Archive for February, 2017

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Hidden Figures (2016)

February 27, 2017

Starring: Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons, Mahershala Ali
Director: Theodore Melfi (St. Vincent)

Bottom Line: Hidden Figures is a strong and moving drama about three incredibly intelligent black women fighting racism and discrimination as they aid NASA during the 1960s when America and the Soviet Union are battling to put the first man in space. Taraji P. Henson puts together a terrific performance and is quickly rising up the ranks of the most underrated actors in Hollywood. Henson has proven she can play a wide variety of roles at a high level and has received very little award attention for her hard work. Octavia Spencer gives an Oscar-nominated performance and she’s great, but Henson’s role has a bit more meat to it. Janelle Monae was also enjoyable in a supporting role and proves that she can act as well as construct top notch musical albums.

Based on a true story, it was great to see these women fight through the discrimination of being both black and female and succeed at the highest level, while breaking the mold for those to come after them. With strong acting plus a lightly humorous and heartwarming script, Hidden Figures gets a strong recommendation from me.

Replay Value: Not a lot, but it’s worth watching again.
Sequel Potential: N/A
Oscar Potential: Nominations for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress for Octavia Spencer, and Best Adapted Screenplay, but no winners.

Grade: 7.5/10 (highly enjoyable/must see)

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The LEGO Batman Movie (2017)

February 14, 2017

Starring: Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson, Ralph Fiennes, Zach Galifianakis
Director: Chris McKay

Bottom Line: The LEGO Batman Movie is a fun spin-off from the surprisingly touching and brilliant The LEGO Movie of 2014. This film takes Will Arnett’s Batman and plants him firmly in Gotham City, where the Caped Crusader is a celebrated vigilante that basks in his glory while in the limelight but returns to his lonely cave beneath Wayne manor where his loyal butler Alfred and The BatComputer are his only true friends in the world.

Most of the plot in this movie revolves around Batman’s longstanding rivalry with The Joker and how he downplays that relationship and makes The Joker feel unimportant, so Joker tries to unravel a scheme that will prove he is, in fact, Batman’s greatest rival.

The LEGO Batman Movie is definitely nonstop fun and will have most people laughing throughout its entire running time, but it’s not nearly as emotionally captivating as The LEGO Movie was, and probably not as funny either.

Still, it’s not going to disappoint true BatFans. There are plenty of callbacks to Batman’s previous film appearances and his rogues gallery is as well represented as it can possibly be, with all his most prominent enemies (and some totally obscure ones) getting a moment or two in the spotlight.

Will Arnett and Michael Cera are perfect casting as Batman and Robin, giving hysterical vocal performances. The rest of the cast is pretty good too, with one exception, and it’s a pretty critical one: Zach Galifianakis made for a surprisingly subdued and boring Joker. There were moments where I thought I liked the direction he was taking things, but ultimately, I found myself a little disappointed with how straight forward his portrayal was – this Joker is lacking in energy and flair.

As a huge Batman fan and a big fan of The Lego Movie, I had hefty expectations for this movie and it didn’t really disappoint. It’s definitely 90 minutes of fun, but it’s missing that extra layer of depth that turns a merely good movie into a special one. Still, The LEGO Batman Movie is a worthy spin-off and should make for a fun time for all ages.

Replay Value: Most things Batman are a must own for me.
Sequel Potential: The Lego Movie sequel is scheduled for 2019 and would likely feature Batman again. This movie made over $50 million its first weekend and should have some decent legs, so it wouldn’t surprise me if it gets its own sequel.
Oscar Potential: A Best Animated Feature contender only and it’s far too early to know how competitive that category will be.

Grade: 6.5/10 (recommended/highly enjoyable)

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2017 WSOP Schedule

February 7, 2017

Somehow it slipped my notice that the 2017 WSOP schedule has been out for nearly two weeks now, but I got a good look at it last night and have a solid idea of what I will be aiming for.

For those of you that haven’t seen it yet, you can check out the schedule here.

June 1st: $1500 Omaha Hi-Lo 8 or Better (3 day event): This will 100% be my first event. I’m very happy about the timing of it. It allows me to be in Vegas for the start of the series and most of the events I want to play follow shortly afterwards. I had by far my worst performance in this event last year.

