Beard Blog Movie Review: I, Tonya (2017)

”It wasn’t my fault.”

The true story of how Olympic ice skater Tonya Harding became one of the most well-known people in the world, for all the wrong reasons.

tonya
Margot Robbie as Tonya Harding

I, Tonya is told from the perspective of Tonya Harding through recreations of interviews over the last 40 years. She always maintains her innocence and we get to see the (supposed) true story of what really went down.

Being a young kind in the early 90s, I wasn’t fully aware of everything that had happened between Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan. Up until seeing this film, I always believed the narrative that Tonya smashed Nancy’s knee with a lead pipe of some sort. This was incorrect, and I’m glad to know the truth.

This film’s writing is stellar and makes me feel like I’m getting the whole life experience of Tonya Harding. Better than the writing is the acting. Margot Robbie is phenomenal as Tonya; she is perfect for this role. Allison Janney steals the show with her tough love, foul-mouthed, hard working persona. I know Janney is getting a lot of press for this role, but I still think it’s underrated.

The other acting is passable by themselves, but without Robbie and Janney this movie would never leave the cutting room floor.

Before seeing I, Tonya I thought there would be less actual ice skating and more about her life outside of skating. I was wrong and that’s not a bad thing. Turns out, I, Tonya is a biopic that paints Tony Harding in a very good light.

This movie may also help victims in a abusive relationship see how things really look from the outside. Hopefully anyone going through that can find a way to get help.

Who should see this movie? Ice skating fans, people who follow(ed) the Harding/Kerrigan story, and viewers who like a good biopic with dark comedy.

Who shouldn’t see this movie? Viewers who do not like profanity or domestic violence, people who hate ice skating, and those who can’t find the humor in this story.

Score

8.5 / 10 – I, Tonya is a fun, emotional, and riveting tale of one of the biggest news stories from the 90s.

See more of my movie reviews here

Spoilers

Caution! Spoilers ahead.

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Beard Blog Movie Review: Molly’s Game (2017)

Deal with her.

Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut is the true story behind skier turned poker criminal Molly Bloom. The film is based on the book by Molly Bloom of the same name and it’s referenced throughout the movie as it takes place after the books release. 

Molly bloom
Jessica Chastain as Molly Bloom

“I don’t recall a point during the whole movie that I was waiting for something to happen.”

As always with Sorkin films, there is a lot of intense, descriptive dialogue and Molly’s Game is no different. Idris Elba and Jessica Chastain are great on the screen together as they argue why Molly is not the real criminal. 

The story is told in sort of a flip-flop fashion with the scenes cycling between early in Molly’s life and then after her book was published. This allows the story to be told from Molly’s point of view while her legal issues get worked out on screen.

I don’t recall a point during the whole movie that I was waiting for something to happen. The next scene is beautifully woven into the story as to not leave you hanging. It’s a long movie, but goes by very quick.

Can’t wait to see more movies from the great Aaron Sorkin. This is one of the few films I can’t wait to watch again.

Who should see this movie? Fans of Molly Bloom’s story/book, fans of crime and gambling movies, and those who like Aaron Sorkin’s writing style

Who shouldn’t see this movie? People who find it hard to keep up with Sorkin’s writing style, movie-goers who aren’t into real-life drama tales, or those who can’t sit through a 2.5 hour film.

Score

9 / 10 – Molly’s Game is a well-written, well-acted, true story with all the high stakes of an action movie.

See more of my movie reviews here

Spoilers

Caution! Spoilers ahead.

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Beard Blog Movie Review 2017 Roundup

Beard Blog movie rankings for 2017

Ranking the movies I’ve seen in 2017 from best to worst. Some I have reviewed and some I have not. Click on the link to read the full review for each applicable movie.

