NXT Takeover: War Games

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Hanson launches himself onto O'Reilly and sends him crashing through the hardwood!

Tower of Doom!

Ricochet hits a double rotation moonsault from the top of the cage!

Dream goes for his second Purple Rainmaker, but Ciampa rolls out of the way...

WWE Photo

Photos from WWE.com

NXT Takeover WarGames 2 happened last night and one has to wonder why this show NEVER FAILS.  No mater what NXT performers are on the card, the show just is filled with amazing action, great drama and wrestling.

We see the main roster events and they, more often than not, are nowhere near as entertaining as NXT specials.  Now, there are few NXT events on the WWE Network than WWE PPVs.  That has to be taken into account, but still.  There has not been one Takeover special that has been a disappointment.

WarGames last night was insane with Ricochet, Pete Dunn and the War Raiders defeating the Undisputed ERA after Ricochet and Dunn co-pinned Adam Cole (Bay Bay).  This followed some fantastic storytelling inside the match as well as insane spots that looked amazing.

And an argument could be made that this brilliant WarGames was the third best match on the card.

Johnny Gargano vs. Aleister Black and Tommaso Ciampa vs. Velveteen Dream were perhaps the best back-to-back singles matches in history.  Both matches would be pushing five star classics.  Johnny Gargano has been in more Match of the Year candidates than any other performer in WWE.  By far.

Ciampa is maybe the best heel going today.  The Velveteen Dream is going to be a massive star, and he is only 23 years old.

Then the show kicked off with a quick squash match for the King of the Bros, Matt Riddle.  Plus, an entertaining women’s match with Shayna Baszler vs. Kairi Sane, what more could you want?

I think a major issue with WWE is how these unbelievably entertaining and remarkably talented performers get lost when they arrive on the main roster. They obviously thrive in the world of NXT,but the main roster seems to chew them up and spit them out.  Why is that?  Is it the performers fault?  I have a feeling that is what is being said backstage, but when there are more performers who were amazing at NXT but under-performing on the main roster, shouldn’t creative have their share of the blame?

Andrade “Cien”Almas is the latest example of a man who will be in the Top 10 matches of the year list on NXT but lost in the shuffle at Smackdown.  There really can’t be that big of difference is there?

It has taken Bayley years to recover (if she has) from the disastrous run on the main roster.  She was once one of the hottest acts on NXT.

Thankfully, it looks as if the Authors of Pain have been allowed now to become what they are instead of becoming the next Ascension.

There are too many to be coincidence.  Creative is the problem.  Vince is the problem.

One day, perhaps we could have WWE giving us one success after another.  Maybe.

Until then, we are NXT.

Can You Ever Forgive Me?

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Melissa McCarthy has been in a rut for awhile now.  Most of her movie roles over the last several years were similar.  She was playing a “Melissa McCarthy” type.  In the drama St. Vincent with Bill Murray, she showed she had more acting chops than we thought, but we hadn’t seen her take this type of a role since.

Can You Ever Forgive Me is the most unlikely role Melissa McCarthy has ever taken on and she just knocks it out of the park.

Lee Israel (McCarthy) is a down on her luck author, desperately trying to complete her latest book to get some money.  She is behind on her rent.  Her cat is sick.  She is a heavy drinker.  Her agent (Jane Curtin) won’t return her phone calls.     What can she do?

When she finds a letter written by Fanny Bryce, she discovers that there is a market for old personal memorabilia of old time stars.  Lee decides that she would take advantage of this situation and forge these letters by using her own talents as a writer to make the letters very personalized.

I found this movie completely engaging and entertaining.  I thought Melissa McCarthy was astounding as Lee Israel.  The great Richard E. Grant as Jack Hock was amazing casting. The relationship between Lee and Jack was one of depth and realism.  Their friendship was uncertain but different than most you see on the screen.  Two pretty wicked people finding a fellow scammer in each other.

Despite Lee Israel being a unlikable person, you can relate to her and connect with her.  She has problems that all of us have and she is only doing what she can to try and solve them.  She makes bad choices in the long run, but you can understand why.  At first, she was just trying to get the vet to help her cat (By the way, I hated that veterinarian who is turning away this poor sick cat over 80 some dollars.  Screw you, vet).

