Archive for the ‘Drama’ Category

bohemian rhapsody

Farokh Balsara (Rami Malek) was a baggage handler in London when he met Brian May (Gwylim Lee)  Roger Taylor (Ben  Hardy) and John Deacon.  (Joe Mazello)  They were members of the band Smile, and Freddie Mercury as he renamed himself boldly stated that he wanted to be their lead singer.  They took Freddie on, and reamed the band Queen.  At the same time, Freddie meets Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton)  Mary and Freddie fall madly in love and get married.  To take their shot at stardom, the band sells their van and records the album Night At The Opera in 1975.  A record exec named Ray Foster (Mike Myers) hates the song the band picks for the first single, Bohemian Rhapsody, but the band releases it anyway, and the song launches Queen to fame. As the band becomes more famous, Freddie comes to a realization about himself that puts a strain on his marriage, and his bandmates.  Does his marriage survive?  Does the band survive?

The story plays fast and loose with the early history of Queen that’s something that no biopic should do. The story takes a lot of liberties with what actually happened in Queen, some of it is dramatic license, but most of it is unnecessary. There’s the usual rock n’ roll clichés, partying, band members fighting, egos inflating, there’s even a Svengali, steering Freddie Mercury  toward himself and away from the band.  There is a curiously anti-gay subtext throughout the film, most of the gay characters are portrayed as users and hangers on.  The straight people are portrayed as the people trying to steer Freddie from his excesses.  The ending was too neat, tying up all the loose ends a little too well.  Hollywood loves a happy ending, even when the leading man dies.

The acting is pretty good.  Rami Malek is amazing, he looks and sounds like Freddie Mercury, I really can’t imagine anyone else playing this role.  When a Freddie Mercury biopic was first discussed, Johnny Depp was spoken of as playing Freddie Mercury, that idea seems ludicrous now, and would have been another case of Hollywood whitewashing.  Glylim Lee is good as guitarist Brian May, Lucy Boynton is ok, as the love interest with a twist.  Allen Leech does a commendable job as Paul Prenter, a difficult role as Queen’s manager in the band’s later years.

Beyan Singer, director of two of my favorite  X Men films seems out of his element here, he cvan’t rely on special effects, so he goes  through the motions, There’s a predictable montage of Queen concerts, live performances of all their big hits, which by the way is disappointing to true Queen fans.  Then there’s another predictable climactic scene. There’s nothing really inspiring in the direction.

Bohemian Rhapsody:  Mercurial.

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kidding

Episode 1:

 Green Means Go

Jeff (Jim Carrey) is beloved children’s television host Mr. Pickles.  Jeff has just gone through a traumatic experience which caused his wife, Jill (Judy Greer) to divorce him.  Jeff wants to talk about what happened to him on his show, but Sebastian (Frank Langella) Jeff’s father and producer of show is against it.  Deidre, (Catherine Keener) Jeff’s sister has family problems of  her own.  Does Jeff get to share his trauma on tv?  Can he put his family back together?

This show has an interesting premise, what if a Mr. Rogers type character had a life changing event happen to him?   Good premise, the execution seems a bit odd.  I know writers like to make shows edgy, but this is a little too edgy for me.  JOne of the plot points is straight out of a cheesy 70’s sitcom.

Jim Carrey is a good actor, watch him in movies like the Truman Show or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but he seems to be stuck between comedy and drama here and he doesn’t know which choice is the right one. Frank Langella is a great actor, and is good here.  His voice is commanding, and he uses it well.   Catherine Keener isn’t given much to do, until the end of the episode.

Episode 2:

 Pusillanimous

Jeff visits a sick child in the hospital, Sebastian is not thrilled with Jeff’s new look.  Jeff spies on his wife’s new boyfriend, Peter.  (Justin Kirk)  Sebastian Is not happy about the direction in which the program is going.

It seems like Jim Carrey enjoys playing the scenes with the kids, and enjoys the Mr. Pickles character, more than the darker side of this character, because the Pickles character allows him to use his creativity more than the serious aspect of the character.  I think Frank Langella is enjoying plying the voice of reason, the realist in the fantasy world Jeff has created,  I don’t know what to make of the show, not yet, but I’m intrigued to find out.

Episode 3:

Every Pain Needs A Name

Jeff continues to try to vent his pain on the show, while Sebastian continues to try to merchandise Jeff’s likeness.  Sebastian also tries to convince Jeff to date one of his adult fans, while Jeff visits a cancer patient in a hospital.

