‘Manchester by the Sea’: An uncompromising masterpiece

Manchester by the Sea doesn’t care about your feelings and that’s its greatest asset.

Manchester by the Sea doesn’t play by the rules and that is its greatest asset as a film.

Writer/Director Kenneth Lonergan(You Can Count on Me) places his characters in a pot and puts the heat on low for his two hour plus film that is equal parts heartbreaking, compassionate, honest, and ruthlessly unconventional. If you want a film with a nicely tightened bow on the final act of the film, go elsewhere. Lonergan cares more about his characters than the audience’s feelings of complacency.

Lee Chandler(Casey Affleck, better than ever) is a sad man and you don’t know why. He’s unclogging toilets and fixing showers while his heart noticeably remains overstuffed and in need of repair. He keeps to himself, drinks like a fish, and gets into random fights that his fists dictate. He is one of those people who doesn’t mind if you place you burden on his shoulders, as long as you don’t ask him about his own. He doesn’t want to talk. As he tells another late in the film, “I can’t beat it.” What it is will break your heart? Continue reading “‘Manchester by the Sea’: An uncompromising masterpiece”

‘Rogue One’: A soulful addition to ‘Star Wars’ universe

Jyn Erso(Felicity Jones) learned at a very young age what it feels like to lose everything you love. When her father Galen(Mads Mikkelson), one of the architects behind the Death Star, is taken in to finish plans for construction of the evil empire vessel, she is forced to grow up the hard way. Without parents to guide her upbringing, life leads her on a path towards criminality, and into the hands of the rebellion, led by Diego Luna’s Cassian Andor.

Welcome to a prequel that works and aides the following films instead of feeling tacked on for good measure and money clip tightening.

Image result for rogue one chirrut

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story skips the usual opening quirks and exerts itself quickly. It is director Gareth Edwards’ attempt to make his own Star Wars saga and also properly introduce new exciting characters like Jyn, Cassian, Donnie Yen’s Chirrut, Riz Ahmed’s Bodhi Rook, and Forest Whitaker’s Saw Gerrera. While lacking the slam bang spectacle of 2015’s Star Wars: A Force Awakens, this prequel to the very first film, A New Hope, is an exciting addition to the family that will quench the thirst of Star Wars addicts needing something before the next sequel that is set to arrive next December. Continue reading “‘Rogue One’: A soulful addition to ‘Star Wars’ universe”

Ryan Reynolds and Deadpool: From zero to Golden Globe hero

Many believe that Deadpool is a long shot to win Best Motion Picture-Musical or a Comedy at the 2017 Golden Globes, but producer and star Ryan Reynolds is used to those odds.

After all, it took eleven years for Ryan Reynolds to convince Hollywood to let him make his version of Deadpool, but sometimes the long game is what wins in the land of make believe. The wait has paid off, as it shattered box office records, made an R-rated comic book film and comedy sexy again, and finds itself nominated for two Golden Globe awards.

The merc with a dark sense of humor was one of the most highly anticipated releases coming into the 2016 movie season, but it blew projections out of the water. On a 58 million dollar budget(basically the salary of one huge fight scene in an Avengers movie), Deadpool grossed 135 million on its opening weekend. It went on to clear 363 million domestically and over 763 million worldwide. How about that for some fresh chimichangas!

20th Century Fox

The movie, now playing on premium cable, holds up well after multiple viewings. Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick’s script is chock full of juicy one liners and extreme hilarity that hit the mark just as smooth as they did the first time. The quiet slams and high brow nods to previous superhero flicks is also well done. The movie simply doesn’t get old.

Reynolds, 40 years old in October, needed Deadpool as much as the source material needed him. He was working steadily in Hollywood, but hadn’t carved a spot for himself or truly found a role to call his own. A sense of humor and a few mildly successful comedies don’t carry you far unless you do something incredible, especially after you turn the corner on 40. Playing Wade Wilson and helping produce was the icebreaker for Reynolds and his career.

R-rated comedies don’t gross 763 million anywhere. R-rated Marvel comedies with one main character/anti-hero don’t come close to that number. Deadpool’s wild success paved the way for a sequel(coming in 2018) and transferred Reynolds to the A-list.

