Category Archives: Movies

Movie Review – The Promise (2017)

Romance!  War!  Fezes!  So many fezes.

BQB here with a review of The Promise.

In the waning days of the Ottoman Empire, a love triangle forms between Armenian medical student Mikael (Oscar Isaac or “Poe Dameron” as Star Wars fans know him), American journalist Chris Myers (Christian Bale), and French Armenian artist Ana (Charlotte Le Bon).

Both men yearn for Ana’s heart (and cooter) but there’s much more evil doings afoot.  The Ottoman Empire becomes Germany’s ally in World War I.  Now stronger than ever thanks to their German benefactors, the Turkish majority army sets its sights on the country’s Armenian minority.  Armenians are savagely executed, brutalized, rounded up, sent off to forced labor camps and so on.

Although the film is a love story and a war story, it’s much more than any of that.  As far as I know (and perhaps historians/film buffs can prove me wrong), it’s the best, most compelling story of the Armenian Genocide, a horrific chapter in Turkey’s history that should be more well known to the world than it is.

As the film states, the French Navy was able to rescue 4,000 Armenians.  However, a staggering 1.5 million Armenians were killed.  To this day, the Turkish government denies that the Armenian Genocide ever happened.  This sucks, especially since Turkey is a NATO ally.

It’s an Oscar-ish movie, though I doubt it will see any gold statues as it was released too early in the year.  Oscar Isaac gets to shine in a non-comic book/sci-fi movie. Bale is an impressive adventurer/man of the world.  Le Bon puts the filling in my Crepe Suzette and is so beautiful that you almost can’t blame Chris and Mikael for stopping periodically during the war to vie for Ana’s hand (and cooter).

STATUS:  Shelf-worthy.  A must see and it is a movie that does the world a service by shining a light on a tragic part of history.

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Movie Review – Split (2017)

Oh my God, 3.5 readers.

After sucking for so many years, M. Night Shyamalan has returned to making good movies again.

It’s a Shyamalan renaissance!  A Shyamalan-aissance!

BQB here with a review of the horror thriller Split.

The year was 1999.  The Sixth Sense starring Bruce Willis and Haley Joel Osment premiered.  For most of the film’s run time, it seemed like a pretty decent film.  Not below average.  Not above average.  Just decent enough until…OMG!!!  Super mega did not see that coming at all surprise ending that fits with the whole movie, whoa!

And thus, director M. Night Shama…shamalama….whatever.  His career was born.

Alas, rather than try new and different things, M. Night just put himself on a quest to recreate that amazing Sixth Sense twist:

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But it never happened.  While Signs was a good film, all his other post Sixth Sense films sucked the big one.  The twists were ridiculous, absurd, and just crowbarred in as if to say, “Hey look!  I’m M. Night and I’m the twist guy!  Don’t you love my twists?”

The evidence speaks for itself:

2004 – The Village – Super dumbass twist.

2006 – Lady in the Water – Incredibly shitty twist.

2008 – The Happening – The plants were the villains all along?  OK.  Go home, M. Night.  You’re drunk!

I’d long written M. Night off as a one (maybe two) hit wonder but low and behold, he’s back in a big way with Split and it’s about damn time, M. Night Shabadu.  About damn time indeed.

The setup – Three high school girls are kidnapped and locked in a basement room by a psychopath with multiple personalities played by James McAvoy.  At various intervals, McAvoy enters the room, each time pretending to be a whole other person.  Some of these personalities are friendly, others more dangerous.

Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy) is usually made fun of by Claire and Marcia, but now that they are all captives, Casey, who knows about pain and suffering all too well, is in her element.  If anyone has a chance to save the day, it’s her, but will she be able to?

Meanwhile, Dr. Karen Fletcher (Betty Buckley), the madman’s psychiatrist, suspects her patient might be up to something, but can’t quite put her finger on it.  Will she be able to piece the mystery together before it’s all too late?

Plus, there’s an overall message to the movie – are people who have suffered pain stronger than those who haven’t?

An amazing performance by James McAvoy.  He shows great Oscar potential here with his ability to convincingly turn into other people.  It’s funny because he still looks the same, yet he is so good at taking on the various personalities that you almost begin to believe they’re real.

