Monthly Archives: January 2018

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Movie Review – Lucky

Category : Movie Review

Director: John Carroll Lynch

Starring: Harry Dean Stanton

Year: 2017

Harry Dean Stanton died two weeks before Lucky was released; a fitting end to a project about the imperfections of life and the annoyances of dying.  Stanton was 90 playing a man who was 90, looking at his own timeline as he shared that feeling with audiences, the knowledge that the end is near not because you’re close to death but because of its inexorable ability to wait for you to come.  We’re all of us almost dead, and at the same time full of life, a fact not lost on this film.  John Carroll Lynch might be a first-time director, but he’s been around the block as a character actor, and he apparently knows when to let the source material and the lead actor do their jobs and do them well, allowing the stirring story to be laid bare at our feet, our only task being to decide what to do with it.

Lucky doesn’t seem to match his nickname, given him when he was in the Navy, but he makes do with it the best he can, playing the role of the crotchety old man while also able to see life for the fortunate wonder it is.  He wakes up every morning with a cigarette, does his yoga, drinks his coffee, goes on his walk, has his breakfast at the diner, watches his game shows, heads over to the local bar, and attempts to appreciate the details as much as he can, from pet tortoises to mariachi bands.  He’s not got much longer to live, although he seems to be as healthy as a horse; that’s just a terminal diagnosis we all receive when we are born.  Lucky searches for the inexplicable truths behind the everyday words and common misconceptions of our world, until what he discovers approaches the enlightened.  Not bad for an old Blue Grass boy come to the desert to while away his final years.

It’s morbidly fitting that Stanton died as this film wrapped up; it sure seemed like a goodbye of sorts, or at least like a putting to words feelings that can only come when you begin to prepare for the end.  What this film has to say about death shouldn’t be overlooked; it’s a fascinating and powerful message in its method of dealing with life basically being both a giant missed opportunity and an incredible ride.  I like the perspective from which this story was told, it sat well with me, although I can’t speak for every audience.  I can say that the cast was solid, a good mix of veterans and interesting faces that made the movie feel even more authentic: David Lynch, Ron Livingston, Ed Begley Jr, Tom Skerritt, a few others you’d recognize by face but not by name.  Lucky is a short, sweet, surprisingly poetic glance at a single, fictitious person that somehow has volumes to say about humanity as a whole, and it’s an under-the-radar film that really ought to rise to where we can all appreciate it.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆



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Sports – 2017 NFL Year in Review

Category : Sports

Here is my 2017 NFL Year in Review

(4-6 for the postseason, 167-89 for the regular season)


AFC Division Winners





NFC Division Winners





AFC Wild Cards

NFC Wild Cards

Super Bowl



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DVD Review – Theeb

Category : DVD Review

Director: Naji Abu Nowar

Starring: Jacir Eid Al-Hwietat, Hussein Salameh AL-Sweilhiyeen

Year: 2014

Out of the United Arab Emirates and filmed in Jordan comes Theeb, a film nominated for Best Foreign Language Feature at the 2016 Academy Awards.  ‘Theeb’ means ‘wolf’ in Arabic, and is the name of our main character, as well as a point of metaphor throughout the movie.  You won’t fail to be impressed by this look into another world, nor will its impact miss the mark for many.  And yet while its differences are its strengths, they are also its weaknesses, the delivery of the story so unlike what we are used to seeing that they catch our attention only to make us feel somewhat unwelcome here.

The Movie

Theeb is a young boy, the son of a sheik, from a Bedouin people deep in the deserts of the Ottoman Empire.  Times are changing as war rages outside, the Ottomans choosing sides, many rising up against them, the British stepping in to take command as usual.  One English officer requests the aid of Theeb’s brother to guide him to the railway many miles across the barren landscape, through dangerous terrain.  Theeb follows so as not to be left behind, shadowing the brother that he loves so much and who he can’t stand to be parted from.

Theeb will experience the world in a way he never imagined, growing up on the sand while the harsh truths of survival prowl around the outskirts of the party’s campfire.  Tribes war with tribes, bandits roam the arid countryside, wells are prized possessions, and no one is safe traveling in small groups, yet Bedouins are fiercely proud of their survival skills, and absolutely dedicated to those they decide to guide along treacherous paths.  When the group is attacked, Theeb will have to take care of himself in a land that knows no pity and can kill with rapid, unthinking precision.

