Climate Change’s Impact on America’s Favorite Pastime | Sports

Washington (GGM) Analysis
NoreenProfilePicHillReport-75 by Noreen Wise

America’s passion for professional sports, particularly baseball, is under severe threat from climate change. So with our favorite pastime now in peril, it becomes a powerful wake up call that should motivate us into quick action. The intense heat during summer months is impacting both the enjoyment and health of fans and players alike. More must be done ASAP.

  • High temperatures have resulted in several ST-Saga-CovFrnt-72dpi-300
    teams reinventing their stadiums. The Miami Marlins, Houston Astros as well as four others are now equipped with air-conditioned stadiums with retractable roofs to ensure the well being of all in attendance.
  • Other teams adapt by changing their playing schedule, going to bat at midnight. This might be enjoyable on a summer Saturday night, but would be a nightmare during the week.
  • Wrigley Field in Chicago was dangerously hot this past July, with the heat index temperature reaching 107 degrees. The stadium set up cooling stations and offered fans free ice backs. Coaches were on a mission to keep the players hydrated. This required a significant amount of work and was clearly a borderline health risk. Hopefully, the powers that be are taking notes and finding a better solution for the future. This wasn’t a one-off but is rather a dire climate emergency that will escalate.
  • In October 2018, not a single American sports stadium made the top 5 sustainable stadiums in the world ranking. (1) Amersterdam ArenA,  Netherlends (2) National Stadium, Taiwan (3) Mineral Stadium, Brazil (4) Fisht Stadium, Russia (5) Khalifa International Stadium, Qatar.
  • However, the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta has deemed itself the “‘most sustainable sports venue in the world.'”
    • 4,000 solar panel
    • 2 millions gallons of stormwater capture
    • Water conservation

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  • The first “Zero Waste Super Bowl” was held in 2019 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minnesota. The mission was to maximize recycling. The success rate reached 90%.
  • Recycling at America’s massive sports complexes must become a VERY big deal if we are to lower the carbon needle. It’s much more simple than most realize. There are now regional composting services that will assist with this. According to the Sloan Blog, Patrick Boyle, the Sloan Director of Corporate Sustainability, lowering waste at stadiums is a matter of limiting choices so that all refreshments are served using compostable plates and cups. This enables all waste to be thrown away in the same bin and picked up by one truck.

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Some sustainability focused stadiums are taking climate action one step further and getting players involved in educating fans on the importance of recycling and sustainability. The Sloan Blog notes that stars are assuring the public that “Ordinary people can make a difference.”

© Copyright 2018 – 2019. ALL Rights Reserved.
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FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY | Movie Review

Fighting With My Family

Reviewed by REGGIE WOLTZ

There’s a lot of Rocky in the tale of how Saraya Knight (Florence Pugh) rose from the rough-and-tumble streets of Norwich, England to take the world by storm in the ring after adopting the stage name of “Paige.” Although there are times when Merchant adopts a tongue-and-cheek attitude toward his characters and there’s plenty of humor to be had, this is at its core a traditional story of someone defying the odds in pursuit of a dream.

The screenplay checks all the expected boxes. There’s a gruff mentor-type (played with acerbic wit by Vince Vaughn, who hasn’t been this funny in a long time) who rides Paige hard. There are obligatory training montage sequences . And there’s the fantastic bout in which she captures the world’s attention. (The movie ends with Paige’s first WWE victory and doesn’t detail her tumultuous 3 ½ year career, which included failed drug tests, serious injuries, and a leaked sex tape.) The whole thing seems a little too neatly packaged with most of the rough edges sanded off.

Part of the reason for the film’s pro-WWE tone is likely due to the involvement of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, whose star power was instrumental in getting Fighting with My Family made. In addition to lending his name to the production in an executive producer’s capacity, he has a small role (as himself) – nearly every second of which appears in the trailer.

This isn’t a “Rock” movie; the star is the fine up-and-coming British actress Florence Pugh, whose performances in films like Lady Macbeth and The Outlaw King have put her on a lot of critics’ “watch” lists. She is supported by Lena Heady and Nick Frost as her mother, Julia, and father, Ricky; Jack Lowden as her brother, Zack; and Vince Vaughn as her American coach.

