Tag Archives: family


The boy has been watching Cars practically nonstop for the past four months. (Six?) But I didn’t ever sit down and watch it myself until this week. Common wisdom is that it’s a ripoff of Doc Hollywood, which would be easier to comment on if I, uh, remembered almost anything about that movie. I mean, the broad strokes, yes, in that a hotshot racecar|doctor learns that small town life is worthwhile and also falls in love. But I think I should be able to speak at a little more depth than that, to confirm or deny.

Anyway, at the end of the day, Pixar or not, it’s a kid movie, and unless maybe if you also are really into stock car racing (which I am not), it does not surpass its origins in the way that, say, parts of Up did. But it’s good enough to watch when his eyes light up like that, even if I think he should be watching Star Wars instead.

8-Bit Christmas

Back when streaming wasn’t a thing, A Christmas Story was such a popular movie that it would play over and over again for like a week straight on TBS, so people could just drop in and out and watch it whenever they felt like. In a strange albeit horrific and commercial-littered way, it presaged the very idea of streaming, at least for this one specific movie.

8-Bit Christmas is essentially Neil Patrick Harris narrating to his daughter his childhood attempts to bag a Nintendo Entertainment System near Christmas, one year in the late ’80s. It is episodic, sweet and heartfelt, and might otherwise become a classic if that kind of thing were possible anymore in such a diverse, fractured field of infinite entertainment options.

Basically, to bring my point back around to an otherwise extraneous introductory paragraph, A Christmas Story was an early ’80s movie about life and the holidays in the 1940s. This is an early ’20s movie about life and the holidays in the 1980s. I’m not saying they’re the same movie, but that’s mainly because I was alive in the ’80s and not the ’40s, so it’s hard to detect if ACS was telling lies or not. 8BC isn’t, though.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

After recently rewatching the other two Narnia movies[1], I have now proceeded to watch for the first time The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. This was one of young me’s favorite books, in retrospect because of how it involves episodic exploration of unknown parts in which random events occur. Examples: captured for slavery! found invisible monsters with weird tracks! cursed dragon hoard!

And I guess what I think is, without a cohesive throughline, that’s a bad look for a movie? Because “we’re sailing to the edge of the world and also looking for some lords who went this way before, because of some plot thing or other with green mist that frankly none of us[2] can be bothered to really remember well” is not a cohesive throughline. But it’s a perfect long-form episodic throughline, where you talk about the so-called main plot for maybe five minutes every other episode but mainly focus on the island of the week.

As far as the nuts and bolts of the movie… Aslan: mainly around to tell Lucy she should like herself for herself instead of wanting to be glamorous and older, and to take all the credit for making Eustace[3] a better person, even though let’s be real, it was finally having a friend that turned him around. Because Reepicheep is the best mouse, is what. But despite an interlude about heaven and who deserves to be there and when, the Christian trappings of this movie were… no, I’m doing this wrong. Christian trappings were all over the place, but at the expense of any actually useful Jesus values like forgiveness and loving your neighbor.

Ugh. Christian trappings. Goddammit.[4]

[1] They’re… not great. Like, my reviews might speak well of them? My counterpoint is “seeing this book for the first time on a screen” is its own special thing that takes away from noticing that it’s still only okay. And here I refer only to the first one. The second one is nowhere near as good as that.
[2] Okay, maybe me more than them. I would normally here say, well, maybe I was just too busy with work to pay attention. But I watch really a lot of TV and a good number of movies while working, and actually keeping up with the main plot has never been a problem before. So there’s a decent chance that the lack of new sequel was for a good reason.
[3] Eustace is a Pevensie cousin who is a right twit, until later when he is improved by the power of Narnia. If Aslan wanted to teach a Pevensie a lesson, it should have been teaching Edmund that, you know what, you were a right twit once upon a time too, so maybe cut a bro some slack? But CS Lewis is more offended by girls who want to use make-up and date than he is by toxic masculinity, and so here we are.
[4] get it?

Pokémon Detective Pikachu

During the credits for Detective Pikachu, I learned that the movie was based on a video game of the same name, which I had not been aware existed. So I guess this is technically a video game movie? Well, I guess Pokémon in general are from a video game, so that’s not really a revelation after all. Nevermind.

This is a kidmovie, mainly inasmuch as Pokémon is a kidgame. The good thing about this is that it doesn’t really reveal its colors until the too-neat denouement, and if I’m being realistic, lots of movies are wrapped up with a bow that are not strictly speaking aimed at kids. Still, this was, and its too-neat bow-wrapping was definitely kid-oriented.

Except for that, it turns out to be really good? Well, important caveat: if you like the tiny pokemen upon which its hat is hung. I am just barely the target audience for this movie, mostly because of all the Pokémon Go I’ve played. But they did an incredible job both of making the creatures that I guess replaced animals in the evolution of this particular world seem completely alive and real and part of the scenery, and also of giving those creatures personalities that were, at least on a per species scale, unique and identifiable. Okay, the last thing sounds less cool than it is, because there’s not much involved in making a monkey pokeman act like a monkey. But trust me: they did an amazing job of bringing the world to life, in every particular.

