All posts by monotrememadness

Oh, hey, I didn't see you there. Hello! My name is Alex, and I am a twenty-something Midwesterner making comical observations of everyday life. Occasionally I can call upon my bachelor's degree in biology to help me sound like I know what I'm talking about, especially when discussing animals. I am a lover of nature, science, sports, movies, and the power of rock and roll, and I love to share my thoughts on these and other subjects with anyone who will listen.

We Want the D

Let’s get into one of the finest genre-bending films ever made, and I mean really get into it. I’ve been a fan of Quentin Tarantino for some time now, and I really like a lot of his movies. Reservoir DogsPulp Fiction, the Kill Bills, Inglorious Basterds – they’re all great and rank highly on my all-time favorites list. However, the most complete film in Tarantino’s repertoire just may be Django Unchained, a kinda western revenge flick, with some major depth to it. Check it out:

And here I thought I was hot shit just because I knew Franco Nero – the guy who played the original Django in 1966 – had a cameo in the movie:

Props to Tarantino for letting Nero get a moment to shine that is as smooth as melted butter.

Yet the grandest props for the director come in the finest sequence in the movie, when Django and Schultz track down the Brittle Brothers, the trio that Django used to suffer at the hands of, and the group that Schultz is seeking to kill and collect on. The Brittles, in an ironic way, help free Django; Shcultz needs someone to point them out before he kills them, after all. However, Django does perfectly fine on his own, taking out two Brittle brothers on his own, all the while dressed in his brilliant blue freedom outfit. I particularly love how Django turns the tables on the Bible-spouting Brittles by surprise shooting and whipping the piss out of them. He dishes out a mere taste of the torment that they gave to him and so many others, and does it all with an audience of shocked slaves marveling at his freedom to audaciously annihilate violent men with violent means. Finally, when Schultz arrives to see what the commotion is, Django points him in the direction of the final Brittle brother, and after a brief bit of Tarantino quality banter, Schultz fires his rifle and strikes true on the last bounty of that search. The bloodspray on the cotton is beautiful from a technical, visual, cinematic standpoint, but it also serves an overt, but not unwelcome, allegory for the true price of the economic crop that is cotton.

Thanks for reading! Be sure to return next week for more fun!

Django!

Alex

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Is Mayonnaise an Instrument?

We didn’t need much.

A simple opening verse that transitions into the preset medley of songs after one and a half minutes at most.

There’s no need to attempt to highlight the high points of each character’s struggle, such as our episode protagonist, Squidward Tentacles, foolishly attempting not to best his rival, Squilliam Fancyson, but to merely prove to him that Squiddy’s not a total fuckup. Squidward pushes past his prejudice and gives his all to train his fishy fellows in Bikini Bottom. He’s knows he’s too cultured for their barbaric manners, but he powers on in vain to make them the best damn band in the sea. And when all hope seems lost, and his total embarrassment seems assured, what does Squidward do? He bravely stands, raises one of his many arms, and moves to conduct his ragtag band who is dangerously inept with their instruments. And in a beautiful showing of validation for such a courageous act, Squid’s savage strings, brass, and percussion blow the roof off the sucker in such rockin’ fashion that Squilliam faints from disbelief, leaving Squidward to jump for joy in the happiest moment of his life, shared with coworkers and acquaintances who have shown him true love and friendship in mastering a piece of music.

It is heartwarming and funny, as SpongeBob SquarePants so frequently was. The “Band Geeks” episode aired in the show’s second season on Nickelodeon in 2001, and has endured as a classic from the show and network ever since. I loved SpongeBob from the start, and I love and miss the show’s creator, Stephen Hillenburg, who died last November at the age of 57. How many people get to call themselves a cartoonist and marine biologist? For this wonderful man and his wonderful show, this site will always give SpringBoob SquirePin and all his best buddies their due:

Thanks for reading and jamming along! Be sure to return next week for more artistic appreciation!

Way to go, Dallas Stars!

Alex

Rosa’s Ride

106 years ago, Rosa Louise McCauley Parks was born in Tuskegee, Alabama, the same city that has seen the torment of black Americans and their struggle for civil rights in the United States. The small city in Macon County has been the the site of horrors like the Tuskegee syphilis experiment, and before that, of course, slavery; but also the birth of hope in the form of striking down racial gerrymandering in the verdict of Gomillion vs. Lightfoot, and the establishment of the Tuskegee Normal School, which would become the Tuskegee Institute and now Tuskegee University. Over its many years as an educational institution that has always been open to black Americans (something that sadly was not the case for every school), the school that would grow into Tuskegee University was co-founded and first helmed by Booker T. Washington, was the site where professor George Washington Carver conducted and and shared much of his agricultural research, and served as the training base for the famous Tuskegee Airmen, the first black pilots in the United States military.

