Chadwick Boseman

I’ve been letting the morning minutes tick by aimlessly because I don’t even know where to start. I’ve been numb all weekend. Robin Williams, Heath Ledger, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and now Chadwick Boseman. All actors who I’ve loved and admired who left us far too soon, and who’ve had the same profound impact on me in their life and in their death. This one is even more difficult to wrap my head around because it was so sudden and out of nowhere. Superheroes are supposed to be indestructible. They’re not supposed to be taken from us without warning.

It was finally the weekend. I’d just finished eating the pizza I’d been dreaming about all week and was then grossed out by after a few bites (typical). Was looking forward to my long planned Ikea trip the next day. We were at the last few minutes of Predestination, a movie which I absolutely loved and will likely talk about soon. As absorbed as I was in the film, especially as we were getting to some big final reveals, I pulled out my phone. I started with looking up plot points of the film, mostly to make sure that I was following everything. But as so inevitably happens, I pulled up Insta. And there at the top of the page was Josh Gad’s post about Chadwick Boseman. I paused the movie. This couldn’t be true, could it? Some quick internet searches confirmed the news that had just broken. Chadwick Boseman was dead at 43 from colon cancer.

An initial wave of grief hit me. I thought about all the amazing things he’d done with his career (42, Get on Up, Thurman) but mostly I thought about his legacy as Black Panther. What it meant to the black community to see a headlining black superhero, and utter disbelief that he could be taken from us. I thought about the crowd the night that first saw the movie, and how they were one of the rowdier movie crowds I’ve been in. Or the Saturday opening weekend when I went to the theater to see something else and it was the only time I ever struggled with parking because I saw so many gorgeous black families piling in the cinema. My heart ached for the void that was now being left by him.

I thought about his role in Da 5 Bloods, and how his character died young (not a spoiler, it’s the plot of the movie) and his young self was acting alongside older gentlemen to show how his character was frozen in time. Now he would be too. It’s as though the role was prophetic.

His death also made me think about my own mortality. Dead at 43, diagnosed at 38. I’m 35. That’s not too far away. There are so many dark and dangerous threats in this world, any moment could be your last.

The movie ended and I didn’t know what to do with myself. I walked around my tiny apartment aimlessly for a good twenty minutes. I went to put something in my purse, completely forgetting that I have a Black Panther bag now, and got emotional all over again. Any further plans for the evening, yoga or new movies, were out the window. I sat in the middle of the floor for a while. My cat, who is typically stingy with affection, sensed my grief and sat near me. There was only one thing I could do. I went back to the living room and put on Black Panther.

I’ve been in a fog the whole weekend, watching video clips of interviews and awards show moments. When I went to bed Friday night, the first thing I saw was my Black Panther pillow. I remembered that hell I’d wanted to get the entire sheet set, but they didn’t come in queen size. I went grocery shopping on Saturday, grabbed a bunch of my reusable bags, and the first one had T’Challa, Nakia, and Okoye. I broke my movie budget for the week because I insisted that I needed 21 Bridges (I don’t have Marshall or Get on Up either) and I needed to get a comfort movie (Little Giants).

This one is gonna take a long time to get over, and similar to the illustrious actors I mentioned at the start, it’ll likely always hurt. It’s things that this that make you question your entire understanding of how the world works.

Quick Posts

An American Pickle – This film has been polarizing. Mostly, Seth Rogen fans (of which I am adamantly one) loved it. I must be an anomaly because I didn’t really care for it. Mostly I found it a bit too surrealist for my taste and not funny enough. I think they took so many risks with the story (for better or worse) and not enough with the humor. Full marks for originality, but I just wanted more.

Bad Education – Allison Janney and Hugh Jackman are phenomenal, but they have much worthier showcases than this. The story is super interesting, but there’s not a lot of depth to it. It’s just more and more details piling on the same base. I wanted either more twists and turns or more interesting characters for them.

Sunshine Cleaning – Here’s a gem I hadn’t seen in a long time, and it might be one of Amy Adams’ strongest performances. Or at least one of the strongest that still leans into some of her Disney princess qualities (as much as I love her roles that don’t). I’m mostly just highlighting it because it was a sweet 90 minute distraction if that’s something you’re in the mood for.

