December 29, 2011

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

It's been five years since the previous Impossible Mission, and fifteen years since Ethan Hunt first ran across a movie screen. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol may not be any more memorable 5 or 15 years from now, but its humor distinguishes itself from the rest of the series. I sense that director Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Ratatouille) can't help himself but make the movie funny.

Overkill: 130 stories? Wouldn't a fall from 13 stories be enough to kill him?
Strangely, the stakes are much higher in this episode, while it's the funniest episode too. Ex-KGB officer Hendricks (and John Boehner lookalike Michael Nyqvist) is intent on triggering a nuclear war. Hendricks blows up the Kremlin and neatly frames Hunt in the bargain. Once again Ethan Hunt is "disavowed". Hunt's boss is literally saying goodbye when their Chevy Suburban is riddled with bullets. The driver is killed, and the SUV swerves out of control down a dark Moscow street. At this point I leaned over to my friend Adam and whispered "there's going to be a river." Sure enough, they plunge underwater, and upside down too. Why is there always a river nearby? How come when a driver is shot, the vehicle never bumps gently into a Quizno's?

That's what I call network security!
 Hunt has to take his team rogue to save themselves, and the world. The team includes Simon Pegg's newly-promoted field agent/comic relief (but not too silly), and the latest young Mission Impossible ingénue, Paula Patton, who seems to have a furrow permanently dug between her brows, like she's constantly forgetting a phone number. Jeremy Renner is reluctantly tagging along, a cube-bound spook...with a secret?

So this volume was exciting, sexy, and funny. The chases were all kinda the same- The Tom Cruise Run is best taken in limited doses for maximum effectiveness. I like car chases, but I kept thinking of the Bourne movies redefinition of vehicle chases. Maybe the producers choices were limited by their paid BMW placements. I was surprised they were allowed to rip the roof off a BMW convertible! The other thrills were solid - I liked the fights and Cruise's wall-crawling. The cat-and-mouse games worked too. By the last gasp, I felt like I had seen one too many chases, and one too many fistfights. The final fight scene, between a 49-year-old Hunt and the 51-year-old Hendricks stretched my credulity to the breaking point. The movie was sexy for everyone too: Paula Patton is a handsome woman who kicks ass and changes clothes in the passenger seat of an all-electric BMW sports car/spaceship; Léa Seydoux is pure French sensuousness as a soulless, braless assassin; and Jeremy Renner wears very tight trousers throughout the movie, with several lingering butt shots, which I'm told the ladies like?
"I must have left my underwear at my last kill."
Ghost Protocol delivered exactly what I expected, but was funny on top of that. My grade?  B-plus. (At the Capitol Theater, Arlington, with Adam and George)



Don't let the dealership find out about this, or you're going to void the warranty.
Odd Parallel: After Ethan Hunt successfully completes his 130-story outdoor skyscraper crawl, he reenters the hotel with his protective eye goggles still around his neck. He then immediately proceeds to begin the covert part of the mission, but Renner has to remind him to remove his goggles so their target won't see them.
Fast forward one week: I rewatched The Incredibles (one of my top movies of the last decade). Mr. Incredible prevents a few crimes on his way to his own wedding. He changes back into his tuxedo before entering the church, but his friend Fro-Zone has to remind him to remove his mask before entering the church so the guests won't see them. Just a small moment, but odd to see in two Brad Bird movies?

Looking Back

The Mission Impossible movies have been overcomplicated, humorless affairs:
  • I have grown to appreciate the 1996 film -- I can hardly call it the "original" -- even if I probably don't understand it.
  • All I remember about the John Woo-directed M:I2 is Tom Cruise's long hair, a surplus of rubber masks, and some stunt motorcycle riding.
  • All I remember about J.J. Abrams' M:I3 is the nasty brain-exploding implant which kills Felicity (spoiler alert!), and Philip Seymour Hoffman at his most vicious. I remember Ethan Hunt having a wife, but I could not remember who played her. Oh Michelle Monaghan, when I saw you in Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, I thought you were going to break out, but you've been treading water ever since.

December 19, 2011

Concert Souvenirs?

It's always nice when my favorite band releases an official live album to accompany a tour I attended. And every once in awhile an actual performance I saw is recorded and released. These days it's easier than ever for a band to make every recording available. Three concerts I went to were recorded and released on official live albums:

"Eleanor Rigby" live at the Worcester Centrum February 9, 1990 
Paul McCartney: Tripping The Live Fantastic

Unlike the contemporary trend towards releasing an entire concert from one night, McCartney recorded many dates of his 1990 tour. The resulting two-disc live album appears to select the best recording of each performance from the rigid set list. The result? The 37-track album was recorded in nineteen different cities. For example, eight tracks are from an eleven-night series at Wembley Arena, but they're from five different nights, and no two songs from the same night are presented together. I has a great time at the show (I had just turned 18, and had been a rabid Beatles fan for exactly 30 months) even if the Rolling Stone concert review spoiled all the surprises in the set-in-stone set list.
In the spring of 1990, six months before Tripping was released, while in New York City on a school trip, I visited a Greenwich Village record store and bought a three-LP bootleg recorded in Los Angeles the previous autumn. The bootleg was pressed on white vinyl with red, white, and blue spin-art designs in the vinyl.

Pearl Jam live at the Orpheum Theater Boston, April 12, 1994
The best rock concert I ever attended was the penultimate date of the Versus tour. Thanks to my friend Meg (Goldstein) Chapman, who sold me her tickets! The show was amazing. Mudhoney was the opening act, then there was a long interval (at least 45-60 mins) before Pearl Jam came on. I remember loving "Go" and "Animal" and the new song "Not for You". In 2011, Pearl Jam released a three-CD Deluxe Edition of Versus including a full CD of the Orpheum show. Due to size constraints, the disc leaves out a third of the set list:

Included
  • Oceans
  • Even Flow
  • Sonic Reducer (Dead Boys cover)
  • Immortality
  • Glorified G
  • Daughter
  • Not For You
  • Rats
  • Blood
  • Release
  • Tremor Christ
  • Once
  • Fuckin' Up (Neil Young cover)
  • Dirty Frank
  • Rearviewmirror
  • Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town
Excluded
  • State Of Love And Trust
  • Hard to Imagine
  • Go
  • Animal
  • Alone
  • Better Man
  • Yellow Ledbetter
  • I've Got a Feeling (The Beatles cover).
Ben Folds Live at Avalon June 8, 2002
June 8, 2002, three months before we would meet for the first time, my future wife and I would both attend this Ben Folds solo show at the Avalon nightclub in Boston. It was a lot of fun, even if I am not a fan of the Reinhold Messner album.  The live album recorded during that tour features a photo taken at our show (I am not pictured) At least one song from the CD or limited edition bonus DVD was recorded on the night we attended.

