Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Thundarr Road | Fortress of Fear

Still in Los Angeles, Thundarr, Ariel, and Ookla encounter slaves that need freeing from possibly the most powerful wizard our heroes have encountered yet. Celebrate the freedom in this freedom-packed episode of freedom.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The Widow

Who's in it?: Kate Beckinsale (Much Ado About Nothing, Cold Comfort Farm, the Underworld movies), Alex Kingston (River Song on Doctor Who), and Charles Dance (The Golden ChildAlien³Game of Thrones).

What's it about?: A woman (Beckinsale) goes looking for her supposedly dead husband when she thinks she spots him on a TV news report.

How is it?: It's not going to be for everyone, but I really really enjoyed The Widow. I recommended it to a friend who's a big Alex Kingston fan, but he couldn't get through it. It stuck with me though and I'm currently rewatching it with Diane.

The mysteries (there are many) unfold slowly. There are multiple plot lines that eventually converge, but the mini-series takes its time revealing how they're connected. It's non-linear with tons of flashbacks that sometimes uncover aspects of the story that you didn't even know were mysteries. For me, that means that it gets increasingly richer and deeper as it goes, but it could be frustrating for some. And then there are some of the mysteries whose revelations are fairly mundane. If you're looking for Lost or 24-like twists, you'll be disappointed. The Widow is exciting, but it's also very grounded and real.

The two things I liked best about it - no, three things if I count just spending time with Beckinsale and Dance (who plays an ally of Beckinsale helping with her investigation) - are the setting and one of the big themes. The series is mostly set in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which is part of the world I knew very little about. I feel like I know it better now though (it reminds me a lot of Haiti, which I've visited) and that's a very cool aspect of the show. I also like that it shows multiple sides of living in the DRC, both positive and negative.

Even better than that, I love the relentlessness of Beckinsale's character. She constantly makes choices where the potential consequences seem so much bigger than her ability to handle them. And while I don't exactly worry for her (she's the star of the thing after all) the tone is so real that I constantly wonder how she's going to make it through whatever situation she's about to rush into. Her perseverance is head-scratching at first, but it quickly moves to admirable and finally becomes the whole point of the show, which contrasts her with weaker-willed characters. What I thought was just a cool way of driving action becomes a remarkable, provocative challenge to face trials and struggles in my own life with courage and determination, as opposed to avoiding them or ignoring them until they solve themselves.

Rating: Four out of five single-minded spouses.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Filthy Horrors | Ghost Stories

Darla, Jess, and I eat at a haunted restaurant then talk about three of our favorite ghost movies: Poltergeist (1982), The Orphanage (2007), and The Woman in Black (2012).


Friday, March 15, 2019

Dragonfly Ripple | Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)

David and I finish our MCU rewatch (before watching the brand new Captain Marvel, anyway) with a discussion of what Ant-Man and the Wasp adds to the series.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Hellbent for Letterbox | Buffalo Boys (2018)

Pax and I talk about the Indonesian Western Buffalo Boys by director Mike Wiluan. Also, Pax reads more Hex (guest-starring Batman!?) and I watch Charles Bronson as Wild Bill Hickok in The White Buffalo.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Dragonfly Ripple | Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

David and I walk through the Infinity War scene by scene, reliving the adventure and speculating about what's to come.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Fourth Chair Army Invasion | Live-Action Disney Remakes

Disney loves making live-action versions of its cartoon library, but how many of them are actually good? Geek Kay and Christian Nielsen join me to talk about the phenomenon and also figure out how we'd approach remaking Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Hercules, The Three Caballeros, and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Friday, March 08, 2019

Dragonfly Ripple | Black Panther (2018)

David and I spend some extra time on Black Panther, going through the film scene by scene; talking about our favorite parts as well as a couple of things we (well, I, really) didn't like.

Thursday, March 07, 2019

The ABC Murders (2018)

Who's in it?: John Malkovich (Dangerous Liaisons, Mary Reilly, The Man in the Iron Mask, Jonah Hex), Rupert Grint (the Harry Potter movies), and Shirley Henderson (Rob RoyHarry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets)

What's it about?: A serial killer taunts aging Hercule Poirot into coming out of retirement and braving nationalistic bigotry to solve murders in post-WWI England.