Like her birthplace, Rosa Parks also bore a significant burden in the battle for civil rights, and she showcased hope for the future of all downtrodden Americans as she became an icon to rally around in the name of righteousness. As you have undoubtedly heard, Rosa Parks became well known for refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955, which in turn kicked off the Montgomery Bus Boycott, a major win for the civil rights movement as after a year it brought about a Supreme Court ruling that made bus segregation illegal. Rosa Parks was a secretary for the local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) chapter, and she continued to be an activist throughout her life. However, she was not the first black American to be arrested protesting the stupidity of segregation on Alabama transportation. Parks was one of an army of civil dissidents, and she happened to be the best story to broadcast to spread the message of the plight of black Americans in Montgomery. The message got out, for sure, proving that the NAACP and other civil rights organizations made the right call with Rosa, but we should also appreciate the sacrifices of all the others who suffered the same as her, and the others who were willing to do so and were fortunate enough to not be arrested.

In addition to remembering Rosa Parks on her birthday, we should also give due props to an entire nation that made a big governmental move on this same day back in 1794. In the midst of its Revolution, France abolished slavery throughout its homeland and colonies. Similar to the earlier American Revolution that established the United States of America, one of the revolutionary stars was a general who led the national army to numerous victories and eventually became the leader of the newly established government. Unfortunately, this military man-turned-leader in France was Napoleon Bonaparte, a far cry from George Washington indeed. Napoleon reinstated slavery in France’s colonies in 1802 as a means of holding power in places faraway from France. Nevertheless, Haiti, led by Toussaint Louverture and his army of former slaves, had made the most of their own revolution from France, and two years later, Haiti declared independence, having defeated Napoleon’s forces sent to reclaim the colony.

On the surface, Tuskegee may seem like any other city, and February 4th may seem like any other day, yet both have a rich history of good and bad that has shaped the world for the better, even if there have been bumps in the road along the way.

Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoy the rest of your February 4th, and that you’ll return here again next week.

Warmest wishes on a winter’s day,

Alex

State of the Season 18: Politics, Philosophy, and Perigee

It’s been a wild three months, and I’ve blabbered on about a lot during that span, so let’s take a look back at what caught my interest enough to earn its place here over the last 12 weeks:

“Snakes and Flamethrowers” – On the eve of the United States’ Midterm Elections, I fleshed out my frustrations with the Republican party and demanded better from them by booting many of their members out of office. It seems that I was not the only one who felt this way.

“Forgive and Never Forget” – In the midst of so much dueling politics and anger following the election, a heartwarming moment poked through the gloom in the form of a funny apology made by Saturday Night Live‘s Pete Davidson to Lt. Com. Dan Crenshaw.

“Excelsior!” – We lost a king of entertainment in Stan Lee last year, but fortunately, we’ve still got a few already filmed final cameos to look forward to.

“Hard Hitting Truth” – The harsh reality of a situation is not always the easiest to process and live with, especially when it pertains to our favorite football team and the sorry state of safety within the game.

“Hey, How Come My Dad Didn’t Give Me Any Mitochondrial DNA?” – Sometimes a scientific discovery offers a world of wondrous potential breakthroughs to provide us with greater insight into our origins and helpful health solutions that previously did not seem possible.

“Skin the Survivor: The Amazing Life of An American Icon” – The life of former President George H.W. Bush was an incredible story.

“Furry, Feathery Flyers” – Further new scientific findings, this time in regards to the early aviators of the Earth.

“Yes and… Merry Christmas!” – This holiday hodgepodge of short and often improvised comedy featured some of my favorite Christmas chuckles, chief among them, Superego. If you’re interested in more from Superego, check out this full episode which features my favorite sketch with Don Dimello.

“Play That Inspiring Music!” – My latest collection of must-hear songs for making the most of your life and enjoying your experiences.

“Still Super: 2018’s Stupendous and Not So Spectacular Silver Screen Selections” – My latest recap of the films I saw that were released in the last year. I have since seen Vice, and would place it on my top tier of films. Props to Black Panther on scoring a Best Picture Oscar nomination! Lastly, if you want more answers to the ouroboros of questions that is Annihilation, then look no further than the great source of Alt Shift X.

“The Emperor’s New Hemagglutinin Antibodies” – Promising research on a universal flu vaccine using llamas!

“Way Cool Awesome Neat Astronomy” – A concise explanation of what exactly a Super Wolf Blood Moon is. I took the cover picture in my own backyard! Which is why it’s not astounding. But hey! No worries, for I do have some amazing pictures to share….

As a customary bonus with the State of the Season, I encourage you to take a gander at these gorgeous photographs taken by NASA’s Juno spacecraft. The swirls of gas and dust on our solar system’s largest planet look like a natural Vincent van Gogh painting.

