Fast & Furious 8 & The Flu

 

So the last half of December and the first half of January have been a write off in terms of getting anything done because the flu bug has been so bad this year. I got sick twice and had such a sore throat the second time I ended up getting some antibiotics to get rid of it. My dad, who turned 81 on January 8th, also got the flu to the point where he had to go to the hospital. Not a great way to spend a birthday. And my brother Tony said the hospital was so busy that my dad was unable to get a private room. So my dad had to stay in the Emergency Ward. Thankfully, my dad is doing much better and hopefully will be out of the hospital a couple of days.

My wife and I sat down to watch the latest Fast And the Furious movie on Friday night. Sheesh! They’re up to number eight already. This is the first one without Paul Walker at all, who tragically passed away during the filming of the seventh movie. As with each new installment in the franchise, each movie has to get bigger and crazier than the previous one. This time the action involved a major set piece with cars on ice being chased by a submarine.

There was also a setpiece in a downtown area where all cars with computer chips were remotely taken over. Pretty far-fetched that’s for sure but at least with the remote control cars that’s something you could see possibly happening in the future with more self-driving cars. The submarine staff was just ridiculous. Still, there is no doubt the cast is having a lot of fun, The Rock especially is really fun to watch. And I got quite a kick out of Kurt Russell.

These movies are the poster child for check your brain at the door type of entertainment but sometimes that’s just what the doctor ordered and I admit, we had a lot of fun watching this movie.

I assume there will be a number nine. The way this one ended there’s definitely a sequel in store. At the rate they’re burning through premises, the next one will have to take place in space.

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2017 Year End Post

Colorful 2017 New Year date in sparklers

There is the old Chinese curse – “May you live in interesting times” – and the year 2017 has definitely been that.

On the micro-level for my family and extended family, it’s been a good year. There were no major illnesses and everybody has been able to continue with their lives pretty well unaffected by things that are happening at the macro level.

2017 was a good year for the arts. There were a lot of great movies, music, books, and TV shows produced. However, there is no denying that there are fracture points along socio-cultural lines taking place today in the world. Viewpoints on social matters have never been more polarized. Technology has removed the middle ground. It has never been easier to communicate but social media removes the human component of communication. Without that human component, there has been a loss of empathy for other viewpoints.

We are more connected to each other today but we are also more isolated from one another. The chasms between different viewpoints have grown deeper. These are interesting times indeed and much of what’s Alvin Toffler predicted in his book – “Future Shock”, is coming to pass. If you have not read this book I highly recommend that you seek it out. It’s amazing how relevant this book is today even though it was written in 1970.

Tina and I closed out the year watching two really good movies.

Wind River is Dir./Writer Taylor Sheridan’s latest movie. In it, Jeremy Renner plays Cory Lambert, a wildlife officer who finds the body of an 18-year-old woman on an American Indian reservation in snowy Wyoming. Fellow Avengers alumni Elizabeth Olson plays Jane Banner, an FBI agent who was called in to investigate when it is found out the girl was raped.

wind river

Taylor Sheridan does an amazing job both directing and writing this movie as the dialogue really pops and he uses the snowscapes of Wyoming to great use to create the sense of isolation the Indians live in. The movie has a great cast. Other cast members include Kelsey Cho, Julie Jones, Gill Birmingham, and the always great Graham Greene. Greene was also in Dances With Wolves and The Green Mile.

The movie builds to an explosive and unexpected climax that literally blows the story wide open. It is one of the most intense sequences I’ve seen in the movie in several years. To top it off the anticlimax is also very powerful but much more understated.

This is the best thing I’ve ever seen Jeremy Renner in. He gives a great performance.

Three_Billboards_Outside_Ebbing,_MissouriThe other movie we saw was Three Billboards Outside Epping, Missouri. This is another movie from a writer/director – Martin McDonagh. Another movie with a great cast and great writing. The inciting incident is also a rape-murder of a young girl. In this movie, Francis McDormand plays the aggrieved mother of the murdered girl.

