Archive for the ‘Blogs’ Category

Blue Bloods Must End

January 27, 2020

It is pretty clear that most cop shows often show an idealized world where the police are always right and the criminals are always wrong. The only cops who are villains are the police who go rogue and they are treated as an anomaly. They are detested and immediately caught or killed by their fellow cops. However, since I was born in Baltimore City and I keep my eyes open, I know that this is a fantasy. Law enforcement has not and never will deserve blanket respect or trust. There will always be “bad apples” on the force and administrations and the brass will always cover up for them. There will be no reform because the system works for the government. They can blame the problem on the people of color instead of fixing economic and racial disparity in order to repair society.

Anyway, there is one cop show that I keep watching that is actually fairly accurate to the reality of law enforcement in our world. That show is Blue Bloods. The show follows a family that has dedicated their lives to law enforcement. Fittingly, the family’s name is Reagan because most of them do not care about citizen’s rights or about being good people. They constantly espouse an “us versus them” mentality. This mentality does not just encompass the police department’s relationship with the criminals but also with the public at large. Every single cop automatically assumes the guilt of people they are dealing with and act like complete assholes most of the time.

The most obvious offender is the character that even fans of the show love to hate. Detective Danny Reagan is played by Donnie Wahlberg. He is a stereotypical rogue cop with anger issues who often bends or breaks the rules in order to “get his guy”. He even has an inexplicable Brooklyn accent even though the rest of his family does not. This is how “blue-collar” he is supposed to be. However, he is consistently a dirty cop and is constantly under investigation but is constantly cleared. He has real psychological problems and in the latest season, I feel like he might be a sociopath. For example, in one episode he rolls up on a hostage situation that has nothing to do with him. He waits until everybody has their backs turned and he walks in and shoots the unstable criminal. He never shows any remorse that he shot a human being who may or may not have had psychological issues. This is pretty indicative of his behavior on the show.

The actual worse offender is patriarch Frank Reagan, the New York City commissioner played by Tom Selleck. Frank is an old school cop who basically hates anybody who is not in law enforcement. To him, a cop is a shining example in the world and is to be given every chance to make up for horrendous behavior. In one episode, a bunch of cops are verbally harassed outside of a housing project so his response is to send in three precincts, SWAT, and everything else he can throw at the project. He directs cops to round up every single person who lives there and question them and detain them in search of criminals. No probable cause, no logical reasoning. He felt police had been insulted so he sends in the troopers to shock and awe civilians. He is rightfully blasted in the press for it until the search randomly produces a serial killer they did not know about and he is exonerated. He is a hero because he stumbled into a win.

More recently, he revisited something good he actually did and ruined it. In an earlier season, he fired a young cop because she stopped somebody for being brown and media backlash forced him to let her go. He later stumbles on her working a waitressing job. He feels guilty and reverses his decision. He hires back a known racist because he thinks that waitressing (a noble profession) is beneath her and he thinks that she should be a cop. Not only that but he gives her a get out of jail card by telling her that he personally has her back. So when she once again commits some racist act, he will get her out of it instead of firing her this time. Awesome.

There are some exceptions. Erin Reagan is an Assistant District Attorney played by Bridget Moynihan. She actually has compassion despite basically being a cop herself. She often fights against her brothers and father to get leniency for people actually damaged by the system. Her daughter, Nicky, played by Sami Gayle, is even more compassionate and is often the one voice futilely fighting against her family. Vanessa Ray plays Officer Eddie Janko and, as somebody who has experienced both upper class and lower class life, she displays a little more perspective but not much. Her fiance, Jamie Regan (played by Will Estes) often toes the line too much but is at least a little nicer than his family. Garrett Moore (played by Gregory Jbara) is Frank’s PR commissioner. He absolutely views things as the rest of us would and often preaches restraint and understanding if only to make the police look good. His voice is often lost and lately, he is often straight-up ridiculed for his views.

While the show always held this kind of darkness, it feels like it has gotten worse and worse over the seasons. I would not even mind the show as much if the Reagans were not treated as the show’s heroes instead of rightfully being depicted as the villains. They often make situations worse than they found them and rarely feel too bad about them. So, why do I keep watching the show? Honestly, I do not know. The acting is really good and I love a handful of really good characters. Still, every so often I will hit an episode that will make me furious and I will stop watching for a while. I may be hoping for the show to get canceled soon so some of those good actors can be on a project with more merit.

