Tag Archives: The Cubicle Escapee

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD

Christopher Plummer is so fantastic in ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD that there is absolutely no way Kevin Spacey had given even a tenth as of a great performance in the cut of the film with him as J. Paul Getty that is buried under some deep dark film archive somewhere. The reshoots to replace Spacey, because of the sexual shit he was accused of, took nine days, and you can’t even tell. It is seamless (except for maybe one shot where Plummer was superimposed of Spacey and one or two shots of the back of his head where it might’ve been Spacey too). And I am even more amazed because Plummer is probably at least in the film a good solid 45 minutes. Plummer will probably get a nomination for supporting and it will be well deserved, not just because he did all of this very quickly and efficiently. That being said, when he is not in the movie, the movie isn’t that good. In fact, it is boring, not interesting, and very bland. I have never seen a kidnapping plot/story be so boring. All the money in the world can buy you quick reshoots, but apparently it can’t make your movie fantastic.

The movie is inspired by the real life kidnapping of J. Paul Getty the third, J. Paul Getty’s grandson, and J. Paul Getty making waves because he refuses to pay the kidnappers ransom. Meanwhile his mother is hysterical and she is being helped by J. Paul Getty’s advisor and he is a former CIA operative. The film shows the kidnapping right off the bat, shows a quick way of how Getty made his fortune as the richest man in the world at that time and then dives into trying to get the son back. The film then dives into several kidnapping cliches and tropes, and a few twists that can be seen miles and miles away.

All of the acting in this movie is spades, and might be the only reason for even considering to watch the movie. Mark Whalberg redeems himself from the Transformers disaster earlier this year, and while Michelle Williams is again, really good as she is a really good actress, this film won’t win her any awards. She has had better roles and has been in better films than this. This film is directed by Ridley Scott, who could direct with a paper bag over his head, which is kind of the problem. His style seems to be on autopilot here, like he was more focused on making Alien: Covenant being his 2017 coupe de gras. Scott usually can inject tension into anything, but he left all of it at home with this one.

At two hours and 5 minutes, it really really drags. The only scenes that inject a giant spark into the movie is whenever Christopher Plummer is on screen. He is electrifying here and I think even better than his role in Beginners which he won an Oscar for. If only the movie were better would I be cheering for him to win again this year, but my bets are on Willem Dafoe or Sam Rockwell. I do want to shake Plummer’s hand for coming forward and helping the film get out of a serious jam.

Thankfully it didn’t cost me all the money in the world to see this film, just $5.50. If you are really wanting to see Plummer do his thing, that’s the only way I’ll give this film a recommendation, and I suggest to wait till its on a streaming service you already happen to be subscribed too. I probably won’t have any time in the world to ever want to watch this film again though.

 

26 Things You Should Know Before Visiting China

As I am currently planning my second trip to China, I decided I should share a few things with you.  While some may seem incredibly obvious to the “seasoned” traveler  if you are a casual traveler taking your first trip to China this little guide might come in handy.  Some of this I didn’t know prior to my departure and I really wish I did, it would have caused a lot less stress.

I have also found there are lot of misconceptions when it comes to China so I am hoping this guide will help you be prepared when you go,  you will be taking an memorable vacation and even with the culture shock you will have an amazing time if you are prepared.

Unless you are visiting for 72 hours or less, you need a Chinese Visa.  

Whenever I mentioned that I was running out of time to get my visa paperwork, I find that people were shocked I needed to pre-arrange a visa.  I often forget that most of the bloggers I read are incredibly well traveled and visas often go without saying but the casual traveler who is planning a trip to China may not realize this.  I will write an entire article on the Chinese visa process but give yourself plenty of time and be prepared to pay a fair amount.  It costs $140 and if you are not lucky enough to live near an embassy expect to shell out more money, because it has to be HAND delivered by someone to the Chinese Consulate.

CASH IS KING. 

Sure I have my credit card but good luck using it in the small mom and pop hole in the wall restaurant you just found.    It is best to have cash on you.    While we are at it, no one is going to accept your USD or travelers checks.  I know in some countries specifically Caribbean & Central American countries may take the USD this is so not the case in China. Make sure you have plenty of yuan on you at all times and stop using travelers checks no one takes them anymore.  My typical rule is I get some currency from my bank (almost all banks will order foreign currency for you).  I typically always get enough to last two days more if I am going somewhere that will be hard to get to an ATM.

Let your bank know you are traveling. 

Pretty self explanatory.  🙂 Let your bank know so they don’t lock your card up in China, which by the way is impossible to get on the internet especially if you are trying to access an AMERICAN bank.

Don’t tip. 

Coming from America where it is pretty standard I always feel guilty not tipping but I had one bartender in China tell me it is almost insulting to tip.  So save that money.  This rule does not apply to tour guides.

Get to the Beijing airport about 4 hours early.

