Wednesday, October 14, 2020

The Trial of the Chicago 7 - Movie Review

By Adam Daly


The Story
What was intended to be a peaceful protest at the 1968 Democratic National Convention turned into a violent clash with police and the National Guard. The organizers of the protest—including Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Tom Hayden and Bobby Seale—were charged with conspiracy to incite a riot and the trial that followed was one of the most notorious in history.

The Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Sacha Baron Cohen, Mark Rylance, Joseph Godron-Levitt, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Frank Langella, Jeremy Strong, John Carol Lynch

The Crew: Aaron Sorkin (Writer/Director) Phedon Papamichael (Cinematographer) 

Running Time: 129 minutes 



Going into this year, this was easily one of my most anticipated films of the year.  A lot of that excitement was in part by the writing of Aaron Sorkin.  He has written some of my favorite screenplays of the last decade (The Social Network, Moneyball, Steve Jobs), along with some 90s must watch films (A Few Good Men, The American President).  He always seems to pack his screenplays with a lot of dense and complicated material, but writes it in a way that is easy to digest for all audiences.




This film is no different!  The Trial of the Chicago 7, is a politically charged courtroom drama that harkens back to the crowd pleasing films of the 90s.  It also is rooted in the issues of the time but you can't help but make compassions to the culture that is 2020.  The film tackles topics of our right to protest, police brutality, riots, and racism among other things.  I know the film isn't 100% historically accurate.  Sometimes films of this nature take certain liberties, and Sorkin is a Writer/Director known to take many.  The film feels almost too "Hollywood-ized" by the end of the film, to leave the audience feeling good as the credits roll.  The ending sequence of the film might come across as cheesy to some, however I didn't mind the "cheesy" nature of it. 



Looking at the film as a whole, I thought the film really packs an emotional punch.  The film digs its way into every emotional crevice that it could.  It is tragic, uplifting, powerful, and hard-hitting, with bits of humor thrown in just for some flavor.   I think one of the most important things that this film is is entertaining.  I was so enthralled with this story and the back and forth in the events, that it really hooked me.  It's going to be a big awards contender and will easily get a "Best Picture" nomination at the Oscars!  It's not only timely but its also good at playing with your emotions.  The best part of the film for me is easily the script, and how the story is edited together in such a fast-paced and no-nonsense way!


Sorkin's direction occasionally comes across as heavy-handed at times due to music cues and editing techniques, his film is handled exceptionally well for a second time director.  The story is told in a way that may enhance a moment or two, but it will give viewers so much insight into this trial.  I found myself being frustrated, as certain members of the cast continue to get treated in such an inhumane way by this judge (Frank Langella).  We flash back and forth between trial and previous events that got us to this point.  It was such a riveting experience for me. 


Sorkin's direction occasionally comes across as heavy-handed at times due to music cues and editing techniques, his film is handled exceptionally well for a second time director.  The story is told in a way that may enhance a moment or two, but it will give viewers so much insight into this trial.  I found myself being frustrated, as certain members of the cast continue to get treated in such an inhumane way by this judge (Frank Langella).  We flash back and forth between trial and previous events that got us to this point.  It was such a riveting experience for me. 


The cast are on full display here!  They all display a pureness in their performances, as well as honesty and passion.  Eddie Redmayne has the biggest story arc in the film and he delivers.  I was a little distracted by his American accent at first but quickly got over that.  Mark Rylance, is by far the best I've ever seen him be and that's including his Oscar winning performance in, Bridge of Spies.  Sacha Baron Cohen, gives the performance I've always wanted to see from him.  I would love to see him get an Oscar nomination for this role.  The scene stealer for this film is easily, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II.  He's the performance that you feel the most for. 

It's going to be a huge awards contender!  This should not only be nominated for every ensemble award, but I believe it has a strong case to win all of them!    I think it has some easy nominations at the Oscars for, Best Picture, Screenplay, Supporting Actor (Rylance - however Cohen and Mateen are my dream picks) and possible Director,  I think Sorkin would be just as deserving of the nomination here, as Tom McCarthy was for Spotlight in 2015.

