November 27, 2016

Manchester By The Sea

A powerful, heart-wrenching, near-operatic tragedy, with some reason to hope sprinkled near the end.
Casey Affleck is outstanding as our tragic protagonist Lee Chandler, doing his best to cope with adversity at every turn. When his brother dies, Lee must return to his hometown and reconnect with his nephew Patrick as they grieve in tandem, while Lee is confronted with the skeletons he left behind.
Kenneth Lonergan meticulously wrote and directed an almost impressionistic operatic tragedy. We are allowed to put the pieces together on our own with a minimum of exposition. Except for one key emotional confrontation between Lee and his ex-wife (see photo), the important emotional moments are never discussed.
The cast is so authentic, they feel like they were pulled from the upper deck of a Bruins game.
Lucas Hedges is strong as the 16-year-old Patrick, and Michelle Williams is powerful as Lee's ex-wife.
Our only complaint was the score- the classical and operatic music cues are often intrusive and distracting, almost like they're trying to force the emotional point that the drama is already making. One scene, during a moment of good news, is set to a jaunty jazz score straight out of a Woody Allen movie!
I grew up in Boxford, about 15 miles west of Manchester By-The-Sea (my adolescence also closely resembled The Ice Storm*) so I can tell you this film is the most accurate depiction of wintertime in New England I've ever seen: bare trees, it snows a little bit every day, piles of snow that have melted and re-frozen, and one all-too-familiar scene where Lee and his nephew are stuck outside with no winter coats - New England winters are so long we get tired of wearing heavy coats and just give up after awhile. Lonergan sprinkled landscapes as seen from the road throughout, and he picked great exteriors that show off the unique villages of New England. This is a terrible movie to see in November as the winter snow is about to arrive! The last scene in the film takes place in April, and they shot one scene outdoors just as the trees were budding. I truly appreciated this attention to detail.
Really worth the trip. The movie will leave you with plenty to think and talk about.
Essential viewing. My grade: A.
With Emily at Fenway Screen 9, 7pm (movie started at 7:20)
*Coincidence: I saw The Ice Storm 19 years ago this week.

November 26, 2016

Christian Marclay: THE CLOCK

Visited the film for a third time- or is it fourth? With my Aunt Kathy from 10:30am until 11:15. I always find it funny to see this wide range of world cinema spanning decades, with Jason Statham sprinkled in. This segment also had scenes from Keira Knightley's Pride & Prejudice, Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets, and about 5 seconds of Four Weddings & A Funeral.

November 25, 2016

Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them

We enjoyed the movie very much. The beasts were fantastic indeed - the niffler was charming and the massive rhinoceros beast was gorgeous. I appreciated JK Rowling wrote this script herself - the themes of the film feel like classic Rowling ideas. Eddie Redmayne was too twitchy and introverted for our taste. We could literally understand about 15% of his dialog. Of course he spends the whole movie explaining stuff you don't HAVE to know, but it was damn annoying regardless. Dan Fogler (Balls of Fury) was charming and hilarious as a Muggle, erm, I mean "No-Maj". Belmont Studio Cinema Date Night with my wife!

November 16, 2016

Christian Marclay: The CLOCK (again)

I saw a two-hour segment of the movie, from 7:30pm -9:50pm. See my full review (2011 & 2016)

November 12, 2016


Arrival is one of my favorite flavors of alien movies: an intense, cerebral mind-bender about the purpose of mankind in the galactic landscape. Why are we here? What's our destiny as a species? Why is our humanity important? Can we persevere and transcend our differences as a civilization? Director Denis Villeneuve tackles all the above Big Questions in an oblique, Kubrick/Malick-ian style. Amy Adams is terrific as Dr Louise Banks, a linguistics professor who must solve a urgent puzzle. How to talk to an alien race before hostilities break out? The movie nicely illustrates how we use all our life experiences when problem-solving. We don't stay "in the moment" when cracking a puzzle, our minds may wander all over for answers. Part of Louise's challenge is the fundamental nature of language; our language shapes how we think, so will she begin to think like an alien as she learns their language?
There are a lot of parallels with Contact and Gravity, especially how the lead character is a woman whose traumatic history directly effects the current events.
If you're looking for a movie with Randy Quaid kamikaze-ing a mothership and Will Smith punching out a slimy alien, look elsewhere.
Highly recommended for a thought-provoking evening, if occasionally plodding and oblique. My Stub Hubby Grade: A-minus.
Somerville Theater, Screen 1, with Adam.

October 15, 2016

157 Rainy Days and Saturdays

This playlist was assembled in iTunes, and the first one finished on Spotify. I don't know for how long I will use Spotify to create, or re-create playlists, but this was the first. Several of the songs on here are not available on Spotify (see notes, below).
  1. Squeeze "Up The Junction"
  2. Ben Gibbard "Teardrop Windows"
  3. Graham Parker "Get Started, Start a Fire" heard on WERS. My first-ever Graham Parker song on a playlist. Only took 157 tries!
  4. Jamestown Revival "Love is a Burden"
  5. Pearl Jam "Dissident" - I just sold my still-sealed 1993 copy of Versus on vinyl for $37 on eBay.
  6. Bruce Springsteen "The Promised Land"
  7. Boy & Bear "Southern Sun"
  8. The Corrs feat/Bono "When The Stars Go Blue" - Forget Leonard Cohen's "Alleluia". This is my favorite "modern standard" ballad that everyone covers.
  9. Adele "I Can't Make You Love Me" [live] - from a live CD that was bundled with her Live At Royal Albert Hall DVD.
  10. Aerosmith "What It Takes"
  11. Red Rider "Lunatic Fringe" - a one-hit wonder I remember perfectly from the 1980s on WBCN...that I would never have been able to name even if you put a gun to my head. Thanks to George for sharing it in response to the Trump candidacy. Red Rider featured Tom Cochrane, who would produce a bigger one-hit wonder in 1992 with "Life Is A Highway"
  12. Wilco "The Boys are Back in Town" [live] - this Thin Lizzy cover is from an official bootleg recorded at Solid Sound 2013 where the band's entire 27-song set was all-covers and all by request.
  13. Bastille "Good Grief"
  14. Jerry Harrison "Rev It Up" - I have owned his Casual Gods CD for many years yet never played it. I heard this song (with its heavy Talking Heads vibe) on WERS.
  15. Heart "Never"
  16. Jagwar Ma "Come Save Me"
  17. The Beatles "It's All Too Much"
  18. Aimee Mann "Say Anything" - another song I love whose title I didn't know. Heard on WERS, the undergrad DJ called this a "golden oldie".
  19. Bob Dylan "Absolutely Sweet Marie"

