Tuesday, November 08, 2016

All-Time High

1977 was the greatest year for album releases ever, and the bookend years made it the best 3 years in music in modern times.

What a declaration, eh?

I spent a lot of time combing through release lists, best-of and best-sellers lists to verify, and here it is.  1977.  Best year ever. (Just listen to classic rock radio - songs from these albums still dominate.)

I did this because I was avoiding work (or actually, being very productive, but if you'd watched me you'd doubt it - but honest and true, when I'm composing something in my head (my job involves a lot of writing), the distraction of combing through lists of albums is just what pries my thoughts loose).  But also, I was casually testing a theory that had fnorked into my head after randomly selecting CDs to play for a few days.  I had unconsciously concentrated on those released when I was in high school and had a car.  I wondered if I was just revisiting that sweet spot we all have in our lives when we're finally old enough to control our own album purchases and playlists, or if there was something else going on. 

I think as the list proves below, there was something else going on.  Several amazing albums were released in those three years, with the really huge ones in '77. 

FWIW, the year Nirvana's Nevermind was released - 1991 - was another banner year for great albums (Pocket Full of Kryptonite - Spin Doctors, Actung Baby - U2, Blood Sugar Sex Magik - Red Hot Chili Peppers), but it didn't even come close to 1977. 

Here're the lists, in alphabetical order by album name.  Gaze upon its glory and marvel. 

*No live albums or greatest hits unless they were considered a classic unto themselves, meaning they charted for a long time and it was likely the one everyone owned.

Aja - Steely Dan
Alive II - Kiss
American Stars 'n Bars - Neil Young
Animals - Pink Floyd
Bat out of Hell - Meat Loaf
Book of Dreams - Steve Miller Band
CSN - Crosby, Stills & Nash
Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes - Jimmy Buffett
Chicago XI - Chicago
Commodores - Commodores
Decade - Neil Young*
Exodus - Bob Marley & The Wailers
Foot Loose & Fancy Free - Rod Stewart
Foreigner - Foreigner
Greatest Hits, Etc. - Paul Simon*
"Heroes" - David Bowie
I Robot - The Alan Parsons Project
In Color - Cheap Trick
Little Criminals - Randy Newman
Little Queen - Heart
Low - David Bowie
Lust for Life - Iggy Pop
Marquee Moon - Television
My Aim Is True - Elvis Costello
Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols - Sex Pistols
News Of The World - Queen
Out of the Blue - Electric Light Orchestra
Peter Gabriel - Peter Gabriel
Point of Know Return - Kansas
Rumours - Fleetwood Mac
Running on Empty - Jackson Browne
Saturday Night Fever: The Original Movie Sound Track - Bee Gees et al.
Simple Dreams - Linda Ronstadt
Slowhand - Eric Clapton
Talking Heads: 77 - Talking Heads
The Best of ZZ Top - ZZ Top*
The Clash - The Clash
The Grand Illusion - Styx
The Stranger - Billy Joel

2112 - Rush
A New World Record - Electric Light Orchestra
A Star Is Born - Barbra Streisand
ABBA - Arrival
Best of BTO (So Far) - Bachman–Turner Overdrive*
Best of the Doobies - The Doobie Brothers*
Blondie - Blondie
Boston - Boston
Changesonebowie - David Bowie*
Desire - Bob Dylan
Destroyer - Kiss
Dream Weaver - Gary Wright
Dreamboat Annie - Heart
Fly Like an Eagle - Steve Miller Band
Frampton Comes Alive! - Peter Frampton
Greatest Hits - James Taylor*
Hotel California - Eagles
Leftoverture - Kansas
Night Moves - Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band
Ramones - Ramones
Rock and Roll Over - Kiss
Rocks - Aerosmith
Silk Degrees - Boz Scaggs
Songs in the Key of Life - Stevie Wonder
Station to Station - David Bowie
Their Greatest Hits - The Eagles*
The Pretender - Jackson Browne
Year of the Cat - Al Stewart

