Film Review: “The Book Club”

BOOK CLUB
Starring:  Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton and Candice Bergen
Directed by:  Bill Holderman
Rated:  PG 13
Running time:  1 hrs 44 mins
Paramount

Our Score: 4 out of 5 (stars!)

Between them they have 13 Academy Award nominations and 4 Oscars.  THEY are Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen and together they form the members of Paramount’s latest comedy, “The Book Club.”

Keaton plays Diane, recently widowed.  Fonda is Vivian, a wealthy hotel owner who refuses to sleep with men, meaning she’ll have sex but she won’t stay the night.  Bergen is Sharon, a Federal Judge whose husband (Ed Begley, Jr) left her 18 years ago and continues to date much younger women.  Steenburgen is Carol, married to the recently retired Bruce (Craig T. Nelson) who seems to have lost all interest in everything but his old motorcycle.  Each month this quartet of ladies meets and discusses a book they have recently read, an appointment they started in the 70s with Erica Jong’s “Fear of Flying.”  Feeling like the last few months entries have been lifeless, Vivian decides to spice up things by introducing the “50 Shades of Grey” series to their reading tables.  And spice things up it does.

There is nothing more enjoyable than seeing professionals at the top of their craft and “The Book Club” does not disappoint.

The film takes an honest, but humorous, look at love after 60.  It’s not all roses and champagne.  As the book begins to stir their desires, the three single women meet similar aged men who have refused to let age slow them down.  Diane meets a handsome airline pilot (Andy Garcia).  Vivian rekindles an old romance with Arthur (Don Johnson) while Sharon explores the world of on-line dating with both Richard Dreyfuss and Wallace Shawn.  The story has its great share of laughs but also some emotional times of reflection, all driven by a true all-star cast.

FYI, the four leading ladies also have between them 38 Golden Globe nominations (14 wins) and 12 Emmy nods (5 wins).  They should have called this film the Golden Girls.

Film Review: “Deadpool 2”

DEADPOOL 2
Starring:  Ryan Reynolds, Morena Bacarin and Josh Brolin
Directed by:  David Leitch
Rated:  R
Running time:  1 hrs 59 mins
20th Century Fox

Every once in a while a film comes along that not only bends the rules, but breaks them.  Such a film was “Deadpool.”  Is there any way the sequel can live up to that introduction?  Yes indeedy.

Ryan Reynolds continues his journey as the foul-mouthed, yet sensitive, Wade Wilson, better known to us moviegoers as Deadpool.  In this chapter he firmly puts tongue in cheek as he tries his best to learn the meaning of the word family.

Along the way he pokes fun at so many pop culture references that I literally lost count.  The Justice League.  “The Goonies.”  A still simmering anger with anything to do with Wolverine.  His sarcasm is razor fine and cuts just as easily.  A running gag where a line from the film “Frozen” sounds suspiciously like “Papa Can You Hear Me” from the film, “Yentl” is reigned in enough so it actually makes you laugh no matter how many times you hear it.  And the added humor that Josh Brolin is Barbra Streisands’s step-son only makes the gag even funnier.

Brolin, fresh off his gig in “The Avengers: Infiniti Wars,” plays Cable, a time-traveling mutant that’s as buff as his “Avengers” alter ego Thanos.  Brolin gives the role a sense of drama but isn’t above having a little fun himself.  If I’m sounding a little evasive here, it’s because the film company has asked reviewers not to give away too much of the film.  Just sit back and enjoy the ride.  Like its predecessor, “Deadpool 2” is one of the best comic book films ever.

Cannes Film Festival Review: “Astro”

ASTRO

 

Starring: Gary Daniels, Courtney Akbar and Michael Pare’

Directed by: Asif Akbar

Rated: Not Rated

Running time: 1 hour 45 mins

Avail Films

 

A young woman (Courtney Akbar) sits alone in her room as Christmas approaches.   She wonders aloud if she will ever see her father again.  She is greeted by a flash and is approached by a creature that calls herself “Vivian” (Max Wasa).  She informs the daughter that she is there to “show her the way.”

We are not alone.

That is the message we quickly learn in director Asif Akbar’s latest film, “Astro.”

