Monthly Archives: February 2020

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Movie Review – Ophelia

Category : Movie Review

Director: Claire McCarthy

Starring: Daisy Ridley, Naomi Watts, Clive Owen, George MacKay

Year: 2018

Ophelia starts out well enough, for a from-another-point-of-view film, which I can’t imagine is a genre that’s easy to work in.  And Daisy Ridley is a good enough lead character at first as well, which couldn’t be taken for granted, since we haven’t seen a whole lot from her other than her work in a galaxy far, far away.  But towards the end of the film, once audiences have settled in, the movie jumps the curb like a runaway car, we scream something stupid out of surprise like “oh geez what”, we spin around, slam to a stop, bump our heads, and forget what it was we were even watching.  Ophelia is a blow to the temple that you didn’t see coming, and although you liked some of what happened before, you’re not sure you’d do that again.

This is the story of Hamlet but told from Ophelia’s perspective, with a few twists tossed in for good measure.  Ophelia is the daughter of Polonius, who is the advisor to the King and Queen of Denmark, who have a son named Hamlet.  The King’s brother, Claudius, takes the throne when the elder dies, and also takes his wife, which makes him Hamlet’s step-father.  Ophelia is not high born, but she’s smart as a whip, and soon both falls in love with Hamlet and discovers that Claudius killed the king.  Hamlet begins to go mad with rage and vengeance, while Ophelia tries to find a way to be with the man she loves, protecting him from harm when she can, protecting herself from the choices of others when she must.

This version is pretty weird, but it doesn’t start out that way.  In the beginning, a lot of the dialogue you can recognize as slightly modernized Shakespeare, the story unfolds comfortably, we’re just seeing a woman’s side of things, which is cool and pretty forward-thinking.  Ridley’s acting is surprisingly good early on too, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but she convinced me, and I was enjoying the story.  Then there are decisions made that throw a wrench in the works, and things go downhill from there.  The story becomes almost too much like Snow White and the Huntsman or something, not classic literature, and the acting takes a turn for the worse too, led by Ridley and Watts.  In the end, it’s all the women who make the power moves and are revealed as powerful or clever, which is fine, I get the statement, but that’s not how the play was written.  I’m no purist, bend what you want to bend, but it didn’t sit right with me, at least the end of the film didn’t, and the positives were mostly lost in that final shuffle.  No one saw this movie this year and no one will remember it was made, which is partly too bad because it wasn’t awful, and partly OK because it wasn’t special either.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Book Review – Rose Madder

Category : Book Review

Author: Stephen King

Year: 1995

I’m gonna have to do something sacrilegious here and disagree with my favorite author; Steven King thinks that he was trying too hard with Rose Madder and with Insomnia, that they are stiff novels, and most readers agree with him, but I can’t.  At least not fully, because I do think Insomnia is one of his weakest books, even with its ties to The Dark Tower, but I can’t say the same about Rose Madder, even if it’s generally considered Lesser King.  I consider myself an amateur expert, I’ve read enough to say that, and I’ve re-read enough, I’ve connected enough, I’ve dived in deep enough, King is the author I know best, for sure.  And while this book is very different from his others, it also takes the time to paint a very clear picture, one that unsettles more than entertains, which may be, for some, part of the problem.

Rose Daniels is being abused constantly, so much so that she’s begun to retreat within her own head, to stop thoughts of leaving from forming before they even have the chance to emerge, which is part self-preservation and part burgeoning insanity.  Her husband Norman is a cop, a vicious man, a trained dog, always on the edge of violence, and Rose feels fear for her life every day, when she hasn’t shut her mind so completely that she can’t feel a thing.  One day, almost ridiculously spontaneously, Rose decides to leave, walks out the door, and doesn’t look back.  Her new life as Rosie McLendon in a big city hundreds of miles away is moving in the right direction, thanks to a battered women’s group and a young man named Bill, who is everything she never dreamed she’d find, but the happy times are cursed from the start.  Norman is on the hunt, he will run down his Rose, and she will have to face him eventually.  A painting that Rosie finds at a pawn shop and feels a strong connection to will strangely become the weapon to defeat her husband, and the tool to find the strength she always had inside.

