Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Movie Review: Happy Death Day

Taking a popular trope and splashing it onto a teenage thrasher doesn't do much for this dull horror release. The strangely named Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) is a shallow sorority girl who goes through her day selfishly blowing off others and insulting everyone she knows until she is murdered. She wakes up to find that she is repeating the same day over again but this takes a little longer than it should, especially since they advertised this film a lot and audiences are here for the conceit. She's murdered again and freaks out as she wakes up in the same position. No matter what she tries, she keeps getting murdered by a mysterious figure who wears the baby mascot mask. The murders are not very clever but the killer is very determined to take out Tree.

Tree keeps waking up in the dorm room of Carter (Israel Broussard), a guy she drunkenly went home with last night though he did not have sex with her. As she goes through repeated trauma, he turns from a total strange into a trusted ally that she asks for advice. He is skeptical each time the day resets but entertains the scenario and gives her advice of using her many lives to investigate who wants to kill her. She investigates the people who might hate her like the sorority leader Danielle (Rachel Matthews) but she rules them out right before she gets murder. The inevitable montage of repeated death plays out as she reduces the suspects. She was having an affair with her doctor professor Gregory Butler (Charles Atiken) but eliminates his wife Stephanie (Laura Clifton) as her murderer.

She has to figure out who knows it's her birthday because she deduced that the killer must know. Her roommate Lori Spengler (Ruby Modine) only figured out her birthday from her driver's license since Tree keeps it a secret. It has something to do with her mother's death but I wasn't sure if this ever got explained. She finally wakes up dizzy one day and it turns out that all those repeated deaths were actually taking a toll on her body. She winds up in the hospital but still the killer chases after her, even when she tries to escape in a car. She tries some absurd things but I never felt like she was really taking advantage of knowing what would happen in a day. There was humor but a little of it fell flat and Tree wasn't very likable until she started to take matters into her own hands, but half the movie had already gone by.

Tree discovers that a psycho killer Joseph Tombs (Rob Mello) was imprisoned at the hospital and had been breaking out on these repeated days so she figures that he is the killer. She prepares and though she kills him she has to reset the day since Carter died saving her life. She falls for him then and prepares the next time to kill Tombs before anything can happen. Still, she wakes up to find the day repeating and has to follow one last clue to realize the cupcake was poisoned by her roommate. This reveal was predictable and ridiculous as the explanation even seemed absurd to the main character. Lori's motive is only jealous and disgust so the elaborate murder plots seem farfetched. The film goes for a comedic and emotional ending but falls flat and I left the theater before any further explanation.

Happy Death Day looked like it could be an appealing film with fun horror but it turns out kind of boring. The film does not take advantage of its premise and doesn't have likable characters. This film feels like wasted potential as it only goes for minor scares as well so not functioning as much of a horror film either. I should have gone in with lower expectations but after some successful horror films from Universal and Blumhouse, I was thinking this would continue the trend. It did manage to top out at the box office so it was a financial success at least. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Sports: NFL (Week 6)

This week was a bit strange where there were plenty of upsets to go around so I'll be highlighting teams that may have won this week but probably won't have a strong chance of making it to the playoffs. The season is still pretty young so anything could happen in the next few weeks to change the fate of these teams if they can ride the momentum of their recent win. I'm hoping the same thing is true for my fantasy team as I got my second win in a row and could be back in contention for a playoff spot if I win a few more. This season has proven a bit harder to predict with the final undefeated team falling.

AFC West
The Chargers have changed cities from San Diego to Los Angeles but that hasn't brought them much success. They did beat their division rival, the Oakland Raiders who aren't very strong either. The Kansas City Chiefs lost their first game to the Steelers while the Denver Broncos gave the Giants their first win.

AFC North
The Pittsburgh Steelers looked to be having a rough season but with a huge upset to the Chiefs, they are back in front of this division. The Bengals had a bye week but could be back in the fight after the Baltimore Ravens loss to the Bears in overtime. The Browns continue their abysmal season with their sixth loss to the Texans.

