A Family Man (2017)

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

A Family Man movie poster

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.

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I Suck at Quitting When Things Suck

In trying to meet my resolution for books read this year, I often will look at book recommendation lists by bloggers and by my library. Heck, sometimes I just go into my library’s eBook collection and just look at what is available to borrow that moment and is popular.

This has led to some pretty frustrating books.

I’ve never been good at quitting anything. It took me much longer than it should have for me to quit being pre-med, the first time I ever quit something really big. But I also tend to be the kind of person who watches bad movies to the end, reads bad books to the last page, and sits through a terrible show until the lights unexpectedly come back up. (In my defense, I was hoping for a consolation prize for enduring the entire thing. Like maybe it was a test, and the people who stuck around would get their money back?)

I know that one of the logical fallacies I am most prone to is the inability to cut my losses. It’s difficult for me to not get wrapped up thinking about the time and/or money I’ve already sunken into something. This isn’t particularly logical, and I know that in the back of my mind, but when I am rolling my eyes so hard at a book that I’m getting a headache, I still can’t help thinking, “Well, I’m not going to be able to get that hour back. At least if I finish, I can definitively say the book sucked all the way through, and I’ll be one book closer to my book goal this year.”

But I’m trying to stop this.

I have a shelf on Goodreads that is for books I started and don’t intend to finish. I am trying not to feel as bad about adding books to that shelf and taking them off my “Currently reading” shelf, forever preventing them from joining the others on my “Read” shelf.

Are you good at quitting things when you should?
Do you have any good book recommendations? I just borrowed a bunch of Kindle books, but the first tone has been pretty annoying and I don’t think I’m going to finish it, so now I’m getting nervous about the rest of the haul. Please please share any books you’ve loved lately! Any genre welcome.

First Cosplay Reflections

If you’ve been following along with my AwesomeCon recaps (days 1, 2, and 3), or reading this blog for a little bit, you’ll know that I really relished my first convention cosplay experience. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for such a long time.

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It was truly an experience and I wanted to detail and document what it was like to finally get to cosplay at a convention after years of hyping it up for myself.

Prepping the Costume

Let me just throw this out here now so there is no confusion later: I don’t sew. Outside of mending clothing when the need arises, I don’t currently possess the skills necessary create clothing out of fabric.

I’m also not particularly crafty. DIY is usually not my forte, and I still marvel at people who own a ~hot glue gun~, as that seems to be a hallmark crafty-type thing to have.

What does all that mean? I bought everything. One day, I’d like to be able to make my own accessories, at least, or DIY things so that they are more accurate to the character I am portraying, but at this beginning stage of my cosplaying, I buy everything I can afford. Here’s what that included:

Ariel:

Aquaman and Ariel

Sailor Mars

SailorJupiter

  • Dress, gloves, choker, and tiara all from ProCosplay (formerly cosplayforce, which was the name this shop used when I actually purchased the costume)
  • Earrings + clip-on converters for my unpierced ears
  • Red pumps
  • Wig (that I wound up ditching)

Logistical Issues

Because my hair is red right now, I did spend time touching up the color with Overtone colored conditioner and then… attempting to curl my hair the morning of Day 1. Lemme tell ya, one of the reasons I started exercising this year is because of how sore my arms feel after curling my hair with my super cheap-o curling iron I got at at TJ Maxx a while ago.

On all 3 days, I did makeup before leaving for the convention. I don’t wear makeup on a daily basis, so this is always a bit of a struggle before a special event. I was trying out a BB cushion for the first time, and that was actually really nice to use (although I may look for an oil-free formula next time), but the real problem was my eye makeup.

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I need to practice doing eye makeup. Winged eyeliner? It never matches! And on day 3, I actually ran out of eyeliner in the middle of trying to line my second eye so… I just ditched the eyeliner altogether. This was a huge bummer because the eyeliner is fairly key to helping me achieve the anime eye look…) Speaking of anime eyes, I don’t really know how to apply false lashes, and yet there I was… wearing them to the best of my ability?

