Tomb Raider Movie Review

Tomb Raider clears the very low bar of being the best live action video game movie adaptation. It is very close to being really good and maybe not any good at all. I enjoyed watching it, but even as I did I could see the glaring flaws. Tomb Raider does a good job of translating the game to the screen, pulling in even more from things that influenced the game, such as Indiana Jones.

Tomb Raider starts with Lara Croft living low in London, refusing to have her father, missing for seven years, declared dead and accept her inheritance. Then she stumbles on a clue as to where he father disappeared to and she sets out to find him. She stops in Hong Kong, where she meets the son of man who disappeared with her father and together they set out for an uninhabited island near Japan. There, the adventure kicks into high gear as Lara must solve the mysteries of the island before a group of mercenaries to prevent ancient relics falling into the wrong hands.

The movie is very much Raiders of the Lost Ark, with Lara as Indy and her buddy Lu Ren as Salah/Marian and Walton Goggins playing something of a Belloq. Though it takes a little longer to get going than that movie, since this is determined to be an origin story for Lara Croft. Once Lara is adventuring, it follows a lot of similar beats to Raiders. Not exactly, and as an adventure movie it is going to be similar, but there are several bits that stand out as clearly inspired by that seminal film.

Where this Tomb Raider fails in in is characters. Not the actors; Vikander, Goggins and Daniel Wu are all solid and do good work with the material available. Vikander is especially charming as Lara. The problem is Lara aside, the movie spends a little time sketching out the characters as they are introduced, but does nothing with them from after that. Lara gets the whole first half hour to set up who she is and what her motivations are; it works. Everyone else gets maybe two minutes. The movie seems to set up characters beats to come later, but does nothing to pay them off. It is frustrating. Wu’s Lu Ren joins with some clear unsettled business with his missing father, but once they reach the island he mostly disappears as a character. Walton Goggins does the most he can with the villainous Mathias. Again, in his introduction he is set up to be a interesting inverse of Lara; she headed to the island to find her missing father, Mathias is stuck on the island, wanting nothing more than to get home to his kids. But after giving him that motivation, the movie really does nothing with him or the parallels. That is where the movie really falls apart. The plot exists to string action scenes together and the characters exist only to the extent necessary to keep things movings.

Those action scenes are largely pretty good. Sometimes they feel a little too mindful of being in a movie based on a game, but for the most part they are pretty entertaining. There is a really good, if somewhat pointless, bike chase early on that looks good and most of the the stuff on the island is pretty exhilarating. They do feel lacking somehow, like there is some cohesion that would really make them sing that isn’t there, but they are the movie’s main draw and they hold up their end of the bargain.

The biggest problem with Tomb Raider is how fixable its flaws seem. It isn’t like the movie fails in some obvious, unfixable way. It just feels like some of the stuff that ties everything together ended up on the cutting room floor. The biggest problem is that whole movie feels like it should be better than it is, even though the movie isn’t bad. If this is the start of a Tomb Raider movie franchise, it is a good start. They have laid a good foundation here. Tomb Raider is a good adaptation of a game that turns into a fun, but flawed movie.

***

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Game Night

At first glance, Game Night looks like any number of middling comedies that have come out over the last decade. It takes a good high concept and throws together a group entertaining performers in hopes of making something resembling a movie. Game Night, though, actually is really good. It isn’t perfect, but it has some really great performers, a twisty, funny script and it is shot with more care than is usual for comedies.

Game Night stars Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams, who are both a lot of fun, as married couple Max and Annie. Bateman excels at playing the put upon voice of reason and that is mostly where he is here. Here he is competent, but also over competitive. McAdams as great as his similar wife. They play off of each other well. There are joined on their game night by their dimwitted buddy Ryan, his intelligent date, married childhood sweethearts Kevin and Michelle. Those four have their moments, feeling like at least conceivable friends. They are joined by Max’s successful brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler), who tries to spice things up. Left out of game night is Max and Annie’s neighbor, the recently divorced Gary, played by Jesse Plemons. Brook’s invites the group to his house, where he has hired actors for a fake kidnapping mystery game. Unbeknownst to the group, that is interrupted by an actual kidnapping. The couples go their separate ways to solve things.

