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July 15th, 2016

Catch up

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Hi.

So it's been another long gap. Given I so rarely have much to say about the movies and books, and as far as I can tell my brother is my only regular-ish reader, I'm just going to post lists of what I've watched and read, for posterity and I guess my own reference. When I feel the need, I'll comment.

BUtterfield 8 (1960) - That's right, the U is capitalized too.
This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Django Unchained (2012) - This was better than expected, until bloody wish fulfillment at end.
Kung Fu Panda 3 (2016) - Better than Kung Fu Panda 2.
Giant (1956) - Young Dennis Hopper in a small role!
Bananas - Young Sylvester Stallone in a tiny role!
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Designing Woman (1957)
The Double by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Cabaret (1972)
Return of the King (1980) - Animated version.
Before Sunrise (1995)
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny (2016) - A fun sequel, but not very deep characters.
A Knight of Seven Kingdoms by George R.R. Martin
McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971)
Batman: Assault on Arkham (2014)
The Last King of Scotland (2006)
The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder
Broadcast News (1987)
Blackboard Jungle (1955)
Dissident Gardens by Jonathan Lethem
Old Man's War by John Scalzi
Gypsy (1962)
Rio Bravo (1959)
Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)
South Pacific (1958)
Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie
City of God (2002)
Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Dough (2015)
The Big Short (2015)
All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)
Before Sunset (2004)
Pee Wee's Big Holiday (2016)
Boyhood (2014)
The Music Man (1962)
The Student Prince (1954)
Mad Max (1979)
The Children's Hour (1961)
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (1982) - Film of the stage musical, starring Angela Lansbury.
The Asphalt Jungle (1950)
The Candidate (1972)
Smoke & Mirrors by Neil Gaiman

January 31st, 2016

green destiny

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Sorry for another long gap.

The Unforgiven - This is the 1960 western with Burt Lancaster and Audrey Hepburn (not to be confused with the similarly-named western from 1992). It's based on a novel by Alan Le May, who also wrote The Searchers. The film focuses on racism against Native Americans, and those believed to have Native American blood, which I think was an uncommon topic at the time. I enjoyed it.

Beasts of No Nation by Uzodinma Iweala - This novel, about a boy who gets wrapped in a civil war in his African nation, was alright.

Ant-Man - Fun movie. Marvel has really been on a roll.

Lord of the Rings - This is the 1978 animated film of the first half of the trilogy (it was never finished). Its influence on Peter Jackson is really striking though. The animation was also pretty cool. If you like Tolkein or the more recent films, you should check this out.

Octopussy and the Living Daylights by Ian Fleming - A collection of short stories published posthumously, making up the last original James Bond novel. The two stories named in the title were the only ones in the original publication, but later publications (including the one I read) added two more.

Into The Woods - I had seen a high school production of the play when I was in high school myself, and quite enjoyed it, so it was fun to revisit (with a better cast). Enjoyable.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon - I saw this in the theaters when it was released in 2000, but decided to re-watch since Netflix's sequel is coming out soon. Still an enjoyable, if not amazing, martial arts epic.

Up in the Air - Don't work so much that you skip life. Got it.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline - Fun little adventure, filled with '80s nostalgia. Probably would have been even more fun if I had been more into Japanese cartoons and video games back then.

Westworld - Michael Crichton directed this film which is similar to his later novel, Jurassic Park, in that it involves a theme park gone wrong. Not great, but not bad

The Killers - This 1946 film starring Burt Lancaster and Ava Gardner takes, as its starting point, Ernest Hemingway's short story of the same name, but then extends the plot beyond the end of the source material. I had seen this on a list of great films noirs in a University of Chicago magazine a while back, and while I enjoyed it, I didn't love it as much as other films on the same list.

Beasts of No Nation - This is the Netflix film of the novel mentioned above, starring Idris Elba. It was okay.

The Hurt Locker - Finally saw this recent Best Picture winner. I really liked it.