52nd Street - Billy Joel
At Budokan - Cheap Trick
Blondes Have More Fun - Rod Stewart
Briefcase Full of Blues - The Blues Brothers
But Seriously, Folks... - Joe Walsh
City to City - Gerry Rafferty
Darkness on the Edge of Town - Bruce Springsteen
Dog & Butterfly - Heart
Excitable Boy - Warren Zevon
Grease Soundtrack
Greatest Hits 1974-78 - Steve Miller Band*
Minute by Minute - The Doobie Brothers
More Songs About Buildings and Food - Talking Heads
Outlandos d'Amour - The Police
Parallel Lines - Blondie
Quarter Moon in a Ten Cent Town - Emmylou Harris
Some Girls - The Rolling Stones
Stardust - Willie Nelson
Stranger in Town - Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band
The Best of Earth, Wind & Fire, Vol. 1 - Earth, Wind & Fire*    
The Cars - The Cars
This Year's Model - Elvis Costello and the Attractions
Time Passages - Al Stewart
Van Halen - Van Halen
Who Are You - The Who

And on this high note, I leave you.  I've been blogging here for almost a baker's dozen years, and I've had a grand time. 

My life, the world, and the web have all become vastly different from what they were when I started this blog.  Kottke.org might be going behind a paywall.  Dooce.com gets updated as frequently as this blog does anymore (she's mostly on twitter now).  As predicted a decade ago, companies and commercial sites now dominate the web, and have the audacity to bitch at you if you have an ad-blocker to save your sanity from auto-playing videos.  America continues into its "post-truth" phase; Lord help us to recover. 

I'm now a single, middle-aged dude who gets his entertainment primarily from a Roku stick, having cut the cord a few years ago and hitting the theatre only for the odd spectacle.  Modern music interests me slightly (there's still a lot of good stuff being made), but I find I enjoy silence a lot these days.  The last novel I tore through in a gleeful fever was over four years ago (Gone Girl, if you're wondering). Since this is ostensibly an entertainment blog, the fact that I'm not consuming much new entertainment makes it harder to be relevant or enthusiastic. 

Maybe I'll get buyer's remorse in a year and start back up.  I intend to keep Third Level Digression in place and will log in once in a while to make sure it doesn't get yoinked. 

Thank you to everyone who came by, left comments, and linked to me from elsewhere. Special thanks to my ardent supporters: Whisky Prajer, Syaffolee (aka Don't Shake the Flask), Michael Blowhard (Ray Sawhill), and The Opinionated Homeschooler.  It was fun. 


P.S.  Yes, I'm fine.  :)

Friday, October 21, 2016

Alive Again

NME excreted an article listing the best live albums ever. (Quick TLD: I started this post the day that article was published; this is how long it's taking me with these posts sometimes.)

It's pretty typical for a list of this sort. It panders to more modern tastes and artists (natch - I imagine someone young wrote it), it includes critical darlings that your typical music lover or casual listener would never listen to on purpose (Velvet Underground), and it has some truly great undeniable ones on there - even KISS' famous Alive, which is probably the first time I've seen the band ever acknowledged in a music rag's lists. (It's hard to express how truly popular KISS was for a while - you'd never know it from back issues of music magazines, outside of chart lists.)

Of course, I am compelled to offer the live albums I find I play regularly (which anymore is becoming my gold standard on a lot of music - not how good it was objectively or at one point, but do I still pull it from the racks and give it a spin).

One of the things I think good live albums do is make the songs more muscular, as it has to be rendered live with a bunch of musicians that have to put it together in the moment rather than assemble a patchwork of takes and instrumental flourishes with software, nimble mixing, or razor blades on tape. It strips it down but pumps in that essential element of giving the song legs through the glory that live instruments circling a groove can bring.

Another nifty thing is live albums are often de facto greatest hits with the added bonus of fan favorites or artists favorites, which usually makes the selection of songs stellar. Since it represents a concert, there's often cohesiveness between songs, or they are ordered to flow into each other well. A good live album can be the best choice of an artist's catalog. The Talking Head's Stop Making Sense, which is in the NME list, is a central example of this.

A quick note: some live albums sound like shit. All of the ones I'm about to list sound great. A crappy-sounding recording is an instant disqualifier as far as I'm concerned, which is why I've left some off that I like, but enjoyment is marred by bootleg-esque sound.

