78/52

Image result for 78/52 movie poster

This documentary was quite engaging as it deals with perhaps the most famous scene in movie history and its effects on the film world in general.

Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho was a departure for the acclaimed director and it caused plenty of shock and disbelief.  Much of the reason for that reaction was a scene about a third of the way through the movie where the star of the movie, Vivian Leigh, is murdered while taking a shower.

People did not see it coming.  The beginning of Psycho focused on Marian Crane, the character Leigh played, but it was all a red herring…a joke (as Hitchcock himself put it) on the audience, bringing the true story of Psycho to the forefront.

This documentary by Alexandre O. Philippe really hits its stride when it is dealing with the specifics on how the scene was shot and why Hitchcock did certain things and what they were meant to show.  Many big name stars appear in the documentary to espouse their own personal feelings about the scene.  These celebs include Jamie Lee Curtis, Peter Bogdanovich, Elijah Wood, Guillermo del Toro, and Eli Roth.

The title of the film is a reference to the 78 camera set-ups and 52 edits over the course of 3 minutes it took to finish the scene.  If you are someone who enjoys the process it takes to create a movie scene, or someone interested in breaking down the parts of an iconic film scene, then this documentary is for you.  Being a fan of Hitchcock, I enjoyed the film and I also appreciated the allusions to other Hitchcock films in comparison.

4 stars

The TV Week That Was

spoilers

Lots of shows to talk about this week.

Image result for mindhunterMindhunter debuted on Netflix.  I love the book Mindhunter by John Douglas that this series is based on.  The focus on profiling the serial killers was something that fascinated me so when I heard that this was going to be a Netflix series, I was very excited.  In this very busy weekend, I have not been able to binge the whole series, but I made it up to about episode 7 and I have to say that I am really enjoying this.  I love the two main characters, Holden and Bill.  They are based on the real life FBI agents John Douglas and Robert Ressler.  The interviews they had with these serial killers were constantly enthralling.

Image result for riverdale season 2We returned to Riverdale on the CW this week with a great start to the second season.  We see the result of the season one cliffhanger of Archie’s father Fred being shot at Pop’s.  Fred survives the supposed robbery, which is looking more and more as if it were something more than just a robbery.  The end of the episode saw the return of the masked man who had shot Fred, strangling Miss Grundy to death.  Who is this masked murderer and what is his motive?  Does he have some kind of vendetta against Archie?

Related imageSaturday night saw the return of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency on BBC America.  Max Landis’s adaptation of a Douglas Adams book is all kinds of weird, but Landis promises us that everything has a reason and that it will all make sense as the season progresses.  Meanwhile, there are some really entertaining moments with Dirk and Todd.

Image result for mr robot season 3Mr. Robot returned Wednesday on USA Network.  After a weaker season two, the premiere episode of season three felt like it was getting back to basics.  There were several hints that the show was preparing to “reboot” and start things over, though I have no idea what that might entail.  Elliot talked about wanting to “fix” things and he seemed to believe that he could do so.  Of course, “Mr. Robot” himself is fighting against Elliot. This felt like a welcome change for the show.

Image result for inhumans episode 4The Inhumans need a reboot too.  So far, four episodes in, this show is a hot mess.  It feels as if there may be a story there somewhere, but it is lost in this series with so many dumb side stories that really serve no benefit to the story. The Karnak love story?  The Hawaiian hit squad that Gorgon had found?  Mortis is just a ridiculous villain.  Medusa is either a fish out of water or she knows exactly what the earth item is used for.  Crystal is just wooden as can be.  We even do not have the best part of the show, Lockjaw, as the poor dog got hit by a car.  This has just four more episodes left to straighten itself out.

Image result for gotham episode 3 season 4A show that has straightened itself out is Gotham.  After two very inconsistent and cheesy seasons, last year’s got so much better.  This season has continued as we got an emotional showdown with Bruce and Ra’s Al Ghoul.  We also got some exciting scenes with the Penguin and the Riddler.  Gotham continues to move closer to the Dark Knight as Bruce Wayne is developing his heroic self.  So if Gotham can do it, maybe Inhumans can do it as well.

Image result for scandal season 7 episode 2Scandal had a better second episode than the travesty of the season premiere.  Olivia Pope however continues to be a completely different character than the one who we all fell in love with.  One wonders if Olivia will eventually be saved by the returning former President Fitz Grant, who showed up on her doorstep at the end of the season.  Oh, and by the way, Olivia was making out with the reporter Curtis on the way to her apartment.  The show had an entertaining state dinner with a President of a Middle Eastern country that Mellie wants to sign a nuclear peace treaty.  We also had a loose parody of Trump with Dean Norris as a new character, a billionaire thinking about a run for political office that Cyrus took care of.  And there was a really funny moment between Mellie and Olivia talking about vibrators.  No really.

Image result for the mayor episode 2The Mayor had a pretty good second episode and may have solidified a spot on my queue for watching.  The show dealt with a city cutting music program despite the new rap mayor’s promise to fund new music equipment.  Courtney tried to execute a filibuster to prevent the vote from happening.  The show depends on its cast and it does a great job being entertaining. The show has been funny and lighthearted fun.

Image result for loreAaron Mahnke’s podcast has transformed into a new series on Amazon called Lore.  The six episode series focuses on real life events that lead to our darkest fears and some of the legends of the world.  The first episode showed how a certain case led to the inspiration for vampires.  Again, I was only able to see the first three episodes of the series since the weekend was so packed, but it was a very chilling show.

Dodgers and Cubs are playing the National League Championship Series while the Houston Astros play the New York Yankees.  At this point, LA leads 1 game to 0 and Houston leads 2 games to 0.

Next week-  The Walking Dead returns.

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women

Related image

Don’t be fooled. There is little to do with DC Comics and EYG Hall of Famer Wonder Woman in the new biopic, Professor Marston and the Wonder Women.  Instead, it is a look at the controversial creator of Princess Diana and the reputed three-way relationship that was on display in his life.