The Martian - I read the novel on which this movie was based earlier in the year. The movie did a pretty good job. Matt Damon, in particular, captured the voice of the main character quite well. The ending was a bit too Hollywood-ized though.

Wet Hot American Summer - I'd heard how great this comedy was, but I didn't really enjoy it that much. Maybe because I didn't like summer camp.

The Petrified Forest - A hostage situation at a road side diner. Humphrey Bogart made a great bad guy.

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami - You know what to except from Murakami by now.

Emerald City by Jennifer Egan - Early collection of short stories by Egan. Pretty good.

One Million B.C. - 1940 film set in an ahistorical prehistoric time. The 1966 remake, with Raquel Welsh, is more famous. Both were okay.

Hotel Rwanda - One man fights against genocide in Rwanda. Quite good.

The Good Dinosaur - This was alright. On the lower end of the Pixar scale, though it's got pretty rare company.

The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch - Third book in Lynch's Gentleman Bastard series, released 6 years after the second novel (with the fourth nowhere in sight). To be fair, I think the author may have had some health issues in between. Still enjoyable, but the first book was still easily the best.

Justice League: War - Animated film telling one version of the formation of the Justice League. Not very good, unfortunately.

Moon - 2009 sci-fi film with Sam Rockwell. Interesting, but not great.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens - I actually enjoyed it, but it was a bit too close to the original film. Some of it was likely intentional parallelism, but there was too much. Also, Finn's plan to take down the force field relied almost entirely on coincidence.

Cars - Speaking of the lower end of the Pixar scale...

Ben-Hur - Finally saw this 1959 classic with Charlton Heston. A nice, old-fashioned, epic film.

How To Train Your Dragon - This wasn't as good as I'd been led to believe.

Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence - I'd not read any Lawrence before, but I liked this story of family, sex, and mining communities.

Yankee Doodle Dandy - Classic musical starring James Cagney as George M. Cohan. It was okay.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark - I don't think I really got this. My takeaway was that Brodie was deluded. Is that right?

Intolerable Cruelty - A romantic comedy from the Coen Brothers. It was alright.

The Greatest Show on Earth - One of the least deserving Best Picture winners? This 1952 story of circus life wasn't bad, but it wasn't great.

Papillon - This is a 1973 jailbreak film starring Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman, based on a true story. A fun adventure, with some notable gaffs: in one scene you can see that Hoffman is wearing earplugs and, in another, you can see a diver underneath the raft on which McQueen is floating.

The BFG by Roald Dahl - Children's classic that I somehow missed. They're making a film version, so I figured it was time. Fun.

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry - Children's classic that I somehow missed. They recently made a film version, so I figured it was time. Fun.

Saturday Night Fever - I'm not sure why this is considered a classic. The story was pretty mundane. The dancing was impressive though. I'll give it that.

Carne Trémula (Live Flesh) - This is a 1997 Spanish film by Pedro Almodóvar. It features a young Javier Bardem and, in a small role, Penélope Cruz. I liked it.

Son of Batman - Another animated film. Much better than the one discussed above.

Interstellar - Finally saw this 2014 film. I seem to recall it got mixed reviews when released, but I liked it a lot until near the end, where it kind of lost me.
 

January 11th, 2016

2015 in film

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I only saw seven new films in 2015, which is low for me (though not as low as 2013).

In my 2014 list, I listed three films from that year that I wanted to see but hadn't yet gotten to. Well, I've now seen two of them, but still haven't seen Interstellar.

Anyway, here are the seven new films I saw in 2015, in approximate ranked order:

  1. The Martian

  2. Ant-Man

  3. Inside Out

  4. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

  5. Beasts of No Nation

  6. The Avengers: Age of Ultron

  7. The Good Dinosaur

Nothing bad on that list, though nothing that I really loved either. I didn't see Spectre, which I think is the first time I haven't seen the new James Bond movie in the theater since A View To A Kill in 1985. There are a few other 2015 films I didn't see that I'm interested in as well, such as Ex Machina and Bridge of Spies.

