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7/10
Severely underrated for its time!
17 September 2019
IMO, this movie was severely underrated for its time. It was purposefully cheesy, but precisely insightful (even prescient) about a wide array of problems within boxing, as well as about the use of racist rhetoric and promotion to fuel sales. Today, we have seen the explosion of the internet and social media take these concepts to a new, terrifying level.

The entire cast was excellent, leaning into the cheesiness of their roles and script, but doing so in a very funny way. Three standouts for me: Jackson's performance as the devious yet charismatic master promoter was delightful; Peter Berg is great as an idealist whose good heart but dim wits get used as the center-piece for one of the very things he hates most; and Salli Richardson-Whitfield is absolutely stunning both in her beauty and in her commanding presence despite her male-dominated environment.
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9/10
A Scathing but Undeniable Indictment of the U.S. Criminal Justice System
20 June 2019
I grew up in New Jersey, so I was generally aware that five black and Latino boys only slightly older than me had been convicted of raping a white woman in Central Park, and that a lot of people felt that the boys had gotten a raw deal because of the color of their skin. I was also generally aware of the developments in the case many years later. I went into this limited series (four episodes) thinking that my general knowledge of what happened, along with my past experience as a criminal defense attorney, was going to serve as emotional armor, but this project pierced my soul. Learning the details of what happened to those boys broke my heart, in the way that it is broken every time I see video of an unarmed person of color (POC) gunned down in the street or treated like a vile beast by people with badges who are taught that it is okay to channel their irrational fears and prejudices into anger, disrespect, and violence toward their fellow Americans. Not only did series creator Ava DuVernay genuinely touch POCs who have felt the sting of oppression by bringing to life on screen our fear and frustration in a way that even the most articulate of us cannot convey with just our words, but she also opened the eyes of a significant number of people who were not as aware of injustices like this, as evidenced by the overwhelming responses to this project, including tangible consequences for the case's prosecutors. As Joshua Jackson, who played defense attorney Mickey Joseph, keenly stated during Oprah Winfrey Presents: When They See Us Now, "What did I learn about the justice system is that it's the wrong name for it." This series is a scathing but undeniable indictment of the U.S. criminal justice system. It exposes police brutality and abuse of authority that are so pervasive they strike fear and emotional paralysis across family generations. It depicts the coercive nature present in too many interrogations. It highlights the win-at-all-costs attitude of too many prosecutors, despite the "minister of justice" role that they are supposed to embody. It reveals some of the unfair tricks allowed in trials, such as parading the gruesome details of crimes in front of juries in an effort to shock them to convict based on the emotional desire to make someone pay for the crime, rather than the logical conclusion that the accused actually committed the crime. It lays bare the savagery taking place in our prison system, which facilitates the destruction of the humanity of inmates, rather than their rehabilitation. It sheds light on the crushing burden shouldered by prisoners' families, who are often made up of good, law-abiding people. It touches on the exploitation of those incarcerated by the system, and thereby warns of the many dangers inherent in the privatization of prisons. And it displays the impossible Odyssey of trying to piece together a life after serving one's sentence. This production also emphasizes the great difference that individual people within the system can make, for better or for worse. On one hand, prosecutors like Linda Fairstein and Elizabeth Lederer used their discretion to send five innocent boys to jail while furthering their own careers; NYPD officers used their power to coerce confessions from those boys; and some corrections officers used their authority to abuse and dehumanize Korey Wise in prison. On the other hand, the boys' lawyers used their abilities to aggressively defend them and get enough of the evidence on the record to contribute to the case's reexamination years later; Correctional Officer Roberts (I still don't know if he's based on a real person) used his authority to help Wise and treat him like a human being, helping to keep him alive; and Nancy Ryan used her discretion as a prosecutor to play a large part in the reexamination of the case later. As the real Kevin Richardson so aptly articulated in When They See Us Now, Fairstein was "one of many" that caused this injustice. There were many others within the system who followed her lead in steamrolling these boys. Had more of those people used their position to stand up for what was right, they might have been able to prevent this tragedy. Similarly, people outside of the criminal justice system can make a huge difference, as well. Antron McCray was crushed by his father's abandonment, and Wise suffered from the long lapses between his mother's visits due to the hardships of those visits. Conversely, the support of the families of Richardson, Raymond Santana, and Yusef Salaam made a significant difference in their ability to cope with what happened to them. The support of the boys' Harlem community in protesting this injustice also played a huge part in keeping this case visible to the rest of the world, maintaining attention on the case and fueling its development, rather than allowing