Author Archives: ochippie

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Movie Trailer – Bodied

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Joseph Kahn

Starring: Calum Worthy

Release: November 2nd, 2018

Kahn does music videos, Eminem was a rapper, and now they’re combining to make a racially-charged comedy starring a guy no one’s ever heard of before?  That shouldn’t work, yet this trailer looks hilarious and I’m gonna be first in line to see this movie.


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Movie Trailer – The Mule

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Clint Eastwood

Starring: Clint Eastwood, Bradley Cooper, Michael Peña

Release: December 14th, 2018

This movie looks like a cross between Sicario, Hell or High Water, and A Perfect World, which is alright with me.  Eastwood stars and directs, he brings in Cooper, who might be his protegee, and all looks to go smoothly, at least judging by the trailer.  Robert Redford may have done his swan song this year, this could be Clint Eastwood’s, and we might be seeing the end of an era, so don’t miss out.


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DVD Review – Country

Category : DVD Review

Director: Richard Pearce

Starring: Jessica Lange, Sam Shepard, Wilford Brimley

Year: 1984

For Country, Jessica Lange was nominated for a Best Leading Actress Academy Award, ultimately losing out to Sally Field in Places in the Heart, five years after she won her only other Oscar for Norma Rae.  Three of the five films in the category in 1985 were about farmers, families, floods, failed crops, that old chestnut, and the other two were period pieces, so there was some tight competition in a tight window, and who really stands a chance against Field anyway, she’s so damned likeable.  Lange has had her chances to shine, and she’s been a part of many an iconic film, but perhaps it’s right to consider this movie as one of her strongest examples of talent; a simple-on-the-surface role that couldn’t have been so simple to play, a character that’s at once an everyman and an everywoman.

The Movie

The life of an Iowa farm family is anything but glamorous.  They work all day, all seasons, pulling in just enough money from crops and livestock to stay alive themselves, to warm their homes and feed their children.  One bad crop puts you behind, one broken tool costs you time and money, one sick kid destroys your savings, and nothing gives you the excuse to quit working, each morning it’s back to the grind.  The father reaps the corn, the grandfather drives alongside him, the son learns the trade, the mother takes care of the home, and the daughter takes care of the littlest ones; it’s a grueling life, a gray-brown life, but one that some were born to live, having been raised on the land and having known from their first steps on it that it would always be their home.

For the Ivys, tough times are only getting tougher, and they aren’t the only farmers to feel the steady trickle of stability eek away under their feet.  After a lack of rain and a bad storm, the Ivy’s corn crop isn’t what they expected it to be, and the money it brings in just isn’t enough.  The bank is tired of constantly handing out more loans to farmers whose farms aren’t turning a profit, and so they finally put their feet down.  This means that Gil and Jewell Ivy will either have to come up with the money to pay off their loans, sell some of their land and equipment, or move off the farm, a place that’s been their family’s home for generations.  If all the locals could come together and fight the banks, they might be able to force some change, but that will take grit and determination; luckily farming folk don’t lack either.

Both Jessica Lange and Sam Shepard were relative newcomers to the screen in 1984, although they had both previously been in Frances in 1982, for which Lange was, again, nominated for Best Leading Actress.  But other than that, Lange had King Kong and Shepard had The Right Stuff, neither had become a big star yet, but both would show up for this niche drama and perform wonderfully.  The main thing they did right was to play their parts understated, which was smart, and which fit the mood and times better than a melodramatic interpretation.  They were convincing as farmers, as Americana, and representatives of a way of life that was slowly dying.  In a time when films loved focusing on social justice, and especially on farmers and workers and the like, Country fit right in and its leads did it justice.

Wilford Brimley even makes an appearance and does very well; I’ll always love him for Our House, a 2-season family-oriented TV show that I watched when I was little.  Looking back, I watched far too much Touched by an Angel-type television; it exposed me to certain actors and a certain style I guess, but I doubt if that crap was ultimately good for me.  Anyway, moving on, I think the story in Country absolutely does have a positive message worth hearing, mostly, and should be remembered for what it did well.  It’s a simple movie, uncomplicated and focused, giving us one direction to lean in and one family to love.  In that way, it succeeded, but watching it all these years later, it is a little simple, a little sappy, and doesn’t stand up perfectly straight.  You give films like these a pass because they’re emotional and they’re dated, but then you remember that there are magnificent movies from ever era, perfect pieces of cinema from every year, and perhaps being forgiving just because, to something from 1984 (which boasts Amadeus, The Natural, Karate Kid, and The Killing Fields), is going a little too easy.

