Has it been thirty years already?

Po-Hi 30 Year Reunion

I traveled back to my home town this weekend for my thirty-year high school class reunion. It was great seeing old friends again even though I had not kept in touch with most of them.

We started with a welcome mixer at an outdoor local bar where even the locals were sweating through their shirts. I sometimes forget how fortunate I am to live in the Denver, Colorado, area where it is rarely over 20% humidity and the temperatures rarely exceed 95 in the hottest part of the summer. I am also happy that we have outlawed smoking in most public places — I had to wash the clothing I was wearing twice when I made it back home to rid them of the nasty smoke odors.

88 cookies
88 cookies

On Saturday night we moved to an indoor venue, the local Country Club, for drinks, appetizers and an 80s tribute band, ostensively for dancing. Two of my favorite teachers from my high school years were also in attendance, and it was great to see them again!

80s Enuf
80s Enuf

I spent a few days with my father as well on this trip, which was wonderful. I am finding that spending time with family becomes more important as I get older.

Hotel Artemis

Jodie Foster! Jeff Goldblum! Also: Dave Bautista, Sterling K. Brown, Sofia Boutella, Jenny Slate, Zachary Quinto, Charlie Day!

I wasn’t sure what this film was going to actually be. I had seen the trailers that indicated the movie was about an exclusive, near-future Los Angeles hospital for criminals. There are the typical ten-years-from-now-technology-will-be-amazing plot points, and the story rides on the current vibe that the wealthy of the world will take advantage of the poor, to the point where the water supply in Southern California is privatized (isn’t it already, though?) and the population riots in response to high prices and limited availability. The riots make up the backdrop of this gritty, dirty Los Angeles where somehow Jeff Goldblum is the crime boss (“The Wolf King of L.A.”) — a crime lord who wears Gucci dress sandals.

Jodie Foster is the Nurse who runs the Hotel Artemis, where criminals and wealthy VIPs pay large amounts of money for membership to provide immediate medical treatment for any issues they may have, including 3D-printing of organs. There are Rules of Membership (“do not kill the other patients”, “no weapons allowed”) that are strictly followed until they’re not, and the Nurse has a backstory that explains her gripping anxiety and inability to leave the confines of the hotel. Dave Bautista plays the Orderly, “Everest,” who uses her agoraphobia for a little comic relief, until she overcomes it briefly to save an injured police officer who turns up at the alley door. This violates another Rule of the Hotel Artemis: No Cops.

A confrontation occurs later when a weapons dealer (Day), an assassin (Boutella), a former gangster (Brown) and the Wolf King all meet up during the height of the riot. Oh, and the former gangster was in the middle of a bank holdup with his brother who accidentally stole a pen-vault thingy from a guy wearing a suit (who looks a lot like Jason Statham) that contains six Uber-rare yellow diamonds that happen to belong to the Wolf King…

The plot is not quite as convoluted as my description makes it sound, and the film is enjoyable overall.

Recommended.

Avengers: Infinity War

Avengers: Infinity War
Avengers: Infinity War

I would be crazy to say anything about “Avengers: Infinity War” in public before most people have a chance to see it themselves. Pro tip: don’t be a dick and talk/gasp/cry in the theatre. Nobody (me) wants to hear that.

A Quiet Place

A Quiet Place
A Quiet Place

I was not sure what to think about “A Quiet Place” when I first saw trailers for it. It looked okay, if a little derivative. Felt like I had seen something like it before. I started reading good press about it a few weeks ago and HOW DID I NOT KNOW EMILY BLUNT IS IN IT? Apparently the story (as she related it on dozens of PR interviews) is that her husband John Krasinski was directing and staring in it and another actress was cast for the role of “the wife.” After reading the script, Blunt decided to take the role for herself… I guess it’s good to sleep with the boss in this particular case.

I really enjoyed how much (but not all) of the film is nearly silent. The lack of sound adds to the tension in spots while the soundtrack does help to crank up the anxious moments. I really appreciated that there is almost no mention of the backstory of how these creatures came to be on Earth, destroying almost all of society. I love when a film doesn’t have to explain its backstory to the audience.

One warning: the lack of audio in the film will definitely make you notice how awful and noisy the average filmgoer is these days.

Annihilation

Annihilation
Annihilation

I went into viewing this film without ever reading (or hearing about) Jeff VanderMeer’s “Southern Reach” trilogy of novels, and therefore had no idea how director and screenplay author Alex Garland changed the book for the big screen. Nonetheless, the film looks great and literally had me hooked from a single audio effect used in the trailers that played at nearly every film I watched at The Alamo Drafthouse for a few months prior to its release. I cannot wait until the film is released on home video so I can sample that sound effect for text tones on my smart phone — yes, I am that nerd.

