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 an espionage 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 non-white 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. It's bombastic, glacially paced, and it stole all its best ideas from Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns. Some bizarre dream sequences...but! 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 during that narrow window when the trees just begin to bud. 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.

November 26, 2016

Christian Marclay: THE CLOCK

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

November 25, 2016

Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them

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

November 21, 2016

158 Roller Rink Super Hits

  1. "Fortress Around Your Heart" ~ Sting
  2. "Tenderness on the Block" ~ Warren Zevon
  3. "Milwaukee" ~ The Both (aka Ted Leo & Aimee Mann)
  4. "We Will Rock You" [fast live version] ~ Queen
  5. "Crumblin Down" ~ John Cougar Mellencamp
  6. "No Matter What" ~ Badfinger
  7. "Stay The Night" ~ Benjamin Orr
  8. "Wish You Were Here" ~ Nick Lowe & Paul Carrack
  9. "Only The Lonely" ~ The Motels
  10. "Talking In Your Sleep" ~ The Romantics
  11. "Harden My Heart" ~ Quarterflash
  12. "The Kids Are Alright" ~ The Who
  13. "Mandinka" ~ Sinead O'Connor
  14. "Lovely Rita" ~ The Beatles
  15. "Come Dancing" ~ The Kinks
  16. "You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)" ~ Bruce Springsteen
  17. "Will The Wolf Survive?" ~ Los Lobos
  18. "Head Above Water" ~ Hall & Oates
  19. "You Are" ~ Lionel Richie

November 16, 2016

Christian Marclay: The CLOCK (again)

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

November 12, 2016


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

October 15, 2016

157 Rainy Days and Saturdays

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

September 17, 2016

Eight Days A Week: The Beatles - The Touring Years

I've seen many Beatles documentaries, and this one is one of the best. Instead of summarizing the band's whole career, director Ron Howard documents one aspect of their career comprehensively (touring 1963-1966). I have seen some of the concert footage in this movie before, but
  • Not with perfectly remastered picture
  • Not with original audio - usually documentaries only have the film, so they play the Beatles records over the footage. This doc has the original audio to go with the film footage.
  • Not without narration - usually concert footage is played under documentary narration to save time
  • Not at length - several sequences are shown in long unbroken stretches.
What did I learn as a longtime Beatles fan?
The Beatles touring years blazed the trail for modern pop concerts in arenas and stadia. The Beatles had to play bigger and bigger venues to satisfy demand: "you can't have 2,000 fans inside a theater and 10,000 more fans on the street tearing themselves apart" was the reality. Their PA equipment was completely inadequate to broadcast their music to a screaming crowd. There was zero stage monitoring equipment, so they could not hear themselves. The kids showed up to see The Beatles, and that's all they could do...see them.
Local police forces were completely incapable of dealing with the crowds. There was zero security for the band - the footage of Paul elbowing people through a scrum to make it from the limo to the stage door is jaw-dropping. Just imagine Taylor Swift or Beyoncé fighting their way through a crowd of police and fans today!
Coolidge Corner Theater, sitting directly behind Red Sox owner John Henry

September 4, 2016

Blazing Saddles

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

September 3, 2016

Kubo & The Two Strings

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

August 26, 2016

Off The Pace: Fall Movie Preview

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

Twelve Weeks Later UPDATE

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

August 21, 2016

Jason Bourne

More of the same from the Bourne franchise, Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass continue to deliver quality action and thrills, but there's not much point to it. The Greek riots / motorcycle sequence was masterful, and the Las Vegas smash & dash car chase was muscular. When CIA spooks follow Jason Bourne around town, what's new there? Something happens and then some spook repeats what just happened out loud as if nobody in the room had seen it? Four films into the franchise and the CIA spooks continue to underestimate Bourne: no one ever thinks "he'll be expecting us to act just like this - how can we outwit him?"
Finally, I don't understand how a movie with so many cold-blooded murders can be rated PG-13. The moment an assassin shoots an innocent person in the head point-blank out of convenience, that is no longer a PG-13 movie. The MPAA rating system is completely broken if this film can get a PG-13. (Somerville Theater, screen 5)

August 20, 2016

Star Trek Beyond

Quality Star Trek story, even if the details are a bit hard to follow. A couple of lines of dialogue here and there were super clunky.
The chemistry between the leads is terrific, they really seem to be growing into their roles. The production design is outstanding; the best of the three new movies. I think they're trying too hard with the weirdly-shaped alien heads, but maybe that's just me. The Yorktown space station is crazy complicated, I think they've crossed the line from visually interesting to just plain old confusing, but it's hard to blame them for trying too hard when so many movies fall back on cliche. 
I found the cinematography dizzying. The director seems to be obsessed with rotating the camera around in barrel rolls like an old-timey barnstormer. (Somerville Theater Screen 2)
RELATED: For my complete history, see To Boldly Go To The Theater To See Star Trek

