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.

Spoilers

Sometimes when re-watching movies later in life, the movie is better on the second viewing. Other times it seems worse, or at least dated. When I re-watched The Sixth Sense for the first time in 18 years, I found it to be exactly the way I remembered it to be, which was very good. It’s got the star power of Bruce Willis, a rare great child performance courtesy of a then entirely-unknown Haley Joel Osment and an academy award winning performance from a then-relatively-unknown Toni Collette. It’s too bad Olivia Williams character couldn’t be in it more, because she was great as well.

My biggest problem with this movie at the time was the twist ending. I didn’t buy it at all at the time, but I was one of the rare people who thought the movie was great despite not buying the ending. Of course, when re-watching it, I was on the lookout for clues to the twist, and found some that I didn’t see at the time, including some references from Cole (Osment), which seemed to indicate he was aware Dr. Crowe (Willis) was a ghost the entire time. But, I still feel Dr. Crowe getting shot towards the beginning of the film followed by a cut to a scene that begins with “The Next Fall” showing him seemingly alive and well was cheap and ruined the twist, something I said at the time following the movie. “The Next Fall” established that a significant amount of time had passed and seemed like a lame trick to play on the audience when coupled with him looking up items in his office at home, among other things. Was it foreshadowing when Shyamalan had Dr. Crowe do his lame trick with the penny, something another kid later said was flat-out stupid?

I also noted that about 50 minutes elapsed before Cole specifically states he sees “dead people” with a lot of character development and slow-burn buildup before the real scares get started. And the real scares are actual scares because there haven’t been any really cheap jump scare items before that point. While it’s not “the scariest movie of all time”, as the marketing put it, it is an effectively scary movie thanks to the character development, slow burn of the first half, and excellent direction from M. Night Shyamalan.

As for Shyamalan, this movie made him a household name with audiences expecting a similarly great movie with a twist from each subsequent movie from him. His subsequent movies then divided audiences, likely because of this expectation. I felt Unbreakable was rather boring, while it spoke directly to some people’s hearts – those people will love the fact that Shyamalan is making a sequel to it titled Glass. I enjoyed Signs, although I felt the same as many others at the time when it was revealed that the aliens had invaded a planet made of 70% water while being aquaphobic. Later, very solid-sounding theories seemed to indicate that they were demons, not aliens and that the water left around the house by the smallest child was actually holy water.

I felt The Village and Lady in the Water were weak and generally tuned out of Shyamalan movies after The Happening, which was an interesting premise, but poorly executed. I later saw Devil, which was written by Shyamalan, but not directed, and felt it was halfway decent. I would like to see Split, but haven’t yet. The Sixth Sense remains the best of his films that I’ve seen. Since I’m hearing good things about Split, hopefully Glass turns out to be a good one. I may have to re-watch Unbreakable and see if my opinion changes with that one. I hardly remember it, so it should be interesting viewing.

Grade: A-

A tornado hit Kent Island in the middle of the night last night. The Mount Holly, NJ National Weather Service declared it an EF2 tornado at ~125mph, but the photos of damage done to Kent Island indicate it is the strongest tornado to strike Maryland since the F4 April, 2002 LaPlata tornado that also went across the bay to be an F3 tornado in Dorchester County, MD.

Photos this morning showed extensive damage to some houses, others shifted off their foundations, cars and boats tossed around, and numerous large trees shredded or uprooted. Everything can be found on social media, but I wanted to comment that this appears to me to be another tornado forming as a result of the sudden friction difference between water and land. It’s widely taught on television during approaching hurricanes that when hurricanes strike land, tornados often form within the rain bands due to the sudden encounter of friction with land. It’s actually the friction difference and tropical systems that still have strong circulation that are later exiting the continent onto the ocean (which happens in some cases) also exhibit the same behavior.

