Archive for April, 2015

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Life Itself (2014)

April 19, 2015

Starring: Roger Ebert
Director: Steve James (Prefontaine, Hoop Dreams

Bottom Line: I was expecting a bit more from Life Itself after seeing it ranked as the co-#1 movie of 2014 (along with Whiplash) by Coming Soon’s . Still, it was an enjoyable documentary that chronicles the life of famed film critic Roger Ebert, detailing his rise from college newspaper editor to famous film critic, his partnership and strained relationship with Gene Siskel, his battle with alcoholism, and, ultimately, the fight for his life. It’s a good film and Ebert had an interesting life, but it obviously didn’t resonate with me emotionally in the way that it has for others and my feeling after watching it was that I would enjoy reading Ebert’s book of the same name significantly more. If you love movies and appreciate Ebert’s work, you will probably like this, but it’s not exactly a must see.

Replay Value: One viewing will be enough for me.
Sequel Potential: N/A
Oscar Potential: Not even a Documentary nomination…

Grade: 6/10 (Recommended)

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It Follows (2015)

April 5, 2015

Starring: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Olivia Luccardi, Lili Sepe
Director: David Robert Mitchell

Bottom Line: It Follows is hands down the best horror movie I’ve seen in a movie theater in many a year. That’s partly because I’ve been mostly skipping horror movies for the past decade, but mostly because it was very good. The concept is unique – a curse is passed on via intercourse and the monster follows that person until it kills them or they pass the curse on to someone else, but if that person dies, the monster follows the previous again. The film gets most of its scares out of building tension and the fact that literally anyone could be a potential threat – the monster has the ability to look like anyone, including friends and family, so any person in the background shot is worth keeping an eye on. It’s admittedly creepy and plenty fun.

It Follows benefits from the fact that everyone involved seems to be taking things seriously. Often in horror movies the actors seem to be playing caricatures of people rather than actual human beings, but the kids in It Follows feel like genuine teens and, although they occasionally make questionable decisions, they don’t come across gregariously dumb. Maika Monroe, who plays Jay, the girl with the curse, is especially good and this movie should propel her to future stardom. While her acting range remains to be seen, she certainly can crush the horror genre and I’m looking forward to whatever she does next.

It Follows is essentially director David Robert Mitchell’s debut film and he will be another name to look out for. It Follows is one of the more original horror films to come out in years and Mitchell deserves all of the credit as writer and director. The monster is scary and quite a bit ambiguous – everything is pretty mysterious here. Mitchell also creates plenty of tension through his wide lens shots and a score so prominent it might as well be part of the cast. It Follows takes a big cue from John Carpenter’s Halloween, relying on small scares, music, and a slow, methodical threat.

I thought this movie was great. It’s everything you’re looking for in a scary movie and it delivers on all levels. It Follows is the first must see film of 2015 and has potential to be a classic in the horror genre.

Replay Value: I think this will be good over multiple viewings.
Sequel Potential: There is a lot left to be explored here – it’s perfectly set up for both sequels and prequels.
Oscar Potential: I would say no.

Grade: 7.5/10 (Must See/Excellent)

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2015 Poker Goals – March Wrap Up

April 3, 2015

Every month I’m going to reflect on the previous month of poker and see how well I’m doing at accomplishing my 2015 goals:

Log 1200 live hours

As I noted in my February Wrap Up, I have upped my goal from 750 hours to 1200 hours. Since I’m frequently playing when I’m working, I am still able to play nearly full-time hours despite having a day job. In March, I played an absurd 174 hours, my largest output since the first half of 2012 probably. That kind of pace is unlikely to continue, but I think I can average about 120 hours most months.

focus on how well I played, how well I controlled tilt, and how well I paid attention to game flow instead of how well I ran.
continuing taking notes throughout all my sessions and combing through them later.

One of these days, I will really start paying attention to the game when I’m playing. It is quite easily one of my biggest weaknesses. I kept accurate notes for most of my $8/$16 sessions, but I continue to struggle to pay attention when I’m not in hands.

I’m also learning how to go through my notes in a more efficient manner – skimming past hands that seem totally standard and focusing on the ones that gave me trouble. It should be noted that the statistics I’m about to post are for $8/$16 sessions only and don’t include notes from one of my more important sessions of the month – where I started off stuck $700 and stayed in the feeder game playing short-handed for several hours (and thus unable to take notes between hands). I ended up crushing the short-handed game and then went on an absurd run after the game broke and I finally made my way to the main game. At that point, with so many hands unrecorded – and it being the first of the month – I decided to continue not keeping notes for the session. So for a period where I went from stuck $700 to cashing out over $1300 sugar, I have no hands logged for an absurd amount of positive variance. I also played 65 hours of $4/$8 where I did not keep notes.