Let's start with the weird one, and one I'm a little embarrassed about:

Joe Cocker - Live

Joe Cocker had a much more checkered musical career than the Talking Heads, who were always considered cool. Joe Cocker originally was underground and cool and weird. He performed at Woodstock. He had a career resurgence when John Belushi did a killer impression on SNL of his stage mannerisms (Cocker often contorted his body and jerked around like he was channeling the Elephant Man as a rock star), and to everyone's surprise Joe Cocker walked out and joined Belushi. The man was cool. So cool that he got tapped to make some movie soundtrack hits, which he did, so for some he became Barry Manilow. (FWIW, Manlow's great live album is not here because of muddy sound.)

This live set reflects the Manilow-esque portion of his carrer, so his earlier fans might curl their lip when those come by, but his later fans would consider the set flawed if they didn't. Me, I like'em all, so this is one of my favorite live sets. The cover of "Unchain My Heart," once it gets going, has a beat that never fails to grab that tribal part of my brain and force me - yes, force me - into the dreaded pucker strut.

Police Live - Disc. 1

I had a bootleg cassette of the Police live that was broadcast on the radio from the Palladium in NY (can you imagine any group these days allowing that?), which I guarded like it contained the cure to cancer, the recipes for KFC and Coca-Cola, plus the answer to who shot JFK. The version of "So Lonely" was simply the best ever. The official CD is from a show at he Orpheum Theatre in Boston from that very same tour, and most of it is as good as the bootleg, so when it came out as an official release, my joy was nearly complete. Then I heard the version of "So Lonely," mourned for approximately a week, learned to love it because it's almost as good, and moved on. (To see how much a live performance of that song can differ, if you have this set, listen to the much later in their career version of it on disc 2.)

The great thing about this live set is the sound that just these three guys make. It's like being assaulted by a rock satellite orbiting your head, and damn it jams and grooves. (Some would claim that the sound quality of this might disqualify it from the list, as it's borderline meh, but it is sonically interesting enough that I suspect it's a good document of their live sound at the time.

The Cure - Show and Paris

The Cure has, to me, become perhaps the oddest best band to have existed to date. Good and great bands all cultivate a sound that's uniquely theirs, but even then, you can sometimes draw comparisons between them. For example, Radiohead's OK Computer sounds like them, of course, but it makes you think of the expansiveness of Pink Floyd. The Cure sounds like no one else, or nothing else (grammar be damned). Their studio albums sound like "studio creations," meaning they sound like the band could never replicate them live, which is why these two live albums are a pleasant shock. If the song "Trust" (from Show) doesn't tug at your heart, then you might wanna go see the Wizard to see if you have one at all. (Btw, Show is the hits, Paris is the deep cuts and fan faves.)

Soul Asylum - After the Flood: Live from the Grand Forks Prom, June 28, 1997

Soul Asylum is/was a Minneapolis band who'd mastered the art of sounding off-key and sloppy - a style that most of the Miniapple bands chased at the time, save for Prince. However, it was just a style, because I saw them do an "Eagles" night with a couple other bands, and together, they sounded JUST like the Eagles.

When Grand Forks had a devastating flood in 1997, one of the many things affected was the Prom. Up steps Soul Asylum to be the band for the prom, which they recorded and thus created this gem. Besides their own hits, they did what a prom band should do and cover popular hits of the day, and local favorites, which is why this set is so fantastic. Check out "I Know" and "Rhinestone Cowboy."

Sade - Lovers Live

Lovers Live is a singular sonic event, a complete album experience, and one of the better sounding albums on this list. It's low-key, meditative, jazzy, and is perfect for a mellow party, or to relax to after the sun is down. Listen to samples before laying down money, though; this will either be to your taste or it won't. It's genesis is interesting, too.  She had put out a hits/anthology of love songs, which was a huge success, so this is the tour she put together to support that; thus, it's not a complete greatest hits - just those about love.

Cheap Trick Sgt. Pepper Live and Live at Budokan

There was a brief spasm of bands completely covering other band's big deal albums a couple few years ago. The best of that lot is Cheap Trick's Sgt. Pepper Live. (Another from that spasm is The Flaming Lips covering Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon - not as good.) If you're a Beatles fan, you've probably listened to Sgt. Pepper so many times it may be somewhat worn out. This set is a faithful recreation that gives it that extra live kick, makes it rock a little harder, and refreshes what is truly a masterpiece.

