MOVIE: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)

Cat on a Hot Tin RoofYear: 1958Rating: Not RatedLength: 108 minutes / 1.80 hours While I understand the ease of adapting stage plays into movies, the result still feels a lot like watching a stage play on the big screen. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958) is no exception. Adapted from the Tennessee Williams play of the same name, this movie boasts a few big names like Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman. I think this movie probably wouldn’t have been as notable unless it had these names tied to it in some way. After all, there’s a reason why we still remember these writers and actors today. Even if Cat on a Hot Tin Roof starts slow, the increasing amount of twists and reveals makes for an entertaining movie. I think part of my issue with the slow start might be with Elizabeth Taylor’s acting. It felt to me like she was reading memorized lines and didn’t put much emotion or effort into her performance....
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VIDEO GAME: Super Mario Odyssey (2017)

Super Mario OdysseyYear: 2017Rating: E10Time Played: 20+ hours As is the case with many Nintendo systems, Super Mario Odyssey marked the mustachioed plumber’s arrival on the Switch, much like Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, and Super Mario Galaxy did for the Nintendo 64, Gamecube, and Wii, respectively. Taking cues from all its predecessors, Super Mario Odyssey is a gorgeous platformer with plenty to do, almost to its detriment. It’s clear a lot of attention to detail went into this game, but it’s also evident that Odyssey is a celebration of Mario’s history as Nintendo’s de facto mascot. The fact that you can now play as many of Mario’s enemies is a fantastic mechanic that is as unique as it is timeless. Odyssey uses the improved graphics on the Switch to create stunning worlds that are just itching to be explored. The music as well is perhaps some of the best in the franchise, with the theme to the Wooded Kingdom being...
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BOOK: Shakespeare’s Sonnets – Abridged (2018)

Shakespeare’s Sonnets: Abridged Beyond the Point of Usefulness Year: 2018 Author: Zach Weinersmith Length: 101 pages The third (and currently last) book in Zach Weinersmith’s “Abridged” series, Shakespeare’s Sonnets: Abridged Beyond the Point of Usefulness is by far the best of the set. While Holy Bible: Abridged was quite rough, and Science: Abridged showed promise, Shakespeare’s Sonnets: Abridged is wholly focused on its subject matter—and it shows. To top everything off, Weinersmith cleverly sums up each of Shakespeare’s sonnets in his own rhyming couplet, adding to the overall experience and maintaining some semblance of the poetry involved with the source material. If anything, reading all the truncated sonnets together helped paint the picture of what Shakespeare was trying to accomplish. Having never delved into Shakespeare’s Sonnets before, this book was a handy summary of the different “phases” of these poems. Adding context to the flowery language helped to paint a much different picture than most people consider when thinking about Shakespeare’s Sonnets. This book was...
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MOVIE: Synecdoche, New York (2008)

Synecdoche, New YorkYear: 2008Rating: RLength: 124 minutes / 2.07 hours I knew going into Synecdoche, New York (2008), that it was a Charlie Kaufman film. I knew his material could get weird (like Being John Malkovich (1999) and Adaptation. (2002)) but movies like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) had enough heart that I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. Except nothing could have prepared me for the madness of Synecdoche, New York (2008). I mean, there are meta films like Adaptation. then there are meta films of a whole different level like Synecdoche, New York. In the end, I think the story suffers due to its insistence on the artistic. I’m all for “smart” films that make the audience think. However, I am not a fan of movies that are so intellectually up their own behind to obscure every piece of meaningful plot and character development behind metaphor and “art.” There is a point where the plot gets so convoluted...
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BOOK: The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains (2010)

The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains Year: 2010 Author: Neil Gaiman Length: 83 minutes / 1.38 hours As I’d realized in previous works of Neil Gaiman’s that I’ve read, he excels at (at least) two things: short stories and fairy tales. One could argue that the latter is a subset of the former, but longer works like Stardust cause me to separate the distinction. Perhaps this book was made all the more magical by its audiobook production. Not only did the author himself read it, but it was accompanied with some great atmospheric music to enhance the mood produced by Gaiman’s words. I missed the illustrations this book sports, but I think the words can speak for themselves. In terms of a fairy tale, The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains manages to contain the usual flare of morality and truth against a backdrop of riches and mysterious wonder. I’m almost surprised there aren’t more authors writing modern fairy tales...
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MOVIE: Strangers on a Train (1951)

