🎞 The Founder (2016)

The Founder from The Weinstein Company
Directed by John Lee Hancock. With Michael Keaton, Nick Offerman, John Carroll Lynch, Linda Cardellini. The story of Ray Kroc, a salesman who turned two brothers' innovative fast food eatery, McDonald's, into the biggest restaurant business in the world, with a combination of ambition, persistence, and ruthlessness.

Ray Kroc was apparently a far more complex character than I had expected he would or could be. Not that I’ve been a big fan of McDonald’s before, but I have less respect for it as a corporation now, but more respect for its true founders.

It’s an interesting quirk of fate that this film premiered on January 20, 2017 and the parallels that Kroc has with the 45th president who was inaugurated that day.

Watched on Netflix

Rating:

🎞 The Imitation Game (2014)

The Imitation Game from The Weinstein Company
Directed by Morten Tyldum. With Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Allen Leech. During World War II, the English mathematical genius Alan Turing tries to crack the German Enigma code with help from fellow mathematicians.

Sometimes it’s the very people who no one imagines anything of who do the things no one can imagine.

–an interesting sentiment repeated through the film

I think this was one of the most interesting moments in the film with a very interesting double entedre:

Of course machines can’t think as people do. A machine is different from a person. Hence, they think differently. The interesting question is, just because something, uh… thinks differently from you, does that mean it’s not thinking? Well, we allow for humans to have such divergences from one another. You like strawberries, I hate ice-skating, you cry at sad films, I am allergic to pollen. What is the point of… different tastes, different… preferences, if not, to say that our brains work differently, that we think differently? And if we can say that about one another, then why can’t we say the same thing for brains… built of copper and wire, steel?

I was a bit worried that this film would miss out on one or two crucial technical details that the wider audience should be at least be made aware. It succeeded in presenting all of them, including the concept of a telegraphic “hand”.

The exertion scenes of Alan running were a bit too on-the-nose for me as a proxy for his mental effort and work, particularly given the rest of the general tenor of his character. It was an interesting cinematic and emotional trick however.

This was an incredibly well put together film. I was far more impressed than I had expected to be.

Watched on Netflix

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📺 Fresh Off the Boat: S4 E6 “A League of Her Own”

Fresh Off the Boat S4, E6: "A League of Her Own" from ABC
Directed by Jay Chandrasekhar. With Randall Park, Constance Wu, Hudson Yang, Forrest Wheeler. After coming out of the closet to Honey and Jessica, Nicole struggles with telling Marvin, fearful that her father will be disappointed in her. Meanwhile, Louis wants to manage the Cattleman's Ranch softball team on his own, so Jessica decides to coach the rival team from The Denim Turtle to prove that she is the superior manager. Chaos is sure to ensue when everyone gathers for the big game at the Greater Orlando Bar and Restaurant tournament.

📺 Body of Lies (Warner Bros., 2008)

Body of Lies (2008) from Warner Bros.
Directed by Ridley Scott. With Leonardo DiCaprio, Russell Crowe, Mark Strong, Golshifteh Farahani. A CIA agent on the ground in Jordan hunts down a powerful terrorist leader while being caught between the unclear intentions of his American supervisors and Jordan Intelligence.

I think I got about 45 minutes into this before I realized I had seen it before when it came out. Apparently it hadn’t made a big impression on me. While interesting, I hope I’ll remember not to delve into it a third time.

📺 “The Big Bang Theory” The Tesla Recoil, Season 11 Episode 8

"The Big Bang Theory" The Tesla Recoil, Season 11 Episode 8 from CBS
Directed by Anthony Rich. With Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons, Kaley Cuoco, Simon Helberg. Howard and Leonard become upset after they discover that Sheldon has been working with the military without telling them; Bernadette asks Raj to investigate her suspicions that Ruchi is attempting to take her job away from her.

Not as good an episode as usual. Some of the Kripke part was funny, but overall there was just too much pettiness and not enough comedy here.

