erik lundegaard

Wednesday August 27, 2014

Movie Review: The Immigrant (2013)

WARNING: SPOILERS

I think of the word “traduced” when I think of this movie. As in: Someone must have traduced Ewa C., for without having done anything wrong she found herself in America one fine morning.

Marion Cotillard plays Ewa Cybulska, a Polish immigrant arriving in America in 1921 with her sister Magda (Angela Sarafyan), who is suffering from tuberculosis and thus taken out of line at Ellis Island and placed into quarantine. She disappears into the bowels of an uncaring, faceless bureaucracy. Ewa, meanwhile, is traduced: declared a woman of low morals because of a shipboard incident. But she is saved from disappearing into bureaucratic bowels by Bruno Weiss (Joaquin Phoenix), a man who insinuates himself into every situation and exudes ickiness from the get-go. The Immigrant Marion CotillardHe declares he will vouch for her, does, and off they go into the uncaring bowels of New York City: the lower east side.

Bruno, it turns out (and big surprise), runs a kind of burlesque show. He’s half barker, half pimp, and our concern for Ewa is of a traditional nature: Will she be forced into prostitution? What of her virtue? Oh, what of it? My concern for the movie, meanwhile, was graver: Would this just be a sad, downward-trajectory film or would it veer in unexpected directions? Could it retain our interest and still feel true?

The good news is it’s not simply a downward-trajectory film. Ewa isn’t just a victim and Bruno isn’t just a victimizer; but the prostitution thing still happens. Off camera, mostly.

Unraveled, Ewa’s story is a sad one:

  • Her parents were killed during the Great War.
  • On the ship to America, she is raped, which is why she is declared “a woman of low morals.”
  • Her uncle, who is supposed to meet her at the dock, abandons her when he discovers her new, traduced reputation. When she finds her way to his and his wife’s place in Brooklyn, he hands her over to the cops, who hand her back to Bruno. She’s trapped.

The arrival of Emil (Jeremy Renner), a Houdini wannabe, cousin to Bruno and rival for Ewa’s affections, adds energy and comedy to the story. Ultimately tragedy, too. The cousins fight over her and Emil is killed. For some reason that I can’t quite fathom, Ewa immediately becomes a suspect in his murder. It was Emil’s knife, they had been seen fighting publicly, yet somehow she is suspect. She could wind up in prison. Or worse.

It’s almost the Perils of Ewa. We’re just missing the traintracks.

Two wrongs, two rights
“The Immigrant” does two things wrong. One is that poster. Look at that thing. Who designed it? How incompetent do you have to be to make Marion Cotillard look both airbrushed and unattractive? You airbrush people to make them look more attractive, but she looks better in any frame of this film than she does in this lifeless thing. (Mouse over for a better version of the poster.)

The second thing the movie does wrong—and I hate to mention this because I’m a fan—is Joaquin Phoenix. He does not seem to be the man he’s supposed to be. He’s supposed to be slick but he’s not, a salesman but no, a user of women but how? Instead he gives us his usual, muddled, self-hating Joaquin schtick. This is a character who fended for himself as a kid on the lower east side? Since when?

But the movie also does two things right. First, it cast Marion Cotillard as Ewa. She’s a wonder to watch. She’s not only makes us feel this woman’s vulnerability, her toughness, her dedication to her sister, but she’s beautiful enough that you understand why both men fall in love with her. Yeah, I know: the movies are full of beautiful actresses. But ... Maybe it’s just me. We lust after actresses (Halle Berry, et al.), we get smitten by others (Carey Mulligan, et al.), but she’s the only one that makes my stomach do little flips. I get joy just out of watching her face. You know the line about how you’d pay to hear John Houseman read the phone book? I think I’d pay to watch Marion Cotillard read the phone book.

