You’re Killing Me, Rangers

1-4. That is the actual record of the New York Rangers right now. It’s a spiral of history staining proportions that needs to be pulled out of right now. The team is just not working together well, the defense is still a problem. Shattenkirk is doing everything he can but he’s only one guy. Weird breaks against them are happening (deflection off a teammate into a goal last night) that they aren’t rebounding from.

The lines are constantly changing seemingly at a whim. Filip was sent to Hartford a week ago. The hype flew out the window in maybe 20 minutes of ice time for him. Some stability needs to be found and it ain’t coming from coach Alain Vigneault. He’s been given a lot of chances and I think his doomsday clock just started moving.

If they don’t beat the Devils tonight, I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself.

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Mr. Robot S3E01

Power Saver Mode

Last season ended on a cliff hanger with Elliot shot and the season 3 premiere wastes no time in moving forward.

Some realizations come quick and a fundamental pivot has happened.

First, Tyrell is real. Elliot was wrong. In a power move to take control of his own mind, Elliot had challenged what he thought was a mental projection. That was a real gun and a real Tyrell. This leaves Elliot bleeding out of the floor and we’re introduced to a fixer for the Dark Army: Irving.

Now the Dark Army made some big moves last season. Darlene is scared to death as they put the pinch on f society with deadly actions. She couldn’t find Elliot for days and has basically crawled into a shell.

Irving comes to Tyrell’s SOS and saves Elliot’s life. They sweep the base of operations clean, Tyrell is who knows where now and Elliot comes to in Angela’s apartment. Elliot has a lot to process. He doesn’t feel Mr. Robot anymore. Maybe the shot killed him. But he was wrong about everything to do with f society. He knows what Stage 2 is (his own plan made without his knowledge) and Tyrell stopped him from shutting down the plan. Everything he wanted to do with f society was a mistake, it made everything worse and he can’t blame anything but himself. He has to do what he can to fix it. He has to shut down the backdoor to E Corps recovery effort so the Dark Army can’t destroy it all. He needs Angela’s help to get him a job at E Corp. Elliot has committed himself to being a white hat.

White Rose has other plans and her right-hand man (I guess that’s what he is) is annoyed. Tyrell and Elliot are unstable and he doesn’t understand why White Rose wants to keep working with them to finish Stage 2. He’s “more than capable” of doing it. White Rose is convinced she’s right, she just needs to keep Elliot’s rage focused on the task she wants him to do. And she has help.

In the gadzooks moment, Angela has turned. The Dark Army stopped her from going to the FBI. Angela has listened to what Whiterose has told her and is in her pocket. Mr. Robot isn’t gone and Angela can tell when it’s him and when it’s Elliot. Elliot has no idea Mr. Robot is autonomous again. Angela plays along with Elliot leading him where Whiterose wants and works with Mr. Robot when he shows up. Elliot may be a white hat but his other half is a committed black hat and he has no clue. It looks like Irving is her contact/handler/liaison to the Dark Army and Mr. Robot knows Irving. The scene with Angela is talking to Mr. Robot on the subway is nuts on so many levels. “How can you tell when it’s me or him?” “Your eyes are different. You don’t look away.”

This is straight up spy stuff and I love it. Irving first meets Elliot (conscious Elliot) and Darlene by getting them out of a bind and tries to get Elliot to go along with Stage 2. White hat Elliot says no and Elliot sneaks off with Darlene to close the backdoor in a hidden hacker party. He manages to do it but gets cut off by Whiterose’s men. So it’s a win for Elliot and a point of contention for Mr. Robot when he finds out. Mr. Robot is furious that Elliot will be pushing back on everything he tries to do with Stage 2.

Interesting realization: Elliot doesn’t know about Mr. Robot but the reverse isn’t true. But when one personality is in charge, the other one doesn’t know what they are doing. It’s a complete mind split with independent thoughts, memories, and actions. Now, how long until Elliot figures out what’s happening. I don’t think Elliot is blacking out when Mr. Robot takes control so it won’t be obvious to him. The first time we see Mr. Robot in the episode is when Elliot goes to sleep in Angela’s apartment.

Fascinating start, I can’t wait for more.