The landscape is by far the greatest positive about this film, and some of the visuals will blow you away.  It’s not that this is a big-budget, Hollywood picture with amazing cinematography, it’s that the movie transports us directly into the heart of a beautiful land, but one that is also unimaginably difficult and stark.  Some of the shots of the canyons and deserts are breathtaking, made more so by the simplicity of the story around them, the focus on being present in the moment instead of forcing us to pretend that we’re in Jordan.  We are there with the characters naturally; those emotions don’t need to be manufactured.

But I’ll go back to try to explain the point I was trying to make in the introduction; what makes this movie special also makes it a bit unreachable.  The style is unique, at least to what we are used to, paring down the dialogue until you barely need it at all, making the film about an area and less about any one specific person.  Theeb is the focal point, but he’s also simply a vehicle for us to travel around in.  It’s so barren, the set and the story, that you’re left with the lonely feeling that I think is one of the points, but that becomes a negative as well as a positive.  It would be hard to say that this film inspires love; it’s uncommonly transportative, but its lack of drama can’t be seen as an undoubted asset.


Video – With an aspect ratio of 2.39:1 Widescreen and shot using an Arriflex 416 camera with Hawk V-Lite 16 lenses, the video quality of the disc may be its strongest feature.  The landscape is stunning, it’s something we don’t see very often, and then never quite like this, like we are in the desert with the characters, not on some movie set with celebrities’ trailers just out of sight.

Audio – The DVD was done in 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround, with an option of 2.0 Stereo.  Subtitles are available in English, French, and Spanish.  The film is in Arabic, which is an amazing language to sit and listen to, the movie flowing so well that you barely need subtitles at all.  Also, the music of the movie is surprisingly solid, with a nice recurring theme used throughout.

Extras – There are plenty of special features available on the disc if you’re interested in learning more.  First, there is a bonus short film entitled Waves ’98, a 15-minute animated movie about a teenager in Beirut.  In the bonus menu, you can access commentary by director Naji Abu Nowar, as well as six Film Movement trailers: My Love Don’t Cross That River, The Best Intentions, Wondrous Boccaccio, Breathe, Secrets of War, The Dark Valley.  Lastly, a paragraph to teach audiences a little bit about Film Movement.

Final Thoughts

RecommendedTheeb is a film to see, if not exactly a film to buy.  It’s a sensory experience more than it is a cinematic one, or at least that’s the impression it left upon me after a viewing, like I witnessed something and was taken somewhere, but not like I would remember it forever.  The story is simple, the action muted, even the violence more realistic and less dramatic, which, again, is somehow both a weakness and a strength.  The film is almost too real for us to want to add to our collections, if that makes any sense at all, while also being one of the best snapshots of this time period since Lawrence of Arabia.  The video is special in what it reveals, if not exactly in quality, the audio is strong, and there are some special features for those who want to look deeper, so the technical aspects pull their weight.  Enjoy for what it does right and attempt not to hold it up to the American projects that we have become accustomed to, and you might find a gem.

☆ ☆ ☆ – Content

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Video

☆ ☆ ☆ – Audio

☆ ☆ ☆ – Extras

☆ ☆ ☆ – Replay



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Movie Review – Jane

Category : Movie Review

Director: Brett Morgen

Starring: Jane Goodall

Year: 2017

Sure to be nominated for Best Documentary at this year’s Academy Awards is Jane, the story of Jane Goodall.  That’s a simply description, it’s a simple film, and yet it is also unequivocally beautiful in its focus and its attention to sifting through all the many years to extract what is essential, important, and what we need to hear before Goodall becomes just another highlighted word in a textbook.  This film was formed by found footage, reenacting her early life, in a way, while speaking with her now to get both sides of the timeline.  Jane narrates her own life for us as we watch it unfold on camera, and a documentary has never been more captivating or more magical.

Jane Goodall was picked for a research project in Africa because she wasn’t a scientist, wasn’t a biologist, hadn’t even been to university.  She simply loved animals, wanted to observe them, promised to be objective, exhibited uncanny patience, and devoted her entire life to living among them so as to know them better.  Her dream was to live in Africa among primates, and so that is what she did, spending years among a community of chimpanzees, studying their behavior and relating their world to our own.  She would go on to get married, have a son, move to different parts of the globe, but the chimps would always be her first love, and it’s this passion that made her into the historic figure we know her as today.