AFC South
The Tennessee Titans won a big battle on Monday night against their division rival the Indianapolis Colts. The Houston Texans improved their record with an easy victory over the Browns while the Jacksonville Jaguars fell to the Rams. The division now has a three-way tie with three teams with three wins.

AFC East
The Miami Dolphins are trying not to repeat recent seasons with a surprising upset over the Falcons. The New England Patriots avoided defeat against the New York Jets to take the division lead. The Bills had the week off.

NFC South
The New Orleans Saints were the only team in this division to get a win when they beat the Lions in a high scoring game. The Carolina Panthers lost the Thursday night game to the Eagles while the Atlanta Falcons were upset by the Dolphins. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost to the Cardinals despite a fourth-quarter comeback attempt.

NFC West
The Arizona Cardinals don't look great but they scraped by over the Buccaneers to get to the middle of the division. The Los Angeles Rams moved to the top of the division with a win over the Jaguars and a bye week for Seattle. The San Francisco 49ers have yet to win a game losing to the Redskins.

NFC North
The Minnesota Vikings triumphed in a game that could alter the division as the Green Bay Packers lost their starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The Detroit Lions lost to the Saints while the Chicago Bears beat the Ravens 
NFC East
The New York Giants got their first win of the season as they beat the Broncos. The Philadelphia Eagles are climbing to the top of not just the division but the conference as they won the Thursday night game against the Panthers. The Washington Redskins just barely made it past the weak 49ers. The Cowboys had a bye week.

The game I'm looking forward to the most this next week if not all season is the Super Bowl rematch between the Falcons and the Patriots on Sunday night. I'm also curious about the Redskins and Eagles on Monday night. 

TV Show Review: Fear the Walking Dead (Season 3)

AMC has decided, as with other shows, to split up the season into 8-episode halves and I decided to skip the midseason review for a full review of the third season. The biggest shock of the returns of this zombie show was the sudden death of a major character. In the two-episode premiere, the Clark family finally comes back together but it is only because they are captured by a militia. Madison Clark (Kim Dickens) and her daughter Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) are held in an office while her son Nick (Frank Dillane) and her husband Travis Manawa (Cliff Curtis) are tied up in preparation for execution in a basement shower room. The militia is led by Troy Otto (Daniel Sharman) and his brother Jake (Sam Underwood) and it's pretty clear that they discriminate on who is allowed into the survivalist camp and who is used to experiment as zombies. The soldiers including Willy (Noel Fisher) collect data as the dead change into zombies.

Madison has none of jabbing a spoon into Troy's eye to escape while Nick tries to escape with Luciana Galvez (Danay Garcia) through a walker-infested sewer. They are forced to evacuated the camp as zombies invade but it is too late for Travis who dies from a wound and falls from the helicopter. The rest of the group travels to the survivalist camp led by Jeremiah Otto (Dayton Callie), Troy and Jake's father. Victor Strand (Colman Domingo) remained at the hotel pretending to be a doctor but he's exposed and forced to leave. Daniel Salazar (Rubén Blades) searches for purpose in the wasteland and is helped by a religious man until he is captured by Dante Esquival (Jason Manuel Olazabal). Dante is in charge of a dam that controls most of the water in the area and he punishes anyone suspected of stealing the precious fluid. Daniel's history comes into play as he earns the trust of Dante.

Jeremiah Otto's camp is at war with Qaletqa Walker (Michael Greyeyes) whose grudge against the survivalist goes back long before the undead walked. Walker works with Ofelia Salazar (Mercedes Mason) and she poisons members of the ranch. Madison navigates into a leadership position and undermines Otto in the conflict. Alicia forms a relationship with Jake while Troy violently lashes out at anyone who tries to leave the camp. All out war almost break out but Madison assassinates Otto to keep the peace. The second half of the season shifts to a soccer stadium that has become a marketplace as Daniel takes control of the dam and Madison leads the survivalist ranch. Troy leads a parade of undead towards the ranch that Alicia must fight off. Nick works with Jake to try to lead the zombies away but Jake is bitten and dies. Madison makes a deal to save Victor and argues with Daniel over water. Madison tries to reunite Daniel with his daughter Ofelia but she dies before they can be together. 