The suspense!  The thrills!  The chills!  M. Night’s first non-shitty movie since the Clinton administration!

Are there twists in this film?  Yes.  Many.  Will I tell you what they are?  No.  But the best part is they aren’t crowbarred and slammed in haphazardly in so many other films where M. Night tried to recreated his Sixth Sense glory.

The man has finally learned to let the twists flow naturally.  In fact, the biggest twist of this film is that it is directed by M. Night Shamalamadingdong and it does not suck.

STATUS:  Shelf-worthy.  Rent it today!  Oh, M. Night!  I’m so glad you don’t suck anymore!  I always knew you had it in you to stop sucking.  It was unfortunate that this movie was released in January, because January movies tend to come and go without much interest from the public.  I do believe this film will likely grow a following via word of mouth as people start to rent it.  Crack a beer, M. Night.  It’s the first one you’ve deserved since 1999.

 

 

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BQB’s Classic Movie Rewind – Fight Club (1999)

The first rule of this review is don’t talk about this review.

The second rule of this review is don’t talk about this review.

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Fight Club.  It’s been on cable lately.  I’ve caught it a couple times and I’ve become addicted to it.  I saw it when it came out and I realized even then that it was awesome and revolutionary, but I feel like I have a greater appreciation of it now that I’ve gotten older.

The general plot:  Edward Norton plays a corporate office drone.  We never get his real name. He’s a mopey sad sack, depressed with his life.  Feeling no sense of purpose, he goes to work, comes home, and spends his money buying useless crap for his home.  Stuff that he doesn’t need.  He hopes it will make him happy but nothing makes him happy.

One day, the highly opinionated, ultra violent, doesn’t give a shit about anything Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) walks into Norton’s life.  Tyler browbeats Norton into starting “Fight Club” and the first rule of Fight Club is to never talk about Fight Club.

The club consists of grown men meeting in a basement and beating the crap out of each other.  I suppose that film critics could argue about what exactly that means but the gist seems to be that the more physical pain these dudes endure, the less shits they give.

“Stop giving a shit” is essentially Tyler’s message to Norton.  Tyler informs Norton that he needs to give up on the idea that he’ll live forever, that he must accept that he’ll die one day, that everything is in a sense of decay and people just waste their lives doing pointless shit and coming up with excuses as to why they can’t do what they want.

Millennials, you guys think you’re depressed?  Please.  You don’t hold a candle to Generation X and in many ways, this film captures the ennui my generation suffered in our younger days.

Take Tyler’s “Great Depression” Speech, for example:

“Man, I see in Fight Club the strongest and smartest men who have ever lived. I see all this potential, and I see it squandered. Goddammit, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables, slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history, man; no purpose or place. We have no Great War, no Great Depression. Our Great War is a spiritual war. Our Great Depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised by television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires and movie gods and rock stars. But we won’t; and we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.”

Shit.  I was just a youngster when I first heard Tyler say that.  I didn’t think much of it.  Many years later, I realize the meaning.  He’s right.  Generation X didn’t have World War II, or Vietnam.  Things were actually pretty good in the world and you’d think that’s a good thing but the problem that arises is when the people of a generation don’t have to worry about a great cause, or a big war or what have you, then they have time to focus on doing what they actually want…and sadly, it’s just human nature to come up with excuses to explain away why we aren’t doing what we want to do.  Even worse, try as we might, there just aren’t enough resources for everyone to do what they want to do.

Oddly, I’m in a weird place where I’m on the tail end of Generation X.  A few years later, I could have been a millennial.  Tyler may have been off a little bit.  Little did he know that two years after this movie, 9/11 would happen and that would change the world, especially people like me who were just becoming adults around that time.

In a way, the movie makes a lot of points about life and how its too easy to feel hopeless.  It captures the mood of Generation X well, but then again, after 9/11, it seems kind of sad that we felt bad that there wasn’t a great conflict.  Hell, I’d do anything to go back to the pre-9/11 days and be like Ed Norton with nothing to worry about but what useless crap to buy from the catalog.