Media Update 1/23/20

January 23, 2020


Rizzoli and Isles

I am not sure what I was expecting but it was probably something softer and cheesier. I was struck immediately about how dynamic and charming this show is. I also appreciated that the show did not bother with an origin story but drops the viewer right into the action. The show follows the partnership between homicide detective Jane Rizzoli and Medical Examiner Maura Isles. Rizzoli comes from a blue-collar family while Isles is uber-rich and stylish. Yet, I am fascinated by their close relationship that has been forged by fire. Angie Harmon is great as hard-nosed cop Rizzoli. She does not come off as a tomboy stereotype most of the time and is actually a good, flawed character. I empathize more with Sasha Alexander as the introverted science geek who is happy with the simple things but is still trying to connect to the world. The rest of the cast is pretty good as well, doing their job in moving the action along so that we can get more scenes between the main characters. I recommend this show.


Justified

Booked as a modern cowboy show, this show follows Timothy Olyphant as a US Marshal transferred back to his home state of Kentucky. I had heard about this show for a long time but I had set it aside. However, thanks to Santa Clarita Diet, I have become a big fan of Timothy Olyphantastic (nickname credit: Kevin Smith). He is such a charming guy with a good sense of comic timing. Here, he plays things cool and subdued as a steely-eyed cowboy. He definitely carries the show. Nick Searcy plays Olyphant’s mentor figure and boss. Erica Tazel is delightful as a no-nonsense marshal who helps keep the white guys in check. Jacob Pitts is the young marshal who used to be an Army sniper partnered with Olyphant. Joelle Carter plays a fairly brassy young woman who used to be friends with Olyphant. Walton Goggins plays a dumb yet manipulative white supremacist criminal, Olyphant’s nemesis who used to be his friend. I recommend the show even though the pacing is slow.


The Glades

This show follows a Chicago homicide cop who is unfairly fired and takes a settlement and a transfer to Florida. He is played very glibly by Matt Passmore. After the first episode, I was ready to hate him and close the door on the show. However, the character started to grow on me in a similar manner to Shawn from Psych did. However, the writing just is not as fun and interesting as Psych. Kiele Sanchez plays a snarky nurse who ends up being a major character. Carlos Gomez plays a grumpy coroner. Michelle Hurd plays a no-nonsense boss. Uriah Shelton plays a young boy (and the nurse’s son) who the main character becomes close to. The show is quirky and interesting but not as good as I thought it could be. I don’t really recommend it but if you are looking for pleasant background noise, it can fit that.

Music of the Week:
The Babes – Rock ‘N’ Roll Gang

Lil Uzi Vert – Futsal Shuffle 2020

Bishop Briggs – CHAMPION

JINJER – On The Top

Ningen Isu – Heartless Scat

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “TV Cop Shows”
– I watched more Stumptown Season 1 (Oops it wasn’t over)
– I watched more Brooklyn 99 Season 3
– I watched more Ducktales Season 1
– I started Bob’s Burgers Season 9
– I watched more Blue Bloods Season 9
– I watched more The Gifted Season 1
– I have been watching VODs of AGDQ 2020
– I started watching Wait in the Wings and Jarvis Johnson on YouTube

Peace in Video Games

January 20, 2020

I originally had something else planned for today but Joe Biden once again put his foot in his mouth and showed how out of touch he is with modern times. For those who are able to avoid the news, he said that game developers are “little creeps” and were making games that “teach you how to kill”. I wish I was surprised that he would say something like this as politicians have been ignorant about game development for ages. It just goes to show how out of touch politicians are when they do no research and spout things that would only get equally out of touch Boomers and soccer moms on their side.

Gaming has been my hobby since I was old enough to pick up a controller. I first played the Atari but quickly moved on to the NES and just kept going from there. I have either owned or touched most console systems and lately I have been getting back into PC gaming. I also watch let’s plays on the BarryIsStreaming Twitch channel and I have recently gotten into the Games Done Quick charity. I like to think I know a thing or two about video games because I have the experience and the passion to back me. I currently play Stardew Valley almost daily and I am slowly working through The Witcher game series and WatchDogs. Playing helps me relax and it also inspires me creatively.

The thing is, there are violent video games but it is an outmoded Tipper Gore-like mindset that believes that is all there is to a massive medium. There are so many diverse companies that make inspiring titles. Sure, there are some pretty grim games out there that involve killing but one does not have to be taught to kill. We know how to do that almost instinctually from birth. Instead, even the most violent games these days have a story to tell and they bind communities together. Besides, a lot of it is fictional violence that feels cathartic. Watching Steve Rogers punch the Red Skull in Captain America: The First Avenger is violent but we understand the difference between real life and the screen. Those who don’t were going to commit acts of violence no matter what was in front of them.

Anyway, I wanted to make this into a more positive post by detailing some recent games that were not violent and had a lot of meaning to me.


Wandersong

This game is about a bard who travels the world in order to find pieces of a song that will save the Universe from destruction. As a bard, he never lifts a single violent finger and instead talks to people and uses his singing voice to affect the people and world around him. He is constantly positive and upbeat and just wants to make everybody safer and happier. The only real villain of the game is an ultraviolent traditional adventurer who is obviously framed as being in the wrong. The game also delves into issues such as imposter syndrome and depression. There are a lot of complex, grownup themes that take the player on an emotional roller coaster. I laughed, I cried, I cheered.


Songbird Symphony

This game is one of the cutest I have seen. You play as a tiny, young bird who does not know his past. Adopted by peacocks, he feels like an outsider no matter where he goes because there are no birds like him. Under the guidance of an owl, you explore the world in order to reconstruct an ancient song based on the songs of all the bird tribes. You dance and sing your way through all sorts of unique worlds, meeting all sorts of bird breeds with their own cultures and personalities. You use perseverance and positivity to mend old pain and unite these now disparate groups all while exploring your own origins. This is such a cute game but it definitely explores deeper situations like not knowing where you belong and trying to figure out who you are.


Baba is You

Honestly, this game blew my mind. It is a seemingly simple puzzle game that you are constantly reinventing through changing its foundational ideas through language. You are constantly redefining yourself, the environment, and even the goal to win. Again, there is no violence because there are no enemies. The only enemies are your preconceived notions of what a video game should be. The game basically puts you in the seat of a game developer and lets you mess with the reality within the game to figure out what winning even means. The game is like a hardcore exercise for one’s logic muscles and it made me giddy sometimes when I broke through a barrier and figured something out in it.


Untitled Goose Game

A viral sensation, this game has a relatively simple premise. You play as a goose who lives in a pond near a small town. Your goal is to make your way through the town by harassing its denizens mostly by stealing or moving items from them. It is a delightfully clever game that is such a joy to play. The human beings around you react with consternation, anger, and confusion as you cause mayhem through simple pranks. However, there is no actual violence in the game. In fact, you are far more successful in the game when you learn how to be more stealthy and time people’s reactions to distract rather than confront. Even the people you piss off don’t actually want to confront your goose with violence but simply want you gone. It ends up being a really cute game about being a complete asshole in a loveable way.

Media Update 1/16/20

January 16, 2020


The Witcher

I just started to play The Witcher games but I wanted to jump into the show because I heard it described as if Xena had a baby with Game of Thrones. I would say that it is a fairly good description. The show is able to draw from a rich fantasy world from the games and plenty of ready-made characters to play with. Henry Cavill is so good as Geralt, a snarky and grumpy and a total badass. I really like the female representation on the show. There are so many badass ladies. Freya Allen plays a princess out of her depth but wanting to move forward. Anya Chalotra plays a young woman who wants to be a sorcerer but more importantly wants to find her place in the world. Jodhi May plays a warrior queen. Emma Appleton plays a twisted version of Snow White. I also really love the bard character of Jaskier played by Joey Batey who walks the line between funny and annoying (kind of like Ted Raimi did on Xena). There are so many other great supporting characters and plenty I am sure I have yet to meet. The show feels a bit like a fantasy version of the wandering samurai tales or the old westerns. An outcast for hire wanders the countryside and continuously stumbles into situations where he has to decide what to do based on coin and his own moral code. I really recommend this show.


Dracula (2020)

I have been in love with the story of Dracula since I first read Bram Stoker’s book so I will always be interested when a new adaptation comes out. When I heard that this one would be helmed by Stephen Moffat of Sherlock and Doctor Who fame, I was even more intrigued. From the beginning, the show feels familiar, touching a lot of the same beats as the book and previous film adaptations. However, it quickly became clear that the show was also going to shake things up a bit. I love the changes because they will keep me guessing as the miniseries continues. Claes Bang is a super charismatic and sadistic Dracula who has a touch of humor while making it easy to hate him. Dolly Wells plays a badass nun who may hold the key to Dracula’s defeat. Morfydd Clark plays the legendary role of Mina who is less of a prop in this version and more of a heroine herself. There are plenty of other great characters both new and familiar who fill the story with life. I definitely recommend it.


