Stephen King, The Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands: Makes it far clearer than the first two books that King is just sort of making it up as he goes along. It's not as much of a "fantasy" novel anymore so much as it is emasculated surreal adventurism. It runs maybe 600 pages and all I'm going to remember from it in the years to come is likely to be that ZZ Top's utterly ludicrous "Velcro Fly" plays a key plot point (go check out the viewer comments on the silly video, if you like), in a scene involving the defeat of an evil train by making up brain-destroying riddles. Oh, and the characters are journeying to f***ing Topeka. But I'm not liking this much as I go along...
Stephen King, The Dark Tower IV: Wizard And Glass: ....and you know what, you guys for once have defeated me, I think I'm going to quit here. This book starts with a pointless visit to the 1986 Midwest as seen in The Stand, gives a cameo for the Kansas Turnpike Authority road signs which I've bumped into a few times in my life, turns into a 600 page flashback concerning the main character's (Roland's) teenage adventures involving villains and a beautiful girl who is of course totally doomed (and is subjected to a disgusting medical examination by a witch), then ends with a really dumb encounter with the Man in Black, whom I've concluded is just about the weakest thing about King's tale. That, and the sheer meandering sluggardness of the story. It's 670 pages long and could have easily been told in 250 and unlike Neal Stephenson I'm not sure where the extra length is even coming from. (There's nothing ridiculous in the book like in those posts I did that were titled stuff like "Bad Writing Bits In It" or whatever.) And I was REALLY slogging through it--I had an easier time working up the energy to read William Gaddis' JR, for chrissakes. Who knows if I'll continue...
Glengarry Glen Ross (REWATCH): Am I too old for this thing now? I rewatched it because the first time I enjoyed mostly the profanity-laced dialogue because I was still young enough to easily love such a thing, and Rich B. told me "you grasped what there was to grasp--it's a bunch of pissed-off guys" or something like that. I didn't really think much about the intricacies of what actually happens between the six characters. What did I get this time? Well, 1)I didn't know the Alec Baldwin character was made up just for the movie (a shame--that would have been fine on stage as far as I can tell) but I find it pathetically hilarious that anyone would ever think his character's advice is meant to be a positive message or "the truth" or anything like that, 2)the Kevin Spacey character's wimpiness is a standout, 3)Jack Lemmon is the movie's most interesting character and best performance. So yeah, I think I understand this better than I used to, and it's *not* just about entertaining profanities, but I'm also not sure that I feel like revisiting it much in the future. Why? Oh, I dunno--I just don't.
American Beauty (REWATCH): This on the other hand is still terrible. It's not a relevant movie anymore--9/11 swept (or should have swept) all this suburban angst satire crap under the rug--so me revisiting it is purely a lark, but unlike The Royal Tenenbaums my reasons for hating it are the same as they would have been 19 years ago, i.e., it's a preachy piece of crap that bombs on both the main, straight message level AND as a "look closer" bit of subtle satire. That, and dumb stuff like the bag blowing in the wind--I cannot BELIEVE, reading through a bunch of reviews--both old and current!!--how many people like that stupid scene. The only thing I can add are a few observations on the characters. The Chris Cooper character was always an obvious utter cartoon epic fail, but Annette Bening's performance is now my go-to answer to the question "who is the least deserving Oscar nomination for acting in history?" (Joe, if you're reading this, I've never seen Scent Of A Woman.) Does she predate all of those hysterical Julianne Moore crying-jag performances or did Moore rip her off? Thora Birch I think I can sort of forgive, but Wes Bentley's performance as what should have been the most sympathetic character in the movie is single-handedly torpedoed by that godawful bit where Spacey has been shot dead and Bentley creepily turns his head sideways and smiles at the corpse. Sam Mendes was pretty young when he directed this, and since he did Skyfall I can forgive him somewhat, but if this film's reputation has been declining since it undeservedly won big in that glorious movie year of 1999 (talk about a year that I keep thinking about) I can only hope it keeps doing so.
