Monthly Archives: May 2021

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Movie Review – Stowaway

Category : Movie Review

Director: Joe Penna

Starring: Anna Kendrick, Toni Collette, Daniel Dae Kim, Shamier Anderson

Year: 2021

Stowaway is like Arctic (Joe Penna’s only other feature film) combined with Life (a space adventure film that I thought was much stronger than the throw-away treatment it was afforded).  With Arctic, Penna was able to give us quiet action and a somber mood, taking minimalism to the max, but entertaining us all the same.  In Life, we got something a little different than the basic sci-fi/horror most people were expecting, something a little more scaled down, which I thought was a solid idea.  Stowaway combines those ideas and makes audiences ride those waves, all while creating a wonderfully uncomfortable atmosphere.  That it didn’t end well doesn’t make the entire project a failure, but it sure makes the mission a bit of a miss.

Three highly-trained astronauts are getting the chance of a lifetime, as they rocket toward Mars on a two-year journey that will take their careers even further.  They are healthy, they are intelligent, they are competent, but none of them saw this particular curve ball coming; there’s a fourth passenger on board.  This man poses not only a puzzler to how he got there, but a dire threat to their mission, as the spaceship was perfectly balanced for only three individuals.  Hard choices will have to be made if any of them hope to survive the voyage, especially as more & more problems arise with the ship, the conditions, and their sanity.

As I was watching, I was wondering why the overwhelming consensus was that Stowaway was a sad misstep full of surprising mediocrity; I enjoyed it for a strong hour and a half.  It was extremely scientific, it was believable, it was interesting, the acting was great, and I was hooked when bad things started happening; I was ready for a great ending to what I thought was, so far, a great movie.  And then the other shoe dropped.  There was a moment, a sequence, at about 15-20 minutes left in the movie, when the action picked up and the actors needed to make us feel the intensity, and they simply were unable to do it.  As much as I love Anna Kendrick, she was asked to push us over the edge and she couldn’t, she simply couldn’t.  That’s where the film lost me and, I assume, many other critics; when it had to take a step in a tough direction and it just fell.  The end faltered as a result, we lost what we had already anted up, and we came out bitter; not a great feeling.  Kendrick was mostly excellent, Collette & Kim & Anderson were superb, the last scenes of the movie simply didn’t live up to the rest, and that’s a major bummer.  If you choose to watch anyway (and I think you should because there are many reasons to), beware the last 20 minutes and look out for the moment where the horse throws his shoe; it’s easy to see and you wonder how it wasn’t avoided.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ⭐︎ ⭐︎

 


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Movie Review – Newsies (1992)

Category : Movie Review

Director: Kenny Ortega

Starring: Christian Bale, David Moscow, Bill Pullman

Year: 1992

One of Christian Bale’s first roles was as Jack Kelly in this 1992 Disney sensation, an event that I remember clearly and loved dearly when I was 8.  It took a while, but eventually the movie was made into a Broadway musical, the stage always being the perfect place for this wonderful musical, but the film has lost none of its original magic.  Newsies is like Annie with a slightly rougher edge, which transitioned perfectly to Broadway; the music, the dancing, the scenery.  This was my first time watching the film in years, this time I sat down to enjoy it with my family, and I found the same special and wonderful power that I remember from almost 30 years ago, just waiting for me to experience it again.

At the turn of the last century, the blood of New York City pumped with the racket of the printing press, as the daily newspapers controlled the town with whatever stories they chose to run.  The bigwigs at the top looked down on the people below from their ivory towers, deciding their fates with a whim that was akin to madness: Roosevelt, Pulitzer, William Randolph Hearst.  But it was the newsies who delivered the message, who ran the papers through the streets and sold the headlines of the day, who had undiscovered power over the populace.  When Pulitzer tried to raise newspaper prices, the newsies, realizing their importance and led by the charismatic Jack Kelly, formed a union and went on strike, along with every child worker in New York, be he a shoe shine or a bike messenger.  They refused to be stepped on like ants in the street, choosing instead to band together to form something that could never be crushed.

