Monthly Archives: October 2020

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Movie Review – The Dukes of Hazzard

Category : Movie Review

Director: Jay Chandrasekhar

Starring: Seann William Scott, Johnny Knoxville, Jessica Simpson

Year: 2005

The Dukes of Hazzard may just be the stupidest movie I have ever seen.  Maybe not the worst, maybe not the most amateur, maybe it’s not a complete disaster, there might be one or two things I could point to and say “that was alright”.  But it’s definitely the stupidest thing that I’ve ever voluntarily put before my eyes, and I’m still not quite sure why I chose to do that.  I guess I was bored, or maybe wanted to see Jessica Simpson at her peak?  I don’t know, perhaps I temporarily lost my mind, or just consciousness, it’s hard to say.  But I watched it, and I regret it; at least the bottom of my list has some new company.

Cousins Bo & Luke Duke are the terrors of Hazzard County, Georgia, but boy are they having one hell of a time.  They run moonshine for their uncle Jesse, they protect their other cousin Daisy, they run from the local law, they frustrate the local rich boss, and they just wanna have some fun; just two good ol’ boys, never doing no harm.  Luke is obsessed with the ladies, and it gets him into trouble, but Bo has his mind on his car, the General Lee, and winning races so that he can prove he’s no loser.  Actually, there’s a big race in town coming up, and everyone will be there, so it’s his big chance, as long as he can stay out of jail and in the good graces of the money that runs the county.  But it seems like something fishy is going on in town, with Bo & Luke the only two who can do anything about it, so start that engine boys, and go find yourselves some adventure.

I like Super Troopers as much as the next guy, but that was a one-off; Jay C. & Co. didn’t need to make any more movies.  But they did, and they sandwiched Dukes of Hazzard right in between Club Dread and Beerfest, and the result was devastating.  Those goofy guys may have been the best part of the film, in small roles, so I guess that worked, but literally nothing else did, which is a problem.  Wait, I’m wrong; Jessica Simpson worked, she was both sexy and one of the stronger actors, which is saying something about the rest of them.  Really, it would be an incorrect compliment to even call the rest of the actors; Seann William Scott and Johnny Knoxville are professional idiots, not professionals thespians.  They were so dumb it was painful, and so was everything else, really: the plot, the writing, the characters, the references, the clunky attempts at being progressive, the moronic jokes abounding.  Even the broad cast was weird: Burt Reynolds, Willie Nelson, Lynda Carter, .  It was a film for small brains, and not even an entertaining version of that vacant concept or of the show it was trying to honor, just a stupid, stupid failed joke that you’re very sorry you were let in on.

My rating: ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – Walking With The Enemy

Category : Movie Review

Director: Mark Schmidt

Starring: Jonas Armstrong, Hannah Tointon, Ben Kingsley

Year: 2013

It’s always fascinating to have a different perspective on the Holocaust and its human stories; we are so inundated with WWII films that they can tend to become repetitive.  Still, audiences are quick to react positively to anything based on the time period, since it’s infused with so much inherent intensity that filmmakers hardly have to manufacture a thing, just plop us in the middle of a true tale and let us experience the historic drama ourselves.  Of course, not to minimize the horror of the Holocaust; that’s a rough job for a writer or a director, bring us into the reality of the situation, but don’t fall back on entertainment value, we don’t want to view those terrible events that way.  Walking With The Enemy does some right and some wrong, delivering a true and interesting tale, but often coming across as cheap, rather than rich with context.

Overwhelmed by the might of the Nazi army and the power of the Third Reich, Hungary joined in an alliance with Germany; placed between Germany and Russia it was pick one side and be attacked by the other, there were no other choices.  However, toward the end of the war, and with its own young men pressed into service and its own Jewish population sent to the work camps, the Hungarian government tried to leave and ally themselves with Russia, only to be stopped by the Nazis and forced into even greater danger.  Meanwhile, the families of the nation were being tormented in the struggle, ripped apart as the country itself was torn.  But some resisted, some fought back against the invading German army, and tried to save as many Jewish families as they could, forging Swiss documents and moving them to safe houses, even dressing up as SS officers in order to rescue the innocent.  This is a story of courage like you’ll rarely see, and from an angle that isn’t often viewed, which makes it all the more important.

