Tag Archives: Movies

Movie Review – Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021)

Busting makes me feel good, 3.5 readers.

The reviews thus far aren’t great, but I liked this movie. If I have one complaint, it’s with the ending and while I found it to be an enjoyable ending, I understand why reviewers aren’t being kind.

SPOILER ALERT: I don’t think I can talk about it without giving major spoilers as well as giving the entire ending away, so look away if you don’t want literally the whole movie spoiled for you.

The movie begins with the revelation that an elderly Egon Spengler long ago abandoned his ghostbusting pals as well as his family and moved to the middle of nowhere to become a lonely, dirt farming hermit.

Thus begins the captivating mystery of the film – why on earth would Egon do such a thing?

After the nerdiest G-Buster’s untimely demise, his estranged daughter and grandchildren who he never met, financially down on their luck, move to the dilapidated farmhouse left to them and make it their new home. McKenna Grace and Finn Wolfhard’s bro/sis team Phoebe and Trevor (spitting images of Harold Ramis) team up with science teacher Mr. Grooberson to investigate the strange, supernatural doings in town, slowly but surely working their way through Egon’s left behind research and clues.

Ultimately they unravel (YOUR LAST CHANCE TO AVOID A SPOILER)…yeah, it’s just freaking Gozer and the devil dogs causing trouble again. Cue original Ghostbuster team cameo to rush to the kids’ aid and a…well I’m still debating if it’s a sweet loving tribute or blasphemous cashgrab of a cameo of a computerized Harold Ramis as a ghost. He doesn’t slime anyone or say anything really. He just finally gets to meet his grand kids and have a moment with his daughter where all is forgiven and they realize he never wanted to abandon them, he was just trying to save the world.

So…I’d say 2/3 of this movie managed to build something new, walking the fine line between fan service and going in a new direction, and then the last third is just plenty o’ fan service, callbacks, gag repeats and cameos. If they could have found, say, an entirely new threat that Egon was fighting, it might have saved the film from bad reviews but the franchise’s inability to score a modern day critical hit seems to lie with the fact that the writers can’t come with a villain other than Gozer.

It almost made it and even so, I found the ending fun just…yeah, I get why the critics have a problem with it. Still, McKenna Grace does a fun turn as a 12 year old female Spengler clone, putting her grandfather’s quirks and mannerisms on full display.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. SPOILER ALERT – A post credit scene shows us that Winston Zeddmore has become a multi-billionaire/financial genius. He proposes using his big bankroll to turn the Ghostbusting franchise into an international company so…perhaps the next film will give us Ghostbusters in Europe? Japan? Africa? Australia? Who knows? Just…well, look, I’m just a silly old fanboy from way back so if you give me the fanservice, I’ll lap it up like the dog that I am but if you want decent critic reviews, you’re going to have to come up with a villain, any villain than Gozer. Name him Schmozer or something. Make an attempt an originality.

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Movie Review – The Eternals (2021)

Wow. Color me shocked, 3.5 readers. I think Marvel has its very first flop on its hands.

BQB here with a review of The Eternals.

At the outset, I think this movie suffers from the same problem as The Fantastic Four. Too many characters without enough time to explain who they are and what they are doing. At least with the Fab 4 there are only four but here there are like a dozen so throughout the movie you’re like, “Wait? Who is that again? Whoa! Who is that?”

The plot? A race of immortal beings was sent to Earth thousands of years ago, tasked with saving humanity from the deviants – i.e. giant space monsters who like to eat humans. They have been given strict instructions to keep a low profile and blend in and under no circumstances can they interfere with the affairs of man, thus explaining why they never helped the Avengers battle this villain or that one and so on. For some reason, they are allowed to help humans with technological advances but they have to take a powder when humans use that tech to slaughter each other because humans will never learn how to be good unless they first make the mistake of being bad.

So, alright. A movie about immortal beings who spend eternity in the shadows, doing illuminati stuff to advance the world. Sounds interesting but then, um…I don’t know. There’s um….some frigging giant space man in space that they talk to and they start fighting each other over whether they should save the humans from themselves and um I get confused but I think the giant space man who I guess is their boss intends to blow up the planet and harvest it for its energy or some such nonsense and the immortals have to decide if they should save the humans from their space man boss and OW! I think I had a brain aneurysm from thinking too much.

Seriously. Holy shit. Therein lies the rub. Comic book movies shouldn’t require anyone to think this much. I’m not saying there isn’t room for thinking, but when I need to bring a flowchart and a slide rule into the theater just to keep track of who everyone is and what they are doing, blech. Fahgeddaboudit.

