Saturday, May 23, 2015

Jarhead

Year 7, Day 143 - 5/23/15 - Movie #2,042

BEFORE:  I was all set to link to "Syriana" via Viola Davis, but part of following the plan means I have to know when to divert from the plan as well - I've got about 7 or 8 recent acquisitions at the bottom of the list, and the other night I went through their cast lists.  This allowed me to notice that this film (which I got to go along with "Lone Survivor" and "American Sniper", as soon as some channel runs that second one) shares an actor with last night's film and another with what is now tomorrow's film.  So Jake Gyllenhaal carries over from "Prisoners" instead.

This worked out well, because I had run out of caffeinated diet soda, which meant that staying awake for a treatise on the state of the oil industry might have been a tough slog, but an action-packed war movie might keep me from falling asleep.  Also, it turns two nights of war films into three nights of war films, to coincide with the three-day Memorial Day weekend.   Seems like it was meant to be.


THE PLOT: Based on former Marine Anthony Swofford's best-selling 2003 book about his pre-Desert Storm experiences in Saudi Arabia and about his experiences fighting in Kuwait.

FOLLOW-UP TO: "The Kingdom" (Movie #1,178), "Three Kings" (Movie #316)

AFTER: First, a brief history of war, from my perspective.  There was World War I (yeah, I know there were earlier wars, but that was the first modern war), only they didn't call it that at the time, they called it "The War to End All Wars", only it didn't.  Then there was World War II, which created the "Greatest Generation" and put Germans back in their place, and that didn't end war either, but it led to some great movies being made.  Then we had the Korean War, which led to a great TV series, and Vietnam, which led to some more great movies.  

I got really lucky, in that I was much too young to understand Vietnam, let alone serve there, and by the time Gulf War I rolled around, I was 22 and a semi-productive member of the workforce.  There were plenty of young men willing to enlist - funny how that worked, you just keep college tuition high and don't do anything about unemployment rates, and boom, there's your army.  But this film reminds us that warfare became very different in the 1990's, with the use of technology like smart bombs, it was the first time war was waged by computers, and combat operations took just five weeks.  That is, if you don't count the five months of operation in Saudi Arabia prior to combat in Iraq.

This film is largely about Operation Desert Shield, which was that five months of relative downtime, where trained military personnel were deployed with little to do but train in the field, following a rigorous routine of hydration and preparation.  Combat can kill you, but routine can break you.  So they go a little mad in the desert, waiting for something, anything to happen.  Conversations turn to what the soldiers could be doing if they weren't in the military, and who their wives and girlfriends might be doing back in the States.  

Finally, Desert Shield turns to Desert Storm, and the Marines march through the aftermath of the Coalition's bombing campaign, and get to a place where it literally rains oil.  The Marine snipers are given an important mission at last, only to have it turn out to be something else.  Some of them then realize they've made it through an entire war without ever firing their rifles.  Truly, this is war for the slacker generation - war is often fought by the best and brightest people who couldn't avoid it, so it's good to know that those people can succeed at it with minimal effort. 

Naturally, any film that starts in basic training and ends with war as a metaphor for madness calls to mind other films like "Full Metal Jacket", and to a lesser extent, "The Deer Hunter" and "Apocalypse Now", both of which are referenced by "Jarhead" by having the Marines watch them.  I can't say this is really in the same ballpark as those films, but I think there may be a group of people who are very gung-ho about "Jarhead" and fail to grasp its larger meaning, simply because the film wasn't as blatantly anti-war as it could have been - like the way "Platoon" was an anti-war war film.  This one's mainly anti-war, because, well, where's the war?

Also starring Jamie Foxx (last seen in "Django Unchained"), Peter Sarsgaard (last seen in "Blue Jasmine"), Lucas Black (last seen in "42"), Brian Geraghty, John Krasinski (last heard in "Monsters University"), Evan Jones (last seen in "8 Mile"), Dennis Haysbert (last seen in "Random Hearts"), Chris Cooper (last seen in "August: Osage County"), Ivan Fenyo, Jacob Vargas, Laz Alonso, Brianne Davis.

