Movie Review – Some Like It Hot

Some Like It Hot (1959)
Written by Billy Wilder & I. A. L. Diamond
Directed by Billy Wilder

Billy Wilder, as previously established, authored or at least refined many of the comedic subgenres in mainstream American cinema. Some Like It Hot takes classic tropes from authors like Shakespeare with the protagonist in disguise as another gender who is in love with another character and modernized them. Some Like It Hot is set in the 1920s, but its story is a classical one seen through the 1960s’ eyes while reflecting back across literature. There are definitely some problematic issues when viewed through the context of our modern gender progressive era. Additionally, it is a genuinely entertaining and influential piece of film.

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Movie Review – Bombshell

Bombshell (2019)
Written by Charles Randolph
Directed by Jay Roach

If you’re watching Bombshell and, like me, think, “This feels an awful lot like The Big Short,” that’s because it is. The co-writer of that film, Charles Randolph penned this film and you can he definitely has a tone & style. Adam McKay is not onboard for this one, with Jay Roach (Austin Powers, Meet the Parents) directing instead. Making a movie about this particular event is a great idea, but I think in the execution, the film ends up being aimed at those who are already on the same page about Fox News and does little to convince faithful viewers of that network to abandon it.

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TV Review – Succession Season One

Succession Season 1 (HBO)
Written by Jesse Armstrong, Tony Roche, Jonathan Glatzer, Anna Jordan, Georgia Prichett, Susan Soon He Stanton, Lucy Prebble, and Jon Brown
Directed by Adam McKay, Mark Mylod, Adam Arkin, Andrij Parkeh, Miguel Arteta, and S. J. Clarkson

American television has a history of focusing its dramatic television shows around the wealthy. Look back at programs like Dallas or Dynasty, glamorizing the soap-operatic lifestyle of the rich and powerful. Today, we have “reality” television programs that consider themselves “aspirational,” look at Bravo or E! In the same way, that shows like Duck Dynasty exist to mythologize and push a false narrative of “working class,” the shows about the rich are intended to teach people that these grossly extravagant people earned their money fairly and lead such satisfying, full lives. Writer-director-producer Adam McKay has had enough of glamorizing the rich and decided to make a series that subverts our expectations.

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Comic Book Review – The Wild Storm Volume 2

The Wild Storm Volume 2 (2018)
Reprints The Wild Storm #7-12
Written by Warren Ellis
Art by Jon Davis-Hunt

One of the many plot threads running through Warren Ellis’ epic and intricate reboot of the Wildstorm universe is the internal politics of world-spanning conspiracies. Instead of presenting these as tense battles of control, Ellis chooses to frame them as the same sort of mundane office politics you might find in any cubicle farm. Jacklyn King is working her own angles at International Operations, putting together teams and performing investigations without her boss Miles Craven being aware, at least not at the beginning. The Halo Corporation has their own man on the inside, John Colt, who the readers meet just as he realizes he’s been compromised and has to shoot his way out before Adrianna can teleport him away. Yet, when Colt arrives at the Halo safe house, it’s played very nonchalantly, not the first time he’s gone through this. There is a mix of humor and horror in how people living these conspiratorial existences can come to find them so unimpressive.

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Comic Book Review – Wonder Woman by George Perez Volume 3

Wonder Woman by George Perez Volume 3
Written by George Perez
Art by Chris Marrinan & Tom Grummett

wonder woman perez 3

Princess Diana doesn’t have a moment to rest when an alliance of alien invaders attacks Earth. She teams up with the Justice League International to fight them off and makes surprising friends with Guy Gardner and Rocket Red. After Steve Trevor is abducted by these aliens, she teams up with Captain Atom to track down her friend. Then the main storyline of the collection kicks in as The Cheetah returns. We learn the villainess’ origins and the source of her power and madness. The chase for the Cheetah takes Diana around the globe to the middle east where she discovers a lost tribe of Amazons, the Bana-Mighdall. Rather than greeting Diana as a sister in arms, the Bana-Mighdall appear to have no use for a Themysciran and force Wonder Woman into deadly combat.

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Comic Book Review – The Flash by Mark Waid Book 1

The Flash by Mark Waid Book 1
Written by Mark Waid
Art by Greg LaRocque

flash waid one

Since the tragic death of Barry Allen during the Crisis, Wally West has held the mantle of The Flash. On a visit to his grandfather’s, Wally uncovers an old scrapbook made by his late aunt Iris chronicling his days as Kid Flash. This triggers a series of flashbacks that retells Wally’s first short-lived run as Kid Flash (he would later go on to a much more prolific tenure as a member of the Teen Titans). Further, we get a series of adventures that have Flash teaming up with Aquaman and the return of the classic Rogue Abra Kadabra. There are also two large size annuals included that tie into the universe-wide events of Armageddon 2001 and Eclipso: The Darkness Within.