Here are the hands I have decided to track to keep variance in perspective:

AA – 4/8 (50%)
KK – 4/12 (33%)
QQ – 7/14 (50%)
JJ – 7/12 (58.3%)
TT – 4/8 (50%)
77-99 – 14/43 (32.5%)
22-66 – 8/28 (28.6%)
All Pairs – 52/125 (41.6%)
Sets – 16/18 (88.9%)
AK-AQ – 25/65 (38.5%)
AKs-ATs – 12/30 (40%)
KQs-KTs – 5/13 (38.5%)
QJs-JTs – 4/17 (23.5%)
Flush Draws – 19/40 (47.5%)

Thoughts: Running at over 40% for all my pairs seems like a pretty favorable result. Running at less than 50% for AA-QQ is definitely below average, however. It’s also worth noting that I made a set 18 of the 125 times I played a pair, or 14% of the time – which is almost exactly average. More importantly, I almost never lost with my sets and I nearly always got an abundance of action when I had one. I’m curious to see how the smaller suited Broadway hands do going forward. I completed nearly half of my flush draws which is a highly favorable result – although I lost some of those hands. Between the sets and flush draws – and running above average with my pairs overall – I would have to say variance was mostly on my side in March.

spend less than 20% of my total hours in 4/8 games

I played 66 of 150 cash game hours at the $4/$8 level – or 44%. However, subtracting 34 hours as a floor man, that total becomes 32 of 116 hours – or 27.6% – a reasonable result. For the year, I’ve played 191 of 403 total hours (47.4%) and 95 of 308 (31%) of my non-working hours at the $4/$8 level. Including my tournaments hours, it probably comes pretty close to my 20% target.

log 100 hours of spread limit

I played some small stakes NLHE when I was in Vegas this past month and my conclusion is that I’m still not very good at that format of poker. Obviously, at 11 hours of play logged for the entire year, this is an incredibly small sample size, but the results are consistent with an ongoing pattern of performing poorly in no limit cash games. In Vegas, I lost every session I played and it should have been worse – I jammed 100+ bigs preflop with 99 vs AA and rivered a straight. Over my past 163.5 hours of no limit/spread limit, I’ve won slightly less than 50% of my sessions and I’m running at almost -10 big blinds per hour. I have been unlucky in some hands, for sure, but the biggest problem I’ve identified is that I play overly aggressive and try to win every hand I play rather than being selectively aggressive and picking my spots more wisely overall. Starting this month, I want to log at least one 8-10 hour session of no limit and focus on correcting these mistakes.

continuing reading about mental game, develop mental game profiles, and improve my c-game

focus my learning — don’t study multiple variants at the same time or games I’m not playing frequently

I finally finished the series of questions in Jared Tendler’s The Mental Game Of Poker designed to pinpoint potential problems and give an outline of my current mental game. This can be referred to and adjusted as I improve or discover new concerns over time. Working on this had halted my reading for the most part, but I should be able dedicate time for that soon. With the Pendleton Spring Round Up and World Series Of Poker coming up, I’ll probably adjust my focus to studying Omaha 8 or better and tournament play over the next few months.

treat poker like a job with set hours and not like a hobby

With 445 hours in roughly 12 weeks, I have been playing full time hours despite the fact that I work 20-30 hours a week on top of that, so my poker playing is like a second job these days. My work off the tables has suffered a bit, but for the most part, I’m taking my poker time very seriously and putting in the hours unless I feel like I’m not playing near my A-game.

watch opponents closely in tournaments and develop exploitative styles for each of them instead of playing laggy for laggy’s sake

take my time in critical pots and really think things through before acting

set a new career high tournament score

I played 5 tournaments last month, but one of them was a freeroll and two others were very small, local tournament, so I’ll focus my attention on the bigger events I played.

I played the $150 daily tournament at the Venetian and I dominated my table for most of the day, feeling like I was really playing well. I got lucky in some spots to dodge a couple coolers, but I consistently increased my stack throughout the event without much resistance until I got in a blind vs blind situation late where I flopped trip aces and my opponent turned a gutshot straight. I ended up betting the turn, re-raising my opponent when he raised me, and ultimately calling off against his 5-bet jam. I had completed with A8 from the small blind so I figured my opponent was never giving me credit for an Ace – and I surely wasn’t giving him credit for one – and I had a decent amount of outs against any hand that was beating me. In retrospect, calling his initial raise makes a lot of sense because I’m not getting action on a 3-bet unless he’s committed to a bluffing line or I’m crushed. Instead, I lost a decent portion of my stack on the hand and my momentum disappeared soon after. I managed to make the final table, but ultimately busted out in 9th in a tournament that paid 8. I busted when I shoved my short stack from the button with the big blind away from the table. I don’t even remember my hand, but the small blind woke up with AJ and that was good enough to bust me. It was my second final table in a medium-sized tournament that didn’t even pay. Even though the end result was poor and I may have misplayed a big pot, I felt very good about my overall play and thought the style I chose for this event would be profitable in the long run.

