Jon's 365 Movies in 365 Days Challenge: Movies #62-68

For every day of the year, I will be watching a movie I have never seen before. Follow me on my journey each week as I recap the films I see and give my thoughts on them. Hopefully you are exposed to new titles that you thought would never interest you or are given a new perspective on a film you have already seen.

#62. Tully (2018) 9/10

Directed by Jason Reitman, known for films such as Juno and Up In The Air, teams up with Charlize Theron once again to tell this well written and phenomenally acted tale of a mother getting to know her live-in nanny after recently giving birth. Charlize Theron astounds with her physical transformation and authentic performance of a postpartum mother dealing with her own internal struggles as she develops a friendship with her younger, attractive nanny played by the wonderful Mackenzie Davis. Reitman’s directing along with the script written by Diablo Cody make this a compelling human story about new mothers and their mental health state. You can find Tully streaming currently on HBO.

#63. Captain Marvel (2019) 8.5/10

#64. Studio 54: The Documentary (2018) 8/10

#65. Ibiza: Love Drunk (2019) 6.5/10

#66. Deuce Bigalo: European Gigolo (2005) 3/10

#67. The Batman vs. Dracula 7/10

#68. Masterminds 5.5/10

 


Jon's 365 Movies in 365 Days Challenge: Movies #55-61

For every day of the year, I will be watching a movie I have never seen before. Follow me on my journey each week as I recap the films I see and give my thoughts on them. Hopefully you are exposed to new titles that you thought would never interest you or are given a new perspective on a film you have already seen.

Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse (2018) 10/10

I was late to the party on this movie. I can finally confirm that Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is as great as everyone said when it first came out last December. The movie follows beloved comic character Miles Morales as he gets his Spidey powers in a world where Spider-Man already exists. After a massive explosion that brings other Spider-Heroes from different dimensions, Miles must work with them to help get the other heroes back to their own earths. Fantastic storytelling, hilarious character interactions, and groundbreaking animation solidify this as one of the best movies of 2018 and I’m so happy that it won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.

Christopher Robin (2018) 8.5/10
Black Sheep (1996) 6/10

The Birdcage (1996) 9/10

Bee Movie (2003) 4/10

Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle (2018) 6.5/10

I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore (2017) 7.5/10


The Loss of a Legend

We lost our version of The American Sniper today. We lost Batbuster coach and travel ball legend Mark Campbell at the young age of 57. Anyone who knew him or competed against him knew that he was in a class of his own.

Mark accomplished what every coach dreams of, but only a handful ever do, and most of you don’t know it because coaches like Mark don’t talk about themselves. They just keep accomplishing mission after mission until the last mission is finally over. Since the early 2000s, his teams dominated at the highest level of the game. He produced great player after great player, championship after championship, and he did it against the best.


The Firecrackers were one of the few organizations lucky enough to be able to acquire Mark Campbell-trained players. What that meant was that we were not only getting a physically gifted player, but we were also getting a very disciplined, resilient player who was trained to win championships; and that they did. Again, only a handful of players knows what that really means.

Then came the partnership between Mark and the Batbusters. It seemed to be a perfect match, and together with Mike Stith as president, they kept the legacy of the Batbuster name at the top of the game. His loss cannot be replaced, and it will be felt for a very long time not only within the Batbuster organization, but also within the entire softball world.

We truly lost a great one. This is a dark day for our sport.

We will add Mark Campbell to the list of why we Play with Honor, and why we will honor the responsibility of not forgetting the great people of our past who paved the way for so many to enjoy the successes of today. Guys like Mark protect us and make us feel safe. They are not supposed to die young.

Godspeed, Mark


FC National Highlight- Firecrackers Brashear/Hicks

Next up on our tour of Firecrackers nation-wide, we head down to sunny southern California’s San Diego contingent, Firecrackers Brashear/Hicks. Having recently celebrated their 1-year Firecracker anniversary, Hicks and company have certainly made a name for themselves not only nabbing athletes from their home base of San Diego, but all the way from El Centro to Riverside and Arizona. Although hailing from different regions and backgrounds, the team considers themselves a tight knit family with the common goal of each playing college ball somewhere, someday.

