Contagion

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Poster for the movie "Contagion"

Contagion

Nothing spreads like fear

20111 h 46 min
Overview

As an epidemic of a lethal airborne virus - that kills within days - rapidly grows, the worldwide medical community races to find a cure and control the panic that spreads faster than the virus itself.

Metadata
Runtime 1 h 46 min
Release Date 8 September 2011
Details
Movie Media DVD
Movie Status Available
Movie Rating Good

They say life imitates art and that seems true where Contagion is concerned right now. There are a lot of pandemic/illness movies out there, but Contagion is the most realistic one I have seen. Most other films seem to be zombie movies, post-apocalypse scenarios, or comedies. The next closest film is probably Outbreak, but even that is grossly unrealistic compared to Contagion. Outbreak is a bit more fun as a movie, but far from being mistaken as a documentary. It Comes At Night is also a close second but carries a very different tone. The Andromeda Strain also merits mention, but the overall story there is very unlike a pandemic.

This is not the first film where director Steven Soderbergh used an ensemble cast and this film would not have worked without it. In any story where society as a whole is affected, it is easy to get too focused on one area. Many such stories focus on just one group of survivors or scientists looking for a cure. In Contagion, we get a little bit of everything. The character cast consist of scientists, government officials, and members of the public in different locations worldwide as events unfold.

The spread of the virus itself is incredibly realistic. At first, very few individuals grasp how bad this is going to be. As things get worse, governments on both local and federal levels are more worried about their bureaucracy than the outbreak. You have individuals who are looting for food and medicine, an individual spreading misinformation for his own personal benefit, and people both in and outside of world governments forming “us vs them” mentalities as supplies begin to grow limited. And throughout all that, the film bounces through the entire cast pretty evenly with limited character development so that the pandemic itself remains the key focus.

What is really great about Contagion is the sense of realism. This is not a film that necessarily has a happy ending. The characters do not find a cure and just declare “the day is saved!” and the film ends. Even after working towards a cure, which takes time, they still have to produce and distribute it. They know more people will die in that time, but there is nothing else they can do at that point. Ultimately everything winds up being ok, but the question “for how long?” looms over the audience as the film ends.

March 29, 2020

Redshirts

Published Post author

Redshirts Book Cover Redshirts
John Scalzi
Sci-fi
Tor Books
June 5, 2012
Hardcover
320

Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union since the year 2456. It’s a prestige posting, and Andrew is thrilled all the more to be assigned to the ship’s Xenobiology laboratory.

Life couldn’t be better…until Andrew begins to pick up on the fact that:
(1) every Away Mission involves some kind of lethal confrontation with alien forces
(2) the ship’s captain, its chief science officer, and the handsome Lieutenant Kerensky always survive these confrontations
(3) at least one low-ranked crew member is, sadly, always killed.

Not surprisingly, a great deal of energy below decks is expended on avoiding, at all costs, being assigned to an Away Mission. Then Andrew stumbles on information that completely transforms his and his colleagues’ understanding of what the starship Intrepid really is…and offers them a crazy, high-risk chance to save their own lives.

 

To appreciate the Redshirts book, readers need to be familiar with the Redshirts trope. This is basically the good guy equivalent of Stormtroopers in fiction. The inefficient mooks who act as cannon fodder while the main characters do stuff. Whereas Stormtroopers are jokingly known for missing every shot, Red Shirts are known for dying easily and instantly. Mainly to serve as a warning sign so the protagonists know what to avoid. Anyone who is at least somewhat familiar with Star Trek should be familiar with this concept. And with the hilarious ways Redshirts pays homage to the trope.

If you have never seen Star Trek before reading this book, go watch a few episodes beforehand. Any episodes, it really does not matter which ones. But preferably episodes of the Original Series or Next Generation. Even being familiar with the general hokeyness of 1960s television (compared to modern shows) helps here. This was an era where science fiction was a lot less “science” and a lot more “fiction”. Redshirts essentially takes those crazy concepts and tries to make them more real. Think of any episode of Star Trek and ask, “How would a real, living, breathing person react to these shenanigans?”

This all makes for a very different book than Scalzi’s main claim to fame, Old Man’s War. Both books are sci-fi, but Old Man’s War is an action story while Redshirts is a comedy. My only complaint about this book is that the page count is a bit deceptive. The last 20-25% or so of the book features a few short stories that wrap up unresolved plot points from the main story. It is nice to have that closure, but it means the meat of the book is only a bit over the 200-page mark, not the 300-page mark. Still, the main story did not really need to be any longer, so it all worked out in the end.