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Movie Review – The Best Man


The Best Man (1964)
Written by Gore Vidal
Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner

the best man

The political convention of an unspecified party is underway in Los Angeles, and the party’s next nominee for president of the United States will be decided in twenty-four hours. The frontrunners are Bill Russell, former Secretary of State and noted intellectual wit against Senator Joe Cantwell, a Midwesterner from poor beginnings that is ultimately ruthless when it comes to his opponents. Russell has been seeing other women behind his wife’s back yet she shows up at the convention not so much to support him but because she wants to be the first lady one day. Meanwhile, Cantwell’s team uncovers information that Russell had a nervous breakdown years ago and spent some time in a psychiatric hospital. Cantwell plans to use these to torpedo Russell’s chances and secure the nomination. Between these two men is the current and ailing Commander-in-Chief Art Hockstader who appears an enigma, playing these two men against each other for own personal reasons.

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Origins 2016 – Games We Play

I gamed too hard.

I’m currently in Columbus, Ohio at Origins 2016 as I type this. I’ll get to a summary of the specific games and characters I played on a later date, but for now I’m going to write about something a little more personal. There won’t be much of that on this blog, but from time to time it will happen.

This afternoon, as I sat in line for my 7th session of Games on Demand I felt more than a sense of fatigue set in, thought I was certainly tired. I felt a real volatile mixture of feelings come over me: ennui, a bit of sadness, a lot of disconnect. If I being entirely honest very deep down there was even a feeling that tears might come up. I decided to leave the line and found my wife chatting with some friends inside the Games on Demand room. I told her I decided to skip this session, that I had just felt overcome and was tired, a half truth? Definitely not the full scope of what was going in my head.

One of our friends was working as the host at the front table and encouraged us to pop back into line so we could play his upcoming game. I mulled it over and I knew that he would run it beautifully and we’d have a wonderful time so I returned to the line and we did have a marvelous time. But when the game was over, those same dreadful sensations returned.

I have had what could be called a rough year since the last Origins. It was a very promising year at the start. But once school began, things fell apart. I was in a work situation that was not what I wanted it to be. I was getting sick often, I believe due to work related stress. In April, I had to go the emergency room after vomiting on and off for 7 consecutive hours. In May I was fired from my job and, as our school district policy allows, was marked ineligible for rehire in the entire district. This led to making a plan with my wife to uproot our lives, I got a new job in a neighboring county, and we’re currently in the process of buying a home. One the day I was fired I told my wife what happened in the car after work, we went inside, I got to my bedroom, I broke down and cried, and I thought to myself the only things in my life at that moment that were good and I knew would help me through this were my wife, my dogs, and the knowledge that I would be going to Origins in June.

Last year’s Origins was a very important experience to me. I met so many kind, welcoming people, and then over the course of the year we continued to connect with people via social media. Our first day at Origins, people we had met last year, and even many we met briefly, remembered us and welcomed us right back in. I can’t emphasize how important this sense of welcoming is and if you have attended a con like Origins you know what I’m talking about. I was ravenous for games. I made sure I was there early on Thursday morning for the first Games of Demand session. And I played in six consecutive sessions (9am, 2pm, 8pm slots) equating to 24 hours of gaming. I don’t even want to attempt to calculate the math on waiting in line. And then I got this afternoon around 1pm.

I’ve mulled over why I felt compelled to game so intensely. I have not slept near enough. I’ve eaten terribly. This afternoon I began to slightly sweat, something that would happen to me in college when I stayed up late many nights in a row while still having to wake up early. I’ve come to the conclusion that I was turning gaming into a filtered, safe way to make connections with others and it was becoming a supplement to actual, organic, honest human interaction. Gaming is fabulous and wonderful and everyone should try it, but it shouldn’t get the point where you are waiting in line while your wife and others go off to have social interactions.

In non-Origins life I am extremely withdrawn. I honestly don’t have real life friends. I was homeschooled growing up and I was around children (very big homeschool group in our area) but I never wanted to be friends with those people. I had friends in college who I loved being around, but we grew distant over time. Then I moved to Bellingham, WA as part of AmeriCorps and we grew even farther apart. My wife is most certainly my best friend and that is something I love, but I do worry that I don’t have flesh and blood people who are IRL friends. That’s not normal, right? I don’t know.

Human interaction is a very complicated thing. I would guess that most participants in the tabletop gaming community would say they have had times, or continue to have those times, where social situations can be difficult. Gaming has likely been, or still is, a space where we can connect with another human being in way that is safe. In particular the storytelling and interpersonal emphasis of the indie games run at Games on Demand feed those sensitive, thoughtful, dreaming, creative people I have sat at many tables with. But safe interactions that entail no risk are completely dead after a while. Hiding behind a character sheet for 24 hours is not a normal thing to do. There should always be enough time to decompress after a gaming experience if it is going to be meaningful, not immediately queuing up for another dose. It cheapens the meaning of those experiences to discard them so quickly simply for the sake of consuming more.

