Author Archives: bookshelfbattle

Movie Review – Jerry and Marge Go Large (2022)

Well, it’s official. I’m a Paramount Plus subscriber now.

How did that happen? This freaking movie.

Let’s discuss, 3.5 readers.

I love Bryan Cranston and have been binging Breaking Bad as of late. Somehow, the internet oompa loompas who feed tailored ads to my computer must know this because they have been peppering me with ads for this film. Frankly, the best description of it is if the Hallmark Channel made a sweet, charming version of Breaking Bad that old ladies can enjoy, but still has enough humor for everyone else too.

Based on a true story, retired cereal factory worker Jerry Selbee has had a lifelong gift for number crunching that no one has ever appreciated. Adjusting to retired life, he feels useless and unproductive until he finds a flaw in a lotto game. After performing some calculations (and trust me, the film tries to explain it but you might be mentally better off if you just nod and politely agree that the math works and means the things that the characters say it means) Jerry figures out a way to game the system.

Alas, when his home state of Michigan discontinues his favorite lotto game, he and wife Marge (Anette Bening) spice up their stale marriage by making monthly trips to the Bay State, purchasing tens of thousands of lotto tickets at a time, to the point where they become BFFs with rural MA convenience store owner Bill (Rainn Wilson.)

Ahh, but the Selbees are altruists at heart. Noticing that their little town of Evart is down in the dumps of an economic downturn, they convince their friends and neighbors to pool their resources, creating a corporation that does nothing but buy lotto tickets, pays taxes on the winnings and distributes profits amongst the shareholding townsfolk. In the process, the newly rich Evartians are able to invest boku buckaroos in their fair burg, opening up shops and fixing up locations that had been rotting away unused.

Steve (Larry Wilmore) serves as the Selbees’ co-conspirating accountant, the joke being that no one else in town prior to the lotto wins had much money so he had to take on a second job because no one in town had any money to account for.

Naturally, any decent film needs a point of contention right? That’s where a group of smarmy Harvard students come in. These whiz kids have also figured out how to game the lotto. The Michigan townsfolk and Cambridge brainiacs butt heads, for if one side drops out, then that increases the winnings for the other and all’s fair in love, war, and playing the lotto, right?

STATUS: Shelf-worthy, though this is the oldest I’ve seen Bryan Cranston. He plays a grandfather here, an old who is having a hard time adjusting to the so-called golden years. I’m not knocking old age it’s just it seems like yesterday Bryan was cooking meth with Jesse as Walt and now he’s playing grandpas who have to wrestle snacks away from their grandkids to prevent them from finding out said snacks are a secret cash stash.

Hey, it convinced me to sign up for Paramount Plus and I felt it was worth it after seeing it, so if that isn’t a ringing endorsement, I don’t know what is. Chalk up another role for Cranston as a older person looking back on life, feeling like they missed out by not taking this or that shot, and finding some unique way to make big bucks before time runs out. At least Jerry did something legal here. Walt? Not so much.

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Movie Review – Jurassic World: Dominion (2022)

Roar!

People spend so much time thinking about how to do it they never stopped to think about if they should do it, that is to say, to make this movie, 3.5 readers.

BQB here with a review of the latest installment to the ongoing prehistoric monsters meet modern times saga.

At the outset, let me say this: I didn’t think it was as bad as the critics are saying, but I do think the concept of modern day dinos is played out and it’s going to be a long time, if ever, when writers think of a new setting to put our giant scaly predecessors in to make them interesting. The previous film stunk the big one, making me think that was all she wrote to this franchise, but by God, they managed to make one last flick that is passable.

The plot? Owen and Claire (Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard) are hiding out from the law and dinos with their clone kid who set the dinos free in an act of defiance against the villains of the last picture and don’t ask me to explain it any better than that because if I try, my eyes will glaze over.

Somehow, they go down the rabbit hole of uncovering a plot to control the world’s food supply courtesy of Dodgson (I always thought he was Dobson) the dude that Wayne Knight aka Newman aka Dennis Nedry sold the shaving cream can full of dino dna samples to in the last one. It was never mentioned in any of the other movies, but apparently this evildoer spent the last 30 some odd years starting and running his own evil biological company, though to the outsider, he comes across as a typical Tim Cook-esque Silicon Valley mogul.