The film begins with radio broadcasts, as well as newspaper accounts, of the various incidents reported in the late 1940s in Roswell, New Mexico.  For years, Roswell has either been looked upon as either a tourist trap or the place where the government is hiding SOMETHING!  We are privy to an examination of a “creature,” under the guidance of billionaire space enthusiast Alexander Biggs (Marshal Hilton).  When a DNA test of the creature reveals the name of a long lost friend, Biggs realizes that his thoughts and hopes about extraterrestrials may finally be coming true.

An entertaining film, “Astro” benefits from a strong cast and firm direction.  I am a huge fan of Mr. Akbar’s 2012 documentary, “Top Priority:  The Terror Within,” a film in which he took on the government after learning of a major security breach along the border, and his approach to this story is almost the same.  His use of close-ups gives one the impression one is watching a documentary, which puts the viewer more into the story that is unfolding on screen.

The cast are also “all in” on the story, with nary a false note in sight.   Mr. Hilton is slickly smooth, channeling a cross between Jeremy Irons and Charles Dance.  Mr. Daniels and Ms. Akbar are a devoted father/daughter team, one whose bond seems genuine.  And, to be honest, I’ve always liked Michael Pare’, so it’s always a pleasure to see him on the big screen.

The script, by Mr. Akbar and Bernard Selling, adds enough humor to keep the story light and the musical score, by Erick Schroder, sets the tone for the entire film.  If there is a fault in the film, it is its budget.  The special effects, while passible, do have a homemade quality to them.  Nothing horrible, but when you release your film at the same time as the new “Avengers” or “Solo” is in theatres, you’d have to understand the criticism.

That being said, like “Close Encounters” before it, the questions need to be answered!”

 

Theater Review: “The Lion King” in Kansas City

Disney’s “The Lion King”

Music Hall – Kansas City, Missouri

May 10, 2018

 

AMAZING!  That is the first word that popped into my head as “The Lion King” began.  While being mesmerized by the animated and musical Rafiki (Makelisiwe Goga), we were treated by a parade of animals down the aisle, from the rear of the theater to the stage.  Birds.  Gazelles.  Elephants.  They strode past in their proud majesty and filled the stage.  And for the next two and half hours, the excitement never died.

“Rafiki” in THE LION KING North American Tour. ©Disney. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Based on the 1994 animated film of the same name, the story of “The Lion King” is much as it was in the film.  Some of the characters are fleshed out more and there are more songs, also written by Elton John and Tim Rice.  The characters are familiar and are portrayed in an amazing way.  While the majority of the lions just wear lion heads, other characters are portrayed by actors holding/wearing puppets.  The effect is jaw-dropping.  Even the lovable duo of Timon and Pumba are portrayed this way, a way that is not distracting in the least.

The original show, which is now the third longest running show in Broadway history, was nominated for an amazing eleven Tony Awards, winning six, including Best Musical.  I’ve been attending shows, both on Broadway and off, since 1980, and I would easily put “The Lion King” in my top 10 of best shows ever.

“The Lion King” runs in Kansas City at the Music Hall through May 27th.  For ticket information, or to see where the tour is heading next, click HERE.

Nintendo Switch Video Game Review “Batman: The Telltale Series”

“Batman: The Telltale Series”
Telltale Games
Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
DC Entertainment
Release Date: November 14, 2017
Rating: Mature
Platform: Nintendo Switch

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

I have played a few Telltale games to date including “Game of Thrones” and “Guardians of the Galaxy”. I was super excited to see that “Batman: The Telltale Series” came out back in August of 2016 but I never played it. When I saw it was came out on the Nintendo Switch, I was thrilled.  The teaming up of Telltale Games, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, and DC Entertainment is a match made in heaven for comic book nerds! This game plays so well on the Switch and really adds some great physical features using the joysticks that is not available on the other platforms. Having playing a few Telltale games before on systems like PS3 & PS4, this was my favorite experience and having it be Batman only makes it cooler! Must own!

I know people may trash Nintendo Switch saying it is not up to par like XBOX One X, which is not but it is also special in it’s own right that those systems don’t offer. I love the ability of having this game essentially on the go and in such high quality video and sound.  this game also features an award-winning cast of talent, including Troy Baker in the role of Bruce Wayne, Travis Willingham as Harvey Dent, Erin Yvette as Vicki Vale, Enn Reitel as Alfred Pennyworth, Murphy Guyer as Lieutenant James Gordon, Richard McGonagle as Carmine Falcone, Jason Spisak as Oswald Cobblepot, Dave Fennoy as Lucius Fox, Anthony Ingruber as John Doe, and Laura Bailey as Selina Kyle. No shortage of voice over talent here.

