Movie Review – Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)

They’re dirty. They’re rotten. They’re scoundrels.

BQB here with a review. (Yes, it’s on Pluto TV. I’m really getting my money’s worth out of this app, which is zero.)

I remember thinking this movie was funny as a kid but now as a geezer, I think it is more clever. I was able to guess the jokes as they were coming, partly because they are memorable and partly because 2019’s “The Hustle” starring Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson in a modernized female version with basically the same plot kept the jokes fresh in my head.

Michael Caine, looking rather dapper at roughly 55 here and man what a life you can live if you eat your Wheaties, plays Lawrence Jamieson, a master con artist who lives a lavish lifestyle in a wealthy town in the south of France. He finances his mansion, servants, travel, wardrobe, extravagances, etc. by bilking rich women out of their money, often by telling them he is a prince living in exile, trying to coordinate a rebellion against the communists who have conquered his non-existent nation. The ladies think they are donating to the cause of freedom, while Jamieson simply pockets the dough and gives the women the heave-ho.

Freddy Benson is also a con man, but on a much less impressive scale. He is an American, conning his way through Europe with stories about his sick grandmother and how he can’t afford lunch because he’s saving up for her operation. Freddy bilks rich women out of free lunches and pocket money.

When they meet on a train, Freddy demands that Lawrence take him on as a student, that he become Darth Vader to Jamieson’s Emperor, which is funny because Palpatine himself is in this flick. Ian McDiarmid plays Jamieson’s trusty butler Arthur, who assists in the cons. I know McDiarmid has a long career but personally, I believe this is the first non-Emperor role I’ve seen him in (at least that I can remember.)

Lawrence and Freddy go out on the con together but soon butt heads, finding it difficult to work together as they rarely see eye to eye. They settle their differences with a bet. First one to con super sweet soap company heiress Janet Colgate out of $50,000 gets to stay in town, while the loser must leave.

From there on, it’s a mad cap romp as Lawrence and Freddy constantly one up each other, telling one lie after the next and apparently they have no fear of burning in hell for there’s nothing, literally nothing that they aren’t willing to do to defraud this poor woman.

To the film’s credit, I remember it being a common trope in many films where a character sets out to defraud another character (sometimes it’s a man defrauding a woman or vice versa) and then after they get to know one another, they fall in love. Here, love does bloom amidst this twisted triangle, but (SPOILER ALERT) the duo is not rewarded for their treachery. The ending is rather ingenious and if you’re watching it for the first time, unexpected. I thought it was better than the old “Oh OK I forgive you for being a fraudulent piece of crap and will reward you with my love and trust now” ending that so many other movies go with.

The late, great Glenn Headley plays Janet and this movie reminded me of how sad I was to hear of her passing. She also played Dick Tracy’s Tess Trueheart and I always thought that movie illustrates the dilemma many a man finds himself in. Dick wants Breathless Mahoney (Madonna) because she’s hot, but knows she’s trouble as she can have any dude she wants. Tess, on the other hand, is true blue and will be there for Dick through thick and thin. Ultimately, you bang Breathless and marry Tess…or maybe just skip breathless and marry Tess because Tess will dump you if you knock up Breathless. Whatever. God, my knowledge of film stretches back to some super old movies. No one even gets these references I wager.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. I do remember repeating Steve Martin’s bathroom at the dinner table joke over and over as a kid.

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Classic Movie Review – Stargate (1994)

It’s the movie that dared to cast French Stewart as a badass.

BQB here with a review of Stargate.

Long before the Internet took off (this was made in those early days where you didn’t dare to log on for more than 5 minutes lest your mom start harping on you about the phone bill), conspiracy theories still existed, though they weren’t as rampant as they are today.

