Archive for 2019|Yearly archive page

Bombshell Explodes onto the Big Screen

In Uncategorized on December 21, 2019 at 16:08

Bombshell Explodes onto the Big Screen

from www.hellomagazine.com

from hellomagazine.com

I went to see Bombshell thinking it was a vanity project for Nicole Kidman (based on one poorly run interview), forgetting that Charlize Theron was getting the top billing as Megan Kelly. How wrong could I get?

This film is NOT about Fox News, fake news, propaganda, lies at Fox News, right-wing news, or other legitimate complaints about corporate media in the U.S. Bombshell is about sexual harassment in the workplace and specifically the lives of the most prominent sexual harassment and assault victims of Roger Ailes, former head of Fox News. Because the writer limited the film to the harassment case, the film was able to delve deep into the terrible choices women face in the workplace when the person who can fire you or advance your career is asking for sexual favors.  That is the power of Bombshell.

Ailes is played with sleaze oozing from his pores by the delightful John Lithgow. He’s a train wreck, in that you can’t keep your eyes off his horrifying visage when he is on screen. But the stars of the show were Kidman as Gretchen Carlson, the aforementioned Theron, and Margot Robbie as Kayla Pospisil. In a year with Little Women competing for Oscars, I hope these big women win the night.

I knew that a woman must have directed and written this film. Wrong again. It was aptly directed by Jay Roach, director of Trumbo and Dinner with Schmucks and written by Charles Randolph of The Big Short. So how did they do it? They based much of the film on memoirs by two of the scandals victims, Carlson and Kelly, put the acting in the hands of capable veterans, and they didn’t fuc% it up.

I don’t remember the music, so it didn’t suck. What I remember is the pacing. The film didn’t lag, dawdle, pause for contemplation, and that is because the plaintiffs in the case had no time to contemplate what was happening. And it wasn’t too fast to follow. If there was an Oscar for pacing, Bombshell would be in serious contention.

The make up on the actresses is remarkable: Theron could have passed for Kelly on a news set and Kidman could have fooled Carlson’s children, almost. Part of that is due to the actresses knowledge of their characters and the research they did to perform these immense roles and their skill to do so.

I admit that my disdain for Fox News and everything it represents helped me cheer more heartily for the downfall of Ailes. As it turns out, the other corporate news outlets aren’t much better covering real news, they are just less deplorable.

Rating: Pay Full Price
The acting alone is worth the price of admission.

Tex Shelters

Undemocratic: The Presidential Primary System, Year 2020

In Uncategorized on November 15, 2019 at 17:23




The primary system for both the Democratic and Republican parties in the United States is undemocratic. For now, I will set aside the discussion of how the two-party system in the U.S. supports a plutocratic government. For my thoughts on that, please read the article linked here. I will also address the way debates for presidential candidates are corporate controlled in a future article. Finally, I will emphasize the Democratic primaries this time around, for the Republicans control the White House and won’t have a primary season.

The U.S. elections themselves are just for show; “they are not democratic. Our choices are limited and the elections are dominated by corporations that work exclusively to guarantee their profits.” Not only are the elections and our two-party system undemocratic, but the process for selecting the candidates for president in both parties is run by the elites and does not allow for real choice.

The primaries start in Iowa (Monday, February 3, 2020) and New Hampshire (Tuesday, February 11, 2020). These states are two of the least representative states in the U.S. Iowa, which runs a caucus and has about 3.156 million people  and New Hampshire has about 1.356 million people. That is 4.512 out of 327.2 million people or slightly less than 1.4% of the U.S. population. Together, they have less then 2% of the members of the House and the Senate, numbering ten. Yet, “Since 1976, when the Iowa caucuses went to first it became an influential part of the nomination process, the eventual Democratic nominee has almost always won either Iowa or New Hampshire (or both).”

Not only does Iowa and New Hampshire have a tiny part or the country’s population (thus being unrepresentative) they are both two of the whitest states in the nation. Iowa is 90.7% white and New Hampshire is 93.2% white.  The nation as a whole is 76.5% white. If you claim to represent the people, why not choose a state that better represents the U.S. population as a whole, like Florida which is 76.5% white?