There’s also the film’s message of forgiveness. Throughout, Ewa is repulsed by Bruno; she despises him. But when she’s wanted for murder (which, of course, he committed), Bruno hides her. The cops beat him and he doesn’t talk. They steal everything he’s saved; ditto. Shortly thereafter, Ewa returns to her aunt’s home to ask for the money to free her sister. She asks this: “Is it a sin to want to survive when I have done so many bad things?” She says this. It’s like a break in the clouds:

God has sent me to someone so very lost, someone who made my life a sin. And now, this person suffers for me. So I am learning the power of forgiveness.

“The Immigrant” was written and directed by James Gray, who’s made, among others,  “We Own the Night,” “Two Lovers,” and “The Yards.” Those are gritty, “good effort” movies. They’re trying for something and don’t quite get there. You want to like them more. This is another one.

Posted at 07:08 AM on Aug 27, 2014 in category Movie Reviews - 2013
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Tuesday August 26, 2014

Lancelot Links

Matthew McConaughey in True Detective

McConaughey as Det. Rust Cohle. “What do you think the average IQ of the Emmy voter is, huh?”

  • Jay Leno at the Emmys: “And the winner is ... Modern Family!” Patricia: “Oh, for god's sake.” My feeling, too. And I love me some “Breaking Bad” but Matthew McConaughey was on another plane with “True Detective.” Nathaniel Rogers suggests some Emmy fixes, regardless of your rooting interests.
  • A friend of a friend, under the nom de Twit “One Observation a Day,” offered up just that for 365 straight days. The year's done and here are the results.
  • From Digital Music News, how the music industry has changed in one gif. The change refers to the thing we buy (vinyl, CD, download), not the music that's on the thing.
  • I wrote my last movie review for The Seattle Times, on “Coach Carter,” in January 2005—I was moving to Minnneapolis—but I returned to their pages last Friday with a short review of “When the Game Stands Tall.” What do these movies have in common? Besides being about coaches and sports? They were both directed by Thomas Carter, Heywood on “The White Shadow,” and he didn't directed any feature films in between. Odd serendipity, no? Plus they're both not good.
  • Have you been following Grantland's “Battle for the Best SNL Cast Member”? Have you been casting your votes? I have, nerd that I am. I really thought it would be Carvey vs. Myers in the “Lorne's Return” era (1986-1994) but it turned out to be Farley vs. Hartman. Here are my assumptions going forward: Murphy vs. Farley in the first 20 year bracket, Ferrell vs. Wiig in the second. The championship will be Murphy vs. Ferrell. Ferrell will win. And more cowbell will be heard throughout the land. But I've always been bad at prognositications. 
  • Why are the big-payroll teams losing so much this year? (Dodgers/Angels excepted.) Joe Posnanski thinks it ties to PEDs or their lack. He thinks it relates to what PEDs allowed players to do ... which they don't do anymore. M's fans take note. Spells doom, shortly. As I warned.
  • You often hear things like “John Oliver explained that better than any journalist ever has!” But how often do you hear it from the Columbia Journalism Review?
  • From the Onion: Judge orders pretty white girl will be tried as 300-lb. black man. Parody, but spot on. Father: “This is America: Nobody deserves to be treated as a black man!”
  • The passing of a family friend. Rest in peace, Mark Saunders.
Posted at 03:47 PM on Aug 26, 2014 in category Lancelot Links
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Quote of the Day

“But here was a lesson Democrats would have all too much occasion to contemplate in the years ahead: to claim the mantle of purity is always a risky business. It just gives voters an excuse to be disillusioned once your ordinary humanity us exposed.”

-- Rick Perlstein on the Congressional class of 1974, the so-called “Watergate babies,” in his book, “The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan”

Posted at 01:41 PM on Aug 26, 2014 in category Quote of the Day
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Siskel, Ebert, and Top 10 Woodys

Woody Allen in Love and Death

Woody Allen, with one of the title characters, in “Love and Death.” Gene Siskel recognized the genius before others.

