Monthly Archives: November 2019

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Sports – NFL Picks 2019, Week 12

Category : Sports

Here are my NFL Week 12 Picks

(1o-4 last week, 96-65-1 for the season)

Bye teams: Cardinals, Chiefs, Chargers, Vikings

 

Ind @ Hou

Den @ Buf

NYG @ Chi

Pit @ Cin

Mia @ Cle

TB @ Atl

Car @ NO

Sea @ Phi

Det @ Was

Oak @ NYJ

Jax @ Ten

Dal @ NE

GB @ SF

Bal @ LAR

 


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Movie Review – Earthquake Bird

Category : Movie Review

Director: Wash Westmoreland

Starring: Alicia Vikander, Naoki Kobayashi, Riley Keough

Year: 2019

Westmoreland’s only shining moment is Still Alice, which is actually Julianne Moore’s shining moment, so I guess the dude is still looking for his, and it won’t come with Earthquake Bird, mostly because it’s awful.  Netflix has definitely had its moments, its successes, its “see that building” films, but its latest thriller? drama? romance? isn’t one of them.  In fact, it’s one of the worst features I’ve had the displeasure of seeing all year, right down there with Aftermath and Polar, which are two flicks whose love child Earthquake Bird bares a passing resemblance to, a mix of the grandiose and the absurd, which can work sometimes I guess, but doesn’t here.  And believe me, no one is more disappointed, because I wanted to love this film, it’s just not worth it, which is mean to say about a person but fine to say about a movie, right?

Born in Sweden but having traveled the world, Lucy now considers herself a native of Tokyo, the land in which she chose to put down roots, learning the language by setting her mind to the task and whisking away from a troubled past life as soon as she was old enough to leave.  She works as a translator, plays classical music, loves Japanese culture, and mostly keeps to herself in a semi-strange and awkward bubble that shows signs of the personal problems hidden deep within.  The first person to get through that protective layer is Teiji, an odd yet alluring photography, who makes Lucy feel seen.  Second is an American named Lily, who is a free spirit and needs a friend who speaks the language.  The trio becomes close, but that’s sure to end badly, as jealousy rears its ugly head and one by one characters wind up dead.

If you really wanted to, you could dive into this story and try to work out all the metaphors, try to unravel all the twists and possible meanings.  Are Lily & Lucy representations of the same person, does Teiji stand for something inside Lily, is the violence just internal struggle, what does it all mean?!  And that can be fun, I’ve found myself picking apart the allusions within great films, that can be part of the enjoyment, going deeper, but Earthquake Bird doesn’t deserve that; it’s too poorly done on the surface to warrant a closer look.  There might be potential unearthings, but I can’t be bothered, no one did their job well enough to suck me in and make me care, which is the whole purpose of making movies, IMHO.  I love Vikander, Keough is cool, but their characters were so cliched, as were all the details of the film, from the love triangle to the murder mysteries, just one big “yeah maybe you’ve seen it all before but I don’t care hey come watch this throwaway Netflick.”  It really did seem that flippant and under-rehearsed, like no on involved cared, and so neither, ultimately, did I.

My rating: ☆ ☆

 


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Movie Review – Little Woods

Category : Movie Review

Director: Nia DaCosta

Starring: Tessa Thompson, Lily James, James Badge Dale

Year: 2018

Too many sites refer to Little Woods as a Western; the only thing Western about it is that it happens in the west.  That’s not enough to be considered a neo-Western, there are certain plot elements that need to be present, you can’t just call it that because there’s some mountains and some crime.  That might seem like an unimportant point, but I wonder how DaCosta would describe her own movie; I doubt she’d call it a Western.  It’s more Winter’s Bone than Hell or High Water, showing desperation and sacrifice in the face of insurmountable odds, but definitely lacking the cowboy/girl feel that accompanies those that actually fit in the genre.  Anyway, I just think this film is a drama, having very little to do with the crimes committed within in, having more to say about the characters and their situations, which is enough for one sitting.  Little Woods has some power, but lacks refined edges; not surprising coming from a first time director, but one from whom I think we might be able to predict good things.