I’ve seen the stage version on Netflix, and it might be slightly better, because they fixed a few errors in judgement, got some better talent perhaps, got rid of Bill Pullman, but nothing will ever entirely equal the original experience.  The songs, the rhythm, the dances, the marching; I dare your heart to stay steady or your feet not to tap.  And Christian Bale was a star at a young age, you could see it a mile away, and Jack Kelly was the perfect character for him to embody.  It takes a second to get used to the affected accents, but once you do they just serve to suck you further into the story, and help you to fall in love with every moment presented.  The adults may be forgettable, but the kids are wonderful, and the pull of the music will draw in you so very close.  The big numbers, the quiet moments, the phenomenal sets, Jack singing “Sante Fe”; you’ll fall in love with these newsies, and with the story they’re selling you.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ⭐︎

 


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Movie Review – The Day After Tomorrow

Category : Movie Review

Director: Roland Emmerich

Starring: Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal, Emmy Rossum

Year: 2004

I know we like to poke fun at Roland Emmerich, his movies are silly, but I really like The Day After Tomorrow and think it’s a super-solid disaster flick.  There is a long history of terrible disaster movies, end of the world plots, comets and aliens and tidal waves and armageddons galore, but this one stands out as a relatively strong piece of cinema.  Of course it doesn’t compare to top dramas, I understand that, but it fits a slot perfectly, a niche we automatically enjoy, and then does the job better than the rest just because it can.  I think that deserves some respect, and this movie deserves a watch.

Climate scientist Jack Hall has been warning people but they haven’t been listening; global warming is damaging the ice caps, which will change our oceans, which will cause climate shifts that we simply aren’t ready to deal with.  He projects that in some distant future we might enter another ice age, but even he didn’t realize the truth; that it was about to happen now.  A super storm the likes of which the planet has never seen descends upon the earth, and all living things are caught in a freezing blizzard that they might not be able to survive.  Jack’s son, Sam, is trapped in New York City, but if he can hold out, if he can survive the oncoming global disaster, his dad will find him and he will save him; it’s only a question of time, as the world is wracked by the awesome fury of change.

This is just a nice, strong, entertaining disaster movie, and that’s just what Emmerich knows how to develop.  He falters sometimes, but not here; this is his best.  It starts fast, gets us into the action right away, never lets off the gas, and becomes about the journey, the reunion, the survival, not all about the change itself.  There are thrills enough, but the film really comes down to the intensity of the story and the strength of the acting, which are both surprisingly great, and which lend to the success of the film as a whole.  Quaid, Gyllenhaal, Rossum, Ian Holm, Sela Ward, Adrian Lester; the cast kinda works, even Quaid, who we all know is a big cheeseball.  But somehow the film isn’t, until the very end perhaps, but by then I had bought in entirely, and I think you will too.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ⭐︎

 


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Movie Review – Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace

Category : Movie Review

Director: George Lucas

Starring: Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Jake Lloyd

Year: 1999

When I first watched Phantom Menace in the theatre, I wasn’t expecting much and didn’t get much; the prequel trilogy was never going to be up to the standard of the original, even accounting for our craving for anything Star Wars.  But it was fine, it was fun, it was sci-fi for kids so that they would grow up to enjoy the genre as adults, and I support that completely.  Now that my kids are old enough, and have seen the original three, it was time to revisit the backstories, and I really wasn’t all that worried; even though I know they aren’t great I figured I’d watch through my kids’ eyes and that would make it alright.  Well, that didn’t work out.  Phantom Menace is abysmal, much worse than I remembered, with only the strength & support of a giant franchise keeping it from collapsing in utter failure.

The Galactic Republic is a weak state, with delegates from so many planets, outer rim worlds with little government, problem upon problem upon problem, and bureaucracy rearing its ugly head around every corner.  The ancient Jedi Council tries to help when it can, as is the case currently, when a disagreement over trade turns into a threat of war.  The Trade Federation blockades the entire planet of Naboo, and Jedi Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi go to mediate the dispute, only to find out that there is something wicked behind the dramatic events.  They are pulled into a plot that has yet to be revealed, and along the way make friends with the Queen of Naboo, and then also with a slave boy on the planet Tatooine, a gifted child named Anakin Skywalker.  The fates of so many align to change the path of the galaxy, with young Anakin and his incredible talent at the very center of what will become history in the making.

So, originally I had given this movie 5/10; I liked it OK, it had problems, but hey it was Star Wars, and wow is Duel of the Fates an incredible piece.  That music behind the lightsaber battle at the end was awesome, and there were other scenes that worked as well; podracing is cool, Coruscant is cool, even underwater events with the Gungans were cool, and that accounts for Jar Jar, who is annoying but fun.  But my rating is still going to drop, even though I never expected much from this movie, watched it with kids this time, and recognize some good parts.  Basically, this is one of the most poorly acted films you are ever going to see, epic or small, historic or indie; there’s no excusing the lack of acting execution here.  Neeson and McGregor were passable, though their dialogue was wholly stupid, but Portman and Lloyd were so bad they should simply have been banned from ever being in another movie again.  Now, Portman we know has talent, and the story with Lloyd is extremely sad, but there performances in Phantom Menace, along with the performances of everyone in the periphery, were so incredible terrible that it has to be remarked upon, and it nearly destroyed what fragile credibility this film had.  I am scared to watch Episode II again because I fear it will only get worse, but I hope the excellent story behind the terrible characterizations can be enough to help me through the bad times.

