Category Archives: Movies

The Force Awakens (Spoiler Free)

The newest Star Wars movie allegedly comes out tomorrow, but my local cinema had both screens open this evening for a 7pm and a 9-something showing. Oldest and I got our tickets for the 7pm earlier in the week. Oldest rocked a fancy Luke Skywalker costume, copied from what Mr Skywalker was wearing at the beginning of Return Of The Jedi. I had my “Hello Jawa” t-shirt, and had a red lightsaber, just in case.

The screen we were in was pretty full. Not every seat was taken, but most were.

Seemed there were more trailers than usual: Now You See me 2, Allegiant, Batman vs Superman, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, and Captain America: Civil War. A friend predicted Finding Nemo 2, and I predicted Independence Day: Resurgence and Star Trek: Beyond. We were both wrong. In hindsight, Captain America should have been obvious for the same reasons as the ones we predicted: Nemo because of the Disney connection, Independence Day and Trek for the sci-fi action.

This review of the movie will be spoiler-free, though I suspect the best way of not being spoiled will be to see the movie soon.

Overall impression was that The Force Awakens was a good, enjoyable movie. Not blown-out-of-the-water fantastic you-must-see-it-now super-wonderful, but still good, and I’m glad I saw it.

It opened with the Lucasfilm logo, then the traditional “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…”. It was weird for the main Star Wars theme to be without the Fox fanfare.

It seemed that most of the trailer footage, promotional stills, and so on, were taken from the very beginning of the movie. Not all, but rather a lot.

I didn’t go out of my way looking for speculation about the movie, based on those trailers and images, but I did see some. And it was interesting how not-right it all turned out to be.

There were a bunch of impressive visuals. I mean, it would be pretty bad if there weren’t, but I can picture getting screen grabs of several things, for the screensaver.

Characters: I liked Maz. I wanted to know more about Snoke. It seemed they were setting up for us to learn more about Rey, in further installments of the series.

Some returning characters were used surprisingly sparingly. Even some new characters seemed less significant than some promotional material seemed to suggest.

There were some nice continuity nods to earlier films. Including a throwaway line explaining why Finn isn’t Temuera Morrison.

The Force Awakens seemed a solid Part 1. A New Hope seemed more standalone than this one, though this contained its story pretty well. It does leave you wanting to know What Happens Next.

I’m looking forward to seeing it again on DVD.

After Mockingjay Part 2’s MPAA number came tantalisingly close to 50000, I was waiting to see if The Force Awakens’s would beat it. It seems that though the number generally corresponds with release date, that’s not a hard-and-fast rule. Well, it turned out to be 50155. Wow, where did those 159 other movies go?

Anyway, those are my first-viewing spoiler-free impressions of Episode VII. Might so a more spoilery one after the DVD comes out.

Spoiler: Wash dies.

New Sci-Fi Trailers

You know me, I like movies, and I like sci-fi. Oldest and I just got tickets for his taking me to see The Force Awakens, an obscure sci-fi film that’s coming up. A couple of nights ago, I saw a trailer for what presumably will be a summer blockbuster, a sequel to a movie that became a benchmark in film. And this morning, a trailer was released for some other franchise movie called “Beyond”.

Independence Day. The alien ships’ attacks on significant building and monuments caught the imaginations of moviegoers everywhere. And the cast – Will Smith, before Men In Black. Jeff Goldblum, after Jurassic Park. Bunch of other people you know, in major roles. Bunch of other people you know, in minor roles. Not sure where you’d place Brent Spiner, between those two categories. Adam Baldwin, before Firefly. Tim Kelleher (might not be really famous, but I like him).

And the effects (watch the special features, man) were really a breakthrough at the time. The lines may have been corny and catchy (“All right, you alien assholes!”), but it had more of a sense of fun than many other disaster movies, there’s good reason it’s popular.

