5 Podcasts to Add to Your Listening List

Are you addicted to Podcasts? Whether you’re new to listening to podcasts or you’re just looking for something different, this list is for you. There is a podcast for every kind of person. Whether you prefer stories, bizarre news, science, technology, or other specific interests, podcasts can be a great way to stay informed or learn.

The amount of hard work and dedication that goes into making each and every podcast is evident in the episodes you explore. Though there are tons and tons of podcasts that exist, here are five worth checking out.

Courtesy of Phillipe Put
  1. Affirmation Pod– Do you like affirmations? Do you like discovering the motivation within yourself to succeed with daily tasks? This podcast is perfect for the person who needs a little extra daily nudge to accomplish goals and feel better inside. There are affirmations from mindful eating, self acceptance, getting through the day, to falling asleep. Josie puts together the perfect mantras to help you with whatever you may struggling with. Her voice is soothing and the background tones are very fitting and non-intrusive on the ears. The episodes vary in length and there are many to choose from. Give your mind the nourishment and motivation it craves.
  2. And That’s why we drink  Em and Christine like to hang out and talk about Ghosts and Serial Killers. One of them will indulge in alcohol, the other in milkshakes. Both ladies have fascinating tales to share in every episode. Grab your drinks and get ready to giggle. Some of their talks are hilarious, some of the information is unnerving but that’s why they drink.
  3. Lore – Speaking of unnerving information, Lore discusses nonfiction scary stories in a spooky tone. Each episode explores historical events that show the dark side of human nature. Just the right kind of podcast to listen to with the lights out. The information is fascinating. The story weaving is harrowing. This is a great podcast for anyone who likes to feel afraid of real life.
  4. You Made it Weird with Pete Holmes  Pete Holmes from the Nerdist network interviews comedians and hilarity ensues. His lighthearted conversation coupled with individual comedians create an interesting combination every week guaranteed to entertain the listener. If you’re looking for comedy podcasts, then let Pete Holmes make things weird for you.
  5. Happier:  Best-selling author Gretchen Rubin likes to write about habits, happiness, and human nature. On her podcast, Rubin and her screenwriter sister, Elizabeth Craft, tackle a subject many modern human beings struggle with: how to be happier. With mental exercises, useful quotes, personal anecdotes from her and guests, and plenty of psychological research, Gretchen and Elizabeth are sure to help you feel just a little bit happier.

We love to hear what our readers think! If you have a favorite podcast you would like to share, please comment in the DISQUS box below or on our Facebook page. The Pacific Tribune is also eager to hear your ideas for topics and articles. Don’t be shy! Send us your thoughts.

Ricky Martin Flaunts Tiny Speedo on Birthday Vacation in Puerto Rico

Latin music sensation, Ricky Martin has capture our gayze again wearing a tiny white speedo on the beach in Puerto Rico with fiancé, Syrian-Swedish artist Jwan Yosef.

The hunky heartthrob revealed the couple’s engagement to Ellen DeGeneres last November and it was revealed this summer that wedding planning is well underway.

Happy birthday sexy man!

Here’s the birthday boy and his beau!

The Last Jedi Gives Major Laughs, Old Friends, and Still More Questions

Spoilers are on the way, so if you haven’t seen Star Wars: The Last Jedi, bookmark this article and get to your closest theater immediately. There is no time to waste. If you are a person who has never seen any Star Wars film, we would like to take this opportunity to invite you to do so immediately.

#DETAILED SPOILERS AHEAD#

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Fans showed up for the latest chapter in the epic (and now Disney owned) Star Wars franchise this weekend. If the theater I was in was any indication, Star Wars: The Last Jedi was probably the funniest Star Wars film ever made. From Luke Skywalker simply throwing that light saber that Rey brought to him in the previous film, to Yoda smacking Luke in the face with his cane, the humor was strong with this one. Although, we really didn’t learn anything about the new characters, we now know the Force abilities of the Skywalker twins have grown substantially over the last forty years. As Leia, in Carrie Fisher’s swan song, flew through the cold, dead, vacuum of space to arrive on the ship not quite dead– awe fell over our theater. As well, when Luke showed up to “fight” Kylo Ren, with shorter hair and a recent Just for Men application, we learned that root touch-ups are now a thing only the non-Jedi people must suffer through.

As for those burning questions left over from The Force Awakens, we have a short break down of how they were answered in The Last Jedi. They weren’t.

Who is Snoke?

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Andy Serkis is the only answer we have for this one. Looking like a snail without his shell, the ever creepy Snoke tried desperately to give us the same vibe and terror as Emperor Palpatine, yet fell short. About half short to be exact. The fact we have no idea where this talking piece of chewing gum with eyes came from is one thing, but now knowing that we will never know due to the fact that Kylo sliced his bubblicious mentor in half using Rey’s light saber means we just need to say goodbye to a character without character. How do you feel about Snoke’s death?

Who is Rey?

