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Overzealous Recycling 009: Higher, further, faster!

My movie calendar is probably way off, but it feels like 2019 is finally beginning at the movies. Oscars season ended almost two weeks ago and Captain Marvel represents the first big blockbuster release of the year. (Sorry, Alita: Battle Angel.) So there’s finally reason to be excited.

— If you missed the last Overzealous Recycling, you can read it here

Plenty of other films have been released since Jan. 1, and I still need to catch up on a few of them. But it’s also time to write some movie reviews again. I’ve really fallen off during the past few months because I didn’t have an outlet — forgetting that I’ll always have this blog.

So I did write up a review for Captain Marvel, which you can read here. If you’d like an audio version, we also recorded some back-and-forth reaction for the Amusement Park Podcast. I’m hoping this helps me scrape off some rust and gets me back into regularly writing about movies again. More on that with some fun news after the first of this week’s links.

** I already knew that you can’t catch up on sleep during the weekend, but I still try to do it anyway. I’m not as bad as I was five or six years ago. I’m getting much better sleep during the week and I’ve tried to prioritize a more normal schedule over the past year. But just in case you’re still kidding yourself, catch-up sleep isn’t helping you. [Washington Post]

** Napping certainly helps, though. I’ve become a fan of the “coffee nap.” Or the “nap-a-latte,” as “The Sleep Doctor” Michael Breus calls it. Drink a cup of cold coffee, then try to snooze for 20-25 minutes. By the time you wake up, the caffeine should be ready to kick in. [Vox]

** Speaking of coffee, I’m a self-proclaimed #Coffeeciando. It’s probably what I order online most often, and I’ve been sampling most of Gear Patrol’s list of the 25 best roasters in America with my friend Mike McClary over the past few months. (I’m staying local for my latest brews, however. Thanks, Dynamite Roasting and Counter Culture!) Most of my ordering has been through Trade Coffee, and they just started a blog, so I’m reading. [The Counter]

Words in Print

In the category of unexpected surprises, I was recently offered an opportunity to write a movie review for Asheville’s alternative weekly, Mountain Xpress. Xpress staffer Edwin Arnaudin (whose work you can also read at his site, Asheville Movies) recently took over editing of the paper’s movie section with his fellow critic Bruce Steele and asked if I’d like to contribute an occasional review.

The bad news is that my first assignment was the final film in Tyler Perry’s Madea saga, A Madea Family Funeral. Snark aside, I enjoyed watching and writing about a movie I never would’ve seen otherwise. I also tend to go on far too long in my own reviews and keeping it short for Xpress was a nice challenge.

When I first moved to Asheville, I thought it’d be cool to write for Mountain Xpress, but soon got some online opportunities with MLive and Yahoo Sports and never tried to pursue anything else. Besides, the movie section was in the fine hands of late local legend Ken Hanke, whose reviews and commentaries were always worth reading. So many good writers cover the arts and food scenes here that I figured I probably wouldn’t ever have a byline there unless I came up with a good pitch (probably sports-related).

So the review is in this week’s issue, and I hope you check it out. Thanks to Edwin for the opportunity and I’m excited about what’s to come. No matter how much writing is done online, it’s always nice to see your name and words in print.

Musical Interlude

** I’m really trying to listen to more music nowadays and one of my favorite albums of the year so far is Maren Morris’s GIRL. It’s been fun to blast it in the mornings to get me going. Morris’s music is new to me, so I’ll be catching up on her older work. Here’s a quick interview with her. [Amazon Music]

** A Captain Marvel theme to this week’s Overzealous Recycling (and Casselbloggy) probably couldn’t be avoided. One area where I think the movie shines — and this applies to all of the Marvel movies — is that a convoluted comic book history is distilled to its most important character and storytelling elements. But if you want to know how much baggage the Captain Marvel name and the Carol Danvers character carries, the NYT‘s Mr. Comics, George Gene Gustines, breaks it down. [New York Times]

** Covering the NFL Draft Combine seems like it could be painfully boring. It’s all about times and measurements — some of which are crucial for fringe aspiring pros — and treating college prospects like products rather than human beings. But it’s also probably a great place to establish relationships with sources and get to know the sport’s decision-makers, as Wright Thompson demonstrates. [ESPN]

More TV to Pile on the Plate

A TV series based on Bruce Lee’s original idea and developed by Jonathan Tropper (Banshee)? Sign me up.

