Last Exit to Riverdale

Okay. I gave this thing a look and I’ll be blunt. I hate it. I hate it soooo much. I’ve never been a big Archie fan in the past, but I’ve always appreciated the value of Archie and the gang. The characters are iconic symbols of a true American art form. I read some of the comics, but mostly I’m familiar with Archie through cartoons. The beauty of Archie always has been as it evolved, the characters stayed the same yet still grew and were more nuanced than many people give them credit for. Archie is the all-American while Betty is the epitome of the girl next door. Veronica was the rich spoiled girl with a heart and Jughead was the consumate slacker while Reggie Mantle was the antithesis of Archie and was always a humorous antagonist yearning to get one over on Archie. The supporting cast of Archie (Principal Weatherby, Ms. Grundy, Pop, etc) were also essential. It seemed no matter how the tides of time would rock the real world, these characters were steadfast and true. Even with the recent comic revamp, the spirit of Archie is being preserved, but updated as well.

Now enter Riverdale. The lastest teen soap from The CW. Forget everything you’ve ever known about Archie because they blew it all out the window. Every character has been taken and dipped in a veneer of darkness and corruption. Archie is sleeping with Ms. Grundy(!?) Kevin Keller is having an affair with Moose on the down low? Oh, and let’s not forget that all of Riverdale is being rocked by a murder. Law & Order comes to Riverdale. None of the characters carry the charm or likability of the originals. Even Archie is kind of a douche in this. I get that they actor playing him is hot as Hell, but for me I need more than eye candy to keep me interested in a tv show. The tragedy of this is it didn’t have to happen. They could have found a way to hold on to the traits that made these characters so timeless. Why couldn’t this show have been more of a comedy, or at least just made with a lighter tone? Maybe it could have dealt with stories about the kids and their lives instead of the lies and affairs they carry on with instead. Wrap it all up with an overarching murder mystery that will slowly envelope everyone. That seems to be the quick recipe. I can’t watch this show without some tinge of sadness as I watch the characters becoming nothing more that teen drama cliches. I must say, Greg Berlanti should be ashamed of himself for being a part of this train wreck. He  had a good start with The Broken Hearts Club, and showed real promise with Everwood; incidentally, a show that had no cheap overused gimmicks and actually put story and character over simple minded sensationalism. After that he just became a hack, putting his name on any piece of junk with a hot cast and a script bloated with strained pop-culture references. He’s kind of the Kevin Williamson of this decade, and I thought he also was a little TOO accustomed writing for this demographic.

I could see an Archie series with a bit more of a benign flavor. Sometimes I think the current generation of teens are such horrors because the media portrays them as such. It’s like it’s instructing them on how to be vapid, terrible people but media outlets say they are just producing content that reflects the generation as it is now. I think back to the hay day of Archie and other teen oriented works, such as the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. They were good kids. Clean cut, law abiding and respectful. I think some kids in the real world were influenced by this because previous generations, while not perfect, had a lot more good eggs than bad. Maybe if we saw teens and characters associated with teens acting better, we’d get better kids. Show them it’s okay to respect the rules, even when you have to bend or break them at other times. Producers of content for television, film and the internet have an exceptional opportunity to set a better example for the current generation. They have their ears and attention. These mediums could be used to help build a better brand of teenager. Instead, they just shoot for the low hanging fruit. I think in general we need to stop celebrating the darker side of humanity and start appreciating the good that there is.

Shows in the past were much more uplifting in my opinion. I watch old episodes of The Munsters, for example, and there’s no family like them on TV now, and not in the obvious way. Two loving parents, a precocious kid and a lovely young woman living in the same house, but they don’t fight and drag each other down. In general many shows from that era and all the way up to the eighties seemed to have a positive spin on the world, maybe in hopes of projecting a better world. Now, the biggest hit shows are shows that celebrate the worst of us. It seems like the worse the characters are, the better the show is viewed. As this trend has continued, I’ve also noticed how shitty the real world has  become. People have become more rude, more inconsiderate and just more obnoxious. I feel there is some connection. It’s like these shows give some kind of permission to people to be bad. Like being terrible is a good thing. I think people have confused being yourself with being an asshole.

