IMDb member since November 2012
    Lifetime Total
    IMDb Member
    8 years


Star Trek: Picard

Not The Worst, Far From The Best of Star Trek
"The Next Generation" was my introduction into the world of Star Trek. Captain Jean-Luc Picard was always decisive, always in control, never wrong. He was as close to a living saint in Starfleet as a society without religion can get. So what happens when his halo becomes a little tarnished?

It's clear that the United Federation of Planets isn't quite the utopia it once was. A war with the Dominion (Deep Space 9), and skirmishes with the Maquis and Klingons would leave any idealistic society a bit disillusioned. So for someone like Picard, who absolutely holds dear the ideals of the Federation, it makes for an uneasy existence within it now that things have greatly changed.

This show, however, begins with a brooding, retired, Admiral Picard who recalls in an interview that he was leading a mission of mercy to rescue and relocate Romulans after their sun had gone supernova when, without warning, androids (synthetics) working on Mars had become murderous. The ships being built there for the relocation were destroyed, and the relocation of the Romulans was brought to an end, much to Picard's dismay. So much so that Picard openly criticizes Starfleet and greatly embarrasses himself in the process.

It's at this point we're introduced to Dahj, an android that doesn't realize she's an android until some super secret Romulan agents enter her apartment, kill her boyfriend, and activate her ability to defend herself. As she's running from her apartment she sees an image of Picard and seeks him out.

After Picard and Dahj meet, he has a dream in which he sees his friend Data painting a picture. That leads him to Starfleet archives where he finds the painting, and finds out it was painted by Data and is titled "Daughter". Picard concludes from this that somehow Dahj and Data are linked together, but before he can find out for certain Dahj is killed by more Romulan agents.

Picard eventually goes to the Daystom Institute where he finds out that Dr. Bruce Maddox, who at one time wanted to disassemble Data in order to study and replicate him, believed that it was possible to make a synthetic life form, one that could be confused for being completely human, from a single neuron from Data's positronic matrix. And that such life was made in pairs, meaning that Dahj had a twin who might be in danger.

So Picard gives himself a mission: find Dahj's twin, find Bruce Maddox, and protect them from the Romulans. But as he's figuring out exactly how to do that, Starfleet refused to reinstate him and give him a ship. So he forms a ragtag crew made up of people he pissed off, but follow him anyway, and people he picks up along the way, such as Seven of Nine from Voyager, who has now become a vigilante.

Along the way they discover what's really going on. A shadow organization behind the Romulan Tal Shiar had learned that several hundred thousands of years ago, artificial life had nearly wiped out all organic life. This organization committed itself to safeguarding the universe from such a threat again. It was this group that had been behind the synthetics attacking Mars, and by extension sabotaging their own rescue. And now, from Dahj's twin sister android Soji, they have learned the location of the planet where these new synthetics are being built. So, for a nearly destroyed empire, they manage to assemble 218 heavily armed warships and deploy them to the planet in order to eliminate the threat that is represented by the synthetics.

But the Federation sends a fleet of ships, led by Picard's former first officer Will Riker, shows up. Meanwhile, the synthetics are preparing to defend themselves by summoning the artificial lifeforms that nearly destroyed organic life, that is until Picard gives one of his speeches and Soji shuts down the array that summoned them. But then not long after Picard, who had been suffering from an incurable disease the whole time, ends up dead. But not really because his consciousness was transferred into an android body, so that the show can go on.

I liked that Picard showed a broken, disillusioned man who had made some mistakes. I liked that the Federation and Starfleet had changed, and Picard had to deal with that. But what I didn't like is that even when it was revealed that the people Picard was trying to help, the Romulans, were responsible for ending their own rescue, Picard doesn't admit that he was wrong and that Starfleet was right. A people who would put an end to their own rescue and in such a violent way is capable of anything, and Starfleet had a responsibility to the Federation to protect it. But Picard would not concede that, he bought into his own hype and convinced those that joined him that he could not be anything but completely right.

The Romulans also, to an extent, were right. If given the opportunity the synthetics could and would destroy all organic life. So their actions, ironically enough, were to protect not only themselves, but the Federation and all the other races of the Star Trek universe. And they even showed themselves not to be the helpless refugees that Picard saw them as, as they assembled an impressive fleet of ships ready to battle the synthetics.

When you take a step back, you realize that this definitely isn't The Next Generation. Too much has happened in the world both inside and outside of Star Trek for it to be. So, I applaud the writers and producers for understanding that. But at the same time they make old, brooding, disillusioned Picard someone who, despite being wrong and pissing people off, someone who ultimately can't be wrong, and his self-righteous behavior and even wrong conclusions are simply glossed over. Having to deal with how wrong he had been should have been the way this show went. It ultimately wasn't.

Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez

Seemed To Be Grasping At Straws
People are complex beings. Rare is the case where someone, or the situation they may find themselves to be in, cut and dry. In the case of the star player for the New England Patriots, Aaron Hernandez, I think that's particularly true. Had the director and producers of this kept it there however, I would have given this a higher rating.

Where this loses me though is in how the producers and director seem to want to pin his behavior on the loss of his dad, or his sexuality in a very macho sport, or the CTE found on his brain. I'm not going to say that any one, or perhaps some combination of all those things, contributed to Aaron's behavior and his spiral into violence, but that to me seems to be a cop-out. I think it should be pointed out more explicitly in the documentary that people deal with the loss of parents on a daily basis, it doesn't turn every one of them violent. People deal with the complexity of sexuality every day, doesn't mean they'll all become killers. People, athletes in particular, deal with all manner of trauma, it doesn't mean the majority of them end up in jail.