In a North Dakota fracking city, life trembles on the edge of poverty, depression, and drug addition, leaning toward happiness far too infrequently.  For Ollie, whose foster mother has just died, and who is nearly off probation after moving prescription pills over the Canadian border, there’s a real chance of starting fresh somewhere else, assuming she can keep her shit together just a little longer.  But staying out of the hustle game isn’t easy, with bill collectors breathing down your neck, drug dealers wanting to use your skill, and the void of hopelessness staring up at you everywhere you go within your crappy home town.  When Deb, the fuckup sister, gets pregnant and kicked out of her trailer, the ice beneath Ollie’s feet begins to crack faster, and desperation might push her into making bad, dangerous choices.

You can tell that DaCosta is an amateur, and that’s OK, everyone starts somewhere, and you could start at a lot worse places that Little Woods, a compelling drama that’s succinct, real, honest, and moving, without, unfortunately, ever becoming something special.  You’d swear the filmmaker grew up in a place like this, it feels so personal, but she’s from Brooklyn and went to film school, so hey, you got me believing, nice work.  She’s still green, there are pacing problems here, but nothing spectacularly egregious, which is to her credit.  It helped that she had two dynamic actors to work with; I really like Thompson but I’m absolutely in love with James.  She is a generational superstar in my book, although her role here was more supporting than I would have liked; I’d rather she had been the driving force.  Not much really happens in the course of the plot, though much is threatened, and I was left feeling a little deflated, when I wanted to be utterly invested.  The timing is a little off, everything could have been more crisp, there are small issues, this isn’t a top tier movie, but there’s definitely potential here, so let’s keep our fingers crossed for what might come next.

My rating:  ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – The Nightingale

Category : Movie Review

Director: Jennifer Kent

Starring: Aisling Franciosi, Baykali Ganambarr, Sam Claflin

Year: 2018

I hope to god that this becomes a genre; Irish convicts in Tasmania seeking revenge against evil British officers, with the aid of heroic Aborigines.  I would watch every single addition to that fledgling style, and if anyone knows some that already exist, I want to hear about them.  The amount that I was on board for this film from the very start as soon as I heard all their accents and saw the frontier that they lived on cannot be measured, and I think it’s safe to say I died a little inside when the fullness of my impossible dreams weren’t realized by the end.  In all seriousness, I loved the beginning of this film so much that I knew I would be let down eventually, my excitement was too high, and the director was much too amateur to take a phenomenal idea of this caliber to the finish line without running out of breath at least a little.  Even so, The Nightingale is one of the best of the year, flaws and all, and we can only hope that Kent keeps producing pictures, because they are bound to only get better.

The British Empire used Australia and its surrounding islands as penal colonies after claiming the Eastern half of the continent in the late 1700s, continuing colonial expansion when gold and other mining opportunities were discovered, completely disregarding the native people who had lived there for thousands of years.  In an English outpost in Tasmania, with Irish convicts working off their sentences and “black fellas” attacking from the surrounding forests, Lieutenant Hawkins chafes at being kept in the wilderness instead of being promoted to a higher position.  He and two of his men rape a local woman, kill her husband, and murder her baby, running away from the scene and leaving Clare for dead.  But they underestimated her rage; she hires a captured slave turned scout named Billy, who has never forgotten his own family’s deaths at the hands of the British, and follows the Lieutenant into the bush to enact her righteous vengeance.

I liked but didn’t love The Babadook, Kent’s first feature, mostly critiquing it for the same reason I will here as well; it started spectacularly but couldn’t keep up that pace.  Babadook devolved into just another scary movie, after introducing us to a plot that could have been so much more; the exact same thing happened in Nightingale, the start was too good to be true, and the rest just never lived up to the story’s potential.  Maybe Kent still needs some seasoning, but she’s definitely shown signs of intense talent, and I for one am willing to watch, be patient, and applaud when her day finally comes.  It’s not far off; this movie was still excellent, despite its excessive length and meandering middle.  The protagonists were wonderful, the villains were vomitous, the landscape was breathtaking, the Aboriginal plot was very important, and I was always invested, small critiques aside.  I do think the dream sequences were unnecessary, I do think we went a little Revenant too often, and perhaps that the film as a whole needed trimmed/edited a bit more, but, again, those are picky points, I generally think Nightingale was a success.  It’s brutal, it’s sickening, don’t watch without that warning, but it’s just as savage as it needed to be to tell a tale that you hope could never have been true but are sure happened far too often.  What might have been a Top 5 of the year with perfect execution perhaps ended up a Top 20 instead, but that’s hardly a huge knock or a reason to not to watch.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – Terminator: Dark Fate

