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Found 58 results

  1. For those who just can't get enough of "The Walking Dead," there's "Fear the Walking Dead" - a spin-off series which takes place just as the apocalypse is beginning to happen, featuring an entirely different cast, and completely different storyline (except, of course, for the Zombie Apocalypse as the common link between the two series). So far, I've only watched the pilot episode of Fear the Walking Dead, and if you're looking for the same type of thrills, look elsewhere: From what little I can tell, this series is very tame in comparison, and will not leave the bottom of your jaw scraping the ground. I'm not saying it's Walt Disney; merely that it's not as over-the-top gruesome as the original series - at least, not yet. The primary reason I'm posting this is because the second half of season two debuts tonight, Sunday, August 21, 2016, and it's on *right now*! And considering that tonight's episode is titled "Grotesque," you may want to push aside that Walt Disney comment - the only other thing I know that's called "Grotesque" is a Japanese torture-porn / splatter / exploitation movie which you do *not* want to know about, trust me, and no, I have not seen it, nor will I ever. Here's the schedule from AMC. You have to sign in to watch full episodes; Season One (six episodes) is available for purchase on Amazon Prime for $9.99. If I watch the entire season - a dicey proposition - I will post my usual summaries with one picture that best-defines each episode, the director(s), and the writer(s), just like I did with "The Walking Dead" here; until then, please chime in if you're watching it - and please mark your posts with spoiler alerts if they contain spoilers. I will also be linking heavily to walkingdead.wikia.com, as it's the best Walking Dead website out there *by far*, in terms of researching the basic facts. Enjoy your dinner! Rocks
  2. I saw Aziz Ansari on an episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, liked him, so I thought I'd give his show, "Parks and Recreation" a whirl. Well, I haven't watched any of it yet, but I'm going to watch the pilot perhaps tonight, and I didn't want to lose all this title-tag information, so I'm posting now, will edit later. BTW, I don't summarize plots - just as I didn't with my Complete! Series! Of! Night! Gallery! Commentaries! I write these both as a (hopefully entertaining) supplement for people who have either just watched the episode, are in the middle of watching it, or are simply trying to refresh their memory in the future (that's why I include pictures that I think are representative of each episode); these are definitely not "reviews," and are just as much for my own future reference as for other people's benefit (I figure, if I'm going to spend five minutes jotting down notes for myself, why not spend seven minutes making things enjoyable for others?) Halfway into the third episode, I see no reason not to continue watching Parks and Recreation (I really like it!), so let me know if you want to see anything more than what I'm already doing (there is no better "guide" than watching the episode itself, and these commentaries aren't unlike reading the morning paper after you've already watched the Monday Night Football game). *** SPOILERS *** List of Characters in Parks and Recreation which contains look-ahead descriptions of what they end up doing. Season One 1. "Pilot" - Apr 9, 2009: <--- Leslie falls into the pit. Written by Greg Daniels and Michael Schur, Directed by Greg Daniels [Notes: I'd never even heard of this show before this evening. From what I can gather from the pilot episode, this is very much of a tongue-in-cheek, self-aware farce, somewhat along the lines of "Arrested Development," but in a pseudo-documentary manner, as if the whole thing is being filmed like the live episode of "ER," "Ambush." Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) takes her mid-level bureaucrat role very seriously (and I suspect this series has more than its share of bloopers from the actors laughing when they shouldn't), Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari) is a cocky, lackadaisical, skirt-chaser as Knope's underling for the Department of Parks and Recreation in the fictional town of Pawnee, Indiana, and Ann Perkins (Rashida Jones) is a parody of a serious, concerned citizen. I can tell after ten minutes that the fourth wall is broken perhaps more often than I'd prefer - time will tell whether or not this gets to be too much. Mark Brendanawicz (Paul Schneider) is a funny satire of a "go-getter" - a friend of Leslie's (who slept with her five years before and briefly forgot he did) - and Andy Dwyer (Chris Pratt) plays the hilarious injured musician-boyfriend of Ann's - he hurt his leg falling into the pit, and uses a robotic clamp to grab beer bottles, etc. (his opening scene is really very funny). Summer intern April Ludgate (Aubrey Plaza) is a archetypal gum-chewing, disconnected teen, and Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) is the seemingly Libertarian boss whom Leslie needs to ask for permission to turn the pit into a park. Seven major characters were introduced during this half-hour in a very easy-to-digest fashion, and I loved this pilot episode.] 2. "Canvassing" - Apr 16, 2009: <--- The team studying canvassing brochures written by (who else?) Leslie Written by Rachel Axler, Directed by Seth Gordon [Notes: I don't know if I'm going to get tired of this, but so far it's pretty darned entertaining. I read that before the Pilot was shown, Leslie was written to be a less-likable character, and I think it was a really good idea making the audience like her more; otherwise, it would have been a chore to get through this. I'm writing this as I'm watching (going back-and-forth), and so far my least-favorite character is Mark Brendanawicz because he's just so blatantly chill, but maybe that difference - which is standing out a little too much right now - will make him grow on me going forward. The sex-offender scene was a riot, and fortunately not too overplayed (that's a good sign, although it could have been even more subtle). Subtlety will be so important in this series - the man who stood up at the town-hall meeting, complaining about the loud guitar playing, overacted his role at first, and it's little things like that which can ruin a series (although his "You suck!" comment was funny) - I'm writing this, turning a blind eye to the fact that it ran for seven seasons. Oh, this show is shaping up to be quite amusing.] 