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More movies (with pictures!).

11. (1240.) Border Radio (1987)
This film — which very much reminds me of the style (if not the comedy) of Clerks — is not good in any traditional way. Its improvising actors are the rankest amateurs, and its message can probably best be summed up as "life is the drama we create for ourselves." However, it does manage an alluring mix of raw emotion and appealing cinematography that was very refreshing.

Speaking of refreshing, while I can't believe that Coca-Cola paid for this to be included, here it is anyway:

Drink Coke! (Border Radio)

12. (1241.) Trouble Along the Way (1953)
John Wayne plays a football coach determined to turn around the popularity of a small New England parochial school, so he decides to pay the football team to attract better recruits. Wayne's plan works until the dean finds out what he's done and fires him — for admitting players who didn't meet the academic requirements. How cutely naive the 1950s were.

13. (1242.) Hotel Transylvania 2 (2015)
The only good Adam Sandler films lately are the ones that keep him off camera.

14. (1243.) He's Just Not That Into You (2009)

15. (1244.) Jurassic World (2015)
This movie requires a whole lot of stupid to get where it's going, but that's true of any big budget disaster film. To its credit, the movie seems to know this, and in the end, the hero of the film is the Tyrannosaurus Rex, not the people too dumb to contain it.

Amusingly, most of the product placement in this film is intended to be over-the-top as you would find in any big theme park. However, while the script openly derides Verizon Wireless and "Pepsi-saurus," we are treated to our smart and hunky protagonist enjoying a completely unironic sip of liquid refreshment in his down time between practicing zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance.

Drink Coke! (Jurassic World)

More to come.

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Mom and I spent yesterday afternoon at the Booth Western Art Museum in Cartersville, Georgia.

The Booth Museum is a large, modern building that seems out of place in small-town Cartersville. Having been to several museums of the American West that are actually in the American West, I figured Booth would be a lackluster experience. I'm glad to say that I was quite wrong.

Two great pieces that look great together
Yes, these are two separate pieces.

The museum was founded in 2003, and most of its collection is around that vintage or newer. Whether a side effect of the newness or the intention of its founders, the museum chooses to embrace the fact that most its pieces celebrate a time and way of life that many of its artists never experienced. In function, it's a museum of the mythology of the idealized American West. Frankly, that makes for a pretty enjoyable experience.

Walk this way, pilgrim
The "Mythic West" gallery is where the action is.

The whole reason Mom wanted to visit the museum was to see the Newseum's travelling collection of President Kennedy photographs. I thought that was a weird thing to include in a Western museum. Little did I know that the Booth's most impressive permanent exhibit is a signed letter from each of the first 44 American presidents (from Washington through Obama, whose letter is actually addressed to the museum). Wow. I'm sure they'll add Trump to the collection eventually, once he learns to write.

Long story short, the Booth Museum is totally worth a visit, and I'm glad we went.

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Movies watched in March, batch 2 of 3:

35. (1094.) The Late Show (1977)
The 1970s saw a rebirth in hard boiled detective noir films. Most of the ones I've seen are pretty good. This one, produced by Robert Altman (whose quest for realism on film is a perfect fit for this genre), is no exception. Art Carney and Lily Tomlin make a great odd couple.

36. (1095.) The Long Voyage Home (1940)
This film rubbed me the wrong way. Though the cinematography is great, few of the characters were tolerable, and their stories were all painfully predictable. I admit that I have a bias against sea voyage movies (because I have a bias against the sea), but it really seems a criminal misuse of John Wayne's "talent" to cast him as a nearly mute, happy-go-lucky Dane.

37. (1096.) Deliverance (1972)
No, I had never seen Deliverance before now. That's because I suspected I would hate it. I hate camping, white water rafting, and hillbilly rape. After watching, I was surprised at how well made a suspense thriller it is. That said, I was right. I didn't care for it and, frankly, never want to see it again. Once was one viewing too many.

38. (1097.) The Nut Job (2014)
This is another of those movies that should be delightful but somehow fails to equal the quality of its parts. It has a great cast, high-quality character design and animation, and a clever twist on a screwball caper plot (with animals and humans attempting simultaneous overlapping robberies that collide in the climax). However, like Epic, the film fails because it plays it too safe and loses its sparkle amid the mundane. Oh, well. They can't all be classics.

39. (1098.) -30- (1959)
Jack Webb makes my kind of movie. Webb plays the editor of a newspaper, and we follow him and his motley crew of reporters and associates over the course of one day presented in Webb's signature "just the facts" style. If you like Dragnet, you'll like this. (And if you don't like Dragnet, what's wrong with you?)

More to come.

