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Stream It Or Skip It: ‘The Unforgivable’ on Netflix, a Depressing Melodrama Starring an Anti-Glam Sandra Bullock as an Ex-con




Stream It Or Skip It: ‘The Unforgivable’ on Netflix, a Depressing Melodrama Starring an Anti-Glam Sandra Bullock as an Ex-con

Netflix movie The Unforgivable adapts 2009 British TV miniseries Unforgiven into a Sandra Bullock anti-glam vehicle, giving the star an opportunity to play against type. She exhibits some Very Serious Acting: She plays an ex-con. She doesn’t wear makeup. Her hair is unkempt. She doesn’t smile for two hours. Are there flashbacks to That Fateful Day? Oh boy, are there flashbacks. They’re just more opportunities for the star – known for lighthearted comedies and big Hollywood showcases like The Blind Side – to Show Her Range, but does she make the most of them? Is she convincing as a hardened and weathered woman with jailhouse tats on her hands? Let’s find out.

The Gist: Today, Ruth Slater (Bullock) is getting released from prison. As she packs her stuff, we see bleary images from the past, memory fragments, of guns, screaming, a little girl. So yes, already with the flashbacks. She doesn’t seem to be all that happy to be getting out. Her parole officer lectures her and warns her and gives her a contact for a job at a seafood packing plant and drops her off at a halfway house where all the residents are constantly shouting or shooting smack. Meanwhile, elsewhere, Katherine (Aisling Franciosi) is driving, but isn’t quite keeping her mind on the road. She seems distracted, not by her phone or a billboard or something happening on the street, but, like, by a thought, such as, oh, maybe an old repressed memory or something, and she runs a red and, bang, ends up in the hospital with cuts and bruises and a concussion and an arm in a sling, and she’s thankful, because it could’ve been worse.

Is it a coincidence that Ruth’s release and Katherine’s crash happen on the same day? I THINK NOT. The screenplay gods surely want there to be some psychic extranatural jive going on here, because, see, they’re sisters, long estranged. Katherine was five when her somewhat significantly older sister went to prison for killing a police officer with a shotgun. The kid was adopted by a nice couple, Michael (Richard Thomas, a.k.a. John Boy from The Waltons) and Rachel (Linda Emond), and raised with a younger sister, Emily (Emma Nelson). The parents are stable, and the girls seem pretty tight; Emily is in high school and Katherine is a gifted pianist attending, I dunno, music college? She has little memory of what happened, except maybe she actually does. “Are you having those nightmares again?” Emily asks Katherine, and this is precisely how sisters talk when one was traumatized at a very young age and the other apparently wants to be a psychotherapist.

There’s another meanwhile here, regarding brothers Steve (Will Pullen) and Keith Whelan (Tom Guiry), whose lives also were shattered that fateful day; their father was the police officer, and their bitterness and rage are stoked when they hear Ruth got out early for good behavior. It also seems as if the cops, some of whom stalk Ruth and stare her down from their cruisers, have given these boys a get-out-of-jail-free card if they want to do something about it. At this point, it’s worth noting that none of these characters seem to have undergone any sort of counseling, or if they have, it didn’t work very well. They’re all screwed up, not like all of us are screwed up to various degrees – such is the reality of the human condition, you know – but Movie Screwed Up, which means they’re about to make a lot of really dumb decisions in order to advance the plot.

Hold tight, because here comes a third meanwhile. In a rural farmhouse that happens to be the rural farmhouse where Ruth and Katherine used to live, lives Liz (Viola Davis) and John Ingram (Vincent D’Onofrio) and their two sons. Ruth buses out there one day and stares at the house until John invites her in, while Liz gives him a Viola Davis Look of Severe, Silent Disapproval. Wouldn’t you know, John’s a lawyer who does pro bono work, which is exactly what Ruth needs in order to work around a no-contact order and possibly see her sister. Her mopey, hardened, coarse, lonely, joyless, cold, vinegary, irreconcilable, gruff, coughing, aching, stuffy head, fever, can’t-rest life can’t go on without Katherine, to whom she wrote “thousands” of letters over the years. She never got a letter in return, not even once.

