Author Archives: ochippie

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Movie Review – Thinner

Category : Movie Review

Director: Tom Holland

Starring: Robert John Burke, Joe Mantegna, Michael Constantine

Year: 1996

Having just read the King book, I thought I’d try the Holland movie, and the result was …sad.  The book isn’t the absolute best, it’s more a novella than a novel, fleshed out when it really didn’t need to be, or, conversely, not crafted into something that could stand on its own when it grew in size.  Either way, it didn’t work perfectly, and therefor isn’t top shelf King, but it still chills, it still thrills, and it’s still a good read.  The film version, though, is not a good watch.  It’s bad down to its bones, and rotten to its core.

Billy Halleck is an overweight lawyer whose life has become as comfy and careless as his eating habits.  He’s a pretty big deal now, commands some local respect, lives on a nice street, has a pretty wife, no real problems to deal with, and it’s starting to make him a little lazy.  But one tragic event wakes him completely up, and will set the tone for a deadly downward spiral.  Distracted while driving, Billy accidentally hits and kills an old Gypsy woman who was part of a group of vagabonds who recently rolled through town.  It was a mistake, Billy gets off without even a slap on the wrist, but the Gypsy pater familias isn’t so forgiving; he not only puts a curse on Halleck but on all involved in what he sees as a coverup.  Now Billy is losing weight at a tremendous pace, which seems OK at first, but soon turns dangerous, and leads him far away from the white picket fence life he had grown so accustomed to.

First off, this feels like a 90s, made-for-TV, USA Network original, or something even worse; there’s a bad sense throughout that it was planned cheap and manufactured cheaper.  You know the style, they can be fun anyway, but not this time around; Thinner is a terribly amateur take on a cool book.  First, from the beginning, there’s a weird sense of humor, but only when Billy is fat, like his weight makes him comedic, and then later it’s not funny any more.  I see what they did there, but I didn’t like it, and the film simply doesn’t carry the same mood as the book.  They also changed some events, which, fine, I get it, this is the movie version, but they didn’t change them for the better.  It was stupider, sillier, choppier, more frantic, less professional, had odd dream sequences, and made very little sense as a sweeping story.  It was as if no one really cared to do a good job, and it showed.  King pops up in a cameo; he probably should have stayed further away.

My rating: ☆

 

 


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Book Review – Thinner

Category : Book Review

Author: Stephen King

Year: 1984

Thinner was published 10 years after King’s first novel Carrie, and it was the fifth novel he’d released under the pseudonym Richard Bachman.  Actually, the first four were novellas and would later be collected in one book, which would make Thinner the second Bachman, although it too could be considered a novella, and perhaps should.  In a way, it’s too short to be a novel, to bloated to be a novella, so it lands somewhere in between, which is a very awkward place to be.  It either needed fleshed out (no pun intended) or trimmed down (again, my apologies), because it doesn’t work perfectly in the space it was edited to fit.  That’s my two cents, but King is the master, and I enjoyed this story no matter the mistakes.

Billy Halleck is an overweight lawyer whose life has become as comfy and careless as his eating habits.  He’s a pretty big deal now, commands some local respect, lives on a nice street, has a pretty wife, no real problems to deal with, and it’s starting to make him a little lazy.  But one tragic event wakes him completely up, and will set the tone for a deadly downward spiral.  Distracted while driving, Billy accidentally hits and kills an old Gypsy woman who was part of a group of vagabonds who recently rolled through town.  It was a mistake, Billy gets off without even a slap on the wrist, but the Gypsy pater familias isn’t so forgiving; he not only puts a curse on Halleck but on all involved in what he sees as a coverup.  Now Billy is losing weight at a tremendous pace, which seems OK at first, but soon turns dangerous, and leads him far away from the white picket fence life he had grown so accustomed to.