July 23, 2016

Ghost Busters

A good but not great comedy. Solidly entertaining and fun, just not brilliant. 
The four women are all terrific. Kate McKinnon has chosen a very particular brand of weirdo as the eggheaded engineer, and she steals every scene. Chris Hemsworth is a very particular brand of dum dum and he pulls it off perfectly: It's true, an aquarium is only a fish submarine!
The style and execution of the ghosts is good. I especially liked the demented Thanksgiving Day parade floats.
There's a couple of creepy parts, but only one truly scary moment: when the door opens. If you've seen the movie, you know what I'm talking about.
It would have been nice to excise all the seemingly mandatory tributes and references to the original 1984 movie. None of them fit seamlessly into the movie. All of the cameos could be cut out and the movie would be shorter and better. A discerning 12 year old who had never seen the 1984 film would wonder "why does this fringe character get so many lines?" The one tribute to the original that I liked was the scene where they consider renting the firehouse for their headquarters. Unlike 1984, the real estate in Hell's Kitchen is in high demand!
I also would have been happy to lose the subplot where the goverment tries to quash the Ghostbusters. It doesn't really go anywhere. Cecily Strong is a comic genius, but there's nothing new in her character, which is especially glaring in a movie where McKinnon and Hemsworth's eccentric weirdos are so fresh.
The audience was fun and totally engaged. I missed a lot of post-punchline dialog due to widespread laughter!

My wife saw it a few days before me, and her takeaways are worth sharing here too:
  • Who is this movie for? It's barely PG-13, so why can't they make it a less scary family-friendly PG so Generation X could take their kids, OR go hard-R! Let Kristen Wiig say "oh, shit" instead of "oh, shoot".
  • Compared to the 1984 film, this Ghost Busters is completely devoid of sex. Wiig has a bubbling-under crush on Hemsworth, but that's the totality of the sexual content. In the 1984 film:
    • Venkman puts the moves on a coed;
    • Venkman flirts with/sexually harasses Dana Barrett continually until she is raped/possessed by the Gatekeeper;
    • Barrett turns into a ravenous sex demon who eventually has sex with Rick Moranis' keymaster;
    • Stantz gets a ghost blowjob
We rewatched some of the 1984 movie this week and we couldn't believe how much smoking there is!
Arlington Capitol Theater

July 10, 2016

The Secret Lives of Pets

An outstanding voice cast elevates this silly, benign comedy.
Standouts: Louis CK as the lead terrier Max, and Jenny Slate as his lovesick neighbor Pomeranian Gidget. Kevin Hart is good as a manic rabbit / Che Guevara-style radical revolutionary, and Lake Bell nails the sociopathic cat Chloe. I also loved Dana Carvey resurrecting his hilarious old-man voice from his SNL heyday- now Carvey's over 60 and the voice sounds even better! Oooh, I almost forgot Steve Coogan as a demented alley cat.
It's not Pixar-level brilliant, but it's a lot sillier and more carefree than a potentially heartbreaking movie like Finding Dory. The Secret Lives of Pets really captures the personality quirks we associate with these animals.
The Secret Lives of Pets is from Illumination Entertainment, the same studio that made Despicable Me. My wife and I saw Despicable Me when it first came out six years ago (before the movie and its sequels and spinoffs became a childhood phenomenon, before anyone knew who a Minion was).
At the time we both enjoyed "a terrific comedy for adults and kids" and that holds true here too. The Secret Lives of Pets also maintains a distincly non-American, universal flair: I appreciate the near absence of pop culture references, but why did they go to so much trouble to set the movie in New York City if none of the characters or locations has any New York personality?
The plot was a tad derivative and sloppy: just like with Woody and Buzz in Toy Story 1 (twenty years ago), Max's owner brings a new dog home (Duke) that upends Max's comfortable routine and rivals Max for her affections. Max's schemes to remove this threat triggers the chain of events that lands them both in peril, far away from home.
My only other tiny little complaint is all the moments of objects zooming directly in front of the "camera" to enhance the 3D effects. We saw the movie in 2D and usually those moments are pretty benign, but in The Secret Lives of Pets it felt like everything had to fly directly past our noses.
There's only two moments that the littlest kids would find scary- my six-and-a-half year old son claims the giant fanged anaconda wasn't scary, and the near-drowning scene wasn't scary either, but younger kids will be scared.
Belmont Studio Cinema

