My movie weekend started at 7 p.m. Friday night, when I went and saw Black Mass, the true-crime expose of the Boston crime boss James “Whitey” Bulger. The picture stars Johnny Depp as the murderous, opportunistic kingpin, while Joel Edgerton portrays fellow South-Bostonian and conspirator, FBI agent John Connolly. It’s a somewhat typical, mostly entertaining look at one of America’s most notorious most-wanted criminals of the time.
Black Mass has a few things going for it. First of all, Depp is in good form as “Whitey” Bulger. He commits cold-blooded murder to solve any inconvenience along the way to ruling Boston’s scummy criminal underworld. Depp’s Bulger is a methodical, cunning and careful small-time mobster who takes every opportunity granted to propel himself to the big leagues of the black market. We get a particularly riveting piece of the character’s psyche when he explains the ethics of punching people in the face to his elementary school-aged son. “It’s not what you do”, he tells the boy. “It’s when and where you do it and who you do it to or with. If nobody sees it,” Bulger reassures his son, “didn’t happen.”
Along the way, we get solid work from an impressive cast. Supporters Benedict Cumberbatch, Dakota Johnson, Jesse Plemons, Kevin Bacon, Adam Scott and Corey Stoll all come along to fight the fight that sees the eventual downfall of Bulger’s Winter Hill Gang. It’s a tense cat-and-mouse game throughout, but we only get short glimpses of the damage done.
The crime drama covers roughly seven years in just over two hours, and director Scott Cooper takes on the difficult task of packing such a long period into 122 minutes. It’s a movie with fundamental flaws in its nature. A highly calculated, brutal and bloody war unfolds on the streets of Boston. But it all happens so fast, and some moments and spaces that Agent Connolly, “Whitey” Bulger and their respective peers occupy feel more intriguing than others. It left me wishing that the story had something to say about itself, and didn’t just serve as a series of glimpses into the acts of a real-life villain.
enough, the real James “Whitey” Bulger has denounced what he’s heard of Black Mass and Depp’s portrayal of him.
Former member of the Winter Hill Gang Kevin Weeks claims that what we have on
our hands is pure “fantasy.” It seems strange that the makers of a true crime
story about “Whitey” Bulger would veer from the facts and into the realm of
exaggeration when a movie already exists that does just that. I’m talking about
Martin Scorsese’s The Departed. Not even 10
years old, the Academy Award-winning movie was a loose interpretation of
“Whitey” Bulger’s eventual end. Perhaps if The
Departed had not been released, Black
Mass would be more worthwhile. But the new, supposedly more genuine
representation felt hesitant, as if trying to straddle the line between fact
and fiction while propelling us a month-per-minute through the timeline.
Essentially, Black Mass is a shadow to both Bulger’s true story and The Departed’s artistic falsehoods. It feels aimless despite its grit, its guts and its star, and I think that to some degree there is a good movie hiding somewhere within this Mass. Grade: C-
Hey Cincinnati! Has everyone recovered from all the beer and brats consumed during Oktoberfest? No, not yet? I haven't either. But it was worth it, right? While we take that slow road to recovery, here are today's headlines.
• GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson is making his first public appearance this morning in Cincinnati after his controversial remarks that a Muslim should not be president and that Islam goes against the U.S. Constitution. Carson, who will be rallying in Sharonville this morning, disappointed Muslims everywhere when he told NBC's Meet the Press on Sunday that he "would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation." The Cincinnati office of the Council on American Islamic Relations recently stated that Carson should probably read the Constitution a little closer. Carson, a devout Seven-Day Adventist and retired neurosurgeon, is currently a close second behind Donald Trump in polls for the GOP nomination. He will speak at the Sharonville Convention Center to rally support in the Ohio presidential primary, which takes place on March 15, 2016.
• Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine's son, Pat, will be running for the one of the two empty seats on the Ohio Supreme Court next year. The younger DeWine is a Republican and currently on the 1st Ohio District Court of Appeals. He is also a former Hamilton County judge. There is no announced Democratic contender yet. Two current justices are retiring next year because they have hit the mandatory age limit of 70.
