Sunday, January 18, 2015

The St. George Half Marathon – Matthew Jacobson


This is the third time I've run The St. George Half Marathon, and the second time I've finished it. (Last year some medical issues got in the way, but hey – I did make it to mile 5 before I had to call it quits!) For those of you thinking about running it in 2016, here's what you should expect.

The Course

The course is relatively standard. It runs on the city streets for half the race, and on city trails the other half. After 2.5 mark, it starts going uphill. The Bloomington Hills area of St. George is very hilly, so there is a lot of up and down throughout that area. There's little-to-no level roads from 2.5 until the summit of the course at the halfway mark, where the course begins its downward slope. At about 7.5 miles, the course turns to city trails, which are more-or-less even. The race finishes where it starts.

The View

St. George is a very scenic city, surrounded by beautiful red rocks and desert. The forced landscape is beautiful, too. However, there's one time of the year when the city is ugly and barren, and that's in the middle of January.

This is what makes The St. George Half Marathon unappealing. It's cold and it's ugly. Everything is brown. In a way, it's disheartening. Instead of being able to enjoy the surroundings, you're just wishing the race would be over already so you can get away from this dead, disgusting place.

The Medal

The medal is an integral part to running these races. We runners like to display them proudly, so it's nice when there's a rad medal with an awesome design. I have to give props to St. George for changing up the design of the half marathon medal from years past (the St. George Marathon medal stays the same year after year...), but I don't particularly like the vomit green used for the ribbon.

I'm still hoping one of these races will feature an awesome black and white medal.

Overall Rating

The challenging first half makes this a race you feel good about completing. But the scenery leaves much to be desired.

Follow The Skewed Review on Twitter @TheSkewedReview; like The Skewed Review at

Thursday, January 8, 2015

How Is This Movie? - Matthew Jacobson


If you're not already aware, I write a Blu-ray column for Gannett. In it, I review not only the movies but also the bonus content. After all, many of us buy Blu-rays because we get extras in addition to the film.

Why else would we shell out close to $30 per film? We want more than just the movie we paid $15 to see in the theater.

By the way, you can read my Blu-ray reviews, plus my weekly geek column, by clicking this sentence.

I'm personally interested in everything that goes into making a movie. I eat up those behind-the-scenes mini documentaries found on most Blu-rays. It's fascinating to see what makes movies work or what makes them fail.

That's why I love the podcast, "How Is This Movie?"

Host Dana Buckler researches movies and movie stars and then gives us behind-the-scenes information on topics like Wes Craven films, Star Wars and Eddie Murphy, just to name a few. This podcast is basically an audio version of the Blu-ray behind-the-scenes bonus feature. It's a fascinating look at the process behind our favorite films.

This is one of about 10 podcasts that I listen to regularly. If you love movies, you should listen, too.

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes here.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Big Eyes - Matthew Jacobson


It's almost as if Tim Burton woke up one day and said, "I'll prove I can make a movie without Johnny Depp," and the proceeded to make the most un-Burton Tim Burton film to date.

And you know what? It worked out great.

Sweetheart Amy Adams plays Margaret Keane, a woman whose artistic talent got her work known worldwide – under someone else's name, that is. Her husband, Walter, played by the ever-so-slimy and ever-so-genius Christoph Waltz, convinces Margaret that the world just won't accept a female artist, and takes the credit for her work instead.

Based on the true story of Margaret Keane, "Big Eyes" was fascinating and enthralling. I, along with millions of others, I assume, went directly to my computer following the movie. I immediately punched "Keane" into Google images to see the real life art.

And while I'm a huge Tim Burton fan – I laud each and every one of his films, even when they're critically panned – I have to admit it was a breath of fresh air to see him take on something new. "Big Eyes" is more akin to his 2003 film "Big Fish."

This begs the question, of course: will his next un-Burton film have "Big" in the title, as well?