You can tell that Lee is enjoying her success and the money that is coming with it as the whole act strokes on her ego.  McCarthy does the whole thing brilliantly.

I believe Melissa McCarthy is absolutely an Oscar worthy nominee this year as Best Actress for this role. She should be awarded for taking something different and doing it so well.  It very well could be a career resurgence.

4.85 stars

 

 

 

Instant Family

I saw a review of this movie on Collider Movie Review Talk by William Bibbiani that summed up this movie with one perfect word:  “Lovely.”

That word from Bibs was the ideal word to describe Instant Family, which has a ton of heart, some wonderful moments of emotion and some great family drama.  And it had a bunch of humor that fit right in with the tone of the film.  It was not a “Daddy’s Home” type film that is was marketed as.  It was heartfelt and the humor was real.

Pete (Mark Wahlberg) and Ellie (Rose Byrne) are a married couple that find that they are missing something and they decided to become a foster family with the idea of adopting.  After meeting a fiery teen Lizzy (Isabela Moner), Pete and Ellie are intrigued.  However, Lizzy comes along with a brother Juan (Gustavo Quiroz) and sister Lita (Julianna Gamiz) and the trio is a handful.

I truly expected this to be an entirely different type of movie, but this turned out to be an exceptional film. The acting was spot on.  Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne had an easy chemistry and made a real, loving couple.  Young Isabela Moner is a future star.  She was tremendous as the troubled teen.  She shone every minute she was on screen.

Octavia Spencer and Tig Notaro were great together as the social workers assigned to the case of Pete and Ellie and the kids.  They were both entertaining and funny while delivering an important message.

Of course, the message of how important it is to have foster parents is very  vital, but, at times, heavy handed in the movie.  I mean, the film ends with a web address to help provide info for those wishing to adopt children in the system.  It felt too much like an infomercial during the film.  It is not a major issue, but it was noticeable.

In the end, this was a highly entertaining and funny movie with a message worth giving.  There are strong performances and the film thankfully goes in a different path than you expect.

As Bibs said, “It was lovely.”

4.6 stars

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

Fantastic Beasts Crimes of Grindelwald 27x40 Original Theater D/S Poster Final

I was not a fan of the first Fantastic Beasts film so I was not looking forward to the sequel.  Still, the creative forces behind Harry Potter usually meant that their films were reasonably entertaining so I hoped that I would find the sequel an improvement.

Nope.

I found much of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald to be boring and confusing.  Honestly, there were many moments where I had no idea what was going on and I even took an extended break to go to the concession stand during the middle of the film.  I did not find it engaging at all.

I will say that the opening scene had some cool visuals and grabbed my attention.  Unfortunately, it failed to maintain such an interest.

After his misadventures in New York in the first film, Newt (Eddie Redmayne) found himself grounded, unable to travel internationally.  Still, when Dumbledore (Jude Law) needs Newt to go to France, he finds a nearby bucket and off they go.

Fortunately, Jacob Kalowski (Dan Fogler) arrived with Newt just in time to go with him.  His love Queenie (Alison Sudol) left him when he expressed a reasonable concern over them getting married.  And then Newt had googly eyes over Tina (Katherine Waterston) without ever really looking at her, and trying to avoid his brother Theseus (Callum Turner).

The plot of this movie is all over the place and is desperately confusing.  Despite there being way too many plot threads, I honestly cannot think of anything.  They clearly did not stand out.

Johnny Depp appears as Grindelwald and he is one of the worst parts of this movie.  Grindelwald is very lacking in any real intrigue or interest.  Outside of Depp’s typical weird hair/eyes, there is little to make this guy sinister or scary or intimidating.

Jud Law makes a good Dumbledore in the few scenes that we see him in.  Law is criminally underused.  There are also a criminal misuse of fantastic beasts, which is ironic in a film named Fantastic Beasts.

There are some decent moments, but the bad truly outweighs the good here.  The finale is downright dumb and lacks any true tension.

