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September 2017 Fall TV Series Premiere Dates

September 20, 2017

I’m a little late in gathering this information, but I wanted to post a collection of the premiere dates for TV series I either watch already or want to watch.

Narcos (September 1st, Netflix, Season 3) – I haven’t seen any episodes of this Pablo Escobar series yet, but I’ve heard enough good things that I want to watch it eventually.

Biggie: The Life of Notorious B.I.G. (September 4th, A&E, miniseries) – I didn’t know this existed until 30 minutes ago. I guess it’s an authorized biography told documentary style over two hours. As a huge fan, I’ll watch it whenever it becomes easily accessible.

American Horror Story: Cult (September 5th, FX, Season 7) – I’ve only seen season one and parts of seasons two and three, but I plan to watch the whole series eventually. I will be walking through the American Horror Story: Roanoke maze at Halloween Horror Nights next month.

BoJack Horseman (September 8th, Netflix, Season 4) – I haven’t watched an episode of this either but I’ve read some stellar reviews.

The Deuce (September 10th, HBO, Season 1) – HBO series about porn and prostitution in NYC during the 1970s and 1980s starring James Franco and Maggie Gyllenhaal. Haven’t heard much about it so far, but it’s on my radar.

American Vandal (September 15th, Netflix, Season 1) – Not sure what this is all about, but the trailer I’ve seen looked pretty funny.

Vice Principals (September 17th, HBO, Season 2) – Haven’t seen this HBO comedy series starring Danny McBride yet, but might watch it some day.

Jerry Before Seinfeld (September 19th, Netflix, Stand-Up Comedy Special) – A Jerry Seinfeld stand-up special is obviously must watch television.

Gotham (September 21st, Fox, Season 4) – I’m a huge Batman fan, but this show is still kind of a guilty pleasure for me. It’s not particularly good – there’s plenty of things horribly wrong with it – but I can’t stop watching either. Judging from the teaser images, it seems like Bruce will be starting his Batman journey this season, so that’s something to look forward to. I have a few more episodes to watch in season 3, but I’ll be recording season four and staying up to date.

Fuller House (September 22nd, Netflix, Season 3) – Another guilty pleasure. This show has been more entertaining than I was expecting it to be. It’s perfect for watching with my wife.

DuckTales (September 23rd, DisneyXD, reboot, Season 1) – A childhood classic comes back! I don’t even know what DisneyXD is or if I even have it in my cable package, but a DuckTales reboot is notable stuff!

The Big Bang Theory (September 25th, CBS, Season 11) – I think I stopped watching this show after four or five seasons and it’s not because I didn’t enjoy it – I just didn’t have cable or make the time. I have no idea if it’s still good, but any series that gets eleven seasons is noteworthy.

Young Sheldon (September 25th, CBS, Season 1) – This is a Big Bang Theory spinoff focusing on Sheldon Cooper’s childhood. I watched the trailer for the series and the tone was really weird. They don’t appear to be doing a sitcom format, but rather a somewhat serious dramedy with no laugh track. I’m kind of intrigued, but I have a feeling this will bomb.

This Is Us (September 26th, NBC, Season 2) – I haven’t seen this show either, but this is another show that has had some stellar reviews and feels like a must watch for me. I will record season two and try to catch up quickly.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine (September 26th, Fox, Season 5) – I don’t watch this Andy Samberg cop comedy, but I have seen some episodes and they were funny and enjoyable enough that I feel like the premiere date is worth mentioning.

The Blacklist (September 27th, NBC, Season 5) – I’ve seen the first season and maybe the second season – I’m not sure. This was a show my wife and I were watching together, but it’s more in the guilty pleasure category and it’s not super important to me that we continue on. If she wants to pick it back up some day, I would be will to keep going.

Modern Family (September 27th, ABC, Season 9) – This show is brilliant, but last time I watched it Ariel Winter was a dorky, young teenager – not an Instagram model. I would very much like to catch up with this show, but we will probably wait until it’s finished before marathoning through the whole series together.

Grey’s Anatomy (September 28th, ABC, Season 14) – What? Season 14?! I stopped watching this show a decade ago! I think I watched the first 4-6 seasons, but this was a guilty pleasure for me, at best. I have zero interest in what has happened over the past 7+ seasons, but I had to list the premiere because I’m absolutely stunned that it’s still on the air. 14 seasons is incredible.

Marvel’s Inhumans (September 29th, ABC, Season 1) – This is noteworthy because it’s Marvel, but I have read HORRIBLE reviews, so I’ll mention here, but I do not plan on watching this show.