That’s really the only big problem with Thinner, it’s too blown up, it’s not that complicated of a story, yet it goes on in detail much farther than it needs to, and with a secondary character who we simply didn’t need to hear from and/or focus on.  The book would have been a better short story, with only Billy mattering, with only Billy narrating, with a quick resolution that creeped us completely out; that tale was there, it was just covered up with fluff part of the time.  Again, that’s my main critique, the rest was really cool.  Great detail in the setup, a nice mood, a very unusual story, not really scary in the least, just weird and concerning.  And, unlike some other King books, this one ended very well I thought, dark and concise and meaningful.  Read for a quick escape and a fun freak out, but know that this isn’t upper echelon.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Sports – NFL Picks 2020, Championship

Category : Sports

Here are my NFL Divisional picks

(5-5 for the postseason, 163-92-1 for the regular season)

Bye teams: none

 

TB @ GB

Buf @ KC

 


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Movie Review – Promising Young Woman

Category : Movie Review

Director: Emerald Fennell

Starring: Carey Mulligan, Bo Burnham, Alison Brie

Laverne Cox, Chris Lowell, Max Greenfield, Jennifer Coolidge

Year: 2020

Is it possible that I’m too old to think that Promising Young Woman is a masterpiece?  After all, it’s in your younger years that your taste is cemented, when you’re blown away by new experiences, when you’re open to be impressed upon by art and singing its praises.  Music, movies, it doesn’t matter; what we fall in love with when we’re young stays with us for a lifetime, and there’s no real comparison to that high.  That’s why I think younger critics seem to be the ones who adore this film, because it surprises them and affects them, but perhaps in a way that I simply can’t be shocked and moved.  Or perhaps its simply that I thought there were some serious issues of poor taste, perhaps that has nothing to do with age, since it’s not like 37 is ancient.  I’m not sure, but I do know this; my critics group voted PYW best of the year, and I just disagree.

Cassie was once an up-and-coming young doctor, moving her way through med school, with her whole future ahead of her.  Then, at a party, her best friend was assaulted, and while C wasn’t there herself, the crime ruined both their careers, knocked them both off track, and, sadly, then turned deadly.  Since then, Cassie has stayed safe in her daily life; working at a coffee shop, living at home with her parents, not dating anyone.  But come night it’s a different story, and Cassie is a different woman.  She has made it her mission to become bait for men who would take advantage and assault, predators looking for the drunk girl who can’t make the clear decision.  But when things get more personal, Cassie finds herself spiraling out of control, and on a path toward her own destruction.

I do think that’s at least one of the reasons why this film didn’t resonate with me as it seems to with others; they are younger and more ready to be shocked by audacity and fervor.  I think about The Life of David Gale, which I watched as a teenager, was mesmerized by, but then watched as an adult and was like, oh wait, they tricked me, this isn’t good.  Promising Young Woman may look that way in the future to a lot of people, a film that made a mark and seemed novel but doesn’t re-watch the same when you’re a parent as when you’re in college.  I don’t mean to be ageist, I love that movies speak to youth, that’s where my favorites came from, and there’s nothing wrong with that, I’m just trying to make sense of why I feel like I can notice the problems with this film while others label it as a masterpiece.

The first thing that stands out is Carey Mulligan, who some are saying in Best Actress hands down.  That simply isn’t true, this isn’t even one of her best performances, it’s just that her character is so shocking that it comes off as perfection, when really it’s much more mediocre than that.  You want her at her best, try Never Let Me Go, a stellar role and film that everyone ought to see.  She hides her accent poorly in Promising Young Woman, which makes her lines feel stunted and forced, which I guess isn’t her fault but is a natural consequence.  Other than Mulligan, the acting is terrific, even hilarious, from all the assholes she meets to her parents, who are played perfectly.  Meanwhile, the music, color, and mood are being applauded, but that’s juvenile as well, obviously directed by an amateur who isn’t quite there yet.  And then there’s the theme in general, which I thought was in poor taste, and many victims of assault who watched this film feel the same way; it’s a yikes representation of a serious topic, one that shouldn’t be taken as lightly and absurdly as this movie takes it.  I tried to convince myself to watch through a different lens than my own, tried to see what others were seeing, but that really didn’t help; Promising Young Woman simply isn’t a great film.  It’s interesting, it’s daring, it’s funny, but ultimately it isn’t wrapped up well as a singular package, it’s more a flurry of fury trying to speak when it’s too angry to do so, which makes the result something difficult to give full credit.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – Possessor

