Thursday, December 24, 2015

HH: A New Hope

Given this week, it is only appropriate that I do a review of the movie that started it all for Throwback Thursday.

If you seriously don't know what movie I'm talking about, I suggest you look at the internet. Any part of it. Seriously. Because this is Star Wars, and this is a phenomenon.

Short version: This is one of the finest action adventure stories ever committed to film.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

WW: The Twelve-Fingered Boy

This week's Writing Wednesday is The Twelve-Fingered Boy by John Hornor Jacobs.

This book can be easily classified as a superhero book. It is, after all, about people with powers in the modern world. But it lacks a number of the elements that really define the superhero genre. There are no costumes or capes. There is no fight for truth and justice. And there is no clear victory with a simple morality. This might be better classified as horror, and shelved right next to Carrie and Firestarter.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

TT: Kubo and the Two Strings

I saw this trailer in front of Star Wars. It's the first I've heard of it. At first, I was uncertain. Then excited. Then intrigued. Then uncertain again. Then positive I wanted to know more.

I honestly have no idea what this movie is about. Asian people doing epic things and magic and stuff? Yeah, that's enough for me to be interested.


  • That's a heck of a cast of voice talents listed
  • It looks pretty epic. Did I say that already?
  • I am not crazy about this animation style. This is 100% me, and not a comment on quality.
  • I'm teased, but I still have no idea what this movie is about.
  • Matthew McConaughey? In an Asian movie? Huh?

Monday, December 21, 2015

MM: The Force Awakens (spoiler free)

Obviously, I must review this movie. Because it's all anyone is talking about. Today's review is the spoiler-free version. Freeform Friday this week will contain the super spoiler version.

Short version: It was everything I wanted, even if it's not a perfect movie. It was fun. It was true to the feel of Star Wars. It had explosions and Force tricks and droids and old friends and, very importantly, humor. One thing the prequels deeply lacked was moments that were funny to anyone above the age of 8.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

TT: Fantastic Beasts

I was going to do something else for Trailer Tuesday. But that's going back in the drafts folder. Because we had an event drop last night.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The next (or previous?) adventure in the Wizarding World. This is just a teaser trailer, so there's not a lot of meat there. But, ooh, goose bumps.


  • Duh. Wizarding World. (Nice how they avoid saying "Potter" at any point.)
  • Eddie Redmayne looks fantastic.
  • The world manages to look both the same as the Potter movies, but with just enough tweaks to make it both several decades earlier and American.
  • I'm already liking the strong women in the trailer.
  • The trailer itself is beautifully put together.
  • Is this going to be another bug hunt?
  • Um....
I'm super excited. I won't lie. From the moment I heard "lumos maximos", I knew I would be seeing this.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

HH: Bedknobs and Broomsticks

(I'm going to experiment with branching out a bit. "HH" stands for "Throwback Thursday" (because TT is "Trailer Tuesday"). Each Thursday I'm going to post a movie review of an older movie.)

It would be easy to dismiss Bedknobs and Broomsticks as a cheap imitation of Mary Poppins. It is a similar tale of a magical woman coming into the life of needy children. There is a roguish fellow along as both a love interest and a bad influence. The film involves a lengthy sequence of pairing live action with animation.

Three important differences help to rescue the film from such a fate. First, the characters are actually quite different. Second, Angela Lansbury is quite capable of competing with Julie Andrews. Third, Nazis.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

WW: The Aeronaut's Windlass

(I'm going to experiment with branching out a bit. "WW" stands for "Writing Wednesday". Each Wednesday I'm going to post a book review instead of a movie review.)

As some of you know, I am a huge fan of the Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher. I also very much enjoyed his epic fantasy series, Codex Alera (even though I haven't read it all yet). So when I heard that he was coming out with a steampunk/swashbuckler type adventure story, I was super excited!