July 4, 2016

Terminator: Genisys

I'm a big fan of Terminator 1 & 2. I have seen most of the third one, Rise of the Machines, but Terminator: Salvation barely felt like a Terminator movie at all.
Even if you ignore the plot inconveniences of writing a new movie about an antagonist that has been destroyed several times over (Skynet), it has become more and more difficult to create a fresh angle on the Terminator dynamic.
The lameness of T3 and Salvation made it easy to ignore Genisys when it came to theaters, but I noticed that people were talking about it. There are plenty of lame movies with zero buzz, but something about Genisys grabbed the imagination of Terminator fans who saw it. Most of the buzz was bad:
  • "They've thrown away the whole Terminator canon";
  • "This movie hates Terminator fans";
  • "You won't like what they've done to your Terminator".
But this level of engagement - good or bad - was curious enough that I was willing to try it out on Amazon Prime.
The first act of the movie is a wonderful fan service remake / mashup of the first two movies. Scenes from The Terminator are remade but with a nutty alternate timeline; the silvery T-1000 shows up; and Arnold fights Arnold! At the end of the third act the true villain shows up, and I was bored and confused almost immediately. The new villain does not make much logical sense, and as an opponent in action scenes, he brings nothing new to the conflict that the T-1000 already did.
So the last two-thirds was mostly battle-escape, battle-escape, battle-escape, but with little innovation on the battles Cameron invented with much more flair 25 and 30 years ago.
This movie brings back many of the characters from the franchise, and they've all been recast except for Arnold (Jason Clarke is the sixth actor to play John Connor!):
  • Emilia Clarke was excellent as Sarah Connor. She actually looks a bit like Linda Hamilton too.
  • I first saw Jai Courtney (Kyle Reese) as a cold-blooded assassin in Jack Reacher, and it's impossible for me to see him as a good guy.
  • Likewise, Jason Clarke (no relation to Emilia) never seems trustworthy in this film.
  • Oscar winner JK Simmons plays who exactly? I think he's a cop who believes in the whole Skynet/Terminator story, but has no real idea what's going on - kind of like Fox Mulder on the X-Files. I don't know why he's in the movie. I don't think he's playing a character from one of the earlier movies, but if he's a new character, what purpose does he serve?
  • The other acting standout is Arnold Schwarzenegger. He has no problem playing the T-800 again; what's a welcome surprise is the bone-dry jokes they've written for him. The level of humor in this movie is set just right. That's important for a story dealing with the mass extinction of humanity!
  • Coincidentally, there's two Clarkes and two Courtneys in this movie too- Courtney B. Vance plays the scientist character that Joe Morton played in T2 (yes, he died in that movie, that's totally irrelevant here).
I'd recommend this movie to Terminator fans for the fun remake/reimagining of the first third, but it gets pretty confusing and dull the rest of the way.

Fun Fact: I saw Terminator 2: Judgement Day exactly 25 years before watching Genisys - July 4, 1991.
Further Reading: How the Terminator franchise makes George Lucas look good.

June 6, 2016

Lethal Weapon 1 & 2

I distinctly remember scrutinizing this movie poster while waiting for
a train in 1989 and wondering "does that little red dot on the gun mean
the safety is ON or it's NOT on?"
The cable TV channel REELZ showed Lethal Weapon and Lethal Weapon 2 back-to-back the other night; I watched most of the first one on Sunday evening, then TiVo'd the sequel to watch Monday evening.
  • The whole point of the movie is that Riggs is the loose cannon rogue cop who doesn't follow the rules, and Murtaugh plays it safe. There's no arguing that the bad guys are bad guys, but the complete disregard for civil rights and due process the LAPD shows in these movies is completely out of fashion in 2016. Riggs is cut from the same vigilante cloth as Dirty Harry, but in our post-Rodney King, post-Ferguson America, Riggs looks more reckless than effective. In Lethal Weapon 2 he breaks into the house of a suspect, and later, sneaks into the South African embassy. Both times I thought to myself "without a search warrant, what is the point of this illegal entry? Any evidence he finds will get thrown out of any court in America!"
  • I tried to feel bad for Patsy Kensit-- In Lethal Weapon 2, Riggs seduces her when he's already marked for death by her bosses. If his motivation is to gather intel from her while seducing her (James Bond style) I can understand that cold calculation, but that does not appear to be the case- not only does she not pump her...for information (pun intended), he does not seem at all concerned that he is endangering her life by getting involved with her. Indeed, even after the helicopter firefight at his mobile home, he takes Kensit home to her apartment, aggressively ignoring the possibility that the baddies will find them there (which they do). A few minutes later, when Riggs recovers her very soggy and dead body -- wearing his varsity jacket -- from the harbor, his distress rings pretty hollow to me. If he hadn't gotten randy for the cute secretary, and he had made the smallest amount of strategic thinking, she'd still be alive.
  • Mel Gibson's "American" accent was still really terrible in these movies.
  • Michael Kamen's score is bombastic, but that's appropriate for the tone of the movie!
  • There were a lot of helicopters in action movies in the Eighties! I understand the baddies in the first movie are all Vietnam vets, so there's a history of helicopters, but the helicopter stunt flying is given lots of screen time too.
  • The destruction of the house on stilts is very impressive. For 1989 it must be real, right? It does not look like a model!
  • I just confirmed what I have always suspected: Gibson was born in 1956, which makes Martin Riggs 10 years too young to have served in Vietnam. Even if he was a crack sniper at age 19, that was 1975, the year the US left Vietnam. I suppose if Riggs is 5 years older than Gibson the math works?
  • By contrast, Gary Busey, the "albino jackrabbit sonovabitch" who plays crazy very convincingly, was born in 1944, which is just right for a Vietnam vet.
  • Mel Gibson plays the insane berzerker TOO effectively! It's easy to see why we all wanted him to play Wolverine in an X-Men movie.
  • I forgot how funny Joe Pesci is! A real treat. So adorable! On the other hand, when he's tied up and beaten by the South African thugs, I wanted his Tommy DeVito character from GoodFellas to appear and start shooting everyone in the foot.

