domestic violence, good tv, movies, reviews

A rare movie night at Chez knotty’s…

Last night, something happened that rarely happens at my house these days. I actually watched two very new movies that were actual theatrical releases. This is kind of a big deal, since I usually don’t watch silver screen films until they’ve been out for awhile. Last time I went to an actual movie theater was in 2018. That was to see Bohemian Rhapsody.

Before that, my last visit to a movie theater was in 2011, when Bill and I whimsically decided to see Midnight in Paris while we were vacationing in Maine. We only did that because I was having intractable back pain that made me less interested in walking around Portland. So, after a visit to Soakology (a foot soaking place that was awesome!), we stopped by the movie theater and watched Woody Allen’s flick. I really enjoyed it, plus the foot soak actually made my back feel much better.

I didn’t go to a theater last night. Come on, now, I’m home alone… and far be it for me to get in my car and actually go somewhere. 😉 (Actually, when I was single, I did frequently go out on my own… but I’ve changed my ways. It’s not that I’m afraid– it’s more that I don’t see the point of going out and wandering around alone. Plus, now I have dogs to keep me company.). However, I did download four new films, and I actually watched two of them last night. Both were a bit depressing, yet I still enjoyed them.

The first movie I watched was The Whale, starring Brendan Fraser, Hong Chau, Ty Simpkins, and the fantastic Sadie Sink. I had never seen Sadie Sink before, because I am one of the few people who doesn’t watch Stranger Things. She is quite an amazing young talent. She reminds me of McKenna Grace, who is a few years younger. Both Sadie Sink and McKenna Grace are from Texas, and both have serious acting chops, especially for their ages. Actually, as I watched Sadie last night, I was also reminded of Kirsten Dunst.

The Whale was poignant and profound on many levels to me. There’s Brendan Fraser, a man who made many films based on his good looks, portraying Charlie, a morbidly obese, reclusive, online college English professor who doesn’t show his face on screen. He’s a very good and patient teacher, but he has serious personal issues to include a deadly eating disorder.

He has a nurse friend named Liz, played by Hong Chau, who comes to see him. Liz was adopted by the leaders of a religious cult who rejected her when she rejected the cult. When a missionary named Thomas from the cult visits Charlie, whose obesity has led to congestive heart failure, Liz doesn’t react well. Charlie is near death, and Thomas thinks he needs God. Liz disagrees vehemently. As time passes, the characters evolve, and we get the heartbreaking backstory for both.

But the really amazing character, to me, anyway, is Charlie’s daughter, 17 year old Ellie, played by Sadie Sink. Ellie is beautiful and intelligent, and she’s flunking out of school. Charlie is desperate to reunite with her before he dies. His ex wife, Mary (Samantha Morton), has kept Ellie away. Charlie left Mary and Ellie when Ellie was eight years old, because he was gay, and in love with another man. So, aside from paying child support to Mary and occasionally hearing the odd snippet about Ellie, he has no relationship with her. But he has over $120,000 saved to give her.

Ellie is a complex character on so many levels. Naturally, because I’m married to a man whose daughters were alienated from him, I have a perspective of this situation that other viewers might not have. Of course, Bill didn’t leave his ex wife for me, nor is he gay, morbidly obese, or reclusive. But he does have a daughter he would love to see again someday, and he has another daughter who reconnected and will probably be the sole recipient of an inheritance from him.

This was such a good movie!

I don’t want to write more about this movie, because I really think it’s a film that should be viewed with few spoilers. I’m glad I took the time to watch it. I have so much respect for Brendan Fraser for taking on this incredible role. His prestige has climbed a few notches for pulling off this character so convincingly. If you have the means to see The Whale, and don’t mind sad movies, I recommend it wholeheartedly. Especially if you were an English major.

The second movie I watched was Alice, Darling, which stars Anna Kendrick, Kaniehtiio Horn, Wunmi Mosaku, and Charlie Carrick. I was less into Alice, Darling, than The Whale. Generally speaking, I like Anna Kendrick’s work. I saw her in her debut, 2003’s Camp, and she immediately impressed me. This film is a drama that moves a little slowly, although it’s a story that a lot of people will identify with easily.

Alice and her friends.