Schmidt’s one and only film, Walking With The Enemy is more a good attempt than a great final product, a movie that delivers the information we want but in a format that’s a little underdeveloped, or perhaps just unsupported by talent.  I think I would have rather read a short story or essay about the heroes depicted here, about their bravery and the bravery of all involved in underground movements like this.  That courage during this time is unimaginable, putting your life on the line for others in the face of such madness, and we need to hear more stories like this to help us understand how quickly and easily an entire evil empire almost took over the world.  As far as the film goes, it could have been better.  The CGI was silly, the acting wasn’t great, the faces you recognize were only thrown in to get your attention, and the writing wasn’t strong either.  Everything was a little cheaply made, or perhaps rushed, maybe underfunded, who knows, but it felt amateur, which it was, so I guess there you go.  Others have covered this genre more solidly, but it was nice to get this unique perspective, so bravo to that; I just hope the next time this team takes a chance the results will be much improved.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – A Mighty Wind

Category : Movie Review

Director: Christopher Guest

Starring: The Whole Gang

Year: 2003

The gang’s all here for another Christopher Guest mockumentary, and it’s the last good one that he’ll make, so enjoy it while you can.  Actually, enjoy Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, and A Mighty Wind a million times equally, they’re brilliant, and don’t worry about moving onward to For Your Consideration and Mascots, because they’re not.  Maybe it was a finite amount of magic, maybe the times just changed, but the style didn’t last forever, which at the same time doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the ones we love forever, it just means new, strong, similar content might never come our way again.  It’s fine, just re-watch; these Guest classics are incredible, and none more emotionally wondrous than A Mighty Wind.

The Father of American Folk Music, Irving Steinbloom, has died, and the bands he once managed decades ago are gathering back together for one last show in his honor, in New York City, at City Hall.  The Main Street Singers are a large group who wear uniforms, sing complex harmonies, and smile until their faces explode; commercial, but committed.  The Folksmen are a trio of three now-old friends who stick to the roots of the genre, bringing classics to life on banjo and bass.  And Mitch & Mickey are just that, Mitch Coen and Mickey Crabbe, a couple of kids in love years ago, who have now moved on with their lives, though the fame of their innocent romance still follows them around.  Reunions aren’t always pretty, but it’s to honor Irving, and it might just do these musicians some good to play in from of adoring (if small) crowds once again.

If you’ve seen his other mockumentaries, you know what to expect from A Mighty Wind.  It’s offbeat, it’s off the cuff, it’s improv, it’s silly, it’s all over the place, but it’s so original that you’ll feel transported, and so hilarious that you’ll injure yourself laughing.  Guest & Levy write bizarre stories, but they let their actors completely and uniquely embrace the roles, so audiences get organic mixed with comedic, and the result is stellar.  Not later on, the magic sputters, as I mentioned, but it’s still good for one last go, and A Mighty Wind is that final experience.  Plus, there’s the added bonus of this being the most emotionally stirring of the first trio of films; it’s got heart that you don’t even see coming, and you might even shed a tear, which comes as a shock since the rest of the film is so bonkers.  Congrats to this cast for coming together and getting the job done one more time: Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Harry Shearer, Michael McKean, Christopher Guest, Bob Balaban, Jane Lynch, John Michael Higgins, Parker Posey, Christopher Moynihan, Don Lake, Deborah Theaker, Fred Willard, Ed Begley Jr, Michael Hitchcock, Larry Miller, Jennifer Coolidge.  And then there’s the music, at once poking fun of the past and impressing right now, with original songs that are meant to mock but somehow delight at the same time.  You can watch the movie, you can listen to the soundtrack, you can relive the 60s, you can feel like you were there; this film is something special, and it’s a goodbye to a recipe that worked more than once and always to our benefit, so thank you to everyone involved, you’ve given us a memory to last a lifetime.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Sports – NFL Picks 2020, Week 6

Category : Sports

Here are my NFL Week 6 Picks

(10-4 last week, 48-28-1 for the season)

Bye teams: Seahawks, Chargers, Saints, Raiders

 