It was a long movie with the plot making it f3el even longer.  The best part of the original Fantastic Beasts film was the interactions with the four stars, but this film breaks them apart and keeps them away from one another for much of the film.  Redmayne was fine as Newt.  Jude Law was good as Dumbledore and I would like to see an extended role in future installments.  Depp’s character was lacking any pizazz.

I did not feel connected to any character here and so it did not bother me when things happened to them.  This series could really use some characters like Harry, Ron and Hermione.

2 stars

 

Beautiful Boy

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I wasn’t ready to be depressed tonight.

Beautiful Boy is a teen drug movie starring Timothée Chalamet and Steve Carell and the pair of them are amazing here.  Unfortunately, much of the movie itself was average at best and felt, at times, manipulative.

However, there is absolutely no denying that Timothée Chalamet nailed this.  He was superb as Nic, the young boy who finds himself addicted to drugs and unable to maintain his sobriety. As good as Chalamet was, I think Steve Carell matched with with every scene.  Carell provided such a remarkably subtle performance filled with nuances that made me believe that Carell was truly David, the father of this boy that, no matter what he did, he just could not help.

The rest of the cast is very good as well, with a special shout out to Maura Tierney as David’s second wife and step-mother to Nic.

Still, the story meanders around and, at times, feels more self-important than it needed to feel.  It felt a few times that my emotions were being manipulated and they were not just seriously reacting to the situations happening on the screen.

This is base don a true story, based on both the book written by David Sheff and the book written by Nic Sheff.

Still, the reason to see this is for the masterful performance from these two actors. Timothée Chalamet is amazing considering how young of an actor he is.  Steve Carell has improved with every outing and he matches his young co-star with every glance.  The performances make this much more compelling than it had a right to be.

3.1 stars

Uncanny X-Men #1

Uncanny X-Men#1

Disassembled Part 1

Writers:  Ed Brisson, Matthew Rosenberg & Kelly Thompson

Artist:  Mahmud Asrar

Cover Art:  Rachelle Rosenberg

The new X-Men title has debuted this week, returning to the original “Uncanny” label after a series of colors (Red, Blue, Black, Gold).

However, I found little to be overly X-cited about here.

The team of X-Men now include Nightcrawler, Storm, Jean Grey, Kitty Pryde, Bishop, Psylocke,X-23, Jubilee, Beast and Cannonball (with guest star Northstar).  The roster of X-Men changes more than any team (even the Avengers) and I am not sure why they even bother trying to make an X-clusive line up.  They should just call it Uncanny X-Men and whomever is in the book that week is in the book.

The X-Men themselves have slipped down my list, barely noticing that they are out.  I have not been intrigued much by the color titles and I have not been too into the X-Men books since they burned me out with the original X-Men from the past book.  I liked that at first, but the idea go old quickly.

Uncanny X-Men#1 (2019) was unremarkable to me.  It was fine, but it felt like I had seen this before.  It seemed like the same scenes that they have in every new X-book.  It was X-hausting.

That is…until the final few pages of the first story.  That was a strong end to a overall disappointing issue.  That is the type of final page that can bring back a reader who may not have been too impressed.

Of course, then they slapped on some back up stories which I admit freely to only skimming.  They did not interest me.

I will probably grab Uncanny X-Men#2 to see if the final page can build some momentum, but I am afraid it will just wind up to be that series that I buy but never get around to reading.

tryit

 

Widows

I liked the new Steve McQueen directed film, Widows.  I wanted to love it.  Unfortunately, I just could not get to that level.

Widows was fine, but I went in with high expectations and the film was not what I expected it to be.

When her thief husband (Liam Neeson) and his crew are killed in a robbery gone bad, Veronica (Viola Davis) gets stuck between her grief and loss and the people whose money was taken.  Veronica organized the wives of the crew to help her pull another job to get the money needed.

First of all, Viola Davis is the bomb.  She has a moment at the beginning of this movie after her husband is killed that might have guaranteed her another Oscar nomination.  She let loose a cry of anguish, only to pull it back insider her.  Viola Davis was absolutely tremendous in this movie and deserves all the credit.

In fact, the entire cast was very strong.  I really liked Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Colin Farrell, Daniel Kaluuya, Cynthia Erivo, and Brian Tyree Henry.  There were also great cameos from Robert Duvall and Jacki Weaver.  Acting here was top notch.

