Tag: Biography

Inmate #1: The Rise of Danny Trejo

Who is Danny Trejo? Okay, well, for this one, you might not know his name, but you have likely seen him in a movie. As of this moment he has 383 acting credits to his name, from TV shows, to movies, to things still in production.

The title, Inmate #1: The Rise of Danny Trejo, comes from the fact that many of his early roles in films since the 1980’s did not have a real name for the character. He was known as Boxer, Inmate, Prisoner, Tattoo Artist, Chink’s Gang, Costello’s Bodyguard, and even once apparently “Mean” was his character, which I assume was not a name either.

So how did this man, this tough burly Mexican, get into acting at the age of 40, and how did he get over 300 roles in less than 40 years?

Well, the main and obvious part of this documentary is that he didn’t start as an actor, but as a regular kid who was involved with crime. He was in a gang, his family members were in a gang, and he did a LOT of bad stuff. Robberies mostly, but having weapons and threatening his community, he was in and out of juvenile detention. And once he got to being an adult, he did more that got him put away for a long time. And when he was in prison for real, that is when his life really began to change.

danny trejo
Let’s assume that backdrop was a green screen. Would be fucked up to do an interview in what looks like an actual prison or…abandoned school or whatever this is. 

So how can someone go from being a life long criminal, with lots of trauma in his life, to being an actor that no one seems to have any problems with, and is known for his huge amounts of work ethic? Well if I tell you all of that, why would you watch the documentary?

But needless to say, things happened in there that changed him. His life took on new meaning, and once he got out of prison he had a focus to make not just his own life better, but the lives of his friends, family, and the community he had wronged. He has spent the second half of his life writing those wrongs, and what came as part of that? Well, a vibrant movie career.

And he was able to take that and evolve from scary background Hispanic man, to friendly scientist in Spy Kids and eventual leading man of his own over the top franchise, Machete. He was SIXTY-SIX YEARS OLD when Machete came out, which is probably the oldest aged person to lead a new franchise (who also had never been the lead man before). Hell, Liam Neeson was in his 50’s when Taken came out (but again, he was already known as a leading man).

The reason I liked this documentary is it presented Danny Trejo as a real person. His flaws, and his successes. He has a message of hope coming from someone who was a pretty bad dude into someone who wasn’t. He has grown from his mistakes and in order to do that, you have to admit you have them. Pretty easy to admit mistakes when they are on public record of course, but still, admitting them is important.

Thank you Danny Trejo for bettering your life and showing people there can be a way out if you can get help from your community.

Also featuring some of his friends and famous people telling stories (along with his former crime buddies and family). You will see Cheech Marin, Michelle Rodriguez, and Robert Rodriguez in here, amongst others.

3 out of 4.

Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend of Walter Mercado

Who is Walter Mercado? No really, who is Walter Mercado? I don’t think I have heard of his name before watching this movie and review.

Now, I saw reviews of this, brief reports, and that it was now out on Netflix. And looking at the pictures, I just assumed he was an eccentric weather man on Hispanic based television. Boy was I wrong. Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend of Walter Mercado isn’t about weather at all.

For those of you who do not know, Walter Mercado was a famous (and likely, the most famous), Astrologist in the world. Astrologist? Yes, Astrologist. You know, zodiac signs and horoscopes.

Mercado grew up different than his friends, and was always seen as a spiritual person. Apparently in his community he was slightly worshiped as a kid because a neighbor saw him “heal” a bird back to life and fly away. So people wanted to come by and touch him. It’d be hard to grow up thinking you were a mini-god at that point I imagine.

After being an actor for awhile, with lots of substance, Walter was put on the air once to do an interview for an upcoming show. The interviewer didn’t want to talk about the show, wanted to talk about horoscopes, because Walter talked about it a lot to the staff before the show. Because the show got so many calls during that segment, they asked him to come the next day and do it again with new readings. And the rest was history.

walter mercado
History is fabulous!

So what happened after that? He eventually got his own Astrology show, which had lots of ratings. That show led to another show. It led to him being on the news, and to traveling across the world to various shows and getting his readings out there. Basically, if you grew up in a Spanish home in the 80’s or 90’s (or 70’s?) you likely knew about this mysterious man.

And then he went away at some point, and no one seems to know why, which is what this documentary wants to explain.

