Saw a Takashi Miike picture called The Great Yokai War. "Yokai" is a Japanese term for monsters from folklore, as opposed to the more familiar kaiju. It's a kids' picture, about a young boy from Tokyo sent out to live in the countryside with his older sister and his intermittently senile grandfather. When a vengeful spirit appears, the boy gets caught up in a war between warring groups of yokai and must find his courage to become the "Kirin Rider", the hero who will set everything to rights. It's not a bad picture - nothing deep, but an amusing story. Some of the yokai are really trippy, Japanese folklore can get pretty "out there", apparently.

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I didn't see Seth Rogen's "Green Hornet" because I was reasonably sure it wasn't going to be "my" Green Hornet. 

Also, it seemed to me to be flawed in the same way the last "Lone Ranger" movie was flawed: As a fan like us, Rogen grew up watching The Green Hornet. Unlike us, he got in a position where he could do what the average fan could only dream of doing, and make his own "Green Hornet" movie. Unfortunately, that meant bending it to fit his schtick, which in Rogen's case is the stoner/slacker act. 

Bad Times at the El Royale:

Not entirely what I expected from the trailer. This plays like Drew Goddard trying to be Tarantino. It has a great set-up and strong performances, and it's not bad, but I can't say I took much away from it. It's interesting to see Chris "Thor" Hemsworth play a faux Charles Manson.

Bad Times at the El Royale brings up something you guys could help me with.

I recently saw Grand Hotel (the one with Greta Garbo) and was delighted to see so many bits of dialogue and situational tropes when they were used for the first time. (I got used to saying, "so that's where that comes from!")

The thing is, there are a lot of hotel movies, which probably all involve multiple storylines that intersect at the crossroads of the hotel. (I assume Bad Times is in that vein, but I don't really know.) Heck, even Alan Moore's Lost Girls used the structure.

So, which ones are worth watching? I've seen Grand Hotel, and plan to see Bad Times when it comes back around on the gee-tar. I've heard good things about the recent Grand Budapest Hotel and hope to see it. There are others out there to see -- which should be seen, and which avoided?

We saw The Farewell, a very charming film that, like My Big Fat Greek Wedding and its sequel, explores complicated family dynamics a non-American culture.

Awkwafina stars as Billi, a struggling writer in New York who is close to her dear, sainted grandmother, Nai Nai, despite the fact Nai Nai lives in China. As the film begins, the two are talking on the phone. Billi overhears things that make her question what Nai Nai is doing, but she demurs. Nai Nai is at the hospital with her sister, getting a CT scan. Afterward, the sister tells Nai Nai it's nothing, just "benign shadows."

It isn't. It's Stage 4 lung cancer, and the prognosis is that Nai Nai has only three months to live.

The family resolves to NOT tell Nai Nai this news. Instead, they announce her grandson -- Billi's cousin  -- is getting married, and the family goes to see Nai Nai in China for a goodbye party disguised as a wedding celebration. 

I don't want to say more, because you really should enjoy this movie for yourself. Awkwafina is better known for being a scene stealer in things like Crazy Rich Asians and Ocean's 8, but she rises to the occasion in this more dramatic role. Zhao Shuzhen is a delight as Nai Nai, and her rapport with Awkwafina is winning and very believable, as is Awkwafina's distress at keeping up this deception. However, the family in this story insists that it is, under Chinese mores, the right thing to do. You might come away in agreement ... or not. 

I have Grand Hotel PVRed but have never seen it. I heard much about it as a kid, because I grew up on the Canada/US border, not far from a Michigan hotel that was widely rumored (rumors from my parents' childhood) to have been used as a location for some shots. As far as I can determine, the film was made entirely in Hollywood. Years later, Somewhere in Time (1980) did use the Michigan hotel in question as a location.

I recommend Grand Budapest Hotel.

I had expected Bad Times at the El Royale to be a darker version of this sort of movie. Kind of, but not quite. The multiple stories are really one story.

Wicked, Wicked (1973) is an interesting comedy-thriller in the vein you describe. It gets more play now, after disappearing from public consciousness for decades, because its split-screen approach requires the full-size screen be used (or letterbox-- but how many movies were broadcast that way when TV was in its old ratio?)

