BQB’s Classic Movie Reviews – Hotel Rwanda (1994)

Sorry, 3.5 readers. I have no witty starting lines because this movie is too sad, so let’s move on to the review.

As the manager of the luxurious Hotel des Mille Collines, Paul Rusesabagina has spent his life tending to the needs of the international rich, powerful and politically connected. Diplomats, military men, politicians – all have rested their heads under his roof and over the years. As tensions begin to rise over warring Hutu and Tutsi, Paul wonders if he has done enough favors for the hoi polloi that he might be able to call in some chits of his own should he find a need to get his family out of Dodge.

The social credits Paul has banked come in handy when a tenuous, negotiated peace is broken, and all out carnage begins. Tutsi rebels shoot the Hutu president’s plane out of the sky. Interhamwe, a Hutu militia, responds by passing out machetes like party favors and going on a hack and slash spree on Tutsis, who they openly refer to as “cockroaches.”

Paul (Don Cheadle in perhaps one of his best performances) is a Hutu married to a Tutsi, Tatianna (Sophie Okonedo), and has many Tutsi friends and neighbors. Not every Hutu and Tutsi embraces the rhetoric both sides lob at each other. Many just want to make a living, raise their families and be left alone.

When the machete attacks begin, Paul opens his doors to hundreds, filling the swanky joint to overflowing with Tutsis marked for death, as well as Hutus that Interhamwe believes are not sufficiently supportive of their cause.

It all escalates into a horror show, where Paul comes to believe that the mass genocide of his guests is inevitable, and it’s not a game of saving them permanently but just prolonging the inevitable. A tenuous business friendship with Georges Rutaganda, a product supplier who has long made a hefty profit selling goods to the hotel with Paul as purchaser buys some time. In addition to his day job, Georges is the leader of Interhamwe and the radio voice that whips his followers into a frenzy, pushing them to bloodshed. Georges calls the shots and as long as the hotel keeps operating as a hotel and acting as a cash cow for Georges, he’ll delay the slaughter of the guests while Interhamwe forces hack and slash elsewhere.

Thus, Paul has to keep up appearances. He’s not charging the refugees but has to create phony bills to make it appear as though he is. He has to doctor records to remove names from the system to hide people the militia is looking for by name. He has to negotiate with staff who are ready to walk off the job and flee. A friendship with a Canadian UN General (Nick Nolte) means he might be able to get his guests to safety. A friendship with a Rwandan general might get him some backup that he desperately needs.

It’s all about buying time and using bribes, connections, cajoling, begging, even smooth talking to navigate his way through chaos in the hopes of saving as many people as he can. Add to the mess that he’s trying to locate his lost nieces whose parents have likely perished and its quite a film, a fitting tribute to the real life Paul.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. Sad, both in the film and the real life. One wonders if the UN could have done more. A million people were killed in three months. That’s a frightening number and how sad to know that such hatred can lead to such a massive kill count.

Sidenote – A young Joaquin Phoenix as a cameraman giving us insight to the fact that well, while the West cares, they probably don’t care enough to actually do anything. (It is hard to know what the West could have done here. On the one hand, perhaps a massive coalition of UN forces could have stood between the Hutu and Tutsi and saved lives. On the other hand, we’ve seen in the past 20 years Americans wanted wars in Iraq and Afghanistan over in 5 minutes, so I’m not sure we had the collective stomach to engage in an African conflict that might have resulted in years of warfare. I’ll leave it up to the experts to decide.)

Double Sidenote – The movie explains what the difference between Hutu and Tutsi is, something I never knew. Apparently, in the old Belgium colony days, the Belgians selected what they felt were “better looking, more attractive” Rwandans to become a ruling aristocracy, giving them lands, titles, power so long as they kicked money up to the Belgians. The Hutu resented this, seeing the Tutsi as collaborators and sell-outs long after the Belgians left. Sad irony is, as the movie points out, looks are subjective, what is attractive to one might not be attractive to someone else and ultimately, it’s difficult to tell the difference between a Hutu and a Tutsi. The differences are that arbitrary.

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Shop Buddy – First Draft Done!

Hey 3.5 readers.

I have an announcement. Today, I finished the first draft of Shop Buddy, a mystery/comedy that took me, eh I’d say about a year to write, though I took long breaks here and there.