3. "The Reporter" - Apr 23, 2009: <--- Shauna Malwae-Tweep talking with Leslie. Written by Daniel J. Goor, Directed by Jeffrey Blitz [Notes: Yes, this is a *lot* like "Arrested Development" in that there are humorous scenes that are less than one-second long (I'm thinking now about the online Scrabble move FISHING -> IS). Oh, how I love the little moments like when Mark walks out with his arm around the reporter, Shauna Malwae-Tweep (Alison Becker) - the entire scene takes about one-quarter second - it's this rapid-fire, 50-funny-things-in-30-minutes, slapstick-like, machine-gun comedy that I liked about Arrested Development (although that show may have been a touch *too* subtle for mass acceptance). I wonder if "America's Funniest Home Videos" with Bob Saget was the precursor of this type of humor. In a 30-minute show, 26 minutes of it would be either commercials or Bob Saget yucking it up, and all you wanted was for Bob to Shut! Up! and play the next videos in rapid succession. You have to love the allophone (with "t" and "d") when Shauna comes trotting out of Mark's pick-up truck: "Hi! Sorry I'm late!" ... "Do ... you ... live near Mark?" "No, not at all." Yeah, Mark is growing on me, all right. And Leslie's subsequent seat-recline was laugh-out-loud funny. Does anyone think that Leslie looks like "someone we all know?" (And to a lesser degree, same with Mark? I can think of people I've met in my past who look a lot like them.) Through this episode, the director appears to be breaking the fourth wall with restraint, so it's actually a plus at this point rather than an annoyance. Andy's off-camera "Men are dawgs!" type of comments are uproarious. I had an audible "Oh no!" when Mark said, "I wouldn't say ... *romantically* involved ...." How did I not know this show existed?] 4, "Boy's Club" - Apr 30, 2009: <-- Ann and Leslie crashing the "Boy's Club" Written by Alan Yang, Directed by Michael McCullers [Notes: Dog-poop fights: If you can't lick 'em, join 'em. During the "apology video" to women politicians, I looked at the timer, and realized I was almost halfway through the episode - without commercials (on Amazon), this show *flies* by. One thing that can slip by the viewer in these episodes is the cinematography - the camera work is remarkable, and I have to think it's as much directorial skill as camera work because the timing is just so awesome. Leslie remarks on Ron's "full moustache," and in the next quarter-second, the camera moves in for a droll close-up; then it's over. And I love the allegory of dog-poop fights with Leslie's personal Watergate (because she opened a gift basket from a potential contractor). I kind of wish I wasn't writing these notes because every time I laugh out loud (like during Leslie's tearful filmed confession), I cut over here to write something. Hmmm ... The chase down the street on crutches and without pants! Writing detailed commentary about this show is like reviewing individual dishes at Minibar - it just doesn't work, but man oh man I'm loving this show so far.] 5. "The Banquet" - May 7, 2009: <--- Leslie sporting a mannish do. Written by Tucker Cawley, Directed by Beth McCarthy-Miller [Notes: They're really making the most out the murals on the wall of the Parks and Recreation building which, in case anyone doesn't already know, were ubiquitous things from Franklin Delano Roosevelt's "Works Progress Administration" - we have some here in Washington, DC. If anyone has a chance to go into the impressive Ariel Rios Federal Building on 11th and Penn (where the EPA is headquartered), make sure to walk up or down the awesome spiral staircases (where hangs a Foucault Pendulum): On each floor (on both sides of the building), there are WPA murals which look a *lot* like the ones in Parks and Recreation. If you know any EPA employee, ask them to give you a tour of this amazing building - it's worth a special effort just to see the staircases and murals. I swear, so far my favorite character in this show is Andy (the injured husband) - every single thing he says, or slight move he makes, causes me to giggle. I am so glad I'm writing this show up because if I wasn't, I could go through the entire series in about four days - I don't think I've yet seen a minute-long slice without it being funny. "The Banquet" may be my least-favorite episode of the first five, but it was still a winner - how did this show not have ten-million viewers?] 6. "Rock Show" - May 14, 2009: <--- Andy gets his cast off (and gets cast off by Ann) Written by Norm Hiscock, Directed by Michael Schur (2) [Notes: Finally! Some character development! And some plot advancement, but they had to wait until the season finale to do it. The one major storyline here is Ann throwing Andy out of the house after learning that he waited an extra two weeks before having his cast removed (because "he liked her serving him dinner"), and the two minor storylines are Leslie and Paul nuzzling (after hooking up once about five years ago), and Paul subsequently falling into the pit like Andy did, apparently hurting himself (but we don't really know since the season ended). This was refreshing, having some degree of continuity to the series other than "The Pit" (which is featured in one of Andy's awful rock songs in this episode - his band is just terrible. Rather than having this be "a show about nothing" like Seinfeld (or, should I say, "a show that deeply examines one seemingly unimportant construct, like "a meeting, or "a canvassing," etc. which is what Seinfeld did), it's refreshing to have the characters change (even a little bit) and grow, so the viewer feels they're investing something into the series, rather than simply watching random episodes and not missing a thing if they don't. Leslie's date with the older bureaucrat made me shiver - that was *really* creepy, in a very amusing sort of way - that man (Ron Perkins) played his role perfectly. One other thing: When Andy got his cast off, it was *gross*! And, Season One is a wrap and a thumbs-up. Note: All six shows had different directors and writers (eleven people total) except for Michael Schur, who worked on two episodes.
