John Green, Turtles All The Way Down: This was given to me as a Christmas gift by a clueless aunt, I swear, and neither she nor I were apparently aware that this is a Young Adult novel, written by the guy responsible for that Fault in Our Stars teen weepie thing from a few years ago. That would make it the first YA novel that I've read since...uh...high school? It's pretty thin stuff, about a girl with horrible OCD who gets romantically involved with the son of a missing billionaire, while she and her best friend try to find the aforementioned billionaire. The OCD focus is why the book has been so widely read and acclaimed, with actual OCD sufferers claiming the depiction is very accurate. I have a bit of OCD myself but all the OCD does here plotwise is cause the heroine to have a hideous car crash because she's thinking about microbes all over herself, or something. I am not planning on reading any other YA novels probably ever, so I'll have little to nothing to compare this one to; I will say that it manages a few observations about first love in the last few pages that are on point, but that's about it.
The Batman: This wasn't bad but like nearly all franchise starters, it's probably a setup for a better movie. I did not like the point blank thievery from Se7en (guess they're counting on the young'uns to be unfamiliar with that far better film) and one review pointed out that there is probably little to nothing new to do with the character of Batman at this point. I am grateful that we did not have to see Bruce Wayne's parents killed again but would not have minded a new Paul Dano beatdown scene. The "darkness" of the whole thing is one inch away from failing the entire movie, so thank God that Matt Reeves is apparently talented enough to passably pull it off.
Hardly Working: A Jerry Lewis turd from around 1980 that I only watched on Youtube because I found Ebert handed it a zero star rating. It's pretty damn disposable--a lobotomized version of The Jerk, or a feature length version of the "what's the deal with these cans?!?" scene, just Lewis knocking crap over for 90 minutes and occasionally doing one of his voices. No laughs in the film anywhere whatsoever, nothing good here at all. Tell me again what's so great about him?
Mank: David Fincher's weakest film; it obviously meant a lot to him (his dead father wrote the script a long time ago) but some passion projects may not mean so much to those outside their target audience, and I can't help but wonder if Fincher kind of made this one for himself. The actors do a great job, happily indulging in aristocratic 1930s-40s accents and the dialogue is very witty...but Herman Mankiewicz, no matter how well Gary Oldman drunkenly-wittily plays him, is just not all that interesting, and as every single review of this film will be glad to tell you (once they get done masturbating all over themselves talking about the perfect B&W cinematography), it's based off of a long-ago debunked Pauline Kael essay claiming that Mank was the real author of Citizen Kane. A lot of scenes are about Mank trying to be an iconoclast and failing to stand up to rich conservative people like William Randolph Hearst (in real life, Mankiewicz was apparently not a liberal at all) and of course getting ground down by the sheer power these people wielded, but that's not interesting enough to really make me feel like revisiting any scene in this movie, no matter how well Fincher set it up. I guess it's worth watching once, and I'm not saying Fincher has to make serial killer movies every time he's at bat, but this film already seems to have faded from memory. Oh, P. S.: the film's closest thing to a great scene (Mank offering a drunken putdown of Hearst at a dinner) is interlinked with its worst (a dumb and meaningless encounter with Orson Welles, who has been depicted far better in other films.)
We Need To Talk About Cosby: This is in four hour-long parts and probably could have been handled in, say, two and a half hours of that. It's a pretty impressive overview of just how many amazing things Bill Cosby did throughout his long life and just how important he really was; I only had faintly grasped at this before, and Cosby is no hero of mine anyway, so I frankly don't give a crap what happens to him. Then more and more lurid accounts find their way into the film and I guess it's probably, oh, somewhat more believable than Leaving Neverland? Much of it hinges on Cosby dropping clues about "Spanish Fly" in various interviews and comedy routines throughout his life, but who knows. I guess I'd recommend watching this once, even though, like Get Back and, well, Leaving Neverland, it's easily too damn long.
Charlie Says: Yet another dramatization of the Manson Family, this time focusing on a sort of feminist perspective viewing "the girls" as just more victims of that nasty-ass Charlie. I probably wouldn't have watched this, but it was directed by Mary Harron and written by Guinevere Turner, the two responsible for American Psycho, which remains a favorite. I agree with the feminist take on "free love"--that it was primarily invented by men and for men, obviously--but that's about where the interest here ends; Matt "Doctor Who" Smith does a decent Charlie but I'm no longer convinced it's terribly hard to play Charlie, and Hannah "Gilly from Game of Thrones" Murray kinda bombs as Leslie Van Houten, here made into the central character. I was no fan of most of Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, but this isn't really better.
I Vitelloni: A not-bad early Fellini film, with an interesting subject: five guys who are in their late 20s who hang around their seaside hometown eternally, not getting anywhere in life and not really wanting to. So next time you hear a rant about smartphones destroying young people's minds, you can say "hey, they never grew up in 1953 Italy either!!" One of the guys is played by Fellini's brother, but the standout is the eternal screwup Fausto, who pretty much makes the whole movie watchable. It seemed to be more of a sad comedy than a "neo realist" movie anyway, but I'm glad I've found one Fellini film out of the three I've watched that I finally liked.
