Tumbledown (2015) a (mildly) belated review

Sometimes while scanning the various channels on your tube you run into something that intrigues and/or surprises you.

Such was the case with the 2015 Rebecca Hall and Jason Sudeikis starring, Sean Mewshaw directed/co-written romantic comedy/drama Tumbledown.  I had never heard of this film before seeing it yesterday and I suspect not many others have, either.  Here’s the movie’s trailer:

This trailer tries to emphasize the humor in the movie -and, as you see, there certainly is some- but the film to my mind is more a romantic drama than a comedy… and one that takes on some darker themes.

Without giving too much away, Rebecca Hall plays Hannah, a young widow whose husband Hunter released one folklore album with 12 songs on it before unexpectedly passing away.  Jason Sudeikis is Andrew McDonnell, a New York bred and raised intellectual who teaches at a university and hopes to write a book about Hannah’s husband.

Hannah, though, is still in considerable pain and quite depressed because of the sudden loss of her husband.  She is emotionally stuck in time, smart enough to realize she’s wallowing in her depression and wanting to move on yet unwilling and/or unable to do so.  She devotes her time to writing for a local newspaper while hoping to write a biography about her husband.

Into town appears Andrew and, as the trailer above notes, their meeting is not all that pleasant.

I should stop right here and mention this is romantic comedy 101: The characters at first hate each other but eventually prove to be perfect for each other.  I’ve written before how romantic comedies tend to have very formulaic plots and Tumbledown certainly checks off many romantic comedy elements.

Having said that, I’ll further state that the film could have used another draft.  The fact of the matter is that the character of Curtis (Joe Manganiello), who is essentially Hannah’s go-to guy for sexual satisfaction and Finley (Dianna Agron), Andrew’s New York girlfriend, could have easily been cut from the film without affecting it too much.  Not that they were bad in the movie, its just that as written they didn’t add all that much to the proceedings.

With that out of the way, let me say that while Tumbleweed isn’t perfect and in some ways it adheres to that formula, there was enough other stuff here to intrigue me and, ultimately, recommend the film.

What makes the film work is that both Rebecca Hall and Jason Sudeikis are quite good in their respective roles.  Rebecca Hall presents a brave front but one feels the pain of her loss.  Jason Sudeikis, too, delivers a fascinating character who -and I’m trying real hard not to spoil things here- the viewer thinks early on knows more than the others about Hunter’s death but, ultimately, is revealed to be suffering as much internal pain as Hannah.

The scene where he discovers this was, to me, devastating yet played out as most of the film, subtly and without huge fanfare.

As much as I personally liked it, Tumbleweed will not appeal to everyone.  Those who want things to move more quickly may find their patience tried and those all too familiar with romantic comedy elements may wish the writers had eschewed some of them.

But for those who want a quiet drama with some comedic elements and a genuinely interesting plot, you may find the movie well worth checking out.

2017 Summer Movie Madness

Got a list today of the major releases for this summer and was looking around for what appealed to me… and what didn’t.  This is in no way a complete list of everything being released this summer, only the things that have stood out for me, for better or worse.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.  Those who have read my writings for any length of time know that I didn’t like the original GotG (you can read my review of the film here). I’m in a minority, I know, but the movie just didn’t work for me.  So, unlike many, I’m not all that interested in catching GotG2.  Maybe I’ll Netflix it somewhere down the line.

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.  This film, directed by the often very interesting Guy Ritchie, IMHO looks really weak.  The trailers certainly haven’t sold me on the product.  Quite the contrary, in fact, they’ve made me want to run away.

Wonder Woman.  The film looks spectacular in its many trailers.  I suspect I’ll see it in theaters and hope its as good as the trailers are!

Snatched.  Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn star as a mother and daughter who venture into South America for a vacation and hijinks ensue.  Unlike King Arthur, the NSFW trailers for this film look quite fun.  I may catch this one if the reviews are positive.

Alien: Covenant. Ridley Scott returns to the Alien universe but, unlike the previously released Prometheus, this time around he is full on into the Alien creature(s) and horror theme.  I’m curious to see the film but really, really hope they don’t just kill off the character of Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) in a lame flashback.  Her character was just about the only good thing in Prometheus.

