The TV Week That Was

spoilers

Welcome back to the TV Week That Was, although it is actually closer to the TV MONTH That Was, as I have had a few weeks where I was unable to find the time for this column.  But hey, that just means that this one will be chocked full of TV goodness (and some not so goodness).

Speaking of that not so goodness, I found out this past week that Starz has decided to cancel Ash vs. Evil Dead.  What an epic failure in my book.  This show has been one of my absolute favorite shows this season, just catching up on Netflix.  Season three has been so great that the news caught me completely off guard.  I can’t imagine why Starz would make this decision, but it certainly makes my decision to cancel my Starz subscription immediately after the series finale next week an easy choice.  Ash is involved in a huge battle with the Dark Ones in next week’s series finale and it looks tremendous.  This week was awesome as well as we saw the end of Ruby and everything falling into place for the big knockdown.  I have also watched American Gods on Styarz, but I will not be watching that one live on Starz any longer because it made a mistake that I just will not forgive it for.

I started and finished Netflix’s new series Lost in Space over the last few weeks and this was a great reboot and some damn fine science fiction.  The interpersonal relationships in the Robinsons were a lot of fun and remarkably deep, and I loved the new Don West played by former General Hospital villain Diego, Ignacio Serricchio.  Don was the rapscallion of the crew and he was hugely charismatic and funny.  And I was so ready for someone to kill Dr. Smith, played with a ton of wicked gusto by Parker Posey.  I was never a fan of the original series, but I found myself strangely tearing up when the robot first said the words, “Danger Will Robinson.”  I am unsure the reason, but I was fully engaged in the series, which had a LOST flare to it as well.  The 10-episodes featured several moments where it felt as if one of the main characters would be biting the dust.  I have to say, after so many teases, I almost felt as if someone important should have died.  It is worth a watch for sure.

I also finished the second season of Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.  After the first few episodes, I was feeling as if this series might not be able to grip me as the original season had done, because it had too familiar feel to it.  It desperately needed some adjusting and fortunately, that adjustment came in the being of Nathan Fillion, as Jacques Snicket.  The set up of each episodes changed just a bit and the show was considerably better for it.  In fact, I was extremely unhappy to come to the end of the 10th episode as the show left us on a desperate cliffhanger.  Season three has been greenlit and will be a final season for the show which should allow a conclusion to the story and maybe even some kind of happy(?) ending for the Baudelaire orphans.

Season 8 of the Walking Dead came to a close ending the weakest season of the series’ run.  The finale had the same feel as the confrontation between Rick and Negan had a distinct anticlimactic feel to it.  I did enjoy the betrayal from Eugene with the exploding bullets, but I saw it coming a mile away.  As soon as he handed Negan that gun to “test” it was obvious what Eugene had decided to do.  And then the let’s imprison Negan storyline was not exactly the monumental final battle we thought we might get.  I am not against keeping Negan alive, but the manner in which it was done felt like disrespect to Glenn and the other victims of Negan.  We also saw Morgan leave to head to Fear the Walking Dead, which had its season premiere immediately after the Walking Dead finale.

Roseanne on ABC has had a pretty good couple of weeks worth of episodes including the return of Big Bang Theory star Johnny Galecki as David.  There still seems to be some weirdness among the actors as some of their lines feel as if they are being delivered woodenly.  It is as if they have forgotten how to act.  I cringe much of the time when John Goodman and Laurie Metcalf are on screen and they should be the two best actors on the cast.  Still, the writing has improved, story wise at least and the characters are coming into their own.

The WWE Network featured Wrestlemania 34, which was a solid show.  The last hour or hour and a half was a bit lackluster.  After the debut of Ronda Rousey with Kurt Angle vs. HHH and Stephanie, the rest of the card disappointed.  However, the clear winner of match of the weekend went to NXT Takeover with Johnny Gargano vs. Tommaso Ciampa.  That may be the Match of the Year leader at this point.  Following these events, the WWE also had the nights after Wrestlemania, where a bunch of NXT stars debuted on the main roster (as well as Bobby Lashley returning) and then the following week they had the Superstar Shakeup, which moved performers between RAW and Smackdown.  WWE has some momentum right now as they are preparing to have their next major show live from Saudi Arabia on Friday morning.

Struckersheadcrushes.pngAgents of SHIELD is full blown crazy as the agents are trying desperately to prevent the future from happening that lead to the destruction of the earth.  The young villain Ruby tried to combine herself with gravitonium but it only led to her death by the hands of Yo-Yo.  Yo-Yo believes that she may have stopped the future, but it looks as if there may be more coming.  Still, the scene where Ruby accidentally crushed the head of the young Strucker was another one of those unexpectedly disturbing SHIELD scenes.

HBO premiered the documentary on professional wrestler Andre the Giant last week and the documentary featured much about the life of the Eight Wonder of the World.  It featured interviews with Andre as well as some important people in his life.  We saw old footage from his early days, heard details about the life of Andre and focused on his Wrestlemania 3 match with Hulk Hogan.  The end of the line for Andre the Giant turned out to be a sad one as he died alone in a hotel room in France.  The people interviewed clearly had a strong love of the Giant, speaking of him in glowing and kind terms.

Designated Survivor has been picking up pace while finding ways to connect the fictional world of Tom Kirkman to today’s world.  Recently, Kirkman has been having therapy sessions about the death of his wife and now those tapes are being leaked to the media, bringing into question the suitability of the President to carry out his office.  Designated Survivor has been strong the last few weeks, and it looks as if next week will feature a bit of a betrayal of its own.  It looks as if we have the fortunate luck to have Michael J. Fox on the cast of this show for the remainder of the season.  Fox is a lawyer who is trying to determine whether or not President Kirkman is able to keep his job and avoid having the 25th Amendment enacted.

Scandal came to an end this week with a whimper.  Instead of sending Olivia Pope and President Fitz to Vermont to live happily ever after and to give the happy ending to the Gladiators, Shonda killed off the last good character on the show, David Rosen, by Cyrus’s hand, and allowed Cyrus to escape with nothing more than a resignation of the VP role.  It also brought Papa Pope out to speak to the Congressional hearing admitting to leading B613 and basically bragging about how a black man was making all the decisions the past thirty years.  I guess that was not info that should come out because they offered up a scapegoat, Jake, as the leader of B613.  I guess the theme of this show was that if you were a good person, your life was worthless and if you were a killing lowlife, you have a chance to life happily ever after.  I was very unhappy with the end of the series that had never recovered from the kidnapping of Olivia Pope a few years ago.  Even with the ending scene where some young black girls walk through the portraits of former presidents and stop at one of Olivia Pope (not sure if that was to mean that Olivia would become President in the future or what) and looked at it with inspiration, that felt flat since we knew all the horrid things that Olivia did in her time in Washington.  Major disappointment.

Speaking of scandals, this time a real life variety, former FBI Director James Comey was making the rounds on the talk shows this week to promote his new book that seems to be causing President Trump a lot of tweet-storms.  Comey had a one-on-one interview on ABC with George Stephanopoulos, appeared with Stephen Colbert on the Late Show and the View on ABC.  He was also with Rachel Maddow on MSNBC this week (and I may have missed a few appearances).  I must say though that Comey came off as intelligent, well-spoken, honest, and thoughtful.  Prior to these interviews, I did not have near the positive thought of Comey as I did after seeing these.