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Even Luke Skywalker himself simply looked at Rey and asked, “Who are you?” while inside the Jedi Temple on the island of Ahch-To. This question was never answered. Maybe it was, but not accurately. During a moment similar to the Force connection shown between Luke and Leia in earlier films, Rey and Kylo Ren had their minds connected through the Force by non-other than Snoke. During their intimate sessions of conversing, the two were able to reach out and touch each other’s hand. In this moment, Rey (played by Daisy Ridley) was able to see the night when Adam Driver’s Ben Solo went all Vader-child on the Jedi Temple and left Luke’s training. As well, Kylo Ren claimed to know who Rey’s parents are. When he confronts Rey about this later, he tells her that she knows already. Turns out, they are nobody. Just drunks who sold their kid. Rey is “no one with no stake in this fight, you’re nobody”, according to the still whiny, still unhinged grandson of the greatest villain in the Galaxy. What are your theories on the origins of Rey? Does it matter; we don’t know Mr. and Mrs. Solo, yet Han was still a very important guy. May he rest in peace.

What happened at Luke’s Jedi school?

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Finally, an answer about these characters’ pasts. Reminiscent of a Three’s Company episode, Kylo Ren wakes up to see his uncle and mentor standing over him with his light saber at the ready to destroy the young Solo. Upon this sight, he used to Force to completely destroy the building and left the Jedi Temple ablaze as he left with the younglings and set off to follow his true master, Snoke. Although Luke tells a different story, the jist is that Luke saw the Dark Side in his nephew and knew that he must kill him to save the balance. Despite changing his mind, it was too late and Ben Solo became Kylo Ren. This answers the question as to why Luke had been missing for so many years.

Oh, Luke.
The ancient island of Ach-To, became Skywalker’s refuge from the Force. After failing his Padawan, he chose to leave the Force and be the Last Jedi. As if he alone decides something so major. Rey follows him throughout this island pleading for his help with the Resistance against the First Order. After numerous attempts, she decides to use his light saber for practice and this changes his mind. He begins training her, but when he realize how strong she is in the Force, he cowers away in fear. It’s is not until his old teacher Master Yoda, Frank Oz himself, shows himself to his now elderly student, does Skywalker realize that he can not stop the Force or the Jedi. Mark Hamill had arguably some of the best lines in the film this time around, especially when faced with Master Yoda’s classic hilarity and impish nature. However, it was Skywalker’s use of the never before seen Force Projection, with which Luke was able to appear at the Resistance base without ever leaving his island that showed how powerful his character had become. The interesting thing about this Force Projection is that Luke appeared younger with trimmed hair and beard, as well as quite a few less white hairs. While General Leia made a joke about her having changed her hair, Luke simply laughed and his Force L’Oreal was never mentioned. But here is where things get tricky.

The Death of Luke Skywalker

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After the death of Carrie Fisher last year, many fans were concerned for the fate of General Leia Organa. Especially after having witnessed the death of Han Solo in The Force Awakens. However, it was Luke Skywalker, safe on his island refuge who became One with the Force in this film. But unlike Solo’s terribly sad and anger filled demise at the hands of his son Ben, the death of Luke Skywalker was about finding peace in the Force while sacrificing himself so that the Resistance can escape The First Order. After his miraculous feat of Force Projection, Luke had used all the power he had to live and he simply faded off into the Galaxy, One with the Force. This, of course, means that Luke is now with all the Jedi who came before him and more powerful than ever before. With his student, Rey now showing skills more powerful than even Kyle Ren, it is safe to assume that the Jedi order will continue forward.

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A new character introduced was Rose Tico, played by Kelly Marie Tran. A bubbly super genius who is infatuated with Michael Boyega’s Finn. The two jet off to find a code breaker who can disarm the Star Destroyer’s ability to track ships with light speed. Rose Tico ingratiated herself with fans by being a fan girl herself, gushing over Finn and later saving his life in an act of love.

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All in all, this second chapter of the sequel trilogy to one of the greatest box office hits in movie history hit the mark with fans as far as action and space battle. The decision by Laura Dern’s Holdo to use the Resistance ship to ram the First Order while entering light speed gave The Last Jedi one of the most awe-inspiring moments within the franchise as a whole. From the moment Dern walked onscreen, she captivated audiences. Going from hated to questioned, and then finally savior to the Resistance, Holdo erases the legacy of Jar-Jar Binks as supporting characters go.

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Along with new characters, The Last Jedi delivered on a Star Wars staple– odd ne creatures. Among them were the adorable porgs which seem to resemble a cross between a Furbee and a penguin. With these and other creatures, Star Wars: The Last Jedi was able to own its place in film history alongside the original trilogy, and to some, exceeding the prequel trilogy. Although some of the most burning questions remain unanswered, we won’t have to wait long to find out how this story ends, as Episode IX is set to hit theaters in December of 2019. What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments below how you felt after seeing Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

WATCH: P!nk’s New Music Video For Beautiful Trauma is Sizzling Hot!!

If you haven’t seen P!nk’s (Yes, she really spells her name with an exclamation mark!) new song Beautiful Trauma, then you need to drop everything you’re doing and click play below.

If you’re a crazy conservative Christian fundamentalist, this video is probably not the one for you (unless you’re the type that goes home to your wife at night and screws men at work during the day)… But if you live life a little on the wild side, you’re going to love the theatrics in this beauty!

In a hilarious ode to quintessential 1950s gender norms, we see P!nk and Channing Tatum — as Fred and Ginger Hart (get the reference?) playing husband and wife prancing around a brightly colored home in garish polyester outfits, typical of the era. The video starts off conventionally with cooking, ironing the clothes, and concludes with with Tatum cross-dressing and finally an S&M scene with Tatum tied up and Pink as the dominatrix.

