The day before my catastrophic viewing of Blade Runner: 2049, I finally watched Split on HBO Go and was surprised by just how great it was. M. Night Shyamalan is back and he’s better than he ever was. Yes, it’s better than any of his other movies.

Split is storytelling at its best and the thing that impressed me the most was the thought behind the frame of every single shot in the movie. It really adds to the tension, the atmosphere and the story. Everyone in this movie gives standout performances. Starting with James McAvoy, it’s the performance of his career, as he very believably cycles through multiple personalities. Next is Anya Taylor-Joy, who gives the performance of her young career. I had previously seen her in The Witch and knew she was one to watch. The other two girls in the movie were great too, although they had somewhat limited roles and were overshadowed by McAvoy and Taylor-Joy. Betty Buckley as Dr. Fletcher wasn’t bad, either.

The biggest problem some people would have with this movie is what would appear to be the big reveal about McAvoy’s character, but that was well telegraphed and it’s the final reveal that made this movie great. This would be an A- movie, but it’s the final reveal that makes it an A+ and the reason why is explained below.

Grade: A+

SPOILERS

As is pretty much common knowledge now about Split, the movie takes place in the universe of the Unbreakable film from M. Night Shyamalan back in 2000. This is revealed in the final shot of the film that includes Bruce Willis’ character from that film reminding someone in a diner that the villain’s name from Unbreakable was Glass.

If you’re watching this and don’t know this, as it was not advertised at the time of the film’s release that it’s in the same universe, McAvoy’s character turning into the Beast (named the Horde by society at the end of the movie) would seem somewhat hokey. But, this is an M. Night Shyamalan film and something supernatural or semi-supernatural happening shouldn’t be that surprising and he well-telegraphed this occurring throughout the movie. McAvoy’s character turning into the beast was well done, too, as it was far more subtle than the multiple personalities’ own description of the beast, although his skin does become like armor and he has the ability to scale walls like a lizard.

But, when the reveal occurs that it’s in the same universe as Unbreakable, this film becomes a superhero (actually, supervillain) origins story and when taken in that context, it’s the best origins story ever made for a superhero or supervillain. Yes, really. I can’t find a single flaw in this movie when taken in that context.

This greatly raises expectations for the upcoming film Glass from M. Night Shyamalan where he is presumably tying the three characters of Unbreakable, Split, and Glass together. I’m also very curious about the direction that Taylor-Joy’s character takes in the upcoming film, as The Beast felt she was one of them at the end and the sexual abuse from her Uncle could easily result in her using her powers for evil, not good.

UGH! The last time I saw a movie that should have been great and most everyone said was great that turned out to be a huge stinker was Titanic in 1997.

It’s almost unbelievable. The story is very thin and an hour easy could have been trimmed from this 2 hour and 44 minute film and the possibility exists it could have been cut in half. So, it’s basically a style over substance film and the style portion isn’t that great, either. This Blade Runner world doesn’t even look as good as The Final Cut of Blade Runner in 2007 and the drawn-out portions from the 2049 Blade Runner do nothing to help immerse the viewer in the Blade Runner world, unlike the original.

Everybody plays their part well, but it takes half the movie to get to Harrison Ford’s Deckard, something that was well advertised as being a major part of the movie. And some of the twists are very predictable, [SPOILER] notably the one where Ryan Gosling’s K is not the baby of Deckard and Rachael, as the “twist” that he was the baby occurred too early in the film for it to be real.

There’s another problem with this movie that didn’t sit well with me at all – its misogynistic. We live in a world now where there’s an ongoing war on men from one half of the country and people like the Harvey Weinstein’s, the Matt Lauer’s and the Larry Nassar’s of the world have tipped society to misandry, something equally as bad as misogyny and it’s stunning that the movie is like this and more reviewers didn’t note this. All women are objects in this film, except for Lieutenant Joshi, who is played by legendary Robin Wright, but really, this character could have been played by anyone. For half of the movie there’s giant naked women on the screen for no good reason. Being a heterosexual guy, I normally wouldn’t take huge exception to this, but it really, really looks bad when combined with the major theme of the movie that is outright terrible – that women are only really good for giving birth.

So it’s either barefoot or pregnant for women. I’m surprised they didn’t keep one in the kitchen if there was one that was neither. Oh wait, that’s EXACTLY WHAT THE MOVIE OPENED WITH. I must have forgotten because that was fucking three hours ago.

This movie is garbage and it’s a shocking whiff from director Denis Villeneuve, whose previous two efforts, Arrival and Sicario, were great. And Ridley Scott said this was the best script or something he had ever seen? Bullshit. I was dumb enough to purchase this on Blu-Ray because I figured I would be watching it a second time and I’m really pissed that I did.

Grade: D

Not as good as the reviews stated. While a great war movie from a technical perspective, I was expecting the film to be a little more about the flotilla of some 800 private boats that saved the soldiers at Dunkirk. The movie instead followed a couple of people on the ground/sea, a couple of people in the air, and one private boat.

It was tough to connect to the characters and one of the character’s deaths could be smelled as soon as the character was introduced at the beginning of the movie. And the film was practically a silent movie with nameless characters making for some boring patches. When the flotilla finally arrived kicking off the third act or so, only 8 or 10 boats were shown and the cheering that ensued felt awkward and forced given that there was no emotional connection to the characters.

Nolan also jumps around a bit in time between thee three different subplots and this was unnecessary. The cinematography was gorgeous, but there were a couple of obvious CGI scenes, one towards the end where the entire shot of a plane flying over Dunkirk and its beach was entirely CGI and there was another that was half CGI on the right and both looked a bit awkward.

