Author Archives: ochippie

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Movie Review – The King

Category : Movie Review

Director: David Michod

Starring: Timothee Chalamet, Joel Edgerton, Sean Harris

Year: 2019

The King is a film aimed at a very specific audience, one that loves Timothee Chalamet and Age of Empires equally, and wants to see Timmy play the Agincourt campaign from The Conquerors expansion.  That reference just fell flat if you didn’t play that computer game in 2000, but it’s one of my favorites of all time; I spent (some people would say wasted) countless hours working on civilizations, defeating nations, and reliving history through that game, and I love that this movie brought a lesser-known battle to life in a form I never thought I’d see.  Still, not many audience members will want to see that event take place, with the protagonist played by Chalamet, and done in the style of two movies we’ve recently seen (more on that later), so it’s a bit of a surprise to see it fleshed out in the form of a Netflix original.  But hey, to each his own, and I just happen to check all the boxes, which means I’m on board, although I’m hesitant to recommend you take the same boat.

King Henry IV is close to death, and so dies his efforts to conquer England’s longtime foe, the ever formidable France.  His son Henry, known commonly as Hal, is the next in line, but he’s no King; his younger brother is more his father’s favorite, Hal too busy carousing to take politics seriously.  But as chance would have it, Hal’s brother dies soon after his father, so fate has decided that he must take up the throne.  Soon, Henry V becomes a feared English king, able to sniff and snuff out dissension with brutal swiftness.  He takes up his country’s campaign in France with equal measure, invading their shores and besieging their castles with ferocious speed.  When the Dauphin responds with a great army, Henry and his men stage an outnumbered attack near Agincourt, in what will become one of history’s most famous battles, with English longbowmen and Hal’s ruthless tactics taking center stage.

David Michod shows that he generally knows what he’s doing by constantly casting Joel Edgerton, Robert Pattinson, or both, in his movies; those two are absolutely brilliant, and any director who can see that is, in my book, brilliant as well.  Edgerton, Pattinson, Chalamet, Harris, Ben Mendelsohn; that’s one hell of a cast, The King gets that part completely right, and each man pulls his weight perfectly, even in small parts.  And as I said before, I was set up to like this movie; Chalamet’s acting, Agincourt reenacted, Age of Empires game play right before my eyes, and, in general, a period of time I am mildly obsessed with.  But I can’t imagine this is everyone’s cup of tea, it’s very specific, although well-done, and not everyone will be the perfect target.

Then there’s the lovechild issue; it’s a bit too easy and sloppy to say that a film is simply a mashing of a pair that have come before, but I’m about to say it anyway.  Take Macbeth & Outlaw King, play them simultaneously, and you’ll have The King, it’s eerie, and probably a bit cheap.  This story is based on Shakespeare’s version more than actual history, and plays like the Robert the Bruce tale, so you’ll swear you’ve seen it before, and that’s not to the credit of Edgerton & Michod, who co-write the film; they should probably be docked points.  Regardless, The King is a cool, brooding, muddy succession story, with plenty of blood and battle, so you won’t leave disappointed if that’s what you’ve come to see.  But it does copy too much from two flicks, and it is narrowly aimed at those who already know/enjoy this history, which may not be you.  Netflix made something strong here, something cool, but not exactly original, and definitely not incredibly Oscar-worthy.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – Yesterday

Category : Movie Review

Director: Danny Boyle

Starring: Himesh Patel, Lily James, Kate McKinnon

Year: 2019

Danny Boyle has earned the right to experiment a little, but his bizarre manipulation of cinematic norms (not to mention dimensional shifts) yielded something strange, as Yesterday becomes a movie you wanted to love rather than a film you can respect.  Boyle is a great director, extremely versatile, has a lot to say, but taking a bizarre story and then matching that level of weird with the structure of the film itself was a bad idea from the beginning, and created a ceiling that, sure, was reached, but was never very high.  Yesterday is a fun flick for Beatles fans, a cute love story, and maybe even a nice lesson on life’s odd paths, but it could have been so much more, and so can’t be considered much other than a swing & miss.