Baywatch. Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron, and Alexandra Daddario in a parody version of the cheesy (but incredibly popular) TV show.  Could be good, I suppose, but I’m lukewarm to this one.  If the reviews are good, I might just have to see it.

Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.  Pity poor Johnny Depp.  He became super-hot with his bizarre yet incredibly entertaining turn as Captain Jack Sparrow in the original POTC but of late he’s rolling snake eyes, both in the movies he’s been involved in and his private life.  I gave up on the POTC series a couple of movies ago but the trailers for this film look interesting.  Another wait and see for me.

The Mummy.  Nowadays it seems movie studios are on the hunt for “shared universe” movies and in this Tom Cruise action/horror outing, we have the first of a promised “Universal Monster Horror Movie” franchise.  Looks interesting.  Sorta/kinda interested in it.

Rough Night.  I like the cast, which includes Kate McKinnon, Jillian Bell, Ilana Glazer, Zoe Kravitz, and Scarlet Johansson.  But the trailer for this… ugh.

The Beguiled.  The original film, starring Clint Eastwood, remains the venerable actor’s weirdest, IMHO, feature.  Mr. Eastwood played a wounded Union soldier who gets cared for within an all-girls school and the sexual tensions rise while he takes advantage of the situation.  Will this remake, directed by Sophia Coppola and starring Elle Fanning, Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, and, in the Clint Eastwood role, Colin Farrell, prove as fascinating as the original film?  I don’t know, but I am at least moderately curious to find out.

Baby Driver.  I’m a sucker for well done car chase movies and this film, directed by fan favorite Edgar Wright, looks interesting… though I really don’t like the “main character has to listen to music to get into the zone” thing.

Spider-Man: Homecoming.  After catching Doctor Strange and finding it incredibly ordinary, I suspect I’m burning out on Marvel superhero films.  Seeing the trailers for this film, what I see looks perfectly fine but doesn’t really grab me.  Probably a Netflix for me.

Dunkirk.  Big scale historical WWII film regarding the evacuation of troops in 1940 at (duh) Dunkirk.  Christopher Nolan directs and I’m certainly intrigued but the trailers for this film have tried to show us as little as possible, which I find kinda bothersome.  Still, I’m curious to see this one.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.  Director Luc Besson, if for nothing else, will be remembered for the wild sci-fi comedy The Fifth Element.  He’s made plenty of other films, both good and bad and produced a lot more, but for Valerian he’s back in the director’s chair for a film based on a very successful European graphic novel series that never really clicked on this side of the world.  I bought a few of the graphic novels back in the day and they were entertaining and, based on the trailers, I’m intrigued about this film as well.  Looks like Mr. Besson is not only going back to his Fifth Element days, but what I see in the trailers also reminds me of the quirky Jane Fonda film Barbarella.  Color me curious.

Atomic Blonde.  Hadn’t heard a thing about this film until the kick ass NSFW trailer was released a few weeks back.  Charlize Theron plays a stone-cold killer in the late Cold War years of the 1980’s.  Looks really good.  I may catch this one while its in the theaters.

The Dark Tower.  I mention this film only because so many people have expressed interest in seeing this adaptation of Stephen King’s multi-book series.  The film stars Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey and…I’m curious, though this one I’ll have to read the reviews before committing myself.

The Hitman’s Bodyguard.  Ryan Reynolds plays a bodyguard who is assigned to take care of hitman Samuel L. Jackson.  As with Atomic Blonde, this was a film I had no idea about until the trailer aired and… I’m so damn there.  If the movie delivers on what’s on this NSFW trailer, I’m seeing this opening weekend.

So, for better or worse, there you have it.  Four films, three of which I’ve presented their actual NSFW trailers and Wonder Woman, appeal to me.  The rest are mostly wait and see.

The Fate of the Furious (2017) a (for the most part on time) review

How does one go about reviewing a film like The Fate of the Furious, the eighth film in The Fast and the Furious franchise (F8 from here on in)?

I mean, if there is any franchise that seems impervious to critical reaction, it is this one.

Why?  Because the movies feature a wild assortment of big and very charismatic stars, big -and absolutely bonkers- action set pieces, humor, and that one ingredient many action blockbusters lack: A sense of heart.  Or is it family?

