Monthly Archives: March 2019

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Movie Review – Us

Category : Movie Review

Director: Jordan Peele

Starring: Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Madison Curry

Year: 2019

You can lecture all you want on the dangers of comparing films, even films by the same director, but the fact remains that we will; we really can’t help ourselves.  Jordan Peele’s smash success Get Out put him on the horror map, but it also set a standard for the rest of his filmography, and that’s not his or our fault, it’s simple fact.  That doesn’t mean that none of his future movies can be good if they aren’t as good as his debut, but it does mean that audience will always and naturally compare anything he does in a similar genre to the one that shockingly impressed.  I don’t understand how fans of Us can be angry that critics of the film comment that it isn’t as good as Peele’s breakout; it’s literally the only other film in his repertoire.  Of course it should be judged independently as much as possible, but only so much is possible, because we’re human, and because his second serving of terror isn’t anywhere near as good as his opening course.

When she was a girl, Adelaide wandered off from her parents at a carnival in California, where she experienced something that changed her life.  Many years later, now a mother and a wife, Adelaide’s family takes a vacation to the same beach she was traumatized by as a child, the result as upsetting for her as you might imagine.  That night, already disturbed by memories and convinced that the danger she’s been running from all her life has finally caught up with her, Adelaide and her family are visited by four people who look exactly like them, who appear outside, break in, and take the family hostage.  What they want is as confusing as it is violent, and nothing will ever be the same from this dark evening on, as the past has come back to show its face, and this time it won’t be shut behind the door.

First of all, the amazing quality of Get Out should never be used to criticize the talent of Jordan Peele; that would make absolutely no sense.  That film will always stand alone as something spectacular and relevant, no matter what this exciting director chooses to do next.  But just because he succeeded once doesn’t mean he’ll succeed every time after, and it’s OK to say that his first movie was phenomenal while he second was anything but.  As his filmography grows, perhaps we’ll compare his features less, but I stand by the assertion that it’s not our fault for noticing steps away from what worked for him the first time, or acknowledging that he’s done better; it’s simply that he’s only done it one other time.  Us would be flawed were it his second picture or his thirty-second; it’s just to0 obvious that this time around isn’t a masterpiece, when his debut could be considered just that.

A movie doesn’t need to be a masterpiece to be enjoyable, I understand that, and there were definitely parts of Us that I enjoyed.  Winston Duke was incredible, both comedically and as a natural actor, someone who always felt at ease in what he was doing.  And there were certainly moments in which I was fully engrossed, totally absorbed in the world Peele had created.  But there were far more negatives than positives, and I’m shocked that more critics don’t see them.  Lupita Nyong’o was poor twice over, and her voice as the scary doppelganger was both pretty distracting and fairly stupid.  The girls who played Emma on Friends popped by; we may never really know why that happened.  And honestly, apart from the beginning, there is nothing scary about this movie at all.  This isn’t a spoiler, because there aren’t any zombies, but it felt like a zombie b-movie much of the time, which was odd, because I was looking forward to something far more intellectual and meaningful, like we got with Get Out.  Fans will claim that there are tons of deeper messages, and I spent a lot of time imagining how that could very well be possible, but it became a job, and then a stretch, to really dig up metaphors.  It’s obvious that Peele is a horror fan, he knows how to add in classic elements and homages to others that came before, but this attempt isn’t as strong as his first, and it’s bizarre that so many think otherwise.

My rating: ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – The Green Mile

Category : Movie Review

Director: Frank Darabont

Starring: Tom Hanks, Michael Clarke Duncan

Year: 1999

Stephen King’s stories are safe in the hands of Frank Darabont, the only director to show consistent success when turning King’s amazing ideas into amazing films.  Shawshank Redemption is perhaps the best movie ever made, Green Mile isn’t too far behind, and even The Mist works on many levels; the guy just knows how not to butcher the beef.  The novel was written as a monthly serial in six parts, later reprinted as one single book, so the film version had a lot of ground to cover, which is why its run time is around three hours long.  But few movies have deserved that amount of our attention, few, other than epic adventures, even have that much to say, but the message of Green Mile is written boldly upon every page, and then directed masterfully through every scene.  It’s a masterpiece if ever there was one, both a solid base and a stellar portrayal of the original content, a tale that simply has to be heard.

