Monthly Archives: July 2012

You Gotta Keep an Eye on Your Lighter

There’s an endless debate between people who just smoke weed and people who just smoke cigarettes about which is better. One thing that they can both agree on is that you gotta keep an eye on your lighter. People will ask for a light and slip it in their pocket without even realizing it. It’s your lighter, you have to stay vigilant and know who borrowed it last. That thing can start a forest fire, you have to be responsible for it.

Critically Rated at 12/17

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Moon (film, not our satellite)

Moon is a unique film. Sam Rockwell plays an astronaut working for a lunar mining company. He’s been living in isolation on the dark side of the moon for almost three years with only an A.I. program called GERTY for company. He’s nearing the end of his stint on the moon, but things hit a snag when a clone of himself shows up. Director Duncan Jones does amazing things with an actor playing two versions of the same character and a robot voiced by Kevin Spacey. It’s a down-to-earth sci-fi character study set on the moon. And it works somehow.

Astronaut Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) is living on the moon, working for the Lunar Industry corporation. He spends his days mining Helium-3, Earth’s main energy source. He’s alone, except for GERTY, his helpful A.I. program and taped messages from his wife Tess, who is eagerly awaiting his return back on Earth with their baby daughter, Eve. Sam starts suffering from headaches and starts blacking out and accidently crashes his lunar vehicle.

He wakes up back in his lunar base and overhears GERTY having a live conversation with Lunar Industries execs trying to keep him from going outside. And so he goes outside, and comes across the site where he crashed the lunar vehicle. He starts exploring the scene and finds someone inside the vehicle. He brings him back to base, and it turns out to be Sam Bell.

The Sam Bell that was rescued from the crash site is the original Sam Bell that we first met when the movie started, the Sick Sam. The Sick Sam thinks that the New Sam is a clone. The New Sam thinks that the Sick Sam is the clone. The New Sam is more aggressive, while the Sick Same is more passive and mellow. They try to come to grips with the situation by fighting and playing Ping-Pong. New Sam suspects that maybe they are both clones and GERTY confirms the fact.

The two Sam clones start to work together to uncover the truth behind their existence. The movie explores how you would act if you found out that your life is a lie, that your memories aren’t yours… it’s like the Truman Show meets Total Recall, but without any action and hardly any jokes. That’s a warning: there’s no action and it’s not a comedy. It’s very talky. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, it just means that a lot of stupid people won’t like it.

Apart from glimpses of Tess and his daughter Eve and the shady Lunar Industries execs on the lunar monitors, the only human characters are both played by Sam Rockwell. It’s a real treat to see a great actor playing two different version of the same character simultaneously on screen. They bicker and fight and try to make small talk with each other. It’s as real as it gets for being such an absurd concept. GERTY is kind of a combination of HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey and Wilson from Cast Away. He’s just an object that Sam interacts with to avoid going crazy from the lack of human contact.

This is a science fiction movie that doesn’t rely on explosions to tell a story. So a lot of people won’t like it. But it’s a unique concept and they are able to humanize it and make it relatable. Props to Duncan Jones and especially to Sam Rockwell for his amazing dual performance as Sam Bell.

Critically Rated at 15/17

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The Fifth Element

The Fifth Element is a cult sci-fi classic starring Bruce Willis, Milla Jovovich, Gary Oldman, and Chris Tucker. French director Luc Besson started writing the script when he was still in high school, so the film is a bit of a passion project and you can see the love and attention to detail despite all the plot holes and action flick clichés. Seriously, how many times does Bruce Willis have to save the day?

Every 5000 years, the Great Evil comes to destroy life, because that’s what you do when you are evil. There’s only one way to destroy the Great Evil, and that a collection of four magic stones that represent the four elements: Earth, Wind, Fire, and Water. When you combine the four elements with the Fifth Element you unleash the Divine Light that defeats the Great Evil. Obviously.

Bruce Willis plays Korben Dallas, a down-on-his-luck cab driver and former soldier who lives in New York City in the year 2263. One day a half naked chick falls into his cab and he decides to help her out for some reason. The half naked chick calls herself Leeloo (played by Milla Jovovich). Not only is she described as a perfect being, she also happens to be the Fifth Element and the only thing that can save our planet. Dallas takes Leeloo to Priest Cornelius (Ian Holm), a guardian of sorts who knows all about the Fifth Element and how to save the world.

