Month: April 2018

Movie Review – The NeverEnding Story

Category : Movie Review

Director: Wolfgang Petersen

Starring: Barret Oliver, Noah Hathaway, Alan Oppenheimer

Year: 1984

Wolfgang Peterson is an interesting director.  He basically did three movies in the 80s, three in the 90s, and three in the 2000s, at least that anyone’s ever heard of.  The 80s: Das Boot, The NeverEnding Story, Enemy Mine (hidden gem).  The 90s: In the Line of Fire, Outbreak, Air Force One (solid all).  The 2000s: The Perfect Storm, Troy, Poseidon (getting a bit grandiose and perhaps in over his head).  For my money, The NeverEnding Story is his best work, based on the book by the same name written by Michael Ende five years previous.  It’s fun, it’s adventurous, and apparently it stands the test of time, because I enjoyed it this time out, watching it with my kids, just as much as I loved it when I was a kid myself.

Bastian is an odd boy, someone who doesn’t fit in at school and hasn’t earned his father’s respect.  His head is always in the clouds, he spends his math classes drawing unicorns, and the recent death of his mother hasn’t made his want to invest even more of himself in the “real world” like his dad wants.  One morning, after having been chased into a garbage dumpster by some bullies, Bastian hides in a curious book shop, one with an owner who isn’t very friendly with children.  But he’s reading a fascinating book, one that he tells Bastian is unlike any other.  Regular books are safe, whereas this one takes you on quests along with the characters, whether you want to go or now.  So Bastian embarks upon a journey into the heart of Fantasia, through the pages of the book, and his life will never be the same.

My sister and I would borrow this VHS from the library when we were young, and we’d watch it over and over again, until we eventually got our own copy, probably at a local garage sale or some such thing.  This was one of my absolute favorites, and I used to imagine that I was Atreyu riding Artax through the swamps when I was on the swings at school, galloping away on a mission to save the Childlike Empress and all of Fantasia.  It really is an incredible story, and I’m glad I shared it with my kids, glad they loved it just as much as I did.  I had forgotten how great the soundtrack is, not just the theme song but all the music, weaving throughout the story perfectly and helping to move the action along.  It’s exciting without being too scary, magical without being too dark, and a great introduction to sci-fi/fantasy.  The NeverEnding Story is a perfect example of the genre, a timeless classic if ever there was one.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆



Movie Review – Super Troopers 2

Category : Movie Review

Director: Jay Chandrasekhar

Starring: Broken Lizard

Year: 2018

Seventeen years after the original Super Troopers, the long awaited sequel is here.  I was 17 when the first movie came out, so I’ve doubled in age but I’m not sure about maturity; I guess Super Troopers 2 is here to help me find out.  This comedy troupe is known for their idiotic humor, for their insensitive jokes, for their obsession with drugs and penises and guns and silly voices.  I found that funny when I was younger, they became a bit of a cult sensation, but I was nervous about how their style would translate to modern times.  After all, you could call Broken Lizard racist and sexist and tasteless, and I don’t think you would hear many arguments.  But it might be their awareness of these things that gives them a pass, their ability to make fun of others while making themselves look like fools in the process.  I don’t know, these guys don’t make sense, neither do their movies, but we somehow love them all the same.

Years after their station was shut down and they became local Spurbury, Vermont cops, the gang is back together once more for another mission.  They were all fired from the force for an incident involving Fred Savage, but they’re being given a second chance, only because their talents are needed along the border once more.  Apparently the maps of the US and of Canada were drawn incorrectly, a chunk of land now coming over to the States, a police force needed to make sure the transition goes smoothly.  So our boys are headed up to meet the Mounties, and to lay down American law in loon country.  But, wouldn’t you know it, drugs are crime are popping up where they are least expected, and it’s up to the Troopers to crack the case, all while avoiding bears, figuring out the metric system, and making peace with the natives; good luck guys, and have fun, eh?

