Month: February 2021

Movie Review – Arlington Road

Category : Movie Review

Director: Mark Pellington

Starring: Jeff Bridges, Tim Robbins, Spencer Treat Clark

Year: 1999

Arlington Road, unlike a lot of its 90s action contemporaries, is kinda, pretty, almost awesome.  The 90s was a wild time, anything went in cinema, we were in love with violence and suspense and conspiracies and technology and all the problems that accompanied.  But this movie stands out as a bit better than the rest, almost as if it was given a little more focused attention and a little more thought.  It’s almost Blown Away meets David Gale, but somehow stronger than both, solidified by a stellar performance from Bridges that still stands out as superb to this day.

Michael Farady is a teacher of history at GW in Washington DC, and he loves his job, teaching young people the importance of government, structure, rebellion, and terrorism, how passion has fueled the growth of our nation but how laws form the boundaries of our freedoms.  When his FBI agent wife dies on the job, his balanced outlook is put to the test, and when a new neighbor moves in across the street, his paranoia threatens to take complete control.  Oliver Lang, the seemingly boring Average Joe next door might be anything but normal, and it may take desperate acts on Faraday’s part to make sure that no one else he knows suffers his wife’s fate.

Seriously, Jeff Bridges is a genius, one of the best actors we’ve ever seen, and even though we adore him we still don’t give him all the credit that he’s due.  The guy is a master, with a voice and a demeanor that stun audiences, and he’s still going strong right now, the Dude doesn’t slow down.  He’s incredible here, and really elevates the rest of the cast, which isn’t too wonderful, so that’s to his credit as well.  He knows how to play these serious roles, these tortured souls, and he even improves on this silly genre, making this film something more than your standard thrill ride.  Arlington Road is creepy, it’s bleak, it’s weird, it’s heartbreaking, and ultimately it’s why we watch movies; to be swept away by fiction so hard that we forget that what we’re watching isn’t real.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Movie Review – Blown Away

Category : Movie Review

Director: Stephen Hopkins

Starring: Jeff Bridges, Tommy Lee Jones, Forest Whitaker

Year: 1994

Blown Away is batshit crazy, and it’s mostly because of the terrible accents on painful display, from Boston to Ireland and everything made up in between.  If ever an accent coach was needed for a movie it was here, and probably an acting coach too, and maybe a directing coach.  Honestly, I’m not sure what held this film together other than duct tape and hope, or maybe simply the love audiences have for blowing stuff up.  It’s a plot that’s ridiculous, an execution that’s laughable, and yet it’s an icon of the 90s; maybe that just tells you all you need to know about a pretty daffy decade.

Jimmy Dove is a bomb squab expert in Boston, defusing devices and situations with ease, but the pressure is weighing on him, and he decides to hang up the wire cutters to get married and start a family.  But a ghost from his past quickly brings him out of retirement, when a psycho begins targeting squad members and always seems to be one step ahead.  And it’s not just any killer, it’s a man from Dove’s distant memory, when he went by a different name and lived in Belfast.  His past crimes have caught up to him in the form of Ryan Gaerity, an evil live wire who will stop at nothing to get his perceived justice, even if it means murdering Dove’s family to do it.

Blown Away is basically Backdraft in a different city, a story of fire and fury that you really shouldn’t look too hard at, because you’re bound to find holes.  Talk about jumping the shark; this plot is so insane there’s no way it stands up today, and I’m not really sure how it got off the ground in ’94, other than by the skin of its teeth.  Well, maybe by its actors, who are obviously talented, although you wouldn’t guess it if this was the only movie you’d seen them do.  Bridges, Jones, Whitaker, Lloyd Bridges, Cuba Gooding Jr in a small role; these are talented professionals, this was just an odd project.  It’s all over the place, it’s so dated, it’s a mad house of action and intrigue, but it really does represent the genre and time well; there are others that were just as wacky, like Speed, Point Break, FaceOff, The Rock.  For the era, Blown Away isn’t too bad, it’s fun anyway, but measured evenly it’s pretty awful, full of farce and over-acting to the point of distraction, but hey, it was the 90s, anything goes.

My rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆


Sports – NFL Picks 2020, Super Bowl

Category : Sports

Here is my Super Bowl pick

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




Movie Review – Pieces of a Woman

Category : Movie Review

Director: Kornel Mundruczo

Starring: Vanessa Kirby, Shia LaBeouf, Ellen Burstyn

Year: 2020

Audiences need a little heads up before they sit down in front of Pieces of a Woman, it’s simply the kind thing to do.  To start, someone very close to me lost a baby immediately after birth, and that weighed heavily on my mind as this film began; I recommend that you reflect of your own pain in that area before you watch this film.  Women we know have lost children, have had pregnancies end early, have had babies with them all too shortly, and while, of course, how much they share is a choice for a woman and her partner to make together, I strongly believe that understanding that we are not alone in this grief is extremely important to living past the loss.  This film faces the horror of losing a baby straight on, and although it’s very difficult to see something this bad unfold, I was touched by how OK it made not being OK seem.

Martha and Sean lose their baby during a home birth, and that tragedy rips their entire lives down the seams, revealing all the problems hidden within that their hope kept hidden, that their vision of a new life was blind to and perhaps didn’t need to see, at least while something special waited ahead.  But now that they will not be the family they imagined, they can’t handle the current state of their relationship, and wanting to grieve in separate ways is pushing them further away from each other.  Martha is pressured by her wealthy mother to send the midwife to jail, to sue her for millions, to stand up for herself, to move on.  Sean regresses from his sobriety, losing control, losing his partner, unable to control himself within his sadness and his pain.  And, ultimately, both will have to decide what their next step will be, because they can’t stand stunned forever.

