Monday, December 30, 2019

"Moana" (2016) -- Initial Thoughts

Yes, I've finally seen this!  Squeezed in one last new-to-me movie before the end of the year :-)

Overall, I enjoyed it, but I didn't love it.  I might have loved it if we hadn't had twenty minutes of nonsense in the middle of it -- that crab did not need a song-and-dance routine, and those coconut critters were pointless.  But the middle and the end were good.

And Dwayne Johnson was hilarious.  Even with just his voice present, he was still the best part of this movie.  Like he is with every movie.  In fact, of the 11 things I've seen him in, the only one he wasn't the best part of was The Mummy Returns (2001), and that was his first movie, so let's all cut him some slack on that one. 

Know what else I really dug about this movie?  That Moana was strong-willed, but not rebellious.  I mean, you could boil this movie down to "royal daughter disobeys father to follow dream," and it would sound just like The Little Mermaid (1989), which I hate.  Because Ariel is a foolish, rebellious child, and everyone acts like she's a great heroine.  No, she's not.  So yeah, that's a hard thing to portray, being strong-willed without being rebellious and defiant.  I think the difference is, Moana isn't selfish.  She's not following her dream because doggone it, that's what SHE wants!  And she needs to get what she wants!  Nope, she disobeys her parents in order to save her people.  Also, you know, she's an adult and a leader, and she's doing what leaders are supposed to do: make hard choices and lead by example. 

Anyway.  Yeah.  I wouldn't mind watching this with my kids sometime, and a second or third viewing might bump it up in my estimation.  Especially if I can fast-forward through a couple chunks of the middle.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

"Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker" (2019) -- Initial Thoughts

Thanks to my intense feeling of ho-hum-ness regarding The Last Jedi (2017), I went into Rise of Skywalker with very few hopes.  Aside from the hope that it would make sense of this trilogy, if possible.

And happily, it did make this trilogy make sense.  Honestly, it's no worse than the prequels.  Not better either, overall, even though The Force Awakens (2015) was awesome.  I mean, I guess that does make it better than the prequels, since none of them were awesome, though I liked Revenge of the Sith (2005) enough to go see it three times.

Overall, I found this movie emotionally satisfying, and I'm good with that.  I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it, and I feel like that's a win.

Anyway.  Um.  Spoilage below, as I'm mostly just going to talk about the things I did like, and the one thing I loved.

OBVIOUSLY, the one thing I loved was Han Solo (Harrison Ford) appearing to his son in a... vision?  Dream?  Imagining?  thing.  That scene, I loved so much, I could see myself watching this movie again just for it.  Everything there pleased me.  Ben Solo (Adam Driver) echoing his words from the moment he killed his father in The Force Awakens, but meaning something totally different with it.  Him not being able to tell his father he loved him, but Han saying, "I know," and we all know what he means by that.  Ben flinging his lightsaber into the sea. (At which point, I was like, "CRAP!  All of a sudden, I like him, and now he's gonna die.  Phooey.")

Also, I really dug Ben Solo willingly, knowingly, deliberately spending himself to bring Rey (Daisy Ridley) back.  It completed his redemption arc, and I'm pleased.

I like that Leia (Carrie Fisher) was an active part in bringing her son back to the light side.  Her using all her life force to save Ben nicely foreshadowed him doing the same to save Rey.  I like that sort of thing.  And I reeeally liked the flashback of Leia training to be a Jedi with Luke when they were young.  That was nifty.

Also, Poe (Oscar Isaac) was really hot in this.  I don't remember him being this hot before.  Yummy.

Finn (John Boyega) felt a little shunted off to the side at times, but him meeting up with other former Storm Troopers and bonding with them was excellent.  And I love that he and Poe got to just hang out and have adventures together again.  I missed that so much in The Last Jedi.

Honestly, I saw this before Christmas, well over a week ago, and my memories on it are fading.  I went to see Midway again yesterday (twice!), and that's what most of my mind is focused on.  But I promised a few people I'd write up my thoughts on this, so... now I have :-)

Monday, December 16, 2019

Happy Birthday, Jane Austen! (And Why I Love Persuasion So Much)

It's Jane Austen's 244th birthday!  To celebrate, I'm burning a candle from Floating Starlights, I shared a pretty candy-cane-inspired picture of Austen-related books on Instagram, and it just so happens that my latest Femnista article is all about my favorite Austen novel, Persuasion.  You can read that right here.