This link will take you to a page with all my year-end film lists, back to 2006.
 

August 30th, 2015

It's been a looong time since my last update, so here's a long one, touching only briefly on each entry.

Marty - 1955 Best Picture winner about a middle aged man finding love after he'd given up on it. Pretty good.

The Private Life of Henry VIII - 1933 biopic with Charles Laughton in the title role. Not great.

Fallen Angels - Wong Kar Wai's film about a professional killer. Not bad.

The Big Clock - Good noir film starring Ray Milland. Later remade with Kevin Costner.

Marina by Carlos Ruiz Zafón - One of Ruiz's young adult novels from the 1990s. Easy read. Fun but not great.

The Three Caballeros - Disney film starring Donald Duck, as he learns abut Mexico and Brazil. Fun.

Love Story - Decent dramatic love story. What ever happened to Ryan O'Neal? Also, this film features Tommy Lee Jones in a small role (his first listed on IMDB).

Chronic City by Jonathan Lethem - I enjoyed this novel about a former child actor in a somewhat surreal version of New York City.

Hyperion and Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons - Classic 1980s sci-fi novel and its sequel. I liked it.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs - Young adult novel about a boy who learns he is not what he thought. It was alright.

Avengers: Age of Ultron - Presumably you know what this is. It was okay. Not as good as the first film.

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James - A short ghost story novella. It was okay.

Hercules in New York - Arnold Schwarzenegger's first film, from 1969 (long before he became a star). So dumb, so funny.

Crash - I had heard how this was the worst Best Picture winner ever, but it was not as bad as I was expecting. It features a lot of cars on fire and a lot of people who are not afraid of guns.

L'Age D'Or - 1930 silent film from Luis Buñuel. I didn't get it.

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (parts 1 and 2) - Two-part animated film released in 2012 and 2013, adapting the classic 1980s mini-series. Pretty good.

The Great Animal Orchestra by Bernie Krause - Krause, former member of the folk band the Weavers, lectures about soundscapes and how humans are ruining them. I'm not opposed ot the message, but this was preachy and repetitive.

San Francisco - 1936 film starring Clark Cable, Jeanette MacDonald, and Spencer Tracy, set in 1906 San Francisco (ending with the earthquake). It was okay.

Superman: Unbound - Another animated film, this one about the first meeting of Superman and Brainiac. Fun but not great.

Jezebel - Bette Davis plays a completely unsympathetic character. Didn't love it.

Gilda - Rita Hayworth's most famous role. Pretty good.

One Million Years B.C. - Cavemen (including Raquel Welch) try to survive (in a world populated with dinosaurs and giant iguanas). Not great. Apparently a remake. Maybe I'll seek out the original.

The Wizard of Oz - This is a 1925 silent film that predates the famous musical. Decent costumes and special effects, actually. Heavily altered plot.

Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox - Another animated film, in which the Flash finds himself in an alternate universe and must figure out how to set things right. It was okay.

Stage Door - 1937 film about a boardinghouse full of aspiring actresses, including Ginger Rogers and Katherine Hepburn. I liked it.

Marnie - Hitchcock film with Sean Connery. Not great.

Big Hero 6 - Recent animated film. Lots of fun.

Inside Out - Even more recent animated film. Not as much fun, but still pretty good.

The Big Heat - Five years ago this film showed up in a U Chicago alumni magazine in which a professor selected his ten favorite noirs and his ten favorite westerns. I've now seen all the westerns but, even after this one, still have two more noirs to see. Anyway, I liked this.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt - It took me forever to read this recent Pulitzer winner, but I quite enjoyed it.

Smokey and the Bandit - Dumb fun with Burt Reynolds and Sally Field.

The Theory of Everything - Recent biopic of Stephen Hawking. Pretty good.

Scoop - Woody Allen, Ian MacShane, Hugh Jackman, and Scarlett Johansson. Still, not great.

Barbarella - Wacky sci-fi movie with Jane Fonda. Definitely so bad it's good.