Yes, these bad dudes have managed to use dino DNA tech to create prehistoric bugs designed to devour all the world’s crops except the bad guys’ crops and ergo, yadda yadda yadda, the villain will control all the food and you’ll have to sell your right testicle to get a damn candy bar.

One source of criticism might be that, you know, if there’s a villainous plot afoot, it should involve killer dinos instead of killer bugs, but the dinos are still present. Another source of criticism is that the last film ended with a teaser of a new world where dinosaurs have run amuck. I thought we’d see more of that and we do, just not in the ways we thought. Here, dinos do cross paths with and endanger humans but in most cases, it’s kind of like when a bear gets lost and wanders around a suburban neighborhood, “Damn it! That brontosaurus is getting too close to the city! Better call the cops!”

To be sure, there are evil dino breeders, underground dino black market clubs, and the evil corporation’s dino sanctuary to give you the visual dino feast you crave, but yeah, I thought based on the last film, this one would be all about a world destroyed by T-Rexes wreaking havoc on major metropolitan areas, chomping up everything in sight.

Then again, I mean, dinos being released into the world would be dangerous, but in reality I suppose we have the army, police, national guard and enough gun toting rednecks to take these beasts out and the remaining stragglers would be an annoyance and/or relegated to the black market. So I guess kudos to this flick for embracing that reality but then again this film is the last place I go to for reality. I wanted to see T-Rexes stomping all over downtown, damn it!

Bonus points for bringing the original cast back together. Laura Dern, Sam Neil and Jeff Goldblum all reprise their roles as Doctors Ellie Satler, Grant and Malcolm and much to the film’s credit, these aren’t brief cameos. While many franchises trot out their older stars for a quick walk-on, this trio is very integral to the plot. They get a lot of lines/scenes and have screentime for well over half the movie so if you’re nostalgic for the first film, look no further.

DeWanda Wise and Mamoudou Athie round out the cast as a pilot whose plane gets turned into pyterodactyl lunch and a whistleblower who fights the evil corporation, respectively.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. It seems this will be it for Jurassic films for a while and that’s probably for the best. I applaud the film for its overall message of “while scientific breakthroughs are awesome, let’s be careful while we’re playing God” but seriously, how many times can some idiot mess with dino dna before the government steps in and bans everyone from starting dino dna labs?

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Movie Review – Dr. Strange and the Multiverse of Madness (2022)

Hey 3.5 readers. Do you know that somewhere out there, there’s a world where this blog has 3.5 million readers?

Anything is possible in the multiverse.

BQB here with a review of the MCU’s latest.

At the end of Avengers: Endgame, I thought Marvel had written themselves into a corner. Iron-Man is dead. Captain America old, etc, etc. But now that the MCU has fully head-on embraced multiverse theory as reality, anything is possible.

In short, Iron-Man can come back as Iron-Woman, Iron-Dog, Iron-Clown, Iron-Mime, Iron-Anyone or Anything or more likely, just another actor playing the Iron Dude. All theory on my part but I suspect this is where Marvel is going, so as the longtime actors of this franchise commit the cardinal Hollywood sin of growing old or gasp, demanding more money, Marvel can just yank a different version of the same hero from another dimension.

Also removes the necessity for reboots. We always hate reboots where our beloved story stops and restarts anew, right? The story can just continue forever and ever now.

Admittedly, that didn’t happen in this movie but I think that’s where the franchise is headed. And multiverse theory, in this movie, allowed for an awesome character to join in despite his movies never working (John Krakinski as Mr. Fantastic) or to bring a character owned by one studio to a movie made by another studio (Sir Patrick Steward stops by as Professor X despite dying in Logan because um, he’s probably Professor X from another universe.)

