I Saw That!

One woman's opinions about popular entertainment.

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Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

Amateur boxing coach, Christian (but not so heavenly-minded that I'm no earthly good) singer, writer, self-defense advocate, childfree. feminist www.smartwomenboxingtraining.org

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Hidden Figures (2016)

Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughn (Octavia Spencer), and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae) were three women, brilliant mathematicians who worked for NASA.  They helped America be a force in the space race.  Why we never heard of them until recently?  Unfortunately, because not only they were female, they were also African-American. Subjected to segregation, racism, and sexism in the early 1960's, the women still made their mark regardless of the roadblocks.  They were known as "human computers" who helped formulate the calculations that sent astronauts into space.

This movie did something that none of my grade school teachers, high school teachers, nor college professors could do -- it presented math as interesting.

All of the main actresses were good.  I was really impressed with Ms. Monae, who is primarily known as a singer.  The supporting cast was on point, too: Kevin Costner, playing another stand-up guy at a crucial time in history; Jim Parsons ("The Big Bang Theory") and Kirsten Dunst as two of many people at NASA who kept throwing roadblocks in the way of the ladies; and Marshershala Ali as a military vet who takes a liking to Ms. Henson's character.

One of my favorite moments was when there was a question of whether calculations were correct before a flight could take place.  John Glenn (Glen Powell), the astronaut who was going to take the flight, asked that "the girl, the smart one" (Henson's character) check the figures before he took off.  As in most movies based on true stories, liberties are taken with events.  But I understand that Mr. Glenn actually requested that Mrs. Johnson look at the numbers.

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Saturday, January 28, 2017

La La Land (2016)

There were many scenes in this movie that were gorgeous.  Just stunning.  The way they were lit were great.  This movie made Los Angeles look like a magical city.

However, I wasn't overly impressed.  The story line involved Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a struggling jazz musician, and Mia (Emma Stone), a struggling actress, following their dreams of stardom.  When they first meet, she flips him the bird during a traffic jam.  They keep running into each other after that, and a relationship begins.  Cue the music.  Gosling and Stone have great chemistry together, and they have passable singing voices.  But I didn't leave the movie theater humming any of the tunes.

A few days before I saw this movie, I overheard a guy telling everyone nearby how happy the movie had made him.  The guy looked younger than I, so I figured he didn't grow up during a time when movie musicals were made on a regular basis.  I grew up during the tail end of Hollywood producing movie musicals.  I could only guess that the guy was impressed by this movie because the concept of movie musicals is very new to his generation.  Interesting film, but I wasn't overly impressed with it.

J.K. Simmons and John Legend do fine in their small roles.

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Monday, January 02, 2017

"The Joey Bishop Show" (1961-1965; NBC, CBS)

When I go on YouTube, it's easy for me to find video on Rat Pack members Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin, and Peter Lawford.  But I never find much on comedian Joey Bishop, who was also part of that famed group.  Recently, Antenna TV ran a marathon of Bishop's early 1960's sitcom.

The first season of the show had Bishop playing Joey Barnes, an assistant to a press agent.  His family assumed he had access to celebrities, and Barnes often was in trouble for misrepresenting his job status.  When the second season came along, the show was revamped completely.  Barnes' mom (Madge Blake), brother (Warren Berlinger), two sisters (Marlo Thomas, Virginia Vincent), and brother-in-law (Joe Flynn) were gone.  Barnes had a new job as a New York-based talk show host, he had married Ellie (Abby Dalton), and they lived in a posh apartment building taken care of by Mr. Jillson (Joe Besser).  The plots focused on Barnes' domestic life and his showbiz career.

Bishop had a deadpan, sarcastic way about him.  It worked especially during exchanges between the Barnes' character and his writers, his manager Larry (Corbett Monica), and Hilda (Mary Treen), who was initially hired as a baby nurse when Ellie became pregnant.  She stayed on as the maid after Joey Jr. (Michael David Smith) was born.  The talk show host premise also allowed for plenty of guest stars (Jerry Lewis, Buddy Hackett, Jan Murray, The Andrews Sisters, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Bobby Rydell, etc.) to appear on the sitcom.