Anna plays Alice, a woman whose artist boyfriend, Simon (Carrick) is emotionally abusive. Her friends, Tess (Horn) and Sophie (Mosaku), know Simon is abusive. They’ve seen Alice change, becoming a shell of herself. The women decide to go on a week’s retreat at Sophie’s family’s cabin in the woods, staging sort of an intervention. The premise is Sophie’s birthday, but Alice has to lie to Simon in order for him to reluctantly let her go without a fight.

Over the course of the week, the women hang out, sing songs, drink, have bonfires, and relax. Slowly, we see Alice start to change back into who she was, after gentle encouragement from her friends… until Simon unexpectedly shows up with groceries and tries to pull Alice back into his abusive web of deceit. Alice has good friends, though, and they’ve got her back… and Alice also has a good head on her shoulders as she slips out of the FOG.

Alice, Darling is another movie that speaks to me, mainly because of Bill, who was also married to a narcissistic emotional abuser. Because of his previous marriage, I’ve gotten pretty good at spotting narcissism and relationship abuse tactics. Abusive people pretty much have a playbook that they all seem to go by, more or less. Abuse can take many forms. Simon doesn’t physically abuse Alice; his abuse is more insidious, because it’s not immediately obvious to the eye. But, eventually, it’s plain to see what he’s doing, and it’s easy to see how hard it is for Alice to break out of that predicament. Fortunately, they weren’t married and didn’t have children.

I read that some men who have seen Alice, Darling are also speaking up about their experiences with emotional abuse. I think that’s a good thing, since many people seem to believe that men can’t be abused. I’ve seen it firsthand. Unfortunately, not everyone who is the victim of an abuser has friends like Alice does. In fact, abusers try very hard to isolate their victims, so they are abandoned by people who love and care about them. It happened to Bill, and viewers can see it happening to Alice, too.

As I mentioned up post, I didn’t enjoy Alice, Darling as much as I did The Whale. It’s not because of the story, which I think is well worth sharing. I think the reason I liked this film less is because I didn’t feel like the women meshed as friends. There was no chemistry. I didn’t get the sense of a realistic bond among the three of them, so there weren’t really any profound magic moments in this film that made it feel special. The actors were all very competent.

I was actually very impressed with Wummi Mosaku, who brought a lovely maternal vibe to her character, Sophie. I liked Kaniehtiio Horn, too, in her role. But Mosaku and Horn didn’t seem like they would be friends… nor did they seem legitimately connected to Kendrick, either individually, or within their group. So, it wasn’t that believable to me that these women would try to rescue Alice from Simon. Maybe with different actors, this film would seem more profound and plausible.

I thought Charlie Carrick did a good job portraying an abusive asshole artist. But again, I just couldn’t really see him with Kendrick. They also didn’t seem to have much of a bond, that would make them seem like an actual couple. I think Kendrick does better when she’s playing strong characters. I read that she was also in an abusive relationship, which made her want to take this role. But, in spite of that personal history she has off screen, it doesn’t seem to translate to me when I see her as Alice. To me, she doesn’t come off as a meek, vulnerable, victim type, even though she’s very petite, and looks like she might be easy to control if you don’t hear her speak.

Anyway, I didn’t hate Alice, Darling, and I think it covers an important topic. I just think it would have been better with another cast.

I don’t know if I’ll watch movies tonight. I think today, I might try to make some music videos. I got a very nice comment from a Dutchman in France last night, so that’s encouraging and inspiring. Besides, it’s been a week, and I need to play with my new recording gear.

By the way… I got my new HomePod yesterday, and I hooked it up to the TV. Gotta say, that makes a big difference in the sound quality, which is probably why I decided to watch movies in the first place. I think I might order another one for our other big TV. Maybe we might actually watch it more often, if I did that. 😀

Standard
movies, true crime, TV

Lifetime’s The Girl Who Escaped: The Kara Robinson Story…

Yesterday, I watched yet another Lifetime movie. I hadn’t been planning to do that, since I’ve found Lifetime’s takes on certain true crime stories to be overly watered down, too campy, or even disrespectful. However, the subject matter of The Girl Who Escaped: The Kara Robinson Story was especially interesting to me on a personal level. Lifetime has also been upping their game lately in their made for the network movies.

