Getting Lost in Loss

Carrie Fisher died today.

In many ways, and to many people, 2016 just felt like a year of loss. And while I’ve been saddened by all the celebrities and icons we’ve lost this year…

Carrie Fisher died today, and I need to quantify why it hurts so much.

Many people pass away every year. Some of them are celebrities. Some are family, friends, and loved ones. Some we see coming, others blindside us. Some will be remembered forever, while others are a footnote to history.

Carrie Fisher is literally one of the first memories I have. Growing up, Star Wars was everything to me. Luke, Han, Leia, Chewie, Lando, and the rest formed my foundation for heroism, bravery, and sacrifice. Sure, they were all in silly costumes waving neon lights around, but it grabbed me in a way nothing else has. These are my oldest and dearest friends. And one of them is gone.

Her impact is felt so far beyond her role in a silly sci-fi movie. She was an amazing writer, egregiously hilarious, and unspeakably brave when confronting her demons. Her willingness to open up about her own struggles gives me the strength to open up about my own.

Only in recent years have my own demons begun haunting me. I’m sad all the time. I’m angry half of the time. I feel lost in a sea of people who “have their shit together”, wondering when it will all click for me. I take medicine for this, and it takes the edge off. Sometimes I forget to be sad or angry and I can just be, and sometimes that’s enough for me.

I am deeply flawed. I have made mistakes. I have regrets. Carrie Fisher wasn’t afraid to say these things about herself, so why should I be? I am also loved. I am in love. I know I have it far better than most ever could, and am grateful.

Many people pass away every year, but 2016 feels sadder than most. We lost some powerful voices this year, and will lose more next year, and the year after that, and so on. What’s important is that we don’t get lost in that loss. What matters is that we keep creating and discovering new and powerful voices to fill that vacuum.

I, for one, plan on shouting from every rooftop I see in 2017. I plan on being a better me than before, to not be afraid to be myself no matter how weird that me might be. I plan on doing my part to make my surroundings better just by having been there.

Besides, what makes any of us think that 2017 will be any better than 2016.


Central Intelligence Review

Better late than never, right?

IMDB Synopsis

“After he reconnects with an awkward pal from high school through Facebook, a mild-mannered accountant is lured into the world of international espionage.”

Who Made It?

  • Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber
  • Writers: Ike Barinholtz & David Stassen and Rawson Marshall Thurber
  • Production Companies: New Line Cinema, Bluegrass Films, Principato-Young Entertainment, Universal Pictures

Central Intelligence is rated PG-13 for crude and suggestive humor, some nudity, action violence and brief strong language.

Who’s In It?

  • Dwayne Johnson
  • Kevin Heart
  • Amy Ryan
  • Jason Bateman
  • Aaron Paul
  • Other People

The Good Stuff

  • The Rock is as charming and likable as ever
  • Some of the action scenes are decent

The Bad Stuff

  • Kevin Heart has never done it for me, and this film didn’t change my mind
  • The Rock is almost TOO goofy at times. He’s obviously just too cool to play socially awkward
  • The plot was about as convoluted as it gets

The One-Sentence Verdict

This movie was nothing more than an excuse to use the tagline, “Saving the world takes a little Heart and a big Johnson.”

Should You See It?

If you don’t mind spending 107 minutes laughing at jokes that are so forgettable you’ll struggle to remember what you were laughing at the next day, then sure.

My Updated Rankings for 2016

  1. Star Trek Beyond
  2. Deadpool
  3. Captain America: Civil War
  4. Zootopia
  5. The Jungle Book
  6. Warcraft

  7. Central Intelligence
  8. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

The Jungle Book Review

With the amount of positive buzz swirling around Disney’s remake of “The Jungle Book”, I had every intention of seeing it upon release back in April. Four months later it finally happened. I’m glad it did – it really is a fine film – but I’m not as glad as I thought I’d be.

The jungle is the only home Mowgli (Neel Sethi) has ever known. Raised by wolves from a very young age, he lives his life as the wolves do. Despite his best efforts, and the efforts of his pack, it’s painfully clear that he doesn’t quite fit in. This is brought to a head when Shere Khan (Idris Elba), a vicious tiger with an axe to grind, decides it’s time for the boy to pay the price for his people’s transgressions. With the guidance of Bagheera (Ben Kingsley) and Baloo (Bill Murray), Mowgli begins his journey back to his people.

