Author Archives: ochippie

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Movie Review – Concrete Cowboy

Category : Movie Review

Director: Ricky Staub

Starring: Caleb McLaughlin, Idris Elba, Lorraine Toussaint

Year: 2020

Nomadland 2.0?  Not so fast.  Concrete Cowboy might be an attempt in that same direction, telling us a story about real folks in a many that we can consume, but it’s not nearly up to the standard of a film that should win this year’s Best Picture.  CC will compete after 2021, but it won’t get a sniff of awards; almost everything done was something done wrong, and you’d think with a better movie to copy off of you could create something, well, better.  Want to hear the main problem and the most disturbing part of the film?  Idris Elba is barely in it.  Bold move putting one the world’s best actors in your movie as a main character and then refusing to actually feature them.  Bold.

Cole is a troubled young man from Detroit, and he’s just been kicked out of yet another school.  His mother, who has taken all she’s gonna take, kicks him out as well, gathering up his clothes in trash bags and shipping him unceremoniously to Philly.  That’s where he once lived, with his father, but he hasn’t been there in years; I guess it’s time to relearn the neighborhood.  Oddly enough, his father is really into horses and keeps them in a rundown building, along with a group of other Black wranglers who have crafted a lifestyle as a way off the streets and into something special.  Cole will have to make a choice; dealing drugs with a lowlife friend or tending horses with his dad, because life is all about the paths you choose, and often about the paths chosen for you.

Like Nomadland, Concrete Cowboy is part drama, part documentary, bringing us inside a circle of real people with a real alternate lifestyle, teaching us about what’s out there and what’s possible.  That’s cool an all, that’s interesting, that kind of immersion, but that can’t be all there is.  We need more, like we needed Frances McDormand, and Idris Elba should have been that extra piece, but, very strangely, he was completely MIA.  I don’t know what exactly he was barely in this film, and I didn’t check his total screen time, maybe that technically proves me wrong, but the problem remains; it’s like he’s floating through a story in which is never belonged.  Instead, the highlight is on Caleb McLaughlin, who is a terrible actor, the worst part of Stranger Things by far, and a completely wrong choice for the leading role.  He’s bad, so the story seems bad, so he movie becomes bad, and the entire cycle goes round and round until audiences are spit out at the end wondering what it is we just watched.  I have to assume that’s not what the director was going for, but he might have wanted to make a hundred different choices if we didn’t want that result.

My rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

 


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Movie Review – The Black Cauldron

Category : Movie Review

Director: Ted Berman, Richard Rich

Starring: Grant Bardsley, Susan Sheridan, John Hurt

Year: 1985

I have so much to say about this film I might explode.  Let me begin by noting that I was & am a big fan of the Prydain Chronicles; I read them 30ish years ago, I’ve often revisited them, I’ve read them to my kids, and now my kids are reading them independently, enjoying them just as much as I did & do.  It’s a great fantasy series, building off of Lord of the Rings, as they all are, but also creating a colorful world all its own.  The characters, the quests, the villains, the magic, and at the base of it all a frightened boy who wants to be so much more than a lowly Assistant Pig Keeper; glorious.  But Disney did Lloyd Alexander a disfavor when they turned his books into an animated film, since they obviously didn’t love the source material, didn’t care if it was killed, and only wanted one thing; to turn a profit.  Well, in that case, I’m glad The Black Cauldron will always be known as one of Disney’s absolute worst.

Taran is a farmhand with almost nothing to call his own, other than duties that keep in the pen with Hen Wen, the oracular pig.  The mysterious old Dallben is Taran’s master, and sets him to a special task after Hen reveals the possibility of a dark future.  The Horned King is coming, he wants something called the Black Cauldron, and he thinks Hen Wen can foretell its location for him.  So Taran goes into hiding with the pig, finding many friends along the way: Gurgi the mangy but loyal animal, Eilonwy the talkative and beautiful girl, Fflewddur the silly old minstrel, Doli of the Fair Folk.  But when Hen is captured, all might be lost, unless the companions can find the Cauldron themselves and destroy it, before the King uses its power as a weapon to destroy the free world.

