I Just Finished – Thor Ragnarok

I saw this opening weekend, and didn’t really think of commenting on my blog. But then it occurred to me that, the last time a Thor movie came out, I pretty much savaged it in this forum. So maybe a follow-up visit, albeit perhaps less expansive than my review of Thor: The Dark World, is deserved.

This was easily my favorite of the three Thor films to date. Although, sadly, it does not serve the supporting cast well—Jane Foster, Sif and Erik Selvig are all missing, and the Warriors Three appear, but only in cameos that their fans probably weren’t glad to see—it’s rooted firmly in the Thor comics mythology and showcases Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston amazingly well, to say nothing of newcomers Cate Blanchett, Jeff Goldblum, Karl Urban and Tessa Thompson, and welcome guest Mark Ruffalo. Idris Elba has a reduced, but important, role. I point out with irony that this is probably also the best Hulk film ever made—with irony because, obviously, it’s not a Hulk film, and the character did not fare well in his own title films. But here, he’s the best he’s been in a movie.

Continue reading

I Just Finished – Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this film, going in. I remembered the 1974 film coming out—probably from commercials and buzz on morning news programs. I remembered that one was an all-star “vehicle” (pardon the pun) of the type that was so popular in the 1970s. I never cared much for such films, when I was little. They seemed designed to appeal to boring people who drank martinis, talked about Nixon and watched too much football.

Kenneth Branagh’s film is, too, an all-star vehicle, with no less than the director himself, Michelle Pfeiffer, Willem Dafoe, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Derek Jacobi and Dame Judi Dench in its cast. And, admittedly, some of the crowd around me in the theater struck me as being martini drinkers who talked about Trump and watched too much football. But I found myself delighted with this film.

Continue reading

I Just Finished – Twilight Zone “The Lonely”

Jack Warden and Jean Marsh star in the sad tale of Jack Corey and Alicia. Corey is a convicted felon, although he claims that he killed in self-defense. He’s a decent enough guy, from what we see of him in thirty minutes, that you tend to believe him about that. But he’s been sentenced to solitary confinement on an asteroid which, Rod Serling’s narration tells us, is “nine million miles from Earth.”

Continue reading

I Just Finished – Nick Offerman: Full Bush

Sometime this past Summer—I guess—my wife Renee asked if we all wanted to go see Nick Offerman at the Warner Theatre in DC in November. I was very excited about the idea—and promptly forgot the entire conversation. There’s a certain special quality to being over fifty and having worked yourself stupid: things you planned in advance can come back to you as wonderful surprises, because you had no idea you planned them.

At our annual Hallowe’en party, which we only remembered to have because people kept asking us what time it was going to start, my friend Sharon said to me, “I guess we’ll want to get together for dinner Friday?”

“Friday? What’s Friday?”

“Nick Offerman.”

“We having dinner with Nick Offerman on Friday?”

Continue reading

I Just Finished – Action Comics 987-991

“The Oz Effect” is a five-part story which reveals the origins (kinda) of the mysterious Mr. Oz who has been appearing in DC Comics for quite a while now, in different titles. He’s a dangerous guy, and, like any powerful, godlike being, his followers might be even more dangerous. In the course of this story, in Oz’s name, one of his followers detonates a bomb (and himself) in an attempt to kill the staff of The Daily Planet. His motivation seems to be little more than because Mr. Oz told him to, and because he wants everyone to know how horrible life on Earth is.


Continue reading

I Just Finished – Alfred Hitchcock’s Movie Soundtracks

Okay, they’re not Hitchcock’s. He didn’t compose them. They’re Bernard Herrmann’s. Specifically, this collection includes the soundtracks to The Wrong Man, Vertigo, and North by Northwest. Herrmann scored a lot of Hitchcock films, especially his big, splashy Universal ones. Popular films whose Herrmann soundtracks are not included herein are Psycho, Marnie (perhaps not as popular a film, but a beautiful soundtrack), and The Man Who Knew Too Much (the 1956 release, with Jimmy Stewart and Doris Day.) He even served as sound designer on Hitch’s music-free film The Birds.