December 12, 2011

Attack The Block

A Stub Hubby on DVD review

Attack the Block is another thrilling, funny, stylish, well-crafted UK import: Goonies vs Aliens?
A gang of bored, tough-on-the-outside London teenagers defend their housing project tower block from a horde of killer beasts from outer space.
The gang, led by alpha dog Moses (50 Cent lookalike John Boyega), is in the process of mugging a young nurse Sam (Emily Mortimer lookalike Jodie Whittaker) when a meteorite crashes into a parked car. Moses is attacked by a slimy beast which emerges. Pride wounded, Moses hunts and kills the beast, but this is only the beginning. Dozens of meteorites follow, and the gang gathers a makeshift arsenal and prepare to defend their turf, while dodging the police on one side, and their tower's drug lord Hi-Hatz on the other. We're intimidated at first, but we quickly discover the gang is a bunch of goofballs who'd rather be playing FIFA on the XBox or trying to impress their would-be girlfriends than mugging; while everyone is talking and insulting each other simultaneously, I was reminded of The Goonies or E.T. Moses is the strong, silent type: Boyega exudes leadership. When Moses is arrested by two cops in a riot van, he says nothing as they tackle him and slap on the handcuffs. Moses spots one of the ravenous creatures approaching. After the cops read him his rights, he replies calmly "you better hurry up and put me in that van." Clint Eastwood couldn't have sounded cooler.

The aliens are unlike any creatures I've seen in a monster movie before. That was a big plus. The action makes effective use of the concrete jungle of the housing project, up and down the elevators, and the endless flourescent hallways.
The movie feels completely authentic to the inner-city poor Londoner experience, their attitudes, and the social dynamic is well explored within the context of the movie too.
And maybe best of all, the screenplay structure is airtight. All of the details fit together perfectly, and the internal logic of the movie all pays off in the end. The ending is realistic yet satisfying.
Attack The Block was written and directed by Brit comedy veteran Joe Cornish in his feature directing debut; he has co-adapted the screenplay for Steven Spielberg's Tinin movie (with
Steven Moffat and Edgar Wright.)
Note to my American Readers: I understood about half of the rapid-fire South London dialect. I expected this going in, so I was not surprised, and I never misunderstood a plot point because of it. If you rent it on DVD, perhaps the close captioning could help, but I'm giving this an A grade even without the benefit of complete comprehension.

December 6, 2011

Maybe George Lucas Isn't So Bad After All

I watched a few minutes of Terminator: Salvation on TV this weekend (my review), and it got me thinking about creative control, and George Lucas' legacy.

I have complained that Lucas's complete creative control over the Star Wars franchise has completely smothered the whole universe. His stranglehold over the characters has prevented anything interesting or daring from happening to the series. Instead we got three terrific movies, a sixteen-year gap, then three very well-executed and polite, but lifeless "prequels." I would have preferred a wild, daring failure to a comatose failure.
 Then I watched Terminator: Salvation. We can all agree that Cameron is a visionary. Terminator 1 and 2 turned out EXACTLY the way he wanted. Only Arnold returned for Terminator 3. Terminator: Salvation is the flip side of the George Lucas coin. If a movie studio has complete control over a franchise, eventually you'll get a movie which is a sequel in title only. Salvation is a competent robots vs. humans post-apocalypse chase movie, but if you change the names of the characters? Cameron's legacy might disappear entirely.
 So when I see Jar Jar Binks, Baby Anakin Skywalker, or flying R2D2 on cable TV, I have to remind myself: if Lucas didn't have total control over Star Wars, 20th Century Fox would have remade and continued to sequelize the Star Wars franchise throughout the 1980s.

Maybe Star Wars would have ended up like James Bond: some good, some bad, but immortal and evolving.
OR, maybe Lucas's stale, airless prequels are the best possible outcome? WE WILL NEVER KNOW.

Related on STUB HUBBY

November 29, 2011

The Descendants

To paraphrase Dickens: "The wife is dying to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that."
George Clooney's wife is in a coma, she's not going to come out of it, and his "limping towards divorce" marriage is suddenly turned upside down. A few tears, yes, but not Terms Of Endearment waterworks. Hijinks do not ensue either.
A lukewarm meditiation on death, grief, marriage, and parenthood.
A fine nuanced performance from George Clooney, and solid performances from the young cast help balance the meandering plot. It's not tragic enough to be a drama, not soapy enough to be a melodrama, and not silly enough to be a comedy. The movie never ties together tonally or thematically. It feels like the movie was allowed to wander away from director Alexander Payne. Perhaps spending nine months locked in an editing suite with your movie caused him to lose perspective?
The movie is set in Hawaii, which adds great texture, and contributes to the plot too... but Payne goes totally overboard with the Hawaiian ukelele music on the soundtrack. You know how a tourist might visit Texas for a week and believe that cowboy boots and fringed shirts are suddenly terrific-- until they get home to Connecticut and realize how dumb they look walking through Hartford looking like Roy Rogers? I picture Payne falling in love with Hawaiian music -- which is lovely in small doses -- and eventually every moment of the film is plastered with midtempo uke strumming + ululating vocals.
Shailene Woodley, 20, is fine as George's teenage daughter, but I hope the Oscar talk is just hype. If the Academy wants invent an honorary Exciting Newcomer award, great, but she's not some revelation.
The Stub Hubby Grade:  C-plus.

Stub Hubby Reviews Alexander Payne:

November 18, 2011

Christian Marclay: THE CLOCK

Synopsis from the Museum of Fine Arts Boston:
"The Clock (2010), an ode to time and cinema, comprises thousands of fragments from a range of films that create a 24-hour...video. The Clock tells the accurate time at any given moment, and wherever it is screened it is synchronized to the local time zone, so that it is literally a working time piece."
Four shots from the movie. There are NOT multiple screens
simultaneously, and the movie is not all close-ups of clock
faces. It's much more complex and amazing.
Here's what happened: I entered the theater at 10:55am. Onscreen was a clip from a movie where the time is 10:55am. The clips continue from 10:55am, to 10:56am, and so on. Not every minute is necessarily depicted onscreen, but almost all. More importantly, it stays in sync, so clips of 11:00am begin at 11:00am.

Each clip includes a clock, watch, or someone mentioning the time. Each instance of the time matches the current time I'm watching the film. Each clip is long enough to put the instance of the time in context, but rarely with any context for the plot of the movie from which it is taken.

Sometimes the time in the scene is the subject of the scene: "What time is it?" or "I'm going to be late!" and so on. Other times, there's merely a clock in the background of the shot.