Jack is a failed musician by any account, and is considering giving up the gig.  He has a day job stocking shelves, has put 10 years of his life on hold to try to make it big, but can’t book anything other than third rate shows, no matter the tireless effort of his manager Ellie, who is obviously in love with him, though he’s too stuck in a rut to see it.  But things are about to change, beginning with something bad and ending with something stranger than fiction.  One night, the power goes off all over the world for some inexplicable reason, and at the same time Jack is hit by a bus.  When he wakes up, he soon discovers that the world has shifted, and many popular people/products/pop icons never happened: Coke, cigarettes, The Beatles.  When Jack plays Beatles songs from memory for his friends and family, they are blown away, telling him that he’s finally written something the world needs to hear, and so begins a dishonest & meteoric rise to fame, with a guilt at the core that will spoil the whole thing,

It’s a very clever concept, having the world miss out on so many huge cultural impacts, or having Jack transported to another dimension; the details are fuzzy, but they don’t matter in the slightest, this isn’t a sci-fi flick.  It’s a drama about making choices and capitalizing on opportunities, although the ones you pick to move on might not be the ones that would have truly made you happy.  The Beatles music is great, obviously, and there’s not much other music in the film, it’s strangely quiet at times, which I guess was a deliberate choice.  Other choices seemed even stranger, and I didn’t really like the direction that Boyle too the idea.  It was too jerky, too frantic, had too many characters, and he just made bad choices at key moments, which I found startling, coming from a director I trust to do solid work.  The acting was fine: Patel was great, James is perfection in everything, McKinnon was fun I guess.  But the film as a whole just didn’t sit right, it was oddly amateur, or was perhaps simply risky and unusual without the the payoff of working out the way it was intended.  Still, you can’t go wrong with British accents, The Beatles, and Lily James, can you, so it’s not a total loss, just not the total success that was possible.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – A Simple Favor

Category : Movie Review

Director: Paul Feig

Starring: Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively, Henry Golding

Year: 2018

The more I think about it, the closer to The Worst Movie In The World A Simple Favor sidles.  And we should not be surprised; Paul Feig is talentless when it comes to film.  He’s a TV director who has helped craft a few funny moments for The Office, but his films are pure trash: Bridesmaids, The Heat, Spy, Ghostbusters (2016), A Simple Favor (this), Last Christmas (gag).  This is Bottom List stuff, comedy without the comedy, and he thought to try his hand at a murder mystery just for the hell of it?  It’s a wonder anyone in their right mind greenlit this project, even with a trio of young stars on board, because Feig is a proven flop, and I will scream that into the void until proven wrong.  Other than the kinda cool cast, there is nothing to praise this movie for, and the longer you watch it the more you want to go back in time and unwatch it; it’s that insultingly off balance.

Stephanie is a highly-motivated stay-at-home mom who always seems to have the answer, the bakery item, the volunteer sheet, the helium pump.  She also has a mommy vlog with recipes and tips, but what she lacks are real friends, and she’s a widow to boot, so life can get a little lonely.  Until, that is, she meets Emily, who seems to somehow need a friend even though she appears to have everything you could wish for.  Emily is rich, has a high-powered job, a semi-famous husband, great fashion sense, a carefree attitude, a rambunctious son, and the fact that she wants to spend time with Stephanie is frankly amazing.  But it gets strange when she disappears after dropping her kid off with Stephanie, just dropping off the face of the planet.  Where she went and who is in on the crime become questions that Stephanie is dying to answer, even though she quickly becomes too close to the case (and to Emily’s husband).  The events that come next are as random as they are insane, with ups, downs, too many motives, some unknown victims, and so much more than meets the amateur eye.