You see, it is all about law suits. He trusted a manager to be a good person, and this led to him signing a bad contract letting them do whatever they wanted with him. Once the money stopped flowing, Mercado wanted answers and out, but this led to big legal battle that lasted years. Overall, Mercado got to keep his name, but the company got to keep his likeness and old material and shows for profit. At that point, Mercado had tried a few comebacks but failed, and the rest, again, is history.

Now my biggest issue with this documentary is two fold.

First of all, astrology itself is all just made up, and that should not be a controversial statement to make. Vague statements that can be applied to most people, and if it doesn’t, well, you usually remember the ones that are spot on. There is lots of information out there on this and similar topics. So Mercado got big and famous over lying to lots of people. Okay, whatever.

The second thing is that this documentary is 100% a puff piece documentary, not going to much nit or grit of his life. The entire last third of the documentary is preparing for and being excited about a museum show honoring his life in Miami in 2019 and just drags. But Mercado was involved with some shady shit. He had a psychic hot line and also was involved with selling “magic” jewelry (which the documentary left out) and the documentary swept it under the rug. They blamed his manager, said Mercado wasn’t out to hurt people at all and then moved the hell on.

Come on, this is a documentary, lets be truthful. It is okay if you did bad shit. Talk about it, admit to it, and lets move on. Instead they focus on this person only being an angel and worshiped, but ignoring the bad stuff and that it is all based on a lie anyways. It just rubs me completely the wrong way.

This documentary will definitely inform you as to who he is and why he became popular, but I find myself skeptical at other parts of it due to the glaring obvious parts that are ignored.

And hey, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Eugenio Derbez are in here, and they are famous. The former also opens the documentary and has an extended part at the end. I also did like to hear about his long time best friend and assistant Willy Acosta, and I wonder what he is up to now with his life in his own hands.

1 out of 4.

Hamilton

I am not throwing away this review, but I am going to keep it short and sweet.

Bless Lin-Manuel Miranda, who decided in 2016 they needed to shoot their musical with the original cast. They could have held on to this for over a decade and waited and waited. They said it would come out October, 2021! And then? Then pandemic.

And now it is out much, much, much earlier. On Disney+ so most people don’t have to pay much at all to see it, versus the theaters (Which it should still go to when it is safe, I would buy that ticket).

Thank you for spending three days getting this filmed, including the off-Broadway day for all of the cast and crew, putting in extra shows to make this thing out there.


It’s Alexander Hamilton, singing on the screen for you.

Wait for it! The entire original cast and crew is in this picture!

Anthony Ramos, Chris Jackson, Daveed Diggs, Jasmine Cephas Jones, Jonathan Groff, Leslie Odom Jr., Okieriete Onaodowan, Phillipa Soo, Renée Elise Goldsberry, and Sydney James Harcourt.

And its the Hamilton musical, damn it! This is my plot outline. It is about Alexander Hamilton and some more people. There.


The room where this whole thing happened was actually in a theater in Broadway!
A phenomenon greater than most other phenomenon, I can die happy now that this is available. I never could see it on stage, and I likely wouldn’t now anytime remotely soon thanks to pandemics. This is a blessing and we should cherish it.

This counts as a movie for the year? I’ll take it. Now I have given two 4 out of 4s so far this year.

What are you waiting for, what do you stall for? It’s available now, go see it.

One last time, this musical is love.


My wife said I needed some more review aspects to this, fine. I cried five times despite hearing this musical so many times, some of my cries were new, some where at the same time I cried during just the music.

A few songs were enhanced thanks to the visuals. Like Satisfied, and seeing King George in more scenes. The use of moving stage was used wonderfully. The ending is so much better (of an already awesome song) with the dancers and background.

I will note that Odom Jr.’s Burr uses a much more lispy voice in this recording versus the original cast recording. I assume that was done in the main show way before it, maybe it is easier to sing with that voice in the long term, maybe it is to make him seem a bit more sneaky, but it is noticeable and completely acceptable.

4 out of 4.

Dolemite Is My Name

Where you been, Eddie Murphy? What you doing, pseudo-retiring on me like that?

Sure your last two real films, Mr. Church (2016) and A Thousand Words (2013) were bad, but that is probably…uhh, your fault. Trying to do some spiritual family stuff instead of letting your real humor out.

Surely, giving yourself a role where you get to talk and swear and joke is just the role for you.