The plot? Steve is a recent philosophy major and graduate of a notoriously bad college. Unemployed and unemployable, he takes a job with Shop Buddy, a website/app where people shop for goods and deliver them straight to the customer’s door. When he screws up an order big time (the customer wanted a birthday cake but the app told him to bring her a box set of Oingo Boingo’s greatest hits) he is demoted, and forced to work with his ex-girlfriend Kendra, another recent college grad who is finding it difficult to find a real job, which isn’t fair, because she did all the right things you’re supposed to do.

Amidst this backdrop, Steve gets a bizarre order from a strange old man. Knives. Chainsaws. Rubber gloves. Ropes. Chains. What is the old timer up to? Could he be The Fairmont Falls Lady Snatcher, a vile abducter of women that the media won’t stop talking about? Kendra says yes. Steve says no. Will these two unravel the mystery? Will they rekindle their lost love and most important…will they ever find real jobs?

It’s very satisfying to finish a first draft. And while it has my naughty brand of humor, I kept all eff bombs out of it so I’d say, it’s rated PG 13 at best. I think this will be my first full length self published novel (I have published short stories but never a novel) so stay tuned.

Still a lot of work ahead but nice to have the first draft in the bag.

Sidenote – I was inspired to write this at the height of the pandemic, when I relied on grocery delivery and I would be shocked at how I could put down something like apple and get back all manner of ridiculous things where you’d have to stand on your head side ways and wonder how they thought that had anything to do with apples.

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TV Review – The Book of Boba Fett – Chapter 3

Mmm boy there’s a lot of fan service in this one, 3.5 readers.

Two hutts to replace Mighty Jabba. A defeated wookie who I’m going to guess will return. Speaking of returns, a new rancor is back.

Meanwhile, the speeder bike gang going to work for Boba is something new.

I’m enjoying this series. I do think Disney/Star Wars has lost its way a bit in charting a course and perhaps the overall lesson is that stories that veer too far away from the Empire timeline don’t work.

Anyway, that’s it. That’s my review.

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Was The Seinfeld Series Finale That Bad?

What’s the deal with all these posts about Seinfeld, 3.5 readers?

Ah, Jerry Seinfeld. He was that comedian who taught us all that you don’t necessarily need a punchline so long as you can offer a humorous observation. In 9 seasons, he brought us a show about nothing that surprisingly, meant something to many of us, not to mention how it added a lot of sayings and expressions to the cultural zeitgest.

Channeling Jerry. “What’s the deal with bloggers using the word zeitgest like they know what it means?”

The finale was greatly panned back in the day and there are still fans who despise it. Why am I even talking about it 23 years later? 23 years. Wow. It’s been off the air that long.

In the last episode, Jerry gets the call he has long been waiting for – that NBC has decided to resurrect his long defunct Jerry TV show. An earlier season saw Jerry and George trying to get the NBC to pick it up only to fail in a variety of humorous ways, from skirmishes with the actors to misunderstandings with the network prez.

Jerry, now a network big shot, is granted free use of the company plane, and decides to celebrate by taking pals Elaine, George and Kramer to Paris. Alas, a Kramerian goof up causes to the plane to have to make an emergency landing in rural Massachusetts. There, the quartet runs afoul of a new Good Samaritan law which requires bystanders to help those in need. The fab four sees a portly fellow getting robbed and rather than help, they laugh, make jokes – heck, Kramer even records it on a camcorder.

This leads to a trial that basically turns the whole thing into a glorified clip show. The DA argues that the 4 are by far the most selfish, self-absorbed people in the world, with a long track record of hurting people with their cavalier debauchery filled lives. He even brings in all the people who have suffered due to their shenanigans over the years, from the old lady that Jerry stole a marble rye from (in his defense, George really needed it) to Cidra aka Terri Hatcher who is convinced Elaine’s accidental stumble in a gym sauna was designed to determine if her breasts were real or fake so she could report the info to Jerry. (In Jerry’s defense, Elaine’s stumble was an obvious real accident because given the option, men have no problem finding out on their own, and frankly, would prefer doing their own detective work.)

It’s funny how time flies. I remember being very young when this came on. I remember everyone being disappointed. Yet, I also remember thinking basically the same thing I think today. How else could they have possibly ended it?

Larry David’s rule for the show was “no learning, no growing.” Seinfeld is a comedian’s comedian who truly believes his job is to make an audience laugh. It isn’t to educate or lecture or scold or give you a special message or anything like that. He makes with the ha ha and if you want a show where characters learn or grow, you’d better change the channel.