What’s funny is, at first, I didn’t think A Simple Favor was going to fail, I thought we had something good on our hands, and for the first hour I was hooked.  There was a who-done-it element, the story was strange, the characters were intriguing, Kendrick is so wonderful, Lively & Golding were so handsome, I was in, I was invested, and I was ready to take back all the evil things I had said about Paul Feig.  Then the rest of the movie happened and I was just mad at myself for almost believing.  How many times can one film jump the shark?  I don’t know, but this one must have set some sort of record, because they left no shark unjumped.  Vlogs, twins, tattoos, wires, summer camps, death by Toyota Prius; the final scenes were absolutely hellish.  The story makes no sense when you think back on it, they took a hundred leaps at seemingly random times, and I was left throwing my hands up in dismay and abandon by the end of what was surely the most bizarre two hours I will never get back.

My rating: ☆ ☆

 

 


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Sports – NFL Picks 2019, Week 10

Category : Sports

Here are my NFL Week 10 Picks

(9-5 last week, 81-53-1 for the season)

Bye teams: Broncos, Texans, Jaguars, Patriots, Eagles, Redskins

 

LAC @ Oak

Bal @ Cin

Buf @ Cle

Det @ Chi

NYG @ NYJ

KC @ Ten

Ari @ TB

Atl @ NO

Mia @ Ind

LAR @ Pit

Car @ GB

Min @ Dal

Sea @ SF

 


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Movie Review – The Secret Life of Pets 2

Category : Movie Review

Director: Chris Renaud

Starring: Patton Oswalt, Eric Stonestreet, Kevin Hart

Year: 2019

I blame my kids for making me see this movie.  I was planning on ignoring the first one, it was going so well, but then a screener came in the mail for the sequel, and my kids were so excited that I agreed to watch both films with them, which in hindsight was a bad choice.  It’s not that this franchise is terrible or has something wrong with it or shouldn’t be enjoyed by little tikes, it’s just that there’s so much better animation out there, and that’s what we should be exposing our families too, not this run-of-the-mill, small-minded stuff that has little more to offer than solid visuals and kooky characters.  These movies simply aren’t exceptional or worth much of our time, they only exist for quick fun, and while that’s fine, I’m sad that I got sucked into watching it twice.

Max & Duke have become friends, and have settled into their new lives with Katie very well, thank you very much.  But nothing gold can syay, change is inevitable, whatever cliche you want to use; basically, Max better not get too comfortable.  Katie meets a guy, they have a kid, it’s all very weird, until Max begins to understand that now he has a job to do, a child to love & protect, which gives his life new meaning.  A trip to the farm will help him understand this, while his friends back home in the city go on some adventures of their own that will complicate their own lives.  Gidget kinda becomes a cat, Snowball rescues a tiger, it’s all very complicated, but that’s life, it’s messy, and you shouldn’t even try to predict it.

The sequel is a step back from the original, which is to be expected, since the first one wasn’t that good in the first place.  Kids like it though, that’s cool, that’s fine, there was money to be made, so here we go again.  This time the film splits into three different stories, which I didn’t like, since there wasn’t enough talent to go around for one story in the original film.  And there are some new voices added in as well; the nice Oswalt to replace the evil Louis, Harrison Ford as a brave farm dog, Nick Kroll because that weirdo is everywhere, Tiffany Haddish who I literally can’t stand.  The changes were definitely not improvements, and the plot was over-the-top ridiculous too often, making the entire movie a joke.  If your kids want to watch the first, I say let them go for it, but recommend them away from the second; I could feel a few brain cells escaping through my ears in order to save themselves.

My rating: ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – The Secret Life of Pets

Category : Movie Review

Director: Chris Renaud

Starring: Louis CK, Eric Stonestreet, Kevin Hart

Year: 2016

Saying that an animated movie looked really good can be the equivalent to saying that a person you met had an attractive personality; what you’re not saying is speaking volumes.  Such is the case with The Secret Life of Pets, which doesn’t have a lot going for it, so you might be inclined to search for nice things to point out, since your kids are looking at you expectantly.  It’s simply a throwaway children’s movie with little else to offer but common entertainment, a movie you won’t want to watch with your family, being better off seeing it out of the corner of your eye and nodding every once in a while to show that you’re engaged.