It works surprisingly well. At first they all think it is a game, but eventually they start to realize that things are more real than they thought. The movie does a great job of keeping the viewer in their toes as well, as what seems real might not be as real as they seem or make fake parts aren’t as fake as they seem. All the players do their part, though Bateman’s deadpan and McAdams enthusiasm do a lot of the work in getting jokes across. The best part is Jesse Plemons, who underplays everything as Gary. He come across as genuinely creepy. It is hard to tell if he is just depressed because of his divorce or planning something sinister. It all pays off in the best way.

I’m not an expert on shooting movies, but even I can tell the difference between the usual comedy and what is seen in Game Night. Maybe it’s bad that the movie has shots that stand out, but they stood out to me in a good way, enhancing my enjoyment of the movie. There are a handful of distant establishing shots that almost look like models, like they are all pieces on a gameboard, before the camera zooms in on the action. There is also a chase scene through a mansion that at least looks like an impressive long take as the various characters run up and down stairways. The movie really looks good.

I wouldn’t call Game Night great. There is a decent chance I won’t remember I saw it come the end of the year. But it is better than even my somewhat high hopes had expected. It it definitely worth hitting a matinee for or grabbing from the Redbox in few months.

***1/2

Black Panther

While I wouldn’t call any of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies bad, I think the quality slipped in recent years. 2014 saw the release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy, two of the best movies they have released. Since then, though, Marvel has not exactly struggled, but I would call the next half dozen movies middle of the road output for them. There is a certain level of polish that all of their movies have that never left, but none of those movies really stuck with me. Last Falls Thor Ragnarok pushed things to a new level, finally giving Chris Hemsworth a movie fully worthy of his God of Thunder. With Black Panther, Marvel may be at the start of a trend. Black Panther stands with the very best superhero movies ever made.

The Thor movies are a good reference for Black Panther, because they are doing a lot of the same things. Black Panther does them successfully the first time. The Thor movies have a lot to do with the politics of a fantasy land, with a young prince having to determine how he will rule and dealing with a fractured family situation. Black Panther does all these things as well, only it does them better. The political situation of Wakanda is clearer than that of Asgard, as is T’Challa’s struggle compared to Thor’s. The Thor movies, though, focused almost solely on the ruling family and their close allies. Though I liked the first two Thor movies, Ragnarok was the first one that I completely effectively portrayed the family dynamics. Black Panther deals more with state of the nation of Wakanda, though family certainly comes into play.

Black Panther also displays amazing range. A lot of movies have trouble doing one thing well, Black Panther works in at least two modes at a very high level. In Wakanda, T’Challa is caught up in essentially a fantasy epic; the story there shares more with Lord of the Rings than with Iron Man. It is among the most effective fantasy epics ever put to film. But there is also a detour to South Korea to play out a mini-spy thriller; the movie turns into a James Bond movie for thirty minutes. What is most amazing that it manages to weld these two concepts together almost flawlessly. The various parts of the movie support each other. The Seoul sequence lets T’Challa see his policies in action, letting him be more sure or less, as the case may be, of his actions when he returns to Wakanda. It creates a movie that feels remarkable assured of itself.

That is not even going into the wealth of interesting characters the movie introduces. Somehow Coogler creates the best, most nuanced villain in a Marvel movie with a character named Killmonger. Another highlight is Shuri, T’Challa’s super-genius sister. Or M’Baku, leader of rival Wakandan tribe who challenges Black Panther. All of these characters come from the comics, but the movie does an amazing job of adapting the into a cohesive story.

There are other ways in which Black Panther is a complete triumph that I am not really capable of or inclined to weigh in on, though I do feel compelled to acknowledge their existence. Judging it solely on how successful it is compared to other Marvel movies, or other superhero movies in general, or among all blockbuster movies, Black Panther stands near the top. This is one of the best.

