Autumn, Indy, and Dolly

Well, summer seems like it thundered by even faster than usual, and now, somehow, it’s autumn.  We’ve been in the Sage House for two months.  Nearly four months have gone by since we were in Outer Banks.  I attribute this blink-and-you-missed it summer to — aside from, you know, physics — to taking care of majorly sick dogs and packing up and moving from one city to another.  It feels like I’ve been holding my breath the last few months, just trying to get through the next day, week, month — and only now feel like I can exhale.  

Here’s hoping the rest of the year slows down a little bit, and we all have more time to breathe.

I’ve been trying to make the most of the cooler weather: windows open, working on the front porch, walking to get coffee a couple times a week.  Today I walked over to the Short North to pick up a book from Prologue Books I’d ordered a few weeks ago.  The proximity of being within walking distance to cool places like a bookstore is one of the things that I love about being a Columboner.

The book is a new edition of SOURDOUGH, by Robin Sloan, author of the wonderful MR. PENUMBRA’S 24-HOUR BOOKSTORE.

This past week was pretty remarkable in that Jess and I did two, count ‘em, two fun things that involved actually leaving the house.

Last night we caught a showing of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK on the silver screen, which is always fun, but what made it really nifty is that the soundtrack was performed live by the Columbus Symphony, who fucking nailed John Williams’s score.

Even niftier: Jess and I were the only ones (at least on the orchestra level) who were dressed appropriately.

Then last Sunday we trekked back to Dayton for Beg Your Parton, a Banned Books Week event held to raise money for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.  Only maybe a dozen people, including my group of six, showed up at Tender Mercy, the venue, but we more than made up for the low attendance with the vast quantity of drinks we bought.  And I got to spend more time with people I don’t see often enough.  It was a perfect evening.

Of course we dressed thematically appropriate. My hat is from LUXURY DIVAS.

On Robocops and Resistance

This one’s a bit scattered today.  Much like my brain these past few years, ha ha.

On Thursday I had my second and final follow-up appointment with the ENT for my nose surgery.  It is pretty much fully healed and my septum is remarkably undeviated now, which pleased both the doctor and me.  I can generally breathe through both nostrils now, or at least as well as I can expect to during beautiful Ohio’s allergy season.

To anyone who may be on the fence about having surgery to correct a deviated septum, I would say it was totally worth it.  As previously noted, the first week is rough, but things improve a lot once the splints are removed.  I only wish I would have done the surgery years ago.

I’ve been rewatching the ROBOCOP movies over the last couple of weeks. Paul Verhoeven’s original remains a dark and brilliant film. The dystopian corporate culture that ROBOCOP satirized in 1987 doesn’t seem too far removed from our present reality, here in the year of our lord, 2022. I can only imagine how it hit when it came out during the Reagan “Morning in America” era. ROBOCOP doesn’t quite rise to the level of some of Verhoeven’s other sci-fi efforts like TOTAL RECALL or my beloved STARSHIP TROOPERS. But nonetheless — it’s quite good.

ROBOCOP 2 is a hot, uber-serious, boring mess, made even worse by the fact that when the cops go on strike, Robocop crosses the picket line, ultimately putting to rest the question of, “can a robot be a scab?”

I have a fondness for ROBOCOP 3 that I really can’t explain.  It’s much goofier than the first two — a 9-year-old hacker girl reprogramming an ED-209 on the fly to be “loyal as a puppy”? — and Peter Weller is replaced by some other poor bastard who has to wear the Robocop suit, plus there is the addition of a ridiculous gang of dorks who go by the name of the Splatterpunks.  But the story is treated with a humanity that absolutely works for me, and probably only me.  OCP, the villainous corporation throughout the trilogy, has been bought by a Japanese corporation, but they’re still trying to raze Detroit to build their for-rich-people-only Delta City.  In this one, though, they’re now actively forcing people out of their homes, putting them on buses to relocation centers, and some other really fascist shit.  This has resulted in the creation of a resistance movement, which Robocop, his scabbing days now behind him, eventually joins, as do all the cops.  A bit cheesy?  Yes.  But who doesn’t love a good resistance story?  Gods know we can use them these days.

Also, this piece of anti-OCP graffiti is really great:

I mean, they’re not wrong.

In case you missed it earlier in the week, I linked to this wonderful story about a journalist who accidentally discovered his wife was the world’s best Tetris player. As someone who is both a cynic and an idealist, it’s good for my soul to read a sweet story like this from time-to-time.

