Thursday, December 31, 2015

Sports: College Football Playoff

After getting the set up wrong on the last post but picking the strongest two teams, I'm glad that it's down to two teams. I have been analyzing and predicting this game all year long so it's also exciting to finally be here. 

The Orange Bowl was first with the Clemson Tigers taking out the Oklahoma Sooners with a strong defensive performance. The Sooners were taken off guard since they had not faced any team with a starting quarterback that was competitive. The Clemson defense was strong and shot down an aggressive Oklahoma run game. The Tigers will be a tough defensive challenge in the Championship game.

The Cotton Bowl showed promise as a more interesting game but the Alabama Crimson Tide won the first half and dominated the third quarter against the Michigan State Spartans. I didn't even stick around to see the fourth quarter of this route since Alabama wouldn't even let them score. I'm picking the Crimson Tide to take the Championship game but I have been underestimating Clemson all year so I hope that I'm wrong. 
This ACC vs. SEC matchup contains the best two division in this league and the best two teams. I hope more that this turns out to be a competitive match and not so one sided. It will be interesting to see who takes home the trophy on Monday, January 11, 2016.

Happy New Year!

Movie Review: The Danish Girl

Eddie Redmayne continues to prove he is one of the best actors of this generation. His performance as Lili Elbe will put him once again in the running for Best Actor. Redmayne conveys the confusion and determination of Elbe with grace and this brave woman's courage is shown through the actor. This true story is important to the current times, and I thought it was very inspiring and enlightening. The struggle of Lili to find her place in the world was portrayed with emotion and grace.

Alicia Vikander continues to have a break out year following her roles as a lifelike robot in Ex Machina and a brilliant mechanic in The Man from U.N.C.L.E.. Gerda Wegener had to face the reality that her husband was no longer there and had been replaced by the woman she truly felt she was, Lili. Vikander has tears in her eyes in nearly every scene once Lili begins her transformation. She brought true emotional depth to the loyal woman who continued to love her husband not matter what. I think Alicia Vikander will get a nomination and continue to produce great characters in her bright future.

Tom Hooper's directing was like a painting, some of the scenes looked so eye-catching and gorgeous. The set design and cinematography were fitting for story about two painters and the importance of appearance. Hooper does not stray away from grand films including Les Miserables and the award-winning The King's Speech.

There were several great supporting roles from Ben Winshaw, Amber Heard, Matthias Shoenaerts, and others. This movie will be a contender for awards season and should appear on many top ten lists. 

Top Ten Most Anticipated Movies of 2016

These movies are simply the ones I first thought of when I thought about the upcoming year. 

1. Captain America: Civil War
2. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
3. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
4. X-men: Apocalypse
5. Doctor Strange 
6. Ghostbusters
 7. Star Trek: Beyond
8. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
9. Assassin's Creed
10. Suicide Squad

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Quentin Tarantino film rankings!

These rankings could always change but after seeing Quentin Tarantino's eighth film, I realized that I enjoy all his films and wanted to try to rank them, though they are all very awesome and above most other films I've ever seen.

1. Reservoir Dogs

2. Django Unchained
3. Kill Bill Vol. 1
4. Pulp Fiction
5. Inglourious Basterds
6. The Hateful Eight
7. Kill Bill Vol. 2
8. Jackie Brown

Movie Review: The Hateful Eight

Quentin Tarantino's eighth film produced by Miramax is a dialogue heavy, violent Western that strikes a very similar chord to his first film Reservoir Dogs. The primary action in this film takes place in a single room, Minnie's Haberdashery. All the actors were on point though some only had a few moments to shine.

Kurt Russell plays John Ruth, a rough bounty hunter. There were so many instances where he smacked around his bounty, Daisy Domergue played brilliantly by Jennifer Jason Leigh, that I'm surprised advocates against images of violence against women aren't up in arms alongside the cops who also claimed to boycott Tarantino's film for an appearance at a Black Lives Matter event. Leigh gives Domergue vicious character and though a viewer doesn't know it at the beginning, eventually one can see her viciousness. 

Samuel L. Jackson deserves the most praise and rightfully graces center stage in the poster. The heavy-lifting of the dialogue fell to Jackson's Major Marquis Warren. His taunting of the Confederate General Sandy Smithers, an old Civil War vet played by Bruce Dern, gives of the most amusing and disturbing monologue of the film. Major Warren is also responsible for a lot of the gun-slinging and violence as the end heads towards a climax. 

I've been a fan of Walton Goggins since his performance as Shane in the Shield, and he delivers as the Sheriff Chris Mannix with classic Goggins flair sounding just right spouting Tarantino dialogue. It's nice to see an actor who had shown such promise become such a star alongside a great director.

Micheal Madsen, Tim Roth, Channing Tatum, and Demian Bichir all had great bit parts but none of them really had a chance to explore their characters with so many actors sharing the screen. 

The payoff was gruesome and overall satisfying. I hope Tarantino continues to make these clever and entertaining films for a long time to come!