So, in conclusion, I hate the new ‘Riverdale’ show. Sorry for the side trip. I know people are gulping it up like crazy and I guess I’m just one man against the great wave of public opinion. I just thought the show could be more than just another ‘90210’ or ‘Vampire Diaries’. They could have made something really different and wonderful and shown the world that quality entertainment doesn’t have to be so negative and dark. I think the show really betrays the principles and spirit of Archie and his friends. I think if they had just changed all the names, they could have just had a brand new, original drama, but I guess they wanted to drag Archie’s good name and reputation down into the mud with them.

La La Land

I know it’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a movie, but after seeing La La Land, I decided it was time to return.

I have  been looking forward to this film since I first saw the trailer several months ago and last night I finally saw it. The movie, which seems to be a love letter to Hollywood and classic musicals, revolves around Mia and Sebastian. Mia is a struggling actress working for her big break and Sebastian is an equally struggling musician who seeks to open his own club. They seem to keep running into each other and finally realize their feelings for each other. It seems to be going perfect until Sebastian, upon the urging of Mia, sets out to do what he must to make his dream of owning his own club a reality. It soon seems that their dreams and the currents of life are drawing them apart.

The music and dance sequences throughout the film maintain a dream-like atmosphere and  makes you wish that kind of magic and wonder could be found more readily in the real world. The music itself is memorable and almost addictive. The tunes will linger in your mind long after the final credits.

As I watched the film, it felt like someone had scooped out some idealized version of Hollywood that has only lived in my head and splashed it up on the screen. The struggles of Mia and Sebastian echoed in my soul and I don’t think I have ever  been so invested in an on-screen love story. Ryan Gosling is just about the most perfect leading man to come along in a long time and Emma Stone shines as the strong yet vulnerable ingenue. There’s a haunting beauty to the whole film and it seems to try to recapture some spark of life that many natives to Los Angeles seem to have lost, or simply ignore. This film is a reawakening with vibrant colors, beautiful music and a story that will make you laugh and cry in equal measure.

I enjoyed this movie and I can’t wait until it comes out on Blu Ray so that I can own it. This movie should be made the official film of Los Angeles. That’s all I’m saying.

Audience: The audience was good as gold in this one. Not a mutter or flash of a cell phone for the entire movie. Will wonders never cease?

Stupid Lists

I recently found a post of a top ten list that listed all the ways people waste their money and offered solutions. On the list of money-wasters was concessions at the movies. It even addressed the fact that the concession stand is the primary income of the theater but still suggested sneaking food in to save $$$. First off, no. No. Speaking as a movie buff and someone who actually enjoys the theater experience, I hate seeing people sneak food in. If you come to an establishment, it’s only right that you at least try to support the business. If everyone started smuggling food in, it wouldn’t be long until the theaters would start losing money and would have to close. The truth about a capitalist system is you have to put into it if you want to get something out of it. Sneaking food into a theater is wrong. Yes, it’s overpriced, but everything is these days and that’s how this crazy world works. You pay, they make a profit and stay in business and you can continue enjoying the services provided. You try and cut corners like sneaking food in, the business suffers and they close. Now no one gets to go to the  movies. Thanks a lot, douche-rag. Besides, if the cost of a soda and popcorn at the theater is going to break the bank, maybe you shouldn’t be going to the movies in the first place. Of course this list also includes cable as another money-waster, so this list really puts you in a bind.

Here’s a tip on how to really save money. Don’t go anywhere, do anything or eat. Ever. You’ll save thousands.

