Chicken People


Rated: Not Rated | Running Time: 83 Minutes
From:Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Samuel Goldwyn Films and CMT
Available on DVD and Digital Platforms:  November 22, 2016
Get it via : Amazon | iTunes

Chicken PeopleThis is what I call a “Who knew?” documentary? Who knew there were so many kinds of chickens? Who knew there was a National Poultry Show? Who knew there was a Standard of Perfection, a book that details the perfect chicken? Who knew you could be an engineer and systematically breed chickens to try to produce a champion? And yes, who knew there was an Ohio National Poultry Show, the chicken equivalent of the Westminster Dog Show?

The chicken people do.

“Chicken People” is a documentary following the lives of three people over the course of about a year, and their quest to raise a perfect chicken, at least as rated by the Standard of Perfection, and win the National Poultry Show. Yes, that means that they have the best of 9,700 birds entered in the competition. And yes, that’s right, 9,700 birds are entered, one will win.

Our heroes for this film are Brian Caraker who dreams of being a singer, Shari McCollough who has a hobby farm with her family and loves to take nature pictures, and Brian Knox who is an engineer that builds engines and breeds his chickens through the scientific analysis. I will admit that, at the beginning of the movie, the bad person in me was thinking I was just going to be making fun of these people over the course of 80+ minutes, but dammit, these are the most likable folks, yet quirky, and by the end of “Chicken People” I wanted all of them to win.

The documentary opens with a brief explanation of the National Poultry Show, the “Standard of Perfection,” and an introduction to our characters. We then follow them throughout the next year as they have new chickens to raise for the upcoming competition. We see their various concepts for breeding the best bird (Yes, there is chicken sex so hide the kids!), we get to see a little bit into their “normal” lives, and we meet the people who love them, as well as put up with them.

As the year progresses and we near the big show, wouldn’t you know it that the Ohio Nationals get cancelled because of the avian flu. What to do? It’s on to Knoxville for the Dixie Classic Poultry Show, and I will admit, these are some awesome looking chickens.

Trouble is afoot as Brian Caraker gets to the show and talks of how the tails of his chicken are all messed up because of the transport box, and all I can think is “Come on Brian, you need a better box!”, Brian Knox is proud because his bird is doing well, and it’s the son of #5494 that was the best in breed in Ohio the previous year, and Shari is excited, but doesn’t seem to believe she has a chance to win.

“Chicken People” instantly reminded me of the movie “Best in Show” with the people being quirky like those were in the mockumentary, only in “Chicken People” they are real people and not actors, and I found the entire story unbelievable fascinating. The only let-down I had was the final day of competition. Sure, the hairdryers were out to groom the chickens, the clippers were out to trim the beaks, and the finalists are nervous, but unlike the Westminster Dog Show there isn’t this grand show area, it’s just judges going from cage to cage basically saying “Yup, this one is nice.” No grand crowds, no cheering, it’s mostly just the people in the finals waiting to see if they win.

And the winner is…. You’ll just have to watch the documentary.

A fascinating look at the world of poultry competition, people you will actually root for, and you will find out that they make diapers for chickens. It’s 4 1/2 stars out of 5 for “Chicken People.” You might start out the movie by laughing at the contestants, but by the end of the movie you will be laughing with them, and loving them. And their chickens.

That’s it for this one! L8R!!


Uncle Nick


Rated: Not Rated | Running Time: 81 Minutes
From: Dark Sky Films
Available on DVD, Blu-ray, and Online:  November 1, 2016
Get it via : Amazon | iTunes

Uncle NickI guess I was at that age when I was old enough to like baseball, but too young for my parents to explain to me what happened at the Ten Cent Beer game, a legendary debacle of fan sportsmanship resulting in a bunch of drunk, unruly fans ruining a lovely day at the ballpark for those who just wanted to see a ballgame.

Who knew you could build a Christmas movie around the progression of events at the Ten Cent Beer Game, but the folks of “Uncle Nick” did a pretty good job.

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The Dark Horse


Rated: R | Running Time: 124 Minutes
From: Broadgreen Pictures
Available on DVD, Digital HD, and VOD:  July 12, 2016
Get it via : Amazon | iTunes

Sometimes all you need to find is that purpose in life to overcome your personal challenges. Genesis Potini did just that. “The Dark Horse” tells that story.