Why 4 hours?  Well first they won’t even let you check in and check your bags until 4 hours before the flight (at least in Beijing).  Second, you will go through SOOOOO much security it will take 2-3 hours to get through it all.   It is stressful and I can honestly say I have never been through so many check points at an airport.

Don’t check your electric toothbrush. 

The Chinese have a strict list of items that you are allowed to check, we had to go and hunt for our electric toothbrushes because we didn’t pay attention and they are very clear you will not have your bags when you get back home if you have something in your bag you shouldn’t.  In fact, two people didn’t have their bags when we arrived back in Texas so I feel that is likely true.

That being said, check your liquor. 

Think you are going to save money by buying miniatures for the plane.  Ha! The Chinese will take them from you and it will be a very sad day, you may get through one check point but you will not get through all 4 with the liquor.   This goes for water too.  I had to chug a liter of water before boarding the plane… it was water I bought at the gate too.  The Chinese are not playing with liquids on planes.

Don’t book a Great Wall Tour BEFORE you arrive in country. 

To be honest, if you are a budget traveler this goes for every country.  It is always 100% cheaper to book the big tourist things upon arrival vs prior to departure.  It is always cheaper.  We were going to have to spend $150 each for the exact tour we took while our cost in country was$50 for both.  Huge Savings.

It is polluted in Beijing 

Ok I knew this and honestly everyone might know this but when I arrived it was bright blue skies and honestly beautiful.   I thought pollution was just exaggerated. Then the infamous pollution moved in.  It is bad to the point your boogers will be black.  I am not kidding.  Sorry if that if is TMI but knowledge is power.  Luckily if you need one you can easily purchase a mask to help with breathing.

Bring toilet paper and sanitizer.

This is a common tip because the public bathrooms do not have  it.  Don’t make your life awkward just bring it.  Even the locals bring their own so don’t feel weird.

You will need to present your passport every where. 

Again, I never carry my passport I truly have a fear I will get robbed and I will loose my stamps (yes I am THAT girl) but if you want to get into any sort of attraction in China you will have to show it.  Don’t do what I did and wait for a hour to go to Tiananmen Square only to find out I needed my passport.   I am going to have a passport hideaway this trip so I don’t have to worry about loosing it.  Plus there are random check points in the subway, just have it on you.

Taxis are cheap, BUT not near tourist attractions. 

I always dread the taxi from the airport because I worry I am going to bust my budget before I even get started.  The taxi ride from PEK to the hotel was $13.00.     That being said when we were looking for a taxi to take us back to our hotel after touring the Forbidden City it was $40.00.   We walked a couple of blocks down and caught a taxi and the ride was about $4.50.   How do you know if you are getting scammed?  ALWAYS get in a taxi that uses the meter, never one that tells you the cost up front.

Be prepared to walk, a lot. 

I am so American.  I do not walk anywhere.  I drive to the store up the street.    I know the world doesn’t act this way but I am always shocked by how much walking I do when I travel.   Walking around Beijing is beast though, even if you use the subway you will do a ton of walking.   Wear appropriate footwear.

While on the subject of footwear, leave the flip flops behind.

Or you can do what I did and wear them and have every other person staring at your feet.  I am talking flat out staring with out shame for minutes at a time.  I am the girl that normally doesn’t let this sort of thing bother me, but it was really embarrassing.    It is considered very lower class/trashy to wear flip flops in public so just don’t do it.   Believe me millions live in Beijing and I am pretty sure millions stared at my feet.

Street food won’t kill you. 

I say this time and time again, I am not a foodie.  I am not someone that has to have the greatest “name the dish” here.  I am not a foodie at all and I am just not adventurous when it comes to food.    So every time the person I was with had a dish from the streets I waited to see if he died, he didn’t.  So  I started to venture out a bit and I am here still.  Try to venture out.  I am getting better with every trip but I need to take this advice myself.

Personal space does not exist in China. 

Next to people staring at my flip flopped feet this was the next thing that made me uncomfortable.   They have no issues getting within inches of you and being in your face.  I like my bubble but that bubble is popped in China.

The Great Firewall of China is real.

If you are wanting to get on social media invest in a good VPN, mine sucked and to be honest I am not even to bother for my one week trip coming up, I am going completely offline.    I will just post once I get back home, but if you are going for an extended period of time you might want to strongly consider researching all of your options.  There is no social media… no GOOGLE just be prepared.  I was a bit taken back when I tried to google map directions and couldn’t.   I knew I couldn’t get on facebook but google??? Yeah that was a valuable lesson.

Don’t expect everyone to know the English names of hotels or tourist attractions for that matter. 

I highly recommend you get directions to your hotel in Chinese and any attraction you want to visit in Chinese characters, with a Chinese character address.   I bought a book that had both the English and Chinese name of all the attractions. Linked below. I can’t tell you how many times I just pointed to the name in the book, and was pointed in the right direction

Beijing and Shanghai (Eyewitness Travel Guides)

Knowing how to play frogger could save your life.  

