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Bevan - #4

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How Does That Happen?, 20 October 2015

Okay, if you're familiar, that's a catchphrase of one of the announcers when the Dread Spread Eagle shows up. If you're a candlepin aficionado, you'll understand.

In any event, the heyday of candlepin bowling shows on local TV in New England and Canada was over long ago, and you have to go to webcasts now to see them. This is by far the best, with the best camera angles and production values, and amusing announcers. It's available on a dozen community access cable channels in Massachusetts, but your best bet by far is to catch it on YouTube.

Each "series" is a month long, and they're "ladder" matches -- the 5th qualifier faces the 4th one in a two-string rolloff, the winner faces the 3rd qualifier the next week, and so on. The champion returns as the 5th seed in the next month's action.

Season 1, the announcers were still settling in and more than a bit aggravating, but they settled down, and the show's now in its fifth season. Long live the King of the Palace! 8/10.

Goodfellas (1990)
3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Just plain overrated, 20 October 2015

Chalk me up as another reviewer who found this movie to be vastly overrated. My wife and I saw it a couple nights ago, for the first time, and it just pales in comparison to cinematic triumphs such as The Godfather movies or The Sopranos.

As much as anything else, there are no likable characters. Part of the reason you could keep turning in to The Sopranos is that you could genuinely like and identify with the principals, despite their brutality and crimes. Here, you can't. None of the principals have any displayed virtues: at best, they're shallow and two-dimensional.

Yes, the highly lauded soundtrack has many tunes. But if you're going to use the hoary old tactic of advancing pop tunes down the years to denote the march of time, could you not be so flamingly anachronistic as all of that? They were playing 40s tunes in the doo-wop era, 50s doo-wop post-British Invasion, 60s psychedelic pop in the 70s, and early Eric Clapton in the disco era. Get the freaking DATES right.

Speaking of anachronisms, the film's jammed with them, and while it's superficially a glittering, gritty portrait of the wiseguy life and the wiseguy era, the goofs just overload. Cars too late for the year. Phones too late for the year. Livery too late for the year. Did Scorsese bother at all with accuracy and continuity, or did they just say "Eh, get an old looking car out there." It pains me to read about how exacting and painstaking DeNiro was to get every aspect of Jimmy's personality true to life, exactly how the real Jimmy Burke did, in the middle of a blizzard of anachronisms.

Most damning, there's just no dramatic tension. There's little by way of plot, little by way of suspense. The actors did good jobs with the material and direction they were given, but that's not remotely enough to sustain this seriously overrated flick.


Die Hard 2 (1990)
0 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Sorry, I'm just not dumb enough., 12 March 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Look. It'd be nice to like this movie. Bruce Willis is himself, after all, and presents the same engaging, Everyman cop he did in the first Die Hard.

But it's not that you have to suspend disbelief to enjoy this movie, you have to abandon everything you know about the real world.

For Chrissake, it's not that there are a few alternate airfields within two hours' flight; it's that there are *hundreds*. Let's leave aside the nonsense that the snow's enough to close National, less than 30 miles away as the crow flies: there are five other airports that can handle 747s in VIRGINIA (not counting BWI), even if you leave out the military bases.

And even in pre-9/11 days, terrorists crashing Dulles? We wouldn't get a single anti-terrorist platoon, we'd get a REGIMENT. Can't crack the terrorists' radio communications, right near the headquarters of the NSA and the military's codebreaking establishment at Fort Meade? Can't signal the other planes to go elsewhere, when you've got the military airbases at Andrews, Bolling, Anacostia and Quantico right next door? So many other boners: a plane empty of fuel blowing up like it's carrying a hundred tons of TNT? Jet fuel lighting up with open flame? A stream of flame catching up to a plane at TAKEOFF SPEED? SMG bullets penetrating SWAT body armor? Grenades with the longest fuse times in cinematic history? Ejector seats that blow a couple hundred feet in the air? On and on and on go the idiotic bloopers. No wonder Bruce Willis hated this film.

4/10, on the back of Willis' performance alone.

A Heap Of Flaming Suck, 4 December 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Even by the terribly low standard of chopsocky flicks, this is the ultimate POS. From its ludicrous claim to be Bruce Lee's "final film" (hey, if I splice bootleg footage of Bruce into my next vidcam extravaganza, do I get to usurp that status?), to darkened duels with extras in lion suits, to flashbacks of the last scene, this flick leaves no stone unturned to deliver the epitome of bad cinema. Even the alleged awesome fight scenes are trumped by any number of MMA brawls you can gank from YouTube.

