Tag Archives: netflix

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

Jesse’s back, bitches!

BQB here with a review.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

STATUS: Shelf-worthy, bitch.

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TV Review – Stranger Things Season 3 (1980)

Hey 3.5 readers.

BQB here.

It took me awhile but I finally got through Season 3 of Stranger Things.

These are probably bland observations but I’ll make them all the same.

#1 – The nostalgia factor for someone who grew up in the 80s is fun.  From the music choices to the overall feel, the Duffer brothers know that decade which is odd because I don’t think they spent a lot of time in it.

#2 – Often in movies about kids who save the day, the kids are usually presented as geniuses and the adults as bumbling idiots who get in the way  Here, not so much.  Hopper and Joyce are integral to the plot and aren’t treated like dummies getting in the kids’ way.  Also, the kids are kids.  They make kid mistakes and they need, or rather even seek out parental help because they know their limits whereas other films would show a kid genius who is just being slowed down by the adults.

#3 – Look away if you don’t want spoilers, but the final mall battle where the kids throw fireworks bombs at the monster is visually stunning and fun to watch.

#4 – Russians are the villains and kids and adults alike really dump on them throughout the season, calling them commies and deriding communism as evil and corrupt.  I didn’t think that was allowed anymore in today’s PC world, even in a period piece.

#5 – They do tend to work 80s era actors into the series.  Winona Ryder, aka Joyce was a popular kid actor in the 80s.  Sean Astin of Goonies fame has a brief role as her love interest in Season 2.  In Season 3, Cary Elwes of Princess Bride fame plays a villainous mayor.  Comedian Paul Reiser plays a scientist that experiments on the evil monsters.

#6 – I think the challenge for the show was trying to keep reinvent itself after an initial plotline that was cool at first but over time became somewhat limiting.  For example, after two seasons of battling evil monsters that inhabit the “upside-down” version of their town (basically, an evil parallel universe) one wonders why anyone still chooses to continue to live in Hawkins, Indiana.  Season 3 upped the game by bringing Russians conducting an evil experiment in the bowels of that 1980s staple, the shopping mall and it looks like (spoiler alert) Season 4 will likely involve a plot to rescue Hopper from the upside-down.

#7 – I’ve run out of observations but if you have any, leave them in the comments.  In the meantime, don’t click on the video below if you don’t want a spoiler.  Otherwise, enjoy the kids’ rendition of “The Neverending Story” theme song.

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TV Review – Team Foxcatcher (2016)

Have you ever looked the other way on a friend or loved one’s mental illness because they have money?

Maybe you rationalized taking an insult because they pay the rent.  Maybe you sucked it up and turned a blind eye to their abuse because you have nowhere else to go.

As the story of “Team Foxcatcher” unfolds, you realize that there were numerous early warning signs that multi-millionaire John du Pont, heir to the vast chemical company fortune, was one hair’s breadth away from snapping like a twig.

And while in hindsight, it’s easy to blame the wrestlers, the estate employees, the coaches, the local police, the Wrestling Association and so on, one has to remember that financial security is the end all/be all of life and few will be willing to bite the hand that feeds them until the abuse just can’t be ignored anymore.

The boiling point came when du Pont shot and killed Dave Schultz, an Olympic wrestler and family man who he’d invited to train on his property.  Once the gun was fired, everyone surrounding the murderous madman realized they should have seen it coming and yet, in the years leading up to it, no one did.

This documentary does a great job of telling the story of du Pont’s long descent into madness, and how so many people who depended upon him were willing to look the other way on his mental illness because he was their goose who laid the golden egg.  (And in many respects, while money initially got them into his life, love for the man got them to stay.)

We learn that Du Pont has been socially isolated and sheltered his entire life.  He grew up in posh wealth with his mother, but never had any friends and never met a sticky situation that he couldn’t buy his way out of.  Although a man of great wealth, it was his father and others before him that built the company and so, he has spent his life as an eccentric, awkward weirdo, desperately wanting to do something that would leave his own mark, earn him respect independent of his family name and money, and so on.

Ironically, he almost got there.  A sports fan who didn’t make it as an athlete himself, he builds an athletic complex on his large, sprawling PA estate and invites America’s greatest Olympians to come and train.  He is quickly hailed as a hero, especially to wrestlers, who are typically dominated by the Russians.  We are told that wrestling is a rather complicated sport, taking years to master, and by the time a wrestler really gets the hang of it, he has to quit and find a paying job to support his family.  Russia pays its wrestlers and du Pont solves the problem by paying the wrestlers a salary out of his own pocket and even given them homes on his property.