• The U.S. Department of Justice will give the Hamilton County Sheriff's Department a grant for just under $140,000 to purchase body cameras. The grant requires a 50/50 match with department funds, a "robust" training and was part of a $23 million program to get body cameras in 73 other agencies across the country.
• The Ohio Historic Site Preservation Advisory Board is considering a recommendation to put Cincinnati's Heberle School on the National Register of Historical Places. The school, located in the West End, was build in 1929 as an elementary school to serve and aid the low-income population in the area. It was one of the schools developed during the Progressive Movement in the 1920s to fix some of the social issues caused by the industrial revolution. The board will review the property on Friday to decide whether to pass it along to the State Historic Preservation Office.
• Last weekend was a great time to celebrate all things German, but probably not the best time to buy a certain German-made car. Volkswagen is in big trouble for cheating after U.S regulators found that some of its 2015 diesel cars were equipped with software that gave false emissions data. The company revealed today that the problem is not just in its U.S. cars, but also in 11 million of VW cars worldwide. In the two days since the scandal erupted, VW's stock has dropped 20 percent and the company has told U.S. dealers to halt the sale of some 2015 diesel models. The problem looks like it will be a hefty cost to the German automaker. VW has set aside $7.3 billion to cover the cost of fixing the cars and could face fines of up to $18 billion from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
• Pope Francis will be making his first visit to the U.S. today after wrapping up his time on the Cuban beaches. The Pope will be here until next Sunday and then will visit Washington D.C., New York City and Philadelphia. He will reportedly give a speech to Congress addressing climate change, a move that is throwing off some Republicans lawmakers, like Rep. Paul Gosar, a Catholic from Arizona, who support one and not the other. Gosar plans to boycott the speech.
That's all for today. As always, my email is email@example.com.
Casino Warrior is a name that many local music fans aren’t aware of. So far, the quartet (bassist Kevin McNair, vocalist and guitarist Miguel Richards, guitarist Billy Buzek and drummer Chad Wolary) has only played two real shows, one of which was its recent EP release party. But rest assured, based on the strength of the band’s live performance and its new, riff-laden, five-track release, the name will become much more recognizable quickly.
Centaur EP follows in the same vein as other Rock/Metal hybrids that are currently dominating many a longhairs’ playlist. If the likes of Red Fang, Black Tusk, Orange Goblin or old The Sword cause your skull and brain to repeatedly high five, then the Centaur EP is right up your alley. Richards and Buzek’s guitar leads show considerable chops; there are enough riffs in these five songs to warrant several back-to-back play-throughs just to unravel the heavy layers. Guitar nerds will be overjoyed; the rest of us will just bang our heads until we get a nosebleed.
Of course, riffs are great, but unless the floor tremors and eardrums pop, the Metal equation is only halfway completed. That’s where McNair and Wolary come in. McNair’s low-end rumbles through the mix and sets up shop in your chest. Playing this record at a high volume (as if there was any other allowable setting) is liable to shake things off the wall. Beware of any loose china or pictures of grandma that you may have sitting around your sound system. Wolary’s skin work rounds out the quartet and he brings the thunder; at times, it sounds like Zildjian gave the Incredible Hulk a gear sponsorship. And Hulk definitely smashes.
Richards’ vocals walk a fine line between ’70s Rock clean singing and the current-day growls. Each chorus and verse is delivered with a ferocity that makes the lyrics even more hilarious. I cannot wait for more people to get their hands on the album, learn the words, and yell “Horse balls!” when Casino Warrior performs “Centaur” at its next gig. In fact, each song on the EP is as ridiculous as the last. When your subject matter involves chupacabras, pterodactyls and the aforementioned centaurs, things are bound to get a little weird.
Of particular note is the song that Casino Warrior closed its EP release show with — “Pig Roast.” The track starts with a tribal rhythm from Wolary that’s worthy of accompanying a Fury Road war party, along with a bassline gut-punch courtesy of McNair. Shortly thereafter, Richards and Buzek join in with an earworm of a riff and Richards’ beefiest vocal delivery on the record. His ode to our great city demands attention before the band transitions to an extended outro that allows Richards and Buzek to show off their soloing abilities. And, what do you know — they’re amazing at more than just riffing.