Based on the true story, “The Dark Horse” weaves the history of Genesis Potini (in the movie played wonderfully by Cliff Curtis), a chess champion in New Zealand battling with mental illness who discovers his passion in teaching others the glory of chess, and in doing so is able to calm many of the demons in his head.

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Back in the Day


Rated: Not Rated | Running Time: 121 Minutes
From: Virgil Films
Available on Blu-ray and DVD: June 28, 2016
Get it via: Amazon | iTunes

Anthony (William Demeo) does it, he finally wins the boxing championship, and his life is now complete. What to do now? Anthony sits down with Larry Merchant (played by Larry Merchant) to tell his life story. His life story is “Back in the Day,” a fictional boxing movie like many others, mixed with overblown mafia stereotypes.

Well, crap, I could give you the story, but that’s really about it, and that’s too bad.

I guess I’ll expand a bit…

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Bachelor Games


Rated: Not Rated | Running Time: 87 Minutes
From: Gravitas Ventures / Strike Films
Available on Digital Platforms July 8, 2016

The publicity material for “Bachelor Games” touted the movie as a horror-comedy. I understand the horror part, sort of, but I’m still waiting on the funny.

Let’s get to the basics…

A bunch of dudes get together for a bachelor party. Sounds like a fun time, right? Where are they headed? Vegas? The Bahamas? No, our group is heading to the Andes mountains in Argentina. Yup, they are on their way to a secluded town where they do some drinking, some drugs, and there is even a stripper. There is also local lore about “The Hunter” who protects the land. What are our boys going to do? Go hiking in the land of course!

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The Family Stone


Rated: PG-13 | Running Time: 100 Minutes
From: 20th Century Fox
Get it via : Amazon | iTunes

I hate when a movie has potential to, well, not really be a classic, but at least one that I would probably sit down and watch when it comes on cable (lately I’m hooked on “The Santa Clause 2: The Mrs. Clause” and I’m embarrassed to admit that), and “The Family Stone” had that potential until it decided to put in an all-too-easy, sentimental, sub-plot, that the movie didn’t need, a sub-plot I don’t want to have to relive at Christmas-time. I’ll try not to reveal this sub-plot, nor the other obvious plot twist that is supposed to surprise you, but here we go…

Everett Stone (Dermot Mulroney) is in love with Meredith (Sarah Jessica Parker), and of course it’s the time of the year, Christmas-time, when boy must bring girlfriend to meet his parents and family, and what a more awkward time to do it than at said Christmas-time, especially when your family is slightly dysfunctional, even though you probably don’t realize it. And it’s even worse when your dysfunctional family doesn’t really like your girlfriend, based on an earlier dinner when your sister, Amy (Rachel McAdams), met up with the two of you, and now they fear that you want to ask her to marry you. Such is the problem facing Everett and Meredith. Now, Meredith, is your atypical, big city, career driven kind of woman, perfectly clothed, with tight hair and stuck to her cell phone. Everett seems just kind of lost, yet still supposedly in love. Anyway, Meredith arrives and it’s pretty much Amy’s job to make her feel as lousy as she can, and Meredith is so miserable that she ends up staying at the local inn instead of at the Stone household, and calls her sister, Julie (Claire Danes), to help her save her reputation with the family. Julie arrives, there is a highly uncomfortable Christmas Eve dinner, and all of our cast of characters, also including Mom Stone (Diane Keaton), Dad Stone (Craig T. Nelson), Ben Stone (Luke Wilson), and Thad Stone (Ty Giordano), all have revelations that would change their lives through the next year.

Alright, that’s a pretty crappy synopsis of a movie that at it’s core is a fun look at a wacky family and a girlfriend who really doesn’t fit, although she really does, just not knowing it yet. There’s some seriousness (Mom doesn’t want to give son her Mom’s wedding ring, even though she promised she would if said son found the woman of his dreams), some odd-ballness (Ben is pretty great), some funny-ness (Meredith’s breakdown on Christmas morning gave me one of the biggest laughs I’ve had at a movie in a while), and the typical family-ness (in the end, it’s Christmas, a time for family, and a time for all to get along). But what I didn’t need, want, or want to have to see again, is the sub-plot, that although is a sub-plot everyone will have to go through at a Christmas (not exactly like this sub-plot, but the same concept) or Holiday, I don’t want an entertaining Christmas comedy with a nice hint of drama to make me have to relive every time I see it. I know that might not make sense if you don’t see the movie, but as I just re-read this review so far, nothing really makes sense.