it to be buried and forgotten. It also needs to be highlighted that, while Matias Reyes played an instrumental part in creating this tragedy (among other tragedies), his desire to "do the right thing" as an older man also played an instrumental part in its eventual outcome, as well. The series' soundtrack was perfect, from the nostalgic hip-hop anthems that opened Episode 1, to the somber score that accentuated key moments in which dialogue was not necessary appropriate. Moreover, the cinematography masterfully captured everything from the ominous criminal courtroom, to the dual beauty and secluded creepiness of Central Park, to the bustling and culturally rich community of Harlem, to the oasis-like Coney Island. The one shaky area of this production was its depiction of the trial, due to some of the liberties it took in dramatizing the proceedings. I don't doubt that prosecutorial misconduct occured, but I highly doubt that the first time the boys' defense attorneys saw the confession tapes were during the trial. Discovery rules usually do not allow surprises like that in real life. Furthermore, prosecutors must turn over any exculpatory evidence to defense counsel upon learning of it, so a mistrial or some other heavy consequence probably would have occurred upon the discovery mid-trial by defense counsel that DNA tests had been conducted on a semen-filled sock that reflected negative matches for the boys' DNA. The real Santana implied during When They See Us Now that those DNA tests were actually discovered during depositions, in advance of the trial. Finally, the key to the successful telling of this story was its cast. Veteran stars like John Leguizamo, Niecy Nash, Michael Kenneth Williams, Blair Underwood, and Famke Janssen provided solid supporting performances, but the production was carried by the extremely talented actors who played the accused as boys, as well as those who played them as men. In this regard, one actor stood out as the MVP: Jharrel Jerome. As the only actor to play both the child and adult version of his character, he irresistibly drew in our sympathy by masterfully emoting a wide range of feelings like innocence, vulnerability, fear, strength, frustration, love, humor, duty, loyalty, disappointment, confusion, desperation, trust, and doubt, just to name a few. According to IMDB's trivia page for the series, Jerome lobbied for an audition while he was busy filming Mr. Mercedes...for which he had grown a beard. With the beard, he was afraid he would be considered too old to play the younger Korey, and he fully expected that the project would cast two different actors to play the part at different ages. After finishing Mr. Mercedes, he shaved his beard and auditioned again. DuVernay was so impressed by both his audition, and how much his facial hair aged him, that she cast him as Korey at both ages. Jerome's performance is exponentially more impressive, however, when you witness the real Wise on When They See Us Now, and you realize that Jerome's affectations in his role were not improvised or artificially created; instead, he has captured Wise's mannerisms and speech patterns with a startling degree of accuracy. In When They See Us Now, Jerome declared, "I could never be Korey Wise. No one could ever be Korey Wise and fill those shoes. I just did my best to embody him." Maybe so, but Jerome's performance was as good as it gets. In closing, DuVernay and her colleagues have added something of great substance to our ongoing national conversation about our criminal justice system. As DuVernay so precisely stated in When They See Us Now, the U.S. criminal justice system is "not broken; it was built to be this way....It was built to oppress. It was built to control. It was built to shape our culture in a specific way that kept some people here and some people here. It was built for profit. It was built for political gain and power....It lives off of us, our taxpayer dollars, our votes, the goods that we buy that are made...inside of prisons. It lives off of our ignorance, and we can no longer be ignorant."
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Historical Roasts (2019– )
4/10
An Ingenious & Difficult Concept with Mediocre Execution
12 June 2019
I am a fan of both Ross and the Comedy Central Roasts. With this project, Ross attempted to do for the Roasts what Lin-Manuel Miranda did for Broadway with Hamilton: teach audiences history through witty and entertaining art. As a concept, this show is both ingenious and extremely difficult. It could be great...or really bad. Unfortunately, the series fell somewhere in the mediocre. There were some great jokes, as well as some great performances (i.e., White as Muhammad Ali, Ryan Phillippe as Julius Caesar), but too many of the jokes and performances were flat, including White's impression of Nelson Mandela (his South African accent sounded more like a Mexican accent by a few minutes in). For this series to reach its full potential, Ross will have to recruit better roasters who will rise to the very difficult challenge. However, unless I see such names in the credits for Season 2 (if it gets renewed), I may skip it.
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The Purge (I) (2013)
7/10
A pop culture icon, despite its shortcomings
4 July 2016
From a strictly artistic standpoint, this is not a great movie. Some of the scenes are hokey, and the character development lacks enough depth to inspire your investment in the protagonists. However, its plot is pretty unique, the socioeconomic conversations it inspires could go on for days, and, frankly, it's a pop culture icon (as we discussed in Episode 19 of the podcast, and as further detailed in IMDb's The Purge trivia page, this film has inspired a few major horror maze/experience productions). Hawke manages to transcend the script with his usual intensity, and it's pretty different to see Headey in such a morally upright and vulnerable role.