So it’s actually pretty surprising it’s taken them so long to make a sequel. the Resurgence trailer has some images that echo scenes from the first movie. The UN convoy at the beginning is a bit reminiscent of all the cars and caravans turning up at Area 51. The swaggering pilots. The planes (wanna bet upgrading them with alien tech was a bad idea?). A scene reminiscent of the lab breakout in the original. The fire cloud surrounding the ship entering the atmosphere, of course. The wake of the alien ship destroying a satellite dish on what looks like the moon, as opposed to Armstrong’s footsteps being obliterated. Goldblum looking worried. Some people standing around looking to see what happens next (reminded me of the newsroom from the original).

So there’s a similar visual style, with the slight upgrade to a more recent camera style. Not enough dialogue to be able to tell if it’s as fun as the original. The original set a benchmark for so much action in a movie, and subsequent advances in CG made it possible for movies to do even more, it’s going to be hard for Resurgence to really set itself apart, in that area.

But it seems like a 20-year gap between movies would have given the makers a lot of time to think about how to follow up on the original. One hopes they spent the time well.

The other trailer, the one I caught this morning, was for a little movie called Star Trek: Beyond.

Beyond what? Well, the last movie was Into Darkness, so presumably this would be Beyond Darkness.

The writers were told not to make the movie too Star Trek-y, which seems like a dumbass direction to take for a Star Trek movie. I feel like I ought to have reservations about the director, known for some of the Fast & Furious movies. Having not seen any movies in that series, I don’t think I’m really qualified to pass judgment. He directed three episodes in the first season of Community, so we’ll say that’s a mark in his favour…

I really like the shot of someone getting out of the upright escape pod. Would suggest Kirk, it looks like he’s next to a pod int he next shot, but I’m not sure that one is upright. I like the “This is where the frontier pushes back” line. The shot at 1:11 of the Enterprise crew in a big, long, serpentine line, watched over by some armed guards.

you can’t judge a movie by its trailer, so the saying goes. The trailer tells you a bit about the idea of the movie (they go without the ship for a bunch of the movie, and there are bad guys), but not much at all about the “why”s. Bit of a “wait and see”. And I will wait, and I will see, just… a bit early to get excited about it.

The Great Cinema Binge Of Yesteryear

There was a time in the early to mid-2000s, when I regularly went to the cinema. I’m not sure that I’ve ever mentioned this on the blog, but it’s one of those anecdotes that does tend to come up if I talk about going to the cinema for any length of time.

The cinema happened to be not-very-far-away as the train flies, and I had the afternoon free from work on Tuesday, the cheap day. Saw a bunch of Orange Film Board commercials during that time, probably the most interesting promos about how mobile phones can ruin the movie-watching experience.

I would tend to watch 3 movies in a row. I’d have to plan start times and end times, and have to factor in running time. It was fun.

There were, if I recall correctly, a little more than 20 screens in the cinema. Some were straightforwardly small, with an aisle dividing the two sets of seats. Some screens were pretty huge, with a bunch of seats in front of a railing, and the seats behind the railing tiering upwards.

It was in one of these huge screens that I watched Star Wars Episode III, I was towards the front of the cluster in front of the railing, which was far too close to the screen to comfortably see the action. It was an evening screening, fairly close to release day, and was one of the only seats left. Also in one of these giant screens, I saw The Aviator. Afternoon, not evening, that showing was not very full. I sat just behind the railing, which tended to be a good distance for watching movies. It was perfect for that movie, I was grabbing the railing when the plane was crashing down into that house.

In the smaller screens, I developed a sense of about how far back in the cinema I wanted to be (action movie, there was no point in sitting in the front half). There did tend to be a spot just off-center of the screen that tended to be a bit extra reflective, that could just be the angle of the projector and my angle of viewing, meeting in an unfortunate manner.

There were times when there were a bunch of things I wanted to watch, and I didn’t quite catch them all, and some points where less looked immediately interesting, but I’d give some a chance. And there was an interesting mix, some I was less sure about I ended up enjoying (White Noise springs to mind), some that I was more interested in seeing turned out to be a lot less good (Alexander, Troy, King Arthur).

In addition to the movies themselves, for a large chunk of this time there tended to be a bunch of promotional materials given away. My wall at one point was covered in movie posters, and I had a stack of postcards. These materials had all kind of dried up by the time I stopped. I was pleasantly surprised when I went to the cinema the other day, to find a stack of posters for the film I was watching, in two designs. If it stops raining tomorrow, I can take the two Mockingjay Part 2 posters to the garage, and put them in the box with all the other film posters.

The chain did a nice promotion when Star Trek Nemesis came out: you could get preview tickets for that film, and you could also get tickets for The Wrath Of Khan, The Voyage Home, The Undiscovered Country, and First Contact (the even-numbered films, AKA “the good ones”), all shown back-to-back on a Sunday.

Too right I took advantage of that one. Just a shame Nemesis sucked.

So anyway, that was a fun experience for a couple of years. And don’t tell anyone, but I think I still have the ticket stubs in a box somewhere, I could find out what I actually saw then.

Mockingjay, Part 2

I hadn’t expected to see this film anytime soon. I saw the first movie in the cinema, the second on an ex-rental DVD we picked up, and the third on Amazon Prime streaming. Getting out to see anything can be awkward. But a friend was going to see it tonight, and invited our household along. Well, the grown-ups, at least. I think only my wife and I had seen Part 1, and she knew I wanted to see this one, so she suggested I take the opportunity.

I will aim to be as spoiler-free as possible, in talking about parts of the movie

We talked through the trailers (including Allegiant, Creed, and a new Julia Roberts movie), and settled down for the movie. I don’t think there were more than a couple of other people watching.

We had fun. Most of the time we were completely engaged with the movie, but there were a few points where we quietly commented to each other.

There was a point where a bunch of characters are sneaking around, and they hear some strange noises. One of the noises may have been a kind of whispered “Katnissss….” which did invite a “My Precious….” comment.

As far as I recall the book, the movie followed the book pretty well. There was a part of the book that I read a few times, not succeeding in following it very well. As the books follow Katniss’s perspective, I think the scene was intentionally confusing, it’s pretty chaotic and a lot of things were happening, so it wouldn’t be surprising for the character to find it difficult to follow all that’s going on. Still, it was nice to see it a lot more clearly in the movie. The scene in question is outside the presidential gates.

I found the movie as well-paced as Part 1. I thought Catching Fire was a bit squeezed into the movie, and rather a lot happens in the Mockingjay book, both movies based on it seemed to give the scenes enough room to breathe. I didn’t think anything seemed dragged-out. There were some characters who could have used a bit more time to help the audience get to care about them, but that’s a pretty minor nitpick.

The last few scenes were especially important to get right, and I think the filmmakers did well enough.

Creature design was interesting. Shades of Alien, but it’s kind of hard to not evoke that, with that combination of head shape and posture. Different colour, evoking more the Alien/human hybrid from Alien Resurrection. Maybe Venom from the Spider-Man cartoons, minus the tongue.

Having read the book, there were definitely some moments of anticipation for things I knew were coming up. And I didn’t feel disappointed by anything.

All in all, I think the movie series treated the books pretty well. I’d still say the books are worth the time to read, but wouldn’t turn my nose up at the movies.

Sat nine rows back in a pretty small cinema, which was good for the most part. Only one actiony sequence was hard to watch. Not enough to make me wish the director had been forced to watch the movie from the front row at a big cinema screen.

Many years ago, I started collecting the MPAA numbers that are (usually) at the end of movies. I’d noticed them for a while, and it has kind of been an on-again off-again project. Complications with making them out, in the VHS days, and scrapping the project one time when I encountered some major inconsistencies between the number and the movie’s copyright date for a chunk of movies. Now I get screen grabs off the DVDs, when I can. Anyway, for a while now, I’ve been expecting each movie I see to break 50000. Mockingjay  2’s number was 49995. Maybe Star Wars?

