Tag Archives: movie reviews

Movie Review – Mary Poppins Returns (2018)

Supercalafraga-whatever, 3.5 readers.

BQB here with a review of Mary Poppins Returns.

I’m going to let you in on a terrible secret, 3.5 readers.  I’ve never seen the original Mary Poppins.  I know, terrible.  I’ve seen bits and pieces over the years but it was before my time and no one from my time was nostalgic enough to share it with me.

Even so, I felt I had enough of the gist to get this new rendition going into it.

Truth be told, I liked this movie but it does feel like a throwback to yesteryear – its style, its music, its open embrace of imagination without feeling a need to explain the how or the why.  To me, it’s all exhilarating though in reading the reviews, I don’t think the critics got the point.

You see, Mary Poppins has never made sense.  She is a stoic nanny who floats down from the sky to help the Banks family whenever they are in need.  This time around, the Banks children from the previous film are all grown up and they are frantically trying to locate stock certificates that will prevent their cherished family home from being foreclosed upon by an evil team of lawyers and bankers, headed by Colin Firth.

Aren’t bankers the worst?  You enter into a contract with them out of your own free will and they loan you money that allows you to strike out on your own but when you don’t hold up your end of the bargain, it’s ok to just think of them as miserable SOBs and really, how dare they decide to not just allow you to keep the money you agreed to pay back?

Sorry.  I digressed, and apparently I’m the only one with grave concerns about the plight of the Great North American Banker.

Anyway, like I said, Mary Poppins is nonsensical.  She gets the kids to behave and clean up after themselves so the adults can tend to the hard tasks of adulting.  She doesn’t age.  She can do magical things.  Despite her love of methodical organization, she can also cheer the children up with highly choreographed song and dance routines featuring casts of cartoon characters.  I mean, WTF?

Long ago, cartoons were full of nonsense.  Adults made them to entertain kids but it was felt that little to no explanation was necessary vis a vis the how and the why of things.

At some point, the world changed.  We want to know the details.  We aren’t satisfied without the backstory.  And to the film’s credit, it flies in the face of this trend.

No, you’re not going to find out anything about Mary.  Who the hell is she?  Is there an army of nannies in the sky?  Do they all train in a magic nanny academy?  Do they have a leader?  Do they have an enemy?  What is the source of their power?  How do they fly?  What the hell?  Were they bitten by radioactive spiders or something?

In a world where we are bogged down with the deets, it felt nice to just indulge in some frivolous tomfoolery.  That, to me, is the cool thing about this movie.  Mary is a walking contradiction.  She pushes the kids to grow up and take responsibility.  Meanwhile, she pushes the adults to chill out and to comfort themselves by letting go to the imagination they lost long ago as they came of age.

There’s a scene early on where Mary and kids escape into a magic bath tub only to come out in an underwater world full of cartoon sea creatures.  There’s no explanation.  No how or why.  As a viewer of modern cinema, you’ll wait for the twenty minute piece of dialogue where the powers of being able to transport children to a cartoon world are explained.  Don’t hold your breath because you won’t get it and that’s ok.  It’s a good thing.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

 

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BQB’s Classic Movie Reviews – Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)

Moon river, 3.5 readers.

BQB here with a review of Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

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At some point in life, you’re going to have to make a choice, 3.5 readers.  You’ll have to choose when it’s time to abandon a pie in the sky dream that isn’t panning out.  The good news is that in doing so, you might get something that’s a lot better than the nothing you’ve grown accustomed to.  The downside is you’ll probably always get down on yourself to some extent, wondering if you’d just put in a little more time in pursuit of that goal, would it have been achieved?

That’s what I got out of this film, anyway.  And frankly, it’s a movie that I’ve wanted to see for a long time but never got around to it until recently.

The fabulous Audrey Hepburn is Holly Golightly, a wannabe socialite and a poser’s pose, having dived so deep down the world of feigned Manhattan trendiness that it’s hard to know where the real her ends and where the fake her begins.  Complicating matters worse is the notion that she has chosen to live as socialite, even though technically speaking, she isn’t one.  But then again, shouldn’t we all get to be who we feel we are on the inside?  What a woke question for a movie that was made in 1961.

Every night, Holly, clad in her little black dress (an icon popularized by this film for, if you are a lady with a little black dress, then you have something to wear to any occasion), spends her nights living it up among New York City’s wealthy and well-to-do, hoping that in doing so, she’ll land a rich husband who will be able to finance her exorbitant appetite for the finer things in life.

Alas, these fishing expeditions typically yield little fruit, so when morning rolls around, Holly takes a cab home to her apartment.  On the way, she stops at Tiffany’s, the famous jewelry store, where she eats her breakfast (a honey bun I assume) and stares at the fancy necklace on display, yearning for the day when that hoped for rich husband will buy her one.

