Michael Crichton, The Terminal Man: From 1972, which is why I wanted to read it (to read more young, 70s Crichton.) Crichton goes one beyond The Andromeda Strain by adding one (1) actual interesting character this time, the title character, who is being experimented on by neuroscientists. Well, he gets loose and kills people, who would have guessed? It's mediocre as a thriller, so I looked for interesting bits of 1972 mentalities re: science, technology, etc. Didn't find many of them. This book is mediocre. I may still read The Great Train Robbery or Eaters Of The Dead--Crichton was no hero, but at least his books read quickly.
Stephen King, The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger: This is actually five sequenced short stories that King began writing in 1970 before he had a book out, published in magazines between 1978 and 1982, with the full book published in 1982, then revised when he was doing the last three books. What I was most interested in isn't King trying to a Tolkien-style mythology or world-building, but his prose style--he actually tries to write elegantly here, far more than usual, and he's not half bad at it. You can kind of see that spaghetti western world he's trying to sketch out, and Roland is good as an enigmatic character. The flashbacks to his past are handled well, too. It's a passable book. But I can already see what may end up going wrong with this series even in this first part, and the book is only about 250 pages anyway, a rarity for King. We'll see with the sequels...
Stephen King, The Dark Tower II: The Drawing Of The Three: I'm actually 20 pages away from finishing this...it goes in a completely different direction from the first book. No Man In Black, no elegance, no evil desert, King cuts off Roland's fingers in the first chapter via "lobstrosities," then sends him to three adventures through magical portals into the minds of three New Yorkers: one of them a young junkie drug mule fighting mobsters, one of them a black woman with split personality disorder, and one of them a total psycho. Yep, this book's just classic King trash--readable, not terrible, but certainly not great. Since a lot of the book concerns heroin, I noted the 1987 release date, same year as King's wife staging his intervention. Ya think?
Split: I wanted to say that this was James McAvoy's movie to win or lose, but really it's more like it's his movie to save: he's the only thing in it that I cared about at all. I've avoided Shyamalan's films like the plague since 2004 but have nonetheless enough fond memories of The Sixth Sense to sort of want him to do better, so when the movie got good reviews *here*, I had to see it. Well, it's about 30 minutes too long, the two schoolgirls who aren't the girl from The VVitch are a total afterthought (talk about not giving a crap when they die--I got more emotional resonance out of the generic stabbings in Scream 4), the flashbacks hinting that the VVitch girl has powers or that some ugly bearded uncle guy wanted to molest her are pretty lame, and "The Beast" is...just not that special or scary, sorry. That just leaves two things: McAvoy, who is terrific pretty much all the way through and enjoying himself, and Shyamalan, who some sharp-minded critic pointed out has a very strange, R-meets-PG sensibility ("Pee on yourself!"--gross). It's sort of nice that he had almost no money to make this, though. I don't think I can really quite call this Shyamalan's comeback--it just doesn't suck, that's all. Uh, good for you?
Dunkirk: Covered below. I think I'm ranking this fourth or fifth in Nolan's filmography? If he's going to go in some new direction with his career, better this than the forced "majestic" emotions and four-dimensional silliness of Interestellar. I basically liked it but am not stoked at the possibility of rewatching it. Think the Oscars will remember?
It Might Get Loud: Jimmy Page, The Edge, and Jack White get together for some reason and talk disinterestedly about what they do as guitarists, intercut with live footage of all three that I've basically seen before. The first two guitarists don't say anything I haven't heard before (at least The Edge is self-effacing a bit) about guitar-playing, and Jack White meanwhile acts like a totally arrogant pud, as Prindle put it. White acts so douchey that I began to wonder if he was pulling our leg. This got good reviews but I'm baffled as to why; it's honestly really quite lame. Oh, and it's directed by the Inconvenient Truth guy for some reason.
