Month: October 2020

Sports – NFL Picks 2020, Week 8

Category : Sports

Here are my NFL Week 8 Picks

(9-5 last week, 65-39-1 for the season)

Bye teams: Washington, Cardinals, Jaguars, Texans


Atl @ Car

Pit @ Bal

LAR @ Mia


Min @ GB

Ind @ Det

LV @ Cle

Ten @ Cin

NE @ Buf

LAC @ Den

SF @ Sea

NO @ Chi

Dal @ Phi



Movie Review – Big Daddy

Category : Movie Review

Director: Dennis Dugan

Starring: Adam Sandler, Cole Sprouse, Dylan Sprouse

Year: 1999

Adam Sandler seems able to make three different kinds of movies at will: the best acting you’ve ever seen, the most horrible thing you’ve ever seen, or the most endearing thing you’ve ever seen.  And it does really look to be intentional, like he can go in knowing what quality tier he’s aiming for and hit the mark every time.  Maybe he’s a genius, or maybe that’s going too far, but the man knows what he’s doing, and he’s made millions of dollars turning the joke on us somehow; I guess more power to him.  Big Daddy is definitely a film in the third category, a ridiculously bad flick that doesn’t care a bit, because it trusts that it can rely on heart & likeability to make it through to the end, and it’s one hundred percent right.

Sonny Koufax is a loser; even he knows it, although he doesn’t seem to care.  He’s been living off a settlement for years, works part-time at a toll booth, quit being a lawyer, doesn’t wake up before noon, eats mostly cereal, sometimes takeout, likes to go to the park to trip roller bladers, and generally sucks at life.  His girlfriend is about to leave him, his best friend is moving to China, things are falling apart; but in walks Julian.  The kid is five, his mom abandoned him, and somehow Sonny thinks that taking care of the little tike will be both easy and a way to get people to take him seriously.  Turns out raising a child is a bit harder than Sonny thinks, but it’s also more rewarding, and could be the exact challenge he needs.

Sandler is such a lovable goofball, at least I think so, and he always seems to find a way to get me to like him, even if he’s often the worst actor on the planet.  But, again, when he decides he wants to be he can be the best in the biz, it’s bananas, but that’s his prerogative apparently, turning in perfect performances or completely asinine romps at will.  Big Daddy is like if you got all your friends together, put on a skit, and sold it to Hollywood for a boatload of cash; but if you did it, you wouldn’t have Sandler and the Sprouse Boys, who were all so damn cute in this movie that they’ll break your heart into tiny pieces.  It doesn’t make much sense, this isn’t a good film, it’s pretty dumb actually, but you can’t overemphasize how important likeability is, and how often we fall for it.  God, look at the cast if you want any proof that we shouldn’t like this product: Joey Lauren Adams, Jon Stewart, Leslie Mann, Alan Covert, Rob Schneider, Kristy Swanson, Steve Buscemi, .  But we do, that’s the point, Sandler is in our blood, and we mostly choose to let him stay there because, well, the guy makes us giggle.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆



Movie Review – Texas Chainsaw (2013)

Category : Movie Review

Director: John Luessenhop

Starring: Alexandra Daddario, Scott Eastwood, Dan Yeager


If The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was an experiment that went surprisingly right, Texas Chainsaw is a knockoff brand that got everything wrong, down to the title spelling.  I don’t care if it’s supposed to be ‘chainsaw’ (actually I think perhaps both are right, live dwarves and dwarfs); the original went with ‘chain saw’, and to try to pay homage to that film yet change the spelling of that iconic title just seems wrong to me.  But I digress; it’s time to talk about just how bad this movie is.  Because it’s notably terrible, even for a horror flick, even for a b horror flick, even for a b horror sequel, even for a dang blasted b horror sequel about a guy who likes other people’s face skins.  It’s bad, worse, and then slap-your-head stupid; there’s not much else to say.

Heather gets the surprise news of a lifetime; her parents aren’t her parents.  She’s from another family, in Texas, and she has just inherited an old manor home in the middle of nowheresville.  She and her friends head down to check it out, plus a young hitchhiker: Heather, Ryan, Nikki, Daryl, and Carl.  Soon they will each be dying off one by one, because Heather is about to learn a few secrets about her family, and they include a chain saw murderer who likes to chop people up into pieces.  Can she survive the night?  Probably, since she’s a final girl, but it sure won’t be easy, since there seems to be some more to this tale than just that of a family of wackos in the woods; hidden coverups that make evil of Leatherface look like kid’s stuff.

