Unscheduled Hiatus

Happy Friday!

I did not mean to take this unscheduled break from posting but the second half of August has proven to be a lot busier than I initially thought. I am planning a spot of travel right when September starts, and have a lot of family obligations over the weekends, which means I am grinding a lot during my already sparse weekday evenings. (Remember when I was trying to cool it with my weekday obligations… oh to dream…)

I will try to get some posts scheduled for the time that I’m out, but I think I will be taking a break from posting until I come back closer to the end of September. (I’ll be doing my annual trip to Manhattan and revisiting Paris if you have any suggestions for what I should do!)

Also, reviews and updates from me will continue to go up on Punch Drunk Critics so you can follow along there if you’re craving movie reviews from me!

Can you believe summer is about to end? It really seems to fly by once we turn the Fourth of July corner.

How will you be squeezing the last bit of summer in? I’m a bit sad that I haven’t gone to the beach this summer, despite a few attempts to get myself to the ocean. But we still have over a month before the autumnal equinox, so we all have plenty of time to summer it up!

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AwesomeCon Day 1 VLOG

YouTube has been a big part of my life for the better part of a decade now (dang, time flies), and of course, as with many other fascinations in my life, I have made several attempts to get in on it. (RIP all the failed Babysitters Clubs I tried to start up…) It seems that every few years, I attempt to make videos on YouTube and then quickly take them down in embarrassment. Taking them down is always sad because I work laboriously on videos, as I don’t have a natural talent for shooting or editing or talking to a camera. (It’s a good way to learn how many times you say “um” while talking…)

This year, I felt a renewed interest in documenting things in video as my YouTube viewing habits have changed. In truth, almost every time I take photos I also take video, but the only thing I dread more than editing photos is editing video.

However, I was very determined to really commit to publishing some videos this year, and that determination was further cemented when my friend Megan got a new camera and started putting out really amazing vlogs. (So quickly!) I hope to be able to achieve better results with more practice and less procrastination but without further ado…

Here is my vlog for Day 1 of AwesomeCon 2017!

This was a lot of fun to edit but it did take me a looooong time, so we shall see if I can get days 2 and 3 up in timely fashion. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Do you have any feedback for my first video attempt? What was good / bad?
Are there any past adventures you’d like to see videos from? Some things I have footage from include my San Francisco trip from earlier this year (which was originally going to be my first vlog…) so let me know!

The Dark Tower (2017) | review

Thanks to The City Vault for sending me to this early screening!

Note: I have not read the The Dark Tower book series, nor have I seen… any Stephen King movie? Or read any of his books? (Horror is not my thing. I am a scaredy cat.)

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There has been SO MUCH HYPE for this much-beloved epic book series to come to life on the big screen, but there has also been so much strife for this film to actually come to fruition. Stephen King fans have been waiting with bated breath for a movie that they knew could never match the fantastical world crafted over nine books that is the link between all of King’s other novels.

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Recognize the hotel in the picture frame?

To put it in perspective for people unfamiliar with the source material: You know how there are theories that say things like all Pixar movies are in the same universe? That’s what The Dark Tower is to Stephen King novels, on a Lord of the Rings-esque scale. So… it’s a big a** deal.

The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.

I learned that The Dark Tower movie is meant to be a sequel/continuation of the books, so fans who are expecting a faithful adaptation of the Gunslinger book will be disappointed. There is no man in black fleeing across the desert to open the movie; that war is done when the film begins.

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The Gunslinger (Idris Elba) is the standout star of this film. He channels so much of that Man With No Name energy that Stephen King based the character on with this immense gravitas in his eyes and his voice and his posture. And while it’s obvious, it is very worth mentioning how freaking cool he is with his forged-from-Excalibur guns.

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I’m sure the books have a lot more backstory on Roland, the last of the Gunslingers, but we don’t really know what his deal is in the movie. Why is he the last? What do you mean guns forged from King Arthur’s Excalibur? Why is he able to resist the Man in Black’s magics, and why is this not a bigger mystery to either of them?

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I just really love Idris Elba, okay, he deserves more, always

Speaking of the Man in Black, Matthew McConaughey plays the villain I never knew I wanted him to be all these years of watching his career grow from the rom-coms I loved him in to an Oscar-winning actor. He has this eerie stillness to him, a complete control of the situation, and a psychopathic way of getting in people’s heads while having zero empathy for them.

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Despite all of that, the Man in Black in The Dark Tower falls victim to the same fate as many blockbuster movie villains: A poorly fleshed out motive and a, there, uncompelling foil to our protagonists. Walter (as his real name is, apparently) is this all-powerful man with at least hundreds of minions at his fingertips. He has magic that allows hims to stop bullets and tell people to stop breathing and do some straight-up Matrix-type stuff. But why? Why does he want the Dark Tower to fall? Why does he want to allow hellish creatures into the universe? And my personal beef when it comes to magical powers is always: What is the limit of these powers? (Still mad about Elsa’s vague but frighteningly limitless ice powers…)

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Tom Taylor‘s Jake Chambers showed a lot of very real emotions for the anchor of this story: he’s frustrated that no one is taking his dreams seriously, he’s mad at his stepfather for wanting to send him away to get help, he’s terrified of the monsters in his dreams coming after him in real life, he’s disappointed that even the heroes of his dreams aren’t what he expected, he’s sad about having lost his father.

