Summer Movie Diary

My husband has been traveling a lot the last few weeks, so I’ve been watching more movies than I usually do to keep myself entertained while he’s been gone. We watch most TV shows together so I am on hold with most of the things I watch. I often have a show I’m binge watching that he doesn’t care about, but I don’t even have one of those right now since I grew bored with Pretty Little Liars and haven’t found anything else that piques my interest to watch at the moment. So while I’m waiting for him to get back to catch up on our TV I’ve been watching movies instead. Plus I’ve watched a few other movies while traveling. Here’s my thoughts.

Paddington 2

I remember when this movie came out I was super skeptical of all the rave reviews it was getting. I think at one point it had a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. I was like how can this movie possibly be that good. I’m completely willing to admit that my skepticism was misplaced because this movie is really endearing. I watched the first one in preparation for watching this one, and it was fine but Paddington 2 is really good. It’s funny and sweet and heartbreaking and heartwarming. It’s all the feelings. With so much terribleness in the world, this movie is a great little escape.

Marshall

We wound up watching this movie in a hotel room when we were in upstate New York and there was nothing else on. It’s not something I would have watched otherwise. It covers the work of Thurgood Marshall on one case during his early career as a lawyer. It was entertaining, but it’s not anything earth shattering or something I would say you need to rush out to see, but if you happen upon it it’s not a bad use of 2 hours.

The Kissing Booth

Netflix is bringing back the romantic comedy and I am here for it. I loved this little movie. It’s very reminiscent of 90s teen rom-coms, which I loved and sorely miss. Elle and Lee have been best friends since the day they were born. Now that they’re in high school Elle has developed a crush on Lee’s bad boy older brother Noah. Lee sensing something reminds Elle about one of the long ago rules they made about their friendship that included no dating each other’s relatives. But Elle continues to find herself falling for Noah despite Lee’s protests and her own better judgment. Can she keep Lee as a friend while dating Noah? If you like me love romantic comedies, run don’t walk to watch this on Netflix. I promise you won’t be sorry.

Like Father

Like Father is another Netflix film. It’s not a rom-com and I’m not exactly sure what genre I would place it in. It definitely felt more made for TV movie than The Kissing Booth did though. It stars Kristen Bell as a workaholic who is left at the alter. She discovers that the father, played by Kelsey Grammer, who left her as a small child has shown up to the wedding uninvited and winds up getting drunk with him and then dragging him on her honeymoon cruise where they mend their relationship and Kristen Bell’s character learns to not be like her father was. I could have done with 100% less Seth Rogen, but luckily he’s a fairly minor character. There were also some plot points I would have written differently that I think would have made more sense but no one asked me. It’s an okay movie. A fine watch for a rainy Sunday afternoon.

Josie and the Pussycats

I vaguely remember this being a movie when it came out. I was definitely barely going to the movies back then when I was in grad school and working 2 jobs, but if I recall correctly it wasn’t around long enough for me to have a chance anyway. I remember it being fairly well maligned at the time, but it seems to have taken on sort of a cult classic status at this point. I know a number of people who really like it for whatever reason. I definitely missed whatever boat they are sailing on because from where I’m sitting this movie deserves probably almost all the scorn heaped on it. It was not good. I’m not much one for camp, so maybe that’s where people are coming from but I suspect if you’re not already on board with this movie there is no need for you to watch it at this point.

The Spy Who Dumped Me

I never planned on going to see this movie in the theater. I figured if I ever saw it at all it would be at some point after it was released on DVD or streaming. The local movie critic on the Saturday morning news gave it a good review, which made me more inclined to see it but I still didn’t plan on going out of my way to see it. Then one of the movie apps I’ve used to buy tickets through offered me a free ticket to see it. I definitely wanted to see it enough to take advantage of a free ticket, and I’m really glad I did. It was a great movie. It was funny and entertaining. I enjoyed the friendship between Mila Kunis’ and Kate McKinnon’s characters and the plot kept things moving. It was definitely a great summer flick. My only quibble was that I totally did not buy Mila Kunis and Justin Theroux as lovers. They had exactly zero chemistry. He seemed more like her father than her boyfriend, which their large age gap didn’t help. I didn’t buy that they were in love or even that they were ever in any sort of relationship in the scenes that he shows back up in. That’s a very small part of the movie though, so it didn’t detract too much. If you’re looking for a fun diversion at the movies I highly recommend this one.

