LOST S1 E4 “Walkabout”

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“Walkabout” is one of the greatest episodes from the first season because there was quite the shock ending and it took some time to introduce to us one of television’s greatest…and saddest characters, John Locke.

Played by the brilliant Terry O’ Quinn, John Locke became one of the most important fixtures on the Island as of this episode.  He was around the first three, but it wasn’t until “Walkabout” that we realized what level he was going to reach.

“Don’t tell me what I can’t do!”

The episode starts with Vincent barking up a storm, letting everybody know that the fuselage was being invaded by something mysterious.  Turns out, there are wild boars on the Island and this gives John Locke an opportunity to step up.  With food provisions dwindling and tempers flaring, John suggests that they hunt boar and he recruits Kate and Michael to help him get it done.

Meanwhile, we flashback to Locke’s life just prior to his trip to Australia.  He is an office worker who enjoys games of strategy and war and he involves himself into them deeply.  Others at his work find reasons to make fun of John and his hobby and we discover how lonely John is.  He is calling sex lines and calling the woman on the other end “Helen.”  We’ll know more about a specific Helen later.

John is preparing himself to go to the Australia outback and go on a mystical walkabout.  Of course the company will not allow him to go on the walkabout because…. John Locke is in a wheelchair.  That is the HUGE reveal in this episode… that John Locke had been paralyzed for four years prior to arriving on the Island…where he was paralyzed no more.  John kept yelling that something or other was “his destiny” and he is now certain that he has found that destiny.

Knowing how that comes about really shows how sad John Locke is as a character and how tragic a life he lives.  We’ll look more at the character of John Locke as the show progresses, but, while watching the first season knowing how it ends, there sure seems to be a bunch of foreshadowing going on.  Certain sounds, images and dialogue which makes me believe that these writers had a pretty good idea of where the arc of John Locke would be going.

A major moment in “Walkabout” occurred when Locke came face to face with the “Monster” on the Island.  At this point, we have no idea what happened, but we know he lies about it to the rest of the group.

Rose also gives us a piece of foreshadowing as she tells Jack, who is trying to comfort her and suggests that she says something about her husband at the memorial service the survivors were setting up for the bodies in the fuselage, that her husband, Bernard, was not dead.  Of course, we know from season 2 that Rose is absolutely correct and that Bernard is alive and well and in the tail section of the plane.

This episode really solidified the mysteries of the Island and created such a wonder about what was actually going on.  John Locke is one of my personal favorite characters in the entire series and Terry O’Quinn is unbelievably good as Locke.  He is as complex of a character that has ever been on television and his pain and desire to be more than what he is can be felt by anybody.

 

LOST S1 E3 “Tabula Rasa”

The first flashback episode of LOST was Kate-centric and we see how she was captured by the Marshal Edward Mars and wound up on Oceanic Flight 815 from Sydney, Australia.

This episode was entitled “Tabula Rasa” which, in its modern meaning, means “Blank Slate” and it comes from the theories of philosopher John Locke.  No, not the John Locke on the show, but, of course, that is why they used the phrase.  Tabula Rasa is one of the big themes from the show itself, this time referred to by Jack.

Kate wanted to tell Jack what she had done in the real world to get Mars to chase her, but he stops her.  He said that everyone has a right to a new start here on the island.  It hadn’t mattered what had happened before.  Jack said three days ago, we all died.

Now this was a popular theory from early on in the series, to explain the odd things happening.  It most likely stemmed from this very moment of dialogue.  However, it means more than the literal interpretations of it.

Jack recognized that the past was unimportant to where they were right now and that this gave everyone a chance to start anew.  Kate had been nothing but selfless and heroic since crashing on the island and Jack was giving her the benefit of the doubt.

There were some other key events that happen in Tabula Rasa.

We had one of the first examples of the numbers showing up as the reward money for Kate was at $23,000.  The numbers, 4 8 15 16 23 42, are everywhere in LOST in some variations.  They were on Oceanic 815.  There were 48 survivors.  There will be many more examples of the use of these numbers repetitively.

Edward Mars is an interesting case.  We know as the series goes on that the Island has healing properties.  Locke can walk.  Rose’s cancer is gone.  Things like that.  However, Edward Mars suffered from the shrapnel that had been lodged in his abdomen and he was dying slowly.   Strange that the Island did not seem to want to save him.  Or did they just not give it a long enough time?  The whole “putting him out of his misery” thing may have been worse yet.  I also had not realized before, but when Jack went back into the tent after Sawyer failed to kill Mars with the gun, Jack does put him out of his misery.  We don’t see it, but if you pay attention to that scene, it is certainly implied.