NOS4A2

I am not really familiar with Joe Hill other than him being Stephen King’s son. I can say based on what I have seen so far of this adaptation of his work that the apple does not fall far from the tree. The series feels a bit like King’s Dark Tower world. However, unlike his father, it feels like he gets more to the point and strays off the path less. As a child of a new time, he also seems to be more sensitive to racial and social issues. The show has a dreamlike quality that reminds me of one of my favorite shows Happy! but with far less humor. That is alright because this is a different, more horror-based story. The show follows a story involving what are called “strong creatives”, minds so keen that they are to basically cut through reality. The villain is played by Zachary Quinto who plays a man oblivious to his own villainous nature who is nevertheless insidious. Ashleigh Cummings plays a teenage girl who is just discovering the magic out of sight from normal people. Jahkara Smith plays a local librarian who is trying to solve the mystery. I definitely want to see what the world unveils next. I recommend this show too.

Music of the Week:
The Interrupters – She’s Kerosene

The Glorious Sons – Panic Attack

LSD – No New Friends

Raphael Saadiq – So Ready

ANCIENT BARDS – Impious Dystopia

 

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Monsters Among Men”
– I finished Scream Season 1
– I finished Stumptown Season 1
– I watched more Brooklyn 99 Season 3
– I watched more Ducktales Season 1
– I watched more Carmen Sandiego Season 2
– I watched more Blue Bloods Season 9
– I watched more The Gifted Season 1
– I watched Batman: Hush
– I started watching Jeopardy: The Greatest of All Time

Method Acting

January 13, 2020

With the latest Oscar full-court press, a lot of studios are trying to put as much behind the scenes stuff out there in order to make their movies more impressive. I am a fan of it. As a former theater geek, I love hearing how things were done after I have seen the movie. For example, through director’s commentary, I have learned so many movie magic secrets that have made me love those movies even more. However, recent news has irked me. I was not interested in seeing The Joker and the more I hear, the less I want to see it. People are welcome to see and like the movie but I have a problem with the star Joaquin Phoenix. It has come out lately that he injured himself on set putting his knee into a trash can. This was not an accident, it was stupidity.

Phoenix is a method actor. Method acting is a school of acting formalized by Stanislavsky and his students, Elia Kazan and Lee Strasberg. The point of it is that actors try to establish a complete emotional link with a character, trying to actually embody that character for a while. Method actors try to live their character’s lives in order to deliver a more “authentic” performance. For example, in a scene where he was supposed to freak out, Phoenix actually freaked out and ended up injuring himself. He also starved himself and did his best to live in mental illness in order to basically become the Joker on and off set. It is a horribly dangerous mindset and if he wins an award from it, it will send the wrong signal to impressionable young actors.

Of course, the role of Joker is no stranger to method actors. Famously, Heath Ledger fell into the role of the Joker leading up to the filming of The Dark Knight. He spent days alone in a motel room trying out makeup styles and coming up with his take on the character. He let the role affect his mindset and it is hard not to speculate on how the experience may have contributed to his decline and death. He put forward an absolutely brilliant take on the role but at what cost? Unfortunately, this seems to have cursed the role of the Joker because next came Jared Leto in Suicide Squad. Stories came from the set of Leto delivering disgusting “presents” to his castmates and never breaking character. While it was an interesting new take on the character, it just made him look like an asshole.

They all should have taken a cue from the majority of actors who have played the Joker and have remained sane throughout. Caesar Romero, the first major on-screen Joker, had a lot of fun with the role but it was just a job to him. He famously even refused to shave his mustache and instead painted over it. Jack Nicholson had a famous on set freak out as Joker but he was otherwise extremely professional. That’s not to even mention the legendary voice actors who have played the character over time like Mark Hammill, Zack Galifianakis, and Troy Baker (just to name a few). They all survived the role because they were able to turn it off and on at will. They could leave it at work and go out and live their lives.

They could do this because of the opposite school to Method Acting which was created by Sanford Meisner and it is the school from which I was taught at Rutgers. Meisner taught that you could “live truthfully under imagined circumstances.” You could flip the switch and be that character but then flip the switch again and be you as soon as you were out of the stage lights. It is a much more impressive style of acting because it requires more skill and actual acting. A lot of the work is done through mental and emotional gymnastics but it is psychologically safer than method acting, at least from my point of view. The actors who engaged in method acting were never fun to be around while those who studied something closer to Meisner were a lot of fun and easy to work with. If anyone should win an award, it is the makeup, costume, and continuity departments that apparently had a hellish time attending to Phoenix.

