THE GRINCH | Movie Review

The Grinch

by REGGIE WOLTZ

The Grinch’s 2018 comeback is to Christmas what Black Friday is to the holiday spirit: commercially perverted to the core. But what else should be expected from a family animated movie that has been promoting an updated Christmas staple since the early days of November?

Benedict Cumberbatch is the new voice of the ill-tempered but lonely Grinch, who lives a solitary life in his cave high atop a mountain that overlooks Whoville. The miserable green guy has only Max, his faithful dog and best friend, to keep him company and, other than occasional trips to Whoville to get food, has nothing to do with his neighbors in the valley.

It’s during one of his reluctant shopping trips that the Grinch encounters Cindy Lou Who (Cameron Seely), a pig-tailed and fearless little girl with a precocious heart. For Christmas, she wants Santa to give her struggling single mother, Donna Lou Who (Rashida Jones), the break she needs and deserves. Only, Cindy Lou Who plans to trap Santa so that she can ask for her request in person.

Grinch, perturbed by family and friends gathering together to celebrate in Whoville, plans to dress up as a less-than-jolly Saint Nick to steal everything associated with the holiday and turn the town’s Christmas Day joy into grief.

In effect, our understanding of the Grinch’s motivations are the same and we get to see a little more into Cindy’s character. Sounds like a good way to add something late on so that the second half might not feel like retread! Unfortunately, albeit with a tad more set-up, the plot leads to the same Cindy and Grinch interaction and resulting events as the original version.

The Grinch does more than triple the running time of the original TV classic, which is to say this animated big-screen version is three times too long and ten times as unnecessary (much like Jim Carrey’s live-action How the Grinch Stole Christmas from 2000).

Other than padding the plot, backstories for the main characters, and additional comedic relief, The Grinch is ultimately faithful to its source material. But it never improves upon it – for it may look better with more advanced animation but underneath the paint job is the same old overpacked sleigh.

Most disappointingly, the voicework, outside of Cumberbatch’s starring role, is unmemorable. Of the notable failures, Pharrell Williams replacing Boris Karloff as the story’s narrator and Tyler, the Creator’s update of Thurl Ravenscroft’s “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” amount to interesting choices by the filmmakers that, despite trying, cannot replace either of those iconic performances. The same could be said of this Grinch update itself.

© Copyright 2017 – 2018. ALL Rights Reserved.
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CREED II | Movie Review

CREED II

Reviewed by Reggie Woltz

While I’m still not sure Creed, with its 95 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, was quite as good as everyone makes it out to be, it was certainly better than it had any right to be. What sounded like a joke—a spinoff of the Rocky series starring Apollo Creed’s son, (born out of wedlock), as he masters prizefighting under the tutelage of the Italian Stallion—was instead inventively filmed (the one-shot fight midway through the picture stands out as a brilliantly cinematic scene) and passionately performed.

Similarly, Creed II seemed like it would be a cash-in nostalgia play: newly crowned champion Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) is challenged to a fight by Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) and his hulking monster of a son, Viktor (Florian Munteanu). Ivan, of course, killed Adonis’s father in Rocky IV before losing to Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) and losing the Cold War altogether.

Creed II could have been a silly rehash of Rocky III (a champ abandoned by his trainer because he’s unlikely to beat the physically imposing, impassioned challenger) and Rocky IV (the Russians: still bad all these years later!). But, like its predecessor, Creed II is much better than it has any right to be. And that’s almost entirely because of the work done by Lundgren and Munteanu, who make the Dragos not only sympathetic but kind of sad.

After Rocky’s humiliation of Ivan in front of the Soviet Politburo—during which the Soviet crowd literally started chanting Rocky’s name, recognizing America’s greatness and the implacability of its champions in a moment that signaled America would triumph in the Cold War once and for all—Drago was cast out of Russian society. His leaders shunned him; his people spit on him; his wife left him and Viktor. This isn’t a mission of revenge; it’s a mission of rehabilitation. Drago wants to reclaim the family name, restore their glory, and maybe even win back his wife.

