Author Archives: ochippie

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Movie Review – Over the Moon

Category : Movie Review

Director: Glen Keane, John Kahrs

Starring: Cathy Ang, Robert G. Chiu, Phillipa Soo

Year: 2020

Over the Moon is what happens when you combine Moana, Abominable, Trolls 2, Lego Movie 2, and some random, chaotic, over-the-top pop culture; the result is not pretty.  Pearl Studios’ first and only film is Abominable, so it’s not a coincidence, they simple took a similar story and hired some Disney guys to make it all work, and that type of “borrowing” doesn’t go unnoticed.  It’s a ripoff in so many ways that it becomes distracting, and it seems like the original content is only there to mess things up further.  Made worse by a hundred different styles tried all at the same time, Over the Moon becomes a bumpy ride that even younger audiences will notice doesn’t terminate somewhere great.

Fei Fei loves her family and the traditions they have always kept, honoring the Moon Goddess in stories and making Moon Cakes in their shop.  But when her mother gets sick, Fei Fei will be challenged to move on, to accept new truths, to deal with loss in a way she wasn’t ready for, and that will prove to be very, very difficult.  Instead of accepting things, she sets out on an impossible quest; to reach the moon in a homemade rocket ship and to bring back proof of the Moon Goddess’ existence.  Well, as far-fetched as it sounds, Fei Fei reaches the Moon and meets the Goddess, but things aren’t what they seem, and her mission will bring her closer to her own self-awareness.

It’s just too derivative, which makes it hard to appreciate.  Moana morals, Abominable characters, Trolls 2 chaos, Lego Movie 2 pop, with still more sprinkled in for good measure: Frozen, Bolt, Next Gen.  It’s a mess, and a mess of the leftovers of other films, which makes it even worse.  There’s nothing original here at all except the music, which is absolutely terrible.  At first, I was pleasantly surprised; it seemed like the film would be a stage musical set in a China, with deep meanings and awesome characters.  Then they went to the Moon, everything became neon, the songs sucked, and the world turned upside down (Hamilton reference, hello Phillipa Soo).  The animation was terrific, that I can point to, and the beginning was great, that I can appreciate.  But the rest not even my kids could enjoy; it was a blunder of bad ideas and stolen content, not even worthy, I’m sad to say, of lesser-Netflix.

My rating: ☆ ☆

 


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Sports – NFL Picks 2020, Week 10

Category : Sports

Here are my NFL Week 10 Picks

(10-4 last week, 84-48-1 for the season)

Bye teams: Jets, Chiefs, Cowboys, Falcons

 

Ind @ Ten

Phi @ NYG

Jax @ GB

Was @ Det

Hou @ Cle

TB @ Car

LAC @ Mia

Den @ LV

Buf @ Ari

SF @ NO

Sea @ LAR

Cin @ Pit

Bal @ NE

Min @ Chi

 


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Movie Review – Moneyball

Category : Movie Review

Director: Bennett Miller

Starring: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman

Year: 2011

Moneyball might be the poor man’s Social Network, but what it lacks in original dramatics it makes up for in star power, tipping the scales toward streamline entertainment, rather than specific, cerebral, mood-driven intensity.  That might sound like too much study for a sports movie, but this isn’t Bull Durham we’re talking about here, this is next level, and it should be respected as such, if not to the same degree as other Sorkin successes.  Still, do you like Brad, baseball, and intense power dynamics?  Then here you go, this film has a ton to offer, even if you care nothing for the Oakland A’s; you don’t have to like Notre Dame to root for Rudy, and it doesn’t have to be Scorsese to be super cinema.

The Oakland Athletics were outspent four to one by the Yankees, they just lost their three best players, they were headed in the wrong direction, and General Manager Billy Beane was asked to do the impossible; build a championship team with no more money, no more talent, and no chance at all.  What he did next was simple; revolutionize the game.  Together with wunderkind Peter Brand, Beane set out on a mission to find players who were undervalued, who were on-base machines, who no one wanted but who had something left to give.  Using metrics and statistics rather than a feel for the moment and star power, the Athletics became great, greater than they ever had the right to be; this is their story.

