Category Archives: Movies

Movie Review – Richard Jewell (2019)

3.5 readers, as all 3.5 of you are aware, I am the world’s foremost ugly rights advocate, championing the rights of the aesthetically challenged all the time on this fine blog that is only read by 3.5 people.  We’re here.  We’re ugly.  Get used to it.  We will not be prisoners under the paper bags that society wants to put over our faces for a minute longer.

Thus, as you can imagine, when I watched this movie, there was, as an aesthetically challenged man myself, a special place in my heart for one Mr. Richard Jewell.

For those too young to know or so old they forgot – a brief recap.  The year was 1996.  Hillary Clinton was president for the first time, running the country on a de facto basis while her president husband was busy chasing interns around the resolute desk with his pants around his ankles.

The Macarena was all the rage and the Summer Olympics were in full swing in Atlanta.  Richard Jewell, a security guard at the event, spotted a suspicious backpack, warned everyone he could and saved a lot of lives that day, for as it turned out, the backpack indeed had a live bomb inside.

Now, as an ugly rights advocate, let me lay out the ugly truth for you, America.  Had Richard Jewell been a handsome man, that would have been the end of it.  The FBI would have put their focus on where it should have been in the first place – the hunt for the actual bomber, who sadly, evaded capture for another six years.

Alas, poor Richard was a fat guy who lived with his mother and in the eyes of the Feds and the media and the public at large, that was enough to convict him.  A speculative narrative followed, namely, that Richard was a “false hero” i.e. he craved attention and praise, so he planted the bomb so that he could find it and be hailed as a hero, getting the respect and admiration he so long craved but was denied by society.

Unfortunately, Richard wasn’t a perfect man.  Few of us are.  He had a spotty record with some red flags.  He’d previously worked as a college campus cop, but had been fired for being overly zealous in catching students boozing it up.  He’d been fired from another job in law enforcement too.

On top of that, he was a gun enthusiast, having collected enough gats in his room to repel a zombie invasion.

All of this weird?  Yes.  But does that make him a monster?  No.

This is a movie that, quite frankly, couldn’t have gotten made if Clint Eastwood hadn’t been behind it.  It’s a film where the chubby guy (Paul Walter Hauser) is the underdog hero and the handsome guy (Jon Hamm as FBI agent Tom Shaw) and hot babe (Olivia Wilde as the late Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Kathy Scruggs) are portrayed as villains.  In the standard Hollywood formula of pretty = good and ugly = bad, this picture would not normally fly.

Is it a product of today’s era?  Sure.  Our current POTUS lives to call out Fake News and Clint is one of the last few working conservatives in Tinsel Town.  Ultimately, this is a tale of how Feds and the media, in a rush to be first, ignored their duty to be right.

The sad crux of the film is Richard had a life.  It may not have been a glamorous one, but it was one and it was his and he lived it the best he could, getting up everyday and working and earning a living despite the limitations that God had given him.  He was fat, and not well spoken, and did yearn to be taken seriously in a world that dumps on people who look like him.

But on the other hand, his fat guy powers saved the day that day.  Spoiler alert – his enthusiasm for fast food leads to him getting the runs and on his way back from an emergency bathroom break, spots the bag.  Frankly, a more physically fit flatfoot may have never spotted it.

And ironically, the overzealous “I’m super cop” mentality that got him fired from previous gigs saved lives here, as Richard pushes other officers on the scene to take the bag seriously even when they all just assume it must have just belonged to some tourist who left it behind on accident.

Anyway, I won’t drone on.  Hauser plays the role well while Sam Rockwell nails the part of Watson Bryant, a not-so-hot lawyer who isn’t really prepared to take on a case of such magnitude, yet pushes himself to do so because he’s the only friend Richard’s got.  Bryant’s work is cut out for him because Richard yearns for law enforcement approval and initially (naively) sees Jon Hamm’s character as a friendly colleague rather than a bureaucratic hack looking to nail a scalp on his wall.

If I have one criticism, it’s that the movie might have been a little hard on Kathy Scruggs.  I’ll admit, I’m not up on the history here, but she’s portrayed as a slutty Wicked Witch of the West who bangs the information that Jewell is a suspect out of Shaw.

Should the FBI have kept a tight lid on the fact that they were investigating Jewell so as to not ruin his life?  Yes.  Should the media have waited to report on Jewell until or unless he was charged with something?  IMO, that’s a harder call.  The fact that he was investigated was news, and it was more of the FBI’s job to keep the info under wraps.  On the other hand, the media didn’t need to camp out front of the guy’s apartment for three months either.