It has its moments. Kumail Nanjiani brings needed levity as an immortal who is in love with himself, having spent the past 100 years as a Bollywood movie star.

But then again, it has its strange moments…like, for example, why is Angelina Jolie, the hottest woman in the world, relegated to a bit part? I guess because she’s playing the hottest immortal but still. Kinda feels like this movie might be beneath her.

STATUS: Wow, I can’t believe I’m doing this but this is the first Marvel film I’m going to rank as…NOT SHELF WORTHY! To quote The Critic, “It stinks.” It really does. There are moments toward the end where it teases a forthcoming sequel and this is the first time when I’m like, “Nah. That’s OK. Don’t bother.” It’s also the first Marvel film that I wouldn’t bother watching again when it hits streaming.

I mean, there’s a lot of visual beauty to it and it’s very epic as it takes us through thousands of years, showing us what the immortals did through various periods of human history but um…honestly the plot is so convoluted I’m still not sure what it’s about.

We’ve entered Marvel’s scraping the bottom of the barrel phase. No more Captain America, Iron Man, Thor or Hulk. Now it’s those characters that only the real hardcore deep diving nerds know about. Shang Chi kicked it off and was pretty decent but I’m not sure where Marvel goes from here because if the Eternals are part of the big ensemble that will eventually be recruited to fight off the next big bad…I mean, I’m not going to pay to sleep through another movie so…

Yawn.

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Movie Review – Red Notice (2021)

I don’t know how it’s possible for a movie starring The Rock, Ryan Reynolds and Gal Gadot to be a boring stinkfest but darned if Netflix didn’t find a way to make it happen.

BQB here with a review.

I don’t know how Netflix tricked me again, seeing as how I’ve written about how Netflix has tricked me before. They put out promos for awesome looking movies with big stars and you can’t wait and then it drops and it stinks.

The way I see it: Apparently, Netflix can hire big stars or great writers, but it’s rare for the company to bring both together.

Ironically, the plot sounds as awesome at the stars. Rival art thieves (Gadot and Reynolds) go to war over Cleopatra’s (she of Ancient Egypt fame) prized golden eggs, with FBI agent The Rock caught in the middle. Double crosses, triple crosses, globe trotting, heists, explosions, and Nazi secrets abound and yet…YAWN.

Why? Heavy on the exposition dumps. I hate exposition dumps. You hate exposition dumps. Writing 101. Show us. Don’t tell us. We go to movies for entertainment, not to be given a bunch of facts up front that we have to commit to memory so we can understand the plot later.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m too hard on these movies because Netflix made them but I don’t think so. If one really strikes my fancy, I’ll give it its due, like I did recently with Army of Thieves, but I think when it’s billed as a film with three top stars, you go in expecting a lot of razzle dazzle and instead well…imagine if like, a sophomore English major banged out a movie script in an hour but for some reason, was rich enough to hire The Rock, Reynolds and Gadot to star in it…maybe its not THAT bad but still. I expected more. I expected these three would look at the script and be like, “Um…keep the money. I don’t want to be in sucky movies.”

To be fair, the film has its moments, as many do. Its a fun distraction to eat popcorn to but there’s zero character development and I get it. Most of these flicks don’t have any character development but at least there’s an attempt. The biggest question left on the floor is how did a musclebound FBI agent end up as an art expert? What convinced him to use his art knowledge to fight art crime?

I do have to give it some points in that it let Gadot be the villain, which is a big change for her. Even so, Reynolds rattles off his “Who, me?” one liners. The Rock kicks ass. Gadot is that rare person who is both beautiful and kind, such that even when she applies an electro shock device to The Rock’s nards, it’s hard to believe she isn’t secretly concerned for her adversary’s safety.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy, but I’m wise to this scam. From now on, I won’t get excited by these streaming service blockbuster ads because I know deep down, they’ll spend big on the special effects and actors, but skimp on the writing, so I will never again watch a…OH MY GOD! DISNEY PLUS JUST RELEASED A NEW HOME ALONE MOVIE?! I GOTTA GO WATCH THIS THING! THAT SOUNDS AWESOME!

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Movie Review – Army of Thieves (2021)

Safes! Cracking! Germans!

BQB here with a review of a prequel to a zombie movie that’s very light on zombies and high on…a safecracking German?

There are no words to describe how utterly awful Army of the Dead was. I get that the zombie genre is oversaturated, but even in a sea of overdone zombie flicks, directors manage to piece it all together with at least a semi-coherent tale. Snyder’s flick, on the other hand, was just full of loose strings, begging the viewer to pull and pull only to find more strings.