I just recently watched Lifetime’s take on the story of Gwen Shamblin Lara, the late Christian diet guru who was killed in a plane crash in May 2021. Lifetime did a fairly good job with Gwen’s story– even recruiting Jennifer Grey to play the starring role. Lifetime has also been scoring the talents of legitimate 80s and 90s era movie stars to star in the network’s films. Judd Nelson and Moira Kelly both come to mind as people who have been on the silver screen and took roles in Lifetime movies.

When I saw that Lifetime had made a movie about late sex pest and serial killer, Richard Marc Evonitz, I was interested in seeing how Lifetime would handle that story. I previously mentioned, in my earlier article about Evonitz’s horrific crimes against then 15 year old Kara Robinson, that Evonitz and I had both lived in two of the same areas. I grew up in Virginia, and from May 2002, briefly lived in Fredericksburg, a city very close to where it was later confirmed that Evonitz raped and murdered three teenaged girls in the 1990s. He was also potentially linked to at least two other rapes and abductions in the Fredericksburg area.

I also lived in Columbia, South Carolina for three years, as that was where I attended graduate school. Evonitz was born and raised in Columbia, and in 2002, had just recently moved back there from the Fredericksburg area. So we could have potentially crossed paths at some point, although I highly doubt Evonitz would have posed much of a danger to the likes of me. He was clearly interested in young girls, whom he obviously thought wouldn’t challenge him. He was dead wrong about Kara Robinson, who famously outwitted him and escaped, then helped the police solve what had been cold cases in Virginia.

Evonitz had a habit of approaching young, unaware girls in their own yards and swiping them. That was how he’d come into contact with Robinson on June 24, 2002, when she was visiting a friend’s house. While her friend was taking a shower, Kara was watering the flowers in the front yard. Evonitz pulled up in a car, addressed her in a friendly way; then he grabbed her, and pulled a gun on her. Within a minute, Evonitz had stashed Kara in a Rubbermaid container, while Kara’s friend remained completely oblivious. For the next eighteen hours, Kara was held captive by a man who very likely would have killed her, if she hadn’t kept her wits about her and managed to escape.

I already knew the story that Lifetime was going to be presenting in The Girl Who Escaped. Since I wrote a blog post about the crime in 2021, I was fairly familiar with most of the actual facts of the case, too. I didn’t have especially high hopes for the Lifetime treatment of this story, since I have noticed that Lifetime movies are usually pretty simplified due to time constraints and the apparent trend of giving serious topics a snarky twist. I am somewhat surprised and pleased to report that I think Lifetime did an okay job with Kara Robsinson’s story.

The Lifetime movie trailer for The Girl Who Escaped: The Kara Robinson Story.

Kara Robinson is played by 24 year old Canadian actress, Katie Douglas. It blows my mind to think that Douglas, who was not even four years old when this crime occurred in June 2002, is playing someone nine years younger. However, I think Douglas mostly pulls it off, mainly because she appears to be tiny, and very young. Brown haired and brown eyed Katie Douglas doesn’t otherwise really bear much of a physical resemblance to Kara, who has blonde hair and green eyes. But I suspect most people who watch this movie won’t really know that much about the real case, so the fact that Douglas doesn’t look that much like the real Kara probably won’t matter to them.

As I mentioned before, I knew about this case because, when it happened, I had only just moved out of the Columbia, South Carolina area, to Fredericksburg, the place where Evonitz had just moved from. I thought the coincidence was very creepy. The summer of 2002 was a really bad year for crimes against young girls, anyway. June 2002 was also when Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped, as well as a number of younger girls who, sadly, did not survive their attacks. In October of that year, the Beltway Snipers were on the loose, and they struck Fredericksburg. I was definitely on high alert regarding true crime in 2002.

Kara’s mother, Debra, is played by New York City bred Cara Buono, an actress of whom I am unfamiliar. Debra, and Kara’s father, Ron (Paul Essiembre), were separated at the time of Kara’s abduction. When Kara suddenly vanishes and Debra calls Ron to ask him if Kara is with him, Ron is initially annoyed and tells her to just have Kara tell him anything he needs to know. But then Debra tells him what happened, and he says he’ll be right there. I may be mistaken, but I think that might have been the only time Ron is shown. I know– time constraints are an issue– but as usual, Lifetime focuses heavily on the mother-daughter connection, as we see Debra sitting by the phone, wringing her hands over her daughter’s disappearance.