Because of the false lashes, I wasn’t able to wear my glasses during days 2 and 3 of the convention; the lashes would push up against my lenses and look ridiculous. There was a lot of squinting and asking Ben to scan crowds and read signs for me.

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I had small things happening with my Sailor Mars costume, like the gloves starting to get dirty because I touch things often but they were white fabric. At one point, I realized I was causing pilling on the costume because of how often my bag was rubbing against the fabric, so for day 3, I had to shave off those pills. It was a good thing I had a Tide pen with me because I did have a few small stains on the costume and had to spend a fair bit of time addressing them ASAP.

AND YES THE WIG PANIC WAS SO REAL. I was so traumatized by the whole experience, I don’t know how I’m going to ever attempt to wear a wig again.

The Pain

Cosplaying Sailor Mars was… a little bit painful, I’ll be really honest. Here were the major pain points:

  • The heels – Even though my heels are designed to be comfortable, I don’t know how many shoes in general are comfortable after 12 hours on your feet. My feet were KILLING me by the end of day 2 and 3, and I was frequently found taking my shoes off to rest my feet for a bit. On day 3, I became very fond of taking my shoes off in the Exhibit Hall to rest my feet on the cold floor. Ahhh… sweet relief. My feet continued hurting at work the next day because they just had suffered so much and were not done suffering yet.
  • The earrings – My limited experience with clip-on earrings is that they will hurt your earlobes at some point, either immediately when you clip them on in the wrong place or hours later. My ears ached incredibly by day 3 and they actually hurt for DAYS after the convention ended. Those little clips clamping onto one spot on my skin for hours and hours on end did not make my earlobes happy.
  • The tiara – You may be familiar with this struggle if you’ve worn a hard headband, but the tiara was DIGGING into my temples and it was extremely painful. I frequently was moving the tiara up so that my temples could get a break from being crushed. It was especially tricky when I was wearing the tiara with the wig, but I could’ve sworn that at one point, my head was visibly dented from where the tiara had me in a vice grip.

Despite the pain from my costume components, cosplaying was one of the best experiences of my life. All the pain and effort and time was worth it every time someone recognized my character and lit up or asked me for a photo. Call me vain but I really loved taking photos with people who were fans of my character or my costume. And if none of that was worth it, meeting that young girl and her dad on Father’s Day easily made everything worth it. I will cherish that specific memory for the rest of my life, and it will guide my future cosplay and convention experiences going forward.

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Weird Things That Happened

One thing I wasn’t expecting at all was how many people would recognize that I was a Scout but not what planet? In fact, I think I heard almost every single planet name guessed over the course of the weekend, even Outer Senshi names, which really surprised me.

A man came up to me at one point with his phone as he was livestreaming to his audience on Instagram or Facebook. He looked at his phone and as I waved to his viewers, he said, “Oh, no one is giving you any likes!” and walked away. I am very sorry to him and his social media following that my 3 seconds of face time was not like-worthy.

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A guy was looking at me with a big smile on his face. “Do you want a photo?” I asked. He nodded and got his camera out, so I handed the fries and chicken tenders I was holding to Ben. The dude’s smile dropped and he said, “Oh, I thought you were eating fish fingers.” I was dressed as Ariel, so I guess he thought it would make for a good photo. Sorry, bro.

As I was leaving the convention center, a man asked me what my cosplay page was. I laughed because it was my first time! In hindsight, I should’ve just pointed him to this blog, since I’ll be sure to document any other cosplay here.

Diana, Princess of the Amazons, and Sailor Mars... wigless...

On day 3, I got stopped for photos multiple times as I was trying to catch my Lyft home. Even as I was stepping into the car, someone asked me for a photo. I felt like a freaking celebrity getting mobbed by paparazzi!

Also being handed a leash, that was definitely very weird.

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This is @shawnathemaid and he was so nice! Even though I was so confused as to why I was being handed a leash!

I had such an incredible time, and I absolutely cannot wait to cosplay at a convention again. I’ll be wearing Mars out again eventually, but I am already thinking about my next costume. Of course, Halloween is a ripe opportunity to bust out a costume, too!

