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CHAMPIONS (2023) – My rating 8.5/10

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Champions is a sports comedy directed by Bobby Farrelly in his solo directorial debut, from a screenplay written by Mark Rizzo. It is an English-language remake of the 2018 Spanish film ‘Campeones’. The film follows a temperamental minor-league basketball coach who after an arrest was sentenced by the court to coach a team of players with intellectual disabilities, as community service. I was not that motivated to see Champions but saw it anyway. My rating said it all — what a great story, great acting, and great actors. I obviously really liked the movie.

Marcus Marokovich (Woody Harrelson), a hot-tempered but skilled assistant coach with a minor league basketball team in Iowa, lets his temper get the best of him during a game and shoves the head coach, Phil Perretti (Ernie Hudson), causing him to fall on his butt. After being kicked out of the stadium, Marcus gets drunk at a local bar. While driving home drunk, he hits a police car and ends up in jail. The next day he is bailed out by Phil, who also happens to be Marcus’s long-time friend. The two coaches get into an argument that ends with Phil telling Marcus that he’s been let go by the owners.

Never fully committing to anything, Marcus finds himself in a situation where he must use more than his professional basketball skills. First off, the cast of The Friends was amazing.  These special needs children didn’t appear like a child with special needs, whatever that means.  All were extremely high functioning as well as talented, smart, good actors, and very funny.  In an interview, Woody said The Friends kept him laughing all through the filming of Champions.  Each had their own story, which was well told. This movie offers many lessons to be learned and myths to be dispelled. It’s too bad Champions flew way under the radar because I think it should be seen by the masses. Kudos to Bobby Farrelly for his solo directorial debut, well done! There are a lot of stories told in Champions that didn’t leave you bored or disinterested.  There’s everything from Shakespeare to sex, to great basketball games.  I was excited during the entire movie.

As of March 22, 2023, Champions has grossed $11.8 million in the United States and Canada, and $1.5 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $13.3 million.  On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 58% of 110 critics’ reviews are positive, with an average rating of 5.8/10. The website’s consensus reads, “Although its apparent attempts to be uplifting can often come across as patronizing, Champions is an amiable enough comedy with some seriously talented stars.”  Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of “A” on an A+ to F scale, while those at PostTrak gave it an overall 83% positive score, with 66% saying they would definitely recommend it. I also highly recommend Champions, which is currently showing in theaters — Check It Out!


NEEDLE IN A TIMESTACK (2021) – My rating: 7/10

Needle in a Timestack.jpg“Needle in a Timestack” is a  science fiction love story, written and directed by John Ridley. It’s based on the short story of the same name by Robert Silverberg. Needle in a Timestack was released on October 15, 2021, by Lionsgate. The film focuses on a marriage that is challenged when a time traveler goes back in time and attempts to change the circumstances of their lives.

Since I have a real passion for science fiction, I thought Needle in a Timestack sounded intriguing, plus it features a stellar cast. The movie was a little slow but the story was mysterious, passionate, and thought provolking.

In the future, under government control and with enough money, people are allowed to time-travel.  There are rules but if a rule is broken it’s considered a crime, however, it’s almost impossible to prove.  Needle in a Timestack opens with a married couple who are obviously very much in love.  However, there’s a rich x-husband who wants his wife back, so he makes several attempts at jaunting time to get her back.  A worried, husband consults his wife who aappears not to be concerned and tells him it’s under control, dispite them knowing about her x-husband’s attempts at changing the time line.

****  SPOILERS BELOW  ****

First Trajectory:
The movie covers three stories of romantic love in linear trajectories, beginning with Nick (Leslie Odom Jr.) and Janine Mikkelsen (Cynthia Erivo}. In the Nick and Janine romantic love trajectory, Nick falls in love with and marries Janine, after Janine was married to and divorced from their mutual good friend Tommy Hambleton (Orlando Bloom).

Second Trajectory:
In the Nick and Alex Leslie (Freida Pinto) love trajectory, Tommy time jaunts from the present where Nick and Janine are married to fix the past mistake that allowed his marriage to Janine to fall apart. The time jaunt is successful, although it was a time crime, and now in the revised present, Tommy is married to Janine, and Nick is married to Alex. Nick figures out that his timeline has been tampered with. As Nick’s memories disappear, he must decide what he’s willing to sacrifice in order to hold onto – or let go of – everything he loves.

