Monthly Archives: January 2019

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Movie Trailer – The Mustang

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre

Starring: Matthias Schoenaerts, Bruce Dern, Jason Mitchell

Release: March 15th, 2019

I’d watch this dude in a commercial about horses, an infommercial about horses, I don’t care, MS is the bomb.  He’s an incredible actor who I’ve made a point of watching over the years, and man am I glad I have.  Black Book, Rust and Bone, Blood Ties, The Drop, A Little Chaos, The Loft, Suite Francaise, Far from the Madding Crowd, Disorder, The Danish Girl, A Bigger Splash, Red Sparrow; his talent is incredible.  This film looks like it has the potential to fall toward Hallmark if not held tightly, but I’m willing to give it a chance, because I think it could also blow us all away.


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Movie Trailer – Triple Frontier

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: J.C. Chandor

Starring: Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac, Adria Arjona

Charlie Hunnam, Garrett Hedlund, Pedro Pascal

Release: March 15th, 2019

I don’t know why everyone isn’t buzzing about this movie.  Yes, it looks a little too much like Sicario and Ben Affleck had a love child, but I mean, isn’t that a love child you’d want to meet?  This cast, this drama, this action; I’m in, I don’t know about you guys.  Just because it’s Netflix doesn’t mean it’ll be subpar; I have some slight trepidation, but I’m ready to rock.


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Movie Review – Shame

Category : Movie Review

Director: Steve McQueen

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Carrie Mulligan

Year: 2011

I’m a big fan of Steve McQueen’s work: Hunger, Shame, 12 Years a Slave, Widows.  That’s his complete filmography in 10 years, except for a ton of shorts, and I really respect that he puts time into his projects, time to get them right and deliver them the way he envisioned.  And he likes Michael Fassbender, casts him regularly, which is genius in my book, since Fass in one of a goddam kind.  Shame was the only McQueen movie I hadn’t seen, so I was prepared to like it as much as the others, even more perhaps, since it was so provocative and pushy, and that sounded like something I would enjoy.  But I was disappointed when it was nothing revelatory at all, just a recycling of old ideas and an overuse of sex, a film that felt forced from the very beginning and never found any traction along the way.

Brandon, an Irish-born New Yorker, lives alone, works hard, plays harder, makes money, and spends it on hookers.  Sex is something he controls and obsesses about, hiring call girls, paying cam girls, masturbating in the men’s room, and screwing strangers, all as acts of compulsion, not pleasure.  He can’t create real relationships, he wouldn’t even know how to start, and feels much safer, if severely depressed, watching porn alone in his luxury apartment.  When his sister, a lounge singer, crashes at his pad after a bad breakup, his routines and fetishes are disrupted enough to send him spiraling even further down the rabbit hole.  She’s spiraling as well and needs his help, but he’s in no position to give it, as he can’t even make it through the day without doing something he finds filthy and detestable and sad.

Yeah, that’s the gist of it, and it’s about as low as you can go.  I’m fine with heavy plots, but this is a weighty one, a story that will sink you down to the bottom as you drown along with the main character.  Brandon is messed up, unhappy, and it’s not even the weird ways he gets off that are upsetting, it’s how disconnected from feeling anything that he’s made himself, that’s the real bummer.  Fassbender plays the part well, Mulligan steps in nicely too, they aren’t the problem; the trouble is that McQueen let loose a virus and never could rein it safely back in.  The sex is ridiculously over-the-top, to the point that you lose focus on the reason it’s so prevalent, the reason why it’s a staple of the film.  It’s simply freed wildly without control, from watching Brandon pee to watching a random woman hook up her bra.  And that’s the next big problem; the unnecessarily long delays.  I get what McQueen was going for, but the shots lasted forever and showed us nothing, and I just wanted to turn the TV off by the end of most of them.  Shame is full of big ideas and high drama, but it feels forced and old and not special, making little impact when it was obviously trying to be an NC-17 spectacle that got everyone talking.  It failed in that regard, simply because it ran amok through hell instead of giving us small tastes, and we can only take so much.

My rating: ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Trailer – Brightburn

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: David Yarovesky

Starring: Elizabeth Banks, David Denham, Jackson A. Dunn

Release: May 24th, 2019

I like this idea, an anti-Superman, kind of like Bizzaro but much more “believable”.  And I have no idea if it’s tied to other movies or not, but not every film has to be, some can just exist and be interesting, they don’t have to be a part of a cinematic universe.  I’m curious and I’ll watch.