*****

What I Watched February 2018

Movies

Mute – This feels like a personal project from director Duncan Jones, so it hurts to say that it really isn’t very good. It has a lot of good, interesting ideas and pieces, but they don’t fit together in any sort of a satisfying way. The whole thing ends up feeling muddy and unfocused, with flashes of brilliance scattered throughout. **

When We First Met – A new Netflix movie starring Adam DeVine and Alexandra Daddario. It is a time travel romantic comedy that almost works. It frequently does work, but it kind of sits in this odd area between attempting to be touching and being funny, never quite fully succeeding at either. Still, its not bad. But there is so much potential in the high concept that doesn’t really feel like it explores that well. ***

TV

Kakegurui – This is an anime about a school that is all about illegal gambling. A new girl is both great at gambling and gets off on betting. Her lack of concern, especially while exposing cheating student council members, about the consequences causes a lot of upheaval at the school. It’s fine. I’m not sure why I watched it.

The Gifted – There is a lot of good stuff in this show, but there are also a lot of strange decisions and wasted time. For the dilema it ends up presenting its characters, it has pushed things along the mutants hated and feared line too far for it to really work. A peaceful solution is nonsense when mutants are being actively exterminated. It wants both the drama of the peaceful/forceful resistance arguments and the action scenes, but they can’t both exist in the world the show has created. The show also spends way too much time with the Strucker family, who are all almost wholly uninteresting. It makes for a strange show that doesn’t live up to its promise.

The Punisher – The bloom is really off the rose for these Marvel Netflix shows for me. I found this almost unbearably dull. I don’t have much to say about it.

The Shannara Chronicles – I think I might be alone in really liking this show. In a lot of ways it is not good, but it is trying and ends up being really enjoyable. Manu Bennett is a delight as the taciturn wizard Allanon. It has a diverse interesting cast that has some resemblance to characters and concepts from the Shannara books. It also doesn’t waste the viewers time. Plot points that would take half a season on many shows are dealt with in maybe one. It loses some nuance, but it is such a rollercoaster ride that it is hard to care. It won’t make my best of list, but I am glad I watched it.

Electric Dreams – Amazon Prime gets its own Black Mirror, this based on Philip K Dick short stories, which influenced a lot of modern sci-fi including, if only indirectly, Black Mirror. With an anthology like this, the quality varies from episode to episode, but mostly these are really interesting and good.

What I Watched Jan 2018

Movies
The Shape of Water see review here. *****

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle see review here. ***1/2

Goon: Last of the Enforcers — The original Goon was a really fun sports comedy. This sequel doesn’t really have much to offer. Everything that worked in the first movie either doesn’t work here or is so diminished that it doesn’t matter. It wasn’t offensively bad or anything, but it really doesn’t have a reason to exist. **

The Polka King — Between this and Bernie, Jack Black is kind of cornering the market on playing weird criminals. Here he plays a Polka musician who dreams big, and takes investment money from some old people fund tours for his polka band. He is not really a bad person; he genuinely believes that he will be successful and be able to pay everyone what he owes them, but he obviously can’t, as is made clear as it inevitably falls apart. It is funny and sad. ***1/2

Mary and the Witch’s Flower — see review here. ****

Step Sisters – This is a small cut above this usual sort of sports/dance movie since it at least tries to have something to say. I don’t know that it actually does; I might be giving it too little credit because I am really not the target audience, but at least it tried. It is well made, but largely familiar. ***

Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters – I love Godzilla, but I didn’t like this at all. It is ugly and slow and mostly really boring. I realize more is coming, but this felt more like a mediocre first chapter than an actual movie. **

License to Wed — I like the people in this movie; Robin Williams, John Krasinski and Mandy Moore (I guess). But the movie misses the mark in just about every way, coming off as creepy and deranged rather than funny and relatable. *

A Futile and Stupid Gesture — This is so close to being really good, but it doesn’t quite come together. It feels like it is telling the story to people who already know it. It name drops a lot of people, but it doesn’t really tell you anything if you don’t already know to who those people are. It is still mostly amusing and well made, but it is a little too scattered. I guess that fits for the guy behind Animal House and Caddyshack. ***

Michael Clayton — This movie is really good, just an intense, perfectly thriller. I kind of want to write a full post about it. It is just so good. *****

TV

Psych — I don’t have much to say about Psych right now, other than that I am glad it is available streaming again. It is my ideal background noise show; I love it.