One one fateful day, Holly befriends Paul Varjak (George Peppard), a struggling writer who has just moved into Holly’s building.  At first, Varjak comes across as an accomplished man.  After all, he appears to be renting the apartment on his own and even introduces an older woman, Emily Eustace Failenson (Patricia Neal) as a personal decorator he has hired to give his new digs a special touch.

(SPOILER AHOY!)  – Long story short, Varjak disapproves of Holly’s lifestyle.  She is unemployed, has no skills, and sustains herself by a) asking lecherous men at these parties for fifty dollars for “the powder room” (one assumes at that time going to the can was an expensive place, maybe they sold perfumes or something) only to spurn their advances and run off with the loot, much to the chagrin of the perverts who thought that they were buying something “extra” with that money and b) delivering coded messages in the form of a “weather report” between a mobster posing as a lawyer and a mob boss imprisoned at Sing Sing.  Whether she understands what these messages mean or if she understands the gravity of delivering is up for debate.

Ironically, as the film progresses, we learn that Holly is a teetotaler compared to the skeleton in Varjak’s closet.  SPOILER – Emily isn’t his decorator at all, but rather, an older rich, married woman, who pays to keep Varjak as her boy toy.  Yup.  She pays for the apartment, furniture, clothes, all of Paul’s needs and Paul gives her the old Stiffy McGee.

I’ll tell you.  In my youth, I might have considered such an arrangement, but even rich old biddies didn’t want me.

As Holly and Varjak begin to fall for each other, they’ll have to wade through their own personal worlds of bullshit and pluck out what is real and what isn’t.  Even scarier is the fact that they’ll also have to figure out what parts of their dreams are worth saving and which should be abandoned in exchange for, well, settling for each other.

You see, Holly has built it up in her mind that becoming a rich man’s wife is the end all, be all.  It’s a good idea in theory.  In practice, as she learns literally daily (or nightly) any man who would be willing to marry a woman who just wants his money is a) an asshole and b) going to treat that woman like a hooker.  No love involved.  Here’s your money.  Give up the goodies.

Meanwhile, Varjak is a struggling writer.  He published a book of short stories years earlier, and now he claims he’s waiting for the day when inspiration hits and he writes his magnum opus – the book that will blow all other books away and make him famous.  Emily has built it up in his mind that he should not be supporting himself with lesser writing jobs.  Sure, Paul could support himself with shorter submissions to magazines and newspapers (apparently writers could live off that back in the day) but rather, he should be resting and waiting for that great book to come and don’t worry, she’s not her She-John but instead, is a patron of the arts, doing her part to support good writing.

Ultimately, both will have decisions to make.  Their false realities vs. their real love for one another.  Holly can wait on that unicorn of a rich man who would actually be nice to a gold digger, or she can be with the very real Paul.  Paul can keep being Emily’s plaything, taking her money and waiting for that big book to pop into his mind, or he can support himself through daily paid writing work.  He may never become a household name that way, but he’ll have dignity and be able to be with Holly.

Decisions, decisions.  At times, this movie is funny as it lampoons phonies, hippies (the old version of hipsters) and social climbers.  It’s also gut wrenchingly sad because it is the best illustration of the dilemma of life – i.e. life is full of possibilities but short on time, and we must often choose between what we hope for and what we can actually achieve.  Dreams vs. reality.  A bird in the hand vs. two in the bush.

You’ll have to make that choice one day as well, 3.5 readers, if you haven’t already.  Marry the person loyal to you or hold out for the unlikely  supermodel knockout.  Stay where you are or move to a big city.  Take the menial job or hold out for something better.  How much will we lose if we quit on our dreams vs. how much will we gain if we choose what is in front of us over what we wish will be in front of us one day?

Sadly, the movie is dragged down by Mickey Rooney’s portrayal of Mr. Yunioshi, a Japanese pervert (not implying that all Japanese men are perverts but this one happens to be) and professional photographer whose frequent complaints about Holly’s noisy parties are all quenched by false promises from Holly that maybe one day she’ll pose for his camera.  The whole goofy Asian get up is offensive by today’s standards and shows how far we’ve come.

Other than that very lamentable blemish, the film is solid and as far as I know, may very well be the world’s first Rom com, or at least, the first memorable one.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.  Also, all this time I thought the movie was called this because you could go to Tiffany’s and be served eggs and pancakes while you look at diamonds.  I didn’t realize it was talking about a woman eating breakfast while hoping diamonds will be bought for her.  You learn something new every day.