Category : Movie Review

Director: Tim Miller

Starring: Natalia Reyes, Mackenzie Davis, Linda Hamilton

Year: 2019

I have seen the Terminator movies, I have enjoyed some of them, and I have even attempted to wrap my head around the time lines and the paradoxes and the history and the birth of Skynet and the Terminator models and the Connor bloodlines; I’ve even gone so far as to fall down the rabbit hole that is the Titanic Theory, that Jack is from the future, has come back to rescue Rose, because she’s Sarah’s great grand whatever.  I actually like that theory, it’s fun, and I like the Terminator universe, it’s fun too, but I think I might be done trying to figure it all out.  I tried to go into the theatre to see this newest installment with an open mind, ready for entertainment, and refusing to get sucked into the details, the problems, the backdrops, all that jazz.  And I have to say, I did enjoy myself, I was able to resist some critique, but let’s be honest; no one expects this movie to be good, and it won’t be a shock to hear that it definitely wasn’t.

They say that if you don’t learn from history, it’s bound to repeat itself, but what if the future keeps coming back from up ahead and changing shit in the here and now?  How are you ever supposed to fix the world for the better if the world of the future can just come back and kill whoever it wants?  That’s the pickle Sarah and John Connor have found themselves in too many times, so maybe it’s someone else’s turn, even if the story sounds pretty familiar.  This time it’s a young woman named Dani Ramos who is the target of the Terminators, and it’s resistance fighter Grace who is tasked with her safety.  But not all the details are what we’ve come to expect; Dani isn’t exactly helpless, Grace isn’t exactly human, and two big name players are set to return in what quickly becomes both a fight for survival and a battle for the fate of mankind.

We got an original trilogy (T1, T2, T3) and a modern trilogy (Salvation, Genisys, Dark Fate); please let this be the end of it.  Thank you for making it all, all you people, but we’ve had enough, and it’s probably past time to let the old ways die.  The first two are obviously the best, the next two are horrible, but I don’t mind saying that I enjoyed the final two just a little, not enough to mark me as a crazy man, but enough to raise my hand slightly and say “hey, you know, I didn’t mind it.”  The latest pair are ridiculous blockbusters, but they had some good qualities, mainly leaning very heavily on the one that started it all, and relying on fans to enjoy the references, the nostalgia, the music, the memories.  I know that a good movie should have more than that, and maybe that means that Dark Fate isn’t quality, I’m fine with that, I’m sure that’s true, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go sit and soak it up just for the hell of it.

This latest (and hopefully last) piece of the series is face-value fun, with some cool explosions and disasters, characters constantly on the run, a hundred types of guns coming out of nowhere, creepy robots on the hunt, visions of the future to haunt our dreams, you know the drill.  There are cool parts to enjoy if you want to enjoy them, that’s all I’m saying, while reserving the right to also note that this movie is absolutely no film.  It’s silly often, it’s clunky at times, it’s one giant battle, and it doesn’t really carry much heart, at least not as much as some of the others.  The acting could have been worse; Reyes was captivating, Davis was badass, Arnold made a solid appearance and stole the show.  But god was Hamilton bad, so so bad, and how someone couldn’t give her a little coaching (knowing that they couldn’t NOT cast her) I’ll never know.  It’s a rough ride for multiple shoddy reasons, but I was able to have a good time regardless, because I was able to put the analytics of the Terminator universe to bed for a bit, and, you know, I hope it stays sleeping for the foreseeable future.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Sports – NFL Picks 2019, Week 11