There are five episodes includes in this complete season collection:
Episode 1: Realm of Shadows / Episode 2: Children of Arkham / Episode 3: New World Order / Episode 4: Guardian of Gotham / Episode 5: City of Light

Please note for all parents, all episodes have been rated ‘Mature’ and make sure you know that this is NOT for kids. It is rated M for a reason. So no kiddie hanging around, this is mommy/daddy’s game. I am trying to rate each chapter and I am having a really hard time figuring out which I enjoyed more. I can honestly say that each chapter is better than the next. The first takes a little to get started but picks up speed quick! My favorite is probably City of Light if I had to choose right now. I really enjoyed Lady Arkham. She was a great villain in this season. Cool to see Batman going up against someone new and bad-ass to boot.

If you are looking to find out more information, VGR is the place to go to get all the trending video game news. Since the Nintendo Switch was a little late to this game only getting it in November of 2017, there is already a second season released called, “Batman: The Enemy Within” and is currently available on most platforms, except the Switch 🙁  So hopefully they have that in the plans coming up soon! I would love to see how they can even advance the technology with the Switch for future installments. Hopefully we won’t have to wait to long. 

CD Review: A Perfect Circle “Eat The Elephant”

A Perfect Circle
Eat The Elephant
Producer: Dave Sardy, Billy Howerdel, Maynard James Keenan
Original Release Date: April 20, 2018
Number of Discs: 1
Length: 57:07
Label: BMG

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

As a fan of lifetime fan of “A Perfect Circle”, I have been waiting for the band’s fourth album to be released for the last fourteen years. The band started as a side project for Tool front man Maynard James Keenan but has always seems to stay relevant over the years. I think that it is because their music is very real and the lyrics brings up some major social, political and religious issues that it resonates with fans. I will go into it more below but this is an album that has built up for years. It is not going to win you over in one quick distracted listen. If you give this album a chance and really listen to it without distractions it is pretty freaking amazing and I can’t get enough of it! You can tell this was a real labor of love from the band and hardcore fans should dig it!

I spend a lot of time on the computer and listening to music with my Amazon Echo, so one day last Fall, I asked to listen to Tool to my surprise I found no Tool music is available streaming anywhere at the time, so A Perfect Circle quickly came into my head. Once I started listening, I came across a new song called “The Doomed”, I believe this was in October/November of 2017 and I was immediately taken back to old school A Perfect Circle. I loved this track and I listened to it A LOT over the last few months. Then in January, another single dropped called “Disillusioned” and it was even better than the first followed by next month with “TalkTalk” that was released in February 2018. We are talking three hit singles here before the album was even released. So I feel like I have been in love with these new tracks for months now and I only have been enjoying the album more and more with easy listen.

I feel like “Eat the Elephant” works best when played through in one sitting. I feel like the songs wind and connect together in a way that makes the who listening experience very exciting. I can’t explain in words just how much I love the song “Disillusioned”. It is honestly one of my favorite songs currently. The lyrics “Time to put the silicon obsession down…Take a look around, find a way in the silence”. I just have to stop everything and listen when this song comes on. “The Contrarian” is also a real shocker. What a surprise following up track! I also need to give props to the fourth single that was released before the album was released “So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish”, it is such a hot track. I love the way it doesn’t let you take a breathe in. It just is perfect and really different from the rest.

Like I mentioned above, even though this is their first album release in fourteen years, the band feels like they haven’t missed a beat. When I shuffle all tracks from this band the new ones fit perfect in with the old. “Eat the Elephant” dates back to as early as 2008. You can tell it was a slow working progress but if you are a longtime fan of Maynard James Keenan, (me personally since 1995), we are trained to expect to have to wait for great things. I can say that I have never been disappointed with a Tool or A Perfect Circle album. This time around unlike with 2004’s “Emotive”, where Billy Howerdel had step into lead vocals for most of the album, this time Keenan performed all vocal parts and also wrote all lyrics.