When Ruth’s not pining like acres upon acres of Christmas trees, she works two jobs, building walls at a community center and beheading fish in a factory, where she meets Blake (Jon Bernthal), a chatty fella who’s apparently drawn to the sullen, silent, tactless, shooting-knives-from-her-eyes type. He even sneaks up on her at the construction site and she nearly brains him with a pipe wrench, and the doughnuts he brought her just totally go flying. Yes, there’s another character to keep track of here, I mean, how many CHARACTERS does a movie NEED? There’s a lot going on here, just tons of stuff, tons of it, all jammed in and working its way to a big conclusion where even more stuff happens in one fateful day, all cross-cut with flashbacks to the other fateful day. Just how fateful is all this going to get? Can’t say without spoilin’ it.


What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: There’s so much corny, overheated, basic-cable melodrama here, I wanted to rename the movie Tyler Perry’s Just Got Outta Prison.

Performance Worth Watching: You know, it feels like Viola Davis is just not having any of this crap.

Memorable Dialogue: “Life goes on.” – Ruth says this, but it’s really not true for anyone in this movie

Sex and Skin: A very brief shot of extramarital coitus interruptus, because there must’ve been a point where the screenwriters felt like they hadn’t crammed everything that exists into this story, so they wedged in a single, eminently cuttable scene that reveals a secondary character’s troubled home life in order to further justify the stupid decisions that secondary character makes.

Our Take: In this world, there are things that need to be said about redemption and forgiveness, punishment and rehabilitation, The System, the gray areas of morality, psychic trauma and mental illness, protecting the vulnerable vs. exposing them to reality, siblinghood and parenthood, isolation and reintegration, and maybe whether doughnuts can fly. But alas, all these ideas are naught but flies at The Unforgivable’s picnic, pesky things to be swatted away lest it be about anything but its plot. Its sullen, ridiculous, burnt-to-a-crisp plot, which piles up preposterous incredulities and eye-rolling coincidences that might be amusing if they weren’t so damn predictable. Or maybe they’re amusing because they’re predictable? Hard to tell.

The film has opportunities to be interesting, in Ruth’s scarlet-letter story – she’ll always be a cop killer, her parole officer reminds her – and the debate over whether Katherine’s life would be better or worse with Ruth in it (although the movie suggests, with all the conviction of a serial Psych 101 class-skipper, that ending “those nightmares” for Katherine may be as simple as pressing the missing puzzle piece into place). It’s a solid premise, but the execution is terrible, just terrible. The first half of the film is generally OK, driven by Sandra Bullock’s glowering and gritty anti-Sandra Bullock performance. But it soon drenches us with Hollywood hogwash, bungling along, battering us with happenstance, pointless complications, drawn-out hokum, persistent flashbacks, enough characters and subplots for four movies, a howler of a third-act revelation and the type of overblown melodramatic flourishes that make Douglas Sirk films look like the Three Stooges. I didn’t buy any of it. Feel free to quote the movie’s title right back in its face.

Our Call: SKIP IT. No thank you!

John Serba is a freelance writer and film critic based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Read more of his work at

Stream The Unforgivable on Netflix


Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death




Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death

Legendary NFL coach and broadcaster John Madden died Tuesday morning at 85, the NFL announced. News of the football icon’s passing hit Twitter on Tuesday evening, and athletes, coaches and broadcasters from across the sports world reacted.

Fellow broadcasting legend Dick Vitale, who is currently battling cancer, called Madden “the greatest analyst of all time of any sport” in his Twitter tribute.

Former Yankees pitcher and notable Raiders fan CC Sabathia said “your legacy will live forever.” Madden coached the then-Oakland Raiders from 1969-78, a couple of years before Sabathia, a Vallejo, California native, was born. Lakers star LeBron James had similar words about Madden’s lasting legacy, adding an infinity emoji.

Former tennis star and social justice activist Billie Jean King recalled meeting Madden as a “privilege.”

Radio voice of the Rangers Kenny Albert, a five-sport broadcaster who’s been with FOX Sports since its inception in 1994, shared a photo circa 26 years ago to remember Madden.

ESPN’s Bomani Jones took a bit of a shot at current color commentators, noting that Madden “set an unreachable standard.”

