Author Archives: ochippie

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Book Review – Room

Category : Book Review

Author: Emma Donoghue

Year: 2010

Donoghue’s novel was adapted into the film Room in 2015, considered by many to be the second best film of the year behind Spotlight, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture.  Room was nominated for four Oscars, Brie Larson winning for Best Actress, so the movie version was a smash success.  I just got around to reading the book, which is based on real events around the globe, specifically a kidnapping case in Austria, while the movie is based in Ohio, where similar real events also took place.  The story is extremely sad, but ultimately hopeful, and the film did the novel justice, especially by sticking to the source material rather well.  But here’s a rare case where the movie is better than the book, the time restraints of cinema working in the plot’s favor instead of destroying its natural rhythm.

In a place called Room, Jack lives with his Ma. They and Old Nick, a man who comes at night sometimes, are the only people in existence. Everything else is just TV; animals, fancy foods, other humans. And outside Room is outer space, a vast sky of nothingness that, of course, isn’t safe. The things in the room are the only things that matter; Lamp, Bath, Sink, Wardrobe. This is Jack’s existence, and the locked door that Nick comes through might as well be a gateway to another dimension. Little does Jack know that he & his mother are captives in artificial space, that she once lived a normal life outside, and that Nick is not their friend. As times grow more desperate, Jack will be sent on a daring mission by his mother in order to earn their freedom, a quest that will take him outside for the first time, an event that will change his life forever.

Sometimes you like what you experience first when it comes to the book vs the movie, and sometimes one is simply better than the other.  In my experience, the novel is usually the better bet, but in this case the film outshone its inspiration, but that might be because the story was desperate to be shorter, not longer.  The first half of the book is inside Room, and that’s where it’s magic.  The writing works wonderfully from the perspective of a little boy, I love the use of his language, and you feel how trapped this pair is, one happily and one despondently.  It’s when they leave Room that the writing begins to feel tedious and unnecessary, like the point was already made and we don’t need to hear more.  The film was like that too; near perfect until Ma & Jack started living outside, by then it was time to wrap things up.  So the limitations helped the movie be better than the book, which started declining about halfway through and needed to be cut off sooner.  Still, it’s a powerful story and a well-orchestrated concept, a book club discussion read if ever there was one, and something I’m glad I picked up.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – Lost in Translation

Category : Movie Review

Director: Sofia Coppola

Starring: Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson

Year: 2003

The Beguiled caused me to hold off on declaring Sofia Coppola as terrible a director as she is an actress, because for the first time I not only enjoyed one of her movies but saw the talent behind it in a very real way.  It should be noted that the film is a remake and stars powerful actors who take complete charge, but Coppola still needs to lend a guiding hand, which she did, so bravo.  I decided to look back at her filmography in case I hadn’t given her enough credit in the past, and I was reminded of Lost in Translation, a movie I never really appreciated or cared for, when critics all around raved. So I gave it another shot, and while I still won’t call it a masterpiece, the style resonated with me much more now than it did 15 years ago.  Maybe I have grown, maybe my taste level has, maybe I was in a different place, who knows, but I’m glad I want back, because this film packs an emotional punch I really appreciated.

Bob Harris is an aging actor who is still known worldwide for his earlier films, and he finds himself in Japan getting paid a ridiculous amount of money to appear in commercials for a certain brand of whiskey.  He’s also taking the job as an opportunity to get away from his real life for a while; the roles aren’t rolling in any more, his wife doesn’t want him around the house all day, and his kids don’t really need a father who is approaching being elderly.  Bob needed a break to figure things out, so the timing couldn’t have been better, even if the stifling actions of the Tokyo support staff are driving him a bit insane.  In the same hotel, young college grad Charlotte is feeling a lot of the same emotions; she married quickly and now isn’t sure that she made the right choice, following her photographer husband around wherever he travels but never feeling like she’s making her own decisions.  She and Bob meet and begin to explore the city together, making a connection that will change both of their outlooks on life.