The same appears to be true with “regular” thunderstorms or thunderstorm cells of a non-tropical origin – difference in friction can turn them into full-blown mesoscale low pressure systems with a strong tornado. Our local National Weather Service noted on a now defunct web page that the LaPlata tornado in 2002 was likely initiated by the strong thunderstorm crossing the Potomac River from Virginia. With the Kent Island tornado, the thunderstorm was strong in Prince George’s county (there was a report of a tree down in Glenn Dale), then went through Anne Arundel County, entered the Chesapeake Bay non-tornadic and by the time it was on Kent Island only 4.3 miles later, was obviously a full-blown mesocyclone with a strong tornado. It seems likely to me that the thunderstorm exiting the western shore of Maryland onto the Chesapeake Bay was a factor in initiating and forming the powerful tornado.

It’s fortunate that nobody was killed in this storm.

***

Justin Berk stated it was likely an EF0 or EF1 tornado around 1pm today after photos of damage clearly indicated it was EF2 or higher.

There were indications this was a major tornado (EF3), as exterior walls of houses fully collapsed, but its dependent on the construction of the house and that is a subjective call after the fact. The NWS usually goes conservative in their estimate, so the EF2 rating is not that surprising. Berk later stated Doppler radar estimate of winds was 86mph and that is presumably why he felt it was an EF0 or EF1.

***

Before the NWS assessment came out, a number of outlets stated the maximum wind gust was 68mph. I tracked down this obviously erroneous information and found that it came from a buoy on the western shore near Eastport and that this was the highest wind speed recorded in the local storm reports from the Sterling, VA National Weather Service forecast area. Why news outlets were saying this was the wind speed on Kent Island is beyond me, but it’s further proof that the mainstream media refuses to do its job and warrants being given the name “fake news”.

000
NWUS51 KLWX 240533
LSRLWX

PRELIMINARY LOCAL STORM REPORT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE BALTIMORE MD/WASHINGTON DC
133 AM EDT MON JUL 24 2017

..TIME…   …EVENT…      …CITY LOCATION…     …LAT.LON…
..DATE…   ….MAG….      ..COUNTY LOCATION..ST.. …SOURCE….
..REMARKS..

0124 AM     TSTM WND GST     1 E EASTPORT            38.97N  76.46W
07/24/2017  M68 MPH          ANZ532             MD   BUOY

&&

EVENT NUMBER LWX1702513

$$

DH

Not as good as what reviewers stated it is. While all the acting was good and the characters fleshed out, it got way too slow in both the second and third acts. I know this is total blasphemy to say, but both my wife and I agreed that 2002’s Spider-Man and 2004’s Spider-Man 2 with Tobey Maguire were overall better movies. I skipped the Andrew Garfield reboots, so I can’t comment on or compare it to them.

There were a couple of very funny moments in the movie and there was a blink-and-you-miss-it reference to Batman with Michael Keaton’s Vulture character. I’m glad I didn’t blink. Stan Lee got his obligatory cameo in early. There were a couple of good action scenes, but the ferry scene was too reminiscent of Tobey Maguire’s train scene in Spider-Man 2.

While die hard fans of the Avengers will certainly like this film and I’m sure have already seen it in the theater, others may want to wait until streaming.

Grade: B-

 

Originally published February 3, 2007 on:

***

The most common reference to a woman’s posterior in contemporary pop music comes in the form of the word booty. This is true for the past several decades of music as well. While the word booty and butt for the most part can be used interchangeably, this is not always the case. The word booty in pop music has a sexual connotation to it and while many times the word butt does as well, sometimes it is what it is: a butt. While many of the artists and their songs listed below refer to the butt in a sexual nature, they do not try to guise their objectification of this portion of a woman’s anatomy by referring to it as pirate treasure and more or less come out, call it what it is and make a song out of it. Artists were judged by a panel of three expert judges (consisting of me, myself and I) on the overall sound of their song, their lyrics, and album cover. More weight was given to the sound of the artist’s song and their lyrics than towards the album cover.

5. Wreckx-N-Effect – Rump Shaker – 1992

Wreckx-N-Effect uses brilliant artistic license in Rump Shaker by not titling the song Booty Shaker or Butt Shaker and instead uses a word normally associated with meat in the back of a grocery store. In fact, the word butt only appears once (in reference to a girl getting “butt naked”) and the word booty only appears three times in the song. Compare that to the word rump which appears 34 times in the song. When listening to the song, however, the artist’s message is clear: it’s about the butt. The following chorus is repeated 25 times:

“All I wanna do is zoom-a-zoom-zoom-zoom and a-boom-boom
Just shake your rump!”