Reynolds isn’t favored to win the Best Actor-Motion Picture Musical or Comedy, but he can take solace in rewriting the book on how a wild idea can turn into a monster hit with the right brain trust and energy behind it. He created something unique with Deadpool, and Hollywood took notice while fans wanted more.

Don’t forget about your grandparents

A call or visit goes a long way, so make it happen.

December 11th is a shitty day for me and for an easy reason; Five years ago, my grandmother Meme took a fall down a flight of steps. 13 days later, she was gone, and my family took a shot to the kidneys of its foundation.

Henrietta “Meme” Bulus was as loving of a person as you could get. She wanted to know everything about you inside five minutes, even if she had only met you a minute ago. She wasn’t writing a book, but simply keeping tabs on you for good reason. She would grab your forearm, pull you in close, and focus 105 percent of her attention on you. It was if Barbara Walters was taking place right in front of you right at this very minute.

It reminds of a timeless message. A piece of advice if you will. Don’t forget about your grandparents. Life moves quick, and rarely slows down to allow you to check and update your planner. Phone calls are simple easy ways to stay in touch, but paying them a visit is an entirely different world of devotion. You show up, and it’s like Brad Pitt or Julia Roberts walked into the room in the form of their grandchild. 15-30 minutes. Perhaps an hour.  Continue reading “Don’t forget about your grandparents”

Loving: A movie for the times 

Mildred and Richard Loving didn’t ask for any extra attention. They just wanted to be married and live a happy life like anyone else. It was what they thought was their God given right in this world. Find someone you love, ask them to spend the rest of their life with you, and try to survive. For this interracial couple in Virginia in the racially contested times, it was anything but a given.

Jeff Nichols new film, Loving, is a timely film worth seeing.

Nichols is a gifted writer/director whose best paint brush as a filmmaker is restraint and his best writing tool is straight forward storytelling. He has no room for nonsense or melodrama. Every bit of powerful drama is earned. His films are a testament to family and tales that make you feel something.

He tackled existential crisis in Take Shelter. He gave Matthew McConaughey the role of a lifetime in Mud. He tackled the idea of aliens and government control in Midnight Special. 

Here, he brings to light the world altering case of Loving vs. Virginia and it’s a classic Nichols joint. A performance driven simplistic tale about love and how the easiest of pursuits can sometimes involve the most complicated of journeys.

Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga are extraordinary as the Lovings. They don’t overact or wish to chew scenery. It’s all impulse driven work and two drops of restraint are used for every one push of emotion. If there isn’t a need for dialogue, Nichols lets the actors expressions and body movements do the trick.

In a tale this powerful, it would have been easy to pick up a baseball and swing as hard you could for the fences. Instead, the director and actors just let the story instruct their work and it keeps them from manipulating the audience.

The setting and location work like a supporting actor, as they often do in Nichols films. Remember how the Arkansas river played such a vital and trusted role in Mud? The cornfields and long winding roads are a part of this film’s DNA. It’s not just a background image. It’s a living breathing thing that supports the screenplay. David Wingo, a Nichols favorite, works a perfect blend of music that highlights the scenes without overpowering them.

This is a breakout performance for Edgerton. He’s been great before(Warrior, Zero Dark Thirty) but this is a challenging role for any thespian. Edgerton disguises his Australian accent and climbs into the role of this soft spoken yet compassionate Southern man. The way Edgerton gives off emotion through his facial expressions is something you can’t teach. It’s reminiscent of Heath Ledger’s work in Brokeback Mountain. An Aussie going full cowboy.

Negga’s work is just as strong, as he instills Mildred with a strength that speaks volumes long after you leave the theater. She could have overplayed a few moments, but she lets her piercing eyes do the heavy lifting. Her scenes with Edgerton are heartbreaking and beautiful at the same time.

This film will make you proud to be in love. Whether that is with someone or life itself, Loving teaches you how the strong bond of love can break down any wall of hardship in life. It’s a film for our times, and it’s not a showy exploration nor does it preach to the viewer. It simply tells you about a couple who wanted to live happily ever after and had to fight or the privilege.

In this world, it’s hard enough to find the right person to sail off into the sunset with. It can take years or decades. Jeff Nichols’ passionate tale reminds you that a long time ago, it wasn’t as easy to sustain that love once you found it.

