Orson Scott Card, Ender's Game: I...didn't get into this much. It's got some interesting ideas, at least--but it undercuts itself in two very annoying ways, IMO: 1)the travails of sending a six-to-nine-year-old boy into Battle School where he gets bullied and tormented and has to use his utter genius to become a great military leader enough to win a gigantic hundred-year-long space war is undercut by the annoying fact that Card didn't write Ender, or any other character in the book, as being REMOTELY convincing for their age, and 2)the admittedly quite blind-siding twist at the end of the book is undercut by a bizarre, rushed-reading twenty-or-thirty-page coda where Ender gains a strange sympathy for the "buggers" that have been waging total war on Earth for centuries, which, given the skeevy-seeming author's political bent and Mormon faith, reads strangely like some sort of paean to retroactive baptism?!? That whole portion of the book just read like it had been spat out as quickly as possible. And then there's Card's writing style. It's...I can't put my finger on it, but it's missing...something. He has all these details and ground to cover about the world he's writing in but it all just kind of washes past (especially the stuff about Ender's psycho brother and saintly sister...who undercut the world's political system with some sort of weird propaganda?), and yet the book, which only runs 226 pages, feels twice as long. Unless someone REALLY wants to talk me out of it, I don't think I'm going to read any more Orson Scott Card, and God knows how many sequels and spinoffs this book has.
Philip Roth, Indignation: This has been called a "buttoned-down" Portnoy's Complaint, and I'm impressed that I liked it as much as I did--Roth was certainly too old to get away with writing this sort of thing, but he did--an 18 year old kid from his usual Jewish 1950s setting moves to a conservative Christian college and gets a blow job from a crazy suicidal girl (triggered!!!) and fights with his roommates and screams his Bertrand Russell atheism at the stuffy dean and there's some sort of panty raid at his college and he loses everything, including the girl, and dies in Korea, only to end up in an afterlife where all he can do apparently is a Johnny Got His Gun-style rumination on his 18 years on Earth. As Trump would say, "SAD!!" But hey, Roth could still write in his old age, and dammit, he gets away with it, conjuring up his pissy-but-sympathetic protagonist's indignation indeed from a distance of 57 years. How many times did Roth get away with writing the same themes and details (unkosher sex, lust, young adolescent rage, adult adolescent rage, Jewish neuroticism, tragedy) over and over...lots and lots...and lots, and lots!
The Last Detail: Jack Nicholson's favorite performance of his own? I guess--most of his surrounding ones are better, but maybe that's because most of his surrounding movies are better. Nevertheless, if you want a jaunty-but-rainy Hal Ashby take on 70s cynicism (it's about Nicholson and Otis Young trying to show Randy Quaid a good time before he gets thrown in the brig, but Quaid runs off at the end leaving them with zilch) you could do worse than this.
My Friend Dahmer: Boring. Ross Lynch both looks like Teen Dahmer and does a very good job with his subtle acting, but the movie is just way too non-eventful--not that I was really hoping to see Dahmer gut somebody, but the only really interesting thing about the film is that it portrays his high school life as dull, not dramatic. I never read the graphic novel either. Skip this!
Freaked: Already discussed this with Pugeye below. Wow, Alex Winter decided to capitalize on his Bill & Ted fame by making a weird quirky midnight movie indie comedy with all sorts of that early-90s MTV-comedy feel, and it's a movie about circus freaks, and...it runs out of good ideas in the first 20 minutes, IMO, so I'll probably never watch it again. I sure did laugh at that little kid that keeps getting tortured, though!
Super Mario Bros.: The 1993 disaster. I'd never seen it all the way through, so imagine my surprise that Disney spend a then-still-enormous $42 million on the most expensive cyberpunk kiddie chase movie ever made. That's what it is--it has almost zilch to do with the video games, maintaining only a few character names and references, and it's, like, a NONSTOP action movie with the characters running all over a bunch of very expensive sets that suggest Blade Runner or Total Recall, but for 11 year olds. John Leguizamo is sleepwalking through his performance (he and Bob Hoskins both went on record as describing the film as the worst thing they ever did and that they were both drinking heavily to get through it), the funniest reference to the games is that a big black woman wearing all red may be a reference to Big Bertha (that big red fish that tries to eat you in Super Mario Bros. 3.) And oh yeah, DENNIS HOPPER AS KING KOOPA = TRUMP. No really--he acts just like Donald Trump, both then and now. This is basically a piece of crap but I'm kind of not sorry I watched it--I used to think it was one of the worst movies ever made but now that I think about it, it's just silly and trite more than unbearable.