Ultimately, if there was no evidence that Scruggs and Shaw were banging, then that allegation shouldn’t have been made in a movie that calls upon the Feds and the media to get their facts right when any man, even a man who doesn’t fit the traditional hero mold’s life is at stake.

Overall, great movie and shocking look at some of the tactics that were used against Jewell, including a bizarre attempt to trick him into confessing to things he didn’t do by telling him he was participating in a training film instead of a taped interrogation.  Sad to say it happened in America.

Also great appearance by Kathy Bates as Richard’s mother, Bobi, who suffers through the FBI confiscating all of her wares, from her underwear to her tupperware.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.  FYI, domestic terrorist was pinched as the actual bomber in 2003, which finally brought speculation that Richard was the bomber to a close.  The film might have delved into that a bit more.  The film ends as the investigation concludes, but articles I have read indicate that Richard still suffered innuendo that maybe he did it and just got away with it until Rudolph was finally caught.  One wonders if all this stress contributed to an early death for Richard, who passed on from heart failure when he was 44.  Though he was overweight, I’ve seen fatter people live longer so…it couldn’t have been good for the poor guy’s health.

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Movie Review – Knives Out (2019)

 

Whodunnit, 3.5 readers?  Whodunit indeed.

BQB here with a review of the star studded mystery, “Knives Out.”

This is a mystery buff’s mystery film, a modern day throwback to Agatha Christie, or if you will, the board game Clue.

On the evening of acclaimed, multi-millionaire mystery writer Harlan Thrombey’s (Christopher Plummer)  85th birthday party, the old man is found dead, his throat sliced open.

The suspects?  A veritable whose who list of d-bags and spoiled brat family members who all had a grudge against the old man, and all stood to profit from his demise.

Enter Benoit Blanc, the film’s version of Hercule Poirot, a simple country private investigator with a Foghorn Leghorn accent.  Played by Daniel Craig, it’s up to him to sort through the mess and determine who did what and where and when and how.

Yes, dear reader, you’ll practically want to whip out your notebook and jot down details yourself as you join in on trying to figure out the identity of the nefarious perpetrator.

Jamie Lee Curtis, Don Johnson, Chris Evans, Michael Shannon, Rikki Lindhome, Toni Collette, Lakeith Stanfield…I could go on and on but suffice to say there are a lot of top actors in this one and they each get their moment to shine.

Meanwhile, Ana de Armas joins as Thrombey’s nurse and only trusted confidante, who becomes Blanc’s Watson in the quest to figure out which one of this assortment of a-holes did the old man in.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.  Though there are times it can be a little slow, and other times silly, it’s fun and a tribute to those films of yesteryear where the viewer is strung along with clue after clue before finally, the detective gives a rousing speech on how he pieced it all together.

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Movie Review – Ready or Not (2019)

Here comes the bride…with a shotgun.

BQB here with a review of the sleeper hit “Ready or Not.”

3.5 readers, I love it when I am pleasantly surprised.  Somehow this flick slipped under my radar and frankly, it scooched by the rest of the world without much fanfare even though it is fantastic.  It’s thrilling, chilling, scary and though you wouldn’t think so, it’s also hilarious.

Samara Weaving stars as Grace, a woman from humble beginnings as a foster child who believes her dreams of being part of a family have finally come true when she marries Alex (Mark O’Brien).

Grace is in it for love, but on the day of the wedding she finds she’ll have to navigate her way through becoming the newest member of Le Domas family, a mega rich clan who built their fortune on board games.

I’m loathe to say that the Le Domases are creepy and kooky, but they are odd and eccentric and view all newcomers with suspicion.

Moreover, they have a strange yet seemingly harmless tradition.  Every wedding night, they insist the new member of the family draw a card from a box.  Each card contains the name of a game and past brides/grooms have been lucky enough to get away with a rousing game of chess or Old Maid.

Alas, Grace draws the hide and seek card and tradition dictates that when the bride hides, she is sought…with axes, crossbows, old timey blunderbuss-like guns and other weapons that were once owned by the family’s great grandpa and builder of the family moolah.

I can’t really get into the specifics of how or why the family goes on a hunt but it’s all part of the mystery that eventually plays out, to scary and silly extremes.

