Tomb Raider: Just Okay

This is not a masterpiece. It’s not, even, that much fun. Alicia Vikander’s body is rippling with muscle so that’s certainly an improvement over Angelina Jolie’s (The trouble with Jolie as Lara Croft is that she’s very top-heavy and it gets in the way. Seriously). But Dominic West, poor Dominic West, is so wasted.

Here are a few positives:

  • That ripped body of Vikander’s
  • Walton Goggins having a stellar moment in every action/fantasy movie of the past few years (He was in the final Maze Runner movie, which self would rank higher than this one)
  • There is an Asian man who is kind and also has a ripped bod (Never seen this actor before. Googled. Welcome to the world, Daniel Wu!)
  • Solving puzzles is always fun. Though self did get a little lost when people were tossing all kinds of colored crystals at Lara Croft while balancing on their toes at the edges of a room with a crumbling stone floor.

Was there music? Self can’t remember. Too bad. A score can do so much for a movie.

What was that fox race through London? She doesn’t get the point, but loved that she saw a section of Tottenham Road, which she knows intimately: Hanway Alley (where her favorite London restaurant, Chez Nous, is) is just off Tottenham. Moreover, Vikander does a great job as a biker. She has that look of determination, and looks great in capris and bike helmet.

The guy who plays spoiled brat/murder suspect ‘Silver Smile’ in TNT’s The Alienist has a bit part!

Good Lord, she would never place this on the same level as The Last of the Mohicans, even if just for comparison, which critic Matt Zoller Seitz did in his review for RogerEbert.com. The Last of the Mohicans was a masterpiece! It was directed by Michael Mann, at the height of his powers! It starred Daniel Day-Lewis, at the height of his powers. (No, let’s re-phrase that: with Daniel Day-Lewis, there is no such thing as ‘height of his powers.’ Because he is still bringing it all the time! Just watch Phantom Thread!)! It introduced Wes Studi to the world!

Every time Vikander sailed through the air, self was reminded of the Fassbender move in 300. Which he executed so well that now, every action movie has to show its heroes and heroines doing the exact same move, at least once. It’s getting to be a thing! Vikander does it so many times in Tomb Raider that she even out-Fassbenders Fassbender.

Self found Tomb Raider a by-the-numbers thriller, which is to say it was not a thrill ride.

She was so excited, though, to see a preview of John Boyega’s Star Wars movie.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Maze Runner: Death Cure

So excellent. Self can’t even. The best wrap-up to a YA series ever.

Three out of four stars.

Self knows of what she speaks: she’s a big fan of YA.

Just to show you this movie went beyond, self cried at the end. You’d think she was watching The Time-Traveler’s Wife, not Maze Runner.

There were a lot of high-powered actors in the cast: Patricia Clarkson, Aiden Gillen, Barry Pepper, Walton Goggins (sporting truly disgusting facial make-up: five stars!), Thomas Brodie-Sangster. Half the time self kept wondering when Woody Harrelson was going to show up. Self loves it when a YA action movie is way better than anyone has a reasonable right to expect.

The only thing that bothered self about the movie (Almost 2 1/2 hours long, and the time just flew by!) was that every time Aiden Gillen was on-screen, she kept thinking: Littlefinger! There is one scene in which Gillen stares creepily at Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) and it reminded her so much of all the times on Game of Thrones when Littlefinger is perv-ing on Sansa.

Movie’s best moment? In her humble opinion, when Min Ho gets up in Teresa’s face and yells: TRAITOR! So cathartic.

P.S. There was a preview for Jurassic World. Bryce Dallas Howard is truly growing into a Jessica Chastain-level beauty. In fact, for a moment that’s who self thought she was watching

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

1st Month Back, Fourth Movie: MAZE RUNNER, THE DEATH CURE

Self is all for action movies. She absolutely loves them.

If she doesn’t watch an action movie, it’s at least got to have Frances McDormand.

