Summerlong (book review)

A book review from The Movie Snob.

Summerlong, by Dean Bakopoulos (2015).  This novel is about Claire and Don Lowry.  They’re fortyish, they have two kids, and they seem to have a perfectly nice life in the small town of Grinnell, Iowa.  But during a long and freakishly hot summer, their marriage begins to crumble.  Don starts smoking marijuana with an attractive young women who goes by her initials ABC, and Claire starts hanging out with a much younger fellow named Charlie.  (I sort of imagine a Thelma & Louise era Brad Pitt in that role.)  I thought it was a good novel, although Claire is much less fleshed-out than Don is.  I especially enjoyed a sudden and unexpected reference to Gordon Lightfoot and his classic hit “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”

A Hologram for the King (book and movie review)

From The Movie Snob.

A Hologram for the King (Book: B) (Movie: C).  I finished reading the novel (by Dave Eggers) yesterday, and today I saw the brand-new movie based on the book.  I thought the book was pretty good, and the movie was fair-to-middling.  It’s a story about Alan Clay (Tom Hanks, That Thing You Do!), a formerly successfully salesman who’s now in his mid-50s and not so successful.  We join Alan on his way to Saudi Arabia, where he’s going to try to sell a high-tech video-conferencing system to the King himself.  He’s pretty desperate; his debts are mounting, and his daughter will have to drop out of college if he doesn’t close the deal.  But the Desert Kingdom operates under a whole different set of rules, and Alan’s already fragile mental state is further threatened by a weird lump on his back that he thinks might be cancer.  I was curious to see if they’d get big stars to play the main supporting characters—the young Saudi guy who drives Alan around when he oversleeps, the Danish woman he accidentally befriends while he’s trying to figure out what’s going on at King Abdullah Economic City, the doctor who looks at Alan’s lump—but they didn’t.  (Tom Skerritt, Alien, does pop in as Alan’s dad.)  As I say, I thought the book was pretty good, but they definitely softened Alan up a little bit, as befits a character played by Tom Hanks, and they left out some of the book’s darker bits.

MST3K: Volume XXV

DVD review from The Movie Snob.

Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXV.

Robot Holocaust (B).  Even though it was an episode from the first season of MST, which was a bit spotty, I enjoyed this one.  Actually, I’m pretty sure I would have thought this movie was funny even without any riffing at all.  It’s an 80s-era sci-fi movie that’s sort of a mash-up of Star Wars and Mad Max, and it is hilariously bad.  The budget must have been nonexistent.  Some highlights are some monstrous “sewer worms” that are obviously nothing more than sock puppets, and the monstrous spider of which we are allowed to see only one leg.  Also fabulous is the female henchman of “the Dark One.”  She’s kind of pretty, but she can’t act to save her life, and she adopted (or actually had) a bizarre accent that sounded like a speech impediment.  Well worth watching.

Kitten with a Whip (B).  This is a pretty entertaining episode.  The movie being riffed is a 1964 flick starring Ann-Margret (Viva Las Vegas) as a troubled juvenile delinquent and John Forsythe (TV’s Dynasty) as the unlucky fellow whose house she decides to hide out in after escaping from juvie.  Ms. Margret overacts terribly, but she is nicely counterbalanced by Forsythe’s remarkably bland performance.  Definitely worth seeing.

Revenge of the Creature (B+).  This sequel to The Creature From the Black Lagoon isn’t all that terrible—it’s just kind of dull.  But the riffing is quite good, and occasionally hilarious.  Watch closely, and you’ll see a very young Clint Eastwood (Unforgiven) in an uncredited role.  (Actually, the MST guys point him out, so I guess you don’t have to watch all that closely.)  The disc contains a few extras, including a reasonably interesting documentary short about director Jack Arnold, who directed several other movies of greater note, including It Came From Outer Space, The Creature From the Black Lagoon, and The Incredible Shrinking Man.