NFL Week 16

In the next to last week of regular season professional football, the only undefeated team left, the Carolina Panthers, lost to the ATLANTA FALCONS. I was a bit surprised by the outcome and for a short while the Falcons still had playoff hopes alive, but even a win against a top tier team could not save Atlanta's struggling season. 

The six teams in the NFC are set though their position is not solidified. At the top, the aforementioned Carolina Panthers trailed closely by the Arizona Cardinals, who only have two losses. The Cardinals could gain home field advantage if somehow the Panthers lose to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Cards beat the wildcard bound Seahawks. The odds are against Arizona. 

The other wildcard besides Seattle is the Minnesota Vikings who beat the New York Giants Sunday night to destroy the Falcons playoff dreams. The Vikings have a decent record at 10-5 but the Green Bay Packers won more head-to-head matches to take the NFC so far. These two playoff bound teams will face off in Week 17 to determine who wins, I predict Packers. 

Finally, the oddball division of the NFC East is led by the Washington Redskins. I'm doubtful they will have much an impact in this playoff. This team should change their disgusting name immediately.

On the other side of the league, the AFC does not have its final wildcard set with the New York Jets still able to be knocked out by the Buffalo Bills and replaced by the Pittsburgh Steelers if the yellow and black team triumphs over the Cleveland Browns. 

The Kansas City Chiefs still have a chance to dethrone the Denver Broncos for the AFC West leader if KC beats the Oakland Raiders and Denver loses to the San Diego Chargers. 

The Cincinnati Bengals somehow lost in overtime last night to the Broncos but still have a resounding lead in their division. I can only hope they are saving it for the playoffs but without a starting quarterback it will be difficult for the orange and black stripes to go far.

The New England Patriots are coming off another dominating year after the controversy of deflating balls but even they have not locked down home field advantage yet.

The other oddball division contains the Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts in the AFC South. The Texans are the likely victors and just have to hold out against the Jacksonville Jaguars while the Colts have to beat the Tennessee Titans and have the Texans lose. 

There is still a lot left to determine as we head into the final week of professional football!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Movie Review: Mad Max: Fury Road

I've seen a few movies this year, but none have I enjoyed more than the fourth movie in the Mad Max saga. This movie has nearly nonstop action, some of the best chase scenes in movie history, memorable villains, and great protagonists.

Replacing Mel Gibson in the titular role is Tom Hardy who delivers a great performance though he hardly had to utter more than a few words throughout the performance. Max starts out with his same car but is quickly captured by the crazed cult of warboys, half-life humans who are dying from bad, giant tumors that are possibly a result of the radiation on this desolate post-apocalyptic landscape. Hardy plays a great reluctant hero and should be commended alongside his stuntman for pulling of such extraordinary action sequences.

The other great protagonist is Charlize Theron as the Imperator Furiosa. Her decision to rescue the concubines of the evil warlord is what sets off the amazing chase sequences that pretty much take up the entire film. Theron gives the one-armed action heroine a conflicted personality that only a veteran actress could pull off while speeding along in a converted truck war-rig. She really takes the lead role, and her iconic performance will be remembered for years to come.

My favorite villain of the year was Immortan Joe played by Hugh Keays-Byrne. The white-haired, white-skinned masked warlord stole every scene he was on screen and should definitely get the makeup artist considered when it comes to awards. This would be the best Halloween costume. It is often a testament to how great a hero is when they have to take on such a strong villain and the way Furiosa challenge Joe and Gas Town and Bullet Farm's plethora of enhanced vehicles made this a movie that can be viewed over and over again.

Even the supporting cast was stellar with Nicholas Hoult as the warboy Nux, Rosie Huntington-Whitley as the concubine Splendid, and several other great performance for awesome characters.

Everything about this movie was well done from the stunts and action to the special effects and makeup. I think this is the closest I've come to seeing a movie that was nearly perfect in my opinion. There are still some movies I would like to see this year like Hateful Eight and Revenant but I don't think anything will compare to this spectacular film that is why I am putting it as the best film of 2015. I hope it is recognized for its achievement by the academy of motion pictures. I should be posting a list of my top ten after I see the aforementioned movies.   

Movie Review: Joy

The David O. Russell biopic about Joy Mangano starring Jennifer Lawrence gives the young actor a chance to shine but other than that, it leaves the viewer bored and unsure of what is truth or just embellishment. Russell chose a strange way to tell the story with voice over narration from Joy's grandmother, played by Diane Ladd.

Lawrence is at her best when the struggling divorced housewife yelling at her singer husband played by Edgar Ramirez who has another movie released at the same time, Point Break. As an audience member, I rooted for Joy's success, it's hard to root against the American dream.

Soon we learn that another source of her struggles is her strange upbringing by her constantly arguing parents played by Robert De Niro and Virginia Madsen. Madsen is the only source of comedy in this movie, which is why I find it weird that this movie got nominated for the Golden Globe under the comedy group. Otherwise, I don't think it gets a nomination. De Niro plays Joy's father whose phone classified dating service sets him up with a wealthy Italian mistress. Isabella Roseellini is the source of some of the best lines of the film and her character Trudy is the source of the primary backing that helped Joy take the business idea to the next level.

