Spared or Spoiled Movie Reviews: Nocturnal Animals (or the ANTI-La La Land)

The rules are simple. The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.

And Amy…

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“I’ll be okay. I’m used to it by now. At least Mel still loves me.”

And Amy Adams gets robbed of a nomination by an Academy of numbskulls!!

Nocturnal Animals (Focus Features)

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Written & Directed by Tom Ford

Based on the novel Tony and Susan by Austin Wright

Starring Amy AdamsJake GyllenhaalMichael ShannonAaron Taylor-JohnsonIsla FisherArmie HammerLaura LinneyAndrea Riseborough & Michael Sheen

Nocturnal Animals feels like a 70’s thriller or some early 80’s Brian DePalma suspense shit, except without the suspense. The only thrills in the movie happen in the book. Not the book of the movie but the book inside the movie, which is way better than the real-life story. Amy Adams (winner for best actress on this blog) plays Susan Morrow, a gallery owner whose life is boring as hell. Her life is awful and so is this part of the movie. But she receives a manuscript from her ex-husband of his new novel. It’s good. It’s very good. It’s better than her life. The book is dramatized in the movie and those parts are better than the rest of the movie. They’re supposed to be. That’s the point.

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“I don’t know what the big deal is. I NEVER get nominated.”

But watching Nocturnal Animals so soon after seeing La La Land forced me to compare them because both films are about young artists in a romance. The one in this movie is told in flashbacks, adding a third running narrative to the film. And again it’s better than the main story. So even though I like Nocturnal Animals, this is one of those movies that I have to spoil to talk about it. But as an added bonus, I’m also going to spoil La La Land in the process. So this is a combination Spared/Spoiled/Film Comparison in one.

Verdict: SPOILED (for being too interesting): Nocturnal Animals

AND

Verdict: SPOILED (by association): La La Land

I’m spoiling everything tonight.

Nocturnal Animals Amy Adams

“Spoil them… Spoil them all… Spoil everything… Spoil them all to hell.”

SPOILER ALERT (for both Nocturnal Animals and La La Land)

SPOILER ALERT!!!

First of all, she absolutely becomes her mother. Just like everyone says she would (including her mother). And I also liked the ending. It was poetic. I think I was waiting for the suspense to bleed over from the novel into the real world. And it never did. But Amy Adams is excellent as always. Jake Gyllenhaal is at his regular efficient automatic perfection. Seriously that guy pisses me off with how precise he is. I bet you every take is exactly the same with him. He’s a freaking robot.

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“You shut your filthy mouth. The Academy is full of geniuses and saints. Saints, I tell ya!”

Armie Hammer plays the same character in every movie. So he plays that same character again here. The man just looks like a douche. Surprise!! He’s a douche. And Michael Shannon gives a fine performance. I would talk about his nomination but frankly those fools don’t know shit. So it’s not much of an honor. But I liked it. Nocturnal Animals grew on me as the back story got interesting and the fictional story got interesting and I waited for the present story to get interesting and it never did. And that was the point. And I got it. And I liked it. So as Amy Adams is waiting there in the restaurant hoping to rekindle something with the guy who is now successful and he doesn’t show up. And that brilliant awkward last scene drags on, I was digging it. It reminded me of some Neil LaBute revenge porn (that guy’s got serious problems).

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“Oh Academy. You’re breaking my heart. But then again you break everyone’s heart.”

And every review I (actually) read seems to think that the characters of the wife and daughter in the novel represent her. But I don’t think so. I think she reads that into the story to make her boring existence seem worth a few pages. If anything she’s the three criminals. But yeah he makes himself the lead, weak and powerless to defend his wife and child in the story and she sees him as weak in the back story, but by standing her up in the end, he proves that he isn’t the weak romantic writer that she can manipulate. And his book is better than her life even though everybody dies in it (seriously it’s like some Shakespearean shit. Everyone dies at the end). So I guess he wins… at life.

jake-gyllenhaal-nocturnal-animals

“I win at life!!! I win at… oops.”

Then of course, I imagined the ending of La La Land with only one of them being successful and not the other. (much less of a fairy tale). Because at the end of La La Land both the lovers are wildly successful and exactly where they want to be in life (like the most rags-to-riches depression era musical bull-shit) and it’s mostly due to the push each gives the other. You can say they sacrifice their love and life together for the other’s career and it works well for both.

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“Mel Rook & the 7 Deadly… nope. Life’s too short. What’s on YouTube? PUPPIES!!!”

Nocturnal Animals isn’t as sweet as all that. While in La La Land they inspire each other with tough love and support, in Nocturnal Animals, she inspires him with betrayal and he inspires her with revenge. It is… a lot more realistic (and nobody sings).  Emma Stone ends up married with a successful career and no guilt about leaving her first real love (and an Oscar nomination). While Amy Adams ends up married to a cheater with a failing gallery and guilt over how she betrayed her first love (and no nomination for her work in Arrival). It’s not fair (but then again Trump is in power and fair is a fairy tale).

