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.

In contrast, they later rolled out a plan when you pay extra to go to movies at premium times. In this case, they sent out an explanation a few weeks early, and then again when they wanted to start. My reaction was that it was a fair change.

And then they had another surprise when they started blacking out some movies completely. This was another last minute effort -- on the 7/31 they put out a message saying that as of that day blockbusters would often not be available until they got old. But I have some sympathy since they much be hemorrhaging money by the bucketful. I'm not sure they'll last out the summer.

Well, a month went by and Moviepass was unable to offer me a single movie. I have officially moved on. Sad, it was a glorious run.

The Grinch

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald PosterFantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. I took my son along on the trip to see this in hopes that his encyclopedic knowledge of the Harry Potter universe would help explain any confusing bits. It turned out that remembering everything about Dumbledore's backstory would have helped, but what he knew didn't match up with what happened. While watching I was happy with the funny looking animals and the nifty spell use, but this movie did have a lot of refrigerator moments afterward. Like, why did Creech believe Grindelwald knew anything about his heritage when the guy had lied to him continuously throughout their relationship? Why did Jacob think it wasn't a bad sign for their relationship when his girlfriend magically enthralled him and couldn't see why decent people seemed to disapprove? Why did Newt's girlfriend think that it didn't matter that all her colleagues thought murder was an acceptable investigative tool, and why did she seem hurt that her boyfriend thought this cast her profession in a bad light? Why do the reviewers seem to think that hesitating to work for thuggish and authoritarian associations indicate support for Grindelwald? And why is Dumbledore wearing a grey vest instead of something furry and with dragons embroidered on it?

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms PosterThe Nutcracker in the Four Realms. It's a slightly askew Victorian-type Christmas, and the kids are sad about their mom being dead and all. But that's no reason to skip a party, reasons their father, who is glumly trying to maintain family life despite their grief. Clara also is bummed about the final gift her mom left for her; the other kids got cool stuff and she got a puzzle she can't figure out. Luckily the party is at the puzzle-masters house! And her present this year is to fall into a Narnia-style land where she must save the day! And when she does it wrong and accidentally powers up the Evil Queen, she must do it again! Lots of fun references to the Nutcracker ballet, very pretty colors and dancing and antics, and a cosy feel make this a good holiday film, so I guess the Holiday Season has begun! Too bad I saw this several weeks before Thanksgiving, but what is seen can't be unseen.

Venom PosterVenom. A guy makes some bad mistakes that ruin his career and his lovelife (hacking into his fiance's computer to get some information that he then misuses as a journalist). Things can't seem much blacker until his body absorbs an alien parasitic invader that initially plans to conquer the earth. However, after observing his hapless but amusing host and his few but stalwart moral lines (murder is bad! unless the murderee is like, really bad) the parasite switches allegiance to planet Earth, but now it's really important to keep the other, cooler aliens out. With the help of a Pomeranian, the ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend they set out to defeat the bully aliens and their rich inventor ally. Super silly, but amusing and it doesn't pretend to be more than it is. The body count is high, but the alien tentacles distract from that.

A-X-L PosterA.X.L. This may be a spoiler, but after all, this is a dog movie (highlight to see): The dog does not completely die at the end. The boy, the girl, and the robot-dog bond nicely despite the jealousy and violence by the bad boy who claims the girl. And everything else. The bikes are cool; the dad is clueless -- he's the one urging the boy to go the the bad guy's parties and to abandon the dog because robots are real or something that we obviously know more about. I laughed at some of the silliness -- a few scenes after the girl calls for returning the dog to it's owners "because it is the right thing to do" we see them peeling away from a bank machine that flooded them with money (at the dog's command). Maybe these kids think banks just print money? Or that banks are evil corporations that don't deserve their riches? I did appreciate that when the girl yell at the boy for messing up her life (after she specifically asked him to NOT) he eventually got it and apologized. My nephew disagrees that this meant he learned anything, though.

The Meg PosterThe MEG. Well, this is definitely a summer movie. It gave us exactly what it advertised, and didn't bother to throw in annoying junk just because it could. So we had Rugged Guy, who has to be reeled in from sulking, drinking, and wasting time to rescue people trapped on the ocean floor, we had Ocean Girl, who does heroics on her own but knows when to let Rugged Guy take over, Cute daughter, who works to bring Ocean Girl and Rugged Guy together, Bad Billionaire, who mentions his money a lot and makes some funny jokes but has a heart of stone hard cash, and their buddies, who are cute and nice but also there for THE SHARK to eat. Science is waved at a few times, and occasionally they send it a beer to make up for banishing it from the room. Fun but not too scary. The dog does not die.

