Archive for March, 2017

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April Movie & Music Preview

March 31, 2017

Now that March is over, April provides another slate of new entertainment options, so it’s time for me to give a brief preview of what I’ll be looking forward to next month.

Theatrical Releases: After a strong early start to the year that has already seen high quality films like Get Out and Logan be released, it looks like April is going to be a rather dull month in theaters.

Colossal (April 7th) – I’m not particular interested in this film, but anything that stars Anne Hathaway gets my attention. There’s some sort of monster on the poster and I guess she has some mental problems, but I don’t know anything else about this movie. It might be 2020 before I actually watch it.

The Fate Of The Furious (April 14th) – This has been one of the most surprising franchises of all-time. We are now on movie #8 (and there are two more sequels already announced!) and I don’t even know how many of them I’ve seen up to this point, but I do know that I’ve enjoyed almost all of them and I consider that to be rather shocking. Somehow this series keeps pumping out entertaining flicks, all while keeping it’s core cast together (R.I.P. Paul Walker though). This sequel adds Charlize Theron, Kurt Russell, and Helen Mirren to the mix, while nabbing Straight Outta Compton director F. Gary Gray to run the show. I’m at least one movie behind – maybe two – so chances are I won’t be seeing this in theaters, but with such a slow movie month, maybe I’ll catch up and check it out.

The Circle (April 28th) – Just watched the trailer and it didn’t exactly grab me, but I’m a big Emma Watson fan and Tom Hanks has done pretty good work in recent years when he’s not playing Robert Langdon.

Sleight (some time in April) – Jacob Latimore plays a street musician that may or may not have some sort of superhuman power. One critic described it as “Chronicle meets Iron Man” and the trailer looks interesting enough that it’s on my radar, but again, this is a movie I might not end up watching for a while.

Netflix: In addition to the releases I highlighted last month, Dave Chappelle also released a two part comedy special and it was phenomenal. If you haven’t seen it already, I suggest you make it a priority immediately. Amy Schumer’s special was a total dud – after wondering if I was just being overly critical, I fell asleep during the second half and haven’t had any desire to finish it.

Louis C.K. 2017 comedy special (April 4th) – After watching the Chappelle and Schumer specials, I polled Facebook wondering if there was any comic that has been consistently top shelf for many years and the only answer I got was: Louis C.K. – and I couldn’t argue against it. All his stand up has been fantastic and I’ve really enjoyed the seasons of his show that I’ve seen. No reason not to expect more greatness here.

The BFG (April 6th) – I’m yet to see this Steven Spielberg-directed adaptation of Roald Dahl’s children’s classic, but I will now that it’s streaming next month.

The Get Down season two (April 7th) – I haven’t seen the first season yet, but show about the formation of hip-hop music in the Bronx is obviously something I need to be watching.

Kevin Hart: What Now (April 11th) – I really don’t consider myself much of a Kevin Hart fan – I’ve skipped his last five movies – but I will at least watch his stand up material.

The Secret Life Of Pets (April 22nd) – This movie made a heap of money at the box office and received solid ratings from the critics, plus it features a pretty solid voice cast, so I will be watching it while it’s streaming.

Netflix will also be adding A Nightmare On Elm Street, Gremlins, and Schindler’s List (all classics) on the 1st of April, as well as a Richard Pryor stand up. Two other solid films, Kubo & the Two Strings (April 8th) and Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige (April 21st) will also be added later in the month.

Music: March saw the release of a number of good albums, with Khalid and Ed Sheeran providing my two favorite releases of 2017 so far. Rick Ross and Raekwon both surprised me by releasing albums I’m enjoying.

Kendrick Lamar – “Ya’ll got til April the 7th to get your shit together.” (April 7th) – Sounds like a release date announcement to me. Anyone that knows me knows that Kendrick is currently my favorite rapper by miles. MILES! I have him ranked #6 on my all-time list and with two classic albums, a fantastic mixtape, and a slew of phenomenal guest appearances under his belt already, my expectations for his next album are out of this world. If he can somehow manage a third straight classic, he’s right up there with Jay-Z and Nas as the greatest rappers of all-time IMO.

