Category Archives: Movies

Let’s All Go to the Lobby

The holiday movie season has started; I just saw that Fantastic Beasts 2 is out now. I will admit that I haven’t yet seen the first Fantastic Beasts; I’m a marginal Potter fan so not excited about seeing it in a theatre with the cost that entails.  But the concept of a pre-Harry world is appealing to me so I’m looking forward to seeing it one of these days when Netflix or one of the cable companies picks it up.

Who would star in a prequel of YOUR life? Theme song?

 

RIP Stan Lee

I’m not a huge comic book or graphic novel fan. Not sure why since I AM a super hero fan; probably  because super heroes have special powers, not unlike wizards and witches.  The last several years have been a real boon for super hero lovers and Stan Lee was behind a lot of that:  Spider Man, Iron Man, The Hulk, Captain America, Thor, Black Panther, X-Men.  It was fun to see Stan Lee in small cameos in all the Marvel movies, a little like seeing Alfred Hitchcock showing up in the films that he directed.

Stan Lee passed away on Monday at the age of 95 from pneumonia. I’m sure his characters and movies will live on but it won’t be quite the same.  I’ll miss you, Stan.

What super hero would YOU like to be.

Hunter’s Moon

There was a beautiful full moon last night-The Hunter’s Moon. It is the second full moon of autumn, and was named by the Algonquin tribes as the moon for the time to go hunting and prepare for winter. The sky was quite clear and the moon was huge as I drove home from work at 7:00.  It had an orange tint.  The night before last it was almost full, and there were wavy wisps of clouds in front of the moon, making it look like the perfect backdrop for a a witch on a broom.

Tell about all the books, plays, stories, poems, and music you know of that are concerned with the moon. What are your own moon stories? Why is the moon so inspiring?

 

Me and the Movies

Today’s post comes to use from Steve.  Photo credit:  CNN.com

I fell in love with movies when I was a kid. Every Saturday I’d walk six blocks to the Capitol Theater, a dime and a nickel in my jeans pocket. The dime bought a ticket good for two movies, usually two cowboy movies or two Tarzans. The nickel got me a box of Mason Dots. When empty, the Dots box functioned as a rude sort of horn so I could signal my disgust when a cowboy hero smooched his girl.

In 1953 our family got a television set so we could watch the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. We went on to fulfill that classic Fifties cliché: we bought TV trays so we could eat TV Dinners while watching TV shows. But nobody in our family cared much for television. The programming back then was limited and lame. I much preferred movies.

I saw several wonderful films in the years just before and after graduating from high school. A short list from that time would include: The Apartment, Tunes of Glory, Lolita, Wild Strawberries, Bridge Over the River Kwai, Seven Samurai, The African Queen, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, To Kill a Mockingbird, Wild River, The Miracle Worker and Tom Jones. Those movies convinced me film-making at its best can work wonders.

Decades later I mostly gave up going to movie theaters because by then I had a superb home theater in my basement. I compiled a library of films on tape or DVD disks. In the 1980s movie rental shops suddenly sprouted like mushrooms after a rain. I welcomed them because I loved watching films in the comfort of my own home. At the checkout counter at Blockbuster a clerk once mused, “You’re a good customer. You’ve rented over 200 films from us this year.” I gulped. Blockbuster was one of three rental shops I was using that year.

All of that has changed. I now struggle to find one film a week worth viewing. In the past I waited impatiently for each week’s new rental offerings. When I joined Netflix I had nearly two dozen films on my queue. Today my queue has only three movies, and my expectations are low for two of them. The irony of this is that I have more free time now than at any time in my life, and yet I struggle to find films worth watching. I wonder how things came to this.

Perhaps watching several hundred movies has spoiled me. After seeing so many films they begin to look the same. Plots become formulaic. Dialogue becomes predictable. As a writer I can see how film writers manipulate plot lines and character to produce crises that feel phony or forced. Actors who once seemed fresh can become boring after you’ve seen them in similar roles several times. Maybe I’m jaded.

Or maybe Hollywood has mostly stopped making films that could interest me. I want to blame Star Wars. Ever since Star Wars rewarded its makers with incredible ticket sales, movie companies have struggled to produce a few incredibly expensive movies. It now costs between 200 and 300 million dollars to make a summer hit film. Production houses concentrate on films that appeal to teen boys, including teen boys all around the world. And movies seem obsessed with zombies, spacemen, dinosaurs and superheroes. Any good idea for a movie is sure to be franchised . . . and quite a few bad ideas, too.

