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BQB’s Classic Movie Reviews – Desperate Measures (1997)

A sick kid!  A scary killer!  A daring escape attempt!

BQB here with a review of “Desperate Measures.”

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I always thought this film got short changed and deserved more play.  Personally, I think it’s one of the best roles Michael Keaton has ever had and as far as I know, it’s barely recognized.

Andy Garcia plays a cop whose son, Matt, requires a life-saving bone marrow transplant.  That’s right.  The kid will croak if he doesn’t get it.

Well, wouldn’t you know it?  The only person who is a match is none other than Peter McCabe (Michael Keaton) a psycho killer permanently locked up in solitary confinement because he’s proven to be ultra violent and essentially a Hannibal Lector type who can kill a man with his pinky finger unless he’s restrained at all times.

Garcia brokers a deal, getting McCabe to agree to donate his bone marrow in exchange for more prison benefits.  However, McCabe has other ideas.  The viewer watches as McCabe takes a number of mysterious steps and, as we quickly learn, he’s plotted a masterful escape.

From there, the action is intense as McCabe fights his way out of his hospital and later to a car chase.  All the while, Garcia’s goal is to capture McCabe alive, seeing as how his marrow will be no good to his son if he is dead.

Thus, Garcia must get between McCabe and Cassidy (Brian Cox) the cop charged with hunting McCabe down.  Cassidy and other police don’t really give a crap if McCabe lives or dies, they just want him stopped and thus Garcia must play both sides in order to get that marrow to his son.

Keaton is scary in this role.  Yet, there are occasional glimpses of humanity.  Briefly, he takes young Matt hostage and tells him, “I’d of done that for you if I could have, kid” and it’s somewhat convincing that he wishes he actually could have donated the marrow to the boy had his escape attempt not been more pressing to him.

Although, I mean, yeah at the same time the man’s an evil bastard so we can’t pat him on the back too much.  The plotting and execution of the escape attempt, all the details and planning that eventually fold out before our eyes – first, we wonder what is he doing and then it all becomes clear.

STATUS:  Shelf-worthy.

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Have a nice day 3.5

Hope you are all well

BQB’s Classic Movie Reviews – The Wild Bunch (1969)

Guns, titties, and the most gruesome Wild West shootout to ever be caught on film.

BQB here with a review of “The Wild Bunch.”

The Old American West was a villain’s paradise.  There were trains to rob and banks to stick up but little to no law enforcement presence to get in the way.  The Feds just had not invested enough to bring law and order to a lawless land.

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By the early 1900s, that all changes.  The West has become more established.  The government has put up the money and built up enough infrastructure to keep hoodlums at bay.

That’s good news for the Godfearing folk but bad news for Pike (William Holden) and his sidekick Dutch (Ernest Borgnine) who head up a murderous band of cutthroat killers known as “The Wild Bunch.”

These aging gunslingers are relics.  Dinosaurs even by early 1900s standards.  Cars are replacing horses.  Railroads are given more protection and a gunslinger with a six-shooter is no match for an Army man with a machine gun.

In short, the black hat Old West villains are being put out of business but as Pike and Dutch hope, not before they make off with one last score.

These crooks have one in mind.  They hope to rob a train load of guns to sell to a corrupt Mexican general.  However, there are tensions between the gang and Mexican forces that look like they might turn bloody.

Meanwhile, Harrington, a railroad company boss, has sprung Pike’s ex-gang member Thornton (Robert Ryan) to lead a band of yahoos that have dispatched to hunt Pike and his cronies down.  The stakes are high for Thornton as he has been told in no uncertain terms that if he fails to catch or kill Pike, he’ll be sent back to prison.

I have to be honest, I’ve heard about this movie for years and finally found the time to watch it.  I didn’t like, not because it’s a poorly made film.  The action scenes are very well choreographed and the overall message is clear – this is a time when the gunslinger’s days were numbered.

It’s never quite said outright but it is said symbolically.  Pike is a coldblooded killer who lives only for money and is willing to murder to get it.  Gunslingers looked their victims in the eye and knew it was highly possible that their victims might get the drop on them, shooting them before they can get a shot off.

Meanwhile, as Pike and his boys rob a bank, there are a group of kids having a good laugh as they watch a scorpion being devoured by ants and later, they set a fire that burns the ants and the scorpion.  What’s the interpretation?  Men like Pike looked their victims in the eye and watched them die.  Hard but at least there was that buffer – i.e. a man had to be a real son of a bitch to be a killer so hopefully more moral minds would prevail to keep the whole word from erupting into chaos.

