Category Archives: Movies

Play Rampage Online for Free!!!

Hey 3.5 readers.

BQB here.

I loved playing “Rampage” as a kid.  Well, if you’re like me and want to play it again…I’m surprised I missed this but as a promotion for the movie with “The Rock” a site was made that allows you to play the classic version of the game right in your web browser.

Punch buildings, eat humans, and go crazy as a giant gorilla, lizard or wolf:

PLAY RAMPAGE NOW!

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Movie Review – Train to Busan (2016)

Zombies on a train!

BQB here with a review of “Train to Busan.”

As a zombie fan, I’ve been hearing mumblings about this movie in the nerd-o-sphere for awhile now.  It’s foreign, the characters speak Korean and it’s in subtitles, but foreign language films don’t necessarily stop me as long as the subject matter is something I’m interested in.  Personally, I prefer to read the subtitles and that combined with listening to the tone of voice and facial expressions I can get the gist of what’s going on even though I don’t speak the same language as the actors.  Funny how there are some things that transcend language barriers.

Anyway, in many ways, it’s a typical set-up.  Mom is divorced from Dad, Seok-woo (Yoo Gong), ostensibly because he works too much in his job as a stock broker, and apparently no matter where you are in the world, wanting to work hard is considered a crime by the ladies but that’s ok.  My review doesn’t need to be spoiled by my personal baggage.

Young daughter, Soo-an (Su-an Kim) misses her mother, who lives in Busan, and wants to cut her visit to her father’s home short.  After much wrangling, Dad concedes and hops a train with his kiddo.

Yadda, yadda, yadda…zombies!  A virus breaks out and South Korea is overrun with brain biters.  Worse, they’ve overtaken most cars on the train, leaving human survivors with only a few cars to move around on.

What happens next is a heroic tale of survival.  It becomes a constant running test when survivors are faced with a constant, repetitive choice, namely whether to slam a door between cars shut, sacrificing the life of a survivor who hasn’t made it through yet in order to protect one’s self and loved ones from the incoming zombie horde that’s chasing the unlucky human.

What would you do in that position?  Risk saving a fellow passenger, or slam the door in their face to protect yourself?  It’s a choice that’s made again and again, and as the movie progresses, we are left with a hope that maybe Seok-woo’s cold, businessman mentality might give way to a more humane, caring side.

Daughter Soo-an foils her dad’s efforts to think only for himself and his daughter.  She often lends a hand to complete strangers, putting herself at risk and in doing so, involving her old man in situations he’d rather avoid.

Meanwhile, the noble Sang-hwa (Dong-seok Ma) serves as a more overt check on Seok-woo’s conscience, almost bullying the man half his size to do the right thing.  While Seok worries chiefly about his daughter, Sang is worried about his pregnant wife, Seong-kyeong (Yu-mi Jeong).  Yet, he believes he can save her, his unborn child, and everyone else he can.

No movie would be complete without a villain and that comes in the form of Yon-suk (Eui-sung Kim), a train company executive who, unluckily for everyone else, happens to be riding on the train and is willing to sacrifice just about anyone and everyone just to save his oily hide from the gray matter chompers.

Overall, it’s a great film, a real thinker, with special effects that rival a Hollywood blockbuster.  Perhaps one of the more harrowing scenes comes when Seok, Sang and high school student, Yong Guk (Woo-sik Choi) form a three man phalanx and narrowly scrape through a tight car full of brain chewers in order to rescue their respective loved ones.

3.5 readers, Asia has really embraced the action genre and I don’t know if this is a new thing or perhaps it’s just something I’ve been turned onto thanks to Netflix, where you can find a vast cornucopia of Asian action films in subtitles.  Some are dubbed with American voices, but I do prefer to just read the subtitles, so catch this one before it obtains a mainstream level of popularity and they ruin it with dubbing.

The Ip Man Series and almost anything with Donnie Yen are worth watching and while Hong Kong seems to be Asia’s Hollywood, South Korea is catching up with this flick.

STATUS:  Shelf-worthy.  Seriously, I know a lot of people are like, “Ugh, I have to read subtitles?  No thanks.  Too much work.  It’s worth it and there’s plenty of action on screen to make up for it.  It’s currently available on Netflix.