I had moments today where I sat thinking about the people I want to have conversations with outside of game but haven’t because I’ve been too busy consuming. And then made me so fucking sad. Five days out of the year seems to be the only time I have to see these wonderful, amazing people. How wasteful I’ve been. That is not to discount the wonderful gaming experiences I’ve had. But, I had too many of them too soon after one another. And that choice has cost me. I don’t know what specific experiences and interactions have gone by the wayside but there is no doubt in my mind I have missed them.

It’s easier to always pretend. It is much harder to connect. Why does my brain work this way?

It is so utterly banal to blame your father for problems in your adult years. But it’s true. My father was my first bully. And the lessons that were deeply etched and carved into my brain as a result of my life with him are always with me. He taught me to feel that no one actually found me worthy of attention. He didn’t abuse with his hands, except for once when I was 14 and really beat the shit out of me for, of all things, rolling my eyes. His most common form of abuse was emotional. He made you feel as though you were the most pathetic, insignificant, unwanted person on the planet. So, when my wife tells me “Person X said they were sad when they realized they weren’t able to sit down and talk to you yet” or “Person Y said you were such an amazing player in that game” my emotional brain’s first thoughts are “What? I would never have thought they were interested in sitting and talking with me. I don’t think anything I did was as good as the other players.” The logical side of my mind knows I’m a fucking idiot to think that way and I need to stop it. But this is the conflict, much lessened than when I was younger if you can believe that.

I made an effort to go to the bar with my wife after our last game and just fucking talk to people. I still haven’t sat and talked with some people that are important to me and dammit I need to. Five days every year doesn’t equate to much over time so each moment is very important and shouldn’t be squandered. Online interaction is wonderful but it can never trump face to face.

When we arrived at Origins, people didn’t greet us simply because we “gamed good”. People weren’t asking me about how job and house hunting was going because I rolled my dice well. They don’t want to talk to me because I did a halfway decent accent in a session. They’re seeing a person who they have connected with and want to develop that friendship/acquaintanceship/whatevership. I need to start seeing that too.

10 Cloverfield Lane (2016, dir. Dan Trachtenberg)


Out of nowhere, in March of 2016, J.J. Abrams announced a sequel to Cloverfield had been made in secret. Cloverfield was a found footage movie released in 2008 under similar secretive methods. And I hated the original, mainly because it was yet another found footage movie. It had characters who made stupid decisions that merely happened so that the next plot point was possible. It lacked a meaningful resolution and didn’t even leave things ambiguous enough to think about after the film was over. So, you could say I was cautious about 10 Cloverfield Lane.

10 Cloverfield Lane has incredibly loose ties to the original, and I wouldn’t even call it a sequel, more of a distant relative. It’s not found footage (thank god!). It has characters making intelligent decisions. It has themes and layers of plots and even an ending with some ambiguity. Its story is clearly focused on Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a young woman running from her fear about a relationship who ends up, after a car accident,  trapped in a survival bunker. She’s told by the owner of the bunker, Howard (John Goodman) that he rescued her and that outside the bunker there’s been an attack on the entire nation. These claims are backed up by Emmett (John Gallagher, Jr.), a contractor who helped build the bunker, that yes, something bad did go down. Claims are made that the air is toxic and everyone is kept locked up inside. But there’s more going on here below the surface.

The film was the first major feature from Dan Trachtenberg. I’ve been following Trachtenberg since way back in 2007 t0 2012 when he was a part of the Totally Rad Show, a web series that reviewed popular media of all kinds and was a sort of inspiration to me. I was very happy with the work our director delivers. Every actor delivers a believable and nuanced performance. The film is full of clever camerawork and pacing, that never comes across as showing off. Everything here is a completely solid piece of tense thrilling film making.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead is the big star of the show. One thing I look for in actors, to really see how good their performances are, is to watch them when they are not the one talking in a scene, when their job is to react. Winstead gives a perfect emotional performance and has a quite a few scenes, the majority of the third act for instance, where she only gets to emote and react. It reads as very real and honest. John Goodman was given a tricky role, he has to play someone we need to trust and believe while simultaneously being unhinged. Up until the final moments of the film it is impossible not to have an internal debate about what is really going on with his character.

The plot has three very clear levels: what is going with Winstead’s character emotionally, the interpersonal conflicts between the three characters in the bunker, and the larger global situation outside the bunker. All three are developed wonderfully, given just enough that each deserves. Where the original Cloverfield came across as a glorified amusement park ride, this picture knows character development is key so that when the bigger, spectacular elements start happening we actually give a damn what happens to the people on screen. In an age where we have films that end in citywide killfests, it’s refreshing to have a movie approaching the same world ending subject matter in such an isolated, quiet way.