This series is straddling a line between good taste and bad taste right now.  They should be careful because, the writers are dealing wiith a real live character her or at least the representation of one Fred Rogers was a real person, a Presbyterian minister, and if the writers cross that line, this will just become another joke at the expense of a kind, caring man, I hope they are cognizant of that.

 

Episode 4:

Bye Mom

Sebastian is still trying to find a way to monetize the Mr. Pickles character.  Deidre is still having marital problems, and Jill. Jeff’s ex-wife, has problems with something he has done.  Jeff is only worried if his out of date flip phone is working correctly.

This episode changed my mind about this show, I’ve always had a cynical underlying feeling about this show, that the writers were waiting for the right time to turn the Mr. Pickles character into another caricature of Fred Rogers, a man I admire very much.  Now I am more hopeful that this show will make Jeff Picklers a well-rounded humane character, instead of the butt of a cruel joke.  Let’s see how my hope plays out against the rest of the episodes.

Episode 5:

The New You

Jeff continues his unconventional relationship.  Sebastian continues to try to expand the marketing of Mr. Pickles.  Deidre tries to impress Sebastian with a new puppet.  Sebastian and Will bond.

This episode was disappointing because it focused on Jeff’s mental state, I hoped the focus would be elsewhere, but the writers are seemingly pushing the show in a different direction.  It could have been revolutionary or at least different, but it seems like it will be just another man on the edge series, and this character deserved better.  The big gag of the episode wasn’t even that funny.

 

Jeff’s relationship hits a low point.  Will Pickles vandalizes an empty house with his stoner friends without knowing that his father has bought the house  Jeff wants Tara Lapinski to stop impersonating him on ice.  Does she listen to him?  Deidre reaches her limit with her daughter, Maddy  (Juliet Morris)

This show is maddening.  Some of this episode is so beautiful, and some of it is just plain puzzling.  Just when I think I have a handle on the show or a character, something contradictory happens, and that makes the show frustrating to watch.  Will Pickles is especially annoying, maybe because of his moral nihilism, or his sense of privilege, because of his father’s wealth and fame, Will thinks he can get away with anything , people like that exist, I don’t want to see them on tv.

 

 

 

 

 

Episode 7:

Kintsugi

Mr. Pickles San ( Louis Ozawa Changchien) visits Jeff Pickles to pick up some tips on his version of Mr. Pickles.  Jeff approves a talking Mr. Pickles doll, and feels freer to speak his mind. Deidre finds kinship with Pickles San.  Scott and Deirdre argue about Maddy’s musical choices.  Jeff’s unconventional relationship takes an unexpected turn.

For 28 minutes this show is going as expected, but for the last two minutes of the show it devolves into something I don’t want to see. I hope it doesn’t turn into the kind of show that it seems to want to use shock value to gain viewers.  There are too many shows like that already, this show has a chance to be different, I hope it takes that chance to take the road less travelled.

Episode 8:

Phillium

Phil does magic tricks.  Jeff is asked to witness an execution.  Does he do it?

This was a filler episode about a tangential relationship between minor characters, all of these pay tv based shows have at least one of these filler episodes. I hope this is the last filler episode for this show.  It’s a flashback episode but it reveals little and what it reveals are only minor about minor characters.

Episode 9:

LT Pickles

Some creates a Mr. Pickles shooting game for smartphones.  Will gets into trouble in school.  Deidre’s feelings for Mr. Pickles San intensify.  Jeff is seeing things that don’t exist, is the pressure of being Mr. Pickles getting to him?

This show seems to be going in the direction that I feared it would, not in the direction that I hoped it would.  Every show is about sensationalism these days, not about how true to life a person can be.  I once again remind the writers and creator  of this fictional show that a real-life man entertained millions of kids without having mental issues, while confronting major societal issues, but nevermind.

Episode 10:

Some Day

Jeff pours his heart out on a live Christmas tree lighting, and it has unexpected consequences.  Deidre comes to a decision about her life that may not please everyone.  Will finds something unusual in the house he thought was abandoned.

This episode was actually a fitting episode for this show. Jeff finally got to speak from his heart, and it was touching, there was also a twist at the end of the episode if the episode got too saccharine for the viewers.  This was probably the best episode of the series, and made me want to watch Season 2.