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Movie Review – A Quiet Place (2018)

Shh!

Be vewy vewy quiet, 3.5 readers.  It’s time for BQB’s review of “A Quiet Place.”

I love it when I’m pleasantly surprised.  I knew very little of this film going into it.  I thought maybe it was just a standard horror flick that husband/wife duo John Krakinski and Emily Blunt whipped out but it’s anything but standard.  In fact, in this day of sequels, prequels and originals, you’ll want to scream for joy at this original idea.

But don’t.  Don’t make a sound.  You see, the world has been conquered by mysterious, scary creatures who, if you make a noise, will pop out of nowhere and eat you.  The population has been decimated and survivors live very quiet lives.  They make a modest amount of noise by walking around but other than that, no talking, no singing, no music and the slightest accident, i.e. knocking a plate onto the floor, can prove fatal.

There are exceptions to the “Be Quiet” rule.  There are places, circumstances, etc. where talking can happen but for the most part, the characters rely on sign language, subtitles and facial expressions to tell the story.  It’s impressive that the actors are able to get so much across by utilizing so little.  From a writing standpoint, it’s an exercise in “show, don’t tell” because all the characters can do is show.  They can’t tell.

Challenges abound.  Not to get too deep into it but daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds) is deaf and lives in a world where there isn’t a place that will fix her broken hearing aid.  Just as in zombie apocalypse times, empty shops and ghost towns abound, and the Abbott family must get by through their wits and occasional scavenging.

Further, they engage in a variety of clever ways to go about their daily routine, figuring out how to get through their days as quietly as possible (an expected baby poses a significant challenge as we all know what babies love to do.)

STATUS:  An unexpected gem.  Shelfworthy.

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Movie Review – Ready Player One (2018)

Gamers vs the Man!

BQB here with a review of “Ready Player One.”

3.5 readers, I went into this movie thinking it would suck…but it didn’t.  I love it when that happens, when I got into a movie thinking it will blow goats but instead it blows hot winds of fun into my face.

Hmm…phrasing.

Anyway…in the future, the world sucks.  Poor people live in trailers stacked on top of each other and life sucks so much that people spend all of their time in a virtual world, the OASIS, where they can be anyone and do anything rather than live in the sucky world.

There is a catch – to die means to lose all progress, money, enhancements etc. you’ve made to your avatar, and to start over from scratch.  Some have spent so much time building their online personas they’d rather die in real life than begin anew again in the virtual world.

Halliday (Mark Rylance), a socially awkward to the tenth degree nerd who developed the OASIS has died but he’s left an “Easter Egg” in his game, i.e. if a gamer can solve three mysteries, he/she will get three keys to use to unlock…dun dun dun…a prize, that being controlling stock interest in the OASIS (a lot of money plus ability to run the world’s most powerful video game which accounts for a substantial amount of the global economy.

I don’t want to get bogged into the details but suffice to say, I went in thinking this would be a glorified cartoon but instead, found an interesting look at a possible technological future.  The better virtual worlds get, will they be able to solve societal problems?  After all, few can be all they want to be in reality as they are so many people competing for so few opportunities, but if everyone can be beautiful, awesome, do whatever they want in a realistic virtual game….well, is that a way to make everyone happy or is that a way to keep people from experience reality, as drab as that may be sometimes?

Pop cultural references abound as Halliday was a fan of everything 1980s.    The hero of the film Wade/Parzival Tye Sheridan, drives a copy of Marty MacFly’s DeLorean, for example.  Somehow, he and his love interest, Art3mis/Samantha (Olivia Cooke) and a band of plucky young players must save the day and defeat Sorrento, owner of IOI, a corporation set up to dump thousands of players into the game for the sole purpose of finding the keys and gaining control of the OASIS for evil purposes.

From a writing standpoint, it’s pretty slick.  It makes me want to read Ernest Cline’s novel version to see how he did it.  You’ve got human players in the human world and they’re playing in the virtual world.  They go back and forth between worlds, almost simultaneously, as sometimes human heroes are trying to save their indisposed friends who are busy playing the game from an attack from real life baddies.  It gets very complicated so I’m always curious as to how authors navigate such difficult waters.

