Listen to me on KTRS/St. Louis every Friday, 3-6pm CT

Friday, September 22, 2017

No Show Today

I'm taking a personal day today, so I won't be on KTRS this afternoon. However, I'll make up for it with a bonus show Monday 3-6pm CT. Until then, you'll have to figure out how to start the weekend on your own.

Best Thing I've Read Today

USA Today's Nancy Armour says that the revelation that Aaron Hernandez, the former New England Patriots tight end who killed himself in prison after being convicted of murder, suffered from severe chronic traumatic encepholapathy (CTE) will shake the NFL to its core -- and it should.

It was easy to absolve football when it is players in their 60s and 70s whose memories and personalities had disappeared, turning them into people their loved ones barely recognized when they died. There’s no definitive link, the NFL would say, alluding to a host of other environmental and lifestyle factors that might have played a role.

Even when it was Junior Seau and Dave Duerson, taking their lives in their 40s and 50s because their addled brains were already making their lives hell and they knew there was more to come, the NFL managed to tap dance around football’s responsibility. Tragic, but there are still so many unanswered questions, we’ve heard time and time and time again. More research is needed on genetics and mental illness and, well, anything else that might gum up the debate....

But a 27 year old? The NFL is going to own that whether it wants to or not.

The NFL spends considerable time and resources every year to reassure worried parents that it’s OK to let their kids play football at the youth level. But the news about Hernandez will only ratchet up the fear, making parents wonder if they’re consigning their kids to a jail cell or the morgue by allowing them to play.
As I predicted years ago when I started discussing the work of researchers like Dr. Bennet Amalu and Dr. Ann McKee, we've already seen a dramatic drop-off in the number of young kids playing organized football. That means fewer players interested in risking their brains to play the game professionally later on.

And there are quite a few fans -- myself included -- who just don't get as much joy from watching the NFL as we used to. That's a part of the reason the league's TV ratings started slipping several years ago. Stories like this, from respected sports columnists like Armour, are only going to continue to dent the NFL's image going forward.

Read Armour's full piece here.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Picture Of The Day

Thanks to Jacob Veitz for sending me the link to this funny piece by James Veitch about how he handled an unsolicited marketing email from a supermarket...

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Picture Of The Day

A very entertaining explanation of the magic behind sound design for movies and TV...

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Movie Review: "American Assassin"


Mitch Rapp has just proposed to his beautiful girlfriend on the beach in Ibiza, Spain. When he goes to the bar to get a couple of drinks to toast their engagement, all hell breaks loose. Gunmen appear out of nowhere, shooting everyone in sight. She's dead, but somehow he survives.

The next time we see him, Mitch is in training. It's clear he's working to get back at the Iranians who pulled off the terrorist attack that turned his life upside down. Meanwhile, he's attracted the attention of the CIA, which is monitoring his communications with the jihadists. Pretty soon, he's being recruited to join an elite fighting force called Orion, run by tough guy Stan Hurley, played by Michael Keaton.

As in so many other movies, everything is better when Keaton is on screen. He's still a magnetic personality, but I like him best when he's playing a rogue character. This time, however, he's the boss and Mitch is the guy who doesn't like following orders, so you know they're going to butt heads before they're forced to work together to save the world.

Did I give too much away? No, because we've seen this formula and characters like Mitch before: John McClane, Jack Reacher, Jason Bourne. The kind of guy who can withstand a brutal fistfight, shoot you dead with the last bullet in his gun, and somehow know exactly where the bad guy is at just the right time. It's also the kind of movie where the bad guy doesn't kill the good guy because he wants his nemesis to see the havoc he's about to wreak (never mind the collateral damage of the rest of the people on the good guy's side). So, you're unlikely to be surprised by anywhere "American Assassin" takes you, including a finale that may remind you of a 2002 movie based on a Tom Clancy book.

That said, Dylan O'Brien, who plays Mitch, is very good in the role, and I have a feeling we'll see him as this character again, considering "American Assassin" is based on just one of sixteen Mitch Rapp novels in print. Of course, a lot of people said the same thing about Taylor Kitsch five years ago when he graduated from TV star on "Friday Night Lights" to action movie star in "John Carter," but that didn't quite work out. So it's ironic that Kitsch shows up in "American Assassin" as a bad guy. The cast also includes Sanaa Lathan as the CIA authority figure trying to keep both Mitch and Stan under control while simultaneously supporting every rogue move they pull off.

Last week, in discussing Jeremy Renner, I mentioned "Kill The Messenger," an underrated 2014 title in which he starred as real-life journalist Gary Webb, who uncovered the CIA's role in importing cocaine into American ghettoes in the 1990s. That movie was well directed by Michael Cuesta, who also does a good job with "American Assassin." He gets the action sequences right, doesn't telegraph what's coming next, and lets Keaton be Keaton, which always helps.

I give "American Assassin" a 6.5 out of 10.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Movie Review: "Mother!"


After seeing Darren Aronofsky's "Mother!" I walked out of the theater not sure what I had just seen, but confident that I hated it and will find a place for it on my Worst Movies Of 2017 list.

The plot starts with Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem as a couple living in a big Victorian house with not much around them except a meadow and some trees. He's a poet with writer's block. She's fixing up the house on her own. One day, there's a knock on the door and Ed Harris stumbles into their lives. It turns out he's a fan of Bardem's, who allows Harris to spend the night. The next day, Michelle Pfeiffer shows up as Ed's wife and moves in, too.

Lawrence doesn't understand why her husband allows these complete strangers into their personal space and walks around with a puzzled look on her face. That look changes to horror when the couple's two sons show up, a fight breaks out, and someone ends up dead. During all of this, Bardem does nothing to stop anyone while Lawrence screams. From there until the end of the movie, that's all you get from either of the leads -- apathy from him and terrified panic from her.

This is the kind of movie where, when Lawrence goes to the basement and sees blood dripping down the walls, she doesn't tell anyone about it. Is it a horror movie? Is it a metaphor for writer's block? What the hell is it?

I don't know, and I don't care. I did sympathize with Lawrence, however, because she's trapped in that house with something terrible taking place -- just like I was trapped in that movie theater for two full hours with a terrible movie unfolding in front of me.

"Mother!" is self-indulgent (note the exclamation point in its name), it's too long, and it's unsettling to see such good actors locked into a script that takes them nowhere.

The movie shares its title with a movie Albert Brooks made in 1996, in which he plays a grown man who moves back in with his mother, played by Debbie Reynolds. It was not one of Brooks' best (e.g. "Modern Romance," "Lost In America," "Defending Your Life"), but you'd be better off watching it five times than having to sit through this "Mother!" even once.

I give it a 2 on a scale of 10, with an exclamation point!