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Re: the new Preacher series on AMC.

The pilot came on tonight. I was prepared to hate it. I mean really, really not like it.

I'd read several interviews strongly suggesting that the show was going to deviate in some pretty significant ways from the source material. While I believe that any story should be retooled to fit the medium used in the telling (for example, 2-hour movies shouldn't be word-for-word videos of 400-page books), no adaptation should remove the heart and soul of any key story element. If you believe you have to do so to tell that story in your chosen medium, you should probably be telling another story instead.

The Preacher comic rather famously included a lot of elements that were designed — rather intentionally — to alienate a mainstream audience. Corrupt churches protecting the offspring of Jesus Christ. Women made of meat. Homosexual sex detectives. Nazi love slaves. The ghost of John Wayne. The Saint of Killers. Pegging (before it was called pegging and long before Deadpool made it cool). That was all part of the comic's rogue charm. The word on the street was that the show would be shitcanning some of the more, shall we say, "potentially offensive" elements.

Haven't you heard? He's everywhere

That's why I was surprised to see that the AMC television pilot episode practically bent over backwards to leave open the possibility that we will see some of these elements in future episodes. Honestly, that alone exceeded my expectations.

While it might have played coy about some future story lines, the Preacher television show clearly does change a lot. Story timelines are changed. New minor characters are introduced, and existing minor characters are extensively overhauled. The Preacher's love interest has been radically overhauled. However, there is at least one thing that the pilot has dutifully reproduced: the protagonist. Preacher's 1996 Western genre anti-hero Jesse Custer is alive and well on television in 2016. It was like meeting an old friend I hadn't seen in years. If nothing else, I have to say that I liked that.

So I can't say that I hated the Preacher pilot. For the time being, I'll keep watching. And just like Jesse Custer, I'll be holding its feet to the fire if it steps out of line.

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Where were we? Ah, that's right. Second and final batch of March movies.

29. (967.) Planes, Trains, & Automobiles (1987)
I'd seen bits and pieces of this over the years, but I'd never sat down to see the whole thing. It's great. John Hughes sure knew how to make a movie.

30. (968.) The Cat's Meow (2002)
This movie is an artist's interpretation of the rumors surrounding the murder of Thomas Ince by William Randolph Hearst supposedly based on the memory of Citizen Kane's Orson Welles. It's entertaining, but because it's played like a bit of history and not a mystery or melodrama, it's not as great a piece of entertainment as such salacious material probably deserves.

31. (969.) Turbo (2013)
Somewhere, someone thought it would be a good idea to make a movie about a snail that could enter the Indianapolis 500. Somehow, that someone convinced a whole studio, and you get this, a movie that looks great but is about as deep as a snail's slime trail. Ryan Reynolds is the voice of the lead character, and I'm pretty sure they recorded all of his lines in one afternoon.

32. (970.) Private Valentine: Blonde & Dangerous (2008)
Jessica Simpson stars in an unofficial Private Benjamin remake! Too bad she doesn't have any of Goldie Hawn's acting talent or comedy timing. I feel sorry for everyone in this thing.

33. (971.) Big Jim McLain (1952)
This is blatant propaganda in which John Wayne plays a House Un-American Activities Committee investigator on the trail of a Communist cell in 1950s Hawaii. I enjoyed it.

34. (972.) And God Created Woman (1956)
When I was a kid, I recall there being a lot of talk about And God Created Woman. While researching this movie, I discovered it was remade in the mid-80s with a lot more nudity, so that's probably what they were talking about. As for this French film about a hedonistic wild-child and the men who want to tame her . . . it's not my thing. (I'm already on record as saying I don't care for Taming of the Shrew.)

More to come.

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I watched 16 movies in June. Here's the first batch:

103. (850.) The Horse Soldiers (1959)
Union cavalryman John Wayne rampages through the South on a desperate secret mission. Even playing a Damn Yankee in an otherwise mediocre John Huston movie, Wayne is very entertaining.

104. (851.) The Enemy Below (1957)
Robert Mitchum engages in World War II submarine warfare against sympathetic Nazis! Good movie.

105. (852.) The Cat O'Nine Tails (1971)
There's an intriguing mystery story at the heart of this Italian horror/thriller "starring" Karl Malden. Too bad the finished product is little better than a cheap, dull exploitation film.

106. (853.) The Hanging Tree (1959)
You probably wouldn't guess it from the title, but this film is fundamentally a Gary Cooper romance/western. Why did Cooper always end up with women a quarter of his age in movies? It's creepy.