Anyway, enough of the philosophy.  From a writing standpoint, the film is brilliant.  There are many twists and turns that are unexpected yet they blow you away.  The film also builds a formula and that it feeds on and uses to build itself.  Fight Club grows, the number of Fight Club members grow, they all become pawns for Tyler to move around in  the giant mental game of chess he’s playing.

Helena Bonham Carter stars as Marla Singer, a crazy lady loved by Norton but banged by Tyler, much to Norton’s dismay.

Meanwhile, a young Jared Leto appears in a supporting role as the platinum blonde Angel Face.  Even 1970s music legend Meat Loaf joins Fight Club as the large breasted Robert Paulson.

I dunno, 3.5 readers.  Check out the film.  There’s a lot of different meanings.  You can sort of get a sense of the purpose-less-ness (if that’s a word) that young people felt at the time, and then again, there’s the message of stop pursuing materialism, stop making excuses for why you aren’t doing what you want to do, stop living a boring life.  No, you don’t (and should not) start an illegal Fight Club turned widespread criminal organization, but you could realize that life is short and it is a shame if you don’t at least try to do what you want to do.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

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Movie Review – The Zookeeper’s Wife (2017)

War!  Intrigue!  Nazis vs. Zoo animals!

BQB here with a review of The Zookeeper’s Wife.

Based on a true story, this film tells the tale of Jan and Antonina Zabinski, owners/operators of the Warsaw Zoo who used their property to save persecuted Jews during World War II.

Before the war, Jan (Johan Heldenburgh) and Atonina (Jessica Chastain), live an idyllic life.  They love animals and they take care of zebras, elephants, lions, tigers, all sorts of exotic animals on their sprawling property.  They even do a good business, charging admission.

Alas, all this changes because of the Nazis.  Oh you dirty Nazis, you’re always the turd in history’s punch bowl, aren’t you?

The Zabinskis’ zoo is partially destroyed by Nazi bombs dropped all over the city.  What’s left is confiscated.  The animals are shot and turned into meat and soap for the Nazi war effort.

Sidenote:  Whether it’s during World War II or more recently in Venezuela, once the government resorts to shooting zoo animals for food, shit is not good.

Back to the review.  Long story short, what’s left of the zoo is turned over to Lutz Heck (Daniel Bruhl), a German zoologist who had once been a friend of the Zabinskis in happier times.  Sadly, once Lutz puts on a Nazi uniform and becomes Hitler’s official zoologist, he gets a little too drunk on power and becomes an insufferable douchen-dorfer.

You know you want to see this movie just because the villain is a Nazi zoologist, don’t you?

Anyway, being the good people that they are, the Zabinskis begin rescuing and hiding their close Jewish friends.  Pretty soon, they realize that with underground tunnels once used to house tigers, buildings and trucks, they have all the means necessary to run a Jewish rescue/hiding/smuggling to safety operation.

The danger comes from the fact that they must do all this right under the nose of their ex-friend turned Nazi.

Will the Zabinskis be successful?  Will they be caught?

You’ve got to watch to find out.

Overall, it’s a touching story.  So many stories came out of WWII and they continue even today.

Much credit is due to the Zabinskis.  They probably could have relied on their friendship with a Nazi to ride out World War II by just keeping their heads down and going about their business.  Instead, they put themselves into great danger and in doing so, saved the lives of hundreds of people.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.  A good movie, sort of an Oscar-bait film designed to show off Jessica Chastain’s acting chops.  Not necessary to rush out to the theater but it’s worth a rental.

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Movie Review – The Fate of the Furious (2017)

Dom goes rogue?  Say it ain’t so!

BQB here with a review of the eighth, count ’em, eighth installment of the Fast and the Furious franchise.

Holy crap.  Eight films.  That’s 4.5 more films than I have readers.

You’d think these things would be getting stale by now, but honestly, they’re just getting warmed up.  Fast Five brought in the Rock to resurrect the franchise.  Fast Six and Seven were good times but Fast Eight?  Wow.  Holy crap did they up their game.

Our tale begins with Dom (Vin Diesel) on a honeymoon with new wife Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) in Cuba.  Evil cyber terrorist Cipher, played the ever boner inducing Charlize Theron, tracks Dom down with some kind of leverage that leaves Dom with no choice but to betray his beloved Fast and Furious team members and become Cipher’s evil errand boy.

