Chef

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www.ifyouwriteit.com reviewChef is the story of a man who was once a great cook, but he’s now fallen into a rut. His Boss runs a successful restaurant that has used the same Menu for ten years. Our hero, Carl, wants to try something new and different. He wants to go all Top Chef on a food blogger, but the Boss insists that he stick with the tried and true. Even when the restaurant is filled with people from a Twitter war, the Boss still thinks they are there because they want the same old boring stuff.

Chef Carl goes crazy in the restaurant and the video goes viral big time. He loses his job and no one will hire him. So he decides to take his ex-wife’s advice and get a food truck from another of her ex-husbands. Chef Carl is kind of a jerk, but he does love his son. His son is the one that told him about Twitter and cost him his job. But it’s all good. He decides to take the food truck down to Miami and sell authentic Cuban style sandwiches.

It’s a riches to rags to riches kind of story. I liked it a lot.

The cast is pretty amazing. Jon Favreau, John Leguizamo, Amy Sedaris, Sofía Vergara, Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman, Oliver Platt, and Robert Downey Jr. all put in solid performances. The music was good, but to be honest, the only Cuban Band leader I’m familar with is Ricky Ricardo.

The gist of the story is that Chef Carl’s eleven year old son is a social media maven. Without his Tweets and Vines and 1 second videos, no one would even know the food truck exists. But thanks to him, they are always busy and rolling in the dough. Of course, it is a bit odd that the father is so dim.

Chef was a very good film. My only complaint about Chef is that it comes to a pretty abrupt end. It zipped along and then it was over. It’s a rare film that I want to keep going for a few more minutes.

Categories: movie review

Mission Impossible:Rogue Nation

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www.ifyouwriteit.com reviewTom Cruise hangs off the side of a military cargo plane during the opening scene. It is a pretty cool bit of business, but it has nothing to do with the rest of the film. That makes it the perfect clip for a Trailer. It looks cool and spoils nothing. Are you listening everyone else who makes movie Trailers????

I like Tom Cruise and Simon Pegg. I like J.J. Abrams. I like things blowing up and motorcycles. And then there’s a hot British chick. The story is pretty standard issue. Tom and Company have problems and have to take on an evil villain by themselves. The bulk of the film is either sneaking around, fighting, or a chase scene. Yeah, it’s an action film.

There’s a lot of globe hopping and they spend a bit of time in London, one of my favorite cities. Tom is a little more human in this film, though he still seems to recover from wounds that would kill lesser men with ease. There isn’t quite as much wonton destruction as there was in Ghost Protocol. That’s a good thing. Rogue Nation is a little more personal, but there is still a bit of CIA and MIF and Mi6. These big and heartless organizations are shown to be big and heartless.

There’s very little time to stop and think about what is happening. One thing flows quickly into another. There are a lot cool gadgets, fast cars and motorcycles, and plenty of bad guys.

I liked Mission Impossible Rogue Nation.

Categories: movie review

Frank

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He never takes the mask off.

www.ifyouwriteit.com review of FrankFrank is the story of man who wants to be a Social Media Rockstar and a Music Rockstar. One night he watchs as a music group’s keyboard man try to kill himself. He says, hey, I play keyboard. And just like that he joins the band.

He notices that something is a bit off. The band’s lead singer, Frank, wears a large papier-mache mask at all times. Our hero thinks he is going to play a gig for the weekend, but soon discovers that he is to work on an album. The band is made up of very odd people. They tend to beat each other up and they have a group Safe Word. They also hate him, even though he writes the closet thing to normal music. They are more Performance Art. One of their featured instrument is the Theremin, best known for it’s role in the theme to 1960s Star Trek.

It’s an interesting film about people who are not quite normal. This was a film that was inspired by a newspaper article. How odd is that? Seems there was this wannabe PeeWee Herman in Britian who called himself Frank Sidebottom. He wore an oversized papier-mache head with large eyes and a blank expression. This is not his story.

Frank left me wondering about a few things. Such as what happened to the studio tapes our hero spent his inheritance making? He should have had enough material to make an album and release it on social media. Some of the music was good, if a bit out there. There was a lot of talk about finding their tribe, never an easy task.