Ultimately, this is a fairly forgettable Nolan film despite the technical achievements.

Grade: B-

I haven’t watched the Ravens since I abandoned them after they kneeled in London for the Star-Spangled Banner, which originated in Baltimore, and then stood for God Save the Queen, thus confirming they hate America.

I was on twitter and saw that the kickoff temperature was 19 degrees and dropping and the coldest in Ravens home history. I also saw that if the Ravens won, they’re in the playoffs. They were playing the crappy Bungles (Bengals) and I mentioned this to my wife, who then turned on the game.

Further looking at twitter showed that John Harbaugh was mad at the NFL for changing the game time, saying that it would hurt attendance. Obviously, he was deflecting blame for the poor attendance all year in Baltimore. This was the latest in a wide variety of excuses – I saw local Baltimore people blame “the economy” yesterday and others blame the fact that the Ravens aren’t fun to watch.

Or it could be that whole Ravens-hate-America thing. Also, curiously absent on the excuse list was the fact that Baltimore’s murder rate per capita was the highest in history for 2017.

Future revisionists will state Lewis was not kneeling for the anthem, but must have had his legs removed at the knee from an unfortunate accident, or something.

Anyway, further research showed that there were ten playoff scenarios and that the Ravens were in the playoffs in nine of the ten scenarios. The one scenario where they didn’t go to the playoffs was if they lost and the Titans and Bills won.

Lots of people apparently assumed they were going to make the playoffs with many people saying the Ravens had the best chance of beating the Patriots in the playoffs (WTF?). Former Ravens coach Brian Billick put a bit more of an official stamp on that thought saying the Ravens are a “dark horse team that maybe could go all the way” on the NFL network.

Even ESPN had projected the Ravens at a 97% chance of getting into the playoffs according to their “Football Power Index”, whatever made up crap that is.

Hmmm…that last part is a parallel to a certain Presidential election in 2016. What could possibly go wrong?

Of course, I was rooting for the Bungles. I didn’t watch much of the first half, but from what I saw, the Ravens came out playing horrid, especially their receivers who dropped pass after pass. Then the second half came, and the Ravens played a bit better, came back to take the lead along with some help from the officiating, then pissed it away here:

My son remarked how he liked the way I laughed when this play happened. It was quite amusing. I laughed and laughed because the Bills and Titans had either outright won their game or were wrapping up a win at the point that Dalton-Boyd bullet occurred.

I do believe this is why you play the game. Hillary Clinton, I mean Baltimore Ravens, you suck. LMFAO!

These images aren’t mine; I culled them from twitter.

When I walked out of the theater the day after Christmas when I saw The Last Jedi, I felt that it was an entertaining movie and a good, but not great one for the Star Wars franchise. I wrote a brief review of it giving it a B-, but after digesting the movie a little more, I’ve decided it’s only an OK movie, at best, and one that is significantly lower in my ranking of Star Wars films. It’s beautifully shot, the CGI is great, most of the battle scenes and the one real light saber fight scene are intense and the actors do a good job with what’s given to them. But, what’s given to them is the problem with this movie – the script is poor and the character development is lacking. I also have a problem with the politics that entered this movie, which will be discussed below in the spoilers section.

Grade: C-

SPOILERS

After thinking about it later that evening and the next day, this movie indeed has many flaws. After ending The Force Awakens on the dramatic note of Rey handing Luke the light saber, it’s literally immediately tossed away by Luke. This is because Luke is an old curmudgeon who wants Rey off his lawn. Luke stays this way for the majority of the movie and what was done to Luke in the script is a disservice to the character and Star Wars fans. Another major flaw – it’s revealed that Kylo Ren went nuts and killed most of the Jedis-in-training because upon discovering that Kylo Ren was turning to the dark side, Luke’s first thought was to try to kill him in his sleep, something that Luke would never have done in that situation.

The biggest flaw of the movie, by far, is the section where Finn, a new character named Rose, and BB-8 go to the Canto Bight casino. There’s so much wrong here and it’s such garbage, that it takes a while to cover. Plot-wise, it’s completely pointless, adds nothing to the movie and this 20 or 30 minutes should have been completely cut. But, I recognized why that section of the movie was there while watching it and the actual purpose of the scene was to state that A) animal cruelty is bad (duh), and B) being motivated by money is bad. The latter lecture of this section is shockingly hypocritical and more than a bit disingenuous given that the lecture is being delivered by Disney. Did I mention this whole section was garbage?

With regards to the animal cruelty is bad theme, this scene specifically involves alien horse racing and their owners electrocuting them and what not to keep the animals in line. It’s a direct shot at horse racing on modern day Earth, which I don’t really have a problem with taking a shot at, but again, it adds nothing to the movie and when taken in context with some other things shoehorned into the movie, it becomes clear that PETA-level politics have entered the movie, which I do disagree with. A weird scene where Luke milks the big tits of some 20 foot tall ugly alien sea cow to get vomit-green milk is shoehorned in, obviously to dissuade people from drinking milk and later Chewbacca is seen getting ready to eat a rotisserie roasted Porg, the Porgs being cute anthropomorphized animals in the movie only for kids to buy them as toys, up until a Porg with big puppy dog eyes dissuades him from eating it. Obviously, eating chicken means you’re a terrible person, mmmkay? Obviously, you’re a terrible person if you’re not a vegan, mmmkay?