I remember thinking that Lost in Translation was slow, and it is, but I don’t mind that so much now, when perhaps I did when I was younger.  It’s a deliberate examination of human emotions and our need to connect with others, but also of our inability to find (or at least difficulty in finding) what makes us truly happy.  Bob and Charlotte are both lost, find each other, help each other, and can walk away refreshed by meeting someone who is like them, by learning that they are not alone, and that’s a beautiful thing to watch.  Coppola gets us there eventually, but it takes a while, and there are moments where boredom can creep up if you’re not being diligent.  Johansson was so young in this movie, and she wasn’t her best, I’ve seen her do better, but I’m not sure I can say the same for Murray, who will blow you away with this layered role.  He was hilarious and heartbreaking, the perfection combination of comedy and tragedy, and the film would probably have failed without him.  But I’ll give Coppola some credit; she might not have been as mediocre in the past as I thought, and this story shows that.  It might never reach the top of my List, but I understand this film more now than I did when I was 20, which I guess shouldn’t be surprising.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – I Am Not Your Negro

Category : Movie Review

Director: Raoul Peck

Starring: James Baldwin

Year: 2016

Nominated for Best Documentary at the 2017 Academy Awards, Not Your Negro is a look at the American civil rights movement through the eyes of James Baldwin, a writer who watched his contemporaries Martin, Malcolm, & Medgar die, and who had a unique & powerful perspective on the plight of the US, how its division would be its destruction.  Using historical footage and an unpublished commentary of Baldwin’s, this documentary pieces together the struggles of a black community fighting for equality and a white community refusing to face its fear of change.  It’s a brutal view of an America that we don’t want to admit exists, and a frightening shock when we see how little is different even after 50 years.

James Baldwin was a writer from New York who didn’t label himself as a political motivator, wasn’t a part of the influential parties of the time, but who was simply a black man witnessing the hatred and the subjugation directed toward his color by those whose ancestors brought his to this country as slaves.  He knew MLK, Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, he worked alongside these men, and though his methods were intellectual, not political, he was fighting the same fight.  He watched them die and the ignorance of white privilege live on, and he spoke on the need for white people everywhere to face their racism, for changing their point of view was the only way that black men in this country would ever really be considered part of mankind.

Not Your Negro is an extremely powerful documentary, Baldwin’s words echoing on through the years and addressing the exact same issues we see today; a depressing realization when you notice that nothing has changed.  Yes, we have “equal rights”, yes we had a black President, but Baldwin knew that the only way we would ever be equal would be after the white majority understood its own fears and hatreds, spurned them by choice, and began seeing each human as a part of humankind, not a threat to their wealth and power.  The film is narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, whose voice hardly sounds like his own, it is spoken with such soft reverence and reflection.  It’s heartbreaking to hear Baldwin’s words, to know how he saw the situation so accurately and was so powerless to change the game.  The movie mixes old footage and new, highlighting our failure to change, and is more educational than hopeful, which might be hard to swallow, but is too true to deny.  It moves slowly at first, but builds into something special, something that needs to be witnessed.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Sports – 2018 NFL HOF Game

Category : Sports

The NFL Preseason kicks off today, Thursday, August 2nd at 8pm on NBC.  The game is between the Chicago Bears and the Baltimore Ravens, and will be played at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium (formerly known as Fawcett Stadium) in Canton, Ohio, right next to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  I’ve not been to the Hall in years, but I was lucky enough to go to one HOF game, Colts vs Redskins, and it’s an experience to remember.  The stadium is so small, the audience can get up close & personal with the players, and the game begins to feel very exciting very fast.  I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for some football!  Here’s a look at the teams that will be playing tonight:

Chicago Bears – Last season was a “rebuilding year” for the Bears, which also describes basically every single season for Chicago since their improbable trip to get pummeled in the Super Bowl vs Indy back in Peyton’s hay day.  Last year, the Bears drafted Mitch Trubisky to be their franchise quarterback, and this will be his first opportunity to step into the season as the leader of the team, to prove to critics that he and Chicago have what it take to get back to the playoffs.  It won’t be easy, as the NFC North is one of the toughest divisions in football: Green Bay has Rodgers the future HOFer, Minnesota has Cousins and an amazing defense, Detroit has Stafford the no-quit kid.  This team is probably a few years away from real contention, but there are a few reasons to like where they are heading.  As a pair of RBs, Cohen & Howard have the potential to be the best in the league; the same could be said for WRs Kevin White & Allen Robinson, if they can stay healthy.  Trubisky has weapons, and the defense is improving as well, with the addition of rookie LB Roquan Smith, who can be plugged right in and can make a big difference.  Results may not come over night, but this is a team that’s on the ups; let’s see what they can do on the big stage in the first preseason game of this new and exciting season.