107. (854.) Miami Connection (1987)
A rock band of tae kwon do masters fight a street gang of drug-dealing ninjas in Florida. If that sentence doesn't make you want to go see this film RIGHT NOW, there's something wrong with you.

More to come.

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Movies 15-21 watched in June:

93. (630.) Black Orpheus (1959)
This is fundamentally the same story as the French Orpheus. It won an Academy Award and a Palme d'Or which I find amazing because it is so very boring. If I'd been in charge, there would have been less dancing and more mystery.

94. (631.) They Only Kill Their Masters (1972)
This movie is a very laid back murder mystery, and therein lies its charm. If you get the chance to see James Gardner play a small town policeman puzzling out a mystery built around a doberman named Murphy, watch it.

95. (632.) Destination Moon (1950)
The highlight of this moonshot informercial is the embedded Woody Woodpecker cartoon. I'm sure that I know more about space travel than the average viewer, but I found these astronauts completely unprepared for spaceflight.

96. (633.) A Majority of One (1961)
Everything about this dramedy is great except for Alec Guinness. He's usually so good, but he should not have been cast in the yellow-face role of a Japanese businessman. Suspension of disbelief only goes so far.

97. (634.) Rooster Cogburn (1975)
Katherine Hepburn and John Wayne? Yes, please. It's Hepburn's movie, and she makes the most of it.

98. (635.) Marooned (1969)
Doesn't NASA put their astronauts through a psyche profile? In this precursor of the Apollo 13 debacle, only one of the stranded men seems capable of keeping his head together, and he's not a pilot but the scientist. (I think roles like this are why I didn't like Gene Hackman while I was growing up. Or maybe it was just his Lex Luthor.) It's not a great film, but it is captivating to pretend that it is a real event.

99. (636.) Knowing (2009)
I'm mad at this movie. It sets up a very suspenseful and intriguing mystery steeped in the supernatural, physics, and philosophy, then it fumbles the ball on the goal line with a ridiculous conclusion that makes everything that came before it a frustrating exercise in random pointlessness. Grr. You got me again, Nic Cage!

Nine more movies remaining before we finish off June. We'll get to them next week.

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Twenty-four movies were watched by me in September. I think 12 is too many to post at a time, so I'll break 'em up into groups of 8.

151. (458.) Julie & Julia (2009)
Meryl Streep as Julia Child is fantastic and endearing. Amy Adams as some other bitch is just irritating. (This is the girl they chose to play Lois Lane in Man of Steel? Really?) Otherwise, this movie depicts blogging as sort of a narcissistic shouting into empty space in the vain hope that someone will hear the echo, which is pretty darn accurate.

152. (459.) Dan in Real Life (2007)
Lonely, lovable, loser? It's the role Steve Carrel was typecast to play! Dane Cook was also appropriately typecast as the douche, a role he was born to play!

153. (460.) Murder, He Says (1945)
This Fred MacMurray slapstick comedy really should have had a different name. It is far more Marx Brothers than Sam Spade.

154. (461.) The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974)
I think I've said this before, but Walter Matthau is another one of those actors (John Wayne, Gene Hackman) that I hated as a kid but love as an adult. He gives a great "everyman" performance in this well crafted thriller.

155. (462.) The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 (2009)
I watched the original and the sequel back-to-back. The sequel has nothing to recommend it over the original except, perhaps, James Gandolfini channeling an Eliot Spitzer/Micheal Bloomberg composite. Travolta is terrible in his now all-too-familiar over-the-top villain role. Ugh.

156. (463.) Bangkok Revenge (2011)
Dad isn't picky about his movies. Sometimes that's good, as it gets us this lump of coal. I classify it as an unrefined but entertaining martial arts movie.

157. (464.) Dawn of the Dragonslayer (2011)
Sometimes Dad's indiscretion gets us this kind of lump of crap. More romance than action, mainly because there is almost no action. Plus, when the dragons do show up, they look bad!

158. (465.) The Sorcerer and the White Snake (2011)
The third movie chosen by father on the same night. I think he liked it more than I did. I know that it was supposed to be the Eastern fairy tale, but it felt too artificial for my tastes.

More to come.

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I went out of town for 2 weeks in August, but I still had time to watch 22 movies. So let's start knocking them out.

129. (436.) Hollywood Hotel (1937)
This movie is the original source for the song "Hooray for Hollywood." The song kicks off the movie, and quite frankly, is the best thing about it. (The rest of the movie isn't bad. It's just not as good as the opening scene.) I hate it when movies give you their best scene up front. I'm always left disappointed that I spend the next two hours waiting for something better than the opener. Oh, well. I guess since everyone knows the song but not this movie, it all worked out in the end.