It’s rare for the villains in these films to have interesting motivations. Usually they’re just guys to beat, obstacles to overcome. But the Dragos are interesting, they have a life and world all their own. And that helps Creed II transcend the sequel doldrums that afflict much of the rest of the film. Steven Caple Jr. has replaced Ryan Coogler behind the lens, and his work here is competent but not much more. Visually speaking, there’s nothing particularly compelling about the climactic fight, or anything else, really.

Michael B. Jordan remains charismatic and compelling, his expressive face and chiseled body dominating the screen. By film’s end he too is a father, worried about the world his daughter will face and the challenges she will have to overcome—and weighing what he owes to his father, the boxing great cut down by the hulking commie. Rocky, who probably gets a bit too much screen time, gumming up the momentum of the movie, is having dad problems all his own, trying to work up the courage to reconnect with his somewhat-estranged son.

Creed II sometimes barely feels like a boxing movie, and I mean that in the best way possible: It’s a film about what parents owe their children, and vice versa. The physical combat that frames these conflicts is little more than window dressing.

© Copyright 2017 – 2018. ALL Rights Reserved.
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BEAUTIFUL BOY | Movie Review

BEAUTIFUL BOY

Movie Review by Reggie Woltz

American movies about addiction follow a pattern that’s difficult to escape: serious drug/alcohol problem, rehab, relapse, rehab, epiphany, sobriety. They normally end on a hopeful note mostly because studios are reluctant to bum the audience out, even though in real life the recovery rate is under 50%.

I single out American cinema because Europeans are more willing to show the darker side of addiction, physical deterioration and all. In fact, one of the best films this TIFF was Let Me Fall, a fierce Icelandic drama that lets you know early on there won’t be a happy ending, yet you stick around because the lead’s descent into dependence hell rings compelling true.

Beautiful Boy tries hard to break the mold, but comes up short. The movie opens with journalist David Sheff (Steve Carell) trying to understand the grasp crystal meth has on his eldest son Nic (Timothée Chalamet). David’s research triggers flashbacks involving early signs he chose to ignore, Nic’s transformation into a full-blown tweaker, and the collateral damage Nic’s addiction inflicts on the family.

While Beautiful Boy hits most of the same beats as other addiction movies, the main characters seem like actual people. Carell makes great use of his affable, sad persona with an edge (and he is believable, unlike his bizarre dramatic turn in Foxcatcher). Chalamet, who last year crushed it in Call Me by Your Name, is fine as the teen who thinks he has everything under control until he doesn’t. As a family, too, the Sheffs are intellectually minded and well off, which is a slight break from the usual addiction narrative.

The film is based on two biographies, Beautiful Boy, by the real life David Sheff, and Tweak, by his son. Director Felix Van Groeningen (The Broken Circle Breakdown) leans noticeably more on the father’s story, which is a bit of a shame considering how few first-person accounts we have of drug abuse survivors with literary inclinations (A Million Little Pieces? Fake). Chalamet is good, but his role never feels fully inhabited.

The character arcs are immediately recognizable. David goes above and beyond to help his son until he realizes the best course of action is to let the boy figure it out on his own. Nic’s half-baked attempts at getting better eventually cease, and it takes a major trauma to force him to accept his inability to control his dependence.

The film’s main achievement is underlining the insidiousness of crystal meth. This particular drug alters your brain chemistry and reduces your capacity for rational thought, making rehabilitation an even taller order.

One of the ways you know this is a Hollywood movie is that Chalamet never loses his boyish good looks, he just seems a little paler and skinnier towards the end (if you have ever seen a meth addict, you know they are nothing like the Call Me by Your Name dreamboat). Still, Beautiful Boy is competent: capable of tugging your heartstrings, while being truthful enough to freak out every parent who watches it.

© Copyright 2017 – 2018. ALL Rights Reserved.
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FIRST MAN | Movie Reviews

FIRST MAN

by REGGIE WOLTZ

Director Damien Chazelle (“Whiplash,” “La La Land”), reunites with Ryan Gosling in “First Man,” the story of Neil Armstrong. While almost everyone in the world knows of the moon landing and Armstrong’s poignant words while making history, most do not know the entire story — his tragic life and the failed missions before July 1969. “First Man” takes us on this nearly 10-year journey, allowing us into Armstrong’s private life and how this emotionally broken man could leave his mark on the world in spite of it.

