Today’s Movie Review – Tusk (2014)

For as long as I can remember, I have been a fan of Kevin Smith and his movies. While in high school, I remember going to see Dogma the first week it came out, laughing as a handful of protesters showed up to “picket” the movie. In the fall of 2001, during what was most likely my first off-post pass from AIT at Fort Jackson, we walked to the nearby shopping center, and after a meal at Golden Corral, watched the craziness that was Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. I have not missed a Kevin Smith movie in theaters – except for Cop Out which was released when I was in Iraq – since that viewing of Dogma, which to this day remains my favorite movie.

Starting with Red State three years ago, Kevin Smith has just decided to make the movies he really wants to make. While many Smith fans are waiting for Clerks III, or his detractors are waiting him to finally retire as he stated after Cop Out, he keeps coming up with original ideas for movies, things that don’t show up in movies these days, the majority of which seem to be adaptations, reboots, or sequels. And while Tusk itself is an adaptation, it is probably the first movie adapted from a podcast, or at least the first major* release. This unique origin probably adds to quirkiness of the movie.

*Even though Tusk is a independent movie with a relatively small budget, it is getting a wide release, and has the weight of Kevin Smith behind it, so it will get a little more attention than other independent movies.

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Book Review: Outliers: The Story of Success

What is an outlier? According to Malcolm Gladwell and his book Outliers, an outlier is a “scientific term to describe things or phenomena that lie outside normal experience.” In the book, Gladwell points to various outliers in society, weaving a narrative that the people we see as successful are more a product of their circumstances and less a product of their intelligence and ambition.

The stories Gladwell uses to illustrate this point are broke down into two different parts: opportunity and legacy. In discussing opportunity, the first story, and one that I found pretty interesting, is the birth dates of a couple of teams of elite junior hockey teams in Canada. Of course the players are all around the same age, between the ages of seventeen and nineteen, but what stood out was the birth month of the players. The majority of players were born in the first six months of the year, which struck Canadian psychologist Roger Barnsley and his wife as odd.

Upon further investigation, it turns out the cut off age for youth hockey is January 1st of each year. Because of this, the older children tended to be bigger than those born later in the year, and in the realms of youth hockey, size often trumps talent, especially at the younger ages. This size was a de facto ranking system for some of the “all star” teams, and these all star teams had the best coaches. By the time the real talent starts showing, the bigger kids have had so many hours of additional top flight coaching that they perform better than kids that were born later in the year. Continue reading

Today’s Movie Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

Believe me, when I first heard about the Michael Bay-produced reboot of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I had the same reaction that most of the internet did: how dare he ruin my childhood!?!?* I prejudged the idea of the movie based on the initial rumors: that Bay was going to make them aliens and remove the “mutant” part of the turtles. Had that actually happened, I think my reaction to the movie would have been different.

*Only in the sense that my childhood could be in fact ruined by a movie.

And sure, the secondary backlash after the initial trailer landed with the new look for the turtles should have dissuaded me further, but I wanted to give the movie a chance…unlike what seems like 85% of the rest of the internet, guilty of judging the movie by it’s trailer, or the thinking that explosion master Michael Bay will somehow travel through time and remove my original experience to the original turtle films or cartoon that I grew up with. Despite the horrible reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, I trusted my gut and decided to give it a chance, and while it is not the best movie I have ever seen, it definitely exceeded my expectations.

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Today’s Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Note: I actually saw this movie on the Thursday before it officially came out (July 31st), and I was part of its $94.3 million opening weekend. I’ve just been dragging my feet in getting this review up, pending a potential second viewing, but instead decided to check out the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot instead.  

Of the many movies that have been released so far this year, Guardians of the Galaxy was probably my most anticipated movie. Not because I am/was familiar with the characters ahead of time, but because I was interested in seeing a movie that I had little knowledge. Even though the stories of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Transformers: Age of Extinction, for example, were new stories, it was still relatively easy to see where those movies would end up, especially considering the previous movies in their respective series.

But Guardians would be different; though I knew the general premise of the movie from reading a little about it and from the trailers, it ended up being something slightly different than what I was expecting. Because of this, it is definitely one of the best Marvel Cinematic Universe movies released to date, and it has me excited for some of the “deep cut” Marvel movies that are coming over the next few years. While DC Comics/Warner Brothers continues to struggle to build its own cinematic universe, Marvel/Disney  have shown how you can turn even lesser known characters into box office gold.

(Minor spoilers ahead) Continue reading