For more reviews and a kickass podcast, check out: www.livemancave.com
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Carlos (2010)
8/10
Édgar Ramírez is remarkable in this role
15 June 2016
The life of Ilich Ramírez Sánchez is extremely interesting in its own right, but the success of this project really depended upon Édgar Ramírez, who rose to the occasion in a remarkable way. Through him, the viewer can see the charismatic, ambitious, inspiring, fiery, driven, obsessed, aggressive, narcissistic, lecherous, hot-tempered, morally and ethically flexible person behind the notorious and fearsome reputation of Carlos the Jackal. One also gains pretty good insight into some of what drives, and the development of, revolutionaries, insurgents, terrorists, etc., and this series begs the question of where the line between those different classifications lies. The project also calls out how instrumental governments have been in the success of these non-state combatants, and the ensuing hypocrisy of such governments in denouncing these individuals once their services lose enough value. Additionally, viewers can appreciate a fascinating account of the development of the Cold War from the perspective of its "front-lines" fighters and in constantly shifting international settings. In sum, this is a brilliant series about fascinating people and subjects, brought to life by excellent actors.

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The Middle (2009–2018)
4/10
Actually kind of depressing
9 June 2016
Every once in a while, you'll get a chuckle out of this show, and there are some insightful commentaries about life in general. However, watching Frankie & Mike Heck schlep through life in their crappy jobs, in their crappy house, and with their ungrateful kids is way too often depressing. After Season 1, I will only be watching further episodes of this show if it happens to come on TV while I'm doing something else. That being said, Heaton and Flynn are charismatic in their roles; Frankie is a much better character than Debra Barone. Also, Atticus Shaffer is an excellent little weirdo.

For more reviews and a kickass podcast, check out: www.livemancave.com
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6/10
Acting is great, storyline is okay, film is too often hokey.
12 April 2016
As we discussed in Episode 23, Part 1, of the podcast (www.livemancave.com), we love the Spiderman character, and Garfield not only does him justice, but he also presents a unique and charismatic version of Peter Parker that is even more interesting than when he dons the mask. Emma Stone brings The Girlfriend Experience, making Gwen Stacy endearing in her own right, not just because of how much the hero cares for her. Martin Sheen and Sally Field not only make you care about Uncle Ben and Aunt May, but they show you aspects of Spiderman that Garfield can't by himself. Denis Leary really manages to walk that fine line between pompous jerk and loyal protector right into the viewer's heart. In short, the acting is phenomenal.

Unfortunately, the storyline is nothing special, and the movie is too often unnecessarily hokey (Really? Is it that easy to break into a high-security lab with genetically unstable spiders?), which conflicts with the film's more gritty tone. This film feels more like a background setup for sequel, which I have yet to see, but which I'm hoping will take the franchise to the next level, like Captain America: The Winter Soldier did for its franchise.
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Changeling (2008)
7/10
Filmmaking Crosses Over Into Activism
31 March 2016
The film is set mostly in the 1920s, but the hokiness of some of its scenes (although, according to IMDb, "Virtually every event depicted in the film appears as cited in legal documents, with dialog often taken verbatim from court transcripts") and its sappy score are straight out of the 1990s. However, all of that is overcome by tremendous acting performances, especially from Jolie (but not Eddie Alderson, who was not convincing as Sanford Clark), as well as by the incredible story, which is mostly true.

I can't believe that this could happen to somebody. This is yet another frightening example of the dangers inherent in handing over unchecked power to any law enforcement organization. If we do not pay attention to history, we are doomed to repeat it.

Additionally, this story reminds me of the value of today's technology and social media. While many complain about how much easier it is to invade someone's privacy, it is also a lot easier to expose corruption. Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Oscar Grant...these cases are not a new trend developing amongst police departments. This kind of rampant corruption and abuse of authority has existed for long before anyone can remember. But now we finally have the tools to expose them.

And it's not just the police. As an attorney, I have personally stopped a mental health professional from wrongfully committing a person to a mental health institution over what basically amounted to a petty verbal argument between the doctor and the patient.