130. (437.) Oldboy (2003)
Watched on the recommendation of a friend because an American remake is in the works. I don't know that I care to see it again. The movie cheats its storytelling. This is a necessary deception. If it were to be honest, the "shock" of the climax would be ruined. I don't know if the discovery of the climactic revelation soured me on the movie, but I found the post-climax events to be the worst part of the film.

131. (438.) Double Harness (1933)
William Powell can salvage the most boring movies. I paid more time watching costumes and kitchen appliances than I did to the one-note story. If it wasn't for Powell, I wouldn't have gotten through it at all.

132. (439.) True Grit (2010)
I respect the Brothers Coen, but this isn't better than the John Wayne version. Who thought it a good idea that Jeff Bridges mumble all his lines?

133. (440.) Hail the Conquering Hero (1944)
I know I've said it before, but Preston Sturges really can do no wrong.

134. (441.) Expendables 2 (2012)
Stupid, straightforward action flick. They may all be old men, but seeing Schwarzenegger, Stallone, and Willis share screen time during a firefight is surprisingly satisfying.

135. (442.) Dylan Dog: Dead of Night (2010)
Another derivative "monsters live among us" movie, a la Hellboy, Men in Black, Twilight, and Underworld. A detective to the underworld? I think I wrote some similar fan fiction when I was in high school. That said, Brandon Routh is very likable.

136. (443.) The Hunger Games (2012)
Speaking of derivative....

137. (444.) Mister Roberts (1955)
I tried to watch this last year and couldn't get past the first 30 minutes. (I am no fan of Jack Lemmon.) I picked it back up where I left off and watched the rest of it. I still don't really like it, but at least I've seen it. (The ending feels particularly unnecessary, but then so does almost all teh rest of it.)

138. (445.) Jersey Girls (2004)
So Ben Affleck is going to be Batman? Really? In this movie he jokingly calls his street sweeper the Batmobile. I know the line was a joke, but if it is any indication of Affleck's Batman, I think I can do without.

139. (446.) The Benchwarmers (2006)
Dad recommended it. It was better than I was expecting. I'm pretty sure that's not saying much. Let's just say that Rob Schneider as the former high school jock/bully stretched suspension of disbelief a little too far, even for an Adam Sandler farce.

Eleven more coming soon.

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Finishing off the movies from September 2012:

223. Big Jake (1971)
John Wayne in a role that exemplifies why we love John Wayne. I loved the family dynamic of John Wayne, the last of the Old West heroes, telling his grown, estranged children what to do. I hated the fact that they rather violently killed a dog. Killing a beloved sidekick character? Joss Whedon must love this movie.

224. The Reluctant Astronaut (1967)
I have never much cared for Don Knotts. He plays just one character and I don't find that persona very entertaining. However, watching this film (with a straight-faced Leslie Nielson), I was struck that his schtick isn't much different from Kevin James' comic persona these days. Think about it: Don Knotts as Paul Blart: Mall Cop? I wonder how Kevin James would have gotten along in Mayberry.

225. What's Your Number (2011)
Romantic comedies like this are so formulaic, I don't really know why I watch them. Seriously, someone in an awkward romantic situation meets someone of the opposite gender in a very contrived situation. The fall in love while working to resolve the awkward situation. Then the protagonist does something stupid, driving a wedge in the budding relationship. Fortunately, some friends or situation points out the foolishness of the situation, and all live happily ever after. I guess that I, like most moviegoers, feel comfortable seeing new variations on familiar themes, and just keep consuming these movies like visual comfort food. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

226. Diner (1982)
Sometimes I can tell when I really liked a movie only when it sticks with me as time passes. I've thought a lot about Diner since I saw it, which is a pretty good indicator that I liked it. It reminded me of a less-serious Beautiful Girls, which I've always liked.

227. Doom (2005)
Stupid, pop-culture action movie. I watched it to prep me for Karl Urban's performance in...

228. Dredd (2012)
I covered this here. As I said, I liked it. Much smarter than Doom. Hard to believe that's Dr. McCoy scowling under that helmet.

229. Without a Paddle (2004)
How do movies like this get made? The situationally "comedic" plot is as thin as the direction. It's just a time waster. If the romantic comedy is the comfort food of movies, this is the fast food of movies.

230. Comanche Territory (1950)
Commanche Territory is the sort of film that gave Doc Brown the wrong idea about the American West in Back to the Future III. I watched the movie because the early meeting between the two male leads looked like it had the sort of sparkle that would make for a good time. The movie soon disappointed by devolving into a stock Western with dubious historical facts, weak action, and an unlikely romance. Oh well. They can't all be Fistful of Dollars.

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To be continued...


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