Even if you are not a diehard Star Trek fan (which I, myself, am not) this is still a fun book. I enjoyed it a lot, so much so I may actually go take a crack at watching Star Trek sometime. Is this an overall great work of literature? No. Is it great at what it sets out to do? Oh yes, definitely. If you need to fill an afternoon with some laughs, Redshirts is a great way to do it.

March 22, 2020

Homeland (The Legend of Drizzt #1)

Published Post author

Homeland Book Cover Homeland
The Legend of Drizzt
R.A. Salvatore
Fantasy
Wizards of the Coast
September 19, 1990
Paperback
343

Drow ranger Drizzt Do'Urden, first introduced in The Icewind Dale Trilogy, quickly became one of the fantasy genre's standout characters. But Homeland first reveals the startling tale of how this one lone drow walked out of the shadowy depths of the Underdark, leaving behind a society of evil and a family who want him dead. It is here that the story of this amazing dark elf truly began.

 

A while back a friend got me into Dungeons and Dragons, so I started to read up on the lore. While D&D is a multiverse and there are a couple different key worlds, the main world is called the Forgotten Realms. This is where most of the official adventure books take place and it has a long-established history of heroes, villains, and key events. One of the most well-known of those heroes is the drow (dark elf) Drizzt. Originally introduced in Salvatore’s Icewind Dale trilogy, Drizzt became such a fan favorite that he got his own trilogy later to flesh out his backstory.

What started as a standalone trilogy with Drizzt as a sidekick eventually became The Legend of Drizzt. This series started in 1988 and is still going at the time of this writing, more than 30 years later. But the series is broken up into separate story arcs that are each three or four books long. Even though the Icewind Dale trilogy was published first, it is not required reading for Drizzt’s backstory. A few things make more sense once readers are through both stories but reading through everything chronologically seems easier.

This story takes place in and around the drow city of Menzoberranzan. Drow are dark elves, long ago tricked by the wicked goddess Lolth into worshipping her and only her. Hate and xenophobia are cornerstones of daily drow life in a society where backstabbing and assassination are second nature. So, what happens when there is a drow whose innate sense of right-and-wrong does not fit the culture? When one realizes what they have been taught from birth does not feel right? This very much becomes a story of nature versus nurture for Drizzt. One that covers his life from birth to several decades into budding adulthood (he’s an elf, they live for centuries).

Normally, fantasy stories focus on a great battle of good vs. evil while characterization is secondary. That gets flip-flopped here. While later installments in the series use the typical fantasy formula, this story is about Drizzt. How he became the hardened veteran who first appeared in the Icewind Dale trilogy. This series also expands upon the drow as a whole, which works because they are fan-favorite villains among D&D players. But on the topic of Drizzt, it is always fascinating to see where a great hero starts. This series is aptly named “The Legend of Drizzt” but the first installment in this trilogy starts to show the man before the legend and how the pieces fell into place for one person, alone in his world, to become something greater.

March 15, 2020

Grave Peril (The Dresden Files #3)

Published Post author

Grave Peril Book Cover Grave Peril
The Dresden Files
Jim Butcher
Fantasy
Roc
September 4, 2001
Paperback
378

Harry Dresden - Wizard
Lost Items Found. Paranormal Investigations. Consulting. Advice. Reasonable Rates. No Love Potions, Endless Purses, or Other Entertainment.

Harry Dresden has faced some pretty terrifying foes during his career. Giant scorpions. Oversexed vampires. Psychotic werewolves. It comes with the territory when you're the only professional wizard in the Chicago-area phone book.

But in all Harry's years of supernatural sleuthing, he's never faced anything like this: The spirit world has gone postal. All over Chicago, ghosts are causing trouble - and not just of the door-slamming, boo-shouting variety. These ghosts are tormented, violent, and deadly. Someone - or something - is purposely stirring them up to wreak unearthly havoc. But why? And why do so many of the victims have ties to Harry? If Harry doesn't figure it out soon, he could wind up a ghost himself....

 

The spirit world is going crazy with ghosts running amok. So, who ya gonna call? Harry Dresden, Chicago’s greatest and only wizard P.I. The story kicks off a year after the previous book with Harry and his old friend Michael ghost-hunting. Despite being an old friend to Harry, Michael is a new character. So, let’s talk about him. Michael is essentially a modern-day paladin. As in the Lawful Good, sees the world in black-and-white type of person. Which is fairly different from Harry’s own chaotic way of doing things. Michael is all about doing the honorable thing, even if the honorable thing would otherwise be considered a bad move. This gives him varying levels of insufferableness throughout the story.