William Moulton Marston not only created Wonder Woman, but also invented the lie detector, along with his wife, Elizabeth Marston.  The film tells the story of the arrival of the young and beautiful assistant Olive and how this new addition threw the married couple’s relationship into a whole new world.

William (Luke Evans) and his wife Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall) were looking for assistance on a human behavior research when they hired Olive (Bella Heathcote).  It is not long before these three people are professing their love for one another and engaging in a threesome that would turn into more than just a momentary indiscretion.

The fact that the greatest female hero of all time has an origin that comes from bondage and an attempt to subvert society with ideas of dominance and ‘sexual perversity” is an amazing thought.  I did not know anything about this as a background for Diana.  This film spends more time on the relationship between the three main characters than it does with our favorite Amazon.  I found it interesting how the film used a hearing, headed up by Josette Frank (Connie Britton), by the National Organization for Decent Literature to frame the film.  In sense, these scenes with Luke Evans and Connie Britton are not that important to most of the film.

The relationship between Marston, Elizabeth and Olive is certainly the heart of this movie and if it did not work, this film would falter.  For me, it worked somewhat, but it did, especially early, felt too choppy.  It jumped around too much for my taste.  One minute, they were saying and doing one thing and then the next scene, they were doing just the opposite.

However, the relationship became more fascinating after they started to live together and they had to deal with some challenge of awkwardness among the culture of the time.

The film felt long at times and could have trimmed some of it down.  I found parts of the movie a little dull, but the relationship was intriguing at least.  The story was fascinating about the origin of Wonder Woman, but I could have used for more of that.  I heard a lot of positives about this one, but I did not like it as much as some.  Still, it is an interesting biopic.

3.3 stars

The Princess Bride (1987)

Image result for princess bride movie poster

I was so looking forward to this.

The special 30th anniversary showing of my favorite movie of all time occurred today thanks to Fathom Events.  EYG Hall of Fame movie The Princess Bride is the answer I give whenever someone asks me what my favorite movie is.  And I got to see it again today on the big screen.

Let’s get this out of the way first. This movie is…

paragon

Paragon being the highest rating I can give, of course, if anyone doubted it.

The Fathom Event showing of The Princess Bride added a neat little interview with director Rob Reiner, by TCM host Ben Mankiewicz, giving us inside stories both before the movie started and after it finished.  It added a wonderful bookend to the film told in that special way that only Rob Reiner can do.

The film itself is a masterpiece.  Adapted from a novel by William Goldman, The Princess Bride is the love story between Buttercup (Robin Wright) and farm boy Westley (Cary Elwes).  After being separated and having Westley supposedly murdered by pirates, Buttercup swears to never love again.  So when Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon) came calling, the beautiful young girl just heads through the motions.  However, Humperdinck had dastardly plans that included starting a war with the neighboring kingdom of Gilder.  In order to start this war, Humperdinck hired Vizzini (Wallace Shawn), Inigo (Mandy Patinkin) and Fezzik (Andre the Giant) to kidnap Buttercup.  To the trios chagrin, the Dread Pirate Roberts shows up to throw a monkey wrench into their plans.

The film narrates this story as if a grandfather (Peter Falk) is reading this story to his ailing grandson (Fred Savage) in the most charming of relationships.

This film has more quotable lines than most movies have even memorable ones.  Every few minutes there are iconic lines that the entire theater knows.  Despite that, everyone still laughs at them.  From every “Inconceivable” to “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya…” The Princess Bride is laced with wonderful dialogue and storytelling.

The performances are all top notch.  Elwes and Wright are as believably charming and loving as you will ever see on screen.  Mandy Patinkin and his foil, Count Rugan (Christopher Guest) really bring a powerful emotion to their scenes.  Andre the Giant is remarkable throughout, despite his heavy accent causing some issues with comprehension.  Wallace Shawn, who was reportedly afraid that he was going to be fired and replaced with the film’s first choice Danny DeVito, delivers an absolutely iconic performance that could never be topped no matter whom they may try to hire.

The comedy works today as well as it did back in the 1980s.  The story is timeless.  True love is always a great hook for a fairy tale, and The Princess Bride is one of the best original fairy tales to every make it to the big screen.

Scene stealers Billy Crystal and Carol Kane appeared late in the film as Miracle Max and his wife Valerie, but they are perhaps some of the most memorable moments of the entire film. Crystal reportedly was so funny with his improvisation on his lines that Rob Reiner had to leave the set to keep from laughing.

You cannot pick just one moment from this brilliant film.  I personally love the Cliff of Insanity fencing duel between Inigo and Westley.  There is the Shrieking Eels.  Miracle Max.  Fezzik jogging the memory of the Albino (Mel Smith).  The Impressive Clergyman (Peter Cook) and his “Mawwage is what bwings us togeva today” line.  To the pain.

And the remarkably emotional and powerful final confrontation with Inigo and Count Rugan.  That moment is a sure fire crowd please and never fails to give me goose bumps.

Some of the effects may not be as up to date as we get today, but I would argue that the effects here add to the fairy tale aspect of the film and only make it more charming.  Seeing men in their R.O.U.S. (rodents of unusual size) outfits crawling around the Fire Swamp is so much more preferable to the overuse of CGI in today’s world.  I also find it unbelievably fun when I see Inigo’s wet hair, after Fezzik sobers Inigo up by dumping his head over and over into water, change location on the Spaniard’s face.  Little things like that make this so much more engaging and adds to its charm.

I keep using that word.  Charm (not inconceivable).  That is the best way I can describe this classic.  It is a film that I can practically recite every line word for word, and yet I can watch and be utterly enthralled with every beat.  I love many of Rob Reiner’s early films, but The Princess Bride is in a league of it own.

As you wish.

 

Image result for the princess bride cast

The Foreigner

Related image

Jackie Chan has returned to the big screen in the new action thriller, The Foreigner that has a part of it that is a revenge movie and another part that is political thriller.  Unfortunately, the parts do not seem to merge very well.