The plot? It is terribly confusing and convoluted, but as far as I can tell, multiverse traveler America Chavez (Xochitil Gomez) is protected by an alternate Dr. Strange when he is ganked by incoming monsters who want America for her mysterious multiverse traversing powers. In our world, she seeks out assistance from our Dr. Strange, who in turn asks for fellow magic wielder Wanda Maximoff for assistance. Alas, she double crosses our favorite sorcerer because she wants America’s power so she can travel to a world where her kids from Wandavision are alive so she can be their mom again. That’s the long and short of it and there’s a lot of special effects and magic fights and so on.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. It wasn’t the best MCU movie and sadly, it’s the first MCU film that I waited until it was on streaming to see. A bit confusing. Also plotholes like how did America get her power? But fun and a sign of where the MCU is going. It does feel like we are in Marvel’s scraping the bottom of the barrel phase but if they handle this multiverse stuff well it’s possible that 100 years from now, this story could still be going on, just younger versions of our heroes being yanked from another dimension whenever our favorite actors age out. Don’t let your boss watch this movie lest he or she find a younger alternate version of you to replace you at work for less money.

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Breaking Bad Binge

Let’s party like it’s 2013, 3.5 readers.

I recently went down the rabbit hole of a Breaking Bad binge. I haven’t watched it in years, so much of it was fresh. It’s also funny how when I first watched it when I was younger, I identified more with Jesse and all the angst that comes with growing up and realizing you’re on your own because the adults don’t know as much as you thought they did. Now I’m old and I identify more with Walt, i.e. the older you get, the less shits you have to give because the bitterness grows as you realize with age comes wisdom but also with more doors slamming in your face.

Of course, the whole moral of the story was just when you think it can’t get any worse so you might as well give up on all semblance of morality and engage in any evil deed you desire, you will discover that there always is something else to lose. Walt comes to the meth business with a suburban Karen-esque mentality i.e. “I need to speak with the meth biz’s manager because the meth gangs aren’t playing fair.” As he learns, dealing meth isn’t like being a teacher. You can’t complain to the union when things go wrong. Various baddies threaten Walt, his kids, his loved ones. Crime doesn’t pay and there’s always something more to lose.

At any rate, this is one of those shows that benefitted from the early days of streaming. It’s premise, a man with a cancer death sentence decides to embrace a life of crime because screw it, if he gets arrested he’ll be dead soon anyway, sounded kind of sad. And truly, it is. Writer and producer Vince Gilligan doesn’t let his characters off the hook with happy endings. He explains how they got into this terrible life and adheres to a rule of those who do bad things get bad consequences.

I could talk about this show from a writing standpoint forever, but instead, let’s watch Walt Jr. rap about breakfast:

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Movie Review – Top Gun: Maverick (2022)

Ba na na na na na na na na ba na na na na na na na na na….highway to the danger zone! Highway to the danger zone!

Welcome to the danger zone, 3.5 readers. BQB here with a review of this long-awaited sequel to everyone’s favorite fighter jet movie.

Ah, where does the time go? I remember being a little kid just yesterday, my parents taking me to see the original Top Gun. They bought me GI Joes afterwards. Then I blinked and suddenly I am a decrepit old bastard running a blog that is only read by 3.5 readers. I forgot to do a lot of stuff I wanted to do between the original and the sequel but oh well. This isn’t about me, right?

As we return to the world of Top Gun, we find Maverick as a test pilot, pushing the envelope, still taking unnecessary risks that infuriate his superiors. As they note, anyone with his long record of service should be an admiral or a statesman by now, but Maverick being the mavericky maverick that he is, just can’t follow the rules.

However, the brass admit that Maverick is the most awesome and badass fighter pilot at the Navy’s disposal, so they dispatch him back to Top Gun school to train a new generation of volleyball playing fighter pilots to take out an unsanctioned uranium enriching facility operated by an unspecified rogue nation. As a viewer, you are required to ignore a) the wimpiness of the film for not specifying which nation this is, for the enemy fighter jets have no specific markings and their helmet visors are kept shut at all times so you can’t guess their ethnicity and b) let’s be honest. If a rogue country is operating a uranium enrichment facility in this day and age, it’s probably because America paid for it in the wimpy hope that by buying them off they’d promise to only use the uranium for energy purposes. If anything, the mission in real life would be for Maverick to drop pallets of cash into the rogue nation’s airspace with his trusty F-15 Tomcat.

Alright, I digress. Besides, I give the film credit for at least admitting that blowing up an illegal nuke operation in the hands of evildoers is a good idea and something to promote through film in this age of wokesterism.

