Category Archives: Entertainment

TV, Movies, etc

What The Mandalorian Ending Means (Spoiler)

In case you’ve been living under a rock, Disney+ launched a few days ago. One of their original shows is The Mandalorian, the first live-action Star Wars series. Directed by Jon Favreau and starring Pedro Pascal as the titular bounty hunter, the show’s first episode has a twist ending that’s taken the internet by storm. I’ve seen several articles and YouTube videos trying to explain the ending and what it means. ***Spoiler Alert!!*** The target was Baby Yoda. And it means Disney is going to have a whole bunch of Baby Yoda merchandise available for the holiday season.

Critically Rated at 14/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Fire in Paradise

Fire in Paradise is a 2019 Netflix documentary about the devastating Camp Fire that destroyed the town of Paradise in California. Real survivors recount how they escaped with their lives, complete with actual video and hear 911 recordings. It’s tough to watch, particularly the tale of two teachers trying to calm their terrified students as the world burns around them. Or when a cop talks about the longest shift of his life. Or when an old woman talks about seeing fire and brimstone rain down from the sky.

One clear takeaway is that these fires are the new normal. And it’s our fault. They are a result of building where we shouldn’t be building, living where we shouldn’t be living, and climate change. Climate change. It always comes back to that. Listen to Greta. She might be onto something. The documentary is short, only 40 minutes long, so you have no excuse not to watch it. Watch it and hope you never have to experience it.

Critically Rated at 16/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Words with Friends

Words with Friends is a mobile multiplayer word game for smartphones and tablets. It’s basically like Scrabble in that you get tiles with letters on them, you use those tiles to spell out words, trying to maximize your points by strategically placing your tiles. It was first released in 2009, and it was one of the top mobile games of 2010 and 2011. That’s when I used to play it. I was pretty addicted for a solid six months. Then I got bored of it and deleted it and forgot about it for years. You might be wondering why I am suddenly talking about Words with Friends after such an extended hiatus.

Well, you can blame Debbie for that. Debbie is a friend from work and she just discovered the game because she lives under a rock. And Debbie decided to challenge me to a game. And I decided to accept her challenge because I’m a sucker. And now I’m addicted again. I challenged another friend to a game and I started another game against the computer. It’s only been a few hours but I’m already regretting my decision. Once an addict, always an addict. Fuck you, Debbie.

Critically Rated at 9/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Reflections on Maui

What’s better than vacation? A Hawaiian vacation of course. I just came back from a week basking on the beautiful beaches of Maui. I went with my girlfriend and one of our best friends. I had been to Maui once before with my family when I was a senior in high school, but this time I was in control of the situation. We were going to do things our way. Naturally that means we did a bunch of touristy things.

We went snorkeling. We went whale watching. We shopped on Front Street in Lahaina. We drove the scenic Road to Hana. We jumped off Black Rock. We went to a luau. We ate Spam and I had shaved ice. We stayed in a shitty hotel one night, camped illegally on the beach another night, but stayed in posh resorts the rest of the time. We saw turtles and whales and wild chickens and I even saw a small shark.

The weather was perfect. It was usually eighty degrees or so during the day. It rained a few times but it was always welcome. The night sky was stunning. I saw more stars than I’ve seen in years.

Maui is relatively small but there is a lot to do. We only hit half of our checklist. We did Molokini but not Haleakalā. We rented a car but not bikes. We hiked in the jungle but didn’t go zip lining. I don’t mind not doing everything we wanted to. It gives me a reason to go back.

The worst thing about Maui is coming home. Real life is a drag. All I can think about is how much better life was a week ago with the sand beneath my toes. I’ll be back there again as soon as I can. Next time might be forever though.

Critically Rated at 16/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Black Mirror: Bandersnatch

Black Mirror: Bandersnatch is an interactive movie from the amazing series known as Black Mirror. It’s like those choose your own adventure books you remember from childhood, you get presented with choices as to what you want the main character to do. Different choices lead to different outcomes and you feel like you’re controlling the action.

The basic premise is about a video game programmer named Stefan (played by Fionn Whitehead) making a video game adaptation of a book called Bandersnatch. Situations come up and you the viewer choose what Stefan will do. Will he eat Frosties or Sugar Puffs for breakfast? You decide. Of course, this being Black Mirror the choices get more varied and bizarre. It becomes very meta and self aware. Stefan comes to realize that he is not in control. I can’t go into any more detail without giving anything away, so I’ll stop my synopsis on that note.