The film is more interesting during its first act as it establishes Paige and her environment. She’s the youngest member of a wrestling-obsessed family. Her father, an ex-con who can’t hold down a “regular” job, runs a low-level touring wrestling show in which he, his wife, and his kids are the stars. He also owns an academy where Zack teaches classes. There’s a good deal of authenticity during these early scenes; the artificiality starts to seep in as soon as Paige passes her WWE audition.

The conflict between her and Zack offers some potential – he is jealous of her success and can’t let go of his own dream, resulting in a downward spiral. But this is treated as a subplot whose resolution is too facile. Paige’s admonishment to him about appreciating what he has and believing in himself feels like it was lifted out of a self-help manual.

Fighting with My Family is as likable as it is generic. Pugh’s performance is the best thing about the movie but the story, despite Merchant’s comedic flourishes, feels stale at times. The WWE’s seal of approval keeps everything carefully sanitized and, although there’s an admission that bouts are “fixed,” the film never goes into details. (In this version of Paige’s story, her big fight was unscripted – something that seems unlikely.) Like wrestling itself, this look at one of its superstars follows a script that isn’t entirely founded in reality.

© Copyright 2017 – 2019. ALL Rights Reserved.
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ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL | Movie Review

Alita: Battle Angel

Reviewed by REGGIE WOLTZ

Heavenly visuals can’t compensate for a screenplay that languishes. In Alita: Battle Angel, a dystopian adventure that amounts to a high-concept exercise in spectacle over substance.

This lavish big-screen adaptation of the Japanese manga (by Yukito Kishiro) boasts an ambitious science-fiction scope and an impressive behind-the-scenes pedigree, including the involvement of James Cameron. However, it lacks emotional depth and complexity beneath its superficial thrills, slick gadgetry, cool weapons, and notoriously big-eyed protagonist.

The story is set 500 years in the future, after Earth was ravaged by an unexplained catastrophic war. Alita (Rosa Salazar) is a cyborg with human characteristics whose scientist creator, Dr. Ido (Christoph Waltz), named his latest robotic creation after his late daughter.

Their relationship becomes complicated as Alita develops the characteristics of a human teenager complete with a boyfriend (Keean Johnson) while coming to terms with some secrets about her past as a female bounty hunter.

The film’s most exciting sequences revolve around a game called “motorball,” an intense competition that resembles a hybrid between basketball and roller derby, in which our tough-minded heroine proves tenaciously adept.

That also leads to Alita embracing her heroic calling and its associated dangers. She explores her potential as a lethal warrior following encounters with motorball’s overseer, the duplicitous Vector (Mahershala Ali) and his alleged lover (Jennifer Connelly), who happens to be Ido’s ex-wife and might hold the key to an evil empire.

The muddled screenplay by Cameron and Laeta Kalogridis (Shutter Island) gradually fills in some contextual details for its character and setting, with the action picking up considerably after a dark first hour spent heavily on exposition.

Within its cyberpunk milieu, Alita: Battle Angel adopts a video-game mentality with a generic nod to female empowerment that waters down the source material for mainstream consumption.

As directed by Robert Rodriguez (Sin City), the film is quite a technical achievement, with visually stunning 3D cinematography and a meticulously rendered futuristic landscape. It seamlessly blends live action with motion-capture animation and special effects.

Unfortunately, this latest attempt to ride the wave of superhero origin stories is little more than a 21st century coming-of-age tale in a 26th century setting, which seems a dubious bet as a legitimate franchise starter in an oversaturated marketplace.

© Copyright 2017 – 2019. ALL Rights Reserved.
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THE UPSIDE | Movie Review

The Upside

Reviewed by REGGIE WOLTZ

The Upside, a remake of the 2011 French film The Intouchables, which was inspired by the true story of Philippe Pozzo di Borgo, can’t help but feel a bit hackneyed at this point. (It’s actually the third remake of The Intouchables, following Indian and Argentinian versions.) It’s the kind of schmaltzy, feel-good movie Hollywood has been feeding audiences for decades, but sometimes they get it right. In the case of The Upside, the success is due almost entirely to the casting of Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston as the odd couple at its center.