Who should I cosplay as next?? I don’t want to spoil my Halloween costume, but it is a character from a popular TV show and that’s all I can say right now!

 

Announcement!

I almost forgot to announce it here but…

I am now a contributor for Punch Drunk Critics!

Find me at www.punchdrunkcritics.com where you’ll find movie reviews, TV recaps, and other movie/TV news! I’m so excited to have the opportunity to bring an early inside scoop on movies and TV to the fans.

My first PDC review is here!

If you have any feedback for my content there, please let me know! I haven’t contributed to a site that I wasn’t the sole contributor to since I was an editor for PurplePJs back in the early 2000s, so being on a team’s posting schedule and style is something I have to get back into the swing of again after more than 10 years.

I’ll still be posting reviews here, but I am leaving things on PDC for now while I settle into my groooooove.

Thanks for your support!

AwesomeCon 2017 – Day 3

Last time on AwesomeCon 2017, I cosplayed as Sailor Mars and got to experience my first celebrity Main Stage event after losing several battles with my wig.


My original plan for the last day of AwesomeCon was to see the Stan Lee Q&A in the morning. But with queuing for a seat starting sooooo early, we decided to go easy on ourselves and leave just a little bit later.

I debated for a while about what costume I’d wear on day 3, but ultimately I decided to rewear Sailor Mars because people responded so well to it and expressed how happy they were to see my character. Somehow, no one else was dressed as Sailor Mars, even though I think I saw most other scouts in person or on social media, and I would have interactions later in the day that reaffirmed I made the right choice here.

Our first stop of the day was The Guild Reunion. This year marked the 10 YEAR ANNIVERSARY of maybe the first web series I ever watched, The Guild. I absolutely loved watching those 6 seasons, so seeing the entire cast in reuniting in person was one of the highlights of my con experience. Again, a lot of questions were still directed towards Felicia Day (tellin’ you, queen of the nerds) but all of the actors were really great. (Really sad that Amy Okuda didn’t make it though…) If you haven’t seen The Guild before, I highly recommend it AND the amazing bonus videos that accompany it. (Those music videos are A+++.) It also made me happy to see Codex costumes at AwesomeCon (see Day 2). I probably wouldn’t have seen them at a con where Felicia Day wasn’t a guest, so I really lucked out with that.

The Guild Cast Reunion Panel
L to R: Jeff Lewis, Robin Thorsen, Sandeep Parikh, Vincent Caso, Felicia Day

After that panel, we skedaddled back over to the Main Stage to catch the Catherine Tate Q&A. I loved Donna Noble on Doctor Who and Catherine Tate is such a fantastic comedian. I somehow forgot about all the clips of The Catherine Tate Show, her sketch comedy show, that I watched on Youtube until someone asked what one of her most famous characters, Lauren Cooper, would think about AwesomeCon. She was so lovely and kind and funny, and I hope that she takes a fan’s advice to ask her agent about putting a Christmas special of hers on Netflix because I’m sure it’s great.

Catherine Tate on the Main Stage
Terrible photo of Catherine Tate up on stage

Although there were still other celebrity Q&As left to see, we were only a little bit interested in them and a lot more interested in spending the last hours of the convention at the Exhibit Hall. We had been hedging on a few purchases the past 2 days, but Ben finally walked away with a really beautiful Skyrim map and I was able to pick up a really cool gift for my dad. (Day 3 was on Father’s Day, so the gift was to make up for missing it and for his upcoming birthday as well!)

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These amazing Spice Girls were blasting “Wannabe” and were basically perfection

I had a lot of strange interactions with people on Sunday. There was the guy who came up to me while streaming to Instagram/Facebook Live and informed me that while I was on camera, no one gave me any likes, before walking away to find someone more like-worthy, I guess? A woman really loved my costume and told me I looked just like Sailor Mars and “You could be her twin!”, which is similar to her first statement but different in a way that left me feeling a little perplexed. A woman asked me for a photo and then handed me a leash to which this man was attached:

Shawna The Maid
This is @shawnathemaid and he was so nice! Even though I was so confused as to why I was being handed a leash!