Since we are a little late to reviewing this album, it has since debuted at number 3 on the US Billboard 200 chart, which is the band’s fourth album to debut in the top 4. A Perfect Circle may not be for everyone but I feel like it’s music stands out from everyone else and is not afraid to be different or to try something new. If you are lucky the band might be coming to a city near you with their accompanying tour throughout 2018, including North American dates in May, October, and November, and European dates in June and December. I have seen them live in the early 2000’s and it was definitely an experience. I can’t wait to see how these new tracks work live. Very excited for this album and for this upcoming tour. “Eat the Elephant” is a must have for A Perfect Circle fans! Definitely worth the wait! Now Maynard, get your ass in gear please on the new Tool album 😉

Track Listing:
1. Eat The Elephant
2. Disillusioned
3. The Contrarian
4. The Doomed
5. So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish
6. TalkTalk
7. By And Down The River
8. Delicious
9. DLB
10. Hourglass
11. Feathers
12. Get The Lead Out

DVD Review: Anthrax “Kings Among Scotland”

Anthrax “Kings Among Scotland”
Director: Paul M Green
Metal Blade Records
Not Rated
2 Discs

Our Score: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Multi-Grammy nominated thrash icons Anthrax have just released their long-awaited live-in-concert DVD “Kings Among Scotland.” The release is available on CD, DVD and digital formats and features the bands two hour set from their sold out February 15, 2017 concert at the historic Barrowland Ballroom in Glasgow, Scotland. Also included on the two disc set are interviews, behind-the-scenes footage along with other B-roll footage shot on the band’s bus, backstage and in hotels elsewhere, plus “gear rundowns” from each band member.

This release has been on my radar since it was first announced quite a few months ago and, upon receiving it I can say that it was certainly worth the wait! Even before I opened the packaging the artwork grabbed my attention as the band chose to riff on the classic Kiss “Rock and Roll Over” motif which was nicely embossed on the multi fold packaging. Inside along with the discs were a collection of live shots from the show as well as a sticker of the albums cover art (another nod to “Rock and Roll Over” which also came with a sticker). Even before I had this in the player I was already digging it. From the opening notes of “A.I.R.” to the closing notes of “Antisocial” some eighteen songs later the band appears to be at the top of their game and have never sounded better. Disc one is the live portion of the release featuring classic tracks like “Madhouse” and “Medusa” intertwined with newer songs like “Fight’ Em ‘Til You Can’t” and “Breathing Lighting” before giving away to an entire “Among the Living” set which is closed out by the bands anthemic cover of “Antisocial”. If all that wasn’t enough Disc two is jammed packed with candid, behind the scenes footage that gives you a glimpse of what it’s like to be on the road and the work it takes to makes a show like Anthrax’s happen each night.

Director Paul M Green and Mixer Jay Ruston did a phenomenal job with the look and sound of the live show. The variety of camera angles used gives viewers the best experience possible without actually being there. The audio is equally top notch and sounds great no matter if you are watching it with headphones or using your home theater system. Anthrax really delivered something special with this package and, even though I would have liked to hear a few more songs from some of the bands more recent releases the new material they did play combined with all the classics was really great. Throw in all the material featured on Disc two including the in-depth gear segment and you will be hard pressed to find a similar package offering as much as “Kings Among Scotland” does.

Track Listing:
1.) A.I.R.
2.) Madhouse
3.) Evil Twin
4.) Medusa
5.) Blood Eagle Wings
6.) Fight’Em ‘Til You Can’t
7.) Be All, End All
8.) Breathing Lightning
9.) Among the Living
10.) Caught In A Mosh
11.) One World
12.) I Am The Law
13.) A Skeleton In The Closet
14.) E-Lnikufesin (N.F.L.)
15.) A.D.I./Horror Of It All
16.) Indians
17.) Imitations of Life
18.) Antisocial

Film Review: “I Feel Pretty”

I FEEL PRETTY
Starring:  Amy Schumer, Michelle Williams and Lauren Hutton
Directed by:  Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein
Rated:  PG 13
Running time:  1 hrs 50 mins
STX Entertainment

 

Do you ever look in the mirror and wonder?  Why is my nose this way?  Why is my chin that way?  Do other people think I’m pretty?  Or handsome?  They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, which Amy Schumer learns with a vengeance, in “I Feel Pretty.”