Alicia is traumatized from having to survive in a basement nearly suffocating as people turned into walkers. She sets out on her own and meets Diana (Edwina Findley) who agrees to work with her to survive. Their partnership doesn't last for long as a group of attackers smashes a truck into their vehicle. Alicia meets a man with a tumor and uses her medical experience to help with the post-apocalypse surgery. Nick and Troy travel with Madison to the stadium and begin to work with a bartender to collect brain stems of zombies. They head to the dam where Madison kills Troy and Daniel interrogates Nick. Madison's transformation into a stone cold killer seems to be a central theme of the show. The soldiers assaulting the dam turn out to be the same people holding Alicia captive. Proctor John (Ray McKinnon) is an interesting new villain. Alicia encounters Strand who is pretending to cooperate with Proctor. A final standoff sees a detonator in Nick's hand as the Proctor motorcycle gang has Madison and Alicia as hostages. Nick negotiates for their release and receives help from Walker. He blows the dam but manages to escape. The finale ends with Madison climbing out of the rushing water after an intense dream of a happier place. 

I'm not totally sure why I continue to watch this show other than I like zombies. Some of the characters like Colman Domingo's Victor Strand, Kim Dicken's Madison, Frank Dillane's Nick, and Rubén Blades's Daniel are fun to watch at times but the characters don't stand out as much as in the original series. The story lagged quite a bit in the middle episodes of each half season as the show does not have the benefit of Robert Kirkman's source material. the shocking death of a main character just did not pack the same punch as the original show's brutal demises. I honestly didn't play too close attention to the plot as many of the episodes were boring or forgettable and the zombie action was often on the periphery of the main story. I'll stick with it for another season because I'm curious how it will tie into the original series as promised.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Sports: College Football (Week 7)

While there are not any games between ranked teams this weekend proved to be full of upsets right from the start. Two top ten ranked teams fell on Friday and two more on Saturday. This week will have repercussions that will play out all the way to the college football playoffs. I still think we have a few weeks to go to see what the official rankings will be but as of now, there are fewer undefeated teams. 

The biggest upset of the weekend will be the Friday night loss of the 2Clemson Tigers to the Syracuse Orange. The Tigers did win the National Championship with one loss to an unranked opponent last year but their win over Auburn is not as impressive this year as they lost this weekend too, but I'll get to that later. Moving up after Clemon's defeat are the undefeated 11Miami Hurricanes and the 21NC State Wolfpack. Miami moves to seventh and NC State to seventeenth while Clemson drops to eighth.

On Friday, the California Golden Bears upset the 8Washington State Cougars who were planning dominance in the PAC-12. This unranked loss will spell the end of the Cougars hopes for appearing in the National Championship with an upset over Washington. It may also end the hopes of the PAC-12 appearing in the playoffs.
The PAC-12 really lost their hopes of an appearance in the playoffs when the 5Washington Huskies fell to the Arizona State Sun Devils. 23Stanford Cardinals move to the top of the PAC-12 North with a win over Oregon but two losses will keep them from traveling too far up. 

Big Ten
The Wisconsin Badgers move into the top 5 with a win over Purdue. Their schedule looks pretty easy as the only ranked opponent they have left is 15Michigan but they'll compete with a tough opponent in the Big Ten Championship if they win out. The Big Ten will get interesting next week as 3Penn State returns from their bye week to a host of new challenges from conference rivals Michigan, Ohio State, and Michigan State. Penn State vs Michigan might be the only game I'm looking forward to next week. 

Big 12
The TCU Horned Frogs have moved into fourth place as they beat Kansas State. They do face the challenge of Oklahoma in November but if they win that and triumph in the new Big 12 championships, then we may see the Frogs in the playoffs. 