When Katie goes to work, her dog Max anxiously awaits her return, but that’s not the only thing that’s happening behind closed doors; the pets of New York City have entire lives and relationships that their owners never see.  Max has friends, like Gigdget & Chloe & Mel, and they hang out, though their days aren’t exactly exciting.  Things are about to get more hectic though, because Max is about to get a brother.  Well, kind of, it’s more a mutt Katie found, named Duke, and decided to bring home.  Now Max’s whole existence is thrown into chaos, especially when he & Duke lose their collars, get lost, and find themselves prisoners first of the dog catchers and then of a strange group of abandoned animals who live in the sewer.  Getting home won’t be easy, and they’ll have to work together to make it happen, but Katie is waiting, so there’s no giving up.

The visuals really are all I’ve got to praise, and they were great, the movie looks so good, but other than that doesn’t really have a reason to exist.  The dogs-at-home story is cool for a minute, but that’s soon abandoned, and the plot very quickly becomes talking-animals-having-adventures, just like any other dumb comedy that you feel a little bad letting your child consume.  The characters are silly, there isn’t much for adults to enjoy, and the cast is wild and wide open; Louis, Stonestreet, Hart, Jenny Slate, Lake Bell, Hannibal Buress, Ellie Kemper, Albert Brooks, Dana Carvey, Bobby Moynihan, Steve Coogan.  The whole thing is quite juvenile, slightly entertaining, over quickly, so there’s nothing to hate exactly, there just isn’t much to love either, and there definitely isn’t a solid reason to watch.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – Booksmart

Category : Movie Review

Director: Olivia Wilde

Starring: Beanie Feldstein, Kaitlyn Dever

Year: 2019

Sometimes people want a movie to succeed so hard that they ignore its real quality, and, call me old, but that seems to be a problem that’s growing among younger critics.  I’m all for social equality, I’m all for inclusion, I want audiences to be “woke”, but I also think that I have the power to reserve judgement and/or compartmentalize when it comes to opinions on films; I won’t like them just because I’m happy that directors/stars have finally been allowed access to the club.  I’ll applaud that, sure, but I’m still happy to give you two big thumbs down if I don’t like the product you just presented me.  I hope I’m being clear on that, and perhaps this is a phase we go through, protecting content that’s vulnerable because we expect backlash, even if that content isn’t really as great as we want to make it out to be.  I think Booksmart fits into that category; it’s awesome that Wilde made a coming-of-age flick for girls, it’s honorable to fight for that representation, but that alone doesn’t make it a cinematic masterpiece, which is what some excitable viewers want to label it.  Rather, it’s an OK movie that pales in comparison to those it copies off, coming across as wonderfully irreverent but oddly incomplete, like it was crafted too quickly, and perhaps with too much blind applause.

It’s time to graduate high school, it’s time for college life, another fork stuck in the road and all that; congrats to the class of 2019.  For best friends Molly & Amy, that means an end to their productive HS careers and a segue to their similarly studious university years, where they’ll succeed, advance, make a difference, change the world, all good things, all good things.  But there’s one problem; good grades aren’t the only thing that can get you into good schools, money and sports do the trick as well, and they’re finding out, to their chagrin, that perhaps they tried a little too hard and enjoyed their teenage times a little too infrequently.  So the plan is to make up for lost time, and they’ve only got one night to do it, so they’d better get cracking.  They hit the town, attempting to find the ultimate party, but getting sidetracked by various misadventures along the way, until they’ve lost sight of what they were focused on to begin with.  Their friendship will be tested, drugs will be ingested, and they’ll maybe get arrested; oh the places you’ll go, huh?