The Canto Bight scene also heavily involves Rose, who is the lamest character to enter the Star Wars universe since Jar Jar Binks. Kelly Marie Tran does a perfectly fine job of acting, but the character simply sucks. She’s a fangirl of Finn’s heroic actions of the prior movie and appears to be there to create a Twilight-level love triangle between Finn, Rey and Rose in the next movie. Combined with some of the politics later in the movie, it’s also clear that Tran was chosen simply because she’s Asian. Being Asian completes this promotional poster for the film ensuring that the future love triangle will involve all three major races – black, white, and Asian.

Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t take exception to this because all three actors are perfectly fine. But, historically speaking, when franchises try too hard to be politically correct or just political in nature, the writing and character development seems to spiral downward. This happened with the Star Trek: Voyager television series for a significantly long period of time, for example, and it happened with The Last Jedi. The difference between television like Star Trek and movie franchise like Star Wars is that with Star Trek, you could tune in to another show the following week and the show was largely reset with potential for a course correction. With Star Wars, it will be two years before episode IX is out. And with Star Trek: Voyager, ratings got so bad they had to break out a pretty white woman with tits bigger than the one Luke was milking in a skin-tight suit playing a fan favorite species (an ex-borg).

Seven of Nine, portrayed by Jeri Ryan, who was brought in at the beginning of the fourth season of Star Trek: Voyager due to declining ratings.

Will Disney try to course correct with the next film and will they overcorrect? I doubt either one will occur and in fact, I expect them to double-down. Already, the negative fan reviews are being blamed on the fictitious “alt-right” and spectacularly fictitious Russian bots, because you know, Russia’s intelligence community wouldn’t focus on infiltrating America’s secret systems, they would obviously be used to lower the audience score on rottentomatoes.com for a Star Wars movie. In episode IX, I expect something similar to a shoehorned homosexual kiss that adds nothing of value to the plot. Perhaps it will be between Rey and Rose frenching it in the Finn/Rey/Rose triangle?

And the politics I’ve covered so far aren’t the worst of it. Poe, another character with plenty of potential from the prior movie, exists simply to be a super-rash flyboy getting loads of people killed to hammer home the point that women are better than men. No, really, that’s what he’s there for in this movie. All of the human generals of the resistance are women and Poe is continuously disobeying orders for the women to turn out to be correct. Again, under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t take exception to this, but the big flaw comes with the Vice Admiral Holdo character, played by Laura Dern. Director Rian Johnson is overt in his politics with the look of Dern and her SJW-purple hue of hair:

Poe leads a mutiny against her later in the film only for her to be correct, of course. The problem here is that had Holdo taken the literally five seconds to explain her plan to Poe, who was repeatedly questioning what she was up to, the mutiny would obviously not have happened. This lack of communication makes Holdo look like an incompetent leader, something that obviously was not the intention of the movie. So, Johnson has unintentionally made millenial SJWs (the target demographic of her character, despite Holdo being played by the older Dern) look like poor leaders at the same time as pissing off men. It’s not a good look. I was genuinely surprised by this failed attempt at propping up SJWs and the other politics of this movie, because Disney so far has been subtler in its politics and it’s been widely reported that Disney now considers the overtly political ESPN to be dragging it down.

What has happened here is Disney has backdoored replacing men with women, among other left politics, without fanfare, unlike Ghostbusters 2016, which took a massive hit from its potential audience before it was released because it replaced all men with women with much fanfare failing to realize this is sexist in and of itself (or maybe being outright misandrist and not caring). Not surprisingly, there’s a lot of anger about this for the The Last Jedi from some men, but if you’re on the left you’ve already been trained to believe those evil Russian hackers online and robots roaming the streets evilly looking at you are responsible for the negativity surrounding it.

Looking online, there are plenty of other gripes about this movie. Many people took exception to the humor in this movie. I found the delivery of the jokes to be good, making them funny. Many people took exception to the “OJ Simpson” style slow chase in the back half of the movie. With the exception of my Holdo complaint, I did not. Others took exception to the physics of space being ignored, like bombs “dropping” in the zero-gravity of space and ships that immediately stop when running out of fuel. Stuff like this is always the case with science fiction movies and while that doesn’t make it right, it can easily be explained by science fiction bullshit technobabble that the director could simply say he cut out of the movie.

I did have a problem with some of the major questions from The Force Awakens being ignored. First was Snoke’s identity. He’s useless and gets cut in half in a lame trick by Kylo Ren. Question unanswered. Second was Rey’s parents. Question answered in an extremely anticlimactic way – her parents were nobody drunks or something. So why is the force so strong with her? Question unanswered. This has led many to state that Rey is simply a Mary Sue (an overly idealized or “perfect” character) and I can’t argue against that opinion now even though I love the character and Daisy Ridley’s portrayal of her.

The last major problem some people have with this movie is that the force itself was used in a much more powerful manner than previous movies. Snoke is apparently able to virtually Vulcan mind-meld Ren and Rey so that they can see and have extended conversations with one another across the galaxy, something that has never been done before. No explanation is given and it further deepens the mystery of Snoke, who was summarily dispatched before any answer was given for him.

Yoda arrives and burns down the tree house or hut or something containing the ancient jedi texts by using force lightning or something, the first time a force ghost has physically altered the world. Yoda was allowing Luke to think that the texts were now destroyed, except it’s later revealed that Rey had taken him. Why didn’t Luke know this given his connection with the force?

Then there was Leia, who has never really used the power she has, coming back from the dead in space and using the force to fly through space looking just like Mary Poppins back to an airlock. This was one of the lamer moments of the movie and I’m surprised they didn’t kill her then because I have no idea what the franchise is going to do with Carrie Fisher dead. If it were the director, I would have had the character tastefully killed off then with reshoots and minor CGI having Luke and Leia meet a little earlier in the film.