Problem One is the combining of Alexander’s first two novels, The Book of Three & The Black Cauldron, into one movie; there’s simply too much to cram in.  And it’s not like they gave us the story of both books, instead they picked the parts they liked from either and created a new tale, one that resembles the originals but doesn’t mirror them.  In this way, they were able to pull of Problem Two, which is contorting the story into a copy of Lord of the Rings; both unwise and basically impossible.  So the movie doesn’t resemble the books, gets rid of some of the best parts, and fails to pull off the magic readers once felt and wanted to feel again.  Problem Three is that co-director Richard Rich isn’t talented, we know this because he would go on to create Swan Princess and little else.  Now, I like Swan Princess (nostalgia), but it’s not great, and Black Cauldron holds that same feel, some very similar animation, and always feels like a Rich movie rather than a Disney.  With no music to bolster the action, the wheels start to fall off fast, and soon audiences are only left with scraps of cool films, not a singularly special project.  This film was the last straw before a whole new team took over, and incidentally led Disney into its Renaissance: it was time for a change, and The Black Cauldron shows us what crappy work some people turn in on their way out the door.

My rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

 


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Sports – NFL 2021 Old Faces New Places

Category : Sports

The 2021 NFL season is almost here. Before we start predicting who will win what, let’s take a look at the new places that some old faces have landed during the offseason. Here are some free agents and traded players in fresh locations that might change the future of their new clubs:

 

Emmanuel Sanders – WR – Buffalo Bills

Will Fuller – WR – Miami Dolphins

Hunter Henry – TE – New England Patriots

Corey Davis – WR – New York Jets

Kevin Zeitler – OG – Baltimore Ravens

Larry Ogunjobi – DT – Cincinnati Bengals

John Johnson – S – Cleveland Browns

Dwayne Haskins – QB – Pittsburgh Steelers

Tyrod Taylor – QB – Houston Texans

Carson Wentz – QB – Indianapolis Colts

Marvin Jones – WR – Jacksonville Jaguars

Bud Dupree – LB – Tennessee Titans

Kyle Fuller – CB – Denver Broncos

Joe Thuney – OG – Kansas City Chiefs

Kenyan Drake – RB – Las Vegas Raiders

Jared Cook – TE – Los Angeles Chargers

Keanu Neal – S – Dallas Cowboys

Kenny Golladay – WR – New York Giants

Anthony Harris – S – Philadelphia Eagles

Ryan Fitzpatrick – QB – Washington Football Team

Andy Dalton – QB – Chicago Bears

Jared Goff – QB – Detroit Lions

No One – As Always – Green Bay Packers

Patrick Peterson – CB – Minnesota Vikings

Mike Davis – RB – Atlanta Falcons

Sam Darnold – QB – Carolina Panthers

Nick Vannett – TE – New Orleans Saints

Whole Team – Back Together – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

JJ Watt – DE – Arizona Cardinals

Matthew Stafford – QB – Los Angeles Rams

Alex Mack – C – San Francisco 49ers

Gabe Jackson – OG – Seattle Seahawks

 


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Movie Review – Deathstalker II

Category : Movie Review

Director: Jim Wynorski

Starring: John Terlesky, Monique Gabrielle, Maria Socas

Year: 1987

Deathstalker is one of the better ridiculous 80s fantasy movies, it has since become a cult classic, but I might have to start a campaign to champion its offspring, Deathstalker II, which is almost as good as its daddy.  These films simply know how to find the amusement within a silly subset, how to entertain while poking fun at themselves, their contemporaries, us, cinema; basically, anything goes.  Some still manage to do the style completely wrong, perhaps it’s harder than it seems, but not Deathstalker Dos; it knows what it’s doing, does it well, and leaves audiences with smiles on their faces.  Success made simple.

