Monthly Archives: November 2021

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Movie Review – Benedetta

Category : Movie Review

Director: Paul Verhoeven

Starring: Virginie Efira, Daphne Patakia, Charlotte Rampling

Year: 2021

You may not want to watch Benedetta without understanding the mind of director Paul Verhoeven first, as much as we can possibly understand what goes on in that bonkers brain of his.  Specifically, watch Flesh+Blood, one of my personal favorites, and a great example of what Verhoeven likes to do in the face of religion, on the topic of sex, with the tool of disease.  It’s an amazing film, but very upsetting in many ways, so watch with caution; if you like it, check out Benedetta as well.  This is a modern cousin to that classic, exploring some of the same themes, but changing the angle a bit, while still ruffling similar feathers.  Well, that may be putting it too mildly; Benedetta was born to make you blush, cringe, and question everything.

Benedetta comes to the city of Pescia as a small girl, already knowing that her life belongs to God and that she will join the convent there forever.  Her family is wealthy, she is allowed to enter, she devotes herself to her beliefs, but encounters odd visions as she ages into womanhood: sexualized dreams of Jesus, portents of the future, bizarrely violent theatrics.  At the same time, a poor girl enters the nunnery, a beautiful townsperson named Bartolomea, who instantly begins an erotically charged kinship with her our heroine, her new cellmate.  Rising in power because of her visions and possible stigmata, Benedetta also creates many enemies, women who soon wish to use her sexual relationship with Bartolomea against her and for themselves.

Those who know Verhoeven and have seen his films won’t be as shocked as those who come in blind, but I don’t think anyone is truly ready for Benedetta.  It’s erotic, it’s sacrilegious, it’s bizarre, it’s plain heresy, and it’s fun in a lot of uncomfortable ways.  Then there’s simply a love story …maybe? …because we never quite know what’s going on, what the motives are, what the truth is, or where all this is leading.  It’s a wild, often brutal time of intrigue and suspicion, with a lot being said beneath the surface.  If you come out of this film still wanting to be religious, your faith must be unshakable, because the Church is rarely shown as this evil and this stupid, which is exactly how it still is today, and probably will be until we’re all long gone.  But Benedetta makes its points, has its laughs, knocks us back a few steps, and refuses to apologize, which is exactly what I love about Verhoeven and his audacious adventures.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

 


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Thought – 2022 Oscar Preview

Category : Thought

Of course it’s too early to make Oscar predictions; the nominees are months away from being announced.  Some of what may be the best films of the year haven’t even come out yet.  But that doesn’t mean we can’t talk about it anyway and make guesses based on almost nothing.  At the very least, here is a list of movies that deserve a watch, as they might be in the Oscar conversation soon.

This is the Variety ranking of top Academy Award contenders:

  1. Belfast
  2. King Richard
  3. The Power of the Dog
  4. Dune
  5. Being the Ricardos
  6. Tick, Tick … Boom!
  7. Licorice Pizza
  8. The Tragedy of Macbeth
  9. Don’t Look Up
  10. West Side Story
  11. The Lost Daughter
  12. Nightmare Alley
  13. CODA
  14. C’mon, C’mon
  15. A Hero
  16. Parallel Mothers
  17. The Harder They Fall
  18. House of Gucci
  19. Spencer
  20. The Last Duel
  21. Passing
  22. Flee
  23. The Tender Bar
  24. Cyrano
  25. Swan Song
  26. The French Dispatch
  27. Red Rocket
  28. Stillwater
  29. Mothering Sunday
  30. The Hand of God

 

Snubbed: Val, Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time, Black Widow, Luca, Benedetta, The Green Knight, Shang-Chi, The Guilty.