With a chorus like that repeated 25 times, the song has to appear in a top five list of butt songs. Unfortunately, a mildly annoying saxophone solo plays repeatedly in the background and their album cover isn’t that great and doesn’t speak to the butt loving men that they are.

4. Sisqo – Thong Song – 2000

Sisqo’s Thong Song is an ode to the backside translated into a song without using the word butt or a variant of the word butt in the title. Here we learn that Sisqo apparently enjoys butts when they are barely covered in an undergarment known as a thong. Also, Sisqo was also able to figure out that thong and song rhymed when translating his ode to song format and was able to make a rhyming title of Thong Song. Ensuring that rhymes are eloquent and roll off the tongue nicely is an important part of the butt music genre.

Sisqo’s opening lyrics illustrate the butt’s importance to life:

 

“This thing right here / Is lettin all the ladies know / What guys talk about / You know / The finer things in life / Hahaha / Check it out”

 

Sisqo goes on to refer to a woman in the past tense, apparently one that he had previously met and in case one were to not know that he was referring to the butt he ensures the listener is aware of this:

 

“She had dumps like a truck truck truck / Thighs like what what what / Baby move your butt butt butt”

 

The fact that he is singing about her having “dumps like a truck” may lead one to believe that he is familiar with her bowel movements and that he may be a coprophiliac, but he is actually again still simply referring to the butt itself.

And of course Sisqo must inform the woman in the song to “All night long / Let me see that thong.”

Thong Song was heavily played in the spring and summer of 2000 and was heard regularly at beaches. For this reason, many people associate the song with the bathing suit thong and not the undergarment. Either one works however. Unfortunately Sisqo’s album cover isn’t that great as well and it is unclear what the significance is of Sisqo being in the clouds with white hair putting on what appears to be a white fur coat without any undershirt. Has he died of TMB (Too Much Butt) and gone to heaven?

3. LL Cool J – Big Ole Butt – 1989

The title lyric in LL Cool J’s Big Ole Butt is a essentially a rip-off of E.U.’s lyrics in Da Butt, the song that appears at number 2 on the list. LL Cool J’s song and remaining lyrics as well as the song appearing during the golden era of butt songs, however, qualify the song to be at number 3 on the list. LL cool J crafts a story where he meets a girl at a mall, has sexual relations with her, then dumps his current woman and tells her it is because the girl from the mall has a “big ole butt.” He then cycles through two more girls in the song. Here is the first third of the song:

“I was at the mall, sippin’ on a milkshake
Playin’ the wall, takin’ a break
Admirin’ the girls with the bamboo earrings
Baby hair and bodies built to swing
That’s when I seen her
Her name was Tina
Grace and poise kinda like a ballerina
I said, “How you doin’, my name’s Big L
Don’t ask me how I’m livin’, ’cause, yo, I’m living swell
But then again I’m livin’ kind of foul
‘Cause my girl don’t know that I’m out on the prowl
To make a long story short, I got the digits
Call her on my car phone and paid her a visit
I was spankin’ her and thankin’ her, chewin’ her and doin’ her
Layin’ like a king on sheets of satin
That’s what time it is, you know what’s happenin’
She had a big ole booty, I was doin’ my duty
I mean, yo, I admit that my girl’s a cutie
But Tina was erotic, Earl’s my witness
With the kind of legs that put stockings out of business
When I went home, I kissed my girl on the cheek
But in the back of my mind it was this big butt freak
I sat my girl down, I couldn’t hold it in
And said to her with a devilish grin…

Tina got a big ole butt
I know I told you I’d be true
But Tina got a big ole butt
So I’m leavin’ you
Tina got a big ole butt
I know I told you I’d be true
But Tina got a big ole butt
So I’m leavin’ you”