The producers and director gave several minutes worth of these being contributing factors to what Aaron Hernandez did, despite questions over his character existing at the tail end of high school and into college. And it may be true to an extent that those things did. Yet, only a couple of minutes toward the end were dedicated to people saying that, ultimately, Aaron Hernandez was responsible for the choices he made. Maybe those who were involved in the making of this documentary threw that in to provide something resembling balance, but it certainly didn't seem like they were saying he was ultimately responsible for the choices he made.

30 for 30: The Four Falls of Buffalo
Episode 5, Season 3

Time Gives Perspective
I was just a kid of 6 years old when the Bills went to their first Super Bowl. We weren't living in Western New York yet, but it wasn't much longer until we moved there and I began following the Bills. Though I hadn't been a life-long fan, those three other Super Bowls hurt.

Time has a way of flipping the narrative though. As a fan of a team in which their greatest accomplishment is losing in four consecutive Super Bowls, that's what the haters always point to. Yet this documentary brings to the forefront an accomplishment that not even the Cowboys of the 90s did, nor did the Patriots of the 2000s do: they played in four consecutive Super Bowls. Considering that the game of football is a violent train wreck that happens four weeks in the pre-season, 16 weeks over the regular season, and for the best teams 3-4 more weeks in the post season, that's a lot of physical, emotional, and psychological strain that sports medicine and science is just beginning to understand. Even the victors of those Super Bowls against the Bills have to admit that what they accomplished is not likely to ever be repeated. Though the Bills didn't win, the greatness of those teams is now better understood.

What I particularly liked about this documentary though is the character that shone through of Scott Norwood. When people think of "character" and "Bills Super Bowl appearances" the first, and sometimes only thought, that comes to mind is Don Beebe chasing down Leon Lett in a blowout loss, and rightly so. Yet Scott Norwood, who should have never been put in a position to have the game on his foot, addressed the media and answered every question about it. I'm sure in that moment only Bill Buckner could truly understand how he felt. Yet 24 years later he was still being asked about it. Given how the other three Super Bowls went, and how victory in that first one was a 47 yard kick away, he wasn't crushed. Of course it haunts him, but he didn't wallow in agony. I think that, as much as anything else (if not more) revealed that those Bills teams had big egos to be sure, but a lot of character too.

This documentary didn't need to answer the question of why didn't they win. It showed that those were very special years that likely will never be repeated ever.

O.J.: Made in America

Very Nearly A Perfect Documentary
I have long been a fan of the "ESPN 30 For 30" series of documentaries as, I believe, they peel back the stories behind the athletes, the sport, and tap into a more human element. And the standout of this series of films has to be "O.J.: Made In America."

I came along in late 1983, ten years after Simpson hit 2000 yards in a season, so I didn't understand him as the great sports icon he was, even as I was (and still am) a fan of the team he did it with, the Buffalo Bills. I knew him mostly as the sideline guy on NFL broadcasts, and I had seen a few of the Hertz Rent-A-Car commercials he had done. As I wasn't even ten years old at the time of the murders of Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman, I remember thinking "how can this guy be at the center of this drama?" I certainly didn't understand anything about race relations, why Los Angeles was on the verge of tearing itself apart, or any of those other soul-searching issues that you know you have to try to do something about, but you never know what exactly you can do.

Even when I began to get a better, but far from a complete, understanding of the world as it is (well after the 'not guilty' verdict had been given), I remember watching "The Naked Gun" series of movies and thinking "how could O.J. go from being so likeable to this monster?" because he was genuinely funny and charming in those movies.

For me, this documentary comes about the closest I believe to answering the why and the how. Without coming right out and saying it, I believe Ezra Edelman shows that even at the height of Simpson's popularity and charisma, there was a sense of "it's all about me" that, perhaps, he initially tried to fight against when he refused to do a post-game interview without having his teammates with him, but then eventually gave in to as his playing career was coming to a close. And it only grew stronger culminating in the S.W.A.T. team negotiator seeing that he needed to appeal to O.J.'s ego in order to talk him out of the Bronco without creating more of an incident, a conclusion he came to after seeing how his home was decorated with no pictures of his family present.

For as brilliant a documentary as this is though, and for as comprehensive as it is looking into the background of what made O.J. what he was, if there is one thing I would knock it for it's that it doesn't explore how domestic violence and athletic entertainment can go hand in hand. I think it could be argued that the focus of this documentary was on O.J., his own struggle with racial identity and how it's juxtaposed against the national struggle with it, and that's why domestic violence, while certainly not forgotten, wasn't highlighted. If I could make a suggestion though, maybe as a followup to this documentary, it would be to explore how domestic and sexual abuse play into the lives of athletes, former athletes, and coaches. Certainly looking at O.J. and even the Penn State program under Joe Paterno would make for compelling viewing. But maybe, just maybe, we wouldn't like what such a documentary reveals.

The Rachel Divide

Very Even Handed Documentary
It's becoming rare that a documentary actually presents an even handed account of its subject, and trying to do that with Rachel Dolezal is perhaps about as impossible as can be simply due to the number of levels her story touches on.

Most everyone, I assume, knows her as the woman who was born white, but called herself black and was the president of the Spokane NAACP. But why did she do that? If Rachel can be trusted, and really that is a big if, it's that her parents adopted some black children but she took it upon herself to teach them black culture. Along the way she found herself identifying more and more with what she saw as "black culture."