Hey, watch out for that pile of dried up zombies! When it rains, they’ll come back to life! Then you wait and wait and it never rains and the pile of dried zombies never gets a rain revival. The guy who touts his awesome hand-held saw but then never uses the saw. The robot zombies that are never explained. Low depth characters with a reason to join the expedition into a zombie filled Vegas who never fulfill their purpose. Awful. Just awful. Frankly, if Netflix had any integrity, they’d remove this film from the site and give subscribers a free month by way of an apology, because it really is that bad. I could poop on it forever.

Surprisingly though, the prequel, about what Dieter (Mathias Schweighofer) did before he became the plucky German safecracker who travels with a team of zombie fighters to pull of a heist, is fantastic.

Here, Dieter is Sebastian (the reason for the name change to be revealed), a depressed bank teller who just goes through his boring days, having caved in to a life of unfulfilled mediocrity. Ah, but thanks to a YouTube video he posts about his safecracking hobby, the lovely Gwendoline (Nathalie Emmanuel) comes into his life and whisks him away into a life of international thievery, bent on cracking their way through a series of seemingly impenetrable safes constructed by a master safe-smith. The thrill isn’t necessarily in the money (though plenty is involved) its in the challenge of cracking the uncrackable.

Mathias (I don’t feel like writing his hard to spell last name again) is a delight as an excitable, nervous stranger to the criminal underworld. Nathalie, who I have had a secret crush on since her Game of Thrones days is fabulous and finally steps out in a leading lady role. Bonus points for a fun running joke where she changes her hairstyle with almost literally every location change leaves audiences wondering how she has time to get to the salon while she’s heisting.

Double bonus points for another running joke where characters punch someone only to seethe with pain at the resulting hand injury. Movies really do make it look like punching someone is easy where in fact, punching any hard surface, be it a wall or a face, is painful. BTW shooting guns is also very loud, so loud it can cause ear damage and they also heat up and get too hot to hold after multiple fires but we’ll wait for another movie to do that running joke.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. Very strange that such a shitty movie could spawn such a fun movie but stranger things have happened.

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Movie Review – Dune (2021)

A desert planet! Space wizards!

No, I’m not talking about Star Wars….I’m talking about Dune.

BQB here with a review.

I tried to watch the 1980s Dune movie once. It starts immediately with some floating space broad giving a full on, fact filled lecture, like I’m expected to take notes and prepare for an exam on space politics and space economies. Eff that. Hasn’t that floating space broad ever heard about show, don’t tell? Needless to say, I turned it off posthaste.

There is a little bit of an up front exposition dump in this new version as well, but it’s small and overall it’s a good film, if not cumbersome with deets on space politics, space money, space mining, space geopolitical intrigue and so on.

The plot? Paul Atreides, some sort of space prince, is gifted with space mind control powers, a genetic trait passed down to him by his space whore mother (Rebecca Ferguson and I’m sorry, space concubine is the preferred term.)

When House Atreides is called upon to take over spice mining operations on a desert planet, House Harkonnen, comprised largely of fugly bald dudes, is pissed, for that planet was theirs.

Blah blah blah, chaos ensues…we must discover if Paul will be able to save the day and use his mind control powers in doing so.

I gotta be honest. I didn’t dig too deep into understanding the weeds of this picture. It’s pretty. Lots of fancy colors and special effects. Enjoyable…though I have to be honest, I wonder if two of my favorite franchises, Star Wars and Game of Thrones, might have stolen from it heavily.

Star Wars – desert planet. Space wizards and space magic. Space worms. All happened in Dune first.

Game of Thrones – Royal families fighting each other for money and control. Well, I guess Dune stole that idea from the world if anything.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy but I’ll be honest, not my fave. The royal families, the space economy, the space politics, the space magic, the space worms – it feels like it tries to do too much and maybe Star Wars took some of these aspects and boiled it into something simpler and more watchable. To that end, Dune has long deserved more credit than it gets.

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Movie Review – Halloween Kills (2021)

Sweet merciful crap. How many of these must we suffer through?

BQB here with a review of the latest Halloween flick.

At this point, Michael Myers has to be, what, 70 something years old? And he’s still breaking out of the asylum every Halloween night to slice and dice random townsfolk with his butcher knife?

Sigh. Typical Baby Boomer. Refusing to retire and allow the next generation of psycho serial killers to have a go.

