Monthly Archives: February 2018

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Movie Trailer – Incredibles 2

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Brad Bird

Starring: Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L. Jackcon

Release: June 15th, 2018

I like The Incredibles enough, it’s fun, but it’s not my favorite.  I think this one looks a little silly, the whole parenting thing, and I’m not sure I’ll really enjoy it.  Let’s hope it’s just a short look, that the rest of the movie will be much more exciting.


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Movie Review – Fifty Shades Freed

Category : Movie Review

Director: James Foley

Starring: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan

Year: 2018

This might surprise you, as I’m a 30-something man with a taste for sci-fi and Oscars dramas, but I kinda like the Fifty Shades franchise.  And no, it isn’t just because of Dakota Johnson, although she is very sexy and I won’t deny that her body is a bit of factor.  But it goes beyond that; I actually enjoy the smutty abandon of this series, how they are, especially with the first film, shouting a big “screw you!” in the face of the industry, completely giving in to the money and the sex.  Fifty Shades of Grey was pretty hot, it didn’t shy away from controversy, and I was shocked when I rather liked it.  Fifty Shades Darker wasn’t actually much darker, became a silly soap opera, left most of the bondage behind, and focused on the romance element, all of which was a bit of a let down, but I think we all expected a descent.  I predicted a leap off a cliff face with the last installment, and in that way Fifty Shades Freed did not disappoint; it’s one of the worst films you will ever see.

Ana and Christian are married, and they’ll just have to deal with the fact that he sometimes still wants to control her, while she often wants to flaunt the fact that she won’t be controlled.  They vow to make it work, even though he gets jealous and she gets rebellious; that’s what every married couple deals with, right?  Sure, every newlywed is wading through the world of BDSM, jet-setting to Paris, and running multiple successful companies, all while secret crazy people are trying to destroy their lives.  Wait, what?  That’s just the Grey way, and it’s no outdoor picnic.  Someone is trying to sabotage Ana and Christian’s relationship, they are doing a pretty good job of that themselves at the same time, and there may be a little bundle of joy on the way as well.  But love conquers all, especially love in handcuffs.

I said it about the last installment and I’ll say it again; if what you came to see are Dakota Johnson’s nipples, then you’re in for a treat.  They are basically the stars of the film, and I don’t really understand why, since the majority of audience members are women who came because they read the books, think Christian is hot, and want to see their own secret fantasies portrayed on camera.  At least that’s what I assume, maybe I’m wrong, because the studio seems to think that what we want are shots of Ana in various states of undress, which I’m all for, but I also don’t think that’s a great base for a film.  Other than the fact that she looks great, and that the movie has an ending that I actually thought was smart, with a good wrapped-up feeling that will satisfy those who were invested in the series, there is absolutely nothing positive to say about this final chapter.

Fifty Freed is less actual cinema and more a USA Network original, like an episode of Silk Stockings but with a backstory, Thomas Crown Affair wealth, and a Red Room filled with butt plugs.  It loses the intrigue of the first, the romance of the second, and instead focuses on two really boring things: manufactured couples fights that end with make-up sex and a generic villain story line hovering in the periphery like a cracked shell.  All we get is bickering, mixed with conversations about how marriage is hard, and the stupidest thriller outline you have ever seen, laden with cliches that are hard to imagine that actual brains thought would work.  The acting goes from bad to worse, the side characters are ridiculous/pointless beyond compare, and if you were to write this entire plot down and read it to yourself aloud, you might actually fall over dead from sheer embarrassment.  Although I didn’t hate it originally, I’m so glad this franchise is over.  Not only did the last part destroy any fragile credibility that it might have earned, but it’s also something none of us need in our lives: fantasy, real, sex, or otherwise.

My rating: ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – Black Panther

Category : Movie Review

Director: Ryan Coogler

Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Lupita Nyong’o, Michael B. Jordan

Year: 2018

Black Panther was cinematically introduced in Captain America: Civil War, and he was definitely one of its strongest parts.  That character is completely and roundly awesome, with a few superpowers, a ton of natural skill, and a backstory to give him depth.  We’ve seen him out of his element, kicking ass, seeking revenge, now we get a look at his homeland, Wakanda, a place of secrecy and beauty more like Krypton than NYC, the hidden gem that houses the precious vibranium.  If you’re into comics and MU movies, you’ve been looking forward to this one, a longer look at one of the cooler cats that fight with the mighty Avengers.  And I’ve got good news for you; it doesn’t disappoint.  Black Panther is part origin story, part new adventure, a fresh take on the genre, with a cast that will knock your socks off and an underlying message that doesn’t let you leave without riding the wave.