Category : Sports

Here are my NFL Week 11 Picks

(5-8 last week, 86-61-1 for the season)

Bye teams: Packers, Giants, Seahawks, Titans

 

Pit @ Cle

Atl @ Car

Dal @ Det

Jax @ Ind

Buf @ Mia

Hou @ Bal

Den @ Min

NYJ @ Was

NO @ TB

Ari @ SF

Cin @ Oak

NE @ Phi

Chi @ LAR

KC @ LAC

 


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Movie Review – Dolemite Is My Name

Category : Movie Review

Director: Craig Brewer

Starring: Eddie Murphy

Year: 2019

Dolemite Is My Name is this year’s Disaster Artist, a film about a film and a movie about a man who had no idea what he was doing.  The Room flopped, but would go on to be the world’s #1 cult classic, while Dolemite broke big against all odds, even if it was the worst thing ever to happen to the big screen.  This true story is hilarious and spectacular, with some real history behind it; Rudy Ray Moore is considered the Grandfather of Rap, with his pioneering rhythm and style, changing the world of music and entertainment generations after his own rise to fame.  But this Netflix original still has to be judged on its own merit, beyond its storytelling, and that’s where it might start missing the mark.  Eddie Murphy & his pals obviously had a terrific time on set, but Dolemite Is My Name is still a goofy flick with half-amateur actors across the board; your desire to love it might not ultimately overcome your better sense.

Rudy was an entertainer first, a hustler second, but under that confident exterior he was just a guy getting no younger, failing to make it big, and wondering why no one wanted what he was offering the world.  He’d traveled, performed, done comedy, dance, different characters, but nothing seemed to be working, and his dream of stardom faded with every passing year.  And then came Dolemite, his alter ego, a foul-mouthed pimp who Rudy crafted from street legends and old timey humor, who said what he wanted and took no shit from no body.  Dolemite was a hit, but Rudy could sell his comedy records underground, no stores would carry his material.  And when he & his friends made a Dolemite movie with Rudy’s last dimes, no studio would touch such a raunchy & ridiculous flick, no matter the cult following.  How Dolemite became a phenomenon and how Rudy became a cultural icon are both legendary stories, brought to life by Eddie Murphy and a team of superstars for your own personal entertainment; you’re welcome and good night.

This is a true story, which is pretty awesome, and Rudy Ray Moore would really go on to inspire rap pioneers of the 80s, so that’s cool too.  But this movie and the original are both insane, so you’d better know what you’re getting into, if you want to have any chance of enjoying what you’re about to see.  Think Disaster Artist but in blaxploitation style, and if you don’t know what blaxploitation is you better Wikipedia that shit (or watch Shaft, Foxy Brown, Coffy) before you dive in.  If you do take the plunge, know that there’s a lot of love put into Dolemite Is My Name, a lot of effort to bring the legend of Dolemite to life and to light, which I respect independent of my more critical view of this film.  The cast was solid, that’s for sure: Eddie Murphy, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Keegan-Michael Key, Mike Epps, Craig Robinson, Tituss Burgess, Snoop, TI, Luenell, Wesley Snipes, Chris Rock.  But they aren’t all “real actors”, which shows, and you’d better be ready to forgive their inabilities, because that shows fairly clearly too.  People are talking about an Oscar for Murphy, but I don’t quite see that, even if he is the undeniable star and best actor in the movie; he didn’t have that high a bar to reach.  Dolemite Is My Name is an important piece of American cinema because its source material is, not because it would be on its own, which should be remembered when rating, even if your heart would give it more stars.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

 


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Movie Review – The King

Category : Movie Review

Director: David Michod

Starring: Timothee Chalamet, Joel Edgerton, Sean Harris

Year: 2019

The King is a film aimed at a very specific audience, one that loves Timothee Chalamet and Age of Empires equally, and wants to see Timmy play the Agincourt campaign from The Conquerors expansion.  That reference just fell flat if you didn’t play that computer game in 2000, but it’s one of my favorites of all time; I spent (some people would say wasted) countless hours working on civilizations, defeating nations, and reliving history through that game, and I love that this movie brought a lesser-known battle to life in a form I never thought I’d see.  Still, not many audience members will want to see that event take place, with the protagonist played by Chalamet, and done in the style of two movies we’ve recently seen (more on that later), so it’s a bit of a surprise to see it fleshed out in the form of a Netflix original.  But hey, to each his own, and I just happen to check all the boxes, which means I’m on board, although I’m hesitant to recommend you take the same boat.