 


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Sports – NFL Picks 2021, Week 12

Category : Sports

Here are my NFL Week 12 Picks

(9-6 last week, 99-65-1 for the season)

Bye teams: Cardinals, Chiefs

 

Chi @ Det

LV @ Dal

Buf @ NO

TB @ Ind

NYJ @ Hou

Phi @ NYG

Car @ Mia

Ten @ NE

Pit @ Cin

Atl @ Jax

LAC @ Den

LAR @ GB

Min @ SF

Cle @ Bal

Sea @ Was


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Movie Review – Passing

Category : Movie Review

Director: Rebecca Hall

Starring: Tessa Thompson, Ruth Negga

Year: 2021

Passing was very lovely and very boring.  And although I think that’s all I really have to say about the film because it sums up the experience quite nicely, I’ll try to draw more insight from the depths, even if I’m not sure the film deserves it.  Rebecca Hall is a first time director and it shows, which is not want you want said after your debut; you want us to say “I can’t wait for your next project”.  But she makes too many amateur mistakes here, too many unsmooth moves, and that’s ultimately why the movie fails.  Because, when’s it good it’s really good, but when it’s bad it’s boring as hell.

Based on a novel, set in the 1920s, Passing is the story of two friends who meet randomly years after their childhood together.  Irene, a Black woman, was passing as a white woman for the day in order to find a certain gift for her child, but she comes across Clare, who is passing as white every day of her life.  She’s gone so far as to marry a racist white man and have a daughter with him, and although she says she doesn’t fear being caught, the danger of the lie looms over everything.  The two women renew their friendship, but the worlds in which they live are enormously far apart, and trying to combine them might be deadly.

Hall sets the stage well; black & white color, squared off picture, it feels old from the start, Thompson & Negga own the room, the story heads in the right direction.  And with such a short runtime, I was sure that the plot would unfold smoothly, quickly, and that we’d have a gem on our hands.  But that wasn’t to be.  Somehow, Hall makes every non-conversation a non-participant, all the moments in between the talking seem hours long, and all metaphors look sloppy.  It’s dull, over-worked, and underwhelming; the solid acting and strong dialogue can’t fill enough of the moments, the empty ones are just too gargantuan.  A little convention would have gone a long way, a little more focus on one theme at a time, a few more scenes spent on character instead of slow symbolism.  There was something here to ponder at and to enjoy, but Hall wasn’t ready to give it to us just yet, and that’s a mighty shame.

My rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

 


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Movie Review – Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time

Category : Movie Review

Director: Robert B. Weide

Starring: Kurt Vonnegut

Year: 2021

If you have ever loved a Kurt Vonnegut book, you would be doing yourself a disservice not seeing this film.  Unstuck in Time is the definitive documentary of his life and works, created by a director who became a friend over the course of a quarter century.  Weide would idolize this author, come to know him, come to love him, watch him pass, and then release what amounts to the story of his life; this is the movie that captures the man, at least, however much his mind could ever be captured by mere mortals.

Bob Weide was a high school student who created his own Kurt Vonnegut class to teach, with permission from the school, that’s how much he admired the author and adored his books.  The 60s was the time of Kurt; he spoke to young people in a way no one else could, he wrote to their astonishments, and to their greatest fears.  When Slaughterhouse Five was released in the midst of the Vietnam War, Vonnegut would become a cult hero, a literary celebrity, and would ultimately be understood as a genius of the time.  This is the story of his life as told by a man who became his great friend, with no stone left unturned, and with a cheeky wink to the death that awaits us all.

Weide compiled these interviews, these clips, these images, these moments, over the course of 25 years, and didn’t release the film until many years after Kurt’s death.  What started as a simple documentary became a chronicle or monument, a great honor and capturing of an author who was larger than life.  Vonnegut’s novels touched so many of us: Player Piano, Sirens of Titan, Mother Night, Cat’s Cradle, Mr. Rosewater, Slaughterhouse Five, Breakfast of Champions, Galapagos, Bluebeard, Timequake, and many more short stories, collections, and speeches.  His genius cannot be overstated, his ability to meld humor with philosophy, to show us the certainty of death but also the hilarity of life.  With touching sentiment, his good friend unfolds his life for us to view, and his works for us to understand, allowing an access that we definitively don’t deserve, but will always greatly appreciate.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

 


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Movie Review – Desire (2017)

Category : Movie Review

Director: Diego Kaplan

Starring: Carolina Ardohain, Monica Antonopulos

Year: 2017

Having heard of Diego Kaplan and thinking that Desire would be an enjoyable sultry melodrama, I embarked to watch it mostly blind and because I had nothing better to do at the moment; sometimes life punishes you for going out on a limb.  What I found instead of sexy opulence and foreign flair was one of the worst movies ever, and, although that sentiment gets thrown around too often, it applies perfectly here; Desire is downright malodorous.