Den @ NE

Hou @ Ten

Cle @ Pit

Bal @ Phi

Was @ NYG

Atl @ Min

Det @ Jax

Cin @ Ind

Chi @ Car

NYJ @ Mia

GB @ TB

LAR @ SF

KC @ Buf

Ari @ Dal


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Movie Review – Warrior Queen

Category : Movie Review

Director: Chuck Vincent

Starring: Tally Chanel, Rick Hill, Sybil Danning, Donald Pleasence

Year: 1987

In my search for strange 80s fantasy flicks, I stumbled upon Warrior Queen, an action/adventure film in the vein of Barbarian Queen, Sorceress, Deathstalker, or any of that genre that sport the exact same movie poster: scantily-clad ladies, swords, heroes, mythical beasts, you know the drill.  But I was surprised to see that Warrior Queen was slightly different, slightly more professional, and ultimately less gratuitous & stupid.  It’s an interesting cinematic experiment, combining skin flicks with historical dramas, the result being a romp that’s less wild and more chaotic, less pathetic and more passionate, thoughtstill genre-specific and bad in all the good ways.

In Pompeii, right before the eruption, a mysterious queen arrives in the city, to be hosted by the royalty there, though she seems very distance in manner, and miles away in thought.  At the same time, a slave girl is purchased, a beautiful blonde named Vespa, who instantly falls for the famous warrior/gladiator/charioteer Marcus.  Their love is destined to fail, given the differences in their status, but with the strange queen around, anything is possible.  As the end draws near, the bonds of society begin to collapse, and slaves may earn their freedom in the inferno that is to follow.

I dig this style, this stupid, supposedly-sexy, overly-violent 80s fantasy ridiculousness, but I wouldn’t say that Warrior Queen falls into that category exactly.  There are slaves and boobs and stabbings, there is bad acting and worse writing and nonsensical content.  But it’s almost muted a bit, with less lines and less noise, with parallel stories that are almost interesting and an ending you almost enjoy.  It’s like 80s b-sexploitation but with a historical background, like someone actually tried, which is pretty refreshing.  Chanel is beautiful, Hill is brooding, Danning hardly says anything, and Pleasence plays the fool, so the cast is not too bad.  Really, it could have been much worse, and much more genre-oriented, so it’s surprising that Warrior Queen works as well as it does.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – Sleepy Hollow

Category : Movie Review

Director: Tim Burton

Starring: Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Michael Gambon

Year: 1999

You can get Sleepy Hollow on Amazon for a dollar, and that’s exactly where it belongs; in a dollar bin at some discount store.  It’s exactly that good, fun enough to watch once and then throw away, without any really reason to keep or remember longer.  Tim Burton is a moody genius, Johnny Depp the same, and they team up rather well, obviously.  But this film simply isn’t the success we might remember from 20 years ago if we saw and enjoyed it then; perhaps we simply wanted to be entertained by it, regardless of its quality, which I guess is absolutely fine.  It’s worth an easy buck and a quick peak, some fleeting fun, but that’s about as far as the compliments go.

Constable Ichabod Crane has been called away from New York City to solve a case upstate in a place called Sleepy Hollow.  His manner of deduction is scientific, he doesn’t believe in the fantastic, he wants proof and facts, which are going to be in short supply in the spooky northern town, I can assure you.  Multiple citizens, who are all connected by blood or marriage or business, have been beheaded by a ghostly form appropriately named The Headless Horseman.  Legend has it that his old, dead soldier has come back to claim vengeance, and is taking skulls as trophies, but Crane suspects more realistic motives, and his hell-bend on proving it, even if it might cost him his own head.