Moving on, Maverick’s new recruits include Phoenix, a lady pilot because you gotta have one. Bob, a nerd because they allow nerds to fly planes now. Back in the 1980s, nerds were only allowed to play with calculators and polish their pocket protectors in movies so they have progressed since Mav’s heyday. There’s the token jerk Hangman and a few others with cool call signs. I forget their kickass fighter pilot names. Lenny and Squiggy and Dopey and Sleepy and Sneezy and Doc, I think. Long story short, Rooster (Miles Teller made up to look like a young Anthony Edwards) is following in the footsteps of his late father as a fighter pilot. This leads to tension between the two as Rooster still blames Mav for the death of his BFF Goose so many years ago. Meanwhile, Mav blames himself and the fear of being responsible for the deaths of two generations of the same family of fighter pilots is too much for him to bear, such that he is crushed by the possibility that he wouldn’t be able to go on if he allows something bad to happen to the R-man.

Truth be told, even the flick admits that fighter jets are somewhat obsolete as drones and guided missiles typically take care of a lot of the work they used to do. Even so, Top Gun school continues in real life just in case the world needs aerial dog fighters to save the day. You have to suspend a bit of disbelief and just enjoy the sights and sounds. The flying stunts and tricks are a lot of fun and must be watched on the big screen.

Oh, and Jennifer Connelly stops by as Mav’s love interest while Jon Hamm takes the role of the stereotypical superior whose main job is to tell Maverick he is an asshole who is going to get everyone killed but then never offer any constructive alternatives.

Touching cameo from Val Kilmer who played Maverick’s frenemy Ice-Man in the original. It’s sad what time can do to a man but the cameo is tasteful. Honestly, even the whole movie is respectful, straddling the line between going its own way and not just being a cash grab rehash of the original.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. In all seriousness, this film as well as the original captured a sentiment lost on the public, namely that the ability to create, build, maintain, fly and use fighter craft is nothing short of magic. All the resources, manpower, time, effort, money and yes, skill and talent in keeping this metal birds in the sky is a marvel of modern science that seems like it should be impossible yet somehow it is. It really is a testament to a nation’s greatness when they are able to operate fighter jets and movies that celebrate US awesomeness are few and far between as of late, so kudos for Hollywood for making it.

Double kudos for Tom Cruise who really proves he is one of the last true movie stars. Yeah, he had his weird little freak out when he jumped on Oprah’s couch years back but he really does make a good flick and even comes out as himself before the film to thank you for watching it (oops, spoiler) so that’s awesome.

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TV Review – Obi-Wan Kenobi- Parts 1 and 2 (2022)

May the force be with you, 3.5 readers.

BQB here with a review of the new Disney Plus series, Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Failure. It’s a stink that’s difficult, if not impossible to wash out and sometimes it can be so heavy that it burdens us down, crushing us underneath it’s smelly weight. What do you do when you tried, literally tried to do your best and yet somehow, due to unforeseen circumstances, your world came crashing down? Do you try to rebuild it or do you just learn to live with the disappointment?

Here, we see Obi-Wan Kenobi, one of a handful of Jedi and the last remaining Jedi Master, eeking out a meager existence on Tantooine, sticking to the shadows, living in a cave while keeping an eye on young Luke Skywalker from afar. Ten years have passed since the fall of the republic and he has given up all hope of defeating the empire. He keeps his force abilities hidden, refusing to practice them for fear that he will be revealed.

For being a Jedi is dangerous in this new age. “The Jedi hunts himself” is the motto of the inquisitors, force wielding agents of the empire assigned to hunt down the last remaining Jedi. They do so by putting the innocent in harm’s way, and alas, hidden Jedi feel naturally compelled to use their power to come to the aid of those in peril. In so doing, they expose themselves and are taken out by the inquistors.

But there’s no honor among thieves or inquisitors as they war among themselves to be the one who captures the prize that is Obi-Wan Kenobi, the last known legendary Jedi Knight in existence. A power struggle erupts between the Grand Inquisitor (an unrecognizable Rupert Friend of Homeland fame), Fifth Brother (an unrecognizable Sung Kang of Fast and Furious fame) and Third Sister (Moses Ingram who is recognizable as the only one who didn’t get caked on with prosthetics and makeup.)

