Friday, March 9, 2018


From: http://www.designbolts.comNow that I have the MoviePass app, and any individual movie is free (unless I insist on popcorn), I see a lot of movies. Mostly I go with my friend Linda, whom I would be uncomfortable seeing mature content with, so I'm mostly PG based. I thought I'd keep a record of what I see in case there are some forgettable ones. Here's a list for 2018.

I have to say I'm very disappointed with how MoviePass handled their change in service. In late April or early May they decided that the pass would only cover each movie once -- no rewatching. I can't tell when exactly this happened because they sent out no notification of the change. It makes the service much less useful, and the way they handled it makes me distrust the company. I mean, I have no idea how they think they have a money-making business model, so if they had been honest about it I would have accepted the change after minor grumbling, but to find out as I walked up to a movie to see it with friends was really annoying. It wouldn't have been hard for me to arrange to see Avengers only once, but because I had MoviePass I was willing to go with different sets of friends at different times. And then MoviePass screwed me over.

Tag PosterThe previous for Tag looked fun, although it also looked like things could go south rather easily. And I'm happy to say that the movie stuck to the fun side of its premise. A bunch of guys stay in touch with their childhood group by playing a yearly game of tag, and this movie looks at how the childishly simple game also works as an excuse to stay close to your friends. The men are in various stages of adulthood (despite being the same age) -- some are deep into successful careers as executives in a business or owning and running a small business, others are a bit lost as they drift aimlessly without job, relationship, or purpose. But the whole group are willing to go all in on their game of tag, leaping through forests and plotting elaborate traps and bluffs, even enlisting wives, co-workers, and old flames in an attempt to reach out one more time and claim both friendship and victory.

Ocean's Eight PosterAlexander is putting his new Movie Pass to good use, accompanying Linda and me to our next movie outing: Ocean's 8. Although I know I missed some references because I skipped all the other Ocean movies (were there more than one? I'm pretty sure) this was still a bright, fun heist movie. Alexander and I frowned a bit over the morals -- the heroes of the movie are a bunch of crooks, and the fun payoff is getting to frame a nasty guy (who had set up his girl friend) for the crime. But they did it in an elegant way, with lots of twists and turns and a lively cast in all the parts. I still frown on involving the Met with shenanigans; that's a lovely museum that hosts runaway kids with literary aplomb and doesn't need the hassle of insurance agents tearing apart the bathrooms looking for diamonds.

Incredibles 2 PosterWe took my mom and the kids to see the new Incredibles 2 movie, letting Alexander try out his new Movie Pass and getting Paulos in on points and Gramma as a senior. I don't think I could have designed a more complicated order for the ticket window. It was a lot of fun -- bright colors and fast moving action with rarely a moment to consider the implications of anything. I whispered my prediction of the villain's MO to Alexander and was pleased to be proven right. I loved the Jack-Jack/Edna scenes; she's still the best scene stealer in the shows. And I liked seeing the kids help out and Violet showing some responsibility. But mostly I liked being out with my family and enjoying something together; this pleased everyone from oldest to youngest. And then we went out for a meal together, so the glow continued.

Solo: A Star Wars Story PosterSolo. Han was a snarky kid from the mean streets when he and his girlfriend made a dash for the space port. He got out; she was pulled back. He resolves to go back for her, but can't focus enough to stay in flight school. So he keeps looking for a big score, even after he doesn't really need one any more. Young Han seems a bit shorter and chunkier than Harrison Ford; maybe his later days of smuggling stretch and thin him out. My son was impressed with how the movie address the 12 parsecs issue; how is taking a short cut a sign of great piloting? He did regret that Han's mathematical ability seems to have disappear, but agreed that escaping a giant space tentacle monster makes for better cinema than solving a complex hyperspace algebra equation in one's head. Or even on scraps of paper, I guess.

Breaking In PosterBreaking In. Bad guys break into a dead (they know he's dead because they killed him) mysterious criminal's house in search his stolen millions only to find that the guy's grandkids were there as their mom came up to ready the house for sale. Don't ask any of the obvious questions. Foolish bad guys try to use the kids as hostages against the mom who is locked out. Things don't go well for them. All in a days work for a mom -- handle squabbles, arrange your father's estate, rescue your kids, dispose of a kidnapper or four, and find a new real estate agent. I appreciated that the younger brother didn't turn into a heroic computer expert to save the day; it wasn't necessary because mom (and older sister) had things covered.