We all know the story, maybe you’ve seen the cartoon version, and this tale is definitely a spooky, Halloween-y staple, so it’s great for the fall and for a fun fright.  Burton is the man to bring it to life, and he did so very well; the darkness, the mood, the special effects, the creepy quality, the idea that this might all really be supernatural, or Crane might be right and a crook might be an evil human.  It’s all entertaining, and the cast is stacked: Michael Gambon, Casper Van Dien, Jeffrey Jones (Mr. Rooney), Richard Griffiths (Uncle Vernon), Christopher Walken, Christopher Lee, Martin Landau.  But it’s almost just Gothic fluff, not cemented in the style, like Burton was playing, not being serious.  Depp was good, enjoyable, but not special, and god was Ricci bad; we forget just how awful an actor she really is, except, I contest, in Black Snake Moan, but that’s neither here not there.  Sleepy Hollow is a fine, easy, surface horror flick that’s just a little too forgettable and flippant, not making the impact it perhaps could/should have.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – Submergence

Category : Movie Review

Director: Wim Wenders

Starring: James McAvoy, Alicia Vikander

Year: 2017

No one has ever heard of Submergence, and there’s a reason; it’s bad.  Starring James McAvoy and Alicia Vikander, you’d think any film with those two incredible talents would be guaranteed gold, but there’s a reason no one tried to tell you about this movie; they understood that the final product wasn’t any good at all, and that they probably shouldn’t advertise that fact.  It’s almost Serenity (2019) awful, if not stupid in that way, but rather pointless in a similar fashion, like a story someone tells that you wish to god would end as soon as possible because it’s so damn pointless.  No feature should be pointless and painful, that can’t possibly have been the goal here; someone just made one giant mistake.

James works for British intelligence, Dani is a oceanic mathematician, and they are about to fall in love.  James’ job is highly classified; he poses as an expert in bringing clean water to Africa, but what he’s really doing is hunting down information on terrorist organizations.  Dani’s job is extremely complicated; she goes deep under the oceans to study the environment there so that humans can better understand the world around us.  Both find themselves at a sea-side resort awaiting their next assignments, and they find themselves instantly drawn to one another.  But the holiday soon ends and their individual lives soon call; what will happen when they are both drowned in their own work and their own problems?

I tried to explain this movie out loud after I watched it and I almost fell asleep standing on my feet.  It’s simply a boring topic, a boring set up, and has nothing to offer audiences apart from a nice love story that’s ruined by everything going on around it.  I’d have much rather watched these two fine actors simply fall in love over the course of 90 minutes, no other story included, that at least might have showcased their talents and made me feel something other than banal boredom.  Wenders in an eclectic director, he tried something too complicated here, and it backfired; I couldn’t have cared less, by the end, what happened to these characters and their love.  McAvoy and Vikander are both great, so stunning, but were never given the chance to shine; if you will allow me a pun, they were submerged in unnecessary material, and so never could draw the breath of life we desperately needed them to find.

My rating: ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – Enola Holmes

Category : Movie Review

Director: Harry Bradbeer

Starring: Millie Bobby Brown, Henry Cavill, Sam Claflin

Year: 2020

Had I known, coming in, that Enola Holmes was based on a tween novel, I would have had my daughter watch with me, I would have tried to enjoy it through her eyes, and I would have ultimately liked the movie better.  Did I miss something, or was this film not advertised at all as a kids flick, did they try to pass it off as a murder mystery/action adventure type romp, when really it’s a 12-year-old’s delight and not much more?  Again, I don’t think I would be judging so harshly had I known what to expect coming in, but cute doesn’t quite cut it when you’re playing with the pros; stay in the kiddie pool if you don’t have much more to offer than “nice”.

Enola Holmes is the younger sister of the famous Sherlock, but her family is more complicated than that.  Her father died young, her oldest brother Mycroft is in law in London and doesn’t have time for children, and so her mother raised Enola all on her own.  She raised her to be independent, thoughtful, courageous, daring, and to solve life one step at a time, which is a fun way to grow up, but not very conventional.  When her mother mysteriously disappears and her brothers come to fetch her, Enola finds her life flipping upside down.  She must escape Mycroft’s finishing school plans, Sherlock’s inquisitive mind, and the idea of “becoming a lady”, because there are mysteries to solve, dangers to be faced, and a whole future out there waiting if she’s bold enough to reach for it.