Third Trajectory:
Nick decides to time jaunt in an effort to make things right. When he comes back to the present, we go into his third romantic love linear trajectory, Nick struggles with loneliness and is neither married to Janine nor Alex after going back to the past and persuading Alex that Tommy is the right person for her. In the last minutes of the film, Nick sees Janine (who is a photographer taking pictures) at a party Tommy convinced him to attend. Their eyes meet as feelings begin to surface their faces express that they know there is something between them. If love is in the form of a circle, what lines would you cross to be with your soulmate?


2022 Oscar Nominees by Category

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LAST CHRISTMAS (2019) – My rating: 7.5/10

Last Christmas is a romantic comedy directed by Paul Feig and written by Bryony Kimmings and Emma Thompson, who co-wrote the story with her husband, Greg Wise. Based on the song of the same name.  Because Last Christmas had so much hype as a must-see movie, one felt if they didn’t go to see it, they’d be missing a potential future classic. Not having any idea what to expect, I went to see Last Christmas and found the movie to be fun, romantic and a little sad.

During the Christmas season, a young lady who lives in London named Katarina “Kate” (Emilia Clarke), has been given a second chance at life, but abuses everyone she used to cherish. With the help of Tom Webster (Henry Golding), a mysterious gentleman who rides a bicycle and volunteers at a homeless shelter, she begins to slowly improve her attitude and heal her body. Working a dead-end job as an elf selling Christmas ornaments all year round, Kate goes out on singing auditions but is never hired. Her boss, who is referred to as “Santa” (Michelle Yeoh), bends over backward to keep Kate in her employment. On a more friendly side, Kate sets up Santa with a Danish man (Peter Mygind) who she befriends in front of the shop.  Kate is currently homeless after being thrown out by her flatmate. By choice, she remains homeless until she has no choice but to live back home at her mother Petra (Emma Thompson) and father’s Ivan (Boris Isakovic) house. The environment there is not the greatest, as her mother is a Yugoslavian immigrant who is suffering from depression and a father who was a successful lawyer back in Yugoslavia but is now driving an Uber cab because of money issues and is never home. Kate has a sister Marta (Lydia Leonard) who is a successful lawyer practicing in the UK.  Marta lives with her girlfriend Joyce (Patti LuPone) who is ignored by the family, as her mother doesn’t accept their relationship.

I thoroughly enjoyed Last Christmas, which was a far cry from the Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones: Mother of Dragons) I was used to.  Emilia is a brilliant actress, however, Last Christmas received mixed reviews from critics, who praised the performances and chemistry of Clarke and Golding but criticized the screenplay, clichés, and plot twist, and has grossed $67 million worldwide. I recommend this film to everyone.  Check It Out!


GEMINI MAN (2019) – My rating: 8/10

Gemini Man is an action thriller directed by Ang Lee and written by David Benioff, Billy Ray, and Darren Lemke. Gemini Man follows a hitman who is targeted by a younger clone of himself while on the run from the government. I waited with bated breath for this movie, it didn’t let me down.


Henry Brogan /Jackson Brogan (codenamed “Junior”),   (Will Smith), is a government-paid assassin with the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and regarded as the best killer of his generation. Gemini Man opens with Henry, who has eyes on an anonymous terrorist aboard a bullet train that he has been commissioned to assassinate. Once in position, Henry’s spotter alerts him of a young girl approaching the target, causing Henry to delay his shot until the last second. He shoots the man in the neck but was aiming for his head. Disillusioned by his aging skills, Henry retires from government service. While adjusting to retirement, Henry meets boat rental manager Dani Zakarweskiand (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and reconnects with an old friend, Jack Willis (Douglas Hodge), who reveals that an informant named Yuri Kovacs (Ilia Volok) told him that the terrorist Henry killed was an innocent man. Demanding proof, Henry has Jack arrange a meeting with Yuri. In retaliation for Henry knowing their deception, agency director, Janet Lassiter (Linda Emond) plans to kill Henry. Clay Varris (Clive Owen), head of a top-secret black ops unit codenamed “GEMINI“, request permission to do the job of getting rid of Henry but is denied.

Meanwhile, realizing Dani is a fellow agent sent to monitor him, Henry befriends her. After his home is broken into by government agents, Henry calls his spotter, who is killed along with Jack and his mistress. Henry warns Dani about the attack. Together they manage to kill the assassins sent after them, learning the agency wants them both dead. Escaping to Colombia, Henry and Dani go to the home of Henry’s former colleague and friend, Baron (Benedict Wong) and plan to meet with Yuri for further options. Meanwhile, Clay gets his chance to dispatch his top assassin to kill Henry. While they are fighting, Henry realizes the assassin bears an uncanny resemblance to himself as a young man, with a similar skill set.

