Monthly Archives: July 2015

Movie Review: Trainwreck

Jean-Paul’s Rating: 4/5 stars

Bottom Line: An awkwardly hilarious movie but not in the laugh-out-loud way.

Amy Schumer is at her comedic prime.  She’s just killing everything.  If you have not seen her “12 Angry Men” parody, you need to do so.  If you don’t like it you are no longer my friend.  She continues that streak in “Trainwreck”.  Schumer’s comedy can be best described as awkwardly hilarious.  Amy wrote as well as starred in the movie so it is just chock full of Schumerisms.  What’s a Schumerism?  Take gender norms, turn them on their head, spin them around until they throw up, and then make fun of them.  And you have a Schumerism.  Her humor comes at you sideways and you often don’t even see it coming.  It’s like an aneurysm only of laughter.

“Trainwreck” is a somewhat stereotypical raunchy rom-com only almost every gender role is completely reversed.  And yes, Judd Apatow directed it.  Beacuse of course he did.  Schumer plays Amy, a hard-drinking, raunchy woman who sleeps with just about anyone with a penis.  That is until she meets a guy and falls in love and screws it up and must mend her ways to get him back.  So, yeah, nothing groundbreaking with the plot.  But it’s in the execution where this movie succeeds.  There are some great awkward sex scenes as well as some surprisingly good supporting acting jobs by the likes of John Cena as Amy’s go-to boy toy, Colin Quinn as Amy’s dad, and LeBron James as some Bizzaro World version of himself.  Amy Schumer herself stands out as well.  She has some decent dramatic acting chops to go along with her impeccable comedic timing.  If she ever decides to drop the straight comedy thing she should certainly have a career as a dramatist if she wants it.

My one complaint about the film is that is could have done with some strategic editing.  A few of the scenes went on for a little too long and could have benefitted by some tightening up.  You don’t see many two-hour long comedies and while the movie was still really good, it felt like two hours.

“Trainwreck” was an incredibly fun movie.  It’s one of those movies that you’ll find yourself illegally streaming every few years to relive the laughter.  Sure, it’s a plot that’s been done before, but the comedy has all sorts of uniqueness to it that will have you coming back for more.

Book Review: A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift

Jean-Paul’s Rating: 5/5 stars

What happens when you have time to kill and find yourself between books?  You go to Project Gutenberg and download a classic essay that has withstood the sands of time.  Project Gutenberg, to know it is to love it.

Fully titled “A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People From Being a Burthen to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Publick”, but more popularly known simply as “A Modest Proposal”, it is a short essay in which Swift proposes the eating of Irish babies as a solution to the societal ills of poverty and overcrowding.  The reason this essay has had a place in the human psyche for centuries is because it is as pertinent now as it was then.

Why, then, hasn’t anyone tried to mimic Swift with an updated version satirizing current events?  My guess is that deadpan satire is all but dead.  Our Jon Stewarts and Stephen Colberts only work because they are clearly lampooning politics.  A Swiftian essay on, say Greece for example, is much more likely to be taken as a serious and worthwhile suggestion by those who think the current situation is being handled gracefully.  I’m looking at you Germany.

Some German intellectual really needs to step up and write that essay.  “A Modest Proposal for Preventing the People of Greece From Being a Burden to Themselves and the European Union, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Public”.  It really has to be in German.  Wouldn’t have the same impact in English.  Get cracking.

“A Modest Proposal” is worth reading if only to see how far we haven’t come.  It doesn’t take a lot of time to read, but will likely stay with you if you are of the social justice bent.

Book Review: Unnatural Creatures

Jean-Paul’s Rating: 4/5 stars

Say Neil Gaiman decided to put together a bunch of short stories from various authors from various times which all had the theme of an animal which doesn’t quite belong in nature.  You’d want to read that book, right?  Yes, yes you would.  Enter, “Unnatural Creatures”.   As an added benefit, proceeds from the sale of “Unnatural Creatures” will benefit the nonprofit 826DC, whose mission it is to foster creative writing skills in children.  Almost makes me feel guilty that I got my copy from the library.  Almost.