Respect to Straczynski for getting this movie made. This is where filmmaking crosses over into activism. If someone just told you the facts of this case, you might struggle to fathom how this would play out in actuality...how many people would have to screw up, be complicit, or just flat out do nothing to perpetuate this evil...and just how many people would have to decide to do the right thing, even at risk to their own career, financial interests, or even personal safety, in order to unf*ck this mess. This movie very effectively portrays how this unfortunate situation could very plausibly go down...and while there are many more checks and balances today to help prevent some of the previous injustices from happening again, perhaps some who would previously dismiss all police corruption and mental health abuse as wild conspiracy theories might have their minds changed just a little bit by this film.

For more reviews and a kickass podcast, check out: www.livemancave.com
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Big Love (2006–2011)
6/10
Starts Out Masterfully, Ends More Soap Opera
25 January 2016
I began watching Big Love for the novelty of peering into the life of a man with multiple wives, a trepidatious fantasy that I dare say all straight men imagine at some point (although further daydreaming about it often gives way to nightmares about being outnumbered and overnagged). However, I did not think that I would find a show about Mormons in Utah so interesting after that initial novelty wore off.

Well, it wasn't long before this series showed me how ridiculous my biases were. The show grabs you with its universally human themes, and it also educates you by shedding light on both sides of explosively controversial issues that are very specific to a relatively small group of people, but nonetheless extremely important enough that we should all be aware of such issues. The storytelling is gripping, featuring: a man who built a small empire out of nothing after being cast out of a polygamist compound and onto the streets; his first wife, who bought into this way of life out of love for her husband but still struggles with her choice; his second wife, whose father is the leader of the compound and is responsible for her husband being cast out; and his third wife, who was not very religious before meeting her new family, but has found the path through her love and devotion to this family. More than anything, the themes revolve around people who are attempting to live what they believe is a righteous life, but having to hide it from the rest of society, lest they be persecuted, or even jailed.

It is hard to believe that the legal controversy over the ability of the State of Utah to not just deny polygamist marriage licenses, but to prosecute polygamists for cohabitation, did not come to a head until 2013 (see Brown v. Buhman). As mentioned above, the show presents both sides of the coin, showing how the cohabitation laws were a useful tool for law enforcement seeking to prevent the wrongful exploitation of young women within polygamist compounds and societies, but also recognizing that a significant portion of people who were just trying to freely and honestly practice their religion were arbitrarily caught in the crossfire. Ultimately, my hatred for pretext laws puts me on the side in favor of abolishing anti-cohabitation laws. We should fight the war against exploitation of young women by changing the laws concerning exploitation of young women to better facilitate prosecution of the traffickers, not by casting a wider net that also ensnares innocent people.

The execution of the above-mentioned superior storytelling was masterfully executed by a strong cast. This is role in which I saw Paxton go from charismatic supporting actor to natural leading man. All of the actresses playing the wives bring out their character's individual strengths and beauty, but Ginnifer Goodwin in particular delivers The Girlfriend Experience; she only gets more beautiful the more you watch her. And before she became a fantasy woman, Amanda Seyfried was soft-spoken teenage girl Sarah Henrickson, who expressed the turmoil shouldered by the children of polygamists through her big, blue-grey, brooding eyes.

Unfortunately, the brilliance of the show was overshadowed in its later seasons by over-the-top plot twists. It devolved into a hard-to-believe soap opera, and it lost a significant amount of the real-people-problems appeal that made it so relatable early on. Thus, while the first two seasons easily deserve 8 stars out of 10, the bad aftertaste in my mouth left by the latter seasons downgrades the series to 6.

For more reviews, a kick-ass podcast, and an explanation of The Girlfriend Experience, check out: www.livemancave.com
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4/10
Once the Special Effects Lost Their Luster...
19 August 2015
Now that the special effects that were cutting-edge for this movie's time have become not-so-impressive as the industry advances, the story itself is not creative or interesting enough to make it worth your time to direct your attention to the screen for almost two hours…unless you REALLY LOVE vampire or werewolf movies. If that's the case, let your freak flag fly! It's okay; I'm like that with football movies. Besides, there are worse things to have on your TV in the background than leather-clad Beckinsale doing acrobatics, shooting weapons, and kicking ass.

For more reviews and a kick-ass podcast, check out: www.livemancave.com
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Lilyhammer (2012–2014)
5/10
Torgeir is the man!
14 July 2015
I went into the first season hoping for The Sopranos-meets-Norway. I don't know much about Norway, and it's nice to get a glimpse into other countries through productions that feature them as almost a character in themselves (for example, The American). This series did a great job in featuring Norway. However, it was also pretty hokey and featured a protagonist that I did not like.

