Movies: Pitch Perfect 3

This movie was just . . . bad. Clunky writing seemed to be the primary problem. A lot of exposition in dialogue. A lot of ham-fisted bits (like the flashes of the Bellas' various work lives). And just a lot of half-baked plot lines that they somehow figured would be fine to wrap up via small clips as the credits rolled.

It really felt as though the writers were struggling to (a) come up with any kind of story, and (b) fit everyone in so that no one felt as though they'd been sidelined or overshadowed. But the overall result was a mishmash. It's almost as though the movie didn't know whether to take itself seriously or parody itself. So it tried to do a bit of both and none of it worked.

Even when it hung a lampshade on things ("Is there a competition? There's always a competition."), pointing out its own formula did not make the movie any better, nor did it excuse the lack of originality.

Is there a competition? you ask. Well, of course. Of sorts. Thanks to one Bella's military dad (and don't ask me to tell you which one because there are too damn many, and we all really only know Becca and Fat Amy, right?), they get invited to perform for the troops overseas. Like the USO. Except there's also some plot about how a well-known DJ/musician is going to choose someone to tour with him from these USO acts? And we're introduced to a couple other bands only to have them disappear almost immediately. Well, or become incidental as this movie sees shiny things and chases one random plot bunny after another. Until we ultimately end up with Fat Amy and her estranged dad (John Lithgow with a bad accent) and a pseudo-James Bond thing. Also, a non-romance between Becca and the DJ's righthand man.

Oh, and John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks are back as faux documentarians, following the Bellas around for no apparent reason? Except that it was decided they couldn't do another Pitch Perfect movie without shoehorning them in somehow.

It's just such a bad, boring movie. Like, not even so bad it's good. It's not funny. It's not cohesive. It's just a waste of time.


Books: Help Choose a Cover for Faebourne!

Here is a link to the poll in which you can vote for your favorite cover design!

Faebourne is my latest Regency romance novel. (The last one was Brynnde. Remember this cover?)

Which cover would look great next to Brynnde on a shelf? Which book might you pick up for a closer look if you saw it at the library or bookstore? Let me know by voting and/or commenting!


Custom Shampoo: Function of Beauty & Prose

All right, everybody, here's where I admit to falling for Facebook ads.

The truth is, I have difficult hair. Some of it is my own fault because I color my hair. Some of the problem is just nature. I have fine hair, but a lot of it, and ever since having kids it's become wavy to the point of almost curly. And I also have to fight dandruff.

If you know anything about (a) having colored hair and (b) being prone to dandruff, you know that the hair products that help get rid of dandruff are the very same ones that strip the color from you hair.


I've long been searching for shampoos that would meet somewhere in the middle. I'll say that using cleansing conditioners has so far been my best solution: Matrix Biolage, Wen, etc. But every week or so I still feel the need for a full shampooing.

The first custom product I saw an ad for and decided to try was Function of Beauty. I can't remember what I paid for the shampoo + conditioner, but it didn't feel unreasonable at the time. (However, I did just receive an email telling me they're raising their prices, so . . .) On the FoB site, I answered questions, chose colors and scents, and was even able to decide what would be printed on the bottles. Fun! And I must say I did really, really like the product I received. My hair felt great and smelled amazing. BUT. The product bled my hair color pretty badly.

So once I'd finished those bottles, I was debating whether to go ahead and order more when I saw the Prose ad. Well, why not see if this other custom product could do the job, right? Like FoB, Prose had me answer a bunch of questions about my hair, but also about my life and where I live. Interesting. In addition to the shampoo and conditioner, they created a hair "mask" as well, a product to use prior to shampooing. All three products cost me $80+, so pretty pricey. And I've only used it once, so it's still hard to tell what the overall, sustained effect will be. But I will say there were fewer customization choices on my part. I think I was allowed to choose from about four scents and that was it.

Upon initial use, after Prose my hair is not as soft and smooth as it was after using Function of Beauty. And the scent is okay but I don't like it as much as FoB either. However, I saw less of my hair color disappearing. That may, however, be because I'm due for a dye job.

Function of Beauty was better for my scalp. Prose was less harsh on my color.

Prose is way more involved with a lot of steps to the process. It came with instructions but also a nice folder that showed me the ingredients that had been used to make my products. I really appreciate that.

I'm withholding a final decision until I've used Prose a bit more, but for the moment I'm leaning toward Function of Beauty in the future. I may post an update here after a few more weeks of using Prose to let you know for sure.

And now, because I'm gullible, I'm thinking of trying some of that Wander Beauty foundation . . .


Movies: The Circle

I can't offer a full critique because we turned this one off halfway through. It just wasn't interesting. It's a wonder they got such good actors to agree to it in the first place.

This extremely generic “thriller” is about a young woman named Mae (Emma Watson) who goes to work for The Circle, which is kind of like Google/Apple or something? Basically, it's a tech firm that has linked everyone's online profiles and social media into one big ball of . . . Online Identity, I guess. You can be completely monitored, from your emails and search history to the health bracelet you wear to all the tiny (surely illegal) cameras placed pretty much everywhere. (I mean, seriously. What if someone decided to stick one of those in a changing room or bathroom or locker room? You know it would happen.)

Politicians rally to squash The Circle, but the company in turn challenges those politicians to become "transparent" and thereby wholly accountable.

Meanwhile, The Circle also helps Mae's parents as her father suffers from MS.