Furthermore, “The Iowa primary is not even a vote by the people. It has a caucus (group meetings with the party faithful) that favors party insiders and not candidates with alternative ideas. The primary in New Hampshire has very small turnout. For example, only three to four percent of voters nominated McCain in New Hampshire. So, a few thousand votes in a small state decided who would represent the Republicans in 2008.”

Several state parties block voters from primaries who do not registered with their parties. In this way, voters are coerced to sign-up with one of the two majors parties or have no vote in determining the choices for president.

Click to view: Iowa compared to US demographics
Click to view: New Hampshire compared to the United States

Currently, there are 18 dates for primaries.

The later dates seldom matter, for the candidates are almost always decided before then. So, populous states such as Florida (March 17) and New Jersey (June 2) often have little say in who gets nominated as their primaries happen after 40 other states have had theirs. That disenfranchises California’s nearly 17.2 million and New Jerseys 5.3 million registered voters (2012 numbers).  At least California moved up to Super Tuesday, March 3, when twelve states vote. (ibid)

Closed primaries are ways political parties force party loyalty on the public. The list of closed primaries is here.

In summary, 14 out of 50 states have closed or semi-closed primaries. The reason for this is that the Republican and Democratic parties don’t fully trust voters and don’t want a full democratic process. They believe in unquestioned loyalty: ‘party first, love it or leave it!’ If we wanted a democracy, we would have open primaries for all offices with a limit of one vote per contest.

Fair Vote Reform Suggestions

Setting aside all the other problems with our electoral system for now, here is a way to make the primary process more democratic: set up primaries based on regions and geography. That would make it easier for candidates to travel from state to state. The regions would rotate every four years ensuring that one region would not dominate the process like Iowa and New Hampshire do today. So, the group that votes first in 2020 would rotate to the bottom in 2024 and other regions would move up.

The U.S. could be divided up into nine regions, each occurring three weeks apart. That would be 27 weeks of primaries, slightly over half a year. That would allow each party to prepare for general elections. States could be divided into regions as follows:

Far West:
Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington 

Mountain West:
Arizona, Nevada, Idaho, Utah, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico

South Central:
Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana

Central and Northern Plains:
Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri

Great Lakes:
Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio

Central South:
Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina

Deep South:
Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and Florida

Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Washington, D.C.

New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine

In this way, each region would have a say in who gets nominated. This would take the power to decide the presidency away from two of the least diverse states in the nation, Iowa and New Hampshire. There would be some diversity in each region. While Iowa is very white, there are many native tribes in the other plain’s states. Certainly, it’s not perfect, but it’s better than letting two of the whitest states with large rural populations, NH ranked 12 (39.7% rural) and Iowa 13 (35.98% rural), decide who the nominees are for president in the United States. (2010 numbers)

Moreover, the Republican and Democratic parties would have to pay for their own primaries. Taxpayers currently fund the duopoly that limits our voting choices, paying over $500 million in 2016. So, we end up funding parties that limit our participation in an undemocratic process. It’s just one more problem of many with what we call ‘democracy’ in the United States.

Tex Shelters

Joker–What Have We Learned? (A Film Review)

In Uncategorized on October 6, 2019 at 23:12

joker-joaquin-phoenix-1screengeekJoker from ScreenGeeks.

Joker is written by Scott Silver and Todd Phillips and directed by Phillips. The film presents the Batman and Joker story from the Joker’s mentally-ill perspective. 

There are various ways to look at the film. 1. The power elite ignore the poor and things are going to erupt. 2. A mentally ill man starts a riot. And 3. Poor incel white man does not get his way so he kills people. View #3 is myopic and completely off the mark. 

To call Joker a film about an out of touch, self-pitying white man is to miss the point. There is nothing about race or sexuality in the film and the main character happens to be white. And insane. The only people who would call Joker an incel fantasy haven’t seen the film, don’t know what incel is, call every lonely white guy an incel, or is an actual incel looking for a film to rally around. By the way, one can sympathize with Joker without empathizing with him.