One complaint.  I hate to sound like an old man, but even though it’s PG-13, the word “fuck” is used.  Seriously, what the fuck?  It’s used in a joke and the joke lands, ergo it’s not gratuitous but still, are there standards or what?  Either “fuck” gets you an R rating or it doesn’t.  Further complaint, “shit” seems to be really creeping into PG-13 movies and it’s like, what the hell, either these are movies that families can take their older kids to or they aren’t.

All that said, the movie was fucking good.

STATUS:  Shelf-worthy.

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Movie Review – Chappaquiddick (2018)

Err…uh…I can’t err…uh believe that liberal Hollywood allowed this movie to be made, 3.5 readers.

BQB here with an…err…uh review.

It was the summer of 1969 and as America kept their eyes glued to the moon landing, i.e. the crowning achievement of former President John F. Kennedy’s support of the space program, another Kennedy was partying on an island off the coast of Massachusetts.

Ted was, for lack of a better term, the runt of the Kennedy litter.  Joseph Kennedy died a WWII veteran, John died when he was assassinated during his presidency, Robert died while running for president.  As Ted (Jason Clarke) states in the film, Joe was the favorite, John had the charm, Robert was brilliant and if you believe in odds, then that didn’t leave much for him.

Long story short, on the fateful night in question, Ted, with young campaign worker Mary Jo Kopechne in his car, drives off a bridge.  He manages to escape but Mary Jo is left inside.  Rather than call the police for immediate help, he waits until the next morning to report the incident and well, as often happens, the cover up is worse than the crime.

Ted’s father, also named Joseph, a fabulously wealthy man who built a fortune as a bootlegger in the 1930s, is, at the time of the incident, a withered old stroke victim, little more than a disappointed expression glued on the face of a husk of a body.  He can barely get out a few words and when he does, it’s to let Ted know what a total letdown he is to the old man in comparison to his older, deceased brothers.

I hope I’m not spoiling this for anyone.  This is all old news for a politics junkie like me, but may be new to the general public.  I’ll admit I didn’t know a lot of the sordid details that went on behind the scenes in the ensuing “clean up.”

Joe Sr. maybe be physically useless, but his money, name and reputation still hold sway, and thus at the Kennedy compound in Hyannis, a cavalcade of the best political fixers of the 1960s convenes, each man copiously reviewing every last conceivable angle, leaving no stone unturned in an effort to remove Ted from any ability to be prosecuted.  Favors are called in, the media is manipulated, the judicial system is turned on its ear.

The most damning fact that the team had to contend with?  That Mary Jo had a large pocket of air left in the car, meaning that if Ted had simply called for help right away, the police could have rescued her.  Thus, the ongoing theme that sometimes politicians worry so much about how their political careers will be affected that they don’t do the right thing and this is unfortunate, as it is doing the right thing that often saves a political career.  Had Ted called the cops, the whole night could have been chalked up to a funny story where Ted made a wrong turn into the pond but luckily everyone escaped ok but instead…well, he did the wrong thing, a woman died, and in doing the wrong thing, he didn’t become president.

Another ongoing theme is that sometimes, not every member of a powerful or famous family is up to snuff.  Ted admits he lacks his brothers’ talents and yet feels overwhelming pressure to pursue politics – a life he wasn’t cut out for, a life that killed two of his brothers and causes him stress that he can’t endure, perhaps why he turned to alcohol and womanizing in life, though allegations of alcoholism and womanizing are merely danced around in this film.  The movie focuses on what it can prove and only tangentially mentions longtime rumors, speculation, etc i.e. that Ted and Mary Jo were having an affair, that Mary Jo was pregnant, that Ted was drunk the night of the accident.

Jason Clarke is a dead ringer for Ted, while comic actor Ed Helms plays Ted’s cousin/longtime confidant Joe Gargan (a Kennedy family extended member who according to this film, longs to be considered an actual Kennedy but feels like all he is ever asked to do his be Ted’s fixer).  Meanwhile, comedian Jim Gaffigan plays Ted’s other confidant, former U.S. Attorney Paul Markham.