Jennifer Lawrence shines throughout it playing each stage of Joy's life with a grace that not many other actresses could pull and make look so easy. She made me want to fund her great idea and the distress on her face was evident when at first it was not a success. She'll get a nomination deservedly but I'm not sure she'll be able to pull it out with the weak movie surrounding her. Bradley Cooper was decent in a short part but mostly unremarkable. Dascha Polanco from Orange is the New Black had a great role as Joy's friend and future business partner. 

Joy gets six out of ten stars******

Friday, December 25, 2015

Star Wars film rankings!

Since I just watched all of the film again, here are my rankings of the Star Wars films including the new one!

1. Star Wars- Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith
2. Star Wars- Episode 6: Return of the Jedi
3. Star Wars- Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back
4. Star Wars- Episode 7: The Force Awakens
5. Star Wars- Episode 4: A New Hope
6. Star Wars- Episode 1: The Phantom Menace
7. Star Wars- Episode 2: Attack of the Clones

I just saw the new one again and I think my opinion alters at various times.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Movie Review: The Big Short

Running out of the slapdash comedy, I was still into seeing a movie last night so I caught the awards bait financial crisis drama loaded with big actors. I was a bit late from the aforementioned movie swap but I have actually read the first part of this screenplay. Charles Randolph and Adam Mckay do an engaging job adapting Michael Lewis's book of the same title. That Adam Mckay directed comedies like Anchorman is telling in the approach he takes to this rough topic.

I was immediately hooked just from reading the first few scenes and actually put it down since I preferred to see the rest of the movie. This is the sort of film where I knew the ending thanks to historical context but the tension builds from that knowledge and just how blind all the bankers were to the crisis. 

The cast is all white men, which is unfortunate. Don't be fooled by the Marisa Tomei casting as she is hardly in more than two scenes. There is a decent performance Adepero Oduye with one of the most moving scenes for Steve Carell. I think the bland casting my reflect the makeup of most Wall Street banks so at least they could shift the blame onto historical accuracy.

As far as the accuracy of the tale goes, I have no idea. They did a decent job breaking down all the complicated banking in a fun way even throwing in Selena Gomez at a Black Jack table, but all the talk of CDO, Credit Default Swaps, and fees for ratings comes out a bit muddle and I'm not sure there will ever be anything that makes what happened in 2007-08 ever make sense to my feeble mind.

The acting cast was great. Carell leads with the most moving performance as Mark Baum, a tortured prophet who no one listens to. He certainly had the most turmoil and deserves a nomination. Christian Bale may also get nominated but I thought his performance at Dr. Mike Burry a bit more toned down than some of his other award winning performances. Ryan Gosling played it cool as always and I looked forward to seeing what else he is in. Brad Pitt had some moving lines, especially the one about the death toll of unemployment figures. Connecting the financial numbers with real people was a great message of this film.

The supporting cast was stellar and many familiar promising young actors showed up who are making names for themselves in television and now moving to these small but important roles in films. 

The Big Short is a call into the darkness and I'm not sure it will generate enough attention with Star Wars plugging up most theaters but once the hype dies down, I would like to see this film garner more acclaim for its entertaining storytelling and important message.  

Movie Review: Sisters

Honestly, I went to this movie thinking that it would be funny but then walked out about fifteen minutes into it. Tina Fey appeared to be phoning her whole performance in and though Amy Poehler looked like she was trying, the end result were forced jokes. The comedy was so immature that I wondered seriously about the other audience members who found the juvenile humor so hilarious.

The positioning of this movie next to Star Wars was a brilliant move. As many woman eschew the science fiction flick, Sisters seems like the ideal chick flick to check out during this long and lonely holiday week. It felt like the producers knew they had money in the bank so they took this movie off as long as they came up with some sort of product to throw up on the screen for the popcorn munching masses. 

Paula Pell had some SNL and 30 Rock writing credentials but this appears to be one of her first major motion picture screenplays. I often think during comedy movies, the director just lets the actors improv most of the scenes and they shoot it until it seems funny to them, this can't be an easy job with the variances of humor in society. I didn't find much funny and actually heard Poehler's character insist that we should find the antics of Fey's character amusing. 

It does seem ironic that such a female empowered movie still had a male director, Jason Moore, who has another successful feminine movie, Pitch Perfect under his belt. Perhaps a sign that though the movies look different the interior is still much the same and will hopefully be the source of the more pertinent changes in major films. 

This movie should do well financial but I honestly think Star Wars will send a better message. I also wonder if Tina Fey did this to get support for her other project, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, which looks so much better, funnier, more entertaining, and about an important issue. 

Monday, December 21, 2015

NFL Week 15

Since the Monday night game pretty much has no consequence towards the playoffs picture, I will go ahead and drop this blog post tonight before the last game of the week. 

The NFC has shaped up with the Seattle Seahawks clinching a playoff spot.
The Green Bay Packers have also assured their playoff hopes. The Panthers have clinched home field advantage and a bye week. The Arizona Cardinals lead in the west over their Seattle divisional rivals. The most likely choice for the other wildcard will be the Minnesota Vikings but the Falcons still have a small sliver of a chance if they win out and the Viking lose out. The Washington Redskins lead the NFC East but still have to face the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles will also have to face off against the New York Giants who also have a chance in the pitiful division.