Top Secret! - I'd somehow never seen this parody film (from the makers of Airplane!) growing up. Either I didn't miss much, or I saw it too late.

The Martian by Andy Weir - This MacGyver-style story set of Mars is getting a lot of hype lately (partly due to the upcoming film). I liked it a lot though.

Moby Dick - This is the 1998 mini-series starring Patrick Stewart as Ahab. It was okay.
 

March 15th, 2015

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Time for another update!

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 - This was better than I expected, but it had about 3 more endings than it needed. First, he beats Elektro, then he beats Green Goblin (at a terrible price), then a funeral, then Rhino. Too much, especially given that they were likely expecting another sequel. Perhaps at least the last ending could have been the beginning of the next movie. However, I quite like Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker. If he's dumped for future Spider-Man films, I'll be a bit disappointed.

In A Lonely Place - 1950 Humphrey Bogart film, in which his neighbor (played by Gloria Grahame) clears him of a murder but then begins to have her own doubts (as do we, the viewers). Decent.

The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann - Classic novel from the German author, somewhat similar to his famous short story "Death in Venice." I think I enjoyed the other novel of his I've read, Buddenbrooks, more.

The Imitation Game - Recent film about Alan Turing. Quite good.

Marathon Man - 1976 film starring Laurence Olivier as an old Nazi and Dustin Hoffman as a young man unwittingly caught in the web of conspiracy involving stolen diamonds. The best part was the tense scene in New York's jewelry district, when Olivier's character has some diamonds appraised, and is recognized. Strangely, in that scene, I found Olivier's character sympathetic.

Dark Victory - Really good 1939 film in which Bette Davis is diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor. Gnaw had told me a while back it was one of her faves, and I can see why. Also features a young Humphrey Bogart and... Ronald Reagan!

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies - The last of the overextended trilogy. It was alright.

The Red and the Black by Stendhal - The story of a young man who tries to rise in French society, but ultimately fails. I quite liked it.

Show Boat - This is the 1936 film version of the famous stage musical, also filmed in 1951 (additionally, there was a non-musical version of the story in 1929). I quite enjoyed Irene Dunne acting as a bad actress, and Hattie McDaniel and Paul Robeson were quite good together. The latter sings "Ol' Man River" which is a great performance of an amazing song.

Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel - Mantel's two Booker Prize-winning novels focusing on Thomas Cromwell and his role in the rise and fall of Anne Boleyn. Pretty good, though in the first novel I sometimes had trouble telling when the pronoun "he" referred to Cromwell. This was fixed in the second book, but in kind of an awkward way. It would say things like "He did this and that; He, Thomas Cromwell" to clarify who "he" was. Weird. Anyway, there's a BBC mini-series that will be shown next month on PBS. I'll check it out.

Flash Boys by Michael Lewis - Non-fiction! Repetitive and alarmist. Certainly, some illegal stuff is being done, but Lewis doesn't understand what it is.

An Affair to Remember - Remake of Love Affair, which I watched a few months back. While this version, with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr, is also considered a major classic, I much preferred the Charles Boyer/Irene Dunne original.

The Boys from Brazil - As noted above, in 1976 Olivier played an old Nazi. Two years later, in this film, he played a Nazi hunter. Gregory Peck plays the Nazi. Gregory Peck as a bad guy. Hard to believe when you read it, but he is convincing in the film. This was quite good.

Zoolander - I had never seen this. It was pretty funny actually. And apparently they just announced a sequel!

Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy - I don't know about this one. It's a classic I guess, but the portrayal of Bathsheba Everdene as a strong independent woman who becomes an idiot when dealing with men didn't sit well.

Tootsie - Despite this '80s film being often on best of all time lists, I had never seen it. I think I was under the misapprehension that Dustin Hoffman dresses up to perform in a drag show, but it's not that at all. Really good movie.

Beverly Hills Cop - I'd also never seen this '80s movie with Eddie Murphy. Certainly not as good as Tootsie, or even close, but worth a watch if you like Murphy.