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Muckleshoot Summer Classic 2017 – Poker Blog

September 19, 2017

I always look forward to Muckleshoot’s big poker series that happens twice a year, but I have to say my results in that casino have been pretty poor. I’ve cashed the $750 Main Event three times, but I’ve never final tabled an event in this series. My plan is usually to play all the events, but if I whiff the first three events I skip the $500 tournament if I don’t have any points for Player of the Series. I just don’t think it’s very good value for a $500 buy in and I’d rather take the day off and relax before the Main Event so I’m as fresh as I can possibly be for the best tournament Washington state has to offer.

Event #1: $250 No Limit Hold Em Shootout

The first event was the $250 NL Shootout – a tournament I have never cashed. I have probably only been a regular in this series since maybe 2015, so when I say I’ve never cashed it, I’m like 0-4 or 0-5, which sucks, but isn’t too crazy considering my fair share of cashes is 10%. I could win two of my next four tries and be running way above average overall. Small samples! For those that don’t know, a Shootout format plays like a one table tournament. You start with 10 players and play down to 1 winner and there is no balancing amongst other tables. All tables play down to one winner and those winners all cash and advance to the next round, which in this case combines all 17 winners and plays out like a normal tournament the rest of the way.

I was at a very favorable table, but it’s hard to accumulate chips when your good hands don’t win. Before the first break I had lost with 99 twice, TT, and AJ. I stole the blinds with QQ in the first level. I was sitting at 6600 after starting with an 8000 stack and I hadn’t won any notable hands.

I didn’t write specific notes about this hand but I’m going to do my best to remember it because it was an important one. I believe the blinds were 100-200 with a 25 ante and I had AJ and probably made it 450 or 500 and I got one caller. The flop was 222 and I bet 500, which was probably about 40% of the pot. My opponent made it 1500. This is really weird. I have his range capped somewhere around 99, meaning I think he three bets TT+ preflop most of the time. I think he raises smaller pairs some of the time also, but I think it’s pretty clear that his hand is a small-to-medium pair the vast majority of the time here. After betting 500, I have somewhere around 7k left in my stack, so if I jam it would be 5500 more for him to call in a pot that will be about 9500. I don’t think he should be folding in that spot, which is why his flop raise doesn’t make any sense to me. When I have an overpair he just doubles me up over 90% of the time. Not only do I think raising the flop with his hand is a mistake, I also think he might be capable of folding to a jam. I gave some serious thought to stuffing it. When people make plays that don’t make much sense, they are usually capable of compounding their errors. Part of me thought he made this flop raise because he thought/hoped I had unpaired big cards, but if I go all in, I am now telling him I have a big pair and I really thought he might let it go. I wasn’t certain though and it wouldn’t surprise me if he called it off, so I didn’t pull the trigger. Instead, I flatted. There was now about 3400 in the pot and it cost me 1000 to continue. I thought if I called he was very likely to check back the turn so I figured myself for six outs twice, which makes this play borderline okay as I pick up a Jack or an Ace about 24% of the time. Obviously, in order to make this play profitable, I’m going to have to jam if a King or Queen hits as well. This gives me ~14 scare cards, one of which will appear by the river over half the time, and makes this flop peel very reasonable. Unfortunately, the board came out clean for him and he was able to table his 44 for the win. But he did check back the turn and river so I think my flop call is plenty defensible. This was a pretty frustrating hand because I realized that if I had an overpair he was just going to punt his stack to me so often and it felt like such a wasted opportunity.

That hand left me with 17 big blinds, which I 3-bet jammed over an open with AQ shortly afterwards and lost a flip to TT. Good game.

Bonus Event: $200 Limit Omaha 8 or Better

I didn’t keep any notes for this tournament and my first update on Facebook was 4.5 hours in saying I had five bigs with 22 players left and 10 of us cashing. While I can’t recall any notable hands up to this point, my ride from here was pretty wild and included an all-time great bad beat. Limit formats can create some interesting spots that don’t come up in No Limit tournaments. For instance, I was left with less than two big blinds TWICE. In NL, you just get all the chips in and if you lose you’re out; but in limit, especially in a split pot game, you don’t have to get all the chips in and you frequently get portions of the pot back. I tried to get all in on the flop in one hand, but my opponent just flatted my raise and when I picked up no additional equity on the turn, I checked back, and ended up saving my last bet instead of busting because I was “priced in.” So they had me down to less than two big blinds, not once but twice, and I managed to run that up to a 10 big blind stack when this catastrophe happened:

I opened to 12000 at 3000/6000 with A753 plus a suited ace and only the big blind defended. The flop came down a beautiful AQ2 rainbow, giving me top pair, a wheel draw, and a back door nut flush draw. My opponent check-called and then led into me when a 4 hit on the turn. What a dream spot! I had the mortal nuts. I started the hand with 45000 and after raising the turn here, I had managed to get 42,000 of it in the pot holding the nut high and the nut low. My opponent called and then disaster struck: the river was a 3. This is a terrible card because now he’s chopping the pot with me if he has A5, 25, and 45, giving him a wheel he didn’t have before. I wish that’s what he had. What he actually had was 654X, giving him a wheel AND a six high straight and 75% of the pot. I went from scooping a 90K pot to losing half my stack instead. There were 14 players left in the tournament at this point and scooping that hand would have put me second in chips. First place was $3500. Needless to say, that one hurt a little. I ended up folding my big blind and got my last 3 or 4 bigs in from the small blind and I was out of miracles and out of the tournament in 14th place.

It was 1 AM and I had been playing poker since noon with nothing to show for it and I was reeling from that brutal pot. Even though I was already bought in for the next day, I realized I absolutely did not want to come back and play at noon. I sold my seat and took the next day off.

Event #3: $300 No Limit Hold Em

I wrote some scattered notes for this tournament so I’ll do my best to piece it together. I had 20k from 12k starting after the first three levels and I was loving my table. I was controlling the action pretty well and didn’t have any massive confrontations early. Here are some notable hands from the first few levels (they may or may not take place in sequence):

I open AQ and button and big blind call. Flop is A32 all clubs and I have no club. I size a little larger than normal since I’m out of position against one player and my hand is very vulnerable. Only the big blind calls. The turn is a ten that is not a club. My opponent check-calls again. When the dealer is bringing the river I am watching my opponent and not the board so I am quite displeased when I see him reaching for chips and tossing a 3200 bet out. The river is not a club though and pairs the 3, so I am quite perplexed. His bet is pretty polarizing: he either has a flush or a full house or he’s bluffing his missed draws. I don’t know this player very well, but I would guess he’s probably not bluffing often enough here. Still, since I don’t have any great reads at this point, folding is pretty weak and I pay off his king high flush.

I completed 76 from the small blind and saw a flop of T76 in a 3-way pot. My hand is pretty vulnerable to free cards here but the pot is small, so I decide to check and the limper bets 600. I make it 1650 to go and he snap calls. The turn is an Ace and I lead 2000 and he folds, exposing a ten.

This hand takes place in level six and by this point the action at my table has slowed substantially and I’ve gone card dead, so I get frisky – hoping to exploit the current trend of tight play and my nitty image – by opening Q8hh from UTG+1 and make it 900 at 200/400 with a 50 ante. Only the big blind defends and then he leads out a hefty 1600 on the 984 flop with two spades and one heart. This is the same player that check-called twice with the nut flush earlier, so I think it’s reasonable to rule out very strong holdings from his range. I don’t love calling this bet size but considering I have a pair and a back door flush draw, as well as knowing his history of slow playing strong hands, I have to continue. The turn is a 5 and he bets 3200. The only draw that completed was 76 and I think it’s very unlikely that he will fire another bullet with 9x on the river, so my plan is to call again and probably fold the river if I don’t improve and he bombs it. The river was a 6 and now he checked it to me. I was never considering the possibility of turning my hand into a bluff, but now the opportunity was presenting itself. He had a little less than 6000 behind and there was around 12k in the middle. I obviously have a hand with plenty of showdown value, so checking back is reasonable, but what I really want to do is fold out his 9x hands. He’s never calling with his missed draws and I already ruled out his stronger holdings (sets), but I think he can fold his 9x and possibly his two pair hands here. Granted, I don’t have many 7x hands in my range (97s, 87s, 76s, A7ss, 77) and I probably wouldn’t try bluffing here against a better player, but I think he’s scared of the four card straight more than he’s thinking about my actual range and I only need this bluff to get through 33% of the time to break even, so it’s a pretty easy shove for me. He folds.

Two rounds later, I’m sitting on about a 22 big blind stack when it folds to me on the button and I look down at AJ. The small blind has me covered and the big blind has about 19 bigs to start the hand. I believe the player in the big blind is a thinking player and will realize I’m opening wide on the button and possibly try to exploit that by playing back at me with less than premium holdings. The small blind appears to be straight forward. Blinds are 400/800 and my plan is to open to 2000 and fold to a 3-bet from the small blind but get it in against the big blind. The small blind folds and the big blind does raise me, to about 7500, which is odd considering she has a reshove stack. Still, I didn’t waste time thinking about her sizing and got it in quickly and she snap-called with AK and I found myself crippled after the hand. I’ve been thinking about this one, wondering if she’s really ever 3-betting me light. I think it’s pretty standard to get it in with the AJ here, but I might be able to make exploitive folds against this player. While I’m sure she knows I’m capable of raising light on the button here, I’m not convinced she’s willing to exploit me by jamming hands like A8 or 33. I’m okay with the play, but I may be overestimating her capabilities here.