The AFC is a bit more complicated. The Patriots have clinched and Bengals have a playoff berth assured. The Broncos look rough with a loss to the Steelers late in the game and the Chiefs are right behind them in the AFC West. The Houston Texans beat the Indianapolis Colts so they are more likely to get the AFC South. For the wildcard there is a three way tie between the Jets, the Steelers, and the Chiefs so these last two weeks will have a lot of excitement. 

I hope I can catch a few games before the end of the season!

Beer Review: Kentucky IPA

The Kentucky IPA is a nice addition to the Kentucky Ale line from Alltech. The IPA is strong and bitter with a little citrus. The fruity aroma is hard to taste but deep down it's more of a grapefruit than orange. This beer will only take two  to get a warm feeling this winter. At 6.5% percent alcohol volume, it's an interesting fare. I'm a fan of most IPAs and though this one isn't the highest up there, it's strong taste is enjoyable.

This beer taste good warm as well. Cold brings out the bitterness a bit too much. Coming to a new place anywhere in America leads to the opportunity to try new beer and Kentucky Ale has been solid. I have enjoyed their Pumpkin Ale, the original, and the Bourbon Barrel Ale, which I have yet to review but soon will. These ales are usually more potent and this is no exception.

I drank moderately but the hangover is not as vicious as it would be with a sweeter beer. The taste remain even after drinking a few and I could see a drinker growing tired. I look forward to reviewing more beers from this brand!

Movie Review: Star Wars: Episode 7 - The Force Awakens

This review has spoilers. The seventh installment of the Star Wars saga hits the familiar notes of a lost survivor who encounters a droid with pertinent information, in this case a map. The whole story surrounds the search for Luke Skywalker and the cute little rolling droid BB-8 possesses the map given to him by Oscar Isaac's Poe Dameron who receives it from a mysterious character played by Max Von Syndow. The first scene gets rolling with laser fights and the force, at least the darkside, used by the masked Kylo Ren. We also see a reluctant stormtrooper. 

The look feels very new and instead of the male lead, it is Daisy Ridley's Rae. She bounces around a crashed Star Destroyer left over from an old Empire versus the Rebellion battle. Rae is waiting for something but we never find out what. This mystery is saved for later installments and thousands of fan theories. Since I know their will definitely be sequels, it doesn't bother me much that they saved some mystery.

Poe Dameron substitutes the role of Princess Leia in The New Hope as, an awesome pilot. He falls into the hands of the New Order led by Kylo Ren, Adam Driver from Girls. The masked villain shows off his force powers early on but his ruthlessness affects a stormtrooper.

The stormtrooper is Finn, John Boyega. He is funny and handles the action well. His escape from the First Order stardestroyer with Poe as the pilot. All the action looks great and there is an especially cool chase scene involving the Millennium Falcon. Daisy and John show great chemistry.

Han Solo shows up for some more hijinks and strange alien special effects. I was disappointed they didn't use those actors and stuntman from the Raid who are capable of awesome martial arts.  The drama follows a similar pattern. Driver is my favorite character of this new series though that is not an easy choice. All the actors are phenomenal and the special effects continue to stun throughout. There are plenty of cameos from old characters, Chewbacca, R2-D2, and C-3PO, along with a few more minor ones but BB-8 was probably the cutest this time around. That little droid was quite iconic. 

The best scene comes from Harrison Ford and Adam Driver as Han confronts his lost son. It has the great emotional ending when Ben, now Kylo, drives the lightsaber through his chest so that he can finally totally convert to the darkside with no doubt in his mind caused by the presence of his absent father. It's an interesting twist that instead of a pull to the darkside, Ren has to fight a pull from the light side.

The lightsaber battle at the end between Rae and Ren was spectacular to watch and topped off an exciting film. This movie was a waiting game for a more exciting sequel and possibly multiple spinoffs for thousands of years but it accomplished what it set out to do. 

J. J. Abrams is good at giving out a solid movie with fun action and some great shots. It didn't take it to the next level but I'm very satisfied. I would say it is only better than the first two prequels but introduces a certain type of magic that could go a lot of places. 

Update 1/10/16: I've seen this movie three times now and have enjoyed it every time so it stands the test of time in my book. I also know now that it has broken box office record and hope it continues to makes lots of money so that there are many more movies in this series and movies like it!

TV Show Review: The Affair Season 2

Showtime's gripping drama, The Affair, is a powerful and moving portrait of what happens when love takes precedent over a family's happiness. The first season showed the growing romance between Dominic West's author Noah Solloway and the award-winning Ruth Wilson's grieving mother Alison Bailey. The story took a unique approach to story telling showing the same scenes from two characters' perspectives and making slight alterations to toy with the viewer perception. Also included to add to the drama were flash forward scenes in which a murder has taken place.