One was the premise that the Ancient Egyptian gods were, in fact, space aliens who ruled over Egypt, subjugating the masses with their advanced technology. After all, how else could they have made all those pyramids without modern machinery? Spoiler alert – they did it through enslavement of the tribes of Israel which this film conveniently leaves out (enslaved subjects of another planet that resembles Ancient Egyptian are featured but the plight of the Jewish people is not mentioned specifically) but it did cast actors of Arabic and Middle Eastern descent rather than just put white dudes in brown face so honestly by 1994 standards, this flick was hella woke for its time.

James Spader, who made his bones playing the snobby rich kid in every 1980s teen movie, shows a softer side as Dr. Daniel Jackson. Honestly, as Spader got older, he traded in his snobby rich kid demeanor for an arrogant, full of himself and his genius villain persona, so unless I’m forgetting something, this is the one role I can think of where he actually plays a decent person, and in fact, a nerd. And he does it quite well.

Spader is a linguist recruited to decode the symbols on an artifact. The government has been trying to crack it since 1928 and Spadey Spades figures it out within minutes. Thus, the movie’s trend to dump on him for being smart begins as it is a running joke throughout the film that everyone despises a poindexter. (Sigh, as I have discovered in real life as well.)

Turns out, the artifact is a Stargate. Ancient Egypt really was ruled by aliens. Those aliens have since moved on to another planet. The gubmint calls on Colonel Jack O’Neill (Kurt Russell) to lead an expedition through the stargate and into the alien world, begrudgingly bringing Jackson as a tag-a-long as he’s the only one who will know how to decode the symbols on the stargate in the alien world. Oh, and they also bring a team of stereotypically rough commandos, including French Stewart, typically known for being a goofy comedian but he dumps on Dr. Jackson for being smart and again, I feel the doctor’s pain as everyone has been doing this to me my whole life.

Human vs. alien fights ensue. O’Neil and Jackson help the enslaved people of this alien world escape the tyranny of the evil aliens. If only O’Neil and Jackson had been around on earth many years ago. Exodus would have been a much different story.

Overall, it’s a pretty cool sci-fi flick and ahead of its time. I dare say it was original because most space films usually focus on space flight whereas the idea of a gate might, in theory, be more likely as a method for space travel as beings can’t otherwise fly for millions of miles without growing old and dying.

Bonus points for Russell, who also looks young here. He plays the grieving father of a son who accidentally shot himself while fooling around with an unsecured gun, presumably blaming himself for not locking it up. He cares for the young slaves who join his rebellion against the alien Ra but clearly looks after them as if they are his own kids, worrying about their safety.

This inspired a long-running syndicated TV show, which I never watched though I always heard was cool.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. And I watched it on Pluto TV!

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I Love Pluto TV!

Hey 3.5 readers. BQB here.

Just want to give a free plug to Pluto TV. I discovered it last week and have been glued to it ever since.

Is it another free streaming service? Not quite. It comes across very similar to your cable service. There’s a guide and a grid and you can scroll through channels of stuff that is already streaming in progress. However, it has an on demand section too where you can see what they have available and pick something.

It’s put out there as a solution for cord cutters. Get TV without cable. Eh, to me, it depends on how much you live TV and movies. Me? Personally? I need HBO, Netflix, etc. But otherwise, it’s got NewsMax and CNN updates so you can stay up on the news and it’s got a lot of stuff to keep you entertained so hey, if you wanted to save money, you could try cutting the cable cord and give this a try for awhile.

Ultimately, it’s another source for free stuff. I could have used it at the height of the pandemic as I went on a binge of old movies I’d always wanted to see but never got around to and they had a lot of them.

Cons – I’ve notice some freezeups and not the best rewind/fast forward options (which a lot of non-Netflix sites have a problem with.) For example, there was one movie where I just wanted to watch a part of the end and I gave up because it only had the back 15 and forward 15 buttons and once you move ahead every 5-10 minutes it makes you stop and watch a commercial.

Otherwise, pretty cool. I reccomend.

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I’m Number One! I’m Number One!

Will you look at that, 3.5 readers? A short story by me, BQB, is #1 on Amazon’s free horror short story list this weekend.