Gotham may have finally answered the question about who exactly is the Joker, as suspect number one, Jerome, was killed on the show. Prior to his death, Jerome had sent some of his special Laugh-X gas to his twin brother, Jeremiah Valeska, who has become the Clown Prince of Crime.  This twist is just one more way to show you that Gotham is really more about the villains than the heroes.  The villains, from Riddler to Penguin, from Joker to Catwoman, from Grundy to Leigh, are the most interesting characters on the show.  This week, Ra’s Al Ghoul made his return form the dead to reclaim his Death’s Head from Barbara.

I got a chance to see the most recent episode of Riverdale this week after missing several episodes in a row.  It did not seem as if I missed much, outside of the departure of Betty’s new brother.  This week’s episode seemingly saw the return of the Black Hood, who killed a girl, Midge, during the show’s play.  Of course, it was not just any old play.  It was Carrie the Musical.  And the entire show was a musical.  I guess the Black Hood, who had sent a message to the kids to replace Cheryl Blossom in the lead role, wanted to kill those who were bad singers.  If that was the case, everyone on Riverdale is in danger.  This was not the best TV musical episode ever… by far.  I think that still goes to Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Once More With Feeling.  It was a weird episode to return to, but the eerie murder at the end was pure Riverdale.

Westworld season two debuts later tonight on HBO.

Happy viewing.

 

I Feel Pretty

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There has been a lot of hatred leveled at this film, and I am not certain the reasoning behind it.  Claims of “fat-shaming” seem to fall short if you, you know, actually watch the movie.  Now, if they claimed that the movie wasn’t as funny as it could have or should have been, perhaps I would agree.

Amy Schumer plays Renee Bennett, a woman who has a low level job that is matched by her low level confidence.  She sees how the world treats the beautiful people and she desires to have a part of that.  So when she has an accident during exercising and hits here head, she suddenly awakes seeing herself in a different view.  She actually sees herself the way she always wanted to be seen.

We, as the audience, only ever see Amy Schumer as she is, but the perception of herself as a beautiful woman changes the confidence of Renee so that she can get the job of her dreams, hook up with a sweet and kind man (Rory Scovel) she meets at the dry cleaners and become remarkably successful.

While there are plenty of plus sized jokes to be had here, I do not think the main message is fat-shaming.  I believe the message is clearly self-confidence leads to happiness and success.  If you believe in yourself, you can accomplish anything you want.  It does not matter what the world sees you as, but what maters is how you see yourself.

All of these fit together in a solid message that I think is worth hearing.

Now, the film itself is okay, but nothing really jumps out as great.  Amy Schumer is very good in the lead role.  She is warm and charismatic and delivers a strong performance.  Michelle Williams, who plays Renee’s boss, is really good as Avery, a rich, spoiled, yet deeply self-doubting woman (whose voice is like a baby doll).  The connection between Renee and Avery is a positive in the film.  I also enjoyed the natural feeling relationship that developed between Renee and Ethan, the man she meets in the dry cleaners.

Many of these side characters play against type.  You would expect them to respond in certain ways to Renee, but then they stop and do something different.  It had a feel of realness about it, despite the silly concept going on with them.

One problem is that the film, which is meant to be a comedy, does not have a ton of laughs in it.  It has a few that are nice chuckles, but nothing that really makes you laugh out loud.  It is more like an uplifting, crowd pleaser of a film than a comedy.  That is not necessarily bad, but fans of Schumer’s may be expecting something else.

The film does also feel fairly predictable.  You kind of know how this movie is going to go, and, in the end, that is really how it turns out.

Still, despite it not being a great film, I enjoyed watching it.  It may have felt overlong, but the message is an important one for people to hear and Amy Schumer does a solid job delivering it with some entertainment.

3.2 stars

EYG Top 10 Comedy Sequels

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A day late this week as Tuesday was hectic.  But here we are with the Top 10 Comedy Sequels.  Joining John and Matt this week was Samm Levine, actor and Movie Trivia Schmoedown Champion of the WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOORLD!

I really the discussion with Samm and the guys at the beginning of the episode.  This was highly entertaining and showed us a fun connection with them.  I have grown to enjoy Samm’s work in the Schmoedown and I loved the much too short show, Freaks and Geeks.  The discussion of how Samm got his role in Inglorious Basterds with Quentin Tarantino was fun as well.

Moving into the topic, this one could be a little hairy.  Many times the sequel to a comedy is terrible because either it is a rehash of the original or it has pushed the idea too far.  The Hangover was a remarkably funny film but Hangover II was a total failure.  Zoolander 2, Dumb and Dumberer, Anchorman 2 are all examples of films that were horrid sequels to funny films.

The following ten are pretty solid films that, for the most part, avoid such a trouble.

Image result for 22 jump street#10.  22 Jump Street.  I wanted to include this for a certain reason.  Though this was not my most favorite film, I, unlike most, really hated the original 21 Jump Street.  But I found this to be a superior film to the first one, and it included one of the best scenes of all- when Ice Cube found out that Jonah Hill was sleeping with his daughter… Channing Tatum’s reaction was worth the addition on this list alone.  Plus, the great ending credits for 23 Jump Street beyond.

 

Related image#9.  National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.  I have never been a huge fan of the Vacation movies, but of the bunch, Christmas Vacation would be the one that was the most entertaining and certainly the most iconic.

 

 

Related image#8.  Ghostbusters 2.  Sure this is no where near the greatness of the first film, but Ghostbusters 2 is not without its merits.  Certainly, the cast is tremendous together and returns to bring the chemistry with them.  They go all in with the dancing Statue of Liberty as well.  Peter MacNicol brings a fantastic comedic performance as Dr. Janosz, perhaps the standout of the movie.  Yes, the inclusion of Slimer was a definite low point, but just fan service to the cartoon series.  Ghostbusters 2 is not as bad as you think.

 

Image result for a shot in the dark#7.  A Shot in the Dark.  I just finished this one.  I love Peter Sellers and this is a comedic tour de force as the bumbling Inspector Closeau.  Sellers was a master of slapstick and his constant clumsiness and pratfalls of the detective was wonderful.  The mystery itself is secondary to seeing Sellers command the screen.  And I loved how Cato kept finding ways to attack Closeau at the worst possible times.  Somehow, Closeau was able to end up solving the case (kind of) and kissing the girl (the beautiful Elke Sommer).

 

Related image#6.  Addams Family Values.  I haven’t seen this one in a while, but I can remember how much more I enjoyed this one than the first one.  Great cast and great casting brought this group of characters from the TV screen to the big screen and gave us a hilarious dark comedy with weird characters who were at one time Kooky and at another time creepy.

 

Image result for weird al in naked gun 2 1/2#5.  Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear.  Leslie Nielsen returned from his role as Frank Drebin and arrives to deal with big energy.  But, of course, there was the normal cameo from “Weird Al” Yankovic.  Though this may not have been as funny as the first one, Naked Gun 2 1/2 brought us more silliness and some great slapstick.  And Weird Al.  Oh…and OJ is there too.

