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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Movie Review – Bad Education (2019)

Talk about being hoisted on your own petard, 3.5 readers.

Dr. Frank Tassone (Hugh Jackman) is a superhero of a superintendent, having taken the once lowly Rosslyn school district in New York all the way to being the #4th highest ranked district in NY state. He does this by handling himself like a politician – fancy suits, plastic surgery, lots of glad handing, lots of charm, all designed to garner public support and get his initiatives done.

The town’s politicians couldn’t be happier, as the school’s high status has caused property values to skyrocket with lots of wealthy folk willing to move to town so their kids can attend the school system, willing to make the longer commute in NYC just to do so.

Thus, if you owned property in Rosslyn prior to all this, and then saw your property value go up, you made a lot of money, ergo, the community is pretty much willing to rubber stamp anything their rock star superintendent wants.

Tassone’s achievements are great that he’s been interviewed all across the media, newspapers and television, and his wall is lined with photos of himself being congratulated by celebrities.

All this comes crashing down because…he had to go and encourage a student. That’s what any good educator does, right? Part of his routine is to urge students to do their best, so when high school newspaper reporter Rachel interviews him for what she refers to as a “puff piece,” about a skywalk project that would lead to the construction of an 8 million dollar walkway to connect school properties, Tassone encourages her to think bigger, to give the story her all.

Rachel, who at first, never took her participation in the paper seriously, seeing it as just an elective hoop to jump through, rolls up her sleeves and starts digging, all the way until she uncovers the most massive school embezzlement scandal in US history.

I can’t help but think that Tassone wishes he’d just allowed Rachel to stick with her phone it in attitude.  Instead, Rachel learns that the superintendent has created multiple phony companies, charging off big bucks for expenses the district never incurred, using the money instead for his personal benefit, plastic surgery being the most expensive of his vices.

Believe it or not, this is the school’s second embezzlement scandal. The first involves Asst. Supt. Pamela Gluckin (Allison Janney), Tassone’s right hand who has embezzled plenty of her own. When she is caught, town fathers, led by School Committee President Bob Spicer (Ray Romano doing some serious dramatic acting) are talked into sweeping it under the rug by Tassone, who argues the kids will be unfairly punished when all the school’s awards and accolades are taken away.

Alas, once Spicer and the school board agree to make it all go away quietly, they essentially become complicit, and look like fools asleep at the switch when Tassone’s malfeasance is discovered.

Oddly enough, as bad as these actions are, the filmmakers manage to still make you feel bad for Tassone. He is, very much like a politician and expected to do a politician’s work but lack’s a politician’s resources to pay for it all. You can’t be ugly and shoddy looking when you give rousing speeches on behalf of your school district, after all. Eh, but then you are snapped back into reality when you see that school buildings are falling apart while he’s getting facelifts on the taxpayer’s dime.

Kudos to the teenage reporter who dug it all up first, beating the state and national media to the punch.

STATUS: Shelfworthy. A bit dry, boring at times, though the scandal itself is salacious, the details behind it are yawn inducing, so I give credit to the film makers for making scenes about a kid pouring through mounds of financial documents fun.

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BQB’s Classic Movie Reviews – The Full Monty (1997)

Are you looking for hot stuff, 3.5 readers?

Hulu has a nice collection of old movies, so I’ve been turning to it lately, only to find this oldie but goodie.

Gaz (Robert Carlyle) and Dave (Mark Addy) are a couple of friends and unemployed steelworkers. Their hometown, Sheffield, England, was once a great place to live, but when the steel mill upon which the local community depended went out of business, it wreaked havoc on the community.

Being out of worked has caused them to lose their mojo and for Gaz, it has wrecked his marriage. His wife has left him and his continued ability to see his son depends on his ability to pay child support.

One fateful night, they pass by the only business in town that is packed, a male strip club where the ladies converge upon, throwing away their hard earned cash just to see buff dudes.

Gaz realizes he and his pals are no studmuffins, but in doing the math, realizes that if some how, if he can pack the house, the cut that he and his pals will get will be enough to keep him on his feet and his support payments paid.

They recruit their old foreman, Gerald (Tom Wilkinson), who once barked orders at them but now that he is out of work, spends his time taking dance lessons with his wife, to be the team dance coach. Along the way, they recruit Horse (Paul Barber), Lomper (Steve Huison) and Guy (Hugo Speer) all locals with their own down on their luck stories thanks to the tanked economy.