Category : Movie Review

Director: Brandon Cronenberg

Starring: Andrea Riseborough, Christopher Abbott, Jennifer Jason Leigh

Year: 2020

If you were to ask me to make a list of everything I enjoy about sci-fi movies, Possessor would check almost every box off the list.  Some cool distortion of reality, a new technology, bizarre mind games, a little sex, a little violence, a little confusion & delay, Thomas.  It just seems like this film would be completely up my alley, and yet the result is almost the complete opposite, like some director made me a movie of things I like but completely forgot about taste level.  Possessor is backward to my taste, the antithesis to my aesthetic, and that’s so shockingly disappointing, because this film should have been awesome, but it somehow accidentally arrived inside out.

Tasya has an unusual job.  She’s not really an assassin, but that’s the closest thing to what she does; she’s more like a very talented actress who ends each performance by killing her audience.  Using a secret technology, the company she works for takes contracts out on the lives of very important people and then implants Tasya into the mind of a key player, where she then gets that person to murder the target.  Afterward, she kills “herself” and returns to her natural body; no suspects, no motives, just a crime of passion that can’t be explained, a dead millionaire, and a very happy player somewhere who got a death they wished for.  But on her latest mission, Tasya’s mind starts to meld with the host body, the pair of them competing for control of his actions, until it’s hard to tell where she beings and he ends.

Of course, you could simple say that the movie didn’t resonate with me, that it simply missed me, which is my problem, not the filmmaker’s.  But I’m not alone here, there’s a taste thing going on, like the film was made with a horrible ingredient that most people just can’t like.  It goes too far, honestly, it goes way too far, and it doesn’t hold itself back in conventional ways when a little convention could have saved the entire, messy thing.  Because the pieces were there: intrigue, death, science, the absence of reality, the terror of losing control.  The story was really cool, and the actors were really great, that wasn’t the problem at all.  The issue was the artistic outlook, the visual portrayals, the mood and the music and the gore and the gross.  It just landed like a lump in the stomach that threatened to make us sick, like a cheap roller coaster that looked nice on the outside but then shook us until we left heaving.  Possessor is not something I’d recommend to anyone but those few who enjoy horror/sci-fi done in this peculiar, particular, poor-taste way, which I guess can be fun on occasion, but just wasn’t for me this time around.

My rating: ☆ ☆

 


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Movie Review – Goodfellas

Category : Movie Review

Director: Martin Scorsese

Starring: Ray Liotta, Lorraine Bracco, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci

Year: 1990

Scorsese’s legacy is written in stone, and Goodfellas is etched right in there as one of his very best, one of the films that made him the king of crass crime.  American audiences are obsessed with the mob, New York Italian crime families, organized chaos, and we feel cool watching the action go down, for whatever morbid reason we have to feel that way.  Scorsese knows how to push the exact right buttons when it comes to the sweeping, downhill, shoot-em-up, fuck-em-up genre, and we eat up his features like candy, even though we maybe shouldn’t love the blood as much as we do.  But, whatever, Goodfellas is a good time, a great time, the best time, and it’s never not the right time for a revisit.

This is the true story of Henry Hill, the wannabe mobster turned informant who lived a life of luxury behind the might of organized crime, interspersed with stints in jail and ending in the witness protection program.  His story gives us insight into the workings of the big mob bosses; how they lead, how they operate, how they silence loud mouths, and how they ultimately end up losing control.  Henry worked with two close allies, Irishman Jimmy Conway and Italian Tommy DeVito, and they all paid homage to the head honcho, Paulie Cicero.  Together, and bribing half the police force, they ran cons and schemes and theft rings that made them all very wealthy, very dangerous, very volatile men.