I doubled my remaining three bigs by winning with 44 vs KQ and then my 8 bigs jam with AQ lost to AK even though I turned plenty of equity with the nut flush draw and chop outs to a straight.

Event #5: $750 No Limit Hold Em Main Event

I kept some solid notes for this one and I actually felt like I played very well and had a strong read on all my opponents, but things did not go my way at all.

With the blinds at 25/50, there was a limper or two and the player to my right made it 250 to go. I had pocket tens. This is a hand that I like to flat this early in the tournament, but I do need to 3-bet it some of the time in order to keep my reraising range balanced. I think this is actually a good spot to make the raise, but in this instance I elected to call and six players ended up seeing the flop. On an 873 rainbow flop it checks to the preflop raiser who bets 500 into a 1500 pot, which is actually a pretty weak bet in this situation. With four players left to speak behind me though, I think calling and seeing what happens is best here. Five of us end up seeing the turn, which is a Jack. Now the preflop aggressor bets 1700 into a pot of 4000. I could have the best hand here and calling is probably standard, but since no one showed any real strength on the flop and because I had two tens in my hand, I decided to represent the T9 straight and made it 4100 to go. It’s really hard for anyone else to have the nuts and I thought there was some chance that my opponent would fold an overpair and if he called, I could make some decisions on the river, whether I wanted to continue the bluff or just show my hand down. While the other four players did fold, I was rather shocked when the aggressor reraised me to 9500. That is something I did not expect. Holding two blockers to the nuts, I felt pretty confident that if he did continue, it would be with a call. Instead, I ended up having to fold and he made a classy comment of “nice try.”

With the blinds still at 25/50 the cutoff opened to 250 and I defended 99 from the big blind. This is another potential 3-bet hand, but facing this raise size (which is huge), I went with a call. The flop was J43 and my opponent quickly checked behind. I lead out 350 when I turned a set and he called. The river was an 8 and I had already established my opponent as a calling station so even though it seemed like he was on the weaker side of his range, I decided to bet 1500 into 1225, as I thought he wouldn’t fold any pair and could very well call me with ace high. He did not oblige – he made it 3500 instead. This is not a fist pump and call situation. In fact, it very well might be a fold. Still, there is some chance he rivered a set of 8s and it’s not like I have so much history with this player that I can reliably start folding sets to him. So after giving it the “wow, how unlucky am I” head nod for about 10 seconds, I realized I’m never folding this hand and should stop wasting everyone’s time. Plus, the longer I wait, the more of an asshole I’m going to look like when my set of 9s are good. So I called and lost to his QT straight.

For some reason, our table was really limpy at the 75/150 level and I found myself limping along with 77 in a 5-way pot and getting the 764 with two spades flop. Everyone checked to me and I bet 500 into 750 and only one of the blinds called. The turn gave me quads and I bet 850 into 1750 and was called again. The river was a Ten and my opponent checked again. As I was thinking about my bet sizing with 3450 in the pot, I saw that she was shuffling her cards around in front of her and generally looking like she was going to fold. But this isn’t a player that I think is unaware of her body language, so I actually thought this meant she was trying to induce a bluff and was very likely to call, so I sized up at 2200 and she didn’t take very long to put the call out.

In the very next hand, I was able to limp along again with 66 and flopped another set on a very similar board, this time the 765 with two clubs. One of the limpers led out 350 into 750 and was called by another limper. I elected to make it 1450 on such a draw heavy board and both those players called. The turn was an 8 and I was pretty sad to see a 16.5k shove and a 21k shove before the action got to me. Obviously, I no longer have the best hand, but we were still in the re-entry period and it’s worth taking some time to try and figure out the math of the situation. I had around 20k behind and it was going to cost me all of it to see the river. So with 41.6K in the pot, I had to call 20K and I had ~10 outs once, or roughly 20%. So I had to put up 33% of the pot and I’m only going to get there 20% of the time. Mathematically, it’s a clear fold, especially since I still had a starting stack behind. I think if this was a smaller tournament still in the re-entry period, I would gamble with the worst of it for a chance to have a 60k stack in level 3, but I didn’t love the idea of busting out 80% of the time and paying another $750 for the stack I had sitting in front of me already. So I folded and the A9cc missed its freeroll versus the 96hh when a Jack hit the river.