NBC canceled the show after the 1963-1964 season and CBS picked up the last season.  The first season was in black and white, then NBC switched to color broadcasts.  But CBS hadn't quite gotten on the bandwagon, so the last season was broadcast in black and white.

The sitcom isn't knock down funny to me, but it is amusing, and Bishop's barbs went a long way.

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Fences (2016)

Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington) is a garbage man.  He's been married to Rose (Viola Davis) for close to two decades. He has an adult son, Lyons (Russell Hornsby), from a previous relationship.  Another son, Cory (Jovan Adepo) is a teenager who lives at home.  Troy's brother, Gabe (Mykelti Williamson), is mentally ill, due to an injury he suffered during World War II. Troy's best buddy, Bono (Stephen McKinley Henderson), is a co-worker.

Troy once played in the Negro Baseball League, but he was not allowed to move up in the professional sports career due to the race politics of the time.  He sneers at guys like Jackie Robinson (the film is set during the mid-1950s) who were allowed to play on predominately white teams.  When Cory is given a chance at a college football scholarship, Troy dismisses the notion, telling his son that white people aren't going to let him do much with that.  Rose tries to diffuse the tension between father and son, but without much success.  In addition to deferred dreams, Troy deals with guilt over Gabe's fate in life, and an affair that he's been hiding from Rose.

The performances are good in this film, which is based on a play written by the late August Wilson.  As I watched the film, however, I couldn't get past the "stagy" feel of it.  Most of the action takes place in one spot, and it doesn't open itself to other locations.  There are long stretches of dialogue that probably played very well on stage, but unfortunately, can appear slow on film.

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Monday, December 05, 2016

The Night Walker (1964)

The horror and thriller movies of William Castle tend to all follow the same pattern -- creepy, sometime lurid tales that offer one or two big scary moments, but are often just standard fare.  The Night Walker is a little different because of the unusual story line and the star power involved.

Irene Trent (Barbara Stanwyck) is married to a rich man named Howard Trent (Hayden Rorke) who is blind.  It is not a happy union.  Irene is basically a hermit who doesn't go out of the house much.  Her husband is extremely jealous, and he believes Irene is cheating on him because she talks in her sleep.  She is dreaming about a man who is treating her better than Howard is.  Howard has gone so far to believe that Irene may be cheating on him with his attorney, Barry Morland (Robert Taylor).  One night, Howard and Irene get into an argument, and she runs out of the house after he raises a cane to her.  Not long after that, he senses something is going on in an upstairs laboratory in the house.  As soon as Howard enters the room, there's an explosion, and Howard is killed.

No trace of Howard's body is left, and the explosion is considered to be an accident.  But Irene is not free.  She keeps having dreams where it appears her badly burned late husband is coming after her.  She also continues to have dreams about a man (Lloyd Bochner) who appears to adore her.  The dreams have become so real that Irene doesn't know whether she is coming or going.   Is Irene going insane or is someone driving her mad?

There are a lot of unexplained actions and loose ends in this movie.  For example, why did Howard have a laboratory in the house and for what purpose? It is revealed that Irene has her own business -- a beauty shop -- in the middle of the film.  However, since it appeared that she wasn't leaving the house much while married to Howard, who was running the shop in her place?  Why did he allow her to keep the place if he was so rich and supposedly able to take care of her?  So many questions as the film goes on as it drags to its somewhat odd conclusion.

Robert Taylor and Barbara Stanwyck were once married to each other.  They had long divorced when they did this picture.  Hayden Rorke was best known for his role as Dr. Bellows on TV's "I Dream Of Jeannie".  Lloyd Bochner was a cast member on the nighttime soap, "Dynasty".  His character on that show was Cecil Colby, who was the brother of Connie Colby, a character played by Barbara Stanwyck on the "Dynasty" spin-off, "The Colbys".  However, Bochner and Stanwyck never had any scenes together on either of those series.

