Category Archives: Movies

In THE LITTLE THINGS, Denzel Washington sticks around for more afternoon-cable pulp

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

There are times when it’s easy to lose patience with Denzel Washington for his steadfast dedication to being a movie star. Here is one of the best actors of his generation, a popular two-time Oscar winner with fine taste in theater classics and a willingness to complicate his megawatt charisma, who nonetheless frequently makes movies designed to play on some Turner-owned cable station or another in weekend-afternoon perpetuity.

Yet Washington, who has always appeared in pulp but has done so more often after 50, has stuck around in crime thrillers, vigilante thrillers, and serial-killer-chasing thrillers for so long that his junky one-for-them studio pictures can, under the right lighting, look like comfort. The Little Things, his new Warner Bros. movie premiering in theaters and HBO Max simultaneously, has the right lighting. Specifically, it’s lit in Diet David Fincher greens and streetlamps at night, a more richly moody look than anything I’ve seen before from writer-director John Lee Hancock. Hancock is taking a break from his usual Americana; rather than observing the men who caught Bonnie and Clyde or the unctuous franchising of McDonald’s or the white-knuckle production of Mary Poppins, he’s simply on the trail of Denzel Washington, on the trail of a serial killer, throwing back only so far as 1990. Canny, setting a cops-versus-killer narrative at the dawn of that narrative’s big-studio heyday.

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Women of Action: MONSTER HUNTER and SHADOW IN THE CLOUD

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

The recent movie Shadow in the Cloud sounds like it could be one of those occasional January miracles: an efficient, unpretentious genre mish-mash executed with no-fuss brawn and style. It’s about Maude Garrett (Chloe Grace Moretz), a WWII flight officer who hitches a last-minute ride on a bomber, where she is beset by sexism, then Japanese fighter planes, then gremlins. Shadow is so theoretically January-tastic that it dropped on the very first of the year, a rare release date made more feasible by the global pandemic, which has sent the film to first-run VOD as well as a few theaters simultaneously.

The hybrid release model is unusually appropriate for this movie; for its entire 83 minutes (or rather, for the 75 minutes it actually runs minus credits), it straddles the line between unusually ambitious, well-made trash and the chintzy direct-to-video garbage of old. The movie even provides its own convenient delineation: there’s the sizable chunk of the story confined to Maude’s cramped stay in the plane’s ball turret, communicating with her mostly-offscreen co-stars via radio, versus the mayhem-heavier sequences where she exits the ball turret to fight off those human-sized beasties. The filmmakers seem torn over whether its low-budget ridiculousness should be elegantly elided, or powered through with smash-and-grab energy.
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Liam Neeson Cosplays Late-Late-Period Clint Eastwood in THE MARKSMAN

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

There is no shortage of Clint Eastwood. He may not star in movies as regularly anymore, but his late-late-period career has featured so many roles that seemed like de facto retirement ceremonies that Gran Torino, Trouble with the Curve, and The Mule feel closer together than they are, spread out over the course of a decade. He has at least one more starring role to go; his movie Cry Macho is due out by the end of 2021. By then, he will be 91. The Mule, his last not-quite-last movie made $100 million in the United States. He is easily the most popular eighty-and-ninetysomething actor and director in Hollywood history.

Yet at some point, very likely in the next five to ten years, Clint Eastwood will no longer make movies. (This is not a prediction of his death, mind. If it’s easy to picture any movie star making it to 110, it’s Clint.) He will leave behind the perception that a certain segment of the moviegoing public really enjoys seeing middle-to-advanced-aged men put younger bad guys in their place. 2009’s Taken, starring Liam Neeson, is generally considered to have kicked off the modern strain of old-man-vengeance thrillers, but Eastwood was there a few weeks earlier with 2008’s Grand Torino, just as big a hit with an even older protagonist. (Neeson was a spry 57 when Taken came out, compared with Eastwood’s 79 at the same time.)
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The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: Wonder Woman 1984

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

What now seems like a solid century ago, we held a discussion about the 2017 smash hit Wonder Woman in the context of the modern superhero movie. Now Wonder Woman is back on the big screen but mainly on a bunch of small ones as Wonder Woman 1984 premieres on HBO Max to the delight/consternation of viewers, fans, critics, and Twitter People everywhere. A SportsAlcohol.com nerd crew of Rob, Jon, Jesse, and Marisa wade through our own reactions as well as some popular (and sometimes baffling!) internet gripes to discuss the pros and cons of Wonder Woman 1984, a sequel that, depending on your mileage, we may have liked more than you?! Listen up and find out!

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The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: Robert Zemeckis

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

Following up our recent career view of Sofia Coppola, the SportsAlcohol.com team turns their attention to a very different filmmaker, in celebration (?!) of the recent release (!?) of the new Robert Zemeckis version of The Witches. Experiencing this disappointment gave us an excuse to convene Marisa, Nathaniel, Jesse, and Jeremy, and talk about the ups and downs of this Spielberg protege, master craftsman, and low-key weirdo. It’s a long one, but we fulfill our usual goal of at least touching upon every feature film this director has made! Do you stump for Death Becomes Her? Hate Forrest Gump? Wonder what the hell was up with Welcome to Marwen? Have nightmares about The Polar Express? They’re all here!