  3. I was just browsing through the Franchise Four page, and noticed that Nolan Ryan made it on *three teams*. It about killed me to see Eddie Murray left off the Orioles' list, but who are you going to replace? You have to put Murray at #5, unfortunately. Rickey Henderson being nominated as one of the 8 Greatest Living Players is a joke. I know the fans voted for the winners, but who came up with the lists? Maybe I don't understand what this selection process was all about - what's up with the Nationals' list? I guess it includes the living Expos as well. The Giants have an extremely imposing list, right behind the Yankees and right ahead of the Cardinals. That said, Buster Posey ahead of *Christy Mathewson*, Orlando Cepeda, and Juan Marichal? WTF?!
  4. Most people know Martin Milner as Officer Pete Malloy on Adam-12, some people know him as Tod Stiles on Route 66, and almost nobody knows what a *tremendous* actor he was. And I can prove it to you in one hour: There's one, single episode of Route 66 that should have won Milner an Emmy Award, and quite honestly, I can't fathom how it didn't. Season 2, Episode 11, "The Thin White Line" (here on Hulu) is an honest-to-God, one-man, tour-de-force by Milner, and it's unlike any other Route 66 episode. In my entire life, I have never seen such demands put on an actor in a single hour - Milner is drugged (with what turns out to be television's first-ever portrayal of LSD), and as you hear the physician describe the scenario that will play out over 6-8 hours, you know exactly what Milner will be going through in advance, and he gives an absolute virtuoso performance - one of the best acting roles I've seen in my life, in any medium. Do yourself a favor and watch "The Thin White Line." Milner himself said that this was his favorite episode, and the biggest challenge he ever faced as an actor. On a sadder note, Adam-12 radio dispatcher Shaaron Claridge (an actual LAPD radio dispatcher) actually made this radio call when Milner passed away:
  5. I stumbled upon Season 1, Episode 1 of "Making a Murderer," and was surprised at how much it sucked me in. One thing led to another, and before I know it, the entire first season, which was released on Dec 18, 2015, had been power-watched. I knew absolutely nothing about the documentary beforehand, and waited until it was over to look anything up about it at all. Now I see there will be a Season 2, and also that it is widely criticized for being one-sided and for leaving out crucial evidence, and emphasizing skewed evidence - two of the very same things it accuses the Wisconsin criminal justice system of doing. Has anyone else seen this popular series? And, if so, are there any opinions, either about the show, or the subject matter?
  6. I had heard of "Ex Machina," but knew absolutely nothing about it before a couple of nights ago - released in 2015, it won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects - considering it was a relatively low-budget, independent, science-fiction film, it's pretty remarkable that it didn't come across as low-budget (it didn't come across as high-budget either; it fell somewhere in the middle). Made for $15 million, it beat out such films as "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" ($250 million) and "Mad Max: Fury Road" ($150 million) - this alone is remarkable. Writer-Director Alex Garland also received an Academy Award Nomination for Best Original Screenplay, justifiably losing to the fine "Spotlight" - I suspect that, in this category, the crew took a "just happy to be here" attitude. I don't write plot summaries here - my time is too limited, and there are too many other fine websites that handle that task with aplomb; instead, I make whatever observations come to mind, and that I think people may find interesting or relevant. If you read past this point, I'm assuming you've already seen the film (don't forget, this is a discussion website). As a side note, if you've never heard "Deus ex Machina" pronounced before, the words sound like 1) Ama"deus" 2) "x" 3) "Mach" V + "eena," with the accent on Mach. As for Racer X, I did not ask him his opinion. *** SPOILERS FOLLOW *** The setting, in God-knows-what remote part of Alaska, Canada, or Siberia - as well as the role of Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac) - both come across to me as silly. I don't care how smart or rich someone is - they don't own half the world, and have the knowledge to out-think all of humanity by themselves. Isaac played his part poorly, although he was in a no-win situation: Think, for a moment, how inane it is for him to have built a company which handles 94% of all internet searches, *as well as* having the technical intelligence and knowledge to make world-changing breakthroughs (you can be mega-rich, or mega-educated; never are you both, at least not to *this* extent. (Bateman wasn't even very old, yet he made Bill Gates look like a mentally impaired panhandler.) Furthermore, his character was not that far removed from that of a frat boy - I can see this as a satire or farce, but it was intended to be neither, and that's why it falls flat: not short, but flat. I do applaud it for taking a Mickey Mantle-like swing for the fences (that took guts, and I admire it), but it whiffed in a way that could have turbine-powered the entire Bronx on a hot summer day. The computer, Ava - deliciously played by Alicia Vikander, and undoubtedly stoking techno-nerd fantasies they didn't even realize they had - was supposed to pass what's known as a "Turing Test," theorized by tera-genius Alan Turing in 1950, which basically says that if a human interacts with a computer, but thinks they're interacting with another human, then the computer passes the Turing Test. Recall also that Alan Turing, whose work I studied more than any other individual's while in graduate school, was the subject of the fine 2014 biopic, "The Imitation Game" (it just this second popped into my head that "The Imitation Game" also alludes to a gay person staying in the closet, imitating someone who's straight, but that bit of mental numbness is my problem, and can be openly (sorry) discussed in The Imitation Game's thread). I mention the content of the preceding paragraph because at the very end of the film, Ava did indeed pass the Turing Test, as she obviously convinced the helicopter pilot (as well as pedestrians at the intersection) that she was human - I suspect most people are so wigged out by the film's finale that they miss this subtle-but-important point. This was essentially a four-person script, with "test subject" Caleb Smith (played more than adequately by Domhnall Gleeson), and in a lesser role than the other three, the "other" robot, Kyoko (played very well, and with respect for subtlety and nuance, by Sonoya Mizuno). You really need to turn your mind off to enjoy Ex Machina, as the fundamental premise, including the setting and the personality of Bateman, are so improbable that you'll pull your hair out if you question it, so it will help your emotional stability if you accept this in advance - but then again, you aren't supposed to be reading this until you've finished the film. On a related note, a friend of mine gave me a copy of Joseph Heller's "Catch 22" just this afternoon. On an unrelated note, it's somewhat disturbing that "Portnoy's Complaint" just popped into my mind. Admit it: You had the hots for Ava, and you feel somewhat conflicted. Just admit it. Do.