Look, the movie is entertaining, and as much as I’ve been reading bashing of Sarah Jessica Parker’s portrayal of Meredith, I thought she did a pretty good job going from the hoity-toity New York City girl, to the girl who really has a sentimental side, to the girl who just needed some rubbing from Ben to let her freak-flag fly. Luke Wilson was fantastic as the stoner-type brother who always seems to be filled with stoner wits of clarity, and Diane Keaton was just fine as the overly protective mother, who didn’t need to be burdened with the extra story she had. I’ve always been in love with Claire Danes, so she can do no wrong in my eyes, and Rachel McAdams was utterly perfect, especially when she uttered the words “Of course you do,” and then walked away. All that said, dropping the totally sentimental, unnecessary sub-plot, I’d have given this movie 4 ½ stars out of 5. With that part in it, I’m dropping this rating to 2 ½ stars out of 5. It did have one of the biggest laughs I’ve had in a while, but for goodness sake, don’t make the tear-jerking so easy.

That’s it for this one! L8R!!


Late Phases: Night of the Lone Wolf

 

MPAA Rated – Not Rated
It’s 1:36 Long
A Review by:
Andy Labis

The more I think about it, the more perfect “Late Phases: Night of the Lone Wolf” was, especially in the realm of the old-school, and I mean this with all due respect, cheesy, werewolf movie. First there is the title, or at least the “Night of the Lone Wolf” part. Sure there’s the solo werewolf at the start, but by the end there are multiple wolves. Maybe I’m misunderstanding the title and our hero is the lone wolf, but I just couldn’t get past the fact that our main werewolf all of a sudden decided to go on a biting spree and instantly we have a pack of werewolves.

Continue reading Late Phases: Night of the Lone Wolf

Believe Me

MPAA Rated – PG-13
It’s 1:33 Long
A Review by:
Andy Labis

I know. I read the press release for “Believe Me.” And yes, I know the synopsis mentioned a group of college kids who figured out a great way to make a quick buck, namely by scamming Christians to donating money to their phony-baloney charity, and then said kids would realize the true meaning of being good people. And finally, I know that’s what the movie ends up being about, but I so wanted it to flip directions and be a full parody of Christian fundraising. Instead, yes, our foursome realized the error of their ways and became good people again, until, “I, um.”

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VANish

MPAA Rated – Not rated.
It’s 1:19 Long
A Review by:
Andy Labis

VANish
Movie Stats & Links
Starring: Maiara Walsh, Danny Trejo, Tony Todd, Austin Abke, Bryan Bockbrader, Adam Guthrie
MPAA Rated: Not Rated.
Released By: Dark Sky Films
Release Date: February 24, 2015
Kiddie Movie: Send them to bed. Lots of blod!
Date Movie: If she likes blood-splattering thrillers.
Gratuitous Sex: There is an attempted rape in the van, though it doesn’t turn out too well for the dude.
Gratuitous Violence: Headshots, shotgun blasts, machetes, and a handy little cutting saw help with the blood splatter.
Action: Not really much action.
Laughs: Some chuckles.
Memorable Scene: Emma kicking the crap out of Shane.
Memorable Quote: “What kind of amateur bullshit is this?”
Directed By: Bryan Bockbrader
Extras on the Blu-Ray: The bloopers were decent enough, and I actually liked seeing the alternate endings.

The press release said: “three thugs viciously kidnap a drug cartel boss’ only daughter from her home in broad daylight.” With that I was a little confused at the opening scene of VANish as a dude and his lover were being abducted at night, in the California hills. Now let’s cut to the next scene of two dudes in a van, talking calmly amongst each other as dudes will talk, and I’m wondering where is the third dude? Is this the van? And what happened to those people in the first scene?

Little did I know the importance of the first abduction to the plot of the movie, to be explained during a later scene, and now I was being fully introduced to possibly the dumbest trio of kidnappers that there have ever been in a movie. That’s okay, though, because the trio of dopes really made VANish an entertaining film in the realm of blood-splattering thrillers.