Together, they will have to overcome their fears – that they’ll look like fools, that this was a stupid idea, that none of them are exactly Chippendale’s material, and in Dave’s case, that he feels bad that he’s fat.

If you set aside the ridiculousness of a bunch of average man setting out to become male strippers, there’s humor in drama in the lengths that long term unemployed people have to just to get a job. Be out of work long enough and society will write you off as a loser, and you’ll have to reinvent yourself, and perhaps event a job for yourself just to get back out there again.

Also, no one’s saying that women don’t have it rough, but this movie does meditate on some of the things that men have to go through. Its a myth that men don’t have their own body issues, and men tend to rest their self worth on their ability to be good providers, perhaps that just goes back to the caveman days.

“A few more years and men won’t exist,” is somewhat of a prophetic line in the movie. Is it true? I’m sure we can debate all day long about it. And no one can blame women for wanting the independence and security that education and good jobs can provide but somewhere along the way, men like the Full Monty dudes were left in the dust, no way to make a living and what does it matter, because nobody no longer needs them.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.  Worth a watch for no other reason that it is so hard to believe that Mark Addy, so young and insecure in this film, went on to play boorish prick King Robert Baratheon in Game of Thrones and then in other ways, it isn’t hard to believe because Robert is almost a parody of a shitty king that only a comedian could really handle.

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BQB’s Classic Movie Reviews – Rope (1948)

Well, I think I’ve found a new obsession with NBC’s Peacock, mostly because it has a large selection Universal movies, including a Hitchcock collection I’ve never gotten around to seeing before.

My best description of Rope is that it is a 1948 version of American Psycho. Either that or American Psycho is a 2000 version of Rope, though Rope came first.

John Dall and Farley Granger star as Brandon and Phillip, two Harvard grads who begin the film by strangling their friend David as part of a macabre social experiment, based on the Nietzschean lectures of their old professor and mentor Rupert Cadell (Jimmy Stewart.)

In said lectures, Caldwell opined that based on Nietzsche’s philosophy of the uber mensche or superman, it is possible for certain people to become so mentally, morally and culturally superior that they should be allowed to murder those whom they view as inferior.

As part of the experiment, the creepy young lads through a dinner party shortly after the murder, all part of a plan to savor their crime by hiding the body in plain sight.  The trunk holding the body is made up as a buffet table, and guests are allowed to stop by it and serve themselves, unaware of the corpse that lies within.

Brandon, who has one of the smarmiest, most punchable faces I’ve ever seen and Dall was truly born to play this part, is a sociopath, stuck up and pleased by what he has done, convinced that he is superior and killing David was like killing an insect.

Phillip is instantly regretful and breaks down immediately, the weak link who can’t hold is water, his remorseful behavior leading other guests to think something might be awry.

Overall, the chest is the focal point of the film. Hitchcock uses “long cuts” so that the film looks like it is one long party, continuously in motion. As we focus on one conversation, we hear people in the other rooms and as guests meander back and forth, we are left in suspense that at some point, someone might open the trunk and make the gruesome discovery.  Hitchcocks edits those cuts to make it look as though the film was done in one take.

To add insult to injury, Brandon invites his victim parents, who grow increasingly more concerned that their son hasn’t arrived at the party, as well as the deceased’s girlfriend as well as that girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend. Brandon relishes dropping hints that these two might consider getting back together, for David is indisposed.

Another wrinkle is that as the party wears on, Caldwell brings up his old lectures as part of the conversation and in doing so, reveals that his talk of killing the inferior was only theoretical, and even a bad attempt at humor. As Caldwell goes on a morose comedy routine about shooting people so he can get a better seat at a show, Brandon and Phillip realize they are dopes.

The film is based on a play which was based on the Leopold-Loeb murder in which two wealthy college students murdered a 14 year old boy as part of a disturbing social experiment to test their ubermenschian superiority.

As the film points out, Nietzsche’s theory is flawed, as no one should be able to decide that another’s life is not worth living, and that the greatest practitioner of this evil philosophy was Hitler, and look how awful that worked out.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. It predicts the Purge movies too, as Caldwell jokes that murder should be allowed once a year so people can vent their frustrations.

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BQB’s Classic Movie Reviews – Rear Window (1954)

What’s going on in your rear window, 3.5 readers?

BQB here with another classic movie review.