 

 

Image result for back to the future II#4.  Back to the Future II.  I actually prefer this sequel to Back to the Future III.  I love the explanation of time travel that Doc Brown gives Marty and I thought it was remarkably clever for the return to 1955 and the reshooting of the Enchantment Under the Sea dance.  We also got the hover board, the prediction of the Cubs winning the World Series (a year too early) and three timelines.  One could argue that Back to the Future is not a comedy, but I think it fits here as well as some of the other films on this list.

 

Image result for toy story 2#3.  Toy Story 2.  Toy Story 3 is actually my favorite of the Toy Story movies, but I consider Toy Story 2 more of the comedy than the third one.  Third one gets pretty dark at times.  Woody kidnapped by a crazed collector looking to complete the set brings the cowboy back to his roots in this clever sequel.

 

Image result for beverly hills cop 2#2.  Beverly Hills Cop 2.  Eddie Murphy returns to Beverly Hills in the sequel that sees him looking to solve the attempted murder of his friend, Captain Andrew Bogomil.  This was another of the Alphabet Murders that the Captain had been investigating and this required Axel Foley’s unique style of investigation to complete.  This film, much like the previous one benefited from great chemistry of Murphy, Judge Reinhold, and John Ashton.

 

Image result for the muppets 2011#1.  The Muppets (2011).  Though this could be any number of Muppet sequels following The Muppet Movie, I chose this film because of the great sense of nostalgia and how wonderful it felt to see the Muppets return to the screen together.  There were some great songs, including Man or Muppet, and a personal favorite, Pictures in My Head.  Starring Jason Segel and Amy Adams, The Muppets had to put on one more show at the old theater before the evil oil baron Tax Richman could get his hands on it.  Every scene brought feelings from the past and blended together into one of the best Muppet movies in years.

 

Honorable mentionsShrek 2, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, Wayne’s World 2, Austin Powers: Goldmember, A Very Brady Sequel

Annoyed at the Movie

Lines at the concessions

when my shows about to start.

Impatient

 

Too many other people

talking all the time

Rude

 

Light from the cell phone

that apparently can not wait.

Addicted.

 

Pop tops popping open

even though the show does not sell pop in cans.

Sneaks.

 

Trailers before the movie

revealing too much of the plot

Spoilers.

 

Late arrivals

walking in front of me

Showtimes

 

Popcorn

all over the floor

Mouths?

 

Concessions garbage

left behind

Disrespectful.

 

Lines in the bathroom

when I really have to go

C’mon…

 

Someone in the parking lot

who has parked too close to me

Squeezing

 

I’ll be back next week.

 

 

 

 

 

Grease (1978)

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Grease is the word.

And the word this weekend was…old.

I had no idea that Grease was entering its 40 year anniversary this year until I saw a Fathom Events advertisement for it.  I remember seeing Grease in the theater as a child so I immediately felt very old.

I have always loved the music from Grease.  Summer Nights, Greased Lightning, the theme song Grease, Beauty School Dropout, covers by Sha Na Na.  There are so many great tunes that I knew I wanted to see it in a theater again, despite the chance that it made me feel really old.

After seeing it today, I did not feel old.  I enjoyed the film’s energy and music.

In 1958, Sandy (Olivia Newton-John) and Danny (John Travolta) spent much of the summer together on a beach with a lot of platonic fun.  Not expecting to see each other again, they head back to their individual lives.  However, Sandy’s family winds up moving her to the same school that Danny attends. Danny is the leader of a gang called the T-Birds and they are your typical 50s leather coat wearing punks who have a smart remark for anything.  When Sandy meets back up with Danny, he is extremely happy, but needs to save face with his gang mates by playing his feeling off.  Will Danny and Sandy find each other?

Well, watching Grease now a days, I was amazed how little of an actual story there was to it.  I mean, they had individual arches for the characters, but there is barely a throughline for the plot.  It truly feels like a series of scenes strung together by these characters knowing one another.  And the school year goes from first day to graduation without any semblance of time passing.

The key to Grease is the soundtrack and the remarkable dance routines.  From the boy-girl switch of Summer Nights to the huge blow up of You’re the One (That I Want), the ensemble cast dance in amazing ways.  This is a hoot to watch.

I love the song Sandy, sung by John Travolta after being dumped at the drive in.  The image of Travolta singing this on a swing set in front of a giant movie screen is iconic.

As a child, I also loved Sha Na Na, the cover band that sang a bunch of songs from the 50s and 60s.  Sha Na Na had a variety show on television for several years which I loved.  Sha Na Na was actually the first concert I went to as a youth.  Seeing Sha Na Na in Grease was great as I am picking out members from behind the cast.  In fact, Sha Na Na keyboard player Screamin’ Scott Simon wrote the song Sandy for Grease.

There are a ton of fun cameos in Grease as well.  Sid Caesar plays Rydell High’s Coach (who must coach every sport at the school, which go on at the same time).  Scene stealer Principal McGee is played by Oscar nominated actress Eve Arden.  Oscar nominee Joan Blondell was a waitress.  Frankie Avalon appears in a dream sequence to sing to Frenchie (Didi Conn).  Edd Byrnes (Kookie, Kookie, Lend Me Your Comb) is here as the movie’s “Dick Clark” – Vince Fontaine.

Stockard Channing and Jeff Conaway were wonderful together as the misbehaving Kenickie and Rizzo.

Sure some of the messages of Grease are antiquated these days, especially the Olivia Newton John must change into something she is not to get her “man.”  But to be fair, Danny Zucko was going to do the same for her as he somehow lettered in track.

Sure this is not a great movie, but there is enough here to have a lot of fun and the music is simply tremendous.

Grease is certainly the word.

classic

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Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare

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This one ain’t no A Quiet Place.

The latest cheaply made horror film from the new masters of cheap made horror films, Blumhouse, came out this weekend.  However, many of Blumhouse’s recent films, while cheap to produce and make, are not cheap in the area of filmmaking.  On the poster for Truth or Dare, it tells you it comes from the producers of Get Out and Happy Death Day.  Truth or Dare does not remotely come anywhere close to either of those two films in quality or entertainment value.

Well, there is entertainment to be had here, in the same manner that Tommy Wiseau’s The Room is entertaining.  It falls into the “so bad it’s good” area and there is unintentional humor to be found here.

A group of college kids head to Mexico before graduation and wind up in an old broken down monastery playing a game of Truth and Dare.  However, when they return to the  States, they realize that there is a demon that is forcing them to continue playing the game with deadly consequences.

Related imageWhere do I start?  How about the funny faces that the kids make when the demon possesses them?  It is perhaps the most laugh-inducing thing of the whole film.  It looks like a poor man’s Joker face.  Come on, that isn’t creepy.  It is just laughable.

Then, none of these characters are worth cheering for.  In fact, most of them are just horrible people.  Even the film’s supposed heroine/protagonist Olivia (Lucy Hale), who tries to get out of the Spring Break trip by going to build houses for Habitat for Humanity, is shown in the end to be a selfish, lying schemer.  What she does at the end of the film is simply impossible to believe and flies completely opposite of what this character was intended to be in the first act of the film.

