Monthly Archives: October 2021

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Sports – NFL Picks 2021, Week 8

Category : Sports

Here are my NFL Week 8 Picks

(8-5 last week, 69-38 for the season)

Bye teams: Ravens, Raiders

 

GB @ Ari

Cin @ NYJ

Ten @ Ind

LAR @ Hou

Pit @ Cle

Phi @ Det

SF @ Chi

Car @ Atl

Mia @ Buf

NE @ LAC

Jax @ Sea

Was @ Den

TB @ NO

Dal @ Min

NYG @ KC


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Movie Review – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Category : Movie Review

Director: George C. Wolfe

Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Colman Domingo, Viola Davis

Year: 2020

I finally watched Ma Rainey, and all I have to say is “I told you so.”  I promise that my quick judgements are often proven wrong, that I am more than capable of admitting that a trailer struck me wrong or that a doubt took control or that I simply didn’t know what I was talking about; I sometimes quickly predict what I’ll think about a film, that’s not great, but I, at the very least, am happy to change my mind.  Ma Rainey didn’t force me to do that; I knew it was going to be a limp dish rag of an adaptation when I first caught a glimpse of it, and that’s exactly what it turned out to be, regardless of the airy opinions of critics who were simply ready to rave.

Based on the play of the same name, this is the story of Ma Rainey, but also of Black artists during the blues and jazz boom after the turn of the century, of the explotation of Black performers by their white neighbors who, all the while, preached equality.  During a recording session where Ma is to make a career-defining album, we meet her band: Toledo the old piano player, Slow Drag on bass, Cutler the band leader, and Levee, a horn player who’s young, arrogant, but full of life and skill.  He struggles with the bonds of being in the band, of being a Black man in a white man’s world, and of being told what to do when his own dreams and visions are busting at the seems.

Wolfe is barely a film director, Ma Rainey is barely a film, and there’s no wonder all went wrong while trying to force this play to life.  Like electrocuting Frankenstein’s monster alive and expecting it to be chipper, it’s your own damn fault that this isn’t a movie that flows well, that feels right, and that audiences can adore; it’s just not a movie, period.  This is stage play, and while that works on the big screen on occasion, it’s very difficult to pull off, which is why you need talent stacked on talent stacked on talent, and most of the time that’s still not enough.  It wasn’t enough that Boseman was awesome; he was made static by the box in which he was acting.  It wasn’t enough that Davis was grand; she was barely in the thing, didn’t sing, and looked weird.  And it wasn’t enough that the action was frantic; multiple times that action turned into melodrama, or even unbelievable farce, and that’s simply bad cinema.  Ma Rainey isn’t a musical, it isn’t theatre, and it isn’t a true story; it’s a messy bit of too much earth, somehow still without enough to stand on.

My rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

 


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Movie Review – Hillbilly Elegy

Category : Movie Review

Director: Ron Howard

Starring: Gabriel Basso, Owen Asztalos, Amy Adams

Glenn Close, Haley Bennett, Freida Pinto, Bo Hopkins

Year: 2020

There’s a good movie here somewhere, and I think it’s called The Devil All the Time.  Watch that instead, and leave this film to the one person it matters to; the author of the book.  It must have been an incredible moment for him, to see his life story on screen, but, you know what, we don’t know him, so why the hell should we care?  This is about as personal as you can get, without the redeeming quality of pulling audiences into a shared experience, which leaves us with a movie that sucks from every other angle.  Hillbilly Elegy is a disaster, a complete disaster, and it should be ashamed of itself.

Hustling through Yale law school with only his wits and a supportive girlfriend to push him along, JD Vance struggles to make ends meet, as neither he nor his family have any money or any means.  When he gets a call from his sister saying that their mother has overdosed, he races home to rural Ohio to aid someone who can’t accept his help.  JD reflects on how it got to this point, how he got away from the trap of poverty, and how his Mamaw raised him right, all while grasping at the memories of his home and the undeniable love of his family.

Ron Howard has made some excellent films; this is not one of them.  Hillbilly Elegy is a book gone bananas, or at least an attempted adaptation gone completely off the rails, because absolutely nothing works.  It’s a story we can’t possibly care about, it’s far too specific, far too personal, and then performed for us in the absolute worst ways possible.  If I was one of the actors on screen here I would publicly apologize before I ever signed on to do another movie; there should be some sort of penance involved.  From Amy to Glenn, from Haley to Frieda, from old JD to young JD, these performances were all examples of exactly what not to do.  Overdramatized, overworked, overindulgent; crap, crap, and more embarrassing crap.  It’s hard to believe movies like this even get released; who saw the footage and thought that others should have to bear witness to the same torturous incompetence?

