Friday, December 12, 2014

Movies! Interstellar

Yes this is an extremely late review.  Deal with it.

Considering I'm unmarried and don't have any children, the central conflict in Interstellar, Christopher Nolan's tenth film, probably does not hit me in the same way emotionally as it does to parents.

Would you leave your children behind with the impossibly slim chance that it would save humanity from a dying Earth (which would, of course, mean your children and their children, on down)? If you did, what would that do to you? To them?

Those are the questions that make up the core of Interstellar.



Full disclosure: I am a HUGE Christopher Nolan fan. Like Memento (though I do think it is a tad overrated by the mainstream) and Insomnia (I don't care what bad things Al Pacino did/does in that movie, I just want him to be able to get some sleep!). Really like The Prestige (any movie with David Bowie as Nikola Tesla is a-okay in my book) and Batman Begins (despite the laughable Katie Holmes casting, a rare misstep). The Dark Knight is, of course, a masterpiece. I even really, really like The Dark Knight Rises more than a lot of people, despite its many, many plot-based flaws. I mean, c'mon, the Bane voice is classic!


And that brings us to Inception. One of my all-time favorite movies. The last 45 minutes (starting when they enter the third dream level, in the snow world, until the end) well, let's just say I've put that 45 minute block on more times than I care to contemplate. And, don't get me wrong, I even acknowledge the plot holes in Inception! I simply don't care. I want movies to entertain me, first and foremost, and secondly, be put together at a high level across the board (acting, directing, effects, score, etc.). On that scale, Inception is a home run for me. Not for nothing, but Nolan got ROBBED in not being nominated as Best Director for this and Hans Zimmer got ROBBED in not winning the Oscar for Best Score.

[Note: For what it is worth, I do believe Cobb is in the real world at the end. I'm down with the theory that the top is not his totem but that whether he is wearing his wedding ring or not signifies whether he is in the dream vs. real worlds -- none of that is the point of the movie though]

********************

It has been four long years since Inception. The previews for Interstellar were, unsurprisingly, sparse and cryptic. A few things we did know: Matthew McConaughey stars and he has to go into space to save mankind. That's pretty much it.

Now, on with the show, as they say...

CAUTION, THERE BE SPOILERS AHEAD!

[Note: This movie really needs to be seen on the big screen. As such, I won't be doing too much by way of plot summary]

Interstellar opens in the not-to-distant future. We begin with documentary-style, first-person accounts of Dust Bowl-like era in world history where most of Earth's crops have failed (save corn) and blowing dust and dust storms are everywhere and constant. This is where we meet McConaughey's Cooper, living a farm with his father-in-law (John Lithgow), son, Tom, and daughter, Murph.

We don't know what has happened to Earth but it is heavily implied that much of the world's population are dead and that those survivors are heavily concentrated and totally immersed on growing corn. Innovation is completely dead. Murph even gets in trouble at school for bringing in an old science textbook that recounts the Apollo program and Moon landing. In the world of Interstellar, people need to be focused on survival (which again, means growing corn) and not thinking about impossible space travel, etc. Thus, modern texts teach that the Moon landing was  hoax, designed to bankrupt the Soviet Union in the Cold War (like SDI did in real life). This alternative history is so ingrained that Murph's teacher believes it. This doesn't sit well with Cooper, who we early on learn was some sort of pilot, maybe even an astronaut. His contemptuous "You sayin' we didn't go to the Moon" to the teacher is pitch perfect.

After all that "fun" at the school. Some sort of gravitational anomaly manifests itself at the Cooper house, such that perfectly spaced piles of dust fall to the floor in Murph's room, which Cooper determines are coordinates. Thinking he leaves Murph behind to investigate (she hides in the truck, duh), he finds the remnants of NASA, still active within the old HQ of NORAD, led by William Devane and, more importantly Michael Cain's Professor Brand, and his daughter, Anne Hathaway's Brand (I don't think we ever get a first name and IMDB doesn't list one).

[Note: Anne Hathaway is NOT a Yes and Please. Period.]

