Month: December 2017

Movie Review – The Post

Category : Movie Review

Director: Steven Spielberg

Starring: Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks

Year: 2017

The Post is the hands-down favorite to win Best Picture, and it has been ever since it was called The Papers.  That shows you how preemptively we name the imagined nominees, and also how wrong we can be as film gurus.  Months before we saw any actual footage, we heard “Spielberg, Hanks, Streep” and let out a collective EEP! because we saw the greatness coming a mile away.  And there’s no denying their greatness, these are living legends, we should definitely be excited to see the confluence of their talent.  But, and it’s a big one, monikers don’t make movies, not even unbelievable loads of talent can do that, there has to be a spark to light the fire.  Which is the problem with this film; it’s a damp rag that never had a chance to burst into flame, despite the high-octane it presented.

The Vietnam War meanders on and the U.S. continues to despise its own involvement, the government attempting to convince the public that it’s a necessary struggle while the majority of citizens hate what’s happening over seas.  According to a leaked document, multiple presidencies have been lying to voters about our chances in the War, not wanting for the struggle to be lost on their watch, keeping the tragedy from view by making all information Top Secret.  When the New York Times publishes the coverup, they are halted by the White House, held up in court with only a portion of the truth known.  So Kat Graham, owner on the Washington Post, has a tough decision to make; does she respect the wishes of the government or does she publish, knowing that it could spell the end of her paper?

First, Spielberg, Hanks, Streep, the pieces you expect to be good are good, no surprises there.  Even the side actors are strong, and you won’t be able to point fingers at glaring flaws that keep The Post from being the Best Picture winner it is expected to be.  The topic is relevant, it’s interesting, you can feel the glance to the current presidency, and this is history we should be aware of, with talent to deliver it to us in a way we should appreciate.  However, and this is where it goes downhill, this film is nothing more than fine.  It is a smart movie with absolutely nothing else to offer, a formula we’ve seen before brought to us by the appropriate people, but not mixed with anything sweet enough to draw our love out the way that we expected.  The Post will not win an Academy Award for Best Picture; I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s still nominated, it’s by no means a bomb, but it simply isn’t as amazing as you want it to be.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆



Movie Trailer – Mom and Dad

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Brian Taylor

Starring: Anne Winters, Nicolas Cage, Selma Blair

Release: January 19th, 2018

The only way you could get me to watch this movie would be to tie me up Clockwork Orange style.  I’ve seen bad movies, I’ve seen Nick Cage movies, I’ve seen zombie movies, but god help me, I will not see a combination of the three.

Movie Trailer – The Nutcracker and the Four Realms

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Lasee Hallstrom, Joe Johnston

Starring: Mackenzie Foy, Jayden Fowora-Knight, Keira Knightley

Release: November 2nd, 2018

I really enjoyed Beauty and the Beast; I know a lot of critics gave it a hard time.  And I even understand that, Emma Watson was horrendous, but I was able to enjoy the rest, from the bright reimagining to the original music.  I’m willing to see another Disney film done in the same vein, and I like the duo of directors who they put in charge.  I think this will be something I can watch with my kids but also enjoy myself.

Movie Review – Molly’s Game

Category : Movie Review

Director: Aaron Sorkin

Starring: Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, Michael Cera

Year: 2017

Aaron Sorkin tries his hand at directing, but this is far from his first experience creating fascinating cinema.  He might be the most widely known writer in Hollywood, producing hits for TV and for theatres since the 90s, focusing on politics and true stories with a talent that refuses to be ignored.  A Few Good Men, Malice, The American President, Sports Night, The West Wing, Charlie Wilson’s War, The Social Network, Moneyball, The Newsroom, Steve Jobs; a pretty impressive resume.  He directs Molly’s Game with the same level of skill as he wrote the screenplay, borrowing a little from those that have succeeded before, but not more than the allowable amount for a first-timer, and someone we’ll be seeing much more from in the coming years.

This is the true story of Molly Bloom, the Princess of Poker, who started an empire from scratch and watched it all come crumbling down.  Molly was an Olympic skier, a pressured athlete and probable genius, who could literally succeed at anything she tried her hand at.  When injuries caused her skiing career to come to a crashing halt, she decided that she didn’t want to immediately start law school, so she moved to L.A. to sow some wild oats.  This would lead Molly to the underground world of high-stakes poker tournaments, where she would soon start her own company hosting these events, catering to celebrities and athletes as they gambled away their millions.  But the government would soon turn its watchful eye on Molly and her clients, breaking up the party in epic fashion.

