Monthly Archives: January 2021

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Sports – 2020 NFL Year in Review

Category : Sports

Here is my NFL Year in Review

(5-7 for the postseason, 163-92-1 for the regular season)

AFC Division Winners

 

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AFC Wild Cards

NFC Division Winners

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NFC Wild Cards

Super Bowl

Champions?


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Movie Review – Quantum of Solace

Category : Movie Review

Director: Marc Forster

Starring: Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Amalric

Year: 2008

Daniel Craig’s James Bond is back for a sequel, and the result isn’t pretty.  From the opening car chase, you can tell that something is off, and that feeling persists until the very end.  Quantum of Solace has a rather short runtime; is that because they knew it wasn’t very good?  Perhaps not, but at least it saves us from watching for what would quickly feel like an eternity.  I like Craig as Bond, I think that was a good gamble, and it worked in his first film, in fact it worked wonders.  That it doesn’t have the same success in the second isn’t really his fault; new director equals new vision, and, unfortunately, audiences simply wanted to close their eyes.

Picking up an hour after the end of Casino Royale, Bond speeds away with the mysterious Mr. White so that he can get to the bottom of who supported Le Chiffre, who later killed him, and why.  Also, Vesper still weighs heavily on Bond’s mind, which is a cloud that will drag him down into anger and vengeance if he lets it.  As it turns out, White is part of something much larger, and it involves Dominic Greene, a developer who has his hands in a lot of pockets, and who is planning something huge.  Bond needs to figure it all out before his own secret organization loses patience with him, and he’ll get help from the troubled beauty Camille, who has secrets of her own.

The opening scene and then the opening theme song are warnings that all is not well in Bondland.  It’s a terrible beginning, a terrible song, and sets a bad tone that is never overcome, probably because Marc Forster wasn’t really ready to take the wheel and steer the ship.  Also, this time Craig is simple rage, and that’s not Bond at all; he at least needs to be a little cool.  The action sequences were hideously done, just grossly misdirected, and really stole from the mood of the film, which wasn’t great at the best of times.  Technology took the forefront and just seems silly now, like they were forcing it, and Amalric is an awful villain, so screechy and weird.  Also, Kurylenko is Ukrainian, but they bronzed her skin and had her do a fake Bolivian accent?  That’s just dumb, and really represents the taste level at play here; poor to mediocre.  Quantum of Solace is even a stupid name, and it’s not much better a film.

My rating: ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – Casino Royale

Category : Movie Review

Director: Martin Campbell

Starring: Daniel Craig, Mads Mikkelson, Eva Green

Year: 2006

In the newest iteration of 007, Bond is often referred to as a blunt instrument, a weapon, man’s passion instead of man’s mind.  That’s a different James than we are used to; Connery was super cool, Moore was calm & quippy, Brosnan was over-the-top.  But the new franchise needed a new attitude, and in walked Daniel Craig.  He’s not hunky and richy like the others, but he did bring a certain edgy swagger that was fascinating, and he exemplified qualities that perhaps Bond had been lacking: toughness, impetuosity, temper, and brute strength.  Basically, a blunt intsrument, with chipped-ice eyes that could freeze you in your tracks.  Craig was a unusual choice, but I supported the move, and, what’s more, he impressed right out of the gate.

James Bond has just earned 007 status, beginning his career with key kills and the tentative trust of M, the woman in charge of British special intelligence.  His first mission; stop Le Chiffre, a banker to the world’s terrorists groups, who is planning bombings to plummet stock that he has bet against, so that he and his investors will make a fortune.  When Bond stops his latest operation, Le Chiffre organizes an extreme high-stakes poker game to win back the money, only Bond is there to see that he doesn’t.  With the help of the beautiful Vesper Lynd, Bond trusts to his luck and skill, but finds himself stabbed in the back by someone he least suspects.