September 17, 2016

Eight Days A Week: The Beatles - The Touring Years

I've seen many Beatles documentaries, and this one is one of the best. Instead of covering the band's whole career well, director Ron Howard documents one aspect of their career comprehensively (touring 1963-1966). I have seen some of the concert footage in this movie before, but

  • Not with perfectly remastered picture
  • Not with original audio - usually documentaries only have the film, so they play the Beatles records over the footage. This doc has the original audio to go with the film footage.
  • Not without narration - usually concert footage is played under documentary narration to save time
  • Not at length - several sequences are shown in long unbroken stretches.

What did I learn as a longtime Beatles fan?
The Beatles touring years blazed the trail for modern pop concerts in arenas and stadia. The Beatles had to play bigger and bigger venues to satisfy demand: "you can't have 2,000 fans inside a theater and 10,000 more fans on the street tearing themselves apart" was the reality. Their PA equipment was completely inadequate to broadcast their music to a screaming crowd. There was zero stage monitoring equipment, so they could not hear themselves. The kids showed up to see The Beatles, and that's all they could do.
Local police forces were completely incapable for dealing with the crowds. There was zero security for the band - the footage of Paul elbowing people through a scrum to make it from the limo to the stage door is jaw-dropping. Just imagine Taylor Swift or Beyonce fighting their way through a crowd of police and fans today!
Coolidge Corner Theater, sitting directly behind Red Sox owner John Henry

September 4, 2016

Blazing Saddles

It was wonderful to see this movie for the first time on a big movie screen, and a sold-out theater too! The big screen meant I saw at least a dozen jokes that I had never noticed before on my television set. Also, because I have mostly seen this movie on a VHS tape I taped off of broadcast television in the 1980s, I was surprised at how much swearing there is in the movie. And, I can't say I've seen many movies since then that have so much swearing, tons of raunchiness, and the smashing of racial and sexual taboos left right and center. Is it possible that this mostly white crowd felt okay about ourselves watching super racist people being made fun of? Was this a safe place to make the n-word something we could laugh at? Who the Christ knows. I also noticed that Gene Wilder is actually kind of a supporting player in this movie. He has a couple of memorable iconic scenes, but he's often hovering behind Bart in the movie. Also, see my Miscasting Awards post for more: it still doesn't make any sense that The Waco Kid, a washed-up legendary gunslinger would be played by Wilder, but of course, the movie would not be as good without him. (RIP Gene Wilder! AMC Loews Boston Common Screen 16)

September 3, 2016

Kubo & The Two Strings

Beautiful and sad. Some exciting and funny parts but mostly melancholy. Charlize Theron is terrific as the monkey and Matthew McConaguhey is charming and hilarious as the samurai warrior-turned-confused beetle. This film's serious tone and thoughtful Asian themes makes Kung Fu Panda look like an Asian minstrel show. Deep thematic similarities to Harry Potter and Star Wars. Recommended for older kids (9 and up) for pervasive sadness and scary relatives.

August 26, 2016

Off The Pace: Fall Movie Preview

As August comes to a conclusion, I've done the math: I only went to the movies eight times so far in 2016. That puts me on track to see 12 or 11 movies in 2016, an historic low.
Unless I want to set a ignominious record, I need to go to the movies at least five times in September, October, November, and December. So what's coming up this fall? I reviewed the upcoming slate and there's seven strong candidates coming up. Here they are ranked by likelihood I will see them:
  1. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story looks so great I may see it twice!
  2. Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them looks like a slam dunk.
  3. Moana looks like fun, so maybe I'll get to take my boy to see it;
  4. The Girl on the Train: The television commercial gave me goosebumps!
  5. The Birth of a Nation: Looks heavy but it's getting great reviews.
  6. All I know about Passengers is it stars Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt, and the premise is right up my alley: "A spacecraft traveling to a distant colony planet and transporting thousands of people has a malfunction in its sleep chambers. As a result, two passengers are awakened 60 years early."
  7. The Jack Reacher sequel: the first Jack Reacher was okay on home video (I gave it a C-plus in 2014), but this sequel is directed by Edward Zwick, a legit director who previously directed Cruise in The Last Samurai; Zwick also directed the war movies Defiance , Courage Under Fire, and Glory. I also liked his melodrama Legends of the Fall.

Twelve Weeks Later UPDATE

Expect the unexpected, I guess: since I wrote the above post in late August, I have been to the movies five times to bring my 2016 total to 13, BUT I haven't seen any of the above 7 films. Instead I saw Kubo & The Two Strings, Blazing Saddles (RIP Gene Wilder), Eight Days a Week, Arrival, and The Clock (again). I'm optimistic that I'll get to see Rogue One and Fantastic Beasts. Moana is a stretch goal for 2016.