Look out, Stephen King. I’m set to outpace you, in like, a thousand years maybe…but still, isn’t that great? Last month, I had a book that was number one in Amazon’s free writing skill reference so I was a master of the English language and now I’m a master of horror.

Now if I could only get to the top of a paid Amazon list. I suppose that takes more doing.

Anyway, get your free copy this weekend.

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Celebrate Easter With a Free Werewolf Book!

Hey 3.5 readers.

For a few weeks now, they’ve been playing this trailer for a horror film – “On the holiest weekend of the year, watch The Unholy.”

And each time it played, I was like, “What idiot thought it was a good idea to release a horror film on one of the happiest, most holy and spiritual weekends of the year? I mean seriously, what dummy is going to go out and sit by himself in a movie theater during a pandemic to watch a horror film on this, the anniversary of our Lord and Savior’s glorious resurrection?

Well, turns out, I was an idiot who set up a free promo for a book about werewolves on Easter weekend. I set it up weeks ago, back in February. You know how we are all then. We still haven’t bothered to look up whether Easter is in March or April yet.

So, listen, grab this free book, will you? You can wait to read it next weekend if you want, but just do your old pal BQB a solid and grab your free copy. Jesus would want you to because he was all about helping people. No, I don’t claim to know what Jesus wanted but I’m just saying, I think he’d want you to have free books.

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The Handmaid’s Tale – Season 1 and 2 Review

Praise be, 3.5 readers.

BQB here with a review of Hulu’s big (and perhaps only) hit.

I avoided this show for a long time, largely due to the subject matter. I understand the importance of its message but ultimately, I view movies and TV as a means of escape from the crappiness of my own life, so a TV show about women being forced into a lifetime of sexual servitude at the hands of a cruel, tyrannical dystopian regime doesn’t exactly sound like good time viewing.

But with Hollywood saving their best stuff for post pandemic releases, I dove into it recently and I am hooked, though that probably is not a good thing.

For the uninitiated, the show is based on Margaret Atwood’s novel of the same name, about an America that has been replaced by Gilead, a fascist, hyper-religious bible thumping regime. There is a passage in the bible about Jacob’s wife, Sarah, who can’t get pregnant, so her handmaid Bilah does the deed with Jacob so that Sarah can raise the resulting offspring of her own. Gilead circles around this passage, as the novel and the series, and as an aspiring writer, I tip my cap to Atwood, because she got a lot of mileage out of that passage.

SIDENOTE to writers – there is plenty of stuff in the public domain that you can build entire worlds from too if you put your mind to it.

Back to the review. It’s funny, I always thought that other show that Elisabeth Moss was in, “Mad Men” gave the best illustration of why women stood up and demanded their civil rights in the 1960s. On the surface, that show was about Jon Hamm’s boozy, womanizing Don Draper, a man who on the outside was the epitome of success but on the inside, torn about by a seemingly endless hole in his soul, one there wasn’t enough success, money, power and women in the world to fill.

But if you dig deeper into that show, you get to know more about the struggle of Betty (January Jones), Draper’s wife who has to put up with Don’s chicanery. She wants to leave but can’t. She has no money and no skills because the culture of the time prevented her from working in any meaningful capacity. Alas, she languishes under Don’s thumb until she meets a nicer, older man who whisks her away, willing to pay for lawyers and whatever it takes to cut Don off.

I mean, it’s nice that Betty finally gets away from Don but the underlying message was clear – women of that time weren’t able to escape a bad man unless they had the help of a good man. Basically, they couldn’t do anything without a man.

But if Mad Men is a testament to why the civil rights movement was important, The Handmaid’s Tale is a look into the nightmare the world would become without it. This show is basically a woman’s worst nightmare come to life on screen, the stuff that keeps them up worrying at night and should motivate us to keep the world from moving backward.

The set-up? In the not-so-distant future (or perhaps an alternate present), environmental disasters leave the world ravaged and most women end up infertile. Populations are dying out, some countries going years before a healthy baby is born.

