Category Archives: Movies

Movie Review – The Postcard Killings (2020)

A serial killer run amuck! An American forced to work with Europeans!

BQB here with a review of “The Postcard Killings.”

I liked this one. In a year where there hasn’t been much in the way of new releases, this was a good mystery. Plus, as a fan of The Walking Dead, it was good to see Jeffrey Dean Morgan not just in a lead role, but in a role that’s a real person and not a cartoon character come to life.

Morgan plays Jacob Kanon, an American cop who arrives in London when his daughter in son-in-law are murdered during their honeymoon vacation. Unwilling to wait while the Brits discover whodunnit, he throws himself into the fray, quickly learning that similar murders have occurred all throughout Europe, brutal killings in which the victims are posed in positions similar to famous works of art.

Along the way he works with journalist Dessie Lombard (Cush Jumbo) and his ex-wife (Famke Janssen) to crack the case.

I suppose I can’t say much more without revealing the plot but overall, it’s a good mystery.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

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Movie Review – Vampires vs. The Bronx (2020)

Gentrification really sucks, 3.5 readers.

BQB here with a review of this Netflix horror/comedy.

This movie was a fun, silly surprise, reminding me of all those 1980s horror films of yesteryear where plucky kids would band together to fight monsters because their out of touch, unable to believe in the unbelievable parents won’t lift a finger. Though it takes place in modern times, it feels inspired by The Goonies, the Monster Squad or what have you.

Here, the vamps come in the form of a real estate company, buying up every house and store in the Bronx and replacing them with trendy, foofoo chic crap – i.e. condos, artisan butter stores and so on. To comic effect, one bodega owner tries to get in on the action, attempting to peddle kale and oat milk to the influx of wealthy yuppies.

Enter heroes Miguel, Luis and Bobby who discover that this real estate scheme is just a front for the vamps to hide their coffins under the neighborhood’s collective nose, so the bloodsuckers can feast on the locals. They might do something to stop it if Miguel’s mother will ever stop yelling at him out the window about how he needs to change his underwear while he’s trying to chat up some girls.

Humor and shenanigans ensue as the kids go on a quest to bring the vamps down, while inept adults occasionally help or hinder their progress.

And yes, I suppose the overall point of the movie is to compare white purchasing and “gentrification” of minority neighborhoods to vampirism but I’ll let you 3.5 readers get into the politics of it all.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy

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Movie Review – Hubie Halloween (2020)

Well, I suppose I had to watch it sooner or later.

BQB with a review of Adam Sandler’s latest Netflix movie, “Hubie Halloween.”

I wish I could remember who said this so I could give them credit, and I’m going to be paraphrasing here, but I remember one time a reviewer likened Adam Sandler to a drug dealer in that both provide products that the public consumes and yet both never stop to think if they should. Ouch.

However, as Sandler movies go, this isn’t his worst, and if you’re looking for a film that will put you in the Halloween spirit without being too scary, this will work.

Sandler returns to his Waterboyish demeanor as Hubie Dubois, the constantly dumped on and made fun of town doofus in Salem, MA, which you history buffs may recall was the home of the Salem Witch trials in the 1600s and thus has been the locale of many a Halloween based movie.

Hubie is a man child, having never really grown up. He works in a deli and in his free time, he holds himself out as a self-appointed town volunteer, involving himself in this or that cause on the auspices of being a good citizen but ultimately, you the viewer quickly realize that this guy is so awkward and lonely that he basically volunteers for a reason just to come into contact with people.

His favorite time of year is Halloween and as the town’s self-appointed “Halloween monitor” he spends his days in October snitching on kids who are purchasing absurd amounts of eggs and toilet paper, lecturing school kids on Halloween safety and dodging all the various objects that townsfolk throw at him while riding his biycyle.

Long story short, someone is kidnapping townsfolk on Halloween night and it is up to Hubie and his trusty Swiss Army thermos full of soup to solve the case. Along the way, he’ll have to dodge bullies like Ray Liotta, Time Meadows and Maya Rudolph, collaborate with police officer Kevin James, and win the love of his high school crush (Julie Bowen who I recognized but wasn’t sure from what until I looked it up and realize she played Sandler’s love interest in Happy Gilmore and has still got it!)