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Movie Trailer – Missing Link

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Chris Butler

Starring: Zach Galifianakis, Hugh Jackman, Zoe Saldana

Release: April 12th, 2019

It’s hard to imagine this movie reaching the same level as other Laika films (Coraline, ParaNorman, Boxtrolls, Kubo); it just doesn’t have that same feel.  I’m sure the animation will be spectacular, what they do is so wonderful, I just don’t see any real reason to watch other than the production company’s fame.  I hope I’m wrong.


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DVD Review – Gauguin: Voyage to Tahiti

Category : DVD Review

Director: Edouard Deluc

Starring: Vincent Cassel, Tuhei Adams

Year: 2017

I feel like I found him early, at least for an American, and I’ve watched Vincent Cassel shine ever since.  He’s one of the best professionals working today, be it in France or in Hollywood, and I would hope that, by now, most audiences know his name, or at least know when they see his face that they’re about to see something very special.  The Messenger, Brotherhood of the Wolf, Irreversible, Sheitan, Eastern Promises, Black Swan, A Dangerous Method, Trance, Beauty and the Beast, Partisan, Child 44, Tale of Tales, My King, The Little Prince, It’s Only the End of the World, Jason Bourne; what can this actor not do.  Now he takes on an artist at a very unusual time of his life, and even if the film itself fails to capture our attention, Cassel absolutely never does the same.

The Movie

Paul Gauguin, one of the most famous French artists in the country’s history was once penniless, unappreciated, and a complete disaster.  His paintings weren’t selling, he and his friends revolted against the trend of religious artwork, and his estranged family suffered without the money he failed to bring in and the mundane jobs he was unwilling to find.  Gauguin was starving, in poor health, disrespected, and had no prospects; even his agent began to lose doubts in his talent as the sales of his works continued to plummet.  Being an anarchist/post-impressionist was neither lucrative nor beseeming, and Gauguin suffered for his inflexibility and his belief that art came from somewhere other than religious zealotry.

Leaving his family and his financial troubles behind, Gauguin fled to French Polynesia to study nature, beauty, and to find inspiration in the daily activity of painting without the restraints of a style, a deadline, an expectation.  There he would fall into even poorer health, having a heart attack and barely eating, instead spending every waking moment drinking and painting, until it consumed him.  He was saved from despair by a Tahitian girl named Tehura, who he married and took back to the village where he made his home.  She inspired him to create great works, and after his death, when fame would finally come, these years amid the jungle would prove to be what crafted his masterpieces.

In this case, and it’s not uncommon, the actor shines brighter than the film itself, which allows audiences to appreciate at least one aspect, but not, perhaps, that which was the original goal.  Cassel is simply brilliant, in whatever role you slide him into, with a darkness and the depth that must be almost impossible to reach, yet he makes it seem so simple and so natural.  His ability to at once stay within his own style and also embody another person is mesmerizing, and not very common.  Not every actor can lose themselves in a role while also keeping a part of their personality present while never breaking down the wall; it takes a true star to master this balance, and Cassel is one of the very brightest.

The film fails to illuminate on its own, however, falling dimly behind its lead until you almost forget that there’s a movie somewhere hiding in the background.  It’s like we’re simply following Gauguin around, which is fine, but that’s not going to leave audiences with any impression other than the same feeling we could get reading a Wikipedia article.  I do think that I learned a little about Gauguin, that’s good, but that’s also not enough.  In addition, Cassel improvised many lines and you can tell, which is a good thing and a bad thing at different times.  But that simply acts as an example to how little the filmmakers did, period, and how little impact this movie will have one day after having watched it.

Blu-ray

Video – With an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and with no other details available, despite the Blu-ray medium, the video quality of the film is both good enough to avoid notice and not quite strong enough to deserve comment.  The sets and landscapes are gorgeous; that’s almost a given, given the locale.  The forests, the waters, the local people, and of course the artwork; there’s beauty here, but maybe not as much as there should have been given the content and the expectations it drums up.

Audio – The Blu-ray was done in French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, with an option of 5.1 Dolby Digital.  Subtitles are automatically in English, but can be turned off.  That’s it for the audio, and while there was a nice backing score throughout, it left my ear immediately and will make about as much impression on me as the rest of the film did.

Extras – There are a few special features if you’re interested in going deeper.  Illustrations is a 15-minute behind-the-scenes look.  Vincent Cassel as Gauguin is a 4-minute interview segment.  Life and Painting of Gauguin is a 5-minute featurette on the inspiration of the movie.  Tahiti is a 2-minute peak at the local culture.  And there is a trailer for the film.