Same with Laurie Strode. Jamie Lee Curtis is grandma-age as Michael’s favorite victim. You’d think at this point she’d move to Argentina, Brazil, Uzbekistan…somewhere Myers can’t get to.

It’s unfortunate because I thought the last installment wasn’t terrible. If you missed it, Strode sets up a veritable house of horrors for Michael, leaving nothing to chance, all but ensuring that he will be destroyed the next time he comes after her. She does this with the help of her daughter and grand-daughter, very modern in that three generations of women are done being victims and are fighting back.

But, hey money is money and I guess the studio decided to go back to the well for more cash, though this one is rather…meh.

Spoiler alert – as it turns out, Laurie’s murder house fails to claim Double-M because let’s face it, nothing ever does. The dude has been through what, 20 movies now? He’s been shot, stabbed, chainsawed, had bombs dropped on him, blown up with dynamite, set on fire…wasn’t he shot up into space once or was that Jason? Anyway, Myers is the Timex of slashers. He takes a licking and keeps on ticking.

Meanwhile, the people of Haddonfield have had enough of this bullshit. Led by Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall as the jacked old man who makes you wonder where the goofy little kid from the Chevy Chase Vacation movie or Weird Science went and how time can be such a bitch), a kid who got away from one of Myer’s early 1970s rampages, the townsfolk form a posse to hunt down and kill Myers once and for all, begging the audience to ask the question…what the hell took them so long?

From thereon, the movie becomes more of a meditation on the mob mentality and vigilante justice – i.e. we get it. Sometimes it feels like the system has failed so the people have to take the law into their own hands…except the people are not trained, they don’t have police credentials and they are emotional idiots who get it wrong and sure enough, they get it wrong and end up as bad as the killer they are chasing.

Meh. As a director, Carpenter was one of the first to put intense and scary, gory scenes on camera, stuff that really scared the pants off viewers and no one had dared film before. We can debate whether or not he should have opened that door. But he was also able to accomplish a lot of a scary song and ominous footsteps whereas directors today just try to add more and more gore.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. It’s OK and it’s a fun little diversion this Halloween season. It got me to open my long dusty Peacock app, so there’s that. On the other hand, it’s not anything I’m itching to watch again. I do kind of wonder why, when everything else has gotten the modern reboot treatment, why they don’t just recast it with younger actors at this point. Myers I guess is an immortal monster so his age doesn’t matter but I’m not sure how much longer they can have him chase Grannie Laurie Strode and still have it make sense, if it ever did.

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Movie Review – No Time to Die (2021)

The name’s Battler. Bookshelf Q. Battler.

I’ll have a banana daquiri. Fresh, not frozen.

BQB here with a review of the latest Bond flick.

If there’s one universal rule about the Bond franchise, it’s this. Every Bond incarnation usually has one fantastic, blow-out film and then the rest are OK or subpar at best. For Pierce Brosnan, his great was Goldeneye. For Daniel Craig, his knockout was Skyfall. The rest are too old for me to parse through, and perhaps all of Sean Connery’s were great, but ultimately these flicks can be hit or miss and on occasion, you’re left wondering what were they thinking.

Daniel Craig has been at the Bond game a long time now and the world has been through a lot of changes. First, he had the unenviable task of reviving the franchise in the post-9/11 world. After the Twin Towers fell, audiences had less of a tolerance for Bond’s sillier side. Sure, it’s always a good time when he saves the day with the help of one of Q’s wacky gadgets while delivering a clever one-liner, but we viewers collectively grew up and realized that what a nation’s intelligence service does (fails to do or doesn’t prevent) matters. Thus, Bond had to get more serious…yet somehow retain the fun.

Flash forward another decade and a half later and Bond’s womanizing ways have also become tres passe. How much more can society chip away at this beloved character? First, we told him he has to stop being funny. Now we’re telling him he has to stop bagging babes which is hard because he has a track record of getting it on at least three times per film. There’s always one random hottie who is just a fling, then a good hottie he has to work with, and also a hottie dating a villain he has to convince to switch sides…with his studliness.

Truth be told, Bond films are the ultimate male fantasy. We dudes dream of being handsome, suave, sophisticated, driving the cool car, able to get any woman we want…and seriously, y’all have no idea how getting any woman you want is a superpower. Women never have to worry about finding a man. Women can just poke their head out the window and shout, “I want a man” and they will all come running, but a man? Most men have to really work for it and are lucky if they find one in their lifetime and are luckier still if they don’t screw it up. Meanwhile, Bond finds oodles and they all seem like they all feel very lucky and happy to be with him, even to the point where it leads to them being painted with oxygen depriving gold paint or befalling some other terrible fate.

