Day 305: Street Food Cinema

Shaun of the Dead

Shaun of the Dead

A few years ago my wife and I experienced our first Street Food Cinema in Hollywood. It’s a terrific event of live music, food trucks, and a classic movie shown outdoors in different parts of Los Angeles. I love the picnic atmosphere; it’s family friendly with a laid-back  vibe.

For Halloween last night, my wife scored tickets to the final event of the season at Exposition Park for one of my favorite movies: Shaun of the Dead. Since we’d already dressed as zombies this year, we decided to do a DC/Marvel crossover with my wife going as Spidergirl and myself as Clark Kent-changing-into-Superman (an easy costume for me since I already have the eyeglasses).

We arrived in time for the last song of the band, found a spot near the front to lay down our picnic blanket and beach chairs, then did a quick scan of the food trucks before deciding on our dinner: shish kebabs for my wife and a shrimp po boy and chicken/sausage/corn bisque for me. The food was delicious and we cracked open a bottle of a wonderful wine for the movie.

I was surprised that more people weren’t dressed as zombies or the characters from the movie, but there were some terrific costumes. I particularly liked the McDonald’s Hamburglar I was in line with for dinner.

The crowd seemed to enjoy the film as much as I always do. Shaun of the Dead is such a smart, funny movie, brilliantly versed in its zombie cliches as it pokes fun of itself and the genre. The weather was perfect last night and I couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend Halloween.

Day 302: Rewatchable

Most Rewatchable Movie of All Time? Star Wars.

Most Rewatchable Movie of All Time? Star Wars.

After I posted my progress on my 2015 Goals list yesterday, I thought about why I haven’t been motivated to complete my goal of watching all 100 of AFI’s Greatest Films. I love watching movies and a lot of those on that list are classics. I should’ve been able to finish that list with no problem, right?

Well, I’ve tried to watch a few of them and either fall asleep or start doing something else. By the time I wake up or focus my attention back on the film, I’ve missed enough that I’d have to start over, so I just end up shutting it off.

Perhaps I should revise my goal to watch all of FiveThirtyEight’s 25 Most Rewatchable Movies of All Time. I’ve seen 24 of the 25 (Pride & Prejudice being the one I haven’t seen), so it’d be no sweat.

Of course, I’d probably get stuck on No. 1. Maybe I should just watch that 25 times? I’d reach that goal in no time.

Day 295: Expectations

I was talking to a few of my buddies last night about the Star Wars movie when I realized that the only way The Force Awakens is going to live up to the hype is if it blows everybody away.

I contained my excitement before giving in to it when the trailer was released, but after a few days I’m back to I’ll-believe-it-when-I-see-it mode. What pulled me back?

I recalled the anticipation for Episode I was just as high (or at least as high as it could be in a pre-social-media world). People were going to the movie theaters, buying tickets for the main feature, and leaving after the Star Wars trailer.

Yes, this actually happened.

Thankfully, now we can avoid paying admission to see a two-minute clip, instead watching it endlessly on youtube in the comfort of our own homes. The Force Awakens trailer is perfect in that it gives us just enough to quell our Star Wars cravings without giving too much away. We’re introduced to the main characters, our nostalgia is sated with the appearances of the Millennium Falcon, Han, Leia, and Chewie, and it’s all beautifully tied together with the always brilliant score from John Williams.

The other day I mentioned how I hope director J.J. Abrams and writer Lawrence Kasdan don’t rehash too much in order to satisfy the audience’s appetite for the original trilogy. In the poster and the trailer we get glimpses of a Death-Star-like orb and a long trench in the snow.

As much as I hated all of the CGI in the prequel trilogy, this was Lucas at his best: pushing the boundaries of what’s possible with special effects. After the prequels were released it seemed as if the entire movie industry’s special effects departments had grown by leaps and bounds. The biggest benefactors were all of the my favorite superheroes that could finally get on the big screen, thanks to CGI.

Ultimately it was the weak stories of the prequel that doomed them. No amount of political intrigue, midichlorians, or tragic love story was going to get the audience to enjoy what amounted to a special effects show.

Abrams has said that he wants to capture that sense of awe from the original trilogy. He’s using more practical effects and less CGI.  Sure, he’ll still have his trademark lens flares, but that’s fine with me.