A group of evil shape shifting aliens known as the Mangalores are working with a wealthy industrialist named Zorg (Gary Oldman). Zorg is working for the Great Evil and they are after the four stones. Zorg and the Mangalores have a minor disagreement that results in the Mangalores also trying to get the stones for themselves. The stones have been left under the care of a famous blue alien singer named Diva Plavalaguna.

Dallas gets recruited by the military to try to save the world. He and Leeloo win a rigged contest to go to a Diva concert. They get to hang out with Chris Tucker, and they also get attacked by the Mangalores, I can’t decide which is worse. But Dallas ends up with the stones.

The Great Evil unleashes a giant fireball towards Earth and Dallas and the Priest and Leeloo must find out how to use the stones and unleash the power of the Fifth Element. Of course they save the day and disaster is averted. And then Leeloo and Dallas have sex in tube in front of the President and a bunch of scientists. It might be one of the best endings of all time.

Luc Besson created a unique world that is instantly recognizable. Yeah, there are aliens and spaceships and flying cars and unrecognizable technology, but they also showcase how Korben Dallas lives. He lives in a tiny cramped apartment, but the space is utilized brilliantly. His bed slides into the wall. His shower and closet come down from the ceiling. He smokes cigarettes with super long filters. The technology doesn’t seem that far out of reach, it seems obtainable and practical.

The world seems realistic, but some characters are absurdly outlandish. Gary Oldman is a great character actor, but his performance as Zorg is off-putting. He uses a ridiculous accent and you can’t take him seriously. Chris Tucker plays the annoying D.J.  Ruby Rhod. His character is a cartoon. An annoying cartoon that has no place in an action/sci-fi flick. He has little to no effect on the plot; he just serves as comic relief. But you don’t need comic relief in an action/sci-fi flick. There’s also that reoccurring and unfunny bit with Korben’s mom constantly calling and complaining to him. The less said about that the better.

The special effects are decent for the time, but they use body suits for the Mangalores and other alien species and it looks cheesy. Mangalores should be intimidating; instead they look like cheap Halloween costumes.

This isn’t the best sci-fi movie, but you should see it. It’s a little bit different than most blockbusters. It’s not a Hollywood movie. It was made in France with a French crew and French director… so when you see it you can pretend like you’re cultured and are watching a foreign film. They made a sequel to this movie called The Sixth Sense, and that film moved the franchise into the supernatural realm. It’s a very different movie in a lot of ways; it’s hard to say which one is better. But both are required viewing to be a film buff.

Critically Rated at 13/17

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The Letter “A”

The letter “A” might just be the most important letter in the English Language. “E” might be the most used letter, but you can’t even begin learning your ABCs without first mastering “A”. In fact, if you can’t grasp, comprehend, or understand the concept of “A”, then you have no business learning English. “A” is one of the few letters that is also a word. It’s an important word too. There’s a big difference between a girl and the girl. “A” kicks off the alphabet, it’s a vowel, it’s a word, it’s symmetrical, it’s what the smart kids want to get in school… it’s a pretty impressive letter that we use all the time. Benjamin Franklin invented the letter “A” for the US constitution, and it’s had a lasting impact on a global scale.

Critically Rated at 16/17

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Walking Around With Your Backpack Open

You’re in kind of a rush, so you grab your shit and throw it into your backpack and run out the door. When you finally get to your destination and take off your backpack, you realize that it was unzipped the whole time and you were just lucky that you didn’t lose anything. Walking around with your backpack open is a weird feeling. You feel exposed and vulnerable and you wonder why no one said anything to warn you. It’s because people are assholes and they only pretend to be nice to their friends, they couldn’t care less about a douche walking around with his backpack open.

Critically Rated at 9/17

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An Annoying Buzzing Fly

You finally get the chance to sleep in for the first time in a few weeks. But you can’t. Because a fucking fly keeps buzzing by your head. There is a whole world to explore, but that little fucker wants to fly around your room. He’ll slowly circle around you, occasionally crashing into and trying to escape through the window, before giving up and buzzing by your head again. He knows you are trying to sleep and he’s trying to get you frustrated and keep you awake. An annoying buzzing fly will torture you into insanity.

Critically Rated at 9/17

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2012 Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony

The Olympics are an amazing event. Every four years, athletes from various nations get a chance to compete against the world and represent their countries. Most athletes will never get a medal; the highlight of their Olympic experience is typically the Opening Ceremony. The host country usually puts on a little display to show off how amazing their country is, and there’s a lot of music and theatrics and fireworks. Then there’s the Parade of Nations where all the represented countries get a shout out and a moment in the spotlight.