Joey Bada$$ – All-Amerikkkan Bada$$ (April 7th) – If Kendrick is really dropping an album, this could be an epic weekend of hip-hop as Joey Bada$$ easily makes my list of my top 10 favorite rappers of the moment. His last album was very strong and I’ve liked all the songs he’s released in the past year, so my expectations for this album are pretty high.

The Chainsmokers – Memories… Do Not Open (April 7th) – I don’t know much about this group, but I do know they have a knack for crafting incredibly infectious music, so I will be checking out this album.

Talib Kweli & Styles P – The Seven (April 14th) – Hey, it’s the hip-hop collaboration nobody’s been asking for! There was a time when Talib Kweli was one of my favorite emcees, but it’s been about a decade since I felt that way. Kweli’s released a ton of music since then, but I’ve mostly skipped it and if it was stellar, somebody would’ve told me about it. I’ve never been much of a Styles P fan. With that said, I don’t have to be selective with Apple Music and I can listen to everything, so I’ll give this a chance.

Kamaiyah – Don’t Ever Get It Twisted (April 21st) – Nicki Minaj and Remy Ma are getting all the attention right now, but last year Kamaiyah released the best rap album from a female artist that I’ve heard in years. On the surface, her style seems really simple and her subject matter isn’t groundbreaking by any means, but Kamaiyah makes undeniably good songs. I’m curious to see if she can keep it up and build on the success of her debut album.

Other notable releases scheduled for April include 2 Chainz and Tech N9ne – neither of which I really like – on the 7th, Incubus on the 21st, and Mary J. Blige and Gorillaz on the 28th. I will probably check out the MJB album and skip the rest.

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2017 Spring Training Trip

March 30, 2017

This past weekend my wife and I crossed off another Bucket List item by making a trip down to Arizona for some MLB Spring Training action. I have to say it was a pretty surprising development. Last month I went to Vegas for some WSOPc events and when I landed in Nevada, I received an email confirmation for a flight to Arizona – something we had literally never talked about doing this year. And then as the time of our trip grew nearer, we started to wonder if Arizona was a place we might actually want to live some day, so we were really excited about checking the area out.

Obviously the main focus of our trip was to check out the Mariners complex in Peoria and take in a couple games. It was amazing! Everything is so relaxed and accessible that it all has more of a minor league vibe to it. If you arrive early enough, parking right next to Peoria Stadium is free (and even if you arrive after the parking attendants, it’s still only $5) and the practice fields open at 9 A.M. Unfortunately, the MLB squad didn’t come out of the M’s clubhouse until past 11, so we were just kind of standing around doing nothing for two hours. When they did come out, it was pretty cool. A number of players would come right up to the fence and sign autographs and Mike Zunino was catching pitches from a machine right in front of us, carrying on casual conversation with the onlookers – although I must note while he replied to all the stupid things people were saying to him, I could tell he would rather everyone just shut up. Arguably my favorite current M already, Kyle Seager is now #1 without a doubt. While Zunino seemed like he would rather do without the fan interaction, Seager’s social skills were incredible. Not only did he sign plenty of autographs and take pictures, but he was funny and genuine, making fun of a little girl wearing Blue Jays gear and telling me he didn’t want to ruin my 40th Anniversary Sports Illustrated cover by signing it. Leonys Martin was also great with the fans. He signed more autographs than anyone, took a crazy amount of pictures, and did it all with a huge smile on his face. You can tell he truly loves what he does, including all the obligations that come with being a major league baseball player. I also got to witness some interesting banter between newcomers Jarrod Dyson and Danny Valencia. Fans were speculating how many steals Dyson would get this year and Valencia asked him “you gonna steal 100 bags?” and Dyson snapped back “you gonna hit 100 homeruns?”

As far as the actual games went, it was a great experience. I always like to get good seats, so we were right next to the Mariners dugout for both games and the view was fantastic. When the Mariners played the Rangers, Felix Hernandez was trolling his WBC Venezuela teammates Rougned Odor and Robinson Chirinos for the entire first half of the game before taking his leave and getting a cup of water in the face courtesy of Odor. The Mariners beat the Rangers 3-1 on Saturday and then lost to the lowly Padres 2-12 on Monday.