P.S. – I was a boy in the 1980s and my first intro to George Peppard was as the white haired, grizzly old, cigar chomping Colonel Hannibal Smith, leader of the A-Team.  Quite a different role than Varjak.  As a pop culture lover, I enjoyed both roles and I’d argue that if anything, this shows Peppard’s range.  He played the ultimate tough guy and also, the ultimate romantic guy.  Even Schwarzenegger never pulled that off.  George deserved more recognition for this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Movie Review – Triple Frontier (2019)

Money is the root of all evil, 3.5 readers.

BQB here with a review of Triple Frontier.

This is a first for Netflix – an action film that’s worthy of a movie theater, with a cast of big names – Oscar Isaac, Pablo Pascal, Garret Hedlund, Charlie Hunnam and Ben Affleck being one of the bigger names that everyone’s favorite streaming service has landed in recent memory.

It’s clear Netflix wants to take a big bite out of the traditional movie theater to rental to cable station pipeline most movies go through, and if they keep it up, they’ll get their.  Hollywood big shots might just be shaking in their boots over movies like this.

The plot?  Santiago (Isaac) is still in the field, while his former special forces buddies are all long retired and struggling to make ends meet.  There’s a powerful message in there where one of the ex-soldiers says something like (I’ll botch the line, sorry) “If we had accomplished what we did in any other profession, we’d be set for life by now, but no, this man can’t even afford to send his kid to college.”

Some truth there and if any politicians happen to be listening – yeah.  Definitely.  War is something the majority of us just can’t or won’t do and the people who do it should be taken care of.

Anyway.  Santiago identifies a big score – a secluded house where a drug cartel keeps its money, located in the Amazon jungle where three countries meet – Peru, Columbia and Brazil.  No cops, no military to deal with so it should be an easy gig.  Use their skills to help themselves for once and live like kings.

From here, (SPOILER ALERT) the movie gets silly, which is a shame because they’re playing it straight.  The trek across the Andes mountains to a new life proves more dangerous than previously anticipated, and a combination of bad decisions, infighting and downright greed proves to make matters so much worse.

It’s almost comical how much of the cold, hard cash gets lost along the way – (SPOILERS) – falling out of a chopper, falling off a ledge while attached to a donkey, burnt for warmth, tossed into a ravine and so on.  At some point, it gets absurd.  I mean, I’m the furthest thing from a special ops soldier but in that predicament, I would just grab as much money as I could carry and then bury the rest in a safe location to return to once the heat dies down.

But I suppose the money serves as a metaphor for how greed complicates our lives and turns us into monsters.

Ben Affleck is good in this.  For a moment I actually bought that he was an entirely different person, i.e. a depressed loser dad seeking redemption through ill gotten loot.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.  Good start.  Silly though entertaining middle.  Admirable though unlikely ending.  Netflix is really stealing big cinema’s thunder.

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Movie Review – Green Book (Oscars 2019 Best Picture Winner!)

Hey 3.5 readers.

Funny.  I actually went out tonight.  I usually stay in on Oscar night and watch the show but I went out and saw Green Book instead.  To my surprise, it won.  It wasn’t surprising, as it was a good movie.  It’s just that I thought BlackKklansman had it locked up

So, that’s a first for me, seeing an Oscar movie in the theater the night it wins.  Someone give me an award for good timing.

Anyway, BQB here with a review.

 

You know, 3.5, as it turns out, there’s more that unites us than what divides us.  We’re all different.  Different races, sexes, classes and yet we’re all just looking for one thing – dignity.

Dr. Don Shirley (Mashershala Ali) is an educated man with multiple doctorates, but in the 1960s, he is most famous for being a talented classical pianist.  So great are his skills that he fills concert halls and moves everyone in attendance with his ivory tickling skills.

He prides himself on dignity and self-respect.  He’s well read and doesn’t care for rudeness, bad manners, bad grammar and so on.

An odd couple road trip is set into motion when nightclub bouncer Tony Lip is recruited to be Doc’s driver and protector on a concert tour through the deep south.

Hard to say it out loud, but Tony hates black people.  In an early scene, a pair of black repairman come to his house to work on an appliance.  When his wife gives them lemonade, he throws the glasses into the trash can, not wanting to drink out of the same glass as a black man.

When his club shuts down, Tony’s out of money and options, so he takes the job driving the Doc and watching his back.

At first, the duo can’t stand each other.  Tony is an uncouth bore, telling inappropriate jokes and constantly shoving fast food in his face.  Tony isn’t a fan of the Doc either, thinking his client is a holier than thou book worm.

Together, they learn and grow.  Doc teaches Tony some much needed gentlemanly skills – how to improve his speaking skills, how to write better, etc.  Tony teaches Doc how to grease the wheels and get out of jams.  In other words, Tony comes across as a dumb brute until his cop bribing skills and willingness to knock punks out comes in handy in the Jim Crow south.

