People keep telling me about television shows they enjoy and think I would like. I agree; I might like them. However, I am always reluctant to commit to any dramatic serialized production until it's over, as I'm really bothered when the story doesn't end well (or at all). That's part of what I like about movies: they're self-contained stories told in (generally) 2 hours. They're the short stories of visual media compared to television's novellas.
That said, let's review the first batch of films I watched in June.
78. (1137.) When Ladies Meet (1941)
This is the Joan Crawford remake of the Myrna Loy movie (though both are based on a play). The Myrna Loy version is better, much better. Crawford replaces Loy's dry wit with a melodramatic self-righteousness that is infinitely less charming.
79. (1138.) A Hologram for the King (2016)
Does this Tom Hanks movie have a point? It starts off like it does, with a surrealistic blast that put me in mind of Trainspotting, itself a harsh take-down of modern life. Then Hologram meanders through some dark, dark territory before eventually settling into a mild romance tale with the bland moral that humans are "all more alike than different." Yawn.
80. (1139.) He Walked by Night (1948)
This cheap crime thriller has some spectacular, high-contrast cinematography that exemplifies the best of mid-century noir. Jack Webb plays a crime lab technician, and this film's DNA is all over Webb's long-running Dragnet. Very good.
81. (1140.) Lassiter (1984)
No! Just no! Tom Selleck plays a cat burglar drafted into helping the London police steal diamonds from Nazi agents because . . . well, I still have no idea why. It's supposed to be part spy thriller, part crime story, part period piece, but none of it comes together. If you have the opportunity to see this, don't.
82. (1141.) The Horror at 37,000 Feet (1973)
William Shatner plays a defrocked priest confronting a pagan celtic demon in an airplane in this attempt to capitalize on the success of The Exorcist. There's a lot of silly here, and Shatner really comes delivers in the end. Thanks, Bill!
83. (1142.) Aeon Flux (2005)
This seemed . . . pointless. Don't get me wrong, there are some great visuals, but they don't do much to help a very mundane story about typical sci-fi issues like cloning, free will, faith, blah, blah, blah. The whole thing comes down to a bog-standard gun fight anyway, so I recommend you watch RoboCop (preferably the Peter Weller version) instead.
More to come.
We don't always get the Superman we need.
Sometimes we only get the Superman we deserve.
In 2003, my grandfather gifted me a backlit 1975 Ingress-Plastene Coca-Cola clock (Model G017) that he had been storing in his garage. The light still worked, but the timekeeping didn't. I took it apart and tinkered with it a bit, but for reasons I couldn't recall, I never got around to finishing the repair and the clock was put, in pieces, into storage in my garage. Like grandfather, like grandson.
In April, looking for something to do between programming jobs, I finally decided to finish my decade-old clock restoration project. Having forgotten why it wasn't working, I started over at the beginning. I spent $20 on assorted parts to replace the missing winding mechanism before I re-discovered that the original motorized movement was worn out. Then I remembered why I didn't fix it 10 years ago: the company that made the electric motor stopped making clock parts in the 90s.
Unwilling to give up a second time, I took to the Internet. Replacement Lux series 2350 movements are available periodically on eBay for prices as low as $25. In fact, the whole clock is common enough enough that I could buy a replacement between $50 and $250, depending on condition. But I didn't really want a replacement; I wanted the clock that my grandfather once owned to tick once again. Besides, I couldn't really trust 40-year-old parts to keep working any longer than they had in my clock.
So I went ahead and spent $40 on a new electric movement — Made in the USA™ — with a set of hands that mimicked what I had. (The original had a sweeping second hand and the replacement steps, but beggers cannot be choosers.) It took a bit of tinkering with a drill and a vice to make the new, shallower movement fit with the original florescent lamp interior, but it worked out well enough in the end.
After nearly 15 years, I finally have a working grandfather clock. Now my mud room looks like a little league snack bar, and that's just the way I like it.
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With Wonder Woman being the first DC Comics movie in recent memory to earn critical acclaim, it's becoming common to see people on the Internet praising last year's much maligned Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, which introduced Gal Godot's Wonder Woman character, as a misunderstood "hidden gem" or "cult classic." Some are calling it an artistic triumph. I'm going to have to call bullshit on that.
I suppose it's possible that professional critics, who gave the movie a 27/100 on Rotten Tomatoes and a 44/100 on the less exclusive Metacritic, were completely off base and the film is a genuine masterpiece detailing previously unexplored aspects of the shared human condition. Much was made earlier this week when director Zack Snyder confirmed one online fan's theory about hidden symbolism and Superman's inner motivations. Wow. That must have been some great symbolism if no one noticed until the movie had been out for a whole year!
I haven't seen BVS:DoJ. I don't waste time on movies I know I'll hate. However, I'm one of the few comic book fans who didn't. The movie grossed $330 million in America, and an additional half a billion dollars overseas. There's nothing hidden about a movie everyone has actually seen.
I'm willing to conceded that most people just like to see computer-generated things explode. That's totally their right. I'm not even going to lie about my own preferences. I've certainly seen Rocky IV more times than I've watched any single Shakespeare play. I own two copies of The Adventures of Ford Fairlane. I can quote most of Roadhouse. My love for those movies doesn't actually make any of them good.
So let's let Batman V Superman go, all right, Internet? You can watch it if you want to, and you can even like it. But please don't confuse the shoddy object of your enjoyment with something possessing any real substance. That's how we got a Trump in the White House.
May movies watched, the final chapter!
72. (1131.) Satellite in the Sky (1956)
In 1956, no one understood what space travel would be like, but they were certain we'd screw it up with bombs. That's the most realistic part of this story.
73. (1132.) The Eddy Duchin Story (1956)
Brilliant but awkward pianist loses wife to childbirth, spends rest of his life blaming the child for it. Who thought that would be a fun movie to make? (Who thought that would be a fun movie to watch?)
74. (1133.) Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
It's a distilled reworking of the pieces that worked best in the original. I expect another round through the distillation process will make Vol. 3 a two hour super-cut of Jackson 5 and Bee Gees tunes playing over an entire planet of dancing raccoons with laser guns. I look forward to it.
75. (1134.) Sergeant York (1941)
There's a lot of war-glorification here for a film about a pacifist. The moral ostensibly appears to be "the Lord works in mysterious ways," though my takeaway was "kill a bunch of people and god will give you a house." (When I sat down to watch this, I was certain I'd seen it before, but not a single frame was familiar. What movie was I thinking of?)
76. (1135.) Home (2015)
This animated children's movie does not care one iota that none of its characters or situations make any sense at all. Everything exists as an excuse to squeeze in puns, sight gags, and jokes. Fun, fun, fun!
77. (1136.) Wild Rovers (1971)
Boring, boring, boring! I didn't finish it. About half way through, I got distracted by something else, and it didn't even occur to me to press pause on the DVR. I don't regret that lack of a decision.
More to come.