I followed that deep run up by playing in the Muckleshoot Spring Classic $750 Main Event and finished 14th of 226 runners, ending a nearly year long drought of not cashing in a $150 or higher tournament. Once again, I played well and ran pretty good before getting cold late and losing a couple crucial pots. Midway through the tournament I was moved to an extremely tough and loaded table: multiple WSOP bracelet winner Rep Porter, Adam Coats – who got TV time on ESPN during the main event and made multiple deep cashes in the 2014 WSOP – and a couple of other local players I’m pretty sure play for a living. Not only did I outlast all four of these tough players but I held my own in a couple of difficult pots against Rep, including one where he put me in an extremely tough spot and I found the correct call. And then I busted him. It’s not that I beat a top pro in a couple of pots, it’s that I was able to make the correct decisions because I knew what he was thinking and how he perceived me and that is something to be happy about. Obviously, I was a bit disappointed to fall just short of some serious money ($45,000 for 1st!) and I had a very real chance of crossing off my goal of a new career high tournament score, but I feel like my tournament play is improving and things are trending in the right direction. I feel something big is about to happen. I believe.

double my current bankroll size

maintain a 1 BB/HR win rate at 8/16

start playing 20/40 regularly by end of year

I finally had a month where my bankroll saw serious growth. It’s probably been a year or longer since I’ve seen a 10% increase in a single month, but I did much better than that in March. Doubling the bankroll I started 2015 with should be a very attainable goal and honestly, I hope to do much, much better.

I had an amazing month of $8/$16, running at 3.48 BB/HR for the month overall, and an absurd 5.27 BB/HR in the $8/$16 at the Palace in Tacoma. It was a month where I set a new personal record for an $8/$16 win on the 1st of the month – and then I absolutely annihilated that new record just a couple weeks later when I had this session:

For the year, I am now running at:
1.68 BB/HR in $8/$16 LHE
1.04 BB/HR in $4/$8 LHE
1.3 BB/HR in all limit games

In April, I will be making a 4 or 5 day trip to Pendleton, Oregon for the Spring Round Up – a tournament series I haven’t attended since Fall 2012 and never with a sizable bankroll – and I am currently planning on playing the $225 O8 and $225 H.O.R.S.E. tournaments. I may play a few other events, but I’ll likely focus on cash games the rest of my stay. Also, anyone interested in buying up some of my WSOP action, I’m ready to start selling. You can e-mail me at maccent17@gmail.com or PM me on Facebook. I’m currently planning on playing the Casino Employee Event and the Colossal, but I will be there for at least a week and if things go really well, I would be interested in increasing my stay.

Here’s to more run good!

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Big Hero 6 (2014)

April 1, 2015

Starring: Ryan Potter, Scott Adsit, Jamie Chung
Director: Don Hall (Winnie The Pooh), Chris Williams (Bolt)

“On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your pain?”

Bottom Line: Big Hero 6 is solid animated entry from Disney that explores the world of San Fransokyo – a hybrid of the two obvious cities that is beautifully rendered here – and a group of young, genius-level student/inventors. At it’s core, it’s a film about the relationship between brothers Hiro and Tadashi, tragically cut short by a fire and explosion at a convention, but continued on through Tadashi’s invention Baymax – a loveable, inflatable robot programmed to serve as a walking, talking first aid kit and medical assistant. Watching Baymax and Hiro bond – similar to John Connor and the T-800 20 years ago – is the highlight of the film. When Hiro bands the group of inventors together to form a high-tech superhero team, things get a bit less focused and therefore less interesting. The film works better as a character study than as the superhero team origin story that it actually is. As is, I thought Big Hero 6 was a fun movie that lost a bit of steam in its climax.

Replay Value: Not the keeper I was expecting it to be.
Sequel Potential: Lots of potential for further adventures here.
Oscar Potential: Winner of the Best Animated Feature Oscar – but really not even as good as The Lego Movie, which wasn’t even nominated.

Grade: 6/10 (Recommended)

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Dumb And Dumber To (2014)

April 1, 2015

Starring: Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels, Rob Riggle
Director: The Farrelly Brothers (Dumb And Dumber, There’s Something About Mary, Hall Pass)

“Wanna hear the second most annoying sound in the world?”

Bottom Line: I knew this was going to be bad because of the total lack of word of mouth and poor scores from critics and audiences alike, but, man, it was even worse than I was prepared for. I laughed out loud one time that I can remember and the rest of the “funny” parts were relegated to a courteous chuckle. It seems like over the past 20+ years this film has been simmering in the crock pot of the Farrelly Brothers’ collective imaginations that they could have found time to write some genuinely funny material, but it almost all falls flat. It doesn’t help that Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels feel like ghosts of their previously iconic characters; there is literally no soul in their performances. I was just looking at Carrey’s resume and he hasn’t made an above average comedy since Bruce Almighty all the way back in 2003, so it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that this movie was a bust. It’s a lot of the same gags from the original with very few of the laughs and none of the heart. Too little too late.

Note: I suspected I had maybe grown out of the humor that made Dumb And Dumber so special, but prior to this film’s theatrical release, I watched the original again and that movie is a true comedy classic. It’s 20 years old and I’m in my thirties now, but I was still laughing my ass off. So, yes, Dumb And Dumber To really does just suck.

Replay Value: I tuned out about two-thirds of the way through my first viewing.
Sequel Potential: The world would have loved a Dumb And Dumber sequel 20 years ago… but in 2014, it was a pretty bad idea. In 2015 and beyond, a third movie sounds even worse.
Oscar Potential: None – but Dumb And Dumber To is another movie that got an undeserving pass from The Razzies.

Grade: 2/10 (Horrible)