The king is dead; long live the king.  A new Black Panther has come to the throne after the death of the great Wakandan ruler, his son claiming the title and defeating the challengers to earn the right to rule his people.  He is already housing Captain America’s friend Bucky Barnes, but his nation is also hiding vibranium-laced supertechnology that they keep solely to themselves, both to keep dangerous weapons out of evil hands and to protect their beautiful land.  Black Panther wants only to keep his people safe, while others close to him want to help the outside world, a prospect that comes with its own problems.  But the outside world is coming in, whether they want it to or not, in the form of Erik Killmonger, a trained murderer with a secret past.  His appearance will rock the Wankandan way of life, and will also change the fate of the entire world.

Chadwick Boseman is becoming the biopic king, which isn’t my favorite genre, but there’s no denying his ability to assume a real life role.  What makes him great is his ability to also weave yards of his natural talent into the true character, to show us that he has skills beyond simple copy work.  42, Get on Up, Marshall; these films by themselves aren’t phenomenal, but you can see a rising star working his way up through every one.  Boseman was also Floyd Little in The Express, a role that’s close to my heart, being a Broncos fan, and he was also an athlete in Draft Day, another football flick, this time fictional.  The guy can do it all, and is only now blossoming into a major film actor at the age of 40; he looks and seems half that age.  He is a perfect choice for T’Challa, delivers another excellent performance in the Universe, and should be a staple to the Marvel diet going forward.

And then there are the dozen co-stars around him, a few more than needed perhaps, because the plot does get a little cloudy at times, but solid nonetheless.  Nyong’o, Jordan, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Sterling K. Brown, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Andy Serkis; again, perhaps a little overkill.  I thought Michael B. Jordan stole the show, while Martin Freeman was completely pointless and Angela Bassett was cringe-worthy.  With all these side actors, you need side stories, and that’s where Black Panther was at its worst.  When we should have been focusing on the epic battle between Panther and Killmonger, we were watching Kaluuya on a rhino instead, which was both odd and completely unnecessary.  The film could have been slightly more focused and tightly-woven, but that’s probably my only major critique.  The cinematography was breathtaking, the African cultural elements felt real when they could so easily have felt forced, and the messages behind the story (isolationism, xenophobia, compounding wrongs) were too bright to miss.  Watch this latest addition to a franchise that is quickly turning into a legacy with confidence, pride, and an eye toward the horizon.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Sports – 2018 NFL Free Agency

Category : Sports

With the 2017 season behind us, the Super Bowl over, and the reality of zero football settling in, it’s never too early to look ahead to next year. The 2018 season kicks off with the HOF game in Canton in August and the Opener in Philadelphia in September, but before that there are two major events that will change your team’s future. One is the Draft in April, and the other is Free Agency in March. There are veteran players out there for the taking, and they could help your team right away with their talent and experience. Here is a look at some of the top NFL Free Agents of 2018:

 

Kirk Cousins – QB – Washington Redskins

Drew Brees – QB – New Orleans Saints

Le’Veon Bell – RB – Pittsburgh Steelers

Trai Turner – OG – Carolina Panthers

Jimmy Graham – TE – Seattle Seahawks

Jarvis Landry – WR – Miami Dolphins

Sheldon Richardson – DT – Seattle Seahawks

Tyler Eifert – TE – Cincinnati Bengals

Case Keenum – QB – Minnesota Vikings

Sammy Watkins – WR – Los Angeles Rams

Malcolm Butler – CB – New England Patriots

Ezekiel Ansah – DT – Detroit Lions

Trumaine Johnson – CB – Los Angeles Rams

Larry Fitzgerald – WR – Arizona Cardinals

Sam Bradford – QB – Minnsota Vikings

DeMarcus Lawrence – DE – Dallas Cowboys

Antonio Gates – TE – Los Angeles Chargers

Terrelle Pryor – WR – Washington Redskins

A.J. McCarron – QB – Cincinnati Bengals

Nate Solder – OT – New England Patriots


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DVD Review – Marshall

Category : DVD Review

Director: Reginald Hudlin

Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Josh Gad, Dan Stevens

Year: 2017

Director Reginald Hudlin hasn’t attempted a feature film since a string of odd choices in the 90s and early 2000s.  House Party, Boomerang, The Great White Hype, The Ladies Man, Serving Sarah; that’s an odd group, to say the least, and the array of television episodes that he’s directed since then are even odder, and would take much longer to type out.  My point is, he’s been out of the game for a while, and even when he was in the game he wasn’t exactly winning.  And so his most recent movie, Marshall, feels more like a TV special than it does an awards-caliber film.  But that isn’t a completely terrible thing, if you’re prepared for what you’re about to watch; a true story that would probably fit better on the History Channel than in a theatre near you.