Honestly, the only cinematic rule this fetid ripoff follows is that of Joe Bob Briggs: if you're going to make a sequel, make it exactly like the original.

The only reason I'm not giving this abortion the lowest possible score is that Plan 9 From Outer Space and Last Temptation Of Christ exist.


8 out of 16 people found the following review useful:
Epic Suck, 19 January 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I don't know if this is the most overrated film ever, but it's the worst one I've seen in a long, long time. Almost as long as this steaming waste of three hours of my life. Let's review:

* Suspension of disbelief is part and parcel of the superhero world, but c'mon. You're telling me this psychopath has recruited dozens of henchman, purchased mountains of equipment and rigged several hundred barrels of explosives in locations all over the city, and the world's greatest detective can't find a SINGLE BLEEDING CLUE without some Mr. Wizard cell phone stunt? Yeah, sure, half the cops are on the take, but are all of them blind, in this post-9/11 world? The Joker's band is comprised of escapees from an asylum, but they're all lean, mean, disciplined and competent?

* This may be the widest ratio of screen time:plotfree of the decade. Too many characters. Too many side scenes. Too many random encounters. Too much exposition that doesn't actually expose anything. What do we leave this movie knowing? Anything?

* The sheer quality was poor. Much of the film was too dark to see, and the sound was terribly spotty, yoyoing between blaringly loud and inaudible.

* Yeah, Ledger did a good job, so stipulated. He still wouldn't have cadged an Oscar for it without the posthumous sympathy vote.

* Finally ... this just blew a hole through the genre. Aren't the good guys supposed to WIN? They spend the movie losing ... dozens of people getting murdered, hundreds wounded and terrorized, chaos, mayhem, death and destruction and violence, and they pretty much lose at the end too. There's very little hopeful or uplifting here.

2/10, barely.

11 out of 18 people found the following review useful:
Err ... excuse me?, 17 July 2009

Hef was undressing the bunnies in his mind? If he could have had nudity he would have? The bunnies' costumes would have been topless if he could? Leaving aside the painfully obvious fact that fifty years on, nudity and toplessness form no part of any broadcast network show, leaving aside that the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, Harry Belafonte, Pete Seeger and Bob Newhart can hardly be called "minor" talents, leaving aside that in this era and for many years thereafter Playboy (and the lifestyle it pushed) was considered in many venues chic and avant garde ...

... the purpose of a review is to review what's on the screen. It is not to be a shrill editorial on the lifestyle of the performers, nor is it a proper venue to disclose the reviewer's psychic and clairvoyant powers, nor a polemic on the reviewer's religious beliefs (something frequently featured in her reviews). This was neither a great nor an enduring show, but it is a product of its time and should be viewed in context. And you know? The previous commenter didn't think to mention that this was the very first variety or talk show on TV where blacks and whites sat down and chatted as equals, or the first appearance of Lenny Bruce in the national eye.

Somehow I doubt she saw the show at all.

Gigli (2003)
1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Every rare once in a while ..., 30 December 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

... the critics get it right.

While it took a few years for us to see it, my wife and I always wondered whether the problem with Gigli was that the media, as it always does if it has half the chance, was sick of "Bennifer" and turned on them the moment blood was in the water.

That's likely true, but the fact of the matter is that the movie is a boring suckfest of epic proportions and PREDICTABLY so. It's an unfortunate truism that off-screen couples seldom manage to project on-screen heat, and Lopez/Affleck were no exception, but what have either of them ever done to suggest that smouldering intensity's in their repertoire? Martin Brest has directed a couple of decent movies, but Gigli was his first writing credit in a quarter century, and who read that script thinking it made the slightest bit of sense? Walken's a decent actor, but an overactor a director needs to rein in, and nothing in Brest's resume suggests he was cut out for that task either ...

And so on and so on. We made it through Walken's first rambling, idiotic scene before popping the DVD.

2/10, and pretty much only because Moment By Moment and Plan Nine From Outer Space exist.

