Title: 2010: The Year We Make Contact Release Year: 1984 Directed By: Peter Hyams Screenplay By: Peter Hyams, from the novel by Arthur C. Clarke Recommended By: God, I loved 2001, how was I supposed to NOT watch it’s sequel. Star Rating: 4
Set nine years after the events of 2001 this movie is a much more straightforward though still rewarding sci fi story.
A Russian mission to see what happened to The Discovery leads Doctor Haywood Floyd (Roy Scheider!) to a cosmic encounter with the being that was once astronaut Dave Bowman, and the birth of a new sun just past Jupiter.
There’s also a weird subplot where we learn that HAL’s psychosis was caused by a programming directive that broke his circuits, which is a bummer, because I loved the idea that HAL went nuts because contact with The Monolith gave him sentience and he couldn’t handle it. (I’m always going to prefer an existential explanation to a practical one, it’s simply my nature)
This movie is really interesting. If it were completely divorced from the masterpiece it’s sequelizing it would probably be remembered as a classic. Scheider is absolutely fantastic, the idea of a the gift of a new sun is a really cool, “we are not alone” detail.
Title: 2001: A Space Odysesey Release Year: 1968 Directed By: Stanley Kubrick Written By: Stanley Kubrick & Arthur C. Clark Recommended By: AFI 100 Greatest American Films, Blank Check With Griffin & David Star Rating: 5 Stars (YES I FINALLY LOVE A KUBCRICK MOVIE! WOO!)
As I sat on my couch on Saturday a little grumpy because I had planned on going out but I lost my wallet on Friday, so was stuck until I get my replacement credit cards and IDs, I figured I might as well watch 2001, based on the last few weeks I was going to be kind of bored and annoyed anyway. Might as well lean into the irritation.
Not the case. I loved this one. As I watched I thought of my beloved Fantasia quite a few times. After all the pairing on mind blowing images with classical music. The way the film is sectioned off with multiple narratives mixed in with those images. The pure terror of the missing link, the mysterious monoliths that bring forward that birth of evolution. The existential horror of consciousness that leads inevitably to violence. As the apes become men, they wage war, as HAL 9000 becomes sentient, he grows paranoid and controlling, as the Galaxy Child is born, what horrors will it create?
I loved this movie, and it made me badly wish I could see it it on a big screen.
Title: 61* Release Year: 2001 Directed By: Billy Crystal Written By: Hank Steinberg Recommended By: On Wednesday night, Aaron Judge hit his 61st homerun of the season. This is a supremely important thing for baseball fans in general and Yankee fans in particular. Seemed an opportune moment to watch a movie about why. Star Rating: 4, for purely sentimental reasons.
In the summer of 1961, a pair of legends got into a race, to beat another legend. Only one of them succeeded. Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle were chasing the ghost of Babe Ruth, maybe in the imagination of the world, and mythical legacy, Mantel’s the one who caught him, but in the realty of achievement, it was Maris, beating his season home run record. (61, though the expanded season required the record to have an asterix)
Billy Crystal made this movie and he might be the only person in the world more sentimental about The Yankees than my grandfather was, so I enjoyed myself. It’s not a great work, but it lives and dies in the relationship between Maris (Barry Pepper) and Mantle (Thomas Jane), two athletes of incredible skill, two men who couldn’t be more different, and friends none the less.
It’s a sepia toned love letter to the game, and to the men who made it special. It’s fall now, the time when baseball is at it’s most exciting, and another Yankee just hit this tremendous milestone. Life is good.
Title: Soul Food Release Year: 1997 Directed By: George Tillman Jr. Written By: George Tillman Jr. Reccomended By: Popped up as a “You Might Like” after both Waiting To Exhale and Mystic Pizza, so I decided to give it a shot. It is in fact, probably smack dab in the middle of those movies, and not as good as either Star Rating: 3
Soul Food’s heart is in the right place, bless it. The story of a middle class black family dealing with a severe illness and then the eventual death of their matriarch is a solid skeleton to hang a shaggy emotional film on.