How is it?: It's a great mystery, because c'mon, Agatha Christie. But Malkovich is sadly not a good Poirot. I've been reading the first couple of Poirot novels since re-falling in love with the character thanks to Kenneth Branagh's Murder on the Orient Express. So I've got a definite vision of who Poirot is and what he looks and acts like. Malkovich isn't him. His mustache is absolutely mundane and he doesn't fuss over his appearance at all. His beard lacks symmetry, which wouldn't be a problem for any other character, but it's unimaginable for Poirot.

And then there's the detective's grumpy, depressed personality. That's a script problem, but still an issue. The adaptation is eager to be relevant and includes a subplot about English nationalism and a distrust of foreigners. Poirot has always been an outsider to English society, but the literary version handles that status with humor, grace, and a great deal of pride. Malkovich's Poirot has been worn down by it.

That's not the only change in the character, either. The mini-series questions the traditional narrative that Poirot was a Belgian police officer before coming to England to do private detective work. It builds a new, cynical backstory for the character that I found unnecessary. And that's the heart of my problem with The ABC Murders. Poirot is shoved sideways into an adaptation that's desperate to be relevant and unashamed about changing the character to support the themes. In my opinion, if you have an established character who's at odds with the theme of your story, it's the theme that needs reworking, not the character.

Bonus points for Rupert Grint as the lead police detective though. I always enjoy seeing him.

Rating: Three out of five little grey cells.

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

A Little Princess (1995)

Who's in it?: Liesel Matthews (Air Force One), Eleanor Bron (Help!, Absolutely Fabulous), and Liam Cunningham (First Knight)

What's it about?: A young English girl named Sara (Matthews) enters an American boarding school when her father (Cunningham) goes to war. But her positive outlook is challenged when her dad is reported dead, his finances frozen, and the school's sour headmistress (Bron) changes Sara's status from privileged student to persecuted servant.

How is it?: This was my second time seeing this version of A Little Princess (there's a 1939 adaptation starring Shirley Temple that's also quite good). I watched it back in the day mostly because it was directed by Alfonso Cuarón, but also because it's based on a book by Frances Hodgson Burnett, author of the enjoyable gothic novel for children, The Secret Garden.

A Little Princess is absolutely lovely and I fell for it just as hard the second time. Sara is an amazing character who proves that her optimism and kindness are not tied to her circumstances. Some horrible things happen to her, but she's a source of light and warmth to everyone she meets. Especially other girls in the school who are struggling. Sara insists that all girls are princesses, which sounds trite and naive until it becomes clear that what she actually means is that all girls have value, even the ones causing her to suffer. It's a moving example of loving one's enemies and as soon as I finished it, I contacted my local bookstore to order a copy of the novel.

Rating: Five out of five hardy heroines.

Friday, March 01, 2019

Mystery Movie Night | The Hustler (1961), Caddyshack (1980), and The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)

David leads Erik, Evan, Dave, and I in a discussion of billiards, Baby Ruths, and Blockbuster Video.

00:01:34 - Review of The Hustler

00:13:53 - Review of Caddyshack

00:32:41 - Review of The Lost World: Jurassic Park

00:57:15 - Guessing the Connection

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Wonder Man (1945)

Who's in it?: Danny Kaye (White Christmas), Virginia Mayo (Captain Horatio Hornblower RN), and Vera-Ellen (also White Christmas)

What's it about?: When a nightclub comedian is murdered by the mob, his ghost teams up with his nerdy twin brother to bring the killers to justice.

How is it?: Danny Kaye's second movie was also the screen debut of Vera-Ellen, who teams up with him again in White Christmas. I'm going to need to watch through her filmography alongside Kaye's. She's amazing in White Christmas and her dancing is just as impressive in Wonder Man where she plays another nightclub performer who's dating Kaye's comedian character.

I like the story here much more than Up in Arms. Kaye is great in both of his roles, but he's especially funny as the hapless, introverted, totally uncomfortable bookworm who sees a ghost that nobody else can. Virgina Mayo plays the woman that the academic brother is interested in and she's great, too.

Rating: Four out of five wacky, but vengeful ghosts.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Hellbent for Letterbox | Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)

Pax's last few picks have been building to this and we're finally here. He introduces me to the George Roy Hill classic, written by the legendary William Goldman (Rest in Peace) and starring the best-looking, most charming men of '70s cinema.

Pax also looks at the related Mrs. Sundance, Wanted: The Sundance Woman, and Butch and Sundance: The Early Days. And I talk about watching a listener-recommended show, the short-lived Peacemakers starring Tom Berenger. All this and some Pony Express.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Sólo con Tu Pareja (1991)

Who's in it?: Daniel Giménez Cacho, whom I didn't know from anything else. Also very many other talented actors whom I also didn't know.