Captain Comics said:

Bad Times at the El Royale brings up something you guys could help me with.

I recently saw Grand Hotel (the one with Greta Garbo) and was delighted to see so many bits of dialogue and situational tropes when they were used for the first time. (I got used to saying, "so that's where that comes from!")

The thing is, there are a lot of hotel movies, which probably all involve multiple storylines that intersect at the crossroads of the hotel. (I assume Bad Times is in that vein, but I don't really know.) Heck, even Alan Moore's Lost Girls used the structure.

So, which ones are worth watching? I've seen Grand Hotel, and plan to see Bad Times when it comes back around on the gee-tar. I've heard good things about the recent Grand Budapest Hotel and hope to see it. There are others out there to see -- which should be seen, and which avoided?

Love & Other Drugs features Jake Gyllenhaal as Jamie Randall, a medical school dropout who becomes a pharmaceutical sales rep for Pfizer. It seems to be about his rise as a player in the field, with seasoned manager Bruce Winston (Oliver Platt) showing him the ropes, but it veers into being a romantic comedy when Gyllenhall encounters Maggie Murdock, who is played by Anne Hathaway.

Maggie is sprightly and always up for a booty call but, unfortunately, has Parkinson's disease. Their developing no-strings-attached relationship founders as she knows but he fails to accept that Parkinson's only gets worse. But love conquers all. It's not too bad, but somewhat uneven. 

The other night I caught the tail end of The Fast and The Furious, which was immediately followed by 2 Fast 2 Furious, and then The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift, and then the rest of them were on through the weekend on three different channels, so I found myself watching them all.

IQ points do grow back, don't they? Right?

The first film, The Fast and The Furious, has often been called essentially an uncredited remake of Point Break, in that it's about an undercover investigator infiltrating a band of outlaws led by a charismatic leader.

The Fast and The Furious features Paul Walker as LAPD Detective Brian O'Connor, diving into the underground street racing scene on the trail of a crew that has hijacked a shipment of electronics. The crew's leader is played by Vin Diesel as Dominic Toretto, king of the street racers. By his side is his lady love, Letitia "Letty" Ortiz, played by Michelle Rodriguez. At movie's end, Toretto crashes his car during a drag race, and O'Connor hands over his as the police close in.

In 2 Fast 2 Furious, O'Connor is a fugitive in Miami, making a living on the street race circuit. The races are arranged by Tej Parker (Chris "Ludacris" Parker). He gets busted and pressed into service by the FBI and U.S. Customs Service to take down an drug kingpin. As Vin Diesel was off making a different movie, the script was retooled to introduce O'Connor's old crony Roman Pierce (Tyrese Gibson), whom O'Connor brought into this expedition with the promise that they would both have their criminal records expunged.

Next is The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift, which is mostly without any of the cast from the previous films. Instead, it focuses on a dumb high school kid named Paul Boswell (Lucas Black) a very amateur street racer who thinks with his little head instead of his big one. A bid to impress the prettiest girl in school and show up her jock boyfriend turns into a drag race that causes massive property damage. His divorced mom keeps him out of jail by sending him off to his father's custody in Japan.

It doesn't take long before Boswell slips into old habits, again trying to impress the prettiest girl in his new school. Unfortunately, her boyfriend isn't a jock; he's in the Yakuza. Doubly unfortunately, being the new guy in town, Boswell doesn't know how to do the Tokyo Drift, a move that allows cars to slide around curves. Yakuza dude's partner, Han, gives Boswell a car so he can race, and not only does Boswell come in an embarrassing second, he mangles the car something awful. So Han makes Boswell his bagman to pay for the car ... but Yakuza dude's uncle deduces that Han's been skimming off the top. Yakuza dude sends goons after Han, Han races to get away but gets killed in a crash. Boswell returns the money Han stole to Big Boss Uncle Yakuza and offers him a deal to put an end to this: a race between him and Yakuza dude, loser leaves town. Since this is a Fast and the Furious movie, I don't have to tell you who won, do I?

Also, Toretto shows up at the very end in a cameo to remind you that this is a Fast and the Furious movie, having a drag race with Boswell.