It’s ironic that in this very powerful, dramatic film, an Australian is called on to play an American politician, while two comedians are tapped to play the senator’s associates.  Frankly, to me, this is a sign that Hollywood probably wasn’t thrilled about this movie being made.  While Ed Helms has long been working on his chance to cross over into drama, I doubt Jim Gaffigan, a comic who jokes about how he eats too much and who to date, his most famous movie role is being the “Meow” guy from “Super Troopers” would have had a chance to play a US Attorney/Kennedy colleague unless there wasn’t a line of actors at the studio’s door looking to snatch up the role.

At any rate, I don’t want to get political, but I think we can all agree Tinsel Town is a liberal place.  That puts the film industry in a tough position – make this movie and tell a very interesting story about how there’s a double standard in the law for the rich and powerful…hide the story to protect the reputation of an iconic left-leaning political family dynasty….don’t tell the story and in so doing, ignore the #metoo movement that’s been sweeping over Hollywood, i.e. people demanding that stories of women being hurt by the powerful be told….tell the story and admit that one of the Democratic party’s top senators for many decades was a womanizing lout who got off scot free on a rap that would have left anyone else in prison for life…this was a movie with a lot of ramifications and it’s being made probably didn’t make a lot of powerful people happy.

I’m not giving the right a pass…I’m just saying, this is a story that has been waiting to be told for fifty years.  I remember as a kid whenever Ted Kennedy would come on TV, I would make a joke about his voice, crack a joke about Chappaquiddick, “I err uh left a blond in the err uh pond” and inevitably some adult would tell me to shush because didn’t I think the Kennedy family had suffered enough already?

Yeah, but no one seemed to care about Mary Jo’s suffering…until today, when the media is finally willing to listen to stories about women suffering at the hands of powerful men.  A film that was made 50 years too late to get Mary Jo some justice, but at least it was finally made.

STATUS:  Shelf-worthy.

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Movie Review – Rampage (2018)

So, a trio of monsters walk into a bar and…

BQB here with a review of “Rampage.”

Ugh.  How did this movie get made, 3.5 readers?  Honestly.

It’s like Hollywood refuses to take a risk anymore.  Anything that comes with a brand, a name, a nostalgic audience…it’s going to get made.

Do you remember the “Rampage” video game?  As arcade games go, it was pretty awesome.  As a kid, it was one of my favorites.  It was pretty easy.  You take control of a monster.  You climb the beast up and down buildings, punch them until they fall down.  Gain extra points by destroying helicopters, tanks etc and if you need more health, just eat some people.

Hmmm.  Maybe that’s why I’m so messed up.  Anyway, what usually makes for a good video game does not make for a good movie so….I’ll be very kind here….it’s a fun popcorn movie and it was better than I thought it would be, but that being said, it’s not something I’d bother to watch again either.

The plot?  Ummm….let’s just say it’s the Rock doing his thing – saving garbage movies by being a big, loveable lug, that rare bodybuilding tough guy who seems like he could save your ass and yet he’s probably read a book or two so he might also hold up his end of a conversation.

The Rock = saver of shitty movies, from “Fast and Furious” to “GI Joe” and now, this drek.  Without him, I doubt it would have been watchable.

The evil Wyden Corporation, headed by a duo of duplicitous cartoon villains/brother-sister siblings (Malin Akerman and Jake Lacey as Claire and Brett Wyden) have corrupted the genetic research of ex-employee, Dr. Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris).  Their super evil corporation has turned what was supposed to be a cure for all diseases and used it to, instead, make animals become super big and strong and crazy and able to destroy entire cities.

Um…because apparently giant, city destroying animals are way more profitable than a cure-all for all of mankind’s diseases but, yeah, stop thinking too much.  Seriously.  If you saw the trailer with the Rock running around with a giant gorilla and thought this was a thinking man’s film then I don’t know what to tell you.

Rounding out the cast is Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Harvey Russell, a mysterious government agent dubbed “The Cowboy.”  He more or less plays a watered down version of his Negan character from “The Walking Dead.”  While he doesn’t carry a bat and isn’t a murderous psychopath, he does have that similar, “Look at me, I’m saying inappropriate things but because I’m saying them with an attitude, you’re supposed to think they’re really clever!”