The growth of Firecrackers Brashear/Hicks began about 5 years ago when a couple of Imperial Valley (deep Southeast San Diego) players reached out looking for a higher level of competition. As the group got stronger and word began to spread, what began as a vision to “meet a need” boomed into a regional softball powerhouse.

So, what was it that drew Bill Hicks into the Firecracker organization just over a year ago? “The ‘family’ atmosphere and support system,” he says. “There is a defined structure all the way to the top.” Firecrackers Brashear/Hicks is overseen by longtime Firecracker coach and FC VP Sean Brashear, who also uses his experience and expertise to help guide several other Firecrackers Brashear squads. “Being under the Brashear umbrella is a privilege. It is a very close-knit family and is based on knowledge, accountability and learning to play (and coach) the game the right way in order to create opportunities for the players. Sean hosts workouts regularly with all of his teams and gets to know the girls very well. The thing about Brashear’s umbrella that makes it so special is that there is a tremendous support system in place."

This support system includes big softball influencers and fellow peer coaches such as Tony Rico, Sean Brashear, Roman Gallegos, Mark Thornburg, Mike Smith, Jeff Allan, and Raul Duarte as well as each member of the Firecrackers Brashear/Hicks coaching staffs.

Firecrackers Brashear/Hicks 16U Coaching staff
Bill Hicks – Head Coach/Manager
Alfredo DeLaTrinidad – Coach
Gary Taylor- Coach
Ricky Guzman - IF/OF Coach
Sean Brashear - Recruiting

Firecrackers Brashear/Hicks 14U Coaching staff
Bill Hicks – Manager
Donny Wallace – Head Coach
Chad Dean – Coach
Matt Villaescusa – Coach

During their inaugural 2018 season, Firecracker Brashear-Hicks experienced great success sending both teams on their first trips to the PGF National Championships. Finishing top 20 in the 14U Premier division and 3rd in the 12U Platinum division, Bill Hicks says his greatest lesson learned is “Be yourself and build your own product that is unique. Don’t try to copy anyone else.”

Looking ahead to this 2019 summer, coach Hicks and his teams most look forward to getting back out to Colorado and spending time as a TEAM! Good luck coach Hicks, we look forward to following the Firecrackers Brashear/Hicks journey!


Jon's 365 Movies in 365 Days Challenge: Movies #48-54

For every day of the year, I will be watching a movie I have never seen before. Follow me on my journey each week as I recap the films I see and give my thoughts on them. Hopefully you are exposed to new titles that you thought would never interest you or are given a new perspective on a film you have already seen.

#52. Paddleton (2019) 9.5/10

Mark Duplass and Ray Romano star in this Netflix film about two neighbors who take a road trip to buy drugs that will end one’s life after he is diagnosed with terminal cancer. Duplass once again shows his immense talent as a filmmaker with intensely real dark comedy that pulls no punches. The performances by both Duplass and Romano are extremely commendable and the story will have you laughing and crying by the end. I feel this will go down as one of the most underrated films of 2019.

#48. Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001) 7/10

#49. Nacho Libre (2006)  6/10

#50. The Little Hours (2017) 6.5/10

#51. Wish I Was Here (2014) 6.5/10

#53.  Room (2015) 9.5/10

#54. In The Army Now (1994) 7.5/10


Jon's 365 Movies in 365 Days Challenge: Movies #41-47

For every day of the year, I will be watching a movie I have never seen before. Follow me on my journey each week as I recap the films I see and give my thoughts on them. Hopefully you are exposed to new titles that you thought would never interest you or are given a new perspective on a film you have already seen.

#44. The Bill Murray Stories: Life Lessons From A Mythical Man (2018) 10/10

If there was anyone in the world who defined the phrase “Marches to the beat of their own drum,” it’s Bill Murray. This documentary compiles stories from all around the country as people share their random, unplanned experiences with the legendary comedic actor. From randomly showing up at house parties to bartending at a local dive bar giving everyone tequila shots even if they didn’t order them, these stories define the living myth that is Bill Murray but also serve as a reminder to everyone to just live in the moment as he has. “The Bill Murray Stories: Life Lessons From A Mythical Man” is currently streaming on Netflix.