My cable company gave me a free pass to NBC’s new streaming service, Peacock. I’ll write another post at some point about whether Peacock is worth your while, but as I was browsing its offerings, I found, in addition to all the NBC shows you’d expect, a great selection of movies, including some old timey classics.

Right away, I zoomed in on Alfred Hitchcock’s suspense thriller, Rear Window, a movie that most people my age have not seen, though you need to if you want to maintain your movie buff cred.

It stars Jimmy Stewart as L.B. Jeffries, a globe trotting magazine photographer who is used to a fast paced lifestyle, running from one international hot spot to the next to click his pics.

Alas, for the past 7 weeks, he has been subjected to a terrible punishment – he has had to stay inside because some scientist in China accidentally tripped and knocked over a vile full of coronavirus.

Just kidding. He broke his leg while on one of his assignments, and a cast has left him confined to a wheelchair. He passes the time people watching out the rear window of his apartment, snooping on his neighbors through the long lens of his camera.

Many of the neighbors are entertaining, from the songwriter who plays great music, to the hot ballerina who wakes up every morning to practice her routine in her undies, a sight which Jeffries doesn’t mind doing a little extra snooping on.

Sure, his newfound hobby is odd, but seems relatively harmless until Jeffries notices that one neighbor, Lars Thornwald (Raymond Burr) is doing suspicious things…or is he?

Jeffries makes a number of observations – that Thornwald’s ill, bedridden wife is suddenly no longer in the apartment anymore.  Why isn’t she there? The poor woman was confined to bed and now she’s no longer there? Dude, WTF?

And why is Thornwald rapping up a saw and a knife in newspaper? What is in that trunk that he is tied up with rope and moved out of the apartment? Why does he get pissed whenever a little dog sniffs around his garden?

Perhaps there are reasonable explanations for all of these happenings. Many people own saws and knives and never killed anyone. Maybe the trunk is full of junk. And who doesn’t want a dog to stay away from the garden they planted?

The viewer is left in suspense, as Hitchcock yanks are chains, moving us back and forth from believing that Jeffries is just a busybody who needs to get away from the window and leave poor Mr. Thornwald alone, to believing that Thornwald is a vile killer who must be locked up immediately. Back and forth, back and forth, it seems like both possibilities are plausible, and there may even be other explanations to boot.

Even worse, there might be strange doings in the other apartments that Jeffries is ignoring while he has zeroed in on Thornwald!

Rounding out the cast are the uber hot Grace Kelly as Jeffries’ girlfriend Lisa, Thelma Ritter as Jeffries’ visiting nurse, Stella, and Wendell Corey as Jeffries’ old war buddy turned current NYPD detective Thomas Doyle.

At first, Lisa and Stella believe that Jeffries has become a crackpot, losing his mind over a bad case of cabin fever. They urge him to stop being a snoop until they start borrowing his binoculars and agree that something is going on in the Thornwald apartment that doesn’t quite add up. Meanwhile, Doyle, who agrees to look into the matter, thinks the trio have lost their minds.

Overall, I think that aspiring writers will benefit from this movie, as Hitchcock is a master of showing not telling and for its day, this large set made up to look like a bunch of apartments with carefully choreographed scenes in which one person is doing one thing in the apartment above while another is doing something in the apartment below was likely ahead of its time.

There’s sideplot in which Jeffries and Lisa are trying to iron out some bumps in their relationship. Stewart is 46 in this picture but by today’s standards, looks older because his hair is gray in this film whereas if it were remade today, there would definitely be some hair stylist rubbing some hair dye into those locks. Back in those days, people just gave less craps about gray hair or signs of age because hey, that’s just what happens. Today we try to control it and manage it.  Overall, it just surprised me that there was a time when Hollywood allowed a leading man to have gray hair.

Also much to my surprise, Grace Kelly was 25 in this movie, half Jeffries’ age. My assumption is that back in those days, men were attracted to beauty while women were attracted to the security a man can provide, i.e. through his money, and while beauty belongs to the young, wealth usually comes to the old for they have been in the struggle longer.

I don’t think that formula has changed much over the years, except that women have jobs and their own money now, so young women don’t have to marry themselves off to old farts just to keep a roof over their heads anymore.  Women have the money where they can worry about their man’s looks, though if there’s a rare old fart with well preserved looks AND money…

Anyway. This formula is thrown out the window in this movie because Jeffries is poor, having achieved notoriety for his photography, but not much money for it. Lisa is rich, having come from a wealthy family and having started her own profitable business as a fashion designer. She dotes on Jeffries, visiting him daily, bringing him expensive presents, having expensive meals delivered by the best restaurants to his door.