The 2008 Beijing Opening Ceremony was amazing. It was an impressive display of China’s power, and their power is in their population. They have a shit ton of people. And they can do shit in unison and that is terrifying and awesome. The London Games had a tough act to follow.

They tried though. They got renowned director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours, 28 Days Later) to direct the show, and they had every single British celebrity you can think of make an appearance. They had Daniel Craig a.k.a. James Bond! They had the mother fucking Queen of England! They had David Beckham and J.K. Rowling and Kenneth Branagh! They even had Mr. Bean and Sir Paul McCartney (the last good living Beatle)! There are only a handful of world-famous Brits and they were all there.

There was a theme to the ceremony. I’m sure there was. But it was boring and so I don’t know what it was. At one point they were paying homage to the Industrial Revolution and they forged Olympic Rings and it was beautiful and awe-inspiring. And then that shit just kept going on and on. And on and on. Then it went on some more. By the time the Parade of Nations was starting, I was done. I have the internet; I can see what countries are competing on my own time. I don’t need to rely on NBC’s extensive Olympic coverage.

It wasn’t a terrible Opening Ceremony. It just had the bad luck of following the best Opening Ceremony of all time. The Summer Olympics have started. That’s all that matters. Let the games begin.

Critically Rated at 12/17

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Bills Aren’t Optional

So my roommate is one of my best friends since high school. I’ve known him for more than ten years and have lived with him for five years. He’s the same age as me, give or take a few months. We grew up in the same town, in the same time, with the same people. And somehow he never learned that bills aren’t optional. When the cable company sends you a bill, you have to pay that shit if you want to keep watching TV. That’s how it works. If you want to have a roof over your head, you need to pay fucking rent. I don’t make the rules. But I follow them. Because I like having a roof over my head and I like watching TV.

Critically Rated at 8/17

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The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight is the second film in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. It’s also the first Batman movie that doesn’t have Batman in the title. There’s your random fact for the day. Christian Bale returns as the Batman/Bruce Wayne, and Aaron Eckhart and Heath Ledger join the cast as Harvey Dent and the Joker. This might be the best comic book movie to date.

Less than a year after the events of Batman Begins, The Batman has become a symbol to the citizens of Gotham, inspiring less-than-qualified Batman wannabes to don Batarmor and fight crime. The different gangs and mobsters are afraid of the Batman. A new villain called the Joker has showed up in Gotham City and he knows how to wreak some havoc. He stages an elaborate bank heist at a mob-controlled bank and the criminal underworld starts to take notice of this wacko with clown makeup.

Batman and Lieutenant James Gordon (Gary Oldman) are still having a fun time rounding up mobsters and cleaning up the streets. After one fight involving the Scarecrow (Cillian Murphy) and some vicious dogs, Batman upgrades his Batsuit. Bruce Wayne’s personal life isn’t going so well. The love of his life Rachel Dawson is currently in a relationship with Harvey Dent. And she used to look like Katie Holmes but now she looks like Maggie Gyllenhaal. Times are tough all around. Bruce begins to get over his disdain for Harvey Dent because he realizes that Harvey’s image can save Gotham.

The Joker begins taking over the various mobs one by one. He starts causing more and more chaos. He threatens to kill a civilian each day until Batman reveals his true identity. He targets a judge, the police commissioner and Harvey Dent. The judge and police commissioner both die, but Batman saves Harvey from the Joker. One out of three isn’t too bad but this is saving lives, not baseball.

The Joker does more bad things, like almost killing the mayor, shooting RPGs at Harvey Dent and cop cars, kidnapping Harvey and Rachel and making Batman choose which one to save, and making Harvey Dent go crazy and become Two-Face.

He also blows up a hospital too, because, hey, why not?

Two-Face blames Batman and the newly promoted Commissioner Gordon for ruining his life. He’s ok with the Joker because his coin said he was cool I guess. He’s out for revenge and wants Gordon to feel his pain.

The Joker rigs two ferries with bombs. One ferry is filled with civilians; the other is filled with inmates from Arkham. Each ferry has a detonator to make the other ferry explode and they have a choice to blow up the other ferry first, or both ferries will blow up at midnight. While the ferry occupants are busy philosophizing the morality of murdering others to save themselves, Batman is busy tracking down and then beating up the Joker. Two-Face is busy with trying to ruin Gordon’s life while all this is going on. It’s a very busy climax. There’s a lot going on.