Long story short, a bunch of bible thumping dudes see their opportunity to seize control of America and put the last few fertile women into slavery as their handmaids and well, I’d rather not get into the gritty details of what that entails. You can get your own Hulu subscription and find out.

The show starts strong. Moss is a boss at communicating messages via her eyes. Offred, her character (Handmaids are called Of plus the name of their “commander,” in her case, Fred. Her real name is June. Offred can’t communicate much on her own, so her eyes do a lot of the talking. When she is forced to feign allegiance to all of this stupidity in public, her eyes tell the viewer that she truly believes this all to be bullshit. Who can blame her? She once had a nice life as a book editor with husband Luke (OT Fagbenle who you might remember from long ago as Meadow’s boyfriend on the Sopranos), daughter Hannah and BFF Moira (who you might remember as OITNB’s Poussey Washington.)

So many long, long discussions could be (and are) generated by this show, more time than I have to dedicate to on this fine blog. From a TV show analysis standpoint, I’d say it starts off strong, but then I have to admit, as it goes on, it loses its way, starts to meander, can’t figure out quite what to do next, though it then veers back on track.

Ultimately, from the very beginning of the show, we see the cruelty of the Gilead regime in all its way too gory detail. Heretics, non-believers and generally people who have pissed the ruling class off in the most trivial of ways are hanged daily, and bodies swinging from nooses left out in public for days on end serve as reminders for people to not step out of line.

Women are divided into classes and forced to wear uniforms as such. The wives of the ruling commanders wear green, the “Marthas” i.e. housekeepers wear gray, the Aunts i.e. the women who boss the handmaids around and keep them in line (usually through cattleprod shocks) wear brown and the handmaids are in red.

Overall, the ability of a show to keep the viewer in suspense is what keeps viewers coming back for more. This is why Game of Thrones put butts on couches on Sunday nights, because it was all too possible that at any moment, a beloved character could buy the farm.

Thus, this show draws the viewer in because we know the Gileadeans are totes a bunch of merciless d-bags, so we are on the edge of our seats as Offred circumvents the rules to improve her life, or the lives of her children, or to help others or whatever she is doing to help in the current episode.

SPOILER – where the show starts to meander is that there are many times when Offred gets one over on the Gileadeans. She scores big victories, it looks like she might be sentenced to death and then, poof, all is forgotten and she’s back to work as a Handmaid for the Waterfords, truly the worst yuppy couple in history (Joseph Fiennes as Commander Fred and Yvonne Strahowski who I always thought was critically underrated and underutlized by Hollywood since her Dexter days.) Here Strahowski has some chilling moments as the complex character Serena Joy- at first, like a Wicked Witch of the West character, gladly selling all of woman-kind down the river if it will help her get a baby and keep her social standing, but then as the show progresses, an ally to the struggle (because, you know, eventually this Gilead bullshit starts to affect her personally.)

SIDENOTE – this is probably Atwood’s key message, among many, namely that it becomes easier for a regime to subjugate women when they turn on each other. The evil male commander dudes probably couldn’t have pulled this off if their wives hadn’t gone along with it. Alas, everyone has their own selfish self-interests and usually can’t be persuaded to stick up for others until their own interests are on the line.

What was I saying? It’s a good show that provokes a lot of discussion, A LOT. However, a formula emerges and they go to the well one too many times with it. Offred screws with the regime. It looks like she’s going to be sentenced to death or worse. Then someone in charge is like wait she’s fertile, so we can’t kill her. So then her crimes against the evil regime are swept under the rug. Close up on Offred’s sorrowful eyes. Back to the Waterford house she goes. Rinse. Repeat. To the show’s credit, the writers try to work this in. Offred mentions in narration her story is disjointed, perhaps because she is recalling it years later and there is so much to tell she has a hard time keeping up with it all. And perhaps certain Gileadean dignitaries are so willing to sweep her disobedience aside because deep down, even they know their regime is crap and they can’t tell if they are part of it because they believe it or if they just feign allegiance to it to save their own hides. (And to be certain, while they don’t kill Offred, the Gileadeans are adept at inventing new punishments where she might be better off).