The Office — Another old favorite that rewatched chunks of. It holds up. Seasons 2 and 3 are some of the best TV seasons ever made, and the rest never falls below pretty good. The show never really develops the warmth of something like Parks and Rec, but it remains really funny and occasionally touching.

Top of the Lake — I heard good things about the second season of this, China Girl, but I decided to watch from the beginning. It’s good. A slower, more thoughtful show than I really wanted to be watching, but it is quality stuff. I don’t know that it really succeeds as a mystery, but it works as a character study. I’ll get to the second season sometime.

Runaways — Hulu’s entry into the superhero genre. Well, kind of. The comic this is based on is excellent; one of my favorites. They got the characters and the look right, but they changed up the story. The changes make sense in a lot of ways, the comic does sort of lose its focus after the parents are dealt with, but it fell into the trap that Marvel’s Netflix shows have increasingly fallen into; the show is impossibly padded. There are just long stretches were nothing happens or it repeats plot points. My complaint is essentially that in a show titles Runaways, the kids don’t actually run away until the last episode.

Great News — I will have a blog post about this show sometime, especially as it appears to have aired its last episode. It is a great follow up to 30 Rock, one of the greatest sitcoms ever made. This season was strong all the way through, though it did have the misfortune of following the sublime Good Place, which sucked up all the attention. This season fleshed out the secondary characters and brought its central story to what can be looked at as a satisfactory conclusion. This show deserved better.

One Day At a Time — The second season of this Netflix sitcom frustrated me like the last season. There is a lot that is good about it, but I doesn’t quite hit the mark for me. The show combines very old fashioned structure and format with very forward looking subject matter. The latter works for me, but I have never been a big fan of the former. My favorite shows have almost all been single camera sitcoms that had no laugh tracks. There is nothing wrong with that format, it just doesn’t really work for me. At least it is well written, unlike the similarly formatted Fuller House, which is a complete pile of shit.

Trollhunters — My love for Guillermo del Toro’s Shape of Water got me to go ahead and watch the cartoon he created for Netflix. It takes some time to get going and build its world, but it turns into a really solid adventure. It shares a lot with Stranger Things (not just a bully named Steve who isn’t as bad as he seems), playing out like that show explicitly aimed at kids. I mean that as a big compliment.

CW Superhero shows — Black Lightning is coming on strong, Legends still hasn’t returned, Supergirl is coming together and The Flash is managing to remain light even though Barry is in jail. I am going to have a longer write up of these shows soon, so I am not writing much here.

Mary and the Witch’s Flower

Mary and the Witch’s Flower is the first movie from Studio Ponoc, a successor to Studio Ghibli.  A few years ago, Studio Ghibli made some announcements that suggested that, with Hayao Miyazaki’s latest retirement, they would cease producing feature films, prompting some of its members to go their own way. This film is their first release and it shows that they are mostly carrying on the spirit of the previous studio.

Hiromasa Yonebayashi, director of Ghibli releases The Secret World of Arietty and When Marnie was There, directed Mary and the Witch’s Flower. It follows in that line of adaptations of children’s books that includes Kiki’s Delivery Service, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Arietty. It ends up feeling a bit like a Studio Ghibli greatest hits. That makes it sound worse than it is, this is frequently a touching and enthralling movie, but it never quite reaches the heights of its inspirations.

Mary and the Witch’s Flower follows Mary, a girl who feels like she is bad at everything, who moves in with her aunt in the country. She fights with a young boy her age and befriends a few stray cats before finding a mysterious flower in the woods. The flower gives her the ability to do magic. She finds a magic broom that whisks her away to a magic school in the sky, where things aren’t exactly what they seem.

