Month: December 2022

Sports – NFL Picks 2022, Week 17

Category : Sports

Here are my NFL Week 17 Picks

8-8 last week, 144-95-1 for the season)

Bye teams: none

Dal @ Ten

Ari @ Atl

Chi @ Det

Jax @ Hou

Den @ KC

Mia @ NE

Ind @ NYG

NO @ Phi

Car @ TB

Cle @ Was

SF @ LV

NYJ @ Sea

Min @ GB

LAR @ LAC

Pit @ Bal

Buf @ Cin


Movie Review – Don’t Worry Darling

Category : Movie Review

Director: Olivia Wilde

Starring: Florence Pugh, Harry Styles, Chris Pine

Year: 2022

Of all the problems surrounding Don’t Worry Darling, the biggest was the one we could have most easily predicted; Olivia Wilde is a bad director.  Or maybe she’s just still an amateur and we can’t expect anything other than speed bumps for a while; Booksmart is her only other feature and it’s not nearly as good as some predetermining critics think it is.  Its biggest flaw (and it’s the same here) is its reliance on “borrowing”, until it becomes not its own film but some sort of bastardization of others, a true knock-off copy, and Don’t Worry Darling is, sadly, just more of the same.

Alice & Jack lead a perfect life; they should, the lives of the men of the Victory project are designed to be perfect, to have every amenity waiting for them when they return from their work on a Top Secret project, one which they can’t even tell their perfect wives about, but one which is guaranteed to change the world.  But Alice starts to suspect that not all in their tiny community in the desert is as it seems, and her questions get her the wrong kind of attention from the wrong kind of people.

It’s not even that Don’t Worry Darling is bad, it’s that it’s badly directed.  The story is interesting, if cliched, the feeling is creepy, if borrowed, the acting is decent, if forced; nothing is awful until it all starts to group together and you wonder where you’ve seen this all before.  Wilde only takes, she doesn’t give, and that’s a huge problem, her huge problem, and that’s why she’s not ready to be a real director of real movies.  This should be cool & fun to watch, but the train goes off the rails too often, the sincerity is never present, and it’s like the puppet master keeps bumbling & dropping the strings until the whole set is revealed & collapses.  Stiles is fine, Pugh is always great, Pine is my hero; they aren’t the problem, and neither is the recycled story; talent will out, but so will its lack.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

 


Movie Review – Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town

Category : Movie Review

Director: Arthur Rankin, Jules Bass

Starring: Mickey Rooney, Paul Frees, Fred Astaire

Year: 1970

Believe it or not, this is my first time watching this holiday classic; I grew up on Rudolph & The Grinch, and then on Home Alone & The Santa Clause, for some reason I just never saw Comin’ to Town.  I watched it with my kids, they had seen it with their grandparents, and I was utterly delighted, I have to say.  What a weird & wacky way to celebrate the holidays and to step on the toes of Rudolph, but what great fun as well.

This is the tale of how Santa Claus came to be, and how the title song fit the man, or how the man fit the song, or somesuch; just enjoy and don’t ask questions, kids.  He started out an orphan, raised by a family of small, toy-making people named Kringle, and as he grew, his one mission became to make people happy by giving them gifts.  Well, that didn’t sit well with the evil Burgermeister Meisterburger, and that’s where the fun comes in, and the legend starts.

This movie is amazing.  I mean, bizarre as hell, kinda trippy, and pretty bad stop-motion, but amazing all the same.  It’s like the people who made it simply did not give a damn, they’d tell whatever screwball story they wanted to, and they’d make up songs that made no sense too, if they wanted.  And they did want, and they did do, and the result is pure, nutty entertainment.  The villain, the way the story fits the details, the kooky characters, and of course Santa himself; almost no sense is made but we don’t care, it’s a complete abandon and a good time doing it; we’re just lucky to be along for the ride.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

 


Movie Review – Top Gun: Maverick

Category : Movie Review

Director: John Kosinski

Starring: Tom Cruise, Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly

Year: 2022

First, you need to know how much I love Top Gun.  I not only watched it too early & too often, but I grew up with it by my side, like it was my babysitter & I its little charge.  I memorized it, I idolized it, I loved it, and I still do; it’s one of less than 20 movies that I’ve ever rated as perfect films.  Now, do I think it’s a perfect film?  Maybe not, but my love fills in the tiny gaps …and it is pretty damn awesome.  I was worried, therefor, about the sequel so many years later, an obvious cash grab that will use nostalgia to rope us in.  I was in anyway, I would watch regardless, but I really hoped the non-nostalgic parts would be good so I didn’t have to give one of my favorite movie’s little brother a bad report.  But I wasn’t in charge of content, no one asked me, and, apart from the nods & the jets, the rest really sucked.

