Monthly Archives: April 2022

Movie Review – The Northman (2022)

Oh, those wacky Vikings!

BQB here with a review of “The Northman.”

It’s a story told time and again throughout Western literature – a young lad, happy as can be, a prince with a loving king father and queen mother. All is well until the greedy, conniving uncle steps in, wacks the poppa, steals momma, and absconds with the throne. Alas, the kiddo must grow up and seek his revenge if he is to ever quell the anger and resentment that broods inside him, though there’s an underlying question of whether revenge is worth it and he could always choose to run and learn to live with the injustice…but then again, he obviously can’t.

Perhaps you saw this story as “The Lion King” when you were a kid or “Sons of Anarchy” as an adult. More likely, you know it as “Hamlet,” the great-great-great grandaddy of English lit, some say the story that all stories owe their existence to. In fact, this movie is the story of Prince Amleth (Alexander Skaarsgaard), a scorned Icelandic royal on a lifelong quest for retaliation against his murderous, scheming uncle (Claes Bang) who killed his father (Ethan Hawke) and his fool (Willen Defoe) only to abscond with his mother (Nicole Kidman) and the throne.

On the one hand, one might find this to be a typical ancient history film. A bit long and dry, hard to connect with people from long ago, so far removed from our modern lives. Sadly, history movies are always a gamble at the box office and many don’t fare well.

However, this is different than any other history flick you’ve seen. Many history flicks add a tinge of modernity just to get the viewer through it. With any adventure into the past, I often wonder if any of us can ever grasp a true sense of what life was like in a time we never saw, that we only know about through long decayed writings on stone or parchment or second hand stories passed down through the generations.

To the film’s credit, Director Robert Eggers strives for accuracy and in doing so, shows us a world we should all be very glad indeed that we don’t live in. In the land of Ancient Iceland as well as other parts of the frozen north, life is very cheap indeed. Lowborn or lineage otherwise considered improper will condemn you to a life of slavery. Nobles feel free to kill, torture or, well, have their way with you as they please. Blood and tears are expelled every hour on the hour. Limbs and other parts are hacked off with great frequency. Animal sacrifices. Bizarre religious rituals and/or witchcraft where the practioners truly believe magical powers will be bestowed upon them if they do X horrible deed.

And don’t even get me started on the labor. Have you ever complained about having to do the launder? Ugh. Forget it. You wouldn’t last 5 seconds as an ancient Icelandic peasant slave then. Backbreaking labor from early morning to late night. Wrestling with the rock filled frozen earth just to plant a few measly crops. Fetching water buckets and carrying them to the village on your back. There’s nary an Arby’s in sight and there’s no Taskrabbit to pawn your grueling chores off onto someone else with.

Don’t even get me started on the stink and bad medicine. As you watch the lack of hygiene, you can almost smell the medieval funk and frankly, noble reader, if you were to time travel to the dark ages with nothing but the crap you have in your medicine cabinet, you would be considered a great, mystic healer indeed. What a smelly, unsanitary time it was.

Ultimately, I’d have to say that this film’s no holds barred view of a world at a time when life was, to quote Thomas Hobbes, “nasty, brutish and short” is what makes it memorable. Otherwise, its more or less yet another retelling of the Hamlet story. Skaarsgaard is practically a modern day Viking himself and shines in the lead as Amleth, who literally broods with neverending rage his entire adult life as his only waking thought is how he can return to Iceland and give his uncle his comeuppance.

Along the way, our hero falls in love with peasant slave Olga (Anna Taylor-Joy and unless it is a stunt tucas, you get to see her tucas in a gratuitous manner which I’m not complaining about.) Defoe is comically creepy as usual and Kidman isn’t just another pretty face as she brings some depth to a character who, well, I won’t spoil it other than to say this queen isn’t going to win any mother of the year awards any time soon.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. Some great cinematography shows old Iceland as a truly desolate place, so rough that one wonders why all these dumb Vikings are fighting over it in the first place. As I watched, I couldn’t help but think of Groucho’s old line. “It’s God’s country…and he can have it.”

SIDENOTE: If you ever think you have it bad (and I’m not knocking your plight, for you very well might have it bad) at least look on the bright side. If you’re reading this, chances are you were born in a country that recognizes its citizens have a basic set of rights that come from God and not government, for government given rights can always be taken away. You can’t be enslaved because you were born into the wrong family. You can’t be murdered by the people in charge or otherwise punished without a fair trial. You have modern conveniences and inventions that keep you warm, fed, and bring water to your house. Damn it, anything you want, from a new pair of shoes to a rubber chicken, can be ordered with the click of a button and delivered to you in days. And you have Arby’s and they have the meats. Don’t even get me started about Arby’s. Show me the person from today with the lousiest life you can imagine and I’ll show you a person who still has it better off than an Icelandic king from 1000 years ago.