As a whole, “Pig Roast” exemplifies what Casino Warrior is capable of. The band has a rhythm section that lays a rock solid foundation of groove upon which the guitars build a temple to the Riff Lords of old. The songs are more than the sum of their parts — and their parts already have quite a few big numbers involved. The guys have created a rare release that is musically serious, but still fun; heavy, but still accessible.
If you’re a Cincinnati Rock and/or Metal fan, do yourself a favor and jump on the Casino Warrior bandwagon now — it’s about to get much more crowded.
Good morning all! Hope you're recovering from your Oktoberfest weekend. CityBeat's news team did the Hudy 7k (not the 14k because we're weak), which is basically an Oktoberfest pre-game that involves running some miles and then drinking free beers and eating free cheese coneys and goetta sliders at 9:30 in the morning. It's a good way to get all limbered up for the world's second-largest Oktoberfest, and also a great way to completely incapacitate yourself for an entire Sunday.
Anyway, here’s what’s up today.
• About 100 people, including the families of several unarmed people killed by police in Ohio in the last year, rallied Saturday on the campus of University of Cincinnati to remember Samuel DuBose and protest his death. DuBose, who was unarmed, was shot July 19 during a routine traffic stop about a mile from campus in Mount Auburn by former UC police officer Ray Tensing. Tensing has since been charged with murder for that shooting. The rally ended with a march to the spot where DuBose was shot. A break-off march down Calhoun Street near UC’s campus resulted in four arrests. Video of that march seems to show a Cincinnati Police officer using a Taser on one marcher. Police have not released the charges against the four arrested during the march.
• By now, you’re probably familiar with ResponsibleOhio, the marijuana-legalization group that has landed an amendment to the state’s constitution on the November ballot. But did you know that the amendment as written might provide a state business tax loophole for businesses involved in selling marijuana? Some business tax experts say the inclusion of the word “local” in a clause within the amendment proposal would allow businesses related to the marijuana effort to forego paying state taxes on flow-through income. The proposal’s 10 grow sites, which would be owned by investors, would have to pay a flat tax on their earnings as set forth by the amendment. So would any marijuana retail stores that spring up from the legalization effort.
The ballot language also stipulates that such businesses would also have to pay any local taxes associated with doing business. But there’s the rub: former Ohio tax commissioner Tom Zaino says “local” in that context can be read legally to exclude state taxes. ResponsibleOhio says skirting those taxes isn’t the intention, and that it included the language to make sure businesses pay all applicable tax obligations, not just municipal ones. The initiative would allow anyone over 21 to purchase marijuana, but it has caused controversy due to the fact that it would only allow 10 grow sites around the state owned by the group’s investors.
• This has been all over my social media feed, mostly posted by angry Cincy natives. What do you think about this opinion piece from a Cincinnati Enquirer reporter who recently moved here from Florida? I have my own feelings, which I guess I can sum up by saying it’s kind of a bizarre and tone-deaf thing to publish. Who comes to a city and after five months calls oneself and one’s cohort “giants in a place that needs us?” Also, who calls entertainment places “nightclubs” these days? I dunno.
There are consistently more rad things going on in this city than I can make it to in any given week. I mean, if I went to all the cool stuff Chase Public and the Comet alone do in a given seven-day stretch I’d be exhausted, and that’s just in Northside. That’s all beside the point, though. The article’s apparent focus (it’s kind of all over the place) is that the city needs to find ways to attract more young professionals, especially minority young professionals. To which I would counter that is not the city’s biggest problem. We have enough young people, especially young people of color, coming up in the city who need more support. Transplants are welcome, but we can’t remake the city according to their wishes when we have a ton of people born and raised here who aren’t getting the opportunities their potential deserves. So yeah, let’s focus on that and then maybe we can build a new nightclub for the YPs who don’t want to pay Austin prices for their next vocational adventure.