Then there is Harry himself. While other protagonists like Murphy and Susan are present here, they mostly take a back seat to Harry and Michael this time around. Harry’s main function is to worry about saving his own skin and then have his guilty conscious (and Michael) force him into doing the right thing. Which he continuously manages to pull off despite massive inconsistencies in what Harry can/can’t do.

The last two books established that Harry is a very powerful wizard. Wizards have a limited pool of magic before they need to get some R&R. But Harry can cast as many spells in a day as the average wizard can cast in a week. That is all well and good, in theory. In practice, Harry seems to have no limits. He constantly mentions how he is out of magic or nearly at his limit. And then he manages to use more magic through seemingly nothing but sheer willpower. It was fine the first time it happened, but after a while it feels like reading a shōnen manga.

The other weird thing was how Harry describes women. Which comes off as more a Jim Butcher thing than a Harry thing. Almost every female character who shows up gets a description of her ahem “assets”. It makes sense for Harry to do that for Susan since they are dating, but it happens with a lot more people than Susan. They have been dating for more than a year, so Harry probably is not sex starved. Maybe Jim Butcher was not having much luck with the ladies when this was written, who knows? Anyhow, the Dresden Files seems to lose a little more quality with each subsequent book. Hopefully it can bounce back a bit in the 4th installment.

March 8, 2020

The Saga of Tanya the Evil, Vol. 3: The Finest Hour

Published Post author

The Saga of Tanya the Evil, Vol. 3: The Finest Hour Book Cover The Saga of Tanya the Evil, Vol. 3: The Finest Hour
The Saga of Tanya the Evil
Carlo Zen
Light Novel
Yen On
July 21, 2018 (English); November 29, 2014 (Japanese)
Paperback
288

Contrary to her dearest wish to find a safe place and stay there, Major Tanya von Degurechaff continues to wade through the fog of war with her troops on land, at sea, and in the air. After many battles with the increasingly numerous enemies of the Empire, a chance for a breakthrough finally appears.

But when her comrades begin celebrating the glories they've reaped, savoring the sweet nectar of imminent triumph, Tanya alone is frozen in fear. Has the Empire decisively won the war, or is this nothing more than a Pyrrhic victory...?

 

The Saga of Tanya the Evil has unique pacing compared to most other light novel anime adaptions. The TV show actually ends during the middle of The Finest Hour, but this book’s events do get wrapped up (and then some) during the follow-up movie. This is also the point where the differences from actual military history become even more apparent. Up until this point, the battles and events taking place have largely reflected WWI. There were some elements of WWII in the last book, but not a ton. Those differences start to become more apparent here, both to the audience and Tanya.

Some history books argue that both World Wars are essentially the same conflict. To quote Marshal Ferdinand Foch, “This [the Treaty of Versailles] is not peace. It is an armistice for 20 years.” In the Saga of Tanya the Evil, that pause in the fighting does not happen. The reasoning behind that being referenced in this volume’s title, The Finest Hour. Tanya is a student of military history; as these events start to unfold around her, she knows where the path is leading. But to the generals in command, this is all new. Her plights to superior officers are ignored until they realize, too late, that she was right.

Through all that, you have to remember that Tanya is not a patriot. Far from it. She is still looking out for herself. Every decision from trying to end the war to making sure her soldiers are the best is designed to keep herself safe. The brass thinks she is a patriot because of her crazy success rate. The same can be said for the troops under her command. In reality, she is just looking out for #1. All while hiding her true, selfish motives from every single person around her.

Aside from Tanya herself, more plot threads start to come together in The Finest Hour. Existing side characters are further developed while new ones are also introduced to influence future events. And, as always, Carlo Zen shows off his impressive knowledge of military history. Despite his world containing different technologies, most notably the mages, he continues to utilize combat tactics used during both World Wars in this series. The same can be said for the political aspects of the series, as the constant ongoing war causes the gears of the Empire’s military machine to start grinding. While Tanya’s new world has not entered a World War just yet, it continues to creep closer to that edge.