What I think this documentary does a particularly good job at is saying that there is no one thing that is set apart as "black culture", just as there really is no one thing that sets any other culture apart exclusively. What Rachel did was take elements of what she saw black culture as, maybe the ones that she liked the most, and claimed them as hers. For whatever reason though she didn't see that as being dishonest, even with the people she was trying so desperately to identify with telling her that it was.

One part of this documentary that really stuck out to me though was one of her critics saying that she is using her sons as her struggle. Rachel is a mother, and seemingly one who wants her children to do well, but she has come across as taking their difficulties on as her own. To me that reveals that ultimately she see it's really all about her. She either seems oblivious or indifferent to what her sons are going through because she refuses, or is incapable, of being honest with herself and with the world. She has made life more difficult for them and she doesn't really seem to care.

And yet, it's hard not to feel something for Rachel despite all that. Where I draw the line though is it doesn't justify anything she has done.


What it isn't and what it is
I just finished watching the whole first season of "GLOW" on Netflix. What drew me in, initially, was a lingering interest in the actual GLOW that existed during the 1980s. I was a young child then, and I don't really remember anything about it at the time, but the GLOW documentary that came out a few years ago was enough to get me intrigued.

First, what this isn't: it isn't GLOW that existed in the 1980s. In many regards it's based on it, but to what extent the Netflix series actually resembles what it really was could be, and perhaps should be, debated. The characters are based on the types of characters that appeared in GLOW, and that much is clear. What motivated the actresses though to partake in the production, the real-life characters vs. the Netflix series characters, may be a bit more muddied in the latter. Some of the ladies who were involved with GLOW in the 1980s have expressed that while they see the surface similarities in the characters, little to nothing else resembled the actual production. Many of them went as far to say the boozing and drug use of "Sam Sylvia" in no way resembled the life or professionalism of director Matt Cimber, and that genuinely upset them. In other words, don't look too far beyond the surface comparisons to find any real insight into what was the real GLOW.

What it is though, and I think this is fair to say, is really a commentary now on what was the commentary then. GLOW was not a "wrestling promotion" in the sense of WWE, or TNA, or ROH. Those promotions are not so much commentary on society as they are about promoting sports entertainment within the confines of story and character development. GLOW was, more or less, a television show with broad reaching stereotypes, that cast actresses to play wrestlers to provide some commentary on society. It was, in a way, familiar to what fans of professional wrestling knew in terms of the moves and athleticism, but in another sense, the ladies were simply actresses playing wrestlers playing off stereotypes. Sure, there has to be some sense of acting involved in professional wrestling then (and now), but I believe that many, if not most, professional wrestlers today (men and women) are athletes first, actors and actresses second. I believe that script was flipped with GLOW.

Beyond the surface though, I believe Netflix's GLOW expands its commentary to the decade of the 1980s, with so much nostalgia that exists and other shows are latching onto in some sense or another. You see that with the characters making comments about the political climate, which really has nothing to do with wrestling or even pretending to wrestle. You see that with the causes that are undertaken. You even see that in the willingness to so openly embrace stereotypes and base characters off them which, in our PC world, wouldn't happen today.

Ultimately, what I believe Netflix's GLOW is, is a look back to an era more than a cult phenomenon of that era, but uses that cult phenomenon to promote the overall commentary.

Trump: An American Dream

Nothing New Revealed, but A Couple Interesting Nuggets
Trump: An American Dream is a documentary mini-series that attempts a serious look at Donald J. Trump, but ultimately does little more than rehash what has been known about him for close to 40 years of being in the public conscience.

He's shown to have a massive ego.

He's shown to be petty.

He's shown to be a womanizer.

He's shown to be dismissive of factual criticism, and will ad hominem instead of face the facts.

He's shown to have a firm belief in himself.

None of what this docu-series focuses on is anything new. And yet, there are a couple things which were mentioned in passing, but could have provided more an in-depth look at the man and been a much more interesting character study.

The first is the relationship he had with his father. Yes, Fred Trump built buildings too, but not to show off wealth or even buy his way into the upper crust of the New York City social scene. He built apartments that, for an increasingly expensive city to live in, were much more affordable. I was left wondering if Donald Trump actually had this drive to outdo his father, or perhaps a better question, go where his father didn't want to? I think if that question were to be answered, we'd all have a much better understanding of the man Donald Trump.

The second thing that was brought up briefly, but not pursued further, was even his closest and perhaps most trusted friends said they weren't sure what his beliefs actually are, if in fact he has any at all. For someone who has cast himself as a political outsider and found an appeal to a wide range of people, to latch onto someone that might not believe in anything is very fascinating to me. Except this was not pursued at all, only hinted at, in this docu-series.

Overall, it's just another thing that exists that will confirm whatever bias one has about Donald Trump. However, it could have been so much more.

The Polka King

Jack Black Can Do Polka
The Movie "The Polka King" is based on the life of Jan Lewan, a Polish immigrant who came to the United States, settled in Northeastern Pennsylvania and continued his polka career, and eventually running a Ponzi Scheme. I'm not entirely sure how many of the facts of the man's life were embellished for the story, or if it can truly be considered a bio-pic. It is, none the less, entertaining due to Jack Black portraying Jan.

Because "School of Rock" showcased Black actually having some musical talent, I was surprised to see that he played, quite competently at that, the leader and singer of a polka band, a vastly different style than what he showcased in School of Rock. I don't know how much of a stretch it was for him, as a musician or an actor to pull it off, but in watching this he came across as a legitimate polka band leader, not as someone trying to portray one. He clearly brought some energy to the role, and seemingly getting the approval of Jan Lewan himself.