At the end of the 1970s, Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert did a “Sneak Previews” episode arguing over who was the funnier filmmaker: Woody Allen or Mel Brooks. Siskel went Allen, Ebert went Brooks. I remember back then talking about it with my dad, the film critic for The Minneapolis Tribune. How could anyone choose Mel Brooks over Woody Allen? Sure he was funny, but ... Brooks has made only five movies in the ’70s, almost all parodies of film genres, and the last two, “Silent Movie” and “High Anxiety,” were hardly winners. Allen made a movie a year. He’d won two Academy Awards. His movie, “Annie Hall,” had won the Oscar for best picture. He kept growing. Plus I thought he was just funnier. Mel over Woody? Was Roger nuts?

“They probably flipped a coin,” my father said, agreeing, “and Ebert lost.”

Looking over Siskel and Ebert’s annual top 10 lists recently, I see now that Siskel was in fact a bigger Allen fan than Ebert. “Annie Hall” was Siskel’s No. 1 movie of 1977. (No. 8 for Ebert.) “Manhattan” was No. 5 for Siskel in ’79. (It didn’t make Ebert’s list.) Siskel included “Annie Hall” among his best films of the decade and Ebert didn’t. Siskel included “The Purple Rose of Cairo” among his best films of 1985 and Ebert didn’t.

From 1975 to 1989, Woody Allen wrote and directed 14 movies, and half of them, seven, made Siskel’s annual top 10 list. My favorite inclusion is probably “Love and Death” as the third-best movie of 1975—ahead of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “Dog Day Afternoon,” “Barry Lyndon” and “Jaws." That’s still when Woody was doing broad comedy, too. But Gene always liked broad comedy.

Roger included five Allen movies during this period: Three at the end of the ‘80s—“Hannah and Her Sisters,” “Radio Days” and “Crimes and Misdemeanors”—and two from the ‘70s: “Annie Hall” and “Interiors.” Ebert would go on to include one more Allen movie on his top 10 list, “Everyone Says I Love You” from 1996, but Siskel’s list is almost the canon, isn’t it?

Anyway it's interesting to sort it all out this way. Might do more with other directors soon. 

Siskel's Top 10 Woodys Ebert's Top 10 Woodys
Love and Death, 1975 (#3) Annie Hall, 1977 (#8)
Annie Hall, 1977 (#1) Interiors, 1978 (#6)
Manhattan, 1979 (#5) Hannah and Her Sisters, 1986 (#3)
The Purple Rose of Cairo, 1985 (#10) Radio Days, 1987 (#7)
Hannah and Her Sisters, 1986 (#1) Crimes and Misdemeanors, 1989 (#8)
Radio Days, 1987 (#7) Everyone Says I Love You, 1996 (#8)
Crimes and Misdemeanors, 1989 (#7)  

Anyway it's interesting to sort it all out this way.

Posted at 06:04 AM on Aug 26, 2014 in category Movies
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Monday August 25, 2014

Annette Lake, August 2014

P and I went on a hike with our friends Ben and Diana yesterday. This was our destination and lunch spot.

CLICK ON THE PHOTO FOR A BIGGER VERSION.

Annette Lake, August 2014

This is the third time I've hiked Annette Lake. It's not a bad hike, almost always under a canopy of trees so cooler than most, but hardly something to write a blog about. It's medium length (3 miles one way), without much elevation gain (1,000 feet or so), and fairly accessible: less than a mile from Exit 47 off of I-90. It's also not very crowded. The ending is pretty but hardly Snow Lake. 

I think about it, though, because the first time I hiked it, in Sept. 2011, I was done almost before noon. It felt like child's play to me: too easy. I felt super strong. A month later I came down with what was diagnosed, a month later, as subacute thyroiditis. I've been in the wake of that ever since. Life gives and life takes, and this is one of the things it took. It'll take more. 

Posted at 08:54 AM on Aug 25, 2014 in category Hiking
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Hollywood B.O.: 'Guardians' Returns to No. 1; 'Sin City' Suffers for Its Many Sins

Guardians of the Galaxy

The good guys.

This is the kind of weekend box office that restores your faith in weekend box office. It’s a weekend straight out of a Hollywood movie: i.e., the good guys win, the bad guys get theirs, and some order is restored to the universe.

