• Movies

    Being Excellent, and Other Lessons from Bill S. Preston, Esq. and Ted “Theodore” Logan

    Tonight, I watched Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure for probably the thousandth time. There’s a little exaggeration in that number but not much. Over the years, since I first watched this flick with three friends in a San Diego cineplex, my appreciation for the way Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves triumphantly play these two dudes has only grown. Excellent Adventure is often dismissed as just a silly movie, and it is silly, but it’s also much more than that. It’s an adventure with a ton of peril but no conventional villain, and it’s a dangerous story in which no one gets hurt. From a storytelling perspective, that usually amounts to…

  • Writing

    The Longest Day

    During our fourth week of U.S. Navy boot camp, we found ourselves in the service of the mess hall. The navy called it Service Week, and we’d been warned about it for the previous three weeks. Everyone said it would be a sweet little piece of hell made up of the most interminable days imaginable. To the carefree civilian, we were told, eight weeks in boot camp might seem like nothing, but to the recruit, Service Week was like a month of decades. Still, we wondered if what we’d been told about Service Week was just another example of our collective leg being pulled. Getting a break from being berated…

  • Books,  Movies

    A Few Thoughts About Doctor Sleep

    Mike Flanagan masterfully adapts King’s source material, and Ewan McGregor and Kyliegh Curran are perfect as Dan and Abra. Speaking of Dan Torrance, poor dude. What a life. McGregor inhabits him with sadness and heart. I like to think Abra will have a better go of it. Also, I’m always glad to see Cliff Curtis and Bruce Greenwood in anything, and they’re excellent in this one as Billy and Dr. John. And who’d have thought to cast Henry Thomas in the part he plays (no spoilers)? Not me, for sure, but wow. It isn’t for everyone, and some of the scenes, even as they faithfully serve the story and characters, are…

  • Movies

    The Man Who Invented Christmas

    For the first time in around ten years, I recently re-read Dickens’ A Christmas Carol with a group of friends, and I was surprised at how much I’d mis-remembered or plain forgotten about it. Mostly, I was reminded how beautifully it was written and just how dark, powerful, and revolutionary a story it is. Dickens catches a lot of flack—rightly so, at times—for “padding” his stories, but A Christmas Carol is lean and efficient. Inspired by that re-read, my wife and I watched this movie tonight, The Man Who Invented Christmas, a somewhat fictionalized account of Dickens’ conception and composition of A Christmas Carol in just about six weeks. This…

  • Miscellaneous,  Writing

    A (Last) New Year’s Resolution

    As the new year recedes in the rear distance, at least every other advertisement I see is related in some way to weight loss: gyms, home exercise equipment, diet plans ranging from sensible to so drastic I’d need to swear off tasty food for the rest of my natural life. In that place where capitalism intersects with insecurity, everyone banks on everyone’s desire to lose weight, tone up the flab, and feel sexy. Or feel sexier, at the very least. I mention this because this is the time of year when I’m usually contemplating resolutions right along with everyone else, and they’re all at least marginally health related: lose weight,…

  • Movies

    A Few Thoughts on Duncan Jones’ Mute

    Last night, we finally got around to watching Duncan Jones’ Mute, and today I’m still processing it. It was densely packed with narrative, beautifully shot, and deeply disturbing. So, in other words, a productive way to spend a Saturday night. I’ve read quite a few negative reviews of Mute, most of them citing slow pacing, overwhelming visuals, and a confusing storyline as negatives. I can see their points, though I don’t entirely agree. It’s definitely a film that demands careful attention, which doesn’t always go over well these days. A few observations: -I enjoyed all the references to Jones’ other film Moon, complete with Sam Rockwells (not a typo). Also,…

  • Books

    Kira Jane Buxton’s Hollow Kingdom

    Every once in a while, you take a chance on a book and it doesn’t pay off. That’s just the nature of the business of reading. If you only read the writers and genres you know, there’s no fun in that. Plus, you’ll never expand your horizons, which sort of defeats the purpose of reading in the first place. Still, relying on reviews (especially those of the Amazon variety), lists, and word of mouth will only get you so far. Sure, taste is subjective, but I can’t count the number of books I’ve started after hearing positive recommendations only to wonder “What were those reviewers thinking? Did they lose a…

  • Movies

    A Few Stray Observations on Knives Out

    What a cast. With the exception of Blanc (Daniel Craig) and Marta (Ana de Armas), no one cast member gets an inordinate amount of screen time, but they all make their scenes count. Michael Shannon is always a little terrifying, even when he’s not really supposed to be. Captain America notwithstanding, no one plays an entitled jerk like Chris Evans. Once Daniel Craig is no longer James Bond, I look forward to the Benoit Blanc mystery movie franchise. I quickly lost count of the memorable lines, but I honk-laughed at Blanc’s comment about what the Nazi child was allegedly doing in the bathroom.

  • Books,  Writing

    Howard Odentz’s Bottle Toss: An Unpredictable, Creepy Ride

    Back in the ancient days of 2013, I came across a book called Dead (A Lot), from an unknown (to me) writer and playwright named Howard Odentz. This was during the salad days of AMC’s adaptation of The Walking Dead, so everyone who was anyone was writing about zombies, and a lot of the stories in the undead zeitgeist were cut from that pattern. That’s not to suggest they were all boring and derivative, but there just weren’t many that were interesting. I was skeptical. With Dead (A Lot), though, Odentz managed to produce something clever and unique, a zombie story unlike any I’d ever read. Since then, I’ve done…

  • Writing

    “At the Malaga”: My Round One, Challenge Two Piece in the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge 2019

    Drawing a sharp breath, David Thompson opened a pair of double doors and walked into the courtyard of the Plaza Malaga Hotel, the floor of which was currently covered with foam. Someone had wisely turned off the hotel fountain’s water pump, but the damage was done: The place looked like an industrial washing machine had exploded. On the near side of the courtyard, two columns of folding chairs created a center aisle, ending at a beautifully carved stone fountain. At the edge of that fountain sat a woman holding a bottle of beer. David had to swallow twice before he could speak. “Hi, Kirsten,” he said. She smiled at him,…