Alien: Covenant: Sucks. Bad as a horror movie (you've probably already heard about the incredibly stupid behavior of the characters in several of the more violent scenes) and probably worse as a mythology-building movie. Even the two Michael Fassbender performances don't help, the "shock" moments are all terrible (not necessarily dumb, just sort of groaners in and of themselves--I don't know how to explain this), there are no characters that stand out at all (Billy Crudup's captain character is inexplicably weak, and all I can say otherwise is that Danny McBride doesn't make things worse) and the movie is also hideous visually, a rarity for Ridley Scott--dimly lit blackness EVERYWHERE regardless of what the characters are doing. Give it up, Ridley.
T2 Trainspotting: Acceptable pointless nostalgia. I mean, it's generally a pretty entertaining viewing experience, the actors are all game and Danny Boyle can still easily direct in that hyperactive 90s zeitgeist style. It just doesn't have a point!! Yeah, Ewan McGregor is 45 now and he goes back to Scotland after some dumb heart attack or something and gets involved with the schemes of the other three guys from the old movie. You get an amusingly cynical update of the Choose Life speech that is now "choose Facebook, choose 9/11 never happened and if it did the Jews did it!" (some people hated this, claiming McGregor sounded like a bitter old man) and Robert Carlyle delivers the funniest use of the word "c*nt" in movie history, and there only seems to be a "plot" when he starts chasing after McGregor. And of course ten zillion callbacks to the original movie. They try to add one new important character, an Eastern European woman who looks suspiciously like Ana de Armas, but she's a prostitute! She does okay. I don't have anything else to say about this movie--if you're the world's biggest fan of the original you'll like it, and I liked it too, but either way it still doesn't really have a point.
KONG: Skull Island: The Generic Corporate 21st Century CGI Blockbuster Par Excellence, but maybe that's just because I didn't ever see Jurassic World, which may be worse. It's mostly just a bunch of name actors and nobodies in military fatigues walking around an island getting killed by humongous CGI monsters they would have been able to see coming ten miles away (in some cases they do anyway) and their deaths are all excruciatingly violent but the movie gets a PG-13 because there's little to no blood (and this movie is EASILY the worst example I've ever seen of that.) There's a Vietnam subtext, but who cares. Tom Hiddleston, John Goodman and Brie Larson are wasted, just picking up paychecks. Samuel L. Jackson is himself yet again. John C. Reilly shows up as this weird guy left over from World War II and is the only one who even comes close to being an interesting character, but he still really isn't.
Bernie: Is any director in the world better than Richard Linklater at granting weight to his films while at the same time making it seem so utterly effortless? It feels like he could have made this film in a month and yet it seems to work both so well as a study of its strange nice-guy main character AND the Texas small-town environment in which he finds himself. What other movie makes you seriously think about whether murder is justified if the character really is that nice, and if everyone around him in this little Texas town wishes him to go free because THEY like him so much? (And they're all conservative people, so you'll end up thinking about the morality of that, too.) Of course he should be punished but for awhile you'll actually be thinking he shouldn't, and the movie doesn't even have to villainize the Shirley MacLaine character that much to do it. Best Jack Black performance ever, too, or at least from what I've seen; I know Black's been in lots of clunkers, but I never seem to see them. I'm not blown away by this movie actually, but it seems to work stunningly well on several levels without even trying to. Go see it!
Star Wars Episode VII: The Last Jedi: Well, thanks to this movie, every review site I frequent will now have clickbait links off to the side marked "WHY "THE LAST JEDI" FLOPPED" and "WHAT MARK HAMILL REALLY THINKS OF THE LAST JEDI" etc. etc. for the next two years. It's weird to see the pissy fan reaction to begin with, let alone that so much of the pissy fan reaction totally seems to be in sync with Trump Times. So we have a dark horse here, and after years of embarrassingly trying to state that the prequels weren't that bad now here I am with a movie I thought would be more of a sure thing, and half its audience loudly hates it. Who woulda thunk...