June 2nd: THE COLOSSUS III – $565 No Limit Hold Em (6 day event): Best case scenario, I final table the O8 tournament and have to play that event on the 2nd and 3rd, but if I bust out, I have a good 5-6 days before the next event I really want to play and the Colossus is a pretty good way to occupy that time.

June 5th: $1000 Tag Team No Limit Hold Em (3 day event): Very unlikely I will play this event, but could be a fun $500 sweat for my friend Vince and I if we fill up to it.

June 7th: $1500 H.O.R.S.E. (3 day event): This one is an absolute must for me.

June 9th: $565 Pot Limit Omaha (3 day event): Like the Colossus, I’m not really aiming to play this event. My PLO experience is basically zero, so I’d probably just be lighting $565 on fire and even if I did manage to do well, I’d much rather play this next event.

June 10th: $1500 8-Game Mix 6-Handed (3 day event): Another must play event for me.

June 11th: $1500 No Limit Hold Em MILLIONAIRE MAKER (5 day event): The chance for a huge score is appealing, but I’m not making NLHE events a priority over mixed limit events, so most likely I’ll be sitting this one out and focusing on the next one.

June 12th: $1500 Limit Hold Em (3 day event): Can’t miss the $1500 LHE, as limit hold em is easily my best game.

June 23rd: THE GIANT – $365 No Limit Hold Em (3 day event): I think I’m sold on this tournament. The scope of it kind of boggles my mind. There are going to be five day ones, all of which are a week apart, and each player is going to start with 20,000 in chips – more than the Monster Stack – but with 20 minute levels. A $365 turbo full of terrible players that will probably have well over a million allotted for 1st place? Yes please. I can’t imagine fitting The Giant into my first trip, but I can certainly pair it with the Monster Stack during my second visit.

June 25th: $1500 No Limit Hold Em MONSTER STACK (4 day event): Another must play event for me. Been looking forward to playing this one for a while and I don’t see any reason why I won’t finally get to in 2017.

In all likelihood, I will be playing at least five $1500 events and probably the Colossus and Giant as well. I will be selling up to 50-60% for my $1500 events, but will certainly be keeping all my own action for the smaller events. Hit me up with any interest!

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Don’t Think Twice (2016)

February 6, 2017

Starring: Keegan-Michael Key, Gillian Jacobs, Mike Birbiglia
Director: Mike Birbiglia

Bottom Line: Written, directed, and starring Mike Birbiglia, Don’t Think Twice takes a look at what life is like for a group of mid-level improv comedians in New York City trying to break through to the next level – in this case, a “Saturday Night Live” type show called “Weekend Live” – and what happens when one of them does exactly that.

As a poker player, I could actually relate to a lot of what was happening in this movie. Not everyone is created equally. Some people are just naturally gifted. Others work their butts off to become great at their craft. Some people can’t reach elite status no matter how hard they try and then there’s a type of person that just expects things to go their way despite a total lack of effort.

There’s a lot of this dynamic going on in Don’t Think Twice. Keegan-Michael Key plays Jack Mercer, the most naturally gifted in the improv group, and also the sole member to find himself cast in “Weekend Live.” Naturally, the rest of the group wants to piggyback on his success and Jack quickly discovers how difficult it is for the rookie to start asking for favors. And truly, the only group member he really wants to help out is his girlfriend (Jacobs).

It’s interesting watching this group of people that support one another so enthusiastically at the beginning of the film succumb to jealousy when one of their friends finally makes it. At least that’s the case with Mike Birbiglia’s character Miles, the group leader and Jack Mercer’s first improv teacher. As his former mentor, Miles naturally thinks he’s directly responsible for Jack’s success and can’t really wrap his head around why “Weekend Live” wouldn’t want him too.

Don’t Think Twice was my first time seeing Keegan-Michael Key (of “Key and Peele”) and Gillian Jacobs (of “Community”) act in a feature film and I was mostly pleased with their performances. Everybody gets some funny moments, but Key actually gets to show off some dramatic acting chops, while Jacobs isn’t given much to separate herself from the Britta character we already know and love.

One of the better scenes in the film finds the group watching Jack’s first appearance on “Weekend Live” and lamenting on how bad the show is now and wondering if it was ever good, or it just seemed that way because they were 12… which is pretty much how everyone in their mid-30s feels about “Saturday Night Live” now.