The Canadian jokes are out of goddam control in this movie, so you had better be prepared, better find them funny, and better not bring your friends from up north.  On a serious note, before we dive in, I wonder how a French Canadian would feel about this film; it has the potential to be extremely offensive.  Thinking about that makes me feel guilty for laughing at the jokes, but I have to assume that all was done in good humor.  I have to hope that everyone knows that these guys are morons, that they make fun of themselves more than anyone else, that their jokes might be tasteless but they aren’t meant to be harmful, and that those who they’re poking at can laugh right along with us because it’s all so ridiculous.  If there was some solid complaint from Canadians or from women or from whoever, I’d have to listen, because I see now the potential for insensitivity in a way I couldn’t when I was a teenager.  I’d want to be understanding of that if it was a problem, but for now I’ll just enjoy the show and assume that it’s equal parts couthless and toothless.

Anyway, on to the movie, which is exactly what you would expect.  If you are a fan of the first, you will enjoy the second; the guys bring just enough back with just enough new material that they’ll have you cracking up all over again, if not exactly quoting the lines this time around.  You get Farva the tool, Thorny the Mexican, Mac the maniac, Rabbit the goofy rookie, and Foster the relative straight man.  You also get some more cameos from some non-Lizards: Brian Cox, Lynda Carter, Will Sasso, Rob Lowe, Fred Savage, Seann William Scott, Clifton Collins Jr, Damon Wayans Jr, Jim Gaffigan, and others.  Lynda Carter was a bit weird; she’s had a ton of plastic surgery, and I think even her voice has been altered, it was much higher than it should be.  But anyway, Broken Lizard delivers the comedy you’re ready for and them some.  There are more puns, which weren’t that funny, and the beginning scene it so stupid I was afraid that the entire feature would be a giant, shitty dud.  But then the fan service started, everyone make fun of Canadians, the metric jokes got me every time, Rob Lowe wove his magic, and everything worked out.  It obviously can’t be quite as good as the first, but Super Troopers 2 is exactly the kind of film you and your friends who laughed right along with you seventeen years ago should see at least once.  But don’t take anyone who isn’t already on board; this isn’t the kind of thing you want them to know that you watch and enjoy.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆



Movie Review – Super Troopers

Category : Movie Review

Director: Jay Chandrasekhar

Starring: Broken Lizard

Year: 2001

2001 was the year I graduated high school, so it was the perfect time for me to see and enjoy Super Troopers.  A dumber movie does not exist on the planet, but I still found it funny; I guess that’s what happens when you make a bunch of penis jokes for a 17-year-old guy.  But it becomes more awkward when you remember that the Broken Lizard comedy troupe weren’t all 17 when they made this movie, they were grown men who still thought chugging syrup was hilarious.  That’s weird, and the movie is weird, it’s all weird when you think about it too long, but I assume that’s the case with any raunchy, idiotic, hyper-“masculine” film, it gets more uncomfortable the more you put it into context.  So my advice when watching Super Troopers is don’t.

In Vermont, near the Canadian border, a team of Highway Patrolmen are about to have their station shut down, and it’s basically their own fault.  The state only has the budget for so many officers, and the local cops can police the highway just fine, so why keep an unnecessary branch open?  Also, this particular gang of misfits are always causing trouble, always pulling gags, and never consider themselves subject to the law.  Thorny, Rabbit, Mac, Foster, Farva; these idiots love their job and the brotherhood that they have formed, so they’ll do anything to save their station from being closed.  When drugs and a murder case cause some stir in their community, these super sleuths are on the case; now if they can only stop from literally shooting themselves in the foot.