March 1, 2020

Sonic the Hedgehog

Published Post author

Poster for the movie "Sonic the Hedgehog"

Sonic the Hedgehog

A Whole New Speed of Hero

20201 h 39 min
Overview

Based on the global blockbuster videogame franchise from Sega, Sonic the Hedgehog tells the story of the world’s speediest hedgehog as he embraces his new home on Earth. In this live-action adventure comedy, Sonic and his new best friend team up to defend the planet from the evil genius Dr. Robotnik and his plans for world domination.

Metadata
Director Jeff Fowler
Runtime 1 h 39 min
Release Date 12 February 2020
Details
Movie Media Cinema
Movie Status Available
Movie Rating Good

Video game movies are a fickle thing, particularly live action adaptations. For a very long time, they were bad. Like, really, really bad. But in more recent years, we have seen some transition from “entertaining because it’s a dumpster fire” to “objectively a good film”. And that is where Sonic the Hedgehog falls: a good film. Not a great film, but something fun for the family that can be used to entertain yourselves for the evening. A looser adaptation like this film or Detective Pikachu seems to be the right formula for a video game movie to turn out right.

First, let’s look at plot. This is where most video game movies fall flat. Because it turns out that squeezing an 8+ hour game into a 90-minute film is hard. But Sonic the Hedgehog does not really have a plot. The later games do, but the old-school original games were just Sonic running around smashing robots. The film makers were able to put enough game references in here to make it still feel like Sonic while simultaneously changing things to better fit a film vs. video game format without making things suck.

Next are the characters, starting with Sonic himself. The portrayal here is very true to the video game version of his character. He is young and fun-loving, viewing a lot of the danger around them like a game. But when he needs to get serious, he can. This is helped by his being voiced by Ben Schwartz, who I at least know as the goofy Jean-Ralphio from Parks and Rec.

And then there is the other big star, Jim Carrey. It had been a long, long time since I had seen him in anything. Probably not since the A Series of Unfortunate Events movie. And he is just as goofy here as he was as Count Olaf. He is much sillier than Dr. Robotnik is usually portrayed, but it works because it’s Jim Carrey. While funny and entertaining, he is also unhinged and just mean enough to be a real villain and come off as a threat to Sonic and his friends.

Lastly, we have James Marsden playing the token human friend that any movie with a CGI animal protagonist uses. He has come a long way since X-men, namely in that he actually feels like the main character he is supposed to be in this movie. He winds up in a kind of fatherly/big brother role to Sonic and more than once thwarts Eggman’s plans. This is one of the few instances where the added-in-for-the-film-adaption human character feels natural instead of forced.

Overall, this is a fun film for classic Sonic fans and kids new to the franchise. There are a lot of references to the series throughout the film (hint: the town’s name) while it remains a lighthearted story ultimately aimed at children. Probably not going to win any awards, but a fun movie for anyone who enjoys family-friendly films.

February 23, 2020

The Rising of the Shield Hero, Volume 4

Published Post author

The Rising of the Shield Hero, Volume 4 Book Cover The Rising of the Shield Hero, Volume 4
The Rising of the Shield Hero
Aneko Yusagi
Light Novel
One Peace Books
June 14, 2016 (English); February 25, 2014 (Japanese)
Paperback
344

Naofumi Iwatani, an uncharismatic Otaku who spends his days on games and manga, suddenly finds himself summoned to a parallel universe! He discovers he is one of four heroes equipped with legendary weapons and tasked with saving the world from its prophesied destruction. As the Shield Hero, the weakest of the heroes, all is not as it seems. Naofumi is soon alone, penniless, and betrayed. With no one to turn to, and nowhere to run, he is left with only his shield. Now, Naofumi must rise to become the legendary Shield Hero and save the world!

 

Volume 4 of Rising of the Shield Hero kicks off right where Volume 3 ended. Naofumi and his party are still on the run, framed for crimes they did not commit. For anime watchers, Volume 4’s events were covered by episodes 14 – 21 of the show. Note that this is a higher episode count than the previous volumes. Volumes 1 & 2 each got four episodes while Volume 3 received five. Volume 4 received eight, as many episodes as the first two books combined. So, the events of Volume 4 are more complete in the anime, with fewer small details being skipped over.

This volume more or less wraps up the first major story arc of the series. A lot of issues that began way back in Volume 1 start getting wrapped up here and open the way for new storylines. There is also quite a bit of exhibition as Naofumi learns more about the stakes of fighting the Waves. And about the forces that have been working against him for quite some time. For how dark and dreary of a journey it has been for Naofumi, he starts to see the light at the end of the tunnel here.