We get some great parts with Sawyer.  This is the first time that we see that he is more than just a jerk.  We start with his nicknames.  I believe this is the first time he used “Freckles” when referring to Kate. When he is looting the luggage in the plane, he says that he is in the “wild,” but later with the botched attempt at putting Mars down, Sawyer displayed some remarkable acting in his facial responses.  The horror of what he had done truly came through the exterior of his vernacular.

We get the first inkling of the relationship that would develop between Sawyer and Kate as well as the relationship between Sawyer and Jack, both of which are major connections for the series.

It is interesting early that they were certainly planning on pushing a relationship between Michael and Sun, but nothing major ever comes from that.

Speaking of Michael, I never understood why he is so opposed to Locke, especially when Locke went out of his way to help Michael look good in Walt’s eyes by finding Vincent.  Maybe Michael is just jealous of the attention Walt gives to Locke.  When you really look at it, Michael is really one of the worst characters here among all of the rotten people looking for a clean slate.

Tabula Rasa.

LOST S1 E1 &2 “Pilot”

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I decided that I would start a rewatch this summer of LOST, my favorite TV show of all time.  And since I was rewatching the show, I would also add a category to the TV G[eek] menu so I can write about each episode.\

I must say that when LOST went off the air, I had a hole in my heart for quite a while.  It was finally filled by a bunch of good TV shows, but nothing has ever matched J.J. Abrams’ classic ABC show.

The first two episodes go together as Pilot Part 1 & 2, so I am reviewing them together as well.  I do not know how someone could watch this pilot episode and not be completely swept up in the mystery and excitement that was LOST.

The show famously started focused in on Jack’s eye.  It is one of the most iconic of shots from LOST.  Then, we learn so much about the character of Jack Shepherd in the next 10-15 minutes, which were 10-15 of the best minutes on network TV.  Jack comes to and finds the crash scene on the beach with people crying and confused.  He then runs back and forth trying to save as many people as he could.  Jack was always the hero.  The frenetic pace of Jack going from a man pinned beneath plane wreckage to Claire who looked to be in labor to Boone who was doing CPR on Rose incorrectly was something to see and informed us about Jack’s character more than any flashbacks could.

That is one of the strengths of this episode.  We are introduced to these characters: Charlie, Kate, Sawyer, Sayid, Boone, Shannon without having to use flashbacks, which would eventually be used to go deeper in the character.  We know that everyone gets a new start on the Island, and the first introductions we have are not influenced by who they were.

We are introduced to the monster on the Island.  Of course, we learn what that is as the series progressed, but at this point, we had zero idea.  The sounds were scary and intentionally mysterious.  Then, with the killing of the pilot (which was originally supposed to be Jack- imagine how different LOST would be without Jack) showed how deadly serious this situation was.

We got a conflict between Sayid and Sawyer which would carry over for much of the series.  It started out growing out of Sawyer’s mistrust of Sayid because of his nationality.  Sawyer also turned on Hurley, everyone’s favorite, calling him “Lardo”.  We discovered that Sawyer was not a nice person.  Still, the scene with Sawyer reading the letter hinted that there was more to this redneck than we thought.

The episode also spent a bunch of time making Kate look like a hero, only to pull the rug out from under her and us by revealing that she was the prisoner being escorted from Australia by the Marshal.  It was a great reveal to tell us that what we see from these people, who they appear to be, may not be who they are.

Jin and Sun were quite isolated early because of the language barrier and the closed mind of Jin.  These two are probably the characters who change the most during the run time of the show.

We get very little about one of the series’ most important characters, John Locke.  However, John, unwittingly, does specifically explain the entire Island to Walt when he is telling about backgammon.  Two sides-one is light, one is dark.

We get the scene with Sawyer shooting the polar bear which caused a lot of controversy and debate at the time.  Clearly, polar bears should not exist on this island but here it was.  It just added to the group of strange mysteries that we see.  Little things meant to mess with a viewer.  The shoes hanging from the bamboo.  The arrival and seemingly knowledgeable Vincent, the handcuffs, the French message, and the Monster were all dropped on the viewers with no explanation.

Charlie perfectly summed up the thoughts of the viewers with the last line of episode 2: “Guys, where are we?”

The LOST pilot is one of the greatest pilot episodes ever shot and does an amazing job of setting up the story as well as presenting us with characters that may not be what they appear.

 

Arachnophobia (1990)

Recently, there has been news of a potential remake of the 1990’s film directed by Frank Marshall and produced by Steven Spielberg called Arachnophobia.  The rumors have James Wan connected to the possible remake.  It had been literally years since I saw Arachnophobia and with it being in the news, I figured today was as good of a time as any to revisit the movie.

I have never been a huge fan of spiders, but I would not say that I am afraid of them.  I can remember a time when I turned on the faucet at the sink and a couple of harmless but ugly spiders came leaping from the drain.  I was fairly frightened by that.

