Every Hand’s A Winner

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I’ve been a male cheerleader for Matthew Quick’s writing since the quirkily insightful and laugh-out-loud-worthy Silver Linings Playbook, which he followed up a few months back with the Young Adult novel Forgive Me Leonard Peacock (which I reviewed). Now he’s back with another novel for grown-ups, The Good Luck of Right Now. It follows his trend of an emotionally damaged main character most people would call “different” on a journey of self-discovery with a colorful cast of friends. Does it find another strange formula for meaning, or just re-hash the same old ground? Continue reading

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All the Small Things

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Shrine Auditorium

Some people like to start conversations with “What would happen if.” What would happen if there was a black-ops team that hired out to help you get actual closure after a relationship by erasing all traces of the ex’s existence? What would happen if the guy who invented that “A train leaves Chicago at” math problem was upset that he never received adequate compensation? What would happen if you secretly won a big cash prize in a box of Frosted Flakes when you were 10 but your parents were staunchly opposed to sugar cereal– you get the idea. 

For most people, these become a running gag of conversation with the kind of friends who tolerate that sort of thing. For author B.J. Novak, famous from his work as actor and producer on The Office, they became a book of stories: One More Thing. The question is, is it any good?
Continue reading

My Top 5 Yelp Reviews About Alton, IL

imagesI’m still kind of in a post-holidays reverie haze and in a frame of mind where I look back on years gone by, growing up in Illinois. Over the past year or so, I’ve written some Yelp reviews of places in my hometown of Alton that I know like the back of my hand. Some I love, some I don’t. I thought it might be fun to post my five favorite reviews, in no particular order, to feel a little good old fashioned Alton nostalgia.

 

Bubby’s & Sissy’s — 5/5 stars

Best bar in Alton. It’s always a fantastic time here on Fridays and Saturdays. Hilarious drag shows, adequate little dance floor, nice outdoor area. Best place in town to let loose and really be yourself, no matter who you are.

Except if you’re a bigot. Then please, stop being who you are. Continue reading

Fall Movie Bonanza: Captain Phillips

Like Gravity, Captain Phillips is a potential Oscar nom entry in this fall’s prestige movie season that never lets up until the end.

Like a lot of people, I’ve admired Tom Hanks for a long time. When buying DVDs on a regular basis was a thing everyone was doing, my first project was to use my Columbia House subscription to get my hands on every DVD movie with Tom Hanks as the star. He has the unique ability to play an Everyman or the interesting outsider and do them both well. Rare is the exception to the rule that Hanks can dissolve himself and embody another person or the enjoyment of the audience.

Captain Philips is not one of the exceptions. He sells the New England native title character who is tasked with shipping cargo from Oman and past the Horn of Africa to Kenya. You buy his accent. You buy his leadership of the crew. And you buy his handling of the situation that arises when a skiff of Somali pirates approaches closer and closer until they hook a ladder to the side of the Maersk Alabama and board it.

I love about Hanks’ performance that it isn’t big or flashy. Director Paul Greengrass (the Bourne series) should be credited for not force-feeding us the kind of “Big Acting” speechifying moments that were the largest flaw of the otherwise fantastic Gravity.

The actor who played the lead pirate — whose name I’m too lazy to look up because I’m writing this blog post on a bus ride to Washington DC — had a very impressive debut performance. The raw intensity of his screen presence was refreshing. He’s the scariest possible skinny person I can think of. As the guys on the Filmspotting podcast pointed out, the trailers had me worrying we were going to get an overly sympathetic portrayal of him, but that fortunately didn’t turn out to be the case.

I recommend catching Captain Phillips on the big screen, but only if you’ve already seen Gravity in IMAX 3D. That should still be your top filmgoing priority.

Fall Movie Bonanza: Gravity is a Tour de Force

Goodbye and good riddance, summer. That’s what I say. People talk about how short it was and how they didn’t get to go to the beach as many times as they wanted, or get enough tan lines, or wear enough Crocs and flip flops, or rock out at concert festivals in their plastic sunglasses, or whatever it is that summer-lovers do. I say summer was too long, and not just because I’m tired of sweating every time I go outside. I’m excited for the fall movie season, when the big studios finally push out their top quality product for Oscar consideration.

maxresdefaultThe first big October movie you need to see is Gravity, and you need to see it in IMAX 3D. It won’t be cheap (a whopping $21.50 per ticket at an AMC theater in NYC), but it will be worth it.

Some people have actually told me they saw a trailer for it and thought it looked boring. How? What about astronauts getting exploded off of their space stations is boring? I guess it’s just a matter of taste, but I found all the trailers, teasers, and behind the scenes footage I watched in advance of the movie to be exciting. And I don’t even like Sandra Bullock.

Having seen the movie, I can assure you it’s anything but boring or slow-paced. Continue reading

Yelp Reviewing

imagesAs some of my friends and family members know, I’m an “Elite Yelper.”

Apparently that is something that happens when you spend enough time over the course of several months writing reviews about any place you can think to write about. It can be a great outlet to gush about places you love and rage about places you hate. Like all writing, it’s a form of therapy — or at the very least, a release.  Continue reading