The plot? Well, our hero, Tim Goodman[1], who has given up on his dreams of being a Pokémon trainer to start a career in insurance, goes to a place not literally named Pokémon City to investigate his policeman father’s mysterious death. Well, no, to settle his estate, there’s no way the guy I just described would be investigating anything, except that his father’s Pokémon partner (everyone in the city has one, it’s not a cop thing) is Ryan Reynolds wearing a pikachu suit and a detective hat. Together, they… well, you know. Like I said, it’s a kidmovie at heart. It’s just a really excellently executed one, if you are down with the P.

[1] No, really.


You would think that I’d have already read the long-published book Coraline, by Neil Gaiman. I mean, he’s awesome, right? But by the time I got my hands on a copy, I already knew there’d be a movie coming out, so I’ve put it off. Of course, I kept not seeing the movie, too, which really threw the whole thing out of whack, but Wednesday rendered itself convenient, and now I can at least put the book on my shelf.

Coraline is one of those cautionary fairy tales about the dangers of skipping out on the hard parents who have your best interests, in favor of the easy ones who probably have a catch. Unfortunately, the movie failed this test by making Coraline’s parents all too unlikeable, with only a hint of the tough-but-fair paradigm I think (or at least hope) they were trying to portray. Coraline Jones and those parents have just moved into the ground floor of a rental house out in the country, where they can pursue their dreams of writing gardening books, dreams which are made ridiculously implausible by their shared dislike of dirt. Of course, the larger issue is that they’re stressed out by their lack of success and resultantly treat Coraline more like an unwanted distraction than a beloved daughter. All of which would turn into a distressingly heart-rending After-School Special except that there’s a tiny, walled-over door in the rental house’s parlor which leads to a mirror world, through a glass brightly, if you will, where Coraline’s parents dote on her and are excellent cooks, and every tenant and local are present solely to entertain Coraline in a variety of kid-friendly ways, with just the correct hint of faux-danger. In short, every child’s dream come true, much less any child living under the whiff of neglect, and possibly a bit more than a whiff, that Coraline is.

Here’s the good news. Although the cautionary portion of the tale is undercut by her parents actually being kind of harsh, instead of merely not the picture-perfect givers that self-involved kids inevitably want, the fairy tale sense of mounting dread and rich climactic action are spot on. Plus, y’know, 3D, which never seems to suck. Because, of course Coraline’s button-eyed Other Mother is different from how she initially seems. (I distinctly remember mentioning, y’know, fairy tale.) Additionally, the cat is just delightfully… cattish. I can’t say what comparison there is between book and movie, though I understand from Fresh Air that one character was created entirely for the flick. But that cat has all the right notes that makes me certain Neil wrote him first. He just understands cats like nobody’s business.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

I finally saw Prince Caspian over the weekend, and it was kind of a weird experience. As a fantasy adventure movie, it kind of works. All those kids from the first movie are magically summoned back to Narnia when Prince Caspian, marked for death by his usurping uncle, stumbles across Susan’s magic get-out-of-jail-free horn where she dropped it in the woods while trying to escape his uncle’s army and blows it.[1] Or, considering he wouldn’t have known to, maybe someone gave it to him instead. Or maybe he didn’t know and was just hoping someone would show up to save him? I’m not sure.

Anyway, there they all are, and it’s been over a thousand years and their whole castle is fallen apart, because evil Spaniards (who we call Telmarines) attacked and subjugated Narnia quite a while ago, driving the magical creatures and talking animals so far into the forest that they are believed to be extinct, plus nobody has seen Aslan in pretty much that whole time. Although Caspian is heir to the Telmarine throne, the fact that his people want him dead and that plot necessity demands it combine to get all the Narnians willing to support him. His enlightened reign, he promises, will see his people and the Narnians peacefully co-existing, which one supposes is better than hiding so well everyone thinks you’ve died out.

Then he and the Narnians and the Pevensie kids (aka Kings and Queens of Narnia, aka Peter and Susan and Edmund and Lucy) all get together and have a war against Uncle Miraz and the Telmarine army, with mixed success, all culminating in a grand finale of some kind, as movies often do. So, yeah, that worked.

As the Christian metaphor that one expects from the Narnia property: well, mixed success fits well here, too. There’s a bit about not making a deal with the devil, even if it is the devil you know. And there’s a bit about not ignoring God’s little nudges in your life. Which, okay, I suspect that they maybe aren’t as obvious as seeing a lion waving you over, but that’s how metaphors work, so fair enough. But even though most of the failures in the movie were blamed on not following Aslan, as is a good and proper metaphor, the fact is there was just no real way to tell what it was that Aslan wanted of them. He just sat around waiting for things to be terrible, and then rolled in to save them all, while proclaiming that the whole point of not coming and saving them to start with, as he’d done in the previous movie, is that things aren’t ever the same twice. Except really, what he did was exactly the same, because, after all, the whole point of the metaphor is that ultimately you can’t face the evils of the world without Aslan there to carry you down the beach some of the time.

