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Hey 3.5 readers.

BQB here.

My book, the first part of The Last Driver, is FREE on Amazon all this week. If you could grab a free copy, I’d appreciate it. Leave a review? Even better.

Thank you.

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

Hit the road, 3.5 readers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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TV Review – Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. The Reverend (Interactive Special)

3.5 readers, if you need a cure for the corona blues, this is it.

Note that I said a cure for the corona blues, not the corona itself.

Anyway, I was feeling pretty blue myself yesterday morning when I made my new normal commute from the bedroom to the couch, only to be instantly cheered up by the surprise of an interactive Kimmy Schmidt special.

I love this show because I feel like it was one of the last true examples of good comedy out there. Jokes that fly at you at a rapid clip, so much so you have the watch the series at least twice to catch them all.  They pull no punches and they aren’t afraid to poke fun at both sides of a topic, no easy feat in this day and age when the masses demand that comedians pick a side.

Naturally, I was bummed when the show ended rather abruptly. Though we were given an ending, it felt like everyone found love but Kimmy.  Indeed, Kimmy did find success as the author of a children’s book series, but love eluded her. I suppose there’s a larger debate about whether she needed love and while yes, anyone can achieve success on their own, finding that special relationship is, well special.

By the way, for those new to the show, it is about a woman who, as a teenager, was kidnapped (I forget the actual year but I want to say late 90s or early 2000s) by the insane Reverend Wayne Garywayne (Jon Hamm in a role that blows Don Draper out of the water) and forced to live in a bunker as one of Garywayne’s many sister wives.

Lied to by the Reverend and told that he has saved them because the apocalypse has broken out on the earth up above, Kimmy and friends are shocked when they are rescued decades later by the police and find that the world is still here.

This does not sound like fodder for a comedy at all but the crux of the humor surrounds Kimmy having a child like naivete, trying to make it big in New York City while learning thing we all take for granted. Her “teachers” on this journey are wannabe actor Titus and crazy landlady Lillian.

So, not to belabor the show’s history, in this special, Kimmy is three days away from marrying an actual prince played by Daniel Radcliffe when she discovers that the Reverend, now in prison, had been keeping a second bunker full of sister wives the entire time.  It’s up to Kimmy to save the day on a cross country trip and free the Reverend’s hostages while making it back to the wedding on time.

You, the viewer, get to make choices for Kimmy and friends, and often your choices have unexpected and hysterical results. They also do have consequences, as your decisions lead to happy, mediocre and or bad endings – just like life!

In fact, as I watched the show, I couldn’t help but wish that I had a remote control that would let me go back and make better decisions.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. Look away for a spoiler – Making choices that are out of Kimmy’s character tend to be funnier, but making choices that Kimmy would make tend to keep her on the straight and narrow path.

PS: As a fan of the show, I think this does provide better closure as it ties up the loose end about whether Kimmy would find her soulmate, while leaving the door open if they want to ever make another special or more episodes. Further, it is amazing what tech can do with interactive storytelling and Netflix is leading the way on that.

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BQB’s Classic Movie Reviews – Bernie (2011)

What if someone committed a murder and no one cared, 3.5 readers?

It’s the 1990s and assistant funeral director Bernie Tiede (Jack Black) is the most beloved citizen of the small town of Carthage, Texas. An unmarried man in his late 30s, Tiede excels at giving the dearly departed the best funerals possible, and finds a legion of adoring fans in the form of the town’s elderly widows who leaned on him after their husbands passed.

Rumored, though not proven, at least in the movie, to be gay, Bernie prefers the company of old women, often befriending them and squiring them around town.  The movie is shot in a documentary style, and as the interviewed residents note, the area is quite conservative, so if Bernie had been gay, he would have most likely kept it to himself out of fear of public reprisal.  Then again, he may very well have been a straight man who liked to hang out with old chicks. The movie never tells, and I’m too lazy to look it up on my own and yes, this is based on a true story.

The most ornery widow of all was Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine).  Her late husband was loaded and she meets Bernie after his passing.  Literally everyone in town despises the old buzzard, as she goes out of her way to insult and push people away, especially in her role as the owner of the town bank, where her favorite hobby is turning down loans.