Eighth Grade

The movie basically follows a girl in her final days of eighth grade. Eighth grade is a super awkward age to begin with and this girl is also very socially awkward so there’s just a lot of awkward. I’ve used that word about a dozen times already, so probably you get it. It made me really glad that I never have to be in eighth grade again and that I grew up before social media was a thing. I thought I would like this movie more than I did in reality. It’s probably because it’s meant to be super awkward which makes for a less enjoyable viewing experience. Also I think I over identified with the character to some degree. I definitely have never been as socially inept as she is, but I too am super shy and quiet and was probably reliving some of my own painful experiences through her. So you know, if you want to relive some of the less pleasant parts of being a teenager this movie is for you.

The Greatest Showman

Given my love of musical theatre I have no idea what made me think I wouldn’t care for this movie when it came out. I’ve had a billion people since then tell me I would love it, but I just never got around to watching it until now. And I should listen to people because I did love it. The story itself about P.T. Barnum is kind of meh, but the musical numbers are fantastic and really make the movie. It really made me jones to get to some live musical theatre. Luckily it won’t be too much longer until our season tickets to the touring Broadway shows start because I am not inspired to go see anything that’s new on Broadway right now. It’s a whole bunch of jukebox musicals and musicals based on movies, none of which I care to see. If they ever turn this movie into a Broadway show, which I feel is inevitable, I would totally go see it.

Jason Isbell at Wolf Trap

Tuesday night I went to see Jason Isbell at Wolf Trap as the second stop in my week of Jason Isbell in which I see him in concert 3 times in one week in 3 different states. As you know if you’ve been around here for any amount of time Wolf Trap is one of my favorite venues. I love sitting out on the lawn and picnicking there during shows. I put my husband in charge of buying these tickets and he bought us pavilion seats, which I was kind of annoyed at but turned out to be a good call because of the never ending torrents of rain that have been plaguing us for the past 5 days. I think the lawn people got lucky though because it might have sprinkled, but it never poured during the show though we definitely hit some downpours on both our drive there and back.

I am apparently doomed to only ever see Hiss Golden Messenger in rainy weather despite their music being the perfect warm summer outdoor concert music. I told my husband last night that the three times I’ve seen them I’ve been wearing my rain boots. They’re also playing at the Newport Folk Festival this coming weekend, so I hope that’s not an omen for rain. They had an unusually short opening set given that they were the only opening act. They only got 45 minutes, which limited what they had time to play. I was bummed they didn’t play “Saturday’s Song”, which is my favorite. Hopefully with a little bit longer at Newport they’ll get it in for me.

As soon as Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit came out on stage I was a little bit bummed to see that Amanda Shires wasn’t with them. She’s Jason’s wife and plays fiddle in his band sometimes when she’s not off doing her own thing. She has a new album coming out in a couple of weeks so I knew she would probably be off on our her own tour soon but figured since she was there Friday night and will be there at Newport since she has her own set there as well that she would still be around at this concert. There were a couple of songs that I think are forever doomed to be poorer without her there. “Cover Me Up” and “If We Were Vampires” will never have the same impact without Amanda there on stage with Jason singing to her. But even though she wasn’t there it was an amazing show and I enjoyed it even more than Friday’s show in Canandaigua.

Part of the reason this show was better was the sound. I have no idea who was in charge of the sound in Canandaigua, but it was terrible. The volume got cranked way up between Brandi Carlile’s set and Jason Isbell’s set for some reason to an uncomfortable level. Even with my earplugs in, which I always wear at every concert (save your hearing kids), the loudness wound up setting off my tinnitus for days. Also the sound mix seemed way off. The drums seemed over power everything else. I was almost a little reluctant to go last night knowing we would be close in the pavilion again because I didn’t want to traumatize my hearing again, especially so close to the last time. Last night was much better and made me realize even more how terrible the sound was at CMAC.