The Joker is a misanthropic sociopath, period. He hates, and will kill, anyone who confronts him, like the six white guys he kills in the film. (And yes, he does kill a black woman councilor in the film as well). He’s such a lost incel that he doesn’t even know he’s supposed to kill only minorities and women. The incel accusation is ridiculous. People call him an incel because he’s a loner? Really? And the “rejection” he was supposed to have experience in the film? That was a fantasy dating scenario that never happens. Watch the film if you want to criticize it. 

Let’s say Joker and his followers mirror Trump (though many Latinos and blacks are rioting along with the whites). Shouldn’t we try to help the people instead of cutting their services and mocking them. Remember Hilary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables?” How many votes did that gain her? It lost her votes, even from progressives who wanted her to succeed. I’m not saying coddle white nationalists, something Joker is not. 

Robert De Niro is great in Joker as a smarmy, smart-aleck talk show host, a cross between Carson and Jeff Ross. The actresses who play Joker’s mother (Frances Conroy) and neighbor (Zazie Beetz) do well in the film. The police going after him are a bit cartoonish, but not too bad. In all, the cast is excellent.

Joaquin Phoenix is great and deserves awards. As a manic depressive with antisocial personality, a sociopath, you never know how he is going to react to stressors or whether what is happening is real. And he reacts in a multitude of ways, all believable if often surreal.  

The film looks good. The gritty, dark alleys and run-down streets and apartment buildings match the action well. And the subway is given an exaggerate 1970s hell-scape visage, just the place for a Joker to be born. 

The plot has some holes and is unrealistic at times. However, the surreal tone of the movie allows for some unreal action. 

All the talk of incels, an important but here misused framing device, hides the true theme of Joker: class. The Joker becomes and unwitting symbol of the poor in the fight against the rich, the rich who defend a system that keeps so many poor. 

Former Vice President Joe Biden recently said he wouldn’t be “demonizing the rich.” And people are spreading lie that the rich are under attack. What Joker does is present an alternative version of saluting and defending the rich, one where Thomas Wayne is shown exploiting and manipulating his position through lies and usury. Wayne is the real societal villain in Joker. 

The Joker is by no means a hero. People will go mad during hard times, and some will rebel. That is what the Waynes, and the Trumps and Clintons, of the world fear. 

Rating: Pay full price. If you want to fully understand it to criticize it, go see Joker. You might be surprised. 

Tex Shelters



Rocketman, A Shaky Flight

In Uncategorized on August 25, 2019 at 16:48

Rocketman, A Shaky Flight

Elton john costume film
From themoviemylife.com

The film Rocketman doesn’t have enough dance numbers to call it a musical, and it is not chronological like a biopic. It’s an uneven mix of entertaining and dull scenes that leads to a Matinee rating.

One thing missing from Rocketman missing is a signature live performance. They discuss the concerts, but very little of the performances make it into the film other than an early show at The Troubadour in Los Angeles. The way they discuss his success isn’t artistic, it’s corporate. The film made sure we know he was worth millions, but they fail to give enough focus on his successful music. Instead of $$$, we could have listened to hits: Benny and the Jets, #1 in 1972, among 8 other #1 songs. There is also nearly nothing about the albums he put out, the titles, and the creative process. We just had to take it on faith that he could write good songs, and little about the process came through. On a personal note, I wanted more from Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, a classic double record with many a great songs, two of which appear in the film. 

The scenes of Elton John in group therapy (something that never happened in real life) that frame John’s story is interesting, but they didn’t fully utilize the idea. They start Elton (Reginald) as a young child, then suddenly he’s a teen, then a rock star. What happened to his adolescence? What happened in his college years? How did he meet his band mates? I know they had to pick and choose, but it seemed random and not thought out. 

Another issue is that John’s story came across as boring. Whether another director with a better script could have made it more compelling, I don’t know. Sure, the film shows he was a prodigy as a kid, and his parents didn’t love him, but I’ve seen that before. The power of being lonely and abandoned didn’t come through. 

