Monthly Archives: February 2020

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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:


Dak Prescott, Ryan Tannehill, Drew Brees, Tom Brady

Philip Rivers, Jameis Winston, Teddy Bridgewater, Marcus Mariota


Derrick Henry, Melvin Gordon, Kenyan Drake, Jordan Howard

Carlos Hyde, Peyton Barber, Lamar Miller, Chris Thompson


Amari Cooper, AJ Green, Breshad Perriman, Robby Anderson

Emmanuel Sanders, Phillip Dorsett, Randall Cobb, Danny Amendola


Hunter Henry, Austin Hooper, Eric Ebron, Tyler Eifert


Anthony Castonzo, Jack Conklin, Bryan Bulaga, Andrew Whitworth

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


Chris Jones, Arik Armstead, Javon Hargrave, Shelby Harris

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


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

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


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

Logan Ryan, Jimmy Smith, Kendall Fuller, Ronald Darby


Anthony Harris, Justin Simmons, Devin McCourty, Jimmie Ward


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: ☆ ☆



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Movie Review – Queen & Slim

Category : Movie Review

Director: Melina Matsoukes

Starring: Jodie Turner-Smith, Daniel Kaluuya

Year: 2019

Directors are having problems with editing, and that’s a problem for us all.  I don’t care how long a movie is if the content supports the length, I’ll watch something for three hours if there’s a reason to, sign me up.  But that’s often only warranted when the plot stretches, like in a war movie, an action epic, a drama that spans decades, something of that nature.  Simple arcs don’t require 150 minutes to develop; if you can’t get your point across in 90 then you probably need to check yourself before …wait for it …you wreck yourself.  Queen & Slim, like so many films right now, is way too long, far too convoluted, and needed a strong hand to chop, chop, chop.

Out on a first date because she was simply lonely, Queen & Slim chat it up at a local Cleveland diner.  She’s a rigid lawyer, he’s a friendly family guy, they are opposites in some ways, but there are also a few sparks, who knows how it’ll turn out.  But that chance is never given; while driving her home, he gets pulled over for a swerve, and the lone, nervous, white officer represents their doom.  Shots are fired, the cop winds up dead, Queen & Slim flee the scene, afraid for their very lives.  The journey that follows teaches them so much about themselves, and also ignites a country that has been waiting for a flag to wave in the face of racism, brutality, and injustice.

When you make a good movie too long, filling it with every extravagant scene you can think up, your project starts to feel self-congratulatory, and that’s no fun for anyone else.  It’s simple conceit to create something that encapsulates everything you’ve ever dreamed of saying/doing, but that leaves audiences completely out of the picture, forgetting that art is designed as an interaction between people, it’s not just a display of talent, however amazing that talent might be.  Queen & Slim is a solid movie, it starts incredibly, carries a heavy burden, demands that an important message be heard, and is well-acted by the leads.  But the length, the plodding pace, the unnecessary event points, none of that adds to the narrative, it only shows the amateur status of the creator (who, in this case, is a music video director).  What we needed was a film an hour shorter, with a explosion of meaning that we couldn’t escape, that would have captured us completely, and made this movie something more than just an afterthought.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆



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Movie Review – Gloria Bell

Category : Movie Review

Director: Sebastian Lelio

Starring: Julianne Moore

Year: 2018

The world may never know why A24 decided to make a disco version of Uncut Gems for 58-year-old women, but they did and it’s bad and I’m angry.  Gloria Bell seems like a waste of time, even if what I’m saying isn’t really accurate; it came out first, it’s a remake of an earlier Lelio movie, it’s very different from the spectacle Adam Sandler brought to life.  But regardless, the film feels like a pointless copy, if not of a modern film then definitely of the 2013 Chilean drama is stems from, and it never shakes that cover of been-there-done-that.  With so many better options this year, there’s no reason to revisit this film, and no wonder that no one under the age of 46 showed any interest in it at all.

Gloria is a divorcee from L.A. with two grown kids, a crappy apartment, a job in insurance claims, and a passion for dancing.  She tries to meet guys, to live a little, to venture out, but it’s all a little sad, a little desperate, and she’s only getting more lonely/tired/generally old.  But then Arnold appears, and he seems like a good guy.  He’s also divorced, loves poetry as much as paintball guns, has some money, might just be quite a catch, if he could get his head out of his own ass and stop fixating on the drama of his daughters long enough to appreciate Gloria for the diamond she might be if someone was just willing to put in a little goddam effort.

So, at first Gloria Bell simply appears to be another in the hyper-specific genre of older ladies getting their groove on in warm climates and learning lessons that will finally make them whole after years of searching in vain.  It’s a silly style, but I guess boomer mom’s might like it; the lead women are always smoking pot for the first time, dating rich men, complaining about their children, and somehow having great sex.  It’s a fantasy really, I get that, it’s just not mine, and I don’t like to watch it unfold.  Also, it’s a bit ridiculous, it’s expected now, and we deserve more, so please go away.  Lelio decided to make a modern movie of that ilk from a previous movie of that ilk, and that’s just not something I can sanction.  Then, A24 gets their hands on it, adds synthesizer like a Safdie flick, and hopes we’ll forgive the flaws they’re obviously trying to cover up; nuh uh.  THEN, the supporting cast it weird: John Turturro, Caren Pistorius, Michael Cera, Brad Garrett, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Rita Wilson.  And Moore herself is not my fav and needs to stop showing her boobs off all over the place, IMHO.  So many ‘no’s so little time; let’s just pretend this never existed.

My rating: ☆ ☆