From the same amazing artist who brought us other risqué tracks like U + Ur Hand, Slut Like You, and Walk of Shame, I present you with her latest masterpiece, Beautiful Trauma:

Review: “Justice League” is Jumbled But Just Good Enough

Justice League marks the fifth installment of the DC Extended Universe, the comic book giant’s attempt to take their friendly rivalry with Marvel to the big screen. Things…have not gone well. Vowing to take a grounded and cerebral approach to their films rather than copying Marvel’s now signature whimsical, this-is-all-silly-anyway style, DC and Warner Bros. have aimed for dark and grounded but achieved dreary and grotesque, most notably last year’s Batman v Superman, a movie so dour and joyless that a Zoloft should have come with the price of admission. And with the release of the universally panned Suicide Squad later that same year, the fate of Justice League seemed predestined: abandon hope, all ye who enter here. And then, Wonder Woman came out to much deserved applause and speculation began that DC’s efforts to compete with Marvel were not all in vain. If DC/WB is capable of making a good movie, what did that portend for Justice League? Could it be the film to expunge the sins of DC’s past and become canonized as one of the greatest the superhero genre has to offer? Well, this critic is here to tell you…no. Sorry.

But, it will do.

I’m going to suppress my urge to go too terribly hard in the paint on this movie for two reasons: the first is that it isn’t terrible and many of the facets I take umbrage with skirt the border of being my own preferences in taste. The second is that the process of making a movie is one of the most collaborative tasks yet invented, and this movie was burdened by both a massive impediment in it’s production and the four movies that came before it that it was expected to simultaneously retroactively fix and deliver on. What I’m getting is that the version of Justice League being released this Friday might be the best version that we were going to get under these circumstances.

Replacing director Zack Snyder–who left the film to deal with a family tragedy–with Joss Whedon, reads on paper as solid strategy. Whedon had a substantial hand in developing the first two phases of Marvel’s incalculably successful cinematic universe and set the precedent for epic superhero team-ups with The Avengers and it’s sequel. It’s reasonable to view Zack Snyder as the DC and analogue to Whedon, but the two directors differ vastly in craftsmanship, from the tone of the dialogue to the visual style. Snyder has proven his mastery of visuals but his story-telling is all over the map while Whedon has a better command of dialogue and plot cohesion but his films all share a non-distinct, TV aesthetic. With such complimentary skill-sets, the two directors would probably make a natural team if they were working in conjunction, but with Whedon doing reshoots and inserting them into Snyder’s film, Justice League feels wildly disjointed, often in the space of single scenes.

I can only postulate at how much of the film each director contributes to the final product, but, educated guess, I would say the film is largely Whedon’s, even if it only has Snyder’s name on it. This bodes well for five out of our six main heroes, especially the three new ones. Ezra Miller as the hyperactive, carbo-loading Flash is bound to be the breakout of the film—the comic relief characters usually are—but his comedy refreshingly relies on physical gags rather than an avalanche of rapid-fire quips like Rocket Raccoon or Iron Man. Ray Fisher and Jason Momoa as Cyborg and Aquaman get shortchanged (you think someone with command of THE ENTIRE OCEAN would be higher valued) but both get in a few good lines and prove their worth as leads in their inevitable spin-offs. Gal Gadot retains her commanding performance from Wonder Woman and Henry Cavill seems to have finally grown into the role of Superman, though his screen time is limited so I suppose I should reserve judgement. The movie is full of the small, banter-y moments that Whedon is proven to excel at and the joking never gets as smug/cutesy as it tended to when The Avengers were under his care, but some of the pithy humor does feel one-size-fits-all and not every character in the League is meant to be constantly cracking wise. We’ll get to Batman in a moment.

Snyder’s contribution to the film is most evident in the first and third acts, which are filled with erratic scene-shifting and explosions, rushing through the story to get to the action. Snyder’s personal oeuvre makes evident that he really likes two things: superheroes fighting in slow motion and superheroes posing in slow motion. To be fair, there’s some pretty good posing going on in this movie. I’ve always admired Zack Snyder’s eye for visuals; I think his cinematic tastes lend themselves well to the genre, especially when emulating famous panels from the comics and it’s pleasing to see he’s embraced the full spectrum of color, elevating from the dull blues and browns of Batman v Superman. He has not, sadly, lost his habit for portentous melodrama; the beginning of this movie brings back those old Man of Steel feelings that we’re watching a universe that doesn’t know the concept of fun, putting it in stark contrast to the grandiose fan-service that is Whedon’s second act. This tonal dissonance brings the film very nearly to it’s knees, but our main heroes rescue it from too jolting an affair. All except one.

Both Snyder and Whedon have a fundamental misunderstanding of Batman. Snyder seems to prefer the older, ultra-violent Dark Knight Returns Batman but does understand that Frank Miller’s classic comic was kind of a parody. Whedon, conversely, seems to prefer a version of Batman that’s a tad too similar to another famous superhero; one with a cocky demeanor and a comeback for everything who builds elaborate gadgets and armor in his basement, like some sort of genius billionaire playboy philanthropist. Maybe it’s because Whedon is uncomfortable writing a character not suited to his quippy dialogue that he seems so intent on turning Batman into Iron Man, but the blundering of this character is really a mortal sin. Ben Affleck does nothing to improve on this, supporting the rumors that he wants desperately to be recast.