The Rock, of course, plays an ex-special forces soldier turned primatologist because, apparently that’s a thing.  When his buddy, a normally well-mannered gorilla (George) is turned into an insane killing machine because of the Wyden’s dubious concoction, it’s up to the saver of all franchises to save the day (and this movie because seriously, the man’s macho charisma is the only reason to bother watching…although Naomie Harris is hot, intelligent…arguably too good for this picture.)

One complaint – it’s PG-13 so…I guess it’s ok for the teenagers but still, there are a few jokes where it’s like…eh….really…do we need so much use of the word “shit” and other naughty activities (George likes to give the middle finger to the Rock).  I don’t know.  Maybe I’ve become an old man but PG 13 meant something different in my day.  Get off my lawn and I’m keeping your football.  It’s mine now.

STATUS:  Shelf worthy.  It’s not a flick for the ages, but it’s a fun ride.  As utterly ridiculous as it was to make a movie based on a very simple video game, this version was the best possible version that could have been made, I think.  It doesn’t suck as much as I thought it would, let me put it that way.

I had the chance to watch it at Disney’s super deluxe AMC with all the thrills, my seat shook when the monsters punched each other and shit.  Good stuff.  Go see it in the theater once, have a good time, then try to forgive yourself for wasting two hours of your life on this tomfoolery.

 

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Movie Review – The Outsider (2018)

Domo arigato, 3.5 Mr. Robotos.

BQB here with a review of the Netflix film, “The Outsider.”

3.5 readers, if it’s one thing that the Yakuza are known for it’s open-ness.  The Japanese mafia really like newcomers who change things up…not.

Jared Leto plays Nick Lowell, an AWOL US GI in 1954.  At the start of our tale, he’s in a Japanese prison.  He performs a favor for one Yakuza member and that favor is returned with a grant of his freedom.  Oddly, the Yakuza boss’ son welcomes Nick as an equal right away and after awhile, he manages to turn various Yakuza members from thinking he’s a dirty foreigner to deciding he’s just one of the guys.

Honestly, it would be a nice tale about tolerance, diversity, and acceptance if so many people weren’t being shot and murdered and so on.

Overall, a good film, very dark, could have used more info on Nick’s backstory and I feel like there should have been more karate but maybe that’s a stereotype on my part.  Do all Yakuza know karate?  Is it more offensive to the Yakuza to say they all know karate or that they all don’t know karate?  Which is it?  I don’t want to offend the Yakuza.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

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Movie Review – Tomb Raider (2018)

A tomb is raided and other surprises in this reboot of a movie series about a video game, which you think would mean it is destined to suck but surprisingly, it doesn’t.

BQB here with a review of “Tomb Raider.”

Egads.  I suppose we should have realized it would happen sooner or later.  Millenial Lara Croft.  While Angelina Jolie, Gen X Lara Croft, reveled in flashing around her family’s fortune that allowed her to live an adventurer lifestyle, waltzing around the world in her tight short pants, twin hand cannons strapped to her hip as she absconds with the treasures of indigenous peoples in the name of saving the world (which to her credit, she did save it a lot), today’s Lara is different.

Millennial Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander) covers up and, gasp, wears full pants.  She prefers a bow and arrow (I won’t get into the hand cannons but it is addressed), and she laments her family’s wealth.  It really eats her up inside that her long lost father, Lord Richard(Dominic West) left her with fat stacks of cash.  Why should she enjoy such a hefty bank account when so many others inherit nothing?

Ergo, when our tale begins, we find that this Lara has shunned Croft manner in favor of the life of a lowly bicycle courier until she realizes her treasure hunting father might still be out there, and she’ll have to follow in his footsteps (and assume control of the Croft dynasty) in order to find him and, of course, save the world from a devastating fate that is sealed in, you guessed it, a tomb.

Walton Goggins, best known for playing caricatures of dopey, in-bred Southern redneck baddies, dials it back a notch and plays the best, most believable villain of his career, the overseer of an operation that is blasting and digging up a remote Japanese island in search of the above mentioned tomb.