My rating: ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 


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Book Review – The Eye of the World

Category : Book Review

Author: Robert Jordan

Year: 1990

The Wheel of Time series is the strongest fantasy franchise ever written, with The Eye of the World being both its beginning and its best.  High praise for high fantasy, I know, and obviously all fantasy feeds off of Lord of the Rings, but Jordan’s world is the best you will find, the best up to Game of Thrones, and has the best characters you will ever meet in written word.  I love this series so much I named my son after one of the leads, and I don’t regret it for a second; unique names are awesome, I should know.  Welcome to something amazing, if this is your first time reading, and welcome back into the fold, if this is your thousandth.

The Wheel turns, the the Ages pass, the Great Serpent eats its own tail and it reborn; however you say it, time repeats itself, and heroes come again because they must.  In a long forgotten backwater in a realm that has moved on from its glory days, a hero is reborn, but who he is hasn’t been discovered quite yet.  All Moraine Sedai knows is that the Dark One seeks young men from a small village, three specific best friends born around the same time and innocent to their importance: Rand, Mat, Perrin.  When the forces of evil find them, Moraine and a small party head east toward Tar Valon, the city where the ancient Aes Sedai still wield the One Power and pull the strings of nations.  Along the way, the boys discover their destinies and the path of the world is defined, with the Last Battle looming in the mysterious distance.

Any summary simply can’t do this story justice, since this is only the beginning, only a way to set the pace & the path, our introduction to something wonderful.  And yet, Eye of the World is still a phenomenal opening act, and probably the best, simplest, cleanest action Jordan has to offer.  It’s both a way to become accustomed to the world and a way to meet its inhabitants: Rand, Mat, Perrin, Moraine, Lan, Egwene, Nynaeve, Thom, Loial, Min, Elayne, Gawyn.  Every piece, every person, every landmark has something to do with the greater picture, and that Jordan could introduce all these ingredients we don’t need yet and still produce a stunning plot is nothing short of genius.  Adventure around every corner, death stalking down the path, greatness waiting at the end; this is fantasy done fabulous.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

 


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Sports – NFL Picks 2021, Week 7

Category : Sports

Here are my NFL Week 7 Picks

(10-4 last week, 61-33 for the season)

Bye teams: Bills, Cowboys, Jaguars, Chargers, Vikings, Steelers

 

Den @ Cle

Car @ NYG

NYJ @ NE

KC @ Ten

Was @ GB

Atl @ Mia

Cin @ Bal

Det @ LAR

Phi @ LV

Hou @ Ari

Chi @ TB

Ind @ SF

NO @ Sea


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Sports – NFL Picks 2021, Week 6

Category : Sports

Here are my NFL Week 6 Picks

(10-6 last week, 51-29 for the season)

Bye teams: Falcons, Saints, Jets, 49ers

 

TB @ Phi

Mia @ Jax

KC @ Was

LAR @ NYG

Hou @ Ind

Cin @ Det

GB @ Chi

LAC @ Bal

Min @ Car

Ari @ Cle

LV @ Den

Dal @ NE

Sea @ Pit

Buf @ Ten


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Movie Review – Capone

Category : Movie Review

Director: Josh Trank

Starring: Tom Hardy

Year: 2020

Capone is a cross between Godfather 3 and Wild Things; yes, it’s that bad.  Ask yourself the question the filmmaking team should have asked themselves before making this movie; will it make for solid cinema to depict the last, grotesque year of a famous person’s life, a year in which they mostly sat down, grunting & shitting themselves, until they died of syphilitic insanity?  No, no by god, no it will not.  Tom Hardy is one of our greatest actors, Al Capone is one of our most infamous real-life villains, entertainment/intrigue awaits around every corner where these two are involved, and yet all we get is Hardy pooping his diapers and hallucinating for an hour and forty-five minutes.  Again, yes it’s that bad.

Al Capone, the famous mobster, went to prison at the age of 33, was released for failing health at the age of 40, and died when he was 48.  This is a depiction of the last days of his life, as his empire fell crumbling around him, a venereal disease wracked his body, and death stalked the halls of his Florida mansion.  Beset by paranoid delusions and mental impairments, Capone needed more & more care from his family, and took a role in his businesses less & less.  The inevitable final curtain was near, and the march toward death was disgusting, but the grim reaper comes for every man, rich or poor, mighty or frail, and the end is always the same.

Josh Trank has directed Chronicle, Fantastic Four, and Capone; that’s it.  You start with a cool, interesting superhero film, you tank with a reboot that doesn’t work, so you decide to do Al Capone?  OK, maybe, but specifically Al Capone in a wheel chair, unable to speak or eat or form coherent expressions?  On what planet was that a good idea?!  In what world was that something we needed to see?!  To call this film an abomination would be too kind; it’s a mistake that should have been deleted from the universe the instant it was brainstormed.  Tom Hardy is a tremendous actor, obviously, and maybe there’s a story here somewhere, if you start with success and end with decomposition, maybe, somewhere.  Capone was in his 40s when he died, he was an evil god who got too close to the fiery sun, that’s an angle.  But this film, this crud, was much more simple; let’s show the guy slowly breaking down until there’s nothing left, audiences will love that.  Well, no, we won’t, and if the goal was to punish someone notorious, powerful, and bad, you only succeeded in making us hate you, not him.