Downtrodden and defeated, Obi-wan is asked by an old friend to come out of exile to take on a dangerous mission of great importance. Can he do it? Should he do it? He’s been out of training for a decade so the overall question is can he do it?

So far, the series is off to a great start. I’ve read some bad reviews but I really feel the show captures the overall feeling of dread that Obi-Wan must have felt at this dark time with some parallels for real life, i.e. how does one move on when life worked out so badly? No, none of us ever trusted a Jedi apprentice only to realize we were fools who gave them the training they needed to become Space Hitler, but surely we all have done something that we thought was a good idea, only to suffer financial loss, emotional loss, we ended up less than whole and realized we have no choice but to go on rather than waste time on trying to fix something that is irretrievably broken. Somehow, Obi-Wan must find a way to save the day as only he can but continue to live during a time when days saved are bleak at best.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. Step aside, Baby Yoda. It’s Baby Leia’s time to shine.

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Movie Review – Chip ‘N Dale: Rescue Rangers (2022)

Sometimes, some crimes, go slipping through the cracks but these two, gum shoes…are bringing the reboot back?

BQB here with a review of this uber meta movie.

If you’re a middle-aged person, chances are you loved a little slice of networking programming called “The Disney Afternoon” when you were a child. It all started with Ducktales and when young audiences of the late 1980s/early 1990s couldn’t get enough of Scrooge McDuck taking his duck nephews on globetrotting adventures, sure enough pretty much every other House of Mouse character got a reinvention for what was then considered the modern age.

You had TaleSpin, which featured the Jungle Book characters flying planes in search of derring-do and of course, Chip and Dale teamed up with an Australian adventurer mouse (Monterey Jack), a high-tech fixer of all things mouse (Gadget) and a mute fly (Zipper) to create their own detective agency.

Like everyone else now of a certain age where we’re too old to go back but too young to stop moving, I thought that simpler time of afternoon programming, where literally every other kid was watching the same thing so they could bond over it because there was nothing else to watch, were long over.

Thus, I found myself scratching my head in confusion when ads for this flick began circulating. Reboots of old shows/movies so often fail because that media was a product of a different time, so trying to breathe new life into a story that has its roots in the past can be an exercise of Weekend at Bernie’s-ian proportions. Eventually, Hollywood stops trying to drag the corpse of an old franchise around like the fly ridden meat puppet that it is and moves on to something else.

So, I have to admit, this movie surprised me…in that it’s pretty good.

Who is it for? That’s the million-dollar question, and frankly, a question I ask whenever an old show is rebooted. So often, Hollywood turns these reboots into a Frankenstein monster that the kids don’t want because the concept doesn’t appeal to the younger generation and the adults don’t want because it doesn’t embrace the essence of what made the show great a long time ago.

Ah, but leave it to the Lonely Island boys to find a humorous way to make something that appeals to everyone.

But first, I have to present the following points:

#1 – There is a world where humans and cartoons live together.

#2 – Cartoons are not animated. Cartoons are performed by cartoon actors, just as any other movie is performed by human actors.

Still with me? Hold on:

#3 – The Chip and Dale you know and love from Rescue Rangers were, in real life, actors who coincidentally have the voices of comedians John Mulaney (Chip) and Andy Samberg (Dale.) The voices from the old show? That was just Chip and Dale (actors) doing silly voices while playing fictional versions of themselves. Remember, they’re a duo of performing chipmunks who met in high school, went to Hollywood after graduation, and became famous performing a funny chipmunk act with characters of the same names, so famous that Disney greenlit their Rescue Rangers show and the rest is history.

Alright, now that you’ve traveled down that Matrix-like cartoon rabbit hole, you can start to wrap your head around this flick. Chip and Dale, the actor-munks, are now, like the kids who watched them back in the day, middle-aged-munks. It’s been years since they broke up and they are settling in with the grim reality that life probably will never be as exciting as they dreamed when they were young. (You know, just like the middle-aged adults who watched the munks when they were kids are doing right now.)