And now I am signing off so we can go to a baby welcoming for some dear friends.

Keep your head down and your chin up, and have a good week.

Take This Job and Shovel It: A Sandra Bullock Appreciation Post

The other weekend, Jess and I spent a lovely few days with Sandra Bullock.  It started on a Friday night, when we were in the mood to watch something light and funny, so we settled on TWO WEEKS NOTICE.  Then, the next day, while on an excursion in Cincinnati, we decided we wanted to see the new Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum movie, THE LOST CITY, and would do so on Sunday.  Jess then had the fabulous idea to watch THE PROPOSAL that night, and have our own little Sandra Bullock film festival. And in true film festival tradition, I have thoughts, shared below, which will be aided by a rating classification scale of one through four Sandra Bullocks.

TWO WEEKS NOTICE ‒ I had not seen TWO WEEKS NOTICE before, and I thought it was good but not great.  Sandra Bullock is fine in it, but Hugh Grant is almost too charmingly befuddled even by Hugh Grant standards.  The set-up of Bullock coming to work briefly for Grant and then giving two weeks notice was awkwardly handled, but it had some cute moments. I know it’s not the main point of these films — or a minor one, really — but between TWO WEEKS NOTICE and THE PROPOSAL, it really hammers home the importance of establishing and ruthlessly maintaining clear boundaries between one’s work and personal lives. My rating for TWO WEEKS NOTICE:

THE PROPOSAL ‒ I didn’t catch THE PROPOSAL when it came out, which was a mistake on Past Josh’s part, because it was sooo good.  Bullock nails the grumpy and reluctant rom-com lead, which really seems like her bread and butter when it comes to film roles, and the rest of cast, which includes Ryan Reynolds and fucking Betty White, just shine.  The power imbalance of “boss forcing employee to pretend to be married to her” comes off as a bit cringey now, and is the only thing keeping this movie from getting a full four Sandra Bullocks.

THE LOST CITY ‒ I am a really big fan of ROMANCING THE STONE, from which THE LOST CITY — with its clueless romance novelist caught up in a jungle adventure and looking for a mysterious lost MacGuffin plot — pulls more than a little inspiration.  Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum, as her Fabio-inspired dustjacket cover model, have good chemistry and play well off each other.  The film’s story moves along pretty quickly, there are a couple of really funny gags, and is an overall pleasing-level of dumb fun.  Brad Pitt plays a small role and effortlessly steals the scenes he’s in.  If ever there were a movie made to be watched on an airplane, THE LOST CITY is it.  A solid three Sandra Bullocks!

I have a feeling there will be future Sandra Bullock movies in our future, which probably means more reviews, so stay tuned.

Rebooted

Sarah brought this clever short movie to my attention.  It helps that I’m a sucker for JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS-stop motion skeleton monsters.

It’s not easy for a movie-star to age – especially when you’re a stop motion animated skeleton monster.
Phil, once a terrifying villain of the silver-screen, struggles to find work in modern Hollywood due to being an out-of-date special effect.

Recently Watched, Jan 2020

Interested in a few microreviews of movies and TV shows I’ve watched recently? Too bad, you’re getting them anyway.

BLACK DYNAMITE: A blaxpoitation movie that is less a parody and more an homage, and just as funny now as it was ten years ago. There are many great bits to this movie, but my favorite? Donuts don’t wear alligator shoes:

THE WIDOW: A fairly bleak thriller about a woman who believes her husband died in a plane crash until she sees him on news footage, so it’s off to the Congo to solve the mystery. I liked this fairly well. The Congo made for an interesting setting, and Kate Beckinsale is quite good as a determined woman who’s gone through some trauma and is trying to keep her shit together long enough to find her husband. An eight episode, limited series on Amazon was a good format for this type of show. I wish more filmmakers would go this route.

CASABLANCA: Just a fucking classic. I’ll say no more, except that I just now remembered I need to see if I own copies of THE BIG SLEEP and THE MALTESE FALCON.

RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD: What an ugly, miserable film. The John Rambo of this film is so far removed from the tragic figure of the first film, that I sincerely wonder what Sylvester Stallone was thinking when he wrote the script. I’m so mad I sat through the whole thing.

KNIVES OUT: An old school whodunnit in the vein of CLUE that’s clever, funny, and brilliantly casted. Daniel Craig as detective Benoit Blanc is wonderful, but Chris Evans steals his scenes as a sort of anti-Steve Rogers. This and READY OR NOT were my favorite movies from 2019.