Arachnophobia has different tones that it goes back and forth with throughout the run time.  It is a horror/comedy.  There are definitely frightening moments of suspense as you see the killer spiders crawling around or jumping out at people.  It is balanced with the comedy that includes the over-the-top John Goodman as exterminator Delbert McClintock.

I remembered almost nothing about this movie so watching it today was almost like watching it for the first time.  I would have watched this sometime after it came out on a VHS tape, and I am sure I only ever saw it once.  I found the movie very tense and exciting, finding ways to scare me from those creepy spiders that seemingly can be everywhere at any time.

Jeff Daniels stars as a former big city doctor who is taking over a small country doctor’s practice when people begin dropping dead.  He discovered that the deaths have one thing in common:  spider bites.

However, the chance of one spider bite being toxic enough to kill these humans was not something you would expect from a spider from California.  Little did he know that an expedition brought an unexpected guest back from the jungles of Venezuela: a formerly unknown species of deadly venomous spiders.  The arachnid hitchhiker mated with a local spider, creating a deadly version that had set off across the town to kill anyone they come in contact with.

The cast is great.  John Goodman steals the show as his offbeat exterminator.  Jeff Daniels is believable as the doctor who struggles with his own arachnophobia.  Julian Sands is the snotty professor who lead the expedition to find these creatures.  Most of the small town population were well cast, if not that important.

Arachnophobia was a good time that definitely has a lot of tension and freak out moments.  This version of the film holds up very well, but it is interesting to think about what James Wan (The Conjuring, Aquaman) might do with the premise.

classic

 

The Incredibles (2004)

With Father’s Day this weekend and the release of the long awaited sequel Incredibles 2, I thought this was the perfect chance to revisit the first Incredibles, one of Pixar’s finest animated movies.

Why Father’s Day?  Well, the Incredibles, above all else, is a story about family.  The story focuses on Mr. Incredible and his difficulties on putting his past life as a super hero behind him and how those issues put his family at risk.

Of course, Mr. Incredible is married to Elastigirl and they have three children.  Dash and Violet have both developed their super powers at this point, Dash with super speed and Violet with force fields.  The baby, Jack-Jack, is the only non-super in their family.

The story of the Incredibles is near perfection.  It is one of the best super hero stories ever told on the big screen.  Everything works so well together.  The animation, for its time, was wonderful.  The voice cast featuring Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter and Samuel L. Jackson was top notch.

The Incredibles had a definite feel of not only a super hero adventure, but a spy thriller.  Brad Bird directed this film and wound up getting Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol afterwards and he knocked it out of the park.  Much of the experience he received on The Incredibles helped him with the Tom Cruise vehicle.

The Incredibles have one of the best villains in any super hero movie.  Syndrome has a personal tie to the heroes, and you can understand his motives.  Honestly, Syndrome is like the current Pop/Geek Culture where fandom decided that their favorite thing is not as they want it so they will turn on it and try to destroy it. Star Wars is going through these issues right now after Solo and The Last Jedi.  Toxic Fandom is perfectly shown in Syndrome and it shows how far ahead of the time Brad Bird and the Incredibles actually were.

There is fantastic action.  Amazing characters with awesome characterization.  14 years before a sequel was made is a crime.  This is one of Pixar’s best films and as entertaining as you are going to find.

paragon

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)

In 2017, FX had a television series from the mind of Ryan Murphy called Feud:  Bette and Joan.  It starred Susan Sarandon as Bette Davis and the irreplaceable Jessica Lange as Joan Crawford.  It was an amazing series that focused on the real-life hatred between the two classic Hollywood divas, each struggling to stay relevant as they grew older.

The beginning of the television show highlighted the time the two actresses spent on the production of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane, and it showed how that movie and its eventual raging success made it even worse between Crawford and Davis.

These two virtuoso performances made me interested in the movie that the series spotlighted, but I hadn’t gotten around to seeing it since.  However, this morning, I found it on YouTube and sat down to see if the film was worthy of everything that had been said of it.

Short answer:  Yes, it is.

I loved What Ever Happened to Baby Jane.  There was so much tension and nervousness about what had happened as you see Jane Hudson continuing to slip further into her own madness and you cringe with each horrible thing that she does to her crippled sister Blanche.

Jane was a child star, favored by her father, and Jane showed a seriously bratty side, demanding and misbehaving.  However, the years were not kind to Jane as her lack of real talent came through while Blanche became a sought after Hollywood star.  Jane became jealous of her sister’s success and longed for the days of Baby Jane and her, now deceased, father’s love and attention.

An unfortunate automobile accident led to Blanche being permanently crippled and being left to be taken care of by Jane.  Jane tormented her sister as she slipped into a delusional state.

