movie reviews

Us will creep you out and is packed with ideas, but lacks satisfying scares

Whether or not you consider Us a scary movie depends on your personal preferences. If “scary” means making you jump in your seat, shielding yourself with the person sitting next to you, or screaming out loud, you might be disappointed with Jordan Peele’s latest film.

But Us is most certainly creepy, with imagery that might live inside your head for a while and revisit when you close your eyes. The broken mirror doubles that a family suddenly encounters are chilling, a credit to make-up and costuming as well some fantastic acting — both in a physical and psychological sense — from the cast.

Following Get Out, Peele has made another thinking person’s horror film. No, Us probably won’t resonate the way his first effort did. And the story’s resolution doesn’t feel as satisfying. That might compel some fans and critics to use terms like “sophomore slump” in critiquing this movie. But Peele deserves credit for not repeating himself here, something that surely would’ve been easy to do.

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Amusement Park Podcast 030: Avengers: Endgame Madness, James Gunn returns and Triple Frontier

After taking last week off, we’re back with a new Amusement Park Podcast. Chris and I look at the final Avengers: Endgame trailer for clues, react to Disney re-hiring James Gunn for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, review Netflix’s Triple Frontier, and wonder if “streaming fatigue” is real.

Difficulty lining our schedules up and what appeared to be a slow news week were the primary reasons for us not recording last week. But even if we had recorded, we probably would’ve missed the Avengers: Endgame trailer and news of Disney re-hiring James Gunn for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. Hopefully, you’ll still want to hear what we have to say on those subjects, along with some thoughts on streaming “subscription fatigue” among consumers.

Please leave a rating and review on iTunes for us and a like on our Facebook page to help boost our signal. You can subscribe to the Amusement Park Podcast everywhere you find podcasts, including:

You can also give us feedback at and find us on Twitter and Instagram. We’d love to hear from you! Thanks for listening!


Overzealous Recycling 010: Scattered, smothered and covered

Thanks to Pat Ryan and WISE Sports Radio (the Asheville station where I do baseball and movie segments each week), I got to attend the Southern Conference tournament final between Wofford and UNC Greensboro. Asheville has hosted the tournament for the past eight years and it seems to be more popular each year. It’s not just a fringe sporting event; it’s something the town takes pride in.

— If you missed the last Overzealous Recycling, you can read it here 

Maybe the surge of interest in mid-major college basketball has something to do with that. But like other small towns and cities, Asheville wants to feel like it matters and an event like the SoCon tourney, which gets broadcast on ESPN, contributes to that.

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I don’t go to many live sporting events anymore, other than a baseball game or two over the summer. Being at the SoCon final reminded me of how much fun a big game can be. And sitting in the media section reminded me of how much I’ve wanted to make my living there. Maybe this was kind of a nudge to pursue and enjoy those things a bit more than I have in recent years.

I was going to embed a video of Sean Brock taking Anthony Bourdain to Charleston’s Waffle House, but already used that in Overzealous Recycling 004

** The first time I discovered how pervasive Waffle House was across the South was during a spring break road trip to Daytona Beach. My friend and I even got into an argument over whether we passed the same one getting back on the freeway or a different one.

Since moving to the South, my appreciation for Waffle House has grown. (Scattered, Smothered and Covered, please.) There’s something comforting about knowing a solid breakfast and good mix of people aren’t far away. But every location has a story to tell, sometimes outside the window. [The Bitter Southerner]

** I’ve been trying to listen to more new music this year, while also reading more about new music to help me with that. The NYT does a great job with interactive features like this, letting you listen to clips of “The 25 Songs That Matter Right Now” as you read about them. Unfortunately, one of the writers picked “Baby Shark.” [New York Times]

** I often wonder if anyone buys cookbooks with so many recipes available online now. (I’ve bought a few, but more for the stories from chefs like David Chang, Roy Choi and Anthony Bourdain.) But chefs keep writing them and the cooking sections at bookstores are full, so the answer must be yes. Micheline Maynard explains how the cookbook business is a-boomin’. [Forbes]

OK, I did buy Vegetables Illustrated recently because I want to cook more vegetables, but don’t know if I can commit to vegetarianism.