In conclusion, whenever you feel down and out, remember you won the cosmic lottery when you were born in the Western world during a time of washing machines, indoor plumbing, and Arbys. Also, treadmills. Go run off that Arby’s ya fat bastard.

(Actually, come to think of it, no Arby’s and daily back breaking work probably left everyone cut and ripped and saved them tons of money on gym memberships so what do I know?)

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A Self-Publishing Milestone – Johnny B. Truant’s Fat Vampire Becomes a TV Show

Hey 3.5 readers.

BQB here.

You know who really got me into self-publishing? A trio of super cool dudes by the names of Johnny B. Truant, Sean Platt, and David Wright. Johnny, Sean and Dave of “The Self-Publishing Podcast.”

I started blogging in 2014 with the idea that I’d try to write a novel and submit it to traditional publishers. Then I started seeing a lot of bloggers talking about self-publishing. Before I knew it, I was down the rabbit hole and found this podcast that was very funny, all about three friends following their dream of self-publishing success, sharing the lessons they learned, the mistakes they made and interviewing others who had done great things all without assistance from the gatekeepers of the publishing industry.

Their best-known non-fiction work, which doubles as their mantra, is “Write, Publish, Repeat” in which they make the case for writers to put in the work. You need to publish…a lot. Readers are hungry but they have access to so much free material that you have to put a lot out there before they start parting with the moolah.

Over the years (I think they began in earnest in 2012) they have published a ton of books. So many that I always wondered, given the sheer volume of their catalog, how the heck hasn’t one of their books been Hollywood-ized yet?

Well…their big day in the sun is here. Johnny B. wrote a comedy horror series called “Fat Vampire.” I believe this was one of his first books. It follows the plight of Reginald, an overweight man named Reginald who in life, really wanted to lose weight but couldn’t and thus suffered all the indignities that come with being plus sized.

And then he gets a vamp bite. Now a vampire, he falls in with a league of typically sexy brooding vamps. Alas, as those who know vamp lore will tell you, how you were as a human when you were bitten will be how you always are as a vamp. Poor Reginald will live forever but he can never lose weight. He is forever trapped as a fat vampire. Even though he rises through the ranks and proves himself worthy, he will forever be poked fun of by the other vamps for his fatness.

I noticed the book got a new title. “Reginald the Vampire” will be played by Spiderman’s BFF actor Jacob Batalon on SyFy. It seems the whole crux of the series is a chubby dude who wants to change but is forever locked into his chubbyness and the lack of respect from his peers that comes with it no matter what great victories he achieves so I hope they will at least grasp that.

But anyway, this is a victory for the SPP dudes, one a long time in the making. Very well deserved and proof to the rest of you self-publishers out there that you can do it.

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Friday Discussions with BQB – Are Hamsters Our Future Furry Overlords?

3.5 readers.

I am going to try to discuss something with you every Friday.

This inaugural post – are hamsters plotting to conquer the world?

Adorable pet or future dictator of the world? Discuss.

YES – They are clearly the wisest species and have convinced us to take care of them and give them little water bottles and they are getting super jacked on those running wheels. Also, for some reason, if we see one of their vermin kin running around the house we break out the mouse traps and call the exterminator but somehow we treat them as pets. One day they will attack when we least expect it and rule with furry iron paws.

NO – they are just glorified rats and are too dumb and lazy to rule all.

Discuss.

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Movie Review – The Eyes of Tammy Faye (2021)

Lights! Camera! Jesus! Makeup!

BQB here with a review of the biopic/life story of televangelists Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker.

I thought this would be very stupid. Actually, I thought it was going to rake a duo of greedy TV preachers and while it’s hard to say they don’t deserve it, if you were alive in the 1980s and 1990s, then you know they pretty much were made fun of ad nauseum so at this point, twenty some odd years later, it’s like beating a dead horse, then kicking the horse for extra fun. Doesn’t make any sense.

Ergo, it was a surprise that this movie was actually interesting and a good watch. This is always a nice surprise when you go into a movie thinking the worst and coming out with the best. It actually humanized the Bakkers, told me a lot I never knew before.

Honestly, I was a kid when there religious media empire blew up under accusations of wrongdoing so I only knew them as the preacher that cheated on his wife with Jessica Hahn and that said wife was that crazy lady with tons of makeup.

