Week 3 of 2019 (1/14 – 1/20)


Managed my first double feature this week and was able to get in some D&D again (the first since before Christmas)! More after the listing of this week’s movies:

1/14Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles
Crocodile Dundee
1/15Sophie and the Rising Sun2016
1/16The Russia House1990
1/17Me and Orson Welles2009
1/19Free Fire2017

January 14

Day 14 of the 2019 Movie Challenge brings a new first — a double feature! It was totally unintended… I swear.

The first movie I watched was 2001’s Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles, which finds our hero and his lady friend heading to L.A. with their precocious child along for the ride. (Awwww…) Yeah, this movie was just… not good. It was released about a dozen years after the last one (the best of the three, IMO) and it just felt tired and forced. I said the same about Despicable Me 3 earlier in the month. There were moments that were kind of funny, but I think they tried too hard.

While finishing up this movie and thinking about how much of a drop it was from Crocodile Dundee II, it occurred to me that I never saw the original movie, Crocodile Dundee! So I watched that, too. That was surprisingly good! I don’t know that it holds up after 30+ years, but I can see why it was nominated for the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. (Didn’t win, but it was up against Woody Allen and two scripts from Oliver Stone.) It’s an interesting character study as well as a pretty textbook “fish out of water” story mixed with a romantic comedy.

See the first two, skip the third. Again, I think the second one is by far the best of the lot.

January 15

Day 15 of the 2019 Movie Challenge!

Today’s film was 2016’s Sophie and the Rising Sun, a love story set in the South just before the attack on Pearl Harbor and The US entry into World War II. An Asian-American man turns up in a small South Carolina town, beaten and bloodied, and interacts with the townsfolk as he heals up. (That synopsis doesn’t do the movie justice, I know…)

This was a pretty good movie! The performances were great (including the always-fantastic Margo Martindale) and it provided a good look at the rise of anti-Japanese sentiment at the time, especially when coupled with the already entrenched bigotry that existed in the South.

Along a similar theme and setting, I can recommend the 1990 Dennis Quaid film Come See the Paradise or the 2007 film American Pastime.

January 16

Day 16 of the 2019 Movie Challenge! Today I watched the 1990 film adaptation of John le Carré’s The Russia House. Sean Connery is a book publisher who gets dragged into some well-intentioned espionage and falls in love along the way with Michelle Pfeiffer.

This was not a bad film, but I just didn’t feel as invested in the outcome as I did with other adaptations of le Carré’s works, especially more recent ones like the Gary Oldman-led version of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy* or Tom Hiddleston in the fantastic The Night Manager. I thought Michelle Pfeiffer gave the best performance, but there was also great work from Roy Scheider, John Mahoney and Connery himself. But I felt that Connery’s performance was more engaging in his other film released that year, The Hunt for Red October.

All that said, if you’re a fan of le Carré’s work and haven’t seen this yet for some reason, it’s worth watching.

*I haven’t seen the Alec Guinness TV miniseries yet, but I hear it’s also awesome.

January 17

Day 17 of the 2019 Movie Challenge!

Today’s movie is Me and Orson Welles, released in 2009. Zac Efron plays Richard, a high-schooler in 1937 who gets himself cast in Welles’ upcoming premiere production of “Julius Caesar” & tangles with the myriad personalities of the Mercury Theatre.

First off, I thought the performances were great, especially Christian McKay as Welles (making his feature film debut). Eddie Marsan, Ben Chaplin, and Claire Danes have good turns in supporting roles. However, I felt that the story got a little bogged down by trying to divide focus between Richard and Welles. Even in a fictionalized version, Welles sucks up all the oxygen in the room and renders Richard’s coming-of-age story (which, I think, was supposed to be the primary story in this film) a withering sideshow. I like that Efron’s performance made Richard at times more arrogant and macho than he really was at heart. But at the end of the day, there was no competing with the hurricane of the heart of the Mercury. Plus Richard’s interactions with Gretta (and the casting of Zoe Kazan) are terrific and end up sadly being collateral damage, only amounting to bookends on the film.

I would much rather each story had been given its own movie and I would’ve watched both with great interest. One just about the Mercury Theatre, especially in those early days; the other about Richard, a young actor/musician with a lot of raw talent but unsure of his direction in life, coming to maturity in the New York theatre scene in the late 1930s. If you’re a Welles buff and haven’t seen this, or you like and will watch any movie about the behind-the-scenes of a theatrical show or movie, then check this one out! You will get something out of it, I promise.