The role of Marc Evonitz (he went by Marc rather than Richard in real life) is played by Canadian actor, Kristian Brunn. I had never seen Brunn before, but I thought he did a good job playing Evonitz– although again, he didn’t really look much like the real person. One of the things I’ve noticed in Lifetime movies is that the men who play the criminals who prey on young girls aren’t always convincing. Brunn is very creepy and menacing. I could see him realistically as a predator, although he doesn’t really do that much in the role, except to force Kara into the Rubbermaid container, tie her to the bed, and threaten her with a gun. He also watches her in the bathroom.

Again, since this is a Lifetime movie, there isn’t much realism in what actually happened. The movies always begin with a trigger warning (a good thing, I think), but most of the triggering events are more implied than explicitly shown. In this movie, we see some light bondage gear that is very briefly used. So Brunn had to come across as menacing in the way he spoke and moved. I thought he managed to convey those qualities pretty well. Imagine if he was in a movie in which he could really demonstrate those menacing qualities with realistically portrayed violence. I’d probably have nightmares.

The rest of the cast mostly consists of actors portraying police officers. Robert Nahum plays Richland County Sheriff Jim Price. He reminded me of a much kinder and gentler Lou Gossett Jr. The Lexington County Sheriff, Dale Stephens, was played by Santa Claus clone, John B. Lowe. Kara Robinson lived in Lexington County, South Carolina, but Evonitz lived in nearly Richland. Therefore, both sheriffs were involved in this case, but according to the movie, they treated Kara differently. Sheriff Price treated Kara like an adult, with respect. Sheriff Stephens, conversely, treated Kara like a little girl and made a point of calling her a victim.

This movie made a point of showing that Kara Robinson was a heroine on many levels. First off, from the very beginning, Kara made a point of staying as calm as possible and keeping her wits about her. Viewers see her contemplating escape, then catastrophically imagining what would happen to her if she failed. Still, she made a point of remembering everything she saw. When she was in Evonitz’s apartment, she noticed things like hair in the hairbrush, magnets on the refrigerator with the names of Evonitz’s dentist and other healthcare professionals, and the many critters who were Evonitz’s pets. She stored all of that information in her mind until she managed to free herself from the restraints Evonitz had placed on her at bedtime. He made a surprisingly dumb mistake in the way he secured her, thank God.

Because Kara had remembered so many details, a custodian at Evonitz’s apartment complex was able to tell the police exactly which apartment he lived in. The police searched the premises and were able to uncover information that led to Spotsylvania County police in Virginia connecting Evonitz to the rapes and murders of 15 year old Kristin and 12 year old Kati Lisk, as well as 16 year old Sofia Silva. Meanwhile, Evonitz was eventually cornered in Florida, where he cowardly shot himself in the head rather than face justice for what he did. Evonitz ultimately denied Kara her day in court, but at least he will never rape and murder again.

Elizabeth Smart was one of the several executive producers of The Girl Who Escaped. I remember she interviewed the real Kara Robinson, now known as Kara Chamberlain, and a mother to two boys. Kara was a police officer for some time before she got married and became a mother. She is now a public speaker who has a very impressive Web site. Below is an interview she did with E!.

An interview with the real Kara Robinson Chamberlain.

I do think it’s interesting that some women who are victimized by men eventually turn their experiences into careers. Elizabeth Smart probably wouldn’t be doing what she does if she hadn’t been abducted by Brian Mitchell and Wanda Barzee. Kara Robinson might have been attracted to law enforcement regardless, but I see that now she makes a living speaking about her experiences. Then there’s Katie Koestner, who was date raped at the College of William and Mary in 1990 and makes a living speaking at college campuses. Those are just a few women who have used the crimes perpetrated against them as springboards to their life’s work. I don’t judge them for doing that. It’s one way of taking back their lives and not allowing criminals to take more from them.