Gemini Man turned out to be a pretty good movie despite Will Smith’s rather large ego.  It’s probably no coincidence that Will’s character is considered the best in his particular field and because he’s the best, only the best (a clone) could be considered for the job of assassinating “his best self”.  Fast-forwarding to the special effects, I think they were brilliant.  In the old days when one actor played two people that looked exactly alike, their faces couldn’t be shown together at the same time.  Oh, how times have changed, in my opinion, the special effects were fantastic.  The ending was a little cheesy but a nice idea.  So how does a younger you kill an older you, after all, one of you knows every move the other is going to make.  You’ll just have to see this one to get all the answers.  I recommend Gemini to all.  It was fun and enjoyable, as I was thoroughly entertained.  The film received generally negative reviews from critics, who complimented the performances but lamented the script and plot. The de-aging of Smith and the high frame-rate of 120 FPS drew a mixed response, with some critics praising them as technical achievements, while others felt they were unconvincing.  Gemini Man has earned $119.2 million and was produced on an estimated budget of $138 million. Check  It Out!


Every Oscar Best Picture Winner, Ranked

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Every year starting in late August and ending sometime around late February, Hollywood is consumed with winning an eight-and-a-half-pound gold trophy. Even in a world overrun with awards shows, the Oscars remain the grandest prize, and a Best Picture victory cements filmmakers and actors’ place in history. It also means that, for the rest of time, a lot of people will complain that your movie wasn’t that great and should have lost to some other movie they felt was eminently more deserving.

It’s very easy to second-guess the Academy on its Best Picture picks, but while putting together our ranking of every winner, we decided that, all in all, there aren’t that many terrible choices. Sure, mediocrity rules the roost, but for the most part this list is littered with good movies — sometimes very good, occasionally incredible, but largely good-enough movies…

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THE PREDATOR (2018) – My rating: 8/10

The Predator is a science fiction action film directed by Shane Black and written by Black and Fred Dekker. It is the fourth installment in the Predator film series (the sixth counting the two Alien vs. Predator films), following Predator (1987), Predator 2 (1990), and Predators (2010). Black had a supporting role in the original film, while John Davis returns as producer from the first three installments. The Predator follows a group of PTSD-afflicted soldiers who’s mission is to destroy a pair of alien Predators.  This is not a film I wanted to see but after sitting through it, I decided it was pretty entertaining and even exciting.


A Predator ship crash-lands on Earth. Army Ranger and Sniper, Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) and his team are attacked by a Predator while on a hostage retrieval mission. Quinn incapacitates the Predator (Brian A. Prince) and has its armor mailed to his estranged wife, Emily McKinna (Yvonne Strahovski) and son, Rory McKenna (Jacob Tremblay).  At the behest of government agent Will Traeger (Sterling K. Brown), Quinn is captured and interrogated while Traeger sends the captured Predator to a lab for experimentation and observation. Evolutionary biologist Casey Bracket (Olivia Munn) is tasked by Traeger to study the captive alien. As Casey was conducting test, the Predator awakens, breaks out of its bonds, kills the lab workers, but spares Bracket before leaving.  Meanwhile, Quinn, along with a group of other government captives, including ex-Marine Gaylord “Nebraska” Williams (Trevante Rhodes), a military veteran named Coyle (Keegan-Michael Key), a military veteran from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars who is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder named Baxley (Thomas Jane), a helicopter pilot named Nettles (Augusto Aguilera), and Lynch (Alfie Allen), another ex-Marine is bussed out to the military base where the Predator is held captive. As the bus arrives, they witness the Predator escaping from the lab, thus proving his existence to all.  Instinctively, Quinn and the rest of the crew take over the bus and commence fighting off the Predator.  Taking Bracket with them, they head over to Quinn’s estranged wife, Emily, where he expects to find the Predator’s armor he mailed. However, Quinn’s autistic son Rory has gone trick-or-treating while wearing this armor, in hopes of avoiding detection from bullies.