When these characters die, there seems to have little to no effect on the others in their group.  They keep saying that they have lost friends to this game, but they don’t look like they are upset.  Plus, none of the deaths have any style to them.  The film is rated PG-13 so the worst death we see is one of them stabbing a pencil into his/her eye, and even that is angled so you don’t really see anything.  This film feels like a bad rip off of the Final Destination films without the creativity.

This is a bad film, but it can be funny so it is not a total waste of your time.  Don’t see it in the theater though.

1.4 stars

Isle of Dogs

Wes Anderson is back with a brand new movie, his second animation film, called Isle of Dogs.  You can definitely tell that this is a Wes Anderson film.

In a futuristic Japan, a crooked mayor exiles all dogs to a garbage island to protect the humans from the deadly Dog Flu, despite there being a potential cure being found by his political adversary.  However, the mayor’s ward, Atari, hijacks a plane and heads to the Isle of Dogs in search of his personal dog, Spots.  Crashing the plane on the isle, a pack of Alpha Dogs find him and choose to help him try and find his dog.

Atari is not actually the main character.  That would go to the Alpha Dog, Chief (voiced by Bryan Cranston).  Chief is the lone voice of opposition to helping the boy, trying to get the rest of the group to follow him away.  He is always getting outvoted, so he has to go along with them.

Let’s start with the positives, because I think there are plenty of those.  The animation is wonderful and feels original.  It is unlike most anything I have seen and I did enjoy looking at it.

Another positive is the great voice cast.  Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Scarlet Johansson, Frances McDormand, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Greta Gerwig, Harvey Keitel, F. Murray Abraham, Yoko Ono, Tilda Swinton, Ken Watanabe, Courtney B. Vance, Liev Schreiber, and Bob Balaban are included.  Many of these actors are regulars in Wes Anderson’s films and have a comfort level with the material.

The story felt simplistic, yet needlessly complex both.  The villainous mayor and his political plans never really make sense, outside of the fact that he and his years of ancestors were cat people.  There is a political agenda in this movie and it is not that hard to see what Anderson is implying about the mayor and his manipulation of the public.

I also have a bit of a question on why this is set in Japan in the first place.  With the dangers of making an analogy between what is happening to the dogs and what has happened to other races being taken to interment camps, I am not sure Japan was the wisest choice.  I believe Anderson meant to infuse the Japanese culture into the story, which he did, but I am not sure that it truly aided the movie or is worth the potential trouble.

Plus, an argument could be made that there is the “white savior” in this story, thanks to the young girl character Tracy Walker (Greta Gerwig) who stands up to the mayor and helps save the day.

Another issue is that the film does not always translate the Japanese language for the audience.  They pick and choose when they translate and, since that is what Atari speaks, the film is in danger of isolating one of the main characters from the audience and thus not giving the crowd a real reason to cheer for the boy.  The dogs speak English, however, and I felt considerably more connected to them than I did the boy.

Isle of Dogs is a good movie that has some great touches to it, especially if you love the Wes Anderson eccentric films of the past.  However, there are some distinct questions in choices made by the director that might have limited the reach of the film.  Still, I liked more than I disliked.

3.5 stars

Free4All II

KristianandJen

There will be spoilers contained in this piece if you have not yet watched the Free4All, be aware.

The Movie Trivia Schmoedown’s latest “big event” dropped on YouTube yesterday, April 13th as the second annual Free4All was revealed in two parts.  I am not sure that there was as much promotion for the Free4All this year as it did sneak up on me and made for an exciting surprise.

first roundAs the Movie Trivia Schmoedown has some of its roots in the world of the WWE, the Free4All would be like the Royal Rumble, which is always one of my favorite events of the year.  The unpredictability of whom is coming next always makes for exciting television.  While this year’s competition may not have had an amazing moment as the XX5XX moment from last year, there was some great displays of movie trivia knowledge and a ton of fun entrances and surprises.

I’m going to jump around the two videos and give my thoughts on them, in no particular order.  If you have not yet seen these, they are absolutely worth your time.  Here is a link to PART ONE and PART TWO.

the beast entrance

I found myself cheering for William “The Beast” Bibbiani for most of the time.  Bibbiani, an online critic, is one of the most engaging and colorful characters in the Schmoedown and his Baby Driver entrance was a lot of fun.  Bibbiani lasted an astonishing 21 rounds.  After entering at number 20, Bibbiani was in the final five.  He was remarkable in his trivia knowledge and was very funny with his quips and jokes.  John Rocha seemed annoyed by The Beast, but I found him completely enthralling.  Bibbiani was named the Free4All MVP.

DowngoesJTEOne of my favorite moments in the first video was when “Little Evil” JTE, team champion, was eliminated and Bibbiani, Drew McWeeny and Matt Atchity reacted with relief and excitement for having finally defeated JTE.  Bibbiani said, “This is what it is like to beat JTE.”

 

NotDanMurrellThere were 48 competitors this year, up 13 from last year, but there were still some famous names missing from the event.  JTE’s partner Jeff Sneider, the Innergeekdom champion Jason Inman and former champion Dan Murrell were missing.  Yes, Dan Murrell was retired, but I know there were people online that were hoping to see Dan make a special return for the Fee4All. This gave the Schmoedown a license to swerve us all.  In Shawn Michaels-in-Montreal-playing-Bret-Hart’s-music stature, they played Dan’s music and even announced him as #47, but in truth, it was a returning Team Action member Andrew Ghai.  You could almost hear the sigh of relief from the rest of the group when it was revealed that it was NOT Murrell coming through the curtain.

NoControversyHereThere was no controversy in the Free4All, but there was a moment where I thought there should have been.  There were tons of “Jane Fonda” jokes at the expense of John Rocha.  If you do not know about this, in a team match vs. the Patriots, Rocha changed an answer at the last minute, scribbling Jane Fonda illegibly on the white board.  This led to a huge controversy.  Well, here, RB3 wrote down the answer Tippi Hedren and you clearly cannot read the last name.  He was given this point, and I think he should not have been.  They took away points from others who only wrote the first name and, to be fair, you cannot make out Hedren here.

BuffyMissMoviesThere were some awesome entrances as always in the Movie Trivia Schmoedown.  I already touched on Bibbiani’s Baby Driver entrance, but some of the others included the returning “Miss Movies” Brianne Chandler and her Buffy the Vampire Slayer entrance.  Other great entrances included :

the crusherRachel “The Crusher” Cushing…crushing the competiton (notice Bibbiani selling her motion in the background)

 

 

LatearrivalMarkEllisMark “Baby Carrots” Ellis, who they said had arrived at the studio directly from the airplane a half hour prior

 

 

 

MacugaAnd the t-shirt hocking “The Wildman” Josh Macuga of the Wildberries, whose gimmick is that they are hard drinkers.  The Wildberries have become one of the more popular teams int he Schmoedown and this kind of antics are why.  A little help in this pose from Mark Ellis and Roxie Striar, as well as Macuga’s Wildberries teammate Eliot Newberry.