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Every DCEU Movie, Ranked

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

Sure, there are twentysomething Marvel movies that we could sort and rank and argue over. In fact, the good people SportsAlochol once tried this as a group, and we may circle back to the project one day. But you know what’s a lot easier? Ranking the extended-universe movies from DC Comics, which kicked off in 2013 with the Superman reboot Man of Steel, and now, the better part of a decade later, continue to wonder around, stumbling across various megahits, disappointments, and flops, sometimes, somehow, in the same film. In celebration of the DCEU’s first actual sequel, the brand-new Wonder Woman 1984 hitting theaters and HBO Max in the U.S. on December 25th, here’s one man’s rundown of the whole DC shebang, before The Batman comes out in 2022 and makes it all even more confusing. All your favorites are here: Wonder Woman! And others! Like Enchantress! Now please let this all last long enough for them to make a Starfire movie!
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The Worst Movies of 2020

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

Usually, around November of each year, I contribute a ballot of fifteen terrible movies to the A.V. Club, which they aggregate into a list of the year’s worst films. In 2020, owing to a slowdown in studio movies (which usually provide at least a few juicy targets) and overall feelings that the year has had enough pain and punishment without asking critics to relive their worst experiences, my editor decided not to do a Worst-Of list. Elsewhere, there’s a growing consensus that Worst-Of lists are pointless endeavors, designed to reward cheap and easy snark; the exact opposite of what a critic should do.

As Adam Sandler says in Uncut Gems: I disagree.

Worst-of lists are cathartic. There are all kinds of bad movies critics wind up watching out of curiosity, completism, assignment, or, if you’re a freelancer trying to cover some bases, the futile hope that you may be able to parlay having seen it into an assignment. Sometimes you just want to write a few words to try to process the experience. Also: if the most valuable function of best-of lists is to shine a spotlight on movies you think people should prioritize, is it not helpful to explain which movies you found particularly unworthy of the time it takes to watch them? I tend to be pretty loose with recommendations; if you want to see a movie, I say, you should just see it. Read my review afterward. I’m not a consumer guide; who knows what you’ll like? That said, sometimes there are movies that deserve special attention, and sometimes that attention is not positive.

So, because I’m happy to keep the bad vibes flowing, here are my personal choices for the worst movies of 2020. I’ve quoted from my review when a review exists; otherwise, I re-opened these wounds and let some blood flow.
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The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: Sofia Coppola

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

Sofia Coppola’s new movie On the Rocks dropped on Apple TV (and a few theaters, apparently), and with a worldwide pandemic still raging, it felt like a good time to stay in and rewatch her other six movies and talk about her 20-year career so far. So that’s just what Marisa, Sara, Jesse, and Jeremy did in a comprehensive conversation, appreciation, and career overview. The gang’s all here: Bill Murray! Kirsten Dunst! Guilded cages! The birth of Josh Hartnett’s dirtbag cool! Amazing soundtrack cues! Anachronisms! The Godfather Part III! A short-lived MTV series! And more! If you love the current Best Coppola’s work as much as we do, you won’t want to miss this one.

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The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: What Makes Us Laugh

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

Look, it’s been a long sort-of quarantine for everyone, including your friends at SportsAlcohol.com, and we haven’t all completed the projects we thought would be our silver linings for this extended period of inactivity. For example: Thinking we could all use some laughs during a pretty dark time, a bunch of us recorded a comedy-centric podcast about what makes us laugh, in the vein of our other episodes about what makes us cry or scared in movies and TV. We did this back in the spring, when it seemed like maybe we’d be dealing with a pandemic through the summer. Jesse’s neglect in editing this long but fun-filled episode turned out to be prescient, as it’s now almost six months later, and here we still are, dealing with the pandemic, and maybe still in need of laughs? So happy Election Day 2020, everyone! Here’s Marisa, Jesse, Nathaniel, Sara, Jeremy, and Jon talking about, and analyzing, the kind of comedy (well, mostly comedy) that makes us laugh now, has made us laugh in the past, and we hope will make us laugh again in the future.

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Modern Men: HONEST THIEF and SHITHOUSE

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

I have to get this out of the way: I have no idea why Shithouse is titled Shithouse. I mean, technically I know: The title refers to some kind of frat or residence house on or near a Los Angeles college campus where the movie’s two main characters don’t quite meet. It’s the kind of place where, when Alex (Cooper Raiff) asks about where to find a party on a Friday night, and his asshole roommate Sam (Logan Miller) tells him the big one is at Shithouse, Alex asks if there are any other parties available. There are not. 

Alex is not the kind of guy who particularly wants to go to a place called Shithouse and he’s not the type of guy who would name a movie Shithouse. (This apparently sets him apart from the actor playing him, who wrote and directed the film and likely had at least some input on the title.) Maybe that’s the point, in a movie about Alex trying to get out of both his comfort zone and his freshman-year loneliness (turns out, they may be the same thing). But it’s still a strange gesture for the movie to make, if only because it portends a different, more aggressive and maybe dirtbaggy brand of campus comedy, and Shithouse is one of the most sensitive renderings of college insecurity I’ve ever seen.
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