Some notes from the games:

-Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz were both entirely absent this weekend, staying in their rooms with the flu.

-Dillon Overton has pitched well this spring and is a surprising member of the current MLB camp.

-Taylor Motter hit two homers this weekend and seems to have locked up the Mariners utility spot.

-Yovani Gallardo got blasted by the Padres to the tune of 9 hits, 7 ER, 2 BB, 3 HR, and only 2 Ks in 4.1 innings. He carries a 9.24 ERA this spring and while spring stats should always been taken with a grain of salt, this is a spot on our roster we should be worried about. There’s always a chance Gallardo will thrive in the pitcher-friendly confines of Safeco Field, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him either released or optioned to Tacoma before the All-Star break.

-There was a great moment in the Mariners-Padres game where someone hit a routine grounder to short with a runner on 1st and the second baseman blatantly dropped the throw from the shortstop and the umpire ruled the runner out, claiming that the miscue occurred during the transfer. It did not. Without question, the fielder never had control of the ball. At this point in time, the Padres were winning 7-0 and the sun was burning a hole into my neck, so the call seemed whatever to me, but the Mariners fans, including the KIRO 710 ESPN radio guys that were sitting two rows in front of us, gave the ump hell for the rest of the inning. I told my wife that ump would have a conversation with the third base ump after the inning, but he took it one step further and came right over to our section of the crowd and asked everybody if they wanted a “free lesson” on the rules. Just as he was about to “school” us, Leonys Martin stopped by, tapped him on the shoulder, and pointed to the M’s dugout, where manager Scott Servais was standing on the top step, with a big smile on his face, summoning the ump over with his finger.

-I have faith in Jean Segura, but you have to wonder about the make up of a guy that strikes out for the second time in a Cactus League game and slams his bat on the ground, splintering it.

-It’s pretty hilarious watching all the fans try to get autographs from players when they have no clue who they are. Some random, light-skinned minor league player came to sign and the entire section called him “Segura” the whole time. I tried to inform them that it wasn’t Jean Segura, but my claim was promptly denied by a number of fans and I honestly don’t even know what to say in a situation like that. I watched everyone refer to Tyler Smith as “Valencia” as he signed a number of autographs and finally after the 100th time he finally said “Danny’s twice my size.” Also, every dark-skinned player that walked by was “Heredia” and after being wrong about five times, it really was him! All of this, plus a plethora of incorrect “facts” stated by random fans all around me during both games I attended really made me wonder about something: part of me was dying to provide everyone with the correct information and another part of me was realizing how douchey that actually is. So I learned to just shut up and treat it like all the crazy things I hear people say at the poker table.

-I ended up getting four autographs on my Mariners 40th Anniversary SI cover: Kyle Seager, Danny Valencia, Leonys Martin, and Hisashi Iwakuma. I could have gotten many more, but I realize that I’m in my mid-30s and leaning over kids to get signatures from random guys that are younger me is kind of weird and stupid, so I don’t push it. This passivity has cost me autographs from Mike Trout (I eventually got him though), Max Scherzer, Jose Altuve, and Felix Hernandez over the years. On the other hand, I think baseball will always bring out the 12 year old in me and I don’t think that’s something to be ashamed of.

Moving on from baseball, the rest of our Arizona experience was great as well. We loved the scenery and while 80 degrees felt like 95 to us and I still got burned even with two coats of sun block on, I think that’s something we can get used to. It’s certainly more palatable than the constant rain and cold weather that we experience in the Marchs and Aprils of Seattle. Also, the highways were mostly free of traffic, with the exception of Monday morning and even that wasn’t too bad. We ate at a couple of really good restaurants and enjoyed playing poker at Talking Stick Resort. Even on a Sunday night, the room had 37 poker games going, so the game selection was immense. The 20/40 game was pretty good, although not amazing, but Sunday night isn’t exactly one of my target playing times, so I’m curious how the action is during prime time hours. The 2+2 locals pretty much universally insist the 20 game is great, so I’m inclined to believe them.

All in all, we are still on board with relocating to Arizona in five years or so. While I love Washington and being close to family, the Arizona vibe is more appealing to us and its location relevant to my favorite poker stops (L.A., Las Vegas, Denver) is incredibly ideal.