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Unfortunately, with Jake, we are literally only TOLD that he has great powers, but we really aren’t shown this. Before he crosses through a portal, he has to fight off some kind of demon in the woodwork of the house and, apparently, the reason he is able to do so is because he has mega-strong psychic abilities? But we see no real indication of this until we’re told that he has these powers. It’s not like Harry Potter talking to a snake or Anakin Skywalker using the Force to win a race. We really don’t get an inkling here, and it’s a rather big failure to show, not tell by the movie, since it is the reason that Jake is important as a character in the context of the events of this story!

TL;DR The movie falls short of the epic potential it promises, and does some strange and unnecessary showing without telling. (Indicative of some strange editing decisions, maybe?) It also leans a bit too much on the fish-out-of-water humor to get by. It’s still a good time to watch, but I don’t feel compelled to watch a sequel or even the potential TV show to come based on this film.

But it is a lot of fun to watch Idris Elba and his revolvers.

The Dark Tower is in theaters today. Spoilers below the trailer.

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July 2017 Recap

Happy first day of August! Can you believe we’re in the home stretch of summer already?

I realized I haven’t really checked in about what I’ve been up to since AwesomeCon. (Vlogs are coming… I think…) So let’s get going with just a bit before July started!

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I had the opportunity to go to the Hirshhorn for their new exhibit, Ai Wei Wei: Trace at Hirshhorn, on the opening day just a bit before the museum opened to the public thanks for the lovely HM. (Fun fact: She also was responsible for my first ever Instameet, which means that she is responsible for me getting involved with the Instagram community at large!)

The exhibit consists of two main pieces:

  1. Trace, which was originally housed at Alcatraz, and features portraits of political prisoners made of Lego. The children’s toy adds to the pixelated feel of the portraits, as several of the original source photos are only available as blurred, pixelated surveillance footage stills. Some of the featured figures are still in prison today.
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  2. The Plain Version of the Animal That Looks Like a Llama but Is Really an Alpaca, which is a wiiiiiiiiide wallpaper composed of arrangements of the Twitter bird, surveillance cameras, handcuffs, and “alpacas”. These are actually grass mud horses (草泥马), a subversive Chinese meme that sounds like an expletive directed at your mom that is a penultimate Chinese symbol of fighting censorship and Ai Wei Wei has a history of incorporating the furry creature in his art.
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It’s a great exhibit and I highly recommend stopping by to see it when you visit the Hirshhorn!

Gretchen’s Baby Shower

This was my first-ever baby shower (outside of one for our account lead at work) and it was a lot of fun! Gretchen is the Yelp NoVa Community Manager and it’s been so great being on the NoVa team since I moved to this area. Her sister and sister-in-law, Jen and Taylor, did such a great job with the decorations! My only regrets were having her registry gifts sent directly to her house (I showed up with just some little trinkets for her to enjoy because in my head, I didn’t want her to have more stuff to bring home? This was kind of a silly thought) and then dropping the clothespins for the game down my front and not realizing I should have won. Oops! It was still a great time and a great day to celebrate Gretchen and her incoming little one!

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Look at this adorable diaper cake!!!
Taylor, Jen, Gretchen, and her mom!
Taylor, Jen, Gretchen, and her mom!

Daybreaker DC @ The Hive

The National Building Museum has their summer installment up and it is Studio Gang’s Hive. I got to attend a fun Daybreaker where I was able to do yoga AND dance in the cool PVC pipe hive. It was an extra treat because Ben accompanied me, since my usual Daybreaker crew was unable to make it to this one and I really really wanted to see The Hive.

 

Girl’s Night

The evening after Daybreaker, I had a great girl’s night with my friends. We haven’t had one like this since… December? We had Annie’s pro photobooth setup, delicious snacks, a BUMPIN’ 2000s summer dance jams playlist playing, face masks, and Monopoly Deal, a surprisingly addicting game.

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sweetgreen is a popular salad chain that started out in DC and for the past few years, they’ve had a big concert/festival up in Columbia, Maryland. This year, they kicked it back to their roots, with the original sweetlife festival being a block party in DC. The weather was pretty great, if a bit hot and balmy, so I ate a lot of gelato. (Thank you Dolcezza!) There was great music, there was a fun photobooth with vegetable props, and lots of yummy food. It was really great spending an evening with my friends at maybe the hippest event I have ever stumbled into. (I kept looking around thinking someone would realize I was not cool enough to be there…) It was a night to remember for sure.

Devika’s Birthday Brunch

I got to see my friend Devika’s beautiful house and meet her super kind mom and meet her super nice friends. It was just a low-key, really nice party at her house, I’m so grateful for my friends and for her (and her nice mom).