Quan Ngoc Minh (Jackie Chan), a man with a spotted past, lost his daughter in a terrorist bombing in London and he goes on a quest to discover the names of the people responsible.  This led him to former IRA member and current British government official Liam Hennessy (Pierce Brosnan), whom Quan believed could provide him the information.

Jackie Chan was really good in this movie.  In fact, some of the early scenes in the film were more than just Jackie doing his action stunts.  He showed some serious emotional acting chops as well in the scenes where he was dealing with the death of his daughter.  However, there really is little to his character besides the loss of his daughter.  The film depends on you wanting to root for Jackie Chan, and does not give you another reason to cheer for him.  Later in the film, the character has some layers peeled away, but by that point, I had lost the interest in any back story.

I found much of the film dull.  The fight scenes with Chan were well done and exciting.  Some of the scenes with Pierce Brosnan were solid as well, but I found much of the remainder needlessly convoluted and unnecessary.

I don’t have much else to say about this one, honestly.  There are redeeming qualities about it, but not enough to make this a recommendation.

2.6 stars

Happy Death Day

Image result for happy Death day movie poster

We have seen this type of film before.  Everybody (including the film itself) is comparing this to Groundhog’s Day, the classic Bill Murray/Harold Ramis comedy and the action/adventure film Edge of Tomorrow.  Fact is, Happy Death Day cannot be positively compared to either of those films.

That does not make this a bad movie.  On contrary, I found myself really enjoying this horror/comedy/slasher film mash up.

We meet our leading lady, Tree (Jessica Rothe), waking up in a dorm room after what was implied to be a one-night stand.  Carter (Israel Broussard) is there waiting for her to awaken.  Tree storms from the dorm room and goes about the day, her birthday, being one grade A bitch.

However, near the end of the day, Tree is stalked and murdered by a baby-mask wearing killer.  Instead of dying, Tree wakes up again, back in the dorm room, and the day starts to repeat.  Eventually, she decides that the only way to stop this from happening is to figure out who her killer really is.

So…yes the film has many of the same ideas, beats and concepts as Groundhog’s Day.  There are many cliche things that happen to the character.  The fact that she is one of the “mean girls” at first, the conflicts with the other girls, the love interest with the professor, the estranged relationship with the father, none of these are particularly original.  However, what the film does with most of these cliches is interesting and enjoyable.

I have to say that those people who are just criticizing the movie because it is a “Groundhog’s Day” rip off are not giving this film a chance.

Truthfully, the movie is not that much of a horror movie. It is a slasher movie, but the killer is not the focus.  Instead, it is the victim that gets the spotlight.  Happy Death Day is not very scary either, so those looking for tremendous frights might feel disappointment.  Happy Death Day is much more of a comedy and a mystery story than it is a horror movie.

I was engaged in trying to figure out the killer.  I am usually pretty good at that, but I will admit that I did not have it solved.  I was looking for clues in the scenes and running ideas through my head as I watched the film, proving that the soon-to-be-repeated murder mystery had me hooked.

Jessica Rothe is excellent as our lead character of Tree (the name is weird).  She was very compelling, attractive and filled up the screen with her presence.  She also had a very easy chemistry with Israel Broussard, making it very comfortable to root for them as a couple.  Broussard’s character was a really nice guy and I found myself liking him a lot.

There are some very clever moments in the film as well, plot-wise.  The film is played in a very meta manner, almost with an acknowledgement that the film is silly fun and that the actors and creators know that and embrace that.

Director Christopher Landon directed Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, a silly little film that I enjoyed way more than I thought I would, and he wrote several of the Paranormal Activity movies.  He brings that very style to this film in a very effective manner.  The film is well directed and each shot is blocked with an appropriate eye.  The pacing is strong and the performances are engaging.

In the end, this movie should not be compared to these other movies because they are truly different, even if they have used the same plot device. Perhaps we can create a genre of “Repeating the day” movies and then we can look at them all together.  Until that day comes, I am going to look at individual movies at a time without a preconceived judgment.  And with that, Happy Death Day is a winner.

3.85 stars

The TV Week That Was

spoilers

Welcome back to the TV Week That Was.  Fall TV is in full swing and I am watching my fair share of the shows to see what, if anything, I want to continue to watch.

mortisLet’s start with the most disappointing.  Inhumans.  I had seen the premiere in IMAX and it was not very good, but I had hoped for the show to improve.  Sadly, I think it may have gotten worse.  The acting is wooden.  The costumes are laughable.  The special effects are just not quality.  The story is dull and idiotic.  The new villain named Mortis was played up to be a dangerously powerful and crazed villain that even scared Maximus, but he turned out to be a whining and complaining smart ass.  There are only 8 episodes of the Inhumans and this was episode three so I will most likely continue to watch the remaining 5 episodes patiently until Agents of SHIELD returns, but for a show that could have been an epic, Inhumans has been an epic failure.

mr.clucksBefore Inhumans, we saw the return of the seventh season of Once Upon a Time with its new story arc. We have Henry aged and there is a young girl claiming to be his daughter and that he had forgotten all of the history of the past.  Turns out, Henry’s great love is Cinderella.  We see all of our favorite characters playing different characters (much like the final season of LOST in the flash sideways).  The first episode was passable, but it feels like just a publicity stunt.  Although, the fun did arrive when I saw Mr. Clucks appear in the episode.  Mr. Clucks (which I believe has been in past episodes of OUAT) was the chicken joint Hurley worked at and eventually bought on LOST.  Now, Cinderella is working there.  It was a fun little Easter egg from my favorite series of all time. As for Once Upon a Time, it still feels as if they should have ended the series last year with the happy endings, but I’ll see where it goes from here.