Aaron Sorkin wrote A Few Good Men, Malice, The American President, Sports Night, The West Wing, Charlie Wilson’s War, The Social Network, Moneyball, Steve Jobs, and Molly’s Game; he knows his way around fast-paced narratives and captivating true stories.  He has a knack for bringing events to life in a way that we haven’t seen before, making even mundane details feel like they carry the weight of the world; he’s a film director’s dream.  Bennett Miller might not be the greatest talent (he’s only done two other films, Capote and Foxcatcher), but handed this script he seemed to know what to do, and that was let the words speak for themselves and the actors do their jobs.  Speaking of, this cast is incredible: Pitt, Hill, Hoffman, Chris Pratt, Robin Wright, and a slew of celebrities in archival footage or in portrayal.  And all that is not even taking into consideration the sports element, the true story arc, the awesome change that Beane was able to work upon the game.  There are some true wow moments in this movie, some awesome insight, and it’s laid out so intelligently, it’s hard to find many flaws.  Digging for some, I might point to a few times the drama felt over-done, or perhaps not high enough for how the event was delivered on screen, but those are quibbles; I think most audiences will sink into this film and revel in the intensity, not find reason to hold off on giving in.  Moneyball is a special movie, with great performances and inherent coolness, and it hasn’t lost its potency because it hasn’t lost its relevance.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight

Category : Movie Review

Director: Bartosz M. Kowalski

Starring: Julia Wieniawa-Narkiexicz, Michal Lupa, Wiktoria Gasiewska

Year: 2020

Well, what else do we have to do other than watch random Polish slasher movies that are new to Netflix; it’s not like we’ve got much else going on.  And slashers can be fun, especially when based on the classic, American, campy traditions of the 70s and 80s; I don’t know if Poland has there own history there, but I assume this director was running with that old chestnut.  Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight sure feels like the killer-at-camp movies we’ve experienced before, which isn’t bad, but it might not be as easy to simply copy it as it seems.  In fact, apparently it’s rather hard, because this film sure didn’t get it right; at least it gave me something to do.

A group of teens is sent to wilderness camp because they are addicted to their devices, and their punishment is no technology in the woods, only nature and animals and all that crap.  It’s supposed to be therapeutic, but they don’t seem concerned with growth, only in hiding their phones and having sex with each other.  But they’ll soon have other concerns, when deformed homicidal maniacs strike camp, and start butchering all the peeps.  Seems there’s a story behind the chaos, and a reason these monsters were born, but all that matters right now to our plucky youngins is surviving the day, which will not be as easy as pressing a button.

It’s not that this movie is terrible, it’s that it offers us absolutely nothing.  It’s the same story, the same format, the same result, which isn’t awful of itself, because we like the genre, this team simple adds nothing to the conversation, makes no original marks, and that’s just too bad.  Call it a homage if you want and leave it at that, fine, but dig any deeper and you’ll start getting bored with the interesting details that you do not encounter, because they simply are absent.  A young girl who will be our hero, the slutty one who will die, the gay guy, the virgin, the counselors, the killers; it’s all standard, but boring as all get out, and not at all worth your time.

My rating: ☆ ☆

 


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Movie Review – Black ’47

Category : Movie Review

Director: Lance Daly

Starring: James Frencheville, Hugo Weaving, Freddy Fox

Year: 2018

Black ’47 is somewhere in the middle of The Proposition and The Nightingale; a bleak, harsh, shocking look at the human condition under the thumb of an evil empire, where homelands turn to frontiers and violence seems the only answer.  It’s another tale of the brutality of the English upon the Irish, this time not in a foreign land, but in Ireland herself, where occupying forces wage war against the very people they claim to be protecting.  It’s hard to watch, and seems so long ago, but we can’t pretend powerful countries don’t still dominate weaker, that they don’t still treat indigenous people like a problem, a pest.  A Neo-Western with a message, this film has some real, raw strength.