How are YOU celebrating Jane Austen today?

Friday, December 13, 2019

Winter 2019/20 To-Do List

I've got lots of things I want to do between now and the end of February!  How about you?  And man oh man, it's almost mid-December already.  That cold really pushed a lot of things to the side for me, including posting this list.

Anyway, here are the things I want to do over the next 2 1/2 months:

~ Finish the second draft of One Bad Apple and be editing it

~ Read 3 titles for my Classics Club list

~ Read 6 books off my TBR shelves

~ Read 3 books from the library

~ Watch 5 movies off my TBW shelves

~ Go see A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

~ Go see Frozen II

~ Go see Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

~ Go see Little Women

~ Go see Dolittle

~ Go see The Call of the Wild

~ Go see An American in Paris (1951) on the big screen, via TCM & Fathom Events

~ Finish decorating for Christmas

~ Get my Christmas cards sent

~ Finish wrapping gifts in time for them to get opened

~ Finish the Christmas skirt I started making last year

~ Make Christmas dresses for my daughters' 18" and 14" dolls

~ Host a Ukrainian Christmas shindig at our house

~ Repaint my kitchen

Okay, that's plenty to keep me hopping, don't you think?  Especially over the next couple weeks...

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

I'm Not Dead Yet!

Just a little timely levity from Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975).

I've had a cold.  Not the worst cold I've ever had, to be honest, except that it knocked me off my feet for about three days straight. I can't remember ever being this tired when I didn't also have a newborn around.  So, so tired.

But today, I'm back to feeling like I can do more than the bare minimum required to keep my kids happy and healthy.  Which means... blogging :-)

Mainly, I'm here to tell you I've had another article about homeschooling published by Blest the House.  It's called "This is How We Do It," and it's all about our typical school day routine.  If that sounds interesting to you, you can read it here.

In other news... I'm still tired.  I'm still not quite better.  But I hope to be soon.  Because the only Christmas decorating I've done so far is to put up our tree and decorate it, and That Is Not Enough.  So I'm hoping that this weekend will be a whirlwind of decorating and general festivity and cheer.

How are you faring this December?  Egad, it's the 11th already.  Christmas is two weeks from today!  It's a good thing I shop early!!!  I'd be soooo behind right now if I didn't...

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

This is How We Do It -- Article at Blest the House

I've got a second article called "This is How We Do It" posted here on the homeschooling blog Blest The House today.  This one is part of a series of homeschool families sharing what their daily school routines look like.  If you're curious about what a day in our house looks like, check it out!

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Finished with My 2019 Autumn To-Do List

December is here, together with all things wintery and Christmasy, at least in my head, so time to report in on my Autumn To-Do List and see how I did.

~ Finish the second draft of my western Snow White retelling Fail.  I am about half done with this round of revisions, but this book started out longer than the previous two, and it's bulking up a LOT.  So I just keep working on it and trust that God will see me through.

~ Read 3 titles from my Classics Club list  Check!  I finished War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy and read two others, The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery and a combo volume containing "Nutcracker and Mouse King" by ETA Hoffmann PLUS "The Tale of the Nutcracker" by Alexandre Dumas, which sounds like three titles, but I'm only counting as two.

~ Read 6 books off my TBR shelves  Check!  I got eight books off my TBR shelves this fall:  Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, Grace Alone by Ruth E. Meyer, Mycroft and Sherlock by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anna Waterhouse, Sherlock Holmes vs. Dracula by Loren D. Estleman, the Graveyard Book graphic novel by Neil Gaiman and P. Craig Russell, Lady of Quality by Georgette Heyer, South by Java Head by Alistair MacLean, and "Nutcracker and Mouse King" by ETA Hoffmann PLUS "The Tale of the Nutcracker" by Alexandre Dumas (in one volume).

~ Read 3 books from the library  Check!  In fact, I read SIX.  Wahoo!  It was an excellent autumn as far as reading goes.  From the library, I read: Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman, The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, Mycroft Holmes by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anna Waterhouse, Mycroft and Sherlock: The Empty Birdcage by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anna Waterhouse, Killing Floor by Lee Child, and She Came to Slay: The Life and Times of Harriet Tubman by Erica Armstrong Dunbar.