I’ll be honest, I’m not sure who this movie is for. Sandler still practices that old school style of unwoke comedy though you can sort of tell it was run through a filter where various suits probably told him “You can’t do this or that or this or that and here’s as far as we’ll let you go.”

As someone who was alive during Sandler’s early heyday, I appreciate his style, though Im not sure many today still do…or then again maybe they do as this movie is ranked in the Netflix’s top ten as of late (at least, last I checked).

It does have some swears and some adult jokes, yet overall it is silly and childish so I can’t see adults loving it – it is Halloween based so you’d think it would be for the kids yet due to the aforementioned swearing and adult jokes, I’m not sure you’d want your young kids to watch it either. I believe it is PG 13 which seems about right.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

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Movie Review – Bill and Ted Face the Music (2020)

Time for a review, 3.5 dudes.

I think it was Thomas Wolfe who said you can’t go home again and I think of that line whenever one of these movies come out to capitalize on the pop culture products of yesteryear.

Who is this movie for? I remember (sadly, almost like it was yesterday) being a little kid and thinking Bill and Ted were hilarious (still do). The plot of the original Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, if you recall, is that when they are about to flunk their history exam, the leaders of the future send Rufus (George Carlin) in a time traveling phone booth to pick the boys up and go on a tour of actual history, picking up actual historical figures to learn from (and to inadvertently trash a mall due to historical misunderstandings gone awry.)

I even remember the sequel, Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey, where they die and go on an epic quest through heaven and hell, cheating and befriending Death along the way. Heck, I saw this one in the theater. Just like it was yesterday.

Soo….I don’t know. Is this movie for today’s kids? Maybe. Rock and Roll is long dead though. Sad because the first two were heavily rock based, such that they popularized the air guitar. The valley dude bro speak that Bill and Ted engage in is pretty much a thing of the past too.  Well, maybe not in California but its seen way less in movies whereas it was all the rage in 1980s comedies.

It definitely isn’t for Keanu Reeves, though as I watched it, I decided he has a heart of gold. Bill and Ted launched his career and he has been skyrocketing ever since. Now in his middle age, he’s going stronger than strong, his John Wick movies a license to print money so he didn’t have to do this. I assume he only did it for love of Bill and Ted fans who gave him his start.  Alex Winter didn’t go on to achieve Keanu status but I doubt he needed to do this either, so the real life Bill and Ted must think us 1980s/90s era dudes, now pretty long in the tooth ourselves, must still be pretty excellent to give us this dose of nostalgia.

So maybe it is for us fans who are getting up there. Nostalgia can be fun. For me these movies remind me of a happier time. Whether the past was better is always debatable and often we think of the past as being better, not necessarily because it was better for everyone but because it was better for us. We were young. The world was new. Time was on our side and all of life’s seemingly endless doors of possibility had yet to be slammed in our faces.

It makes me wish I had a time traveling phone booth of my own to go back and talk to me after seeing the old Bill and Ted movies and warn myself of all the proverbial rakes that the universe had hidden in the grass for me – where to find them and how to avoid stepping on them.

If you want to see this one, you might want to see the others first. You’ll get the gist if you haven’t, though there are references to the others that brought up vague recollections for me.

The plot is that Bill and Ted have spent the past few decades trying to achieve the destiny they were promised in the earlier films, namely that they would one day write and perform a song so awesome that it unites the world in peace and harmony. In truth, that song is needed more than ever today, but alas, the dudes have not been able to make it happen. Their band, Wyld Stallions, have gone from early success all the way down to the 99 cent bin, leaving them to perform at community center taco nights, the stress of it all draining their marriages to the British princess babes they dragged out of the past.

Don’t get me wrong. The film has its moments. I found one scene where Bill and Ted and their wives/princess babes go to couples’ counseling to be pretty funny. Meanwhile, Bill and Ted’s daughters, basically carbon copy parodies of their younger selves, are a hoot and they do a lot of the film’s heavy lifting.

Long story short, reality is about to collapse and B and T have a new deadline to write that epic song. While middle aged Bill and Ted go on a quest to the future to shake down various old versions of themselves in search of the song, their daughters go back in time looking for the great musicians of the past, seeking their help in producing it.