The film itself kept me enthralled as it explored a different type of alien invasion, where the invader attempts to change to fit our environment while inadvertently (?) changing ours with its presence. The visuals are beautifully shot and the climatic scene weirds out into a psychedelic sequence that made me think of the equally strange “Under The Skin” starring Scarlett Johansson from about five years ago. Unfortunately I think the visualization of the scene probably did not win many fans, although after reading the “Annihilation” novel of the Southern Reach trilogy it actually made more sense to me.

I recommend you find the Southern Reach trilogy and read it before seeing the film.

Black Panther

Black Panther
Black Panther

As an old, fat Caucasian man I am not qualified to review the social importance of this film beyond the standard platitudes of “finally, a big-budget action film with a mostly black cast.” Sitting in the bar before the showing I overheard a lot of people who were VERY excited about the social importance of this film, though. It was great to see so many people enthused about a film!

I enjoyed the film and look forward to see how Wakanda fits into Marvel’s idealized universe in the future.

Mom And Dad

Mom And Dad
Mom And Dad

Holy crap, this was a crazy fun ride! Nicolas Cage was at his finest here as a part of the cast, not as the “star” of the film. There were sufficient amounts of Nic Cage crazy without overwhelming (and ruining) the rest of the plot. I realize the bar is set pretty low, but I feel this is the best film with Nic Cage (ever?).

About a third of the way into the film we start to see that something is wrong with the world. Not the most original plot point, for sure, but I enjoyed the way that something is visible peripherally to the story. There’s no obvious cause or solution, just a problem that must be dealt with as everyone begins to understand that parents suddenly have an overwhelming urge to kill their children. Not ALL children, just their own offspring.

One of the pull quotes from the film’s poster describes it as “… a twisted remake of ‘Home Alone’ on bath salts.” That feels very accurate. The kids have to deal with parents who suddenly want to kill them. The film doesn’t just present the adults as homicidal zealots, either. They carefully plan how to murder their children without any inkling that it is wrong. The parents are aware that others are killing their children, too, but dismiss it as a natural thing to do.

I laughed inappropriately at much of the last half of the movie, partly as a stress release after one particularly anxious scene at the hospital when Selma Blair’s character’s sister gives birth during the crisis. The writer and director, Brian Taylor, shoots the film in a decidedly different, almost trippy, style. I loved it!

Beers I paired with the film: Fiction Brewing Malice and Darkness, Odyssey Beerwerks Psycho Penguin Vanilla Porter

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi”

Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Initially had tickets to see this film at 11 PM on Thursday but blew that off to spend the evening with friends (at a brewery, who would have guessed). Went Friday morning at 9 AM.

My initial reaction was: This is my favorite Star Wars film yet, even over “The Empire Strikes Back”. Seeing it again tomorrow evening and will add my thoughts afterwards…

I Actually Won Something

Signed DU puck (by Lindsay)

Back in October I attended a University Of Denver hockey game over Homecoming weekend. Outside of the area before the game there was a beer garden, food and musical entertainment for “Hocktoberfest.” I entered to win a signed puck AND I WON! The puck came in the mail today.

Vortex Alley Brewing Company

Vortex Alley Brewing Company
Vortex Alley Brewing Company

Ponca City has a craft brewery!

I stopped in on Wednesday afternoon to check out their beers and was pleasantly surprised. I was also hopeful for their success as at 3:30 PM they were nearly full of patrons. Yes, I understand the brewery had only been open a couple weeks at this point so there was the “new factor” in play, but still optimistic for their long-term success. Their smoked stout was good and the specialty holiday beer, a cranberry gose, was also quite tasty. In fact, I took home a growler to share with the family.

We returned on Saturday night to another packed house and a sure sign of potential success for a new brewery: running out of beer. Several of the varieties were gone by Saturday evening, including the wheat beer that I assumed my father would be able to drink… he thinks most craft beers are “too wangy”.

I don’t envy the owners in gauging the ongoing demand for their product in an area where people will drive 20+ miles to shop at WalMart because they have green beans for a nickel per can cheaper. I also don’t envy their having to navigate Oklahoma’s strange and obscure liquor laws. Nobody under 21 years of age can enter the premises, even just to deliver food; apparently they cannot open on Sunday; closing time is 9 PM; growlers must be sealed with tape (???). I suppose the people of Oklahoma should be happy they can actually consume the product on the premises, something that wasn’t allowed before this year. I also understand there are more taproom-friendly law changes coming in 2018.

Opening over a holiday weekend ensures good crowds but puts the pressure on to keep plenty of beer on-hand. They have also already learned that food trucks often cancel at the last minute, and my question about bringing my dogs in the taproom had not yet been anticipated. Judging from photos online they did allow a small dog inside later. One of my favorite aspects of Colorado breweries is an outdoor patio area but I don’t know where they would put a patio in their limited space.

I wish them nothing but continued success and pan to return over the Christmas holidays.