Tag Archives: Kevin Costner

Molly’s Game

Movie:  Molly’s Game

Rating:  4 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:   Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain) was on the U.S. Ski Team, pushed hard to succeed by a demanding father (Kevin Costner), and about to make it to the Olympics when her world crashed around her.  Smart as a whip with a 3.92 GPA in college with plans to go to law school, Molly decides to head to Los Angeles to figure out where her life should go.  Needing to make a living, she does the cocktail waitress thing, and attracts the attention of a rich developer who needed an assistant.  As a sideline, the dude was running a high stakes poker game in West Hollywood, and soon Molly was invaluable in helping him line up players and track the money paid on a computer spread sheet.  Molly, smart lady that she was, kept her ears open to the poker lingo, and observed how the men who consistently won played their cards, like card shark Player X (Michael Cera), and became an expert at Texas Hold ‘Em poker.

Fast forward a few years and Molly is the sole owner and operator of the biggest and most sought after poker game in Los Angeles.  Big name actors and producers were regulars, as well as millionaire athletes and titans of industry.  Players better have $250,000 on them, because that was the cost of a buy-in to play at Molly’s games.  Molly was making a bundle for herself, and even doing it legally.  And yet, it all came tumbling down.  Enter the FBI, criminal charges, and  Charlie Jaffey (Idris Elba), the legal eagle trying to keep Molly out of jail.

This film is a fascinating story, in part because it is based on the real life trials and tribulations of a real person named Molly Bloom.  The story veers away from a strictly factual plot in a few ways, but the gist of Molly Bloom’s travails are on the screen.  Jessica Chastain gives a powerful performance as Molly, and should be a cinch to get a Best Actress Oscar nomination for her portrayal.  The movie as a whole is well worth your time, and anyone who is knowledgeable about poker will be enthralled with the action at the tables.  Go see this one.

Mini Trailers:  Molly – “I was about to land on my digitally remastered spine held together with an erector set.”

Molly – “I wanted to be young for a while, in warm weather.  My job was to get people to spend more money than they needed to.”

Molly’s Boss, Dean – “Tip Molly if you want to be invited back next week.”  Molly – “I just made $3,000.”

Jaffey – “You need a publicist.”  Molly – “I need a f*cking lawyer!”

Lawyer – “You’re not taking a percentage of the pot?  Then you’re not breaking the law.”

Player X – “I don’t like playing poker.”  Molly – “Then why do you play?”  Player X -“I like destroying lives.”

Molly’s Father – “I’m your father.  I could give a shit as to whether I am welcome in your life.”

Jaffey – “If you are saying that everything that happened to you was designed to make you plead guilty, you are correct.”

Molly’s Father – “Your addiction is having power over powerful men.  I’m going to do what patients have been begging for.  I’m going to do three years of therapy in three minutes and give you the answers.”

Nitnoid Info:  The movie mentions how casinos put scents into the air to increase the urge to gamble.  According to scenting experts, it’s smart to emphasize cleanliness in the development of casino scents because it has an effect on perception, especially in casinos where patrons spend days not hours within the service environment. Signature casino scents are all different as often each hotel is trying to invoke a different region of the world; The Mirage is Polynesian; Mandalay Bay is Southeast Asian and the Bellagio whispers of Northern Italy.
The success of defining these scents starts with understanding that the third sense as being very tricky. (It isn’t like a story with three different sides; his, hers and the truth.) Everyone takes in the aroma, whatever it is, exactly the same way. The difference in reaction lies in the memories associated with that aroma, which are different for everyone. That said, there are certain guides with which scenting strategists works; citrus aromas are refreshing; floral, cedar and other woodsy scents are soothing and relaxing as are herbaceous aromas which can also be invigorating, such as peppermint.

What Was Not In The Movie:  Molly Bloom was very careful to not reveal the names of famous people who played in her poker games.  Some names have slipped out, including Ben Affleck, Leo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, and Yankee star Alex Rodriguez.  Of yes, and that mysterious and ruthless Player X appears to be actor Tobey Maguire.

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Hidden Figures

Movie:  Hidden Figures

Rating:  4 1/2 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:   It is 1961 and the United States is in a space race with the Russians.  There is more than national pride at stake.  In the midst of the Cold War, leaders are all too aware that intercontinental missiles with nuclear warheads will soon become a reality.  The United States did not want to lose this race.  Then the damn Russians managed to put Yuri Gregorin into space first, and a bit of panic set in at the NASA Space Task Group at Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA.  The Task Group Manager Al Harrison (Kevin Costner) was not a happy man.