Frank Tagliano is a narcissistic, hypocritical bully, who pushes his culture and ideas of how the world should be onto everyone in his newly adopted country, stepping on hapless and sometimes innocent Norwegians for selfish gain in stereotypical American imperialist fashion. However, unlike The Sopranos, in which Tony Soprano constantly struggled with his conscience, this show glorifies Frank. I feel like I'm supposed to chuckle as he "outsmarts" (more like strong-arms) people into satisfying his every whim.

Fortunately, in the second and third seasons, Frank became a little more judicious and tolerable, while other characters, such as Fausa's Torgeir, flourish. In my opinion, Fausa carries the show. He is charismatic, funny, humble, and tough when he needs to be. He idolizes Frank, even though he is often unrewarded for his unconditional love. Most importantly, he is the conscience of the show, and through him, we are reminded of the price one pays for being or following Frankie the Fixer.

By the way, world, look out for Maria Joana and Ida Elise Broch. You might fall in love.
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9/10
One of the Best Visual Depictions of the Sacrifice that Troops Make and the Horrors of War
12 January 2015
As a former Marine who deployed to Iraq, this ten-episode mini-series is a must for my personal collection. In fact, I think it's safe to say all military personnel should have it in their collections. Even if you have little to no interest in military affairs, however, you should take the time at some point in your life to watch this series all the way through.

Beautifully scripted, masterfully acted, and filmed amongst breathtaking (in many different ways) cinematography, this production, which significantly contributed to HBO's fast rise as the gold standard in series quality, is an amazing portrayal of the sacrifices made by troops and of the horrors of war. A healthy dose of clips from this series was played by my instructors during training ops to drive home points about all kinds of important subjects germane to war.

A few random thoughts I had while watching the project: - Everyone did such a great job acting, and the character development was top-notch. Even amongst this wonderful cast, Damian Lewis stood out, followed closely by Neal McDonough.

  • It was pretty awesome to see David Schwimmer play such a different role.


  • There are countless useful lessons to be learned from this series, especially by those who hope to lead troops someday.


  • Why is there so much hip firing throughout the series? Isn't it a bit unrealistic to make some of these shots without looking down your sights? - I watched one of the most squared-away officers in the 101st return a salute sitting on his ass. This would not happen in the Marines. Is it different in the Army? - I understand very well the transition that one may go through in terms of how he/she thinks of the enemy during war. When you first get out there, you dehumanize them in your head in order to justify some of the things that you may have to do. After a while, however, there comes a point when you realize that your enemies are human beings, much like you, fighting out of a sense of duty, and just trying to make it out of this thing alive like you are. At least, I went through a transition like that, and this series did a good job of illustrating such a transition. Still, despite the respect that our soldiers may have gained for the Germans as a formidable fighting force made up of dedicated human soldiers, they were still Nazis. They were supporting some pretty foul principles. I'm not saying that our troops were wrong for regarding Nazi troops with the respect that they did during the conflict, but I wonder if my attitude toward Nazi soldiers would have softened even after we defeated them.


  • It would be great to have a beer with one of the living members of the 101st who fought in WWII.


  • After you finish watching this production, watch The Pacific. It's even better! Then again, I'm biased. :)


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Death Race (2008)
6/10
One of my Favorite Hokey Car Films
18 December 2014
In the bonus feature "Start Your Engines – Making a Death Race," Anderson declares that he meant for this movie to be a darker, more serious, believable version of Death Race 2000. I've never seen the original, so he may have succeeded, but I found this film to be hokey in a few parts, including the ending. All of that being said, it is one of my favorite hokey car films. There is actually a compelling plot behind the race, plenty of great action, and a solid cast, including newcomer beauty Natalie Martinez, whom I'd like to see more of. While I wouldn't go so far as to say that you need to see this flick, I will say that you probably wouldn't mind watching it more than once, either.

For more reviews and a kickass podcast, check out: www.livemancave.com
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The Hitcher (2007)
3/10
Senseless
29 November 2014
According to IMDb, Red was credited as a screenplay writer for this movie, but had no part in writing it (aside from writing the 1986 film). I haven't seen the 1986 version, but if it was any good, I don't blame him for wanting to distance himself from this version.

This flick starts strong and features competent performances by good actors (except for Bush's second-half performance, which gets out of her range, in my opinion; she just hasn't mastered the thousand-yard stare). However, it's a lot of build-up for nothing. The effects and action are often hokey, it feels as if some major events were skipped (and not in a good, it's-better-to-leave-it-to-the-imagination way), and the payoff to the big question throughout the movie is never realized. If I had to describe this film in one word, it would be "senseless." Also according to IMDb, "Rutger Hauer, who played the character of John Ryder in the original was offered a cameo, but declined for artistic reasons. Hauer has since said in the press that he has yet to watch the remake, and according to some of his friends he shouldn't bother." Smart man.