Don’t Say a Word – I have a very specific memory associated with this film. This was one of the first DVD’s I ever owned, bought second hand at Blockbuster (it’s not even in a real case), and I was watching it on my laptop on the way to start college. My Daddy was sitting on the plane next to me, watching it over my shoulder via the subtitles. I offered to split my headphones, but he was perfectly content. As one of my first DVD’s I watched it many times back then, but it’s been ages since the last watch. What most struct me this time was Brittany Murphy. She is so phenomenal in this, and it made me so sad to watch and wonder what her career could have been. I learned right after watching that the actress who played the daughter also died young under tragic circumstances. Such a bummer that there’s a dark cloud over this movie because I still very much enjoy it. I don’t know that it’d hold its own in today’s cinema world, but I’m a sucker for the psychological mystery of it. And Brittany

Quick Posts

Rubber – My Reddit Secret Santa knocked it out of the park for Arbitrary Day this year. Among the gifts included were a poster checklist meticulously categorizing films and a copy of Rubber that I could then check off said list. This is a weird movie about a tire that starts killing people. Yes a tire. The film is wonderfully meta, which I love. Hell, it started with a whole monologue about how things happen in films for no good reason all the time. Except I think it leaned in too much on the meta, which slowed the pace of the story way down. I wanted more gore and more story. Just more really.

My Dinner with Herve – I will watch Peter Dinklage in anything, so watching this was a tragic delight. He stuck to a very distinct and recognizable character, while maintaining the emotional depth to keep from falling into caricature. It was a really interesting look at the life of Herve Villachaize, and the deep dive tribute he deserves.

Gaslight – We’ve all prolly heard the term “gaslight” recently, to mean a form of psychological abuse or control where a person insists that a lie is the truth leaving their victim questioning their sanity and reality. The term actually comes from this movie, where that’s the basic plot. Hubby tries to convince wife she’s going crazy, but he’s actually trying to keep her under his control. I was very much creeped out watching this. Even before he really escalated his behavior, I could see where he was taking it, and it’s a very real fear. I actually zoned out a good chunk of the movie because I couldn’t handle what was unfolding. It made me very uncomfortable, but in a good way.

Lady Snowblood – Unfortunately, I was very tired when I watched this, so I wasn’t awake for much of it. However, I didn’t need more than a few minutes to recognize what this was: the source of inspiration for Kill Bill. Tarantino practically stole the whole movie. The look and feel, the music style, the basic plot, various bits of imagery. I know KB well enough that I could identify everything that it took. Minimal internet research afterwards confirmed that this was the primary inspiration, to the point where QT would make the cast and crew watch this while working on KB. Kinda cool getting all that background on it, but IDK if it makes me think less of KB now that I see how much of it was borrowed (I don’t wanna say ripped off bc QT def put his own spin on it)

The Tale – Queue the Laura Dern song from this year’s spirit awards. She is a goddess and I adore her, and therefore I soaked in every single word and action of hers in this film with rapt attention. It’s an intense story and she tells it so well. Normally when I’m watching something at home, I’ll start scrolling IMDB trivia before the film is even over. I made a point not to do that because as desperately as I wanted to know what would happen, I wanted Laura to tell me the story her way. It’s difficult subject matter that may not be suitable for everyone, but it’s worth the discomfort if you can stomach it.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark

I know, this is a docu-series, not a movie. But I’m desperate to talk about it. This is why I finally cashed in the free HBO Max trial I got when I bought Birds of Prey (30 days instead of the usual 7). I’d been generally aware of the events this series covers, but the more praise I heard for it, the more I needed to watch it. In six episodes, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark chronicles the crimes and eventual capture of The Golden State Killer. What makes this story stand out in the genre, and makes it truly special is that the focus of the story isn’t the murderous psycopath. The focus is on Michelle McNamara, the true crime writer who pieced together decades worth of evidence against this killer to tell his full story (and more importantly, the victims’ stories) and ultimately brought on his downfall.

The reason I’d first heard about this case is beloved comedian and actor Patton Oswalt. He was married to McNamara until her sudden and unexpected death in 2016. I’ve been a big fan of his for years. His stand up special Annihilation, where he speaks candidly about her death and the aftermath for himself and their daughter is one of the best I’ve ever seen. (Why is it that the best stand up specials aren’t the ones that make you laugh the most, but the ones that touch on the darkest and toughest subjects? See also: Hannah Gadsby’s Nannette). His Twitter feed is one of my favorites to follow, and he still speaks often and fondly of Michelle. It’s from his crusade to carry on her legacy that I learned just what that legacy was. When I’d heard that it was being told in this series, I needed to watch it.