January 27th, 2015

Music in 2014

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Why hello there. I'm a bit late, but I wanted to post about some of my favorite albums of 2014. As I've done the last few years, I'll just list a bunch of albums I enjoyed, in no order... with no commentary!

  • Damon Albarn - Everyday Robots

  • Caribou - Our Love

  • FKA Twigs - LP1

  • The New Pornographers - Brill Bruisers

  • Angel Olsen - Burn Your Fire For No Witness

  • Spoon - They Want My Soul

  • St. Vincent - St. Vincent

  • A Sunny Day In Glasgow - Sea When Absent

  • Sharon Van Etten -  Are We There

  • The War On Drugs - Lost In The Dream

January 10th, 2015

2014 in film

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Readers may recall that I only saw four new films in 2013. This year I saw a much more normal ten! Nice job, shmoo.

I should also note that in my 2013 entry I listed 6 films released in 2013 that I had not yet seen, but wanted to see. Well, I have now seen them all (as well as the one remaining 2012 release that I hadn't yet seen a year ago).

But enough about 2013, here are the ten films released in 2014 that I've seen, in approximate ranked order:

  1. The Imitation Game

  2. Guardians of the Galaxy

  3. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

  4. The Grand Budapest Hotel

  5. X-Men: Days of Future Past

  6. Birdman

  7. The Muppets Most Wanted

  8. The Lego Movie

  9. Amazing Spider-Man 2

  10. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (I actually saw this one in 2015, shhh)

This is a pretty good list. I found it hard to differentiate between #2-5 but the sheer joy of Guardians of the Galaxy made it win out in the end.

I still want/need to see The Theory of Everything, Interstellar, and Into the Woods.

This link will take you to a page with all my year-end film lists, back to 2006.
 

December 4th, 2014

Past time for another update!

Dark Passage - 1947 Bogart/Bacall noir vehicle. Decent.

Red Dawn - So the Russian/Cuban plan to conquer the United States was to drop into Colorado and shoot unarmed teachers and kids. I wonder why they didn't try that in real life.

Our Man In Havana by Graham Greene - Droll parody of spy fiction. Recommended if you like James Bond and John Le Carré, but can still poke fun at them. I should see the film with Alec Guinness.

One Week - 1920 short film with Buster Keaton. It think this is the first time he does his "side of a house falls on him but he's perfectly place so he goes through the window and is unhurt" gag, though I think it was done better in Steamboat Bill Jr. Still, this was a well done little short.

Bye Bye Birdie - I had only seen a stage production of this classic musical. It's really making fun of '60s teen culture more than anything. It was alright.

Chaplin - Biopic of the famous actor/filmmaker, starring Robert Downey, Jr. Pretty good.

The Haunting - I decided to see this 1963 classic after reading the novel a few years ago. Notable in that the there are no special effects, yet it's still chilling.

Love in the Afternoon - Decent 1957 romantic comedy starring Audrey Hepburn and Gary Cooper.

Assassin's Quest by Robin Hobb - The last in Hobb's Farseer Triology, which I wrote about in my last entry. This third entry was better than the second, but still relatively unsatisfying after the strong start to the trilogy.

The Sheik - 1921 classic starring Rudolph Valentino. Film history, people.

Sling Blade - FInally saw this. I think it's been in the back of my mind since its release in 1996, though I had seen the 1994 short film version (which is basically redone as the first scene of this movie). I liked it.

Love Affair - 1939 romance that has been remade twice. Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer meet on a ship and decide to meet again six months. It was pretty good!

The Lego Movie - I had heard pretty great things about this new movie, so was left feeling a bit disappointed. Certainly fun though.

Night Film by Marisha Pessl - Mystery novel with some multimedia features: there was an app you could download to scan certain pages and get extra content, including audio clips. I quite liked it, but part of it was the gimmick.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang - This 1968 family film tries a bit too hard to recapture the magic of Mary Poppins. I understand they made significant changes to Ian Fleming's novel to make the setting and story closer to the earlier film. It was alright.

