July 11, 2018: Documentary Recommendation: From the Kill Pen (2016)
Quote from From the Kill Pen: “Horse slaughter is more than inhumane. It’s big business.”
Producers: Sharon Boeckle, Tony Cane-Honeysett, and Peter D. Roth
Director: Sharon Boeckle
Writer: Sharon Boeckle
Major Cast: Paula Bacon, Milton Bagby, Dean Bolstad, Alex Brown, Phil Carter, Neda DeMayo, A.Blair Dunn, Vickery Eckhoff, Lester Friedlander
Rating: NA but not suitable for young children
Running Time: 1 hour and 16 minutes
From the Kill Pen focuses on the current status of horses, including horse racing, wild horses, horse meat trade, slaughter practices, and government influence. There are two dominant schools of thought in this neutral documentary. One, it is okay to kill horses for meat because it creates jobs and horses that would otherwise be wasted, in addition to rounding up and killing wild horses to control populations. Two, it is not okay to kill horses for meat especially due to the toxins used in race horses that serve as a part of this trade, as well as the poor slaughter-house conditions that creates torture and pain for the horses.
A large portion of this documentary cites the pros and cons of U.S. involvement in this trade via the way of making these particular slaughter houses legal within the states again. As of right now, it is still “illegal” but could easily flip to being “legal.” While the graphic parts are minimal and only used in the best educational sense possible, it is still distressing to see. Yet, compared to what I’ve seen before, it is pretty tame. I have a stronger stomach than most. I would recommend it to anyone who wants a better understanding of what the horse represents in today’s world and the cautionary tale of knowing what’s truly in your meat.
While I would never eat taboo animals (dogs and horses) according to U.S. standards, there are some that do. There is a responsibility for those involved in the horse racing industry and those outside it who are part of the slaughter pipeline to speak out about the tainted exportation of horse meat from the U.S. via Mexico and Canada to the rest of the world. The Humane Slaughter Act instituted in 1958 wouldn’t deter those not following the mandates because it doesn’t cover horses. It only protects cattle, pigs, and sheep, if you can even call it that. There have been countless instances where companies were not punished with obvious evidence.
It seems clear-cut to me what should be done and by whom. No one wants to eat other crap when they bite into a beef patty, but it has been done and will continued especially in fast food restaurants. Everyone wants to be assured they aren’t eating rotten meat, no matter what it is, disguised as fresh meat. Yet, people do because other’s think no one’s looking and who’s really going to notice. One shouldn’t have to worry about their child dying from eating meat, but parents continue grieving.
There is bound to be friction with so many differing views on how to control and use horse populations. This is the premise of the documentary. Saying there’s no right or wrong answer to this issue is simplistic. There’s a lot of variables involved and many people contribute to the problem from the breeders to the buyers to the consumers. I venture to say it is like this in many different areas where mass consumption occurs.
The only thing I know for sure is that humans need to look closely at what they do in terms of their inner circles as well as their outer circles. I know from personal experience things have wide-reaching effects, often over generations. While I don’t presume to have all the answers to this issue, I do want to spread the word because it’s tragic, fascinating, and worthy all in the same breath.
The only thing I know for sure is that humans need to look closely at what they do in terms of their inner circles as well as their outer circles. I know from personal experience things have wide-reaching effects, often over generations. While I don’t presume to have all the answers to this issue, I do want to spread the word because it’s tragic, fascinating, and worthy all in the same breath.
Pisaries Creator rates From the Kill Pen at 100%
July 3, 2018: Movie Recommendation: Molly’s Game (2017)
Quote from Molly’s Game by Molly: “This is a true story, but except for my own, I’ve changed all the names and I’ve done my best to obscure identities for reasons that’ll become clear.”
Producers: Oren Aviv, Felice Bee, Stuart M. Besser, Adam Fogelson, Mark Gordon, Leopoldo Gout, Matt Jackson, Joanne Lee, Lauren Lohman, Lyn Lucibello, Amy Pascal, Josh Clay Phillips, Robert Simonds, Donald Tang, and Zhongei Wang
Director: Aaron Sorkin
Writers: Molly Bloom (book) and Aaron Sorkin (adapted script)
Major Cast: Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, Kevin Costner, Michael Cera, Jeremy Strong, Chris O’Dowd, J.C. Mackenzie, Brian d’Arcy James, Bill Camp, and Graham Green
Rating: R for language, drug content, and some violence
Running Time: 2 hours and 20 minutes
Everyone likes a story where girl turned woman with the world at her feet who is super intelligent, but with emotional issues stemming from childhood dives into an elite part of Hollywood where the rich and famous gather to get away from family and friends just to let loose. Even if you find gambling boring or have a rudimentary understanding of poker, such as myself, you learn about the workings of what people call the underbelly of something. People have this attraction of wanting to know the secrets of anything especially when it involves the perceived glamour of Tinseltown. This is the kind of movie too fascinating to be a true, but personal testimony and FBI involvement, makes it all too real. We soak it up like a sponge, wanting more. There’s obvious relationships between money and power, fame and crime, and judgment and consequences as Molly Bloom maneuvers to gain hold in an unfamiliar place. Her independence and cockiness catches up with her, and the nice little business she has started turns into a nightmare. There was a scene that appeared a little too convenient, the iceskating one, but otherwise than this it was a solid movie from start to finish.
Pisaries Creator rates Molly’s Game at 97%
July 3, 2018: Movie Recommendation: Logan Lucky (2017)
Producers: Reid Carolin, Dan Fellman, Gregory Jacobs, Mark Johnson, Ken Meyer, Michael Polaire, Zane Stoddard, Matt Summers, Channing Tatum
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Writers: Rebecca Blunt
Major Cast: Daniel Channing Tatum, Riley Keough, Katie Holmes, Charles Halford, Adam Driver, Seth MacFarlane, Dwight Yoakam, and David Denman
Rating: PG-13 for language and some crude comments
Running Time: 1 hour and 58 minutes
Lucky Logan is about two brothers looking to better themselves financially in a heist that is also part revenge for what has happened in the past (sort of). I’m assuming they are from different fathers or mothers because Adam Driver and Channing Tatum look nothing alike. They concoct their plan, which includes a convict by the name of Joe. He’s still in prison, but his younger brothers aren’t. Outside the barb wire fence, Fish and Sam Bang are about as smart as two broken pencils in a box, but they are necessary. The deadpan voice of Adam Driver (Clyde Logan), the comedic interaction between Channing Tatum (Jimmy Logan) and Daniel Craig (Joe Bang), and the interaction among the whole cast makes it highly entertaining and watchable. This story has been done before, but it has enough content to leave you wanting more especially when the closing scene is done. Whether a sequel is made remains to be seen, but either way is fine with me.
Pisaries Creator rates Lucky Logan at 90%
April 26, 2018: Movie Recommendation: Free Fire (2016)
Producers: Eugenio Derbez, Ben Odell, Erica Oyama, and Mike Upton
Director: Ben Wheatley
Writers: Amy Jump and Ben Wheatley
Cast: Sam Riley, Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Armie Hammer, Babou Ceesay, Enzo Cilenti, Noah Taylor, Patrick Bergin, Michael Smiley, Mark Monero, etc
Rating: R for strong violence, pervasive language, sexual references, and drug use
Running Time: 1 hour and 31 minutes
Free Fire is a movie you will either love or hate. How exciting can two handfuls of people be in a warehouse with guns and different motives? You know people are going to get shot: some will die and some will live. There isn’t tension beyond the obvious and the pacing is steady. While the ending is sort of predictable, there is enough quality acting and interesting dialogue to keep you entertained. The acting from every cast member was good. You get used to the yelling and the rapid gunfire. You want to know who survives and who dies. I’m not going to spoil the ending, but don’t blink too much or you will miss who gets shot and where on the body. This movie was a nice diversion from the rapid fire Marvel and DC movies being spit out from the studio. I watched The Great Wall around the same time, and the fact I’m recommending this and not the former says a lot.
April 18, 2018: 10 Sports Movies You Probably Don’t Want to See
These ten sport movies could be lumped into the category of bad for several reasons. I’d probably watch a few again, but most I would not. This list is my picks for box office sport baddies. There are spoilers in most of my short descriptions so don’t read them if you want to give any of them a try. I have given you fair warning because as you will see some are pretty ridiculous.
I know this is a children’s movie, but damn, this movie makes no sense. A zebra having brain capacity to want to be a horse, and compete at the highest level for horses. We all can suspend reality if there’s good reason, and more importantly, we must be convinced to do so. Racing Stripes does not give any explanation for why the zebra, aptly named Stripes by the daughter of the man who rescued him from a circus, is hell-bent on competing in the Kentucky Crown. In spite of being born in captivity (I’m assuming) and forgotten when the circus left, the zebra still retains some of its genetic makeup. Yet, there is little indication of this throughout the movie. I’m not expecting some magical potion that allowed this zebra to think like a horse, although it might have pushed the story along. There needed to be some plausible reason for this. The voices for the animals were done by quality actors and actresses, but it wasn’t enough to make it a worthwhile movie. I wouldn’t bet on this wannabe horse at any race track if I was into this kind of gambling, which I’m not.
It’s hard for me to root for a movie where the main character rides bulls for a living. I’m not into bull riding nor do I see any advantage of this sport (if you can call it that). It’s a highly dangerous activity, and this movie proves there are consequences. Yes, Lane Frost’s untimely death is tragic. Yes, his quick fame lead to an ego in overdrive. You might wonder how his head fit through saloon doors. While there’s no denying he was attracted to thrills, the portrayal of the rodeo lifestyle seemed at a distance. Lane’s personality flaws were obvious, which is fine, but he didn’t have enough on his good side to make him truly likable. The fact it starred Luke Perry might have detracted from telling the story because we all know how much girls lusted over Dylan McKay in 90210 or maybe that is why he was hired. Either way, it wasn’t enough for me to go my pile of good sports movies.
Summer Catch’s awfulness isn’t because of Jessica Biel or Freddie Prinze Jr’s acting, but due to the poorly written coming of age script. It isn’t that baseball and teenage romance can’t go together. I’m the first one to admit I find baseball boring as all hell, but a well written script will make me forget the boring as all hell part. This movie is mind numbing because the local baseball player completely ditches the game for the woman he realizes he loves while scouts are present. No, I don’t think so. To be overly dramatic, PULEESE!!! Then, to make it even more unlikely, she forgoes her job in San Francisco to stay with him while he proves himself as a minor league player. I’m not saying some people get lucky breaks, but if baseball meant everything to the character of Ryan Dunne, he wouldn’t have left his game during the middle of it. Everything happened a little too nicely at the end.
I remember watching this movie thinking whoever is skating during the credits is pretty damn cool. I knew it wasn’t Christian Slater, but at the time I didn’t realize that the technical advisor was one of the original Z-Boys. Stacy Peralta was able to get skaters, such as Mike McGill, Tony Hawk, and Mark Rogowski, to do the stunts. They were the best part of the movie. Christian Slater over acted during the emotional scenes. Whether that was himself or the director wanting it, I’m not sure. Gleaming the Cube was full of cheesy lines. The moral of the story is if you’re a Caucasian skateboarder, you will be able to stop the bad guys by blending so well into the Vietnamese community. It would make more sense for your adopted Vietnamese brother not to get killed, but what do I know? Like I stated earlier, I watched it for the skateboarding, which led to me thinking skateboarders were rad. I’m still waiting for a skateboarder to sweep me off my feet and carry me into the sunset.