What's it about?: When a philanderer (Cacho) two-times the nurse who's processing the test results from his latest physical, she sends him a fake report that says he has HIV. Just in time for him to for really for true fall in love with his new neighbor.

How is it?: In addition to Danny Kaye, I'm also going to work through Alfonso Cuarón's filmography this year. He's been one of my favorite directors for a while, but there are key films of his that I haven't seen and I want to correct that. I want to move him to Favorite Director of All Time, but that claim needs some validating.

Sólo con Tu Pareja (English translation: Only with Your Partner) was Cuarón's first feature film, but you can't tell that from looking at it. It's impressive. Leave it to Cuarón to direct a comedy about AIDS and suicide that's both moving and funny. Cacho's character is a lech, but he's also super charming and I understand why he's so successful at seduction. The film is beautiful to look at too, with photography by three-time Oscar winning cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (Gravity, The Bird Man, The Revenant). Considering the subject matter (which I felt bad laughing about), Sólo con Tu Pareja is an amazing achievement.

Rating: Four out of five pleasant players.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Dragonfly Ripple | Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

David and I talk about the funniest Marvel movie, whether the humor works for us as part of the MCU, and how Ragnarok changes everything.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Up in Arms (1944)

I miss doing these short movie reviews. And since I'm watching my way through a couple of filmographies this year, I thought it might be nice to document them instead of just briefly mentioning them in my Year End Wrap-Up next January.

Who's in it?: Danny Kaye (White Christmas), Dinah Shore (lots of '70s variety and sketch shows), Dana Andrews (Night of the Demon, Laura), and Constance Dowling (whom I didn't know before, but dang she's cute)

What's it about?: It's J Geils Band's "Love Stinks": The Movie. She loves him, but he loves her, but she loves somebody else. In the military.

How is it?: After enjoying Danny Kaye for years in annual viewings of White Christmas, I decided to finally look at some of his other films this year. This was his first starring role and it's a funny one, though not as hilarious as I expected.

Shore is in love with Kaye who's in love with Dowling who's in love with Andrews who (in a not so shocking twist) is actually in love with Dowling back. There's a lot of lead-up before the four of them join the army and are deployed to the South Pacific. The plot is extremely loose, really just something to hang some wacky hi-jinx and mediocre songs on, but it's easy to see why Kaye became a star. He and Shore (whose voice gets a lot of deserved attention) do some cool scat singing, which I enjoy. And it's always nice to see Dana Andrews.

Rating: Three out of five singing soldiers.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Filthy Horrors | Frankenstein Is the Monster

Darla, Jess, and I get flustered about Frankenstein. Or maybe that's just Kenneth Branagh's abs. And maybe that's mostly me. At any rate, we cover the Mary Shelley biopic starring Elle Fanning, the novel itself, and more movie adaptations than you can shake a pitchfork (or a torch) at.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Fourth Chair Army Invasion | M Night Shyamalan’s Shattered Trilogy

On this month's Fourth Chair Army Invasion at Nerd Lunch, Shawn Robare, Evan Hanson, and I talk about the career of M Night Shyamalan, focusing mostly on what makes Unbreakable and Split so good and whether Glass is a worthy follow-up.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Hellbent for Letterbox | Shane (1953)

Pax and I come back (get it?) to shoot the breeze about George Stevens' classic Shane, starring Alan Ladd, Van Heflin, and Jean Arthur. Is Marian in love with Shane? Is Joey the most annoying character in cinema? What's up with that ending? And how do Batman and the Little Rascals fit into all this?

There's also Pony Express mail and short discussions of the Wrong Reel podcast's Billy the Kid episode and a couple of films: Blood on the Moon and Woman Walks Ahead.

Friday, February 08, 2019

Thursday, February 07, 2019

Nerd Lunch | Solo Drill Down

No, seriously. For real this time.

It was great getting together again with the Nerd Lunch Star Wars panel to talk about the Han Solo prequel, how it worked as a space adventure story, as a prequel, and whether it changed our perceptions and opinions on the whole concept of Star Wars anthology films.

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Dragonfly Ripple | Doctor Strange (2016)

David and Michael meet about the Master of the Mystic Arts, what's great about his film, and why it isn't higher on their list of MCU favorites.

