I poured cereal in my coffee

I poured cereal in my coffee

This is a new one for me – I was apparently so tired this morning that I poured cereal in my coffee.

That is all.

The Book of Henry is an educational disaster for screenwriters

Book-Of-Henry

According to Liz Lemon, Tootsie (the movie where Dustin Hoffman dressed in drag to get a job) is the example they use in all the screenplay books on what to do when writing a movie. The Book of Henry is, by contrast,a clinic in what NOT to do.  It’s just- the thing is… I can’t even! Well, I’ll try to explain.

spoiler alert

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Fifteen Million Merits review (Black Mirror S 1 E 2)

black-mirror-15-million-merits

After skipping the first episode of Black Mirror (somebody spoiled it for me and… yeah, no thank you),  I jumped into the cutting edge of 2011 entertainment and watched the second offering, “Fifteen Million Merits.” I loved it.  Here’s why:

spoiler alert Read the rest of this entry

The curious case of Tomb Raider (2018)

laura-croft-tomb-raider-2018

Like the original, the best thing Tomb Raider has going for it is its star. Alicia Vikander is excellent and I was especially taken with how well her protagonist arc was written. And yet, this 2018 reboot is less than the sum of its parts.

I don’t know the Tomb Raider games, but I do have a basic understanding of story structure. For the uninitiated to Laura Croft like me, this movie lays out in a similar way to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. (Maybe this is a plot also found in the games, but again, I don’t know anything about that.) Our hero is going to save their father and (of course) everyone on Earth from the bad guys, who are on a quest to obtain an ancient power that would enable them to rule the world. The first problem is that the reality we are immediately thrown into in this new Tomb Raider movie is the very familiar and realistic setting of our own world. Even Laura herself doesn’t believe in a supernatural threat; this makes the journey she’s going on less impactful because of the way it’s set up. She’s going to save a father that she has mixed feelings about from a threat she doesn’t entirely believe in. This is not great storytelling.

On the other hand, Laura’s personal Arc is a well-crafted Journey. We first meet her in the ring, sparring in a gym and losing. Then we see her trying to make ends meet with a dead end job, next hoping to win money in bicycle race that she seems to have the intelligence to win but ultimately loses, and so on. We keep learning about her character: her strength, her intelligence and her grit, but she’s not an unstoppable killing machine. She loses fights and people take advantage of her, then she fights back. This makes Laura relatable and we can identify with her struggle.

So it seems like the people who made this movie knew what they were doing… to a point.  They knew how to write a protagonist, they knew how to create and photograph action, but the story… It’s not full of holes, but it’s the opposite of compelling.  I found myself getting board, to the point of almost falling asleep during the third act, when I should be on the edge of my seat.  A woman to my right was watching videos on her phone, doing her best to respect the other theater goers by awkwardly positioning it inside her sideways held purse on her lap – but not willing to leave the theater for whatever reason.  (The seats are plush, recline and since I was fighting the sandman, I couldn’t say sh$t to her.)

Is it worth seeing Tomb Raider?  I guess I’m saying no.  Vikander is great, there are several fun action sequences, but what’s here just isn’t enough.  Maybe fans of the series will enjoy this, but I don’t think there’s enough here for general audiences and maybe not even action/adventure fans.

A Wrinkle in Time is an adequate mess (movie review)

wrinkle-in-time-movie-review-oprah

I can’t remember the last movie I saw that was as frustrating as A Wrinkle in Time. The trailer didn’t have me jumping out of my seat with excitement, but I was intrigued by the premise, so here I am, reviewing a movie I liked more than I didn’t and sort of recommend. Here come the spoilers! Read the rest of this entry

#MarchForOurLives in Hackensack, NJ

#MarchForOurLives in Hackensack, nj

Now that I’ve graduated to my mid/late thirties, I’m more aware than ever that today’s kids are growing up differently than I did. This isn’t going to turn into a, “when I was your age” diatribe because I also understand that I grew up differently than my parents, who came of age during the era of “duck and cover.”