Frank Caliendo, who’s made a career out of impersonations, including one for Madden, said he was surprised how emotional he felt.

Several football players, and others, including Saints running back Mark Ingram II and former Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant, credited Madden with being part of the reason why they love football.

Rams wide receiver and NFL MVP contender Cooper Kupp quote the late coach in his tribute: “The road to Easy Street goes through the sewer.”

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Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence




Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence

MINNEAPOLIS — The Knicks got back another body in rookie point guard Miles McBride, who was cleared from protocols Tuesday and rejoined the team in Minnesota.

But there is no longer any hype for the rookie’s return. Kemba Walker is back as the starting point guard and coming off winning Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors with four standout games, including his Christmas Day spectacular. The Knicks have gone 2-2 since Walker regained the starting job.

“It’s great,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He had a great week. He’s playing great basketball. The team winning helps him get recognized and he was a big part of driving that winning. It’s great for the team.’’

McBride was also spectacular in his last outing before getting COVID-19, when he played the entire second half Dec. 16 in Houston and seemingly earned a spot in the rotation. In fact, McBride had strung together two decent outings before he was ruled out. But things have changed since his emergence and McBride is likely back to being a bit player.

Without a practice, McBride wasn’t even expected to see time when the Knicks faced the Timberwolves to kick off a four-game road trip.

Miles McBride
NBAE via Getty Images

Of course, with Walker’s arthritic knee, anything is possible. The Knicks play Detroit on Wednesday in a back-to-back, so it’s uncertain whether Walker will complete both contests. In addition, Immanuel Quickley is out of COVID-19 protocols but Thibodeau wasn’t sure he was ready for meaningful minutes.

That left Walker against the depleted Timberwolves, who were missing their three top players (Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell), all because of COVID-19 .

Kemba Walker
Kemba Walker

When McBride got sidelined by the virus and Derrick Rose needed ankle surgery, Walker was resurrected by Thibodeau and it’s been a stunning comeback story.

Though Thibodeau has clear reservations about Walker based on his nine-game banishment due to his defensive malaise as an undersized point guard, he admitted after the Christmas Day triple-double against Atlanta that Walker is playing “much more aggressive.”

Walker’s triple-double that featured 10 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds was a lot different than his prior outing, when he scored 44 points against Washington.

“I thought his passing was terrific,’’ Thibodeau said before the Knicks resumed their schedule.

“Kemba had control of the game. The game tells you what to do. That’s what I loved about the way he played. I don’t think he forced anything. They puts size on him and were aggressive in their pick-and-roll coverage. He didn’t fight it. He attacked pressure the way you like to attack pressure. You don’t fight pressure with pressure. Don’t try to split it. Get rid of it, go to the backside. Let the game tell you what to do.’’

The Knicks coach is finally seeing all the elements of what Walker can do. Before his demotion, Walker was nothing more than a no-defense, 3-point shooter whose plus-minus was an abysmal minus-122.

Thibodeau was also concerned about his durability in sitting out two of the three back-to-back sets. The last load management game in Atlanta in late November triggered Thibodeau’s decision.

But now it’s only superlatives from Thibodeau in judging the last four games.

“Sometimes it’s going to be his shooting, sometimes it’s his penetration and getting in the paint to force a collapse and sometimes they’re being aggressive with their traps get rid of the ball quickly,’’ Thibodeau said. “The overall play, his rebounding. When your guards rebound, those are key to fast breaks. The more guard rebounding we get the better we can be. ‘’

The Knicks still have three players in protocols — centers Nerlens Noel and Jericho Sims and the newly infected Wayne Selden. Quickley and Kevin Knox were cleared on Christmas but were held out for conditioning.

No matter. The Knicks go as Kemba goes.

“He’s much more aggressive,’’ Thibodeau said. “That was the challenge. At the beginning of the year he and Evan were two new starters. Sometimes guys are trying to fit in. he’s being very aggressive which is the way we want him to play. Not deferring at all. When he and Julius [Randle] are aggressive like that our team is different.’’

