We saw Ocean’s 8 – good characters, not so interesting plot 

Nums and I went to see Ocean’s 8 earlier this month on a Friday night.

The film is a spin-off from Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s trilogy and features an ensemble cast, including Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Rihanna, Helena Bonham Carter, and Awkwafina. Produced by Steven Soderbergh and Susan Ekins. 

The film revolves around Debbie Ocean, the younger sister of the late Danny Ocean. She is paroled from prison, and hunts down her former partner-in-crime Lou to convince her to join her heist that she planned while serving her sentence. The job? She plans to steal the Toussaint, a $150 million Cartier necklace, from the Met Gala in five weeks, and use Met Gala co-host Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway), a snobby actress, as an unwitting accomplice who will wear the necklace into the gala so they can steal it. 

Debbie and Lou assemble an interesting cast of characters to perform the job – someone who can get materials, a jeweler, a pick pocket, etc. While the plot is somewhat derivative of the prior Ocean heist films, the best part is having all of these actresses on screen. It’s definitely female-focused, which is unique and interesting. I wish the plot was more interesting. 

Ocean's 8 (2018)

Ocean’s 8 (2018)

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We went to see Solo: A Star Wars Story opening weekend. It’s not perfect, but it’s fine. Stop panicking.

We went to see Solo: A Star Wars Story opening weekend back at the end of May. The film’s production had a slightly troubled history. Lucasfilm dismissed original directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller due to creative differences (never a good sign) and Ron Howard was brought in to salvage the film. There were also rumors of necessary reshoots after principal photography was done. Still, you try to have a little hope. I’ve stated before that the Star Wars universe is rich with stories – between the Skywalker saga, the books and comics of the old Expanded Universe, the various animated series, plus the computer games. I’m good with bringing many of those stories to the big screen, or new stories from all sorts of characters from the corners of that galaxy. Tell a good story with interesting characters and you’ll do well.

Alden Ehrenreich plays the title character of Han Solo beginning with his early years on Corellia, a brief stint in the Imperial Army, and as a smuggler. The story tells it’s new canon origin story for how Han met Chewbacca, Lando Calrissian, and fell in love (?) with the Millennium Falcon. People may complain about origin stories or prequels, but I’ve never had a problem with them. Again, if it’s a good story etc, you should enjoy it anyway. The actors playing some of these beloved characters may never look exactly like the original actors, but I think there has to be a reasonable attempt.

The film begins with Han (Ehrenreich) and his friend Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) on Corellia. They’re both members of a street gang composed of kids stealing equipment and pick pocketing, but both hoping to escape. Han eventually escapes by joining the Imperial Army, but he eventually meets Chewbacca and they strike out on their own. Along the way, they meet another gang led by Beckett (Woody Harrelson) who are trying to perform a heist from a speeding train on a mountain top.

Later, we’re introduced to other criminal organizations such as Crimson Dawn. There are no Jedi or Force users. Just regular people trying to hustle any way they can to survive. Sometimes you’re working on your own. Sometimes you’re part of a gang. Always hoping to score credits. The jobs / heists in this film don’t work out so there’s some of your drama and plot twists. 

Speaking to friends who have seen the film, they either liked or hated Ehrenreich as Han Solo. He worked for me personally. Actually, I was pretty happy with the cast in general. I found elements of the story itself a little lacking, but not deal breakers. I think if it had a bit more development time, they could have made a better product.  It’s an okay story supported by a good cast with a lot of charm. I hope they make additional films with these characters, but spend more time on the plot.

Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)

Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)

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I watched Deadpool 2 (2018) over the weekend — the sequel is not as good as the 1st film

On Saturday night, I went with two other guys to see Deadpool 2 (2018), the sequel to the R-rated 2016 action comedy superhero film from 20th Century Fox in collaboration with Marvel. My wife and I were supposed to see it with friends, but we had a family emergency to tend to, so she was unfortunately out. 🙁

The first film was a surprising, irreverent film and fun. While it’s always difficult to catch lightning in a bottle twice, you always gotta try. This film was alright though, but I didn’t find it as enjoyable as the first. Mild spoilers ahead.
The plot isn’t about saving the world, or finding a MacGuffin before the bad guys do. Cable (played by Josh Brolin) is portrayed in the commercials as the villain, but he isn’t the villain. To summarize – there’s a kid named Russell with the mutant ability to harness fire (he refers to himself as “Firefist”), and Cable wants to kill him. While Deadpool has been making a living as an assassin for hire for two years since the events of the first film, he is still in love with Vanessa (Morena Baccarin.) 