The acting was great and the music was pretty good. It was a film that makes you think. What is normal and what is madness? It was also pretty funny in a couple of spots.

Categories: movie review

Vicious

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www.ifyouwriteit.com review

Ash, do you know our friend Violet?

Vicious is a BritCom about an older gay couple and the small circle of friends that always seem to be dropping by unannounced. Freddie and Stuart are old school snobs who talk down to everyone they met. At the same time, they never have enough money. They get by on the meager wages Freddie earns from his rare acting jobs. Like all great Bristih comedies, there are a few running gags. One such gag in Season 1 saw Stuart introducing Ash to Violet every episode. Ash is the ‘normal’ person in the story, meaning he isn’t in his 70s and slightly nuts. He’s just slightly nuts.

Easily the best aspect of Vicious is its brilliant cast. Ian McKellen, Derek Jacobi, Frances de la Tour, and Iwan Rheon. Ian and Derek do their best scenery chewing as flamboyant homosexuals who dress and act like every day is an outing to La Cage aux Folles. Frances is best known to me as Hagrid’s giant love interest in The Goblet of Fire and Iwan is shockingly different here from his usual desperate and evil roles. I know Iwan best from Misfits and Game of Thrones. The other two regulars, Marcia Warren and Philip Voss, are good as well, but their roles seem to be limited to saying random things and looking shocked.

Vicious is funny. As might be guessed from the title, there are a lot of nasty comments of one sort or another. Freddie and Stuart have a love/hate relationship. Season 2 sees a lot of f-bombs. A typical exchange sees Freddie complains that his arm is sore from pushing Stuart away every night for the past fifty years.

One off element has Penelope suffering from Alzheimer’s. I have always had mixed feeling about mental illness being played for laughs. The Australian sitcom Mother and Son was all about a woman who had lost her mind. I found the show to be mean and sad. Penelope is not always bad, but she is often mean.

Overall, I’m very fond of Vicious. It can be found on PBS stations.

Categories: tv review

Mr Holmes

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www.ifyouwriteit.com reviewThe case is afoot.

In 1947 we find a 93 year old Sherlock Holmes living in Sussex caring for his bees. He’s just back from Japan and he has a few squabbles with his housekeeper. He also spends a bit of time with her son, caring for his bees and trying to recall the details of his last cast some thirty years in the past.

As Mr Holmes opens, easily the most shocking element comes during the opening credits, this is a Miramax film. I would have been no more surprised to see the RKO Radio Pictures logo roll across the screen. I feel much the same when I see the clunky ET Amblin logo on Spielberg’s TV Shows. A real blast from the past.

Mr Holmes is a great film. Solid acting on all fronts. Great costumes and sets. Lovely shots of The Seven Sisters cliffs of Sussex and an evocative scene near ground zero in Hiroshima. Based on the wonderful 2005 novel A Slight Trick of the Mind written by Mitch Cullin. It stars Sir Ian McKellen as Sherlock Holmes, Laura Linney as housekeeper Mrs. Munro and Milo Parker as her son Roger.

The only really odd bit has to do with a bit of jelly made from prickly ash, which Holmes believes will help with his memory. He uses it in place of his old miracle cure, Royal Jelly. This plant is his reason for traveling across the world. Odder still is that he chooses a plant growing in irradiated soil, which can’t be a good thing. Mr Holmes admits that neither cure seems to have helped much.

We follow three main stories and a few lessor ones. Holmes at home, Holmes in Japan, and Holmes at Baker Street. They are all related to Holmes trying to piece together that last case and figure out why has he exiled himself in the middle of nowhere. The story’s best element has to do with bees.

I saw this film at an early showing, as I usually do when I bother to go to a theater. The bulk of the audience was older. Many of them would easily have been Ian’s contemporaries in age. This is a bit of a shift from the normal crowds I see at movie houses, but then, Sherlock is a different kind of superhero.

Mr Holmes is a film that deserves a wider audience. I highly recommend it.

Tune In: The Beatles: All These Years

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Tune In: The Beatles: All These Years

The Beatles-The Early Years.