#41. Batman: Gotham By Gaslight (2018) 7.5/10

#42. Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie (2017) 6/10

#43. The Break-Up (2006) 6/10

#45.  Abducted in Plain Sight (2019) 7/10  

#46. Ideal Home (2018) 7.5/10

#47. A Star Is Born (2018) 8.5/10


FC National Highlight- Firecrackers Gale

We're kicking off this Firecracker National Highlight tour with a dynamic and exciting team out of Colorado, Firecrackers Gale. Powered by 18U Head Coach, Randy Gale, Firecrackers Gale has fought through the struggles of being a mid-America team in today's softball rush, to becoming a contender in some of the country's biggest tournaments.

Going into year four in the organization, Firecrackers Gale is comprised of both an 18U team lead by head coach, Randy Gale and assisted by Nicole Gale and Michelle and Tony Gilio, and a 16U team behind head coach Scott Bricker and assisted by Shauna Parrish.

Read below as Coach Gale walks through some of the difficulties in gaining traction in this face-paced softball world as well as his passion for developing his athletes both on and off the field.

---------------------------------------

"Our team is driven by these values - first and foremost, a positive, team-first attitude, overall character - both on and off the field and a strong work ethic. The young ladies I have on my team, for the most part, have been with me since 10 or 12U. Everyone has a role and everyone contributes. They all know that for us to be successful, it takes every one of them. We are a family - from the players, coaches, parents and siblings. We spend almost as much time off the field together as we do on. In addition to our core, we have picked up some great girls this season that fit this culture. All of these young ladies understand what playing as a team is about.

Being a Colorado team, it has been difficult to get on the right stage for exposure and national tournaments. When we started we didn’t have the power house teams (in Colorado) like California and Texas. We’ve heard whispers since they were young like, "Oh it's just another Colorado team” and “Colorado has good players not great players." People don’t expect us to be competitive. As a coach, I have had to learn how to manage perceptions and drive expectations for these girls to compete with the best in the country.

There are many challenges thrown our way. To start with, the weather. We don't get the opportunity to be outside year round. In the winter months, we train at our indoor facility "The Off Season" from October through February. It’s difficult to make sure you are getting enough reps and doing the little things that you need to pay special attention too. Fielding ground balls for 4 months indoors becomes tough mentally after a while. And you can't train all aspects of the game like outfield because of space limitations. Mentally, they just want to get outside.

We also face the problem of having less athletes to choose from. We tend to have to pick kids up from all over the state rather than just from our local area. It makes it that much more important to find the elite athlete that fits into our culture, because they have to be that much more dedicated.

Having high school ball in the fall also creates a challenge for a couple reasons - First, the girls come out of winter and go straight into tournaments. There is no “warm-up” or dirt time that other states may have playing high school ball in the spring. The majority of our comp season runs March through the end of July, so when high school starts they are tired from just coming off their travel ball season, and roll right into high school season, where they end up seeing training 5 days a week. This can be very taxing on them, mentally and physically. For incoming freshmen learning how to manage arm care is huge. They have little experience throwing 5 days a week, and with the wrong direction can create serious arm issues. So to help with that, we shut the girls down from throwing for November and December and work a lot of strength and agility.

We have done a few things to try to break the stigma of most teams from Colorado, starting with how we put the team together. During tryout season, we go back to our values and look for athletes that we know would represent our Firecracker Organization, their coaches, and most importantly themselves as young women with honor and dignity. We are also looking for the girl that has chemistry with the rest of the team. While we of course look for athleticism, it’s not always our deciding factor.

The Firecrackers culture is a huge reason why we continue to attract the right kinds of players to our team. This culture is now flowing to all our FC teams in Colorado, and that starts from the top. We have brought Coach Tony Rico out to Colorado a few times, to help explain the culture and expectations it takes to be part of the Firecrackers. When you have the buy-in from one of the most influential people in softball, let alone your organization, telling you and your team you are doing things the right way, it becomes such a desire to maintain and build on that.