Wired: The infamous 1989 John Belushi biopic flop, one of the most hated movies ever; I had to watch a VHS rip on Youtube of very, very poor quality, not that good picture could save this laughable fiasco. A then 25-year-old Michael Chiklis snagged the role of Belushi, and when the film bombed his career was wrecked for a couple of years, blacklisted allegedly by Dan Aykroyd and Lorne Michaels. Oh, the film? It's Belushi's ghost in a morgue looking back over his life, which consisted of drug scenes that belong in an afterschool special, SNL sketch recreations (and lame inventions--there was no "Samurai Baseball" and you get to hear Chiklis sing "You Are So Beautiful" as Joe Cocker at the end), dumb party scenes with some guy I've never heard of playing Aykroyd by lamely imitating his "Chicago" accent, and most embarrassingly, J. T. Walsh playing Bob Woodward (who wrote the discredited book the movie's based on) somehow appearing at Belushi's side when he dies. Poor Chiklis--he seems to be trying his goddamndest, since this was his first role...and he only gets the voice right.
Blade Runner 2049: I'll watch this again, but I think I said my piece below. If there are to be extensive discussions about subtext, they'll be discussions about our own time, 2017, instead of trying to guess who's a replicant, or whatever. Can't say that about the original BR. I doubt I'll like that final act any better, but I know I'll always have to give this film credit for being the bleakest attempt at a blockbuster ("bleakbuster"?) ever.
Can DVD: This 2003 three-disc set combines one audio CD, which I didn't listen to, with two DVDs, which I tried to watch everything on--a 50 minute free concert from 1972, a 90 minute documentary from 1999 before Michael Karoli died, some outtakes called "Can Notes" which I couldn't get to play on my DVD player for some reason except for a Holger Czukay interview, some recording footage of latter day solo tracks, footage of the band accepting an award, and exciting text discographies for all band members. The concert? I'm *impressed* with Can's ability to be that in-sync and repetitive, but it's not as fun to listen to as their studio work. Michael Karoli kind of disappears behind the thudda thudda thudda rhythm trance and Irmin Schmidt seems to be either hitting random electric piano fuzzchords or making hideous electronic shrieking racket with his organ, so maybe I just don't like classic Can live, which is a shame as I'd really wanted to. The documentary meanwhile has touching footage of Malcolm Mooney meeting Damo Suzuki in person, some okayish interview bits, and is padded out with live TV footage, which was always nice to hear. It was okay, I guess. I can't even tell if this is a "must" for Can fans--it seems like it, but maybe it's more appealing to hardcore art students or something.
Hell Or High Water: Mostly notable for the work done by its actors more than whatever point it's trying to make about brotherhood, hardship, bank robbery, and, er, the callous greed of banks. Ben Foster has played psychos and live wires before and he does so again this time but he actually, get this, underplays it so it's probably his best work ever--no chance of laughing at it like one would laugh at Alpha Dog. Chris Pine completely buries himself in his role, meanwhile--no trace of Kirk, he's totally quiet and introspective as the brains of the outfit. A successful left-field casting choice really (and thank God neither actor overdo their Texas accents, I hate that.) Uhm....the Jeff Bridges scenes suck. He's playing Tommy Lee Jones in No Country For Old Men, but with that mushy True Grit dumb accent and they're all about him making lame race jokes at his Indian partner (who also is very good in the movie) and worse still there's like EIGHT of them. As a thriller it's...decent. Ben Foster's big action sequences towards the end are fairly well directed--it doesn't seem fake when he whips out the machine gun and tries to be a badass like it did when he did it in 3:10 To Yuma--and seem to (literally) shoot down the earlier Bridges scenes. Social context? Uhm, "banks are bad," yeah, yeah, nothing too profound to see here folks. This gets a B or B minus. I don't know much about the British guy who directed it. He directed Starred Up, anyone here see that?
Polytechnique - Denis Villenueve's 2009 dramatization of the 1989 Ecole Polytechnique massacre, in which proto-MRA dork Marc Lepine killed 14 women at a college in Montreal. I only knew a few details of the crime (apparently as well remembered in Canada as Columbine is in the US) but was fascinated enough to have to see this since I've been watching Villeneuve anyway, what a nice little dovetailing. The film is black and white (to neutralize blood), only runs about 70 minutes, doesn't name the killer, barely goes into his reasoning for what he did, casts an actor who looks like a French Johnny Marr instead of the actual Lepine, and is totally cold and modern. I had to watch it in Youtube in French with Spanish subtitles, but I think I got the gist of it; there's little dialogue, and the movie jumps around in time to show a couple of young people before and after the massacre, but what I'm going to remember is just how really damn cold the thing is. It's got to be a minor entry in Villeneuve's filmography though.