The plan was three episodes on Mon night and three on Tue night. That’d mean I could get one in with dinner after work. Break for yoga. Then two more episodes. Repeat the next night. I wasn’t even ten minutes into the first episode when I thought screw yoga, we’re plowing thru. Even though I knew the broad strokes, I had to know all the details immediately. By the third episode, I was calculating how much past my bedtime I’d need to stay up to finish in one go. I was so stressed out and scared, there was no way I could put myself thru a second night. One hour late was acceptable. Besides, I prolly wasn’t gonna be able to sleep tonight after some of the things I’d heard.

The split into the episodes is a bit of a blur since I went thru it so fast. Before he was known as the Golden State Killer (a term I believe McNamara coined), he was EAR/ONS. East Area Rapist and Original Night Stalker. EAR came from his time in Sacramento in the 70’s, where he committed 50 rapes (an unfathomably high number) that escalated with each event. He began with lone women and progressed to holding couples hostage for the extra challenge I guess. He left Sacramento and later appeared in Santa Barbara, this time progressing to full on murdering his victims. After one final kill in 86, he vanished without a trace.

McNamara began her investigation in the mid-late aughts. She had a true crime blog where she would post musings on various unsolved crimes, working together with friends and followers to gather information. She was drawn to the EAR/ONS events and was able to help definitively tie those events together to a single suspect. After writing some well received magazine articles on the subject, she began working on a book. She was never able to finish it. McNamara had gotten so deep down the rabbit hole, she was convinced she could solve the murders with just a little more time and effort. Unfortunately, being in that deep had detrimental effects on her health, including nightmares that kept her up at night. She died in her sleep from an accidental overdose on the pills that she depended on to keep her going. Her collaborators completed the book two years later, and within months he was captured.

Heh okay maybe I’ve given too many details on the story itself, but it’s so fascinating. And basically everything I’ve stated, I already knew when I started watching. The series talks to the surviving victims, McNamara’s collaborators, Patton Oswalt, various police officers, and so many other people who were tied in to this horrific story. But it’s really that investigation and the woman behind it that are the truly most fascinating part. Also fascinating was looking at what a different world California was in the 70’s. Thankfully so much of what made it possible for EAR/ONS to get away with years of crimes isn’t as much of a factor today. That little bit of solace is prolly how I was able to get to sleep that night.

Also helpful, completely unrelated, but a couple days after, my building manager came by and said they were installing an extra security door on my unit. The idea was to be able to open the old door for fresh air coming thru the new metal gate. I was just grateful for one more set of locks between me and the outside world.

Before Sunrise

I’m having a very weird “only could happen to me” type of anxiety. And it’s a real, feel jittery, can’t focus anxiety, not just me trying to be cute. I started an HBO Max trial last week, and initially only had a handful of things to watch. Now there’s way too much I wanna get thru. And it’s not that the problem is getting it done before the trial expires, it’s getting it done without having my DVD watch pile stack up too high. But moreso it’s that there’s so many great movies out there and I wanna see them all, and I worry that if I don’t take this opportunity, there’s some that could be lost to me forever. I get the same feeling when I’m scrolling my wishlist on Best Buy and things are sold out. Today I was also freaking out that the movies I prioritized in order to mark them off on my Fill In FIlmography poster (I swear I talked about it already, but that’ll hafta wait til later) weren’t really ones I wanted to see. I’ve got hundreds of movies to check off on there, so if I don’t get in an extra dozen or so in the next month, I’ve gotta be okay with that.

In order to get to that queue of HBO Max movies, I woulda given myself permission to skip the blog. Except that I’m bursting to talk about some of what I just watched. So much so, that I almost dropped everything to blog outside of my usual Sun morning time, but I’m not that crazy. In retrospect, I should have. Anyways, one of the first things I noticed when poking around the library that would check off boxes on the poster and give me new to me movies that I should have seen a loooong time ago was that HBO Max has before Sunrise and Before Sunset.

Now, it’s easy to guess why I never saw these before. My hatred of romance movies is no secret. But if it seems like the whole world is nothing but positive about one of them, I’m not gonna be too proud to watch it for myself. Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy meet on a train in Europe. Instantly taken with each other, they both disembark in Vienna, where they’ll have one night to explore the city and get to know each other before Hawke has to catch his morning flight back to the US. That’s it. Pretty simple walk and talk movie. But it’s oh so very captivating.