Missing from the movie was the cast of usual Burton suspects; most notably absent were Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter. Honestly, the three of them needed a bit of a break, anyway.

Actually, with Carter and Burton's recent split, something tells me that particular break is going to last a long time – if not forever. Remember Lisa Marie, who played the part of Vampira in Burton's other biopic, "Ed Wood"? Yeah, she appeared in his films while the two were dating. But she hasn't been heard from since the two broke up.

I hope she's still alive.

I can't wait to own this on Blu-ray. This is by far one of Burton's best films. And it's clear this man knows how to make a biopic. (Edward Scissorhands is a biopic, right?) Now, I think I'll go watch "Ed Wood" again.

Follow The Skewed Review on Twitter, @TheSkewedReview and at

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Devil's Due - Matty Jacobson


In my never-ending quest to find the next sleeper horror hit, the likes of which leave me awake at night ("Paranormal Activity 3!"), I paid real, actual dollars to see "Devil's Due." 

It's a mockumentary, found footage style, about a newly-married woman who is impregnated by, Satan, I guess, while on her honeymoon. 

It's not a spoiler. I mean, look at the movie title. 

The reason I think it should be torn into a million pieces and then shoved down the throats of the filmmakers is this: If you want to make a truly scary movie in this day and age, you need to eliminate motive and explanation. Seriously. 

Something can be creepy, scary, haunting without having to be explained to the audience. In fact, when you don't explain the origin of something to the audience, said audience is left to dream up their own personal nightmare instead. 

That's why the very first "Paranormal Activity" worked so well -- despite the horrible acting. The demon was never shown, so we were all left to imagine what it would look like. And there's only one person in the world who can imagine the scariest thing ever. That's you -- thinking about the scariest thing ever to you. 

"Devil's Due" gives us a stupid rehash of "The Last Exorcism" in that not only is Satan's baby inside this woman, but there's also a group of people -- a coven or whatever -- who are actively making sure the Antichrist is born. 

So, no. I wasn't scared. There were no good GOTCHA scares. There wasn't anything that made this film any better than the worst found footage film I've seen. Laaaaaame. 

Save your money. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

My Fitness Pal - by Matty Jacobson


Being sexy isn't easy. It takes a lot of discipline: eating correctly, working out, and keeping track of everything so you know you're doing it right.

It's true those things come naturally to the luckier of us. But for everyone else, we either have to be meticulous about what we put into our bodies and what activities we do to ensure our food is getting put to good use, or we simply become unhealthy, out of shape and overweight. 

There are a lot of apps that serve this purpose. I've tried a few, but the one I'm most satisfied with is MyFitnessPal. 

This app isn't just for people like me who are trying to trim the fat. It's also for anyone who wants to maintain a certain weight, or even gain muscle weight. 

The program gets your current weight, your goal weight (if you have one) and your height. It then generates how many calories you should be consuming each day. Surprise, surprise, it's not 2,000. In fact, for me to stay at a svelte 185 (I'm 6-feet 2-inches tall, mind you), I should only be consuming 1,390 calories per day. 

"But Matty!" You're screaming right now, I assume. "Swimmer Ryan Phelps! He's about your height and he consumes 12,000 calories a day!" 

Well, that's because he's an athlete. And most days, I end up consuming between 3,000 and 5,000 calories because I also run. That's one of my favorite parts of the MyFitnessPal app. 

At the end of your workout, you let the app know what type of activity you were doing, and how long you were active. It then adds the applicable amount of calories to your diet. So if I want to go to a movie and plan on downing an entire tub of popcorn by myself, then I need to work out for about an hour to free up the necessary 1,000 calories. 

It's simple, but I had to get into the habit of adding my food to the diary after every meal. (Ideally, this app would come with some sort of computer chip you swallow that doesn't digest and reads everything you eat so you don't have to do any work -- but I'm not holding my breath for that technology.) But the food diary is really simple to use. Anything you purchase can be scanned with the app's barcode feature. Anything else will most definitely be in the diary's database. 