Loving is a powerful timely tale that is worth your time and money.

**Originally posted on KSDK News. 

Breaking News: My retirement from writing

Writing and I are getting a divorce. Pour a drink, pull up a chair, and play the Michael Bolton music. There may be some man tear dust in the air here soon.

An old man once told me. Get out before you stink up the profession. Never mind the fact that he was drinking warm red bull and picking up a half eaten sandwich at Union Station, Perhaps, profound thoughts occur at your lowest point. Maybe he was really hungry and didn’t want to pity any fools. Either way, as old man advice will do, it hangs with you through the years.

The time has come for me to hang up the writing gloves and do something else.


What else? Badminton tournaments are an option. I’m not just talking about a middle school P.E. class battle between a punk kid and the overweight female gym teacher who doesn’t shave. I am talking about the biggest and baddest players on the earth. Natural geographic carnage. I’d seek these people out.

I could go to Francis Park and whisper sweet nothings into the statue by the fountain. Is there a fountain in Francis Park? Let’s table that one.

I could work at Dairy Queen for obvious reasons.

I could go out and get a real job.

Worldwide coffee shop philanderer could work. Go around the world, beg for coffee, get really worked up, and come home to recount my tales.

The radio business is soaking up some time so I could just talk more there. Being the voice that literally wakes up St. Louis takes time so I could work on that.

Writing is hard shit, bro. It’s homework for life. An everlasting chore. A need to impose a will that most find annoying. Delivering white hot passionate takes about the Cardinals only gets you 20 parody accounts and hate DM’s. What’s the worth?

Why write about who to find in the free agent trade market when a hundred other sets of hands are writing the same thing? It isn’t like Baseball Reference is special to just a few writers. WAR, OPS+, DRS. How about GTFOOH? Get the fuck out of here. Try that out. Oh, wait. You can’t say fuck. Family site. Too bad. Let Quentin Tarantino work it into his last film.

I could finally finish one of my seventeen screenplays. Wait, that’s writing. Scratched.

I could travel around and interview the safe zone dwellers who were struck down by the Donald Trump election triumph. We could discuss their future in dark caves in remote locations where all they can eat is ramen noodle and spam. Talk about Huff Post Podcast worthy.

I could be a better husband and father. Stop telling Vinny hold on or give me a minute while I finish an article. The minute really is an hour anyway. No, this won’t happen.

I now understand when people say enough is enough or a passion dies a thousand deaths in the right time of November with the temperature under 40 degrees. Sometimes, a thing just can’t last.

I could blame it on Tate Donovan. What a prick.

Hilary Clinton deleted my urge to inform.

Gordan Ramsay told me I had fat fingers.

The keyboard thinks I’m ugly and filed a lawsuit against my hands.

Tom Cruise didn’t run enough in my articles.

Hollywood wants to reboot my writing so I have to stop.

Bruno(the #1 Twitter handle for Cardinals knowledge, not the actor or musician) made me do it. (Imagining the sound of his high pitched voice telling me how bad I am makes my stomach hurt).

Daniel Winnett was no longer optimistic about my writing’s future.

John Mozeliak finished second in negotiating for my writing to continue.

Real Housewives wouldn’t whine about it.

The Bachelor didn’t give my writing a rose.

My writing went to the same restaurant that Tony Soprano went to before the fade to black and Journey song.

It went to the same doomed construction site that Stringer Bell went to.

It met Negan and that barbed wire baseball bat.

Let’s just say I have had enough and will retire from writing at the tender age of 34.

It started with 3,000 word email/rants to a group of friends.

It ends with KSDK, St. Louis Game Time, and Inside STL ramblings that look semi professional.

This is the end. Thanks for reading if you did. If not, thanks for leading to this decision.






By the way, this is all bullshit. There’s no way in hell that I’m stopping.

November FOOLS! Yes, that’s a new thing. Happy Thanksgiving!





Arrival: The best I’ve seen in 2016

Arrival, the remarkable new film from director Canadian director Denis Villenueve, is our story. Marketed as an aliens thriller, the movie will open your eyes and introduce a discussion after you leave the theater that you wouldn’t have expected going in. At times shocking and all together visceral and thought provoking, Arrival is the best film I’ve seen in 2016. Let me tell you why.

