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Bone Thugs N Harmony – New Waves

July 1, 2017

Listened to the new Bone Thugs N Harmony album (which is really just a Krayzie and Bizzy collaboration) in entirety and, goodness, it is an embarrassment. It’s not much of a surprise that a new Bone album would disappoint in 2017 – when is the last time any of these guys has dropped a notable project? But still, it’s hard to believe how bad it really is. I heard a number songs that sounded like they were aimed at the EDM crowd and I even heard a song that sounded like it would be at home on a country album. What I didn’t hear was a single track that sounded anything like vintage Bone. This album is SOFT. There’s nothing wrong with artists growing up and some of the messages have heart, but the production is almost universally terrible and most of the hooks are appalling. These guys can still rap just fine, but there isn’t any noteworthy songwriting happening on this album. I can honestly say that I liked one song: “Good Person.” Something about it (I think it’s the hook) just grabs me. The rest of the album is straight up trash bin material.

4/10 (Trash Bin Material – because nothing needs to lower than that)

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July Movie/Music Preview

June 30, 2017

Anticipation Meter
6 – Epic
5 – Very High
4 – Strong
3 – Moderate
2 – Low
1 – Nonexistent

As I noted last month, I’m going to make these previews a bit more succinct – no more box office predictions.

MOVIES

Spider-Man: Homecoming (7th) – One of the most popular superheroes of all-time finally comes home to Marvel Studios. Tom Holland and his new Spider-Man had a great small appearance in last year’s Captain America: Civil War, blending in seamlessly with the rest of Marvel’s Avengers and setting the tone for a much younger and mouthy Spidey. Early reviews for this film have been stellar, with plenty of stuff like “best Spider-Man movie ever” and “one of the best Marvel films yet” being tossed around. I love the casting of Michael Keaton as The Vulture. I expect this movie to be hilarious and lots of fun – it has long been one of my most anticipated 2017 releases. Anticipation Meter – 5

A Ghost Story (7th) – Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara in a movie about a deceased husband returning as a ghost in a white bed sheet. The cast here is strong enough to garner my interest, but the director’s last film was Pete’s Dragon, so… Anticipation Meter – 2.5

War for the Planet of the Apes (14th) – The Planet of the Apes franchise has had an incredibly strong reboot thanks to a phenomenal motion-capture performance from Andy Serkis, a great lead character in Caesar, and some very good screenplays. The first two films in this trilogy were wonderful and early word is this third entry is right on par. Anticipation Meter – 4

Wish Upon (14th) – Joey King stars as a teenage girl that receives a music box that grants her wishes to be wealthy, popular and desired – and then the people closest to her start dying. I like horror movies, but I haven’t seen or heard anything about this one that has made me want to see it. Anticipation Meter – 1

Dunkirk (21st) – Christopher Nolan’s latest film focuses on the Allied troops that were trapped in the French city of Dunkirk during World War II. Nolan regulars Tom Hardy and Cillian Murphy are joined by Kenneth Branagh and Oscar winner Mark Rylance. After Inception, Nolan was easily my favorite filmmaker, but his last two movies, The Dark Knight Rises and Interstellar were relatively disappointing. I’m not a huge fan of the war genre and the footage I’ve seen of Dunkirk doesn’t have me particularly amped, but Chris Nolan is still on my short list of favorite directors so I’m cautiously optimistic. Anticipation Meter – 3

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (21st) – I don’t know much about this comic book adaptation from Luc Besson, the director of The Professional and The Fifth Element, but it looks visually ambitious. Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne are the stars in this sci-fi space adventure. The trailers I’ve seen look interesting enough and it seems like a movie that should be seen in theaters if you’re going to watch it. Anticipation Meter – 3

Girls Trip (21st) – R-rated comedy starring Queen Latifah, Regina Hall, Jada Pinkett-Smith, and Tiffany Haddish about a group of lifelong friends that travel to New Orleans and get into various high jinks. Sounds like another version of The Hangover and a pass to me. Anticipation Meter – 1

Atomic Blonde (28th) – You’d think a movie that has Charlize Theron playing a secret agent that’s kicking ass and making out with another woman in its trailer would be an easy sell, but I feel like I’ve seen the whole story already – the trailers have been playing in front of basically every film I’ve seen in the past two months. I will probably skip this unless it gets strong reviews. Anticipation Meter – 2