Billy Joel - Songs in the Attic

This is the only album here that was released as an album unto itself (and not just live versions of their hits). Before Piano Man and The Stranger made Joel the sliced bread (re "best thing since!") of the modern music world, he'd put out some good albums that were flawed by mastering problems and using too-slick studio musicians (Joel's charge). So Joel assembled the best songs of his previous stuff (save for the ubiquitous song "Piano Man"), and did gorgeous, powerful live versions. "Say Goodbye to Hollywood" is probably the perfect rendition of a stellar song, and exhibit A on how a great drummer - Liberty DeVitto - can make the song. (Trivia: this song is about he and his wife leaving Hollywood and moving back to the east coast, after his Piano Man stint (the one the song's about) in a bar there.)

"Every Kind of People" - Robert Palmer

This is just one song from an album, because the rest is an odd hodgepodge of studio and live songs, but what a song. The original studio version is a peppy, staccato groove breakdown. This live version is more contemplative and flowing, with a distinctive bass line which tries to adhere to the studio version, but transcends it. If you like the snippet of the song, I suggest you spend the buck or so right away, because it goes in and out of availability frequently.

I hope you find something here you come to love.

In other news, Gerry Rafferty's classic City to City has finally gotten the remastering and special edition treatment, but only in the UK. Happily, though, you can buy it from UK Amazon, even if you're in 'Murica or Canada. (Back in the day, you couldn't order internationally.) You're welcome.

Finally, the great Chuck Klosterman has assembled probably the best description I've read or heard about how to discern the micro-filament differences between the sub-genres "Rock and Roll" and "Rock." Not that I care about such distinctions; I personally feel they're for a certain type of people who have a dark need for this uber-definition of things for reasons best left undiscussed. But I do love the language and the attempt. Without further ado:
Here's a simple way to parse this not-so-simple description: Play the song "Rock and Roll" by Led Zeppelin. Based on a traditional twelve-bar blues progression, "Rock and Roll" is the only song in the Zeppelin catalog that is literally rock and roll music, unless you count "Hot Dog" and "Boogie with Stu." Every other Zeppelin song is a sophisticated iteration of "rock," even when the drums are reggae. Jerry Lee Lewis played rock and roll. Jerry Garcia played rock. The song "Rock Around the Clock" is a full-on rock and roll number, but the Moody Blues' "I'm Just a Singer (in a Rock and Roll Band)," Rick Derringer's "Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo," and Bad Company's "Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy" remain inflexibly rock (with no rolling whatsoever). John Lennon's 1975 solo album Rock 'n' Roll is actually a self-conscious attempt at rock and roll, while Joan Jett's 1982 cover of "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" professes a love for something it technically isn't. The least ambiguous rock and roll song ever recorded is "Tutti Frutti" by Little Richard, closely followed by the Kingsmen's 1963 cover of "Louie Louie." The least ambiguous rock 'n' roll song is "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" by the Rolling Stones. The least ambiguous rock song ever recorded is "l Like to Rock" by April Wine. - from But What if We're Wrong by Chuck Klosterman, pp. 60, footnote 1

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Gene Wilder (1933–2016)

While I'm not usually one to join the mourning sickness that occurs upon a beloved celebrity's death, Gene Wilder was always of particular interest to me, and he had an odd career, to say the least.

By that I mean, here was a goofy-looking dude with a ginger 'fro who was totally believable as a romantic lead in a romcom1, as an action star2, as a cowboy3, as the writer and star of a now-classic comedy4, and of course, as a deeply odd candy factory owner who wants to will it to a minor, because someone has to take care of the orange people.

As referenced:
1The Woman in Red (1984)
2Silver Streak (1976)
3Blazing Saddles (1974)
4Young Frankenstein (1974)
5Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)

Since you know about all of those, I'd like to point out one you may have missed - the OTHER time he played a cowboy, but a cowboy who was also a Rabbi. My grandma was the one who got me interested in The Frisco Kid (1979). She said, "Did you know that Harrison Ford is in a western?" One of the cool things about my grandma was she was pretty plugged in to what was going on movie-wise, especially sci-fi. She was the one who introduced me to Star Trek. And, like everyone at the time, was pretty taken with Harrison Ford. So we sat down to watch.