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

"The Luck of Some Weird Dice"

I read a short, but cool interview with Ethan Hawke last week in Cowboys & Indians magazine. He was talking about the movie Blaze that he directed about relatively obscure singer-songwriter Blaze Foley. Turns out, Foley's obscurity is part of what drew Hawke to his story.

I haven't traditionally been a huge fan of Hawke's work, but he's been growing on me in recent years and I think he's an interesting dude. I love the generosity expressed here about Foley and other artists and the fickleness of success. Hawke's talking about musicians and actors, but of course it applies to writers, visual artists, bloggers, podcasters, or whatever creative enterprise you might find yourself in.
When I heard the story of Blaze Foley, I thought about my own perceived success, and how it juxtaposed with so many artists who are met with indifference and hostility because of the luck of some weird dice. Maybe it was a reflection or a residue of guilt. That's the negative way of looking at it. But I prefer to think of Blaze as an expression of love and wondering and respect for all the people who I've seen who didn't have the easy path that Dead Poets Society created for me.

Monday, February 04, 2019

My 20 Most Anticipated Movies of 2019

It's fun to think about what's coming out and which movies I'm most interested in, then compare that at the end of the year to what I actually enjoyed. Of my 20 Most Anticipated last year, 11 of them turned out to be Top 20 movies for me, so that's pretty cool. Those were Mary Poppins ReturnsJurassic World: Fallen KingdomGame NightPacific Rim: UprisingMission: Impossible - Fallout, AquamanAnt-Man and the WaspScorched EarthBlack PantherAvengers: Infinity War, and Solo).

Sadly, two of my Most Anticipated movies never had wide releases in the US, so I wasn't able to see them. Mary Magdalene was released overseas, but never here. And We Have Always Lived in the Castle was only at the Los Angeles Film Festival. I'm still especially disappointed about that.

Two of them (A Quiet Place and Rampage) I just never got around to for scheduling reasons, but not because my excitement diminished.

So that leaves five that were disappointing in some way. Of those, I've seen and was moderately underwhelmed by three (Tomb Raider, Incredibles 2, and Ocean's Eight) and thanks to delays and trailers, lost enthusiasm for two others (Mowgli and The Nutcracker and the Four Realms) before they were released. I'm still planning to see them; I'm just not as enthusiastic as I was at the beginning of last year.

So here's what I'm most eager to see this year. As always, these aren't the movies that I'm predicting will be the best; just the ones that I most want to see.

20. Charlie's Angels

I'm a fan of the concept and I'm especially a fan of the 2000/2003 version with Lucy Liu, Drew Barrymore, and Cameron Diaz. This time around it's Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, and I think Ella Balinska. None of those actors are instant draws for me, but I love the concept (suggested in the 2000/2003 films) that Bosley is a role, not an individual. This one's really playing that up by having multiple Bosleys played by people like Elizabeth Banks, Djimon Hounsou, and Patrick Stewart. And the cast also includes Luis Gerardo Méndez as a character named The Saint, whom I really hope (but sadly doubt) is somehow Simon Templar.

19. Dora the Explorer

A live-action version with Dora as a teenager sounds incredible. As in it's so exactly what I would have done given the chance to make a Dora movie that I can't believe it's actually happening. I'm thrilled though. I have no idea what it's about, but I'm hoping that I'm synched up enough with the filmmakers that they also envision it as a Tomb Raider-style adventure movie.

18. The New Mutants

Doing a Teen X-Men movie as a horror film is a cool idea, but what I'm really looking forward to are new performances by Anya Taylor-Joy (as Magik) and Maisie Williams (as Wolfsbane). I'm also all about live action Dani Moonstar (played by an actor named Blu Hunt, whom I don't know) and Antonio Banderas doing anything.

17. Shazam!

I wish I wish I wish the marketing made this look less like superhero Big. I'm fine with some of that, but I don't want it to be the whole movie and am hopeful that it won't.

16. Men in Black: International

I enjoyed the original movies, but never loved them like I wanted to. I feel that way about a lot of Will Smith films. It's a fun concept though and I'm hoping that my massive crush on Chris Hemsworth will finally give me a Men in Black movie that I fully appreciate.

15. The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part

I don't know if lightening can strike the same place twice, but I trust Lord and Miller. I expect to enter the theater reservedly hopeful and exit giggling.

14. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

I love the first one so much that I was mildly disappointed by the darker turn of the second one. It's been a while since I've seen 2, but I remember being impressed by the world-building and how it opened up a lot of story possibilities. So like Lego Movie 2, this is one where I trust the creators even though I'm a little nervous that it could dilute my affection for the original thing.

