Justice League

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Well, the good news is that it’s not as offensively bad as the mess that was Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, but the bad news is that it’s still not that good. With an assist from Joss Whedon, Zack Snyder’s superhero slog Justice League is thankfully a lighter, brighter film than his previous efforts (though it’s still chock full of his trademark lifeless CGI). What it lacks in charm it makes up for in bombast. It’s not terrible, it’s just, you know, kind of there.

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Nihilist

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As I sat at a nearby table, nursing an old fashioned, I cracked open the notebook I was carrying and the pen I went searching twenty minutes for (not easy to buy a pen in downtown LA). I was going to jot down a few notes, maybe write some deeper thoughts, but I was overpowered by the conversation of the three people at a table across the room. They spoke loudly, unaware and or unconcerned with being overheard. Worse, the woman talked in that high-pitched baby voice, and the overly affected way of making every sentence, sound like a question? Where her voice goes up at the end? Sounding like she’s consistently unsure of anything she’s saying? But the men with her were the obnoxious ones. I tried to figure out their dynamic. What was their relationship to each other? Was one of them the third wheel? Co-workers? Or were there power dynamics at play. There did not seem to be any boundaries.

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Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

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The best movies, for me, are the ones that take you to unexpected places, both through the story, and visually, but also in my own head, making me think and question things I hadn’t considered before. As Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri unfolds it moved in surprising directions, shocked, surprised, and frustrated me. It’s bold, dark, hilarious, harrowing, uncomfortable, brilliant, and a hundred other superlatives I could throw at it, and will easily rank as one of my favorites for the year.

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Better

It’s somewhat exhausting dealing with modern technology and the endless supply of drama, hate, harassment, racism, sexism, and the absolutely fear-inducing actions of the current administration. Every day there’s something new and ridiculous being exposed. Of late, each day brings with it the latest allegations of wrongdoings by a man in a position of power. If you’re in the entertainment industry it’s likely the end of your career. If you’re a republican, your support will expand (Hi, Roy Moore!).

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Bright Star

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In the opening number of Bright Star, the bluegrass musical playing at the Ahmanson from Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, plucky heroine Alice (a powerhouse Carmen Cusack) belts out “If You Knew My Story” with the addendum that “you’d have a good story to tell,” which is a bit misleading since the story is the weakest part of the show. Everything plays out exactly as expected. It’s not bad, it’s fine, everything is perfectly fine. It’s just completely weightless.

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Murder on the Orient Express

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I had rewatched the 70s version of Murder on the Orient Express a few days before viewing the current version. I thought it better to compare that way then to go backwards. I’ve enjoyed a lot of Agatha Christie’s mysteries, And Then There Were None sticks out as a favorite, but I had forgotten the central mystery of Express, and was curious if the update would change the denouement or not. It was an interesting comparison to view the films so closely together and I think it may have helped my impression of the recent version.

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Last Flag Flying

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A lot of good will built up throughout the two hours of Last Flag Flying is undone in the final moments. It’s disappointing because if there was just a little bit of faith in the audience instead of what feels like a need to pander to them, it would’ve been a much better movie. As it stands, it’s still pretty good but after the peaks of director and co-writer Richard Linklater’s oeuvre (Boyhood, The Before series, Waking Life, Dazed and Confused), Flag comes off a bit trite and simple.

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Wonderstruck

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Two movies with Julianne Moore, four performances. Yes, this is her second film I saw in as many days with dual performances. Directed by visual auteur Todd Haynes (Far From Heaven, I’m Not There, Carol), Wonderstruck unfolds two narratives, seemingly disconnected: one set in the 20s, where a young deaf girl runs away from home seeking out a famous actress, and one in the 70s, where a young boy runs away in search of the father he never knew. Obviously, there is a thematic connection between the stories, and stronger ties are eventually revealed.

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Suburbicon

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Despite the fact that they co-wrote it, or at least the first draft, this movie still feels like Coen Brothers fan fiction. It takes the big pieces that usually fit within a Coen brothers’ movie, cast the right actors, balance an awkward tone, but the sum of the parts here just don’t add up to much. Part of the problem is that I’d seen the trailer too many times, and it really sells a completely different movie than the one you get, and perhaps without that baggage I may have been a bit more forgiving to the end product, but not by much.

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Japan

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Traveling alone isn’t for everyone, but it suits me just fine. I like being in control of my time without having to depend on anyone else. And I tend to walk/hike more than humanly possible so sometimes it’s best to only have to worry about punishing my own body. I knew my trip to Japan would be solo. I booked it sort of on a whim and once I purchased a rail pass, I knew that a big chunk of my time would be spent going around.

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