~ Watch 5 movies off my TBW shelves  Check!  I watched seven: License to Kill (1989), One Foot in Hell (1960), Murders in the Rue Morgue (1986), The Quick and the Dead (1987), Men in Black: International (2019), The Lego Batman Movie (2017), and Antony and Cleopatra (1972).

~ Go see Rear Window (1954) on the big screen  Check!  I also got to see To Catch a Thief (1955) and Shadow of a Doubt (1943) on the big screen.  So thrilling!

~ Go see Gemini Man  Fail.

~ Go see Midway  Check!  I've been twice so far.  Here are my initial thoughts, and here's a more review-like collection of my thoughts.  TL;DR = I LOVE IT.

~ Go see Charlie's Angels  Fail.

~ Go see The Good Liar  Fail.

~ Go see 
21 Bridges  Fail.

~ Go see A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood  Fail so far... but I'm still hoping to see it.

~ Go see Frozen II  Fail so far... but I'm also hoping to catch this one yet.

~ Make a new skirt  Check!  I finished the fall skirt that I bought fabric for last year but never made.  It has cowboys on part of it.  I love it.

~ Help my daughters sew dresses for their dolls  Check!  This is going to be an ongoing project, but we did make jackets for both their big dolls, a skirt and shirt for one, and leggings for the other.

~ Crochet a blanket for my 7-yr-old's bed  Semi-fail.  I've started it, but shoulder and neck pain keeps halting my progress.

~ Try a new bread recipe.  Fail.  I did bake bread, just not from a new recipe.

~ Repaint my living room  Fail.

~ Host an Oktoberfest shindig at our house  Check!  And it was lots of fun.

That's all!  And that's enough ;-)  New to-do list coming soon!

Monday, December 02, 2019

The 12 Days of Christmas Movie Tag

Time for a festive movie tag!  I came up with this idea a few months ago and have been waiting so eagerly for December so I could share it with you :-)


#1 Use a different movie for each prompt
#2 Add photos and/or explanations of how your choices fit the prompts
#3 Tag a few friends to play along

(They're more like guidelines, actually.  Just so you know.)

My reviews linked to titles where applicable :-)

1. A Partridge in a Pear Tree -- movie that involves agriculture

Friendly Persuasion (1956).  Gary Cooper, Dorothy McGuire, and Anthony Perkins play Quaker farmers grappling with how their beliefs clash with the world around them during the American Civil War.  Which doesn't sound like a comedy, but I consider it one anyway.

2.  Turtledoves -- movie about a long-lasting relationship

Giant (1956).  Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor play a married couple whose life together we trace for more than twenty-five years.  This is a movie I grew up with.

3.  French Hens -- movie that takes place in France

Chocolat (2000).  Juliette Binoche meets Johnny Depp in France, and there's a lot of chocolate involved.  Totally delicious, and I need to review it one of these days.

4.  Calling Birds -- movie where people talk on the phone

Bells are Ringing (1960).  Judy Holliday works for a phone answering service (because answering machines and voicemail hadn't been invented yet), and she falls in love with one of her clients, Dean Martin, who thinks she's a matronly older woman.  Musical comedy hijinks ensue.

5.  Golden Rings -- movie with multiple romances

The Holiday (2006).  Both recently heartbroken, Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz are total strangers who switch houses with each other for a few weeks, one travelling to LA and one to Britain.  They then find new romance while on vacation in each others' worlds.  It all involves Jude Law at his yummiest, plus Jack Black, Rufus Sewell, and a darling Eli Wallach.

6.  Geese A-laying -- movie with a birth or that features babies

Stagecoach (1939).  While under threat of hostile Indians and other dangers, a woman (Louise Platt) gives birth to her first child with only strangers, her fellow stagecoach passengers, to help her.  That's a small piece of the story, but an important one that affects everyone.

7.  Swans A-swimming -- movie where someone goes swimming

Hamlet (2000)  Julia Stiles, as Ophelia, literally goes swimming, imagines she's swimming, and eventually drowns herself.  One of my absolute favorite Hamlet productions.

8.  Maids A-milking -- movie with cows

Witness (1985).  Harrison Ford plays a Philly cop who hides out with the Amish while protecting a murder witness.  He learns to milk cows.  And has to wake up really early to do so.