It ends with Batman taking the blame for Harvey Dent/Two-Face’s crimes. Batman and Gordon decide that it’s more important to preserve Harvey Dent as a symbol of hope. The Joker was out to prove that even the best person can become corrupted and evil. The Joker was right, the Joker won. But Batman cheated and took the blame. That’s not a happy ending. They basically are saying fuck the truth and let the sheep live a lie.

The Joker is one of the most iconic and notorious villains of all time. Heath Ledger steals the movie. Too bad he had to go and die. That was kind of selfish if you ask me. There’s one line that bugs me though, “Do I really look like a guy with a plan?” Yes. Yes, you do. The Joker has a lot of elaborate schemes. He had to plan it out. You can’t just improvise a bank like in the opening sequence. He manipulated Harvey Dent and twisted his mind and essentially made him his puppet. So he can rant all he wants to about how doesn’t have a plan or that he’s not a schemer, but he’s definitely a planning schemer.

Christopher Nolan created a masterpiece. This is a movie about a tortured guy facing agonizing decisions. He just dresses up like a bat and punches bad guys under the cover of darkness. Christian Bale does a great job as Bruce Wayne, but I still hate his Batman voice. Aaron Eckhart is decent as Harvey Dent but he’s nothing spectacular. Heath Ledger’s performance makes The Dark Knight a classic. If you only see one Batman movie in your life, you should see the Adam West version, but if you see two, this should be one of them.

Critically Rated at 15/17

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The Last Table in the Restaurant

I work in the service industry and I’m going to tell you a secret: if you go into a sit-down restaurant five minutes before they close, you are scum. You have pissed off the host, the server, the bartender, the busser, the kitchen, and the closing manager. I know you are hungry and that sucks, but I’m tired and want to go home. Or to the bar. Either way, I don’t want to serve you. The cooks don’t want me to serve you either. They started mentally checking out thirty minutes before closing. The host has to stay an extra forty minutes just to smile and thank you for visiting when you leave. The bartender already yelled last call before you got there, so consider yourself lucky if you can get a drink. The manager can’t leave until the bartender leaves, and the bartender can’t leave until the server leaves, and the server can’t leave until your inconsiderate ass does. If it’s late and you just want a bite to eat, get some fast food. If you want to be an asshole, go to a sit-down restaurant five minutes before close. There’s a special spot in Hell reserved for the last table in the restaurant.

Critically Rated at 4/17

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Waking Up Early On Your Day Off

I typically work six days a week, meaning that I’ll only have one day off to relax. But I can’t relax because I usually have a bunch of neglected errands to run. At the very least, you should be able to sleep in on your day off, but sometimes you can’t. Sometimes you have to set your alarm because you have too much shit to do. Waking up early on your day off sucks. But you’re an adult now and you have to pretend to be responsible. Reality fucking blows. I’d rather sleep in.

Critically Rated at 3/17

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Lunch Date Conundrum

Going on a date during the day is a bad idea. A first date lunch is the gateway to the Friend Zone. The two of you will munch on salads and make small talk about nothing in particular, and when the date is over you will give her an awkward hug and go your separate ways. It’s much better to have a dinner date. You can have a few drinks and relax. A stroll beneath the moonlight is much more romantic than a hike under the blazing sun. The sun is a cockblocker and the moon is your wingman. Avoid the lunch date conundrum and embrace the night.

Critically Rated at 7/17

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Coming Home Drunk With Prizes

Last night was my friend’s birthday party. She celebrated at a bar and we all got shitfaced. I made it home with my phone, keys, and wallet… everything that I left with, I came back with. I also came back with someone’s container of weed. It’s not mine, I didn’t buy it, I didn’t steal it. Someone who was drunker than me gave it to my drunk ass and I can’t remember who. But now it’s mine.  It sucks when you lose something while drinking, but gaining something makes you feel like it was a productive night. Coming home drunk with prizes from the bar is better than coming home sober with prizes from the county fair.

Critically Rated at 15/17

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Your Bed

I love my bed. Especially since I slept on a futon for a few years. I’ve noticed your bed is your sanctuary; it’s the best place in the world. It’s where you feel truly comfortable and at peace and there’s nowhere else like it. When you are stressed out at work or drunk at a party, your natural instinct is to go home and collapse on your bed. You can tell a difference between a hotel bed, or a guestroom bed, or your girlfriend’s bed… nothing compares to your bed. You can change your sheets, your mattress, your entire bedroom and it won’t matter. Your body will naturally adapt and know this new bed is your bed. Some days you don’t want to leave your bed. Those are the best days. Your bed is your bed and there are no substitutes. Love your bed.