What drama!  Fan favorites Ludacris (Tej) and Tyrese (Roman) return.  The Rock kicks ass as always.  Jason Statham blows the doors off the whole shebang.  Game of Thrones fans will be happy to see Nathalie Emmanuel aka Missandei return as computer hacker Ramsey, while Kristofer Hivju aka Tormund Giantsbane gets a role as a villain.

Longtime cast member, the late Paul Walker, is truly missed and one can only imagine the awesomeness he would have brought to the screen.  His character, Brian, still exists in the film but obviously, only to be talked about by the team.

Kurt Russell returns as the mysterious, super classified government agent, Mr. Nobody only this time, he has a young protege, the still wet behind the ears rookie dubbed, “Little Nobody” played by Clint’s son, Scott Eastwood.  The character is funny and suffers tremendously from the non-stop B.S. thrown at him by an unruly team he’s trying to control.  There was a part of me that wondered if he was thrown into the mix to replace Paul Walker as the team’s boy scoutish, clean cut law enforcement member, but Eastwood does hold his own.

The stunts!  The spectacles!  We don’t go to see these movies for the plot.  We go for the thrill ride.  The film features some of the most visually stunning, badass, and yes, even smart action sequences in the franchise.

All that being said, the plot, while peppered with the occasional hole, is one of the better ones of the franchise, filled with all sorts of twists and turns.  After all, Dom and his team go up against each other, so that’s bound to create some on-screen theatrics.

STATUS:  Shelf-worthy.  Fast Five was when the franchise really hit its stride and figured out its formula.  Gratuitous scantily clad women, beautiful tropical locations, rap music, big guns, fast cars – all the stuff of the wet dream of any red blooded, heterosexual American male.  Whenever I watch one of these films I feel my testosterone surge and I’m left with the need to hump something, anything!  Woe unto the first leg I find!  OK, maybe I don’t get that out of control, but it’s still super intense.  You must see it on the big screen.

Has there ever been a franchise that’s still going this strong after eight films?  Leave it in the comments if you can think of one.  Until then, keep ’em coming, Fast and Furious crew.  Keep ’em coming.

Movie Review – Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014)

Let my 3.5 readers go!

No, wait.  Bring my 3.5 readers back.  If they leave, then no one will read this terrible blog.

BQB here with a review of Exodus: Gods and Kings.

It’s Easter night and you know what that means.  Eating copious amounts of candy and watching the story of Moses.  For the longest time, you were able to watch The Ten Commandments with Charlton Heston or since 2014, you can watch the Christian Bale version, Exodus:  Gods and Kings.

Yup, I’m a few years late in reviewing this film but hey, better late than never and I figure I might as well review it while I’m watching it.

This film is visually stunning.  It’s a little surprising it didn’t get an Oscar love.  I mean, I still can’t believe that pile of crap Birdman won an Oscar but this film didn’t get much recognition.

The interesting part of this film is that it is told to suit a modern audience.

Oh wait, you’re probably all heathens who don’t know any of this shit so let me give you the synopsis.

Baby Moses is floated down the river and honestly, I forget why.  Maybe his parents were in trouble.  Maybe someone was after Moses.  Maybe his parents were crackheads.  At any rate, when the little guy reaches shore, he’s found by the Egyptian royal family and adopted as the son of the Pharaoh.

Moses grows up and lives the life of a wealthy, arrogant Egyptian royal family member, looking down upon the poor and downtrodden, especially the Jews, who are whipped and beaten and used as slave labor to build the pyramids and shit.

Later, Moses learns that he is, in fact, Jewish, and suddenly he starts to feel bad about how the Jews are being treated.  God speaks to him via a burning bush.  The Pharaoh has died and Moses’ adopted brother, Ramses, becomes the Pharaoh.

The burning bush tells Moses to pass along a message to Ramses.  Sorry if I botch the message, but its basically, “Let my people (the Jews) go, or shit’s about to go down.”

Ramses scoffs at this.  He’s the mighty Pharaoh after all.  So God follows through.  Plagues, pestilence, frogs, locusts, all kinds of heinous shit happens to the Egyptians.  Even their first born sons are all killed.

