- Ex Machina: Creepy, provocative, and thought-provoking. This one lingered with me for a long time.
- Spy: I saw three quality comedies this year. Trainwreck and Sisters were both excellent, but Spy was wonderful all around.
- Star Wars: The Force Awakens: A perfectly executed reboot of a franchise that met the highest expectations.
- Mad Max: Fury Road: A perfectly executed reboot of a franchise that exceeded all expectations.
- Spotlight: A fascinating (and infuriating) journalism drama, maybe better than All The President's Men, and also a indictment of Boston's culture of entropy and indifference.
December 31, 2015
I only saw 15 new movies in 2015. That's not a record low, but I don't have much to talk about! My top five movies of the year:
December 30, 2015
Originally titled The Nest - an even worse title than Sisters! If I had been the exec in charge, I would have pandered more to guy audiences and emphasized the house party more. Is the name House Party taken?
Just as the trailers were starting, seven 50-something women sat in two rows directly next to me. Uh-oh, I thought, but they turned out to be great- they laughed at all the jokes and made the movie so much funnier! Showcase Cinemas Legacy Place, Dedham
December 29, 2015
The plot begins to bore in a few places, and QT cannot help but take the violence to the extreme, but on the whole this was an interesting mystery and a unique moviegoing experience.
|The Somerville Theater's 70mm projectors, ready to go.|
Three hours of 70mm film weigh over 200 pounds!
- Read more about the movie, the cameras and filming, and more, all from the official site: The Hateful Eight Roadshow
- Stub Hubby has seen six of the eight QT movies in the theater, including Pulp Fiction six times? Read more here: Written & Directed by Quentin Tarantino
- The last time I saw a movie projected in 70mm was Kenneth Branagh's HAMLET in January 1997 at the Kendall.
- The Wang Theater used to present classic movies on their ginormous movie screen - the largest in New England - so it's possible their presentation of Lawrence Of Arabia in 1995 was projected in 70mm, but I don't remember.
- From WIRED: How They Put Together Hateful Eight’s 70mm Traveling ‘Roadshow’
|Oscar winner Patricia Arquette in True Romance|
- True Romance 
- Natural Born Killers 
- Pulp Fiction [October 1994; free preview screening]
- Pulp Fiction [#2]
- Pulp Fiction [#3]
- Pulp Fiction [#4]
- Pulp Fiction [#5]
- Pulp Fiction [#6] & Reservoir Dogs  Double Feature
- Kill Bill Volume 1 & School of Rock [two movies in one day in 2003]
- Kill Bill Volume 2 
- Grindhouse 
- Django Unchained 
December 28, 2015
- The Aviator : Stanley DeSantis
- Howard Da Silva as Mayer in Mommie Dearest
- David Suchet as Mayer in RKO 281.
- Martin Balsam (a Judy Garland biopic)
- Allen Garfield (a Gable and Lombard biopic)
- Harold Gould (several TV movies about Greta Garbo and David O. Selznick)
- Al Waxman (another Judy Garland biopic)
- Emerson College alumnus Richard Dysart (Louella Parsons / Hedda Hopper story)
- Richard Portnow in Trumbo (2015)
Bryan Cranston is terrific as the successful Hollywood screenwriter who is willing to go to jail - and put his family through the wringer - rather than forfeit his First Amendment right to belong to the Communist Party during the Cold War. He's a royal pain in the ass and a terrible father and husband, but he's witty and he has his principles, so his charm carries us along with him. It's truly amazing that he went on two win two Oscars while blacklisted and writing under pseudonyms.
Diane Lane is given mostly nothing to do as his wife except look concerned when she espies Trumbo mixing whisky and barbiturates - while smoking in the tub no less! She finally gets a good speech when Trumbo hollers at his kid (Elle Fanning) while shunning her 16th birthday party.
Cranston gets to deliver some sharp jabs, especially when confronting John Wayne at a political event (former JAG television star David James Elliott does a fine job in the thankless role) but too many pivotal scenes feel cliche'd - the old "protagonist learns his old friend died unexpectedly" scene - or wooden (Trumbo finally reveals how proud he is of his activist daughter).