Just to touch on that greater subject one more time, I like that this movie was made, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it as a film that I critique independent from all it might mean/represent/raise up.  And honestly, I did like it, I liked it a good bit, fun was had, cleverness was observed, I just don’t think it’s nearly as good as you’ve perhaps heard, especially if you heard it from people who are dying for this film to succeed.  Maybe that’s privilege talking, I don’t need to support this project because it doesn’t advance me, and I can recognize that.  But I just have to move forward with who I am and what I have, and I just think this movie had problems.  It’s not completely original, that’s for sure; it’s a mix between Superbad, Lady Bird, Dazed and Confused, but not nearly as strong as anything it pulls from.  It’s hilarious at the beginning, emotional at the end, but the middle majority suffers greatly from dull humor and a pair of young actresses in their mid-20s who were not nearly young enough to be playing these parts.

Additionally, Jessica Williams was awful, Jason Sudeikis wasn’t his usually solid self, the girl always popping up at every party was a stupid idea, and just, generally, weirdly, hard-to-explain-ally, it simply wasn’t wonderful.  It was missing some magic maybe, but it did get me to laugh a good bit, especially early, and this generation’s girls now have a high school comedy to remember, like I have with American Pie I guess, which is something everyone deserves to be able to look back on fondly.  Ultimately, I think you should just go watch Eighth Grade or Mid90s instead, they are so much better, and are also modern low-publicity flicks that need our support.  Booksmart is fine but weak, an attempt at, rather than a successful rendering of, the classic, generational, underliningly meaningful teen comedy.  It borrows too heavily from Superbad, like way too heavily, and can’t reach the same level.  Both movies featured amateur directors, but Superbad was written by Seth Rogen & Adam Goldberg, a pairing that has become something special, while Booksmart had four different writers, which is way too many, and we’ll see where they go from here.  Olivia Wilde might have shown promise in her debut, but it wasn’t a home run, so we’ll be checking back to see what she does next, and if she can improve despite the assurances of too many that she’s already peaked.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – Hocus Pocus

Category : Movie Review

Director: Kenny Ortega

Starring: Omri Katz, Vinessa Shaw, Thora Birch

Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, Sarah Jessica Parker

Year: 1993

I have bad news; Hocus Pocus isn’t good.  I know, I know, I watched it in the 90s too, I have memories of it too, but even then I knew enough to hold Goonies so much higher as a go-to creep-out, to hold back some reservations on HP because it was kinda obviously, and kinda sadly, not that great.  Years later, I’ve now watched it with my kids, and can say that it still makes a very cool Halloween holiday experience, which I think is important, and that it doesn’t have much competition really, unless you want to watch Nightmare Before Christmas instead, which is the much smarter decision.  Basically, I think we can and should hold this classic in our memories, it’s doing no harm, and there’s no reason not to pass it on to our children, there’s plenty of enjoyment to be had.  But we need to stop short of calling this movie anything more than “weak but nostalgic”, because it definitely doesn’t deserve anything better.

In the town of Salem, 300 years ago, three witch sisters were hung and buried for trying to steal the souls of children in order to avoid their own mortality.  Killing kids kept them alive, with the help of a living spell book, but their downfall put an end to their shenanigans, at least for a while.  Legend has it that, if a virgin lights the Black Candle in the witches’ house on Halloween Night, they will come back to the land of the living to search for children once again.  Max doesn’t believe that, but he sure starts to when he, his little sister Dani, and his crush Allison light the candle and meet the sisters, who are as nasty as their preceding reputation.  Now they have until dawn to stop the witches from taking over the town, or the evil hags will live forever, and Salem will be no more.

I hate to say it, but I really do think that we might have been under a spell, like Midler says she’s gonna do in a very bizarre and out of place musical number buried in the middle of an equally strange movie.  Our youth clouded our judgement and we clung to nostalgia; no shame in that, we love the films of our childhood, and we want to pass that along, we just need to be choosy and also be willing to admit it when we notice that some golden oldies don’t hold up as well as others.  Hocus Pocus is weird, muddled, terribly acted, hard even to hear at times, and bounces all over the place until you don’t know which way is up.  I guess that can also be fun, a wild, nonsensical romp, and maybe that’s why we fell in love as kids, but you’re better off holding to that memory than actually opening your eyes now, because you may not like what you see.  I’ve never loved Bette Midler, the kids are terrible, the effects are silly, the only really strong thing that the film has going for it is that it captures the Halloween spirit like few others ever have, other than pure slasher horror flicks.  I can be on two sides of the fence at once here, enjoying the memory and critiquing the film, which puts me squarely in the middle with my rating, I just hope I’ve warned you a little about what to expect, if you choose to take a stroll down memory lane; what you see might scare you, it just might not be in the way you were expecting.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Sports – NFL Picks 2019, Week 9