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Beauty and the Beast (2017), Logan (2017), Arrival (2016), Green Room (2016), Sausage Party (2016), Pete’s Dragon (2016)

March 22, 2017

Beauty and the Beast (2017) – Another solid live-action remake of a Disney classic. Beauty and the Beast isn’t as visually amazing as last year’s Jungle Book and it’s more of a shot-for-shot remake than a fresh take on an old favorite, but the story translates well and this film is really a testament to how wonderful the original animated classic is. It’s probably been 25 years since I’ve seen the 1991 version, but the songs felt like I heard them yesterday and they have been stuck in my head the last 24 hours – they are truly timeless compositions. Emma Watson is perfect casting as Belle, Dan Stevens is enjoyable as The Beast, and Ian McKellen, Ewan McGregor, and Emma Thompson do solid voice work, but the rest of the borders on annoying. Particularly, I had mixed feelings about Luke Evans as Gaston. On one hand, it’s an incredibly campy and silly performance; on the other hand, it’s very loyal to the source material. Overall, Beauty and the Beast is another enjoyable hit for Disney, even if some of the acting and musical numbers are a bit too flamboyant.

Replay Value: I would watch it again, but I’d rather watch the original.
Sequel Potential: This movie is breaking box office records, but it’s hard to imagine a continuation of this story that doesn’t come across contrived.
Oscar Potential: Even with the expansion of the Best Picture category, this film won’t get a nod like it’s source material did. However, nominations for Costume Design, Makeup, and Art Direction are highly possible.

Grade: 7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Logan (2017) – Logan is going to go down as one of the best superhero films of all-time, but really, limiting it to that distinction is a disservice – it is simply a great film, period. Hugh Jackman’s final outing as Wolverine, finds our hero in the not-so-distant future, as one of the few remaining mutants in the world. His new life consists of driving a limo, drinking copious amounts of alcohol, and harboring a mentally ailing Professor Xavier. Enter Laura: a young mutant girl with all the abilities and fury of a younger Logan. What follows is a road adventure with a Western tinge and a film that has pacing, ridiculous action sequences, and a guardian/mentor relationship all reminiscent of Terminator 2: Judgement Day. Making the film rated R was a stroke of genius and once you get past the initial shock of hearing Wolverine and Professor X swear, it’s actually quite funny. Plus, those claws finally get put to gruesome use. Packed with action, drizzles of humor and sorrow, and phenomenal performances from Jackman, Patrick Steward, and newcomer Dafne Keen, Logan is a comic book film masterpiece. It’s the best movie to come out of the X-Men universe and an absolute must see film.

Replay Value: This could go down as a classic and I’m anxious to see it again.
Sequel Potential: Reportedly Jackman’s last appearance as Wolverine, but that’s always subject to change and if not, the character will surely be rebooted in the future.
Oscar Potential: Like Get Out, Logan is in an interesting spot: it’s a comic book movie released in mid-March – not your typical Oscar fodder. But The Dark Knight paved the way for ten possible nominees, so Logan has an outside shot at Best Picture. I don’t see any acting nominations, but Cinematography nod could also be in the cards.

Grade: 8.5/10 (Must See/Potential Classic)

Arrival (2016) – Arrival was one of last year’s most critically lauded films and I found this first contact movie to be quite enthralling myself. It’s definitely a slow burn and the pacing can be a bit tedious at times, but director Denis Villeneuve (Sicario) gives Arrival all the mystique and intrigue of a Christopher Nolan film. It tackles interesting themes of language, time, and how we might interact with an alien species, while highlighting our own world’s inability to communicate with one another in today’s trigger-happy environment. Amy Adams is stellar as usual and while Jeremy Renner’s character feels more like background music at times, he does provide some comic relief and plays a pivotal role in the film’s emotional core. While some may be dissatisfied with the ultimate payoff, I felt like Arrival tied things together nicely and made for an enjoyable, cerebral experience. Arrival is a fresh take on the first contact movie and a strong sci-fi recommendation, if not quite a must see film.

