A Favorite Movie For Every Year I’ve Been Alive (Part II)


A Favorite Movie For Every Year I’ve Been Alive (Part I) brought you from the year of my birth to 1988.  Today we’ll continue with another 16 years of my favorite movies.

1989. Do the Right Thing

Honorable mentions:

1990. Paris Is Burning

Honorable mentions:

1991. Delicatessen

Honorable mentions:

1992. The Crying Game

Honorable mentions:

1993. Tales of the City

Honorable mentions:

1994. The Lion King

Honorable mentions:

1995. Toy Story

Honorable mentions:

1996. When We Were Kings

Honorable mentions:

  • Fargo
  • Trainspotting

1997. Good Will Hunting

1998. Next Stop Wonderland

Honorable mentions:

1999. Genghis Blues

Honorable mentions:

  • Beau Travail
  • 42 Up
  • Being John Malkovich
  • Outside Providence

2000. Best in Show

Honorable mentions:

2001. Donnie Darko

Honorable mentions:

2002. Lilo & Stitch

Honorable mentions:

  • Amelie
  • Bloody Sunday
  • Gigantic (A Tale Of Two Johns)
  • Lost in La Mancha

2003. Finding Nemo

Honorable mentions:

2004. Mean Girls

Honorable mentions:

Stay tuned for the third and final part.  Well, hopefully not final.  Just bringing it up to the present year.

TV Review: Star Trek: Picard (2020)


TitleStar Trek: Picard
Release Date: 2020
Creator: Akiva Goldsman, Michael Chabon, Kirsten Beyer and Alex Kurtzman
Season: 1
Episodes:10
Production Company: Secret Hideout | Weed Road Pictures | Escapist Fare
Roddenberry Entertainment | CBS Studios
Summary/Review:

Beloved character Jean-Luc Picard, played by the even more beloved actor Patrick Stewart, returns to the small screen nearly 20 years after his last appearance in Star Trek: Nemesis (the only one of the 10 films in the original Star Trek film series that I’ve never watched). The premise of the series is that 14 years before it begins, Admiral Picard was active in relocating the Romulan people before the star near their home planet went supernova. After synthetic life forms carry out a devastating act of sabotage on the Federation’s facilities on Mars, the Federation calls off the relocation project and ban all synthetic life.  Angry at these two betrayals, Picard resigns from Starfleet.

In the present day a young woman, Dahj (Isia Briones), seeks out Picard’s help after realizing that she is an android created from the remains of Picard’s friend Data (Brent Spiner) .  Romulan spies kill Dahj, but not before Picard learns that she has an identical twin, Soji, working at a Romulan outpost on an abandoned Borg cube called The Artifact.

Picard puts together a crew to help find and help Soji.  This includes a friend and colleague who helped with Romulan relocation, Raffi (Michelle Hurd), who struggles with substance abuse. Raffi finds a captain with a ship, La Sirena, Chris (Santiago Cabrera) who has a traumatic background in Starfleet.  They are joined by Agnes (Alison Pill), a synthetic life expert who is naive about space travel.  Along the way they pick up Elnor (Evan Evagora), a samurai-like Romulan who  was raised by a sect of warrior nuns to provide protection. To please the fans, familiar characters from the Star Trek franchise make appearances, including former Borg Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan), and Picard’s crewmates from Enterprise, Will Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and Deanna Troi ( Marina Sirtis).  Brent Spiner also returns to play Data in dream sequences and Altan Inigo Soong, the son of Data’s creator.  One of the weird aspects of the show is that Picard not only quit Starfleet, but hasn’t kept in touch with any of his friends which is both out of character and used to create artificial tension.

In the early episodes, the show moves slowly, setting up Picard’s current situation and introducing the new characters.  There are elements of mystery and spy thriller with Picard thrust into the role of detective.  It was a refreshing change from the fast-paced action for action’s sake of Star Trek: Discovery.  By the end of episode 3 when we finally see Picard on the bridge of a starship and hear him say “Engage!,” it is a cheezy moment for the fans but one that is well-earned.  Unfortunately, during the second half of the season the show goes off the rails.  All the worst instincts of Discovery for shocking twists are indulged and a lot of drama is forced from the characters making bold choices to raise the stakes that seem irrelevant a few scenes later.