June 3, 2016

The Nice Guys

A terrific retro buddy comedy from Shane Black: Lethal Weapon divided by Boogie Nights crossed with L.A. Confidential, 20 years later.
Embassy Cinema Waltham with George.

June 2, 2016


Luc Besson, who always has leavened his action spectaculars with a dash of philosophy (see The Fifth Element and Leon) has made a thinking-person's superhero origin story...without the heroics. The Big Question Besson seems to be asking is "what is the greatest purpose of mankind when granted omnipotence and omniscience?" The movie is urgent and serious, ie, not much fun and over very quickly: The first half hour creeps by- just get to the chop-socky action already! And then it's the entire movie is a slender 90 minutes.
Viewed at home on HBO Go

See Also on Stub Hubby \ The Dytopian Action Heroine Collection:

  • Aeon Flux [2005] "The secret history of the last city on Earth is a cool premise which offers limitless possibilities for a cerebral sci-fi examination of self and the human condition, but this potential is squandered on lots and lots of gunfire."
  • Ultraviolet [2006] "A fairly intriguing if cliched two-hour sci-fi shoot-em-up, where half an hour of interesting detail has been edited out"
  • Ghost In The Shell [2017] "A workmanlike leveraging of a well-known property"

May 30, 2016


Some pretty lazy and dumb Indian jokes mar an otherwise coherent and exciting Roger Moore Bond film:
The action and stunts are terrific, especially the minijet stunt flying through the exploding hangar during the opening sequence, and the spectacular train stunts near the end.
There's two Swedish-born leading ladies: Maud Adams as Octopussy, and Magda - who I thought was Barbara Bach with thinner eyebrows until I did some research and discovered her name is Kristina Wayborn. The two ladies are rather redundant, I wonder if they felt Maud Adams wasn't young enough to bring the adequate sex appeal?
I quite enjoy Louis Jordan as the villain Kamal Khan - I love the backgammon scene where Bond beats Khan with his Khan's own 'loaded' dice and pulls the super-cool "no look" roll.
"Spend the money quickly, Mister Bond" Khan advises while handing over the winnings.
Another great villain - perhaps too good for the movie - is Steven Berkoff as rogue Soviet General Orlov. Berkoff also made a great impression the following year as Victor Maitland, the art dealer / cocaine importer from Beverly Hills Cop.
Viewed on Amazon Prime Instant Video

May 22, 2016

Diamonds Are Forever

Sean Connery looks puffy and out of shape throughout. There's very little physical action for him, and he doesn't look great doing it...except for one neat trick where he leaps off the back of an ATV. I assumed it was a stuntman but no, he literally leaps off, runs over to Case's Mustang, and peels out.
I love the "ironic" exposition- the diamond expert explains in a smug, patronizing manner how the Empire has brought civilization to South Africa in exchange for the diamond mining business, but his exposition is played over images of the smuggling operation in action.

Tiffany Case (Jill St John) and Plenty O'Toole (Lana Wood) are two of the sexiest Bond girls ever - too bad Plenty is just a gold digger looking for high rollers in the casino, and Tiffany has some terrible overacting and bad line readings. At least Tiffany has agency - she doesn't sleep with Bond until the end of the second act (that's restraint!) and she has a purpose other than looking amazing- she's a diamond smuggler who nearly gets away with her larceny.

