The Many Saints of Newark review 10/1/21 A Sopranos story

Nostalgia…the most weaponized feeling that movie companies use to lure us in by to getting you to pay $15 and then for overpriced and under quality food items. Although TERRIBLE for you to eat, AMC’s pretzel bites in chemical created nacho cheese are a thing of beauty that a white trash Michaelangelo would marvel upon this with a look of bemusement and jealousy that he didn’t create it. And when we all read that they were doing a Sopranos prequel, that sent MAJOR shivers up our collective buttholes. And when we saw Michael Gandolfini was playing a young Tony, we gave a collective eyebrow arch but said, “let’s see what the kid has” to reserve judgement upon viewing. The first preview was pretty cool and if seeing Vera Farmiga do a fantastic Livia Soprano didn’t move the needle for you, you weren’t really a true Sopranos fan. Not many films are circled on my calendar this year but this along with Bond, Halloween, Spiderman, and Jackass (goddamn you, Paramount…moving that to February as well as Mission Impossible and Top Gun to next year.) Fast forward to yesterday where my wife DEMANDED that I wait to watch this with her. So we began the story of Dickie Multisanti (Christopher’s dad and Michael Imperioli does narrate in the film) and his family. It takes place during the race riots of Newark which used to be predominantly Italian. Dickie is a mid level criminal whose father (Ray Liotta) runs crime in said town while his young nephew, Tony Soprano, hangs on his every word and action. We see a lot of the old gang: Lydia Soprano (Vera Farmiga KILLS this role), Junior (Corey Stoll doing a solid job and with a callback catchphrase that will make you smile) Big Pussy, Silvio, Paulie Walnuts (but not enough for my liking), even Carmela and a baby Christopher.

The biggest problem is the plot; a lot of it are a collection of “who gives a shit scenes.” We were led to believe the riots were a focal point but they are not and that’s too bad. I truly wanted to learn more about them but they were just an afterthought with little impact. Another problem is you get tastes of the characters we all love but this is truly Dickie Multisanti’s story (Alessandro Nivola). I’ll wager the other fans wanted to see more intermingling with Silvio, Paulie, Jackie Aprielle, Hesh, Pussy, etc. Vera Farmiga had a couple of solid scenes with Tony including but again, we all wanted to see more and how she mentally fucks up Tony that forces him to see Dr. Melfie. One of the most impactful scenes is where Livia meets with Tony’s guidance counselor where learn more about Tony’s wiring as well as his feelings for his mother. So what else do we get? Ray Liotta playing Dickie’s dad, Hollywood Dickie. And through the oddest turn of events, we find out that Hollywood had a twin brother. Yeah, I was shaking my head in a slow, WTF fashion.

This story draaaaaags. A. LOT. I just didn’t care about a lot of the goings on. Leslie Odom plays a numbers runner for Dickie and sets up a for a possible confrontation down the road for a Black mafia/Italian mafia showdown. But the scenes he had as well as some of the black mafia stuff had me saying, “who gives a shit?” Wayyy too much time spent on something that I felt was inconsequential to the story at hand. We didn’t get enough of Johnny Boy Soprano (Tony’s dad) as he went to jail in the film but think it would’ve been more fun to see him in the family dynamic. And the guy who played Silvio, awful. I mean, bottom shelf well vodka AWFUL. I feet the scenes where Tony does bad stuff were disingenuous, like it was being forced. What else is awful? Dickie kills someone and sets his body on fire that looked about as real as special effects in the 1994 Fantastic Four movie. Go give that a googs; it redefines the meaning for “awful.” It looked as real as Robert DeNiro curb stomping that guy in the Irishman with the speed of a 3 toed sloth. SPOILER ALERT: Dickie gets killed and the motive is quite opaque. Was it because of a personal offense, was it for a power struggle? Another cliff hanger by David Chase, put it on the boarrrrd, YES! And a lot of the foreshadowing is as subtle as a kick to the nuts. Yes, Tony visits Holsten’s (where he gets shot) in the final episode several times. No, they don’t play the Journey song as that obviously wouldn’t have fit the timeframe when the song came out vs where we were in the movie. You get a couple of quotes from the show that will make you smile as I said before but they were repeated often enough which must have made the audience say, “we get it, you’re nodding to the show.”