We meet Armstrong in 1961 as a test pilot, skyrocketing out of the Earth’s atmosphere and back again as he narrowly escapes crashing into the peaks of mountains before skidding for miles in the Mojave Desert to a halt as he calmly radios in, “I’m down.” This, of course, elicits laughter from the audience, but this is just the first of many harrowing and stressful situations of the cool-as-a-cucumber pilot and astronaut.

What we quickly learn next is that his young daughter has a brain tumor. Her tragic death will forever change his emotional connection and fortitude. As the family moves on, with an older son and a new one on the way, Armstrong reaches for new accomplishments with NASA. He buries his feelings deep within, never addressing the elephant in the room, and plunges into his work becoming physically and emotionally absent from his wife and two sons.

The story bounces back and forth over the next several years from Armstrong’s personal life to the missions with which he is involved: the Gemini projects and then finally Apollo. The firsthand scenes are quickly paced, only portraying short pieces of their lives. We do understand Janet’s (Claire Foy) frustration and devotion, and get a glimpse into Armstrong’s guarded interactions with well-meaning colleagues attempting to be friendly.

Armstrong’s matter-of-fact personality is either very odd, or he is emotionally shut down because of the tragedy of his daughter as well as the many deaths of his co-workers. This is never really clear, and perhaps it is meant to allow you to draw your own conclusions about this man.

The film, from a technical perspective, is perfection. Chazelle draws you into the cockpit of the shuttles allowing you to feel the dizzying, confusing and breathtaking situations. He shuts us into these small spaces, eliciting a feeling of oxygen deprivation using extreme close-ups and camera angles filling the screen. These scenes, unlike the personal interactions, feel as if they take place in real time, not fast-forwarding in any way.

It might be the closest most of us get to being in an astronaut’s shoes … or should I say “boots.” And there’s a documentary, hand-held camera feel to the scenes in the shuttles, adding a layer of reality and timeliness to the film.

The technical perfection doesn’t stop with the cinematography. It is an example of precise balance in time, color and sound or lack thereof. Sound, music and silence are just as important in this film as the acting and camera work. Whether it’s background music or shockingly deafening silence, sound accentuates each and every scene. Even hearing the astronaut’s amplified, deep inhalations and exhalations, inadvertently forces you to match that rhythm, completely syncing you with the characters in the film.

We feel we are right there with Armstrong or Aldrin. We are pulled into the whir of the now-antiquated control board which is abruptly cut short as Armstrong opens the hatch to take in the enormity of the moonscape. Not a sound can be heard, and you are there with him, in a black and white vacuum, feeling small and in awe of what lies ahead.

Gosling shines as the reserved, emotionally broken and guarded American hero. He creates the man who changed history but did so with tunnel vision. It’s a complex and subdued role of great importance, one that requires subtlety and skill. While Gosling expertly portrays Armstrong, it is Foy’s portrayal as his wife, Janet, that shines. She’s strong, independent and understanding, yet she’s simultaneously shattered and in need of her husband’s absent strength and love.

Unfortunately, Armstrong’s personality is rather flat, and it is Aldrin (Corey Stoll) who enjoys the limelight and has a sense of humor, something the story truly needs.

“First Man” gives us all the back stories of the lives lost during the race to the moon. There are political statements, small pieces of information shared, opening our eyes to the past’s turmoil. It is a spectacular feat in retelling history and the journey of getting to the moon. We learn of the men who paved that path, some by laying down their own lives to make it possible. Armstrong’s story is real, if at times uninteresting and emotionally disconnected (just like the man itself), and Chazelle does his best to turn that story in to over two hours of entertainment. The film requires patience of its audience and, considering the level of dedication it took to make the real-life events happen, that is only appropriate. While we don’t get the feeling of being the first human to set foot on the moon, our experience in looking through the eyes of the actual first man is a reward unto itself. 

© Copyright 2017 – 2018. ALL Rights Reserved.

