7 Yards: The Chris Norton Story


Rated: Not Rated | Running Time: 94 Minutes
From: Virgil Films
Available on Digital Platforms:  February 23, 2021
Get it via : Amazon | Apple TV

Cover are for 7 Yards: The Chris Norton StoryThe worst nightmare for parents of an athlete, in my head, is seeing your child get injured. Usually it’s just scary, the daughter or son gets up, and all is well.

On the day Chris Norton went down following a tackle at a college football game, everything was not well. Chris hit the turf, he couldn’t move, and in a small town a helicopter is a bad sign, and on this day it was the sign Chris’ injury wasn’t the type he would just be able get up from.

This is the start of “7 Yards: The Chris Norton Story,” a documentary about the struggles and triumphs Chris had following his injury, and his journey to walk seven yards down the aisle at his wedding.

So, Chris goes down, and in simple terms, Chris injured his neck and was given a 3% chance of any being able to move again. And so the journey begins.

The documentary leans heavily on hope and progress. Sure, there are glimpses of Chris going through mental challenges, but when he was able to move his arm a little, he had hope, when he was feeling down a nurse came in and said, “You will beat this,” and Chris had hope. Even when a doctor came in with no hope, dismissing as a “phantom” feeling Chris’ explaining to said doctor that he had some feeling in his big toe, Chris had hope and was determined to prove the doctor wrong.

Chris put it, “I was naive to believe in myself.” Sure enough, the doctor was proven wrong.

As the documentary progresses, it’s on to the next stage of Chris’ inspirational recovery. He’s out of the hospital and back to “normal” life after being discharged following months of therapy at The Mayo Clinic. Sure, he’s still in a wheelchair, but is a little bit more mobile in his upper body and has some leg movement.

Eventually Chris finds love with Emily, and we get to what would lead to Chris becoming a national news story – He wanted to walk across the stage at his college graduation.

At this point watching the documentary, we know we can’t put anything past Chris as, sure enough, following intense training, there he was, walking, with a little help, to get his diploma. No, it wasn’t like Chris was bouncing across the stage doing summersaults, but yes, I got weepy even knowing the scene was coming.

As Chris’ video of determination and hope goes viral with over 300 million views, Chris finds himself on the national stage, and maybe you might think the story is over.

Nope.

What happens when you have a great person by your side, and you want to spend the rest of your life with them? Yup, Emily accepts Chris’ proposal ,and it was on to Chris’ next goal of walking with Emily, arm and arm, down the aisle, seven yards, after the vows are said.

You see, up until this time, when Chris walked, someone was leading in front of him as it was more stable, but that wasn’t what Chris wanted. He wanted to be by Emily’s side, and well, with Chris’ track record of progress, it was going to happen.

And, oh yea, we also find out Chris and Emily decide to become foster parents, then adoptive parents, of five kids.

How’s that for being an inspiration, or at times for me, my sitting there going, “Crap, what a lazy, complaining slug I can be?”

“7 Yards: The Chris Norton Story” is about as inspirational as an inspirational documentary can get. It recreates some of the earlier parts of Chris’ life, those that didn’t have footage, especially since it wasn’t like the minute Chris went down someone said, “We have to film everything for a move ten years from now!”, intermixed with actual footage of Chris’ journey, and countless interviews of those around him.

The documentary does a good job spotlighting the many people around Chris who helped him in his progress from the injury, and really is a feel-good film. About the only thing that bothered me was the length. It clocks in at an a little over an hour and half, so sometimes there is the “Alright already, we get it, Chris is an inspiration. Show him walk across the stage!”

It’s 3 1/2 stars out of 5 for “7 Yards: The Chris Norton Story.” I did get weepy a few times along Chris’ journey, and his story is quite the inspiration for anyone going through struggles. Go ahead, watch Chris, and then try to complain about your life because it probably doesn’t have nearly any of the challenges Chris has overcome. Maybe you’ll be inspired to try just a little harder, too.

That’s it for this one! L8R!!

Synchronic


Rated: R | Running Time: 101 Minutes
From: Well Go USA Entertainment
Available on Digital Platforms:  January 12, 2021
Available on Blu-Ray: January 26, 2021
Get it via : Amazon | iTunes

Box art for the movie Synchronic.