But Soul Food never quite comes together. Part of that is the conceit that the movie is told through the eyes of eleven year old Ahmad, except when it isn’t, (seriously, Ahmad’s POV is a bright point, but it pops in and out in ways that don’t make a lot of sense) the spectacular cast, (Vanessa Williams, Vivica A. Fox, Nia Long, Mekhi Phifer! OH MY!) can’t really carry the nonsensical and less than earned twists in the road.
Marriages crumble, financial situations fluctuate, homes are lost and found, but it all feels muted, and small, and not in the good intimate way, more like the “why do I care about these people?” way.
It was a pleasant enough Saturday afternoon watch though.
Title: Beyond The Lights Release Year: 2014 Directed by: Gina Prince-Bythewood Written by: Gina Prince-Bythewood Reccomended By: Gina has a new movie coming out! The Woman King! This was the only one of her movies I haven’t seen to I decided to check it out, finally. Star Rating: 4.5
I’m very happy for Gina Prince-Bythewood that she makes big actiony movies starring bad ass ladies now. It’s apparently something she’s wanted to do for a long time, and The Old Guard rules, and I’m sure that The Woman King is going be equally awesome.
BUT, she made two truly incredible romantic dramas and I hope she makes another one someday. Beyond The Lights isn’t quite as good as Love & Basketball but there are maybe like four movies I like as much as I like Love & Basketball.
Beyond The Lights tells the story of troubled pop star Noni (Gugu M’batha-Raw), who falls in love with a security guard, Kaz (Nate Parker) when he saves her from a suicide attempt. Noni’s commitment to the path her controlling momager (Minnie Driver, kicking many asses) clashes with Kaz’s ideals about integrity and political ambitions. But their connection prevails as Noni finds her own voice.
Title: Xanadu Release Year: 1980 Directed by: Robert Greenwald Written by: Richard Christian Danus, Marc Reid Rubel Recommended By: RIP Olivia Newton John, a singular pop vocalist and true bright light. This movie wasn’t on my list, but it felt right to watch it. Star Rating: 3
Xanadu is the butt of a lot of jokes. And it shouldn’t be. It’s a delightful little confection of a musical with two really incredible musical performances at it’s center. (And one black hole of anti charisma, in it’s leading man Michael Beck.)
Sonny is an artist who is frustrated with his corporate job and lack of inspiration, one day, his frustration awakens the muses of Greek Myth, and one, who goes by Kira, (A LUMINOUS Olivia Newton-John) stumbles upon him and reignites his passion. He’s nudged towards one of Kira’s former cases, the aging band leader Danny (Gene Kelly, WONDERFUL in this role, I was blown away) and they decided to open a nightclub together.
After that it’s a lose connection of song and dance numbers, disco songs, and love conquering all. Truly a delight. I was really really blown away by Kelly’s performance, though. He’s in full pathos and charm mode. And he could still really move too, watching him dance with Newton-John in several numbers is a real gift.
Title: Sherlock Jr. Release Year: 1924 Director: Buster Keaton Written By: Clyde Bruckman, Joseph M. Shank, Jean Havez Recommended By: Melvin Olaes (while I was doing the Mission: Impossibles this came up in conversation, that I should do some silents because they’re quick, I figured Keaton was a good match that week because he was, like Tom Cruise, a maniac who was always putting his body on the line) Star Rating: 4.5
Silent comedy is so pure, so good, so full of life that I always find myself thoroughly enthralled watching it. I’ve always leaned more towards Charlie Chaplin than Buster Keaton, but that’s more about familiarity. I wouldn’t mind diving deeper into Mr. Keaton’s work.
Sherlock JR is about a young man who works in a movie theater, and dreams of being like the great detective Sherlock Holmes, and one day, he finds himself, through a dream transported into a movie, where he has to find the lost necklace of a rich girl. In the real world the girl is middle class, still above our boy, but hardly the great heiress of his dreams.
He solves the crime, both in dream and real life. There are a bunch of prattfalls, Keaton is delightful, I enjoyed myself, also it was 40 minutes long! What a dream!