This was the fourth time I’ve seen Jason Isbell while he’s been touring his The Nashville Sound album so I  knew his set would probably be slightly different from Friday night, but figured it would mostly be the same with most of it coming from the new album. Turns out last night’s set was hugely different from Friday night’s, which was awesome for me. He didn’t play nearly as many songs from the new album as he has at the other shows I’ve been to on this tour. I theorized that the new album has a lot of fiddle from Amanda in it, so without her there he decided to go back to more of his older stuff. I have no idea if that’s true, but it was my best guess. He pulled out more from his Drive-By Trucker days than I’ve ever heard him play before and even several songs from his first three solo albums, which he rarely plays much from. He played a lot more from Southeastern than he has at any show I’ve been to recently including “Elephant” which I can’t hear anymore without thinking about this delightful video.

It was a really great show. Jason Isbell and Wolf Trap never disappoint so I should have known it would be wonderful night of music.

The Boys in the Band on Broadway (AKA Matt Bomer Day)

My friends Jenny, Sarah, and I have a longstanding crush on our “gay TV boyfriend”, Matt Bomer going all the way back to his days as Bryce Larkin on Chuck. It of course was firmly cemented during his years on White Collar and then sent into complete overdrive with the Magic Mike films. Sadly I haven’t loved a lot of what he’s been doing lately on TV as I am not into American Horror Story at all. I also never watched whatever that Amazon show he did was. I watched the pilot and didn’t love it and then eons later when the show finally dropped I didn’t have time to watch it at the time and then sort of forgot it existed until I started writing this. Maybe I’ll watch it, but probably not.

Anyway, when we saw that Matt Bomer was going to be starring in a revival of The Boys in the Band on Broadway there was no way we couldn’t make a trip to NYC to see him in it, something I kept calling Matt Bomer Day in homage to Rex Manning Day from Empire Records. The rest of the cast including Andrew Rannells, Jim Parsons, and Zachary Quinto. My sister assures me that Michael Benjamin Washington who is also in the cast is someone that we went to high school with in Plano, TX and that he was her class president. Our high school was huge and I didn’t know most of the people in my own class let alone anyone in the year behind me so I don’t feel bad for having no clue but now I think it’s a fun tidbit.

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The last time the three of us went up to NYC together to see a show was a few years ago to see Neil Patrick Harris in Hedwig and the Angry Inch. We took the MegaBus and got stranded on the New Jersey turnpike for 3 hours in the middle of the night on our way home, so this time we decided to take the train which was a much better choice even if it is more expensive. We just went up for the day without enough time to really do much between our show and the train on either side, so we just wandered around mid-town, had brunch, and of course got cookies at Schmakery’s.

I didn’t know much about the play going in other than knowing the amazing cast and that the show was a revival on it’s 50th anniversary. Having now read the New York Times review (which liked it much less than I did for some of seemingly the same reasons they didn’t care for Children of a Lesser God as much as I did), I now know that the original play was in fact two acts and that this production was trimmed and condensed into a 2 hour one act play. You can definitely still feel the shift where the act break would have occurred so I was not surprised to learn this.

It’s certainly not a perfect show, but it kept me entertained for 2 hours and that’s pretty much all I’m looking for in my Broadway entertainment. It’s still set in 1968 and is still a show that was written in 1968, so it still retains the sensibilities of homosexual life (or at least the way it was viewed) in 1968, which is one of the things the New York Times reviewer seemed to take issue with. I on the other hand am willing to view things as period pieces. Yeah, if this play about a birthday party being thrown by a group of gay guys for one of their friends was written 2018 it would probably not be this play, but it was written 50 years ago so it is and the characters act and react in the ways that they do because it was.

The first half was really amusing. There are still some zingers in the second half, but it does take a much more dramatic turn. I maybe do agree with the reviewer that Jim Parsons was perhaps not the right actor for the lead role. No offense to Jim Parsons, but he’s a pretty one note actor and while that worked for some facets of the character I’m not sure it worked for all of them. My boyfriend Matt Bomer was perfect though. That man is so pretty it’s almost criminal. We got to see a lot of him mostly naked on stage. It’s worth the ticket price just for that. The first half of the show was better not only because it was funnier, but because he did more than stand in a corner and be eye candy which is mostly what his character did in the second half of the show. At any rate I definitely enjoyed the show and getting to be so close to a long term TV crush.