Finally, Luke shows up on Crait, chats with Leia a bit and then goes out to Kylo Ren’s army to buy some time for the resistance to escape. Ren fires a billion rounds from all of the artillery and AT-ATs he has at his disposal not even touching Luke and this should have been a big clue that something was amiss. The two then have a brief light sabre fight, their tips touching in their familiar sound, but then Luke allows himself to be cut in half, except he’s wasn’t because he’s a force hologram or something being projected across the galaxy somehow being able to touch others but not allow himself to be touched.

The force being more powerful in this movie may not be a result of lazy writing, but it could be revealed in the next film that the force itself is indeed becoming more powerful than in previous movies, hence the title of the previous film “The Force Awakens”, which most people (including me) took to mean at the time that the force awakened in Rey. This is a theory of mine and I assume it could be already mentioned elsewhere on the ‘net; I’ve only done a brief review of reviews and other items.

Another two characters who were useless: the “code breaker” hacker named DJ and again, Captain Phasma. DJ is played by Benicio Del Toro, he’s involved in the Canto Bight scene and it’s a shame his character was useless because he’s a great actor. Phasma simply shows up at some point to be killed by Finn, a shame again because Gwendoline Christie has proven herself to be awesome over on Game of Thrones.

All of that having been said, it will be interesting to see what ramifications the politics of the movie has on future audiences. Some people are saying this movie is a franchise killer. While Ghostbusters 2016 killed that franchise (I didn’t even watch that one), I doubt this movie really is a Star Wars franchise killer. I can tell it is to those who are pissed off by it, though, and I’m sure a decent amount of people are. While women are a healthy part of science fiction fan bases, the reality is that they are majority men (hence Seven of Nine’s introduction in Star Trek: Voyager with publicity shots focusing on her ginormous bewbs to bring back viewership). Thus, Disney attacking men is not a wise move in this case. I do believe I speak for most men who enjoy science fiction that all we want is a good story and characters. We don’t like to be attacked and we don’t need big bewbs to bring back our viewership, we can see those elsewhere.

As for me, I find it just bad enough to skip watching future movies in the theater. I haven’t been that interested in the Han Solo movie coming out in 2018 and I’ll watch that one on streaming depending on people’s real reviews, not rotten tomatoes tomatometer, which has been suspect for a couple of years now (funny some people are just figuring that out now). The same goes for episode IX in later 2019.

Finally, my updated rankings of Star Wars films are as follows:

  1. Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
  2. Episode IV: A New Hope
  3. Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
  4. Episode VII: The Force Awakens
  5. Rogue One
  6. Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
  7. Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
  8. Episode I: The Phantom Menace
  9. Episode II: Attack of the Clones

The first two on the list are great films. The next four are all good, but not great films. They’re pretty much interchangeable on the list and prior lists of mine may have had them in a different order. The last two are turds. That leaves The Last Jedi somewhere between the good, but not great films and the turds.

Update (12/28/17):

The day after posting this, I saw an article online where the author infers that Disney will be forced to include gays in episode IX. Looks like I’m not the only one thinking that:

This diversity push is truly admirable. But in 2018 Star Wars still lacks any gay, lesbian, or genderqueer characters. Expect someone to notice this shortcoming right around the release of Solo: A Star Wars Story, when they note that Han’s continuing characterization as a hetero cis-male is a problem.

My dad was talking about a movie on Amazon Prime titled Predestination and said it was pretty good so I watched it. It’s several years old, but I figure I’ll make some notes on it anyway. The basic information about the film that can be found online states that it’s a film starring Ethan Hawke as a temporal agent tasked with stopping crimes committed by future killers and that his final task is to stop someone known as the “fizzle bomber”.

Unfortunately, that’s not exactly what this movie is about. But, to state what the movie is about would basically spoil the movie, so I see why that’s the description. Also, the first billed actor of this film should not be Hawke, it should be Sarah Snook, who plays “The Unmarried Mother”. Snook is fantastic in this film, has the most screen time, and it’s a shame she wasn’t given more credit.

As for the film itself, I have a number of issues with it including the fact that the first half of the movie is almost entirely exposition from a first-person voiceover, a narrative technique that I do not enjoy. But it’s all Snook doing it in this case and she was great.

Then there’s the fact that trying to apprehend the fizzle bomber is hardly in the movie. About a third of the way through the film is when it becomes obvious that the movie is not about apprehending the fizzle bomber and that a number of obvious plot twists are coming up. But, there were even more plot twists than anticipated, so some of them were interesting, whereas others were not.

I would give the film a C because of its slowness and some of the aforementioned predictable plot twists, but the movie is actually refreshingly original and Snook’s performance allows for a higher grade.

Grade: B

 

SPOILERS

As the title suggests, everything in the movie has been predetermined to happen, so there isn’t a satisfying conclusion of Hawke’s character stopping the fizzle bomber. This is because the movie takes place entirely in a completely closed temporal loop where the temporal agent is all three – The Unmarried Mother (Jane), John, and the fizzle bomber.

The twist where John meets Jane accidentally, falls in love with him/herself, then impregnates him/herself, then gives birth to him/herself is interesting, but as is the case with many time loop movies, it raises more questions than answers. Most notably, how did this closed time loop get created in the first place to make this possible?

The storytelling here is also a little awkward because the fact that John is Jane gets revealed in the middle of the movie, then it’s acted as though it’s a big reveal a little later and then two more times near the end of the movie. Or maybe I’m more adept at picking this stuff up than the average filmgoer? I don’t think so, but I’m not sure.

But, the movie does make you think, despite its shortcomings. Not surprisingly, there’s a few posts on the internet explaining temporal loops, how the loop interacts in the movie, the types of paradoxes, etc. A good one is here, another one is here.