All in all, I enjoyed it. I do think Bill and Ted are products of the late 80s, early 90s when Rock and Roll was still loved and appreciated. Bill and Ted are able to solve most problems with a trip through time, though in reality, if you’re like me, you’ve realized that once mistakes are made and certain paths are traveled down, they can’t be undone, as much as you might long for a magic phone booth to use to go back and warn your past self of future problems and how to fix them.

Bonus points for a brief, tasteful tribute to the late George Carlin.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

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Movie Review – Capone (2020)

Time for a review of a modern day take on the old timey gangster movie 3.5 readers, see?

(SPOILERS)

I don’t know what to make of this movie, other than, who the hell wanted this?

Al Capone, the man who basically invented American organized crime, has been featured in films and TV shows for decades, so much so that there probably wasn’t much of a chorus of voices calling for another Capone story.

But not having much else to do, I gave it a shot.  The premise is that it takes place during the last year of Capone’s life. He’s 48 and in bad shape.  Though late forties isn’t normally the time when the average man turns into a doddering codger (at least by modern standards), Al is in poor health.  He suffers from syphilis of the brain, which has lead to strokes, which has led to declining mental health.

By the start of the film, Al has been released from his ten year stint in prison for tax evasion. He has run off to his estate in Florida with his wife and family, and is constantly annoyed by the presence of workmen who are packing up his precious statues so they can be sold, the family apparently in need of the dough.

Overall, the movie is a vehicle for Tom Hardy to flex his acting chops.  Hardy is able, through facial contortions, make-up, prosthetics and voices.  He becomes almost like a living breathing cartoon version of a gangster brought to life here.

But other than that, there isn’t much to the movie and honestly, it was a chore to watch it. I checked my clock regularly, just praying for the damn thing to end.

Plot wise?  There isn’t a lot to it.  There are occasional mentions of Al having stashed $10 million away, and sometimes various characters try to break past Al’s scrambled mind to find out where he has hidden the loot.  An old henchman played by Matt Dillon wants to find it, on the auspices that he’d like to help Al seeing as how Al and his family are in need of money, yet said henchman doesn’t exactly come across as the type of person you’d want to trust with your loot.

There’s also a doctor who is being pushed by G-Men into trying to get the info out of Al, though what the Feds have on the doc is never explained.

That’s the movie in a nutshell.  Threads are pulled but never sewn back together in the end.  The side plot about hidden money might have been interesting if it was ever explained one way or another where it is, or if it isn’t anywhere, then why.

There’s also a side plot that Al has an estranged, secret son who wants to reconnect with his father, though why the son is estranged we never know.

The climax of the film features a demented Al stalking the grounds of his Florida estate in his bathrobe and diaper, using his tommy gun to pump rounds into the workmen who have so vexed him.  You wait for the G-men who have been watching him to swoop in and arrest him but, spoiler, even that is a red herring as we learn that was just one of Al’s fever dreams.

Ultimately, there’s a lot of coughing, choking, and shit.  So much shit.  Al shits the bed. He shits his pants.  He is forced to wear adult diapers and shits those too.  I mean, though Capone is often portrayed as a Robin Hoodish folk hero, he was a gangster who killed and stole and committed atrocities for personal profit, so yeah, who gives a shit if he is left to spend his last year sitting in his own poop but holy crap…did I need to see it?

I mean, seriously, was there a great public outcry for a movie about Capone pooping in his bed?  I think not.

It is hard to watch because, setting aside that the character is Capone, it is sad, in general, how health problems can destroy the body and mind.  It just isn’t something I want to see.

STATUS: Not shelf-worthy.  Hardy is skilled and talented, but I think there was a better vehicle for him.

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BQB’s Classic Movie Reviews – True Grit (1969)

Fill your hand, you 3.5 sons of bitches.

BQB here with a review of John Wayne’s best movie.

Ahh, corona. I’ve watched a lot of flicks during you that I otherwise would not have, and I have spent more time than usual with a particular old person, who has wanted to watch John Wayne non-stop after learning it is possible to do a John Wayne search on your TV now and have his whole catalog pop up.

As a film buff, my feelings on Wayne have always been mixed. I like him, and I know he was Hollywood’s first action movie star.  I watch old Arnold Schwarzenegger movies like this old person watches old John Wayne movies, and I know that without Wayne there would have been no Arnie.