The book and the 1990s movie were more succinct. Let us peak into Offred’s shitty world then cheer as she escapes…like one time, for good, and that’s it. Not a hundred and fifty times where Serena and Fred just end up wagging their fingers in an impotent (pun intended) rage as if it becomes a sitcom, That Wacky Offred.

But I get why Hulu is dragging it out. This is the service’s first big original success in a sea of other stuff that is mostly junk (though I did enjoy Hulu’s show about Catherine the Great and that Andy Samberg movie where he keeps reliving the same day.)

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. New season in April. I have only started season 3 so don’t spoil it for me. Under his eye, 3.5 readers.

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Buy My Book!

Hey 3.5 readers.

BQB here.

It’s late at night. You’re fast asleep. Do you know what your phone is doing behind your back?

Behold! The world’s first automated cell phone. The ACP is a modern miracle of technology, so advanced that it can write your social media posts for you, generate and post CGI photos of you fulfilling your wildest dreams, complete all your busy work, and it can even impersonate your voice as it calls all those obnoxious bores in your life that you absolutely detest talking to.

Ahh, but alas, as one Jay Ferris is about to find out, the ACP can also commit crimes in its owner’s name, and it takes its mandate to fetch whatever the user wants, before they even want it way too seriously.

Fans of mystery/thrillers with a jolt of hard science-fiction will rejoice in this, the first installment of the second volume of BQB’s Twisted Shorts. Did you think “The Twilight Zone” needed more dark humor? If yes, then this series is for you. If not, try it anyway.

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TV Review – WandaVision (2021)

Wanda + Vision = WandaVision!

BQB here with a review of Disney Plus’ foray into Marvel based TV.

At first, I thought this show was a gimmick. It begins with Wanda Maximoff aka The Scarlett Witch (Elisabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany), basically the two lowest ranking Avengers, on a 1950s era sitcom. In each episode, the sitcom shifts a decade – i.e. Brady Bunch style for the 1970s, Growing Pains style for the 1980s, Malcolm in the Middle style for the 90s, and everyone stops once in awhile to give a documentary style interview ala the office for the early 2000s.

How the heck did this happen? For those who forgot the last Avengers film, Vision croaked so its a mystery as to how he’s alive and of course, there’s the greater mystery of how these two are living in a sitcom world.

Where was I? Oh right. Why did I think this was a gimmick? I thought it was just a set-up where Olsen and Bettany stopped by to do a few sitcom skits while lesser knowns do all the non-sitcom action. While Vision and Wanda hang out in the sitcom world, Avengers sidekicks like Monica Rambeau (i.e. Captain Marvel’s BFF’s all-grown up daughter), Jimmy Wu, the FBI agent who kept tabs on Ant-Man or Darcy Lewis, Jane’s intern from Thor) investigate, setting up shop outside the town that has been taken over by the sitcom world.

So admittedly, I groaned at this. It reminded me of the disappointment that was Agents of Shield. I thought that show was going to be awesome but it was just like, an occasional Avengers sidekick would stop by and be like, “Ha ha, I just talked to Thor” but then you never see Thor.

Spoiler Alert – I was wrong. As the series progresses, you get a lot of Wanda and Vision action and a lot of movie quality effects, fight scenes and superhero action. So I take it all back. This show is worth a watch.

I am curious as to where the Marvel cinematic universe is going next. The last Avengers films were great but they wrote themselves into a corner, with the main avengers riding off into the sunset. Sometimes it feels like they’re scraping the bottom of the barrel. I mean, Wanda and Vision are great here but then again, come on Vision is a freaking red robot man and that’s kind of silly, isn’t it? Then again, if you think about it, it’s all silly.

Bonus points that Kathryn Hahn, criminally underutilized by Hollywood, really gets a chance to shine here.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

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Movie Review – Coming 2 America (2021)

Wasn’t it Thomas Wolfe who said you can’t come home again?

