Margaret Atwood, MaddAddam: Atwood brings what started out as a decent post-apocalyptic sci-fi trilogy to an end with this eponymous book, which ends up just being a bunch of mediocre back-story for its hero character (who was not the hero of the first two books), and a present-day story which is just more survival stuff, and a hunt for the title character (and two rapist guys who need to die, zzzzz.) There's closure, but that's about it--no hint as to what the world is really going to do to restore itself. You could probably just read the first two books and skip this one, really. It's mediocre and I may put off plans to read more Atwood, unless anyone here has any recommendations.
Robert Graves, Claudius The God: Wikipedia claims Graves was not actually that proud of the success of the two Claudius books, claiming he wrote them really quickly and for the money, IIRC. I'm not sure who writes 583 pages of text this dense "quickly," but I guess it's not entirely implausible. The book does just kind of keep going and going and going, and Joe's right, you need to read it right after I, Claudius, so that's about 1000 pages of Mr. Graves for you. Happy hunting. There's a cameo for Joshua ben Joseph (i.e., Jesus) that sticks out pretty interestingly (because it's intentionally glossed over as quickly as possible) and the part where Claudius has to kill his wife sticks out too. His history with Herod, and the parts about the campaigns in Germany, aren't that great, though. I liked the first book a bit better, but nothing's changed stylistically--it's just that Claudius was more interesting when telling the history of his predecessors, than when he was Godhead.
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier: It sucks, but not like I thought it was going to. It's just a pointless, unnecessary film, not an actively painful one to watch really. The stuff people sneered at, like Uhura's fan dance, or Kirk rock-climbing, don't get to me like they get to Trekkies. I just watched the 100 minutes or so of boring doldrums, watched it again to be sure, read some reviews and boards, the end, let's just move on.
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country: I wasn't that impressed with this one either! Nicholas Meyer returned to write and direct, and of course this is a better film than TFF, but how hard is that? It's just a straightforward Klingons-up-to-no-good plot. Christopher Plummer didn't impress me that much as the villain, but I will say I was stunned that Kim Cattrall wasn't somehow hideously miscast. Reading up on this one it seems as though there has been some fan backlash against the "even numbered = good" theory, with this one being the one that gets singled out; some Trekkies think it was conceived and executed pretty sloppily, with plot holes that I've already forgotten and wouldn't really have noticed anyway. I'm going to guess that the purpose of it was just to get the original Enterprise crew signed off with some dignity left intact.
Killer Joe: Adapted from a stage play, this William Friedkin-directed film is probably the least-watched of Matthew McConaughey's run of acclaimed films leading up to his Oscar, although everyone in the film is pretty good, even Thomas Haden Church cast in a thankless role as the dumbest husband/father in Texas. It's a redneck-hitman movie if you didn't know and it got an NC-17 because of a scene where McConaughey makes Gina Gershon suck on a KFC leg he's got sticking out of his pants that's covered in blood because he beat the crap out of her. Big whoop. The primary purpose of the film is to soak you in hate and ugly stupid characters doing awful things and we all know Friedkin can pull THAT off. Worth a solitary viewing.
The Revenant: Not bad but not really that great either. You get a nicely shot opening Indian attack that's the closest we've ever had to Blood Meridian onscreen, which still isn't that close. It's a very implausible fantasy of a movie--DiCaprio would have died of hypothermia about 30 minutes into the movie in real life, what with the number of times he gets wet in the freezing cold--but a watchable one. I kinda think Tom Hardy walks away with the movie what with the sneering "little b***h" dialogue and that Ted Levine thing he's doing with his voice; DiCaprio meanwhile I've already discussed with Alpha Hammer. I'm convinced that Alejandro Innaritu, who put his cast and crew through hell making this one, is an auteur alright, but not a mind blower.
Forbidden Zone: If the description "black and white, R-rated missing link between hippie freakout movies and Pee-Wee's Playhouse for 75 minutes" appeals to you, by all means seek out this Danny/Richard Elfman "cult classic," but I will say that there's nothing surprising in it whatsoever. You know what you're getting based on that description anyway, don't you? Dwarves, big fat people, freaks dressed like freaky cartoon characters parading around, silly animation, freaks acting like little kids, kinky sex, S&M, racial caricatures, stupid accents, sets that look like Pee-Wee's Playhouse, and an unrecognizable (if that's possible) Danny Elfman as androgynous Satan. I kind of ended up bored, only mildly chuckling at things like an actor named "Ugh-Fudge Bwana." I guess it might have been shocking in 1982, but not now. The movie was co-written by, and co-stars, Matthew Bright, who went on to direct the great Freeway and its sequel which I still haven't seen, and who gave a hilarious director's commentary track, so I was looking forward to that on the DVD, but it wasn't that funny either.
Monster A-Go-Go (Mystery Science Theater 3000): The second weakest MST3K I've seen, after Coleman Francis' The Skydivers. It's about some guy who comes back from space and he's a monster now and everyone's looking for him. It was half finished by its original director and then Herschell Gordon Lewis picked it up four years later and finished a second half, making it one of those terrible B movies that ends up on MST3K mostly for being pathetically incoherent and boring and forgettable. The funniest things about the movie are 1)the "spacecraft" the monster returns in is roughly the size of an outhouse, 2)the sound of a ringing telephone is supplied by a guy going "brrgggnn" off screen, and 3)there's a telegram at the end of the movie basically explaining that the movie didn't happen. The MST3K guys don't really come up with any good bits and I'm bored with them going "....(celebrity name)?" because someone on screen looks like that celebrity.