Joan Crawford and Bette Davis were astounding here.  Crawford creates such empathy for Blanche with her desperate hope that her sister had not gone completely off the rails.  You can see the guilt of the situation eating away at Blanche as she tries without success to find someone to help her.

Davis is a marvel as the crazed child star.  Her appearance showed the commitment that Davis gave to the role, with white cake makeup altering her movie star image.

The film is a dark comedic/horror film and the tone fits it perfectly.  The beautiful black and white adds to the mood created by the amazing performances.  Plus, there is the creepy “Baby Jane Dolls” which may be one of the first instances of dolls being involved in a horror film.

I was really engaged in the movie, leaning ahead in my seat and imploring Blanche to yell for help to the neighbor (the wondrous Anna Lee, who spent years on General Hospital as Lila Quartermaine) or to chastise maid Elvira (Maidie Norman) to not put down that hammer as she was attempting to save Blanche.  I had connected to Blanche and I wanted her to escape from the clutches of her evil sister.

Then the ending threw everything into a jumble as there was a twist that I had not expected, which made you reconsider everything that you had seen up until that point.  It was truly well done.

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane is truly a wonderful movie with great performances across the board.  I did not even mention Academy Award nominated Victor Buono (later to be King Tut on the Batman TV series) as Edwin Flagg, a piano player that Jane hoped would help her make it back to show biz.

This is an amazing movie and I enjoyed every minute.

paragon

 

Tag

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One of the weirder “based on a true story” movies that you are going to see.

Every May, the group of five friends come back together (wherever they may be) and resume the same game of tag that they have been playing for 30 years.  However, this year is different.  Jerry (Jeremy Renner), who is getting married, is supposedly retiring from the game after never having been tagged.  So Hogan (Ed Helms) pulls together Bob Callahan (Jon Hamm), Kevin Sable (Hannibal Buress), and Chili Cilliano (Jake Johnson) in a determined effort to finally tag their friend.

I really enjoyed this movie.  The chemistry of the five characters, as well as Isla Fisher who played Hogan’s wife, Annabelle Wallis who played a reporter from the Wall Street Journal, and Leslie Bibb who played Jerry’s fiance, were off the charts strong.  The interactions between characters is what kept the movie from losing itself in some of the more over-the-top situations that it found itself in.

There are some really funny moments.  Many of them came about when the group has come up with a convoluted plan to trap Jerry but Jerry finds an even more convoluted way to escape it.  Jeremy Renner is fantastic in this movie, really showing the arrogance of Jerry.  The film would stop and give us an inside the mind play by play of what Jerry is thinking as he avoids the tag.  This is very similar to the way Robert Downey Jr’s Sherlock Holmes breaks down a scene where he needs to act.  Renner was excellent, especially since he had both arms broken in the filming of this movie and much of what we saw on screen was CGI renditions of Renner’s arms.

The tone of the film changed as it progressed, turning nastier as the group continued to push the envelope further with each attempted tag.  There may be some times that people think it steps over the line of good taste, but I did not find myself feeling that way.  The third act did seem to become darker than expected, but that was explained near the end of the film.

Tag may feel lightweight, but it really does have a lot to say about friendship and how friends can grow apart over time.  There is a good amount of exploration of friends and the lengths that they have to go to remain in each others lives.  And even though you may consider yourself a friend, there may be parts of your friends’ lives that you are not aware of and that truly affect them.

Tag ends with some real life footage of the real life group playing their game of tag, if you doubted that this was based on a true story.  I had a good time with Tag despite the story getting a little too dark in the third act.  A great cast and some good laughs carried the film to a successful end.

4 stars

Incredibles 2

Fourteen years later…

Incredibles 2 picked up literally where the original film left off.  Usually, when a sequel has this much of a gap between when the original came out and when the sequel came out, the film suffers (ex. Dumb and Dumber 2, Anchorman 2, Zoolander 2).

That is not the case for Incredibles 2.

Brad Bird returned to the director’s chair for this latest Pixar film featuring the amazing characters of the Incredibles.  Voice talents of Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L. Jackson, Sarah Vowell returned to their iconic roles for the sequel making everything feel like it fit together perfectly.

In the world right after the attack of the Underminer, super heroes are still illegal and the Incredibles are forced back into hiding.  However, a wealthy industrialist (Bob Odenkirk) and his tech savvy sister (Catherine Keener) approached Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) with a plan to try and convince the world to reinstate the legality of super heroes.  Elastigirl went out into the world to fight crime and work on the image of super heroes while Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) stayed home to raise the kids and deal with the troubles of their lives.

Incredibles 2 was a lot of fun from start to finish.  Where to start?  The voice cast, as I have already mentioned, is tremendous.  They all do a great job here, especially Craig T. Nelson who has to play a increasingly frustrated Mr. Incredible.