There are multiple endings so repeat viewings are necessary. This is more than an episode of Black Mirror. It is an event. It sticks with you when it’s over. It makes you question if free will is real or not. It makes you want to talk about it with others and compare your experiences and endings. There are a lot of references to other Black Mirror episodes but I think you can enjoy Bandersnatch even if you haven’t seen the show before. Black Mirror is one of the best shows on Netflix and Bandersnatch proves why. Check it out. You’ll thank me later.

Critically Rated at 17/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Searching for Sugar Man

I was scrolling through Netflix looking for a good documentary to watch. I wanted something happy and uplifting and came across Searching for Sugar Man. I recognized the title because my friend had recommended it to me a few months ago, but I never got around to it. I decided to give it a go. I’m glad I did because it was fucking awesome.

It’s the real life story of Rodriguez, a forgotten Detroit musician who was active in the late ’60s and early ’70s. His sound was like a more urban Bob Dylan, there’s a gritty poetry to his lyrics. He released a few albums but they didn’t sell well in the US and he was dropped from his label.

His music somehow became popular in South Africa and he became a cultural icon there. However this was during apartheid so South Africa was isolated from the world. Nobody knew anything about him except for his name and his music. The documentary explores his impact on the South African music scene and follows two fans trying to track down information on who he was and how he died.

It’s a pretty riveting story. Writer and director Malik Bendjelloul does a good job of introducing Rodriguez’s music and the reasons why his songs are still relevant. The soundtrack is comprised entirely of Rodriguez songs. The film won the 2012 Oscar for Best Documentary so you know it is good. Spoiler Alert: there is a happy twist part way through that might just shock you if you aren’t familiar with the story. I highly recommend Searching for Sugar Man.

Critically Rated at 16/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Fantasy Football

The NFL season is four weeks in and that means fantasy football is in full swing. Fantasy football is a game where you and your friends form a league and each person has their own team. It starts with a draft: each person picks real NFL players to fill out their own roster. Each week you play head to head against another friend, accumulating wins, losses, and points. There are surprise victories and stunning upsets. And a whole lot of shit talking. It’s not fantasy football without shit talking.

There is some skill involved, but it’s mostly luck. For example I currently have fifty points more than my league leader, but I’m in third place because I lost two close games and he is undefeated. I have more than a hundred points more the person in second, but she has won one more game than me so she’s better. Points are nice. Wins are what really matter though. As the great Vin Diesel says, “It doesn’t matter if you win by an inch or a mile. Winning is winning.” If you win you are obligated to let your opponent know that you beat them with an insulting GIF and a taunting message in the group chat. It’s the only way to play.

Critically Rated at 14/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind

Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind is a 2018 documentary about the iconic comedian. Robin Williams was one of a kind, renowned for his quick wit and manic energy. Director Marina Zenovich takes you on a journey through his life, starting with his childhood, exploring how he developed his talent, the highs and lows of his comedy and acting career, revealing aspects of his private life, and ultimately his final days and his enduring legacy.

I was kind of reluctant to watch it at first. It was kind of late to be starting a two hour movie, and I was afraid that it would be depressing. It wasn’t. I was laughing and learning and reminiscing for pretty much the whole running time. It only got sad towards the end as his mind started to betray him and his talent slipped away.

The documentary is pretty thorough but doesn’t cover everything. It goes into behind-the-scenes stories from a lot of his movies, but omits Hook for some reason. It loses a couple of points for that. It also doesn’t delve into his habit of stealing jokes from other comedians. Yeah, he was brilliant but a lot of his jokes came from other people. They should have addressed that.

Robin Williams was larger than life, but Come Inside My Mind makes you realize that he was a real person too. He had hopes and dreams and flaws and fears. He accomplished a lot and was an inspiration for many. His death left a void in the world. This documentary is a nice tribute to a great performer.

Critically Rated at 14/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Barbary Coast Trail

My girlfriend and I go hiking a few times a month. We prefer dog friendly trails so we don’t have to leave the pup at home. We live in San Francisco and don’t have a car so our options are mostly limited to hikes in the city and Marin, and there are only some many times you can do Land’s End and Twin Peaks before you get sick of it. So I googled good urban hikes in SF and discovered the Barbary Coast Trail.

The Barbary Coast Trail is a walking tour of some of San Francisco’s most historical sites and famous landmarks. The trail is not a loop. You can start at the old San Francisco Mint if you’re downtown, or you can start at the cable car turnaround at Beach and Hyde if you’re in the Fisherman’s Wharf area. The trail is marked by over a hundred and eighty bronze plaques embedded in the sidewalk. The plaques have arrows to point out the direction you came from and the direction you’re headed to. It becomes a bit of a game to find and step on each plaque. The plaques make it hard to get lost, but every now and then you might stray away from the path and have to resort to Google Maps.

