Big Screen: La La Land

This was OK – probably a 3 on a 5-star scale.

The downfalls for me were a) not enough music and b) doesn’t seem to quite live up to its premise.

Also depends on why you chose that movie that day (don’t all our reactions somewhat depend on our expectations): I wanted a feel-good, make me grin happily at the end, movie. And this isn’t a fairytale romance, or a sing-along. This, when it comes down to it, is a very realistic look at the ebbs and flows, ups and downs, of an adult relationship, where often what you might want isn’t going to work with everything else in your life that has its own timeframe.

That said, both stars were lovely in this. And the thing that happens in the girl’s head at the end of the movie…is really lovely also. 😉

Big Screen: The Arrival

Fabulous. So many neat (and unique) ideas about the power of language and our understanding of time. Just super cool.

Somewhat spoiler below….

Also they did a great job of coming up with a completely different idea of what an alien life form would look like, sound like, act like, etc. So many alien movies fall into tropes. Not here.

Big Screen: Spotlight

This movie was intense. Strong acting by all the players. Intensely upsetting. I mean how can Catholics* even stand to be Catholic after knowing this, let alone all the other yucky things the Church has done or does on a regular basis. And, seriously, are we sure this has stopped? 100% sure? I’M NOT. I couldn’t ever be. Could you?

The end credits with the lists of all the places where this specific type of corruption was discovered? The audience was audibly gasping.

It was great to see Michael Keaton in this, especially after Bird Man. I liked this a LOT more than I liked Bird Man (I would link my review…but I guess I never wrote about that here. Ah well.). Also Mark Ruffalo did a lot to inhabit this part–I felt like his hunched up physicality just MADE that character for me.

*or as my dad calls them “the pope’s dopes.”

Aziz Ansari rules the world.

For a long time, Tom was my least favorite character on Parks & Recreation, it took me a few seasons to really come around on him. I don’t know what finally did it: “treat yo self” ? Or perhaps when he finally shoves Jean-Ralphio to the side? Regardless, I eventually became a fan and started to love his stand-up too (although the repetition thing drives me nuts. When he just says the same short phrase over and over? It happens a LOT in that show with the R. Kelly bit).

So when everyone started yapping about “Master of None” and I needed a new show, it was the obvious choice. This show is SUPER charming, the story lines are adorable. The way we watch Dev develop, however slowly, in all areas of his life is pretty fantastic. On the other hand, as with Rob Delaney’s “Catastrophe,” there are definitely times when the acting is too visible…because too many people on the show aren’t great actors. In other words–you shouldn’t notice that a character is “acting mad,” you should think they are ACTUALLY mad. When the acting an emotion becomes too visible, that’s a fail. I actually thought that less times with Masters of None than with Catastrophe but there were still certain scenes or certain side players on the show that I thought fell flat too many times to be straight up “this is a great show.” I liked it a lot, I loved certain interactions, but I did occasionally get popped out of the scene by the acting.

Then over the past few days, when I apparently became a START A MILLION NEW THINGS because you have all of three random days off person, I decided to listen to his book “Modern Romance.” Wow, this book is shockingly well researched for something written by a layperson. It’s really fascinating.

My problem was…I can’t focus on audiobooks!!! I KNOW. It’s seriously as if my brain FORGETS that I am listening to it WHILE I am listening to it and I accidentally start tuning it out. Then 10 minutes later, I hear someone else’s voice in my head and go oh YEAH I’m listening to that book and this seems to be about something completely different than 10 minutes ago when I was actively listening. I guess I missed something!

Despite my intermittent lapses in listening, which I did not bother trying to rewind, so to speak, or fix, this book has a lot of really interesting anecdotes and fun moments. It was also great to listen to it after watching Masters of None and notice how many things from his romance research wound up making it onto that show. You always read stories about writers or directors doing crazy stuff to prepare: horseback riding for three hours a day for six months, reading 97 books on whale hunting, etc…It’s almost like this book wound up being unintended preparation. I love the intersection between fiction and nonfiction in our lives/work and watching bits from this book get explored in the fictional show was pretty cool, or cool to think about afterward as I read it.

The ultimate takeaway from both is WOW Aziz is SO sincere. The last chapter of the book is all about how despite all the technology and despite all the changes and despite all our baggage, if you go do fun things you love, that’s your best chance to meet a person who will also do fun things you love (and love them and you). Check out this post from his tumblr about his dad appearing on the show. That sincerity is all over the book and it just makes him completely adorkable. Which is, refreshingly, so different than Tom, or at least beginning of Parks & Rec Tom.

If you already liked Aziz, this is just the sugar on top. The same way my paparazzi friend Evan’s stories (both good and bad) about celebrity behavior at fan events can really change my overall opinion on said celebrities, seeing the intersection between Aziz’s standup, his nonfiction writing and his fictional writing/acting really exposes (or illuminates, for a kinder way to put it) Aziz as someone I never would have guessed based on Tom. Now that’s great acting.

Big Screen: Truth

Really well done. But also really, deeply depressing. The world will just go as far as it can to beat a woman down, won’t it?

There was one scene near the very beginning where I thought Blanchett seemed odd, maybe a little over-actor-y, but the story swept me up and that feeling went away. I find it shocking how much more severely Redford seems to have aged particularly in comparison to how Newman looked toward the end.

I love the dude that plays her husband. He needs to be in more stuff.