I first discovered Herrmann, like a lot of fans my age, because his music from The Day The Earth Stood Still and Beneath the Twelve-Mile Reef, was prominently featured in Lost in Space. Herrmann did a lot of TV, a lot of it original, particularly for The Twilight Zone. I guess my next encounter with him was his moody score for The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, with Rex Harrison and Gene Tierney. That was one of the first CDs I ever bought, when CDs became popular. (The cassette era, in which I came of age, wasn’t especially kind to soundtrack-lovers. They were pretty much released largely on vinyl and then jumped to CD. There are exceptions.

Continue reading

I Just Finished – The Free Thoughts Podcast – Washington’s Five Tricks

So this is a bit political, though not “I hate the giant orange / I hate the scary hag” political. I listen to this podcast regularly. It’s produced by libertarianism.org and the Cato Institute, and I always find it informative and thought-provoking. I don’t always agree with everything I hear, which is a good thing, but, when I listen, I feel I’m listening to highly intelligent, highly educated people talking about things that actually matter. And by “things that actually matter” I mean pretty much nothing that most people are bringing into current political discourse. Russian collusion? Yeah, I believe it may have happened. I also believe it, or things like it, have been happening for a long time. If they upset you, stop voting for candidates who are involved with them.

Most people won’t do that. So they’ve chosen to live with this idiocy, and I’m not really interested in hearing them wallow in it. Continue reading

I Just Finished – Captain America #695

My son Ethan handed me this and said, “You need to read this.” It explains and excuses, he told me, the faults of the recent “event” which unjustifiably stole the name Secret Empire. It brings back Captain America, the real Cap, not the Hydra agent who everyone should have realized was simply a story device. They didn’t realize it. They got all bent out of shape by it, and suggested that Marvel’s creative teams had actually become Nazis. It seems comics fans have become less sophisticated over the years.

It’s kinda funny, 72 years after their defeat, that we Americans are still seeing Nazis under every bed, with as much fear and paranoia as Joe McCarthy ever brought to his quest for Communists. And, to be fair, there were card-carrying members of the Communist Party in the movie industry, and the much-lauded Dalton Trumbo actually was using his position to propagandize his views. But later generations judged McCarthy’s actions to be extreme. So, when there are no members of the Nazi party in any position of power in our country now, just people who are to the political right of whoever is slinging the term “Nazi” at them, I wonder how future generations will view our current behavior. Continue reading

I Just Finished – Superman (Rebirth) #29

A child is disappearing every night in Metropolis. Fourteen are now gone without a trace. Superman, sworn to protect his city and terrified for his son, Jon, vows to find them, and winds up finding two of Green Lantern’s deadliest foes along the way. The cover makes no secret of the fact that this will be a Sinestro story. Guest-writer (I assume) Keith Champagne doesn’t have Peter Tomasi’s flair for writing the family-oriented Superman tales I’ve been enjoying. Lois and Jon are absent from this issue. But he does instill a lot of heart and nobility into Clark, which is what I read Superman to experience. Looking forward to the next part of the story.

I Just Finished – Iceman (2017) #6

This story is part one of “Champions Reunited,” a story I’ve been looking forward to. I’ve been a fan of the Champions since very early in their original run, which began back in 1975. The team was an odd mix of leftover Marvel characters, none of them (then) heavy hitters. Under the capable guidance of Tony Isabella and Don Heck, and later Chris Claremont, George Tuska, Bob Hall, John Byrne and most prominently Bill Mantlo, this team of second stringers did something that hadn’t really happened before: they tried to intentionally build a super-team. They incorporated, bought a headquarters, had lawyers and accountants and PR agents, all with the goal of giving Los Angeles, a much-neglected venue at Marvel in the 1970s, a super-heroic presence.

Continue reading