One other thing I’d like to mention before I close this post. They never really mention that this case happened in South Carolina. You don’t hear the southern accents from that area, nor was it filmed in the Columbia area. They do show a very shabby apartment complex that would have been like where Evonitz lived, but the interior of the apartment was much too “Pottery Barn” and upscale. I think if the set had been less posh– even if it was just Evonitz’s apartment matching the exterior– that would have made the movie more realistic and less campy.

Overall, I think The Girl Who Escaped: The Kara Robinson Story is pretty decent for a Lifetime movie. I’ve definitely seen worse by them. On the other hand, it IS a Lifetime movie, so it’s pretty formulaic, and there is a slight element of camp. But at least they found a guy who is convincing as a villain. So, if you’re inclined to watch this flick, I hope you will… and let me know how or if you liked it in the comments!

Standard
movies, religion, true crime

Jennifer Grey as Gwen Shamblin Lara? Genius!

Now that I’ve gotten my latest editorial out of my system, it’s time for another review of a Lifetime movie. I have written a few reviews of Lifetime movies. If you’re a regular reader, you might already know that, in general, I’m not really a fan of the way Lifetime TV tells stories via its movies. I find that they’re usually heavily watered down and given inappropriate comedic spins, particularly when it comes to true crime. Nevertheless, I decided to watch the Lifetime Movie adaptation of Gwen Shamblin Lara’s life after seeing Jen review it on YouTube’s Fundie Fridays. Below is her excellent review…

I didn’t even know about this until I saw Jen’s video…

Gwen Shamblin Lara, for those who don’t know, is famous for starting her own church after writing a very successful Christian weight loss book in the 1990s. She later got very rich, let success go to her head, and died before her natural time in May 2021, when Gwen’s second husband, Joe Lara, crashed the plane he was piloting when Gwen and her entourage in it. Gwen’s church was notable, as it focused a lot on image and weight loss. It was also notable for its emphasis on the so-called importance of physically disciplining children. I wrote about Gwen Shamblin Lara’s championing of using glue sticks in corporal punishment sessions. You can read that post here.

The Lifetime TV movie about Gwen Shamblin Lara is called Starving for Salvation. It stars Jennifer Grey as Gwen. Yes, Jennifer Grey, as in the very same one who played Frances “Baby” Houseman in Dirty Dancing, back in 1987. She is unrecognizable in this movie about a weight loss guru. Mad props to the hair and makeup crew, as well as the wardrobe professionals, for making Grey into such an incredibly realistic replica of the real person. But not only did Jennifer Grey look the part, she also sounded like she was born and raised in Tennessee, which is where Gwen was from. I really thought she did a great job in this movie, especially given that it’s a Lifetime production.

The story itself, as presented by Lifetime, is typically pretty watered down. Remember, it’s a cable TV channel putting this together, and they have time constraints, viewers, and advertisers to appease, so they can’t be too graphic about what they present to the masses. I suspect the real story behind the Remnant Fellowship Church is a lot weirder and disturbing than what is presented in Lifetime’s film, which is typically campy.

Remember, Josef Smith, a young boy, died because his parents followed Gwen’s discipline advice. Josef and Sonya Smith, the boy’s parents, are now sitting in prison in Georgia, having both been sentenced to life plus thirty years on February 12, 2007, which would have been the younger Josef’s 12th birthday. In the movie, this notorious and horrifying incident is a bit glossed over, because there’s a lot of ground to cover in the time allotted for the movie. I found Jennifer Grey’s performance entertaining enough that I wonder if this movie shouldn’t have been a two part miniseries. I bet people would have watched it.

Gwen Shamblin Lara apparently suffered from eating disorders. I will not say that she definitely did, since I’m not a doctor, but I do think the signs and symptoms were all there. I saw clips of her preaching, wearing dresses that were obviously way too big for her. According to the Lifetime treatment of Gwen’s story, Gwen went from being a sweet, demure Christian lady who taught college to a megalomaniacal religious wingnut. She also tried to force her employees to join her church. It reminds me a little of Dave Ramsey’s organization, that is very intrusive into people’s personal lives.

I know there is a documentary/other movie in the works about Gwen Shamblin Lara. I will try to watch it if I can, but what I’d really like to see is a very well researched book about her… one that doesn’t water down or sugar coat anything.

