Tag Archives: Movies

Movie Review – The Wrong Missy (2020)

Careful what you text, 3.5 readers.

BQB here with a review of the Netflix comedy, “The Wrong Missy.”

Adam Sandler and friends, his coterie of 90s era comedians who usually do his Happy Madison production company movies, have had their share of hits and misses, and sadly, in recent years, its been more misses. Their style of comedy (silliness for the sake of silliness without much else thrown in) has by and large gone the way of the dodo, and we can have a debate over whether or not that’s a good thing another time.

This one is a hit.  That’s my opinion, but its topping the charts of Netflix’s offerings today, it’s release day on the streaming service. I think eventually, people will agree.

It’s got two things that Sandler’s flicks have been lacking during their last few (eh, make that several) outings – heart, and actual laughs.

David Spade plays Tim, a brokenhearted bank executive who has given up on love, unable to get over a breakup with ex-fiance Julia (Sarah Chalke). One night, he goes on a blind date Melissa #1 – (Lauren Lupkus of Orange is the New Black Fame who I always confuse with comedienne Kristen Schaal, so much so that I wonder if Kristen and Lauren’s agents are in a perpetual war over who can race to get their client any and all roles that call for a crazy, wild eyed brunette.)

Anyway.  That blind date doesn’t go well, for many wacky reasons but the chief one that comes to mind is that she carries a Crocodile Dundee sized knife in her purse and whips it out often, threatening to use it willy nilly.

Tim brushes Missy #1 off as a psycho, but while in an airport one day, he meets the woman of his dreams, also named Missy, or Melissa (Molly Simms) when he and she mix up their bags at the airport.

Long story short, Tim, urged by BFF Nick Swardson, texts his preferred Melissa with an invited to come on his company retreat to Hawaii. only to be aghast when “The Wrong Melissa” shows up on the flight instead.

Yadda, yadda, yadda. This Melissa is nuts. Tim’s job is at stake because his boss is basically using the retreat as a means to choose between Tim and another candidate for a promotion but Melissa can’t stop saying and doing crude, obscene things and the rest is history.

I think one of the better decisions made with this movie is that Spade cancelled his “I just like to rag on everyone even though deep down inside I wish I was them but I can’t because even though I’m awesome on the inside I’m short on the outside” routine.

Instead, Spade plays Tim as the straight man, the foil to Melissa’s absurdity.

Indeed, there’s plenty of room for criticism. Spade, God help me, is 55 now, and less well preserved, less famous and less wealthy men of his age generally grab hold onto whatever they can get, whereas in this film, Spade is juggling two Melissas as well as his ex who begins to wonder if she missed out on something good if all these Melissas are after her ex’s hanglow.

But Lupkus shoots a cannon in the name of this film’s self awareness at that age difference early in the movie, saying, “What are you? 65? I don’t care.”

I’ve checked some other reviews and the criticism is fairly standard.  Spade should be playing opposite some age appropriate women and how dare Melissa #2 be presented as the end all be all just because she’s uber beautiful.

Part of me wants to point out that old rich men are able to land hot younger women because, all arguments about equality aside, men tend to be more attracted to beauty while women tend to be more attracted to security (the biggest cavemen thousands of years ago, or the man with the biggest wallet today.)

That of course, doesn’t apply universally and it probably doesn’t even apply here. Hollywood wants those hot babes on screen, whereas male actors can be schlubs (although ladies if you think you have it hard trying to live up to Hollywood standards of beauty, try competing with the likes of Chris Hemsworth and Chris Pine if you’re a man and ok…I’ll be quiet now).

If this is a spoiler, then so be it, but what I did like about this movie is it didn’t go the road that rom coms usually go in when a main characters is forced to choose between two love interests. Inevitably, the writers always make the decision for the character, making one of the interests do something so awful and unforgivable that the choice becomes clear.

Technically, that doesn’t happen here. Spade has to make a choice between two women he loves and he makes it….though you do have to suspend your grip on reality to believe that a successful businessman is going to choose a woman who force feeds him dog tranquilizers and speaks in devilish tongues as part of a she’s so quirky routine would not just go for the demure Miss USA contestant.

Lauren Lupkus is great in this and hopefully Hollywood will take further notice.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

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Watch John Wick for Free on Lionsgate Live

Hey 3.5 readers.