Some of the chatter in these articles and the comments touch on my biggest issue with the film (no explanation for the creation of the closed loop). Some say Robertson must have created it since he said multiple times how important it was to stick to the mission. This is what I believe the movie was trying to say. But why did Robertson want to create the closed loop? My guess is that it’s for the fizzle bomber to be somehow contained in the loop while time carries on outside of the loop without the bomber. The only reason I say this is because there obviously was no major bombing of New York in 1975 in our timeline (us, the viewers) even though it’s clear at the end of the movie that event will indeed still happen. Keeping the bombing and the political aftermath of it inside the closed loop would be beneficial to society.

Or it could be the result of the supposed invention of time travel in 1981 in the film with something having gone wrong and time twisting back on itself. It’s unfortunate the film gives no real clues.

Back in 2007, I bought the Blade Runner: Final Cut Blu-ray. After viewing it, I asked the question “Is Blade Runner: Final Cut the best movie ever made?” on myspace. I personally found it to be a flawless movie and while I’m not going to disagree with certain criticisms of the movie, I will disagree with a reviewer if it is not at least on their best science fiction films list.

So, I was excited to see Blade Runner: 2049 last weekend. As mentioned here, that didn’t happen, thanks again to AMC Theatres. This weekend my son was going to a birthday party at the cheap movie theatre, so my daughter wanted to go and see The Emoji Movie. So, we went and after viewing it, I have to ask the question “Is The Emoji Movie the Worst Movie Ever Made?”

It’s really that bad.

I had extremely low expectations going into the movie thanks to following Chris Stuckmann’s reviews and seeing a 0% on Rotten Tomatoes earlier in the year (the current 10% fresh rating has to be from fake reviews), but those extremely low expectations still weren’t met. Honestly, I couldn’t find a single redeeming quality of the movie. The plot was lame, the characters were lame, the animation was lame and the jokes weren’t even jokes. Here’s an actual joke from the movie:

The high five emoji bumps into the coffee emoji and says “Oh hi tea.”

The coffee emoji then says “I’m not tea, I’m coffee.”

Quality stuff and I’m sorry I spoiled that punchline for you. My daughter laughed once during the whole movie. I don’t remember what she laughed at, but it wasn’t at this “joke”. There was also a big “reveal” or “plot twist” that was attempted and fell remarkably flat. There was also a shot at men from the primary female character at one point, which is obligatory for everything on the big or small screen in the past two decades, but I found it kind of odd since I thought we were past that since everyone has been deemed one single sex and gender now by the very same people who take shots at men. There were also awkward edits and transitions in the first half of the movie.

But none of this is what makes it eligible for “worst movie ever” status. What makes it eligible is that the movie’s plot is simply there to take the viewer from one commercial to the next. No, seriously, that’s all the movie is – it’s one sequence of commercials. If you would like to have the experience of watching The Emoji Movie, here’s how to do it in the comfort of your home. Take a ten dollar bill out of your wallet, burn it, then go online and watch extended commercials for WeChat, Candy Crush, Just Dance, Spotify, Twitter, Instagram and Dropbox. In fact, doing this would probably be far more entertaining.

The Just Dance commercial, oops, I mean segment of the movie is particularly egregious as is the Candy Crush commercial, which is simply a tutorial of how to play the game. About half way through the movie, I wondered where the inside jokes were for adults that were having to watch the movie, but I quickly remembered there weren’t even any jokes for the kids, so it didn’t matter. But then, towards the end of the movie when it got to Dropbox, I realized the Dropbox commercial showing off its supposedly powerful security features was there for the adults because what kid is going to be interested in Dropbox?

The day after I watched the movie, I happened across The Film Theorists on youtube and they had just released a video talking about this exact thing. They make a strong argument that what The Emoji Movie did should be highly illegal:

But the fact that it’s one big sequence of commercials is actually not the most egregious thing about the movie. That accolade goes to the fact that they somehow got legendary Sir Patrick Stewart to voice the poop emoji in this movie. I guess everyone has their price.

I’ll have to revisit my “worst movies ever” list to give it some thought on where this one will be placed on it. Sure, there are plenty of “worse” movies, but it’s a very short list for ones from major studios (in this case, Sony) or movies that take themselves seriously. In the mean time, I have to give a couple of notes on the movie-going experience. It was at the cheap theatre, which I hadn’t been to in over a decade and couldn’t even remember. So I didn’t know what I was getting into, but my expectations were pretty low for the theatre experience too.

Some family towards the front of the theatre had brought in a ~2 year old child who was either crying or shouting for the first third of the movie before the mom and toddler had to leave. This is par for the course for any movie for kids, so it didn’t annoy me. About ten minutes after they left, a loud sound like a wild boar snorting started up and continuously made noise. At first, I thought it was some part of the movie, but it continued and as I looked around, I found that it was a man two rows ahead of us making the sound. I then came to the realization that the entire row of ~8 people two rows ahead of us were all mentally disabled people.

Wild boar man made his sound for about five minutes straight before stopping and started up two more times before the movie ended while others intermittently clapped or made noise. I didn’t have a problem with it either and what I’m trying to say is the theatre experience was the same, if not better, than the AMC White Marsh 16 Theatres, which I haven’t been able to go to two times in a row now. The screen and sound were both acceptable at the cheap theatre and I think I’ll go back.

I suppose this is different from the “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me” idiom, but it does mark the second time in a row I’ve tried to go see a movie at AMC White Marsh 16, only to have to turn around at the theatre and go home.