The middle act of Justice League is what prevents this film from going down as an embarrassing failure. When the villain steps aside and the heroes reconvene to figure out their next move a little of that magic from the best parts of The Avengers is recaptured and there’s a fight scene that pits the League against an angry Superman that makes even the worst parts of the movie worth sitting through. I don’t know who the mastermind behind this particular scene was, but it’s the rare hero-on-hero fight that manages to showcase all of the characters powers equally. If that approach had been taken to the entire film we might have ended up with something truly special, but the film suffers from the conflicting visions of its two directors. Whedon clearly has nothing but reverence for the classic iterations of the Justice League, from the Silver Age comics to the mid-2000’s cartoon, and wanted to recreate that while Snyder seems to like these characters in concept but views them as fossils from a more innocent time in pop culture that need to be rebuilt with his own modern sensibilities.

When somebody asks me if a movie is good, my response is “in relation to what?” Compared to the whole of cinema, Justice League is garbage, but that’s admittedly an unfair barometer. But even side-by-side with its most obvious counterpart, The Avengers, the film comes off like the sort of bargain bin knock-off that your well-meaning grandmother would get you for Christmas. But within the scope of DC’s recent efforts to build a cinematic universe, Justice League should be considered a success; it has multiple specific, definable moments of goodness and manages, unlike its predecessors, to not be so awful that I walk out questioning my religious convictions. The film is solid and satisfactory, but sadness sets in when you realize that you’re watching a film starring several of the most important inventions of American pop culture, and it should have been so much more than that. You only get to do it for the first time once, after all.

Verdict: Justice League is not the film these iconic characters deserved, but it’s a serviceable time at the movies with enough good going for it to keep even skeptical fans interested.

Review: “Thor: Ragnarok” is Half-Awesome

It’s popular for online think-pieces to mine the current wave of comic book movies for purposes of crafting cataclysmic sounding headlines that posit each new installment in the genre portends “superhero fatigue”. First off, I don’t know if I agree with the term, as I don’t see anyone but critics claiming exhaustion, and even then, it’s only the critics who have been heralding “fatigue” since the release of the first Captain America film. Secondly, if such a thing as “superhero fatigue” exists, I don’t think it’s Marvel, who have been putting out critic- and crowdpleasers for the last ten years, who are to blame; any skeptical side-eye should remain firmly locked on the Distinguished Competition. Nobody gets tired of movies that are good, I’m just sayin’. “Fatigue” is unsubstantiated, but as the market is creeping to saturation level, it’s worth examining what exactly Thor: Ragnarok contributes to the whole.

Thirty seconds into Ragnarok and series fans will realize that this is not the Thor franchise as they left it. We open on Thor, with the aid of his sentient hammer, easily dispensing a giant fire demon to the tune of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song”. Things get sillier from here on. Thor has always been a difficult character to care about; he’s progression from arrogant prince to humanitarian Avenger took place three movies ago, leaving him to coast along as background noise in the Avengers and its sequel. Director Taika Waititi clearly loves Marvel Comics, this film’s sweeping homages to Jack Kirby era-Marvel provide sufficient evidence that he’s a True Believer, but I’m skeptical that he gives much of a damn about Thor. The elements of Ragnarok relating our hunky hero (his quasi-animosity with his devious brother, Loki; his ascendence to king of Asgard; and even his supporting cast) are all lessened in favor of Waititi’s directorial vision of bouncy, candy colored nonsense; some elements take a backseat, others are shoved in the trunk. Do I wish Ragnarok was a less tangental conclusion to Thor’s story? A little, but I doubt many will be mad that Marvel has traded in a dead-eyed Natalie Portman for the Hulk.

Half an hour into the film, Thor and Loki are unceremoniously exiled from Asgard to a distant planet called Sakaar, a celestial garbage dump where all of the unwanted things in the universe find themselves. Sakaar is absolutely wonderful, it’s like Mos Eisely crossed with Las Vegas, full of scavengers, thieves, and general lowlifes and home to a gladiatorial competition where Thor faces the reigning champion: his old Avengers teammate, the Hulk. The second act is the best part of the movie, sandwiched between a rote first act that exists only for set up and an obligatory third act in which Thor returns to fight Hela, the film’s villainess, whom he barely knows and the movie barely cares about, but it’s also an hour-long plot cul-de-sac; there’s no substantial reason for this hour-long diversion except to introduce the Hulk into the narrative. It says something about the strength of a film when being dragged back to the main plot elicits a beleaguered sigh from the audience.

Basically, this movie needed more Sakaar and less Asgard. Taika Waititi knows how to make a cohesive film, I’ve seen him do it. The man was obviously passionate about making a different movie than Marvel needed, something along the lines of a 48 Hours-style buddy comedy with Hulk and Thor stuck on this gladiator planet. I want to see that movie and not a truncated version of it that fits into one act. That one act is awesome, but Ragnarok is only half-awesome.

Ragnarok has an excellent cast to work with and manages not to waste most of them like previous installments in the Marvel machine have (Sir Ben Kingsley and John C. Reilly, please stand up). Mark Ruffalo finally gets to do some acting as the green goliath, since Banner is trapped in Hulk mode for most of the movie. In addition to his strength, Hulk now possesses the demeanor of a tantrum-ing four-year-old, and I loved it. Jeff Goldblum puts in a brief but memorable performance as The Grandmaster, the flamboyant despot of Sakaar, but by his side is the real champion of the film: new edition Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie, a scavenger with a haunted past, a wry attitude, and an ever-present beer in her hand. If Hemsworth ever decides to retire as Thor, they should give his franchise to Valkyrie. Unfortunately, Cate Blanchett (playing Hela) does not fare well, due largely to her limited screen time of about ten minutes.