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Did God Bless America? Why?| The Future

Spaceship interior with view on the planet Earth 3D rendering el
Spaceship white and blue interior with view on space and planet Earth 3D rendering elements of this image furnished by NASA

Yes, deep in our hearts we all know that God has definitely blessed America.

God has a reason for everything. So then why did God bless America?

In Thomas Jefferson’s 1st Annual Message as 3rd President of the United States of America, December 8, 1801, he touched on the answer:

“…We contemplate this rapid growth and the prospect it holds up to us, not with a view to the injuries it may enable us to do others in some future day, but to the settlement of the extensive country still remaining vacant within our limits to the multiplication of men susceptible of happiness, educated in the love of order, habituated to self-government, and valuing its blessings above all price.

Shall we refuse the unhappy fugitives from distress that hospitality which the savages of the wilderness extended to our fathers arriving in this land? Shall oppressed humanity find no asylum on this globe? The Constitution, indeed, has wisely provided that for admission to certain offices of important trust a residence shall be required sufficient to develop character and design. But might not the general character and capabilities of a citizen be safely communicated to every one manifesting a bona fide purpose of embarking his life and fortunes permanently with us?” 

The world desperately needs a beacon of hope for the oppressed and downtrodden. America is that beacon of hope, ordained by God it seems. The land of immigrants. The land of opportunity.

It’s time to fix this…

We have sweeping stretches of undeveloped land. In the 18th and 19th centuries, we opened specific territories to immigrants, creating opportunities and pathways for those willing to work hard.

We have two centuries worth of examples. We can look to the past to guide us toward the future. Securing our borders doesn’t have to be a crisis.

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5G & Net Neutrality | The Future

Spaceship interior with view on the planet Earth 3D rendering el

“There are people in every time and every land who want to stop history in its tracks. They fear the future, mistrust the present, and invoke the security of a comfortable past which, in fact, never existed.” ~ Robert Kennedy

The midterm election on November 6, 2018 is about positioning America for the future. Our bright horizon is wide open. Real leadership will guide us onward and upward.

Trump has spent two years outlining an agenda that indicates his goal is to do a u-turn and steer America back to the 20th Century. He feels very safe in the past. His sense of security appears to be rooted in the methods that ensured his survival during the Mafia-controlled construction and development boom of the 80’s and 90’s in New York City, during which Trump’s Terminator Roy Cohn kept Trump out of jail.

But Roy Cohn is long gone. The Mafia in New York City has been sidelined. And 21st century technology changes everything. So does social media. And so will 5G.

Preparation for the 5G wave begins right now.

What is 5G? 5G (5th Generation Wireless Network) is an ultra fast and stable wireless connection to the internet with massive band widths that will remarkably lower energy consumption. This will transform home, banking, energy, transportation, entertainment, and office management capabilities…to name but a few industries. It has the potential to significantly improve the cost and effectiveness of local, state and federal governments. It will transform public education.

According to Lifewire, AT&T has tested 5G in Austin TX, Waco TX, Kalamazoo MI, and South Bend IN. AT&T and Verizon will continue their trials during the summer of 2018. 5G will expand across the country in major city by major city in 2019, and then by 2020 is expected to be available everywhere in the United States. Simultaneously, it looks like China, Japan and South Korea will be testing their 5G networks during the summer of 2018 as well. Vodafone in the UK began testing its 5G network two months ago.

The 5G rollout will launch an amazing array of new gadgets and products that will WOW American consumers and change the way we do things. Tech giants are expected to rake in billions, possibly trillions, with the 5G global transformation. Without Net Neutrality, American consumers will get the short end of the stick, paying far more for 5G and it’s services than otherwise.

Net Neutrality – an essential consumer protection in this new tech age – was wiped away by Trump and the GOP as of June 12, 2018. Consumers are now very vulnerable. So, as we head to the voting booth on November 6, 2018, it’s imperative that we understand that 5G is an “all day/ everyday” issue. It should be at the top of our list of important drivers that are compelling us to get out and vote on November 6, 2018. 5G will be the backbone of our everyday family life. Without Net Neutrality, our disposable income will be eaten up by unprecedented monthly 5G charges, or we’ll have to go without the myriad of new gadgets that will begin flooding the markets very soon.