I don’t want to spoil much of the movie, but it hits a lot of Ghibli notes. There is a young girl flying on a broom, like Kiki’s Delivery Service; there is a castle in the sky, like Castle in Sky. The movie also has echoes of films from Princess Mononoke to Ponyo.

The only real problem with the movie is that it doesn’t really have a resolution for its villains. They aren’t redeemed at all, but neither are they punished. They kind of learn the error of their ways, but it more that they just sort of fail. It is a real problem, the movie largely lack narrative stakes. It all just sort of happens.

Still, there is a lot to like in Mary and the Witch’s Flower. It ends up feeling much like Arietty; a little slight but otherwise enjoyable. It is a pleasant, enjoyable movie that doesn’t really have anything push it from being good to great.

****

Jan-March

It is time for the early year dumping ground, where studio toss out the junk movies that didn’t quite turn out while they try to direct viewers to the wide releases to last year’s award bait movies. As such, there really isn’t a lot in Jan-Feb that looks really good, honestly nothing in January, other than Liam Neeson’s The Commuter, looked interesting to me at all. Things pick up some in March and April before heading into what looks to be a packed summer. (At least they did before recent schedule adjustments.)

February

Black Panther – Marvel had an excellent year last year, and Black Panther appears to be distinctive visually and from a story perspective. Hopefully it is not just another

Annihilation – The only thing that gives me pause about this movie is that it is billed as horror. I don’t do horror. It is a weird sci-fi premise with a great cast. I could see this being really good. I could also see it being too scary for me. I guess we’ll see.

Game Night – I like the cast, the premise is interesting. I have doubts about its ability to pull the story off, but the trailer was good enough for me to give it a shot.

March

Red Sparrow – A spy movie starring Jennifer Lawrence is enough to get me interested. There are some other interesting people in the cast, like Joel Edgerton and Jeremy Irons, but I really don’t know a lot about it other than the trailer looked pretty good. It seems worth a shot.

Death Wish – I don’t know why I picked this out. The old Death Wish movie have aged like fine milk and I can’t remember the last time I saw Bruce Willis in something when he seemed like he cared. At least it appears to have terrible politics.

A Wrinkle in Time – It looks really interesting. I am not really familiar with the book, but this had a really good trailer. It is another of those YA adaptation that aren’t really for me, but I might be persuaded to give this a shot.

Tomb Raider – Video games movies have been, taken together, terrible. This one might be terrible as well. But I like Alicia Vikander, and Tomb Raider at least presents the possibility of some Indiana Jones like fun.

Pacific Rim: Uprising – The first movie was a delightful spectacle that showed it emptiness upon repeat viewings. I don’t mean that as a slam, I level the same complaint at The Avengers which I still really like, but while Pacific Rim was fun, it was about as deep as mud puddle. This movie seems to be at least bringing the spectacle again, so I am excited.

Ready Player One – It is directed Steven Spielberg, which makes it worth watching in my book, but the book is kind of the problem. I didn’t much care the novel this movie is based on. Plenty of movies have fixed problems with their source material, I hope this can turn that into something genuinely entertaining. I am not very optimistic.

April

Rampage – The Rock in a movie with a silly premise. It might be Baywatch, or it might be Jumanji. Hopefully it is more like the latter, or at least Central Intelligence, but it might also be crap. Still, The Rock is fighting giant monsters. Despite my reservations about

Super Troopers 2 – The first Super Troopers was a favorite of mine in high school. Returning to it more than 15 years later fills me with as much trepidation as it does joy. Once upon a time I loved this movie, but comedy sequels aren’t often good and I don’t know that my sense of humor is the same now. I’ll still be going to see, because I can’t not.

The Disaster Artist Review

The Disaster Artist is a glorious celebration of dreams and aspirations, I guess. Or mocking the the delusion of dreams that far outstrip the talent of the dreamer. It finds what is admirable in delusion. The Disaster Artist is the story of the making of The Room, a beloved film frequently cited as one of the worst ever made. It is that, but it is also bafflingly watchable. It is like watching a car race than ends in a train crash. This movie tells the behind the scenes story that is just as crazy as the movie that it produced. It works, managing to be heartwarming, funny and as true as any story is.