9.  Ladies Dancing -- movie with a dance scene

Emma (1996).  Gwyneth Paltrow, Ewan McGregor, Toni Collette, and Jeremy Northam do quite a bit of dancing.  Alan Cumming, however, is an old married man whose dancing days are sadly over.  This is my favorite Jane Austen movie adaptation.

10.  Lords A-leaping -- movie about athletes

Chariots of Fire (1981).  True story about a bunch of Olympic runners who have powerful religious beliefs.  And run a lot.  On the beach, through the school, around race tracks, wherever they can.

11.  Pipers Piping -- movie with someone playing a musical instrument

That Thing You Do! (1996).  A band of young musicians almost makes it really big in the '60s music scene, guided by music producer Tom Hanks.  I can't believe I've never reviewed this movie!  I adore it for its cheerful, happy-go-lucky vibe.

12.  Drummers Drumming -- movie with characters in the military

The Patriot (2000).  Mel Gibson, Heath Ledger, Jason Isaacs, the American Revolution -- something for everyone here!  One of the first movies I saw multiple times in the theater.

Now, I said that those rules were more like guidelines, actually.  I'm going to break one of them by not tagging anyone with this because... I don't feel like it.  If you want to do this on your own blog, then consider yourself tagged with it!

Monday, November 25, 2019

"Midway" (2019) again

To be honest, when I first found out they were making a new movie about the Battle of Midway, my first thought was, "Why?  We already have a movie about Midway.  Do we really need another one?"

Yes, we do.

gushed and gushed about this movie after my first time seeing it.  I've seen it twice now, and yup, I still say this is the best new-to-me movie I've seen all year.  It's so well-crafted in every way.  The writing is smart, the acting is stellar, and the special effects leave me breathless.

One of the things I like best about this movie is how it starts before the attack on Pearl Harbor.  It shows that, plus some other naval engagements that followed, and even included Doolittle's Raid!  That really helped the audience understand how important Midway was in so many ways, not just the military aspects.  Like how emotionally invested people on both sides were, and how they were mentally engaged in this.  Beautifully done.

But what I loved best, of course, were the people.  I don't want to call them characters, since these are actual people being portrayed but, as always, it's the people that make me love it.  So I'm going to spend the bulk of this review talking about them.

After two views, I basically love everybody in this film.  You know who I love most, though?  Edwin Layton (Patrick Wilson).  I didn't even know Patrick Wilson was in this -- really, all I knew going in the first time was that Luke Evans was in it and DKoren was wild about it.  And, you know, that it was about Midway, obviously.

So Wilson showed up onscreen, and I was like, "DUDE!  Is that Patrick Wilson?!?"  Because really the only thing I've ever seen him in before is The Phantom of the Opera (2004), and I've always been bummed he hasn't made other things that interest me, besides that and The Alamo (2004), which I still haven't seen.  So I was all excited the he was in this too.  And by the end of the first viewing, Layton had tied with Best and McClusky as my favorite person in it.  (More about the other two in a minute.)

By the end of the second viewing, Layton was far and away my favorite.  He's quiet, intelligent, and stubborn, and he's using everything within himself to help others.  How am I not going to love a guy like that?  Made-to-order for me.

Also, his wife Dagne (Rachael Perrell Fosket) was extremely awesome and supportive.

Now, let's all be real: the reason I went to this movie in the first place was Luke Evans.  I've been looking forward to this movie for months because I knew he was in it.  I love WWII movies and learning about WWII history, so having one of my favorite actors portray a real WWII hero?  Yes, please!

I was kinda worried he would have a tiny role, but nope!  Wade McClusky is an important part of the story and plays a pivotal role in the Battle of Midway itself.  He's mostly stern and kinda has that by-the-book thing going on, but once in a while, he gets all sassy, and I laughed aloud over several of his lines.

Props to Luke Evans for his good American accent (though I missed his delicious Welsh cadence, to be honest).  Also, he has the best mustache in the whole movie.

Dick Best (Ed Skrein) is about as close to a Main Character as this movie has -- it's very much an ensemble piece.  Still, I think we see more of him than anyone else, and I'm totally cool with that because Best is... aptly named?  He's a spectacular pilot, but also a really intriguing person with some nice layers to him that we slowly peel back as the movie rolls forward.