WildberriesMacuga had made his presence felt throughout the Free4All as you could hear him shouting from the crowd many times prior to his entrance.  His loud brashness fits with the character, but did, at times, appear to irritate some of the competitors.  His ultimate interruption was when his teammate was announced, Josh pulled a little drunken race across stage, yelling Wildberries.

WinnerIn the end, Miss Movies won the competition, outlasting Bibbiani and rookie Ethan Erwin (who was very impressive as well, lasting 15 rounds).  The Free4All chose that once all competitors had been introduced, the high score at that table would be the winner, which was kind of odd.  I don’t know if they chose to do that because of how long the day would have already been, but it took away some of the drama.  If the winner would have had to eliminate each opponent until there was only one left, that would have really cemented the suspense.  Not taking anything away from Brianne’s win because she certainly earned it.  Last season, Brianne stepped aside from the Schmoedown citing personal issues.  Although I never officially heard her state for certain why she did that, there were some rumors of depression being the cause.  If that is the case, she should be commended all the more for returning and winning the whole thing.  With her win, Miss Movies has earned an automatic title shot at whatever title she chooses.

ReillyThere were some fun returns to the Schmoedown as well.  Besides Andrew Ghai, Mark Reilly came out of retirement for one night only and joined the game.  finstockTom Dagino’s alter ego Finstock, pulling a page out of Mick Foley, also made a return to the Schmoedown after being suspended for over a year.

The Movie Trivia Schmoedown does these large “PPV-style” events extremely well and the Free4All is just the most recent.  I watched late into the night Friday, enjoying the pageantry and being awed by the impressive knowledge of a lot of my favorite YouTube personalities.  Kristian Harloff should be commended for his dedication and efforts to provide the best entertainment to the audience.  He is one of the major driving forces behind the Schmoedown, along with Mark Ellis and several others, and you can see the passion for this project every time Harloff takes the stage.

Thank you to all involved.

Image result for free4all2

Rampage

The latest video game based movie is Rampage, starring The Rock.  Over the years, we have had very few video game movies that are worth anything.  The video game this movie is based on is one of the simplest games you are going to play so there aren’t a ton of expectations for a brilliant film.

However, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is always entertaining and is worth watching in just about anything he does.  This film came from the director Brad Peyton who brought us San Andreas and Journey 2: The Mysterious Island.  This film falls right into that company so you should know what to expect.

Primatologist Davis Okoye (Dwayne Johnson) works at the San Diego Zoo and has a special relationship with an albino ape named George.  When George is accidentally exposed to a dangerous gas, he begins growing and starts becoming much more aggressive.  Turns out there are two other animals that had been exposed to the same gas and have been turned into giant beast.

Davis does everything he could to keep George calm, but when a group of government agents arrive, led by cowboy-like Russell (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), they take control of George.  Unfortunately, two evil villains at the company whose experiments led to these accidental transformations are looking to draw these monsters to Chicago so they can make money out of the situation.

The three monsters arrive in Chicago and start crushing the city.  And Davis and Naomie Harris arrive to try to stop George.

Okay, so Rampage is a stupid movie.  There are so many moments that are so ridiculous that you can’t believe it.  Some of the characters are poorly written and have terrible dialogue.  Another problem is how these characters suddenly come up with ways around impossible situations- from out of nowhere.  The old Batman (1966) series would have Batman and Robin solving riddles and making illogical guesses that always turned out to be true (like Glu Glutton’s Glue Factory).  There are a lot of “Batman Leaps” in Rampage.

And yet, there is just something entertaining about The Rock and monsters destroying Chicago.

Yes, the two villains are simply horrid.  They are some of the worst villains to grace the screen in a long time.  Still, villain Claire Wyden (Malin Akerman) gets one of the funniest (albeit unintentionally) exits of the film.  I actually laughed out loud when she met her fate.  These villains are total failures and they threaten to turn this movie from a silly B-movie monster flick into a terrible movie.

Thankfully, The Rock is here and he is one of the most charismatic actors we have ever seen.  He can make the worst film watchable.  He does it here as well.  However, the Rock does feel like a video game character himself since he seemingly could not die.  He went through a lot of stuff here, but it never appears to stop him.

The monster fights were actually pretty good.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan felt like he was playing a movie version of Negan (from Walking Dead), and yet I liked him.  He is one of those charismatic individuals whom may come close to The Rock.  He is just enjoyable to watch, and he is fun to root for here.

Sure, there are plenty of moments where you can’t help but roll your eyes at the ridiculousness of it, but you can be entertained by Rampage.  You have to approach it in the right manner.  This was never going to be an award winner.  It is a big, dumb action movie, with giant monsters.  If that is enough, then there may be enough here for you to have a good time.

3 stars

EYG Top 10 Sword and Sandals Movies

EYG23

This week’s topic came from one of the Top 10 Show’s patrons named Matthew, who actually just had a baby girl.  It is Sword and Sandal movies.   Matt Knost talked about having a blindspot in some of the 1950s and 1960s movies and I would say that I am also in the same boat.  However, after only having six of them last week, I was able to get the whole list filled out (but no honorable mentions).

I could probably fill up a Worst Sword and Sandal match easily.   Immortals is just terrible.  The remakes of Clash and its sequel… ugh.

But… here we go.

#10.  Hercules.  Yes, John Rocha really shot this one down during the program this morning, but I did not mind this film.  Starring the Rock, I really enjoyed the odd twist that the Rock played Hercules as someone pretending to be the myth-like Hercules, but is actually normal (or was he?).  It is not a great movie by any stretch, but I think compared to some of the other sword and sandal movies, this is every bit as good.

 

#9.  Scorpion King.  Another Rock film, the Scorpion King is another not great film, but is helped by the presence of the Great One.  A sequel to one of the Mummy movies where Rock was a villain, the Scorpion King became more of a hero.  This helped send Dwayne Johnson into the stratosphere of movie stardom.

 

#8.  Life of Brian.  Monty Python is one of the great comedic troupes of all time and Life of Brian is one of the funniest that they had.  It was, of course, controversial at its release since it satires religion and it seems like sometimes senses of humor are missing.  I am sure Jesus would love the movie.

 

#7.  Conan the Barbarian.  Hear the lamentations of the women!  Arnold Schwarzenegger was perfectly cast as Robert E. Howard’s classic barbarian character, Conan.  There have been rumors about Arnold reprising the role as King Conan and that would be awesome.  Unfortunately, the sequel to this was not near the same as this one.  Great origin.

 

#6.  Ben Hur.  It has been a long time since I have seen this movie and that is why it is lower on the list than it is.  When you think about this type of movie, this is one of the films you think about.  The sad remake of this from a couple of years ago was senseless.  Why try to improve on greatness?

 

#5.  300.  Zach Snyder’s classic of the 300 Spartans holding off the massive Persian army led by Xerxes at the Battle of Thermopylae.  Gerard Butler is great and the look of 300 is like a painting.  Based on a comic book/graphic novel by Frank Miller, 300 is a shot for shot adaptation of the graphic novel by Miller which is an amazing achievement considering you can draw anything on a page, but are limited to what you can do on the screen.  Another example where the sequel is considerable worse than the original, but that does not limit 300.