Category : Sports

Here are my NFL Week 9 Picks

(12-3 last week, 72-48-1 for the season)

Bye teams: Falcons, Bengals, Rams, Saints

 

SF @ Ari

Hou @ Jax

Chi @ Phi

Ind @ Pit

NYJ @ Mia

Min @ KC

Ten @ Car

Was @ Buf

TB @ Sea

Det @ Oak

GB @ LAC

Cle @ Den

NE @ Bal

Dal @ NYG

 


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Movie Review – Midsommar

Category : Movie Review

Director: Ari Aster

Starring: Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, Will Poulter

Year: 2019

Midsommar is incredibly stronger than Ari Aster’s debut, Hereditary, even if critics were too focused on wanting to be obviously scared by horror that they missed noticing the more subtle way the genre can terrify you.  Aster didn’t, and he didn’t listen to all the praise sent his way because of his first film either, didn’t sit back and imagine himself as some sort of wunderkind who could do no wrong.  Instead, he went back to work, delved so much deeper, and gave us something amazing with his second attempt, something that shows a true talent and an impressive ability to cancel out the noise, focus on the art, and refuse to work on the surface where people are more comfortable.  I think the opposite can be said about Jordan Peele; he took the surprising support from Get Out and made something worse in Us, making a film that he thought would please instead of something that had elevation.  Midsommar rises so steeply it even makes us sick, but thrill seekers will only return for more, because you can’t get this high from just any movie.

Near the end of their rocky relationship, college girlfriend and boyfriend Dani and Christian head to Sweden with a group of Christian’s buddies to visit and observe a midsummer festival that promises to be fun, lavish, historic, and eye-opening.  Dani has just suffered a personal tragedy, which has perhaps kept her and Christian together longer than is healthy; he can’t break up with her while she’s down.  She tags along to Sweden, again, because he can’t say no, but it’s obvious the couple is drifting apart; Christian seems uninterested and Dani is just a hot mess, emotionally.  What they’re about to encounter won’t help matters any, because it is also FUBAR, and perhaps deadly is strange, secret ways.  The small festival they attend and research is held in a Swedish commune deep in the forest, where the rules of society do not bind, and the norms of human experience have no place.  So begins a week of celebrating new life, but at a steep price, and it’s anyone’s guess who might make it home alive.

With Hereditary, Aster took a common horror theme and turned it on its head, forcing ghosts and satanic rituals and human hellscapes to fit into his mold, which is why so many critics stood up to applaud.  With Midsommar, he does the same for the campy horror style, with friends going missing one by one, but he changes enough that you’d have to look hard to realize that’s what he pulled from, and by then you’re so invested you’re ready to proclaim him the god of all cinema in general.  Midsommar is a unique take on paganism and isolationism, with so much else being said beneath the surface that it would take months to sort it all out.  It’s a little less scary and/or gruesome than Hereditary, but it will still freak you out, and it draws the story out much more and much longer as well, forcing audiences to wait and work this time around instead of just experiencing.  What succeeded most, and what helped the film to be something more than great, was Pugh & Reynor, the way they played off each other, the effortless way they conversed, the normal manner they behaved in extremely abnormal circumstances, like the proverbial frog in slowly boiling water.  The action simply rose and rose, audiences were sucked further and further in, until it was too late to escape, and our lives would never be the same.  I exaggerate to make a point, but Midsommar really is that intense, that special, not only the best horror flick of the year but perhaps the most spectacular movie of the season, with reasons hiding around every corner why it could legitimately be a multiple-Award contender.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