Operation Double 007  (C+).  That’s right, this 1967 movie is called Operation Double 007 in the credits, but for some reason it’s labeled Operation Kid Brother on the DVD box.  It’s a shameless rip-off of James Bond movies, right down to starring Sean Connery’s younger brother Neal as a spy.  Well, he’s not really a spy; he’s a plastic surgeon and hypnotist who gets recruited into being a spy.  It also features some of the minor players from the Bond movies, including Miss Moneypenny herself, Lois Maxwell (Moonraker).  The riffing is decent, but this episode is the weak link in this collection.  An introduction by Joel Hodgson doesn’t really add anything either.

Midnight Special

New from the desk of The Movie Snob.

Midnight Special  (B).  Jeff Nichols, the writer/director of the very good film Mud, is back with a science-fiction/action/suspense movie starring Michael Shannon (Man of Steel), Joel Edgerton (Jane Got a Gun), and Kirsten Dunst (Elizabethtown).  We join the action already in progress—there’s an Amber Alert out in west Texas for an abducted eight-year-old boy named Alton (Jaeden Lieberher, St. Vincent).  We quickly figure out that he has been abducted by his dad Roy (Shannon) and Roy’s friend Lucas (Edgerton).  And we don’t mind so much, because apparently Roy and Lucas abducted Alton from a weird religious cult, and they want him back—bad.  The federal government, personified by Kylo Ren himself (Adam Driver, Star Wars: Episode VII), also has a keen interest in the lad.  What’s up with the boy?  Why does he wear goggles most of the time, and big ear protectors when he sleeps?  And why is everybody after him?  Although the movie felt a little derivative, especially of one other movie that shall remain nameless, I still enjoyed it.

Latest Readings (book review)

A book review from The Movie Snob.

Latest Readings, by Clive James (2015).  Who is Clive James?  Until I saw a favorable review of this slim volume, I had never heard of him before.  But according to the dust jacket, he is an Australian memoirist, poet, translator, critic, and broadcaster with more than 30 books to his credit.  He is also very old and now suffering from leukemia.  But after bouncing back from a bad spell, he has written this collection of short observations about the books he is reading (or re-reading) now that the clock is really, obviously running out on him.  I enjoyed it, and I want to seek out more of his writing.  Interestingly, he only recently read (and loved) the WWII novels of Olivia Manning, which I have also written about on this blog.

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice

The Movie Snob rakes on Batman and Superman.

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice  (C).  I liked Zack Snyder’s Superman reboot Man of Steel quite a bit, so I had high hopes for this one.  Sadly, it was a bit of a letdown.  The performances were okay; I didn’t even mind Ben Affleck (Gone Girl) as Batman.  But the movie is kind of a long, joyless slog.  Snyder filmed it in Gloom-O-Vision—everything is brown and grey, and it’s always overcast or raining or nighttime.  As the title indicates (and comic book fans probably all know), the Caped Crusader and the Man of Steel (Henry Cavill, I Capture the Castle) are at odds in this movie, for reasons that didn’t really seem all that compelling to me.  It’s no secret that Wonder Woman is also slinking around in the background, in the form of gorgeous Israeli model Gal Gadot (Fast & Furious), but she’s not a huge part of the movie.  Amy Adams (her) reprises her role as Lois Lane, but it’s hard to stand out when you’re the only normal person in a team of superheroes.  Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network) makes a pretty unhinged Lex Luthor.  I hear Wonder Woman is getting her own movie in 2017.  Here’s hoping it’s better than this!

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

A new review from The Movie Snob.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot  (B).  Based on a true story, this is the story of Kim Baker (Tina Fey, Sisters), a copywriter for some TV network who impulsively accepts an assignment to report on the war in Afghanistan.  Of course it’s a whole new alien world for her at first, but another female reporter (Margot Robbie, The Big Short) helps her get adjusted.  She encounters other colorful characters, like a crusty but decent Marine colonel (Billy Bob Thornton, Friday Night Lights), the skeezy would-be attorney general of Afghanistan (Alfred Molina, Spider-Man 2), and a rascally Scottish journalist (Martin Freeman, The Hobbitses).  And she finds herself enjoying, and even getting addicted to, the adrenaline rush of war reporting.  IMDB puts it in the “comedy” and “war” genres, but I thought it played fairly seriously despite occasional comic moments.  Anyway, it’s a pretty good movie.