Thursday, June 01, 2017

May 2017

This month, Cindy and I came to the end of our tutoring sessions for the semester at John Muir Elementary School. I had been tutoring Jace, a 7-year-old boy, in reading. He is a smart, very cute kid, and we had made considerable progress over the passing months. A week ago, the program threw its annual “tutor celebration,” where I got to meet the boy’s brother and mother. It was a bittersweet moment, capping off my fourth year as a tutor but saying goodbye to the child I’d gotten close to. It was probably the highlight of my month. BOOKS: I listened to audiobooks of One Perfect Lie (Lisa Scottoline) and The Sixth Window (Rachel Abbott), and am currently two-thirds of the way through The Cellar by Natasha Preston. I abandoned The Good Girl by Mary Kubica halfway through, since it was maddeningly slow. In other news, I have been working on lots of Jumble puzzles in the series of popular Jumble books...for what that’s worth. TV: My network shows (Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, The Big Bang Theory, Mom, The Simpsons, Modern Family, Saturday Night Live) all ended this month, while a couple of my cable favorites (Better Call Saul, Fargo) continue on—at least for a few more weeks. I started watching Great News and The President Show and have enjoyed both; I also binged on Crashing, which was occasionally very funny. Twin Peaks has returned, and that has been a surreal experience, to say the least. I’ve also been collecting, but have not yet watched, numerous cable series that have gotten great reviews but haven’t had time to watch (The Handmaid’s Tale, Scream Queens, House of Cards, Big Little Lies, Sneaky Pete, Dimension 404, Victoria, This Is Us, Good Behavior and The Missing). Another series, 13 Reasons Why, is based on a novel I read a year or two ago. MUSIC: I liked the new album by my #1 idol, Todd Rundgren, and also enjoyed albums by Harry Styles and Paramore. Right now I’m catching up on a bunch of current hits on the Hot 100 charts.

Here are the movies I saw this month.

THE DISCOVERY (2017)—This Netflix science-fiction movie sounded a lot more interesting than it turned out to be. Robert Redford is a scientist in the not-too-distant future who somehow discovers evidence of a human afterlife, or at least proof that “something” happens after you die. This leads to a huge spike in suicides. Jason Segel plays Redford’s son, who tries to stop a young woman (Rooney Mara) from killing herself. It takes way too long for anything interesting to happen in this movie, and by the time more revelations arise from Redford’s mysterious “discovery,” it’s too confusing to really comprehend. (4)

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 (2017)—The follow-up to Marvel’s 2014 summer smash comic-book movie is very nearly as funny and exciting as the original. A couple of new faces join the crowd, including Kurt Russell as Chris “Peter Quill” Pratt’s daddy. The entire cast is fantastic in this nonstop thrill ride. (9)

THE LOVERS (2017)—Debra Winger and Tracy Letts are a middle-aged married couple who are both cheating with their respective lovers. Unfortunately, good performances can’t save this slower-than-molasses movie. Sexy Jessica Sula did prevent me from falling asleep more than halfway through the movie. (5)

PARIS CAN WAIT (2017)—Eager to wash the previous Sunday’s boring movie experience from our minds, Joan and I were looking forward to a more “normal” movie. This turned out to be more of a travelogue and cooking show than a real movie, but the presence of Diane Lane more than made up for a lack of a plot as she is chauffeured through the south of France by the charming Arnaud Viard. It’s always nice to experience Europe with the eternally youthful Lane, who only gets more beautiful as she gets older. Actually, this film would make a great companion piece to the first Diane Lane movie I ever saw: 1979’s A Little Romance, which also saw her romping through France with a charming local lad. Memo to self: watch more movies starring this enchanting lady! (8)

BLACK BUTTERFLY (2017)—A variation on the “home invasion” genre pits Antonio Banderas as a washed-up writer inviting a mysterious younger guy (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) to stay a few days in his remote cabin near some woods. They play a tense game of cat and mouse that culminates in one of the most outrageously unbelievable plot twists I’ve ever seen. At times gripping, at others totally nonsensical, but Meyers is perfectly cast as the menacing houseguest. Banderas, meanwhile, is laughably miscast. (7)

ALIEN: COVENANT (2017)—Second Alien prequel (a follow-up to 2012’s Prometheus) is so much like a movie I saw a couple of months ago (Life) that it gave me a weird feeling of déjà vu. Although large portions of it are acceptably escapist popcorn monster-movie fare, the twists in this sci-fi slasher film are all too predictable—there’s really nothing new here. This is, after all, as a prequel to the Alien series, it’s not like there’s any chance whatsoever that the  monsters are going to be eradicated. Thus, the ending is a foregone conclusion. (7)

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