What elevates this project from antiseptic obsessive-compulsive symptom to art is HOW the clips interact with each other. It's not merely the appropriate scenes edited in order. Marclay made choices:
  • To smooth the transitions between scenes, the background "soundscape" and/or incidental music from one scene often continues after the visual ends. Sometimes it's just the street sounds, birds chirping, or, appropriately, a clock ticking.
  • Characters from different clips will seem to be joined together: Johnny Depp talks to someone offscreen. We cut to Vivien Leigh demurely smiling back at him. We cut again to a dog, probably from Depp's original scene, and back to Depp again.
  • An bell will ring in one movie, and a character will pop out of bed in another movie.
  • A scene will begin, then three unrelated clips will play, then we'll return to the original scene, a little later on, as if the  original scene were taking place concurrently with the three inbetween. This is a editing technique called "parallel action" which we take for granted until clips gathered from the whole universe of cinema are edited together.
  • Because it's assembled from nearly a century of filmmaking (from Buster Keaton to Jason Statham, I swear to God) the quality of the visuals varies wildly from scene to scene, but we're so hard-wired to trust the editor, it hardly matters.
Marclay's chosen one piece of the moving picture storytelling universe and discarded everything else. This eliminates all plot from the movie, but he could have accomplished the same thing by making a 24-hour-long montage of people eating in the movies, or people climbing stairs, or cursing. That would accomplish the goal of observing the art of cinema detached from the story and stars and music itself. Marclay's goal is larger than that. In a strange way, removing the plot and focusing on time reveals the plot of life as it is: not the things we do, or the things which happen to us, but rather everything which happens in between. Time is passing by us and through us every moment of our lives, whether we are paying attention to it or not. This movie, by moving Humphrey Bogart, Glenn Close, and Michael J. Fox to the background and placing their wristwatches, Big Ben, and alarm clocks in the foreground, reminds us that everything we've accomplished, everything we hold dear, and all our favorite memories, all happened while time was passing.

It's truly weird to watch a movie where you don't have to check your watch to see
what time it is. I knew I wanted to watch until 11am that day. I simply had to wait
until the movie WAS 11:00am.
This art can be easily sustained for a few minutes: the YouTube is full of "supercuts". THE CLOCK lasts for 24 hours. My Stub Hubby Grade: A-plus.

It's playing all day every day at the MFA through New Year's Eve. I strongly recommend checking it out for an hour or two. I have seen 10:55 through 11:35 on one occasion, and 10:20 through 10:55am the next time.

2016 Re-Review Update

When THE CLOCK returned to the MFA, I visited on Wednesday November 17, one of their late nights, and watched THE CLOCK from 7:30pm until 9:50pm. New observations:

  • There is a lot of cigarette smoking in the movie!
  • We see a lot of wristwatches in closeup, so a lot of hairy wrists.
  • The photo above (clock radio and Pepsi Free can) is from Back to the Future; Marclay also includes a scene of Marty and Doc and the brand-new clock tower in Back to the Future Part III. Unfortunately I was unable to see if he includes the 1985 clock tower scene - the lightning strikes at 10:04pm.
  • A bunch of TV shows popped up in this two-hour segment, including Matlock and The X-Files, and others I didn't recognize.
  • Mostly we don't see enough of a plot from any one scene, but he did focus on an old black-and-white movie where a shotgun is hidden in the base of a standing floor clock, laid as a trap for a would-be murderer?
  • Three different James Bonds in this segment- Casino Royale was onscreen when I arrived; later we saw Moonraker, For Your Eyes Only, and a Sean Connery Bond film, one of the early ones.
  • I would guess I could name 10% of the films represented, but I recognized many more movie stars but could not name the film.
  • I noticed there's hardly ever any violence, action, or sex. Like I said above, the movie is all about the inaction inbetween the action in our lives.
  • Marclay draws on all of world cinema, so I noticed a lack of American comedy movies represented. The exception proves the rule - a segment from the 2009 rom-com He's Just Not That Into You (featuring Justin Long and that guy from Entourage) stuck out like a sore thumb.

RELATED: Jennifer Bruni on THE CLOCK
VIDEO: BBC feature on THE CLOCK [seven minutes]

November 13, 2011

J. Edgar

J. Edgar is a meticulously crafted and compelling portrait of an ambitious, petty, vindictive, paranoid, ugly little man who created powerful and modern F.B.I. while consolidating his power with intimidation, surveillance, and blackmail.
Hoover arresting Bruno Hauptmann, the kidnapper of the Lindbergh baby
At the same time, Hoover (DiCaprio) lives at home, Norman Bates-style, with his domineering, zealot mother (Judi Dench) and works and dines each day with his life partners: his secretary-for-life Helen Gandy (superb Naomi Watts) and his second-in-command/perfect specimen of manhood/daily "companion" Clyde Tolson (gorgeous Armie Hammer).

The movie is framed by 1960s Hoover telling his life story to a series of FBI ghostwriters. It's an old screenwriting tool, but it was inobtrusive.

(NOTE: The framing device reminded me immediately Attenborough's CHAPLIN biopic. NOTE: While this isn't covered in the movie, Hoover had Chaplin de facto deported from the US in 1952. Read more here.)

The movie shifts regularly between Hoover's 1930s heyday and the 1960s. What was amazing and clever about it was how organic and non-confusing these shifts were. Obviously, the makeup and costumes made it obvious when we were shifting time periods, but these shifts always felt natural to the storytelling. Dustin Lance Black's screenplay may be the strongest part of the movie.
The old age makeup was amazing, but I still feel it was a mistake to cast DiCaprio as Hoover. DiCaprio is a terrific actor, but DiCaprio is too young and too handsome to play Hoover. The makeup was terrific, but they had to work too hard to make one of our most handsome actors look like one of our Top 10 Ugliest Pubilc Servants of All Time. DiCaprio turned 37 on 11/11/11, but he plays Hoover from age 24 to 87.

Whenever Hoover would have a romantic dinner with his life parter Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer), I would marvel at how smooth and beautiful Armie Hammer was. The DiCaprio would appear, with oily, badly cut hair, heavy black eyebrows, and pockmarks. It was too much!