I will sum up this review very simply: I think I now like Cinder Spires more than Dresden Files.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

TT: Norm of the North

(I'm going to experiment with branching out a bit. "TT" stands for "Trailer Tuesday". Each Tuesday I'm going to post a look at an upcoming trailer instead of a movie review.)

There is a new kids movie coming. Did you like Happy Feet? Madagascar? Most importantly, did you really like their cash grab sequels? Then you should see Norm of the North!

Monday, December 7, 2015

MM: Mockingjay, Part 2

(I'm going to experiment with branching out a bit. "MM" stands for "Movie Monday". Each Monday I'm going to post my standard movie review. Stay tuned for what comes on the other days.)

And so the Hunger Games trilogy/quadrilogy (depending on how you count it) comes to a close. I must admit that I was nervous about this movie. But it came off extremely well. The writing and directing were much more solid in Part 2, pulling everything together into a more coherent whole. And, of course, you can't look past the acting. Everyone continued to be fantastic, but Josh Hutcherson showed that he is really maturing past his "child actor" roots, and Julianne Moore was the perfect politician (the scene with her proposal to the Victors near the end gave me chills).

Friday, December 4, 2015

The Winter's Tale

Monday night we went to a Fathom event: Branagh Theater presents The Winter's Tale. Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench, and a host of similarly accomplished actors put on one of Shakespeare's less well known plays. (Heck, I don't even recall Reduced Shakespeare Company mentioning it.) They filmed it and simulcast it around the globe.

As expected, it was wonderful. This is not one of Billy's better plays (more on that below). It had a number of oddities. But the acting talents, staging, costumes, et al. more than made up for it. Even through the technical glitches and bad satellite reception. Branagh reined in his occasionally over the top emoting. Dench was pitch perfect as the bitter old courtier. Everyone was just spot on.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Victor Frankenstein

Are you a fan of the book, or of the movies? If you're a fan of the book, you should know that the writers chose to go with the movie version of Frankenstein. This is pretty immediately obvious, as Daniel Radcliffe plays Igor, who doesn't even appear in the book.

And yet, you should watch this anyway. I'm not sure that old Mary Shelley would be proud of this adaptation, but it certainly explores many of the themes she was getting at. It's Gothic horror as it should be. We explore questions of identity, redemption, purpose, and playing God. And we do it through the eyes of two tortured young men, and against a lovely industrial backdrop of nineteenth-century London.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015


(This is an old one, that apparently never got published from drafts. Enjoy.)

The Peanuts are an ancient and hallowed property that has been mined deeply, and is dear to many of our hearts. Hearing that there is a new feature film really leans on that nostalgia button, but also triggers a lot of trepidation. How can you possibly make it fresh without betraying what makes it great?

Well, I don't know that I have the answer, but the guys at Blue Sky certainly do. I won't proclaim this movie as a wonderful film in its own right. But the way in which the production team navigated the truly dangerous waters of honoring the legacy while taking it in a new direction was genius.

The Good Dinosaur

Well, it's Pixar, so I feel contractually obligated to love it. Except that, honestly, I didn't. Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad movie by any stretch. But it failed to live up to the bar set by previous Pixar films. The plot is predictable, the beats coming exactly where and how you expect. The characters are well done, but surprisingly thin. The setting seems to go to a lot of effort to support a wonderful concept (dinosaur protagonist, human pet) that is then only half-heartedly explored.

And yet, I would totally watch it again. Because, familiar and well-worn as it is, it is exploiting formulas that work. Also, this is clearly a movie where the focus landed on the technical achievements. The animation was detailed, realistic (in some instances photo-realistic), and indescribably beautiful.

Monday, November 9, 2015


Bond is back. In the capstone to Daniel Craig's run, we see him confront his most classic enemy, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the head of the shadowy Spectre. And, in a detail that I missed in the trailers, the political machinations of Max Denbigh, aka "C", better know to us Sherlock fans as James Moriarty. (I may have squeed a bit when he first came on screen, but you can't prove it.)