The Emoji Movie (28th) – Huh? How is this even happening? I’m not surprised though – everything’s exploitable these days. I just watched the trailer and it looks cut from the same cloth as Pixar’s Toy Story and Inside Out in that it creates a secret universe for inanimate/intangible objects – in this case, the emojis in our cell phones. On the surface, it looks like a kid’s movie made for kids, so it remains to be seen if it will have the heart and soul that can appeal to adults like the best animated features do. I’ve been surprised before though (i.e. The Lego Movie). Anticipation Meter – 1.5

MUSIC

Jay-Z4:44 (7th) – Technically, this is out already, but rumor has it that it will be widely available next Friday and that will likely be the first time that I hear it. Initially, I was skeptical: I hadn’t heard much from Jay recently that moved the meter, so a new album seemed like it could easily disappoint. However, word is this is pretty spectacular and is one of Jay’s most personal albums ever. At worst, Jay-Z is a top five rapper ever and there are very good arguments to be made that he’s #1, so any new album from him is a must listen, and early rave reviews have increased my excitement. The Ruler’s back! Anticipation Meter – 5

There’s a 21 Savage (7th) album coming out in July, but I can’t say I’m a fan. The only other names I recognize are Lana Del Ray (14th), Coldplay (21st), and Arcade Fire (28th), none of which I care about. Sounds like a good month to catch up on all the music I didn’t get a chance to digest in June.

Notable Netflix Additions

Best In Show (1st)

The Mighty Ducks (1st)

E.T. (1st)

Punch Drunk Love (1st)

Titanic (1st)

Castlevania, Season One (7th) – Haven’t looked into this at all, but love the concept.

Lion (9th)

Friends From College, Season One – interesting cast, featuring Keegan-Michael Key, Fred Savage, Cobie Smulders.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – kind of a big deal

Lastly, Netflix will be removing all Futurama content tomorrow which is some seriously disappointing news.

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2017 WSOP Trip Report – Part One (the not so good stuff)

June 28, 2017

With each passing year, I get better at doing the World Series of Poker. This goes beyond results – I’m talking about how to live in Las Vegas for weeks at a time. This year I felt I got a little bit closer to having the process mastered. I had a friend that let me stay in his time share for about ten nights for $20/night and then some friends from my high school days in Bremerton let me stay with them in their Vegas home (closer to Summerlin) for the rest of the trip for $20/night. Those prices would be 60% of just the resort fee at a strip casino! I also rented a car for about $23 a day and that proved to be about equal in cost and much more convenient than relying on shuttles and Uber to get around. Next year, I’m going to be even thriftier and just drive myself to Vegas and save on flight and car rental expenses. Finally, food is still expensive, but I did go shopping at Costco and bought some bulk necessities and I also bought a meal plan at All American Dave’s (a food truck outside the Rio). While AAD’s meals lack variety and are probably a bit overrated, you really can’t beat the convenience of ordering on Twitter and having someone deliver food directly to your seat at the poker table.

I flew to Vegas on May 30th and I flew back on June 21st and in the 3+ weeks I was there I played basically no cash games. In fact, I put in three total plays and none of them were serious sessions. I did put in an 11.5 hour marathon $4/$8 LHE play at Red Rock Casino, but I considered that a day off from the tournament grind while playing some recreational poker with my wife. I also put in a 1.5 hour $4/$8 play at Red Rock, while my hosts were playing slot machines after watching a movie at the casino. Finally, I had a successful (+$335), albeit very short (3.5 hours), $8/$16 Omaha 8 session at the Orleans. This is notable because the filterable data on my phone goes back to August of 2014 and $8/$16 Omaha 8 has been my absolute worst game (by a long shot) and the Orleans has been my absolute worst location (for cash games… I did win their weekly H.O.R.S.E. tournament a few years ago). Needless to say, cash games were not my focus on this trip. When I wasn’t playing a tournament, or I busted early, I just took time off to study or relax.

I played 11 total tournaments during my 2017 WSOP trip.

I’ll start with the six non-WSOP tournaments I played in since they were mostly uneventful. I busted $400 and $600 Omaha 8 tournaments at Venetian, both of which I went relatively deep in and didn’t cash. I busted 12 spots off the money in a $465 H.O.R.S.E. at Aria, another deep run but one in which I never had any real momentum. I went to defend my title in the $250 8-Game Mix at Golden Nugget and I did not bring my A-game that day. I was up and down in this one, but I felt like I wasn’t playing very good most of the day. My focus and patience just weren’t there. Still, the experience was notable because I had this kid named Michael Trivett at my table and you can read about my history with him here by scrolling down to this same event from last year. I saw plenty of evidence that suggested he hasn’t grown up much in the past year, but I also saw a side of him that suggests he isn’t a total dirtbag either. He had some friendly moments, so I don’t want to paint him as this constantly terrible presence at the poker table. Still, I can’t help but share an amazing exchange we had after a Razz hand we played. On 5th street I have 23-47A and his board is 92A and he raises my bet; I reraise and bet all the way after improving to a 6432A on 6th and win the pot, but then this magic happens:

Michael: I was a favorite when I raised (on 5th).
Me: Uh, I had a made 7.
Michael: I was drawing to a wheel.
Me: *speechless*
Michael: Check the math.