Telling a true story of a different stand up comic that influenced his whole career seems like a good tribute to that actor/comedian, while also getting Murphy back on his feet again. Dolemite is my Name? Well, make me laugh and I’ll call you anything.

pimp suit
No, I won’t call you daddy though, even with that suit.
Rudy Ray Moore (Eddie Murphy) is the baddest motherfucker around. Or at least he is in his own eyes.

He wants to be famous, he knows he can do it, and he has tried it all. He has released songs, has done stand up, and he is now middle aged and still nowhere. He can’t get a damn thing going.

But while MCing at a local club, he decides to try a little bit of material he has taken from older homeless people in his neck of the woods. He asked them their stories, and listened to their jokes. They spoke rhythmically and told ridiculous stories, and he thinks that audiences might really enjoy it with the right delivery.

And this content takes off. He builds the character Dolemite, and people love his swears and graphic humor. He is able to sell records of his material, mostly on his own, and get popular in the hoods all over the world. And after all of that, he still wants more. He wants to make a movie. Who cares if he has never made a movie before.

Also featuring Keegan-Michael Key, Mike Epps, Craig Robinson, Tituss Burgess, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Snoop Dogg, T.I., Ron Cephas Jones, Barry Shabaka Henley, Chris Rock, and Wesley Snipes.

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Fact: Snipes and Murphy have never been in a movie before together.

Dolemite is my Name is one of those films that comes along that you didn’t know you needed until you had to see it. I never knew anything about Rudy Ray Moore. I knew about the blaxploitation films of the 70’s and 80’s, only a tiny amount, enough to enjoy Black Dynamite. But I didn’t know who the real precursor to all of that was.

And sure, as research, I watched Dolemite just to really get the whole picture, which is not necessary for those who don’t want to have to go searching for it.

I haven’t seen Murphy this on fire in quite a lot of time. Over a decade probably. This is a great return to form and it is like he was never gone in the first place. Snipes was also on point in the film, and similarly, haven’t seen him like this in a good while, but part of this is thanks to prison I guess.

A large cast of characters bring their own quirks and fun moments, but this is the Murphy show and they are all just a part of it. A funny comedy and a good story overall.

3 out of 4.

A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood

Did you see Won’t You Be My Neighbor? It was a documentary about Mr. Rogers, came out last year, it is amazing and the best documentary of 2018. It wasn’t nominated for an Oscar though, because everything is stupid and life is meaningless.

Wait wait wait wait. I shouldn’t say that. Mr. Rogers would certainly disagree with that statement.

And in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood we have to look at Fred Rogers and get judged all the while, because it is hard to live up to perfection.

shoe
How can he interact with kids all day, and keep his house clean at the same time?
It’s a beautiful day in the late 90’s, and Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) is a journalist. He writes for Esquire, and has a history of really going hard after people. He is an investigative reporter, he brings up dirt, he exposes people, and a lot of people don’t want to work with him now. He also recently had a baby with his wife (Susan Kelechi Watson), who has stopped work to stay with their baby boy.

And sure, things are tough. He actually recently got in a fist fight at his sister’s third wedding, dealing with his estranged father (Chris Cooper) who wanted to recently reconnect after a really rough childhood.

And now? And now Lloyd has to go to Pittsburgh to interview Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks) for a fluff piece for his magazine. They are going to do a story on heroes. He only needs 400 words, barely anything. And well, Lloyd things that he can crack him. That there is someone different underneath the Mr. Rogers facade.

But while trying to get to the real Fred Rogers, it turns out that Lloyd is being cracked open as well.

Also starring Maryann Plunkett, Wendy Makkena, Enrico Colantoni, and Christine Lahti.

neet
How dare a journalist learn something about themselves in an interview. How shocking!

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is going to suffer due to poor advertising on the reality of the film.

First of all, a movie about a journalist interviewing a celebrity and it changing their lives is not a new subject. Just recently we had The End of the Tour and My Dinner with Henre, it is certainly turning into some sort of trope. And with advertising it is not really super clear that this is the case for this film, unlike the previous two mentioned.

No, this looks like a movie about Mr. Rogers! Doing Mr. Rogers stuff! Being humble and awesome! And sure, that happens in this movie, but so, so, so much of the focus is on the journalist dealing with his issues, and Mr. Rogers being the magical other person fixing his life with positivity.

But the issue is, and no offense to the real journalist, no one cares about him. Those parts drag down the film. I went in wanting Rogers, and sure, he was in it. His style his way of talking, his voice, his show. They were all featured and a major aspect. And yet, who cares, no big deal, I wan’t more.