Image result for rick and morty season 3 finaleRick and Morty had their season finale and my thought was the same as most everybody who watched it… ALREADY???  The season of Rick and Morty just flew by and, considering we do not know exactly when the fourth season will arrive, the short season made it even worse, and the continual jokes about it in the show kept reminding us of it.  The episode itself was very funny, with the question of whether or not Beth is a clone (something that might have happened in the penultimate episode of the season).  A major face off with Rick and Morty and the President of the USA highlighted the finale, which was a typically great Rick and Morty episode, but might have been a bit lackluster for a season finale.

Image result for scandal season 7 premiereScandal returned for its final season and I was immediately unimpressed.  I have grown to dislike Olivia Pope tremendously.  She does not seem to be the same woman whom I fell in love with in the first several seasons of Scandal.  To be honest, I am not sure that the show has ever truly recovered after Olivia was kidnapped.  Most of these characters are acting like completely different characters, doing things that do not seem like these characters would do. All led by the power hungry Olivia Pope.  They tried during the episode to show Olivia doing the “right thing” but it felt so far from the old days of gladiators with the white hats that it makes me sad.  This is another show that I will continue to watch because of history and because it is in its final season, but it is a shadow of its first 3 seasons.

htgawm4However, the other Shondaland show that I watch, How to Get Away With Murder, seems to be better than it has been since the first season.  I am fully engaged in the new mystery, and I want to know what is going on.  I am also enjoying the cat and mouse discussions between Annalise and Dr. Roa.  Viola Davis and Jimmy Smits make an amazing pair and this episode showed what we have to look forward to this season.  This episode also included a powerhouse performance from L. Scott Caldwell (Rose from LOST) as Annalise’s first defendant since being reinstated as a lawyer.  This show has started extremely compelling.

Image result for gotham season 4 episode 3The Riddler escaped the ice on Gotham while Bruce Wayne continued to move closer to the Dark Knight persona.  Jim Gordan went to try and find help from the former gangland leader Carmine Falcone to overcome the Penguin’s grip on Gotham City.  However, Carmine tells us he is dying.  Still, his daughter, Sophia, has returned to help. I don’t know if this is the new love interest for Jim, but I am intrigued for sure.  Gotham continues to be a solid show and continues to be a much improved show from its first couple of seasons.

Image result for 10 days in the valleyI saw four new series this week.  First one was last Sunday on ABC.  Ten Days in the Valley starred Kyra Sedgwick and told the story about her daughter  who was kidnapped.  There are several mysteries involved in the new show and there are some really strong new characters with some unknown motives.

Image result for the giftedNext show was the new X-Men universe show, The Gifted.  This one was better than I thought it would be.  We saw some cool X-Men characters including Polaris and Blink.  The heroes being chased by the Sentinal Services.  That name would make any comic fan take notice.  The effects were good too, so The Gifted has got me hooked in.

Image result for ghostedThird new show is Ghosted.  This one I had no intention of watching and I thought that I would not enjoy it.  Boy I was wrong.  This one was really enjoyable.  It was not the stupid comedic spoof that I thought it was.  It felt like an X-Files episode that leaned toward comedy.  There were plenty of those and they were some of the best.  This one has some real potential.

Related imageThe fourth new show was The Mayor.  I had seen a lot of promotion for this show and so I gave it a chance.  It was okay.  I did not hate it.  I might give it another chance, but there will need to be something more than what they gave us on Tuesday for it to become a regular watch for me.

 

Go Dodgers!  Happy viewing

Victoria & Abdul

Image result for victoria and abdul movie poster

The film claims that this is a true story…”mostly,” which immediately begs the question of how much of this story was made up for the big screen.

The film tells of the unlikely friendship between Queen Victoria of England (Judi Dench) and an Indian man Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal)whom started as a servant for her and ended her “Munshi” (teacher), and the hullabaloo this relationship brought about among the royal family and the other servants of the Royal family.

The film is, once again, a master class performance from the wonderful Judi Dench.  She so much to the historical figure of Queen Victoria in a simple, yet impressively complex way.  In just a few scenes, I understood completely why she became so platonicly smitten with the Indian clerk and why his arrival took her from someone who had to be helped from bed in the morning to someone who was figuratively embracing life with both hands.   The power of her subtle performance was amazing to watch and it reminds you of how great this woman truly is.

Ali Fazal was a good scene partner, but, to be honest, he did not reach the same level of excellence as Dench did.  Part of the reason stems from the character of Abdul not being as fully fleshed out as Victoria.  I was never quite sure why he was so loyal to the Queen or why he was willing to do everything that he did for her.

Because of that lack of a second side, I found the film fairly fluffy.  Instead of taking a potentially powerful story and going for it, the film seemed to play it safe with the controversial relationship and made much of the tone of the film comedic.  Deeper ideas were touch upon but were never supported or expanded upon.

And that is not a bad thing.  The film is completely watchable and enjoyable as is.  It did not need to be a deeper film and it absolutely can exist as a saccharine film.  I just felt as if there were opportunities to take this and explore some of the racial issues of the time in a deeper manner than which the film did.  I mean, it is there, but the context is very subtle.

Victoria & Abdul is a lightweight biopic featured around a relationship that the Royal Family had attempted to hide from the world after the death of the Queen.  Some information was found in one of Victoria’s summer homes over 100 years later and that led to a book entitled, Victoria & Abdul: The True Story of the Queen’s Closest Confidant to be written.  Judi Dench brings everything to this film and her second portrayal of Queen Victoria is worth seeing.  Unfortunately, this is a generally forgettable film.

3.4 stars

Screen Junkies Controversy

Image result for andy signore

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to write about this, but I decided that the issue was too important to ignore.

Andy Signore, the creator of Honest Trailers and one of the driving forces behind Screen Junkies, has been suspended by Screen Junkies’ parent company Defy Media this past Friday for reported sexual harassment.  Several women have come forward over the last few days claiming that Signore harassed them, which included one woman who claimed that Sigmore tried to sexually assault her.

April Dawn claimed on Twitter that Signore attempted to sexually assault her and tried to keep her quiet by threatening to fire her boyfriend, Screen Junkies’ employee Josh Tapia (known as JTE).