I’d love to hear from non-Sopranos fans thoughts are on this as a pair of completely neutral eyes would have a much more interesting take. And when you watch this film, tell me that this sound mix is wayyyyy off. When they play music, it BLASTED through the speakers. When it’s just dialogue, you have to pump up the volume 7 notches. In summary, this really felt hastily thrown together. Vera Farmiga steals the show, Alessandro Nivola is solid, Michael Gandolfini is ok, and Corey Stoll was good. I was really disappointed as was my wife. And from what I’ve seen on my social media timeline, the people HATED this film. Just 2 people defended this film and the critics have their heads up their asses on this one as well, 74% on Rotten Tomatoes. You’re going to want to watch this film out of curiosity and I don’t blame you. But I’d set me expectations lower than a fallen G-string at the Bada Bing.

4/10

Film Review: Spiderman Far From Home

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What a world we live in.  Fellow comedian Cristian Duran posted on Facebook: “In 2002 I would have shit my pants if you told me that one day there’d be 3 different Spider-Man 2’s.”  The first S2, amazing.  Easily one of the top 3 Spiderman films.  Second S2, awful.  So this brings us to the latest Marvel iteration.  SFFH starts out 5 years after Avengers: Endgame.  Half the world died, or as they call it, blipped.  Those who blipped aged 5 years and they give a cute explanation how this works.  Even though it’s 5 years after the fact, Peter Parker (Tom Holland), still pines away after the loss Tony Stark in EG.  Hey, if you haven’t seen the 2nd highest grossing film of all time by now, that’s on you.  What’s next, you missed Keyzer Soze is Kevin Spacey?  Darth Vader is Luke’s father?  Michael Cera gets DP’ed at the end of Superbad?  Yep, deleted scene.  Check it out if you don’t believe me.  

Anyway, Parker continues to cry for Iron Man like some people still carry the torch for Jerry Garcia.  Yuck, what an overrated band, the Grateful Dead.  And while PP misses Stark, Happy (Jon Favreau) is trying to slide into Aunt May’s (Marissa Tomei) inbox.  Hilarious interactions throughout because the last time any version of Aunt May was having guys kick game to her was during LBJ’s presidential tenure.  And Peter is trying to make magic with MJ.  Zendaya (she’s too young and unaccomplished to pull off the single name yet) is the perfect nerdy-ish neighbor that MJ was.  I liked Kirsten Dunst (her body is fantastic, her snaggle teeth are not) in the original trilogy but Zendaya and Holland have great repartee in this film.  Jake Gyllenhal enters the Marvel Universe as Mystery, well known Spidey villain who enters as a good guy fighting the Elementals, villains in the form Earth’s elements.  And it wouldn’t be a Marvel film without Samuel L Jackson mailing it in for a paycheck.  Just kidding, he was better here than he was in Captain Marvel.  Thankfully, film scribes Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers save SLJ with some great lines and pretty good jokes with Holland regarding PP’s phone etiquette.  

Parker, his buddy Ned, MJ, and his classmates go on a class trip to Europe along with new teacher with the king of mumbling, JB Smoove.  I don’t get JB Smoove.  At all.  EVER.  Of course, Parker wants to make the moves on MJ but gets stopped because surprise, bad guys (The Elementals) appear along with Mysterio who saves the day.  Nick Fury and Maria Hill show up to make sure Peter helps fight off the bad guys.  How dare they make Peter be an adult/Avenger when Peter is just trying to blow off some steam and execute his Shakespearean love plan?