Hart is recent parolee Dell, who’s looking to turn his life around and find a way to provide for his young son (Jahi Di’Allo Winston) and ex (Aja Naomi King). When he enters a New York City high-rise and takes the elevator up to the penthouse, he thinks he’s there to see about a janitorial opening. It’s a job that, even in his desperate state, he doesn’t want, so his only aim is to collect a signature to prove to his parole officer that he’s actively seeking work.

As it turns out, the opening is for a “life auxiliary,” i.e. a live-in caregiver, for billionaire quadriplegic Phillip Lacasse (Cranston). After sitting through a parade of endlessly sunny and corny applicants, Philip, who’s still mourning his late wife and the life he was forced to abandon after a paragliding accident, offers the job to Dell. It doesn’t come from some altruistic drive to be the struggling man’s savior; it’s Philip’s act of personal rebellion, seizing what he believes is the only piece of agency he has left to hire the least qualified applicant — much to the dismay of his trusted assistant, Yvonne (Nicole Kidman).

Dell bumbles his way through his early days on the job while gradually bonding with Philip and genuinely caring for him. It’s a reciprocal relationship, with Philip encouraging Dell to follow his dreams, whether they are to come up with an idea for a business startup or pursuing art, while Dell gives Philip the push he needs to find his way back out into the world again.

Directed by Neil Burger (Limitless) and written by Jon Hartmere, the amiable film has a few true laugh-out-loud moments, including a “that’s what she said” joke delivered by Cranston with impeccable comic timing and a cringe-worthy catheter-changing scene.

In his most dramatic role to date, Hart shows off some real acting chops instead of just mugging for the camera, while Cranston isn’t at all limited by Philip’s lack of movement; if anything, the stillness amplifies all of his emotions. On the downside, Kidman spends most of her time on screen doing little other than scowling at Hart, which seems like a waste of her talents.

Though it would have been more compelling had the filmmakers found a way to fit Yvonne into it more effectively, the upside is that the central relationship succeeds. Hart and Cranston play off each other nicely, and the movie works to the extent it does because they work so well together.

© Copyright 2017 – 2019. ALL Rights Reserved.
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THE KID WHO WOULD BE KING | Movie Review

The Kid Who Would Be King

Reviewed by REGGIE WOLTZ

In our darkest hour, King Arthur will return to save the world. Or, so the legend goes. With Tom Brady in the Super Bowl yet again, now seems an opportune time for some saving. In The Kid Who Would Be King, writer-director Joe Cornish has updated the classic story of Camelot, spinning an allegory for our fractured world.

London boy Alex Elliot (Louis Ashbourne Serkis, son of Andy) and his best friend (Dean Chaumoo) are constantly bullied at school. One day, Alex wanders into a vacant lot (where luxury condos are set to be built, because of course they are, it’s 2019) and finds a sword stuck in a stone. Intrigued, he extracts the blade and begins to suspect that he’s the modern-day Arthur. His hunch is confirmed when an excitable boy, claiming to be the fabled wizard, Merlin, suddenly appears at his school. 

The wizard — who switches between a young form (Angus Imrie) and an older (Patrick Stewart) — proves his bona fides by casting powerful spells via a frantic series of hand slaps that look like a Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly bit.

Centuries ago, Arthur and Merlin bested the evil witch Morgana (Rebecca Ferguson), imprisoning her in an underground lair so dank and stuffy, you expect the R train to rumble through any moment. Now that the aboveground world is leaderless and bitterly divided — the weaker we are, the stronger she gets — the time is ripe for Morgana’s return. She hopes to claim the magic sword, Excalibur, and presumably land a lucrative contract screaming in a corner box on CNN.