Bernie and Margie became unlikely friends. Marge, having ample financial resources, whisks Bernie away on international travel, and Bernie, though he claims to just trying to be a good friend to the old woman, clearly enjoys being spoiled rotten by her generosity.

In fact, he enjoys it too much, for he takes Margie up on an offer to cut his hours at the funeral home down to part time, so that he can devote the rest of his time to being her personal manservant. Though she is generous on Bernie with gifts and money, she is also controlling and domineering, obscenely jealous of every second he spends away from her.  Though he’s the only one around willing to speak to her (her entire family refuses to talk to her because she’s so mean) she insults and harangue’s Bernie incessantly, minor screwups in fulfilling her commands become fodder for her to dump on him endlessly.

One day, in the midst of one of Margie’s temper tantrums, Bernie snaps and loses it, grabbing a rifle usually used for garden varmint control and shooting the old lady dead.

He immediately regrets it, but his attempts to cover it up show he is no master criminal. Alas, he throws the poor old woman in a chest freezer, tells everyone who asks that she had to be checked into a nursing home due to a stroke, and then goes wild with her money, not on himself, but on the community, donating the old woman’s money to every cause and charity and helping those in need.

All this good will, under the auspices of it being wished by Margie but carried out by Bernie at her command, seems out of character for the old skinflint, and naturally, townsfolk take notice until Bernie is caught.

Ah, but the rub is, sadly, when Bernie is caught. no one cares, except for DA Danny Buck (Matthew McConaughey.)

The Mattster has been in a lot of great roles, but this is a great performance lost to the ages because the film was just not that popular. Buck, who as a politician, is a masterful headline grabber, but his interest in pursuing justice in this case is genuine. As Buck is harassed by townsfolk all day who want to know why he can’t just let Bernie off the hook, Buck, in the movie’s best line, tells one angry resident that if she were ever to be shot four times and shoved in a freezer, wouldn’t she want someone to care about her?

Overall, the movie is a good study of personality, how in many ways, it is everything, but also, the value of life i.e. isn’t the life of even a not-nice person valuable?  Did Bernie have a one time freak out that could have happened to anyone given the right set of circumstances, or is there a monster under the surface, one that could kill again if left unchecked?

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.  I know comedies rarely get Oscar recognition but if Black was ever to get some Oscar love it would have/should have been for this.

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BQB’s Classic Movie Reviews – Coffy (1973)

Oh, young Pam Grier, where have you been all my life?

BQB’s corona movie marathon continues.

Like most Gen Xers I was first introduced to an older Pam Grier in Tarantino’s 1990s followup to Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown.

Pam was no slouch then but damn, in the 70s? Holy crap on rye, hold the mayo, 3.5 readers. I am no left with no choice to go through her entire movie catalog.

Coffy is a nurse by day and by night, a bad ass vigilante mama. At the start of the film, Coffy has tracked down a drug kingpin and a pusher and, while posing as a prostitute willing to do anything for a fix, gets the upper hand and cooks these fools, thus securing revenge for her little sister, who these bad hombres got hooked on heroin.

Its all over. She’s managed to get off scot free, no repercussions for taking the law into her own hands and for awhile it looks like she’ll have to figure out how to live a normal life again while what she has done eats away at her conscience.

She’s dating city councilman Howard, who comes across as a man who wants to help the little guy, though she suspects he might be corrupt.  Meanwhile, she pines for Carter, a straight arrow cop.

When Walter is attacked by corrupt cops who fear he will turn them in, Coffy uses her vigilante skills to go down the rabbit hole of posing as a prostitute, deep undercover in the seedy criminal underworld, taking out a pimp and his associates, working her way up the food chain until she finally takes out all those responsible for the attack on Carter and naturally, she’ll have to make some hard choices along the way.

On the surface this sounds like a great plot for a film, but unfortunately, like many 70s flicks, it suffers from a lot of choppiness. But it makes up for it with heart and well, if I’m being honest, titties. Coffy’s gratuitous titties are the true stars of the show, and she uses them to lull many a criminal into a false sense of security right before she gives them the old deep-six.

Its funny that Tarantino built his career on bringing 70s filmmaking style to the 90s, seeing as how even by the 90s, a lot of these cheesy 70s flick weren’t up to industry snuff, but if you get get past the bad dialogue and at times, scenes that look like they were made by student fllm makers, you can have fun watching Coffy as she delivers expletive laden soliloquies, explaining to each crook what they done wrong just before she blasts them.

