Monthly Archives: March 2021

  • -

Movie Review – Piranha (1995)

Category : Movie Review

Director: Scott P. Levy

Starring: Alexandra Paul, William Katt, Monte Markham

Year: 1995

Stephanie from Baywatch and Tommy from Carrie team up to take on a Piranha remake, and the result is wickedly predictable.  And I don’t mean wicked in the way Bostonians mean wicked, I mean it like the witch of the west, an evil, twisted, just-plain-bad sort of wicked that only comes from people who like to intentionally inflict mental pain on their audiences.  This made-for-TV version of the 1978 classic is not up to snuff, nor should it really be called a movie; it’s more a skit that got a few name actors and then got out of hand, a rumpus that cost a lot of money and caused a lot of emotional damage.

Two horny youngsters stumble upon an abandoned military installation and decide to swim in a murky pool that’s fenced of; seems like a great idea, kids.  But while they’re mostly naked, something starts to eat them, which really puts a damper on the evening.  Later, while investigating their disappearance, private detective Maggie McNamara and forest recluse Paul Grogan release whatever was in the pool into the local watershed, and toward a newly opened mountain resort that just so happens to have a bunch of kids splashing in the lake all day.  A race against time ensues, with nature swimming ahead.

It should not surprise you that the acting in this movie is less than stellar.  Along with Paul & Katt, we have Punky Brewster herself Soleil Moon Frye, Mila Kunis as a child, that creepy guy who killed a prostitute fin Se7en, and some woman who spells her name ‘Kehli’.  That’s bad, bad, and more bad, which, on top of a thin plot stolen from another film, turns pretty awful pretty quickly.  The action is more than ridiculous, it’s insulting, and even the nods to the original can’t keep this sinking ship afloat; the fact that there is an original is the only reason not to burn every copy of this video that was ever produced.

My rating: ★ ⭐︎ ⭐︎ ⭐︎ ⭐︎

 


  • -

Movie Review – Lost Girls and Love Hotels

Category : Movie Review

Director: William Olsson

Starring: Alexandra Daddario, Takehiro Hira

Year: 2020

Lost Girls and Love Hotels is part Earthquake Bird, part White Bird in a Blizzard, a weird combination of angsty, birdy movies that’s definitely not worth trying to figure out.  It’s a genre that makes little sense; American Girl in Foreign Country living in Self Abuse on her way to Finding Love.  It’s simply questionable, like who was this movie crafted for and why was it made at all?  Most of the handful of people who actually made time to see this film last year didn’t like it, and the reasons are as simply as they are few; it just isn’t well-made, well-acted, or well-intentioned.

Margaret lives in Tokyo because she wants to be as far away from the life she was leading as is humanly possible.  She likes being alone, or says she does anyway, but she spends her nights getting drunk and getting screwed, filling the emptiness within her that threatens to tear her apart.  When she falls for a powerful stranger, who turns out to be some sort of rich gangster, she has, for a fleeting moment, some hope that her life can involve someone else and can turn out …happy?  But nothing gold can stay, and was it even that shiny in the first place.

Alexandra Daddario does what many young actresses have done before; goes adult to show her range and to show fearlessness.  More power to her, some times audiences need to be snapped out of the preconceived notions we have, need a good smack to remind us that these women are artists, not mannequins.  It seems odd, perhaps, to get naked to do that, but I actually see the point; bare it all, show that you’re ready for anything, give us something grown up to let us know that you’re here to work.  Hollywood should do the same with men, that’s my only problem with it, and then there’s the sad fact that this isn’t a guaranteed recipe for success, which I guess is a bigger issue.  Daddario only comes across as desperate here, not decadent, and the film fails to deliver any passion or power, resulting in a joint disaster that’s among the very worst of the year.  It’s a slow, dark, depressing look at existence, one that simply isn’t artistically fashioned well enough to impress past the somber surface.  We need more from dramas this twisted, maybe a little more reality, or perhaps only more talent.

My rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

 


  • -

Movie Review – Lady in the Water

Category : Movie Review

Director: M. Night Shyamalan

Starring: Paul Giamatti, Bryce Dallas Howard, M. Night Shyamalan

Year: 2006

Lady in the Water is to M. Night Shyamalan as Phantom Menace is to George Lucas; an obviously weaker attempt at an established genre, but one that’s saved by its innocence and its target audience.  They are both movies for kids, movies that are meant to get kids interested in a style that they might not have otherwise dived into, and that alone is worth …something.  That doesn’t make them great films, obviously, because they aren’t, that’s for sure.  But it does make them worthwhile, at least as a gateway, and those looking for reason to enjoy can start there.  In defense of weak sauce, the positives don’t all end at “kids can get on board”; there are things to like about even the lesser offerings of excellent filmmakers, and Lady in the Water is a case in point.

Cleveland Heep is the maintenance man at a Philadelphia apartment complex and he hates his life.  Since the occurrence of a past tragic event, he’s lived a simple life of work and of solitude, getting along nicely with the tenants but not making real connections.  One night, while investigating a recurring splash in the communal swimming pool, Cleveland sees a naked girl shoot out of the water and immediately disappear back in.  He soon finds out that this is no ordinary girl, but a storybook creature, incidentally named ‘Story’, who is on a very important mission. She needs to fulfill her inspirational task and then return to her secret home, but she’ll need the help of the tenants to accomplish the dangerous assignment.  Cleveland needs to find the right people for the jobs before it’s too late, because a viscous animal is coming to put a stop to Story’s world-changing quest.

So, it’s not the best.  Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs, The Village; these are all so much better examples of what Shyamalan can do so brilliantly, and I’m not just talking about twists, I’m talking about making movies.  He’s an extremely talented filmmaker, beyond the scares and the surprises, and I don’t think we focus on that enough, but we really ought to.  This simply isn’t the best he can do, or, more specifically, this isn’t the most grown up he can do; Lady in the Water might be rated PG-13, similarly to his other films, but it’s on a lower, more accessible level, not only because it’s less terrifying but because it’s much easier to consume/digest.  It’s a silly story filled with silly people, it’s got some good heart and a good ending; it isn’t Shakespeare but it will do.  Giamatti picks it up whenever it falters, Howard looks so weird she almost messes everything up, but the power of M. Night’s character’s story line is so pivotal that it gets us back on board, and all is saved by a succession of visuals that not many directors have the eye to develop.  Basically, this film is passable, especially in certain ways and for certain audiences, but it in no way stacks up to the more-famous rest.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

 


  • -

Sports – Feisty Foxes 2021

Category : Sports

Spring is in the air and that means baseball!  A new season is right around the corner, time to root root root for the home team.  And with the beginning of the MLB year comes the beginning of fantasy baseball.  If you play you know how addicting it is; the daily lineups, the trades, the hot/cold players, the IL stints.  And if you’ve never played, hop on board & enjoy the ride, it’s a great way to enjoy a great game even more.  Here is my fantasy baseball team this year, once again christened the Feisty Foxes.  I went home run heavy with a bullpen of solid pitchers.  Let me know what you think and/or how your fantasy draft went this year.  Good luck everyone!

 

Hitters

 

C – Salvador Perez – Kansas City Royals

1B – Freddie Freeman – Atlanta Braves

2B – Andres Gimenez – Cleveland Indians

3B – Rafael Devers – Boston Red Sox

SS – Trevor Story – Colorado Rockies

LF – Tommy Pham – San Diego Padres

CF – AJ Pollock – Los Angeles Dodgers

RF – Kyle Lewis – Seattle Mariners

Util – Nolan Arenado – St. Louis Cardinals

Bench (Outfield) – Ramon Laureano – Oakland Athletics

Bench (Infield) – Tommy Edman – St. Louis Cardinals

 

Pitchers

 

