  Better luck next time for all involved, as they’ll need to take this opportunity as a stepping stone toward better and more interesting levels.

☆ ☆ – Content

☆ ☆ ☆ – Video

☆ ☆ ☆ – Audio

☆ ☆ – Extras

☆ ☆ – Replay

 

 

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Movie Review – The Trip to Spain

Category : Movie Review

Director: Michael Winterbottom

Starring: Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon

Year: 2017

Coogan & Brydon team up yet again for a trip around the world, this time to Spain.  It started as a short-run TV series, it became a film (The Trip), then a sequel (The Trip to Italy), then a trilogy (The Trip to Spain), and I have no idea when this wonderfully entertaining vacation might end, but I kind of hope it never does.  These pals are hilarious given the freedom to improvise, to poke fun, to do impressions, to let off steam, and these films capture organic comedy in a way few have before.  I really enjoyed the first two, and I was certain to enjoy the third, basically because the same formula is brought to our screens again, and more of the same deliciousness is rarely a bad thing.

Steve is back on the road, following his Philomena success, preparing to write a book mirroring one of his favorite novels, depicting his own travels as a young man, inspired by Don Quixote, going wherever the wind may blow him.  Along for the ride, faithful friend Rob, who will write a few more restaurant reviews as they trek across Spain; gotta make a living somehow.  And the two friends will doubtless drive each other insane with their constant Roger Moore and Marlon Brando impersonations, making us laugh in the process.  It’s two British comedians on the road, eating good food, mocking life, and at the same time enjoying every moment of it.

If you’ve seen the first two, you know what to expect from this new installment.  It’s improv, it’s dry, it’s English, it’s obscure, but it’s a good time had by all, at least if you like your comedy with a spot of tea.  I adore the other films, and I enjoyed this one as well, if not exactly as much.  Steve & Rob are getting older and they’re looking back on their lives, so there’s a certain nostalgic sadness to this film, even while they crack each other up.  The bits are getting a little tired perhaps, we’ve heard all these impressions before, but that doesn’t mean that they’re completely boring.  There is a lot to appreciate here, a calm air throughout, an ease of storytelling, a brightness of comedy.  The end is a little weird, these guys will definitely be back, I just wonder how long they can keep it up.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – Crown Heights

Category : Movie Review

Director: Matt Ruskin

Starring: Lakeith Stanfield, Nnamdi Asomugha, Natalie Paul

Year: 2017

I saw Nnamdi Asomugha’s name attached to this film as a producer, and I simply assumed that he fronted the money for a film that he was passionate about, a story about black men and over-incarceration and racial justice that he felt inspired to help reach an audience.  Asomugha is a name you might recognize if you’re a fan of NFL football; he played 11 seasons, mostly for the Raiders, and was quite good.  I watched the entire movie before I realized that he was basically the star of the film.  That blew me away; I has mentally commented that this actor was great, that I hadn’t seen him before, and that I wondered who he was.  It’s surprising that he’s a ball player turned actor, but what’s more shocking is that you would never know.

In the 80s, America’s crime problem was streaming out of hand, and lawmakers saw only one way to stop the tide; laws.  Harsher sentences, more time, extra arrests, clean the streets, and it was African Americans in low-income areas who felt the pressure most acutely.  Colin Warner was an opportunistic thief, but he was not a violent criminal, and when his name was mentioned in connection with a murder, he was picked up and charged before he even knew what hit him.  The police didn’t care who went to jail, they just needed bodies in cells, and Warner was the unlucky, innocent man who paid the price.  Over the next 20 years, his friends and family would fight for justice, while Colin’s life flowed past before the bars of his prison door.

This is a true story, and it has one hell of a punch.  Here is an innocent man who wasted his years behind walls because the system was in a hurry to convict, to toss black men in jail as a group to show a semblance of progress against crime.  If he had lived in a state with the death penalty, Warner would have been killed, his life would have taken from him even more than it already was.  I would say that this issue goes beyond politics, that we as humans could agree that this is wrong, but I’ve overestimated Republicans before, so I won’t make the mistake of assuming that they would care.  But you might, and this film could make a big impact.  Diving into the film itself, the acting is very strong; Stanfield as Warner and Asomugha as his best friend KC.  Nnamdi stole the show, but the script was a definite aid, as was the pace of the movie, which helped support the actors in a way that you don’t see enough.  Crown Heights is one of the most powerful plots of the year, and I just hope it doesn’t slide under the radar.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