Monthly Archives: February 2020

Movie Review – Parasite (2019)

Get lots of references for your new hires, 3.5 readers.

BQB here with a review of this Oscar Winner for Best Picture.

I know a lot of people won’t watch movies with subtitles, not out of an aversion to foreign films but because if they want to watch a movie, they don’t want to read.

I get it and I admit, the subject matter really has to intrigue me to watch a subtitled movie.  Ultimately, to read the subtitles requires a lot of concentration.  You can’t do other things during the movie, and you definitely can’t get up to take a wizz or microwave a chimichanga.

Thus, I waited for an evening where I could give my TV my full, undivided attention and I’m glad I did.

This movie starts out strong as a fun, lighthearted comedy.  The Kim family are poor in cash but rich in spirit, taking their impoverished lives as basement dwelling pizza box folders in stride, making jokes as they search for free wi-fi, all the while dodging the various bug and homeless bum urine streams that threaten to wreak havoc on their cramped home.

When Son uses forged credentials to defraud his way into a position as a tutor to the daughter of the wealthy Park family, inspiration strikes.  One by one, the Kims paint a humorous masterpiece of deceit, setting up the Park family’s servants to be fired so that they can, whilst posing with fake identities, take on those jobs themselves.  Sister, Dad, Mom all get in on the act and before you know it, they are all on the Park family payroll and able to pay for luxuries like wifi and pest extermination.  Alas, the peeing bum never stops peeing.

It’s hard to not root for the Kims.  They are poor through no fault of their own.  We learn that Dad has suffered through one lousy job after the next, being laid off or having companies he worked for go out of business.  The world economy has suffered greatly over the past several years, and when there is a mention of a security guard position that gets 500 applicants with college degrees, one can’t help but think that poor folk like the Kims can’t pull themselves out of the gutter without a bit of subterfuge.

Meanwhile, the Parks are lovable but hopelessly naive and trusting.  Having not suffered much in life, they never developed that inner bullshit detector that causes them to question certain situations so as to avoid being duped.  Mother Park is all about fancy parties and doting on the children while servants do all the heavy lifting.  Father Park is all about business.  You eventually come to love both families.  You want the Kims to succeed, but you don’t want the Parks to be hurt.

Unfortunately, at the midpoint, the film takes a dark turn and goes from witty comedy to blood soaked horror fest.  The laughs are lost and the mayhem ensues.  While I get the film had to go somewhere, I don’t agree with the direction it went at all and feel there were plenty of other options.

I won’t give it away, though I’m not sure it jived with the film’s overall message, or at least my interpretation of it.  I thought the film was trying to say a) sometimes a family can do everything right and still be poor and when the economy tanks, it’s hard to blame them for trying to fib their way to the top.  B)  When you juxtapose the plenty of the Parks with the little of the Kims, it can be easy to hate on the rich and demand they turn over all of their shit to the poor.  But then again, keep in mind that there are nice rich people and kneecapping the people who are winning the race of life doesn’t really do much to help those who are losing win.

A happy ending would have been great but….for some reason, there was just a lot of murder.  Maybe there are no happy endings when it comes to class warfare.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.  I’d like to see a re-cut with a happy ending.  There was actually one point in the film where I thought it was going to ramp up the silliness and lead to a silly ending but…nope.  That point was abandoned for murder.  So much murder.

Maybe after you 3.5 readers have a chance to see it I’ll say how I thought it should have ended.

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Everything You Need to Know About Life Can Be Found in Call of the Wild (And Why Harrison Ford Should Get An Oscar)

Hey 3.5 readers.

This won’t be so much of a review as an opinion piece.

Having seen the ads for Call of the Wild earlier this year, I read Jack London’s classic novel of the same name.  If you haven’t, you should.  It’s only like 60 pages, but he covers a lot of ground in a short amount of time.

For the uninitiated, it’s the story of Buck, a pampered dog who lives a life of luxury as a pet on a rich judge’s California estate.  His carefree life is uprooted when a dirtbag swipes the pooch and sells him into doggy servitude, sending him up north where he ends up on the dog sled team of a pair of French Canadian mail carriers.