“Can you imagine?” I used to say. “It’s NUCLEAR ARMAGEDDON, the world is coming to an end, everybody get under your desk! That’ll do it.” You see, I was used to fire drills – there is a simple logic that applies to a fire in any building. “The building is on fire, so let’s get out of the building.” There’s dozens of reasons a fire could start in a structure and there’s really only one that’s malicious, so a fire drill didn’t exactly strike fear into my heart. But my parents and now kids today face a threat I can scarcely imagine.

#MarchForOurLives in Hackensack, nj

That’s the thing that really struck me about the speeches at the #MarchForOurLives event I attended in Hackensack, New Jersey. When these kids got up to speak -these seniors, juniors and even a freshman in high school came up to the microphone – they all talked a lot about the drills. These kids have grown up in the era of the active shooter drill, the lockdown drill. This is a totally foreign experience to me. When I was a kid all the way through grade school, we’d have random fire drills. The school bell wood ring in a tick-tick-tick emergency fashion and we’d all get up walk out of the classroom, down the hall, out on to the sidewalk and stand around for a while until some administrator waved us back in. That’s it. These children brought me up to speed: an announcement comes over the PA that the school is in lockdown mode and each classroom begins the procedure. They close the door and lock it. They draw all the window shades. They hide the kids in a corner or in a closet. And then they wait. They wait and they wait and they wait. They wait for an all clear because these kids say that they never know if it’s a drill or if it’s the real thing. I guess I didn’t either when it came to fire drills, but school fires are a rare things. You knew it probably wasn’t a fire. Anybody who even casually pays attention to the news knows that anytime a school goes into lockdown, the unspeakable could be happening.

#MarchForOurLives in Hackensack, nj

This isn’t something that these children think about just when a tragedy occurs – this is something they deal with every day.  They have to get up each morning and face their fears – that they could become another story on the news.  One of these young speakers talked about how they didn’t worry about the results of a test because they figured there was a chance they wouldn’t be alive to receive them.  Another joked that all they wanted to worry about at school was test scores, project grades and what the cafeteria was serving for lunch.  And that’s how it should be.

Unfortunately, we all know the truth – that’s now how it is.  But it could be.  You’ve probably heard people saying that this isn’t a gun issue, it’s a mental health issue, but every country has people that are unwell and they don’t have the same gun violence problem we have here in the United States, so that tells me that the problem is guns and we have to fight back.  The best ways to do this are to donate to gun safety groups like Everytown and vote for candidates who support gun control and campaign finance reform because until we get the guns off the streets and the money out of politics, nothing is going to change.

But we can make it happen.  I hope you’ll join this movement and take action today.

Pacific Rim Uprising is the best Transformers movie I’ve ever seen (movie review)

pacific rim uprising

Did you see Pacific Rim? I did. It was… you know, fine – I sound a lot more excited in the review then I am now. But that movie has Idris Elba. He makes everything okay. So I wasn’t exactly jumping up and down and sprinting to my local theater to see Pacific Rim Uprising, yet here we are and I can at least say that this movie will give you exactly what it promises: big robots fighting big monsters.

And unlike any of the Transformers movies, I can actually tell what’s happening and it’s not a confusing mess.

So now that we’ve got that out of the way, if you have any interest in giant monsters, you’ll probably like the second installment in the Pacific Rim series which I assume will go on until we’re all dead or the series becomes unprofitable. That’s not such a bad thing because these movies don’t really try to get heavy; they concentrate on doing what they do best: CGI grudge matches. This second installment does an even better job of keeping the talking parts to a minimum and making sure that they’re not excruciatingly painful. Good performances and somewhat interesting characters help – and I appreciate an attempt to do something interesting with a character – it sure goes a long way in getting this movie to the finish line.