Though truly a loon, he might have gone down in history as a great benefactor for American sports.  But alas, as the documentary unfolds, he gets crazier and crazier until tragedy strikes.

The documentary tells the tale of a man coddled by everyone, for he has coddled them with his money and so they are essentially returning the favor.  Not happy to sit back and take praise the way so many other pro sports team owners do after a major win, Du Pont wants to get involved and train with the wrestlers, though he has zero skill to offer and is an old man.

He says weird things.  He does weird things.  He has guns.  A lot of guns.

The warning signs were there.  Perhaps not so much that he would kill someone, but there were situations where had it been a poor person doing what he did, people wouldn’t stand for it.

For example, du Pont develops a strange fear of anything colored black, and demands that anything black be removed from his estate.  No black clothes.  No black cars.  No black paint on buildings.  He even fires all the black wrestlers.  Du Pont argues it is nothing personal or racist, he just can’t stomach the color black anymore.  As a high ranking wrestling official (I forget the name of the organization) explains, that moment should have been the point where his group should have cut ties with du Pont but alas, there just wasn’t another way for wrestlers to train and afford a decent living.

Local law enforcement is aware that du Pont is a loon too but du Pont has helped them with his money over the years.

Du Pont becomes paranoid and hires serious, big time security agents.  He’s convinced there are secret tunnels on his estate and spies hiding in his walls and though they agents realize these beliefs are crazy, they investigate his strange claims anyway…and the viewer is left to debate whether or not they should have just told him he’s an idiot or if they were just doing a job they were hired to do.

It all comes to a head when du Pont becomes increasingly jealous of Dave Schultz, the wrestler that everyone on the team rallies around and views as their leader.  Du Pont wants to be loved just as much, but no matter how much dough he doles out, he just can’t get as much love…and eventually breaks down and sadly, shoots Schultz, killing him.

The Foxcatcher movie with Steve Carrell was great, but I think the documentary did a better job of showing how people around Du Pont realized he was nuts and should have removed themselves from him….but its one of those things where you support your crazy uncle figure until his craziness consumes him.

And ultimately, it is a sad story.  Schultz could have gone one last victory before retirement and being with his family.  Du Pont could have maybe seen a shrink and gotten some help and gone down as a respected sports philanthropist but…sadly, mental illness took its toll.

STATUS: Shelfworthy.

 

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Is Dave Chappelle Insufficiently Woke?

Hey 3.5 readers.

Trying to post a little more.

It saddens me that the PC police are coming after Dave Chappelle.  This guy was the king of comedy in the early 2000s only to be branded a villain today.  Sorry to say it but he didn’t change.  You all did.

Oh, how I loved my Chappelle’s Show DVD box set in the old days.  I’d just watch those sketches over and over.  The guy was such a comedic perfectionist that he left 50 million on the table and walked away because he couldn’t phone it in like so many others did and the stress of doing comedy right got to him.

The weirdest argument, among many, is that his R. Kelly sketch normalized R. Kelly.  I remember that sketch.  He hanged R. Kelly out to dry as a whacko, urine obsessed degenerate pervert.  How that supposedly “normalized” R. Kelly I’ll never know.  If anything, it trashed him and made people more aware of his pervyness.

It’s just sad to see everyone getting on his case.  Your thoughts?

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Watching Road House is An Exercise in the Suspension of Disbelief

SPOILER ALERT: Please watch Road House on Netflix, suspend your disbelief as you do so, then come here to discuss.

Hey 3.5 readers.

Road House.  It’s the shittiest awesome movie you’ll ever see, and I say that with all due respect to the late Patrick Swayze and make no mistake, he deserves much respect.

I’ve seen it a couple times over the years, but now, watching it as an adult, it’s a whole new experience.

With most movies, you do have to suspend disbelief.  Most movies tell fanciful tales.  That’s why we watch them.  If we wanted realism, every movie would be a guy sitting at a desk for 8 hours, periodically getting up once in awhile to get a sandwich or take a shit.

But you really have to put your brain on hold for this movie.

The plot is that Dalton, that’s his only name, played by Swayze, is the world’s greatest cooler.  A cooler is the head bouncer in a club that employs a squad of bouncers.  I had no idea that bouncing had such a high level of professionalism but that’s neither here nor there.  Bottomline, a businessman who owns a nightclub or road house in a rural Missouri town goes to NYC to recruit Dalton to clean up his joint, the Double Deuce, for it is a den of depravity, full of assholes who constantly murder each other.