  1. Lady Bird – 9 / 10
  2. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – 9 / 10
  3. Star Wars – The Last Jedi – 8.5 / 10
  4. Get Out – 8.5 / 10
  5. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – 8 / 10
  6. The Big Sick – 8 / 10
  7. The Disaster Artist – 8 / 10
  8. Baby Driver – 8 / 10
  9. Thor: Ragnarok – 8 / 10
  10. It – 8 / 10
  11. Jigsaw – 7.5 / 10
  12. Mother! – 7.5 / 10
  13. Stronger – 7.5 / 10
  14. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle – 7.5 / 10
  15. Kong: Skull Island – 7.5 / 10
  16. Murder on the Orient Express – 7.5 / 10
  17. Battle of the Sexes – 7 / 10
  18. Logan – 7 / 10
  19. Life – 7 / 10
  20. John Wick: Chapter 2 – 7 / 10
  21. Logan Lucky – 6.5 / 10
  22. Alien: Covenant – 6.5 / 10
  23. Dunkirk – 6.5 / 10
  24. The Hitman’s Bodyguard – 6 / 10
  25. The Fate of the Furious – 6 / 10
  26. The Wizard of Lies – 6 / 10
  27. The Circle – 6 / 10
  28. American Made – 5.5 / 10
  29. Baywatch – 5 / 10
  30. The House – 5 / 10
  31. CHiPS – 5 / 10
  32. All Eyez On Me – 4.5 / 10
  33. XxX: Return of Xander Cage – 4 / 10
  34. Suburbicon – 3 / 10

 

More reviews to come in 2018!

Beard Blog Movie Review: Star Wars – The Last Jedi (2017)

Star Wars: Episode VIII

Now that Disney owns the Star Wars franchise we will be treated to a new movie every year for the foreseeable future. In 2015, a new trilogy taking place after the original trilogy, started with The Force Awakens. With so many Star Wars fans having a salty taste in their mouth after the prequel trilogy from the early 00s, everyone was eager for a fresh start. Episode XIII brings us The Last Jedi.

the last Jedi
Luke, Rey, and Kylo

The Last Jedi picks up right where we left off in The Force Awakens with Rey and Luke on some random island planet. That’s about all The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi have in common. A new director brings new storytelling and style to the same characters. Rian Johnson lends his talents from directing Looper to Star Wars. The changes he makes are for the better, and hopefully this trend continues. The next episode will be directed by J.J. Abrams again who brought Episode VII to life. We will see how he brings everything together.

Due to the high profile-ness of this movie, I’m not going to go on and on and on about it. If you want to read more, just Google the movie and you can spend the rest of your life reading about rumors, spoilers, theories, and opinions.

However, I will give you my opinion about The Last Jedi, in short.

The Last Jedi was much better than The Force Awakens because we didn’t have to deal with backstories or introduction of characters. This is one of the few times a sequel excels and gets right to the action. We already know and love Rey, Finn, and Poe, so now we get to see them do what they do best, fighting the New Order.

Episode XIII is a great continuation of the story set by The Force Awakens. There are a few points where it could have been better, but that’s not worth mentioning. I’m definitely looking forward to the finale in Episode IX coming in 2019.

Who should see this movie? Star Wars, sci-fi, and Rian Johnson fans.

Who shouldn’t see this movie? Haters of Star Wars and people who aren’t into fake futuristic space tales.

Score

8.5 / 10 – The latest episode of the Star Wars proves that similar stories can be retold in new and better ways.

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Spoilers

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Beard Blog Movie Review: The Disaster Artist (2017)

“You are tearing me apart Lisa!”

The Disaster Artist is the (mostly) true story of about how the cult classic movie The Room came to be. Tommy Wiseau’s The Room has been a hit since 2003 for all the wrong reasons. The production, writing, acting, and directing is awful, but that is what makes it so popular. The Room is one of those films where you just shake your head and laugh at the mess you’re watching. Fans now gather around the country at midnight screenings to watch The Room to laugh and carryon throughout the showing. Sometimes Tommy Wiseau stops by, adding to the fanfare.

disaster artist
James Franco as Tommy Wiseau

I went to see The Disaster Artist knowing three things; 1. This movie was directed by and starring James Franco (I love most of his stuff). 2. It was a movie about making a movie. 3. It was a comedy. That’s all. I hadn’t seen The Room and never heard about what makes it so appealing. 