  7. As I've been doing lately with these 2015 Academy Award nominees, I'm writing these posts as I watch the films on Amazon (using X-Ray to obtain some interesting trivia and factoids). So, as I write this about "The Big Short," I haven't even seen the opening credits. Note that Amazon gives you 30 days to begin watching your rental (which you can also cancel), but once you begin watching it, you only have 48 hours to finish - I guess this is reasonable to prevent multiple people from watching one film on one person's account, but sometimes I like to take a little longer - ah, well, compromises need to be made somewhere. Again, I recommend X-Ray for people interested in studying the film, but not for people who are easily distracted, as it could easily be a nuisance - you have your choice of pretending it's not there at all. *** SPOILERS ALERT *** You can probably assume that the rest of this post will contain various degrees of spoilers. I'll start by saying I *love* the film's opening quote by Mark Twain: "It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so." While not entirely true, there is a ring of familiarity to it, I'm sure, affecting us all. Director Adam McKay was Head Writer for Saturday Night Live for two seasons, and has directed comedies in the past (e.g.. "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby," which I'm ashamed to say I found to be quite amusing), but this is his first dramatic directorial debut. This is also the first movie of any kind that McKay has directed without Will Ferrell in the cast, which is surprising, but I really don't know much about McKay. Ferrell also co-wrote all but one of McKay's comedies, so there's definitely a close partnership here. When Dr. Burry went into Goldman Sachs and said he wanted to short the housing market, the song playing in the background was "Money Maker" by Ludacris. You will find multiple, almost random, cameos by some seriously famous people, including one very famous chef. The quote, "Truth is like poetry. And most people fucking hate poetry," is great (and written just for this movie). Boy, if this film doesn't make you want to vote for Bernie Sanders, nothing will. Here are some stats flashed at the end: * 5 trillion dollars disappeared * 8 million jobs were lost * 6 million people lost their homes * And that's just in the United States * 1 person went to jail from Credit Suisse And look where we are today in 2016. I have very strong feelings about whether or not the economy should have "recovered" so quickly after "the worst financial disaster since The Great Depression," but that's for another time, another thread - I pretty much said all I have to say right here.
  8. I power-watched all of "Breaking Bad," and think it just may be the best TV series I've ever seen. I'm now watching "Better Call Saul," based exclusively on my adoration of "Breaking Bad," coupled with the comments on this website. I've made it through Season 2, Episode 8 ("Fifi"), and unfortunately, I don't think it's even in the same stratosphere, quality-wise. We can certainly discuss this. *** SPOILERS FOLLOW *** (I'm Going To Give Away Some of the Overall Story Arc Below) Truthfully, there are two - and only two - characters I care about in "Better Call Saul": Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) and Mike Ermahntraut (Jonathan Banks), and that's only because it lends some background to their *tremendous* characters on "Breaking Bad." In particular, the way Mike parted from the Philadelphia Police Department (and his corresponding love for his granddaughter, Kaylee (Faith Healey and Abigail Zoe Lewis in "Better Call Saul," Kaija Bailes in "Breaking Bad") - which I find both adorable and heartbreaking). I'm almost finished with Season Two, and not one single mention has been made of Saul Goodman, which just doesn't seem right to me. More importantly, I find literally every other story arc interminably dull: There is nothing at all I find interesting about Kim Wexler (Rhea Seahorn), Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian), or Chuck McGill (Michael McKean, despite my unabashed love for McKean in "This is Spinal Tap"). All three of them bore me to tears, and their story lines - especially the annoyingly overplayed electromagnetic hypersensitivity subplot with Chuck - have me pining away for a return to Jimmy, Mike, or even *any* member of the cartel. That saxdrop says there's a loss of momentum in Season Three almost guarantees that "Better Call Saul" will be a wrap for me after Season Two - I can't imagine it getting much worse. As an unwanted side issue, Mike has clearly aged since the filming of "Breaking Bad," and thinking back to the near-superhuman things he did in that series (remember him walking through the desert after being shot?) makes them seem absolutely impossible. Mike Ermahntraut just may be my favorite character in either series - his stoic toughness reminds me of Anton Chigurh in the great "No Country for Old Men," but Ermahntraut also has the ridiculously high-level mental acuity of any action hero you could think of - the whole package wrapped in a laconic series of silence, accentuated with the occasional grunt. This series has (I think) made me like Saul Goodman less overall - it was better not knowing where he came from, or how he got to be such a bad-ass attorney. Am I the only person who loved "Breaking Bad," but isn't loving "Better Call Saul?" Why is this series boring me to tears? Not to propose the obvious, but I really feel like they made it just to wring out as much money as possible from their product, and not because they had any story to tell.