Dalton takes the job on the spot, not giving a shit about his current employer, just taking off that night to drive to Missouri.  I mean, what an asshole.  Give the guy 2 weeks notice, am I right?

Anyway, Dalton gets to the Double Deuce and that’s when shit starts to go down.  The club owner agrees to pay Dalton $500 a night plus he’ll cover any medical expenses.  That stands out to me right away.  I mean, this is the shittiest bar in existence and somehow the owner has the dough to hire a cooler for $120,000 a year.

On top of that, there are scenes when the bar staff get together for a meeting about how they’re going to help Dalton clean shit up.  And there’s like, 50 people working there.  Like there’s no way this shitty bar is pulling in enough to cover that much overhead.

Anyway, Dalton gets into some fights with the asshole barflies and sooner or later, he runs across the town bad guy, who employs most of those assholes.  Push comes to shove and before he knows it, Dalton is at war with the town bad guy.

Oh, and Dalton gets stabbed one night and meets the town doctor, a hot blonde.  He literally calls her Doc.  Ironically, the movie is like a modern day western where the lawman comes into town and all the townfolk tell him to give up and just take it up the butt from the town bad guy because the bad guy is too strong.

Moving on, Dalton’s best pal and mentor is Sam Elliot, who is also another great cooler.  It’s cool to see Sam Elliot in his younger days though there is a creepy scene where he dances with Doc and looks like he wants to bone her even though she is his buddy’s girlfriend.

By the way, the cops don’t give a shit about this town.  There is some passing mention that the town bad guy has all the cops under his thumb but still, I mean, every night people are getting murdered and hacked to pieces and robbed and raped and so on at the Double Deuce and if that’s not enough, a local shop owner’s store gets blown the fuck up because he stands with Dalton against the bad guy.  Later, a car dealer stands with Dalton and the bad guy has a henchmen drive a fucking monster truck through his dealership.

All I’m saying is yes, I get it.  The local cops are on the bad guy’s take but holy shit, at some point, you’d think the Governor of Missouri would hear about some of the non-stop, daily bar murders and business explosions and send the National Guard in to fuck the bad guy up.

OK, beyond this I won’t say much more, but you should watch it on Netflix and return here to tell me the discrepancies and brain suspensions you have to do for this movie, which honestly, is awesome, make sense.

Some stupidity I noticed, in no particular order:

#1 – The farmer is a shitty negotiator.  Dalton asks to rent his room.  The farmer says up front well no one wants it because the whole farm smells like horse shit.  Wow.  Way to negotiate.  Maybe little the renter make the first move.  See what he’s willing to pay.  At any rate, the farmer says he’ll rent this super awesome loft bachelor pad complete with a walk out on rooftop porch that he can (and does) bang hot chicks on and he rents it to him for 100 a month which he says is just some bullshit he has to charge him lest the local church here he is giving shit out for free and they come looking for donations.

#2 – I said it before but I’ll say it again, the math behind the Double Deuce’s payroll structure just does not add up.  50 some odd employees, a house band and a pro cooler making 120,000 a year..,at a bar where stabbings happen every five seconds.

#3 – It takes place in Missouri but in the car dealership scene, you can see a sign for LA and Bakersfield in the distance to the right.

#4 – It is kind of awesome that Dalton knows in advance that bar creeps will fuck up his car so he always drives a broken down beater to work instead of his cherished Mercedes.  I’ll actually say that’s one part of this movie that is clever.

#5 – Dalton pulls a knife used to kill his buddy Sam Elliot out of Elliot and uses it to push down the accelerator of his car in an attempt to run the bad guys over.  Sorry, but I don’t think that knife would hold the pedal down.

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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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A Look at the First Episode of The Umbrella Academy

Hey 3.5 readers.

BQB here.

I just watched the first episode of Umbrella Academy.  If you’ve watched more, I’d thank you to not give away any spoilers.  I will eventually return to this fine blog to discuss the first season.

My initial impression is its great.  Before I saw it, I scoffed for a number of reasons.

  1. Anything with too many characters tends to be a mess.  There’s like 7 main characters here plus supporting characters.  Seems destined to be a pot of gumbo where everyone gets lost in the steam, but somehow, everyone gets their moment to shine.
  2. Movies about long established heroes are great.  Movies about new superheroes tend to stink.  I’ll give this show credit though.  It is based on a Dark Horse Comic so perhaps if newer heroes have a chance to percolate in comics first, then they’ll shine on the screen.
  3. It reminded me of Watchmen, which everyone said was genius but I thought stunk.  Again, a bunch of heroes you hadn’t heard of before, all thrown at us at once, each getting less than five minutes to show their power.  Somehow that was lame but this looks good.