Set amid the Great Potato Famine of Ireland in the 1840s, we see firsthand the death and devastation caused by the failure of a single crop, and subsequently by the greed of English landlords who taxed the poor and dying, evicting them from tenant farms to die in hovels throughout the Irish countryside.  A runaway soldier, having fought for the British but now returning home, sees with his own eyes his own loved one’s graves, the brutal killings of his own family members, and vows to seek revenge on those responsible.  What follows is a killing spree seen by locals as justice, not brutality, and when the English send a specially-trained soldier to deal with the problem, he’ll find no aid in Ireland, for her children are now fighting back.

I might criticize this movie for being a little too simple, or perhaps too idealistic; the beloved son returns to his country, he rises up, others follow, lessons are learned, the future remains uncertain, goodnight.  It’s probably more depressing than that, nothing ever really changes, and it’s not a true story of a time when dramatic action really was taken, so it’s more a highlight of the plight of those we might otherwise forget, not a grand epic tale or a dark slow burn.  It even gets rather action-y, and that’s fine, but maybe cheapens the point just a little.  Regardless, Black ’47 is a surprising hidden gem with a hard task that’s achieved admirably well.  It’s very dark, very unsettling, with wonderful moments of clarity and precision, and some excellent overall acting: Frencheville, Weaving, Fox, Stephen Rae, Barry Keoghan, Jim Broadbent.  It’s a Western style that American audiences will understand, just set in a different historic location, and with a little more depth behind the story.  Violent, victorious, and vivid, this a film to see once, but perhaps not one you’ll ever wish to see again.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – Rebecca

Category : Movie Review

Director: Ben Wheatley

Starring: Lily James, Armie Hammer, Kristin Scott Thomas

Year: 2020

I thought there was going to be a ghost in this movie; there isn’t, I hope that’s not a spoiler, I think I was just wrong.  But Rebecca has that kind of feel; wind-swept English coast, an ancient mansion, a dashing rich man with his beautiful new wife, a curious death, boats, dogs, policemen, it’s all here.  It’s very Jane Eyre, but not as good down at bone level where it counts, instead focusing on opulence and dramatics instead of pure spook.  Ultimately, and it seems easy to say but it’s true, this film is an attempt to take an old story, force it into a Downton Abbey box, and hope viewers are looking for more of that formula.  And we may be, I love Downton, but this ain’t it.

A young woman, a ward of the rich Mrs. Van Hopper, traverses the globe with her lady, always at her command, and dreams of someday claiming a better life, of rising above her circumstances.  In Monte Carlo, where the pair are on vacation, she comes across the newly widowed Mr. Maxim de Winter and they fall instantly, insanely in love, leaving Mrs. Van Hopper behind to fend for herself, rushing off to get married because the young are always in such a hurry.  Back in England, at the grand Manderley estate, the new Mrs. de Winter begins to learn more about the late Mrs. de Winter; how she died, who on the staff adored her, what men in the village loved her, and how Maxim is still haunted by her memory.

Ben Wheatley simply doesn’t have the magic touch; can we just admit that?  He’s a mediocre director who can do a passable job, but that’s about the extent of it, and that’s too bad.  He takes a whack at a classic here, and can only muster a lovely period piece, not a masterful original work.  Beautiful, mysterious, interesting, at least for a while, but Rebecca is ultimately a yawn, or at least uninspired.  Audiences will wonder why exactly they watched, because they weren’t given much in return, but the answer is simple; Lily James and Armie Hammer are both so spectacularly attractive, both in looks and in personality, that we’d tune in to see them eat cereal, let alone dress us in cool clothes and talk passionately to each other in awesome accents.  But that’s not enough, we needed more, some substance maybe, not just a cheap tale that lacks any luster; stars are enough to get us to tune in I guess, but not enough on their own to keep us coming back for more.