Things I didn’t know: that Tammy cheated first and Jim’s cheat was, as the movie claims, a retaliatory cheat. I didn’t know that televangelism dated back to the 1960s. I didn’t know that Tammy sang or did puppet shows. I just thought she was a wacky lady with a lot of makeup.

I also didn’t know that Tammy was advocating for inclusion of LGBTQ worshippers into the Christian faith. An early scene where a young Tammy tries to talk a disinterested Rev Jerry Falwell (Vincent D’Nofrio) into being nicer to homosexuals goes about as well as you might expect, but you have to give her credit for trying because this was the 19-freaking-60s.

I also never knew there were claims that Jim Bakker was gay. The movie never outright confirms it but strongly suggests it. Not that anyone reads this fine blog but I suppose in fairness, I should mention Bakker has denied being gay and remarried a new wife in 1998.

Surprisingly, the story sympathizes with the Bakkers to the point where you might not want to completely let them off the hook, but you understand how they got there. Tammy’s mother wasn’t one for doling out love so she sought the world’s love through Christian songs. Jim freaking accidentally ran a kid over when he was young and promised God he’d become a preacher if he let the kid live and he did so he held up his end of the bargain. Alas, all the money and power…and unfortunately, two halves of a couple trying to live in a spotlight that can only shine on one with all the jealousies that ensue…yeah I can’t condone what they did but I get how they got there.

Jessica Chastain completely transforms into another person, right down to Tammy’s patented laugh. Andrew Garfield also turns into a Jim Bakker clone. Great acting here.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. I could almost make an argument that it was deserving of a best picture nomination. My unbridled speculation is that maybe the Academy doesn’t like movies where religious types aren’t painted out as supervillains. Overall, I thought this biopic was fair – it didn’t let them off the hook for chicanery but it didn’t reduce them to cartoon characters or take a victory lap around them either.

SIDENOTE: How freaking old is Pat Robertson? A number of famous TV preachers are portrayed but Pat is shown as one of the big names in televangelism in the 1960s and the dude is still on TV today.

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TV Review – Moon Knight (2022) – Episode 1

Grab your mummy bandages, 3.5 readers.

BQB here with a review of Disney/Marvel’s latest Disney Plus show.

OK, let me get this straight. For some reason, the Hollywood suits think we need to see Bruce Wayne’s parents get shot outside the theater a hundred times, that we need to see baby Superman crash land his baby spaceship in the Kents’ backyard a hundred times, and that we need to see Spiderman’s Uncle Ben get shot by the crook he let get away a hundred times.

Yet, for some strange reason, Moon Knight, perhaps one of the most obscure, known mainly to hard corps, straight up gangsta comic book nerds, needs no introduction. Here, we just jump into the action where Oscar Isaac plays Steven Grant, a wimpy museum gift shop clerk who, for some inexplicable reason, has been exhibiting strange, bizarre behavior. His body seems to have a literal mind of its own, for one minute he’s fine and the next, he finds himself in dangerous situations – gun fights, car chases, running away from monsters. A mysterious voice keeps telling him to hand his body over to some dude named Marc and somehow its all tied in to Egyptian lore with Ethan Hawke serving as a villain who, guided by an ancient goddess, doles out death as punishment for alleged crimes people have yet to even commit.

Wow. That was a mouthful.

I have a hunch that this season is going to be an origin story in and of itself. We see a brief sequence with the titular Moon Knight at the end of this episode but apparently, the writers decided to start with the action already underway and I assume they will Tarantino their way back to the beginning where we learn why Steven keeps losing control of his body, who is Marc, and who is the voice speaking to him.

It’s just…I don’t get it. Even in the most recent caped crusader flick, “The Batman,” Bruce Waynes’ parents deaths was heavily alluded to. While never shown, their demise was a central plot point so it’s just like, it seems that there must be always a Hollywood suit somewhere who is very concerned there might be one schmuck in the movie theater who was frozen in a block of ice 100 years ago, then thawed out by scientists, and then he left the lab and went straight to the theater and there’s a great concern that this thawed former ice man will have no idea how Batman’s parents died so we better mention it.

But Moon Knight? The character that only the prom dateless knew about up until Disney Plus put the show into production? A tale that seems very complicated with Egyptian gods and magic and body sharing and so on…yeah, we’ll just jump right in and let the viewers figure it out. No need to start at the beginning and move in a straight line at all.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. Oscar Isaac becomes an entirely different person, although this takes place in England and not to goof on our friends across the pond but sometimes with the accents I feel like I need an English to English translator. Worth a watch and I’ll tune in for episode two.

