Saturday, May 14, 2016

Money Monster

is one of those movies whose trailers tell the whole story.  You watch the first trailer, and you know the plot.  The question becomes not, "What will happen?", but rather, "Will the ride be fun?"

I'm happy to report that in this case the answer is, yes, it is a very fun ride indeed.

Director Jodie Foster and the team of writers have turned what could have been a preachy agenda film into a velocity exercise (with some preachy bits).  By rarely slowing, the story involves us and only occasionally forces us to consider how very silly the underlying key event is.

The key actors--George Clooney, Julia Roberts, and Jack O'Connell--are all in fine form and turn in strong performances.  The players in lesser roles are also uniformly good.

In addition to the pacing, what really makes the film are its grace notes, scenes that could have gone conventionally but that instead have a bit of an odd edge to them. The one involving O'Connell's girlfriend is the best example; I won't spoil it for you by saying more.

Nothing about this movie is realistic, and it wears its politics openly, but it's still a fun ride.  I left the theater quite happy to have seen it.

Check it out.

Friday, May 13, 2016

This trailer for The Accountant

makes me very much look forward to the film.

Ben Affleck playing a troubled accountant cum hit man; what's not to like?

We'll learn more in October.  Between now and then, I hope they do not release any trailers in which his character speaks.  That would only ruin the magic.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Tesla service continues to shine

As I pulled out of my driveway Tuesday to go to work, a warning message appeared in the dashboard of my Tesla Model S.  It said my tire pressure was too low and I should pull over safely.  I drove to a gas station that's quite close to my house--the first time I've been in that station in some time--and filled all of my tires to the proper air pressure.  The right rear tire was fairly low, but because I was running late I gave it only a cursory inspection.  I saw nothing wrong and drove to work.

The car was fine until yesterday as I was heading to work, when the same warning appeared.  I called the local Tesla outpost, gave them my name, and explained the problem.  The guy on the phone clearly had my records in front of him almost instantly.  He asked what I'd like to happen.  I said I didn't have time to bring in the car, so I'd prefer they come get it.  I told him I would be available for a short time.  He said that was no problem.

Twenty minutes later, he showed up at my office building with a loaner, had me sign an inspection report, handed me a fob, and took mine.

The service folks called later that day to tell me the bad news:  my tire had picked up a screw, which was in deep, and so I'd need a new tire.  I okayed the expense, and they said they'd fix it and wash and vacuum the car.  I said I'd prefer a detailing--which you do have to pay for--and they said that would be no problem.  I kept the loaner overnight.

Today, they called to say they'd finished the car and asked when they could do the car swap.  I had only a half hour open.  At seven minutes into that half hour, a guy called to say he was in my office building's parking lot.  I missed the call.

By the time I found the phone message and made it downstairs, five minutes had passed.  In that time, he found the loaner, moved it out of its parking space, backed my car into the space, and was waiting beside the loaner.  When I marveled at that, he said, "I figured there was no point in you having to waste time doing the car shuffle."  I signed the approval form and headed back to work.

My car sparkled like new, inside and out, when I checked it.

I paid only for the tire work and the detailing.

The total time the experience cost me, counting all signing, phone calls, and walking, was under 15 minutes.

Yes, I own both a Model S and Tesla stock, but, damn, this was yet another great Tesla service experience.

The combination of the Model S being such an amazing car and the service continuing to be so fantastic makes me want to own only Tesla cars.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Green Room

appears from its trailers to be exactly the sort of horror movie I skip:  a bunch of dumb teens do dumb things in a dumb setting while an only slightly less dumb killer chops up most of them.  After Steve saw it, though, he said that it was more of a bleak and violent noir film than a horror flick.  The presence of Patrick Stewart also made me consider it.  Finally, trusting Steve and hoping for the best from Stewart, I went to see it recently.

I'm quite glad I did.  Steve was right:  though often horrific, Green Room is not a horror film.  A good way for a noir narrative to begin is for someone to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, often for no particular reason, see something, and consequently begin a horrible journey.  That is exactly the structure of Green Room.