My impressions of Season 1:

The  Some Day episode went a long way toward healing the flaws in this series, but the series was not without issues.  There was a foreboding tone and a downward spiral in the arc of the characters that was at times  depressing to watch.  The writers did some things for shock value, and also some cheap situation comedy tricks that really didn’t work.  There are also characters that are annoying, mostly the children but sometimes the adults.  Deidre is an example of such a character, she is in a season long rut, and whatever she tries to get out of that rut, it fails.  Deidre’s daughter, Maddy, is just a banshee, a bratty character that bears no resemblance to a real child.  Deidre’s husband Scott is less than one-dimensional, he’s no-dimensional, Jeff’s son Will is an entitled brat that everyone hopes their son is not.  One aspect of the writing is very good, and that’s the songs, the songs and the puppetry make the viewer believe that Mr. Pickles is a real kids show.

So what saves this show from the ash heap of pay tv series?   Frankly, the main characters, Jeff and Seb, are interesting.  There’s something interesting about a man with one foot out the door and another foot on a banana peel, I was hoping for a different kind of character, but there is still something morbidly intriguing about something on the edge of losing it.  The writers definitely pushed that narrative beyond the limits, b the viewer can’t look away. Jeff starts out as a total innocent, almost childlike in his naïveté, and then he evolves.  The evolution is sometimes disappointing, but always interesting.  Seb is interesting because of his undying cynicism .  How can a grown man be so Machiavellian in trying to manipulate his son?

The acting is another reason to watch the series.  Jim Carrey gives a mostly understated, well-modulated performance, as a man coping with incredible stress, and trying to find a silver lining in what he’s going through.  Sometimes Carrey reverts back to sit-com Jim Carrey,  but most of the time he delivers a sensitive and sweet performance.  The character has many sides and Carrey does well in exploring all facets of this character. Frank Langella almost steals the show as Seb, Jeff’s dad, Seb is underhanded, manipulative and mercenary.  The show needed someone like Seb to balance out all of Jeff’s good instincts.  It’s really a one dimensional character, Seb is basically trying to find new and different ways to monetize Jeff, but Langella does his best to infuse the character with humor, and that makes the character palatable.  Catherine Keener is stuck playing a sad-sack character who is desperately trying to find some happiness that seems just out of reach.  I don’t blame Keener, more the writers for giving her an untenable character.

Mostly for the acting, I will watch season two, because there is a twist at the end of season 1 that revives all the questions of  season 1.

Kidding:  Jim doesn’t get “Carreyd” away with silliness.

Movie Review: Traffik (2018)

Posted: November 17, 2018 in Drama
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traffik

Brea (Paula Patton) is an investigative journalist, who has just been fired for writing flowery, overly intellectual articles.  In order to buoy her flagging spirits her boyfriend John (Omar Epps) takes her on a trip to a luxurious cabin in the woods.  On the way to the cabin, Brea runs into a woman named Cara (Dawn Oliveri) in a gas station ladies room, who seems to want Brea to help her, but is pressured to leave by her boyfriend Red. (Luke Goss)  After Brea leaves the gas station, she discovers a phone in her purse, a short time later Cara tracks Brea down and demands her phone back.  What is on the phone?  Does Brea return the phone to Cara?

Traffik begins by saying that the film is based on actual events, which is movie speak for, we took a true story and made stuff up to make it more exciting.  The subject matter discussed in Traffik is very serious indeed, but the seriousness of the subject matter is undermined by a deeply flawed script.  Among the flaws are, Tyler Perry style infighting between the main characters, negative stereotyping of both races, excessive violence, and a sloppy transformation into a pseudo Blaxploitation film.  The film also features a needless plot twist, which again plays on minority fears regarding authority figures. The ending is predictable, and really gives the audience nothing to think about.

The acting is sub-par.  Paula Patton is limited as an actress, I didn’t realize how limited her skills were,  She is not well equipped for dramatic movies, she looks and sounds like a Valley Girl, which is definitely not the right character choice for this film.  She should stick to light romantic comedy, like Baggage Claim, that she can handle.  Omar Epps does a credible job as John, Brea’s boyfriend, but there’s not much to his character either. Roselyn Sanchez is not given much to do, and Missy Pyle giver her character a permanent scowl that gives away her character’s intentions.

Deon Taylor is the writer and director, he did not write a good story and his direction was similarly bad.  The last half an hour where the action should be picking up is when the pacing goes to Hell and slows to a crawl.  He doesn’t get good performances and  uses the song “Strange Fruit” a song  about lynching, at the most inopportune time.

Traffik:  Jammed with bad ideas.

thx1138-tm1

In the 25th century, intercourse and procreation has been outlawed, and hallucinogenic drugs are prescribed to maintain conformity.  THX 1138 (Robert Duvall) is a factory worker who builds android police officer s, when he stops taking his drugs, he realizes that he is in love with his computer chosen roommate, LUH 3427.  (Maggie McOmie)  The two have intercourse and LUH 3417 becomes pregnant.  The lack of drugs also affects THX’s work, and he starts to make mistakes, the state tries THX 1138 and finds him guilty.  He goes to jail, but he escapes with the help of a hologram called SRT (Don Pedro Colley) Do the authorities capture him?