Dick Best's wife Ann (Mandy Moore) is also awesome.  We don't see tons of her, but she's a strong, direct, loving woman, and she's a great glimpse for us of the Home Front.  The only other thing I know Moore from is Tangled (2010), and that's only her voice, but I found her a pleasing actress who really fit the look of the 1940s.  That's not always easy for modern actors and actresses, but I think they did really well with their casting for this -- especially Moore and Skrein.

Oh my word.  Halsey (Dennis Quaid).  Wow.  What an amazing naval commander!  I love his dedication, his fierceness... he has such great Warrior vibes.  And he was crotchety without being querulous, feisty and yet calm.  I think the only other things I've ever seen Quaid in are Wyatt Earp (1994) and The Long Riders (1980), and he just wasn't memorable in those, but wow.  He's memorable in this. 

I already knew a little bit about the Doolittle Raid, where James Doolittle (Aaron Eckhart) and a bunch of other American pilots bombed Tokyo and then landed in China and had to find their own way out.  I know a little more about it now, thanks to this movie, but it's something I want to read more on.  Soon.

Eckhart is another actor I've seen in a couple things, and I just have never cared for him, but I think he just had to grow into his face, if that makes sense.  Now he's almost got a William Holden vibe going on, and I liked him a ton.

What can I say about Nimitz (Woody Harrelson)?  He's like a white-haired bulldog. and he was just... the right man at the right time in the right place.  Which I did know already, though I admit I have studied the ETO (European Theater of Operations) waaaaaaaaaay more than the PTO (Pacific Theater of Operations) because... the ETO is where Combat! takes place, which means it's where all the fanfic I've written is set, so when I read WWII history books, I tend to focus there.  I mean, I knew who won the battle of Midway, and I knew quite a bit about the bombing of Pearl Harbor, plus a little about Doolittle and Nimitz, but most of what this movie gave me was excitingly new and fresh.

Anyway.  I've never cared much for Woody Harrelson, though I don't mind him in Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018).  But he had a sort of stubborn, patient aplomb here that I really dug.

Awww, Murray.  Awwwwwwwwwwwww.  I love this kid's character arc.  I started out feeling a little annoyed by him, and then I end up just wanted to give him a hundred hugs.  And a warm chocolate-chip cookie.  Possibly also a blankie.

Spoiler alert:  Bruno Guido (Nick Jonas) is amazing.

I really don't know anything about the Jonas Brothers except that they're brothers whose last name is Jonas, they sing, and I guess now one of them acts too.  I didn't know who was playing Bruno my first viewing, I just knew he was a really snarky, spunky character that I grew incredibly fond of in a very short time.

I can't say anymore without actually spoiling stuff, so I... won't.

Dickinson (Luke Kleintank) is sort of that quintessential Good Guy, and he gets one of the best lines in the whole movie, one that makes everyone in the theater crack up. 

Lindsey (Darren Criss) is kind of a bit of an antagonist for a while, always squaring off with Dick Best... but I like him okay by the end.  I like that he adds some interpersonal tension to show that all the Americans weren't just one big, happy family aboard an air craft carrier.

The movie did a really good job of portraying some of the Japanese officers too.  Especially Yamaguchi (Tadanobu Asano).  He has the nicest smile, and I got so fond of him.

I didn't realize it until DKoren mentioned it, but I've totally seen Asano in stuff before!  He played Hogun, one of the Warriors Three, in all three Thor movies!  Once I knew that, when I went to the movie the next time, I could totally see it.

I'm really glad that the filmmakers didn't demonize the individual Japanese military characters.  They do talk about some atrocities committed by the Japanese Army as a whole, but the individuals were just... people.  So much more effective than making them all look like monsters.

Finally, Admiral Yamamoto (Etsushi Toyokawa).  I felt really sorry for him at several different times because of how other Japanese leaders were treating him.  He was smart and cagey and savvy, and mostly he got ignored or disregarded or even disobeyed.  Like, what?  Can you people not see how intelligent this guy is?

So.  I think the only thing I haven't said yet about this movie is how thrilling and stupendous the battle scenes are.  Especially the parts with the dive-bombers, where you're just plummeting out of the sky.  Like, how could anyone ever be brave enough to fly a plane into all those bullets and all that shrapnel?  Wow.  I came out of this film both times in absolute awe of the real-life people portrayed here and what they faced.