Ryan Gosling and Jake Gyllenhaal both get what they want so fuck ’em.

nocturnal-animals

“Trump is the what now? You shitting me? Woo hoo. We got ourselves a white male president.”

Nocturnal Animals is almost too atmospheric at times in the main story. There are a couple of good laughs from her silly artsy friends and co-workers. Especially when she blatantly insults the woman who had too much work done on her face. That was hysterical. Her artwork is awful. Her life is awful. Her husband is cheating. They are hemorrhaging money and her ex-husband writes this kick-ass book. That’s some potent revenge porn. Seriously, Neil LaBute must love this film.

nocturnal-animals-amy-adams

“Operator. I’d like the number for a Neil LaBute please. Misogynist? Yes I’ll hold.”

But if she hadn’t broken his heart would he have been able to write his great American novel? Nocturnal Animals is a good story. But at times I thought it left a little too much on the table. Too atmospheric. Too strange. Too stylish. With wooden performances. Even though that was the point to make the novel more vibrant and more real than life. But because of it, it’s easy to separate the two and think that Nocturnal Animals is a movie about a boring woman reading a book, in the bed, in the tub, looking sexy… but still just reading. And then think the book in the movie is a better movie than the movie. But Nocturnal Animals is good. And it’s definitely worth a look if you’re like me and dated an artist who broke your heart. Or dated someone who didn’t believe in you. Because Nocturnal Animals is usually what you get. La La Land is the fantasy.

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“I just read Mel’s blog… I must go to him.” Now THAT’S the fantasy.

In conclusion, Nocturnal Animals is the ANTI-La La Land and I’m glad, because after the Oscar nominations I needed a sober dose of anti-romanticism. And Amy Adams, my love, I’m so sorry, but you got stood up again.

– Mel

My Top Ten Favorite Bass Players (w/ Live Videos)

Here’s a music post.

The idea of listing my favorite bass players came about as the result of an almost conversation. You ever start a conversation and don’t get to finish it, so what you wanted to say rolls around in your head for a while? This happened to me a couple of weeks ago. And yes it was a conversation about bass players. I mentioned Charlie Mingus to a young bass player and then it occurred to me later that Charles Mingus isn’t even in my top five. So what’s a blogger to do? I made a list.

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These are my favorite bass players throughout popular music. Jazz, Rock, Funk, Pop… the style doesn’t matter. This is purely a list of bad-ass bassists. However, this list doesn’t represent the best bass players of all-time. These are just my personal favorites. So don’t cry to me about technical proficiency or what not.

My apologies go out to Jaco, Claypool, Sting, McCartney, Sheehan, Clark, Jones, Flea, Esperanza and Ron Carter. You guys just didn’t make the cut.

So who did make the list?

Let’s get to it. To the list…

MY TOP TEN FAVORITE BASS PLAYERS

Ladies first. Only one female made the list. Here is a list of some of the best women bass players. It’s a good compiling. But on this list there was only room for one.

10. Tina Weymouth (the genius of love)

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The only woman on the list, Tina Weymouth was a large part of what made Talking Heads such a fun group. She is the master of the fun bass-line. With Talking Heads, Tom Tom Club or Gorillaz. Tina is awesome. She makes me happy. Technical proficiency be damned. The girl makes me happy.

Then we get even more progressive…

9. Geddy Lee (the maestro of metal)

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Geddy Lee is the bassist and lead singer of the band Rush. I’m not the biggest Rush fan. My older brother was way too into Rush for me to take them seriously. He was a drummer, so like all drummers in the late 70’s, he worshiped at the altar of Neil Peart. But what Rush lacked creatively, Rush more than made up for with technical proficiency. So yeah Geddy Lee makes my list.

Rush starts this one off with a little Rolling Stones tease, but they mean well. I really wanted to post Subdivisions as an example of his work but he spends more time on keys than on bass in that song. (even though the bass part is fucking killer)

Next…

8. Tony Levin (doctor funky fingers)

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Tony Levin plays in Peter Gabriel’s band. He is a master of the Chapman stick bass and the funk fingers (he plays with sticks on his fucking fingers). And he makes this list because of all the times I’ve seen Peter in concert, Tony Levin has been the highlight. The man kicks that bass’s ass. And yeah he’s played with EVERYBODY on TONS of albums. But it’s his work with Peter that lands him here.

Next a Rock classic

7. Jack Bruce (the cream of the crop)

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This was a surprise to me but when I thought about the best bass players I had to consider Jack Bruce who has quietly played bass on some of the coolest records of his time. So some of these guys are up here purely for laying down some of the most classic bass-lines of all time.

Here’s Cream.

Now we get to Mingus…

6. Charles MIngus (the angry man of jazz)

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The professor of the Big Band Swing. Grand-master of the double bass. Played with the great Charlie Parker. Disciple of the amazing Duke Ellington. And did a little record called Blue Moods with Miles Davis. You can’t count bassists without Mingus.

Here he is putting his own spin on an Ellington classic.