So what does Thor: Ragnarok contribute to the whole? First, we must define the whole. If we’re talking about the whole of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, not much. Ragnarok is a rare Marvel film that stands on its own, not labored with setting up the next film in the franchise or a cameo from Robert Downey, Jr. and, honestly, I think there’s respectability in that alone. For all its faults, Ragnarok accomplishes what the previous Thor films did not: it feels like the result of someone’s vision and not like an obligatory corporate product that’s only in theaters because it’s step 34 in Marvel’s master plan and was slated to be released this year (although that’s probably the case as well). Marvel is a business, one of the many heads on the Disney hydra and if you’re old enough to be watching this movie you should be old enough to know that when Mickey Mouse prays, he prays to Washington, Lincoln, and Franklin. The fact that they’re bothering to include some level of artistic merit in their products when the broader spectrum of blockbusters has proven they don’t have to deserves a certain amount of applause.

Now, as to what it contributes to the whole of cinema? It’s time to get serious. Let’s talk about The Cheesecake Factory.

A slice of The Original—untopped, the most basic cheesecake one can order—clocks in at 800 calories, but Ragnarok errs on the side of decadence, so we’ll compare it to something mid-level: a slice of the Craig’s Crazy Carrot Cake Cheesecake, coming in calorically at 1,110 a slice (love yourself, don’t eat at The Cheesecake Factory). Now, should you be begrudged enjoying a piece of 1,110 calorie cake? No, absolutely not. And if you maintain a healthy lifestyle balancing diet and exercise I’d argue you shouldn’t even feel guilty about the occasional slice. But regardless of lifestyle, you should accept that by eating highly caloric, fat-engulfed, very tasty cheesecake you walk away having gained nothing… except weight, but that messes up the metaphor. Thor: Ragnarok is that cheesecake. I would never belittle someone for enjoying it—I did, to an extent—but if you intend to watch it, especially multiple times, then you have a cultural duty to ingest something more meaningful next time you go to the cinema.

The film is bright, fast-paced, occasionally hilarious, and full of moments designed to get die-hard Marvel fans pumping their fists in the air. Hulk fights Thor? Oh yeah. Hulk fights a giant wolf? Hell yeah. Hulk punches a giant fire demon in the face? FUC—well, you get the idea. But for all the much appreciated fanboy pandering there is very little substance to Thor: Ragnarok. It’s empty calories, a zero-sum game; the only one who really wins here is Marvel as they gleefully pocket our money. And while there’s nothing morally or intrinsically wrong with thoroughly enjoying a movie that elicits two hours of unabashed whooping, anyone looking for something beyond a standard popcorn film is going to leave the theater not unhappy, but perhaps a little deflated. It’s not a bad Marvel movie, it’s just another one: full of potential, light on follow-through.

Verdict: This is irrelevant, let them eat cheesecake.

Review: “Blade Runner 2049” is the Best Boring Movie Ever Made

I can’t say I enjoyed Blade Runner 2049 all that much. The film is dreadfully slow, plummeting from atmospheric to contemplative to languid in the span of its first ninety minutes. There’s the skeleton of a plot, but no story to speak of. “Deliberate” pacing combined with opulent (in a good way) camera work but free of much literally going on, 2049 delivers a self-indulgent, nearly exhausting result: there’s both too much and too little happening.

In the future, synthetic humans called “replicants” are common place, grown to do the jobs organic humans won’t. One such replicant is Officer K (Ryan Gosling), the titular blade runner: a police officer tasked with hunting down older, less compliant replicants. A routine day at work leads K to a discovery that could, as his superior (Robin Wright) puts it, “break the world.” Divulging what happens from there would spoil key elements that the trailers haven’t shown, so we’ll leave it at this: things go poorly.

The acting is fine, but really just fine from everyone but Gosling, whose journey from dead-eyed compliance to deep, existential panic is masterful, and probably better than this movie deserves. Actors are wasted in 2049, which prefers to linger on its scenery or quite moments with its main star, leaving talents like Wright and Jared Leto stranded in underwritten roles (Leto is in about five minutes of this film, but he goes all out). And, yes: Harrison Ford returns as original blade runner Rick Deckard. Harrison Ford’s appearance should not have been given away by the trailers, it would have made a nice surprise to see him when he finally appears nearly two hours into the film.

This film lifts heavily from the original Blade Runner aesthetically, thematically, and even plot wise (what little there is). This level of cohesion works better here than in something like, say, another recent reboot of a popular, futuristic franchise from the 80’s that starred Harrison Ford, because 2049 succeeds in being a sequel, and not just a remake with better effects. Story elements from the first Blade Runner aren’t necessarily answered here, but they are expanded upon. Unlike The Force Awakens, which anybody can walk in to and enjoy without previous knowledge of Star Wars, if you haven’t seen Blade Runner, long stretches of 2049 will probably leaving you scratching your head. This is a good thing. Sequels should carry on elements from there predecessors and generally strive to be more than tangentially related crypto-remakes of better movies designed to make money off toy sales (yeah, I’m bitter about Star Wars, what of it?).

