Friday, July 30, 2021

Movie Reviews: The Big Steal

The Big Steal
directed by Don Siegel

This is often listed as a film noir. I didn't see it that way. I thought it was just a run of the mill action movie with a few twists. 
The director would later go on to helm a number of Clint Eastwood films as well as the 1956 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The Big Steal has its fair share of snappy dialogue. "Don't ask questions just take it and like it!" stands out but this is not a noir film. 
It's a crime drama but even more than that it's just a chase drama with the requisite number of double crosses. 
Perhaps at the time of this release car chases were considered more exciting than they would later become but a great deal of this film is consumed by car chases. After the first few I could have done without any more. As usual in these films there's a hypercompetent woman who is (initially) cold. She and the hero have some witty repartee while they are trying to decide if they like each other, trust each other, and if they should, well you know. 
US Army Lieutenant Duke Halliday (Robert Mitchum) loses the $300,000 battalion payroll to a robbery set up by smooth crook Jim Fiske (Patric Knowles).
Unfortunately for Duke his superior officer, Captain Vincent Blake (William Bendix) thinks that the robbery went down too easily and that Halliday had to be involved.

When Women Attack

We are told that there is never any excuse for violence against women. Okay. But what about when women initiate violence against other people? Do the targets of that violence have the right to defend themselves? 
Two recent incidents made me think about women and violence in a way different than the common narrative. In the first incident a large young woman who is apparently well over 200 pounds attacked two elderly beauty shop owners who combined together probably don't weigh as much as the woman. And the attacker's apparent reason for the assault was simply that she didn't have the money to pay for the items she wanted. CLEVELAND — A woman caught on camera brutally attacking a couple on July 23 at their beauty supply store on Lorain Road has been arrested, according to a spokesperson for the Cleveland Division of Police. Ebony Afzal, 25, of Cleveland, was arrested Thursday for felonious assault, a second-degree felony, according to court documents.
Afzal is accused of beating the couple, who owns Chic Beauty Supply on Lorain Road, over what is said to be an $11.85 transaction. Their son David Jo told News 5 Cleveland that it all started when Afzal allegedly tried to pay for the items with pre-paid credit card when it got declined.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Movie Reviews: The Florida Project

The Florida Project
directed by Sean Baker
This is a bittersweet 2017 slice of life drama which oddly enough I just watched. Well. If you haven't seen it you should see it. 
It's probably the best film I've seen this year. 
Impressively many of the film's cast were inexperienced or first time actors. The Florida Project walks the same side of the street as Sunlight Jr. in that the director wants to teach us about poverty, homelessness, and some other critical related issues but this isn't a heavy handed didactic film. 
I think that people opposed to what I presume are the director's political leanings can watch this film and reach totally different conclusions. Baker doesn't beat anyone over the head with a point of view.
Watching this movie I recalled that in her poem Nikki-Rosa, the poet Nikki Giovanni wrote that 
"if you become famous or something
they never talk about how happy you were to have your mother
all to yourself and
how good the water felt when you got your bath from one of those
big tubs that folk in chicago barbecue in "

Friday, July 16, 2021

Movie Reviews: The Bay

The Bay
directed by Barry Levinson
This older film is an found footage eco-horror movie that is in many ways quite similar to the Nick Cutter, book The Troop, reviewed here. I think the The Troop is a better book than The Bay is a film. 
But The Bay is not a bad film. Because the conceit is that The Bay depicts real events that were all captured on film by less than state of art lighting and cameras, the movie does deliberately look less than high quality most of the time. But this is really smart for the film's premise, which is that multiple video and audio sources have been retrieved and are being leaked to the public as a somber warning. 
Events that may or may not be caused by climate change have been in the news lately-fires and water shortages out west, warming seas, lampreys and mussels in the Great Lakes, flooding in Germany, maybe even the Covid-19 pandemic. Once a system is broken or changed is that it can be difficult or even impossible to change it back. Humans can lack the knowledge to restore a delicate balance that Nature found for a given environment. 
Humans or animals eat foods that were not designed for them. Humans or animals overuse antibiotics or pesticides and end up with lowered or no resistance to some very nasty critters and parasites.  Predators or pests are introduced into environments where they have no natural limit. Problems arise. 

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Movie Reviews: Hard Eight

Hard Eight
directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
This 1996 neo-noir film was Anderson's debut. Anderson later went on to direct such films as Boogie Nights, Magnolia, and There Will Be Blood among others. 
Hard Eight also has a good cast of actors that viewers will recognize from their ubiquitous character work. 
The movie also includes other actors who weren't quite megastars at the time but would certainly soon be recognized as such. The viewer can make up his or her own mind as to whether there is a message to this film or not. Hard Eight put me in mind initially of some of the classic films noir of the forties and fifties. 
There are secrets being held by many of the characters in this film. Few of the people depicted are what could be considered morally good but the film doesn't judge. Many of them are in desperate straits. In life, all of us can fall short of perfection. 
Some people try to be good, others don't care and a few of us take steps to move to the opposite side. This movie does perhaps have some things to say about obligations, debt, family, redemption, and forgiveness--or at least I thought so.