My next critical hand at the 75/150 level saw someone opening from early position to 350 and I picked up AA and made it 1125. She called that raise and we saw a flop of QJ8 with two clubs and one spade. This is a poor flop for my hand – especially since both my aces were red – and it smacks her calling range pretty hard, so when she checked to me, I decided to check it back and let a card roll off. The turn was an ugly 9 of spades and she led out 1500. I’m losing to a lot of hands. The better question is, what hands would she raise/call with preflop that I’m still beating? AK, KQ, AQ? Maybe AJ suited? With two aces in my hand, I’m blocking the hands I want her to have pretty hard, plus AQ and KQ aren’t really hands it makes sense for her to bet here. At this point, it’s a pretty trivial fold, but it feels a bit bizarre to put zero chips in the pot after the flop heads up holding AA in position. I think it’s reasonable to bet the flop here, but I hate it if I get check-raised and even if she just calls there are going to be a lot of bad run outs for my hand. This is not the kind of board I want to play a big pot with. I think I get the best value out of my hand by checking back the flop and betting good turn cards when checked to or calling if she bets and then deciding on the river. She later told me she had TT and while I’m not saying that’s the gospel truth it’s certainly a hand that makes sense.

Here’s another hand I thought I botched. With the blinds at 100/200 and a 25 ante two players with wide ranges limped in from mid and late position and I made it 700 to go with K8 of clubs on the button. I think this play picks up the pot a decent portion of the time preflop and when I get called, I’m positive they fold often enough on the flop to make this play profitable – and that’s ignoring the times I actually make the best hand. They did both call, as did one of the blinds – not my dream scenario – and we ended up seeing a flop of AK2 rainbow, but with the 2 of clubs. Everyone checked to me and while this is a great hand to check behind, I think betting is perfectly reasonable. I’m not really worried about either of the limpers having an ace when they decide to call from later positions, so I frequently have the best hand and I should just bet it for value and try to win this pot right now. A check would make a lot more sense in a heads up pot, but I went with a check here. The turn card brought the 3 of spades, which opened up a spade draw and it checked to the player to my right and he bet 1000. Easy call for me and everyone else folded. The river was a ten and now he bet 2200 into what was about a 5100 pot. I actually hated this bet sizing because it screamed value. I had seen this player bluff the river and get picked off a couple of times now and I was really picking up the vibe that he had a hand this time. I even said “I don’t think you’re bluffing this time” aloud, but I was having a hard time coming up with hands that made sense because I didn’t think he had an ace and I didn’t think it made much sense to bet any other one pair hand, so his value range is super narrow – sets and straights, that’s about it. I went against my instincts and called and he showed me a hand that made perfect sense: the QJ of spades. Going back to my flop line on this hand, I’m not saying I made a mistake because of how the hand turned out, but in retrospect, I think a bet is my best play there. With about 2800 in the pot and a good flop for my range that isn’t susceptible to many draws, I would have sized small, probably 1200 at most, and the player with the QJ of spades would have almost certainly peeled the turn and I would have lost anyway… but still, I like to make the right plays, regardless of results.

At this point, I had lost with pocket aces and two sets and was having a really hard time accumulating any chips. I seemed to be losing most of the pots I played and I had ran my 20k starting stack down to 6k, so when the under the gun player made it 800 with the blinds at 150-300 and I looked down at AK in the big blind, I had a very easy reshove and she snapped with JJ and I lost the race.

I’m not going to lie, it’s pretty frustrating how I haven’t been able to have any breakthrough success at Muckleshoot. The data on my phone goes back to August of 2014 and I’ve lost more money at Muckleshoot than ANY casino and it’s one of only two casinos that I’ve played 70+ hours at during that span and have not won money overall. Granted, I don’t grind cash games there (53 hours in 3+ years) but I’ve played 30 tournaments and only cashed 4 of them (13.3%) and I have zero final tables. It’s still a pretty small sample size and I’m confident things will turn around eventually – especially if I increase my volume – but I have to say I’m tired of this stigma I have with Muckleshoot Casino!