Let’s keep the jazz flowing…

5. Paul Chambers (the anchor of the gods)

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Speaking of Miles Davis. The master had a couple of classic crews (Quintets, Sextets) but my favorites will always be his first great quintet/sextet including Paul Chambers on bass. Red Garland on piano. Philly Joe Jones on drums. John Coltrane on tenor saxophone. Cannonball Adderly on alto. And Miles on Trumpet.

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This crew made several of my favorite recordings of all-time.

Miles Davis – Kind of Blue taking the top spot.

Here’s a televised performance of So What from that album.

And now I explain why disco does not suck…

4. Bernard Edwards (the rhythm of the boogie to be)

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Speaking of some of the most iconic bass-lines of all time. Along with Nile Rodgers on guitar and Tony Thompson on drums, Bernard Edwards was a member of the 70’s disco band Chic. As well as dropping their own hits, they were the backing band on numerous late 70’s and early 80’s number one songs. And by the mid 80’s, Bernard Edwards bass-lines were sampled by some of the greatest rap groups and scratched by some of the earliest DJ pioneers. Okay… one in particular. But honestly it’s the most famous bass-line of all-time. Bernard Edwards died of pneumonia in 1996 much too young.

This is his final concert. They said he was too sick to play but he insisted. A professional to the end. It’s a little hard to watch. He doesn’t look well. Sounds great.

Back to the classic rock…

3. John Paul Jones (the hammer of the gods)

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Led Zeppelin is one of my favorite music groups (right after that Miles sextet I mentioned) And it’s because they were all so amazingly talented and masters at their individual crafts. People talk about Jimmy Page and John Bonham as two of the best in the business but it was John Paul Jones who held those two volcanic entities together.

This is The Song Remains The Same. Try to ignore their bare chests (if you can). Try to ignore the large bulge in Robert Plant’s jeans (if you can). These are four artists at the height of their (sexual) power and they’re having fun.

This is a 10 minute jam song from 1969 starting with one of the most iconic bass lines in history. These are 10 minutes well-spent. This is Dazed and Confused…

And next up… “Clyde on the drums… Bootsy on the bass goodtar.”

2. Bootsy Collins (star child, the funk behind the godfather)

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As a member of Parliament/Funkadelic, Bootsy helped redefine the funk genre into an inter-galactic jam session. The bass-line from Parliament’s Flashlight is the funkiest shit ever recorded. You know how people like to sing along with their favorite songs? When Flashlight is playing I sing along with the bass. I couldn’t find a good live version that featured Bootsy Collins. They had a bunch of different line-ups.

But honestly the stuff he did with James Brown in the late 60’s, early 70’s is why he makes this list. Funky and tight and did I mention funky as all hell..

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Here’s some of that. Not the best video but as James says, “Watch my shoes.”

And here’s a 30 minute version of Flashlight (the funkiest bass-line in music history) with Rodney Curtis on bass. (the man is no Bootsy but he’s also no slouch)

And at number one…

1. Israel “Cachao” Lopez (the father of the mambo)

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There’s not a lot I can say except the man is amazing. Creator of the mambo. The jam master. I don’t know if you noticed from this list but I love a good jam session. Cachao is the master of the Cuban jam session. Hell he created that shit.

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Here he is with Tito Puente (a personality I find grating). Tito introduces the man (eventually) and then the two jam out for a bit before doing Oye Como Va (with the band) while Tito mugs for the audience. Honestly this clip would be brilliant if Tito would just play the drums and not be all… Tito.

And here is Cachao doing more of what he does best, improvising and jamming out. He’s a little older in this clip but as you can see the man can still jam.

And that’s my list…

I’d like to thank YouTube for making it nearly impossible to find good clips. And I’d also like to thank the devious musicians who hijack search terms just to get you to listen to their crap. Whatever works for you but… you’re not making any friends.

————————————

COMING SOON TO THE BLOG

More Music.

More Movie Reviews.

Winter TV Shows.

An updated Bisexual TV Characters for 2017.

The long-awaited return of Photos From Around The Block.

And much more.

Stay tuned.

– Mel

Spared or Spoiled Movie Reviews: La La Land

The rules are simple. The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.

La La Land (Summit Entertainment)

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Written & Directed by Damien Chazelle

Music by Justin Hurwitz

Choreography by Mandy Moore

Starring Ryan GoslingEmma StoneJohn Legend & Rosemarie DeWitt

La La Land is a straight-forward musical romance that is not as good as people are making it out to be, but much better than it actually should be. It is excruciatingly cute and cuddly and smile-inducing. I nearly hurt my face smiling so much. The choreography is whimsical and the songs are passable. But the ending… the ending is sensational. Go see La La Land before the bloom is off the rose.

Verdict: SPARED

ryan-gosling-and-emma-stone-in-la-la-land

I really liked La La Land. I think I smiled all the way through from the 2nd musical number until I started crying at the end. It is your very basic boy meets girl yada yada yada story. And because there is not much to it, besides your basic romance formula, it made me wonder what people were seeing in it. Seriously, why so much hype?

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But I’ll tell you what I think they were seeing… Emma Stone’s amazingly graceful dancing. Ryan Gosling’s surprisingly good singing. And two incredible performances. But mostly the second film in a row that Damien Chazelle has knocked it out the bloody park. Whiplash was fabulous. And La La Land continues the string.