Pete Mitchell is still out there flying fast planes, but he’s been such a wildcard over the years that he’s never really advanced up the ranks of the US Navy, never made a name for himself or done anything outstanding.  He’s a bit of a screwup, a hothead, a little shit maybe, but we still love him, and he’s still very brave …or just plain dangerous.  When the Navy needs a trainer for a top secret mission, they ask Maverick to come back to Top Gun to teach a squad of young pistols how to maneuver a tricky mission, one from which they might not make it back alive.  But among the group is Goose’s son, now all grown up, and holding a grudge against Mav, the man who killed his father.

First, the nostalgia was there and it was awesome.  They chose the right music, made the right mentions, brought back the right characters, hit us in all the feels, and I enjoyed the movie for that.  Having Ice back was a nice touch, and if you haven’t watched Val you need to immediately, because you can’t understand what this meant to Kilmer without watching that doc first, so see it; it’ll break your heart.  And the jets were cool, the training sessions were fun, the dogfights were nice; all the elements you needed from a Top Gun followup and from a Tom Cruise action flick were present.  All that was left to do was to bolster the entertainment value with some solid young actors and write a half-assed script …which apparently was just too damned hard.

The story was basic, but fine, whatever, KeepItSimpleStupid, I understand.  But the script was *ridiculous*, and the plot fell apart amid a hundred tropes and a thousand bad decisions.  They had the building blocks and they screwed it up; there were like a dozen writers, and oh boy could you tell.  So the story was all over the place, and the dialogue was abyssal (it’s not the plane …it’s the pilot), but, honestly, I would have still forgiven it, because I wanted to, if it hadn’t have been for the acting.  Miles Teller …sucks.  He’s bad, and then they surrounded him with even worse, tossaway pseudo-characters that I couldn’t have cared less who died.  From the bar scene where you meet the crew on, I knew we were in deep shit, as the acting got worse and the motivation got worser; even Cruise simply didn’t feel like Mav, he felt like Tom.  What ultimately saves the film from crashing and burning is that we want to love it, it knows that, and it does just enough to keep us voluntarily holding on.  It could have been more disastrous, but I wish it had been a *whole* lot better, and anyone who says this movie is an Oscar contender might have their finger on the pulse, what do I know, but if they think that’s justified they also have a screw loose.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

 

 


Sports – NFL Picks 2022, Week 16

Category : Sports

Here are my NFL Week 16 Picks

12-4 last week, 136-87-1 for the season)

Bye teams: none

 

Jax @ NYJ

Atl @ Bal

Det @ Car

Buf @ Chi

NO @ Cle

Sea @ KC

NYG @ Min

Cin @ NE

Hou @ Ten

Was @ SF

Phi @ Dal

LV @ Pit

GB @ Mia

Den @ LAR

TB @ Ari

LAC @ Ind


Movie Review – The Banshees of Inisherin

Category : Movie Review

Director: Martin McDonagh

Starring: Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson

Year: 2022

If The Whale is the lead for the Best Actor award, then The Banshees of Inisherin might be the lead for Best Supporting Actor …and Best Supporting Actress …and Best Score …and Best Picture …and maybe even Best Actor, after all.  It’s a clean-sweep kind of film, with powerful punches coming from all directions and no real rivals to stand in its way.  It’s a bludgeon of emotion and talent on display in a fascinating location & time, a real checks-all-the-boxes type of movie, one to salivate over.  All that’s really left is does it connect with you in just the right way or does it swing past your chin; it landed squarely for me, and now I’m seeing Oscars.