Wilder is a Rabbi sent from the old world to establish a new synagogue in San Francisco, which he thinks is a suburb of New York. Ford is a bank robber who ends up guiding Wilder through the old west to escape the laws. Hilarity ensues, as we say. (Aside about Ford: up until Star Wars, the majority of his roles were cowboys or guys who at least wore cowboy hats. I always wondered why his character in American Graffiti wore a cowboy hat, but I bet Lucas was trying to keep him recognizable to anyone who'd seen him prior.)

It's a good movie, not a great movie. But if you're looking for a Wilder fix, this is likely the one you haven't seen that you'll enjoy.

And, if you dig comedy westerns, there was a spate of them around the time the Frisco Kid came out. If you want to make it a movie festival, you could throw in The Duchess and the Dirtwater Fox (1976) and The Great Scout & Cathouse Thursday (1976).

Good times.

And goodbye Gene. Godspeed.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Movies of 2016 (thus far, of course)

After some Storms of LifeTM, things are back to glorious mundanity, thankfully. 

I've been writing a lot of posts in the last few months, which of course you haven't seen because they were so damned dark.  Re-reading them made me worry about the guy.  My gosh.  Since there is no cause for concern, they will remain in the unpublished folder.

So here we are, bracing for another school year, one's in her second year of college and the other is entering the gauntlet of middle school (Jr. High for we old farts - I still prefer that designation, it has dignity and intent). 

I'm at the tail-end of a much needed vacation after my first year or so of a new job, which has turned out to be a great place to work.  If your current job leaves you wondering why every day feels like a kick in the crotch, get another one, stat. Yes, even in this economy; we're gonna have this one for a while. My brother made the same jump for pretty much the same reasons, and he too is much happier. We have lived through the bleak reality of William Gibson's wise words: "Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem, first make sure that you are not, in fact, just surrounded by assholes."  I can't put it any better than that.

It's also the end of the summer movie season (or close enough), so here're some of my thoughts.  Since I haven't posted in practically a YEAR (shame on me, see paragraph 2 above), I'll also catch up a bit on those. No spoilers unless otherwise indicated.

What I've seen:

The Nice Guys - Love Shane Black (dir, writer) and the previews made me giggle.  I enjoyed the movie while I was there, but it didn't stay with me.  I think it's worth your time on DVD, just because the script has some interesting turns, like Black's always do.  I still love Black's Kiss Kiss Bang Bang the most; make sure you see that if you haven't.

X-Men: Apocalypse - I saw this one only because my eldest daughter pushed me to (she's crushing on the actor who plays Quicksilver: Evan Peters), and it was pretty much what I feared: dull and pretty much a retread. Like the last one, the Quicksilver set piece was the only truly enjoyable part. It indulged in a narrative trope I'm beginning to hate: as the movie begins, we sit through a bunch of disjointed scenes that are the threads that eventually lead to the plot.  I've seen this so much lately.  This movie even made it worse by having most of those scenes set in other countries so the first half hour or more is in freakin' subtitles. Every time I saw another country or time period announced on the screen, I considered turning it off. If you're going to force me to read my movie, you'd better throw in a graphic sex scene that makes me uncomfortable like the Europeans do. 

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice - If this movie were 20% shorter and 30% less full of itself, it might have been fun.  As it played, I mentally started bookmarking the scenes I would cut if I edited it.  (The idea of Topher Grace's fan edit of the eppies 1 - 3 of Star Wars has infected me mightily.  I keep thinking of editing The Dark Knight down to essentially the Batman and Joker story, just for grins.) I'm one of those weirdos who really likes Ben Affleck's acting.  I liked his Batman.  (Fun trivia: Affleck is one of the few actors who's now played 3 major super heroes: Batman, Daredevil, and Superman.) My one take-away is I now want to see the Wonder Woman movie. The preview looks good.

Captain America: Civil War - This committed most of the sins that the X-Men did, and it had waaaaay too much swat-fu.  After people have punched each other for 5 solid minutes, I mean c'mon, do something else.  The center set-piece where everyone finally squares off is damn good, though.  This one could benefit from a fan edit that trims it to a solid 90 minutes.