Unbeknownst to the outside world, NASA has been working on saving humanity, having previously launched a dozen space missions to a wormhole that appeared near Saturn just as Earth's dust problems were starting. To the NASA scientists, the appearance of this wormhole means that there is some "Them" out there in space/time seeking to help man. In any event, of these missions, they've narrowed it down to three planets thru the wormhole that MIGHT be habitable. NASA has one final spacecraft to send out there to figure out which one, if any, of the three would be best. And Cooper is just the man to pilot this last mission!

Oh yeah, Michael Caine also informs Cooper that corn will also soon start dying out and that Earth's oxygen will start to dissipate. Thus, not only is humanity doomed to starve, but also to suffocate. One way or another, Murph's generation is the last on Earth. We're either going to find a new planet or mankind will become extinct.

This makes for some heavy emotions as Cooper first convinces himself that he should go, leaving his children behind, and then Murph doesn't get it and won't even say goodbye to him. What a brat! 

Act One ends with the blast off of Cooper's mission. Seeing this in (fake) IMAX, the theater was literally shaking at the sounds of the rockets. Pretty cool!

It takes two years to fly to Saturn, so the crew gets in their sleep pods for the journey. The filmmaking here is stellar. From the scale of the ship to the effects of Saturn, outer space and, of course, the wormhole itself.


Once they travel through the wormhole (a pretty cool sequence by itself), they need to decide which of the three planets to research first. They choose the closest but there's a problem: because it is so close to a black hole, gravity and spacetime are all whacked out. So an hour down on the planet is really like 7 years on Earth!

Well of course they get down there and nothing goes right. The planet is completely covered in water which, because of the gravity, flows around in massive waves so big that they appear to be mountains in the distance. One of the crew members dies and by the time they get back to the main ship, more than 25 years have passed in Earth time. Obviously this is a huge dagger for Cooper and Murph, who has now grown up on Earth to be replaced by Jessica Chastain, who assuredly IS a Yes and Please! member (or at least sometimes).


On to the second planet then where are heroes meet an uncredited MATT DAMON as a surviving astronaut from the very first mission. Too bad all those years have rotted his brain and made him CRAZY!!!!!  Seriously, he tries to kill Murph and steal the ship, all the while lying about his planet being hospitable to life. 

After surviving that fiasco, Cooper hatches a plan to send Anne Hathaway on to the third and final planet, while he and TARS (talking robot, maybe best part of movie) are going to go thru the black hole, in an attempt to get enough data about gravity to send back to Earth to save the surviving Earthlings.

What Cooper encounters in the black hole is certainly the most controversial aspect of the movie. But it's also quite thought-provoking. I'm not going to get into it all here except to say that, for me, it worked.

And, of course, we get the scene at the end, where 80 years have passed, the surviving humans are in an Elysium-like floating space station, Murph is still alive and hilariously reunited with her un-aged father.  All warm and fuzzy!!

In all seriousness, I really enjoyed the movie and didn't feel the 3 hour running time. There are plot holes to be sure and times where suspension of disbelief is absolutely required but all in all, another solid effort from Team Nolan.

FINAL GRADE: A MINUS

Great score too, by Hans Zimmer, as usual.  My favorite track:









Thursday, December 4, 2014

Well Shit

Has it really been two and half months since I've posted?!? Looking back, I guess that it has been. And, oh shit, has so much happened since then!

First, we had the midterm election, in which BHO (mmm, mmm, mmm) was handed a sound trouncing, though he refuses to acknowledge it and went ahead with his unlawful/unconstitutional "executive amnesty" of some 5 million illegal immigrants. What a prick!

We've had the start of both the NHL and NBA regular seasons, the crowning of the SF Giants as the World Series champs. Again. Hey, at least it wasn't the Cardinals. Not to mention the always wacky NFL season, which has seen my Bears thoroughly embarrassed every time they come up against a minimally competent opponent.

The animals in and around Ferguson, Missouri, were unleashed yet again when the local grand jury decided (rightly, in my humble opinion) not to indict the police officer in the shooting death of the "gentle giant" Michael Brown.

And all the while, I've continued to keep up with my favorite television programs, sports and movies.

And so, I'm hoping in the next few days to do some posts. We'll see if my immediate ambition actually matches what I ultimately accomplish.