Rampage PosterRampage. Aka Curious George Goes to Chicago. Why did nobody hand Dwayne Johnson a yellow hat in this movie? Anyway, we were very pleasantly surprised. Our expectations were set low -- big explosions, giant animals, and The Rock, and we actually got real emotions, ridiculous science with actual current buzzword, and several white-knuckled moments for which I was very glad to have popcorn. It's true that I was never convinced that the evil government cowboy was really a good guy (he was pleased to use our heroes in a convenient way) and that the disappearing gun shot wounds caused much accidental hilarity, but it was exciting and silly and even heartwarming. Definitely a fun way to spend an afternoon.

Avengers: Infinity War PosterAvengers: Infinity War. This was a surprisingly fun movie, for something with such a high friendly body count. It absolutely would only appeal to fans of the Marvel movie franchise, as it wisely makes no attempt to explain any of the familiar characters or give anyone an individual story arc. With such a huge cast that would have degenerated into meaningless platitudes quickly. Instead it attempts to give the new villain some recognizable emotions and gives the various scattered group individual goals so that our heroes can have a few scattered moments of success. Some reviews and reactions seem to suggest that people interpret this as giving the Big Bad Thanos too much sympathy but I felt his goal of random slaughter was clearly painted as both evil and insanely stupid. My favorite family head canon: The soul stone has no dastardly requirement. You just stand on the platform for a few minutes and it comes to you. Red Skull just likes messing with applicants, who either leave in disgust or toss a handy female character over the brink and then have an excuse to brood.

Pacific Rim: Uprising PosterPacific Rim Uprising. The previews promised me giant robots and explosions, and I'm pleased to report they do not mislead. I never actually saw the first movie (which Linda assures me was even more fun) but I don't think I missed too many plot points. I'm glad to see that Oreos retain their value into the apocalypse. Boyega is beautiful and charming as the ne'er-do-well forced back into the program just in time to save the day with the street urchin he befriends. And the hard-nosed business executive whose company almost destroys the world redeems her stockholders with her courage and resourcefulness. We saw it at the mall and decided to celebrate our lowbrow movie cred with some ice cream afterwards, because clearly neither Linda nor I intend to ever grow up.

Ready Player One PosterReady Player One. We all read the book, so I took my oldest to see the movie while he was here on spring break. It was fun -- we laughed a lot and shared popcorn, but the sheer ridiculousness of it keeps it from having emotional depth. But the villain eagerly chewed through his lines and the kids heroically proved themselves capable of memorizing enormous amounts of trivia in a world devoid of true accomplishments. They changed up most of the actual games and challenges, which was a good idea as most of them wouldn't have made for good cinema, while a car race through a city with a King Kong finish was obviously awesome. I missed a few minutes in the middle (had to refill our GINORMOUS popcorn), so I assume all the plot holes were filled in during that glitch. (I saw this again with my youngest. Actually, one was!)

Tomb Raider PosterTomb Raider. I have never played the game, so I had some mistaken ideas, some positive and some negative. I was looking forward to a super-hero main character, but Lara was disappointingly human. I mean, she was American-Ninja strong, with upper arm strength that I sincerely envy, but she was easily distracted, not much into long range planning, and rarely looked below the surface. The movie assured me that she was super-bright (proof -- she knew a one line quote from Hamlet) but beyond an adeptness at Japanese wooden puzzles she rarely showed it. No Jack Reacher here.

On the plus side, the movie was proud of being science-fictional rather than fantasy, and made fun of Lara's dad when he tried to push things in a magical direction. Lara showed him. And then at the end we find that her dad was really a deep bad guy who got outmaneuvered in his evil empire and Lara declares herself ready for a sequel, although I wasn't sure if she planned to rule the evil empire or take it down.

A Wrinkle in Time PosterWrinkle in Time. It was stunningly beautiful with vibrant colors especially on the vacation planet. It resonated well with my memories of the book, and I think the changes made sense. The pacing seemed a bit slow, possibly because they were so proud of the visual effects. Charles Wallace wasn't entirely convincing as a child genius but he really stepped up in the last scenes inside IT's brain. I think Calvin lost some scenes to the cutting floor, but he isn't that crucial to this story. I can see him following Meg for the rest of his life -- he wants someone with that kind of loyalty on his team. And she has great hair.

Well worth seeing twice, or maybe even three times.

Every Day PosterEvery Day. I read David Levithan's book and enjoyed it, but wondered how they would transfer the concept to the screen -- A is a person who wakes up every day in a new person's body and drives it around for the day. There's no explanation, it's just an idea that is explored. I thought the movie did a good job with it by focussing on the girl whom A falls in love with and having the audience figure things out along with her (I think there is a sequel to the book that retells the story from her point of view but I haven't read it -- maybe they use that for the movie too?).

The movie sticks close to the emotional arc although it leaves a few strands dangling where I think the book stuck in more plot -- there's no outside threat, just two kids in love with an insurmountable barrier that they try to cross.