This film is usually praised for being such a realistic depiction of romance. It’s simply two people talking, learning about each other, and falling deeper as the night goes on. It’s grounded and uncomplicated. But I’ll add that while it’s very real, it still has a fantasy feel to it. There’s the magic in their chance meeting and the spell cast by the beauty of the city they’re in. The circumstances feel surreal, but the connection and conversation are as believable and relatable as anything else in life.

I’ll admit, I totally got swept up in it. As it started, I was of course taken by 90’s Ethan Hawke’s charm (*swoon*) but I wasn’t sure I’d be invested in a romantic film with no specific plot. By the time they were kissing on the ferris wheel, I was in love. And oh so very jealous of the connection they were sharing.

Among the many conversation topics they delved into during the quick 100 minute film, I was most struck by how they talk about sex. Very open and almost matter of fact, without being either shameful or lewd about it. Just playful enough to express interest without making it uncomfortable and overbearing. Even though Hawke’s character was a self professed horn dog (he states it more directly in Sunset), he’s absolutely respectful. When Delpy says she doesn’t think they should sleep together, he doesn’t pressure her or argue. Their whole attitude every time it came up that it was just another conversation topic, not some heavy taboo subject is something that I hope I’m not too damaged from my practically puritanical upbringing to emulate some day. I think that’s where the European setting and a European character help too. Their freeness of speech certainly didn’t feel very American.

Anyways, what I really wanna talk about most with this film means that I need to break my no spoiler rule. The ending. It’s what I can’t get out of my head. As they’re saying goodbye, unable to pull apart from each other, they agree to meet again in six months. No other means of contacting before or after. Just leap of faith, be there or not. The big question is, do they make the meeting? Putting aside the fact that there is a sequel that definitively answers the question, it’s kind of a litmus test for how you think about love and life and romance and everything that this movie brings up. The romantics absolutely believe the pair will see each other again. The cynics absolutely believe it will never happen. Me? I’m a hopefully optimistic realist.

I want so badly for them to meet up again. Before we got to those last frames, it was killing me that they’d never have any way of seeing each other again. Their best laid plans give you the little bit of hope that it can happen, that there is a way. But at the same time, there’s so many variables at play. Life can interfere and make it nearly impossible to come to pass. Still, there’s a chance.

But the other thing about me is that I need absolutes. I don’t like uncertainty (hell, most of my anxieties can be traced back to not being able to cope with some uncertainty or another). I immediately put on the second film to find out what happened. We’ll save the sequel chat for later, but my actions were further proof that I need a level of certainty that life can’t often give. I’m thankful that this series of movies were able to.

Con Air

Last week I was Zoom-ing with some coworkers for our now virtual weekly social hour. We were talking about what movies we’d been watching, and he mentioned Con Air. I realized I didn’t own it. Now it’s kind of a running thing how insane my movie collection is, moreso now that you see it behind me on most video calls. “OMG you found the one movie I don’t have!” Of course now I had to fix it. So I did.

I swear I had seen this movie before. Or at least I assumed I had. It was always on TV, surely I caught it in pieces here and there, yeah? Not to mention the whole controversy over the theme song happened at the tail end of my country phase (I was team LeAnn), so I must have been extra motivated to watch this. Well if my surprise at basically every second watching was any indication, there’s no way I could have seen this before and forgotten every glorious moment. I have a new favorite movie. Sorry Aladdin. Okay not really, but this will not be the last time in the near future that I watch this.

So let’s set it up for the one theoretical reader that may not know this movie. Nicholas Cage is in the service for no reason other than to establish him as a really good guy who knows how to be violent if necessary. He gets into a bar fight and accidentally kills a dude, which sends him to prison for a crazy long time. Cage is finally granted parole, so he bums a ride on a plane with a bunch of criminals far more hardened than he is. The baddies end up hijacking the plane, and him being the really good guy who knows how to be violent if necessary, he takes it on himself to try and rescue the cops and few other good people on board. Basically Die Hard on a plane full of wannabe Hans Grubers. Best of all, it leans in hard to every cheesy action trope of the 90’s.

Now I generally refer to myself as an action movie girl, being my Daddy’s daughter and all. Recent years have mostly cooled me to the genre because I don’t like action for the sake of action. The films that make me love the genre are the ones that are gritty and dirty, grounded in practical effects: John Wick, Upgrade, any early Jason Statham. But there’s the rare movie that can transcend the genre and remind me why I love movies. Con Air was one of those. Yes. I’ll say it again. Con Air reminded me why I freaking love movies so dang much.

