Friday, March 18, 2016

This Week in Neat-O

:: The painful what-if that haunts Ghostbuster Ernie Hudson. Opportunity can be a mixed bag and, unfortunately, so can representation.

:: Watch a Baby Hippo Step Out for the First Time, Only to Be Inundated with Paparazzi

:: Vessels--4 AM is a short film with no dialogue and wonderful visuals of an alien world. Exciting, but soothing, too.

:: Marvin Digs, a Ralph Bakshi short from 1967.

:: The Muppet Mindset has an interview with The Muppets showrunner Kristen Newman about the changes to the show and the possibility of a second season. (No word on it yet, and word seems to be that ABC considers it a failure, but I'm still holding out hope.)

:: Molly Regan at Hobo Trashcan echoes my feelings in two columns: In a world full of Kardashians, don’t be a slut-shaming faux feminist, and Poppin’ Molly’s Handy Guide to Not Being a Body Shaming Piece of Crap.

:: An oral history of the making of one of my favorite movies, Galaxy Quest.

:: Why Donald Trump Doesn't Tell It Like It Is

:: A fantastic new trailer for Kubo and the Two Strings, a movie I desperately want to see.

:: Green Room looks compelling as hell.

:: I've never heard of The Shallows before today, but I will definitely be giving this a look. I hope it's pulpy and involving as hell.

:: And, of course, the Captain America: Civil War trailer, because damn.

:: Every Movie Ending Is Improved By That One Stupid Dire Straits Song (Damn, it really works. It's science.)

And lastly, A Shit History of Dune is a short video explaining the plot of Dune, and accurately mirrors the experience of trying to explain it to someone who's never read it.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS (2014)
Very clever, very funny vampire mockumentary, directed, written by and starring Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi. If you've been reading long enough, you know I generally dislike modern takes on vampires, but this movie--about a group of vampire friends preparing for New Zealand's biggest annual vampire gathering and how they live their lives--is an interesting, hilarious commentary on the way cultural legends about vampires have changed, from Eastern European legend to Anne Rice characters to Twilight to Universal monsters to Count Orlock. The special effects are particularly clever with the handheld look. Just an extremely enjoyable, insightful movie that both satirizes and celebrates everything I've ever loved and hated about vampire lore. ****

MAGIC MIKE XXL (2015)
It got mixed reviews, but I had a more fun time with this one than I did with the first. Maybe because this one's just straightforward. The sequel sees Mike out with most of the guys from the first movie for One Last Ride to a stripper convention in Myrtle Beach. The movie doesn't take itself too seriously, the dancing is good, Joe Manganiello is sexy as hell... you could do a lot worse. That convenience store scene is one of my favorite scenes of 2015. I also liked that the focus was on the characters having to deal with things they're running away from in order to let themselves go and take a chance on doing something new. Huh, it's kind of like The Muppet Movie, but with male strippers. I'll go with that. ***1/2

END OF WATCH (2012)
Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena give great performances as two cops in LA. The film begins as a found footage flick--Gyllenhaal is taking a film class and making a film about his job--but the film drops the device more and more as it goes on. Some of the critics called out the inconsistent filmography, but I think it actually works in favor of the film as it goes on. It's a stylistic choice that director David Ayer uses to keep raising the stakes of the movie. This is like a Peckinpah film, starting with two basically decent, flawed guys working in a hard job, who deal with more and more nightmares on the job, until they finally run headlong into an ambush that takes the film away from documentation to outright mythmaking. It's powerful, compelling stuff. ****

SPY (2015)
I actually didn't expect to enjoy this movie as much as I did, but I had fun with it. I was glad that the tone was more "legit spy movie that's funny" rather than "lame comedy with spy elements," if you get me. Melissa McCarthy was very funny as a CIA analyst forced to go into the field after her partner's death in the line of duty. Jason Statham, riffing on his action movie intensity, had a lot of funny dialogue, even if he himself was a bit stiff. Funny and well-made, makes me look forward to Ghostbusters even more than I already am. ***1/2

AS ABOVE, SO BELOW (2014)
I generally don't like religious-themed horror movies, but this one framed the whole thing as an archaeological mystery (in this case, a search for the Philosopher's Stone). This did everything right that The Pyramid did wrong; it's one of the most intense horror films of recent years (particularly if you get claustrophobic, as most of it takes place in the catacombs under Paris), ***1/2

THE GALLOWS (2014)
Asshole teenagers are haunted by, um, a cursed school play. Decent-ish twist at the end, but pretty unbearable. *

INSIDE OUT (2015)
The best Pixar movie in some time. I appreciated this as someone dealing with mental illness; personifying five aspects of emotion was an interesting way to dramatize something I deal with every day: my sudden mood changes. The emotional aspects--Joy, Disgust, Sadness, Anger and Fear--work together to structure emotional responses in the human brain, suggest ideas, and attempt to organize the social structuring of human interaction. I especially appreciated that the film didn't remove free will from the human experience, but rather used the characters as personifications of emotional response. It was clever and insightful the way the film showed that sadness has a place and can even be useful in processing what we feel. I though Phyllis Smith was especially good as Sadness; she was touching and ended up becoming the character I was most invested in. Beautiful work. ****

IMPROMPTU (1991)
Entertaining and airy film that tells a fictionalized version of how George Sand (Judy Davis, very good) met and fell in love with Fredric Chopin (Hugh Grant). Directed by James Lapine, it doesn't take its subjects or their work too seriously, playing with some of the great artists of 1830s Paris. It's a silly film--at times, ridiculous--but it's always fun and the cast is terrific (particularly Mandy Patinkin as Alfred de Musset). It's a fun period piece that keeps its characters likable, never ridiculing them, but puncturing some of the society of the time by giving us luminaries who are all too human and subject to human flaws. Delightful. ***1/2

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

24

Ellen would have been 24 today. We baked her a cake, which I decided last year would be my yearly tradition. It's good to put those emotions into something positive and somewhat methodical. Plus, I get cake at the end of it. I'm doing much better with this week, but I still miss my little sis.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Song of the Week: "Lucky Man"

It's kind of the cliche choice, but I saw everyone on Tumblr posting ever ELP song except this one, and I like this one. Reminds me of my Dad and long drives. RIP Keith Emerson.