Other than Bernie Taupin, no other characters in the film distinguished themselves. However, Taron Egerton (Kingsmen) is entertaining and credible as Elton John, and Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot) does a great Taupin. Their relationship is the highlight of the film. 

The film is well shot, the dialogue is often interesting and clever even if the plotting is uneven. The triumphant, cloying Hollywood victory at the end of the film is too much for me, but I am sure audiences love it just like they loved LA LA Land and Mama Mia!  

Rating: Matinee– If you are a huge Elton John fan, go see it. There are funny, touching moments in the film, but no revelations. The film is shallow, so I don’t feel more or less about the subject after the film.  

Side note: Why does no one talk about how his 1971 hit, Tiny Dancer, was much longer than the hits of the day at over six minutes like they go on and on about Bohemian Rhapsody (1975) and Light my Fire (1967) being too long for radio? Why the length of Tiny Dancer an issue? If so, I never heard about it.  

Tex Shelters


“Yesterday”, A Good Netflix Film

In Uncategorized on July 1, 2019 at 21:42

“Yesterday”, A Good Netflix Film


From acsta.net

The temperature is hovering near 110 F in Tucson, so it’s the “see a movie while you have time off and it’s damn hot out!” season. So, I went to see Yesterday.

Yesterday is a quirky film that asks, “What if only one man remembered The Beatles and their music and he was an unsuccessful musician that used their songs to become famous, because as stated, no one remembers who they were or their music. I know you were all thinking that very thing.

Beside the heat, I also saw Yesterday because I am a huge Beatles fan, ever since I could remember. And I like Danny Boyle films, director of Slum Dog Millionaire, Trainspotting, and 28 Days Later. He’s no wazzock. 

The film’s set-up works, and the main actor Himesh Patel who plays the lead Jack Malik, is well cast. He is able to play the charming, humble man who, as people believe, just thought up these great songs on his own. The filming is fine and the music is great.

I am NOT an Ed Sheeran fan, but I can now say I like the lad even if I think the wanker writes shite music. Sheeran has no trouble sending up his celebrity status in the film, and it’s quite amusing. And Kate McKinnon is hilarious as always, even if her part isn’t the best written.

Lily James plays Jack Malik’s manager (Ellie Appleton) when he is unknown and soon loses the gig when his new batch of songs come out, starting with “Yesterday.” She is also, unfortunately, the anchor that holds down what is an interesting film and drags it into mediocrity. She’s window-dressing and is given the worst dialogue in the film. James is also Jack’s love interest, but works only to serve Jack. In the end, Ellie is boring like watching a turtle roll an egg around a bathtub. Actually, that would be more interesting. I worry that James won’t get any roles once her cuteness has faded and age lines appear. 


From videoSixteenByNine

On the up side, the film has a lot of spot-on observations about the music industry. There are clever jokes added for big-time music buffs like how Oasis wouldn’t exist if The Beatles hadn’t existed. Another bonus for fans of BBC crime shows is that two major characters in the film were played by Sarah Lancashire from Happy Valley and Sanjeev Bhaskar from Unforgotten (among other shows). The film is also a reminder of how great The Beatle’s songs are. And there is a surprise near the end of the film that I would rate: “See it Twice.” It was touching and well-done bit of alternate history.

Mild spoiler section
The romance in the film is “dramatic” because it gives us a false choice between Jack becoming a huge star and leaving Ellie, or Jack choosing NOT to become a star and staying with Ellie. I have grown impatient with false choices in film. This does not work at all. It was schmaltzy and overly-sentimental. He of course chooses Ellie. How cliché is that? Why not try both?

Another issue is the choice of songs in the film. Malik is a soloist, and starts playing Beatles songs that lend themselves to one instrument, like “Yesterday.” However, the writers Jack Curtis and Richard Barth didn’t choose “Norwegian Wood” or “Blackbird.” Instead, they used some songs from their early albums such as “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” and “I Saw Her Standing There.” Those are boy-band songs and not their best. 