Title: Mission Impossible 2 Release Year: 2000 Directed By: John Woo Written By: Robert Towne Recommended By: Just Me! See my explanation on the First One, as I talk about it being summer and wanting to watch big action blockbusters Star Rating: 3
I know from reading lots of articles about this series that 2 is considered a low point, and I can sort of see why. It’s got a lot of cool parts that don’t quite work altogether, it’s also a movie that firmly belongs in the year 2000 and manages to dilute the thing that made a giant of action cinema special so that it feels kind of stupid and hollow.
There’s really good stuff in this movie. The duel opening sequences of a rogue IMF agent hijacking a plane to get the McGuffin (this go round a deadly super soldier virus called “Chimera”) while wearing Ethan Hunt’s face and then Ethan himself having a relaxing vacation of free climbing giant rocks in the Australian Outback (COOL). He’s called back in by his new commander (Anthony Hopkins) to recruit a thief played by an incredibly sexy Thandi Newton (I mean, she’s always sexy, but she’s extra hot in this movie)
She and Ethan hook up, turns out she used to be with the bad guy, there are some double crosses and motorcycle chases and obviously slow motion, cuts to random nature imagery and Gregorian Chanting (this may be a Mission: Impossible movie but it’s also a John Woo flick)
The thing is that combining Woo’s aesthetics with the action thriller this needs to be to work as a sequel to Mission: Impossible just, don’t mix. Everytime everything slows down and you hear chanting it feels off, instead of awesome like in Woo’s other movies. I absolutely get why it’s considered a low point.
Title: Oz The Great And Powerful Release Year: 2013 Directed By: Sam Raimi Written By: Mitchell Kapner & David Lindsey-Abaire, from the novel Oz by L. Frank Baum (loosely) Recommended By: Blank Check With Griffin And David Star Rating: 4
I was 100% ready to go into this movie and absolutely despise it. I’d heard it’s CGI was overwhelmingly difficult to get past, that James Franco was very bad in it and that it was overly long. Of those three complaints I agree with one of them. This movie is too long. And the CGI is bad, but I think the movie’s heart and simplicity overcome it.
Set in Kansas and The Land of Oz some 20 or so years before Dorothy showed up, Oz The Great And Powerful sets up the conflict between Oz’s witches, the ascendancy of a carnival sham artist as The Wizard of Oz and a great battle to stabilize a fantasy world.
It’s a lot, but the main performances are very fun, the script is funny and earnest and I really enjoyed watching it. I kind of wish I had seen it nine years ago so I could have revisited it a bunch and become one of those weird people who made an overlooked movie their whole personality. (Probably not, but it’s possible) Anyway, I liked this, a whole lot.
Here ends Blank Check’s Raimi series. (For me, they still have Doctor Strange: And The Multiverse Of Madness) and they’re doing Bob Fosse next. (I already did some of Fosse with Cabaret a few months ago, and I’ve seen both Sweet Charity and All That Jazz but I’ll be hitting Lenny and Star 80 with them in a month or so.) So, without that in the mix, I’m filling in the blanks on the Mission Impossible series for myself. So that’s what the next few weeks will be. It really helped me get this project off the ground that they did two directors who I hadn’t seen most of their work right in a row.
I got a little too drunk hanging out adjacent to The Magic Kingdom, but was ready to kick off my vacation
Welcome World Travelers
I had big plans that involved me having a protein bar and a coffee every morning before going into the parks, rather than overpaying for iced mochas and pastries. This didn’t work out. It is what I did THIS day, and despite my copious drinking the evening before, I was up in time to get on the Skyliner over to Epcot at 7:45 for the 8 AM early opening.
I was planning on meeting up with my friend Maya today (We’ll get to that) but she’d let me know she wasn’t getting to the parks before 10. I instead took this time to just ride everything I wanted to. I hopped onto ‘Soarin, Spaceship Earth, Frozen and Ratatouille by 9, and then realized I was starving, so I went to get online at Les Halles, but the line was bananas so I went to a Joffrey’s cart and got a donut instead.
It was a good donut. I wandered around a bit, got my picture taken and then heard from Maya that she and her friends were in Connections Cafe (Epcot’s new Starbucks) I wasn’t too far from there so I made my way to them, and as it turned out, several other people I had met were with her! (I know all of these folks through my friend Irvin, who I doubt is reading this, but if he is, HI IRVIN!) Including Sara (who I actually DROVE to Irvin’s birthday party!) and some other people who I hadn’t met but clicked with right away.