And if you're cooking a ridiculous recipe all your own, just add the ingredients to the diary separately. The diary keeps track of what you put into it, so once you've entered it in once, you only have to scroll through your foods to add it again. 

At the end of the day, MyFitnessPal tells you how much you will weight in two weeks if your eating and exercise habits remain the same. 

Some days, the app tells me I'll weigh 175 pounds, and one or two times I've been told I'ld weigh more than 210 if I kept it up. But for the most part, actually utilizing the app has made me more aware of the kinds of foods I eat. 

Now if only the App Store could come up with something that would track my food and activity without my having to do a thing. 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

OH NO, Ross and Carrie! - By Matty Jacobson


Podcasts on the strange and mysterious have always fascinated me, and to this day I think it's a shame that AM Coast-to-Coast isn't available in podcast format.

However, I've never really been interested in listening to those skeptics' podcasts that tear apart all the fun of occultism, the Illuminati, mysticism and whatnot. But as I happened to hear a plug for this particular show, "Oh No, Ross and Carrie!", when I was listening to another podcast.

It piqued my interest because the hosts, Ross Blocher and Carrie Poppy, don't just sit and talk about why dousing rods are just a bunch of hooey. No, they actually go and investigate. Since they delve pretty deep into topics, the show is released monthly.

I wasn't sure if I planned on actually investing my time in this show, but as I scrolled through old episodes, I saw they had a two-parter on Mormonism. Well, considering everything that's going on currently with Utah and the denial of equal rights of its citizens because of the aforementioned church, I had to take a listen.

Ross and Carrie are true investigators. They sat through all the missionary discussions (back when the missionaries did that sort of thing), attended church, legitimately prayed about their experiences and -- gasp! -- also got baptized.

I was astounded at the level of commitment to getting the whole story. But Mormonism isn't the only topic they cover. From Kabbalah to juice cleansing, this duo goes in strong under the guise of being legitimately interested. And, from listening to a few episodes, it seems like the two do get legitimately interested in some aspects of the things they investigate.

They wrap up with informing the listeners about the dangers, the financial impact and the scientific probability, among other things, of whatever religion/belief/superstition they've spent their time on.

You can check out their website and stream the show here. You can subscribe to the show through iTunes here.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Myrtle Snow: The Best... Ever? -- By Matty Jacobson

Since 2009, The Skewed Review has given its opinion on films, music, iPhone apps, legislation, presidents, clothes, marathons and everything in between. But we're breaking new ground today as we review a character from a television show. 

Many shows have warranted a nod from us, but few characters housed within those shows have been striking enough to garner a column dedicated wholly to him or her. 

And when it comes to "striking," nobody holds a candle to "American Horror Story: Coven's" Myrtle Snow ("I've got a book of matches in my pocket Fiona, and I'm just dying to light this fire").

Played by Frances Conroy, Myrtle's great quotes ("Mothballs and history. It's a cocktail I swoon for!") aren't the only thing that make her the sleeper star of "Coven." Her badass fashion sense and shocking red hair round out the perfect witch who's a decadently divine combination of mystery, snark and fabulousness. 

And when it comes to hair, as Myrtle puts it, "Oh little bird, I've been buying in bulk from North Korea for years!" 

Myrtle is just one of the many witchy opponents to Jessica Lange's Fiona Goode, who is everyone else's favorite spellcaster. But Myrtle's special kind of vengeance for all things Fiona -- portrayed through dry dialogue, minimal facial expressions, and a dangerous melon baller -- bring the icing to the already delicious cake that is "Coven." 

Whether she's playing an instrument (a theremin!) or commenting on the decor ("I'm just mad for tartan!"), we're always on the edge of our seats waiting for Myrtle's next appearance. 

What does the rest of the season have in store for our favorite fiery ginger? It won't matter if she goes down in flames (again), she'll still be our favorite thing to come out of the "Horror Story" franchise!