And now, woot hoot, the Maze Runner is back. For a few years, there was some doubt about whether star Dylan O’Brien was okay. He had a horrific accident while filming Movie # 2 of the Maze Runner, and filming shut down completely, which meant the accident was bad. But he made a thriller last year, and looked no different. And this year, he starts out with a bang, with the closing movie of the YA trilogy, and critics have been saying that it’s the best installment yet.

So, #pointsDylan.

From the way self got into 12 Strong, she knows she is ready for this.

Christy Lemire over on Roger Ebert, the review site, even compares the film to Mad Max: Fury Road. Of course, it’s not as good. Nothing can be as good as Mad Max: Fury Road. But to even earn that reference — that’s cool.

Tim Robey, writing for The Telegraph, has good fun classifying the series’ main characters into the following camps: Absolutely, Hell No, and I’ll Get Back to You on That.

On Team Hell No are the heroes. These are played by Dylan O’Brien, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, and Dexter Dardin. Let’s also throw in Rosa Salazar’s character, as self finds her so darn cute.

On Team Absolutely is a beauteous turncoat played by Kaya Scodelario.

And then Robey forgets who’s supposed to be on Team I’ll Get Back to You on That or maybe he just gets bored with his own review because he never says who.

But there are enough bits to convince self that she has to see this movie. Cinema’s just 10 miles north on 1, in Fort Bragg. And it’s not even raining.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Three Days, Three Movies

Self has been so starved for movies.

In a prevous life, she’d be in her local cine-plex every other day.

The past couple of years, though, unless she feels really driven, she’ll go months without seeing a movie.

Here are some of the ways she shows her movie geek street cred:

Oxford, UK: She gave up seeing the Ashmolean in favor of watching Captain America (In all fairness, the movie theatre was so conveniently situated: just across from Gloucester Green)

London: She walked — walked — in full summer heat, from Russell Square to Shaftesbury Avenue, simply to watch X-Men in the Odeon.

Fort Bragg, CA: She went during a lull in a storm. The movie? Kingsmen, with Colin Firth. When she came out of the movie, the wind was blowing flat out. Self thought she was going to be swept into the ocean.

Now, in the past four days, she has seen three movies:

  • Band Aid
  • Beatriz at Dinner
  • Wonder Woman

Sorry to say, she nearly fell asleep during the action sequences at the end of Wonder Woman. But woke right up again when she saw, in the closing credits, the name of her friend’s daughter:

DIRECTED BY PATTY JENKINS

Of the movies she’s seen so far this summer, her favorite would be Beatriz at Dinner. For Connie Britton and John Lithgow’s performances.

Today, she’s going to see The Book of Henry, even though it hasn’t gotten good reviews. She loves Naomi Watts, even though she’s been so under-used by Hollywood lately.

A long time ago, self met a Mills College student at one of her San Francisco readings. Chatting with the young woman after the reading, the student revealed she made money by working part-time as an exotic dancer. And self happened to mention how much she liked Naomi Watts (What’s the connection to exotic dancing? Nothing), and the young woman said even though Watts had turned 40, if the young woman were a man, she’d definitely consider her hot.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

John Wick, Chapter 2: Keanu, Self Will Always Love You

Have you ever walked out of a film so struck by awe and wonder your skin is abuzz? Has a film ever left you so joyful and drunk on adrenaline that it made you more hopeful about the world? Has a lead performance in an action film ever had such balletic grace it made you marvel at the possibilities of the human body itself? This is exactly how I felt watching John Wick: Chapter Two, the sequel to the surprising 2014 action hit.

— Angelica Jade Bastien, rogerebert.com

Existential Crisis of the Day: To See or Not to See Fifty Shades

Fifty Shades Darker or John Wick 2?

Self is a big fan of Dakota Johnson.

Yup, that’s right. DAKOTA JOHNSON.

Plus, the Jamie. Come on. Ever seen this guy’s back blown up on the side of a building?

Well, self has. London, 2015. Somewhere in the South Bank. That back was pretty fine.