During the Depression in the deep South, Paul Edgecomb worked on death row of a Louisiana prison, watched hard men come and go, live and die, walking down the Green Mile toward Old Sparky.  The path between cells was laid with lime tiles, the electric chair down the hall gleamed with oil and with use, as Paul oversaw the executions of many residents of the Mile over the years, but none quite as remarkably as John Coffey.  The crimes this simple-minded, larger-than-life, black man had been found guilty of were unspeakable, yet his manner was as meek as a mouse, and Paul found himself trusting John far beyond what his job title should allow.  What’s more, Paul began experiencing first hand John’s special ability to feel and to heal, taking away the pain of others not simply emotionally, but physically as well, in a manner that could only be called a miracle.

Tom Hanks has been in so many marvelous movies and has put on a show for us with his characters countless times, but his portrayal of King’s Paul Edgecomb has to be among his best ever, as he slides into the role in a seamless manner that I’m not sure has ever been done before.  He leads the story, which starts as a flashback, through all its ups and down, and even through a few repetitive moments, which were due to the tale’s original format and couldn’t be helped.  But that may be the only negative of the entire experience, other than an over-dramatic scene with a sick woman that I never cared for; the rest becoming the stuff of movie legend.  The plot is fabulous, magical realism it’s called, and what a great way to put it; there is definitely something magical about this film.  Tom Hanks, Michael Clarke Duncan, Bonnie Hunt, David Morse, James Cromwell, Patricia Clarkson, Michael Jeter, Graham Greene, Sam Rockwell, Barry Pepper, Jeffrey DuMunn, Harry Dean Stanton; what a cast.  And I left Doug Hutchison, who plays Percy Wetmore, off the list so I could say that, although he never really became a star, he gave us a singularly despicable character that has become historic, one of the most detestable human beings to ever be crafted for the screen.  Green Mile takes these performances, this story, and Darabont’s directing talent, weaves it all together, draws audiences in, and makes an indelible impression that I am glad to be marked by.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Sports – Feisty Foxes 2019

Category : Sports

Spring is in the air and that means baseball!  A new season is right around the corner, time to root root root for the home team.  And with the beginning of the MLB year comes the beginning of fantasy baseball.  If you play you know how addicting it is; the daily lineups, the trades, the hot/cold players, the DL stints.  And if you’ve never played, hop on board & enjoy the ride, it’s a great way to enjoy a great game even more.  Here is my fantasy baseball team this year, once again christened the Feisty Foxes.  I went home run heavy with a bullpen of solid pitchers.  Let me know what you think and/or how your fantasy draft went this year.  Good luck everyone!

 

C – Yadier Molina – St. Louis Cardinals

1B –Paul Goldschmidt – St. Louis Cardinals

2B – Max Muncy – Los Angeles Dodgers

3B – Matt Chapman – Oakland Athletics

SS – Jean Segura – Philadelphia Phillies

LF – J.D. Martinez – Boston Red Sox

CF – Aaron Hicks – New York Yankees

RF – Nicholas Castellanos – Detroit Tigers

Util – Kyle Schwarber – Chicago Cubs

 Bench –Max Kepler – Minnesota Twins

Bench – Chris Taylor – Los Angeles Dodgers

Bench – Jesse Winker – Cincinnati Reds

SP – Gerrit Cole– Houston Astros

SP – James Paxton – New York Yankees

SP – German Marquez – Colorado Rockies

SP – Kyle Hendricks – Chicago Cubs

SP – Carlos Rodon – Chicago White Sox

SP – Anibal Sanchez – Washington Nationals

SP – Dereck Rodriguez – San Francisco Giants

RP – Kenley Jansen –Los Angeles Dodgers

RP – Shane Greene – Detroit Tigers

 


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DVD Review – Tea with the Dames