Short version: This is an excellent finish to the Craig Bond. It takes the style and plots built up over the last few movies and ties them up into a nice bow. While I still prefer Skyfall, Spectre is a solid film that I would be happy to watch several times (unlike, say, Quantum of Solace). The fact that Bond actually had a strong supporting cast helps tremendously.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Iron Giant: Special Edition

As some of you might have seen, Fathom Events recently screened the Iron Giant: Special Edition in select theaters. I love this movie, so we went to see it.

Short version: This may honestly be one of the best animated movies of all time. There are a few that I would put above it, but few enough that it would rank in the top ten. The animation itself is fun and very well done. The story is incredible. And the voice actors did a surprisingly solid job, given that they were, for the most part, celebrities who hadn't done much voice acting. And, above all, you can tell that this is Brad Bird's labor of love.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Megaforce (Rifftrax)

This past Saturday night, we went to a friends' house to "enjoy" a Rifftrax experience. This time around, it was an abomination of everything wrong with 80s action movies known as Megaforce. The short version is, don't watch it. It is a truly terrible movie with no redeeming value. Even when riffed, it was terrible. The plot is utterly incoherent, the acting is weak at best, the effects are sad, and the costumes are, in a word, ridiculous.

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Martian

Short version: See this movie. Now. Don't waste time reading this review, just go to a movie theater. I'll wait.

Are you back? Okay, then let's discuss. And I might get a little spoilery, since I know you just went to see it. (You did, right? You wouldn't lie to a partially omniscient narrator would you?)

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Intern

This is a fun, cute, fluffy movie. It doesn't say much that is important or new. It doesn't raise the bar on film as an art form. But this is the kind of movie that you can just, dare I say it, enjoy. De Niro and Hathaway have great chemistry (and are of course great actors in their own right). The script sticks close to the formulas, but knows when to veer slightly to make it feel more real. All of the hackneyed, cliched characters are there, but are handled with a deftness that makes you welcome them like comfortable old jeans.

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Scorch Trials

Short version: Not as good as the first movie, and I think probably suffers more from adaptation blues. The effects were strong, though, and the acting was decent. I really do wish someone had warned me that the middle bit was a goddamn zombie movie, though. I hate zombie movies.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Trailer: The Intern

We saw this trailer in front of both movies this weekend. I have to say, it looks pretty good.

Things to love:

  • Robert de Niro
  • Anne Hathaway
  • A look at ageism from both angles (though de Niro doesn't seem to suffer much in the trailer)
  • The comment about how modern men have largely become slobs (I'm guilty, too)
  • The general tone
Things to fear:
  • Doesn't look like it will be feminist-positive (I need a word for this)
  • The inevitable twist (because movies have to have a twist) needs to be handled delicately
  • I hope the supporting cast of guys are a little more than a peanut gallery of chuckleheads
  • I hope the relationship doesn't go too deep too fast. There needs to be a sense of trust being built over time
I think I'll definitely be seeing this one.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Ricki and the Flash

Meryl Streep has, in short, done it again. She has used her incredible talent, and the incredible talents of those who are drawn to work with her, to illuminate an otherwise lackluster movie. The plot is simple, the characters are crudely drawn, the philosophical and emotional points are never subtle. But because of the cast, you can't help but be drawn into this painful family drama, and eventually to rejoice at the reconciliation.

Man From U.N.C.L.E.

First, a disclaimer. That title is the last time I'm going to type out all those damn periods.

Short version: Booyah. That movie was, I think, exactly what it wanted to be. It is not a tightly plotted thriller. It is not high-octane action. It is not grim and gritty. It is a fun, light-hearted romp through the over-the-top world of super-spies. It is vintage Guy Ritchie (though thankfully toned down on the violence and language). Cavill and Hammer were perfect in their roles, and Vikander was wonderful as well. It's not a movie that will make you think, but it is one that will make you laugh.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Quick poll

So it's tough to build up solid readership numbers on a blog that only posts about once a week. But this is a movie review site, and I'm just not likely to see more than one movie a week. I had a couple ideas for additional content, but I didn't know if anyone would be interested in it at all.