Eventually, Tony drops his racist ways and he and the Doc become the best of friends.

I understand there’s some controversy brewing in that the movie isn’t all that woke in comparison to the other nominees.  Today, we definitely hold people to a higher standard.  You should never be racist and it doesn’t matter how much time has passed since a racist incident.  If you did something racist, then you’re gone.  Tony doesn’t fit that bill because he begins the film as a racist then by the end of the film he has an awakening that makes him a better man.

I don’t know.  On one hand, I get the need for people to be not racist from the start.  On the other hand, we should be encouraging people to be better and improve themselves so…I don’t know.  Somehow those two standpoints need to be reconciled.

There are a few powerful scenes in the film.  Spoiler Alert – the most moving is when Doc and Tony stop along the road to change a tire.  The black workers in the field, one assumes descendants of slaves who worked in the field look on in amazement as it becomes clear to them that Doc is the boss in the back of the car and Tony is his employee.

It’s a good film that tugs at the heart strings.  On top of racial clashes, all types of conflicts are discussed.  Class struggles.  Education struggles.  At times, Tony and Doc class less about race and more about their different education and class levels.  Ironically, Tony is less accomplished than Doc, yet Tony can walk into any establishment while Doc has to wait outside.  Sad to think that this was once the way the country was.

Admittedly, Viggo basically plays a cartoon character version of a mob connected Italian, but to his credit, he does transform into an entirely different person.  He’s lively and humorous, whereas Viggo is usually known for playing quiet, brooding characters.

I enjoy Ali’s performance as well.  At times, I could feel the crushing loneliness Doc felt.  He held multiple doctorates, was rich and talented, but the same rich people who would hire him to play would then turn around and tell him not to use their bathroom after the performance, and generally, had no interest in befriending him or treating him as an equal.  Sadly, at the time, black people didn’t have much access to higher education at the time, so they don’t know what to make of this fancy man in his fancy suits with his fancy way of speaking.  He is utterly alone and no one understands him.

Not sure it was the best film out of those nominated but still a lot of good messages just the same.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

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Melissa McCarthy Snubbed! #OscarsSoPretty

Melissa McCarthy isn’t ugly but she is chubby and unfortunately, the Oscars will never allow a person who isn’t skinny to win.  It’s sad such discrimination against people of size.

How long must my people suffer before we are finally recognized by the Academy?

For shame, Academy.  For shame.

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Willem Dafoe Snubbed Again! #OscarsSoPretty

The Oscars are too damn pretty, 3.5 readers.

I rooted for Willem Dafoe to win Best Supporting Actor last year and for Best Actor this year.  He’s lost two years in a row.  The Oscars just won’t let an ugly man take home a little gold statue.

An outrage!  Outrage, I say!  On behalf of all Ugly-Americans, I am offended.

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Movie Review – Mary Queen of Scots (2018)

Who knew a movie about crap that happened hundreds of years ago could be so controversial?

BQB here with a review of “Mary Queen of Scots.”

I’m going to say it at the outset.  For me, as one of a handful of fans of historical films left, this movie was a stinkburger with extra turd fries.  The problem is, I think that might have been the point?

I’m loathe to cry SPOILER ALERT because you’ve had 500 years to learn the tale, and there have been a number of other shows and movies about it but the short story is Mary returns to Scotland after the death of her French husband and takes her place as Queen of Scots.  This causes turmoil for Elizabeth, the infamous red haired Queen of England as two queens on one island is a recipe for disaster.

I’ll say a nice thing about this movie.  I will admit it taught me a lot about this period that I never knew before.  Namely, it takes the stance that the women, Mary and Elizabeth, were the calmest heads in the proverbial room, and it was their butthole male advisers refusing to take council from women that screwed everything up.  More specifically, Elizabeth is Protestant and her Protestant advisers subvert her efforts to make peace with Mary.  Elizabeth is like (she doesn’t say this but I’m paraphrasing), “Hey, I’m old and there doesn’t seem to be anyone else with a brain ready to take over when I croak so England might as well go to Mary’s offspring.”

But her male advisers are like, “No fuck that!  We hate Catholics!” and in secret they’re like “This is bullshit we have to take orders from a broad!”  Again, paraphrasing.

Meanwhile, Mary is like, “I’m a Catholic but if I take over England I won’t kill the Protestants!  Everyone can worship as they choose!” but her male advisers are all like, “Fuck this!  You have a vagina!  My dick is superior!  I must rule!”

And so, that’s the gist of the story.  It claims Elizabeth and Mary wanted peace, but the hot headed males under their command wouldn’t listen to them.  The injustice seems to be that if Liz and Mary had been male kings, male advisers wouldn’t have dared betray them but lost on the cutting room floor is that male kings probably would have had a few heads chopped off of people who looked at them funny just to keep conspiracies against the crown at bay.

