Friday, November 27, 2015

849. Cephalopod Coffeehouse November 2015

Returning to the squishy Cephalopod Coffeehouse, hosted by Armchair Squid and presented the last Friday of every month (except Smarch), I wanted to talk a little about Dave Barry.

Chances are if you know Dave at all, it's either from his retired humor column or the Harry Anderson sitcom Dave's World (where I was first introduced to the hilarious Patrick Warburton).
I ended up reading three Dave-penned or Dave-related books in the past month:
  • Peter and the Starcatcher - The Annotated Script (by Rick Elice)
  • The Worst Class Trip Ever
  • Live Right and Find Happiness (Although Beer is Quicker)
The first one is the script to a play adapted from Dave's series of Peter Pan prequels he co-wrote with Ridley Pearson.  I think a lot of people sought a new series of books to read after getting into Harry Potter.  The Starcatcher books were mine, thanks to my love for both Dave Barry and Peter Pan.  When I first heard about the stage adaptation I could only think how appropriate it was, as J.M. Barrie's original Peter Pan adventures were chronicled on the stage.  To finally experience the result, in any format, was a considerable pleasure.  Obviously a lot of heart was put into the production, and because the script came with notes, I got to find out how it all came together.
Worst Class Trip Ever was Dave's most recent work of fiction, released early last summer.  As with the Starcatcher books it's aimed at young readers (although that hardly stopped me).  And as with his other works of solo fiction, it's a madcap adventure.  His first novel, Big Trouble, was adapted into a movie starring Tim Allen.
Live Right and Find Happiness is Dave's latest book of humor, in the style of what you may have read when he was regularly reprinting his columns and/or releasing entirely original work.  Both these last two were released in a year where I needed someone like Dave Barry to lighten the mood.  Just knowing they were there helped me, and to read them was even better.  Live Right features a slightly more reflective Dave, a slightly more mature Dave that has been emerging in his more recent work. 
I'll remain a fan regardless, but these were hopefully books that represent Dave's path to enduring cultural relevance.  As someone who lives mostly in the printed word, and who bypassed the ways later humor writers made their names, Dave sometimes seems like he got lost in the shuffle.  But he's a treasure, in ways other humorists could only dream about.  Compared to the ones on TV or in the movies, his appeal will need little translation in the future.  Dave's becoming timeless.
At least as far as I'm concerned.  He'll always be one of my treasured writers.  And easiest recommendations.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

848. Kylo Ren is Luke Skywalker's Son!

Everyone knows that classic moment from The Empire Strikes Back: Luke Skywalker has just endured a grueling lightsaber duel with Darth Vader, who caps off lopping off the young Jedi's hand by revealing a terrible secret, declaring, "Luke, I am your father."

It forever defined the Star Wars legacy for some, right up there with the roguish charm of Han Solo and the timeless wisdom of Yoda.  How could the prequels ever compare with that?  Well, The Force Awakens may be taking a page from the original trilogy's playbook...

For months fans have endlessly speculated on the absence of Luke from the trailers.  They began suspecting that he was secretly the masked Kylo Ren, who has already been announced as being portrayed by Adam Driver.  But what if the truth is somewhere in the middle?

In a write-up for Entertainment Weekly, Ren is described this way by Driver: "[He] wasn't loved enough or felt betrayed."

Ironically, fans have been wondering about the lineages of two other characters, the so-far singular-named Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Finn (John Boyega).  Rey could very easily be a Skywalker herself, or a Solo.  Still, Ren would be by far the more intriguing twist.  After all, we knew Anakin Skywalker by a different name originally, too.

In the films, unlike the many spinoff books and comics, Star Wars has always been a generational saga about the Skywalkers.  The Force Awakens could very easily continue that tradition by revealing the Vader-obsessed Ren as, in fact, his grandson, and the estranged offspring of Luke. 

The unseen hero of the original trilogy in all the released trailers could be hiding new scars from further tragedies.  Or all this could be a further fever dream of a hopeless devotee.  That would be appropriate, too...

Monday, November 23, 2015

847. Godzilla (1998)

The first big flop I remember experiencing was 1998's Godzilla.  From the duo of Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin (Stargate, Independence Day, and my personal favorite, The Patriot), Godzilla earned the wrath of fans even though technically it was a hit, and has struggled to find any love since.