Blah, blah, blah, some stuff that I won’t give away happens and it is up to Chip and Dale to save the day, which will be new for them, because remember, they never actually saved the day in the past. They were just acting. But now they can’t just act. They must do, for they must get to the bottom of a mystery most foul and reunite with their old RR buddies (also toon actors) in the process.

Sounds ridiculous? Yes. Yes, it does, but, I’ll give it props because a) the middle-aged adults who loved RR as kids will get a kick out of it and b) their kids will enjoy it too because remember, at the end of the day, these toons are for the kids. Or are they? Toons for adults have been around so long it’s hard to know anymore but at any rate, with a PG rating, this is one the whole family can enjoy.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. My one criticism is if you ask who were the actors who played Chip and Dale before Rescue Rangers, you know, the chipmunks from the old 1950s cartoons where they just ran around and squeaked and stole apples and stuff from Donald Duck while they made his life a living hell, the whole premise falls apart, though I suppose they could explain that in the sequel, or the reboot. Don’t forget, a Rescue Rangers reboot is theoretically possible outside of this movie because the “real life” versions of Chip and Dale from this movie are just actors, after all.

I know it sounds like you need a flow chart and a slide rule to follow this movie, but don’t worry about it. Just turn it on, enjoy, and wonder how the heck you got so old. Curse you, time!

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Movie Review – The Lost City (2022)

Romance! Treasure! Adventure!

BQB here with a review of The Lost City.

Let me say off the bat this movie is OK. It is an acceptable way to pass your downtime. I am disappointed in that everyone kept telling me this flick is awesome and I’m missing out if I didn’t check it out, but honestly, I found it more or less “meh.”

Loretta Sage and her late husband once traveled the world as archaeology scholars, unlocking the secrets of past civilizations. Alas, after her husband’s untimely demise, she cloistered herself and earned her living writing cheesy romance novels about an adventurous lady archaeologist and her hunky sidekick who go on treasure hunting exploits, a far cry from the academic treatises she wanted to publish, a dream denied due to lack of sales.

Years later, the novels are a smash success, too popular in fact. When billionaire Fairfax (Daniel Radcliffe) kidnaps Loretta in the hopes that she’ll be able to translate the key to a long-lost treasure, it’s up to her handsome yet incompetent, Fabio-esque cover model Alan (the hunky sidekick inspiration from the novels) to come to Loretta’s rescue.

A fine setup but the execution leaves something to be desired. Treasure hunting movies have been DOA for a long time. One might argue it’s because we’ve grown as a society and come to realize that all Western treasure hunters ever really did was just um, you know, locate and steal treasures belonging to other countries, cultures, civilizations etc. That’s part of it, though honestly, no one ever did the treasure hunting genre as well as Indiana Jones. The Romancing the Stone movies might be a distant second but ultimately, Indy was never topped. Tomb Raider and Uncharted? Yes, in video game form. No in movie form.

At any rate, you don’t really see a lot of stuff you’d expect in a treasure hunting film. There aren’t any puzzles, riddles or clues. There’s not even sufficient danger. To the heroes? Yes. To the world? I mean basically, if the evil billionaire gets the treasure, he’ll be more rich and if he doesn’t then he’ll be less rich. A far cry from the Indy stakes where an artifact falling into the wrong hands equals Nazi rule of the globe forever and ever and ever.

Even so, Loretta is in peril and Alan (Channing Tatum) is an unlikely hero. He screws up the rescue early and often to great comedic effect and there’s probably a fresh angle in that in real life, people who do things for the first time often screw them up royally. We never learn or grow without those screwups.

A different dynamic than we are used to seeing. Alan often bungles his way into becoming the “damsel in distress” that Loretta has to save and there is a 20 something year age disparity between Tatum and Bullock, though movies often feature an older, sophisticated man with a hot younger babe. Here it’s the other way around with smart Loretta and her man-bimbo Allan.