Last week I read an article celebrating “the new canon,” the twenty-three best films made since 2000. I hoped the article would point to promising new films for me. Instead, the list was filled with films I had seen and didn’t enjoy. Most film on the list struck me as bleak, cynical and violent. I was startled by how differently the author of that article and I felt about these films. For him they were modern cinematic classics. For me most of the new classics were unacceptably gloomy and ugly.

In spite of efforts to avoid gory movies, I sometimes goof. A positive review caused me to rent a film called John Wick. I’ve never seen anything so bloody. Wick kills 77 people. Of course, there will be a sequel. I just read that the body count in John Wick 2 is 128, which is just what I would have predicted. Any guesses on the body count for John Wick 3?

Has your taste in films evolved over time? Do you have any favorites to recommend?

 

Sherlock Bones

You all know I’m a little obsessed with all things Sherlock Holmes. I don’t usually go looking for Sherlock but occasionally Sherlock comes to me when I’m not paying attention.

Last week I was looking for something else and stumbled across Sherlock Bones and the Missing Cheese, a children’s picture book.  In that same foray I discovered that there is a video out there also named Sherlock Bones with a terrier starring as the illustrious detective.  I also discovered that there is a series of books pairing Sherlock with Elizabeth Bennet, another character who has lived on past her initial publication.  All of this took about 5 minutes!

The Missing Cheese book was at the local library, the Sherlock Holmes and Elizabeth Bennett is in paperback for a price I’m willing to pay on Amazon.  Unfortunately the video is more than I’m willing to pay.  I’m working to find it on some other library.  Fingers crossed.

In the meantime, the children’s book has great illustrations and the story line is fun, however, the poetry itself leaves a little to be desired. But in the category of new ways to portray Sherlock Holmes, it gets an “A”.

Tell me about a favorite character, or an author you follow loyally or a series you can’t get enough of.

Camp Baskerville

As many of you know, I am fond of Sherlock Holmes stories. Not the first fictional detective, he is the most popular and has the honor (sometimes dubious) of having been written as a character more times by authors NOT his original author than any other character.  Sherlock also holds the Guinness World Record as the “most portrayed movie character” – more than 70 actors in more than 200 films!

 

So I was intrigued when I learned that Park Square Theatre was doing The Hound of the Baskervilles this summer.  From looking at the website I could see that Holmes and Watson would be played by women and it didn’t look like it was being billed as a serious production.  A woman playing Sherlock didn’t bother me; if Ghostbusters and Dr. Who can be women, why not the most famous fictional detective.

Park Square is known for occasionally messing with your expectations but I was really unprepared for the audacity of the production, the sheer silliness. There were just five actors; if you’ve ever read or seen Baskerville, you know there are many more characters than that.  Normally this bugs me a little when actors play multiple roles, but I quickly got over it and in fact, they used it for comic fodder.  At one point towards the end, the actor playing Lestrade and Henry Baskerville did a “half and half”, turning from one side to the other – hysterical.

There was a lot of laughter; a few times so much so that I needed to wipe my eyes. Of all the different ways that I have seen or read Holmes, I have never experienced him as “camp” and I loved it.

If you have the chance, the production is playing for another week or so and I highly recommend it.. ESPECIALLY if you’re a Holmes fan.

When have you ever laughed until you’ve cried?

 

Wasp Woman

There are lots of retro tv stations these days and they do seem to occasionally be scraping the bottom of the barrel to fill their programming slots.  Yesterday afternoon I found an old movie that I had never heard of – The Wasp Woman.  And now I know why.  It was truly dreadful – a poor premise, scenes that didn’t connect to each other, sad special effects and outrageously bad acting.  It was one of those movies that is so bad that you can’t look away.

The head of a cosmetics company finds a bizarre scientist who is using wasp royal jelly to create a fountain of youth.  After testing it for just a few days on one cat, they start testing it on the company head. She also secretly injects herself with more serum late at night.  Of course, the cat turns into a wasp and then the woman intermittently turns into a waspish creature, but only at night.  She doesn’t remember these episodes (although you’d think she’s be tipped off by the blood that ought to be all over her clothing) and is eventually killed by being shoved off the balcony of the tall cosmetics company building.

I’m still not sure why I kept watching, perhaps a fascination with the reality that something so terrible actually made its way onto film.

If you turned into an animal/human hybrid at night, what animal would you be?  Or what is the worst movie you’ve ever seen?