She is also a big fan of Keanu Reeves. Yesterday, an NPR reviewer called John Wick 2 the apogee of something: “designer violence” or “designer mayhem” or, anyway, something designer. Niiice!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

American Horror Story: Evan Peters

When self was in London, this past summer, she walked all the way from Russell Square to the Odeon on Shaftesbury just to see X-Men: Apocalypse. And about halfway through, Quicksilver appeared. And then self remembered his scene in X-Men: Days of Future Past.

A week later, she was in Oxford. And her hotel was right across the street from a movie theatre. She had time to see the Bodleian but not the Ashmolean. And she even got to see X-Men: Apocalypse again. And all because of Evan Peters.

By now self knows he’s a regular on American Horror Story. But she is such a fraidy cat, she never risked watching a single episode. Until today.

What else to do on a beautiful Saturday afternoon? She decided to watch American Horror Story. She scanned, episode by episode, until she got to one called “Coven,” which she thinks was either in Season 2 or Season 3.

The opening credits were a compendium of scary sights. But self was able to endure.

TRIGGER WARNING: Some Not-So-Nice Things, i.e. Horror, Depravity, Sexual Deviation and — need self say more?

Jessica Lange appeared, all floozy and wrecked. Then Emma Roberts appeared, in trashy faux-fur and miniskirt, side-eyeing a shirtless next-door neighbor. Then Evan Peters appeared, blonde. In flannel shirt. On a bed. Next to a blonde who looked significantly older.

Then it appeared that his head had at one time been separated from his torso. Not only his head, but also his arms. Everything was still healing, but there were a lot of sutures.

Then, a younger blonde appeared, rescued Evan Peters, and returned him to his mama, an awfully decrepit-looking Mare Winningham (She had a stud on her chin. Way to go, Big Mare Mama!). Then Evan’s Mama began to kiss him on the mouth. It took some time before self realized that the writers of this show were indeed going to go there — Holy Cow! This is one crazy show! So depraved (by American TV standards, that is)! She loved it, just loved it!

Apparently, every single oddball character actress in America is in this show. Aside from the aforementioned Jessica Lange, Mare Winningham, and Emma Roberts, Kathy Bates is in it.

Characters are all kinds of deviants. Huh!

It was getting dark and self was getting major creepy vibes, so she stopped watching after just two episodes. But, kudos to the writers and producers for putting such wickedly anarchic stuff on American television. And for keeping it up for six seasons.

Stay tuned.

It Begins

In the movie self just saw, Ben-Hur actually says “Wow.”

It’s a tad too long, but the final chariot race was thrilling. She saw it in 3D, which wouldn’t ever be her first choice, because 3D usually makes her dizzy, but she was short on time and had to grab the first screening that came up.

And she did not get dizzy! In fact, she forgot she was watching 3D about 10 minutes after the screen went black and this message appeared:

PUT ON YOUR 3D GLASSES NOW.

Today self, having forced herself to re-read the first 30 pages of Northanger Abbey, is finally beginning to see the point.

She must have been so tired earlier, when she first began reading. That’s the only explanation she can come up with for the words dancing like spots before her eyes.

Now, self has arrived at a part where Catherine is sure of her attraction to Mr. Tilney, and is still very equable to her best friend’s brother, John Thorpe. He’s such a natterer. But Catherine is much too nice to drive him away. Besides, she’s too humble and self-effacing to think that she has an actual suitor.

As self realized after reading Middlemarch last year, if a young woman is moral enough and innocent enough, her rich inner life can well prove to be her undoing: She can convince herself of the rightness of self-sacrifice like nobody’s business.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Quote of the Day: Glenn Kenney

What admiration self has for Chaz, Roger Ebert’s widow, who kept his name alive with the site RogerEbert.com, where you can find a collection of great reviews on all the most recently released movies (It is so much better than Rotten Tomatoes. On RogerEbert.com, a reviewer can actually say Suicide Squad stinks, and it will have 10x the persuasive power of someone on Rotten Tomatoes saying Suicide Squad stinks. Even though they both mean the same thing: that Suicide Squad really really stinks)

Self was looking over recently released movies (She’s just seen two back-to-back: Pete’s Dragon and Indignation. Since she’s already gotten this far, she might as well keep going with the one-movie-a-day!) and was un-enthused until she got to the three-star review of Ben-Hur by Glenn Kenney.