If you know anything about skating, it’s that hockey skaters and figure skaters are two different disciplines and most noticeably the toe pick. I’ve seen this movie many times, and one I’d probably watch again. I almost feel guilty for including this into the bad pile, but it’s one where paying close attention is not needed to understand it. The verbal jabs back and forth on and off the ice are enjoyable, but the cutting between actual figure skaters and actors of D.B. Sweeney and Moira Kelly is quite choppy. Parts of the script seemed far-fetched such as the skaters being good enough in a short amount of time to compete in the Olympics. I wonder how many people clapped at the end of this movie when it was released.
I thought this series should have ended when Rocky went head to head with Ivan Drago. I don’t care what anyone says. I like Dolph Lundgren as an actor. He’s as tall as you’d think in person. At first glance, I thought he was a waiter. Anyway, this movie is bad. Rocky V has nothing in it that made the first movie great. The acting is sub par and the lines feel forced. Fame and fortune came and went quicker for Rocky in between IV and V. I want to ask Rocky what was he thinking for not fighting Drago for money, but I guess remembering and honoring your friend was more important. Even when he finds himself penniless, he won’t fight inside the ring, but eventually fights outside the ring, on the mean Philly streets. It doesn’t make sense given his past actions. How many times did he tell Adrian he was a fighter. The only endearing thing is seeing his real life son, Sage, be his son in the movie. Enough said before I get overly verklempt.
I never thought I’d have to stop a movie because it was that BAD. This was one of them. I couldn’t even keep it on while working on something else. It was THAT BAD. Georges St. Pierre nor Jean-Claude Damme could convince me to stay the course. This says a lot because I like both of them for different reasons. I’m not expecting anything spectacular, but as I watched this monstrosity unfold I turned it off to rescue my eyes and ears. The shame is this could have been a decent remake. Kickboxer: Vengeance was so off the mark with a bad script, bad acting, and just bad everything. I got all this from just watching a quarter of the movie.
When you take one of the hottest, muggiest areas of the United States and place one of its inhabitants into one of the coldest, harshest areas, you might find yourself watching Snowdogs. I know this is a children’s movie, but would a man who grew up and lived his whole life in the city want to brave the outdoor elements with dogs that don’t like him? Get to know the dogs first and have them be comfortable with you before striking out with them, meaning you trust them and they trust you, on the Arctic Challenge. I’m all for getting acquainted with your roots, but it’s not very realistic. Even Cuba Gooding Jr. realized it wasn’t a good movie so yes, watch at your own risk. I guess the only saving grace were the dogs because I like dogs.
The title of this movie is about as on the nose as you can get. This is about swimming and fans. I remember a family member stating “what a terrible looking movie.” He was right, so very right, and should’ve heeded his words. When you combine a recovered addict who is a swimmer, his girlfriend who also is a swimmer, and a girl who doesn’t know how to swim, it makes for a questionable movie. It has all the elements a bad teenage thriller would have and for being such a bad girl, Madison sure has a lot of good luck minus her predictable ending. And let’s not forget Stanford was chomping at the bit to get a piece of Ben’s wake he left with his powerful kick.
This is one of the bad movies I wouldn’t mind watching again. Long live Jonathan Brandis and Rodney Dangerfield, but more Jonathan Brandis. While there isn’t much substance in the dialogue and obvious misconception of girls as shitty athletes, it does play around with crossdressing. Wasn’t Matthew’s wig so convincing? There’s no denying that Chester is a misogynistic asshole throughout most of the movie. You pretty much predict what happens with Matthew/Martha and the girls soccer team. I almost want to shield my eyes for how intense Rodney Dangerfield’s gaze is on this one sheet.
Quote from I Saw the Devil by Kim Soo-hyeon: “I will kill you when you are in the most pain. When you’re in the most pain, shivering out of fear, then I will kill you. That’s a real revenge. A real complete revenge.”
Director: Jee-woon Kim
Writers: Jee-woon Kim and Hoon-jung Park Cast: Byung-hun Lee, Min-sik Choi, Joon-hyeok Lee, In-seo Kim, Kap-su Kim, Bo-ra Nam, Ho-jin Chun, Gook-hwan Jeon, etc.
Cast: Kee-young Cheong, Hyung-cho Il, Hun-you Jeong, Seong-weon Jo, Yeong-shin Kang, Byung-ki Kim, Hyun-woo Kim, Jae-young Kim, Jung-hwa Kim, Kil-soo Kim, Greg Moon, Jae-sik Moon, Sungho Nam, Bryan Song, and Youngjoo Suh
Rating: NA but has adult content throughout the movie such as sex and nudity, violence and gore, profanity, alcohol, drugs, and smoking, frightening and intense scenes
Running Time: 2 hours and 22 minutes
There’s no doubt that parts of South Korea likes its revenge movies, and I Saw the Devil is definitely one of them. The movie could have been pared down a little more in the editing process, but it’s enough to keep your attention throughout. Then again, this isn’t a movie you fall asleep to unless you find it boring. I Saw the Devil is about two men, one a serial killer and the other an agent, and how neither one backs down from the other. Hatred takes on a new meaning after someone is killed, and each now has a mission to destroy the other at all costs. One already operates out of a dark place you could call hell, while the other becomes dangerously close to it. This is good versus bad, but eventually it turns into bad versus bad as the serial killer (Min-sik Choi) continues to torment the agent (Byung-hun Lee). It’s every man for himself on the streets where it’s better to kill than to be killed, but who actually survives and by how much is only found at the end. I say watch this movie and then wear it as a badge of honor because it was one that almost never got released.
I Saw the Devil gets a rating of 90%
Quote from Dead Man Walking by prison guard: “I ain’t gonna get no Bible quote from no nun cause I’m gonna lose.”
Producers: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Jon Kilik, Allan F. Nicholls, Tim Robbins, Mark Seldis, Rudd Simmons, and R.A. White
Director: Tim Robbins
Writers: Helen Prejean (book) and Tim Robbins (adaptation)
Cast: Susan Sarandon, Sean Penn, Raymond J. Barry, R. Lee Ermey, Celia Weston, Lois Smith, Roberta Maxwell, Margo Martindale, Scott Wilson, etc
Rating: R for depiction of rape and murder
Running Time: 2 hours and 2 minutes
Dead Man Walking is a drama about murder and the death penalty, and how it affects those involved: survivors of the murdered, the killers, and prison employees. The protagonist, Matthew Poncelet, is the combination of Elmo Patrick Sonnier and his brother Willie in Helen Prejean’s book. Poncelet is first acquainted with Prejean through letter correspondence, but as their relationship grows, her role as spiritual advisor takes on a deeper meaning. It is during these visits, he is encouraged to face the truth about his crimes. The longer she spends time with him on death row, the more she finds he is worthy of redemption. It is at this point Prejean solidifies the Jello, so to speak, and becomes an advocate against the death penalty. Controversy makes for good cinema, and this story gives equal time to both sides, killers and victims, and its justifiable reasoning with the pros and cons of the death penalty. Knowing your life is coming to an end, as if you were in Poncelet’s slippers, and if that makes you uncomfortable, then in the shoes of the couple that were killed, although this should probably make you uncomfortable too are painful realities life can offer. It reminds us that innocent people get killed and sometimes justice is not served, in a general sense. Accepting the facts in front of you, as hard as it might be, is sometimes the only option. The movie’s ending is what you would call a harsh and complicated reality. But leaving on a positive note, Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon give great performances, and a little bit of trivia, this was the first movie role for Peter Sarsgaard. And one more thing, this soundtrack remains one of my favorites from the 1990’s, so check it out.
Dead Man Walking gets a rating of 93%.
Quote from Ponyo by Kôichi: “You can’t be busy – you’re five!”
Producers: Naoya Fujimaki, Ryoichi Fukuyama, Kôji Hoshino, Kathleen Kennedy, John Lasseter, Frank Marshall, Hayao Miyazaki, Seiji Okuda, and Toshio Suzuki
Producer (English version): Steve Alpert
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Writer: Hayao Miyazaki
Cast: Tomoko Yamaguchi, Kazushige Nagashima, Yûki Amami, George Tokoro, Yuria Nara, Hiroki Doi, Rumi Hiiragi, Akiko Yano, Kazuko Yoshiyuki, Tomokmo Naraoka, Shin’ichi Hatori, Tokie Hidari, Eimi Hiraoka, Nozomi Ohashi, etc
Cast (English version): Cate Blanchett, Noah Cyrus, Matt Damon, Tina Fey, Frankie Jonas, Cloris Leachman, Liam Neeson, Jenessa Rose, Lily Tomlin, Betty White, etc
Running Time: 1 hour and 41 minutes
Ponyo or Gake no ue no Ponyo (original title) is a movie with fairy tale and underwater fantasy elements. It simplifies adult concerns given its G-rating. You can’t get too deep, but the right questions are asked and lessons are still learned by the end. The primary characters of this story are a young boy named Sosuke and a red goldfish he finds in the Tomonoura harbor. He names his discovery Ponyo, and while his mother is unsure about his find, she allows him this friendship. When he learns the goldfish has the ability to take human form, Sosuke and Ponyo form an even closer bond. This does not happen without consequences, mainly environmental, for Sosuke and the townspeople. It sends Ponyo back into the water, reminding her that life requires more than just wishing and hoping. Sacrifices must be made, which is what Ponyo says she is willing to do, but is she really ready? The bottom line is that Ponyo is a wholesome movie for the whole family, and I rate it four fingers and one thumb at 95%.
Pisaries Creator’s Rating
Creator: Laeta Kalogridis
Stars: Joel Kinnaman, James Purefoy, Martha Higareda, Chris Connor, Dichen Lachman, Ato Essandoh, Kristin Lehman, Trieu Tran, and Renée Elise Goldsberry
Running Time: 60 minutes
Altered Carbon is a sci-fi show incorporating elements and concepts found today. The dichotomy between the have and have nots will always be a part of civilization. There is a pecking order in any social organization or particular culture. This futuristic world is no different. The main character is a highly trained soldier named Takeshi Kovacs (interesting surname choice played by Will Yun Lee and Joel Kinnaman). He is brought back from the dead to solve the mystery of who killed Laurens Bancroft (played by James Purefoy). There is not going to be an easy task for Kovacs (Joel Kinnaman) even though he walks around with a little backpack you’d more likely find on a little girl who’s into trendy accessories. The path he follows zigzags from past and present, the backstory woven well, until the end. There is some nudity in the show, and while some of it may seem excessive, it does lend itself to the story. I’m thinking of a particular fight scene between Reileen (played by Dichen Lachman) and Kristin (played by Martha Higareda). Let’s face the fact of Reileen being a badass fighter who defends first and doesn’t bother to ask questions later even when naked. She is that sure of herself. The fight scenes in and out of the ring are also some of my favorites. While I like Joel Kinnaman as an actor, I hope they don’t bring him back. The appeal of the show is the same characters taking different “sleeves.” But, I do hope they bring the character name of Takeshi back as well Kristin and the comic relief of Poe (played by Chris Connor). While this show included unfamiliar concepts and thoughts, it was not so radically different that you get completely lost. However, there was mild confusion in one of the sub-stories. It has not been renewed for a second season, but more than likely will be and cast to be determined. I give Altered Carbon a rating of 95%.