Actually, I really will have to decide whether or not to sign up because Cinemax has been eliminated from my current package with Charter Spectrum. (The business plan of taking channels away from customers when many of them are cutting cable and satellite service is a curious one.) Good timing. Maybe I can get this a la carte through Amazon?

I absolutely loved Banshee, and I’ve been eager to see what Tropper does next. (I should’ve passed the time by reading his novels, such as This Is Where I Leave You.) A more epic, intense version of Kung Fu is his next step.

Also, when visiting my friend A. in Seattle last spring, I surprised her by saying I wanted to see Bruce Lee’s gravesite. Doing it early on a Saturday morning seemed perfect.

** The cynical view of Fox News is that it’s the propaganda network for the Trump administration. Not a difficult conclusion to draw when Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham and Lou Dobbs are carrying water — or even dictating policy — for the White House. Or former Fox News exec Bill Shine setting communications strategy. But now, Jane Mayer confirms that this is essentially state TV with so many employees trading places between the White House and the network. [New Yorker]

** Most sports fans presume that professional athletes live the best lives because of the money they make. (I’ve made that assumption too.) But NBA commissioner Adam Silver noted at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference that many of the players he talks to are increasingly unhappy and isolated, and the league is taking steps to address mental health. [Boston Globe]

I found this through the Axios Sports newsletter, compiled by Kendall Baker, which Mike McClary nudged me to check out recently.

** If I lived in New York, I doubt I could have afforded to see much theater. But had I ever followed through on that dream, I like to think I would’ve been able to scrounge up the resources to see productions like a revival of Sam Shepard’s True West starring Ethan Hawke and Paul Dano. (I hate to throw around the word “hero,” but Shepard is a writer I’ve always looked up to.) [Vulture]

** I didn’t know that Donald Glover got his “Childish Gambino” alias from a Wu-Tang Clan name generator. What would your Wu-Tang Clan name be? I’m not revealing mine, in case I use it for a message board or Twitter handle. Or maybe I’ll become a rapper too. [Boing Boing]

By the way, I learned about this from Miles Surrey’s piece on the Whiskey Cavalier pilot for The Ringer.

Weekly Affirmation

Podcast

Amusement Park Podcast 023: The Punisher, the Oscars, and Glass Misses the Mark

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On the latest Amusement Park Podcast, we respond to the first half (six episodes) of The Punisher and the Oscar nominations, which include a Best Picture nod for Black Panther and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse being nominated for Best Animated Film. (How many Oscar nominees do you get a chance to see where you live?)

We also dig into what Netflix joining the MPAA means, briefly review Glass, and share what we’re enjoying this week.

— Show notes for Ep. 23 are available at The Amusement Park Podcast website — 

Please leave us review on iTunes! One listener broke the seal, so hopefully you’ll join in with your own comments.

You can subscribe to the Amusement Park Podcast everywhere you find podcasts:

Thank you for listening! Please give us a like on our Facebook page to help boost our signal. You can also give us feedback at amusementparkpod@gmail.com and find us on Twitter and Instagram. We’d love to hear from you!

movie reviews

Aquaman makes a splash with exotic visuals and Jason Momoa’s charm

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If you grew up snickering at Aquaman while watching Super Friends, it might be difficult to imagine that the man talking to fish and riding sea horses would be the one to save the DC cinematic universe. (Personally, I was grateful to Aquaman for his safety tips warning against the hazards of seaweed wrapping around your legs or getting clothing snagged against pan handles. To my frustration, those clips don’t appear to be available on YouTube.)

OK, Aquaman isn’t a pop culture joke anymore. Not when Jason Momoa is cast as the King of the Seven Seas, portraying a charming lunk who could rip your arms off then enjoy a couple of pints afterwards. As Arthur Curry, he’s far more charismatic and compelling than Henry Cavill as Superman or Ben Affleck as Batman. Had Warner Brothers and DC Films tried to properly establish its core characters, rather than impatiently push its Justice League franchise, perhaps that superhero team-up wouldn’t have been such a flop.

Maybe there is no more DC cinematic universe, in terms of an interconnected series of films that all occupy the same storytelling space. But if DC were to call a mulligan and hide Batman v Superman and Justice League in the cupboard, Aquaman (along with last year’s Wonder Woman) is something that the studio could rebuild its superhero franchise around.