Additionally, we have an extremely challenging travel schedule. Come June and July we are pretty much gone out of state competing in the top showcases or tournaments around the country. To prepare for this, we play at the highest level we can in our state against the top teams in 18s. Our team has always played up and understood that we may take our licks, but we will be better prepared to play those teams from California, Arizona, Texas, and the South. We are also constantly trying to teach them the mental side of the game as well. Everything from going to bat with an approach to thinking 2 plays ahead on defense or having the bench players keep score or calling pitches to increase their game IQ.

Alongside of these things, I also believe that as a coach it is my job to foster good relationships and trust with college coaches. And by doing that I try to make sure that the colleges are aware that we do have great talent in this state.

We will continue to be the underdog when we travel out of state, and that's ok. These young ladies are happy to prove themselves every time they take the field. As their coach, I couldn't be happier with the success they have achieved, their future looks extremely bright."

                                                                        -Randy Gale

For more information on Firecrackers Gale and the Colorado Firecrackers organization please visit www.firecrackers-gale.com


Jon's 365 Movies in 365 Days Challenge: Movies #34-40

For every day of the year, I will be watching a movie I have never seen before. Follow me on my journey each week as I recap the films I see and give my thoughts on them. Hopefully you are exposed to new titles that you thought would never interest you or are given a new perspective on a film you have already seen.

#34. The Spectacular Now (2013) 8/10

Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley star in this romantic coming of age tale of two opposite minded classmates who fall for each other in their senior year of high school. Teller plays a careless with no future in his sights while Woodley is a good girl who wants a better life for herself. The two young actors have an undeniable charm about them that would inevitably make them stars and also features a solid performance from upcoming “Captain Marvel” lead Brie Larson. “The Spectacular Now” is currently on Netflix.

#35. Lemon (2017) 4/10

Comedic actor Brett Gelman stars in this odd independent comedy following a strange man with bad social skills as his life begins to unravel after his girlfriend leaves him. I was intrigued by the idea Gelman as a lead in one of these low budget projects, especially because he also wrote the movie. But despite enjoyable supporting performances from the likes of Judy Greer and Michael Cera, the film never really has you rooting for it’s main character and the tone felt unbalanced at times. “Lemon” can currently be found on Hulu.

#36. Love, Gilda (2018) 9/10

Gilda Radner, one of the funniest ladies to ever be in entertainment, gets her story told in this documentary.  I was not fortunate enough to enjoy Radner in her prime, so this movie did a wonderful job showing her immense talent and the impact that she left. From SNL to her relationship with late actor Gene Wilder, to her untimely death, director Lisa Dapolito pays a great tribute to a legend. “Love, Gilda” is currently streaming on Hulu.

#37. Win It All (2017) 8/10

The first of two gambling-based movies on this week’s list, “Win It All” stars Jake Johnson  and Keegan Michael Key in a comedic drama about a gambling addict who winds up in debt after gambling away someone else’s money. I really enjoyed this performance from Johnson. He fits well in these lower movies like "Drinking Buddies” and “Safety Not Guaranteed” that allows him to give a more layered take on his characters. “Win It All” can exclusively be found on Netflix.

#38Baby Mama (2008) 8/10

One of the best comedic duos out there, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler started their transition from SNL cast members to movie stars  in this hilarious comedy surrounding surrogate pregnancies. Fey has always done a good job portraying the uptight straight-laced characters and that remains the same in this movie. Poehler plays the polar opposite to Fey which leads to some hilarious scenes between the two characters as their personalities clash. I was pleasantly surprised to see one of my favorite underrated actors Greg Kinnear have a good role in this film also. You can find “Baby Mama” on Netflix.

#39. Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation (2018) 6/10

Adam Sandler and his famous crew of famous friends gather once again in animated form in the third film from the “Hotel Transylvania” franchise. This time the story takes us away from the hotel and takes the monsters on a summer cruise to the lost city of Atlantis. While these movies have never offered much depth in terms of story, this proves to be another harmless gag movie with some rather impressive animation effects to help make it enjoyable to look at.  “Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation” can be found streaming on Netflix.

