Category Archives: movies

Pop Culture Happy Hour: John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum and What’s Making Us Happy


Yayan Ruhian and Cecep Arif Rahman face off against Johnny Utah (center).

What a treat to dissect the third and gnarliest John Wick with Linda and Glen and Aisha Harris.

While recommending Brian Raftery’s Best. Movie. Year. Ever: How 1999 Blew Up the Big Screen, I happened to name one of my most be-loathed movies from that year, the Best Picture-winning American Beauty, while omitting the names of my most beloved: Rushmore, Three Kings, Eyes Wide Shut, and so on. Raftery did not include John McTiernan’s remake of The Thomas Crown Affair in his book about 1999’s most notable and groundbreaking movies, probably because a remake of a 30-year-old thriller isn’t groundbreaking, and the movie did not have a substantial cultural impact.

But it was was the last good movie McTiernan made, I’m sorry to say, and I saw it in the theater that summer along with Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, Notting Hill, American Pie, The Sixth Sense, Mystery Men, and all the rest, and I have revisited it on several occasions since.

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Continental Drift: John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum, reviewed.

Keanu Reeves, Halle Berry, and two
Malinois take the road to Morocco.

One of these movies, we’re going to find out John Wick killed that dead spouse he’s been pining away for, aren’t we? Forgive my cynicism. On the day I saw the new, double-punctuated John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum, I walked past the taped-off scene of one violent crime on my way to the subway that morning, and past the taped off scene of another violent crime on my way home from the movie 12 hours later. So I’m not sure it’s correct to call this celebration of ultraviolence escapism.

I sure did enjoy it, though. You can read about my enjoyment and my hand-wringing in my NPR review.

Hail, Dehydration! On Avengers: Endgame and the Incredibly Expanding Blockbuster

Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Karen Gillan, (voice of) Bradley Cooper, Paul Rudd, Scarlett Johansson and a cast of thousands. (Marvel Studios)

Inspired by Avengers: Endgame, the 182-minute grand finale of the Marvel cinematic saga, I crunched some numbers and examined how blockbusters—especially ones not encumbered by Endgame’s hefty narrative obligations, with so many characters and storylines to pay off—are expanding at a much faster rate than is the human lifespan. I am solely responsible for the math in the piece, and the jokes.

You’ve been warned.

Monsters, Ink: Hellboy, reviewed.

David Harbour inherits the fist, the horns, and the abs from Ron Perlman. (Mark Rogers)

It’s a shame about Hellboy (Neil Marshall, 2019). But we’ll always have Hellboy (Guillermo del Toro, 2004). My NPR review of the former is here. But none of these movies are as satisfying as just reading Mike Mignola’s Hellboy stories on the page, if you ask me.

Pop Culture Happy Hour: Shazam! and What’s Making Us Happy

Jack Dylan Grazer and Zachary Levi in an enthusiastically punctuated superhero comedy.

I had a nice time joining the Pop Culture Happy Hour crew this week to discuss Shazam!, a lighter, brighter DC Comics movie that is also… a nice time. Doubtless I got invited on this episode because of the profile I wrote for the Ventura County Reporter waaaaaay back in January 2003 of Shazam! star Zachary Levi, a Local Boy Made Good for whom God has opened many doors, such as co-starring with Bob Newhart and the modern rhythm-and-blues singer Sisqo (“The Thong Song,” peak position No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100). He admires men of integrity like Tom Hanks and Mel Gibson. The Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Three, friends.

Shazam! is the polar opposite of The Shield, the early-aughts post-Sopranos, pre-Breaking Bad cop show I’m currently revisiting, which is what’s making me happy this week and shall be for many weeks to come, because I bought the big doorstop blu-ray set with all 88 episodes.

You can listen to the episode here.

Only the Elephants Will Remember: Dumbo, reviewed.

Eva Green rides a computer-generated flying elephant. (Disney)

No critique of a long-lived artist is lazier or more boring than “I liked the early shit.” What can I say? I’m enough of a partisan of enough of the movies Tim Burton made back in the previous century that I’m always rooting for him to get his groove back. Alas, his new Dumbo shows no evidence of groove restoration. It’s fine, but any number of hacks like the ones who make Dwayne Johnson vehicles might’ve directed this movie for all the personality it’s got. My NPR review is here.

Big Eyes Meets the Star of Big Eyes: ALITA, reviewed.

Rosa Salazar is an amnesiac cyborg super-soldier in the 26th century. (Fox)

Panzer Kunist is, as I’m sure I need not tell a cinephile and aesthete as refined and discerning and educated as you are, an ancient cyborg martial art that has largely died out by the mid-26th century. More importantly, Panzer Kunst has the satisfying hard consonants of words that were forbidden on 20th century television. It seems like it could work as any part of speech, which makes it especially panzer to kunst as kunst as possible. Panzer Kunst!

On the new Alita: Battle Angel. My review is here.