  9. How to read this index: * The pictures are my own selections of a single image that represents the episode (you can scroll through them all by clicking "Next" on the top-right of the photo). * The links in the episodes go to the New York Times, which has a paywall, but allows ten free articles per month - the short reviews are good and worth reading. * All names referenced for the first time are linked, either to Wikipedia or IMDB (if there's no Wikipedia entry). * All names referenced subsequent times have a running number of episodes that they've been involved with next to their name. - 1.1 - "Descenso" ("Drop") - Directed by José Padilha, Written by Chris Brancato, Carlo Bernard, and Doug Miro - 1.2 - "The Sword of Simón Bolí­var" - Directed by José Padilha (2), Written by Chris Brancato (2) - 1.3 - "The Men of Always" - Directed by Guillermo Navarro, Written by Dana Calvo - 1.4 - "The Palace in Flames" - Directed by Guillermo Navarro (2), Written by Chris Brancato (3) - 1.5 - "There Will Be a Future" - Directed by Andi Baiz, Written by Dana Ledoux Miller - 1.6 - "Explosivos" ("Explosives") - Directed by Andi Baiz (2), Written by Andy Black - 1.7 - "You Will Cry Tears of Blood" - Directed by Fernando Coimbra, Written by Zach Calig - 1.8 - "La Gran Mentira" ("The Great Lie") - Directed by Fernando Coimbra (2), Written by Allison Abner - 1.9 - "La Catedral" ("The Cathedral") - Directed by Andi Baiz (3), Written by Nick Schenk and Chris Brancato (4) - 1.10 - "Despegue" ("Takeoff") - Directed by Andi Baiz (4), Written by Nick Schenk (2) and Chris Brancato (5) (Note: I put the above index in on Nov 2, 2015, with each screen shot one I chose that I feel best represents the episode. I wrote the entire index after having finished Season One; my original Oct 22, 2015 post is below.) --- This series, which debuted on Aug 28, 2015, is a collaboration between NetFlix and Telemundo. It portrays the DEA in their attempt to hunt Pablo Escobar, and was renewed for a second season this autumn. I haven't even started watching yet, but I'm going to give the first episode a go.
  10. I wasn't sure whether to post "Hitchcock/Truffaut" in film or literature, because I highly recommend both the book and the documentary about the book. I bought a paperback version of "Hitchcock/Truffaut" for a friend last summer, and when it arrived, I grabbed his copy and read it cover to cover for about four straight hours. If you are a fan of Alfred Hitchcock, Francois Truffaut or filmmaking in general, this book is a must-read. The book is based on a 1962 week-long conversation between Hitchcock and the then 30-year-old Truffaut. You get a real sense of both men, their filmmaking style and the art of filmmaking when you read this book. The documentary, which is readily available to stream online now, is based on the exact same conversation from 1962, but it is very different from the book. Because both directors are no longer living, there are numerous interviews in the film with other iconic movie makers, including Martin Scorsese and Richard Linklater. All share how Hitchcock's groundbreaking filmmaking style influences them and the movies they make. This is an engaging film that any fan of the cinema should not miss.
  11. Have you been watching Colbert lately? Over the last couple of weeks, for the first time, The Late Show has better ratings than The Tonight Show. His monologues are funny yet pointed. His take on the Flynn fiasco: it's funny cause it's treason "Sean Spicer, the M.C. Escher of bullshit." LOL
  12. When I first heard that a film about David Foster Wallace was being made, I was thrilled. Then I began reading articles about how his widow did not support "The End of the Tour." In the articles, she speculated that Wallace, who disliked the spotlight, would not have wanted a film to be made about him. That made sense to me, so, on principle, I avoided seeing it. Several months later, when the movie came out on video, a friend who is a Wallace fan and one of the few people I know who has also read "Infinite Jest," urged me to see it. Curiosity got the better of me, so I decided to look for it online. It was available to stream for free, so I decided, why not? I enjoyed "The End of the Tour" very much. At first, I was put off by Jason Segel playing Wallace. The actor, well known for such comedies as "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" and "I Love You, Man," seemed oddly cast to me. As I watched the film, however, my impression changed. I think Segel did an excellent job capturing Wallace's quiet spirit. He became the author to me, and I found his portrayal touching and believable. The film is the story of the five-day interview between Rolling Stone reporter and novelist David Lipsky, played by Jesse Eisenberg, and Wallace, which takes place right after the 1996 publication of "Infinite Jest." The article was never published, but is based on Lipsky's memoir, "Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace," written after Wallace's suicide in 2008. The relationship between the interviewer and the interviewee is fun to watch. Lipsky is in awe of Wallace, perhaps a bit intimidated and jealous, and Wallace is guarded at first, but also refreshingly candid when answering Lipsky's questions. I feel like I have a better understanding of one of my favorite authors after watching this film. Who knew Wallace had a secret crush on Alanis Morissette, and why? There is a scene at the very end of the film that shows Wallace doing something I never in a million years would have imagined him doing. Seeing this endeared him to me even more. If you are a fan of big films with explosions and car chases, this is not the movie for you. If you like quiet films about ideas and relationships, you probably will enjoy "The End of the Tour." If you are a Wallace fan, and particularly a lover of "Infinite Jest," this film, I believe, is a worthy investment of your time and attention.