The Girl On The Train

The Girl On The Train is a subtle, well paced mystery thriller about a woman, Rachel, as she struggles with alcoholism after her divorce from her husband Tom. She is forced out of the home they put together in favor of Tom’s new wife, Anna and their new child. Rachel drifts in and out of sobriety as she clings to the life she once had and longs for something better. The focus of her longing is a young couple in a house a few doors down from her old one which she can see from her seat on the train which she rides each day. She watches them make love and cuddle and she feels that missing part of herself.

One day, Rachel witnesses the young woman with another man. Having been cheated on herself, the pain is deep and maddening and mixed in with alcohol, dangerous. Rachel gets off the train to confront the woman. In that brief space of time, something happens which Rachel can’t seem to remember and the next day the woman she was about to confront is found to be missing. Things go from bad to worse when Rachel reaches out to the woman’s husband and informs him about his wife’s infidelity. This sets forth a chain of events that ensnares everyone’s lives and Rachel’s sanity is on the brink as the police close in on her as a prime suspect. With no memory of what happened and all evidence pointing to the unthinkable, Rachel must fight to recover her mind and discover the truth, not only to what happened that night, but the truth to her own life.

This is a deeply psychological thriller that attacks from all sides. With the shifting perspective you never know quite what’s going on and whose side you should be on, but you also can’t wait to find out. Emily Blunt turns in a strong performance as a broken woman clinging to the last of her sanity as she tries to see the truth. There are times her drunk performances can seem a little forced or pushed, but it’s easily forgiven when you can feel her power coming through the screen.

Audience:  A very well behaved audience. It looks like we’re on quite a roll.

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children

Tim Burton returns to the big screen in his director’s pants with this adaptation of the bestselling YA novel of the same name. The theme of isolated youth is a popular one in the YA fiction world and this one serves the cause as well as Harry Potter.

Jake is a young man living in Florida and one night he is set to visit his eccentric grandfather but when he arrives he discovers his grandfather is dead with his eyes missing and after witnessing that horror, he sees a lanky, stalking creature with a long tongue. Jake’s grandfather always told him wild tales of his days during the war and after his passing, Jake is convinced there is more to what’s going on and the secret lies in a children’s home in Wales. Jake and his father journey to this lonely island and there Jake discovers that the children that his grandfather told him about when he was a child himself, are still there. They are hidden in what is called a Loop, which is a piece of time that repeats over and over keeping all within held in that one point of time. The children are under the care of Miss Peregrin who understands how special they are and protects them from forces that would destroy them. Jake meets Emma who can fly and use air to accomplish a variety of tasks. There is also an invisible child, a pair of twins in burlap masks and a young girl with a mean set of jaws in the back of her head.

The children’s abilities are used well in the story and show that they are strong and know how to defend themselves against the formidable forces that seek them out, but they are only at their most effective when Jake leads them. His ability is special and crucial to the survival of the peculiar children.

With many differences from the book, the movie still entertains and creates a wonderfully weird world that seems right at home in the Burton universe. There are no punches pulled and children are given credit for having brains and the ability to understand right from wrong. There are some moments early on that give the film a rough start but once it finds it’s rhythm, everything starts to click. It may play out as an X-Men in England, but it isn’t quite that cut and dry. With plenty of twists and eye candy to be had, it’s a welcome addition to the Burton stable. There’s even a brief sequence featuring some classic stop motion animation. Real film craftsmanship is so hard to find these days.

Audience: The people in this theater were fairly quiet and well focused on the film. Thank God for that.

Storks

Where do babies come from? You and I know the REAL answer, but the mythology of the stork delivery theory is the basis of this new animated feature from Warner Animation Group (WAG). It takes a very thin concept and really runs with it. There is an inherent joy in the structure of the Storks’ delivery business.