Dumb and Dumber meets Reno 911 might be a good way to describe this movie if you’ve never seen it, and if you missed it when it first came out I’m not sure I can recommend it to you now.  It’s chalked full of one-liners and immortal quotes: Car Ramrod, meow what’s so funny, chickenfucker, who wants a mustache ride.  The cameos are cool: Lynda Carter, Brian Cox, Jim Gaffigan.  And it’s really funny in a very certain way, a way that perhaps only movie masochists can enjoy.  But god is it dumb, and in no way are these fellas actors.  They’re just themselves, this film was a hit for some unfathomable reason, they really aren’t that talented, and although they tried to make more comedies, nothing ever quite worked out the same.  This is something you can revisit for some laughs and because it’s an odd kind of cult classic, but I can’t think of anyone I’d show it to for the first time; I wouldn’t want them to see me chuckle at something so bad and wrong.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆



Sports – 2018 NFL Draft

Category : Sports

Football is almost here!  It’s just a matter of time before the season begins.  The first step was Free Agency, and now the Draft!  This Thursday @ 8:00 pm the 1st Round of the Draft will be on in prime time and I’ll be glued to the television.  This is a very interesting draft class and it’s hard to predict who each team will pick, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun trying.  So, based on the opinions of experts and my own uneducated musings (and including a couple draft spot trades) here it is, Olie’s 2018 Mock Draft:

1. Cleveland Browns – Baker Mayfield, QB Oklahoma

2. New York Giants – Sam Darnold, QB USC

3. New York Jets – Josh Rosen, QB UCLA

4. Buffalo Bills – Josh Allen, QB Wyoming

5. Denver Broncos – Saquon Barley, RB Penn State

6. Indianapolis Colts – Bradley Chubb, DE N.C. State

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Derwin James, S FSU

8. Chicago Bears – Tremaine Edmunds, LB Virginia Tech

9. San Francisco 49ers – Quenton Nelson, OG Notre Dame

10. Oakland Raiders – Roquan Smith, LB Georgia

11. Green Bay Packers – Minkah Fitzpatrick, S Alabama

12. Cleveland Browns – Denzel Ward, CB OSU

13. Washington Redskins – Vita Vea, DT Washington

14. Miami Dolphins – Marcus Davenport, DE UTSA

15. Arizona Cardinals – Calvin Ridley, WR Alabama

16. Baltimore Ravens – Leighton Vander Esch, LB Boise State

17. Los Angeles Chargers – Da’Ron Payne, DT Alabama

18. Seattle Seahawks – Josh Jackson, CB Iowa

19. Dallas Cowboys – Harold Landry, LB/DE Boston College

20. Detroit Lions – Taven Bryan, DT Florida

21. Cincinnati Bengals – Will Hernandez, OG UTEP

22. Buffalo Bills – D.J. Moore, WR Maryland

23. New England Patriots – Kolton Miller, OT UCLA

24. Carolina Panthers – Jaire Alexander, CB Louisville

25. Tennessee Titans – Rashaan Evans, LB Alabama

26. Atlanta Falcons – Maurice Hurst, DT Michigan

27. New Orleans Saints – Hayden Hurst, TE South Carolina

28. Pittsburgh Steelers – Derrius Guice, RB LSU

29. Jacksonville Jaguars – Courtland Sutton, WR SMU

30. Minnesota Vikings – Isaiah Wynn, OG Georgia

31. New England Patriots – Lamar Jackson, QB Louisville

32. Philadelphia Eagles – Sony Michel, RB Georgia

DVD Review – The Breadwinner

Category : DVD Review

Director: Nora Twomey

Starring: Saara Chaudry, Soma Chhaya, Noorin Gulamgaus

Year: 2017

Nora Twomey is an Irish artist/director known for three films: The Secret of the Kells, Song of the Sea, and The Breadwinner, all of which were nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Film in their respective years.  That’s an impressive feat, given that these aren’t Disney, Pixar, or Lego movies, that they’re instead indie films that attempt to present sophisticated story lines to young audiences through hand-drawn animation.  No knock on Disney/Pixar, I love their work as much as the next current parent who grew up in the 80s and 90s, it’s just refreshing to also see a slightly different perspective.  GKIDS, the distribution company that was in charge of Twomey’s pictures, also brought Studio Ghibli to American audiences; that’s all I would have needed to know, that would have made me trust anything they chose to present.  And so it’s no surprise that The Breadwinner is an amazing animated feature, that it’s richness and uniqueness shines through in every cell, that it’s one of the very best of not only its year, but of its decade.