This time around, I was trying to see Blade Runner 2049 before I accidentally spoiled it for myself online. I purchased my ticket online later in the morning for the 2:15 showing and arrived at 2:00. I was greeted by employees at the entrance informing me that the theatre was closed “due to an incident’ and that it would “probably be closed for the rest of the day.” They said if I already purchased a ticket, I could use it on a later date.

When I got home, I checked online to see if they had marked the theatre as closed and indeed they had (title image). I would rather not go to AMC Theatres any more given the recent troubles, but I purchased my ticket using AMC Stubs rewards, so I’m guessing it will be a hassle to get it refunded. So whenever I go to see Blade Runner 2049, almost certainly after it’s been spoiled for me, it will likely be the last time I go to the White Marsh Theatres and AMC Theatres for a while because it does seem to be a major hassle.

This is a full play-by-play of the eclipse with some technical details and minor analysis. Hopefully someone out there reads this and gets an idea of what maybe to do and not to do with their cameras during an eclipse. Click photos for full size ones.

I had identified the totality of the solar eclipse of Monday, August 21, 2017 as one I wanted to see years ago. It was the first one that I had access to see within my lifetime with plenty of options for travel within the United States to see it. I had planned on scheduling a big trip over a year out to see it, but the discovery of brain cancer and complications from it throughout 2016 led me to believe there was a reasonable chance of not being alive to see it. So, I waited until later December, 2016 to decide on a trip when it had become clearer that the tumor, or complications from it, would not kill me in the short term. I ultimately chose the Charleston, SC area, specifically Isle of Palms to the east/northeast as the viewing location. My other options seemed to be western KY or Tennessee, but neither provided a lot of options for entertaining my two kids. Given that my kids love the beach, Isle of Palms seemed like a no-brainer choice for a viewing location even though it would literally be the last place to see it along its path because the parts of SC further to the northeast within totality on the map along the coastline are uninhabited.

Sometime between then and the eclipse, the marketing and excitement within the general public for the eclipse began and the resort I was staying at, Wild Dunes, began a marketing campaign of “Dunes Go Dark”. Eclipse fever was in full effect when we arrived Friday later in the afternoon. For the week before the eclipse, the forecast was for partly cloudy skies with a 20% chance of showers on eclipse day. That was true as of that Saturday morning, but by Saturday afternoon the forecast for that Monday had changed to mostly cloudy skies with a 50% chance of showers. That forecast stayed the same through that Monday, with only the chances of showers varying from between 30% and 50%. Ultimately, the final forecast from forecasters was that skies would be cloudy and showers would be along the coastline for the morning and early to mid-afternoon before redeveloping inland sometime in the afternoon. I had previously decided I would drive to the northwest corner of South Carolina or far western North Carolina if the weather looked like it could be bad, but I decided to risk it and stay put on the beach for the eclipse.

At the time I booked the trip, I purchased a pair of plastic eclipse glasses and four of the cheaper paper eclipse glasses commonly seen. I also purchased an 8’x8″ solar filter sheet of the same material seen in the paper glasses to make a cheap filter for my camera for the partial parts of the eclipse. I definitely wanted some photos of the eclipse in all of its phases. My primary camera and lens combination is a Nikon D7100 with an 18-200mm lens. I had previously taught myself manual modes of DSLRs when I first got a DSLR in 2009, but I lost what I had learned and largely just became a “dad with a camera” using automatic mode almost exclusively.

A couple of months prior to the trip, I made my filters for my camera and took some test shots of the sun. My original plan was to try to do a time-lapse of the entire eclipse, if the skies were relatively clear, by using the filter during the partial phases of the eclipse and no filter during totality. I quickly discovered that a full time-lapse was not even close to possible because the sun moved too quickly across the sky. Even at 50 or 70mm, the sun moved too quick across the frame to be able to make a fairly seamless time-lapse. The test shots of the sun turned out well through the filter, though, and I jotted down some manual settings that I felt may help if there were light clouds or haze even though automatic mode seemed to work pretty well.

I then did some test shots of the nearly full moon at 200mm using some of the settings listed here:

 

The Nikon guide on photographing an eclipse helped too:

What I found was that all the photos of the moon looked relatively similar, but did not reveal any of the finer details of the moon and its craters, as I felt they should. Historically, my camera has always taken shit pictures of the moon no matter what I tried and this is the reason there was no way I was going to rely on automatic mode for the eclipse. It was only when I jacked up the ISO to 1600 in this series of tests that the details became a little clearer. I ultimately decided on an ISO of 1600, an f/number of 22 and a shutter speed of 1/200 as what I would attempt to photograph the eclipse with and those are the settings that were used to take this photo of the moon. The moon turned out significantly darker than it was to the eyes in this test, but it seemed like the best the camera would do:

According to the chart, those settings would give me some of the corona, which is all I wanted to capture as a memory, but really had no clue as to what I was going to get or if the photos were even going to look good at all. I also decided that since I was not going to be able to do a full time-lapse that I may take the camera off of my tripod right before totality so that I could also snap some quick pictures of the way the sky looked around the beach, as I figured this may look pretty cool too. But, I was bringing my old D70 for that, or as a backup camera in case my primary one somehow failed.

The day before the eclipse, I went on a fossil hunting trip in Summerville, SC and pulled out my old Nikon D70 to take some photos. The D70 game me a “CHA” error after snapping a photograph and turning the camera off and on allowed for another photo to be taken before the error occurred again. The same thing happened a third time. I didn’t try to take any more photos and when I got home, the photos were corrupted, and a quick internet search led me to believe that the CHA error is a result of a corrupt compact flash card or the camera having issues writing to it. So, my backup camera had failed.

