If you want the gravy…

…You've got to get the biscuits!


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THE GAMBLER Review – ***

The prestige picture that wasn't. (Source)

The prestige picture that wasn’t. (Source)

That The Gambler was released at Christmastime (after premiering at the AFI Fest) suggests that Paramount expected the Academy to take notice. In return, they got middling reviews (just 47% on Rotten Tomatoes as of this writing) and unremarkable financial returns. It’s at once fitting and a bit unfortunate.

Unfortunate, because it’s not a bad film. It’s pretty well-directed, the acting is solid, and on the whole, it’s a decent watch. Fitting, because it wastes most of its cast, adds up to little, and ultimately shows no reason for existing (and because it plays into some tiresome stereotypes, but we’ll get back to that). It’s not a bad film. It’s just not that good either.

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If you want the gravy…you’ve got to roast the turkey

Just a quick Season’s Greetings from all of us (me) at If You Want the Gravy…

If I haven’t explained where the name came from, or did so back in the earliest days of the blog, I’ll tell you. I was in a stand-up comedy class in college, and it seemed to me that a good stand-up needs a catchphrase.

Out of some corner of my mind came, “If ya want the gravy, ya gots to get the biscuits!” It was well enough received. I’ll chalk it up to my delivery.

Anyway, a quick heads-up as to what to expect over the next few days. I’m not committing to a strict publication schedule just now, but I’m seeing Into the Woods and the final Hobbit film today, probably catching The Gambler tomorrow, and seeing about fitting in The Interview, Unbroken, Annie, and whatever else I have to catch up on before New Year’s.

At some point, I’ll put up some awards updates (there are quite a few), and maybe an overview of just what the scoreboard is like in terms of nominations and wins.

And there will be a few more soda reviews. I drank a bottle of Fentimans Victorian Lemonade the other day. Very nice. Not necessarily nice enough to merit writing a full review, but whatever.

Anyway, have a merry Christmas, watch movies (last year I did both versions of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. That was interesting), and get the gravy.


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Most Anticipated Films of 2015: Overture

A lovely day, indeed. (Source)

A lovely day, indeed. (Source)

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Perfect 10: WHIPLASH, THE BABADOOK, TOP FIVE, EXODUS: GODS AND KINGS, THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING, ST. VINCENT, KIRK CAMERON’S SAVING CHRISTMAS, BEYOND THE LIGHTS, THE HOMESMAN, and HORRIBLE BOSSES 2 Reviews

One hell of a motley crew.

One hell of a motley crew.

Dear God. I have never been this far behind. This is just like college.

Basically, I had an assload of reviews that I was way overdue on. I saw five movies this past weekend (it would’ve been six, but I decided Laggies could wait), and that when I had five other reviews waiting in the wings. It’s absurd. I don’t know how it’s gotten to this point. I’d assume being swamped with awards-season shit is a big part of it, but…

Way back in July, I posted my first article about starting to get burned out and needing to take some time off. I’ve never totally bounced back from that point. For every high point like my Interstellar review, there’ve been many times when I find myself not wanting to write or not really having enough to say. And the truth is, I could scrap the whole thing and the only fallout would be disappointment. But I don’t want to do that.

I’m going to have to work on a few things going forward. A greater sense of self-discipline (which has never been my strong suit), and, I think, a judicious application of the “work smarter, not harder” principle. Saving the long essays for the films that merit them. And when a film doesn’t inspire lengthy commentary, keep it concise. But keep it truthful. I feel I owe you that much for your time.

(UPDATE 12/25: All reviews marked with an asterisk are complete. Other reviews will be added one by one.)

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As Long As Boyhood Doesn’t Win: Kansas City, Broadcast Film Critics (Critics’ Choice), Indiana Film Journalists, and Dallas-Fort Worth Nominees/Winners

Well done, KC.

Well done, KC.

Normally I’d kick things off with the Critics’ Choice nominees, but I live in the Kansas City area and figured I’d give our local film awards a shout-out.

(UPDATE: Finished!)

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KNIGHT OF CUPS Trailer

Taking a quick break from the deluge of awards news to bring you what will probably be one of my top films of next year.

Malick will always have a weakness for pretty people taking long slow walks in fields or beaches or wherever, but it looks like he’s adding a nice little dose of crazy to the mix this time. Bring it on, Terrence.


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All Across the Land: Chicago, Phoenix, St. Louis, Detroit, San Francisco, and San Diego Film Critics Nominations

I’ve got a personal connection to Chicago.

My family–well, my dad’s family–has been in Chicago for…at least 130 years. Probably closer to 150. Assuming I move there while my uncle still liveth, and assuming I live to a ripe old age, our family’s presence will span two centuries of Chicago history.

Chicago, for me, is the perfect combination of the Midwestern millieu I grew up in (I’m from Kansas) and the cosmopolitanism of, say, New York. It’s home to great theater, to some of my favorite restaurants, museums, and zoos; as a child, the CTA stoked my fascination with public transportation, as a man, it represents, for me, just about everything I would want from a city.

It was home to perhaps the most beloved film critic the world has ever, or will ever, know. Great films have been made there; great minds have been forged there. It is the home of my forebears, and God grant that it may be my home someday.

We have four more cities to tackle here, but since the option is here, let us first see what Chicago, prince of cities, birthplace of love itself, has to say.

(UPDATE: San Diego and St. Louis announced their winners today. I’ll bold the winners. I have no real commentary except…someone liked Nightcrawler.)

(UPDATE II: Now Phoenix has announced–just as I find out that there are actually two awards groups based in Phoenix!)

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