Following in the footsteps of James A. Michener, we start the story of the Beatles in the 1840s or so. I’ve never been that into the whole Roots thing and have little interest in what John, Paul, George, and Ringo’s great grandparents were up to.  I do like the idea that the Beatles are towering historic figures worthy of such treatment, but on the other hand, it seems a bit silly. As the Beatles themselves liked to say, they were just a band that got very popular for a bit.

Listening to a British book read by a British person is always a revelation.  Here words I am familiar with are twisted into something new by the British tongue.  A favorite different pronunciation is for aluminum, al-you-min-e-um. Here a word that pops up often is Liverpudlian, a word with no American equivalent that I know of, but an odd sounding word all the same. Liver-Pud-Lee-Ann. It’s the kind of word Sheldon might come up with.

One odd bit of business near the start is the casual dropping of words like nigger, mic, spic, crip, wog, and kite.  I know this is the 1950s, but I am again surprised that a group of lowlifes living in public housing and accepting public assistance think they are better than anyone. As proof that they seem to know no better, they even use these terms for musicians they proclaim to love.

One overly cute gimmick is using the titles of Beatles songs at every opportunity. Place names like Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields are one thing, Daytrippers and Something New and so on and so forth are another.  I guess I would be tempted to do the same, but it is a bit distracting to have these Easter Eggs pop up at random moments.

There are endless tiny details here about not only John, Paul, George, and Ringo, but also about Stu Sutcliffe, Pete Best, George Martin, Brian Epstein, and countless other random people who crossed The Beatles path between 1955 and 1962. We also learn about The Cavern and the Hamburg clubs the Kaiserkeller, Top Ten, and Star-Club. These are places where The Beatles put in their 10,000 hours and became the greatest performers of the age.

This first part of the Beatles story covers the entire history of Rock n Roll, Rhythm and Blues, and the birth of Motown.  There is also rather a lot of info about Skiffle music and constant talk about how Rock is a fad that will soon fade.

Any fan of rock music knows about the death of Buddy Holly, but I didn’t recall the death of Eddie Cochran. The death of one time Beatle Stu is still shocking and tragic.  Other deaths affect the Beatles here and there as well.

Tune In: The Beatles: All These Years is a massive book.  Clocking in at 944 pages and an audio book length of just under 44 hours.  I thought I was a pretty serious Beatles fan, but there was a ton of stuff here that I was not familiar with.  Endless bits of Beatles minutia. Countless references to B sides-and plenty of A sides-I never heard of from stars of the day. All the odds and ends that shaped the Beatles and their music.

This is a book well worth reading.

Between The World and Me

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 Morpheus: The body cannot live without the mind.www.ifyouwriteit.com review

Ta-Nehisi Coates lays his book out as a letter to his son. He talks about race, life, death, and how the world he grew up in and the world where his son now lives are slightly different places. But still very dangerous places. If you happen to have dark skin in a world run by people who think they are white.

He views the entirety of human history through the viewpoint of a black man who may have his body taken from him at any moment for no reason. This business of the ‘body‘ gets old pretty quickly. He’s clearly very proud of coming up with this idea. He can hardly go a page without mentioning The Body in some way. What at first appears to be a clever way of showing that he is grounded in the real world and not merely an intellectual spinning vast webs of fantasy, soon feels like a bit of keyword stuffing to trick the search engines.

He leans heavily to repetition, possibly as a result of his extensive studies of The Classics. He tells and re-tells the names of the recent black men killed by cops. He hits again and again the note of America being built on his sweat and blood-and how only he and his are willing to see the truth.

He delivers all of his opinions as absolute facts. But he makes no bones about this. Between The World and Me is proudly slanted in all possible ways to his world view. I have to admire this. I have never been able to hold so solidly onto any belief. But then, when I  encounter the Police, I fully expect to live to see another day. Ta-Nehisi Coates knows that it’s the flip of coin if he will live or die.

He casually drops such phrases as those of us born out of mass rape and generations who knew nothing but chains the way a cookbook would casually mention eggs and milk. He wants us to understand that his world is not the false world of the Dream as shown on television and in films. He wants to constantly remind that the past is never ending. That what happened a thousand years ago is still happening.