So many things.  First, I understand why this isn’t a popular King book, and I can even understand why King himself doesn’t love it; it’s his book, I guess if he says it’s no good, it’s no good.  But I can’t help feeling like there’s a way to “enjoy” this story, that others maybe didn’t find that door, and that that’s the problem.  The abuse story is shockingly unsettling, some won’t even be able to make it past that, and perhaps they shouldn’t try if it all feels too personal and too real.  It’s hard to stomach, painted brightly with no blurry edges around the evil character of Norman, but I think that’s the way it needs to be.  Also, the connection to The Dark Tower is nice, though small, as is the fantasy element of the painting, which is vitally important to the action and I think handled really smartly.  Rose and Bill are awesome, I was rooting for them, and there are so many chapters that are just Norman creeping closer, losing control of himself more and more, until by the end he’s a raving lunatic, and I loved watching that devolution.  Lastly, I think I read this book like I was watching it as a movie instead, and I think that’s why I liked it so much.  It would look amazing on screen, the other-wordly elements would play beautifully, and I know that most King stuff doesn’t adapt well, but I feel like Rose Madder could, maybe in part because it’s not your average reader’s favorite book to curl up with.  It’s uncomfortable, it’s disturbing, but it has real heart and something really important to say, which is why I wish more people would give it more of a chance.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – Birds of Prey

Category : Movie Review

Director: Cathy Yan

Starring: Margot Robbie, Ewan McGregor, Jurnee Smollett-Bell

Year: 2020

Coming in stronger than expectations dictated shouldn’t have been that hard for Harley Quinn, Birds of Prey, The Fantabulous Whatnot of Emancipation of One Joker Lady, whatever they finally decide to stick with calling it; DC has, in many ways, failed to deliver on its promises to provide kick ass entertainment, while Marvel has been declared the uncontested king.  Man of Steel, Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman, Justice League, Aquaman, Shazam; I suppose they haven’t all been disasters, I have some favorites among the group, and there are plenty more to come over the next few years, so I guess it’s time to buckle in and enjoy.  Because, although they aren’t all gems, we still love going to the theatre to see comic book celebrities come to life, and our desire to like Birds of Prey is no exception; that the movie doesn’t exactly deserve our applause won’t stop some from clapping anyway.

Since her breakup with The Clown Prince of Crime, Harley Quinn has had it rough.  She & Mr. J aren’t together any more, and so she doesn’t have a partner to blow things up with, an outlet for her crazed desire to be lewd, crude, and downright rude.  Plus, when the neighborhood thugs find out that she’s not protected by a supercriminal any more, Harley learns that a lot of very bad people have some very serious grudges against her.  Simply staying alive is going to be a workout, but then new complications enter the picture, when a priceless diamond is found by the gangster Roman Sionis, only to be stolen by the child thief Cassandra Cain.  Now everyone hunts for Cain: Quinn, Black Mask, Black Canary, Renee Montoya, Victor Zsasz, and the mysterious Huntress.  Harley will have to decide where her loyalties lie, and who exactly deserves a gruesome death.

Birds of Prey is on par with Suicide Squad, which means it’s a semi-enjoyable mess.  Who enjoys it will up for discussion, with some fan boys mocking and some fan girls championing, which leaves most of us somewhere in the muddled middle.  Positives first, because good news before bad, and then we’ll get into what definitely didn’t work.  Perhaps the best piece of the puzzle was the action, which I don’t think I would have predicted.  When so many other fight scenes flail about until audiences are kinda dizzy and mostly done, Yan’s action is crisp, clear, purposeful, and deliberate, so that we can feel every kick, whack, wham, and pow.  You can actually track the pain and the take downs, which you should be able to say about any movie’s brawls, but you really can’t, so well done to a film that wasn’t afraid to give the choreography some attention.  As far as the actors go, I thought McGregor stood out as a unique villain, so  much more interesting then, say, Bane.  Elizabeth Winstead also did a stand up job, serving us some surprising laughs, and giving us a real reason to root for her character.

And that about wraps up the accolades; on to the bad news.  The rest of the film, at least when people weren’t fighting or when we weren’t focused on the revenge story arc, was rather boring and far too cluttered with names, attacks, backgrounds, asides, flashes in time, and jokes that didn’t work.  I would call it a mess, but the energy was too flat for that word, it wasn’t as messy as it was uninspired, and at times just plain dull.  The level of talent called upon to support the project was simply too low; Robbie is obviously a star but she was downright weird, Smollett isn’t a good actress and her Canary Call was dumb, there’s a reason Rosie Perez isn’t famous beyond White Men Can’t Jump, and Ella Jay Basco as Cassandra Cain will need about another five years of lessons before she’s ready to belong on a stage this big.  Birds of Prey was simply too inconsistent, not funny, often bizarre, and never seemed impacting enough to matter, not like some comic book capers that have come before, when you just have to see them because they’re that important to pop culture and to a cinematic universe.  DC still has some proving to do; I think Wonder Woman 1984 might be a step in that direction, and I also predict that it’ll make this movie clearly look like a failed attempt.

