Sunday, September 4, 2016

Recent Viewing: August- September 2016

Haven't had time to watch much lately, but here's the noteworthy among what I've witnessed.

Florence Foster Jenkins: A terrific movie. Does a great job of establishing sympathy for the character, who we wind up rooting for despite an utter lack of talent in the field at which she strives. Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant, and Simon Helberg shine.

Kubo and the Two Strings: An amazing animated film. Definitely Laika's best since the sublime "Coraline". There's been controversy around the casting of mostly white actors to play Asian characters. And while I'm not so concerned about this in animation, I wouldn't have minded more Asian voice talent. The larger issue, though, is the pointlessness of famous people playing all the roles in cartoons nowadays. Specialist voice actors are a rare and distinctive breed. Give 'em a chance to shine!

The Witch: Creepy, thought-provoking and by all accounts historically rigorous. I had to keep the subtitles on to decipher what anybody was saying through their accents and diction, which is probably what it would have been like if I'd actually been there. Except I don't think they had subtitles back then.

Stranger Things: Perhaps a bit oversold to me by the time I watched it, but still really enjoyable. Gratifying to see MK-Ultra integrated into mainstream entertainment.

Green Room: Being a fan of "Blue Ruin", I was pretty excited for this followup from the same filmmakers. I really wanted to love this, and while I liked it pretty well, I found it to be a bit of a muddle. Some great performances, especially from Alia Shawkat, and the movie looks great. But it often just plain isn't clear what's going on, and the dialog sometimes gets murky and muffled just when we need clarity. Still, I'm excited to see what these folks bring us down the road. Lots of potential there.

Silent Running and The Black Hole: Got together with a couple of friends to throw these down. I'd never seen "Silent Running", though I remember reading about it a lot in Starlog magazine when I was a kid. And while I can see why it was so influential at the time-- the robots were clearly an inspiration for R2-D2, the crew is a clear antecedent to that of the first "Alien", and the greenhouse ship itself appears in both incarnations of "Battlestar Galactica"-- man is this a slow and meandering movie. If you hollow out the meat of "2001" but retain the glacial pace and bewildering aspects, plus add a liberal helping of Joan Baez, there you go.

About "The Black Hole", which I had seen before but wanted to refresh in my memory, the less said the better. Except for Slim Pickens playing the voice of a robot. That was pretty funny.

Also recommended:

Downton Abbey Season Four: Binging on these progressively whenever I visit my mom. Fun stuff.
I Know That Voice
Sopranos, Seson 6 in progress: In the home stretch now! You guys should really check out this show. I think it's going to change TV as we know it.

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