V: The original miniseries from 1983 about alien Visitors who one day show up all over the world in big shiny ships. Instead of pulling an INDEPENDENCE DAY, the Visitors want to help humanity by stealing our jorbs resources, and eating our small rodents. More than a little cheesy now, yes, but it is still a surprisingly effective allegory for Nazi-occupied Europe. Also it stars Marc Fucking Singer, so now I’m ready to watch THE BEASTMASTER again.

6 UNDERGROUND: A Michael Bay-directed, Ryan Reynolds-starring, Netflix original (??) that was frenetic and incoherent, and just unwatchably dumb, and I turned it off after ten minutes.

UNDERWATER: ALIEN, but set on the ocean floor. The plot made little sense, but Shit Starts Getting Real within the first five minutes, which was an interesting approach to take. Worth watching when it eventually hits Netflix/Amazon/etc.

ELEMENTARY: We’ve been watching this pretty much nonstop since September and we’re now somewhere in the middle of the fifth season. I’ve seen it before — except for the last season — but Jess hasn’t. The platonic chemistry between Johnny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu is everything. Easily my favorite filmed adaptation of Sherlock Holmes

THE GOOD LIAR: A twisty, witty thriller with Sir Ian McKellan and Dame Helen Mirren as the leads? Count me in. This was quite good.

PICARD Trailer

The new trailer for STAR TREK: PICARD dropped yesterday, and it legit brought a tear to my eye.

“You really want to go back out into the cold?”

“More than ever.”

Goosebumps.

PICARD drops in January, so now I have a reason to actually look forward to that hell month.

Ghostbusters: The Remakening

I finally got around to seeing the new GHOSTBUSTERS the other day. Several weeks of travel this past month, while quite fun, kept me from seeing a few movies that recently came out that I really wanted to. So I was really happy to be able to catch this one.

So how was it?

Really, really entertaining. Easily my favorite film so far this year.

Other than keeping to the same general premise — three nutty scientists and a black civilian prosper off the extrajudicial imprisonment of the spirits of the dead — the movie charts its own course plot- and tone-wise. These are all good things for this film, which helped to keep the pacing brisk and the jokes funny. Highlights include a bit of role reversal with Chris Hemsworth as the team’s beefcakey secretary, several amusing sequences of the team testing out new ghostbusting implements, and Kate McKinnon’s Dr. Jillian Holtzmann, who is brilliantly quirky and hilarious. I hope to see a lot of kids cosplaying her for many years to come. Hell, I would go as her for Halloween.

I’ve seen this movie take a lot of shit online, largely because it stars a cast of — gasp — all women. Women who are smart, capable, and funny in a film that pretty much passes the Bechdel Test with flying colors. Apparently there exists a certain class of dude who felt that remaking GHOSTBUSTERS with an all-female cast was so terrible that it was going to ruin their childhoods. Well, good. If the adventures of lady ghostbusters is the sort of thing that is the Ruiner of Childhood to you, then you’re probably an entitled manchild with a chip on your shoulder, and not meriting of much sympathy. Get over it.

Anyways, to sum up: GHOSTBUSTERS is a ton of fun. You should go see it, if for nothing else that to become acquainted with Jillian Holtzmann.

holtzmann_wink

JOY-less

Earlier in the week I saw JOY, and I’ve been thinking about it off-and-on since — but not in a good way.

JOY is the Jennifer Lawrence-starring film about a woman who invents a new type of mop, and despite her truly awful family, manages to sell it on QVC — the setting is the early 90’s — and eventually becomes a hugely successful entrepreneur.  The plot itself is compelling, and Lawrence is entertaining and believable in the title role, as she tends to be in almost all of her movies.

No, what makes this movie so frustrating to watch is the rest of the characters.  With the exception of Joy, her grandmother, ex-husband, and the bigwig at QVC who eventually lets her sell her product, I loathed the rest of the characters.  They — “they” largely consisting of her family — use and belittle her, treat her continuously like crap.  And she just takes it.  I understand that, for narrative purposes, there need to be obstacles in the way of her achieving her objectives.  But c’mon: must that require we hate 90% of the film’s characters in the process

About an hour into the movie, as Joy’s fortunes are starting to change for the better, I whispered to my sister, “I hope at the end she never talks to any of her goddamn family again.”  Honestly, Joy could snapped in the middle of the film, and spent the second half hunting down and killing her family off one by one, and I would have been cheering.

The ending is satisfying, but her family was still alive as the credits began to roll, so I won’t say it was a happy ending.

joy_poster

Good? Bad? I’m the guy with the gun.