SP – Tyler Glasnow – Tampa Bay Rays

SP – Stephen Strasburg – Washington Nationals

RP – Brad Hand – Washington Nationals

RP – Kenley Jansen – Los Angeles Dodgers

P – Adam Wainwright – St. Louis Cardinals

P – Lance Lynn – Chicago White Sox

P – Marcus Stroman – New York Mets

P – Shohei Ohtani – Los Angeles Angels

P – Kwang Hyun Kim – St. Louis Cardinals

P – Michael Pineda – Minnesota Twins

 

Stashed

 

SP – Chris Sale – Boston Red Sox

SP – Noah Syndergaard – New York Mets


  • -

Movie Review – Prom Night II

Category : Movie Review

Director: Bruce Pittman

Starring: Wendy Lyon, Lisa Schrage, Michael Ironside

Year: 1987

If Prom Night was a ripoff of Carrie & Halloween, then Prom Night II was a theft of Exorcist & Nightmare on Elm Street, a complete recycling that didn’t add anything extra.  Well, no, there were extra pieces, but only in the way we would use the word ‘extra’ now, to mean over-the-top, useless, and rather ridiculous.  This franchise was doomed form the start, because it’s simply taking strong ideas from others and leaving nothing solid behind.  It’s a semi-famous cult series, but it really shouldn’t be, and all the Prom Nights can be forgotten as easily & cheaply as they were made.

In 1957 at a high school prom, a promiscuous girl named Mary Lou was murdered by a jilted boyfriend.  She liked to have fun, liked to live on the wild side, but Billy wanted revenge, and although he didn’t mean to kill her, that didn’t matter in the end.  Thirty years later, as another prom approaches, the spirit of Mary Lou awakens and begins to enact her vengeance.  She inhabits the body of a potential Prom Queen named Vicki, and makes her do unspeakable things, as another dance comes to a deadly end.

How very silly.  The first one was so 1980, this one is SO 1987, and it’s fun to see the difference a few years makes, in fashion, music, style, attitude, everything.  And then there’s the 50s element as well, this time around, which is interesting, but ultimately not enough to get the story on track.  The plot is all over the place, with so many people dying and characters reacting, like there were a hundred writers with a thousand ideas.  At least there’s some cool blood, a bit of special effects, they were trying at something, but simply failing more often than not.  Also, god was every piece stolen, and that’s hard to forgive, especially as you sit there listing off every “reference” and “homage”.  After a while it just becomes forgery, and that’s unforgivable.

My rating: ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 


  • -

Movie Review – Prom Night (1980)

Category : Movie Review

Director: Paul Lynch

Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Tough, Leslie Nielsen

Year: 1980

I’ve seen much of Jamie Lee Curtis’ early career, mostly because she was a bad ass, a hottie, an amazing actor, and a stand out, from Halloween to Trading Places, from Grandview U.S.A. to A Fish Called Wanda, from My Girl to True Lies.  If that’s where her hits fizzled out she can hardly be blamed; Hollywood has always had a problem with aging actresses, and they didn’t give her much of a chance even before 40.  But we know her value, she’s an icon, and can even make less-than-iconic films a little better with her presence.  Case in point; Prom Night, which is no Halloween, and is mostly no good.

While playing in an abandoned building, four youngsters accidentally taunt a younger girl out a broken window, where she falls to her death.  They make a vow to each other that they will never tell the truth, and the murder is pinned on a male suspect who is then chased, captured, and disfigured.  Years later, the young girl’s family still mourns her death, including her siblings Kim & Alex.  They try to enjoy the upcoming prom, getting dates and avoiding creeps, but they can’t help thinking about how their sister should be there too, enjoying her youth and innocence.  Someone else is thinking about her at the same time, a mysterious, stalking figure who begins threatening and then killing the four who were actually responsible, in gruesome ways that only a madman could devise.