The Movie

Parvana lives in Kabul, Afghanistan in 2001, during the control of the Taliban.  These religious zealots hold the countryside under their sway, instituting harsh curfews, gender laws, and intimidating the public into following every command of even their rawest recruit.  Women are not allowed to leave the house without a grown male relative as an escort, female faces and hair must be covered at all times so that they don’t tempt men to stray from the righteous path, girls are not allowed to work or to buy food, and any rule breakers are taken to prison immediately.  Paravana lives with her family as quietly and as carefully as possible, not wanting to draw the attention of the armed soldiers who walk the city streets, not daring to stand up or speak out.

When he angers a young Taliban fighter, Parvana’s father is arrested and her house is raided, destroying the simple life in precarious balance that her family was trying desperately to cling to.  Now, with only women in the household since Parvana’s older brother Sulayman died, there is no one to go to work, no one to buy food, and no way of seeking help, as the mother and the sisters can’t even walk through the door without being beaten and sent straight back.  So Parvana does an extremely brave and incredibly necessary thing; she cuts her hair, puts on her brother’s clothes, and calls herself by a boy’s name, completely changing who she is on the outside in order to keep her family alive.  Out in the city, which has now opened up to her in a way it never would before, she can feed her family and search for her father, even as war comes nearer and the danger of being discovered mounts.

With its animation and its message equally strong, The Breadwinner is a film that you must see, a story that you must hear, and an experience that you must have.  I fully enjoy Disney princess musicals, I love how open Pixar movies are to every member of the family, I crack up watching Lego movies, but there is something about an animation team that is willing to step completely out of the box and risk everything on an unorthodox plot and delivery that really gets me fired up.  Laika, Ghibli, and the people who brought us this fine trio of international, animated instant classics, all aided by the eye of Nora Twomey; if you aren’t expanding your horizons to see movies produced by these companies and these people, you are doing yourself a great disservice.  And you are holding back something special from your kids as well, for while these films take themselves seriously and should perhaps be screened before being shown to some younger, more sensitive audiences, they are among the most powerful animated tales being told today, and they deserve to be allowed to wow you.

As far as the film itself is concerned, its a credit to its genre, another incredible reason to follow/watch/talk about indie animation and to share it with your kids so that they can be educated in film beyond the typical.  It’s a story that resonates, even though it is set 17 years ago.  We’re still talking about women’s rights, we’re still talking about terrorism, we’re still talking about gender roles, and this film touches every base on its way home.  The depth of meaning, the beauty of backdrop, the simplicity if idea, the imagination of presentation; this is all you could ask for.  The music, the color, the secondary tale, the authenticity, the poignancy; I’m having trouble nailing down the exact positive attributes of this feature only because there are so many and they are so broad.  Regardless of my inability, The Breadwinner never stumbles when presenting its point, and it does so with wonderful accuracy and talent, in every single scene.

The Blu-ray

Video – With an aspect ratio of 2.39:1 (1080p HD Widescreen), the video quality of this Blu-ray disc is phenomenal, with visuals that will take your breath away.  Not only is the animation flawless in its simplicity, but it’s stunningly realistic as well.  And then there is a tale within a tale that uses a different style of animation, much more 2-D and paper-like, but it adds another dimension that really captures the eye.

Audio – The disc was done in English DTS HD 5.1, with subtitles available in English SDH.  The language is English, this isn’t a naturally subtitled pictured, at least not here in the U.S., if that makes a difference to you.  It’s set in Afghanistan and features native music, so the blend between Afghani and English is a tricky weave, but extremely well done.

Extras – There are many special features on this Blu-ray disc, including Feature Commentary with the Filmmakers.  Also, in The Making of The Breadwinner section: Behind the Scenes with the Cast, Animating the Film, Creating the Music and Sound, and Telling the Story.  Lastly, a Theatrical Trailer and More from GKIDS.