Director Clint Eastwood always makes classy, efficient, un-fussy movies, and this is no exception. I grew a little weary of the heavily color-corrected/desaturated look of the movie. Using computers to effect the color palette of movies has been popular for over a decade-- O'Brother Where Art Thou? was a trailblazer-- but I worry that the desaturated look  will become a cliche'd trademark of this era. I suspect, 30 years from now, while watching Minority Report or Traffic, future moviegoers will say "Oh, this must be from the Aughts! Look at how de-colorized it is!"
Hauptmann
Clint's respect and clout means he can get great actors in every role, and this cast was Character Actor Hall of Fame:
  • Jeffrey Donovan (from BURN NOTICE) played RFK. Did you know he's from Amesbury, MA?
  • Zach Grenier
  • Jessica Hecht
  • Ken Howard
  • Josh Lucas as Charles Lindbergh
  • Dermot Mulroney
  • Stephen Root
  • Lea Thompson
    also: 
  • Damon Herriman looks EXACTLY like Bruno Hauptmann, the man who kidnapped the Lindbergh baby.
  • Christopher Shyer doesn't look like Nixon, but he got the cursing just right.
  • Even Ed Westwick from Gossip Girl was in it!
Also On Stub Hubby:
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio
Directed by Clint Eastwood

November 9, 2011

The Fugitive

The Fugitive (1993) is the Casablanca of action thrillers. It could have been an unremarkable studio product, just another recycled genre script with an A-list star plugged into the lead. Instead, some kind of wonderful chemistry took place and the result is a rightfully celebrated classic. A crackling adventure with a terrific cast.

Harrison Ford is thoracic surgeon Richard Kimble, wrongfully convicted of killing his wife. Harrison Ford is our best physical actor- he struggles, runs, climbs, and punches more realistically than anyone. He punches the bad guy like a real person would. When Kimble has nearly drowned in an icy river after a daring free-jump over a waterfall, his exhausted slog onto the riverbank is totally believeable. I also love that Ford grew an actual beard and actually shaved it off while on the run. Bravo to real facial hair!

Tommy Lee Jones saves what could have been a boring U.S. Marshal character and won an Oscar. I am certain that his part on paper is pretty flat. Lots of actors could have been hired who would bring nothing to the table. Jones' Deputy Gerard is determined, rude, colorful, and fair. The close-knit working relationship between Gerard and his team felt lived-in and real. I love it when characters share inside jokes which aren't explained to us. The eccentric costuming of his posse is a little distracting, but maybe that's partially the antiquated 1990s at work?

To further bolster my premise: Harrison Ford made The Fugitive between his two Jack Ryan movies, Patriot Games and Clear & Present Danger. I am sure those movies made tons of money, but no one cares about them the way people remember The Fugitive. There's no reason on paper why The Fugitive should be any better than either of them, but I dare you to find someone who'd rank Patriot Games or Clear & Present Danger higher?

The Fugitive was directed by Andrew Davis. Davis was nominated for a Golden Globe and a DGA award for Best Director. At Oscar time, The Fugitive was nominated for Best Picture, Sound, Score, Editing, Effects, and Cinematography, but Davis was passed over for a Best Director nom (he would have lost to Steven Spielberg [Schindler's List] anyway).

Davis makes competent action thrillers: before The Fugitive, he'd directed six features, including The Package (with Gene Hackman) and Under Siege (aka Die Hard on a Battleship, with Steven Seagal). Since The Fugitive, he's directed six unremarkable features.

Yes, we all wore chambray shirts in the 1990s. And yes, that is Jane Lynch!
Besides the memorable "train crashes into a bus" which kicks off the chase, the movie is chock-a-block with additional action sequences. The effects are above average throughout- the train crash still looks good. The exception which proves the rule: there's one shot in the sequence where Kimble is driving an ambulance towards the dam, while being pursued by Gerard in a helicopter. It's an establishing shot with the road in the foreground, a tunnel opening in the middle distance, and the dam, with water flowing over it, in the background. It's clearly a composite shot of some kind, but the waterfall is super-grainy (that's typical) but the waterfall is also A STILL PHOTO! How could this happen? My guess is that Davis discovered he needed this shot in the editing room, long after location photography was complete? Maybe one of his assistant directors shot the required footage, but it was faulty? Thankfully the shot is brief, but thanks to home video, we can linger over it and shake our heads.

I found an unsealed DVD copy at a tag sale for $1 last month. You can pick up The Fugitive at Amazon.com:
Watch it again tonight. You won't regret it. My grade: A-plus

He only had one word of dialog in this movie, but yelling "Kimble!"
at Harrison Ford is pretty awesome, even if
you are immediately shot and killed.

Moore is 32 years old in this photo, but looks 22!
WATCH FOR: Brief appearances by Julianne Moore, Jane Lynch, John Cusack's father Dick Cusack (as Kimble's attorney), Neil Flynn (the janitor on Scrubs) and NBC News anchor Lester Holt!

MORE Harrison Ford movies on STUB HUBBY:

November 8, 2011

Seventies Easy Rock

Also known as "Yacht Rock", this is another great mix from my wife.

1.    “Operator (That's Not the Way It Feels)” Jim Croce
2.    “How Much I Feel” Ambrosia
3.    “On and On” Stephen Bishop
4.    “Sara Smile” Daryl Hall & John Oates
5.    “After the Love Has Gone” Earth, Wind & Fire
6.    “Dance with Me” Orleans
7.    “We'll Never Have to Say Goodbye Again”, and
8.    “I'd Really Love to See You Tonight”
England Dan & John Ford Coley
9.    “I Keep Forgettin'” Michael McDonald
10.    “This Is It” Kenny Loggins
11.    “Just Remember I Love You” Firefall
12.    “Sailing” Christopher Cross
13.    “Summer Breeze” Seals & Crofts
14.    “I Love a Rainy Night” Eddie Rabbitt
15.    “Steal Away” Robbie Dupree
16.    “Lotta Love” Nicolette Larson
17.    “Arthur's Theme” [live]  Christopher Cross
18.    “Baby Come Back” Player
19.    “Listen to the Music” The Doobie Brothers
20.    “Take It Easy” [live & acoustic] Jackson Browne

October 29, 2011

Moneyball

Who knew you could make a compelling movie about statistics?

I am not a statistics expert, but I love sharing interesting baseball stats so much, that I struck a deal with my wife: I only share ONE interesting baseball stat per week from the Boston Sunday Globe's Baseball coverage. While reading the MONEYBALL book, I had to limit myself to one tidbit per chapter. Lots of tongue-biting going on.

MONEYBALL the movie is also interesting and well-told, even if there isn't a lot of plot. A baseball career as a metaphor for life isn't a new idea, but Brad Pitt is compelling playing Athletics GM Billy Beane, a grown-up real person who's coming to terms with the good and bad choices in his past, while he makes similar "life choices" for the life of his baseball team. Who better to discover that the team need to turn its back on tradition than a man who learned too late that he wasn't meant to be a traditional baseball player?
Jonah Hill (right) does not play a passive-aggressive
bitter rageaholic in this movie, for a change.