Events happen. I won’t get into it. 

For specific reasons later on, Deadpool decides that he is going to save Russell from certain death. At one point, he even assembles his own band of mutants (“X-Force”) to help him save Russell. The film is somewhat different than the Fox Marketing Department has portrayed it as, which is fine of course. The story is small. It’s not about saving the world. Only saving a kid. While the film has its moments, the pacing seemed off. At little moments here and there, I found the jokes to be a little dumb or the story dragging. There’s one scene in particular during the climax that is initially “Whoa!” that then drags on for 10 minutes it feels like. Again, I think it’s pacing.

Overall, I don’t consider it a bad film. But at the same time, I would strangely say it isn’t a film that you have to rush out to see. Want to see it now? Go ahead. Want to wait for the home release? Sure. It’s entertaining but not that entertaining. It’s just fine.

Oh the mid-credit scenes are funny though.

Deadpool 2

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Lily and I went on a field trip to the Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton NJ

Lily’s 5th grade class went on a field trip to the Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton NJ. Now, I’ve never been there before, but I know Nums and Josh have gone on a field trip prior. I’ve seen the statures around the Hamilton area. Never had an opportunity to go before, so why not now?

I agreed to be a chaperone a month ago, and I’ve never chaperoned one of the Lily’s field trips before. Pretty sure I’ve been on one of Josh’s though. I took the day off from work, but still had some calls in the morning. I ran out the door after 9 AM to grab some coffee and a bagel, then made my way down to Hamilton. Driving another route through Hamilton, I found so many other statues and other large artwork. I had no idea there was so much other Grounds for Sculpture art all around the area in Hamilton. Pretty neat.

I was one time to the place by 9:45 AM, but the place doesn’t open until 10 AM, the gate was locked, and no one was around. I hung around 15 mins, then the doors opened. I parked and waited another 10 mins for the buses to arrive. I found my group of four kids, got a map, and we wandered the place with an unstructured itinerary We only had to find some time for lunch, and meet back for the bus by 1:45 PM.

We walked the grounds, and I found it to be an interesting place. Lots of cool sculptures. We found a cafe and we ate our bagged lunches. We also found other groups of kids and parents and wandered the place. We had seen everything by 12:30 or so, so we hung out leisurely for a while until it was time to check out the gift shop and then get the kids on the buses.

Good time overall.

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Blondie’s “Dreaming” is one of my favorite 80’s pop songs

When I met you in the restaurant you could tell I was no debutante
You asked me what’s my pleasure, “A movie or a measure”?
I’ll have a cup of tea and tell you of my dreamin’
Dreamin’ is free
Dreamin’, dreaming is free

I don’t want to live on charity
Pleasure’s real or is it fantasy?
Reel to reel is living rarity
People stop and stare at me, we just walk on by
We just keep on dreamin’

Beat feet, walking a two-mile
Meet me, meet me at the turnstile
I never met him, I’ll never forget him
Dream dream, even for a little while
Dream dream, filling up an idle hour
Fade away, radiate

I sit by and watch the river flow
I sit by and watch the traffic go
Imagine something of your very own, something you can have and hold
I’d build a road in gold just to have some dreamin’
Dreamin’ is free
Dreamin’, dreamin’ is free

Dreamin’, dreamin’ is free
Dreamin’, dreamin’ is free

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I watched Sunset Boulevard (1950) for the first time

On Mother’s Day, we rented Sunset Boulevard, the 1950 American film noir directed and co-written by Billy Wilder. It’s a famous American film starring Gloria Swanson and William Holden. Supporting actors and actresses include Erich von Stroheim, Nancy Olson, and even a few scenes with famed director Cecil B. DeMille. We had originally intended to watch it at a nearby theater, but we realized, on second thought, why don’t we watch it at home when we can be all comfy?

We rented it from Amazon for a few bucks!

The film begins in media res, where we find the officers from the LAPD and reporters are swarming around the body of a man floating in a swimming pool. His name was Joe Gillis, and he narrates how he ended up dead in the pool. Six months earlier, he was a down-on-his-luck screenwriter, attempting to pull in favors, looking for work. While running away from some men attempting to repossess his car, he surreptitiously ends up in the garage of a seemingly abandoned Hollywood mansion.