My rating: ★ ★ ⭐︎ ⭐︎ ⭐︎

 


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Sports – 2021 NFL Draft Recap

Category : Sports

The 2021 NFL Draft is complete.  Seven rounds, three days, numerous trades, two hundred and fifty six of players chosen, and thirty-two teams with new players on their rosters.  In my Mock Draft, I attempted to predict the first round, and of course I got it mostly wrong.  It was fun to guess, but here’s how the first round really shook out:

 

1. Jacksonville Jaguars – Trevor Lawrence, QB from Clemson

2. New York Jets – Zach Wilson, QB from BYU

3. San Francisco 49ers – Trey Lance, QB from NDSU

4. Atlanta Falcons – Kyle Pitts, TE from Florida

5. Cincinnati Bengals – Ja’Marr Chase, WR from LSU

6. Miami Dolphins – Jaylen Waddle, WR from Alabama

7. Detroit Lions – Penei Sewell, OL from Oregon

8. Carolina Panthers – Jaycee Horn, CB from South Carolina

9. Denver Broncos – Patrick Surtain, CB from Alabama

10. Philadelphia Eagles ( ⇆ Dallas Cowboys) – DeVonta Smith, WR from Alabama

11. Chicago Bears ( ⇆ New York Giants) – Justin Fields, QB from OSU

12. Dallas Cowboys ( ⇆ Philadelphia Eagles) – Micah Parsons, LB from Penn State

13. Los Angeles Chargers – Rashawn Slater, OL from Northwestern

14. New York Jets ( ⇆ Minnesota Vikings) – Alijah Vera-Tucker, OL from USC

15. New England Patriots – Mac Jones, QB from Alabama

16. Arizona Cardinals – Zaven Collins, LB from Tulsa

17. Las Vegas Raiders – Alex Leatherwood, OT from Alabama

18. Miami Dolphins – Jaelen Phillips, EDGE from UCLA

19. Washington Football Team – Jamin Davis, LB from Kentucky

20. New York Giants ( ⇆ Chicago Bears) – Kadarius Toney, WR from Florida

21. Indianapolis Colts – Kwity Paye, EDGE from Michigan

22. Tennessee Titans – Caleb Farley, CB from VT

23. Minnesota Vikings ( ⇆ New York Jets) – Christian Darrisaw, OL from VT

24. Pittsburgh Steelers – Najee Harris, RB from Alabama

25. Jacksonville Jaguars – Travis Etienne, RB from Clemson

26. Cleveland Browns – Greg Newsome, CB from Northwestern

27. Baltimore Ravens – Rashod Bateman, WR from Minnesota

28. New Orleans Saints – Payton Turner, EDGE from Houston

29. Green Bay Packers – Eric Stokes, CB from Georgia

30. Buffalo Bills – Gregory Rousseau, EDGE from Miami

31. Baltimore Ravens – Odafe Oweh, EDGE from Penn State

32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Joe Tyron, EDGE from Washington


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Movie Review – Your Highness

Category : Movie Review

Director: David Gordon Green

Starring: Danny McBride, James Franco, Natalie Portman

Year: 2011

News flash; Danny McBride isn’t funny.  Of the “ganja gang” of comedians like Franco, Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Evan Goldberg, Judd Apatow, etc, he’s the least funny by a mile, and his entire persona just weirds me out.  He’s cocky, icky, a bad actor, seems too old to be in the group, and simply doesn’t create laughs like his contemporaries; he’s just not at their level.  To make a ridiculous fantasy spoof with McBride carrying the entire plot & comedy on his back was an absolutely terrible idea, a story he wrote himself, and a movie that should be removed from shelves immediately before it causes further taste level harm.

Thadeous is the lesser son of a mighty kingdom, his brother Fabious taking all the glory and all their father’s love.  Thadeous doesn’t quest, he just dicks around; no one likes him and, really, he doesn’t like himself much either.  But when Fab’s bride is stolen from his wedding by an evil warlock, Thad will have to step up, be brave, and help a brother out, proving that he has more to offer than quippy comebacks.  Along the way he’ll meet the lovely Isabel, but she’d rather kick his ass then give him the time of day, which is the story of his life.  Thad will find out what he’s made of or die trying; the latter is probably more likely.