Self did not realize that the star of Ben-Hur was Jack Huston, Anjelica Huston’s nephew. She also did not realize that she’s actually seen him before: in American Hustle, seducing J-Law’s tempestuous character (who was married to Christian Bale’s character)

She did not realize that the director of Ben-Hur was Timur Bekmambetov. This guy is grrrreat! He directed Wanted, with James McAvoy. Sometimes self gets him confused with Tarsem Singh, who directed 2011’s The Immortals, a movie Roger Ebert described as “without doubt the best-looking awful movie you will ever see.” But, self digresses.

Kenney begins his review by calling Ben-Hur “a masterpiece of condensation.” Self likes that opening sentence so much that she continues reading the review. And comes to another great sentence:

  • “… this Ben-Hur has more Christ in it than any previous version.”

And that’s it. That’s her sentence of the day.

In this movie, Jesus has a cameo. And is played by, of all people, Rodrigo Santoro, whose body piercings in 300 are etched in self’s memory to this day.

This is such a fun review. Just one more quote: “The characters all speak in a completely contemporary tone, which shows the influence of — what do you know? Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ, which was criticized for (among other things) having the apostles talk like they’d just jumped off the IRT.” Har, har, har! Thank you, Glenn Kenney.

Since self is challenged in the time department this week, and she’s already posted twice today about movies, she’ll just slip this one in: She loved Pete’s Dragon except for the dragon. He looked like a stuffed toy.

Don’t get self wrong: she believes in dragons. But if a studio with deep pockets like Disney does a movie about dragons, she would like to see a screen dragon who is All Creature. One who looks like it could positively reek. You might call this the Game of Thrones Affect: it’s the satisfaction of knowing that when you look at a wildling, you can imagine wildling body odor.

The boy, however, that boy was really feral. More feral even than the dragon. She hasn’t seen a boy that convincingly feral since the kid in Road Warrior.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Random Thoughts on Summer 2016 Movies

SUMMER!  SUMMER IS HERE!  WOOT HOOT AND HIGH FIVES!

Self swore, way back in January, that she would find joy again in watching movies. And she has! She has! Even when she was in venerable Oxford, UK, she managed to watch “X-Men: Apocalypse” and “Captain America: Civil War”! (Which is probably why she ran out of time before she could drop by the Ashmolean. But she is not a complete Philistine: she did spend time in the Bodleian, and took a one-day poetry workshop at Saint Hilde’s)

So, let’s see, here are the list of summer movies she’s seen so far:

  • Me Before You (Emilia Clarke meets Bridget Jones: Clarke is too adorable!)
  • The Shallows (Blake Lively and her cute butt and her long legs and her killer smile meet a totally focused great white in the wilds of — Latin America? Mexico? Where the pretty Texan encounters very chivalrous men. The only un-chivalrous man who comes within Blake’s orbit gets . . . umm, well, let’s just say: Payback’s a bitch)
  • Love & Friendship (Xavier Samuels: What is her life? AAAARGH. When you put a handsome man in period duds, it’s lights out. At least, as far as self is concerned)
  • X-Men: Apocalypse (Let us give credit where credit is due: the only reason self watches anymore is Evan Peters)
  • Captain America: Civil War (American snark rules! Especially in this series! YES!)

She will probably end up seeing Independence Day: Resurgence even though it has Liam. And mediocre reviews (Liam, you need a new agent! Pronto! Someone who can find you movies that convince people you can actually move!)

Of the above, the best ‘summer movie’ movie is, in self’s humble opinion, The Shallows. Any movie that can evoke hoots, laughter, and finally a triumphant YEEEES from a California audience has definitely earned its spot in the Best Summer Movie pantheon.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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