In a movie like this it’s important for voice actors to blend into the character they’re voicing. I should be able to hear the voice and see only the character on the screen. The voice acting in this film is serviceable, with Murray’s Baloo and Christopher Walken’s menacing take on King Louie being the true standouts. And as far as Sethi’s Mowgli goes, he never quite grabbed me; while he certainly looked the part, I was constantly aware that he was acting.

My favorite parts of this movie were the fight scenes. When Bagheera and Shere Khan fight and the music swells it really is gripping stuff. Director John Favreau (Iron Man) has proven time and time again that he truly knows how to frame a fight scene. I also loved meeting King Louie for the first time…

…Until he breaks into song. It kills me that one of my favorite scenes from the film is also one of its worst moments. Everything about meeting King Louie, from the shadowy reveal to Walken’s delivery of every line – it’s perfection. Favreau builds this intimidating character to such a height and everything is clicking until suddenly King Louie’s face fills the frame, he sings “Oobee doo”, and every shred of intimidation I felt from this character is out the window.

Now I know the songs are classics and the original wouldn’t be the same without them, and I personally think the songs are great. But this isn’t a cartoon. They’ve spent a lot of time making sure we see gritty realism in every shot. This is “Real Life Jungle Book”, and it works for 90% of the film. I was even willing to let Baloo’s “Bear Necessities” slide because, however silly it was for me, it was appropriate for that point in the movie. Things were going well for the bear and the man-cub, they were happy; Singing is appropriate. But when King Louie does it, it pulled me out of that moment so hard that I nearly laughed out loud. How can you do so much fantastic work making us fear King Louie to just turn him into a silly cartoon? It baffles me.

So what’s the point? What is this film trying to say to us? I’m honestly not sure. The theme could be about how the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, or how mankind is destroying the environment with its never-ending expansion. It could be about how vengeance is self-defeating, or that family isn’t always about blood. The movie hints at all of these without truly grasping any of them. 

When it’s all said and done “The Jungle Book” is a fine movie that does nearly everything as well as can be expected. I enjoyed it, but not nearly so much as my kids. But kids love everything, so who knows?

In the end “The Jungle Book” gets a 7/10.


Review: Nightfall

Nightfall by Isaac Asimov

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The 5-star rating I have given this book reflects my review of the original short story, not this actual novel.

I read the original short story a while back and thought it was one of the best things I had ever read. After reading the reviews of the full novel version I decided not to read it. I don’t feel the need to re-read an overinflated version of a story I already know and love.

I can’t imagine anything that could be added to the original story to make it better, only bigger.

Bigger is not always better.

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Review: Lock In

Lock In
Lock In by John Scalzi

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

*Minor spoiler warning*

I have read nearly every John Scalzi book there is, and this one shares the same high quality craftsmanship I’ve come to expect: Tight and witty dialogue, Solidly paced action, and a really cool premise I wish I had come up with.

For reasons I can’t explain, it took me a while to actually get into the story. The characters were serviceable, like they belonged uniquely to this story alone, but I never felt a connection to any of them.

The first half of the story reads like a series of events I had to get through so that I ended up where the writer wanted me to be. Once we get there – around the middle of the story – is where it really shines.

Honestly I’d say once Tony starts doing his thing is some of the most interesting parts of the book. I know it’s almost all exposition and “technobabble”, but it was some of the only times I felt my mind being directly engaged. The action picks up, stars start to align, and I can finally see what I’m supposed to see.

And herein lies my main problem with the book. Once the characters figure out the mystery, we have also figured out the mystery. The last part of the book is just lining that up again; No twist, and absolutely no exciting climax to be found. I kept waiting for a twist that never came. It was all cut and dry, a nice clean conclusion.

I compare this book to pineapple pizza. I love pizza very much, but put some pineapple on it and I feel a bit disappointed. John Scalzi makes some of the best pizza around, and if he wants to put pineapple on it every now and then, that’s fine. I’ll just eat around it and wish it were pepperoni.

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