#40. Mississippi Grind (2015) 9/10

Rounding out the two gambler stories for this week’s recap, “Mississippi Grind” is a fascinating tale of a gambling addict in debt who befriends a fellow gambler. Believing to have found his lucky charm, the addict and his new friend, take a road trip to New Orleans for a high stakes poker game. The film features incredible acting from Ben Mendelhson, Ryan Reynolds, and Sienna Miller. It also embraces the southern atmosphere to it’s fullest from it’s location settings to the excellent music playing throughout the movie. “Mississippi Grind” is currently streaming on Netflix.


Jon's 365 Movies in 365 Days Challenge: Movies #27-33

For every day of the year, I will be watching a movie I have never seen before. Follow me on my journey each week as I recap the films I see and give my thoughts on them. Hopefully you are exposed to new titles that you thought would never interest you or are given a new perspective on a film you have already seen.

#27. Hitch (2005) 7.5/10

In anticipation of Bad Boys 3, which just started shooting, I went and watched the quintessential male rom-com “Hitch”. Boy, do I miss the days where Will Smith did great comedies. Smith stars as Hitch, a man who helps guys who would usually be the underdog woo the one the woman they love. When Hitch finds himself in a relationship, things suddenly start to go opposite of his expectations. This movie to me is Smith at his comedic best since Fresh Prince of Bel Air. “Hitch” can be found streaming on Amazon Prime Video and Hulu.

#28. Despicable Me 3 (2017) 7/10

The adventures of Gru and the Minions continues in the 3rd installment of the popular animated franchise. Steve Carrell comes back for another fun adventure as the former villain turned hero. I had a lot more fun with this movie compared to the second movie, mostly due to the excellent animation and voice performances by Carrell, Kristen Wiig, and Trey Parker. I think the fact that the Minions took more of a backseat in this movie made it more fun for me to enjoy as well. You can find “Despicable Me 3” streaming on Netflix.

#29. The Clapper (2018) 2/10

I knew almost nothing about “The Clapper” other than the premise before I decided to check it out. I was intrigued by the pairing of Ed Helms and Tracy Morgan, but what I ended getting was a boring, unfunny movie with uninspired performances from everyone except Russell Peters. The Clapper has now become the first movie in the challenge that I have opted to just stop watching before it ended.  The Clapper is currently streaming on Netflix.

#30. Jigsaw (2017) 5.5/10

Thirteen years after the “Saw” franchise first began, The Spierig Brothers bring the eighth movie to screens everywhere with “Jigsaw.” While never being known for top notch acting or storytelling, the best thing about the “Saw” movies has always been the highly creative traps set by the titular villain. While this is not the best outing for the franchise, “Jigsaw” brings just what it needs to for die-hard audiences of these films. “Jigsaw” can currently be found streaming on both Amazon Prime Video and Hulu.

#31Casting JonBenet (2017) 7/10

Casting JonBenet is a documentary telling the events of the mysterious murder of young pageant girl JonBenet Ramsey back in 1996. Rather than interviews with people directly involved with the story, the film features interviews with people from Ramsey’s hometown in Colorado as they all audition for parts in reenactments of the events surrounding the crime. It is a dark story that is very well crafted as it presents different theories and talks about what could have happened to this young girl and why it is still unsolved. Casting JonBenet can be found streaming on Netflix.

#32. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) 7.5/10

Finally, I have chosen to dive into the rest of the Indiana Jones series of films after having only seen Raiders of the Lost Ark. Temple of Doom definitely steps things up a notch in the fun department. I quite love the addition of Short Round as a young, comedic sidekick to Indy. My only complaint would be the Kate Capshaw character which was a massive step down from Karen Allen’s great performance in Raiders of the Lost Ark. You can find all of the Indiana Jones movies currently streaming on Netflix.

#33. The Thing (1982) 8/10

For the longest time I have heard countless people on various shows and podcasts sing praises for John Carpenter’s The Thing. Well, I can say now that those people were very right. This Carpenter classic tells the story of a team out in the arctic who are terrorized by an unknown creature who takes the form of the humans or animals it gets ahold of. Kurt Russell is at his vintage best here which is no surprise, but the standout for me was the extremely grotesque special effects that still manage to be unsettling to this day.