Baltimore Ravens – The Ravens made a statement in the first round of the 2018 Draft by selecting TE Hayden Hurst and QB Lamar Jackson.  Hurst will step in right away, Jackson will ride the bench behind Flacco, but the offense has been put on notice; this isn’t the 2000s era Ravens, the defense is not going to take you to the Super Bowl, the offense has got to step up.  We could see the end of the Flacco dynasty soon if things don’t change in Baltimore, if they don’t start winning what isn’t really a stellar division.  The Steelers are always on top, the Bengals are always in the middle, and the Browns actually seem to be improving, so it’s time for the Ravens to make some big gains or change things up.  Word is that Flacco is having a great camp so far and has perhaps had a fire lit underneath him with the selection of Jackson; that’s great news, now he just needs to turn that fire into wins.  They could come, the Steelers aren’t unbeatable, and Baltimore could take the AFC North, the offense simply needs to put up more points.  The WR trio of Michael Crabtree, John Brown, & Willie Snead should help, and the Ravens might show some flashes this season, as they look to stay relevant.  Perhaps we’ll get a sneak peek Thursday Night in Canton.

 


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DVD Review – Rampage

Category : DVD Review

Director: Brad Peyton

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Naomie Harris, Jeffrey Dean Morgan

Year: 2018

When your only real and necessary goal is to be better than San Andreas, you’ve succeeded in placing the bar so low that almost anything you produce will be a stunning hit by comparison.  And I’m only knocking San Andreas slightly; it was an entertaining disaster flick, though not even close to a commendable disasterpiece.  Rampage only had to be marginally better, only needed a slightly better script, only had to cast slightly better actors to work alongside the natural charisma that is The Rock, in order for us to stand and applaud.  I’d say it got about halfway over the line it was aiming to cross before falling limply on its side and passing out, which is just another way to say that Brad fixed some problems from he and Dwayne’s other attempts, but not all, not by a long shot.  Rampage is still problem-ridden, and yet still a good time; this genre is frustrating if only because audiences are programmed to enjoy the destruction, we just wish the destroyers would do a better job.

The Movie

Davis Okoye is a primatologist in San Diego working with gorillas, some of which he saved directly from the poachers traps.  Animals are his passion, and he finds that he has a difficult time relating to people; how they lie, how they ruin, how afraid they are, how quick to anger.  His best friend is an alpha male named George, who he rescued as a baby, and who he can talk with though a series of signs.  When a corporate experiment in space goes haywire and destroys its station, some of its pieces crash back down to Earth, one of them right in George’s enclosure.  Suddenly, this peaceful creature is now an aggressive monster, one that is growing in size every hour.  Davis and a disgraced scientist, Dr. Kate Caldwell, will have to figure out what changed George and how to halt his growth before he’s too big to stop.

Two more animals were affected by this debris as well: a wolf from the northern Badlands and an alligator from the Everglades, each responding to the experimental formula in a unique and deadly way.  When the owners of the corporation responsible realize what has happened, they call the creatures to them using a high-tech device, intent on harvesting the internal biological technology from the animals and selling it to the highest bidder.  Davis and Kate need to race against time if they want to reach Chicago first before George does, before the ever-growing animals destroy America’s cities in their ever-blossoming rage.  Soldiers are on their way to do what they can with the weapons at their disposal, but their firepower may not be enough, and we all may already be screwed.

I played Rampage as a kid; it was one of my favorite NES games.  My sister and I would rent it from the local store, play for hours, and then we’d have to leave it on all night, because at that time there wasn’t a save function.  When we got back on the system in the morning, it would be red-hot and buzzing badly, but we’d finish the game, take over the U.S., and feel pretty accomplished.  She was always Lizzy, I was George, so this movie speaks to that kid in me, that nostalgic piece that will always remember the good times I had with this game.  The film version does a great job of recalling the destruction and the chaos surrounding the game play; climbing buildings, punching holes in them for no reason, stomping tanks, dodging airplanes, crashing down with the rubble.  I even spotted the arcade version in the office of the villain, so good on the filmmakers for letting me relive a sliver of my childhood.

Now for the movie, which is basically so bad it’s good.  San Andreas was cheesy and unbelievable; Rampage is more fake, which makes it more fun.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s a terribly simple and ridiculous plot filled with some of the worst dialogue you’ll ever hear, but it’s also full of goofy moments and pure mayhem that make the experience of watching worth the time.  Some of the worst lines were saved for Malin Akerman, who was the cunning head of the evil corporation.  She and all of her words were so bad you’d think George wrote them; I would swear that someone was sabotaging her career, but I’ve already seen her in enough to know that her talent level has done that itself.  The Rock was cool, as always, he was a good hero, he and George worked together as characters, and, again, the plot was so silly and easy and linear that it kinda worked.  Buildings fall, Chicago is attacked by a crocodile, people are eaten; not a bad way to spend an evening, especially if you are a fan of the original content and are ready to root for a little absurdity.