Don’t get me wrong:  The Fast and Furious films are ridiculous and, if you take even a few minutes to go over any of their plots, you realize the whole thing makes virtually zero sense.

Which is why F8 is no different than the last three films in the franchise yet another success.

The plot involves our F&F papa bear, Dom (Vin Diesel), going “dark” and working for the mysterious and well named Cipher (Charlize Theron, looking like she’s having a blast playing the movie’s central eeeeevvvvviiiillllleee character).

He betrays his group (which includes returning characters played by Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, and Ludacris).  The F&F group is, understandably, dumbfounded by this strange development.  Some can’t believe Dom would turn on them.  Others aren’t so certain.

However, things go from bad to strange when Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) is imprisoned following Dom’s betrayal and winds up getting a cell directly across from the villainous Deckard (Jason Statham).  Through the machinations of Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) and his new sidekick Little Nobody (Scott Eastwood), the two are released and along with the rest of the F&F gang tasked with bringing in Cipher…and Dom, if indeed he has turned bad.

The film moves along at a brisk pace and, provided you don’t think too hard about what you’re seeing, will prove a pleasant diversion.

For those who care, I’ll get into a few SPOILERS following the trailer to point out some of the film’s… uh… story problems.  That is, if you care at all to hear about them.

Meanwhile and despite these issues, I can’t help but recommend the film.  It’s as good as the previous two or three which, if you liked them, is a good thing indeed.

Ok, now for some of those dastardly…





Ok, so the movie’s basic plot, pretty well presented in the above trailer, points out how Dom apparently betrays his gang and goes rogue.  Anyone who believes the F&F’s papa bear would “actually” go evil needs to brush up on their Basic Moviewatching 101 skills.

So on the one side we got Dom and Cipher and on the other the “new” and remaining F&F gang, who are determined to stop them.

Sounds good, right?

Here’s the thing: the character of Deckard (Jason Statham), is suddenly presented as a good guy.  This despite the fact that he brutally immolated one of the F&F gang in a previous film and did all he could to eliminate the rest of them in the last film.

Ok, so that was brushed aside and now he’s not only a good guy, he comes to be accepted into the group!  All’s good because he interacts so well/humorously with Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson)!

Setting that aside, if one looks closer at the movie’s plot, there is very little reason for Cipher to take Dom and use him for her purposes.  In the course of the movie, Dom is tasked to do four things: 1. Betray his group so that he can steal the EMP bomb they are trying to get into the proper hands, 2. Break into Mr. Nobody’s headquarters so they can steal the “Gods-eye”, 3. Steal a Russian nuclear “football”, a briefcase with nuclear codes, from a Russian diplomat driving on a heavily fortified convoy through the streets of New York, and 4. Drive into a Russian naval base and set off that stolen EMP under a nuclear sub which will allow Cipher to gain control of it.

Of the four tasks, the first and last are the only ones that somewhat logically makes sense to force upon Dom.  The first because he’s right there, with the device within arm’s length, and can most easily steal it because the group doesn’t know he’s about to betray them. The last task, too, makes a certain sense as it involves Dom’s driving skills.


The second task didn’t need Dom as in a matter of two seconds Cipher knocked out everyone at Mr. Nobody’s base and, while the F&F group were squirming on the floor, appropriated the God’s Eye.

Note that she had everyone in the F&F group at her mercy during this scene and could easily have shoot them all dead.

So why didn’t she?

There was no real reason to show any mercy and, worse, later in the film it is made clear Cipher has no compunction about killing people… which makes that act of mercy all the more baffling.

The third task is all but completed by Cipher and her right hand man through computer control of New York’s civilian vehicles.  The actual taking of the nuclear “football” could have been done by anyone in Cipher’s group and there was no real reason for making Dom do it.  Further, there’s an odd scene following the actual theft where Dom removes the mask he was wearing while taking the suitcase.  I strongly suspect this scene was added in later on down the line so audiences would realize he was the one who took the material.

That part of the film also involves the seeming “death” of Jason Statham’s Deckard, but that too is presented in a very weird way and never adequately explained.

