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What am I Watching
May 2021
Kingsman: Mindless Action Entertainment I & II
Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015) and Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017) comprise the current films in the Kingsman franchise. It also looks like a prequel, The King's Man (any day now), is in the making. The films are comedy + humor + spyishness + idiocy, in equal measure. At times, it's hard to maneuver one's mind from this-is-action, to this-is-spy-y to this-is-idiocy. Both films move quickly and generally entertain as long as you don't take any of it even remotely seriously.

The film stars Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Strong, and Michael Caine. Taron Egerton was a nice surprise as he's relatively new and I've only seen him in Rocketman, as Elton John (a " biographical musical film"). I have to admit, the genre of the film, what I'd call stupid humor, isn't really my thing, so I'm a bit biased-against. That said, I did watch both (the second one with some fast forwarding) and the plots are fun and the pacing is quick.
January 2021
Spotlight (2015): The Power of Investigative Reporting
I just watched Spotlight (2015), the story of The Boston Globe's "Spotlight" team, a group of investigative reporters, pursuing the situation of Roman Catholic Priests sexually molesting young children in the Boston area. There are no car chases or espionage in the movie, but plenty of intrigue, astonishment, and indignation. It's the story of investigative reporters taking on systemic abuses. The investigative reporting took place mostly in 2002, with the Spotlight teaming winning the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.

The entire movie is rather low-key, more of an emotional and intellectual pursuit, than an action or thriller endeavor. That said, the story moves quickly. The uncovering of evidence that demonstrated that the Boston Roman Catholic Church was protecting/hiding priests guilty of sexual abuse by moving them from parish to parish is the primary plot line and it's fascinating. It was 2 hours well spent. This is a serious movie, but not melodramatic or depressing.

The movie is full of quality actors -- Mark Ruffalo, Michal Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Brian d'Arcy James, and Stanley Tucci -- although, none of the actors overly dominate the storyline. They each have their role to play in the unfolding of the story. As it turns out, the reporting uncovered just the tip of what was a worldwide system of child abuse cat and mouse. At the end of the movie, there are several screen of locations, in the US and abroad, where abuse was evident.
January 2021
Star Wars: A Winter's Binge
I was 16 years old when the first Star Wars movie came out. With big eyes and several boxes of popcorn, I enjoyed the first three Star Wars releases: A New Hope (1977), The Empire Strikes Back (1980), and Return of the Jedi (1983). The stories were engaging, lots of action and character development, special effects that were new and enthralling, and it was sci-fi. For me, the first element is always key: Is there a good story? A lousy story with great special effects or action scenes is still a lousy story (sometimes the story isn't bad, it's just missing . . . think Ad Astra or Bookstore or Colossal).

Unfortunately, when the next three Star Wars movies were released — The Phantom Menace (1999), Attack of the Clones (2002), and Revenge of the Sith (2005) — they felt like encyclopedic stories, designed to fill in all the gaps and provide a backstory, which they were and which they did – but they forgot the story part. The first two were tough to watch, much finishing a book you don't — avoiding the didn't-finish-the-book guilt. Revenge of the Sith had more story and character to it, and was fun to watch, although I'm not a big fan of Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker. After those three, I was no longer enamored with Star Wars. Which was a bummer!

I didn't go back and watch any of the first six episode for 10 years. Then, I watched Rogue One with my brother in 2016 and my Star Wars interest was piqued again. That said, I didn't go back and watch any of the first six movies, or the three follow-ups: The Force Awakens (2015), The Last Jedi (2017), and The Rise of Skywalker (2019).

So, I decided that during winter break 2020, with the pandemic keeping us all close to home, I would go on a Star Wars Binge. I'm watching the movies in order, for continuity's sake - this order.

1. Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)
2. Episode II: Attach of the Clones (2002)
3. Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)
4. Solo (2018)
5. Rogue One (2016)
6. Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
7. Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
8. Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983)
9. The Mandalorian (2019)
10. Episode VII: The Force Awakens (2015)
11. The Last Jedi (2017)
12. The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

I've watched the first three (i.e., Phantom Menace, Clone Attack, and Sith Revenge) and I ended up speed-watching the first two (the +10 second button comes in handy, although Apple TV gets a little ornery when you use it a lot). Revenge of the Sith seemed more Star Wars-y and the plot moved quickly. These three films were mostly how I remembered them, staid and informational.

4 & 5
Now we're talking.
January 2021
Tenet: It'll Warp Your Mind (and Time)
Whoa! Tenet is an intense and challenging movie. This another of Christopher Nolen's time movies: Momento (2002), Inception (2010), and Intersellar (2014). The story involves timelines running forward and backward, simultaneously. I have to admit, it's hard to follow. It helps to watch it twice, the first time to get the basics of what's happening, and a second time to more fully understand what's really going on.
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Peter Doolittle
Blacksburg, VA 24060