Month: January 2023

Movie Review – TMNT III

Category : Movie Review

Director: Stuart Gillard

Starring: Paige Turco, Elias Koteas, Stuart Wilson

Year: 1993

Well, the Turtles’ luck had to run out some time; it’s a really bizarre concept that probably should never have worked, somehow did, but most likely had a shel(l)f life.  Don’t get me wrong, the Turtles are still awesome, but their movies were eventually going to go downhill, there’s only so much time you can spend watching their animatronic mouths move and their spotted feet kick.  Turtles III was when the magic wore off, when they went back in time and forgot what worked so well in the first two episodes; oh well, it was a nice run.

Finding a weird scepter in a bunch of junk, April O’Neil is whisked back into the past, with no way of getting back.  The Turtle Bros. are always ready for an adventure, so they travel back in time to retrieve her, finding themselves in feudal Japan amid a war between a power-thirsty lord and the rebel villagers around him.  Also, a pirate of sorts is supplying him with weapons, which will make the war both bloody & short.  The Turtles jump in to help change history and to rescue their gal pal, as long as they can survive themselves.

This is the silliest addition, or at least the least successful, and it does most of its work mostly wrong.  April is kinda there, Casey Jones is barely there, Splinter is almost not there, and even the Turtles are so hidden among a dozen other characters that they don’t make much of an impact.  Also, most of the content is probably pretty racist, of course taking the time period into account.  The action is fun, there are ways to enjoy, my son sure did, but I’m not sure this 3rd piece is worth revisiting again.

My rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆


Thought – 2023 Oscar Update

Category : Thought

A few months ago I posted a list of 30 potential Best Picture Oscar contenders, plus a list of snubbed films that deserved consideration.  Since then, I’ve updated the list with reviews as I’ve seen the movies, including any personal favorites that hadn’t previously made the list.  As the Academy Awards are about to commence, let’s take a look at an updated watchlist, a list that starts with the ten nominees for Best Picture and continues with some of the best of the rest.

This is the Variety ranking of top Academy Award contenders:

  1. Everything Everywhere All at Once
  2. The Fabelmans
  3. The Banshees of Inisherin
  4. Top Gun: Maverick
  5. Tar
  6. Elvis
  7. All Quiet on the Western Front
  8. Triangle of Sadness
  9. Women Talking
  10. Avatar: The Way of Water
  • Emancipation
  • Living
  • The Woman King
  • Glass Onion
  • Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
  • She Said
  • Empire of Light
  • Pinocchio
  • Babylon
  • The Inspection
  • Thirteen Lives
  • RRR
  • Devotion
  • Aftersun
  • The Whale
  • Bardo
  • Bones and All
  • The Son
  • Till
  • Armageddon Time

Snubbed: Lightyear, The Northman, The Stranger, Bros, Prey, Pearl, Nope, The Gray Man, Downton Abbey: A New Era, Hustle, A Man Called Otto, The Batman, The Adam Project.

Sports – NFL Picks 2022, Championship

Category : Sports

Here are my NFL Championship Picks

(7-3 for the postseason, 164-106-1 for the regular season)

Bye teams: none


SF @ Phi

Cin @ KC

Movie Review – Everything Everywhere All at Once

Category : Movie Review

Director: Daniels

Starring: Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan, Jamie Lee Curtis

Year: 2022

Everything Everywhere All at Once is weird, until you remember that The Daniels (Dan Kwan & Daniel Scheinert) also did Swiss Army Man, it’s really their only other movie, and that one was wacko.  In a good way, in the best way, don’t get me wrong, it was in my Top 10 of 2016, but super weird all the same, and having that knowledge makes EEAAO seem all the more sane.  It’s a film that fights to show so much to us that at times we will get overwhelmed, it will seem like *too* much, but that’s part of the point.  Life is too much, there are too many possibilities, and attempting to see all the threads will cause you to snap.

Evelyn Wang owns a laundry service with her husband, having moved with him to America from China years ago to get married, open a business, and start a family far from her oppressive father.  Now the IRS is on the verge of shutting them down, her husband has divorce papers in hand, and her daughter is about to bolt from the family, after not being accepted for who she is & who she loves.  With Evelyn’s life at a crossroads, it’s about to get even stranger; her husband from another dimension comes to tell her that only she can save all the dimensions by defeating a powerful woman who is trying to bring it all crashing down.