How exactly does Deckard get fake “killed”?  Dom does this by seemingly shooting him dead yet later in the film Deckard is brought back to life by being injected with something (it should be noted whatever he was injected with isn’t explained either!).

Were the bullets in Dom’s gun some kind of tranquilizer rounds?  Assuming this is the case (understand: This is never explained!), how did Dom get those bullets?  For that matter, how did he get in touch with the Cuban fellow from the beginning of the film who then runs interference for him in the New York scenes to set up the meeting he takes shortly before that sequence?

That’s a lot of planning and scheming to do while under Cipher’s supposed all-seeing eyes!

Anyway, enough of the questions.

Sit back, put your brain in neutral (pun intended), and enjoy.

And whatever you do, don’t think too hard about what’s going on.

Justice League Dark (2017) a (mildly) belated review

DC Comics has been doing quite well with both their TV shows and animated films.  I don’t want to get into an argument over the merits of lack thereof of their movies, but they too have been great money-makers as well, if not critical darlings, so I suspect things in DC land are going quite well.

This year, to much anticipation, Justice League Dark (JLD from here on) was released to home video.  Here’s the movie’s trailer:

One of the film’s biggest draws was the return of Matt Ryan in the role of John Constantine, whom he voices in this animated movie and whom he famously played in the aborted Constantine TV series and, for one episode, in the Arrow TV show.

Also intriguing was the idea of seeing some of DC Comic’s most famous magical/mystical heroes in one setting.  In this film you get not only Constantine, but Deadman, Zatanna, Swamp Thing, Jason Blood/The Demon, and the Black Orchid, along with a couple of mystical villains from the company’s comic book pantheon (I don’t want to reveal too much there).

The movie was entertaining though the story may not be the most spectacular you’ve ever seen.  The animation, too, was decent but not out of this world.  Allowances can be made to both as we are dealing with a direct video release and not a higher level theatrical “A” movie.

Apart from seeing these wonderful characters drawn to life, we also get brief appearances by the Justice League and a larger role for Batman.  All were quite fun to see and, in the end, I recommend this film to anyone who is a fan of these characters and/or likes the DC animated features.

Note, however, that the film is rated “R” for language and violence and should probably not be shown to children younger than 13 or so.  You have been warned.

There is one major quibble I had with the movie’s conclusion or, more specifically, the way it leaves a couple of characters.  These two characters, part of the DC pantheon, are given very big changes and I’m not exactly certain why it was decided to do these things in this film.

Writing about these things demands a SPOILER, so here you have it…







Ok, so the film involves our mystical heroes banding together for an “end of the world”-type scenario.  They’re not certain who their enemy is -indeed, this is one of the stronger elements of the story- yet know there is considerable power behind them.

In the course of the film, Jason Blood, aka The Demon, joins the group.  Later still the Swamp Thing is called upon to help them get to one of the villains and, while reluctant (he and John Constantine are often presented as being at each other’s throats) toward the film’s end het comes to help.

During the film’s climax, Swamp Thing gets his “humanity” forcefully stripped from him and, while tears roll down his (its?) eyes, the creature melts away into a mass of vines and leaves.  Is Swamp Thing dead?  I’m guessing not although this plot point is left completely unresolved and with a huge (and imaginary) “to be continued” sign hung right next to it.

However, the fate of Jason Blood is presented in far more stark terms.  For those who don’t know, Jason Blood is the human “host” of the Demon Etrigan.  They are two different beings and when Jason Blood needs the Demon, he calls for him.

Anyway, Jason Blood dies at the end of the film, thus releasing the Demon Etrigan of the dual nature they share/are cursed with.

And I can’t help but wonder why this was done.

I mean, we are talking comic book stories and death has a way of being very impermanent yet why was there was a need to make such big change to this character?

Again, I suppose this could be another “to be continued” element but given that we were presented with Jason Blood’s grave and funeral, it seems unlikely.

When Tim Burton’s Batman film was released way back in 1989 the fact that the producers were able to hire Jack Nicholson to play the Joker was an incredible coup.  The actor seemed tailor made for the role and, for most of the movie, didn’t disappoint.