Creator: Veena Sud
Stars: Clare-Hope Ashitey, Michael Mosley, David Lyons, Isaiah Butler, Regina King, Peter Jablonski, Nadia Alexander
Running Time: 60 minutes
Seven Seconds is a crime drama involving racial tensions and corrupt cops in New Jersey. It’s created by Veena Sud, the same woman who gave us The Killing. This show threw everything into it, including a few sinks along the way. I understood the reasoning, but it seemed to leave some characters only scratching the surface when they could have dug deeper. I might liken it to jam packing everything into a tiny suitcase, hoping you’re able to sit on it efficiently to close it. Sometimes it works better to leave a few things out or save for a later date. The show follows the Butler family after a tragedy occurs. It takes you into the heart of the police department, court system, lawyers, gang activity, racial and sexual stereotypes. There has been some grumbling about the ending, but it is a realistic portrayal of what could and does happen. The characters of KJ Harper (played by Clare-Hope Ashitey), Fish Rinaldi (played by Michael Mosley), Latrice Butler played by Regina King), and Isaiah Butler (played by Russell Hornsby) were the best in the show. The pacing is slower than The Killing. It does not have as many twists and turns compared to it either, but it kept my attention. It has not been renewed for a second season, but more than likely will be and cast to be determined. I give Seven Seconds a rating of 90%.
Creator: Bill Dubuque and Mark Williams
Stars: Jason Bateman, Laura Linney, Julia Garner, Jason Butler Harner, Marc Menchaca, Esai Morales, Michael Mosley, and Charlie Tahan
Running Time: 60 minutes
Ozark is a crime drama involving a Chicago family that is uprooted from their home when a business deal sinks further down a hole that does not seem to end. This show hooked me from the start and never go. This show is about power, control, and expectations within the Bryde and Langmore families. When you add questionable FBI tactics, drug cartel laundering, and church services held on a lake in boats, things only get better for the viewer. The characters of Marty Bryde (played by Jason Bateman), Wendy Bryde (played by Laura Linney), Ruth Langmore (played by Julia Garner), Russ Langmore (played by Marc Menchaca), and Del (played by Esai Morales) were some of my favorites. This is a well-constructed script and the casting is on point. Some may be offended by the stereotypes of the people, but this is bound to happen in writing. While not everyone is in need of major dental work and/or enjoys shooting animals just because there’s nothing else to do, these people do exist in the Ozarks and beyond. When you mix together city life people with smaller town people, it tends to be a good story. It has been renewed for a second season, but the specific story line is to be determined. In conclusion, I give Ozark a rating of 97%.
February 28, 2018: 10 Sports Movies You Should See
These ten sports movies are in no particular order. They are the ones I liked and thought were worthy of my eyes. If you’re wondering why I didn’t include Rocky, it’s because I’ve sort of spoken about it before. Let’s begin before the night ends.
While the men serve their country in WWII, in come the women to prove that they have just as much right to swing a bat and fight with each other. Dottie and Kit Hinson who are sisters along with other females aren’t taken seriously during the women baseball tryouts until publicity and interest can’t be ignored. Sibling rivalry, competitive game playing, and sporting legacies are all a part of this movie. It was one of the selections to be preserved in the United States National Film Registry in 2012 for good reason. A League of Their Own is directed by Penny Marshall. It stars Geena Davis, Lori Petty, Madonna, Rosie O’Donnell, Tom Hanks, and David Strathairn.
2008 was the year when many thought Mickey Rourke would win the Oscar. He didn’t win, but he secured a roll of a lifetime. It was personal and professional in the same vein for him. This movie digs into the wrestling world. The character of Randy Robinson finds himself past his prime. ‘The Ram’ works on making his career relevant again and personal relationships better. The Wrestler is directed by Darren Aronofsky. It also stars Marisa Tomei and Rachel Evan Wood.
This is based on the true story of two boxers, Micky Ward and Dicky Eklund. The half-brothers also have too many sisters to count including one played by Conan O’Brien’s sister, Kate. Micky Ward overcomes his Lowell, Massachusetts odds, including his overbearing mother and his drug addicted brother. He is presented with a chance to prove himself in the world light welterweight title. Let the training begin. The Fighter is directed by David O. Russell. It stars Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo, and Jack McGee.
Billy Beane is not your average guy in baseball. He’s the Oakland Athletics GM who builds a team with the help of Peter Brand. He finds resistance in his scouting approach, but stays the course. As time passes, he reaps some rewards, never wavering from his principles. This is less focus on an actual game and more on the activity behind the scenes. It is well worth the watch. Moneyball is directed by Bennett Miller. It stars Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Robin Wright, and Philip Seymour Hoffman.
The antagonist in this movie is the heir to the du Pont chemical company, and based on a true and tragic story. Today the company advocates genetically modified foods, but back in the 1980s John du Pont immersed himself into the world of wrestling. Piggybacking on the success of the Schultz brothers in the 1984 Olympic Games, du Pont sought the help of Mark Schultz to help him have a successful wrestling team in the 1988 Olympics. It was during this time that events happening at his training facility led to him being in the newspapers for all the wrong reasons. Foxcatcher is directed by Bennet Miller. It stars Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo, and Vanessa Redgrave.
You love to love this movie. Daniel from New Jersey becomes Daniel-san of California under the direction of Mr. Miyagi. As he moves through the painful halls of his new high school, he becomes more disillusioned with his situation, and you become more sympathetic. He’s not just a bratty Italian teenager from Newark with enemies all around him. He really is picked on by Johnny and his friends. It’s just not fair. His journey is one of self-discovery and redemption as he masters the crane kick. The Karate Kid is directed by John G. Avildson. It stars Pat Morita, Ralph Macchio, Elisabeth Shue, William Zabka, and Randee Heller.
Jake La Motta knows how to be a bull inside and outside the ring. While it serves him well inside the ring, outside is a different story. He has a way of offending friends and family members where many abandon him during this period in his life. Time heals most things. La Motta was remembered for his world middleweight champion win and stand-up comedy routines. Raging Bull is directed by Martin Scorsese. It stars Robert De Niro, Cathy Moriarty, Joe Pesci, and Frank Gallo.
Clint Eastwood remains one of my favorite directors. He knows his craft to the point of ridiculous. He often chooses stories that have subtly within them. This movie is no different. Maggie Fitzgerald is past her prime, but finds passion in boxing. Under the direction of a washed out grumpster, she rises the ranks of the lightweight boxing division. There is retribution and amends to be had for the major characters. It’s a great movie from start to finish, and really touches home if you have a heart beating inside your chest. Million Dollar Baby is directed by Clint Eastwood. It stars Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, Hilary Swank, Michael Peña, Anthony Mackie, and Jay Baruchel.
If you ever visit Oregon and specifically Eugene where the University of Oregon is home, there is a household name in running, and that is Steve Prefontaine. A long distance runner who worked closely with Bill Dellinger and Bill Bowerman (look up Nike), Prefontaine competed in the Munich Games of 1972. After this experience, he works even harder to prepare for the Montreal Games of 1976. This is no thrills story where the only way to attain your goals is by doing it. Prefontaine is directed by Steve James. It stars Jared Leto, R. Lee Ermey, Ed O’Neill, Breckin Meyer, and Amy Locane.
This is a true story about a boxer from South Korea. Not letting his childhood affect him, Kim Deuk-Gu rises to become a force of nature during the 1980s. ‘Gidae’ fought in Las Vegas in 1982 against Ray ‘Boom Boom’ Mancini. The movie is a look into the sacrifices people often are forced to make. It is a movie that also gives you perspective about life in general. Chaempieon is directed by Kwak Kyung-taek. It stars Yu Oh-seong, Chae Min-seo, and Jung Doo-hong. There is also a worthwhile documentary The Good Son that includes that speaks of this particular fight.
February 10, 2018: All Things Christopher Plummer
Hollywood trends have come and gone, only to come back again, and things have rapidly changed with social media. Things are more accessible to create your own little movie, but of course, they will usually not be the blockbuster you think it will be. This can be a blessing and a curse. Let’s face it: watching an amateur video on YouTube is not the same experience as watching a movie in the theater or on your television from a DVD or Blu-ray. This technological modernization of the world, which includes Hollywood has also produced effective “cheaper” made movies with stories seemingly realistic. The acting profession might not have the glamour and glitz it once did. There continues to be crossover from other professions: music and fashion. This isn’t to say it is easy to get into Hollywood because for the majority it is damn hard. You must want it bad. It takes an equal amount of work to stay relevant. The writers’ focus has long forgotten about most epic stories or ones that require an overabundance of thinking by the audience. The audience has spoken. It’s become all about comic book adaptations. Think movies with more action than story, but enough of the latter to not be thought of as one trick cinema.
I tend to be drawn toward roles where actors/actresses are able to showcase their acting range. I firmly believe that a great actor/actress has range. S/he is able to absorb into a role, and if it is one that flies in the direction opposite from where s/he stands in reality, then all the more reason to stand up and clap for him/her. My take on what makes a great actor/actress might differ from the mainstream, as I look to someone who is able to convincingly portray a good person as much as a bad person, and better yet if it is in the same movie. This isn’t to say an actor/actress playing the same role over and over isn’t good, but to launch them into greatness takes work, and then to become one of the legends takes an even larger body of work, and an understanding few attain. A great actor/actress is multilayered in techniques, able to gain access to that “needed thing” effortlessly, and quickly transition within scenes and between performances. I have more to think about what makes a legend, in any profession, but would venture to say it’s a combination of longevity and relevance.
I was first introduced to Christopher Plummer from my grandma. She watched The Sound the Music every year. This was my first introduction to musicals. While this was not his defining role, it surely made him a household name, and this musical is still one of my favorites. I continued watching all kinds of movies as I left my teenage years and ventured into my twenties, thirties, and now forties. I have become enamored, in a non-romantic way, with Plummer as I have with Humphrey Bogart and Sidney Poitier. There is something when seeing an actor/actress who’s walked the streets of Tinseltown year after year, and is no longer considered a “new face.” The Treasure of the Sierra Madre remains one of my favorites for Bogart and In the Heat of the Night for Poitier. My favorite, so far for Plummer, is The Fall of the Roman Empire.
As I watched Plummer in his role as J. Paul Getty, it dawned on me how much I enjoy his performances. I thought about him playing Kaiser Wilhelm II, Leo Tolstoy, Aristotle, and John Barrymore. I thought about his ability to equally play a warmhearted soul and one that is wicked in nature. He’s an actor continuing on his path of promise and deliverance. It almost seems silly for me to even comment because he doesn’t need my accolades. He has already proven himself, but lately I’ve wanted to see faces of “older” actors/actresses. Hollywood likes newcomers, the next big thing, so this is my way of saying I want continued space for veteran actors/actresses. If anyone is deserving of a Hollywood spot, one should be reserved for Christopher Plummer.
February 5, 2018: Humphrey Bogart Quote
January 17, 2018: New Movie Rating
I’m getting there piece by piece. I can’t wait to apply this to my two reviews and future recommendations. The lower the rating, the smaller the finger size. Symbolism has to count for something.
Cheers and Happy Movie Watching Everyone!!!
December 24, 2017: 10 Must See Holiday Themed Movies
These holiday themed movies are in no particular order. If you’re wondering why I didn’t include It’s a Wonderful Life, it’s because I’ve never seen it. Yes, you heard it right. Maybe this year will be the year. I mean while I’m at it, I might as well fit in The Hebrew Hammer. Until the next time, cheers with eggnog or hot apple cider or hot chocolate or whatever else you might drink on a cold, winter night.
While not the best rated or most liked version of this story by Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol (2009), is about Ebenezer Scrooge. It’s easy to find bitterness when the future looks bleak. I envision most people going through this at some point in their lives. Scrooge ultimately has to decide which road he will take. I really liked this version because of Jim Carrey’s voice and the film’s animation.