 

#4.  Disney’s Hercules.  One of the underappreciated Disney animated films that got lost during the hey day of the Disney animation.  The Disney tale takes the classic myth of Hercules and makes it fit their typical animated film.  Danny DeVito is great as the voice of Phil.  James Woods then stole most of the film as Hades.  Great animation.

 

#3.  Spartacus.  I am Spartacus!  No, I am Spartacus!  An iconic scene that was brought to life by a tremendous performance by Kirk Douglas.  This is another one that I have not see in years, but you cannot debate that this is one of the great sword and sandal movies of all time.

 

#2. Gladiator.  Are you not entertained?  Gladiator is one of the great movies in this genre, featuring a couple of top notch performances by Oscar winner Russell Crowe and Oscar nominated Joaquin Phoenix.  Gladiator also won the Academy Award in the Best Picture category.  It is hard to compete with its resume.

 

#1. Clash of the Titans.  This number one is one of those that I loved from my childhood.  I know for sure that this is not the best movie on the list, but I look back on it with such a wondrous nostalgia.  I loved this film as a youth and it inspired a lot of my love of mythology and story telling.  I HATED the reboot version of this.  It cannot stand up to the original even a little bit.  Some of the special effects are really cheesy, but I don’t care.  This was something that I always loved watching.  I probably watched this a bunch of times.  Harry Hamlin as Perseus is great.  All of the monsters such as Medusa and the Kraken, along with the Greek Gods… I just loved it.  And so it is my number one, even though as a movie, I know this is not anywhere near some of the others on this list.  Hard to defeat something from my childhood.

Today was a Great Day!

Today Was A Great Day!!

 

As I lay down upon my bed, before I slipped away,

I thought about the wondrous things that I had done today.

I learned to dance the Harlem Shake, and if that weren’t enough,

I danced it with my little dog, knee deep in marshmallow fluff.

I stopped a thief who robbed a bank, a hero tried and true.

My science trial showed its results and cured the stomach flu.

I braved the snow and frigid winds to reach Mount Everest’s peak.

And Jennifer Lawrence asked me if she should play Mystique.

About the new bill I advised President Obama.

At the zoo, without a care, I caught the escaped llama.

I wrestled with CM Punk, and I forced him to tap out.

I went to Cuba for the Dodgers as a talent scout.

Won an Emmy, Tony and the Academy Award,

I grabbed control of Disney; I’m the chairman of the board.

I read The Iliad; it was about the Trojan War.

I won an arm wrestling contest with the Mighty Thor,

I finished writing my first novel, it went really good.

My grammar may still need some work and work on that I should.

I parachuted from a plane and flew throughout the air.

And I discovered a Sasquatch inside its hidden lair.

I swam out in the swamp and I hog-tied a crocodile.

I was a tourist guide who floated upon Egypt’s Nile.

I led a crew of scientists up Kilimanjaro.

Oh, I can’t wait to see just what I will do tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

Little Foot the Bigfoot

Little Foot, the Bigfoot

 

By Kevin Fuss

 

The Pacific Northwest, a most wondrous land

With trees and with mountains, all nearby at hand.

In a county called Whatcom this story does place

With a creature of legend, an uncommon case.

The forests of Whatcom are home to a beast

Whose mythos is sung from the west to the east.

The Bigfoot, a Sasquatch, the hairy ape-man,

The beasties stay hidden like only they can.

So hidden, in fact, that the world as a whole

Believe Bigfoot a hoax, a rigamarole.

 

The uncommon case that’s revealed by this tale

Is strange when compared to an ox, lamb or snail.

A Bigfoot, a Sasquatch, a hairy ape-child

Whose size of his feet is to be quite reviled.

Little Foot, the Bigfoot was by what he was known.

His misshapen feet made him feel all alone.

More human than Sasquatch these bipedal paws

With whispers that claimed they were character flaws.

 

The young Little Foot had been constantly teased,

Berated and bullied, completely displeased.

Callous Bigfoot cubs rudely would point, laugh and stare

And call him man foot, gibbon, or baby bugbear.

As so, in pretense, that these words did not hurt,

He still felt so low, he felt low as the dirt.

And in his cave late in the night he would cry,

Why must my feet be small and freaky, oh why?”

And of his tormentors, the worst it would seem

Was Moloch the Sasquatch cause mean was his scheme.

His constant demands from the other young sprites

Were ruthless and brutal, a bully’s delights.

Yet all of the pack themselves would just savor

For Moloch the Sasquatch to grant them his favor.

To make matters worse, both his feet were so large,

He left little doubt about who was in charge.

Though status was never an issue for him,

With Moloch the Sasquatch, the bragging a whim.

 

So one day the braggart was weaving a yarn

A story displaying his guts, spunk and charm.

When throughout the green forest, who should approach?

Little Foot, the Bigfoot expecting reproach.

Look,” chortled the bully, enticing the crowd,

The Human Foot Bigfoot!”  His voice sang so loud.

The weirdest Bigfoot around without debate.

Feet smaller than any in Washington state!”

 

Little Foot, the Bigfoot ran off full of tears,

The insults stung worse when it came from his peers.

The sad, little creature, alone and afraid,

Behind a tree trunk, he escaped where he stayed.

Cruel laughter rang out through the forest of trees,

A daily occurrence, this scene would reprise.

Little Foot, the Bigfoot went home to his cave.

He wished to be happy, beloved and brave.

Little Foot, the Bigfoot knew where he could go

A place cold and icy and covered with snow.

Atop of Mount Baker the Sasquatch would thrive,

The mountain would help Little Foot feel alive.

But Mount Baker was not a place to embrace.

A stratovolcano, a dangerous space.

Little Foot, the Bigfoot could see lava flow

And glance at the forest found way down below.

He’d come to Mount Baker when he felt most sad,

While Nature’s power displays worldly earth clad.

 

His secret retreat gave a chance to reflect

On ways that his destiny could course correct.

Oh, what can I do to make my life better?”

As crystals of frost made his hair feel wetter.

The soft, salty tears, they would freeze to his face.

He hoped that bad memories he could erase.

A tabula rasa, the quest for the day,

Little Foot, the Bigfoot bad thoughts chased away.

 

As white snow matted in his brown fuzzy hair,

Little Foot, the Bigfoot jumped round with a flair.

He huffed and he puffed and his breath he could see,

The menacing niche was his safe jubilee.

 

So when he came home form Mount Baker that eve,

The terrible feelings had all taken leave.

Though Little Foot, the Bigfoot’s hope was renewed,

A relapse was something he couldn’t preclude.

Little Foot, the Bigfoot stared up at the stars,

The moon glowing brighter, much brighter than Mars.

A shooting star flashed cross the black nighttime sky,

A wish formed inside the Sasquatch’s mind’s eye.

He pictured a day when he’s not an outcast,

Accepted by all and no longer harassed.

Little Foot, the Bigfoot’s most desperate hope,

His wish to be granted; the world changing scope.

The nocturnal beast said a short, silent prayer

Yon shooting star’s moxie would smooth his despair.