My rating: ☆ ☆

 

 


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Sports – 2020 NFL Free Agency

Category : Sports

With the 2019 season behind us, the Super Bowl over, and the reality of zero football setting in, it’s never too early to look ahead to next year. The 2020 season kicks off with the HOF game in Canton in August and the NFL Opener 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 2020:

QB

Dak Prescott, Ryan Tannehill, Drew Brees, Tom Brady

Philip Rivers, Jameis Winston, Teddy Bridgewater, Marcus Mariota

RB

Derrick Henry, Melvin Gordon, Kenyan Drake, Jordan Howard

Carlos Hyde, Peyton Barber, Lamar Miller, Chris Thompson

WR

Amari Cooper, AJ Green, Breshad Perriman, Robby Anderson

Emmanuel Sanders, Phillip Dorsett, Randall Cobb, Danny Amendola

TE

Hunter Henry, Austin Hooper, Eric Ebron, Tyler Eifert

OL

Anthony Castonzo, Jack Conklin, Bryan Bulaga, Andrew Whitworth

Jason Peters, D.J. Humphries, Joe Thuney, Brandon Scherff

DL

Chris Jones, Arik Armstead, Javon Hargrave, Shelby Harris

D.J. Reader, Leonard Williams, Jadeveon Clowney, Yannick Ngaukoe

LB

Shaquill Barrett, Matthew Judon, Bud Dupree, Dante Fowler Jr

Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, Cory Littleton, Joe Schobert

CB

Byron Jones, Chris Harris Jr, Bradley Roby, Trae Waynes

Logan Ryan, Jimmy Smith, Kendall Fuller, Ronald Darby

S

Anthony Harris, Justin Simmons, Devin McCourty, Jimmie Ward

K

Greg Zuerlein, Ka’imi Fairbairn, Mason Crosby, Dan Bailey

 


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Movie Review – Harriet

Category : Movie Review

Director: Kasi Lemmons

Starring: Cynthia Erivo, Joe Alwyn, Leslie Odom Jr.

Year: 2019

Cynthia Erivo was nominated for Best Actress for this role, and she also wrote/performed an original song for the film that was nominated as well, so obviously those two parts of the picture are worth noticing, recognizing, and applauding.  As is the base plot, which is something I’m surprised we haven’t seen already, since the true story is larger than life; escapes, rescues, heroes with flintlocks, hundreds of lives saved, it’s an unbelievable piece of history that’s totally true.  Harriet isn’t completely though, there is a lot unnecessarily created to flesh out the story, which has some people riled up, but which I didn’t even mind.  I was too busy wondering whether I was watching an actual feature production or a reenactment on the History Channel; very few times have I seen quality this low, and I hope I never do again.

The life and times of Harriet Tubman are awesome with no additives, but Hollywood rounded the edges with some imagination, so here we go with a version that won’t be too hard to best in future years.  Harriet, called Minty as a slave before she chose a name for herself, was married to a free black man in Maryland, but ran away from her owners when she learned that she was to be sold away from her family.  Visions from God told her where to go and helped her see the future, so she escaped with her freedom to Philadelphia, but her passion didn’t only carry her that far, it drove her to help others in the only way she knew how; getting them the hell out of bondage.  So Harriet returned over and over again into enemy territory to free her people, with death lurking around every corner and evil out to capture her, because she knew that her God was watching out for her, and that her family needed her help.