Friday, July 9, 2021

Movie Reviews: Truck Turner

Truck Turner
directed by Jonathan Kaplan
If you happen to be in the mood to watch late Stax songwriter/musician/producer/pianist and actor Isaac Hayes act tough and beat up or shoot approximately half of the Los Angeles underworld then this is probably the movie for you. 
The film script was originally written by a Caucasian woman who did not have the Black underworld in mind when she created it. 
When the film company couldn't get the financing it wanted for a white actor in the title role, the film was reimagined as "blaxploitation". Hayes got the nod. By the standards of early seventies drive-in movies, this movie is not actually that bad. It's even humorous in some weird ways. 
Whereas Hayes is playing the expected heroic role of bounty hunter Mack "Truck" Turner who is always armed with a bass voice and a real big gun, the film throws the viewer a curveball by casting actress Nichelle Nichols, then best known as the classy well spoken Uhura on Star Trek, as a lewd, foul mouthed and very dangerous madam.

Trees and Climate Change in Des Moines

Many of us have a preferred way of dealing with climate change. Some think the entire world population needs to shrink, or at least the population of THOSE people over there. 
Some people think that we must obtain all of our energy from renewable resources. Other people think that it's too late for anything other than moving back to a pre-Industrial Revolution lifestyle right now! Some folks swear by veganism. Some people want to eliminate the internal combustion engine. Other people think that private homes are wasteful and we must all live in energy efficient apartment buildings. 
Some are fiercely hostile to private travel. They think that public transportation should not only be subsidized, but mandated. Some folks would ban air travel and outlaw vacations. Other people deny the existence of climate change. They also argue that if climate change exists it's (a) not our fault and/or (b) nothing we can do about at this late point anyway. 
People's ideal solutions (or lack thereof) tend to line up with their preferred social values, political ideologies, and economic interests.

Monday, July 5, 2021

Movie Reviews: Werewolves Within

Werewolves Within
directed by Josh Ruben
This film is a horror-comedy-whodunnit-murder mystery. It also has a few sly commentaries on male: female relations, feminism, and confidence. I would describe it as Agatha Christie meets Hot Fuzz. There is some mayhem but generally speaking there is not THAT much onscreen bloody imagery. Although the two leads always sparkle when they are onscreen, like many such whodunnits, this film shines because of an ensemble cast and good writing. Werewolves Within is loosely based on a video game, but it certainly didn't feel or look like it. Special effects are few and far between and with one or two jarring exceptions, don't ever take the viewer out of the realm of suspended disbelief. 
I wish there were more movies like this. This was a low budget movie that didn't look low budget. 
Werewolves Within did not use that many jump cuts and other cheap horror movie tricks. There were plenty of zoom shots and visual gags though. The film quickly sets up the premise and lets the fun begin. The story is set in the small hamlet of Beaverfield, Vermont but it really could take place anywhere that is small, rural, and out of the way. 
Finn Wheeler (Sam Richardson) is a somewhat portly and far too nice forest ranger who has just been assigned to Beaverfield. 

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Hey Hey Hey: Bill Cosby Conviction Overturned!

As you may have heard already Bill Cosby's rape conviction was thrown out by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Bill Cosby was released from prison. He can not be retried. He is as free as a bird. The fundamental reason for the action by the Court was that the prosecutors violated Cosby's Fifth Amendment protections by offering a criminal non-prosecution agreement for statements that Cosby made in a civil deposition but then proceeded to use those very same statements in a criminal trial.  
In other words this was something similar to a parent telling their child that as long as the child tells the truth about who took the cookies from the cookie jar the parent won't get mad or punish the child. The child  allows as to how s/he might have taken some cookies from the jar, purely by accident with no ill will. The parent flies off the handle and grabs a belt, puts the child in timeout, or uses whatever other punishment is typical for that household.  It's not right.
Bill Cosby had his conviction for sexual assault overturned by a Pennsylvania appeals court on Wednesday, a decision that will set free a man whose case had represented the first high-profile sexual assault trial to unfold in the aftermath of the #MeToo movement.
Mr. Cosby had served three years of a three- to 10-year prison sentence at a maximum-security facility outside Philadelphia when the seven-member Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that Mr. Cosby, 83, had been denied a fair trial in 2018. In their 79-page opinion, the judges wrote that a “non-prosecution agreement” that had been struck with a previous prosecutor meant that Mr. Cosby should not have been charged in the case, and that he should be discharged. They barred a retrial in the case.