Fact is that Widows was considerably more of a slow build than I expected or than what this film sold itself as in its promotional material.  It turned out much slower than I thought it was going to be.  That is not necessarily a bad thing, but I got a little bored early as there were so many characters to set up and introduce.

The other problem was there was a twist that I won’t spoil, but I saw coming a mile away.  Anytime that happens, the film takes a hit in my eyes.

The subplot of the political race between Jack Mulligan (Colin Farrell) and Jamal (Brian Tyree Henry) felt forced and out of place here.  I’m still not sure how it really fit into the narrative and seemed too convoluted for what it was worth.  Colin Farrell’s character was all over the place in motivation and was not filled with common sense.

I really liked the tension and the higher stakes than your typical heist movies.  Usually, a heist movie is just a fun time in the robbery, but this was ugly and nasty.  It felt much more realistic than most heist films and I appreciated that fact.  Thing was though that the heist does not appear in the film until the very end of the movie.

I wish the film’s material and script could have brought it as much as Viola Davis did.  She was just awe inspiring with her performance, bringing pain and grief as well as anyone.  The performance elevated the material.

3.5 stars    

EYG Top 10 Bank Robbery Movies

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This week’s Top 10 Show with John Rocha and Matt Knost is honoring the release of Widows this weekend with Top 10 Bank Robbery Movies.   There are some interesting films on this list and a few that I have not included because I have not seen them.  Several of the films that made the Top 10 Show’s list are not on mine for that reason.

Image result for old man and the gun#10.  Old Man and the Gun.  This was the new (and supposedly final) movie from Robert Redford.  While I did not completely love the film, it was fine and I thought Robert Redford was very charming in the lead role.  While charming, I found the character played by Redford to be very selfish and disingenuous.  Still the film was solid enough to make my top ten.

 

Related image#9.  Now You See Me.  This one is not a overall favorite of a lot of people, but I found it to be decent.  I thought the magicians angle was fun and the creation of the group of magicians- brought a cool element to the film.  There is a great cast and the movie has an ending that twists your expectations.

 

 

Related image#8.  Point Break.  I am not a huge fan of Point Break, but you can understand the appeal of the movie.  Certainly, Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze made a great team and the action was top notch.  While I do not love this as much as many people do, it certainly belongs on this list of bank robbery movies.

 

 

Related image#7.  Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  Here is Robert Redford once again in one of the iconic roles of his long career.  This film brings a true story to life with such action and wildness and a great pairing between the two stars of the movie.  Redford and Newman would have a great career together for many years.

 

Image result for inside man#6.  Inside Man.  Spike Lee’s bank heist movie featuring Denzel Washington is one of Lee’s great films.  In fact, it is in my top two or three Spike Lee movies.  You bring this standoff to the forefront of the movie and you throw in a mystery of exactly what is going on here.  Inside Man is all about the bank robbery and its execution.

 

Image result for bonnie and clyde movie#5.  Bonnie and Clyde.  This one turned out to be one of the most shocking endings of all time as our real life criminal couple Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow ran roughshod across the country, living by their wits and good luck… that is until that luck ran out.   Great performances from Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway highlighted the movie.  We also got Gene Hackman, an Oscar winning performance from Estelle Parsons and a movie debut from Gene Wilder.  What more could you want?

 

Image result for baby driver#4.  Baby Driver.  Stylish and sexy, Baby Driver used movie music better than most musicals.  Ansel Elgort is tremendous as the lead character named baby, who uses his music to focus in on being the best getaway driver in the business.  Meanwhile, Baby is just trying to save up enough to get himself out of the life of crime he found himself stuck in.  A great cast is here, including a truly sinister performance from Jamie Foxx.

 

Image result for hell or high water#3.  Hell or High Water.  This is one of those movies that a lot of people missed, but just about everyone who saw it loved.  There is so much tension in the film with the brothers Chris Pine and Ben Foster who were being pursued by lawman Jeff Bridges.  Another example of the heroic criminals who are robbing these banks just because they need to survive in desperate times.  There is great tragedy in this film as well that it makes it one of the best of that year.