BQB here with a review of the sequel to Eddie Murphy’s classic film.

For the uninitiated, in 1988, Eddie Murphy, the hottest act in 1980s comedy, virtually guaranteed to leave you in stitches such that you’d be grabbing your sides and shouting, “No more, no more! Bah ha ha!” proved what was then thought to be impossible – that raunchy R-rated comedies can have a heart. “Coming to America” was the story of Akeem, the young prince of the fictional African kingdom of Zamunda, whose father, King Jaffe (James Earl Jones) demanded his son take a bride amongst the many dutiful royal babes available.

Alas, Akeem realizes these women are lacking in personality. They just want him for his money and position and are willing to do whatever he says (one of them literally barks like a dog on his command), uninterested in challenging him or being his intellectual equal, he and his trusty man-servant Semi (Arsenio Hall) flee to Queens, New York (where else would you look for a future Queen?) in search of a soul mate.

Disguising themselves as a poor immigrants from Zamunda, Akeem and Semi take jobs at McDowell’s (a ripoff of McDonald’s though owner Cleo swears it isn’t), Akeem falls for the owner’s daughter Lisa, but faces adversity in winning her heart, i.e. his father, like Jaffe, wants his daughter to marry rich (in the form of Soul Glo jerri curl dynasty heir (Eriq LaSalle.)

Ultimately, it’s a coming of age story, similar to the struggle every young person faces. Every young adult wrestles with their dreams vs. harsh realities, the desire to go forth and chase their hopes vs. the pressure to be practical – to do what they actually want to do vs. what their parents and family demand they do. It can be hard for a young person in that they have experienced little of the world, know little of its dangers, and when parents demand they give up X dream, they often do it from a place of good i.e. maybe they tried to do something fabulous when they were young and it backfired and they want their kids to do better, but yet, the parents might know little of what is in the kid’s heart, what the kid is and isn’t capable of, what will and will not make them happy.

I saw this movie as a little kid – in the movie theater. I probably shouldn’t have, what with the jokes about the royal bathers and what have you, but the 1980s were a weird time and parents were like, “Eh. Whatever. It’s just a movie.” Thus was the sentiment that allowed me to see Robocop in the movie theater too and I swear seeing that mutant guy being run over and smashed to bits didn’t warp my young brain at all. Hmm. Maybe I need to tell my shrink about this.

Moving on. Long story short, I’ve been a comedy fan my whole life, from a young age, ever since I figured out it was possible to sneak downstairs while the ‘rents were sleeping to watch Saturday Night Live. At that young age, I knew Eddie had made something special with this movie, something the world hadn’t seen before.

Since then, I became an adult and sold out big time. Yeah, sadly, I caved to what my own personal Jaffes wanted rather than go forth and sew my oats. What can I say? I didn’t have a trusty manservant Semi to back me up I guess. It didn’t work out…or maybe it did. I do have this sweet blog that is only read by 3.5 readers after all, so that’s something.

Alright, enough stalling. Let’s get to the review.

In short, Coming 2 America is a cute stroll down memory lane, but if you were expecting a raunchy festival of frivolity equal to the original, you’ll be sorely disappointed. Watching Eddie in this movie is like watching Da Vinci paint with one arm tied behind his back. It just feels like Amazon clipped his wings and had a whole list of woke hoops that Eddie had to jump through.

Now, mind you, it did dawn on me there might be an alternative argument. At some point, we all get old. We realize we’ve done all we can do in this life and times have changed and we have to move over and let the kids take a turn. Apparently, the kids really like all this highly sanitized, run through ten focus groups to make sure no one’s feelings are hurt drek, so who are we oldsters to deny it to them? Eddie’s older Akeem faces a similar challenge in this film, having to grapple with a desire to please Jaffe’s old adherence to tradition, or to say to hell with it and bring in modern reforms as he assumes the crown.