Would any of my readers be interested in seeing me do reviews of movies that were released years, possibly even decades, ago? These might include classics like Excalibur or slightly more obscure titles like Knightriders. Given my personal tastes, they would likely skew heavily to the geek and Disney.

Would it be weird for me to put in book reviews every once in a while? 

What about reviews of plays? I see probably a play a month on average, so it might add a nice change of pace. But it's also trickier, because it's not like most of my readers could then go out and see the play on their own.

I can tell you that I have no interest in becoming a "cinema news" site. No rumor mongering, no trailers, nothing of that sort.

Friday, August 7, 2015


Short version: This movie wins on acting, and pretty much acting alone. The script is serviceable but fairly cliched (with a couple important exceptions). The direction, cinematography, visuals, etc. are similarly well done but don't stand out in any way. But the acting; oh my, the acting.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Fantastic Four

Short version: Much better than I expected. Admittedly, I was expecting something along the lines of Ang Lee's Hulk, so that's not a high bar to clear. It was still not a *good* movie, but it wasn't a bad movie, either. It's a fun way to pass a couple of hours, but it's not something that anyone involved will brag about.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

Short version: Very enjoyable. It had great action, some very funny moments. solid espionage plotting, and surprisingly fine acting. I think that this movie very solidly puts the franchise back on track. And may do the same for Tom Cruise's career.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Feminism in Jurassic World, Redux

Okay, I don't do this often. And I'm feeling ambivalent about it now. I feel the need to circle back to a previous topic, and to respond to another person's blog. Why? Basically because Someone is Wrong on the Internet.

When Jurassic World came out, I did a bit on feminism in the movie. Short version: It technically passes the Bechdel and Mako Mori Tests. It has some moments that suggest that one prior version of the script was pre-feminism. But the movie as a whole, perhaps destroyed by studio intervention, fails spectacularly to be feminist in any way.

Today, I read Lindsay Ellis' blog on the same topic. It is, in a word, wrong. And this despite the fact that it agrees that the movie fails to be feminist. But it does so by thoroughly mis-interpreting and mis-characterizing many aspects of the movie. (At least in my opinion, but it's my blog so that's the only one that counts.)

Prepare for the point by point.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Mr Holmes

Short version: This is a beautiful, superbly acted, bittersweet tale. It is very British, and very indie. It manages to be wonderfully true to the Sherlock Holmes character without simply being another Sherlock Holmes mystery. The big screen is worth it for all the scenery, but if you'd rather wait you won't miss any of the story.

Monday, July 20, 2015


Short version: Another solid contribution to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Ant-Man delivers good action, some great special effects, decent characterization, strong plotting, and few surprises. Paul Rudd was enjoyable and did not warp the movie into an action comedy. The one nice surprise was how very well this one-off movie meshes into the overall MCU.

Sunday, July 5, 2015


You might have missed the trailers for Max. I can't tell if it was under-marketed, or just heavily targeted away from me. Given the number of "kids" movies I see, I find it odd that never saw a trailer, and only caught one commercial on TV.

Short version: A fairly typical feel good kids movie, but very well done within that genre. The plot felt mostly realistic, the characters were fairly three-dimensional, and the emotions were surprisingly complex. While it's not a movie that anyone needs to see, it's also a movie that you will likely enjoy watching.

Oh, and the important bit: The dog does NOT die. I was a bit worried when the poster said "From the producer of Marly and Me".

Monday, June 29, 2015

A Feminist Look at Jurassic World

I gave my review of Jurassic World. It wasn't terrible, but it was hugely disappointing. And the most disappointing thing was the script. And, yet, I want to talk in a little more depth about a curious aspect of that script. See, it passes the two major current tests for feminism. And it had a couple other pro-femme moments. But was it a feminist movie?

(Note, I tried to keep it as spoiler-free as I could, but there were some specific scenes that needed to be referenced.)