King Henry IV is close to death, and so dies his efforts to conquer England’s longtime foe, the ever formidable France.  His son Henry, known commonly as Hal, is the next in line, but he’s no King; his younger brother is more his father’s favorite, Hal too busy carousing to take politics seriously.  But as chance would have it, Hal’s brother dies soon after his father, so fate has decided that he must take up the throne.  Soon, Henry V becomes a feared English king, able to sniff and snuff out dissension with brutal swiftness.  He takes up his country’s campaign in France with equal measure, invading their shores and besieging their castles with ferocious speed.  When the Dauphin responds with a great army, Henry and his men stage an outnumbered attack near Agincourt, in what will become one of history’s most famous battles, with English longbowmen and Hal’s ruthless tactics taking center stage.

David Michod shows that he generally knows what he’s doing by constantly casting Joel Edgerton, Robert Pattinson, or both, in his movies; those two are absolutely brilliant, and any director who can see that is, in my book, brilliant as well.  Edgerton, Pattinson, Chalamet, Harris, Ben Mendelsohn; that’s one hell of a cast, The King gets that part completely right, and each man pulls his weight perfectly, even in small parts.  And as I said before, I was set up to like this movie; Chalamet’s acting, Agincourt reenacted, Age of Empires game play right before my eyes, and, in general, a period of time I am mildly obsessed with.  But I can’t imagine this is everyone’s cup of tea, it’s very specific, although well-done, and not everyone will be the perfect target.

Then there’s the lovechild issue; it’s a bit too easy and sloppy to say that a film is simply a mashing of a pair that have come before, but I’m about to say it anyway.  Take Macbeth & Outlaw King, play them simultaneously, and you’ll have The King, it’s eerie, and probably a bit cheap.  This story is based on Shakespeare’s version more than actual history, and plays like the Robert the Bruce tale, so you’ll swear you’ve seen it before, and that’s not to the credit of Edgerton & Michod, who co-write the film; they should probably be docked points.  Regardless, The King is a cool, brooding, muddy succession story, with plenty of blood and battle, so you won’t leave disappointed if that’s what you’ve come to see.  But it does copy too much from two flicks, and it is narrowly aimed at those who already know/enjoy this history, which may not be you.  Netflix made something strong here, something cool, but not exactly original, and definitely not incredibly Oscar-worthy.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – Yesterday

Category : Movie Review

Director: Danny Boyle

Starring: Himesh Patel, Lily James, Kate McKinnon

Year: 2019

Danny Boyle has earned the right to experiment a little, but his bizarre manipulation of cinematic norms (not to mention dimensional shifts) yielded something strange, as Yesterday becomes a movie you wanted to love rather than a film you can respect.  Boyle is a great director, extremely versatile, has a lot to say, but taking a bizarre story and then matching that level of weird with the structure of the film itself was a bad idea from the beginning, and created a ceiling that, sure, was reached, but was never very high.  Yesterday is a fun flick for Beatles fans, a cute love story, and maybe even a nice lesson on life’s odd paths, but it could have been so much more, and so can’t be considered much other than a swing & miss.

