Month: October 2016

Quarry: Pulpy action drama packs a wallop

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. (more…)

‘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.

Jose Fernandez: Baseball lost a true stud 

Miami Marlins righthanded phenom Jose Fernandez threw his last pitch on Tuesday, September 20th against the Washington Nationals. He completed eight innings and struck out 12 batters from one of Major League Baseball’s best lineups. The kind of game baseball appreciators would have seen for years from the talented kid who was always smiling. 

On September 25th, he died tragically in a boating accident. He was 24 years old. Far too young to die. When you least expect it, death and life come together in an ungodly fashion and take a bright young person away. Nearly two years ago, the fine young St. Louis Cardinals talent Oscar Taveras died in a drunk driving car accident. The feeling this morning is eerily similar. A shot to the stomach. 

The baseball world lost a true stud. What is a stud? When someone is merely doing their job and it becomes an event to watch them do that job, that person is a stud. When Fernandez pitched, it was an event. Akin to a Saturday night PPV boxing match or playoff game in October. 
On July 28th, Fernandez faced the Cardinals for the last time and surrendered 5 runs and lost. A fellow Cuban star connected to Fernandez’s path, Aledmys Diaz, hit a home run off of him. It was a true event to watch the two childhood friends square off. You could take away the other players on the field and leave the pitcher, catcher, and the hitter standing between them at the plate and it would be electrifying entertainment. 

There should have been more Fernandez and Diaz showdowns. More back and forth talent contests. Fastballs clocking in close to 100 mph taking their chances with premium bat speed. Man, that’s just tough to swallow. 

That is the kicker. We will never know what Fernandez could have been and it’s painful. He had the makings of Felix Hernandez with a dash of Max Scherzer and Carlos Martinez thrown in for good measure. His MLB career will conclude with a 38-17 record, 2.58 ERA, and 589 strikeouts in just 471.1 innings. His ERA+ was 150, which is ridiculously unfair to hitters in any ballpark. He averaged 12.5 strikeouts per nine innings. 

He was the kind of pitcher who made the best hitters in baseball glare back at him after a strikeout as if they were mentally calling the baseball police for the pitcher  being especially mean to their bats. Fernandez was a special talent. 

More so, he was a budding family man. His young wife is expecting their child and Fernandez couldn’t have been more excited. In an Instagram post showing off his wife’s beautiful baby bump, he talked about the journey a kid would take them on and preached, “family is first.” He wasn’t just a talented athlete. Fernandez had his priorities straight and was a good guy. 

He was heavily involved in a charity foundation that fought cancer and raised awareness for its victims called Live Like Bella. He wanted to do good things. This is a guy who saved his mother from drowning when they were defecting from Cuba. It didn’t matter if there was a baseball diamond or not, Fernandez brought his A game every single day of his life. 

Now, he is gone. Way too soon. 24 years old isn’t long enough for anyone, but Fernandez made a dent in his short yet robust life. 

I’ll remember the fiery competitor that was easy to admire and respect. 

I’ll remember the smile that illuminated a packed stadium every time it stretched. 

I’ll remember the look on a hitter’s face when he was overmatched by a Fernandez offering. 

Most of all, I’ll remember the kid’s heart that seemed larger than life. 

Jose Fernandez was on top of the world, and now he is out of it for good. 

Take a few moments today. Watch some highlights. Watch him pitch. It will make you feel better about the game of baseball. 

‘The Girl on a Train’: Blunt elevates material

**I’d like to welcome film critic Landon Burris to the Dose. He will be supplying the site with a few movie reviews to keep the ceiling from getting too dusty. He’s a guy who knows his movies and grades them with a blunt instrument. Here are his thoughts on the latest cinema treats. 


Movie – The Girl on the Train
Rating –
Runtime –
112 minutes
Directed by –
Tate Taylor
  Emily Blunt, Haley Bennett, Rebecca Ferguson, Justin Theroux, Luke Evans, Edgar Ramirez, Lisa Kudrow and Allison Janney

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Based on the pulpy Paula Hawkins novel that can be found at any grocery store, Wal-green’s or, appropriately enough, train station, The Girl on the Train is an adult thriller that is never as sexy or clever as it wants to be but still manages to be an entertaining, and, occasionally, affecting piece of cinema.  Carrying the film is Brit actress Emily Blunt, whose portrayal as the titular girl that likes to ride the train, Rachel, elevates the material.

Working against the film’s favor are the multiple comparisons, warranted or not, to 2014’s outstanding Gone GirlThe Girl on the Train is the highest profile film of its sort since Gone Girl, and the similar themes and Universal’s marketing beg for the association.  However, The Girl on the Train simply does not have as clever of a script, and it’s director, Tate Taylor (best known for 2011’s The Help) is unable to deliver much more than the sterilized, squeaky clean suburban look and creates a mystery by withholding key plot details, and even then most will figure out the film’s twist before the big reveal.