To anyone discovering this site for the first time, thanks for visiting! I hope you like what you see and will be back again. To those of you who have been here before, thanks for sticking around! I hope you all will enjoy what the future of this site has to offer. You won’t have to wait long either as, like always, I will have another post ready for reading next Monday. Until then, be safe, be good, and be excellent to each other!

Party on, dudes,

Alex

Way Cool Awesome Neat Astronomy

Did you see it!?

Last night we were treated to a Super Blood Wolf Moon, and it was spectacular! While it may sound like a Chuck Norris movie from the 1980s, the Super Blood Wolf Moon was actually a lunar eclipse – an eclipse where the Moon passes through the Earth’s shadow. This astronomical arrangement causes the Moon to briefly darken as our planet blocks off the direct sunlight that normally reflects off of the Moon at night. However, the Moon doesn’t fall into complete darkness like it can during a new moon phase – in fact, it’s quite the opposite. Lunar eclipses only occur during full moons, but just as new and full moons are a result of the Moon’s orbit around the Earth – one that is not along the same line as Earth’s orbit around the Sun – some of the light from the Sun still makes its way onto the lunar surface during an eclipse. Most of this light is scattered by Earth’s atmosphere, except for longer wavelengths. Red light has the longest visible wavelength, so lunar eclipses offer us a look at a crimson basked Moon, which is why many refer to it as a “blood moon”.

What about the “super” part? It has to do with syzygy. Besides being an awesome word to play in Scrabble (although you’d need a blank piece) syzygy is simply what we call a group of three celestial bodies when they fall into place in a straight line. Think of the opening of 2001: A Space Odyssey. When looking at this syzygy of the Sun-Earth-Moon, perigee syzygy is what astronomers call the point when the Moon is closest to Earth, but the rest of us colloquially refer to this as a “supermoon” because of the massive size that the Moon appears relative to other full moons. Obviously the Moon is not any bigger during perigee, but because of its greater proximity to us, it looks noticeably larger. The opposite occurs during apogee syzygy, when the Moon is at its farthest point in its orbit around Earth. During apogee, the Moon appears smaller and is sometimes called a “micromoon”.

Getting a supermoon during a lunar eclipse is rare, so be glad if you were lucky enough to get a glimpse! Don’t worry though if you were asleep or experiencing daytime at the time, for the next total lunar eclipse is only two and a half years away.

Finally, what exactly does last night’s Super Blood Moon have to do with wolves? The short answer is that it’s called the Wolf Moon because it’s in January.

Well, goodbye everyone!

 

 

Oh! You would like to know the longer, more detailed explanation now; got it!

You are undoubtedly aware that each year has 12 months, and that each lunar cycle is roughly one month. This means that, for the most part, there are 12 full moons (and new moons) throughout the year. As lunar cycles and months do not always match up, there can be two full moons in the same month. Whenever there is an additional full moon that falls in a season, it is called a “blue moon”, and it is fairly common, so the next time somebody says, “once in a blue moon” to refer to something that is actually rare, you can call them out and be labeled “pretentious” or “pedantic” by your peers.

A popular belief through the United States is that Native Americans called each month’s full moon (assuming that the year has one full moon in each of its 12 months) a different name to highlight something of importance for that part of the year. This is supposedly where names names like “harvest moon” and “hunter’s moon” originated. January’s full moon is known as the Wolf Moon, possibly because of a more noticed presence of wolves and their howling during the winter. Here is a list of the 12 full moon names that the Algonquin tribe and others who lived in the Northeast and Great Lakes regions supposedly used, and dates of when each will occur this year. There is debate over how much Native American tribes like the Algonquin actually used such terms, but like “blood moon”, “supermoon”, and “blue moon”, they are catchy names that have become more recognized than terms like perigee syzygy.

Thanks for reading! Be sure to continue to scan the skies, and pop on over here each Monday for more celestial fun. Next week marks the quarterly State of the Season where I’ll recap the last twelve posts (including this one!), but until then, stay warm!

Lunatically yours,

Alex

The Emperor’s New Hemagglutinin Antibodies

For many across the United States, the Stark words are finally making sense. Winter, it seems, has finally arrived. However, while the white stuff may have been delayed through December for some, there is another seasonal staple that unfortunately delivered to all right on time: influenza.

The flu is not fun. It makes us feel achy and causes coughing while bringing about a nose that either won’t stop running or can’t be unstuffed. Not to mention the temperature shifts from fever, and the occasional expulsion of what food the body could eat from one end or the other. These symptoms can lead to harsher complications such as sinus and ear infections, pneumonia, and even muscle inflammation.