The Church, Heyday: What does it say about my new-favorite-albums drought of the last few years that this pretty-good, B+-worthy jangle-pop album from 1985 is the best album I "discovered" in 2017? So sad, those golden years are so far behind me now. Most opinions of this are positive and they were actually running neck and neck with the 1984-85 R. E. M. albums with this one. "Youth Worshipper," "Already Yesterday" and "Tantalized" are the best tracks and it's just good jangle pop with a hint of psych, but not a very loud hint (their shirts on the hilariously stoned album cover--look at Marty Willson-Piper in the upper left!--are more psych than any of the music.) I'm going to go through the rest of the band's albums prior to about 1995 for sure; any fans here? They've got like 15 more albums *since* 1995, that nobody seems to talk about or pay attention to, so God knows if I'll bother with all that.
Badfinger, Magic Christian Music: Good stuff! I almost skipped this because I mistakenly thought it actually was a soundtrack, but it's not, it's a proper album alright. "Come And Get It," "Dear Angie" and the bleak "Carry On Till Tomorrow" are the standouts and I listened to like 30 minutes of extra bonus tracks every time too. It's no Straight Up, though, and I probably didn't have to bother with anything by Badfinger past 1974, despite them never being terrible at all. They were just a consistent, but only sporadically glorious pop-rock "fake Beatles" band, with a really horrible story.
Sparks, Hippopotamus: Only one near-great song (the one about Edith Piaf). Not a single terrible song, or anything where they loudly embarrass themselves, even lyrically. Multi-tracked vocals and key vocal hooks, but it's not like Lil' Beethoven. There would be no way to tell if you listened to it cold: a)what year it was made, b)how much money was spent on it, c)that the two guys who constitute the "band" have a combined age of 140. Is it bad? Hell no. Will I remember it two months from now? Hell no. In other words, it's the exact same thing as about six Sparks albums from the last 20 years.
Pink Floyd, Obscured By Clouds: I was barely impressed with this at all--I far prefer More. Reviews for this seem to be all over the place both positive and negative and in between but the positive ones I found seem to be mostly very recent. At least I know now what it's like when Pink Floyd enters the studio to knock something out in, what was it, three weeks (?): something they shouldn't do. It's not bad, just mostly unmemorable--I sort of liked the mood of "Mudmen," and the march of "Free Four," and...even "Wot's Uh The Deal" didn't seem that much of a standout. There's nothing silly like "The Nile Song," but that's still more memorable than most of this, no beauties like "Green Is The Colour" or "Cymbaline" to be found. All I can really say is that it's probably better than A Momentary Lapse Of Bowel Control.
Aztec Camera, Love: So Roddy Frame, age 20, recorded a followup to his glorious debut album one year later that sounded the same, but with a few keyboards slapped on it and a few retreads of old songs. He got thrashed for that (I could only find a few old reviews) so three years later he re-emerged with a total 80s-MTV-soul-pop sellout!! Oh, God forgive him, this album's okay, but the material is all just...just...fairly good, there's no chance of him becoming George Michael! "Deep & Wide & Tall" has a nice descending chorus thing and "How Men Are" is nice elevator music. Have you heard this? Just describing it, you know how it sounds. What it mostly made me do is stop and think just how many 80s straight-up-pop albums I actually like, let alone how many I've heard--I guess Tears For Fears would be at the top. You?
Stereolab, Sound-Dust: "Hallucinex" is nice. Most of the album is pleasant, nice, forgettably adequate, and oh yeah, Stereolab. I don't know what the eff to say. I've already said that I don't know how to talk about this band about 30 times now, so the hell with all of you. Die. Especially you, Pugeye, I looked your sorry ass up on Facebook and only found one pic of Alpha Hammer in your friends list so I'm blaming Stereolab on YOU.
NP: Natalie Imbruglia - "Torn" this sucks.