Let’s fast forward to the meat.  Yes, Mysterio turns sour and the main reason was just meh for me.  Were the battle scenes great?  You bet.  There are plenty of funny moments and it’s fun to see Spidey and MJ’s romance begin to blossom.  But my biggest issue with the film was the constant love song that’s consistently being sung by Spiderman.  Want to devote the first act with Peter still mourning (again, 5 years after the fact)?  Fine.  But he STILL carries on throughout act 2.  Some people argue that Spiderman played a “Robin” role in Spiderman: Homecoming.  I can see the point but I enjoyed Homecoming more than this one.  Why?  I LOVED Keaton as Vulture more than I liked Bubble Boy as Mysterio.  I just found his logic for wanting to screw over Parker and his plan for domination to be a bit weak.  Yes, the effects are great and the final battle scene is cool.  But again, this didn’t grab me as much as Homecoming did.  This is still enjoyable and boy oh boy, that first post credits scene is a TOP 3 ALL TIME SCENE.  You heard me.  And when it happened, I literally yelled out, “Oh SHIT!”  Check this out but lower your expectations a tad.

I give this a 6.5 out of 10.

Film Reviews: Dunkirk, Atomic Blonde, and Spiderman: Homecoming

We’re almost at the end of summer and before you know it, certain things are going to happen.  They’re going to yank my favorite beer, Sam Adams Summer Ale off the shelves by the second week of August and replace it with GARBAGE Octoberfest.  A full month and a half before the actual Octoberfest and no one, repeat NO ONE, likes this beer.  It will also be time for me to take the annual trip for me to go Vegas for week 1 of the NFL.  And of course, it’s going to be soon enough when Hollywood drops a plate of continuous garbage into the theaters until November.  I did catch a few new films and I’m more than happy to tell you about them.

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Let’s be honest, it’s John Williams (Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Jaws) and then everyone else for film scoring.  But Hans Zimmer (Batman trilogy, Inception, Lion King) is a SOLID number 2.  I went to see Hans Zimmer at Radio City last week.  He played for 3 hours and all of the hits.  If you don’t know him, he’ll be on the Mt Rushmore of cinematic composers.   Being Zimmer is Nolan’s go-to guy for film score, he also does the latest Nolan joint.     As I’ve said before, no one bats 1.000, not even Babe Ruth. But Hans Zimmer is perfect in previous attempts and this is no exception.  Zimmer does such a job that it will be a bigger fix than the 1919 Black Sox if he doesn’t get the Oscar this year.  The score AND sound make will send shivers up your b-hole and if doesn’t, you ain’t alive.  

Now let’s talk about the actual film.  Nolan tells 4 different stories at the same time with some familiar faces from previous Nolan films, Tom Hardy and Cillian Murphy.   The story of Dunkirk is the Brits and French (further perpetuating stereotypes) have been pushed to the shores by the Nazis (pre-USA intervention) and are looking to retreat via the sea.  But those pesky Krauts drop bombs and send torpedoes (actual torpedoes, not Sofia Vergara’s luscious cans) on the British naval ships that attempt to bring the soldiers back.  Harry Styles (of One Direction fame; note that not one of their songs is on my phone.  Not even as a guilty pleasure) plays the son of a former British soldier that takes his boys toward Dunkirk toward the rescue effort.  

There are problems with this film.  One, with the exception of Styles, his brother, and father off to help the stranded; there aren’t any characters that you feel any relationship with.  Cillian plays a pilot that is shot down and rescued by Styles’s father but you don’t get a feel for his character.  Same goes for fellow flyboy Tom Hardy.  Another group of soldiers that are holed up in a ship are another group you feel nothing for.  Secondly, there is no need for the roundabout fashion in which Nolan tells the story.  Some people complained that it was difficult to follow; I didn’t feel like it was but there were a few moments where you have to mentally jump back and forth.  Lastly, this film is 110 minutes but I felt it DRAGGED at times.  My friend Ryan made a great point about not having any relationship with the characters; being that this films was simply about survival and didn’t need to be a nationalistic film with sentimentality.  Fair points but this film didn’t grab me.