The good guys are “Guardians of the Galaxy,” which, in its fourth weekend of release, after two weekends at No. 2, returned to the No. 1 spot with another $17.6 million. In doing so, it surpassed “Transformers: Age of Extinction” (one of the bad guys) as the summer’s big hit with a domestic total of $251.8 million. And it will soon be the highest-grossing movie of the year, surpassing another good guy, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” which grossed $259.7 million in spring and early summer. Might “Guardians” reach $300 million now? It seems likely.

(What it won’t do is surpass “Transformers” as the highest-grossing 2014 film worldwide. Michael Bay’s robots have earned $1.065 billion around the world, way ahead of No. 2, “Maleficent” ($747.6 million) and more than twice as much as “Guardians” ($489.5 million), which has earned most of its money in the U.S. Effin’ foreigners.)

Meanwhile, “Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill For,” one of the worst movies of the year, got deservedly killed at the box office. It opened in 2,894 theaters but grossed only $6.4 million for 8th place. In April 2005, the first “Sin City” grossed $29 million (adjusted: $37 million) on its way to a $74 million domestic gross (adjusted: $94 million), so this is quite a comedown. Why? Most pundits are assuming:

  • Nine years is too long between sequels.
  • The comic book/pulpish style of its art direction, once innovative, is ho-hum now.

I might add :

  • Frank Miller, in the interim, has revealed himself to be a reactionary asshole.
  • The movie sucked.

Elsewhere, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” fell off 41% for $16.8 million and second place, “If I Stay,” Chloë Grace Moretz’s weepy teen flick, earned back its budget plus some with $16.3 million and third place, the second weekend of “Let’s Be Cops” made another $11 million for fourth, and the debut weekend of the Christian-football flick “When the Game Stands Tall” grossed $9 million for fifth place. I reviewed this last one for The Seattle Times. Here.

Finally, in limited release, Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood,” the best American movie of the year, lost 37 theaters but fell off only 6% for a $1.7 million haul. It’s now grossed $16.5 million. Have you seen it yet?

Posted at 05:25 AM on Aug 25, 2014 in category Movies - Box Office
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Saturday August 23, 2014

The Real Howard Beale

Throughout his book, “The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan,” author Rick Perlstein talks about how all elements of the culture, including movies, were influencing other elements, but he is more reticent in drawing lines (or bridges, invisible or otherwise) between specific political acts and subsequent films. Thus the way Nixon talked about POWs led to the notion that we still had MIA over there, which led, 10 years later, to the awfulness of “Rambo: First Blood Part II.”

Then there was this cultural tidbit about Christine Chubbuck that I don't remember ever hearing about:

Two weeks before the impeachment hearings, the perky hostess of the chat show Suncoast Digest, who incorporated homemade puppets into the program, was angry that the station owner had told the staff to concentrate on “blood and guts,” and had cut away from her show to cover a shoot-out at a local restaurant. She began her broadcast with an uncharacteristic hard-news segment, with film from the restaurant shooting—which jammed in the projector, at which point she announced, “In keeping with Channel 40’s policy of bringing the latest in blood and guts, and in living color, you are going to see another first—attempted suicide.” She then shot herself in the head and died, leaving behind the script she had been reading from, which included a postscript: a third-person account of the breaking news story, to be read by whomever took over the news desk next.

Yes, Virginia (or Florida), there really is (or was) a Howard Beale.

Christine Chubbuck: inspiration for Network?

Posted at 02:30 PM on Aug 23, 2014 in category Books
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Movie Review: Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014)

WARNING: SPOILERS

“This rotten town soils everybody,” Nancy (Jessica Alba) says at the end of “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.”

This rotten movie, too.

Is anyone still jazzed by this stuff? Does anyone think writer/co-director/creator Frank Miller isn’t a sad, sad man? Someone channeling Mickey Spillane through the Tobe Hooper grinder? A creepy, morally bankrupt, reactionary idiot?

His male characters still speak in sentence-fragment voiceovers:

Dwight: She’s playing it for all its worth. And it’s worth plenty.