As if that weren’t enough changes for Bond, the women want in on the action. They aren’t just happy to be Bond’s eye candy. They want their chance to murder the bad dudes and save the day too.

Tall order for a movie but somehow it delivers.

Going into it, I heard a lot of bad reviews, people chanting the old “go woke, go broke” mantra. While I think we all have to embrace diversity, I have noticed that some films/franchises go to eye-rolling lengths (see the latest Superman comic with Supes french kissing a pink-haired man he apparently dumps Lois for more.)

I didn’t find that here. I think the film managed to straddle the line between wokeness and Bond’s patented studliness.

How’d the do it? SPOILER ALERT. REPEAT SPOILER ALERT.

They had Bond settle down. Ingenious, no?

The plot? Bond finally meets the true love of his life and gets hitched. On his honeymoon with Madeleine Swann, he gets sidetracked by villains henchmen because he’s Bond, so why wouldn’t he? This leads him down a rabbit hole toward a war between uber baddies Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) and Safin (Rami Malek) over a virus that can be tailor made to target anyone its wielder desires (and thus we understand why the film’s release was delayed from its original unfortunately time date during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, though I suppose it’s not like the producers could have ever foreseen how their plot would come too close too reality when they made the flick.)

Bond does get his side-babes, but only in the form of co-workers/spies Nomi who has taken up the 007 mantle in the wake of Bond’s retirement (Lashana Lynch) and Paloma, a Cuba based spy who claims to only have three weeks of training (Ana de Armas who I intend to propose to one day if my self-publishing enterprise ever makes me rich…unless she’d take me as poor. What the hell? Ana on the off chance you’re reading this…and I’ve embarrassed myself. Moving on…)

At any rate, Bond doesn’t bang these women because he’s a changed man now. He’s found the love of his life and is now a one woman man so no other babe will do. And the babes don’t come onto him because they’re professionals and they don’t mix business with pleasure. Hell, they don’t even seem interested…because they aren’t. Nomi, if anything, taunts him over being the new 007. So they’re just colleagues who work together to save the world and there’s no hanky panky that will lead Bond to a trip to MI6 HR and a vigorous drubbing on Twitter.

Ultimately, I found the ways in which the wokeness was blended in, baked into the cake, as it were, clever. We can’t really complain that Bond isn’t snogging chicks two, three at a time because he has finally found true love and frankly, for the past few films, we’ve seen a Bond who has become saddened by the love and leave ’em or worse, see them deep-sixed by the villain lifestyle. We dudes who like seeing babes on the screen still get to see them but we have to see them as experts in the espionage trade who get the intel through tactics and guile and not just by flashing their boobs (although let’s face it, in real life, one boob flash is all it takes for even the most stalwart villain to give up the launch codes because men are that basic.)

I won’t give up much more other than to say SPOILER ALERT the film does close Craig’s iteration of the franchise, which is unheard of in Bond history, because usually, the films just keep going until the Bond actor either gets too old, or the films get stale, or enough time passes that Hollywood says we haven’t done a Bond film in awhile and hey, there’s a new British actor on the scene who would fit the bill.

Thus, I suppose this means the next Bond version will be an actual reboot. Strange, because somehow the Bond films never get rebooted. It’s just as if Bond has somehow existed for 50 years as one man or another. There’s that old fan theory that perhaps there have just been a series of British spies who go by the name James Bond, 007. Either that or we just understand that Bond just exists and we don’t blink as he moves from one generation to the next.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. It’s by no means terrible as the critics are saying. It is a bit confusing though these films often are. Skyfall still remains Craig’s best. Quantum of Solace is still the worst. Spectre is middling. This one and Casino Royale are decent. To Craig’s credit, he only had one stinker, shaken, not stirred.

I am curious though how the next Bond iteration goes, or if they’ll have one. I mean, he can’t be a one-woman man forever and the character is a dude who is so damn sexy that women throw themselves at him, even if it means their peril as they switch sides and give up their villainous boyfriends. Maybe this ultra macho stud is a casualty of the woke era or maybe he’ll be back in ways we heretofore will never expect.

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Movie Review – The Addams Family 2 (2021)

They’re creepy. They’re kooky. You know the drill.

BQB here with a review of the latest installment of the now animated chronicles of America’s creepiest family.

I enjoyed the 2019 cartoon remake of the Addams fam. It seemed like a clever way to breathe new life into an old property, a way to maintain the macabre silliness while getting around the fact that audiences are less willing to suspend disbelief as they were in the old days.

