Monday, November 26, 2018

The Christmas Chronicles - reviewed.

Thanksgiving is the official start to the Christmas season, right? So why not watch a Christmas movie?

That's exactly what I decided to do this weekend. I've watched a few of Netflix's cheesy Christmas movies, mostly just to have some sound in my house as I go about chores here and there.

Most of them have a facepalm moment or two, but The Christmas Chronicles had multiple facepalm moments.

What a horrible movie! I'm typically fairly lenient on the Christmas movies, but it seemed like the writers didn't even try with this movie.

It wasn't really bad enough to be funny. It certainly wasn't funny enough to be funny. It was like a bowling shoe: just plain ugly.

I was somewhat surprised because with Kurt Russell and Kimberly Williams-Paisley on board, I figured it may be decent.

It started off with a heartwarming video montage that made it easy to predict exactly what was going to happen to one of the characters who was in that montage.

The movie seemed to take a more serious tone as Kate (Darby Camp) spots her older brother Teddy (Judah Lewis) stealing a car in the grocery parking lot.

Some of their acting seemed to be on-point and other times it seemed like even they didn't fully get invested into the characters they played.

Hardworking Claire (Williams-Paisley) wishes that her children would get along with each other. That Christmas wish sets into motion the rest of the movie.

Minor spoiler alert!! (but who cares, really??) --- Teddy and Kate catch the actual Santa Claus (Russell) as he's delivering presents in their neighborhood.

How'd they do this? They did what every kid has done for ages: tried to stay awake all night long.  Not just that -- they come up with the oh-so-clever plan to record Santa Claus on video!

There is never an explanation given as to why they were able to spot Santa and nobody else was, so one has to assume it's all due to their mom's Christmas wish.

Does Santa know about this wish? Is he just a pawn in the wish or does he knowingly grant this wish? Questions that are too deep for this movie.

Santa's sleigh ends up crashing and Teddy and Kate have to work together to overcome a series of obstacles, keep each other safe and save Christmas all in the span of a few hours.

In the meantime, there's a car chase involving Santa and the police, the introduction of some Gremlin-like elves (one of whom wields a chainsaw) and a jailhouse concert that involves Santa performing a suggestive Elvis Christmas song (with three apparent Hoe Hoe Hoes playing backup singers).

The police just don't believe it's actually Santa and want an explanation for all his 'tricks.' This is after they saw reindeer fly away with two children.

It's also after he called each cop by their name. It's after he revealed what they wanted for Christmas when they were kids and what they want this Christmas.

Why would the cops believe him? The people in an earlier restaurant scene didn't believe him either. He knew everyone's name and knew what gifts they got for Christmas years and years ago.

Clearly, just an imposter who found all of this information online, right? He just happens to be able to produce toys out of his coat pocket at will.

Why believe it's the real Santa??

Oh, yeah. at the end of the movie, Mrs. Claus is revealed to be the overly botoxed Goldie Hawn.

It's all too over-the-top. It's too cheesy. There are too many plot holes. This is no instant Christmas classic.

You may find yourself laughing at the movie, but not with it.

If you want to watch a good movie, go watch The Santa Clause instead.

I'm kind of bummed about this negative review because Kurt Russell seemed like he'd make a good Santa, despite the fact that he ended up looking somewhat like a hobo in his Santa Claus gear.

The one good thing I'll say about the movie is that they had some impressive computer-generated imagery. I'm not sure how much they spent on CGI, but at least they got that part right.

Related Content:
Tomb Raider - reviewed.
Venom - reviewed.
Ant-Man and The Wasp - reviewed.
The Avengers: Infinity War - reviewed.
The Black Panther - reviewed.
My most anticipated movies of 2018

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Tomb Raider (2018) - reviewed.

It took me a while to check out this movie, mostly because it was another unneeded reboot of a popular franchise that wasn’t even that old yet.

Angelina Jolie was the face of that character for so long that it felt strange seeing someone else do it (though I think Alicia Vikander may have done a better job).

I kind of avoided it out of protest. But I saw it for free recently (that’s always the best price). It was ok.

It was a nice set-up for a franchise — the ‘how Lara Croft became Lara Croft’ tale. That would’ve worked well had anyone wanted a new franchise or had Tomb Raider been successful enough to warrant a second film.

Unfortunately these days, writers are always planning on trilogies and franchises. They don’t put enough effort into the beginning movie.

That’s kind of how this movie played out.

It wasn’t bad. Alicia Vikander did a great job actually. Her obvious dedication to the role and believability made the movie much better than it otherwise would have been with a different lead actress.

She was in great shape and appeared to have done at least some of her own stunts.

I first saw her in Man from U.N.C.L.E. (a movie I wanted a sequel of!) and was very impressed. Vikander also delivered on Tomb Raider.