Except it’s not abandoned. Joe soon discovers that it’s owned and lived in by famed (and fictional) silent film star Norma Desmond. Norma has gone slightly mad in these years after her silent film career died off. She’s served by a single butler named Max, and she sits at home answering fan mail, watching her old movies in her in-home screening room, hosting the occasional small party, and attempting suicide.

Joe ends up moving into the mansion while he helps her write a script for Norma’s big comeback vehicle. She doesn’t want a small role. No no no. She wants the a epic film, directed by Cecil B. DeMille, and she’s of course the star. Joe spends much of the story vacillating, torn between being comfortable living comfortably with crazy Norma, or being uncomfortable but happy writing screenplays with other young Hollywood industry folks like sweet Betty Schaefer.

It’s an interesting movie, but the kids and I found it a bit long and dragging at times. There’s plenty of character development, especially as you see how nutty Norma is in her twilight years. I’ve never seen a Gloria Swanson or Bill Holden film before — I’ve only seen Bill Holden when he had a cameo in that old I Love Lucy episode — so it was cool to see them both on screen.

Sunset Boulevard (1950)

Sunset Boulevard (1950)

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Ryan & Ethan’s 1st Communion

Last Saturday, we attended a 1st communion for two boys Ryan and Ethan. It wasn’t a random event — we’re friends with their parents. 😉

We had a number of commitments that day, so we ended up arriving at the actual communion service in Somerset at the end of the service. We  had a little bit of time after the service to say hello to a few people, buy cards at the local Rite Aid, then head up to Piscataway for the dinner portion at Diwan Banquet.

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One Dad, three Moms, four Sons and at least one Daughter went out last Friday Night

Last Friday, we spent the evening in separate family quality time events. Nums and Josh got together some friends at Ruth’s Chris for a Mommy-Son dinner. They ate steak

Not to be complete outdone, Lily and I made plans to go bowling instead. We had bowling alley quality nachos and mediocre chicken wings. More importantly, I beat Lily by 11 points.

She used the bumpers. I did not. I should have scored better. I blame the mediocre nachos and wings.

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The Girl Scouts learn some self-defense forms with Master Brooks of CMB Karate

Lily and her Girl Scout troop visited CMB Karate recently for one of their regularly scheduled troop meetings. Master Christopher Brooks spent time to teach 6 out of 7 of them self-defense moves. I say 6 out of 7, because according to Lily, she knew everything already.

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Saturday night out in New Brunswick for dinner and Roy Wood Jr.

My wife and I learned some time ago that comedian Roy Wood Jr would be coming to the Stress Factory in early May. We also made plans to go out beforehand for dinner at Delta’s, a southern American cuisine restaurant that we used to frequent before both kids started sucking up all available money. 😉

We had few other friends agree to come out dinner, and make it a post-actual-birthday-but-why-not-celebrate-anyway dinner for me. Well, at least dessert.

Dinner and drinks were nice but I wasn’t all that impressed with the fried chicken. It needed seasoning- that’s right – I said it. The hush puppies were average. Everything else we had was good.

The restaurant wasn’t full. In fact, the streets were empty and other restaurants & bars were partially empty. We passed a Irish bar with a sad employee standing outside wearing a sombrero (it was Cinco de Mayo), waiting for anyone to show up. I briefly looked inside and the lights were colorful and the DJ was spinning, but it was empty. It was weird but Stress Factory is always packed with a long line out the door.

No line.

We get inside and they’ve already started. The club is half empty on Cinco de Mayo that’s also on a Saturday night. What gives? We had the pick of the table in front while the entire back area was empty with seats stacked on tables. I was (and still am) befuddled.

The show itself was good and we enjoyed both the warm-up comedian and Roy Wood Jr. By the time Wood Jr got off the stage, it was 11 PM but it felt early. Like the entire experience was abbreviated. We were hoping to get a photo but Roy hung out at the bar with a intangible buffer space between him and the line of people exiting, and I didn’t get the feel we were supposed to cross over.

Oh well. Fun night at first, but it got weird at the end. Cinco de Mayo, Saturday night, good weather, and the city felt empty.

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