Ultimately, they worked that into the series. The characters literally never learn or grow. They start the show as a quartet of young schmucks and they end the show as middle aged schmucks. Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer all have their problems. They’ll be the first to tell you that, ad nauseum and in way too much detail if you let them. Yet, for some strange reason, they demand perfection, be it from their lives, their careers, or most frustratingly, from their mates.

George is bald but has qualms about dating a bald woman. George isn’t very handsome but has a problem dating a woman with a big schnozola. Jerry is a skinny health nut germaphobe and on the show, is a comedian who earns a middle class living on his craft. He’s a better catch than George but he’s far from perfect and rejects women for having man hands, catching gonorrhea on a tractor, having a belly button that he imagines has a funny voice and on and on.

Elaine’s boyfriends are more of a parody of what women have to go through – the schmuck who takes “it” out on a first date, the guy with a bad back who buys her an orthopedic mattress and she can’t tell if it’s because he is trying to give her a thoughtful gift or if he’s hoping to sleep with her and so on.

Kramer is the wild of the bunch. Is he so stupid he has no idea that his life is a mess or is he so smart that he has realized the secret that life is a mess no matter which way you play it so you might as well goof off all the way through it?

At any rate, though I admit the finale is rather lackluster, I’m not sure they could have done better. Could they have had Jerry and Elaine get married? Could they have had George finally settle down? Ultimately, as the jail doors close on the crew, the final joke is that these four are stuck in an eternal purgatory- they will never change their ways, they will never settle for less yet they will never get better enough to accomplish more (Which Larry David has always said is the source of his psychosis as well as his comedy.)

To the show’s credit, there is a moment where Elaine almost tells Jerry she loves him when the plane is going down, Jerry and George do finally get their big break (albeit as George says God would never allow him to be successful and thus why something bad happens to intervene) and it does feature the greatest Newman “I’ll get you, Seinfeld” speeches followed by maniacal laughter of all time.

Bonus points because it tackled the whole “why do people stand around, making fun of someone and recording them in peril rather than help them” long before cell phones with video cameras were ever invented. Overall, the Good Samaritan law seems rather unlikely because while it sounds like a good idea to demand people help those in need in theory, in reality, could an untrained bystander really disarm a mugger without getting mugged or killed him or herself?

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. Credit to Jerry for going out on top rather than try to squeeze another five years, let the show get crappy while he cashed in. It’s not the best episode but I’m just not sure anyone could have come up with a better ending. The idea behind the show is that these people never get a happy ending or even any kind of an ending or closure. They will never change their ways and thus, they are forever trapped in a purgatory of their own design, a Waiting for Godot style life that they carry with them wherever they go.

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TV Review – The Book of Boba Fett – Chapter 2

Boba is back and there are so many hutts to blast and so little time, 3.5 readers.

BQB here with a review.

I have mixed feelings on this show. On one hand, the Boba Fett of the original films was a surprise breakout star. George Lucas was a baby boomer who like those of his generation, grew up on a steady diet of Western films, so when he had his chance to put space on film, he imagined much of it as wild, lawless territory – places where might makes right and those who can kick ass live to fight another day.

Boba Fett always reminded me of Clint Eastwood’s silent but deadly (seriously, no pun intended, I just don’t know how else to describe him) old West character. He never said much but he could punk a man out with a cold stare. Thus, when it came to Boba, less was always more. He said very little but his armor, helmet and gadgets were quite menacing indeed.

Ergo, I’m not sure we needed a story about who the person is under that mask. He was way cooler with it on.

On the other hand, Disney paid boku bucks for the Star Wars IP and if you count it all as one great big expensive experiment, they’ve learned so far that all the money at the House of Mouse’s disposal can’t put together a writing team that can make a decent Star Wars flick set outside of the time of Luke vs. Darth Vader (or directly thereafter).

Long story short, Boba is one of the last few characters from that era who is still alive and kicking, so we must make do.

My next complaint is Boba is the galaxy’s greatest bounty hunter, isn’t he? Don’t we want to see him, oh, I don’t know, hunting bounties?

But I admit, the after credits scene following the last episode of The Mandalorian where Boba blasts Bib Fortuna and takes a load off on the late Jabba’s throne was pretty kick ass and enough to get me invested in a Boba series. The past two episodes have piqued my interest, so all in and all, I’ll give it a try.