Making changes to a baseball team is like u-turning a cruise ship: you can't expect to see results right away. It's convenient for the plot of the movie that the same season that Beane makes his radical changes to the Athletics, the team caps that season with a dramatic winning streak, featuring of Beane's radical Moneyball choices, newbie first baseman Scott Hatteberg (the terrific Chris Pratt). Maybe less convenient for the movie (and the Moneyball philosophy as a whole)? In the following decade, the Athletics have won 90 games only four times (with three playoff appearances).

Brad Pitt deserves some award recogition for his quiet, deep portrayal of a mid-life... well, it's not a crisis, more of a mid-life re-evaluation. Also, it's nice to see Pitt playing a guy who wears polo shirts and drives an SUV. Has he ever played an ordinary dad before? Anyone? My grade: B-plus (Somerville Theater, during the Halloween Snowstorm, with my wife)

MORE Brad Pitt movies on STUB HUBBY

October 28, 2011

The Rum Diary

A shaggy-dog story; an overheated and drunk dog too. Wildly colorful, joyfully verbose and splattered with insults, casual racism, potent sexuality, and deranged fervor. At the center is the relatively stable Johnny Depp as dissolute journalist Paul Kemp, his latest love letter to author Hunter S Thompson.
Mixed in with the drunken adventures in the Third World is Kemp's mild outrage at corporate imperialism exploiting the native population and environment. If it weren't for Kemp's occasional railing against the inevitable, there'd be no plot at all. His moral fiber is the only thing he seems to care about, and it seems inorganic.
Aaron Eckhart is really good at playing the charming dick, it's too bad there's no other side to his character. Amber Heard has a classic beauty, which is fully explored here. I'm hopeful she can leverage her beauty, Charlize Theron style, but the jury's still out.
With Johnny Depp's relatively restrained antics at the center, Richard Jenkins, Giovanni Ribisi, and Michael Rispoli are able to unspool their id completely, to high comic effect. If Depp where more zany, the film would resemble an unlocked monkey cage.
I wasn't expecting any more that what I've described, and Johnny Depp is such a charming and loveable comic actor, that I thoroughly enjoyed the ride. My grade: B-plus! (Harvard Square Church St Screen 1, with George and Adam)

October 27, 2011

Dr. No

Watching Dr. No (1962), the first James Bond movie, on DVD this week, I was struck by the plot which didn't make any sense, and the cliches which make taking the movie seriously in 2011 impossible.
We begin in Jamaica. Professor Strangways, the man we later learn is the British Intelligence agent in the Kingston office, is killed. While walking to his car at the gentlemen's club, he's caught off guard by three Jamaican thugs posing as blind beggars. They shoot him in the back with pistols equipped with silencers. Suddenly, their getaway car roars around the bend to whisk the body away. Their getaway car is a hearse (get it?) but it makes so much noise, with tires squealing and the engine roaring, that the hearse negates the stealthy silencers? This is only the first example of terrible "foley" sound effects. This is one of those 1960s movies where you can clearly hear every footstep CLIP clop CLIP clop...
Moments later, at Strangways' office, his secretary dials in the shortwave radio for the daily bulletin to London when the thugs arrive. Weirdly, one of the thugs, standing outside French doors, breaks a pane of glass with the barrel of his silencer-equipped pistol, then shoots her? Why pre-break the glass?
  • Breaking the glass makes noise, so why are you using a silencer?
  • There's no need to pre-break the glass; the bullet will do that on its way through!
We learn later that these attacks were ordered by genius megalomaniac Dr. No, in order to prevent Strangways from learning more about his nuclear-powered stronghold on Crab Key. However, the manner of the deaths looks very suspicious to M, so he sends Bond to Kingston to investigate.
Even before he leaves the airport, he's lured into a trap- another thug poses as a chauffeur. Bond immediately discovers the ruse, and, for the first of many times in the Bond franchise, he lets himself be trapped in order to hunt the hunter and get some answers.
As Bond rides in the convertible (with another car following) across Jamaica, we are treated to some nice location shooting, including footage of Sean Connery shot from a car-mounted camera rig. Remember this for later.
The next attempt on his life is death by tarantula, a rightfully memorably scary scene...but how exactly do you murder someone with a tarantula? Bond is sleeping in his hotel suite. The advantage of a tarantula is that you don't have to physically enter the suite- the spider can slip in through a window. BUT tarantulas aren't predatory carnivores who crave hot blood! If you drop a spider in a hotel suite, are they inclined to seek out bodies in beds and bite them to death? OR you could place the tarantula in the bed with Bond BUT if you're able to break into his suite and get close enough to Bond's bed, why bother with the spider? As Scott Evil said in Austin Powers, just shoot him!
In the course of Bond's investigation, he determines that there's a leak between the Intelligence office in Kingston and Dr. No. Bond immediately suspects foxy secretary Miss Taro. Did James Bond invent the "He knows she's a spy, and she knows he knows, but neither admits it" dynamic? Bond gets himself invited to Miss Taro's bungalow, basically inviting her to try to kill him.
As Bond drives his convertible up into the hills of Jamaica to pick her up, Miss Taro phones the hearse-driving thug to run him off the road. Bond is chased around the twisty dirt mountain roads by the hearse. All of the footage of Bond being pursued by the hearse feature Connery fake-driving against a rear-projection of the hearse following, intercut with location footage of stunt drivers. How come they used a car-mounted camera rig to shoot Connery on location earlier, but this chase is filmed in a studio? To make it worse, the foley sound effects are of cars skidding on asphalt, not dirt or gravel.
Once Connery arrives at the bungalow-- Miss Taro never expected him to make it-- he seduces her, and they have sex. She consents in order to delay Bond long enough to give another of Dr. No's agents a chance to arrive and kill Bond. Bond sleeps with her to give the local office time to arrive and arrest her. He could have just arrested her personally, and held her at gunpoint until the cops arrived, but no, he basically slept with her out of spite. She spits in his face as she's taken away.
Eventually Bond lands secretly on Dr. No's Crab Key, site of his nuclear-powered NASA-sabotaging SPECTRE Evil Lair. He is captured along with local beauty and simpleton Honey Rider (Ursula Andress; voice looped by Nikki Van der Zyl) I don't think I am being racist or sexist to say her character is written as an ignorant savage.
Bond and Honey are escorted into the bunker, scrubbed clean of decontamination in a lengthy "watch our movie stars shower" sequence, then locked in a deluxe suite of cells. The set design for the underground lair is terrific. Very authentic 1960s brutalist design on a large scale, with sleek modern furniture. They're served coffee in their suite, which is spiked with knockout drops. Poisoned drinks are a common trope in mystery stories, but why Dr. No chose to knock them out after they've been captured and neutralized is the real mystery. Is this just a dirty trick? They wake up in their feather beds, so unless Dr. No was taking embarrassing photos of them while they slept, there seems to be no logic to it.