Sunflowers at McKee-Beshers

I’ve been seeing photos online for years of people frolicking in fields of sunflowers and I finally got to see them in person myself! The McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Center plants fields of sunflowers every year to attract wildlife, and I was able to visit twice in one weekend. On the Saturday, the clouds overhead looked extremely ominous, so we tried to take our photos fast. Suddenly, the wind picked up and, despite it being a really hot and humid day, the air temperature very quickly dropped and got comfortable. I didn’t have much time for relief because it then started pouring, and we stayed in the rain for just a while longer, soaking in the sight of the blooms in the storm before running to the car.

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Sun and wind and rain in my face, and sunflowers all around. Paradise.

We went back the next day with Ben’s parents and got some nice photos in the sun. I did miss that cool summer storm breeze, though, and the crowds were significantly bigger.

Twirling in the sunflowers
Leave your guesses as to how many shots it took to get this in the comments

Visiting Delaware

My brother is interning in Delaware this summer, so my dad and I visited him this past weekend. It was actually my first time going to Delaware as the destination and not as a state I pass through on my way to/from New Jersey. It was a lot of fun to see my brother and to watch Girl’s Trip, despite it not being a good, er… family movie?

Yacht Ride

My dad had a friend who invited us out on his yacht, so I got to enjoy a truuuuuly beautiful day on the water. The weather was PERFECTION and I really enjoyed being on the water, it remains one of my favorite things in the world.


With that, I am looking forward to August! There is more summer fun coming up and I am trying to stay in the summer mindset in September, since it’s always hot for most of September anyway and the autumnal equinox isn’t until the last week of September anyway!

What do you have planned for the rest of summer?
What are you going to miss about summer?

A Family Man (2017)

A version of this review originally appeared on Punch Drunk Critics.

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I never know quite what to expect when I watch a Gerard Butler movie. He’s been an opera phantom, a Spartan king, a Secret Service agent…
I do, however, know almost exactly what to expect when I watch a movie about a man struggling to balance his work life and his family life.

There’s nothing wrong with A Family Man. It’s just that it’s pretty predictable: Dane Jensen (Gerard Butler) is a headhunter, the kind that has become very successful by occasionally treating ethics like suggestions and being on his phone all the time. It’s a character we’ve seen before, in this type of movie, and from Gerard Butler, where he is a bit of a douche-bro gunning to run the company when his ruthless boss, Ed Blackridge (Willem Dafoe) announces his retirement. Despite us seeing that he does care for his family, we are introduced to his dynamic with his oldest son via telling him to run with him on account of getting fat. The kid is in elementary school.

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As it turns out, Ryan (Maxwell Jenkins) isn’t getting fat; he has cancer. The timing is unbelievably inconvenient for Dane, who is competing with equally ambitious Lynn (Alison Brie) for the top spot at work. Despite how tired it is to watch a dad fail at juggling increased responsibilities at work with his increased responsibilities at home, Jenkins really shined as little Ryan, who wants to be an architect. My favorite scenes are the ones of Butler and Jenkins exploring Chicago architecture together, quietly enjoying iconic buildings together. These moments are really sweet and really help to draw you in emotionally as a viewer.

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Again, there’s nothing particularly wrong with the story or the movie, but I had a few issues with it. First, Alison Brie’s talent is basically completely wasted. I don’t know if her scenes were cut from the final edit of the movie, but she is hardly in it. You have to assume that Lynn is also very ambitious only because she is the person competing with Dane for Ed’s job, but we don’t really see any sign of her ambition. All we know is that her opinion of Dane and his team of bros is fairly low because of their sketchy methods, although she does admit that Dane is the hardest worker at the firm. Willem Dafoe also didn’t have very much screen time, but he was able to do a lot with the little that he had because his character was simply written to be a much more dynamic and to have more weight in his scenes. It just seemed like a really big waste of Alison Brie.

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Second, the movie is just too long. There is really no need for this story, which has been done so many times and doesn’t really bring anything new to it, to be a nearly 2-hour picture. The pacing itself was actually fine, I didn’t feel it dragged too much at any point, but it could’ve been snappier. Maybe it’s the movie forgot about the great acting talents it had in Brie, Molina, and Dafoe and tried to shoehorn them in. While I love those actors, I don’t think the overall story would have suffered very much without them, and that’s pretty unfortunate.

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Third, and this is a personal grievance, but I felt tricked by this movie because I thought something VERY SAD had happened but it wasn’t quite what I was led to believe. I was so relieved through my TEARS because I only had set so many feels aside for this movie, so this moment really went deep into the reserves, and then it turned out I misunderstood the whole scene. Watch and let me know if you felt similarly emotionally manipulated or if I am just foolish (and salty).

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The performances from the cast are really quite good considering the kind of overdone premise, and the beautiful scenes of father and son admiring architecture together are enough to make you want to visit Chicago in person to see it all for yourself. I just wish there was a little more of what was lacking and a little less of what we have more than enough of in theaters these days.

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A Family Man comes out in US theaters today, June 28.