It makes sense to do all that we can to bolster our bodies so that they never succumb to the flu in the first place, which is where the seasonal influenza vaccine comes in. Nevertheless, this vaccine is not 100% effective – it’s more like 40%-60%. The flu vaccine you got for this winter is different than the one you got last winter. The vaccines are made each year with the intent of tackling the variety of influenza most likely to crop up, so it is a bit of a guessing game, but don’t worry, it is a pretty damn good guess that makes it out into circulation. By no means should you interpret this information as reason to skip the flu shot – quite the opposite! In fact, if more people got vaccinated each flu season, then the number of potentially contagious individuals would shrink and make it harder for the virus to spread. It’s a little (actually big) thing called herd immunity. Herd immunity through vaccines is how we’ve managed to make polio and smallpox a thing of the past in the Western world.

Getting vaccinated is a good plan, as it will only increase your body’s ability to fight the flu off. The flu vaccine will not make you sick; it may not always offer you the utmost protection, but it will not weaken you. If you do get sick around the time of your vaccination, it is not from the vaccine, but rather is a result of another scenario such as:

  • You got a cold or similar rhinovirus that has similar symptoms. This kind of virus is not affected by the influenza vaccine because it is a different virus than influenza.
  • You got the flu before you got the vaccine, or before the vaccine fully kicked in. Remember, your body needs to develop an immune response by building up an army of antibodies design to kick that flu’s ass, and this can take a little time (generally it is around two weeks), so you can get the flu after getting the flu shot if you get it in that window before your immune system finishes working with the information the flu shot provides it.

And of course, you can still get the flu, as the vaccine is seasonal and may not match up with the virus that makes an appearance that season. Plus, it may not work for everybody. Our bodies are similar, but ultimately each one is unique, and some of us are built to be more resistant or less resistant in spite of additional measures. But again, I encourage everyone to get a flu shot each year because it can only help, and not just for you, but for everybody!

If you want more information on influenza, then please check out the Center for Disease Control’s website. These are the webpages that I got my facts and figures from:

https://www.cdc.gov/flu/consumer/symptoms.htm

https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/vaccineeffect.htm

https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/misconceptions.htm

Now that we’ve covered why the seasonal vaccine is good, how do we go about making it better? Can we possibly make a universal vaccine that is not seasonally crafted? The big problem with this currently is that there is variation in the structure of each flu virus, specifically in the surface protein, hemagglutinin (the “H” in strain names like “H1N1”; the “N” stands for neuraminidase). Our specially made seasonal vaccines take a stab at the suspected flu virus for that season by generating antibodies that bind to this surface protein. Yet since each flu strain has a different one, it is difficult to cover all of the potential bases (or rather hemagglutinin). Nonetheless, there is some hope for hacking our way into preventing the viruses that cause us to hack up our lungs, and it comes from an interesting source: llamas.

Turns out that everyone’s favorite long necked, South American camelids (unless you’re more of an alpaca person) have some antibodies that are wonderfully structured for attacking almost every flu strain. Their camel cousins have this as well, but it was llamas that Belgian scientists borrowed some antibodies from to develop a nasal spray that may be the first step to putting together a vaccine that could serve as a comprehensive prevention for any flu. Research is still ongoing, and you can read about in these articles:

https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/11/nasal-gene-spray-inspired-llama-antibodies-could-prevent-all-types-flu

https://www.bbc.com/news/health-46078989

https://arstechnica.com/science/2018/11/llama-nanobodies-might-grant-universal-flu-protection/

My nose can hardly wait!

Thanks for reading! Stay warm and well, and stay posted for another post next week!

Mi madre me llama Alejandro,

Alex

Still Super: 2018’s Stupendous and Not So Spectacular Silver Screen Selections

Welcome to 2019 and the first post in it on this site! What better way to greet this year than looking back at movies that came out last year? Similar to my annual music post from last week, it has become part of my yearly routine to assess the success of the films I saw throughout the year in the hopes that what I got out of each selection of the silver screen I saw within the 365.25 day span will guide potential viewers toward the good stuff and allow them to skip the not-so-good stuff. Obviously, the following list is based upon my opinion, and you may love something that I did not! What I like is not a metric of film quality across the board, but the sentiment of a cinephile, yet I hope that it can help introduce you to a gem you may have otherwise missed, or steer clear of a stinker that you should skip. As I always do, I have split these movies into block categories based on my determination of their dopeness, and here I have actually ranked them in inverse order, so that you will experience my least favorite film from 2018 first, and work your way to my favorite! It should go without saying, but I did not see every film this year – crazy, I know! I did get to see a bunch though, thanks in large part to my brief possession of a MoviePass before their “I’ve made a huge mistake” moment that prompted some crazy changes and a mass exodus of subscribers like myself. Oh well! Thanks for the memories and the movies!