RATING: 5 out of 10 fighting scorpions

Friday, May 22, 2015

Prisoners

Year 7, Day 142 - 5/22/15 - Movie #2,041

BEFORE: I couldn't really link anywhere directly from "Alex Cross" - my method is to scan down each actor's IMDB listing, looking for other films on my watchlist, and this time, nada. 

But I'm not counting it as a dead end, because I can indirectly link to this one - both Tyler Perry from "Alex Cross" and Viola Davis were on-screen together in Tyler Perry's "Tyler Perry's Madea Goes to Jail, a Tyler Perry Production, based on the novel by Tyler Perry". 
 


THE PLOT: When Keller Dover's daughter and her friend go missing, he takes matters into his own hands as the police pursue multiple leads and the pressure mounts.

AFTER:  Louis CK just did a funny but shocking monologue on SNL about pedophiles - if you haven't seen it, go watch that and then come back here, and we can proceed.  But it applies here, because it's all about how people absolutely hate pedophiles, and want to shun them and even kill them, but even though pedophiles know this, they molest kids anyway.  So it MUST feel amazing, because they still keep doing it.  Well, it was funny when Louis CK said it.   

I'm trying to get some statistics on how many children go missing each year in this country, and I can't get a clear number.  The last year with statistics available is 2002?  What the hell?  Do we not even have the resources to COUNT the number of missing children in the last 13 years?  I think I'm starting to see the problem - unless everyone is busy looking for missing kids instead of counting the number of cases, which is about the only explanation I'll accept at this point.  I fear that even searching for this statistic has probably put me on a watchlist somewhere.  Anyway, estimates for the number of missing children each year run as high as 800,000 - of which 97% are recovered.  That leaves 24,000 kids NOT recovered each year, which seems either scary-high or scary-real.  

This film is about a father of a missing girl who decides that the police aren't doing enough, and convinces himself that a cleared suspect knows more than he's letting on, so in what seems like poetic justice he becomes a kidnapper himself.  It's unfortunate that an amateur vigilante would be unable to tell the difference between someone not revealing information they know and them not knowing the information in the first place, so a downward spiral of coercion begins. 

This creates a dilemma I'll call "Schrodinger's killer" - without knowing for sure, he both did and didn't do it.  But you can't have it both ways, ultimately the film needs to pick one of these things.  There's no physical evidence, but plenty of circumstantial evidence - this is a tough line to walk.  But it feeds the dilemma as long as neither theory is proven correct - still, I feel the film could have been trimmed somewhere to be shorter than 2 1/2 hours.

At the same time, other leads are pursued by a detective who apparently never heard the words "search warrant" before - yeah, I realize there are two missing girls and time is of the essence, but we still have laws in this country, and if he can catch their kidnapper or killer, doesn't he want them to be convicted properly, without the case being thrown out on a technicality?

I can't decide if this was a case of a screenwriter painting himself into a corner, or if it's more like they got the ball to the 1-yard line and couldn't score a touchdown, but either way, I felt like the ending of the film was off.  I won't talk directly about it, but even though the film kept me guessing almost all the way through, I don't think the ending here presented a valid payoff.  Everything didn't really come together until I read the full plot description on Wikipedia, and even then I had to bring something to the film that wasn't evident at first. 

Also starring Hugh Jackman (last seen in "Someone Like You"), Jake Gyllenhaal (last seen in "Zodiac"), Terrence Howard (last seen in "The Butler"), Maria Bello (last seen in "Grown Ups 2"), Melissa Leo (last seen in "The Angriest Man in Brooklyn"), Paul Dano (last seen in "Ruby Sparks"), Dylan Minette, Zoe Soul, Len Cariou.