Don’t Think Twice is a satisfying dramedy that will make you laugh and possibly make you cry. I wish there were more improv scenes and that those scenes were more diverse, but alas, they are still pretty good. I appreciated the fact that Don’t Think Twice managed to be funny without relying on much low brow humor. If you’re expecting nonstop laughs, you might be disappointed. Instead, you’re just going to have to settle for a well-rounded film full of heart.

Replay Value: I liked it, but I’m not eager to see it again.
Sequel Potential: I would say zero.
Oscar Potential: No nominations.

Grade: 7/10 (highly enjoyable)

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Split (2017), Kubo & The Two Strings (2016), The Nice Guys (2016), The Infiltrator (2016), The Witch (2016)

February 1, 2017

The list of movies I’ve seen and haven’t reviewed is starting to pile up, so I’m just gonna post some quick ones to wipe my slate clean.

Split (2017) – This was a different movie experience for me. While I was waiting in line at the concession stand one of the guys working there said something to another customer that he thought was innocent but it totally spoiled Split for me and it completely changed how I viewed the film. Rather than going in with no expectations other than that M. Knight Shyamalan was almost certainly going to throw us his trademark curveball, I went in with a good idea what that “twist” was going to be and I honestly can’t imagine how much it would have changed my experience if I didn’t have an idea where the story was headed the whole time. Still, even with that massive spoiler, I found Split to be very entertaining. James McAvoy does phenomenal work as Kevin, the antagonist that suffers from multiple personalities and kidnaps three young girls. The film is tense and scary, but still manages to provide laughs despite the incredibly dark subject matter. Along with The Visit in 2015, it seems as though Shyamalan has finally righted the ship after putting out a string of films that are among the worst of the past decade. Split was very enjoyable, despite the annoying spoiler, and I’d recommend it to anyone that enjoys suspense thrillers.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

The Nice Guys (2016) – This was one of the most surprising and entertaining 2016 films I’ve seen. Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling star as scummy P.I. types in the 1970s that team up together to track down a missing girl related to a murder surrounding a porn film. The two actors have great chemistry together and Gosling, in particular, is fantastic playing against type as a bumbling idiot and provides a number of laughs. The real star of the film is Angourie Rice, who plays Gosling’s 13 year old daughter and she can’t help but immerse herself in the case and shows a maturity level far beyond her age – she’s the heart and soul of a film where the two leads are morally challenged. With few notable credits to her name before this movie, it’s safe to say Angourie will be getting a lot of calls now and the next step is playing Betty Brant in this year’s Spider-Man: Homecoming. To date, The Nice Guys rates as the best comedy of 2016 and one of my favorite films of the year.

7.5/10 (Highly Enjoyable/Must See)

Kubo and The Two Strings (2016) – This was an entertaining and funny animated adventure that finds a young boy on a mystical journey while trying to avoid his mother’s evil family. The animation is gorgeous and there are memorable characters, but Kubo doesn’t quite reach special levels of awesome. Still, a fun film that is definitely recommended for families.

6/10 (Recommended)

The Infiltrator (2016) – Bryan Cranston crushes another role, this time as a U.S. Customs officer that goes undercover to infiltrate Pablo Escobar’s drug empire. It was fun seeing Cranston play it straight and then get grimy when he went undercover. Cranston has had a couple of low profile roles the last few years, but did some great work in the movies, even getting nominated for his work in Trumbo. While that might have been the better role, The Infiltrator was a lot more fun to watch.

6.5/10 (Recommended/Highly Enjoyable)

The Witch (2016) – This horror movie from early 2016 got a lot of favorable reviews, but I struggled through it. The pacing was a really slow burn and the pay off wasn’t satisfying enough to justify it. I thought it was kind of confusing and not all that scary, but I didn’t hate it either – there was definitely some solid suspense going on. Anya Taylor-Joy was fun to watch in the lead role and she seems to be carving out a genre niche. Plus, the idea of Black Phillip was pretty cool. Still, I wouldn’t recommend this movie unless you’re a horror fan, and even then, prepare for a slow, not incredibly interesting or particularly scary movie.

4.5/10 (Forgettable/Watchable)