Eegah (Mystery Science Theater 3000): This was the last MST3K on my list, but unlike Monster A-Go-Go, it was pretty good, so maybe I'll watch more after all. It's about a guy and his daughter finding a long-lost caveman in California, played by huge Richard "Jaws" Kiel. The director's son, Arch Hall Jr. plays the daughter's boyfriend, an overly-tanned guy with a Munchkin face who sings terrible 50s ballads to the girlfriend. The MST3K guys get pretty good mileage out of making terrible fun of him, as well as his songs, with them limply muttering "....tequillaaaaa" after every break during a performance towards the end of the movie. I think this would rank about fifth or sixth MST3K in my ranking. Anybody got any others to recommend?
Lawrence Of Arabia (REWATCH): I only saw this once, 11 (I think) years ago, at the beginning of the movie-watching spree that I'm still on, and had planned on revisiting it for years. I'd forgotten lots and lots of things about it--where the plot goes (I'm not an expert on the real T. E. Lawrence by any stretch), what the themes were, and I certainly didn't notice the first time around that there are no women in it. I knew Lawrence was supposedly gay but didn't even remember Peter O'Toole's dulcet tone of voice that he uses the whole way through, and I didn't remember that there's a bit of an anti-war thing going on underneath it (isn't there? Look at how O'Toole looks at that knife! Look at those dead people staggering around after he blows up the train!), I certainly didn't pick up on the movie being (at least I think so) significantly more critical of the British than the Arabs, and more than anything, I didn't remember that the movie ends with Lawrence broken and beaten in more ways than one. Hell, the movie's basically calling him a failure!!! His image of himself is destroyed first by the Turks raping him, then destroyed again after he goes all "no prisoners!!" at Damascus and hates himself, then destroyed again when he's stumbling home on that camel after it becomes apparent that the Arab alliance will fall apart. As for the rest of the film, yeah, pretty magnificent, even on my little DVD player, and it's interesting to think of O'Toole's performance topping that list as the greatest ever even though he wasn't 30 and it was his first big film. No, I haven't seen it in 70mm, I guess I should, but that may not be happening any time soon.
Wild Nothing, Nocturne: This 2012 indie-rock album is one of the best albums I've heard recently, but I have to admit that the description "Disintegration-era Cure watery-echoey guitars drowning in silky keyboard milk and shoegazer vocals" pretty easily f***s my musical brain-vagina. It's not like the band (actually mostly one guy) is hiding its influences, either--the track "Paradise" blatantly uses the drumbeat from Disintegration's masterful title track. That's one of the best songs, too, along with "Shadows" (think "From The Edge Of The Deep Green Sea"), "Only Heather" (think "Just Like Honey"), and "Disappear Always" (think any Cure goth epic.) Guilty pleasure for me, then, not because I'm too old for it or anything, but because it's so obvious. But a guilty pleasure is still a pleasure.
Marshall Crenshaw, Marshall Crenshaw: This early 80s power-pop platter was way too easy for a guy like me to like as well. "American Elvis Costello"? Yeah, he DOES wear glasses and a suit, and this is KIND of an old-fashioned throwback like My Aim Is True (and yeah, one song here seems to have the same melody as "Mystery Dance," I'm blanking on which one), but way sugarier, friendlier, sweeter. No edge to this guy at all. Not that I'm holding against him, what with "Soldier Of Love," "Brand New Lover," "Someday, Someway," etc., etc., laying around. I'll probably happily lap up his subsequent albums in the future, but I don't know if anyone here besides the late Mr. Brian Burks was even into him. Anyone?
Van Halen, Diver Down: A 30 minute toss-off that the band ended up being forced to make by the record company because "Pretty Woman" became a hit, but I like it more than Van Halen II or Women And Children First--hearing the band record screw-arounds, half-baked experiments and toss-offs is actually pretty appropriate for them, and even funny--hey, dumb as it may be, I chuckled at "Happy Trails" and "Big Bad Bill." And I really liked "Little Guitars," the creepy "Intruder" and "Cathedral," and didn't even mind "Dancing In The Street" even if the band didn't like it at all. That's on top of "Pretty Woman" which I've always liked on sugary guitar-tone alone, and was happy to revisit. Shoot me--I liked the Replacements' Hootenanny, too.
Sparks, Balls: Moderately well-motivated electronic pop circa 2000. They sound slightly anemic, but this is way better than those 80s albums easily. It doesn't have a single great song on it at all, though, I guess the title track and "How To Get Your Ass Kicked" stick out the closest in my mind, but I just don't care. Even Trung won't have anything to say to me about this!!! Moving along.
Fugazi, 13 Songs: Huh, they sounded pretty much the same in 1988 as 1998. I guess I can get behind that. This was one of the most adequate bands ever--I've never once had a problem with their pretensions or lyrics or political stance--I just wish I liked their songs more! Maybe a less monochromatic sound would have helped; their albums towards the end probably were a bit better because they were somewhat artier. What'd I like here? "And The Same"? Yeah, that one's a nice little anthem. But I couldn't describe the difference between it and any other Fugazi song if Alpha Hammer were beating me over the head with his perennially unwatched Blu-Rays of The Wire.
Stereolab, Mars Audiac Quintet: I don't hate Stereolab, but God help me, I may not want to do their discography much further if they're THIS samey. I mean this seems to literally be the SAME thing for 67 minutes or something ridiculous like that. Same murmuring French vocals voicing commie lyrics, same 60s organ chords, same vibe, same drone, same same same, Samey Hagar. "Transporte Sans Bouger" and "L'Enfer Des Formes" stuck out, but I'd have to look them up to tell you why. I'll probably cave in and keep doing Stereolab but that's gotta be the freakin' OCD talking.