If you want to check back on my lists from the past, then look here:

2015

2016

2017

And now, I present the list for

2018

Movies that I wish were never greenlit  because they kinda Green Lanterned

Tag – This looked like it was going to be a goofy comedy, and for the most part it was. Loosely based on the oddball antics of a group of long-time friends from Washington state who have played a month-long game of tag for decades since their college days at Gonzaga, the movie takes inspiration from the absurd disguises and scenarios actually devised by the real players. Unsurprisingly, the movie’s events are exaggerated, which is fine and at times funny, but this thing is sunk by a a major ill-placed serious situation that is insulting to people who have experienced such a tragedy. If you don’t mind me spoiling, I will explain (highlight the following paragraph to more easily see the spoils):

The situation that sets up the climax of the story is a fake pregnancy and ensuing false miscarriage all manufactured so that the main tag target can avoid being “it”. This is followed up by the revelation that the character who is the driving force of the movie’s tag team-up is suffering from a serious illness. This goofy comedy just took a turn for the dark and deceptive and ruined the fun that I had been having because I left wondering what the real group of friends who still tag it up every February think of their unique means of keeping in touch throughout the years being turned into a movie that features a truly awful friend marrying a woman who is as insane as he is. The group of wacky, but stable buddies should avoid them, just as the prospective viewers of this movie should probably avoid it.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom – For my first list in 2015, I put Jurassic World on my top ten from that year. I have since mellowed some on it, but I still enjoy that dinosaur-filled film in spite of its shallowness. Such was never the case with this dino dumpster fire, which might have been a more apt title for a movie that features a stampede of dinosaurs running away from an erupting volcano. I confess that I was worried about Fallen Kingdom from the first preview and only became more concerned with each 30 second spot on TV as June approached. Nevertheless, I’m not skipping on dinosaurs, and I’m not the only one who saw the movie for this. Unfortunately, I’m also not the only way who wished he had skipped it, and that the filmmakers had skipped on making it. There is so much wrong here, from overplayed nostalgia, to cliche horror tropes, to a serious question of how did we get here?

The great disappointment of this movie is not that it is the latest in a series that feels like its mojo went extinct long ago (sorry, couldn’t resist), but that this could have been the most profound film in the series. Wisecrack, one of my perennial favorites to recommend on this site did a great breakdown of how Fallen Kingdom broke down. I disagree that the visual effects of the 1993 original are vastly inferior (in fact I prefer them), but the rest of the points made in this “What Went Wrong” video are spot on:

The Jurassic Park saga has had a lot of weird potential directions that it could have been pulled along, but this is the one we got and we’ll live with it, I guess, but that doesn’t mean we have to like it. I almost feel like this movie could have been shortened to a cold open for the movie they really wanted to make that is inevitably coming out in a future summer.

Movies that were missing something, maybe paprika? While we’re on the subject, have you tried smoked paprika? Oh my goodness – change your life!

Pacific Rim: Uprising – I’ll give John Boyega credit: he  has spent his Star Wars money well. Investing in making Pacific Rim a franchise will pay off for him big time. I watched this over the course of two flights; a half each when I only had about an hour left until landing and after I’d already watched a movie I really wanted to see all at once. Not many movies are conducive to splitting up in such a manner without missing something or breaking up the pacing, but this was certainly an exception. While I was far from enamored with it, it did a good job of following up the first film while exploring some new aspects. The characters are mostly forgettable and their introductions and development are too fast and/or nonexistent, but Boyega brings it, and Charlie Day continues to eat up his screentime with relish, this time with extra spicy fervor. I was surprised how psyched I was at the final scene that proudly announces that more monster fighting with giant robots is on the way.

Blockers – Another goofy comedy that never looked like it was going to be the next Some Like It Hot or Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, or even the next great teens-losing-their-virginity movie, Blockers has a surprising amount of heart in it that helps it keep mostly upright. It still hits some potholes along the road, but the trio of parents have an amusing enough dynamic to keep us engaged during those dips. Like The Rock before him, John Cena is the next wrestler turned actor with surprisingly good comedic timing, and he does well to give us an overprotective dad with a big heart and even bigger biceps reminiscent of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s comedy performances.

The Girl in the Spider’s Web – A far cry from David Fincher’s version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo which it is clearly trying to most emulate, this latest film featuring hardcore-hacker-who-can-hack-it-against-the-baddies-who-want-to-hack-her-up Lisbeth Salander has Claire Foy giving a good performance, but the rest of the cast are mostly just kinda there to give her a reason to be running around urgently. There are some cool moments, and the opening sequence (which was essentially used in entirety as a trailer for the film) is badass, but the rest plays out like a Jason Bourne novel while trying its damnedest to be a Jason Bourne movie as it explores the origins of Lisbeth’s life coming back to haunt her. Simply put: it’s okay.