Oh dear, oh gosh, oh my it’s bad.  It’s actually so horrendous that it’s painful, and that’s saying something, since the original Texas Chain Saw is one giant attempt to fuck you up, to the point that you never want to watch another movie ever again.  But that was intentional, it pushed boundaries on purpose, that can be respected; this one was too stupid for its own good, like accidentally driving a Segway off a cliff when you’re the owner of Segway.  That’s an apt metaphor, even if it’s unkind to the dead, since this film fell down more times than I can count, always out of its own unintentional idiocy.  It tried to be kind to the original, but then forget what to do to be an actual, entertaining film, or perhaps went in never knowing.  Lussenhop is a terrible director, the plot made no sense, the only bright spot was Daddario (who is pretty talented and pretty pretty, and who would go on to better things), but she wasn’t nearly enough to save the day.  I won’t tell you the ending, of course, but be prepared to slap yourself upside the head for being dumb enough to watch to the end; it’s a finish we deserve only because we gave Texas Chainsaw more than a passing glance followed by a hard pass.

My rating: ☆



Movie Review – The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

Category : Movie Review

Director: Tobe Hooper

Starring: Marilyn Burns, Paul A. Partain, Allen Danziger

Year: 1974

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is a pioneer of the grotesque, a horror explorer that went places that made us very uncomfortable, and that’s why we still applaud it loudly.  That doesn’t mean it won’t make your stomach turn, but there’s a reason this film is regarded as a icon, not just a cult classic, and it’s still apparent today.  That is, if you can get pas the cheesy 70s acting, clothes, mistakes, rigamarole, the whole works; but if you can there’s a sneaky-good horror flick hiding somewhere underneath.  This movie started a franchise, the franchise changed the landscape, and the landscape remains affected, so credit where credit is due, even if Texas Chain Saw‘s not for you.

Five young people go on a road trip through Texas, and it won’t end well.  Sally, Franklin, Jerry, Kirk, and Pam are checking on a disturbance at a graveyard, where bodies were dug up and arranged for no apparent reason.  On the route, they come across an old slaughterhouse, and revel creepily in the gruesome acts performed there.  They also pick up a strange hitchhiker, who cuts himself, others, lights fires, and then gets thrown out of the van.  Reaching there destination, an ancient family farmstead, they go their separate ways to explore, but soon find themselves in real danger of true evil.  A nearby plot of land hides a sinister secret, and a man with a chain saw makes short work of any meat that stumbles his way.

It’s gross, don’t think about it too much.  But it’s also masterfully done; how uncomfortable we feel, how sick it makes us, how bizarre the villains are, like the main characters stumbled into hell without knowing how.  It’s zany and at the same time disturbing, like a bloody, vomitous nightmare, but, hey, some people like that, they’re called ‘horror fans’.  It’s not for everyone, but if you get get past the bonkers facade there’s some real talent underneath.  Well, some real cinematography and art directionmaybe, not any real acting or writing.  You don’t really need to hear it at all, you could listen to chain saw buzzes the entire time and not miss a thing.  It’s 70s, it’s silly, it’s weird, it’s wild, but it’s also kind of brilliant in its own way, and sticks with us all these years later because it may just have broken some important ground.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆



Movie Review – The Social Dilemma

Category : Movie Review

Director: Jeff Orlowski

Starring: Tristan Harris, Tim Kendall, Justin Rosenstein

Year: 2020

I already knew the internet was a problem, but I’ve never seen it put quite so bluntly and collectively as in The Social Dilemma, a documentary that everyone should see but that no one should be surprised by.  To tell my own story, my wife is a therapist who very often works with teenagers who have encountered extremely serious problems with the internet and social media: online addiction, video game addiction, cyber-bullying, virtual sexual assault, and more and worse.  I already know how mind-altering computers and phones can be, that’s why my kids have limited screen time and aren’t getting personal devices any time soon.  But that doesn’t mean that everyone knows the data that I do, or that we all can’t learn from people who actually built the system and designed it purposefully to take over our brains.