When I saw the film I was stunned, however, when at the movie’s conclusion the Joker falls to his death.  Unlike the comic books which often showed the Joker apparently dying but his body never found, thus leaving the door is open to his return, in the Batman movie we see the Joker’s dead corpse.

At the time I felt this was a big mistake.  Why not show Batman go down to the street and find a crater where Joker’s body should be, but find there is no body?

In time I understood there was a very slim, perhaps nonexistent, chance of getting Jack Nicholson to reprise the Joker role.  Given it probably took moving mountains -mountains of cash, that is- to get Jack Nicholson in once, perhaps the producers felt there was no sense in kidding themselves or audiences with the possibility that Mr. Nicholson could come back, so the decision was made to make his “death” in the film a permanent one.

Movie-wise this made sense even if it didn’t do so character-wise.

In the case of JLD, there are “only” voice actors involved in the feature and one could (and they have!) had multiple people play the various characters.  Unlike the Jack Nicholson situation, there is no real need to permanently “off” anyone because they can be replaced with far less fuss should they not return for a voice role.  We’ve had others do the work without missing too much of a beat, though there clearly are favorites, so why “kill” a character that can be used in other features?

To that point, I would love to see another animated feature with the Demon in it but if one were made, the producers would now have to explain/resolve how it is the character is alive given what happened in JLD.

Further, if a Swamp Thing animated film were made (not an out of this world possibility), you would also have to explain what happened to that character following the events of JLD.

My point is that a story like the one presented in JLD, regardless of how much one may like it, has things occur within it that lay down some strong continuity which, for better or worse, will now have to be dealt with in future animated films that might feature these two characters.

And if such films are made and this continuity is ignored (another possibility, certainly) many may wonder why.

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (2016) a (mildly) belated review

Back in 2012 actor Tom Cruise starred as Lee Child’s literary hero Jack Reacher in the film that went by the same name.  The collaboration between Mr. Cruise and the film’s director/screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie would prove a fruitful one.  The two have gone on to make Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation and Mission Impossible 6 (currently filming) together.

The original Jack Reacher film, to me, was at best an “ok” actioner that benefited enormously from the various stars littered about (Robert Duvall, Rosamund Pike, and, in a delicious villainous turn, director Werner Herzog) but, as I put it in my original review (you can read the whole thing here):

…the main problem with Jack Reacher and what keeps it from rising from being a good action film to being a truly great one is that there is never a point you don’t feel like you’re watching a movie.  There is an artificiality to the product…

So a few years pass and in 2016 Tom Cruise returns to the role of Jack Reacher in Jack Reacher: Never Go Back.  Gone is director/screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie (I guess he was too busy with the last two MI films) and in his place is Edward Zwick, who collaborated previously with Mr. Cruise on 2003’s The Last Samurai.

What immediately, to my mind, distinguishes Jack Reacher from Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (JRNGB from now on) is that while the first film appeared to be well funded and the makers attempted to create an “A” level action film (though, again, I felt it didn’t succeed quite like it should have), JRNGB plays out like a far cheaper product, as if the producers slashed the budget considerably and, apart from the presence of Tom Cruise, the rest of the film plays out like any number of cheaper “B” movies out there.

JRNGB does not feature any very big star, in a cameo role or longer, other than Mr. Cruise and the action set pieces are relatively modest and never spectacular.  Though I don’t mean to denigrate him, this movie falls more in the range of the many Jason Statham’s “B” movies versus the usual Tom Cruise ones.  It says something that I could just as easily see Mr. Statham as this movie’s hero as I could Mr. Cruise.

As for the movie’s plot, Cobie Smulders plays Major Turner, a woman who now occupies the office and job that Jack Reacher held when he was a Major in the army.  As with the first film, Reacher is essentially a hobo, wandering from town to town with very little money on him and helping out anyone in need.

He is curious to meet the person who replaced him in the army and heads to Washington to see her but, when he arrives, he finds she is imprisoned and charged with treason.  Worse, Jack Reacher immediately smells a rat and realizes she’s being railroaded.  The chances she’ll live long enough to see a trial are slim indeed.