Craig really was an odd choice for Bond; he’s thick, he’s blonde, he’s brutal,, he just doesn’t hold the wealthy air that some of his predecessors did, and that looked like it could be a problem for his character.  Instead, they simply flipped the script, made Bond a child from a rough background who grew up elite, thus carrying a chip on his broad shoulders who kills to protect his country.  It worked, Craig worked, and although this Bond is less funny and less casual, we needed that after the farce that was Pierce Brosnan.  Of course, this particular film in a remake, but that’s a good place to start, and it’s nice to see James at the beginning of his career, making mistakes and getting his feet wet.  Green is excellent as usual, Mikkelson is a stellar object, Judi Dench is a great M, and Casino Royale succeeds both when broken down and when watched for simple entertainment.  It’s grand, it’s fast, it’s well-acted, it’s homage while also being modern; the stage was set for Bond to continue with a vengeance.  Unfortunately, not every episode of this new series would be as golden.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – Thinner

Category : Movie Review

Director: Tom Holland

Starring: Robert John Burke, Joe Mantegna, Michael Constantine

Year: 1996

Having just read the King book, I thought I’d try the Holland movie, and the result was …sad.  The book isn’t the absolute best, it’s more a novella than a novel, fleshed out when it really didn’t need to be, or, conversely, not crafted into something that could stand on its own when it grew in size.  Either way, it didn’t work perfectly, and therefor isn’t top shelf King, but it still chills, it still thrills, and it’s still a good read.  The film version, though, is not a good watch.  It’s bad down to its bones, and rotten to its core.

Billy Halleck is an overweight lawyer whose life has become as comfy and careless as his eating habits.  He’s a pretty big deal now, commands some local respect, lives on a nice street, has a pretty wife, no real problems to deal with, and it’s starting to make him a little lazy.  But one tragic event wakes him completely up, and will set the tone for a deadly downward spiral.  Distracted while driving, Billy accidentally hits and kills an old Gypsy woman who was part of a group of vagabonds who recently rolled through town.  It was a mistake, Billy gets off without even a slap on the wrist, but the Gypsy pater familias isn’t so forgiving; he not only puts a curse on Halleck but on all involved in what he sees as a coverup.  Now Billy is losing weight at a tremendous pace, which seems OK at first, but soon turns dangerous, and leads him far away from the white picket fence life he had grown so accustomed to.

First off, this feels like a 90s, made-for-TV, USA Network original, or something even worse; there’s a bad sense throughout that it was planned cheap and manufactured cheaper.  You know the style, they can be fun anyway, but not this time around; Thinner is a terribly amateur take on a cool book.  First, from the beginning, there’s a weird sense of humor, but only when Billy is fat, like his weight makes him comedic, and then later it’s not funny any more.  I see what they did there, but I didn’t like it, and the film simply doesn’t carry the same mood as the book.  They also changed some events, which, fine, I get it, this is the movie version, but they didn’t change them for the better.  It was stupider, sillier, choppier, more frantic, less professional, had odd dream sequences, and made very little sense as a sweeping story.  It was as if no one really cared to do a good job, and it showed.  King pops up in a cameo; he probably should have stayed further away.

My rating: ☆

 

 


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Book Review – Thinner

Category : Book Review

Author: Stephen King

Year: 1984

Thinner was published 10 years after King’s first novel Carrie, and it was the fifth novel he’d released under the pseudonym Richard Bachman.  Actually, the first four were novellas and would later be collected in one book, which would make Thinner the second Bachman, although it too could be considered a novella, and perhaps should.  In a way, it’s too short to be a novel, to bloated to be a novella, so it lands somewhere in between, which is a very awkward place to be.  It either needed fleshed out (no pun intended) or trimmed down (again, my apologies), because it doesn’t work perfectly in the space it was edited to fit.  That’s my two cents, but King is the master, and I enjoyed this story no matter the mistakes.