 

The night turned to day and the day to the noon,

His secret dream he hoped no one would impugn.

Little Foot, the Bigfoot avoided the horde

Of Moloch the Sasquatch’s mindless accord.

The day was so lovely, the birds sang a tune,

He softly joined in with a growl and a croon.

Life could be good.  It could also be happy.

The flowery day made him act so sappy.

 

Unfortunate Little Foot, he could not hide

From the other Bigfoots though he tried and he tried.

Despite his best effort, despite his chagrin,

The voices would cry out and make crawl his skin.

With Moloch the Sasquatch nowhere to be seen,

The remaining rivals seemed really serene.

Why couldn’t he pick me to go with him too?”

Asked Hugo the Bigfoot, a whine all thru.

Yes, what I would give to be there with our friends,”

Said Benjamin Bigfoot, who lies ‘til the end.

Oh, Moloch is famed, he’s such a great hero,”

Said Tom the Sasquatch, an absolute zero.

The hangers-on wished they were able to go

With Moloch the Sasquatch, where he didn’t know.

 

But then the uncertainty cleared from his mind.

By facts undisputed the truth they did find.

That Moloch the Sasquatch had taken a group

Up Mount Baker’s slope to a point on the stoop.

The dangers they risked as they took this long route,

Little Foot, the Bigfoot knew well without doubt.

But things were about to become so much worse

Another young Bigfoot ran up a averse.

His name was Zu Kwan Jin, his fur very light.

He looked like a yeti, though not quite that white.

Hey Moloch’s in trouble and so are the rest,”

He said as he gasped for more air in his chest.

I tried to catch up to the group on their way,

But I ducked out of sight before things went astray.

Two humans I saw on the way to my meet.

How strange that they look with their odd little feet.”

 

Two humans are no match for Moloch the Great!”

Said Tom the Sasquatch with his loyalty trait.

But that’s not the worst part, the worst that I heard,”

A shiver of fear shook before the next word.

Overhearing this news scared me deeply,” he cried.

The mountain is going to erupt from inside.”

 

The assembled Bigfoots knew just what that mean.

The molten rock flowing, its normal routine.

And Moloch the Sasquatch and his sycophants,

Engulfed by hot lava like trees, shrubs and plants.

And they would be doomed, they would all pass away.

Their emotions showing and placed on display.

 

Little Foot, the Bigfoot knew there was a chance

Of saving them all though ‘twas hard at first glance.

I know the mountain like the back of my hand.

The nature is deadly, the mountain is grand.”

Little Foot, the Bigfoot describing his plans

Avoiding the lava and the two humans.

If there be two humans, then more are a knack,

By knowing that humans travel in a pack.

 

So Little Foot, the Bigfoot departed to go

A place cold and icy and covered with snow.

The other Bigfoots followed right behind him

Though snow was the last thing that made them feel grim.

They trekked out the forest and up on the hill.

The snow and the ice gave them all a deep chill.

The earth’s rumble rattled, the ground it did shake,

Foretelling the future of lava and quake.

 

The first shake sent Benjamin Bigfoot away,

His cowardice making him not want to stay.

And Zu Kwan Jin was the next Bigfoot to ditch

His self-preservation a huge, major glitch.

The Tom the Sasquatch and Hugo the Bigfoot,

Hightailed it away from the flame and the soot.

Little Foot, the Bigfoot alone he became

Since none of the other’s courage was the same.

And so up Mount Baker Little Foot did run

To save the bullies in the bright summer sun.

 

The ground shook again with a violent outburst.

This moment right now it was clearly the worst.

Little Foot, the Bigfoot continued his quest,

His heart pounding quickly inside of his chest.

He weaved through the ice and the snow in a heap,

But progress had slowed for him down to a creep.

Little Foot, the Bigfoot saw trouble up there.

These pesky humans were setting up their lair.

The human pack had Mount Baker’s pathway blocked

With machines and equipment, they’re ready and stocked.

 

So what could he do to avoid the blockade?

His skin all a quiver as he felt afraid.

A promising scheme popped right into his brain.

The feasible fortune he could ascertain.

 

 

 

Chappaquiddick

Chappaquiddick Movie Poster

Chappaquiddick tells the true story of a political scandal that ended the presidential run of Edward “Ted” Kennedy in 1969.

Kennedy, brother of President John Kennedy and candidate Bobby Kennedy, was planning a run for president in 1972 when his car went off a bridge into the water, claiming the life of a political strategist Mary Jo Kopechne.

According to the scandal, Ted left the scene of the accident and did not report it for 9 hours, thus leaving Mary Jo to die in the submerged car.

Ted Kennedy, played here by Jason Clarke, is shown as a damaged man who was desperately seeking the attention and approval of his father Joe (Bruce Dern).  Too drunk to be driving, Ted drove the car off the bridge.  However, the film does not show us how Ted escaped the car or why Mary Jo (Kate Mara) could not.  According to the film, Ted retreated to the party that he had come from to find his two friends/associates Joe Gargan (Ed Helms) and Paul Markham (Jim Gaffigan) to help him.  They returned to the scene of the accident and tried to get into the car to save Mary Jo, unsuccessfully.  Joe and Paul left Ted with the expectation that he would report the accident, but he does not until the next morning.

The film indicates that Mary Jo survived for a while breathing in a small pocket of air in the car.  Had Kennedy called immediately, would she have survived?  He certainly believed that after he and his friends had returned that she was already dead, thus reducing the immediate need.  This was still left up in the air for the audience to infer what happened.

The film also played with the spinners after the event happened.  They were coming up with reasons why this had happened and how they would make it not destroy Kennedy’s career.  They kept claiming he had a concussion and was in shock.  Though the film hinted that that was not the case with a flash to the face of the doctor, I do believe that the film showed Kennedy in a state of shock after the events happened.  Maybe not concussed (though I would believe it), but certainly diminished.  Was he thinking straight?  I don’t know.

The performances were strong.  The story was well tole, but it did feel as if there could have been so much more to this story than what we got.  Maybe a mini-series on TV would be more effective.

What the film does very well is show the character of Ted Kennedy and the drawbacks he has.  The relationship between Ted and his father was very compelling and I could have used more of that.  It really was a psychological character study of a man who some believed would be president, but who failed to live up to the dynasty of his family name, especially inside his own head.  Ted’s lack of confidence lead to this entire situation, while the strength of his last name led to the lack of results in the criminal case.  I think there is no doubt that this prevented Kennedy from becoming president.

I still wonder how Ted Kennedy escaped from the car while Mary Jo did not.  There are several questions in this film that are left unanswered.  Sure it would have called for speculation, but some of that would have helped the overall quality.  Still, good performances, in particular from Jason Clarke, Ed Helms and Bruce Dern, carry this to a decent biopic.

3.35 stars

 

Blockers

This past week, The Top 10 Show did the Top 10 Raunchy Teen Movies list and I had a definite problem filling my list (which I do every week after their podcast) up with films. In fact, I could only find six that I could rank.

Now, Blockers would be number one on that list.