She really looked like a daughter who desperately wanted to find her believed-to-be-dead father. She seemed to have that pain in her eyes that says ‘it’s unrealistic to expect that he’s alive’ with just an ounce of hope that he could be. The movie was a little too much.

It was filled with action-packed scenes, no doubt, but sometimes less is more

We saw a MMA training session, a bicycle race through the streets of London, a creative pursuit of thieves on a Chinese oceanside dock, and a scene where a boat gets tossed around in the stormy water.

That was all before we met the villain of the movie — Mathias Vogel (Walton Goggins) — who runs a slave island because his boss (who he communicates with on a mysterious cell phone) won’t let him leave until he finds a specific fabled tomb.

Then we get a chase through the forest, a fall over a waterfall, a jungle fight to the death, a major discovery for Lara Croft, a rise up and bow-and-arrow fight on the part of Croft and, finally, the scene with the actual tomb.

The scenes were all well-done really. They were definitely action-packed. It was all just a little too much.

The story just didn't resonate.  It was too unbelievable.  It was too much.

Lots of flash but not enough substance to make it worthwhile. There were a couple of head shaking / facepalm moments.

The script was too silly to be taken seriously, even if you want to support the character

The ending foreshadowed a sequel we’ll never get to see, which may be for the best.

Vikander is awesome and the writers delivered on a movie full of action, but if this is the best story they could come up with, then a sequel isn’t really warranted

Related Content:
• Venom - reviewed.
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• The Avengers: Infinity War - reviewed.
• The Black Panther - reviewed.
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Pet peeve: why do you have to tweet the same thing again ... and again ... and again?

UPDATE: Nov. 15, 2018

As you can see by these two tweets to the right, CNN does the same thing.  This one is an analysis on the Florida race between Rick Scott and Bill Nelson.

It's not just one news outlet that does this.  It's not for or against any party.  It's not just on politics.

They (meaning any prominent company with a Twitter account) do this all the time with all kinds of content.

It's so annoying if you're someone who is on Twitter or social media on a regular basis.

These two tweets aren't even 3 hours apart.  Why are we seeing it again?  I'm sure I'll be seeing it for a third time in a couple of more hours.

It'd be nice to see fresh content instead of repeating the same thing, especially when it's about controversial topics in politics.

It may seem trivial to complain about multiple tweets, but I think it furthers the divide between us when it comes to multiple political tweets. 

It triggers the emotions people have (either reinforcing something they agree with or angering them on something they don't agree with) when they see something several times a day.

I could mute these social media channels, but then how do I get the latest news?  You almost need to follow all of these social media platforms to get a clear and well-rounded picture of what's happening.

Hopefully this practice will change, but I doubt it.


Nov. 13, 2018

I recently blogged about one pet peeve of mine in regards to headlines on Twitter and Facebook: the fact that they overuse the phrase 'you need to know.'

Today, I have another pet peeve: media organizations (or organizations, in general) that tweet the same thing several times a day at different hours of the day.

The example in my blog is NBC News.  They tweeted a fact check regarding President Trump and his claims about fraudulent voting activities in Florida.

Fine.  Great.  Tweet away.  But then several hours later, I noticed another tweet that read the same.  3 hours later?  Another tweet.  No changes or corrections in the headline.  Just the same tweet.  Again.

Take a look at the photos on the right hand side of this blog.  They tweeted the same thing just a few hours apart.  For someone who missed one of the tweets, it doesn't matter.

But for someone who follows NBC News and has already seen the first and the second, the third is definitely overkill.

This example is regarding politics, but I've seen the same thing on a variety of topics.  From box office success or failures to Kardashian news to a bombing in the Middle East.

It seems like news organizations tweet things over the weekend and then, come Monday morning, tweet the same things again.  I assume the thought is that people may have missed it over the weekend, so they'd better catch us up on Monday morning.

That I could almost accept.  I understand that goal.  That being said, it gets annoying if you did see their original tweet(s) over the weekend.  Then it's just regurgitating the same information again.

Now I get tired of seeing a variety of topics in my feed or timeline, but I especially dislike this practice when it comes to politics.

Right now, politics are so divisive.  It doesn't help people trying to escape that constant negativity to see the same tweets posted just a few hours apart.

It's a barrage of of politics.  I don't care if it's pro-Republican or anti-Republican or pro-Democrat or anti-Democrat (or anti-Green Party).  If I see you tweeting or posting the same content 3 times in the same day, hours apart, it gets old.

It makes me want to unfollow your account.  It makes me want to escape into a Mighty Ducks marathon or a Candy Crush coma.