This is my (guarded) hope with The Force Awakens: that Abrams lives up to half of what he’s said and shown so far. I can’t expect him to pull an Empire Strikes Back right out of the gate, can I?

Something that my buddies reminded me about was how much we all loved Abrams’ Star Trek movies. He’s used to dealing with unrealistic expectations from a diehard fanbase. Since I’ve already enjoyed the Star Wars teasers and trailer more than the prequel trilogy, though, I’d say he’s halfway home to meeting those crazy expectations.

Day 292: Bingo and BB-8

Star Wars The Force Awakens.

Star Wars The Force Awakens.

My wife and I were out with friends tonight, enjoying drinks, appetizers, and a hilarious game of bingo at a local restaurant. We wouldn’t be watching the Star Wars The Force Awakens trailer “live,” but we could watch it at home. The bingo game was a blast and my wife won a prize! We were excited because neither of us had won at bingo yet.

Of course, the prize for me was waiting at home: the Star Wars youtube channel. I fired up the trailer and we watched it.

And watched it again.

And again.

Wow. We got more of the story this time. We got more action shots. We got glimpses of Han and Leia.

Two teasers, a behind-the-scenes preview, and tonight’s trailer. That’s four times I’ve been reduced to a babbling idiot, excited like it was 1977 all over again.


Day 274: Batman Begins

Batman Begins

Batman Begins

My wife and I have been watching season one of Gotham. It’s a good cop drama based in Batman’s world, with lots of the DC universe re-told from the perspective of good cop James Gordon.

When I learned Batman Begins was streaming on Netflix tonight, I couldn’t resist jumping ahead in the Gotham timeline. It’s a terrific film, at the time the best comic-book movie I’d seen (and which would be surpassed by its brilliant sequel The Dark Knight). The Ra’s al Ghul backstory is terrific, as is the process of creating the Batman. And Michael Caine’s Alfred is still my favorite depiction of the character.

The re-imagined world of Gotham the TV series was a great prelude to Batman Begins and I have my hopes up for a mini-series starring the Dark Knight, a la Daredevil. Until then, Christopher Nolan’s trilogy is a good way to get my Batman fix.

Day 238: Metro Manila

Metro Manila

Metro Manila

Currently streaming on Netflix is Metro Manila, an excellent film about a family trying to escape poverty in the Philippines.

Driven by economic despair, a rice farmer moves his wife and two children to metro Manila, where he hopes to take advantage of the opportunities the city will provide. He and his wife quickly discover that predators of all types lurk in every corner of the slums they live in.

Lead actor Jake Macapagal is outstanding as Oscar Ramirez. He’s the moral center of the film and has a quiet dignity about him that stands above the chaos of the big city. John Arcilla is solid as Oscar’s co-worker/mentor Ong, a grizzled veteran with a secret that will change Oscar’s life. The character Ong reminded me of someone who could easily be found in a John Woo heroic bloodshed movie.

I’ve written about a few of the movies on the AFI 100 list this year and Metro Manila reminded me of The French Connection in a few ways: it captured the grittiness of Manila, just as The French Connection did with New York. Both movies were smack dab in the middle of a world full of moral ambiguity.

Day 200: Ant-Man

  • Ant-Man


It’s been awhile since I’ve been to the movies, so I was excited to see Ant-Man. He wasn’t a major character in the Marvel Universe comics, but he proved to be a worthy addition to the Marvel Universe films.

I didn’t think Paul Rudd could be a superhero. I loved him in Anchorman, I Love You Man, and Knocked Up (one of my favorite lines ever: “I got Matsui”). He didn’t strike me as an actor that could carry a comic-book-turned-movie.

Thankfully, Rudd plays it just right. He doesn’t take things too seriously nor does he overdo the snarkiness and strikes the right balance between both. There are a few winks to the audience about the silliness of the whole thing, but it never feels patronizing or demeaning.

I didn’t find out until the credits rolled that Edgar Wright had a hand in the screenplay and realized that’s why I liked Ant-Man so much. Wright’s a master at this type of pop-culture fare.

It’s the perfect summer blockbuster. Yes, it’s silly and predictable, but it’s also a lot of fun and likable.

And it’s got me fired up to get back into my AFI Top 100 challenge.