To Disney’s credit, if you preferred the Boba who rarely spoke, The Mandalorian introduced us to the Manadalorian religion, where the most devout from that respective planet travel the galaxy, earning a living as bounty hunters and never taking their helmets off, believing the only way to not incur an enemy’s wrath is to keep their identities hidden. Ultimately, we’re given a whole race of silent but deadly (sorry) Boba types and we further learn the actual Boba was never a Mandalorian religion practitioner but rather was just a dude who liked the armor.

In this episode, we are given a double hutt douse, a brother and sister team who have returned to Tatooine to fight Boba for Jabba’s throne. They have a kickass wookie, so that’s cool. I gotta be honest, a lot of this feels like fan service but I’ll take it.

Meanwhile, we’ve yet to learn why Boba sleeps in a bacta tank, but whenever he does, he has flashbacks to a Dances with Wolves type of arc where he was captured by the sand people only to win them over and become their BFF.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. Disney Plus does seem to be a better home for Star Wars, at least until they figure out how to make a decent film.

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This book is FREE the next couple days, so grab your FREE copy:

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Happy New Year, 3.5 Readers

What are your resolutions for 2022?

Some Thoughts After Binge Watching Seinfeld

I’ve been on a month-long binge watch of Seinfeld, 3.5 readers. It’s funny the things you notice when a) you watch it all within the same time span and b) when time goes by and you notice actors/actresses who had bit parts on the show who later went on to hit it big.

Some observations:

#1 – Co-creator Larry David of Curb Your Enthusiasm fame is in it a lot, but you might not have noticed if you weren’t a super fan. He has bit walk on roles such as “Frank Costanza’s Cape Wearing Lawyer” (actual name of the character, the cashier who gives George back a twenty dollar bill with lipstick on the president, a mad scientist in a late-night B sci-fi movie that Jerry is watching. He also does a lot of voice over work, people yelling at the characters from off camera. Of course, his big claim to fame is that he did the voice of George’s boss, the gregariously boisterous NY Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.

#2 – Speaking of LD, it’s eerie how much of a spot on accurate Larry David impression that Jason Alexander is doing in the character of George Costanza, who is based on the Curb star. Poor George/Larry. Their whole schtick is that they are unattractive bald men who screw up constantly who, despite their myriad of flaws, can only be happy with perfect women. They know in their hearts this is wrong and they might be happier if they could accept women with flaws the way they wish women would accept them for all their flaws but their dumb brains just won’t let them do it.

#3 – It’s a rare series that gets better the longer it goes on. You can tell the showrunners are trying to figure it all out in the first 2 seasons and then it finally hits its stride around season 3-4. Early seasons, they try to give more depth to everyone and then they eventually hit the formula where it becomes quick and snappy and everyone is a caricature every situation is a parody of some sort of social conundrum that everyone faces sooner or later. Understandably, Jerry wanted to go out on top by ending the show after season 9 rather than go on longer even though NBC offered him plenty of money to keep going. Some of the most memorable episodes with the quotable phrases that became part of the pop cultural language come between seasons 7-9.

#4 – Famous actors/actresses who were on Seinfeld and then went on to hit it big later. (Hard to make a complete list.)

Dayton Callie – You might know him as Charlie on HBO’s Deadwood but he played a cabbie in the Puerto Rican Day Parade Episode who has to put up with Elaine’s indecision over whether she wants to stay in the cab and wait for the traffic to clear up or to get out and walk.

Breaking Bad – Walter and Skyler were both on Seinfeld before Walt built his blue meth empire. Anna Gunn was on the long list of Jerry’s girlfriends dumped over comically trivial reasons (George loses his glasses but while squinting, is certain he spotted her smooching it up with Jerry’s despised Cousin Jeffrey). Meanwhile, Bryan Cranston had a recurring role as Jerry’s dentist Tim Whatley, who converts to Judaism just for the jokes and brands Jerry a rabid anti-dentite for making dentist jokes. (Sidenote a young Debra Messing of Will and Grace fame is in this episode too.)

Mariska Hargitay, Amanda Peet, Sarah Silverman, Courtney Cox, Janine Garafalo, Teri Hatcher, Megan Mullally, Lauren Graham and the list goes on and on. It seems like every up and coming 1990s actress took a turn as one of Jerry or George’s (sometimes Kramer’s) long suffering girlfriends. I say sometimes Kramer because oddly, any woman dumped by Kramer just seems to feel lucky to have had the unlikely stud in their lives.