Media Update 1/9/20

January 9, 2020


Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

I have been a Star Wars fan since I first saw the original movie as a kid. Our family had a whole bunch of the Kenner action figures at some point. I’ve seen every movie and played a whole bunch of the video games. I have even read some books. Still, I’m not one *those* fans who feel such ownership for the series (often also combined with hate for it). I enjoyed the movie. Did I have problems with it? Absolutely. Most of it was disappointments about what they decided to focus on versus what they had set up. I was a fan of The Last Jedi and the wild choices it made which I thought would set up an interesting new direction. However, they decided to play it safe and that worked out as well. Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, and Anthony Daniels did a great job as usual. Everybody else from previous movies had some fun cameos but had very little to do. That’s fine except for Kelly Marie Tran and Lupita Nyong’o who they should have given actual screen time to. Still, I got caught up in the nostalgic rush and Rian Johnson will be just fine. The action scenes are awesome and there are a lot of feel-good moments to close out what ended up being a decades-long story. There was more to like than to dislike and it was fine. I recommend it. Just go ahead and watch it if you’re on the fence.


Dark Phoenix

I have been a fan of the Fox X-Men franchise since X-Men (2000) first came out. Technically, Fox has been killing it with the X-Men franchise since the early nineties. Now that Disney has bought Fox, that chapter is now over. As far as I know, only one film remains and then it’s done. Anyway, X-Men First Class breathed new life into the franchise and allowed for a little more freedom. This is the final movie in that part of the franchise as well. Once again James MacAvoy and Michael Fassbender return to deliver strong performances. Nicholas Hoult gets to step up and so does Tye Sheridan. However, Sophie Turner went from a few minutes in the previous movie to really carry this whole movie on her shoulders. She did a really good job with what she had to work with. Jessica Chastain ended up being a pretty neat villain, kind of balancing out all of the very male energy. It was a bit of a mess but, like Star Wars, it was a fun mess. The only real complaint I have is that part of the reason I watch X-Men movies is to see new mutants interpreted by the franchise and there was not much here. I recommend this as well but only for people who want to watch the other parts of the franchise.


Candyman: Day of the Dead

What? Halloween is 365 days a year in my world. Besides, Jordan Peele is working on a remake so I need to finish the original trilogy. The first Candyman is a classic and the second one was a strong continuation of the original concept. The first film covered the Cabrini-Green legends. The second film covered Mardi Gras. It seems fitting that the final installment would take place during Mexico’s Dias de la Muerta celebration. The franchise tries really hard to create a legend based around black culture (and touches on other people of color). The franchise also features a series of white women being terrorized by a black man and somehow the black man is not really the villain. The movies are about karma, the hate that springs from prejudice, and the hate crimes that go unpunished. The movies are all fairly trippy and moody and just so fun visually. Part of that is because such good (and surreal) art is usually involved in the making of each movie. Like previous entries, it also has a crapton of bees in it. That said, this is definitely the weakest entry in the series. Still, it stars the wonderful charismatic Tony Todd who plays a truly iconic horror villain.

 

Music of the Week:
Pale Waves – Television Romance

Otoboke Beaver – Don’t Light My Fire

The HU – Wolf Totem

Todrick – DRIPEESHA

Beabadoobee – I Wish I Was Stephen Malkmus

 

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Closing Out the Arc”
– I finished Runaways Season 1
– I finished Prodigal Son Season 1
– I watched more Bob’s Burgers Season 8
– I watched more Scream Season 1
– I watched more Penn and Teller’s Bullshit Season 3
– I watched more Brooklyn 99 Season 3
– I watched more Ducktales Season 1
– I watched more Carmen Sandiego Season 2
– I watched more Blue Bloods Season 9
– I watched more Stumptown Season 1
– I watched more The Crown Season 3
– I started watching Sailor Moon Crystal Season 1
– I started watching Community Season 6
– Why, yes I have had the flu lately

Movies I Enjoyed in 2019

January 6, 2020

I know that we are nearly a week into 2020 but I felt like doing a wrap up of the year in movies in 2019 since we are headed into awards season. These are only the movies that I saw that I really liked. I did not feel the need to make a top 11 list because, honestly, I would be compelled to write a lot for each entry and I have already written about pretty much everything I have seen in 2019 (and will continue to write about what I see in 2020). As such, these are in no particular order. I also highly recommend each and every one of these movies.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
I had a lot of fun watching this with friends. (more on Thursday) It wasn’t perfect but it was definitely enjoyable.