What NASA needed to put a man into space was engineers to figure out how to build a space capsule that could keep a man alive as he is rocketed into space, and survive the extreme heat generated during re-entry to earth’s atmosphere. To do this, they needed brilliant mathematicians who could calculate the exact equations necessary to perform space flight.  The mathematics needed for these tasks was unknown, and would require the most brilliant minds to create a new set of computations for the field of space travel.  NASA had a roomful of talented men working on the engineering and math problems.  But as progress was stymied and political pressure mounted on Al Harrison to get results, an extraordinary event took place.  A woman, a black woman named Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), was asked to join the elite team of mathematicians working on space trajectory problems.

Katherine Johnson broke a lot of barriers at NASA because she was simply a genius, and Al Harrison needed her to succeed.  Still, there were a few nagging issues for her to deal with, like having to trot 10 minutes over to another building to use the colored women’s restroom, and even have a “colored coffee pot” appear in her work area.  To her credit she persevered and contributed greatly to the success of the early United States space program, especially in getting John Glenn (Glen Powell) into space.  In addition to Johnson, two other black women from the NASA program are key to the story; Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) a computer programmer and first black supervisor for NASA, and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae), the first black female engineer for NASA.

This is a fascinating film on several levels.  First, it is a true story that follows the efforts of three black women who were determined to fulfill their potential in their respective fields despite the unfair barriers placed on women, and the racism faced by blacks in the early 1960s.  Secondly, it is an engaging story of the problems overcome by dedicated people at NASA to succeed at the awesome challenges required to put men like Alan Shepard and John Glenn into space.  While cringing at the racism that was prevalent at the time, we are gladdened by the dedication and excellence of the NASA people to show the world what Americans can accomplish when we set our minds to a goal.  Excellent film, with top-notch acting to carry a terrific story.  Definitely an Oscar contender for Best Film and probable nomination for Taraji P. Henson as Best Actress.

Mini Trailers:

Mary Jackson:  “Three Negro women chasing a white police officer down the highway?  Ladies, that is a God ordained miracle!”

NASA Big Wig:  “The President is demanding immediate action.  We can’t justify a space program if we can’t put anything into space.”

Female Supervisor to Katherine Johnson:  “We’ve never had a colored in here before.  Don’t embarrass me.”

Al Harrison addressing his mathematicians and tasking Katharine Johnson:  “From time to time I will ask you (Johnson) to check their work.  I’m sure you all can, but if that were the case, shingles wouldn’t be flying off the capsule, would they?”

Al Harrison:  “No more colored restrooms!  Here at NASA we’re all the same color.”

Al Harrison:  “How the hell did we find ourselves in second place in a two man race?  We’re in the fight of our lives!”

President Kennedy:  “We choose to go to the moon not because it is easy, but because it is hard.”

John Glenn:  “Gentlemen, let’s launch this rocket.”  (See Nitnoid Fact)

Nitnoid Fact:

This scene takes a bit of dramatic license, but John Glenn did ask for “the girl” (referring to Katherine Johnson) to manually check the calculations generated by the electronic computers that were critical to the mission. This occurred well before the launch, and calculating the output for 11 different variables to eight significant digits took her a day and a half.  Her calculations matched the computer’s exactly, giving John Glenn, and everyone else, the confidence that the critical computer software was reliable.

Historical Conundrum:  The movie shows early IBM mainframe computers sitting around not being utilized.  Here’s why:

IBM initially sold its computers without any software, expecting customers to write their own; programs were manually initiated, one at a time. Later, IBM provided compilers for the newly developed higher-level programming languages Fortran and COBOL.

For History Buffs:  Something you probably don’t know about John Glenn.

He flew 63 combat missions in Korea with VMF-311,[6]:186 and was nicknamed “Magnet Ass” because of his ability to attract enemy flak (an occupational hazard of low-level close air support missions);[6]:180 twice, he returned to base with over 250 holes in his plane.[6]:180[14] Glenn flew for a time with Marine reservist Ted Williams (a future Hall of Fame baseball player with the Boston Red Sox) as his wingman,[6]: