Tuesday, July 05, 2016

June 2016

I spent a big part of this month creating the August issue of Speedboat magazine. My friend Fiona also made her annual business trip to Glendale, and we had a nice dinner at Black Angus (she liked the salmon!). Fiona got to meet another friend of mine, Rachel, who joined us for a post-dinner scoop of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream at the Burbank mall. Also this month, Rachel and I saw (and greatly enjoyed) a stage musical, I Only Have Eyes For You, at the Montalban Theater, about the career of songwriter Al Dubin.

Books: After finishing 1952’s The Burnaby Experiments by Stephen Gilbert, a sci-fi novel about astral projection that I’ve been curious about since I was a child, I received the latest Dick Tracy comic strip reprint collection—this one encompassing the year of my birth—and tore into the detective’s early 1960s sagas. (The next edition officially kicks off Chester Gould’s famous space-travel series, featuring the Moon Maid.) From there, I started reading another sci-fi novel, Children of the Atom by Wilmar H. Shiras. On the audiobook front, I devoured End of Watch, the outstanding final novel in Stephen King’s Bill Hodges trilogy, and began listening to a collection of letters written by the late John Lennon.

TV: I finished binging on The Mindy Project, then binged on the excellent new season of Orange Is the New Black. I also watched several episodes of Masters of Illusion, a series featuring live magic acts. I had fun trying to solve the mystery of how each trick was performed.

Music: I worked my way through the catalog of Chantal Kreviazuk, grading all of her songs before moving on to Fountains of Wayne, which I’m currently working my way through. My list of musical artists’ discographies to binge on throughout the year includes Mike Viola, Warren Zevon, Coldplay, Paramore, Heather Nova, Karine Polwart, David Wilcox, Eddi Reader, Dusty Springfield and Jackson Browne.

Here are the movies I saw in June:

POPSTAR: NEVER STOP NEVER STOPPING (2016)—Riotously funny mockumentary about a full-of-himself white rapper, Conner4Real, played by Andy Samberg and featuring his band The Lonely Island. This will probably turn out to be the best comedy of the year. Full of great satire, equaling the uproarious levels of This Is Spinal Tap. Can’t wait to see it again. A standout: former Saturday Night Live actor Tim Meadows. (10)

THE ONES BELOW (2016)—Creepy psychological thriller about a couple with a newborn baby who greet the downstairs neighbors, an expectant married couple who seem nice enough…until a catastrophic incident changes the dynamic of their relationship, which is putting it mildly. Not exactly terrifying, but occasionally suspenseful. Good acting. (8)

THE NICE GUYS (2016)—Six years ago, The Other Guys—a buddy comedy about a couple of cops played by Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg—proved so unfunny that I walked out before it was over. This year’s “Guys” movie is The Nice Guys, with Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling as a couple of private investigators trying to solve a mystery while sending up the 1970s. Not nearly as hilarious as it thinks it is, the movie never really gelled for me and I longed for it to be over. However, I saw it in the ultra-comfortable iPic Theatre in Westwood, which was a great place to see a movie…I just wish it had been a good one. Pretty young up-and-comer Angourie Rice has some nice moments as Gosling’s daughter. (5)

THE LOBSTER (2016)—UGH! The worst movie I’ve seen in quite some time is sort of a futuristic romantic indie film about a society where love is mandatory, and if you don’t find a suitable “significant other,” you get turned into the animal of your choice. The point and any satire was clearly lost on me; it was a slog from beginning to end, alternately nonsensical and boring. A travesty. (2)

ASSAULT ON A QUEEN (1966)—Another movie that roped me in because it features an ocean liner. Frank Sinatra, Tony Franciosa and various others living in the Bahamas plot to hold up the Queen Mary—an idea so far-fetched that it might just work! Except it never could, and doesn’t. One of these movies that forces you to root for and sympathize with the villains, which is usually quite difficult to pull off, and in this movie they don’t. Contains lots of scenes taking place on the docks of a marina that is very obviously a sound stage. The early part of the movie asks you to believe that Sinatra, a diver, discovers and raises a WWII submarine single-handedly! Not entirely horrible, but nothing exceptional. (7)

THE INVITATION (2016)—A dinner party featuring several couples, taking place about a year after one of the couples lost their child in a freak accident, becomes a nightmare for all involved. Like The Ones Below, there’s some nice suspense in this passable psychological thriller, in which the central couple seem to be involved in a kind of cult. Interesting. (8)

MIDNIGHT SPECIAL (2016)—I absolutely despised director Jeff Nichols’ feature Take Shelter (2011), but his follow-up, Mud (2012), was a very well-put-together coming-of-age drama. With Midnight Special, he’s back on weirdo sci-fi turf, as Michael Shannon (star of Shelter) is on the run with his son, who has some curious superpowers that involve strange glowing lights coming out of his eyes. Oh, and he can make satellites fall out of the sky. I thought the basic setup and premise were interesting, and I can’t say it didn’t hold my interest, but none of it really adds up and the movie leaves you with more questions than answers. (7)

FINDING DORY (2016)—Thirteen years after Finding Nemo—a Disney animated feature that never truly charmed me as much as it did most people—comes the belated sequel in which Dory (memory-challenged Ellen DeGeneres) takes center stage. This is a movie tailor-made for those who thought Nemo was a great film; they’ve made it so much like the original that I honestly felt I was re-watching it. There’s more here for small children than thinking adults; I was pretty bored, although there are a couple of nice scenes. (6)

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