Child’s Play (2019)
A truly innovative remake done in an entirely different subgenre of horror. An added bonus was seeing Aubrey Plaza.

Us
Jordan Peele proved once again that he is truly a new master of horror. This movie was more of an adventure horror piece but it managed to sneak in a class warfare message.

Avengers Endgame
The perfect ending for the first era of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It pushed things into a new direction that I am intrigued to keep following.,

John Wick 3
The John Wick franchise tends to pump out perfect action movies with interesting stories that don’t get in the way of the cool moments.

Spiderman Far From Home
The first step in a new decade for the MCU. The new Spiderman is so pure and I feel like it is still just getting started.

Captain Marvel
Finally, a female-led MCU movie! Brie Larson was perfect for the role and I can’t wait to see where she goes next in defiance of all the MRAs out there.

Rocketman
Elton John has led one hell of a life. This musical biopic had a lot of moments of unreality that really made me feel what was happening rather than just seeing it.

Detective Pikachu
A movie that could easily have been bad was a lot of fun with a lot of heart. It was also visually pleasing.

Aladdin (2019)
Forget the haters, this movie was a lot of fun for me. It put a new spin on a familiar favorite (my second favorite Disney movie of all time).

IT Chapter 2
I got to see this one in theaters and it was definitely worth it. Bill Hader alone made this movie so good but I liked the new take on a classic book.

Alita Battle Angel
A unique blend of CGI and live-action, this was actually one of the best anime film adaptations that I have ever seen. I want to see a sequel.

Hobbs and Shaw
A refreshing spinoff of the Fast and Furious franchise which managed to be its own thing. I love The Rock.

The Lego Movie 2
I did not think they could keep pace with the original but this franchise has defied my expectations from the start so I am a fool.

Shazam
Proof that DC movies can be good again. The movie had a lot of the goofy, fun energy that the original comics had with a modern sheen.

Fighting With My Family
As a pro-wrestling fan, I loved this walk through the fabulous Paige’s career (so far).

Velvet Buzzsaw
A criminally underrated horror movie that should be seen for its psychedelic visuals alone.

Happy Death Day 2U
I did not think the first movie could be topped but this franchise hit a new gear and somehow got weirder.

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile
Unfairly shot down because it made a serial killer “hot” this was actually an interesting personal take on a familiar news story.

Dark Phoenix
I enjoyed this movie for what it was, a close to the Fox X-Men Franchise (more on Thursday)

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
It was a meandering mess but I definitely enjoyed it for what it was.

I was able to watch only 5 out of 10 of the top 10 box office movies of 2019. Of the remaining movies that I really want to see are Frozen 2, Toy Story 4, and Jumanji 3. I have made my thoughts on Joker known. Lion King does not really interest me either.

Additionally, there are so many movies that I missed that I still want to see from 2019. Looking at the list really drove home what I did not get to see but reminds me that there is only so much time in each year. I have so much that I want to watch in this new year and it gives me joy that I will never catch up. I will never run out of good movies to see because there is still so much backlog and new movies come out every year.

Media Update 1/2/19

January 2, 2020


Detective Pikachu

I have been a fan of Pokemon since the first game out and I played Pokemon Red and then watched the anime. The world of Pokemon is an exciting place and it’s fun to speculate stories outside of the gym challenge. I knew when I saw the trailer for this movie that it was something I needed to see whether it was good or bad. Either way, the character designs for the pokemon were absolutely fascinating. The movie hit a lot of those good nostalgic beats but it also surprised me in being a story outside of the gym challenge. They managed to craft their own story while making it connect in a meaningful way to the world of the games and the anime. Like most games, it created a new region to explore but mostly spent time in a new city. Pokemon has often skirted away from showing Pokemon in an urban setting so that was exciting in itself. Ryan Reynolds was, of course, absolutely great as the title character. His snarky yet innocent character was so much fun to follow. Justice Smith plays the lead protagonist and I am happy to see him getting more roles in big-budget movies because I like him a lot. Kathryn Newton plays a quirky but intelligent wannabe reporter. Bill Nighy of all people plays a prominent role as does Suki Waterhouse and Ken Watanabe. I definitely recommend it and not just for all you fellow Pokemon fans.