RATING: 6 out of 10 candlelight vigils

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Alex Cross

Year 7, Day 141 - 5/21/15 - Movie #2,040

BEFORE:  I've taken a look at what's left on my list, in this post-Letterman world, and unfortunately it's going to be something of a mish-mash from here on out.  I've got a few films on serial killers, some political films, comedies, heists, romantic dramas, historical dramas, boxing films, documentaries, time-travel films, animations and alien invasions.  Sure, Halloween and Christmas may lend things some structure, but other than that, I may not spend more than two days on any particular topic.  Same thing with actors - other than week-long tributes to Jack Lemmon and Matthew McConnaughey, no one's going to be taking up long residences around here.   Tonight, John C. McGinley carries over from "42", and I'm back on crime films for two days.

Unfortunately, I'm also at the tipping point for Year 8, with 160 films left on the list and 160 viewing slots left in 2015.  Every film I add at this point pushes me further into 2016 - I guess it's always been that way, but when the numbers prove it, I have to concede that if I want to truly finish, it's going to take much longer than I planned, assuming I can ever call this finished.  Again, the numbers would help, and if the watchlist could help me out by getting down to zero, that would be a great indication that it's time to stop.


THE PLOT: A homicide detective is pushed to the brink of his moral and physical limits as he tangles with a ferociously skilled serial killer who specializes in torture and pain.

AFTER: The last time I saw Alex Cross, it was way back in 2009 when I watched "Kiss the Girls" and "Along Came a Spider" - and then the character was older and played by Morgan Freeman.  So either they've jumped back in time to show us one of his earlier adventures, or they've decided to reboot the character, which is all the rage these days, by just casting a younger actor and hoping that people don't ask too many questions about the process.  Jeez, at least the "Star Trek" franchise had the courtesy to use time-travel to create an alternate timeline to explain away any pesky continuity mistakes.

For example, if we're flashing back to early in Alex Cross' career, why does the killer have such technically-forward devices, like electronic gear that help him take control of an elevated train, or things that can launch bombs when his hands are full?  So I guess that supports the reboot theory, but we're never really sure if this is a serial killer or an urban terrorist, because I think those are two very different animals.  But not knowing the killer's motivation for most of the film is a huge drawback.

Yet, the police team all acts like profilers, and they claim this guy has a pattern.  "He's working his way up the chain."  OK, care to explain, or at least consider showing the chain to the audience?  If there's a pattern, how come the police can see it, but I can't?  And he soon gets personal by targeting people close to the police, so how is that part of the pattern?  He can't go off message and work his way up the chain at the same time.

Similarly, Alex Cross is supposed to be like some kind of modern-day Sherlock Holmes - but with Holmes, they always told the audience how he figured things out through observation and deduction.  If you don't show the work, it's much easier for me to believe that the screenwriter just skipped to the result and couldn't find a way to explain how he knew what he knew.  Alex's partner correctly guesses that Alex will know that he's sleeping with another member of the team, but how did he get there?  I guess maybe when he picked him up at her apartment?  Not sure, but a little help on the clues would have been appreciated.

For a movie that seems so by-the-numbers, it's a shame that things also didn't seem to add up.  It almost felt like there were scenes missing, because at least one key moment happened completely off-camera.  You can't just go from A to Z without showing me all the steps in-between.

Also starring Tyler Perry (last seen in "Star Trek"), Matthew Fox (last seen in "World War Z"), Edward Burns (last seen in "Friends With Kids"), Jean Reno (last seen in "Rollerball"), Rachel Nichols, Carmen Ejogo (last seen in "The Brave One"), Cicely Tyson (last seen in "The Help"), Giancarlo Esposito.

RATING: 4 out of 10 charcoal sketches

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

42

Year 7, Day 140 - 5/20/15 - Movie #2,039

BEFORE: Numbers are a funny thing, and I've had several movie titles that were JUST numbers - like I remember "2012" was Movie #1,000 and "9" was Movie #812 (not to be confused with "Nine", which was Movie #968.  While I'm at it, "1941" was Movie #342, "21" was Movie #84, "54" was Movie #966, and of course, "300" was Movie #300.  That last one seems about right.