I had so many problems with this movie it’s going to be hard to categorize them; let me start with the positives.  The original song is strong, though I don’t remember it in the film, it might have just been in the credits, which is a shame.  Erivo was also solid, though not the world’s best actress; at least she elicited our support and she controlled the moment very well, which is good since she was, by far, the central figure.  But that’s where the positives end; the rest was as good as something you would see on A&E about the Underground Railroad on a Sunday afternoon when there’s nothing else to watch.  More accurately maybe, Harriet was like a long Wishbone episode, complete with a moral, a historical figure, awful acting, and shot with a style that screams “discount television”.  I can’t believe the score, the camerawork, the writing, and the action were all this bad, like a PBS special instead of a real film.  Thank Leslie Odom and Janelle Monae heartily for that; they could not possibly have been worse.  And then there were the visions, which were straight up childish, and seemed to be telling us that Tubman was a religious figure rather that a brave, honorable, human one; I can’t begin to put into words how angry that made me.  No, she didn’t see the future, she was “just” a woman who was a better person than any of us will ever be; why is that not enough?  I wish a very talented director would immediately remake this movie and bring it up to par with other, powerful Civil War era films so we could wash this from our minds and forget it was ever made this poorly.

My rating: ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – Brittany Runs a Marathon

Category : Movie Review

Director: Paul Downs Colaizzo

Starring: Jillian Bell, Utharsh Ambudkar

Year: 2019

It’s nice to write a movie about your friend, but it’s a whole other feat to convince a major studio that you should also direct said movie, especially when your only other credit in the biz is helming one episode of the MacGyver reboot.  Seriously though, how did this dude get his foot in the door, and why did I get a FYC screener for an Amazon movie made by an amateur starring a bunch of D-list celebrities?  I don’t mean to be harsh, everyone starts somewhere, but it’s a little odd that we’re being asked to take this film seriously, because it’s an idea that was duct taped to some celluloid and passed off as cinema, when it’s really anything but.

Brittany is the funny fat friend, a role she’s pretended to be OK with for all these years, but now she’s approaching 30, and her lifestyle and loneliness don’t seem so humorous any more.  Recently, her doctor has told her that she needs to lose some weight, needs to stop drinking so much, needs to eat healthy, that is if she wants to live long.  So Brittany attempts to tackle some very tough realities; that her friends might not be that nice, that her defense mechanisms might not be that awesome, that the weight she keeps on might be a symptom of the emptiness she’s beginning to feel with each passing season.  The cure; a marathon, or at least training for one, getting up off the couch to take some responsibility for once, trying to face the world head on instead of hiding behind baggy sweatshirts & crass jokes.

So Colaizzo’s roommate was Brittany, she really did set a goal to run a marathon, he wrote a film around her journey, and here we are today.  I’m still surprised that some rando could pitch this idea to Amazon and get a movie deal, it seems like a stretch, and, really, so does the narrative of the entire project.  At times it’s almost like a documentary, which would have worked better, because the plot wouldn’t have split off down so many directions and the real heart behind the message would have shown through much better.  As it was, there were positives (namely Ambudkar), there were pieces to nod along to because they touched a nerve, but otherwise the quality was unsurprisingly poor.  Bell isn’t a strong enough actress, there were too many side characters, and the emotion was far too one-note for a drama, while also being far too humorless for a comedy.  A middling attempt and a forgettable theme, Brittany Runs a Marathon is better left alone; it’s not despicable, it just doesn’t stand up when compared to, well, anything else.

My rating: ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – The Aeronauts

Category : Movie Review

Director: Tom Harper

Starring: Felicity Jones, Eddie Redmayne, Himesh Patel

Year: 2019

I put a few movies off until the end of the season, mostly because they didn’t have much awards buzz or hadn’t given me any strong, personal reason to watch.  Most of those have turned out to be (predictably) mediocre, films that are either amateur or fringe or overly-artistic, or sometimes plain boring.  I assumed that The Aeronauts would fall into one of those categories or one very similar; I did not expect it to be so god-awful.  Not only is this movie one of the very worst of the entire year, it’s also an embarrassing insult to those few audience members who were brave enough to watch it, a complete and shocking mistake that (get ready for a pun) I wish had never made it off the ground.

This is the (kinda) true story of the beginning of meteorology (kinda), as a young scientist dares to reach higher than anyone on Earth has ever dared before.  James Glaisher wants to make a name for himself in London in the 1860s, and his passion is weather; the mathematics, the discovery, even the possibility of prediction.  He knows that if the scientific community can understand weather patterns better, they can uncover countless discoveries, leading to prediction and ultimately the betterment of humanity.  But first he needs to go up where no man has gone before, and the hot air balloon is the only vehicle that can carry him.  Enlisting daredevil pilot Amelia Wren, the pair soar into the heavens, to experience danger, wonder, and sights that no human has ever had the privilege to behold.