What a lovely film, and what an incredibly captivating documentary.  I found myself lost in the footage, in the quiet moments, in the hours Jane simply sat and watched, gaining the animals’ trust as she gradually became part of the landscape.  She had a life, she had desires, but her one goal was to show the world that we aren’t the only intelligent creatures on Earth, that this isn’t just our home, and wow did she succeed.  It’s a rare opportunity to see her early career from this perspective, and you’ll never spend a more pleasant 90 minutes in front of a screen. I don’t have a desire to watch documentaries very often, but I’m so glad I watched this one, and I highly recommend that you do the same.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆



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Movie Review – The Hero

Category : Movie Review

Director: Brett Haley

Starring: Sam Elliott, Laura Prepon, Nick Offerman

Year: 2017

From the director of I’ll See You in My Dreams, and sharing one mustachioed star, comes The Hero, a Sam Elliott drama that lady baby boomers everywhere will eat alive as they imagine fantastic lovers as gallant cowboys and well-aged gentlemen.  My mom, for instance, is a huge Elliott fan, and this film knows exactly which audience to target.  What it also does well is add in enough other elements to draw in multiple audiences, not just the one obvious group.  From Laura Prepon to Nick Offerman, from mollies to YouTube, this movie attempts to diversify its investments.  It partially succeeds, and becomes a mostly well-made movie, if perhaps piggybacking on the success of its predecessor in an obvious and unimaginative fashion.

Lee Hayden, the Hero, the star of an incredibly famous Western, but a man who has grown older without growing wiser.  His fame dried up in the hills of California, and although he has worked in the industry, he’s never actually done anything special or resembling the quality of the role that made him a cowboy icon.  Now, diagnosed with cancer and living alone, he has nothing left to do but reflect of his past successes and regret his past failures, both as an actor and as a father.  A chance meeting with the beautiful Charlotte brightens things up for a bit, but nothing gold can stay, and what message will Hayden leave behind when he’s gone, because the end is only drawing closer for all of us; eventually the final curtain falls.

This formula was done very well so recently in Haley’s other film, it’s almost prohibited for it to be done again so soon.  It’s from a male perspective this time, and the story is sadder, but there are too many similarities, and you can’t simply recycle your entire successful film, expected the result to be exactly the same.  With that said, The Hero has its positives, and I did like it, when taken as a whole.  Elliott is a fine actor, and you can feel the heart he put into this character.  Prepon is surprisingly good, though also a bit heavy on the Alex Vause, which isn’t surprising, since it’s her claim to fame now that we’re forgetting Donna.  Offerman, I don’t know what to say, the guy just isn’t a great actor.  He can do the job, he looks interesting, but he literally has one mood.  I also wonder if this film was written from too much of a grown child’s perspective and not from a retiree’s point of view, Lee acting how the director imagines his dad would act, not then resonating with complete believability.  Still, this movie is enjoyable from many different ages and slants, I just might recommend the Blythe Danner’s version.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆



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Movie Review – The Square

Category : Movie Review

Director: Ruben Ostlund

Starring: Claes Bang

Year: 2017

I have never seen a film quite like The Square, and perhaps that feeling is bolstered by how little I was prepared for it.  I knew it was a talked-about foreign film, I heard Elizabeth Moss’s name, and I saw that it was 140 minutes long, and so I guess I made a bunch of assumptions that held me back from making it a priority on my list.  But what I didn’t know turned out to be so much more important.  I didn’t know that this was Ostlund’s next feature after the excellent Force Majeure, I didn’t know that Moss and every other actor were merely supporting, and I didn’t know that the story would be the exact level of bonkers that I’ve been enjoying all year, from Mother! to Sacred Deer, another in a delightful trend of wacky movies that make remarkable points through their pure, enriched intensity.

Christian, the curator of a Swedish contemporary art museum, is coming face to face with decisions of character and of direction that will completely alter his personality and his path.  A controversial new exhibit is coming to the museum, the Square, a place of empathy and helpfulness by advertisement, but also a stunning juxtaposition to the world outside its small borders.  This exhibit acts as a catalyst, but the events in Christian’s personal life reflect the battle going on within each of us.  His wallet is stolen; how will he react.  He sleeps with a journalist; how will he treat her.  He gives to a beggar; how far will he go.  The bizarre events of the film are as unpredictable as they are hilarious, but they have a darker side as well, one that we typically don’t choose to see.