The Blu-ray

Video – With an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 (1920x1080p), the video quality of the Blu-ray is poor but rich enough, if you’ll excuse the semi-related pun.  The quality is by no means impressive, but audiences will understand what year they’re watching and how technology has changed over time.  At least the transfer was done properly, with no glaring issues, so the film watches as it would have at the time and doesn’t fail its standard.

Audio – The disc was done in English, with an option of English subtitles, and available audio commentary by film historian Lee Gambin.  That’s it, no other languages or subtitles or options, you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.  The sound is fine, keeping everything in mind, you won’t expect or receive better, and it’s nice that there weren’t significant problems in the transfer, so cling to that.

Extras – The only bonus features are four trailers for films from this company.

Final Thoughts

Recommended.  While Country isn’t an amazing film on its own, it’s at least a small sliver of cinematic history to enjoy and reflect upon, a movie that worked and had a message and tried its best 35 years ago, which is not nothing.  It features solid performances and a simply story, so you won’t hear many complaints from me; how many modern movies can honestly claim the same?  But its also far from perfection, an uncomplicated tale of an American life that we all know exists and aren’t super-excited to watch films about.  The video is par for the era, the audio is lackluster, and there aren’t many special features, so leave the technical aspects behind and focus on the content, which isn’t terrible.  Lange is good, Shepard is good, the plot is good-ish; sometimes you can’t give a product your ringing endorsement, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hold some intrinsic worth.

☆ ☆ ☆ – Content

☆ ☆ ☆ – Vide0

☆ ☆ ☆ – Audio

☆ ☆ – Extras

☆ ☆ – Replay

 

 


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Movie Review – The Devil’s Advocate

Category : Movie Review

Director: Taylor Hackford

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Al Pacino, Charlize Theron

Year: 1997

Had it not been for the casting of Keanu Reeves, The Devil’s Advocate might have been the best movie ever made.  I exaggerate of course, but only a little, I really think this film is that special, and I really think Reeves is that debilitating.  He’s done better recently, I think he finally grew up, but he’s been awful countless times, and I’ve never been a fan.  Now, you have to remember how big a deal he used to be, how huge a star he was, despite his lack of talent, with movies like Point Break, Dracula, Speed, Johnny Mnemonic, and Chain Reaction all coming out in the 90s before this film.  But watching back, I don’t see how anyone can claim otherwise, would even try to make a case that he was a tremendous actor who elevated the features he was in.  If it had not been for his overacting, I honestly think that Devil’s Advocate would be remembered as being near-perfect, a scintillating drama that has it all.

Young and suspiciously perfect lawyer Kevin Lomax has yet to lose a case, either prosecuting or defending, and Gainesville, Florida is becoming too small for his big ego.  He knows juries so well, almost magically well, can tell which way they’re leaning by the shoes they wear and they way they hold their heads, and that has helped him become the best damn trail lawyer in the country.  New York City even gets wind of his success, and one firm, run by the vivacious John Milton, asks for Kevin’s services with check in hand and perks to spare.  So he and his beautiful wife Mary Anne move to the Big Apple to become hot shots, and everything seems to be looking up.  But how can Milton possibly be so rich and powerful, how can Lomax continuously win, and why does the competition keep dropping like flies?  It’s almost as if the hand of God is touching events, or perhaps the hand of someone much less heavenly.

I know it sounds dramatic, but I really do think that Devil’s Advocate is almost perfect, that it could have gone down as a phenomenal film in the annals of cinematic history, had it been for one major casting change.  I get why Reeves is the lead, he was a big new name, he was hunky in a very fresh way, it makes perfect sense.  But he’s definitely the weakest link, maybe the only weak link, and looking back on the film 20 years later, that fact seems rather obvious.  Even he has a couple nice scenes, but the rest is pathetic; his accent, his melodrama, his fake swagger.  It’s really too bad, because everything else is flawless.  It’s an awesome story, laden with philosophy, and you’ll find yourself taking the side of the devil on your shoulder more than once.  And the other actors, holy cow, they are incredible; Pacino in a role he was born to play, Theron in an early part that already showed her amazing ability, Jeffrey Jones (Ed Rooney), Connie Nielsen, Craig T. Nelson.  They all worked, the plot works, the mood is intense, the dialogue is excellent (apart from the way that Reeves delivers it), it’s sexy, it’s wrong, it’s weird; I wish I could love it 100%.  But I’ll take it as it is, which is still strong enough for a rotational re-watch and a place on my shelf.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Trailer – Vice