• Ohio Gov. John Kasich can dance if he wants to, and he did just that Saturday night in Michigan after a GOP conference in which he made a distinctly working class pitch to Republican primary voters. Kasich danced to a Walk the Moon song for about 10 seconds, and, honestly, the results were… not disastrous. He looked slightly cooler than your dad at a wedding reception but less cool than like, someone who can actually dance. That’s a good place for a presidential candidate to be, I guess. Kasich wasn’t exactly setting the floor on fire, but it also looked like he didn’t really care that much about it, which is the true key to dancing.
If Kasich's tax policy was as inoffensive as his moves, well, Ohio would be a better place, that’s for sure. Kasich finished third in a straw poll in Michigan behind U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina. Not a bad showing, but Kasich has serious ground to make up before the state’s March 8 primary. The Ohio guv continues to poll low nationally, getting around 2 percent of the vote compared to GOP frontrunner Donald Trump’s 24 percent.
That’s it for me. Email or tweet at me with your best pitch for a new nightclub in Cincy. My vote? A Miami Vice-themed dance club at The Banks called Sax on the Beach where DJ Kasich spins your young professional 80s soft rock favorites.
Actors are a big reason we go to see specific performances, and there are a couple of excellent choices onstage right now as several theaters are kicking off their 2015-2016 seasons. Of particular note is Annie Fitzpatrick, a familiar performer to audiences frequenting productions at Ensemble Theatre. She’s playing Caroline, an over-burdened social worker in Luna Gale. Her character is caught in a custody tug of war involving a baby, the title character. Her immature parents are on one side, caught up in drugs and angry behavior; on the other side is Luna Gale’s well-intentioned grandmother who’s religiously conservative. Fitzpatrick portrays a beleaguered woman trying to do what’s right, but constantly thwarted by the system in which she works. You feel this desperation deep down inside Caroline’s character, in her physical presence, in her exasperated stares and sighs. Fitzpatrick is a marvel to watch. She’s a major factor in my giving this production a Critic’s Pick. (Note for the future: She’ll be onstage next at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, Oct. 16-Nov. 7, playing Linda Loman in Death of a Salesman.) Luna Gale continues through Sept. 27. Tickets: 512-421-3555
Another veteran actor is shining at Cincinnati Shakespeare this month. Jeremy Dubin, a member of CSC’s acting company for 16 seasons, is playing the swashbuckling poet Cyrano de Bergerac. The show is sometimes called a heroic comedy, and Dubin handles both parts of that phrase with aplomb. He makes Cyrano larger than life in his generosity and faithfulness, but he plays him with the requisite sense of humor — especially in scenes involving Cyrano’s oversized nose, a convincing prosthetic created for Dubin’s performance. He has excelled in roles both comic and serious; Cyrano draws on both. Read more about this play and Cincy Shakes’ production in my recent column. Tickets: 513-621
One more excellent acting performance worth catching: Caitlin Cohn as 10-year-old Mary Lennox in The Secret Garden at the Cincinnati Playhouse. She’s actually a college student (New York University), but the petite actress is wholly convincing as the ornery, bright and eventually loving orphan who finds the warmth of nature and shares it with her grieving uncle. Cohn is doing an audacious job with a challenging role. Tickets: 513-421-3888
If you were planning to see New Edgecliff Theatre’s production of Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune this weekend, you need to put it in neutral. Due to some technical delays with NET’s new home at Urban Artifact (1622 Blue Rock Road, Northside) the company is moving the production to a different venue and delaying performances for a week. It’s not scheduled to be presented at Essex Studios (2511 Essex Place, Walnut Hills) opening Sept. 24 and continuing through Oct. 3. NET is contacting people who already had reservations. If you don’t have tickets yet, call now: 888-421-7311
A few quick notes: Showbiz Players, a dependable community theater company that likes satirical shows, is presenting The Rocky Horror Show at the Carnegie in Covington, through Sept. 26. Tickets: 859-957-1940 … Performance Gallery, an avant-garde troupe of performers that’s been a steady contributor to the Cincinnati Fringe, is reprising its production from the 2015 Fringe, Shirtzencockle, at Know Theatre on Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m. It’s a surreal, magical, ridiculous blind of folk and fairy tales. Tickets: 513-300-5669 … Kate Tombaugh, who studied opera at UC’s CCM (and trained in numerous other places) is presenting her one-woman show, It Just Takes One. It portrays the roller-coaster story of a young woman in her 20s seeking a career in opera while struggling to find a social life. A benefit for the Charitable Care Fund at Children’s Hospital, it’s being presented at St. Thomas Episcopal Church (100 Miami Ave., Terrace Park) on Friday evening at 8 p.m. and in 2 p.m. matinees on Saturday and Sunday.