With one of the most captivating and extraordinary beginnings I have ever seen, this film slaps audiences in the first scene and demands our attention.  Once they have it, they take us down a rabbit hole that often makes very little sense, until, ultimately, we begin to understand the metaphors behind the many lives and many failures of Evelyn Wang.  EEAAO starts perfect, goes wonky, ends on a high note, and delivers one of the most fascinating films not only of this year, but of any year, with a story that you simply can’t follow on just one watch.  It demands to be re-seen, to be taken seriously even when it’s being ridiculous (hot dog fingers), and for audiences to appreciate the talent on display here.  Yeoh, Quan, & Curtis are all phenomenal, but I *hated* Stephanie Hsu and I wish her character wasn’t even in the movie.  Take her out, edit down 30 minutes, tell the story more succinctly, and I truly believe this may have been one of the best films ever made.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆


Movie Review – Sunshine Cleaning

Category : Movie Review

Director: Christine Jeffs

Starring: Amy Adams, Emily Blunt, Alan Arkin

Year: 2008

Does it really matter what the plot of a film might be if it’s headlined by those three above names?  They could be sitting around reading condiment labels and I’d still tune in; the talent that trio could pool up would blow the roof off of most other movies, and it comes so natural to all of them that it’s simply enviable.  Adams, especially, takes this entire project on her shoulders and makes it her film, her piece, her exposition, and it’s that confidence in ability mixed with that level of capability that makes Sunshine Cleaning great.

Rose hasn’t had an easy life, since her days as head cheerleader dating the star quarterback.  He left her for another woman, because apparently Rose isn’t marrying materiel, she has a son who doesn’t have a dad, because who’d want to stick around, and she’s a maid for a living, cleaning up after the rich people she went to high school with who married money.  Her mom’s dead, her dad’s a sleazy salesman type, her sister is a burnout, her son is a weirdo; it really couldn’t get messier.  So, hey, why not try a new job cleaning murder scenes, you really can’t hit bottom any further down, and, in a surprising turn of events, you just might be good at it.

Amy as Rose is the real reason to watch this movie; the rest is just nice.  Blunt is good, back in her emo casting days, but her accent-hiding is a distraction.  Arkin is as solid as ever, though it feels like they cast him because he was good in this style in Little Miss Sunshine, which, come to think of it, the entire movie feels like it’s copying that vibe just a little.  The kid is bad, the side characters are bad, the plot doesn’t go too many places, BUT, it all comes down to Amy Adams; she is a real star.  Her charisma carries the rest of the plot the rest of the way, and makes this film enjoyable, rather than forgettable, headlining a trio that’s a must-watch.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆


Movie Review – A Man Called Otto

Category : Movie Review

Director: Marc Forster

Starring: Tom Hanks, Mariana Treviño

Year: 2022

Shouldn’t it be A Man *Named* Otto, since that would be the more appropriate American equivalent of the Swedish title A Man Called Ove?  I guess it doesn’t matter, it’s just a small detail, but small details are where this Hollywood version of a wonderful foreign film goes iffy.  Don’t get me wrong, I quite literally shed a tear watching this film, it moved me very much, and it was ultimately both a heart-warming and heart-breaking watch.  But the Hanks Otto doesn’t hold a candle to the Lassgard Ove, it just isn’t close, and while both movies can be good, only one is spectacular.

Otto might seem like an angry old man to most of the people in his neighborhood, but some know better; they knew Otto years back, when his life had joy in it, and that was a sight to see.  But now, sadly, he’s a man alone with this anger and his compulsions, which makes him hard to be around.  When a new family move in across the street, his plans for a quiet suicide are put on hold and his world is turned upside down, but maybe for the better.  As we learn the story of Otto, we being to understand his behavior, and we start to love the man despite the mood.

First off, track down Ove and give that a watch; it’s on Prime, it’s at your local library, it’s worth your time.  It’s the superior film, because of course it is, and there was no reason to make an American version starring an American legend, it simply wasn’t needed or asked for.  Forster saw an opportunity and took it, no blame there I guess, but he could have done a better job with the film itself, because it feels like it’s missing all the tiny pieces that made the first one special.  Hanks too is a little off his game, just not delivering the character perfectly, it seems like something is off.  However, and it’s a big one, I still think you should run to go see Otto, regardless of its imperfection.  It is cute, and then gut-wrenching, it is nice, and then really poignant, it’s a roller coaster of standard fare and moments of brilliance, but ultimately a wonderful feel-good movie.  And, oh yeah, can’t forget this; I think Mariana Treviño might have delivered the performance of the year as Marisol, and it might not even be close.  Not an artistic masterpiece but a valuable experience all the same, Otto is something you will want to feel.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆


Sports – NFL Picks 2022, Divisional

Category : Sports

Here are my NFL Divisional Picks

(5-1 for the postseason, 164-106-1 for the regular season)

Bye teams: none


Jax @ KC

NYG @ Phi

Cin @ Buf

Dal @ SF

Movie Review – Pearl

Category : Movie Review

Director: Ti West

Starring: Mia Goth, David Corenswet, Emma Jenkins-Purro

Year: 2022

X walked so Pearl could run, or whatever that saying is.  Ti West created a pair of films this year, a tandem of horror, telling two different stories but somehow one story, and I’d say it was a smashing success.  Watching X on its own, it’s simply paying homage to Texas Chainsaw, and reveling in the fun of sex, blood, the 70s, slashers, what have you; it’s a good ol’ time, but not much else.  But then you watch the second piece and you get the joke; X was a throwback to an old style, sure, but it was also a complete setup for what was to come, and Pearl finished the job spectacularly.