Renee Bennett (Schumer) is a fun girl.  But she’s insecure.  She’s a little more “curvy” than some women and, while attractive, doesn’t see herself as pretty.  Some of this self-doubt comes from the fact that she works in the online department of one of the world’s largest makeup companies, whose spokesperson/owner (Williams) is the cover girl.  Renee spends her free time with her friends Vivian (Aidy Bryant) and Jane (Busy Phillips) and, while the three aren’t setting any records with attracting men, they enjoy being together.  One night, while watching the movie “Big,” Renee jokingly wishes she were beautiful.  The next day, at a SPIN class, she falls and hits her head.  When she comes to, she looks in a mirror and smiles.  She IS beautiful.

Though I’m still trying to figure out the message (Beauty is on the inside?  Be careful of what you wish for?  Be happy with who you are?) the film is trying to send, I found “I Feel Pretty” to be a funny film with a little bit of heart.  Now that she’s “pretty,” Renee has the courage to apply for a job as receptionist of her company, a job she’s noticed is normally filled by amazingly beautiful women.  Instead of being the woman who feels she’s five pounds too heavy, she sees herself as one of the beautiful people, giving herself the self-confidence she needs to not only get the job but flirt with the handsome brother of her boss.  But soon she is self-absorbed with the idea of her beauty, abandoning her friends and climbing the social ladder.  She doesn’t realize that it’s not her perceived looks that are getting her places, it’s her confidence in herself, and this is what impresses.

The film is well cast, with Schumer striking all the right notes.  This is not the raunchy Amy Schumer you may be familiar with.  This version is a little tamer, but still fun loving.  A scene where she impulsively enters a bikini contest, hiking her shorts and t-shirt up to expose her stomach, undulating to the music, is a moment of pure freedom.  Williams, with a Jennifer Tilly-esque voice, is also well cast as a woman whose beauty doesn’t allow others to see how intelligent she is.  Rory Scovel is Ethan, a man Renee meets “cute” at a coffee shop who falls in love with Renee the way she is, not the way she sees herself.  And, my God, how is it that 74 year old Lauren Hutton is as beautiful today as she was when I was a teenager??

 

Directors/screenwriters Kohn and Silverstein, who previously gave us “Never Been Kissed” and “He’s Just Not That Into You,” do a fine job keeping the story moving in their feature directorial debut.  I appreciate the fact that, even when she looks into a mirror, Schumer sees what we see – Amy Schumer – and not some high cheekboned model.  Both Renee, and Schumer, are just fine the way they are.

Concert Review: Julien Baker and Tancred

“Julien Baker Spring Tour 2018”

Julien Baker, Tancred
Friday, April 13th, 2018
Hangar Theater, Ithaca, NY

Our Score: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Singer/Songwriter Julien Baker made a stop in the bustling college town of Ithaca, NY on April 13th for a sold out performance at the intimate Hangar Theater. This would be her first time performing in Ithaca as a headlining act having only previously played the area as an opener for The Decembrists. Baker proved she was up to the task and had the capacity crowd wanting even more by the end of the evening.

Opening up the night was former Now, Now guitarist Jess Abbott and her group Tancred. The group quickly worked through a brief, upbeat set which included songs from the bands four album catalog including songs from their latest release “Nightstand”. The packed house was appreciative of the set and thanked the musicians with a wave of applause as they left the stage. After a brief intermission Julien Baker took the stage opening the night with the song “Over” from her album 2017 release “Turn Out the Lights”. The somber instrumental quickly gave way to songs like “Appointments”, “Funeral Pyre” and “Sprained Ankle” which received a large applause from the crowd. Baker captivated the crowd with her soft spoken demeanor and breathy delivery which acted as the foundation for songs such as “Happy To Be Here” a number which almost brought the singer to tears. Later on in the set Baker was accompanied by violinist Camille Faulkner on a hand full of songs including “Even” “Vessels” and, “Sour Breath” before closing out the night with the sounds of “Something” from Julien’s debut album “Sprained Ankle.