Playing Edward G. Robinson - a unique Hollywood face if there ever was one - is a tall order, and Michael Stuhlbarg nails that odd upside-down mouth just right. He plays an interesting conflict in the movie star's life- Robinson is an ally of the blacklisted Hollywood 10, even to the point of selling a Van Gogh to pay for their legal defense, but Robinson is blacklisted himself when his association with the Ten goes public. Unlike Trumbo, who finds his way back into screenwriting via surrogates and pseudonyms, Robinson only has one face for the movies, and chooses to betray the Hollywood 10 to Congress in order to restore his film career.
Dean O'Gorman is perfectly cast as Spartacus star Kirk Douglas. Is that chin dimple a special effect? Playing an actor who's playing a gladiator should be easy for him- he played a warrior dwarf in three Hobbit movies, plus countless episodes of Hercules and Xena on TV. German actor Christian Berkel is hilarious as demanding director Otto Preminger.
Theater NotesWest Newton Cinema, Screen 6. West Newton specializes in independent films, foreign films, movies for seniors, and Jewish Cinema. I am amazed at the trailers they show. First, a genocide movie- it was hard to tell which genocide because trailers for foreign-language movies try to hide the fact that you'll be reading subtitles for two hours by not including any dialog in the trailer. A really depressing-looking marriage movie 45 Years starring Charlotte Rampling, who is gorgeous at any age; and a trailer for a sequel to My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which was greeted with absolute, complete silence from the two dozen patrons watching it. If the screen had been blank the reaction would have been the same. All the jokes in the trailer were met with nothing. It was GRIM. Everyone in America saw the first movie 13 years ago, but no one has been asking for more.
I have endured chatty, entitled crowds at the West Newton Cinema, so I attend movies there with some trepidation, but I have to try to remember the good crowds too: the crowd did not talk during Trumbo, but one developmentally disabled adult in the front row let out a series of long groaning sounds at random intervals. It did not affect my engagement with the movie and it was impossible to get upset about it.
December 24, 2015
The remainder of the role are filled by a stellar supporting cast: Roger Rees [you may remember him as Kirstie Alley's rich boyfriend on Cheers] is charming as nephew Fred. David Warner, whom I'm used to seeing as a villain - he plays Ultimate Evil in Time Bandits, for example - is touching as the tender, emotional Bob Crachit. Susannah York (Kal-El's mom in Superman I and II) is fine as Mrs Crachit; Mark Strickson (Dr Who companion Turlough) is young Scrooge, and Strickson plays opposite Lucy Gutteridge, who played the romantic lead in the comedy Top Secret! that same year opposite Val Kilmer. Kilmer's future wife Joanne Whalley appears briefly as Scrooge's sister.
The special effects are kept to a minimum. Jacob Marley's chains and bank boxes are especially effective, with great clanking noises. Once Marley materializes in Scrooge's bedroom, his ghostly appearance is maintained by lighting and all-monochrome makeup only. Scrooge's travels with the spirits are not fussy.
December 22, 2015
I don't mind that the plot is very similar to the original trilogy. I feel that the writers are acknowledging that the prequel trilogy introduced a fundamentally different, complicated, and boring plot, so at worst, this is an overcorrection towards simplicity. Anyone who complains that this plot was a repeat of the original trilogy doesn't appreciate that the original trilogy plots were very simple, and the Return of the Jedi included tons of repeated elements from Star Wars!
I was pleased and glad that the new cast was so good, and that the filmmakers trusted their story with them for the entire first act of the movie.
I was amazed how cute and charismatic BB-8 could be. I laughed out loud repeatedly at his double-takes.
Oscar Isaac is hella handsome. If I can sense it, the ladies must be going gaga over Poe Dameron.
Baby Daddy?Daisy Ridley is great as Rey, and it's obvious to me she's Luke's daughter. One of my favorite music cues from A New Hope is the theme playing when Luke leaves the Owen & Beru's dinner table and gazes out at the binary sunset. This same theme music plays twice when Rey is girding her Force power in pivotal moments, especially during the lightsaber duel with Kylo Ren. Fans seem to think this is "too obvious", but there's no other established characters that make sense, and all other possible answers are too random to be dramatically useful- there's no way her parents are new characters unrelated to any established characters. Fans also wonder how Luke could abandon his daughter on a desert planet just as he was as a baby (see the last 30 seconds of Revenge of the Sith), but that's what's so poignant about it!
Theory A: Luke's the baby daddy. He didn't know Rey existed until she showed up on Rock Island Planet with his old lightsaber. Perhaps she was kept a secret from him because the baby mama feared The Force?