In X, we see some young people in Texas in 1979 drive to the country to shoot a porno, and little do they know that they’ll almost all end up dead.  The old farmer couple there are creepier than meets the eye …well, no, they look creepy too, but they are far more deadly than anyone imagined.  But there’s a reason, and Pearl is here to fill us in on all the gory details.  We flash back to WWI and begin to understand the motives behind the madness, and the horror behind the farm, as what happened here in 1918 set the stage for a murderous curse that would hang over the homestead until it was murdered itself.

Pearl is basically a prequel or a backstory, but it’s far more than that as well; it’s the reason X exists, and the true terror of the pair.  The first film is just a tease, it’s the second one that has all the answers, and it’s the second one that had me standing up in applause.  It’s far more than horror homage, it’s a sinister story all its own, and a damn fine film to watch regardless.  Goth is great, every moment is so creepy, the action unfurls slowly, and I was left wanting so much more; maybe going back to 1979 and watching that again would alleviate my anguish, or I just need to wait until Part 3 comes out.  This is a tale that will suck you in, but be warned; it’s not for the faint of heart.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆


Movie Review – X

Category : Movie Review

Director: Ti West

Starring: Mia Goth, Martin Henderson, Brittany Snow

Year: 2022

X is a fairly simple movie; it’s a throwback to slashers from the 70s, Texas Chainsaw in particular …and there’s really not much else to say about it.  Fans will love to point to the nuances and moments and reference and airs, but it really, simply, boils down to homage; X is a nod to the genre.  And the fact that it’s a well-made nod isn’t even really in contention, we can all agree that it is, that it does exactly what it sets out to do, and that fairly well; whether you’ll like it or not is another question entirely.

With the booming videotape industry, and with the success a year earlier of Debbie Does Dallas, a small group of wannabe filmmakers and budding adult actors come together to create the next great porno.  Their producer, and boyfriend of their star, rents a rustic bungalow on a Texas farm, far away from prying eyes, where they can shoot in peace.  But they didn’t count on the elderly couple who live in the main house, or on the insatiable sexual urges of the little Mrs.

Well, it’s a slasher alright, and a damn creepy showcase of murderous old people, one that will give you the willies and keep you up at night.  The gore is fun, the sex is fun, the film is set up well, and all signs point to Texas Chainsaw, from the van to the house, and that’s all to the good; if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.  It then becomes your call; do you want to see people stabbed in the eyeball or not?  Do you want to see naked old ladies killing young people or not?  It’s weird, it’s gross, it’s entertaining; count me in at somewhere in the middle, and consider yourself warned.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆


Movie Review – Avatar: The Way of Water

Category : Movie Review

Director: James Cameron

Starring: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Stephen Lang

Year: 2022

The only thing saving Avatar: The Way of Water from a one-star rating, from the bottom of the barrel, from being in the conversation with the worst movies of the year, is that it looked cool.  And even that was sometimes a detriment, when it was looking cool underwater with whales and fish for about an hour while literally nothing happened except hand signals to whale’s eye balls and connecting to a goddess on a level that wasn’t even explained.  If this sounds like I hated this movie, then I guess I’m writing it correctly; Avatar 2 is worse than Avatar 1, and that’s saying something.

About a  dozen years have passed since Jake Sully discovered the wonderful world of Pandora, and subsequently let his human body die so that he could live & love in a blue body of a native.  At first, things went really well; marriage, kids, adopting a miracle baby born from a corpse, playing with a feral Earthling who wears dreadlocks, a mask, and a loin cloth.  But all that loveliness soon ran out, when the evil Space Invaders made their return, this time hunting Sully personally, with an old enemy at the helm.  Will he fight, run, or hide, and will his life ever be “normal” again?

‘Bizarrely bad’ might begin to describe this film, but it won’t cover nearly enough.  Rewind to the first one, which was awful, and try to wrap your brain around how nobody understood that.  People were mesmerized by the technology and the visuals, I get that, I felt it too, but behind the computers was a story that was plain pathetic, with acting and accents and recycled ideas that were offenses they were so bad.  Horner with the same music he’s done a dozen times, Cameron with the same ascetic, Weaver with the same no-talent-at-all; it was abysmal, saved only by the spectacle.  Fast forward to Way of Water and everything is amplified, from the laughable dialogue to the amazing optics, and everything in between.

First, everyone is back from the dead, kind of, and that’s not acceptable, since it makes the first movie moot.  Second, they leave the forest, which is like leaving Pandora, and that takes that magic away, which is just dumb.  What follows is three hours of pretty shots of computerized water that get old very fast, and a plot that revolves around the most annoying teenage aliens you could ever imagine, cutting out the main characters in a way that is almost unfathomable.  The last battle scene might save a lot, and of course so do the gorgeous visuals, but they can’t make you forget all the whales, all the angst, all the wasted lines, all the blatant allegory, all the shiny crap that’s marketed as pure gold.  This is a very bad film franchise, just two awful episodes, and I haven’t even delved into the characters saying things like sick, dude, & bro every five seconds; there’s simply not enough time to explain why this movie sucks.

My rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