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Everything is OK, Hockey is Back

The 2017-2018 season has started! And the Rangers lost the home opener to Colorado 4-2. It was a game marked by bursts of greatness and it was Colorado’s goalie that saved their bacon about a dozen times. Going down 2 goals is never good but the Rangers rallied with Mika Zibanejad firing rockets almost every chance he got.

While a first loss is disappointing there’s a lot of promise. Kevin Shattenkirk is making a clear difference, just one game in. He hustles, he’s a legit defender that the Rangers desperately needed.

Rookie Filip Chytl has all the hype behind him right now and time will tell if he can make a mark. The early buzz from the coaching staff and teammates like Mats believe he can.

Lundquist giving up 3 goals in the first game is not a good starting point. He had no chance on 1 of them but he’s got to find his footing again. Last season he had deep hills and valleys which ended up being his worst season stats wise. Backup goalie Raanta was traded and the newcomer has a record that is considerably worse than Raanta’s. I’m concerned that when Hank needs the time off, the back up will struggle to keep the team afloat. The goalie staff is fantastic though so I’m sure he’s been putting in some serious work.

There’s a lot of potential, I think another playoff run is more than possible this season. It’s going to take the team to jell together though. There’s a lot of new blood (the guys on the farm teams could be a great asset when needed) so that means there’s a lot to figure out. Who fits where and best as the season goes. That’s up to Alain V, hopefully, he doesn’t lean on and crush the veterans like he has been doing. Get those hungry kids out there, it’s the only way to make deep, versatile lines.

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Halt and Catch Fire S4E07

Who Needs a Guy

I planned on waiting for the series finale to write about Halt again but episode 7 knocked me for a loop.

Something tragic happens and I’m going to try to dance around it to avoid spoilers. You can find it elsewhere in about 4 seconds but I think it’s always best to go into a story blind so you can experience the original intent of the show creators.

I’ve been a fan of Halt from the very beginning and I didn’t realize how attached to the characters until last night. The arc of the show spans a long time, it’s a large chunk of these people’s lives. Cam, Joe, Gordon, and Donna are deeply intertwined. Gordon and Donna are family so their history goes years longer than the rest but they all go through some life changing events together. They clash just as much as they get along.

Knowing that this is the final season, I’m in the headspace that there is an end in sight. I’m going to be left behind at a point where the show ends and the characters live on without me watching. This season is very dense with growth. Haley and Joanie are teenagers and are much more than window dressing around the adults. Gordon and Donna are divorced but with their kids, they’re tied together for life and while they do still fight, they keep coming back together. Cameron and Joe keep finding themselves on islands, from their own doing or otherwise. Wrapping them together in the tech industry is a fascinating backdrop, something that’s unique to the show. Watching Cam get disinterested in her passion was terrible but someone new is now engaging her and more than that, pushing her out of her comfort zone. Cam is an intense person and seeing her potentially on a new track is very exciting.

There are two more weeks left, the finale is going to be 2 hours. After Who Needs a Guy, I have no idea what’s going to happen. It feels like I’ve watched the end, a major, emotional, world-changing shock that’s left me dazed along with the characters in the fallout and there is more to come. It’s an achievement that I’m so invested in fictional people.

 

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The Strain <> Series Finale

Four seasons and we’re out! I think The Strain had a great arc in its time. It kept moving and didn’t wear out its welcome.

I have very few complaints with this series and the complaints I do have, came out in the wash. I might not have liked what every character did but it did feel grounded and everyone came full circle in the end. The main cast goes through a real ordeal and they changed as the story progressed. I liked the cast a lot and watching people be heroes is always great.  Each season had cool moments and escalations that kept the show new and interesting.

The only big question I have at the end is the most glaring: what was the rest of the country doing during this? I don’t think there’s much mention of what was going on outside basically the tri-state area. There’s no way the events in NYC could be ignored. The strigoi, after being in hiding for so long, basically strut around in the open for the last season. We watch everything occur in New York because that’s where the infestation started.  I can’t remember a time when it was mentioned that the strigoi made any moves in other states. That would have needed to be a massive operation to not have the military not at least considering to come in and level the insanity after what happens in season 3.

But, I digress. The show was about Eph and his immediate surroundings. Popping around DC in the beginning, Philly near the end and the hub of NYC. The show always looked good, the SFX were often impressive and the show was just fun to watch. They brought it in for a landing with the finale too, I’m happy with how it ends. Consequences, sacrifices, vindication, revenge, and a dash of redemption.