Category : DVD Review

Director: Roger Mitchell

Starring: Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Eileen Atkins, Joan Plowright

Year: 2018

How often do four wise and amazingly talented women come together to discuss their acting careers and to reminisce on old times?  More often than we knew, apparently, but for one night only they will allow us to sit in and listen, which could not possibly be more rare.  Four friends with ties that go back 50 years and an incredible amount of collective experience have invited filmmakers to their party, and the audience is the lucky plus one.  Roger Mitchell may commonly direct fairly dull pictures (Notting Hill, Changing Lanes, Venus, Hyde Park on Hudson, My Cousin Rachel), but he knew how to get to the right place at the right time here, and we are just fortunate to have come along for the ride.

The Movie

Maggie Smith, Judy Dench, Eileen Atkins, and Joan Plowright have been friends and colleagues for years, tied together by British theatre and cinema, their careers intertwining often under the same directors, within the same companies, and always as sisters in art.  They come together at Plowright’s cottage home, which she shared with her husband, the great Lawrence Olivier, to discuss old times, new aging, and the memories that are getting harder and harder to hold on to.  In this documentary, we get to sit down next to them as they discuss their experiences, their inside jokes, and the woes of old bones, a joyful occasion among friends where the cameras melt into the backdrop.  These women are not only accomplished actors, but have all received title from the English throne, Dames all, which only adds to their mystique and prowess, and places one more award upon their illustrious shelves.

American audiences will know the work of Smith and Dench more so than Atkins and Plowright, for the former pair are frequently in Hollywood pictures, while the latter pair are much less famous here.  But in Britain, across the theatre circuit especially, these women made their marks in a colossal way, and now come together to let us in on some of the secrets of their success.  The film feels less like a documentary/esposé and more like a talk at lunch, turning into a long behind-the-scenes featurette, or one giant extra, while we just sit back and listen.  In that way, it can become a little sleepy, and feels a little unedited, because Maggie Smith simply comments on the camera man, or the ladies just remain silent for a brief time, or the interviewer prompts them on what to talk about next.  It’s an extremely relaxed venue and movie, and therefor not for everyone, as not all audiences will want to sit even for a relative short run time and just listen to four ladies chat.  But for those interested in these actresses, there is insight and comedy enough to catch your attention, and to hold you in its spell.

The DVD

Video – With an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 Widescreen, the video quality of the DVD is on par with other documentaries; that is to say, unimportant.  All the ladies wear blue shades, and the cottage and garden that they interview in is quite lovely, so the film is easy to watch, just not visually impressive.

Audio – The disc was done in English, with an option of English SDH or Spanish subtitles.  That’s it for the audio, and much of the film is either conversations among the artists or clips of their careers, so the sound is basically as important as the picture.

Extras – The only special feature on the disc is a trailer for the film.

Final Thoughts

Recommended.  If one long bonus feature of four legends talking among themselves sounds like a nice evening spent in from of the telly to you, than you are in for a treat.  If not, this film could be complete torture.  I fall in the middle, a fan who has interest but not an aficionado, so I was at times elated and at times bored, pulled between the humor of the moment and a relatively unpolished documentary, when what we are trained to expect from the style is much more emotion and perhaps a call to action.  This film is basically just pleasant, which is fine by me, and should be fine with anyone who would naturally seek it out.  The video, audio, and extras aren’t anything to write home about, but the movie itself has many bright moments, and should be an enjoyable gem for many.

☆ ☆ ☆ – Content

☆ ☆ ☆ – Video

☆ ☆ ☆ – Audio

☆ ☆ – Extras

☆ ☆ ☆ – Replay

 

 


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Movie Review – Junebug

Category : Movie Review

Director: Phil Morrison

Starring: Embeth Davidtz, Amy Adams, Alessandro Nivola

Year: 2005

It was obvious that Junebug was made with love, and that it reflected honest experience; the details of the town, the house, the people, the church, were all too accurate and painstaking to be done out of imagination.  But despite this care, without Amy Adams this film would have been complete crap.  I guess that could be said about a lot of movies with a transcendent talent in the lead; take that genius away and what are you left with?  But that was glaringly obvious during each scene of this film, that no one in the room or behind the camera was near as talented as a side actress named Amy, who dominated and saved the entire project.  It’s among one of her best performances, and roles, and so Junebug should be watched for that reason, but probably for that reason alone.