There are two camps of people: those who enjoy the cold weather in December and those who would rather be somewhere toasty warm. Four Christmases (2008) is a hilarious movie about spending time with your family and wondering if you’ll regret it for the rest of your life. Jon Favreau gives a solid performance as Vince Vaughn’s redneck brother. There’s other funny moments and is a lighthearted movie.
The staple of every holiday movie collection. KEVIIIIINNNNNNNNNNNNNNN!!!! Home Alone (1990) is where you realize eight-year olds know more than you think and are able to take care of themselves. This is a big SORT OF. Kevin McCallister turns out to be his parents’ worst nightmare on Christmas, but soon everyone realizes the true meaning of Christmas by the end. It has a few sappy moments, but a great movie for any family.
ALL ABOARD!!!!!!!!! The Polar Express (2004) is another animation movie Robert Zemeckis directed. This movie is about a boy who travels to the North Pole where he learns about himself and what friendship means during Christmas. Again the animation is visually great and you can’t go wrong with Tom Hanks.
I’ve seen this movie more than ten times and probably less than twenty. Little Women (1994) is one of many adaptations about the March sisters from the story written by Louisa May Alcott. You journey into the lives of each sister as they grow up without their father due to the Civil War. It touches upon many subjects and all in all is a good wholesome movie.
Willie is a very bad Santa. I mean what can go wrong. A lot. Bad Santa (2003) is about how even criminals can get a do over. Willie and his sidekick elf, Marcus, commit robberies in department stores but meeting a kid throws a wrench in his holiday game plan. It sends him in a downward spiral, making him face his holiday demons.
This is a movie about time constraints and sloppy work done, but there is nothing to fear because Arthur will make all things better. Arthur Christmas (2011) is about how Arthur’s journey to right the wrong before Christmas morning arrives. It is up to him to that a girl’s missing present doesn’t become just that. Arthur is voiced by James McAvoy and Santa is voiced by Jim Broadbent.
This is a movie I never really appreciated until I sat down and watched it in its entirety. It’s a classic. It’s so funny. A Christmas Story (1983) is freaking awesome. The tongue on the pole, the pink bunny costume, the leg lamp, and Chinese restaurant. Ralphie got a raw deal in life, and even though he has the brattiest little kid brother, he still holds out hope for the BB gun. Christmas miracles do happen.
A character to scare every little kid out there, solely based on Jim Carrey’s make up, but is a great story by Dr. Seuss. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000) is how one girl’s actions leads to changes within the Grinch. He learns that there’s more to life than being mean and selfish as he meets the people of Whoville.
This probably isn’t the first movie you’d pick as a holiday movie, but The Family Stone (2005) is one of mine. It’s about a family where the tightness among them is tight despite all their dysfunctions. It centers around a matriarch, played by Diane Keaton, and how she wary of the newcomer, Meredith, which is her son’s girlfriend. The differences are noticeable among them all, but it’s hard to put them aside when nothing said is right and every action taken is misunderstood. A good movie for those who know dysfunction exists in every family.
December 24, 2017: IMDb Genre Recommendations
Here’s a list of the major genres recognized by IMDb. There are many to choose from, old and new, and my examples are ones I’ve recently watched the first time or again because I could and did.
Virtually all scenes contain characters participating in humorous or comedic experiences.
Moana (2016) is an animated movie I absolutely loved. It weaves the story of ancestral lines, familial duty, and individual dreams. It has a female protagonist, Moana Waialiki. She searches for her own destiny, as well as protecting the island on which she lives. The scenes between Maui and herself were the some of the funniest. You can’t beat Dwayne Johnson as Maui and his moving tattoos. The musicality is a highlight as well.
Numerous consecutive scenes of real personages and not characters portrayed by actors. This includes stand-up comedy and concert performances.
13th (2016) does an excellent job breaking down the reality of the current day prison system, and the involvement of the African-Americans in the United States. It has solid, good information that should not be ignored. Historical events occurring 200+ years ago doesn’t mean it isn’t relevant today. It gives insight into the ugliness of race relations and inequality that still bleeds in present day situations, and how politicians use it recklessly to further to their campaign agendas.
Universally accepted viewing, and aimed specifically for the education and/or entertainment of children or the entire family.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) is another adaptation of the story by Roald Dahl. Who is better as Willy Wonka, between Gene Wilder or Johnny Depp, is anyone’s guess. They were both equally good, playing this kooky character, and I’m not sure who would stand on top of the candy cake. This story reminds me how kids are the products of their environment, and each one seems to have a few of the deadly sins, unless you have the name of Charlie. The kids are less interested in the Oompa-Loompas, and more concerned about the competition among themselves and where they fit into Wonka’s candy filled factory. This movie is a dream for people who want to run around in a house made of candy, eating whatever is within reach, or maybe I’m just speaking for myself here.
Typically features dark, brooding characters, corruptions, detectives, and the seedy side of the big city. Almost always shot in black and white, American, and set in contemporary time.
The Maltese Falcon (1941) is one of the best movies Humphrey Bogart starred in and one of the best mysteries ever made. It’s a whodunit without really ever getting closure for some of the people. It leaves you with scrapes without any ointment to stop the burning. Who knew a bird could be the object of so much attention, but well deserved, indeed.
Numerous consecutive scenes of characters effecting a terrifying and/or repugnant narrative.
It Comes at Night (2017) builds slowly over time, with its focus being on survival in a time of uncertainty. The head of the family, Paul, expects discipline in following his rules to keep them safe. This is put to the test when someone enters into their life, ultimately seeking help, further complicating the line between safe and unsafe. There aren’t any gimmicks to draw the viewer into this movie. What you get is what you see with honest dialogue, raw tension, and ending that leaves you thinking about what you would do in this situation.
Several scenes of characters bursting into song aimed at the viewer while the rest of the time, usually but not exclusively, portraying a narrative that alludes to another genre.
Les Misérables (2012) is an adaptation from Victor Hugo. Let’s all stand and clap at his writing achievement. This musical production is one you either loved or hated. I found very little wrong with it. The cast was amazing with Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean and his nemesis, Javert, played by Russell Crowe. The duo of Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter were perfect to play the Thénardiers Anne Hathaway shined as Fantine as a prostitute and her daughter Cosette, played by Amanda Seyfried. This story has it all: turmoil, revenge, forgiveness, redemption, and change.
Numerous inter-related scenes of a character and their personal life with emphasis on emotional attachment or involvement with other characters, especially those with a high level of purity or devotion.
Her (2013) is not your typical romance movie. When I first heard about it, I thought seriously, how good can a movie like this be? I should’ve known better because of two things. One, it was written and directed by Spike Jonze, and two, it starred Joaquin Phoenix. This involves a writer, Theodore, who falls in love with the voice from his operating system on his phone. He’s not socially awkward to the point of not being able to have friends, but they are few and far between. It’s an intriguing story with undercurrent themes of consumerism and social media.
Numerous scenes and/or a narrative that pertains to a real war, past or current.
Allied (2016) could be seen as a typical love and war movie, and in some ways it is, but it also had an edge to it. The main characters, Commander Max Vatan and French Resistance member Marianne Beauséjour, come together during World War II, working together for a greater cause. It’s after things settle that complications arise. Domesticity only goes so far. This is about one’s loyalty to country and what happens when things appear differently from another angle.
Primary focus is on real-life events of historical significance featuring real-life characters, allowing for some artistic license. Fictional characters, incidents, and dialog should be minor.
Lincoln (2012) is the movie when I realized James Spader had changed quite a bit in appearance. It’s also the movie about the biggest conflicts, Civil War and slavery, the United States government and citizens and non-citizens have ever had to face. Daniel Day-Lewis took the role and carved himself another fine performance. The scope of negotiations to secure the ratification of the 13th amendment might seem simple when looking at it today, but as we’ve currently seen with Congress, there’s ample room for debate between two political parties and factions within even one or the other party. This movie focuses on a small slice of American history and you don’t want to miss it.
Significant music-related elements, such as concert or story about a band.
Baby Driver (2017) was a surprise, meaning that it was that good. I wasn’t sure about the title of it and a half pink/tan one sheet. I learned my lesson. Don’t judge a movie by its one sheet. Baby is a getaway driver for a ruthless crime boss named Doc who controls his future and every move. His dream of living on his own terms is within grasp, but he keeps getting pulled back time and time again. You learn music is an integral part of life. The best scenes were between Jon Hamm who played Buddy and Ansel Elgort who played Baby.
Numerous inter-related scenes of one or more characters endeavoring to widen their knowledge of anything pertaining to themselves or others.
Wind River (2017) is one of the movies I always appreciate where it focuses on the interconnectedness between people. The movie has conflict throughout: the FBI and locals unable to see eye to eye, two fathers clashing with each other, the cultural differences between Natives and everyone else. Revenge is a dish best served cold especially in this case because the location is Wyoming during the winter. You finally find out how the girl was murdered, but not before realizing some harsh truths about life. It has a great realistic ending.
Numerous scenes and/or entire background should be based on speculative scientific discoveries or developments, environmental changes, space travel, or life on other planets.
The Martian (2015) is pretty much a feel good movie with a lot of holy crap moments. Matt Damon’s character of an astronaut, Mark Watney, learns to thrive on Mars when he is left alone. A mission is formulated to rescue him and as it gains momentum, it’s not only the space world wanting him to return safely. This is a movie you could watch with your family except small children just because they don’t have the attention span.
Numerous sensational scenes or a narrative that is sensational or suspenseful.
The Butterfly Effect (2004) is a relative oldie in my collection and not sure why it was rated so poorly among some critics. It definitely kept my interest. It stars Ashton Kutcher as Evan Treborn who tries to piece his childhood together one memory at a time. He goes back and forth between past and present time for what you will recognize this is a good thing. Many things happen behind closed doors and this is one of those movies.
Numerous scenes and/or a narrative where the portrayal is similar to that of a frontier life in the American West during 1600 to contemporary times.
The Hateful Eight (2015) is not supposed to be funny, but for some reason I find Quentin Tarantino’s movies more hilarious than not. This isn’t my favorite film of his, but it’s good with its superb cast including Walton Goggins, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Samuel L. Jackson. Never able to narrow down what year exactly this takes place except to know it’s after the Civil War, eight people are forced to face nature’s harsh winter and counter defensive moves among each other. You won’t be disappointed in this over the top movie.
Numerous consecutive scenes of characters portrayed to effect a magical and/or mystical narrative.
Elf (2003) is a gem of a holiday movie about an elf, played by Will Ferrell, that is nothing what you would think these toy makers should look or act like because let’s face it, he’s not an elf. As you can guess, he has some identity issues. He ventures out into the “real world” to find out who he really is and connect with his birth father. Elf is the epitome of a holiday movie: the North Pole, Santa Claus, family, and spirit.
Numerous consecutive scenes of characters portrayed to effect a serious narrative, and can be exaggerated upon to produce melodrama.
Spotlight (2015) showcases the power of a newspaper, especially when it’s willing to dig where few people ever want to dig within religion. The level of sexual abuse is maddening and tragic within any institution, but the Catholic Church seems to be the top layer for the widespread incidences, as you learn in this movie. It has lasting effects for the abused and often little consequences for the abusers. The statistics listed at the end are daunting. It highlights a huge problem called power inequality (racial, social, economic, familial), and until this is fixed it will never be fully rectified.
Whether the protagonists or antagonists are criminals, this contains numerous consecutive and inter-related scenes of characters participating, aiding, abetting, and/or planning criminal behavior or experiences usually for an illicit goal.