Just wanted to pass it along – in about, oh 20 minutes by my clock, there’s a free screening of John Wick on Lionsgate Live.  Apparently, Lionsgate has been showing one of their movies every Friday night, and asking for donations from viewers to help movie theater employees who have been furloughed due to COVID-19

So, I know there’s only 3.5 of you, but if any of you haven’t seen it yet or want to see it again, John Wick is a great movie worth checking out.

I do worry about the future of the movie theater industry. Going to see a movie in the theater was one of my favorite things, but with streaming services on the rise, and now the shutdown, plus Hollywood postponing the release dates of movies that should have been out now, well, let’s hope this among many other problems will be solved and soon.

https://lionsgate.live/

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BQB’s Classic Movie Reviews – The Birds (1963)

Watch out for those birds, 3.5 readers

You’ve probably seen bits and pieces of this movie over the years, but in case you haven’t, spoiler alert.  I’m working my way through Peacock’s Hitchcock collection (say that five times fast) and you should too, so if you don’t want the chills and thrills ruined, look away, go watch, then come back.)

On the surface, this movie sounds like crap. Somehow, it isn’t. Frankly, as I watch it, I see how it builds practically every horror movie trope that modern horror takes for granted today. Hitchcock is to the American horror film what Poe was to the American horror story (as in scary lit, not the TV series.)

A young, wayward and wealthy socialite party girl, Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hendren) meets a handsome and successful lawyer, Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor) by chance in a pet shop in San Francisco.  Hoping a romance might blossom, Melanie arranges for the pet shop to obtain and sell her the “love birds” that Mitch was looking for but unable to find as a present for his young sister. Melanie then drives up the coast to the small, seaside town of Bodega Bay to deliver the feathered friends.

Once in Bodega Bay, a romance indeed blooms between Melanie and Mitch, but alas, this gets fucked up when birds start freaking the hell out, first singling out Melanie as their victim, then turning their beaks on the populace.

The effects, by today’s standards, are silly, though I imagine in 1963, they were some truly scary shit.  I actually found the scenes without effects to be scarier. There’s one scene in particular where Melanie goes to Mitch’s sister, Cathy’s school to check on the girl. As Melanie sits on a bench and has a smoke, waiting for class to let out, she slowly realizes that the birds are slowly but surely landing on and hanging out on the playground – perching on the monkey bars, the swing set.  These birds aren’t just resting their feet, they’re casing the joint, ready to strike.

In another scene, the birds manage to cause a gas pump to leak across the street, when an unsuspecting man is lighting a smoke and kaboom!  The street erupts in a line of fire, cutting off the townsfolk from fleeing their vile beaks.  Yup. The birds are intelligent. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

If you came for explanations, there are none to be found here. At times, there are possible hints. It all starts when Melanie arrives, but if its because of her or a coincidence, we never know for sure, and if it is because of her, we never learn why the birds hate her so much.

I briefly flirted with the idea that somehow, Mitch’s mother, Lydia (played by a middle-aged Jessica Tandy, the youngest I’ve ever seen her) controls the birds with her mind. She is one of those smothering mothers who detests the idea of their son getting married and spending his time with anyone else (combine this with Psycho and I wonder if Hitchcock had mother issues) but its not that either.

We never know why the birds go postal, though I imagine if there is ever a modern remake, it will be due to climate change.  The birds will peck the shit out of humans because they are tire of the sky they fly in being polluted.  Who can blame them, really?

What you will see in this movie is, to the best of my knowledge, a lot of firsts. A better movie buff might disagree, but to the best of my knowledge, this is the film that has the first scene where the heroes have boarded up their house and the baddies are trying to break in (you wouldn’t have all those movies with zombie fists punching through boarded up windows if Hitchcock didn’t have all those beaks pecking through the walls first), the first movie where a character walks upstairs despite common sense telling you that in a house siege, you want to be as close to an exit as possible (sigh, some dude in a 1963 movie theater was probably the first audience member to yell, ‘No! Don’t go up there, bitch!”) and overall, its the first horror film, or at least the first I can recall, where something bad is happening, the explanation is outlandish, the heroes try to warn but are laughed off as idiots until sure enough, the rest of the masses have come to find out that outlandish explanation is true.