My rating: ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 


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Movie Review – Another Round

Category : Movie Review

Director: Thomas Vinterberg

Starring: Mads Mikkelsen, Magnus Millang, Lars Ranthe, Thomas Larsen

Year: 2020

I could spend this entire review talking about the greatness that is Mads …and I will, because, my god, he’s the best.  I don’t have time to write down every film that he has been amazing in, but it doesn’t matter if it’s Danish, American, sci-fi, western, he’s always incredible, always fully invested, and there is literally no one like him.  You could do worse than watching his entire career, ignoring all other movies, just keeping an eye on Mads as the years roll by and he does more thrilling work; his talent it that great.  Needless to say, Another Round is just another treat, this time with an ensemble cast and an instant classic feel that makes the entire project pop with a vibrancy that we too rarely see, from Hollywood or from across the world.

Finding their lives becoming more meaningless, more mundane, and always boring, four friends, who all work at a local school, decide to do something to change their depressing paths.  After meeting together for dinner to celebrate a 40th birthday (and much drinking to each other’s health), a bizarre experiment is set in motion; to remain constantly, lightly drunk throughout every weekday, 9-5, in order to see if having a drink will change their outlook on life, make them braver, steady their nerves, allow them to be their true selves.  With varying degrees of success, the foursome begins the challenge, learning, amidst drunkenness, just how fragile life can be, and just how enjoyable.

This really isn’t all about one star, the four lead actors here put on quite a show, and they are all worth discussing.  I can’t help focus on My Man Mads though, since, gosh, he’s just so great.  The amount of emotion he conveys in one look, one smile, one motion, is simply remarkable; for a guy who doesn’t speak loudly he sure shouts.  It’s the same with every film in which he appears, he’s just that magical, and he exhibits that magic to perfection in this film.  Another Round is clever, it’s honest, it’s unsettling, and it’s lovely, all at once & all the time, taking us on a whirlwind ride that’s very inadvisable but so fucking freeing.  The town, the people, the music, the students, the ups & downs, the triumphs and the terrible failures; it’s like Vinterberg decided to tell us the meaning of life using alcohol, and boy did he nail it.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

 


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Movie Review – The Guilty

Category : Movie Review

Director: Antoine Fuqua

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal

Year: 2021

The Guilty is Antoine Fuqua’s best film since Training Day, maybe his only good film other than Training Day (well, can’t forget Southpaw), and could perhaps end up being one of the strongest films of the year period; not bad for a one-man show straight to Netflix.  That’s the power of Fuqua’s vision and Gyllenhaal’s talent, when the stars align correctly at least, because they don’t always, but luckily they do here.  The Guilty is curious, it’s layered, and it’s heavily dramatic; not bad for a 90-minute thrill-ride that never leaves the office or barely even the chair.

Joe Baylor is a reassigned police officer who is now answering emergency calls instead of walking his normal beat.  That story is revealed as we go along, but suffice it to say, Joe does not want to be here but there’s a good reason why he’s not allowed on typical duty.  He’s a flawed cop, maybe a bad one, that’s to be determined, but, regardless, he better get his head in the game, because L.A. needs his help.  Specifically, Joe must react correctly when a woman calls on her cell phone and stealthily lets him know that she had been abducted.  He kicks into action, crossing the lines (and his new job description) many times, but always with an eye to solving this dynamic, dangerous case, before it is very quickly too late.

That this entire film is set in one place, dealing with one emergency, with one actor doing all the face work, is pretty impressive.  That they pull it off without making the movie boring or gimmicky is something else entirely.  Think Phone Booth, but with Jake instead of Colin, and you’ll have some picture of what’s about to take place; high drama on a phone call, not going anywhere, just laying in the moment, and letting that moment spiral faster & faster & faster until you’re sweating too.  It should be noted; this is a foreign film remade, which isn’t uncommon, but does make it unoriginal, so if that’s the bone you want to pick, have at it.  Otherwise, Gyllenhaal carries the weight, I was invested the whole way, there are standard pieces galore, but they actually help audiences feel comfortable instead of rubbing us the wrong way.  For a quick Netflix watch, this is about as good as it gets.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

 


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Sports – NFL Picks 2021, Week 5

Category : Sports

Here are my NFL Week 5 Picks

(10-6 last week, 41-23 for the season)

Bye teams: none

 

LAR @ Sea

NYJ @ Atl

Det @ Min

NO @ Was

NE @ Hou

Mia @ TB

GB @ Cin

Den @ Pit

Phi @ Car

Ten @ Jax

Cle @ LAC

Chi @ LV

SF @ Ari

NYG @ Dal

Buf @ KC

Ind @ Bal

 


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