Final Thoughts

Highly Recommended.  Last year’s animated class wasn’t extremely strong, but even if it had been one of the best groups of recent memory, The Breadwinner would still have earned its place among the nominees.  It’s a relevant message well told, from every angle you look at it.  We need to hear this story, its importance hasn’t disappeared, and it’s presented so well, with such solid artistry, that is has a real chance to make a big difference, if we would only let it.  The video is awesome, the sound it great, and the extras are plentiful, so the technical aspects support the storytelling quite nicely.  If you missed this movie last year, give it a chance now; it may not be what you’re used to, but it might show you why it should.

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Content

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Video

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Audio

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Extras

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Replay



Movie Trailer – Venom #2

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Ruben Fleischer

Starring: Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed

Release: October 5th, 2018

I don’t know much about Venom; I thought he was a villain, but apparently he’s an anti-hero?  I’m fine with watching Tom Hardy in a role like that, he’s incredible, I’m just not sure about the value of this film.  It looks pretty cheap and like they aren’t trying very hard to original/edgy/interesting.  I love Riz Ahmed though, I’m glad he’s here, so I’ll watch this just to see him and Hardy in another piece of the Marvel Universe.

Movie Review – Silverado

Category : Movie Review

Director: Lawrence Kasdan

Starring: Kevin Kline, Scott Glenn, Danny Glover, Kevin Costner

Year: 1985

Lawrence Kasdan is a much better writer than he is a director; his writing credits so impressive that it borders on mind-blowing.  Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Body Heat, Return of the Jedi, The Big Chill, Silverado, The Bodyguard, Wyatt Earp, The Force Awakens, Solo: A Star Wars Story; who knew he had so much influence in the Star Wars universe.  And who knew he had such a thing for Kevin Costner, a mistake as big as you can make one, from a talent perspective, but I guess he knew which horse to ride, because Costner is a legitimate megastar, despite his inability to act.  Kasdan’s only real directing success was Big Chill; the guy’s true calling is in screenwriting, there’s no doubt about it.  But here is his attempt at writing/directing a Western, and the results are mixed, for while Silverado pays homage to the greats of the past, it also tries to be every single great from the past, a feat it simply couldn’t accomplish.

Our merry band of cowboy heroes come from different backgrounds and with different skeletons in their closets, but their passion for justice outweighs their past mistakes.  Paden used to run with a rough crowd, led by the villain named Cobb, but since being robbed in the desert he sees things differently, and wants to walk down the straight and narrow.  Emmett once killed an important man, and he has been hounded ever since.  His brother Jake just wants to have fun, wants to kiss the girls with no consequences.  And hard-working Mal can’t avoid trouble because of the darkness of his skin, always being asked to move along, not knowing where he’ll settle down.  Together, they will travel to the town of Silverado, where all their demons will converge.

There are basically nine different stories going on simultaneously in this movie, which isn’t a good thing.  It’s nice to see a director love Westerns so much, nod to so many in so little a time frame, bring a ton of classic elements to play all in one picture.  But that’s also a major problem.  Every character had an enemy, a backstory, a side story, a leading lady, a choice to make, a battle to fight, until you never knew where to look for the action next.  I still don’t know exactly what happened with whose daddy and who was killed by what gun 20 years ago; it’s the definition of a messy script.  The saving grace is passion for the genre, but even that can get a little old if the content isn’t any good.  Glover & Costner were surprisingly strong in their roles, but the other leads kinds sucked, and the rest of the cast is just names thrown at a wall; John Cleese, Rosanna Arquette, Brian Dennehy, Jeff Goldblum, Linda Hunt, Richard Jenkins.  Impressive, but pointless, which also sums up the film.