The Blu-ray

 

Video – With an aspect ratio of 2.40:1 (16×9 1080p HD) and shot using an Arri Alexa 65 camera, an Arri Alexa Mini camera with Panavision Primo, Primo-V, G-Series, T100, T150, AWZ, and ATZ lenses, and an Arri Alexa SXT camera with Panavision Primo, Primo-V, G-Series, T100, T150, AWZ, and ATZ lenses, the video quality of this Blu-ray disc is pretty phenomenal.  The picture was clear and cool in theaters, but it lost nothing in translation to video.  The creatures were animated with stunning detail, they’re better than I could have possibly imagined they would be, all those years ago; this team should be very proud of their entertainingly over-the-top film.

Audio – The Blu-ray was done in Dolby Atmos-True HD, with choices of English DTS-HD Master Audio, English Descriptive Audio, and French, Spanish, and Portuguese dubbing.  Subtitles are also available, in English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese.  The audio of the film is strong as well, with a score that smooths the transitions between scenes.  The balance between action and dialogue is nice, and the music really is pretty well-orchestrated, so points for the technical aspects.

Extras – There are a ton of bonus features on this disc.  Not Just A Game Anymore, a 6-minute look at the adaptation of the video game.  Deleted Scenes, a 10-minute bonus footage segment.  Gag Reel, a 2-minute bloopers show.  Rampage: Actors in Action, an 11-minute behind-the-scenes peek.  Trio of Destruction, a 10-minute feature on the creatures.  Attack on Chicago, a 10-minute breakdown of the big action scene.  And Bringing George to Life, a 12-minute motion capture education.

Final Thoughts

Recommended.  If you loved the old arcade or NES game, this movie is for you.  Literally, it was made with you in mind, the people who used to play the game, who used to knock San Francisco flat just because they could.  It’s a fun adaptation, they got the spirit just right, and Dwayne Johnson was the perfect choice for the lead role.  His charisma works with b-movies like this, that are trying to be so bad they become good.  He can’t always do it on his own, but his skill is enough here, because the pieces around him are just solid enough as well.  The action works, the animation is cool, and the Rock rocks; what more do you want?  Rampage isn’t spectacular, obviously, but it is a little awesome, if you can find it in yourself to enjoy this type of nonsense.  The video is well done, the audio actually works, and there are a boat-load of extras, so the technical side of the film deserves a high five.  I’ve seen this movie a couple times now, and it improves when given the chance; I recommend that you do just that.

☆ ☆ ☆ – Content

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Video

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Audio

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Extras

☆ ☆ ☆ – Replay

 

 


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Movie Review – Apollo 13

Category : Movie Review

Director: Ron Howard

Starring: Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, Kevin Bacon

Year: 1995

Apollo 13 was nominated for 9 Oscars, winning 2, and easily cemented itself as one of the best movies of the decade, a pillar of Hollywood that might have been even stronger than the actual quality of the film.  Don’t get me wrong, this is a fantastic feature, one of Tom Hanks’ best, and a complete 90s icon.  But after a modern rewatch, a few flaws emerge, which I will never hold fully against the film, simply because it’s so definitive.  It’s a space movie, a sci-fi action flick, a drama, a history lesson, a look at man’s endeavors in a field which we will never completely understand; there’s a lot going on here beyond checking boxes and coming up with a composite rating.  I guess what I’m trying to say is this; Apollo 13 is great, always will be, despite not being as great as we remember.

After the United States successfully landed on the Moon, the public began to question whether its space program was really necessary, whether the government needed to be spending the money on going back to a rock that we already stamped our foot upon.  But as attention waned, the program still forged ahead, manning Apollo missions to our neighboring orbital body for study and for research.  For Jim Lovell, the 13 launch was a chance to make a dream come true, to walk on the Moon one time in his life, to captain a crew that did something that very few humans had ever done before.  But the mission was cursed from the start, fitting its unlucky number, and its team would never reach their destination.  Even their return home after abort was questionable, as they quickly became lost mariners in space, trying desperately to come back to Earth.

