January 17, 2017

Rogue One (IMAX 3D)

I enjoyed seeing it a second time. I picked up some details, including Mon Mothma obliquely asking Bail Organa (aka Space Jimmy Smits) about Obi Wan Kenobi; and an implausible Wampa appearance in Jedha City. (the name Jedha City is too close to Jetta City for me; I wanted them to travel to the Passat System to see Senator Touraeg next.)
My eyes were not watering from the 3D viewing experience, but I still maintain that 3D is an overpriced boondoggle that does not add much value.
(AMC Assembly Row, with Jon & Bobbi for my birthday!)

January 15, 2017


Very nice movie about a singing competition. Who knew Matthew McConaguhey could be so charming? He was great in Kubo & The Two Strings (which Hawkeye and I saw in this same theater in September) and he's charming again here.
Arlington Capitol Theater, Screen 5

January 7, 2017

The Secret Life of Pets

My boy + the birthday girl!
At a seven year old's birthday party we were supposed to see SING but the projector was broken, so they showed The Secret Life of Pets instead, and all was well in the land. The kids also really enjoyed the 50-year-old Tom & Jerry short before the movie began.
(with my boy and many other first graders, while a snowstorm began outside the Studio Cinema Belmont)

January 1, 2017

Year in Review 2016

Going to a classic movie on a first date, just like me and my wife!
I went to the movies 17 times in 2016, not a bad total for my parenting years! A nice batch of great movies too- here's my Top Ten, in order:
  1. Deadpool is laugh-out-loud funny and a welcome relief after too many grim comic book movies (like Civil War and Dawn of Justice)
  2. Kubo & The Two Strings: stunning, thoughtful, and mysterious not-quite-for-kids movie. 
  3. Manchester By The Sea is heartwrenching and moving, and perfectly captures the personality and landscape of the North Shore.
  4. La La Land: a very bouncy yet melancholy music romance. Ryan and Emma have ALL THE CHEMISTRY
  5. Moana has good music, and the young woman takes charge and saves the world despite the help from the demigod.
  6. Arrival is my favorite kind of Alien-First-Contact movie. Mind-bending conclusion that will leave you thinking.
  7. Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them: more magical world-building from the mind of JK Rowling!
  8. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a perfectly crafted espionage/war film that clicks in nicely just before A New Hope.
  9. The Secret Life Of Pets: I've seen it three times this year and it's still funny and charming. I love Jenny Slate's Gidget!
  10. The BEATLES Eight Days A Week: The Touring Years may be the best of many Beatles documentaries I've seen, maybe because Ron Howard devotes all his energy (and budget) on just the touring life of the Fab Four. Indispensable for any rock fan.

December 31, 2016

La La Land

A very bouncy yet melancholy music romance.
I have to get over my hangup about "movie musicals" and just appreciate this movie for what it is- a romantic comedy with some singing and dancing; So what if Ryan Gosling & Emma Stone can't sing all that great and don't do too much dancing- they have ALL THE CHEMISTRY, way more than Debbie Reynolds did with Gene Kelly.
My wife loved it, and I could tell right away because she was so engaged with it on the ride home. We talked about it like Harry & Sally discussing Casablanca:
Harry: "He wants her to go!"
Sally: "I don't think she wants to stay!"
I enjoyed La La Land but my wife loved it so I'll give it a bump from a B+ to an A grade
(with Em, West Newton screen 2, New Year's Eve)

December 24, 2016


Me and my boy saw Moana on Christmas Eve, the classic "get the kid out of the house so Mom doesn't go crazy" move. I suspected the multiplex would be stuffed with families, but I guess people were spending the holiday with their families? We both liked Moana very much, even if Hawkeye wanted to leave during the scary parts. Moana has good music - one song sounded especially Lin-Manuel-ish -  and it was nice to see the young capable, brave woman taking charge and saving the world despite the help from the masculine demigod.
with Hawkeye, Christmas Eve, Aviation Plaza Linden.

December 16, 2016

Rogue One

A very well executed underground rebellion spy movie, but, you know, set in the Star Wars universe. They've perfectly placed this story within the events leading up to the 1977 Star Wars movie, like a precision-cut puzzle piece, with a bare minimum of winking fan service.
As a Star Wars superfan I loved the attention to detail, but a casual viewer will have no trouble enjoying this film too.
This is the kind of entertainment that George Lucas could never imagine or tolerate as he smothered his saga to near-death. Why not make "non-saga" Star Wars movies set in different genres? Rogue One is a war/spy film. How about a Western with Boba Fett as the villain? A young Obi-Wan Kenobi as a hard-boiled detective? A buddy road comedy with Han and Lando? A schoolhouse comedy with Yoda teaching remedial Force lessons to a bunch of teenage Jedi delinquents?

I especially appreciated the background actors and bit parts in the Rebellion were chock full of pale Englishmen with bushy hair and mustaches, just like the 1977 film.
Ironically, the only white men in lead roles are Mads Mikkelsen as the Oppenheimer-esque scientist, and Ben Mendelssohn as the ambitious Imperial antagonist. The rest of the lead roles are all nonwhite men, non-Americans, and women! Well, Alan Tudyk voices a droid, but the droid is black, so....?

Arlington Capitol Screen 1, with Adam.

NOTE: I have added this movie to my list of "World Cinema" action movies that are mostly cast with non-white men and/or are not set in the United States:

December 15, 2016

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Clark Kent's most relatable moment ever is when he climbs into
this bathtub with Lois Lane. To hell with our security deposit,
let the bathroom flood!
Finally saw Dawn of Justice: Bombastic, glacially paced, stole all its best ideas from Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns. Bizarre dream sequences. Amy Adams in bathtub!
By the way, this is a terrible title for a Justice League origins movie.
Should the Avengers origin movie have been called Iron Man v Captain America: Dawn of Avengers?!
(At home on HBO Go)

December 9, 2016

Mr Holmes

Ian McKellen is terrific as Sherlock Holmes. He's never been my favorite detective character, but McKellen is an excellent choice to play him. In this story McKellen plays Holmes (in great old-age makeup) as a decrepit old man in 1947, grappling with infirmity and dementia while trying to recall his last case in 1918 that may have led to his ultimate failure...if only he could remember it (shown in flashbacks also by McKellen).
The Benedict Cumberbatch Sherlock TV show has directly addressed Holmes's personality disorders in a modern context; this movie illuminates how Holmes's clinical, logical understanding of the facts can make him a poor detective; solving a mystery is not always the same as successfully closing a case.
Laura Linney plays the widowed housekeeper-turned-home health aide who's trying to pull away from Holmes while her young son finds the father figure he desperately needs. She's a talented, subtle actress, but she's not convincing as a ignorant, near-illiterate housekeeper.  We already know she can play the sad, hopeless lonelyheart (see Love Actually) but somehow she doesn't play 'low class and uneducated' as well. Also her accent is a mystery- she sounds like an American with some English accent creeping into her voice, but the script doesn't mention this.
Amazon Instant Video, with Emily

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.
Thanksgiving weekend with Emily at Fenway Screen 9, 7pm (movie started at 7:20) - thanks to Debbie D for babysitting!
*Coincidence: I saw The Ice Storm 19 years ago this week.