The verdict?  You’ll have to forgive me.  I’m a Gen Xer, so I yearn for Jolie’s candy apple tushy stuffed into short shorts.  Her version of Croft was hot and intelligent.  Vikander is pretty and intelligent, but it’s made clear she’s here to save the world with her mind and athletic abilities and not hear to be your eye candy.

SIDENOTE:  It’s weird how things tend to come full circle.  The old folks of my day told women to cover up.  The young folks of my day said women should be able to let it all hang out to express themselves, be proud of themselves and that doesn’t mean they’re to be treated as playthings.  Now the pendulum has swung back and now the young people are calling for women to cover up, at least in movies now.  Oh well.  I’m just along for the ride at this point.

STATUS:  Shelf-worthy.  I’ll give it to this film.  It’s better than I thought it would be, worth watching, though feel free to wait for it to come out as a rental.  It does have a bit more in the brain department than the originals, the plot is a better developed than the originals, though it’s also only developed as far as a movie about a video game will allow, which isn’t saying much.  Now is the time for common sense bow and arrow control.

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Movie Review – I, Tonya (2017)

Skating and knee-capping!

BQB here with a review of the skater girl gone (allegedly) bad, I, Tonya.

Despite hearing rave reviews, I delayed watching this thing because, like most Gen Xers, I felt I know enough about the story, seeing as how if you were sentient during the 1990s, then it was the only thing anyone ever talked about on TV for the longest time.

For those who were too young or, gasp, born after the events, here’s a primer.  In 1994, ice skater Nancy Kerrigan was clubbed in the knee while practicing at an ice rink in Detroit.  Blah, blah, blah, investigations ensued and what is usually a light, moderately followed sport (I mean, you rarely see that much controversy in women’s figure skating) became a ratings bonanza.

As a dark cloud of suspicion hanged over Tonya Harding, she and Nancy competed for America in the Winter Olympics even though questions loomed, i.e. was it even fair for Tonya to be participating if her opponent was clubbed?

By the way, what exactly happened leading up to the clubbing?  Doubtful we’ll ever know for sure, though Tonya, ex-husband Jeff Gillooly (a fun name even today) and ex-husband’s friend Shawn Eckhardt all faced some form of criminal liability.

Theories have abounded over the years of who exactly was involved in what, who asked who to do what, who knew about what, etc.  This film takes the premise that Tonya may have been aware of an attempt to prank Nancy with a false death threat to mess with her head, that Gillooly enlisted his overweight, dumb, delusional (he thinks he’s a spy/counter-terrorist operative though he clearly isn’t) to find a buddy willing to mail the letter from Nancy’s home state and somehow in all that mess, Shawn goes way too far and enlists a dumb flunky to bash Nancy’s knee.

Thus, if we’re ranking just by sheer stupidity, then based on this film, we’d put Shawn at top, Jeff in the middle and Tonya on the bottom.

Overall, that’s been the question that has long loomed over Tonya Harding.  If she was unaware of the attack until after it happened, then it’s not fair to blame her for the stupidity of her ex-husband and friend.  If she was involved or somehow knew what was going to happen, then she shouldn’t have been allowed to participate in the Olympics.

We’ll probably never know for sure and that’s usually the rub when trying to create a fun, engaging film about historic events.  None of us were there and accounts come from all different sides, often competing and conflicting with one another.

The film handles this well, making it clear we can never fully be sure what exactly happened in the events that led up to the infamous knee whack.  Fourth wall breaks are extensively utilized, often during which characters turn to the camera to critique another character’s claim.  For example, Margot Robbie as Tonya, fed up with being used as a punching bag one too many times by her abusive husband (Sebastian Stan) grabs a shotgun and knocks a cabinet door off its hinges with a blast that had been meant for Gillooly’s head.  She then scoffs at the incident, looks to the camera and says, “This never happened!” then throws the gun down.

Ultimately, characters are featured in straight interviews, leading to fully acted out sequences, and then occasionally characters break the action to tell the audience the other character is wrong and here’s what really happened.  It’s fun, funny, and handles the difficult job of sorting through a puzzle that no one could really ever put together fully and still be one-hundred percent sure of the outcome.