My rating: ☆ ☆



Movie Review – A Serious Man

Category : Movie Review

Director: The Coen Brothers

Starring: Michael Stuhlbarg, Aaron Wolff, Richard Kind

Year: 2009

The Coen Brothers’ films can be broken down into a collection of periods: Early, Peak, Mistake, Adult, Experiment.  Those are in chronological order, and to avoid going in too deep, take a look at their filmography, you’ll see for yourself how their career has ebbed & flowed.  A Serious Man lands in their Adult Period, from 2007 to 2009, when they recovered from their lunacy in the early 2000s and got back to creating real cinema.  It’s not their best work, but neither is it near their worse, sliding nicely into their upper echelon without making too big a splash.  It’s a return to Fargo roots, proving that anything that can go wrong will, but this time the violence is toned down and internal desperation takes the stage, forcing audiences to a dark place that we try not to ever visit.

Larry Gopnik’s life is falling apart.  He is up for tenure at the college, but a bribe from a student and some nasty anonymous letters might derail his chances.  His wife has asked for a ritual divorce so that she might marry Sy Ableman, news that hits Larry completely out of the blue.  His brother, Arthur, is unwell, both physically and mentally, so he’s staying with the family for a while, and hogging the bathroom.  Larry’s son smokes pot all day, his daughter hates being anywhere near the home, Columbia House won’t stop calling to collect a bill, the aerial won’t pick of F Troop; perhaps the rabbis can help, perhaps they can share some sage advice, or perhaps Larry Gopnik is simply cursed, destined to be unhappy every day for the rest of his miserable life.

Sounds depressing, but the Coen Brothers make sure to stagger the absolutely awful with the blisteringly funny, so have no fear.  They are masters in finding the humor in the worst situations, and that talent is definitely on display in A Serious Man.  The story is set in the 60s, it’s centered on Jewish tradition, the family lives in Minnesota; the film represents the period and the faith and the location so well that you’d swear you were transported through time and space while sitting on your couch.  No real surprise there; the Coen Brothers are the best in the business.  And you know who else is incredible; Michael Stuhlbarg.  This was his first big role, and it took some time for his career to get rolling, but once it did he never looked back.  Cut Bank, Pawn Sacrifice, Steve Jobs, Trumbo, Arrival, Call Me by Your Name, The Shape of Water, The Post; good god.  He’s an immaculate professional, brings something new to the screen every time, and should be on our radar as one of the best actors working.  Stuhlbarg is the perfect Gopnik, the film is hilarious and sad at the same time, it oozes Coen Bros. style, Richard Kind has maybe never been better; if it hadn’t been for a penchant for dream sequences, which I simply can’t stand, I would have rated A Serious Man even higher than I did, and I enjoyed every other piece of it so much that I might just watch it again immediately.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆



Movie Review – Isle of Dogs

Category : Movie Review

Director: Wes Anderson

Starring: Bryan Cranston, Koyu Rankin, Edward Norton

Year: 2018

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; Wes Anderson is my favorite director.  That’s actually partially a quote from Ferris Bueller, which is one of my favorite films but isn’t directed by Wes Anderson, but whatever.  The point is, my website is called Archer Avenue for a reason and that reason is The Royal Tenenbaums and that movie is an Anderson masterpiece.  Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, Tenenbaums, Life Aquatic, Darjeeling Limited, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Moonrise Kingdom, Grand Budapest; his filmography is a thing of pink, over-dramatic, ultra-stylized beauty, though not every single film can be called spectacular.  I like some more than others, but he’s top-level director regardless, a unique mind making original content in a way that deserves our respect.  Isle of Dogs is Anderson’s second attempt at animation, and I’m assuming it won’t be last, but unfortunately it also isn’t his best.

In Japan in the near future, a dog crisis will shake the island nation, causing the country to divide over the love of their faithful pets and the health of their very own families.  Dog Flu, Snout Fever, rampant reproduction; something must be done, and one man has the solution.  Mayor Kobayashi wants to ship every dog to Trash Island, a wasteland where nobody goes and where man’s ex-best friend can live in squalor.  Professor Watanabe is against this idea, knows that he can find a cure, but is buried beneath a wave of public fear and the overwhelming power of the Kobayashi family.  So, every dog is exiled, including the guard/friend of Kobayashi’s own ward/distant nephew, a loving boy named Atari.  He steals a plane, flies to Trash Island, crashes among the heaps, all to find his companion, a dog named Spots who stole he heart and who won’t be left to die alone.