Every moment was bigger than the one before. But all the things I should have hated–the dumb one liners, the excessive effects (not too CGI thankfully), the overacting–added to its charm. I was running on so much adrenaline cheering every over the top the detail that just kept piling on as the film doubled down yet again on its excess.

So why did it work so well? I think because it wasn’t just one actor or director enacting their vision because they think they know better than everyone else (looking at you Michael Bay and Zack Snyder). Instead, every single person was committed 100%. Nicholas Cage, John Malcovich, John Cusack, Ving Rhames, Dave Chappell, Steve Buscemi. All of them were on board. No one was rolling their eyes internally. They were chewing the scenery with gusto. And you know all the people behind the camera were giving it their all too. Was the explosion guy phoning it in? Absolutely not! He was giving every bit of firepower he had. What about the writers who just kept piling it on? Well if we already had a plane full of baddies, where else could you crash land it but the Las Vegas strip. Go big or go home, people!!!

So yeah, it might seem strange for me to say that Con Air reinvigorated my love for movies, especially given how many boxes it ticks off for bad movie criteria. But ultimately, movies are meant to be fun. And you can’t get any more fun than this. Plus I’m sure Daddy was watching this with me, laughing and cheering from the great beyond. He really did raise me right.

Angels in the Outfield

I’ve got a lot of arbitrary rules for building the movie wall, mostly to keep my budget (marginally) in check. One thing I’ve been trying to do is replace anything I own on VHS with a DVD, but those have been slow going because of my rule that if I had the movie in my hands this second, would I wanna watch it? There’s few on that list that fit the criteria, even some that I really wouldn’t want anyways, but for completion I should get them someday. Angels had only been five bucks, but was sold out for a bit. When I saw it in stock, it immediately passed the rule for me. Yes, I would watch it immediately if it showed up on my doorstep.

I can’t remember the last time I’d seen it. 15+ years? It was never my top kids sports movie (that’s Mighty Ducks 2) but it was certainly in my rotation when my age was in single digits. Happy to report that it still holds up as a kids’ classic.

So the recap, you’ve got an itty bitty pre-3rd Rock Joseph Gordon-Levitt who is in the foster care system. Mom’s dead. Dad’s deadbeat. All he wants is for Dad to come take him to their forever home. Dad sarcastically says that’ll happen with the kid’s favorite baseball team, the currently in last place Angels, win the pennant. Kid of course doesn’t understand the sarcasm and thinks he truly means it, and prays for his team to win the season. His prayer is answered by Christopher Lloyd and his fellow angels who give the struggling players a little supernatural help. Meanwhile the kid and his little buddy also in the foster care system, befriend the cranky team coach played by Danny Glover, helping him manage his team based on when they see angels in the outfield. Or the infield, dugout or wherever they may be.

There’s some amazing people in this cast. When it was filmed, Brenda Fricker and Ben Johnson had already won Oscars, but so many cast members went on to bigger and better. JGL was only starting his career. Among the players, you had future Oscar winners Adrien Brody and Matthew Mcconaughey. I had a vague memory of Brody being in this, but no clue about Matthew. He’s the player that does the wings motion while standing in the outfield, getting swept up in the spirit of the whole crowd. I put that clip on my Insta stories, and I feel a lil something stirring inside me every time I played it.

Cause yeah, this movie still brings the feels. Movies about foster kids have been holding a special place in my heart the past few years (mostly since I’ve made the decision that when the time comes, that’s the way I wanna be a parent). While the kids mostly think about the silly comedy with the angels making the players do funny things, and while we all love an underdog sports story, the true purpose of this film is about the kids finding their family. It’s also about believing in yourself. Srsly, so many emotional moments. Danny Glover hanging out with the kids after a bad day or playing ball with all the neighborhood kids in the park. Everyone in the stands making angel wings to motivate Tony Danza. Really the whole last ten minutes.

There were a couple sequels made, but none of them can touch this one. I think I saw the football one, but I don’t remember it at all. I’d bet you anything they missed the entire point of what made this one great and just focused on the sport. This movie deserves to win the pennant and so much more

Quick Posts

I thought I had it in me to expand a few of these to full posts, but I’m feeling lazy. Not sure if I mentioned it yet, but I’m now back to a normal 5 day workweek, 2 day weekend schedule. I’m already freaking out on how I”ll get all my chill time, exercise, and chores into two days once movie trips and Disney are back in play, but that’s a problem for future Dawn (much much future Dawn by the looks of it ). Anyways, I thought I had it in me to make full posts outta some of these, but this morning I’m feeling lazy. I’m allowed to be lazy in a pandemic right?