January 18

Day 18 of the 2019 Movie Challenge! I decided that Fridays are probably going to be my comedy days to lighten things up as I head into the weekends. Today’s film was I.Q. from 1994. Tim Robbins plays an auto mechanic who falls in love with Einstein’s niece. Einstein and his pals help him pretend to be smarter to win her over. Hilarity ensues.

It’s a pretty formulaic comedy, but it’s really well done. I laughed throughout the movie. Tim Robbins and Meg Ryan were great together (both in the middle of a string of well-done movies during that period) and the legendary Walter Matthau as Albert Einstein was a hoot!

Fun trivia: the director, Fred Schepisi, also directed The Russia House. I’m embarrassed that I missed that…

January 19

Day 19 of the 2019 Movie Challenge brings us a film that’s silly, but definitely not for the faint of heart.

2017’s Free Fire kind of slipped under the radar, but this is a 90-minute movie where the last hour of it is one long gunfight in a confined space. It takes place in the late 70s at a warehouse in an undisclosed city. An arms deal goes hilariously wrong and everybody just starts shooting. Brie Larson and Armie Hammer are the standouts in this ensemble piece.

I really can’t recommend this to anyone who doesn’t like a lot of gunfire in their movies, but it’s otherwise pretty funny throughout. It’s not quite as ridiculous as 2007’s Shoot ‘Em Up (starring Clive Owen & Paul Giamatti), but it’s pretty close.

January 20

Day 20 of the 2019 Movie Challenge! I was in a good mood today after playing D&D at an event, so I decided to pick a movie that felt like part of that genre. I ended up watching the TERRIBLE 1982 movie Sorceress. So in this TERRIBLE movie, a pair of hot twins (Leigh & Lynette Harris, apparently Playboy Playmates in the 1970s) are hidden from their evil wizard father and grow up on a farm, later going on to fulfill their destiny and save the world. (Sound familiar?) They’re aided by a literal goat boy and a guy who is either a short Viking or Gimli’s taller cousin.

Did I mention that this movie is TERRIBLE?! I think I may have said something to that effect… because it is. Now, to be fair, this movie was produced by Roger Corman which explains a lot. And… and… yeah, I got nothing else. Music buffs will recognize reuse from other Corman-produced movies like Battle Beyond the Stars and the Deathstalker movies.

Fair warning: There’s a lot of flashing of bewbs in this one, so it’s definitely NSFW or family-friendly. But if you’re a glutton for punishment or you just enjoy bad movies that apparently even Rifftrax won’t touch, give it a spin.

It was a bit of a struggle to pick the best movie I saw this week, because two or three of them were better than all the rest (esp. Sorceress… whew, what a stinker!). But I think that Sophie and the Rising Sun just edged out I.Q. and Free Fire in this runoff to take the win. Free Fire is a great silly shoot-’em-up movie and I.Q. was a great rom-com, but Sophie just moved me emotionally and furthered my understanding of the period it was set in.

In the meantime, we rehearsed more for the upcoming FREE public library show we’re doing THIS COMING SATURDAY (1/26)! I’m still scrambling to finish up my sound design for one of the scripts and it’s a constant fight with my perfectionism to not spend hours on end on just one sound effect. I also have to write an short educational intro speech for the script I directed (a musical!), but I admittedly will probably dash that off in 5 minutes before the dress rehearsal on Tuesday. :p

Fortunately, earlier today, I was able to take a few hours and go play some Dungeons & Dragons at an event put on by ATLDND. I’ve been attending some of their weekly one-shot sessions, but they ended up having to move the location for the one free weeknight I had to a harder-to-reach spot, so I haven’t been able to play for a few weeks. I may start looking for a group either locally or online that I can play with more regularly. I’ve enjoyed getting back into RPGs for the first time since my time in Flagstaff in the late ’90s. (Still have my dice bag, too!) I’ve also been feeling both driven to — and terrified of — possibly starting to DM for other people. A lot of this was inspired by the web show Critical Role, which I started watching at the beginning of 2018. I think the fact that it’s played by a group of fellow voice actors (albeit more well-known than I by far) really helped. It’s also pushed me to start working on more character voices in my rehearsals with ARTC, as well as recommit myself to pushing into animation voice work in my acting career.

One final note to wrap this up: my friend Bryan McClure is in a new feature film being released on VOD this week! I got to attend the premiere last summer at the Atlanta Film Festival, but now is your chance to see Still*, shot here in Georgia and directed by Takashi Doscher. (The link to the film doesn’t list it, but it’s also available on iTunes.) This is a terrific film with Agents of SHIELD alum Nick Blood and The Handmaid’s Tale‘s Madeline Brewer. Check it out!