Naofumi is not alone in character development. Raphtalia, Filo, and even Melty all develop substantially throughout the story as well. Both in fighting ability and as people. Raphtalia’s story focuses on her past while Filo’s focuses on her future, giving the two another parallel as teammates. The worldbuilding also continues in this volume as readers start to learn more about countries outside Melromarc. The inner workings of Melromarc’s culture and government are further explored as well.

There is another major factor present here: changes to the story. While the ending of Volume 4 reflects episode 21 of the anime, several major details are changed. The events ultimately play out to the same conclusion, but the way things happen is fairly different. It felt like the changes in the anime were present to make Naofumi feel more heroic to the audience. It also felt a bit odd that the anime kept going for a few more episodes during season 1 since this is a really good stopping point in the story.

There are some great feel-good moments in this volume and it is the point where Naofumi really, truly starts to shine as a hero. It will be interesting to see what the next story arc brings as more Waves approach.

February 16, 2020

Smoke Eaters

Published Post author

Smoke Eaters Book Cover Smoke Eaters
Smoke Eaters
Sean Grigsby
Fantasy
Angry Robot
March 6, 2018
Paperback
336

When dragons rise from the earth, firefighters are humanity's last line of defence, in this wild near-future fantasy.

Firefighter Cole Brannigan is on the verge of retirement after 30 years on the job, and a decade fighting dragons. But during his final fire call, he discovers he's immune to dragon smoke. It's such a rare power that he's immediately conscripted into the elite dragon-fighting force known as the Smoke Eaters. Retirement cancelled, Brannigan is re-assigned as a lowly rookie, chafing under his superiors. So when he discovers a plot to take over the city's government, he takes matters into his own hands. With hundreds of innocent civilians in the crosshairs, it's up to Brannigan and his fellow Smoke Eaters to repel the dragon menace.

 

Smoke Eaters has a fairly basic premise: firefighters vs. dragons. Going in, it looks like Reign of Fire mixed with Fire Force with a dash of Syfy Channel Original. The story is set a few hundred years in the future, so there is some future-tech like holograms and robots. A few years prior, dragons started emerging from underground to attack people and burn stuff down. This caused vast changes in world governments, causing the U.S. to collapse into city-states and keeping communities mostly isolated. Despite all this, everyday life seems to function about the same as it does for most people today.

Protagonist Cole Brannigan is a firefighter on the cusp of retirement when he inadvertently discovers he is one of the few people with a genetic immunity to smoke inhalation. This gets him forcibly recruited into the anti-dragon task force, the Smoke Eaters. Having an older protagonist in a story like this made Brannigan pretty unusual. Like many older people, he is very set in his ways. So, he bumps heads with his new team when suddenly going from near-retiree to new rookie. That being said, he does have enough plot armor to always land on his feet as the story progresses.

Now let’s talk about tropes. Being a mix between fantasy and sci-fi themes, Smoke Eaters is full of tropes. Dragons are obviously the big one. But the future setting also gives us power armor, ray guns, laser swords, military robots, and more. We also get generic action-story elements like corrupt government officials and evil businessmen. There is a lot going on in this book and it is really hard to tell whether it is more sci-fi than fantasy or vice versa. But it is enough of an action story that worrying about asking “why?” is probably not something readers need to be doing here.

It would be overexaggerating to say this book does not have a plot. But there are a lot of concepts, including the state of society, that readers need to just take for granted. It is a post-apocalyptic setting, so just roll with it. Smoke Eaters is the type of book you read when you just want to kill an afternoon with something fun. Not because you are trying to analyze a great work of literature. This is the just-for-fun type of grimdark, not the gritty variety. Now let’s get a made-for-TV movie adaption!

February 9, 2020

One Word Kill (Impossible Times #1)

Published Post author

One Word Kill Book Cover One Word Kill
Impossible Times
Mark Lawrence
Sci-fi
47North
May 1, 2019
Hardcover
204

In January 1986, fifteen-year-old boy-genius Nick Hayes discovers he’s dying. And it isn’t even the strangest thing to happen to him that week.

Nick and his Dungeons & Dragons-playing friends are used to living in their imaginations. But when a new girl, Mia, joins the group and reality becomes weirder than the fantasy world they visit in their weekly games, none of them are prepared for what comes next. A strange—yet curiously familiar—man is following Nick, with abilities that just shouldn’t exist. And this man bears a cryptic message: Mia’s in grave danger, though she doesn’t know it yet. She needs Nick’s help—now.