Tired of all the bullshit, Ramses lets the Jews go, then thinks better of it, and sends his Army to recapture them.  Moses, now a mighty right hand of God, uses his power to part the Red Sea, allowing the Jews to escape to safety and then brings it down on the Egyptians, drowning them.

Boo-yah!  Sorry, but someone needed to bring that Pharaoh down a peg.

Anyway, I apologize if I got that story wrong but that’s the gist that’s in my mind anyway.

The Charlton Heston version provides a fairly true to the bible version.

This new version, Exodus, keeps the modern, skeptical viewer in mind.  There isn’t a whole lot of magic in the movie but rather, room to speculate and ponder.

For example, all the locusts and pestilence and kids dying could be God, or it could just all be the result of bizarre natural occurrences.  The times were bad and people lived in lousy, unsanitary conditions, so its not that surprising that a lot of kids would die or that a bunch of bugs would show up.

Moses (Bale) tells Ramses that this is all legit, that all the bad shit that’s going down is because of God.  Ramses accuses Moses of being a crazy charlatan, that he’s somehow bringing all the plagues and killing all the kids just so he can steal all his slaves.

As a viewer, you’re free to think either option.

Meanwhile, there’s no burning bush but rather, a boy who a) is definitely God who has taken the form of a boy to speak to Moses or b) a very religious boy who thinks he speaks for God or c) the result of some hallucination Moses is experiencing.  Again, your choice.

Further, the Red Sea is parted.  Moses might have done it…or it might have just been a giant tidal wave caused by super bad weather.

In other words, maybe Moses had powers and maybe he was God’s right hand man in freeing his people…or maybe Moses just lucked his way through a series of bizarre events and coincidences that made it look like he was working for God but in fact, just stumbled his way to glory.

I don’t know, man.  I wasn’t there.  All in all, it’s an interesting retelling and preserves the story for a new generation.

STATUS: Shelfworthy.

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Movie Review – Sandy Wexler (2017)

The 1990s are alive again!

BQB here with a review of Adam Sandler’s latest Netflix comedy.

 

It’s the last decade of the second millennium and Sandy Wexler (Adam Sandler) is the worst agent in all of Hollywood.  He’s a bumbling, incompetent boob with a wacky voice, big window pane glasses and all sorts of disgusting quirks.  He lies constantly, makes weird outbursts and can’t eat anything without getting it all over anyone in his vicinity.

His clients stink too, ranging from a stunt man who can’t stop destroying himself (Nick Swardson) to one of the creepiest ventriloquists of all time (Kevin James).

All that changes when Sandy discovers singer Courtney Clarke (Jennifer Hudson).  She quickly becomes Sandy’s first client with talent ever.  As her career blasts off, Sandy ends up going through the ringer of a town known for chewing people up and spitting them out.

This movie is a celebration of all things 90s.  The funky neon shirts, the cars, the popular products of the day, the styles, the pop culture, it’s all on full display, coming across as Adam Sandler’s love song to the decade that made him big.  Believe it or not but there was a scene that made me miss Fruitopia.  Mmm.  Fruitopia.  Do you remember Fruitopia?  It was actually pretty good.  I want one right now.

The whole story is narrated by a plethora of 1990s era celebrities.  Pauly Shore, Jewel, Lisa Loeb, Downtown Julie Brown, Arsenio Hall are just some of the big names of yesteryear that pop in, making me depressed that the decade I came of age in is so far gone now.

Oh well.  That’s the way the cookie crumbles.

Jennifer Hudson’s beauty and singing skills are the best parts of the film, leaving me to wonder why she is so underutilized in Hollywood.  She makes the film great but there was a part of me that thought, “This poor, classy woman.  She’s so much better than this.  She should be headlining major films.”

Oh well.  Maybe Hollywood will get the message on J-Hud sooner or later.

There’s a divided verdict out there on Adam Sandler.  If you were born in the 80s or before, you probably love him.  If you were born in the 90s or after, you hate him.  All of his movies usually involve him embracing a zany character and then following through on the character’s quirks to an eventual conclusion.