The trail takes you through Union Square, Chinatown, North Beach, Fisherman’s Wharf and past iconic and forgotten San Francisco treasures. The best part about the trail is that it really is an urban hike so you can easily take a break to browse a boutique, stop for a beer in the city’s oldest bar (which is on the tour), or enjoy lunch from an outdoor cafe.

I’ve lived in the city for over ten years and the Barbary Coast Trail is one of the best things I’ve experienced yet. My girlfriend feels the same way. The dog liked it too. It’s a time filling activity that’s both recreational and entertaining, not to mention educational. And it’s free. I have a feeling that I’ll be taking visiting friends and family on the trail for years to come.

Critically Rated at 16/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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There is no Wayne’s World 1

One of my biggest pet peeves is when someone inserts 1 into the title of the first film of a franchise. You often hear people say that Wayne’s World 1 is way better than Wayne’s World 2. Or that Rush Hour 1 was the best movie in the trilogy. I hate that. There is no Wayne’s World 1. It’s Wayne’s World and Wayne’s World 2. Rush Hour has two sequels. Yes, it’s the first movie but it’s not called Rush Hour 1. It’s simply Rush Hour. You can check IMDB.com if you don’t believe me. Don’t even get me started on people who say Die Hard 1 or Star Wars 1.

There are a few exceptions like History of the World, Part I and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1. But there is no History of the World, Part II and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 was the seventh film of the franchise, not the first. The moral of the story is there is no Wayne’s World 1. So don’t say it.

Critically Rated at 5/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Black Panther (Film)

Black Panther is a 2018 Marvel superhero film based on the comic book character. It’s more than a movie, at this point it is a bona fide movement. It’s the first major blockbuster to celebrate black culture. It was directed by a black guy, written by black people, with a majority black cast and that’s a rare feat because Hollywood loves whitewashing. It’s not the best Marvel movie, but you could argue that it is the most important one.

Ryan Coogler (known for Fruitvale Station and Creed) will join Spike Lee and John Singleton as one of the most successful African-American directors in cinematic history. He deserves it. He turned a relatively obscure comic book character into movie star. Not only is Black Panther about powerful black men, it’s also about powerful black women. That means that black kids have powerful role models to look up to. White people take that for granted. The white guy is almost always the hero of the story. Black people are depicted as sidekicks, villains, gangsters, and comic relief. It’s a breath of fresh air to see something different.

Chadwick Boseman stars as T’Challa aka the Black Panther. Michael B. Jordan plays Killmonger, the sympathetic villain. They are kind of like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. They recognize a major injustice and deal with it in different ways which leads to an inevitable conflict. There you have the most simplistic deconstruction of the plot. Throw in a few awesome action sequences and some philosophical questions about race and responsibility and you have the formula for a great movie. Go see it in theaters. Pay for your ticket. Be a part of it.

Critically Rated at 14/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Everything Sucks! (TV Show, Not Life in General)

Everything Sucks! is the latest Netflix show that I binge watched. It’s a coming of age dramady set in 1996, so expect plenty of tubular references to ’90s pop culture. The show follows Luke O’Neil (played by Jahi Di’Allo Winston) as he begins his freshman year at Boring High School in Boring, Oregon. That’s a real town but a fictional school if you were wondering. Luke meets Kate Messner (played by Peyton Kennedy), the angsty daughter of the principal and develops a crush on her. Throw in supporting characters from the A/V Club and the Drama Club and you have the premise for a solid show.

Everything Sucks! starts out seeming like your stereotypical teenage soap opera but they take a few chances that I wasn’t expecting. This isn’t about boy meets girl, boy gets girl. There’s more to it than that. Shit doesn’t go to plan, and the main characters have to deal with things they weren’t expecting. All of this set to a sweet soundtrack of nostalgic nineties hits. It’s not as universal as The Wonder Years nor as honest as Freaks and Geeks, but it’s worth watching if you experienced the nineties and want to reminisce a bit. It’s not in my top twenty-five shows of all time, but it’s good enough to recommend.

Critically Rated at 12/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Group Crossword

I was at my dive bar a week ago and the bartender was doing a crossword puzzle behind the bar (that’s how you know it’s a real dive bar). There were three other patrons besides me and we were only sipping beers so he had plenty of time to work on it. He would occasionally read out a clue and ask for help. After a little while he set it down and I asked to see it. He had about half of it filled out, not too shabby. I picked up a pen, jotted in a few answers, and put it down. The lady sitting next to me grabbed it next. She put in a few words and passed it on to the guy next to her.

At this point it was a group crossword, a collaborative effort to fill it all out and complete it. Each of us had mini Eureka! moments and contributed in some way. We came close to perfection. We only had a few answers missing by the time I left. I can only hope that the bartender took it home and finished it. A crossword is like solitaire. You’re supposed to play it by yourself, but it becomes a group effort when you do it in public.