Modern Times: Paulette Goddard sure was cute, wasn't she? As sexy in 1936 as any hot young Oscar ingenue today, I swear. And that matte shot when Chaplin is skating around in that department store, holy crap that fooled me. Yeah, yeah, write all the essays you want about the film's meaning (the Big Brother stuff at the beginning impressed me too) but I still get bored with all the Keystone Kops physical comedy stuff, so this movie has finally confirmed that I'm just not really into Charlie Chaplin.
Short Term 12: It's impressive of Brie Larson to immediately go from doing teen films herself to a film where she has to mentor teens, and her performance interestingly goes opposite from a typical movie: she starts as confident and adult and then devolves into being an angry wounded victim by the end. Too bad that in doing so the movie goes off the rails, with Brie revealing that she was a victim of sexual abuse and having to go hunt down some fellow girl's abusive dad, before she stops him. Collapse, collapse!! I'll pass on viewing this again...
The Shape Of Water: Mmmm. Nah. Not for me. The frog-man or whatever he is isn't one of either Del Toro's better designs OR Doug Jones' better performances, the political bent of the movie is too stacked in favor of its black, gay, Latina, mute, and nice protagonists, the Michael Shannon bad guy is both hammy and for some reason causes the movie to lapse into lame takes on Mad Men (?!?) and frankly I just didn't give much of a crap for Del Toro going for nostalgic schmaltz. You're a hard one, Del Toro...
Die Hard (REWATCH): I've already rewatched this before so I'll keep this brief, but does anyone agree with me that the first hour of the film is a bit too talky? All the best scenes are rushed in towards the end (Ellis, "Blow the roof," fight with the blond guy, Rickman doing a silly American accent when Willis finds him, Rickman getting thrown out of the building). The film has always maintained a kind of immortality in my mind due to the cool high-rise setting, Alan Rickman's performance, and the better scenes...but the first half really kind of bores me now. Like Empire Strikes Back!
Speed (REWATCH): Yeah, yeah, it's Speed alright...if it weren't for Keanu's awful line readings, this would be a near-glorious movie, as it is it's just a pretty good one, but probably better than any Die Hard movie IMO. It's just three extended action set-pieces, but all three are really good! Too bad now every single Keanu line reading gets a guffaw out of me now. "YOU'RE CRAZY. YOU'RE F***IN CRAZY." Auggghh. Cripes, this movie made him a superstar movie and he was worse here than in Dracula! Dennis Hopper hams it up really badly too (not that different from his Koopa-Trump performance that I just mentioned, really!), so I guess the best performance is, of all people, Sandra Bullock, who I remember having a huge crush on in the mid-90s. But only then. Uhm....they really have to fudge that bit with the jump over the 50 foot gap, too--bad suspension of disbelief there...
Star Wars: The Last Jedi (REWATCH): Ohhhhkay....look, I still think the fanboy backlash was mostly unwarranted, but I'm definitely far from being in love with this movie myself at this point. I like that Rian Johnson wanted to do something a bit different, I like the Mark Hamill performance, and I like the Snoke throne-room bit and the final ice-planet fight...and in between that is lots and lots and lots and LOTS AND LOTS AND LOTS of talky uneventful stuff involving a bunch of characters that aren't terribly successful (Laura Dern, Benicio Del Toro, Oscar Isaac...and rest in peace Carrie Fisher but she couldn't act anymore by this point!), plus a casino scene that has more in common with FernGully than Star Wars. The movie's okay, but only because of its good stuff, and let's just hurry up and get this damn trilogy over with so we can all forget about Star Wars again.
Liz Phair, Liz Phair: Oh God, what an embarrassment of epic proportions! What should I be most embarrassed about?
1)That critics who trashed Liz for her silly X-Box and I-like-young-dudes lyrics forgot that she'd written the blowjob-queen lyrics to "Flower" in 1993?