In a statement, Defy Media said: “We at Defy Media have no tolerance for harassment or retaliation of any kind. We have been conducting a thorough investigation into allegations made against Andy Signore and are preparing to respond to those allegations and take appropriate action. Given the additional statements that were made [Friday], we feel it is necessary to suspend Andy’s employment while we continue our investigation. We will take all necessary action once the investigation is fully complete.”

This was a difficult story to hear.  I am a fan of Screen Junkies and their content.  I have been watching Movie Fights for over two years now, and I was a subscriber to their attempted streaming service.  I have followed them to YouTube after that service ended. Andy Signore was the judge on the Movie Fights show and that is how I was introduced to him, before I knew of his power behind the scenes.  I did not always agree with Signore in his judgment on the show, but I always respected his opinions.

Then this news broke.

Reading tweets from other employees of Screen Junkies was heartbreaking.  Dan Murrell, Roth Cornet , Lon Harris, Billy “Business” Patterson, Spencer Gilbert, and Joe Starr all had tweets that reflected their shock and disgust over the allegations.  Some of them went as far as saying they would not return to work until something was done.  We also saw tweets from Screen Junkies guests such as Scott Mantz, Roger Barr, Steven Rocha, Josh Macuga weighed in with their thoughts.

I had missed the Movie Fights show Thursday night and I watched it today.  It featured Andy as a judge with Murrell on the panel against JTE.  It was surreal.  Watching the show, I couldn’t help but think about how this was recorded live the night before the story broke on Friday and how awkward some of this must have been.  Plus, it is very possible that this was the final Movie Fights appearance for Signore.

What does all of this mean for Screen Junkies?  I have enjoyed their work for many years now, but how will this affect them?  I hope the channel can survive this controversy.

However, there is no room in the world for this type of behavior.  You are innocent until proven guilty, but it sounds as if the evidence is pretty damning.  No woman should be trivialized or assaulted, physically or verbally, by a man under any circumstances, though someone using their position of power to lord over them is even worse.

I want to state that I respect these women for their bravery and their honesty coming forward to tell their stories.  Too many times in our society, the victims are seen as the villains and are criticized or attacked.  That is unfair, but it is a sad truth of the world we live in.  These women have been supported by many, including Dan Murrell, who wrote on Twitter that “I hear you and I believe you.”

I can’t imagine what these men and women are feeling.  It is a tough situation.  We, as fans, feel like we know these people whom we watch and connect.  This is a reminder that these people are still truly strangers to us, no matter how much we feel like we know them.  It is impossible to know them fully from just their on-screen persona.

To anyone who feels as if they are being victimized, don’t take it.  Speak up.  Come forward.  It is the only way it can get better.

As for the Screen Junkies, I will continue to support your work because I am not going to hold Andy Signore’s alleged impropriety against you.  That would not be fair.

I love live tweeting during Movie Fights Live or TV Fights Live and one of my favorite things is when either Dan Murrell or Billy Business reads one of my tweets from the Embrace Your Geekness account.  I hope that this new does not finish that enjoyment, but I am happy that these women may get their justice as well.

 

 

Blade Runner 2049

Image result for blade runner 2049 movie poster

Denis Villeneuve has become one of our top new directors over the last few years as he has had some tremendous successes with Sicario, Prisoners and Arrival.  There couldn’t be a better director to step into the shoes of Ridley Scott and create the long-awaited sequel to his sci-fi classic Blade Runner.

I have only ever seen Blade Runner once, and, to be honest, I found it a little slow.  I had really wanted to re-watch the original prior to seeing the new film, but, unfortunately, I could not find the time.  I did not know how that might affect my enjoyment of the new film.

Happily, I did not feel the need to have seen the first film as I watched Blade Runner 2049.

The new Blade Runner movie is very complex.  It is long and, at times, very plodding, but in a very good way.  The story has just enough familiar beats to it to make you understand that you are existing in the Blade Runner universe created back in 1982, but also has plenty of originality of its own.

Multiple-time Oscar nominated cinematographer Roger Deakins is absolutely at the top of his game as this film is a piece of visual art.  The cinematography is unbelievably tremendous and should end that losing streak Deakins has had in the Oscar race.

The cinematography is really aided by the sound of this movie.  The music and the sound effects are amazing and blend together seamlessly.

There are many top notch performances in Blade Runner 2049, especially from Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford.  Both of these actors bring the goods here.  Ford has not been this good in quite a while.  They have an easy relationship and chemistry and the film pops when they are both on screen.

Sylvia Hoeks as Luv is the standout villain in the film.  She steals just about every scene she is in and she kicks some mighty butt in her action scenes.  She has some great moments with Robin Wright as well.

Dave Bautista was another great performance, although a short one.  Bautista has really been solid in his roles, and this one sets the standard for what we would see.

I am avoiding any recaps to prevent any spoilers because I think going into the film with just the barest knowledge of what was going to happen really helped the film.

There is a major drawback to the film though and it is the role of Jared Leto.  Leto is barely in the film and his character, Niander Wallace, is a major disappointment.  Luv blows Wallace away with intensity, energy and development.  Leto could easily be removed from this film without there being any loss in story, plot or characterization.  That is a serious failure for a great actor.

Spectacular in scope and cinema, Blade Runner 2049 has a lot to offer to fans of sci-fi.  It is a long movie and it might be a challenging watch for the typical movie going audience, but the film is worth the time it takes.

4.2 stars

Gerald’s Game

Image result for gerald game movie poster

I am unsettled.

I did not know this was a Stephen King adaptation until after I finished the movie.  I also did not know that this was directed by Mike Flanagan, who was responsible for some great horror/thriller films the last few years including Hush, Oculus and the surprisingly entertaining sequel Ouija:  Origin of Evil.

Perhaps if I knew any of this, I would have had higher expectations for Gerald’s Game on Netflix.  However, I did not know, so when I heard Chris Stuckmann say he had a review coming on this film (during his review on Flatliners), I thought I would check it out as well.