So maybe the lesson is men have to keep their testosterone in check and obey the chain of command when a woman is in charge and women have to rough up a few muthafuckas to show everyone who’s boss.

Ultimately, that would have been a modern twist on an old tale.  Men, keep your balls in check if you want to work for a female leader and women, grow a pair of hypothetical balls if you want to lead because there will be times that call for aggression.

But it doesn’t stop there.  This is a very woke, very PC retelling of a classic tale, so much so that it looks like a bunch of SJWs got together and crafted it in a lab.

OK.  What I’m about to say may sound racist but I’m going to make the argument why it is not racist.

Mary has an Asian lady-in-waiting an African adviser and a Puerto Rican secretary.  There are also people of color throughout, as extras and in smaller roles.  Thus, the diverse casting in period dramas debate is raised.

Is it the end of the world to provide to a movie about 1500s England with a diverse cast?  No.  Is it historically accurate?  Also, no.  And I guess this is where the film goes out of whack for me.

And I know, this is where you say, “Oh BQB, you are a racist douche face because you hate seeing a diverse cast in a movie.”  No, that’s not it.  I just think that whenever Hollywood makes any kind of history piece, they’re taking a gamble because audiences don’t flock to historical movies.  On the other hand, Hollywood should be encouraged to keep making these flicks because they preserve and teach history for future generations.

Therein lies the problem.  You might argue, “Oh it’s so horribly racist to look at a period piece and see no diversity in the all white cast!” but my counter would be that more and more, people turn to movies and TV as their main source of learning about history.  As that trend continues, what if some nitwit, hundreds of years ago watches a movie like this and thinks, “Aww, look.  Mary Queen of Scots had a black advisor, an Asian lady-in-waiting and a Puerto Rican secretary.  1500s Britain must have been a wonderful place for people of color!”

No, it wasn’t.  There weren’t any there and of the few who may have been, they were no doubt treated poorly and definitely not appointed to high positions.

Director Josie Rourke explains her diverse casting choice in this article. from Refinery29.

I hope I won’t botch my take-away from the article, but it seems like she is saying that theater companies today are very diverse and when actors are honing their acting chops, it is common for them to turn to the classics.  Thus, you’ll have Shakesperean and old English era plays put on with diverse casts.

Fair enough.  I just…I don’t know.  To me, there just seems to be something off about it.  The message, I thought anyway, was, “Hey.  Here were two strong women who could have made peace and kept their island from imploding if all the male underlings would have just shut their holes and done as they were told.”

In other words, the island erupted in Protestant vs. Catholic warfare because it was an unwoke time where men couldn’t drop their egos long enough to take direction from a woman.

Good message, but to me, it’s lost in the diverse casting.  You can’t simultaneously claim this was an unwoke time where a lack of wokeness led to war but also, look, it was so woke that there were people of color in very high, prominent positions.

Maybe I’m a caveman.  I don’t know.  Any other type of movie, I’m all for diverse casting.  I actually don’t even care if there’s diverse casting in a historical fantasy.  For example, Netflix has a show called The Frankenstein Chronicles about 1800s London where a pair of detectives, a black and white cop buddy duo, investigate a series of murders that seem to imitate the murders in Mary Shelley’s tale.  Is it accurate that a black cop would have been treated with respect and seen as an equal in 1800s London?  No.  But then again, they didn’t have Frankensteins either.  It’s all pure fantasy and there are nerds  of all different colors who love fantasy so sure, why not have a diverse cast that appeals to all the different colors of the nerd rainbow?

Further, I think sometimes Hollywood does stuff like this to excuse their failures when it comes to casting larger roles in bigger movies.  For example, giving Mary Queen of Scots a black adviser in a film few will see doesn’t excuse the lack of diverse casting in big budget blockbusters.  Where’s the black Batman?  Where’s the Asian Ironman?  Etcetera.

Back to the movie.  Saorise Ronan and Margot Robbie each play their parts well.  Ronan is the hotter young babe, while Elizabeth is older.  There’s an underlying subtext of youth and beauty vs. age and wisdom.  The older you get the wiser you are but alas, you lose your looks and the uglier you get, the worse people treat you even though you’ve lived longer and know more than the younger folk don’t.  We are shown scenes where Elizabeth appears in full regal clown makeup (apparently people thought it looked great at the time though I think it made her look like Bozo.)  Then, behind the scenes, we see Elizabeth with her hair falling out.  She’s getting older.  Wrinklier.  She contracts chicken pox and spends a good portion of the movie with blisters all over her face.