Critically Rated at 14/17

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The Dark Knight Rises

Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy reaches its stunning conclusion in The Dark Knight Rises. Batman has been MIA for eight years and Gotham City needs a hero. A new villain named Bain wants to destroy Gotham and Batman can have none of that nonsense. The Dark Knight must rise to the occasion. Christian Bale returns as Batman/Bruce Wayne, and Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, and Gary Oldman reprise their characters. Joining the cast is Anne Hathaway as Catwoman/Selina Kyle, Tom Hardy as Bane, Marion Cotillard as Miranda Tate, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as John Blake.

The movie begins 8 years after the events of the second movie. Batman has been retired and Bruce Wayne is a recluse. A terrorist with a terrifying mask and a shady past is bent on terrorizing Gotham with acts of terror to terrify the citizens. Tom Hardy plays Bane and he is a badass. He is evil personified. He is super strong and super smart and super evil. And he’s got a grudge against Batman.

Bruce Wayne has neglected Wayne Enterprises and himself. Everything in his life is in shambles, he’s lost track of who he is. One day he stumbles across a cat burglar (Anne Hathaway) stealing his mother’s pearls and copies of his fingerprints for some reason. The cat burglar’s real name is Selina Kyle and she sells Bruce’s fingerprints to a shady businessman named Dagget.

Meanwhile a young cop named John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) recognizes the deceased body of a young orphan found in the sewers. He goes to visit the orphanage and finds out that there are rumors of employment in the sewers. It turns out Bane and his terrorist army have established a nice little base in the pipes beneath the city. Commissioner Gordon ends up down in Bane’s lair and escapes but nearly dies in the process. The only person who believes his story of a masked lunatic in the sewers is John Blake.

Blake and Gordon want Bruce Wayne to don the cape and come back. He’s reluctant at first, but a visit to Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) and a showcase of all the new toys and technology start to make him change his mind. Alfred (Michael Caine) doesn’t want Bruce to be Batman again. He is afraid that Bruce wants to fail.

Bane launches an attack on the stock exchange and that’s enough incentive to bring Batman back out of the shadows. There’s an awesome chase scene involving bad guys on motorcycles with hostages, Batman on his Batpod, and hundreds of police vehicles trying to capture the Bat. Of course he escapes in spectacular fashion, he’s the goddamn Batman.

Dagget used Bruce’s fingerprints as part of a scheme that bankrupts Bruce and makes him lost control of Wayne Enterprises. Bruce is able to have Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard) take over the company. Dagget is pissed that his plot backfired and has a little hissy fit and bitches at Bane. Bane reveals that he doesn’t work for Dagget, and that Dagget is just a pawn in his game. And then he kills Dagget for good measure.

Batman confronts Bane in the sewers and they have a fight. Batman gets the shit beat out of him. Bane breaks his back and dumps him in a foreign prison. Bane starts to implement his terrorist plans on Gotham. I don’t want to get into specifics, but it’s an epic takeover and it looks pretty bleak for Gotham and Batman.

The Dark Knight must rise from his prison and return to Gotham, but he will need help. Luckily he’s not alone. Commissioner Gordon, John Blake, and Selina Kyle also rise to the occasion. Hopefully good will triumph over evil.

This is one of the best comic book movies to date. I don’t think it’s quite as good as The Dark Knight. In fact, I don’t think it’s even the best superhero movie this summer. The Amazing Spider-Man and The Avengers are both great candidates for that title. They are more fun. Christopher Nolan’s world is really dark and gloomy. There’s no joy, there’s no humor. They closest thing to a joke is when Batman is talking to Catwoman and she suddenly disappears and he quips “So that’s what that feels like.” Nolan spends so much time trying to make a realistic Batman that it’s disappointing when you see stupid Hollywood clichés, like when Gordon drops the signal jammer and it’s slightly out of reach or how Selina Kyle can ride the Batpod just as good as Batman without any practice. Maybe she’s a great driver, maybe Bruce just sucks.

The hardest part of the movie for me to watch was the attack on the stadium. Prior to the attack there’s a young boy singing the National Anthem. It was the first time that I’ve heard it since the Aurora Twelve massacre. The movie theater is supposed to be a sanctuary from the world, a place of escape, a place to be safe from reality. And from now on there will always be a little bit of hesitation in the back of your mind about going to the cinema. But I felt like I had to see this movie. It’s important to live your life and not be afraid. That’s one of the themes of the film.