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Sunday, August 28, 2016

Southside With You (2016)

Michelle Robinson (Tika Sumpter) lives on the south side of Chicago with her mom (Vanessa Bell Calloway), and her dad (Phil Ed Van Leer).  She is a second year associate with Sidley & Austin, a huge law firm in the downtown area.  Her parents tease her as she primps for what their daughter claims is not exactly a date.  Her dad asks the name of the young man whom she's going to see.  "Barack", she answers.  Her dad says, "Bar-what?"

Barack Obama is a summer associate at the law firm for whom Michelle acts as an advisor.  He has invited her to a community interest meeting, but she is dismayed to discover that it won't take place for several hours.  Barack suggests that they fill the time with other activities -- a visit to an art collection, lunch in the park, a walk along the lakefront -- before the meeting.  "This is not a date," Michelle insists, explaining that it wouldn't look good at the office for her to date him.  "Okay, it's not a date. . . .until you say it is," Barack smiles.

This is a quiet romantic film about two people getting to know each other better.  Yes, we know what happens to the characters later after the events of the film.  They get married several years later and have two daughters.  Oh, and Barack becomes the President of the United States, and Michelle becomes the First Lady.  But this film shows them as typical twenty-somethings, still deciding what they want to make out of their lives.  There so many nice moments where their conversations reveal their thoughts, as well as reveal things about the people we know them as now.

Singer John Legend produced the film, which takes place in 1989.

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Monday, April 11, 2016

"These Old Broads" (2001)

Entertainers Kate (Shirley MacLaine), Piper (Debbie Reynolds), and Addie (Joan Collins) find a new audience when a hit song they did back in the early 1960's becomes popular again.  It is believed that it would be a great idea to get the ladies back together for a TV special.  Kate's son, Wesley (Johnathan Silverman), finds that getting them all in the same room is not going to be an easy feat.  The ladies all carry grudges on each other because of past romantic rivalries.  But once their agent Beryl (Elizabeth Taylor) makes the deal, the women agree to work together.  But there are numerous bumps in the road to deal with.

This is a somewhat amusing made-for-TV movie that depends a lot on the star power of the actresses involved.  There's a lot of catty exchanges and misunderstandings.  A very silly and racy subplot involves a boyfriend (Pat Harrington) of Addie, and a serious subplot including a revelation about Wesley seemed to come out of nowhere.  Ms. Taylor is not in the movie as much as is advertised, but she makes good use of her screen time.  Peter Graves and Gene Barry do fine in their small roles.

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Sunday, November 29, 2015

Creed (2015)

After I saw this movie, I was talking to one of the staff persons at the theater.  "That's not my type of movie.  I'm not into boxing," she said.  I'm assuming that a lot of people feel this way about boxing movies.  However, the reason these type of movies keep being made is because the sport of boxing is a metaphor for life.

Everybody in the latest entry in the Rocky movie series is fighting against or for something.  Adonis (Michael B. Jordan) is fighting to be his own man apart from the shadow of his late father, Apollo Creed.  His adoptive mom Mary (Phylicia Rashad) fights the idea of her son participating in a sport that took the life of his father.  A neighbor of Adonis', Bianca (Tessa Thompson), fights to fulfill her dreams of musical stardom before circumstances make her unable to do so.  A contender, 'Pretty' Ricky Conlon (Tony Bellew), is fighting to stay out of jail after a gun charge.

Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) is fighting illness and old age.  We learned in the last movie (Rocky Balboa) that his wife Adrian had passed on.  Now Paulie, his brother-in-law, has passed on as well.  His son, Robert, has moved out of the country to start a new life with a girlfriend.  The former champ has to deal with loneliness, too.

I loved how the fight scenes were filmed.  They took the audience right into the heart of the ring.  The training scenes were highly entertaining as well.  Just like the last movie in the series (Rocky Balboa), there are echoes of moments in Rocky's past.

As usual, the film is peppered with real life people from the world of boxing. Tony Bellew and Andre Ward are actual boxers.  Boxing commentators Max Kellerman and Jim Lampley are at ringside, and Michael Buffer is on hand to announce, "Let's get ready to rumble!"  Also, actor Liev Schreiber can be heard as the voice on the popular HBO boxing series, "24/7".

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