Benefiting from all the chaos and floating at the top at number one are the Alabama Crimson Tide. They have defeated all challengers up to this point. The only ranked opponent that Alabama has to face is Auburn who lost to LSU this weekend and plummeted more than any other team that was upset from tenth to 21st. The Georgia Bulldogs have moved up into third place and they also only have Auburn to face as their last ranked opponent. It's going to be a crazy SEC CHampionship. 

TV Show Review: Halt and Catch Fire (Season 4)

The final season of AMC's brilliant period piece follows the rapid development of technology in the early nineties as search engines take the forefront of innovation. The latest season pushes the inventors into the 90s after years of building computers and programs, the work has turned to the internet. Joe MacMillan (Lee Pace) and Gordon Clark (Scoot McNairy) are working on a new site but they rely on Cameron Howe (Mackenzie Davis) who is in Japan but not always communicative. Cameron has been working on a new video game that is so complicated, it frustrates average users. Donna Emerson (Kerry Bishé) is working at a new company as a project manager with Diane Gould (Annabeth Gish) and John Bosworth (Toby Huss). 

When Cameron returns to America, she strikes up a phone conversation with Joe that lasts nearly a whole episode as a bad review comes in for her game. Gordon faces competition from his ex-wife company as Donna promotes Tanya Reese (Sasha Morfaw) to help lead their competing browser. Gordon finds out about the web skills of his daughter Haley (Susanna Skaggs) and interests her on working on their new web browser with Joe. She finds a lot of success and melds with their new company well. Donna is not thrilled with Gordon employing Haley and she also struggles with their other daughter Joanie (Kathryn Newton) who acts out against her parents.

Cameron decides to buy a piece of land and move out there in a trailer. Bosworth is trying to hide his massive investment debts from Diane as he helps Donna on their web browser. Gordon starts a relationship with a new employee Katie Herman (Anna Chlumsky). Bosworth goes to Cameron for help on the coding issues for their browser unbeknownst to Donna but she's suspicious when the problems are suddenly fixed. Cameron also keeps it a secret from Joe as well even though he questions how their competitor has a major breakthrough. When Bosworth becomes sick in the hospital, a lot of truth comes out as Donna confronts Cameron and Cameron admits to Joe what she did.

The show has a real gut punch in the seventh episode when Gordon dies suddenly. The last few episodes are full of grief and reminiscing as the friends are forced to come together and deal with everything that Gordon left behind. In the end, Bosworth gets a clean bill of health and makes up with Diane to enjoy retirement. Haley takes up a new project as Joanie travel to Tibet. Donna gathers women in tech and makes a rousing speech only to have a comical splash end it as Cameron falls in the pool. Cameron had set out to leave but she proposes that Donna and she should work together again and it looks like they have a new idea. Joe disappears to return home and teach humanities but he keeps memories of his friends close.

I almost gave up on Halt and Catch Fire in the second season but I caught up before the third and I'm so happy I stuck with it because this show is amazing. The last few episodes were so funny and sad and just a beautiful show that ends so well. Looking back, it was an incredible journey led by extraordinary performances from Lee Pace's ambitious Joe to Kerry Bishé's cutthroat Donna. Mackenzie Davis will be a star but this is the role that brought her into the spotlight and while Scoot McNairy has plenty of small roles in films, this show could be a highlight in a huge career. Toby Huss is also hilarious as Bosworth. I enjoyed this show so much and will be thinking about it as one of the best of the year. 

Saturday, October 14, 2017

TV Show Review: Room 104

A hotel room can be so much more than just a place to spend the night. It can be a home, a workplace, a church, bomb-making factory or a fighting ring, and in Jay and Mark Duplass's new HBO series, these possibilities are explored in twelve thirty-minute episodes. The series goes from religious to horror to dramatic to romantic and I never knew what to expect when starting each episode. The first episode is a horror of sorts when a young woman Meg (Melonie Diaz) arrives at Room 104 to babysit an odd boy who seems to have a split personality. In the second a pizza boy Jarod (Clark Duke) gets trapped in a couple's strange game as Scott (James Van Der Beek) and Jennifer (Davie-Blue) have other plans than just eating, but the episode concludes with a surprising twist.