Did I mention there are boobies?

STATUS: Shelfworthy.

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Movie Review – Extraction (2020)

Hey 3.5 readers.

BQB here, taking a break from my classic movie marathon to watch a new one, that being Netflix’s “Extraction” starring Chris Hemsworth, which dropped today.

Hemsworth stars as Tyler Rake, a drunk, drugged up merc with a deathwish as in he doesn’t care if he lives or dies and given his druthers, acts like he’d prefer the latter.

When the son of a Mumbai, India gangster is kidnapped, Tyler is recruited to save young Ovi. To do so, he’ll face legions of enemies as well as double, triple and quadruple crosses.

A lot of great action scenes, gun battles, fist fights, explosions and what have you. Box office blockbuster quality brought straight to streaming in HD.

It was interesting to see Hemsworth playing someone other than a superhero. He stepped out of his comfort zone to play a flawed, tragic hero.

Honestly, during this corona stink fest, it comes at a time when we haven’t caught a good new flick in what, like over a month now? So it was welcome.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

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BQB’s Classic Movie Reviews – Judgment Night (1993)


My coronavirus movie marathon continues, 3.5 readers.

This one wasn’t all that cheesy.  I thought it was pretty good as a kid.  As an adult it seems a little goofy but overall, it’s solid and has a simple lot.

Four friends, Jeremy Piven, Cuba Gooding Jr, Emilio Estevez and Stephen Dorff step outside of their suburban Illinois lives, borrowing an RV to go to a boxing match in Chicago.

A traffic jam causes them to seek out a shortcut, which leads to a wrong turn, which leaves them in a bad neighborhood where they witness a murder.  From thereon, the movie is a chase flick, as drug dealer Fallon (Dennis Leary) and his band of goons pursue the pals in an attempt to get rid of the witnesses.

There isn’t a lot in the way of character development.  Everyone gets their brief moment to shine but the movie primarily focuses on the chase and we don’t get to know the characters all that well, though we get a brief glimpse.

Piven, who was typecast as the douchebag friend in every group who eventually screws over the group with his douchebaggery plays true to form in this, the rich son of a stockbroker who tries to talk his way out of a situation where clearly there isn’t any room for negotiation.

Frank (Estevez) is a recently married man who just had a baby, adjusting to his new life as a family man, still shaking off his younger party boy days.  There’s a trace of resentment at having to stay home all the time at the beginning of the film, though by the end he finds a new appreciation for the safety of home.

Cuba starts out mild and ends up wild, almost enjoying “the game” and wanting to take on all the bad guys by himself.

Dorff…is mostly there for moral support.

Comedian Leary was famous for doing his rapid fire, long form rants, just unleashing swaths of anger at a rapid clip.  He has a few moments to do that here, though it’s clear he was held back as no one wanted to turn his criminal character into a stand up comedian.

STATUS: Shelf worthy.  Overall, solid flick.  Worth a watch.  Overall message is we should care more about how the other half lives.  The suburban boys quickly learn that the poor live hard lives and when they are stuck in a bad place, there’s no one to turn to for help, so they have to help themselves.

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My big book of badass writing prompts is free for the next few days.  Pick up a free copy or better yet, leave a review.  Any help is appreciated.

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BQB’s Classic Movie Reviews – The Warriors (1979)

3.5 readers, come out to play….3.5 readers, come out to play…

My coronavirus marathon of cult movies continues, this time with that gangland classic, “The Warriors.”

Now, I spent most of my adult life never even having heard of this film.  Then it the past few years, I started seeing references to it pop up here and there, people quoting the line when the Warriors are invited to “rumble” or, to “come out to play.”

The plot?  Peace is about to break out amongst all the gangs of New York City.  Cyrus, the popular leader of the Riffs, has called a giant meeting, asking all the gangs to meet him in the Bronx.  In a passionate speech, he points out the gangs are stronger together than apart, that they can do more working together than fighting one another.

It looks like a long lasting truce is about to come to fruition, when he’s shot in cold blood by the Rogues and worse, the Warriors are framed for the crime.