It’s always a problem when there is a new party drug in town, and this time it’s a drug called Synchronic.

But here comes Dennis (Jamie Dorman) and Steve (Anthony Mackie).

They are paramedics and keep stumbling upon folks who find themselves dead, or in completely bizarre situations that are seemingly unexplained, and somehow stuff from different periods of time show up.

The link appears to be Synchronic, and “Synchronic” is also the name of the movie.

So, yea, we’ve got our heroes, or well, just a couple of dudes living their lives, but things start to go really weird. First you get Steve who finds out he has health issues, then you’ve got Dennis with daughter issues, and then you’ve got dead, or almost dead people, with items from the past or animal bites from animals that no longer live in New Orleans.

First they are all like, “Yea, it’s just another party drug gone wrong!”, but then Dennis’ daughter, Brianna (Ally Ioannides) becomes part of the mix, disappears, and Steve wants the drug off the street.

Enter Dr. Kermani (Ramiz Monsef).

He’s the dude who invented Synchronic, and he explains to Steve how it works, and that time travel is involved.

Yup, let’s do some time travel and try to find Dennis’ daughter!

Lucky for Dennis, and his daughter, that Steve is also kind of a scientist, able to analyze the time travel trips, so yes, Steve begins to hone in on being able to hopefully find Brianna.

And once we find this out, and that the good Doctor is dead, well, the ending is all but secure.

Time travel movies are always tricky. I mean, there is always the “I can go back in time and change things” aspect, or the “Is today the result of the going back?”, but “Synchronic” doesn’t dwell too much on the true metaphysical aspects of traveling through time, only hitting up a couple of sequences for Steve to understand how the drug works.

The movie also has a lot of limiting aspects to the drug so that it really stays focused on one thing, getting Brianna back.

I will say that “Synchronic” is an interesting look at time travel, and visually looks great when the time travel scenes take place. There is some sociological stories going on, especially with Steve being African American and traveling back into the days of slavery, and there is also some psychological aspects of death, but the movie doesn’t get too bogged down in those, instead focusing on Steve’s task at hand.

Don’t get too wrapped up into the flow of time thing, just treat the movie as a sci-fi thriller of a a man trying to find a lost girl, and you’ll be fine. Well, most of you should be fine except for one scene when Steve returns to the present day where I was just completely sad. I believe you may be sad, too, but I’m not telling so you can embrace your sadness.

At the end it’s 3 1/2 stars out of 5 for “Synchronic.” A nice sci-fi thriller for you while stuck inside. The Blu-ray has some fun commentary, making of, and things like that, but for me, the Blu-ray is worth its price of admission for the “Alternate Ending.” It was perfect.

That’s it for this one!  L8R!!

Spacewalker


Rated: Not Rated | Running Time: 137 Minutes
From: MPI Media Group / capelight pictures
Available on DVD and Digital Platforms:  January 19, 2021
Get it via : Amazon | iTunes

Let me start this review with a helpful hint: Watch “Spacewalker” with the language set to “Russian” and have the English subtitles. I know, no one really wants to “read” while watching a movie, but the voices in English of the folks who dubbed the movie were so far off from what you probably imagine the characters sound like, that, well, it can almost ruin a wonderful film.

Yes, “Spacewalker” is a wonderful film.

Let’s get to the movie.

So, here we are, in the 1960’s and it’s the full-blown, “United States v. USSR,” space race. There’s a win for one country here, a win for the other there, and the next step, other than the ultimate destination, the moon, is to have someone “walk” in space. The United States had their timetable to get a man out of the capsule and hang around in the emptiness of space, but the USSR needed the win. What to do? Accelerate their timeline.

But how?

Enter Alexey (Evgeniy Mironov) and Pavel (Konstatin Khabenskly), with some help from Sergey (Vladimir Ilin). How? Well, the USSR has been working on a spaceship with the capability for a spacewalk, but things are moving slow, and quite frankly, they need someone who loves danger combined with someone with a steady hand, to pilot the thing. Alexey is the daredevil and Pavel is the steady hand, and although their personalities compete at times, they also become the perfect cosmonauts for the job.