And baseball players are all about numbers, right?  Ty Cobb set or held over 90 MLB records, including highest career batting average, for over 50 years, most batting titles, and still holds the record for stealing home (again, seems about right).  I can't find any records held by Jackie Robinson, but you have to consider that his accomplishment of breaking the color barrier in baseball isn't necessarily going to be reflected in the stats. 

While we're talking numbers, what about 33 years in late-night TV, and over 6,000 hours of shows, if you add up the NBC and the CBS years? Yep, I'm talking about David Letterman, and if you've been wondering why I haven't addressed this topic until the day of Dave's retirement, it's probably because I've been in denial.  And busy.  But my history with Dave goes back to his morning show, which I remember watching during the summer of 1981 (?) while house-sitting for my aunt and uncle.  He's been a huge influence on my life and style (I hope someday to be a cranky old man with 35 years of a track record in the business) and he will leave a giant, Dave-sized hole in my viewing line-up after tonight.  OK, after this weekend, which is when I'll probably watch his final show - tonight the "Survivor" finale takes precedence.

My BFF Andy is also a big Letterman fan, he's got connections at the show and has written about his encounters many times over the years, here's one example, titled "David Letterman Licked my iPad":

http://chicago.suntimes.com/business/7/71/620922/david-letterman-licked-first-apple-ipad-andy-ihnatko

But collectively we've got many behind-the-scenes experiences - we attended both the 6th and 10th Anniversary specials for the NBC show.  Those were back in the days when you could send in 100 postcards to the ticket request address and stand a fair chance of getting two tickets in the mail.  At one of those I remember standing outside in the cold (festival seating only) and when I went down to the lower levels of Rock Center to use the men's room, I turned a corner and nearly smacked right into Dave himself.  He was dressed down (and in those days still not comfortable interacting with fans) but clearly he was arriving for the show and his gaze met mine with a mixed expression of "How ya doin'?" and "Please don't kill me."  

At the 10th Anniversary show, which was largely a vehicle for a bunch of highlight clips, we got to see Bob Dylan perform with an unparalleled line-up of musicians: Chrissie Hynde, Steve Vai, Carole King, Edgar Winter, Jim Keltner, Doc Severinsen, Roseanne Cash, Emmylou Harris, Nancy Griffith, Michelle  Shocked, and Mavis Staples.  Oh, and Paul and the "Late Night" band, of course. They did two tapings of "Like a Rolling Stone", which was good because on the version we saw taped, Dylan was nearly incomprehensible, so they clearly aired the other one.  But this was a once-in-a-lifetime event, something that someday should be regarded like being at Woodstock, or seeing the Stones at Altamont.    (I think for the 6th Anniversary special, the big music number included Ben E. King, Cyndi Lauper, Ashford & Simpson, Carole King, Billy Joel, Joe Walsh, Robert Cray, Duane Eddy, Joe Walsh & Warren Zevon.  Also a great line-up.)


We also attended one of the last shows at NBC (where we shared an elevator with Harvey Pekar) and one of the first shows at CBS, and last December Andy got VIP tickets to the last-ever Letterman Christmas special, where Darlene Love rocked "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" and the band pulled out all the stops.  You can hear a podcast about this taping here:  http://5by5.tv/ia/126

Better writers than I will be writing tributes this week, these are just my personal recollections - and when you're dealing with any loss, whether it's the loss of a TV show, or a job, or a family member, there will be a mourning/celebration period, and then eventually we move on.  I will reserve any judgment on replacing Dave, especially since I just haven't warmed up to this James Corden guy.  He's much too commercial, too fake, too smarmy - I watched a Craig Ferguson stand-up special last week and this just emphasized what I've been missing - and I'm really considering switching over to Seth Meyers for a while to see if that's any better.  From time to time, I've taped Fallon & Kimmel's shows for work reasons, but as with Corden, I usually just watch the monologue and opening comedy bit, then fast-forward over any guests I don't care for.  Networks, you're on notice, I'm looking for a new late-night entertainment provider.  Maybe I'll try a Conan/Seth combo for a while.