While meeting up with Turner’s lawyer, Reacher is also told (in a bit of information which is plopped into this movie in a truly clumsy way) that he may have a teenage daughter named Samantha (Danika Yarosh) and that he’s viewed by the military as a deadbeat dad.

The two story lines intersect, of course, because the movie wants to make Turner a woman capable of taking care of herself and therefore the “damsel in distress” role goes to the teenage Samantha.

I will say this about JRNGB: The artificiality I felt in the first film is no longer there.  But, again, this movie plays out like a low budget actioner, with our characters running from one place to the next and building up the information needed to arrest the big bad guy while staying one step ahead of his very deadly henchman.

Unfortunately, this is nothing we haven’t seen many, many times before and, now and again, done much better.

Despite this, the worst one can say about JRNGB is that it falls in the middle of the action/adventure film pack.  Its a film you don’t hate as you watch it but, after you’re done, you realize there wasn’t all that much “there” there.

If you have absolutely nothing better to do and have a couple of hours to kill, you could do far worse than spend the time with JRNGB.  Having said that, there are far better things you could do with that time as well.

Take that as you will.

Just plain nonsense…

Have you heard of the Juicero?  Its a brand new product that looks like this:

Image result for juicero

The Juicero (on the left of the picture) is a Wi-Fi enabled device Silicon Valley invested some $120 million on and which you can buy for a mere $400.  Its function is to squeezes juice out of the packets you see on the middle to the far right of the above photograph.

Looks all neat and futuristic, right?

Only problem is: People quickly found out you can squeeze the freaking juice out of those juice bags with your own hands, so why in the world would you spend $400 on a machine that does what your own hands can do for you for free?

Think I’m pulling your leg?  Can’t believe that someone would invest a single dollar, much less $120 million on a device like that?  Then check out this article by Timothy B. Lee and found on Vox.com:

Silicon Valley invested $120 Million in a $400 Juicer that works as well as your hands

Still having trouble believing such nonsense could possibly ever rise above a pitch, much less be so well funded and ultimately sold on the market?  Here’s a video by Bloomberg which shows the Juicero in action versus a pair of…hands:

If I were an investor in this *cough* beautiful new tech, I’d be looking for a really high window to jump out of.

Not because of the money I just lost, but because of the embarrassment that I was taken for a ride.

I mean, if the Juicero was like a blender and you put fresh fruit/veggies into it and it produced your drink, that’s one thing.  But taking bags of already made juice and simply squeezing the bag’s contents into a cup…?  And then asking a “mere” $400 (ok, $399) for this wonderful product which, to its eternal credit, has Wi-Fi?!?

It’s like creating a $400 machine that takes your cans of Coke or Pepsi or YooHoo or whathaveyou and punches a hole in their bottom and then drains the contents into a cup.

Seriously, what the hell?!

I imagine there are many very red faces out there who bought into and invested in this silly -and completely useless- product.

I just hope none of them lost more money than they could afford.

Well that’s annoying…

Early last year I was delighted (though soon became very saddened) by the release of not one, not two, but three albums in those early months I was interested in.

The first to arrive, David Bowie’s Blackstar, was a delight but things got really sad really quickly when a couple of days after the release of the album Mr. Bowie passed away.

The other two albums I was interested in were released by heavy metal artists I’d been following many years, Megadeth’s Dystopia and Anthrax’s For All Kings.

I bought both albums and enjoyed them though I must admit neither album turned me on as much as some of the classic material either band released during their best years.

Nonetheless, I happily bought the product and was content to add them to my collection.

That is, until a friend pointed out Anthrax did a cover of Kansas’ hit song Carry On A Wayward Son

I was intrigued with the son.  Anthrax did a damn good job of covering the song, IMHO, and I was interested in getting it.

Curious as to where I could pick it up I did a search of Anthrax tunes on Amazon, where I bought For All Kings and realized to my horror that this song, along with two others, was available on the deluxe version of For All Kings.

Now, why was this realization made to my “horror”?

Because I bought the “regular” version of the album through Amazon and was not aware a “deluxe” version was in the works or even released until a week or so ago, the purchase I made, which has 11 of the 14 songs on the “deluxe” version, is nonetheless considered by Amazon a completely separate entity from the “deluxe” edition.