Anyway, as Lifetime movies go, Starving for Salvation is pretty decent. I even watched it on my computer, rather than Apple TV (which is giving me errors on new content). I couldn’t wait for the issue to be fixed before I saw the movie. People are obviously looking for comments about Grey’s turn as the weight loss “prophetess” (as they called her in the movie).

I also highly recommend watching Fundie Fridays’ review of this movie, which goes into a lot more detail than mine does. This is obviously a very campy treatment of the story… and some people might find it disrespectful. I did see one person who was involved in the church commenting on Jen’s review. The person said that movies like this cheapen the terrible experiences Gwen’s victims had. That may be true… but let’s face it, Gwen was a pretty bizarre character, and movies about such people are often entertaining as hell.

I’ll keep my eyes peeled for a book that gives this story a more serious treatment. In the meantime, I would recommend this movie, especially if you want to be entertained. Just don’t think too hard about what the victims endured.

Standard
movies, nostalgia

Repost: My review of the 80s gymnastics film, American Anthem…

Here’s another repost. I originally wrote this movie review for Epinions.com on May 21, 2007. I am reposting it here for the sake of nostalgia. It appears here as/is.

American Anthem… What’s reality got to do with Hollywood?

Pros: Music video quality. Decent soundtrack. Nice shots of Gaylord in shorts. Mindless fun.

Cons: Incredibly stupid plot. Bad acting. May be hard to find.

Twenty years ago, I was a devoted cable TV fan who had just discovered gymnastics. No, I’ve never been one to turn a cartwheel myself (having big jugs makes acrobatics difficult), but I do enjoy watching the sport. In 1986, the U.S. men’s gymnastics team was still basking in the glory of their team gold medal at the 1984 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles. Hunky Olympic gymnast Mitch Gaylord apparently wanted to cash in on his new found fame and good looks. Perhaps he also wanted to get out of the gym.

I don’t know the real reasons behind his decision to make the 1986 flop American Anthem and try his hand at acting, but the regrettable fact remains that Gaylord does have American Anthem on his resume. Yesterday, I had the chance to view it again, courtesy of Amazon.com’s new Unbox service.

Let me be frank. When I was a teenager, I loved this movie. It used to come on HBO all the time and I never got tired of watching it. Now that I’m in my 30s (um… 50), this movie is not as enchanting. In fact, I’m pretty embarrassed to even count this flick as a guilty pleasure.

Anyway, Mitch Gaylord plays Steve Tevere, a former high school football star turned gymnast turned sports burnout. Steve Tevere lives with his parents, played by Michelle Phillips and John Aprea, and his little brother, Mikey, played by R.J. Williams, and works at the local motorcycle factory. Although at the beginning of the film, ol’ Steve has given up his dreams of gymnastics glory, he still hangs out with his athlete buddies and sneaks into the gym to watch them work out. And that’s when he catches sight of the babelicious newcomer to the gym, Julie Lloyd, played by dancer, Janet Jones (future wife of hockey star, Wayne Gretzky).

Julie Lloyd moved to the gym against her parents’ will to train with the demanding Coach Soranhoff, played by Michael Pataki. She quickly makes friends with a hardworking but less sexy gymnast named Becky Cameron, played by former University of Florida gymnast Maria Anz. When Julie and Becky go out for some good times at the local bar, they run into Steve, who immediately hits on Julie. Julie and Steve predictably hook up, which leads Steve to consider going back to gymnastics. After getting a lecture from his friend, Kirk Baker, played by Stacy Maloney, Steve decides to go back to the gym. His father is against his decision, leading them to fight.

There’s a third plot in this story. Julie’s disabled cousin Arthur, played by Andrea Bianchi, also happens to live in the same town as the gym. Arthur lost his parents in a car crash and was left with a leg brace. He spends his time holed up in a house, composing music on his synthesizer. Julie pays him a visit and establishes his role in the film.

Both Julie and Steve are headstrong athletes dealing with personal conflicts. Steve struggles with a fear of not living up to his past successes. He’s unhappy as a clearly mature man, living with his parents and working at a dead end job. And Julie doesn’t like her floor exercise music. If I could, I’d insert an eyeroll smiley right here. Since I don’t have access to smilies, I will just repeat myself in italics. Julie’s conflict is that she doesn’t like her coach’s choice in music for her floor exercise routine. After listening to and watching Julie’s routine, I can’t say I blame her. The flatulent sounding piece sounds like it was an early inspiration for the Who Framed Roger Rabbit soundtrack.