“This is one of those movies you can quote with your friends and always get a laugh.”

In a crowded theater my wife and I sat through roughly 100 minutes of audience laughter and inside jokes we didn’t understand. The movie was very well done and I found a lot of it funny despite not knowing what they were poking fun at. After the movie I was kind of in shock, and continually asked myself, “what did I just watch?”.

I continued to think about The Disaster Artist for three days before writing this review. The more I thought about it, the more I enjoyed it. James Franco was great as always and he seems to have a knack for portraying Tommy Wiseau and his unusual accent.

This is one of those movies you can quote with your friends and always get a laugh.

I highly recommend The Disaster Artist, but please do yourself a favor and watch The Room first. Even if you can’t get through the whole thing, at least watch the first 45 minutes.

Who should see this movie? Fans of the subject matter The Room, comedy fans especially of James and/or Dave Franco, and people who enjoy true stories about movie production.

Who shouldn’t see this movie? People who have never seen The Room or viewers of The Room who thought it was not funny and stupid.

Score

8 / 10 – The Disaster Artist continues to grow on me and I am already looking forward to watching it again.

 

See more of my movie reviews here

 

No Spoilers

Beard Blog Movie Review: Lady Bird (2017)

Lady Bird, time to fly.

lady bird
Saoirse Ronan as “Lady Bird”

Lady Bird is an odd-titled coming of age story set in the early 2000s. The film follows Christine “Lady Bird” MacPherson played by Saoirse (Sir-sha) Ronan as she navigates high school, sex, family, and getting into college. 

“With great writing and even better acting Lady Bird will be a film to remember.”

To put in bluntly, Lady Bird is a roller coaster of emotions. You get the sense of how tough it is to be a teen getting ready to enter the real world. This film feels very nostalgic to me, mainly because I was also in high school in the early 2000s.

Lady Bird offers laughter, tears, hatred, and compassion. There’s rarely an emotionless scene. You won’t get a lot of sugar-coating or TV sitcom scenarios. This film delivers a lot of truths and a lot of real family experiences.

Saoirse Ronan is fantastic in Lady Bird. She will be deserving of a Best Actress nominee for this role. Throughout the whole movie Ronan’s character is ever-changing and she plays those changes so very well. Normally she has a thick Irish accent, but I would have never guessed that from this role.

Laurie Metcalf, who I grew up watching play Rosann’s sister, is fantastic as Christine’s mother. She’s tough and loving, just like all the best moms. Her character’s actions at the end of the movie really pull on the heartstrings.

The rest of the cast was amazing as well. The director, Greta Gerwig, who also wrote the script, did a great job delivering the emotion to the screen. With great writing and even better acting Lady Bird will be a film to remember.

Who should see this movie? People who like realistic tales, viewers who want to see great screen acting, and “coming of age” fans.

Who shouldn’t see this movie? Young children and people who don’t have a heart. This is another movie I feel that almost everyone needs to see.

Score

9 / 10 – I loved this movie. Everything about it makes me smile. Great movies impart lots of emotion and Lady Bird does just that.

 

See more of my movie reviews here

No Spoilers

Beard Blog Movie Review: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)

Raped while dying and still no arrests? How come?

three billboards
Mildred Hayes and her billboards

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a dark and twisted tale about a mother and the tragic loss of her daughter. Frances McDormand plays a foul-mouthed smooth talking country woman who seems to have reached the end of her wits. After almost a year since her daughter was brutally murdered and no news from the Police, Mildred (McDormand) calls out the police chief in a very public way, on three billboards.

This movie isn’t about catching the murderer of Mildred’s daughter. It’s not about how she was raped and burned alive. It’s also not about how small town police departments are often notoriously complacent. This movie is about exactly what the title says, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. The billboards go up and the the small town around them comes crashing down. 

“An emotional ride with plenty of laughs, tears, and surprises.”