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3:10 to Yuma (2007)
6/10
Instant Classic for Western aficionados
6 November 2014
This is a very solid film, with a compelling plot and solid cast, featuring two of the most notoriously ill-tempered actors in the business. Who will be the bigger jerk? Watch it and find out! Also, Foster brings the same leashed intensity that inspired Mark Wahlberg to give up some of his own pay in order to recruit Foster for Lone Survivor. Foster is one of my favorite supporting actors.

You can enjoy this movie as a straightforward classic action Western, or you can delve deeper into the psychological underpinnings, which are spread throughout the movie and which culminate in an ending that can either anger you or inspire a subsequent deep discussion with others who have seen the film.

For Western aficionados, this flick is an instant classic and Must See. For the rest of us, you could live with missing this one, but once you start watching it, you'll be hooked.

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Hannibal (2001)
7/10
More comedic-horror than thriller, but still a Must See for fans of Hannibal the Cannibal
8 September 2014
The sequel to The Silence of the Lambs is more creepy than thrilling, and sometimes a little hokey. Moreover, while Moore is an exceptional actress, it just feels different with her playing Starling. Furthermore, the plot is not as sophisticated as SotL.

That being said, the film is entertaining in more of a comedic-horror way. Hopkins is deliciously sinister, the supporting cast is very talented, and there is a classic scene involving the human brain that is worth adding to your pop-culture tool belt. If you're a fan of Hannibal the Cannibal, you should set aside time to see this flick once, although you shouldn't go into it with high expectations.

For more reviews and a kick-ass podcast, check out www.livemancave.com
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House of Cards (2013–2018)
5/10
Needlessly delved into soap-opera scandals
16 July 2014
This superb cast really brings out the essence of cutthroat DC politics, both in government and in private-sector. The series is basically a modern-day version of Niccolo Machiavelli's The Prince. While some may not like Spacey's breaking of the fourth wall, I think it adds to the Poe-like tone that this show obviously seeks to convey. The series also pulls back the "government-conspiracy" curtain, looking at such conspiracies from the point of view of the conspirators and the cleaners. Unfortunately, the show becomes a bit too far-fetched for my tastes in some respects, reaching for soap-opera scandals to pacify those viewers who will not be content with political coups and corporate maneuvering. Also, I deeply despise Spacey's and Wright's characters for their ethical and moral depravity, and for their lack of a code, so I have some trouble separating my hostility towards them from the series as a whole.

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City of God (2002)
10/10
Watch this and then try to complain about your "first-world problems."
2 July 2014
I kept hearing that this movie was good, but I never got around to watching it. Having glanced at its cover before, I was expecting something different…more of a sappy romantic tale. Instead, I discovered one of most poignant, suspenseful, exciting, and action-packed tales of a place that I've only heard stories about. It catapulted me through a wide range of emotions. Watch this and then try to complain about your "first-world problems." The City of God is shockingly poor and frighteningly dangerous, yet culturally rich and unexpectedly beautiful.

Meirelles and Lund manage to convey a stark realism through a cast made up largely of actors from Rio favelas who had never acted before, but who stepped up to the task in an amazing way with some intense coaching. The film even features some takes which were not scripted, as well as real coverage from true events. The music masterfully complemented the mood of each scene, while staying true to the beauty of Brazil. The camera work was top-notch (especially for 2002), both in César Charlone's skillful employment of the equipment and in the scenery that he captured. Daniel Rezende, the film editor, presented Charlone's vision at a wonderful intersection of deliberate and thrilling, ensuring that the viewer's attention stayed captive throughout.

This flick is so good, I wanted to watch it again immediately after the credits rolled the first time around. You will be hooked from the moment the chicken starts running for its life. Make this film the next one you watch.

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Funny Games (1997)
7/10
A Very Dark Version of Scream
1 July 2014
This film is like a very dark version of Scream. While I enjoy horror movies, haunted houses, etc, not many of them raise my heart rate anymore. A good thriller, however, may still get my blood pumping. Enter this unique take on the serial-killer thriller. Haneke uses a calculating and methodical tempo, a Hitchcock-style method of making your brain fill in the gore, and an expert contrast of peaceful music with obnoxious music to keep the viewer's eyes glued to the screen. The movie is like a soccer match: stretches of anticipation, with exciting moments happening very quickly and with little warning. I had the good fortune to watch the film without knowing what it was about, so those payoffs were even more exciting for me.