As the details slowly pool out, characters go from disgraced and ashamed to brave and self-sacrificing. The second season added the perspectives of Joshua Jackson's Cole Lockhart and Maura Tierney's Helen Solloway, the respective spouses of the focal couple. 

The deterioration of each character is often so hard to watch because creators Sarah Treem and Hagai Levi do such a great job endearing each person to our sympathies even after they have done horrible things.

Noah Solloway uses a novel titled The Descent he wrote inspired by the events of his summer having an affair to gain fame and notoriety. He then proceeds to get drunk and obnoxious and even almost cheats on his second spouse with his publicist. Dominic West has been a favorite of mine since The Wire and it is often his conflicted performance that drew me into this show in the first place. He is put in a precarious situation by the end of the season, and I look forward to seeing how he will fare in Season 3.

There is a reason Ruth Wilson has received such acclaim for Alison Bailey including a Golden Globe win. Still suffering from an awful accidental death of her son, Alison tries to move on but finds her new lover often aloof and absent to her needs. Alison's journey is a remarkable one but at other times she is shown as selfish and deceitful. Her lies about the paternity of her new child create a whole new drama that provided many of the final twists of each episode this season.

Joshua Jackson's Cole goes from a drug-abusing, depressed taxi driver to a smiling restaurant owner about to get married in only a small portion of the twelve episodes. Some of his parts were slow but I found the idea of a curse on the Lockhart family to be very interesting considering that it claims there will be no offspring. Jackson handled the role like the veteran actor he is.

Maura Tierney also brought gravitas to the grieving housewife and spoiled daughter looking for a new spark in her relationship. Her story went in all sorts of directions and just when I thought she was the most sane individual, she is put in a horrendous situation.

The Affair is one of my favorite shows on television. It is directed and written wonderfully. I find it highly addictive, though my emotions are often torn between whether to respect, love, hate, or just feel sorry for each character. I look forward to another season!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Movie Review: Star Wars: Episode 6 - Return of the Jedi

The final chapter in this epic saga, at least I thought it was, has been my favorite movie in the series for a long time. I just love how it starts out in the mysterious and frightening palace of the vile slug gangster Jabba the Hutt. Each new visitor advances the plot and seems to fail. We see Boba Fett and a frozen Han Solo. The situation looks dire for the protagonists. 

The desert barge scene over the Sarlacc pit is fun and action-packed. The death of Boba Fett and Jabba the Hutt is filled with spectacular lightsaber action and explosion that render the end of a lot of cool aliens.

The action slows down for some emotional moments like the death of Yoda and the revelation that Luke has a sister. These scenes lead seamlessly into the preparation for the final battle. All the characters fall into place with the introduction of the cute little Ewoks on the forest moon of Endor.
After some cool speeder chases and a comedic bit of C-3PO as a god to the Ewoks, the final battle begins. Lando Calrissian flies the Millenium Falcon, and the Rebel Alliance assault the new half-built Deathstar. The Emperor watches with glee as Darth Vader brings up his son to convert him to the dark side. Han and Leia and Chewbacca stay down and fight alongside the furry creatures to blow up the shield that protects the planet-destroying space station.

The final battle is awe-inspiring, and the lightsaber battle is filled with deep emotion, especially when Darth Vader finally stands up for Luke Skywalker and throws the Emperor down a pit. Vader, or rather Anakin, does not survive and Luke burns him at the pyre. The celebration of the Empire's fall goes on throughout the galaxy and sets up what should be another awesome trilogy!

Democratic Presidential Debate #3

With only three candidates, each politician got a much longer chance to talk and explain their position on a lot more issues. The ABC News occurred on a busy Saturday and even when I tried to tune in, it was difficult and most people who know me looked at me as insane as this was the way I wanted to spend my Saturday. The live stream crashed so I had to pick it up and watch it this morning avoiding any analysis spoilers.

The data breach seemed to be a nonissue and Bernie's quick apology shut down any controversy the questions hoped to conjure up. Hillary graciously accepted, and they all used this chance to attack the political process. 

The first issue bounced back and forth between ISIS and the recent attacks with a heavy incorporation of gun control. It's interesting how the issues aren't even debated the same and will be even more interesting when they bridge the gap to come together to debate next Fall. Martin O'Malley struggled to get his voice heard but when he had the chance to speak, I didn't hear many specifics. Bernie Sanders continued to stress that he did not vote to fight the war in Iraq. Hillary and the other candidates agreed that a coalition should be formed by Islamic states like Jordan and Saudi Arabia to fight against the threat of terrorism. 

The highlight that news sources want to talk about is, of course, Donald Trump and Hillary's attack on him saying that he was a recruiting tool. Even on this side Trump is shifting the campaign.

On gun control, there were plenty of speeches about limiting the purchase but as the hosts pointed out, there are already hundred of millions of dangerous weapons out there in the USA. Clinton strove to distance herself from the Republican party, she's thinking long game while O'Malley and Sander worked to knock her down. Overall I see a unwillingness from the left to take a strong stand against guns, which are such a controversial issue.