My favorite interaction, by far, was with a girl who was about 10 years old? She was with her dad and timidly approached me to ask for a photo. I’ll admit that I actually really love when people ask for my photo, even more when children do, because I basically go into Disney park princess mode and momentarily stop feeling the pain of my heels and my clip-on earrings to be look and be happy with a stranger. This girl looked so in awe because Sailor Mars was her favorite Sailor Scout! She told me that my costume looked great and I looked pretty in it, so I’m here feeling very good about myself as we take some photos together. Her dad then came up to me and thanked me himself because he knew how much his daughter loved Sailor Mars and said that they had been looking around the entire weekend for Sailor Mars, so they were very happy to have finally found me. With that, any regrets I had about rewearing Mars (and her heels) (and her earrings) completely vanished. I was SO happy to have been able to make this girl happy, and I’m only sorry I didn’t remember to say Happy Father’s Day to this great dad who knew what his daughter loved and was there supporting her to love those things.

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This is a different woman but I loved meeting everyone and only wish I got to see more of the photos we took together!

Day 3 cosplay did not disappoint.

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Found Sailor Jupiter!
TchallaBucky
Awesome T’challa and Bucky Barnes
Korra
Super cool Korra
Belle
Provincial Belle
Elizabeth
Post-escape Elizabeth
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Emma Frost and Wolverine
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Raven and Beast Boy
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When Deadpool asks “Do you wanna do heart hands or something?”, it’s hard to contain your excitement!!!
Avengers
THIS AVENGERS FAMILY GAVE ME SO MUCH LIFE THEY ARE EVERYTHING I WANT TO BE RIGHT DOWN TO THE PASSED OUT BABY HULK AND THE SASSY THOR
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I am not 100% sure who this is, is it Slade?

We were able to meet up with my coworker Joe again and I was able to convince him that he needed a throw pillow. (I didn’t realize how well I could anticipate what Joe wanted and how much influence I had over him until I realized that I was able to persuade him to attend AwesomeCon to see David Hayter in the first place… and then to buy this pillow.) I was also able to meet up with my Instagram friend, Eric, who is a co-creator of the #strideby hashtag and took this fun Boomerang of me:

A post shared by eric brammer (@eric_le_reveur) on Jun 18, 2017 at 5:39pm PDT

 

Before we knew it, the Exhibit Hall was closing and the con had come to an end. As I walked out of the convention center, I still was getting photos with folks, with one person even asking me for my cosplay page. I laughed because this was literally my first time cosplaying someplace! (In retrospect, I probably should’ve just given him my social media for this blog right here.) People were still trying to ask me for photos as I walked to meet my ride home, and I closed the car door just in total amazement at how AwesomeCon exceeded my expectations.


With that, I wrap up my AwesomeCon recaps. If you’ll recall, I was in a bit of a funk since… May? While I don’t know if it’s over, AwesomeCon was definitely a high point during that prolonged low. I was so happy during those 3 days, even through the wig panic and the hanger and the strange dudes and the foot pain. I am also so grateful to Ben, who had a great time himself but definitely placed my desires above his own the entire weekend. (After all, he watched so many celebrity Q&As for people he didn’t have a clue about at all! We only recently watched The Guild because he was drawn in enough by the actors to be interested in watching.) (It’s good, go watch.)

What are your favorite cosplays from Day 3 that I managed to snap?
What convention should I attend next??
I wish I could go to NovaCon, because it’s another local con that has some cool guests, actually, but I have a conflict that weekend. I was considering trying to go to New York Comic Con but Saturday passes are already sold out, and I don’t know if I can handle a con of that size so soon after my very first one. I am currently thinking about some of the anime conventions (namely Otakon, which is coming up soon) but I am so out of the anime scene that I’m not sure I’ll be hip enough to understand the panels and stuff!

Let me know about conventions that you love and think I should attend! I was so in love with the entire experience that I am already considering traveling just to go. This could get dangerous…