We mostly all walked around together, though we did get on Spaceship Earth again, (I will never ever complain about this) before people were getting ready for lunch. I had a reservation at the new La Creperie De Paris (back in the Ratatouille section) and they were heading to Le Cellier. So we parted ways.
Y’all? La Creperie is FAN FUCKING TASTIC. In addition to being deliciously made, they have a wonderful Prix Fix menu, which gets you a salad, a savory “gallette” and a desert crepe, plus a glass of hard cider for $33.
WONDERFUL. This was the first time, however, that the heat just got the absolute best of me. I quickly texted Maya and let her know that I was going to take a swim and a nap, and that I’d let her know when I was back in the park.
GOD I LOVE THE SKYLINER. I was back in my room, with an iced tea from the food court within 20 minutes of texting Maya. Chilling out and reading more of Written In The Stars, and even opening the bottle of rose I’d brought.
Around 3, I hopped back on the Skyliner and found the group in Italy, where they were taking pictures. They were all bounding as characters from The Princess And The Frog, so we were scouting for appropriate backgrounds, and also, it was still wayyy too hot to be outside for long. So we landed in the lobby of The American Adventure, watching The Voices Of Liberty wrap up their set. Sara still wasn’t happy with the setting, so several of them decided to head back to Port Orleans (where they were staying) take the pictures they wanted, cool down and come back for dinner.
Maya wanted to keep hanging out, as did her friend Mary, so the three of us headed to France, got some champagne and found a table in The UK under and umbrella and chatted. Maya had learned one of her cousins was also in the Park, and Mary and I both wanted to hit up La Cava Del Tequila so we quickly split up.
I was enchanted by my new friend, Mary, I can say that. We had a lot in common, and compared notes on various romance novels, TV shows, and Disney Parks stuff. We got a table at La Cava, ordered some margaritas and queso and just enjoyed the air conditioning and each other’s company.
After that, we were looking for somewhere to again just be out of the heat, and I mentioned heading to Weinkeller, the little wine shop in Germany. Mary, quickly asked, “WHAT?” And I excitedly pulled her over to it.
There was of course no line, because no one knows about this little spot, but it’s one of my favorites. She’d mentioned earlier that she liked Reisling and I grabbed a rose. (Still a little sweet for me, but Alpine wines always are). Dinner was in China, and the group was on their way back, so we walked over to China, shopped a little and then watched the movie.
Here’s the thing about that movie…I know it’s Walt Disney World and no one wants to be thinking about the uh…darkness, at that time, but a 15 minute propganda video for The CCP in the middle of a theme park feels…well, creepy. And that’s what this is. (There’s a scene where they describe Tienamen Square as the strength of modern China!) But, we were able to sit down and there was AC.
Eventually, after something of an Odyssey, the rest of the group made it to China for us to sit down and eat at Nine Dragons.
I’ve read every warning, and I was already latching onto the plans of others, so I didn’t want to be annoying about it. But seriously, unless you have no other options (and there usually are other options) DON’T EAT HERE. Our service was bad, the food is worse than Panda Express. The restaurant is lovely, so we decided if you want to experience the nice room, maybe order some dumplings and a cocktail and leave it at that.
We got out of the restaurant right on time to watch Harmonius. Having already seen it, I was ready to enjoy myself, but I really really like this show. I think the music selections are excellent, the projections are creatively conceived and the fireworks are stunning.
Over dinner there’d been some talk of either getting drinks out on the Boardwalk or maybe even hopping over to Magic Kingdom.
Instead we all parted ways and headed out. Which was the right call, I had an early morning since I wanted to rope drop at Studios and ride Rise Of The Resistance. So I took another Skyliner ride, had what I would describe the next day as, “possibly the best shower of my life!” and curled up in bed, read a little and fell asleep.
I fall in love with a ride, my greatest Disney Bounding/Dapper Day triumph, and I remember why I hate big meetups at stuff. (Spoiler Alert: It’s SOCIAL ANXIETY!)