Sam Rockwell is becoming one of my favorite lesser-known actors. After Three Billboards… he cements himself on that list. Rockwell’s performance should land him an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Officer Jason Dixon. Throughout the film you can see his character evolve and by the end you start to feel sorry for him, even after almost two hours of hatred.

The rest of the cast is great and they all turn in amazing performances. Woody Harrelson somehow jerks the tears right from your face while still making you laugh. McDormand’s rough exterior eventually cracks and you can see the shining light that’s been trying to get out for the entire movie. John Hawkes has a great supporting role as Mildred’s estranged husband. There’s even a surprise role by Peter Dinklage. Dinklage’s portrayal of James is delightful and well-spoken as usual.

In summary, Three Billboard Outside Ebbing, Missouri is fun, but deep down it’s tragic. We are carried through various instances of death and despair but writer Martin McDonagh peppered in enough comedy to keep us sane.

Who should see this movie?
Fans of dark comedies, viewers looking for an original movie, and people who like great screen performances.

Who shouldn’t see this movie?
People who don’t like natural (vulgar) language – It is rated R. That’s it. Everyone should see this film.

Score

9 / 10 – An emotional ride with plenty of laughs, tears, and surprises. One of the most original ideas I’ve seen in a long time.

See more of my movie reviews here

 

Spoilers

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Apple iPhone X Beard Blog Review

The iPhone of the future, today!

iPhone x

Apple’s new flagship iPhone has been on sale for almost three weeks and you can’t go anywhere without hearing about it. The iPhone X (pronounced ”iPhone ten”) is the biggest change we’ve seen to the iPhone in a really long time. It’s also the first iPhone since the original where people were excited to see it and asked me how I liked it. It’s a lot like when I first started wearing my original Apple Watch, but a lot more people know about the iPhone X. The following review will be my opinion of the new iPhone, not so much the technical attributes it posses. Furthermore if you’re curious about the technical stuff check out Apple.com.

Screen

The first thing you notice on the new iPhone X is the screen. It’s big, bright, and very colorful. The screen goes from top to bottom and left to right covering the entire top side of the phone. This new OLED screen is my favorite part of the iPhone X. All the colors are vibrant and the black levels are so dark you can’t tell where the screen starts and stops. As a result this makes the iPhone X screen very pleasing to the eye.

iPhone X 7 plus
iPhone 7 Plus (left) iPhone X (right)

When the screen is fully lit up you can see a tiny notch at the top of the screen where the earpiece is. This notch holds all the fancy iPhone X sensors that I’ll get to in the next section. The screen itself actually flows under this notch so anything that would be shown the in the notch section of the screen will be hidden. In photos, reviews, and talking about it the notch seems like a bigger deal than it actually is. After a day of using the iPhone X the notch becomes unnoticeable and unobtrusive. Most of all, this notched screen design will become one of the most iconic phone designs we’ll ever see.

Face ID

Gone are the days of using your unique fingerprint to unlock your iPhone. Now the iPhone X comes with Face ID (replacing Touch ID) as the biometric authentication process. To put it simple, Face ID uses the features of your face to unlock your phone. This process works in the dark, in the sunlight, and most noteworthy even when you’re wearing sunglasses.

My experience with Face ID has been fantastic. My iPhone unlocks more reliably than when I used Touch ID on my iPhone 7 Plus. There are a couple instances where Face ID doesn’t work, but they are very minimal and easy to live with.

iphone x trudepth
TruDepth Camera system

Consequently the iPhone X doesn’t like my Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses so I have to slide them down to unlock my phone when wearing those. In contrast, My aviator-style Ray-Ban sunglasses work just fine.

Face ID is definitely the future and it can only get better from here. I was skeptical at first, just like I was before trying Touch ID, because all the previous face detection systems were utter garbage. Face ID has lived up to Apple’s marketing and I can’t wait to have Face ID on all the products I use.