Personally, I love Adam Sandler, but if I’m channeling my movie critic side, I’d have to say that his two best films were Happy Gilmore and Billy Madison.  He had one great comeback with Don’t Mess with the Zohan and then it has been choppy waters ever since.

Thus, I think Adam has found a good home on Netflix.  Streaming allows his fans like me to find him without drawing the ire of millennials who take a look at the Sandman without being completely baffled about what he’s up to.

Then again, sometimes I’m baffled about what Adam is up to.  Hell, I bet even Adam is baffled.

Why is this man funny?  The world may never know…but he is….sometimes.  He’s kind of like your home team.  He wins some.  He loses some.  You root for him because you have fond memories of when he won some and you’re waiting for him to win some again.

STATUS:  Shelf-worthy.

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Movie Trailer – Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)

Hey 3.5 readers.  The movie trailer is out for The Last Jedi.

It’s mostly Rey doing some Karate Kid style training while Luke channels Mr. Miyagi.

One note:  Luke does say something like “this is the end of the Jedi” or something.  I hope they don’t actually end the Jedi and try to make some kind of “other” space warrior in future Star Wars films.

We want Jedis and we will only accept Jedis.

You 3.5 readers didn’t believe me when I said this title means that an end to the Jedi is likely but, um, yeah, I think they’re killing off the Jedi and if they do, then why bother keeping up with the franchise?

Oh well.  What say you, 3.5 readers?

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Movie Review – Going in Style (2017)

Geriatric bank robbers run amuck!

BQB here with a review of the old fogie heist comedy, Going in Style.

You know 3.5 readers, I went into this movie thinking I would hate it.  First, I’ve seen this plot before.  Old actors get together to do a tour de farce.  I saw it with Clint Eastwood and James Garner in Space Cowboys.  I saw it with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman in Bucket List.

Second, I go to movies to be entertained and the idea that all these old geezers are “going” as in they don’t have much time left just seemed sad.

I was pleasantly surprised.  It’s tight and witty, all the things you want in a good comedy.

Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin are three elderly retirees who are fed up with being screwed over.  When their pensions are liquidated, it’s the last straw.  Old, broke, and not seeing much of a future left, they hatch a scheme to rob the bank that did them wrong.

Yes, there are lots of old fart jokes.  That is to be expected but hey, it’s all fun just the same.

What surprises me is that this is a cast of octogenarians (eighty something year olds) who  are running around doing zany things throughout the film.  Sure, they do it all slowly, but still.  I hope I make it to eighty and I hope I have as much style as these three gents when I do.

Ann-Margaret plays Alan Arkin’s love interest and at 76, she’s still bone-able.  The years have been kind to her and if she’s had any work done, it doesn’t show.  Her face is pretty and I don’t know how she does it, but she’s not doing it with one of those Joan Rivers style “my face is pulled so far back I look like an alien” facelifts.  I would totally bring Ann-Margret a bottle of prune juice and hit that all night if she would ever find herself so inclined to do me the honor.  Sadly, she probably won’t.  (Call me Ann-Margret.  I want to eat all of the stale, wrapped candies at the bottom of your old lady purse.)

I feel like Ann-Margaret has been playing the hot old lady love interest for years now.  I remember her playing the hot old babe that Walter Matthhau and and Jack Lemon went to war over in 1993’s Grumpy Old Men.

Quick observation – Ann-Margaret was only in her fifties when those two grumpy old men fought over her and she’s in her seventies while these men are in there eighties.  In other words, no matter how old the leading men are in a movie, the actress still has to be younger.  Hollywood rules.

Appearances made by Kenan Thompson of SNL, Matt Dillon. and yes, Christopher Lloyd.

STATUS:  Shelf-worthy.  Probably not worth a trip to the theater, but you should see it.  It’s a pretty solid comedy.  There are sad moments that capture the human condition, i.e., everyone has to die someday and no one wants to, even eighty-year olds who have had as much time as anyone can expect.  However, there’s enough comedy and good vibes to overcome the sad parts of the film.

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Movie Trailer – Thor: Ragnarok

Hey 3.5 readers.

The trailer for Thor: Ragnarok is out and it’s pretty fantastic.  The use of Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song (“I come from the land of the ice and snow…”) is pretty effective.

What say you, 3.5?

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