This is not 4-years-ago’s Deathstalker; this is a new brand of hero.  DS is a clever thief, smooth with the ladies, and as infamous as he is handsome.  He falls into an extra heap of trouble, however, when he steals from the wrong person; the evil Sultana.  She wants his head, and while on the run he meets the lovely Reena, who swears she can see his fortune, and that it’s filled with glory.  It just so happens that the glory comes after he helps her regain her stolen kingdom, where she was usurped by the crafty wizard Jarek, who made a copy of Reena to sit on the vacated throne.  Deathstalker must face many perils and defeat many bad guys, but he’s sure to find himself in many warm beds with many wild woman along the way.

Jim Wynorski also directed Chopping Mall, which also starred John Terlesky.  And Maria Socas also starred in The Warrior and the Sorceress, so that’s cool, and it’s all tied together and it’s all for laughs, so enjoy a bonkers 80s blitz and don’t try too hard to outsmart your own entertainment.  Wynorski has a heck of a filmography: The Lost Empire, Chopping Mall, Death Stalker II, The Return of Swamp Thing, The Haunting of Morella, Munchie, Dinosaur Island, Gila.  He’s a b-movie legend, and Deathstalker II is a strong addition to that case.  It’s funny, it’s flippant, it’s self-deprecating, it checks all the boxes of the genre, and it does well what is much harder to do than it would look.  Plus Monique Gabrielle is an icon, and, really, so is Deathstalker; the man, the myth, the laughable legend.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ⭐︎ ⭐︎

 


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Movie Review – The Warrior and the Sorceress

Category : Movie Review

Director: John Broderick

Starring: David Carradine, Maria Socas, Luke Askew

Year: 1984

Star Wars, Beastmaster, a Western, and “Mad” Max Rockatansky all walk into a bar, and what comes out again after a few hefty drinks is The Warrior and the Sorceress, a bastardized version of much that has come before, but in a new, drunken, reality-altered light.  Another addition to the 80s fantasy genre, this film has all the whack-a-doo pieces to solidify its place as a cult gem, but relies far too heavily on its contemporaries, since it has neither the talent nor the creativity to do anything on its own but bluster, bloviate, bang about, and then fall dead.

Kain, a roving warrior who was once part of a holy order, comes to a well in the desert and desires a drink.  But this well is guarded by soldiers fighting for the the tyrant Zeg, who in turn fights against the fat Bal Caz, who desires the well for himself.  The two men control two strongholds with the spring in the middle, and their constant battle with each other for dominance has gone too far.  The people are dying, a princess has been captured, slavers make a mockery of the struggle, and all is ripe for destruction, until Kain comes to save the day.

You’ll recognize a dozen movies here, which is almost fun to do, to pick them out one by one, but that doesn’t speak to the strength of the film itself, obviously.  I do think George Miller might have picked up some of what John Broderick picked up from him, because there’s a lot of Fury Road here too, which is kinda cool, in a bonkers sort of way.  The entire story takes place in one little area around the well, that’s really smart, all the action can take place there, and it’s so dumb that it’s almost fun.  But also, it’s so ridiculously awful that you can’t allow yourself to fully like what’s going on, even if you kinda want to.  Carradine is terrible, Socas is topless, and that rest tumbles into insanity far too much, leaving this particular 80s icon a bit broken.

My rating: ★ ★ ⭐︎ ☆ ☆

 


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Book Review – The Regulators

Category : Book Review

Author: Stephen King

Year: 1996

Stephen King wrote Desperation under his own name and The Regulators under a pseudonym, releasing them at the same time as a sort of experiment; which would do better, the former because King’s name had become a household word, or the latter because readers simply choose the novel they think best?  Both are based on the same idea, both use the same characters, but they are set in parallel universes, so it’s up to us to pick our favorite.  For me, there was no contest; Desperation is among the best King has ever written, while Regulators is among the very worst.