** Always happy to see Sean Howe, author of Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, write about comic book history. With the outstanding artwork he produced for both Black Panther and Luke Cage, more fans should know who Billy Graham is. He was the one black artist on Marvel drawing the adventures of the publisher’s prominent black characters. Graham probably didn’t want his art to be defined by that work, though. [New York Times]

** Newspapers have been dying for a long, long time. But local journalism has really suffered. Here in Asheville, Gannett cuts have left the Citizen-Times thread-bare. This is the sad story of Waynesville, Missouri’s Daily Guide finally shutting down. [Associated Press]

** I read a bunch of Captain Marvel comics before the new movie was released, since Carol Danvers had been significantly overhauled from what I was familiar with as a kid.

Captain Marvel takes a while to click, but eventually comes together for a payoff

Kelly Sue DeConnick redefined Danvers into a really great character: tough, funny, vulnerable, and assertive. In this interview, she explains what she wanted Danvers to be. I’m not sure we’ve seen the best of Danvers in the movies yet, but hopefully Marvel gets there. [The Hollywood Reporter]

** The sportswriting world lost a titan when Dan Jenkins passed away on March 7. “Know what to leave out” is advice I’ve never followed well. But Dan also gave us his daughter, Sally, who is one of the best columnists working today. Here’s her tribute to her father. [Washington Post]

** At one point in my childhood, I bet I thought Jan-Michael Vincent was pretty cool. He was the pilot in Airwolf! (I had to look up his character’s name, Stringfellow Hawke.) It was an era where specialized cars and aircraft were popular. G.I. Joe. Knight Rider. Blue Thunder. Firefox.

Anyway, I remember Vincent being kind of a thing on movies and TV because he was ridiculously good-looking. It was so weird to read that he died in Asheville, at Mission Hospital. According to the Citizen-Times, however, there’s no record of Vincent owning property here. [Deadline]

** The incident between Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook and a Utah Jazz fan in Salt Lake City was extremely troubling. Westbrook looked bad for threatening the fan, but what the spectator said to provoke that response (and his history of vitriol directed at Westbrook) had to be addressed too. Is the NBA destined for another “Malice at the Palace” incident, when Indiana Pacers forward Ron Artest went after a fan who threw a cup at him? [Yahoo Sports]

** I’ve gotten back into comic books in a big way over the past year, and enjoyed getting to know a couple of local retailers. I’ve tried to pick their brains a bit about the business of running a comics shop. This column is very inside baseball, but says quite a bit about how publishers like Marvel and DC try to sell to the same audience, and take more of their money, rather than pursue potential new readers. [The Beat]

Weekly Affirmation

I wouldn’t have expected comedian Gary Gulman to be a source of writing inspiration, but his Twitter feed is exactly that! Lots of good advice on the craft and work of writing.


Gulman’s going to perform in my hometown next week, at the Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase. I wish I could see him and thank him for the help.


Overzealous Recycling 009: Higher, further, faster!

My movie calendar is probably way off, but it feels like 2019 is finally beginning at the movies. Oscars season ended almost two weeks ago and Captain Marvel represents the first big blockbuster release of the year. (Sorry, Alita: Battle Angel.) So there’s finally reason to be excited.

— If you missed the last Overzealous Recycling, you can read it here

Plenty of other films have been released since Jan. 1, and I still need to catch up on a few of them. But it’s also time to write some movie reviews again. I’ve really fallen off during the past few months because I didn’t have an outlet — forgetting that I’ll always have this blog.

So I did write up a review for Captain Marvel, which you can read here. If you’d like an audio version, we also recorded some back-and-forth reaction for the Amusement Park Podcast. I’m hoping this helps me scrape off some rust and gets me back into regularly writing about movies again. More on that with some fun news after the first of this week’s links.