Madeleine, an art dealer, meets George, a buyer, at an auction, and it’s love at first sight.  The pair fall for each other immediately, get married extremely quickly, and begin their happy lives together; the future is bright.  On a mission to sign a reclusive, untrained artist in North Carolina, Madeleine & George take a road trip down from Chicago to meet the man and see his paintings.  While they’re in the area, they visit George’s family, who live nearby and who have not met Madeleine.  She’s worldly, cultured, intelligent, sophisticated; everything that this down-country family sees as foreign and confusing.  But George’s sister-in-law Ashley, who is also an expecting mother, welcomes Madeleine with open arms, and teaches her a thing or two about what’s important, and how special families can be.

Seriously, if it hadn’t been for Amy Adams, I think I might have felt like turning Junebug off halfway through.  I did feel like the film was made with love, they spend a lot of time focusing on the small town feel, which was great, but probably because they had absolutely nothing else to offer.  Embeth Davidtz was embarrassingly bad, and Alessandro Nivola wasn’t much better.  Neither was Ben McKenzie; did they intentionally cast actors who couln’t act to make Amy Adams seem just that much better?  She was a revelation, and her career has only skyrocketed from there, and she’s just so special; I could watch her all day.  But the rest of the movie; no.  Bad pacing, bad dialogue, bad choices; I wish I could pluck Amy out and place her somewhere different, because I don’t want to remember her here.

My rating: ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Category : Movie Review

Director: Michel Gondry

Starring: Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet

Year: 2004

Although Charlie Kaufman didn’t direct this movie, he wrote the screenplay, and his influence is all over this film.  Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Eternal Sunshine, Synecdoche New York, Anomalisa; Kaufman may be the most well-known writer in the industry, his films simply stand out among the crowd, no matter who the director.  He crafts extremely weird worlds and expects us to work to try to understand them, and those of us who love his work are only too willing.  We might not understand every thought going through his head and making its way on to paper, but his intentions are clear; he wants to mess with our minds and, at the same time, reveal truths to us that we can only see when we’re confused.  It makes some sort of sense the more you experience his movies, or perhaps the crazier you let him drive you.

Joel and Clementine are two lost souls who find each other on a Montauk beach in winter and who have an instant connection, despite their own crippling personality problems.  Joel is timid, unmotivated, and sad, while Clementine is emotional, compulsive, and confused.  But they seem to fit well together, at least for a time, and they are happy, at least at first.  But their relationship begins to break down, as some do, and soon they may go their separate ways.  Joel doesn’t know it, but Clementine has taken the drastic measure of hiring a company to eliminate Joel from her memory, the thought of their past love now too painful to bear.  Now she doesn’t know him from Adam, so Joel vindictively takes the same measure and hires the same company.  But during the process, his mind rejects the idea of taking Clementine away forever, and so he hides with her inside his own brain, running from those who would take her away, and trying to remember the love that was once all they knew.

For an extremely odd romantic comedy that’s also part science fiction, Eternal Sunshine received a ton of credit and praise when it was released early in 2004.  Not only Kaufman for writing a wonderfully original screenplay, but Winslet as well, for one of her strongest performances, and even Carrey, for a solid step away from comedy.  It’s #88 on IMDb’s Top Rated Movies list, and I remember being very impressed by it when I was 20, much more than I was this time around, now that I’m 35.  I still appreciate what the film is trying to say, and the funny moments balance out the dark ones quite nicely, but I guess I’m less impressionable now than I was, and so the impact that was already made 15 years ago wasn’t able to leave its footprint this time around.  I simply didn’t find the message as deep as I did years ago, when I was still curious as to what love was, not married with two kids.  A great film no matter when you watch it, but one that perhaps views better when you’re young, Eternal Sunshine has a lot to say no matter what, and deserves its well-earned spot near the top.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Trailer – Someone Great

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Jennifer Kaytin Robinson

Starring: Gina Rodriguez, DeWanda Wise, Brittany Snow

Release: April 19th, 2019

No no no no no no NO.