The biggest problem with Prom Night is that it doesn’t feature Jamie Lee Curtis enough.  She wasn’t a big star yet, though she had been in Halloween, and I guess she was the main character, but not heavily enough, because everyone else involved sucked.  It’s a ridiculous time capsule of 1980, including long dance scenes and locker room sequences that will make you shake your head.  Not original, not well done, not cool, and not sexy; there are a lot of things this film isn’t.  There is a little blood, a flash of skin, it’s creepy it a strange way, but focuses too much on the Prom in a Carrie way that never works; come to think of it, every aspect of the movie looks like a carbon copy of something else, which I guess is the why it’s not any good.

My rating: ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 


  • -

Movie Review – The Village

Category : Movie Review

Director: M. Night Shyamalan

Starring: Bryce Dallas Howard, Joaquin Phoenix, William Hurt

Year: 2004

If Signs is Shyamalan’s best (although some people are partial to Sixth Sense), The Village is #2, a film that almost gets it all right in a way that few directors have ever been able to pull off.  We all know Shyamalan’s penchant for twists, and he brings his A-game here, but that’s not really the point, if you really think about it.  Why do we watch movies?  For entertainment, obviously, and The Village is about as entertaining a film as I have ever seen.  If you want to spoil the ending for yourself by trying to outsmart the master, if that makes you feel good, so be it.  Me, I’ll be sitting back enjoying an excellent story woven with extreme talent, because that seems like more fun.

In a small village in a valley in a wood, a group of people live a simple existence by a simple rule; we don’t go to their forest, they won’t come to our homes.  Those We Don’t Speak Of wear red, stay in the trees, and claim that domain, while the humans wear yellow, stay in the village, and agree not to cross the border.  In the valley there is safety, peace from the outside World and from the Towns, where men are crueler than beasts.  But when that peace is threatened by an animal or creature or something, skinning small livestock and leaving their bodies as a sign, that idyllic existence looks to be broken.  Two young people newly in love, Ivy & Lucious, will have to brave the dangers of the wood, but also the unknown dangers of those much closer to them, in order to uncover the secrets holding the fragile truce together.

I don’t mean to pretend like I’ve never been disappointed by a director, never figured out the secret, never felt like I was smarter that the filmmaker.  Of course I have, and that’s a disappointment, but I’ve never understood why people were so joyous in ruining their own experiences when it came to Shyamalan’s films, because, meanwhile, they were missing out on some incredible artistry.  The Village is complicated, fascinating, it builds slowly, it supremely creeps me out, and it’s a ton of dark fun, if only you can let it wash over you and not pick it apart.  Now, I can be critical, I get it, it’s not perfect; the depiction of Noah is problematic, the acting isn’t always perfect, some lines feel clunky, and M. Night popping up in his own movie is not really a good choice this time.  But there are many more positives than negatives; the music, the mood, the threat of the creatures, the secrecy of the elders, and one powerful monologue from Hurt that is still shocking and impressive.  Howard was great in an early role, Phoenix is a master, Hurt was phenomenal, and the rest of the cast was impressive; Adrien Brody, Sigourney Weaver, Brendan Gleeson, Cherry Jones, Judy Greer, Fran Kranz, Michael Pitt, Jesse Eisenberg.  Sixth Sense might have been more surprising, Signs might have been more seamless, but The Village is an amazing work of fiction, a story to sink into, and an excellent film to revisit often.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

 


  • -

Sports – 2021 NCAA Tournament

Category : Sports

March Madness is here! It’s time once again to predict a bunch of basketball games, get most of them wrong, and then rub it in your friend’s face when they do worse than you.  The field is wide open this year, per usual, and any team could win the championship.  Here are my picks for the Final Four and my prediction for the winner of the dance:

 

East – Alabama Crimson Tide

West – Gonzaga Bulldogs

Midwest – Loyola Chicago Ramblers

South – Baylor Bears

 

2021 NCAA Champion

 