In closing, there's no denying that I really loved this film.  The writing and pace of the film is exactly what I wanted Sorkin to deliver, and he yanked it out of the park for me.  The actors all had moments to shine and they didn't over power each other.  Cohen, Mateen and Rylance are some that will be battling it out to make my Best Performances list at the end of the year!  The back and fourth style of the film might not resonate with all viewers.  I can see many finding it to take away from the tragedies of the true events, but it had the perfect balance in my humble opinion.  One of my favorite films of 2020!



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Friday, October 9, 2020

Over the Moon - Netflix Movie Review!

 





From Oscar-winning director and animation legend, Glen Keane (Dear Basketball) and Pearl Studio, the makers of Abominable, comes Over the Moon, an out-of-this-world story about one girl's journey to the moon and the lengths she must travel as she learns to love again after experiencing loss.


I knew very little about this film other than it was voiced by an all-Asian cast.  The cast is simply fantastic.  Its a great mixture of established actors, John Cho, Sandra Oh, Ken Jeong, and newcomers as well, Cathy Ang and Robert G. Chiu.  Sometimes, when I watch animated films and I pick up on who the voice actor might be, I only see the face of the actors and not the character they are portraying.  However, here it's totally the opposite.  These actors are the characters.  The characters are fully realized to me and I really enjoyed them, especially the growth of Fei Fei (Cathy Ang).

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The animation is bright and feels like it pops off the screen.  It's easily the best animated film of the year, without having seen Soul at the time of writing.  Having seen, Abominable, (a film I enjoyed) I can totally see the evolution of this studio!  It wouldn't surprise me if Pearl Studio starts putting out some high caliber projects in the near future.  There's a way they animate films that makes you feel a part of the film itself.  I think that's a rare accomplishment in animation today.  

As a person that has very limited knowledge of Asian culture, traditions, or legends, I found it quite refreshing to see their wonderful culture on my screen.  It felt natural and not forced.  I love seeing how we are getting a more proper representation of different cultures and ethnic groups in our films.  It's something that has taken far to long to happen but at least things are moving in the right direction!  

Speaking of culture, this movie is inspired by the Chinese moon goddess, Chang'e.  As I mentioned, I was totally unfamiliar with this classic tale!  I think the film did a very good job of informing new audiences who hadn't heard the legend before about who she is.  I think the filmmakers did something really smart in the way they animated the introduction of Chang'e.  The animation and color pallet changes to set the introduction apart, it makes it feel more important.  I hope that we see Chang'e as a modern-day goddess for the ages!



The story pulls at your heartstrings based on the subject matter.  I couldn't help but find myself relating to, Fei Fei, as she's learning to deal with a loss and having changes happen in her life.  Letting go is something in life that is so hard to do, and the movie shows that process in a unique way.  I did find myself drawing comparisons to Pixar at times because they are the master of telling these emotional stories.  Certain elements felt like something I had seen in their films as well (
UP, Inside Out)  but that didn't take away from my experience from the film!  Fei Fei and Chin (Robert G. Chiu) both have animated sidekicks, a bunny and a frog, so you could draw comparisons to Disney animation as well.  Both these animal characters bring some funny moments - my daughter really loved Fei Fei's bunny!


Sometimes, when you don't know anything going into a film, there are things that will certainly catch you off guard!  That totally is the case with this film!  There are 9 different original songs in this film, and I got to say they are amazing!  I can easily see this film getting a 'Best Original Song' Oscar Nomination this year!  They would be totally deserving of nominations as well.  Especially these songs, Rocket to the moon, Ultralumminary, and Mooncakes!  I'm looking forward to downloading them to my phone library so I can listen to them again!