Movie Standoff: White House Down vs Olympus Has Fallen

Spoilers below if you haven’t seen these but they’ve both been out a WHILE.

White House Down
PROS:

  • Channing Tatum and Jaime Fox, two hot sassy leads.
  • Jason Clarke amongst the villains.
  • Buddy movie.
  • Having the guy who becomes president in the emergency be the real bad guy = genius.
  • Cool use of the building and the lawn.
  • Has a little fun with it. Nice comic relief. Sometimes silly.
  • The kid is more important to the actual plot AND is super smart and relevant herself.
  • Better tension in the hero’s relationship.
  • President gets to be more of a bad ass.

CONS:

  • Not as believable that the armed forces couldn’t wipe ’em out. They weren’t in the bunker!
  • Not as believable motivation on the bad guys’ parts.

Olympus Has Fallen
PROS:

  • Slightly more believable in terms of the takeover.
  • Slightly more believable in terms of who the terrorists were and why.
  • Cool use of the building, especially the metal frames creating new inner walls.
  • Great direction, the military scenes are all shot beautifully.

CONS:

  • Way too sanctimonious of an ending.
  • Loner movie. Seems too Bruce McClain wannabe in some ways.
  • The US insider/terrorist is too low on the totem pole to really do that much damage.
  • Takes itself a little too seriously, some of the torturing of officials was pretty gruesome.
  • The kid is only important to the plot in an implied way, no real worry.
  • Gerard Butler seems really out of shape for what his character is able to do.
  • Minimal and dumb use of Naomi Watts.
  • Would a secret service agent no longer on the president’s detail really still have the right fingerprint override for the security system and the right code for the safe with the SAT phone? Questionable.
  • President too wimpy about watching others be tortured. Man up, dude.
  • Beginning of the White House takeover is too drawn out, becomes nothing but a shoot em up movie for what seemed like 20 minutes.
  • I thought a gun shot out a tire in the beginning accident but since that never comes back around to mean anything, was it supposed to just be a random bad weather accident?

Both movies
PROS:

  • Underdog wins. Underdog tricks all others. Underdog is really Overdog!
  • Scrappy outsider always does better than official protection details, whether they be secret service or military.

CONS:

  • Moronic military commanders who repeatedly ignore the one guy with intel (the guy on the inside). If this ever happens, we’ll have to hope our military commanders have watched a few movies so they won’t make that mistake.

Conclusion
I preferred White House Down but Dad preferred Olympus Has Fallen.

Big Screen: Furious 7

I’m in complete shock that I haven’t written about this movie here. Definitely my favorite movie so far this year although not the best technically made perhaps.

So I guess I had maybe seen one or two of these movies years ago when they first started coming out. Then you may remember in 2013, my dad going absolutely ga-ga for Fast & Furious 6. At the time, I also had a coworker who was absolutely nuts for these movies. I started watching them…and I don’t really know what happened but somehow they became the movies that I watched over and over. I mean I always have a few movies that I am rewatching, but for a while it was (one or the other of the) Fast & Furious every other night or so up in here. I went to Furious 7 the minute it came out, then I went again a week later, and if it was still in theaters near me, I’d have seen it a few more times by now!

The earlier movies are a bit so-so, so really if you haven’t seen these, START with #4 which was just called Fast & Furious (2009) (versus the first movie which was called The Fast and The Furious). If you become sucked in, as I did, what the earlier movies are worth watching for is the development of the relationships. How enemies become friends, how friends become family, how this person becomes introduced, when that person became indispensable, etc.

The awesome thing about these later movies, starting with 4 really, is they went back, gathered up every loose end or random plot idea from the earlier movies, and brought it all together. So Han being in Tokyo in F&F3 now slots itself between F6 and F7 and is very nicely brought in with the return of the Don/Lettie necklace to begin #7. Eva Mendes from 2F2F drops in at the end of F5 to deliver the news about Lettie (and rumor is she’s going to appear in F8).

Additionally, F7 does such a tremendous job of saying goodbye to Paul Walker, who unfortunately died mid-filming. The WHOLE movie turns into him coming to grips with the fact that he’s now a family man–that it’s time to step away from the cars, and the guns, and the team. It’s done completely seamlessly, and the last 10 minutes or so are basically the whole cast saying goodbye and Vin saying I’ll see you down the road, Buster.

Sniff.

Big Screen: Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

Fine for what it is. Enjoyable even. (More enjoyable than, say, Mr. Holmes.) But these Mission Impossible movies really seem stuck in the cold war. The enemies all seem German or Eastern European, it’s all part and parcel of the old spy trade, MI-6 and the CIA and yadda yadda. Whereas a movie say for example Furious 7 feels very fresh and current–they go to the Middle East, the technology is just as cool and a little less hokey, etc. Even Kingsman: The Secret Service feels more modern than MI:RN and it’s deep in the MI-6 secret service milieu.

Also: What is up with Tom Cruise’s torso? He doesn’t actually have a 6-pack or a definable muscle area as you might expect when an action hero takes his shirt off. He has something…else. Weird. Weird lumps and bumps in odd places.

Also: What is up with Jeremy Renner’s fingernails? There are numerous closeups of him on the phone and his fingernails curve around the tips of his fingers like hooves. BIZARRE.

Also: I thought the point of having Jeremy Renner join the squad was he was going to take over the Cruise role. Instead he’s hanging around taking phone calls. Why? WASTED.