Molly’s Game is very similar to The Big Short, in its style, in its story, and in its speed.  It’s a true tale of money and power, and how fragile that fortress can be, while also focusing on the individuals who get caught up in the collapse.  If you like this format, if you like Sorkin’s way of weaving an intelligent thriller, then this movie is definitely for you.  I wasn’t sure it would be for me, as I’m not a fan of Jessica Chastain, but she delivers her strongest performance to date in this film, completely capturing Molly and her world.  Elba is great as well, Cera is the sneaky imp as usual, and all the side actors bring their A-game.  The only flaw, and it was a huge one, was the addition of Kevin Costner, especially in one key scene near the end, a section that felt stupid, thrown together, and allowed to completely suck.  Sorkin can be forgiven for a few missteps and for borrowing a little from other, successful films, as he’s new to viewing the project from behind the camera.  But Molly’s Game is definitely a smart start, a solid flick, and a nice addition to the best 2017 has to offer.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆



Movie Trailer – Chappaquiddick

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: John Curran

Starring: Jason Clarke, Ed Helms, Kate Mara

Release: April 6th, 2018

This movie is a mistake; of casting, of content, of assumption in our interest.  It’s one giant mistake.  I really liked The Painted Veil and Tracks, but this film won’t work in the way that those ones did, I’m fairly certain.

Movie Trailer – Alita: Battle Angel

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Robert Rodriguez

Starring: Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly

Release: July 20th, 2018

Based on a Manga comic, this film version looks like an odd mix of graphic novel and action flick, of robots and humans in a world gone nutty, of Sin City and Ghost in the Shell.  It’s not my style, so I’ll comment on something that I usually focus on in whichever film I see; the acting.  Christoph Waltz was someone we all thought was a great actor when Tarantino brought him to our screens, but literally every movie he does is either terrible or just annoying.  His talent has yet to transcend, and I’m beginning to wonder if he’s simply not as good as we thought he was.

Movie Review – Call Me by Your Name

Category : Movie Review

Director: Luca Guadagnino

Starring: Timothee Chalamet, Armie Hammer, Michael Stuhlbarg

Year: 2017

Lady Bird is the coming of age drama of the year for you if you graduated in the early 2000s and loved Dave Matthews, Call Me by Your Name is for those who were teenagers in the 80s and fell in love over the summer with someone who was destined to leave & break their heart. Incidentally, both feature Timothee Chalamet, and both are excellent, ranking among the very finest of 2017. While Lady Bird is extremely honest and relatable, Call Me by Your Name is more romanticized and melancholy, but both hit you in your most vulnerable places, leaving an imprint that won’t soon spring back.

Elio is on vacation with his multi-cultural family; they speak English, Italian, French, and a little German in a pinch. His father is an esteemed professor, and each summer, when the family travels to Northern Italy, a research assistant makes an appearance to stay for a few weeks and to help with linguistics, relics, and notation. The newest guest, Oliver, is an amiable American who slides right into the routine, which is half vacation, half archeological dig. Elio falls for Oliver hard, but even in his progressive family he fears the taboo nature of his desire for this older man, as he also fears his own body and the unquenchable urges issuing from it.

From the director of A Bigger Splash comes another, lush, unpredictable, sexual sizzler, but while that film dragged with the weight of its narrative, this one soars with the hopes of youth. You don’t have to relate perfectly to Lady Bird or to Elio in order to appreciate their stories or to understand the drama of their growing up, they present their problems in such a way that each of us can see pieces of ourselves in their experiences. Call Me by Your Name is lovely, just lovely, from the music to the scenery, a pure delight to view. And its characters are immaculately 80s, so extremely well-represented by the actors, so well written into their places. There is a scene at the end, a conversation between Stuhlbarg and Chalemet, father and son, that absolutely blew me away, and might be one of the strongest, most honest, touching moments in cinematic history. That might sound over-dramatic, but that’s this film, an ultra-emotional moment in time that has shards for all of us to claim as our own.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆


Sports – NFL Picks 2017, Week 17

Category : Sports

Here are my NFL Week 17 Picks

(14-2 last week, 145-81 for the season)

Bye teams: none


Car @ Atl

Cin @ Bal

Jax @ Ten


Cle @ Pit

GB @ Det

Hou @ Ind

Buf @ Mia

Chi @ Min


Was @ NYG

Dal @ Phi

Oak @ LAC

KC @ Den


Ari @ Sea


Movie Review – Victoria & Abdul

Category : Movie Review

Director: Stephen Frears

Starring: Judi Dench, Ali Fazal, Eddie Izzard

Year: 2017

Judi Dench was in 1997’s Mrs Brown, a film about Queen Victoria after she lost her husband and how she fell in love with John Brown.  This film is a companion piece to that, picking up years later when Victoria is an old woman, but referencing the past events to keep us in the loop.  Director Stephen Frears has worked with Dench before, in Philomena, and he did The Queen, so he’s got some experience in those areas.  All I’m saying is that there’s no reason that Victoria & Abdul should fail, it was basically veterans coming together to do what they’ve done before.  And it didn’t fail, it’s a fine film, a bit of history as well, but basically not something that needs to be watched.  There are character dramas, sure, movies that give us a slice of life for no reason and we love them for it.  But there are also biopics like this one, in which nothing much happens and we are left wondering why exactly it was we wasted our time watching.

