Flash Reviews, Pt. 13: The End of Summer

 

1 August 2016-31 August 2016

Welcome to another installment of Flash Reviews, where I share brief snapshot reviews of the movies I’ve watched, books I’ve read and occasional other entertainment I’ve consumed since the last time I did this. Usually once every two months or so. WARNING: Spoilers lie ahead, so just watch out. Not super detailed spoilers, since these are just snapshots, but the better you know my tastes, the more likely you’ll be to find something spoiled.

TOP PICKS

Since these will be installments of my intensive summer, media consumption, with overwhelming amounts of films and a decent amount of books, consumed, I figured I’d pick out my Top 5 or so movies and my top book. So here goes, in no particular order.

The Ghost of Eternal Polygamy 

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

The Manchurian Candidate

What’s Eating Gilbert Grape

The Passion of the Christ

All the President’s Men

FILM

We Bought a Zoo

A fun and more mature film than I was anticipating. Deals with some pretty heavy themes, but in a nuanced and not overbearing way. Impressive. I enjoyed this one.

The Trip

Kinda fun. Worth it for the scene where they go to Dove Cottage (for me, since I worked their last summer and it was incredible). A rambling, meandering British experience.

Edge of the City

I liked this. Not incredible or mind-blowing, but good. Old school Sidney Poitier.

A Shade of Blue

Another old school Sidney Poitier film. I think a better film than Edge of the City. Deals with race (some class stuff) as well as some ableist ideologies. Worth watching and discussing.

Suicide SquadBottom of Form

An absolutely spectacular mess of a movie. There’s a lot going on and some weird plot contrivances, but it was fun. The soundtrack is top-notch (and used with Guardians of the Galaxy-style precision, though less diagetic overall). Margot Robbie is frightening and wonderful and magnetic, Viola Davis is cold and ruthless, and Will Smith is solid. Ridiculous and it knows it. Handles its large cast of largely unknown supervillains pretty well, with some goofy, but quite-fitting intro sequences (complete with stats and info alongside the characters in the typeface used throughout the marketing campaign). Not amazing, but it rampages about with style and that’s worth something.

The Saratov Approach

Probably the third time I’ve watched this. Still good. Some of it is cheesy and a bit over-the-top, but I think for the most part it feels pretty real. The end with the voiceover as they walk into the Church though still gets me as being far too obvious. Like pounding you over the head with the moral of the story. But, that aside, easily one of the best Mormon films.

Jason Bourne

Excellent action. Matt Damon is still perfect as Bourne. A worthy installment in the series (probably better than Supremacy, not as good as Identity and Ultimatum). Alicia Vikander is a solid addition and makes the role her own. Tommy Lee Jones plays his part well. The plot feels a little looser than earlier entries and along with that looseness is an ending that leaves threads for sequels, far more so than the others do. Still, a solid action film and an entertaining ride.

Pinnochio

Good, though I don’t love it as much as some. It feels a bit episodic (which may be by design) and while some of it is cool, a lot of it feels more random. Anyway, it was worth revisiting.

All the President’s Men

I love this movie. Maybe I have a thing for journalism movies (I really really really liked Spotlight). But the acting is stellar, the narrative is great, the clothes are excellent. It’s fantastic.

Adventures in Babysitting

A weird movie. Not one that was a part of my fairly wide-ranging 80s film watching growing up, so may have lacked a lot of that nostalgia and being at the right formative age to first experience it. It was enjoyable in that 80s excess sort of way, but not going on my classics list to keep alive.

A Most Wanted Man

A talkie-thriller. Lots of walking and talking, with some brief more action sequences. Quite good. Interesting portrayal of the greys in the intelligence community. Phillip Seymour Hoffman did fantastic.

Left Behind

Thoroughly enjoyed this. A bit bizarre, but some b-movie Nic Cage at his best. With odd theological ideas thrown in. So, definitely up my alley.

The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

A fantastic film. This held up super well. Definitely need to watch it again. And again. And maybe even again. Acting is good (with some odd choices scattered throughout, but generally solid). Great plot. Some cool twists. Weirdness throughout, but in a good way.

Sixteen Candles

Another 80s “classic” that was again, not part of my watching growing up. Some typical John Hughes elements though it seems less mature than his later stuff. I mean, they’re all on the juvenile side, but this one just felt less developed or something.

What’s Eating Gilbert Grape

Wow. A powerful, beautiful, tragic film. Leonardo DiCaprio is amazing. Absolutely phenomenal. Johnny Depp delivers a solid performance as well. Great complex, thought-provoking family drama.

Emma

Alright. Not the best Austen adaptation I’ve seen (this was the 1996, A&E made for tv version). It is fun to see some of the actors that are in it—Kate Beckinsale, Olivia Williams, Mark Strong, etc. I don’t love Emma as a novel, but even with that this just felt a little flat to me.

Highlander

A highly enjoyable and absurd movie. Ridiculous. The soundtrack is great (the music’s by Queen). The premise is fun. The flashbacks to warring, highland Scotland are fun, if frequently transitioned to oddly.

The Legend of Tarzan

I was quite pleasantly surprised by this. It wasn’t great, but it was worth the dollar I spent on it. Most of the cast is quite good. Christoph Waltz is a bit more subdued (and therefore less fun) than usual. Samuel L. Jackson is Samuel L. Jackson, so took me out of the story every time he spoke. Towards the end it gets a bit ridiculous (I laughed out loud at a couple things that caused the girl next to me to shoot me a pretty severe death glare…), but for the most part, enjoyable. I’m not quite sure what it ends up saying about race and imperialism (both issues it plays with some and then seems to muddle up quite a bit and perhaps leave with some troubling implications).