I was in high school when it was released, and there was endless chatter about it.  Then people saw it and all the chatter went negative.  I only just saw (some of) it on TV the other day.  My immediate reaction was, Wow, this is a Matthew Broderick movie.  Broderick is in many ways one of Hollywood's throwbacks to a bygone era.  (Every time George Clooney is sold that way, the movie tanks.)  He hasn't really been relevant since The Producers.  No, not the subsequent film adaption, but the smash Broadway run that helped revive the spirits of New Yorkers post-9/11.  And in truth, Broderick has always been a tough sell outside of the '80s (Bueller?).

He sticks out like a sore thumb in Godzilla.  Most criticism of the movie centers on the monster itself, but as far as I could tell, it's Broderick who dominates.  I confess that Godzilla is one of those franchises/cult favorites that I've never managed to get into (in fact, I've never seen any Godzilla movie all the way through).  As far as I can tell, Godzilla doesn't have as much of a story as, say, King Kong.  It seems to be pretty much, Giant Monster stomp stomp stomp.  And...that's it.  Allegory for the dangers of nuclear power, sympathy for tall lizards.  But very nebulous otherwise. 

So what's the big hook?  I don't know. 

It seems to me that the movie might have been more successful if it featured Jean Reno in the lead role rather than as a supporting character.  Back in high school I thought of the movie more in terms of Hank Azaria than anything else, except in the parts I saw on TV, there was very little Hank.  (Everything's better with Hank Azaria.)

Were/are mass audiences really beholden to Godzilla lore?  Or was it simply that Broderick's presence was too jarring?  This was prime tall lizards time.  Jurassic Park and its first sequel, The Lost World, had been captivating audiences.  Maybe it was that Godzilla itself seemed benign compared to dinosaurs (plural) run amok.

Strangely (and maybe this explains far too much about me), I kind of want to watch the whole thing to find out if it really was Broderick who spoiled most of the fun...

Monday, November 16, 2015

846. The Theory of Everything, in silent mode...

I haven't made too fine a point on this in my blogging, but about a month ago I moved again.  Along the journey, I rode a bus and selected the movie we'd watch when no one else piped up.  I selected The Theory of Everything, the 2014 movie about the young Stephen Hawking.  I hadn't seen it previously.  Also, I neglected to pack earphones.

So while I watched the movie, I didn't exactly hear it.  Which means my understanding of Eddie Redmayne as an actor remains his performance in Jupiter Ascending, where he portrays a somewhat effeminate elitist who's squabbling with his siblings over the fate of Earth.

Redmayne's Hawking won him the 2015 Best Actor honors at the Oscars earlier this year.  He's making news again for his transgender role in the upcoming The Danish Girl, and I'm just wondering...Does his voice sound like it does in Jupiter, or is it completely different?

It's funny, because in Hawking he famously plays someone whose voice was robbed from him and somewhat lost to history.  If not for reminders like Theory, it might be tempting to believe Hawking always communicated via computer.

Lately I've been attaching video to virtually all of my posts.  Sometimes it's nakedly because I wanted  an excuse to see the video myself.  In this instance, it's because I want to see Theory's trailer, and finally hear some of the movie. 

It's funny, watching movies in less than complete form.  When I worked at a movie theater, I'd catch snatches of movies all the time, or sometimes in silent mode when I snuck through the projection booths upstairs.  (Stealth, I hardly know thee!)  It's funny, and also interesting.  It's easy to forget that the incomplete experience can be just as rewarding as a full one, can inspire thoughts that never would have occurred to you otherwise.

Such as, what does Eddie Redmayne sound like, anyway?  Wouldn't it just be perfect if he doesn't, in the final analysis, sound anything like Stephen Hawking?

Hey, let's find another video or something...

Friday, November 06, 2015

#845. The Films of Quentin Tarantino

Admittedly, I came somewhat late to appreciating Quentin Tarantino.  I remember the releases of Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown, hearing about Reservoir Dogs, and yet I didn't start watching him until the release of the two-volume Kill Bill.  I was in college at the time.  These are days when you buys posters for movies like Kill Bill, so of course it was perfect timing.  Since then I've become convinced that his later movies, Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained, are arguably his best work, even as I've worked toward loving his earlier ones as much as the fans who helped popularize Tarantino.

Now, he's got a new movie, The Hateful Eight.  So, a retrospective in video:

Reservoir Dogs (1992)
Pulp Fiction (1994)
Jackie Brown (1997)
Kill Bill, Vol. 1 (2003)
Kill Bill, Vol. 2 (2004)
Death Proof (2007)
Inglourious Basterds (2009)
Django Unchained (2012)
The Hateful Eight (2015)
But where would we be only with trailers?
And without all the music?


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