The Movie

Thurgood Marshall, a lawyer working for the NAACP, was known as a man who stood tall and stayed clearheaded in the most trying of situations.  His job was to travel the country to important spots where the battle for equal rights was being fought the hardest, to be the voice for those were being shouted down.  When an innocent black man was accused of a terrible crime because the system had been rigged against him for centuries, Marshall would arrive to give legal counsel, to defend the case, to coach other lawyers, to show the nation that men are created equal, and that their legal rights should be treated the exact same way.

In one of his most famous cases, Marshall came to Connecticut to defend a black driver who was accused of raping his white employer.  Joseph Spell worked for the Strubings, and was always kind to the Mrs., especially when her husband was away on business.  But one night, Eleanor Strubing went to the police claiming that she was raped and thrown over a bridge to be drowned, and that Spell was the culprit.  The story was fishy and Spell refused to plead guilty to a crime he said he did not commit, so Marshall arrived to find the truth and to get this man a fair trial.  Because he was from out of state, he was not allowed to speak in the courtroom, relying instead on local attorney Sam Friedman, and insurance lawyer who was about to get the education of a lifetime.

For a film titled after the famous true character, Marshall had very little to do with Thurgood and more to do with Friedman, a turn I did not expect.  They tried to throw in a little backstory, Thurgood’s wife and their struggle to have children, but the focus remained on Friedman throughout, especially in the courtroom, where he was the one who was historically allowed to speak, so that makes absolute sense; I was simply surprised that the film tilted his way so much.  We even got a lot of Dan Stevens, which I was fine with; he’s one hell of an actor, and you hardly miss his dashing British accent.  Regardless of the characters, the case ended up taking center stage, and that’s as it should be, with the verdict an important step toward equal treatment under the law.

Dan Stevens was strong, Sterling K. Brown is a revelation, James Cromwell was the perfect judge, but it’s hard to take Kate Hudson seriously; she just isn’t talented enough to hold her own opposite these other players.  Chadwick Boseman is though, and his rise to stardom is an important one.  He does a lot of biopics, he’s also Black Panther, he seems to have a solid path carved out already; I’m ready to watch him become something special.  Now, Josh Gad is a bit of a mixed bag, a funny man who is trying to play serious, a little bumbler who wants to put up a fight.  I don’t think he quite has the chops, but he does fine when he’s in the spotlight, just not impressing as much as the opportunity allowed.  The film is intriguing, it does show more like television and less like a film, it won’t win any awards, but the story is important enough to pass along, the delivery good enough to warrant a light recommendation.

The Blu-ray

Video – With an aspect ratio of 2.00:1 (1080p HD Widescreen) and shot using an ARRI ALEXA 65 camera with Prime 65 and Vintage 765 lenses, the video quality of this Blu-ray disc is excellent, perhaps even unnecessarily so.  The clarity is great, the color is vibrant; it’s almost lost on this movie, which required nothing more than that we heard the tale and understood the meaning.

Audio – The disc was done in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, with an option of Descriptive Video Service in Dolby Digital 2.0.  Subtitles are also available, in English SDH and Spanish.  In the sounds menu, button sounds can be turned off or on.  The audio quality of the Blu-ray disc is great, a solid compliment to the action of the story and the setting in which it takes place.

Extras – The only extras are 8 trailers for contemporary films.

Final Thoughts

Recommended.  Thurgood Marshall would of course go on to be the first African-American Supreme Court Justice, but I didn’t know much about his road there, and I feel thankful now that I have had the opportunity to learn.  Most of us have the means to jump on a computer, our phones, or Wikipedia to find out any information we want, to educate ourselves about any historical figure we could imagine.  But sometimes it takes a film or a book or a play to nudge us in the right direction, to get us motivated to open up our ears and our minds.  The video of the movie is top-notch, the audio is strong, the extras are few; technically there won’t be any distractions.  So while Marshall may not be the courtroom drama of the century, it has a lot to offer, if we are simply willing to hold out our hands.