And I am unsettled.

Gerald (Bruce Greenwood) and Jesse (Carla Gugino) are a married couple who head to an isolated house for some role play in an attempt to spice up their marriage.  After having both hands handcuffed to the best posts, Jesse watches in horror as Gerald has a heart attack, falls off the bed, strikes his head and dies.

Worse yet, there is a hungry stray dog that has found his way into the house and has begun to pull the meat off of the corpse to eat.

At this point, it becomes a survival story for Jesse, who begins to hallucinate conversations with Gerald and with herself.  She also starts to remember something horrible that happened to her as a young girl.

Did I mention that I was unsettled?

Carla Gugino was amazing in this role.  She brought all kinds of tension and suspense into the situation and you really feel for her.  You believe that she is in a panic to try to find a way to free herself while she still could and you can see how she is slowly losing it.

And I really hated that dog.

Then, thanks to those flashbacks, the film became, dare I say it, creepier.  I think I felt my skin crawl several times.  Henry Thomas (yes, Elliott from ET) is just as horrendous as any character in any film this year.  Thomas does a magnificent job.  I hated him more than the dog.

As the film continued, it only got tougher to watch.  I could feel the stress with each worse moment that would happen to Jesse.

Then, when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, a weird character shows up and brings that level of tension even higher.  You don’t know if he is just a figment of her dehydrated imagination or something even more sinister.

There are a lot of emotions that the viewer of this film goes through and they are well earned.  There are several moments when I have to turn my head away because it was just too brutal to watch.  I cared for this character and I wanted things to work out for her.

This is a great Stephen King film that really works you over.  This is a tough watch, but I truly respected the journey. This is a character study and there is no jump scares.  The scares are well earned.

And be ready to be unsettled.

4.5 stars

 

The TV Week That Was

spoilers

Big week as the Fall TV Season is well underway.

Image result for star trek discoveryStarting off last Sunday night, I saw the premiere episode of Star Trek: Discovery on CBS.  I was watching it as well as trying to watch the WWE No Mercy PPV at the same time, so there was some lack of focus.  I thought Discovery’s first episode was okay.  It was certainly a beautifully shot show and some of the characters were interesting.  I am not sure it was quite a Star Trek series, as the whole Vulcan strategy of shooting first against the Klingons did not seem very Star Trekkie to me.  I did not watch episode two since you had to go online ot watch it.  This is one of those shows that I will most likely not watch, especially since it is on CBS All Access.  Had it been on CBS itself, then I might have given it a chance, but I will not be paying for another streaming service just to see it, even if I did like the show.

Image result for cesaro loses his teeth at no mercyAs I mentioned, I was also watching No Mercy on the WWE Network.  There were two big time matches that felt like Wrestlemania matches: John Cena vs. Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar vs. Braun Strowman.  Unfortunately, I found both to be underwhelming.  Cena-Reigns was a good match but I did not like the ending.  Lesnar vs. Strowman was just disappointing.  The best match of the night was Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins defeating Cesaro and Sheamus.  Cesar had his teeth driving into his gums and blood was everywhere.  The Swiss Superman still finished the match.  He is quite the stud.

Image result for oprah on 60 minutesAnd as I was waiting for Star Trek to start, I ran across Oprah Winfrey on CBS’s 60 Minutes.  I did not know that Oprah was joining the news show and her piece this first week was bringing together a group of people who both supported and opposed Donald Trump and see what connections that could be made.  Honestly, this was a fascinating story as it made you look at these people (from Michigan, if I remember correctly) who had differing opinions on Trump and how they believed what they believed.  Oprah did a good job of keeping things cordial despite a couple of blow ups.  This being 60 Minute’s 50th season, Oprah will help bring the goods to the show.

Image result for sheldon proposes to amyI watched the Big Bang Theory on Monday night.  I had not watched the show much the last season or so, but I always liked it.  I know there is a lot of hate for the Big Bang Theory online but I have never understood that.  It was nice to see Sheldon propose to Amy and then to be immediately interrupted by a phone call.  This was a very in-character bit for Sheldon.  Thing is, very few characters have had the development over a series as Sheldon has.  Having said that, BBT did feel its age for the rest of the episode.  This is the 11th season and many of the jokes of the show felt tired.  It is perhaps nearing time for the show to move off into the night.

Image result for young sheldonThe Big Bang Theory was followed by Young Sheldon, the new show about the childhood of Sheldon Cooper in high school as a young boy.  This show was enjoyable but I did not find it as laugh out loud funny as some of the early seasons of the Big Bang Theory.  I think there may be some problems with the concept (such as how do you show any character development for Sheldon if he is to turn out like he did for the first season of BBT?)  Still, the young actor playing Sheldon (Iain Armitage) does a great job and the actress doing her best Laurie Metcalf (the BBT’s Mary Cooper) impersonation, Zoe Perry, is actually Metcalf’s daughter.  The mother-son relationship here is no doubt going to be fascinating.

That’s the most CBS shows I have ever commented about.

Related imageABC had a new show called The Good Doctor starring Freddie Highmore as an Autistic savant doctor.  Highmore was really good in the role, but the show itself was kind of weak.  This is another show that I might have to give a couple of episode to get the flow going, but, since it is on Monday nights opposite RAW, it might get pushed aside.  Highmore was brilliant for five seasons on Bates Motel and I feel like I want to give him another chance.

Image result for big mouth netflixI came across another new series on Netflix this weekend and I am about halfway through the binge.  It was called Big Mouth and it is an animated show from Nick Kroll.  It is a coming of age story, but extremely dirty and sexually based.  There are a lot of dick jokes and a lot of jokes about jerking off and every other hormone-induced action teens do.  It is quite funny, but if you offend easily, it is probably not for you.  Think Family Guy without the network censors.  So far I have not grown tired of the jokes (I am not a huge fan of this kind of humor) and the characters are actually quite good.  The last episode featured a voice-over cameo from Nathan Fillion, which is always fun.  I think that I will be finishing the binge on this show so we can see how far they might push it.