From there, he’s passed from one owner to the next, beaten and abused, forced to fight for his life and so on.

Essentially, it’s a story about learning to adapt and persevere when life throws a monkey wrench into the machinery of your plans.

The movie is good, though it’s a Disney product full of schmaltz.  It has to be to cater to its primary audience of kids. While in the book, Buck goes from being weak and timid to becoming a murderous, killer alpha dog, whereas in the film Buck grows in spirit and strength by doing good deeds and saving others along the way.  Further, I’ll admit the book has plenty of politically incorrect moments (it was written in early 1900s after all) that understandably had to be cut out in the movie version.

Anyway, see the movie, but also read the book and just try to ignore the non-PCness and learn the various lessons.  Don’t crumble when life throws you a curve ball.  When you learn something new, you’ll fail and it will hurt but stick with it and you’ll get better (how Buck sucks at first as a sled dog but keeps at it and becomes a great sled dog, for example.)

Also, lessons about leadership, from Buck’s early masters who get his obedience through club beatings, to John Thornton, who is just such a good man that he inspires Buck to blind loyalty.

Is this movie an award winner?  Not really.  It will probably come and go without a lot of fanfare.

However, I think Harrison Ford should be considered for a Best Actor award for this one.  He was in some great films in the 70s and 80s, not just nerd faves like Star Wars and Indiana Jones, but thrillers and dramas as well.

Then in the late 90s, early 2000s he, no offense because it happens to all of us, but he got old and seemed in many of his roles like he’d rather not be there, like he was phoning it in.  Ironically, I know that’s part of his personality and charm, that he comes across as though he could take or leave fame.

Long story short, he shines in this role and is full of emotion.  As a depressed old man who moves to the Yukon to get away from humanity only to find his humanity again with the help of Buck.

Overall, Ford looks like he enjoys what he’s doing in this movie and that he had a good time making it.

At 77, I doubt he will get a chance at many more plump, juicy roles, so I think a case could be mean that he deserves it for this one, if not for the performance but to recognize his body of work.

Hopefully someone in the Academy is one of my 3.5 readers and will make this happen.

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An Ode to Robocop

robocop

Robocop!  Oh, Robocop.

You are the oft-forgotten,

Not nearly celebrated enough gem of 1980s times,

What with the way you defeated those who would dare to commit crimes.

In Old Detroit you patrolled,

While OCP used its mind control,

Though you could never let go of the man you used to be,

And that man was once named Murphy.

 

Yes, Murphy!  A beat cop with a kid and a wife,

A cop who came to the end of his life,

When he was shot to hell by that guy who went on to play Eric Foreman’s dad.

No, that experience was not very rad.

But thanks to OCP, your survival was a guaranteed lock.

They brought you back as a cyborg, a man-machine without a…penis.

Is life worth living without a ding dong?

At that point, it could become insufferably long.

 

Robocop, you were #MeToo before there was a Twitter.

The way you shot that rapist in the Johnson made my heart flitter.

You put an anti-violence against women message on the silver screen,

Nearly 40 years before the mass media had to come clean on Harvey Weinstein.

 

Robocop!  Anne Lewis was your number two.

Not that hot by today’s standards but in the Reagan era, she’d do,

Though it’s not like it would have mattered to you, for you did not have a bait and tackle anyway.

She was your friend and confidant and together you overcame many challenges to take down OCP and Eric Foreman’s old man.

Then peace and harmony erupted all over Old Detroit Land.

Until Robocop 2 and the Nuke drug crisis almost destroyed you.

Robocop 3 is when your franchise began to flounder.

Though honestly, I don’t think we can blame C.C.H. Pounder,

For an actress is only as good as the script she is given, for words are used like a smith uses a tool.

And your 2014 reboot is the only reboot that I ever found cool.

Will they ever make another?

I sincerely hope so my steel clad brother.

But in the future, I hope OCP gives you a robo-wang that will make the ladies hollar.

No doubt they will cry, “I’d buy that for a dollar!”

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Movie Review – Jay and Silent Bob Reboot (2020)

Snoochie noochies, 3.5 readers.