Indeed, this lets Margot Robbie flex her acting muscles.  “Look! I’m more than a pretty face!”  However, as an ugly rights advocate, I object.  See, Hollywood is so committed to racial diversity that they’ll throw diverse actors into a period piece, but Hollywood is still so discriminatory against the ugly and the old that they won’t let an ugly old woman play Elizabeth.  There were probably many fifty year old women losing their hair who would have loved to play Liz but Hollywood was like, “Nope!  Slap some ugly makeup on the hot chick!  We need the audience to know that it’s all ok.  There’s still a hot young babe under all this ugly makeup!”

Black adviser?  Sure!  Puerto Rican secretary?  Why not?  50 year old woman playing a 50 year old woman?  GOD, NO!  GET HER OUT OF HERE AND SLAP SOME UGLY MAKEUP ON MID 20S HOT MARGOT ROBBIE AT ONCE!!!

STATUS: Borderline shelf-worthy, only because it taught me a few things about that time period I never knew before.  Problem is, you have to wade through all the wokeness and turn to the Internet to look up what was fact and what was fiction.  I think the film’s best messages get lost amidst a sea of wokeness and the problem is, the messages are woke if you sift through the PC-ness long enough to find them.  Ironically, this could have been a great movie.

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BQB’s Oscar Predictions – Best Picture

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Hey 3.5 readers.

BQB here.

As you know, I have long been an advocate for ugly rights and this year, I have no doubt that ugly actors will be snubbed yet again.

But moving on, my thoughts on Best Picture:

THE NOMINEES:

Black Panther

BlacKkKlansman

Bohemian Rhapsody

The Favourite

Green Book

Roma

A Star is Born

Vice

WHAT I DID NOT SEE:

I didn’t see The Favourite, Green Book, Roma, Vice.

Vice, to me, seems like just one big long early 2000’s era SNL sketch about a presidential administration that is long forgotten.  Doesn’t seem like it should be but time moves fast.  So, I’m not sure it is Oscar worthy but again, I didn’t see it.

SNUBBED:

Crazy Rich Asians was a rare enjoyable romantic comedy.  Asians get so few lead roles in American cinema and on top of that, there was a message about how every young adult has to choose between making his/her family happy and making him/herself happy that is universal around the world.

Can You Ever Forgive Me?  I actually just saw this tonight and I didn’t expect it to, but it really moved me.  There is just something about Melissa McCarthy as a lonely old woman balling her eyes out over the death of her cat, quite literally her only friend in the world, that provides a look into the depths of loneliness and sadness that grips many people.  It’s something that a million hottie actress could never convey, no matter how much you ugly them up.

A Quiet Place – I might be alone here but I feel like this could have gotten some love.  It achieved a lot with very little.  It told a whole story with only a handful of words ever spoken.

Chappaquiddick – A powerful case study on how there is one set of laws for the rich and powerful and another set for the rest of us schlubs.  But, you know, Kennedy was loved by Hollywood so, on and on the vicious cycle goes.

WHO WILL WIN? (And What Did I See?)

Black Panther was a good superhero movie.  It’s watchable again and again and when I went, there were so many black people in attendance in traditional African garb that I figured there was no way the Oscars could ignore it.  They’ll never give an Oscar to a super hero movie (though if the Avengers series ever finally ends, they should consider giving that last movie an Oscar as they did with Lord of the Rings, another comic booky type of movie series, just to celebrate the achievement of finishing a series that lasted so long.)

Bohemian Rhapsody was touching and a good story about a) doing what you love b) being loyal to those who help you do it c) choosing one love over lots of meaningless sex will, surprise, surprise, make you happier.  D) Confidence will get you places.

But it won’t win because alas, the original director has some perv allegations.  I actually agree with that.  We can’t reward alleged pervs.

A STAR IS BORN – It’s long, too long.  And sad.  Yet, at the same time, it was hard for me to feel sorry for Lady Gaga or Bradley Cooper.  They are both just too beautiful.  It did have some important messages about keeping your jealousy in check in a relationship and also, as you age, you’ll have to learn to accept that you’ll never be as fabulous as you were in your prime.

PREDICTION: BlacKkKlansman will win.  It was a good movie.    It tackled a serious subject with, surprisingly, a lot of humor.  It’s one of Spike Lee’s best.  I think the Academy will pick it not necessarily because of the movie itself but because it is critical of Bad Orange Man and in case you haven’t noticed, Awards shows like to dump on him.

 

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Movie Review – Cold Pursuit (2019)

Oh well.  Let’s get this over with.

BQB here with a review of Liam Neeson’s last semi-watchable film, Cold Pursuit.