One fine Spring day on an island off the west coast of Ireland, Padraic goes down to his mate Colm’s house by the water’s edge to gather him for their daily 2pm trot to the pub.  But this day, unlike every other, Colm completely ignores him, and later, at the pub, continues to pretend he doesn’t exist.  Pressing the issue, Padraic learns a shocking fact; that his best friend in the world has decided, without real provocation, that they aren’t pals anymore, and that he can’t stand the company of his steadfast, somewhat boring companion.  His world rocked, Padraic begins a campaign to solve the bizarre mystery, only to go deeper & deeper into levels of emotion he simply doesn’t understand.

Banshees starts as an addition to the theatre of the absurd; bizarre, comedic, existential, irrational, lacking clear communication, and ultimately revolving in a circle toward its own beginning.  But too much happens along the way to say that it stays absurd throughout; rather, it becomes a tragedy of epic proportions, but on the level of the soul, where our darkest tragedies take place.  Set up this way, so funny at times and so casual, the slaps to the face of pure, brutal, honest, depressing, gut-wrenching existential crisis are all the more impactful, and can be felt so thoroughly, which is exactly why this film is having such an affect on audiences.  It’s so sad, so bleak, but has such moments of beauty and hope; just a wonderfully written story & delivered so well.  Farrell & Gleeson are an all-time pair, perfect together in a way I can’t think that two other actors could accomplish.  Barry Keoghan and Kerry Condon are receiving a lot of attention too, but for my money the tale is best when it centers on the two friends, and doesn’t need the other pair to succeed, making them unnecessary perhaps, even with excellent acting from both.  This is a film that slams its foot down & demands to be heard, and one that will be talked about for years.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

 


Movie Review – The Whale

Category : Movie Review

Director: Darren Aronofsky

Starring: Brendan Fraser, Sadie Sink, Hong Chau

Year: 2022

I shouldn’t have to say this, but The Whale is not fatphobic.  It’s not even really about being overweight, it’s much more metaphoric than that, which should be obvious if you’ve ever even heard of Darren Aronofsky or have any idea what depth artistic directors like him enjoy exploring.  And he didn’t write this, it’s a play, and the whale that the title refers to isn’t Brendan Fraser’s character, it’s Moby Dick, which is again a metaphor; I don’t have time to explain it all, nor do I think I have all the explanations anyway.  You’re just going to have to watch the film to see what it has to say, which, by the way, I would highly recommend, since it’s *the* best film of the entire year.

Charlie lives alone and doesn’t leave his house, teaching college writing courses online and behind the blank screen of his covered webcam.  He used to be married, has a high-school-aged daughter, but hasn’t seen her since the divorce, as he began a relationship with a former student and was blocked by his former wife from having any communication with Ellie.  After a tragedy, Charlie has turned completely inward, including not leaving his home, but also resulting in an extreme weight gain, to the point that his friend Liz, who is a nurse, has told him that he will die within days.  In a final effort to make things right with Ellie, Charlie strikes a deal with his angry, teenage daughter and attempts to repair a bond that could have been so special and so strong.

First, this is a play, and that feeling prevails throughout; one location, characters in & out through one door, monologues that would normally feel out of place in cinema.  Seen through that lens first, which I think is very important, The Whale takes on a life of its own, a theatrical/cinematic, captivating life, that seems at once intimate & honest and also grand, and laden with hidden meaning.  This isn’t surface level stuff, people, this isn’t a fat guy being made fun of or made to look sad & stupid.  Charlies is amazing, and his life has been awful, but his outlook has remained hopeful anyway, and his gift to us is what he sees in others.  Fraser played the part perfectly, *perfectly*, and if I had an Oscar vote to give right now I’d hand it to him in a heartbeat.  The other actors were only fine, I almost wish we had never seen them; maybe they stay behind the door and we only hear them, something like that, which would also add to the feeling of Charlie’s isolation.  But Fraser & Aronofsky did enough to make the movie magical anyway; it was sad and sweet, truthful and hard to swallow, it brought forth so many emotions that they were hard to sort sometimes, but I loved that about this film; it was challenging from the first scene.  The Whale is one of those films I want to immediately rewatch, because it has so much to say, and I trust that it will only reveal more to me each time.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

 


Book Review – Lisey’s Story

Category : Book Review

Author: Stephen King

Year: 2006

The first few hundred pages of Lisey’s Story had me very concerned.  Nothing was happening, nothing made sense, Lisey was using words that weren’t words like I was supposed to know what they meant; it was quite worrisome.  I should have known (and maybe did, because, well, I didn’t stop reading) that King would make it make sense, because of course he would, and of course he did, even if it took a while for things to get started.  And Lisey’s Story ended up a fine novel, full of sadness and suspense, one that doesn’t leap out at you but burns slowly until you finally understand.