The Social Dilemma is a documentary with the purpose of exposing the secrets behind Silicon Valley’s real scheme; to addict us, to use us, and to make money off us.  We are the users, like we are taking a drug, we are the product, like we are being sold to companies, and we give this of ourselves willingly, often not understanding the consequences of our online actions.  Many experts come together here, many former high-up employees from companies like Google, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. to help us understand the truth; that our addiction to our phones was planned, and that the computers that run the systems are smarter than we are, which makes it unlikely that we will ever find a way to escape.  It’s a sobering look at things we take for granted each day, and a bold proposal that we start limiting the entities that market our minds, before it’s too late.

Again, I already knew this.  I know about the effect that screens have on our brains, how we’re drawn in, how A.I. is developed to keep us there, and to keep us coming back when anything in our real lives takes us away.  I know how bad this is for kids, how it’s not much better for adults, and how we’re growing so that we can’t live without it, even though we really should.  The quest for artificial intelligence used to be a quest for the improvement of humanity, a smart machine that would help us because it was better than us.  That adventure is only science fiction now though, because companies (which is where the money for research comes from) have found a better use for computers that can think for themselves; taking advantage of humans in order to turn them into profit.  But, even knowing all this, even if I feel like I have a pulse on it, it’s still helpful to see it condensed and brought together, to feel like we’re not along in the struggle to be modern but also sane.  The film does a nice job of letting experts tell the story, although it does muddle its message by adding in a “dramatic enactment” element that I didn’t find necessary.  Then again, people don’t watch documentaries, so maybe the filmmakers were smart to give us a little hook so a larger audience would tune in.  The Social Dilemma is a message we all need to hear, if not brand new information; at least it’s taking a stance and saying something, giving options about what we can do next, instead of simply accepting things how they are.  Technology can be a blessing, but we can’t let it take us where it wants to go, and we can’t let a few spurred by greed dominate the path of our collective existence.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆


Sports – NFL Picks 2020, Week 7

Category : Sports

Here are my NFL Week 7 Picks

(8-6 last week, 56-34-1 for the season)

Bye teams: Vikings, Dolphins, Colts, Ravens


NYG @ Phi

Pit @ Ten

Dal @ Was

Buf @ NYJ

Car @ NO

GB @ Hou

Cle @ Cin

Det @ Atl

Sea @ Ari

Jax @ LAC


KC @ Den


Chi @ LAR


Movie Review – The Evil Dead

Category : Movie Review

Director: Sam Raimi

Starring: Bruce Campbell

Year: 1981

Sam Raimi is an icon: Darkman, The Quick and the Dead, A Simple Plan, For Love of the Game, The Gift, Spider-Man 1, 2, & 3.  But it all started with a ludicrous horror experiment that turned into a trilogy that became something more than cult; it grew so big it became religion.  The Evil Dead is a masterpiece of the grotesque and abnormal, a genre test-run that somehow did more than just show us what can be done but how it can be done as well.  It’s not exactly accurate to call it good, because it’s not, which becomes too cliche too fast; “it’s so bad it’s good.”  But perhaps that easy fallback has never been so right.

A group of young friends travel into the country for a cabin getaway, but they have no idea how terrible the trip is going to turn out.  The road is hazardous, the bridge is collapsing, the cabin is run down; the signs were there for them to see, saying “get out!”, but they didn’t listen, and now they’re in trouble.  They explore a basement full of all kind of weird crap, and a recording awakens a sleeping evil that’s grown pretty hungry.  Soon, the friends fall one by one to the dark power, and become the living dead, bend on murdering all living things so that all can join as one, monstrous entity.  The last remaining of the group, Ash must survive the night, exterminating his pals one gruesome method at a time.