On the surface, this sounds awesome, but Jeffries hates it. It makes him feel like less of a man that he has worked so hard for so long and yet his younger babe is the breadwinner, and he’ll never be able to return the favor by buying expensive stuff for her.

Even worse, Lisa wants to civilize him, wanting to marry him and take him off the road, finding him work in NYC as a fashion photographer, but Jeffries loves traveling and feels his life spent taking photos in war zones is a higher calling, albeit not a profitable one.

SIDENOTE: If any absurdly hot and ridiculously rich 25 year old women want to pressure me into marriage and buy me a lot of expensive presents and bring me fancy dinners, feel free and…oh, alright. Don’t everybody volunteer at once.

Ritter, Jeffries’ nurse Stella, really steals the show with a speech about marriage. She opines that in her day, people didn’t put their relationships through a microscope. Men and women met and if they liked each other, they got married, and that was it. Today (well in 1954), Stella says that men and women meet and analyze each other to death, picking apart every little detail until they call it quits, missing out on good times together, sitting around being lonely waiting for the perfection that never comes.

Honestly, 66 years later, Stella’s advice rings true, maybe more so than ever. I can tell you I talked my dumb self out of some potentially great relationships when I was young. Ah, if only I had broken my leg and had Stella as my nurse back then.

IRONY SIDENOTE: Stewart and Ritter are roughly the same age and it probably would have been more appropriate for him to have been dating someone Stella’s age (not Stella, for she’s married.)

TRIGGER WARNING SIDENOTE: I’ve been watching a lot of movies lately, and it is always jarring when you see something from the 80s, 90s and even early 2000s where you quickly realize this would not fly today.

I would say for a movie made in 1954, it comes really close to being a movie that, PC wise, still holds up. There are a few transgressions.  Jeffries tells Lisa to “shut up” a few times, which surprised me though you might write that off to his curmudgeonly character. Jeffries is pretty open that his world weariness has turned him into a crusty old prick, and even Lisa occasionally opines she doesn’t know why she’s wasting her time on a miserable old sack of crap.

There is one brief scene where Jeffries calls Doyle only to find he and Mrs. Doyle have gone out for the night, leaving the kids with an African American babysitter. The stereotypical accent sounds a lot like a white woman doing a racist impression of a black woman so…I slapped my forehead at this. Ugh…it doesn’t pass the PC test, but it comes closer than even a lot of 80s and 90s flicks.

STATUS: Shelfworthy. Waaah, I’m Jeffries. I’m a crusty old bastard and my super hot 25 year old girlfriend who went on to become the Princess of Monaco wants to buy me a lot of crap and get me a job that pays me a lot where I don’t have to fly into war zones and she wants to bang me a lot….waaaaah.

 

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Movie Review – Ip Man 4: The Finale (2019)

It’s Master Ip’s last ride, 3.5 readers. Come along, will you?

Sooner or later, every series you love jumps the shark and while I don’t think it does here, it comes really close. It puts on the Fonzi jacket, it gets on the motorcycle, it drives up the ramp but luckily, it doesn’t take the leap over the shark’s awaiting mouth, but I fear if somehow, there is ever an Ip Man 5, it will.

For the uninitiated, Donnie Yen is one of the greatest action stars to come out of Hong Kong, the Hollywood of Asia, and he plays Master Ip or Ip Man (in English, he’d be Man Ip), the world’s foremost practitioner of the Wing Chun style of Kung Fu, which, in my laymen’s understanding based entirely on watching these movies, means he is able to deliver quick, rapid fire punches on his opponent, delivered so fast its like they’re coming out of the barrel of an Uzi.

A caveat, these movies have been my guilty pleasure for a few years, ever since I discovered them on Netflix. The plots tend to take a back seat to the stunning and stellar martial arts scenes, scenes that I watch again and again on YouTube whenever I feel a need for some inspiration.

However, in the first two films, the plot isn’t lacking. I should mention Ip Man is a real person and a popular folk hero in China, though what is true and what is legend in these movies can sometimes be hard to tell apart.

In the first film, Ip Man lives a quiet life in Foshan, China, doting on his family and practicing Wing Chun.  Foshan is an enclave to which martial artists travel so they can learn, but this comes to an end when the Japanese invade and force the locals into lives of slave labor.