And like Scream, while the director showcases his ability to make a proper killer thriller, he also sends a message to the viewer in a creative and artistic fashion. According to IMDb, Haneke told producer 'Veit Heiduschka' during the production that if the film was a success, it would be because audiences had misunderstood the meaning behind it. It could potentially get frustrating to watch a well-executed thriller color outside of the lines all of a sudden, but if you keep an open mind, you might realize that such creative license actually adds to the thrill.

It would be wrong to end this review without mentioning the actors, who all performed very convincingly. A great game plan is of no use if the players don't execute it well.

In closing, I would also be remiss not to mention what I saw as the most important lesson of all to take from this film: a man should have the physical ability and disposition to protect his family. Just ask Muhe's character. Moreover, when presented with a threat, passive compliance is not always the best answer. Act decisively and before your situation has worsened, and you might just catch the enemy in the OO of his OODA loop. Sometimes you just have to fight with a busted knee.

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Anytown, USA (2005)
5/10
Like watching my neighbor on Jerry Springer
29 June 2014
This flick has the video quality of a 1990s health class film, and features a town that looks like it is the product of generations of inbreeding. At first, the residents' rally against the incumbent mayor is comical in a campy way, but then the documentary drags a little bit. Specifically, I started thinking of how depressing it would be to live in Bogota. About halfway through, however, one of the campaigns gets a game-changing injection, and so does the film. I grew up in New Jersey and currently live close to Bogota, so, all in all, this flick was worth watching for me because it's like one of your neighbors appearing on The Jerry Springer Show. Plus, it's got a real human aspect to it…both good and bad.

For more reviews and a kickass podcast, check out: www.livemancave.com
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Oz (1997–2003)
7/10
Makes you wonder how you'd do in a max-security prison
23 June 2014
When this show debuted, my friends and I would make sure our schedule was clear to catch each new episode live. I have heard it accurately described as a male soap opera. Every week, something crazy happened. Network television wasn't playing anything like this. The character development available in a mutiple-season series was impossible to achieve in a two- or three-hour film.

This show constantly made me wonder how I'd fare in a maximum-security prison. It convinced me to prioritize a spot in my budget for Home Box Office (HBO). With one of the Ghostbusters at the helm, a plethora of cameo appearances by hip-hop stars and professional athletes, and an unforgettable theme song, the first hour-long drama that HBO ever produced also put Harold Perrineau, Simmons, Dean Winters, Eamonn Walker, and BD Wong, among others, on the world map.

Over time, especially in comparison to HBO's later projects, some of the scenes seem a bit hokey. Also, shotgunning episodes can be a little depressing, given the subject matter. Still, this series is a pop-culture requirement.

For more reviews and a kickass podcast, check out: www.livemancave.com
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Louis C.K.: Chewed Up (2008 TV Special)
6/10
Love Louis C.K., but I didn't relate to some of this material.
17 June 2014
Louis C.K. is one of my favorite comedians. As usual, he charismatically delivers brutally honest material that leaves you simultaneously uncomfortable and laughing. Some of the material in this special, though, especially the stuff in the beginning involving offensive words, I just don't relate to. Before you get all "that's what's wrong with 'Murica" on me, I'm not saying he was wrong for going there, but I just didn't find that material very funny…just like I'm not much into toilet humor. If you love that stuff, go for it…if you're offended by my lack of enthusiasm for it, though, I cordially invite you to pound sand and kick rocks.

For more reviews and a kickass podcast, check out: www.livemancave.com
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6/10
Too Real for Me
17 June 2014
After the meet cutes, after the romantic courtship, and after the weddings that their viewers rooted for, the couples in our romantic dramas actually have to live with each other…and it's not always happily ever after. This film is about that later scenario. It is uncompromisingly real. The actors managed to channel raw emotions that make it very difficult for the viewer to stay detached. And to really drive the point home in an artistic and interesting way, the film is split with flashbacks to that amazingly cute romance that no one would ever think would fail. Overall, this is a very good movie, and it deserved every award and nomination that it received.

I guess I've just seen and experienced too much heartbreak in my life to want to spend another 2 hours living in someone else's broken dreams, though. I found this flick difficult to watch for that reason. I found myself strongly disliking Williams's character. I found myself wanting to cite this film as an example of the crappy things that (some) women do. For some people, this movie is a Must See. For me, it is a very real and moving film that brings up feelings I do not really care for. That being said, I respect it as a great movie, and would not say you're wasting your time watching it. Be careful who you watch it with, though, as it could lead to an argument.