At times the film feels like Mom and Dad pulled out their old photo albums and gathered the kids around to tell them stories of the past. The kids begrudgingly roll their eyes and sit through it. Mom and Dad have to run the story through their internal brain censors, sharing the good and hiding the bad. Mom and Dad were once naughty kids when they were young, after all, but now as adults, they need the kids to do what they say and not what they, well, once did.

The plot? Remember that girl who barked like a dog in the first film? She and her brother are all grown up now. Wesley Snipes literally steals the show and appears to have had a really fun time playing General Izzi, the brutal dictator of Zamunda’s neighboring country (literally called Nextdoria). When he isn’t busy training his adult soldiers with shake weights or his child soldiers in the finer arts of deploying C4, he is demanding that Akeem join the ruling families of Zamunda and Nextdoria in marriage. Bottomline – Akeem already thumbed his nose at the Izzi family once by turning down Iman (the dog barker) and General Izzi won’t stand for it twice. If Akeem can’t produce a male heir to marry his daughter, the general will declare war, and as Jaffee humorously warns, Akeem is too weak to fend it off. (James Earl Jones rivals Snipes in stealing the show here.)

Ah, as luck would have it, Akeem does have a male heir in the form of Lavelle (Jermaine Fowler) a ticket scalper from Queens trying hard to make an honest living, but kept down by a cold world that won’t give him a break. Apparently, one night, while Akeem and Semi were in America, Akeem was drugged and taken advantage of by Leslie Jones’ Mary, thus explaining where Lavelle came from. (Apparently we still have much woke progress left to make as jokes about men getting raped by women are still considered funny. Literally nothing else is considered funny but Leslie jumping Eddie’s bones while he is an intoxicated state is supposed to be a laugh riot.)

While there is plenty of time for us to get reacquainted with older characters – Akeem, Lisa, Semi and the gang, there are large swathes of the film where it feels like Saved by the Bell: The New Class, the New, New Class, how many new classes are we up to now? There are large parts of the film where the kids take over and work out their differences, i.e. Lavelle got the short end of the stick as he spent his life begging for scraps while he had an uber rich side of the family he never knew about vs. Meeka (Kiki Layne) Akeem’s eldest daughter who trained her entire life to rule as Queen one day, only to be ousted out of nowhere by Lavelle.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. As with all sequels and reboots of old, classic films, I do wonder who is this for? Is it for today’s young adults? I don’t know but I have a hard time thinking they enjoy stuff like this. Kids today probably just smile and nod politely when adults tell them about all their favorite 1980s movies like I smiled and nodded politely when my parents tried to tell me that cowboy movies and Frank Sinatra were the shit. Is it for adults? Maybe. Part of me enjoyed the nostalgia. Part of me felt old as fuck thinking it feels like just yesterday when I was wowed by the original and now so much time has gone by that they’ve already made the highly sanitized remake. Maybe it’s for Eddie, who deserves to cash in in his old age after spending his youth making us smile, but I do feel like Eddie is like this film’s caged lion. If a studio would remove the cage, he still has enough energy left inside to roar, and leave us roaring in hysterics, but alas, studios with cajones have gone the way of the dodo.

But still, it’s cute, and has its funny moments. Hell, Amazon got me to sign up for Prime for a month just to watch it. Oh Jeff Bezos, you devious mastermind, you did it again.

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BQB’s Classic Movie Reviews – Training Day (2001)

King Kong ain’t got nothing on him, 3.5 readers.

BQB here with a review of the classic crime film, Training Day.

I caught this on Netflix the other day. I always thought it was a great movie but I don’t think I had seen it since it first came out years ago. It’s funny how movies can transport your mind to a certain time period, i.e. for me it brought me back to a time in my life when I was young and naive, not the old geezer who has been knocked around by the world and sees potential trouble lurking around every corner even where there isn’t any.