Meanwhile, Jon Favreau (as a clown), Bob Odenkirk and a very young Patton Oswalt as a video store clerk stop by.

#5 – My last observation is how many of the premises wouldn’t exist today. So many of the episodes involve the quartet splitting up and not being able to find each other in the big city. Today, a lost friend is only a cell phone call away from being found.

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Bookshelf Battle Cast – Movie Trailer Outro

I paid for these, so I feel like I need to post them and give them a little mileage once in awhile.

Anyway, I had a go who does a mean movie trailer voice do this and he did an awesome job.

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TV Review – Hawkeye (2021)

So many arrows, so little time, 3.5 readers.

BQB here with a review of Disney Plus’ Hawkeye.

It’s about time The Avengers’ arrow blasting badass got his own movie…except I guess they didn’t want to give him one so this TV show will have to do. That’s ok, Hawky. The Hulk could never carry a movie by himself either, even with those big green mitts. Hulk smash everything…except box office records.

Here, Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) is on a holiday vacay to NYC with his kids, the hawklets, in tow. After taking in an Avengers style broadway show (watch the entire thing after the end credits of the last episode), he has a run in with Kate Bishop (Hailey Steinfeld), an archery champ who was inspired to become a champion arrow slinger in her own right after witnessing Hawkeye take out some alien villains during Loki’s attack on New York back in the 2012 film when she was just a child. My, how time flies.

Kate has had her own run in with the aptly named Track Suit Mafia over a misunderstanding when she accidentally dons the Ronin costume, the same garb that Hawkeye wore during the blip phase of the last Avengers’ film, a time when he missed his deleted family and took vengeance out on the evildoers of the world with no remorse.

Assuming Kate is Ronin and wanting revenge, it’s a mad cat arrow infused romp as Clint and Kate shoot their way out of this mess, one flying pointy stick at a time.

At first, I felt there was a bit of a bait and switch here. Vile patriarchist that I am, I’m not a fan of this trend to replace longstanding male characters with females. In some cases, like when a character is more of an idea than a person and anyone can step in and be them, it works. In other cases, where the studio is just like, “OK this dude has a vag now” it makes little sense. It’s like the studios are saying that women can never be fully complete unless they grow ding dongs and become dudes, as if they were born deficient when they were born vaginized.

Moving on, my main complaint was that it looked like we were going to get very little Hawkeye and a lot of Kate Bishop, which seemed deceptive for a show called Hawkeye, but ultimately, we got a lot of the Hawkster. It’s basically like a mismatched buddy cop show about an old veteran arrow slinger taking a fresh, naive, lots to learn rookie arrow slinger under his wing.

I have to give this show kudos because it does show the dangerous side of super-heroing, particularly when the hero is just like, a person with no supernatural and/or scientifically assisted abilities. (Sidenote – isn’t it a gaping plot hole that Tony Stark never just outfitted the entire team with his Iron Man armor?)

Clint is deaf, having had a front row seat to plenty of gunfire and explosions in his day. Movies never tell the viewer this, but explosions and guns are loud. In the movies, people just stand around explosions like nothing’s wrong but in reality, if you’re lucky enough to not be vaporized in the blast radius, you’d still most likely be knocked on your butt and/or left with long-lasting, perhaps life-long hearing loss.

Kate and Clint get knocked around throughout the show and to the show’s credit, the pain shows. They’re constantly hurt, and they are never without band-aids and stitches on their face, so A plus to Disney for giving us a look at how hard it is to be a super-hero when you’re not a God, or haven’t been gifted with amazing strength and/or health regeneration, be it through magic or science. When you’re just Joe or Jane Average, getting your ass kicked hurts, a lot, and afterwards, you’re going to be limping and covered with bandages and you’re probably going to need a drink and a nap. Also, a dog. Bonus points to the show for adding a dog.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy, but SPOILER ALERT. Looks like Kate will take over the Hawkeye role, so where does that leave Clint? Where does that leave Jeremy Renner? Is he exiting the franchise? Will he come back as Ronin? Probably not since he burned the costume, then again, a new costume is only a call to the tailor shop away.

Meanwhile, Lady Thor is on the way and I guess, I don’t know, they’ll probably chop off the Hulk’s ding-a-ling eventually just to be fair to out of control green lady rage monsters.

Double bonus points because Vera Farmiga is in it. I have had a crush on her since she appeared scantily clad in The Departed.

Triple bonus points because the show is Christmas themed.

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