Therefore, the three bonus songs on the “Deluxe” edition, Vice of the People, Carry On A Wayward Son, and Black Math, have to be bought separately.

Which would be OK except… you can’t do that.  Not all three songs, anyway.  Not through Amazon.

While I could -and did!- buy both Vice of the People and Carry On A Wayward Son for $1.29 a pop, the song Black Math is an “album only” exclusive.

In other words, if I want to get that last song, I need to buy the entire “Deluxe” album ($10.41 at this moment) to get it.  Which means I have to essentially re-purchase the entire “regular” album -and the two bonus songs I already purchased- to get that one extra song!

What kind of crap is that?!?

So I had to look around and found, to my delight, the song was available through iTunes.

So, its another $1.29 to spend…all in the pursuit of something I really wish had been made known back when the album was originally released in early 2016.

I know, I know…first world problems.

News of the strange…yet understandable

This appeared in the news yesterday, as written by the KATU staff and appearing on the KATU.com website:

Oregon man passes away peacefully after being told Donald Trump was impeached

I’ve noted before I don’t like to foray into the field of politics but by the Gods the Donald Trump presidency has proven about as bad as I feared it might be.

And I thought President G. W. Bush was a disaster!  (I still think he was…but Trump’s in a whole ‘nuther category of bad).

On Writing: Foreshadowing

Foreshadowing has existed in storytelling since, well, almost from the moment stories were first conceived.

What is foreshadowing?  This is one of the definitions found on vocabulary.com:

Foreshadowing is used as a literary device to tease readers about plot turns that will occur later in the story.

When my daughter was reading the very famous (and quite ancient) Greek play Oedipus Rex, I was struck by how many times characters, in talking to Oedipus, foreshadow/explain/hint to how he is the one who committed the sins which in turn has lead to what plagues his kingdom and how he will have to atone for them by the end of the play.  In fact, it got to the point where a seer all but says: “Listen carefully, knucklehead, your actions are the problem here.  You did the deed(s)!”

I won’t spoil what the “deed(s)” were, but in fiction, there are few who created a worse situation for themselves and those around them (family and friends) than good ol’ Oedipus.

But like most literary devices, foreshadowing can be mis-used and/or abused.  To that end, the reason for this post is to present an example of what I feel is a case of foreshadowing gone a little too far.  It happens to have occurred in a film directed by Steven Spielberg and which many, including myself, feel it is one of his all-time best works: Jaws.

Now I’ll caution you in advance here: What I’m about to write about here may well be construed as “nit-picking” and I don’t deny that.

And to be perfectly clear, Jaws, to me is an absolutely terrific film that very much deserves all the kudos it got when first released and deservedly sits in the pantheon of all time great films.

Having said that, this one scene in the film, too heavy with foreshadowing, is the only scene in the film that really bugs me.

Your mileage, as they say, most certainly will vary.

If you’ve seen Jaws, you know the basic story: Small coastal town has a shark problem and eventually three people, Police Chief Brody (played by Roy Schneider), shark hunter/ornery old bastard Quint (a magnificent Robert Shaw), and young/book-wise yet green/spoiled rich kid Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) head out into the sea to hunt the shark down.

Things go from bad to worse as the shark turns out to be an extraordinary -and very frightening!- creature who very quickly turns the tables on our protagonists and the old cliché of “the hunters become the hunted” proves very true.

Jaws is taunt, exciting, funny, and terrifying but let’s hone in on that one scene -actually that one little bit of dialogue- which bugs me.  It’s so ham-handed and obvious and practically screams to the viewers what’s going to happen in the movie’s climax.

I’m referring to the scene where Brody accidentally loosens the air tanks from their place which in turn causes Hooper to go ape-shit.

Now, before I go any further, a BIG SPOILER: These same air tanks, and their supposed volatility, play a key role in the movie’s conclusion.  I’ll say no more.

Going back to that scene, Hooper’s physical action following the air tanks being loosened tells the audiences that these tanks are dangerous while telling Brody the very same.

I looked around YouTube for the full clip of what I’m talking about but, alas, couldn’t find it in its entirety.  Someone used the start of the scene in question to create the following -somewhat- humorous bit…

Of course this does not actually happen in the movie.