John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017) is one kick ass, bad ass, and kill as many people who deserve it movie where Keanu Reeves is John Wick. The level of fighting and vendettas is even better than the first movie. John Wick was born to do one thing, well probably more, but since his family life rug was pulled out from under his feet, he does what he has to do to survive. It’s a simple story with adrenaline filled scenes and great special effects. I can’t wait for the third installment as it’s bound to be just as good in 2019.
Numerous scenes where action is spectacular and usually destructive.
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) is a movie for my heart. Apocalyptic movies tends to bring out the best in the downtrodden and worst for the other side. This story is about a the attempt to right the perceived wrongs by a displaced woman, Furiosa, and a man with nothing to lose, Max. They learn to trust each other, and ultimately find a little bit more peace when their road out of hell appears to have ended.
Primary focus is on the depiction of activities and personality of a reason person or persons, for some or all of their lifetime. Events in their life maybe reenacted or described in a documentary style. It should generally follow reasonably close to the factual record.
Lion (2016) is one of those movies I will watch year after year. It has to be one of the best movies based on real life I’ve seen in a long time. It probably struck a chord because like Saroo, the protagonist in the movie, I too was adopted. The movie doesn’t hide the difficulties of some adoptions. The interaction between the two brothers before Saroo’s adoption were the best moments in the film. There are many heart wrenching scenes and the ending is unforgettable. It left me thinking there are no coincidences in this story. With this being the last genre recommendation, I would say put Lion near the top of your list to watch. You won’t regret it. Trust me, you won’t.
December 3, 2017: AFI Genre Recommendations
Here’s a list of the major genres recognized by AFI. There are many to choose from, old and new, and my examples are ones I’ve recently watched the first time or again because I could and did.
Animated includes images primarily created by computer or hand and the characters are voiced by actors and actresses.
Zootopia from 2016, a 3D computer-animated comedy, is a movie I thoroughly enjoyed. It involves a rabbit named Judy, striking out on her own in a city called Zootopia, to be part of its police force. She finds herself having to work with her enemy, the fox, in order to solve a crime, while also proving herself to the police chief. The humor is on point, and is a movie for almost all ages.
Fantasy is when live-action characters inhabit imagined settings and/or experience situations that transcend the rules of the natural world.
The NeverEnding Story (Die unendiliche Geschichte) from 1984, a fantasy, is a movie that keeps on giving. It involves Bastian, a child who is routinely picked on, and finds refuge in a book. He becomes entranced in the story, and specifically the characters of Falcor (flying dragon) and Atreyu (warrior child). The movie has gotten flack for its special effects and ending, but back in the day it completely captured my attention and heart. It still does. The nostalgia of the 80s.
Gangster centers on organized crime or maverick criminals in a twentieth century setting.
Black Mass from 2015, a gangster movie, is a book adaptation. It’s about the relationship between James Bulger, known as Whitey, and the FBI, in particular with agent John Connolly. It is one of the best acting performances by Johnny Depp. The other one that comes to mind is when he played John Wilmot, the 2nd Earl of Rochester in Libertine. It’s a movie I didn’t have a hard time watching because the FBI and gang activity are personal interests, but even if they weren’t, it had enough dramatic tension to fill a large table of beer mugs.
Science Fiction marries a scientific or technological premise with imaginative speculation.
Snowpiercer from 2013, a science fiction movie, is based on a graphic novel. It’s about different economic classes that live on a train where the distinction between the poor and rich is a very clear line. It only takes one person to rally the crowd, and when Curtis gains foothold outside his living quarters, there’s nothing that will stop him. It’s quite serious from start to finish, as many science fiction films are, because usually something is in peril. There’s no falling asleep in this movie.
Western is set in the American West that embodies the spirit, the struggle, and the demise of the new frontier.
Unforgiven from 1992, a western, is one of my favorite Clint Eastwood movies. He plays Bill Munny, a man who wants to be left alone to live out the rest of his life in peace. Yet, life often gives you what you don’t want. It has great acting and the premise of less is more is part of why this movie plays so well on the screen. Known as an efficient director, there is a purpose for everything you see and don’t see in this movie.
Sports has protagonists who play athletics or other games of competition.
Battle of the Sexes from 2017, focusing on the sport of tennis, tackles serious matters with the right amount of humor interspersed throughout. We’ve heard about the tennis match in 1973 between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs. Seeing this movie is the closest I’ll get to the whole experience and events leading up to it. The fact I had a better understanding of the hardships women faced in sports is a testament to the movie. Emma Stone’s performance is Oscar worthy, and of course, Steve Carrell did well playing an unlikable character.
Mystery revolves around the solution of a crime.
Se7en from 1995, a mystery, is about the seven deadly sins. It makes you wonder who the hell is responsible for this murder streak. For what it is worth, it’s a little ironic given the bad guy is now being portrayed in Hollywood as a bad guy. It has cost him two roles now, which I’m not too happy about him leaving, but karma comes to mind. Getting back to the movie, it goes into the darkness of what people can be and do if you aren’t paying attention. So pay attention to it all and maybe see how you stack up with the deadly sins.
Romantic Comedy includes development of a romance leading to comic situations.
Midnight in Paris from 2011, a romantic comedy, is a movie I enjoyed because you hardly go wrong with Woody Allen. It involves a couple vacationing in Paris. Gil is a screenwriter who finds his inspiration while being transported back to the 1920s at midnight. It has a dreamy quality to it and worth seeing. You also can’t go wrong with watching the recreating of 1920s Paris.
Courtroom Drama has a system of justice playing a critical role in the film’s narrative.
Primal Fear from 1996, a courtroom drama, is a movie that involves religion and murder. It can’t get any better than this, but wait, there’s a lawyer hiding the shadows ready to take on this case. Okay, it does get better. The need to control the situation, by both the lawyer and defendant, makes it tense. Sometimes you watch movies to be appalled by human action and this is one of them.
Epic is large-scale, set in a cinematic interpretation of the past. Their scope defies and demands, either in the mode in which they are presented or their range across time.
Lawrence of Arabia from 1962, an epic historical drama, is a movie that kept my attention. As with many epic movies, it’s a long one of around 3 hours and 40 minutes. It’s about a British Lieutenant, T.E. Lawrence, following his own path during WWI. He disobeys commands, and rallies warring Arab tribes together for the sake of attacking a Turkish port. It’s worth seeing. It won best picture of the year and six other Oscars.
December 3, 2017: Documentary Recommendation
Produced: Ari Folman, Serge Lalou, Verona Meier, Gerhard Meixner, Yael Nahlieli, and Roman Paul
Directed: Ari Folman
Written: Ari Folman
Cast: Ari Folman, Ori Sivan, Ronny Dayag, Shmuel Frenkel, Zahava Solomon, Ron Ben-Yishai, Dror Harazi, Mikey Leon, and Yehezkel Lazarov
Waltz with Bashir (Vals Im Bashir) is unlike the traditional animation. It is also a documentary with the focus of war. It was released in very limited theaters in 2008. Five to be exact. Therefore, I saw it when it came out on DVD. This documentary is highly engaging. The story seeks to uncover the reasons why the protagonist, Ari Folman, is having nightmares long after 1982 has passed when he served in the IDF. He finds his answers through speaking to those around him during the first Lebanon War in the 1980s, and not necessarily soldiers. Ari’s desire to fill in the blank spots during this time is to give him resolution, and to confront what he might have done during this fragile time.
The first time an animated film was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.
It won the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
November 25, 2017: TV Recommendations
Police, Detectives, and Agents! Oh my!
Outstanding police departments can make you feel safe in your community. I would venture to say they are cities not heavily populated, which are basically small town U.S.A. Corrupt police departments can dampen a whole city’s image. Los Angeles comes to mind, which The Shield is loosely based from, and in particular the Rampart Division. The rest who carry a gun and badge are in between the two. When you talk about the FBI and CIA, there appears to be more gray areas when it comes to procedural affairs. It might be because these institutions are so large compared to police departments. Nevertheless, these are the shows that have stuck with me over the years, and the ones I want to watch, but not finding the time.
This show catapulted Johnny Depp as a heart-throb centerfold for teenyboppers. I was not one of those teenyboppers even though I was ripe for the age. I swear on my own hands, I was not, but, oh, Tommy Hanson and all the characters of 21 Jump Street. It ran from 1987 to 1991. It had a total of five seasons. Its creators are Stephen J. Cannell and Patrick Hasburgh. It even had a spin-off show, Booker, with Richard Grieco that lasted one season. I can hear the theme song, Hot in the City, to Booker now. 21 Jump Street involves an undercover police unit whose focus was on solving crimes committed by primarily young people in high school. I remember the ex-hippie Captain Jenko that was in the first season’s episodes before Captain Fuller came and stayed. The topics ranged from alcoholism to racism to child abuse to promiscuity. It had an overall seriousness with sporadic goofiness to make it realistic, primarily done by Peter DeLuise’s character.
This show has gotten criticism for how they portray certain Middle Eastern people, but it goes to show you can’t please every living person. This heavy laden topic is important, not the purpose of this blog. I’ve watched up to season three. Remember the shows collecting dust on my shelf. This is one of them. I have yet to watch the other three seasons. It premiered in 2011 and the seventh season starts in 2018. Its creators are Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon. Homeland is about a CIA operative, Carrie Mathison, whose personal complications with her bipolar disorder often get in the way of being taken seriously by her co-workers. The end of the third season brought full circle the story of character Nicholas Brody. I look forward to what happens in season four because another personal complication arises for Carrie and her prevailing is what she does best.
I watched Quantico twice so far, both two seasons, because it was that good. I’m a sucker for learning about different characters and what makes them tick, question, scream, and punch their way through life. It premiered in 2015 and the third season starts in 2018. Its creator is Joshua Safran. The show is about a group of FBI recruits who train at Quantico. The mystery unravels to find out who is the terrorist or if one even exists. The main focus is on the characters of Alex Parrish and Ryan Booth. The ending of season two leaves it at a nice spot to leap into a new story line, sort of, but whether it goes there remains to be seen. There are some borderline knocking on 90210 door moments, but not enough to turn me away.
This is another show I watched partly in high school. It ran from 1993 to 2001. It had a total of nine seasons. The X-Files picked up again in 2016, but have not watched them. Its creator is Chris Carter. The episodes involve unsolved cases with questionable and often un-explainable phenomenon. Its main characters include two FBI agents, Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, who eventually come to the same conclusion about the government agency they work for and their personal and work related discoveries. If you are fascinated with the extra-terrestrial as I am, then this show is definitely up your alley. Yes, I saw the movie too.
This show I could watch a million times and never get sick of it. Okay, maybe I’m stretching it a little too much, but DAMN is this a good show. Someone recommended this to me before I moved to Los Angeles. Thank you E.H. Then when I moved here, I saw the taping of The Shield by accident on one of my runs (when I actually ran instead of now jogging). In addition to seeing Michael Chiklis smiling in a doorway not very far away, I’ve seen a fair number of cast more than once: Walton Goggins (many times with family), Jay Karnes (airport), Benito Martinez (what a nice guy), and Kenny Johnson (many times with family). I’m still waiting to see CCH Pounder, Catherine Dent, and David Rees Snell. Michael Jace will die in prison for a killing his wife in 2014, which is a shame, because he played his character so well. It ran from 2002 to 2008. It had a total of seven seasons. Its creator is Shawn Ryan. The episodes involve the lives of a dirty cop and those that serve with him on his anti-gang task force. The notable guest stars of Forest Whitaker, Glenn Close, Anthony Anderson, and Laurie Holden, to name a few, made it all the better. The final episode is hands down one of the best I’ve seen.