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United States of America INC | Perspective

perspective

There have been 241 successful years that have passed since the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the launching of our democratic “experiment.” It now seems unfathomable to witness the dire circumstances Trump’s new mission statement has inflicted on modern society. Trump’s agenda is the polar opposite of the mission outlined by the author of the Declaration of Independence, and other founding fathers.

DONALD TRUMP: “I have made the tough decisions, always with an eye on the bottomline. Perhaps it’s time to run America like a business.”

So what “bottom line” is Trump referring to?

“Capitalism in its purest form is a society in which the market sets prices for the sole purpose of profits and any inefficiency or intervention that reduces profit making will be eliminated by the market.” ~Investopedia, definition of the Bottom Line

The Trump and GOP agenda is now clearly defined. This definition is the missing puzzle piece which should help us understand the GOP vision when we head to the voting booths on November 6, 2018. It appears that saving American lives in Puerto Rico, funding health programs for impoverished children, meals-on-wheels, cutting protective regulations, and a whole long lengthy list of life-saving initiatives were eliminated because they “reduce profit making.”

What are the key characteristics of capitalism:

  • TWO-CLASS SYSTEM: (1) capitalist class, owns the means of producing and distributing goods and services; (2) working class, works for producers and distributors for earned wages. There’s also a “division of labor” made possible by specialization as a result of education and training.
  • PROFIT MOTIVE: “Companies exist to make a profit.  The motive for all companies is to make and sell goods and services only for profits.  Companies do not exist solely to satisfy people’s needs. Even though some goods or services may satisfy needs, they will only be available if the people have the resources to pay for them.” ~Investopedia
  • MINIMAL GOVERNMENT INTERVENTION: “Capitalist societies believe markets should be left alone to operate without government intervention. However, a completely government-free capitalist society exists in theory, only. ” ~Investopedia (Trump doesn’t believe government-free capitalist society exists in theory only; he’s determined that America can be regulation free for the benefit of the 1%.)
  • COMPETITION: Must be a competitive market so monopolies don’t form. Markets set prices, not sellers (monopolies). If sellers set prices it’s no longer capitalism.
  • WILLINGNESS TO CHANGE: Adaptation is a critically important feature of capitalism. (For some reason Trump ignores this characteristic and doesn’t mind cutting profits to protect antiquated energy sources like coal.)

Understanding these chief characteristics of capitalism should make clear what Trump is using as his rudder to steer America. And it seems that the reason why so many Republicans are willing to hold a blind eye to Trump’s dangerous flaws is that his danger pales in comparison to these capitalistic principles that are engrained in their way of thinking, after all capitalism is America’s economic system.

However, our federal government is not a business and should not be run following the principles of capitalism. This is a ridiculously hairbrained scheme.

THOMAS JEFFERSON: “The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good government.”

JAMES MADISON: “We are free today substantially, but the day will come when our Republic will be an impossibility. It will be an impossibility because wealth will be concentrated in the hands of a few. A Republic cannot stand upon bayonets, and when the day comes when the wealth of the nation will be in the hands of a few, then we must rely upon the wisdom of the best elements in the country to readjust the laws of the nation to the changed conditions.”

The United States of America has always taken the moral high-ground which has resulted in more than 200 years of global superiority. Trump’s vision to run America like a capitalistic business, has dramatically denigrated our standing in the world, and with the ballooning deficit…has undermined our financial strength. Further, Trump has taken the moral low ground, creating a tidal wave of enemies around the globe who now have America marked as their number one target.

Further, Trump has declared bankruptcy six times and appears to have America on the same trajectory. There’s no time to be celebrating. We have to take a long term perspective and rush to reinforce our nation’s initial core operating principle: “…the care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction…”

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Using Correct Lens(es) to See Properly | Perspective

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The entire world was stunned on August 21, 2017 to witness President Trump stare at the sun without protective solar eclipse glasses, going against the advice of every single professional on earth who was advising the global population on the best and safest protocols during an eclipse.

So why did Trump ignorantly stare at the sun while being broadcast on live television?