With comedy, it's all about tone, and I've gotten used to Dave's blend of sarcasm, self-deprecation and biting wit.  I can't stand hosts who are overly friendly and overly eager to be hosting a show - oddly, it seems I prefer hosts who act like they would rather be doing something else, like Dave didBut that's a tone - and if it was an act all this time, it was a really good one.  But I think he's been, more than anything, a genuine guyThe shows he did after 9/11, after coming back from heart surgery, and after admitting his affairs all proved exactly that.

Anyway, Dave, if I can call you Dave, before you go, I have just one thing to say: Thanks.  And not the thanks that you've been getting the last two weeks from celebrities, like "Thanks for giving me a place to promote my movie." From a fan of TV, thanks for Larry "Bud" Melman and the Guy Under the Seats.  Thanks for dropping stuff off of buildings and thanks for putting other stuff in a hydraulic press just to see what that would look like.  Thanks for Stupid Pet Tricks and even stupider Stupid Human Tricks.  Thanks for your fake feud with Oprah and your real feud with Jay Leno.  Thanks for not letting it get you down when you didn't get the "Tonight Show" gig, and thanks for moving across town, determined to put on an even better show.  Thanks for making fun of the food at the Hello Deli and for throwing footballs at meatballs on top of Christmas trees.  Thanks for making fun of Regis Philbin and for shooting a fire extinguisher at Richard Simmons. Thanks for being miserable and sharing that with America, night after night after night. Even if I fast-forwarded through interviews of guests I didn't care for (if I never see Tom Dreesen or Amy Sedaris again, I'm OK with that) I've still been massively over-entertained by your show for three decades.  Like millions of other Americans, I'm glad I ran into you.

Rhoda Griffis, who played Ty Cobb's mother in flashbacks in last night's film, carries over to play a small role in tonight's film.

THE PLOT:  The story of Jackie Robinson from his signing with the Brooklyn Dodgers organization in 1945 to his historic 1947 rookie season when he broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball.

AFTER:  This is a good follow-up to "Cobb", because they're like opposite sides of the racism coin.  Plus they both used the same song in the end credits, "The Ball Game" - with the notable lyrics "life is a ballgame, but you've got to play it fair".  In "Cobb" that seemed more like a rebuke against the famous ball-player, but in "42" it's got extra meaning about inclusion of all men in the sport.

Also, like "Cobb", the film is about baseball and also issues that are larger than baseball.  Some men achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them, and I appreciate that the film seems to support the latter theory in Jackie Robinson's case.  Of course, someone had to be the first black baseball player, and it could have been anyone, or could it?  The film also suggests that it had to be someone willing to suffer the slings and arrows from fans in certain parts of the country, where Jim Crow laws still enforced segregation.  And if not done properly, putting a black man in a MLB uniform in 1947 could have caused a set-back in race relations, rather than representing a step forward.

In the end, money is the motivating factor in breaking the color barrier, and it's refreshing to see that fact acknowledged, that it wasn't done just in the name of equality and civil rights.  It's probably easy after the fact to just remember the more noble aspects of this sea change, but the reality is that getting black fans more interested in the MLB meant that the color Branch Rickey was most interested in was green.  

April 15 is now Jackie Robinson Day in baseball, and everyone wears #42 in his honor - this is a nice idea but not practical in any way, right?  I mean, don't the numbers on the uniform help everyone tell each other apart?  And what does the game's announcer say, something like "Number 42 hits the ball, and it's caught by Number 42, who throws to Number 42, who tags Number 42 out at second base!" ??