  13. I have always loved this wine, and right now they have stacks of it at the Pentagon City Whole Foods for $16.99 a bottle. Two unusual things about the bottle itself: it's a 1 Liter bottle (most bottles are .750 ml, or 3/4 as much), and more interestingly, it has a "pop top" that you open like a bottle of Heineken - it's not twist-off, but a bottle opener does the trick. I think both of these qualities drive home exactly what this wine is: a wine to quaff like water. It's dirt cheap (Pentagon City Whole Foods cannot possibly have low prices, and I suspect the producer sells this ex-cellar for about $5 a liter - I don't know this, but it's certainly less than $10. This is not a wine to cellar and mature; it's a wine to guzzle, and if you don't finish it, you can stick the top right back on and save it for the next night. It has real Grüner Veltliner character, with no oak that I can detect - it's a fairly "dilute" wine, so oak would be positively overwhelming. This Hofer is organic, and is made in a sleepy little hamlet just a few miles north of Vienna (it's pretty amazing how Vienna, a big, powerful city, can taper off into serenity just a few miles to the north). It's impossible to cherish this wine as something sacred (because it's not), and it's impossible not to like this wine as something joyful (because it is) - it's like a really fun session beer that you don't feel guilty about splurging on because it's a few dollars. Having a "house wine" is a quaint, but rare concept in this day and age, but if you were to have one, this wouldn't be a bad place to start. Yes, I'm friends with Terry Theise, but I haven't spoken with him in months, and he has no idea I'm writing this. I know this wine very well from previous vintages, and have never not liked it. Think: pitchers of Budweiser, except good.
  14. No, it's not April Fools Day - I watched a 15-minute documentary called "Dolphin Lover" - which involves a general topic known as zoophilia, the entire film being Malcolm Brenner explaining how he came to fall in love with - and have consexual sex with - a dolphin named Dolly (I think if you Google it, you can watch it on YouTube). And as incredible as it sounds, it was actually interesting. At first, I thought it was going to be a comedy, but it's a serious documentary - I can safely say that this topic never crossed my mind before seeing this film. Jan 26, 2015 - "New Documentary Tells the Story of a Man who Had Sex with a Dolphin" by Arielle Castillo on fusion.net
  15. "Bone Tomahawk" is a 2015 Western "Horror" film - and I use that term in quotes - which was released late in the year. Its one attribute is Kurt Russell as Sheriff Franklin Hunt. How they got Kurt Russell to star in this film is beyond me, but they did. I wish there was something - anything - else about it that I could recommend to you, but it is pretty much 130 minutes of poorly crafted boredom - at least it's free on Amazon.com, but I can pretty much promise you that your time is worth more than investing 2+ hours of it in this movie. It's a very simple story - it was filmed on a $1.8 million budget, yet brought in only $232,000 at the box office - how many box-office losers have you seen that cost less than $2 million to make? Yeah, it's *that* level of movie. The horseback-riding scenes - and there are a lot of them - through the prairie are visually nice to watch, and for me, that was the highlight of the film. I wasn't at all invested in the characters, or the plot, and I didn't really understand (or care to understand) what exactly the hell was going on. Well, I guess I *did* know what was going on, but it was so simplistic that there really wasn't anything to "get." I feel the same way about having spent 2+ hours of my life watching this film as I do when I eat at a terrible restaurant: like I wasted precious moments, and the only possible good I can get out of it is to warn you away. You might not hate it as much as I do (honestly, I still have almost 30 minutes left as I write this), but I urge you to move on from this - it's really amateurish. I'd love to hear a differing opinion, or something from someone who knows about this movie - why did they make it? What was the point? Billing this as a "horror" Western is a bit much - it's not a horror film; there's a group of antagonists for sure, and there are times when it can get suspenseful, but horror it is not - I think that's a misbilling. Making this film could have only possibly hurt Kurt Russell's career - he must have owed a friend a favor or something. You know between the first five seasons of "The Walking Dead," "The Babadook," and "Hush," I'd recently seen three winners that were released straight to streaming-video companies (I don't know if AMC constitutes this or not, but you get my point). "Bone Tomahawk" made me realize just how lucky I've been up until now, and that I cannot randomly throw a dart, expecting to get quality fare from this point forward. I'll be doing quite a bit more research in the future, and not just happily assuming things will be worth my time. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention a small role played by the legendary Sean Young (*): Sep 29, 2014 - "Sean Young, David Arquette, Lili Simmons and More Join 'Bone Tomahawk'; Film Now Shooting" by Evan Dickson on collider.com (*) Admit it, sometimes you can never quite tell whether or not I'm serious.
  16. "Amy Schumer Live at the Apollo" is available in two ways through HBO Online - either with a direct subscription, or if you enter your service provider (you'll need a name and password). This was performed in 2015 and is Amy at her crudy, raunchy best - between her and Margaret Cho, you're really in for a roller coaster ride if you watch their stand-up comedy routines. I do with both Amy and Margaret would stop criticizing (even jokingly) their bodies - I mean, we hear Louis CK doing the same type of stuff, but not to this extent. You girls both look fine to me! Stop it! Enough! Be comfortable in your own skin! Time for new material! The bit about her <ahem> doing the Charleston, dancing around with a cigarette hanging out of its mouth, was laugh-out-loud funny. One thing I notice about Amy Schumer's comedy is that it never gets boring - she doesn't stay on any one topic for very long, so if it would be a bomb, it's not long enough to explode; she just moves on, and most of her topics are at least good enough to draw a smile if not a light chuckle (and that's if you're home alone); with a group of people in the room, it's probably more laughter. Okay, during the scene when she scarfed down her scone I literally spat out my drink onto my keyboard, and I kid you not - it caught me totally off-guard, it was about 1/10th of a second long, and it was hilarious. Wow, there is some *shocking* material in here! The Obama bit even shocked me. Wacky Shirley LOL!