Of course The Predator gets more and more interesting.  There are Predator Dogs, big Predators and small Predators, just to name a few of the surprise scenarios.  I thought this was one of the better Predator films given where we are technically and scientifically.   The acting was brilliant and the adventure had lots of little twist.  The plot made as much sense as it could, considering the fact that this is a science fiction movie — they can make up anything they desire, but  it has to be believable to us.  I’m not sure about this one, you’ll have to see it for yourself to determine whether or not the story is  believable. the story.  I liked it, so I recommend it — check it out!


BARBERSHOP: THE NEXT CUT (2016) My rating: 7.5/10

Barbershop-TheNextCutBarbershop: The Next Cut is a comedy with a profound message. A third sequel to the barbershop series tries to send a message about the senseless killings of our youth in our communities who are too often  hit by stray bullets intended for those involved in gang activity. Children are being killed so often, this Chicago neighborhood is trying to come up with a solution that can be implemented quick and easy. Calvin Palmer (Ice Cube) and his wife Jennifer Palmer (Jazsmin Lewis) are watching their son Jalen (Michael Rainey, Jr.) change from a sweet loving kid to a hard headed rebellious type that is staring to head down the wrong path. Calvin and Jennifer, being in denial, is blaming their son’s new attitude on his current buddy, Kenny (Diallo Thompson) who is the son of Rashad Jones (Common), Calvin’s best friend. In the meanwhile, gangs are running rampart in the Chicago neighborhood and more youths are getting killed in the crossfire and recruited by these gangs. One-Stop, (J.B. Smoove) a hustler who sells real estate among his many other talents, works in Calvin’s barbershop, which is now co-ed as the barbershop is also a beauty salon with Angie (Regina Hall as Calvin’s partner. Calvin is entertaining the idea of moving to the north side of town where it is safer to raise his son and operate his shop. The usual gang is back in session with Terri  Jones (Eve) as Common’s wife, Draya (Nicki Minaj) as a hair stylist and over sexed trouble maker, Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer) as the oldest barber, J.D. (Anthony Anderson) as the caterer, Raja (Utkarsh Ambudkar) as the Black Indian barber, Jimmy James (Sean Patrick Thomas) as the Congressman and Isaac (Troy Garity) as the over-the-top White boy player. New comer Jerrod, (Lamorne Morris) who comes off as a gay guy and Bree, (Margot Bingham) a hair stylist become love interest for each other, despite the gay rumors. The overall goal of the Barbershop is to force a cease fire among the gangs, causing peace and trust and most of all, no killings of youth for days at a time, in exchange for free services offered by the barbershop/hair salon during the cease fire. Of course there’s much more to this so you will have to see the film to find out how it all works out.

Barbershop is a little corny but sends an excellent message and is well acted as well as entertaining. It’s been in the queue for several weeks, which tells me that it’s worth seeing. Also, a couple of fun surprises were incorporated into the ending so check it out!  I enjoyed it.

STEVE JOBS (2015) – My rating: 7.5/10

SteveJobsSince the death of Apple’s Co-Founder, Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender), there’s been a lot of interest to get his story out so the world knows who he really was.  In this version, much like the Bible, only a portion of Job’s life is revealed and is basically told in three parts:  All the problems leading up to the beginning of Apple prior to 1984, Job’s preparing to launch the NEXT computer at Davies Symphony Hall in 1988, then finally, Jobs preparing to premier the iMac in 1998, the computer that restored the company.

I thought this movie was well acted and the story well told.  Kate Winslet plays Joanna Hoffman, Apple’s High Marketing Executive as well as confidant to Steve Jobs. Seth Rogen brilliantly plays Co-Founder Steve Wozniak who together with Jobs, created the Apple II.  Jeff Daniels plays CEO John Sculley who had a very complex relationship with the very complex man, Steve Jobs.   During the years depicted in this film, we learn that Steve Jobs was an intense person with a lot of problems.  He managed to alienate many people who were instrumental to his career and life achievements.  The film was pretty factual and to the point, not leaving much to the imagination.  The fact that he was adopted was mentioned and his biological father was shown briefly.  Steve didn’t really have much excitement in his young life save he had difficulty making friends and was considered a loner.  Steve never married but has a daughter who played a big part in the movie.  It is argued whether Jobs was really as troubled as the movie portrayed him and if he was disliked as much as the movie indicated.  I think that’s something we’ll never really know.

Steve Jobs is worth seeing.  He revolutionized technology and has a superior product on the market that is well respected.  If for no other reason, we should know the history of the man and the vision.

[STEVE JOBS is nominated for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress]