Thursday, August 18, 2016

Film Week

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

As usual, I'm not really going to discuss this because, the internet being what it is today, to invite discussion of reboot Trek is to invite endless, irrational madness to the blog. Suffice to say, I liked it even more than the previous two films, which I already enjoyed despite how dopey they are. This one felt the most like Star Trek to me so far. ****

I really enjoyed this movie; the animation and style is very clever, and it mostly threw in a lot of elements from the earlier TV specials. It didn't try to modernize Charlie Brown, and instead boiled everything down to the emotional sincerity and, well, the stuff we all expect. My only real issue with the movie was the pacing. I appreciated that the movie gave us a series of successive attempts for Charlie Brown to get the Little Red-Haired Girl to notice him, rather than just focusing on a single one for an excruciating amount of time (we've all seen the "boy learns to dance so girl at school will like him" story enough times to know how it works, right?), but I wish the movie had just taken a few breaths between gags. I guess this being modern times and kids today expecting constant motion and gags, the movie decided it couldn't slow down occasionally. So, I don't know, maybe I'm old now, but I felt like it moved too fast sometimes, when I would've preferred that it just walked us through some of the payoffs instead of racing from one to the next one. But seriously, I did really enjoy it, and that's just a personal preference. ***1/2

Screenwriter James Franco looked at the Lifetime-iest of Lifetime movies and thought "Pretty good, but you know what it needs? Lesbian vampires putting on a college production of Macbeth." I'm... I liked it, I hated it. It was stuck in the past, it was surprisingly relevant. It was a waste of time, it was a good time. It tasted great, it was less filling. I think trying to rate this one is beside the point.

It's 2031, civilization has collapsed from an ecological disaster, and all that remains of humanity is inside a long train, barreling through the snow and ice. Chris Evans (in his best performance so far) leads a passenger revolt from the back of the train, where the poor live in prison-like conditions, on a quest to find his way to the engine room. I didn't read much about this flick when it was new, but I saw that viewers were polarized in their response; some people felt it was brilliant, some seemed to truly hate it. I'm in the brilliant camp. As Evans and his people travel further up the train, you can see how rather than pulling together to overcome a crisis, the usual societal divisions have only become deeper and more fervent. The movie has the courage to ride this all the way to its logical end, too. Besides Terry Gilliam movies--something even acknowledged in the name of a character, which is... it's nice to see Terry Gilliam acknowledged rather than ripped off for a change--it reminded me a lot of Robert Altman's Quintet except, you know, not terrible. ***1/2

Entertaining, breezy, horrifying film about the credit and housing bubble that led to the economic collapse of 2008. I saw horrifying because it's all a true story and just the recklessness and greed on display shows a callous disregard for anything other than making money in the short term. Even the characters in the movie comment to the audience about how Wall Street seems to be either filled with idiots, purposely engaging in fraud, or both. It just... it pissed me off. But it was also a very, very good movie, which goes out of its way to not only be witty, but to fin witty ways to take a boring, somewhat arcane subject and make it digestible. It was an excellent movie, and I thought Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling were particularly good. ****

Monday, August 15, 2016

Muppet Monday

Just a random choice today: Marvin Suggs and His Muppaphone performing Ross Bagdasarian's "Witch Doctor" on episode 308 of The Muppet Show. I remember seeing this one with my Dad and him laughing and laughing at it. My Grandma loved "The Chipmunk Song" so I imagine he heard the original version of this one a lot as a kid, too.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Song of the Week: "Dream Away"

Yesterday I saw on Facebook that Kenny Baker, the actor best known for playing Artoo Detoo, had passed away at the age of 82. It was sad news. So many little people often appeared in genre movies and creature features from the late seventies through the eighties, and I was always happy to see Kenny Baker. Outside of Star Wars, he was in some of my favorite movies from the period: Flash Gordon, Amadeus ("I'm a faaaamous hooooooorsemaaaaaan!"), Mona Lisa, Labyrinth, and Willow.

But the first thing I thought of when I saw the news of his death was Time Bandits. An absolute favorite of mine. I was out at my mother-in-law's farm, clearing out some of the last of the items we're going to keep. It was a long, humid day, and me with some kind of stomach virus, so I was pretty miserable and tired when I got home. My wife got in the shower, and I sat down in the living room and turned on the TV. In a wonderful coincidence, Time Bandits was on Turner Classic Movies. Now that's a Saturday afternoon flick. It almost felt like watching Family Classics on WGN when I was a kid. So, as sad as I was about the farm and about my mother-in-law and about Kenny Baker, there he was in my favorite performance of his as Fidgit. God, I love that movie.

Thanks for everything, Kenny. Thanks for playing my favorite Star Wars character.

Here's George Harrison's wonderful end credits song, "Dream Away," from Time Bandits.