This is one of those movies that the more I think about the more I like, that I want to revisit again to enjoy, but that I also want others to see so I can tell if I’ve gone insane or if it actually is that good.  I’m relieved that it might be nominated for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar; maybe I’m not that original after all, maybe everyone recognizes that The Square may be tremendously weird but that it is also simply tremendous.  Partly in Swedish, partly in English, it’s a roller coaster ride of physical sensations and existential musings, an uncomfortable plot that’s funny because it’s true.  Bang plays Christian to perfection, other characters swirling around him as he sinks deeper into the whirlpool of his conscience, and in the end you completely understand what he just went through because you went through it right alongside him.  I’ll be watching this again soon, and I recommend that you pop it in as well, for although it most definitely isn’t for everyone, it’s an experience that I have to hope that you’ll enjoy.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆



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Movie Trailer – Beast of Burden

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Jesper Ganslandt

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Grace Gummer

Release: February 2018

Oh god this is going to be awful.  First, it’s the world’s worst trailer.  Second, the world’s dumbest plot.  Third, Radcliffe is an OK actor, nothing more.  Hard pass.

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Movie Trailer – Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Gus Van Sant

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Jonah Hill, Rooney Mara, Jack Black

Release: May 11th, 2018

Joaquin Phoenix with the Oscar, I’m calling it.  GVS hasn’t directed a good movie since Milk in 2008, and before that it was Good Will Hunting in 1997, which he probably shouldn’t get much credit for.  So this is it, put up or shut up, and I’m predicting something special.

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Movie Review – The Lovers

Category : Movie Review

Director: Azazel Jacobs

Starring: Tracy Letts, Debra Winger

Year: 2017

Tracy Letts is having one hell of a 2017, my critics group even voting him Actor of the Year.  Lady Bird, The Post, The Lovers, the former being one of my favorite performances and the latter being his biggest role to date.  He had a stellar 2016 as well, though more under-the-radar: Christine, Indignation, Elvis & Nixon.  Every one of those films is great and he is great in them; it’s incredible that he’s just now blossoming at the age of 52, given that he’s been doing small parts and television shows for decades.  Better late than never, and we should count ourselves lucky that we now have such an amazing actor in so many excellent films.  Debra Winger has a similar story, peaking in the 80s, popping up in Rachel Getting Married, but only now really showing her stuff.  The combination of the two, and this movie as a whole, is absolutely something to see.

Michael and Mary are married, and they’re also both having an affair.  Both hate their day jobs, both hardly speak to the other, both simply need excitement from somewhere else.  Michael is seeing a ballet instructor, a highly emotional woman who he loves dearly.  Mary is sleeping with a writer, an Irishman who is passionate about life.  The veteran couple have been together a long time, have a college-age son, but just haven’t been enjoying their relationship, growing further and further apart as the years pass.  Neither is interested in fixing things, and both commit to ending the marriage as soon as their son leaves from a visit.  But finding out about each other’s extracurricular activities may lead to rediscovering the love that they assumed had been lost long ago.

Letts has never been better, Winger is back with a vengeance, and filmmaker Azazel Jacobs finally writes/directs something that will stick.  Letts is a revelation, really, we must have done something terribly wrong to not have his special characters until now, or else something shockingly right to deserve them now.  He’s perfect, and he delivers a bit of a Broadway/Woody Allen vibe that works so well with this plot.  Winger can hang her hat on this role for years to come; it’s a career resurgence for sure.  And Jacobs tried to impress mainstream audiences with Terri, didn’t quite knock it out of the park, but shows here why some of us were so hopeful.  The Lovers has the feel of theatre, slides along quickly, delivers a moving message, plays for some laughs, and is among the best of the year, even if hardly anyone knows it.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆



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Movie Trailer – Love, Simon

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Greg Berlanti

Starring: Nick Robinson, Katherine Langford, Jennifer Garner

Release: March 16th, 2018

This is the not the kind of coming-of-age story we long for, this is the kind that piles up and starts to smell when you don’t take it outside quick enough.  YA book, sappy story, “new” perspective; come on people, give us something we can sink our teeth into.  I’ll be giving this movie a very wide berth.