Now my problem is, where am I going to get my monster fix?

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BoJack Horseman <> Season 4

BoJack Horseman continues to one of the best TV shows, animated or not, on any network. Season 3 was intense with a gripping finale so the stakes were very high going into Season 4.

I like and need to be rather vague when discussing Bojack. It’s a complicated and mature (in the best adult way, not cursing, sex, nudity) story that you need to watch to grab onto what this show throws down. Bojack’s world can get very dark and skipping the nuances does a disservice to the writing and performances.

Season 3 got down in the dumps at the end. Some really awful stuff happens to BoJack that sends him into a spiral. He tries to flee his problems and the last scenes are intense. There’s a glimmer of hope at the very end that could have been a series finale or season finale. We got more, so here we are.

Season 4 starts without BoJack. Everyone in Hollywoo is grinding forward in his absence. Mr. Peanutbutter gets into politics, Diane is holding on for dear life as the political hysteria (it’s nuts) push into her personal space as she struggles to write for a website. Princess Carolyn is strutting her stuff trying to keep her agency and relationship with Ralph and Todd keeps plugging along trying to be himself while helping everyone around him in any way he can.

Bojack gets into some wacky spaces, dysfunction being a paramount theme. The main theme of this season is family. The relationships you have with those who do and do not share your blood. Mr. Peanutbutter and Diane go through some really trying stuff and end up somewhere new. A girl named Hollyhock shows up claiming to be Bojack’s daughter and that throws BoJack for a loop. A guy who can barely help himself has a new responsibility show up and he doesn’t know what to do. Then his ailing mother comes into the picture, they’ve had a strained relationship, to say the least, and he doesn’t know what to do. Todd isn’t sure what kind of relationship he wants and Princess Carolyn knows what relationship she wants but nature keeps getting in her way.

BoJack Horseman covers a lot of ground. Depression, anger, anxiety, sexuality, self-sabotage, self-medication, what does it mean to be happy, and it’s all wrapped up in the Los Angeles environment.

As you can tell, I adore this show. BoJack is the main character, but the show doesn’t necessarily hinge on him. He can be taken out of the spotlight and it’s fine. All the “B” plotlines are so rich that the world building outside (alongside, really) of BoJack makes the show completely enthralling. I love all the characters and that’s incredible. The fact that this show can get so funny pushes it over the edge for me.

If you don’t watch this show, start as soon as you can. And from the beginning! That’s very important. Season 4 shows a lot of growth for the entire cast and it ends on a much different note than Season 3.

Season 5 has been greenlit. I’ll be there the day it hits.

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Updates

Okay, I thought I’d be up to the “sending out query letters” portion of “Get THE DARKEST WINTER” published but book proposals are not something you can put together correctly in less than a week. There are many parts and it’s got to be done right. So I’m still working on that (and doing more edits to the manuscript as a result of going through my work).

Outside of my writing, the new season of TV has started. South Park and Broad City came back together and while the premieres were good, episode 2 for both were hysterical.

The other treat for me so far is the return of Gotham. I liked season 3 a lot and 4 is off to a start. Bruce is hitting the streets as a vigilante, Penguin has “cleaned” up the streets by making a crime license scheme, Selina is rolling with Tabitha and looking more and more like Catwoman. Tabitha is teaching her how to fight and it’s straight out of the comics. They’re skewing Victor Zzasz to be funny which is a big change from the books but I think it works. And the big bad as emerged! Scarecrow looks absolutely amazing (go,Charlie Tahan! He’s getting major screen time this year).

And that’s just the start, lots to look forward to.

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I Finished My Novel, “The Darkest Winter”

A major milestone. A solid 4 years in the making, I did it. I finished my first novel. I’ve put in a tremendous amount of time into it and in all honesty, part of myself. The seeds of the idea came from hurricane Sandy and it morphed into this 90,000-word story that’s full of characters I created.

I finished the story last Tuesday, September 5th. My writers’ group read the final two chapters after that and yesterday I completed the last edits. All of that and I still didn’t break 90,000 words which was one of my goals from the start.

I’m really happy with it now. It’s the story I wanted to tell and it reads complete. I can’t believe all the beats I thought of in these years all came together and turned out to be the perfect length. So now, the next phase.