Theory B: Luke knew about Rey, but kept her away from him for her protection or some other motivation we don't know about yet - just as Luke was secreted away from Darth Vader. Luke would never let his daughter rot on Jakku, so her abandonment may have occurred after he entered seclusion on the Rock Island Planet.
The LightsaberWhere the heck did Goldfish Lady
Just when you think every elderly English actor has been used up, Max Von Sydow shows up! He's done sci-fi/fantasy before, but Flash Gordon and Dune were a long time ago. Coincidentally, Dune (1984) and Flash Gordon (1980) were produced during the sci-fi/fantasy movie fad made possible by Star Wars' success.
Obviously we haven't seen Mark Hamill do much acting yet, but I bet he's going to be must easier for me to digest than Ford and Fisher, maybe because I haven't seen him act in anything for 30 years. His bearded, enrobed look reminds me of Oliver Reed's character in Gladiator.
Weird FactsWhen they announced The Force Awakens, fans noticed (but could not believe) that Hamill is older than Alec Guiness was when he played Kenobi; Hamill is also a few years older than Reed was when he died in 1999 before Gladiator was done shooting.
- When Finn's comrade dies and smears a bloody handprint on his Stormtrooper helmet, that was the first example of blood in the Star Wars saga since Ben Kenobi cut off that guy's arm in the cantina! I suspect Lucas decided early on to keep his movies bloodless, so this moment stood out.
- This was the first Star Wars movie where no characters lost a hand, arm, or leg to a lightsaber! See my post Simply Disarming for the complete limb count.
- Episodes 1-6 begin with the Twentieth Century-Fox logo and Lucasfilm logo, with the Fox fanfare playing, followed by the title card "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away..." This is a Disney/Lucasfilm joint, so obviously the Fox logo and fanfare is omitted, but the new normal is odd to me: silence over the Lucasfilm logo, silence over the "long time ago" card, then the Star Wars theme crashes in over the Star Wars logo. It's too bad there's no majestic-enough Disney fanfare they could have used over their Enchanted Castle logo to replace the Fox logo.
- I love the crashed Star Destroyer buried on Jakku, but it doesn't look quite big enough to me. Is the scale off? Especially when the Millennium Falcon flies through it, it didn't seem mammoth enough.
I'm A SuckerMaybe some moviegoers saw this coming, but I was completely shocked that Ren killed his father on the gangway. Harrison Ford famously lamented that Solo did not die in Return of the Jedi, and I have to admit his death on Endor, or perhaps in the assault on the Death Star, would have added some much-needed gravitas to that otherwise lightweight feel-good finale. In 2016 it's easy to imagine that Ford agreed board the Millennium Falcon one more time- as long as they killed him off this time!
December 17, 2015
I'm sitting in the movie theater parking lot right now. The Force Awakens starts in 25 minutes. I bought this ticket (Auditorium 6, Row G, Seat 1, in glorious 2D) two months ago, but I only began to get really excited to see it this morning. It's been a weird two months: I was very happy to see the first trailer a few months ago, and I saw that moment with Han and Chewie on the Falcon, but since then, I have tried to shut out the ever-increasing din of marketing, and spoilers, and television commercials, but that almost smothered all of my excitement to see the movie? My mindset was almost "I am really excited to see this movie...but I don't want to think too much about it until I see it". The Disney-pop-culture-media juggernaut feels the opposite- they want me thinking about Star Wars all day every day for months. I feel like the only person who wants to see this movie with any amount of surprise. Frankly, that's why I was willing to go see this movie so late at night by myself on opening night: I just want to get the first screening over with so I can then soak up all of the fun promotion and magazine articles and so on.
This fever pitch got a bit ridiculous at the end. This evening I sat down on my sofa: on my left was a Boston Globe feature about Star Wars, on my right a C-3PO/R2-D2 Christmas stocking: I literally could not turn my head without seeing Star Wars stuff everywhere. Did I mention the Chewbacca Chicken Soup in the pantry?
I felt a bit silly covering my eyes and fast-forwarding my TV every time a commercial came on, and turning Entertainment Weekly face down so I would not read the headlines about the movie, but I guess I am only being silly if I end up not liking the movie after all this trouble I went through. Stay tuned: I'll post my initial reaction as soon as it's over. See you in 2 hours!