The animation was amazing.  You can see how much technology has advanced in the last 14 years since the first film came out.  However, Incredibles 2 still retained the distinct style and feel of the animation of the original.  It was like a perfect blend of new animation and the classic Incredibles art.

The character of Jack-Jack stole the show, having some of the best scenes of the movie.  The uncertainty of the powers of the young baby was very fun and presented the film with most of its biggest laughs.

However, Incredibles 2 was definitely Elastigirl’s movie as she was out front and center in the storyline.  The film does a fantastic job of highlighting how creative she is with her powers and what visually awesome things that you can do with a stretching hero.  As much as Mr. Incredible was out front in the original, that was how much Elastigirl led the way in the sequel.

The action in this movie was out of this world.  They had some amazing sequences throughout the film showing how these characters creatively use their powers and there was not one action scene that wasn’t top notch.  There seemed to be more use of Samuel L. Jackson’s Frozone here too and his ice powers are used just perfectly.

I did have a few issues with the film.  First, it seemed to be a little slow at the beginning, but it picked up quickly.  The storyline was fairly predictable and the film certainly did not take too many twists or risks.  The villain Screenslaver was adequate, but certainly pales in comparison to the first film’s Syndrome, arguably one of the best villains in any super hero movie.  I was also not a huge fan of angsty Violet (Sarah Vowell) as that felt too cliched.

Most of those issues would be nitpicks and none of them really affected my enjoyment of the movie.  This felt like an exciting second adventure in the lives of the Incredibles and I was glad that I was able to watch them again.  Though the sequel may not quite reach the level of magical awesomeness as the original did, Incredibles 2 comes pretty dang close.  Hopefully it does not take another 14 years to get another Incredibles movie.

4.6 stars

SuperFly (2018)

Perhaps it is just me, but I did not enjoy much about the reimagining of the 1970s blaxploitation film Superfly.  Maybe it really is about seeing a world of which I have no connection, but either way, I did not like this.

Youngblood Priest (Trevor Jackson) is a young cocaine dealer in Atlanta with broad plans of expansion.  Wanting to make a lot of quick money so he can escape the world, Priest looked to become a larger scale dealer.

He comes into conflict with other cocaine dealers in the area which leads to violence and wild parties full of sex and people throwing money on the floor.

I had several problems with SuperFly.  First, the film obviously wants you to be in the corner of Priest, but I found him just as crooked and criminal as all the others. Sure, Trevor Jackson plays him with a considerable amount of charisma, but that does not change the fact that he is a cocaine dealer.  He is surrounded by a couple of friends who are worse than he is and do little to create a connection to me as an audience member.  I don’t see any difference between most of these characters except for the clothes that they wear.

The women in this movie are treated much like they would be in a 1970s film as we basically see only the worst traits displayed by almost everyone except for Priest’s girlfriend (one of them, at least) Georgia (Lex Scott Davis).

There feels as if there are a ton of story threads tossed into the narrative seeing which ones might stick.  There is a story with Priest and his old mentor (Michael Kenneth Williams), one with two dirty white cops who show up about 2/3rds of the way through the film from out of nowhere (and one was Emma Swan from Once Upon A Time and I could not place her face for the longest time- very distracting), and there was one with the head drug family and the man in charge Gonzalez (Esai Morales-who was another face that I had trouble placing).

This felt more like a rap video than it did a feature motion picture and that really had me checking out of it early.  I wanted to like Priest, but the film showed him to be pretty much the same type of character as everyone else …just better at it.  And of course, his hair was epic.

There were a lot of questions surrounding the motives on what they were doing.  None of it seemed to be more than, “we want more money to make rain at parties.”

There were no characters worth rooting for and because of that, I checked out of the film early.  Lots of uses of the N-word, which I never like, though I understand is in the vernacular of the African-American community.

I am not sure the purpose of this film.

2.25 stars

 

Bull Durham (1988)

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There have been some great movies about baseball, and Bull Durham, starring Kevin Costner and Susan Sarandon, is one of them.

Kevin Costner is “Crash” Davis, a long time minor league catcher brought into the Durham Bulls to mentor a young pitching prospect, Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh (Tim Robbins).  Susan Sarandon plays Annie Savoy, a metaphysical baseball fan who picks out one player each season to have an affair with so she could pass along her odd theories on the game such as breathing through the eyes.

Annie chooses Nuke to be her lover, but she realizes that she is actually attracted to Crash.

Kevin Costner and Susan Sarandon have chemistry off the charts and their dialogue is some of the best written in any sports movie.  Sarandon and Robbins actually met during the filming of this movie and they wound up getting married.

