Thursday, August 13, 2015

Movie Review: "Inside Out" (2015)

Hooked on a Feeling.

Somehow I missed this flick when it premiered back in June.  I don't remember seeing or hearing a ton of hype about Pixar's Inside Out, but I do recall thinking that it sounded like that goofy and ultimately failed 1990s sitcom Herman's Head.  Still, recently a sweet psychologist friend of mine wanted to see Inside Out because of its depiction of emotions as actual individual characters, so I headed off to the theater too ... and I'm so glad I did!  Inside Out is Pixar at its most scintillatingly substantive and engaging as it seamlessly combines a touchingly tender plot, outstanding visuals, and an audaciously inventive take on storytelling.  It's the best Pixar movie since 2010's Toy Story 3 made you weep into your popcorn, and it just might be the best complex, nuanced movie of the summer.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Movie Review: "Ant-Man" (2015)

A Bug's Life.

Charming, cheeky, and just a little unheroic, the always-charismatic Paul Rudd metamorphoses from ex-con Scott Lang into the titular character in Marvel's better offering of the summer (sorry, Avengers: Age of Ultron).  Bigger isn't always better, and Ant-Man recaptures a good bit of the zany, lighthearted fun that seemed so often lacking in its more overstuffed, ponderous cinematic sibling.  Ant-Man, by the way, takes place after the events of Age of Ultron, but - thank goodness - you really don't have to have seen it in order for Ant-Man to make sense; Rudd's minuscule alter ego's story can stand alone and not be completely overwhelmed with Marvel mythology and bogged down with Significance.  Lang/Ant-Man is like Hermia in A Midsummer Night's Dream: though he be but little, he is fierce!  And funny to boot.

Friday, August 07, 2015

Friday Fun Video: "What if Werner Herzog Directed Ant-Man?"

I loved Marvel's Ant-Man and will write a review soon (update: here it is).  It's been a frantic summer of work (and, alas, far less blogging than I would like), but let's take a break right now, dear readers, and enjoy this:

Friday, June 19, 2015

Movie Review: "Jurassic World" (2015)


RAWR!  Jurassic World just had the biggest domestic box office opening weekend EVER, and right now it's the hottest thing to smash into the planet since the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs.  This movie is the roaring, stomping, jungle-crushing behemoth of the season, and even if it can't recapture the sheer thrilling novelty of the iconic 1993 flick, it will do just fine for a mega-blockbuster popcorn flick for Summer 2015.  Really, how can you lose with Steven Spielberg as producer, the latest in eye-popping special effects, and a Goliath Franken-saur that treats other dinosaurs as chew toys, never mind 20,000 tourists?  

The movie does have its flaws.  Lots of them.  I didn't care.  I pretty much ignored them except for indulging a few eye rolls, because I had sprinted to the theatre for two things and two things only.  I raced there to see (A) Chris Pratt wrangle velociraptors (my all-time favorite dinosaur!), and (B) all kinds of other prehistoric critters wreak ridiculous amounts of bloody havoc by land, sea, and air.  In terms of those two basic requirements, Jurassic World delivered.  Everything else is distraction and detail.  

Friday Fun Video: Star Trek vs. Star Wars

Remember, though, that we've long been advised to look past our differences in order to team up against a true abomination.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

200 Years After Waterloo, "The Nearest Run Thing"

June 18, 1815: Napoleon back from exile versus a coalition force under England's Duke of Wellington and Prussia's Gebhard von Bl├╝cher.  It was Wellington, by the way, who supposedly called the victory "the nearest run thing you ever saw in your life."

There are all sorts of commemorations and related news items, but since I'm in a hurry today, I'll leave you with three that stood out to me:

Monday, June 15, 2015

800 Years of Magna Carta

June 15, 1215 at Runnymede: King John agreed to the terms of the Magna Carta and acknowledged that no one is above the law, not even the king.  The document has become a powerful symbol of liberty and resistance to the arbitrary - and therefore tyrannical - (ab)use of power by rulers.

The celebrations are in full swing!  Yes, bells and all!