** I already knew that you can’t catch up on sleep during the weekend, but I still try to do it anyway. I’m not as bad as I was five or six years ago. I’m getting much better sleep during the week and I’ve tried to prioritize a more normal schedule over the past year. But just in case you’re still kidding yourself, catch-up sleep isn’t helping you. [Washington Post]

** Napping certainly helps, though. I’ve become a fan of the “coffee nap.” Or the “nap-a-latte,” as “The Sleep Doctor” Michael Breus calls it. Drink a cup of cold coffee, then try to snooze for 20-25 minutes. By the time you wake up, the caffeine should be ready to kick in. [Vox]

** Speaking of coffee, I’m a self-proclaimed #Coffeeciando. It’s probably what I order online most often, and I’ve been sampling most of Gear Patrol’s list of the 25 best roasters in America with my friend Mike McClary over the past few months. (I’m staying local for my latest brews, however. Thanks, Dynamite Roasting and Counter Culture!) Most of my ordering has been through Trade Coffee, and they just started a blog, so I’m reading. [The Counter]

Words in Print

In the category of unexpected surprises, I was recently offered an opportunity to write a movie review for Asheville’s alternative weekly, Mountain Xpress. Xpress staffer Edwin Arnaudin (whose work you can also read at his site, Asheville Movies) recently took over editing of the paper’s movie section with his fellow critic Bruce Steele and asked if I’d like to contribute an occasional review.

The bad news is that my first assignment was the final film in Tyler Perry’s Madea saga, A Madea Family Funeral. Snark aside, I enjoyed watching and writing about a movie I never would’ve seen otherwise. I also tend to go on far too long in my own reviews and keeping it short for Xpress was a nice challenge.

When I first moved to Asheville, I thought it’d be cool to write for Mountain Xpress, but soon got some online opportunities with MLive and Yahoo Sports and never tried to pursue anything else. Besides, the movie section was in the fine hands of late local legend Ken Hanke, whose reviews and commentaries were always worth reading. So many good writers cover the arts and food scenes here that I figured I probably wouldn’t ever have a byline there unless I came up with a good pitch (probably sports-related).

So the review is in this week’s issue, and I hope you check it out. Thanks to Edwin for the opportunity and I’m excited about what’s to come. No matter how much writing is done online, it’s always nice to see your name and words in print.

Musical Interlude

** I’m really trying to listen to more music nowadays and one of my favorite albums of the year so far is Maren Morris’s GIRL. It’s been fun to blast it in the mornings to get me going. Morris’s music is new to me, so I’ll be catching up on her older work. Here’s a quick interview with her. [Amazon Music]

** A Captain Marvel theme to this week’s Overzealous Recycling (and Casselbloggy) probably couldn’t be avoided. One area where I think the movie shines — and this applies to all of the Marvel movies — is that a convoluted comic book history is distilled to its most important character and storytelling elements. But if you want to know how much baggage the Captain Marvel name and the Carol Danvers character carries, the NYT‘s Mr. Comics, George Gene Gustines, breaks it down. [New York Times]

** Covering the NFL Draft Combine seems like it could be painfully boring. It’s all about times and measurements — some of which are crucial for fringe aspiring pros — and treating college prospects like products rather than human beings. But it’s also probably a great place to establish relationships with sources and get to know the sport’s decision-makers, as Wright Thompson demonstrates. [ESPN]

More TV to Pile on the Plate

A TV series based on Bruce Lee’s original idea and developed by Jonathan Tropper (Banshee)? Sign me up.

Actually, I really will have to decide whether or not to sign up because Cinemax has been eliminated from my current package with Charter Spectrum. (The business plan of taking channels away from customers when many of them are cutting cable and satellite service is a curious one.) Good timing. Maybe I can get this a la carte through Amazon?

I absolutely loved Banshee, and I’ve been eager to see what Tropper does next. (I should’ve passed the time by reading his novels, such as This Is Where I Leave You.) A more epic, intense version of Kung Fu is his next step.

Also, when visiting my friend A. in Seattle last spring, I surprised her by saying I wanted to see Bruce Lee’s gravesite. Doing it early on a Saturday morning seemed perfect.

** The cynical view of Fox News is that it’s the propaganda network for the Trump administration. Not a difficult conclusion to draw when Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham and Lou Dobbs are carrying water — or even dictating policy — for the White House. Or former Fox News exec Bill Shine setting communications strategy. But now, Jane Mayer confirms that this is essentially state TV with so many employees trading places between the White House and the network. [New Yorker]

** Most sports fans presume that professional athletes live the best lives because of the money they make. (I’ve made that assumption too.) But NBA commissioner Adam Silver noted at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference that many of the players he talks to are increasingly unhappy and isolated, and the league is taking steps to address mental health. [Boston Globe]

I found this through the Axios Sports newsletter, compiled by Kendall Baker, which Mike McClary nudged me to check out recently.