However, these bug burning kids would go on to become the World War II generation, inventing contraptions and weapons of mass murder that could be dropped with the flick of a button without having to look a victim in the eye.

When you have to look that victim in the eye, you must really want to kill them.  If you don’t have to look them in the eye, mass killing on an epic scale becomes easier and that’s no good for the fate of the world.

I lost my point.  So while the film carries that important message, I didn’t like it because the characters just were not likable at all.  Pike and Dutch are miserable pricks who’d kill their mother if she swallowed a nickel.  They’re old buzzards with no redeeming qualities and there’s nothing to hope for in them.  You can’t root for them because you know if they win  they aren’t going to become nice people.  They’ll just continue to be miserable, booze soaked, prostitute banging pricks.

Worse, the final scene is, as far as I know, considered to be the must violent in Western history, perhaps even in movie history.  In the midst of it all, Pike calls a woman a bitch and shoots her dead.  Dutch grabs a prostitute and uses her as a human shield, allowing her to take bullets meant for him.  Both men prove themselves to be utterly horrible and you just hope that the Mexican Army takes them out quick and puts them out of their misery.

I do think that was the point of director Sam Peckinpah.  If the early 1900s meant the end of the gunslinger era, then the late 1960s meant the end of the whitewashed, happy go lucky cowboy films of the 1950s.  No more John Wayne saying “Howdy pilgrim.”  No more Gene Autry singing songs and playing the guitar.  No more shoot-outs were everyone misses because here, shots cause bodies to gush blood.  The Old West villains were bad people who took advantage of a bad situation to do bad things and Peckinpah is showing them in all of their terrible glory, warts and all.  They were not to be revered but rather, to be reviled.

Also, and perhaps this is a spoiler but so be it, throughout the film, the idea of a final showdown between Thornton and Pike, i.e. a grudge match between two ex-gang members, is built up and then it never happens.  Seems kind of lame.

STATUS:  Shelf-worthy because it shows the grittier side of the Old West.  Technically not shelf-worthy because I didn’t like the main characters although I believe that was the director’s point.

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BQB’s Classic Movie Reviews – 48 Hours (1982)

Guns!  Violence!  Cringeworthy racial slurs!

BQB here with a review of “48 Hours.”

When I was growing up, this movie was a cable TV staple.  Seemed like every so often it was on the TV in the background.  After watching it as an adult, I have different thoughts about it than I did as a kid.

Come to think about it, I’m not sure why Aunt Gertie even let me watch this movie.  Every two seconds someone is either getting shot or there’s a pair of titties jiggling around.  Guns and titties.  Guns and titties.  The first?  Not so much fun.  The second?  Lots of fun.

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But I digress.  Nick Nolte plays the gruff and grizzled drunk San Francisco detective Jack Cates.  Hooked on booze and permanently pissed off, he’s a walking stereotype of a broken down cop.

Two criminals on the run, Ganz and Billy Bear (James Remar and Sonny Landham) have murdered Detective Algren (Jonathan Banks.)  If some of these names sound familiar, it’s because Remar would later go on to play the ghost of Dexter’s father Harry on Showtime’s “Dexter” while Banks would go on to play the great role of his career as cop turned fixer Mike Ehrmantrout on “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul.”

With nothing to go on, Nolte springs fast talking convict Reggie Hammond (Eddie Murphy) from prison, arranging to take the crook onto the streets for 48 hours.  The premise is a little thin though as we learn, Hammond once ran with these bad hombres only to be cheated out of money and turned into the police by them, so he has motivation to want to help Nolte take these bad dudes down.

Cates appears miserable throughout the film.  Reggie appears generally happy and easygoing.  Cates is series.  Reggie jokes.  Together, they are a regular odd couple, hating each other in the beginning, becoming fast friends by the end.

The film has cringeworthy parts when they are witnessed through modern eyes.  Throughout the film, Cates calls Reggie terrible, racially divisive names like “watermelon” and “spearchucker” and “boy.”

At first, I thought these words seemed rough even for a 1980s picture.  I mean, the 1980s were no picnic for race relations but I do recall the general idea of racial harmony and people should get along despite racial differences was in existence.

But then again, with each racial slur, Reggie gives Jack his comeuppance.  At one point, Jack comes right out and calls Reggie an n-word and in my mind I’m thinking, “Ungh this is too much” and then bam, Reggie responds by punching Jack in the face.  Later, Reggie even has the opportunity to break up a bar full of racist rednecks.