It’s unfortunate that the man with the particular set of skills decided to whip out a proverbial revolver and shoot himself directly in the foot before this film, because it would have been better for Liam Neeson to have gone out on a high note.  I don’t what he was thinking when he publicly declared to the press that back in the day, he walked around looking to beat up any black man when one black man raped his friend but oh well, thanks for the honesty, Liam, now go sit in the corner with Mel Gibson.

Hollywood loves something that works and will try to milk it forever if they can.  Earlier this decade, Neeson, known mostly for historical dramas, wowed us in Taken, being the ex-CIA spy who uses his skills to rescue his kidnapped daughter.  It was something new, the beginning of a, “Uh oh, those idiots messed with the wrong guy” type of action genre that Neeson excelled at.  Mild mannered men who would gladly kick back and let dust grow on them until they are wronged…and then they kick ass and take names.

The trailer of this film promises us just that.  Here, Neeson plays Nels Coxman (the connotation made fun of throughout the film), a mild mannered snow plow driver who, to our great delight, owns a vast array of heavy, dangerous snow removal equipment which can easily double as bad guy murdering devices, chief among them his enormous truck with an equally large plow.  When Neeson is shown using said truck to knock a car off the road with the ease one might flip an unwanted veggie off of one’s plate, I was sold.

Now I want a refund.  The first twenty minutes start off as you might expect.  Nels has the kind of life most good men yearn for.  Loving wife (Laura Dern), a son, a business, respect of his community.  Alas, when the young lad is iced by a Denver, Colorado drug running syndicate, it all goes to shit.  Nels trades in his polite ways and starts murdering his way up the gang’s food chain, picking off baddies one by one, longing to eventually get to the big boss and take out the operation for good.

Had that line been pursued, the movie would have gone down as a fun thrill ride.  Alas, like Bugs Bunny, it takes a wrong turn at Albuquerque.  Many wrong turns, in fact.

A comedy of errors ensues and to the film’s credit, there’s a very dark, unsettling, just below the surface version of dark humor.  The gang’s leader, Viking (Tom Bateman, who has a future as a breakout star and go to guy if Hollywood ever needs someone to play a pretentious douchebag as he does it so well here) assumes that a rival Native American gang has broken a long truce and both sides go to war.  Tom Jackson provides Viking’s nemesis as the stoic White Bull, who with actions instead of words, shows us he’s a bit mixed up.  During a trip to a typical, overdone, luxury ski resort, White Bull one second seems pleased by the atmosphere then remembers this was once his peoples’ land for as far as the eye could see and screams.

The rival factions go to war and Liam is forgotten for long periods of time.  A running gag in the form of “In Memoriam” cards ties the film together.  Every time a baddie is rubbed out, his name runs solemnly across the screen.  Most of the times you see the murder.  Occasionally, you’re not sure what the prospective killer is about to do with the prospective victim in his midst until you see the victim’s name appear.

It’s an ensemble cast, featuring some fairly big names, as well as a number of actors you know you’ve seen in many other films but can’t quite place their name.  William Forsythe, for example, was the king of playing back-up, douchey/tough guy henchmen and or cops in 1980s action flicks.  Ergo, it is somewhat fitting that he plays Nels’ brother here…as well as a long retired drug dealer whose name Nels had all but forgotten.  If there’s one good part of the flick, it gives Forsythe a long awaited chance to shine and for a brief minute, step outside of the lead’s shadow.

There are a lot subplots and characters that go nowhere, as if the film were a pot and someone, somewhere said, “I like candy sprinkles!  Let’s throw that into the stew!  Wait, I love cucumbers!  Let’s put that in and pig’s feet?  You can’t go wrong with those!  Hey, here’s a leftover pizza slice from last week!  Gotta have it!”

For example, Emmy Rossum and John Doman play a old cop teaching young cop combo.  In Nels’ hometown of Kehoe, Emmy as Kim Dash, wants to crack the string of murders case wide open.  John Gipsky, the older veteran advises to leave things be.  As long as the gangsters aren’t targeting civilians, let them murder each other while small town life continues.  You wait, and wait, and wait for some moment when against her older partner’s wishes, Dash manages to get the duo caught up in the middle of the shitstorm but it never, ever happens.  Oh, spoiler alert.

Same thing with Domenick Lombardozzi, the bald headed Italian tough guy who wowed us in The Wire, wasn’t so bad in the latest season of Frank Donovan and has a strange way of making audiences feel like he could equally give them a hug like a big old teddy bear and also smash their faces with a tire iron.  He play’s Viking’s top henchman, Mustang.  He seems to be bonding with the boss’s son and there’s an inkling that he thinks the boy deserves a better life than the one the crime boss can provide.  Then you learn that Mustang is gay and he and his lover, another henchman, are keeping their love quiet from the boss.  You wait and wait and wait for the scene where Mustang and his love take the boy, adopt him and run off into the sunset but, well keep waiting.