Hitchcock took a lot of risks here. Killer birds is a stupid idea today, so it must have been considered absurdly stupid in 1960s.  But he took the chance and it paid off. Ironically, this isn’t just one of the earliest and best standard setting horror movies, it is also, IMO the forerunner of movies like Sharknado – i.e. if you run with a ridiculous premise long enough the audience will eventually suspend disbelief long enough to see where you’re going with it.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.  And if you want to be cheered up, you’ll be happy to know that Tippi Hedren is still alive! Yes, as I watched, I was sad, thinking, boy, everyone in this movie has probably croaked but sure enough, Tippi, at 90, lives.  The birds remain no match for her.

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BQB’s Classic Movie Reviews – Psycho (1960)

Stay out of the shower, 3.5 readers.

BQB here, still checking out Peacock’s Alfred Hitchcock collection as I wait for corona lockdown to wind down.

It’s funny, I’ve seen the original movie, but I and I bet most people know the gist of the story.  I did see the 1990s remake and I recall bits and pieces of the 1980s sequels and of course, the movie has been parodied extensively, especially that shower scene.  Honestly, who among us hasn’t had a moment where we are taking a shower alone and take an extra peak out the shower curtain just to make sure no one’s trying to slice and dice us?

The plot? Marion Crane and her boyfriend, Sam Loomis (Janet Leigh and John Gavin) are very much in love. Unfortunately, they can’t get married because of money woes – Sam has to pay his ex wife so much alimony that he can’t afford to care for a new wife, and it is 1960, so they just can’t openly bang, they have to sneak around and bang in seedy motels lest they get labeled by the public as unsavory ne’er-do-well unmarried bangers.

In a moment of weakness, Marion does a bad thing. Though she’s lived a relatively good life, when he boss asks her to deposit a customer’s $40,000 cash in the bank, she gives in to temptation and skips town with the loot. While on the run from the law, she checks in to an old, dumpy hotel aka the Bates Motel and the rest is super scary history.

If there was ever a reason to wish you were around in 1960 (let’s not delve into a discussion of the many reasons why you wouldn’t want to be) it would be to be a member of the original audience when this flick was shown the first time.  Since it is embedded in the pop culture, you pretty much know what’s going to happen from the start, but people who saw it for the first time must have literally crapped their pants.

Hitchcock pulls the rug out from his audience many times. First, it seems like the film is going to mostly be about Marion and what she is going to do with her ill gotten gains. Then she’s ganked by Norman Bates’ mother in the shower and then the film changes gears, making you feel bad for Norman, that he’s this poor young man, stuck in a shitty life, having to take care of his miserable pain in the ass mother who bosses him around all day and even worse, pulls off the ultimate cockblock by stabbing the shit out of any woman who gives Norman the time of day.

Spoiler alert if you’ve been living under a rock: the film changes gears yet again when we learn that Norman, as the title suggests, is a psycho, and that he has been impersonating his mother, who has been dead for years.

What a movie.  It’s funny, take all of today’s CGI, all the special effects, and this movie is scarier.  The music (ree ree ree!) is scary, the plot is scary, and I mean, really, what is scarier than the idea of getting stabbed in the shower?

I mean, holy shit.  Think about it. You’re butt naked. There’s water and soap in your eyes. There’s a frigging plastic sheet that’s going to get wet and cling to you when you try to move. When the killer gets in front of the shower, you’re trapped in an enclosed space…holy shit. Hitchcock really put a lot of thought into this shit.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy, and its funny, I only knew Anthony Perkins as an older actor, but it was interesting to see him so young here, and there are times before the story unravels where you really feel sorry for him.

I get that today we’re trying to not demonize those with mental illness. That guy is crazy is therefore evil is a double edged sword in film because, you know, feeling bad for the guy trying to stab the shit out of you doesn’t lead to your shit being less stabbed out of you.  Its still scary.

Hitchcock spins a lot of plates and they all land successfully.  How we all think we are good until we reach that one moment where we are tempted by a certain set of circumstances to do wrong. How we fear being trapped by circumstances, torn between wanting to be happy and wanting to please our families. How you never know when you might be trying to hose down your junk only for a crazy ass bastard to do some ginsu action on your ass.  Egads.

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BQB’s Classic Movie Reviews – Bernie (2011)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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