Finding a literary agent. The manuscript is complete. I need to write a book proposal (I rather robust document) and then send out query letters to agents who are looking for action, adventure, thriller, manuscripts. With all of the feedback I’ve gotten so far, I really think this story is one that will sell and find a fan base. It’s modern, it’s driven by strong characters, and it relates to the world we live in today.

So my next step to becoming a published author starts this week. Time to get my work out there and noticed by the right people.

Onwards and upwards!

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Movie Menagerie 7

The LEGO Batman Movie– Sometimes you don’t realize what you want until someone hands it to you. Wacky Batman is just what I was in the mood for. LEGO Batman takes the Batman mythos and makes fun of it while embracing it. Here we have a Batman who has more or less consumed the Bruce Wayne side. He’s too cool for the room, almost dancing through the crime fighting as he’s done it for so long it’s become second nature. His whole world is behind the mask and he won’t let anyone close to him. When Joker hatches a grand plan to get revenge on Batman for hurting his feelings and Bruce accidentally adopts Dick Greyson, Batman must take a good look at himself and save not just Gotham, but himself. There are a ton of Batman and DC Universe references, the creativity is off the charts, the gags are often laugh out loud funny and the animation is nuts. Michael Cera as Dick/Robin had me dying. A joy to watch in every regard, LEGO Batman is the antithesis to “Why so serious?”

Beauty and the Beast (2017)- I never thought there would be a market for a live action remake of the classic Disney movie but this movie made a fortune so that shows how much I know. I haven’t seen the 1991 movie in forever so this seemed to me like it did nothing different. Looking at the run time this edition is a half an hour longer so that’s a lot. From my “I’m not in this demographic” perspective, it’s the same movie with CG animation instead of hand drawn cel animation. I’m an Emma Watson fan so they had me there and the work to make Beast come to life is very good. So yeah, this movie exists along with the numerous other adaptations.

Assassin’s Creed – I know they really tried with this video game adaption and while it isn’t bad per say but it is forgettable. Once the credits rolled I had a hard time remembering the story I just watched. It takes the basic plot of the first game and puts in a new protagonist played by Michael Fassbender (a major casting get, production must have been thrilled). Callum Lynch has a violent past, one touched by the centuries long fight between the Assassins and the Knights Templar. The Templar are after the Apple, an artifact told to hold human’s free will. The Assassins are sworn to protect the location of the Apple. So Lynch is discovered by Abstergo, the mega corp run by the knights and they put him into the Animus, a machine that brings memories of your heritage to light. Callum’s family tree goes back 500 years and goes in direct contact of the Apple. So begins the restoration of Callum’s memory, bringing back new revelations in his mother’s death.

The story seems very light as it goes. It’s paced really fast and it always seems like something is missing. A hook (a care really) to bring you into this story. The special effects are good, if reliant on dusty pulsing light visuals. The action is good as well, direct taking one of the strongest elements from the game series, even if it’s often shot and cut too close and fast. When Callum is first put into the machine, they cut in and out of the memory to the real world to see how the Animus physically makes him think he’s living the memory. They do this every time he’s in the machine which is incredibly distracting. I don’t care how he’s moving about in his institution supplied pajamas, keep me running around ancient cities, which is way more fresh and interesting looking than the teal tinted present day. The ending is incredibly disappointing too. Just like the biggest sin of the games, we’re brought to an important area that has basically no security. Callum more or less walks right in, taking any kind of tension and earned fight out of the entire picture (the escape before that is a highlight though). The movie limps to the end like it was after thought. Saying “That’s it?” when the credits roll is never a good thing.

10 Cloverfield Lane– A fun “bottle” movie that expands into something bigger in the third act. A very simple set up leads the way. Michelle breaks up with her boyfriend and takes off out of town. On the road, she gets into a car accident and wakes up held in a bunker with two men. They tell her no one can leave because of some kind of attack that happened above ground, the air is toxic. A successful suspense movie, 10CL keeps you constantly guess on who to believe. Waking up in a bunker is always an immediate concern and Howard (John Goodman) makes an intense first impression. Can he be trusted? The other man, Emmett, seems to believe him but at first look, he’s rather suspicious as well. The movie twists and turns along, pushing on the walls until it pops.  At a little over 90 minutes, things move along quickly and the constant questions and reveals keep you on your toes. I liked where it went for the climax so this was a fun movie for me from start to finish. It’s another reminder of how fantastic John Goodman is, the man needs to be seen in action more!