The Green Knight: I bought the DVD of this, and I'll be giving it another chance this time next year, probably, but for now I don't like it very much, possibly the most off-putting take on "heroism" since Avatar. The color pallette and much ballyhooed visual style of the film are pretty effective, but that's the only real strength. Dev Patel plays Sir Gawain as a layabout who kind of feels goaded into being a
"hero" like all the knights around him, so he chops off the Green Knight's head and then has to go encounter him again a year later...but the movie goes too far trying to screw with the audience's lame desire for some classic dumbass swordplay, or whatever. Instead of the usual battles and maidens fair and the hero learning to be a hero, we get Patel slogging through a bunch of encounters with people and things and nature, and usually just getting hurt, or getting put in his place, or just walking away baffled, until he encounters the Green Knight and we get the movie's only genuinely interesting section, a take on Last Temptation Of Christ. It's a deliberately un-fun film to watch, and although I won't spoil it for you, the ending is just off-putting. This got critical raves but I kind of doubt it's ever going to find much of an audience.
The Who, The Who By Numbers: It's never a good sign when you start reading reviews of a Who album and find out that the big deal about the whole disc is supposed to be the lyrics. Pete's written some good ones, but who in God's name do you know who would ever listen to the Who for the lyrics?!? Pete turned 30, which back then I guess was a sign you were a dinosaur and should stop playing rock music? Yippie skip. The actual music is just retreads of the style and chord sequences of Who's Next and Quadrophenia, but the best songs here are, to me, "How Many Friends," "They Are All In Love" and maybe "Blue Red & Grey," and none of those hold a CANDLE to the best of the 1971-73 albums. About the nicest thing I have to say here is that I don't hate "Squeeze Box," but I sure don't care about it, either.
The Rolling Stones, A Bigger Bang: Same story as their two 90s albums. I don't think they "embarrassed" themselves, not once; there isn't a single turd to be found here. Their attempts at sounding modern are pretty harmless and they don't sound old or tired. But yet again, the album is far too long and this time it's almost completely unmemorable--instead of being able to pick out four or five decent songs, let alone a "Continental Drift," here, there's....uh, "She Saw Me Coming"? Any others? Bueller? I've already forgotten 95 percent of this!! Thank God they haven't put out a new one since--this decent sounding stuff goes in one ear and out the other.
Big Star, In Space: Their 2005 "reunion" album, with the two Posies guys in place of Andy Hummel and Chris Bell. Few people went to bat for this one, most reviews of it write it off as terrible. "Lady Sweet" and "February's Quiet" are actually wonderful power pop songs, and "Dony," "Turn Your Back On The Sun" and "A Whole New Thing" aren't bad either. One big sticking point for the naysayers is that it was poorly produced and Alex Chilton sounds like a tired middle aged burnout, which he probably was, but that actually perversely makes it sound like it was released in the mid 1970s! "Love Revolution" is this dumb funk song that most reviews tore to shreds but if you don't go into this album expecting great things, it honestly isn't half bad.
Oasis, Heathen Chemistry: I may have sneered at the dumb obvious nods to 2000-era trends like drum & bass on their previous album, but they didn't have to just make yet another Britpop album in response to that album's "poor" showing. This is their worst yet, a load of forgettable self-plagiarism, barring the pleasant one-chord "Songbird" and a couple decent Beatles knockoffs towards the end, like "Born On A Different Cloud" (a "While My Guitar Gently Weeps"/"Happiness Is A Warm Gun" rip) and "Better Man." "Little By Little" is Oasis doing Pink Floyd? No, it's just another f***ing Oasis song. "(Probably) All In Your Mind" is Oasis doing U2? No, it's just another Oasis song. "Stop Crying Your Heart Out" is a STANDARD?!? WHY?!?!? It's the most predictable chord sequence they've ever written, which, by the way, was the biggest problem with them at this point!! The most entertaining thing about this album was the super-snarky Pitchfork review, go read it, it's a classic. (The album barely got any good reviews at all, if you didn't know.)
Brian Wilson, That Lucky Old Sun: This is a hair better than Imagination, but Brian is still hovering unsteadily over the pabulum pool. "Forever She'll Be My Surfer Girl" is the best overall song, a sort of old-man version of the "Don't Worry Baby" melody, the best kind of self plagiarism there is! A couple nice ballads like "Midnight's Another Day" or "Southern California" keep things bearable and the a capella break in the otherwise dumb "Goin' Home" could've been a SMiLE fragment, no joke, but watch out for the dreadful "Mexican Girl"--you can already guess what it sounds like, can't you? The album is, wait for it, you'll NEVER BELIEVE this--a concept album about growing up in Los Angeles!!! God, it's like SMiLE made Brian want to try new things!!
The Moody Blues, Seventh Sojourn: The weakest of their "Classic Seven." "New Horizons" is the song I've heard, and it's alright, and the opener "Lost In A Lost World" makes a decent impression, as does the surprisingly loud and energetic closer "I'm Just A Singer In A Rock & Roll Band." The middle songs are all a load of silky boring dead-sounding melodically forgettable mush, though, so this isn't getting any great rating outta me. And to make things worse, now I have to listen to their 80s output!
Kansas, Freaks Of Nature: The usual AOR crap. Well produced, but who cares? "Need" has a bassline like Jeff Buckley's "Last Goodbye," I know that much, maybe there's a 1 in 50 chance I'll play that song again someday. This didn't even chart and the Wikipedia entry is like two sentences long. Amazon reviewers love it though! For...some reason.