Explaining A James Bond Plot in Eighteen Easy Steps
Often the plots of Bond movies fall apart if you take two steps back and try to justify how the schemes could have been planned in advance. For example:
  1. SPECTRE needs a stockpile of diamonds to build its satellite laser.
  2. A dentist working for a mining company, servicing South African miners, pays cash to the miners for diamonds, and delivers the stones to one of several middlemen.
  3. Apparently SPECTRE has learned of this underground conduit and decides to divert the diamonds.
  4. Mr Wint & Mr Kidd intercept the dentist's dropoff, kill the dentist, AND kill his next contact in the pipeline (the helicopter pilot).
  5. Mr Wint & Mr Kidd then deliver the diamonds to the elderly missionary teacher in South Africa, so she can smuggle them to Tiffany Case in Amsterdam. This little old lady is the ideal smuggler because she will draw no suspicion while travelling internationally. There's a little joke where she hides the diamonds in a hollowed-out bible.
  6. Mr Wint & Mr Kidd follow her to Amsterdam and murder her after she makes the dropoff with Ms Case.
  7. Ms Case is due to deliver the diamonds to Peter Franks. Franks is being paid $50,000 to come up with a plan and smuggle the diamonds into America. Ms Case makes a clear point that Franks must hatch a scheme for smuggling the diamonds.
  8. Franks is arrested and Bond takes his place and meets Case posing as Franks.
  9. Franks escapes custody and arrives in Amsterdam. Bond successfully kills Franks and switches wallets with him. Case is fooled into thinking "Franks" has murdered "Bond".
  10. Bond decides to use Franks' body to smuggle the diamonds into America. Bond implies the stones are in Franks' colon, but it's possible he just hid them under the butt of the corpse. This is important later, trust me.
  11. When Bond, Case, and the dead Franks land at LAX, a hearse and three men from "Slumber, Inc" meet Bond at the airport with a hearse. Here's where things start to go sideways for me. Case somehow contacted her employer to say "Franks is smuggling the 'items' in a dead body. We're arriving at LAX on Friday" or whatever.
  12. Bond and the three gangsters ride in the hearse for four hours to Las Vegas. The hearse arrives at Slumber Funeral Home.
  13. Mr Slumber, the funeral home director, goes through the motions with Bond as they send the casket into the crematory oven.
  14. A minute later, an assistant appears in Slumber's office with an urn filled with the diamonds from Franks' body.
  15. Still going through the motions, Slumber directs Bond to a chamber in their mausoleum, where he leaves the urn filled with diamonds and picks up an envelope full of cash.
  16. Mr Wint & Mr Kidd whack Bond over the head and load him into another casket. They never intended to pay Mr Franks, so they don't need to recover the fifty grand from his pocket- the envelope they left for Franks is full of counterfeit bills.
  17. Bond's about to be cremated when Slumber and a stranger (comedian Shady Tree, apparently tied to the Mob too) save him because they've just discovered the diamonds Bond smuggled are fakes. Bond counters that they've paid him with counterfeit cash - "you wouldn't burn up fifty thousand real dollars, would you?" and he saunters off.
  18. Bond spends the counterfeit bills on the craps tables at the Whyte House and wins big.
What's wrong with this?
  • Where did Bond get a huge stockpile of fake diamonds and when did he make the switch? Did he bring them with him to Amsterdam in Step 8?
  • Before Step 10, there was no system in place for smuggling diamonds to Las Vegas in a dead body. Bond just made that up. Who found a Mob-connected funeral home that would make all the arrangements to accept a dead body and extract the diamonds from the corpse? This was all set up between Steps 10 and 11.
  • Step 14: How the heck does the undertaker get the diamonds out of the corpse and into the urn so quickly? Burning a body and casket takes HOURS. Even if they didn't burn the body, how did they retrieve them from the body so fast?
Viewed on Amazon Prime Instant Video

May 18, 2016

Ferris Bueller's Day Off

Fenway Screen 10:
This was supposed to be Eve and Emily,
but fate brought Amy, Mandy, and I together instead.
I have seen Ferris Bueller far too many times- I need a ten-year moratorium in order to make the movie fresh again - but it was fun to see it on the big screen with friends. Also, Mandy and I had a chance to catch up and eat dinner at the fancy new Wahlburgers across the street!
Emily and her friend Eve were supposed to go to this screening, but due to circumstances, they both had to drop out.
Eve bought these reserved seating tickets way in advance. Reserved advanced ticketing is a real mixed blessing. Reserving a seat in advance is nice, but advanced ticketing removes all flexibility:
  • If someone gets sick, you are stuck with a $12 movie ticket.
  • Especially for new releases, you cannot spontaneously meet up with friends, because the seats are all sold out in advance.
  • Even if the seats are not sold out, you may not be able to sit together.
For the theaters, it's a win-win - they get to charge more money for a service that allows/forces you to spending your money on a ticket:
  • The theater gets to keep your money even if you have to change your plans
  • The theater gets to deposit (and earn interest on) your cash for the time between when you bought the ticket and when you attend - in theory you could earn that interest for yourself for those two weeks. It's not much for you, but the theater corporation must have an enormous pool of cash for advance sales that helps pad their bottom line!

May 17, 2016

Captain America: Civil War

I skipped Age of Ultron, so I have NO IDEA who
this is, but I CAN tell you he's completely derivative.
Another Avengers movie in all but name (minus Thor and Hulk), Civil War does a good job of tackling the essential truth of super-powers- should superhuman power be governed? This is territory that has been covered already by the X-Men franchise, and Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice, but this version may be the best at it.
I skipped Age of Ultron in the theater after some bad word-of-mouth, and I still can't rent it on my Roku, so maybe I'm missing some pieces:
  • Why is Tony Stark so pro-oversight? In all his previous movies he was mostly suspicious of the government. I found his pro-oversight stance unbelievable.
  • Paul Bettany's Vision is so derivative of every previous emotionless superintelligent AI. So boring.
The Leipzig airport showdown is the best action sequence in any Marvel movie so far, partly because the heroes are all fighting the other heroes. It's more fun to watch them fight other characters we know and love instead of faceless goons.
The huge twists at the end of the movie were completely surprising and totally worth it. I only wonder where the franchise is going to go next when they've painted themselves into a corner- if massive destruction (like we enjoyed so much in the first Avengers movie) is so morally wrong, what are the next movies going to be filled with?
How do you reunite Iron Man and Captain America after this? It looks like the Avengers are going to continue to be the most serious of the Marvel franchises - if you want levity you gotta hope Guardians 2 is as fun as the first.
I love the new Peter Parker, played by a very young-looking Tom Holland (who is nothing like Tom Hollander). I had totally forgotten about Paul Rudd / Ant Man's appearance, so I was delighted to see him. Ant Man and Spider-Man provide the only levity in this movie.
Embassy Cinema Waltham, with Adam, Screen 5