The plot thus far is that in 1989, 40 (I think that’s the number) children were born immaculately on one day.  The mothers had not been pregnant previously.  The kids just popped out unexpectedly.

An eccentric, reclusive billionaire with a penchant for collecting exotic things adopts 7 of these kids.  He starts a school for superheroes in his house, training his new wards to use their powers.

His methods turn the kids into (mostly) powerful grownups.  Some have gone on to do great things.  Others flounder and fail.  All blame their problems on their father’s cold, uncaring aloofness.  The only source of love the children ever had was their father’s robot wife and monkey butler.

By the way, is there something wrong with me that I think it would be awesome to have a robot wife and monkey butler?  Thus far, there has been little explanation as to how the robot wife and monkey butler came to be but I’ll keep my fingers crossed for more on that in future episodes.  Ironically, in a series with 7 heroes, the robot wife and monkey butler pique my interest the most.

Not that the heroes are slouches.  Overall, the first episode was cinematic.  Lots of cool fights and special effects.  Cinematic quality.  Had this been laid out in a movie that I paid money to see, I would have walked away happy.

Netflix really upped their game here.  I’ll reserve judgment until I’ve watched the first season but so far, I am impressed and willing to watch more.

STATUS; Shelf-worthy.

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TV Review – Russian Doll (2019)

Everlasting snark…day after day after day.

BQB here with a review of the Netflix series Russian Doll. (SPOILERS ABOUND)

I have to say it, 3.5 readers.  When I was a kid, there were a ton of TV shows and movies were single adults partied hard and lived fabulous, interesting, adventurous lives well into their forties.

Lies.  All lies, I say!  This lifestyle may work for a handful of ultra rich, ridiculously good looking people but for the rest of us normals, your best bet is to find someone you can stand being in the same room with before you hit 30, maybe 35 at the latest.

At first, from the opening scenes I thought this show was celebrating that lifestyle but in reality, it is far from it.  I’m not saying that 30 plus single people should be dumped on, I’m just saying there’s a certain point in time when you’re just too long in the tooth for the jet set crowd.

Natasha Lyonne’s Nadia has just turned 36 and her BFF, Maxine (Greta Lee) has thrown her a much undesired birthday party.  Now over 35, Nadia must come to terms with a fact that she has long been avoiding – she isn’t going to live forever.  She must find her happiness and yet, how does a misanthropic cynic who, with a dry wit and dark sense of humor, manages to openly mock everything and anything in life with great gusto find some sort of meaningful purpose in life?

Long story short,  Nadia dies.  Again and again and again.  Sometimes in scary ways.  Sometimes in hilarious ways.  To put a chill in your shorts, many of the deaths (falling down a flight of stairs, accidental electrocution, gas leak) are all things that could easily happen to any of us at any time if we aren’t careful.  When you think about it, it’s amazing that we all don’t croak again and again, what with our bodies being so fragile and all.

My early assessment was wrong.  This isn’t a show that glorifies the post 35 single life.  It doesn’t dump on it either.  Equal time is given to the fact that people who act like posers and social climbers after 35 are lame, but also, to the fact that not everyone finds love easily and sometimes love and/or happiness doesn’t come easily for everyone and that doesn’t make those people bad either.

This is Natasha Lyonne’s magnum opus, her Mona Lisa and her piece de resistance all wrapped up into one.  From the time she hit it big as Jessica, one of the funnier yet more street smart teens in 1999’s American Pie, audiences have gotten the sense that Natasha excels at playing jaded ball breakers whose fast talking, cynical facades mask deeper pain that few could handle, yet manage to joke about…all with a dose of Jewish guilt mixed in.

In recent years, her character on Orange is the New Black has cemented her status as this archetype and in Russian Doll, I get the impression, at least IMO, that Natasha is trying to say, “This is me.  This is who I am.  I’m troubled.  I carry around a lot of pain but I deal with it by tossing out a snappy one-liner that will kick you in the nuts.  You’ll get mad for a second until you realize that my assessment of you is correct and then you’ll laugh as you nurse your nuts back to health.  Oddly, you’ll find me so charming that you’ll come back for more, which is confusing, because I’m as cuddly as feral cat yet strangely, someone you can lean on, like a loyal puppy.  Although, I will bark at you.”