Anyway, Julie would rather use a dynamic, snazzy piece composed by her disabled cousin, Arthur. The coach won’t hear of it, so Julie gets an attitude at a regional meet, which upsets her teammate, Becky Cameron. The movie plods on with Steve on the outs with his parents– especially his father– and Julie on the outs with the coach and her high achieving teammate. Arthur hangs out on the sidelines, pressuring Julie to use his music instead of the beastly number the coach has chosen.

At this point, I’ll just say that naturally, Steve and Julie work through their issues to become triumphant at the movie’s splashy gymnastics meet finale. They also make progress in healing their personal rifts with family. Incidentally, I always get a kick out of the final gymnastics meet, meant to choose the U.S. gymnastics team. I read that the scene was filmed in the gym of an abandoned high school. The overall lighting is kept low, with dramatic colored lights very obviously displayed. It looks more like the Ice Capades than an actual gymnastics meet. Watch gymnastics on ESPN someday and you’ll see that the lighting in real meets is kept very bright. But then again, these are the movies. What’s reality got to do with Hollywood?

American Anthem is a pretty stupid movie. For one thing, Janet Jones and Mitch Gaylord were way too old for their parts. Most serious female gymnasts are in their early to late teens with a few managing to hang on in their 20s. In 1986, Janet Jones was 25 years old. Although she was thin and had a beautiful dancer’s body, she certainly didn’t have a gymnast’s body. Successful gymnasts tend to be very small, flat-chested, and childlike. Make no mistake, Janet Jones did not look like a child in this movie. Male gymnasts tend to be a bit older, but the way this story is presented, it looks like Steve Tevere is supposed to be several years younger than the 25 year old man Mitch Gaylord was at the time.

For another thing, Julie and Steve are shown spending a lot of time having fun. Steve, in particular, seems to spend all his spare time smoking Marlboros and drinking beer. Julie hangs out with her disabled cousin, coming up with a new floor exercise routine with the music he composed for her. Again, it’s unrealistic. Serious gymnasts spend most of their time at the gym. They don’t have time for fooling around. There’s only one realistic looking gymnast in this film and that’s 12 year old Jenny Ester, who played Tracy Prescott. Jenny Ester was an actual top level gymnast in the 1980s.

The acting is laughable, too. The only character in this film whose acting really impressed me was R.J. Williams’, who was eight years old when this flick was made. I thought he did a fantastic job considering the material he had to work with. Everybody else delivered their lines with all the personality of an empty pizza box.

The one thing that does stick out about this film is that it looks like a music video. Famed Hollywood composer Alan Silvestri scored the film and several rock stars, including John Parr, Graham Nash, Andy Taylor (of Duran Duran), and Mr. Mister all contribute tracks. The music is non-stop throughout this film, along with plenty of cinematic photography. It shouldn’t be surprising that this movie looks like a music video, since it was directed by Albert Magnoli, who also directed Prince’s film debut, Purple RainPurple Rain is another 80s guilty pleasure for me, but like American Anthem, it’s not long on great acting.

Filthy language is at a bare minimum in American Anthem. The flick is rated PG-13 and I only heard the F-bomb dropped once. But this movie runs for an hour and 40 minutes and unfortunately, the time is mostly filled with boring dialog, 80s music, and sexy guys and girls in leotards. The gymnastics are kind of fun to watch, but they look pretty dated nowadays. It’s also pretty obvious that whoever did Janet Jones’ gymnastics stunts was quite a bit shorter than Jones.

Watching American Anthem is probably not the greatest use of your time. In fact, it amazes me that this movie actually had a short run in movie theaters. I recall that it was on video in record time. However, people must have liked it since it seems that a DVD release may be coming in the near future. Of course, you can download it off Amazon.com for $9.99 or buy the videocassette for an arm and a leg. Unless you really love gymnastics or have a unique fondness for movies that are so bad they’re good, I’d recommend skipping American Anthem.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

Standard
first world problems, movies, technology, true crime

The big meltdown…

I thought we were going to get more snow yesterday. A few days ago, the weather gurus were calling for it. I keep the shutters pulled down in my office, so I didn’t pay attention to the weather. It obviously warmed up a lot during the afternoon, because by the early evening, a lot of the snow had melted. That means that when the sun is up, and I go dog poop hunting, there will be a lot to collect.