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Ryan Gosling is surprisingly good in La La Land. I have never been a fan of his. Here he plays a Jazz Pianist who refuses to sell out his art for the money (or success for that matter). His character is a frustrating look at the artistic purist.

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And Emma Stone… She gets better with every role she takes. Here her dancing is the primary element. Her movements are sublime. I hope she dances in everything. She’s always had this commanding stage presence but who knew she could move like an angel. And glide like a… totally different angel. She plays an aspiring actress and writer who gets no respect at auditions and in her day job on the Warner Brothers lot.

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These two, young artists, start an on-screen romance. And there’s not much else in terms of plot. La La Land is pretty straight forward. Romance, relationship, conflict, resolution. But the ending is magical. I cried. I won’t tell you what kind of tears for those of you who haven’t seen it. But they were very salty.

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La La Land brings to mind Woody Allen at his early 80’s romantic best. Billy Wilder in his 1950’s funniest. And Old Hollywood at its late 20’s musical finest. And I would be surprised if it isn’t on Broadway in about 10 years. Even though the music isn’t the best part, La La Land would still make a good Broadway show. Because of the dancing. The choreography is outstanding. And like I said before, Emma Stone glides across the screen making us fall in love with each angelic step.

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La La Land doesn’t completely live up to the hype. I still don’t see the big deal. It’s a rehash of the depression era musical. A great escape from these degenerate times. But I loved it. It’s fun and magical and romantic. And I enjoyed it profusely.

– Mel

Random Thoughts About Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (after multiple viewings)

I am catching up on movies I missed from last year but I’ve done this thing where when I buy a ticket for a movie I haven’t seen, I buy a ticket for Rogue One on the same day. I saw Passengers and I also saw Rogue One. I saw Arrival and I also saw Rogue One. I saw La La Land the other day (that review is upcoming) but I also saw Rogue One on the same day.

SPOILER ALERT

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story L to R: (Felicity Jones) & (Diego Luna) Ph: Film Frame ©Lucasfilm LFL

“Spoiler Alert. I repeat Spoiler Alert. All pilots please report to your fighters. This is not a drill. I repeat. Spoiler Alert.”

I love this movie. And after four times Rogue One is just as good, if not better than the first time. So I have thrown some random thoughts into a folder after each viewing and I’m going to post them here. (I did the same for Force Awakens after repeated viewings)

Cassian Andor and K2

“Cassian? Your accent?” What planet did you say you were from again?” “I didn’t.”

So these are random. And they’re weird. And… I’ll just show them to you.

SPOILER ALERT

Chopper!!!!

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Choppers Cameo before boarding the Ghost and going off to fight at Scarif.

And The Ghost.

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You can see the Ghost off to the left. I wonder if General Syndulla still commands her.

Star Wars Rebels Easter Eggs Rock!!!

But I never see them. I have never seen them while watching the movie. I have seen the pics people post showing them but I have yet to see them in the movie. My favorite is still when you hear, “General Syndulla, please report to the briefing room.” Hera makes it to general!!! That’s so cool.

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The back of the Ghost-center left down toward the bottom.

Mind, Soul and Body Couplets:

Bodhi and K2 (mental) Both the droid and the pilot were once with the Empire and suffer from mind invasions that cause them mental problems

Jyn and Cassian (physical) Both the rebel assassin and the (just plain) rebel have lost family and friends at a young age and seek revenge by violent, physical means.

Baze and Chirrut (spiritual) Both the Guardians of The Whills, Keepers of the Kyber crystals The monk and the Mercenary, are servants of an ancient religion but constantly check their faith as the empire seeks to destroy it.

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“She really should have kept this in the original packaging. This is a collector’s item. Not a toy!”

The Stormtrooper dolly that Jyn Erso has when she’s a kid is some really fucked up imagery as the troopers come to take her father away. She called it “Stormie.” Throughout the movie she uses the term Stormtrooper as an insult.

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The real one is on the left. I know. It’s hard to tell.

CGI gripes need to shut the hell up. It’s great animation. You can tell the difference between it and a real person. Good for you. I’m sorry we can’t create life on a computer yet. Chill out. It’s fake. Everyone knows it’s fake.

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Scarif was the first victory for the Rebel Alliance.

The Title: A New Hope now actually means something (and it’s not about Luke).

The plot of Rogue One is the first two paragraphs of the Episode IV A New Hope crawl.

And Luke’s squadron in Empire and Return is named after the Rogue One (since most of his Red Squadron get blown up at the first Death Star) Rogue Squadron is their designation on Hoth and Endor. Since there is no Rogue designation before Bodhi makes it up on the spot. I guess they honored them by taking the name.

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Alan Tudyk is always flying the ship. He’s a leaf on the wind.

Now we know why Vader is so mad at the start of Star Wars. Captain Antilles lies to his face. Also Leia lies to him without missing a beat, knowing that he knows she’s lying. And he’s having none of it making those opening scenes even better.

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“Lord Vader. You really should learn to hold your bong hits, sir. THIS is amateur hour.”