In a suburb of Columbus, Ohio, terror comes to an otherwise quiet street, as a group of space-age vans drive up and start peppering the neighborhood with gunfire, killing indiscriminately and often.  But there’s a deeper reason than just simple violence, and a darker force at work behind the mayhem.  A local woman has recently taken in her nephew, whose family was killed in a freak accident after driving through Nevada.  The young boy picked up an invisible hitchhiker there, a force older than the Earth, an evil that needs to feed and has picked this small town as his buffet.

Where Desperation tells a wonderfully complex but compact tale, Regulators fails to tell a story at all, relying instead on our foreknowledge of Tak, the evil spirit, and our desire for blood, of which there is much.  Too often, the tale isn’t even unfolded, it’s interrupted by articles, letters, journals, scripts, content that is supposed to flesh out the plot but really only delays the crappy action.  The novel is short, relatively pointless, and not well thought out, presenting death and not much else.  It’s a weak attempt and a poor experiment; King “killed off” Richard Bachman after this novel (although one more would come later, found in the attic, so to speak), and it’s a good thing he did, if this was all Rich could give us.

My rating: ★ ★ ⭐︎ ⭐︎ ⭐︎

 


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Sports – 2021 MLB Predictions

Category : Sports

With free agency over, spring training behind us, and no one having any real idea how any of the clubs will actually perform, I think it’s time to make some picks.  So here they are, my 2021 MLB Way Too Under Educated Predictions:

AL East – New York Yankees

AL Central – Chicago White Sox

AL West – Los Angeles Angels

NL East – Atlanta Braves

NL Central – St. Louis Cardinals

NL West – Los Angeles Dodgers

Wild Cards

World Series

 


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Movie Review – Piranha (1995)

Category : Movie Review

Director: Scott P. Levy

Starring: Alexandra Paul, William Katt, Monte Markham

Year: 1995

Stephanie from Baywatch and Tommy from Carrie team up to take on a Piranha remake, and the result is wickedly predictable.  And I don’t mean wicked in the way Bostonians mean wicked, I mean it like the witch of the west, an evil, twisted, just-plain-bad sort of wicked that only comes from people who like to intentionally inflict mental pain on their audiences.  This made-for-TV version of the 1978 classic is not up to snuff, nor should it really be called a movie; it’s more a skit that got a few name actors and then got out of hand, a rumpus that cost a lot of money and caused a lot of emotional damage.

Two horny youngsters stumble upon an abandoned military installation and decide to swim in a murky pool that’s fenced of; seems like a great idea, kids.  But while they’re mostly naked, something starts to eat them, which really puts a damper on the evening.  Later, while investigating their disappearance, private detective Maggie McNamara and forest recluse Paul Grogan release whatever was in the pool into the local watershed, and toward a newly opened mountain resort that just so happens to have a bunch of kids splashing in the lake all day.  A race against time ensues, with nature swimming ahead.

It should not surprise you that the acting in this movie is less than stellar.  Along with Paul & Katt, we have Punky Brewster herself Soleil Moon Frye, Mila Kunis as a child, that creepy guy who killed a prostitute fin Se7en, and some woman who spells her name ‘Kehli’.  That’s bad, bad, and more bad, which, on top of a thin plot stolen from another film, turns pretty awful pretty quickly.  The action is more than ridiculous, it’s insulting, and even the nods to the original can’t keep this sinking ship afloat; the fact that there is an original is the only reason not to burn every copy of this video that was ever produced.

My rating: ★ ⭐︎ ⭐︎ ⭐︎ ⭐︎

 


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Movie Review – Lost Girls and Love Hotels

Category : Movie Review

Director: William Olsson

Starring: Alexandra Daddario, Takehiro Hira

Year: 2020

Lost Girls and Love Hotels is part Earthquake Bird, part White Bird in a Blizzard, a weird combination of angsty, birdy movies that’s definitely not worth trying to figure out.  It’s a genre that makes little sense; American Girl in Foreign Country living in Self Abuse on her way to Finding Love.  It’s simply questionable, like who was this movie crafted for and why was it made at all?  Most of the handful of people who actually made time to see this film last year didn’t like it, and the reasons are as simply as they are few; it just isn’t well-made, well-acted, or well-intentioned.