Thus, the racial language is hard to hear but there was sort of a method to the madness.  Perhaps the message wasn’t to say this language is good but to show that people who use these words will suffer for it – i.e., call a black guy an n-word, don’t be surprised if you get a deserved punch in the face.

By the end of the film, Cates and Hammond have become fast friends.  Over a drink, Cates tells Hammond he’s sorry for calling him all of these nasty names and adds that he didn’t mean them, that he just said them because he’s a cop and it was his job to “keep Reggie down” i.e. make sure he knew that he was the boss and Reggie was the convict under his supervision.

Reggie accepts the apology but points out, “that wasn’t all part of your job.”  In other words, Reggie is saying he’s willing to make amends but is pointing out that Cates has some racial biases inside of him that he needs to work on and rid himself of to become a better person.  Cates nods in agreement as if to say he realizes – that “it was the job” was an excuse for him not coming to terms that he’s a racist prick.

So honestly, I was torn by it.  To modern ears, these racial slurs are tough to hear.  And from a modern standpoint, these words aren’t used as willy nilly as they used to be (though still more than they should be).

On the other hand, they’re used to show that Cates is a racist prick and that a friendship with a black man causes him to rethink his racist ways.

Sometimes you have to give a movie a chance.  At first, I thought these slurs were just being tossed out frivolously but by the end I realized the movie had a point about holding people to account for their racism.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

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Movie Review – It (2017)

Kids, I can’t stress this enough.  Do not talk to sewer clowns.  There’s no good reason for a clown to be in a sewer. Really, it’s just common sense.

BQB here with a review of “It.”

3.5 readers, if you’ve been following the movie news, it was a bummer summer for the box office.  Audiences found Hollywood’s offerings to be little more than a pile of poop and the box office haul was way down.  Maybe it’s because so many entertainment options are available for free or a low price via your smart phone, but maybe it’s also Hollywood just can’t offer anything original anymore.

Ironically, “It” is a reboot of an old TV mini-series based on a book by Stephen King but it feels as original as ever.  It’s well done.  Perhaps that’s why I couldn’t even get a seat last week during opening weekend.  People went in droves to see this movie.

The plot?  A malevolent, demonic spirit has taken up residence in a New Hampshire town for centuries.  Every twenty-seven years, “It” surfaces and causes death, destruction, and murder most foul, terrorizing children and feeding off of their fear.

In the summer of 1989, it’s up to a group of young Generation Xers to summon up enough courage to face their fears and destroy “It.”  That won’t be easy as “It” takes on many ghastly forms, most notably the terrifying visage of Pennywise the Dancing Clown.

“It” knows how to get into the heads of these kids – playing on all of their individual fears, seeking to drive them into madness before killing them.

Oddly enough, the story is butt puckeringly scary.  I’m an adult man yet I’m still feeling chills over the movie a day later.  This is literally the scariest film I have seen I think in, perhaps all of the 2000s.  It’s not just blood and gore scary, though there is plenty of that.  It is also psychologically scary.

At times it is also touching.  It’s a mashup of “Stand by Me” meets “The Nightmare on Elm Street.”

Perhaps King has figured out a formula for when people find themselves facing their worst fears.  At age 13, roughly the ages of all the kids in the movie, a youngster must begin shaking off youth.  They must enjoy being a kid but they must also come to grips that they will be adults soon and can no longer retreat to their parents’ arms as though they are babies every time the world does them wrong.

27 years later, they’re 40 and they face a new fear, namely, that of realizing they are too old to change many of their mistakes, yet young enough that they might still find a little happiness should they see a need to turn things around.  It’s a short window but it’s not impossible.

Not to spoil it but this movie is Chapter 1, which means there will most likely be a Chapter 2 where the adults return to New Hampshire to fight “It” again.  At least that’s what happened in the old mini-series starring Tim Curry as Pennywise and the late, great John Ritter of “Three’s Company” fame as the adult version of the chubby kid.

I can tell you something that scared the piss out of me more so than the killer clown was that this film takes place in 1989.  These kids are just a little bit older than me.  I would have been 10 at the time, perhaps one of their younger brothers.

As the home schooled kid Mike rides his bicycle past a movie theater that lists “Batman” and “Lethal Weapon 2” on the marquee, I was terrified to think how much time had passed.  1989 was such a good summer for movies, those two listed being my faves.  And keep in mind that in the original mini-series/book, I believe the kids were all 1960s kids.

There’s legit terror in this movie but when we walk away and the dust settles on the scary images, we are asked to look at the span of time, how short life is, how hard it is to fix past mistakes, how we really have to try to do things right the first time.