They moved on to economic issues and showed small differences. The whole debate was trying to distinguish from these very similar candidates. Colleges and Wall Street retained most of the attention. Both the other candidates sought to tie Clinton to the corporate bigwigs but not quite successfully. She managed to dodge any attacks and came out unscarred. Each debate has allowed her to further her message. The economic debate casts Sanders as a socialist, and he embraces the label though in certain demographics this may hurt him. 

Surprisingly they didn't direct the debate towards the recent protests over young men and women of color dying from police force in communities. The question came but didn't stick around long enough to explore the issue. I can understand the leaders of these movements getting upset and feeling unrepresented. 

Another gaping hole that went unaddressed and seemed odd after the agreements in France was Climate Change. Sanders mentioned it at the beginning but there were no particular questions on the issue. The issue certainly won't get any attention in the other party so not hearing it here was strange.

I believe that Clinton will retain her leading poll numbers and go on to take Iowa but New Hampshire will still be a fight against Sanders though she will most likely pull it out there as well. O'Malley could stick around for the primaries but I don't see him going far or winning any states, even Maryland. This other side of the race adds some extra excitement to an already thrilling political campaign. 

Friday, December 18, 2015

TV Show Review: Fargo (Season 2)

One of the best show on television, and that's saying a lot considering the state of television these days. FX has a gem on their hands and I was so pleased to see they continued this show on to a second season. This show, like American Horror Story, takes on an anthology format though it connects to the previous story as a sort of prequel. This story follows a young Lou Solverson at the end of the 70s as the new era of the 80s takes over not only in the country but in crime as well. Lou is played by a brilliant Patrick Wilson who bring leading man flare to anything he appears in. His wife, played by Cristin Milloti is stricken with cancer, hence her not appearing in the first season. His father-in-law is played by the extraordinary Ted Danson. Together they come across a shootout at a diner that leads to the convoluted and deadly events of the show.

Kieran Culkin's Rye Gerhardt kicks it all off and then gets hit by a car driven by Kirsten Dunst's Peggy Blumquist. Her performance is so amazing that though she looks the same as her star turns, I almost didn't recognize her. She is truly astonishing and does a great Midwestern accent. She is a true professional and after all, has been doing big films like Interview with the Vampire since she was a young kid. Her husband is the upcoming Jesses Plemons as Ed Blumquist. His just a simple butcher shop owner who quickly gets in over his head. He reminds of Martin Freeman's character in the first one, just an ordinary guy who gets involved in criminal activity.

The entire Gerhardt family gets involved with great actors like Jeffrey Donovan, Jean Smart, and Angus Sampson. The family dynamics spur from the father being in a coma and the mother struggling to keep control of her unruly boys. The Native American hitman Hanzee Dent (Zahn Mclarnon) is a ruthless villain and a good example of the blind prejudice of this country. Some of the most intense scenes come from their hunt for their missing brother.

The Gerhardt's are also in a war against a rival clan represented by a superb Bokeem Woodbine as Mike Milligan. He is the smooth talking gangster who has twin assassins to help him with his dirty work. His rise is thoroughly entertaining and comes to a hilarious conclusion.

I can't fully describe this show but it is such a great piece of television that it makes me very please to have lived in this day and age of wonderful entertainment. The way the plot spins out of control is genius and Noah Hawley is a great showrunner and creator. I was happy to hear this show will be extended for a third season and look forward to seeing what is done. 

Star Wars Revisited: Episode 5- The Empire Strikes Back

Considered the best by most critics and viewers, the original sequel has everything a science fiction movie and a gripping drama require: romance, beautiful, exotic locales, battles, spaceship chases, a lightsaber battle, and the awesome puppetry that makes the Jedi Master Yoda.

Luke Skywalker continues his training. The force is further explored, things can be moved and ghosts can be manifested and communicated with. This movie gets right into it. A giant ice monster followed by the ice battle with crawling metal troop carriers and snow speeders on the frozen planet of Hoth. 

Han and Leia advance their flirtations. Han is antagonistic and Leia is incredulous but throughout their daring escape from the empire, they grow closer. The Millenium Falcon gets to show off its moves but the hyperdrive keeps screwing up. C-3PO does not stop whining and providing the comedic relief despite the trouble of the situation. 

Some of my favorite characters are introduced in this episode. Boba Fett and the bounty hunters, Lando Calrissian, and Yoda. Luke is guided by Obi-Wan's ghost to the Dagobah system for a great training sequence and some very quotable lines. I forgot how entertaining Yoda is when he first appears and acts all silly to fool Luke. Once his training accelerates, he has to leave to follow his vision.

The glimpse of the Emperor and what happened to Darth Vader's skin was always such a mystery to me until the next prequel came out. 

The story is split into dual stories following Han, Leia, and Chewbacca in the other. Han recalls his old friend Lando who is now a miner in Cloud City. It is here where things go dark because Lando betrays the crew and Han ends up getting frozen in carbonite. More quotable lines solidifying this as the epic saga it is none as today.

Finally, there is the epic twist that Darth Vader is in fact Anakin Skywalker, Luke's father, probably the most quotable line of the series. Their lightsaber fight is drastically improved from the slower fight of A New Hope. Luke even loses his hand before falling down to be rescued. 