13. Zombieland: Double Tap

Zombieland was the movie that made me question whether I actually do hate zombie movies. It also turned me around on Woody Harrelson and introduced me to Emma Stone. That's a lot of good brought into the world and big shoes for a sequel to fill, but I bet Double Tap can do it.

12. The Addams Family

I enjoy Charles Addams' creepy family in all its iterations, but this one looks particularly faithful to the original character designs and Oscar Isaac is going to make a great Gomez.

11. Jumanji 3

Jumanji 2 was one of the best movies of its year. Super funny with an exciting plot. I don't know how the story's going to work on this one, but I think it would be fun to bring in a whole new set of characters playing these avatars. That way we still get the joy of seeing Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Jack Black, and Dwayne Johnson together, but playing all-new characters with different personalities. Whatever they do though, I'm up for it.

10. John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum

I'm just all in for these movies. Great action in a cool world.

9. It: Chapter Two

I've never read the book or seen the earlier mini-series with Tim Curry, so I don't know what's coming. All I know is that I loved Chapter One and want to know what happens next.

8. Hellboy

I appreciate all the work that Guillermo del Toro did to bring Hellboy to the screen back in the day, but that was his Hellboy; not Mike Mignola's. Mostly I have issues with the Hellboy/Liz Sherman romance, but there are other GdT touches as well. Which is totally fair, but I'm eager to see another shot at it from a different point of view and with more emphasis on horror. Also, David Harbour looks great in the part.

7. Spider-Man: Far From Home

I don't know why this doesn't crack my Top 5 Anticipated Movies for the year. I might still have a hangup about too many Spider-Man reboots in too short a time. That's not fair, because I love the Tom Holland version and Homecoming was one of my favorite MCU films. So maybe that's not it. Is it possible that I'm so concerned about how Endgame goes that I feel like Far From Home is a distraction? That's not fair either, since this comes out after Endgame, but my excitement for Endgame could be dampening my enthusiasm of Far From Home. I don't know. I expect to be pleased; I'm just not giddy for some reason.

6. Pokémon Detective Pikachu

I'm not much of a Pokémon fan, but the rest of my family is and it's become part of my life by association. Which is to say that I'm not the natural audience for any kind of Pokémon movie, but this is brilliant. It's a film noir-inspired mystery where a kid teams up with the most recognizable Pokémon in the world who talks normally to the kid (via the voice of Ryan Reynolds), but sounds to everyone else like he's just chirping his name. And he's amusingly frustrated by that. It sounds inventive and hilarious.

5. The Kid

Vincent D'Onofrio directed this Billy the Kid story focused on a boy who witnesses the alleged killing of Billy by Pat Garrett. Dane DeHaan plays Billy, Ethan Hawke is Garrett, and there are also parts for D'Onofrio and Chris Pratt. I like all of those people and my pal Paxton Holley's fascination with Billy the Kid lore is clearly rubbing off on me.

4. Captain Marvel

Marvel's Captain Marvel isn't a character that I'm personally crazy about, but I like her well enough and especially respect what she means to a lot of my friends. My interest in the movie is nerdy in that the story is a massive retcon of MCU history. Retcon isn't a dirty word for me and a well-executed retcon is impressive and a thing a beauty. I have no doubt that Captain Marvel will be well-executed and I'm extremely interested in seeing not only what it reveals about the MCU's past, but also what it teases about the future.

3. Avengers: Endgame

At last, the conclusion of Infinity War. I'm very excited, but also a little miffed at having to wait a year for it and a lot anxious that it likely means the end for some of my favorite characters.

2. Godzilla: King of the Monsters

I loved the first one and had no problems at all with the slow reveal of Godzilla and his powers. That thing worked for me on every level except Aaron Taylor-Johnson, whom I didn't necessarily dislike, but did think was rather plain. This not only swaps him out for the awesome Millie Bobby Brown, it also throws in Vera Farmiga, Sally Hawkins, Bradley Whitford, Charles Dance, Kyle Chandler, David Strathairn, and Ziyi Zhang for good measure. And of course Mothra, Rodan, and King Freaking Ghidorah.

1. Star Wars: Episode IX

I am still fully, 100% on board this train. I understand why a lot of people aren't anymore, but I'm so in the bag for Rey in particular, but also Finn and to a lesser extent Poe. I can't wait to see where their adventures take them next.

So that's what I'm looking forward to. I'd love to hear what you're excited about in the comments if you have a minute.


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