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The Love Witch (2016), Hush (2016), Little Evil (2017)

September 11, 2017

The Love Witch (2016) – Curse the Best Movies of 2016 list that I saw this film on! But it’s hard to blame one list – The Love Witch sits at 96% on Rotten Tomatoes. This is one movie the critics and I did not agree on… not even a little bit. When the critics love a movie I could barely sit through, it makes me wonder what they were seeing that I didn’t. The Love Witch has gotten praise for its 1970s retro look and if there’s anything to like about this film it’s certainly the visual presentation. But I couldn’t get into the story at all and while Samantha Robinson gives a sultry performance in the lead role, she delivers all her dialog in a cadence that borders on parody and if this film is supposed to be a parody of something, I have to say it went over my head or I wasn’t paying close enough attention. I admittedly tuned out pretty early in the film and I almost quit it, so I have to admit this might not be the most fair review, but if a movie doesn’t grab my attention at all in the first 45 minutes, how good can it possibly be? The Love Witch is unrated and while it has a fair amount of nudity and sexual content, it’s not that sexy. This movie didn’t work for me as a parody, a comedy, or a horror film. It obviously has an audience, but I hated it and I doubt many of the people that read my reviews would like it either.

Replay Value: I’ve read reviews that say repeated viewings are worthwhile but that’s a hard pass for me.
Sequel Potential: The Love Witch grossed less than $300K so I’m going with none.
Oscar Potential: None

Grade: 3/10 (Skip It)

Hush (2016) – This was a solid horror thriller about a deaf woman living by herself in the woods and fighting for her life when a Jabbawockee shows up outside her window and does a killer dance routine. Just kidding. Hush is serious horror and there is nothing funny about this movie. This is a killer reminiscent of Michael Myers in the original Halloween, before he couldn’t be killed and was just your standard psychopath that really enjoyed murdering people… with a mask on. We don’t know why this man shows up outside this window or what his motives are and, let’s be honest, there are plenty of killers like that in the real world. And that’s part of what makes Hush scary: the idea that someone can be lurking right outside your bedroom window isn’t all that farfetched. Making the main character deaf certainly raises the stakes and writer/director Mike Flanagan and writer/star Kate Siegel (a married couple in real life) come up with plenty of scenarios that bring Maddie’s handicap into play. Siegel gives such a convincing performance that I wondered if she is actually deaf (she is not). Hush is a scary and fun horror film that seems to be overlooked. If you’re a fan of the genre you should definitely check this movie out while it’s streaming on Netflix.

Replay Value: I’ll probably never see this again, but it was fun enough that I would enjoy it a second time.
Sequel Potential: Horror movies always have potential for sequels… but I would imagine this doesn’t get one.
Oscar Potential: None… but Kate Siegel got nominated for Best Actress in various genre award shows.

Grade: 6/10 (Recommended)

Little Evil (2017) – Here’s another review that isn’t going to be very fair. My wife started watching this Netflix exclusive that started streaming earlier this month on her own and I sort of picked it up about 30 minutes or so into it. The gist is Adam Scott marries Evangeline Lilly and becomes step daddy to her kid, a child that may or may not be the spawn of Satan. My wife thought I would like it, but it was pretty stupid and it’s not funny enough to make up for how corny it is. Adam Scott does a fine job, but Lilly’s performance is hokey and could have been done by any run-of-the-mill actress. The kid isn’t anything special either. I may have missed the answer to this question, but I was wondering how Scott’s character decides to marry this woman while having such an apprehensive relationship with her kid. Also, the film seems to resolve its primary conflict because it’s time for the movie to end and not because of any natural progression between stepdad and stepson. Little Evil is a moderately interesting concept with a subpar execution. This movie is something to have on in the background while you’re doing something else and little more.

Replay Value: None.
Sequel Potential: Definitely potential for a sequel but who is going to want it?
Oscar Potential: None.

Grade: 3/10 (Skip It)

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It (2017): A Horror Masterpiece?

September 8, 2017

Starring: Bill Skarsgard, Jaeden Lieberher, Finn Wolfhard, Sophia Lillis, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Jack Dylan Grazer
Director: Andy Muschietti (Mama, Inception, Memento)

Bottom Line: I loved It. Seriously. During the first half I wanted to stand up and yell out how much I was enjoying the movie. That’s how deliriously giddy I was. Basically all my critiques about the novel are completely absent from this adaptation and all the things I hated about the miniseries are fixed (you can read my spoiler filled reviews of those by clicking here). It’s like director Andy Muschietti and his team of writers took a nice looking statue and chiseled away until it was perfection. Okay, It isn’t quite a perfect film but it’s about as good as you can expect a horror movie to be.

The cast in this movie is borderline unbelievable. It’s one of the film’s biggest strengths. I thought the character of loud mouth Richie Tozier was frequently annoying in the book – and maybe he was supposed to be – but Finn Wolfhard (from “Stranger Things“) absolutely crushes this role, with a solid assist from the writers with some hilarious dialogue writing. Seriously, he is going to make people laugh the entire movie. And while the spirit of the character is Stephen King’s creation, Richie Tozier is a highlight of this movie because of someone else’s writing and Finn’s fantastic delivery. Hypochondriac Eddie Kaspbrak is another one of the weaker characters in the book and Jack Dylan Grazer makes him quite enjoyable in this movie. I was also happy with the casting of Stuttering Bill, Beverly Marsh, and Ben Hanscom, and the kids playing Bill and Bev do a good job of carrying the film. The final two kids in The Loser’s Club, Stan Uris and Mike Hanlon, sort of get reduced roles in this movie and I was pretty indifferent about it.