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The Overnighters

MPAA Rated – Not Rated
It’s 1:30 Long
A Review by:
Andy Labis

The Overnighters
Movie Stats & Links
Starring: Jay Reinke
MPAA Rated: Not Rated
Released By: Drafthouse Films
Video Release Date: February 3, 2015
Kiddie Movie: Nah, it’s about a lot of down-and-out people.
Date Movie: If she’s interested in a good documentary and not something mushy.
Gratuitous Sex: Some talk of sex offenders, but nothing graphic.
Gratuitous Violence: Just one person trying to get the Reverend off of their property and threatening to shoot him.
Action: Nah.
Laughs: Ehh.
Memorable Scene: The reveal by Rev. Jay of something from his past.
Memorable Quote: “A man with no teeth and living with his daughter calling other people trash.
Directed By: Jesse Moss
Cool things about the DVD: Some of the deleted scenes actually should have been left in the film, and the extended interview with Rev. Jay is actually interesting.

The OvernightersThe stories were out there: Move to North Dakota! There are tons of jobs, waitresses are making $15+ dollars an hour, and you can easily find a job making over $100k a year! While some of this may be true, when stories like this get published what happens? Tens of thousands of people, mostly out of work, consider moving to North Dakota to find work. Here’s the problem. While there are jobs, there aren’t that many, and it’s North Dakota. The fracking boom has come mostly to smaller towns that don’t have the resources to accommodate such a giant influx of folks, many of whom are down on their luck, have questionable pasts, and think that North Dakota, or in the case of the documentary “The Overnighters,” Williston, North Dakota, is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. “The Overnighters” focuses on these people, the ones not getting the jobs, as well as Rev. Jay Reinke, a pastor in Williston who opened his church to those who couldn’t find a place to say, much to the dismay of the town, especially when the questionable pasts of those seeking shelter came to light.

As the documentary opens we see the Reverend waking up the people he has sheltered for the night. Most of them are men, those who came by bus or train are sleeping throughout the complex, in hallways and rooms, while those with cars would sleep in the parking lot, and the documentary begins to key in on a few of them with Rev. Jay, trying to help them through the transition to find a job. He advises them to clean up, cut their hair, get a resume together, and keep trying, but challenges await most of them, especially as background checks reveal criminal records, but more importantly for the documentary, people on the sex offender list.

We see Rev. Jay’s family who is trying to do the Christian thing and help everyone they can, but you can see the strain the situation is placing on them as well. The key to this story is the town of Williston, torn by wanting to be good Christians, yet wanting to keep their small-town feel, worried about crime, and trying to keep their children safe.

Progressing through the documentary we learn that the Reverend is housing men with sex offender pasts, both in the church and in his home, and while some might be a blip on a record that follows them for life, others are not so seemingly insignificant, and when the local paper brings this to light, the blow-back for Reinke is insurmountable, especially as he is harboring some of his own secrets.

What I loved about this documentary was that it really showed the flip side to the stories of the boom of North Dakota. You see the people and some you root for, but many you question because at one instance they seem like people just trying to restart their lives, but then you see them slip into being assholes again. The thing is this even happens with Rev. Jay when one minute he seems like the great-natured guy, just trying to help, but, and sure every story has two sides, from the commentary by some of the people he helps, there are times even his motives seem questionable. There is an extra with a detailed follow-up interview with Reverend Jay when he addresses this, mostly in a manner consistent with his personality shown in the film.

There are a few times the documentary drags, but other than that “The Overnighters” is a fantastic look at the other side of the North Dakota story. Sure, those with a little bit of a better plan than the people just “showing up” and thinking millions await them probably have a decent chance of the good jobs, but it’s this other side people don’t hear about.

This documentary shows people doing a lot of soul-searching, losing even more, like their families, by even coming to North Dakota, and a Reverend who has his own demons that he can’t come to grips with. It’s a great look at the town reaction, those who don’t have it so easy, and the challenges faced when the “boomtown” event happens because not everyone is happy about it. It’s 4 stars out of 5 for “The Overnighters.” I guess I would have liked a few success stories on people who really made it, though there was the one dude who was excited because he was actually going to have someone to supervise. Other than the little blurb of “What is happening now,” a little more follow-up on some of the characters might have been nice. Also there is some “niceness” about the documentary, although one of the outtakes, “I Used to Stay Here,” really shows the flip-side and the volatility that can be there. I think I might have like to have seen a little more of that.

That’s it for this one! L8R!!