There are a lot of side characters we learn little about. They might have been interesting if allowed more time to shine. A side plot sees Da’Vine Joy Randolph as Beth as Loretta’s publisher who travels the world in search of her abducted writer. It feels like there was a budding romance between her and goofy pilot Oscar (Oscar of The Office fame) that was cut short, possibly for time. A quick line at the end will make you raise an eyebrow.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. I wouldn’t rent it but wait for when it streams. It’s billed as a treasure hunting movie but it’s more of a chase movie through an exotic jungle location where the heroes have to out run the pursuing villains. A lot of CGI and the whole lady author falling in love with the real life Fabio from her covers might have been funnier in the 1990s when Fabio was at his peak, musclebound wind in the hair glory. Bonus points for some insights into the publishing industry, what sells, what doesn’t, the lengths that authors have to go through to sell some books.

Double Bonus Points for a surprise cameo that is fun though it made me wonder if the movie wouldn’t have benefitted from the cameo lasting longer.

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Movie Review – House of Gucci (2021)

Boof, 3.5 readers. Very boof indeed.

BQB here with a review of the very underrated House of Gucci. (BEWARE SPOILERS)

Always know the difference between chocolate and shit, 3.5 readers. They both look alike but when you bite into the wrong one and get that terrible taste in your mouth, it’s too late. Disgusting yet wise words and I would say this movie is very much a tasty chocolate treat.

Money is the root of all evil, and when it comes in the form of a family business, it can turn people who are supposed to love each other into bitter rivals. Such is the case when Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga) charms her way into the House of Gucci as a loving wife to son Maurizio (Adam Driver) only to become a cancer that spreads destruction and catastrophe to everyone and everything she touches.

The first third of the film is a sweet love story. Maurizio, a shy law student, meets Patrizia at a party. Her love brings him out of a self-induced shell and allows him to experience the world. Alas, father Rodolfo (Jeremy Irons) fears Patrizia, a commoner, is just after the family fortune and will leave his son penniless and broken. Estrangement between Maurizio and the Gucci clan ensues until Patrizia eventually charms the pants off everyone, wrapping them around her little finger.

If this were a 1990s rom com, the story would end there with M and P living happily ever after, having proven their love is strong enough to set aside resentments and the Guccis ride off into the sunset as one great big happy family. Ah, but this is a film based on real life, so naturally, in the second act, Patrizia proves that the fam’s fears were very much valid indeed. One by one, she takes the various and sundry Guccis out, separating them from their fortunes through power plays, trickery, deception, blackmail and so on, all in the name of putting her husband at the top of the game.

In the third act, P, having tromped over the heads of all the other Guccis, realizes her husband is the last obstacle in her way to having it all and well, since this is based on a true story you can just google to find out what happens or just watch the movie.

This movie got a lot of lampooning, especially because of the bad Italian accents. Problem is I’m not sure what the actors/actresses could have done differently. I’ve noticed a trend in some movies based overseas for actors to speak in their regular English speaking accents, or in movies like Valkyrie, British actors are utilized to at least provide an air of foreign speaking to the American ear. I don’t think any of that would have worked in a movie set against beautiful high society Italian backdrops.

At first, I found myself offended by Jerod Leto’s portrayal of Paolo Gucci, the so-called most useless of the Guccis, a portly, bald, naive, almost child-like man baby easily duped by Patrizia into bringing about the demise of himself and everyone he loves. My initial thought is putting Leto in a fat suit and heavy facial prosthetics comes across as “fat face” and “bald face” and honestly, aren’t there chubby, bald actors who ignored all the people who told them they’d never make it in Hollywood because they are chubby and bald whose ship would have come in with this role? Why just ugly up a handsome guy? It just comes across as a mean-spirited, lampooning of chubby bald men.

But as the movie progressed, I did warm up to Leto’s portrayal. At first, he’s a fool but as we learn more info, we see how his overbearing, money holding over his head family set him up over the years so that he could have never grown up to become anything other than a fool. Don’t be fooled into thinking that money buys happiness. It just buys you into a new set of high-class problems.

Al Pacino stars in the best role he’s had in a long time, that as Aldo, the seemingly tough family patriarch who turned the Gucci brand into an international empire only to be rooked by his conniving niece-in-law.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. Unfairly snubbed by the Oscars. An interesting study into how money can rip a family apart, how family businesses often don’t last when passed down from one generation to the next because a successful business needs one decision maker at the top ruling with an iron fist, not rule by committee formed of people who bitterly resent one another. Even so, sometimes these powder keg type situations can be safely stored away for many years until an outsider like Patrizia comes in and lights a match.