Birdman - New film starring Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, and others. I'm not sure I really got it.

The Bourne Ultimatum - As far as I can tell, this third film in the series was a retry of The Bourne Supremacy, except that they couldn't use some of the characters from the first film because they had killed them in the second film. I guess it was better than the second film though.
 

September 30th, 2014

It's been another long gap. Here's list of movies watched and books read. Some were so long ago now that I really don't recall much detail of my thoughts.

Assassin's Apprentice and Royal Assassin by Robin Hobb - The first two books of Hobb's Farseer Trilogy (I'll get to the last soon). The first book was pretty enjoyable fantasy, the second was a bit too much of a repeat of the first.

Paper Moon - 1973 film about a con man during the depression who ends up partnering with a young girl. Pretty good.

Pedro Páramo by Juan Rulfo - This is apparently an influential novel in Latin America, but I really couldn't decipher it (even translated into English).

Fiddler on the Roof - Film version of the famous musical. Loved it.

Philadelphia - Finally saw this Denzel Washington/Tom Hanks film, which I believe was the beginning of Hanks's transformation from comic star to Serious Actor. It was good, though a bit dated.

Funny Face - Musical starring Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn. The 30 year age gap between them made it awkwardto watch, and the plot was pretty silly. It's also pretty unbelievable to cast Hepburn as someone who could be referred to as "funny face."

A Bridge Too Far - All-star 1977 World War II movie about the failed Operation Market Garden. It was decent, but not the war classic I was expecting.

All The King's Men - 1949 Best Picture-winning adaptation of Robert Penn Warren's novel, which I read a while back. As noted in the link, i wasn't a huge fan of the book and that was true of the film as well.

Coffee & Cigarettes - Jim Jarmusch's 2003 full length made of short vignettes, including three short films that date back to 1986. Entertaining.

Guardians of the Galaxy - You've probably heard of this one. I'm willing to overlook some ropey plotting and issues that have bothered me in other films (notably Batman Begins) because it wasn't taking itself seriously, and also frankly it was so much fun.

Dance Dance Dance by Haruki Murakami - The sequel to Murakami's Trilogy of the Rat. Frankly, it's more of the same for Murakami, but it's something I like.

Muppets Most Wanted - The latest Muppet film. I watched this on a flight, for which it was a great venue as such a light, fluffy, and short film. Anyway, it was awesome of course.

The Bourne Identity - This is the Matt Damon version (though I'd like to see the Richard Chamberlain mini-series at some point). Yeah, this is the first time I've seen it. Yeah, it was pretty good.

Mulan - I remember my old roommate was really into this back when it was new-ish, but somehow I never actually watched it. It's quite good! I likes a strong woman.

Frost/Nixon - This was alright. I'm not sure there was really much story to tell.

The Spy Who Came In From The Cold - Film version of John Le Carré's novel, which I read a few years ago (can't find the entry). Not a great adaptation.

Amistad - This 1997 Spielburg film had been on my list forever. It hits all the Spielburg message film buttons but was pretty good, though over-long.

The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson - I really enjoyed this recent novel that takes place in North Korea. My wife is in the other room reading it as I type this. Recommended.

The Bourne Supremacy - Not as good. Why'd the bad guys try to kill him in the first place again?

The Master - Wha?

July 14th, 2014

So I haven't updated this thing since my wedding. Coincidence? Probably. Here's an update now though!

Blue Jasmine - I watched this 2013 Woody Allen film on the flight back from our honeymoon (so nearly three months ago). I liked it, but I expect I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn't been cramped in coach (we had business class on the way there, thanks to the Rascal or whatever he's calling himself now, but no dice on the return).

I Confess - This 1953 Alfred Hitchcock film, starring Montgomery Clift, was better than I expected. You'd think I'd learn by now that even lesser known Hitchcock films are still often gems! If you like Hitchcock and haven't seen this, add it to your list.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier - OMG, Bucky was alive after all! Oh, spoilers. Sorry. Anyway, this was quite good. Certainly not the best of the recent Marvel movies, but that's a pretty high bar.