The acting is uniformly good, and the plotting and pacing are tight.  From start to finish, the ride is intriguing and compelling; I never wanted to look away.

I don't want to give away anything about the film, so let me say simply that if you are up for 95 tense minutes of entertainment, and if you can handle violence on screen, don't miss Green Room.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Just when you think the government of North Carolina couldn't possibly get more stupid

my state's Republican governor and Republican-led legislature prove that we have yet to explore what stupid really means.

In case you've missed the recent news about NC, after our idiotic government wrote discrimination into law with the despicable HB2, I thought we had hit bottom.  I hoped we would react to the scorn we were receiving and the accompanying loss of jobs and money by repealing this awful law.

We didn't.

Apparently the U.S. government got tired of waiting, because Attorney General Loretta Lynch and the Justice Department have filed suit against North Carolina over this bill.  (For more on that story, you can start here or search easily enough.)  They threatened not just to continue the lawsuit but to take away some Federal funding programs.

At this point, I briefly hoped that our governor would use the lawsuit as a way to save face, blame the big bad Feds for making him change, and back away from the law.

Oh, no.  That would be entirely too sensible for Governor McCrory.  Instead, our state sued the Justice Department.

North Carolina is in many ways a wonderful state, and I am usually happy to live here.  We have our share of issues, of course, including plenty of poverty, underpaid teachers, and an education system that is nowhere near as good as it could be, to name but three.  Our government could be focusing its time and resources on such challenges, but instead our governor doubles down on HB2.

HB2 denies rights to transgender people.  It is thus wrong-headed, even evil.

Attorney General Lynch accurately noted, "It was not so very long ago that states, including North Carolina, had other signs above restrooms, water fountains, and on public accommodations, keeping people out based on a distinction without a difference. We've moved beyond those dark days."

I'd like to think she's right, but at least some North Carolinians, including our governor, still live in those awful times.

Lynch also said, "This action is about a great deal more than bathrooms.  This is about the dignity and the respect that we accord our fellow citizens and the laws that we as a people and as a country have enacted to protect them."

When we deny rights to any group, we open the door for additional similar actions, and so we hurt all of us.

I hope everyone in this state remembers this time come November, so we can all vote McCrory and the other ass clowns out of their offices.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Captain America: Civil War hits on all cylinders

A plot big enough to fill nearly two and a half hours?  Check.

A huge ensemble of characters, all of whom manage to be individuals you can understand and care about?  Check.

Moments of humor that never feel forced and that let you breathe--for a moment--before the action resumes?  Check.

Run down the Marvel superhero movie checklist, and you'll find that Civil War hits every item perfectly.  Even when you read about the formula, as I did, you still find it working on you.

Does the movie have flaws?  Absolutely.  The most egregious involves the timing of certain key events, but in the moment you forgive them and go along for the ride.

This far past the film's debut, I'm not likely to be able to sway you, because you almost certainly already know if you want to see it (if you haven't already gone).  If you are undecided, though, and you have liked any of the other Marvel movies, then do not miss this one.

As a kid, I was addicted to comics.  As a grown-up, I find it absolutely wonderful that the superheroes of my youth are now filling movie screens with wonder.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

On Mother's Day

I'm not generally a fan of holidays that we've recently created.  Mother's Day, with its U.S. origins in 1908, is one of the older of that group, but I've never really celebrated it.  I did usually remember to call my mother on this day, and on a few occasions I even sent something, but it was already so commercialized that I rarely did much for it.

At the same time, our mothers do deserve our thanks for all they've done for us, starting with birthing us.  The older I've gotten, the more I've appreciated all the work it took my mom to raise three kids, for many years as a single mother.

So my take is this:  Yeah, Mother's Day is an overly commercialized event, but if your mom is alive, it wouldn't hurt you to send a little love her way, talk to her, and let her know how much you value her.  If she's not alive, pause a moment to appreciate her.  As an excuse to show a little love, which is rarely a bad thing, we could do worse.


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