The third episode, The Knockadoo, sees a woman Deborah (Sameerah Luqmaan-Harris) attends a strange ritual for a cult religion performed by a priest Samuel (Orlando Jones) including videos of a man known as The Father (Tony Todd). The next episode has a man Daniel (Jay Duplass) cope with guilt as he's visited by the ghost of his best friend Patrick (Will Tranfo) who drowned while they were out swimming years ago. The fifth episode, one of my favorite, The Internet shows the complex nature of a young man Anish (Karan Soni) trying to explain to his mother over the phone how to send a document of his novel by email. This anxiety-inducing episode also has a surprise ending that is as shocking as it is emotional. 

The sixth episode went over my head as a young woman (Sarah Hay) dances with the housekeeper (Dendrie Taylor). The Missionaries, the seventh episode, was also one of the more enjoyable ones is about two Mormon missionaries Noah (Adam Foster) and Joseph (Nat Wolff) exploring the forbidden things but there are consequences. A bizarre eighth episode, Phoenix, has the survivor of a plane crash Joan (Amy Landecker) deal with the trauma and an interview with a reporter Liza (Mae Whitman). A tennis play Boris (Konstantin Lavysh) confesses the trauma of his past to the housekeeper Rosa (Veronica Falcón) in the ninth episode. 

The tenth episode, Red Tent, was one of the most intense as a bombmaker Alex (Keir Gilchrist) is interrupted by an AC repairman Steve (Hugo Armstrong). The next to last episode, The Fight, shows two women Rayna (Keta Meggett) and Greta (Natalie Morgan) fight to see who would win an MMA match since they plan to throw it. The finale episode, My Love, is a sad story of an elderly couple Charlie (Philip Baker Hall) and Lorraine (Ellen Geer) reminiscing on their past. All of these stories were wildly different and seemingly unconnected much like the occupants of any hotel room but the stories are also often life-changing with major revelations or events.

Room 104 was hit-or-miss with some of the stories being really entertaining while others were boring or just confusing. The show attempts to capture the randomness of life and how it can often be frightening or heart-breaking or just plain weird. With it being HBO, the show is allowed to go places some shows wouldn't with violence or sex or language and the Duplass brothers use this freedom, and low budget, to explore grief, belief, and other difficult subjects. The room seems disconnected from the outside world but there are hints at current events and death is always lurking within the walls. I would be interested to see where the show goes in a second season. 

Sports: MLB Postseason (Championship Series)

The final four teams in Major League baseball have survived an exciting first round to move on to the league championship series. These series will feature the strongest pitching rotations and impressive offenses that will make for amazing games ahead. The team with the better record will get home field advantage for the first two game and then there will be three games at the home field of the team with the lower record. The advantage of playing at home doesn't have as great an impact in baseball but it can tip the momentum in favor. The American League goes first and then games will be played on the same day. Only a week or so until the World Series and I'm excited about the continuation of postseason baseball.

American League Championship Series
I'm still getting used to the Houston Astros playing in the American League but they have proven they are the most dominant team in the American League. The New York Yankees are a young, scrappy team with power hitters and solid starting pitchers to generate the same enthusiasm this classic team has had in years where they dominated the postseason. I am rooting for the Houston Astros as the win would not only change the trajectory of a team that hasn't had success in some time but also a city that has been ravaged by an awful hurricane.