For a movie called Your Highness and following Pineapple Express, there was almost nothing to do with pot here, which is both shocking and stupid; I normally don’t care for films about drugs, but I think this one could have done with some high humor, and being stoned is probably the only way any of us were going to enjoy it.  Calling it stupid would be an insult to stupid things; Your Highness is beyond dumb.  It’s just not funny, in any way, like at all, and wasn’t humor the whole point?  Danny McBride making penis jokes for 100 minutes is something that can only be stomached if there is something else to go along with it, like massive laughs, great acting, a cool story, something.  Instead, this film is a giant reason not to watch, a waste of time if ever there was one.

My rating: ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 


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Movie Review – The Blue Lagoon

Category : Movie Review

Director: Randal Kleiser

Starring: Brooke Shields, Christopher Atkins

Year: 1980

Why is Blue Lagoon …perfect?  It makes no sense at all, but this oft-remade, oft-maligned sex-on-the-beach classic is somehow an excellently made film, while also being an extremely strange and cringy bit of fringe cinema.  I first saw it when I was coming of age myself, and perhaps that’s why it means something too me, and why I feel like this story is somehow honest, despite all the silly frills.  At its heart, it’s really only a love story, an against-all-odds story, and that’s something we can all get behind.

At the turn of the 19th century, children Emmeline and Richard are forced to abandon ship when there’s a fire onboard, after which they are separated from the rest of their companions, all except a rough old sea cook called Paddy.  The trio find land, make camp, and Paddy looks after the children until his death, an event that both traumatizes them and teaches them that the time has come to make a permanent home on the tropic island from which they may never escape.  Growing up with only one another, they soon explore their sexuality and also their love for each other, two very confusing discoveries that will draw them closer than perhaps any two people have ever been before.

There are so many reasons why this film shouldn’t work, and there are many people who think that it doesn’t; critics give it a 3 out 10 on IMDb.  But I’m a critic, dammit, and I say it’s wonderful.  Yes, Shield’s age at the time is weird, yes the acting isn’t good, yes the plot is silly, yes it’s 80s exploitation like Endless Love or Paradise.  But there’s just something magical about Blue Lagoon, like it exists outside this world, that makes it special in a way that transcends everything that tries to hold it down.  It’s quick, it’s gorgeous, it’s pointed in one direction, and it feels both honest and fantastic at the same time, like it’s telling true stories from other worlds than these.  It’s hard to put into words, which is tricky because that’s exactly what I’m supposed to be doing; I’ll simply say that Blue Lagoon meant something to me when I was younger, and that must be part of it, but I honestly think there’s some rare beauty here as well, enough to make it mean something powerful now.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

 


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Movie Review – Cool Runnings

Category : Movie Review

Director: Jon Turteltaub

Starring: Leon, Doug E. Doug, John Candy

Year: 1993

When I was 10 years old, Cool Runnings was a big deal.  Now that my kids are around that age, I thought it was a good time for a revisit, even knowing that the potential for a letdown was high.  All those 90s sports movies were fun but pretty poorly made, but we honestly didn’t care, we liked them anyway, and we’ll show them to our kids anyway too, because we doubt they care any more than we did.  Mighty Ducks, Rookie of the Year, Little Giants; you know the drill (although those movies were about children, Cool Runnings is in the roughly the same genre, even though it’s adults and a semi-true story), and you know what to expect.  Predictable and silly but still loads of fun, Cool Runnings should only be judged by its heart, and that’s pretty huge.

An Olympic hopeful from Jamaica just knows that he’s destined for big things; his father was an Olympian, he’s the fastest man on the island, and the world is his oyster.  When things don’t go as planned, he’ll have to find another way to compete on the global stage, and that way just might be bobsledding.  A screwed up ex-sledder named Irv used to have this wacky idea, that a group of sprinters could make the perfect bobsledding team, which is exactly what four young men from Jamaica want to try, even though their country has never competed in that event.  But there’s a first time for everything, and Jamaica is about to have a bobsled team.

This is a true story, at least partially, and the one thing it has going for it is a heart that makes audiences want to root, watch, and dream.  We loved it when we were young because it was novel, sure, but also because it was positive, it was hopeful, and it had an underdog mentality that is generally very attractive.  That the film isn’t great only matters a certain amount, because we never expected it to be and we don’t think it will be now, even as we show it to our kids.  It’s more fun than strong, and that’s OK, as long as you watch it with an eye toward the message, now the means.  The acting is bad, John Candy is particularly & shockingly terrible, I’m not sure how culturally appropriate it would be if it were released today, but I hold to the fact that there’s a nice, solid, heartfelt point being made here, if somewhat amateurishly.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ⭐︎ ⭐︎