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Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

What’s there to like?

Well we have a fifth(!) installment in the Pirates of the Caribbeanfranchise. The first trio was surprisingly enjoyable. And the fourth, lagging behind by a few years, pulled together a nice victory lap. Johnny Depp did his thing, and Penelope Cruz and Ian McShane brought enough pizzazz to make it fun.

And now we have a fifth, subtitled Dead Men Tell No Tales. So how is it? Read more…

Catastrophe Season 3

I banged out the third season of Amazon Prime’s Catastrophe last week. I’m very happy I did. The show is managing to find the best parts of some of my all time favorite TV shows like Mad MenLouie, and even The Americans to deliver a strikingly intimate, real-life-type funny look at life’s little tragedies. It’s like TV’s greatest possible Venn diagram.  Read more…

Good Calories, Bad Calories

I just finished Gary Taubes’s first nutrition book, 2007’s Good Calories, Bad Calories. Unfortunately, that is a terrible title for what this book is all about. I’d heard of it before now, but I just figured it was some tweak on a calories-in-calories-out diet model.

I could scarcely have been more wrong. And I am so glad I picked this beauty up. Read more…

The Wizard of Lies

What’s there to like?

Biopics have a hard row to hoe, at least as far as I’m concerned. There are the facts of the story to deal with, characters to develop, and only a couple hours to do it in. The Wizard of Lies largely manages to rise above a lot of that and deliver some nice touches.

The best decision they made was to focus on Bernie Madoff’s personal and family life through the ordeal. Obviously the scandal had tragic reverberations that affected lots of innocent people, but the family effects were where the drama was. Read more…

Restaurant Review: Cliff Dining Pub

I don’t have the energy to systematically review every restaurant I go to. But that won’t stop me when I have a nice experience, as I did last night at The Cliff Dining Pub.

The About page says the restaurant is “From Draper . . . For Draper,” which is rather charming at the same time as being . . . not exactly something I’ve ever in my life thought I was looking for. But hey, I grew up in Orem, and that is not an indication of my taste or sophistication level. So what the hell, I’m game. Read more…

13 Reasons Why

So, Young Adult is not one of my go-to genres, be it in books or on screen. 13 Reasons Why was getting so much buzz, though, I had to take it on. I heard about it not only from some of my favorite TV critics, but from sources as unexpected as my HVAC tech.

Upon watching it, the first thing I’ll say is, 13 Reasons Why is pretty good. It’s got rich characters and the exciting mystery story of how a high school girl’s suicide plays out. The details are parceled out through the main character’s listening to tapes the girl left explaining what led to the tragedy. Gimmicky yet clever, just like you might hope. Read more…

Billions Season 2

After a much-hyped but tepidly-received first season last year, Billionssnuck up on me for its second go around. One more TV obligation. Sort of a thing to do after Homeland. But it turns out I’m quite happy I made sure to watch season 2. It was a lot of fun, and quite a bit more thoughtful than it had to be in a lot of ways.

The best word I can think of to describe the plot is operatic. Not only are the stakes and the consequences exaggeratedly dramatic, but every episode has scenes that legitimately make me feel like I’m listening to an aria. Just like in the first season, the final episode culminates in a big, brash duet between Bobby Axelrod (Damien Lewis) and Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti). One person expressively lays out what’s happening while the other looks on, emotionally, waiting for his own turn to wax eloquent. Read more…

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

What’s there to like?

Puzzlingly, I find myself having not seen very many Guy Ritchie movies. In fact, The Man from U.N.C.L.E just might be the only one. From the buzz (and counterbuzz) surrounding King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, I was worried I might not take to it.

I’m happy to say, I got it. I got Ritchie’s point of view. He certainly swung for the fences on this one. Some may consider it a strikeout, but for my money, he connected. The big-swing point of view mainly comes down to two things, in my view.

First, King Arthur is fun. Ritchie brings a full helping of his (I’m told) lad-culture swagger to the Arthurian legend. He shows tremendous confidence, chemistry, and pacing. The thing just feels sexy.  Even though we don’t see a lot of nudity or prurience in this PG-13 flick, it has an appealing self-assurance and competence. Ritchie doesn’t feel like he has to get every aspect of Arthur’s story in there. He takes what he wants to make the movie he wanted to make, and the choices of what to include and what to cut work.

Second, I love a high archetypal mythological tale.  The good guy, along with having the birthright of destiny, also intrinsically has a lot of other kingly traits–he’s a good leader, people love him, he’s street smart and savvy, he can fight, and so on. The bad guy is basically all evil and in no way deserving of the throne–rules through fear, he’s willing to do terrible things in order to hold on to power. There’s something about classic myths, and I’m glad King Arthur movie leaned into that heritage.

And the story is a quintessential hero’s journey. Will Arthur answer the call to live up to his potential–his destiny–which means taking on burdens most don’t have to endure? Will he accept the wisdom and help of others to achieve his own greatness? Will he face what’s inside himself as well as the challenges in the exterior world? And, by extension, will we, as the viewers? There’s a reason it’s the most common story format. It’s moving and inspiring.

What’s not to like?

Like I say, King Arthur worked for me. But if someone were to not like this movie, I suspect it would be for one of a few reasons. If you don’t like the Ritchie-esque interposition of the explaining of a plan with it actually happening, for example, maybe you won’t like this. If you want a less mythical, more realistic story, maybe this won’t be the one for you. If you think a smirking, winking, swaggering take on a classic tale is a little too self aware (self-satisfied, maybe)? Yeah, again, this might not be your jam.

The Verdict

Guy Ritchie uses his lad-swag take to get at the soul of the legend of King Arthur in a new, cool way. Might not be for everyone, but me? I got it. And liked it.


[Cross posted at]


I started making my way through Jordan Peterson’s list of books to read “to properly educate” yourself. (It comes with a wonderful trigger warning: “These are the most terrifying books I have encountered.”) I just finished George Orwell’s 1984, somehow for the first time.

So much has obviously been said about this book; I don’t anticipate offering anything new or illuminating from a literary perspective. But I’ll share some of my thoughts on completing it. Read more…

Nutrition and Bad Science

Yesterday I listened to Sam Harris’s podcast with Gary Taubes. It stirred something in me. I mean, it lit a fire. Early on, Sam pointed out we’re getting to the point of considering colonizing Mars, yet we don’t have a clear idea of the best food to feed those potential colonists. Not even close, really.

What the hell should we eat? Why do doctors and researchers have such wildly different answers to that question? Read more…