Was she trying to say all that?  I don’t know.  That’s what I got out of it anyway.

The repeated loop genre seems like it has been done to death, with Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day being, to the best of my knowledge, the first to tackle the idea of someone who has to repeat a day over and over.  Other films and shows have put their own spin on it.  Hell, this week, “Happy Death Day” releases the second in a series of films about a girl who gets murdered again and again only to wake up and get murdered again.

Creative?  Sure.  Overdone? Yes.

So why should you watch this addition to an overdone premise?  Well, it’s different.  Easy to say but it really is.

First, much of the series is devoted to the what of it all.  I.E. most of these films focus on something the looped character must do to make the loop stop.  This series spends a lot of time trying to figure out the why of it all…or better yet, the how of it all.  How the heck is this happening?  Nadia plays junior detective, investigating a number of theories – for example, maybe it’s spiritual energy in Maxine’s apartment caused by it being located on a former Yeshiva school, drawing her back to the same place at the same time after each untimely demise.  Hallucinations brought upon by a ketamine laced joint are another possibility.

Other theories are researched and personally, I’m torn as to whether or not the ending gives justice to the how of it.  I can see an argument for and against vis a vis whether it explained the how, but at any rate, the show does eventually make a shift from the how to the what, as in, what does Nadia need to do to make all this craziness stop?

The show is also different in that Nadia has a partner in crime.  While Nadia keeps returning to her birthday party, Alan (Charlie Barnett) gets it much worse.  He must continually return to the most unwanted of situations, reliving a scene where his girlfriend reveals that she has been cheating on him.

Eventually, Nadia and Alan meet and they must solve this mystery together.  Nadia might be cynical but at least she has somewhat of a can-do spirit.  Alan is deeply morose, ready to curl up in a corner and cry over the slightest of obstacles.  One’s a fighter and the other’s a sad sack.  Somehow they balance each other out and whether or not they resolve this never ending loop is a question I’ll let you answer when you watch it.

Stop by sometime and discuss the ending with me.  Those who haven’t watched it yet, just avoid that discussion until you do.  I think it is a great ending, not what I expected and it is rather complicated.  The show trusts you to use your brain to figure it out and doesn’t spoon feed it to you, that’s for sure.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.  Not sure I see it lasting more than one season.  It’s binge-worthy but I think to do a second season would be to spoil it.  Sometimes all a show needs to say can be summed up in one outing and this show is that.  Kudos to Lyonne for baring her soul for us Looky Lou’s to pick over and analyze, and for Netflix for letting her do it.  This isn’t the traditional kind of show that network TV would go for, and probably wouldn’t exist at any time other than this streaming golden age.  Also, to producer Amy Poehler.  She doesn’t star in this but by backing it, she steps out of her usual comfort zone of upbeat, silly comedy and into the world of dry, dark comedy.  Just don’t get sucked in too far, Amy.  The world still needs plenty of kindhearted Leslie Knopes, just as it needs Nadias to dump on them.

 

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Movie Review – Win It All (2017)

Life’s just one big gamble, 3.5 readers.

BQB here with a review of Netflix’s “Win It All.”

I caught this film by accident, scrolling through Netflix’s never-ending list of offerings when all of a sudden, the premise just appealed to me.  It’s simple and from a writer’s perspective, simple is good.  Simple isn’t necessarily easy but sometimes simple doesn’t need you to keep a variety of plates spinning in the air the way more complex films do.

Eddie (Jake Johnson) is a down on his luck, degenerate gambler.  His only source of income comes from his lowly job as a parking lot attendant (but only when the Cubs are doing well and fans need spillover parking.)

Addict that he is, his life is in a downward spiral, largely because whatever money he is lucky enough to get his hands on, he immediately takes it to an underground casino club to gamble it all away.

On one fateful night, a rather scary looking loan shark who Eddie has tangled with in the past makes an offer.  He’s been sentenced to relatively short prison sentence and wants Eddie to hold onto a bag of money, no questions asked.  Keep the dough safe and at the end of the bid, 9 months to a year tops, the crook will reward Eddie with 10,000 bucks.

I know.  It is a rather gaping plot hole that anyone would trust a degenerate gambler with any sum of money, but then again, the loan shark may not have a large number of trustworthy people to turn to and frankly, his menacing appearance would be enough for most people to avoid screwing with him but alas, Eddie’s addiction is that severe.

Long story short, Eddie gambles away a large chunk of ill-gotten loot, and as you might imagine, the rest of the film circles around Eddie’s various attempts to get himself out of hot water.