I just didn’t feel that invested in the story nor the characters.  However, it is beautifully shot and as I previously said, the score adds fantastic gravitas to the moments.  The dogfight scenes are amazing.   And this is also EXACTLY what I said about Nolan’s previous film, Interstellar.  Is Dunkirk as bad as I thought Interstellar was?  No, but it’s also not much better.  I think this is the film that may get Oscar noms when virtually every other Nolan film should have been honored.  Why?  Because it deals with history and we all know that as well as social issues are cheese in the mouse trap to get nominations.  Here’s something else about Interstellar that applies here: If you have any desire to see this, make sure you see it in the theater.  Because seeing it at home won’t give you the experience and you’ll dislike it even more if you’re watching on anything less than a big screen and 4dx sound.

I give it a 5.5 out of 10

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Atomic Blonde has been garnering comparisons to John Wick.  Yes, the fight scenes were choreographed by the same guy.  But it’s definitely not 2 hours of ass kicking, gun-fu.     There’s a story line here, much more involved than a guy hunting down the Russian mafia who killed his wife and dog.  And I loved John Wick and liked John Wick 2.  But this is deeper.  

Let’s go back to November 1989, a few days before the Berlin Wall comes down.  Charlize Theron (never on anyone’s top 10 hot list but she should be) is an MI-6 operative who is sent to Berlin to find out why her fellow compatriot was gunned down by a Russian assassin while hiding a list of agent code names as well as their real names.  And the game is afoot the second she touches down in Berlin; as she uses her stiletto shoe to thwart attackers in a moving car.  James McAvoy (Professor X in the recent X-Men films as well as the schizophrenic in that AWFUL film, Split) is a man who can get his hands on anything on the black market and his especially interested in getting that list or the man who memorized that list.  

The action scenes aren’t as many as Wick but they’re really good.  There’s one scene where Theron fights off 4 attackers in a continuous shot.  The camera work is amazing, you get a “Bourne Ultimatum” feel with some of these sequences.  And as an added bonus, you also get some quick shots of Charlize Theron’s boobs when she submerges in ice baths.  There’s even a lesbian sex scene with her and a French spy.  An enthusiastic thumbs up from this reviewer.  Lastly, you’ll totally dig the 80’s soundtrack playing throughout the film as well as footage from news organizations covering the events leading up to and the destruction of the Berlin Wall.

This film was a pleasant surprise on many levels and it’s a little more than just a typical summer action blockbuster.  It didn’t make big money on opening weekend but doesn’t that mean the audiences guessed right by passing on it.  It’s quite enjoyable with a few nice twists and Theron proves that women can kick ass without it being a forced feminism agenda.  You hear me, female Ghostbusters reboot?

I give it a 7/10

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Last and certainly not last, I saw Spiderman: Homecoming a few weeks ago but was lazy and never wrote the review.  This is the best Spiderman film of all time.  Tom Holland crushes it as Peter Parker, he gives the role a lot more fun as well as that nerdy aspect to it. It also doesn’t hurt having Downey Jr in it a few times, reprising his role as Tony Stark/Iron Man who gives Parker an upgraded suit.  And let’s not forget Michael Keaton who is having a resurgence for the ages.  I liked Birdman, LOVED the Founder, and he’s fantastic as the Vulture.  This film doesn’t miss on any aspect and has a fantastic twist in the third act with one of Peter’s classmates.  I eagerly anticipate anything Spiderman in the future as Holland did a great job of erasing any memory of Andrew Garfield and also nicely scrubbed Spiderman 3 from my cerebellum.  