Need a refresher about the Magna Carta?  Here is the text.  Here is a fun little video from the British Library. (Recognize the voice?  It's Terry Jones from Monty Python!)

Want more?  Take a look at the resources of the Magna Carta Project.  Go on a field trip to the US National Archives and visit one of the few remaining copies of the charter!

Monday Therapy: A Cappella "Jurassic Park"

In honor of Jurassic World's new release (and overwhelming dominance at the box office - RAWR!), here's a cool video to tide you over until I can write a movie review:

Lest we forget, John Williams is the man!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

A Tweet For Flag Day

I almost forgot!  June 14 is Flag Day. Of course the incomparable Iowahawk is on task:

Dave Grohl Turns Awesomeness Up to Eleven

I've posted about Foo Fighters' and Dave Grohl's awesomeness before, but this is of an entirely different magnitude. 

Come on, just look at the headline:"'I think I just broke my leg': Dave Grohl finishes show after Sweden stage plunge: Foo Fighters frontman returns to the stage in Gothenburg after treatment, completing the set with his bandaged leg propped up in front of him."  

Grohl is now an even bigger rock god whose badassery is clear to all.

Apparently he then told his worried fans, "I may not be able to walk or run but I can still play guitar and scream."

Here's a song in his honor:

Ave atque Vale: Sir Christopher Lee (1922-2015)

By now the sad news has flown across the Internet that iconic actor Christopher Lee has died at age 93.  Here is a proper British obituary, but I can think of no better way to honor the great polymath and Renaissance man than by pointing you to the fact that he received the honor of being hailed as Badass of the Week while he was still living.  Hail and farewell, sir!

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Movie Review: San Andreas (2015)


I can sum up this blockbuster action disaster flick in just one phrase: The Rock vs. the Fault.  Dwayne Johnson and the San Andreas, that is!  Johnson's established himself as an action movie star of the first order long before this flick, and he'll be one long after it.  That's good, because San Andreas is pretty much a huge, noisy, bombastic CGI cartoon of geological mayhem and mass urban destruction.  (Weather forecast: Cloudy with a chance of storage ship containers.)  I'd be lying, though, if I said that I wasn't stupidly entertained for 2 hours, because I was, and that's due almost entirely to the Rock's own irrepressible personal charisma.  Is the movie preposterous in a dozen different ways?  Yes, it is.  Did I have fun anyway?  Yes, I did.

Quote of the Day: Self-Debunking Middle East Policy?

My colleague Alessandra called this long ago: Obama's Middle East foreign policy debacles would induce the Saudis and Israelis to work more and more closely, even flat out openly, against Iran.  A common fear of a regional nuclear hegemon makes strange bedfellows?  Desperate times call for desperate measures.

There's also this observation (my emphasis in boldface):
Obama came into office convinced that U.S. influence in the Middle East, as well as regional stability, revolved around one problem: the plight of the Palestinians. Resolving their conflict with Israel was the president’s top foreign policy from his first day in office. His belief that the U.S. was too close to Israel and that by establishing more daylight between the two allies, he could help broker an end to the long war between Jews and Arabs. To accomplish that goal, he picked fights with Israel, undermined its diplomatic position, and did his best to pressure the Israelis into making concessions that would please the Palestinians. The failure of this policy was foreordained since the Palestinians are still unable to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn.

But the events of the past six years have also shown that his focus on the Palestinians as the source of the problem was a disastrous mistake. The Arab spring, civil war in Syria, the rise of ISIS, and the Iranian nuclear threat proved that the Palestinians had little or nothing to do with the most serious problems in the region. Indeed, by forcing Israel and the Saudis to cooperate against Iran with little attention being paid to the dead end peace process with the Palestinians, Obama has effectively debunked the core idea at the heart of his foreign policy.

Hello Kitty Monstrosity of the Day: Hello NYPD


The Cinema-Mad Sibling Recommends: "Kung Fury"

This awesomely lunatic, over-the-top homage to 80s cinema hit the Internet last week, and you really have to see it to believe it. 