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📺 “The Big Bang Theory” The Geology Methodology

"The Big Bang Theory" The Geology Methodology, Season 11 Episode 7 from CBS
Directed by Mark Cendrowski. With Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons, Kaley Cuoco, Simon Helberg. Bert asks Sheldon to collaborate on a project with him, Sheldon becomes dubious others finding out because he thinks geology is beneath him. Raj begins dating Bernadette's Indian coworker.

a nice little episode–you’ve gotta love Bert

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📺 Blue Bloods “Pain Killers” Season 8 Episode 9 (CBS)

Blue Bloods "Pain Killers" Season 8 Episode 9 from CBS
Directed by John Behring. With Donnie Wahlberg, Bridget Moynahan, Will Estes, Len Cariou. Danny and Baez join a narcotics task force to track a drug supplier; Baez comes into contact with drugs and gets an accidental overdose; Jamie and Eddie work to protect a rehabilitated sex offender; Frank forms an unlikely alliance with Mayor Dutton.

Episodes have gotten a bit more interesting lately. This one wasn’t too bad, though I’m still debating giving up on the series.

The political machinations between the PC and the governor were a bit odd and difficult to follow and seemed a bit like phony drama to me.

🎞 Watched Snowden (2016)

Snowden (2016) from Open Road Films
Directed by Oliver Stone. With Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley, Melissa Leo, Zachary Quinto. The NSA's illegal surveillance techniques are leaked to the public by one of the agency's employees, Edward Snowden, in the form of thousands of classified documents distributed to the press.

This was far more interesting than I had expected. It certainly humanized Snowden far better than any of the stories I’ve seen thus far.

Rating:

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📺 Wisdom of the Crowd Season 1, Episodes 2-4

Wisdom of the Crowd Season 1, Episodes 2-4 from CBS
A drama about a visionary tech innovator who creates a cutting-edge crowdsourcing app to solve his daughter's murder, and revolutionize crime solving in the process. Inspired by the notion that a million minds are better than one, Silicon Valley entrepreneur Jeffrey Tanner, develops "Sophe," an online platform for publicly shared information he's certain will find his daughter's killer.

I managed to miss the first episode. Episodes 2 and 3 are a bit stilted and feel a bit preachy, but I’m willing to watch a few to see where it goes.
It seems like a relatively timely concept though they could do a better job explaining the science behind what they’re doing. They do manage to do a reasonable job on the drama though.

I haven’t read any of the recent articles on Jeremy Piven, but I’m a bit curious how long this series will last given his recent PR scrape. It seems relatively interesting and has some potential, but I’m not sure if it’s got traction to go more than a season. If allegations pull on it, it may not make it very far. Piven is pretty good in the show, but I actually think he could be better if he removed his stereotypical “geek” glasses. They somehow drag on his performance.

I thought it was pretty funny that the series uses the fictional search engine “Chum Hum” which also appeared as a search engine in the CBS series The Good Wife.

Episode four delves into some interesting moral questions about technology and follows in the footsteps of Law & Order in their “ripped from the headlines” plotting. I’m curious if they’ll follow some of the nebulous moral endings that Law & Order had as well?

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📺 Don’t Worry Be Happy by Bobby McFerrin

Don't Worry Be Happy from YouTube
Music video by Bobby McFerrin performing Don't Worry Be Happy.

Most will think that Robin Williams’ cameo in this video is the headline, but to me it’s Bill Irwin! I’ve been enamored of his work (and clowning) since watching My Blue Heaven in my youth. There’s nothing better than running into his work anywhere on film and television. I hope he ultimately gets the recognition he deserves for his work, which I think is sadly underrated. If you haven’t seen his Mr. Noodle work, go out and track it all down.

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📺 These 3D animations could help you finally understand molecular science | PBS NewsHour

These 3D animations could help you finally understand molecular science from PBS NewsHour
Art and science have in some ways always overlapped, with early scientists using illustrations to depict what they saw under the microscope. Janet Iwasa of the University of Utah is trying to re-establish this link to make thorny scientific data and models approachable to the common eye. Iwasa offers her brief but spectacular take on how 3D animation can make molecular science more accessible.