I kind of hate this part of a snow event. When it all melts, everything becomes really sloppy and wet. But, the alternative is that it stays really cold, and the snow sticks around for ages. It gets all dirty and dog piss stained. I like to watch snow fall, and I enjoy seeing it on the trees and covering the ground, but it can be messy when it melts. It’s doubly bad when it melts and freezes, causing sheets of ice. I’m getting too old to fall on my ass and not worry about injuries!

I hadn’t meant to repost two blog entries yesterday. In fact, I’d had every intention of writing something fresh. Somehow, I just never managed to get around to it. I couldn’t think of a good topic, and then Bill and I watched several movies on our “good” TV. Usually, I watch the TV in our bedroom, which is fine. We also have a really nice television in our “entertainment/Noyzi’s room”. Until Christmas 2022, we only had one chair in there, plus the rugs were full of Noyzi’s hair. But then I got a new office chair (which I put back in the entertainment room) and a new vacuum, so I could clean up the tons of dog hair in there. The room is more comfortable now.

Yesterday, we watched Airplane!, Arthur (1981 version), and International Falls. Of course, we’ve both seen the first two films many times, but neither of us had seen International Falls. I downloaded it some time ago and completely forgot about it, never having watched it. It’s an interesting, quirky, and slightly depressing film. Bill liked it a lot. I didn’t mind it. Watching the 80s era movies in high definition was a weird experience. I was inspired to buy more tech gadgets so we can have better sound in that room. I’d like to get a couch for in there, but I’m put off by the prospect of getting it up the stairs to the room.

I’m also thinking about getting a new TV for the bedroom, now that I’m reminded of how nice our “good TV” is. I’d move it to the bedroom, but it’s too big to fit on my dresser, and we have sloped walls. We have an old TV in our guest room that we bought in 2007, when flatscreen TVs were new. I remember we spent $900 on it. Now, you can get a really nice TV for a third of that price. I think I’d like to buy a new TV; then I realize that buying one will mean more electronic waste. We already need to dispose of several old computers and a broken freezer. And… it’s also about time to get a new desktop, since the one I currently use is starting to have problems.

Sigh… such boring first world problems. I could be writing about the depressing news of the world today. Maybe that would be the more socially responsible thing to do. I didn’t sleep well last night, though. I woke up at 2:00 am to pee, and Arran got up. He wanted food. Then I couldn’t fall back to sleep, so I started reading more of my latest book. Reading the book ultimately lead to seeing the news, which led to reading the moronic comments.

Seriously… it’s so frustrating to see how people always have complaints about everything, especially regarding politics. Nothing ever gets done, especially when it comes to gun violence. The end result is that more people died, thanks to some unhinged idiot with a weapon. 72 year old Huu Can Tran got a bee in his bonnet, for some reason, and took it out on people at a dance hall he used to frequent. Now, ten more innocent people have died, and more are in the hospital. At least Huu Can Tran is also dead. He took a coward’s way out, but at least he won’t be killing anyone else. Sadder still is that, once again, I find myself more apathetic than shocked. Shootings in the USA are much too common these days.

I also found out from my friend, aunt of Abby Zwerner, that some jerk made a Facebook page pretending to be her. The person was probably hoping to scam money from well wishers. It’s too bad that people can’t get fucking jobs, so they might earn money the honest way, rather than trying to steal it.

These things, along with being tired, make me cranky on a Monday morning. But things can always be worse. We have much to be grateful for, in spite of the bad news. Younger daughter sent me a nice email this morning, which was really great. I love getting emails that have nothing to do with business or spending money. 😉 Plus, it’s just nice to get to know her, at long last. She’s a lovely person, in spite of everything. She wanted to know more about my days riding horses, of all things.

Anyway… I think I’ll sign off and play my guitar. Then, I think I’ll go back to bed and see if I can catch an hour or two of sleep… or maybe read more of my latest book.

Toodles.

Standard