There are sixteen short stories found in this volume.  Contained therein are werewolves, unusual spots, griffins, cocatoucans, phoenixes, and more.  The stories are written by a whole list of authors you probably have never heard of and were first penned from as far back as the late 1800s up to present day.  The high quality of said stories shows that Gaiman went to great lengths to choose the perfect sixteen to go together.  There isn’t a loser in the bunch.

Each story opens with a short couple of paragraphs by Gaiman introducing the author as well as describing what drew him to the story.  It’s a nice touch that often fails when putting compilations together, but not here.  Gaiman is succinct and descriptive, a gift that is hard to come by.

My loan from the library expired and I’m finding it more difficult than it is worth to find a list of the stories on the interwebs so I’ll have to go by memory of some of my favorites.  And sorry, but I’m not going to remember any of the authors.  The one about the unusual spot on the dining room tablecloth actually doesn’t have a name, but a picture for a name.  It’s almost Lovecraftian with its tale of extradimensional intrigue.  Another that stands out is the one about the epicurean club with poor long-term memory searching for a morsel that they haven’t digested yet.  Probably my favorite is “The Griffin and the Minor Canon” which is about a Griffin who longs to see what he looks like and finds his likeness in a statue on the parapets of a church in which the Canon resides.  It is certainly the most complex of the sixteen.  But really, you can’t go wrong with any of them.

Even though I did not buy this book, “Unnatural Creatures” is worth buying.  Not only do you get a solid collection of short stories, but you also get to benefit a good cause.  Short stories, to me, are the most difficult literary form to do well so when you find a good collection like “Unnatural Creatures”, you should treasure it.

Movie Review: Ant-Man

Jean-Paul’s Rating: 3/5 stars

Bottom Line: irreverent and light comic book fun.  Decent comic moments and decent battle scenes surrounding a bit of a convoluted plot that still works.

“Ant-Man” is a fun movie.  A movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously.  But, really, how serious can you take yourself when you’re creating a movie about a superhero that can shrink to the size of an ant and control ants with his mind.  You just know Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Jack Kirby did some major psychedelics when coming up with Hank Pym, the original Ant-Man.

In this “Ant-Man” movie, we pretty much totally skip the Hank Pym\Ant-Man origin story and go straight to the passing of the torch to the second Ant-Man, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd).  Paul Rudd is the perfect casting choice to play Scott Lang.  Paul is about as affable an actor as exists in Hollywood and that personality is exactly what you need when your character is a reformed felon trying to make things right for himself and his family.

Much of the enjoyment of “Ant-Man” is in Paul Rudd cracking wise.  He is backed by the always fun Michael Pena.  Really, you should look at “Ant-Man” as more of a comedy than a true action movie.  That isn’t to say that there isn’t some good action in the movie, because there is, it’s just that the action is more secondary to the good comic dialogue.  And while the action is good, it’s also not terribly memorable.  I mean, yeah, it’s cool watching Ant-Man ride a raft of ants down a water pipe to infiltrate a top-secret building, but there’s nothing here that you will say to yourself, “Wow, I want to see that again!”

This is a Marvel movie, so there is also the ubiquitous “let’s try to tie as many of our other movies into this one as we can” moments.  It is the most awkward moment of the movie.  I get that they’re trying to maintain a continuous universe here, but sometimes it’s ok to just ignore the rest of the universe.  Ant-Man can still join the Avengers in a later movie without having to recognize that the Avengers exist in his universe.  I get that it’s also product placement and all that jazz, but if you can’t make it feel organic to the movie, you should really just skip it.

“Ant-Man” is pretty middle of the road as far as the Marvel movie offerings go.  It is enjoyable and you won’t regret seeing it, but neither will you come out with a sense of wonder or awe that would make you want to see it again.  If you like superhero movies and the Marvel universe, yep, go see it in the theater.  If you just like being entertained by the occasional superhero movie, you can wait this one out till it hits your home screen.

A Good Weather Day

The day started with a line of thunderstorms passing through the area…


And ended with storms building as the sun sets…







All in all, a good weather day.

Movie Review: Inside Out

Jean-Paul’s Rating: 4/5 stars

Bottom Line: ‘Lava’ was dull.  ‘Inside Out’ was a beautiful representation of the inner workings of the emotional center of the mind backed by a touching story.