The Disaster Artist walks a difficult path. It is a comedy about real, still living people. It wants the viewer to simultaneously laugh at and admire these people. That is not an easy task, but The Disaster Artist pulls it off. The story is told from the perspective of Greg Sestero, who meets Tommy Wiseau at an acting class. While Greg is somewhat closed off in his acting, Tommy is shockingly free. They become friends and together move to Los Angeles to make it in Hollywood. The ambition of Tommy and even Greg is admirable. They aren’t going to let anything stand between them and their dreams of being actors. If no one will cast them, then they will write and make their own movie. Luckily, Tommy has a mysterious source of money, which he uses to fund their movie.

There aren’t too many great surprises, there is friction on set because Tommy doesn’t know what he is doing. There is personal friction because Greg gets a girlfriend. The movie goes to great lengths to recreate scenes from The Room, to great effect. Just seeing that weirdness recreated is entertaining. The big emotional scenes work well enough, but maybe didn’t quite engage me the way I wished it would. There is a courage to art, that as an artist you are putting yourself out there for people. This is something I, as a writer, frequently fail at. I’d often rather keep my stories hidden rather than have them rejected. The movie starts lauding that bravery, but when their dreams fall apart in front of them, it shows them recovering by embracing the ridicule. It is just kind of an odd story.

The only place I would say the movie fails is that it doesn’t really examine the obvious lies and flat non-answers that are behind a lot of Wiseau’s life. This brushes up against being a biopic that doesn’t make any effort to find out who its star really is. He claims his vague, eastern European accent is cajun, and while this is patently untrue and played for a joke in the movie, the fact that it is not true is not engaged with at all. At one point Tommy and Greg have an argument, but it is resolved without actually resolving anything. The movie can’t help but show the falseness of just about every claim Wiseau makes about himself, but it is not at all interested in the truth; the story is good enough. It isn’t a big deal, but it is an obvious blind spot in the film.

The Disaster Artist is a treat. It is a thoughtful, meaty comedy like we never get.

****

The Shape of Water

Guillermo del Toro is one of my favorite directors. I am not as familiar with his early, Spanish language work, but from Hellboy on I’ve been a big a fan. While I was already on board with The Shape of Water just from knowing he was directing it; everything else I heard about it just made it sound better. The Shape of Water has del Toro working in his usual mode; this is a mixture of horror and fairy tale. It has a monster, but the monster is not the scariest part of the movie. It uses the monster as a lens to examine our humanity.

The Shape of Water stars Sally Hawkins as Elisa, a mute cleaning lady for a secret military lab in the middle of the cold war. The action kicks off when Colonel Strickland (Michael Shannon) brings in a fish man from the amazon to study. While she forges a relationship with the creature, SHANNON tortures it mercilessly and plans to kill it and the Russians plot to steal the creature to stop the US from studying it. Aided by her coworker Zelda and neighbor Giles, and a little by a Russian spy, Elisa frees the creature and then must evade Stickland as he searches for the missing creature. I call it the creature, the credits call him, played by Doug Jones, as Amphibian Man, but he is clearly a take on the Creature from the Black Lagoon.

The movie, narrated by Giles, is framed as a fairy tale. Elisa is the princess and the Amphibian man is the prince. There is so much more going on here, though. There is a heist, there is a spy thriller, a romance and a monster movie all going on at once. They all blend together into an unforgettable experience.