Then again, how willing you are to suspend disbelief may depend how old you are. For example, I remember as a kid thinking the 1990s Addams Family films were hysterical. Now, as an adult, the first time Wednesday whips out her guillotine and tries to separate Pugsley from his head, I wonder why no one has called social services yet.

Anyway, sequels tend to be a bit lackluster and unfortunately, this one is no exception. The first animated film intro’d us to this generation’s Addams fam, complete with how they get by in the social media age, with an interesting plot about how they fight a reality TV show host who is trying to oust them in an attempt to make the neighborhood appear more “normal” i.e. that haunted mansion has to go.

Here, the characters have been established but rather than build it sort of just flounders. The plot is a mysterious stranger, via a lawyer, is claiming that Wednesday is his daughter as there was a mix-up at the hospital when Baby W was born. In an effort to run away from this terrible news, Gomez and Morticia pack up the fam for a cross-country road trip, spreading their creepiness across the US of A.

It has its fun and funny moments but its low on Gomez and Morticia moments. I suppose I shouldn’t spoil too much. Let’s just say…going into the first, you knew the Addamses weren’t going to let themselves be run out of town, but it was fun to see just how they were going to stand their ground. Here, I mean, you know it’s not going to end with Wednesday jumping ship on her fam so…too predictable I suppose is my main complaint.

Then again, it’s a kid’s movie, so if you want a distraction for your youngsters this Halloween season, this one ain’t half bad.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. Bonus points for the film giving a shout out to self-publishing. SPOILER ALERT: Uncle Fester boasts of being a self-published author, pushing his book on how to pick up babes to Pugsley. who is finding it difficult to talk to girls. “I’ve been on three first dates! You can’t beat that experience!” Fester proudly declares as he bids his nephew to seek his advice. As a self-publishing aficionado, I couldn’t help but laugh.

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Movie Review – The Guilty (2021)

I want to say this is the harshest movie review I’ll ever write, but the year is still young and so is the decade and who knows how much blogging time I have left…even so…

…what a horrible piece of crap this movie is. Don’t even bother…to watch it. You can still read my review if you want.

When this one popped up on Netflix, I saved it until a weekend afternoon when I could give it my full attention. It looked great, with Jake Gyllenhaal as a benched cop assigned to 911 operator duty while he awaits the review of recent allegations of wrongdoing. He takes a call from an abduction victim and attempts to use his detective skills from his desk to solve the case, even though he’s really just supposed to relay the info to the actual investigators and stay out of the way.

The film is a remake of a Danish film of the same name, though I immediately felt it was somewhat of a ripoff of the 2013 film, “The Call” starring Halle Berry. That movie was actually pretty good, largely because it plenty of cut shots, scenes that showed what was going on with Halle at the call center as well as what was happening with the victim – the villain’s evil-doings, attempts by good Samaritans to intervene, the police chase, etc.

Here, we get none of that. If you were hoping for an extended film that is just the Jakester sitting at a desk, arguing with various voices on the phone, then have fun. Oh wait, I forgot, sometimes he gets up and moves to another room where he can yell at the voices on the phone in private.

I have to wonder who thought it would be a good idea to release an all Jake, all the time film, without any glimpse into what’s going on with the victim or the baddie whatsoever. Then again, that might have been the point. Netflix and other streaming services are trying to build their platforms, churning out tons of product, trying to give subscribers a lot of bang for their buck i.e. “Look at all the movies we’ve got!”

Problem is, I’ve found a lot of these Netflix flicks that look like they rival the theatrically released summer blockbusters often just end up with one big star in a film with a shitty script. I could cite Charlize Theron in The Old Guard or Ryan Reynolds in Six Underground….except I can’t because those had one big star, a shitty plot, but a lot of special effects and action that were at least fun to watch.

Here, it’s just a dude sitting at a desk. I guess the one saving grace is eventually I realized I could putter around the house and do my busy work, treating the film like a podcast because all I needed was to hear Jake and the various voices on the other line.

It’s just…sad…and it does make me wonder about the future of movies if theaters are ever, God forbid, shuttered permanently. I mean, seriously, theaters are a check on Hollywood because surely, if you ever put a movie this shitty in a big city, packed house movie theater, there’d be a riot, or probably not far but a mild insurrection. Rabble rousers would definitely throw popcorn at the screen and demand some cut scenes showing the police chasing the bad guy while Jake is on the phone. If streaming services take over completely, it will just be a non-stop spew of crap.