To counter Margana and her undead army, Alex builds his own roundtable, recruiting his one-time bullies (Rhianna Dorris and Tom Taylor) to the cause. Surprisingly affective lessons on the chivalric code and the importance of civility soon follow.

Cornish, who hasn’t directed a film since the excellent 2011 teens-versus-aliens movie Attack the Block, has created a movie with the goofy charm of 1980s kids adventure flicks, such as The Goonies or The NeverEnding Story. It’s gentle — and almost completely bloodless. During the climax, a fire-breathing Morgana battles an army of school kids and none appears to get even an eyebrow singed. 

In the end, the premise of the world needing Arthur’s return may not be so farfetched. With the blend of wholesomeness, humor, and classic adventure that Cornish infuses, the audience is easily enabled to escape into this alternate universe. Alas, after two hours, everyone must return to a reality where it might take magic more powerful than Merlin’s just to reopen the government.

© Copyright 2017 – 2019. ALL Rights Reserved.
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IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK | Movie Review

If Beale Street Could Talk

Reviewed by REGGIE WOLTZ

Barry Jenkins’ adaptation of James Baldwin’s novel If Beale Street Could Talk is a story about injustice, about institutional racism, and about the cycles of poverty. But above all it’s a love story, a celebration of romance and family connections in the face of constant adversity. The romance between childhood friends Tish (KiKi Layne) and Fonny (Stephan James) is so overwhelmingly beautiful that it nearly makes all the forces aligned against them fall away. And even though their love is not strong enough to actually defeat those seemingly immutable forces, Jenkins never lets his film be similarly overpowered.

Set in Harlem in 1974 (the same year Baldwin’s novel was published), Beale Street starts with Tish telling Fonny that they’re about to have a baby. A nonlinear tale, jumping back and forth between their blissful early courtship and the more trying times as Fonny is in jail awaiting trial for a crime he didn’t commit, the story twists and turns. At just 19, Tish finds herself carrying the burden of their burgeoning family disproportionately on her own, although Fonny is far from a deadbeat dad. 

One of the most refreshing and joyful aspects of the story is the way that Tish’s unplanned pregnancy at such a young age is largely treated as a blessing, regardless of the circumstances. A new life is about to be brought into the world, and Tish, Fonny and Tish’s family all embrace the prospect with affection and hope.

That doesn’t mean they don’t agonize over the challenges ahead of them, though. Tish’s mother Sharon (Regina King) travels all the way to Puerto Rico to track down Fonny’s accuser, a woman who’s been coerced into going along with a racist police officer’s preferred (false) narrative, and Jenkins makes sure to give the victim a chance to speak her piece. Fonny’s own mother and sisters aren’t particularly sympathetic to his plight, although his short-tempered father (Michael Beach) makes some hard sacrifices for his son. An early scene showing the contrast between how Tish’s and Fonny’s families take the pregnancy news provides an elegant illustration of their different upbringings.

James (most recently seen in the Amazon series Homecoming) and newcomer Layne make for a wonderful central couple, with a heartfelt, relaxed chemistry, and they’re aided by an excellent supporting cast, especially King as the steely, unflappable Sharon, who takes every setback and unexpected development in stride. 

Dave Franco (as a Jewish landlord who tries to give Tish and Fonny a break) and Brian Tyree Henry (as an old friend of Fonny’s who’s recently been released from prison) make memorable impressions in their brief appearances. Jenkins depicts every minor character with care and understanding.

As he did in his Oscar-winning Moonlight, Jenkins captures romantic longing with warm sensuality, conveying the bond between Tish and Fonny even in scenes that just feature them looking at each other. He retains a substantial amount of Baldwin’s prose via voiceover narration from Tish, which can sound a little florid in comparison to the more grounded realism onscreen, but which contributes to the lyrical timelessness of the central romance. 

Baldwin’s work always balances artistry and activism in its exploration of the black experience in America, and with Beale Street, Jenkins does the same. It’s impossible to watch these tender, fragile, indomitable characters and not empathize with their experience, whether that’s falling in love or facing injustices that persist to this day.

© Copyright 2017 – 2019. ALL Rights Reserved.
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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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