I didn’t even know this was a book series until after I watched the film, which I guess is my fault for not doing my research beforehand.  I have a daughter who is an avid reader, and she would love these books and probably this film, much more than I did anyway.  It’s rated PG-13, but I don’t see why; apart from a small bit of violence there’s nothing wrong at all, as far as I remember.  I wish they had gone one way or the other; rate is PG, have kids watch, try to solve the mystery themselves, or make it R and let adults try their hand at the clues, with content that’s suitable for us, not our kids.  As it is, this film is simply fine without any real bite; I’m assuming because it attempted to be everything to everyone at all times.  Bad idea, and I think bad casting too: Millie Bobby Brown is not really any good, Helena Bonham Carter has used up her 15 minutes, and Louis Partridge was very weak.  I didn’t mind Henry Cavill or Sam Claflin, but their parts were small, and basically unneeded; use them more or don’t use them at all, we see through the use of their names to get us interested in a film we may not have noticed otherwise.  I’ll come back and watch this again some day with my daughter, and perhaps that will help to change my opinion of Enola Holmes, a movie that’s cute and maybe even clever, but directed by a first-timer and not strong enough to really stand out.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

 


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Sports – NFL Picks 2020, Week 5

Category : Sports

Here are my NFL Week 5 Picks

(8-7 last week, 38-24-1 for the season)

Bye teams: Packers, Lions, Patriots, Broncos

 

TB @ Chi

LAR @ Was

Phi @ Pit

Ari @ NYJ

LV @ KC

Jax @ Hou

Cin @ Bal

Car @ Atl

Mia @ SF

NYG @ Dal

Ind @ Cle

Min @ Sea

LAC @ NO

Buf @ Ten


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Movie Review – WarGames

Category : Movie Review

Director: John Badham

Starring: Matthew Broderick, Ally Sheedy, John Wood

Year: 1983

John Badham had some real gems from the late 70s to the early 90s: Bingo Long, Saturday Night Fever, Dracula, Whose Life Is It Anyway, WarGames, Short Circuit, Stakeout, Bird on a Wire, Point of No Return.  He’s a solid presenter of simply story, and I grew up enjoying these films, not even making the connection that they were directed by the same man.  WarGames stands out as the best, becoming an 80s classic that would never be forgotten, and keeping us saying “Do.You.Want.To.Play.A.Game?” almost 40 years later.  It’s a fun film about teenage curiosity that then goes much deeper, into war and attrition and pointlessness, until we begin to understand that this movie has much more to offer than the cuteness of its stars and the coolness of its computers.

David is a bit of a computer whiz, even though home computers are hardly commonplace.  He knows how to access the phone lines to talk to other computers, he knows how to make changes that no one can trace, and he knows how to hack into systems where he’s no supposed to go.  But when he accidentally starts communicating with a military system, which he thinks is a software company, and starts playing war games with it, which it thinks are real, he’ll learn that sometimes you put you hand in a trap when you stick it places it doesn’t belong.  Now, he and his friend Jennifer will have to convince the government that Joshua, a super-smart computer that’s able to learn and just happens to be in control of the US nuclear codes, is planning to launch real missiles at real targets, all because David set it on a path he thought was for fun and doesn’t know how to turn it off.

Before Broderick was Ferris the rogue and Sheedy was Allison the freak, they were typical Seattle teenagers and a potential couple in WarGames, and they played their parts perfectly.  Broderick is so adorable that he couldn’t escape that typecast and Sheedy simply didn’t turn out to be a very talented actress, but they were both great here, and really couldn’t have been more delightful and daring in turns.  The film is fun, as it gives us a horrific problem but also gives us the plucky kids to solve it, in a story that’s both adult and childish at the same time.  WarGames has reached cult status, especially with the help of Ready Player One, which I didn’t like, though I love the entire 80s nostalgia concept.  I was born in ’83, so a lot of my love for the decade comes posthumously, but that helps me appreciate it even more; I kinda lived it, kinda looked back on it right way, and now as an adult I can view it with a clear head.  WarGames is the epitome of an 80s adventure flick, and it’s one that we should always check back on, even its music and its cast are tremendous: Dabney Coleman, Barry Corbin, John Spencer, Michael Madsen, Eddie Deezen from Grease, even William H. Macy in an uncredited role.  Gold as far as I’m concerned, and since nothing gold can stay we should appreciate it while we can still remember it.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