Like every other Pixar movie ever made, ‘Inside Out’ starts with a short cartoon.  This one was called ‘Lava’.  It consists of a fairly catchy song about a male volcano all alone in the middle of the ocean longing for, and of course eventually finding female companionship.  It pissed me off.  Why?  Because the male volcano looks like a volcano.  Slightly anthropomorphic, but very obviously a volcano.  The female volcano?  Hyper-feminized to the point that it’s not even recognizable as a volcano.  Don’t believe me?  See for yourself.


WTF is that?  Hair? A chin?!?!?  A slender neck???  Listen, Pixar, you know how we would be able to tell that a perfectly volcano looking volcano was female?  By you saying in the song that it was female and having it sing with a female voice. Which you did.  Or, you know what?  Why do you have to give either of the volcanos a gender at all?  In your representation of the two volcanos, what you are doing is saying to the world that male is normal and female is abnormal.  I get it, gendered pronouns make English a bit tricky and the whole male/female relationship is still more traditional than others, but seriously, Pixar, epic fail on just about every level in designing the female volcano.  Rant over.

Now on to the feature, ‘Inside Out’ which is an absolute delight.  How I wish I was in on the design meetings as they tried to figure out how to represent brain functions on-screen.  Core memories, random thoughts, emotions, they’re all brilliantly represented.  Yeah, sure, it might not be scientifically accurate, but it still gives a good feel for how certain aspects of the brain function and it makes for some great screen time.

The movie focuses on Joy and Sadness as they go on an epic adventure through 11-year-old Riley’s brain as Riley is experiencing depression from her family’s move to San Francisco.  The D-word is never used (probably because even thinking about an 11-year-old with depression is, well, depressing) but it is obvious that’s what the creators were going for.  Core memories forgotten.  Highlights of life crumbling away.  Even though Joy is the central character, ultimately, this movie is about Sadness.  It’s about Joy’s coming to an understanding that Sadness has a valuable part to play.  It’s also about getting older and emotions getting more complicated.

So, yep, Pixar has done it again.  If you can ignore ‘Lava’.  Which I can’t.  Ugh.  But really, ‘Inside Out’ is a delight.  It’s funny, happy, sad, all the emotions that Pixar has become known for evoking.  It ain’t no ‘Up’, but it is certainly one of their better offerings in a long line of great offerings.

Movie Review: Terminator Genisys

Jean-Paul’s Rating: 2/5 stars

Bottom Line: Convoluted plot.  Little explanation for time travel decisions.  Dull action scenes.  Absolutely zero wow factor.

Do you know what would have made this movie better?  Terminator dragons sent from the future to kill Daenerys Targaryen.  Or anything else.  Sorry, Emilia Clarke.

Terminator has jumped the shark.  Or maybe they’ve time travelled the shark back in time to kill what was left of the first two movies.  It’s hard to tell because the time travel aspects of this movie made about as much sense as my previous sentence.  The biggest problem is that everyone and their mother seems to have a time machine.  The “future” has a time machine.  Ok, fair enough, someone has to have a time machine to make any of this make sense.  The “past” has a time machine cobbled together from parts you can find in a junk yard.  The “present” has a time machine which does just about everything except time travel.  It’s a complete mess.

Time travel is time travel.  It rarely makes sense.  It always bothers me, but if there’s something to wrap around it, I’m willing to forgive the inconsistencies.  “Terminator Genisys” has the thinnest veneer of a plot and a bunch of clunky action scenes all tied with a ribbon of nostalgia.  It isn’t even worth regifting.  I tried to enjoy it for longer than I should have, but when terminator #1 jumps from one helicopter and dive bombs another helicopter containing terminator #2 and somehow missed the rotors but still caused the helicopter to crash-land and roll to its destruction stopping right on the helipad that everyone was heading towards, I gave up.  This is what passes for storytelling these days.

You completists are going to go see this movie regardless of what I say, but I’ll say it anyway.  Skip this movie.  Or at least wait until it’s on your movie streaming service of choice.  “Terminator Genisys” is not worth the time or the money to see in the theater.  Luckily, it looks like it’s pretty much bombing.