Blade Runner 2049 favors aesthetic film-making, providing its audience with a visual feast but eschewing plot and story for tone and atmosphere. K is in a committed relationship with his AI device, Joi (Ana de Armas), who presents as a modelesque, holographic woman. The picture is filled with flying cars and smoky, neon skylines, but in her subtlety, Joi is its best effect; light peeks through her like the sun through laundry hanging on a line, making her ethereal but also distant and cold. And then, of course, there’s the cinematography. Roger Deakins rewrites cinematic language here, filling in large gaps about this world purely through his imagery. K’s trek through the bombed out desert of Las Vegas provides a study in both use of color and filming isolation that will surely end up in a text book. It’s a success that ought to finally net him his Oscar.

But, for all that, 2049 lacks (apart from an editor) the influence of its processor, in both the diegetic sense and—I think time will prove—the literal. In the coming 2049, students of film will still be navigating the complexities of the original Blade Runner while this film will get a brief mention when in a text book chapter about the franchise blitzkrieg of these 2000-and-teens.

The original Blade Runner is not a science-fiction film; it’s a noir film with aspects of science fiction. People criticize the original film’s use of voice-over to narrate the plot to the lowest common detonator (their words, not mine), but Harrison Ford’s internal monologue, along with the neon-chiaroscuro lighting, set Blade Runner firmly within the detective oeuvre, creating a genre mash-up that would inspire homages and imitators and serves as both a fete to and entry in the dying noir genre, and perhaps the last truly great one, even if it is a bit slow. Blade Runner 2049 lacks inspiration. The genre is standard contemplative sci-fi with no distinct influence outside of the original film, replacing the noir elements with “themes” and “meaningfulness.” 2049 rips so liberally from Blade Runner in most areas, you’d think they’d have realized that you can have both.

The picture has a menagerie of ideas, a lot of them good. One of K’s fellow officers crudely calls replicants “skin jobs” before offering a hurried apology. K, though po-faced, says nothing, the way minorities routinely brush off their coworkers sexist or racist jokes. There’s a conversation about classism and societal hierarchy to be derived from the way the organic humans subjugate and fear the more powerful replicants. “The world is built on a wall that separates kind,” K’s boss tells him. “Tell either side there’s no wall, you bought a war.” Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) builds the replicants specifically to serve as a disposable work force; their freedom comes directly at the cost of innovation. But no character in 2049—human, replicant, or AI—is a mindless drone; they all have humanity somewhere, but at all at different depths below the surface. When K turns on the AI system that allows Joi to take human form, the first few notes of Peter’s leitmotif from Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf play. Much like Peter venturing outside his grandfather’s home to catch the wolf, Joi and, eventually, K come to understand that sometimes freedom only comes when you buck the world’s expectations for you.

These are solid ideas to explore for a nearly three hour film, but only small elements of Blade Runner 2049’s whole, and therein lies the problem: there are a million ideas but no unifying theme. Director Denis Villeneuve prefers to lay out dots and let you connect them however you please, and I reiterate here what I said in my review for Aronofy’s mother!: this shit ain’t a choose your own adventure. At the price of nearly three hours, I expect to come away with a more solid understanding of what a film is trying to say. What 2049 left me with was confusion that slowly diluted into disinterest.

Verdict: Visually operatic and filled with interesting ideas, Blade Runner 2049 is too self-impressed and meandering to warrant its length or the multiple rewatches necessary to divine it’s meaning. It’s the best boring movie ever made.

Review: “Battle of the Sexes” Combines Feminism and Tennis Into a Decent Comedy

Oscar season has officially begun, and no stranger to the slew of bait (that is, films designed specifically to win an award) that gets released every fall are biopics and sports movies. Conveniently combining both, Battle of the Sexes, about the legendary tennis match between feminist icon Billie Jean King and self-described sexist Bobby Riggs, is a charming, good-enough dramady that could feasible work it’s way towards a nomination or two.

The trailers for Battle of the Sexes are a little misleading. If you were hoping to see a film about the legendary match or a detailed portrait of both Riggs and King, you might walk out a little disappointed. The film is firmly about Billie Jean King, following the period of her life when she navigates both her own sexuality as she falls into a romantic entanglement with her female hairdresser (Andrea Riseborough), and her place as a woman excelling in a male dominated field. Emma Stone and screenwriter Simon Beaufoy imagine a multifaceted Billie Jean, one who’s kind, funny, and a little reserved but never a pushover. Years after the historic match, the real Billie Jean King is regarded as a pioneer in the advocacy of women’s and gay rights, but Stone and the screenplay do a commendable job of portraying a person, flaws and all, and not an icon or a strong, independent woman stereotype (at least a little surprising for a film written and half directed by dudes).

Steve Carell as Bobby Riggs is used sparingly, which is probably a good thing, as this critic felt no sympathy for this vacuous ass-clown of a character. Riggs is a self-described chauvinist, taunting his female competitors with stock insults like “stay in the kitchen” who intends to profit off women’s inequality by challenging them to matches; if the women can’t beat him, they don’t belong on the court. Carell is good but there isn’t much redeeming about this character. He’s not virulently opposed to gender equality like the head of the FTP, Jack Kramer (Bill Pullman) is, but actually a touch more sinister: he’s a centrist, purely out for his own gain, using misconceptions about gender equality and feminism to drum up controversy and draw viewership to his matches.