He finds himself in a race against time to unravel an impossible mystery and save the girl. And all that stands in his way is a probably terminal disease, a knife-wielding maniac and the laws of physics.

Challenge accepted.

 

I picked up One Word Kill for two reasons: I like Mark Lawrence and I like Dungeons and Dragons. Objectively speaking, this book is probably 5 stars. I personally could not get that into it, so I am meeting halfway with a 4-star review. My opinion here is probably biased because I am used to reading longer books. When you normally stick to 400-800 page novels, something 200 pages feels too short. Less time for plot and character development makes things seemed rushed. Not necessarily bad, just rushed. But this book feels like it also needs a bit of pre-existing knowledge to be fully appreciated.

So, first there is the title: One Word Kill. This refers to a magic spell in the Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) game the characters play called Power Word Kill. In D&D, almost everything is determined by rolling dice. Whether your character hits an enemy or is hit in turn, how well social interactions go, and more. Power Word Kill is a very powerful endgame spell that ignores dice and just kills the target. Many people who play the game consider it BS. While the book explains all this, it is a bit hard to appreciate unless you have first-hand experience with it. That is a key theme here; how some things are so hard to fight it makes the battle seem unwinnable.

The other big thing here is the mystery; the mysterious stranger and the friend in danger. On a story level it is constructed well, but it was not all that mysterious. From the perspective of the main character, sure, there was tension and build-up. But for nerds who regularly occupy their time with sci-fi/fantasy stories, not so much. On top of that, it cannot be said that this story really did anything new.

One Word Kill takes place in the 80’s and the characters are kids. Stranger Things, check. Fantasy games are being used as a metaphor to battle serious, real-world problems. A Monster Calls and I Kill Giants, check. And more, but other comparisons cannot be mentioned in this review without spoilers.

Analysis aside, this is a good book. It was Mark Lawrence’s first crack at sci-fi over his usual fantasy work and he did a damn fine job. Despite all the nitpicking in this review. If you want something to read on a weekend afternoon, you could do a lot worse than One Word Kill.

February 2, 2020

Uncut Gems

Published Post author

Poster for the movie ""

Uncut Gems

This is how I win.

20192 h 15 min
Overview

Howard Ratner, a charismatic New York City jeweler always on the lookout for the next big score, makes a series of high-stakes bets that could lead to the windfall of a lifetime.

Metadata
Runtime 2 h 15 min
Release Date 13 December 2019
Details
Movie Media Cinema
Movie Status Available
Movie Rating Excellent

A friend once said to me that every comedic actor has one great serious role in them. Uncut Gems is that role for Adam Sandler. Everyone knows him as a comedian whether it is from his SNL days, his more well-known comedies from the late-90s/early-2000s like The Wedding Singer and The Waterboy, or his more lackluster films from recent years like Pixels or Jack and Jill. Which makes Uncut Gems very, very different from all his previous work. And that, in turn, makes the amazing quality of the film even more mind-boggling.

This movie was absolutely thrilling. No part of the film felt dull; it was a ride from start to finish. Everything feels so high-stakes and full of energy (which some of it actually is and other times it isn’t) that you can feel Sandler’s character Howard Ratner’s anxiety throughout the film. The pacing makes it difficult to ever see exactly where the film is going next. Every turn around the next corner could bring something unknown and surprising. Or it could be mundane with some relative normalcy. Uncut Gems is one of the few films I have seen that could be described as just “gritty” instead of “dark and gritty”.

Sandler’s character Howard goes through a lot throughout the film. Money problems, business problems, marital problems, gambling problems, issues with his kids, and so much more. While his exact circumstances are extreme, most of these issues are problems that are relatable. His methods of dealing with these problems are not great and being such a flawed character is largely what makes Howard work. There are instances where his issues are solved or left hanging through his own efforts and other times when the situation is just completely out of his control. Nothing here is picturesque and it feels all the more real because of that.

Films with the protagonist being a terrible person have seen increased popularity (namely Joker) within the last few years and Uncut Gems seems to really touch on that. Howard tries to do the right thing, but that is an issue because he is not a good person. What he considers “the right thing” is not always what most other people would consider the right thing to be. He struggles with inner demons and relationship issues as his flaws cause every aspect of his life to spiral out of control. And seeing it happen is a roller coaster of a ride the whole way.

January 26, 2020