It’s been a while. I kept feeling like I should post something about the whole Bundy takeover of the Malheur Refuge but every time I went to write something, writer’s block struck. Then I wrote something that will probably forever stay locked in the documents folder of my computer. The whole thing is still a bit raw. In truth, I’m still processing it. So instead here’s an entertainment roundup of what we’ve been watching in the last couple of months. Considering the serious nature of the recent wildlife refuge occupation, our viewing habits have been decidedly light for the most part (with the exception of “True Detective”).
Jurassic World: Fun, frothy entertainment about a dinosaur theme park one generation removed from “Jurassic Park.” The operators of the new park have the whole thing down to a science, which thrills patrons by allowing them to interact with real dinosaurs. Think a cross between Sea World and a zoo, but with prehistoric behemoths. Bryce Dallas Howard plays Claire, the career-driven woman who runs the park from the lofty vantage of her sterile high rise office. So we know she is ripe for a come-uppance. Chris Pratt (who will forever be Andy from “Parks and Rec”) plays the seasoned velociraptor trainer, Owen, who is forced to help Claire deal with the chaos created by scientists playing God with dino DNA. Claire’s nephews add a little levity to the situation when the dinosaurs are inevitably let loose. But of course, they also provide plenty of CHILDREN IN DANGER moments to create forced pathos from the audience. I thoroughly enjoyed the CGI dinosaurs, and while the plot was a bit derivative and the characters were stock stereotypes, it was a nice two-hour diversion.
San Andreas: A movie about a giant earthquake swallowing up San Francisco could hardly be considered light. But hey, it stars Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson, so you know it’s not going to be an Oscar contender. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Rock, but he is known for more action-oriented films than period dramas. On the action front San Andreas does not disappoint. The CGI is so believable you’ll feel like the impending disaster is about to break through your living room walls and engulf your house. I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the screen. However, a side plot involving The Rock and his ex-wife felt shoe-horned in and was completely unnecessary. There are plenty of DAMSEL IN DISTRESS moments and the Rock’s movie daughter has a few heroic moments herself. Gotta say I really enjoyed this one too. Just know that it is what is. No apologies.
Vacation: If you’re up for an hour and a half of potty humor and sight gags (which I totally was) then this is the movie for you. An update of the original “Vacation” (1983) starring Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo, this one stars Ed Helms and Christina Applegate. And the film’s whole premise banks heavily on the likeability of its stars, so thank heavens Helms and Applegate fit the bill to a T. As Rusty Griswald, Helms is a nice guy who is tired of the jerks of the world having all the fun. He decides to recreate his childhood road trip to Wally World, dragging his somewhat reluctant wife and kids along for the ride. As Debbie Griswald, Applegate has just the right blend of skepticism and spontaneity. She’d rather vacation in France, but since Rusty’s so gung-ho, she’ll make the best of it. Older son James and younger son Kevin were cast perfectly. James is at the dorky stage of adolescence, and Kevin’s potty mouth will shock those of us who grew up in households where “shut-up” was considered a bad word. It’s one horrifying misadventure after another, and I laughed out loud more than once. That’s a win in my book.
Trainwreck: If you’ve never seen comedian Amy Schumer’s stand-up, I’d recommend searching her out on YouTube before you watch this one. Her brand of humor is one of those that you will either love or hate. She is sexually frank and upfront about things most people would not own up to in polite conversation. And she’s hilarious. This film basically takes all her stand-up routines and puts them in a coherent rom-com format. She plays a single magazine writer who plays the field and can’t see the benefit of a long-term relationship thanks to growing up with a Dad who couldn’t stay faithful to her mother. I liked the relationship between her and her sister. That felt realistic to me. Her relationship with celebrity sports doctor Aaron played by SNL’s Bill Hader, not so much. Hader is a likeable enough guy, and funny in his own right, but I simply didn’t buy him as her love interest. But I suppose that’s OK. This is Schumer’s movie, and she shines enough to overpower the elements I didn’t like.
True Detective, season 1: This one is dark folks. But I’ll admit that I couldn’t wait for the successive DVDs to arrive after we’d watched the first 3 episodes (yes, we are stuck in the dark ages out here with no streaming, it just eats up too much data). Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson star as a pair of odd couple type detectives partnered to work a ritualistic murder of a young woman in rural Louisiana. The show works because the pairing of McConaughey and Harrelson is pure genius. It’s a who-dun-it told in flashback with McConaughey and Harrelson playing older versions of themselves looking back on the case, so the show’s continuity is all over the place and yet, oddly compelling. McConaughey’s Rust Cohle is a hot mess with a tragic backstory and a deeply wary view of the world. He’s such an intriguing character that I think the writers must have felt like they hit the jackpot in writing his dialogue. Harrelson’s Marty Hart is a troubled family man with a wandering eye. His easy-going persona bumps up against Rust’s cynicism, and I loved the interaction between the two characters. The mystery of the case is interesting and macabre in its own right, but it is the interplay between these two detectives that will have you coming back for more.
In addition, we’ve been watching PBS “Frontline” episodes on fantasy football, childhood poverty and terrorism. Our guilty pleasure has been FX’s “The People v. O.J. Simpson.” So now I want to know, what are you watching?