Zootopia - While this is a well-done movie, and is actually good - my kid loved it - I have grown so weary of Identity Politics that seeing it in a kids movie filled me with ennui. As a father, I've told my daughters they can be whatever they want to be, with the caveat of realistic goals, in that being a linebacker for the Denver Broncos is probably not something to shoot for.  In one of the spiked posts I've written, I ranted about how Identity Politics has completely broken out of the collegiate ghetto where it belongs and has infected way too much "journalism," but it was a dull read, and I've noted others grousing about this, too, and better, so I leave it to them. Suffice to say that I found the idea in the movie that all the carnivores in the world had become vegans to be unpalatable. Well, there's this too: when the bunny told another character that only other bunnies can call her cute, I think I scoffed out loud, which I apologize for.  I don't want to live in Zootopia. 

Ghostbusters - Not the travesty that everyone feared.  It was a fun popcorn movie.  Sure, it didn't have the charm and surprise of the original, but I laughed and had fun.  See it on DVD.  BTW, many of the haters have bashed on the director, Paul Feig, which he brought on himself somewhat, latching on to the criticism being largely about sexism (of which there was some, but it wasn't the primary complaint), but it's unfair.  He's actually a good director.  His Spy with Melissa McCarthy was fantastic; it was a better spy movie than the last James Bond, so make sure you see it.

The Witch - Sometimes things don't just come out of left field, they fly in from another stadium and land in your beer.  I no longer watch horror films as a rule because they finally rose to the criticism that they're not scary by becoming extremely so (thank you Japan), such that they reduce me to a 5-year-old at night, clutching my blanket in sweaty terror as I glance about the room at the shadows the night-light casts, practically fouling myself at unexpected noises.  I just don't need that shit, especially since I now spend half my week alone when my daughter is at her mother's.  Even my college-age daughter had a month of sleepless nights and nightmares after a movie about demonic possession, and she still likes horror movies.  Nonetheless, something convinced me to watch this one, and even watch it after dark (it's one of those where so many scenes are dark, you can't watch it in a sunlit room). While technically a horror movie, it's so much more.  The language, settings, and costumes are fantastically authentic to 1630s New England.  For once, not everyone's filthy and greasy, like most historical films these days mistakenly portray, but neither are they false and laundered.  You can smell the hay.  There's mud in places.  You are there.  Some people have to turn on the closed captioning to understand what they're saying, but I gave it a go without, and found I could follow it (probably thanks to my lit degree and having to read literature from that time).  I also expected to be bored, because a lot of historical stuff feels it needs to be stately or paced for the PBS set.  This one pops along like a movie should.  I never had a guess as to where it was going until the very end.  This movie is an achievement.  Do see it.

10 Cloverfield Lane - Meh.  I'll see anything Mary Elizabeth Winstead is in, for reasons, and this was getting good word of mouth.  I've seen enough survivalist tropes in other movies that this mostly bored me.  My favorite survivalist flick is Blast from the Past, with Brendan Fraser and Christopher Walken.

Star Trek Beyond - After the misstep of "The Wrath of Kahn - the retread" (aka Star Trek Into Darkness), with the eyeroll inducing cartoon sequence where everyone hops from speeding platform to speeding ship to speeding platform to (you get the gist), this movie brings Star Trek back where it needs to be. It did feel like an expensive version of a TV episode, but it was still a blast.  Highlights were Bones and Spock being Bones and Spock, and finally a space movie where gravity is not taken for granted.

The BFG - To me, a lot of Roald Dahl's oeuvre is puzzling, because it's for kids, but does things to kids that are appalling, and as a parent I've wondered if I should prevent exposure to it.  However, I've now seen enough that I realize he tapped into how kids sometimes view adults: scary, mean, unpredictable louts who sometimes turn out to be OK after all.  Having been through the book and disastrous animated versions, I was gob-smacked at how charming, moving, and fun this flick was.  Spielberg has his kid mojo back, and CGI has finally made odd character faces so believable that we've reached the other side, the good side, of the uncanny valley.  Great flick.  Watch it with the kids. 