Items Rescued From A Closing Store

Once upon a time, there was a video rental store called “Crazy Mike’s”, which my best man Mike took advantage of in his speech. That closed a while ago. There is another video store on the edge of town, apparently run by a guy called Steve, who doesn’t admit to any level of insanity in his store’s name.

Well, now this store is closing, too. I’m sorry it’s closing, but as I’m more of a buyer than a renter, I haven’t contributed to its staying around.

But they’ve been selling off their stock, so I decided to go in and see what they had.

Newer movies were on some deal, 3 or 4 for $20, I don’t remember how many. I skipped past that one, and the horror movie deal, to the “Get 4 for $10″.

A 3-2-1 Penguins had Oldest dancing around when I got home, and a Strawberry Shortcake did similar for Middlest.

Bubba Ho-Tep had been languishing on one of my hidden wishlists for a while. I’d been interested in seeing it, and so had my uncle-in-law, who gave a big cheer when I read the list out of what I’d got. In the movie, Elvis hadn’t really died. Now he lives in a retirement home. When evil, in the form of a soul-sucking Egyptian mummy, rears its ugly head, it’s up to Elvis, and a black JFK, to save the world.

Much Ado About Nothing, Joss Whedon’s post-Avengers free-time project, we’d borrowed from the library and watched, but was also sitting on a hidden wishlist.

The rest were somewhat more opportunistic. Hot Fuzz I’d had taped off TV ages ago, but never got round to watching before we moved. I’ve seen the other two parts of the Cornetto Trilogy, so this theoretically fills the gap.

I enjoyed the first Alien vs Predator, so I picked up the sequel, though I have heard it’s not as good. Slightly bummed that though I checked the boxes of all the movies for aspect ratio, I didn’t check the discs. So I intended to get the original widescreen, but ended up with a full-screen disc. Whose dumb idea was it to produce these things in the first place? BOOOOOO!

Pirate Radio, from the makers of Love Actually. Familiar with the likes of Radio Caroline and so on, from my dad’s interest in them, and having met a former presenter of one of those stations, I’m interested to see this take on the story.

Having these in hand, I was not readily coming up with an eighth DVD, though there were many reasonable candidates. An X-Files movie, I know people in the house like X-Files. Space Cowboys, I did want to see that. More. In the end, my mother-in-law suggested a movie that she was interested in seeing, co-incidentally one I’d caught in the cinema when it was new. Don’t remember it well enough to give it a review, and my take on it would probably be different now, after the spiritual journey of the intervening years, and perhaps more than that, more exposure to the landscape of American Christianity. I picked up “Saved!”. I joked that I should find a bell to set it next to.

So there we go, my taking advantage of another casualty in the ever-changing face of physical-store-based commercial endeavours.

I expressed condolences to the guy in the store (presumably the eponymous Steve), and he said he’d had a good 12-year run. I wished him all the best for whatever his next thing would be.

Musings On the Hunger Games: The Books And The First Three Movies

When The Hunger Games was pretty new in the cinema, I was treated to go and see it. My sister-in-law took my wife and me. I knew next to nothing about it.

I enjoyed it. Then I went and enjoyed all three books.

Watching a movie before reading the book is one thing, watching the movie after reading the book is another.

Seeing Catching Fire, then, was a different experience. It fairly faithfully depicted the events of the book, point-by-point, but the movie was stuffed to bursting with these things, and there wasn’t really the space to flesh things out that needed fleshing out, or to enrich the environments or the story. I was a bit disappointed that it didn’t really seem to bring anything new to the table.

Of course, it already had the odds stacked against it in that regard, as the story of Catching Fire isn’t terribly different from the book/movie before it.

Ultimately, it wsn’t a bad film, let’s say it achieved a rating of Adequate rather than Great.

