Sing Street

A new review from The Movie Snob.

Sing Street  (B-).  I’m back from a 10-day holiday, plus an extra week-long sabbatical nursing a bad cold, and I’m eager to see some current releases.  This one, from John Carney (director of Begin Again and Once), was OK but a little bit of a disappointment.  The year is 1985.  A sensitive Dublin teenager named Conor (newcomer Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) falls in love with an older girl named Raphina (Lucy Boynton, Miss Potter) and tries to impress her by asking her to be in a music video for his rock band.  When she agrees, he has to come up with said band, and the rest of the movie kind of goes from there.  I liked a couple of the supporting characters, like Conor’s song-writing buddy who’s strangely fond of rabbits, and Conor’s older brother Brendan, who’s a screw-up but genuinely cares about his little brother and helps him grow his musical taste.  Boynton looks a little too old for 16, but she’s a suitably attractive muse; she looks a little like Emma Roberts (We’re the Millers) with a splash of Debbie Gibson (Mega Shark vs. Mecha Shark).  Conor’s mom (Maria Doyle Kennedy) looked very familiar, and it turns out she was in another famous Irish rock-n-roll movie, The Commitments.  On the downside, Carney makes the Catholic priest who runs his school unnecessarily mean, and implies he’s a predator to boot, and I didn’t care for the movie’s ending at all.  So it’s kind of a mixed bag.

The Name of the Wind (book review)

A book review from The Movie Snob.

The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss (2007).  A friend of mine from way back put me on the trail of this hefty (662 pages) fantasy novel.  And it’s just the first in a series!  I thought it was quite good.  Dark forces seem to be stirring out in the wilderness near some remote village, and humble innkeeper Kote seems to have some unusual insight into what is going on.  Turns out that Kote is more than a humble innkeeper, and then the great bulk of the novel turns into a big flashback as Kote relates the story of his life to a visiting scribe.  So the book is mainly the story of Kote’s childhood and adolescence, and his early training as an “arcanist.”  It’s a pretty gritty tale in places, but I didn’t think it ever crossed the line into cruelty for cruelty’s sake.  And some might think Kote is just a little too precocious and brilliant to be believable, but Rothfuss makes sure he has a few character flaws to balance him out.

Deadpool – a second opinion

The Movie Snob dissents!

Deadpool (D).  Alas, I cannot agree with the glowing review of this movie posted by my amiable colleague the Motor City Reviewer.  It’s yet another superhero movie, but I gather that Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds, Adventureland) is supposed to be a different kind of superhero.  He’s a cynical, motor-mouthed mercenary who doesn’t care about anything or anyone except his beautiful girlfriend Vanessa (Morena Baccarin, Serenity).  Unlike your usual Marvel fare, this flick is tarted up with gory violence, incessant vulgar language, and gratuitous sex and nudity.  And Deadpool himself frequently breaks the fourth wall by looking at the camera and commenting on the action for the audience’s benefit.  Some of that commentary is kind of funny.  Reynolds is a likable enough performer, and Baccarin is stunning.  But the plot is same-old-same-old, and the R-rated stuff is really beyond juvenile.  Here’s hoping Captain America: Civil War breaks the recent superhero slump.

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 woman 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.