New York Yankees vs Houston Astros
Game 1
A pitching duel started the ALCS with Dallas Keuchel for Houston and Masahiro Tanaka for New York. Houston moved out in front in the fourth inning with RBI singles from Carlos Correa (SS) and Yuli Gurriel (1B) to put them up 2-0. Ken Giles got the save but he did let up a home run to Greg Bird so the final score was 2-1. The Houston Astros win the first game of the series over the Yankees. 
Game 2
Another pitching duel makes the second game another low scoring affair. Luis Severino of the Yankees faced Justin Verlander of the Astros. Verlander pitched a complete game. The Astros took the lead in the fourth as Carlos Correa homered to make it 1-0. A ground-rule double by Todd Frazier (3B) gave the Yankees their only run and tied it 1-1. Correa doubled in the ninth of Aroldis Chapman to knock in a run. The Houston Astros won Game 2 over the New York Yankees 2-1 to go up two games to none. 
Game 3
The series heads to New York and the Yankees have the advantage. They started out with a three-run home run from Todd Frazier in the 2nd inning go up 3-0. Chase Headley (DH) drove in a run in the 3rd, Frazier scored on a wild pitch, and Aaron Judge (RF) broke his slump with a three-run home run to make it 8-0. The Astros only added one run from a walk in the ninth. The New York Yankees won 8-1 but are still behind the Houston Astros 2-1 in the series.
Game 4
The Houston Astros jumped out ahead in the 6th inning after a pitching battle between Houston's Lance McCullers Jr. and New York's Sonny Gray when Yuli Gurriel doubled in three runs but was thrown out to lead 3-0.  The Astros added another run in the seventh to go up 4-0. Aaron Judge homered and Gary Sanchez flied out for a run to make it 4-2. In the 8th, Brett Gardner grounded out but knocked in a run, Judge doubled in a run and Sanchez doubled in two more. The New York Yankees tied the series at two games winning 6-4.
Game 5
After winning two games in a row, the Yankees struck first with an RBI single from Greg Bird to take a 1-0 lead in the 2nd.

National League Championship Series
The Los Angeles Dodgers swept their series while the Chicago Cubs won by one run in game five. The Dodgers come in with a well-rested team but the Cubs have experience with a recent World Series win under their belt just last year. This game is a rematch of last year's NLCS, which took six games for the result of Chicago winning. I think the Cubs can put their tough NLDS behind them but the Dodgers have a strong team that had the best record in the entire league. The Dodgers did have a worrying streak of losses but I'm still picking them to win the series.

Chicago Cubs vs Los Angeles Dodgers
Game 1
The streaming service for TBS is lacking so I was not able to watch as much of this game as I wanted. The Chicago Cubs pulled out in front first with a fourth-inning two-run home run from Albert Almora Jr. (CF) to lead 2-0. The Dodgers rallied in the fifth with a Yasiel Puig (RF) double and a sac-fly from Charlie Culberson (SS) tied it 2-2. Chris Taylor (CF) homered for Los Angeles in the 6th to put the Dodgers up 3-2. Another rally in the 7th with a Puig home run and a Justin Turner (3B) RBI single gave the Dodgers a 5-2 lead. The Los Angeles Dodgers win the first game of the ALCS.
Game 2
Addison Russell (SS) broke the scoreless run of the Dodger's pitcher Rich Hill with a solo home run in the fifth inning to lead 1-0. The Dodgers responded in the bottom of the fifth with an RBI single from Justin Turner to tie it 1-1. The game remained tied until the bottom of the ninth with John Lackey pitching, Turner hit a walk-off three-run home run to win 4-1. The Los Angeles Dodgers lead the series 2-0.
Game 3
Back in Chicago, the Cubs took an early 1st inning 1-0 lead off a Kyle Schwarber (LF) home run. The Dodgers tied it in the second off an Andre Ethier (RF) home run. Chris Taylor's home run in the 3rd put LA up 2-1. Taylor tripled in another run in the 5th to make it 3-1. A walk put the Dodgers up 4-1 in the 6th. The Dodgers added to their lead in the 8th on a pass ball and sac-fly to go up 6-1. The Los Angeles Dodgers are one win away from heading to the World Series with a 3-0 lead.