Vader sleeps in a vat of some fluid making me think that every second he is out of that stuff he is in pain. Darth Vader is in constant pain. His personal base is on the planet where he lost his limbs, Mustafar. That guy is fucked-up in so many ways.

“These are some REALLY random thoughts.”

Here’s a Random Thought:

Since they’re bringing Saw Gerrera back to Star Wars: Rebels (he was actually in Clone Wars not Rebels), I wonder if he’ll have little Jyn in tow (he didn’t). That would have been so cool and just a little heartbreaking. Maybe next time.

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“Perhaps they’ll bring us back.” “Don’t count on it old man.”

Some say there’s no romance in Rogue One. Personally I think they just fail to mention Chirrut Îmwe and Baze Malbu. The Guardians of the Whills. Maybe it was just a bromance, but I choose to believe that it was more than that. There was no kissing because they were at war and it would have been inappropriate.

I told you these were random.

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Here we see Jyn Erso, lost on her way to the final cut of the movie. She never makes it.

Every time I hear about alternate cuts and re-shoots it fills me with pain. I don’t want to see them. I don’t want to know about them. The past is the past. The movie is perfect.

“May The Force Of Others Be With You”

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When we meet Jyn, first she’s in prison, angry with her sleeping cellmate. Then she is trying to beat up the people who are rescuing her on Wonabi (Obi-Wan anagram).

When we meet Cassian he is shooting a colleague in the back without hesitation.

Neither of these broken people can trust anyone because both lost their families to the Empire when they were very young.

So Cassian just follows orders and Jyn just follows no one.

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“I’m not tragic. I’m just drawn that way.”

The monk and the mercenary, The Guardians of the Whills, dedicated their lives to protecting the Jedi temples but when Jedha is destroyed their missions are over and all that is left is the echoes of a dying religion. This too is heartbreaking.

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“In space no one can here you scream and then suddenly silent.”

The film-makers take pains to tell us that all the Rogue One volunteers have checkered pasts and have done bad things in the name of the rebellion. Assassins, Smugglers, etc. We get it. Their deaths are a form of redemption. It’s still fucked up.

“This some random shit. WHO SENT YOU? Have you come to kill me?”

Saw Gerrera is a lot like Darth Vader. Limbs missing. Can’t breathe without help. Angry at the galaxy. Except Vader has the resources of the Empire and Saw lives in the remnants of a rundown Jedi Temple. Vader has the top of the line replacement legs. Saw has some makeshift legs he threw together from spare parts. Vader has a state of the art breathing apparatus. Saw has a breathing tube affixed to a gas mask that doesn’t always work.

Darth Vader should be more thankful for what he’s got, if you ask me.

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They really should have started synchronized dancing here.

Jyn has some heroic tendencies. She saves the little girl on Jedha.

Cassian has some heroic tendencies but only when it comes to saving Jyn.

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Obi Wan Mountain

The statues on Jedha must have looked amazing. Tall Jedi with light sabers drawn guarding the holy city. (Like the Buddhas of old that were destroyed by jealous Muslims or ignorant Christians). The large statue above looks like Obi Wan Kenobi but you can see it was blasted to hell (probably by Vader).

I wasn’t angry at the Empire before I came to Jedha!

“Are you IP Man? Can I have your autograph? My kids are never gonna believe that I got my ass kicked by IP Man. This is so freakin’ cool.”

If Rogue One Characters Were Star Wars Characters:

Jyn would be Leia. Angry and self-righteous.

Cassian would be Han. Doing awful things for a noble cause.

K2 would be 3PO. Smartest guy in the room but no one’s listening.

Bodhi would be R2. Always plugging into strange computer consoles, flying ships and sending secret messages.

Chirrut would be Luke. Untrained but wants to believe in the ways of the force.

And Baze would be Chewbacca. Blowing shit up with his big ass guns.

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“Jedha, the holy city. And you blew it up. Damn you all to hell.” – Charlton Heston

The main bad guy in Rogue One, Orson Krennic, is just plain evil. He loves the destruction of Jedha (a little too much). He jokes with Galen about his dead wife’s last words. Smiles when Vader nearly kills him, I’m guessing out of respect for how evil the guy is. He’s just an awful person.

I would have preferred an ending where Jyn stomps on his face until she’s certain he’s dead. But sure, the irony of getting killed by your own creation… blah blah blah.

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“Is this evil enough? Or should there be more sinister lighting?”

Admiral Raddus (Or as I call him Admiral Bad-ass) wanted to fight so badly during that Alliance conference that as soon as he hears about Rogue One’s attack on Scarif he takes the fleet in and starts shooting up shit. He also doesn’t make it out, I guess, after Vader disables his command ship. Another hero of Scarif.

Pour a little out for Raddus: Hero of Scarif.

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“Call up a Hammerhead Corvette.” (one of the ones that the Ghost crew stole in Star Wars Rebels “A Princess of Lothal”) Rebel Easter Eggs!!!