Sounds good maybe, sounds cool, sounds interesting, and hey, this team has worked well together before, in The Theory of Everything, so why not give it another go?  Well, turns out the idea wasn’t the horrible part, it was the execution, and, yeah, maybe also parts of the idea.  The action is dumb, forced, unbelievable, silly, skit-like, and just generally insulting to people with working brains.  It’s a colossal joke, this plot and this performance, like everyone spent three days shooting some parts and then making the rest up on a computer, a complete phone in if I’ve ever seen one.  And then there’s the “true story”, which really bothered me.  Glaisher was a real person, but Wren was not, in fact they created her character to “represent women”.  So, no, this didn’t happen, this imaginary person didn’t save his life over & over again while he bumbled around in a balloon, and how she became the main character is beyond me, since SHE ISN’T REAL.  I get making up portions of a true tale to make it more dramatic, but this is absurd, this is almost farce, and it’s definitely not worth your time watching.

My rating: ☆

 

 


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Thought – 2020 Oscar Picks

Category : Thought

Sunday February 9th, 2020, the Academy Awards!  I’ve very excited about this year’s Oscars; there are a ton of excellent films represented, as well as the annual snubs left out.  It should be a great show (although with no host this year and a few misjudgments by the Academy along the way) and I’m sure I’ll be reacting live during the event on Twitter (@OlieCoen).  You can check out my Oscars page for a complete listing of the nominees in the six major categories, but here are both my predictions and my picks for the best films of 2019:

Best Actor

Best Supporting Actor

Best Actress

  • Winner – Renee Zellweger – Judy
  • Runner-up – Charlize Theron – Bombshell
  • My choiceSaoirse RonanLittle Women

Best Supporting Actress

Best Director

  • WinnerBong Joon HoParasite
  • Runner-upTodd PhillipsJoker
  • My choiceSam Mendes1917

Best Picture

 


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Sports – 2020 NFL Coaching Carousel

Category : Sports

Now that the Super Bowl is over, it’s not too early to look ahead to the 2020 season, especially for those teams who have already undergone a lot of change. Nothing says a fresh start like a new head coach, and many NFL teams made the switch after tough losses or tough years in general. Here is a look at the new faces and their new teams:

 

Cleveland Browns – Kevin Stefanski

Dallas Cowboys – Mike McCarthy

New York Giants – Joe Judge

Washington Redskins – Ron Rivera

Carolina Panthers – Matt Rhule

 


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Movie Review – Here Alone

Category : Movie Review

Director: Rod Blackhurst

Starring: Lucy Walters

Year: 2016

A random, low-budget zombie movie that probably should have remained unseen, Here Alone is a concept that never comes to completion, which is disappointing because of the potential that could be seen from the very beginning.  The unfortunate part is that the obvious good start went obviously wrong right before our eyes, we could see it happening, but we were powerless to stop the trajectory, and that wasn’t any fun.  Blackhurst is still an amateur in the full-length feature corner, so perhaps there are better things to come, perhaps he’s just getting warmed up, and perhaps we just need to wait.  His take on the survivalist genre didn’t work, but there were pieces that did; too bad they didn’t pop up more often.

A virus has struck the country, maybe the world, and its destructive force devastates the population, wiping out overnight the old order.  Most humans have either died or have turned into some sort of man-eating monster; the details aren’t clear, but it starts with a virus and ends with a hunger for flesh.  One woman, who had once run away in the woods with her husband and daughter, must fight for her survival and for her sanity, as the weight of being alone is as heavy as the need to stay alive.  When Ann comes across Chris & Olivia, the walls she’s built around her heart start to crumble, but that might be exactly what gets her killed.

There are just a lot of problems with this film, which isn’t a shock, given its beginner status and its lack of polished actors.  The acting becomes one of the most troubling issues, not from the lead, I thought Lucy Walters was solid throughout, and I enjoyed that they gave us her story, her process, and her mind in drips, keeping us involved and curious.  No, the actors around her were the problem, they just weren’t up to snuff, and so it all felt more like a skit whenever they were the focal point.  She was great; attractive, strong, convincing.  But the writing, the zombie aspects, the other characters, they were all either cheap, throwaway, or just plain bad.  It was a nice concept, but not well-executed, and the lack of quality bit the film in the butt far too often to forgive.

My rating: ☆ ☆