Watch the documentary if you want a better Rogers experience. And yes, Hanks does good at the acting.

2 out of 4.

The Current War Director’s Cut

Here it is, boys. The time has truly come. A film has decided to come out and also be the “Director’s Cut” of that same movie.

Technically that isn’t all too rare. A lot of movies that come out are Director’s Cuts, they just don’t always advertise it. Usually if there is a DC available, it is home release, and it implies the studio or a producer had a final cut that was different from the director’s vision.

So what is going on with The Current War Director’s Cut? Well, Harvey Weinstein happened.

One of the main things Weinstein was known for, besides the sexual assaults and rape, was getting final edit on many movies. He wanted movies to go a certain way, and advertise a certain way, and go for awards with his permissions. He could be great at it, but it also bugged a lot of director’s at the time.

This movie was planning on coming out around 2017, hitting the festivals, and getting lukewarm reaction. Then the scandal. Then the selling off of properties. And our director got his movie back, edited his movie his way, and got to release it wide for the first time!

light
It’s basically the American dream, with a lot more sexual assault in the way.

Thomas Edison (Benedict Cumberbatch). An American celebrity if there ever was one in the late 1800’s. He was an inventor, an improver of older inventions, and someone who was business savvy. People loved him and he wanted to be loved. But when it came to the battle over how America would be hooked up to the grid for electricity, he was also quite dirty.

George Westinghouse (Michael Shannon), known for being rich and helping develop breaks for trains for safety and efficiency, wanted to work with Edison, but he was shunned by the busy man. So he figured he could get into the game, help develop a new technology, and then Edison would want to merge ideas. Edison is not a merger, he is a take over kind of guy, a guy who doesn’t admit if he is wrong.

This began a big battle over the American landscape, accepting bids for their various forms of technology, with the goal to be providing power for the Chicago World’s Fair, and putting their product out there for millions. And of course we have a wildcard in Nikola Tesla (Nicholas Hoult), a foreigner, a genius, a man who saw the future, but couldn’t always get the funding or time to put all of his ideas to the paper.

Three men of influence, one goal, and a whole lot of shoddy tactics.

Also starring Katherine Waterston, Tuppence Middleton, Tom Holland, and Matthew Macfadyen as J.P. Morgan.

looks
You know that look in your eye when you see an electric candle for the first time last a few hours? That’s the look I want to give to my dinner every night.

I honestly went into this movie thinking the worst. The trailer was okay, the cast I enjoy, but the director’s cut notion prepared me for the worst. That’s weird. The buzz was not good.

But after watching it? I feel frickan’ amped. Westinghouse is so cool, and he is only a name I have seen mentioned and had no idea he was in this race. I figured this was a Tesla/Edison movie thanks to memes, but Tesla is way less important overall to this plot. Shannon does a good job of playing this quiet and seemingly noble entrepreneur.

After the film I was electrified to look up more information on these big three, to go beyond the quick facts I see on the internet. The movie felt accurate. It moved at a very quick pace, telling a historical pr battle with enough excitement to keep me on the edge of my seat. It flowed so well from scene to scene.

I have a love of historical films, especially ones that have good acting. Historical films that don’t get bogged down in being super serious, but still can tell not only a good story, but a story worth being told. A story with wattage. Alright, that’s a stretch.

Anyways, congratulations to Alfonso Gomez-Rejon for getting the movie he wanted to make. Oh, and by the way, he directed Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, which made my top of the year list when it came out.

3 out of 4.

Unplanned

Ted Cruz likes this movie, Unplanned. Ted Cruz hyped this movie as it came out in theaters. Ted Cruz talked about how wonderful it was to see this very powerful movie early. Ted Cruz encouraged people to see this movie to see the truth about abortion. Ted Cruz was happy to see its numbers. Ted Cruz hyped the movie again when it came out on DVD.

I think it is certain to say that any movie Ted Cruz decides to talk about is pretty damn bad. In at least the last 3-4 years, I haven’t seen Ted Cruz talk about any movie, at all, ever, as a regular person or a senator. And he obsessed over this one.

Clearly, Ted Cruz was given some financial incentive for this film.

It is also clear that any movie that Ted Cruz likes is likely a colossal waste of time.

operating table
Ted Cruz is just another part of the cog.