To find a musician that can write captivating lyrics and instrumentation is a rarity unto itself however, when you find an artist who is then able to transfer that power and emotion into a live setting with just a guitar, piano and their voice that for me puts the artist on a completely different level. Julien Baker is one of those musicians. From the moment she took the stage to the time she left Julien’s performance took listeners to another place. Equally as powerful as her recordings Baker did what is sometimes unattainable for lesser performers. On this night in Ithaca, NY concert goes got not only a break from the often bitter early spring weather but a chance sit back and enjoy a really great evening of music. For those of you in areas where Julien may be performing I highly encourage you to attend as you surely will not be disappointed.

Set List:
1.) Over
2.) Appointments
3.) Turn Out the Lights
4.) Funeral Pyre
5.) Rejoice
6.) Sprained Ankle
7.) Happy To Be Here
8.) Red Door
9.) Blacktop
10.) Everybody’s Does
11.) Even
12.) Vessels
13.) Sour Breath
14.) Televangelist
15.) Hurt Less
16.) Something

Blu-ray Review “Insidious: The Last Key”

Directed by Adam Robitel
Starring: Lin Shaye, Angus Sampson, Leigh Whannell, Spencer Locke, Caitlin Gerard, Bruce Davison
Distributed by: Universal Pictures (Theatrical)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (Home Video)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 103 minutes

Film: 3 out of 5 stars
Blu-ray: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3 out of 5 stars

The “Insidious” franchise has never really blown me away after the first film. Oddly enough the first “Insidious” is in my top 5 horror all time, so it’s a shame these sequels never really lived up to the first film. Taking the directorial reigns this time is Adam Robitel, he is the writer/director of “The Taking of Deborah Logan” (which is an amazing film), so I was psyched to see what he could do here. Unfortunately, I just feel like this was another unnecessary sequel. The film just doesn’t deliver anything new at all. I would love a deeper look into The Further and more subtle score led jumps like the first film had and was terrifying. This film, like the previous sequels, just lacks the terror.

Official Premise: Brilliant parapsychologist Elise Rainier receives a disturbing phone call from a man who claims that his house is haunted. Even more disturbing is the address — 413 Apple Tree Lane in Five Keys, N.M. — the home where Elise grew up as a child. Accompanied by her two investigative partners, Rainier travels to Five Keys to confront and destroy her greatest fear — the demon that she accidentally set free years earlier.

The star of the film is hands down, the amazing Lin Shaye. I have to say in this film she definitely gave her performance. She was bad-ass! God bless her, she is 74 years old and the lead of a hugely successful horror franchise. She is one of a kind. But I feel the franchise might need to take a new direction and get back to its roots in future films, which I am sure will follow. I want to see the demon/entity sitting in the corner of the room without knowing that I see it and having it terrify me know that I can’t look over to the corner with the fear that it will know I see it. That is the terror I want from the “Insidious” franchise.

“Insidious: The Last Key” comes stocked as a combo pack with a Blu-ray + Digital copy. It is also solid in the A/V department. The 1080p transfer is crisp matched with the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. The special features include an alternate ending and more than 20 minutes of additional scenes. It is worth checking out if you want to see a little more from the film. There is a franchise recap includes as well as three all-new featurettes. The first one “Becoming Elise” dives into the mythology of Elise’s origin story. The next one “Going into the Further” features everyone from the cast and crew talking about the production design and how it differs from the previous films. Lastly “Unlocking Keyface” showcases the new demon in the franchise.

Film Review “Aardvark”

Directed by: Brian Shoaf
Starring: Zachary Quinto and Jenny Slate, Jon Hamm, Sheila Vand
Production company: Great Point Media
Rated PG-13

Our Score: 2.5 out of 5 stars

“Aardvark” is not a film that I would normally watch. I was draw to the film simply from it’s cast including Jon Hamm (“Mad Men”), Zachary Quinto (“Star Trek”) and Jenny Slate (SNL, “Obvious Child”). The acting in the film is really superb. I really only know Jenny Slate from her voice work including the new “Muppet Babies”, “The LEGO Batman Movie” and “The Secret Live Of Pets”, so this was a very different film for her. It is a straight blown drama. The whole cast was fantastic and I really dug the film for the first half and then it took a nice dive in the second act and closed out disappointing for me.