Next is the "dinner with the megalomaniac" scene. Dr. No is a Chinese expat, played by a Canadian actor Joseph Wiseman, with latex hoods over his eyelids, a plain grey Dr Evil tunic, and glossy black robot hands. It's really hard to take him seriously in this post-Austin Powers era. As part of SPECTRE, he is assigned to jam radio signals for the latest NASA rocket in order to crash it into the Atlantic. Bond continually baits Dr. No in an attempt to rattle him, but it doesn't work. Dr. No eventually sends Honey off with the security thugs, hinting that he'll permit some old fashioned gang-raping before they kill her.
Instead of killing Bond, as he had tried to do throughout the movie, he locks him in a cell. The cell has a air vent measuring at least 2 feet by 3 feet. The grate blocking the vent is electrified, but Bond only has to take one zap before he can jostle the grate free and escape.
If your workplace has a sign like this, maybe it's time to refresh your resume.
Maybe something less "radiation-y" would suit you better?
Bond survives several drenchings of water, one of which might be red hot nuclear coolant? I am not sure why Bond didn't mutate into Radioactive Bond? And why is the ventilation system and drain system the same set of pipes? Bond manages to disable a nuclear engineer, steal his coverall radiation suit (which nicely obscures his identity) then makes his way to the nuclear reactor just in time to force a core meltdown and foil Dr. No's plot. In the following pandemonium, Dr. No drowns in the coolant tank, Bond saves Honey from drowning in the rising tides, and they escape the island before the reactor blows up.
BOND & BOURNE MOVIES on Stub Hubby



134 Mayhem

 
  1. "Twenty-Five Miles" Edwin Starr (1969), or, as my wife put it, "that song from Adventures In Babysitting"
  2. "Junk Of The Heart (Happy)" The Kooks
  3. "Cold Comfort Flowers" Fountains of Wayne
  4. "Hammer And A Nail" Indigo Girls
  5. Upon listening to "Careful" by Guster last month, I was immediately reminded of "Hammer and a Nail"
  6. "Mayhem" great muscular arrangement and sassy vocals by Imelda May.
  7. Eurythmics "Would I Lie To You?" This song (from Be Yourself Tonight) has always been one of my favorite rave-up fast driving songs. I found this extended edit on a 12 inch single. As far as I can tell, it's the same mix as the LP, but it doesn't fade out until 25 seconds later.
  8. Pearl Jam "Jeremy" [2009 Remix] Thinking about this song a lot lately as "Pumped Up Kicks" has been all over the airwaves.
  9. Gomez: "How We Operate" I love the loud-and-soft dynamics. Reminds me of Led Zeppelin?
  10. "Lost In My Mind" The Head And The Heart
  11. "Ramble On" Led Zeppelin
  12. "It's Only Natural" Crowded House
  13. "Stripped" A cover of the Depeche Mode song from Duncan Sheik's Eighties Covers LP.
  14. "Outta Mind (Outta Sight)" Wilco
  15. "Candy" from Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers' MOJO LP.
  16. "For You Blue" The Beatles
  17. "She Walks In So Many Ways" As soon as I heard this new Jayhawks song on the radio, I immediately knew (by the two-part harmonies) that it was the Jayhawks, and I knew I wanted to buy it!
  18. "As for Now" Another "thanks to SoundHound" find. This song by newcomer Lindsay Rae Spurlock (the EP is called Heart On) was featured on the Adult Swim show Childrens Hospital. I held my smartphone up to the speaker, triggered SoundHound, and her name popped up!
  19. David Bowie "Modern Love" Nile Rodgers is one of my favorite producers, definitely my favorite producer of the 1980s. Love his drum sound.
  20. The Cadillacs "Speedo" Recently picked up the soundtrack CD for...anyone, anyone? GoodFellas.
  21. "You're The Inspiration" At the Beelzebubs' chapel show at Tufts Homecoming Weekend, the Bubs performance of this Chicago classic (from Chicago 17) was a highlight. Of course, the song is old enough to be the prom theme of the Beelzebubs' parents! Aiee!

October 1, 2011

Random Thoughts for a Slow Autumn

It's been a slow fall for moviegoing at Stub Hubby HQ. I loved the Moneyball book, so that's on my list. If I weren't so busy, I might have seen Columbiana- a no frills revenge thriller? Sign me up. My wife says Crazy Stupid Love was much better than the trailer made it look. Also relegated to the on demand list: Apollo 18, Cowboys & Aliens, Fright Night, and Pearl Jam 20.
I think Anna Faris is an underrated genius (go rent Just Friends!), but no way am I seeing What's Your Number? I am a big Paul Rudd fan, but I simply don't believe him as an Idiot in Our Idiot Brother. And I saw The Lion King in 2D back in 1994, I don't need to see it again in 3D.

August 31, 2011

Q&A: The Stub Hubby on Gwyneth Paltrow

ABOVE: Gwyneth after consuming
a non-organic soy latte.
Transcript of an actual conversation this weekend...
Question: Do you want to see the new movie ?
Me: The movie looks a little grim to me, but I would pay $10 to see Gwyneth Paltrow die horribly.
Q: Because she's a bad actress?
Me: Because she's the new Martha Stewart, an amazingly smug out-of-touch millionaire. I'm sure your $500 coffeemaker works great...
Q: She talks about all that food, yet she's bulimic thin.
Me: If you had a full-time personal trainer, you too could eat 10,000 calories a day and stay thin...
Q: ...who also helps her with the vomiting.
Me: Don't be ridiculous, she has a separate person dedicated for that. You don't want your trainer holding your hair for you while you puke.
(Later I felt bad because Matt Damon, who I actually respect, plays her husband in the movie, and I hate to see fictional Matt Damon lose his fictional wife to bird flu...even if the wife is played by Gwyneth Paltrow.)
Gwyneth, previously on STUB HUBBY

August 29, 2011

Fun Fact About A Movie I'm Not Going To See

Our Idiot Brother was directed by Jesse Peretz, the original bass player for The Lemonheads. I thought the trailer had an early 90s, post-punk power pop vibe...