Jack is a failed musician by any account, and is considering giving up the gig.  He has a day job stocking shelves, has put 10 years of his life on hold to try to make it big, but can’t book anything other than third rate shows, no matter the tireless effort of his manager Ellie, who is obviously in love with him, though he’s too stuck in a rut to see it.  But things are about to change, beginning with something bad and ending with something stranger than fiction.  One night, the power goes off all over the world for some inexplicable reason, and at the same time Jack is hit by a bus.  When he wakes up, he soon discovers that the world has shifted, and many popular people/products/pop icons never happened: Coke, cigarettes, The Beatles.  When Jack plays Beatles songs from memory for his friends and family, they are blown away, telling him that he’s finally written something the world needs to hear, and so begins a dishonest & meteoric rise to fame, with a guilt at the core that will spoil the whole thing,

It’s a very clever concept, having the world miss out on so many huge cultural impacts, or having Jack transported to another dimension; the details are fuzzy, but they don’t matter in the slightest, this isn’t a sci-fi flick.  It’s a drama about making choices and capitalizing on opportunities, although the ones you pick to move on might not be the ones that would have truly made you happy.  The Beatles music is great, obviously, and there’s not much other music in the film, it’s strangely quiet at times, which I guess was a deliberate choice.  Other choices seemed even stranger, and I didn’t really like the direction that Boyle too the idea.  It was too jerky, too frantic, had too many characters, and he just made bad choices at key moments, which I found startling, coming from a director I trust to do solid work.  The acting was fine: Patel was great, James is perfection in everything, McKinnon was fun I guess.  But the film as a whole just didn’t sit right, it was oddly amateur, or was perhaps simply risky and unusual without the the payoff of working out the way it was intended.  Still, you can’t go wrong with British accents, The Beatles, and Lily James, can you, so it’s not a total loss, just not the total success that was possible.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – A Simple Favor

Category : Movie Review

Director: Paul Feig

Starring: Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively, Henry Golding

Year: 2018

The more I think about it, the closer to The Worst Movie In The World A Simple Favor sidles.  And we should not be surprised; Paul Feig is talentless when it comes to film.  He’s a TV director who has helped craft a few funny moments for The Office, but his films are pure trash: Bridesmaids, The Heat, Spy, Ghostbusters (2016), A Simple Favor (this), Last Christmas (gag).  This is Bottom List stuff, comedy without the comedy, and he thought to try his hand at a murder mystery just for the hell of it?  It’s a wonder anyone in their right mind greenlit this project, even with a trio of young stars on board, because Feig is a proven flop, and I will scream that into the void until proven wrong.  Other than the kinda cool cast, there is nothing to praise this movie for, and the longer you watch it the more you want to go back in time and unwatch it; it’s that insultingly off balance.

Stephanie is a highly-motivated stay-at-home mom who always seems to have the answer, the bakery item, the volunteer sheet, the helium pump.  She also has a mommy vlog with recipes and tips, but what she lacks are real friends, and she’s a widow to boot, so life can get a little lonely.  Until, that is, she meets Emily, who seems to somehow need a friend even though she appears to have everything you could wish for.  Emily is rich, has a high-powered job, a semi-famous husband, great fashion sense, a carefree attitude, a rambunctious son, and the fact that she wants to spend time with Stephanie is frankly amazing.  But it gets strange when she disappears after dropping her kid off with Stephanie, just dropping off the face of the planet.  Where she went and who is in on the crime become questions that Stephanie is dying to answer, even though she quickly becomes too close to the case (and to Emily’s husband).  The events that come next are as random as they are insane, with ups, downs, too many motives, some unknown victims, and so much more than meets the amateur eye.

What’s funny is, at first, I didn’t think A Simple Favor was going to fail, I thought we had something good on our hands, and for the first hour I was hooked.  There was a who-done-it element, the story was strange, the characters were intriguing, Kendrick is so wonderful, Lively & Golding were so handsome, I was in, I was invested, and I was ready to take back all the evil things I had said about Paul Feig.  Then the rest of the movie happened and I was just mad at myself for almost believing.  How many times can one film jump the shark?  I don’t know, but this one must have set some sort of record, because they left no shark unjumped.  Vlogs, twins, tattoos, wires, summer camps, death by Toyota Prius; the final scenes were absolutely hellish.  The story makes no sense when you think back on it, they took a hundred leaps at seemingly random times, and I was left throwing my hands up in dismay and abandon by the end of what was surely the most bizarre two hours I will never get back.

My rating: ☆ ☆