Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Noah - Movie Review


ByCommonConsent.com


Starring Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson, Anthony Hopkins, Ray Winstone, Logan Lerman and Douglas Booth. Directed by Darren Aronofsky.

★★½

My first impressions were what they were, but I was inspired to do a little more research into the story of Noah. I've always known the Bible's version, but I also read the Torah and Midrash, which has subtle differences and theories.

Noah is a hybrid tale. It has some adventure and some thrills and some psychosexual drama that you'd expect from the director of Black Swan.

Did he take artistic liberties? Sure. Which ones are the most egregious?

I don't have a problem with the rock monsters. The Bible refers to "giants" walking the land in those days, and the Torah and Midrash refer to the Nephilim - fallen angels - and combine these two, so sure, now the Nephilim are giants, encased in rock bodies unable to return to heaven. I'll give it that.

I don't have a problem with Noah's environmentalism, which he takes a weird extreme. But I can also see why there would be confusion. In this story, mankind's only been on the Earth a handful of generations, and after the fall of Adam and Eve, and the expulsion from the Garden of Eden, man's figuring out how to make it on his own in this dreary world. Noah still sees tending the Earth, respecting the plants and animals, as part of his righteous duty.

God (almost always referred to as The Creator here) doesn't speak to Noah so much as send him visions. Noah then interprets these visions as to what he must do. And the visions aren't vague. Noah sees the evil of mankind in the way they... eat animals and mine for minerals.  (Not so much the robbery, rape and murder.) In this respect, the Creator/Noah motives reminded me too much of Keanu Reeves in that lame Day the Earth Stood Still remake.

I didn't even mind the villainous Tubal-cain secretly stowing away on the ark.

My biggest problem was Noah's insistance that Ham and Japeth don't get wives. The Bible's pretty clear that all three sons had wives. When the rains started coming, and only Shem has a wife, and Noah's not collecting any women for his other two sons... um, wait a minute. It's a pretty big part of the story that Earth was populated through the generations of Noah's three sons.

Noah believes part of The Creator's plan is for mankind to go extinct. He thinks the Creator called him to save the plants and animals, and then he, his wife, Shem and his wife, and Ham and Japeth will be the last humans on Earth.

Now in the Midrash it says that Noah and his sons entered separately from Noah's wife and his sons' wives, and there's a theory that the animals were separated by gender, and there was therefore no sex by anyone/anything on the ark until after the flood.

In the end, the very very end, Noah does the right thing, and it's implied the Earth will get repopulated when Shem's daughters are old enough for Ham and Japeth to marry, but that whole second half of the movie, I just couldn't get past that change.  Rock monsters? Fine. Stowaway? Fine. Noah wants to make mankind go extinct? No.

Side-notes of praise: The entire flood sequence was great. Aronofsky has proven he can handle a budget. And the acting is great. Crowe, Connelly, Watson, Hopkins, Winstone, even Lerman as Ham. Poor lonely horny Ham.

Monday, March 31, 2014

My Flicksided Updates

Walking Dead's Norman Reedus has joined the cast of Triple Nine, the new movie from John Hillcoat, who also directed the post-apocalyptic drama The Road. I'm saying Reedus and Hillcoat will have notes to compare.

My weekend box-office report is here.

My review of Sabotage is here.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Mr. Peabody & Sherman - Movie Review

Starring the voices of Ty Burrell, Max Charles, Ariel Winter, Stephen Colbert, Leslie Mann, Stanley Tucci, Allison Janney and Patrick Warburton.
Directed by Rob Minkoff.

★★½

I watched Rocky & Bullwinkle as a kid, so I remember the other Jay Ward characters that would parade through - Dudley Do-Right, Commander McBragg, Aesop & Son, and of course Mr. Peabody & Sherman.

This update didn't quite hit the mark for me. For one thing, there was a distracting amount of potty humor. When your main character is a very intelligent dog with a weakness for puns, it just seems like potty humor would be beneath him. But this is DreamWorks, and because Shrek was a hit, I guess they figure they have to have potty humor in everything. In fact, the poster's slogan is "He's leaving his mark on history." How do dogs mark things? See what I mean?