Final Thoughts

Rent It.  A painting by Gauguin came up on a daily calendar that my family was flipping over, and I was able to tell them what little I knew about the artist, his marriage, the island, a couple aspects about the art, all because I saw this film, so it was in no way a waste of time or energy; I learned something and I got to see Cassel do his job, so it wasn’t a compete bust.  But I was disappointed; the film itself was lost behind one grand performance, and that’s not acceptable.  I won’t remember what I saw for long because the story and its supports didn’t do enough to make me, and that’s a real shame.  The video is at times lovely, the audio fades away into the periphery, and there are a couple bonus features on the disc, so the technical aspects aren’t a complete loss.  Neither is the movie, but just barely, and basically because of the lead, so I’m not sure how much credit I can give to a film that only did the minimum.

☆ ☆ – Content

☆ ☆ ☆ – Video

☆ ☆ ☆ – Audio

☆ ☆ – Extras

☆ ☆ – Replay

 

 


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Movie Review – The Sisters Brothers

Category : Movie Review

Director: Jacques Audiard

Starring: John C. Reilly, Joaquin Phoenix, Jake Gyllenhaal, Riz Ahmed

Year: 2018

I think we’ve been wrong so far about who the greatest male actor in Hollywood is, and it’s time to remedy that.  You could toss out a dozen names of phenomenal actors over the last few decades and you’d get no fierce argument from me: Denzel, Hanks, Leo, Pitt, Day-Lewis, Bale.  I’m sure there are plenty more who I’m not thinking of who deserve to be in that group, and I’ve said before that Philip Seymour Hoffman might have been the best I’ve ever seen, but sadly he’s gone now, which is a bitter shame.  Even in this movie, there are professionals who you could make an argument for, like Phoenix and Gyllenhall, two incredible talents who have proven themselves as they’ve grown up.  But we’re still overlooking one of the most consistent actors we’ve ever seen, a man who is perfect in every role, be it dramatic, comedic, or animated.  I’m talking about none other than that lovable galoot John C. Reilly, a once-in-a-lifetime miracle of personality and skill who we need to start appreciating on the same level as the ability that he constantly displays.

The Sisters Brothers, Charlie and Eli Sisters, are the terrors of the Oregon Territory, a duo of hired guns who will kill anyone for money and are pretty damn good at their job.  Their latest mission for their enigmatic and powerful boss, The Commodore, takes them south all the way to San Francisco, after a man who has supposedly stolen from the Commodore himself, a deadly and stupid idea.  This man, Hermann Kermit Warm, is on the run down toward California, and an associate of the Sisters’, John Morris, has been sent to track him down.  Morris finds him, Charlie and Eli kill him, the Commodore rewards them, easy peasy.  But not quite, because there’s more to the story than meets the eye.  First, Warm didn’t exactly steal something, it’s more that he knows something, and when Morris finds out what it is, he may not be so keen to turn Hermman over to the bloody hands of the Sisters, who aren’t exactly knowledgeable about the situation either.

I had assumed that this film was designed to be a comedy, at least a dark comedy, that’s how the trailer made it seem, but the final product was much different and much better than I could have possibly imagined.  First, yes it’s funny, but not just darkly, depressingly, like graveyard humor with a lot of brains spattered in for good measure.  It’s far more a classic Western than I had pictured it to be, but with humor and horror sewn into the gaps of the fabric in such a way that the entire piece is really quite seamless.  Audiard must love Westerns, you could feel that, and I love how he brought this one to life.  He had a leg up though; this cast is fantastic.  Reilly, I am not kidding, might be the best actor we have ever seen.  You assume he’ll take a backseat to Phoenix and Gyllenhaal, who do great work themselves, but he is the star of this movie, and thank god for that.  His character turns it into something special, not just another rodeo romp, something much more personal and heavy and moving.  And then there’s Riz Ahmed, who we all recognize as a budding talent who is going to change the landscape of cinema; he’s that damned good.  Add in Rutger Hauer and Carol Kane in tiny roles that just spice things up a little; genius.  Think more Slow West combined with The Salvation than anything else, and watch those films while you’re at it if you haven’t; I might take my own advice and watch them all again, a trio of awesome genre flicks that desperately need seen.