The middle of the film has a nice message.  SPOILER ALERT, at that point, Eddie has lost a large sum yet it isn’t an insurmountable amount.  He works out a deal with his brother to take a job with the family landscaping business, and he devotes as much as he can from each paycheck towards refilling the bag of money.

In doing so, Eddie starts to feel good about himself.  He’s doing productive work.  He’s achieving goals.  His confidence soars, so much so that he meets a nice woman.  Suddenly, he’s got a job, a girlfriend, reasons for being…what a turn around.

I assume the message there is that when it comes to anything good in life, the long game always beats the short one.  You’ll get better health through daily exercise than you will through a one-time sip of that snake oil supplement you saw advertised on late night TV.  You’ll find a more meaningful relationship through a longtime partner than you will with a one night stand.  And while your paycheck doesn’t seem like much, save enough over a long period of time and you’ll get somewhere.

Alas, SPOILER ALERT AGAIN, shenanigans ensue, Eddie can’t beat his addiction and like the alcoholic who can’t shake the booze, he keeps dipping his hand into that bag and keeps losing, and losing and losing.  Like the fast food addict who knows his love of Big Macs will eventually lead to a coronary, Eddie knows that pissing away a murderous criminal’s cash is going to wind up with him six feet under but sadly, that addiction is calling and hey, surely there’s enough time to turn it all around before that inevitable bad ending right?  Come on, just feed the addiction beast one last time, ok and another last time, and one more time…just two or three or twenty last times, tops and then let’s quit cold turkey tomorrow.

I don’t want to give away the ending but there was a part of me that thought it might have defied the typical gambling movie genre by letting Eddie beat his addiction through that “build yourself up from the rock bottom day by day” routine we all hope to master.  Ironically, Eddie beats his addiction by feeding his addiction and while it made for fun viewing, I’m not sure that’s the best message for addicts out there.

Comedian Keegan Michael Key stars as Eddie’s sponsor or at least, friend, because as he notes, sponsors can only help recovering gamblers who are working the program steps and Eddie isn’t, at least at the film’s beginning.

Overall, I enjoyed this movie.  My main critique is that in many ways, it comes across as a shoddy student film.  There are many parts where the dialogue seems improvised and wrap ups of plot points seem thin but I on the whole, I liked it and I think it did have a good message, i.e. the constant ware we all face between instant gratification (do the bad thing that gives us a tiny bit of happiness right NOW and who gives a shit if it fucks up our future later) vs. forcing ourselves to be that little turtle.  He’s slow.  He’s steady.  Progress towards a happier you seems like it is taking forever and will never happen but years later, you look around and you see yourself with a nice house, a great job, a loving family and you’re happy you took the time to solve this puzzle, one little piece at a time.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

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Movie Review – The Last Laugh (2019)

Getting old sucks, 3.5 readers.

BQB here with a review of “The Last Laugh.”

Here’s something I’ve learned over the years.  No one really WANTS to check out of life.  Your grandpa doesn’t really like sitting in his rocking chair all day and eating dinner at 4.  Unfortunately, the body gives out and sooner or later, if you don’t slow down then your body will do it for you.

Al Hart and Buddy Green (Chevy Chase and Richard Dreyfuss) are two old timers who despise the retired life.  50 years ago, Buddy was an up and coming stand-up comedian who was about to make it big when he decided to put the glitz behind him and become a podiatrist, much to the disappointment of his manager, Al.

Today, Al is at the end of his talent management career, not by choice but because all of his clients got old and died.  When his granddaughter (Kate Miccuci) checks him in at an old folks’ home, he is reunited with Buddy and they decide to take to the road, booking appearances at dive comedy clubs across the country, all in the hopes of snagging every comedian’s dream, a set on one of the late night comedy shows.

It’s a road trip.  There are some decent laughs.  It’s a bit sad as it highlights how old people are basically young people trapped in bodies that are falling apart.  Andie MacDowell stars as Chevy’s love interest.  Part of me was happy to see her in a movie again and part of me realized that women may have a point about bias in the entertainment industry as Chevy and Richard look like a pair wet old farts but of course, they had to find the hottest old lady imaginable to tag along.  God forbid Chevy hooks up with someone who looks like your actual grandma.

It’s not a movie I’d rush to see but I suppose that’s the beauty of Netflix.  Just as Al gives his old friend one last shot at stardom, this streaming service is giving geezers who would normally be shipped off to the old fart home another chance to entertain.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

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