May 1, 2016


After finding an unrepentant pedophile, Pfeiffer
surveys the neighborhood with new eyes.
A powerful, amazing true story. As good an investigative journalism movie as All The President's Men, if not better. Also a tough watch for me, a native of the Boston area, as the culture that created, sustained, and ignored the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal is revealed in its ugly, inert reality.
Thanks to Em for insisting I watch it- it's essential viewing for any New Englander, and any supporter of our free press.
It's not only a grim history lesson: it's a visceral story with terrific performances. I was especially amazed by Rachel McAdams as Sascha Pfeiffer - her doorstep performance as she interviews a unrepentant pedophile priest was gripping- you could see her character absorb and adapt to the shocking information she's receiving while also not breaking her role as a journalist, and trying to squeeze as much information out of this monster while she has the opportunity. McAdams is juggling three different emotions and motivations all at the same time and it was captivating. With Emily on Amazon Prime Instant Video

156 Four Day Weekend

  1. "I Was Made For Sunny Days" • The Weepies
  2. "Doo Wop (That Thing)" • Lauryn Hill
  3. "If Not For You" • Bob Dylan
  4. "Back On The Chain Gang" • Pretenders
  5. "Like A Star" • Corinne Bailey Rae
  6. "5-15" • The Who
  7. "Get Up Off Your Knees" • The Housemartins
  8. "The Crack Up" • Johnny Marr
  9. "Water Under The Bridge" • Adele
  10. "Armageddon It" • Def Leppard
  11. "Love Will Find A Way" • Yes
  12. "Move It On Over" • George Thorogood & The Destroyers
  13. "Shoot the Curl" • The Honeys
  14. "Graceland" [unplugged] • Paul Simon
  15. "Return To Sender" • Elvis Presley
  16. "Landed" • Ben Folds
  17. "Take Me With U" • Prince & The Revolution
  18. "Ask" • The Smiths
  19. "Dead Flowers" • Townes Van Zandt
  20. "The Movie" • Aerosmith
Playlist finalized around May 2016.

March 26, 2016

The Money Pit Is Well Shot

Unwinding and watching The Money Pit this weekend, I appreciated how well it is shot, especially compared to other Tom Hanks comedies of the 80s, like The Burbs.
For example, there's one clever shot in The Money Pit where Anna and Max are haggling over a painting Anna wants to sell to Max. They walk down a Manhattan sidewalk, cross Park Avenue and East 56th Street, and enter a Mercedes dealership. The whole shot is done in one take from inside the showroom picture window (see screenshots). I exclaimed to Emily "this is shot like a Woody Allen movie!" and I was more right than I knew:
The Money Pit was shot by legendary cinematographer Gordon Willis, who shot that extremely long take of Alvy (aka "Max") Singer and his friend Rob as they walk down a long stretch of East 66th Street in Annie Hall (12 blocks north and 9 years earlier).
Willis also shot a bunch more Woody Allen films, and some other famous movies, such as Klute, The Parallax View, Presumed Innocent, and The Godfather trilogy!
Meanwhile, I love The Burbs, but it's shot on Universal's "Wisteria Lane" back lot (of Desperate Housewives fame) and it looks like a overlit television show. Sure enough, it was shot by Robert M. Stevens, who has shot a handful of feature films, and a lot of television.

When the shot begins you can barely seen Anna and Max in the distance. Here they're crossing Park Avenue...

Stepping onto the sidewalk...

Entering the showroom...

...and into the Mercedes showroom, all in one shot.

March 19, 2016

Thunderball Re-Evaluated

I have always liked Sean Connery's underwater classic Thunderball. I suspect it's one of the Bond films that ABC used to show as their Movie of the Week on Sunday evenings? Last year I discovered it's not universally loved, while listening to the James Bonding podcast. So when a slew of Bond films became available for free (again) on Amazon Prime Video, I put my critical hat on and tried it again.
I have seen the movie many times but the plot is confusing when you pay attention to it, especially the first act:
In the cold open (before Tom Jones sings the terrific theme song), Bond attends the funeral of SPECTRE's Number 6, Jacque Bolvar, who has faked his death and then attends his own funeral in drag as his own grieving widow. Why does he risk this? Bond susses out the ruse, follows him home, and after a furniture-wrecking melee, murders Number Six. Bond recovers from his injuries (getting whacked by Number 6 with a fireplace poker) at a health clinic.
Hard to be intimidated by a supervillain
who drives a white Ford T-Bird convertible?
Meanwhile SPECTRE's Number 2, Emilio Largo, has hatched a scheme to steal an RAF bomber for its two atomic bombs, then extort millions from the world's governments. NATO pilot Major Francois Derval has been invited to fly on the bomber. SPECTRE has recruited a pilot "Mr. Angelo" to undergo reconstructive surgery to mimic Derval. Mr. Angelo, face wrapped in bandages to conceal his "Derval" face, is at the same health clinic as Bond pretending to be recovering from a terrible car crash.
The actor who plays SPECTRE #5
also played Delbert Grady in The Shining.