For a show called Picard, the title character seems lost in the crowded cast.  And yet, we don’t really get to know the new characters all that well either.  Sometimes they seem to do things that are out of character, but then their characters never seem to be developed well enough to know in the first place.  I loved Star Trek: Generation as a kid, but the level of graphic violence and profanity in Picard that makes it “gritty and dark,” makes me not want to share it with my kids. There was some promise in Picard, and maybe it will be fulfilled in the upcoming two seasons that are in production, but right now I don’t feel compelled at all to want to watch them.

Related Posts:

Classic Movie Review: Él (1953)


Title: Él
Release Date: July 9, 1953
Director: Luis Buñuel
Production Company: Producciones Tepeyac
Summary/Review:

Él (Spanish for “Him,” but also released as This Strange Passion in the United States) is a Mexican film directed by the Spanish-born Luis Buñuel.  I’m familiar with Buñuel as a figure in the Surrealist art movement and particularly as the director of the bizarre silent movie classic Un Chien Andalou. Except for a few sequences near the conclusion, Él is not a surreal movie.  In fact, it feels a lot like a classic Hollywood film.

Francisco (Arturo de Córdova) is a prosperous middle-age man who spots a younger woman, Gloria (Delia Garcés), at church an aggressively pursues her.  Gloria appears resistant to his advances but after a flash forward in time, we learn that Gloria marries Francisco.  The better part of the film then features Gloria narrating to her friend and former fiance Raul (Luis Beristáin) about how starting with their honeymoon, Francisco has tormented her with an irrational and paranoid jealousy. If you have any experience with domestic violence, be warned that this is not an easy movie to watch.

The movie reminds me somewhat of Gaslight in the way the charming older man swiftly turns into tormentor of his younger newlywed wife.  But unlike Gaslight, there is no underlying mystery to Francisco’s jealousy, he’s simply mentally ill.  There are parts of the movie that also remind me of the dangerous obsession of Vertigo, particularly a scene in a bell tower, although I have no idea if Alfred Hitchcock was influenced by Él. The direction and the action in the film is good, but ultimately there is not much to this movie beyond a startling presentation of paranoia.

Rating: **1/2

Podcasts of the Week Ending June 12


 

The Last ArchiveChildren of Zorin

A history of “fake news” through the story of a Soviet journalist who covered the United States in the 1970s with a conspiratorial bent.

Radiolab Breath

Stories about breathing from the miracle of a baby’s first breath to the history of teargas to the crash of breath mints during the pandemic.

This Day in Esoteric Political HistoryOllie!

Oliver North ran for Senate in 1994 and almost won, a terrifying preview of the Republican Party’s rightward lurch into neofascism.  I remember this election well.  I even saw John Warner and Marshall Coleman at a restaurant.

This Day in Esoteric Political History –  Those Pesky Fenians

If you don’t want to read When the Irish Invaded Canada, check out this short podcast about the history of the mid-19th century efforts of Irish American Civil War veterans attempting to bring the fight for Ireland’s independence to Canada.

Running Tally of Podcast of the Week Awards for 2021

Music Discoveries: Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time 290-281


Last September, Rolling Stone magazine released their most recent list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, which includes a greater variety of artists and genres than previous lists. Looking through the list, there were many albums I’d never listened to before and a few I’d never even heard of. In fact, counting it up, I found that I’d only listened to 140 of the albums, although I’d heard songs from many more. So I’ve decided my project for 2021 is to listen to 10 albums each week and write up some thoughts about each one.

Previous Posts:

500-491 400-381 300-291
490-481 390-381
480-471 380-371
470-461 370-361
460-451 360-351
450-441 350-341
440-431 340-331
430-421 330-321
420-411 320-311
410-401 310-301

Artist: OutKast
Album: Speakerboxxx/The Love Below
Year: 2003
Label: LaFace
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: No
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Bowtie (feat. Sleepy Brown & Jazze Pha)”
  • “Spread”
  • “Hey Ya!”

Thoughts: One thing I’m learning from this project is that Southern hip hop may be my favorite form of hip hop.  But this album is a little too much of a good thing.  It’s essentially two albums, one driven by Big Boi and the other by André 3000 for a total of 39 tracks!  I suppose like The White Album, paring it down into one album would have been a Sisyphean task, but I felt like I was enduring this album more than enjoying it.


Artist: Björk
AlbumPost
Year: 1995
Label: Elektra
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: Yes
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Army of Me”
  • “Hyperballad”
  • “It’s Oh So Quiet”
  • “Isobel”
  • “Possibly Maybe”
  • “I Miss You”

Thoughts: I haven’t listened to Björk in a long while and forgot just how amazingly good this album is.  I ranked Post at #83 on my 2009 list of favorite albums which feels low in retrospect.  Of course, I ranked Homogenic higher as did Rolling Stone, so we’ll see about that when we get there.