If you're a fan of Jack Black, or a fan of polka, or both, it's worth your time. It's not great cinema by any means, but I think it showcases that Black is versatile, and that's not a bad thing.

Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi

A Mishmash of Empire Strikes Back with Return of the Jedi
I didn't like this movie. I didn't hate it, but I didn't like it.

This was, in many ways, like two of the previous (good) movies: The Empire Strikes Back, and The Return of the Jedi. ESB in the sense that the resistance is nearly destroyed but still manages to survive somehow. ROTJ in the sense that Kylo Ren ends up killing Snoke. But, ultimately, this really isn't either one of those movies.

What this part of the story ends up being is Rey spending close to 80 percent of her scenes trying to convince Luke Skywalker to either join the resistance, or train her, or both, but he's become a self-loathing caretaker of some ancient Jedi texts even though, for him, the way of the Jedi is dead.

This movie also gets bogged down in what turns out to be a completely pointless subplot in which Finn and another character, Rose Tico, figure out how the First Order is able to track them through hyperspace, and they hatch a plan (without consulting any superior) to disable that ability. Why it becomes pointless is because the superior officers of the rebels have already figured it out and were undertaking their own plan. But because of Finn, Poe, and Rose and them getting mixed up with a smuggler named DJ (who ends up selling them out), hundreds of rebel fighters were lost.

And to top it all off, Rey's origin is as much a mystery as it was before. Except, by the end, Skywalker is dead.

This movie could have been so much more.

The Peanuts Movie

Absolutely Faithful Adaptation that "Sparky" Would Be Proud Of
Ten stars is too low of a rating! I am a thoroughly invested Peanuts fan, and have been for as long as I can remember (I'll be 32 this year). Peanuts is far and away my all time favorite cartoon. I have always appreciated the blend of childhood innocence with deep theology and philosophy that is present throughout the 65 years since the world was introduced to the lovable blockhead Charlie Brown (actually 68 years going back to 'Li'l Folks').

This movie continues the blend: both modern and classic animation styles that I believe set Blue Sky Studios apart from and ahead of both Pixar and Dreamworks; a classic Vince Guraldi soundtrack with some tastefully and not overdone modern sound; but best of all nearly all the classic tropes and references to story lines blended together in a thoroughly entertaining story that might have come from Schulz himself.

Without giving too much away, this movie has everything any and every super fan of Peanuts could want: kite eating tree; baseball; hockey; an epic battle with the Red Baron; Lucy's booth; Schroeder's toy piano and Beethoven; Snoopy sneaking into school; Leo Tolstoy's 'War and Peace'; and Charlie Brown pining away for the little red headed girl.

As I said, ten out of ten is too low a rating.

UPDATE: It has been a couple years since I reviewed this and I recently rewatched the movie. It was better than I remembered the first five times around.

I do want to mention though that no reviews from people who admit that they aren't fans of Peanuts, either the comic strips or the television shows or specials, should have their reviews be taken seriously. One negative review stated that the trombone being in place of the adult voices was annoying. That's a staple of the shows and specials!!! That is an integral part of the world of Peanuts!

Other reviewers stated the scenes with the Red Barron were unnecessary and outdated? Anyone who is even a marginal fan of the comic strips and specials knows that Snoopy IS the World War I flying ace, his doghouse IS a Sopwith Camel, and the only one worthy to go up against him was none other than the Red Barron. It is as essential to Peanuts as Charlie Brown not kicking the football.

If someone wants to say the movie wasn't great on a technical level, or the story was thin, heck even A Charlie Brown Christmas had its technical issues and it's a classic, with the only editing to it being to remove the billboard that the Peanuts gang ran into after the "crack the whip" scene, the original sponsor Coca-Cola. At least criticism on that level is respectable, even if I disagree. But criticizing essential elements of what Sparky created, and seeing them carried through faithfully, why anyone would even waste their time writing such garbage is beyond me.


For Reasons Beyond My Comprehension My Wife Loves This Show
I don't really understand her fascination with this melodrama. The acting is terrible, the writing is atrocious, and none of the characters are likable, let alone believable. To me, this is more along the lines of a Wifetime (Lifetime) movie rather than a broadcast show, with none of the sense that they know it's junk but they're going to have some fun with it regardless.

I am all for historical fiction, but is it too much to ask to make it good historical fiction? This is really more like history meets "Days of Our Lives", except the writers couldn't get hired on to that show.

The thing that upsets me the most about this though is that Anna Poppelwell got caught up in this program. I loved her in the "Chronicles of Narnia" movies. Why couldn't she get a better acting job to follow that up?

This Is Life with Lisa Ling

Maybe I Just Don't Understand the Point
Within the title of "This Is Life with Lisa Ling" is a sense that the stories are part of a normative, human existence. This, however, is not exactly what this show is about. I have watched perhaps eight episodes of this on Netflix so far, and I am very much in the dark as to what the point of this show is supposed to be.

I don't know if the stories just aren't compelling, or that Lisa Ling tries so hard to empathize with her subjects, but it just doesn't come across as authentic, like she's trying to create emotion that just isn't there. Maybe it's that she's just in these people's lives for a short time to exploit their condition in order to make a television show, and then she's gone. I find that to be very disingenuous and nearly on par with the likes of Springer or Maury (but without the sensationalism).

The stories themselves are what you might find featured in shows like "Taboo" on National Geographic Channel, yet with "insight" from a journalist who, to me, just has a look of being disinterested. These don't tell me anything about life, or shed any new light on the human condition. I am not captivated by their stories, nor do I end up feeling anything for these stories. To me the whole thing just comes across as contrived.