Ron Howard is a cheesy director, that’s just his style, that’s how he crafts his films, and it’s fine but it’ll never be my exact taste.  He gets really sappy with his stories and his characters, his films becoming dramatic icons but not perhaps stirring masterpieces.  Apollo 13 is a prime example, a really great and high-quality film but not something that will shock you with emotion and with content.  Maybe the word I’m looking for is “approachable”, Howard’s films are approachable, movies for everyone, beloved classics even, just not critical wonders.  Hanks is strong, obviously, he always is, he could helm a three-hour film about plankton and we’d watch it, because we’d be sure he’d pull off the impossible.  And his supporting cast is pretty impressive too: Bill Paxton, Kevin Bacon, Gary Sinise, Ed Harris.  The images and the music from this movie are legendary, but I did find that the pace dragged a bit, watching it back, and that the same dramatic set up was used too often to be believable, resulting in my investment waining from time to time.  Still, Apollo 13 is Apollo 13, it stands on a pedestal all its own, and will probably remain there for all time.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – Get Smart

Category : Movie Review

Director: Peter Segal

Starring: Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway, Dwayne Johnson

Year: 2008

The greatest thing about Get Smart, at least now, is knowing how incredibly famous the three stars of the film will become, and how legendary some of the veteran side actors still are to this day.  It’s the cast that makes the film, because it’s definitely not the comedy.  The old TV show was fun, silly, good for its time, but probably shouldn’t have been made into a modern feature film.  Oh well no one leaves well enough alone these days, so here we are with  a mostly unfunny film version, which we needed about as much as a third nipple.  Still, it isn’t all terrible, and now we can look back ten years in the past on the earlier parts of the careers of these superstars as smile.

Secret Agent Maxwell Smart is tired of working behind a desk as an analyst, he wants to get into the field as an operative, where he knows he can really make a world of difference in Control’s fight against the evil Chaos organization.  His skills are unquestionable, but he’s a bit of a screw up, and would probably be as likely to shoot himself as his enemy if a confrontation even came to a firefight.  But sometimes you work with what you’ve got, and when Control HQ is attacked, Max is paired up with sexy Agent 99 to head to Russia and discover Chaos’ secret plans.  Max knew he’d have to face his fears and step up to the plate in order to make Control proud, but he never dreamed he’d fall in love on the mission as well, a sticky situation that he has no idea how to resolve.

The show was entertaining, if you’ve ever caught a rerun, but it was a far cry from exceptional.  The movie version doesn’t really compete or even do the program justice, barely registering as funny and mostly bordering on stupid.  I can only think of one laugh-out-loud scene, when Max is in the airplane bathroom shooting himself with tiny, painful darts, and that’s only funny in the way that 40-Year-Old Virgin already was.  The rest is mostly stupid and never super original, resulting in a film that you could describe in the same way.  Carell is naturally gifted, he doesn’t lose that, so that’s always hovering over the movie.  And Hathaway is one of my favorite actresses, a chameleon who is also stunning, a true Hollywood megastar.  The Rock is pretty terrible in his role (he was still learning), but the side guys make up for it: Alan Arkin, Terence Stamp, James Caan, Bill Murray.  There’s really no need to watch Get Smart if you missed it a decade ago; you didn’t miss too much.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Trailer – I Think We’re Alone Now

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Reed Morano

Starring: Peter Dinklage, Elle Fanning

Release: September 14th, 2018

I wish we had more, because this isn’t a giant blockbuster that you can tease us about because we’re already salivating and already know the whole story.  This is a film you’re going to have to convince us to see, via a stellar trailer and some good buzz from a film festival.  I don’t know, I just think this little snippet wasn’t near enough and failed to do its job.


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Movie Trailer – Hunter Killer

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Donovan Marsh

Starring: Gerard Butler, Common, Gary Oldman, Linda Cardellini

Release: October 26th, 2018

Holy dumbbells and dipshits this looks awful.  Don’t get me wrong, I understand it, I’ve seen/enjoyed bad submarine movies before, they’re catchy and fun, you’re not alone.  But this one has just jumped the shark, or should I say blown it up with a torpedo while showing “Ooorah!”  Gerard Butler is terrible in these action movies, which is too bad, because he’s actually a good actor, he just does crap too often to be taken seriously.  Avoid this ridiculous “thriller”; all you’ll get is seasick.


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Movie Trailer – Slender Man

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Sylvain White

Starring: Joey King, Annalise Basso, Julia Goldani Telles

Release: August 10th, 2018

Joey King needs to stop doing terrible movies like this and Wish Upon because she’s better than them, and I’m tired of everyone other than me not knowing it.  I like to think that I discovered her; it’s been well-documented that I’ve claimed that many times.  So I always wish her the best, I just need her to pick better films, because someone is steering her in the wrong direction.