A brutal Japanese general/karate master often has many of the local kung fu practitioners brought to him so he can use them as practice fodder, but meets his match with Ip Man, who as you might expect, kicks ass.

Later, in Ip Man 2, Ip Man moves to Hong Kong with his family to open a Wing Chun school, but first must prove himself to the local kung fu masters, leading to what I think is the best fight scene in the series:

In that movie, Master Ip defends kung fu’s honor by kicking the ass of an arrogant British boxer who claims that his boxing skills are far superior to any Chinese martial artist.

Overall the first two flicks are solid as they are a good blend of history and action, but the third is where the series shows early warning signs of shark jumpage. In the third, Ip is called upon to use his skills to defend a school from gangsters who, through acts of violence, are trying to destroy the neighborhood in the hopes that they will be able to acquire the school’s property to use for their evil enterprise.

Throughout the film, the gang’s boss is referred to as “Frank” and at the end, in a twist, we learn that Frank is played by Mike Tyson, face tattoo and all. If you care about the plot, Mike coming out of left field kind of overturns the apple cart, but I’ll admit, it is hard to argue with the scene, because as fight scenes go, it is pretty freaking awesome:

And there’s the rub. Wherever these films lacked in plot, they more than made up for it with the fight scenes, so much so that its hard not to want those kick ass scenes again and again.

Unfortunately, in my opinion, those fight scenes are a bit lacking in Ip Man 4.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some scenes that are stylish and pretty cool. A young Bruce Lee (Danny Kwok-Kan Chan) does some exception ass kicking, and others kick ass throughout, that’s my beef. Ip Man does only a moderate amount of ass kicking throughout, though as one might expect, he does deliver the final ass kicking in the end.

In this latest and last film, Ip Man is diagnosed with cancer. It suddenly dawns on me that I should retract my dumping on Ip Man 3 because a large chunk of the movie is devoted to his wife dying from cancer, the sadness it caused with the overall theme of how life is precious and each day must be appreciated for we never know when it will be lost.

Back to Ip Man 4. Ip is raising his son alone, but alas, the boy is constantly getting into fights in school, but the fights are usually over nonsense, i.e. stolen comic books. Master Ip wonders if shipping the boy off to America wouldn’t toughen him up a bit, maybe getting out into the world and not coming home every day to sulk in his room while his father pays all the bills and takes care of every problem will toughen the boy up, helping to realize that stolen comic books are nothing to fight over.

Having been diagnosed, Ip feels time is of the essence to put his son on a better path. While in America, he reconnects with his old student Bruce Lee, who has yet to become a movie star, but his fame as an international martial artist is growing.

The local martial arts masters of the Chinese Benevolent Association in San Francisco hate this, and fear that by teaching Western students how to kick ass, the West will one day use Chinese martial arts against China, thus seeing their own asses kicked with a form of ass kicking that they invented.

Ip writes this off as paranoia, arguing that if anything, Bruce is a goodwill ambassador for China, fostering good relations between America and China by giving a window into their culture.

Alas, the masters won’t recommend Ip’s son for a good private school unless he talks Bruce Lee into stop teaching the Yankees how to kick ass, and Ip refuses.

Blah, blah, blah, long story short, a Chinese-American Marine and student of Bruce Lee, which in Wing Chun terms, if Bruce is like Ip’s son/student then this kid is like Bruce’s grandson/grandstudent seeks to introduce Wing Chun to the US Marine Corps.

The plot gets a little goofy here as over the top racist Barton Geddes, a drill sergeant who prefers his Americanized version of karate, vows to never allow kung fu to enter his beloved corps, and from there on, there’s a series of fights over whether kung fu or karate is better.

Overall, the film is silly and I do wish they had left it off at 3, where Ip Man struggles and eventually finds a way to carry on while suffering the loss of his wife, but despite the silliness, there are themes about 1960s era racial injustice (somehow Ip Man needs to get both sides to trust each other) and parenting (the daughter of a kung fu master wants to be a cheerleader despite her father’s wishes and somehow, kids must plot their own course, often in defiance of what their parents think is the right course for them.)

This film has the most English speakers in the series. There are scenes where Chinese speakers speak in Chinese and where English speak English and Ip can pinch hit in both. There are times during fights when English speakers speak in that sort of anime dubbed cadence “Ha ha ha, I will defeat you!” that is a little silly.  The villains are over the top with their racism, to the point where they are one stop away from shouting, “Ha ha ha I am so racist!” which probably did happen more in the 1960s though usually, virulent racists tend to be a little subtler with their racism, gaslighting you into thinking their racist actions aren’t racist rather than coming right out and announcing their racism.

