Author Archives: ochippie

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Movie Review – Mass

Category : Movie Review

Director: Fran Kranz

Starring: Jason Isaacs, Ann Dowd, Martha Plimpton, Reed Birney

Year: 2021

Directed by the stoner guy from Cabin in the Woods, starring that random friend from The Goonies, centered on a mass shooting, and solidly in Oscar conversations?  What now?  Mass is a movie of odd choices and random pieces, but so simple at its core that it somehow just works anyway.  I don’t know if Kranz was a good director, I don’t know if these people were good actors, I don’t know if this subject matter needed to be addressed in this way, but somehow Mass works, and I guess that’s a compliment to …someone.

After a tragedy involving their children, two couples reluctantly meet to discuss their feelings, to get answers, and, ultimately, to allow the healing process to begin.  We learn more about the details of the shooting as the conversation develops, but there are no twists here, just ruthless death, no happy endings, just honest pain.  Jay & Gail just want to know why, Linda & Richard struggle to provide solace, and each person will have to come to terms with what happened before they can move on from it toward whatever might be waiting in the future, be it redemption or emptiness.

Rudderless tells a similar story more conventionally, and I’d recommend you start there if this subject is something you need to see portrayed; it’s a little more mainstream but not less powerful.  And Mass does have power, it has something to say and says it honestly; I just wonder how many want to hear it so bluntly.  It’s hard to watch, hard to talk about, and very moving; a well-written film from every emotional angle.  Isaacs was brilliant as a grieving father, but I didn’t like his wife, played by Martha Plimpton; she was definitely the weakest link.  Starring only four adults, shot over only two weeks, Mass is a gut-wrenching story that you won’t want to sit through, but only because what it talks about so passionately is something we never want to have to acknowledge.  It’s difficult to call this one of the year’s best, but it probably is, even if I’d never want to watch it again.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

 


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Sports – NFL Picks 2021, Week 13

Category : Sports

Here are my NFL Week 13 Picks

(8-7 last week, 107-72-1 for the season)

Bye teams: Panthers, Browns, Titans, Packers

 

Dal @ NO

NYG @ Mia

Ind @ Hou

Min @ Det

Phi @ NYJ

Ari @ Chi

LAC @ Cin

TB @ Atl

Jax @ LAR

Was @ LV

Bal @ Pit

SF @ Sea

Den @ KC

NE @ Buf

 


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Movie Review – Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Category : Movie Review

Director: Destin Daniel Cretton

Starring: Simu Liu, Awkwafina, Tony Chiu-Wai Leung

Year: 2021

As the 25th entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Shang-Chi has its ups & downs; it won’t rank as the best the MCU has to offer but it definitely won’t be anywhere near the bottom either.  It’s an enjoyable, action-soaked romp through martial arts, CGI, and fictional folklore, with enough pieces to latch onto that we don’t judge the crumbly bits too harshly, even if we might dust our hands off fastidiously afterwards.  There are problems for sure, but the charisma of the characters and the fresh air breathed into this genre are both so captivating & refreshing that audiences will often find themselves enjoying themselves despite themselves, interspersed with moments of real fun that will have us thinking fondly of Shang-Chi & Co. when he reappears down the celluloid road.

Shaun lives in San Francisco and works with his best friend Katy as a valet, but his past is much more complicated than the simple life he leads now, and it’s about to bite him in the butt.  Shaun, whose real name is Shang-Chi, is the son of the man who controls the Ten Rings, a magic that gives long life and ultimate power.  He & his sister are roped back into their father’s struggle for dominance when he convinces them that their mother is still alive & being held captive in a fantasy land where monsters and dragons live forever.  Shang-Chi will have to come to terms with his father’s grief, his own fear, and the faith others have put in him, to fulfill his destiny and harness the wonder of the Ten Rings.

First the negatives, because I think they are fewer.  The film is rampant with CGI, sometimes good like at the end, but often bad like the majority scattered throughout the movie.  It’s just a little fake-y, maybe it looked OK on the big screen, but on Disney+ is just seemed a little overused and a little cheap, which I’m sure it was not.  Also, in general, the writing is really bad.  The dialogue is cliche, the plot is bumpy, I wouldn’t have written it at all this way, and I just think the team who took on the script could have done a hell of a job but didn’t.  However, and moving on, the CGI problems and the writing concerns didn’t make Shang-Chi unwatchable; at times they hardly mattered.  That’s because the positives shone brightly; Liu was awesome, I could follow his fight scenes, Awkwafina was funny, I loved her persona, and the ending was epic in the best way.  Shang-Chi isn’t perfect, it isn’t the best we’ve seen from the MCU, but it’s a solid, entertaining addition to the fold, a film we can all get behind to appreciate and applaud.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

 


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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