For those of you that don’t follow, not only do I have the best hand on 5th street, but I also have the same draw (to a wheel). I have now played with Michael Trivett twice and both times he has produced a classic moment attempting to berate me. I look forward to more encounters in the future!

I followed that 8-Game bust out with another O8 event at Golden Nugget and this time I got a min-cash by finishing in 16th, but it was really disappointing because I had double the average stack at dinner break and then came back and got scooped like four times in a row. I had basically no chips on the bubble though, so sneaking into the money felt kind of fortunate.

Finally, I played the $585 H.O.R.S.E. Championship at Binions and it was honestly kind of an embarrassing and humbling experience. First off, only 36 people entered. This wasn’t a bad thing since they had a $50K guaranteed prize pool and even with another Day One the next day, it didn’t seem likely they’d get enough entrants to meet the guarantee – so, a nice overlay. Secondly, the levels were long and the stacks were super deep. Thirdly, the field was incredibly weak – I knew I was the strongest player in room. I really felt like with the stacks that deep and the levels that long, I could overcome a lot of the variance and win that tournament way more often than my fair share. But I never had more than my starting stack and, despite the very forgiving amount of play, it was my second quickest exit of the summer. I thought I was going to print money and instead I couldn’t win a hand all day and I left frustrated and in disbelief. I don’t think my assessment of my skill level versus the field was incorrect, but it was still a good lesson in humility and I can admit that I didn’t make very good adjustments to exploit their weaknesses. I was kind of already feeling like I wanted to go home, but my performance in this event sealed the deal. I booked a flight home for the next day.

I was going to write one WSOP trip report, but in the interest of keeping my posts shorter (and thus, easier to publish), I will break it up into two parts. I played five WSOP events and I will talk about those tournaments in part 2 of my 2017 WSOP trip report.

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Wonder Woman (2017), Baywatch (2017), 47 Meters Down (2017)

June 23, 2017

In the interest of catching up, I’m going to keep these short and sweet.

Wonder Woman (2017) – I loved it. This movie made me incredibly happy. The DC film universe looked in grim shape after Dawn Of Justice but Wonder Woman was a huge win for them – both critically and in its record-breaking box office performance. Gal Gadot does a GREAT job. Not only is she absolutely stunning in the titular role, but she is convincingly HEROIC. I’ve seen the movie twice and the scene in No Man’s Land gave me goosebumps and a huge smile both times. Wonder Woman might have a slow build to this epic moment, but there’s no hesitation in Diana’s resolve: she says she wants to go where the war is and she doesn’t think for a second before jumping right into the line of fire. Chris Pine is a great addition to the cast, as he has plenty of chemistry with Gadot and adds a nice dose of humor. The script does a great job of infusing small bits of comedy into a serious war time setting, without taking anything away from the gravity of the situation. I do think the climax got a little bit… extravagant and silly… but the rest of the movie was fantastic. Wonder Woman is a great comic book film and the best superhero origin movie since Iron Man in 2008.

Replay Value: I saw it twice during opening week and I’d be happy to watch it again right now. It will be a must own in my movie collection.
Sequel Potential: You don’t make heaps and not get sequels. I’m sure DC will fast track another Wonder Woman movie, but first up we will get the two Justice League films and I’m still concerned about those movies, even with Wonder Woman‘s success and the involvement of Joss Whedon.
Oscar Potential: It’s a very good superhero movie, but not really Oscar bait. There is always a chance for technical nominations but most likely it will just whiff entirely.

Grade: 7.5/10 (highly enjoyable/must see comic book movie)

Baywatch (2017) – I was really hoping Baywatch would be a solid 21 Jump Street imitation, but it’s not nearly as clever or as smart. In fact, Baywatch is nothing more than your average stupid, raunchy comedy. The script is absolutely terrible, but at least Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron give their roles some life, as less charismatic leads would render this movie completely unwatchable. The supporting cast range from totally forgettable to borderline bad and while Jon Bass has some funny moments, his character really shows no indication he would actually make the cut in the stiff competition there is to become a Baywatch lifeguard. So the reason he makes it is so we can laugh at his ineptitude and misfortune. Baywatch is a stupid, silly movie that you can safely skip in the theaters and wait until Red Box if you must see it. For what it’s worth though, the three people I saw it with seemed to be pretty satisfied.