Bad Times at the El Royale

I had seen a trailer for this what feels like ages ago but I forgot about it. I also definitely mixed this movie up with another movie, Hotel Artemis. This movie has an all-star cast. It is told in a non-linear storytelling style kind of like Pulp Fiction. It follows the stories of many different characters checking into a rundown motel on the border of California and Nevada near Lake Tahoe. The movie is set in the sixties. Nobody is quite who they seem to be. John Hamm is a snarky vacuum salesman and he is super charming. Jeff Bridges plays an old priest suffering from dementia. Cynthia Erivo (who was new to me) was excellent as the hard-luck singer who is doubting her direction in life. She seemed like the star of the movie to me. Dakota Johnson plays a dedicated sister to Calee Spaeny and both are interesting characters. Chris Hemsworth pretty much steals every scene he is in as a charismatic cult leader with a sinister edge. People were apparently down on this movie but I enjoyed the twists and turns and especially the surprises. It is an excellent character study. I recommend it.


Overlord

I had considered watching this movie for Halloween but it read more like an action-adventure movie than a straight horror movie so I set it aside. For some reason, World War 2 and horror really mix well so I was excited. This movie is grim and gritty with both the war and sci-fi horror atmospheres. Jovan Adepo is definitely the protagonist of the movie as a young, bright-eyed soldier who is in over his head. Wyatt Russell plays his corporal, a hard-nosed soldier who is focused on the mission. Mathilde Ollivier plays a young french woman who has sacrificed much in Nazi-occupied France. Iain De Caestecker (who shares my birthday) plays a young idealistic soldier. John Magaro plays a loudmouth New Yorker soldier (necessary in these sorts of films). The movie is definitely a wild ride from start to finish but it also has a heart. It feels a little like Inglorious Basterds mixed with Re-Animator. It is absolutely insane and I love it for that insanity. Nazis, zombies, and chaos. I recommend this as well.

 

Music of the Week:

Mystery Skulls – Far Away

BABYMETAL – DA DA DANCE

TARDIGRADE INFERNO – WE ARE NUMBER ONE

Leo Moracchioli – All the Things She Said

DaBaby – BOP on Broadway

 

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Birthday Week 2019”
– I watched Evil Bong: High 5
– I started watching The Imagineering Story
– I started watching Bob’s Burgers Season 8
– I watched more Runaways Season 1
– I watched more Elementary Season 1
– I watched more Prodigal Son Season 1
– I watched more Scream Season 1
– I watched more Penn and Teller’s Bullshit Season 3
– I watched more Brooklyn 99 Season 3
– I watched more Ducktales Season 1
– I watched more Carmen Sandiego Season 2
– I started watching She-Ra Season 2

Media Update 12/26/19

December 26, 2019


Anna and the Apocalypse

I had heard about this movie last year and I finally get a chance to watch it. It’s worth the wait. This movie is a Christmas horror musical which is a very rare combination (but I would love to see more). The movie is set in the senior year at a high school and the title character is heading toward leaving her small town in Scotland. The cast is full of characters from the high school and, although there are different settings, it does not stray far from the school. It is interesting to see high school drama and Christmas cheer devolve into absolute chaos. Ella Hunt plays the lead role and she is definitely somebody I wanted to see succeed. Malcolm Cumming, Marli Siu, and Christopher Leveaux are all great supporting characters with their own little stories and throughlines. Sarah Swire is a definite standout as a driven high schooler who wants to head places. Similarly, Ben Wiggins and Paul Kaye stand out as the movie’s villains and they are both engaging. The songs are definitely a lot of fun. I definitely recommend this movie.


A Christmas Carol (2019)

At this point, I have seen so many versions of a Christmas Carol but this one promised to lean into the horror aspects. I was not disappointed. The movie is a darker, expanded version of the familiar story. It spends more time with the Cratchits and Marley so that we really get a feel for the damage that Scrooge has caused. We also get even more backstory for Scrooge that makes things clearer and makes the inevitable redemption all the more impressive. Guy Pearce is such a dynamic, mischievous Scrooge. He is amazing at twisting his cruel knife over and over until you both hate and sympathize with him. Andy Serkis plays a perfectly gruff and frightening Ghost of Christmas Past, a right bastard who is out to break Scrooge down to rebuild him. I also really loved Stephen Graham as Marley, the repentant spirit who is now saddled with a mission from Purgatory. Joe Alywyn is so, so good as Bob Cratchit. Vinette Robinson was a real standout as Mary Cratchit, a character who is usually incredibly two dimensional. The movie/miniseries is a dive into dark, traditional horror with some brilliant effects. I definitely recommend it.


Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

This movie is almost impossible to explain. It is a take on the Finnish folk tradition which is their version of Santa Claus. Santa is more of the stick than the carrot in those stories. The movie is entirely in Finnish and tells stories from the frozen North, up near the actual North Pole. The movie is almost like a mix between eldritch horror and alien horror. Everything is done with practical effects and, although the tone is often dismal, there is some strange offbeat humor. I have tried to explain the movie to others and it really does not translate. I definitely recommend it as it is so strange that it has to be seen.

Music of the Week:
Sabrina Carpenter – Almost Love

DEVILDRIVER – Copperhead Road

BODY COUNT – All Love Is Lost feat Max Cavalera

Lindsey Stirling – Underground

Beach Bunny – Prom Queen

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Christmas Horror 2019”
– I watched more Bob’s Burgers Season 7
– I watched more Runaways Season 1
– I watched more Elementary Season 1
– I watched more Prodigal Son Season 1
– I watched more Scream Season 1
– I watched more Penn and Teller’s Bullshit Season 3
– I watched more Brooklyn 99 Season 3

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: Acquired Tastes

December 23, 2019

WILPW

Today I want to talk about those performers who kind of fill a unique niche in the business and therefore become kind of an acquired taste. In fact, plenty of people never warm to them. They have unique or strange gimmicks or are just so different from what we think of when we think of a professional wrestler. Since it is incredibly close to Christmas, I think I will start with somebody I consider a gif. I’m talking about “Freshly-Squeezed” Orange Cassidy.

I do not know much about Cassidy’s early career. All I know about is his current gimmick and the one that catapulted him to the top of the independent scene and now onto primetime network television. His gimmick (brought to life in PWG, ICW, Chikara, Beyond, and others) is that of a perpetually hungover slacker. He walks out to the ring in a faded jean jacket, slacks, a t-shirt of himself wearing his t-shirt, and mirrored sunglasses. He barely emotes and tries to get away with moving as little as possible. In tag matches, you can sometimes be tricked into thinking he has fallen asleep in the corner. He moves slowly and then hits his opponents with strikes that could not hurt a fly. However, the crowd and announcers always sell the strikes as if they were brutal and savage. Just when his opponents dismiss him, he either tricks them into losing or kicks it into full gear and kicks their butt. All without removing his hands from his pockets.

Of course, he has both fans and detractors. His gimmick is extremely meta since it relies heavily on the cooperation of everyone involved. To their credit, the crowds bought into it fairly quickly. He may not look like he is doing much but every move is defintely thought out and calculated to tell one long joke. It is the kind of joke that feels really good to be a part of. I admit that I did not get it at first but once I watched a couple of his matches, i had it. His detractors think that his act distracts from the so-called legitimacy of the sport at the heart of the story. They complain that his lackadaiscal attitude and behavior is a slight to the other performers who are working hard and risking their bodies in more athletic endeavors. Except that they do not see that his act also takes skill and athleticism. They do not see that he chose the gimmick not to insult his co-workers but to stand out but also make them look better.

Next, we’ll move on to the other example I have today. His name is Marko Stunt and he seems to be even more controversial than Cassidy is. The thing about Marko Stunt is far more simple. Marko started as a viral sensation that allowed him to make a name for himself on the independent wrestling scene. Marko is all of five feet and two inches tall. Of course, that means he is only slightly shorter than I am but there is a problem. This is incredibly short for a pro-wrestler. The average seems to be somewhere between 6 foot and 6 foot 8 inches which is tall for most humans. While I cannot find a billed weight for him, he is very skinny. He also lacks the defined muscles of the classic pro-wrestler. All of this adds up to make him look like somebody’s kid somehow wandered into the ring. In fact, that is the usual knock his opponents pull out when he comes out to the ring.

It is easy to predict that the knock on Marko Stunt is that he is too small to be a believeable threat in the ring. The size disparity is indeed a lot to take in but the thing is that we are talking about a fantasy version of a fighting sport. Sure the average performer has more than a foot in height and probably a hundred pounds on Marko. However, any match can be won or lost based on strength, athleticism, skill, and heart. Marko has a ton of athleticism, skill, and heart. He is absolutely impressive in the ring and moves quicker than some of the fastest people I have seen in the squared circle. His agility and processing speed allow him to do some things that I did not think were possible. With him flipping and flying all around the ring, I start to believe that he just might win after all. Now that he is paired with “Jungle Boy” Jack Perry and Luchasaurus, he seems to be taking off a bit more in the public eye.


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