Visualizations can be tremendously valuable. This story reminds me of an Intersession course that Mary Spiro did at Johns Hopkins to help researchers communicate what their research is about as well as some of the work she did with the Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology.

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📺 The Vietnam War: Déjà Vu (1858-1961) Episode 1

The Vietnam War: Déjà Vu (1858-1961) Episode 1 from PBS
After a long and brutal war, Vietnamese revolutionaries led by Ho Chi Minh end nearly a century of French colonial occupation. With the Cold War intensifying, Vietnam is divided in two at Geneva. Communists in the north aim to reunify the country, while America supports Ngo Dinh Diem's untested regime in the south.

The opening history is intriguing and really only seems to scratch the surface in this episode. I could have taken a more in-depth opening, though they’ve got a lot of ground to cover in just 10 episodes. Sadly, it’s the beginning and subtle causes for the war that are culturally the least understood, so this becomes a more useful place to lay them out for viewers.

I can only watch it and think about the futility of the whole thing.

I’m a bit curious how others found the flash forward portions of the late 60’s. It felt like the directors were trying to keep an American audience involved in the ongoing story, though, if continued throughout the series, these could provide interesting personal counterpoint to the overall arc of the story.

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📺 PBS NewsHour full episode Sept. 28, 2017

PBS NewsHour full episode Sept. 28, 2017 from PBS
Thursday on the NewsHour, the wreckage of Hurricane Maria poses a logistical nightmare for those in need in Puerto Rico. Also: The technology Russia used in the 2016 election under scrutiny, Yemen's war-induced humanitarian crisis worsens, the influence of Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, the woman who sparked debate about discrimination in Silicon Valley and a journalist's experience with miscarriage.

The Ellen Pao interview was quite interesting and germane to much of what has been a huge story over the past 6 or so months. It reminds me a lot of Valerie Alexander’s work, which I’ve highlighted before.

The miscarriage story was just heartbreaking. I really love this series of “brief but spectacular” stories they tag onto the end of episodes though. It really adds some interest and humanity to what can often otherwise be bleak stints of news coverage. Even when they’re not uplifting–like this one–they’re always unique and interesting.

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📺 Face the Nation 8/27/17: Abbott, Bossert, Winnefeld, Donilon

Face the Nation 8/27/17: Abbott, Bossert, Winnefeld, Donilon from cbsnews.com
This week on "Face the Nation," CBS News Chief White House Correspondent Major Garrett guest hosts the broadcast covering the latest on Hurricane Harvey and the week's foreign policy news.

A generally mediocre episode. I would have preferred more political news and less on the hurricane in Texas, which is already oversaturated in all senses of the word. There’s not much to say about the hurricane and the administrative response to it yet, so keep the air time for next week instead.

Pushing the emergency response guy on Trump’s positions with respect to Arpaio was a bit over-the-top. He’s obviously not going to say anything substantive on the topic. Naturally since he’s the only person the administration would put up this week, you’ve got to ask the question, but the administration (and Trump specifically) are taking the weak/loser way out of the topic. The better way to have handled it was to ask for his personal position on the topic and moved on.

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📺 Friday Night Lights Season 1, Episodes 16-18

Friday Night Lights Season 1, Episodes 16-18 from NBC via Netflix
What's high school football mean to this Texas town? Absolutely everything when the stakes are as high off the field as they are on.

The series and it’s topics seem to have become a modern-day morality play now. Connie Britton has become the moral compass of the series which is one of the few things keeping it interesting. She sure has come a long way since The Brothers McMullen in 1995.

Episode 16 is a great standout episode for it’s coverage of race, but still feels a bit on-the-nose to me.
Episode 17 covers the obligatory virginity question, but managed to stay away from the Afterschool Special coverage of the topic. It was almost relatively sophisticated for network television without being too preachy. I wonder how this would have played in the 80’s?
Episode 18 is the beginning of the Buddy trainwreck we saw coming. I’m not sure I buy Buddy moving into the Coach’s house here. I’m a Dana Nicholson-Wheeler fan, but she just isn’t given much to work with here and her character is so one dimensional from a writing perspective.