This movie ends with a hopeful scene but the good guys are defeated and will have to rally back in the finale. A great film, nearly perfect, one of my favorite of all time. 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Star Wars Revisited: Episode 4- A New Hope

The one that started it all was full of iconic images, great characters, awe-inspiring special effects, and engaging drama. From C-3PO and R2-D2 escaping the spaceship in the ejector pod to Darth Vader striding aboard to capture Princess Leia, the beginning is immediately engaging. We are transported to the wide landscape of Tatooine where we encounter our hero, Luke Skywalker, played by a youthful Mark Hamill. It will be so cool to see him come full circle and take up the mantel that Obi-Wan Kenobi, played by Alec Guinness.

Tatooine is full of awesome scenes, Mos Eisley spaceport with the cantina. I still love to hear that music. They tried to mimic in episode two right after the speeder chase, but it wasn't the same. That's we get a first glimpse of what a lightsaber can actually do. 

Han Solo, Harrison Ford's iconic character, shoots Greedo and in the updated version, he debates his debt with Jabba the Hutt. There is even a cameo of the bounty hunter Boba Fett, son of Jango. The Millennium Falcon is an awesome ship, I'm glad it will be back in action. 

The whole escape plot is simple and fun at the same time. This film doesn't get bogged down in political dealings and strange prophesies. There is some mention of the force but it remains mostly a mystery. The one lightsaber battle looks silly now but I'm sure in 1977, Darth Vader's red versus Obi-Wan's blue looked pretty fucking amazing. I bet it was also crazy that they started with the fourth one with no idea what came before, just something. 

Princess Leia's quick thinking and witty retorts adds a necessary female presence to the ragtag team while serving as the attractive lead simultaneously. The garbage chute scene is very cool and that one eyed beast used to give me nightmares. George Lucas is a very creative man. Chewbacca is another great creation. I wish that species was real and I could befriend one. Though Chewie doesn't have single understandable line, he displays emotion and develops a depth of character speaking characters don't often find.

Finally there is the awesome space battle, X-wings soaring down on the Death Star chased by Tie Fighters. Han comes in to save the day and Luke fires the destructive shot with the help of a disembodied voice of Obi-Wan Kenobi and the force. It's an awesome movie and began this phenomenon. Looking forward to seeing it continue! 

Movie Review: Room

I had picked Brie Larson as the favorite to win the best actress this year and she might juts pull it off though this movie has an anticlimactic ending that doesn't explore the full extent of the horrible events depicted. Room is based off a book by the same name written by Emma Donoghue. The novel won all sorts of awards and shortlisted for many others. I have not had the privilege to read it but I've heard good things. Donoghue also adapted the screenplay. 

The significance of this movie cannot be denied as I clearly remember hearing the horrifying tale of the three women in Cleveland and the other awful experiences of young woman at the hands of derange men. This movie takes place in Ohio too. 

Overall this movie is very sad and moving, a real downer. Jack played by Jacob Tremblay steals the show. I'm surprised he didn't get nominated for a Golden Globe. His young performance was only outdone by the young man of Beasts of No Nation, Abraham Attah. This doesn't take away from Tremblay's performance. He dominates the film and his voiceover brings us into the strange world of room. The back and forth between him and Larson's Joy, or Ma, was real and grew steadily nerve-wrecking as they plan their escape.

The captor, Old Nick, is played by Sean Bridgers. The increasing problems are taking out on Jack and Ma, like power cuts and brutal rapes. Bridgers brings a menace to the evil man. I have enjoyed his performance in Rectify and wonder what it must be like for an actor to be cast in such vicious roles.

Joan Allen and William H. Macy both deliver powerful performances as the troubled parents of Joy. Joan Allen's character has remarried and struggles to bond with her daughter and her grandson. Macy's character has a harder time figuring out how to deal with the situation.

Lenny Abrahamson who directed the odd comedy Frank does a great job capturing the claustrophobia of the confines. Also Jack's first  days of freedom are displayed with gripping shots that show the intensity and confusion of his sudden displacement.

The second half is not as intense and though it would have been hard and thoroughly depressing to watch, I would've liked to have seen more play out, like a court case. The interview at the end is pretty intense though. I think Larson will get the nomination but I've yet to see her competition in Jennifer Lawrence in Joy and Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara in Carol. I don't think Brie will win after seeing her performance though. Nonetheless this was a great display from a new, burgeoning young actor that has some great movies ahead!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Republican Presidential Debate #5

This debate focused on the threat overseas after terrorist attacks in San Bernardino, California and Paris, France shifted the focus. Several match ups are going on and the candidates each got a chance to throw zingers at one another. CNN did a good job framing these questions, though overall it was sort of a snoozefest for the modern voter.

The first battle was Donald Trump vs. Jeb Bush. Bush's campaign is ailing so he naturally wants to attack the frontrunner to gain some attention. I don't think he helped himself much appearing a bit unsure and stumbling. Trump just insulted and stuck his tongue out and this seems to win over enough of the crowd to keep him at the top of the polls. Bush wanted to fight back against Trump's absurdist strategy but it's hard to see Trump losing out against Bush as the former president younger brother's campaign implodes. Bush will stick it out but won't win many, if any, primaries.