Like others before him, Ta-Nehisi Coates wants to lay claim to all human suffering. Every act and action of the Dreamer is responsible for putting him where he is today. He talks about going to college and his endless studies, but at the same time denies that there can be any meaningful self-help. He uses the standard ploy of saying You cannot forget how much they took from us and how they transfigured our very bodies into sugar, tobacco, cotton, and gold. As opposed to saying long dead people took from other long dead people, he says long dead people are still taking from now living people. He is not a fan of the term personal responsibility. He sees the game as so rigged that personal actions are irrelevant.

In many ways it brings to mind Lena Dunham’s Not That Kind of Girl. It’s a glimpse into a world a few steps away from the world where I live, but which seems to be complete and filled with its own language and gestures. Also a world that its authors want to pretend is the only world.

He explains that money is not enough to protect a black body. He tells the tale of a college friend who was killed by the cops, as countless others have been killed. And like countless others, the cop went back to work and the black man was forgotten by the outside world. He talks about all the recent deaths and how everyone blames the victim. His friend came from a well to do family.

It is an interesting book, but like any travelogue from a distant land, he can only tell us what he sees and how the world looks to him.

He offers no rosy ending. No happily ever after where little black children play with little white children. His personal heroes include Malcom X and The Black Panthers. But he isn’t just afraid of The White Man, he’s afraid of everyone and everything. If there is any hope here, it is that his son will not suffer the same fears.

Between The World and Me is well worth reading, but it does feel like he’s preaching to the choir.

Masters of Sex Season 3

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www.ifyouwrite.com review spoilers.

It makes a certain amount of sense that the poster for Masters of Sex season three hints at a happy polyamorous threesome. And as this season opens up, it does seem that Old Doc Master’s long suffering wife has come to accept his mistress as a member of the family. But as we zip throuh this first episode with shock after shock falling in rapid succession, we find that the happy trio doesn’t share a bed and that Bill continues to do his best to make everyone around him miserable.

The show is spilt between an annual vacation at a cabin and a press confrence where Bill and Virginia proudly defend their new book to a roomful of critics. Human Sexual Response is critized for being a little too much like a textbook, but still is viewed as an important work whose time has come. Virginia is overly emotional and flees the room a couple of times. We find out in the finial shocking moment why. She is pregnant.

We see that Bill and Libby now have two children. I was a bit shocked to see that the second one wasn’t black. When last we saw Libby, her only lover was a black man. He isn’t even mentioned in passsing. though we do see him for a moment in the Previously On Masters of Sex scenes. Virgina’s two kids are now adults and both are exploring their sexuality. Yes, this is still Masters of Sex and we do have a few shots of naked people and a few seconds of frantic sexual activity.

Episode one is jam packed with moments that needed more attention than they got. Such as when Viginia’s drunk daughter strips down and kisses Bill and he just leaves her in the bathtub. And how did the 4’8″ 70 lb coke bottle glasses wearing nerd manage to join the Army? And what happened after Libby planted that kiss on Virginia?

A few familar faces return as Bill and Virginia’s co-workers, but for the most part this feels like a whole new series. We hop forward in time a few years, new actors are playing the kids, and success finally appears to be around the corner.

In short, it appears that all the important stuff in this story has already been told and we have a season of family bickering to look forward to. I could have done without The Kids in the pervious seasons, I sure as hell don’t want them to the focus of the story.

Masters of Sex is still a great looking show and the acting is still very good. It does enter into more fictive waters.

“This program is about the important achievements of Masters and Johnson. The children Tessa, Henry, Johnny and Jenny are entirely fictitious.”

I’ll still watch to see what happens.

Categories: tv review

Trump wants to be Hitler

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“Make their hate your hate.” -He’s Alive, The Twilight Zone

On the one hand Donald Trump is the best thing to happen to American politics in decades. A man who speaks his mind. A man who points to problems and offers solutions. A man who is personally successful, but doesn’t feel like a spoiled brat who had to sell stocks once to get by in college.

On the other hand. Trump is a nutcase. Hitler was also a fringe lunatic that many rational people ignored. Until he inspired the murder of millions and came as close as anyone since Alexander the Great to taking over the world. Of course, this is another point in Trump’s favor. Didn’t everyone love Ronnie ‘Take No Shit From Anyone” Reagan?