Billy Halleck is an overweight lawyer whose life has become as comfy and careless as his eating habits.  He’s a pretty big deal now, commands some local respect, lives on a nice street, has a pretty wife, no real problems to deal with, and it’s starting to make him a little lazy.  But one tragic event wakes him completely up, and will set the tone for a deadly downward spiral.  Distracted while driving, Billy accidentally hits and kills an old Gypsy woman who was part of a group of vagabonds who recently rolled through town.  It was a mistake, Billy gets off without even a slap on the wrist, but the Gypsy pater familias isn’t so forgiving; he not only puts a curse on Halleck but on all involved in what he sees as a coverup.  Now Billy is losing weight at a tremendous pace, which seems OK at first, but soon turns dangerous, and leads him far away from the white picket fence life he had grown so accustomed to.

That’s really the only big problem with Thinner, it’s too blown up, it’s not that complicated of a story, yet it goes on in detail much farther than it needs to, and with a secondary character who we simply didn’t need to hear from and/or focus on.  The book would have been a better short story, with only Billy mattering, with only Billy narrating, with a quick resolution that creeped us completely out; that tale was there, it was just covered up with fluff part of the time.  Again, that’s my main critique, the rest was really cool.  Great detail in the setup, a nice mood, a very unusual story, not really scary in the least, just weird and concerning.  And, unlike some other King books, this one ended very well I thought, dark and concise and meaningful.  Read for a quick escape and a fun freak out, but know that this isn’t upper echelon.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Sports – NFL Picks 2020, Championship

Category : Sports

Here are my NFL Divisional picks

(5-5 for the postseason, 163-92-1 for the regular season)

Bye teams: none

 

TB @ GB

Buf @ KC

 


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Movie Review – Promising Young Woman

Category : Movie Review

Director: Emerald Fennell

Starring: Carey Mulligan, Bo Burnham, Alison Brie

Laverne Cox, Chris Lowell, Max Greenfield, Jennifer Coolidge

Year: 2020

Is it possible that I’m too old to think that Promising Young Woman is a masterpiece?  After all, it’s in your younger years that your taste is cemented, when you’re blown away by new experiences, when you’re open to be impressed upon by art and singing its praises.  Music, movies, it doesn’t matter; what we fall in love with when we’re young stays with us for a lifetime, and there’s no real comparison to that high.  That’s why I think younger critics seem to be the ones who adore this film, because it surprises them and affects them, but perhaps in a way that I simply can’t be shocked and moved.  Or perhaps its simply that I thought there were some serious issues of poor taste, perhaps that has nothing to do with age, since it’s not like 37 is ancient.  I’m not sure, but I do know this; my critics group voted PYW best of the year, and I just disagree.

Cassie was once an up-and-coming young doctor, moving her way through med school, with her whole future ahead of her.  Then, at a party, her best friend was assaulted, and while C wasn’t there herself, the crime ruined both their careers, knocked them both off track, and, sadly, then turned deadly.  Since then, Cassie has stayed safe in her daily life; working at a coffee shop, living at home with her parents, not dating anyone.  But come night it’s a different story, and Cassie is a different woman.  She has made it her mission to become bait for men who would take advantage and assault, predators looking for the drunk girl who can’t make the clear decision.  But when things get more personal, Cassie finds herself spiraling out of control, and on a path toward her own destruction.

I do think that’s at least one of the reasons why this film didn’t resonate with me as it seems to with others; they are younger and more ready to be shocked by audacity and fervor.  I think about The Life of David Gale, which I watched as a teenager, was mesmerized by, but then watched as an adult and was like, oh wait, they tricked me, this isn’t good.  Promising Young Woman may look that way in the future to a lot of people, a film that made a mark and seemed novel but doesn’t re-watch the same when you’re a parent as when you’re in college.  I don’t mean to be ageist, I love that movies speak to youth, that’s where my favorites came from, and there’s nothing wrong with that, I’m just trying to make sense of why I feel like I can notice the problems with this film while others label it as a masterpiece.