  17. Matt (my son) saw Hamilton three weeks ago and *loved* it. It has been playing at the Richard Rodgers Theater since Aug, 2015 I tried to get him to explain it to me, and he kept saying, "You kind of have to just see it." All I know about it is that the set design and costumes were in period, but the music is something closer to hip-hop - it sounds fascinating.
  18. When Stephan Curry made this one play one TV commentator called it the best move he had ever seen. High praise from somebody who watches and has watched endless basketball for years. Curry's coach, Steve Kerr, a former NBA guard has a priceless reaction. Its remarkably quick and fluid. I had to watch it several times. Its Harlem Globetrotter like, only in real competition, with real defenders 3 to 4 trying to steal the ball, block Curry's movements etc. Best move ever???? I don't know. But its fun to watch. It starts when Curry gets the ball from his center/teammate and then moves at tremendously rapid speed, each element of his play astonishingly fluid, one following the other. Bet he can't do that again!!!!!
  19. I would normally never watch a film such as "The Martian," (an implausible Hollywood blockbuster about a crazy thing), but a trusted friend saw it, and told me I might like it more than I'd think (actually, the exact words were, "The Martian was not a great film. But my expectations were very low, and it surpassed them. It was amusing escapism on a day when I really needed some"), so given that I like to remain at least somewhat in touch with popular culture, why not? Plus, I've liked Matt Damon ever since "Good Will Hunting," - an underachieving film that has an interesting premise, sort of like Patrick Swayze in "Roadhouse" (a black-belt "cooler" who drives a Mercedes 560SEC and has a degree in Philosophy?) Plus, sometimes you have to just enjoy cheap (actually, not-so-cheap) escapism for its own sake, you know what I mean? Some of these tidbits I got from, or was inspired by, Amazon X-Ray, so instead of citing each of them, I'll give a global citation here. I mention Amazon X-Ray in greater detail here. In the opening credits, the title "THE MARTIAN" slowly fades away, but the bottom part of the "T" in Martian lingers on the screen by itself for about one second, forming an "I." This is both similar to what happened in Alien (the letters fading), and obviously a foreshadowing of what is about to occur in the movie. The spaceship in The Martian is named Hermes, the Greek God of Scarves and Neckties, and also the Protector of Travelers. The Roman equivalent of Hermes is Mercury. The Latin name for Mark (Mark Watney is Matt Damon's character) is Marcus, which means, "of Mars." I have to admit that when Watney pulled the object out from inside of him (which I think might have been some vague tribute to the infamous scene in Ridley Scott's "Alien"), and was sitting in the chair, staring at the ceiling, with his predicament slowly dawning on him, and he said, "Fuck," I laughed out loud. So far (I'm writing this as I watch), I like the comic relief in this movie, e.g., when Mark threw up his arms in triumph while working with hydrazine. In the preview for The Martian, which I first saw many months before it was released, they used the eye-rolling line, "I'm going to have to science the shit out of this." That was so off-putting to me that it, alone, made me not want to see the film. In context of the movie, it was *still* an eye-rolling line - horrible - but not *as* bad as it was in the trailer, stripped of all context and previous events. These people know what they're doing: This line might have lost my demographic as a potential audience, but it probably gained ten-times as many people in other demographics. Okay, I'm an hour into this movie, with about eighty minutes remaining. I am predicting - but do not know - that Mark will be saved, because ... how can he *not* be? Hollywood is a mega-business, and a tragic ending would be bad for business (and it would have surely leaked out very early on). In an indie art film? Sure, but not here. No way. Just once, I'd love to see an ending like Tosca in a Hollywood nine-figure blockbuster, where the lead character drops dead right before the final curtain falls. It would make for better suspense going forward. As a final thought, I can see how watching The Martian would make the life of someone who is trapped in a prison, or a wheelchair, or a dungeon, or some other place of absolute solitude a little more bearable, giving them just an extra ounce of hope, knowing (or even fantasizing) that as long as you're still breathing, nothing is impossible. When I first saw the trailer for The Martian, I never dreamed that I would actually watch it, much less like it, but I liked The Martian a lot more than I thought I would.
  20. In my ongoing quest to watch some of the 2015 Best Picture Nominees, I watched "Bridge of Spies," Steven Spielberg's historical drama about Rudolf Abel, Francis Gary Powers, Frederick Pryor, and James B. Donovan and the role he played in negotiating the prisoner exchange. Out of the four nominees I've seen, this would be the one most likely to get my vote, although not by much - they've all been quite good; none of them are what I would classify as great - in my mind, this has shaped out to be a pretty weak year for nominees. Still, I really enjoyed "Bridge of Spies," and Tom Hanks was terrific in his role as Donovan, as was Mark Rylance in his role as Abel - Rylance's was the type of screen presence that stays with you for years, and from what I can tell so far, he was fully justified in winning his Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. It's interesting that three of the four nominees I've seen so far have been historical dramas (the other being "The Martian"), and with so many historical dramas on the nominee list, it's somewhat surprising that one of them won, as one might figure the vote would be split between them, and that something completely different (like "The Martian") could walk in and steal the award. I also had no idea this was a Spielberg film until the end. We have several "Spotlight" fans here, and the reason I personally preferred "Bridge of Spies" (although on another day, I could change my mind the other way), was because, not only was it not overplayed, but it also had a tiny bit of that Hollywood "oomph" that I enjoy as escapism - it wasn't at "The Martian" level of escapism; here, it was just a seasoning.