Then there's Fast & Furious, in which, oddly, Han is very much alive! It seems that, like the Star Wars series, there's a viewing order to these movies, and The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift takes place AFTER the next two movies, Fast & Furious and Fast Five.

Also, there are two short films in the mix. The Turbo Charged Prelude for 2 Fast 2 Furious falls between the first and second movie, and shows how Brian Walker made his way from Los Angeles to Miami. Los Bandoleros falls ahead of the fourth movie, Fast & Furious, showing Dom Torretto and Letty Ortiz hiding out in the Dominican Republic, and plotting on playing Robin Hood by getting a shipment of gasoline to help the community -- the heist that opens Fast & Furious. Plus, the guy who played Han, Sung Kang, had previously been in a crime flick called Better Luck Tomorrow, which was retroactively declared a prequel to the series.

With Fast & Furious, the movies are less and less about street racing and have turned into gearhead James Bond movies with increasingly insane setpieces and stunts. Fast Five has them in Rio, stealing a vault from the police station by connecting cables to it and having two cars drag it through the walls and all the way around town. Fast & Furious 6 has them fight a massive battle on an airport runway trying to stop a plane from escaping. Furious 7 has them stealing a McGuffin in Abu Dhabi by crashing a $3 million sports car through the upper floors of three of the Etihad Towers, which is not the only crazy stunt in this flick. The Fate of the Furious has the villain attack the Russian Minister of Defense by taking remote control of every car in town and crashing dozens of them on top of his limo by making them drop from a parking garage.

I didn't run out to see Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, I can wait until it comes on TV. By then, those IQ points should have grown back. They do grow back, right?

My never wanting to see any of the Fast & Furious movies seems vindicated.

Paul Walker and a fellow driver died wrapping a sports car around something very solid while illegally racing on Los Angeles County streets. Walker has been canonized for this. If he had managed to kill bystanders I’d like to think he wouldn’t have been.

The Lad and I refer to flicks of this kind as Big Dumb Action Movies. My theory is that my brain makes it through unscathed if I just check it at the door on the way in.

SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE: Inspried by ST:TNG's "All Good Things" (as well as the Prophets from ST;DS9's "Emmisary"), last night we watched Slaughterhouse Five, Tracy for the first time. (She guessed the end halfway through, but didn't complain too much because of the context.) I read the book in high school, then in college I wrote a lesson plan to teach it in a class. When I became a teacher I used that lesson plan to teach it to my college-bound juniors and seniors... along with Huckleberry Finn, The Catcher in the Rye, I know Why the Caged Bird Sings... (What can I say? I was into banned books.) 

I don't know if watching the movie has inspired Tracy to read the book, but it's inspired me to read it again.

Doctor Hmmm? said:

The Lad and I refer to flicks of this kind as Big Dumb Action Movies. My theory is that my brain makes it through unscathed if I just check it at the door on the way in.

That's a policy I usually follow when watching Big Dumb Action Movies, and I certainly should have while watching the entire Fast and the Furious oevure. The thing is, the first three weren't too crazy. Sure, they had lots of auto racing and chase scene and a fair amount of gun play. But with the fourth and succeeding films, they started playing "Can you top THIS?" with the stunts.

To wit: Not only do they crash a $3 million sports car through the upper floors of three of the Etihad Towers in Fast & Furious 6, they have a helicopter gunship shoot up half of Los Angeles and take out a parking garage. And the gunship gets destroyed when Dom Torretto jumps up and hangs a bag of grenades on it, and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson (as Diplomatic Security Services Agent Luke Hobbs) shoots at it with a .50 caliber machine gun scavenged from another helicopter that crashed. Then in The Fate of the Furious, not only do the villains take remote control of every car in town and drop dozens of them on the Russian Minister of Defense's limo, the final third of the movie has the good guys in the Arctic, racing a submarine(!) that the bad guys have armed with nuclear missiles -- and somewhere in there, Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) is alternately shooting, strangling and stabbing wave after wave of henchmen while protecting a baby in a car seat.

Evidently, there is nothing too big and too dumb for a Fast and the Furious movie.

Oh yeah. F&F stayed this side of sane -- unlikely, but still in the same universe as the rest of us -- until #4. Then it ceased to give a rip about the laws of physics or, really, anything other than "How cool is THIS!?!?!?"

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