In the meantime, a few random "Yes and Please!" pics to brighten your day:

Jessica-Jane Clement,
British Glamor Model
Kelly Brook,
Also a British Glamor Model



Kayla Kayden, American porn star



Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Finally Ready To Talk About the Nationals NLDS Collapse

Okay, okay. After a week, I'm finally ready to talk about the Nationals epic collapse in the National League Division Series, in which they fell three-games-to-one to the San Francisco Giants.

I already wrote about attending Games 1 and 2, which were both Nationals losses thanks to terrible situational hitting and some questionable (at-best) managerial decisions by Matt Williams with respect to the bullpen.

Heading out to SF, everyone thought the sweep was in order. The Nats were after all facing the Giants' ace, Madison Bumgartner, who was last seen thoroughly dominating the Pirates in the Wild Card game. Washington, however, could take some confidence in that it was Doug Fister on the mound to save the season. Fister spent the first month or so on the DL. Since then, he was arguably the Nationals best starter (the ONLY argument to made otherwise is for Jordan Zimmermann, NOT Stephen Strasburg).

GAME 3

And, in this game, the Nationals FINALLY had a break go their way. Ian Desmond led off (the 4th I think) with a single up the middle. Harper walked. Ramos asked to bunt. Quickly draws two strikes. Matt Williams gambles and keeps the bunt on. Despite a great jump from second, Bumgartner looks to throw to get him at third and wildly misses the covering shortstop. Ball gets lost in the bullpen. Desmond and Harper both score, Ramos to second. I believe that Cabrera and Fister got out and Span walked, leading to a Rendon single to drive in Ramos from second. 3-0.

That led to this insurance run:


Harper also had two really nice plays in left field that led to crucial outs. And the Nats held on 4-1 to stave off elimination.

GAME 4

This was always going to be the nail-biter, regardless how the series was going, with Mr. Inconsistent, Gio Gonzalez starting for the Nationals. And, while he was okay, his own mistakes led to an early 2-0 hole.  When Gio is not on, command is always the problem. Here was no exception. After walking a few guys in a row, he walked in a run. In a playoff game. In an elimination playoff game. He also misplayed a grounder back to the mound and he and Rendon combined to misplay a bunt down the third baseline, leading to the second run. He came back from that rocky 2nd inning but didn't even pitch into the fifth inning.

In the fifth, Desmond led off with a single and Harper put together a really nice at-bat, that led to a Desmond-scoring RBI double. Then, both Ramos and Cabrera failed to advance Harper to third with no outs, and one out, respectively. Just absolutely inexcusable in the playoffs. And the type of mistake teams like the Giants and Cardinals simply don't make.

Harper, the team's MVP of the series, wasn't done though. Top seventh, this:


What. A. Bomb. And though some sportswriters didn't like it (ahem, ahem, asshole Mike Wise), I absolutely LOVED that Harper stared down the pitcher and how crazy he went in trying to fire up the team. In that moment, he was putting the team on his back and just needed a little bit of help.

Unfortunately, the bullpen, bats and manager gave him none.

Thus, after Harper's game-tying HR, bringing the Nationals back in the series, in the bottom of the seventh, Williams goes with...Matt Thornton. 

Groundout, single, single.

Williams goes with...Aaron Barrett?  WHAT?!?!?!  Remember, he had Strasburg, Craig Stammen, Soriano and Tyler Clippard all in the bullpen. None of them warmed up or threw a pitch in this game. Why? Because Thornton and Barrett were the seventh inning "plan" according to Matt Williams.  The knock on Barrett is also control (not to mention having never been in a pressure situation like this before). So he promptly walks Hunter Pence and throws a wild pitch to Sandoval. Giants up 3-2. Really game over at that point.

The Nationals went down in order in the eighth and, except for a two-out walk to Harper in the ninth (the Giants really wanted NO part of Harper in that at-bat), pretty much went down without much resistance. Giants advance. Best-in-NL Nationals go home.