In the movie, it is common knowledge that storks once delivered babies but currently they have abandoned delivering children and instead bring packages for a big online company. Andy Samberg provides the voice of Junior, a hotshot delivery stork who is on the fast track to being Boss. His first act is to fire Orphan Tulip. Tulip is the last baby that was supposed to be delivered, but the stork who was going to take her went nuts, wanted her for his own and was banished. Tulip lost her chance to be with her real family so the storks kept her and it seems in her eighteen years there, never really fit in. When Tulip screws up again, she inadvertently creates the first baby from the ‘baby machine’ in years. Junior and Tulip must deliver the new baby before anyone finds out, but as can be expected, their quest is thwarted at every turn due in part to Tulip’s clumsiness and the conspiracy of the current Boss stork, Hunter to keep the storks out of the baby game forever.

This is a high energy, squash and stretch style animated tale that blends slapstick humor with some median level wit. It carefully dances around a lot of sensitive issues due to the fact that they’re dealing with the subject of babies and where they come from. It feels like they deftly compact the full backstory in the first act and it gets off and running from the start. Even as it cuts from Junior and Tulip to a young boy who was responsible for the problematic request for a sibling and his career focused parents (Jennifer Aniston and Ty Burell) it doesn’t lose its energy or pace. Not all the gags register, but on the whole it’s a fun ride with a real heart at its core.

Audience: It was a good audience. There really were no troublemaker this time around. A refreshing change, I must say.

Bridget Jones’ Baby

The third in the Bridget Jones series. This film finds Bridget entering her 43rd year still single and still struggling in life. She has a good job at least, but other than that, it’s a disaster. Mark, her ex, has moved on and a unexpected tragedy brings a terrible loss. Chin up though, all is not lost. Bridget embraces this new phase of her life, accepting her fate and deciding to roll with it. She leaves on a trip with her friend to a music festival and it’s there that she meets the handsome Jack, played by McDreamy himself, Patrick Dempsey. They hit it off in a big way and Bridget returns to life. Not too long after that, she runs into Mark at the christening of one of her friend’s children and that is where Mark confesses that he and his wife are divorcing and this news leads to more relations for Bridget. It seems this new lust for life is working for her, until Bridget realizes she’s been gaining weight and after a little test, she finds she is with child, but who is the father? Pregnant Bridget embarks on a life transforming journey of discovery and growth while juggling her demanding job, nutty mother and two would be fathers vying for her affections.

I have not seen the previous Bridget Jones films, but this one caught my eye and I thought I might as well try. While I had my reservations about Rene Zellweger using a British accent, I found that this film was not a disappointment at all. In fact, I thought it was going to be funny but it proved to exceed my expectations. It never gets silly or farcical. In fact, when cornered by Jack, Bridget does something that I rarely see in movies like these. She tells him the truth, thereby sidestepping the pointless dance of maintaining the lie and instead moving forward with the film. Emma Thompson brings a stand out performance as Bridget’s doctor. She only has a few scenes, but she brings so much to them they are pure gold. Albeit, the story is fairly predictable and you’ll probably figure out how it ends before the end of the first act, but you will have a Hell of a ride getting there.

Audience: WORST AUDIENCE EVER! Lucky the movie was good. The place was full of menopausal women who were apparently in a hormonal state, because they would not shut up! Even after the theater warning not to talk during the film, they kept talking. Mention of Shame goes to the guy in the back row who was explaining the whole movie to his wife as it was happening. Apparently she couldn’t follow. I also give a big thumbs down to the insufferable bitches next to me. They brought wine. Wine! They actually brought wine to the theater. They had one box of the stuff and a thermos on top of that. Hey, ladies! Maybe the fact that you bring wine to the theater is part of the reason you’re at the theater watching a Bridget Jones film with your best gal pal. As the film went on, their behavior became worse. They sang and danced to all the music in the movie. They laughed obnoxiously loud and couldn’t stop chattering to each other for most of the movie. I know I’ve made this plea and complaint numerous times, but seriously, what is wrong with people today? Why do they think it’s acceptable to come into a theater and pretend it’s their own living room? They put their feet up on the seats, they talk through the movie and lounge out across multiple seats when the mood strikes. It may be dark, but you are still out in public. Act like it. Your parents (hopefully) taught you better than this.