There are smart movie. Well crafted tales that make you nod in admiration. And then there are films that make you feel something emotional and it’s pleasantly overwhelming. They stick with you longer than the well crafted films because they make you determine your stance on something without forcing you into that point of view. Arrival is both of these things at once and the effect is amazing.

The setup is simple. Dr. Louise Banks(Amy Adams in a wonderfully layered performance) can decipher any language and is a world renowned linguist who is scarred by a tragic event. Her world is turned upside down when 12 mysterious alien aircrafts hover over 12 different countries, sparking an internal debate and international discussion on how to collectively respond.

Louise is recruited by Colonel Weber(Forest Whitaker) along with physicist Ian Donnelly(Jeremy Renner, showing his range) to figure out three things. What are they doing here? How did they get here? What do they want?

While Weber and the United States government battle over fundamentals and strategy with China and Russia, Louise figures that the best way to get answers is to properly communicate with them and that includes walking into the Alien ship over Montana and getting as close as possible to these creatures. Together with Ian, she risks more than just her life to figure out the million dollar question. Do the aliens want to do harm or help?

The amazing part about Villenueve’s film is the way it uses the alien subplot as camouflage to tell a truly moving and inspirational tale about our civilizations and how humans naturally react to something new, mysterious, and cryptic. The limitations in our species going back hundreds and thousands of years haven’t changed. Can we see through our initial fears and make the right decision? These themes and questions aren’t open and shut cases here. Villenueve and screenwriter Eric Heisserer don’t let you go easily. They want to set off alarms in your system.

Arrival attacks your brain and heart, and the visual effects involving the communication between Louise, Ian, and the aliens(who they name Abbott and Costello) never fail to take your breath away. The thrills come naturally and the action never overpowers the dramatic storyline.

The final act is one of the most original and emotionally powerful wraps to a movie in years. You won’t see it coming and simplicity can’t afford the rent in Heisserer’s script yet complexity doesn’t enter the room either. Saying the reveal will divide audiences is like saying the way a steak is prepared is meaningless. The trick is in the details and something I won’t begin to discuss or spoil.

I’ve seen too many movies so I can tell where they are going, but this film pulled the rug out from under me. Don’t let the Alien camouflage deter you. This is a fiercely human story.

Amy Adams is simply phenomenal as Louise. She brings layers of guilt, feeling, and knowledge to a tricky role that anchors the film. When you think about great actresses, Adams is at the top of the list and she refuses to slow down. Renner shows his versatility as Ian, a curious man who can’t turn his brain off whether he is in a tent deciphering science or in front of an alien war ship glass communicating with the unknown. He gives the role something extra without overcooking the dialogue. In films like The Bourne Legacy and the Avengers films, Renner has shown his easy going action hero swagger but here he reveals that nerdy fanboy lover also has residence on his ledger of possibilities.

Forest Whitaker and Michael Stuhlberg are great in smaller yet potent and important roles. Johann Johannsson’s score is perfectly constructed to elicit fear, wonder, and create energy. Bradford Young’s cinematography is Oscar worthy, taking a page from films like Aliens and Contact yet creating its own new world.

The film is based off Ted Chiang’s short story, “The Story of Your Life”, and lays fine groundwork for Heisserer’s expansive script and story. This film will hit you in places you didn’t think you needed protection for.

Arrival is the kind of movie I’d stand in traffic and tell people to make plans for. I’ve seen a few great movies this year, but none of them are as original and thought provoking as this one. Denis Villenueve positions himself as a renegade filmmaker to reckon with. He’s created a trio of films that astound in completely different ways. Prisoners, Sicario, and Arrival. Few directors are working on his level right now, and with his upcoming sequel to Blade Runner, my mouth is officially watering.

Everything about Arrival elicits a “Wow” reaction. It goes places films rarely go, and is smart and powerful at once without alienating the movie goer.

Show some self respect and go see this film. No tomorrow or Monday. Right now. Take a sick day. Find a theater and prepare to be blown away. You may find me in the seat next to you.

Arrival isn’t just good. It’s the best I’ve seen in 2016 and possibly, 2015 as well.