I don’t think there was a single 90s kid who wasn’t in possession of a well-worn “Mallrats” VHS tape, quoting lines from Jay and Silent Bob and acting like this somehow made them all very subversive.

Personally, I’ve always found Jay and Silent Bob Strike back to be the funniest film in Kevin Smith’s View Askewaverse, the series of flicks he made that featured recurring characters stuck in the nightmare of New Jersey suburbia.  While other films were funny, they also tried to channel some kind of message, whereas there was no real message in JASBSB.  It was just laughs for the sake of laughs.  The pot dealing protagonists start out knowing nothing and end up knowing less.

You might remember in that 2001 film, Jay and his hetero life mate Silent Bob had to travel cross country to stop a movie from being made about them.

Well, turns out this reboot is about Jay and SB travelling cross country to stop a reboot of the movie that was made about them from being made.

As author Thomas Wolfe reminded us, you can’t go home again.  After all, you’ve changed and grown so much and there are too many painful reminders of your dumb, wayward past at home.  While many films would try to avoid this, J and SB cash in big time on 90s nostalgia, asking what kind of a “broken fuck” would want to watch a reboot of an old 90s movie before looking knowingly past the fourth wall to the viewer that plunked down an exorbitant amount for an on demand rental.

Sadly, the film didn’t get a big movie theater release, one can only assume because everyone who gets the 90s references is as old and wrinkly as all the actors who usually do cameos in Smith films.  That same cast of characters came back this go around, albeit with grayer hair and more lines in the face.  What can I say?  Time is a bitch.

While humorous, especially to those of us who get 90s humor, there were times when this stroll down memory lane saddened me, making me wonder where did all the time go?  It seems like just yesterday I was fapping it out to Shannon Elizabeth of American Pie fame.  Now, she returns in her role as Jay’s ex-girlfriend, except you can tell from her face that time has paid her a visit to her as well, as it does to all of us.  I’m not knocking her.  I’m just saying it is sad what time does to all of us sooner or later.

Eh, not gonna lie.  I’d still fap one out to her.

Long story short, as it turns out, Jay and his ex, Justice, had a daughter that Jay never knew about.  For reasons too stupid to bother explaining, Jay and Bob must give Jay’s estranged offspring and her friends across country without outing the secret of Jay’s father status to the young woman.

Jay’s daughter, Millie (short for Millenium Falcon) is played by Harlee Quinn Smith, and yes, Kevin Smith did that to his daughter, but I guess if you’re born to a famous dad you can survive a wacky name.  Jokes about nepotism and Millie referring to Kevin Smith (who appears in the film as himself as well as Silent Bob) as a creepy old fuck abound.

I laughed.  I cried, not at the nostalgia, per se, but at the fact that twenty years have gone by and all I have to show for it is this blog read by 3.5 readers.  The me who was alive when J and SB came out for the first time would be very disappointed in himself.

But kudos to Smith, who keeps finding new ways to make dough off of Gen X’s pop culture fixation.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

 

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Movie Review – Downhill (2020)

Vacations are hard, 3.5 readers.

BQB here with a review of the dramedy, “Downhill.”

Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell play Billie and Pete, a couple who go on a luxurious European ski vacation.

Long story short, there’s an avalanche.  It’s scary as F, and Pete loses his husband/father of the year award big time when he books it, leaving his wife and kids in the dust.

Turns out no one was ever in any real danger.  The avalanche was a controlled burst meant to shake some snow off the mountain and while it looks scary to tourists, they were never in any real danger other than getting snow all over themselves.

But Pete didn’t know that at the time, right?

Without delving into spoiler territory, the rest of the film is a slow meditation on love, marriage, human frailty, fragility, aging and the overall notion of whether or not there can ever be a perfect person.  Could Pete have helped it?  Perhaps he moved based on pure instinct.  Or maybe he was just a wuss.  We may never know.