Scott Landon is a famous author, but his story ideas come from a very dark past, and perhaps an even darker place.  And this place isn’t make believe; it’s a real land that Scott can blip into, in runs in his family, but so does a growing danger that threatens to kill them all eventually.  After Scott dies, his wife Lisa (or Lisey (LEE-see) to her multiple sisters) will have to travel there herself if she can, and if she’s able to face the truth of what Scott tried to tell her many years ago; that his family was not a normal family, and that murder is sometimes very, very necessary.

Worried might be an understatement; I was sure this book sucked.  And it did for a few hundred pages, since nothing was happening, Lisey was just sad, she talked about Scott all the time, used nonsense phrases that he had or that she had when she was young, and kept talking about Scott’s family and his darkness in vague ways that simply weren’t fun to read.  BUT, I’m happy to report, King brought all the loose ends together by the finale and I as a reader was left smacking my head in understanding and covering my mouth in horror.  When the story came together, it *really* came together, and the excitement began with a bang.  The otherworld King created is phenomenal, so creepy and so beautiful, and to go there with Lisey was a treat.  King wins again, because of course he does, with yet another novel that will knock your socks off.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

 


Sports – NFL Picks 2022, Week 15

Category : Sports

Here are my NFL Week 15 Picks

6-7 last week, 124-83-1 for the season)

Bye teams: none

 

SF @ Sea

Ind @ Min

Bal @ Cle

Mia @ Buf

Atl @ NO

Pit @ Car

Phi @ Chi

KC @ Hou

Dal @ Jax

Det @ NYJ

Ari @ Den

NE @ LV

Ten @ LAC

Cin @ TB

NYG @ Was

LAR @ GB


Movie Review – Bros

Category : Movie Review

Director: Nicholas Stoller

Starring: Billy Eichner, Luke Macfarlane

Year: 2022

Bros is the best rom-com since Sleeping with Other People, which was the best rom-com since When Harry Met Sally, so it’s in excellent company.  It’s also a near-perfect love story, a little genre gem, a credit to the style, with enough references thrown in to make sure that you know that they know what they’re doing, that they know that we know they know we know, you know?  That old chestnut, but somehow fresher than any recycled joke you’ve ever seen, with an honest edge that will surprise you but which is exactly why the story works so damn well.

Bobby is a cynic, a loner, a grumpy person whose anger is often justified; he’s had to fight his whole life just to be allowed to be what he is, unapologetically gay, and he’s not about to pipe down now.  He’s opening a new LGBTQ+ museum, bringing queer history to life, and it’s a dream of his to have those stories heard, even if not everyone will listen.  Enter Aaron, a bro who goes hard, bro; sculpted, macho, likes Country music, isn’t as comfortable talking about being gay all the time or making a big deal out of it.  He & Bobby fall in love fast, but their polar opposite personalities will make it difficult for the relationship to work, unless both are willing to bend before the other breaks.

Not only is Bros an excellent example of a rom-com (even going Hallmark-holiday-love-story, with a lead actor who’s been in about a dozen of ’em), but it moves beyond that; it takes the genre and says “a gay couple can headline a romance too.”  But it doesn’t stop there, the next message is that love isn’t love, gay relationships are different from straight relationships, and that’s OK, it’s OK to learn about our differences and to tell those stories.  In that vein, Bros teaches us all, opening our eyes to what we’ve been ignoring; queer history, gay sex, and what it means to constantly be told that you need to tone down who you are because it makes others uncomfortable.  This is a film with something to say, with real heart under all the silly rom-com stuff, and that’s where the real quality is.  But it’s also funny, cheeky, clever, quick, insightful, touching, heart-warming, and relevant; this is why we watch great movies, to be simultaneously entertained and to feel something real, which happens here in a way that will stick with you.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

 


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