As is the standard case with movies detailing anything space in the 60’s, there is peril at every turn, safety corners get cut in the name of getting the rocket in the air, and there is always something that goes wrong where the crew might die. “Spacewalker” is no different. Yup, even though you know things will get hairy, and you will fear for the lives of the cosmonauts, rest assured movie folks aren’t really making these films where the heroes die.

So, yes, there is the backstory of Alexey growing up and our learning how he became fearless, we cheer on the aging Pavel, and feel for Sergey in that horrible position of wanting to please his boss, Leonid Brezhnev (Valeriy Grishko), while maintaining the safety of the crew.

It’s the perfect, “based on a true story” story, albeit not as “Hollywood” looking as you might want. Nope, “Spacewalker” may not have the special effects you might expect, but it doesn’t need them, the story has the suspense it needs to have you cheering on the cosmonauts, even if they are on the other “team.”

Now, back to my first comment.

For years I have complained in my head whenever I had to “read” while watching a movie, meaning it’s a foreign film, without an English dubbing, so I had to read subtitles.

I’ll never complain again because “Spacewalker” has some of the worst dubbing of actors I have heard. Simply put, when you think USSR and cosmonaut, especially for the bosses, and even looking at the actors, you think, “rough and gruff” voices.” Let’s just way that the English voices dubbed into this movie were nothing “rough and gruff,” and they really started to ruin the movie. To confirm I wasn’t wrong I rewatched the beginning of the movie with the original voices of the actors, in Russian, with subtitles, and the voices fit the men and women so much better. Lesson learned, and my advisory for you, again, to like the movie a lot better, read the subtitles and listen to the actual actors.

So, ignoring my mistake of listening to the dubbed voices, “Spacewalker” is really a wonderful movie. It did a great job showing the danger the cosmonauts faced, the odd friendship of two different personalities, and nicely showed the backstory of Alexey and how he became fearless. You get upset at the government folks who don’t really seem to care about the people, you get nervous even though you are fairly certain the outcome will make you feel good, and in the end “Spacewalker” does a great job of sending you back to a time when pride came in accomplishments and not in conquering.

It’s 4 stars out of 5 for “Spacewalker.” 

That’s it for this one! L8R!!

Summerland


Rated: PG | Running Time: 99 Minutes
From: IFC Films
Available on DVD and Digital Platforms:  November 17, 2020
Get it via : Amazon

Box art for the movie Summerland

Gemma Arterton plays Alice. Alice is a writer and researcher kind of person. She is also a recluse. She also lives in Southern England.

That seems fine.

The problem is that people don’t like her, and kind of rightly so. How so? Well, not to give an early scene away, let’s just say that Alice has the opportunity to be a nice but, just as you think she might not be that bad, she takes all the items from the counter at the corner store.

Welcome to the movie “Summerland.”

Yup, Alice doesn’t seem to care about people. Combine that with her being a recluse and, well, she also gets tormented by the local kids who think she’s a witch, or a nazi, or that woman who will kill you in your sleep.

Enter Frank (Lucas Bond).

Frank is a young lad who is an evacuee from London, and Alice is being made to temporarily adopt Frank. You see, when London was being bombed during World War II, many children were evacuated to the outskirts of England so they wouldn’t die in the bombings while their parents stayed behind to be part of the war. Yay, save the children!

Well, here is Alice, a woman with no motherly instincts nor any desire to appreciate nor help anyone, now stuck with a young lad who is scared yet still adventurous as young lads might be.

Poor Frank.

Frank works to get acclimated for it’s unsure how long he’ll be away from his parents, and what better way than at a school. There he teams up with a girl named Edie (Dixie Egerickx), kind of the tomboy/outcast kind of girl, who is freaked when she finds out that Frank has to stay with the “witch and maybe Nazi,” Alice.

Life is weird for Frank.

As the movie moves along we get flashbacks to Alice in her young woman days, finding love with someone she can’t spend her life with, and we begin to see how Alice progressed to the jaded woman she has become.

The problem for Alice, though, is Frank, because Frank is actually interested in what Alice is researching and writing about, and yes, you can guess, they venture into a friendly relationship with Alice trying to figure out some of the motherly things she isn’t ready for.