Mr. Angelo visits Major Derval - where SPECTRE agent Fiona has been seducing him - kills the pilot, and replaces him. They bring Derval's corpse to the spa to complete the swap. It's just bad luck for SPECTRE (and clunky screenwriting for the movie) that James Bond is recuperating at the same clinic as your NATO impostor, but it's sloppy espionage to "sneak" a dead body into the clinic in an ambulance, under a red blanket?
Thunderball features Bond at his most predatory. The filmmaker's sexual philosophy seems to be "women don't want to have sex with Bond, but intercourse with Bond is so pleasurable to the woman, by forcing himself on them, he's doing the women a favor - 'you might not think you want to screw me, but you'll be thanking me later.'"
While recuperating at the spa, a SPECTRE agent attempts to kill Bond, but he's saved at the last moment by Pat the masseuse. Pat takes responsibility for the "accident", and Bond exploits this misunderstanding to extort sex from her in exchange for his silence. Thanks to the filmmakers' sexual philosophy, in the aftermath of this sexual bargain, Pat seems to have enjoyed this sex-for-silence deal.
The band (in the red vests) are "playing" their instruments
but the filmmakers forgot to add any music for this slow dance scene?

Some scattered thoughts and ideas while rewatching Thunderball:
  • I love that the front for SPECTRE's headquarters in Paris is the charitable "International Brotherhood for the Assistance of Stateless Persons" - an especially relevant cause during the Syrian migrant crisis of 2016!
  • Everybody in SPECTRE wears octopus signet rings, which seems to give away their membership in this secret cadre, so why do they wear them?
  • Every new car in the movie is a Ford or a Lincoln. Largo drives a white T-Bird convertible - in Paris no less - the redhead Fiona drives a sky-blue Mustang convertible, and Bond drives an enormous Continental while visting the Bahamas.
  • Great score, and good theme song sung enthusiastically by Tom Jones.
Love love Q's pineapple-print tropical shirt!


February 29, 2016

155 May Be February?

  1. "Policy of Truth" ∴ Depeche Mode
  2. "Making Time" ∴ The Creation, best known for its use in the movie Rushmore.
  3. "Kids" ∴ MGMT. Maybe I am fed up with this mode of soulless disaffected alt-rockers, as if they're too cool to care about what they're singing about. Also, this song is 5 minutes long? This song goes on way too long to be worth five whole minutes. I am cutting a radio edit in my mind right now...
  4. "I Don't Sleep, I Dream" ∴ From R.E.M.'s "rock guitars" record, the post-grunge Monster, the lyrics sound vaguely sexual but are unsexily performed half-spoken, half-falsetto.
  5. "Twentieth Century Boy" ∴ Great riff, and fine female backing chorus on this T.Rex glam gem.
  6. "Let's Dance" ∴ RIP David Bowie! My first reaction to his death was disbelief. I could hardly believe Bowie could do something as boring as die. Then I discovered his farewell album Blackstar made his death almost meaningful, and on his own terms. Looking back at "Let's Dance"- Terrific production from Nile Rodgers - I love the reverb on Bowie's voice, the woodblock percussion, and the horn-guitar riff. Of course, don't forget Stevie Ray Vaughn on lead guitar. A kickass party band played this song at our company kickoff party in January 2016.
  7. "Back On Top" ∴ Nice baritone harmonica riff on this Van Morrison song sounds almost like a saxophone.
  8. "Chains" ∴ The Beatles cover a Goffin/King song for their debut LP Please Please Me- I recently heard this song on the American Masters: Carole King PBS special.
  9. "Good Feeling" ∴ Flo Rida featuring Etta James. I did some research and the chorus of this Flo Rida hit single (#3 Hot 100 hit in 2011) samples the Etta James song "Something's Gotta Hold On Me", but Avicii's song "Levels", also samples the James song and is itself sampled, so does that make the Flo Rida a double-nested sample-sample?
  10. "Sour Girl" ∴ Stone Temple Pilots. Scott Weiland was so troubled I don't think anyone was surprised he finally succumbed to his drug demons.
  11. "Walk The Wire" ∴ A terrific guitar riff from Boy & Bear
  12. "The Last of the Famous International Playboys" ∴ Morrissey
  13. "Passionate Kisses" ∴ Mary Chapin Carpenter
  14. "Let 'em Say" ∴ Lizzo.  I heard this song in the pre-titles cold open of Season 3, Episode 1 of Broad City.
  15. "Random Name Generator" ∴ I am still bitter that my wife and I paid big bucks to go see Wilco  at the Solid Sound festival in 2015, but they played nothing from their upcoming "surprise" album Star Wars. I consider that festival, with its premium three-day weekend pricing, to be a special event for superfans, so it hurt my feelings that we were not treated to their new material.
  16. "The One Thing" ∴ I became a fan of INXS with the album Listen Like Thieves, and a superfan of their CD Kick, but now I'm trying to appreciate their earlier material.
  17. "Back to Black" ∴ I've been told the Amy Winehouse documentary AMY is really good, I gotta check it out.
  18. "Opening Up" ∴ Sara Bareilles. From the wonderful bound-for-Broadway musical Waitress, this opening number has a stomping 4-4 beat that reminds me of ELO's "Mr Blue Sky"...
  19. I followed Bareilles with Jeff Lynne's "Lift Me Up" with a similar 4/4 beat.
  20. "Stoney End" ∴ I never would have imagined I'd include a Barbra Streisand song on a playlist. I am a rock and roller, and Streisand is a square Broadway singer - a middle-of-the-road pop singer at best! But then I fell down the rabbit hole a few months ago and discovered Streisand dabbled in pop-rock in the early 1970s. "Stoney End", her note-for-note cover of a Laura Nyro song, was produced by Richard Perry and hit #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1971. (The song had previously been recorded by Rashida Jones's mother Peggy Lipton but failed to make the Hot 100 in 1968.) The subsequent eponymous LP went platinum.
  21. "Where You Lead" ∴ Carole King, from Tapestry