☆ ☆ ☆ – Content

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Video

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Audio

☆ ☆ – Extras

☆ ☆ ☆ – Replay

 

 


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Movie Review – The Squid and the Whale

Category : Movie Review

Director: Noah Baumbach

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Jeff Daniels, Laura Linney

Year: 2005

Noah Baumbach has always been someone I’ve allowed into my life because of his connection to Wes Anderson, my favorite director, not specifically because I love his individual work.  The Squid and the Whale was his first of what I would consider his canon, almost an experience modeled after an Anderson flick before he found his own voice and started doing his Ben Stiller/Greta Gerwig work, which are the films he’s most famous for: Greenberg, Frances Ha, While We’re Young, Mistress America.  His most recent movie, The Meyerowitz Stories, is by far his best work, and it seems like he’s finally been able to combine his voice with a style that it more accessible to audiences.  But here we revisit the success that got him started, an extremely personal movie that might hit a little too close to home.

Living in a family of two literary PhDs and a much younger brother isn’t easy, especially when you’re constantly caught between the superpowers that are your parents, their petty attacks, their massive egos, and the fights that never stop.  Walt and his brother Frank are about to become reservable property, shared between their divorcing parents like shelters at a metro park, enjoying the feeling of being wanted but dreading the push & pull.  Walt begins despising his mother, insulting his own girlfriend, and lying about original song lyrics, while Frank does much worse; masturbating in school until people think he’s becoming a psychopath.  Neither are handling their parents’ breakup very well, while Bernard & Joan Berkman squabble like children and deal with it even worse.

My parents are divorced, it happened when I was a teenager, so I understand where Baumbach is coming from, and the reality of his experience bleeds through this film into your living room whether you want it to or not.  Write what you know, that’s the best literary advice you’re ever going to get, and that’s why this is Baumbach’s strong start.  His girlfriend, Great Gerwig, followed that advice when creating Lady Bird, which is my favorite film of 2017, so I’d say that it’s something every artist ought to remember.  Back to Squid and Whale, which is so real it’s uncomfortable, which is the point, almost to a degree where you’d like to turn away.  Some of the sexual aspects do become a little unnerving, and some will say Baumbach went too far; that’s for you to decide.  But the music, the set, the side actors (Billy Baldwin, Anna Paquin, even Alexandra Daddario has a extra’s role); it all works, it’s a memorable film, and what’s more, I think it’s something that stands out as a movie that needs to be seen at least once in order to understand the entire, and much larger tapestry.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – The Royal Tenenbaums

Category : Movie Review

Director: Wes Anderson

Starring: Gene Hackman, Luke Wilson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Stiller

Anjelica Huston, Danny Glover, Owen Wilson, Bill Murray, Kumar Pallana

Year: 2001

The Royal Tenenbaums is the best film I have ever seen, and therefor my absolute, all-time favorite.  I refuse to qualify that opinion too much, but I will say this; it was released at a very important time in my life, when I was cementing my taste in movies, and when I was going through a lot personally, so I understand how that can affect things.  But I still hold that it is an amazing cinematic accomplishment as well, something that should go down in the history books for its artistic originality and perfection of plot.  It was released in January 2002, just in time for the Oscars, but it received very little attention.  It was nominated for Best Original Screenplay, and Gene Hackman won the Golden Globe for Best Actor, but other than that it was mostly overlooked.  Fine by me, that just means that I can keep it a little more to myself, this wonderful story that washes magically over me every time I watch it, this beautiful experience that I’ll never forget.

The Tenenbaums are a family of geniuses, living at 111 Archer Avenue in complete dysfunction.  Royal is a lawyer, a crafty man, a self-described asshole.  Etheline is an archeologist, and raises their three children.  Richie is a tennis prodigy, Chas is a business tycoon in a child’s body, and Margot may be adopted but she’s also a talented playwright.  As the years pass, the family grows further and further apart, the parents separating and the children failing at spreading their proverbial wings to become the magnificent creatures they showed the promise of metamorphosing into.  When Royal, disbarred and living in a hotel, goes broke, he creates an imaginary illness so that he might have a second chance with his family.  They have all moved home to deal with their own personal tragedies, and so everyone finds themselves under one roof again, wallowing in self-pity and the bitterness of past grievances.