Also, as someone who's about to adopt kids, it gives an alarming protrayal of just how easily kids can be ripped from their home. When Sherman gets in trouble at school, a social worker who is a cross between Dolores Umbridge and the Queen of Hearts arrives, ready to find the slightest excuse to yank him away from Peabody.

The animation is quality, and it's not the worst movie from DreamWorks Animation, but there's a reason they don't have the reputation of Pixar to be consistently good.

The Good Wife - TV Review

Sometimes a show will advertise something shocking will happen. I get numb to those ads. I'm glad I do. For instance, the season 4 finale of Dexter they kept advertising something shocking at the end, so well before it happened, I could guess what it was. (Still impactful, but I wish I didn't have that pounded in my head leading up to it.)  This episode, I'd seen a couple ads mention but I didn't really anticipate just how shocking the event would be that happens. Not only did I not see it coming, but it's one of those twists that will send reverberations through the rest of the series run, in a way bigger than when Alicia and Cary decided to leave Lockhart/Gardner and start their own firm.

The series kept its track record alive for the Best Guest Stars on television. It never feels stunty, and you know no matter how big or small the name, they'll fit right into this universe. Not only are we treated to Eric Bogosian in a recurring role as an investigator trying to nail Gov. Peter Florick for election fraud, but this week we got Matthew Goode (Watchmen, Stoker) as the prosecutor combatting against Will Gardner.

Part of the genius of The Good Wife is that each episode has ongoing plotlines, but there's also usually a case-of-the-week that tends to get introduced and wrap up. Occasionally that case-of-the-week by come back, but by and large, they're contained.

What keeps me hooked on The Good Wife is the ongoing stories. I am well past being able to watch a show where every episode is self-contained.

Top 10 Worst Written Female Characters in Film History

This doesn't necessarily mean worst acted. Sofia Coppola was terrible in The Godfather Part III, for example, but had the original actress - Winona Ryder - not dropped out, that part wouldn't seem so bad. Some very good actresses made the list (in fact four of them are Oscar winners), but their characters deserve dubious distinction.

*Dishonorable mentions to half the female parts from the Twilight Saga and any movie that starred Elvis Presley or Freddie Prinze Jr.

*Also, Demi Moore's Hester from THE SCARLET LETTER. Completely changed the ending and therefore the point of the story.

10. Bronte (Andie MacDowell), GREEN CARD - An uptight woman really, really wants her greenhouse. And at the last second, for no reason, she says "I don't care about the greenhouse" because she's fallen for the cave troll played by Gerard Depardieu. Probably the least convincing "okay they really love each other" moment in rom-com history.

9. Rose DeWitt Bukater (Kate Winslet/Gloria Stuart), TITANIC - Kate's a great actress. She and Leo and most of the rest of the cast really had to work to make James Cameron's one-dimensional characters come to life. Rose is a spoiled rich girl engaged to a cartoon villain, but she falls for the lower-class dude on the ship. All of that's fine. But when the ship starts sinking, does she stay on her lifeboat? No! She gets back on the sinking ship. If she'd stayed in her lifeboat, Jack would've been alone on the driftwood and would have lived! Then eighty-five years later, old Rose reveals to the audience that she had this giant expensive jewel in her possession which could have made her kids' and grandkids' lives easier, but instead she just throws it in the ocean. Boooo!

8. Lucy (Emily Browning), SLEEPING BEAUTY - Nothing much to a character who makes her living by taking knockout drugs and letting creepy rich men do whatever they want to her body while she's out cold.

7. Mrs. Cooper (Mercedes Reuhl), LEADER OF THE BAND - This was a "star" vehicle for Barney Miller's Steve Landesberg, and all there was to Reuhl's character is that she had extreme lust for him the second she laid eyes on him.

6. Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth), SUPERMAN RETURNS - They destroyed Lois by making her a mopey single mom who acts like a corporate lawyer at work.

5. Jennifer (Camille Keaton), I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE - The ultimate exploitation film (which inexplicably got a remake) about a woman who gets raped by a group of young men, and then raped again, and then again, and then it tries to redeem itself by her getting bloody revenge at the end.