Monday, August 21 arrived and the weather was mostly shit for viewing an eclipse. Skies were almost completely cloudy as a whole, a result of partly cloudy skies at the low, mid and high levels. There were even some sprinkles later in the morning, but a look at the radar showed the near-stationary thunderstorm bands to be forming about 20 miles inland and about 20 miles offshore, leaving us in the middle to be largely rain-free. The radar couldn’t be completely trusted, however, because the Charleston radar had failed the day before due to a lightning strike and wouldn’t be fixed until at least Tuesday, and the radar I was looking at was from far-away Columbia, SC. Regardless, my wife and I both remarked that it was great beach weather, if it wasn’t eclipse day, as the clouds made it feel nice without the sun beating down on us.

By partial eclipse start time, the sun had become mostly visible through the high clouds and I got some photos on a five second timer. They weren’t nearly as good looking as the test shots I had taken back at my house in Baltimore in clear skies, but they don’t look terrible either. Also, the videos didn’t show the transit of the moon nearly as well as I had hoped they would.

Here’s one just as the eclipse started:

Here’s another that seems overexposed after I manipulated the f/number and shutter speed in an attempt to make it look better through the clouds:

The last video shows the sun going behind a cloud deck and the sun continued to not be visible at all back behind cloud decks at all three levels:

 

It was especially the mid-level cloud deck that was the problem. This lasted for 45 minutes until about 10 minutes before totality. At this time, the low-level clouds started to dissipate and the mid-level cloud deck started to move away resulting in the sun being visible through the high cloud layer. People began cheering as the sun was now visible and nearly totally obscured by the moon. The low incoming solar radiation had made the sky look weird, too. It wasn’t like the evening; it was just different and a little eerie as pale sunlight came down from above. In the week before the eclipse, I had read a number of articles talking about animals acting unusual, like dolphins coming up to the surface of the ocean, starting about 15 minutes before totality. I can totally see why a more intelligent animal, like a dolphin, would come up to check out what was going on given the unusual light. This Gull’s behavior was not abnormal, however, as it was flying low looking for food in the low light that the crowd may have dropped on the beach:

I took my camera off the tripod. At this time, I snapped this photo without a filter and the time index indicates it was nine minutes before totality. Playing with the .nef file revealed just how many high clouds were remaining in place for the approaching totality:

Within a minute, photos without a filter were too bright because the clouds low and mid-level clouds continued to dissipate. I then snapped this photo with the filter. It didn’t turn out as well:

I kept briefly looking up at the sun, hoping that I didn’t blind myself. The photo through the filter overexposes the sun making the crescent look bigger, as I could see, and the previous photo showed, that it was just a small sliver at the time. With only a minute or so to go to totality, some younger women a few beach blankets towards the ocean started playing “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler:

Then, totality came and the dunes went dark. The sun’s corona was clearly visible to the naked eye, despite the high cloud cover and the crowd continued to cheer. I had switched to the manual settings that I had wanted and snapped a quick picture as it entered totality. When I looked at it later, I wasn’t sure what was going on in the bottom left quadrant of the picture in the reddish area, but research leads me to believe the camera was picking up the chromosphere. As to why it’s blurry, it could easily be caused by the clouds, it could easily be lens shake from me, it could be features of the chromosphere itself, it could be blurry bailey’s beads, or some combination of all four:

Subsequent photos clearly show red solar prominences extending out from the sun:

Both the chromosphere and solar prominences being visible in the photos were completely unexpected to me and these were not visible to the naked eye. It’s curious that neither my wife or I saw them, yet they are clear in the photos and that they are clear despite the high cloud cover. It’s also curious that Mr. Eclipse’s chart believes a much quicker (in fact, 10x quicker) shutter speed is necessary to capture prominences. Did the high clouds somehow bring them out? But also, the corona was a little less expansive in the photo than I was expecting. Surely the clouds were an inhibiting factor for that?

I then switched to automatic mode, just to make sure those pictures weren’t better and snapped several. They were shit, as expected, and this is by far the best one I got:

I then very quickly snapped a few photos of the way the sky looked towards the ocean, which was similar to sunset:

The bright spot in the sky in this photo is not a star, but someone’s drone filming totality:

But then, the color in the sky was lost as we entered the middle of totality:

At this time, my daughter noted what was likely Venus shining brightly in the sky. But, we couldn’t see any other stars given the cloud cover. We could also see flashes of lightning from the thunderstorm band to the north. At first, I thought it might have been people’s flashes on their camera, but it was definitely lightning without the thunder. This is what some people call nighttime heat lightning, which is a misnomer. I switched back to photographing the eclipse on manual and snappedtwo more photos.

I then took some wider angle shots on the same manual setting in the hopes of picking up Venus and perhaps some of the clouds, but that didn’t happen:

What’s noteworthy, though, is that the solar prominences are still visible, indicating that their visibility was definitely not a function of my lens extending to 200mm, as these shots were taken around 32mm.

A closer look at the eclipse at 32mm, still showing the prominences:

I then went back to 200mm as the eclipse was exiting totality and got a series of shots, ending in the diamond ring effect:

Every year or two I take a photo that becomes my new “favorite photo” that I’ve taken and one of the final photos of the diamond ring effect, with the “diamond” flanked by solar prominences on each side is my new favorite photo. My imagination tells me it’s a diamond surrounded by rubies. I like that it also highlights the fact that clouds were there, as that was part of the eclipse experience. I made a quick widescreen wallpaper out of it with some minor adjustments:

Here’s an animated .gif of all the photos taken of totality at 200mm. I tried to line them up, but it’s not perfect:

The sun came almost fully out shortly after totality and I was able to snap some pictures that were closer to the original test shots of the sun at home:

Here’s a last video as the sun was lowering in the sky:

With about 20 minutes of partial eclipse left, the thunderstorms started migrating south towards us slightly, as they reformed on their own outflow boundary, and threw some more high and mid level clouds over the sun, obscuring it. I could tell that was it for the eclipse, so I turned off my camera and started packing everything up to head back to the resort and make some backup copies of all of the photos.