Friday Morning 1am
Good news gang, the movie is terrific. The plot (no spoilers) is very straightforward, so there's no Trade Federation and Republic and Senate and planetary embargoes like Episode 1. Are you sleepy yet?
It reminded me a lot of JJ Abrams' Star Trek reboot in the following ways:
- The Force Awakens honors all the conventions of the existing Star Wars movie universe, but with 21st-century style and production values (Don't worry: I did not notice any lens flares like in his Star Trek reboot).
- It's as loose and funny as the best parts of the original films.
- There's lots of touches that acknowledge the original three films without becoming a Fan Club Greatest Hits. You do not need to remember the original trilogy well to appreciate this film.
Okay For Kids? Without giving anything away, I would describe content of The Force Awakens as very similar to the original trilogy. There's some scares, some monsters, lots of gunfire, a couple of deaths onscreen (not just Stormtroopers falling over, which hardly counts). If your kids have watched The Empire Strikes Back, they can handle this too.
Trailers: I was expecting a lot of trailers, but wow, we saw every trailer, including previews for the Independence Day sequel, Captain America: Civil War, and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, all of which look grim, joyless, and workmanlike. These trailers all rolled off the backs of the Star Wars-hungry crowd. The only reaction was from a hilarious mini preview for an animated movie Zootopia featuring a DMV office run entirely by sloths. Go Google it, it's adorable and funny.
Audience: At least a third of the audience was wearing Star Wars tee shirts, and one cadre of friends did some nice cosplay:
- Luke with Yoda backpack - the easiest and most comfortable costume
- Darth Vader with the helmet off- wearing a baldcap all night is dedication!
- Classic Han Solo
- Slave Leia - gotta have some self-confidence for this.
- Padme (Natalie Portman) in her white leggings and belly-baring crop top - I thnk that's from Attack of the Clones? This tight & white costume left little to the imagination.
Star Wars On Stub Hubby:
- Star Wars Trilogy at the Wang Center 
- The Phantom Menace review 
- Attack of the Clones review 
- Revenge of the Sith review 
- Star Wars: A New Hope (1997 Special Edition) review
- The Empire Strikes Back (1997 Special Edition) review
- Return Of The Jedi (1997 Special Edition) review
- Stub Hubby List Simply Disarming: Limbs (Original and Robotic) Removed in the Star Wars Movies
- 1970s Hubby Perspective: The Death of Obi-Wan Kenobi
- Live Tweeting Return of the Jedi
December 14, 2015
Dominic West is a treat as the irrepressible Fred. Richard E. Grant leans a little too heavy on the pathos and loses some of the Christmas joy; Mrs Cratchit is played by Saskia Reeves, whom my wife has seen in every UK movie and TV show of the last 15 years; As Scrooge's fiancee, Laura Fraser nails her big scene, breaking up with Scrooge on a park bench in the snow. My wife pointed out the scene felt torn from a Jane Austen novel. Two years after this Fraser would appear opposite Heath Ledger in A Knight's Tale. The Ghost Of Christmas Present was a little less jolly and a little more dour and judging than I'm used to.
Joel Grey is simply weird as The Ghost Of Christmas Past; the character is usually portrayed as a fairy or a young girl, not a 67-year-old man in chalky whiteface. Then I checked the source material and Dickens spends 326 words describing the ghost:
It was a strange figure -- like a child: yet not so like a child as like an old man, viewed through some supernatural medium, which gave him the appearance of having receded from the view, and being diminished to a child's proportions. Its hair, which hung about its neck and down its back, was white as if with age; and yet the face had not a wrinkle in it, and the tenderest bloom was on the skin. The arms were very long and muscular; the hands the same, as if its hold were of uncommon strength. Its legs and feet, most delicately formed, were, like those upper members, bare. It wore a tunic of the purest white, and round its waist was bound a lustrous belt, the sheen of which was beautiful. It held a branch of fresh green holly in its hand; and, in singular contradiction of that wintry emblem, had its dress trimmed with summer flowers. But the strangest thing about it was, that from the crown of its head there sprung a bright clear jet of light, by which all this was visible; and which was doubtless the occasion of its using, in its duller moments, a great extinguisher for a cap, which it now held under its arm.I definitely recommend this adaptation! Stewart was strong, the supporting cast was mostly solid; the script included scenes from the book which rarely or never appear in adaptations. Besides Grey's distracting presence, the only other major drawback is the occasional overuse of 1990s computer effects.