Girl Meets World

It's Both Familiar and New
Like many of the reviewers here, I followed the "dramedy" that is Corey and Topanga, Shawn, Eric, Mr. Feeny, Amy, Allan, Mr. Turner, Jack, Rachel, Angela, and even to a lesser extent both Morgan's from when "Boy Meets World" first aired in 1993 as part of the T.G.I.F. lineup, and it is a show that I appreciated then and have only grown to appreciate even more over time. And like many of the reviewers here, I wanted to know what Corey and Topanga's life together would be like.

When it was announced Disney Channel would be doing a spin-off called "Girl Meets World", I was both intrigued and apprehensive about it. Intrigued because I would get to see a continuation of the story, apprehensive because there has yet to be a really good Disney sitcom that doesn't have some convoluted premise and that serves as a vehicle to turn out more Miley Cyrus' and Demi Lovato's.

Not having either cable or satellite, I had to wait until the series came to Netflix, and I intentionally avoided reading many reviews of it so that I could go in with as open a mind about it as possible. First I want to state what it isn't. It isn't "Boy Meets World." Yes, some of the characters are the same, and yes every episode of "Girl Meets World" I have watched up to this point has its origin somehow in an episode of "Boy Meets World." But, they aren't the same show, and shame on us if we expected it to be. I believe that's why many of these reviews tend to be negative. The two series need to be distinguished from each other, even if the latter is a direct spin-off. There needs to be a difference.

With that said, what it is is a show that has some heart in its own right to stand on its own. While the material is in many ways recycled from plots of "Boy Meets World" episodes, many of those are combined nicely and made into new plots for "Girl Meets World." That's why I say it is familiar and new. And, compared to everything else that's on Disney Channel (minus Phineas and Ferb), it's easily better than the other sitcoms that plague that network. Plus it's not looking like it's going to launch any new "music" careers, so that's a plus.

I want to wrap up this review by stating that, while I agree that much of the acting and dialogue is cringe-worthy, we need to be honest with ourselves and realize that "Boy Meets World" wasn't exactly the pinnacle of writing and acting either. That didn't matter to us though. Is "Girl Meets World" any better, or any worse, than "Boy Meets World" in that regard? I don't believe so. See "Girl Meets World" for what it is, don't pine for what it isn't. Let it develop into its own thing, and that may take a little while longer. But just as "Boy Meets World" eventually got there, I believe "Girl Meets World" will get there too.

Happy Valley

The Power of Myth and the Man Who Couldn't Live Up To It
Disclaimer: I have always had an appreciation for the Penn State football program. My mother was a Penn State fan (not an alumnus though), and she would always say that Joe Paterno represented class, while almost in the same breath denounce the legendary coach of my favorite college team, Barry Switzer as being anything but. Even though I am a loyal Sooners fan (though not an alumnus of OU, simply having been born in Oklahoma), I could appreciate what JoePa and Penn State stood for.

I couldn't help but think of that as I watched this documentary. In his lifetime Joe Paterno went from being a mere man into being a mythical one. It was one legend right after another, and I don't believe it matters who you are, if left unchecked, a person can buy into their own hype. I believe that happened with Joe Paterno, and it has left an impression on a program, a university, and a community struggling to make sense of it all. The whole truth may never fully be known.

From watching this I got the sense that Joe Paterno genuinely wanted to do the right thing. Having however the myth of "St. Joe", I believe he hindered himself from doing more because he couldn't believe a monster had gotten so close to him, and he couldn't live with what that would do to his perception. His son seemed to confirm as much as he stated both his parents were very well read, but naive about many other things surrounding them. Joe was too wrapped up in his own myth.

This documentary goes to great lengths to show how others have bought into the myth as well, and their support is as blind for him as it is deep. On the one hand they'll acknowledge what was done to the kids Jerry Sandusky was supposed to be helping was terrible. Just as quickly though they will try to absolve Paterno of any wrongdoing, saying he reported what he knew. In other words, the bare minimum. For a man that had built a reputation of going above and beyond the bare minimum, this seems to me, unacceptable. Yet they don't see it.

However, the lasting impression I got from watching this, and honestly I believe this was the point of the documentary, was that there is no prototypical child abuser, and that it is possible to dupe many into thinking one thing about you when something else may be the reality. That's a sobering thought for anyone.

The line that sums up this documentary for me though is quote "You should never build statues for guys who are still alive." True character is revealed when nobody else is looking. We may think we know someone, even if only by reputation. That reputation however may be little more than a house of cards ready to fall. In the end, regardless of what Joe Paterno knew or didn't know, what he reported or didn't report, the carefully crafted myth has come crashing down.

Miss Representation

An Extremely Selective Documentary
First of all, I am a man. I can hear many of you booing about that. I am however very much supportive of women and what they can accomplish. Often, my wife has earned more money than I have, and I am not bitter about it. My mother has earned more than my father did. It has never bothered me.

This documentary however is quite selective in what it portrays and how it is portrayed. For all the times women can be upset about how sexualized they are in media, or how catty they are portrayed, men can be just as upset about how ignorant, dumb, and out of touch they are. How many sitcoms are built around the premise of a dumbed down dad and a smart mom? Meanwhile there have been plenty of representations of smart sophisticated women on television. Where is their mention in this documentary? It's largely ignored.

As far as politics go, the vast majority of the women politicians shown are controversial, and not simply because they are women. But that's not the worst of it. Women have been gaining political ground, working as lawmakers, legislators, governors of states, and in some areas heads of states.