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Movie Trailer – Unicorn Store

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Brie Larson

Starring: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson

Release: April 5th, 2019

Brie Larson makes her directorial debut, and I couldn’t be more underwhelmed.  Unicorn Store looks mostly dumb, disjointed at the very least, and not something that can be taken seriously.  The cast is …interesting: Larson, Jackson, Bradley Whitford, Joan Cusack, Martha MacIsaac, Karan Soni.  Not the best actors, and not the best idea or execution either, by the look of things.  I hate to hate on Brie; I’m no angry fan boy claiming ownership of genres that don’t belong to me.  I just don’t think she’s a great talent, I think she’s fine; this movie is our chance to see if she’s any better as a director, and I have my doubts.


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Movie Review – As Good as it Gets

Category : Movie Review

Director: James L. Brooks

Starring: Jack Nicholson, Helen Hunt, Greg Kinnear

Year: 1997

As Good as it Gets is the combination of When Harry Met Sally and What About Bob, and one of the best romantic comedies ever made.  It may also be James L. Brooks’ only good movie, as well as Nicholson’s & Hunt’s & Kinnear’s best performance in a film, so a lot of things came together to make this a success, which I guess is what it takes to make something special; catching multiple bolts of lightning in the same bottle.  We looked at mental disorders differently in the 90s than we do today, so the handling of the main character’s OCD can be forgiven a bit, the way that it’s shown that a small change can simply override a neurosis, when it’s obviously much more complicated than that.  But Nicholson does the part he was written justice, Hunt delivers magical moments the whole way through, and Kinnear is a wonderful witness to it all, guiding us through a story that is more romantic the older you get, and the better you understand flawed humanity.

Melvin Udall is obsessive-compulsive, agoraphobic, and just plain mean, his life ordered by routine and woe to anyone who changes a thing.  He’s a writer, he’s rich, he never leaves his apartment, except for going to the same restaurant every day to be waited on by the same server; Carol the Waitress.  She has a life outside the cafe, but Melvin doesn’t care about that, until her sick son pulls her away from her job and disrupts Udall’s day.  Another constant in his life, the gay artist down the hallway, is disturbed when the talented Simon is attacked and robbed, sending him to the hospital and his dog into Melvin’s apartment.  These changes affect him in uncomfortable and surprising ways, as he begins to craft an odd friendship with Simon and a massive crush on Carol.  She might return the sentiment, especially after Melvin pays for a real doctor to help her ailing son, but she can’t get past his gruff exterior, and the diagnosed condition that’s prohibiting him from really opening up.

The music, the mania, the awkward protagonist; there are a lot of similarities to What About Bob here, and I’m OK with that.  And then there’s the New York cityscape, the unlikely love, the ultimate romance; all when Harry Met Sally.  Again, I have no problem with this, it’s a combination of styles that works perfectly, from the soundtrack to the script, every piece seems methodically placed in just the right order to win us over and warm our hearts.  When I was younger, I didn’t get that exact feeling from the film, I thought it was more funny and less sad, more strange and less romantic.  But now, watching it all these years later, I look at it from a different angle, and I see the beauty in the more delicate moments, and even in the worst times.  Nicholson is iconic here, Hunt never more engaging, Kinnear a solid character, and man that dog, the cute glue that holds it all together.  There are lines here that will never be topped, “good times, noodle salad”, and cinematic memories that will never be forgotten, making As Good as it Gets almost exactly that.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Trailer – The Professor and the Madman

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Farhad Safinia

Starring: Mel Gibson, Sean Penn

Release: March, 2019

This looks slightly better than I thought it would, but still, come on, we can’t be expected to take this seriously.  A high-octane drama about making the dictionary?  Starring Gibson & Penn & Alan Partridge?  No thank you.