Surprising because not only is JG the lead, but it is directed by Antoine Fuqua who gave us Training Day and screenwriter Nic Pizzolato of True Detective Fame. I dunno. All three have given us great stuff to watch but it feels like they sold out to create a real turd here.

STATUS: NOT-SHELFWORTHY! Truly, the most devastating rating I can give a piece of work on this fine blog. I really thought this would be good because it had an actor who has starred in good movies, but then again, Netflix got me with Charlize Theron, Ryan Reynolds, etc. It’s like Lucy holding the football. I always say I’m not going to run at that ball and then I do it anyway.

Thanks for making me look like a blockhead, Netflix.

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Movie Review – The Many Saints of Newark (2021)

Woke up this morning, 3.5 readers.

BQB here with a review of the long awaited Sopranos prequel.

Being the fan of an HBO series is a lot like being the kid of an estranged father. When you were younger, Dear Old Dad was always around, and you loved every minute of it, from playing catch to riding all the rides at the carnival together. Ahh but alas, much like the showrunners, actors and everyone behind these shows, Dad got distracted by some shiny new thing and went off to chase it, leaving us wondering for years why we weren’t good enough for Pops to stick around.

And then…so many years later, when finally, we gave up, moved on, and accepted that we’ll never get any closure to the longstanding questions that loomed over our relationship, the Old Man returns, now as a geezer, asking for us to love him again, no questions asked, and we can’t help but think this is probably a desperate ploy to shake us down in one last cash grab because God knows, the up and coming next generation doesn’t give a crap about him.

In all seriousness though, if you were a sentient adult in the late 90s-early 2000s, you either watched this show religiously or heard all the yammering from the people who did. It essentially gave rise to the so-called new golden age of TV that we are experiencing today (though I wonder if it might be in decline as of late). When I was a young man, I watched the show and just thought it was funny there was a show on TV that showed a lot of boobs and butts and people saying and doing horrible things and certainly such taboo material would never be seen on NBC, so it felt like it was almost subversive to watch it. The rest of Hollywood took note and realized that cable was the way to go for long form series storytelling where the characters could be allowed to say and do much more naughtier things.

Alas, HBO has a tendency to cash in and cash out on these shows. Although there are some who think the Sopranos’ fade to black finale was brilliant (for those uninitiated, the show that posed a ton of questions about mobster Tony Soprano’s life – will he get killed by rivals? will he end up in jail? will his marriage fail? will his kids stand by him or realize he’s a scumbag and abandon him?) – decided to answer these questions with a non-answer, i.e. a do it yourself ending where the family goes to dinner at a restaurant, an ominous man goes to the bathroom, and maybe said individual comes out blasting or maybe he’s just a random diner who needed to take a dump. The choice is yours.

Personally, I was one of the many, many viewers who jumped up and smacked my TV, thinking a cable went loose at the worst possible moment.

Thus, I wasn’t surprised when Game of Thrones wowed us throughout the 2010s, only to rush through the last season. They did it with the Sopranos in the 00s and GOT in the 2010s. It’s the 2020s now and Home Box Office is due to give us the series of the decade that will leave us captivated in awe, only to one day decide that they’ve snatched up enough cash, that dumping more cash into the series is not cost effective, and to send us on our way with a lackluster rushed final season and lame finale.

Where was I? Oh right. Now that I got my rant out, let’s move on to the review.

There are so many reasons why it was a tragedy that James Gandolfini died young in his early fifties, but as a Sopranos fan, and looking at how Hollywood, thanks to streaming services, has become obsessed with bringing back old stuff, it makes me think that HBO might have finally ponied up the dough necessary to make a new Sopranos season, one that tells us where the New Jersey crime family is today and what happened after the fade to black moment. Such a show would probably bring so many fans to HBO Max that the service would time out, but alas, it was not meant to be.

Instead, veteran producer and great storyteller David Chase brings us a prequel, the Many Saints of Newark. Originally, I thought this title was a tongue in cheek way to refer to all the mobsters in young Tony Soprano’s life, but it actually is in reference to the name Moltisanti, fans remembering that Michael Imperioli’s Christopher was the tragic comic relief of the show, unable to free himself of his addictions, at war with himself over how he could win his Uncle Tony’s approval and how he could make enough money to strike out on his own.

The prequel movie focuses on Dickie Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola finally getting the recognition he deserves so many years after humorously dining on Tiramisu as one half of Nic Cage’s villainous brother duo in the classic so bad it’s good sci-fi flick Face/Off).