The thing is that up to this point I’m mostly enjoying the movie. It’s progressing as a nice story of how Frank is able to get Alice to live life again and care about people, and most things are easy to figure out as you have the flashback stories of Alice in love with someone in the wrong era, a boy away from his family during war, then loss, then survival.

Then the “Oh, come on!” moments begin as it seems everything tries too hard to make you weepy.

I mean, if you didn’t see the foreshadowing leading up to Frank’s father dying, I apologize for that spoiler, but that seems so obvious from the arc of the story that it was inevitable. And that was fine, but then the progression to my going “Nice going, Edie!” started to lead to the story going where I didn’t think it needed to.

Gosh, this is so hard to write without giving things away, but let’s just say that I was happy with Alice and Frank just helping each other with life that I didn’t need other people to show up nor attempted plot twists to make the story more creative.

This was a little too bad for me because it made the movie kind of a mess at the end, trying to add too many things to “happily ever after” instead of just Alice bonding with Frank in circumstances no one would desire.

The movie, is, however, well done in terms of acting and looks. Gemma does a wonderful job transitioning from the recluse to the woman whose heart opens back up to people, and Lucas does good work playing a young lad just looking for stability in the craziness. The movie also looks beautiful, especially with the scenery of England, although the war scenes in London seem a little stagey.

Look, I can understand how some will find the “tying everything together” super sweet and tear-jerky, but I really just wish they would have let the movie get through the sadness then let Alice and Frank develop as a family. At the end it just seemed to try too hard.

It’s 3 stars out of 5 for Summerland. It’s nice, you might get weepy, but you also might just say “I didn’t need that plot twist.”

The Blu-ray had some extras, a weird behind the scenes that was just “outside” video of the movie sets, with no narration, and it’s got the standard interviews if those are your cup of tea. Not a huge reason to search for the Blu-ray, so feel free to nab this on the digital formats.

That’s it for this one! I’m Andy! L8R!!

Bliss

Rated: Not Rated | Running Time: 87 Minutes
From: Dark Sky Films
Available in Theaters and VOD: September 27, 2019
Get it via : Amazon | iTunes

Just the other day I was saying to myself, “Self, whatever happened to George Wendt? You know, Norm from Cheers?” Sure, I could have Googled him, but it turns out I didn’t have to as it turns out Mr. Wendt was part of the cast for the horror flick, “Bliss.” I was excited to see where he fit in. As the movie is a horror film, I wish I could say things ended up well for “Norm,” I mean “Pops.”

Anywho, “Bliss” gives us Dezzy (Dora Madison). She is your basic starving artist, late on her rent, dropped by her agent, and fears she may have lost her painting mojo. Yup, she has painter’s block, and she likes to say every variation of “fuck” a lot.

What to do? Why go out for some drug-fueled partying, of course?

What should you have? Why, Bliss, of course?

Continue reading Bliss

Echo in the Canyon


Rated: PG-13 | Running Time: 82 Minutes
From: Greenwich Entertainment
Available on Blu-ray and DVD:  September 10, 2019
Get it via : Amazon | iTunes

Fiona Apple from radio station concert, Q101 Twisted 3 in 1996.

A picture of Fiona Apple popped up on my digital picture frame the other day. It spurred a question in me, namely, “What ever happened to Fiona Apple?”

Then, there I am watching “Echo in the Canyon,” a documentary about the music that came out of Laurel Canyon in California in the 1960’s, and who shows up? Yup, Fiona Apple! Now I know, she is still making music! Yay!

Okay, let’s get to the documentary…

“Echo in the Canyon” is a look at how the California music scene of the mid to late 1960’s blew up, thanks mostly in part to many of the influential artists who would go on to make that music settling in a spot in Los Angeles called Laurel Canyon.

Continue reading Echo in the Canyon

Nekrotronic


Rated: R | Running Time: 99 Minutes
From: Momentum Pictures
In Select Theaters VOD, and digital HD:  August 9, 2019
Get it via : Amazon | iTunes

Monica Bellucci is Finnegan in Nekrotronic.