That being said, to me, Wayne always came across as stiff and wooden. Maybe that was the point. He played stiff and wooden tough guys. Men who ate nails and shit iron bricks and didn’t flinch in the face of danger.

Still, maybe most of his flicks are lost on me because I’m not from that generation.

At any rate, I gave True Grit a chance and found it to be way above and beyond anything Wayne ever did and it is no surprise this film earned him his only Oscar, a surprise because he was the king of the Western genre, and for the first 50 years of Hollywood, the industry was carried by the Western.

So, what put Wayne over the top with this one?  Simple. He shows his soft underbelly here.

Wayne, I want to guess would be 60 something in this movie, is an old, curmudgeonly, one-eyed U.S. Marshall by the name of Rooster Cogburn. He lives in a Chinese shopkeeper’s spare room, the shopkeep and cat that he names General Sterling Price being his only friends.  He has no family and when he isn’t shooting at bad hombres, he crashes on a backroom bed, gets drunk and sleeps all day – a far cry from the typical white hat that Wayne usually played.

One fateful day, a teenage girl named Mattie (Kim Darby) tracks Rooster down, seeking his help in bringing villain Tom Chaney to justice. Chaney was taken in by her father as a field hand on his property only for Chaney to shoot him in a drunken stupor.

Mattie hires Cogburn to chase after the scoundrel, who has fled to “Indian Territory” or what came to be known as Oklahoma.  Texas Ranger La Boeuf (Pronounced in the film as La Beef, played by Glenn Campbell) joins forces with Cogburn, for he has also been hunting Chaney because he shot a Texas state senator prior to taking employment with Mattie’s father.

You’ve heard of an odd couple but this is an odd trio, as they are constantly at odds. Mattie is young and headstrong, long on smarts but low on experience. She backseat drives the law men, insisting on tagging along to make sure the job is done, but doesn’t know the first thing about hunting down ne’er-do-wells.  Meanwhile, LaBeouf and Cogburn trade constant jibes, a major point of animosity between them being that they served on opposite sides of the Civil War.

Young Robert Duvall plays the uber villain of the film, gang leader Lucky Ned Pepper who has taken Chaney under his protection, and a young Dennis Hopper also has a small role as a gang member.

I don’t claim to be a Wayne expert and there are people who could blow me out of the water with their Wayne knowledge, but there is a scene toward the end (SPOILER) that really humanizes both Cogburn and Wayne.

In that scene, Cogburn and Pepper are on horseback, on opposite sides of a field. Pepper has three goons with him while Cogburn is on his lonesome. Cogburn advises the hoodlums to give up, while Ned’s reply is something to the effect that he isn’t scared of a fat one-eyed marshal.  The look on Wayne’s face, that he isn’t taking that bullshit and then he says, “Fill your hand you son of a bitch!” i.e. here’s your warning to grab your gun because I’m charging.

Charge he does and I’ll leave it to you to watch it on your own for the results.

As other reviewers have noted, 1969 was a transition year for Hollywood.  Hell, Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was basically an ode or lamentation about that time.  The 1960’s saw political assassinations, riots, civil rights struggles and a seemingly endless quagmire in Vietnam and Americans, as a result, were feeling less than willing to accept hokey, put a smile on your face drek from Hollywood.

This film does have its hokeyness, for sure, but it does tip a toe into that “grittiness” (pun intended) in that Wayne plays an anti-hero, someone you probably wouldn’t want to trust or invite into your home yet you need to pat him on the back because the job called for an SOB and he won against Pepper using his SOB skills.

And he got a much deserved Oscar for it, for going out of his comfort zone. Cogburn isn’t one of the vast array of squeaky clean heroes that Wayne has played. He’s a chubby, booze swilling, falling down drunk who seems rather annoyed that anyone ask him to do his job unless extra reward money is offered above and beyond his salary.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.  The 2010 remake isn’t bad either, but as a film buff, it is cool to watch Wayne play against type and seemingly have fun do it.