Crossing the streets is no joke and you will feel like you are playing a human version of frogger.  Even the dogs are street smart and look both ways before crossing, and you are not just dodging cars.  You are dodging all modes of transport that could come from any direction.

At least in Beijing it is safe to assume you will not eat dog. 

Not to sound culturally insensitive or anything but I feared I would eat dog and not know it so I googled how to avoid eating dog… well in Beijing it is pretty frowned upon and like wearing flip flops.  Trashy.     I can’t say this about other parts of China.

Yes you will have to use a squat toilet. 

Or hold it all day and go at the hotel.  I suppose that decision is up to you.

Don’t drink the  tap water. 

Again pretty self explanatory but just don’t drink it.  It is safe to brush teeth with though, at least I brushed my teeth with the water and I am still alive.

There are signs in English but that doesn’t mean English is really spoken. 

It wasn’t really easy to find people that spoke English so you really have to go with your gut on a lot of things.    That being said people will take every opportunity to practice their English with you.

You will get stared at.

Not just when you have flip flops on (ha) but if you have some unique quality.  If you are African you will get stopped, I witnessed this first hand.  If you are exceptionally tall you will get stared at.  If you have a unique trait you will get stared at.   Don’t be offended people are just curious.

The Chinese DO NOT queue.  I repeat they DO NOT queue

This can cause some conflict.  In fact, if you do not pay attention you will get line jumped many times.  Be aggressive and stay focused.    I am not saying sucker punch a person that line jumps you, just keep inching and moving forward because it is safe to assume people will be coming from all angles and you will get line jumped.    I am not telling you how to handle it I am just telling you it will happen and to not get too pissed over it.    Just expect it to happen be patient and remember you are in freaking China. Chill out.

Do remember things are different in China and DON’T listen to other people about China.  Make your own opinions. 

I have wanted to go to China for YEARS it was always the destination I dreamed about going to.  That being said whenever I brought it up to some people the first thing they would say “you are not going to like it there”   and I would immediately just shut down and not talk about places I wanted to go because who needs that negativity.

Well I finally went to china and guess what I FREAKING LOVED CHINA.

I LOVED China, to the point it is my second favorite country I have visited.  Yes it is polluted, it is chaotic, people spit and you have to use a squat toilet and you have no clue what the hell you are eating half the time BUT it has so much culture, it pushes you out of your comfort zone, the people are friendly and it is home of the freaking GREAT WALL and it is so easy to get mesmerized by this vast country.   You have to look past all the “reasons” you shouldn’t like China and find the ones that make this country remarkable.

Just don’t wear flip flops.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: BRIGHT (A Netflix Movie)

I’ve been waiting a couple of days to write my review of BRIGHT because it’s a movie I am having a tough time forming an opinion on. On one hand, it’s a cool concept of mixing our real gritty world with fantasy elements, creatures, and magic (basically Bad Boys meets Lord of the Rings) and it is actually very entertaining with some great visuals and action effects. On the other hand, the dialogue in this film is so horrifically bad with every cop cliche again done to death and the main good elf is basically ripping off LeeLoo from The Fifth Element. I also had a couple of problems for the locations of some of the action scenes as well (But we’ll get to that later). Ultimately, I am going to recommend this based on the fact that I was throughly entertained, Will Smith and Joel Edgerton did a great job with their roles, and that it has to potential to really be something masterful when the sequel is made. You just have to get past the shitty, awful fucking dialogue.

Bright stars Will Smith as a cop, that has an Orc for a partner, the only Orc on the police force. Smith is coming back from an incident where he got shot and some say his Orc partner let the perp go because the gunman was an Orc and they have this blooded Orc code or whatever. Anyway,  humans live peacefully uneasily with Orcs and Elves after all of them had fought for thousands of years. It is revealed that in these thousands of years that a Dark Lord was the ultimate bad guy/nemesis and he is proficized to come back when three magic wands are joined together by beings that can actually hold and use them with their bare hands without just immediately exploding (these beings are known as Brights). Will Smith and Edgerton come across a elf played by Lucy Fry, who happens to have one of these wands of power.

I won’t get into plot specifics here either, because there are actually some really cool reveals in the film. There is one part near the beginning in particular, where Will Smith has a choice to do something really bad or really good, and the scene was shocking and did not end the way I thought it would. That scene is probably my favorite in the film and showed if the writing were tweaked for the rest of the film like it was here it could’ve been masterful. There are some cool shoot outs as well, cool special effects, cool car chases. And don’t let it being on Netflix fool you, if this were released in theaters, it would be a hard rated R. There is a lot of cursing, a lot of blood and gut violence, and even some random nudity. I really liked the atmosphere and the grittiness of the picture. The tone was near perfect.