Did I mention that I love Wes Anderson?  His flare for comedy, color, and complete originality knows no equal; the man is a genius.  I know his films aren’t for everyone, and that they can come across as overly artistic, but I dig his style, and he creates movies the way that they were meant to be created; with passion and with singular vision.  He isn’t an expert in animation, but he simply brings his lens to the medium and does things his way, the result being something you’ve never experienced before.  It’s all stop-motion, which is incredibly impressive, how each dog hair can move independently, the time it must have taken to get it all just right.  Anderson breathes wacky life into each character, making them pieces on his very own, nonsensical board game, moving them about as if they were players on a stage until the result matches whatever wild, dream-like image he currently has conjured up.

That’s just Anderson’s vibe, that’s what he does, and he brings is to Isle of Dogs as he would to any other movie.  He also brings his giant cast of impressive actors and actresses, until you wonder; are these people just here to have fun, are they all friends, is this something other than a typical job?  Cranston, Norton, Bob Balaban, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Greta Gerwig, Frances McDormand, Scarlett Johannson, Harvey Keitel, F. Murray Abraham, Yoko Ono, Tilda Swinton, Ken Watanabe, Fisher Stevens, Liev Schreiber; wow.  The film has the pizzazz, the actors, the story, the heart; it’s surprisingly accessible to a large audience, given the specific oddity of its creator.  But all the same, I didn’t adore it, and I think I know why.

First, Fantastic Mr. Fox is better, more entertaining, less worked over.  Second, the details of the plot are insane, with flashbacks everywhere, tiny nuggets of info flying at you around every corner, barely enough time available before the credits for you to assimilate everything you’re supposed to know and feel.  And third, the movie simply felt like a showcase of what was possible, what was inside a brilliant man’s head, not necessarily a sharing of something that we needed to see.  I liked Isle of Dogs because I’m always up for kooky and for crafty, but I don’t feel like it was Anderson’s best work; he constantly walks the line between entertainment and self-indulgence, and I think perhaps, this time, a toe came down on the wrong side.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆



Book Review – The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Thirty-Fourth Annual Collection

Category : Book Review

Editor: Gardner Dozois

Year: 2017

For my 34th birthday last year, a friend gave me the new Annual Collection book, with stories gathered by Gardner Dozois, which happened to be in its 34th addition, cool coincidence.  Dozois brings together the best short sci-fi of the year into one large volume, this time with thirty-nine different tales.  Dozois is a fine author himself (When the Great Days Come) and knows his sci-fi front & back, even editing the Asimov Science Fiction magazine for twenty years.  I almost wish I had read more of his novellas instead of those he gleaned over the course of the year, because what he selected was rather inconsistent.

Thirty-nine different stories from almost as many authors, with names like Stephen Baxter and Alastair Reynolds leading the group.  The tales range in plot, world, and time, but all come from a love of science fiction and a passion for writing with pure imagination.  The ocean levels have risen, leading to floating cities all over the world.  Humans live on distant planets, homesteading in space like their ancestors did so long ago on Earth.  Sentient squids under miles of ice create their own society, and dream of what the sky might look like.  These and many others will ignite your curiosity and take you far away.

I always enjoy reading sci-fi shorts, it’s a fascinating way to be introduced to an idea or a technology in a small amount of time, to get a taste of what another world might look like, before launching into a new adventure.  Sometimes these stories don’t really have a ton of character and plot behind them, so a small sample is all we need to really be entertained.  The problem is that some of these authors aren’t the best, won’t compare to Asimov or Heinlein or Clarke or Le Guin, and so might put avid sci-fi readers off with their lack of pure talent.  It seemed that every other tale was lackluster, that the entire volume was hit or miss, with no consistency in quality.  But I guess that’s something you sign up for when reading an anthology; not every chapter will be your favorite.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