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Adam McKay

Starring: Christian Bale, Sam Rockwell, Amy Adams, Steve Carell

Release: December 25th, 2018

The Big Short was brilliant, and Vice will be too.  This time in our history changed everything, and this man was the puppeteer, it’s going to be fun to see a comedic-yet-serious take on it from this director’s point of view.  And these actors as these figures?  That’s just too incredible to put into words.  I’m on board.


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Movie Trailer – Rocketman

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Dexter Fletcher

Starring: Taron Egerton

Release: May 17th, 2019

Fletcher is an actor, not really a director, his only other real feature being Eddie the Eagle, which also starred Egerton and which also was simply good, not great, which is what I almost guarantee from Rocketman.  Elton John is a phenomenon, obviously, but this movie won’t do him justice, I’m not sure it’s even possible, so why even try?


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Movie Review – Private Life

Category : Movie Review

Director: Tamara Jenkins

Starring: Kathryn Hahn, Paul Giamatti, Kayli Carter

Year: 2018

Every time I think that Netflix is crashing and burning they redeem themselves with something spectacular, this time with Private Life, one of the best dramas I’ve seen this year and a film that I know will stick with me long past Oscar season.  These Netflix originals need to be taken seriously, at least when they are this good, and we need to start thinking of them as true cinematic and artistic pieces, not as some made-for-TV special or web-based indie flick.  Private Life is a true gem and a surprisingly excellent movie, regardless of which platform it appears on, and it needs to be treated with the respect it deserves.  I might not have thought the same coming in and sitting down, but the trailer does not do this feature justice; it is a brilliant bit of filmmaking that is easily one this year’s absolute best.

Richard and Rachel are trying to have a baby.  Well, they’ve been trying to have a baby for a very long time now, unsuccessfully, and as they have heard countless times during the process, they aren’t getting any younger.  Richard has only one testicle and some blockage issues, Rachel’s eggs are old and few, it’s very unlikely that they will ever have children naturally.  So they try IVF but that doesn’t work, and they consider adoption but that falls through, their options becoming more & more limited with each passing failure.  Their last hope might be a donor egg, but that choice comes with complications, such as finding someone to donate and conceptualizing a future with a child who only shares biology with one parent.  But a relative coming to stay with them might be the hope Richard and Rachel needed to cling to, as suddenly there’s one last chance that they could finally become parents.

If you saw The Meyerowitz Stories last year, you know how great these Netflix, New York, adulting-is-hard dramodies can be, and how they can hold their place among the best despite their under-the-radar status.  Private Life is just as strong, just as special, an emotional wreck of a tale that should resonate with slightly older audiences because they have been there, done that.  I’m a parent who happens to have had an easy time having children, but I could empathize with these characters so easily, sitting alongside them in the waiting room, listening to their fights fueled by misplaced anger.  Hahn and Giamatti were unbelievably perfect for this film, and they were unrecognizable in their roles, they immersed themselves so completely within them.  They were hilarious, distraught, paid respect to the weight of this strange process, and always felt alive within the story, never letting it overwhelm them.  And the side actors supported the action impeccably: Kayli Carter, Molly Shannon, John Carroll Lynch, Denis O’Hare.  The mood was heavy and airy in turns, the comedy hit me just right, and we need more from Tamara Jenkins, three movies aren’t enough (Slums of Beverly Hills, The Savages, Private Life).  Netflix hit one out of the park this time, and I hope we don’t forget it.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 


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Sports – Covers.com MLB Odds

Category : Sports

MLB Odds, presented by Covers.com

October baseball is here, and that means the road to the World Series has been paved.  With the preliminary games out of the way and the Final Four decided, we move on to the ALDS and the NLDS, the contests that will decide the two teams who play for the MLB Championship.  So far no 2018 Postseason series has been close, but odds are that’s about to change.  Let’s take a look at the matchups that will lead to the Fall Classic.