The 15:17 to Paris Poster15:17 Paris. This is an example of a film doing what it says on the tin. If Clint Eastwood made a movie getting three young men to star as themselves doing a heroic rescue on a French train, this is exactly what I'd expect. (He did. It is.) The timing moves as steadily as a soldier's march, from the bad guy getting on the train to flashing back to Our Heroes' childhoods and youth leading up to their European vacation. I enjoyed the little joke of everyone warning them off Paris up until the last minute.

Questions I have left over -- where were they going in the car at the start? Why did no one lend them ties for the award ceremony? And I hope the main character doesn't really think that his whole life has been aiming him here, because he's still quite young and has a lot of life left over.

Black Panther PosterBlack Panther. Beautiful scenery, beautiful people, large stories. I liked the way T'Challa could only defeat his challenger when his soul was complete -- if he couldn't honestly respond to "SHOW HIM WHO YOU ARE" he fell. I thought Ross was coddled a bit -- he was a good soldier but an untrustworthy man, a bit like Okoye's boyfriend, who was willing to betray his friend for a chance at glory. Shuri is a perfect gem.

Trying to fit it into the Marvel Universe is a bit dicey because it's strange that T'Challa doesn't mention his attempts at revenge/murder or his discovery that revenge eats the server, although maybe that informs his approach to his challenger.

The Post PosterThe Post. Another look at corruption in politics which I enjoyed as a perspective on an old Cybils book (Most Dangerous by Steve Sheinkin). No surprises but competent performances by Tom Hanks and especially Meryl Streep who stand for news over politics. Even if you've forgotten all your history there's no doubt that our characters will choose the better route.

I liked the nods to the added difficulties faced by women in business, especially have that hand-fed to us to the astonished face of Tom Hanks, whose character hadn't even noticed the problem. And the bits about Graham's suicide, which I hadn't known about.

The Shape of Water PosterThe Shape of Water. The women men don't see, including gays and fish-men as the invisible. I was thrown out by the physics of filling a room with water (that is one powerful door latch...) and by the body horror of the rotting fingers but then came around again for the final chase scene and underwater escape.

The evil white-man/military-industrial complex theme is a bit overwrought, but the quiet heroism of the underdogs and the strengths of their friendship keep the story afloat. The main character seems passive at first, but she's the one to take action and to inspire her friends to push past their meager existence to make a difference even as their personal hopes wither.

Darkest Hour PosterDarkest Hour. Nothing new, but a reminder that history isn't inexorable -- people in England didn't know they would win and many thought defeat was inevitable before Dunkirk. Also Churchill was a bit of an ass. I liked the weight given to the arguments of Chamberlain's team -- Churchill was best known militarily for a bloody mistake, so his willingness to spend the lives of the relief for Dunkirk was suspect.

The subway ride scene was cute in all it's Henry V's Hal junket glory, especially since the regular people tell him what he wants to hear, which isn't that surprising since they only know what he's had them told.

Ferdinand PosterFerdinand. Don't worry if you haven't read the book as the movie shares a species and a name but not much else. It's colorful and fun and kept the kid happy, so kudos, but definitely don't think too hard. Oops, I'm thinking. I felt really bad for the man running the bull training yard that Ferdinand messes up, because that business is clearly on its last legs. Apparently they haven't acquired any new animals since Ferdinand first runs away, so the second escape means everyone loses their jobs and probably homes.

Also, Ferdinand could have killed dozens of people when he snuck into the market. Yes his friend was sad when he was dragged away, but I was on the side of law and order in this case. I suspect her family would also go bankrupt if they had to pay for the damage he caused.

The Greatest Showman PosterThe Greatest Showman. Frothy and rather fake-looking, this circus movie skimmed over the any dark corners of life in the big tent to enjoy the excitement and egoism of being on stage. I don't think they paid much attention to historical accuracy (we looked up Jenny Lind afterward and things don't seem to match up) but then it never really pretends to.

I liked the shows and the dramatic rescues, and the enthusiasm of all the actors charmed me. I was a bit too cynical to lean into the hopeful lessons on inter-racial dating and how love can conquer all, or the idea that a guy trying to get rich can dabble in social justice on the side and buying a beer will cheer up people looking at desperate poverty. And I liked seeing it with my oldest, who hadn't gone back to college yet.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle PosterJumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. This had the delightful quality of exceeding my expectations. It was lighthearted and fun, and didn't stomp too hard on any of the possible squishy bits involved with body and gender swapping and female friendships. And it left us all with the same vote on the Bechdel test -- we think it passed even if you only count the in-game parts.

I liked the Chekov's gun usages, with everything from a weakness to cake to a fear of poisonous snakes to what it means to lose a life in the game, and I really liked the ending where the girl's crush is treated with the respect it deserves but not more than that. And I liked seeing it with my kid.

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