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Movie Review – The Bubble (2022)

Aw sweet! Cliff Beasts 6 is out already, 3.5 readers!

Come with me for a review of…The Bubble, not Cliff Beasts.

My first reaction is this is typical Netflix fanfare combined with typical Judd Apatow fanfare. Large ensemble cast. Basic structure but largely improvised dialogue. Too long. Could have benefitted from some editing. Not very coherent but it ended eventually. I assume Netflix likes such movies because they can spend heavy on the cast and not so much on anything else.

But that’s where I was wrong. This is a very special effects intensive film, largely because they are making fun of Hollywood, the film production process, pretentious actors and of course, action flicks. The ensemble, featuring the likes of Karen Gillian, Keegan Michael-Key, Fred Armisen, Leslie Mann, David Duchovny, that girl who played Borat’s daughter, Pedro Pascal and plenty of others who I’m probably too old to know their names star as the cast of the Cliff Beast franchise, a series of lousy action films in which a team of heroes assemble again and again to defeat evil dinosaur like creatures who dwell on cliffs.

This fact alone leads to the biggest laughs of the film as we get a comparison between how CGI scenes look very cool once rendered vs. what buffoons everyone involved looks like when they are shooting such scenes.

The overall premise is that at the height of the pandemic in 2020, back in the early days of the rona when everyone was so worried that they were wiping down their potato chip bags, a major studio dares to be one of two companies still willing to produce a major film. Accordingly, the cast is cloistered in a posh hotel in the British countryside and are forced to live together, not go anywhere or do anything fun for fear of coming down with the dreaded rona. Hotel staff have to pamper these rich entitled bums who are used to getting their way and are willing to throw outrageous temper tantrums over trivial things whereas the rest of us working stiffs have grown used to not getting our way.

Hijinx ensue that’s pretty much where the coherence ends. Each character has their own subplot and it all culminates in the ensemble yearning for a way off the set, for the film itself becomes a nightmare. Mistakes and errors cause the production to drag on for months and months and there’s no exit from the hotel in sight. The actors try almost every option to get out of the film except, you know, being good actors.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. Not really a great film and not something I’d want to watch twice. It does have a lot of laughs and parodies Hollywood extensively. The behind the scenes looks at actors working on a green screen set are a laugh riot. I suppose we’ve come a long way in two years, from the time when people wearing scuba type helmets on dry land seemed like a great idea to now, when a film can laugh at such silliness.

SIDENOTE: I’m not entirely sure a dry land scuba helmet is a terrible idea. I’d wear one if it were socially acceptable.

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Movie Review – Nightmare Alley (2021)

Never be a geek, 3.5 readers. Believe me, the last thing you want to be, at least in this film’s definition of the word, is a geek.

BQB here with a review of Guillermo Del Toro’s Oscar buzzed noir flick.

It’s the early 1940s and drifter Stanton Carlisle (Bradley Cooper in a fedora, see?) has just snatched up a paying gig, he’s a carnie and accordingly, all the freaks and geeks of a traveling show will educate him on the ways of flim flam, fakery, deception and of course, the con.

His professors in this master class include Zeena and Pete (Toni Collette and David Strathairn) – a couple who perform as a fortune teller and her assistant bilking the crowd of boku buckeroos with claims of communication with the great beyond. Meanwhile, “geek keeper”) Clem Hoatley (Willem Dafoe) educates the lad (Cooper is referred to throughout this movie as young buck but isn’t he pushing fifty? Oh well, if you’re handsome enough…) on how no one gets ahead without getting their hands dirty. (Sidenote: in this movie, “geek” does not mean “person who collects many Star Wars action figures” as it does in modern times and I’ll leave it at that.)

Rooney Mara rounds out the cast as Molly, she who claims an astounding ability to absorb electricity and Ron Perlman stars as strong man Bruno, Molly’s father-appointed protector who promised to beat up anyone who hurts Molly, thus putting Stan the Man in line for a knuckle sandwich with extra beatdown sauce if he misbehaves.

Long story short, the film is actually two films. The first half, Stan learns the art of the con and the second half, flash forward years later to a time when Stan has perfected the con, performing a mysterious mentalist act with the help of assistant Molly to large, sold out halls in the big city.

Enter Dr. Lillith Ritter (Cate Blanchett). Molly describes her as a stone-faced bitch and frankly, that’s the best description of Blanchett’s typical role I’ve ever heard. In addition to being a stone-faced bitch, Ritter is also a psychiatrist, who views her profession as a legalized con and recruits Stan to use his BS skills to bilk uber wealthy but hella gullible rubes out of their bucks in exchange for Stan tricking them into believing he can communicate with their deceased loved ones.