Such is the dynamic of the film. Ethan Hawke plays Jake Hoyt, a young rookie on the LAPD, only worked as a uniform officer for a year and a half. He’s been assigned to a special detective’s unit in South Central LA under the leadership of Alonzo Harris (Denzel Washington). He views this as a chance to make a name for himself, to rise up in the police ranks and do a lot of good.

Ahh, but as the rookie goes out with Alonzo for his first “training day” he quickly learns that his youthful dreams don’t match with reality- a reality that battle hardened veteran of the streets Alonzo knows all about.

It’s funny, Denzel made a career of playing dashing heroes and nice guys with morals, yet the role he won the Oscar for and might be most remembered for is playing a character who is all about straddling the line between good and evil. As the day goes on, Alonzo pushes Jake to question and re-evaluate everything he ever thought he knew about police work.

With each passing hour, the training officer pushes Jake to cross more and more lines. Some examples? Alonzo opts to let a pair of rapists go. Rather than arrest them, he leaves them to the streets, confident that the victim’s street gangster cousin will find them, torture them and kill them. Jake is by the book and thinks they should be booked. Alonzo argues that way they’ll just be a drain on the system, costing the taxpayer money as they’re housed in jail for years only to be set loose and sent back to the street to commit more crimes.

There are more and more incidents like this throughout the day, ramping up the intensity as Alonzo pushes Jake to cross the line and break the law. Alonzo is quite convincing in his speeches. He comes across as the cop who knows it all, has seen it all, has been knocked around by the world and learned how to knock back. His rhetoric about how a teetotaling, by the book rule follower won’t last five minutes on the mean streets is convincing.

However, as the day wanes on, we begin to wonder how much of Alonzo’s rhetoric and how much of it is bullshit. Maybe Alonzo really is just a tough guy who is trying to toughen Jake up so he can become a bad ass street cop. Or, maybe Alonzo has more sinister intentions toward Jake.

Even worse yet, there are times Alonzo seems to believe in his own BS and isn’t sure where his lies end and reality begins.

So, as I re-watched this movie as an adult, I came to realize it’s all about perception vs. reality. When we are young, we have yet to get our asses kicked by the world. We are foolish and trusting. We get ideas in our head and think those ideas are going to work out perfectly, then when we get into that world we pursued, we find out that there’s a foot in every bush, looking to spring out and kick us in the ass. For example, Hoyt is a goody two shoes. He is a habitual rule follower. Hoyt should have stuck with being a uniformed officer, pulling over speeders and helping stranded motorists. Hoyt should have stayed off the mean streets. Hoyt was naive for thinking that he’d be able to go to war with gangsters and drug dealers all day and not have any blowback.

Those reading this, myself included – we’ll never experience anything as intense as Jake’s training day, but we have plenty of memories when life stuck us with the proverbial knife in the back. We trusted someone or something and it bit us. We lived through it. We have regrets over it. “If we had known” we keep repeating. If we had known this or that, we would have done things differently…but you don’t get to know until you do. Sad, because the lessons are all around us when we are young. Stories from older people who have been slapped around and even movies like this, though I’ll admit you just don’t get it when you’re young. You have to go through it. And yes, hopefully when we get through that experience that didn’t go as planned, we come out the other end stronger and wiser, determined to not make the same mistake twice.

Although I hate to admit it, I have been making the same mistakes over and over again for 20 years, though I suppose that’s a blog post for another time.

Funny, even the movie’s signature song, “Rock Superstar,” a highly playable tune that’s good for working out to (at least it was back in the days when I worked out) is all about perception vs. reality. Cypress Hill raps about people want to be rock superstars, thinking its all money and fun until they realize that they have to constantly churn out hits or become old news fast, kicked to the curb when another act copies their material and gets hired to do their routine for a lower price.

In conclusion, don’t be an undercover street detective or a rap superstar…or a blogger on a blog with 3.5 readers. I really thought my blog would have made me a millionaire by now, but all I do is just write to be read by 3.5 readers. See? Perception vs. reality.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy, and a rare Oscar film that’s watchable.

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