Rick Pender’s STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.
Heya! Here’s a quick rundown of the news this morning. Just a few links as you head into your Oktoberfest weekend.Think of it as morning news lite. Goes down easy with no bitter aftertaste.
An armed, off-duty officer was asked to leave Over-the-Rhine’s 16-Bit Bar because he was drinking while carrying a concealed weapon, a violation of Ohio law. The officer complied with no drama, but a fellow officer with him has raised a fuss about the incident, and now there's a bit of a battle going on in social media circles about it. Read more here.
• Uh, maybe don’t jump in the Ohio River right now. Bummer. Toxic algae blooms first found upriver in West Virginia in August have caused local nonprofit Green Umbrella to postpone its annual Ohio River Swim due to health concerns. Since last month, more blooms have been discovered all along the river. The algae can cause everything from nausea to liver damage in humans and animals, so don’t let the dog in the river either. Double bummer. It’s great swimming weather right now, too.
• If you’re like me, you probably have watched a mind-boggling amount of C-SPAN in your life and this next bit of news about Cincinnati being in the spotlight on that channel seems awesome. But you’re probably not like me because I’m super weird and used to watch the nation’s premier outlet for catching Senate hearings, House of Representatives procedural votes and other thrilling events on the regular. (It was for my job, but still, this is probably why I’m single bee-tee-dubs). Anyway, C-SPAN 2 has oh so much more than that thrilling governmental programming and will be featuring multiple programs about Cincinnati’s history as part of the channel’s Cities Tour. The programs air Saturday at noon and Sunday at 2 p.m., perfectly timed to give you an excuse not to go to Oktoberfest. Who needs the city’s biggest drinking and eating event downtown when you can watch a documentary on William Henry Harrison, am I right?
• Good news from the U.S. Census about bicycling. Data released yesterday in the Census’ American Community Survey shows that bike commuters are up in Cincinnati. Though they still only made up less 1 percent of all commutes in 2014, cyclists riding to work have increased by a half percentage point over 2013. We also climbed to 39th from 46th out of 70 cities in terms of percentage of bicycle commuters. Welcome to the club, new folks! See you in the streets.
• Now some bad news from the Census. Data shows that more than 1.7 million Ohioans live in poverty, despite gains in the unemployment rate. That’s 16 percent of the state’s population. This poverty disproportionately affects people of color. Nearly 35 percent of Ohio’s black population and 28 percent of its Latino population lives in poverty, according to the Census’ American Community Survey. Just 12 percent of whites do. Read more about the recent Census data here.
And I’m out. Look for me at Oktoberfest. I’ll be the one double fisting dark beers and brats all weekend.
As technology advances, we constantly revisit our old resources to determine their relevance. Perhaps one of the most common debates is if libraries are a thing of the past. Sure, the quiet atmosphere with thousands of books is soothing, but is it really necessary when most, if not all, of its services can be found in a Google search?
I, and many others like me, say yes. To be clear, I’m a young twentysomething who’s as tied to her smartphone as anyone else, but I believe libraries are an essential and irreplaceable community establishment. Books aside, libraries offer so many services that it would take 10 community organizations to equal.
“The library is here for [the community] and literally does a little bit of everything,” says Jill Liebisch, adult/teen services programmer for the Newport branch of the Campbell County Public Library. “We do everything from job fairs to learning how to knit and crochet to the YART [Art Yardsale] to one-on-one computer and technology training.”