SIDENOTE: Obviously, there is stuff that wouldn’t hold up today. There’s a part that creeps me out, where La Beouf tells Mattie that he had been thinking about stealing a kiss from Mattie even though she’s young and not pretty but now he wants to spank her.  A grown ass man telling an underage girl that a) he wants to kiss her but b) he wants to kiss her without her consent c) he is withholding the forced kiss as a punishment for her backsass as if his unwanted kiss would have been some kind of treat d) that she should be thrilled that anyone would kiss her because she isn’t pretty, like he’d be doing her a favor, e) that he wants to spank her i.e. perform corporal punishment on her….I mean, holy crap, that whole line is just gross. So gross.  I know it takes place in 1880 but holy shit, even then I think someone might have told La Beouf that he’s an effing pervert.

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BQB’s Classic Movie Reviews – The Dream Team (1989)

Hit the road, 3.5 readers.

This flick was on all the time when I was a kid and now, as an adult, it mostly holds up.

When a psychiatrist decides to spring four of his group therapy patients from an asylum for the mentally ill to go to a baseball game in New York City, what could possibly go wrong?

Turns out, a lot. I mean, holy shit. In retrospect, Dr. Weitzman (Dennis Boutsikaris) was really bad at his job. Maybe this is why asylums don’t have field trips.

Billy (Michael Keaton) is a pathological liar with violent tendencies. Henry (Christopher Lloyd) is an obsessive-compulsive. He cannot stand disarray of any kind and if something is slightly amiss, he lets the perpetrator have it.  So addicted to order is he that he actually dons a lab coat and deputizes himself as an unofficial psychiatrist, taking notes on all the infractions committed by his fellow inmates and submitting reports to the facility’s actual shrinks.

Jack (Peter Boyle) is an ex advertising executive who had it all, but walked away from it one day when he began believing that he was Jesus Christ, reborn again in human form.

And finally, Albert (Stephen Furst) is mostly catatonic, unable to communicate unless he speaks in the manner of baseball commentator Phil Rizzuto.

The plot thickens when, on the way to the game, the good doctor is jumped in an alley upon witnessing a murder.  After he is rushed to the hospital in an unconscious state, the four mental patients become the obvious prime suspects, and from thereon, it is a mad dash for them to nab the real culprits, clear their names, and save the doc’s life, as they learn the killers (including a young James Remar who you may know as Dexter’s dad) plan to visit the doc in the hospital to rub him out so as to make sure that no witnesses to their crime are left.

This is a movie that probably wouldn’t fly today as it makes fun of the mentally ill, though ironically, even today, horror films abound where the villain is someone with a mental illness they couldn’t have avoided.

Meanwhile, once you get past all the jokes that goof on this quartet and their mental challenges, the film actually becomes somewhat of a touching cautionary tale.  Often in flicks, there’s a backstory, a chilling tale behind how someone flipped their lid. Here, these are just men who, for whatever reason, were just living normal lives when they just up and lost it one day. Billy had a girlfriend that he reconnects with (a young Lorraine Bracco before she began treating Tony Soprano).  Harry had a wife and kid before he became difficult to live with.  We never learn why Albert can’t speak, but Jack had a life too.

And sure while there often is a single moment that someone can point to as the creation of all their problems, just as often, there isn’t. Sometimes people just have mental breakdowns.  The mind breaks down, just as a vital organ breaks down.

None of these men are quote unquote “bad,” they’re just sick.  (Although, to be honest, Billy is probably one massive freakout away from committing an actual crime). A tender hearted moment where Henry stops by his old house to ask his wife for help and realizes he could one day move back home if he could just learn to control his OCD is touching.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.  Oh and there’s a sad reference where Billy points to the twin towers and lies about being the head architect on the project, and that it was his idea to built a second tower. Damn you, Al Qaeda!

 

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Movie Review – The Wrong Missy (2020)

Careful what you text, 3.5 readers.

BQB here with a review of the Netflix comedy, “The Wrong Missy.”

Adam Sandler and friends, his coterie of 90s era comedians who usually do his Happy Madison production company movies, have had their share of hits and misses, and sadly, in recent years, its been more misses. Their style of comedy (silliness for the sake of silliness without much else thrown in) has by and large gone the way of the dodo, and we can have a debate over whether or not that’s a good thing another time.

This one is a hit.  That’s my opinion, but its topping the charts of Netflix’s offerings today, it’s release day on the streaming service. I think eventually, people will agree.