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Ozark

I came out of Bloodline right into this so the timing was perfect for me.

Martin Bryd is a financial advisor in Chicago. He also launders money for a Mexican drug cartel. Things are going pretty well until his friend and business partner gets caught doing something he should not have. This forces Marty to relocate with his wife and two kids to the Ozarks so he can make up for what his friend did. Every week the deadline of cleaning $8 million gets closer. Every week the life of him and his family gets closer to being cut short.

I’m a Jason Bateman fan and he crushes it as Marty. In fact, I love the entire cast. Laura Linney holds down a very important and difficult role as his wife Wendy. The kids are fantastic. There’s some complex and intense story telling going down here and I ate it all up.

I love crime stories, people getting into trouble and trying to get out of it is some of my favorite material. Every step is fraught with peril and I appreciated the well thought out and rationalized beats. Every time Marty gets a leg up, something happens.  Twists and turns all over the place, it’s a lakeside Greek tragedy.

I was hooked from the pilot episode and it never let up. I could go without the unrelenting teal (just look at that poster) but that’s my only complaint. The green light for Season 2 has been given and I will be there the second it is put into the Netflix pipe for me to consume.

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Get Out

Writer/Director Jordan Peele did his horror movie research. Impressive first movie from anyone, let alone a person known so well only for comedy.

Chris has been dating Rose for a few months and they go visit her parents for the weekend at their secluded home in the woods (upstate New York I think). Chris is black and Rose is white and he asks Rose as their packing for the trip if she told them he was black. She says no, there’s no reason to. He has his doubts but the happy couple hop into the car and start their trip. What follows is a polite and friendly environment decaying into madness right before your eyes.

Like some of the strongest and well-regarded horror films, Get Out is a smart take on modern social issues cranked up. From the time the two are on the road, the uncomfortable reactions start. Each step that the movie shows is a measured one. Events, starting with a cop asking for Chris’ ID for no reason, are always off and get increasingly more strange. The escalation is really

The escalation is really brillant. Racial profiling is something we read about almost every day and is sadly rather normalized. Chris is a young man and takes the quickest de-escalation route right away. He gets his ID while Rose protests. It’s clear that this has happened to him before. It’s gross but Chris wants them to put it behind them.

Once at the house, more casual racism seeps out. Sometimes it’s overt, sometimes subtle but Chris, along with the audience always catch it. We’re first led in with “that’s weird…” Then the horror movie escalation starts. “That’s really weird… ” goes to “Alright, what was that about?” to “Okay, something is seriously going on here” to “Get Out!”

I’m impressed by every aspect of Get Out. It’s smartly written, cast correctly, and paced really well. No reliance on gore or violence which I think is another achievement. It doesn’t waste any time setting the stage and then pushing expectations. It’s generally creepy, has pops of humor at just the right points that are super effective, and very well shot. My only thought is that I think they could have gotten away with even less of a soundtrack. What happens on screen to make the viewer suspicious and uneasy in the beginning totally works. When creepy music starts playing I felt like it was too leading and it meant they (the studio) didn’t think the audience would be smart enough to keep up and “get it.” Plus, there is a cheap orchestra hit that I never like (super lazy).

I think the less you know going in, the better it will be so I’ll leave it at that. Great ride that I think will stand the test of time. Generations will watch this movie as a great example of what horror can do.

 

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FaceOff and Game Face

Another quality season of SYFY’s FaceOff recently finished. My favorite, Faina, just missed the final three. My biggest surprise as she was in the top cluster of contestants every challenge. She’s one of the best painters, but it wasn’t enough. The winner is very deserving though and the one who made it through instead of Faina (didn’t think she’d make it, she hit some rough patches) put up a really good fight.

So at the conclusion of Season 12 (!) a new spin off series began, Game Face. Four previous contestants are brought in to do what are essentially flash challenges. They have 90 minutes to make a character based on the criteria given. The bottom look goes home and the final two contestants do one two hour challenge for $10,000. It’s a great idea. We get to see what people have been up to and how they’ve progressed since the last time they’ve been on FaceOff. The pressure cooker competition is in full effect and it’s great to see artists design and work on the fly.

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