The next battle was Ted Cruz vs. Marco Rubio. They fought each other for the position that will take over once the sideshow of Trump subsides. Cruz shouldn't be doing as well as he is but he seems reasonable with the insanity going on around this campaign. Rubio has a better chance but got shut down and looked a bit flimsy when challenged. This was Rubio chance to move ahead in the Iowa Primary polls but I think Cruz will win out. Cruz fought back on Rubio's immigration policy and Rubio was not ready with a response. I do think if Ted Cruz wins then Hilary Clinton would mop the floor with his campaign. 

Another debate fight was Rand Paul vs. Chris Christie. Hard to see Christie holding it out for much longer, or Paul for that matter, but they debated whether to invade or stay at home. Paul is one of the few who takes a more cautious approach to invasion but he doesn't get enough attention grabbing lines or enough poll traction to get any free media coverage. Paul must have stacked the crowd because his applause lines were louder. 

Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, and others are fizzing out and it would be hard to see many of them keep it up through the first month of 2016. The frontrunners are established and I don't see and seismic shifts to put any of these low polling candidates up at the top. 

Writing about politics has been dull since I'm not really buying into this whole Trump circus and the nonsense promised by candidates. I think it will get better as the elections begin. I'll only post once more about the Democratic debate, probably the day after, then I'll let it go over the holidays and be back in January when I think even more debates will happen. Some actual election results will determine who can back up all this blustering!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Movie Review: Star Wars: Episode 3- Revenge of the Sith

The third episode of the prequel trilogy is some of the best moments in the Star Wars saga. The descent of Anakin Skywalker to the dark side is full of lightsaber fights and space battles. The special effects are amazing and so pleasing to watch. I remember when I caught this one in the theater enjoying it all the way through. Though there are some strange plot holes, if I don't think too much they won't bother me.

This episode begins with everything that Star Wars is about. A space battle that leads to a boarding of an enemy ship that turns into a lightsaber battle against Count Dooku. Christopher reprises his role for a short bit. Everyone seems more comfortable in their roles from Hayden Christensen to Ewan McGregor to Samuel Jackson to Ian McDiarmid who finally exposes himself as the evil Emperor Palpatine. With all the actors doing such a stellar job, the emotional core opens up like a sliding door on a spaceship.

The culmination of two slower episodes provides action-packed battles through out as the Clone Wars reach their zenith as well. General Grievous is a wheezing battle droid that has four arms and is trained to fight with lightsabers so that means four lightsabers against Obi-Wan, awesomeness ensues. All the battles scenes are intense and fun to watch. 

When Anakin finally crosses over in a great scene with Mace Windu, Samuel L. Jackson's Jedi character, the real sad parts occur. Jedis are turned on by their own soldiers and Anakin proceeds to destroy the remaining younglings in the temple. All of this leads to an awesome battle between Obi-Wan Kenobi and now Darth Vader that proceeds simultaneously with a fight between Yoda and the Emperor. The lava planet of Mustafar is a great setting for the two glowing blue lightsabers to stick out against the red hot magma. 

All the mysteries are filled in and by the end with a moving emotional dialogue from Ewan McGregor we finally see how all was set in motion for the original trilogy. This film is so great that it makes the prequel trilogy totally worthwhile for me. I hope the new trilogy can capture this magic as well!

NFL Week 14

I was happy to see that my two favorite teams would be on television this Sunday so I sat down to catch both the Bengals host the Steelers and the Falcons visit the Panthers. About first quarter, I was done watching football. The Falcons had already given up three touchdowns to their undefeated divisional rivals and the Bengals's quarterback Andy Dalton is out for a while with a thumb injury. So much for both of their seasons, I am not looking forward to another Bengals's playoff choke.

Elsewhere around the league, the New England Patriots clinched a playoff birth with a win over the Houston Texans. 
The Colts got smashed by the Jaguars so both teams at the top of AFC South have losing records. Next week they face off to determine who will take the lead. The Broncos also lost to the Oakland Raiders so at least the Bengals are still second in the conference. Currently the Chiefs and Jets are Wild Card eligible but the Steelers are also tied so the last three weeks will be exciting for these teams. 

In the NFC, the Packers continue to win so they have taken third place and the lead in the NFC North over the Viking who lost to the second place in the conference Arizona Cardinals. Vikings are still in the wild card now accompanied by the Seahawks who beat the Ravens. If the Giants hold out tonight, there will remain a three way tie in the NFC East between New York, Washington, and Philadelphia. 

Three more weeks and we'll know who is in and who didn't make the cut. I'm not sure if I'll be able to keep doing this assessment without express written consent but with fantasy football being considered as gambling and Will Smith's Concussion movie dropping around Xmas, I hope the NFL have bigger fish to fry. I just like talking about football since it's such an entertaining sport and sports blogs shouldn't be something that gets shut down here in a free country. 

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