I mean, if they’d made a show of “I didn’t help you because you never asked me to”, that at least would have been a prayer metaphor, and I could get behind it working, pretty well in fact. But I mean, there was no show. And by ‘show of’, I mean not even a single line of dialogue, which is approximately how much it would have taken. Maybe another line or two of reaction, but this is not a long conversation I’m describing here. This also might have tied into the part where nobody in Narnia really believes in Aslan anymore, since nobody has much seen him in the past millennium, although at the same time, I imagine that the Narnians were looking for him to come help back when the war started and their castle was being smashed and they were doing the extinction-hiding and it had been less than a thousand years since anyone had seen him. (I mean, I don’t know how long, but this is the 10th Caspian, so it’s been a little while.) And since he obviously didn’t show up to help out then, well, that would kind of hurt the metaphor a bit, I guess.[2]

Also, the above review probably contained spoilers, and if you care about such things, you should not have read it.

[1] I just reread that sentence, and as much as I considered rewording it because it loses track of proper antecedents at least twice, I choose instead to let it stand as a monument to my awesome clarity of communication.
[2] I just remembered another complaint. It bothered me when they said that Narnia is only ever right when a Son of Adam or Daughter of Eve rules the country. Even though I understand the whole ‘man shall have dominion over the creatures of the earth’ thing, it’s just, these are centaurs and talking mice[3] and morally conflicted dwarves, and they all seem to have agency, you know, so the concept comes off a lot more as White Man’s Burden to show up from a different, far away place and take care of the poor misguided natives so they don’t screw things up too badly than as the Genesis metaphor that is apparently intended.
[3] To be clear, Reepicheep was in fact awesome. So that’s nice.

Season of Mists

The Sandman, I said. And I meant it, because that is some damn fine literature. I read the series in 1996 or so, right after they’d all been published as graphic novels, and it was a hell of a ride. Observant visitors may notice the domain name, and wonder if it is a coincidence. (It is not. That’d be pretty funny if it were, though.)

What I didn’t ever do was own them. So, over the past few years I’ve been snagging them one at a time as the mood strikes me, and then reading them gradually at whim, not really part of a reading list schedule. The first few books are highly episodic in nature, with introductions to characters and the setting taking up a lot more space than ongoing storylines (although there’s no question that there are a couple of very solid ones). The upshot of this is that I haven’t felt compelled to review any of them yet. But over the past week, I read Season of Mists and it all fell into place. To the point where if I had income, I’d just buy the rest of them right now and take some time. But I do not, so enough about that!

I’m loathe to summarize it, in that I feel I can only damage the pristine beauty, but here goes: The Lord of Dreams attends a meeting with the other members of his Endless family at which he is goaded into righting a long-ago committed wrong, and in the process he receives a most unwelcome gift.

Having read the series before, I can also say that this is where most of the seeds are planted for remaining arc of the story, which could explain my hankering for the remaining volumes just now. The standard high quality of art rounds off the experience, which should be shared by everyone. (Incidentally: I’m caught up now. Yay!)

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

So, I know what you’re thinking. Hey, why not space these things out a little more evenly, instead of cramming in a bunch of updates all at once, and then you can give fair consideration to each thing instead of just finding a block of time and catching up but cheating on real content. I have a few answers. 1) How dare you? This is absolutely real content. Well, okay, but even if it isn’t, I have a good excuse. 2) I actually watched these two movies right in a row, so I had to take extra time to digest them separately instead of getting them all mixed up together. Also, for the book, I handed it to my dad as soon as I finished it, and I wanted to give him a little breathing space prior to a review that I knew he’d read even though it would have been better to wait until he was done. But I’m well over halfway through the Potter book, and two books behind is too much. So, I got off my ass and here I am.

In any case, yeah, after an hour’s break doing the whole summer mall-watching thing (the problem is that the girls in the mall are too young and you feel like a bad person and have to stop watching almost right away; if only there was a place where hot chicks walked by, but they were all at least 20. Maybe they could serve alcohol, too. Comfortable seating, maybe some TVs. Not so much actual shopping, because that’s lame. This is a million dollar idea right here), it was back into the theater for another serving of popcorn literally and metaphorically. Well, perhaps junior mints would make the better metaphor, considering the themes but especially the chocolatey subject matter of the flick in question.

After all that, you’d think I’d have more to say about the movie. Very enjoyable, almost entirely due to Johnny Depp. The writing had good moments too, but so many things that could have been really annoying (particularly the Oompa Loompa songs, to a lesser extent the morality plays that the songs served as microscopes for) were made hilarious by Willy Wonka’s childlike (sometimes spitefully so) enjoyment of them.

Comparison to the Gene Wilder version? Well, I think I liked Depp better on the whole because candy really is a kid’s game, and he nailed that. But there’s a lot to be said for Wilder’s omnisciently knowing Wonka, leading his would-be proteges through a series of tests and only pretending to wide-eyed innocence. It’s a little too musical for me, though.