The rest of the cast includes Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Peter Dinklage, Abbie Cornish, and John Hawks. All of them are fantastic in this movie with special notice due to Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson.

Unlike Wind River, this is a very funny movie even though the subject matter is dark. Francis McDormand is a force to be reckoned with as she will not put up with anyone else’s excuses in her quest to find the murderer of her daughter. I highly recommend you check out the trailer for this movie and you’ll see just how funny it is.

This is a real character movie with deeply flawed individuals who despite their own weakness and prejudices are able to reach across the gulf of their differences.

A timely movie, indeed.

Keene

 

 

Our last Stephen King podcast of 2017 including a guest interview with horrormeister – Brian Keene. A podcasting highlight to be sure. Check out my previous post to find out where to listen to it.

 

 

 

Well, that does it for 2017. Still using Dragon to dictate and things are moving along well.

To you and your loved ones, Happy New Year!

2018

Back Off! Back Off! ARQ’ing Firestarter

firestarter_novelOne of the excellent side benefits of doing the Stephen King podcast is it gives me a vested interest in re-reading his books.  For our next one we will be revisiting Firestarter. Haven’t read this one in a long time and in my memory it sits below his top stuff works. I think my memory became tainted by the Keith David / Drew Barrymore movie. A flawed effort but with some redeeming qualities.

As to the book, it exists in two parts. The first part is a chase movie with Andy McGee and his seven year old daughter fleeing from the minions of the shop. The second half is an escape story. Both halves are pieces of clockwork precision in execution and ratcheting up the tension. But what really sells the story are not the bombastic set pieces but the quiet moments between Charlie and her father as he tries to help Charlie sort out the moral implications of using her powers. There are also small but twisted moments between Charlie and her assasin to be – Charles Rainbird.

Thoroughly enjoyed my re-read and much more than I thought I would. Also one of my favorite King book covers.

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Netflix keeps out pumping new content and one of them was a SF time travel movie – ARQ – that takes place for over 99% of  it, in the same house. It’s Groundhog Day on a three hour loop with plenty of nifty twists along the way. Robbie Amell – Arrow’s Stephen Baldwin’s younger brother and Rachel Hunter – last seen in another Netflix original – Marvel’s Jessica Jones – do great work together as a fractured couple caught in the middle in of a war between a giant corporation and a rebel group. It’s well done and well worth a watch.

Dark Tower movie addendum – a rough print of the upcoming Dark Tower movie trailer leaked for a while on the internet. I’ll defer making any comments on it and will wait for the full fledged trailer expected to drop this Christmas. The quality was terrible and many FX shots were not completed.  I will say that overall the trailer has got me excited with only one sequence causing me doubt.

Movie Nights

Watched a couple of flicks that are worthy of your time.

Green Room

green-room-poster

Starring the late Anton Yelchin and Patrick Stewart. One of the weirdest Star Trek crossings with Stewart playing a thoroughly repellent SkinHead leader and Anton as a member of a low level punk rock band. A murder occurs, the band members are a witness, and Stewart tries to cover up the murder and lay the blame on the band. A real gritty violent thriller with several tense sequences which include pit bull attack dogs. Definitely worth a watch.

Bittersweet seeing Yelchin here who died recently and suddenly in a horrific and freak car accident. He has a King connection with his role from Hearts In Atlantis.

 

Birdman

Birdman Movie Poster

Michael Keaton gives a virtuoso performance as an actor known best for a superhero role trying to prove he is capable of greater things while his inner demons tear down his ability to diffferentiate between reality and fantasy. Keaton heads a great cast with Ed Norton and Emma Stone as fellow standouts.

The direction of this movie is so fantastic that it becomes distracting because there are so many uninterrupted shots that made me focus on catching when the next cut would show up.

Love the ending as it is one that is open to interpretation.