Various Thoughts:
  • Matt Williams refusing to deviate from his "plan" in games 2 and 4 were epic blunders. At the same time, the players ultimately claim responsibility for this choke job and here's why.
  • The first, third, fourth, fifth and seventh hitters -- Span, Werth, LaRoche, Desmond and Ramos, were a combined 9-88 in the series. Span, Werth and LaRoche were especially bad out of this group. This is the core of your offense. They simply didn't produce and needed to.
  • These two columns from ace writer Thom Loverro (number one and number two) pretty much explain it all
  • I don't expect LaRoche to be back next year. They need to play Ryan Zimmerman somewhere and 1B seems logical, especially considering LaRoche plays much, much better in contract years and in light of his failings in this series.
  • Span, on the other hand, I do expect to be back, despite his offensive woes in the series and in the first month of the season. He simply brings too much to the table is relatively inexpensive for a player with his tools.
  • I expect Asdrubal Cabrera to be too expensive in free agency to keep. The Nationals will need to find a second baseman somewhere.
  • Pretty good two young cornerstones to have, eh? Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon?
  • Drew Storen is not the answer at closer. Need to find one. Rafael Soriano is gone.
  • Lots of decisions for the club to make in the next few years, as contracts expire and people stand in line for big paydays: Zimmermann, Strasburg, Harper, Desmond, Clippard, Fister.
  • As a Cubs fan, nothing about this ultimately surprised me. In fact, this collapse felt eerily like the Cubs 2008 choke-job. Speaking of Cubs, yesterday was the 11th anniversary of this (good times):








Monday, October 6, 2014

Thoughts on the Nationals Monster 0-2 Hole

From about May 1, onward, and especially after the All Star Break, the Washington Nationals have played dominant baseball, easily winning the NL East, while also compiling the best run-differential and record in the entire National League. So, of course, the San Francisco Giants came into town and promptly beat them in both Games 1 and 2 of the NLDS, likely putting the Nats in a hole from which they cannot recover (Game 3 kicks off in a little more than an hour).

Having attended both games, here are a few of my thoughts.

GAME 1

Here is the view from my seat:



Stephen Strasburg got the Game 1 start though many people around time (myself included) think Jordan Zimmermann should have gotten the nod. Zimmermann has simply been better and more consistent that Stras.

Stras was only okay when a team needs their ace to be great. From the very first inning, he was hit hard. He was hitting high on the radar gun (upper 90s) but barely used his curve at all. In the end, sure, he only gave up one earned run but he gave up 8 hits (mostly singles up the middle, which the Giants admitted was their game plan) and only struck out 2. That's not what a team wants out of their Game 1 starter, their "ace", especially one who is averaging 9 Ks per 9 innings, or something like that. In my opinion, Strasburg will never be "The Guy" as he thinks he is.

For the Giants, Jake Peavy was better than Stras. He no-hit the Nats through five innings. Where did this offense go? Bryce Harper hit a mammoth HR, followed by one from Asdrubal Cabrera but, really, apart from that, not much. Being 0-fee with runners in scoring position leads to a very disappointing 3-2 loss, leading to a must win in...

GAME 2

View:


Jordan Zimmerman was simply brilliant. And considering he ended the regular season with the franchise's first no-hitter, he pitched arguably 17 2/3 of the greatest innings in history. And then, with two outs in the top of the ninth and clinging to a 1-0 lead, having retired 20 Giants in a row, the home plate umpire, Vic Carapazza, fucked him right in the ass by completely squeezing the strike zone that he had otherwise been calling all game, leading to a two-out walk. Frankly, the home plate umpiring was a downright embarrassment for Major League Baseball.

Then his manager, Matt Williams, fucked him right in the ass again, by taking him out for closer Drew Storen, who promptly gave up a single to Buster Posey and a game-tying double to Fat Ass Panda Pablo Sandoval. On three pitches. What. The. Fuck.

The Nationals hitting woes continued into the bottom of the ninth and then in the longest game in MLB playoff history (6.5 hours, 18 innings). They did nothing. Where is Denard Span? Jason Werth? Adam LaRoche? Bryce Harper? Ian Desmond and Wilson Ramos look like complete FOOLS at the plate so far. Only season MVP Anthony Rendon is hitting. 