The humor comes into play when we realize that the Le Domases are rather incompetent killers.  They’ve lived pampered lives and the hide and seek card is only pulled, at best, once a generation or so, thus they are out of practice and ill-prepared.    Meanwhile, Grace wants to live, causing the hunters to become the hunted.

Marriage, in-law infighting, adherence to old customs and the strange habits of the uber rich are all pilloried as we root for Grace to put some heads on her wall.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.  It came and went pretty quietly in theaters, but I could see this becoming a cult classic over time.

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Movie Review – The Aeronauts (2019)

Guess what, 3.5 readers?

I’m a movie producer.  Well, I’d like to think so, anyway.  I’ve turned so much of my money over to Amazon over the past few years that I’m keeping Jeff Bezos fat and sassy.  At any rate, I’m sure the profit he devised from my purchases of socks, underwear and various and sundry household goods went to the creation of this fine film.

It’s about a balloon.  The year is 1862 and scientist James Glaisher (Eddie Redmayne) teams up with pilot Amelia Rennes (Felicity Jones) in a voyage to the heavens to perform groundbreaking research in the budding science of meteorology.

Specifically, James is one of, if not, the first meteorologist and all the other scientists at the science club think he’s a regular doofus burger with extra dumbass sauce and a side of idiot fries for daring to think that one day, scientists might be able to predict the weather.  Turns out, his colleagues were right, because it’s 170 years later and the meteorologist on my local TV station can’t tell the difference between a fart and a gust of wind.

Meanwhile, Amelia and her late husband were once a pair of famous balloonists but as it turns out, ballooning, especially in those early days, was dangerous as hell, and spoiler alert, her old man kicked the bucket during a balloon ride.  Thus, she’s weary of the idea of going up in a balloon again until James convinces her that she must do it in the name of science, and also, no man with a balloon is willing to lower himself to be a part of what they consider to be James’ balderdash experiments.

Together, they brave the surly bonds of earth and I hate to say it, but a lot of the film looks like they shoved two actors in a basket, greenscreened some sky around them, then dumped some faux rain and snow on their heads but hey, it’s Hollywood.  You gotta do what you gotta do.

There are parts where it gets boring, and parts that seem like downright filler.  After all, it’s hard to make an interesting movie about history and its even harder to make one about scientific history.  Where the flick does get interesting is the harrowing chills, thrills, and spills that occur as this duo get up high and without instruments or any modern equipment, must fix various problems, all the while with little between them and a plummet to earth other than a wicker basket and some rope.

Briefly, Felicity Jones shines as she steps out of her usual stern and proper roles.  She starts out as a show woman, entertaining the crowd of those who stopped by to see the duo take flight, but soon becomes a mother hen, dumping gallons of common sense juice all over James’ dumb head as he urges her to take the balloon higher and higher so he can prove himself to be a bad ass scientist.

I assume this is Amazon’s bid this Oscar season so I also assume we can see this movie on Amazon Prime while we shop for doodads and widgets soon.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

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The Irishman is Too Long

It’s a Martin Scorcese movie, so I want to watch it but holy crap.  3 and a half hours?  That’s quite a commitment.

Maybe I can watch it in smaller, one hour bites.

 

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Movie Review – Last Christmas (2019)

Hey 3.5 readers.

This won’t be a long review.  I enjoyed this movie largely because we got to see Emilia Clarke’s actual, human side, without any sci fi or fantasy costumes.  If there was a question as to whether or not she could perform outside of a geek movie, this shows she can. As rom coms go, it was pretty good.  OK, that’s all I have to say.

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Movie Review – Dolemite Is My Name (2019)

Hey 3.5 rat soup eaters.

BQB here with a review of this Netflix film.

The first scene of this movie packs a punch, albeit in a subtle, understated way.  (Look away if you 3.5 honkies don’t want any spoilers.)

Down and out entertainer Rudy Ray Moore has recorded an album and is pleading his heart out, begging a DJ played by Snoop Dogg to play his song.  Snoop is sympathetic.  He listens but ultimately denies the request. He just can’t waste his airtime on a nobody.

We instantly feel for Rudy.  He’s middle aged.  He’s chubby and not the best looking dude.  We aren’t sure whether to root for Rudy for holding onto a young man’s dream well past the time where most people let such fantasies go, or to take Rudy aside and tell him to give up gracefully.  Snoop, whose touch of gray hair says it all, advises the latter, telling Rudy, “We missed our shots.”  In other words, the DJ wishes he’d achieved something greater than DJing, but knows he can’t go back to his youth and try again.  He knows how Rudy feels, but he can’t help him.