Apparently demons and necromancers (demon hunters) have been fighting each other for, well, forever. They used to use crude weapons, then more advanced weapons, then laser type blasters, but damn, don’t touch my Internet.

Guess what? They touched my Internet.

So, we get Howard (Ben O’Toole). He works in the port-a-potty business sucking up crap, literally. He’s got a bumbling partner, Rangi (Epine Bob Savea), who is obsessed with a new video game on his phone. Low and behold the demons, well, head bad person Finnegan (Monica Bellucci) has developed this game as a way to suck souls thereby increasing her power in demonville.

Continue reading Nekrotronic

Rick Springfield and Richard Marx

To the Review….

I wanted to yell to her, “Yes, he is going to play “Jessie’s Girl,” now will you please, you and your friend, shut up and enjoy the rest of the show, even if you don’t know the songs.”

I didn’t.

I also didn’t move my feet for about an hour and a half. They were firmly planted on the ground no matter how much said girl kept pushing her way into my space. My wife saw how she kept bumping into me and suggested I move closer to her (my wife), but I told her, “If I give this drunk girl any space, I’ll never get it back.”

Richard Marx in concert at RaviniaAnd so it was on a rocking, freezing night at Ravinia Festival near Chicago for the double bill of, as Richard Marx put it, “Two Dicks.” Yup, Richard Marx and Rick Springfield on a night when you would have thought it was the middle of October instead of mid-June.

None of that mattered, though, all that really mattered was the music, the hits, new stuff, and a great time through the mist and cold.

Richard Marx had the opening slot. Kind of a bummer for him with the weather because the pavilion was sparsely populated at this point. The weather wasn’t helping walk-up sales, and a lot of the crowd was there for the other Rick. That’s not to say the folks who were there didn’t have a great time with Dick #1, I mean, his initial call to the top of the charts was around the same high school years as that of Mr. Springfield.

Richard Marx in concert at Ravinia, Highland Park, ILThe interesting thing with Richard Marx, however, is that a lot of his more recent success has come in the shadows, as the songwriter and producer of tons of artists, many of whom you have heard of. Yup, remember “This I Promise You” from NSYNC? He was a part of that. Remember Luther Vandross’ “Dance With My Father?” A part of that, too. Keith Urban’s “Long Hot Summer?” Not just Keith, but Richard, too.

And the list goes on.

Richard Marx in concert - Ravinia in Highland Park, ILAnywho, Richard Marx’s set consisted of many of the hits you might remember from those 80’s, “Angelina” and “Hold On to the Nights” to name a couple. The crowd loved him, sang along as they should have, and appreciated his song “When You Loved Me” which he recorded with his sons as his “band” on video. He did a fantastic set, including stories of the songs he worked on with the other artists. His NSYNC story was pretty funny, and seeing a young Justin Timberlake in the picture he flashed was, well, actually just made me feel old.

Richard was fun. The crowd had fun. It’s Two Thumbs Up for Richard Marx. It is too bad he moved to the west coast, Chicago lost a favorite son, but with the weather we’ve been having, holy crap I understand the move!

Rick Springfield in concert, Ravinia, HIghland Park, ILA quick set change brought a video montage of Rick Springfield’s successes, but really, the crowd didn’t need a refresher, well, except maybe that intoxicated girl next to me. Out came Rick to the raucous “Light This Party Up,” and the crowd began to party.

Now, it’s been almost 20 years since I last song Rick Springfield in concert. Yes, I admit, it’s been way too long, especially for me who loves his music. Back then it was at a venue called “Joe’s Bar” in Chicago, on a cold, November night, and crap, it was nearly as cold this night in June.

Rick Springfield in concert at Ravinia, Highland Park, ILRick blew through a set consisting of the songs people wanted to hear and a few more recent ones the girl next to me didn’t want to hear. She was definitely in the minority.

You might remember the songs, like “I’ve Done Everything for You,” “Affair of the Heart,” and “Love is Alright Tonight.” He even did a great rendition of “World Start Turning,” explaining his ever-present demon of depression, but I’ll tell you what, if you miss rockin’ these days, and haven’t checked out Rick’s later offerings, may I suggest you give a listen to “The Snake King” from 2018. “Little Demon” kicked ass, and he even got crowd participation on a newer song, not the easiest of things to do, on “The Voodoo House,” a bluesy, rocker.