THE FORCE AWAKENS

Caught a showing of THE FORCE AWAKENS tonight, which marks my second time seeing it. I enjoyed it in a slightly different manner this time, in that I was able to pay attention to more of the details, instead of being happily 100% absorbed in the tale unfolding on the screen.

John Scalzi has a good review that encapsulates a lot of my feelings — especially going in the first time, when I was still slightly terrified that it still turn out to be a clusterfuck of a film like the prequel trilogy.

I do disagree with Scalzi’s assertion that THE FORCE AWAKENS is just a good film, and not a great one. J.J. Abrams and the writers did a fantastic job at capturing the feel of the original trilogy. The reintroduction of Han, Leia, and Luke was done in a natural way, which acknowledged that time had passed and people had changed, but in believable and interesting way. They weren’t just shoehorned in to introduce the new cast. Speaking of the new cast: they were phenomenal, especially Daisy Ridley’s character, Rey. She’s very much in the Luke Skywalker tradition, except less whiny and a lot more independent (at the beginning of the film, she is a scavenger on a desert planet who lives by herself, and who beats the shit out of people who try to take her things). The villain of the piece, Kylo Ren, definitely hearkens back to Darth Vader, in both a figurative and literal way, without simply being Vader 2.0. I’ll be curious to see where both his and Rey’s characters go in later installments. (Side note: the Emo Kylo Ren Twitter account is damned amusing (but spoiler-y).)

I won’t go into the plot, but I’ve read some complaints that it is too similar to A NEW HOPE[1]. It’s a takeon the Hero’s Journey, like the original was, with some similar locations. (For more Hero’s Journeys, see also: THE MATRIX, THE HUNGER GAMES, and Moses.) While they do share some parallel themes, it’s not like THE FORCE AWAKENS is a shot-for-shot remake of the original.

If I have one quibble with the story, it’s that I’m a little unclear on the political make-up of the galaxy in this new era.  There is a new Republic, and also a Resistance movement, both of whom seem to be fighting against the First Order (AKA the new Empire).  It seems a little needlessly convoluted, but it’s not enough to bother me. Honestly, I’m just happy that people didn’t spend half the film having politicians debate and moralize like they did in the prequels.

What makes THE FORCE AWAKENS great, I think, is that, aside from being an exciting and well-made movie, it’s captured the public’s imagination in a way that hasn’t happened, really, since A NEW HOPE came out nearly forty years. People are seeing it multiple times, blathering about it, like me, to each other constantly, and a shit-ton of merchandise is being sold everywhere. It’s Star Wars fever again, which I was as surprised to learn as anyone that I am not immune to. I thought that ship had sailed years ago, after a terrible trilogy of films and an ever-increasing shitty bunch of books.

That’s probably the highest compliment I can pay THE FORCE AWAKENS. It made me love Star Wars again.

1 In my head it is and always will be just STAR WARS, not A NEW HOPE. But when talking about the numerous movies, that can get a little confusing. So A NEW HOPE it is, albeit reluctantly.

KRAMPUS’d

So KRAMPUS was an odd movie.  It was directed by Michael Dougherty, the same fellow who made TRICK ‘R TREAT, which I only saw a couple of months ago for the first time.  It was weird, funny, had some genuinely entertaining plot twists, and overall was quite good, so my hope was that KRAMPUS would be in a similar vein.  Going in, the PG-13 rating put me off a little, since clearly horror movies should always by rated R, as God intended.  The plot was a little bit CHRISTMAS VACATION, with a dash of HOME ALONE and GREMLINS thrown in, and of didn’t make a whole lot of sense.  Around the end of the first act, which was mostly establishing “this extended family is so nutty and dysfunctional!,” the tone made a sharp one-eighty when the family began getting picked off one-by-one.  On the positive side, the casting was spot-on, and the monsters, which were creepy takes on traditional Christmas tropes, looked great.  The movie also had a lot of funny scenes, which shouldn’t have surprised me because TRICK ‘R TREAT also did.  The ending, though, felt forced, made no sense, and can eat a dick.

KRAMPUS wasn’t bad by any means, and had several clever moments, but it felt like the filmmakers weren’t sure who their target audience was or what tone to strike, and as a result the film suffered for it.  In the end, though, I’m not mad I saw it.

After the movie: dinner at Salar, a somewhat swank Peruvian restaurant, followed by a drink at Century bar, and then back to my place to get a little drunk and watch GINGER SNAPS, another horror classic.