You want an abortion movie? Well you got it! This film decides the best thing for it to do is give us part of the ending first, so it can do something graphic, and then give us the long story of her life before then. And in this scene, Abby Johnson (Ashley Bratcher), director of a Planned Parenthood, has to help with an abortion by just holding an Ultrasound. And during the process, she believes the fetus is running away/trying to escape, so she realizes she is terrible and time to quit.

Before that moment though? Abby as a college student always believed in women rights. She actually had two abortions, once from an accident, and the other time from a marriage that ended up not being a good fit and she needed to escape. So she appreciated Planned Parenthood despite apparently everyone in her family being extremely religious and anti-abortion.

So she also decided to volunteer with the company. She walked women from their cars to the doors to not have to deal with the protesters. Eventually she worked her way up, got an official job, then became a counselor to help people decide what to do, and eventually also run the dang facility.

The whole time, her new husband (Brooks Ryan) is incredibly disappointed with her. There is almost never a scene of him just being happy. His religion means that she is wrong and he hates her and is kind of a dick. Not physically. But constantly judging? Definitely a dick.

Oh, and Abby’s boss, who is also climbing up the corporate ladder, Cheryl (Robia Scott) is apparently just driven by profits and loves loves love abortions. But Abby got in this job to help women who need it, but prevent them from getting to the abortion step if possible. You know, the mission of Planned Parenthood. to help women at all costs along the way.

And, spoilers, after the beginning scene, and after all this other mess and being judged, Abby quits her jobs and joins a protest group, deciding to also now shout at those women who leave their cars, but use her position of former director to give more credit to her words.

harassment
A turncoat, if you will.

In this movie, Planned Parenthood is a big boogeyman of a corporation that is driven to make lots of money. They apparently thrive off of abortions, and the more women who get abortions, the more rich they get, and the more powerful they get. They don’t care about women, they care about getting those fetuses out for that paycheck.

They are compared to Big Oil and Pharmacy companies, and driven by huge donors to get this anti-Christian agenda off and running, because of dealing with all of these bad people! And of course the boss character is just a manifestation of all of this. Needs more abortions, needs only loyalty, needs money! And it is ridiculous.

This is all supposed to be a true story. And sure, maybe Abby had a bad boss and attributed things to the whole company? That’s fucked up. But the “disasters” shown in this film, the medical emergencies, and whatever, that seem to make it look terrible, also take place over 9 years I think. If that is the case, then it seems like for the most part a nice ship has been run. All companies have hiccups.

I don’t want to say Abby Johnson is a terrible person. She was driven to this eventually to societal peer pressure. Besides hearing protesters daily for years, her husband was always extremely disappointed with her, and her parents hated her as well. Of course she’d eventually stop and “see the light”. What is messed up is instead of just abandoning it, she tried to use her former authority to convince people it was bad, when really it was just her religious doctrine getting in the way, not her authority and knowledge.

This is an annoying religious film, because 97% of the people who watch it will be those who already are anti-abortion. The other 3% are going to be people who thought it was about something else, or people like me. It won’t change a mind, it is just one of the Christian films where Christians stroke their own egos about how right they are to be Christians. A lot more of them are popping up in big amounts lately, but they are not great films, and Ted Cruz is a goddamn idiot.

Wait. No. He is not an idiot. I don’t fathom he believes all this. He is just motivated to be on this side, politically and financially (most likely), and so he is running with it. He knows it sucks too. He knows.

0 out of 4.

The Best of Enemies

True stories are sometimes fun. Sometimes they are true…ish and give us a topic like Green Book, which is barely about the actual Green Book and pretty damn disappointing.

Other times we get true stories that are like The Favourite, which are probably extremely fictionalized but based on real events and well acted so we let it pass.

And then we get something like The Best of Enemies. Another true story that seems to actually be based on real people and events, without making things offensive or skirting the issues that are important to the subject. Wait, this shows a Klansman in a favorable light? Alright, maybe not completely inoffensive.

Papers
And I got the tweets all ready to prove it.

Ann Atwater (Taraji P. Henson) is a single mother and an activist living in Durham, NC. She runs Operation Breakthrough, which is to help poor black folks not get completely fucked over by the white man. And it is always a battle. Fighting for good homes to live in, fighting for decency, fighting for better schools. It is a full time job and one she will proudly take until it is fixed.

And then we have C.P. Ellis (Sam Rockwell), a poor white man who also happens to be the leader of the Durham chapter of the KKK. I should probably mention that this takes place in 1971, after the Civil Rights Act was passed and desegregation occurred. It had not occurred everywhere. For example, Durham! They still had white schools and black schools. And shockingly to no one, the black schools were older, overcrowded, with old supplies and not enough money compared to the white schools.