Between the news coverage of the day, and ensuing documentaries and yes, I think there might have even been a made for TV movie or two, I thought I’d heard it all about this case but this film really delves into Tonya’ life.

Specifically, we learn about her abusive mother, LaVon, played aptly by Allison Janney, who earned every bit of her Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

In the world of girls’ figure skating, i.e. a world of prim and proper skinny young girls with polished mothers who treat their children as prized possessions and fawn over their every accomplishment, the Hardings stuck out like a duo of sore thumbs.  LaVonn and her giant, outdated for even the 90s spectacles, sits on the sidelines, chain smoking, drinking out of a flask, and shouting every manner of obscenity at Tonya in an effort, she claims, to make her skate better, and even directs her bile at fellow mothers and coaches.  Hearing a skate mom drop words like “fuck” and “cunt” around all of the refined mothers is equally disturbing and funny.

What’s the big theme of the movie?  If you’re born into shit, then it’s pretty difficult to wash the shit stink off yourself, no matter how hard you try.  Undoubtedly, Tonya is a great skater, being the only American woman to ever land a triple axel, a highly complicated move.  Yet, try as she might, the judges and fans see her as an unpolished hayseed, a wannabe.  She’s a bit bigger and less classier than the other girls.  In a world where wealthy moms gladly spend all their time and money getting their little competitors to the best coaches and are able to shell out big bucks on costumes and equipment, Tonya’s only resource is her hard ass waitress mother who hurls all manner of abuse at her daughter, both verbal and physical.

Her only other resource is boyfriend, later husband, Jeff, who physically abuses Tonya constantly, and honestly some of the scenes where he flat out cold cocks her are a bit too much to watch.  Oddly, in a way, I can’t tell if the movie is trying to let Jeff off the hook by portraying him  as a somewhat charming dweeb who attempts to prove his manliness by beating on his woman and that because he’s a dumb redneck born into crap, he doesn’t know any better, or if they’re trying to say, yeah here’s the man’s savagery on full display but he does need to communicate with the audience and make an occasional joke to keep the story moving.

I empathize with the “shit stink you’re born with” doesn’t wash off vibe.  Sadly, so much of our entire lives are decided before we’re even born, and also before we turn 18.  How we are parented impacts our world view, our thoughts, feelings, emotions and even how others see us.

All the other skater girls have it made, if you think about the amount of money and time a parent has to be willing to put into making a child’s dream of Olympic gold come true.  Tonya has none of these advantages but tries to overcome them with the very little support she has, being attacked by mother and husband all the while, and still manages to be a competitor.

Something we can take away?  Perhaps, if someone gets the job done, we shouldn’t worry about how they look, or how they talk, or their personal life and so on.  If they get the job done, then they get the job done.  If we overlook the part where the job is getting done and focus on whether or not the person fits the usual mold, then we’ll never allow people the opportunity to raise themselves out of bad situations they were born in.

In other words, you can’t say, “Hey, if you were born into crap then stop being lazy and pull yourself out of it” and then also say, “Get back into the crap, you don’t belong here!”

Overall, we may never know fully how the attack went down.  If Tonya participated in it somehow, then she sucks.  If she didn’t, then she was a victim of a shitty life and a shitty family that followed her wherever she went, dragging her down no matter how hard she tried to escape it.  Ironically, had the attack never went down, she probably had a good chance of bringing home a medal of some kind.

One more thing – I get the willingness to want to sympathize with Tonya.  We all have stories about how we suffer due to things we can’t control, choices made by others that we can’t overcome.

Still, I always wince a little whenever it was suggested that Nancy Kerrigan was somehow the villain in all of this.  This movie sort of dances a toe into those waters but never goes there all the way.  Was Nancy one of those prim and proper girls with a supportive family and all the class and grace that the judges wanted?  Yes.  Did she still put a lot of work in?  Yes.  Did she deserve to get clubbed in the knee?  No.  Was she a bad person for getting upset that her knee was bashed and worrying about how all her work was for nothing if she can’t compete due to a knee injury (leading to the infamous “Why me?” tape).  No, she didn’t do anything wrong and if she was peeved for only getting the silver, it’s probably because the thought might always linger – maybe if she hadn’t been clubbed she would have taken the gold.