As I stated, this genre of film is far from my favorite, but I really found Blockers to be more than just the sex jokes and the raunchy teen film.  It had some real heart, some very strong characters and a lot of really funny humor.  Who would have guessed?

Three senior girls(Kathyrn Newton, Geraldine Viswanathan and Gideon Adlon), who had been best friends since the first day of school, make a pact that all three of them would lose their virginity on prom night.  #sexpact2018.  Their parents (Leslie Mann, John Cena and Ike Barinholtz) accidentally discover this pact and decide that they would prevent their daughters from being successful in their pursuit of sex.

And so hilarity commences.

There were several things about Blockers that caught me off guard.  Mainly, I really liked how the story played the girls part of the story in a realistic light and showed three young female characters who were strong, brave and knew what they wanted.  These three young ladies were very different, but their friendship absolutely came through on screen and that chemistry between the three of them was a huge plus for the movie.  It was especially nice to see this type of a film coming from a female perspective that did not feel the need to play the girls off as the victims or as naive.  And all three actresses do a fantastic job, in particular Geraldine Viswanathan, who looks like a star.

The other half of the film featured the adults, chasing their daughters and this part of the film was considerably more slapstick or cartoonish, and these three actors do a great job with that.  Leslie Mann is great here, bringing the most experience in the role.  John Cena continues to show that he has skill in comedy and, while he still is learning, he provides a very solid and believable performance.  However, Ike Barinholtz was probably my favorite character because of how much his character played with the expectations of who he was.  He was shown originally as a scumball who cheated on his wife, but we learn more and more about him and we see him play against that type most of the time. This sets up the emotional reveal at the end that is a very strong pay off.

Most importantly, this movie has laughs.  It is well written and expertly executed, which is even more amazing when you consider that this is director Kay Cannon’s directorial debut.  She does an admirable job of balancing the two parts to the story and creating a group of characters in this ensemble that really stretch across the spectrum seamlessly.

The trailers make this look like a film that relies on the low brow humor, but I did not find it that way.  Sure there are jokes that would fall into that, but there are many other instances that are extremely funny and, most of those low brow jokes actually do fairly well.

However, I had to deduct a huge part of the score because of an extended puke scene and I HATE puke scenes.  Sure, this scene was not particularly realistic in its projectile vomit use, I still hate those.  I just do not like them.  It is a personal preference.

I also liked the three boys whom the girls take to prom.  Each of them play on typical stereotypes of characters but switch things around to make them fresh.  They felt like real kids who might actually like being together.

I will say that there were a couple of moments at the end of the movie that did not necessarily ring true.  At least one of the storylines between the parents and the kids turned out to be too easy of a fix- almost as if it were on a sitcom that had reached the end of the episode and needed to wrap up.  It felt as if the girl (without spoiling) should have been more angry with the parent than what she was.

Either way, Blockers was considerably better than I ever thought it would be.  It was very funny, keeping me laughing consistently throughout, and had unexpectedly sweet and pretty developed characters.  There are great performances and these characters end up playing against type.  Blockers is a very entertaining comedy, and that is something I don’t say too often.

4 stars

(sorry Chris…)

 

 

A Quiet Place

A Quiet Place Movie Poster

Hoo-boy.

A Quiet Place is a horror/thriller, heavy on the thriller as I was on the edge of my seat the entire time, desperately looking to grasp on to anything to brace myself.

I have not been this full of tension and apprehension in a film in a long time.  And A Quiet Place starts off filled with this intensity and just never lets up for the entire 90+ minute run time.  I felt the need to inhale and try to be as quiet as I could while in the theater just because…

A Quiet Pace is the story of a married couple, Lee (John Krasinski) and Evelyn (Emily Blunt), who are the parents of three children (Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe, and Cade Woodward).  This family lives in what seems to be a post apocalyptic world where alien monsters arrived and, while blind, respond violently to any sound that is made.  So in order to avoid being immediately slaughtered by these hideous creatures, the family is forced to live their lives without making any sound whatsoever.

Therein lies the tension because the human race is not meant to be a quiet race.

John Krasinski is also the director of this film and he does an absolutely tremendously spot on job.  Despite the fact that the dialogue is basically eliminated from the film, the manner in which he tells this story is amazing.

One of the best parts to me is that Krasinski does not waste time with endless exposition explaining what has happened to the world, or how this family has survived up to this point.  None of that is important.  Krasinski provides some newspaper clippings that help fill in some of the blanks, but the rest of it is left up to the imagination of the audience.  The cold open begins with a black screen with the words 89 days on it.  This tells you that whatever it was that caused this apocalypse has happened.  Then after the opening (which leaves you breathless, by the way) the film jumps to day 472 (around there).  Because of that, it seems obvious that this family has spent most of the last 390+ days figuring out how to live with the minimal use of sound.

And I accepted that completely.  I did not feel the need to know every little detail about how things work or what had happened to get them to this point. The film drops you into this point in time and you go with it.  Exposition weighs down so many movies that the distinct lack of exposition was a novel way to go.

The sound editing of this movie is absolutely brilliant.  The silence is played perfectly, and every little sound is masterfully placed for maximum intensity.  There are some jump scares, but they are well done and are placed int he film in exceptional locations.  They fit and this movie by no means depends on them.  They are just simply another tool that this film uses with utmost proficiency.

Then, the performances are mind blowing.  Emily Blunt has so much skill in conveying what she needs to with her face and her body and her attitude.  Krasinski is powerful here and he had me completely engaged with his character.  Both main children, Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe are amazing.  Simmonds is in real life deaf and so is her character Regan, and the film does this very creative technique to demonstrate that whenever Simmonds has the point of view.  It was very effective.

They also showed the use of sign language, which was one of the way this family communicated with one another and it was compelling.  I have never seen someone yelling at each other in sign language, but I did see it here.  Amazing job by these actors.

There is a great connection between these characters who are dealing with so much more than just these monsters that will kill them if they make any sound.  There are intricate problems between each character and these actors bring out the best in each other.

Another great thing is this family of characters are shown to be very intelligent instead of the bumbling idiots that usually take up horror movie space.  I love that.  They were doing things that made sense and even those choices that might not be wise are done in service to the characters.  It is apparent that the characters are the most important part of this story and everything else just goes to help show who these characters are and how they are going to grow.  And you believe it totally.

The creatures were made by Industrial Lights & Magic (ILM) and it shows because these monsters are terrifyingly authentic and look to be right out of someone’s nightmares.  There is no troubled CGI here.  However, Krasinski wisely does not over use the shots of the monsters and use them at the proper time to illustrate the characters and the terror of the situation.

There are so many moments when I was simply holding my head and wondering if this film could be more tense…and then it topped itself.  I legitimately came out of this movie with a physical visceral anxiety, amazed at what I had just seen and shaken by the process of seeing it.  I sat through to the end of the credits not because I wanted to see them or expected any post credit scene, but because I needed to take a breather.

This is maybe my favorite movie of the young year so far.  I was completely invested in the film and the characters as I gritted my teeth and held my breath through each anxiety filled scene.  A Quiet Place is an original film with great performances, a well-told story that does not bog itself down with unnecessary exposition and tension from the get-go.  Great job to all involved.

5 stars