It’s maybe forty-five minutes before a game of tennis is played in Battle of the Sexes. The picture isn’t really about tennis, but instead the personal lives of Riggs and King. Bille Jean King is briefly caught in a triangle between her female lover and her husband; while Bobby Riggs, retired at the beginning of the film, is in deep with a gambling addiction. This is all fine material, but the movie drags it’s feet in the second act without anything to show for the time spent; a conclusive ending to King’s bisexual affair is never given and while, yes, real life doesn’t usually offer definitive endings, this is a film and the elements are supposed to go somewhere.

The takeaway of the film isn’t a story about the characters’ intimate lives or the rousing (that’s a joke) sport of tennis, but rather a parable about modern feminism. Battle of the Sexes is just as much about feminism as it is about men’s allergic reaction to feminism, and mens’ general inability to sympathize with women at all. When Billie Jean King inquires why women’s tennis players are awarded eight times less than men’s, she’s coldly laughed off. When she creates her own tennis league and decides to take up Bobby Riggs on his offer to play an end-all, be-all match, she is scorned by men, accused of thinking she’s better than them, that she wants to take tennis away from men, being generally uppity, and a cadre of other things she never actually said or did. King is expected to carry the whole of feminism on her back; while Bobby Riggs plays for sport and attention and to maintain his right to be an utter troll, Billie Jean King plays because, if she doesn’t (or if she loses), it’s proof that all women are inferior.

The film couldn’t have been released at a better time, when criticism of women’s representation in media has entered the public forum, much to the chagrin of male commentators and internet trolls. It’s not hard to find parallels between the feminist conflict of Battle of the Sexes and modern clashes like Gamergate, where female critique of and cries for inclusion in the gaming-sphere was met with what was essentially focused, small-scale, online terrorism from male gamers. The antagonist of the film is not men, but men’s power to frame public conversation. Billie Jean’s fight for equality in tennis was perceived to be a zero-sum game at the expense of male tennis players, an erroneous claim which no men would hear her deny until she’d earned their respect. This, more than the intimate lives of King and Riggs, is the worthwhile discussion at the heart of Battle of the Sexes.

Worthy of discussion as it is, however, the film really only achieves a “yeah, it was pretty good” in quality. Bolstered by a pair of nuanced and entertaining performances from Emma Stone and Steve Carell (and Elizabeth Shue as Riggs’ wife, who has a stand out scene), Battle of the Sexes is amusing and highly-serviceable; I can see it being a crowd-pleaser like the director’s previous film Little Miss Sunshine was, but it never does anything to subvert your expectations going in; you paid for a ticket to a movie about Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, for the most part that’s what you get. Those familiar with this story don’t stand to gain much, but an enjoyable night at the movies can be had by all. It’s flummoxing, though, that such a “pretty good” film is garnering awards consideration this far out; hopefully that isn’t the harbinger of a weak awards season.

Verdict: Battle of the Sexes can ignite a discussion about feminism and inclusion that most audiences probably are due for, but it’s length and standard story-telling only warrant a mildly enthusiastic recommendation.

Hugh Hefner, Dies Peacefully in His home at the Age of 91

Hugh Hefner, founder of Playboy magazine, passed away on Wednesday evening at the age of 91 years old. Hefner was surrounded by his family at the time of his death. He died of natural causes.

Hugh Hefner, born Hugh Marston Hefner, was a native of Chicago, Illinois, and a former journalist for Esquire. A multi-millionaire, his net worth at the time of his death was over $43 million due to his success as the founder of Playboy.

“My father lived an exceptional and impactful life as a media and cultural pioneer and a leading voice behind some of the most significant social and cultural movements of our time,” his son and current Playboy Chief Creative Officer Cooper Hefner said in a statement.

Hugh Hefner started Playboy magazine 64 years ago in his home. He was an activist and philanthropist, as well as a World War II veteran.

Read the full statement on the death of founder Hugh Hefner from Playboy below:

Hugh M. Hefner, the American icon who in 1953 introduced the world to Playboy magazine and built the company into one of the most recognizable American global brands in history, peacefully passed away today from natural causes at his home, The Playboy Mansion, surrounded by loved ones. He was 91 years old.

Starting from his kitchen table 64 years ago, Mr. Hefner’s uncompromising vision drove the creation of not just the iconic and groundbreaking magazine, but what has become one of the world’s most enduring and recognizable brands. In the process, Playboy became the largest-selling and most influential men’s magazine in the world, spawning a number of successful global businesses. To this day, the magazine is published in more than 20 countries around the world and products featuring the company’s trademarks drive more than $1 billion in sales annually.

“My father lived an exceptional and impactful life as a media and cultural pioneer and a leading voice behind some of the most significant social and cultural movements of our time in advocating free speech, civil rights and sexual freedom. He defined a lifestyle and ethos that lie at the heart of the Playboy brand, one of the most recognizable and enduring in history. He will be greatly missed by many, including his wife Crystal, my sister Christie and my brothers David and Marston, and all of us at Playboy Enterprises,” said Cooper Hefner, Chief Creative Officer of Playboy Enterprises.

After serving in the Army, attending college and working for number of years in the magazine publishing industry, Mr. Hefner became convinced that there was a market for an upscale men’s magazine. By putting up his furniture as collateral for a loan and borrowing the rest from family and friends, Mr. Hefner published the very first issue of Playboy in December of 1953. The magazine was an instant sensation.