** If I lived in New York, I doubt I could have afforded to see much theater. But had I ever followed through on that dream, I like to think I would’ve been able to scrounge up the resources to see productions like a revival of Sam Shepard’s True West starring Ethan Hawke and Paul Dano. (I hate to throw around the word “hero,” but Shepard is a writer I’ve always looked up to.) [Vulture]

** I didn’t know that Donald Glover got his “Childish Gambino” alias from a Wu-Tang Clan name generator. What would your Wu-Tang Clan name be? I’m not revealing mine, in case I use it for a message board or Twitter handle. Or maybe I’ll become a rapper too. [Boing Boing]

By the way, I learned about this from Miles Surrey’s piece on the Whiskey Cavalier pilot for The Ringer.

Weekly Affirmation

movie reviews

Captain Marvel takes a while to click, but eventually comes together for a payoff

Carol Danvers has been a C-list character in Marvel Comics for most of her 50-year history. Only within the past seven years has she held the mantle of Captain Marvel that sells her as a pretty big addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Danvers has a convoluted comic book history, one that surely made her difficult to distill into something simpler for a movie. Yet like Tony Stark before her, the lack of a signature storyline made Danvers a blank slate for Marvel Studios and the five writers (including Guardians of the Galaxy‘s Nicole Perlman and Inside Out‘s Meg LaFauve) who took a crack at Captain Marvel‘s story.

A comic book overhaul in 2012 by writer Kelly Sue DeConnick (who appropriately has a quick cameo in the movie) made Danvers a tougher, more accessible character fueled by all of the doubts and obstacles encountered throughout her life. That perseverance is what pushed her into becoming an elite fighter pilot and gave her the edge to stand as an equal with Captain America, Iron Man, and the other Avengers.

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Amusement Park Podcast: Captain Marvel Special Episode! Non-Spoilers and Spoilers

Captain Marvel has arrived! And with that, it feels like 2019 is finally beginning at the movies. The Oscars are done, people are seeing or have seen last year’s awards contenders, and wannabe blockbusters such as Alita: Battle Angel have fizzled out.

We do get into spoilers on our special episode of the Amusement Park Podcast. But that part of the discussion begins about halfway through the show, at the 21:40 mark. So be warned! And please come back and compare your thoughts on the movie after you’ve seen it.

Higher! Further! Faster!

My review of Captain Marvel can be read here

Please leave a rating and review on iTunes for us and a like on our Facebook page to help boost our signal. You can subscribe to the Amusement Park Podcast everywhere you find podcasts, including:

You can also give us feedback at and find us on Twitter and Instagram. We’d love to hear from you! Thanks for listening!


Amusement Park Podcast 029: Arrowverse Crazyness! Plus, Spielberg vs. Netflix

The original plan was to build this week’s Amusement Park Podcast around reviewing Captain Marvel, which figured to be the big geek culture event of the week. Then, news of Arrow announcing it would end after Season 8 broke and there was suddenly another topic to which we had to devote some significant time.

So our Captain Marvel review and reaction will be in a separate, special episode.

Eight seasons is a formidable run for any TV show. But it seems especially notable for a superhero TV show, and Arrow opened the door for a lot of other superhero programming to walk through — and that’s just on the CW alone with The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, Black Lightning and Supergirl anchoring that network. Arrow isn’t the show it once was — ultimately, it may have been too much of a Batman clone — and it’s probably bowing out at the right time.

We also dive into the Steven Spielberg vs. Netflix debate. I see where Spielberg is coming from. Someone needs to stick up for movie theaters and the experience they create. However, people increasingly prefer to watch movies at home if there’s a streaming option. To deny that is to deny the current moviegoing reality.

And I tip my cap to Seth Everett, who runs his own geek culture podcast titled Hall of Justice. It’s the show we hope the Amusement Park Podcast can come close to being someday. But Seth is also a sports guy who likes to let his geek flag fly, which is pretty cool. What a pleasant surprise to see him as a guest on DC Universe’s DC Daily show last week, and he interviewed the cast on his podcast.

Please leave a review and rating on iTunes for us and a like on our Facebook page to help spread the word. You can subscribe to the Amusement Park Podcast everywhere you find podcasts:

You can also give us feedback at and find us on Twitter and Instagram. We’d love to hear from you! Thanks for listening!