The plot is actually rather simple, it is the characters that really make this movie shine. Elisa is completely mute, but she doesn’t let that hinder her ability to communicate. It is clear why she would fall in love with the similarly mute creature, who as she signs in one pivotal scene doesn’t see how she is incomplete. He neighbor and friend Giles is a gay man who has been forced out of his work and has trouble making it in the oppressive time period. The same is true of Elisa’s friend Zelda, who is black. All of the “good guys” are minorities of some sort, trying to live their lives in a world titled against them. Then there is Strickland, who is in charge at the facility. Early in the movie he loses a couple of fingers. They are reattached, but as the movie goes along, they fester and die, turning black on his hand as the blackness of his soul is revealed. He has the perfect 50’s life, with the wife and kids and the good job, but he is completely unfulfilled. He is not just a monster, there is a clear character in there, but he is utterly selfish but thinks he is doing his best. The movie does an excellent job of starting him out as a conquering hero who subdued the monster, only to slowly show who the real monster is between those two. Then there is Michael Stuhlbarg’s Dr. Hoffstetler, who only wants to study the creature, but is largely powerless.

There are flights of fancy, this is at its heart a fairy tale. There are times in the movie that might lose people because of how obviously fake they are. But there is a story logic to all of it, it works in the scene even if it would not in real life. This is a movie that starts by expressly stating it is a fairy tale and it primarily about a fish man, there is a natural state of unreality to it all. If you can give yourself to the reality of the movie, it is one of the most amazing films of the decade.

*****

What I Watched December 2017

Movies

Return of the Jedi – I wanted to watch the whole original trilogy and The Force Awakens again before The Last Jedi came out, but I only ended with time for the two previous ones. I know Return of the Jedi is the least liked of the original trilogy, but I can’t see putting it noticeably lower than the original. *****

The Force Awakens – There is still a propulsive momentum to this movie, that pulls the viewer along for the first two thirds of it. It pushes all of the right nostalgia buttons. It doesn’t end with quite the same force, but it is still a lot of fun. ****1/2

The Last Jedi – read review here. *****

Mad Max Fury Road – Yup, it is still the best movie of the last decade. *****

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri – read review here. *****

The Lost City of Z – I was really excited for this at the start of the year, but it kind of left me old. I really wanted to like it and it looks amazing, but I really didn’t connect with it. It is a well made story of a man driven to explore. ***1/2

The Three Musketeers – This 1994 Disney version is not the classic I remembered it being, but Oliver Platt and Tim Curry make sure this movie is enjoyable, no matter how miscast Charlie Sheen is or how overwhelmed Chris O’Donnell seems. It isn’t great, but there is a decent amount of fun to be had. ***

Psych: The Movie – I can’t judge this fairly. I love Psych, and this is a super long, pretty good episode of the TV show. I am just happy to have Shawn and Gus and the rest back. I don’t think it quite makes the turn into its last twist and Lassiter is sorely missed, but otherwise it is a lot of fun. *****

The Disaster Artist – read review here.

Christmas Inheritance – another in my mostly successful attempt to watch ever Netflix original movie from 2017. I am not the target audience for this. I didn’t enjoy it as much as Christmas Prince. **

Mudbound – An old fashioned epic about racism in the Great Depression and after the end of WWII. I really liked it. Some of it felt familiar, but the struggles of the two veterans in dealing with life after the war is some really strong stuff. I think I’ll be coming back to this in the future. ****1/2

Bright – I don’t think this movie is good, but I had a good time watching it. I think I was laughing at it more than with it, but I was laughing. Even when I am sure the movie did not want me to be laughing. Will Smith is entertaining, and it certainly feels like a big budget movie. **1/2

Dr. No – This first Bond movie feels somewhat incomplete. At this point it is just a movie, not a Bond movie. It is also a very old movie, and feels like it. **

Goldfinger – In some ways this is better than From Russia with Love, in others it feels like a step down. This third attempt is when the elements of a Bond movie really feel like they come together. It is mostly a lot of fun. ****1/2

From Russia with Love – There are some parts of this that really haven’t aged well, but for the most part it one of the best Bond adventures. I was going to watch all of the Bond movies, but they disappeared from hulu before I could get to them. I do have more than half on those cheap DVD collections that were about a year or two ago, I could make an attempt. ****1/2

TV

The Office – I went back to an old standby during finals. I think I forget how much I love The Office every time I stop watching The Office. I know it dips in quality after the first few seasons, but I still think it might be an all-timer for me.