Then again, the uber rich aren’t people you want to piss off…and I’ll leave it there, another than to mention turns by Richard Jenkins, Holt McCallany and Mary Steenbergen.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. I saw this offered on HBO Max and for a long time I assumed it was some sort of new series that I didn’t feel like investing time in. The movie was long and at times I actually wondered if it would have worked better as a series with Stan conning a new mark every week. I’m not sure it’s Oscar worthy and may not have been in the running had it not been for Del Toro’s direction.

DOUBLE SIDNOTE: In the first half of the film, it is always raining. In the second half, it is always snowing. At any rate, bad weather abounds.

TRIPLE SIDNOTE: Based on an old novel turned into a 1940s film that makes me want to go check out the old film. I doubt I will though because I am incredibly lazy.

SPOILER ALERT:

LOOK AWAY UNLESS YOU’VE SEEN IT!

There’s two endings. I can’t get too deep into them other than to say the first ending required me to suspend disbelief as it seemed unlikely someone so adept at conning would do what they did.

As for the second ending, that was great and fitting and it added some symmetry, bringing it back to the beginning of the film which I felt laid out something terrible and made me wonder if they had just forgotten this part only to go back to it at the end.

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Movie Review – Death on the Nile (2022)

And the murderer is…

You’ll have to watch for yourselves, 3.5 readers.

BQB here with a review of a surprisingly good movie for Hulu.

You might remember in 2017 Kenneth Branagh breathed new life in the seminal work of the great mistress of the whodunnit, she who gave birth to the modern mystery novel and perhaps the modern mystery film by association – the great Agatha Christie. Five years (how have they gone by so quickly) later, Branagh is back as Christie’s signature protagonist, the brilliant (both in mind and mustache) Detective Hercule Poirot.

This film has more stars than your favorite constellation, so part of me is surprised it has flown under the radar. It came out on February yet I just realized it was on my second favorite streaming service which to me is like saying my second favorite bag of doggy doody (but I’ll get into my love/hate relationship with streaming services another time.)

The other part of me isn’t surprised the fanfare for this flick has been lackluster. It’s a historical piece, and a thinker at that. Like most whodunnits, it follows Christie’s tried and true formula of putting several flamboyant personalities into one location, giving them all a motive and then, egads! Murder most foul! Lock the doors and bring in Detective Poirot! You’ll have to follow the clues, take notes and keep track of the evidence…or just be lazy like me and munch popcorn while Poirot does all the work and take his word for it.

Here, the dessert loving stache man has been invited on a pleasure cruise of the Nile, at the behest of newlyweds played by Gal Gadot and Armie Hammer. (Sidenote, there’s a scene where Gal grinds her tucas on Armie’s junk on the pyramids so hey, that’s fun. Oh, sorry for the spoiler…then again maybe you’ll watch for the grindage.)

Long story short, these two are absurdly good looking, absurdly successful and absurdly rich, such that they draw the envy of many a cruise guest and drive one of them commit a most heinous crime.

Letitia Wright of Black Panther’s sister fame, that wild snow girl who dated John Snow in Game of Thrones whose name I can’t remember, Annette Bening, Russell Brand and more whose names I don’t feel looking up. This flick really was a get for the Hoo to the Loo.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. Come for the mystery. Stay for the suspense. Feel free to pause it on Gal grinding her hiney. Curse your family’s bad genes that prevented you from being a handsome actor like Arnie who gets paid to have his junk grinded on by Gal Gadot. Oh and eat more cookies. That always helps.

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This Fine Blog Has Been Sold

Dear 3.5 Readers,

It is my sad duty to inform you that I have sold this fine blog for seven million dollars to a Papua New Guinean guava juice manufacturing consortium. Actually, this is good news for me, but bad news for you as you will no longer be entertained by this fine blog…unless you found reading this fine blog to be a terrible, burdensome chore, in which case it is good news for you.

From now on, there will only be info about guava juice manufacturing on this exceptional blog. How the guavas are picked. How they are peeled and squeezed. How they are juiced. How delicious the juice is. Mmm. Yummy delicious guava juice.

Should you cry for me, Argentina, now that I will no longer be the proprietor of this fine blog? Yes, for a respectable mourning period. After that, be happy for me, knowing that I am now the proprietor of seven million Papau New Guinean kinas, which I am told is quite close to having seven million U.S. dollars if you apply the exchange rate, carry the one, divide by the denominator and…aw crap. Oh well, at least they sent me a free carafe of guava juice. Mmm boy! That’s good guava juice.

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