Yet Aquaman is perfectly capable of standing on its own, rather than be a piece of a convoluted puzzle. Director James Wan has built an impressive world around his superhero, creating a spectacle that aspires to the heights of Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and Avatar. However, while its influences are clear, this movie isn’t derivative. Arthur Curry’s journey from reluctant hero to champion might be familiar — a modern-day fable — but Aquaman feels new and exciting, providing visuals that we haven’t seen before.

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movie reviews

Bohemian Rhapsody reminds us Queen was great, ignores too much about Freddie Mercury

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If you’re a fan of Queen and Freddie Mercury, you will very likely enjoy Bohemian Rhapsody. The movie is a celebration of the band and its music. You’ll be reminded of just how much you loved songs like “Fat-Bottomed Girls,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “We Will Rock You,” “Another One Bites the Dust,” and “Radio Ga Ga,” along with deeper cuts such as “Love of My Life.”

Whether or not the film is a fitting tribute to Mercury will depend on your view. Director Bryan Singer (who was fired from the production yet is still credited) and writer Anthony McCarten take a safe approach to the singer’s personal life, largely settling for allusions to Mercury’s homosexuality, drug use and partying. Much like Mercury did publicly, the movie keeps that away from the audience.

However, Bohemian Rhapsody does a fine job of portraying Freddie Mercury, the rock star. Rami Malek (Mr. Robot) has all of the legendary frontman’s stage moves and swagger down. Mercury commanded the stage, punching, gyrating, and thrusting with the beats from bassist John Deacon and drummer Roger Taylor. The rest of Queen effectively faded into the background because the eye was always drawn to Mercury’s energy and charisma.

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movie reviews

Robert Redford’s charm carries The Old Man & The Gun, but only so far

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Robert Redford might regret saying that his starring role in The Old Man & the Gun may be his final on-screen performance. But if Redford is indeed going to retire from acting, he chose an excellent role to put a final bow on his acting career.

It’s difficult to imagine anyone else playing Forrest Tucker, a 70-year-old man who can’t give up robbing banks. He just loves it too much and doesn’t want to do anything else. And don’t tell him that he’s too old for this; he’ll just take that as a challenge and try to show you wrong.

Tucker is an absolute charmer, which plays perfectly to Redford’s strengths as an actor. (Even when Redford is playing a deadly serious character, he shows off a wit that can easily pull someone to his side.) The shock of a kind, extremely well-dressed old man suddenly declaring that he’s robbing the bank — usually by showing his holstered revolver — is enough to make tellers and bank managers all too willing to comply.

Policemen and federal agents are amused and flustered by a common statement among all of the people he encounters during his robberies: He was really polite. He was so nice.

It’s almost surprising that Tucker wasn’t given a nickname like “The Gentleman Bandit” (though that would probably be an implicit endorsement of his actions). The media dubs the trio “The Over-the-Hill Gang,” however.) We should probably be thankful that director David Lowery didn’t give this movie such a title either. “The Old Man and the Gun” is taken from the 2003 New Yorker article by David Grann that told Tucker’s improbable story.

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movie reviews

The new Halloween movie is lean and mean, a rightful follow-up to 1978’s original

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With the abundance of revivals and reboots in movies and TV, another Halloween movie might not seem like something worth our attention. Horror movies, especially, have diluted celebrated brands by making new versions of classics like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and A Nightmare on Elm Street.

But maybe no horror brand has been more watered down and misguided over the past 40 years than the Halloween franchise. Nine sequels (two of which were reboots) have been made since the original 1978 film, each of them moving further away from John Carpenter’s original vision. (To be fair, however, Carpenters vision in 1978 may not have been more than to make a scary slasher movie.)

The smart move by director David Gordon Green (who co-wrote the film with Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley) was to act like those previous nine films never happened. (There’s even a line that dismisses one of the sillier developments revealed in 1981’s Halloween II.) This 2018 edition of Halloween is a direct (albeit 40 years later) sequel to the original film, returning to the story and its two primary characters after four decades have passed.

What makes this Halloween compelling is that it does something horror movies rarely do: It looks at the trauma suffered by the survivors after their nightmarish circumstances. Typically in a horror flick, the survivor (or survivor) has somehow triumphed — or somehow endured — and the movie ends with the assumption that life will go on and maybe return to some sense of normalcy.

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