Surprisingly, some people still don't understand the "equal" part of the phrase "equal rights".  Not to take anything away from Robinson's accomplishments, but when women earn less money then men for doing the same job, isn't that all part of the same struggle?  When these people can marry whomever they want, but THOSE people can't, isn't that the same fight?  That's an inequality, and if you support an inequality while living in a country that claims to champion equality, eventually you're going to realize you're on the wrong side of history.  70 years later, we can scratch our heads and wonder how some people weren't allowed to compete in sports, and whatever arguments people had against fair play seem perhaps silly and outdated.  But the struggle continues to this day, only in different forms.  

Also starring Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford (last seen in "Sabrina"), T.R. Knight, Nicole Beharie, Christopher Meloni ("Man of Steel"), Lucas Black (last seen in "Cold Mountain"), Ryan Merriman, Hamish Linklater (last seen in "The Angriest Man in Brooklyn"), Andre Holland, Alan Tudyk (last seen in "Patch Adams"), John C. McGinley (last seen in "Get Carter"), Toby Huss, Max Gail, Brad Beyer, Brett Cullen (last seen in "Something to Talk About"), with cameos from Matt Clark (last seen in "Jeremiah Johnson"), Mark Harelik.

RATING: 5 out of 10 road uniforms

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Cobb

Year 7, Day 139 - 5/19/15 - Movie #2,038

BEFORE: From one sports movie to another, switching from football to the more seasonally appropriate baseball.  Really, it's just a coincidence that one sports film follows another, I put this here because an actor carries over - Eloy Casados, who played a football player in "The Best of Times", plays Louis Prima in this one.  Another coincidence: this film was directed by Ron Shelton, who wrote the screenplay for last night's film.

THE PLOT: A reporter hired to write the 'official' biography of Ty Cobb discovers just how dark the baseball legend's real story is. 

AFTER: Most sports biopics play out in proper chronological order, and tend to focus on the best part of a legend's career, or perhaps some of his best games - perhaps there would be a modern framing device as the athlete reminisces, before flashing back to show him in his heyday.  This one goes a different route and focuses on the aging, retired Ty Cobb as he works with a reporter hired to write his official biography.  The film then spends most of its time in the present - umm, more recent past, 1960 or 1961 - detailing the difficulty the reporter has in dealing with Cobb.  Oh, there are flashbacks, but most of them don't even involve baseball, just traumatic events from Cobb's childhood and young adult life.  

This technique is both good and bad - it doesn't gloss over the seamier aspects of Cobb's life, not just pointing out he was a racist and abusive asshole, but practically reveling in it - but also bad, because we never really get to see him play baseball, so instead we have to rely on announcers quoting his statistics or people praising him at functions.  It's a terrible, glaring violation of the "Show, don't tell" rule.  (EDIT: Apparently, according to IMDB, Tommy Lee Jones had broken his leg prior to shooting, and was in a cast most of the time.  Perhaps this drastically affected the amount of baseball footage they were able to shoot.)

Sure, a man's life is more than his accomplishments, and a baseball player's career is more than just a bunch of stats, but seeing someone play the game is ten times more exciting than hearing people talk about it.  And in between revelations about how his father died, and that guy he might have shot in Reno just to watch him die that one time, couldn't he have also reminisced a bit about a particularly noteworthy game or two?  OK, so we get to see him sliding into second, spikes first, with one leg raised to catch the second baseman right in the "dugout".  Cobb apparently turned baseball from a pastime into a contact sport, and is probably the reason players had to start wearing cups. 

Problem is, the things we learn about Cobb outside of baseball are not exactly endearing, so the film doesn't really allow his baseball accomplishments to counteract his personal foibles.  But on the other hand, by portraying his darker side (Cobb was like the moon, there's no real "dark side", depending on where you looked from, it could all be dark) perhaps we're meant to feel as if this portrait is more accurate.  Still, it's about as subtle as a fastball to the head.

Also starring Tommy Lee Jones (last seen in "Hope Springs"), Robert Wuhl (last seen in "Blue Chips"), Lolita Davidovitch (last seen in "Hollywood Homicide"), Lou Myers (last seen in "Tin Cup"), Ned Bellamy, Rhoda Griffis, with cameos from Bradley Whitford (last seen in "Saving Mr. Banks"), Roger Clemens, Jimmy Buffett.