 

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These are the top two seeds in each league, so the results of the first round of the playoffs were no surprise.  But here’s where it gets interesting, as the best teams in the majors face off to determine who moves on.  The Red Sox and the Brewers, being the top seeds, have home field advantage, and so will look to take that opportunity as far as it can go.  Fenway is not an easy place to play, with the Green Monster looming over you, and neither is Miller Park, with that slide and those fans, so the Astros and the Dodgers will have their work cut out for them.  But those teams do have the best pitchers in their respective leagues playing on their teams in Verlander and Kershaw, so an unset is not impossible, and perhaps the word ‘upset’ is too strong, since no club left in the playoffs is an underdog any longer.  These series are guaranteed to be tight, hard-fought, and down to the wire, and odds are we are in for an October to remember.

Visit Covers.com for all your sports betting needs, as well as expert analysis, picks, odds, and news from around the world of sports.  NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, NCAAF, NCAAB, & more; Covers has you covered.

 


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Movie Review – First Man

Category : Movie Review

Director: Damien Chazelle

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy

Year: 2018

Damien Chazelle shocked us all out of our seats with Whiplash, and followed it up by winning an Oscar for La La Land, so although his filmography is limited we have learned to trust him in the director’s chair, to listen to his storytelling and his music with equal and fervent focus.  Taking on the true story of Neil Armstrong’s first steps toward mankind’s first steps on the moon is a different beast though, a biopic with less room for artistry and fantasy, a boxed-in challenge that forced Chazelle to mold his mindset to historic events.  That seemed to be the biggest hurdle; could such a vibrant director take on such a straightforward project, or could he somehow force it to fit his style, even though that seemed, on the surface, to be nearly impossible.  The good news is that Chazelle is smart and talented enough to find a way.  The bad news is that the ceiling was only so high; or, to use a more appropriate metaphor, the film could only be blasted so far before it would inevitably fall back down to Earth.

Overcoming great odds, near death experiences, and a family tragedy, Neil Armstrong would become the first human to ever set foot on land outside our planet, making history not only with his accomplishments but with his perseverance, showing the world what determination, teamwork, and tenacity can accomplish.  Neil was an engineer and a pilot, testing planes before auditioning for a role in NASA’s new space program, in their race with Russia to be the first in as many new categories as possible.  Mission after mission failed, taking lives every step of the way, but ultimately dragging the team closer and closer to their ultimate goal; to reach the Moon and to return safely.  Leaving a family behind to mourn his likely death, Armstrong become a pioneer and a scout, going somewhere so far away, on a journey so dangerous, that an entire global community would tune in to watch, knowing that the future was happening right before their eyes, and that this man was its herald.

Chazelle could direct the phone book and make it compelling, he’s that talented of a director, the youngest in history to win an Oscar for helming a feature film, a statistic that’s meaningless since so is age, but still a firm clue to the level at which he is currently doing his job.  Chazelle was able to take a true story, one we know very well and that mirrors others we have seen on screen before, and make it fascinating, give it life, force it to be personal, and still somehow add his own flavor to it, especially in the ways of camerawork and music.  Although very different from his other films, you can still sense his touch and hear his voice, from the song choice to the intensity of emotion.  Giving credit where credit it do, I think he was aided greatly be Ryan Gosling, who is an absolute star and an incredible boon to any filmmaker.  His performance was very moving, with a strong sense of determination overlaying deep sadness, making this man something more than the mission, something more relatable than I had expected going in.

But although the combination of Chazelle and Gosling is a force to be reckoned with and hopefully will be again in the future, many other pieces of this project failed to reach the same level, and so left the movie closer to the ground than we though it might have the power to go.  For one, it was often boring, simply unexciting, and while not every moment needs to be slapping audiences in the collective face, you can’t stretch a story further than it can naturally go.  Thirty minutes could have been chopped off the final reel and the impact would have been felt just as keenly, if not more so thanks to the lack of extra, unnecessary additions.  Focus on fewer characters perhaps, after all we met every astronaut to ever enter a spacecraft, and although the cast was solid on paper, not many in it had the chance to really shine.  Pablo Schreiber, Christopher Abbott, Ethan Embry, Ciaran Hinds, Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler, Corey Stall, Patrick Fugit; all were fine, Clarke stands out as the best, but few were written with anything more to do than show up.  Unfortunately, Gosling’s only challenger for screen time was Foy, and she was incapable of producing the desired results.  She was one-note, her accent was awful, and her character was the only one that was too large, skulking through too many scenes without a real purpose.  First Man is ultimately not much more than a combination of Apollo 13 and Interstellar, with a sprinkle of Chazelle for good measure, but without the needed originality and unidentifiable “it” to take it as far as we had hoped it could go.  Gosling is great, the music is too, but Foy is constantly uncomfortable, and the content meanders on for far too long, with the action only breaking the monotony sporadically.  I wouldn’t be shocked if this film was still in the Oscar conversation in a few months, but perhaps in a few specific categories; I don’t think it packs the punch to win Best Picture.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – A Star Is Born