Even worse than the worst, the Warriors have to make a 50 mile trek to the safety of their home turf on Coney Island, forced to fight for their lives against a multitude of street hoodlums, all looking for vengeance on the gang they falsely believe took the life of their savior.

Michael Beck plays Swan, the Warriors’ leader aka their “War Chief.”  He is forced into the unenviable position of having to lead his gang home, not to mention having his authority called into question by his hot headed number two, Ajax, played by a young James Remar, who modern viewers might recognize today as Dexter’s adopted father Harry in Dexter.  It’s possible there are other young actors in this film who went on to bigger, better things but Remar was the only one I recognized.

The movie’s style is gritty, almost as if the producers were trying to say there’s no whitewash here.  We’re showing you gang life in all its sordid, nasty glory.  Except, about five minutes into the film, you get the impression that they’re not really doing that at all.  The uniforms of the various gangs are silly, sometimes downright hysterical.  The Warriors are chased by the Baseball Furies, a bunch of baseball bat wielding, team uniform wearing weirdos.

Do street gangs actually wear such fanciful, perfectly matched costumes in real life?  No.  To the film’s credit, there is a brief reference to the fact that they’re only dressing so matchy-matchy because they’re going to Cyrus’ gang summit and want to wear their colors to represent their turf.  OK.  I guess I can give that a pass then.

Meanwhile, in an early scene at the gang summit, we see fools in all sorts of silly matching outfits, the gang of street mimes being the most memorable.

Is that tongue in cheek?  Probably.  This is definitely a Hollywood version of gang life.  Not so schmaltzy as in West Side Story, where the gangs ward each other off with their fancy dance moves.  It’s definitely rougher than that, though at times, sillier.

I’ll give it this.  The plot is simple and straight and sometimes that can be great in a movie.  The twists are few, if any, and really, it’s just a survival flick.  The terms are set forth early.  They have been framed.  Bad guys who don’t know they have been framed want them dead.  They need to get home before they are killed.  What keeps the bad guys from just going to their turf?  I don’t know.  Rules and reasons, I guess.

Obviously, there are plenty of things that don’t fly today.  The Warriors are pretty quick to label each other with “the F word for homosexuals” at the slightest sign of weakness.  Oh, and they’re a Native American themed gang with nary a Native American within its ranks, so there’s that.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.  SPOILER ALERT:  There’s a scene where a group of ladies pick up the Warriors and invite them back to their apartment, seemingly on the auspices of offering nookie.  In reality, they trap our favorite gang and attempt to murder them.  I’m proud to say I would never fall for such a rouse, as whenever a woman flirts with me I always, without fail, assume that it’s all just a rouse intended to lead me to my demise.  While none of us know for sure how we will die, I know for me, it will never be because I was tricked into thinking a woman found me attractive.  So, there’s that.

Why Politicians Aren’t Motivated to Do the Right Thing

Hey 3.5 readers.

I try to avoid getting political on this fine blog, largely because the Internet/social media has ushered in a whole new era where people debate, not by the Marquess of Queensberry rules of old, but rather like the pro-wrestlers of today.

In other words, in the past, two parties would show up, debate, stay relatively cordial, and then agree to disagree.

Today, it’s pretty much you’ll inevitably say something that offends someone and rather than explain their side, they’ll just conk you on the head with a folding chair, Hollywood Hulk Hogan style.  OK, they won’t use a chair, but they’ll use fighting words.  They’ll get personal and at some point, it will be implied that your mother wears combat boots (less of an insult today than it was 30 years ago, but anyway.)

I digress.

Our political system sucks and politicians aren’t motivated to do the right thing.  TV and social media means the politicians react to the headlines of today, while they are happening right now, and in life, whether it is a disaster or a suspicious lump on your nether regions, what you did in the past to prepare for these sorts of things is more important than what you do once disaster strikes.

Think about your own budget.  Do you spend recklessly?  Maybe you do.  We’ve all been there from time to time.  But still, you have a general awareness that you need to save.  You need to pay bills on time.  You need to keep some money on hand for a rainy day.  Sure, you’ll see nice things and want them, but hopefully, some voice in your head reminds you that it might be easy to charge it on the credit card today, as if that credit is free money, but the bill will come back to haunt you.