The song appeared on an album from LL Cool J titled Walking with a Panther. This album came out at a time where LL Cool J had lost a little popularity due to the changing face of rap music. Some fans and critics felt LL Cool J’s songs and style had become dated and that maybe LL Cool J was a little too soft for the emerging hard-core sound of rap. This album, coupled with a firm reminder from Big L that LL Cool J’s birth name is Ladies Love Cool James, silenced those critics and brought his fans back. Further proof of LL Cool J’s hardness comes through in his album cover, the best album cover in the group. In an alley crouching behind a black panther that is wearing a big gold chain, LL Cool J’s style speaks volumes. If one looks closely, one will also note a briefcase with an unlocked pair of handcuffs attached to it further indicating that he is hardcore. It is clear that LL Cool J is a big butt man.

2. E.U. – Da Butt – 1988

Most people remember the song Da Butt, so much so that it is considered an anthem. E.U. was a go-go band from Washington, D.C. and the song entered the mainstream radio waves after Spike Lee had it in his movie School Daze. Da Butt (translated to “The Butt”) is actually referring to a dance. E.U. stands for Experience Unlimited and what an experience Da Butt is – the opening lyrics go:

“Walked in this place
Surprised to see
A big girl getting busy
Just rocking to the go-go beat

The way she shook her booty
Surely looked good to me
I said, come here, big girl
Won’t you rock my world
Show that dance to me

She was doin’ Da Butt
Hey, pretty, pretty
When you get that notion
Put your back build in motion, honey
Doin’ Da Butt
Hey, sexy, sexy
Ain’t nothing wrong if you
Wanna do da butt all night long”

The song has high historical importance because it was directly responsible for entering a new phrase into the American public’s lexicon. Shortly after the participant in the song does “da butt ‘til it made [him] sore” the song enters a series of lyrics consisting of “[enter person’s name here] got a big ole butt! Oh yeah!” Men everywhere (at least me anyway) ever since have entered various people’s names into that phrase and shouted it out with only moderate fear of retribution.

Da Butt was a single and thus was not part of an album. When the song became popular, a single cover was released consisting of one of the characters from the movie School Daze with a big “Da Butt” overhead. In the cover below, a character played by an actor by the name of Giancarlo Esposito holds a bowl of dog food. While it is not readily readable in the image below, the text on the bowl states “DOG or DIE.” This is presumably related to hazing in the movie, as this was a portion of the plot line in the movie. While not a great cover, it is easily overlooked due to the importance of the song.

1. Sir Mix-A-Lot – Baby Got Back – 1992

While Sir Mix-A-Lot was never formally granted knighthood, his song Baby Got Back certainly allows Mix-A-Lot to anoint himself with the title of Sir. This song reached number 1 on the billboard charts for five weeks during the summer of 1992. The song opens with the voices of two “valley”-like girls commenting on a girl with a big butt stating she must “be one of those rap guys’ girlfriends” then launches into the song with “I like big butts and I cannot lie…” Everyone that is familiar with the butt genre can quote numerous sets of lyrics from this song. Judges were extremely impressed with Sir Mix-A-Lot’s decisive commentary on the modeling industry:

“I ain’t talkin’ bout Playboy
‘Cause silicone parts are made for toys
I want ’em real thick and juicy
So find that juicy double
Mix-a-Lot’s in trouble
Beggin’ for a piece of that bubble
So I’m lookin’ at rock videos
Watchin’ these bimbos walkin’ like hoes
You can have them bimbos
I’ll keep my women like Flo Jo”

And later in the song Sir Mix-A-Lot states:

“So Cosmo says you’re fat
Well I ain’t down with that!
‘Cause your waist is small and your curves are kickin’
And I’m thinkin’ bout stickin’
To the beanpole dames in the magazines:
You ain’t it, Miss Thing!
Give me a sista, I can’t resist her
Red beans and rice didn’t miss her”

Judges were also very impressed that Mix-A-Lot allowed the public a glimpse into how he plays the game so well as well as his distaste for spousal abuse:

“Some brothers wanna play that “hard” role
And tell you that the butt ain’t go
So they toss it and leave it
And I pull up quick to retrieve it”

And later in the song Sir Mix-A-Lot states:

“Some knucklehead tried to dis
‘Cause his girls are on my list
He had game but he chose to hit ’em
And I pull up quick to get wit ’em”

At the end of the song, Sir Mix-A-Lot also graciously affords women an opportunity to dial a help line if they are in trouble and are in a time of need:

“So ladies, if the butt is round,
And you want a triple X throw down,
Dial 1-900-MIXALOT
And kick them nasty thoughts
Baby got back!”