Replay Value: Once was enough for me.
Sequel Potential: Baywatch hasn’t exactly smashed at the box office and it got destroyed by the critics, so it’s sequel chances are pretty low.
Oscar Potential: I could see some Razzie potential for the script.

Grade: 4.5/10 (forgettable/watchable)

47 Meters Down (2017) – This is a movie that I probably would have never seen in my life under any other circumstances, but after All Eyez On Me got demolished by the critics, the friends I was staying with in Vegas decided they wanted to see this instead. I basically had no expectations for what looked like a B-level Jaws ripoff starring Mandy Moore, so anything north of horrible was going to be a surprise to me and, well, I was surprised. The plot is trite and silly: two sisters vacation in Mexico after one of them has a big breakup and they wind up on a sketchy-looking boat with a sketchy-looking crew and then go underwater in a sketchy-looking cage so they can go shark-gazing and prove how not boring they are. I have to admit, 47 Meters Down made me incredibly uncomfortable. I’m claustrophobic and watching these girls not only be trapped in a cage, but also submerged underwater with a depleting air supply really hit my weak spots. I seriously had thoughts of walking out of the theater – that’s how much the situation was making me squirm. Just thinking of myself in that situation was unbearable – I’d be dead in minutes because of a panic attack – but I detached and got through it. Oh yeah, there are sharks in this movie! And they are actually well used, with the dark and murky water creating some tense and scary scenes. 47 Meters Down isn’t groundbreaking or particularly good – and the ending was kind of questionable – but it made me uncomfortable enough to get a thumbs up from me.

Replay Value: Not much, but I suppose I could watch it again.
Sequel Potential: The Sharknado sequels won’t stop coming, so maybe?
Oscar Potential: None

Grade: 5.5/10 (watchable/recommended)

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Back From Vegas

June 22, 2017

Just landed in Seattle last night and I will get back to blogging as soon as I can. Likely, that won’t be until next week when my wife goes back to work. Here’s what I will be working on in the next couple weeks:

-2017 WSOP Trip Report
-2017 first half poker results
-New Poker Goals
-Wonder Woman review
-47 Meters Down review
-Baywatch review
-Brother Ali profile (start listening)
-my 2017 MLB All-Star picks (possibly)

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June Music Preview: Last Post Before WSOP Hiatus

May 29, 2017

I’m flying out to Vegas today, so this will be my last post until late June. Here’s a quick look at what music will be coming out next month.

Music:

Kool G RapReturn Of The Don (2nd) – One of the old school GOATs. Never really dug into his catalog, but his skills are undeniable. One of the first truly elite rappers.

Halseyhopeless fountain kingdom (2nd) – Someone said they were excited to listen to this. I don’t know what it is, but I’ll check it out now.

Katy PerryWitness (9th) – Not exactly my thing, but notable nonetheless.

RancidTroublemaker (9th) – Shrug. I liked them in the mid-90’s but I have to say metal/punk rock is difficult for me to listen to now.

MC EihtWhich Way Iz West (9th) – One of the weaker old school west coast rappers IMO.

NickelbackFeed The Machine (9th) – Again, not my thing, but maybe someone that reads this wants to know they have a new album coming out.

SZACTRL (9th) – Rumor has it the TDE singer will finally be dropping her album on the 9th, but I haven’t seen this made official anywhere. Needless to say, anything associated with Top Dawg Entertainment is a must listen and hopefully we get some new Kendrick, Schoolboy, and Isaiah Rashad features.

Avenue EightFunk Me Up (16th) – No idea who they are, but the album cover and the album title has put it on my radar.

Big BoiBoomiverse (16th) – Andre 3000 might not want to make music, but Outkast’s other half has been plugging away. Big Boi released a couple albums when I wasn’t paying much attention to music, but they were both critically acclaimed. “Kill Jill” is exceptional and I’ve liked everything I have heard from Daddy Fat Sacks the last few years. Also, this is apparently a double album. Mark me down as excited.

LordeMelodrama (16th) – Definitely will check this out after enjoying the early singles.

Gucci ManeDrop Top Wop (23rd) – I’ve been giving basically everything a change, but this should hit my trash bin in record time.

RadioheadOKNOTOK (23rd) – One of the most acclaimed bands of all-time and while I’ve tried to give them a chance, I just don’t get it.