Last night, I finally got around to watching Mockingjay, Part 1. Saw the Hunger Games at the cinema, and Catching fire on DVD (ex-rental). I put the DVD/Blu-Ray combo of Mockingjay Part 1 on hold at the library a few months ago, but I guess the queue’s moving really slowly on that one, it hasn’t come through yet. It’s been on sale a couple of times on Amazon, but I haven’t bit the mullet and bought it yet (usually saving up for birthdays and Christmas). Who knows, Black Friday is soon and we usually pick up some DVDs cheap that day.

Mockingjay 1 has been free on Amazon Prime streaming, and so my wife and I watched it last night, during the eternal wait for Youngest to go to sleep. Who knows when it will disappear, I fairly often hear of things disappearing from Netflix.

Again, I enjoyed it. The movie was well-paced, it didn’t drag. This one had room to breathe. It’s been a long time since reading the book, and so there were things I remembered, things that were familiar, and things that weren’t. I don’t know that this means they added anything, but I felt a lot better about this movie than the previous one.

I liked some of the music in this one. The tune of The Hanging Tree starts a bit before Jennifer Lawrence sings it, and it’s introduced as a violin piece that to me was reminiscent of “One Will Fall By The Way”, a tune from the miniseries of the Stand. As originally broadcast, the violin kicks in at the end of The Stand Part 3, as the four heroes leave on their walk to Vegas.

There’s still rather a lot that needs to fit into Part 2, so I hope they manage to maintain the pacing, and the space needed for the story.

A big theme running through the stories, is Agenda.

The Capitol’s agenda for enslaving the Districts, and living a pampered lifestyle off the backs of their productivity.

The Capitol’s agendas for oppression and entertainment, putting the Districts’ children in the lottery for The Hunger Games.

Getting more personal to Katniss, who has been affected by all of the above impersonally until her sister was selected, and she volunteered in her place, Katniss becomes subject to the agendas of the production staff, particularly Effie, who want to put on a good show.

In the arena, first time round, Katniss is largely free from the pressure to act a certain way (she’s a bit busy fighting for her life), but she does still get some notes.

As a Victor, there’s a public face she is compelled to put on. Peeta’s quick thinking forced her into a certain role, President Snow makes threats for what might happen if she doesn’t comply, and of course the production staff like Effie are still trying to put on a good show.

By this time, Katniss is thoroughly allergic to being subject to other peoples’ whims. Her friends forge alliances for her, to help her, and the others, to survive. She’s likely to resist the plan if they just explain it to her, so they try to break it to her gently. and, naturally, she doesn’t appreciate being manipulated.

And she’s none too happy when she finds out why she was saved: her friends and supporters want her to be the face of the rebellion against the Capitol, be the symbolic mockingjay that will galvanise people to the cause. Her attempts at the scripted promos betray her dislike of being manipulated, even when she’s consented to it.

Haymitch is very astute when he asks which Katniss moments made the others in the room feel something, and the answers reveal it’s when she’s free, undirected.

Assuming the next film follows the book, there’s some more we see of how Katniss reacts to being subject to someone else’s agenda, and what she does when she’s finally able to go her own way.

President Snow is also very astute, and though he sucks at trying to control her, he knows very well how to get under her skin. He asks if she can trust the people she’s working for, and it’s clear she doesn’t really.

I heard a talk a while ago about youth work, and among other things it mentioned the popularity of The Hunger Games series. It resonates so well with kids and teens, because they similarly feel subject to the agendas of so many other people.

That talk is downloadable and streamable here.

Comparison: Schindler’s List vs Schindler’s Ark

Sometimes there are things you read or watch, that just stick with you. Or some particular story or anecdote that you always have associated with a particular type of feeling or experience, that it becomes your go-to example for the rest of your life.

Schindler’s List the movie at came out at just the right time, that when I was doing World War 2 in school, was encouraged to watch. Or possibly made, I have memory of seeing a “Schools Edition”. Needless to say, I appreciated it more, later. It’s full of good people, it’s not a bad story, some of the imagery is quite clever and haunting. The actors alongside the people they played at the end.

Spielberg’s pretty good at sentimentality, and the film does rather reflect that. The feel of the film is, these people are living through this time that’s very bleak, and oh, it’s so hard and dangerous, and oh no this new situation is even direr.