A reasonable deduction is that it appears Trump was trying to guide his devoted base of supporters to follow whatever he says and does, no matter how reckless and dangerous.

Why would any American leader wish their supporters such harm?

Trump seems to emphatically believe that his followers are lemmings and will happily tumble off a cliff with him, and for him. Every single day of the year we see Trump fanning this fire, feeding the flames, tweeting out more and more delusional notions for his supporters to gobble up and use as their lens through which to view the Mueller investigation, the environmental crisis, global warming, the national debt, the dramatic erosion of our global leadership, and so much more.

Meanwhile the rest of us are wearing specialized lenses that reveal the hidden clues –glasses like those used in National Treasure to find the missing treasure.

I personally feel an overwhelming indebtedness to James Comey and James Clapper who have recently shared their valuable and profound career insights into Russia meddling in the 2016 election, and the investigation into whether or not the Trump Campaign colluded with the Russians:

  • “Flashbacks to my earlier career as a prosecutor against the Mob. The silent circle of assent. The boss in complete control. The loyalty oaths. The us-versus-them worldview. The lying about all things, large and small, in service to some code of loyalty that put the organization above morality and above the truth.” ~ James Comey, ‘A Higher Loyalty’
  • James Clapper, ‘Facts and Fears’ : “Surprising even themselves, they swung the election to a Trump win. To conclude otherwise stretches logic, common sense and credulity to the breaking point. Less than eighty thousand votes in three key states swung the election. I have no doubt that more votes than that were influenced by this massive effort by the Russians.”

These weighty realities create two very powerful lenses to view current events properly. The fact that some Americans are willing to join Trump and stare at the sun during a solar eclipse without protective eye shields, while others of us are using potent, specialized lenses that help us see the frightening nuances of having a Mob Boss placed by the Russians as our US President… means that we unfortunately won’t interpret current events the same way.

This is extremely worrisome. It indicates that many of us who have GOP family and friends – who’ve slowly but surely refused to turn away from an arch enemy wearing a GOP jacket – that we’re on different tracks, and will most assuredly have different outcomes after we reach the critical fork in the road up ahead.

Do you recall the traumatic tsunami that struck Sumatra December 26, 2004? When the tide was swept out so far, and for so long… and the wise ones recognized what was going on and immediately ran inland and took cover, but 227,898 others ran towards the suddenly vast and empty shoreline, plucking up unique shells they’d never seen before, smiling and  delighted by the unexpected wonder of this phenomenon, but later (fifteen minutes to seven hours later, depending on which coastline), their glee turned to despair as they were swept out to see and died. Some of these destructive coastal waves were as tall as 100 feet.

The heartbreaking part about this tragedy was that there was time for everyone to escape to safety. No animals were killed during the tsunami. But the majority of those killed wouldn’t heed the warnings. They didn’t follow the advice of those fleeing. They weren’t open to another perspective about what was actually taking place.

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Is Trump Plotting Blue Wave Upset By Lobbying For Nobel Prize? | Perspective

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The Greatest Con Man on earth is the master of smoke and mirrors. He invented some of the most bewildering tricks in the book. The Art of the Deal outlines a whole series of Trump’s trademark schemes that stun and amaze. Making a $150 million net worth  appear to be $5 billion. Disappearing tax returns so roving eyes can’t question Trump’s financial connections to Russian oligarchs.

On Tuesday May 8, 2018, as voters headed to the polls in three states to cast ballots in the primary election, Paul Ryan made a panicked announcement from the mountain top, warning that if the GOP loses the House on November 6, 2018, the Democrats will come in and remove Trump from office.

Exactly!

Trump is in panic mode. He’s combing through his massive collection of effective stunts, that have worked wonders for five decades, and is fine-tuning his timeline to November 6th.

It appears Trump’s been laying the groundwork for what he hopes will be the Nobel Peace Prize, to be announced in October 2018, just prior to the midterm elections. He envisions (and thus plots) that winning the Nobel Peace Prize a few weeks before election day will upset the BLUE WAVE that is projected to sweep the GOP majority out of Congress, and Trump fears…. land him in jail.