Critically Rated at 14/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Drug Lords

Drug Lords is a four part Netflix documentary about drug lords. It’s a very deceptive title. Each episode runs about forty-five minutes long. The first episode is about Pablo Escobar, who is always a fascinating topic. The second episode is about the Cali Cartel. The third episode is about Frank Lucas, the heroin king of New York. The last episode is about Australia’s Pettingill Clan. I didn’t know anything about the Pettingill Clan before I saw Drug Lords, and now I do, so Drug Lords is educational.

The first two episodes go hand in hand with Netflix’s Narcos. Denzel Washington played Frank Lucas in American Gangster so I was a little familiar with his story. The episode about the Pettingill Clan is the least interesting. They aren’t nearly as dangerous or infamous as Pablo Escobar, the Cali Cartel, or Frank Lucas. They should have done El Chapo or Freeway Rick Ross instead of limping out with the Pettingill Clan. Oh well. Drug Lords is a cool series. I wish it had a few more episodes, but it’s worth checking out if you have some time to kill.

Critically Rated at 12/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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The End of the F***ing World

The End of the F***ing World is a British dark comedy and the next thing you should watch on Netflix. Alex Lawther stars as James, a self proclaimed psychopath, who begins a relationship with a rebellious girl from school named Alyssa (played by Jessica Barden). Alyssa is intrigued by James because he is not normal and normal bores her. He doesn’t really like her but he wants to kill her and that’s reason enough to start dating her. They decide to run away together and there you have the premise for the show.

The End of the F***ing World is based on a graphic novel that I never read or heard about, but the show is pretty awesome. It’s funny, dark, and easy to binge on. The season only has eight episodes, each one running about twenty minutes. I finished it in two nights. The whole cast does a solid job. There are quite a few memorable characters and moments that will leave you reeling. The writing is witty and clever. The pacing is quick but never feels rushed.

This is one of those shows that you fly through and then you tell all your friends to watch it to so you have someone to talk about it with. This isn’t a review as much as it is a recommendation to add this to your Netflix queue. Check out The End of the F***ing World. You’ll thank me later.

Critically Rated at 15/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Kevin McAllister’s Brand Loyalty

The next time you watch Home Alone and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York pay attention to what soda the McAllisters drink. In the first one Pepsi is the brand shown on screen. They even mention it by name: “Fuller, go easy on the Pepsi!” It’s pretty obvious product placement. But in the sequel the McAllisters are drinking Coca-Cola. I question Kevin McAllister’s brand loyalty. You are either a Coke person or a Pepsi person. You don’t switch between the two all nimbly-bimbly. Maybe it’s symbolic of his character growing and maturing, going from a lesser cola to a better one, but I doubt it. My guess is Coke was willing to pay more money to the studio.

Critically Rated at 9/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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The Disaster Artist (2017 Film)

The Disaster Artist is a 2017 film based on the book with the same name about the making of The Room, which is widely hailed as the best worst movie of all time. Watching The Room first isn’t required but is definitely recommended. In case you have seen it, The Room is a train wreck of a film that you can’t stop watching. The acting is terrible. The dialogue is terrible. The plot lines are terrible. Yet it’s become a cult classic and beloved by millions.

The Disaster Artist takes you behind the scenes and shows how The Room came to be. James Franco directs and stars as Tommy Wiseau, the real life creator of The Room. Dave Franco plays Greg Sestero, Wiseau’s friend, costar, and coauthor of the book on which this film is based. Seth Rogan produced and also plays script supervisor Sandy Schklair. Every single role seems to be played by somebody famous, that’s how beloved The Room is in Hollywood.

The Disaster Artist could have taken the easy way out and simply make fun of the eccentric Wiseau and how shitty his vision turned out to be, but James Franco makes him sympathetic. He humanize him. You feel for Wiseau. You want him to succeed even though he fails spectacularly. This film celebrates the success that arose from his failure.

I enjoyed every second of this movie. It grabs you from the get-go and never lets go. It is hilarious and fascinating. Spoiler alert: the film ends with a side by side comparison of iconic scenes from The Room that are reenacted by the Francos and friends. I wanted to watch it again as soon as it was over. Instead I had to settle on watching YouTube reviews and interviews. It’s pretty awesome to see how much James Franco and Seth Rogan have grown creatively since Pineapple Express. They still make stoner comedies but now they are Oscar worthy stoner comedies. The Disaster Artist was probably the best movie I’ve seen this year. Go see it so I can talk to you about it.

Critically Rated at 16/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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