To explore just how relevant public libraries really are in this digital age, I’m exploring one service or program each week and evaluating its impact on me as a resident and on the community at large.
My first event was YART: The Art Yardsale, hosted by the Newport library. YART showcased artists from around the Cincinnati community in a creative yard sale, where jewelry makers, sketch artists, painters, photographers, glass blowers, sculptors and scrapbookers sold their goods at affordable prices.
Liebisch has organized the event for the last two years. “We kind of came up with the idea that we wanted it to be students and people who had never had a chance to sell their artwork before,” she says. “We had so many students and first-timers come and display and sell their artwork…they got to make contacts and kind of have a little art show of their own.”
During my time there, YART kept up a steady stream of traffic, despite the constant dark clouds hinting at rain. I joined the handful weaving through the aisles of jewelry, paintings, photography, sketches and paper arts, taking time to chat with the artists.
Nancy Howes told me about her fantasy-inspired jewelry made from copper, poly clay and paper. She’s been making jewelry off and on for the last 20 years and used to have a shop in Bellevue. “I do these craft fairs every once in a while,” she says. “It’s fun to get out and hear the people and visit with them.”
Howes’ son, Chris, sat next to her, behind a table of ceramic faces. A professional sculptor, Howes designs The Grotesquerie, his collection of hand-sculpted faces and figures. “I make grotesques, in the classic sense of caricatures and grotesque faces,” he says, looking over his table of odd expressions.
The wind spread around the constant aroma of his incense burners, shaped like fish and funny gnomes. “They just sort of happened, whatever comes out comes out,” he says, joking about the figures. “It surprises me sometimes.”
After several passes among the tables, I ended up with a personalized picture album, small watercolor painting, a pair of earrings and an assortment of paper tags, not to mention the fun of chatting with local creatives. Melissa Huber, who sold me the earrings, remarked on how useful she’s found the public library. Huber said she and her mother attend the Friday night movies, and Huber herself has learned to knit and intends to learn fly fishing, all through their local branch.
After a few hours at the YART sale, I walked away with great gifts for family at prices a broke twentysomething can afford. It was probably one of the most satisfying shopping trips I’ve ever made, and I can’t think of a better way to invest in a community.
Good morning y’all. Here’s the news today.
First off, you should check out this week's CityBeat news feature about how the feds are working with a Cincinnati neighborhood to help preserve diversity and affordability there. I think you'll find it fascinating. As more and more folks discover how cool it is to live in the urban parts of Cincinnati, demand has increased for housing and services in some of the city's coolest neighborhoods. Northside is no stranger to that dynamic, and with new apartment buildings and businesses going in there, the community risks some of the downsides of all that development — a loss of diversity and waning affordability for low- and moderate-income residents. But the Northside Community Council is taking steps to combat those problems with some consulting help from the EPA, of all agencies. Why the EPA? Read more here.
• Cincinnati-based consumer products giant Procter & Gamble yesterday announced plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent over the next half decade. The company will do so, according to P&G Vice President of Global Sustainability Len Sauers, by focusing more on renewable energy and taking innovative steps like generating steam with nutshells and sawdust. The new target is an increase over the company’s previous goal of cutting emissions by 20 percent. The company has cited concern for the environment as one driver for the goal, but, of course, it will also be good for business, they say, cutting costs and making production more efficient. Seems like business stuff can only really be green one way if it’s green the other, if you catch my drift.
• A group pushing to recall Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley will meet later this month in Clifton. The group, started sometime around Sept. 10, currently has about 230 followers on Facebook and about 40 people confirmed to attend its Sept. 29 event at the Clifton branch of the Cincinnati and Hamilton County Public Library. “With the most recent firing of Cincinnati Police Chief Blackwell citizens have had enough of a mayor who has put major corporations above citizen interests,” the group’s Facebook page reads. “Since John Cranley has taken office he has disregarded the public and forced his agenda on the public with no regard for the Democratic process.”