Just when we think we can’t feel any worse for Rudy, the camera pans out to reveal that Rudy wasn’t at a radio station.  He was in the DJ booth…at a record store.

It gets worse.  As Rudy steps behind the counter and starts helping customers, we learn that poor Rudy was turned down….by a DJ…for a record store…that he works at.

How low can you go?

As a wannabe self-publisher, I sympathize and perhaps any aspiring writers out there can sympathize with Rudy as well.  As the movie progresses, we learn Rudy came from nothing and moved to LA when he was young in search of stardom.  Now that he’s over the hill, there’s no shortage of people telling him to give it up, but he just can’t.

When he’s not working at the record store, he works nights as the host of a club, introducing various acts while attempting to try out a fledgling stand-up comic routine.  His boss, the club owner, shuts down that, ordering Rudy to just play it straight and intro the acts because no one wants to hear his jokes.

Long story short, Rudy spends some time amongst the bums.  As he does so, he learns a style of street comedy in which down and out African Americans one up each other, telling tall tales, exaggerations and dumping on each other with perfectly crafted insults, all with an air of bravado.

And thus, a star is born.  Taking on the persona of Dolemite, a fast talking, in your face pimp, Rudy kills it on the comedy circuit, leaving audiences in stitches, and even starts raking in the dough when he self-produces a string of comedy albums.

Not content to stop there, Rudy makes a movie.  And it’s a terrible, godawful movie.  He has no idea about the technical side of movie making, no idea about budgets or writing or any of the skills needed to put an idea onto the big screen.  All he has is money and he heavily leverages himself into debt, putting everything on the line just to hire the people he needs to make his dream come true.

The result is one of the shittiest movies ever made, yet it’s so shitty its good.  Overall, I loved this movie because it’s a real underdog story, a tale about someone who defied the odds, refused to listen to the naysayers and ultimately, his stubborn pursuit of a dream paid off.

Ironically, Dolemite may have very well been one of the world’s first movie self-publishers.

Also, big kudos for Eddie Murphy.  If you haven’t seen his appearance on Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee yet, there’s a part where he tells a touching story to Jerry Seinfeld about how, in his early days, his father gave him a ride into the city so he could perform at a club.  The idea was that the club owner would pay him and he’d use the money to catch a cab back home.  Alas, Eddie bombed, the owner wouldn’t pay, so he had to call his father and get an ear full all the way home about how dumb his dreams of standup comedy success were.

Eddie and Rudy may very well have been kindred spirits.  I’m not sure if Netflix released this in theaters, but if it is possible, I hope Eddie gets some Oscar recognition for this, because he’s overdue and does well in the role.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

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Movie Review – A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019)

Won’t you 3.5 readers be my neighbor?

BQB here with a review of A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.

I have to admit, 3.5 readers, that while Fred Rogers is deserving of a movie, I wasn’t sure if there was a lot of material there that would keep an audience’s attention for 2 hours.  Did Mr. Rogers have any love triangles?  Did he punch out any bad guys?  Did he go on any wild car chases?  Did he defuse any bombs at the last second?

No.  He was just genuinely nice, and this film pays tribute to his way of life and how it helped others through a focus on one journalist who he helped in particular.

Matthew Rhys plays Lloyd Vogel, a jaded, cynical Esquire magazine writer who can barely get any celebrities to talk to him on account of his reputation for savaging his interviewees with biting criticism.

Assigned to profile uber nice guy and children’s television pioneer Mr. Rogers (Tom Hanks), Lloyd thinks this is a crap job.  He initially sets out to crack Mr. Rogers on the belief that his personality is just a facade, a nice guy act designed to make money.  Even his wife, Andrea (Susan Watson) begs her man to not “ruin her childhood” by running everyone’s favorite neighbor through the ringer.

Naturally, as the story progresses, it’s Mr. Rogers who cracks Lloyd, suffering Lloyd’s rudeness with a smile and eventually getting him to open up about his own demons.  As it turns out, Lloyd carries a lot of anger over the fact that his father (Chris Cooper) cheated on his dying mother and abandoned the family in their time of need, leaving him and his sister (Tammy Blanchard) to grow up way too fast.  Alas, Lloyd carries his anger on his back wherever he goes, always assuming the worst about everyone.