Baseball is a character in this movie as well as there are some great scenes involving the sport and how the players should play the game properly.  Annie makes a connection between baseball and sex and the film seems to embrace that idea.

There is a real love of the game in Bull Durham and writer/director Ron Shelton had had a career in minor league baseball at one point.  There was so much humor and reverence about the game, it was clear that baseball was an important part of his life.

Bull Durham is a great film featuring three wonderful performances from the three lead actors.  It has held up over the years and should be priority viewing for any player who loves the game of baseball.

vintage

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EYG Top 10 Animated Sequels

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I had this topic guessed before the actual show dropped early this morning.  I figured that with Incredibles 2 coming out this weekend, and considering that we just recently did the Top 10 Pixar movies, and how much the Top 10 love lists about sequels so animated sequels only seemed reasonable. And that is what it was!

Now this list would be totally different in a few months.  This weekend we have The Incredibles 2, and then there will be How to Train Your Dragon 3, Ralph Breaks the Internet (Wreck-It-Ralph 2).  Those all are films that I am really looking forward to, but none are out yet so they are not on this list.

#10.  Rescuers Down Under.  The Disney film took the Rescuers, voiced by Bob Newhart and Eva Gabor, down under to Australia.  And as a young fan of General Hospital, I loved the fact that one of the characters of the movie, Jake, was voiced by Australian actor Tristian Rogers (who played super spy Robert Scorpio on GH).  That was all the hook I needed, being a huge fan of Robert.  The movie itself was fine.

 

#9.  Rio 2.  I actually liked Rio much more than Rio 2, but I did enjoy the villain of the film, the returning Nigel the Cockatoo and his sidekick Gabi the poisonous dart frog.  When Nigel adopts the “phantom of the opera” look to him and performs “I Will Survive”, the film peaks in creativity and entertainment value.

 

#8.  Despicable Me 2.  Gru is a great character voiced by Steve Carell and the film shows how Gru continues on the path from super villain to super father and person.  He meets Lucy here and fall in love with her.  He gets involved in a complicated plot involving The Anti-Villain League (AVL) that tries to recruit former super-villains.  The Minions are still cute here as this is before the entire thing was messed up by taking the side characters of the Minions and trying to make them the lead of their own movie.

 

#7.  Winnie the Pooh (2011).  I loved this movie.  It caught me completely off-guard.  I had always liked Winnie the Pooh and the characters of this world, but this was the first time that I absolutely loved them.  Christopher Robin is supposedly missing and so Pooh and his friends take off on a mission to find the young boy.  There were some really meta moments here, including Pooh moving from one page of the story to another.  This was a great surprise and a film that I loved completely.  Lots of humor and heart and sweetness from everyone’s favorite bear.

 

#6.  Finding Dory.  I did not think this one was going to work.  It is always dangerous to take a side, secondary character and try to expand the role to be the lead.  There are way more examples of this failing than succeeding.  Fortunately, Finding Dory is one of the successes.  Spawning form Finding Nemo, Dory goes on an adventure of self-discovery and never felt over used.  Ellen DeGeneres is great as the voice of the forgetful fish.  Finding Dory captured the heart of the original without simply being a copy.

 

Image result for shrek 2#5.  Shrek 2.  One of the best new characters was introduced in Shrek 2…Puss in Boots.  Shrek and his new bride Fiona head back to see her parents in the land of Far, Far Away.  Of course, this leads to self-doubt about his own looks.  The film is full of humor and music and is a rollicking good time.

 

#4.  Toy Story 2.  A great sequel to a great movie.  We find more about the back story of Woody, as we discovered that he was a special toy from a TV show, Woody’s Roundup.  We meet Jesse, Woody’s horse Bullseye, and Stinky Pete.  Stinky Pete, who was still in his packaging, wanted to keep Woody and Jesse in the complete series in a museum.  Toy Story 2 was completely entertaining and fit wonderfully in the second of the series.

 

#3.  Kung Fu Panda 2.  I was surprised at the first Kung Fu Panda’s success, so I never thought that the sequel could match it.  And it might have exceeded it.  Jack Black is great as the voice of the panda Po, the Dragon Warrior.  The voice actors here are fantastic, from Dustin Hoffman to Angelina Jolie to Jacki Chan.  The villainous Lord Shen, a peacock, has a deadly new weapon that he plans on using to destroy Kung Fu.  This was a great surprise and was a second wonderful movie.

 

#2.  How to Train Your Dragon 2.  How to Train Your Dragon 2 does something that very few animated sequels do… it allowed its main antagonist, Hiccup, to age.  We see Hiccup grow and progress into a young man.  There is also a great storyline with Hiccup’s mother, voiced by Cate Blanchett.  The film also had the bravery to have a brainwashed Toothless kill Hiccup’s father Stoick.  Such a powerful moment that really pushed the relationship between Hiccup and Toothless to the brink.  This was an amazingly emotional film.