In the last years of Victoria’s reign, she was the morbidly obese Empress of India, titles she would hang on herself, a lumpy old lady awaiting death and going through the motions of ruling the greatest Empire in the world.  India didn’t want England’s overlordship, neither the Hindus nor the Muslims wanted a foreign power to rule their ancient land, but there was little they could do about it.  When Britain said jump they said how high, including a clerk named Abdul Karim, who was ordered to head to London for a special ceremony in which the Queen would receive an important coin from her southern subjects.  It was supposed to be a short trip, but Abdul caught Victoria’s eye, she was curious for the first time in years, and she wanted him to stay to teach her about his homeland.  So began a wonderful friendship between a teacher and a student, a young man and an old women, a dutiful vassal and his royal majesty.

I have my doubts as to the authenticity of this story.  I’m no historian, but the film clearly shows Abdul becoming rich off his relationship with the Queen, and then later having this terrible disease; it’s the weird facts layered upon a romanticized friendship that I find hard to swallow.  I want to trust that these characters were as lovely as they were portrayed here, but I have serious doubts.  Anyway, it’s just a movie, and at the beginning it even says “based on a true story …sort of”, so they’re allowed to paint whatever picture they want to.  Aside from that, the film was rather dull.  You’re left with the feeling that you really didn’t need to know this legend, that it matters not, especially when compared to the much more interesting historical tidbits we could be learning about.  It’s not a love story exactly, it’s not a feel good story either really, it’s partly a comedy, but then it isn’t, so I’m not sure what to think.  Dench is wonderful as always, Fazal is very likeable, there’s nothing specific to point to and mark as ‘bad’, the target was simply missed, resulting in a fine but forgettable experience.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆



Movie Review – Hostiles

Category : Movie Review

Director: Scott Cooper

Starring: Christian Bale, Rosamund Pike, Wes Studi

Year: 2017

You can feel Scott Cooper’s hand hovering over this film’s mood the entire way through, which I think is a positive for critics but a negative for casual audiences.  His films are Crazy Heart, Out of the Furnace, Black Mass, and Hostiles, the only one he didn’t write as well being Black Mass.  That makes sense because it’s my least favorite of the bunch, so label me as a Cooper fan and let’s move on.  I know some people who aren’t, though; I was told rather vehemently that Out of the Furnace was a terrible, boring, depressing, worthless movie, one that I was crazy to give a solid review.  And that’s my point; Cooper’s vision isn’t for everyone, and won’t comply with your solidified notion of what a Hollywood feature should me.  It’s just that, in my book, that’s a good thing.

Captain Joseph Blocker is nearing the end of his military career with the U.S. Army, after years of hunting down Indians for the government and slaughtering anyone he was told to.  Blocker knows that he is a murderer in a uniform, a savage in a savage land whose only tie to sanity is the chain of command.  His last and most difficult mission is to escort a Cheyenne chief, Yellow Hawk, to his ancestral home in Montana before he dies of cancer, an errand Blocker wants no part of.  He fought against Yellow Hawk years before, he knows what kind of cold-blooded killer the Chief is, but duty calls.  He and a select team of men will head out across dangerous country, following the trails to the Valley of the Bears, protecting a dying man along the way, witnessing one more time the terrible tragedies that await anyone who takes a moment to blink, sleep, or feel.

I would say that Christian Bale is such an excellent actor that he can do no wrong, but that wouldn’t be exactly accurate; he has made plenty of bad film choices in his career, and I’m sure he’ll make more going forward.  But Hostiles isn’t one of them; this is one of his great successes, if an extremely understated one.  His role here showcases a restrained demeanor, a deliberate form of acting that can turn some audiences off, but did the opposite for me.  Bale is perfect for Cooper’s style, able to play a character with quite strength so well, able to share the goals of his director and lead the film down the exact right path.  His co-stars were all in as well, the entire group succeeding in smaller ways: Pike, Studi, Stephen Lang, Jess Plemons, Timothee Chalamet, Adam Beach, Peter Mullan, Ben Foster.  The cinematography was beautiful, the Western atmosphere was spot on, and the raw brutality of the time was firmly captured.  The story tended to be a little redundant and unsettling, but then so was the West; an ‘A’ for accuracy.  This isn’t a film for everyone; it’s quite heavy and crafted in a very specific way.  But count me among those who like it anyhow, and count me in to watch Cooper’s next project, Antlers.  It’s a horror movie done in his natural, dark style; should be a rousing good time.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