And finally, the way the end of Rogue One blends seamlessly into A New Hope is still the best thing about the year 2016. Even if Arrival is actually a better movie than Rogue One (it is). That last scene is still the best thing I saw all year.

Until next time,

May the force of others be with you.

-Mel

6 Quick Reviews of 6 DVDs I Kinda Liked in 2016 (Luke Warm Edition)

Hello again.

We’re going to do another Five Quick Reviews post except plus one more. We have two movies featuring three of my favorite comic actresses in each (for a total of six funny female actors). Two Warner Brothers movies that both have Ben Affleck in them. And two movies that have absolutely nothing in common no matter how hard I try to rack my brain. One takes place in Paris where the Nazis invaded and the other has kids playing Nazis. Nope. I’ll think of something.

"Making the clever connections is the hardest part." "I feel you."

“Making the clever connections is the hardest part.” “I feel you.”

But before we get started on the reviews, I would like to address a criticism I received that irked me somewhat. Where someone mentioned that my reviews are too “self-referential” or some such nonsense.

"Have you been criticizing Mel's blogging technique?" "It wasn't me."

“Have you been criticizing Mel’s blogging technique?” “It wasn’t me. I swear.”

This is not a review site. This is a journal. This blog is about me. You see at the top where it says Mel Rook & the 7 Deadly Sins. I’m THAT guy. But more importantly you see underneath where it describes what this is: The Journal of the Man in the Box (a Woody Allen reference by way of Alice in Chains).

I am the maaaaan in the box.

"The second song off of their first album. Did I win?" "Did we win?" "We just won two tickets to Mel's blog party."

“Yes. That’s the second song off their first album. Did I win?” “Did we win?” “We just won two tickets to Mel’s blog party!” “Wait. Block party or Blog party?” “Blog.” “Hang up.”

On this blog I write about stuff I do, stuff I see and stuff I think. When I review a movie I go out of my way to make it personal. To bring it back to my own experiences. To my life story. This is not a bug. This is a feature.

Suffice to say, if you do not like me, you will not like my blog. (The inverse is not necessarily true. You can like me and think my writing is crap). I recently read a comment by a blogger I respect where she said she doesn’t read her own posts. I am the total opposite of that.

I am my biggest fan.

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“Maybe he is too self-referential.” “You shut up, Kat. He loves us.” “He loves YOU, maybe. I was in Jupiter Ascending.” “Oh my god, I forgot about that.” “He’d rather fuck Ashton.” “So would I.”

I have read every post on this blog at least a dozen times. I write this shit for me. And if someone else is entertained in the process, that’s the cake. That’s the cake and the frosting and the motherfucking cherry on top.

So for anyone who didn’t need to hear this, I apologize, but at least one person did. And if you’re one of the people who has liked any of my “self-referential’ reviews in the past several years that I’ve posted to this blog site, thank you very much.

Thank you for the cake.

To the reviews…

Six Quick Reviews of Six DVDs I Kinda Liked in 2016

Not loved. Just kinda liked.

Bastille Day (High Top Releasing as The Take)

bastille-day

Directed by James Watkins

Written by Andrew Baldwin and James Watkins

Starring Idris ElbaRichard MaddenCharlotte Le BonEriq Ebouaney & José Garcia

Bastille Day (or The Take) is a pretty decent action, buddy, spy, thriller with Idris Alba and Richard Madden looking hot on screen and playing off each other surprisingly well. There’s not a lot of heavy lifting. It’s straight forward international intrigue. Terrorists and spies in Paris. You know the drill. Madden plays a thief who stole the wrong bag… in a big, you could say “explosive” way. (he finds a bomb in a bear in a bag) Add Alba as an American spy operating illegally overseas and from there it just takes off.

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“I loved that car.” “The North remembers.” “You know nothing Jon Snow.” “That wasn’t me. That was the other… Never mind.” “Winter is coming.” “There you go.”

I would have preferred it if Bastille Day had a little more of an international flavor, with trips to other countries. Over borders. That’s my favorite thing about Jason Bourne and James Bond; the travelling. But even though Bastille Day stays in France, in Paris, it still supplies good action and good espionage.

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“Outta the car and into the boot. I mean trunk. Did I say boot again?”

Both leads do their best American accent and offer your two basic flavors of masculine; tough guy, cool guy. Idris Alba as the tougher than average CIA agent and Richard Madden as the cooler-than-you criminal. The plot is interesting and really so are the characters, if not a little too familiar. Bastille Day is a good rental. Worth a movie night. Entertaining and action-packed and fun.

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King of the North (in my pants)

My only problem with the movie was the end title song. It’s jarring and disturbing because it’s sung by Idris Alba’s extremely recognizable voice and after an hour and a half of watching him play this character, he starts singing over the credits in his British accent. It’s awkward. It’s a small thing but it threw me.

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“Elephants have trunks. Cars don’t have trunks.” “Shut up and get in the car before I put you on top the bonnet.” “The what?” “Playing American is hard.”

Bastille Day is a good movie. Not too ambitious. Not too violent. Not too long. They changed the title to The Take for dumb Americans who wouldn’t know what Bastille Day was or even care. But don’t let that confuse you. It’s a good movie.