What irked me the most about this though was for all the pontificating, the documentary actually undermined a large part of its premise. Near the beginning there was anger that "reality" television presents women as being catty, argumentative, and backstabbing. Yet toward the end many of those interviewed called for an end to the cattiness and backstabbing. Which is it because it can't be both at the same time? And then what's with the director of Twilight? Doesn't she know that the novels and the movies make Bella, who is an extremely weak willed girl, into some kind of a role model? That she does anything to get the attention of a voyeuristic vampire? Yeah, great female role model there.

I'm going to end by saying this: does objectification exist? Certainly it does, but it's not a one-way street. Movies like "Magic Mike" exist. My sister is completely enamored with Chris Hemsworth's portrayal of 'Thor' in the Marvel movies. Yes it exists. I wish it didn't. But it goes both ways. What we need to do is learn mutual respect for each other, not lists of demands to force on each other.

The Queen of Versailles

I'd Want To Say This Is A Cautionary Tale
There's a lot that can be taken away from this documentary, and I believe that this is a documentary in the truest sense of the word. Cautionary tale is, however, not something I would take away.

More often than not I believe that people become extremely wealthy by having some level of good sense. For those who fit that description I don't begrudge them whatsoever. I really don't have much to say against anyone who earns their fortune, be it large or small.

Yet David Siegel is someone who built his empire getting people to buy into his properties with money down that the vast majority of them didn't have. Toward the end of the documentary David has the audacity to say they can't be living beyond their means. Yet he got his wealth by getting people to vacation beyond their means. I find no sympathy for him whatsoever.

Meanwhile there is Jackie Siegel, the silicone built trophy wife who in one sense talks about the hard work she put into obtaining a computer engineering degree and working for her hometown company of IBM, and you almost want to feel something for her. But then you see her indulging in expensive beauty treatments, having animals she is incapable of taking care of, and seemingly clueless that when you rent a car you don't get a valet with it.

All of this is played against the backdrop of two properties: the largest single family detached home based on the layout of the Palace of Versailles (90,000+ square feet), and the Planet Hollywood Westgate Tower in Las Vegas, the crown jewel of David Siegel's professional properties. The house was built on land the Siegel's owned and would have been built without financing, except he took a mortgage out on the house to reinvest back into the company. And they began building the house only to have a place to store all the stuff Jackie was buying up compulsively.

Meanwhile the PH Westgate has opened and things are looking good until the sub-prime mortgage crisis of 2008 hit, and the construction company for the tower hasn't been paid in full. Most of the documentary is taken up by David's desperation to find revenue while having to lay of 7000 employees (which he feels bad about in passing comments) so that he can keep both his grotesquely huge house and his brand new tower.

Some interesting underlying stories develop however when one of the few house staff who isn't laid off talks about her upbringing in the Philippines. Her father simply wanted to own a concrete house. What money she makes she sends a portion back to help family and friends. She's content to live in a playhouse for David and Jackie's children.

The other stories surround the children themselves. David's oldest son is the VP of the company, and says he and his father have only a professional, business relationship, nothing close to resembling a father/son relationship. And while he acknowledges that the best advice is to let go of the Vegas tower and nearly all the money issues would be solved, he encourages his dad to hold onto it.

The other children are much younger, and it's clear that they don't seem to be as interested in the money as their parents seem to be. They wonder why their father doesn't join them for dinner. One of David's daughters is rightly upset that her efforts to help the family out by learning to cook is going both unnoticed and unappreciated by her father. Their mother is buying so many animals that the kids don't even know what all their pets are. And it's clear that David and Jackie just don't work as a couple when they live out their version of financial hardship as none of the children in the home seems to really matter to either of the parents. David goes so far as to say his greatest accomplishment in life was building his business, and then gives passing mention to his children.

I'd want to say this is a cautionary tale, but in all honesty I don't believe it is. It is more about how people are sold on an idea to spend more vacation time together by buying something they can't really afford with money they don't have (and may have to dip into their savings to get) by a man who has seemingly has all the money in the world but has little to no time for his own family, has no savings, buys property only to mortgage it in order to gain "cheap money" to be reinvested, gets mad at the banks for allowing him to do that and then wanting their money back, all to keep two properties that he doesn't really need. And the filmmaker just showed it all unfold.

Family Guy: The Simpsons Guy
Episode 1, Season 13

Can You Spot The Differences?
I am thoroughly a Simpsons fan. I'm not a Family Guy fan whatsoever. When I heard that there was going to be a crossover episode between these two, two questions immediately came to mind: will Family Guy actually be funny for once? Is this really the end of The Simpsons?

Without trying to give too much away, the Simpsons Guy shows that Seth MacFarlane, the creator of Family Guy, is little more than someone who has benefited by ripping off other people's ideas, mostly those of Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons. Except MacFarlane has taken those ideas into a direction that, even at its edgiest, The Simpsons never went.

All the ripped-off characters, tropes, and gags are on display, letting the viewers see for themselves that Seth MacFarlane has no original thoughts and has relied on the success of others. This episode, while it had its moments (relying on the Simpsons to carry the majority of what could be considered funny) is fundamentally Seth MacFarlane's admission that he no creative credibility whatsoever.

Bonnie & Clyde

The only truths found in this made for television movie
Are that there was a gang known as Bonnie and Clyde...

They had a lawman named Frank Hamer (a real life Walker: Texas Ranger) chasing after them...

And their stories converge in Louisiana when an ambush kills Bonnie and Clyde.

Everything else was just filler to try to tell a story.