My rating:  ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – Boy Erased

Category : Movie Review

Director: Joel Edgerton

Starring: Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe

Year: 2018

We did Boy Erased a disservice by grouping it with Beautiful Boy and Ben is Back simply because they share some similar letters and young actors.  All three focus on the destruction of family, but those two because of drug addiction; this one because of something much more internal.  Boy Erased should not be compared to these others and subsequently brushed aside; it is a powerful drama all its own that covers a concerning subject with a deft hand and sheds light on a disgusting practice that’s still ongoing today, as hard as that is to believe.  We’ve failed this film by ignoring it so far, by letting it slide under the radar, and that’s something that each of us needs to remedy, because what we have here is not only one of the best of the year but also a story we should no longer pretend isn’t happening every day, all around us, with life-destroying effects.

Jared is a typical Southern teenager; the son of a preacher/car dealership owner, plays video games and basketball, has a nice girlfriend, hangs out with friends at the lake, the normal stuff.  He’s off to college where he will undoubtedly do big things because he’s a bright kid, but an attack at school by a boy he thought of as a friend will derail the course Jared was set upon, and will raise questions he’s nowhere near ready to answer.  Jared is gay, or at least he thinks he might be, and this event at school has brought the truth to the forefront where his parents can see, his conservative, Bible-thumping parents.  Their plan of action; send him to conversion camp.  It’s not called that exactly, there are smoke screens in front to make it look like these people are working the will of God, but make no mistake; Jared will be asked to call his sexuality a sin and his attraction an abomination, as the men in charge, who say all they want to do is help, begin to damage him and the other boys around him in ways that can’t even be imagined.

This story angered me so much, made me want to become an advocate, made me want to scream at every politician and church official who ever told a young person that being gay is simply a choice given to them by Satan and that they are choosing every day to live like sinners.  You would think that this couldn’t happen any more, that we’ve progressed past this, but that simply isn’t true; only 14 states in the US have banned conversion therapy of minors.  Other counties and cities have joined in, including my own Columbus, OH, for which I’m immensely proud, but that just isn’t enough; as long as this practice is legal somewhere young people are still at risk.  What’s more, religion is pushing this dangerous narrative, churches are teaching it to kids on Sundays, and young people are growing up thinking that there’s something wrong with them because the people that they trust the most are telling them so, all because of fictional books about fictional deities that are so insane they would be laughable, if they weren’t also so evil.

I tried to critically rate this movie independent of my feelings toward conversion therapy, but that was definitely difficult.  I’m not going to apologize, Edgerton picked the subject matter, he gets my fervent support for doing what he can to expose the criminally dangerous practices of these facilities, and I think the truth behind the story only bolsters the quality of the film.  It’s a heartbreaking tale from start to finish, and I’m glad someone’s telling it.  I’m also glad that this team was the one to pick it up, because everyone involved is tremendously talented, and they were all more than capable of making Boy Erased work.  Edgerton is just getting started as a director (The Gift), but he’s showing us early what he can do, and it’s incredible.  Hedges is on top of the world right now, and this performance works much better than his character in Ben is Back.  Kidman and Crowe have both aged to become more talented, Edgerton is strong as the maniac who runs the camp, there are a few nice cameos (Xavier Dolan, Flea, Joe Alwyn), and I was left amazed by the flow of the action, how the movie never once felt boring or overbearing.  This is a film we should have spent more time talking about and I think would have rated higher had it come out independently at some other time and had it been marketed better.  Regardless, Boy Erased is one of my favorites of the year, both because of its powerful message and its remarkable delivery.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Sports – NFL Picks 2018, Divisional

Category : Sports

Here are my NFL Divisional Picks

(1-3 for the postseason, 163-91-2 for the regular season)

Bye teams: none

 

Ind @ KC

Dal @ LAR

LAC @ NE

Phi @ NO

 


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DVD Review – Lizzie

Category : DVD Review

Director: Craig William Macneill

Starring: Chloe Sevigny, Kristen Stewart, Jamey Sheridan

Year: 2018

If I’ve said it once I’ve said it …probably twice; Kristen Stewart is an incredible actress who is ill-treated partly because of the crappy vehicle she decided to hitch a ride in to jump start her career and party because of the demeanor she exhibits that comes across to us as flippant and/or annoyed.  She found a way to become a star, now that she is one she doesn’t feel like she owes us anything, and somehow we’re mad about that, but that just seems like pure lunacy to me.  Stewart is a talented actor, she picks the roles she wants to pick, she talks to the media when she chooses, and nothing else is our business, at least that’s the way I look at it.  Her role in Lizzie might not even be her best, neither is the film itself, but she’s better than she gets credit for, and by a fair amount.