His female characters are still argued about in the most infantile fashion:

Roark: She was a whore and not a very good one.
Johnny: She was an angel.

To recap: Sin City is a corrupt town where, if you’re a good man, you drink hard liquor every night, watch Nancy do her non-strip striptease, then go out and bust heads. Sin City: A Dame to Kill ForPreferably the heads of bad guys. You know: frat boys who light winos on fire or the hired bodyguards of the powerful and corrupt. You get to do what you want with these people because they’re bad. You get to torture people and feel moral about it. It’s like America after 9/11.

If you’re a good woman you’re most likely a prostitute. You wear lingerie and maybe a mask. Maybe it’s a Zorro mask. You tote a machine gun or a crossbow or a samurai blade, and you slice up the bad guys, often with the good guys by your side. And that’s about it for you.

Bad women are the ones who betray good men. Bad men are the ones with money and power. Innocent women are the ones who are killed by the bad men so we get another round of bloodletting by the good men.

Etc.

Worse than the first
The first “Sin City” (2005) was morally reprehensible but at least it kinda held together. At least the motivations and actions of its cartoonish figures kinda matched.

Here? Oy.

So Johnny (Joseph Gordon Levitt) is a lucky, coin-flipping son of a gun who decides to play poker with the most powerful man in the state, Senator Roark (Powers Boothe). Everyone warns him off. Everyone tells him you don’t beat Roark at poker and get away with it. But he does it anyway. Why? Because he’s one of Roark’s bastard children. Does he think this matters to Roark? It doesn’t. So he doesn’t get away with it. He’s beaten, shot, and his lucky hand is mangled, and his lucky charm, an innocent waitress named Marcie (Julia Garner), is killed. So he plots revenge. What is this revenge? He plays more poker with Roark, loses several hands (on purpose?), then wins big at the end. Then he tells Roark he’s a loser, and he’ll always know in his head that he’s a loser, because he, Johnny, beat him twice. Then Roark shoots Johnny in the head. That’s the end of that. Apparently revenge is a dish best smooshed into your own face.

In our second story, private dick Dwight (previously Clive Owen, now Josh Brolin) is revisited by the Love of his Life, Ava (Eva Green), the dame of the title. She’s watched over by a giant of a chauffeur, Manute (Dennis Haysbert), who is apparently the watchdog of her new, rich husband, Damien Lord (Marton Csokas). Is her husband holding her captive? Does he beat her? She implies as much. So after trying to rescue her and getting pummeled by Manute, Dwight returns with Sin City perennial Marv (Mickey Rourke), who relieves Manute of one of his eyes while Dwight relieves Damien Lord of his life. Except, ha ha, Ava is a femme fatale who is playing Dwight for a sap. She’s now a rich, powerful woman, and she sics the cops on Dwight, who holes up in Old Town with the lingerie-clad, sword-wielding prostitutes. Dwight spends this standoff getting plastic surgery, Ava spends it seducing the cop on the case (Christopher Meloni), who becomes so distraught he kills his friend (Jeremy Piven) and then himself. The point of this subplot? Who knows? Eventually Ava hires a Texas killer who turns out to be Dwight, post-plastic surgery, but everyone recognizes him. Then there’s a final big battle, with the lingerie-clad prostitutes vs. the hired bodyguards, and Ava is finally relieved of her life. And that’s the end of that.

Satisfied? Of course not. And it gets worse.

Worst for last
That’s the thing about “Sin City: A Dame to Die For.” Sex + violence isn’t supposed to equal boring but it does here. The violence is cartoonish, the sex puerile and voyeuristic. The dweebs it’s aimed at will probably find it boring. And Miller and co-director Robert Rodriguez save the worst for last.