STATUS: While it’s worth watching and it is nice to see Julia in a feature length film, I’d save this one for a rental.  The setup is great but the rest of the film is a slow burn, and although various questions posed are eventually answered, this one feels less like a movie and more like an extended sitcom episode.  I feel like if they’d handed this script to Larry David, we would have had a better time watching that old curmudgeon high tail it from snowed upon family.

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Movie Review – Birds of Prey (2020)

It doesn’t stink, but it could have been better.

BQB here with a review.

I might be the only one who doesn’t think this movie was a total stinker, and the theories as to why this one bombed at the box office are running rampant.

The set-up?  Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) breaks up with her infamous boyfriend, The Joker.  Alas, this means that she is no longer under the protection of the most fearsome criminal in Gotham City, and to the many, many, many people she has wrong through her assholish behavior, it’s open season on her head.

Amidst this chaos, the Black Mask (Ewan McGregor of Obi Wan Kenobi fame) and his henchman Victor Zsaz (Don’t feel like looking the actor’s name up) seek a diamond and a kid, both of whom are important for reasons I’ll let go at this time so as to not spoil everything.  It falls on to Harley to protect the kid, with the assistance of Detective Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), the Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), collectively “The Birds of Prey.”

Sounds like a pretty awesome set-up, right?  Well, you’d be wrong.  Sure, the film has its moments.  Margot Robbie gets to ham it up as Harley in this go around whereas she was a bit more subdued in Suicide Squad.  There are some humorous moments as Harley, the last person you’d ever want to take care of a kid, ends up being the world’s worst babysitter.  There’s plenty of action as well.

Ultimately though, the flick fails, so first, let’s talk about why it didn’t.

Feminism run amuck?  Eh, not really.  Sure, this movie is all about girl power, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  It’s all in how it is handled.  The recent Charlie’s Angels reboot tanked because the angels openly lectured us about the virtues of third wave feminism.  In essence, you were told that if you have a dick then you are inferior, and then also if you are a dick, you are an asshole if you didn’t like this movie.

There wasn’t much in the way of man bashing in this movie, nor was there any lecturing or claiming that we should all live under vaginal rule.  The best female action flicks just have their heroines kick ass without claims that a snootch causes one to be a better ass kicker, ergo Buffy, Ripley and Wonder Woman will always maintain their claims to fame.

It wasn’t that men rejected this movie either.  If anything, I’d wager men were well represented in the audience because many of us are dorks who will see any comic book movie.

So, why did it bomb?

The unnecessary R rating.  Look, I’m no teetotaler.  My ears won’t burn if I hear the F word.  But let’s face it.  Comic book movies are by and large the domain of the young, whereas adults will go to these things if they’re uber nerds or to bring their kids to them.

As I watched this movie, it dawned on me that what caused this movie to get an R movie wasn’t the sex (there wasn’t any) nor was it the violence (there was a lot but not more than Suicide Squad, which always surprised me with its PG 13 rating.)

What put this movie over the top was the naughty language.  The F word is used gratuitously and while I’m not against a well-placed swear for comedic or dramatic effect, the swears flowed like water here, for no real reason other than the actors were allowed to say it, so say it they did – a lot.

I got the impression maybe the producers thought they were making a female version of Deadpool, which attracted adult fans by the boatload with its dirty jokes.  The big difference though is Ryan Reynolds is a Rembrandt who can paint a hysterical picture with obscenity, whereas the F word was just repeated over and over again here for a sense of faux-grittiness.

Long story short, had they cut out all the unnecessary fucks, this movie could have been PG-13 and its teenage fan base could have been allowed to attend in droves.

My second complaint lies with branding, marketing, or really, how DC has handled itself throughout its recent attempts at comic book flicks.  Love or hate Marvel, but they created a cinematic universe.  Their stories built toward something.

DC, on the other hand, has taken a lot of characters we know nothing about and smashed them together quickly, largely out of the fear that they needed to churn out product quickly before the comic book movie bubble bursts.  It’s a shame because if they’d followed the cinematic universe strategy, the films really could have built up to something.