A Man Apart – I’d brought this one up when talking about The Grinch. For the most part, it’s a pretty unremarkable and bland crime “thriller”. I was already struggling to get thru it. Then we get to the end bit, and Vin Diesel is supposta be somewhere in Latin America I think. Except, he was actually at Universal Studios. There’s a part on the tour where you stop in this Latin looking area (I forget its actual name) and they tell you about using water effects to create weather. Sprinklers turn on (I’ve been unfortunately positioned for that before) and then a flash flood rages out alongside you. Then they show you a clip from Big Fat Liar that uses that flood and we move on to The Good Place sets. That’s the exact spot where this was shot. Vin was walking down the flash flood path. Normally, I think it’s kinda cool when I recognize the Universal backlot in a film, but this time it was too much. The final strike against a terrible film.

Somewhere – I think this is the only Sophia Coppola film I really connect to, despite sincerely trying very very hard. I’d been contemplating putting this in the watch pile because I remembered enjoying it and little else, but I also seemed to recall it being rather simple. That simplicity serves it well. Elle Fanning, who I typically don’t care much for, is so sweet and engaging. Stephen Dorff turns a character who could be very unlikeable into someone you truly root for. It’s just a happy place of a movie, even if not all the characters are in a happy place.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – I prolly could stretch this into an entire post, but again laziness wins. I just wanted to give this film (we’re talking the 2005 Tim Burton) a quick defense. Yes, the first movie is the definitive one, but I like this because it’s overall more true to the book (except for the Wonka family backstory and the ending). There’s no fizzy lifting drink controversy, the Oompa Loompas have their original lyrics, squirrels not geese, and my favorite scene (the kids leaving the factory) is included. We’ll skip over the creepy Johnny Depp Wonka for now.

Big Fish – Speaking of book adaptations, this is one of two films where I can easily say that the movie is far superior (Forrest Gump being the other). All of the magic of the film comes from Tim Burton. The book is bland an dry and very boring, with none of the fantasy elements. While other Burton films are more quintessentially him, this one is the clearest showcase for how he can improve on a subject with his signature flair.

Housesitter – I was watching Father of the Bride the other day, which is a total comfort movie for me, and I realized that I didn’t have too much more from Steve Martin on the wall. I corrected that by getting a DVD 4 pack and this was the first I started with. I absolutely adore him and Goldie Hawn, but the movie didn’t work for me. Similar to my criticism of The Money Pit recently, it was just too implausible how deeper and deeper they kept digging themselves. I don’t like this kinda elaborate deception story because I just don’t buy it. Happy to see those two leads share the screen tho

How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)

If I haven’t explicitly said it, I think it should be clear that the one thing I’m missing most in this lockdown is going to the movies. That shouldn’t be hard to get. And I’ve posted about how I miss Disneyland. That one comes in waves for me. I’ll be mostly okay with it (saving all that money sure helps) and then something will make me really wanna go there. Yesterday it was a little stretch of highway in the morning sun that make me wanna just keep going south. But also yesterday (as of writing) I started missing something I didn’t think I would: Universal Studios.

In four years living in LA, I’ve had a Universal pass for half of that time. I generally have mixed feelings about the park. Their rides are pretty cool, but there’s only a handful of them and they’ve always got long lines. You can do everything in the park in less than a day, and you’ll likely spend half that time in hour long lines. And most of their rides all follow the same basic format. You watch something on a screen while you’re jostling around. Just depends on what you’re jostling in. All as opposed to Disney, where there’s so much to do, if something’s got a long line you skip it and hit something else. Maybe next time, the line will be shorter. Either way, there’s always more options and there’s always something new. A busy day at Universal can get frustrating. If you’re not feeling like waiting in a super long line to ride the exact same thing for the millionth time, there’s really not many other options. And yet, I still started missing it yesterday.