Scorsese knows what he’s doing, this is his patented style, if just one of his films can be called that, and perhaps never have gangsters been portrayed so realistically.  The Godfather is legendary, of course, but Goodfellas is gritty, modern, messy, high on its own supply, and levels audiences with its quick speed and brutal content.  And it really happened, which only adds to the excitement, morbid as that excitement may be, as I mentioned earlier.  But that’s a different debate; that this movie is an icon above most other icons is not up for argument.  It’s funny, it’s dirty, its characters are incredible, its actors are top of the line, and it all works all the way through.  Goodfellas is as solid as they come, a real immovable rock of cinema.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – News of the World

Category : Movie Review

Director: Paul Greengrass

Starring: Tom Hanks, Helena Zengel

Year: 2020

There’s a reason you haven’t heard of this Tom Hanks Western, and it’s not COVID.  It’s because it’s a sub-par Oscar contender, it’s discount-grocery Hanks, it’s a nice idea executed with the precision of a helicopter flying low, tilting down, and chopping up zombies.  Basically, it’s a mess, a blunt bludgeon when a defter hand could/should have crafted something much finer, especially with Tom as a leading man and a story that’s hard not to fall deep into.  News of the World is only OK, with a few nice parts and a few glaring mistakes, a film that would have been much better had someone more talented been given the opportunity to bring what could have been excellence to life.

Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, formerly of the Texas Infantry fighting for the South in the Civil War, was also once a printer of the news, but that business failed along with the Secession.  Now, Captain Kidd travels from Texas town to Texas town reading the latest newspapers, sharing the current, revolving history of the modern world with local folk who can’t read or simply don’t have the time to.  He helps educate those whose lives are too hard for such pursuits, and he’s relatively happy with his role.  A chance encounter on the road between towns finds Kidd responsible for a little girl who needs returned to her home; her family were German immigrants, she was captured by the Kiowa, and is now set to be taken to kinfolk.  But the journey will be hard, the country is rough, and Kidd, though he knows a lot about national politics, has a lot to learn about making friends.

Tom Hanks is an American treasure and I’ll hear no argument on that fact.  That he would shine in this role was a given, and he delivers up to all expectations; Hanks in Western gear is just a neater form of the Hanks we already thought was neat.  And the girl, Helena Zengel, plays her part well too, the pair of them forcing the feels, drawing audiences in, making the story work, at least for the most part.  But it was the story itself that was the problem, so they were always fighting against the awkward script and the poor production of the film, and they were often on the losing end.  The plot is meandering, the action sequences are terribly directed/shot/constructed/CGIed, and the Odyssey-style journey with adventures in between chapters becomes laughably bad.  And, weirdly, there never seems to be a real point, beyond the obvious morals that the film is trying to shovel, like, “yeah I got it, but you’re telling me there’s nothing more?”  News of the World is bumpy at best, and it’s not like I hated it, it’s more that I was angry that the director wasn’t able to maneuver his way around what I’m sure was a tricky narrative, but also one that the truly gifted could have handled, which, in theory, would have resulted in a movie that we truly liked.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

 


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Sports – NFL Picks 2020, Divisional

Category : Sports

Here are my NFL Divisional picks

(2-4 for the postseason, 163-92-1 for the regular season)

Bye teams: none

 

LAR @ GB

Bal @ Buf

Cle @ KC

TB @ NO

 


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Movie Review – New Order

Category : Movie Review

Director: Michel Franco

Starring: Naian Gonzalez Norvind

Year: 2020

It might be flippant to say, but New Order is just Roma meets The Purge, a film that’s trying to teach us a lesson on Mexican class warfare while also trying to appeal to our sense of entertainment with a chaotic dystopian feel.  But I don’t think the result was exactly what the filmmakers were intending; mixing relevant with irreverent, morals with nihilism, until the entire theme becomes as messy as the paint splatters that feature only for a hot minute, then are discarded like a bad idea.  Director Michel Franco didn’t have a strong hold on this film, it got away from him, and what it ultimately turned into I doubt was his intention.