Suicide Squad - I flat-out liked this movie.  I'm legitimately puzzled as to why critics hate this movie.  Like Kevin Smith says, though (I'm watching the Kevin Smith review as I write this - I love that guy), it's critic-proof. Critical response has kept folks out of the theater, but I think word-of-mouth will drive them back there.  Whenever Will Smith (Deadshot), Margot Robbie (Harley Quinn), and  Viola Davis (Amanda Waller) have the screen, the movie rocks. The plot is a bit predictable, though no space ships show up and save the day, for once.  Great popcorn flick.  Catch it in the theaters if you can.  

These I did not see:

Finding Dory - Didn't like the first one (did everyone need to be handicapped?), and my daugher's mom took her, saving me the voyage.

Independence Day: Resurgence - I'll see this on DVD, if only for Jeff Goldblum and to see how they work in that Brent Spiner's scientist mannequin is gay.

Swiss Army Man - Tried to catch this in the theater, but it farted out of release so quickly I couldn't.  Can't wait to see it on DVD.  Looks like my kind of sick humor.

The Jungle Book - I heard this was great from everyone who saw it, but I really am losing the desire to see any remakes, no matter how much praise they get.  (Not counting Star Trek; I'll always come back to you, my love.)

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates - Might still catch this on the big screen, but am happy to wait for the DVD.  Another kinda larf I think I'll like.

Sausage Party - Can't wait.

A Hologram for the King - I liked the preview, and I like the premise of middle-aged man marooned in this stage of life where fate just wants to see if it can make you fold, but then there's hope.  There are plenty of flicks like this about middle-age women who need their groove back and want to eat pray fuck their way around the world (I liked that movie, btw), but most movies about middle-age men end in mid-air like About Schmidt with him driving off into loneliness or staring down an empty road.   

Keanu - I was a late-comer to the genius of Key & Peele, and can't wait to see what they do about a lost cat.

Not released yet:

War Dogs - Yes!
Yoga Hosers - Kevin Smith! Fuck yes!
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children - Couldn't get into the book, but loved the idea.  Happy they filmed it for me.
The Edge of Seventeen - This preview is hilarious.  Expecting the next Easy A or Juno.
Rogue One - Wow. I have never been less excited for a Star Wars movie.  I loved the last one (see below), so I should be stoked.  Yet, I find myself looking forward more to the next micro-brew I'll try than this.  I'll go, sure.  But, when they showed Darth Vader scuba-breathing in the last shot of the preview, I just sighed. 

Catch up - the ones I saw while writing bad posts you'll never read, lucky you:

Star Wars: The Force Awakens - Oh Yissss.  This is what I'd been waiting to see.  Sure, it was practically a remake of the very first one, but damn it was it fun.  Adam Driver blew me away. Kylo Ren's snit fits were perfect and hilarious.

Jurassic World - Wat?  Really.  Wat?  Just stop it you guys.

The Hateful Eight - The first Tarantino I left thinking, glad that's over.  Too long.  I popped for the super-duper wide-screen print only to sit through a one-set stage play.  It was lovely seeing Kurt Russell again, and being reminded how awesome Jennifer Jason Leigh is (please, much more of her), but the rest was tedious.

Deadpool - Loved it.  The opening credits were brilliant, and the movie just kept delivering.  Best movie on this list, probably.

The Martian - Well, wait, this one was as good as Deadpool.  After the abortion (quite literally) of Prometheus, I couldn't believe how right-on The Martian was in tone, pacing, and story.  Wow.  It holds up on second viewing, even though the plot is kinda a one trick pony.  Matt Damon is such a good actor.  

The odd-ball documentary I must mention:

Jodorowsky's Dune - This is the latest entry in movies/documentaries all self-respecting film buffs must see.  There are about 3 different threads in this flick that just getcha:  1) The tragedy of Jodorowsky's son who gave up years of his life to star in this movie (the bitterness on his face...), 2) how in producing a book for the studios to prove the movie was feasible at the time, including the special effects, led to the biggest blatant theft of ideas ever (Ridley Scott's Alien, chief among them), 3) what a Svengali Jodorowsky was/is; I hope I never meet that brilliant son-of-a-bitch.  On a DVD near you, as this is the kind of thing libraries like to have around. 

And there you have it.

I have some other stuff I'm working on, so see you soon.