I read the book the film was based on. My copy is called “Schindler’s Ark”, although I think because of the movie it got renamed to “Schindler’s List”. It’s by Thomas Keneally. The tone is very different.

Rather than the melancholy tone of the movie, the book is much more adventurous. Much more in the way of “previously he’s used his stores of wine to bribe the guards, but now he’s out and has to get across this bridge, which is guarded by two Nazi soldiers. Technically he’s not supposed to go across. How’s he going to get through this?” and so on. Much more enthusiastic and vibrant. More of a sense of just how many times Oskar stuck his neck out for his workers, tried to use the bureaucracy against itself, getting into serious trouble, and how almost unbelievable it is that he got out of trouble again.

I’d almost like to see a movie of the book, one that retains the tone, style and flair.

The only drawback to the book, is that some of those Polish street names are HARD. I thought about asking some Polish co-workers at one point about the pronunciations, but in the end, I didn’t. There were points I just pigeonholed some of the names, recognising the shape of the name and saying, “ok, it’s that one”, rather than forcing my brain to butcher the language each time I came across it. So that’s more to do with my own inadequacies (which, who knows, you might share) than any actual problem with the book.

So Schindler’s List is my go-to reference for difference in tone between book and film.

The film’s not bad. I read a Rabbi’s article saying that everyone told him he should see the movie but he didn’t, because he had certain expectations about the Hollywood-isation of the Holocaust, and other things along those lines, then he read about the movie later, which was apparently enough to confirm his suspicions. For that sort of reason I wouldn’t say the film was a “must-see”, and although the UK ratings certificate says it’s for 15-year-olds and older, I think that might be too young to really appreciate it. And I say this as someone who’s still pretty pleased to have got the Collector’s Edition DVD, with the film cel, little booklet and soundtrack.

On the other hand, the book is much more recommendable, if it were fiction it might be classified with seat-of-the-pants thrillers. So if that kind of book is your kind of thing, and/or if history is your kind of thing, this book’s a winner.

Robot Movies And Unwell Kids

The day unexpectedly took a turn into kids-being-sick territory, and after a reprieve around the time of the evening meal it ventured back into that territory again.

Watched Age Of Ultron with the kids (and parents-in-law). Asked the older two, independently, which was scarier: Ultron, or being sick. Didn’t ask Youngest, he slept through most of the film. Hope he sleeps tonight.

Middlest didn’t think either Ultron or being sick were scary. This sounds very much like her, fearless little girl.

Oldest thought Ultron and being sick were just as scary as each other. This sounds like him, too, more on the sensitive side of things.

I noticed it more on the first watching, back when it was in the cinemas, but it’s rather tricky to make hordes of robots look distinct. I mean, all the Ultrons were very well done, but they didn’t look that different from those in I, Robot, and I was also reminded of the Terminators.

Shiny, red glowing lights. I, Robot, the robot army climbing the building, Ultron the robot army climbing the sides of the island in the sky.

I wonder where robot movies can go from here.

Star Wars With A Two-Year-Old

This evening I’ve been watching Star Wars with Youngest. We watched New Hope (original version, widescreen), and we’re in the middle of Return Of The Jedi (special edition, fullscreen, worst of all worlds :) ) right now.

It’s been fun watching with commentary by a 2-year-old. Initially lots of “oo dat?”s (“who’s that?”) and trying of names (“Chewbacca” was pretty cute, and he picked up “Chewie” from dialogue). “Dark Vader”, though since his mommy corrected him he’s been saying “Darth Vader” pretty well.

Some of the best ones have been unprompted, however. The speeder bikes a few minutes ago, were an entirely understandable “motorcycle!”.

He insists on calling R2-D2 “Dalek!”. At one point, both main droids were on screen, and I said “Artoo and C-3PO!” and the response was “No! Dalek!” At another point, R2 and a droid just like him, but black instead of blue, were on screen together. “Two Daleks!” You better watch out, R2, this guy’s onto you.