The first thing that stands out is Carey Mulligan, who some are saying in Best Actress hands down.  That simply isn’t true, this isn’t even one of her best performances, it’s just that her character is so shocking that it comes off as perfection, when really it’s much more mediocre than that.  You want her at her best, try Never Let Me Go, a stellar role and film that everyone ought to see.  She hides her accent poorly in Promising Young Woman, which makes her lines feel stunted and forced, which I guess isn’t her fault but is a natural consequence.  Other than Mulligan, the acting is terrific, even hilarious, from all the assholes she meets to her parents, who are played perfectly.  Meanwhile, the music, color, and mood are being applauded, but that’s juvenile as well, obviously directed by an amateur who isn’t quite there yet.  And then there’s the theme in general, which I thought was in poor taste, and many victims of assault who watched this film feel the same way; it’s a yikes representation of a serious topic, one that shouldn’t be taken as lightly and absurdly as this movie takes it.  I tried to convince myself to watch through a different lens than my own, tried to see what others were seeing, but that really didn’t help; Promising Young Woman simply isn’t a great film.  It’s interesting, it’s daring, it’s funny, but ultimately it isn’t wrapped up well as a singular package, it’s more a flurry of fury trying to speak when it’s too angry to do so, which makes the result something difficult to give full credit.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – Possessor

Category : Movie Review

Director: Brandon Cronenberg

Starring: Andrea Riseborough, Christopher Abbott, Jennifer Jason Leigh

Year: 2020

If you were to ask me to make a list of everything I enjoy about sci-fi movies, Possessor would check almost every box off the list.  Some cool distortion of reality, a new technology, bizarre mind games, a little sex, a little violence, a little confusion & delay, Thomas.  It just seems like this film would be completely up my alley, and yet the result is almost the complete opposite, like some director made me a movie of things I like but completely forgot about taste level.  Possessor is backward to my taste, the antithesis to my aesthetic, and that’s so shockingly disappointing, because this film should have been awesome, but it somehow accidentally arrived inside out.

Tasya has an unusual job.  She’s not really an assassin, but that’s the closest thing to what she does; she’s more like a very talented actress who ends each performance by killing her audience.  Using a secret technology, the company she works for takes contracts out on the lives of very important people and then implants Tasya into the mind of a key player, where she then gets that person to murder the target.  Afterward, she kills “herself” and returns to her natural body; no suspects, no motives, just a crime of passion that can’t be explained, a dead millionaire, and a very happy player somewhere who got a death they wished for.  But on her latest mission, Tasya’s mind starts to meld with the host body, the pair of them competing for control of his actions, until it’s hard to tell where she beings and he ends.

Of course, you could simple say that the movie didn’t resonate with me, that it simply missed me, which is my problem, not the filmmaker’s.  But I’m not alone here, there’s a taste thing going on, like the film was made with a horrible ingredient that most people just can’t like.  It goes too far, honestly, it goes way too far, and it doesn’t hold itself back in conventional ways when a little convention could have saved the entire, messy thing.  Because the pieces were there: intrigue, death, science, the absence of reality, the terror of losing control.  The story was really cool, and the actors were really great, that wasn’t the problem at all.  The issue was the artistic outlook, the visual portrayals, the mood and the music and the gore and the gross.  It just landed like a lump in the stomach that threatened to make us sick, like a cheap roller coaster that looked nice on the outside but then shook us until we left heaving.  Possessor is not something I’d recommend to anyone but those few who enjoy horror/sci-fi done in this peculiar, particular, poor-taste way, which I guess can be fun on occasion, but just wasn’t for me this time around.

My rating: ☆ ☆

 


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Movie Review – Goodfellas

Category : Movie Review

Director: Martin Scorsese

Starring: Ray Liotta, Lorraine Bracco, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci

Year: 1990

Scorsese’s legacy is written in stone, and Goodfellas is etched right in there as one of his very best, one of the films that made him the king of crass crime.  American audiences are obsessed with the mob, New York Italian crime families, organized chaos, and we feel cool watching the action go down, for whatever morbid reason we have to feel that way.  Scorsese knows how to push the exact right buttons when it comes to the sweeping, downhill, shoot-em-up, fuck-em-up genre, and we eat up his features like candy, even though we maybe shouldn’t love the blood as much as we do.  But, whatever, Goodfellas is a good time, a great time, the best time, and it’s never not the right time for a revisit.