I’m not saying that Marvel is the gold standard, just if DC had a different idea oh how to do it better, they didn’t break it out.  Wonder Woman and Aquaman are the best flicks DC has put out as of late, and that’s because those movies actually took the time to introduce us to who their characters were and what makes them tick.  And as we saw with Marvel, the beauty of taking the time to make those singular character based movies means we understand those characters a lot more when they get slapped into the broad, ensemble pieces and only get a few minutes of screen time.

In other words, why not a Huntress movie?  Why not a Black Canary movie?  Or, better yet, why not a Harley Quinn movie?  Harley is a star, after all.  Only a handful of nerds know what “Birds of Prey” means.  The rest of the public probably thought this was a movie about killer birds.  It probably should have been marketed as “The Harley Movie: All Harley, All the Time.”

Also, I don’t know why DC seems adverse to bringing Harley and Mr. J together.  True, their rocky relationship is domestic violence times a thousand and in this age of #MeToo, the last thing people want to see is a comic book couple that acts out their differences by shooting at each other, slapping each other with cartoon mallets, attempting to feed each other to hyenas and what have you, but it was funny in the comics, and the right writers could have made it funny here.

Which brings me to the writing.  There were flash forwards and flash backs.  I think there might have been a flash sideways.  There was a flash back that was so long I forgot it was a flash back because it takes up half the movie.  Harley narrates and fills in the blanks with great omnipotence.

Finally, and maybe this is a comic nerd complaint, but there are some great characters that are thrown away.  Victor Zsaz, a psycho serial killer in the Batman universe, is wasted as two-bit henchman here.  At one point, he tells a victim, “I will end your suffering,” i.e. his classic tagline as in the comics, he believes all life is suffering and thus he doesn’t believe he is killing his victims but saving them from pain.

Similarly, Harley has a pet hyena but the hyena never gets to chase anyone or anything fun.  There are many points where it feels like the writers are like “Hey, we read the comics, nerds!  Here’s a brief nod but we aren’t going deeper.”

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.  I still think it is worth a comic fan’s time, but like many DC movies as of late, it was only OK when it could have been great.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Lamentations About the Academy Awards

This was a year where I had seen many of the movies nominated for best picture and to my surprise, I liked most of them.  They were hits that really drew the viewer in and overall were supremely watchable.  Movies like Ford vs. Ferrari, Knives Out, 1917, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

Naturally, the award went to Korean foreign language film Parasite and my first reaction was “Oh, yeah, the Academy always has to award the movie no one has seen” but I’m going to reserve judgment till I see it.  It was made by the same director who made Snowpiercer so it may very well be a great movie.  I will check it out and let you 3.5 readers know what I think.

I have to say, the guild is off the lily for the Oscars, at least it is for me anyway.  These shows got so “woke” that they can’t even have a host anymore.  No, literally no one wants the job.  Can you imagine that?  In an entertainment industry where performers are vying to be seen, no one wants to get that much airtime…because maybe you made some off the cuff remark ten years ago and it will all come back to haunt you thanks to social media.

I tuned in for a moment and Steve Martin and Chris Rock were joking about a lack of diversity about the Oscars.  There was a joke about how the actress who played Harriet Tubman hid black people so well that the Academy hired her to hide black people from the nominations.

Funny but also uh…why not just nominate her?  They made a joke about Eddie Murphy being hidden but again, why not nominate him?  I didn’t see Harriet so I can’t tell you if it’s a good movie or not.  I did see Dolemite and I thought that was a good movie with a lot of heart, basically a big underdog story about a man with an impossible dream, a washed up entertainer in his fifties, everyone telling him to give up on ever being in the movies but he puts all his money on the line and to make a movie and succeeds.

When I saw it I thought if Eddie was ever going to get an Oscar, it would be for this, but of course, Dolemite was also a comedy so we can’t have that.  Not at the Oscars ever.

I tuned out and tuned back in one more time to see Brad Pitt win for best supporting actor.  Maybe it’s just me but it bugged me that here’s this guy who has been acting for so many years, has been in some of the biggest movies ever in some of the greatest roles every yet he has never won an Oscar for acting.  And sadly, he felt the need to share part of his brief speech time to complain about John Bolton.  If he feels that Bolton should have testified, I suppose it’s his right to say it, but Bolton just comes across as a charlatan and huckster out there promoting himself, trying to promote his book.  To me, it felt like Brad crapped on his own long awaited acting award speech but if that’s what he wanted to do then that’s what he wanted to do.’