Image result for whose line season finale brad and wayne les mizWhose Lien is it Anyway had its season finale for the time being, with an episode featuring fourth chair specialist, Brad Sherwood.  The first game featured was “Hollywood Director” and it found the crew bringing up 20-25 members of the audience to participate in a Les Miz style song.  It is consistently amazing what the show is able to convince its audience to do.  One of the newest games included Brad and Wayne using cell phones form the audience and they could only use lines that were in the phone text already and Colin had to play the straight man.  Whose Line is a classic and hopefully it will be back soon.

Image result for designated survivor season 2Designated Survivor returned on Wednesday with a new problem for President Kirkman.   A plane full of hostages, including some Americans, finds itself in-between troubles with Russia and Ukraine.  As it turned out, one of Kirkman’s old friends happened to be on the plane.  Was he able to get the opposite sides to free the hostages without a major international incident?  Yes and no, I guess as his friend wound up dead.  Kiefer Sutherland looked very presidential here, unlike some…

Image result for speechless BrandySpeechless returned with a wonderful episode featuring the return form camp for JJ.  However, JJ missed out on his first kiss because he did not see the note.  The family went out of their way in a touching way to get JJ back in contact with the girl.  This episode featured a brilliant musical parody of “Brandy” by Looking Glass with Kenneth singing the song as a diss to the DiMeos clan.  It brought a huge smile to my face for the entire run of the song.

In fact… here it is…

 

Image result for gordon vs scarecrow season 4 episode 2Gotham continues its push toward Batman as Bruce Wayne received a more impactful suit from Lucius Fox.  Meanwhile, Jim Gordon continues to fight to prevent Penguin from licensing criminals making crime legal.  The GCPD did not have Gordon’s back, since they liked not being killed constantly by the crazy criminal element in Gotham. With as many cops as have died in seasons 1-3, who can blame them.  However, it meant that Jim had to face off against Scarecrow all by himself inside Arkham.  We also got some development of Poison Ivy and the other ladies teamed up (including the not dead Barbara).

Related imageAnnalise Keating returned in ABC’s How to Get Away With Murder, starting up a new mystery for season four, as well as continuing the story from season 3.  The tag at the end where we wonder what happened to Laurel’s baby.  Annalise had called the group together to tell them that she was not being disbarred, but they were all dismissed.  She provided letters of recommendation to each of the crew, who were anything but enthused with her dismissal.  Before this in the episode, there were some truly powerhouse scenes with Viola Davis and Cicely Tyson as Annalise’s mother.  We also met Jimmy Smits, who has a role this season- exactly what is yet to be determined.

Image result for baldwin trump new season cold openSaturday Night Live returned as well with a new season where they left off… with Emmy Award winner Alec Baldwin skewering President Trump.  Seeing Kate McKinnon as Jeff Sessions sitting on Baldwin’s Trump’s lap is just so surreal that it can’t help but be funny.  Plus, fresh off their own show during the summer, Weekend Update with Colin Jost and Michael Che is great satire on the world as a whole.  Weekend Update hasn’t been this topical in years.

Image result for 2017 mlb postseasonMajor League Baseball will begin its playoffs this week.  In the National League, the wild card teams playing a one game play in are the Arizona Diamondback and the Colorado Rockies with the winner of that game to play the Los Angeles Dodgers.  In the American League, the wild card teams are the New York Yankees and the Minnesota Twins.  The winner of that game will play the Cleveland Indians.  The other two series include the Washington Nationals vs. the defending World Series Champions the Chicago Cubs and then Boston Red Sox vs. the Houston Astros.  MLB action!

Later tonight is the season finale of Rick and Morty and the debut of the new ABC series Ten Days in the Valley.

Happy viewing

Flatliners (2017)

Flatliners Movie Poster

Sometimes a film can get by with an interesting concept but not much else.

This is not one of those times.

The new remake of the 1990 film Flatliners arrived in theaters this weekend already D.O.A. and no amount of resuscitation would help this film’s heart to keep beating.

I am sure that I am not the only movie reviewer to start off their review of Flatliners with some bad puns, because that is about what this remake is worth.  Originally, there had been some rumors that, because we saw that Kiefer Sutherland, who appeared in the original film, was in this as well, it was actually a sequel to the first film.  You can put that rumor to rest.  Flatlines is not a sequel but a lukewarm and, at many times, dull remake of the Kiefer Sutherland-Julia Roberts film.

The idea is sound.  A group of medical students get together to try and discover the secrets of the afterlife by having the others stop their hearts  so their brain responses to the “near-death experience” could be recorded and studied.  Courtney (Ellen Page) started the experiments and recruited other interns Sophia (Kiersey Clemons) and Jamie (James Norton) to help.  When it appeared as if Courtney was not going to be revived from her trip into death, they called on the help of Ray (Diego Luna) and Marlo (Nina Dobreva).  When Courtney returned to the world of the living, she seemed to have re-wired her brain and she could do many new and sparkly things and the others wanted their turn.

Little did they know that there was something dark and sinister waiting for them when they returned.

So much of this new version of Flatliners makes no sense and there are characters who do certain actions that are, simply put, stupid choices that only are made to further the plot.  No normal human being would make some of the decisions that these obviously stupid reason-for-malpractice-insurance group of doctors would make.

Let’s look at Ray, whom I actually did like.  At first when he found out about the experiment, he was all “you can’ do that” and then he joined them again.  After that he was partying with them, doing shots, but he was still not sure if this was anything but silliness.  Still, he was right there with the group each time.  He was flip-flopping all over the place taking away any credibility the character may have had.

The film starts with a really dumb car crash that is supposed to provide Courtney with a motive to pursue this experiment, but it does not sufficiently provide said motivation.  In fact, it is only meant to be more confusing.