It’s got two things that Sandler’s flicks have been lacking during their last few (eh, make that several) outings – heart, and actual laughs.

David Spade plays Tim, a brokenhearted bank executive who has given up on love, unable to get over a breakup with ex-fiance Julia (Sarah Chalke). One night, he goes on a blind date Melissa #1 – (Lauren Lupkus of Orange is the New Black Fame who I always confuse with comedienne Kristen Schaal, so much so that I wonder if Kristen and Lauren’s agents are in a perpetual war over who can race to get their client any and all roles that call for a crazy, wild eyed brunette.)

Anyway.  That blind date doesn’t go well, for many wacky reasons but the chief one that comes to mind is that she carries a Crocodile Dundee sized knife in her purse and whips it out often, threatening to use it willy nilly.

Tim brushes Missy #1 off as a psycho, but while in an airport one day, he meets the woman of his dreams, also named Missy, or Melissa (Molly Simms) when he and she mix up their bags at the airport.

Long story short, Tim, urged by BFF Nick Swardson, texts his preferred Melissa with an invited to come on his company retreat to Hawaii. only to be aghast when “The Wrong Melissa” shows up on the flight instead.

Yadda, yadda, yadda. This Melissa is nuts. Tim’s job is at stake because his boss is basically using the retreat as a means to choose between Tim and another candidate for a promotion but Melissa can’t stop saying and doing crude, obscene things and the rest is history.

I think one of the better decisions made with this movie is that Spade cancelled his “I just like to rag on everyone even though deep down inside I wish I was them but I can’t because even though I’m awesome on the inside I’m short on the outside” routine.

Instead, Spade plays Tim as the straight man, the foil to Melissa’s absurdity.

Indeed, there’s plenty of room for criticism. Spade, God help me, is 55 now, and less well preserved, less famous and less wealthy men of his age generally grab hold onto whatever they can get, whereas in this film, Spade is juggling two Melissas as well as his ex who begins to wonder if she missed out on something good if all these Melissas are after her ex’s hanglow.

But Lupkus shoots a cannon in the name of this film’s self awareness at that age difference early in the movie, saying, “What are you? 65? I don’t care.”

I’ve checked some other reviews and the criticism is fairly standard.  Spade should be playing opposite some age appropriate women and how dare Melissa #2 be presented as the end all be all just because she’s uber beautiful.

Part of me wants to point out that old rich men are able to land hot younger women because, all arguments about equality aside, men tend to be more attracted to beauty while women tend to be more attracted to security (the biggest cavemen thousands of years ago, or the man with the biggest wallet today.)

That of course, doesn’t apply universally and it probably doesn’t even apply here. Hollywood wants those hot babes on screen, whereas male actors can be schlubs (although ladies if you think you have it hard trying to live up to Hollywood standards of beauty, try competing with the likes of Chris Hemsworth and Chris Pine if you’re a man and ok…I’ll be quiet now).

If this is a spoiler, then so be it, but what I did like about this movie is it didn’t go the road that rom coms usually go in when a main characters is forced to choose between two love interests. Inevitably, the writers always make the decision for the character, making one of the interests do something so awful and unforgivable that the choice becomes clear.

Technically, that doesn’t happen here. Spade has to make a choice between two women he loves and he makes it….though you do have to suspend your grip on reality to believe that a successful businessman is going to choose a woman who force feeds him dog tranquilizers and speaks in devilish tongues as part of a she’s so quirky routine would not just go for the demure Miss USA contestant.

Lauren Lupkus is great in this and hopefully Hollywood will take further notice.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

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Watch John Wick for Free on Lionsgate Live

Hey 3.5 readers.

Just wanted to pass it along – in about, oh 20 minutes by my clock, there’s a free screening of John Wick on Lionsgate Live.  Apparently, Lionsgate has been showing one of their movies every Friday night, and asking for donations from viewers to help movie theater employees who have been furloughed due to COVID-19

So, I know there’s only 3.5 of you, but if any of you haven’t seen it yet or want to see it again, John Wick is a great movie worth checking out.