Ultimately, these awards are less about the movies and more about promoting Hollywood’s pet projects, though admittedly, they did have some decent movies in the running this year.

I also wondered if Avengers: Endgame shouldn’t have gotten a little recognition – the culmination of a decade long experiment where a studio was able to make all these movies that weaved together, where none of the actors had hissy fits and were all willing to share the spotlight.

End of rant.

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Oscar Predictions

BEST MOVIE:

Critics seem to be united in thinking it will be 1917, largely because of its style that makes it look as though it were done all in one take, which is a pretty amazing feat.  Birdman did it in 2014, but its much more impressive to do it when there’s gun fighting and plane crashes afoot.

But I have a hunch it will be Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.  Tarantino inspired a generation of writers in the 90s to start at the end and work back to the beginning, yet he’s only won for screenwriting.  This is a rare movie where, for the most part, more or less, he plays it straight, with a minimum of blood and guts and wacky dialogue and overall silliness…though he does put that all in at the end.  It’s also a love letter to Hollywood and the Oscars like that….though it does basically say that 1969 was a turning point where Hollywood abandoned good movies to make crap instead so…

I’ll guess Once Upon a Time, but won’t be surprised if it is 1917.

I’m going to be lazy and that will be my only prediction this year.  Who do you think will win, 3.5 readers?

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#OscarsSoPretty – The Oscars Are Still Too Pretty

Hey 3.5 readers.

BQB here.

The 3.5 of you who continue to read this fine blog are aware that among many things, I am one of, if not the, world’s foremost ugly rights advocate.  If an ugly person is being discriminated against due to their wretched, horrifying ugliness, then I will be there to champion their cause…at some point, but probably never, because I am very busy and also I just baked a pie.

But I do speak out from time to time about the injustices perpetrated against the uggo community (I can say that, it’s our word) on this fine blog and nowhere is anti-uggo discrimination more prevalent than at the Oscars.

Seriously.  Do ugly people ever win these things?  How can Hollywood, year after year, only give awards to good looking people, all the while ugly kids are crying themselves to sleep every night because they never see anyone on TV that looks like them unless they turn on the National Geographic channel.

Thank you for listening, 3.5 readers.  All I can do is spread the word about the cause of the ugly, and if all I can do is write this post so that it will be visible to your 7 eyes then so be it.

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Movie Review – The Gentlemen (2020)

Alright, alright, alright.

BQB here with a review of “The Gentlemen.”

For a Gen Xer like me, this movie was fun.  It’s got tones of 1990s style gangster flicks and why wouldn’t it?  Guy Ritchie of “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” fame is at the helm.

Mickey Pearson (Matthey McConaughey) is an American who has, over the years, developed a multi-million marijuana running business in the UK.  It seems odd that an American would obtain such a lucrative position in the British underworld, and ultimately, I think the powers that be just thought it would be cool for Matthew McC to be in this movie, but for whatever reason, didn’t want him to do a Brit accent, so they wrote him as an American.

Anyway, Mickey is ready to retire and wants to sell his ganja business for a whopping $400 million, believing that he needs to get out of the business before the UK legalizes weed.  You’d think he’d want to stay in, but he fears all the illegal things he’s done in the name of his herb empire will catch up to him come time to apply for the various government licenses that would be needed to run a legal wacky terbacky business.

Long story short, when word gets around London that the weed king is stepping down from the throne, a veritable who’s who cast of d-bags step up, looking to bump Mickey off, squeeze him out, and/or cut him out of the game.  Schemes, violence, death, destruction and murder all come together as ne’er-do-wells carry out all manner of underhanded plots, all in the name of becoming the next marijuana man.

Great performances from Matthew McC, Hugh Grant and others.  I enjoyed Charlie Hunnam in Sons of Anarchy, but felt his appearances in other flicks have been largely wooden.  Here, he shines in a memorable role as Pearson’s number two man.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

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