ALL THINGS MUST PASS

I watched this documentary with a nostalgic rush. Back in the day, the East Village Tower Records was a regular stop whenever I was in NYC. It carried EVERYTHING. Domestic, foreign, indie, spoken word, sound effects – you name it, they had a section for it. They started with one store in California and grew to be a worldwide chain; started with vinyl, added tapes, added CDs, and then…the mp3 arrived and the record/CD market collapsed. It’s the story of one man’s vision, providing an unhurried atmosphere for music lovers, a cool staff that promoted from within, and good prices. A fascinating tale about how changes in technology can buoy you and destroy you, how they giveth and how they taketh away.

FF=0

HITMAN – AGENT 47

I never played this videogame so I can’t make comparisons. I like mindless action at times and this had plenty of action with minimal mind. Lots of borrowings from (homages to?) other action films. If you want to feed your eyes while your brain idles in neutral, you could do worse.

FF=1

GOOSEBUMPS

Jack Black plays R.L. Stine in this horror comedy geared for kids. The plot releases a horde of Stine’s monsters on the town [the lawn gnomes, the Blob that ate Everyone, the Mummy, Slappy (of course), and many more] and the kids and Stine have to return them to the printed page. After a slow opening it starts rolling and is a lot of fun. Watch for R.L. himself in a cameo near the end.

FF=2

SELF/LESS

I’m going to have to post a *spoiler* alert here, but really, when that first hallucination hits, you’ll see the whole film laid out like a Chinese buffet. Before you reach that point, however, you have to make so many leaps (let’s make them pole vaults) of faith and suspensions of your disbelief by the cajones, that you might not get that far. The first hurdle is transferring the consciousness of one person into the body of another; a hoary SF concept that I accept because of its seniority. But for the Kingsley character to accept that the handsome, fully-developed, well-muscled body destined to be his new home was somehow grown just for him exceeds the tensile strength of my credibility. After that, it becomes a decent action thriller. Not many films present their characters with a moral dilemma of this magnitude, but there’s never any real doubt that we’ll have a Hollywood ending. And I won’t even mention the deus-ex availability of a flamethrower for the climactic scene (oh, wait…I just did)
FF=0 (It had one nice twist and I kept waiting for more)

PAWN SACRIFICE

An excellent Bobby Fischer biopic that’s wrenching as we watch his descent into total paranoia. Somehow he pulls it all together to beat Boris Spassky in the 1972 World Chess Championship. Game 6 of the tournament is supposedly the greatest chess game ever played. At its finish Spassky stands and leads the audience in applause for his opponent’s skill. It’s a tragic story of a brilliant mind and blinding potential destroyed by delusions of persecution by godless communists and predatory Zionists (even though Fischer was Jewish and part Russian). He died an ex-pat in Iceland in his mid-sixties. It’s amazing how much suspense a skillful script and cast can build into a chess match.

FF=0

AMERICAN ULTRA

This could have been good. I loved the setup and the back story, but the execution is so over the top that it overcame by considerable powers for suspension of disbelief. (Yes, I know it’s a spoof of sorts, but even a spoof has to maintain an internal logic, whacked though it may be.) I didn’t use the FF button because the film kept getting crazier and crazier and I wanted to see how far wrong it could go. (It went very, very wrong.)

FF=0

THE MARTIAN

Space geek that I am. I loved this movie. I had my doubts as it began — with an atmosphere of less than 1% of Earth’s, you can’t have an Arabia-style sandstorm on Mars. There just ain’t enough air to do any damage. But since it was a single incident necessary to set up the plot, I let it go and sat back and enjoyed the show. From there on it was a gripping tale of man against the elements. Sure, Watney has lots of grit and guts, but he also has a brain which he puts to use. This film is a testimony to critical thinking: Okay, we have a problem; lets step back, look it over, break it down into pieces, and start solving it bit by bit. Watney doesn’t emote toward solutions, he thinks toward them. So do the folks back home on Earth. So do his fellow crew members.

But I’m still trying to figure how it won in the comedy category? It had a couple of funny lines, but it’s NOT a comedy.

FF=0