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.

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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.

Hacksaw Ridge: Mel Gibson’s redemption song 

Desmond Doss(Andrew Garfield) didn’t want to be a hero, but his upbringing and religious beliefs put him on a path of life preservation. The first conscientious objector to win the Medal of Honor, Doss earned that prestigious honor by saving 75 lives during one of the most deadly battles in World War II.

It’s a tale that deserved cinematic treatment and required the right director to spin it just right. Enter banished actor/director Mel Gibson.


In a way, Gibson and Doss needed each other. They also needed an actor like Garfield to bring this legendary character to life. The trio hit a home run together.

Gibson hasn’t graced mainstream movie theater screens much lately. Outside of the Sylvester Stallone fun bag mash-up sequel Expendables 3, Gibson hasn’t been able to break through and there’s a reason everybody knows. Right or wrong, the tale of World War II hero Doss will bring the talented yet controversial actor back into the light and for good reason. Hacksaw Ridge is one of the best movies of 2016 and reminded me of Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan.

Doss’ tale wasn’t an easy one to tell, and more than likely the reason for the long walk to the cinema. The battle atop the infamous ridge in Okinawa isn’t fertile ground for most filmmakers. You either go there or you don’t go there. All in or nothing. There is no middle ground with World War II flicks. The carnage and brutality of war during those battles wasn’t as prevalent as the unique heroics that the conscientious objector fought inside himself.

Doss’ religious beliefs kept him from using a weapon, but they didn’t save him from a rough childhood. The son of an alcoholic World War I veteran(Hugo Weaving) who did his best to steer his kids away from enlisting, Doss didn’t feel right sitting at home while others around him fought and either died or were badly injured. Before he heads off, Doss met and fell in love with Dorothy(Teresa Palmer), and this woman gives him extra purpose to serve his country and come home.

A bulk of the first hour is spent with Doss in boot camp, where his beliefs are less than well received by his fighting peers. Soldiers like Smitty(Luke Bracey, almost making us forget the Point Break remake) misjudge his stance as cowardice instead of religious stubbornness. Sergeant Howell(Vince Vaughn, sliding nicely back into drama) and Captain Glover(Sam Worthington) don’t know what to do with him.

After initial hesitation, Doss and company are sent off to war and that is where Gibson’s skills as a director are on full display. After using a subtle approach in establishing Doss’ upbringing and purpose, the director switches to full throttle action mode in the battle scenes. When the soldiers climb the ill fated rope to the top of the ridge, the shock and horror is reminiscent of Spielberg’s Normandy Beach rush. Bullets flying through heads, explosions cutting bodies in half, and the hysteria and sudden blast of war will sear your eyes in stretches. It is the only way to properly tell Doss’ story.

He ran into this madness without a weapon to protect him and if ever was a movie for the times, it’s Hacksaw Ridge. In a modern world full of unnecessary violence and despair, Gibson shows you a guy who decided to do things the hard way yet saved more lives than anybody with a gun ever could. The powerful aspects of this film won’t leave you alone.

Gibson, torn apart for his obscene religious rant, may acquit himself by placing a heroic character who did these good deeds because he was driven by his own religion and its values. Something tells me the filmmaker gravitated towards this tale for a reason. As I noted earlier, the story and the film needed each other.

Garfield is the real deal here. The 33 year old actor has dazzled filmgoers in Social Network, Never Let Me Go, and the recent 99 Homes but Doss brings out the best in his abilities. Playing Peter Parker in The Amazing Spider Man films helps him command the screen for two plus hours, and shows what kind of chops this young man has in store as he ages gracefully on the big screen. It took the right amount of heart, charisma, restraint, and bravado to bring Desmond T. Doss to the big screen, and Garfield is brilliant here. Without him, Gibson’s film is blind deer in the woods.

Hacksaw Ridge isn’t pretty and it doesn’t play nice. It will knock you down and horrify you at times. The sights and sounds probably won’t leave your mind for quite some time. What Gibson and Garfield do is show you what true courage looks like in the face of insurmountable odds.

Desmond T. Doss isn’t just the hero World War II needed. He’s the war hero 2016 needs to remember.

Come award time, Gibson and Garfield deserve recognition for their execution here.

The Weekly Dose: In case you missed it

Wake up god damn it! Here is what you missed from the past week.

KSDK

Gilmore Girls is back and here’s why I am in the mood for some Graham

David Freese lifted up my family in 2011. Here’s why. 

Fernandez/Taveras: Harsh lessons learned

Inside STL

Tom Hanks five best performances

Buffa’s Bits #3

What’s with the Joe Buck hate?

Interview with Quarry/Banshee Greg Yaitanes

St Louis Game Time

Tarasenko has a personality

Elliott’s return

There it is! All the doses fit to ship. Come back next week for another weekly dose.

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Miami Marlins
Apr 8, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Marlins starting pitcher Jose Fernandez (16) looks on in the eighth inning against the Atlanta Braves during on opening night at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

 

 

 

 

Quarry: Pulpy action drama packs a wallop

Cinemax scored another gem with Quarry. Now is the time to get in and watch the entire first season.