Meeting People Is Easy: A Film By Grant Gee About Radiohead (REWATCH): Rewatched because I couldn't remember a single f***ing frame of this from my first viewing, but I'd always had it listed as one of my few genuine zero-star movies, and saw a copy available for rent and figured I had to give it a second try. Yeah....there's nothing new to report, really. A lame sound mix prevents you from hearing song fragments or interview snippets very well; the only thing I'm going to remember is an early bit of "Nude," since I wouldn't have been familiar with the song from my first viewing. Oh, and Thom Yorke almost drowning in his space helmet filming the "No Surprises" video. Nothing the band has to say about their state of mind the year they made the most hugely acclaimed album of its era is of remote interest. OKC deserves better. This remains a total zero.
Caravan, In The Land Of Grey And Pink: I'm in this one for "Winter Wine" and "Nine Feet Underground" exclusively. I dunno--9FU is pretty heavenly for me since I'm just listening to it as background music. I think I have some dumb rule that if I like what's being repeated to death, or a mood that's being repeated to death or a riff, I don't really care how long it goes. So yeah, 9FU is heavenly to me...oh! Other Caravan albums will be checked out in due time. I'm content!!
Sparks, Exotic Creatures Of The Deep: Plain vanilla quality Sparks--about the level of Balls. Meaning, as with that album's title track, I'm going to pick only one standout here, "I Can't Believe That I Would Fall For All The Crap In This Song." Or whatever it's called. Again, not a single bad song on the disc, they never embarrass themselves once--just not enough highlights!! The rest I'll probably just totally forget.
Van Halen, A Different Kind Of Truth: Hey HEY!!! This is actually a lot of fun--no wonder, Eddie's kid bassist put himself to use by listening to their old 1976 demos and suggesting that the band rerecord and update them!! And they're good--whenever the band wants to speed up, they actually rock like they're not all 57 or older!! "Chinatown," "As Is," and "Honeysweetiebabydoll" are all huge standouts IMO, and I don't hate "Tattoo" either, so...I think we found the one genuinely worthwhile reunion album out of the last 10 years--not just "the band didn't embarrass itself," but "the album's actually good"! I sure am glad I didn't stop with VHIII!!!
Stereolab, Cobra And Phases Group Play Voltage In The Milky Night: A natural sequel to Dots And Loops, crossing 60s lounge with 70s elevator-ambient, and my favorite track is the really really long one ("Blue Milk") which I can zone out to as background ambient. That being said: I don't know that I'd feel like actively listening to much of ANY Stereolab album, and especially not this one--a whopping 76 minutes long. Certainly I don't dislike any of it either, but the thought of trying to concentrate on it? Never mind, I'll just get to the next album. This gets an okay rating and critics were passive; awful album title, BTW.
Pink Floyd, More: The most slagged off album in their career besides the two Gilmour-led albums, I take it? I liked it well enough--at least, it's a fascinating little snapshot of the band at the crossroads, with a strange 1969 psych-is-on-its-way-out mentality, not knowing where to turn? "Quicksilver" is worthless (I don't even think I realized it was there until like my eighth listen), and I already knew "Cymbaline" and "Green Is The Colour" were beautiful (but I didn't know that was *Gilmour* singing GITC, somehow--yet why did I think it was Waters, aside from it being his composition?) so the discoveries are "Cirrus Minor" (ooo creepy) and "The Crying Song" (soft and creepy.) "The Nile Song" is to this band what "X.Y.U." is to the Smashing Pumpkins--a "heavy metal" song so hammy, childish, and awkwardly vocalized that I died laughing and would never want to forget the song as long as I live.
Badfinger, Say No More: 36 minutes of harmless McCartney rock 'n' roll slide past. As with most Badfinger albums, I have no idea what the hell to write--even on their reunion albums, they didn't change, this one's got a little more '50s boogie to it, I guess. "Rock 'n' Roll Contract" is a highlight, but even the song titles are more generic than before--"I Got You"? "Hold On"? "Come On"? "No More"? "Because I Love You"? Nothing to hate, I guess, but if Badfinger were passe in 1972, who in God's name would have cared in *1981*?