For more reviews and a kickass podcast, check out www.livemancave.com
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7/10
THE Seminal Zombie Flick
17 June 2014
It's black and white, and the special effects are primitive, but this is THE seminal zombie film. Like all good horror flicks of its era, it stays compelling through suspenseful storytelling and making its viewers think they saw more gore than they actually did…although some of the cannibalism scenes were more gory than I would have expected for a film of its time.

This movie, Romero's feature debut, was made in the true spirit of an independent film. The line between cast, crew, and producers was virtually non-existent, with actors serving as screenwriters, producers, stuntmen, makeup artists, electronic sound engineers, and still photographers. Romero manned the camera himself for some scenes, as well. According to IMDb, Romero borrowed the house in which most of the movie was filmed from an owner who was going to have it demolished anyway. However, the house did not have a true basement, so the basement scenes were filmed in the editing studio's cellar. Romero also borrowed the car featured in the film. To simulate blood, he used…Bosco chocolate syrup.

Romero was a Carnegie-Mellon Institute graduate, and, also according to IMDb, this was the first movie filmed in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Pittburgh police even provided personnel and equipment. The day that the final editing and voice-over dubbing was completed in Pittsburgh, Romero and Russo put the reels into the cans, threw them into the trunk of the car, and drove straight to New York City that night in hopes of having it screen at any willing theater. However, the film's world premiere ended up taking place at the Fulton Theatre in Pittsburgh on October 1, 1968 (At 8PM, admission by invitation only). The movie was met with a standing ovation.

Per IMDb, this film became one of the most successful independent films ever made, one of the last big hits of the drive-in era, and one of the first movies added to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress. Nonetheless, Romero saw very little profit from the film since, thanks to his lack of knowledge regarding distribution deals, the distributors walked away with practically all of the profits. Since the film makers forgot to include a then-required copyright notice in the movie, it slipped into the public domain.

This flick is also a great example for discussions concerning African Americans in film. Film historian Donald Bogle believes that most black people in 20th-century American films can be classified into one of five categories: Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies, and Bucks. However, according to IMDb, the character of Ben was originally supposed to be a crude-but-resourceful truck driver, with no specification to race. After Jones, in real-life a self-serious, erudite academic, auditioned for the part, Romero re-wrote the part to fit his performance.

Furthermore, the character of Ben was originally written as an angry person, and, upon receiving the role, Jones expressed concern that the character be rewritten to remove some of the anger – such as the scene where Ben hits Barbara – afraid of how it would be widely perceived in the United States at the time to see a black man acting in this way. The nation was plagued with high racial tensions during the late sixties, and the film was released to theaters shortly after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Nonetheless, Romero and most of the rest of the predominantly white crew decided against it, thinking they were being "hip" by not changing it. Years later, Romero lamented that he had not taken Jones' concerns more into consideration, and thought that he was probably correct. Romero expressed that he wishes he could speak with the late Jones again, asking him how he felt about the film's legendary status, and believes Jones would just say "Who knew?" and laugh.

For my part, it was pretty cool to see a black man in a 1960s film play such a confident leadership role amongst a white cast. It seemed to me that the part of Ben could have been played by an actor of any race, as long as he was good, and Jones performed very well.

For more reviews and a kickass podcast, check out www.livemancave.com
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Kill List (2011)
6/10
Inspires reflection afterwards
15 May 2014
This movie is suspenseful, well-acted, and interesting in a wide range of ways, including an insightful look at the aftermath of the sacrifices that soldiers make in war. It has a realistic feel, even with the injection of the occult. I thoroughly enjoyed this flick…until the end.

The ending may leave you needing more of an explanation…in my case, it did. I had a better understanding after reading the explanation on Holy Moly, and additional reflection yielded my own interpretation. Still, I felt that the jump to the final "twist" needed much more development to get there. Ironically, so many of the characters and relationships in this film were extremely well developed, but this ending left me with theatrical blueballs.

After further reflection, however, I drew my own conclusions as to the meaning of the movie, based on my military background. Maybe a deeper understanding of the occult and its symbolism would have allowed me to better catch the intended meaning of the film, but, all in all, this film was worth watching for me because it inspired deeper thought hours after watching it. I'd be glad to discuss any reader's take on the meaning in the comments, but please remember to adequately mark SPOILERS.

For more reviews and a kickass podcast, check out www.livemancave.com
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