The whole movie is a completely unsubtle commentary on the illusion of privacy in a technological world. With the help of Finn Ty (John Boyega), creator of some of the core tech The Circle employs, Mae eventually exposes the not-so-transparent actions of her very employers. Then goes on to happily lead a life of being watched and tracked, firm in the faith that this is a good thing. I only know this part from skimming the Wikipedia summary, which assured me that I didn't really miss much.

It's a shame, really, because it seems like this movie probably had a solid script at one point that got turned to mush via rewrites or too many notes or something. Like, it's meant to be a thriller but lacks any real tension or thrills. (The only semi-tense moment I witnessed was when the social duo came to set up Mae's account—how cultish and creepy was that?) Maybe the book was better? One can only hope so, and that everything good about the book was lost in translation.


Bossy? Or "A Leader"?

The other day, while at a social function, I said something offhand about my daughter being bossy. An older woman stepped up and informed me that, "We don't call girls 'bossy' any more. They have 'leadership potential.'"


Look, I know my daughter. And she's bossy. No one wants a bossy leader. No one wants to work with or under a know-it-all. If you have the right answer to something, there are good ways to let that be known. And then there are not good ways. Bossy ways.

And lest anyone think I'm harsh on my daughter, let me be clear: I don't hesitate to call my sons out when they're being bossy too. My goal is to have my kids treat other people well. Yes, even when those other people are "doing things wrong" or are simply doing things that are frustrating. That's what good leaders do. They correct others in a way that is not hurtful. You can support someone and correct them at the same time.

It's true that sometimes the others don't or won't listen. This is because my kids have no actual authority over their friends. Nor should they. That's the teacher's job, the parents' jobs. And while I won't encourage my kids to be tattletales (unless there is imminent danger to themselves or others), I also won't encourage them to tell their peers what to do. That's bossy. (Group work notwithstanding. Because group work sucks. If you want to show "leadership potential," group work is probably your primary opportunity.)

Bossy isn't leadership. Not good leadership, anyway. Bossy is bullying potential more like. So don't slap a new label on it and pretend it's a good thing.

In the meantime, I'll keep working with my kids on better ways to affect change when things aren't going the way they'd like.


Movies: I, Tonya

The whole Nancy Kerrigan thing happened during my senior year of high school. My parents and I weren't sports people, and we didn't watch the Olympics. "The incident," as this movie calls it, was barely on my radar. I only knew enough to get the jokes.

And I wonder how many other viewers of this movie are like me: knowing just enough to get the jokes.

Or maybe many went in knowing even less about Tonya Harding.

I, Tonya is a faux documentary based on real interviews with Tonya Harding and her ex-husband Jeff Gillooly. I think the information embedded in the movie is interesting, and I think the movie is largely engaging. It's visually interesting (which may be why it got an Oscar nod for editing). The acting is quite good as well, and certainly Janney has earned all her accolades, though she drops out of the film for a large stretch.

That said, some of the choices distracted me. Breaking the fourth wall, for instance. Clever, perhaps, but it draws too much attention to itself because of the inconsistent use. The soundtrack also felt disruptive. I know some of the music was true to Harding's skating routines, but again, the choices seemed designed to pull attention from whatever else was happening on screen.

And I couldn't decide how to feel about the abuse. It was presented so matter-of-factly, and yet I suppose we're also supposed to question whether it actually happened since we're getting multiple POVs? The resulting confusion about the abuse means it isn't given the weight it maybe should carry; it almost feels like a punchline (no pun intended).

All this said, the film on the whole is quite good. A very visceral moment came when young Tonya stood crying outside her father's car as he left her mother. That's something that will stay with me.

Felt a little long for two hours, but still very entertaining. Worth viewing.


Movies: The Disaster Artist

Okay, I've never seen The Room. I've seen clips, but never the entire thing. I've tried to watch it, but can never find it on streaming, and I'm not really the cult-screening-at-midnight type.

I have no idea how true the events in The Disaster Artist are, how many are perhaps a trick of the author's perception/memory, and how many have been blurred to make the story cohesive and/or entertaining. But boy is it entertaining. A bit cringe-y, but my understanding is The Room is also a cringe fest, so . . .

For the maybe two people who don't know, The Disaster Artist is based on a book written by Greg Sestero (with the help of Tom Bissell) that details Greg's friendship with Tommy Wiseau. Wiseau is the writer, director, producer, and star of The Room, and Greg acted opposite Wiseau in that film. In fact, Greg moved from San Francisco to L.A. with Wiseau and roomed with him for a while as they both tried to make it in Hollywood. When that failed, they decided to make their own movie. The Room was the result.

I'll admit, I never realized The Room had a full crew. I'd always assumed there was just one guy with a camera and a light or something. But no, apparently it was professionally filmed, all funded by Wiseau. I knew the guy had money, but didn't think he'd spent that much to make the film everyone says is the best worst movie ever made (or something like that).

There's more than a little bit of a hint that Wiseau had a crush on Greg and took it personally when Greg got a girlfriend and moved out of their shared apartment. Again, I have to wonder how much of that is Greg's perception and how much might be punched up just for the sake of drama. Or maybe it's all true.

The Disaster Artist is entertaining enough to make me want to both read the book and watch The Room. If I can find it anywhere. But even if you know nothing about The Room or Wiseau, it's a worthwhile distraction.