From the very start, Playboy was about more than just the beautiful women featured in its pages. Mr. Hefner took a progressive approach not only to sexuality and humor, but also to literature, politics and culture. Within its pages, Playboy published fiction by such writers as Ray Bradbury, Charles Beaumont, John Updike, Ian Fleming, Joseph Heller, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Margaret Atwood, Jack Kerouac and Kurt Vonnegut.

The now standard-setting “Playboy Interview” debuted in 1962 when frequent contributor Alex Haley interviewed jazz legend Miles Davis. Mr. Haley’s Playboy interviews, which are still important reads for cultural historians, also included Malcolm X (1963), Martin Luther King (1965), and perhaps most famously, George Lincoln Rockwell (1966), the founder of the American Nazi Party.

As the host of a television series, “Playboy’s Penthouse,” Mr. Hefner paved the way as the first televised program to feature mixed groups of African American and white performers and audience members together. He also fought against the racist Jim Crow laws in the South by integrating Playboy Clubs in Miami and New Orleans.

When the U.S. Post Office refused to deliver Playboy to subscribers through the mail, he fought all the way to the Supreme Court, winning a landmark decision which was widely considered a victory for free speech. He fought the country’s archaic “sodomy laws,” firmly believing that the government had no place in American bedrooms. His work in this area has been recognized as influential by historians of the gay rights movement.

In 1980, Mr. Hefner championed the reconstruction of the Hollywood sign and was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his efforts. In the shadow of the sign that he helped to preserve, Mr. Hefner stages the annual Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl, an event which is in its 39th year.

This year, a 10-episode docudrama series on Mr. Hefner’s life, entitled American Playboy, appeared on Amazon.

Review: “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” is An Empty Void of Nothingness

Capping off a summer that strangulated audiences with sequels, here’s another one! Kingsman: The Golden Circle is the produc—uh, I mean…”totally legit movie film” from the highly profitable Kingsman brand, which began in 2015 with Kingsman: The Secret Service, which surprised everyone by being enjoyable and funny. Can The Golden Circle live up to it’s predecessor? No. Wait, sorry, does that count as a spoiler?

Returning main character, Eggsy, (played by Aaron Egerton) has settled into his new life as suave, secret agent “Galahad”; he gets to wear posh suits, he’s dating a Swedish princess, and apparently defeating evil agents isn’t all that hard. But life is thrown into chaos when most of his fellow agents are killed and the headquarters of the Kingsman demolished at the hands of The Golden Circle, a vague but evil drug cartel. Left without his usual resources, Eggsy has no choice but to partner with the Kingsman’s American counterpart: the Statesman, western themed operatives who use lassos and speak with thick, comical drawls (apparently the American answer to James Bond is cowboys. Fair enough, at least it’s an idea).

Kingsman: The Golden Circle isn’t bad. It isn’t good either; because it’s nothing. The film is so devoid of plot, characters, laughter, suspense, and general artistic effort that one could probably compose a mathematical equation to prove that it doesn’t actually is exist. There is nothing for audiences to latch on to here unless they’re amused purely by the collation of moving images with sound.

The picture is criminally wasteful of the team of actors it’s assembled. You’d better hope you like Eggsy, because he’s the only character that does anything throughout this entire film; not in terms of having a story or arc (he doesn’t), but in the most literal terms possible. Mark Strong returns as Merlin (The Q to Eggsy’s James Bond), who—when the movie hasn’t forgotten about him—can be found sitting behind a computer. Halle Berry is Ginger Ale (all of the American agents are codenamed after beverages), his American equivalent, who also spends the movie sitting behind a computer. Channing Tatum plays Tequila (no, really, I wasn’t kidding about the names), who has one action scene then is comatose throughout the rest of the movie. Jeff Bridges as the leader of the Statesman has only two scenes, both of them spent sitting down. Julianne Moore as the villainess spends the whole movie sitting down. And, yes, Colin Firth’s Galahad is resurrected and does get a nice action sequence…after a lot of of sitting down. This film is two and a half hours long.

The “conflict” (quotes intended) revolves around Julianne Moore’s villanous Poppy Adams, a 1950’s housewife cliche who queenpins a drug operation from a hidden base in the jungle. I don’t have the mental energy to articulate specifically how silly this all is, but it’s goddam ridiculous. She poisons the drugs she sells in an effort to scare the President of the United States into legalizing all elicit substances. What sense does that make? Why would the President have the singular power to make a global decision like this, you ask? The answers are simple! Shut up.

Kingsman: The Secret Service was renowned for how clever and funny it was, and during the frequent lulls in The Golden Circle I kept wondering why I wasn’t laughing, but I soon figured it out. The Secret Service was a parody of Connery-era Bond while The Golden Circle is poking fun of Brosnan-era Bond, so here’s the problem: you don’t need to make fun of the 90’s Bond films, they do that on their own. Brosnan’s Bond is largely considered the worst era in the franchise because of how stupid it got, because they were dumb to a point where you can no longer parody, you can only recreate. The Golden Circle isn’t a send up of Tomorrow Never Dies or Die Another Day; it’s a fan-film remake.

Verdict: Kingsman: The Golden Circle is a void made purely to suck in three hours of your time and $10 of your bank account, failing to deliver on the hype of it’s forbearer, but that much could be said for many sequels. I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed.

Post-review rant: Okay, so, this wasn’t pertinent to the review, but Sir Elton John is in this movie as a MAJOR character and he’s just embarrassingly awful. They don’t even let him sing! I took a full point off the movie’s score just for that. It’s at -1/10 now.