Trump is tapping into the same fear that Hitler used so well. Those other people are taking over OUR country. So how to fix this problem? By getting rid of all those undesirables.  One way or another.

If it were just rich white people listening to Trump, well, that would be OK. They are famously known as the 1%. They are nothing. A simple popular uprising would see them all dead overnight by the hands of their own security guards. No, the 1% aren’t the problem.

It’s all the idiots who think they can join the 1% that we have to worry about.

And those are the people that Trump has found and named his Silent Majority. Get enough of them fired up and it won’t be the bodies of the 1% littering the streets, it will be all the rest of us. Anyone who doesn’t drive a Ferrari and pull down a couple of million a year will be seen as a drain on society. If anyone honestly believes Trump would stop at Illegal Immigrants, they don’t know much about history. Let him round up everyone with an accent and a good tan and he’ll gladly round up anyone else he claims is bad for America. He’ll call the concentration camps Job Creation and pat himself on the back for making the empty streets safe again.

And once he sees how well that is going, he’ll take the next logical step and get rid of the source of that particular evil by nuking Mexico until it’s empty and ready to be turned into vacation condos.

And why stop there? There’s a whole other continent down there just waiting to be brought into the Light. It will all be fine, once you have eliminated all the annoying people already there. Nothing but drug dealers and rapists anyway.

Of course, that won’t matter to the likes of us. We’ll be long gone by then.

But no need to worry. Trump is a joke. No one will take him seriously.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

-Martin Niemöller

Categories: random thoughts

The War of Northern Aggression

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Take down that confederate flag.

896834881_1769982717_bSouth Carolina to remove battle flag from the Capitol grounds.  It’s a good start, and only a hundred and fifty years or so after the South lost the war.

I grew up in Texas, one of those proud states that was on the side of the Confederacy. I must have been in my twenties before I met some Yankee who told me the Rebels were not the Good Guys. My mother and older sister read Gone With The Wind on a semi-annual basis, rebel flags were a common sight-and obviously still are, and everyone I knew seemed to take great pride in our glorious past. Even as a child, I found all this a bit odd, since we were what I would later come to think of as poor white trash ourselves. Our superior tint of skin seemed to have given us no clear advantage in life.

The fact that Ken Burns’ The Civil War single handedly kept the lights on at PBS for many years was a good clue that a lot of people still love the story of Americans slaughtering Americans.

I’ve traveled all over the country and it seems that every town in the South with a courthouse has a Confederate Monument in front of it.  I think all of these piles of rocks should be taken down as well.  The South lost, get over it.  We don’t fly the Nazi swastika and the Imperial Rising Sun at World War II monuments.  We don’t sing the praises of George III on the Fourth of July. And most of us couldn’t even name the countless other places we’ve gone to war with over the past couple of hundred years.

The losers don’t get the glory. Well, except for one.

The movement is underway to remove the Confederate flag from license plates, government buildings, and anywhere else it has been sanctioned for placement by Good Old Boys in the past.

Of course, what got all this started was a white man killing nine black people in a church.  The sad fact of the matter is there is nothing to be done about that.  We can’t bring them back and we can’t stop other like-minded inbreds from acting the same way in the future.  We have no way of looking into a person’s heart and mind and seeing that they are worthless pieces of shit.

In the end, this is just busy work.  Polishing the brass on the Titanic.

I was in New Mexico a few years back. There are a lot of old white people living there.  I meet one living near the border and asked him what he did for fun in the middle of nowhere.  He said: “We’ve got a pretty active unit of the Klan.  We stay busy.”  He wasn’t joking.

What is depressing about the terrorist attack at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church is that the shooter was so young.  Like countless others, I have always thought things would be better once all the old bastards were dead.  But it seems there’s always a new crop of bastards following right behind them.

I still hear people bitching and moaning about school integration and forced busing-and that was 50 years ago.  Racism isn’t just rednecks in the South who love them some rebel flags.

The Confederate flag, in any and all forms, should be locked away with Black Face and Pickaninnies.  Just remember that it’s a symbol of hatred, not the hatred itself.

Categories: random thoughts