4. Abby (Katherine Heigl), THE UGLY TRUTH - Maybe Heigl thought she was going to get some Apatow karma in this "farce" on romance. In truth, no actress could have made this work, paired opposite a chauvanistic Gerard Butler making her go through a series of humiliating romantic "tests."

3. Amidala/Padme (Natalie Portman), STAR WARS I-III - So let me get this straight. She lives in a society where they elect 14-year-olds to be queen, and those queens have actual power. Ah, but when her term is up, she later gets elected to the more responsible role of senator, but she's too busy going on picnics to fulfill most of her duties, so she lets the single stupidest creature in the galaxy vote on her behalf. Then when she gives birth to her twins, instead of having mama-bear maternal instinct kick in, she dies "of a broken heart."

2. Kate (Eva Longoria), OVER HER DEAD BODY - A woman dies on her wedding day before she can actually exchange vows. She follows her mopey fiance Henry around until he consults a medium named Ashley. Ashley is a fraud, except she can actually see and hear Kate. Ah, but when Ashley starts to fall for Henry, Kate does whatever she can to sabotage it. Like making giant fart noises. She has no curiosity about anything else in the universe or eternity, and no actress on Earth could have saved it.

1. Miranda Hillard (Sally Field), MRS. DOUBTFIRE - This movie needed a situation where a loving father resorts to a drag disguise to be near his kids, but in order to set that up, that had to split up the parents. Robin Williams' Daniel Hillard is obviously a loving father; maybe he could make safer career choices, but his shrewish wife decides she wants a divorce after Daniel throws a party that's too big. She isn't exactly honest in court at the beginning, but then at the end, she lets the judge get everything wrong when he decides Daniel only gets supervised visitation. This movie had its laughs but it was a terrible message to kids. Divorce is really, really easy, and it's all Mom's fault.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Divergent wins box-office weekend

After the flops of Beautiful Creatures, The Mortal Instruments, and Vampire Academy, it looked like Hollywood was having a tough time finding the next YA franchise in the wake of Twilight and The Hunger Games. The next hit is here in Divergent. Based on the first book in a trilogy by Veronica Roth, it's about a dystopian future where citizens must choose a faction to side with, and Shailene Woodley (The Descendents, The Spectacular Now) is the young women who doesn't quite fit in with any, making her a Divergent.  I wonder if the makers of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 are going to quickly find a way to edit her as Mary Jane Watson back into their movie. Maybe a cameo? (She'll be prominent in Spidey 3.)

Muppets Most Wanted wasn't a flop, but you couldn't call it a hit either. Modest budgets are the way to proceed with this group.

The indie film God's Not Dead struck a chord with viewers of faith. Maybe Hollywood's going to be warmer to the idea of main characters having religion (and maybe get bigger stars than Kevin Sorbo and Dean Cain to play them). The big budgets given to Darren Aronofksy's Noah (opening Friday) and Ridley Scott's Exodus (opening in December) are a good sign they already have. (Let's see what the Wachowskis or Mel Gibson would do with Joseph in Egypt. Who's with me?)

Mr. Peabody & Sherman has made $100 million overseas, and Fox will need that overseas money to make a profit, as the domestic well looks like it'll be drying soon.

The Grand Budapest Hotel is still a juggernaut on the small screen. Veronica Mars fell 75% in its second week. Fans of the cult show saw the movie, and no one else.  Bad Words, the directorial debut of Jason Bateman, is losing momentum and probably won't open as wide as intended a couple weeks ago.


Friday, March 21, 2014

Much Ado About Nothing - DVD Review

Starring Amy Acker, Alex Denisof, Clark Gregg, Reed Diamond, Nathan Fillion, Fran Kranz, Sean Maher and Spencer Treat Clark.
Directed by Joss Whedon.

★★★

This was filmed over 12 days at Whedon's house. He's gathered his friends from his TV shows and turned Shakespeare's play into one long dinner party.  The performances are light and fun, and while it won't make you forget Kenneth Branagh's version anytime soon, it has its own rewards.