Rating: Rent it/Stream it. There is nothing in Yesterday you won’t catch on the small screen. The cliché romance and derivative plot points that vomit forth from the romance nearly ruins a good film. Here’s some advice for the writers and director: get the romance right, or leave it out. Get someone who can write romance to help you avoid romance tropes and hackneyed plots and rewrite those scenes. And give the female lead better lines and more agency. 

Tex Shelters

Mother!  An exploitation film pretending to be art is still an exploitation film.

In Uncategorized on May 10, 2019 at 15:01
mother!, oh brother!


“mother!” is a film that is trying to shock us but it craps out into ridiculousness. Trying to make their point leads to exploitation. I started yelling Get Out! inside my head near the end of the first act when mother! was having a bad time. She just didn’t leave. Neither did I when the signs of a disaster of a film appeared.

Their house, the house of mother! and man, is in the middle of nowhere. And I don’t care. Earth is also in the middle of nowhere astronomically, if you know what I mean, and do you think inhabitants of other worlds care? I don’t think so.

Yes, “mother!” is a multi-allegory story. It looks good, but it lacks story craft and subtlety. It smacks us relentlessly in the face with drama and terrible human behavior. Or is it terrible? The behavior was obviously out of the norm. And we are supposed to accept it because it’s an allegory about the world and god. Woo hoo! It’s just stupid and obvious and not compelling at all.

Rating: I want my money back. An exploitation film pretending to be art is still an exploitation film.

Tex Shelters

Jordan Peele’s “Us”-a good horror film

In Uncategorized on April 1, 2019 at 21:25

3 Us
is decent, for a horror film. I break down the three acts:

Act 1: too slow, not enough foreshadowing or poorly done foreshadowing.
Act 2: Action, action, action. Elisabeth Moss shines!
Act 3: WTF! in a good way. 

The cast was good, but Winston Duke who played Jordan…I mean Gabe Wilson the father, was the weakest. He has the comedy down, but not the drama. His “other” was the least scary of the family, though he is the biggest of them by far. Lupita Nyong’o was excellent as was their son played by Evan Alex. The daughter’s scary other is fantastically creepy, but her regular self missed the mark at times. Only Nyong’o could carry both roles well. 

The precipitating events to the horror could have been better played. More motivation for the event would have help like a mysterious noise that only the girl heard, a flashing light, a rabbit that runs on to the beach that the girl follows, would have made the events scarier and not just an unmotivated fancy of the character. Perhaps a director’s cut could put that in. 

Props to Mr. Peele for not making up a convenient fake science reason for the events in the film. There was a weird monologue by Nyong’o’s other, but that was it. Not much of an explanation was required. The filming was good, but nothing stood out was fabulous. The choice of music was at time humorous, at times, just filler.

Rating: Matinee. In the end, it’s a horror film, not a social phenomenon like Get Out. Still, if you like the horror genre, or Nyong’o, see it. 

Tex Shelters

“Everybody Knows”, and some of us aren’t happy about it: a film review 

In Uncategorized on March 23, 2019 at 19:19

To the Tune of Everybody Knows by Leonard Cohen:

Everybody knows, the film is too long.
Everybody knows, what would happen next
Everybody knows that Spain is lovely,
and Everybody Knows the plot is dreck
Everybody knows about over acting, Penelope Cruz she does it best
as bad films go, Everybody Knows

Everybody knowsFrom https://www.slashfilm.com

Okay, that’s tired, but I made my point. ‘Everybody Knows’ is too long, and even the surprises are predictable. It’s a stylish mess. 

The big scene in the opening of the film is a wedding with guests arriving as a way of introducing us to the main characters. But unlike the wedding scene in the Godfather, it’s tedious and way too long. I never thought I would say this, but some Spaniards are boring. 

There is no foreshadowing in the film, no interesting characters, nothing ominous about it. It’s the most boring kidnapping film I have ever seen, and I hate kidnapping films. Okay, there are exceptions, like ‘The Crying Game.’ But in that film, the stakes were high and while you understood the IRA position and reason for the kidnapping, you empathized the kidnapped limey bastard soldier’s plight. And in ‘The Crying Game’, the acting is superb. 