Quick spoiler: at the end Batman takes the nuclear bomb away from Gotham and it explodes over the ocean. Disaster averted, Gotham wasn’t blown up. But now everyone will get radiation poisoning and die of cancer. That’s not a happy ending.

The reappearance of Batman is awesome. There’s no big flashy entrance, there’s no lame montage of putting on the suit… he just suddenly shows up in the suit in the middle of a pursuit and Joel Schumacher should take notes.

Bane is a terrifying villain. He is Batman’s equal but leans toward the evil side. Tom Hardy does a great job and I predict several years of typecasting for him. I’m looking forward to it.

The Dark Knight Rises is a great film and it’s worth seeing. You might feel awkward about it; you might feel guilty about it. The Aurora Twelve incident with always be associated with this movie and you don’t want to talk about it, but you have to acknowledge it. Seeing this movie is a way to honor their memories and to move forward. Movies are an escape, we can’t be afraid to enjoy them. Seeing this movie is a way to say that you won’t be afraid.

Critically Rated at 14/17

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David Dill Pickle Sunflower Seeds

Calling yourself a baseball fan without liking sunflower seeds is like calling yourself a Republican without owning a gun. It’s essential to be part of the club. Sunflower seeds are a great snack, and David brand seeds are the best. They make a few flavors like Original, Ranch, and BBQ, but one of their lesser known flavors is Dill Pickle. It’s kind of weird idea to have something that’s pickle flavored and not a pickle, but it works. It’s a subtle pickle flavor, but it’s definitely there. It might take a few minutes to get used to the flavor and I can’t see anyone outside of pregnant chicks actually craving them, but if you eat seeds and want a little variety, they aren’t bad.

Critically Rated at 11/17

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Glory

Glory is based on the true story of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, the first formal US Army unit made up of black soldiers. And Hollywood is racist, so Matthew Broderick plays the main character. Edward Zwick (The Last Samurai) directs and Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington, and Cary Elwes costar in one of the better movies set during the US Civil War.

Captain Robert Gould Shaw (Ferris Bueller) is the son of abolitionists and is currently fighting in the Civil War for the Union Army. He gets injured in a battle and goes home to Boston where he gets promoted to Colonel and assumes control over the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. He recruits his friend Cabot Forbes (Cary Elwes) to be his second-in-command. He’s also white. The first black guy who joins them is Thomas (Andre Braugher), a childhood friend of Cabot and Shaw’s.

A bunch of men join the unit for a chance to fight, to prove themselves both honorable and equal. Denzel Washington plays Trip, an escaped slave with a chip on his shoulder for understandable reasons. Jihmi Kennedy plays Jupiter Sharts, a free black man who seems naïve and innocent compared to Trip. Morgan Freeman plays Rawlins, who plays the wise old mentor figure who can still kick some ass.

Shaw’s tasked with getting the 54th into fighting shape, something that’s not easy to do. The men train and bond and establish their characters and relationships. They have to fight for boots, rifles, and uniforms. The men work hard and improve, but it becomes clear that they aren’t likely to see any action on account of all the racism.

Shaw blackmails his commanding officers and gets his men to the front lines. They win a small skirmish in South Carolina. And Shaw volunteers the 54th to lead a suicide assault on Fort Wagner. Not to ruin anything, but they pretty much all die. It was a suicide assault after all.

Robert Shaw was a real guy. He really did command the 54th infantry. The movie has to include him. But Shaw is a shitty main character. He is kind of racist but not really. He’s kind of a coward but not really. He just kind of stands around and occasionally does something to advance the plot, but he seems to just be plodding along. All of the good scenes are about Trip, Rawlins, Thomas, and Jupiter. They are the heart of the movie. A movie about a black army unit should focus on the black army unit.

Morgan Freeman is always good, and this movie is no exception. But Denzel Washington steals the show. Trip is a great character. The scene where he gets whipped for desertion is hard to watch, but you can’t turn away. You feel his pain.

The battle scenes are explosive, violent, bloody, and realistic. Edward Zwick knows how to balance out riveting action sequences with quieter and more reflective scenes. This is a great movie, it’s a classic. You watch it and you want to learn more about the 54th. Those brave soldiers fought with courage and honor and deserve to be remembered. They should be the focus of the film, not their white leader.

Critically Rated at 14/17

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