Mini Movie Reviews #2: Deceit, Discovery, and Disney

Another week in quarantine, another crop of movies to talk about. Like last week, none of these movies are particularly new, but they once again show a weird range of genres.

Vice, 2018, streamed on Hulu

Christian Bale in Vice (2018)This movie, featuring Christian Bale as Vice President Dick Cheney both before and during his time in the White House, had intrigued me when it first came out, so it didn’t take long for Hulu to convince me to watch it.

Spoiler-free review

This film was really well done. Bale and Steve Carell (as Donald Rumsfeld) were incredible. I also found it funny in an incredibly cynical, laugh-as-the-world-burns kinda way. I always had the feeling that Cheney was the NeoCon mastermind behind the W. Bush administration. If Vice is even partially true, he was more of a shadow-president than I realized.

The Planets, 2019, streamed on Amazon Prime

The Planets (2019)This was a documentary series we found originally produced by the BBC. The US version was narrated by Zachary Quinto, of Star Trek fame, who was fantastic. It took us less than one episode to get hooked.

Spoiler-free review…?

There’s nothing really to spoil here. If you have even a passing interest in science, the universe, or why Pluto is not technically a planet, go watch this series.

Through six episodes, it tells the story of how the worlds in our solar system were formed. Simultaneously, it tells the story of all of the probes and rovers we have used over the decades to get this information. Cassini, Galileo, Voyager; the engineers, scientists, and others who participated in these exploration projects are interviewed throughout the series to discuss what they learned about each planet their spacecraft explored, and what new questions it rose.

Not only do they provide visually stunning computer-generated renderings of what each planet looks like, but they also provide actual footage of each mission, where available. I really can’t rave about this series enough. I want to watch it again.

Frozen II, 2019, rented on Amazon Prime

Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Josh Gad, and Jonathan Groff in Frozen II (2019)We had my son at home for the last two weeks in self-isolation, since there was a chance we had been exposed to COVID-19. All is well, but after working from home with a toddler for two-plus weeks, I cannot count the number of times I have heard the soundtracks of FrozenMoana, and The Lion King, in their entirety over that span.

Don’t get me wrong, all of that music is great, but it was a lot.

We decided to rent both Frozen movies on Amazon Prime last weekend, because I hadn’t seen either, and I felt like I already knew the gist of the stories from the music anyway.

Spoiler-free review

I genuinely enjoy Disney movies, so it’s not hard to convince me to watch one. The first Frozen was good. I can see why it was so popular with kids, and it definitely has some great messages, but nothing about it really jumped out aside from Kristen Bell’s and Idina Menzel’s vocals.

But guys… Frozen II is a great film. The story of how Elsa got her powers and what it means for her and the kingdom of Arendelle is compelling, the story is not quite so predictable as its predecessor, and the artwork is unbelievable. Every scene with rushing water or waves in this film is gorgeous.

Anna still gets her heroic moments while Elsa gets to show off some of her powers, and the other characters are interesting without bogging the movie down. I really enjoyed this, and I wish I had watched it again before our rental expired.

More Recommendations!

I’m really enjoying how many movies and series I’ve had the chance to watch recently. It’s one of my favorite things to do and just haven’t had much chance to do it in recent months. I’m looking forward to a new batch of movies over the coming weeks.

What have you been watching?

Steve D

Religion, Belief, and Parenting according to a Non-Practicing Parent

Today is my second consecutive day of stay-at-home parenting with Nugget. He’s been amazing. I have no idea what I’ve been doing for the last 36 hours. It feels like I’ve mostly been soothing him and then rushing to throw laundry in the dryer before he flips out.

Currently, we’re listening to the World of Warcraft soundtrack as he lays on his play mat and babbles at toys he clearly doesn’t quite know are there yet. He seems to like the music, though.

Continue reading “Religion, Belief, and Parenting according to a Non-Practicing Parent”

Beautiful Juxtaposition – Avenged Sevenfold’s The Stage Pt. I

Our music reviews seek to trace the narratives that weave between songs and albums. Check out our Rhythmic Fiction tag for other stories told through music.

Forgive me Father for I have sinned. It has been six years since my last start to finish listen to a new Avenged Sevenfold album.

Confession time: I fell off the Avenged Sevenfold love boat years ago. I didn’t buy their last two albums; I bought a couple songs and figured ‘eh, I got the gist of it.’ After the passing of The Rev, well, things weren’t quite the same for a lot of us long-time fans. We were mourning and it’s hard to muster up anticipation in the face of tragedy. I couldn’t manage that same eager energy for them anymore. And yet, I still vividly remembered our early times together like freaking out the first time I saw ‘Unholy Confessions’ on MTV’s Headbangers Ball back in 2004. I was in high school. Continue reading “Beautiful Juxtaposition – Avenged Sevenfold’s The Stage Pt. I”

dreaminsanity: Earth Day, Humanism, and Environmentalism

Image of Earth captured by NASA: http://www.nasa.gov/image-feature/nasa-captures-epic-earth-image
Image of Earth captured by NASA: http://www.nasa.gov/image-feature/nasa-captures-epic-earth-image

Earth Day is probably the most concerted effort to unite people around the world in positivity. The collective uplifting of the human spirit and natural world is seen in profile pictures on Facebook, in campaigns by companies and organizations all over the world, and in pledges by governments to act on their commitments to the environment. In my mind, Earth Day is the most significant act of humanism we have currently exhibited. As Wendell Berry famously said: “The earth is what we all have in common.” Continue reading “dreaminsanity: Earth Day, Humanism, and Environmentalism”