Our politicians have zero motivation to NOT spend foolishly.  They have no motivation to prepare for a rainy day.  They have no motivation to keep borrowing low and they definitely have no motivation to keep some money on hand for a rainy day.

Think about the coronavirus.  I hate to break it to you, but we aren’t in a situation where everything is going to open up in May or whenever and we no longer have to worry about catching a dreaded disease.  This shutdown was never about that.  It was a fear that our hospitals weren’t up to snuff, that they didn’t have enough medical equipment, beds, and space to take care of a large influx of sick people.  Thus, if too many sick people flood the system, the medical staff can’t respond to patients fast enough.  This leads to more people getting sick and not being cured and before you know it, wammo.  It’s the Walking Dead world, and we are all Rick Grimes.  Actually, I’m awesome, so I’ll be Rick Grimes.  You nerds will be Shane at best.

Why didn’t the politicians prepare?  Swine flu happened in 2009.  That wasn’t as deadly as corona, but it was still bad.  It was bad enough that it scared Hollywood into making a movie called Contagion where Gwyneth Paltrow’s virus fighting doctor character (SPOILER ALERT) dies and gets his face cut off so her body can be studied for science.

But the politicians weren’t that motivated.  Politicians don’t get applause for making sure hospitals have enough beds.  They don’t get praise for making sure hospitals have enough ventilators.  They don’t get likes for making sure hospitals have enough masks and gloves or space.

Politicians get applause for dissing their opponents.  They get applause for dishing out free money and why not?  If you’re dumb enough to give me your credit card and tell me its ok to spend whatever I want, then  I’ll gladly buy a round of drinks for every schmuck at the bar, take the applause, then stick you with the bill.  Am I going to buy equipment to make sure people can be helped in the event of a crisis?  Pfft.  No.  Where’s the applause in that?

Think about how you run your own household.  You probably have some kind of a budget, even if its in your head.  You keep track of bills and expenses.  Maybe not on a nice flowchart but you have a general idea.  You have an idea of what in your house is broken and falling apart.  You have an idea of how much longer you can use this not so good appliance before you have to cave in and buy a new one.  You want to buy that fancy watch, sweet leather jacket or go on that awesome vacation, but you balance those wants with the needs of maybe some day you’ll need a new dishwasher, or your fear that a pipe will burst and you’ll need to hire a contractor to fix it and you wont be able to if youve spent all your money on comic books and bubblegum.

Unfortunately, politicians look at tax revenue as free money.  Free money to use to reward allies and punish opponents.  Free money to waste and why not because more free money will always come along.  And I hate to break it to you, but the money you give them today was already spent a long time ago.  The nation is being run on loans, or if you think about it, on a massive credit card.

When you see the US helping everyone around the world, that’s nice, until you realize we ran up the credit card to do it.  If you use your credit card to buy your neighbor’s kid an XBox, people will think you’re a nice person…for about five minutes, until everyone realizes your own kid doesn’t have shoes and your credit card bill is so high and your free cash is so low that your own kid will have to run around barefoot.

Overall, I wish there was a better system where politicians of both parties were inspired to keep costs and debts low, and to save, save, save for a rainy day.  To spend money on necessities rather than wants, to prepare for disasters ahead of time.

Long story short, 3.5 readers, unless you poop a crazy amount, you probably were always keeping a few spare rolls in your closet, so when the corona shit hit the fan, you didn’t have to run to the store and do a battle royale with all the people who didn’t keep enough rolls of butt wipe handy.  You did it because you knew you had to take care of yourself.  No one else will.

Politicians don’t think like that.  Spend, spend, spend.  Ignore potential looming disasters.  Someday, some other schmuck will be stuck with the bill and the blame while they’re chilling out on a beach somewhere…with all our toilet paper.

End of BQB rant.  Thank you.

PS – Imagine you are a parent.  You send your kid off to college.  You give them a prepaid debit card and tell them this is for important things only.  Your kid comes home and tells you they spent all their money on booze, parties, and they bought gifts for their dumb friends.  But then they tell you that they don’t have any money for text books, clothes or basic necessities.

Next time a politician gets on TV and tells you they spent your money helping out some OTHER country, maybe remind them that they were supposed to make sure the kids in America had shoes and textbooks and food first.

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