  • -

Movie Review – Chopping Mall

Category : Movie Review

Director: Jim Wynorski

Starring: Kelli Maroney, Tony O’Dell, Barbara Crampton

Year: 1986

Chopping Mall; when a 2-star rating means you actually really dug the movie, since 2 is all any sane person could give it, since it’s really the worst thing ever.  I had the thought that you’d probably really enjoy it if you were high; it’s that kind of over-the-top badness that would most likely seem super trippy and fun if you were completely stoned.  I honestly wouldn’t know, never smoked pot before, but someday I might just pop an edible, turn on Chopping Mall, and have myself a good time, because this film was made for being whacked out of your mind.

A new high-tech security system have just been installed at a city mall, and it promises to be the best ever invented.  Three robots will cruise the many floors once the mall shuts down for the night, locating any trouble and stunning it until help arrives the next morning.  But when a power surge activates the robots and gives them self control, they begin a mission to eliminate all humans, not just evil-doers.  Unfortunately, 8 young people decided to have a drinking/hook up night in one of the stores while it was closed, and they will soon become prey for a much higher intelligence.

This movies is bananas, but in such a way that it’s extremely enjoyable, even with no marijuana involved.  But seriously, it would be so much fun if there was, so feel free to take that as a recommendation.  Teens are getting killed, people are having sex, janitors are electrocuted, robots make jokes; it’s a wild time.  And it’s the worst acting & production & development ever, the whole thing is a shit show, but my god what a laughable, crappy 80s spectacle.  The mall, the stores, the clothes, the hair, the whole thing; it’s a ridiculous good time, but also insanely terrible, so I guess that balances out somewhere near ‘awesomely awful’.

My rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

 


  • -

Book Review – Narnia Series Part 2

Category : Book Review

Author: C.S. Lewis

Year: 1953, 54, 55, & 56

There are two sides to the argument over how to read Lewis’ iconic collection of books: in release or chronological order.  He wrote the seven books, one per year, from 1950 to 1956, starting with Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe and ending with The Last Battle.  But in the middle are several stories displaced in time, a prequel, a side quest, until the Narnian chronology becomes mixed up.  So, do you read his books in the order in which he wrote them or do you read them in the order in which they take place in this magical world?  I think the answer is quite simple; it doesn’t matter.  As I read these marvelous books to my children, I will read them in the order Lewis created them, but if I ever read them aloud again I’d probably go for chronological order.  These are great stories no matter in what manner they are enjoyed, books that demand a reread right after you finish, classics that will be a part of your shelves forever.

I consider the last four that Lewis wrote to be Part 2 of the entire set: Silver Chair, Horse and His Boy, Magician’s Nephew, and Last Battle.  These four all include secondary characters, not the Pevensie children alone, and their adventures in Narnia.  In Silver Chair, Eustace and a girl named Jill must save Caspian’s son from deadly peril.  In Horse and His Boy, we live a tale told often in Narnia, the adventures of Shasta and the brave horse Bree.  In Magician’s Nephew, we learn of the birth of Narnia, how it came to be and how it might someday end.  And in Last Battle, the final days of Narnia dawn, because nothing gold can stay.  These four books further broaden a world we have learned to love dearly.

I can recall reading these stories when I was young, over & over again until I knew them by heart.  They are quick & easy, fun to blast through, and always entertaining to both children & adults.  But they are also laden with meaning, both Christian and pagan, based on ancient lore, and full of the myths our world is based upon.  Read from a Christian perspective, since Lewis was that, obvious parallels emerge, but the stories can be enjoyed by those who are non-religious as well.  It’s a beautiful world that he created, with colorful characters and adventures that will never grow old.  The first three books are the strongest, I believe, setting the stage for the rest, never being outdone by those to come, but the next four are marvelous as well, enriching a land we have come to hold so dear.  Read these classics to yourself or to your children, and then go back years later to revisit old friends; this series is special in that way, allowing us to travel to Narnia whenever we want and as often as we can.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