February 20, 2016


I was on the fence about seeing Deadpool. I like Ryan Reynolds- his comedy Best Friends with Amy Smart and Anna Faris is an underrated gem - but I didn't really know or care about this character, beyond his appearance in the mediocre X-Men Origins: Wolverine movie.
Then, the Monday after it came out, two friends recommended the movie. Two female friends. They both said it was funny, and super-violent, and there's lots of nudity. Word-of-mouth counts for a lot: if someone goes out of their way to say how good a movie is, go see that movie!
So I went to see it and really enjoyed it. The action sequences are exciting, inventive, and funny too. In two parts I laughed harder than I have laughed in the movies for a long time:

  • When Deadpool breaks both hands trying to punch Colossus
  • When the cab driver Dopinder reveals he's abducted his romantic rival and Deadpool secretly congratulates him.

I really enjoyed the Colossus character. He's a total goody-goody in the body of an unstoppable giant. His seemingly endless supply of patience with Deadpool, and his old-fashioned gentlemanliness when Angel Dust pops out of her top, are both charming.

My Issues:
The pacing felt weird - I am not sure the flashback-flashforward format helped make the movie better, except as a vehicle for adding more funny Deadpool voiceover. I appreciate that his true love for Vanessa is the engine that drives Deadpool's quest for vengeance, but their courtship scenes bogged down the momentum.

The villain Ajax, aka Francis, (Ed Skrein) was a real jerk, but he was completely anonymous-looking, and his only mutant powers seemed to be strength and regeneration, the most boring of all.

His hench-woman Angel Dust (Gina Carano) was authentically tough-looking, but again, her mutant powers seem to be "stronger than Colossus" and I don't know what else.

I enjoyed the indifferent grouchiness of Negasonic Teenage Warhead (newcomer Brianna Hildebrand), but I am not sure what her powers actually do? I agree with Deadpool when he hears her name "Negasonic Teenage... what the shit? That's the coolest name ever!"

My grade: A-minus
February 20, with Adam at Woburn

January 13, 2016

Introducing the Star Wars Movies

My six-year-old boy is a budding Star Wars fan. Star Wars had little effect on his pop culture worldview before this year, until his favorite animated show featured a spaceship nearly swallowed by a space worm in a cave. I took this opportunity to introduce my boy to the first 20 minutes of The Empire Strikes Back -minus Darth Vader and the Wampa. Over the last few months, we've shown him the Sail Barge / Sarlacc Pit battle and the Endor speeder chase scenes from Return of the Jedi too. In December one of his kindergarten friends (Cole the Mole) spoiled the whole plot of The Force Awakens to anyone who would listen, and this Christmas the Star Wars toys started pouring into our house. It turns out a six-year-old with a pile of Force Awakens sticker books learns the names of all the characters pretty quick!
So here's my conundrum: Episode Eight comes out in May 2017, 16 months from now. When my boy enters second grade in September 2017, he'll be almost eight. Practically speaking, it's only fair that he get to see at least The Force Awakens and Episode Eight by then. I don't want my son to be exposed to scary scenes, peril, and violence before he's ready, but I also don't want him to be the weirdo second grader who hasn't seen the Star Wars movies!
SO I have 16 months: do I show my son all the Star Wars movies? Do I skip the prequel trilogy, at least for now, and show him the original 4-5-6 this year? Here's my tentative plan:

  1. Spring 2016: A New Hope
  2. Summer 2016: The Empire Strikes Back
  3. Fall 2016: Return of the Jedi
  4. Winter 2017: The Force Awakens
  5. May 2017: Episode Eight