Forget about Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey. He blows his character, Paul Spector, out of the water in terms of creepiness. Then again, how many teenage girls are turned on by serial killers. Well, maybe some, but not to the level of C.G. This is a slower show, but once you get past that, you are able to see it for what it really is: a masterpiece showcasing a serial killer from Belfast going head to foot with law enforcement. It becomes a cat and mouse game between a methodical killer, Paul Spector, and driven police officer, Stella Gibson. It premiered in 2013, and has three seasons so far. Its creator is Allan Cubitt. I have yet to watch the last season, but it was the last for Dornan, so I’m sure it will blast the pressure to maximum force.
The ever revolving door of actors and actresses for this show, but I’ll still take it. I’m still a little upset I’ll never know how Hotchner really was supposed to finish. This is a long running show. It premiered in 2005 and the thirteenth season is going on now. Its creator is Jeff Davis. Criminal Minds is about FBI agents, part of the Behavorial Analysis Unit (BAU), who are profilers hunting serial killers and those committing heinous crimes. It is led by Emily Prentiss. Her team uses the ever catchy term: unsub or unknown subject. I’ve seen all except the current season. This is the reason Netflix exists. I do a dive bomb when it is released, and don’t leave until I’ve watched them all.
I’ve watched this show about three times, and each time the ticking of the clock bothered whoever was around me. 24 ran from 2001 to 2010. It had a total of eight seasons. Its creators are Robert Cochran and Joel Surnow. The episodes involve Jack Bauer, director of a counter-terrorist unit in Los Angeles, and his team. I prefer to think of him as a bad ass who walks the thinnest of lines between sanctioned protocol and what’s on the other side of it. It’s hard to think so much action could happen in one day, and how the people involved are still functioning by the end. Yet, it does happen so it makes the show all the more impressive. There was a mini-series 24: Live Another Day that aired in 2014. There was a spin-off, 24: Legacy, that aired in 2016. It had one season.
This show has basically replaced The Shield, for me, in terms of caliber. The level of corruption is astounding where it grabbed me from the start. The well-developed characters was a pleasant surprise. The character arc of Mr. Kaplan at the end of season four was one of the best I’ve seen. The Blacklist premiered in 2013 and season five resumes in 2018. Its creator is Jon Bokenkamp. The show involves primarily two characters: Elizabeth Keen and Raymond Reddington. Keen is a newly married FBI profiler. She comes face to face with Reddington, and throughout the show questions his motives and behaviors at every corner. It will be interesting to see how the second half of season five progresses since a major bomb was dropped on Keen.
This show was slow to start, and admit I had to give it another try. I’m glad I did because it is well worth the watching. Stay invested in it because I eventually didn’t want to turn it off, but had to because I needed sleep. The Killing ran from 2011 to 2014. It has four seasons. Its creator is Veena Sud. Its main characters, Sarah Linden and Stephen Holder, work as a team in a police investigation. As they uncover pieces to the story of what happened to Rosie Larsen, things get unhinged on personal and political levels. It is a great whodunnit and whydunnit show.
This show had the ever revolving door of the main actor that would bring a sex appeal factor to the television screen. David Caruso left the set, never to glance back, and actors kept replacing the last. This never detracted from the show because the writing was superb, but I wish actresses were given more credence to their profession. I think of A.D.A Sylvia Costas and Detective Connie McDowell. NYPD Blue is about the professional lives of detectives in their precinct, and how it often bleeds into their private lives. It ran from 1993 to 2005. There were twelve seasons. Its creators are Steven Bochco and David Milch. It is led by Lt. Fancy and later Lt. Rodriquez. The mainstays throughout most of the seasons were Detective Sipowicz, Greg Medavoy, Bobby Simone, and Connie McDowell. NYPD Blue was a groundbreaking show for a reason.
This show surprisingly I had to give another try as well because my eyes weren’t cooperating at the first round. But the second time, I was all in and ready to go. Mindhunter has one season so far, and can’t wait for the next one in unknown. Its creator is Joe Penhall. It involves the formative years of FBI research into the mind of killers by the hands of two agents: Holden Ford and Bill Tench. Both actors are excellent in their roles, but Holt McCallany knocks the ball out of the park. They forgo the old method of looking at crimes and delve deeper into a criminal’s modus operandi. This show is based from actual research and events. I’m willing to watch anything psychologically and/or criminally related. It’s one of the few things that can keep me up at night when I’m bone tired. Enough said.
This mini-series was discovered as I was surfing Netflix. I’m not sure if it is still on there, but it’s worth the watch. It keeps you invested. The Assets is about the ultimate capture of a CIA mole by other CIA officers. This is a cat and mouse game between Aldrich Ames and Sandra Grimes and Jeanne Vertefeuille. This is based on actual events where Ames fed classified information to the Soviet Union. It aired in 2014.
There you have it: the shows I’ve seen that stuck with me. I’ve purposely left out other notable shows for a time factor. On that note, let’s move to the ones I have yet to see.
Graceland is a show about a rookie FBI agent trained by a FBI legend in a beachfront residence. Its creator is Jeff Eastin. It had three seasons.
The Wire is a show about the Baltimore inner-city drug scene from the view of the criminals and police department. Its creator is David Simon. It had five seasons.
True Detective is a show about police investigations. It follows different cases in each season. Its creator is Nic Pizzolatto. It has two seasons so far.
Justified is a show about a U.S. Marshal going back to his poor, rural hometown in Kentucky. Its creator is Graham Yost. It had six seasons.
Luther is a show about a genius detective who is dedicated, obsessed, and consumed by his work in the Serious Crime Unit. Its creator is Neil Cross. It has four seasons so far.
Top of the Lake is a show about a detective attempting to solve crimes while keeping herself in check. It has a gap in between the seasons. Its creators are Jane Campion and Gerard Lee. It has two seasons so far.
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation is a show about forensic evidence team in Las Vegas. It had sixteen seasons. Its creator is Anthony E. Zuiker. (I haven’t watched enough episodes to say I truly know about it.)
Southland is a show about the LAPD. It had five seasons. Its creator is Ann Biderman.
The Americans is a show about Soviet spies in America. It has five seasons so far. Its creator is Joseph Weisberg.
There you have it: the shows where people wear badges and/or affiliated with crime in some way. I could say so much more about this topic, but given the lack of time, I won’t. On that note, happy television watching because there’s a lot out there.
November 4, 2017: Documentary Recommendation
Searching for Augusta: The Forgotten Angel of Bastogne
This documentary starts in Belgian Congo where Augusta Chiwy was born in 1921 and ends in Belgium where she died in 2015. She was 94 years old. The center of the story is about this courageous and heroic Belgian nurse who volunteered to help the sick and dying soldiers during World War II during the siege of Bastogne. She worked alongside an U.S. Army physician, Dr. John Prior, and Belgian nurse, Renee Lemaire.
There is a saying that great things come in small packages. Augusta would fit into this category. She was a short woman, but very determined. She was humble and did not speak of her bravery long after the war ended. This changed when she met Martin King, a British historian. He was able bring her from the shadows for his book Voices of the Bulge.
The documentary is one of the most powerful I’ve seen in a while. It uses beautiful charcoal illustrations, conveying the moods and emotions of the time, and is just as powerful as if actual pictures were used. The relationship between John and Augusta convinces me certain people are destined for each other, even if for a short time.
Martin King recognized great strength and beauty in this heroine. She was recognized for her service by receiving the Order of the Crown (Belgium) and Civilian Award for Humanitarian Service (USA). This story is something special as it touches upon ugly realities including war and racism, but does it in such as way that you leaves you thinking there is more good in people than bad.
October 23, 2017: More Halloween Movies
October 21, 2017: 9 Halloween Movies for Every October and 1 TV Special
While I haven’t watched animated movies for a while, I thoroughly enjoyed watching every movie listed below. From the Peanuts characters to vampires to trolls to the undead, the stories and characters will keep you entertained. These just aren’t for people with kids because I’m living proof you’re never too old to watch a movie for a younger audience. They are listed by release date.
(Yes, I realize It’s a Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is a television special.)
It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966)
Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005)
Monster House (2006)
Hotel Transylvania (2012)
Hotel Transylvania 2 (2015)
The Boxtrolls (2014)
There’s many Halloween movies one could watch. I hope to watch a few new ones for the purpose of recommending or reviewing them before next year’s Halloween is chasing me. Here’s my list of Horror movies that are timeless wonders until that time comes. The lists are in order of release year. Enjoy and happy horror movie watching.
Psycho (1960) has one of best string of first act scenes in a horror movie. Everyone will remember to be wary of taking showers in motels. The movie seeks to answer what really happened to the character, Marion Crane, after she left her job in a mad hurry. The story continues to involve her sister, Lila, and her boyfriend, Sam, as they unravel the mystery. The ending is one of the best, but this is why Alfred Hitchcock is known as “the master of suspense.” There are five movies in this franchise, including the remake with Anne Heche and Vince Vaughn in 1998.
The Exorcist (1973) is about a mother fighting for her daughter’s life, basically demonic possession, with the help of two priests. If entities jump from one person to another, the ending has a definite creepiness to it. On a side note, Ellen Burstyn and Linda Blair injured their backs in different scenes so the level of authenticity is definitely present. The are five movies in this franchise, not including the re-release in 2000 showing the staircase scene of the spider walk.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) is about a group of friends, including two siblings, who encounter a family of freaks or the more technical term of being a psychopathic family. Leatherface: a man donning human flesh as a mask, wielding a chainsaw, being extremely tall, has all the traits of one scary &#*^@^&$. This script is very loosely based on Ed Gein, a Wisconsin serial killer, and surprisingly more serial killers are located in the pacific northwest and in some southern states. The commentary is worth the listen. There are seven movies in the franchise, including remakes and spin offs focusing on Leatherface. The latest one was released this month, featuring Stephen Dorff and Lili Taylor, although I haven’t seen it.
Halloween (1978) is a movie most people watch around this time. This is another favorite of mine. Some are for personal reasons. Others are purely for creative reasons. I met Jamie Lee Curtis once. She’s zany as you think, but in a good way. Listening to the commentary on the DVD/Blu-ray between John Carpenter and herself was priceless. From the opening scene to the last, it cemented my belief some people are wired to be evil. There are ten movies in the franchise, including the Rob Zombie directed ones, and the eleventh coming out in October 2018.
The Shining (1980) is about a haunted hotel that has negative effects on those who stay there. A writer, Jack Torrance, with his wife and son stay at Overlook Hotel in the dead of winter. Odd phenomenon occur as time passes, alarming Jack’s wife most of all. Yet, all bad things must come to an end. This is the only movie made, although there was a television mini-series made in 1997.
Friday the 13th (1980) brought the words of Camp Crystal Lake and name of Jason to the forefront of slasher films. The movie follows camp counselors, and one by one they are hunted by an elusive killer. There is nothing wrong about a mother’s love for her adult child, no matter how many worms he has crawling on his face, and the bond is stronger than the strongest glue. There are twelve movies in this franchise, including spin–offs focusing on Jason and Freddy vs. Jason, and the remake in 2009.
Halloween II (1981) is another movie most people watch around this time. This is one of my favorite sequels. It is one of the few horror movies that holds a candle next to the original and not have its flame blown out. The nightmare continues for Laurie Strode in the hospital. There are ten movies in the franchise.
Gremlins (1984) is about those adorable, little creatures called mogwai. The movie is completely absurd when you force it into the realistic cupboard, but that’s what is great about it. There is no way an animal would change its genetic makeup at such an accelerated rate from light, water, and food. It forces you to suspend your reality. The lessons learned by small town U.S.A. still rings true today. Do not possess something you are not fully prepared to handle. You might find yourself unable to deal with the unintended consequences. Who can forget Stripe? The badass leader? There are two movies in this franchise, not including the latest one to be released at a TBD date.
Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) is about one of my favorite evil characters in contemporary horror cinema. Yes, 33 years is not that long ago. Freddy Krueger had all the elements of being terrifying and alluring. His exaggerated mannerisms were a part of his darker psyche. He paid the piper long ago and now he’s wanting to collect through revenge. There are nine movies in this franchise, including the spin-off focusing on Freddy vs. Jason, and the remake in 2010.
Hellraiser (1987) is about a woman who finds it increasingly hard to resist her past lover who escaped the clutches of the Cenobites from hell. He convinces her to restore him back to life by offering sacrifices to the demons. The leader is known as Pinhead. As some deals are made, others are broken. When is the last time you would trust a demon? The answer would be never. There are nine movies in this franchise, not including the latest one to be released this year.
October 6, 2017: Could I Watch These Movies Without Any Guilt, Today?
I’ve done some thinking lately about xenophobia in Hollywood. I’ve seen a few movies riddled with it. Midnight Express demonizes Turkey. Return to Paradise paints Malaysia with browns and blacks. Brokedown Palace portrays Thailand in a poor light. Oliver Stone has since apologized to Turkey and its people. Billy Hayes, whom the movie is based, has taken a firm stance of his love for Turkey and its people through interviews and finally returning there in 2007 to further repair the damage that was done by his book and movie adaptation.
Is watching these types of movies going to prevent people from visiting any of these countries? It wouldn’t for me, but it might for some. I’ve seen these movies over ten years ago, but not once did I think of the secondary consequences and influences it might have on viewers. Sure, it reinforced my standard of not smuggling drugs out of foreign countries. Is twenty years harsh punishment for a first offense drug charge? Yes, to me, it is. Is death warranted for a first offense drug charge? No, to me, it isn’t.
I’m less certain if it is careless for a screenwriter or writer to sensationalize a certain ethnic or racial group or write scenes riddled with fictional violence. I used to think it was careless without any room for exceptions. People write what they know, what is familiar to them, and sometimes the topic is open to great criticism. Is giving harsh criticism to a screenwriter or any writer fair when they write from the heart? I’m not sure anymore.
Because of the current racial tensions, I thought about not recommending these movies. Then, I thought I’m letting someone else dictate what is and isn’t suitable for me to watch, and worse yet, blog. We all have opinions and even more so rampant with social media. I realize not everyone is going to agree with me nor do I want this. People aren’t robots without emotions. We don’t need followers without thinking for ourselves. So, I’m thinking for myself in this blog. I’m kicking the dirt in the air and seeing where it lands.
Despite the xenophobia and criticism, I’m recommending Midnight Express with Brad Davis as Billy Hayes and Return to Paradise with Joaquin Phoenix as Lewis McBride. I watched them for the stories, but what stayed with me through all these years was the performances by these two actors.
Midnight Express is a movie adaptation from the non-fiction book by the same name. The movie was directed by Alan Parker and written by Oliver Stone. In addition to Davis, there are solid performances by John Hurt and Randy Quaid. The Turkish prison guard, Hamidou, is still excellently played by Paul L. Smith. The movie starts with the arrest of Billy Hayes and progresses with his time spent in a Turkish prison. You see how he deals mentally and physically with his incarceration even during those times when all hope seems gone. Despite the movie being released in 1978, it’s a commentary even today of not going into another country without being fully aware of their culture and laws. The only downfall given by Roger Ebert from Chicago Sun-Times was feeling sorry for Billy Hayes. I was one of the viewers who did feel sorry for him so this reinforces why I’m recommending this solely based on Brad Davis’s performance.
Return to Paradise is a movie written by Wesley Strick and Bruce Robinson. It is a remake from a French movie called Force Majeure from 1989. The movie was directed by Joseph Ruben. The movie is about three friends who visit Malaysia on vacation, and because of their carelessness one is arrested and sent to Malaysian prison. The acting by Vince Vaughn and David Conrad is not on the same caliber as John Hurt, but they served a necessary purpose. Besides the question of whether Lewis McBride will be released from prison, it includes what would you do for your friend. This is when talk flies out the window, and action is the only thing having importance. The major downfall given by Peter Travers from Rollingstone were the B-rate suspense tricks used in the movie. I was one of the viewers who was moved by the emotionally charged ending so this is why I’m recommending this solely based on Joaquin Phoenix’s performance. He’s only gotten better in his roles since this one in 1998.
And there you have it, my long overdue two movie recommendations, and yes I could watch them again.
(These aren’t movies, but you get the point, I hope.)
There’s been some backlash over Netflix, mainly their original programming and what they allow to stream on their service. I find it more user-friendly based on my preferences and needs. I prefer the option of binge watching television shows and seeing older movies. Releasing only one season or a few seasons at a time is cumbersome for shows no longer airing and those with many seasons. I will say Hulu has some original programming I’m interested in watching. So far all I’ve seen is the first episode of Handmaid’s Tale. So far, so very good. I can’t wait to see more. Since I was introduced to Netflix first, I’m giving it some needed love, and my choices are in no particular order.
CAUTION: DON’T TRIP OVER THE SPOILERS ALONG THE WAY!!!
House of Cards (original programming) is a political drama involving Frank and Claire Underwood. It is an adaptation from the book, same name, written by Michael Dobbs. The BBC made a four-part series in 1990. There are five seasons, so far, in the current version. Season one starts with Frank as a Congressman who has high sights of making his name mean even more in Washington D.C. I think we all know politicians can be ruthless and the show doesn’t disappoint in this regard. Some of it may be construed as over the top, but we all have private things we’d like to keep private especially when it involves circumstances where coming back seems impossible and lethal means exactly that. The progression through the seasons continue to focus on the different personas the Underwood’s take including the political stage, as well as their pitfalls and achievement. It is equal part a story about the Underwood’s marriage arrangements and their maneuvering in the political world. Season five ended with more questions to the motives of Claire and how Frank will counteract this in season six. I will say after watching this it gave me more respect for Robin Wright’s acting skills and Kevin Spacey never disappoints. Michael Kelly who plays Doug Stamper is a character I find very intriguing. I’m curious how his character arcs when the show ends. There have been great guest roles. A part of me wants to see what Frank has built collapse at the end of the show, and hope I get to see the next part of his life as the next season is still pending. I’m 99% confident there will be a next season. It’s just plain silly to stop it at such a pivotal moment in quality television making.
Narcos (original programming) is a crime/police drama about the lucrative cocaine industry and those opposed to it. It is created and produced by Chris Brancato, Carlo Bernard, and Doug Miro. There are three seasons and the fourth season is to be released in 2018. I have only seen the first two seasons and one episode of the third. Season one begins with Pablo Escobar and his rise to the top as the drug kingpin in Colombia. Wagner Moura who plays Escobar was highly convincing as the vindictive, egotistical, and family loving billionaire. To give an idea of how he operated, Escobar stapled a cone onto a horse’s head and wings on its back so his daughter could have her very own unicorn. This ended up killing the horse by infection and this real life event is not in the show. He got what we wanted even if it meant death. His cousin, Gustavo Gaviria, was one of the few he trusted. Their relationship was one I enjoyed watching especially when it was tested. The first season involves the interesting relationship between DEA agents, Steve Murphy and Javier Peña, where the latter is not a part of the capture of Escobar as seen later. Season two continues the saga of Escobar’s imprisonment or lack thereof since he planned and built his own prison. He effectively remains hidden due to strict loyalty from his cartel from the police, and only when it crumbles does his life come to an end in the infamous shootout on top of the roofs of Colombia. It leads to the Medellín Cartel to be succeeded by the Cali Cartel. They gained top control of the cocaine manufacturing and distribution before Escobar’s blood turned cold. Season three begins with Peña going undercover in the Cali cartel. I’ve only seen the first episode and it did not disappoint. I suspect there’s going to be moments of surprise and tension as the Cali Cartel operates through bribery versus violence. Gilberto Rodríguez Orejuela, as head of the Cali Cartel, is both cunning and charming. Season four will set place some of the time in Mexico. I will also say the location manager for the show was recently killed so RIP Carlos Muñoz Portal. No matter how the fourth season ends up, I’m going to like it because it hasn’t lessened its content just because Escobar and Murphy are gone.
Stranger Things (original programming) is a science fiction drama about a town in Indiana during the 1980’s. It is created and written by twins, Matt and Ross Duffer. There is so far only one season, and the second season is to be released in October 2017. There are plans to have four total seasons. It revolves around a mother, Joyce Byers, and her two sons. Her younger son runs around with a group of children who come across a girl named Eleven. The purpose of her existence is not fully explained, but it is enough to know she has supernatural powers and can use them for good. While Byers and her younger son is reunited in the end of the season, the town has clearly been affected negatively. I’m curious to know more about the portal in season two and hope they delve further into it. Matthew Modine who plays Dr. Martin Brenner works at Hawkins National Laboratory is seen sparsely so far and believe they will go even further in his broken relationship with Eleven in season two.
Peaky Blinders (BBC) focuses on the Irish gang located in Birmingham, England so it is crime drama. Tommy Shelby, protector and criminal, is the boss of the Peaky Blinders. He lives his life always keeping in mind ways to further advance his bloodline and gang family. It is created by Steven Knight and produced by Caryn Mandabach. The actors and actresses are those you might not recognize and were picked for good reason. You don’t want someone who can’t speak in an Irish and English accent convincingly. Season one focuses on how Tommy’s one decision impacts himself and his family throughout the whole season. I know it is vague, but I’m trying not to spoil it too much. Season two is when the charming Tom Hardy character arrives as Alfie Solomons. It focuses on the horse betting scene and where we get a sense that Tommy loves anything that is profitable. Season three started with a great opening episode and ended with a bang I couldn’t have expected. Get ready for the Russians because they come into various scenes in all their glory. Season four will more than likely be released in 2017.
The Last Kingdom (BBC) is a British historical drama. It is an adaptation from Bernard Cornwall’s book series, The Saxon Stories, and set in late 9th century England. The centerpiece of the first season is Uhtred’s survival that leads to him forming a relationship to King Alfred after he escapes with Brida. It was refreshing to see a female character of her strength, but not losing sight of her femaleness. This relationship between two very different men continues into season two full of tension and respect for each other. You get to see the vulnerable side to Uhtred as one tragedy piles on top of another. These were some of the best scenes of Alexander Dreymon. Season two also involves seeking revenge along the way as Uhtred carries out his allegiance to King Alfred. Be prepared to see battles where blood spills whether Saxon, Dane, or Viking. I’m sure season three will not stray from the dilemma of Uhtred honoring his ancestors and those who raised him. I’m curious what will happen with Beocca and Thyra. Season three will more than likely happen in 2018. There is talk about it being solely original programming, but either way I hope it is released sooner than later.
And there you have it, the five reasons I still keep Netflix at this moment.
August 28, 2017: Movie Recommendations/Reviews
I decided to rent a few movies this weekend, Lost City of Z and King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, because a part of me wanted to see if they deserved the lack of interest during opening weekend and long after they left the theater. My overall general conclusion for both movies is no, but I do have a few suggestions along the way I believe would have made them better. If you haven’t seen the movies yet, and can tolerate the minor mishaps I comment on, then by all means, watch them because I did and survived.
This blog contains general spoilers for those not familiar with these stories.