The Movie

Kristen Stewart plays Brigitte, who also goes by Maggie, since of yore Americans liked to call all Irish people by the same name apparently, but that’s not who this movie is about, so let’s switch gears.  The main character here is Lizzie Borden, played by Chloe Sevigny, who lives in Massachusetts with her sister, stepmother, and overbearing father.  Lizzie is getting closer and closer to becoming a old maid in 1892, why she’s all of 32!, and has become a burden on her family.  She’s odd, bossy, goes out unaccompanied, and is prone to seizures; her father is even considering putting her in an institution since she can’t seem to get married and therefore must be a maniac of some kind.  Turns out, Lizzie simply isn’t interested in men, in a time when such thoughts are strictly demonic.

Lizzie first befriends and then falls for the Borden’s new maid Brigitte, who is eager to be taught to read, needs someone to comfort her, and makes a nice change to the mundane day to day of unwanted daughter living.  The pair find something within each other that they were missing, and soon become quite close.  But at the same time, Lizzie’s father is sneaking into Brigitte’s bedroom unwelcome, as well as threatening Lizzie with losing her inheritance and being sent away if she doesn’t keep clear of her new companion.  Well, that won’t do, and so the ladies hatch a devilish plan.  What happens next is mostly mystery, as the Borden Ax Murders have never been perfectly solved, and no one knows the killer’s exact intentions, though the gruesome deed itself would go down in sinister history.

The most intriguing part about Lizzie is the relationship between the title character and the maid, and I have no idea how much of that was conjecture or assumption or perhaps even pure fantasy.  This obviously isn’t a purely historical account, there are some liberties taken, and perhaps this relationship is one of them, but without it, really, the film would have fallen apart.  I guess that’s the Kristen Stewart fan in me coming out, although it would be overdramatic to call myself such, but I do think she’s talented, and I do think she basically made the movie.  In this story anyway, the action wouldn’t have taken place without the two women bolstering each other’s nerves, and so it was desperately necessary, if not exactly true, and I’ll forgive some extra style for the sake of entertainment since it was quite needed.

It was needed because the rest is pretty boring, and couldn’t be left on its own because it never had the meat we wanted to sink our teeth into.  Lizzie, her family, her situation, the killings; it was sleepy, to be honest, and I’m not sure I understand why the tale is compelling enough to warrant our knowing Lizzie’s name all these years later.  Chloe Sevigny was not great, she’s not strong enough to do this on her own, she needed Kristen Stewart, and like I said earlier, this wasn’t Kristen’s best offering either; her accent was OK but she basically said every line with the same inflection.  Jamey Sheridan will always terrify me thanks to The Stand, so he was a good villain, but I wonder at him dying so easily; I wonder if there’s even more to this story than we already don’t know. But it’s not like we’re desperate to find out; at least not from this team.  They didn’t put together a compelling film, which should have perhaps been easy given the violent content.  But perhaps not, maybe it was harder than they imagined, which is reflected in the final product we were given.

The Blu-ray

Video – With an aspect ratio of 2.40 (16×9 1080p HD) and shot using an Arri Alexa SXT camera with Cooke S4, Speed Panchro, and Fujinon Alura lenses, the video quality of the Blu-ray is on par with its delivery; fine but not really enticing.  The color was muted, often dark, but the sets were pretty excellent, and I felt like they were really paying attention to detail when recreating the history.

Audio – The disc was done in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, with an option of English SDH and Spanish subtitles.  That’s it as far as the audio options, no more are available, and the music throughout is about as forgettable as the video.

Extras – There are just a bare few special features on the Blu-ray; Understanding Lizzie is a 10-minute featurette, there is a group of other trailers from Lionsgate, and the menu can be bookmarked.

Final Thoughts

Recommended. Lizzie has an intriguing setup and some chemistry between its leads, but that’s as far as the positives go.  Either the story doesn’t support a dramatic retelling or this wasn’t the crew to tell it, because something was missing.  The movie was mostly boring with moments of quality, but those moments were too few and far between.  I wanted to enjoy the high drama, but the action was too muted and uneven.  Stewart was strong, Sheridan was scary, but Sevigny wasn’t up to snuff; I needed more from her as the lead actor and driving force of the plot.  The video is only OK, the audio is as vanilla, and the extras aren’t plentiful, so forget the technical aspects.  I can’t imagine who this movie was aimed toward; experts would probably find flaws, and the rest of us simply won’t be interested.

☆ ☆ ☆ – Content

☆ ☆ ☆ – Video

☆ ☆ ☆ – Audio

☆ ☆ – Extras

☆ ☆ – Replay