If you are Rick Springfield and have lots of hits people want to hear, what do you do so the concert isn’t a marathon? Why not a medley? So he did, with songs like “Bop ’Til You Drop,” the always fun to hear “Bruce,” “Don’t Walk Away,” “Rock of Life,” and “What Kind of Fool Am I?” in a mid-show medley.

Rick Springfield in concert at Ravinia, Highland Park, IL“Don’t Talk to Strangers” brought true crowd participation as Rick tossed a microphone into the audience for people to sing into, and “Human Touch” got Rick into the crowd, coming down the aisle, across the seats, and back up to the stage. Funny, or maybe sad, how the song, with lyrics like “Everybody’s talking to computers” and “I’m so scared and isolated in the modern world,” actually has more meaning, some 36 years after it was originally released.

With the evening wrapping up, and the girl next to me still blabbering for “Jessie’s Girl,” she would have to wait a few more songs as Dick #2 brought Dick #1 back to the stage for some duetting to each other’s tunes, with Richard Marx handling “Don’t Mean Nothin’” and Rick leading “Love Somebody.”

Yes, finally drunk girl got her wish. Yup, it was “Jessie’s Girl” time, as if Mr. Springfield wasn’t going to play it?

Sure, the weather completely sucked, but Richard and Rick brought a good time to everyone who braved the elements. There was reminiscing about the old songs, enjoying the new songs and Rick even had a sing-along of “Happy Birthday” for himself as his 70th birthday is approaching. Quick side note, as Rick was “questioning” the crowd how old they thought he was, the drunk girl next to me pegged him at late 50’s. When I told her he was 69 she seemed shocked, but then said something similar to “I’d still sleep with him.”

I do have to say that following the concert I felt a little down about myself. I mean, there he is, approaching 70 year’s old, coming off the flu, and bouncing around the stage with the energy that I, well, I don’t think I had that energy when I was in my 20’s. I have got to give the guy credit for continuing to put on a fantastic show and not just resting on his old hits but also making some great, new music.

It’s Two, Giant Thumbs Up for Rick Springfield. Go ahead, see him to relive the 80’s but enjoy the new stuff, too! All I know is one of these times I have to get real photo clearance for his show so I can get better pictures of the man. I just probably shouldn’t wait another 20 years to see him.

That’s it for this one! L8R!!

Bachman: Special Edition


Rated: Not Rated | Running Time: 78 Minutes
From: Filmrise / MVD Entertainment Group
Available on DVD and Blu-ray:  May 10, 2019
Get it via : Amazon | iTunes | MVD Group

I am embarrassed to admit that I didn’t realize Randy Bachman was a member of The Guess Who. Sure, I knew the songs “American Woman” and “These Eyes,” but I never knew Mr. Bachman was a part of that magic.

Enter “Bachman: Special Edition,” a documentary of Randy Bachman, out on Blu-ray and DVD.

Maybe you didn’t realize Randy Bachman was a part of The Guess Who, either. I’m guessing most of us think Bachman-Turner Overdrive when we hear his name. Also not realized might be that he is in his 70’s now, still making music (check out the most-interesting “By George – By Bachman”), and he was never the stereotypical partying kind of rock and roller. He just wanted to play guitar and make great music.

Which he does, and a lot of it.

Continue reading Bachman: Special Edition

White Chamber


Rated: Not Rated | Running Time: 89 Minutes
From: Dark Sky Films
In Theaters and VOD: March 29, 2019
Get it via : iTunes

I get so mad at myself when I don’t see the plot twist coming. I also secretly applaud the film folks when they pull it off. And so I must applaud the film folks of “White Chamber” when the big reveal came towards the end of the movie because I just didn’t see it coming.

It was a wonderful “Ahhh!”

I won’t give this moment away, so let’s get to the story.

It appears the United Kingdom is in a civil war. Somehow the military has taken over, led by General Zakarian (Oded Fehr). Enter Ruth (Shauna Macdonald), or whatever the woman’s name is. She wakes up in this white room, a.k.a. chamber, completely lit up, and with a bump on her noggin.

Continue reading White Chamber