Movie Review – Last Christmas (2019)

Hey 3.5 readers.

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

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Movie Review – Dolemite Is My Name (2019)

Hey 3.5 rat soup eaters.

BQB here with a review of this Netflix film.

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

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

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

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

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

How low can you go?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

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Happy Thanksgiving, 3.5 Readers

Happy Thanksgiving, 3.5 readers.

I hope you have a good one.  Sorry I haven’t been writing much on this fine blog lately.  I have been too busy on other exploits.  I hope there are still 3.5 of you and you are all doing well.

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

Won’t you 3.5 readers be my neighbor?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

 

 

 

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Terminator: Dark Fate (2019)

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

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

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

That gold has been mined and nothing but dirt remains.

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

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

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

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

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

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Happy Halloween, 3.5 Readers

Treat yourself to one of my FREE books.  Yes, they will be free now throughout the weekend:

 

 

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Watching the Old Addams Family Show and Movies

Hey 3.5 readers.

BQB here.

After seeing the recent cartoon, I became nostalgic and was pleased to find that a lot of the 1960s original Addams Family TV show episodes are available on YouTube…legit too as in put up by MGM.

Whenever I have 20 mins free, I watch one and am impressed with the wit, the comedic timing, and the overall understanding of how comedy is basically committing to an absurd premise and sticking with it.

I also watched both 1990s movies – The Addams Family and Addams Family Values.  To my surprise, they hold up, though there are plenty of jokes that are funnier to people who were around in the 1990s.  Raul Julia was so full of life as Gomez that it makes me sad (and surprised) that he passed away not long after these movies were made.

Movie Review – The Addams Family (2019)

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

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

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

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

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

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

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

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Movie Review – El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie (2019)

Jesse’s back, bitches!

BQB here with a review.

When I heard they were making a Breaking Bad movie, my reaction was one of revulsion.  It’s rare that a TV show concludes with all the loose ends tied up, with an overall sense that the writers and producers really, truly cared about all the time the fans invested in watching the show and wanted to reward that time with payoffs galore.  Thus, to create a sequel seemed like trying to paint Mona Lisa Part 2: This Time The Bitch Really Smiles.

Turns out the movie is great, though it’s less of a movie and more of an extended episode.  My main fear was that they were going to bring Walter White (Bryan Cranston) back from the dead and have to conjure up silly, absurd reasons about how this guy has been able to live with terminal cancer for 11 years and how he’s still cooking meth when everyone from the cops to the coast guard are looking for him.

My fears subsided when I learned Walter was left to RIP and this was Jesse’s flick.  When last we saw Jesse, he was looking like an unkempt, unwashed, bearded mountain man, escaping from Nazi captivity in weirdo Todd’s El Camino.

This film tells us what happens next.  With police on his tail and plenty of rival crooks out to get him, will he be able to flee and start a new life, or will he go out in a blaze of glory just like his meth cooking mentor?

Series regulars come and go throughout the flick.  Badger.  Skinny Pete.  Mike.  Even Walter stops by.  Relax, those who ended up in body bags at the end of the series only reappear in flashback form.

Is this a movie we needed?  No, bitch.  To be honest, I never put much thought into what happened to Jesse after his escape.  That being said, it is a nice wrap up, tying up that one last loose end.

It’s fitting the movie is on Netflix.  After all, Breaking Bad is a show that became successfully largely due to the streaming age.  I’ll admit I avoided it for several years because a show about a sad old man dying from cancer after a lifetime of regret didn’t exactly sound like fun viewing to me, but once I kept hearing rave reviews, I started streaming it and I was hooked.  Dying science teacher depressed about his lack of success recruits his wayward former student to start a meth empire and eventually goes from underdog anti-hero to vile villain that you want to see lose?  Yeah, that’s not something that any network was going to pour a lot of dough into promoting.  Word of mouth and “hey, go stream this when you have a minute” was the key to BB’s success.

Still, I’m not sure how much juice can be extracted from the Breaking Bad world.  I suppose there’s always a prequel or a sequel.  I suppose, even for a truck of cash backed up to Bryan Cranston’s house and, hopefully, the right script, we could find out that Walter White survived but honestly, I felt this movie worked because it was just 2 hours.  Would I want to see an entirely new Jesse based spinoff series?  I can’t imagine it.  I did give Better Call Saul a couple of seasons before I gave up.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy, bitch.

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