August 27, 2011

Land of the Undead Movie Web Site

While writing a joke for my post about Rise of the Planet of the Apes, I Googled "deep blue sea" looking for a picture of Sam Jackson getting bitten in half by the shark. The first result simply said
and I immediately knew, based on the extra spaces between the letters, that this must be the original web site from 1999. I was not disappointed.
Visiting the site was like stepping back in time, to a more innocent era, before Y2K, when Windows 95 was preferable to Windows 98, when getting a free email account was still novel.
I am convinced that this site is still up and running --well, shambling along is more like it-- because no one still works at Warner Bros who remembers the login and password to edit the site.
Put on your spelunker's helmet and join me as I explore some of the relics. Or, if you're feeling adventurous, take a look for yourself. Just tell a friend where you're going in case you get lost...D E E P B L U E S E A
  • The home page lets you choose between the Full Site (requires Flash) or the "Lite Site" for you folks with dial up
  • The home page link for Warner Brothers Pay Per View is dead
  • The home page link for legal/privacy info link is dead. There is no law here! Anarchy rules!
  • The link to Deep Blue Sea message boards is dead
  • The link to DBS Web Cards is dead. I think "Web Cards" were kind of like those E-Cards you send to your wonderful aunt who still has an aol.com email address.
  • The interviews with director Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2, Cliffhanger) are available as streaming Realtime or downloadable Quicktime. Realtime is the work of the devil, and I don't have QT installed, so I don't dare click on them.
  • The soundtrack is available for purchase at CDNow.com CDNow.com is gone.
  • "Build your own Deep Blue Sea home page. Go to Acme City to pick up a bunch of free pictures and other items, and go to work. Best make it water-tight, though." I think this was an attempt to help you build your own fansite on Geocities or something: "Hopelessly Devoted To Deep Blue Sea"? I think we call that "viral marketing" now.. (ps that Acme City link is dead.)
  • Four of the six external links for fun facts about sharks still work!
  • What would happen to my 2011 Lenovo laptop if I downloaded and installed a 1999 screen saver from the movie Deep Blue Sea? I'm not going to find out.
Two more thoughts:
Samuel L. Jackson is like one of those kids' games where you take a bald head and add glasses, beards, random haircuts...
Saffron Burrows in a bikini.

NOTE: I'm sorry that the title of this post mixes two horror genres- the zombie movie with the shark movie, but the web site as zombie image fit the best, and now that I think about it, where are all the zombie shark movies? Do I have to all the thinking for you, Hollywood?

August 24, 2011

Premise Review: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

I'm breaking new ground on Stub Hubby. I'm not reviewing Rise of the Planet of the Apes (RotPotA.) I have not seen RotPotA. I'm reviewing the premise of RotPotA, based on what I've seen in the trailer. (the gorilla leaping into the helicopter is pretty badass, right?)

James Franco as a non-stoned scientist: Maybe I've seen Pineapple Express too many times, but I' having trouble picturing James Franco as a working professional of any kind. I keep expecting him to say "wait, what are we talking about?" then run into the woods.
Curing Alzheimer's Disease: The therapy used on the chimpanzee Caesar makes him super smart. Weren't the scientists in Deep Blue Sea trying to use super-smart sharks to develop a cure for Alzheimer's too? And how did that idea turn out for Samuel L. Jackson? I guess James Franco's scientist hasn't seen Deep Blue Sea, or does RotPotA exist in a parallel, yet eerily similar universe where the movie Deep Blue Sea was never made? (spooky music)
The End Game: This is why I'm not going to see this movie. There aren't enough primates in San Francisco to sucessfully "rise" to a whole Planet of the Apes. What's the outcome? Caesar magically synthesizes more magic gas, FedExes it to every zoo in America, a few more to Africa, and suddenly homo sapiens are on the run? Let's set our goals more realistically. Maybe the movie should be called Rise of the Neighborhood of the Apes, or Rise of the Bitchin Treehouse of the Apes. That's a movie I can get behind.

August 18, 2011

The Outsiders

Another August, another movie in the outdoors. Last year it was Better Off Dead. This summer, thanks to Somerville's SomerMovie Fest, it's Francis Ford Coppola's The Outsiders!
Our protagonists are the youngest teens in a gang of "greaser" juvenile delinquents: alpha dog Patrick Swayze, loose cannon Matt Dillon, and goofball Emilio Estevez. When Johnny (Ralph Macchio) kills a "soc" in self-defense to save Ponyboy's life (C. Thomas Howell), they go on the run, literally jumping a freight out of town. While Johnny and Ponyboy hide out and dare to dream of escaping their fate in a world where greasers have nowhere to go...oh, hell, I am struggling not to quote Springsteen lyrics here.
Just listen to "Born To Run" while reading Romeo & Juliet, and you've got the gist.

August 17, 2011

My 1983 In Review

My wife and I love many of the same movies, which makes all the more jarring when I admit I have never seen one of her favorites.

"How could you have never seen that movie?!" she'll ask me.

I usually point out the gender gap. "Of course I never saw Dirty Dancing. I was a 15 year old BOY when that came out." Then my wife gently teases me for growing up without cable TV. It's true: My wife has always had HBO, but I didn't have cable until I was 20.
This week we're seeing another movie which falls into the gap: The Outsiders, which apparently is a rite of passage for Gen X girls in the 1980s, but I have never seen it. Now our friends are piling on too, so I've bolstered my defense. What movies WAS I seeing back when The Outsiders came out? (NOTE: I was 11 years old in 1983.) I Googled "Top box office 1983" (The Outsiders ranks 28th).

Here's a sampling of 1983 movies I saw in the theater that year INSTEAD of The Outsiders, OR, movies I saw on TV/videotape in the following years.

August 11, 2011

133 Paradise by The "C"

  1. "Cissy Strut" The Meters (1969) The squeaky hi-hat pedal is practically it's own instrument!
  2. "Stranded In A Limousine" Paul Simon, a 'new' song from his Greatest Hits, etc. (1977)
  3. "Options" Gomez
  4. "Don't Play No Game That I Can't Win" Beastie Boys featuring Santigold this terrific song from Hot Sauce Committee Part Two is my nominee for Summer Song of 2011, but I think Lady Gaga's "Edge of Glory" may have edged them out.
  5. "Gimme All Your Lovin" ZZ Top
  6. "Rumour Has It" I didn't dream that Adele could equal the power of "Rolling in the Deep", but she did! I was blown away when I first heard this on the radio.The lyrics! drums! handclaps! backing vocals! Wow.
  7. "Hangman Jury" Aerosmith
    and
  8. "Barton Hollow" The Civil Wars, two swampy songs together.
  9. "I'm A King Bee" The Rolling Stones, as heard on the cop show Memphis Beat. A brief aside: Memphis Beat (starring Jason Lee as a Memphis PD detective by day, blues singer by night) is an old-school cop/detective show. It feels like an old Simon & Simon episode. But, they spend a lot of money on music clearances for bands like The Rolling Stones. Actually, now that I think of it, Jason Lee's last show, My Name Is Earl, had lots of brand-name rock music too.
  10. "Monday Monday" Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs, or, as we sing it to our son: "Mango Mango"
  11. "If You Love Somebody (Set Them Free)" This William Orbit remix removes all of Sting's jazz trappings in favor of a synth-heavy dance groove. All of Brandford Marsalis's saxophone is gone.
  12. "Just Another Night" I heard this Ian Hunter song, from his LP You're Never Alone With A Schizophrenic, and thought it sounded like a Bruce Springsteen song. Turns out I'm half right: the recording features Roy Bittan (keyboards) Garry Tallent (bass) and Max Weinberg (drums) from the E Street band.
  13. "Freeway of Love" [Extended Remix] Aretha Franklin featuring Clarence Clemons - One of Clarence's best guest spots.
  14. "Did It In A Minute" Daryl Hall & John Oates - the arrangement is a little overcomplicated, but the hook is solid. Maybe their biggest hit which didn't make it onto the 1983 Rock N Soul Pt 1 which I listened to 1,000,000 times as a teenager.I heard this song for the first time when I took their LP Private Eyes (1981) out of the Topsfield Town Library. Yes kids, these things HAPPENED.
  15. "If I Can't Change Your Mind" (Solo Mix) Sugar - This is one of my favorite songs of the 1990s, so when it was selected for the Onion A/V Club's Undercover series, I was excited. The A/V Club invites bands to visit their office a cover a song from a pre-selected list. Somehow, Bob Mould visited and covered his own Sugar song, then, the Decemberists visited and covered it too. Since I can't buy these songs on MP3, I've added the solo mix of "If I Can't Change Your Mind" to my mix-- the B-side which singer Colin Meloy cites as his favorite.
  16. "I Might" Wilco, the first single from their upcoming album The Whole Love
  17. "China Grove" [live at the Greek Theater 1982] The Doobie Brothers
  18. "Paradise By The "C" [live at the Roxy] Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band 
The Big Man 1942-2011