 

#1.  Toy Story 3.  This was easy.  This is one of my favorite movies of all time, let alone animated sequels.  I absolutely love this movie.  I love the villain, Lotso, because I really could understand what motivated him to do what he did.  There were some unbelievably emotional moments of this film and, in the scene where the group of toys appear to be on the precipice of the molten metal, I truly thought they were preparing to die.  When they joined hands, preparing to face their ends, I couldn’t breathe.  And the movie hadn’t hit its most emotional moment yet, as Andy gives his toys away, signifying that he has grown up.  There were so many tears and tense moments in this film that I could see some kids being really scared by it.  It is my favorite animated movie of all time.

 

Honorable MentionsKung Fu Panda 3, Shrek the Third, Despicable Me 3, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2

The Rider

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The Rider is an interesting movie that tells its story in a new and original manner, written and directed by Chloe Zhao.

We get three characters who are basically playing themselves in this film.  Brady Jandreau played Brady Blackburn, a rodeo cowboy who had a horrible head injury that causes him have to give up bronco busting.  Tim Jandreau, Brady’s real life father, played Tim Blackburn, Brady’s hard boiled father.  Lilly Jandreau, Brady’s real life sister, played Lilly Blackburn, Brady’s sister who has Asperger’s Syndrome.  We also have Lane Scott who played himself as a bull rider who was in an accident and has become a paraplegic.

Because of these inexperienced actors who are playing characters that are basically themselves, the film has a distinct realness to it.  There is definitely a truth to it- especially with the relationship between Brady and Lilly.  She does not feel like she is saying lines at all.  I wonder if they allowed them to just react as brother and sister in the situation without an specific dialogue.  It certainly feels that way.

I kept thinking about the 2008 movie The Wrestler as I was watching this movie.  There is a connection between the movies.  Both characters are struggling to move on with their lives after a health issue takes away what they love to do.  There are family issues involved as well.  Both films have that real feel to the filming and has that independent touches to it.

There were some truly amazing scenes focusing on Brady’s ability to train/break horses and the film allows this skill to play out.  It was some of my favorite scenes in the film.  We see how important of a relationship Brady has with the horses that he works with.

I did enjoy this movie very much.  The cinematography is beautiful and the pain of the loss of what Brady loves is something we can all relate to.  There are too many puke scenes, though (I hate those).

4 stars

 

SPOILERS: Andrew Ghai is Awesome- Live Schmoedown

This post contains spoilers for the live Movie Trivia Schmoedown so if you have not yet seen it, you may want to skip this post.

 

Okay, the most recent Movie Trivia Schmoedown is in the record books and it was a most epic night.  We had an exciting and somewhat shocking Star Wars number one contender match and a great team match up between the Shirewolves and Team Action.  There was a controversial call at the end of the team match that had people talking.

 

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However, the end of the show was what really set the Schmoedown world a buzzing.  The reveal of the 4 Horsemen… or should i say… 5 Horsemen.

When the lights went out, and the four men showed up on stage in robes, slowly unveiling themselves to the sold out crowd, the energy in the room was out of sight.

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Matt Knost, John “The Outlaw” Rocha, Innergeekdom Champion Jason Inman and returning from retirement Mark Reilly should have been enough.  The crowd was already out of their minds.  Then, the unthinkable happened.  Each man, following the lead of Rocha, changed their four on their fingers to five.  And we got a fifth Horseman.

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“Dangerous” Dan Murrell, the G.O.A.T, joined the Horsemen.  Murrell was back and the crowd lost their collective minds.

Now, I love Dan Murrell.  He is my favorite Movie Trivia Schmoedown competitor of all time.  But this article is not about him.  His return was so dramatic and epic partially because of a single individual.  And his name is Andrew Ghai, from Team Action.

Andrew Ghai has been trolling Murrell since the Free 4-All.  Murrell’s music played, making everyone expect that Dan was making his return.  Instead, Ghai came through the curtain in a classic pro wrestling move.  The old bait and switch.  Ghai then claimed to have killed Murrell, and he continued to make that claim for the next several weeks in several backstage vignettes.

It was a storyline that we believed might not ever be paid off since Dan was retired.  Still, Andrew kept it up and this lead to several great moments for the Team Action member.  It allowed Ghai, who previously was best known for the “Tackle” against John Rocha, to get a chance to show off his ability on the mike.  He showed that he was a tremendous promo guy, knowing how to deliver a message through words.  And it was more than just the “Where’s the Belt” catchphrase that Team Action uses.

tapromo.pngThen, after his Team Action was defeated by the Shirewolves in controversial fashion, Ghai showed his ability even more.  He shined in the interview with Jenn Sterger.  The gimmick of always using the wrong names of people involved is a tried and true heel move, used by everyone from Y2J Chris Jericho to Kevin Owens in the WWE.  This is also the first time where Andrew Ghai overshadowed his teammate, Ben Bateman, int he promo department.  Taking nothing away from Bateman, but Ghai was on fire.