This is the true story of Henry Hill, the wannabe mobster turned informant who lived a life of luxury behind the might of organized crime, interspersed with stints in jail and ending in the witness protection program.  His story gives us insight into the workings of the big mob bosses; how they lead, how they operate, how they silence loud mouths, and how they ultimately end up losing control.  Henry worked with two close allies, Irishman Jimmy Conway and Italian Tommy DeVito, and they all paid homage to the head honcho, Paulie Cicero.  Together, and bribing half the police force, they ran cons and schemes and theft rings that made them all very wealthy, very dangerous, very volatile men.

Scorsese knows what he’s doing, this is his patented style, if just one of his films can be called that, and perhaps never have gangsters been portrayed so realistically.  The Godfather is legendary, of course, but Goodfellas is gritty, modern, messy, high on its own supply, and levels audiences with its quick speed and brutal content.  And it really happened, which only adds to the excitement, morbid as that excitement may be, as I mentioned earlier.  But that’s a different debate; that this movie is an icon above most other icons is not up for argument.  It’s funny, it’s dirty, its characters are incredible, its actors are top of the line, and it all works all the way through.  Goodfellas is as solid as they come, a real immovable rock of cinema.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – News of the World

Category : Movie Review

Director: Paul Greengrass

Starring: Tom Hanks, Helena Zengel

Year: 2020

There’s a reason you haven’t heard of this Tom Hanks Western, and it’s not COVID.  It’s because it’s a sub-par Oscar contender, it’s discount-grocery Hanks, it’s a nice idea executed with the precision of a helicopter flying low, tilting down, and chopping up zombies.  Basically, it’s a mess, a blunt bludgeon when a defter hand could/should have crafted something much finer, especially with Tom as a leading man and a story that’s hard not to fall deep into.  News of the World is only OK, with a few nice parts and a few glaring mistakes, a film that would have been much better had someone more talented been given the opportunity to bring what could have been excellence to life.

Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, formerly of the Texas Infantry fighting for the South in the Civil War, was also once a printer of the news, but that business failed along with the Secession.  Now, Captain Kidd travels from Texas town to Texas town reading the latest newspapers, sharing the current, revolving history of the modern world with local folk who can’t read or simply don’t have the time to.  He helps educate those whose lives are too hard for such pursuits, and he’s relatively happy with his role.  A chance encounter on the road between towns finds Kidd responsible for a little girl who needs returned to her home; her family were German immigrants, she was captured by the Kiowa, and is now set to be taken to kinfolk.  But the journey will be hard, the country is rough, and Kidd, though he knows a lot about national politics, has a lot to learn about making friends.

Tom Hanks is an American treasure and I’ll hear no argument on that fact.  That he would shine in this role was a given, and he delivers up to all expectations; Hanks in Western gear is just a neater form of the Hanks we already thought was neat.  And the girl, Helena Zengel, plays her part well too, the pair of them forcing the feels, drawing audiences in, making the story work, at least for the most part.  But it was the story itself that was the problem, so they were always fighting against the awkward script and the poor production of the film, and they were often on the losing end.  The plot is meandering, the action sequences are terribly directed/shot/constructed/CGIed, and the Odyssey-style journey with adventures in between chapters becomes laughably bad.  And, weirdly, there never seems to be a real point, beyond the obvious morals that the film is trying to shovel, like, “yeah I got it, but you’re telling me there’s nothing more?”  News of the World is bumpy at best, and it’s not like I hated it, it’s more that I was angry that the director wasn’t able to maneuver his way around what I’m sure was a tricky narrative, but also one that the truly gifted could have handled, which, in theory, would have resulted in a movie that we truly liked.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