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Bar raises dramatically for Zach Wilson in matchup with Tom Brady, Buccaneers




Zach Wilson and Tom Brady

When Zach Wilson stares across the MetLife Stadium field at the opposite sideline this Sunday, it won’t be Trevor Lawrence he’ll be looking at as his game-day counterpart.

Lawrence, drafted by Jacksonville one spot before the Jets selected Wilson at No. 2 overall last April, is a contemporary.

This Sunday at MetLife, the Jets rookie quarterback won’t be staring at a contemporary on the other sideline. He’ll be staring at the GOAT.

Tom Brady.

The bar raises dramatically for Wilson and the Jets, who are coming off of their feel-good, get-well win over the woeful Jaguars and Lawrence this past Sunday.

Brady and Buccaneers, who are 11-4, NFC South division champions and seeking to repeat as Super Bowl champions, play the Jets, who are 4-11 and seeking more signs of development from their rookie quarterback.

To say this is a step up in competition for Wilson and the Jets going from Lawrence and the Jags to Brady and the Bucs is as obvious as pointing out that Tampa Bay receiver Antonio Brown has had a few off-the-field incidents during his otherwise stellar NFL career.

There hasn’t been a lot to keep the interest of the Jets fan this season — other than watching Wilson’s development. That took an unfortunate pause for the four games Wilson missed with a knee injury, but he’s been back for five games and has looked like a better quarterback, throwing only two interceptions in those games (none in the last three) since returning from his injury.

The problem, though, is that Wilson hasn’t been producing enough touchdowns, throwing for three of them and rushing for four others in the past five games.

Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg; AP

Baby steps, though.

Wilson was the better quarterback this past Sunday when matched up with Lawrence, who threw for more yards than Wilson did, but Wilson ran for 91 yards, including his electric 52-yard scoring jaunt, and made key throws when he needed them.

Wilson will not win Sunday’s game against Brady and the Bucs throwing for the 102 yards he had against the Jaguars. He and the Jets will need more.

Consider this: Brady enters the game having thrown 37 TD passes and for 4,580 yards this season and averages a league-high 305.2 passing yards per game.

Then this: The Buccaneers average 29.5 points per game this season, second most in the NFL.

And this: Wilson doesn’t have a single 300-yard passing game, averages 183 passing yards per game and has thrown seven TD passes in 11 games.

Seven TD passes is a pedestrian two-game total for Brady.

Wilson and the Jets are playing with house money anyway in what always has been a developmental season, so Sunday against Brady should, at its very least, be a great measuring-stick learning experience for Wilson, who’s studied Brady on tape.

Wilson revealed this month that he watched film of Brady before the Jets played the Eagles on Dec. 5 in an effort to pick up tips on how Brady worked against the Eagles defense when he played them earlier in the season.

“I thought it was really cool to see kind of how he went through his whole process, how he navigated the pocket, different things like that,” Wilson said at the time.

On Sunday, Wilson gets to see that process up close as Brady tries to dissect a Jets defense that has yielded 29.9 points per game this season, the most in the NFL.

That puts an added onus on Wilson to produce on the other side of the ball, because he knows Brady is going to get his. Wilson will likely need to produce four TDs — any way he can — for the Jets to simply remain competitive with the Super Bowl champs.

That’s a lot to ask of a 22-year-old kid who’s produced just 11 TDs in his 11 starts, up against Brady, who’s thrown 618 TD passes and for 83,784 yards in his remarkable career.

It, too, is a lot to ask playing against an aggressive Tampa Bay defense that’s ranked No. 9 in the NFL in points allowed (20.8 per game) and is led by former Jets head coach Todd Bowles, who’d surely like to send a holiday message to his former employer.

If you don’t think Bowles will be blitzing the bejesus out of Wilson, then you probably think Antonio Brown is a living saint.

The good news for the Jets is that Wilson has shown incremental improvements, particularly when it comes to his decision-making and quicker releases on his throws.

“He’s coming along, he’s getting more comfortable, he’s calmer back there,’’ Jets coach Robert Saleh said Monday. “He’s in a great headspace and it’s going to be fun to watch him grow, continue to grow.’’

A big part of that growth will take place this Sunday as he watches the GOAT operate from the opposite sideline at MetLife.

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