 

Image result for bandits movie#2.  Bandits.  I love this movie.  Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton as a pair of bank robbers who go to the house of the bank manager the night before and stay over so they can go with him/her to the bank in the morning.  Dubbed the “Sleepover bandits” Willis and Thornton show their great charisma here but their little world gets rocked by the inclusion of the unwanted hostage Cate Blanchett.  The triangle that forms with these three really cause problems and a whole lot of humor.  I consider this to be an underappreciated gem.

 

Related image#1.  Die Hard with a Vengeance.  This might be a bit of a cheat, but the plan of Simon Peter Gruber, the brother of Hans Gruber from Die Hard, was to rob the Federal Reserve Bank of New York so I think this counts.  And this is a great movie that shows of the easy chemistry between Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson.  Sure the ending of the movie is all messed up, but getting to that point was excellent.

 

Honorable Mentions:  I liked the original version of The Ladykillers (1955) and I considered the Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg vehicle 2 Guns.  I have not seen films such as Heat, The Town, Dog Day Afternoon.  I was not a huge fan of The Place Behind the Pines.

 

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EYG Top 10 Stan Lee Cameos

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I had not done one this past week because I hate Will Farrell and I was not inspired to do the Top 10 James Bond films, so I decided to skip the week.

Then, today, the worst news… legend Stan Lee passed away.

He meant so much to me that I decided that it was perfect now to do up my Top 10 Stan Lee cameos, because as we all know, the reason Marvel movies made so much money was because of Stan Lee cameos.  Or at least as Stan would joke.

Here are the EYG Top 10 Stan Lee cameos.

Image result for stan ;lee cameo Winter soldier#10.  Captain America: Winter Soldier.  Stan is the security guard at the Captain America museum where Steve Rogers “reclaims” his original uniform.  Stan finds the costume gone and says “Ah man, I am so fired.”  Very funny.

 

Image result for stan lee cameo big hero 6#9.  Big Hero 6.  One of the animated cameos that Stan made and this one was a complete surprise, ending up in the post credit scene.  We see Stan in a picture as Fred’s mysterious father.  This was an awesome appearance and he talks about the costume and his underwear.

 

Image result for stan lee cameo infinity war#8.  Avengers: Infinity War.  Stan was the driver of the bus that Peter Parker was on as the ships with Thanos’s Dark Order appear in New York City.  Stan turns to the screaming children and ask them if they have never seen a spaceship before.  Great line and very funny.

 

 

 

 

Related image#7.  Teen Titans Go! To the Movies.  Biggest meta surprise on this list.  Teen Titans is a DC Comics property and this was the first time that Stan made a cameo for DC Comics.  And it was tremendous.  His enthusiasm for the cameo was obvious and was a huge moment in the outstanding and surprising movie.

 

Image result for stan lee cameo willie lumpkin#6.  Fantastic Four.  Though this movie is not the greatest version of the FF ever put together, this was the only time where Stan was able to play a character that he actually created.  Willie Lumpkin, the beloved mailman of the Fantastic Four.  The FF is one of the biggest creations of Stan’s career and led the Marvel Universe into existence.

 

Image result for stan lee cameo avengers#5.  The Avengers.  The classic movie that brought together the great heroes of Marvel fore the first time had to have an appearance by Stan Lee.  And his cameo as a chess player in the park complaining about the Avengers couldn’t be much more perfect.  This was the picture that we use for the Stan Lee Cameo of the Year that we give out at EYG Year End Awards.

 

Image result for stan lee cameo avengers age of ultron#4.  Avengers: Age of Ultron.  This was a great cameo from the master.  There were even two scenes with Stan.  He played a war veteran at the Avengers’ dinner party who has discovered that he is not able to handle the Asgardian liquor.  He had to be helped from the room.

 

 

Related image#3.  Amazing Spider-Man.  Another film that was not the greatest film but the cameo was one of the best parts of the film.  Stan is a librarian who is listening to music and, somehow, cannot hear the epic battle behind him between Spider-man and the Lizard.  Spidey saving him from getting crushed by a table is everything someone could hope for.