Here is the film’s official premise: “Aardvark” follows Josh Norman, a troubled man who has lived in the shadow of his brother Craig for so long he starts seeing that shadow everywhere. After experiencing a series of hallucinations involving Craig – an actor, and the star of a popular TV drama – Josh places himself in the care of Emily, a young therapist. Emily is forced to wade deeper and deeper into Josh’s imaginary world, and along the way forms her own obsession with his famous brother. While Emily and Craig explore a potentially disastrous attraction, Josh begins a relationship with a young woman, Hannah, who might be his soul mate – if only he could be sure she exists.

During the film there are these really interesting hallucination sequences that Quinto’s character experiences. I found myself mesmerized to see what was going to happen next. I don’t want to spoil anything for those who really want to see this but I appreciate where the film went. It was hopefully but I didn’t like the ending and I wanted more fleshed out with Quinto’s character. This is a little art house film that will play very well in those markets I am sure. It has the trendy cast and that art festival feeling to it. I didn’t hate it but I don’t see myself watching it ever again.

Film Review “Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare”

Directed by: Jeff Wadlow
Starring: Lucy Hale, Tyler Posey, Violett Beane, Hayden Szeto. Landon Liboiron
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 100 minutes

Our Score: 1 out of 5 stars

Blumhouse Productions has been busting out some really solid horror films recently including last year’s “Get Out” and “Split”. “Truth or Dare” is not one of them. I was just telling my wife that I feel like horror is taking the turn again like it did back in 1996 when “Scream” came out and horror became popular mainstream again. I feel like that is happening with the enormous success of films like “IT” and “A Quiet Place”. “Truth or Dare” is bland, boring and not scary at all.

The film stars Lucy Hale from “Pretty Little Liars” and Tyler Posey from “Teen Wolf’. The premise is exactly what you would expect from the film’s title. It features a group of idiotic kids that decide to place “a harmless game” of Truth or Dare only to find out that it is much more deadly! Insert evil laugh here!! Wahhhhaaaa. The friends quickly realize that they can’t tell a lie or refuse the dare as they find themselves deeper in the game than expected. Bored? I am.

As I am writing this I am starting to think that I may be getting too old for these teen slashers. For teens and young adults, this might be your jam because it carries the cheapest scares and packs a “pretty” young cast of kids from various TV shows. Listen, I don’t blame Blumhouse for releasing this movie. It is a smart strategic move. It cost $3.5 million dollars and will easily make 3x that in North American box office alone. Go see “A Quiet Place” instead, it is a movie that requires you to be quiet, patient and wait for a real scare.

CD Review: “This is Jerry Pearce”

 

My first concert was February14, 1977 at the Bayfront Center in St. Petersburg, Florida.  The performer?  None other than the King himself, Elvis Aron Presley.  Not a bad start, wouldn’t you agree?

Since then I’ve been fortunate to see many of the people whose work defined the Great American Songbook.  Frank Sinatra.  Sammy Davis, Jr.  Wayne Newton.  Barbra Streisand.  Johnny Mathis.  All masters at their craft and several of them no longer with us.  If you feel the void I sometimes do, I would like to suggest the vocal stylings of one Jerry Pearce.

His latest CD, entitled “This is Jerry Pearce,” is a beautiful trip down memory lane.  Accompanied by the Alan McPike Trio, Pearce puts his own signature on such classics as “Always,” “From Here to Eternity” and, one of my all time favorites, “Fly Me to the Moon.”  He also tackles lesser known songs, like “Watch What Happens” and “Girl Talk.”  In all, there are (10) selections on this disc, and all of them are trips down memory lane.  (No, I’m not THAT old, but this is the music my mother played when I was growing up).

 

If you’re interested in learning more about Jerry, or would like to order one of his many CDs, click HERE

You can read my recent interview with Jerry HERE

Film Review: “Chappaquiddick”

Starring:  Jason Clarke, Ed Helms and Jim Gaffigan
Directed by:  John Curran
Rated:  R
Running time:  1 hrs 46 mins
Apex Entertainment

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

Before I begin I’m going to share something.  I was born in 1960 and the Kennedy family were royalty in our house.  One of the few times I can remember my father crying was the day JFK was assassinated and I can remember my mother doing the same thing in 1968 when Bobby was killed.  My first presidential election was 1980 and I worked tirelessly for Ted Kennedy’s campaign.  So I kind of go into anything related to the Kennedy legend with a very wary eye.  I’m so glad that “Chappaquiddick” did not disappoint.