Vince StaplesBig Fish Theory (23rd) – I think at this point, Kendrick Lamar is the only rapper I want to hear an album from more than Vince Staples. His last album, Summertime ’06, was incredible. My expectations are immense.

Calvin HarrisFunk Wav Bounces Vol. 1 (30th) – If “Slide” with Frank Ocean and Migos (already on my Best of 2017 playlist) is what we can expect from this album, mark me down as stoked.

Also, for those of you that have Netflix streaming, here’s some of the more noteworthy additions for June:

Arrow: Season 5 (1st)
Full Metal Jacket (1st)
Rounders (1st)
The Queen (1st)
The Sixth Sense (1st)
Young Frankenstein (1st)
Zodiac (1st)
Dreamworks’ Trolls (7th)
Orange Is The New Black: Season 5 (9th)
Scandal: Season 6 (17th)
Disney’s Moana (20th)
GLOW: Season 1 (23rd)
Gypsy: Season 1 (30th)

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Alien: Covenant (2017)

May 27, 2017

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride
Director: Ridley Scott (Gladiator, Alien, Blade Runner)

Bottom Line: Count me among the many that enjoyed, but was somewhat disappointed, by Ridley Scott’s Alien prequel Prometheus in 2012. I only saw it once and if you’re thinking about seeing Alien: Covenant soon, I’d recommend taking another look at Prometheus first. Covenant picks up about ten years after the Prometheus’ ill-fated mission, with the crew of the Covenant landing on the same planet to investigate a signal that sounds like it could have a human origin. Having not revisited the previous film, I found myself confused about a number of things. Particularly, there’s a rather strange scene in the middle of this film that involves the alien DNA and it wasn’t clear to me whether it was some sort of dream sequence or an actual revelation. I felt like this scene was meant to tell us where the aliens really originated from, but it seemed so bizarre I wasn’t sure if we were meant to believe it. I can’t really expound on this confusion without getting too spoilery, but I’ll just say watching Prometheus again will definitely increase your enjoyment of this film.

Unlike Prometheus, Convenant is an Alien prequel through and through. If fans of the series were disappointed with Prometheus‘ audacity to veer off course and try to be something different, they will probably be happy with this film. After introducing us to the crew of the Covenant and sending them to the planet containing the alien pathogen, it’s not long before we have things exploding from abdomens and covering human faces. I have to say Ridley Scott does a great job of maximizing the tension, considering everyone in the audience understands the threat this time around. The alien scenes might not be scary, exactly, but they are taut and exhilarating and the film’s score really adds to the atmosphere.

I really have to give credit to the film’s creators for taking what started out as a very simple creature, the alien, one of the horror genre’s most notable monsters, and giving it an origin that is complex and interesting. It’s the kind of treatment that I hope Freddy Krueger gets one day. Am I the only one that thinks that there’s a great Freddy Krueger origin story out there somewhere? Additionally, Scott and the writers weave the events of Prometheus seamlessly into this film and makes them totally relevant, despite the fact that it was a film that stood completely on its own.

Michael Fassbender’s performance in Prometheus as the android David was universally acclaimed and he returns here as a new android named Walter that has some updated modifications to make him more compliant and Fassbender once again delivers top notch work. I’d go as far as to say he’s even better in this film and continues to rise of my list of favorite current actors. The rest of the cast is kind of unremarkable, but it’s worth noting that Danny McBride is in this film and he’s not trying to be funny. It’s weird and it feels miscast, but I didn’t hate him in the movie and he actually does a decent job of doing dramatic acting. Katherine Waterston’s Daniels is basically a clone of Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley and it’s kind of hard to ignore the similarities – or the failure to measure up. In a way, it’s actually kind of insulting.

Alien: Covenant lacks the originality of its predecessor, but it should give fans of the Alien franchise exactly what they are looking for. It’s fun, exciting, and, like Prometheus, beautifully shot. With great action and all the tropes you’d expect from the series, plus another fantastic performance from Fassbender, Alien: Covenant is a fun, if not amazing, time at the movies.

Replay Value: Prometheus has more replay value, but I never watched that again. I suppose at some time in the future, I will watch both films again…
Sequel Potential: …because there should at least one more movie before going full circle and reaching the events of Alien. It doesn’t look like anyone is officially attached at the moment, but it’s certainly in the works.
Oscar Potential: Prometheus got a Visual Effects nom, so I guess this should be drawing live at the same category. It would be strange for Michael Fassbender to get an acting nomination for a prequel sequel, but his work here is plenty noteworthy.

Grade: 6/10 (Recommended)