Claudius the God by Robert Graves - This is the sequel to I, Claudius, which I read last year. As you may know, Claudius was the fourth Roman emperor, and these books are, together, a fictionalized autobiography. While the first book focused on Claudius's life prior to becoming emperor, this focuses on the rest of his life. i started it because of my honeymoon visit to Italy, but finished after returning. Very interesting read, though I wonder how much basis there is for some of the events and characterizations.

Man of Steel - 2013's Superman movie. Not very good. You will believe a man can anonymously perform good deeds while never holding down a steady job until our new alien overlords arrive! I miss Christopher Reeve.

Midnight Express - 1978 film about an American student imprisoned in Turkey for smuggling hash, based on a true story. I had actually never heard of this movie until it was the answer to a pub quiz question a few years ago. When I saw that it had been added to Netflix streaming, I figured I'd check it out. It was pretty good, though not great.

Heavy Metal - I think I was too sober for this 1981 animated sci-fi anthology.

The Grand Budapest Hotel - It's Wes Anderson. You know what you're getting and you know if you'll like it.

Los amantes pasajeros (aka, I'm So Excited!) - The latest from Pedro Almodóvar, about a group of passengers on an airplane with malfunctioning landing gear. I liked it.

Silverado - 1985 western starring Kevin Kline, Scott Glenn, and others. It was not so great, with several plot holes and dangling plot threads, and at least one scene that seemed to have been included out of order.

Sword Woman and Other Historical Adventures by Robert E. Howard - The last of the recent Del Rey collections of Howard's pulp stories. Fun stuff, as usual.

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes - A major film classic that I just saw for the first time. Jane Russell is billed ahead of Marilyn Monroe, though apparently at the time the take was that Monroe stole the show. However, watching it now, I think I appreciated Russell's performance more than Monroe's.

X-Men: Days of Future Past - The latest in the franchise that now has seven feature films. This seemed like a send off to the original cast (though some of them were barely used, and I expect Hugh Jackman has more Wolverine movies in him) but left the series in a good place with the new cast. I liked the movie a lot. Given the size of the case, the scenes in the future only worked because it was mainly revisiting characters the audience already knows. But they do, so it did.

Fantastic Voyage - 1966 science fiction film in which a submarine and crew are shrunk to microscopic size to enter a patient's bloodstream to remove a clot. It was alright.

As Tears Go By - Kar Wai Wong's directorial debut from 1988. Also features early performances from Andy Lau and Maggie Cheung. It was decent, though Wong of course had better to come. The movie features an amusing version of Berlin's "Take My Breath Away" that was in Chinese, other than the chorus.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation - This sequel made little sense, but I didn't expect much. The scene with Snake Eyes and Jinx on the zip lines was pretty cool. I hear they're making a third movie for some reason.

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri - The latest from the Pulitzer-winning author is about a man who marries his brother's widow to help her and her unborn daughter move to the U.S. (or, really, get away from India) and the consequences of that for their lives. Pretty depressing.

The Watcher in the Shadows by Carlos Ruiz Zafón - Another of Ruiz's young adult novels from the '90s, recently translated to English. They're fun and pass the time on the train.

Ubik by Philip K. Dick - One of the better-known novels by the classic sci-fi novelist. Some themes are reminiscent of his other work, where it's not clear what is real and what is not (think, for example, his short story "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale" and the film(s) based on it, Total Recall).

Five Easy Pieces - Early (1970), understated Jack Nicholson movie about a rootless man whose blue-collar life belies his privileged youth. It was okay.

Gandhi - It can be hard to judge a three hour epic film about such an admirable man. It's very long and the subject is, as I said, admirable. But was it a good film? I'm not sure I can even opine on that at this stage.

The Guns of Navarone - I'd been meaning to see this 1961 war/adventure film for years and finally got to it this weekend. You can't go wrong with Gregory Peck killing Nazis. The rest is just gravy.
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