THX 1138 is a combination of Logan’s Run and Blade Runner.  The problem with THX 1138 is that the story is disjointed, the characters aren’t developed and the story, despite an exciting premise, is dull beyond repair.  The story of a dystopian society, where sex is outlawed and mind-altering drugs are prescribed, should be an edge of your seat thriller, but it is not.  George Lucas’ deficiencies as a writer show here, the characters with their shaved heads and white clothes are one dimensional and bland.

The acting is sub-par, Robert Duvall is an excellent actor, but he plays THX 1138 with no emotion, and may have been directed to stay unemotional, but that makes for a dull movie.  Donald Pleasence plays a character that I’m not used to seeing him play, that character and plotline was a distraction from the main plotline, and really wasn’t worth Pleasance’s time or effort. Don Pedro Colley made the role of the hologram somewhat interesting, but at that point in the movie, it was to save the plot.

The direction is below average.  This is George Lucas’ first film, so it’s not going to have the production values of Star Wars or American Graffiti.  But the pacing is really slow, an hour and a half seems a lot longer.  The visuals are neither exciting or aesthetically pleasing, everything is bathed in a nauseating white color, and here’s the sad part, all the sets are white too, so it’s hard to tell THX’s house, from the prison or any other set.  This makes the visual narrative incredibly confusing. THX 1138 is far from the visual masterpiece that most critics say it is.

THX 1138: X-Tremely Boring.

 

Movie Review: Breaking In (2018)

Posted: October 28, 2018 in Action, Drama
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breaking_in_trailer_1050_591_81_s_c1

Shaun Russell (Gabrielle Union) has a strained relationship with her father, Isaac Paulson (Damien Leake) who has done some shady things.  Isaac is killed under suspicious circumstances and Shaun wants to sell her father’s house and get rid of her bad memories of her father once and for all.  Shaun brings her kids to the house, which seems more like a fortress, filled to the hilt with the latest security gadgets.  Despite all the security, four crooks break in.  Eddie (Billy Burke) the brains of the operation, Sam, (Levi Meaden) who’s been pumping Isaac’s assistant for information, Duncan (Richard Cabral) a hardened criminal who will stop at nothing to finish the job, and Peter, (Mark Furze) who has a specialized skill that the others need.  What is it that the criminals want, and can Shaun stop them before they harm her or her kids?

Breaking In actually kept me interested for at least half of the film, which is more than I can say for Kidnap, the Halle Berry movie which made no sense, and was hard to watch, but Breaking In lost some of its intensity when the motive is revealed.  Also, the movie relies on some tired tropes, the villain who never runs out of bullets or needs to reload, the villain who never dies, and do the police ever show up?  The reader can guess the answer to that.  And if the writers are writing this for a minority audience, don’t make the Hispanic guy a psycho, they are pushing a political agenda whether they realize it or not.  It tries really hard to be a women’s empowerment movie, and for that it gets points, but it loses points for clichés and stereotyping.

Gabrielle Union does a great job with a bad script.  She gives the character a good mix of fear and determination.  She’s not a damsel in distress, neither is she Arnold Schwarzenegger, but she looks fit enough to fight these four and does a convincing job in the fight scenes.  Billy Burke plays Eddie with intelligence and ruthlessness, but he does a slow burn with his character, Eddie is cool and calm on the outside, his temper simmering on the inside.  Burke and Union had a good on-screen chemistry and good byplay with each other, if the movie works, that is why it works.  Ajiona Alexus is a good young actress too, and pitches in to make this a women’s empowerment film.

The direction from James McTeague , who did a great job with V for Vendetta, keeps the action going, and directs the younger actors well.  There’s not a lot of visual excitement to this movie, I watched the director’s cut and it was the same length as the regular movie so I don’t know what was added to the director’s cut.

Breaking In:  Mugging for the camera.

 

Venom

An interstellar spaceship carrying parasites, known as Symbiotes , crash lands in Malaysia, and one of the Symbiotes escapes.  The flight is funded by tech billionaire, Carlton Drake. (Riz Ahmed)   Intrepid television reporter, Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) gets an interview with Drake and asks him about some experiments that Drake is doing with the Symbiotes.  Brock gets this information surreptitiously from his girlfriend, Anne Waying (Michelle Williams) who is a lawyer working on a class-action lawsuit against Drake’s company.  For his efforts , Brock gets fired from his job, loses his girlfriend, and ends up washing dishes to earn a living.