What happens is that, as I mentioned before, Brody accidentally unties the tanks and Hooper goes ballistic.  He is very frightened by what Brody accidentally did and goes on to state, among other things, the following:

“You screw around with these tanks and they’re going to blow up.”

At this point the audience now has two very strong bits of foreshadowing regarding these air tanks.  One was presented by Richard Dreyfuss’ physical acting and his very animated reaction to the tanks coming loose.  The other is this scary bit of dialogue.

Unless they’ve dozed off, by now the audience should be all too clear on the notion that if these tanks are handled incorrectly, they can blow up on you.

So where does this foreshadowing go wrong?

Immediately after what I explained above, we get a third foreshadowing element, this one coming from Robert Shaw’s Quint.  He states the following which, to me, goes (pardon the pun) overboard:

“Expensive gear you’ve brought out here, Mister Hooper.  I don’t know what that bastard shark is going to do with it.  Might eat it, I suppose.  Seen one eat a rocking chair one time.”

Again, we’re dealing with one tiny bit of dialogue here and, yes, as I mentioned above you’re not wrong to accuse me of nit-picking, especially when almost every line that comes out of Robert Shaw’s mouth in this film is pure acting gold.

However, can you agree with me that by the time Quint states this curious line and after the danger of the tanks has been well established (twice!), Quint noting a shark might “eat” the air tank, especially given what happens at the movie’s climax, feels like a bit…much?

Of course, it could have been worse.  Quint could have continued rambling on…

“So yeah, I’ve seen one eat a rocking chair one time but boy, if one of those tanks should find its way into a shark’s mouth -I’m not saying our shark’s mouth, mind you- and that bastard tries to eat it and someone -I’m not saying who- fires a round into the tank while the shark’s chewing on it… Man, that sure would create some explosion, wouldn’t it?  A real blast, right Mr. Hooper?  Mr. Hooper?  Where are you, Mr. Hooper?”

Okay, okay, I suppose that’s just me.

Keeping Up With The Joneses (2016) a (mildly) belated review

Disappointments come in sizes large and small.  In part, being disappointed about something can be the result of expectations and, in the case of Keeping Up With The Joneses, that may well be the biggest problem with this film.

With a cast consisting of Zach Galifianakis, Isla Fisher, Jon Hamm, and Gal Gadot (plus at least one more surprise star who shows up at the end of the film…you can easily look up who it is but its better to let the film surprise you at least once there) and directed by Greg Mottola (who directed episodes of Arrested Development along with films like Superbad and Adventureland), one comes into the film hoping, nay, expecting to be entertained by the hilarity.

Yet following seeing this pleasant but forgettable film, one can’t help but be, as I said above, disappointed.

Look, Keeping Up With The Joneses is not a terrible film.  What it is is a surprising toothless comedy wherein the cast and situations presented are often so tame as to make you wonder exactly what the makers of this film were up to.

I’m not saying the movie would have been better as some kind of bawdy hard “R” comedy, its just that everyone here seems so pleasant and nice and the situations they encounter, with the exception of two action sequences, so mild and toothless that you wonder why anyone bothered.

Zach Galifianakis, who has been quite good in past comedies, plays Jeff Gaffney, a boring family man who works for the Human Resources division in a high tech company.  He and Karen (Isla Fisher), his wife, let their kids go to summer camp and, for the first time in years, have an “empty nest”.  Instead of getting down to that lovin’ business, they continue their boring lives while across the street and in their cul de sac neighborhood a house is sold and its new owners, played by Jon Hamm and Gal Gadot, move in.

They have movie star looks (duh) and what appears to be a very exciting life versus the boring ones this suburban neighborhood has.

They are also, as you know from the commercials, more than they’re letting on.  It turns out they’re some kind of super-spies investigating the company Jeff Gaffney works for.

Of the plot, there’s little else to be said.  The movie rolls along, pleasant enough and with a few chuckles here and there (and, to be fair, a few bigger laughs as well, though they are few and far between) but when all is said and done you can’t help but wonder why everyone bothered.

This is a film that could have used a far sharper script and perhaps an edgier presentation.  Something, anything, to get it out of being what it is: Mediocre.