My rating: ☆ ☆

 


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Sports – NFL Picks 2020, Week 9

Category : Sports

Here are my NFL Week 9 Picks

(9-5 last week, 74-44-1 for the season)

Bye teams: Eagles, Rams, Browns, Bengals

 

GB @ SF

NYG @ Was

Chi @ Ten

Det @ Min

Car @ KC

Hou @ Jax

Bal @ Ind

Sea @ Buf

Den @ Atl

LV @ LAC

Pit @ Dal

Mia @ Ari

NO @ TB

NE @ NYJ

 


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Movie Review – Vanilla Sky

Category : Movie Review

Director: Cameron Crowe

Starring: Tom Cruise, Penelope Cruz

Year: 2001

Vanilla Sky is what you get when you combine American Beauty and Inception, and that’s ignoring the fact that it’s a remake of Abre Los Ojos, released four years earlier.  It’s a giant experiment that plays with art and thrills, and for the most part works, especially when you’re young and fascinated by what filmmakers are willing to do.  Cameron Crowe was willing to play with music and mood and memory, much like Christopher Nolan has always done, and for a director who usually deals with smaller storylines, it was an awful risk.  At the time, critics weren’t fans, although audiences were.  Well, I was an audience member then, I’m a critic now, and I’ve loved watching Vanilla Sky every single time.

Playboy and grown up little-rich-kid Davis Aames watches his life click by one meaningless experience at a time, from lavish parties to dates with celebrities, and he doesn’t seem to have the capacity to take things seriously.  He runs a giant media company, but only cares about himself, until the night he meets Sofia, and his life completely changes.  He falls hard, sees something greater than himself, but the next morning takes a ride with a former lover and gets into an accident that gruesomely disfigures his face.  Coming to terms with his injures and attempting to face Sofia is only the beginning of his problems; his entire reality begins to blur, and he can’t tell treu from false.  When he winds up in jail with a mask over his face, David will have to unravel the truth about what really happened, and try to understand what about his own life in no longer real.

The first thing that jumps out about Vanilla Sky is the cast, which is incredible.  Tom Cruise, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Kurt Russell, Jason Lee, Noah Taylor, Timothy Spall, Tilda Swinton, Michael Shannon; even the not-so-good actors are perfect here, and the great actors are spectacular.  It’s a hell of a fast-paced story, filled in with slow moments of true love and real, unique dialogue, until the entire story is spun out like kite string, with the ending bobbing in the wind ready to go in any direction at any moment.  It’s a wild ride for sure, and you won’t see the oddities coming, they’re too numerous, and they’re so strange, but in the best and most entertaining ways.  The art, the music, the madness, the surprising comedy; this is a movie that marks your life when you see it, perhaps more so when you’re young, but it definitely doesn’t lose steam when you age.  It’ll always fascinate me, even when I watch it more critically, because while there are flaws, there are also wonderful successes.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – Almost Famous

Category : Movie Review

Director: Cameron Crowe

Starring: Patrick Fugit, Kate Hudson, Billy Crudup

Year: 2000

Chalk up Almost Famous as one of those impactful movies that you watch when you’re 17 and it blows your mind, but might not be that wonderful under harsh light and a microscope.  Does it matter?  Did it affect you and you loved it and so it’ll live happily forever in your mind despite its flaws?  Probably, if you’re anything like me, hopelessly nostalgic, that’s how you’ll view it, as a movie that mattered deeply and so can’t really be tarnished by time.  Rewatching it after a few years, sure it has issues, and sure the acting isn’t perfect, but most of me doesn’t care.  Almost Famous still seems magical, because it was, and it doesn’t much matter if the sparkle has worn off; we who adored it, and remember it now, will never be the same.