If you’re the kind of person who wonders why inter-dimensional aliens can only transport themselves to our world through a rift they open at the bottom of the ocean and whether or not building giant robots to fight giant monsters would be the best uses of resources in a world ending event and why they can only be piloted by two people who are mentally linked, you should probably not watch these movies. They’re mostly for enjoying the spectacle, but unlike the sadistic Transformers movies, they don’t have contempt for the audience. They’re just fun, filled with wacky fights and decent character work by quality performers. It’s not the sort of movie you can debate or even talk about much, it just is, and what it is is good. I don’t think anyone will write about the Pacific Rim film series at any point when they look back on this period in cinematic history, but if you’re looking for a fun element of spectacle, you should check it out.

Black Panther overcomes traditional plot beats with nuanced characters and intriguing story details

I finally saw Black Panther and of course, no movie exists in a vacuum. I’ve seen all the Marvel movies and have generally enjoyed them (except Age of Ultron) and at this late date, there’s a lot of hype surrounding this newest MCU installment. I did my best to temper expectations and just enjoy the movie for what it is, but fortunately, it turns out that what this movie brings to the table is the perfect balance of what we’ve come to expect from the series and something new.

We’re going into spoilers from here, so you’ve been warned. Read the rest of this entry

Game Night is not a waste of your time (movie review)

game night movie

I hate to hurl a bunch of statistics at you, but I feel that they’re more relevant than usual. Out of 169 critics, 138 gave Game Night a positive review with an average rating of 6.7 out of 10. I think this, while not a ringing endorsement, sets expectations perfectly for the movie it aggregates.

If you’ve seen the trailer, I can understand that you might be filled with trepidation. The premise is so dumb even 80s comedies are blushing, but somehow, they make it work. The plot isn’t airtight and it’s fair to say that its biggest twists don’t exactly make sense, but it’s still fun. This movie tends to run the best jokes into the ground but the cast is so charming I don’t think you’ll mind.

The biggest difference between Game Night and its contemporary peers is that this movie seems to have a script filled with dialogue, setups and payoffs and is just generally trying. Most comedies I’ve seen lately rely heavily on improvisation and star power rather than any sort of attempt at something that smacks of effort.

I think the most important takeaway from Game Night is that Rachel McAdams is fantastic and she should be in every movie forever. The ensemble is strong, but I feel she’s the clear standout.

If you see Game Night, I think you’ll have a fun time at the movies and won’t feel cheated (ironically enough, The House doesn’t play by the rules). I don’t see us looking back on this movie as a comedy classic in ten years, but rather a passable evening at the movies.

Reactions to the winners, losers and snubbed of the 90th Annual Academy Awards (PODCAST)

best-movies-of-2017

I’m back on the What Does It Matter? podcast to react to this year’s Oscar show! You can listen below or download by searching WDIM in your podcast app of choice! You can find WDIM on Facebook and Twitter, too! Drop some review love on Facebook and iTunes!

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Thoroughbreds is a movie entirely built on character development

thoroughbreds-movie

There’s something interesting about a movie that doesn’t rely on plot to push the story forward. When you watch a character study like Thoroughbreds, you get to enjoy a lot of nuance, and that’s become something of a lost art in the multiplex movie going experience.

Relationships, as we all know, are complicated. Whether by personalities, circumstances or happenstance, our perspectives on each other are colored by a multitude of things. How we and the ones around us react to these things is the fiber of what makes Thoroughbreds so much fun to watch. The revelations don’t come from a specific story point necessarily, but rather reactions and choices based on such a story point.

This isn’t an easy movie to talk about without spoiling it. There’s not a lot in the way of surprises or mystery as the movie unfolds at a natural and believable pace. There are certainly times when a few more story details could enhance the narrative, but with this kind of character study, they aren’t necessarily needed. Of this week’s current release calendar, critics and audiences seem to agree that Thoroughbreds is the best of the bunch, but I would go farther to say that it’s a good movie in almost any weekend. Check it out.

Babe Ruth and the 60(+) home run club

babe-ruth-hot-dog

There was this one time Babe Ruth ate hot dogs till he passed out. True story. You know how many hot dogs you need to eat to lose consciousness? Apparently, it’s somewhere between 12 and 18.

Last year as a member of the Florida Marlins, Giancarlo Stanton hit 59 home runs.  Now that he’s moved to the cozy confines of Yankee Stadium, the dream (and the hope) is that he can punish even more baseballs – which is not a reasonable request, but a fun thing Yankee fans can hope for going into the 2018 season. Hitting a home run is still one of the most exciting and impressive feats in all of sports. Despite the fact of the home run’s arbitrary nature (different pitchers, how far the ball travels doesn’t matter, every field is so different in so many ways from layout to distance from home plate to wall to the height of said wall and so on), we all dig the long ball.

A home run may be a regular occurrence during a baseball season, but the guys who have the chance to put it out of the park every time they come to the plate are special players and the ones who can do it with ferocious regularity are rarer. There are only five major league baseball players to ever hit 60 or more home runs in a single season: Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Roger Maris and Babe Ruth . It’s not easy to hit 60 home runs over the course of six months. I get that no one says it is, but it’s such an incredible achievement that I think it’s worth saying. Maris was feeling the pressure to the point where his hair started falling out. Bonds, McGwire and Sosa all used performance enhancing drugs.  And Ruth?  Well, Babe Ruth ate too many hot dogs and drink too much alcohol.

So… Yeah. In case it’s not clear, Babe Ruth was REALLY good at hitting a baseball.

It’s difficult to quantify baseball players against each other, especially when they played during different eras of the game. You’ve got your dead ball era, your live ball era, before and after they lowered the mound by 6 inches, before and after night games and fly across the country, before and after segregation and international players, any time the league expanded, the era of everybody being on speed, of everybody being on steroids, the advent of the personal trainer, the specialization of the bullpen and about a million other things that have changed the game over time.

But of course there is one player who transcends time, and I guess in this case space and even the game itself. You know who I mean, it’s the Babe! George Herman Ruth. This guy could play today and he’d still be a top tier player. Even if he only achieved half of what he did back then in today’s game, he’d still have hit 30 home runs in one year, which is pretty great. There just aren’t a lot of players you can transport to any point in the history of the game and they’d still be a star, and he’s one of the few.

Babe Ruth hit his 60 home runs in 1927.  He was so far ahead of his time that he had more home runs on his own than 12 (TWELVE!) teams had clubbed with their entire roster.  Nobody matched or beat his record until Maris hit 61 homers in 1961.  He beat him by one, and that year, the schedule had been expanded, so Maris played in 8 more games than Ruth had in 1927.  Nobody topped Maris’ mark until 1998, when McGwire hit 70 and Sosa hit 66. Bonds then hit 73 in 2001.  So if you’re keeping score at home, Ruth held the record for 34 years, Maris held it for 40 years and then three players surpassed them both in the space of three years.

Yeah…  that’s not suspicious at all.

mcgwire_milk-ad

McGwire waited to have the glass of milk after he got “home” because he needed the steroids before he got to the plate.

Another quick tidbit:  Sosa, McGwire and Bonds all played in the National League, so the single season home run record in the American League still belongs to Roger Maris.  Because Maris played in eight more games than Ruth, they continued to include Ruth’s record – the idea was to treat them as separate records because of the schedule disparity.  Maris died in 1985 and finally in 1991, Commissioner Fay Vincent’s Committee on Statistical Accuracy essentially decided that a baseball season is a baseball season and proclaimed support for the “The single record thesis,” meaning there is only one record.  I tend to agree given how much the game (and life) has changed between 1927, 1961 and 1998.  There’s no way to quantify it, so there’s no reason to try.

And now here we are in 2018.  The New York Yankees feature two great power hitters in Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge, much like they did with Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle or Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.  Will Judge (52 home runs in ’17) and/or Stanton (59 home runs in ’17) reach the promised land this year?  Who knows.  But it’ll be fun to watch, and yet, it’ll never be like watching Babe Ruth.  He set the standards for the game and players are still chasing his records 70 years after his death and 91 years since he set his most famous bench mark.  We’ll never see his like again.

And I didn’t even talk about Ruth’s pitching numbers. Spoiler alert: they’re good.

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