Jon's 365 Movies in 365 Days Challenge: Movies #20-26

For every day of the year, I will be watching a movie I have never seen before. Follow me on my journey each week as I recap the films I see and give my thoughts on them. Hopefully you are exposed to new titles that you thought would never interest you or are given a new perspective on a film you have already seen.

#20. Stripes (1981) 9/10

One of the few Bill Murray movies I hadn’t gotten around to seeing, Stripes fully lives up to my expectations as to what an all-time classic should be. Ivan Reitman’s second movie hits all the right marks that a military comedy should strive to hit. The film also features hilarious moments from a great ensemble cast including Harold Ramis, John Candy, Warren Oates, Sean Young, and John Larroquette. Almost 40 years later, Stripes stands the test of time. Stripes is currently streaming on Netflix.

#21. The Voices (2014) 7/10

Ryan Reynolds stars in the wild, dark comedy along with Gemma Arterton and Anna Kendrick as he plays an upbeat, schizophrenic man who listens to the voices in his head that are manifested through his pet dog and pet cat. His character is stood up on a date with a coworker, but when she is stranded and needs a ride, the voices in his head take over and he ends murdering her. This is one of Ryan Reynolds’ finest performances in his impressive career, as it allows him to properly balance his comedic style of acting with dramatic acting through the story’s light take on dark themes. The voices provided by Reynolds, his pets are a definite highlight, as are the performances of Arterton and Kendrick as decapitated heads who are voices in Reynolds’ mind. “The Voices” can be found streaming on Hulu.

#22. Her (2013) 9.5/10

Joaquin Phoenix shines in this fascinating 2013 romantic comedy that was nominated for Best PictureSet in a dystopian future, Her follows a lonely man named Theodore who develops a relationship with a virtual operating sytstem (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). This brilliant story concept is probably the most unique take on human relationships I’ve ever seen, which is saying something since it’s technically not a relationship between two humans. Phoenix shows why he’s one of the best actors working today and Johansson’s voice work is caring while also heartbreaking. You can find “Her” currently streaming on Netflix.

#23. Lady Bird (2017) 9/10

Nominated for Best Picture at the 2018 Oscars, Lady Bird is an extremely well-made comedy starring Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf as a mother and daughter as they struggle to come to terms with their relationship before the latter leaves for college. Greta Gerwig’s feature film debut is loosely based on aspects of her own life, feels like the story of a real life family. Laurie Metcalf’s perormance is probably the best of her career as well, as it also nabbed her an Academy Award nomination for supporting actress. It’s a great story about wanting to get away from your surroundings but not forgetting where you came from that made you who you are.  “Lady Bird” can currently be found streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

#24. The Squid and the Whale (2005) 8/10

This 2005 independent film directed by Noah Baumbach tells the semi-autobiographical story following two brothers as they both deal with the separation of their parents in the mid-80’s. The film is a brutally honest look at what divorce can do to a family. They somehow find a way to make certain situations very funny while also being either embarrassing or tender. Jeff Daniels and Jesse Eisenberg stand out as the better performances in this movie, but Laura Linney also does an exceptional job too. The film also won an Oscar for Best Screenplay. “The Squid and the Whale” can be found currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

#25. Fyre Fraud (2019) 6/10

One of two documentaries released in the same week, “Fyre Fraud” tells the infamous story of Fyre Festival, a festival on an island in the Bahamas that turned out to be just a big scam. It is pretty astounding how this entire story unfolds and that it only happened in 2017. The documentary features an interview with the man responsible for organizing the event, and it’s pretty baffling to watch him interpret the events from his point of view. Overall, I felt the documentary had too much of a “Let’s hate on Millenials” rather than telling the story of the people affected by it. Fyre Fraud can be found streaming on Hulu.

#26. Permanent (2017) 3/10

Rainn Wilson and Patricia Arquette star in this unfunny story about an awkward family living in a small Virginia town in the early 80’s. Despite Kira McLean’s charming efforts as Aurelie, the movie never seems to reach the potential that it’s cast is capable of. I was not into the over-the-top crude humor presented in some scenes, and the film as a whole felt like a shorter movie dragged out to be longer than it needed to. Permanent can be found streaming on Hulu.