2)That critics who trashed Liz for sexing up her image forgot that her NIPPLE is showing on the cover of Exile In Guyville?
3)That critics who trashed this album for being Avril Lavigne-style teen pop being made by a 36 year old woman forgot that Exile In Guyville, glorious as it was, was still a pop-rock album, and frequently sounded like an afterschool special soundtrack to begin with? ("Divorce Song" for God's sake? And I love that song!)
4)That she was actually pretty good at it for five or six songs, before descending into pablum for the rest of it? "Extroardinary," "Red Light Fever," and yes, "Rock Me" are catchy tunes...
5)That the super slick overcompressed guitar sound she goes for is at this point a NOSTALGIA piece, that reminds me of (from the same year) ZWAN of all bands?!? ZWAN?!? ARE YOU KIDDING ME, LIZ?!?
Jethro Tull, Heavy Horses: A little better, I guess. "Acres Wild," "Moths" and "No Lullaby" makes for a nice one-two-three on side one, and the title track certainly improves on f***ing "Pibroch Cap In Hand." It's just okay, though, because frankly, I'm getting burnt out on Tull's simultaneous diversity (blues jazz heavy classical flute Englishness prog!) and terrible lack of new sounds with each successive mediocre album. Well, whatever, we're gonna keep going...
The Church, Gold Afternoon Fix: The band gave into one of the worst tendencies of the 1970s, but in 1990: they followed up their hit single/album with a HUGE BLOATED MESS. This huge mediocrity runs 59 minutes and feels like 99. It's not any kind of stylistic advance on their earlier stuff either (they shifted from Aussie New Wave to slightly arty jangle pop college rock to bloated mainstream-alternative). If you want a list of songs I mildly cared about: "Transient," "Essence," "Metropolis," "City." (Yes, they have songs called "Metropolis" and "City" on the same album.) None are as good as "North, South, East, West," "Reptile" or "Under The Milky Way" from Starfish, which in turn aren't as good as their best college-rock stuff. Argh. Should I even keep going with these guys? Their next album after this is 79 minutes with bonus tracks. Yikes.
Fleetwood Mac, Tango In The Night: It's 1987 and Lindsey Buckingham wanted to help Mick Fleetwood pay for his 1987 cocaine habit, so he turned a solo album he'd been working on in 1985 to a 1987 Fleetwood Mac album, which, given that this was 1987 and the times were-a-changin', actually meant "Lindsey Buckingham using the wonderful new CMI Fairlight and sampling technology to mastermind a plastic 80s pop album in his bedroom with session people and Stevie Nicks popping in out of rehab for a couple days to sing a couple songs, at which point Lindsey will finally tell Fleetwood Mac to go eff itself and end up throwing Stevie Nicks into a car door and causing the Mac drama story to hit an all-time low point." Oh well--in spite of the fact that the production sounds like Skylarking with twice the budget and half the brains, there aren't any truly terrible songs, although there's no real classics either. Sheesh, Christine McVie's easy listening pablum is (yet again) some of the best stuff on the album in spite of being even easier and pablum-ier than usual! ("Isn't It Midnight" and, yes, "Everywhere" are among the best.) I can't believe I liked this at all--given the style and circumstances and my previous hatred for the McVie hit singles, it's decent...
Cream, Fresh Cream: Not bad, but the only song I knew previously was "N. S. U." and it's the best one here, IMO. Howlin Wolf's "Spoonful" was better--Clapton was emerging as a strong guitartist, but wasn't the "Clapton Is God" graffito already up by this point? "Toad" is crap of course, and I'll grudgingly admit "I'm So Glad" is sort of catchy in spite of the dumbass lyrics. Dunno--most bands couldn't even put together a decent album in 1966 (I said MOST) but Disraeli Gears does this all better and a little more concisely, too.
Electric Light Orchestra, On The Third Day: A discography gap I'd been missing. I liked "Oh No Not Susan," "Bluebird Not Dead" and I think "Showdown" and "Ma-Ma-Ma Belle" best. They were figuring out how to write better, poppier songs by 1974, but this isn't any kind of lost classic--it's just a decent warmup for the superior Eldorado. I'll probably forget it completely in a month...