Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Swan Song - For Now!

I've done about 250 episodes of Meet Me at the Movies for C19 TV, dating all the way back to 2012 and the time has come to hang up my popcorn bucket - at least for the time being. See, each show represents quite a time commitment. We try to cover two movies per show, so figure two movies at about two hours each. Then add in about an hour per blog post, then another hour spent filming and that's six hours per week, generally on the weekends. That's a lot of time that Meet Me at the Movies requires and that's time that I'm not spending on other things that are valuable and important to me.

So I'm leaving you all in the incredibly capable hands of Noel T. Manning II who has a vast knowledge of movies, both from artistic and a commercial perspectives. I look forward to actually watching the show (remember, it's available on streaming!) and getting recommendations!

You can access the current show here!

See you on the Catbus!
 For my very last show as a regular co-host of Meet Me at the Movies, I planted my feet like a mule and steadfastly refused to go see Michael Bay's latest BoomCrashBang Ode to Smash Cuts (the best review so far is found here!) and instead saw the limited screening of Miyazaki's My Neighbor Totoro. Please check out the ongoing Studio Ghibli Fest for monthly screenings through November. You won't regret seeing these masterpieces of animation on the big screen! The audience alone is worth it - it's always lovely to see something you enjoy surrounded by other people who also enjoy it.

In the meantime, Ensley and I will be ramping up our social media presence for the upcoming publication of A Dream Given Form, the ultimate guide to Babylon 5 that will be published in mid-September. Check back here for updates - we plan on having quite a shindig in our hometown of Shelby, NC for our book launch!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Victory Lap!

Back in 2006, Pixar released Cars, a rather sweet tale of the up-and-coming hotshot getting schooled by a gruff old master and together, the two of them reach the apex of their sport. It also turned out to be race fan Paul Newman's last film and I truly enjoyed the chemistry between Owen Wilson as the full of himself Lightning McQueen and Paul Newman as the Fabulous Hudson Hawk.

Now Cars 3the third installment of the franchise is out and I'm pleased to report that it's well worth going to see. Newman's voice is still there in a couple of flashbacks and new characters are added. Interestingly, the film also has a bit of a "girl power" thread as Margo Martindale voices an old-time racing great named "Louise Nash," Kerry Washington is a numbers-crunching statistician named "Natalie Certain" and Cristela Alonzo shines as the trainer-racer named "Cruz Ramirez." Yes, the old standbys are here, including Larry the Cable Guy's Tow Mater, but the real story is about Lightning finding worth in himself even if he isn't the fastest car on the track anymore. One of the most poignant lines comes from Lightning's competitor Cal Weathers (who is voiced by Kyle Petty) who comments on his retirement by answering McQueen's question about how to know when it's time to quit, "The youngsters will let you know."

And that's the heart of the story - as a new generation of high-tech, computerized machines takes over the tracks from the "race 'em on Sunday, sell 'em on Monday" actual STOCK stock racing cars, is there room for the old ways? Suddenly, McQueen isn't the hotshot - instead he's the "elder statesman" and he doesn't like it one bit. Now he knows all too well how "Hud" felt. (Confession - referring to Newman's old-school character as "Hud" and McQueen as "Hud's boy" just made me happy. It's a lovely, subtle tribute.)

Nathan Fillion voices the future of sponsorship and branding and brings his own brand of smarmy capitalism to a film that (let's face it) will be heavy of the toys, clothing, and geegaws of the upcoming holiday season.

But best of all are the NASCAR cameos and little history lessons tucked in Cars 3. While NASCAR is usually viewed as a white redneck sport (with enough brand loyalty to make sponsors salivate), there's always been a little more diversity than you might expect. And that's one of the lessons of Cars 3 as well - if you can do the work, where you come from doesn't really matter much.

May we all learn that one.

Plus - be sure you get there in time to see "Lou," the short that plays before the main feature!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

DC (Finally) Gets It Right!

I've waited a little while to write about DC's latest release, Wonder Woman. I think I simply needed time to process my reactions to this film. So much was riding on Diana Prince's Amazonian shoulders - and not just for the DC movie franchise. Films led by female comic characters have not done well at the box office - see Catwoman and Elektra for evidence of my point. However, the suits tended to think that the problem was with the fact that the lead character was a woman, as opposed to looking at the problems caused by weak scripts, sloppy direction, and indifferent marketing.

Wonder Woman might change all that, for the film is certainly is a game-changer. Director Patty Jenkins, who is best known for her 2003 debut feature, Monster, had much to prove here and the critical as well as commercial love for her film should go a long way towards dispelling the long-outmoded idea that "boys won't go see a movie with a girl lead character, so we don't want to make them." Currently, the film is sitting pretty at 92% on Rotten Tomatoes, and the box office take is estimated to be well in excess of $200 million.

There is simply so much to love about this movie - Gal Gadot is perfectly cast as Diana, Chris Pine as Steve Trevor reminds me of why I enjoyed Hell or High Water so much, and the supporting cast is amazing. Special shout-outs go to Lucy Davis as Steve's grounded assistant Etta, and Robin Wright as Diana's warrior aunt Anitope made me punch the air in delight.

All that said, I wouldn't take very small ones to this. Wonder Woman moves the origin story from WW2 to WW1 and there are a few graphic scenes of battlefield violence. (Not Saving Private Ryan or Hacksaw Ridge violent, but still - I'd keep the under 10 set outside.) The film carries a rating of PG-13 for the scenes of violence, which don't seem especially "comic-booky," so use caution with the young fry.

The film is taking the Internet by storm, including some fantastic reactions on Twitter.  Patty Jenkins shared a note sent to her by her producer showing the reactions of a kindergarten class (again, I think that's too young for this film, but that's me) and some of the audience reactions are just heartwarming (#17 is my favorite of this list). Alamo Drafthouse (a private business, by the way) in Austin, TX decided to have a women-only screening, which was generally well-received. And, it being Austin, when one man decided his feelings were hurt by this, the mayor responded with wit and humor. And Texts from Superheroes had more fun with this idea than should probably be allowed.

Diana is a warrior who wants to serve the cause of peace. May we all remember that no, it's not about what we deserve; it's about holding fast to our ideals. And perhaps about making swords fashion accessories at society soirees.

Will this save the upcoming Justice League movie? Only time will tell.