I do worry about the future of the movie theater industry. Going to see a movie in the theater was one of my favorite things, but with streaming services on the rise, and now the shutdown, plus Hollywood postponing the release dates of movies that should have been out now, well, let’s hope this among many other problems will be solved and soon.

https://lionsgate.live/

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BQB’s Classic Movie Reviews – The Birds (1963)

Watch out for those birds, 3.5 readers

You’ve probably seen bits and pieces of this movie over the years, but in case you haven’t, spoiler alert.  I’m working my way through Peacock’s Hitchcock collection (say that five times fast) and you should too, so if you don’t want the chills and thrills ruined, look away, go watch, then come back.)

On the surface, this movie sounds like crap. Somehow, it isn’t. Frankly, as I watch it, I see how it builds practically every horror movie trope that modern horror takes for granted today. Hitchcock is to the American horror film what Poe was to the American horror story (as in scary lit, not the TV series.)

A young, wayward and wealthy socialite party girl, Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hendren) meets a handsome and successful lawyer, Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor) by chance in a pet shop in San Francisco.  Hoping a romance might blossom, Melanie arranges for the pet shop to obtain and sell her the “love birds” that Mitch was looking for but unable to find as a present for his young sister. Melanie then drives up the coast to the small, seaside town of Bodega Bay to deliver the feathered friends.

Once in Bodega Bay, a romance indeed blooms between Melanie and Mitch, but alas, this gets fucked up when birds start freaking the hell out, first singling out Melanie as their victim, then turning their beaks on the populace.

The effects, by today’s standards, are silly, though I imagine in 1963, they were some truly scary shit.  I actually found the scenes without effects to be scarier. There’s one scene in particular where Melanie goes to Mitch’s sister, Cathy’s school to check on the girl. As Melanie sits on a bench and has a smoke, waiting for class to let out, she slowly realizes that the birds are slowly but surely landing on and hanging out on the playground – perching on the monkey bars, the swing set.  These birds aren’t just resting their feet, they’re casing the joint, ready to strike.

In another scene, the birds manage to cause a gas pump to leak across the street, when an unsuspecting man is lighting a smoke and kaboom!  The street erupts in a line of fire, cutting off the townsfolk from fleeing their vile beaks.  Yup. The birds are intelligent. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

If you came for explanations, there are none to be found here. At times, there are possible hints. It all starts when Melanie arrives, but if its because of her or a coincidence, we never know for sure, and if it is because of her, we never learn why the birds hate her so much.

I briefly flirted with the idea that somehow, Mitch’s mother, Lydia (played by a middle-aged Jessica Tandy, the youngest I’ve ever seen her) controls the birds with her mind. She is one of those smothering mothers who detests the idea of their son getting married and spending his time with anyone else (combine this with Psycho and I wonder if Hitchcock had mother issues) but its not that either.

We never know why the birds go postal, though I imagine if there is ever a modern remake, it will be due to climate change.  The birds will peck the shit out of humans because they are tire of the sky they fly in being polluted.  Who can blame them, really?

What you will see in this movie is, to the best of my knowledge, a lot of firsts. A better movie buff might disagree, but to the best of my knowledge, this is the film that has the first scene where the heroes have boarded up their house and the baddies are trying to break in (you wouldn’t have all those movies with zombie fists punching through boarded up windows if Hitchcock didn’t have all those beaks pecking through the walls first), the first movie where a character walks upstairs despite common sense telling you that in a house siege, you want to be as close to an exit as possible (sigh, some dude in a 1963 movie theater was probably the first audience member to yell, ‘No! Don’t go up there, bitch!”) and overall, its the first horror film, or at least the first I can recall, where something bad is happening, the explanation is outlandish, the heroes try to warn but are laughed off as idiots until sure enough, the rest of the masses have come to find out that outlandish explanation is true.

Hitchcock took a lot of risks here. Killer birds is a stupid idea today, so it must have been considered absurdly stupid in 1960s.  But he took the chance and it paid off. Ironically, this isn’t just one of the earliest and best standard setting horror movies, it is also, IMO the forerunner of movies like Sharknado – i.e. if you run with a ridiculous premise long enough the audience will eventually suspend disbelief long enough to see where you’re going with it.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.  And if you want to be cheered up, you’ll be happy to know that Tippi Hedren is still alive! Yes, as I watched, I was sad, thinking, boy, everyone in this movie has probably croaked but sure enough, Tippi, at 90, lives.  The birds remain no match for her.

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