Sir Mix-A-Lot’s album cover for Mack Daddy is average, but Sir Mix-A-Lot came out with an over-the-top video for Baby Got Back featuring him and two women with back dancing. Again, this alone would be average for a video in the butt genre, but Sir Mix-A-Lot’s video features them dancing on top of a giant butt. The unforgettable song coupled with the unforgettable video makes the song number 1 on the list and would have allowed Sir Mix-A-Lot to declare himself King if he had wanted.

Sadly, the golden era of butt music left us a decade and a half ago. There is hope that since similar fads come around every generation or so, there may be a renaissance of butt music in five or ten years. But for now we are stuck with “pop-tarts” consistently “accidentally” showing us their fronts because they have little to no back. Songs like Thong Song in 2000 give us hope that in the mean time every once in a while an artist will go back to basics and bring us another great song.

***

Update July 18, 2017:

Many people think of Sir Mix-A-Lot and Baby Got Back as a one hit wonder. These people fail to realize that he had another well-known song:  Books! Check ’em out!

 

War for the Planet of the Apes is brilliant in its story, characters and technical execution. While I still noted some slight jerkiness in the CGI in a couple of scenes, the combination of motion capture and CGI is finally at the technical level to conclude that there is no practical difference between traditional (or practical) effects and the technology used to create the apes. And there are a lot of apes. There is no moment in the film like The Matrix Reloaded’s Agent Smith(s) scene where the CGI degraded badly due to the amount of it moving on the screen.

Andy Serkis as Caesar is awesome, as is Woody Harrelson as the Colonel in a subtle and scary performance as the villain. Other actors and actresses of ape characters, like Karin Karnaval as Maurice, were terrific as well. The movie also took two big risks, one with a character named “Bad Ape” and another one with a child. The Bad Ape character was used a bit for comic relief and could have gone sideways quick, as movies often have scenes ruined by characters like this at a minimum, and entire movies are sometimes ruined by them at a maximum. But not in this case. The same is true for children in movies, but this child was used at a minimum and the results of both of these risks was a movie for the better with them, rather than for the worse.

There are people out there saying this movie elevates this prequel trilogy to greatest of all time status, at least in argument. While I agree that this is probably the best concluding movie to a trilogy that I have ever seen, I disagree that it makes the trilogy the GOAT. While the first two movies were good, they weren’t great enough to elevate the trilogy as a whole in my mind. Also, this movie can stand on its own as a film without necessarily having to see the other two.

About midway through the movie when I realized just how good this movie was probably going to turn out to be, I couldn’t help but start trying to compare it to the original Planet of the Apes with Charlton Heston. Unfortunately, it’s totally like comparing apples to oranges and the two can’t be legitimately compared. Both of these movies are classics in their own right.

Grade: A+

***

I have to make a brief note about the theater I saw the movie in. I saw it in a theater that had a “Dolby Completely Captivating” system in it. I didn’t pay attention to what this was before going in the theater, I just chose it because it was the earliest showing and wasn’t 3D. While the digital screen and sound system was very nice, the chairs left a lot to be desired. They were the same recliners as the other screens have now at this AMC theater, but apparently are integrated with motion or vibration technology so that the recliner shakes when there’s loud noises (like explosions) coming from the movie. Basically, it’s a poor man’s attempt at a 4D movie theater experience without 3D and was something I didn’t want or need.

The opening preview for this technology, prior to the start of the movie, shook the chair a lot and the nicest, bestest adjective I can come up with to describe it is “slow or limited in intellectual or emotional development”. I’m prone to headaches, have had a long running one this weekend, and it didn’t help it. Fortunately, it wasn’t used as extensively in the movie as it was in the preview for Dolby, otherwise I may have had to walk out.