And in a case of “say what you see”, he was calling the original Death Star “watermelon!”

He was losing interest at the very end of Star Wars, but concentrated during the end credits (I think the music helped). He was then interested in another one, so I got Return Of The Jedi. The menu animation that first played, was of some Imperial ships. youngest declared that he was scared (“cared!”), but I told him it’s all right, there are teddy bears in this one. He cheered up at this. Thankfully, we reached that part in the movie. Interestingly, as I’d pointed out that the Ewok was scared when Leia took her helmet off, and pointed out when Luke picked it up, he was trying to keep track of where the helmet was after that point. Maybe continuity people need to start watching out, as well.

So there you go, some experience of Star Wars with a 2-year-old. For the most part, it kept him distracted enough to not go and mess up the project his mommy was working on, or to wake up everyone in the house. Now he’s gone, in theory, to get a good night’s sleep. As should I.

Review: Cuban Fury

In the ’80s, a young boy and his sister become a salsa-dancing sensation, winning award after award, under the guidance of Ron Parfait (Ian McShane). Shortly before the nationals, the boy encounters some bullies, who beat him up and force him to eat the sequins off his shirt. Then and there, he quits salsa dancing.

Fast forward to the present day, and Bruce (the boy, now played by Nick Frost) works for the manufacturer of some industrial machinery. His colleague, Drew, is an utter asshole towards him. They get a new boss, who is female, and both men become attracted to her. Bruce accidentally manages to spend some time with her informally, but is reluctant to pursue her.

Then he stumbles onto her taking salsa lessons. After years of absence, the spark comes back. He wants to dance again. He must repair some burned bridges, and dust off the cobwebs. He gets new friends, and things don’t necessarily go smoothly with old friends.

Welcome to Cuban Fury.

I really enjoyed this movie. I like Nick Frost, Ian McShane and Olivia Colman. McShane I used to watch in Lovejoy when it was on, and so have noticed and enjoyed him in other things. Babylon 5, The West Wing. I enjoyed the other actors in this, too.

I think this movie’s strengths are in the relationships between people, which aren’t static. And while Drew incredibly obnoxious, and somewhat entitled and mean, Bruce’s worst enemy might be himself rather than Drew (though Drew won’t lose that title without a fight). Bruce hinders himself with his low self-confidence and insecurity, choosing not to do things that would be really fulfilling to him, because of what people might think. McShane’s character really confronts him about this.

The movie is funny. I was watching this during the day in the busy living room, with one earphone in, having to pause on occasion to help the kids. In this sort of situation, or even watching something alone, I might be amused but quiet. There were several points where I was laughing out loud, sometimes the kids would ask what I was laughing at (Shhh! Not a kids’ movie!).

Had the movie been “Hahaha, look at the fat person dancing!”, it wouldn’t have been funny. There are some scenes with some obvious contrast between thin female dancers and Bruce dancing, and there’s kind of a mirror of jiggling going on. But the movie avoids the pitfall well, not turning mean or unsympathetic. Indeed, the movie sends some messages about Bruce’s appearance without the need for much dialogue:
1. Young Bruce isn’t thin, either. His build, therefore is more of an inherent trait (perhaps genetic), than a state he slides into.
2. Grown-up Bruce cycles to work, and isn’t always guzzling junk food, snacks, soft drinks and the like. He’s not the lazy glutton that is The Fat Stereotype. He might be fat, but his lifestyle isn’t blamed for it, and he’s not judged for it.
So it’s nice to have a break from more mainstream attitudes about weight.

There’s some swearing. I don’t think there was lots.

The basic rom-com structure is maintained, to me the steps forward and the setbacks didn’t feel contrived. “Why did it have to be salsa?” almost did, but squeaked by on seeming referencey.

I hadn’t heard of this movie, my sister-in-law borrowed it from the library. I said I’d take it back (which I did, hence squeezing in the watching today), but decided to watch it first. Glad I did.

Thumbs up from me.