There’s a scene during the pilot for Quarry, Cinemax’s new pulpy action anthem of a fall series, where a man and woman have a complex conversation without a single word of dialogue being exchanged. It’s all in the looks on their faces, the movement of their bodies, and the events that led up to it. It is the last scene in this haunting comic strip opening of a show from director/exeuctive producer Greg Yaitanes and creators Graham Gordy and Michael D. Fuller.

Yaitanes brings his Banshee magic to the story of Mac(Logan Marshall-Green), a Vietnam vet who returns home to Memphis in 1972 under the fiery implications of wrong conduct overseas. Calling Mac haunted is like calling a couple fingers of Jack Daniels strong. The man has a caged animal inside his heart rattling around as he reconnects with his wife Joni(Jodi Belfour) and tries to stay on an even keel and adjust to society, part of which doesn’t want anything to do with him.

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Fuller and Gordy do a superb job of transcribing the source material of Max Allan Collins(Road to Perdition), whose graphic novel the series is based off of, to the small screen in a way that is invigorating and puts a fresh spin on the crisis that surrounded Vietnam for Americans and their families in the 1970’s. Coming off a decade where a President and two National motivating world changing speakers were assassinated and a war that many didn’t understand took place, Quarry works off a juicy springboard to create a compelling action drama. Continue reading “Quarry: Pulpy action drama packs a wallop”

‘Sully’: Hanks/Eastwood greatness 

Here is a film that presents a simple question. Does being a hero bring a bigger burden on the subject than the legacy set in motion by his actions?

Sully is an Oscar worthy film. Consider Clint Eastwood and Tom Hanks’ collaboration the first heavyweight out of the box as the summer silliness at the theater concludes and the big hitters step up to the box for awards consideration.


Thank you Clint for wrapping this triumphant true story and feel good tale in a tightly wound package of 96 well earned minutes. There isn’t a scene that goes wasted and every dramatic turn isn’t overplayed for the crowd to roll their eyes at. The Academy can go ahead and ship awards to sound effects editor Jason King and film editor Blu Murray.

Eastwood’s greatest tool as a director is restraint and the ability to not overstep even a story like Captain Chesley Sullenberger, who brought a damaged plane carrying 155 passengers to safety right on the Hudson River. The film tackles the 2009 rescue from multiple angles, including the toll it took on the pilot.

When the film was announced, some moviegoers questioned the validity of the need for an adaptation of Sullenberger’s autobiography. Was there enough story to back up the need for a cinematic retelling of an event?

Let me answer that bluntly. Yes. If you can combine the award winning power play team of Eastwood and Hanks with an amazing true story, it’s impossible to pass up. There’s also more juice to the story than some may presume heading in.

Sullenberger battled with his own demons after the event, and it triggered nightmares that will be sure to evoke scary memories of planes crashing through New York City. As the rescue was under investigation, Sully’s life was taken apart and the spotlight blinded the veteran pilot. Here was a guy who landed several hundred planes safely and was being soaked under a hot lamp for a matter of minutes in the air.

It would be a ham job to merely say Hanks gets better with age so let me put it this way. He’s in a league of his own. The Oscar winner slips into the tortured skin of Sullenberger with ease and never makes you feel as if an actor is taking advantage of your attention. It’s a masterful performance that echoes Eastwood’s restrained approach. 99 percent of actor would have overacted the part ruthlessly and squandered the role. Hanks is a careful methodically performer and doesn’t hide a thing without calling attention to himself.

Aaron Eckhart, playing Sully’s co-pilot Jeff Skiles, is very good and represents the first of a solid combination for the actor this fall. After a few years of thankless roles and wasted work, Eckhart has found his groove again and is using real heroic men to get it done. Later this year, he will play Kevin Rooney, the trainer to Miles Teller’s Vinny Pazienza in Ben Younger’s Bleed For This. Here, Eckhart creates a nice rapport with Hanks and the two have an off the cuff candid ease on camera. It’s nice to see actor back in tune.

Laura Linney and Anna Gunn provide solid support as Lorraine Sullenberger and Dr. Elizabeth Davis while Holt McCallany and Mike O’ Malley are great as Mike Cleary and Charles Porter. It’s seasoned vet Brett Clark’s Captain Carl Clark that has the best line of the movie when he talks about having good news about New York and planes.

The true mint of Sully is the plane landing sequences. Eastwood and his visual effects team don’t take away any view or angle of the event and thrust the viewer into the action. It’s as if we are analyzing the event as well as the committee looking into Sully’s quick on the move decision making. The film’s fast pace is aided by a promise to never fester in one scene for too long.

Eastwood directs with a methodical joystick in most of his films, but rightfully lets this story walk the walk. He infuses his classic light piano driven score and doesn’t overpower the scenes or actors.

The result is a feel good drama with strong technical aspects and a light touch when needed. It’s an old fashioned treat that will drift into your mind for days. What makes a hero such? The action itself or the ability to stand your ground after and defend your action. When it comes to the idea of an ordinary man doing an extraordinary thing, you won’t find a better tale than Chesley Sullenberger and the Miracle on the Hudson.

The movie manages to be as good as the story, showing respect to the subjects as well as giving the audience a great ride.

Come Oscar time, you will hear Sully’s name.