Analysis of the photos taken around the beach indicate to me a possible reason why the low level clouds dissipated shortly before the eclipse and that is because the eclipse itself was occurring. I believe the significantly reduced solar radiation prior to totality may have broken the convection currents happening at the time causing the low level cumulus clouds to dissipate. From a general perspective, a daytime convective current at the beach looks like this:

At the cloud level, lower level cumulus clouds form as a result of the sun heating the surface of the earth. The air rises, causing the cloud to form, then the air descends on either side of the cloud in return flow. With the solar output reduced, the surface of the earth wasn’t warming, thus the convection currents may have been broken.

I’ve circled and drawn some arrows on one of the previous photos on a set of clouds that I believe shows this. While the clouds’ initial convective structure is still intact, these clouds out over the ocean are clearly in a dissipating stage, as they look tilted, jagged and weak:

Photos looking east/northeast still show some thicker lower level clouds and even a sprinkle out over the ocean, so it doesn’t fully explain the dissipation over my exact locality, and it doesn’t explain the mid-level clouds luckily departing, either.

Taking the photos and looking at them later has been fun. While I did a little bit of homework prior to the eclipse, I would say it was still about 95% luck that the photos turned out as well as they did with the low-level clouds dissipating and mid-level clouds departing and the chromosphere and prominences unexpectedly turning up in the photos. If you’re a dad or mom with a camera, amateur or novice DSLR user and I had to summarize some bullet points for photographing an eclipse, they would be:

  • Make sure your camera is set to write raw files (.nef files for Nikons) or jpg and raw files simultaneously. I had gotten away from this practice, but made sure raw output was being written prior to the eclipse.
  • Make your own cheap solar filter if you want, or don’t. The pictures are only a little better than taking a camera phone and snapping a picture through eclipse glasses. The photos are impersonal and difficult to take if there’s any clouds.
  • The time-lapses would be cool, though, if the transit of the moon can be shown clearly. Obviously, get a tripod if you’re going to do this. My interval was five seconds and I don’t think there’s such a thing as taking too many photos in a time lapse, so the interval could have been shorter. It’s just dependent on the total number of photos the camera allows in a sequence and how long the battery is going to last before you have to switch it.
  • Do your homework and find the best possible setting for taking a photo of the moon with your DSLR. Hopefully this translates well to the low light of eclipse totality.
  • I totally forgot to test out bracketing of shutter speeds or set this up before the eclipse. This is something that should be done.
  • Write all of your settings that you decided on down on a piece of a paper so that you don’t lose track of what you’re doing. There’s only several minutes, at best, to see a total eclipse and capture it and you’ll want to look at it with your own eyes too.
  • Get yourself a pair of plastic eclipse glasses, not the paper or cardboard kind. It will be much easier to work with them in the partial eclipse phases.
  • If your camera lens doesn’t have the eclipse filter on it, but it’s pointed at the sun on a tripod, cover it with a towel or something so it doesn’t get overly hot.

Before this one, the last total solar eclipse visible in the contiguous United States was in 1979. The next one will be in 2024:

Looking at the map, I can’t be the only one thinking a trip to Niagra Falls is in order? Maybe I’ll get some even better photos when the Falls Go Dark.

***
Here’s a few more photos from the Isle of Palms and Capers Island:

 

 

 

So I got an email from AMC Theatres a little while ago about a free advanced screening for The Hitman’s Bodyguard at 7:00 at my local White Marsh theater sponsored by gofobo. It said I was receiving the email because I am an AMC Stubs Premiere member. I’ve previously been to several gofobo screenings and it took me to the gofobo site and I scored a ticket for myself, or so I thought.

Gofobo screenings can fill up if you don’t get there early because they give away more tickets than seats to ensure a full house, but I got there a half hour early, which was plenty of time, especially since most of the movies don’t sell out unless you get there with only a few minutes to spare. I asked a woman who takes tickets where to line up for the movie and she said I first had to get a physical ticket. So, I went to the counter to get a physical ticket and the guy said it was sold out and that I couldn’t see the movie. This was all fine, well and good, except the guy had a giant stack of VIP passes (whatever that means) professionally printed on quality stock paper to hand out to people to get access to the movie for free from August 21-24. The whole thing smelled strongly of a bait and switch.

As I left, a guy saw that I had the pass in the parking lot and approached me and asked if I knew we were supposed to go to the theater days in advance to get the ticket. I had no idea that was the case. I still wouldn’t have that big of a problem with it all if the movie wasn’t starting at the tail end of rush hour. White Marsh is only 2 or 3 miles from my house, but in the shit show Perry Hall and White Marsh rush hour that means 20 minutes one way. And who would want to go to The Avenue at White Marsh twice to see a movie, once to get a ticket and once to watch the movie?

The jury is out in my mind as to whether or not this was a true bait and switch. If the movie gets shit reviews, I will feel strongly that it was a bait and switch and that they were simply giving away free tickets for the movie after it opened to pad their numbers after the opening weekend and the bad reviews and bad word of mouth spread. Regardless, I won’t bother with any AMC Stubs Premiere advanced screening passes in the future.