Even this, though, when Scrooge looked at it with increasing steadiness, was not its strangest quality. For as its belt sparkled and glittered now in one part and now in another, and what was light one instant, at another time was dark, so the figure itself fluctuated in its distinctness: being now a thing with one arm, now with one leg, now with twenty legs, now a pair of legs without a head, now a head without a body: of which dissolving parts, no outline would be visible in the dense gloom wherein they melted away. And in the very wonder of this, it would be itself again; distinct and clear as ever.
December 11, 2015
Chris Hemsworth's accent is all over the place. At times it verged into a Mark Wahlberg Southie Boston accent! I couldn't place where I'd seen Benjamin Walker before- I kept reminding myself 'he's NOT Eric Bana, he just looks like him' - so it turns out I haven't seen him before, but he played the title role in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter!
Ben Whishaw plays Herman Melville - it must be a great feeling to star in two big movies playing in adjacent theaters: Whishaw plays "Q" in SPECTRE without the beard. Speaking of beards, my favorite part of the whole film might be Brendan Gleeson's performance, especially his thick, lustrous beard.
AMC Burlington with Emily, instead of going to my company holiday party!
December 9, 2015
Marley's Ghost is especially scary this time around, although the "ghost" special effects have no progressed in 13 years.
I didn't make past the Ghost of Christmas Past; I've fast-forwarded to Christmas morning to be done with it already. Scrooge is hyperventilating, he sounds completely bonkers.
This 1938 version is a pleasant and brisk 69 minutes:
- The boy playing Tiny Tim looked exactly like a young Angelina Jolie;
- The nephew Fred had a more prominent role than most adaptations and was very pleasant;
- The Ghost Of Christmas Past went on to play one of the O'Hara sisters in Gone With The Wind and a Bennett sister in Pride & Prejudice;
- The Ghost of Christmas Present looks like Will Forte from The Last Man On Earth (sorry I didn't take a screen shot!)
Strangely, in this version Bob Crachit gets fired by Scrooge at the end of the day - Crachit joins some street rats and throws a snowball at Scrooge by mistake - and then goes on a joyous shopping spree, and tries to bluff his way past his wife at home.
The rest of the Crachit kids are quite heartwarming with their joyous excitement over their feast and the goose Bob's brought home for them. I appreciated their deprivation more in this adaptation than I had before.
The rest of the Crachit kids are quite heartwarming with their joyous excitement over their feast and the goose Bob's brought home for them. I appreciated their deprivation more in this adaptation than I had before.
December 8, 2015
- "Green Grow The Rushes" A deep cut from R.E.M.'s Fables of the Reconstruction
- "Accidents Will Happen" Elvis Costello & The Attractions live [solo acoustic] at Hollywood High School
- "Empty" I heard a song lately with a couplet that reminded me of this lovely Cranberries song,
- "Song for Someone" This U2 song made me weepy at their concert in July.
- "Rio" Duran Duran
- "King Of You" Wilco from their new LP ironically titled Star Wars?
- "She Said She Said" I found these amazing "drum covers" on YouTube recently where drumming prodigies play along with Beatles songs. I've always thought Ringo was a revelation on "Rain" but the cover of "She Said She Said" was an anazing surprise.
- "Too Much Passion" The Smithereens
- "Talk To Me" The arragement of this Stevie Nicks song almost has a Wall of Sound feel?
- "Born Fighter" Nick Lowe
- "The Stake" Steve Miller Band
- "U Get Me High" Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
- "You Can Call Me Late" Paul Simon; I very cleverly mashed together "You Can Call Me Al" with "Late In The Evening" for an extended dance party!
- "Caravan" A recent re-release of Van Morrison's Moondance included many unused takes and studio chatter. Very illuminating!
- "All Mixed Up" The Cars
- "If I Can't Change Your Mind" Sugar
- "Why Does it Always Rain on Me?" Back in the late 1990s I knew I was supposed to love Travis but this album just didn't click for me...but I love this song now!
- "Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again" Bob Dylan
- "I Don't Like It, I Love It" (feat. Robin Thicke & Verdine White) Flo Rida
- "Valentine Day" This undercooked, lo-fi, self-made project is very in style today, but Beatles fans must have felt short sold- from Abbey Road and Let It Be, to McCartney? Half the 13 tracks are either instrumental, half-written, or both.