Though Lloyd is the focus of the story, the film pays tribute to Mr. Rogers in that we ultimately learn his main goal in life was to help people keep their cool.  As we get to know Mr. R, we begin to understand that it’s not so much that he’s a wimp, it’s that he possesses a deep understanding that there’s a monster in all of us, and if we don’t channel it into positive ways, it will consume and destroy us.

For example, Mr. Rogers swims laps.  He mashes his hands on the worst notes his piano has to offer.  He writes letters to his fans and prays for them – individually and by name.  If he meets you, he will not only remember you but your family’s names and will ask how they are doing with their specific problems when he sees you again.  In short, he’s fully aware that life comes with all manner of pitfalls designed to drive us insane, but it’s his goal to help us figure out how to replace bad emotion with positive activity.  Swimming laps, after all, is better than cooking meth or cheating on your wife or what have you.

There’s definitely pain lurking under Rogers’ surface.  Hanks is able to show that with a look or mannerism.  Like the rest of us, he’s not perfect.  Unlike the rest of us, he’s not going to lose his mind over the flaws that are inherent in the human condition.

Some criticism – at times, the film feels like a stretch.  Perhaps the best tribute to Mr. R is to give us an example of how he turned a man’s life around with kindness.  However, there are times where I would have liked to have seen more Fred and less Lloyd.  This scenario reminds me of the criticism lobbed at “The Green Book” for being more about musician Don Shirley’s driver Frank and how perhaps Don should have had the brunt of the focus.

But then again, Mr. Rogers probably wouldn’t care too much about the spotlight, as long as his positive message gets out.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

 

 

 

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Terminator: Dark Fate (2019)

I’ll be back, 3.5 readers…with a review of the latest time traveling kill bot movie.

After the last Terminator movie of a few years ago, I really thought this franchise had been terminated.  They made two great films a long time ago, and everything else has been garbage ever since.

Generally, they are all the same story.  The robots travel through time, wanting to kill John Connor.  Someone has to save John, usually Arnie in the form of a good terminator, usually with a human helper and so on.

That gold has been mined and nothing but dirt remains.

I’ll admit I was surprised as this latest installment, IMO, didn’t totally suck.  It doesn’t deserve a spot next to the first two, but among the list of garbage sequels, it is the least trashy.  It has great effects, at least an attempt at a plot and action that kept me riveted, even if it is all just the same story told over again.

Linda Hamilton and Arnie are given a break from the nursing home, this time to play Sarah Connor and yet another terminator turned good.  While Hamilton makes the flick, the storyline that gets Arnie back into the picture causes the movie to jump the shark (he’s a terminator who learned the error of his ways and retired from terminating to start a family and um…how the hell does that even work?)

Together, they help an augmented human from the future (that girl from Halt and Catch Fire and I’m too lazy to look up her name) save Dani (again I’m too lazy to look up her name) who will become the leader of the next robot resistance if she can be saved from a new brand of terminator who is able to seperate his robot self from his human-looking self (also not going to look up his name.)

Yes, it’s the same old story jammed into a different wrapper but the best I can say it is if we rank all Terminator films, it is number three on a scale of best to worst, though a distant third from the two originals.  Really, this franchise should have stopped at two.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

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Movie Review – The Addams Family (2019)

They’re still creepy and kooky, 3.5 readers. (Snap, snap).

Everyone’s favorite family of ghoulish weirdos is back, this time in an animated film.  The Addams Family have always existed as a twisted parody of American suburban family life.  They are a strange clan who are preoccupied with all forms of death, dismemberment and overall mayhem and yet, father Gomez (Oscar Isaac) and mother Morticia (Charlize Theron) are madly in love with each other.  They are devoted to kids Wednesday (Chloe Grace Moretz) and Puggsley (Finn Wolfhard) and don’t treat extended family like Grand-ma-ma (Bette Midler) and Uncle Fester (Nick Kroll) as burdens.

In short, maybe they know more about being a family than most people give them credit for.

The villain is Margaux Needler (Allison Janney) a home make over expert who wants to see the Addams’ spooky manor destroyed or at least redecorated in pink for her home make over show, as well as to bring it in line with her planned community down the mountain.

It might have been interesting to see what live actors could have done this time around, though animation does have its benefits, allowing characters to do things that wouldn’t have been captured well in a live action version.

The plot of the Addams’ home being threatened by mean quote unquote normals who turn out to be the baddies and make the Addams’ seem normal in comparison has been overdone, though that is essentially the schtick of this series.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

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