Cameras

As an amateur photographer my smartphone camera is very important to me. The iPhone is not my only camera but I like to take a lot of photos with it because it’s smaller, lighter, and always with me unlike my Nikon DSLR. Last year I was excited by the new dual rear cameras on the iPhone 7 Plus. The added “telephoto” camera is very versatile and is even better on the iPhone X. The new cameras work very well in low light and the image is very clear. Previous iPhones seem to have a small increase in camera ability, but the fact that both cameras work identically at two different focal lengths is a huge leap over previous generations.

“It looks pretty, it feels great, and is a blast to use.”

The front camera hasn’t been changed, but it’s been supplemented by the new TruDepth Camera sensors which include infrared and depth sensors. The iPhone X’s front camera takes the same photos as the iPhone 7 but you now get depth mapping which adds the ability to take Portrait Mode photos. This still evolving feature is fun and looks cool, but it’s not a game changer. As a result I’d take the real depth of field on my DSLR any day.

Animojis

The iPhone X’s front facing TruDepth Camera system isn’t just for photos, Animoji is Apple’s way of putting you facial expressions on your favorite emoji characters. This is probably the killer feature of the iPhone X.

iphone-x-animoji
Panda Animoji

Being able to send someone a short video of your expressions and voice is endless fun and entertainment. This is one of the few areas Apple has been an innovator and I would bet it pays off big now and in the future.

Pros / Cons

The iPhone X isn’t perfect, but at the same time, it’s a huge leap forward for tech nerds like myself.

Pros

  • Great rear dual camera system
  • OLED screen is stunning in person
  • Face ID is more secure and easier to use

Cons

  • No home button; New interface could be confusing to some
  • Battery life is slightly worse than my iPhone 7 Plus, but still lasts all day
  • Front camera resolution could be better


Who should buy the iPhone X?
Apple fans who want the latest tech, photographers wanting the best
smartphone cameras, and techie people who like being on the cutting edge.

Who shouldn’t buy the iPhone X?
Users who want the same old iPhone interface, people who don’t want the latest technology, or folks who are afraid of the price.

The price of greatness

Let’s talk about price for a moment. All you read on the internet, hear on the news, and talk about at work is how this iPhone costs $1000+. While that is true, it’s not that big of a deal. Now let’s break it down a little bit.

Here are the costs of the current iPhone offerings and storage capacity respectively:

  • iPhone 8 (64GB/128GB) ———— $699/$849 or $35$41 per month
  • iPhone 8 Plus (64GB/256GB) —- $799/$949 or $40/46 per month
  • iPhone X (64GB/128GB) ———— $999/$1149 or $50/$56 per month

You can see the new iPhones range from $699 up to $1149. The iPhone X is not some outrageously priced hunk of junk. It’s worth the premium over the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus. It comes down to if you can afford it or justify to yourself that you want to buy the iPhone X.iphone-x-2

Most buyers will be financing this phone through carriers or Apple. Not many people will be shelling out cash for any of these iPhones. Also for even further comparison the top of the line Samsung Galaxy Note 8 costs $950.

In conclusion, the iPhone X is the future of what we’ll expect to see over the next few years and it’s going to be great. After three years of the same stagnant design Apple hit it out the park with the iPhone X. It looks pretty, it feels great, and is a blast to use.

First Home Owner Diaries Volume Four: Plumber’s Putty

It all started with a backed up bathtub…

Slow drain or slow brain?

Over the last six months since we’ve moved into our new home, our main bathtub drain has been getting slower and slower. This is not a new thing if you live with long-haired females. Recently, I was able to take a normal 10 minute shower and have the water rise past my ankles. This was the proverbial last straw.

Original Pipes

At our last house we had the same issue semi-annually and I invested in my very own drain snake. Previously, I would go through the tub drain or through the trap cleanout and snake it until I couldn’t snake it anymore. This would usually yield a large mass of hair-soap-scum nastiness that would leave the drain flowing like the Hoover Dam.