Overall, I'm grateful to be getting the opportunity to see this film early!  Certain story elements are familiar, but taking this journey with Fei Fei and  Chin was an enjoyable experience.  The animation from Pearl Studio is something that gets me excited for their upcoming project next year, Dragon Keeper.  I would recommend this film to anyone who enjoys animation and fun storytelling.  Over the moon is a stunning musical story about love, loss, and the magic of imagination!


Adam Daly

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Thursday, July 23, 2020

2020 MLB Pre-Season Power Rankings

We are FINALLY about to get some baseball!!!  After four months of delay due to the pandemic and a labor dispute, we are getting a crazy season of 60 games, a little over one-third of a normal season.  Every game will count in a way it never has before.  Back in March, I started my yearly pre-season profiles of each team.  Once the season was postponed, I postponed my profiles.  Now that the season is about to start, here is a quick overview of my pre-season rankings, thoughts, and predictions.  A few adjustments have been made since March, but the profiles I already did are locked in.  They are definitely the lower tier of the league this season.

#30

#29

#28

#27

#26

#25

#24

#23

#22

#21
Boston Red Sox
Most Important Hitter: Xander Bogaerts
Most Important Pitcher: Nathan Eovaldi
Prospect to Watch: Tanner Houck
2020 Prediction: 4th in AL East

Loss of manager, Mookie, and Sale on the shelf will lead to a disappointing result in Fenway.

#20
Toronto Blue Jays
Most Important Hitter: Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Most Important Pitcher: Hyun Jin Ryu
Prospect to Watch: Nate Pearson
2020 Prediction: 3rd in AL East

The Blue Jays are currently homeless, but they have a young core that is almost ready to take another step forward.  Could be a surprise contender.

#19
San Diego Padres
Most Important Hitter: Manny Machado
Most Important Pitcher: Garrett Richards
Prospect to Watch: MacKenzie Gore
2020 Prediction: 3rd in NL West

Another possible surprise contender, the Padres' youth movement needs their veteran leaders to lead the way for them to take the leap in 2020.

#18
Chicago Cubs
Most Important Hitter: Willson Contreras
Most Important Pitcher: Yu Darvish
Prospect to Watch: Nico Hoerner
2020 Prediction: 4th in NL Central

The toughest division in baseball is going to make sure the Cubs and their window of contention with this core might be over.

#17
Cleveland Indians
Most Important Hitter: Francisco Lindor
Most Important Pitcher: Carlos Carrasco
Prospect to Watch: Logan Allen
2020 Prediction: 3rd in AL Central

The 2020 season will be less about if the Indians can compete and more about how it might be the last we see of Francisco Lindor in a Cleveland uniform.

#16
Washington Nationals
Most Important Hitter: Juan Soto
Most Important Pitcher: Patrick Corbin
Prospect to Watch: Carter Kieboom
2020 Prediction: 4th in NL East

The defending champs have one of the best rotations in baseball and could do damage in the playoffs again because of it.  I just don't see the lineup getting them there.

#15
Chicago White Sox
Most Important Hitter: Eloy Jimenez
Most Important Pitcher: Lucas Giolito
Prospect to Watch: Luis Robert
2020 Prediction: 2nd in AL Central

A lot of people are picking the ChiSox to make the playoffs.  They could easily slip into a Wild Card spot, but I think they are still a year or two away.

#14
New York Mets
Most Important Hitter: Robinson Cano
Most Important Pitcher: Edwin Diaz
Prospect to Watch: Kevin Smith
2020 Prediction: 3rd in NL East

This is a roster that could top the division or bottom out.  It all depends if their veterans can stay healthy.

#13
Los Angeles Angels
Most Important Hitter: Anthony Rendon
Most Important Pitcher: Shohei Ohtani
Prospect to Watch: Jo Adell
2020 Prediction: 3rd in AL West

The Angels landed one of the big fish in the offseason, but their pitching is too mediocre to truly get over the top yet.