I give this an 8.5/10

Film Reviews: Baby Driver and The House

Last year was the worst slate of summer films I can ever remember.  How is this summer shaping up?  Not much better.  Transformers 5?  Nope.  Pirates of the Caribbean 5?  No chance.  A rare miss from Tom Cruise with the Mummy.  Baywatch?  No female nudity, no $15 bucks from me.  Alien Covenant?  Netflix.  Wonder Woman?  DC has burned me too many times so Netflix again.  Didn’t bother with Guardians of the Galaxy 2 as the I was one of the few in the minority who didn’t like the first.  With the exception of WW, Alien Covenant, and GOTG2; the summer blockbusters have all underperformed.  I haven’t seen anything this FF8 in the theater so a couple of came out this weekend that appealed to me.

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I’m a sucker for gambling stories and comedies.  When I saw Jason Mantzoukas was playing his Raffi from, “The League” character, I couldn’t resist.  The idea of 2 parents not having enough money for college to open up a neighborhood casino is the theme of the film.  Mantzoukas plays the friend who’s trying to get his wife back by inviting them to open said casino.  Poehler and Ferrell are both 2 generic, suburban parents who eventually transform into hardened “criminals” as the plot progresses.  The neighbors come by to gamble, participate in boxing matches, and partake into a Vegas style pool scene.  Nick Kroll plays the role of a councilman, hell bent on shutting down this casino while he’s busy, pilfering from the town’s budget.  Loved Kroll in this as well as, “The League.”  Although every time I see him in something, he looks like a praying mantis.  Oh well, he’s making movies and I’m writing reviews so he wins this battle.

The reviews for this have been AWFUL. I don’t get it, this film is funny throughout without having the typical sappy moments that comedies can have.  Plenty of LOL moments without making cookie cutter jokes.  Ferrell moves through this film with ease and Poehler is pretty solid as well; although she does have a couple, “I’m trying too hard moments.”  But Matzoukas is the star of the show and I think this is the vehicle for him to  get to the next level.  He was underutilized in the League and he can easily move ahead of most of the comic actors on the scene now.

Is this film a must see in the theater?  Definitely not but I’m glad I did.

6.5 out of 10

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And now, let’s discuss the film that EVERY critic mentioned in their top films of the summer as well as the year.  Edgar Wright wrote Ant Man and directed Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz so his resume may not be as well known the masses but this makes one hell of a entrance theme to the real of public knowledge.  “Baby Driver” is the story of Baby (Ansel Elgort); who is a getaway driver for Kevin Spacey while he pays off his debt to him.  The twist is that Baby who has tinnitus and is constantly listening to music to drown out the ringing in his ears.  His song selection ranges from classic rock, to Jazz, and even to soul.  Interesting choices made by Wright when you would figure that most driving music would be categorized as adrenaline/high energy.  He also has the peculiar habit of recording conversations and mixes them with beats on cassette tapes.  Baby watches over his deaf friend and previous guardian, Joseph, while socking money away to eventually leave.  While eating at a diner, he meets a waitress, Debora, (Lily James) another music enthusiast also looking to get away from everything and everyone.  As previously stated, Baby is a wheelman for local bad guy, Spacey.  Spacey hires Buddy, (Jon Hamm) and Darling (Elza Gonzalez) to rob a bank and Bats (Jamie Foxx) to steal money orders.

The chemistry with all of the actors is fantastic.  Foxx plays a meticulous psychotic quite well.  Hamm and Gonzalez are the modern day Bonnie and Clyde.  Spacey excels as a heinous evil dickhead.  There is a “Heat”-esque element to the film with plenty of nice surprises, twists, and callbacks.  I’d even say it has a nice “Reservoir Dogs” feel but not as dialogue laden as Quentin Tarrantino has been known for.  Of course, things go awry and that’s when this kicks into overdrive.

This film is a great ride and without question, the best so far of the summer.  Then again, that’s not saying much with the crop that’s been released thus far.  I do have higher hopes for the new Spiderman film coming out this week.  And the new Planet of the Apes film also looks promising.  But just like a great meal at an expensive restaurant, the portion sizes are small.

I give it an 8/10