Replay Value: You might pick up on some extra things a second time around, but this is more of a once in a decade type movie for me.
Sequel Potential: Ever so slight, but highly unlikely.
Oscar Potential: 8 Oscar nominations and a win for Best Sound Editing.

Grade: 7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Green Room (2016) – Green Room is a taut, horror/thriller hybrid that cranks up the tension from start to finish. Director Jeremy Saulnier elicits strong performances from Patrick Stewart as a nihilistic neo-Nazi club owner and the late Anton Yelchin as a member of a punk rock band trapped inside a room in the club after unwittingly intruding on a murder cover up. It’s a gruesome, unforgiving film that lovers of scary movies should watch with delight. Enjoyable from it’s opening frame and featuring Yelchin’s best performance of his short life, Green Room is a must see for fans of unconventional thrillers.

Replay Value: Fun enough to watch again some day.
Sequel Potential: Probably not, but if it becomes a cult classic, it might invite some crappy, nontheatrical sequels.
Oscar Potential: Whiff.

Grade: 7.5/10 (Highly Enjoyable/Must See)

Sausage Party (2016) – The writing team responsible for Superbad offers up a hard R-rated animated comedy featuring everyone’s favorite grocery store items. Filled with all the cleverness and humor – if not the charm and superb storytelling – of a classic Pixar movie, Sausage Party is quite entertaining. While there are lots of juvenile jokes and unrelenting amounts of sexual innuendo, Sausage Party features an A-List voice cast and everyone does a laudable job. It’s not quite as emotionally resonant as it wants to be, but Sausage Party is still a pretty fun comedy and recommended while it’s streaming on Netflix. Warning: this is not for kids!

Replay Value: Smart and funny enough to be worthy of multiple viewings.
Sequel Potential: Definitely possible.
Oscar Potential: None.

Grade: 6/10 (Recommended)

Pete’s Dragon (2016) – It’s probably been 25-30 years since I’ve seen the original and I can’t remember it at all, so I can’t comment on how this film compares. Even though this live action remake was well received, I found myself struggling through it. It doesn’t help that the cast is largely made up of actors whose work I rarely enjoy. Bryce Dallas Howard, Wes Bentley, and Karl Urban have never been the reason I’ve watched a movie. Oona Laurence, the little girl, gives the film’s only laudable performance. While I understand the decision to make Elliot, the dragon, look friendly, I felt like the CGI was lackluster and actually terrible at times. I’ve seen action sequences that looked less fake in movies that were made 15 years ago. While Disney films are supposed to require an abundance of imagination and a suspension of reality, it doesn’t hurt to explain some things. Like why is there a dragon in a forest in the Pacific Northwest? How does a dragon remain unseen for decades? If it has wings, wouldn’t it need to use them periodically? What does it eat? Are all dragons children friendly? All in all, Pete’s Dragon is a rare misstep from Disney as it feels like the film, with its uninspired casting and visual effects, was an afterthought for the juggernaut corporation.

Replay Value: None for me.
Sequel Potential: Always possible.
Oscar Potential: None.

Grade: 3/10 (Skip It)

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March 2017 Movie/Music Preview

March 2, 2017

I’m starting a new regular blog post that previews upcoming releases in music, movies and Netflix. Here’s what I’m looking forward to in March 2017:

Netflix:

This Is Spinal Tap (March 1st) – A highly touted classic that I’ve never gotten around to seeing, I will try to make it a point to watch it now that it’s available to stream.

Amy Schumer: The Leather Special (March 7th) – I’m still on board with Schumer; she hasn’t disappointed me yet.

Marvel’s Iron Fist (March 17th) – The latest in Marvel’s Netflix series – following Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage – and the final solo season before all those “heroes” join forces in The Defenders later this year. Iron Fist looks okay, but my expectations are relatively tempered at this point.

Better Call Saul season 2 (March 27th) – The first season was an excellent spin off from Breaking Bad, continuing that show’s extremely high standards of quality. I’m really looking forward to watching season 2.

Archer season 7 (28th) – I binge-watched the first three seasons of Archer in January, but dedicated my TV-watching time to Bob’s Burgers in February. I imagine I will dust this series off by the end of April as it has been quite spectacular so far.