Also, it's a very pretty movie.  It doesn't make everything look bleak or harsh.  But it doesn't sugar-coat war either.  Amazing film.  I want to see it again, though I'm afraid i might have to wait for DVD cuz my life is getting very busy for a while.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

My Ten Favorite Harrison Ford Movies

For more than a decade, Harrison Ford was second only to John Wayne in my list of favoritest of favorite actors.  Though Hugh Jackman and then Alan Ladd eventually supplanted him in that spot, he's still my #4, and I will not cease to hold him dear, of that I'm certain.

Prompted by Eva ranking all the Harrison Ford movies she's seen over at Coffee, Classics, and Craziness, I hereby present my ten favorite Harrison Ford films.  Some of these, I've seen so often, I've got them memorized.  In fact, the last two are the only ones where I can't quote basically the whole movie right along with the actors.

As always, titles are linked to my reviews where applicable.

1. The Fugitive (1993)

Dr. Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford) is wrongly convicted of his wife's murder, escapes, and goes hunting for the real killer while U.S. Marshal Sammy Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones) hunts for him. My second-favorite movie of all time.

2. Sabrina (1995)

When Sabrina (Julia Ormond) returns from Paris, suddenly dazzling instead of dowdy, her father's employer (Harrison Ford) pretends to woo her to prevent his younger brother (Greg Kinnear) from having a fling with her. A lot sweeter than it sounds, and I much prefer it to the 1954 original because the cast has better chemistry and the whole thing works better.  I wrote a Femnista article about it a few years back, which you can read here.

3. Witness (1985)

Detective John Book (Harrison Ford) goes undercover to protect a little Amish boy who is the only witness to a murder. Taut and sweet at the same time, and one of the very, very few R-rated movies I own.

4. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Archaeologist/adventurer Dr. Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) tries to keep the Ark of the Covenant away from the Nazis.  One of the finest adventure movies ever made.  I had the deep joy of seeing this on the big screen a few months ago, and it was even more spectacular there than I had hoped.

5. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

What's better than one Dr. Jones?  Two Dr. Joneses!  Indy and his dad (Sean Connery) try to keep the Holy Grail away from the Nazis.  The chemistry between the two of them is as perfect as possible.  This movie makes me laugh so much.

6. Return of the Jedi (1983)

Luke and Leia rescue Han, Luke and Han rescue Leia, Lando and R2-D2 rescue everyone at once... and that's only the first sequence, which happens to be my most favoritest part of all the Star Wars films. In fact, I've seen the first 40 minutes of this more often than any other segment of any Star Wars movies.

7. Star Wars: A New Hope (1977)

An idealist (Mark Hamill), a princess (Carrie Fisher), a smuggler (Harrison Ford), and an aging hero (Alec Guinness) help the Rebel Alliance take out the Empire's greatest weapon. What can I say about it that hasn't been said a billion times before?  I call it Star Wars in my head, and always have to fumble around to find the title A New Hope because, until the prequels, it was never called that.  At all.  By anyone I ever knew.  It's just Star Wars.  The rest are Other Star Wars movies.

8. The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

Luke learns the truth about his parentage, Han and Leia try not to fall in love, and the Empire tries to figure out what hit them. I like half of this movie a lot (the Han + Leia parts) and am bored by the other half.

9. 42 (2013)

Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) hires Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) to play baseball for the Brooklyn Dodgers, making him the first black man to play in the all-white baseball league.  It's one of the best biopics I've ever seen, and possibly the best acting I've seen from Harrison Ford.

10. Air Force One (1997)

A terrorist (Gary Oldman) hijacks the presidential airplane midflight, taking the President (Harrison Ford) and his family hostage. The President is not amused.  He spends the rest of the film trying to get the terrorist off his plane while keeping his family safe.  Thrilling heroics abound.  Another of the very, very few R-rated movies I own.

Okay, that's my list.  Have you seen these?  Do you love these?  Do you love other Harrison Ford movies better?  Let's discuss!

Sunday, November 17, 2019

"Midway" (2019) -- Initial Thoughts

You need to go see this movie.

I am not even kidding.

I don't care if you never go see movies in the theater, or if you aren't a fan of WWII movies, or if you don't like war movies at all.  Everyone should see this movie.

I'm so not kidding.  This is the best movie I have seen all year.

Yes, better than Avengers: Endgame.  Not even in the same ballpark.