Artist: The Modern Lovers
Album: The Modern Lovers
Year: 1976
Label: Beserkley
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Roadrunner”
  • “Pablo Picasso”
  • “Modern World”
  • “Government Center”

Thoughts: “Roadrunner” is the unofficial anthem of Massachusetts and one of my all-time favorite songs, but I hadn’t given The Modern Lovers as much attention as they deserved up until now. Jonathan Richman and The Modern Lovers might need to be a future Music Discovery project.


Artist: The Byrds
Album: Mr. Tambourine Man
Year: 1965
Label: Columbia
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Mr. Tambourine Man”
  • “I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better”
  • “The Bells of Rhymney”
  • “I Knew I’d Want You”

Thoughts:  The Byrds covered songs by Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger but I feel that they were at their best with their original songwriting, such as Gene Clark’s “I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better.” The Byrds were hailed as the mid-60s American response to the British Invasion, but songs like this are timeless.


Artist: Red Hot Chili Peppers
AlbumCalifornication
Year: 1999
Label: Warner Bros.
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?:
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Scar Tissue”

Thoughts: Red Hot Chili Peppers have always been a band for me that sound good on first listen but my appreciation for them deteriorates on repeat listening.  Unfortunately, Red Hot Chili Peppers are a band that has been overexposed and repeat listenings are impossible to miss.  I’m surprised to see a 1999 album here instead of one of the band’s earlier works since they’d kind of become a parody of themselves by this point. At any rate, this album was just fine to listen to for this project, but knowing what I know, I wouldn’t want to listen to it again.


Artist: Big Star
AlbumThird/Sister Lovers
Year: 1978
Label: PVC
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: No
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Kizza Me”
  • “Thank You Friends”
  • “Jesus Christ”

Thoughts: Big Star, the ultimate critics’ band, has their entire discography of three albums on this list.  On the previous two albums, I didn’t see what the big deal was, but I’m starting to see the appeal on this album.  Ironically, there isn’t agreement on whether this is even should be a Big Star album as it was mainly a project of band members Alex Chilton and Jody Stephens.  The album has been released under two different names with 7 different track listings.  I’m pretty sure I didn’t listen to the same version ranked by Rolling Stone since “Kanga Roo” was not the last track, but I suppose I got the gist.


Artist: Merle Haggard
Album: Down Every Road 1962-1994
Year:1996
Label: Capitol
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: No
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: No
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Sing Me Back Home”
  • “Mama Tried”
  • “Old Man From The Mountain”

Thoughts: I’ve grumbled before about this list including compilations, but this takes the cake. Down Every Road 1962-1994 is a boxed set with 100 songs on it and almost five hours of material.  How can this even compare with other albums on this list that are discrete collections of an artist’s work from one particular time in their career?  I’ve made the executive decision to instead listen to the 26-track Hag: The Best of Merle Haggard (2006).


Artist: Donna Summer
AlbumBad Girls
Year: 1975
Label: Casablanca
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?:
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Hot Stuff”
  • “Bad Girls”
  • “Dim All the Lights”

Thoughts: Boston’s own Donna Summer was already the Queen of Music when she took on the music world with this album she could dominate any musical style.  I learned a lot about Donna Summer and gained a lot of respect for her work and influence from listening to the Slate Hit Parade podcast. You can really hear the influence on dance music and electronic music to this day (“Our Love” could’ve been covered by Erasure with little changes). On the downside, the ballads also anticipate cheezy R&B hits of the 1980s, and a number of the songs are overlong and repetitive.

 


Artist: Frank Sinatra
Album: In the Wee Small Hours
Year: 1955
Label: Capitol
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning”
  • “I See Your Face Before Me”
  • “This Love of Mine”

Thoughts: The LP record was introduced in 1948, and 7 years later Frank Sinatra and Capitol Records innovated how the LP could be used to package a collection of popular music.  In the Wee Small Hours is even called the first concept album since all the songs deal with themes of failed romance, loneliness, and late nights.  Sinatra’s voice sounds great and Nelson Riddle’s arrangements are lushly orchestrated.  The downside is that since every song is slow-tempo and remorseful that there isn’t much variety in the album.


