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.