Sounds depressing, and it would be were it not for the exact elements that make this film so incredible.  The art of this movie will blow your mind; the house, the costumes, the decorations, the pinks & yellows, each scene crafted to be a photograph you could hang in your living room with pride.  The humor is sometimes subtle, sometimes silly, but it always feels realistic in a fantastical way, if such a thing can exist.  And the characters, how they are all individually painted, how each of them work through the problems of growing up and growing old in their own, unique, screwed up ways.  This blending of beautiful ingredients keeps the story from sinking into a somber place, and gives audiences hope that it will all end well.  Anderson has never been better, and while each of his films is wildly original and lovingly weird, Royal Tenenbaums takes the cake.  How could it not with this cast, this wonderful blend of actors who perhaps all have never been better or delivered more acutely a character to define a career by.  And we can’t forget the music; I hate to be grandiose, but this is the best soundtrack in cinema history.  I accept that this movie is different, that not every audience member will want to partake of something so rich, but I also can’t understand how someone could not see what I’m seeing when I sit down to watch this masterpiece again & again, how they could not feel what this lovely spectacle makes me feel.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Trailer – Aardvark

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Brian Shoaf

Starring: Jenny Slate, Zachary Quinto, Jon Hamm

Release: 2018

I can’t take Jenny Slate seriously.  She’s supposed to be a therapist who’s having an affair with an older man who is also her patient’s brother?  Good god; who thought this movie up, and then who cast it?  This is going to be a complete train wreck, you can see it coming a mile away.


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Movie Trailer – Spinning Man

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Simon Kaijser

Starring: Guy Pearce, Pierce Brosnan, Minnie Driver

Release: 2018

Oh no, oh please, you guys, please don’t do this to us.  Minnie, Guy, Pierce; please undo this movie, I don’t want it to ruin my opinions of all of you.  Take it back, boss.


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Movie Review – Saturn 3

Category : Movie Review

Director: Stanley Donen

Starring: Farah Fawcett, Kirk Douglas, Harvey Keitel

Year: 1980

Stanley Donen is a name you might not recognize, but I bet you’ve heard of the films he directed.  Singin’ in the Rain, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Funny Face, Damn Yankees, Charade, Bedazzled (the original); these are some of the most famous classic films ever created.  It’s hilarious and bit sad that he would direct Saturn 3 in 1980, and that it would spell the end of his career.  The guy is still alive today, he’s 93 years old, but the complete disaster that was Saturn 3 closed the curtain on his filmmaking days.  You can tell why when you watch it now; it’s an awful attempt at sci-fi, a horribly acting piece of drivel that tries to be so many other good movies and just completely fails.

In the future, Earth will be a wasteland of high pollution and population, a place which mankind will look to leave.  Near Saturn, scientists will work to create new food sources for humans back on the home planet, helping them survive but also paving the way for them to leave and explore the stars.  Alex & Adam work hand in hand in isolation to produce nutrition, and they don’t mind their loneliness; they have their work and they have each other.  But their idyllic existence is about to be broken by a rogue engineer who thinks he can change the world.  Benson is trained (somewhat) in the creation of a new robot named Hector, one that should be able to rapidly increase productivity.  But Hector takes his personality from his programmer, and Benson isn’t exactly a boy scout.

You can forgive a few oddities from retro sci-fi; it’s a strange genre and they had some strange ideas of how to get audiences excited.  Boobs, of course, and fake blood, and maybe a robot or an alien to make things interesting.  Sometimes it worked (2001: A Space Odyssey), sometimes it became a cult classic (Barbarella), but sometimes it crashed and burned, like Saturn 3.  There isn’t a Saturn 1 or Saturn 2, thank God, the title is the name of the rock the scientists work on, and I’m so glad they didn’t decide to make any sequels either.  You’d think, by the stars in it, that it might work, but you’d be wrong.  Douglas was OK, an aging screen legend who had just enough left in the tank to show off his butt and try to convince us that he was a hero.  Fawcett was terrible, a waif of a character who wore diaphanous robes and needed rescued.  And then there was Keitel, who was about as abysmal as you can imagine, in a role that probably wouldn’t have worked no matter who the actor was.  This is a genre flick to forget about, not even bad enough to call fun, not anywhere near good enough to give second thought.

My rating: ☆ ☆