Let's be real here though, it was A&E that put this together: Arts and Entertainment, which also owns Lifetime (conversely known as Wifetime), and History, which seems less concerned about history and more concerned about spinning a good story. With that, the cinematography is good for a "made for television" budget, and the acting is good. It isn't garbage like many reviews are saying it is. However, elements of teleplay really push what's good about this into territory that it doesn't need to go.

The real history of Bonnie and Clyde is compelling enough, considering much of what they did was interpreted as desperate people fighting back against cold-hearted and nameless capitalist institutions during the Great Depression. And that a woman would get caught up in it was also compelling. Had the story stuck to that, this would have been better. There is however no need to distort the history to tell a good story when the story can stand on its own.

It gets credit from me for the filming and the acting. It looses too much on the rest.

Dear Mr. Watterson

If You've Read The Comics, You've Seen This Movie
I'm going to start this review by saying I am far from being the biggest "Calvin and Hobbes" fan in the world. Among comic strips, "Peanuts" is my first love. However, I do have a deep appreciation for the "Peanuts- esque" quality that is present in "Calvin and Hobbes", where the child sees the world through a unique lens that is evident there is wisdom beyond his years. Even the main character, a male child with a distinctive striped shirt, is a flattering nod that I can appreciate.

So, I watched this documentary more from the perspective that I am an outsider looking in, wanting to know what motivated the characters in the strip and the artist behind the characters. Sadly, I did not get much, if any, of these. In fact, I didn't learn anything that I didn't already know from even a cursory reading of the comics. It seems to me a documentary exploring the impact of a comic strip on the would have been better served by an exploration of the creator, Bill Watterson, and how the characters came about and what they say about him.

I understand that Watterson is very difficult to reach, and keeps mostly to himself. However, even from the perspective of someone who isn't a superfan, I think it's disingenuous to simply regurgitate what's already known. Besides, the filmmaker titled his documentary as an address to "Mr. Watterson." Seems to me that the documentary should have made the attempt to explore his story more.

One last thing I wish to mention, and that is the issue of licensing involved with the comic strip characters. Charles "Sparky" Schulz, the creator of "Peanuts", may have been just as difficult to really get to know and understand as Bill Watterson is, and it's evident by what is known about both men that the comics and characters they created were deeply personal to them, and each man wanted to protect their characters. However, Schulz still allowed his characters to be licensed, whereas Watterson famously does not. I don't know if this was the intention of the filmmaker, but it seemed like there was an unfair, and unjust, portrayal that "Sparky" sold out, and that Watterson stands on higher ground. I like how Schulz's wife Jean gave a little bit of insight into why her husband made the decision he did to license the characters, but still it seemed as though it was a shot at Charles Schulz's own legacy in order to build up Watterson's, and I am not convinced that Watterson would go so far as to criticize Schulz for doing that, especially considering the impact "Peanuts" had on "Calvin and Hobbes."


Well Acted Movie, but Predictable Plot
Without having read any of the books in the series, I can't make any comparisons to how closely or loosely the movie follows. However, I don't know if I necessarily need to read the books, as I walked away seeing comparisons to multiple other dystopian works, both books and movies.

First, I will get to what I thought worked about the movie, and without a doubt I would say it was the acting. For the predictability of the overall plot, I walked away really believing that the characters came to life. I could feel for Tris as she tried to hide her true nature while just trying to survive. I could tell that Four had a connection with Tris that was on a deeper level than most movies aimed at a young audience can deliver (just look at Twilight). The concern that Tris and Caleb's parents showed not only for their children's safety, but also for the survival of their own faction, was evident. And the continual tension between family loyalty and faction loyalty felt real.

The plot however, as I already alluded to, seemed to me pieced together from other works of dystopian fiction. The "savior" who thinks independently, as well as the scenes of intense training the guardians of the status quo go through seemed reminiscent of "Equilibrium". The idea that a serum could control the masses, as well as hordes of people living beyond the bounds of society, seemed a lot like "Brave New World". The monitors that could track everyone seemed to me like "Nineteen Eighty Four", whereas the factions themselves seemed reminiscent of the districts of "The Hunger Games".

Overall, I would say this piecemeal of a movie was powerfully acted, but I walked away believing that I had seen it before. I would also say however that I hope that the sequels can maybe break the mold of what dystopian fiction has become.

American Battleship

Very Surprised
This is the type of movie that reminds us of what made the low-budget science fiction movies of the 50's and 60's so memorable. Poor acting, cliché'd dialogue, not so special effects.

"American Warships" isn't great cinema in any sense of the word, and yes it was put together to cash in on the blockbuster "Battleship", but honestly the movie is enjoyable in its own right. It has in it the elements that have made those other movies so memorable.

The plot is something sort of like "Battlestar Gallactica", in that an older warship that isn't as technically integrated and is being turned into a museum is called into action when a sudden and unprovoked attack by forces from another world decide they want to take over.

While the plot has been used (what good "bad" science fiction movie doesn't borrow a cliché'd plot), the pacing is actually good, and there aren't many areas where the action tails off into boredom.

Overall, the acting is not great. Some of it might not even qualify as good or competent. But again, this was made to cash in on the big hit of the summer. And it isn't so terrible that it isn't watchable, much like 1950's science fiction.

The weakest point of the movie is by far the special effects. The obvious use of the same shots over and over and over again became a bit repetitive, and stock footage was certainly overused, yet this is what made those "so bad they're good" movies that way.

I don't believe that those who have negatively reviewed this film really understood what was being done here. It's not great, but it is so bad it's good, and this classic science fiction fan enjoyed it.