#12
Milwaukee Brewers
Most Important Hitter: Keston Hiura
Most Important Pitcher: Brandon Woodruff
Prospect to Watch: Drew Rasmussen
2020 Prediction: 3rd in NL Central

The Brewers have an elite lineup build for the new NL DH.  Their pitching is as average as their playoff runs, but their division is getting deeper and tougher.

#11
St. Louis Cardinals
Most Important Hitter: Paul Goldschmidt
Most Important Pitcher: Miles Mikolas
Prospect to Watch: Dylan Carlson
2020 Prediction: 2nd in NL Central

I had the Cards in the playoffs in March, but pulled them out now.  They are always right there, but they are built for the marathon, not the sprint.

#10
Atlanta Braves
Most Important Hitter: Marcell Ozuna
Most Important Pitcher: Cole Hamels
Prospect to Watch: Kyle Wright
2020 Prediction: 2nd in NL East, WILD CARD, lose in Wild Card Game

The Braves have one of the best young cores in baseball.  They will make the playoffs, but they are just a little too young to make a deep run ... yet.

#9
Oakland A's
Most Important Hitter: Marcus Semien
Most Important Pitcher: Liam Hendriks
Prospect to Watch: Jesus Luzardo
2020 Prediction: 2nd in AL West, WILD CARD, lose in Wild Card Game

The A's always seem to be good enough to reach the playoffs every year, but not do anything once they get there.  The shortened season also makes them vulnerable to miss the playoffs in 2020.

#8
Arizona Diamondbacks
Most Important Hitter: Starling Marte
Most Important Pitcher: Robbie Ray
Prospect to Watch: J.B. Bukauskas
2020 Prediction: 2nd in NL West, WILD CARD, lose in NLDS

As weird as it would be to see MadBum in the postseason not in a Giants uniform, I think the D-Backs have the roster to get there.

#7
Cincinnati Reds
Most Important Hitter: Eugenio Suarez
Most Important Pitcher: Raisel Iglesias
Prospect to Watch: Tony Santillan
2020 Prediction: 1st in NL Central, lose in NLDS

If this was a full season, I don't see the Reds making the postseason.  However, in a 60 game season, I see the Reds getting hot and the season ending before they fall back to the rest of the pack.  One of the best rotations in the league.

#6
Houston Astros
Most Important Hitter: Carlos Correa
Most Important Pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr.
Prospect to Watch: Forrest Whitley
2020 Prediction: 1st in AL West, lose in ALDS

The Astros might benefit most from having no fans ... banging on trash cans.  They are too talented not to win the division, but the loss of Gerrit Cole will make a deep run tough.

#5
New York Yankees
Most Important Hitter: Giancarlo Stanton
Most Important Pitcher: James Paxton
Prospect to Watch: Clarke Schmidt
2020 Prediction: 2nd in AL East, WILD CARD, lose in ALDS

The Yankees might have the most talented roster in the AL, but I don't think they have the best team.  I see the World Series favorite falling short.

#4
Philadelphia Phillies
Most Important Hitter: Andrew McCutchen
Most Important Pitcher: Zack Wheeler
Prospect to Watch: Alec Bohm
2020 Prediction: 1st in NL East, lose in NLCS

The Phillies have all the makings of a deep run in the postseason.  They have a killer lineup and great pitching.  Too bad there is a superteam they will be running into.

#3
Minnesota Twins
Most Important Hitter: Byron Buxton
Most Important Pitcher: Kenta Maeda
Prospect to Watch: Alex Kirilloff
2020 Prediction: 1st in AL Central, lose in ALCS

If only the Twins could have put some more elite talent in their pitching staff...  They have possibly the best lineup in the league which will carry them this far.

#2
Tampa Bay Rays
Most Important Hitter: Austin Meadows
Most Important Pitcher: Blake Snell
Prospect to Watch: Brendan McKay
2020 Prediction: 1st in AL East, lose in World Series

The Rays have the best bullpen, one of the best rotations (which is funny considering they use the opener so often), and an efficient lineup.  They are set up to dominate, especially in this sprint season.