GhaipromoYet, Team Action and, specifically Andrew Ghai, was not done yet.    He started this off by cutting a tremendous heel promo on the stage, stomping around with a cane, pounding it into the stage.  The inflection in his voice told the story too.  He was angry, and he was going to gather some heat on himself.  He called the audience “nerds,” said the audience should thank Team Action for giving them something to do on a Saturday night,

Heat is a wrestling term for getting the audience to hate you.  Ghai was out there for a specific purpose.  He was building heat on himself and Team Action because of what was to follow.  Team Action is the cool heels and they have a pretty strong following among the fans of the Movie Trivia Schmoedown.  He wanted to make sure that everyone knew the lines that were about to be drawn and which side he was on.

notdanmurrell.pngHe called out Dan Murrell. It was at this point that he pulled yet another classic heel wrestling move, one pulled by Shawn Michaels in Canada among many others.  He called out Dan Murrell, only to have a fake Dan Murrell show up (Ben Bateman in flannel shirt and Dan Murrell cap), giving Ghai a chance to make fun of the former 2-time champion.  He asked him questions, to which Bateman responded with incorrect answers.  He improvised a line which took a shot at one of the questions asked to the Shirewolves during their match that he thought was way too easy.

He continued to berate the pretend Dan Murrell until the music of the Horsemen started playing and we got that epic reveal.  After the real Dan Murrell was shown as a member of the 5 Horsemen, he approached Andrew Ghai to challenge him for a match, one-on-one, at the Collision.

Watch Andrew Ghai during this time.  He has amazing facial expressions going on.  Reportedly, Ghai was not a big fan of wrestling, but, despite that, he seems to be a natural at it.  He showed fear, frustration, anger, confusion, insulted, hurt, shock all on his face as Dan Murrell was challenging him.  Many heels who have worked for years have trouble emoting the way Andrew Ghai did at this show.  Sure, some of the emotion is real having had the controversial finish to the show and any time you can talk from the heart, your promos are better, but this part with Murrell was obviously set up prior to the show.  All of the performers knew what was going to happen, and Andrew Ghai played his part perfectly.

Most people will always remember this live event because of the return of Dan Murrell and Mark Reilly from retirement and the massive reveal of the 5 Horsemen.  The reveal was spectacular, with an amazing crowd reaction.  But do not forget that a great heel helps create these moments and Andrew Ghai showed how valuable he is in this role.  Thank you Andrew for your work here.

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Thoroughbreds

Thoroughbreds Movie Poster

This was a film that I was anxious to see in theaters, but it never came around this area of the country.  I had heard a lot of positives about it, so I started watching for it on the different streaming services.  Finally, it arrived on Amazon Prime so I rented it and gave it a watch.

Lily (Anya Taylor-Joy) and Amanda (Olivia Cooke) were childhood friends who had grown apart.  However, they reconnected later in life and bonded over their individual lack of emotions and the troublesome nature of Lily’s nasty step-father Mark (Paul Sparks).  Amanda floats the idea of getting rid of Mark in a permanent manner, and the girls try to convince low level crook Tim (Anton Yelchin) to help them do it.

The most interesting part of this film is the performance of Olivia Cooke and how she portrayed this sociopath, Amanda,  Amanda tells Lily that she does not feel joy or sadness, that those emotions are something foreign to her.  Working her way through life without these basic human emotions is a fascinating character trait that you would think would make someone a rotten human being and yet you can see how human Amanda is despite the way that she acts.  It is clear that she cares about Lily, but in a way that is not the way we are used to.

Lily is actually more rotten of a person as she hides her own feelings and actions from her family and even from Olivia.  She has many of the same tendencies of Amanda, but she does it for more selfish reasons.  Everything seems to be about her.

It was both great and sad seeing Anton Yelchin on the screen again.  This was, I believe, his final performance before his tragic accidental death.  The young actor had a bright future ahead of him and, to prove that, he was great in this role as Tim, a small time thug who was not sure of what to make of these two girls.

This movie is dark and violent, and shines a light on some characters who are anything but likeable.  Honestly, the sociopath Amanda might be the character most worth rooting for in this film.  The way the girls react with one another and the rest of the characters is fascinating and shows how a psychological character drama can be done well.  This one may not be for everyone, but if you like a dark tale of flawed characters who may not always make the best choices, Thoroughbreds is one you may want to check out.

3.6 stars