Mission: Impossible - Fallout PosterMision Impossible: Fall Out. This was the movie MoviePass died on -- it was the first blacked out movie, and then for a week it was unavailable. Today I checked and it was the ONLY movie available, and since I knew my friend Linda is a big Tom Cruise fan, I grabbed the chance to go see it. Alexander tagged along. None of us had seen the previous movies, so it took me a while to figure out his wife was a different person from the spy from his past (they showed up in the same scene, which clued me in). Lots of action-packed action and then some explanation to tack it together, but it never took itself too seriously and we had fun for the full 2.5 hours. Alexander picked out the traitor immediately and I felt clever for recognizing the mustache that Justice League fans were so excited about. Even if this is the last hoorah for MoviePass it was a fun run while it lasted. And I appreciated the baddie for picking such a beautiful place with lovely scenery for the final showdown.

Teen Titans Go! To the Movies PosterTeen Titans Go! To the Movies. This was supremely silly. Of course, that was exactly what I expected, and it met expectations completely. I had the pleasure of seeing it with my son, who knows all about the various incarnations of Teen Titans past, present and future so he'd lean over in the almost empty theatre to share some jokes with me. Linda and I were more clueless but still willing to be entertained. The songs went on for a little too long, but the movie itself was a zippy 90 minutes we were still willing to laugh along to the end. There were a lot of mostly innocent fart and poop jokes and a willingness to return to a previous joke with abandon. SLAAAAAAADE! Wow, it is really fun to say.

Skyscraper PosterSkyscraper. Dwayne Johnson gets blown up and then marries one of the doctors who put him back together. Since then he's been trying to run a security business out of their garage, but his first big break is to vet the safety of the world's tallest building. Sadly, the mob is angry with the man who owns it, and they attack, leaving The Rock's wife and kids trapped in the burning building. Heroics ensue. It's a sweet summer movie with lots of explosions and bad guys, but we know all along that the hero and his family will be safe; we just watch the fun as the characters figure out how to make that happen. I enjoyed the bit where the crowd comes around to cheering for our hero, although at first he seemed a suspect. Even the cops figure out that he's a good guy after seeing him in action; no bad guy would try so hard. I was a bit disappointed that the final scene didn't involve the props the wife figures out at the last minute; I thought that would be pretty.

Ant-Man and the Wasp PosterAntman and the Wasp. My son and I hit this together and it's an enjoyable, low-stakes superhero movie. No universes to save, just people and relationships. I still think the first movie was unnecessary, and wish they give the insight that started the movie to Hope instead of her dad (Hope was coming to the problem fresh after learning of her mom's fate; nothing had chanced for Hank). But the science was cheerfully ridiculous, the antics cute and fast moving, and the villains either nicely evil (the mob guys) or redeemable (two are already trying to get into my phone game Avengers Academy). No one looks deep into things, which is just as well when the Sokovian Accords are hanging and Hank's work relationships keep coming back to bite everyone in the ass. Was he that socially inept or something more sinister?

Won't You Be My Neighbor? PosterWon't You Be My Neighbor? I took myself to see this homage to Mr Rogers, which was showing at the theater where they bring you food (popcorn!) during the show, which is always nice. I munched my way through about half a giant bowl while learning the adult side of a show I watched as a small tyke. Turns out the show was a few months older than me (although I suspect it took me a few years to grow into it), and Mr Rogers went into television as a ministry -- he thought the violent, slap stick nature of children's programming was dangerous and exploitive. He also had a short lived show for adults during a hiatus in his kids programming. Also, he was not a crack NAVY SEAL, or a drug addict, or gay. His kids did find his niceness a bit intimidating.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom PosterJurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. Big dinosaurs. Casually rude guys who someone attract the women they insult. (I can see them working together, but it doesn't seem romantic.) Evil greedy corporate guys who don't appreciate the majesty of giant de-extinct creatures. Jeff Goldblume. A spunky but privileged kid who understands the majesty of these de-extincted creatures but doesn't understand the ecological risks of introducing alien species to a new habitat. These are all expected parts of a Jurassic movie, and this one also has innovative lava that flows at astonishingly cool temperatures, dinosaurs with really hard heads, and a woman who can drive a stick shift (although the guy pushes her out of the driving seat as soon as he gets a chance). And a bad guy who collects dinosaur teeth for his necklace. I'm sure that won't come back on him in any way.

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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