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Movie Review – Uncharted (2022)

Grab your treasure map, 3.5 readers. It’s time to chart a course to…mediocrity.

BQB here with a review of the treasure hunting tour de force (farce?) that is Uncharted.

Movies based on video games are often hit or miss and frankly, more miss than hit. I can’t really recall a game based movie that was a hit. A better movie historian than I might know of one and I feel like there must have been one but ultimately, what works as a collection of cut scenes between parts of a game where players make stuff blow up rarely translates to the big screen.

This is ironic as most gamers, myself included, have always agreed that Uncharted is one of the most cinematic films ever made. For the uninitiated, the games follow snarky treasure hunter Nathan Drake, a descendant of famed explorer and Queen Elizabeth love interest Sir Francis Drake. With the help of surly old pilot Sully, he travels the world in search of history’s greatest piles of long lost loot, often getting shot at by villains who want it more than he does. As a gamer, you get to shoot back, jump across ravines and hope you don’t fall in, climb up wreckage before it falls off a cliff and so on.

Sadly, the film version loses a lot in translation. Mark Wahlberg’s Sully isn’t grumpy or surly but is greedy, a scumbag who cares about gold more than people. He has a heart in there somewhere but whether he will let his lust for wealth get the better of him is his challenge. Villain Antonio Banderas…sigh…all I can say is he is getting up there in years, but I suppose it happens to the best of us. He is an average villain as villains go.

There’s a hot babe who likes to stab people and another hot babe who joins Sully and Nate. I can’t remember their names. I don’t think they added much to the movie other than they were hot and the one stabby hot one stabbed people in creative ways.

Tom Holland is given a chance to shine outside of his best known Spiderman role. I think the question we viewers had was can he play someone other than Spidey. Turns out he can. You’re able to view him as someone other than Peter Parker though in the games, Drake’s character was more of a handsome ne’er-do-well while Holland still has that aw shucks nerd appeal though he tries to lose it here.

While it is a fun romp, it doesn’t quite live up to the games. Though it comes out big time, and I mean big time at the end, much of the film is devoid of stuff you’d want to see in a treasure hunting movie, like wandering through jungles and tombs and catacombs and so on. I’ll give the film credit and admit the end is a visually stunning thrill ride but the ride toward it is a bit of a snoozer.

Holland does great but I think was ultimately miscast in the role, as was Wahlberg. Again, if you’ve never played the games, imagine a young, full of himself Robert Downey Jr. being flown around the world by an angry wiseacre grandpa. It was a buddy duo that worked in the game but doesn’t work in a movie where both characters want to be the cool leading man guy.

Also, the film kind of just glosses over Drake being an ancestor of Sir Francis Drake. I don’t think they ever even explain who Sir Francis was, and the modern day Drake’s ancestry was a fun part of the games. Weird how every Batman movie needs to devote at least a half hour or more to the Waynes’ untimely demise outside a movie theater but no one thought to add a five minute scene about how the main character is a distant descendant of a world famous explorer.

STATUS: It’s ok. A bit of a bummer because if there was ever a game begging to be turned into a movie, it was Uncharted. I’ll admit that making a treasure hunter movie in today’s modern times is a hill so steep one wonders if climbing it is worth the effort. Today’s modern audiences are more aware than ever that treasure hunters are basically just thieves who travel the world stealing another culture’s precious wealth and relics and all those booby traps the hunters have to dodge are just the ancient equivalent of an alarm system. Don’t you lock your doors and turn on your alarm to protect your stuff? Well, ancient people did that too. (By the way the film also distinctly lacks any good booby trap scenes, a must have in a treasure hunter movie.)

Is it shelf-worthy? Barely. It could have been better. It looks like sequels are planned. Though I like Tom Holland, I think the movie rests heavily on Holland’s fame and charm and if Hollywood had put some thought into it, they could have made some great flicks here. Then again, maybe not. After all, no one roots for a treasure hunter anymore. Why do you think Hollywood hasn’t put out any recent Indy reboots when they’ve rebooted everything else?

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