Solo: A Star Wars Story – I considered just writing the shortened title, Solo, but didn’t want it to be left alone hahaha! This is easily the least commercially successful Star Wars film since Wilford Brimley played with Ewoks, but that might not tarnish its reputation forever; The Phantom Menace was universally hailed by fans and critics alike when it came out, and look at it now! Like so much in the Star Wars film franchise, Solo has a number of flaws that hinder it, but it’s far from a bad movie. That being said, it was not a story that we needed, and can serve as an example of why filling in all the blanks isn’t necessarily the best thing to do with our beloved franchises. While the movie may not be awful, it was so poorly received that it forced Disney to put a freeze on their future Star Wars Stories. Typically sending your studio into self-imposed timeout is not a good sign, but there are some positives in Solo, chief among them is Alden Erhenreich who does a great job of portraying a younger version of our favorite suave, swashbuckling, space captain. I just wish he had better material to work with. I also enjoyed Donald Glover’s Lando Calrissian, but wished I saw more from the two of them, as well as less Han Solo acting like he already experienced the events of the original movie and was already one of the nice guys. Still, it’s good, and whenever you want any great, witty, snappy, silly Star Wars action, you can check it out. Of course, this works too.

Super Troopers 2 – This was absolutely a movie we asked for, as it set astounding fundraising records on Kickstarter en route to Broken Lizard actually bringing the long-awaited sequel to theaters. While not as good as the original quotable, cult cop comedy, this sequel serves up just enough justification to dish out justice from our most beloved bunch of Vermont State Troopers. We get a good dose of Farva fucking up, Captain O’Hagan angry, and even another memorable bear scene, as well as some new adversarial allies in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. I especially like the return of Jim Gaffigan’s Larry Johnson, the man they pulled over to play the meow game in the first film.

Action Point – I enjoyed the trailer for this and anticipated it to be a pretty run-of-the-mill raunchy, slapstick effort from Johnny Knoxville, and I got exactly what I expected with just a pinch of father-daughter relationship growing pains worked in. Like Super Troopers 2, there may not be anything unexpected in this movie, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable as a guilty pleasure David versus Goliath story with a lot of painful spills, crashes, and nut shots.

A couple of months ago I discovered a new favorite YouTube channel called Defunctland that I may well write more upon in the future. Run by Kevin Perjurer, the channel takes deep dives into theme and amusement parks, rides, and other ventures put forth by them that have phased out over the years. In my exploration of this channel (which I highly recommend) I learned that there actually was a real Action Point! Called Action Park, it resided in New Jersey and served as inspiration for the park in the movie.

Venom – Sony may have sold off the main man Spider-Man back to Marvel, but they held onto creative control of a few from his rogues gallery in the hopes of making movies featuring their antics. This is the first of what will probably become a cinematic universe itself thanks to its big bucks return as the top grossing movie of October, and one of the top for the year. Venom is clunky at times, and almost always crazy, but Tom Hardy is clearly having fun bringing the best version of Eddie Brock to life on film (admittedly not a high bar). My biggest issue with Eddie is that he’s kind of overly kooky well before he even bonds with the alien symbiote. The best part is the almost final and surprisingly touching scene where a remarkably aware Stan Lee offers encouragement.

Incredibles 2 -The supers are back! Another long-awaited sequel, yet unfortunately, another that fails to recapture the magic of the first. For a movie with a few high flying folks it is ironic that it never really gets off the ground. The biggest disappointment is that it clearly could have been something more. There is brilliance in the flip situation of Elastigirl being sent out to beat up bad guys while Mr. incredible stays home and battles the changes to math, teenage love troubles, and a baby who is much more than a handful. These home life scenes with the family are the most interesting, and I wish we could get more of the family doing their superheroics and mundane daily life together. And more Edna because who doesn’t want that?

Movies that have got a solid foundation like film bedrock, but not Bedrock like the Flintstone’s town. Ugh, so many rock puns – and don’t even get me started on the movies; instead get me started on these movies!

Annihilation – A cerebral science fiction film riding in the wake of ArrivalAnnihilation is similar, but places more emphasis on horror as its protagonist takes a figurative journey of self-exploration while she and a crew of fellow females with personal demons take a literal journey of external exploration. As they venture farther into the alien altered biozone called “the shimmer”, we learn more about Natalie Portman’s Lena and her strained relationship with husband Kane (never a good name to have around extraterrestrials) played by Oscar Isaac. He took a previous team into the shimmer and is the only person to ever return, but he’s having a tough time with that. Lena joins the next suicide squad up (not the DC kind thankfully) in a desperate attempt to save him, and maybe atone for her sins.

Another YouTube favorite of mine, Lessons From The Screenplay did, a good piece about how the film showcases character self-destruction.

Sicario: Day of the Soldado – Another sequel to another great film from a few years ago, this second look at the United States’ battle with Mexico’s drug cartels focuses more on Benecio del Toro’s sicario as he gets sent on a mission to intimidate one of the cartels by kidnapping his daughter. Shockingly, things do not go according to plan! Never fear though, for Benecio is on the job, and he gets more of a chance to show why he has earned the reputation he has as he escorts the young girl across the barren Mexican landscape where the least of their worries are the natural threats.