Artist: Harry Nilsson
Album: Nilsson Schmilsson
Year: 1971
Label: RCA
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: No
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Gotta Get Up”
  • “Jump Into the Fire”

Thoughts: Harry Nilsson is a name I know, primarily from his “Everybody’s Talking” being played repeatedly in Midnight Cowboy.  My first thought listening to this album is that he should have written for Broadway musicals (he didn’t) or have a jukebox musical created of his work (none exists to my knowledge).  His music has been used in lots of movies and tv shows and my feeling that he is similar to Randy Newman is justified by the fact that I found Nilsson actually recorded an entire album of Newman tunes.  Twice on this album, I exclaimed “That’s who sings this song!” for “Without You” and “Coconut.”  Unfortunately, I don’t like either of those songs but the rest of the album is pretty good especially the opening track “Gotta Get Up.”


Running List of Albums I’d Listen to Again

  • 500. Arcade Fire, Funeral
  • 498. Suicide, Suicide
  • 497. Various Artists, The Indestructible Beat of Soweto
  • 494. The Ronettes, Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes
  • 489. A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector from Phil Spector and Various Artists, Back to Mono (1958-1969)
  • 487. Black Flag, Damaged
  • 485. Richard and Linda Thompson, I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight
  • 483. Muddy Waters, The Anthology
  • 482. The Pharcyde, Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde
  • 481. Belle and Sebastian, If You’re Feeling Sinister
  • 478. The Kinks, Something Else by the Kinks
  • 477. Howlin’ Wolf, Moanin’ in the Moonlight
  • 469.Manu Chao, Clandestino
  • 465. King Sunny Adé, The Best of the Classic Years
  • 464. The Isley Brothers, 3 + 3
  • 462. The Flying Burrito Brothers, The Gilded Palace of Sin
  • 459. Kid Cudi, Man on the Moon: The End of the Day
  • 457. Sinéad O’Connor, I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got
  • 456. Al Green, Greatest Hits
  • 455. Bo Diddley, Bo Diddley/Go Bo Diddley
  • 453. Nine Inch Nails, Pretty Hate Machine
  • 452. Diana Ross and the Supremes, Anthology
  • 451. Roberta Flack, First Take
  • 448. Otis Redding, Dictionary of Soul
  • 446. Alice Coltrane, Journey in Satchidanada
  • 444. Fiona Apple, Extraordinary Machine
  • 443. David Bowie, Scary Monsters
  • 440. Loretta Lynn, Coal Miner’s Daughter
  • 439. James Brown, Sex Machine
  • 438. Blur, Parklife
  • 437. Primal Scream, Screamadelica
  • 435. Pet Shop Boys, Actually
  • 433. LCD Soundsystem, Sound of Silver
  • 431. Los Lobos, How Will the Wolf Survive?
  • 430. Elvis Costello, My Aim Is True
  • 429. The Four Tops, Reach Out
  • 428. Hüsker Dü, New Day Rising
  • 427. Al Green, Call Me
  • 426. Lucinda Williams, Lucinda Williams
  • 425. Paul Simon, Paul Simon
  • 424. Beck, Odelay
  • 423. Yo La Tengo, I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One
  • 422. Marvin Gaye, Let’s Get It On
  • 421. M.I.A., Arular
  • 417. Ornette Coleman, The Shape of Jazz to Come
  • 416. The Roots, Things Fall Apart
  • 415. The Meters, Looka Py Py
  • 414. Chic, Risqué
  • 413. Creedence Clearwater Revival, Cosmo’s Factory
  • 412. Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Going to a Go Go
  • 409. Grateful Dead, Workingman’s Dead
  • 408. Motörhead, Ace of Spades
  • 406. Magnetic Fields, 69 Love Songs
  • 405. Various, Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era
  • 403. Ghostface Killah, Supreme Clientele
  • 402. Fela Kuti and Africa 70, Expensive Shit
  • 401. Blondie, Blondie
  • 400. The Go-Go’s, Beauty and the Beat
  • 398. The Raincoats, The Raincoats
  • 397. Billie Eilish, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?
  • 395. D’Angelo and the Vanguard, Black Messiah
  • 392. Ike and Tina Turner, Proud Mary: The Best of Ike and Tina Turner
  • 390. Pixies, Surfer Rosa
  • 388. Aretha Franklin, Young, Gifted and Black
  • 387. Radiohead, In Rainbows
  • 386. J Dilla, Donuts
  • 385. Ramones, Rocket to Russia
  • 384. The Kinks, The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society
  • 380. Charles Mingus, Mingus Ah Um
  • 378. Run-DMC, Run-D.M.C.
  • 377. Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Fever to Tell
  • 375. Green Day, Dookie
  • 374. Robert Johnson, King of the Delta Blues Singers
  • 373. Isaac Hayes, Hot Buttered Soul
  • 371. The Temptations, Anthology
  • 369. Mobb Deep, The Infamous
  • 368. George Harrison, All Things Must Pass
  • 365. Madvillain, Madvillainy
  • 364. Talking Heads, More Songs About Buildings and Food
  • 363. Parliament, The Mothership Connection
  • 360. Funkadelic, One Nation Under a Groove
  • 358. Sonic Youth, Goo
  • 357. Tom Waits, Rain Dogs
  • 356. Dr. John, Gris-Gris
  • 354. X-Ray Spex, Germfree Adolescents
  • 351. Roxy Music, For Your Pleasure
  • 350. Stevie Wonder, Music of My Mind
  • 349. MC5, Kick Out the Jams
  • 348. Gillian Welch, Time (The Revelator)
  • 347. GZA, Liquid Swords
  • 346. Arctic Monkeys, AM
  • 345. Bruce Springsteen, The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle
  • 344. Toots and the Maytals, Funky Kingston
  • 343. Sly and the Family Stone, Greatest Hits
  • 342. The Beatles, Let It Be
  • 341. The Smashing Pumpkins, Siamese Dream
  • 338. Brian Eno, Another Green World
  • 337.  Bob Dylan, John Wesley Harding
  • 335. Bob Dylan and the Band, The Basement Tapes
  • 334. Santana, Abraxas
  • 333. Bill Withers, Still Bill
  • 332. Elvis Presley, Elvis Presley
  • 330. The Rolling Stones, Aftermath
  • 329. DJ Shadow, Endtroducing…
  • 328. Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires of the City
  • 326. Prince, Dirty Mind
  • 323.The Clash, Sandinista!
  • 320. X, Los Angeles
  • 319. The Stone Roses, The Stone Roses
  • 317. Billie Holiday, Lady in Satin
  • 316. The Who, The Who Sell Out
  • 310. Wire, Pink Flag
  • 309. Joy Division, Closer
  • 308. Brian Eno, Here Come the Warm Jets
  • 307. Sam Cooke, Portrait of a Legend
  • 306. Al Green, I’m Still In Love With You
  • 304. Bill Withers, Just As I Am
  • 301. New York Dolls, New York Dolls
  • 299. B.B. King, Live at the Regal
  • 297. Peter Gabriel, So
  • 294. Weezer, Weezer
  • 293. The Breeders, Last Splash
  • 292. Van Halen, Van Halen
  • 289.  Björk, Post
  • 288. The Modern Lovers, The Modern Lovers
  • 287. The Byrds, Mr. Tambourine Man
  • 283. Donna Summer, Bad Girls
  • 282. Frank Sinatra, In the Wee Small Hours