The Greatest Con Man on earth isn’t going to let that happen. He has to plot BIG! His grandiose solution is to win the Nobel Peace prize.

The first few steps of Trump’s timeline are already underway:

  • January 11 , 2018, trump stated, “The United States needs more immigrants from Norway, not s**thole countries like Haiti.” The Nobel Office is in Oslo, Noway. Trump is trying to butter up to Norway the day after he met with Norway’s Prime Minister in Washington.
  • North Korea and Russia are allies. The only person more afraid of the Blue Wave than Trump… is Putin. Putin knows how to “inspire” an evil ally like Kim Jong-Un into playing along with this charade for a good cause, that of maintaining Putin’s iron grip on America.
  • Putin, Trump and Kim Jong-Un will win an Academy Award for this blockbuster performance that will take place in Singapore in June. Stay tuned…

Meanwhile, the one most deserving of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018 is France’s Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron. He’s been a noble and heroic leader, working round the clock with all the US allies to maintain stability in the world while Trump is in overdrive maliciously working to destabilize the globe.

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A Quiet Place | DoubleTake by REGGIE WOLTZ

 

It’s for the Kids

*SPOILERS*

Gimmicks in horror movies are a dime-a-dozen. The sheer number of found footage films intending to recreate the success of The Blair Witch Project should be enough evidence of that. Saw and Final Destination have spawned a collective ten sequels based on their original stratagem. Even classic franchises have fallen victim to this trend. “Camp Crystal Lake isn’t cutting it anymore? Let’s put Jason in space. Wait, you mean that didn’t work? Okay, get Freddy in here.” The incessant need for creativity in the horror genre often reeks of desperation, so it’s natural to get nervous when new one-trick ponies come around.

That said, A Quiet Place is not your average pony. Sure, it’s all about being silent (there are maybe fifteen lines of dialogue in the whole movie), but there’s more to it than that. The film’s creative team is your first clue. Based on a story by the filmmaking duo of Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, the movie is also heavily influenced by actor, writer, and first-time director John Krasinski. The screenplay itself is well balanced between examining its post-apocalyptic world and the inner workings of its main characters. But Krasinski, who described this film as a love letter to his family in promotional interviews, has his fingerprints all over it as he molds a horror movie with the purpose of making you cry as many times as you scare.

The film’s direction is surprisingly masterful for the product of a first-timer. Echoing the attention to detail and character building that Jordan Peele built into his 2017 film debut, A Quiet Place doesn’t waste a single second of its 95 minute runtime. It sets up almost all of its major plot points well before they happen, simultaneously grounding everything into a reasonable reality. Examples include the nail that the laundry bag pulls up on the stairs, the waterfall scene explaining the logic of launching the fireworks, and the use of a cochlear implant to defeat a monster. Those are the obvious ones, but smaller details like the brief appearance of the oxygen tank, the bloody footprints left by the wife, and the boy playing with the truck’s controls all come back to influence the plot with subtle effectiveness.

Going back to the comparison with Get Out, John Krasinski’s film has two major legs up. One is that it is much more of a genre film, using tension and jump scares with precision. The other is the emotional pull of the characters in A Quiet Place. Take the first scenes of each movie. Instead of building the mystery of the antagonists, the way that Peele does with his “Run, Rabbit, Run” kidnapping, Krasinski chooses to set up the emotional arc for each character by killing the youngest member of the family. The effect is that, as an audience, we want to see the main characters live more than we want to see the villains die.

This point gets driven home late in the film, right around the time that the father sacrifices himself. The emotional arc of the relationship between him and his daughter is the backbone of this film, and it is redeemed beautifully in this scene and the final battle. For a genre horror movie with a gimmick, I really didn’t expect to feel as strongly as I did for its characters. In that, I consider this film to have pulled off a minor miracle. Then again, maybe I’m just getting soft.

In all, John Krasinksi wrote a love letter to his family and that letter definitely got delivered. This film scares, intrigues and conjures emotion in equal measures. The story is tight, the character performances are top notch and the sound design makes good on the gimmick that its premise promises. Now, if only all horror movies could actually make me feel for its protagonists. That’s a ruse I would actually like to see catch on.

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