I don’t mean to make this film about me; I’m a man, I can’t understand losing a child who I’ve birthed, so many women have lost so much, and this film isn’t about my memories.  But I understand the pain, I really do, and after the intensity of the introductory scene of the film I had to take a break, find my kids, and hug them, even though they didn’t know why I needed it.  You too might have to step away for a minute after the movie begins, but please come back to it if you can, because the hope it offers in the end is worth the journey that it takes to get there.  This is real heartbreak and real emotion, perfectly portrayed for us by these actors, although I can’t imagine what it must have taken for them to show us that much raw, tender feeling.  Kirby was amazing, LaBeouf was magnificent, and Pieces of a Woman should be considered one of the very best of 2020, if you can  set it aside and judge it cinematically, which is hard since it pushes your emotions so hard.  But it’s both an honest look at something terrible and a well-made feature, bringing truth and talent together in a way that’s rare to see and wrenching to experience.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆


Movie Review – The Dig

Category : Movie Review

Director: Simon Stone

Starring: Carey Mulligan, Ralph Fiennes, Archie Barnes

Year: 2021

I really enjoyed Stone’s only other directorial credit, The Daughter, which he wrote as well; it’s honestly much stronger than his second film, The Dig, which he did not write and which came out on Netflix.  Do you get the feeling that streaming services are dumping movies in our laps without giving their creators the time to craft, edit, mold, perfect, prepare?  This is a film that could have done with more TLC, more an eye for detail, and perhaps less hurry.  That said, Stone is obviously very talented, and he’s quite the intelligent storyteller, even if I didn’t love the entirety of his newest project.

As WWII approaches, rich widow Edith Pretty decides that, before the war begins and such frivolities must end, she will have the ancient mounds on her property excavated.  Her husband died, she herself is sick, her son is a lovely boy, there just needs to be some life at the big house, and the mounds are a mystery that needs solved.  So she hires a local professional digger named Basil Brown to do the work, even though he’s not a prestigious archeologist.  He knows what he’s doing though, and soon uncovers the find of the century, putting the little English town on the map and stirring the imaginations of so many to whom this little event means so much, especially before such a cataclysmic global challenge.

Stone knows his work, and these actors know their jobs, that’s not the problem with The Dig; it’s just a bit dull.  Especially in the middle, when the story becomes stagnant and the characters’ personal lives become important, that’s when it really started to make me yawn.  The beginning, the end, those were fantastic, I actually got caught up in the climax and it got me a little emotion, which helped save my feelings about the film in general.  And the set up was nice, the true story is charming, the actors are, of course, great, we know them and their value.  But the middle simply sagged under the weight of the story, and Stone wasn’t able to pump up the emotional volume without creating cliches at the same time.  Then again, he didn’t write it, and the screenplay was based on a book, so that stretches it even further, which it couldn’t handle.  Still, Lily James popped by for a visit about half way through, that was nice, she’s always lovely, but even she wasn’t enough to send the movie to someplace magical where it would actually live in our memories.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆


Movie Review – Labyrinth (2012)

Category : Movie Review

Director: Christopher Smith

Starring: Vanessa Kirby, Jessica Brown Findlay, Sebastian Stan

John Hurt, Tom Felton, Katie McGrath, Emun Elliott, Tony Curran

Year: 2012

I like board games, and my favorite is Carcassonne, a civilization building game of sorts that was at the forefront of the “epic board gaming” wave.  The name comes from a city in France that still has a beautiful castle, and in many ways exhibits the era like a time capsule for us today.  That’s why I was attracted to this movie, it’s set in Carcassonne, but now I’m regretting ever sitting down in front of a box of meeples, since this film is among the very worst I have ever seen.  It’s not so much cinema as it is skit, and that would still probably be insulting to skits.

Based on the book by Kate Mosse, here are two interwoven tales, one from medieval times and one from modern times, that touch each other in so many ways that they become one story.  In 1209, a woman named Alais is tasked with finding the Holy Grail through the secret of a series of hidden books, while around her the city of Carcassonne is attacked by Crusaders, for it refused to give up its population of Cathar citizens to be butchered as heretics against the true religion of the Pope.  In our time, the beautiful Alice takes part in a dig that uncovers bodies, treasures, and clues.  The two women begin to live parallel stories as they both fight against evil for possession of the Grail, and to preserve goodness in the face of unspeakable darkness.

Technically, this is a mini-series, with two 90-minute episodes, but it’s just a 3-hour movie, don’t get excited about the details.  And it’s one of the most terrible movies you will ever watch, so along with not getting excited probably just forget it all together.  It’s so many other projects smashed together in such an awful way, like The Da Vinci Code meets Timeline, a stupid mystery with two tales at once.  But the whole thing is done in Wishbone quality, like a PBS original that had $5 as its total budget.  Or maybe they spent all their money on the stars, not the film itself, because the cast list is impressive, but someone forget to make an actual movie around the actors.  Seriously, it’s almost unbelievable how badly this film plays out, there are times you feel likeyou must have blacked out for 10 minutes, because the story simply isn’t making any sense.  Stay far, far away, this is something that should not have been made, and I hope heads rolled when it finally came out, because whoever produced this travesty should be run out of Britain on a rail and forced to swim to a life in exile; it’s that bad.

My rating: ☆