Shit, had I been Pennywise I’d scare these kids just by telling them all that by the time they are 40 and ready to accept a big, well paying job as a reward for their life’s work, it will be yanked out from under them from some snot nosed 20 something millennial who started a multi-million dollar app business on his cell phone.

I know I’d of screamed enough to feel “It’s” fear hunger meter for sure had someone told me that in the summer of 1989.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

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BQB’s Classic Movie Reviews – American Psycho (2000)

It’s hip to be square, 3.5 readers…HEY, PAUL!

BQB here with a review of the dark, dark, incredibly dark comedy, “American Psycho.”

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If you thought that “Wall Street” was the quintessential film about 1980s yuppie scum, think again.  “American Psycho” skewers greedy Wall Street social climbers, both figuratively and well, literally.

If you didn’t find this movie to be a laugh riot, it’s understandable.  After all, it’s very bloody and gruesome.  The humor is there though, albeit at times, subtle.

Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) is a young, studly financier.  He’s obsessed over his looks, constantly working out and following a strict bodily care regimen.  He’s equally obsessed over the finer things in life – his suits, his apartment, his ladies, etc.

One might think he lives a perfect life…but one would be wrong.  Everything has become routine and boredom has caused our protagonist to become…dun, dun, dun…a total psycho.

Yes, Patrick murders, kills, destroys, all while being classy and stylish, even going so far as to give his victims lectures about his favorite 1980s songs.  The littlest things can set him off – a colleague with a better business card seems to be a particularly unforgiveable slight.

Along the way, 1980s yuppie culture is lampooned – perhaps all of these people who go out of their way to show how rich and successful they are – are really just dull and bored and sad on the inside?  Maybe one of them is willing to hack people to pieces just to break the monotony?

Jared Leto, Reese Witherspoon and Chloe Sevigny all grace the film.  Also, I don’t want to give away the ending but it’s one of the better twist endings I’ve seen.

STATUS:  Shelf-worthy.

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Help Me Get Over 500 Facebook Page Likes!

Hey 3.5 readers.

BQB here.

My Facebook page is currently at 387 likes.  Can you help me get it over 500?  All you have to do is visit and like it.  Then you’ll have my posts in your feed and then you’ll have an excuse to ignore your Cousin Larry’s post about his lunch because you’ll be too busy reading my stuff.

https://www.facebook.com/bookshelfqbattler/

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My Prices Are Insane!

I’m Crazy BQB and my prices are insane!  Last chance to get yourself a free copy of my book, 3.5 readers:

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Movie Review – Home Again (2017)

Ugh…why did I waste my time on this stinkburger?

Oh, I know.  Because the East Randomtown Cineplex was all sold out on “It” tickets.

BQB here with a review of the poopfest that is “Home Again.”

If I wanted to write a parody of a romantic comedy, I would start with some vapid, surface level characters – beautiful people with beautiful people problems.  They’re rich and successful but they’re still sad because, I dunno, they’re not getting rich and successful in the exact way they’d like to be.  And they’re hot and attractive and have lots of dating options but can’t quite decide, out of the large pool of people who want to bang them, who to bang.

I’d add some boring, long drawn out conversations – a lot of “tell” instead of “show” and presto – a perfect romcom parody.

“Home Again” has all that and more.  Had they added a laugh track, it would have been the comedic event of the fall, poking fun at all of the romantic comedy tropes but alas, the rub is, this was a serious attempt at a romantic comedy that just fell flat.

Other than about an hour too long, I’m not sure what this movie is about.

The set-up is that Alice Kinney is a newly separated mom who has just moved her two kids to LA to live in the sprawling LA estate left to her by her wealthy Hollywood director father after his passing.  Oh, and her mother is a retired movie star played by Candace Bergen.  But the fact that Alice is rich and the offspring of Hollywood royalty is completely glossed over.  She’s struggling really hard to start her own interior decorator business and her client, played by Lake Bell, is being mean to her, and somehow you’re supposed to feel bad for Alice even though she’s rich enough that she could tell Lake to eat a bag of dicks if she wanted to.

During a 40th birthday celebration, Alice parties and meets three dudes.  They’re aspiring filmmakers including Harry, Teddy, and George (Pico Alexander, Nat Wolf and Jon Rudnitsky.)

The dudes are on the verge of a major movie deal – and you’re supposed to feel sorry for them because Hollywood suits are totally screwing with their artistic vision, even though, you know, we normal people, if offered any kind of Hollywood deal, would gladly suck a bag of dicks for it and let the suits know they can feel free to shit on our vision as much as they want as long as they back up the money truck to our houses.