Dick and young Tony Soprano (played aptly by James Gandolfini’s son Michael, in many respects, the face, the voice, the gestures, you are convinced this is young Tony) have a relationship similar to that of Tony and Christopher in the show. Dickie is a rising star in the New Jersey mob. Young Tony thinks his uncle is pretty cool, but is too young to understand that the car, the clothes, the babes, all the things that make Dickie cool come from blood money.

The film focuses on a friendship between Dickie and African-American gangster Harold McBrayer (Leslie Odom Jr.) The 1960s, as students of history know, were a turbulent time, when civil rights were demanded and injustices often led to riots and violent, civil unrest. In all walks of life and professions, African Americans stood up and demanded more and well, though crime isn’t exactly a noble profession by any means, McBrayer demands more, pushing away from his role as Dickie’s henchman and striking out in illegal moneymaking schemes of his own, which eventually sets Dickie and Harold on a path to war.

To the movie’s credit (or discredit, whatever your opinion may be) it revels in fan service, fan service, and more fan service. We see young versions of the show’s characters. Though these performances are largely caricatures, one might argue that the whole series was one great big caricature of the mob to begin with. At any rate, we see a youthful Paulie Walnuts (Billy Magnussen) worried about getting blood on his suit and a spry Big Pussy Bonpensiero (Samson Moeakiola) before he digged too deep into the lasagna tray. We see a young Silvio (John Magaro) combatting hair loss with a variety of wigs. We see characters say and do things that were talked about in the series.

You might have to re-watch it to get some of the jokes and nods. The casual fan will still enjoy it, though it takes a re-watch to truly sit in anticipation of Corey Stall’s youthful rendition of Uncle Junior, just waiting for him to harangue Young Tony with his constant criticism of how Tony “doesn’t have the makings of a Varsity Athlete.”

Vera Farmiga, who I admit I have a longstanding crush on ever since her turn in The Departed) doesn’t just steal the show as a young version of Tony’s overbearing, aggressively passive-aggressive mother who would go on to force middle-aged Tony to spend a mint on psychotherapy with Dr. Melfi. It mad me sad to see that the beautiful Farmiga had to undergo all kinds of makeup to ugly her up and one might say she’s doing a caricature of the incomparable Nancy Marchand, the late actress who played Tony’s elderly mother in the series. At any rate, those of us who have gone through the not so fun experience of having parents who get old, who demand that we take over and just handle everything for them because they are too old to handle it now, yet they still want to be in charge because damn it, they’ve got more years than you do, can relate to Tony’s suffering. All in all, it’s equally eerie and funny when we sit in anticipation of Farmiga’s rendition of Livia’s “Oh, poor you!”

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. The movie has its moments. Lots of action. Plot twists. In many ways it does feel like an extended Sopranos episode, though with a star studded cast of actors and actresses who lend their talents to it largely because they probably wanted to be attached to such a well known property. Sidenote: Ray Liotta does an interesting turn as twin brothers, the gross old pervy Moltisanti patriarch who marries a younger woman and the twin brother who went to jail as a young man but somehow found wisdom wasting his life away in jail, wisdom he can never use to benefit himself but can impart it to Dickie if he’ll listen.

It’s worth a watch for fans, though in many ways, it does feel like we’re that 40-year old adult child who finally figured out how to move on from our beloved estranged father/series who left us too soon because they felt the time and resources were better spent on other things (like the middle aged dad who abandons his kids and buys a Ferrari and chases 20 something babes, showrunners and actors often leave popular series to chase after movie roles that rarely are as memorable as their series) and now the show has come back to us as a withered old 70 year old man, begging to take us to Coney Island and we have to decide whether we want to go because we’ll never get another chance to go or say no thanks, because we aren’t kids anymore and we can buy popcorn and cotton candy and ride tickets on our own, so no thanks, Pops. We hope those hot babes and Ferraris were worth it.

Double sidnote: As I watch the trailer, I can see how a viewer might be tricked into thinking this show is very Tony centric. Unfortunately, it’s all Dickie with occasional Tony. Going into it, I thought maybe we’d see Young Tony being called on to commit crimes, perhaps he wanted to steer clear of the crooked life, only for some big reason that draws him into it. It’s more a focus on the life of Dicki Moltisanti with a meditation on him not being sure how to help his nephew in his formative years, debating on whether he should be a bigger part of his life because the kid needs an adult to advise him, or to steer clear because the more involved he is in the kid’s life, the more he might pick up his uncle’s bad habits.

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