On Lucia’s wedding day, her strange and estranged sister Ofelia comes crashing in like a planet-killing comet, ready to start a wave that destroys both their worlds.  Wildly weird and obsessed with sex, Ofelia is a danger to all she encounters, especially if that person is a woman with a husband who is wont to stray.  That’s exactly what Juan-the-newlywed does, with his eye to the other, hotter sister, with Lucia watching the entire thing unravel.

What an awful experience.  This Argentinian drama/comedy/vaudeville is part Cinemax soft core and part Telenovela, a romp through a scattered plot with no talent, no appeal, and no steam, only insanity.  The story is ridiculous, just so bad, and the portrayal of that “story” for our “enjoyment” is even worse.  Not cool, mostly upsetting, kind of inappropriate, and always badly done, this is a film that shouldn’t exist, or at least one we should sacrifice and hang up with a sign that says “be not this”.

My rating:  ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 


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Sports – NFL Picks, 2021, Week 11

Category : Sports

Here are my NFL Week 11 Picks

(6-7-1 last week, 90-59-1 for the season)

Bye teams: Broncos, Rams

 

NE @ Atl

NO @ Phi

Mia @ NYJ

Was @ Car

Ind @ Buf

Det @ Cle

SF @ Jax

Hou @ Ten

GB @ Min

Bal @ Chi

Cin @ LV

Ari @ Sea

Dal @ KC

Pit @ LAC

NYG @ TB


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Movie Review – American Animals

Category : Movie Review

Director: Bart Layton

Starring: Barry Keoghan, Evan Peters

Year: 2018

American Animals is, what, a docudrama?  It’s a true story acted out, interspersed with interviews from the actual people, sometimes told from a couple viewpoints because who the hell knows what really happened anyway.  Whatever it is, American Animals is surely a unique approach to the “based on real events” genre, and offers us truth while also guaranteeing entertainment.  From any angle, this is a cleverly-made and never-boring caper story that takes on a life of its own above the real life drama, and that double layer is very appreciated; the result being a grand film that works whichever way you want it to.

In Kentucky, at Transylvania University, a young man feels lost in his pointless life, awaiting something amazing to show him what the meaning of existence is; hey man, join the club.  He’s not unusual, he’s just bored, and that boredom leads him to befriend a troublemaker, and that troublemaker leads him to the worst idea of his life.  At the university, in the rare books section of the library, there are volumes worth millions of dollars, and they are barely guarded in any way.  So …why not just take them in broad day light while dressed up like old men and walk away as millionaires.  With such a simple idea, how could it go wrong?

This really happened, which is hilarious, because, wow, what a bad idea.  This bunch of knuckleheads decided it was way too easy to just take the books, they had fun making up a silly heist, but then they actually pulled it off …kinda.  It’s wild and goofy and head-scratching; what an awesome tale to tell.  And somehow, though it could have turned boring, the film never is, it’s always high-engagement and high-drama, maybe because it focuses on the honest feelings these boys were having, cause they weren’t bad kids, they were just angry and dumb and lost.  The interviews are entwined excellently, I was always curious, it didn’t feel like a moronic podcast, the acting was spot on, and wow was the music phenomenal.  A film for the young who have never felt defined, and much like The Social Network, American Animals is simply great.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

 


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Movie Review – The Voyeurs

Category : Movie Review

Director: Michael Mohan

Starring: Sydney Sweeney, Justice Smith, Natasha Bordizzo, Ben Hardy

Year: 2021

You know you’ve made a mistake when you make Fifty Shades Freed look good.  The Voyeurs is that bad; bad enough to land beneath the worst of the worst, and bad enough to embarrass itself completely.  And here I was thinking this was going to be a fun experience, a sexy evening, maybe even a critical metaphor; but no.  Any effort toward those goals is laudable, and there was some effort, I can see that.  But the execution and the decision making were both so abysmally horrible that any positives were drowned under the weight of a thousand bulbous negatives, until the entire project collapsed.  It’s not often that you watch one of the worst films ever, but when you do you know it; hello Voyeurs, I see you.