Margaret lives in Tokyo because she wants to be as far away from the life she was leading as is humanly possible.  She likes being alone, or says she does anyway, but she spends her nights getting drunk and getting screwed, filling the emptiness within her that threatens to tear her apart.  When she falls for a powerful stranger, who turns out to be some sort of rich gangster, she has, for a fleeting moment, some hope that her life can involve someone else and can turn out …happy?  But nothing gold can stay, and was it even that shiny in the first place.

Alexandra Daddario does what many young actresses have done before; goes adult to show her range and to show fearlessness.  More power to her, some times audiences need to be snapped out of the preconceived notions we have, need a good smack to remind us that these women are artists, not mannequins.  It seems odd, perhaps, to get naked to do that, but I actually see the point; bare it all, show that you’re ready for anything, give us something grown up to let us know that you’re here to work.  Hollywood should do the same with men, that’s my only problem with it, and then there’s the sad fact that this isn’t a guaranteed recipe for success, which I guess is a bigger issue.  Daddario only comes across as desperate here, not decadent, and the film fails to deliver any passion or power, resulting in a joint disaster that’s among the very worst of the year.  It’s a slow, dark, depressing look at existence, one that simply isn’t artistically fashioned well enough to impress past the somber surface.  We need more from dramas this twisted, maybe a little more reality, or perhaps only more talent.

My rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

 


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Movie Review – Lady in the Water

Category : Movie Review

Director: M. Night Shyamalan

Starring: Paul Giamatti, Bryce Dallas Howard, M. Night Shyamalan

Year: 2006

Lady in the Water is to M. Night Shyamalan as Phantom Menace is to George Lucas; an obviously weaker attempt at an established genre, but one that’s saved by its innocence and its target audience.  They are both movies for kids, movies that are meant to get kids interested in a style that they might not have otherwise dived into, and that alone is worth …something.  That doesn’t make them great films, obviously, because they aren’t, that’s for sure.  But it does make them worthwhile, at least as a gateway, and those looking for reason to enjoy can start there.  In defense of weak sauce, the positives don’t all end at “kids can get on board”; there are things to like about even the lesser offerings of excellent filmmakers, and Lady in the Water is a case in point.

Cleveland Heep is the maintenance man at a Philadelphia apartment complex and he hates his life.  Since the occurrence of a past tragic event, he’s lived a simple life of work and of solitude, getting along nicely with the tenants but not making real connections.  One night, while investigating a recurring splash in the communal swimming pool, Cleveland sees a naked girl shoot out of the water and immediately disappear back in.  He soon finds out that this is no ordinary girl, but a storybook creature, incidentally named ‘Story’, who is on a very important mission. She needs to fulfill her inspirational task and then return to her secret home, but she’ll need the help of the tenants to accomplish the dangerous assignment.  Cleveland needs to find the right people for the jobs before it’s too late, because a viscous animal is coming to put a stop to Story’s world-changing quest.

So, it’s not the best.  Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs, The Village; these are all so much better examples of what Shyamalan can do so brilliantly, and I’m not just talking about twists, I’m talking about making movies.  He’s an extremely talented filmmaker, beyond the scares and the surprises, and I don’t think we focus on that enough, but we really ought to.  This simply isn’t the best he can do, or, more specifically, this isn’t the most grown up he can do; Lady in the Water might be rated PG-13, similarly to his other films, but it’s on a lower, more accessible level, not only because it’s less terrifying but because it’s much easier to consume/digest.  It’s a silly story filled with silly people, it’s got some good heart and a good ending; it isn’t Shakespeare but it will do.  Giamatti picks it up whenever it falters, Howard looks so weird she almost messes everything up, but the power of M. Night’s character’s story line is so pivotal that it gets us back on board, and all is saved by a succession of visuals that not many directors have the eye to develop.  Basically, this film is passable, especially in certain ways and for certain audiences, but it in no way stacks up to the more-famous rest.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