Yes, the kidnapping in ‘Everybody Knows’ is supposed to be tragic and dramatic, but with the dialogue, plot elements, predictability, and Cruz’s overacting, the only tragedy is how poorly it plays. Yes, the kidnapped teenager is cute, likes to dance, and gets into trouble. How is that unlike lots of teenagers? A big problem is she didn’t get enough air time to care about her. And I didn’t.

You can read other critics who will say this film is full of tension. My need to urinate brought the most tension during the film. Actually, I would have enjoyed the reprieve of going to the bathroom. Alas, no urge to pee and no urge sit through this film came upon me. 

Did I say it was predictable? All the actors darken this film. I blame the writing and directing. It is a jumble of few ideas that don’t come to anything.

Rating: I want my money back.
I was about to leave The Loft, but I wanted to see how terrible the ending would be and give my review credibility. That’s 0 for Bardem’s last 2. Get with it and play another killer like in ‘Sky Fall’ and ‘No Country for Old Men.’ On bright spot: ‘Everybody Knows’ wasn’t sexist like ‘Mother’ or nearly as terrible. 

Tex Shelters

Glass: Half Full

In Uncategorized on January 27, 2019 at 19:39

psykologen-ellie-staple-sarahImage from Daily Mail UK

M. Night Shyamalan completes his comeback with his latest film, Glass, a good film but not a masterpiece. The plot twists at the end makes sense, and it was surprising. The film has one ending, then a surprise reveal, than a twist. Not once did my mind say, “That’s bull$hit!” Anyone that knows my reviews understands that I like to take down overrated and pretentious films. While Glass stumbles at times with its narrative, it doesn’t try to do too much and there are some wise choices made by Shyamalan along the way when the film could have been derailed. 

The premise is interesting and a follow up to an idea introduced in Unbreakable: superheroes do exist and comic books are a true telling of their exploits. In our world, that’s farfetched, but in the world of Glass/Split/Unbreakable, it makes sense. One great choice was not to leave us with an obvious opening for a sequel. Sure, there is some unfinished business for Dr. Ellie Staple, played with sickly sweat danger by Sarah Paulson. Paulson out acted all the superheroes.  

Speaking of acting, the three male leads did their part, but none of them live up to their potential. The lesser of the three was Jame McAvoy. His dissociative identity disorder (DID) was overplayed in Glass. The change in alters made little sense most of the time and they should have kept it limited to a few so all identities. It became ridiculous after awhile. By the time I met a new alter, it would leave for another. Only four really mattered: Dennis, Kevin, Patricia, and the Beast, and the film would have been better if those four were the only ones on the screen while the others remain hidden. 

Bruce Willis as David Dunn had little to say and the part could have been played by anyone. Samuel Jackson was good for the time he had on the screen where Mr. Glass’s mind wasn’t disabled due to drugs. This film should give him the firm lead over Harrison Ford in all-time film grosses. However, the film wasn’t about the stars, it was about the situation, and in the end, that was okay. 

The filming was good, the edits fine, the music, un-noticed. The special effects were limited, mainly to The Beast, and that was an excellent choice. Glass didn’t play like a superhero film as much as it played like a supernatural thriller. And that works. 

Rating: Matinee. There were some problems with the logic in the film, and that keeps it from a higher rating. For spoilers and an explanation, read below 

Tex Shelters 

P.S. M. Night Shyamalan needs to stop with the pointless cameos. This one was embarrassing. 

Warning, Spoilers!


Glass Spoilers

If Kevin’s alters can be controlled with flashing lights, why didn’t he put the sheets or the pillow from the bed in his room over his eyes and rush the strobes? They needed to explain that in the film. 

Why didn’t Casey (from Split) urge Kevin (one the alters) to turn into the beast at the end of the film to fight the bullet wound and not die?

It served no purpose to have the three superheroes in the same room with Dr. Staple at the same time. Give me a reason, MNS!

Did Mr. Glass convince Dr. Staple, somehow, to bring in Dunn and Kevin? If so, show us how.

Why is Mr. Glass so obsessed with people knowing superhumans exist?