My previous successes gave me the confidence to charm my snake once again on this backed up drain. After a few attempts on what seemed too easy to be effective, I tested the drain. Immediately I noticed there was no change and threw down my champion snake in disgust. I retreated to the garage where I knew there was an access panel in the ceiling to the tub drain. As I was removing the access panel that the previous owner screwed AND glued, water began to drip. At this point I was fearing the worst… 

Old house | Old pipes
DIY-2
Holy Pipe

To my surprise, under the access panel was an array of old corroded copper piping. Normally this would be fine as most mid-century homes in western PA have this infrastructure, but one of my pipes was missing a chunk. I concluded that my overzealous snaking caused this hole, but when I put my hands on the broken pipe, it almost caved under my grip. This was a ticking time bomb that was accelerated by my prodding. We have another shower in the house, but I decided this needed to be fixed, now. 

“I’m grateful that I have a father who’s not only willing to help on jobs like this, but adds a great deal of knowledge to most projects.”

DIY-2
No drips

I called my home warranty company (AHS) and they assigned me a plumber whom I didn’t hear from for a day or two. After talking to the plumber’s office and not wanting to pay the service fee, I decided I could do this myself… mostly. 

When it’s cold and rainy, there’s nothing better than plumbing

On a cold, rainy, and boring Saturday my dad and I set out to get this problem fixed. It looks like an easy job, just replace the existing pipes and we’re done! Not so fast… the old plumbing had a vintage drum-style trap, infamous for getting clogged, which also needed to be removed. Our first trip to my local home improvement center yielded a bunch of stuff that might do the job. After careful planning, cutting, dry-fitting, hypothesizing, trimming, and thoughtful staring, we had a configuration that would work.

Cutting out the old piping was easy. A cut here, loosen screws there, and it all came crashing down. We put in a new drain system in the tub accompanied by an overflow down to a new trap and piping. After gluing the first part together we did a water test. No drips, success! The last thing we had to do was vent the pipes through the roof.

DIY-3
Plumbing complete

Venting the trap and drain to the existing roof vent would require another trip to my local home improvement store, and food. After dinner we assembled the remaining parts our masterpiece of amateur engineering. Another successful leak test and we were done.

Another job well done

The only part that remains is patching the ceiling in the garage where the access panel was. After a few weeks to make sure there are no leaks, I’ll patch this with some removable drywall. Hopefully I’ll never have to open that panel again as long as I live in this house (knock-on-wood).

Plumbing isn’t the easiest task to undertake, but it’s easy to understand. You have to get water from point A to point B, end of story. It’s more of a puzzle than a labor intensive job, you have to assemble the right pieces to get water to flow properly, and away from your house.

I’m grateful that I have a father who’s not only willing to help on jobs like this, but adds a great deal of knowledge to most projects.

More of my DIY posts!

Beard Blog Movie Review: Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Not your average Marvel movie!

First, I’d like to preface this review by stating that I have not kept up with all the movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). I’ve seen a few, but I’m by no means qualified to discuss how Thor: Ragnarok ties into the other films.

thor-ragnarok
Thor loses his mane of hair

Now if you’re like me, this movie is a fun trip through the unknown. Characters come into the light that may have been in previous films as well as other lesser-known characters only the hardcore fans will appreciate. Die-hard MCU fans may see Thor: Ragnarok as breaking away from the winning formula. It’s light-hearted and possibly inaccurate script make it easy to criticize.

The music, story, and overall feel gave me an 80s/90s vibe which turns out to be a good thing in Thor: Ragnarok. Furthermore there’s not a single slow period or mind-numbing action overload like in many MCU movies of late. Great pace, interesting characters, and villain animosity keep you involved start to finish. Thor: Ragnarok got me interested it Super Hero movies again.

Not sure if this will be the end of the Thor films, but Ragnarok in Norse Mythology roughly means the final battle of the gods.

Who should see this movie? Fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, fans of the Marvel character Thor, viewers who enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy.

Who shouldn’t see this movie? Fans of Norse mythology looking for a true to myth Thor movie, people who hate fantasy/magic/unbeliveable movies, and viewers who dislike somewhat cheesy comedy in action films.

Score

7.5 / 10 – Much better than I expected. I hope Marvel continues this trend.

See more of my movie reviews here

 

Spoilers

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