Midway is up there with The Longest Day (1962) as one of the very best war films I have ever seen.  Likely one of the best ever made.  It is staggeringly good.

And you know one of the things I loved most about it?

It had no big, modern agenda.

Think about that a minute.  No agenda.  No trying to shoehorn modern sensibilities and prejudices and ways of thinking into the presentation of a historical event.

It presents us with heroes, yes, but real-life heroes with failings and falterings.  They make mistakes.  They do nearly miraculous things.  They do dumb things.  They're human.

And it does not demonize their enemies.  The Japanese soldiers are shown to be equally courageous and equally intelligent.  The closest to demonization it ever comes is showing that the Japanese military were targeting Chinese civilians.  It lets you make up your own mind about that, it doesn't dance around waving fingers.

I cannot praise this movie highly enough.  It has only one flaw, which isn't so much a flaw as something I wish it didn't have.  One f-word.  But it's used in exactly the way, exactly the moment that such a word is, to be honest, kinda called for.  (There's some other cussing too, but the level that you'd find in a 1960s war movie.) (EDIT: Okay, it does have quite a bit of cussing.  I counted 49 cuss words, my second viewing.  So more on par with a 1970s war movie.  But it... is not gross and nasty cussing, just military dudes speaking their vernacular, if that makes sense.  I didn't realize how much there was because it just didn't bother me.)

Anyway.  The acting, the filming, the pacing, the music, the costumes, the writing -- everything was staggeringly wonderful.

Go see it for yourself.  I almost never say "everyone should see this movie" because most movies, not everyone needs to see.  Personal tastes and interests make that nonsensical, really.  But this movie?  You need to see it.

(I have SO many other things I want to say about Midway, like how wonderful Luke Evans and Patrick Wilson are, how it's the best acting I've ever seen out of Woody Harrelson, and so much more.  But I'm going to hold onto all of that until I've seen it a second time so I can give it a proper review.)


Wednesday, November 13, 2019

"Harriet" (2019) -- Initial Thoughts

Biopics are always tricky to balance.  You've got to remain fairly faithful to a the real events of the person's life, because if they're famous enough to have a movie made about them, they're famous enough that a LOT of people know a LOT about them.  They will be quick to point out your errors if you deviate too far from fact, or if you spin a story to suit an agenda that the person in question was not a part of.

But you also have to make the story of a real person's life interesting.  And real life has a lot of boring parts.  Even the real life of a famous, courageous, heroic person.  You need to tell a cohesive story with a beginning, a middle, and an end, and some central message or point to your story.  Real life often lacks cohesion, messages, and points.  But a biopic is not a documentary -- it promises good storytelling, not a recitation of facts.  So you need to find a way to portray a person's life within the framework of a story.

Also, you need to be telling the audience something new, something that makes your movie worth seeing for those who are familiar with the story of your subject's life.

So much to balance.  So tricky.

So few biopics manage to balance all of that successfully.

I went to see Harriet (2019) this weekend.  Now, most of what I know about Harriet Tubman, I learned by reading my copy of Freedom Train (by Dorothy Sterling) over and over as a child.  I'm going to remedy that shortly -- I've put several books about her on hold at the library, but none of them are in yet.

Anyway.  I re-read Freedom Train today so I could refresh my memory as to the actual facts of Harriet Tubman's life.  It's a biography for kids, told like a story, but I trust it more than I do a movie, to be honest.  I'll review it on my book blog soon, on its own.  But if you're looking for a quick way to introduce yourself or a kid to Harriet Tubman's life, it's an excellent resource.

Okay, so the basic facts as presented by the movie were correct.  Harriet Tubman was born a slave in Maryland, escaped as a young woman, then became a conductor on the Underground Railroad and went back into the slave states to bring out her siblings and parents, plus many more.

But you know movie makers.  They love to spice things up.  I don't mean that in a sexual way, in this case, but in a "let's add something weird to make this movie more interesting."  As if the story of this brave, stubborn, intelligent woman wasn't actually interesting enough.  They took the fact that Harriet Tubman suffered a head injury that made her randomly fall asleep and they twisted that, giving her visions from God that aided and guided her.  They made her seem like a mystical, possibly delusional woman, and other characters dismiss her as crazy or brain-damaged or imagining things.