It’s unclear if a mayoral recall is even possible under municipal law. State laws allow for recall elections, but Cranley’s office claims that Ohio Supreme Court decision means that recalls can only happen if city laws expressly make them possible. But the city’s charter is mum on recalls and the matter would probably have to be decided in court. If a court decided that recalls are not permitted under the charter, supporters of a recall effort would have to pass a ballot initiative allowing them first.
• Marijuana legalization group ResponsibleOhio won a legal battle yesterday after the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that ballot language about the group’s proposed amendment to the state’s constitution was misleading. That language was submitted by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, an opponent of marijuana legalization in the state. The court says sections describing how marijuana can be sold, how much marijuana a person can grow privately and the possibility for additional commercial grow sites must be amended to be more accurate. However, the win wasn’t total. ResponsibleOhio supporters were also challenging the title of the ballot initiative put forward by Husted, which contained the word “monopoly.” The court ruled that word can stay. ResponsibleOhio’s proposal has been controversial. It would allow anyone over 21 to purchase marijuana from a licensed distributor, but would limit commercial growth of the crop to 10 grow sites around the state owned by the group’s investors.
• While Ohio’s job market is edging back toward its pre-recession levels, wages have remained stagnant, a new report by think tank Policy Matters Ohio says. The state has 0.7 percent fewer jobs than it did in 2007 in contrast to the nation’s 2.5-percent increase in jobs during that time. But the real worry is that the state’s median wage adjusted for inflation, $16.05 an hour, is at one of the lowest levels it’s been in more than three decades. That’s 5 percent less than the national rate. The study highlights a number of continuing problems for Ohio’s economy and says the state’s sluggish economic growth is impacting low-wage earners most heavily.
• Finally, perhaps you watched the reality TV event of the season last night and have some thoughts. Or maybe you skipped the second GOP primary debate in order to preserve your sanity and faith in our fine country. Either way, I’ma tell you about it. A brief rundown: Donald Trump trumped it up and looks to stay in the lead among GOP hopefuls. Former corporate exec Carly Fiorina took the Donald to the mat a few times over Trump’s comments about her face, though, and that was kind of awesome. Dr. Ben Carson continued talking very quietly, entrancing primary voters who like a quiet conservative who says little of substance. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush continued to illustrate why he’s a mystifyingly stubborn presence near the top of the polls, saying his brother GW kept America safe somehow.
And where were our local guys? U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky did manage to stop bickering with the Donald long enough to offer up some substantive thoughts about foreign policy and the U.S. war on drugs, probably scoring some points with the nation’s not-insubstantial libertarian base. Ohio Gov. John Kasich stayed the slow and steady course he’s charted, presenting himself as the pragmatic moderate in a room full of loony ideologues. That might come in handy later, but it makes for boring reality TV at the moment. Anyway, here are some links to articles fact-checking candidates’ statements (that’s cute… as if their statements were in some way designed to be factual at all) and some pundits who said some things about the debate that probably don’t matter at all because the debates are farce and pundits like Dave Weigel’s thoughts on the debates are a farce about a farce. But it’s all a fun game to watch, right? Right.
I’m out! Later. Catch me on Twitter or send me emails about how awesomely surreal our political system is, and your reactions to this horrifying fashion development.
The Visit is a change-up for M. Night Shyamalan. Kind of. The man notorious for refusing to make a movie that doesn’t have a massive twist, usually in the final few moments of the film, has brought us Academy Award-nominated The Sixth Sense, but he has also brought us Razzie-nominated films like The Happening and (gulp) After Earth. So when he decided to try to get back to his roots of suspense and horror and away from his misadventures in big budget nonsense, I decided I would take a flier.
The premise surrounding The Visit is as straightforward and crisp as vintage Shaymalan could get. Two grandchildren, Becca and Tyler, armed with digital cameras, go to visit their never-met grandparents and things get a little… spooky. Grandpa is wildly paranoid. Grandma wanders around at night, sometimes on all fours, sometimes scratching the wall the way a housecat would a scratching post. Grandma gets a kick out of having Becca climb in the oven — “all the way in” — to clean it.