Once again, the previous film offers a lot more, and this particular movie would be a lot better if it cut the first and last 10 minutes out completely as they are unnecessary and only muddle the plot. Still, I look forward to see if we get another round of chaos in the war waged against the cartels in the future.

Operation Finale – Oscar Isaac is back on this list again (he will be again too!) and this time he’s got help from Shoshana from Inglorious Basterds, and Nick Kroll? Yep, he’s here too, and doing really well in a dramatic role! Yet the main story in this movie is the dynamic between Isaac’s Peter Malkin and Ben Kingsley’s potrayal of Adolph Eichmann. The real Eichmann was one of the main orchestrators of the Holocaust. After World War II, he hid away in Argentina, and the young Israeli government sent a special ops team to apprehend him and bring him to Israel to face justice for his crimes. This film shows that operation through its planning and execution. As a film, it is a little routine and the thrills are lessened a bit because we know how this story ends – something that any historical film must contend with. However, the film does well to offer what it needs to to tell the true story while also developing its main character though memories of a loved one he lost in the unnecessary tragedy Eichmann help arrange. Gotta love any movie where Nazis get theirs, but this does well to show that just because the good guys won the war does not mean that all the bad guys magically went away. The scene of the not-so-secret Nazi meeting is jarring, especially as we contend with prominent race-based hatred in the United States.

Deadpool 2 – Yet another sequel with a little less of the loveliness of its predecessor. Its difficult to make a good sequel, and even the merc with the mouth can’t fourth wall break his way out of this. Now I haven’t seen the Christmas, PG-13 recut where Deadpool apparently kidnaps Fred Savage, so I am only referencing the summer original here. The subject of Deadpool’s saving in this film, a young boy named Russell who goes by Firefist, is annoying. It’s part of his character, but it’s still annoying. However, more Colossus and the great additions of Domino and Yukio, plus plenty of excellent jokes make this worth the watch. I haven’t laughed as hard at anything in years the way I lost it during the parachuting sequence. Hilarious!

Hotel Artemis – One of my movie buddies asked me to come along to see this and despite my apprehension I did, and I’m glad I did! This movie feels like it takes place in the same world as John Wick and the actors who play the assassins, robbers, and general not-so-good outlaws hiding out and recovering at the hospital/safehouse for criminals who can pay are all great. Jodie Foster is a smash and gives one of her best performances in years, while Dave Bautista smashes it up as her muscle. Not to mention, Charlie Day makes the most out of his sleazy, fast-talkin’ weapons dealer even more than he did in Pacific Rim. There is an unexpected depth to the characters,  especially Foster’s, and this movie is certainly one to check out.

Isle of Dogs – I didn’t mention it, but Jeff Goldlbum is in Hotel Artemis too. I say that because he is even more present in this one, alongside of Ed Norton, Bill Murray, and Bob Balaban. Bryan Cranston voices Duke, the main dog, who learns a lot about himself as he reluctantly helps a boy find his lost dog on the vast quarantined island in Japan. As they bond, and Wes Anderson-esque hijinks of hilarity ensue, they also uncover that the quarantine may not be all that it claims to be. This is classic Anderson and another worthy entry into his quirky repertoire.

Ant-Man and the Wasp – Scott Lang is back and making house arrest look like the most fun ever as he plays with his daughter, runs his new company, and pays his dues to society. He’s just about to be released from the sentence he incurred for his role in helping Captain America draw on the walls in Germany in Civil War (man, I love Randall Park), when he has a bizarre dream that may be the key to what Hope van Dyne and Hank Pym have been up to.

This is a refreshing reprieve to the emotional gut punch given by Avengers: Infinity War two months earlier. Lighthearted, and not ever really dire in stakes, Ant-Man and the Wasp is both helped and hurt by its levity. It is really helped though by Evangeline Lily’s Hope kicking some serious ass as the Wasp as she fights to find her mother who held that title decades earlier. Sure, the movie bandies the word “quantum” around too much, and the conflict is essentially a series of inconvenient misunderstandings, but Paul Rudd’s comedy is a treat, especially when bouncing off of best friend and equally hilarious Luis, played by Michael Pena, and their ex-con business buds.

The shrinking and enlarging of everyday objects into tools and weapons for our heroes is fun, and so is this movie, another magnificent entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The Best of the Rest which is the Best of the Best of This Year

Game Night – I went to see this in theaters thinking it would be funny, and it is, but it is so much more too! This is one of the best comedies that I have seen in a while thanks to some great acting, jokes, and moments that subvert expectations. Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams are excellent as are the other actors who play their friends… and enemies. This one is absolutely worthwhile.