STATUS: Moderately Shelf-worthy, though I think this series has to be done. I’ll rewatch the first three films any time but there wasn’t a fight scene here where I’ll go back to watch it again and again on YouTube and that, to me, is the key to a good Ip Man movie – whether or not you want to watch the fight scenes again. But I’ll hand it to Donnie Yen in that he made one helluva series, popularizing a Chinese hero who he obviously loves very much.  And when you combine the fabulous theme song with the fight scenes and Ip’s overall desire to avoid conflict but willingness to fight when there is no other way, these movies can really stir the emotions. In fact, I’m going to stop dumping on 3, because I did cry at the end of it, and not because of Mike’s face tat.

Sidenote: I know Mike isn’t going to do Shakespeare in the Park anytime soon, but after seeing his fight scene, I wonder why he hasn’t been recruited as a villain in a Fast and Furious movie yet.

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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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First Draft of Toilet Shocker Complete

I finished my first draft of Toilet Shocker, the sequel to Toilet Gator.

I began writing Toilet Gator in early 2017 and it is currently with my editor, keeping my fingers crossed that it will be out this year.

I began writing Toilet Shocker last July, and just finished the Epilogue today. It comes in at over a whopping 200,000 words, which I understand is a ridiculous length, and perhaps I do need to think in the future about scaling back my plots, the multitude of characters and all the moving pieces.

Anyway, it was nice to get the first draft done. Even so, there’s still a lot of work to do in polishing it up, but you can’t build a house without the foundation.

How to describe the plot?  In Toilet Gator, there were two supporting characters, Moses and Felix, ex-Marines who opened a gun shop in South Florida. The hero, Police Chief Cole Walker, enlists them and their arsenal of weaponry in defeating the toilet gator.

After toilet gator was complete, my mind started to wander to the multitude of other aquatic creatures that could attack people on the toilet, and electric eels seemed pretty funny. Better yet, what if a mad man somehow figured out a way to get his eels to hold its targets hostage, biting their butts and promising to deliver a deadly electric shock if the eels’ operator does not get his way?

I know. I probably could have put this time and effort into writing a serious work. Actually, I couldn’t. Give me the most serious World War II story to work on and I swear, it will be full of fart jokes by page 10.

Anyway, Moses and Felix become the heroes of this story, for, as it turns out, someone in their old special ops unit wants revenge, and has unleashed his eels on the butts of his former marines, now private citizens, threatening to shock them unless he gets want he wants.

I smell Oscar.

toilet shocker demo

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BQB’s Classic Movie Reviews – Risky Business (1983)

Sometimes you just have to say fuck it, 3.5 readers.

Those cool dude sunglasses. That blazer and black shirt over a pair of jeans. That cigarette dangling from the lip. It’s so rare that a young actor’s first big role becomes his most iconic role, but all these years later, any good Tom Cruise impressionist will adopt that costume as part of their act.

Funny, I had never seen this one before and of course, the corona lockdown is giving me time to check out a lot of flicks I otherwise had never gotten around too.  Now that I’ve seen it I think – Top Gun, Mission Impossible, a lot of other big movies that I’m forgetting about at the moment, Cruise has done it all but this seems to be his greatest film.

It’s the early 1980s and straight laced high school senior Joel is such a good doobie. He’s an A student, a member of every club and he’s been diligently applying to big name colleges.

His world changes when his parents trust him enough to be on his own when they go on vacation. At first, it’s a chance for a young man to get his first taste of freedom. Joel raids his parents’ liquor cabinet and slides across the hardwood floor in his socks while cranking up Bob Seger’s Old Time Rock n’ Roll, a famous scene if there ever was one.

Naturally, Barry also invites friends Miles and Barry to come over and hang out. Barry (Bronson Pinchot of Cousin Balky from Perfect Strangers fame) is similarly straight laced while Miles (Curtis Armstrong of Booger from Revenge of the Nerds fame) has managed to find the balance that we all need in life – i.e. somehow he has found the ability to be chill and not worry while still bringing in those great grades that will get him into Harvard.

Long story short, Miles pranks Joel by inviting a prostitute to Joel’s home. Said prostitute turns out to be a man in woman’s clothing (or, according to 2020 rules, a woman!) but Joel, not being into that sort of thing, thanks his visitor for his (in 1980) or her (in 2020) time and sends said person on their way.