BONUS: Music video tie-in starring a real 80s pop culture icon. Enjoy, my lovelies! 

Sunday, May 31, 2015

All Movie Reviews

Wow, now that I've put all my movie reviews together in one place, I'm thinking: Have I really written THAT many reviews?  That's not counting the movies I've seen that I didn't write reviews for because I was short on time!

For your entertainment, here are all my reviews organized alphabetically.  All grades are listed after the movie titles.  I've also linked this list to the right, so you can have easy access to the movie review archive.  By the way, I haven't gone back to check the embedded links in 8 years' worth of reviews, so there may be some instances of link death in older entries.

Current number of reviews:  110.
Updated most recently on August 13, 2015 with Inside Out.

Movie Review: Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

Hell on Wheels.

Is this a movie or a really vivid hallucination?  Whatever else you want to say about Aussie filmmaker George Miller's return to the post-apocalyptic world of Mad Max, you can't say that he isn't committed. Miller is completely dedicated to turning his fever dream roaring into maniacal life with all the gonzo gusto and automotive mayhem you can imagine ... and then some.  The premise of the thing is pure B-movie fodder, but somehow - impossibly, even - Miller turns what is essentially (let's be real here) a two-hour-long desert car chase into a surprisingly entertaining, even occasionally substantive, story.  Bolstered by actual practical special effects, moments of Oscar-level cinematography (yes, you read that right), and a much-ballyhooed performance by Charlize Theron as a bald, war-painted, one-armed road warrior named Imperator Furiosa (I can't make this stuff up if I tried), Mad Max: Fury Road both is and isn't exactly what you expect from a movie with that name ... and you will love it for being so.

I'm not sure how much I can say about the movie without spoiling your experience of seeing it for the first time and getting Miller's unhinged imagination thrown right into your face.  No matter how familiar you are with the Mel Gibson Mad Max, you won't be fully prepared for this latest go-around in the savage burning wasteland.  Of course there's Max, played by the versatile Tom Hardy (how is he not already a superstar of epic proportions?), but in one of the most subversive moves of the entire film, Max isn't the protagonist.  He shares the spotlight with Theron's Furiosa when he ends up traveling with her on her desperate mission, and it is a testament to Miller's storytelling that this diminishes neither character but instead creates a bond of mutual respect that elevates them both.  These two damaged badasses don't have time for cliched kissyface nonsense, but you don't need it or even want it here: you want to see them howling ferociously through sand dunes and gas fumes in a deadly game of chase with the grotesque masked villain, the hilariously named Immortan Joe, and his army of painted minions (including - of all people - Nicholas Hoult, his usual beauty utterly obscured). 

I'll leave you with the best line I've yet read about this movie: "Mad Max: Fury Road is like the film adaptation of your favorite heavy metal album cover."

Mad Minerva gives Mad Max: Fury Road a grade of A-.  It's a masterpiece of genre filmmaking, a cult classic from the word go, and one hell of a thrill ride, but I can't see myself watching it very often.

Mad Max: Fury Road runs for 120 minutes and is rated R for intense violence, action sequences, disturbing images, and completely unhinged vehicular pandemonium.  

Rotten Tomatoes gives Mad Max: Fury Road the unbelievably Fresh rating of 98%.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Friday Fun Video: Doctor Who Does the Time Warp Again

Quote of the Day: Dan Drezner on FIFA

FIFA, that hive of scum and villainy (remember this?), deserves everything that it's getting and probably more.  All my soccer fan friends and I are watching with unadulterated, Schadenfreudelicious glee.  Here's a hilarious comment from foreign policy prof Dan Drezner:
We live in an age when foreign affairs pundits like to bemoan the crumbling of existing order and ponder whether the United States’ best days are in the past, when rising powers seem more comfortable throwing their weight around than the U.S. government. These are days when American scandals and dysfunction and economic stagnation seem to wrongfoot U.S. foreign policy aspirations at every opportunity. 
But then there are days when the United States is the greatest country in the world, because it makes stuff like this happen ...