Can Tim Curry’s “tour-de-force” performance in the 1990 version ever be topped? Of course it can. It was brutally campy and the construction of the Pennywise scenes were horrible. Unless you have an irrational fear of clowns there was nothing scary about Tim Curry as Pennywise. Now I’m not one that scares easily and I’m more apt to find glee in a well done horror sequence than jump out of my seat in fear, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise is scary as shit. If you’ve seen the trailers for this movie, you can probably already guess that though. Skarsgard is great and while there is some playfulness to his take on Pennywise, there’s nothing campy about it – it’s more along the lines of a child molester trying to lure a kid into his van with a piece of candy playful and he can switch to purely terrifying in a second. In addition to Skarsgard doing a wonderful job, he also looks great and Muschietti gives Pennywise’s presence the gravity that it deserves. This isn’t a deranged Ronald McDonald spouting one-liners on a bender, it’s pure evil personified and pretty much every scene involving the clown form of It are extremely well done.

I have basically no complaints about this movie. There were some things that were left out that I would have liked to have seen, like It taking the forms of the werewolf and the spider, or the scene with the leeches, but I think most of the changes that were made from the source material and the miniseries were huge improvements.

This is a movie about a group of kids squaring off against the town monster, but it’s also a great story about friendship, coming of age, and facing less supernatural terrors like bullies and abusive parents. I would have no problem with someone saying It is basically Stand By Me or The Goonies meets A Nightmare On Elm Street. That’s an apt description, but to label It an A Nightmare On Elm Street rip off would not only be a disservice, it would be misguided since Stephen King was likely writing his novel around the same time Wes Craven was writing the original Freddy Krueger movie.

I can’t recommend this movie enough. If you’re a horror fan, it’s a must watch. It might go down as a genre classic. If you enjoyed the novel or, somehow, the miniseries, I can almost guarantee this movie will make you incredibly happy. Fast-paced, totally scary, and plenty funny, It is easily one of the best times I’ve had at the movies this year.

Also, if you happen to own the 1990 miniseries, you can go ahead and toss it in the trash. There is no reason to ever watch it again now. Seriously.

Replay Value: I can’t wait to see it again. I might go again opening weekend and I will definitely add this to my movie collection.
Sequel Potential: Spoiler alert: this is Chapter One. It is a monster that reappears in Derry every 27 years and it’s no secret that these kids all come back as adults to face off again when It returns. Chapter One is a great stand alone film that pretty much wraps everything up. There is no need for a Chapter Two and the kid portion of Stephen King’s book is significantly better than the adult portion. Still, if they cast well and Andy Muschietti is involved, I will be ecstatic to see Chapter Two.
Oscar Potential: Horror movies historically get zero Oscar attention. I’m not sure It has any obvious candidates.

Grade: 8 (Must See)

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September Movie preview

September 7, 2017

A little late with this preview as I was in Hawaii for the past week.

Anticipation Meter – 5 (Very High)

It (September 8th, theaters) – It has always been one of my favorite Stephen King books and I’ve always hated the 1990 miniseries. I revisited both earlier this year in preparation for this film and you can read my review here. This is the story of a group of kids in the small town of Derry, Maine that take on an ancient evil, a shape-shifting monster that frequently takes the form of Pennywise the clown, that appears every 27 years and murders children. The book is plenty scary and the characters, particularly as kids, are a lot of fun. This film will focus on the kids and the trailers have looked fantastic. After 123 reviews, It currently has a fresh rating of 89%, which is extremely strong for a remake in the horror genre. Possibly my most anticipated film of the year – it checks all my boxes. I might even go see it tonight by myself if I have to.

Anticipation Meter – 4 (Strong)

Wind River (August, theaters) – I think this movie came out in August, but I didn’t include it in my preview, so I’ll include it here. This is a thriller set in a remote Native American Reservation, starring Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen, and written and directed by Taylor Sheridan who wrote Hell or High Water and Sicario. Wind River has a 86% fresh rating, the trailer looked great, and one of my friends already went out of his way to message me and say it’s the best film of 2017. What’s not to love?

mother! (September 15th, theaters) – This movie snuck up on me and I’m not sure how. It’s written and directed by Darren Aronofsky, the guy responsible for Requiem For A Dream, The Wrestler, and Black Swan – all of which made my top 10 films in their respective years of release. mother! also stars my current favorite actress Jennifer Lawrence and another great actor in Javier Bardem. I don’t really know what this movie is about but I don’t care too much. The trailer is perfectly chilling and minimalist, giving an idea of the film’s tone while revealing nothing. Aronofsky does weird really well and this film looks tailor made for another Jennifer Lawrence Oscar campaign. Count me in.