RATING: 3 out of 10 bench-clearing brawls

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Best of Times

Year 7, Day 138 - 5/18/15 - Movie #2,037

BEFORE:  This will bring the Robin Williams chain to an end after 9 days, and I'm hoping to end on a high note.  Some of these films have been quite dark and depressing, and that's even before taking Robin's suicide into account.  I guess you can debate whether comic figures lead tragic lives, or whether perhaps his history of playing loners and losers in movies had anything to do with it.  

There are still Robin Williams films left unwatched - like the Robert Redford chain, it's impossible for me to get to every single film in an actor's filmography.  In this case, I haven't seen "RV", "Man of the Year", the third "Night at the Museum" film, "Old Dogs", "Father's Day", "Boulevard", "The Big White", "Seize the Day", "Nine Months", "The Survivors", "Moscow on the Hudson" and "Flubber".  But I don't have interest in most of those films, I'll probably watch the latest "Night at the Museum", but otherwise, I think I'm good.



THE PLOT: A small-town loser determines to have one more shot at the big time by winning a football game.

AFTER:  For the purposes of this film, we're meant to believe in a football rivalry between two California towns, Taft (formerly named Moron) and Bakersfield.  Bakersfield ALWAYS wins, except for that time back in 1972 when the game ended in a tie.  (Right off the bat, we've got our first NITPICK POINT: Do high school football games end in ties?  What happened to overtime?)  The man who failed to catch the ball on a long, desperate last-second pass is unable to move forward with his life, unable to come out from the shadow of the game, and is constantly called "Butterfingers" by the townspeople.  

NITPICK POINT #2: If Taft usually wins the game by a wide margin, why is the tie score something to be embarrassed about?  Isn't a tie better than a loss?  Instead of being taunted, shouldn't the members of the 1972 team be seen as champions, relatively speaking?  They did the near impossible, they matched the score of a tougher, better-funded rival team.  In my opinion, they should have the run of that town and be seen as winners, not as losers.

But once the receiver gets it in his head that the game can be replayed, that's all he can focus on, and he'll go to whatever lengths are necessary, including deception, to convince people to replay the game.  Unfortunately, it's quite coincidental that our hero's chief antagonist is also his boss and his father-in-law, and also just happens to be a big supporter of the opposing team.  Very convenient that one character serves four different purposes...

NITPICK POINT #3: It's a cute idea, but once people get past the idea of "Why NOT replay the game?" I guess things have gone too far, and no one regresses back to "Why replay the game?"  Because you can't actually replay a game - you can have the same match-up, with the same athletes, but that game is always on the books forever, and no school or athletic association would be willing to replay a game unless there was some giant technical foul-up during the original game, which there wasn't.  

However, we do live in a strange age now regarding sports - given the penalties levied against Penn State and Lance Armstrong due to scandals, there are now sports victories which have been "voided" or "vacated" - meaning that those wins no longer count.  You might think that in the case of the Tour de France or some Olympic scandal that the 2nd place finisher would become the 1st place winner, but apparently that's not how these things work.  A silver medal remains a silver medal, it's just that now NO ONE was awarded the gold medal or the yellow jersey for that race.  In the wake of the Penn State sex scandal, all victories were vacated between 1998-2011.  The wins were eventually reinstated, I think mainly for the sake of clarity, just because, well, who won those games then?

And let's not get started on Tom Brady again - I can't tell you how many times I've seen reactions to "Deflategate" (or is it "Ballghazi"?) where people have wondered, "Well, what are they going to do, replay the Super Bowl?"  Well, no, largely because you can't do that, and the game that was affected by the football deflation scandal was NOT the Super Bowl, it was the AFC Championship Game.  And if you entertain the possibility of that game being replayed, then it could have a different victor, and you'd then have a different team going to the Super Bowl, so, yeah, we're not doing that.