Jurassic World

Starting with an apology. Sort of. Yes, I know that I'm three weeks late on this one. But, hey, I was out of the country. I seriously contemplated going to see it in Denmark, because how cool would that be. Fortunately, I didn't waste my vacation time on this.

Short version: The effects were spectacular. Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard were both really good. The direction and cinematography were both good. But the script was a godawful mess. And that reduced what could have been a really good movie down to something I wouldn't mind having on in the background while I work.

Monday, June 22, 2015

And Seen Again

We just got back from a Disney Cruise. One of the perks of cruising with Disney is that you get to see a bunch of Disney movies for free. (Well, as free as "included with your $1000 a day vacation" can get.) This time around, it happened to include the premiere (*cough* actually called Prem-EAR *cough*) of Inside Out (reviewed here). But I wanted to cover a few of the others I had a chance to see (or at least see most of).

Inside Out

Short version: This movie easily lives up to the Pixar standard. It is a fairly obvious and standard plot, but executed with grace and style that gives it fresh appeal. The characters are wonderfully sketched out, especially considering that they are intentionally one-dimensional. And, yes, you will cry. If you don't, you're a monster.

Go see it. Now.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015


Short version: It's a classic Disney movie. Which means that it has a fantastic message, but a bit of a Pollyanna view. Great messages for young girls, but a very limited racial mix. The effects are amazing. The acting is superb (except, weirdly, for the evil robots). There are some really fun park references, but not enough for my taste.

Go see it, unless you hate happiness.

Mad Max: Fury Road

Short version: If you want to see it, you definitely need to see it on the big screen. The action and effects just cry out for it. Do you want to see it? That entirely depends on how you feel about intense, violent, dirty action movies. Because make no mistake, this movie will have you gripping the armrests.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Short version: Duh. I've been waiting MONTHS for this. I saw it twice this weekend. It was everything I could have hoped for. Get off your ass (Steve doesn't like that sort of language) and go see it. Now. You can read the rest later.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Ex Machina

Short version: This is a twisted, tense, multi-layered exploration of what it means to be human. And it turns out, being human is not exactly the laudable goal we assume it to be. I highly recommend seeing this movie, though it is not one that requires a theater viewing. For those worried about it being horror, it is. But it is horror as Ray Bradbury or Rod Serling would write it.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Woman in Gold

Short version: It is exactly the movie you expect from the trailers. It follows the plot, hits the emotional beats, and features some damn fine acting. It does not stray from the formula, but within the formula it does some wonderful things. I highly recommend watching it, but there is no need to rush.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015


Short version: It was sweet, touching, and funny. It also was decidedly aimed at a young audience, with very silly world-building, a peculiar but appropriate story structure, and no subtlety. It was much closer to Horton than Shrek. Adults will likely enjoy the first viewing, but won't find much for repeat viewings.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


Short version: I haven't read the book, but I have to assume that the movie suffers in the adaptation. It is a hot mess from beginning to end. And yet, it still managed to be somewhat enjoyable. If you aren't a fan of the series, wait for Netflix for this one.

Cinderella (2015)

Short version - It's a sweet, pretty, very well executed live action version of the story you already know. There are no big surprises, no grim and gritty overtones applies, no political statements shoehorned in. If you already want to see it, you'll love it. If you don't, you probably won't.

Monday, March 9, 2015


Short version: I'm conflicted. I walked out of the movie really pumped up and loving it. But the more it unspools in my head, the more issues I have with it. I think I have to say that Blomkamp managed to make a truly great story out of a pretty mediocre script. So if you can let yourself just enjoy the story and not worry about little things like realism and consistency, I think you'll love it.

Insert obligatory welcome here

I've been doing informal movie reviews for a while now. You know, just typing up a quick Facebook post or the like. Some of my friends said that they really like and trust my reviews. They said that I should start an actual review site. So, here I am, starting a review site.

And they say peer pressure is only for teens...