July 29, 2011

Guys Movie Night: Captain America: The First Avenger

A wholesome and workmanlike origin story for Captain America. Because I knew nothing about Captain America, I had pretty low expectations. Now I would call him "Wolverine, minus the claws, plus a lot of earnest patriotism." I joked beforehand that all I wanted to see was Captain America punching out Hitler. And I got that, but it turns out that Captain America doesn't fight any Nazis at all. In fact, no one fights any Nazis. From the very beginning, our villain, The Red Skull (Hugo Weaving) goes rogue and takes over Hiter's Crazy Science division for himself. Why is this movie set during World War II if there's no Nazis? Sure, the Red Skull wants to take over the world, but the only people we see him kill are other Nazis, and a couple of our faceless Army guys in a firefight.
It's hard to win my heart over when there's no faces to connect with. Red Skull has a red skull, and all of Red Skull's henchmen wear gimp masks, so the only face of the enemy is Toby Jones, the stubby scientist stuck between a madman and a laser gun, who we actually feel some sympathy for!

Chris Evans was just perfect as Steve Rogers. The shrimpy weakling Steve Rogers, before he gets his super-serum, was a seamless effect with Evans's head on a concave weakling (Not a body double. He was so small, maybe it should be body "three-quarters"?)
I really appreciated how Rogers' costume evolved. Getting superheroes into costumes is often the most clunky plot point in the movies. In this case, it's a nice organic evolution: he starts out onstage in a stage costume identical to the comic book look. When he slips away on his first mission behind enemy lines, he cobbles together some gear- an awesome combination of his stage costume and shield, plus a great leather jacket, and a blue army helmet stolen from one of the dancing girls. I wish he was dressed like this for the whole movie! Only later does he suit up with the leather helmet and round shield.

 A thousand thanks to two award-winning character actors who save this movie from blandness: Stanley Tucci is the avuncular German ex-pat scientist who befriends Steve. He got a chuckle from the crowd with every line. Equally indispensible was Tommy Lee Jones as the Colonel shepherding the super-soldier project. He's playing his bread-and-butter authority figure, and he charms the audience all the way. I also loved veteran corset-wearer Hayley Atwell as the British agent who goes all moony for Rogers. She actually gets to shoot bad guys and punch d-bags first, so she's not useless like Rose Byrne's agent in X-Men: First Class. She tends to stand uncomfortably close to Steve in their dialog scenes, and she barely cries at the end. She also looks perfect in the period hair and makeup.
That lipstick was a.maz.ing.
We had some technical quibbles with the movie: even if you grant that the super-serum is pure fantasy, I did not believe that they only had one dose on hand and had no notes or research written down to create more? What kind of defense contract is this? Adam noticed the motorcycle chase through the forest was a little too similar to the same scene in Return of the Jedi. Rogers even uses a tripwire to throw the bad guys off their bikes, Ewok style. Also, we found it odd that the Red Skull's underground base fortifications are angled the wrong way, like a ramp, so Captain America can jump over them like Evel Knievel. Everything else was completely plausible, or, at least, comic-book plausible.
I guess the reason I brand the movie "workmanlike" at the top of this review is my cynicism at work. This origin movie, which, like most origin movies, doesn't contain much action for the first 30-40 minutes, felt more like a necessary stepping stone for the Avengers mega-franchise than a story by itself.

I am also undrewhelmed by its director Joe Johnston. Johnston, a former George Lucas protege, was the art director for Star Wars Episodes 4-6, plus Raiders of the Lost Ark and the Battlestar Galactica TV pilot in 1978. Since Honey I Shrunk The Kids in 1989, he has directed eight more effects-heavy features, including Jumanji, Jurassic Park III, and The Wolfman. He doesn't seem to direct with much character or personality. The most cynical part of me thinks he's the director you can count on to successfully accomplish your film's technical challenges. Kind of like Michael Bay with no personality and a smaller budget.

TRIVIA: Dorchester native Neal McDonough plays one of the Captain's team, with a bowler hat and muttonchops. I thought to myself "This getup is wayyy too specific. This must be a character from the comic books." Indeed, he's future Agent Of S.H.I.E.L.D. "Dum Dum" Dugan.


TRIVIA: Before he heads to the front, Rogers performs in US Savings Bond fundraising shows, where he gets to knock out "Hitler" for the crowd each day. The guy playing the actor playing Hitler, James Payton, has another famous part with no dialog: the father of Neville Longbottom in Harry Potter & The Order of the Phoenix (we only see him in one of those magical moving photos.)

TRIVIA: Strangely, Joe Johnston has directed another comic book movie set during WWII where undercover Nazis are plotting to steal American technology in order to create super-soldiers: The Rocketeer. Compounding the strangeness, both movies feature wealthy industrial tycoons with awesome moustaches: Howard Hughes invented the rocket in The Rocketeer; The real-life Hughes is the inspiration for the Howard Stark character.

Dominic Cooper (L) and Terry O'Quinn (R)

My grade: how about a B?
Regal Fenway Stadium 13 (screen 12) with: Adam, Angus, Geoff, Ilan, Jack, Jeff, John, Marc, and Marc's other friend whose name I never got :-S