My central issue with it was giving the role of Benedick to Denisof. He speeds through his lines without much thought, leaving him an unworthy verbal sparring partner for Amy Acker's cynical Beatrice. But Reed Diamond's light on his toes and with his tongue as Don Pedro, Sean Maher outglowers Keanu Reeves as Don John, and Nathan Fillion steals the show as the constable Dogberry.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

After Earth - DVD Review

Starring Jaden Smith and Will Smith.
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan.

★½

M. Night Shyamalan has had a baffling career. If we pretend The Sixth Sense was his debut, then every movie he's made has been a little bit worse than the one before, until we get to the twin terribles of The Happening and The Last Airbender. While The Happening was silly, and The Last Airbender derivative, After Earth is just dull.  There's no sense of wonder involved. It feels more like Obstacle #3 before you can meet Lord Xenu.

Will & Jaden Smith play father and son Cypher and Kitai Rage, the former being a world-famous ranger, the younger living in his shadow. They are sent on a mission to Earth, a planet humans abandoned 1000 years ago. Their ship crashes, and Cypher's legs are broken, so Kitai must travel from point A to point B to retrieve a beacon so they can be rescued.

Some animals have evolved over those thousand years. They're more predatory. Most of the movie is Jaden Smith running through the jungle avoiding such animals. It made me think of the superior jungle scenes in Avatar or Apocalypto, movies made by much better directors than Shyamalan.

The film's central theme is about overcoming fear. Danger is real but fear is a choice. It leads to a fairly anticlimactic conclusion.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Walking Dead - "The Grove" - TV Review

Some of the one-plot episodes work better than others, and this is one of the ones that worked better than others. We have six different satellite groups now. There's the Grimes group of Rick, Carl and Michonne; the Maggie group of Maggie, Sasha and Bob; the Glenn group of Glenn, Tara and the Abraham 3; Daryl & the Bad Guys; Beth in the trunk of a car; and the Carol Bunch, with Carol, Tyreese, and three little girls.

This episode was 100% dedicated to the Carol Bunch, with the omipresent tension of "Will Tyreese find out that Carol killed Karen?" But we're further off-kilter by Lizzie. We know she likes to kill varmints and rodents, and we know she likes to treat walkers like pets, but we also know she almost suffocated baby Judith, so even though everyone knows she's a little off, they don't realize just how off she is.

Carol's concerned the girls are still too soft, especially Mika. She knows Lizzie has something killer about her, but she's trying to make sure they're equipped to survive. (Such a mournfully good performance by Melissa McBride this week as Carol.)  When they find a house with a propane tank and a deep well, they decide to stay for a while. Tyreese sits back in a chair in a living room for the first time in forever, and you can see the relief on his face, the pocket of normalcy they allow themselves.

But all can't stay well, and Lizzie decides to prove a point with Carol by killing Mika, to show that she'll turn into a walker but it'll still be her. Carol and Tyreese see the hard-wiring in Lizzie is beyond fixing, and they do the only thing they can do in that situation. #OfMiceAndMen

Once that nasty deed is done, Carol gives Tyreese a gun and then confesses, ending with "Do what you gotta do." Tyreese goes through the avalanche of emotions, and it's mostly through Chad Coleman's face and body language, but he comes to a believable conclusion. He forgives her, and the three of them abandon the house and get back on the road to Terminus.

(Those who've read the comics figured this time would come, though in the comics, it's two boys, and a younger Carl is the one who steps up and kills the "Lizzie" boy.)

Only two episodes left. Are any of these groups going to converge? Are we going to find out what happened to Beth?

300: Rise of an Empire - Movie Review

Starring Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Lena Headey, Rodrigo Santoro, Hans Matheson, David Wenham and Callan Mulvey.
Directed by Noam Murro.

★★

This is a prequel and sequel all in one. In fact the majority of the action takes place during the same time as the events in the first 300 movie. We get a couple shots of Gerard Butler's face but otherwise the movie dances around not having their main star from Part 1.

Part 2 revolves around Themistocles, an Athenian who wants to unite Greece against the Persian invasion. He's played by Sullivan Stapleton, an Australian actor best known (if he's known at all) as one of the leads on Cinemax's series Strike Back. He doesn't have the same wattage as Butler.