Well, one of the main elementary schools gets damaged in a fire, with most of it being unusable except a few classes. Clearly now they need to segregate, it is only fair. Nope. Council says to use those 8 classes and make them go to schools in shifts instead of disrupt another school.

The cowards that be in charge above that, when a lawsuit from the NAACP appears, decide to organize a “charette”. A term made by Bill Riddick (Babou Ceesay), where he comes in to organize the community to discuss the issues for a few weeks and have a senate vote on resolutions. Anything they overall decide to do, Durham will do. Even if that means segregation. And Riddick wants to make sure this is real and worthwhile, so he decides that Ann and C.P. should be the co-chairs of this event, overhear everything and give each side equal ground. Surely, this will lead to peace and harmony.

Also starring Wes Bentley, Gilbert Glenn Brown, Anne Heche, Bruce McGill, John Gallagher Jr., and Nicholas Logan.

Convo
This could get nominated for costume given the body suit Henson had to put on for this look.

Ack. Where to begin.

Well, Rockwell is being typecasted as a racist turned racist we can not hate fully at this point. From Three Billboards, to this, to…Vice (Kanye West says so). That’s not something he should continue.

I was worried about this film because from the title and looks of it, it almost made it seem like it is going to imply that people of these people are important and should be heard. And uhh, one of them is a racist KKK leader. The other is fighting for survival. That is the sort of story that puts a bad taste in your mouth before it gets started, so it is a hard thing for people to just accept and want to see. But yes, by the end, [SPOILERS] the guy saw the light in real life and did the right thing and helped schools segregate, turning his back on the KKK. He should be celebrated for that, but most of the film is putting him in a slightly positive light before the moment, as the change occurs and again, it feel uncomfortable.

Technically, this movie has a white savior problem. And that is hard to avoid when given the real story, a white guy did save the situation. It is a hard thing to balance, when it has to fully embrace the white savior as part of the real narrative.

Honestly, trying to accept this film as a story is hard, and only works and can be acceptable because it is real. If this was fiction, it would be a complete shitshow of a plot. This makes it hard to talk about as a reviewer, from purely a movie standpoint.

So let’s just finish by comparing it to Green Book. The acting in Green Book is better. The camera work in Green Book is crisper. But the plot is so far from reality and insulting, it does not get a pass for its story and its actual true bits are not worthy of praise. While The Best of Enemies is rougher around the edges, it at least sticks to the facts and is pretty informative of a story on this topic. It is one that likely would have been better done as a documentary though, to really get the feel for these people and not put us in the middle of this awkward narrative.

2 out of 4.

Fighting With My Family

Fighting With My Family is a topic that combines a few things: real life story, wrestling, and British people doing silly things. We haven’t had a title like this in awhile.

Directed by Stephen Merchant, who I had the pleasure of interviewing after the movie and you can read the interview here, it is the story of wrestler Paige. How she grew up in bumfuck England and somehow made it to the WWE, despite not being their typical female wrestler.

I can’t imagine if we had any actual bio films actually based on wrestlers. Documentaries, sure, but like a young Hulk Hogan movie? A young Rock? A young Macho Man Randy Savage? It is relatively interesting that the first one to get one is a woman wrestler named Paige, who is probably only big in the wrestling circuits.

Dreams
This is what dreams are made of.

Saraya Knight (Florence Pugh) did not have dreams of growing up to be a wrestling super star, she was indifferent to it. Sure she trained for it like every regular kid. Wait, what?

Oh, her parents are “professional” wrestlers. Her dad (Nick Frost) and mom (Lena Headey) run a very small wrestling company in their small community. Helps them stay clean off of drugs and violence. They train people, they put on shows, they have a good time. Saraya’s older brother, Zak (Jack Lowden), did have the dream his whole life. And thanks to a video, they both are going to have a chance to audition for the WWE!

And then they are going to have to deal with the fact that Saraya, who is going by Paige, made it to the next round of training, and Zak is still stuck at home. She took his dream. And the dream and training in America is going to be tough, lonely and destroy their whole dynamic.

But can she make it? (she can, we know that). And if she can make it, can she be a star? (also yes.) But what does she have to accomplish first? (okay good question).

Also starring Dwayne Johnson and Vince Vaughn.

ring
“First we kick each others ass, then we kick all of the other asses.”