Granted, the film is still quite entertaining, and its initial premise is fairly clever.  Rachel is a sad and depressed woman, who gets her kicks by watching the lives of others out the windows of a train she takes to and from Manhattan on a daily basis.  She zeroes in on the seemingly idealistic life of a couple in a beautiful home (played by Haley Bennett and Luke Evans), and is genuinely interested in what’s happening to them.  It all seems strange enough, and becomes stranger when it’s revealed that Rachel used to live two houses over from the one she’s obsessing over, where her ex-husband Tom Watson (Theroux) lives with his new wife Anna (Ferguson) and their infant daughter.

Complicating things is Rachel’s alcoholism and seeming obsession with her ex, whom she regularly calls and texts, usually during states of excessive drunkenness or even periods of blacking out.  Rachel’s life is in such shambles that she crashes on a friend’s couch and even showed up drunk at Tom’s house one night, attempting to steal his baby in the process.  However, Rachel is the film’s heroine, even as she humiliates herself and pours vodka into her water bottles, one cannot help but pity her and hope things work out.

While Blunt is never deglamorized enough to look like a truly hopeless alcoholic (though her nose is a rosy red hue for almost the entirety of the proceedings), her struggles and pain as she copes with her problems are perhaps the film’s best assets.  She’s a sympathetic character, and her connections to the film’s main mystery, where a girl Megan, the one who Rachel fixates on during her train commutes, disappears without a trace, make Rachel an unreliable and tragic witness.  That Rachel can barely remember certain events due to her intoxication certainly does not help either.

The Girl on the Train dabbles in issues and topics that are often overlooked or ignored, outside of its protagonist being a serious alcoholic, the film also touches on themes of domestic and verbal abuse, as well as women feeling like domestic prisoners.  That said, the film’s all white, privileged leads (who all, even down to Rachel, seem to have enough money to not care) and muddled story structure prevent it from being as poignant as it should be, and the film’s “shocking” conclusion borders more on camp than it does legitimate chills.  Emily Blunt’s performance and the bells and whistles of being a major studio picture keep Girl on the Train from being a Lifetime movie of the week, and the movie is not a terrible way to spend two hours in the theater, but one cannot help to think that it could have been something more.

Rating: 3/5(worth the trip)

Fallen cop should make us be better

I didn’t know Blake Snyder. I feel like I got to know him today too late. He was a 33 year old cop with a wife and two year old kid. Cute, right? Blake was shot and killed this morning when he responded to a disturbance call in Affton. An 18 year old shot him point blank as Blake got out of his squad car, voicing the young man to show him his hands.

This is just terrible. Blake served St. Louis County police for four years and had a two year old son that won’t have a fucking clue why dad isn’t coming home tonight. In case you forgot or don’t have kids, two years old is when a kid starts to recognize, download, and capture every thought and reaction. They start to get it. I can’t imagine the pain and torment swirling through the Snyder home right now.


Death has zero fucks to give about your personal situation. It lands down and takes, and leaves before you can file a complaint. It’s a real son of a bitch. Right now, his wife is having to plan a memorial, funeral, and other things that she didn’t plan on this week.

Blake got up this morning thinking it was just going to be another day at the office. Strap on the badge, put on the gun, and protect and serve a little. He won’t go home tonight.

We live in such a violent, cruel, and unforgiving world with enough cynicism and hate to fill a galaxy. When are we going to come to grips with ourselves and the ability to end life? It’s a disease that is spreading. It has nothing to do with white and black and everything to do with right and wrong. White and black lives matter. All life matters. 

Do me a favor and try to be less cynical tomorrow when you wake up. If you have to be cynical, do it in the afternoon and evening briefly. Cut that shit away. Hug your kids. Shake a friend’s hand. Kiss your loved ones. Smile more than frown. Do something happy. Go to bed with a sentimental vibe. Look around. Appreciate the time. Some don’t get enough of it. Some barely get any at all.

It’s okay to be sentimental, folks. It basically means you are allowing yourself to be optimistic. We need more of that and less of the killing thing.

The difference between a smile and a sad face is a mere decision to make it that way.

Blake Snyder wasn’t a perfect man. There’s a fair probability that he could be a real asshole on occasion and maybe even perform some practical jokes. He was also a good man who, according to his chief of police, liked helping people and that is why he became a cop in his late 20’s and not his early 20’s.

There’s no doubt that I look at this painful tragedy and think of my own situation. I am a 34 year old man, one year older than Blake. I will be 35 in February. I have a wife and a five year old son. Over a decade ago, I applied to be a St. Louis County police officer. I aced the written tests. Passed the physical and the video analysis. I never heard back from them. I didn’t become a cop and instead entered the warehouse industry and eventually, writing and radio. I will be home with my family tonight.

Blake will not and that really screws me up. I sit back and imagine what his son is thinking. I imagine what Vin would think if I wasn’t coming home. During our 20 months in Arkansas, Vin and I became closer than ever. We did everything together. We were two peas in a pod. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Best friends. Allies.

I can’t leave without Vin asking where I am going. I can’t return home and touch my front door without  a massive hug from Vinny. He needs his dad. I need him. Separating that cord is a scary thought. I can’t stop thinking about that today. The “What if” game….is a mindfuck.

Let’s all try to be better tomorrow. Less violent. More forgiving. Smile more. Frown less. Be more sentimental than cynical. The world has cynicism for days.

Rest in peace, Blake. I didn’t know you but I’ll try to be better from here on out.