 

Movie Review: The Forty-Year-Old Version (2020)


Title: The Forty-Year-Old Version
Release Date: October 9, 2020
Director: Radha Blank
Production Company: New Slate Ventures | Hillman Grad Productions | Endeavor Content
Summary/Review:

Radha (Rahda Blank) is a playwright nearing her 40th birthday who is dealing with the lack of success after winning a “30 Under 30” award early in her career and has taken to teaching at high school.  Her agent and childhood friend Archie (Peter Kim) helps her get producer J. Whitman (Reed Birney) to support her play about a Black couple dealing with gentrification in Harlem, but insists that she emphasize what Radha calls “poverty porn” and add a white character.  Radha feels her vision for the play escaping her and decides to make her voice heard by recording hip hop tracks with the laconic D (Oswin Benjamin) who runs a studio out of his Brooklyn apartment. Radha and D also form a romantic relationship, which is all fair since men who write/direct/star in their own films have a tradition of giving themselves younger love interests.

The Forty-Year-Old Version is very funny and also cringe-inducing with its characters following their worst instincts.  Radha Blank does a great job playing a character that can be very unsympathetic but still very likable.  I also like Radha’s chemistry with Archie and believe that they could’ve been friends with childhood.  The movie reminds me a bit of Frances Ha, as they both black & white movies in New York about artists having to deal with failed expectations of greatness and having to adapt to growing older.  But this is a funny and unique movie and I recommend checking it out.