So Nancy is the girl who was abducted by Roark’s pedophilic son in the first movie, only to be saved by Det. Hartigan (Bruce Willis), only to grow up to be the best stripper at the best dive bar in Sin City; and she, like Johnny, plots her revenge against Roark. At one point, dancing her cowgirl dance, she has Roark in her sights, but she can’t pull the trigger. Alas. So she has to drink, and emote, and dance some more raw, angry, sexually absurd dances, before she cuts up her own face and tells Marv that it was Roark who did it, which leads she and Marv to attack Roark’s fortress the way Dwight and Marv attacked the Lord fortress, and there’s another final showdown, this time between Nancy and Roark, the stripper and the Senator. But does she have the guts to finally go through with it? Moot point. He shoots first, her gun is inches away, and he’s about to take the final deadly shot when, in the mirror, he sees the ghost of Hartigan, who’s been following after Nancy for most of the movie, giving her bad advice she can’t hear; but his appearance here, in the mirror, gives her the time to grab her gun and blam blam blow away the baddest of the bad guys. After that, she visits Hartigan’s grave and says the last line and the lights come up and we all shuffle out of the theater feeling as soiled as Sin City.

Ick.

I’d want revenge on Frank Miller if I didn’t feel so sorry for the man. We get to leave Sin City after 100 minutes, but he invented it. He cared enough about it to put it on paper and then film. It will soil itself in his head forever.

Posted at 08:08 AM on Aug 23, 2014 in category Movie Reviews - 2014
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Friday August 22, 2014

Movie Review: Divergent (2014)

WARNING: SPOILERS

So why doesn’t it work? Besides being monumentally stupid, I mean.

“The Hunger Games” (girl, dystopia, contests, remaining empathetic in an environment that fosters ruthlessness) opened in March 2012 and grossed more than $152 million in its first three days on its way to a $400 million domestic box office. Its 2013 sequel did even better: $424 million and the No. 1 movie of the year. This thing? Created on the heels of that? Another sweet/tough girl in a ruthless dystopia? It opened to $54 million and died. Its total domestic gross, $150.9 million, doesn’t even match the first three days of the other. Why? Besides this one being monumentally stupid, I mean.

Is it the lead? Shailene Woodley, bless her heart, is a helluva actress, and her face can crumple in pain like no one’s business, but she seems a little less sturdy than Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss. DivergentYou buy J Law kicking ass and taking names. Shailene’s Beatrice, shortened to Tris, is all wide eyes and vulnerability. She can’t even punch a bag with any force. She’s no leader of an underground movement that will upset the balance of things.

Is it the balance of things? In the beginning, we’re told there was a terrible war, and that the rest of the world was destroyed, but fortified cities like Chicago remain; and that the remnants of humanity were “divided into five groups, factions, to keep the peace.” Right. Because nothing keeps the peace like dividing humanity into separate groups.

Is it the groups? This is how humanity is divided:

  1. Erudite: “They know everything”
  2. Amity: Kind farmers
  3. Candor: The honest
  4. Dauntless: The brave and reckless
  5. Abnegation: Selfless

And who rules this dystopia? Abnegation, of course. You imagine the scene. “All of you dressed in gray? Who don’t care about yourselves? You’re in charge.” Not the thinkers, not the doers, and not the honest, who, here, are kind of like assholes. They’re like lawyers, aren’t they? Their symbol is the scales of justice. No matter. Abnegation rules. Because that’s how you keep the peace: divide the world into five groups and put the weakest people in charge.

Jumping off trains
So Beatrice starts out as Abnegation, like mom and pops (Ashley Judd and Tony Goldwyn), but she’s ... confused. She feels like there’s more to life than being just one thing. Sometimes she doesn’t know where she belongs. So it’s like high school. Or high school.

How do you wind up in a faction? At a certain age (18?), you take a test, which indicates which faction you belong to. But even after that, you still choose your faction at a blood-dripping ceremony. I never got this. What’s the point of the test if you still have to choose? And how many people choose something other than their test? And what does that indicate? And are they tracked by the authorities? Or is that not Abnegation’s way?

Moot point for Tris. When she wakes up from her test her test-taker (Maggie Q) is freaked. She tells her, “Your results were Abnegation  ... and Erudite ... and Dauntless.” This is “extremely rare.” It’s called “divergent.” Don’t tell anyone.