Other notable streaming additions include Blazing Saddles, Chicago, Jurassic Park, Memento, Midnight In Paris (all on the 1st), and Million Dollar Baby (13th), all of which are highly recommended if you haven’t seen them.

Theatrical Releases:

Logan (3rd) – Trailer looks great and reviews have been amazing. Hugh Jackman’s farewell to Wolverine has a very real chance to be the best film set in the X-Men universe.

Kong: Skull Island (10th) – I wasn’t all that excited about this, but Tom Hiddleston and Brie Larson are great actors and the overwhelmingly positive reviews have made this a must see film for me.

Raw (10th) – This is a French film that probably won’t get a wide release in the U.S. but its plot about a vegetarian woman eating meat for the first time during a school hazing and developing an insatiable taste for it sounds like the makings of potentially fun and disturbing movie.

Beauty and the Beast (17th) – A live action Disney remake starring Emma Watson as Belle. Disney has been absolutely crushing lately, so there’s no reason to expect this won’t be very enjoyable. The animated version is one of Disney’s all-time best films, so there is potential for this to be great.

T2 Trainspotting (17th) – I am not among the cult following of the original Trainspotting, so my anticipation for its sequel is pretty minimal. However, given the first film’s pedigree and director Danny Boyle’s track record since then, I will be revisiting the first Trainspotting and eventually watching its sequel, but I’ll probably skip it in theaters.

Song to Song (17th) – A Terrence Malik film starring Ryan Gosling and Christian Bale? Yes please! Actually, my anticipation just went down a little. In double checking the film’s credits, I noticed that while Flixster has Bale headlining with Gosling, he does not have an acting credit for this film on IMDB, so I’m not sure what to make of that.

Power Rangers (24th) – When this was announced I had zero interest in it, but I have to say the trailers have made me on board now.

Ghost In The Shell (31st) – Okay, I’m not anticipating this at all. In fact, I predict a total bomb.

Music:

Khalid – American Teen (3rd) – I have to admit that I have listened to zero songs from this artist, but I have noticed Seattle’s DJ Hyphen has given him multiple plays during his Sunday Night Sound Sessions and that is enough of an endorsement for me. I will be checking this out in entirety when Apple Music makes it available later tonight.

Murs – Captain California (10th) – Murs is an above average rapper that has been around forever and has multiple good releases, but is completely overlooked by the masses. Though I have not heard over half of his catalog, I’ve enjoyed everything I have listened to.

Raekwon, Trey Songz, James Blunt, Soundgarden, Bush, Too $hort, and Rick Ross are all also releasing new music in March and while I will probably check out most or all of these releases, they are going to be on pretty short leashes as I’m not really a fan of any of these artists in 2017.

It’s worth noting that I am only really knowledgeable about hip-hop music so I have no idea what to anticipate in other genres and I suspect there will be multiple releases during the month that I’m not even aware of at the moment.

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John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)

March 2, 2017

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Riccardo Scamarcio, Ian McShane, Common
Director: Chad Stahelski (John Wick)

Bottom Line: The thing about willingly going to see John Wick: Chapter 2 is that it should be impossible to walk out of the theater unsatisfied. If you liked the first movie, I dare you not to like this sequel. It’s more of the same, delivering the nonstop action and awesome choreography we saw in the first film, all while building on the secret universe of the “hit man.”

One day after ripping Keanu Reeves as a dramatic actor, I have to give him credit for being pretty great in action flicks. Obviously, he was perfect for the role of Neo in The Matrix and again he has found a very suitable role in John Wick – not much dialogue and lots of ass-kicking. That’s a good fit for Keanu Reeves. The rest of the acting in this movie is solid at best and tolerable at worst. I’m not familiar with Riccardo Scamarcio at all, but I enjoyed him as the main villain in this movie. Common is one of my favorite rappers of all-time, but I don’t really understand his acting career. I’ve seen him in up to six different movies and he’s never impressed me in the slightest and I doubt he’s much of a box office draw, and yet, he continues to get cast year after year. Well, it finally happened: I liked Common’s performance in John Wick: Chapter 2. I was so shocked by this revelation that I had to check the credits to make sure it was actually him. I just couldn’t believe he could pull off a bad ass so convincingly. He plays an assassin rival/peer of John, hired to kill him, and he’s actually a ruthlessly cold and formidable dude. There’s a gun fight that takes place in a subway between John Wick and Cassian that had me rolling in laughter.