Rodrigo Santoro is back as the 8-foot-tall god-king Xerxes, but since he has to be gone most of this movie dealing with the events of the other one, his army is led by Artemisia, played with unbridled gusto by Eva Green (Dark Shadows). Indeed, this movie would have been much harder to sit through if it wasn't for her.

The "story" is slimmer this time around, the gore just as splashy and cartoonish, the substance is at zero. There are a couple points where Themistocles gives a troops-rousing speech and I felt a little embarrassed. How many troops-rousing speeches have been committed to film over the years? Hundreds, and most of them were better than these.

I hope the eventual 300: Fall of an Empire is a musical.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Last Vegas - DVD Review

Starring Michael Douglas, Robert DeNiro, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline, Mary Steenbergen, Romany Malco, Jerry Ferrara, Roger Bart, Joanna Gleason and Michael Ealy.
Directed by Jon Turteltaub.

★★

A movie with this cast would have been the must-see movie of 1989. Nowadays we know what we're going to get. Its humor is broad and safe. It reminded me of when Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas had their one last hurrah in 1986's Tough Guys. Nothing too demanding, and a lot of that may be because Hollywood has no idea how to write good parts for older people unless it involves dying.

So these four Academy-Award winners play four old friends who reunite for a bachelor party when the one of them who's never been married is finally getting married. Douglas is the lifelong playboy marrying a woman half his age; DeNiro is the widower who's closed himself off from life; Freeman's the bored grandpa who's tired of taking it easy after his stroke; and Kline is the persnickety one whose wife tells him he can have a freebie if he wants (as long as he doesn't tell her about it.)

So they party, they get drunk, they each have their epiphany, and we probably would have been more entertained listening to the four of them swap movie-making stories for two hours.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

300 is #1, Mr. Peabody is #2 at Box Office

300: Rise of an Empire came seven years later, without the original star (Gerard Butler) or director (Zack Snyder), and while it didn't open at near the level of its predecessor, Warner Bros. has to be thrilled with a $45 million domestic opening. In fact, its worldwide gross is already at $132 million.

DreamWorks Animation partnered with Fox to distribute Mr. Peabody & Sherman. It was a risky venture, taking a 50-year-old cartoon. It wasn't even its own cartoon; it was part of the Rocky & Bullwinkle Show. I'm surprised the budget went as high as $145 million on it, but like 300, it should do well overseas.


Saturday, March 8, 2014

300: Rise of an Empire #1 on Friday

I have TornBySports and TaxiSquadShow for my sports stuff, UtahPoliticoHub for my political stuff, and now I have FlickSided where I'll be putting some of my movie stuff.

300: Rise of an Empire was #1 this weekend. I expect that even though Mr. Peabody will get a big Saturday boost, it won't  be enough to take the #1 spot away from 300, which showed wisdom beyonds its years moving from Summer 2013 to this weekend.

Friday, March 7, 2014

A Good Day to Die Hard - DVD Review

Starring Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney, Sebastian Koch, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Cole Hauser.
Directed by John Moore.



The script is so bad, I'm surprised no one ever yells, "Look's like today's a good day to die hard!" before chomping a cigar and giving a thumbs-up to the camera.

The directing is so bad, there isn't a single interesting action sequence. It's all buried in this dark-blue sheen that John Moore (Max Payne) seems to relish.

There is no chemistry between Bruce Willis and Jai Courtney as father and son.

I could go on. Don't mind if I do.

John McClane is going on vacation to visit his estranged son. Turns out his son is a spy and is in the middle of staging a prison-break with a high-profile political prisoner. McClane takes it in stride, stealing a truck and crashing through traffic, trying to talk to his kid. "Hey! What's going on!"

This isn't a Die Hard movie.  This is a generic, brainless, action superhero movie where the bad guys can't shoot but the good guys can. This might as well have starred Dolph Lundgren.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

House of Cards Season 2 - Netflix Review

With Breaking Bad out of the way, it may be time for Kevin Spacey to get an Emmy for his role as the conniving Vice-President Francis Underwood.  I watched all of season 2, and it's darker and sudsier than season 1. We knew Frank was evil last season when he murdered his "friend" Peter Russo, but in the first episode of season 2, we see just how far his evil will go.  We also know his wife (Robin Wright) is Lady Macbeth, and in season 2, we see just how hand-in-hand she is with Frank's schemes. They're a model marriage. They tell each other everything.