Before she leaves, she turns Joel on to a friend who would be more to Joel’s liking – Lana played by Rebecca DeMornay.

Joel goes gaga for Lana and from here, he spirals down a rabbit hole of seediness and depravity, trying to keep his straight laced high school career going while also delving head first into debauchery.

Throw in the convenient destruction of his dad’s car (in 1980s teenager comedies, destroying your father’s car was literally the equivalent to the end of the world) and Joel needs money.  Coincidentally, Lana needs a place for her and her friends to peddle their wares after a falling out with their pimp, Guido (a young Joe Pantoliano with hair.)

Joel’s parents’ house gets turned into a brothel, Joel becomes a teenage pimp and the rest is history.

For a film that’s silly and unlikely at times (I don’t think anyone in suburbia could be this brazen about running a prostitution scheme without ending up in the clink), there are some deeper themes.

The three that come to mind are:

1) How your choices in high school really do impact the rest of your life, which seems absurd as everyone is so young and these kids don’t know squat about the world, but a bad grade on a test here or not joining a club or something can throw years of work right into the trash and prevent entry into a top college – this whole process is parodied well and

2) Trust – Joel’s parents trust him not to wreck the house or do anything bad while they’re gone and this weighs heavily on him. Joel trusts Lana and the line is often blurred because its hard to tell whether she’s rolling the kid or if she genuinely likes him.  Somehow, we all have to learn to trust people even though this means you put your life into the hands of another who could burn you and

3) Taking risks (risky business) i.e. if you don’t take a risk, you won’t gain anything.  Conversely, if you don’t take risks, you won’t lose anything, but will you gain anything worth losing?

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. A lot of actors in their youthful prime here. Tom, obviosuly, but also DeMornay.  Booger and Balky didn’t go on to super stardom but they weren’t slouches either.

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BQB’s Classic Movie Reviews – Assault on Precinct 13 (1976)

The bad news is the coronavirus is causing worldwide devastation.

The good news is I’m catching up on my movie watching.

BQB here with yet another classic movie review.

Ever since I saw Escape from New York (and more recently, They Live) I have become a fan of John Carpenter films. This is ironic, because though his Halloween is the film that started the slasher movie craze, the original Halloween doesn’t seem like it really holds up when it comes to plot, at least IMO, but at any rate, They Live, Escape from NY and this film are all good.

The plot? Ethan Bishop (Austin Stoker), working his first night out as a newly minted police lieutenant, is recruited to stand watch over a rundown police precinct in a crime ridden neighborhood during the building’s last night of operation. The precinct is slated to be closed permanently the next morning, so Lt. Bishop is the only cop on scene.

Mr. Lawson, a father who loses his young daughter to a terrifyingly violent street gang, fights back, only to be marked for death. He seeks shelter at the station and the gang, seeing the precinct is poorly defended, begin to lay siege.

Bishop’s only backup includes secretary Leigh (Laurie Zimmer, playing against old fashioned female stereotypes as she looks quite comfortable wielding a six shooter), and convicts Napoleon Hill and Wells (Darwin Joston and Tony Burton, who later went on to play Rocky’s trainer, Duke, following the passing of Mickey.)

Unlikely allies, the convicts, stuck in the station’s cells due to a prison transfer gone awry, realize they need to help Bishop because the gang plans to execute anyone inside the building, no questions asked. Bishop, no fan of law breakers, realizes he’ll have to trust the baddies because he can’t take the gang on by himself.

It’s a short film, only 90 minutes long and it cuts to the chase quickly.  An early scene where Lawson’s daughter is killed is horribly gruesome and something that shocked me as I don’t think you’d see a scene like that in a movie today.

Sidenote – the 1970s were kind of a wild west time period for film. The 1950s and 1960s mostly gave us films that were glorified stage plays, heavily scripted and nothing that you wouldn’t take your family to see if it were showing on Broadway. Filmmakers rebelled against the old norms in the 70s, sometimes bringing us cinema gold but often going way too far. By the 1980s, the movie rating system reigned a lot of it in.

Anyway, when you see the ice cream truck, you might want to just fast forward it a little while. I wish I had. Just assume Mr. Lawson has been wronged.  No need to see why.

STATUS: Shelfworthy. I think it was available on tubi or some such nonsense.  There is a 2005 remake which I remember as being decent but I don’t remember enough about it to make a comparison.

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