  21. I'm in the process of watching "Spotlight" - the Academy Award winner for Best Picture of 2015 - on Amazon.com, and am typing this as I go. A couple interesting things right off the bat: * "Spotlight" is the first picture since 1952 ("The Greatest Show On Earth") to win Best Picture, and only one other award (in this case, Best Original Screenplay). * There's a fascinating (some might say "annoying") feature on Amazon called "X-Ray," which is sort of a real-time CliffsNotes, listing who is in what scene, and occasional blurbs of trivia, as the film advances (the viewer can disable X-Ray, but I'm taking something of a studious approach to this film (surprise, surprise!), so I'm using it, despite it being a clear-and-present distraction). And yes, it *is* available on Amazon right now, but it will set you back $5.99 to watch. Okay, let me get this over with: Good picture, for sure, but not Best Picture material. I haven't seen the others in 2015, so I have nothing to compare it to, but this just isn't a Best Picture film. I can easily see how it didn't win anything else, other than Best Original Screenplay. However, I'm glad I saw it, as I was simply unaware of the magnitude of the Boston Priests cover-up. Never mind the other cities; I'm talking only about Boston, and (assuming the numbers they throw out at film's-end are true) the problem was of such enormous magnitude that I'm a better person for having seen the film - there's no way I could ever forget, now that I've seen it fully acted out. In fact, I'd say that it's miraculous that the Catholic Church survived to the extent that it did, although there's nobody to "destroy" it except its own parishioners, and they don't want that to happen, so I guess it's not all that miraculous. And quite frankly, I'm not sure the Catholic Church *is* going to survive this. The guy protesting every day on Massachusetts Avenue - I really feel sorry for him. And assuming the figures - and list of cities - at the end of the film are correct (and I'm sure they are), well, let's just say that if this was a publicly traded company, it would be shut down and disbanded. I'd love to know what others thought of the film - I can't think of a single performance that I would consider to be "outstanding" (although many were very good), and I don't understand how enough Academy members voted for this for it to win. Anybody?
  22. In memory of Justice Antonin Scalia (Mar 11, 1936 - Feb 13, 2016) Forget politics, Justice Scalia was a man of honor, and I'm certain that Justice Ginsburg is grieving mightily today, as the two were dear friends who attended operas together. From the Wikipedia article: Scalia enjoyed a warm relationship with fellow Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, considered a member of the court's liberal wing, with the two attending the opera together, and even appearing together onstage as supernumeraries in Washington National Opera's 1994 production of Ariadne auf Naxos "Judicial Differences Take Center Stage in 'Scalia v. Ginsburg'" by Nina Totenberg on npr.org "'Scalia/Ginsburg' Opera Underscores How Opposites Can Be In Harmony" by Mark Swed on latimes.com "Justice Ginsburg's Spin On A Supreme Opera, 'Scalia/Ginsburg'" by Jess Bravin on blogs.wsj.com
  23. Oh my, Yogi Berra, an all-time great catcher in the big leagues, and an all-American icon for his many quotes and advertisements that featured him. Seeing comments here referencing that .... really depressed me. Yogi is an iconic American sports star, a beloved character, and what hit hardest on a personal level, was that Yogi has lived most of his life since he got to the Yankees in a Northern NJ town, near where I grew up. There was a fair bit of news about Yogi in my neck of the woods, and all of it was positive and beloved. Yogi's achievements in baseball are legendary and formidable. He ranks with the best of the best. The Yog played in 14 World Series and was on the winning side 10 times!!! That could be a personal record that might not be beat. Yogi was part of Yankee dynasties that helped him get there, but his presence on those teams helped the Yankees win so often. Here are some astonishing nuggets: He led the Yankees in RBI's 7 years in a row through 1955. Those were teams with Joe Dimaggio and Mickey Mantle, He was league MVP 3 times, and received MVP votes 14 years in a row, tied for 2nd behind all time leader Hank Aaron. He was a great player and had tremendous longevity. Yogi caught the famous perfect game in the 1956 World Series. He was a great contact hitter, and a notorious bad ball hitter all the same, being able to connect at pitches above his head, and being capable of golfing a ball thrown at his feet. When you review the reams of detailed statistics about his career there is a column of detail about his annual baseball salary each year. Yogi maxed out at $65,000/year in his playing career. Today the highest paid catchers make around $12-17/million/year, which comes to more per game than he earned in his highest salaried year. Not withstanding the way sports salaries have escalated I doubt baseball's best catchers today could hold Yogi's jock. He was excellent at both offense and defense. He is amazingly beloved in the NY region and among Yankee fans. Growing up his sons were noted athletes, two of whom made it into professional baseball and the NFL. One of my closest friends played on a noted regional Legion baseball team against one of Yogi's sons. As a kid that is simply thrilling. For such a lifelong humble guy he has that "Brooks Robinson" combination of baseball stardom and entirely admirable personal qualities. I truly hope he sticks around for quite a few more years. Here's to you, Yogi. "It ain't over till its over!!"
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