In the 70s, Rock&Roll was already dying, as the industry spit out the aging stars and the cookie-cutter bands starting churning out the mediocre hits.  But that didn’t matter to William Miller, a boy who was never allowed to listen to Rock as a child; when he grew old enough he knew exactly what he wanted to do with his life, and that was to write about music.  Although he was only 15, his chance came when Rolling Stone read some of his work, and when he stumbled upon the up-and-coming group Stillwater.  Tasked with going on the road with the band and writing their story for the magazine, William instead fell in love with the art of making music, with the people who brought it to life, and with the chaotic world of Rock.

Almost Famous really is one of those films that impacts the young audience, but doesn’t age so gracefully.  Unlike Crowe’s first hit, Say Anything, which only improves like a fine wine, this film lacks the punch if you are no longer young and impressionable; it requires that amount of malleable heart.  But hey, our hearts used to be that squishy before we hardened them, we can still remember those days, so a movie that we loved then can still remind us of our openness then, if, by now, we can recognize more flaws.  Because there are problems, mainly with the acting, because, really, most of these actors aren’t very good: Fugit, Hudson, Crudup, Jason Lee, Zooey Deschanel, Michael Angarano, Anna Paquin, Noah Taylor, Jimmy Fallon, Bijou Phillips, Rainn Wilson, Jay Baruchel, Nick Swardson.  The exceptions are Frances McDormand and Philip Seymour Hoffman, masters both, and they are perfect, but maybe not enough to fill in all the gaps.  But it’s a time capsule with a great soundtrack and an honest feel, with lines you will remember forever, and an every-band quality, like That Thing You Do, which helps us understand that this isn’t the story of one group but every group, not one fan but every fan.  Again, don’t judge it too harshly; you were sappy once.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – Say Anything

Category : Movie Review

Director: Cameron Crowe

Starring: John Cusack, Ione Skye, John Mahoney

Year: 1989

Say Anything isn’t just a feel-good movie, it’s a reminder that feeling good is possible, that feeling good is OK, that dreaming big is not simply adventurous but could be the best thing you could ever do for yourself.  It’s more than a movie, it’s happiness in film form, and rarely is that pure an emotion ever captured, which makes this experience all the more special.  That’s why it stands the test of time, that’s why every time I watch I feel so strongly about it; it’s simply that wonderful.  I could go on for days about this little gem, or you could just go watch it; it’s not just 80s nostalgia, it hasn’t grown old, you have permission to enjoy on whatever level you want, because this is about as pure as it gets.

Lloyd Dobler doesn’t know exactly what he wants to do after high school, but he knows what he doesn’t want to do, and the list is long.  His father wants him to join the Army, but Lloyd’s really into kick boxing currently, so maybe he’ll stick with that for a while.  But, the summer after graduation, what he really wants to do is date Diane Court, the most beautiful girl he’s ever sat near at a mall.  But there’s a problem; Diane is the smartest girl at school, she’s insanely driven, and she has barely any idea who Lloyd is.  He has something he can offer her though; a chance to see the world she’s missing out on, some time to enjoy her youth, and love, plain love, which he gives freely.

It would be an understatement to call this movie magical.  I know it’s sappy, but there’s something special here, something real, and it’s probably just young love put on display in a fictional form that feels like it could be happening to us right now.  Say Anything is beautiful, from the music to the memories it pulls up from your subconscious, and you’ll think you traveled back through your own nostalgia when you’re through, the emotions seem so honest.  This was Cameron Crowe’s first film, and how he got it so right the first time I have no idea, but he did, and he would obviously take off from there, so it’s great to see the beginning, especially when it’s done this well.  Cusack, Skye, Mahoney, Lili Taylor, Joan Cusack, Philip Baker Hall, Eric Stoltz, Jeremy Piven; it’s like a tiny time capsule, full of great era actors and excellent entertainment.  The lines are iconic, the songs are perfection, the mood is marvelous; there’s so much to fall in love with here you could watch a hundred times in a row and experience something new & wonderful with each viewing.  Say Anything is quietly and romantically one of the best movies ever, a modest, magical marvel that I can’t wait to see again.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