 

Image result for stan lee cameo guardians 2#2.  Guardians of the Galaxy 2.  Stan Lee is a Watcher.  In the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Stan is shown speaking to a group of aliens that, we as Marvel fans recognize, as members of the Watchers.  This was a wink toward one of the online theories that Stan Lee, since he was in all these Marvel movies, was actually a Watcher.  This is a fun connection to that.  Of course, the watchers left him behind in the post credit scene.

 

Related image#1. Deadpool.  Stan Lee is a DJ at a strip club.  This is one more brilliantly funny moment in a great movie and Stan Lee was excited for Chastity, one of the strippers.  He plays very much against type with his role as the DJ and this was one of the funniest of them all.

 

Honorable mentionsCaptain America: Civil War (Fed Ex Driver), Iron Man 2 (Larry King), Hulk (security guard with Lou Ferrigno), Thor: Ragnarok (guy who cut Thor’s hair), Ant Man (bartender), Ant Man and the Wasp (Driver whose car gets shrunk), Venom (dog walker), Spider-Man (man who saves little girl), Daredevil (stopped by young Matt from getting hit by a bus).

Wikipedia indicated that Stan’s voice appears in Ralph Breaks the internet which is awesome.

Excelsior

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We knew it had to happen sooner or later.  I mean, he was 95 years old.  And yet, with the news today that Stan Lee, the mighty creator behind so many of the amazing, fantastic, uncanny, incredible, invincible, spectacular characters of the Marvel Universe, had died, I was caught surprised and shocked.

He truly felt like an immortal.

Stan Lee brought me personally so much enjoyment and pleasure through his words, adventures and characters that I have no idea the kind of person I would be had it not been for Stan Lee.  He inspired me.  He enthralled me.  He entertained me.  He was one of a kind.

Image result for stans soapboxI can remember back when I would read the Stan’s Soapbox near the end of each comic that I bought.  I desperately hoped to find something worthy of a No-Prize.  I loved his voice every weekend on Spider-man and his Amazing Friends.  Right up to the present day when part of the fun of a Marvel movie included keeping your eyes peeled for the obligatory Stan Lee cameo.

It is amazing how much a man can mean to you whom you never met.  I would have loved to have met Stan Lee.  His enthusiasm was infectious.  He was easy to laugh and his wry wit was wonderful (he always loved a little alliteration).

While I came to comics after his main run as a writer was over, his presence as Marvel Editor-in-Chief and the Face of Marvel was all-consuming.  It was so complete that even after Stan no longer worked for Marvel, he was still whom I pictured when talking about them.  Stan Lee was larger than anyone else.

Of course he was not alone in creating the Marvel super-heroes that would make such an enduring impact on my life, but I saw it that way.  With all due respect to Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and the other amazing creators who co-created this new age mythology with “The Man,” Stan was such a powerful sun that his light cast a huge shadow on the others.

When Stan’s beloved wife of nearly 70 years, Joan Lee, passed away in 2017, there were fears that Stan may not be long for this plane of existence.  He made it another 16 months before he was gone.  I hope they are having a wonderful reunion.

Image result for stan lee marvelNothing was more inspiring to me than Spider-man.  Stan’s indelible contributions to the creation of and maintenance of Peter Parker is something that I will always be thankful for.  Peter Parker showed me what it meant to be a hero.  How to face your problems with humor despite the nearly constant bad luck that life heaps upon you.  How it is more important to transcend those around you.  How important life is…even for those who hate you and would do anything to hurt you.  I loved it every time Spider-man put his life on the line to save one of the villains because that is what a hero would do.  I learned so much from that character.  Thank you Stan for helping me grow to a man.

I am proud to have inducted Stan Lee into the EYG Hall of Fame way back in 2010 as one of my Wild Cards.  No one has ever deserved the tribute more.

And while it may never truly be ‘Nuff Said, I am going to end my tribute to “The Man” the way he ended so many Stan’s Soapboxes.

Excelsior!

RIP Stan Lee.  Thank you.  You will be missed.

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Die Hard (1988)

Die Hard is one of my favorite movies of all time.  When someone asks me what my favorite movies are, this is one of the first couple that comes out of my mouth.  I absolutely adore this movie.  This year is the 30th anniversary of the release of Die hard.

It is clearly going to be…

paragon

The highest rating I have.