HOW IS THIS BETTER than the truth, that Harriet Tubman was a woman of indomitable courage and solid faith in God?  I think they were trying to make her seem "special" and "gifted," but to me, it does the opposite.  It makes it look like it's God, not Harriet Tubman, who's leading people to freedom.  They robbed her of her dignity and free will and turned her into a sort of sideshow curiosity.  In my opinion.  I was not a fan of this choice.

[EDIT: According to the book She Came to Slay by Erica Armstrong Dunbar, Harriet Tubman did say she experienced visions when she was unconscious, which she believed came from God and often served as warnings about bad things about to happen.  So there is some basis in her life story for how they portray this in the film.  However, that book didn't say she ever invited the visions the way they show in the film, and they used these visions FAR too often as a sort of Deus ex machina to suddenly avert disasters, so I still say it's weak storytelling/writing.]

Now, the film on a whole is really good.  There are some amazing chase scenes, there's overall a lot of excellent acting, the music is great, and the pacing was very good indeed.  Cynthia Erivo portrays Harriet as fierce and yet frightened, and I was fully invested in her portrayal, with the exception of the mystical visions from God, which I blame the screenwriters and so on for, not her.

Is this movie family friendly?  Wellllllllllllllllll... there's no nudity, and most violence is implied... but there's some pretty bad language (including the F-word), there are a lot of very tense chase scenes, some discussion of white masters having slave children who look like them, mention of young girls being raped, talk of spending money on whores, and several instances of seeing people's scars from whipping, burning, or other violence.  So I'd say it's not for children or younger teens.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Announcing the Beyond Star Trek Blogathon

Quiggy (of The Midnite Drive-In) and I are co-hosting another blogathon!  The Beyond Star Trek Blogathon will focus on actors and actresses from all the Star Trek shows, but in their non-Trek roles.

In other words, any actor or actress with a regular role in any Star Trek show from The Original Series to Discovery is fair game for this, BUT you can't write about their role on Star Trek.  You have to write about something else that they acted in.

We ask that you restrict yourself to actors and actresses who had recurring roles playing the same character on a Star Trek show, not one-time guest stars.  So Grace Lee Whitney, who played Yoeman Janice Rand in 8 episodes of season one of The Original Series, would be an acceptable choice; Roger C. Carmel, who played Harry Mudd in two episodes of TOS, would be also.  But Kirsten Dunst, who appeared in only one episode of The Next Generation, is not.

Alternatively, you can write about someone behind the cameras, such as a director or writer, but again, they need to have contributed in a real way to the shows, not worked incidentally on one in some tangential way.

If you're not sure if the person you want to write about is fair game or not, just ask either myself or Quiggy!

We're asking that there be no duplicate reviews of movies/shows.  So if you want to write about Patrick Stewart as Professor X, for instance, and someone else has already signed up to review X-Men: Days of Future Past, you can review a different X-Men movie instead, but not that specific one.  Or if one person does an overview of all the X-Men movies as a whole, someone else can review one particular film.

This blogathon will run from Friday, January 10, through Sunday, January 12, 2020.  Grab one of these buttons to display on your blog and help spread the word!

You can sign up either on this post or on Quiggy's post at The Midnite Drive-In.  Please give us the name of the actor or actress you want to write about AND the name of the movie or show they were in that you'll be focusing on, and the address of your blog.

The Roster

+ The Midnite Drive-In -- Leonard Nimoy in Zombies of the Stratosphere (1952) AND Deforest Kelly in Fear in the Night (1947)
+ Hamlette's Soliloquy -- William Shatner in The Big Valley episode "A Time to Kill" (1966)
+ Coffee, Classics, and Craziness -- Leonard Nimoy in season 4 of Mission: Impossible (1969-70)
+ Angelman's Place -- Leonard Nimoy in Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
+ Caftan Woman -- DeForest Kelley on Zane Grey Theater
+ Wide Screen World -- Robert Beltran in Eating Raoul (1982)
+ Movies Meet Their Match -- William Shatner in Miss Congeniality (2000)
+ I'm Charles Baker Harris (And I Can Read) -- LeVar Burton on Reading Rainbow (1983-2015)
+ Along the Brandywine -- William Shatner in Little Women (1978)
+ Diary of a Movie Maniac -- James Doohan in Pretty Maids All in a Row (1971)
+ YOU!