Rent it

Next…

Addicted to Fresno (Gravitas Ventures)

Directed by Jamie Babbit

Written by Karey Dornetto

Starring Natasha LyonneJudy GreerMolly ShannonFred ArmisenRon Livingston & Aubrey Plaza

Addicted to Fresno is yet another good movie about addiction. This time sex addiction (yes lord. somebody ’bout to get self-referential up in this piece). This is a difficult disease to do in comedy because few people think of it as a serious thing. It’s a nasty fucking disease like the worse heroin addiction except instead of needles sticking in everywhere, it’s dicks (toys, fingers, tongues). (and no it’s not as attractive as it sounds)

addicted-to-fresno

Sex Addicts Anonymous is a great place to meet your next crazy stalker ex. (If that’s what you’re into… too self-referential? I agree with you there)

Hi I’m Mel and I’m a sex addict.

“Hi Mel.”

But as it is with all my addictions, it never stood a chance against my massive ego. Once the thought, “I’d rather be masturbating than hooking up with random people.” appeared, un-ironically, in my head… I was done. (Damn it. I’d better get back to the movie before I lose more of that judgmental woman’s respect).

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“Looks like someone needs to clean out their closet.” “I agree.”

Addicted to Fresno is pretty funny at times and it’s also pretty boring at times. But I really liked the themes and the way it handled sex addiction and I loved the ending. The movie mainly deals with the relationship between two sisters played by Natasha Lyonne and Judy Greer (two of my favorite indies). The latter’s sex addiction causes chaos in both of their lives and they handle the subject superbly.

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“Kiss me as if it were the last time.” “Wait. You want me to kiss you like I did last time?”

I had a (yes I’m talking about me again, woman) an older brother and I know the head space that tells you that you are better off just being you and having nothing to do with the other. You don’t get to choose your family. But you do get to choose whether you want them in your life.

natasha-lyonee-and-aubrey-plaza-in-addicted-to-fresno

“You know I’m not really gay. I just needed a place to live.” “Great. Let that be the last thing you ever fucking say to me.” (too self-referential?)

Addicted to Fresno is a pretty good movie about addiction and screwed up sibling relations. It has a big old plot hole… but whatever. It has a few scenes that were just watching paint dry… but whatever. It has a few really big laughs and a great cast, story and central theme. So on my blog that makes it a good movie.

Rent it.

Next…

Bad Moms (STX Entertainment)

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Written & Directed by Jon Lucas & Scott Moore

Starring Mila KunisKristen BellKathryn HahnJay HernandezAnnie MumoloJada Pinkett Smith & Christina Applegate

Bad Moms is a funny, if a little too by-the-book, bad behavior comedy. In it a group of young moms decide not to stress their mom duties and instead have some fun. It’s a decent movie but where it excels is in its casting. The lead trio are three of my favorite comedic actors… male or female.

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“Mel likes us!!!”

Bad Moms is Mila Kunis at her best. This is her type of comedy for sure. Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn don’t give bad performances. I don’t think it’s in either actor’s DNA. I enjoyed these three a bunch. Bad Moms is very enjoyable. Not amazing but still enjoyable. Just a good movie. Nothing special.

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“Nothing what now?”

However, the end credits (Yes we’re going to talk about end credits again “your reviews are a little too end-credits-referential.” Shut it.) During the end credits, the actors, good guys and bad guys, sit down with their real life moms for interviews and stories from their childhood. Honestly, it’s the best part of the movie. It’s so sweet. Brought me to tears.

"Did he just get through a whole review without saying how hot the three of us are?" "I think so." "Well that's depressing."

“Did he just get through a whole review without saying how hot the three of us are?” “I think so.” “Well that’s depressing.” “And so unlike him.”

Bad Moms is a decent, mildly funny but very entertaining film about mothers behaving badly. But seriously the end credits cast member mom interviews are the best thing about it. They are worth the rental cost.

And these three women are so fucking hot.

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“Aw, he remembered.” “Damn right he did.”

Rent it.

Next up…

The Accountant (Warner Bros. Pictures)

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Directed by Gavin O’Connor

Written by Bill Dubuque

Starring Ben AffleckAnna KendrickJ. K. Simmons & Jon Bernthal

The Accountant is a great story that has to make up for how poorly it’s directed. The narrative is disjointed because of flashbacks used to tell the back story of minor characters during the film’s climax. Which boggles the mind. How you gonna stop your climax to tell a non-central story about a minor character?

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“The math is clear. Stopping the climax is in fact anti-climactic. Numbers don’t lie. Take it from me. I’m a better director than I am an actor.”

But that being said, The Accountant is a story about a kid with autism who becomes an emergency accountant for corporations and illegal organizations who have major bookkeeping mishaps, like embezzlement or other things they wouldn’t want the authorities to find out about. It is sensational writing.

“I like it better when he talks about himself.” “Me too.” “Writers write.” “Amen brother.”

Ben Affleck is fantastic as the title character. A socially awkward bad-ass. And you know how much I love those types of characters (oops we’re talking about me again). The movie is funny. It’s exciting. A little romantic. It’s a fascinating story and subject. It’s just that the direction and pacing decisions left a lot to be desired.