Category : Movie Review

Director: Bradley Cooper

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Sam Elliott

Year: 2018

Considering that this story has been done three times before, that Cooper has never directed before, and that Gaga has only ever done cameos, it’s one hell of a shocker that A Star Is Born is both the front runner for Best Picture this year and just might deserve it.  Something magical must have been sprinkled on this picture, because on paper it really shouldn’t work this time around, and even the trailer was a bit of a red flag, with Brad directing himself, Lady trying to act, and everyone trying to top Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand, which is not advisable.  But while the 1937 original was nominated for eight Oscars, the 1954 for six, and the 1976 for four, I wouldn’t bet on the downward trend continuing; the 2018 version might be the best yet and might take home the most hardware in a few months at the Academy Awards.

Jackson Maine is a singer from Arizona whose best days are behind him and whose future is invisible behind a fog of alcohol and a cloud of smoke.  His hearing is going, his drug use is a problem, he drinks until he falls asleep, but Jack doesn’t think he’s in trouble since he can still rock the electric guitar, can still stand up before a sold out crowd and tell his story through music.  But the crowds are starting to thin as the years roll on, and this one-time superstar is losing the glow of the spotlight.  One night, at a random bar in just another city on the tour, Jack sees Ally perform, and he knows that he’s found something special.  Not just a musician who can become something great, she’s the woman who he’s been looking for, that missing piece that’s been hiding all this time.  Her arrow is pointing straight up, sky high, and the pair begin that journey together, but his road will ultimately and inevitably turn the other direction, and if Ally isn’t careful she’ll crash before she’s even started to fly.

With films such as this one, those that make the boldest statements, it seems that two camps immediately form; greatest movie ever or complete trash.  Those who loved it have chosen their hill to die on, those who didn’t hunt for every flaw, and meanwhile the essence of the story is lost somewhere in between.  I’ve always prided myself on being half critic, half audience member, someone who can pick apart and enjoy at the same time, and that’s exactly how I viewed A Star Is Born.  It’s a daring adventure, taking on this story with this director and this leading lady, no one can say that anyone played it safe, and that alone is worth something, that risks were taken without fear by artists who have a lot to lose.  Cooper’s directorial debut could have flopped, Gaga’s first starring role could have been her last, the entire project could have been a complete failure.  And yet they tried, they mostly succeeded, they imperfectly won, and I was sitting there for it all, for which I consider myself lucky.

But I did say that I was watching while wearing two hats, so let’s get in to the good and the bad.  For the bad news first, Gaga is no thespian.  Perhaps she was better than I had imagined she would be, but there were definitely moments when her inexperience shone through, and while she made the entire film seem organic simply by being herself, there were moments when she was called on to be someone else, to trick us into believing that she was someone else, and she really couldn’t do it.  Also, Cooper was a bit heavy handed, Elliott was unnecessary, and not every plot choice was one I agreed with, so I can’t call this movie a masterpiece.  What I can call it is a success, because it worked more completely than I thought that it could, and it sucked me into a story that I ended up adoring.  Ally’s family was great, we got a glimpse of a complicated lifestyle that we simply glamorize and forget, and there’s a message in the ending that shouldn’t be ignored.  Above all, the music will be something that stays with us, and was hands down the best part of the film.  Copper and Gaga did much of the music themselves, writing, performing, everything, and what they were able to accomplish is beyond impressive.  I wanted to stand up and applaud many times, like I was at their concert, and that’s pretty cool, that’s not an every-time-you-go-to-the-movies thing.  That’s why I think A Star Is Born has Oscar potential; not because it’s a work of art but because it lures audiences in with music, kicks us in the shins with emotion, and then shows us what’s written in the dirt while we’re doubled over.  It has power, inarguable power, and maybe a touch of magic, which combine to overcome its imperfections in a way that deserves our attention.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