Let’s talk about this fantastic movie a bit.

I was a huge fan of Moonlighting the television program starring Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd so I was excited to see Bruce move into the world of film.  I had gone to see him in Blind Date, but that was anything but one of my favorites.

Then Die Hard came along.

It is just a brilliant action movie. One of the best, if not THE best action movie in history.  There are so many perfect beats in this film.

First of all, Bruce Willis is spot on.  He is so believable in the roll of everyman cop John McClane who finds himself in impossible situations in Nakatomi Plaza in California.  he is funny, witty, smart and brave and as easy to relate to as any protagonist you are going to find.

Then, we have one of the greatest villains in cinema history as well with Hans Gruber, the film debut of the brilliant Alan Rickman.  Hans was menacing and frightening without ever being over-the-top.  He was perfectly played by Rickman in his sinister manner.

The writing of the film is astounding.  Every little detail comes back and pays off.  There is nothing that is superficial in this movie.  “Fists with your toes”- a small unimportant conversation John has on an airplane leads to him running around the building with bare feet.  An off hand remark from Ellis (Hart Bochner) about Holly’s (Bonnie Bedelia) watch comes back in the final confrontation with Hans.   Al Powell (Reginald VelJohnson) and his story of being unable to use his gun pays off in a big way.  Every little detail is there for a reason and it is a wonder to watch.

The action is amazing. The fight sequences are off the charts, as is the major knock down drag out between John and Karl (Alexander Godunov).  Although I have a hard time buying Karl surviving that final fight with John, it is worth it for the last scene with Al.

The lines are quotable as can be.  Everyone knows the iconic “yippee etc etc” line but one of my own favorites is when John is on the roof and trying to call for help on an emergency channel and the cops are not believing him.  His response to “Sir, this line is reserved for emergency calls only” is “No f#*king sh#t lady, do I sound like I’m ordering a pizza?” I lose myself laughing every time I hear that.

The ridiculousness of the other LA cops and FBI agents add into the feel that John McClane must keep going because no one else will be able to stop these terrorists.  Paul Gleason, who plays Deputy Police Chief Dwayne T. Robinson, gives his lines with such a dry delivery that he is one of the funniest parts of this movie.

Very few films have been done so well and Die Hard continues to be the class of all of the following Die Hard sequels.  It is one of the great movies of all time and will always have a place on my own top 5 list..

The Other Side of the Wind

EYG Hall of Famer Orson Welles’ final film, a film that had been locked away, mostly completed, for 40 years, has finally been released on Netflix.  And it is some kind of movie.

The story of how the film came to be is almost more of a tale than The Other Side of the Wind.  I would certainly recommend that if you plan on watching this movie, you take the time to watch the documentary, They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead as well.  It makes for a very important companion piece to this movie.

The Other Side of the Wind is about a legendary film director who had been self-exiled to Europe for years, returning to Hollywood to get his final passion project filmed.  The narrative of this movie is told through two lenses.  One, the struggles of the director, Jake Hannaford (John Huston), trying to get through the filming with money troubles, struggles with actors and with the Hollywood machine.  Two, the film that he has made is used as a “film within a film” and helps to show the artistry and the imagination of Hannaford.

Now, many people assume that the film is basically an autobiographical tale of Orson Welles himself.  Welles had denied this, but it does seem to be pretty obvious that the character of Jake Hannaford is based strictly on the director.

Apparently there were some scenes of the nearly completed film that were damaged and had to be replaced with photos and voice over.  These scenes feel as if they would have been important for the conclusion of the movie unfortunately.  Of course there is no way around that and what they did with those scenes is the best they were going to be able to accomplish.

There are so many truly visionary shots in this film that you could break down countless numbers of them for analysis.  The scenes fly fast and furiously through the film and you are never allowed to linger on anything for long.  It is certainly an impressive feat of film-making and the creative process.  It changes perspectives, black and white to color, and points of view as easily as you can imagine.

It is slight on story and may be too inside Hollywood to truly reach a wide audience.

John Huston is tremendous here as Jake and the relationship between him and Peter Bogdanovich’s character, Brooks Otterlake, is compelling.