However, some of the plot threads and locations really didn’t work for me. It’s supposed to be this cool world with our human race mixed with Orc’s and Elves, but you are telling me that every shootout/chase/etc. had to take place in an abandoned building or a strip club? Like there are not ancient castles or cool mountainous valleys anywhere we could’ve went to? (I’m guessing possibly the sequel). Also, most of the movie is really predictable, we are told that one human in a million could end up being a Bright, and if that line of dialogue doesn’t wring your obvious foreshadow predictable bell of who that might be…well then this movie is really for you and I can’t help you.

The dialogue in general is really bad. Everything that is said and all the jokes and one-liners we have heard before, and we didn’t chuckle or laugh the first time they were said. “They didn’t teach us that in training.” I mean, really? That’s like a 13 year old writing a screenplay and can’t figure out any clever so just puts in filler to be able to turn his assignment on time. And Lucy Fry’s elf character is basically LeeLoo from the Fifth Element, spouting off Elf jibberish, being scared most of the time, but also coming out with some kung fu bad ass moments. It seems like the script didn’t have any proofreading and the first draft was just submitted and accepted. If Netflix had ordered a script retooling, this thing could’ve been a really great movie and one of Will Smith’s best in awhile.

This is coming from the writer and director of Suicide Squad (David Ayer) and at least this film is much, much, much, much better than that. That was unwatchable garbage, this was actually a bit of fun. I do hope that the sequel is a little more planned out with a tighter script. People said that this would make a good television show. I agree, as long as it was on HBO or Showtime and kept all of the R rated grittiness. But I’m kind of glad it is a movie so that way I don’t have to keep up each week. If everyone involved tries to make an even better film next time, the future could be really bright for this Netflix franchise.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: CALL ME BY YOUR NAME

CALL ME BY YOUR NAME is one of those films where I recognize everything about it that is making it special to audiences, critics, the Academy, and it is a actual decent one time watch, I personally would never watch it again. And it’s not the gay thing at all. Even though I feel awkward in the theater watching two men fall in love with more explicit sexual scenes than Brokeback Mountain had to offer, that’s not and will never be a reason why I personally hate or don’t care for a film. Like the Seinfeld episode, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that.” In fact the films paints a perfect picture between the love between two men in Italy in the 1980s. The dialogue and situations of the sexual frustrations between the two feel real and the film takes its time to develop them, much more than Brokeback Mountain ever did. And the movie has one of the most memorable finale dialogues I have ever heard. It’s just one of those films I don’t have any interest in ever watching again. You know what I’m talking about.

It’s not a meh film, or even a bleh film, it’s a “yeah that was interesting, ok, on to the next Oscar contender film!” The acting in this is incredible. Timothy Chalamet, Armie Hammer, and Michael Stuhlberg are all incredible in this film, especially Stuhlberg and his final dialogue while talking to his son on the couch at the end of the film. Also, the film captures the 80s and I assume it captures Italy at that time well (I’ve never been). The cinematography is actually quite beautiful and I thought it was interesting how director Luca Guadagnino filmed most of the movie with the camera wait high looking up at the actors. It worked and kept my attention throughout the entire thing.

The movie is about an American student (played by Armie Hammer) that stays with his professor and his family in Italy in 1982. Him and the 17 year old son (played by Timothy Chalamet) form a bond that turns out to be more than friendship. It explores this sexual angst to perfection. The film also hits the message really well how America didn’t tolerate homosexuality at the time (and lets face it, for some individuals, it never will), without hammering that message on the head. It was subtle, yet not too subtle for the viewer to not understand why some of the characters act and do some of the things that they do. The movie is about ten to fifteen minutes to long, a trip between the two boys feels sort of rushed and more of an after thought to add onto the film, when something else could’ve taken its place and been more needed. You’ll know what I’m talking about when you see it. Their trip just feels choppy, choppy enough to have been almost cut completely.

But the film takes its time to establish the bond between the two men, and it does it masterfully well. More so than Brokeback Mountain, which I always felt their bond was a little forced to move the plot along. Just a word of warning, while this film is a lovely film about homosexual love, it is pretty specific with some of its scenes, and earns its R rating. I’m not saying to not see it if gay stuff bothers you, I’m saying you might want to watch out maybe seeing it with your entire family to not have an awkward drive home. More of a date or couple or lover film.

So this film is good and I am giving it a recommendation. A good recommendation. I just personally won’t watch it again, because I don’t need to. I got everything in one sitting and I don’t know if I would forget the film enough to deserve another. The film is worth seeing for the end speech by the boy’s father alone, and is the reason why Michael Stohlberg might get a nomination for that one scene alone. It is pretty powerful. This movie is for all mature adults out there looking for a good artsy fartsy film. It’s better than Brokeback Mountain, which I always thought was overrated.