John Wick: Chapter 2 is how sequels are supposed to be done: expanding on the original’s story while delivering all the fun stuff that made the first film so enjoyable. Director Chad Stahelski completely understands his audience and gives them exactly what they want, developing a legitimate action franchise that isn’t going to die any time soon.

Replay Value: I haven’t seen the first one a second time yet, but these movies are fun enough to watched multiple times.
Sequel Potential: Chapter 2 is going to gross more than twice as much as the original – this won’t be the last time we hear from John Wick.
Oscar Potential: Keanu Reeves for Best Actor! Nope. This is a simple action movie that is not shooting for any awards.

Grade: 7/10 (highly enjoyable)

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Get Out (2017)

March 1, 2017

Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, Catherine Keener, Lakeith Stanfield
Director: Jordan Peele

Bottom Line: Without a doubt, Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele’s sketch comedy show “Key and Peele” has been one of the funniest things I’ve seen on television in recent years. The duo has since moved on with their careers, with Key starring in last year’s very good but largely overlooked film Don’t Think Twice and becoming a very popular voice actor, while Peele wrote last year’s Keanu as the first film for the two comics to star in together, but received rather lukewarm reviews.

And then came the trailer for Get Out, a horror film written and directed by Jordan Peele that looked like a total mind bender, full of racial tension – a complete departure from what the comedian is famous for.

And yes, Get Out was completely crazy, but it’s a game changer. It tells the story of Chris Washington (Kaluuya), a black man going to meet his white girlfriend’s family for the first time, along with all the trepidation and seemingly harmless stereotypes that arise in such a situation, made all the more awkward when Chris sees that the family employs a couple of black folks as servants around the house – and they are about as natural as Keanu Reeves in a dramatic role. Get Out manages to turn a situation that could make any man apprehensive – meeting the girlfriend’s parents – and turns it into a complete horror story, filled with racial overtones that are still way too relevant in today’s world.

Get Out is a borderline masterpiece that is wicked smart, excruciatingly tense and entertaining, all while sprinkling in appropriate amounts of humor and traditional jump scares. It’s a monumental achievement for Jordan Peele in his first directing role and almost certainly makes the multi-talented comic an A-Lister going forward. His script is full of bits of racism and stereotypes that make the film’s wild final act all the more mind-blowing and powerful.

The acting in Get Out is top notch from the entire cast. Kaluuya easily carries the film in the lead role, providing Chris with a perfect mix of cockiness and apprehension, as his vulnerability increases throughout his horrific experience. Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener are genuinely creepy as the parents, with Keener’s hypnotherapy likely to disturbingly cling to you long after the film is over. And then there’s Lakeith Stanfield and LilRel Howery, who play small but spectacular roles. Stanfield is particularly great, channeling his hilarious character from the hit FX show “Atlanta” in Get Out‘s opening scene before reappearing later in a completely different context. It’s the kind of glorious bit role that has earned a number of actors Best Supporting nominations in the past.

Get Out is the first must see film of 2017 and is better than any movie that I saw in 2016. It will be interesting to see how a horror/thriller hybrid released in late February and written/directed by a black man will fare come next year’s award season. Sadly, this genius film will likely overlooked or forgotten by then, but with a ridiculous 99% positive rating from the critics so far, maybe Jordan Peele’s wonderful film will help break new ground. And if it does get nominated, it shouldn’t be to diversify the awards, it should be because it deserves to be – and Get Out is plenty worthy.

Replay Value: This is the kind of film that requires a second viewing.
Sequel Potential: Even though this is likely to be a big hit and has award potential, a sequel would almost certainly trivialize this film’s message.
Oscar Potential: If Get Out doesn’t get a Best Picture nomination it will be because it got slighted or because 2017 was an amazing year for films. This movie is drawing live at Best Pic, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay noms, with some serious long shot possibilities for Kaluuya, Keener, and Stanfield in the acting categories. Still, we are in pretty unprecedented territory here.

Grade: 8/10 (must see)