#1
Los Angeles Dodgers
Most Important Hitter: Corey Seager
Most Important Pitcher: Julio Urias
Prospect to Watch: Dustin May
2020 Prediction: 1st in NL West, win World Series

I think this is the year.  They have the best roster that only got better with Mookie.  Their pitching is strong and deep.  I hate to go with the favorite, but they are just that good.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

2020 Pre-Season Profile: Miami Marlins

#22

The Miami Marlins had the lowest attendance in the National League in 2019 after yet another season of floundering in the "rebuilding" stage.  Will 2020 finally see a change in the fortunes of South Beach?

2019 Predictions
#28 - 5th in NL East
MIH: Lewis Brinson
MIP: Dan Straily
PTW: Sixto Sanchez
FP: The Marlins' starting rotation will all be under 30 years old by the end of the season.

2019 Results
#28 - 57-105, 5th in NL East

The Marlins spent a second straight season in the cellar of the NL East after trading away their All Star outfield after the 2017 season.  They are still waiting for some of the prospects they picked up in those trades to hit big at the top level.  Lewis Brinson, the centerpiece of the Christian Yelich trade, only played in 75 games hitting .173 and an OPS+ of 24.  Dan Straily was my Most Important Pitcher last season, and he didn't make the Opening Day roster.  Miami is still eagerly awaiting the debut of top prospect Sixto Sanchez, the centerpiece of the J.T. Realmuto deal.  As for my Fearless Prediction, there were a total of 4 games started by someone 30+ years old for Miami last season (Hector Noesi) while most were made by sub-25 year-olds.

Additions / Subtractions

The Marlins had an interesting offseason as they decided to pick up some veteran players that could make an impact to go along with their developing young core.  So enter Jesus Aguilar, Jonathan Villar, and Corey Dickerson to stabilize the batting order.  The only impact players leaving the team were Starlin Castro, leaving in free agency, and Curtis Granderson, who retired.

Most Important Hitter
Brian Anderson

The best player on the Marlins last season was Brian Anderson, hitting his way to an OPS+ of 114 and a WAR of 3.7.  At age 26, his peak could still be ahead of him as he makes a case for being a centerpiece moving forward.  Either that, or he is trying to be a candidate for the next Marlin star traded away for prospects.

Most Important Pitcher
Sandy Alcantara

Sandy Alcantara was a rookie in 2019.  He also was the Marlins only All Star and their best pitcher all season, having an ERA+ of 109 and almost hitting 200 innings.  If the Marlins have done anything right in their successful seasons, it has been developing great young pitching, and with Alcantara entering only his age 24 season, he should be the next in a great line of aces in Miami if he continues to develop.

Prospect to Watch
Jesus Sanchez

There are five Marlins prospects listed in the Top 100 Prospects in all of baseball, with Sixto Sanchez topping the list at #22.  He is going to be a stud when he hits the big leagues, but I decided to highlight another prospect that might have a great debut in 2020.  Jesus Sanchez is the 4th best prospect in the Marlins system and the 80th best prospect in baseball.  This 22 year old outfield is an all-around player and has a chance to be a standard in the Marlins lineup for the foreseeable future.

2020 Prediction
5th in NL East

There is very little chance the Marlins leave the cellar of the NL East in 2020, but that doesn't mean they will take strides forward.  I love the moves they made to improve their lineup, and when you combine that with their young players about to take a step forward, and the young rotation ready to burst out, I could see the Marlins being a pleasant surprise throughout the season that flirt with a .500 record.  It isn't like they will threaten for a playoff spot, but ... baby steps.

Fearless Prediction
The Marlins will win a World Series in the next 5 years.

The Marlins are one of the most interesting teams in baseball.  Fronted by CEO Derek Jeter, they are heading in the right direction and should be threatening for a playoff spot soon.  The Marlins have made the playoffs twice in their 25+ year history.  Both times they made the playoffs they won the World Series.  If they finally make their way back to the playoffs soon, don't be surprised if they just go all the way.