So why did you just tell her?

What happens to divergents? They’re killed. To keep the peace. Because who needs someone who can unite factions?

Anyway, Beatrice now has to choose without a proper test, and for some reason—because she’d always admired them?—she drips blood onto Dauntless. And off she goes with Dauntless, who spend their days jumping off and on of el trains. Because Dauntless.

In her training, Beatrice reveals herself to be brave and smart (and selfless and honest), but she’s not that strong. There are contests, and she keeps losing, and is in danger of being drummed out of Dauntless and winding up with the wretched refuse that is the factionless. All of this takes place in Dauntless’ domain, which resembles a prison mixed with an archeological dig. She makes a few friends (Zoë Kravitz, formerly Candor), and a few enemies (Miles Teller, also formerly Candor). The trainers are Eric (Jai Courtney), a total asshole, and Four (Theo James), a kind of asshole but with nicer lips, so he becomes The Love Interest. He takes a subtle/not-so subtle shine to Tris. He’s also—third-act reveal—divergent himself.

Decking Kate Winslet
So what’s the story beyond the training? There’s an attempted coup, of course. Because some idiot put the weakest people in charge. I think that might’ve been author Veronica Roth. Who’s like 6 years old, according to Wikipedia.

After the training and the graduation, Tris and Four, together with mom and pops, work to prevent a coup by the sneakier elements of Erudite (Kate Winslet, working below her pay grade), and Dauntless (Meki Phifer, working at about his). Tris gets to punch Kate Winslet, and the rag-tag elements that prevent the coup take the el out of town and look into a sequel-filled future. That’s the studio’s plan anyway: this one, its sequel, and the final book cut into two movies to double the box office. What studios now call “The usual.” Moviegoers might have other ideas.

Pull back a moment. What does this story remind you of? This story: a few well-trained soldiers protecting the weak from evil, power-hungry thinkers? What is that?

It’s almost every movie ever made.

If Tris, or director Neil Burger, had only chosen Candor.

Posted at 06:33 AM on Aug 22, 2014 in category Movie Reviews - 2014
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Thursday August 21, 2014

August 2014: MLB Division Leaders are Long-Time World Series Absentees

If you chose division winners based on how long it's been since they've been to the World Series, you'd get standings that looked like this:

American League National League
East: Baltimore Orioles (1983)
East: Washington Nationals (never)
Central: Kansas City Royals (1985)
Central: Chicago Cubs (1945)
West: Seattle Mariners (never)
West: Los Angeles Dodgers (1988)

As is, this is almost exactly what we have as the end of August approaches:

American League National League
East: Baltimore Orioles (1983)
East: Washington Nationals (never)
Central: Kansas City Royals (1985)
Central: Milwaukee Brewers (1982)
West: Los Angeles Angels (2002)
West: Los Angeles Dodgers (1988)

With the wild card race it gets a little messier. In the AL, you have Detroit, who last went two years ago, but also Oakland, which hasn't been since the Bash Brothers' year of 1990, and your Seattle Mariners, who have never been. In the NL, less promising: recent perennials St. Louis and San Francisco are the leaders. Only 2.5 games back from them, though, is Pittsburgh, which last went in 1979.

(Here's a list of teams and the last year they went to the World Series. Bump up both Boston and St. Louis to the top of the list: 2013.)

So we seemed destined, at the least, for something unique this fall. Instead of the same-old, same-old, we might get KC vs. Milwaukee, or Baltimore vs. Washington. Maybe the O's vs. the Dodgers? A rematch of '66?

Of course, my dream matchup would be the Seattle Mariners vs. the Washington Nationals. Think of it: Washington vs. Washington, east coast vs. west coast, the only two MLB teams who have never been to the World Series in a classic Series showdown.

OK, to be honest, my dream matchup would be Seattle vs. anybody.

Nationals vs. Mariners World Series

Look, the matchup even stands for World Series.

Posted at 02:16 PM on Aug 21, 2014 in category Baseball
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