The dialogue was terrible, bordering on laughable.  No human beings speak like that.  It joins in with the weakness in story, plot and conclusion.  The ending is totally a joke.  We never really understand what the dark force that was trying to kill these flatliners was… except it went away fairly easily.   There was an interesting possible story here, but the film seemed to do anything it could to avoid telling it.

The characters were all unlikable, except perhaps for Courtney because she was being played by the strong actress Ellen Page.  The rest of the crew were average to below average.

Worse yet, the film makers tried to throw a bunch of jump scares into the movie to ratchet up the intensity level, but none of them were anything but your typical, low-budget horror movie jump scares that you see a hundred times during a year.  There was nothing special about these scares.

I do not remember much about the original Flatliners movie.  I do believe I saw it, but it did not stick with me much.  Perhaps I should revisit it to see how much better it is than this film.  It has to be better than this film.  The new version of Flatliners was a bad movie.

1.2 stars

Stronger

Stronger Movie Poster

Jake Gyllenhaal is truly one of the best actors we have today.  He is consistently performing at high levels no matter what the film or how meaty a role.

Well, in the new biopic Stronger, Gyllenhaal has a real meaty role as Jeff Bauman, one of the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing.  Bauman lost both of his legs in the terror attack, but he still was able to provide police with a description of the bomber, helping to bring the killers to justice.  Because of his actions despite his tragic loss, Bauman became an inspiration to many people, particularly in Boston where he was referred to as “Boston Strong.”

This was one of the problems.

In the film, we see Bauman struggling not only with the loss of his legs, which was certainly enough of a challenge, but also struggling with the concept of people looking up to him or being inspired by him.  Bauman could not understand why these people were turning him into a hero and felt confused as to the reasoning.  This was one of the most intriguing aspects of this film because it was something that we hadn’t seen before.

Gyllenhaal was again spectacular in this role.  He has a remarkable skill of being able to lose himself in a role.  Most big stars, even in good performances, are basically that star.  Every time you see a Tom Cruise movie, Tom Cruise is basically playing a version of himself (yes, there are exceptions, but you get the idea).  Gyllenhaal, on the other hand, is like a chameleon in a way because I never once looked at this movie and thought to myself, “hey, it is Jake Gyllenhaal acting.”  Instead, he was the character he was playing.  Nightcrawler is another brilliant example of a time when Jake becomes more than his star.

Tatiana Maslany, from Orphan Black fame, played Bauman’s girlfriend Erin and she does a magnificent job as well.  The movie does a fantastic job of not only showing how this injury affected Bauman, but also how it affected the people in his life, especially Erin.  This relationship felt real and was another strength of this movie.

The story is very powerful and can hit hard many times.  There are a lot of emotional blows throughout the film that do not feel exploitative.

The film is also very much a love letter to Boston.  Boston Strong is a huge theme moving through the movie and the background actors are very realistic in their Boston behaviors.

Stronger is a really great film with a fantastic pair of performances from Jake Gyllenhaal and Tatiana Maslany.  It is an emotional ride in a serious and troubling manner.  It might be a little too long and there may have been too much of Bauman’s family involved in the story, but the film wisely takes its time to develop the characters that we really need to see.  Jeff Bauman did not feel comfortable being the symbol of hope to the people of Boston and it nearly destroyed him.

4 stars

Battle of the Sexes

Battle of the Sexes Movie Poster

One of the most infamous moments in sports history of the 1970s is being analyzed in the new film, Battle of the Sexes, starring Steve Carell and Emma Stone.

Of course the moment I am talking about is the tennis match between Women’s tennis star Billie Jean King and senior tour and former tennis legend Bobby Riggs.  The match between these two was at the center point of the argument of equality of the sexes in sports and in society, an argument that we are still having today.

Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) has become a hustler, someone using his great skills in tennis to con his friends out of money.  A obsessive gambler, Riggs was always looking to find that next big money making opportunity.  When a dispute between Billie Jean King and Jack Kramer (Bill Pullman) led to King pulling out of the tennis organization to create another one, Riggs saw an opportunity.  He challenge King to a one-on-one battle of the sexes.

King refused and continued on with her career, but when Women Tennis #1 player in the world Margaret Court (Jessica McNamee) accepted and was defeated by Riggs, Billie Jean felt as if she had no choice but to defend women tennis players everywhere from the self-referred “chauvinist pig” in Riggs.

The film features much more than just the match though.  It deals with both individual characters and their lives in great deal, especially the struggle of Billie Jean King trying to deal with her sexual status.  Though married, King had an affair with a hairdresser Marilyn (Andrea Riseborough) and she found herself distracted and confused.

Riggs, on the other hand, had to deal with his gambling that took a toll on his own family, in particular, his crumbling marriage to his wife Priscilla (Elizabeth Shue).  Riggs is portrayed very interestingly here as he seemed to be a showman, and I even thought for part of the time that he did not actually believe the garbage that he was spewing.

One of the most fascinating parts of this film was the historical setting that the film took place within as the attitude of men when dealing with women at the time was astounding.  Someone like Jack Kramer is out and out a chauvinist and he said things that were shockingly rude, and yet was typical of the time.  We even heard words of condescension from Howard Cosell, who actually called the match for ABC.  Though there are still many issues when dealing with women’s rights and the equality of the sexes, seeing how the world was at this time was a real eye opener.

I did find that the film dragged a little bit during the middle of the film and I am not sure that I ever truly bought the relationship between King and Marilyn as portrayed here.

The true strength of this movie is the performances of its two lead actors.  Steve Carell and Emma Stone are wonderful here and I would have liked to see even more of the interactions between them.  I think Carell in particular brought the charismatic and enigmatic Bobby Riggs to life on the screen and you find yourself rooting for him.  He was not just the misogynistic villain of the film, but instead a real person that you can’t help but like.

The tennis scenes at the end of the movie are tremendous and really put a strong mark on the film itself.

Battle of the Sexes shines a light on a really amazing time in the world of sports as Billie Jean King took a huge stand against the tennis establishment and brought along with her an entire generation of women libbers.

3.7 stars