July 18, 1969.  While the world waits as Apollo 11 heads towards the moon, the mood is festive on Chappaquiddick Island, a spur of Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.  It’s a reunion of sorts for the Boiler Room Girls, a dedicated group of young women that campaigned long and hard for Robert Kennedy in 1968.  Joining the women are several members of RFK’s campaign staff, including his younger brother, Ted (Clarke).  As the film’s opening montage tells us, the Kennedy boys, from oldest brother Joe – a Navy pilot who died in World War II, John – our 35th President and Bobby, who died before he could accomplish the great deeds he set out to do, had all died young, leaving Ted to carry the family mantle.  It is something he is reluctant to do, but he is also contemplating running for President in 1972.

Also at the party is pretty Mary Joe Kopechne (Kate Mara), one of Bobby’s strongest supporters.  She and Ted talk for a while and then the two leave the party, get into Ted’s car, and drive away.  Hours later, Ted will return alone and on foot.  He will tell those who greet him “I’m not going to be President.”

A solid film that keeps you guessing on the facts, “Chappaquiddick” is an unbiased attempt to tell the story everyone thinks they know.  The story is helped along by solid direction and a cast that embodies more than imitates the characters.  Clarke does a fine job as Kennedy, nailing the mannerisms and accent perfectly.  As Kennedy cousin (and family fixer) Joseph Gargan (from the Fitzgerald side of the family) Ed Helms gives a fine dramatic performance.  Also so nice to see Jim Gaffigan, who was so great in “Chuck,” continue his journey to dramatic actor as family friend Paul Markham.  And Bruce Dern, in a role that’s almost wordless, is still stern and tough as family patriarch Joseph Kennedy.

The Dike Bridge

As an added bonus, if you’re a fan of the film “Jaws” – and if you’ve ever read my stuff you know it’s my favorite film – you’ll get to see a lot of Edgartown exactly as it appears in the film.  Even the real life area doctor, Robert Nevin, who played the town doctor in the film, rates a mention.

Finally, and this is just a mention, but I’ve been to Chappaquiddick and I’ve driven over the Dike Bridge.  Sober.  In broad daylight.  It’s still pretty narrow if you ask me.  If you don’t believe me, give it a look yourself.  And while you’re there, stop and pay your respects at the grave of Pipit, the dog from “Jaws.”

Pipits Grave. I wasn’t kidding.

DVD Review “Puppy Dog Pals: Going on a Mission”

Creator: Harland Williams
Studio Walt Disney
Product Title: Puppy Dog Pals, Vol. 1
Release Date: 04/10/2018

Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars

Since the birth of my daughter, now 6 years ago, Disney Junior has been a must watch in our house. All of their shows have been fun, even for parents, that is until “Puppy Dog Pals”. This is one show was one that I have not not been able to enjoy..but my daughter does love it. It is created by comedian Harland Williams (“Half Baked”). I have to admit though after watching the DVD this show is definitely growing on me. I see how much my daughter and even my nephew enjoy this show and if they enjoy it, I can dig it.

Official Premise: Fun-loving puppy brothers Bingo and Rolly go on adventures throughout their neighborhood and around the world as a way to help quench their thrill-seeking appetites. The pups’ motto is life is always more exciting with your best friends by your side. For the pugs, those friends include owner Bob, his cat Hissy and his robot dog A.R.F.

The episodes includes are:

  • Hawaii Pug-Oh/A.R.F.
  • The French Toast Connection/Take Me Out to the Pug Game
  • The Go-Long Retriever/Pot O’ Pugs
  • A Pyramid Scheme/Special Delivery

The reason why I am starting to come around for this series is because it teaches lessons about friendship, problem-solving and collaboration and these are values that I want my daughter to have. Plus I am a fan of Williams and he also provides the voice of Bob. “Puppy Dog Pals: Going on a Mission” is the first volume DVD for this show and I am sure will not be the last. I would like to see a little bonus content included in future releases, at least something fun and extra for the kiddies to enjoy. There is still about two hours of content and at a price below $10 bucks, can’t go wrong here.