I don't just follow NBC News.  I follow CNN and MSNBC and Fox News and the Washington Post and a dozen other news outlets.  If you're tweeting a fact check, chances are they are too.

So I'm seeing their 12 individual tweets.  Then your tweet 3 times in the same day -- in less than a full work day?

It's excessive.  It's exhausting to see, whether the topic is about Fall leaves changing colors, how Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 election or Donald Trump's random (and possibly offensive) tweet of the day.

If you don't have anything to tweet, then maybe don't tweet.  If  there's no news, don't regurgitate it.

I'd prefer that pandas playing on jungle gyms take over my Twitter feed if there's no hard news
happening.  Don't deprive me of that, please.

Venom - reviewed.

I remember everyone groaning when it was announced that Sony was making a Venom movie.

Then they saw the trailer and got excited. I was kind of in the ‘meh’ camp until I heard Tom Hardy was on board to play Eddie Brock.

He did such a great job as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises that I figured he’d be a great hero/anti-hero in Venom. And he did!

His portrayal of Eddie Brock was very interesting. Always likable but definitely a character with flaws.

He was someone you were rooting for even when he was messing up. The symbiote storyline isn’t one that’s been told in this way before.

Sure, Venom was in Spider-Man 3 but it doesn’t even compare to this version, honestly. This one was much better. It was done in a more comedic way.

The only negative I have is that the comedy almost made the movie a little too cartoonish. Just a little.

It felt like Venom could’ve been a little more diabolical. His lines were delivered in a way that seemed like they were supposed to be punchlines instead of being authentically humorous.

It was as if Venom knew, 'There's an audience watching and listening so now I need to say this in a goofy voice and have a goofy interaction with Eddie Brock so they laugh at me.'

That can be forgiven though.

There was seriousness to go along with the humor. The storyline with Brock’s girlfriend (Michelle Williams) felt real enough to make one care about it. It wasn’t one of the great romances of all time but it was relatable.

I cared more about that relationship and dynamic than several other super hero romances.

The action scenes were great. Venom’s unique powers made for some awesome action sequences! Definitely an upgrade from Spider-Man 3.

The movie was released in October in time for Halloween, but the dark character wasn't that grimacing.  It wasn't a horror movie by any means.  Definitely a PG superhero movie. 

I guess it could've been darker and more adult, but Tom Hardy made it work as it was.

After seeing Venom in Venom, I want to see Venom interact with Deadpool and The Avengers and Wolverine.

I know that won’t happen due to the large amount of contract negotiations that would have to happen between Fox and Sony and Disney and Marvel, but in this day and age of superhero team-up movies we are spoiled so I still want it.

The villain in this movie was coming from a good intention — kind of like Thanos. He was trying to solve the issue of overpopulation.

But he lost himself somewhere along the way and traded in his morals for his end goal. He was a good choice for the villain.

He wasn't physically imposing, but sometimes those with misguided plans and no remorse for lives lost along the way make the best villains.

There was even an evil (or more evil?) symbiote. There were just enough different things going on to tell a good story and not too many to get lost in the shuffle.

Overall, this wasn’t a masterpiece. It probably won’t win any awards. But it was fun. A lot of fun.

If you’re a fan of Spider-Man or that universe, you should enjoy this one.

There is a mid-credits scene.  Post-credits scene was about the animated Spider-Man movie, but the mid-credits scene points to a possible sequel.

Related Content:
• Ant-Man and The Wasp - reviewed.
• The Avengers: Infinity War - reviewed.
• The Black Panther - reviewed.
• My most anticipated movies of 2018

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Pet peeve: the media's overuse of the phrase 'you need to know'

'You need to know.'  It's a simple phrase, but it's one that irritates me.

So many websites, Twitter accounts, Facebook pages and other kinds of social media use that phrase.

To begin with, it was catchy. '5 things you need to know about (________)'

Now?  The incessant overuse of this phrase has turned me off of it entirely.

It's kind of insulting --- probably because I see it so many times each day.

Don't tell me what I need to know.

Don't treat me like a child.

Don't try to educate me on what you think is important.

Don't try to tell me how to think, period.

Maybe just give me some info?  Let me decide if I 'need to know' it.

I mean, really, what do any of us need to know?  Probably not 5 to 10 things about a movie or about some singer's personal relationship or about the new season of a TV show.

I'm probably overthinking this simple statement but that's what I've ended up at after seeing it dozens of times a day: philosophizing about 4 little words.

It's a headline.  Nothing more.  Nothing less, but I'm asking those who come up with the headlines for social media pages and websites to do better.

Be more creative when brainstorming for the day.

The phrase that was once creative and catchy is now mundane and annoying.

That concludes my pet peeve rant.  I'm climbing down off my soapbox now.

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Can I be serious for a minute? Let's talk about media bias ...