Iron Sky

Good Idea. Bad Execution.
There is an art to making cheesy science fiction movies, the kind that are remembered 50 and 60 years later. It's people in rubber suits that have various parts of different kinds of lizards put together. It's dialogue that might have come from a third grader's creative writing class. It's acting that Bill Shatner could appreciate. It takes itself so seriously that it becomes unintentionally funny. That's what is good about bad science fiction.

"Iron Sky" tries to be that, but never quite succeeds in any of it. The premise is solid enough: Nazi's flee Germany after their defeat is inevitable, they go to the dark side of the moon and plan an invasion. That could work, it could be everything that makes those other movies memorable. But there's just enough competency in the acting, not that any of it is great by any means, that "Iron Sky" loses it on that end.

Secondly, the effects were too crisp. They were more in line with the summer blockbuster variety such as you might get with "Independence Day". They were well done, but that's not what cult movies are known for.

Third, the dialogue is all over the place. When the members of the "Fourth Reich" speak, they do so with conviction and purpose, again in line with the classics. But when nearly everyone else speaks, it's intentionally ridiculous. It just doesn't have the right feel, the right attitude.

In the end, I didn't hate "Iron Sky", but I got the sense that it never really identified what kind of movie it wanted to be. Ultimately I don't believe it will be memorable.

The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra

The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra
I am a big fan of the B movies, the ones that get shown on independent television stations late at night and were ripped on gloriously by shows such as Mystery Science Theater 3000. So when I saw that this was on Netflix, knowing that it is in fact an homage to those movies, I had to check it out.

What I really liked was how this movie combined various elements from many divergent B movies into a plot that was relatively straight forward. I could almost pick out the specific movies they were recreating. Plus the location was a well known location where many of those films were shot. It is difficult to get more authentic.

The acting is, of course, cheesy, but not in an overdone way. Rather it seemed as though it was respectful in trying to recreate the feel of the classic B movie. That's what an homage to those films needs to be.

What keeps this from getting a perfect score though, in my opinion, is the look may have been better achieved had it not been shot on a digital hand-held camera and rather put on film. I know there are ways to get that grainy and out of focus type look in post production, and even the black and white was done in post, but still to make it feel more authentic I would have opted for a film camera instead. Really though that is the only complaint I have. The characters were good, followed the stereotype well, and this movie to me was thoroughly enjoyable.

Attack of the 50 Foot Cheerleader

There's Good Cheese...
And then there's Attack of the 50 Ft. Cheerleader. I am a fan of the movies that are so bad, they become good for how bad they really are. Those movies are truly an art. Many times the actors try to give a believable performance, the effects department try hard, so there is an heir of seriousness about it.

Trying to intentionally recreate that however is difficult. The concept of "Attack of the 50 Ft. Cheerleader" was well in line with its B-movie counterparts, but the acting felt way too forced. Plus it felt more like an excuse to show a lot of breasts.

There are ways to pay homage to those great cult sci-fi classics, but this just didn't do it for me.

The Butler

A Good Movie That Went Astray
Lee Daniels' "The Butler" is a film that is loosely based on the life of Eugene Allen, a man who actually rose through the ranks of the White House staff to become the maître d'hôtel of the White House under President Ronald Reagan.

As historical fiction, this movie is in line with other such movies as "Forrest Gump" or even "Mr. Holland's Opus", each dealing with issues of civil rights and Vietnam in their own way, and even shedding some light on the various opinions, views, and reactions to the tumultuous times of the mid to late 20th century.

The acting is well above average. Even Oprah Winfrey, though not really an actress, gave a good (but not great) performance as Cecil Gaines' (the protagonist)wife Gloria. So my criticism of this movie has nothing to do with the acting, and even honestly the vast majority of the story is good, though the story it is based on is quite good on its own merit.

My problem with this movie is it went from being about how a father and son want the same things but choose different paths to achieve it, to a movie with an agenda, one that does not align itself with history. This is where the spoilers will come in.

Cecil, having grown up on a cotton farm in Georgia and seen his mother get raped and his father gunned down, had worked his way up from being a common house servant to catching the attention of the White House and being hired on staff. He would go on to serve Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Reagan (although Ford and Carter aren't really explored in this picture).

All the while his oldest son Louis enrolls in Fisk University, where he gets involved in civil disobedience, leading to his involvement with the Freedom Riders, then the Black Panthers, showing that his son may have started out as his father taught, but slowly becoming more politically active. Finally he is elected to Congress.

Had the movie stuck with that, with the changing times as the background and the difficulties that the Presidents portrayed faced, this would have received a higher rating from me. Yet, Reagan is shown saying that he would veto the economic sanctions that Congress wanted to pass directed at South Africa. While the film never specifically says why that is the case, it is implied that there is some latent racism involved, with Cecil and Gloria being invited to a state dinner as honored guests just for show to prop up that opinion.

The reality is the African National Congress was a communist front, and offering any support to them would have gone against Reagan's stance against global communism. Plus, he also believed economic sanctions would have done more harm in the long run than good, something that Zulu leaders and other prominent moderate black leaders in South Africa agreed with.

The film comes to its conclusion by showing the election of Barack Obama. If it was shown just for how historical it was, that would have been one thing. However, carefully selected portions of his speeches were used that, honestly, do not conform to how his administrations have gone so far, which leads me to believe that the filmmaker tried to portray him as someone who put the abuses of the past completely behind them.

Whether you happen to agree with Obama or not, I think one thing we all can agree on is that race has not been overcome. If anything it seems to be more divisive than what many of us have experienced in our lifetime.

Had this movie simply stayed with telling a story and not tried to get too political one way or the other, I would have ended up enjoying it a lot more than I did.

See all reviews