Pippa & Thomas have recently moved into a Montreal high rise together, their lives seemingly taking off to new & exciting heights.  She’s been in school forever but has now joined an optometry practice, he was in a band but now writes jingles, they’re young & in love; life’s great.  Their curtains aren’t up yet though, and across the way they can see right into another couple’s apartment, can see everything going on, especially all the sex.  At first it turns them on, then Pippa gets too curious, and soon she’s obsessed.  What she hears, sees, and thinks she knows will lead her down the rabbit hole to a place that’s so much less friendly than Wonderland.

For the first hour, I was intrigued.  Young couple, attractive neighbors, some sex, some voyeurism/exhibitionism; all good things.  And the story was pretty classic: think Rear Window, The Game, Girl on the Train.  Not groundbreaking, but kinda cool, and a little sexy, despite the very bad acting.  BUT, that’s when things took a turn.  The film pulls a 180º, goes whackadoo, and loses its audience completely as it tries to be something extremely clever, only succeeded in appearing desperately needy.  It needed to be cool, needed to be smart, needed to be edgy, twisty, metaphoric, and so it ended up none of those things; trying too hard can be a very, very bad thing.  The director wanted an allusion and he got one, but at the expense of taste, style, credibility, and good sense.  The actors couldn’t act, the “deep meanings” were too shallow to count as such, the sex wasn’t that good, and to say that I was left unsatisfied would be an understatement.  I would be suspect of anyone who thought this film was clever, fascinating, or good in any way; those people shouldn’t be trusted.

My rating: ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 


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Movie Review – Red Notice

Category : Movie Review

Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds, Gal Gadot

Year: 2021

The only thing that saved Red Notice from complete destruction was that Gal Gadot was hardly in it; had she been featured more, the movie would have imploded much more quickly.  As it was, this Netflix “blockbuster” is about as awful an action flick as you’re ever likely to see, failing every time the pace is asked to pick up or the actors are asked to duke it out.  Gadot’s total ineptitude didn’t help, surely, but at least her role was kept to a minimum; but, then again, the film didn’t fair well without her either, so, yeah, a complete disaster.  Looked at as a monumental streaming event and an awesome spectacle of pure entertainment, Red Notice can barely muster “watchable”, and will no doubt go down as one of the worst blunders of this all-around-crappy cinematic year.

Nolan Booth is the world’s greatest art thief, amassing a staggering collection, being caught half a dozen times only to escape each one, setting himself up as a criminal mastermind and a genius escape artist.  John Hartley is the agent assigned to capture him yet again, to outsmart the smartest man in robbery, to bring this con man to justice.  And The Bishop is a crook in the shadows, jumping the gun on every stick up, stepping in front of every heist, outdoing Booth at his own game at every opportunity.  This unlikely trio will have to team up if they want to claim the prize awarded to the winner of the world’s greatest treasure hunt for Egypt’s most valuable treasure; Cleopatra’s three golden eggs.  Scattered and lost, they will need to be found soon to claim the reward, and our antiheroes will have to pull out every trick in their collective bag to collect the greatest payout in history, and to claim the title of the very best.

First, the good, which there simply isn’t much of.  I like the banter between Rock & Ryan, and I generally like both of those guys in most of what they appear in.  The Rock is likeable, we want him to be a hero, he’s just nice, and we want to watch him; talk about made for stardom.  Ryan is hilarious, at least I’ve always dug his humor, ever since 2 Guys, and I love his quick lines and clever comedy, in that Deadpool style.  Had the movie been the two of them wisecracking and becoming friends and that’s it, well then, that would have been fun.  Unfortunately, that was only a part; it happened, and when it happened I enjoyed it, but it didn’t happen enough.  The rest of the film was the worst action you have ever seen, like if you watched Fury Road or Mission Impossible right after you might have an aneurysm thinking about what you just saw go so wrong.  The action was laughable and insane, clunky and unbelievable, about the worst cinema has to offer, and that’s just not something I can forgive.  The other major problem was Gal Gadot, who we are understanding can’t act.  She just can’t, that’s it; we liked her in the first Wonder Woman but apparently that was her peak.  She’s so bad, the flow of the film is worse, the fights are embarrassing, and Netflix gets another very, very wrong.

My rating: ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