Feeling sorry for the dudes because they have no place to stay, Alice allows the boys (all twenty somethings) to crash in her guest house.  Over time, a romance blooms between Alice and Harry.

It’s complicated because Alice hasn’t quite resolved things between her ex, Michael Sheen.  And Alice’s daughters start to get attached to the dudes, seeing them as quasi-uncle type figures.

At this point, the whole thing meanders and farts around, leaving the audience unsure as to what the hell is going on, what the point is, or if there even is one.

Perhaps the point is that older women shouldn’t feel ashamed if they fall for younger men.  Younger men shouldn’t necessarily even feel ashamed if they fall for older women.  Maybe age is just a number and as long as everyone is an adult of consenting age, then who cares?

The problem is at no time is that issue ever really explored.  A friend of Alice’s points out that older men go for younger women all the time so why shouldn’t Alice do the reverse?  True, but keep in mind that men are led by their boners while women are led by a desire for security.  Thus, an older man can hook a young babe as long as he’s willing to be treated like a human cash machine.  An older woman can snag a young guy as long as she’s still hot.

Reese is still hot, so it’s not like Harry’s really putting his ass on the line.  Further, at one point in the film, Alice goes on a date with a “man her age” and the 40 year old man is presented as a bald, bearded, unemployed, bumbling oaf.  The rub seems to be that women like to complain a lot about how men see them as objects and kick them to the curb when they get older even though its not their fault that time robs them of their beauty. The date with the “man her age” is presented as though Alice is really going to be fucked if she can’t make it work with Harry, otherwise she’ll have to settle for a bald old piece of shit even though, I mean, yeah it’s not like that fucker could have a brain or a heart or a soul because fuck him hair stopped growing on his head.

Men should stop pretending like older women can just will their knockers to not be saggy anymore.  It would just be great if women could stop pretending like older men could will hair back on top of their bald heads.  Let’s just all agree that time fucks us all over real good and agree to be nice to one another in spite of it, OK?

At any rate, the whole issue of May/December love between a young man and an older woman could be explored.  It raises a lot of questions.  What if Harry wants kids?  Alice already has two and she might not have much time left to have another.  Will Alice’s health decline before Harry’s?  Will Harry spend his prime years taking care of a sick old lady?  Harry may be a pretty boy but he has some depth.  He wants to succeed on his own.  Will it be too easy for him to just let Alice take care of him?  Oh wait, she’s a struggling decorator and you’re supposed to ignore her massive house.

What about Alice?  Will Harry understand her point of view when he didn’t live during the time period she grew up in?  Will he be able to understand her in any meaningful way?  Will a woman who has been through it all ever be able to see a babe in the woods just starting out as her true equal?

Getting some answers might have made the movie great, but all of that is glossed over.  Instead, we are offered a rather lazy excuse of a breakup.  A Hollywood hotshot keeps Harry in a meeting to make his movie for a long time, causing him to miss some shindig Alice invites him too.  She’s pissed and feels unloved so she dumps the lad, even though, you know, the average guy watching the movie is like, “Um but he’s in a meeting to make a movie and that like never happens so give the guy a break.” Thus, all of the older woman, younger man issues are left on the floor, unexplored.

So then I thought the point of the movie might be that it is possible to cultivate happiness out of a non-traditional family.  SPOILER ALERT – the film ends with Alice happy to be around the three dudes who are just going to be her friends and he ex-husband who is just going to be her friend.  In true Hollywood style understanding of a relationship, Alice will just be everyone’s friend forever, content to have nothing more out of her young suitor or her ex-husband, and I dunno, I guess she’ll just spend the rest of her life looking for that special romance where the guy shoots fireworks out of his ass and everyday is Mardi Gras.

That’s always been the problem with rom coms.  They just don’t play well in Peoria.  It’s love as understood by Hollywood people who have it all and can afford to navel gaze about their love lives well into eternity.

As for the rest of us, some tired old trailer park broad isn’t going to relate to a rich bitch who dumps a guy because he came home late from his once in a lifetime movie meeting deal.  Maybe if Harry had coldcocked Alice in the face because she drank the last beer and ragged on him for being unemployed, then you know, the average trailer park movie viewer might understand.

The rest of us in the real world gave up on perfect love long ago.  Just give us someone who we’re 95% percent sure isn’t going to stab us in our sleep and they can attend as many late movie deal meetings as they please.

STATUS:  Not-shelf worthy.  I took one for the team and saw it so you don’t have to.  Seriously, don’t take your date to this.  If I were a woman and a man were to take me to this movie I would give him no pussy.

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