Stand-outs this year include Molly Parker as an Iraq War vet and the new Majority Whip of the House, Jimmi Simpson as a hacker caught in his own web, and Gerald McRaney as the increasingly dangerous billionaire Raymond Tusk who always has the President's ear. And while Underwood is evil, I can see why he's so admired in Washington in a guilty pleasure way.


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug - Movie Review

Starring Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Ken Stott, Evangeline Lilly, James Nesbitt, Aidan Turner, Lee Pace, Orlando Bloom, Ken Stott, Luke Evans, Stephen Fry, Jed Brophy and Benedict Cumberbatch.
Directed by Peter Jackson.

★★★

Caught this at the discount theater.

This trilogy, even though it has the same budget and running time, feels like Lord of the Rings Lite. And it is. The Hobbit was a one-volume kids book, and now it's been blown up into an eight-hour three-movie event. And while the sets are as daunting, the battles as decapitating, and the special-effects as all-consuming, it's still just an excuse to hang out in Middle Earth for another round. Fine by me.

When we last left Bilbo, Gandalf, Thorin and twelve other dwarves we can't tell apart (I wish I'd reviewed this slideshow before going in) had flown on giant eagles to a safe spot away from the orc army but still a few days' journey away from the Lonely Mountain. The orc army catches up rather quickly, so they have to make haste and go through a haunted forest. Now Gandalf gets some news, so he says he has to leave them for a time, but he'll meet them at the Mountain.

Why the dwarves couldn't just stick with Gandalf? It apparently would take the same amount of time. No matter. They make their way through the wood and encounter giant spiders, and the adventure continues from there.  Now somewhere in there the dwarves come across two Elves - Legolas (Orlando Bloom, coming full circle) and an actual female named Tauriel (Lost's Evangeline Lilly), and there's actually some flirting between her and the cutest dwarf Kili (i.e. the one with the least amount of makeup).

The third act was my favorite part, when we finally meet Smaug the dragon (voiced with delicious villainy by Benedict Cumberbatch). (Hey, I just realized the dragon and the hobbit were Sherlock and Dr. Watson talking.)

It ends about as abruptly as a 2-hour 40-minute movie can, so I imagine the third one will be about as long, fleshed out nicely. And I will see that on the big screen too. I like hanging out in Middle Earth.

Monday, March 3, 2014

DVD Roundup - All Is Lost, The Spectacular Now, The Hunt

ALL IS LOST (★★★)
Starring Robert Redford. Directed by J.C. Chandor.

This bare-bones tale of survival never gets dull, even with very little dialogue and only one actor. Redford could be playing himself, but in this stripped down atmosphere, he's good enough. He's a man at sea when his boat springs a leak. For the next 80 minutes, it's just him trying to survive, trying to find a way to get another boat's attention before his own sinks.

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THE SPECTACULAR NOW (★★★½)
Starring Miles Teller, Shailene Woodley, Brie Larson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kyle Chandler and Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Directed by James Ponsoldt.

It's one of those high school movies that actually has a brain and heart behind what it's doing. It's about a popular but listless bad boy named Sutter (Miles Teller), who falls for an unconventional nice girl (Shailene Woodley) who starts to be the better influence on him than he is a bad influence on her.

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THE HUNT (★★½)
Starring Mads Mikkelsen. Directed by Thomas Vinterberg.

This was a difficult movie to sit through, to the point that my wife quit watching and when I told her the rest of the movie, she said she has no regrets. This Danish film is about a good guy who volunteers at the kindergarten who is then accused of molesting one of the kids. We know right off the bat he is innocent, and so the increased tension from his home-town who start to view him as a monster... well, it's excruciating. Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale, NBC's Hannibal) is very good as the wronged man, and it seems intended to remind of the cases of the McMartins, Friedmans, or West Memphis Three, where a Salem-esque hysteria surrounded the accused. It gets a little too manipulative in this vein, but Mikkelsen saves it.