Fighting With The Family is an enjoyable film but very much by the numbers. A long shot trains, gets betters, and does the unthinkable, and people love her. Along the way were hardships, that made her want to change, quit, and more, but she conquered them. Hooray!

So you aren’t getting anything new from the plot, just the setting. Wrestlers, British trailer trash, and Vince Vaughn playing himself as a talent coordinator.

However, it is clear the actors are really going all in for it. No one is trying to half ass this movie, there is high energy, especially from Headey/Frost. It is great to see The Rock be the Rock again and go all Rocky with it.

Pugh carries a lot of the film as well, and does a really good job for a young actress.

I think this film suffers a bit from trying to put too much story into a short amount of time. Things are rushed, and her struggles don’t seem super apparent. A lot of problems are more obvious communication issues so the audience just has to struggle until she gets her shit together.

But overall, not the worst movie about a WWE star that I have never heard about before.

2 out of 4.

Vice

Adam McKay shocked the world when in 2015 he moved away from his normal brand of movie directing, and instead gave us The Big Short. A true story, that is funny, terrifying, and well acted? What is this? The Big Short ended up being my favorite movie of the year when I made the list (but since then, I know for a fact that Steve Jobs is my real number one after a few years).

So the big question is, can he do it again?

This time his attempt is to go slightly further back in history and give us a movie about Dick Cheney. A hated, loved, and not fully understood politician who was Vice President under George W. Bush. Of course the title has a double meaning here, McKay is hoping to tell this story in a similar way. Narrator being a character, lot of various plot lines, and frankly, weird shit going on.

A funny movie, that is also maybe going to make you sad/angry/scared. Seems like a good idea for a slam dunk.

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This is the face republicans will make watching this movie.

Dick (Christian Bale) grew up as the type of person who was going to go nowhere. He had a basic job, and spent most of his money getting drunk at night. This lead to some DUIs, barroom fights, the normal stuff. But his wife, Lynne (Amy Adams) wasn’t putting up with his basic bitch problems. She was still in her prime and could have any man. It was time for him to put up, or shut up, and save this marriage before it was too late.

And apparently, he still had some fight in him.

He eventually got himself a job as an intern in DC, where he met Donald Rumsfeld (Steve Carell), who was a big Republican at the time, and who knew how to play the game. Cheney quietly learned the same tricks and I do mean quietly. He wanted to have the power, without showing it off. He wanted to do without saying and just become great. He wanted to maybe become president one day, and every little bit was just a step along the way.

And Cheney also didn’t care what he had to do to get it. He learned of many legal loopholes about what the president can and cannot do, along with the vice president job. He became CEO of Halliburton, raised a lesbian daughter, and shot a guy in the face who later apologized for getting shot. He clearly is a man with a story, even if that story makes him out to be a total shit bag.

Also starring Alison Pill, Bill Camp, Don McManus, Eddie Marsan, Jesse Plemons, Justin Kirk, Lily Rabe, LisaGay Hamilton, and Sam Rockwell as George W., with Tyler Perry as Colin Powell.

DIck
Somewhere in there is Christian Bale.

Vice is a polarizing film because it goes hard after Dick. This is not remotely a fluff piece. He is the bad guy of this story. Even if you think it is going to talk about how he is a go-getter, who works hard. No, he is bad. A mastermind. Explicitly working to gain power regardless of precedent. Now, whether all of this is factual is the question. What matters is that a lot of it IS factual, even if the motivations we have to more guess about.

It also is extremely unique in its story telling, so much that the message can get easily lost. After all, there is a lot going on, and if you don’t believe anything happening, you might just call it a silly movie.

The acting is what we really have to talk about here. Bale completely transformed himself. Outside of young Cheney, he looks completely like a different person and it is easy to forget he is even inside that body. His transformation is this year’s Darkest Hour. Adams and Perry are limited in their roles, but do outstanding jobs. Carell has done better in other roles, but still carries his own weight here. Rockwell is a natural fit for George W. and should play that character more often.

Vice, on its own, is basically an insane film. It definitely isn’t as good as The Big Short (I think…?), but it is a film I feel like I need to see 2 or 3 times overall before I fully can grasp its scope. I am annoyed at myself for having to write this while only seeing it once. It is definitely going to be deserved of acting praise from Bale, but I am not sure what else it might walk away with for rewards.

Either way, McKay, hats off to you for trying new and polarizing work.

3 out of 4.