Strangers on a TrainYear: 1951Rating: PGLength: 101 minutes / 1.68 hours It’s a wonder after all these years that a Hitchcock film like Strangers on a Train (1951) escaped me until now. Sure, Hitchcock used trains in many of his films, but the premise here is so diabolically intriguing that it demands a viewing. After all, there’s an amount of logic involved with two strangers swapping the murders that they would like to happen to those tormenting them. And yet, Bruno Antony (Robert Walker) is so unsettling in his ability to follow through that the suspense of the rest of the movie practically films itself. Several camera tricks that Hitchcock uses adds his signature flair to this movie. From a punch to the face to a tension-filled series of shots at the bottom of a storm drain, the cinematography in Strangers on a Train is yet another reason why people need to watch this film. This being said, the ending (despite being...
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VIDEO GAME: Undertale (2015)

Undertale Year: 2015 Rating: E10+ Time Played: By the time I had the chance to play Undertale (on the Nintendo Switch, no less), most of the surprising revelations about its battle system were already spoiled for me. Regardless of knowing the unique playstyle for this game, I tried my best to play by the counterintuitive methods that set this game apart from others of its genre. And while I didn’t get the true pacifist ending for some reason, it was still an enjoyable and humorous game. Despite its somewhat shorter length, I still think making it any longer would have ruined the tight storytelling. Now, Undertale is by no means a perfect game, and I’m sure the diehard fans of this franchise will hate me for saying this. The visual style was pretty good for a retro throwback, but it felt inconsistent from place to place, almost like it didn’t know if it wanted to be 8-bit or 16-bit. Similarly, the fantastic music and audio...
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BOOK: Science – Abridged (2017)

Science: Abridged Beyond the Point of Usefulness Year: 2017 Author: Zach Weinersmith Length: 60 pages Another in Zach Weinersmith’s “Abridged” series, Science: Abridged Beyond the Point of Usefulness is another tongue-in-cheek examination of topics that require much more than a few witty summations to understand completely. Unfortunately, much like his Nerd Disses book, only those who have extensively studied all of these scientific disciplines will understand every joke. As an engineer, I could understand a lot of the humor here, but even I was ignorant of some of the more obscure (or more social) sciences. That being said, he nailed the abridged version of engineering, which makes me think the other sciences received the same treatment. While not nearly as borderline sacrilegious as The Holy Bible: Abridged, Science: Abridged does get its cheap shots in where it can. I’m sure those who extensively study these sciences will laugh at the sardonic tidbits contained in this book, understanding how ridiculous their chosen field may appear at...
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MOVIE: Bathtubs Over Broadway (2018)

Bathtubs Over BroadwayYear: 2018Rating: PG-13Length: 87 minutes / 1.45 hours To some, the idea that there were whole musical productions that were practically enormous advertisements for companies seems absurd. Since I grew up listening to Stan Freberg, I already knew that musicals could sell products (take his “Omaha” musical, for instance, since it was basically a 15-minute radio ad for Butternut coffee). At any rate, Bathtubs Over Broadway (2018) explores these oddities that most people never realize existed up until only a decade or two ago. It’s a little sad to see these ridiculous odes to corporate marketing go by the wayside…but it also makes sense as well. If there’s anything that Bathtubs Over Broadway gets across, it’s that these musicals were serious business, even if the companies they were selling weren’t. There were songs about bathrooms—repeated throughout its runtime—if that gives you an idea of the content. It is a little awe-inspiring to see famous names tied to these theatrical productions....
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MOVIE: The Founder (2016)

The FounderYear: 2016Rating: PG-13Length: 115 minutes / 1.92 hours I hate to admit it, but many of these biopics about successful individuals all come off as the same story. Some down-on-his-luck guy stumbles across an idea that he steals (or has stolen from him) and makes his own to enormous success, betraying his friends and family along the way. We saw it in The Social Network (2010), Jobs (2013), Joy (2015), and The Greatest Showman (2017). The Founder (2016) is just another in this almost cookie-cutter genre that covers the origins of the McDonald corporation we know today. That’s not to say that The Founder isn’t entertaining. As an engineer, I was fascinated at how the McDonald brothers were able to be successful by creating efficiencies and eliminating waste in the process of selling hamburgers and other fast food. The trick is that the titular character, Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton), is half protagonist (the one you want to root for) and half...
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