Of course with Shyamalan, it can’t be all that simple. That would be too fun to watch. There’s a Shyamalan-trademark family drama needlessly bubbling underneath the otherwise self-explanatory event. Becca and Tyler’s mother, played by Kathryn Hahn, eloped against her parents’ will only to be ditched by her husband once Tyler, the younger of the siblings, was born. It feels like a cheap way to get us to fear for the kids’ fates, and feels even more like a waste of my time in the theater. Shyamalan really lays the family-love on thick throughout, doing his damnedest to get us to pray to whatever we believe in that the grandparents are only very strange, somewhat sick elderly folk and not the perhaps murderous plotters looking to claim vengeance on their daughter’s rebellious days that we can’t help but suspect.
Speaking of trying to get us to like the characters, I really have to wonder what in the world I was supposed to like about Tyler, the tween-ish boy counterpart to his much more likable older sister, Becca. Tyler is annoying. I don’t like his voice, I don’t like how clever he thinks he is and I don’t like that he raps about cake. He drives me nuts. I really can’t understate how obnoxious this freaking kid is, and I remember thinking to myself very honestly, “Please, if only one of these kids makes it out of the visit alive, take Tyler.”
While I imagine Shyamalan was trying to make the kids a sort of duality in the sense that one is female and modest while the other is male and blurts whatever is on his immature mind, M. Night really just makes one kid seem like an angel and the other seem like that accumulation of snot you get in your nose (sometimes only one nostril, now that’s the worst) overnight when you have the flu. To all you Louis C.K. fans out there, Tyler is essentially my Jizanthapus. He’s a kid, and I shouldn’t despise him, but… I totally despise and I won’t lose a second of sleep over it. For all I know, young Australian actor Ed Oxenbould — unfortunate enough to be cast as Tyler — has a bright career ahead of him. If he does, this performance will be that embarrassing moment he doesn’t want brought up in interviews. The worst part is, this isn’t his fault. Shyamalan really went to great lengths to create one of the lamest characters of the year, and perhaps of his career (and that is really saying something).
But after we get past the fact that the movie is split three-quarters the way of solid horror flick, one-quarter sappy family drama and after we put up with Tyler’s painful inclination to rap about nonsense off-beat in random moments, we are still forced to come to grips with the found-footage direction style of the film. No longer a fresh way to frame a horror flick, the found-footage approach is honestly executed with a surprising volume of youthful energy from the veteran filmmaker behind the cameras (all two of them). The Blair Witch Project may have popularized (and perhaps immediately perfected) the style for scare-tactics all the way back in 1999 (ironically the same year Shyamalan popularized himself with The Sixth Sense) but the method seems to still have something to offer the world of horror films.
The “jump scares” are tastefully sparse and truly give audiences the surprised shouts we crave heading into a theater for a scary movie like The Visit. I tend to be more impressed with the “slow-burn” scares that push horror films into the realm of classics, and while The Visit offers enough paranoia to keep us in the theater, it also falls flat on its face often enough to be make us raise an eyebrow. I found myself laughing every three or four times I was supposed to be shaking in my seat. That’s not a good formula for a good horror film. While I’m on the subject, let me just be clear: This is not a good any-kind-of film, and it basically derails its own formula.
When a film has one half of a protagonist duo of grandkids that is utterly unlikable and one half of an antagonistic duo of grandparents makes you chuckle when you know you’re supposed to be screaming, the movie doesn’t come out on top. It comes out low (but not the lowest) on the Shayamalan scale, but with a much more bitter taste than most of his failures. There’s a good movie somewhere in The Visit. Perhaps this one is on the editor, but I’ve been too disappointed too many times by M. Night to believe anyone but the writer/director deserves most of my negative feelings toward the horror flick. While The Happening and After Earth were downright disastrous implosions, The Visit has just enough redeeming qualities to keep us generally on board, somewhat intrigued and mostly entertained. But that’s not what Shyamalan wants us to feel. It’s not what I want either, but it’s what we got. If you’ve been holding out for a Shyamalan comeback, this may not be the trip you want to take a chance on.