Trouble with the Curve

More of a father-daughter story than a sports one, which was fine. Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams, and Justin Timberlake (I know, I know) all help ground the film in pretty solid emotions and character relationships.

Million Dollar Arm

Another sports movie. It was ok. Didn’t love it. Didn’t really feel like it was doing or saying much. Didn’t really enjoy it. A solid meh.

The Book Thief

A good movie, but it lacked a lot of the power of the book for me. The use of narration, which was one of the most effective and interesting choices in the book felt a bit cheesy in the film and seemed to shift the tone quite drastically when it was used. The acting is solid and the music is beautiful. It’s worth watching, but didn’t deliver quite the emotional punch that the book did.

Lockout

A kinda dumb, but largely entertaining movie. Guy Pearce is so terrible, but hilarious. Some fun space stuff and enjoyable action set-pieces.

Pawn Sacrifice

Engaging. An odd juxtaposition to Searching for Bobby Fisher. Tobey Maguire is remarkably unlikable. But delivers a pretty great performance. A somewhat flawed film, but a good one. Fascinating stuff.

The Little Prince

I enjoyed this. The paper-textured animation was easily my favorite part. Most of the voices are well-cast. Some of the frame narrative didn’t really resonate with me, but I think overall, a pretty solid job.

First Knight

I was quite surprised with this. Richard Gere, Sean Connery, and Julia Ormond are all great at what they need to do. The action sequences are quite entertaining. Some interesting ideas about law and order and justice and God’s place in all of that teased throughout.

The Other Guys

A surprisingly clever movie. Also dumb, but a decent amount of fairly clever humor. Fascinating to think of it as a spiritual prequel to The Big Short (both directed by Adam McKay). The recurring TLC stuff was great.

The Passion of the Christ

Wow. A powerful, spiritual film. I was brought to tears multiple times, which I wasn’t anticipating. It was wonderful. Brutal and difficult to watch, but wonderful. The moments that touched me most were the little bits here and there of everyday people performing acts of service for Jesus. Also, the juxtaposition of beaten, bruised, bleeding Jesus and flashbacks to his happy, kind, loving, clean face. I think having all the actors speak in Aramaic enabled a useful distance from any other roles they may have played. Some of the Satan stuff was a bit melodramatic for my tastes, but the rest I think was quite well done.

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

An incredible film. So so so good. Gene Wilder is perfection as Willy Wonka. The opening sequence still makes my mouth water. I would LOVE to go to his chocolate factory. Incredible. The Wonkatania scene? Terrifyingly brilliant. All of Wonka’s lines are this fantastic mix of whimsy bordering on insanity and tenderness. Love it.

Big Fat Liar

A movie that I’ve watched many many times. It’d been a good chunk of time since I last watched it and it felt far less funny this time. Though I was watching by myself, which I’m sure contributed to that feeling. Definitely juvenile. But humorously so. For the most part.

 

BOOKS

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Not in the same realm as the series, though I was still engrossed and devoured it in a couple of hours. It felt a little fanfiction-y (maybe sort of derivative? I can’t quite place why). There were still standout moments and stellar lines and the second half (Acts 3 & 4) was far better and more Harry-Pottery (at least what I feel is the essence of something being “Harry-Pottery”) than the first. And I’m thrilled to have a Slytherin (or two) to identify with and have as an exemplar of the good-hearted Slytherin so absent from the series (probably a bit biased, as a Slytherin, but hey, what can you do?). I can see how the medium would be a turn-off for people, but I thought it was interesting (you lose some of the richness of the detail in the prose descriptions that the novels are full of, but it lends some sparseness that brings the focus tightly on the relationships between the characters and allows for more interpretation of lines than a novel probably would).

Some random quotes that stuck out to me:

Snape, “One person. All it takes is one person. I couldn’t save Harry for Lily. So now I give my allegiance to the cause she believed in. And it’s possible—that along the way I started believing in it myself.” (193)

Snape, “Sometimes costs are made to be borne.” (187)

Harry, “They were great men, with huge flaws, and you know what—those flaws almost made them greater.” (308)

Harry, “That thing I said to you—it was unforgivable, and I can’t ask you to forget it but I can hope we move past it. I’m going to try to be a better dad for you, Albus. I am going to try and—be honest with you and…” (305)

Mindful Writing (2nd Edition)

A textbook for WRTG 150! Pretty good stuff. Not like the most thrilling reading, but does its job well.

My Lady Jane

An enjoyable read. Some clever ahistorical moves. The narration is funny and has a Princess Bride-esque vibe to it.

The Ghost of Eternal Polygamy

A heavy, heart-wrenching book. Some powerful thoughts on polygamy and how to respond to it and Carol Lynn Pearson’s personal journey and wrestle with it. The most touching and devastating pieces for me were the various “Other Voices” that CLP shared from the extensive survey she did. I had never realized how far-reaching and devastating any vestiges of the doctrine of polygamy are. I think because I just discounted it and put in a “disagree with, but won’t be asked to do, so I’ll try and figure out what in the world is going on with it later” box. The book could be validating and powerful for those that have such feelings or damaging if you already feel that way. I think anyone that doesn’t get the harms of polygamy, even as an idea, a possibility for the eternities, should read this.

Nevermore: A Graphic Adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s Short Stories

Entertaining. Fun illustrations and nice interpretations of many of the stories. A bit grim and terrifying, so probably not for young-young readers.

Past Installments here: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, Part Six, Part Seven, Part Eight, Part Nine, Part Ten, Part Eleven and Part Twelve.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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