It’s funny, because it starts so innocently, like any other cabin-in-the-woods, slasher, ghost, friends dying flick, that you don’t see the rest coming.  It’s standard genre stuff at the beginning, albeit also cementing the genre at the same time, so it’s both a addition to horror and a ground breaker as well.  But that’s just the start; the rest of the movie will make you lose your lunch.  It quickly spirals down into madness, going further and further afield with every scene, until what you’re left with is a complete, gruesome, disgusting nightmare.  That’s the chance that Raimi took, going so far over the top that he risked alienating audiences completely, and maybe at the time he did; what do I know, I was -2.  But since then, The Evil Dead has turned into a cult classic to outshine all other cult classics, a film that can never be duplicated, it can only be worshiped.  I don’t feel exactly that way, I have others that I love more, but to some people this is a pinnacle, and I understand that perfectly.  It’s gross, it’s non-stop, it’s always escalating, never looking back, doesn’t care if you feel nauseous, and turned Bruce Campbell into a household name.  That’s pretty impressive for a nobody director with little money and less chance, but here we are, talking about it today; inexplicably, something worked.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆



Movie Review – The Dukes of Hazzard

Category : Movie Review

Director: Jay Chandrasekhar

Starring: Seann William Scott, Johnny Knoxville, Jessica Simpson

Year: 2005

The Dukes of Hazzard may just be the stupidest movie I have ever seen.  Maybe not the worst, maybe not the most amateur, maybe it’s not a complete disaster, there might be one or two things I could point to and say “that was alright”.  But it’s definitely the stupidest thing that I’ve ever voluntarily put before my eyes, and I’m still not quite sure why I chose to do that.  I guess I was bored, or maybe wanted to see Jessica Simpson at her peak?  I don’t know, perhaps I temporarily lost my mind, or just consciousness, it’s hard to say.  But I watched it, and I regret it; at least the bottom of my list has some new company.

Cousins Bo & Luke Duke are the terrors of Hazzard County, Georgia, but boy are they having one hell of a time.  They run moonshine for their uncle Jesse, they protect their other cousin Daisy, they run from the local law, they frustrate the local rich boss, and they just wanna have some fun; just two good ol’ boys, never doing no harm.  Luke is obsessed with the ladies, and it gets him into trouble, but Bo has his mind on his car, the General Lee, and winning races so that he can prove he’s no loser.  Actually, there’s a big race in town coming up, and everyone will be there, so it’s his big chance, as long as he can stay out of jail and in the good graces of the money that runs the county.  But it seems like something fishy is going on in town, with Bo & Luke the only two who can do anything about it, so start that engine boys, and go find yourselves some adventure.

I like Super Troopers as much as the next guy, but that was a one-off; Jay C. & Co. didn’t need to make any more movies.  But they did, and they sandwiched Dukes of Hazzard right in between Club Dread and Beerfest, and the result was devastating.  Those goofy guys may have been the best part of the film, in small roles, so I guess that worked, but literally nothing else did, which is a problem.  Wait, I’m wrong; Jessica Simpson worked, she was both sexy and one of the stronger actors, which is saying something about the rest of them.  Really, it would be an incorrect compliment to even call the rest of the actors; Seann William Scott and Johnny Knoxville are professional idiots, not professionals thespians.  They were so dumb it was painful, and so was everything else, really: the plot, the writing, the characters, the references, the clunky attempts at being progressive, the moronic jokes abounding.  Even the broad cast was weird: Burt Reynolds, Willie Nelson, Lynda Carter, .  It was a film for small brains, and not even an entertaining version of that vacant concept or of the show it was trying to honor, just a stupid, stupid failed joke that you’re very sorry you were let in on.

My rating: ☆



Movie Review – Walking With The Enemy

Category : Movie Review

Director: Mark Schmidt

Starring: Jonas Armstrong, Hannah Tointon, Ben Kingsley

Year: 2013

It’s always fascinating to have a different perspective on the Holocaust and its human stories; we are so inundated with WWII films that they can tend to become repetitive.  Still, audiences are quick to react positively to anything based on the time period, since it’s infused with so much inherent intensity that filmmakers hardly have to manufacture a thing, just plop us in the middle of a true tale and let us experience the historic drama ourselves.  Of course, not to minimize the horror of the Holocaust; that’s a rough job for a writer or a director, bring us into the reality of the situation, but don’t fall back on entertainment value, we don’t want to view those terrible events that way.  Walking With The Enemy does some right and some wrong, delivering a true and interesting tale, but often coming across as cheap, rather than rich with context.