The Giants Brandon Belt finally put us all out of our misery (it was not only long but also COLD) with a no-doubt HR in the top of the 18th which, of course, the Nats hitters could not match in the bottom of the 18th. Down 0-2, heading back to San Francisco, #DAGGER.

However, based on my seat location, I was able to mercilessly heckle the Giants CF, Gregor Blanco, and also saw myself on TV while watching the game "highlights"

Who's that sketchy guy in the Bears hoodie?
One final note, TONS of people started leaving after the game did not end in the ninth. In a playoff game this is UNACCEPTABLE. By the end of the 18, fewer than half the fans were likely there. Look, I understand it was long and cold. If you were there with little kids or were elderly, I get it. Any other excuse is FUCKING BULLSHIT and AN EMBARRASSMENT. The Nationals are my SECOND team and I sat through the entirety of the misery.

Again, people with little kids and the elderly, fine. Anyone else who left is a fucking cunt with absolutely no legitimate excuse. None whatsoever. Do the rest of us a favor and don't bother to go at all next time, PRICKS!!!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Idiot Box: Fall 2014

The final seasons of Boardwalk Empire (BOO!) and Sons of Anarchy (FINALLY!) have both been back for a few weeks. The rest of the Fall schedule started has also started ramping up.

Here's a list of what I am currently watching and/or will be watching. Brand new shows will be noted.

SUNDAYS

Sunday Night Football (NBC), The Simpsons (FOX), Bob's Burgers (FOX), American Dad (FOX but moving to TBS in a few weeks), Boardwalk Empire (HBO), Brooklyn Nine-Nine (FOX/NEW NIGHT), Mulaney (NEW/FOX), Ray Donovan (Showtime and I don't know why), Manhattan (WGN America), The Walking Dead (AMC), Parts Unknown (CNN).

So "big" death on The Simpsons was Krusty's dad. As he said to Krusty about whether he was funny or not "Eh".

Manhattan is actually extremely good. It's still in its premier season so if anyone is looking for a new show to start up, this would definitely be a pick.

I only have three episode left of The Walking Dead before I'm caught up in advance of Season 5. Can't wait! While this ratings juggernaut definitely has a few flaws (okay, let's be honest, more than a few), Darryl is a complete badass and Maggie is entered into the Yes and Please! TV wing. Plus, zombies and the killing of zombies!




MONDAYS

The Big Bang Theory (CBS/NEW NIGHT), The Blacklist (NBC), Gotham (NEW/FOX), Monday Night Football (ESPN), Castle (ABC).

TV's number one sitcom is moving to Monday nights to accommodate CBS's Thursday night slate of NFL games. All the actors just got huge raises and three-year contracts so this isn't going anywhere for awhile.


I'll watch long-time Yes and Please! member Kaley Cuoco on any night!

TUESDAYS

Person of Interest (CBS), Sons of Anarchy (F/X), Marry Me (NEW/NBC).

Oh man, was last season of Person of Interest fucking awesome. After watching this season's premier, I have no doubt that it will continue to kick ass.

SAMCRO has long overstayed its welcome on my slate of shows. Really (and sadly), it peaked with Season 2. And, now that we're in the final season (aka The Season of Jax Giving Zero Fucks), creator/showrunner Kurt Sutter apparently thinks he has free license to make every episode one of his patented (and unnecessary) SUPER-SIZED episodes. Not acceptable. Won't be sorry to see this one finally wrap up.

WEDNESDAYS

South Park (Comedy Central), The Bridge (F/X), The League (FXX), The Soup (E!).

The Bridge actually wrapped up last night but I'm a few behind. The second half of this, the second season, has been much improved over the first half. Probably has to do with the extra Fausto.

The premier of South Park took on the Redskins name controversy, the NFL generally, Kickstarter and the Silicon Valley start-up culture. It also provided us with this amazing image:



THURSDAYS

Thursday Night Football (CBS/NFL) and DVR catch-up.

FRIDAYS

Shark Tank (ABC), Last Man Standing (ABC), Master Chef Junior (FOX), Constantine (NEW/NBC)

Here's a pretty good piece on Shark Tank that was over on Grantland.

SATURDAYS

Saturday Night Live (NBC). Maybe.