Anticipation Meter – 3 (Moderate)

First They Killed My Father: A Daughter Remembers Cambodia (September 15th, theaters, Netflix) – Directed by Angelina Jolie about a human rights activist trying to survive in Cambodia during an oppressive dictatorship. My wife is Cambodian and I don’t know too much about her family’s culture so I have extra interest in this film.

Battle of the Sexes (September 22nd, theaters) – Emma Stone stars as former #1 women’s tennis star Billie Jean King and Steve Carell stars as ex-men’s champ Bobby Riggs in this film about the high profile tennis match between the two players. From the directors of Little Miss Sunshine and the writer of 127 Hours and Slumdog Millionaire this movie could have some serious Oscar pedigree.

Stronger (September 22nd, theaters) – Based on a true story, Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Jeff Bauman, a man that lost both his legs during the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013. Trailer is solid and looks like a very strong role for Gyllenhaal.

American Made (September 29th, theaters) – Tom Cruise plays a TWA pilot that gets recruited by the CIA to fly for one of the biggest covert CIA operations in American history, one that reaches all the way to the Medillin drug cartel and Pablo Escobar. Directed by Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity), this movie looks like a lot of fun.

Anticipation Meter – 2 (Low)

American Assassin (September 15th, theaters) – CIA thriller starring Dylan O’Brien and Michael Keaton. Looks decent.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle (September 22nd, theaters) – The original was better than I expected it to be. Maybe this one will be too. I’ve seen the trailer about ten times already and I can’t say I really want to see the movie.

Flatliners (September 29th, theaters) – Ellen Page and Diego Luna star in this remake about five medical students trying to uncover the secrets of life after death. Honestly, the trailer doesn’t look very good.

Anticipation Meter – 1 (Nonexistent)

Home Again (September 8th, theaters) – Reese Witherspoon romantic comedy.

The Lego Ninjago Movie (September 22nd, theaters) – This would have to get pretty stellar reviews for me to go see it.

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Headed to Hawaii

August 29, 2017

No updates while I’m on vacation.  I will have my September preview posted when I get back next week.

I will just say I can’t wait for IT!!

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The Handmaiden (2016)

August 28, 2017

Starring: Min-hee Kim, Tae-ri Kim, Jung-woo Ha, Jin-woong Jo
Director: Chan-wook Park (Old Boy)

Bottom Line: There was a time when I used to watch foreign language films on a regular basis – at least the ones that got high critical acclaim and Oscar attention. But I just scrolled through all my reviews and the only foreign language film I’ve reviewed in the past five years was The Raid: Redemption. Needless to say, the scope for my love of cinema isn’t what it used to be. But I saw The Handmaiden pop up on a lot of top 10 lists last year and it was even mentioned as the best film of 2016 by multiple people and I put it near the top of my Netflix queue and it finally ended up in my mail box.

After my wife quit on La La Land thirty minutes in, I knew there was no way I was going to subject her to The Handmaiden and I have to say I’m glad I didn’t try. If I did she would probably think I’m some sort of weirdo pervert for liking this movie. It’s highly sexual and more explicit than you might expect. To label it softcore porn isn’t totally unfair, but it would be a slap in the face to what is otherwise a very good thriller with strong characters, a fun and twisted story, and some rather spectacular cinematography.

I didn’t walk away from The Handmaiden thinking it was one of the best films from last year – it didn’t resonate with me like that. But it was plenty enjoyable and at nearly 2.5 hours in length, it never felt like it was dragging. I couldn’t possible recommend this movie to most of the people that read my blog. If you don’t have a history of liking foreign language films, The Handmaiden wouldn’t be the first one I’d recommend. It’s pretty out there and I suspect it would be rated NC-17 if it was released in the United States. But to anyone that doesn’t mind broadening their film horizons and taking in cinema from other cultures, The Handmaiden is well worth a watch.

Replay Value: I would watch it again.
Sequel Potential: None.
Oscar Potential: No Oscar love, but it won a lot of Best Foreign Language Film awards elsewhere, sits at a 8.1 rating on IMDB, and has a metascore of 84 – obviously a very well received film.

Grade: 6.5/10 (recommended/highly enjoyable)