I watched Lost City of Z first, on a Friday night, when I was boned tired. It probably wasn’t the greatest time to watch a 141 minute long movie, but I did it anyway. The story is about the British explorer among his many other titles, Percival (Percy) Fawcett, and his repeated attempts at discovering a lost city in South America he believes exists. His explorations take him deep into the Amazon where insects and animals are not the only ones to prove dangerous. The script, written by James Gray, is based on the book by David Grann, The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon. It is also directed by Gray. The main cast is Charlie Hunnam as Percy Fawcett, Robert Pattinson as Henry Costin, Angus Macfadyen as James Murray, Sienna Miller as Nina Fawcett, and Tom Holland as Jack Fawcett.
A movie of this magnitude would have done well for itself by splitting it into two to capture adequately all the parts of the story or going back into the script and focus on one or two parts of the story. The heart of this movie should have focused on exploration and survival meaning the majority of the story should have concentrated on Fawcett’s time in the Amazon.
The veins found in the arms and legs of any story are important, sub-stories so to speak, but were too haphazardly thrown into the main story to make it beneficial. The letter correspondence between Fawcett’s wife and himself could have proven to be touching, but all you really got was voice over in the end. I’m not expecting love letters to be written between Percy and Nina because that is not what this story is about nor do I think this was in his nature to write these kinds of letters. I mean here was a husband and father who was away from his family where he missed significant parts of raising his children. It might have given him a little more depth to know the part of him that was not steeped in his desire for exploration did exist. Movies are known to sometimes stray from actual events in order to improve it.
The scenes relating to the World War I did not advance the story in any meaningful way although I’m more undecided about the debates over the authenticity and purpose of his missions. I think it would have been just as sufficient to have a single antagonist before he went on his first mission as seen in the movie to comment on the sentiment during that time when non-white people were viewed as savages. I wasn’t turned off by his speech later in the movie, but it wasn’t a make it or break it scene for me.
There’s quite a of span of time between his missions so titles referring to a timeline, dates in particular, would’ve been helpful. This coupled with smoother transitions between the locations in the Amazon to his home in England would have made it appear less choppy and more tolerable.
The last scene of the movie was neither here nor there for me. It didn’t have the same kind of impact as the other parts of the movie. I think because it didn’t solely focus on Fawcett and his son, Jack, and what was clearly obvious to them. By the end of this film, I realized I could’ve had a little more insight into the workings of Percy Fawcett as a person. I wonder how it would’ve played out had Brad Pitt or Benedict Cumberbatch took the role instead. I’m not saying this was sub-par because of Charlie Hunnam because it was far from it. He’s a good actor with adequate range so yes, I recommend this movie.
(87% Rotten Tomatoes/6.7 out of 10 IMDb)
I watched King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, on a Saturday morning, when I was still bone-tired. This too proved to be somewhat of a challenge, but not as much due to the pacing of it, and it was 126 minutes. The story is about the son of King Uther Pendragon, Arthur, who sends him away in a boat to safety, after he is attacked by his own brother, Vortigern. It is in the brothels where Arthur is raised and ultimately finds his true power and calling when he reaches adulthood. It is directed by Guy Ritchie who also had a hand in the script along with several others, and for all intents and purposes it is a “not think too hard” kind of movie. The main cast is Charlie Hunnam as Arthur, Jude Law and Vortigern, Eric Bana as Uther, Djimon Hounsou as Bedivere, and Astrid Bergès-Frisbey as The Mage, Aiden Gillen as Bill, and Tom Wu as George.
This is a typical Guy Ritchie film with traits of a catchy soundtrack and scenes where he likes to incorporate time sped up or replaying how things actually happened. I was not bothered by the CGI effects although this bothers some people immensely. I can suspend reality and say those are actually gigantic elephants destroying castles and bridges or those look like actual sets even though I know they are not.
The story continues with Arthur finding friendship and loyalty among his peers including a prostitute named Lucy. He protects her until she needs no more protection, but soon finds his own life is in peril. I personally liked the character of Vortigern. He seeks the one thing he will never have when compared to Arthur and that is power and how he gets his power. The gross looking sea creatures that entice whoever will listen to them were also my favorites.
Arthur escapes the fate brought upon him by Vortigern when he receives help from The Mage. He then goes through rejection and attraction to the sword until he finally accepts his fate his father bestowed upon him when he died. The power of the sword, Excalibur, is realized during a fight when all seems lost. There are more chase and fight scenes to carry the movie to a satisfactory end. It includes enough sorcery to advance the story. The ending is predictable due to the story, but even without knowing the full story, it is set up where you can deduce what will happen. Arthur goes on to fight his uncle, Vortigern, for the crown. The sword finally belongs to him, and he is surrounded by his most loyal friends. He bears the crown his father once wore and starts the next chapter of his life.
(28% Rotten Tomatoes/7 out of 10 IMDb)
If you didn’t stop reading this blog, then you actually got to the good or should I say bad when compared to other King Kong movies. While I enjoyed watching King Kong in action and the gigantic animals and insects, it was the dialogue that was hard to ignore. John C. Reilly, John Goodman, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson, and the rest of the cast did as best they could with the material. Maybe, I am being too harsh. It is another “not think too hard” movie. The best part was seeing Miyavi, the actor who did such a great job in Unbroken, and who I hope is in more movies and not just for two minutes. If you want to see this solely based on the fact you like King Kong, then watch it. If you are expecting something else, then don’t.
(76% Rotten Tomatoes/6.8 out of 10 on IMBb)
August 10, 2017: Movie Recommendations
These two movies are on opposite sides of the spectrum. I’m going back in time, to the mid and late 1990. The first one is a black comedy and the other one is a drama. I’m almost willing to search for them in my collection and take a trip down memory lane.
This dark crime comedy was written by John Hodges and the first movie directed by Danny Boyle. It had the relative newcomer actor at the time, Ewan McGregor, along with Christopher Eccleston and Kerry Fox. The story revolves around three friends who find their fourth roommate dead in their flat. They realize he left behind a large amount of cash, and what they will do to preserve their new found discovery is at the heart of this movie. I remember it being insanely mad with a perfect ending. Watch the trailer to see if it piques your interest.
The Red Violin (Le violon rouge)
This drama was written by Don McKellar and François Girard, and directed by the latter. There are many different actors and actresses in this movie as it takes places in five different cities ranging across four centuries. Some of them are Greta Scacchi, Jason Flemyng, Colm Feore, Samuel L. Jackson, and Sandra Oh. The story revolves around a red violin, with its origins from Italy. It changes hands several times and tells how each of the people who came in contact with it were impacted. The story concludes in Canada. This is the perfect movie if you enjoy character driven stories. Watch the trailer as well to see if it piques your interest.
July 8, 2017: JJ Feild Quote
July 4, 2017: Cillian Murphy Quote
July 3, 2017: Movies Coming to a Theater Near You
There a few movies I’d like to see in the theater being released this year. I’m not sure I will get a chance to see them all, but here is a brief description and its major cast.
Dunkirk is about Allied soldiers who find themselves surrounded by the German Army during World War II. It is written and directed by Christopher Nolan. It stars Tom Hardy and Cillian Murphy who I think are phenomenal actors. I’ve already watched Peaky Blinders twice now. It also has Kenneth Branagh (the actor who has done many Shakespeare movies and convincingly I might add) and Harry Styles (I only know him for being the ex-boyfriend of Taylor Swift and singer of One Direction that I’m not into, but hopefully this movie will catapult him into a different spotlight).
Battle of the Sexes is about the infamous tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs in the 1970s. It is written by Simon Beaufoy and directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris. It stars Emma Stone (The Help and Birdman) and Steve Carrell (Can it get any better than 40 Year Old Virgin or Incredible Burt Wonderstone?) as well as Elizabeth Shue (forever tied to The Karate Kid) and Sarah Silverman (hilarious in A Million Ways to Die in the West).
Wind River is about an FBI agent who tracks a killer with the help of a game tracker on an Indian Reservation. It is written and directed by Taylor Sheridan. He’s the actor who played the Deputy in Sons of Anarchy. He is responsible for writing Sicario, which is a great movie from start to finish, and Hell and High Water, which I have to still watch. It stars Jon Bernthal (Fury and Sicario), Elizabeth Olsen (younger sister to the Olsen twins that starred in Godzilla), and Jeremy Renner (anyone remember his role as Jeffrey Dahmer? Or the more notable role in Hurt Locker?).
The Mountain Between Us is about two people stranded after their plane crashes. They must come together to survive when they realize no one is coming to rescue them. It is an adaptation from the book by Charles Martin and scripted by J. Mills Goodloe. It stars Kate Winslet (Red headed beauty in Titanic and Orange haired crazy in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) and Idris Elba (Thor, Prometheus, and Pacific Rim). It also has Dermot Mulroney (My Best Friend’s Wedding and The Family Stone) and Beau Bridges (Max Payne and Bloodline).
Gook is about the time right before and during the Los Angeles riots in 1992. Two Korean American brothers form an unlikely friendship with an 11 year old African American girl. The brothers find themselves having to band together to defend the store with the girl during the riots. It is written and directed by Justin Chon. It stars Simone Baker (American Horror Story), Justin Chon (Twilight series), Curtiss Cook Jr. (Bull), and David So (You Tube).
Thor: Ragnarok is about the fictional superhero who fights for his own survival on the other side of the universe, and must also save the Asgardian civilization from a new threat, Hela. It is directed by Taika Waititi and written by Eric Pearson and story by Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost, and Stephany Folsom. It stars Chris Hemsworth (Star Trek), Tom Hiddleston (Midnight in Paris and another ex of Taylor Swift), and Cate Blanchett (the spell bounding portrayal as Queen Elizabeth). It also includes Anthony Hopkins, Idris Elba, Mark Ruffalo, and Benedict Cumberbatch.
Ferdinand is about a bull mistaken for a dangerous beast. He is captured and is determined to return to his home with the help of a team of misfits. It is an adaptation from the book by Munro Leaf. It is directed by Carlos Saldanha. It stars Bobby Cannavale (Boardwalk Empire and Nurse Jackie), Kate McKinnon (SNL who does a superb job portraying Justin Bieber), and David Tennant (menacing as Kilgrave in Jessica Jones).
This serves as a story of meeting an actor I admire and a movie he starred in that I am recommending. The first was such a private moment in the sense we were the only two there except his friend, but I tend to forget about his friend. It was just little old me jogging on a narrow path with the actor coming towards me from the opposite direction. I had not been paying much attention in front of me as my focus was where my shoes were going, making sure I didn’t trip over any rocks.
I was sporting my Ray Ban sunglasses and had on my blue jogging shorts. This is when someone hit my arm as he passed me. I glanced at him, didn’t really think about it, and picked up my pace. I kept getting farther from the person when a thought crossed my mind. Was that Jake Gyllenhaal? I decided to stop after a few more steps and turned to find him standing still and looking back at me.
I was sure he was looking at someone behind me, but he was not. When I registered it actually was Jake Gyllenhaal and not to appear too weird, I darted off. His head was shaved as he was filming the movie End of Watch. I jogged back home, knowing I would remember this arm bump, and in between that time and now I’ve seen a handful of Jake Gyllenhaal’s movies.
The movie I’m recommending is Nocturnal Animals. The interweaving between past and present is nothing new, but effective to the story. I like a good drama. Who doesn’t like seeing the relationship between two people have its ups and downs play out on the screen? While I read some viewers grumbled about the ending, I thought it was done the right way. It kept my attention from start to finish. It made me think what would I do in the situation. Enough talk. Go watch the movie. Enjoy it, and eat tons of popcorn for me.
Rotten Tomatoes Says…
Rotten Tomatoes Top 100 Films