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“I see the problem. I’ll take care of him.”

The Accountant tries to mirror the criminal world with glimpses into the lives of the law enforcement officers chasing after our hero. That entire part of the movie is mishandled. But I still liked The Accountant because of the interesting premise, story, characters and situations. And for some truly kick-ass action sequences with gun fights and martial arts and car chases and general bad-ass-ery.

“Don’t shoot me. I have an Oscar, for Christ sake.”

The Accountant is a very cool movie.

Rent it.

Next up…

Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made (Rolling Boulder)

raiders

I’m not a documentary guy. Much like fiction, in so-called non-fiction features, it’s way too easy to manipulate the audience and tell whatever story suits the film-makers fancy. So the truth ends up buried under clever editing and voice overs and Michael Moore’s gigantic ego and waistline. It’s like watching reality TV (but done better).

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“Nerds. Why did it have to be nerds?”

However, if it’s a good story that they happen to piece together from true-to-life parts then I can forgive them. You just have to always remember that you’re being manipulated by clever storytellers. Nothing is true.

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Movie Magic

Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made is a good story about the making of an epic fan film that spans decades. A shot for shot remake of Raiders of the Lost Ark. It’s pretty cool from an obsessive-childhood-endeavor-that-gradually-becomes-an-adult’s-obsessive-need-for-closure point of view.

raiders-the-adaptation

Movie Magic

You can’t help but root for these kids and then these adolescent-ly stunted adults. And Raiders of the Lost Ark is one of the best movies if not THE best movie ever made. So I was a little jealous because this was totally the type of thing I would have wanted to do had I been born in different circumstances. But as it is these are the kind of guys I would have made fun of for not doing something original. My loss.

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Selfies on set because… that’s professional.

Raiders! is a good documentary about a band of underdogs trying to finish their dream.

Rent it.

and lastly… we revisit Harley & Company

Suicide Squad Extended Cut (Warner Bros. Pictures)

suicide-squad-extended-cut

Written & Directed by David Ayer

Starring Will SmithJared LetoMargot RobbieJoel KinnamanViola DavisJai CourtneyJay HernandezAdewale Akinnuoye-AgbajeIke BarinholtzScott Eastwood & Cara Delevingne

“I like that there’s more Harley.” is the first thing I thought after sitting through the extended cut of the much-maligned Suicide Squad. The Harley/Joker story is the best thing about the original movie (theatrical release) and this one adds to that story-line. Also showing off some more of my girl’s fearless acrobatics and obsessive desire to prove herself to the psychopath she was tasked with treating but fell in love with.

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“Extended cut? Is that some kind of Aussie-moron?” “I don’t get it.” “Because Oxymoron is when a term uses two words that mean the opposite of each other and you’re from Australia.” “Still don’t get it.” “I’m a brilliant doctor that talks like a little girl. Get it now?”

The movie is still out of whack. And these added scenes only prove that DC and Warner should put these two in everything. You know how the infinity stones connect all of Marvel’s features? Just like that. But with The Joker and Harley Quinn.

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“Do YOU want to see more of Harley?” “I feel like this is a trick question, my man.” “WRONG ANSWER! Tell him the right one, baby.” “You’re supposed to say, ‘Where da white women at?’ Am I right Mr. J?” “Right you are, Harley. Now tell him what he’s won.”

When I heard about Gotham Sirens I was excited because this too could be a chance to explore more of the character without the eight or so others getting in the way. I really hope they do Gotham Sirens well and I’m actually looking forward to seeing what Affleck does with his Batman.

"I know it was you, Frodo. You broke ma hart." "I think you mean Fredo, baby." "Gandalf sleeps with the fishes."

“I know it was you, Frodo. You broke ma heart.” “I think you mean Fredo, baby.” “Gandalf the Grey sleeps with the fishes.” “Nope. Carry on.” “Look what a mess they made of my hobbits.”

Justice League will probably be a mess and Wonder Woman as well, but everybody knows that you can save even the shittiest action movie with a good villain. And Batman has the best villains. And honestly, DC heroes are kind of lame. So you know… bring on the bad guys. And of course the bad girls.

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“Who you calling a girl?”

Suicide Squad Extended Cut is a little better than the theatrical release but not enough to justify its existence. Batman v Superman Extended corrects nearly all the errors of that release but Suicide Squad never needed more stuff. It needed less stuff.

Still worth a look.

So to recap…

We had two DVD thrillers about bad-ass bad guys who do good things, The Accountant and Bastille Day. Both had their problems but both are worth a rental.

We had two DVD releasses that were new versions of previous movies, Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made and Suicide Squad Extended Cut. Both add a new dimension to the original without improving it but both are worth a rental.

And we had two DVD comedies featuring three of my favorite funny ladies, Bad Moms and Addicted to Fresno. Both could have been funnier, and both could have been better. But both are worth a rental.

And that wraps up these luke warm offerings that are worth a look.

Don’t go anywhere. I got more coming.

– Mel