Mission Impossible: Fallout – Wow! These just keep getting better, ramping up the stakes and stunts so that this franchise is not too much James Bond or Jason Bourne, but more akin to the Fast and Furious of espionage action. I mean that in the sense that they know their audience and how to meet the demand for an easily digestible popcorn blockbuster with thrills and chills. Building off of the last film in the series, 2015’s Rouge NationFallout has even more intense action, some truly amazing stunts and fight choreography, and plenty of Tom Cruise sprinting. Plus, it has Henry Cavill cocking his fists mid-fight. He throws a guy through a mirror, gets hit by a bathroom pipe, and responds by getting up and cocking his motherfucking fists like they’re guns! Honestly, my greatest disappointment in this movie is that they didn’t leave in the gun reload sound they played over this moment in the trailer. The Mission Impossible franchise continues to excel and just may be the best action franchise today.

A Quiet Place – Despite the hype, I have not watched Bird Box on Netflix, and I don’t think I need to, for I already saw a better monsters are out to get me if I use this part of my face movie. Real-life couple Emily Blunt and John Krasinski (who also co-wrote and directed! Way to go Big Tuna!) bring a great onscreen chemistry to this post-apocalyptic tale of a world where you have to use your inside voice never because you can’t make any noise at all! Also excellent are the kids, especially Millicent Simmonds who is actually deaf. Her struggle in the film with this and a nagging fear that her father holds resentment toward her lends some relatable drama to a world that fortunately none of us live in. The monsters are scary, and the fear that they could pop out is present in almost every scene. The sequence where Emily Blunt’s matriarch goes into labor is su-spense-ful. Nevertheless, the true achievement of this film is using sound and the lack of it to ramp up this suspense at the perfect time.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – The most recent movie that I’ve seen, is also the best animated movie of 2018. This could have been – and considering Sony’s recent track record with Peter Parker – should have been a massive failure. Everything could have been too rushed, too crazy to combine, and probably just bad… but it turns out that it’s not! It’s really great, and if you haven’t seen it yet, then get to the theater and check it out! I highly recommend this film to Spidey fans of all ages. This is a serious contender for the best film focused on a wallcrawler yet. It truly is an amazing Spider-Man. And Girl. And Girl and Robot. And Pig. The one shortcoming that I can think of is that it only has the second best fight with Kingpin I’ve seen this year.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor -Like so many children, I grew up watching and loving Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Whether or not you did too, you can find immense joy in this documentary that tells the story of Fred Rogers from the words of his family, friends, and coworkers – although, I can probably safely included them all as family because everyone loved Fred Rogers, and he loved everyone. It is especially refreshing in this era where so many once revered men and women (but especially men) are revealed to have been monsters all along. Even when they are not monsters, all subjects of documentaries and biopics have dark side to show. All except Fred Rogers. It is incredibly refreshing to see that Mister Rogers really was that nice. He really did care for everyone, and is a true American hero. The best part is a piece that I had already seen and loved before: his testimony before a Senate commitee that was on the verge of essentially axing the then-new Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). Rogers was brought in to speak about his show to Senator John Pastore, who was overseeing the committe that was looking to cut PBS’ grant for increased funding because in 1969, the United States was busy with a war in Vietnam. Fred Rogers spoke to Pastore for about six minutes about his show, and that’s all it took. Pastore awarded the full grant funding. Fred Rogers saved PBS!

Avenger’s Infinity War – The culmination of 10 years of films all connected together to reach this point is a daunting prospect, but somehow Marvel Studios delivered with one of their best films yet. Every hero and heroine gets their moment to shine as they battle against Thanos, the big, purple mastermind of almost all the ills that have fallen upon our heroes at one point or another in his quest to collect the infinity stones so that he can have the power to instantly erase half of all the universe’s life. Of course, you knew all of this because, c’mon, like everybody’s seen this already! If you haven’t, roll over to Netflix and pop it on because it really is that good. I have so much to praise about this masterful movie, from its somewhat sympathetic villain, to its incredible effects and choreographer, but really I am amazed that 10 years and 19 films brought me to a point where the coolest thing I have ever seen is the sudden entrance of a Norse god with a teenage tree-being at his side and a talking raccoon with a big laser gun leaping off his shoulder. Thank you so much for making that come to life, Marvel!

There is so much more I want to say about Avengers: Infinity War, and I don’t think there is a better place to start than the amazi~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~ ~ ~   ~  ~   ~      ~

 

Black Panther – As awesome as Infinity War is, it still is second to the best superhero film of 2018, the best film from Marvel in 2018, and the best film of 2018: Black Panther. I  wrote not once, but twice about this movie earlier this year, so I won’t belabor with another description here, but suffice it to say, I still love this terrific movie and I hope you will enjoy it too!

Thanks for reading and watching! Be sure to hold all your emotions and atoms together so you can return here next week for more fun!

Rest in peace Super Dave!

Alex