Rating: ***1/2

Book Review: The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan


Author: Rick Riordan
Title: The Last Olympian: Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 5
Publication Info: New York : Disney/Hyperion Books, 2011.
Previously Read by the Same AuthorThe Lightning Thief, The Sea of Monsters, The Titan’s CurseThe Battle of the Labyrinth
Summary/Review:

The final book of the series leads to the culminating battle to save Olympus from the Titans in the streets of Manhattan. The book builds well to get to that point with a natural ebb and flow in the narrative between fightin’ and more contemplative stuff. Themes that have been building across all five books play out hre and Percy, Thalia, Grover, Annabeth, Tyson, Clarisse, and Nico all show great character development.  I particularly like how Percy plays his reward from the gods.

Rating: ***1/2

Book Review: The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan


Author: Rick Riordan
Title: The Battle of the Labyrinth: Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 4
Narrator: Jesse Bernstein
Publication Info: [New York] : Listening Library, 2008.

Previously Read by the Same AuthorThe Lightning Thief, The Sea of Monsters, The Titan’s Curse
Summary/Review:

The Battle of the Labyrinth is another great quest story, this time primarily underground in the mysterious labyrinthe.  Annabeth leads the quest with Grover, Percy, and Tyson with an angry and dangerous Nico playing a part as well.  The book is well constructed as each characters has a role to play that leads to a specific goal.  The war with the Titans begins in earnest with a battle at Camp Half-Blood that concludes the novel.

Rating: ***1/2

Book Review: The Titan’s Curse by Rick Riordan


Author: Rick Riordan
Title: The Titan’s Curse: Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 3
Narrator: Jesse Bernstein
Publication Info: New York : Random House/Listening Library, [2007]

Previously Read by the Same AuthorThe Lightning Thief, The Sea of Monsters 
Summary/Review:

Book 3 of the series once again features a coast-to-coast quest (literally Bar Harbor, Maine to the Bay Area of California) as Percy Jackson seeks to find his friend Annabeth and the goddess Artemis.  The book introduces half-bloods Nico and Bianca di Angelo, features Zeus’ daughter Thalia for the first time, and brings in Zoë Nightshade and the Hunters of Artemis.  All of these characters will be significant to the course of the narrative in the ensuing novels.  But I feel The Titan’s Curse doesn’t work as well as a stand-alone adventure and feels a bit formulaic.  It’s still clever and fun, though.

Rating: ***

Movie Review: Da 5 Bloods (2020)


Title: Da 5 Bloods
Release Date: June 12, 2020
Director: Spike Lee
Production Company: 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks | Rahway Road | Lloyd Levin/Beatriz Levin Production
Summary/Review:

Four African American veterans reunite in Vietnam in order to recover the remains of their inspirational squad leader Stormin’ Norman (played in flashback scenes by Chadwick Boseman, whose death in real life adds gravitas to the character who never lived to see old age).  Their ulterior motive is to also recover a cache of gold bars they hid almost 50 years earlier.  Spike Lee intercuts the narrative with documentary footage of the various injustices of the war in Vietnam and violence against Civil Rights and anti-war activists in the 60s & 70s.  The movie is kind of a bizarre combination of Apocalypse Now, The Treasure of Sierra Madre, and The Black Power Mixtape. And Lee has some fun by making some very obvious allusions to older films.

The main cast is made up of veteran actors, some who’ve worked with Lee before, but none of them superstars.  It’s good to see them all get a chance to demonstrate their acting chops.  Delroy Lindo plays Paul, who suffers from severe PSTD which contributes to his anger and paranoia, as well as contrariness such as supporting Trump.  Otis (Clarke Peters) is a calmer presence who also uses the trip to Vietnam to reunite with a Vietnamese girlfriend, Tiên (Lê Y Lan).  Eddie (Norm Lewis) is a successful owner of car dealerships and likes to show off his wealth, but is also the most adamant about using the gold for Norman’s vision of supporting Black Liberation. Melvin (Isaih Whitlock Jr.) is the rock of the group who tries to hold the Bloods together when things get strained. Paul’s estranged son David (Jonathan Majors), is the uninvited guest on the expedition adding additional tension to the movie.

There is a lot going on this movie, so much it feels like it’s bursting out of the film’s 2-1/2 hour length.  It’s impossible for this movie to do justice to so many threads ranging from PTSD to landmine clearance to Black Lives Matter.  The movie is also more brutally violent than I expected and ends up a bummer despite the oddly-victorious tone Lee takes in the finale.  Although it’s a sprawling mess, the Da 5 Bloods still works, something I credit to the great cast. Despite this being a long movie, I still wish I could spend more time with these characters.

Rating: ****