Juno (2007)
1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
I seem to have missed the part where this was supposed to be a political documentary., 10 September 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Let's get a few procedural matters out of the way, shall we? (1) Quite aside from the bizarre (if common) view that failure to explicitly condemn/praise a point of view = condoning/rejecting it, sometimes people make choices. It's not the job of a film to - somewhat dishonestly - suggest that protagonists must consider every possible option with equal weight or make a choice in a sensible and clear-headed fashion. Neither must such a choice reflect political or moral allegiance to one side or the other; a lot of human beings, weirdly enough, do what seems good at the time or pick the least bad option. Oddly enough, quite a few pregnant teens *do* reject the option of keeping the baby out of hand in favor of abortion or adoption, and if this *were* supposed to be a political polemic, do we really want to encourage 15-year-old single mothers? (That being said, plainly Juno *did* consider the option. "I'm a kid," she said, kicking the notion to the curb.) (2) Sometimes people (and even teenagers, and even their families), react in level-headed, supportive ways in a crisis. For everyone who screeches that Juno is unrealistic because her parents don't take (too many) swings at her, physically or verbally, gosh ... parents have been known to react that way. Not everyone is a hot-headed screamer.

(3) Works of fiction are not required to (and seldom do) "handle things responsibly." Kids screw up. *People* screw up. And some brush themselves off and muddle through as best they can. I'm sure it would have satisfied the amour propre of many of the critics if Mac came after Bleeker with a shotgun, if Juno went through screaming fits, if she and Mark slept together, and if somehow Juno was grotesquely punished for her sins, but dern it all, you didn't get to write the screenplay.

(4) Kids use "dude," "like," "whatever" and all other manner of jargon all the time, and have since Ugh the Caveman complained to Ughina about how disrespectful the cave kids were. Wrap your head around the fact and move on.

I know, it's really hard. You all want the movie to be exactly what you want, with characters who make the exact choices you would yourself (or pretend you would, anyway), reactions that exactly meet your preconceptions, and with those people whom you peg as good guys and those who you peg as bad guys getting what you think they ought to have coming to them ... and most of all, to agree thematically with your political, social and moral philosophies. It's a pity when you run into a flick that doesn't measure up.

Where I differ, though, is in the sheer *indignation* I'm reading in the comments: how dare this movie not reflect my worldview? And that's desperately unfair.

8/10: it's realistic, it's honest and ... it HAPPENS.

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Just too damn formulaic., 23 July 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Disclaimer: I'm unfamiliar with the book. But my wife and I are Anne Hathaway fans, so we picked the flick up at the library to view.

Now, yes, the cast does their parts professionally, competently and with as much verve as the script allows, no error. It just seems that the film missed no opportunities to hit every single possible cliché, and there wasn't a single moment you didn't see coming a mile away:

* You know that Andrea is going to turn into a fashionista (it isn't as if Hathaway hasn't done the Ugly Duckling routine before) suddenly become Ms. Competent Workaholic with no time for her Ordinary Friends and Boyfriend, but nonetheless go back to being Sweatshirt Girl with the Serious Meaningful Job before the end.

* You know that Miranda's going to be a complete, unreasonable bitch.

* You know that there's going to be the heartwarming moment where Miranda has her own personal crisis, and you know the period of sympathy the audience momentarily has for her will be limited to the seven minutes it takes for her to pull her next screwjob.

* You know that Nate will be ordinary, down to earth and soulful (hey, he's wearing black eyeliner all around his eyes, of course he's soulful and deep) and rebel against his lady's work hours.

* You know the affable wannabe boyfriend will prove to be a user before the final reel ...

And so on, and so forth. Just about the only part I genuinely appreciated was Andrea's calm speech about how no one would bat an eye at these behaviors were they done by men, but that isn't enough to sustain a movie.

5/10, and only because the acting performances were solid.

1 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Meretricious nonsense., 4 July 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

After the movie was over, my wife - who met me when I was in a family law practice - asked me in what state (a) a teenage father's parental rights could be signed away by the mother's family against his will, and (b) said father could actually land in legal hot water for "kidnapping" his own son when the mother doesn't want him. "The State of Lifetime," says I.

Yes, I know that Lifetime's viewership has a vested interest in portraying men (especially handsome, engaging, young studs with high Q ratings) as warm, loving and invested in their children, but the plot's core dramatic conflict is a crock: that there is a jurisdiction anywhere in the United States which wouldn't have come down on the bad guys' heads like white on rice.

Given that - "What the hell, the judge is actually bothering to hear this case instead of telling the mother not to waste their time?" thinks I - the only way I could have wrapped my head around this movie was to dismiss it as fantasy, and I couldn't.


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