Without looking for information, the Drake story follows Brock.  He gets an unsolicited tip from Dr. Dora Skirth (Jenny Slate)  a scientist working on Drake’s lab experiments, who tells Brock that people are dying as a result of  Drake’s experiments.  Brock visits the lab, and sees one of his friends, a homeless woman named Maria, (Melora Walters) is dying from the experiments with Symbiotes, Brock tries to save Maura but she dies, and the Symbiote escapes.  Where did it go?  Does Eddie Brock stop Carlton Drake’s experiments on people?

There is one word for this movie and it is disappointing.  I waited 8 months for this movie and the result is an ultra-conventional superhero movie, with lots of chase scenes, and special effects and little in the way of character development or plot development.  The plot is threadbare, and the characters are so thin they are see-through.  The writers don’t have a simple understanding of parasites or symbiosis.  Symbiosis is supposed to create a mutually beneficial relationship for both organisms, and a parasite can’t live without its host.  Do the writers of this movie have even a basic understanding of science?  Science fiction fans will swallow anything if they like this movie.  To top it off the ending is underwhelming.

I love Tom Hardy, he is the reason I went to this movie, he genuinely tries to pump some life into his lonely, sad-sack, wimpy, loser, character, but the awful script ties his hands.  He has more fun with the Venom character and uses his voice to great effect, but this role is largely a wasted opportunity, the writers traded box office cash for real depth of character and plot.  Michelle Williams is also wasted as nothing more than a hollow love interest.  Riz Ahmed’s character is a little more interesting, he plays an evil Elon Musk character, but his execution lacks emotion, he sounds detached and uninterested.  Three really good actors can’t pump life into this movie, what does that say about the writing?  Not much. All the actors deserved better than this pedestrian script.

The director Reuben Fleischer directed Zombieland, which I liked, but this is a very vanilla directing effort.  There are the requisite action scenes, the requisite special effects, the requisite chase scenes, but there’s nothing iconic here.  He keeps things moving along, but doesn’t do anything to make this movie special.

Venom:  Should be box office poison, but won’t be.

hereditary_ending_explained_paimon - Copy

Annie (Toni Collette) struggles with the death of her mother, who became estranged from Annie’s life as she got older.  Annie’s daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro) misses her grandmother and tries to bring her back through mystical incantations.  Charlie reluctantly agrees to go to a party with her brother, Peter. (Alex Wolff)   Charlie eats some cake and starts to choke, Peter in his rush to get her to the hospital, gets into an accident and kills Charlie.

Unable to cope with both her mother’s and daughter’s deaths, Annie goes to grief counselling sessions and meets a women named Joan. (Anne Dowd)  Joan says Annie can talk to her dead daughter by holding a séance.  Annie, desperate to deal with her grief, agrees to hold a séance with a family.  What happens at the séance?

Hereditary reminds me of another recent film I saw called A Quiet Place.  Both films examine the effect of a traumatic event on a family, one family in these movies is more dysfunctional than the other, and neither movie is all that frightening.  The writer of Hereditary can’t seem to decide on what direction to go, he leads the viewers in one direction, and then another direction, before finally settling on a course for the movie, which only serves to add to the confusion. Hereditary tries to turn up the fear with lots of scary music and fire, but for its climax, Hereditary relies on one of the most overused and hackneyed plot devices ever in the horror genre, the séance. There are other gimmicky polt devices in the film, that are annoying. The ending  seeks to tie up several loose ends, but only if the viewer pays close attention and in the end,  the story still lacks cohesion.

The acting is ok, just ok.  Toni Colette swings wildly from a person trying to cope with loss, to someone in full-fledged mania, that’s a little too much ground for even a good actor to cover.  Gabriel Byrne is wasted here, and his Irish accent is noticeable.  He doesn’t have much to do, but be a skeptic. Alex Wolff is given a difficult role, his character either has anxiety stacks or some kind of asthma, either way, he doesn’t get to do much besides abuse himself.  Young Milly Shapiro acts like a zombie for most of the movie, and make an annoying clucking noise with her mouth, she was told to act that way, no doubt.

The direction is full of visual flourishes, colors, and camera angles, a model of a house dissolving into a real house, but the pacing is very slow, and the direction of the kids is awful.  I’ve not seen Ari Aster’s other work, and I don’t want to at this point.

Heredity:  Toni is no tigress in this movie.