Bullet Thoughts & “Man” Reviews

For those of you who play the daily NYT puzzle game Wordle, I’ve got a few tips that may help you out. Please note that this only applies to accruing a giant streak, not finishing games quickly. I’m a day away from getting my 100-day streak, and I have no idea how long it’ll go, but my original goal was 100, so the rest is gravy.

Here’s my main tip to leave you Wordle players: Exhaust the alphabet as much as possible before making a guess. I use three “starter” words – WATCH, PRISM, FUNKY, and sometimes GLOVE or GLOBE as a 4th if there’s still too much missing.

This way you’ll have best efficiently maximized your letter guesses to give you enough ammunition to use your 5th or 6th guesses to deduce the final word. Other people like single starter words, but I’m not a big fan.

Either way, do you, and have fun with it. Wordle is absolutely not intended to be taken seriously.

If you’d like to play more than just once a day, I highly recommend Wordus. It’s a blatant Wordle ripoff, but if you pay the $4 or whatever it is now to buy the game outright, you can play as many games as you want, including a 6-letter daily puzzle, and every few weeks your ranking is updated.

I have a new piece up for Smile Politely about a local barbershop/art gallery. Check it out and stuff. If you have any suggestions on Champaign-Urbana things that you’d like to see more of, please contact me.

I’ve been on a tear listening through a lot of game soundtracks lately, primarily Stardew Valley and Secret of Mana. Some of the Secret of Mana ones in particular are immensely comforting. The Autumn themes from Stardew Valley put me right in the thick of falling leaves and greying skies. Hopefully there’s similarly excellent themes in The Haunted Chocolatier whenever that ends up coming out.

Johnny Depp should retire from acting and be a full-time narrator. The trial with Amber Heard is trashy, but his voice, grizzled by years of wine, chain-smoking, and being a generally strange individual, is incredibly soothing to hear. I could listen to him read instruction manuals or the dictionary.

Had a couple friends over for a fire and drinks the other night, and I gotta say, there are fewer things in life more enjoyable than sitting by a fire with awesome folks having good conversation.

Watched two movies involving a “man” lately: The Batman, and The Northman. Here are my reviews for each. Please be warned, there will be spoilers ahead. There is no further useful content in this blog regarding my personal life or other things.


What I liked:

  • I enjoyed the buildup of his first appearance. The did the same with the Batmobile. Menacing, dread-inducing.
  • The journal narration of Wayne/Batman. That was unique to this installation of the franchise, and makes sense that Wayne would document his findings and thoughts. Some of the dialogue got a little too Watchmen-y for my tastes (“the city is bleeding” and other dumb pulpy junk), but I wish they had more of it.
  • Wayne can’t always be Batman, so it was cool to see him slumming it while doing reconnaissance.
  • The tech was good without being overbearing or corny. The chest batarang seemed logical, the grappling hooks made sense, and the contacts seemed plausible. Lot of DIY-ish things, overall. Could’ve been better, but hey, gotta sell toys.
  • I liked Pattinson’s reserve as Batman. He enters a room and has real looming presence. The first crime scene he enters where he very slowly paces through the gathering of cops was great. I liked his initial meeting with the Riddler in Arkham, where Riddler discusses his true identity, and you can tell Batman is almost frozen in tension.
  • Zoe Kravitz was an excellent Catwoman/Selina Kyle. I think the plotlines and character build for her and Pattinson weren’t great, but she has great screen presence and I enjoyed her performance.

What I didn’t like:

  • The DUNN-DUNDUN-DUNN recurring theme is, and I’m sorry, the first notes of the Imperial Death March slowed down. I can’t unhear it. It works, but yeah.
  • The inclusion of the Nirvana “Something in the Way” song was not a good decision. Excellent trailer song; distracting in the actual film.
  • The Penguin was set up poorly, had very little backstory, and felt like a shoehorn for a sequel. I felt like Colin Farrel was doing a bad Robert De Niro impression the entire time. Why do they call him the Penguin? Why did Turturro call him a gimp? What’s so special or unique about him besides being a mobster tough?
  • Paul Dano was terrible. The Riddler being a nobody who was trying to coordinate a mass shooting online? I buy it. The Riddler leaving cards for The Batman? Sure. The Riddler’s master plan involving a bunch of bombs that somehow flood a city? Not great, but a better actor could’ve sold me more. Dano is a decent actor, but as The Riddler, he was annoying, over-shouty, and forced.
  • I didn’t like that Bruce and Alfred live in a skyscraper in the middle of Gotham. Wayne Manor should be remote, distant, exclusive, and aloof.
  • I didn’t like that Pattinson was barely ever Bruce Wayne. In another tired Batman trope, Alfred has to remind Bruce constantly that he must uphold his image and make an effort, and Pattinson’s effort is to wear sunglasses indoors and have off-screen meetings with accountants.
  • The weird collar on the cowl was not a good look. Ditch it.
  • The “guns in darkness” scene was done better in Equilibrium 20 years ago.
  • The Joker was stupid. I’m OK with him being a Lecter-esque presence who helps Batman understand his enemies, but you’re playing with fire by having the Joker around. As others have said, he overshadows everything else, and is in some ways a far more interesting character than Batman, but after 2 Academy Award winning portrayals, the last thing we need is yet another Joker, especially from an actor who is cosplaying as Heath Ledger.
  • The movie was too damned long. This whole deal would’ve been better suited as a high-budget 5-7 episode season on HBO.
  • The obnoxious eye-rolly amounts of obscenity. Did we really need to hear the forced utterances of “shit!” and “god dammit?” It was so jarring. Felt like I was watching a Hangman Page AEW promo on TNT.

Other observations:

  • I laughed at the scene at the Riddler’s apartment where the cops filled a room with Batman and Bruce Wayne pictures plastered everywhere. I imagine Batman would’ve been like, “hey if you guys wouldn’t mind taking this stuff down off the wall and not look at it? Thanks.”
  • Commissioner Gordon should’ve just offed somebody. Batman said “no guns,” and Gordon said, “that’s your thing, man.” Gordon should’ve popped the Riddler in the face like 90 minutes into the movie and wrapped things up with a bow.
  • It never stops raining in Gotham, basically ever. Only Se7en had more rain.


What I liked:

  • The first 30-40 minutes is incredible.
  • Ethan Hawke blew my mind. He needs to be taking on these chameleon-esque roles more where he can disappear into a character.
  • Willem Dafoe is only this movie for maybe 15 minutes or so, but he’s so damned good. There’s no actor on that planet that can be handed a small chunk of intense, bizarre, manic energy and go further with it. During a psychedelic underground ritual scene with Hawke, DaFoe, and to a much lesser extent Oskar Novak, Hawke and DaFoe own the screen. I audibly leaned over to my friend in the theater and said, “this is awesome!”
  • The berzerker ritual/battle was glorious. I could watch movies about Pagan/antiquity religious rites all day every day. Into my veins.
  • Shout out to the He-Witch and Bjork’s seeress for adding some wonderful mysticism and eerieness to an already myth-heavy tale.

What I didn’t like:

  • The transition from the Russo-Germanic berzerker warrior to Icelandic farm slave was a little too much of a drop for me. Establishing the connection with Anya Taylor-Joy was necessary, and he was clearly on a quest that required this change, but there were a couple lulls that could’ve been tightened or at least seasoned with some Unsettling Eggers Weirdness.
  • There were a lot of accents in this movie mixed with some authentic Old Norse, and it sort of threw me off. It’s a very small nit to pick, but some of the actors, particularly Taylor-Joy and Nicole Kidman, were laying the accents on thick, and not in a good way. It wasn’t Keanu Reeves in Bram Stoker’s Dracula bad, but it was distracting. Apparently Eggers wanted to do the whole film in Old Norse, but there wasn’t enough budget. Ah well.

Other observations:

  • I need to start Alexander Skarsgård’s trap routine.
  • Robert Eggers and Ari Aster I hope keep making movies for a very long time. The Witch, The Northman, Midsommar, and Hereditary are wonderful and 100% up my alley. The world needs more movies like Rosemary’s Baby and The Wicker Man.

That’s all for now. Ta.


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