February sent me back to South Florida for the annual Miami International Boat Show, one of several disruptions from my normal schedule that prevented me from watching a lot of movies. After having recovered from bronchitis only a month ago, I came back from Miami with a cold—I’m so sick of sickness! This was also the month of the Academy Awards and the now-infamous incorrect announcement of La La Land as Best Picture (Moonlight turned out to be the real winner). At the time of this writing, I have still not seen Manchester By the Sea or Lion. This was also the month I saw comedian Brian Kiley with my friend Rachel in Burbank; after the show, I found that my passage back to West Hollywood was blocked because of a fatal accident on the 101 Freeway. Not able to drive home, I headed back to the AMC 16 theater to see a late showing of A Dog’s Purpose; afterwards, traffic had cleared. I had to return to Burbank only a few hours later to pick up Joan and see Moana, followed by Split. BOOKS: I finished the audiobook of The Girl With No Past by Kathryn Croft and continue to read short stories by John D. MacDonald. MUSIC: I have been drilling and grading various recent releases, including albums by Ariana Grande, Ingrid Michaelson, Jonatha Brooke, Fifth Harmony, Look Park, etc.
Here’s what I saw in February:
A DOG’S PURPOSE (2017)—A family picture geared mostly for very young audiences. This dog-reincarnation story was a lot more juvenile that I had expected, and parts of the plot are exasperating to mature viewers who possess the power of logic. But at least it killed time while I was waiting for traffic to clear. (6)
SPLIT (2017)—Although M. Night Shyamalan’s latest thriller captured some decent reviews and was a sizable hit, Joan and I felt cheated by a story that started strongly but gradually fizzled. The ending is incomprehensible. (5)
PUNCHING HENRY (2017)—Sequel to comedian-songwriter Henry Phillips’ Punching the Clown is a better movie—and not just because he’s filled out the cast with A-level performers like J.K. Simmons and top-tier fellow comedians Sarah Silverman, Tig Notaro and Doug Stanhope. It’s a funnier film, better made, and Henry feels much more comfortable as a leading man—even if the character he plays is the same “rambling troubadour extraordinaire” who finds success in being a hapless schlemiel. It’s truly amazing how many different ways Phillips finds to tell the same basic joke: Are they laughing with me or laughing at me? Well, as long as they’re laughing, and lord knows I was. (Typical joke: A comedy club owner invites Henry back: “The door is always open,” he says, adding, “It’s a $10 cover, two-drink minimum.”) There’s plenty of dissing, humiliation and embarrassment for Henry, and his chagrin is our pleasure. It seems like I waited years to see this, and my patience was rewarded. I look forward to the third film in the trilogy. (9)
HACKSAW RIDGE (2016)—The real-life story of pacifist Desmond T. Doss (Andrew Garfield), who volunteered to act as a medic in WWII, but refused to carry or shoot a gun. At first he is bullied and jeered by his fellow soldiers, but he soon gains their respect by bravely saving numerous lives in the heat of battle. The movie is at times unimaginably gory and bloody. Teresa Palmer is quite fetching as Garfield’s love interest. (7)