Actually earlier in the week I’d been watching a movie that was clearly filmed on the backlot. I’ll save the details for a quickpost later, but in that case it made an already bad movie worse, recognizing the set I’ve driven by in a tram so many times on the studio tour. That same tram tour drives by another set I was watching yesterday: Whoville. Or at least it did drive by. Word on the street is they’re taking Whoville out because it hasn’t been well maintained (another +1 for Disney, who keep on top of such things). But anyways, the main route of the tram does take you past a couple of Who houses that look like they’re made of foam. If the tour guide cares to talk about such things, they’ll tell you that the majority of the film was shot instead of 4 of their biggest sound stages. Then the tour continues and the very next thing you see is my favorite part: the Bates Motel. Yes, Norman Bates and the Grinch are back to back neighbors. Kinda wild.

Now another +1 for Disney is that they really do up their holidays pretty big, not just decor but changing up rides and seasonal characters and different food. Besides stringing some Christmas lights on things, Universal doesn’t do all that much, but they do have one thing going: Grinchmas. The first year I went for Grinchmas, when you got to Whoville on the tour, some Who’s came out of the house and sang with The Grinch. That was gone by the time I went two years later. So really all it is at this point is the center part of the park, the one thing that gets switched out seasonally, is redone for the holiday. There’s a few photo ops, a bunch of random Who’s wandering around and interacting, and a chance to meet Max and The Grinch.

I met the Grinch the first time. Was an hour long line and totally worth it. The second time, I didn’t wanna wait and was kinda bummed at my lack of patience. I got him to take a picture with Marty Martian, whom he referred to as my weird husband, before throwing him over his shoulder to get rid of him. I don’t even think I took a picture with the Who myself (regretting that now). Character interactions at Universal aren’t as good as Disney, but this one is the exception that proves the rule.

Anyways, this is a blog about movies, not about theme parks. I watched Jim Carrey’s Grinch movie last night. I’d previously dismissed it because for me it doesn’t top the old Boris Karloff cartoon. It still doesn’t, but I do appreciate the Jim Carrey-ness of this interpretation. I think part of what throws me is how much filler is added in to make this feature length. The new animated Bennedict Cumberbatch one had the same problem. Sometimes you just can’t improve on something that’s already great.

The Karate Kid (2010)

I worked my way thru the Karate Kid movies the past few weeks. I realized that if I’m gonna attack a franchise, unless it’s a continuous story (like Hunger Games) it’s best if I split it up instead of trying to get ’em all in at once. I’d also realized that I didn’t own (and likely hadn’t seen) KKid II thru Next, so I had to do some purchasing in there.

The first is an absolute untouchable classic, and one that I should know better than I do. The sequels are good fun, maybe not quite as magical just due to the usual diminishing returns. It’s the 2010 reboot with Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan that I wanna focus on tho.

First of all, representation matters, so major points for having a black Karate Kid. For me, that’s reason enough for this movie, and I wish the films woulda continued. I know at the time, it mostly got dismissed as an unnecessary reboot, and to some extent it kinda is. I’ve been going back and forth on my feelings towards the rebootness, and I think I’ve mostly concluded that the film shoulda been its own thing. I get the need for name recognition, but I feel like it hurt more than it helped.

The original Karate Kid sees Ralph Macchio’s Daniel move to a new town with his single mom, where he has trouble making friends other than the building’s handman Mr Miagi. Mr Miagi trains Daniel in Karate so that he can earn respect by taking on his bullies in a karate tournament. Now replace Ralph Macchio with Jaden Smith, Pat Morita’s Miagi with Jackie Chan’s Mr Han, and move the setting to China. Oh and replace karate with kung fu. So shouldn’t he be the kung fu kid? That’s my tipping point for why this shoulda tried to be its own film.

The bones of the story are the same, and the third act plays out with the same beats. So again, totally get why this wasn’t taken seriously. I very much enjoyed it tho. I found it fun and engaging (not unlike the original) and I liked what was added by moving the setting to China. Also bonus points for Taraji P Hensen as the Mama. This version is also a bit more kid friendly. Jaden is younger than Ralph, and as someone pointed out to me on Stardust, his initial whining is much more age appropriate. Speaking of attitude, that boy is very much his father’s son. I could see so many of Will Smith’s expressions and mannerisms in Jaden’s face, it was really tripping me out. But the boy inherited the charm and charisma to carry a film, so I was rooting for him the whole way. I just wish a little more care was put in to making this stand out instead of relying so much on the original. I get it, reboot, you’re supposta rely on it. Not to get all broken record about it, but I think that reliance ended up being a bit of a crutch. I wanted this karate, or kung fu, kid to soar