While Welles never put together the ultimate final cut of this movie, those who did paid tribute to his overall vision and presented the world with a film about moviemaking that is chaotic, wild, jubilant and full of the proper amount of satire.  This feels like an appropriate end to a legendary career.

4.2 stars

They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead

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The Netflix original documentary They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead tells the fascinating tale of the efforts of EYG Hall of Famer Orson Welles and his attempts to finish a film called The Other Side of the Wind, a film that has now been released on Netflix as well.

Alan Cummings narrated the documentary, which joins a group of wonderful docs from 2018.

Fast paced and engaging, They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead uses archived footage of Orson Welles to show us truths about the legendary filmmaker that we have never known and to tell the story of the struggle to make this movie as a way of a comeback.

This documentary is not about Citizen Kane.  Sure, it is mentioned, but it is not what is being investigated here.  Instead, we see Welles’ conflicts with Hollywood and the movie business, especially the money providers, in his desperate attempt to get his movies made.

In fact, because of the money, an almost finished cut of the film The Other Side of the Wind wound up locked away in a vault for decades…even after the death of Welles.

Directed by Morgan Neville, this documentary really made me want to watch The Other Side of the Wind on Netflix myself, which is what a good doc about a movie should do.  The Other Side of the Wind will be my next watch soon.

3.7 stars

The Girl in the Spider’s Web

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Claire Foy is the next actress to take up the role of Lisbeth Salander, the woman who arrived first in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  This is the next film featuring the character.  Unfortunately, there seemed to be a lack of what made Lisbeth such an original character in her past offerings.  Here, in The Girl in the Spider’s Web, she is basically just another action hero.

We join Lisbeth as she is in pursuit of a MacGuffin that gives the possessor the ability to control the nuclear weapons of the world.  The man who invented the technology (Stephen Merchant) is being chased, and his son August (Christopher Convery) knows how to access the info as well.

Lisbeth is in a race against her sister (Sylvia Hoeks) in a twist that is revealed in the trailers, but should have been held back.

There are a ton of action beats here, some decent, but others just silly.  The film is really more of a Mission Impossible or a James Bond type of flick. There is less darkness in the movie and Lisbeth is no where near as harsh as she was in the previous movie.  Where as the other movie showed Lisbeth taking to a serious extreme and being more psychological, this was more action/adventure.  I think this did not work as well for Lisbeth than the previous way.

Claire Foy continues her strong work this year.  I liked her as Lisbeth, or at least, what they let her do as Lisbeth.  I think she would have been a great actress to take this character to another level, but the film does not want to let her do it.

There were many scenes where I was bored during the movie.  It did not grip me the way I had hoped it would.  There were too many scenes where I was rolling my eyes wondering how that was even possible.  The Girl in the Spider’s Web was too predictable and too poorly executed and took a character that could be an original female protagonist and made her into just another action hero.

2.7 stars

Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch

You’re a mean one… well, maybe not that mean.

The Grinch is the newest version of the Dr. Seuss classic children’s book, How the Grinch Who Stole Christmas and this film is an animated film from Illumination, the company that brought us the Minions.

Benedict Cumberbatch voiced the Grinch and he does a nice job. The problem is that the Grinch seemed to be an alright dude early in this film.  He had some bad things happen to him, but I did not think that his heart was three times too small.  He was just lonely.  I would have liked to see the Grinch be more rotten early here.

The film followed the book pretty closely, except of course that there is way more added, because it is a short book, and the original animated version was around 20 minutes long.  This film is 86 minutes which requires a bunch more to the story.  Unfortunately, most of the additions were weaker than the parts from the actual story.  The middle of the film dragged a bit, making it feel longer than the 86 minutes.

The animation is wonderful and the colors are beautiful.  The film looks great.  The voices are really strong as well.  Cameron Seely, Rashida Jones, Kenan Thompson, Angela Lansbury all do good work with voices.  I was not a huge fan of Pharrell Williams as the narrator.  His voice was not as deep or tense as Boris Karloff from the original.

This is a fine version, although fairly unremarkable.  There are some funny bits, but it is stretched out too much.  There is great animation and strong voice work.  The film will probably be loved by a lot of the kids watching it, and it is passable for the adults.  It could be worse.

3 stars