Then again, I suppose had the incident never taken place, all the 1994 figure skaters would have obscured their way into history.  Can you name another figure skater from another year (other than the most recent?)  Kristy Yamaguchi and Oksana Baiul are the only ones I can muster, and only because they were competing that year against Tonya and Nancy.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. Deserved a bit more Oscar attention than it received.

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Movie Review – Magnum Force (1973)

A man’s got to know his limitations, 3.5 readers.

BQB here with a review of “Magnum Force.”

I promised a review of all five “Dirty Harry” movies and slowly but surely, I’ll get there.

The key to making a good sequel to a popular movie is to keep the essence of what made the first flick so awesome but at the same time, being willing to branch out just far enough to make the film stand on its own.  That’s done here and serial writers would be well-advised to pay attention.

While Dirty Harry’s catchphrase in the first film was, “Do you feel lucky, punk?” here, it’s “A man’s got to know his limitations.”

Early in the film, Harry says this to one of the many bosses who spend all day polishing their brass but still want to chew Callahan out over why he can’t be kinder and gentler to the never-ending onslaught of scumbags who are trying to shoot him.  It’s meant as an insult but as the movie progresses, I began to wonder if it isn’t eventually turned into Harry’s mantra.

You see, in the ultimate twist of irony, Harry, who has long groused about the flaws in the system that allow criminals to go free, is pitted against…dun dun dun…a group of young, rookie motorcycle cops who have formed an execution squad, carrying out hits on bad guys who skirt the system time and time again.

Though Harry is often accused of going beyond the law himself, we, the viewers, know the truth.  Harry doesn’t go above the law…he just enforces the law, and he never backs down from a fight.  When other cops call it a day, Harry runs headfirst into danger, his .44 Magnum blazing, and gets the job done.

But as much as he gripes about how the system lets crooks walk, he, to use his catchphrase, “knows his limitations.”  He knows he is limited by the law and if he breaks it in the name of catching a crook, then he’s no worse than the bad guys he locks up.

Still, the setup is gut wrenching – Harry, the badass cop who bleeds blue, forced to do the unthinkable – to take on his fellow officers as though (shudder) he’s some kind of dirty, bleeding heart hippy.  Truly, Callahan’s worst nightmare.

As usual, there are a number of interludes where Harry is just out and about town, enjoying a bite to eat or doing some work when shit happens.  During the 1970s, airplanes were hijacked by terrorists pretty regularly, so I imagined crowds of that era cheered as Harry dons a pilot uniform to sneak onboard a pilfered plane only to feed the bad guys a taste of .44 caliber justice.  Today, movie goers would want to give the terrorists a cash settlement and put Harry in sensitivity training.

Further, the shootout in a department store is one of the best action scenes in the entire series, so you’ll want to check that out.

Moral quandaries abound as the film takes you into the lives of those baddies being offed by the motorcycle squad, from mobsters who start their own wars to a pimp who forces a can of drain cleaner down the throat of a prostitute who comes up a few bucks short.  On occasion, you might, sadly, find yourself rooting for the motorcycle cops but then you remember that while the system is flawed, the same system that occasionally lets bad guys go also keeps people from being like, “Hey, I don’t like so and so’s face so I’m going to say he’s a criminal for no reason and take it upon myself to blow him away.”  Vigilantism is never the way, no matter what Batman tells you.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.  Overall, it’s a rare sequel that’s as good as the first.  Harsh as it may sound, we all need to know our limitations.  That’s the hardest part of life, isn’t it?  In theory, Harry would probably like to dispense his own brand of Magnum justice to the wicked, but he knows he’s limited by the law and as much as he complains about it, he knows he’s limited by it, so he won’t step over that line, though he occasionally wiggles his foot over it from time to time throughout the series.  Here, the crooked cops didn’t know their limits and thus, must face Callahan’s wrath.

“Know your limitations” is good advice for life, as much as we hate to hear it.  Don’t wait around for the perfect job, when a subpar gig will put money in your bank account.  Don’t wait around for the perfect lover when an imperfect person is willing to spend time with you.  If you never settle for less than perfection, you’ll never experience much in this very imperfect world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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