Overwhelmed by the might of the Nazi army and the power of the Third Reich, Hungary joined in an alliance with Germany; placed between Germany and Russia it was pick one side and be attacked by the other, there were no other choices.  However, toward the end of the war, and with its own young men pressed into service and its own Jewish population sent to the work camps, the Hungarian government tried to leave and ally themselves with Russia, only to be stopped by the Nazis and forced into even greater danger.  Meanwhile, the families of the nation were being tormented in the struggle, ripped apart as the country itself was torn.  But some resisted, some fought back against the invading German army, and tried to save as many Jewish families as they could, forging Swiss documents and moving them to safe houses, even dressing up as SS officers in order to rescue the innocent.  This is a story of courage like you’ll rarely see, and from an angle that isn’t often viewed, which makes it all the more important.

Schmidt’s one and only film, Walking With The Enemy is more a good attempt than a great final product, a movie that delivers the information we want but in a format that’s a little underdeveloped, or perhaps just unsupported by talent.  I think I would have rather read a short story or essay about the heroes depicted here, about their bravery and the bravery of all involved in underground movements like this.  That courage during this time is unimaginable, putting your life on the line for others in the face of such madness, and we need to hear more stories like this to help us understand how quickly and easily an entire evil empire almost took over the world.  As far as the film goes, it could have been better.  The CGI was silly, the acting wasn’t great, the faces you recognize were only thrown in to get your attention, and the writing wasn’t strong either.  Everything was a little cheaply made, or perhaps rushed, maybe underfunded, who knows, but it felt amateur, which it was, so I guess there you go.  Others have covered this genre more solidly, but it was nice to get this unique perspective, so bravo to that; I just hope the next time this team takes a chance the results will be much improved.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆



Movie Review – A Mighty Wind

Category : Movie Review

Director: Christopher Guest

Starring: The Whole Gang

Year: 2003

The gang’s all here for another Christopher Guest mockumentary, and it’s the last good one that he’ll make, so enjoy it while you can.  Actually, enjoy Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, and A Mighty Wind a million times equally, they’re brilliant, and don’t worry about moving onward to For Your Consideration and Mascots, because they’re not.  Maybe it was a finite amount of magic, maybe the times just changed, but the style didn’t last forever, which at the same time doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the ones we love forever, it just means new, strong, similar content might never come our way again.  It’s fine, just re-watch; these Guest classics are incredible, and none more emotionally wondrous than A Mighty Wind.

The Father of American Folk Music, Irving Steinbloom, has died, and the bands he once managed decades ago are gathering back together for one last show in his honor, in New York City, at City Hall.  The Main Street Singers are a large group who wear uniforms, sing complex harmonies, and smile until their faces explode; commercial, but committed.  The Folksmen are a trio of three now-old friends who stick to the roots of the genre, bringing classics to life on banjo and bass.  And Mitch & Mickey are just that, Mitch Coen and Mickey Crabbe, a couple of kids in love years ago, who have now moved on with their lives, though the fame of their innocent romance still follows them around.  Reunions aren’t always pretty, but it’s to honor Irving, and it might just do these musicians some good to play in from of adoring (if small) crowds once again.

If you’ve seen his other mockumentaries, you know what to expect from A Mighty Wind.  It’s offbeat, it’s off the cuff, it’s improv, it’s silly, it’s all over the place, but it’s so original that you’ll feel transported, and so hilarious that you’ll injure yourself laughing.  Guest & Levy write bizarre stories, but they let their actors completely and uniquely embrace the roles, so audiences get organic mixed with comedic, and the result is stellar.  Not later on, the magic sputters, as I mentioned, but it’s still good for one last go, and A Mighty Wind is that final experience.  Plus, there’s the added bonus of this being the most emotionally stirring of the first trio of films; it’s got heart that you don’t even see coming, and you might even shed a tear, which comes as a shock since the rest of the film is so bonkers.  Congrats to this cast for coming together and getting the job done one more time: Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Harry Shearer, Michael McKean, Christopher Guest, Bob Balaban, Jane Lynch, John Michael Higgins, Parker Posey, Christopher Moynihan, Don Lake, Deborah Theaker, Fred Willard, Ed Begley Jr, Michael Hitchcock, Larry Miller, Jennifer Coolidge.  And then there’s the music, at once poking fun of the past and impressing right now, with original songs that are meant to mock but somehow delight at the same time.  You can watch the movie, you can listen to the soundtrack, you can relive the 60s, you can feel like you were there; this film is something special, and it’s a goodbye to a recipe that worked more than once and always to our benefit, so thank you to everyone involved, you’ve given us a memory to last a lifetime.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