I could go on.  There’s so much build up in all of the characters and so much, nothing.  Ultimately, the movie is like the hodge podge plate you might take away from a pot luck dinner.  You’ve got a piece of lasagna, some asparagus, a piece of meatloaf, a deli sandwich, some jello, a glob of tuna noodle casserole and three potato chips.  All good stuff, but rather pointless together, and in such small bites, not one of them alone can make you happy, and all of them mixed together just makes you sad.

STATUS: Moderately shelf-worthy…only for cool snow removal equipment murder scenes.  Also, the scenic views of the Rocky Mountains, which seem like living in the Hoth like weather would be worth it.

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Movie Review – The Kid Who Would Be King (2019)

Gather around the round table, 3.5 readers, for it is time for a review of “The Kid Who Would Be King.”

Someone call the late, late, late, incredibly late Arthur Pendragon’s agent because that guy is posthumously hot lately.  However, unlike 2017’s Guy Ritchie directed “King Arthur,” this latest flick, as kids’ movies go, is mildly enjoyable.

Let me put it this way.  I don’t think it is destined to become that childhood classic that today’s youth will break out and watch year after year, but for parents, it is something you can take your kid to and your eyes won’t completely glaze over.

Louis Ashbourne Serkis, son of the infamous motion actor Andy (the guy who gets into one of those green suits with ping pong balls over it so computer geeks can turn him into various CGI monsters) stars as Alex, a British boy who attends Dungate Academy.

He and his bestie, Bedders (Dean Chaumoo), are a pair of dweebs who are bullied early and often by cool kids Lance (Tom Taylor) and Kaye (Rhianna Dorris).

While on the run from one such bullying session, Alex hides out in a construction site, only to miraculously locate the accidentally excavated “sword in the stone.”  Only the heir to King Arthur’s throne will be able to remove Excalibur, so when the boy does so, this is a very big deal indeed.

Alas, Alex gets more than just a mere pointy trophy.  He’s now got a duty.  He must save Britain from Morgana, Arthur’s half-sister turned witch (Rebecca Ferguson.)  As early narration informs us, she’s laid low in the bowels of the earth, waiting for a time when mankind has become so divided that she can easily swoop in and take over.  Cue endless number of borderline heavy handed allusions to how everyone on all sides of the political divide need to stop bickering and come together to face any number of threats and dangers coming the world’s way.

As we are also told, Arthur had a knack for turning enemies into allies, a trait that is sorely needed in today’s leadership.  Alex manages to do so with Lance and Kaye, turning his former bullies into his trusty knights.

Other critics have noted that the performances of the various kid actors were somewhat flat.  I mean, you know, they’re kids, so I didn’t really expect any of them to break out as the next Al Pacino.  I felt the kid who played Bedders had an innocent lacky quality, blindly following his buddy and saying naive, “the world is a nice place” type things to motivate Alex, things that only an innocent kid who has yet to be knocked out by the world’s endless “No” machine would believe.

The kid who played Lance comes off as a typical bully and the girl who plays Kaye comes off as his lackey.  Overall, everyone did what they needed to do and I wonder if a flat performance by Serkis might have been the point.  The kid’s character, is, after all, just a normal, average kid.  He isn’t extraordinary.  He’s picked on all the time.  The kid that the whole school loves could easily get everyone behind him.  The kid who gets the snot kicked out of him because kids think that’s a fun thing to do will have the harder challenge to unite his classmates against the forces of evil.

Admittedly though, the film is rather British.  Had it been American, there would have been endless fart jokes, burp jokes, and so on.  One kid would have definitely got kicked in the nads or something.  (Not gonna lie, as an American, I think these additions would have turned the flick into a classic.)  Alas, the Brits prefer to find higher forms of humor I suppose.

The character who truly makes the movie come to life is Merlin.  Sometimes he’s an owl.  Sometimes he’s Sir Patrick Stewart (i.e. the old version of Merlin who is only broken out when the kids aren’t listening and require an adult to drive some sense into them.) Most of the time he’s young Merlin, having taken a teenage form so as to easily blend in while keeping an eye on the kid heroes. Angus Imrie takes that role and not to dump on any of the other kids but if forced to place a bet on which kid has a future in show business, I’d put my money on this one.  His take on Merlin is the main source of laughter in the film – wild eyed and crazy, performing magic spells that require an elaborate series of hand gestures.  By the way, if his take on modern day fast food doesn’t get you to swear off that swill completely, then nothing will.

My one criticism is I did think some of the monsters might have been a little scary for kids, but then again I don’t think this film is meant for the wee ones.  It’s geared toward tweens.  High school kids will scoff.  Toddlers should run for cover.  Anyone in the middle will find it just right.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

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