At a wedding party, Marian celebrates her new life in her parents’ home, surrounded by opulence and loved ones, without a care in the world.  Meanwhile, the city is in growing upheaval, with a violent group of troublemakers preying upon the wealthy, the powerful, the system.  Their symbol is lime green, their anger is real, but hey, life goes on, weddings need attended, and the police will take care of the city’s problem children.  But the threat soon grows and is now at the door, as the party turns deadly and the city burns.  Marian is taken hostage and negotiations begin, but the real war is between the normal and the new, the old world and the potential for something different, but perhaps no less deadly.

If it was Franco’s intention to make this exact movie, then I guess he just has bad taste and/or a bad eye.  But I think it more likely that he simply had a clumsy hand with what was an interesting story to build upon, it just needed a little more care lest it crumble into anarchy.  That was the problem; it all came crashing down so quick, and it wasn’t the set up that was the issue, it was the continuation of the plot, like no one had any idea where/when/why to end up.  I thought there was some good momentum growing, but by the end I really couldn’t tell you what it was that exactly happened.  Maybe that was the point?  Maybe there was a message about our enemies in there, that those in charge want to set us against ourselves, rich poor, black white, east west, whatever, and that their factions are all part of the same death machine that only wants to eat us up, and it won’t be clear to us what’s happening at all.  I don’t know, and I don’t really care, which is not the sentiment that I should have after watching something like New Order, it should have forced me to be invested in the answers to the questions, which simply did not happen.

My rating: ☆ ☆

 


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Movie Review – Minari

Category : Movie Review

Director: Lee Isaac Chung

Starring: Steven Yeun, Yeri Han, Alan S. Kim, Youn Yuh-jung

Year: 2020

I don’t understand how Minari could be so incredibly specific, so very personal, and yet speak to me like it was telling the story of my life; that just doesn’t make sense.  I guess that’s simply good storytelling, great storytelling, to be able to convince your audiences that they also lived this tale, even though it has nothing to do with them.  We find pieces of our own origins in this film, small connections that seem to make all the difference, and that’s how Minari works its unique magic.  It’s one of the very best films of the year, a subtle tale of struggle and endurance, and one that we can all relate to in weird, wonderful ways.

A Korean family moves to Arkansas for work, land, and opportunity, but finds struggles that may break their fragile family bond.  Working in California is a chicken sexing factory, where the females are placed in one box and the males are separated and destroyed, Jacob & Monica move their family across the country to have more space, more chance to advance, and a larger piece of the American Dream.  Their children, Anne & David, try to adjust to the backwoods culture there, and things really become a family affair when their grandmother, Soonja, comes to live with them as well.  This is the story of their fight to stay together and to control their own destinies, a look at growing up within an immigrant experience that is both very common and always one-of-a-kind.

Lee Isaac Chung tells a very personal narrative in Minari, but at the same time he graciously invites us all to share in the memory, and in so doing we all see a bit of ourselves within one or more of the characters, experience one or more of the events like it was happening to us.  How he struck such a balance between his history and our own is a mystery, but perhaps that’s just pure talent shining through.  And beyond then, he was also able to pit tragedy and comedy against one another like Shakespeare himself knew was key to good entertainment, making the lows seem lower and the highs seem towering.  Minari is funny, it’s cute, it’s moving, it’s so sad, and all the while it’s just moving forward, not tricking us into liking it, just bringing us along for the ride.  Alan Kim, who plays David, and Youn Yuh-jung, who plays the grandmother, are such a remarkable pair, they make the film, stealing every scene, even while the passion of the family storyline plays out in the background.  And, of course, Steven Yeun is a rising star, he’s going to be legendary, you can just see it in his eyes and feel it in every role he inhabits.  Minari is Top 5 of 2020 easy, a film of sweeping sentiment and lovely scenery, one to remember for while.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