Also starring Kurt Russell (last seen in "Tequila Sunrise"), Pamela Reed (also carrying over from "Cadillac Man"), Holly Palance (last seen in "Under Fire"), Donald Moffat, Margaret Whitton, M. Emmet Walsh (last seen in "Random Hearts"), Kirk Cameron, Robin Lively, Eloy Casados, with cameos from Carl Ballantine, Kathleen Freeman (last seen in "Kiss Them For Me")

RATING: 4 out of 10 portraits of the Colonel

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Cadillac Man

Year 7, Day 137 - 5/17/15 - Movie #2,036

BEFORE: We went out to play bingo last night in Queens, something we've never done, but we figured we're not too many years away from being seniors, so we'd better get used to the activities involved.  There were a couple challenges in learning when to use the boards and the chips, and when to switch to the paper grids and ink markers (for the special jackpot rounds) but we managed by just doing what everyone else in the bingo hall was doing.  I was surprised to see some older ladies playing about 20 boards at a time, and not using any chips - so they either memorized the boards, or they memorized the called numbers and could just see the bingos in their heads - either way, the feat was impressive.  

On the last round, the man in charge came on the microphone to talk about next week's jackpots, and the caller probably should have paused the game while he spoke, but instead she kept drawing numbers, and this led to a number appearing on the board without being called out loud, and as a result there was almost a riot in the bingo hall.  I can't remember when I've seen so many angry senior citizens, but the more they yelled at the man on the microphone, the more he refused to admit that his announcement had caused a mistake, so things got ugly.  

Back to comedies tonight, and reaching back closer to the start of Robin Williams' movie career.  


THE PLOT:  A car salesman has two days to sell 12 cars or he loses his job. This would be a difficult task at the best of times but he has to contend with his girlfriends, a missing teenage daughter, an ex-wife, and a crazy jealous husband with a machine gun.

AFTER: You'd think that after so many serious films this week, anything even remotely funny would seem hilarious by comparison, but apparently that's not how it works, because I'm having trouble finding the funny in this one.  The way I see it, you can't put a bunch of elements that aren't funny together and expect the combined result to somehow be funny.  Divorce?  Not funny, unless it's in a slice-of-life kind of way.  A missing daughter?  Definitely not funny, even if she's just rebelling and spending time with her boyfriend.  Adultery?  Nope.  And a guy taking over the car dealership with a gun and holding people hostage?  How did someone determine that this would be a good situation to mine some comedy from?

Yeah, I get it - he's a salesman, he's supposed to be good at talking people into buying cars, and he has to put that skill to use to talk the gunman out of killing people.  But that doesn't make into a funny situation.  When was the last time you heard on the news about someone entering a business with a rifle, and that story had anything but a very tragic ending?  It's just a bad idea all around.  Or you never hear, "Hey, remember that time the guy with an assault rifle held us hostage?  Yeah, that was hilarious, plus I think we all learned something from the experience."

On top of that, why create a character whose life is a mess, probably by his own design, and based on what we know about car salesman, probably tells lies for a living?  Why would I root for this guy to succeed, or to be in a situation where he gets a chance to turn his life around, when from the start I may not feel like this guy even deserves redemption?  

Maybe I missed something here, after watching this I didn't feel like it added anything to my experience, I could have gone forward without this one and not regretted it - of course, I can't possibly predict that will happen.  So I sort of just have to watch it to clear it off the books. 

Also starring Tim Robbins (last seen in "Zathura: A Space Adventure"), Fran Drescher (last heard in "Hotel Transylvania"), Pamela Reed (last seen in "Melvin and Howard"), Annabella Sciorra (last seen in "The Hard Way"), Paul Guilfoyle (last seen in "Random Hearts"), Lori Petty, Zack Norman, Bill Nelson, Lauren Tom, Paul Herman, with cameos from Bill Nunn, Elaine Stritch (last seen in "A Farewell to Arms").

RATING: 3 out of 10 business cards