After the show of course we went to the stage door to hopefully get autographs and photos. Given the large cast of well known actors it was unsurprisingly mobbed by the time we got out there, so we were a couple people deep from the rail. Everyone in the cast came out except Jim Parsons. I don’t blame him though because it was a 2 show day and he is working on a broken foot. Even though we weren’t right in front we were close enough that I managed to throw my arm across the shoulders of the people in front of me and get everyone in the cast to sign my Playbill except Zachary Quinto because some other woman threw hers on top of mine at the last second and he moved on down the line too quick to notice mine once she pulled hers back.

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We sadly weren’t close enough to get our photo taken with Matt Bomer right next to us, but my friend Jenny did yell out and ask him to look up and smile for us so we could get a selfie with him in the background and he totally did. Sarah also got lots of good photos of all the actors as they came out and were interacting with people. I did get a little bonus in that as we were walking away a gentleman grabbed me and said hey I got this photo of you with Matt Bomer would you like me to send it to you. I was like uh yes, please. It’s not the greatest photo ever. Someone else’s camera is blocking part of it and it’s a little blurry, but I’ll take it.

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It was a super fun day and really glad we did it. Hopefully this won’t be the last Broadway show that Matthew Bomer stars in. And I’m sure we’ll be up to see something else even if he’s not starring in it.

 

Brandi Carlile with Darlingside at the Anthem

Sunday night I finally made it down to DC’s new concert venue, The Anthem. I’ve been staring longingly at all the shows I would love to see on their concert calendar, but DC is such a trek it usually takes a lot to get me to pull the trigger on anything especially on a weeknight. Of course it would be Brandi Carlile that finally got me down there.

Yes, I did just see her twice in New York City in April. I went up there because I was afraid I would be busy on whatever Baltimore/DC date she was going to schedule in the future. Sure enough when she announced her full list of tour dates I was glad I got the tickets for New York City because the original DC date was on the same day as our annual Preakness party. For reasons I won’t go into we didn’t wind up having our party this year, but by the time we knew that wasn’t going to happen the Saturday show was sold out. Luckily they added a second show on Sunday night. I waffled back and forth about going since I had just seen her in New York City, but I was nudged over the edge by my husband volunteering that he would go with me and telling me I should buy tickets and also my desire to see Darlingside who were opening.

Darlingside is a folk band from Boston. Their harmonies are incredible. They basically spent their entire set grouped around a single mic singing together. In addition to their beautiful music they are also really nerdy and funny in a way that I had no idea about. Their stage banter made me laugh a lot. They said the first thing they thought about The Anthem was that they were playing in front of the Galactic Senate from Star Wars. I hadn’t thought of it before, but as soon as they said it I could totally see it. There are a lot of nerdy references in their music that I didn’t realized before either. They have a song all about Harrison Ford, which I don’t think I had heard before. My major revelation of the night came in reference to their song “Go Back”, which is apparently a reference to Back to the Future 2 and not the nerdy reference to Lost that I’ve said before is what I have always thought about when listening to that song. Their whole set was great. They got a standing ovation and people yelling encore at the end, which is not something you see a whole lot for opening acts. I definitely look forward to seeing them again in the future.

Darlingside playing music

Brandi’s set was much the same as the shows I saw in New York, but there were a few additional songs. The Beacon Theatre has a strict 11 pm noise ordinance whereas The Anthem obviously does not so they added a few more songs to their set. The set list made me very glad I was there for the Sunday show instead of the Saturday show. I looked Saturday’s set list up and I was happier with the extra songs on Sunday. She played “Dreams”, which I really like in and of itself but which I now always associate with this delightful time in which one of WRNR’s DJs decided to play it twice in a row because he loves it too. For one of the encore songs they brought Darlingside back out on stage and sang a cover of The Eagles’ “Seven Bridges Road”, which was wonderful. Between Darlingside and Brandi and Twins there were practically more harmonies than that stage could handle. It was an amazing show from top to bottom and well worth the effort to go down to DC on a school night. Now I’m counting down the days until I get to see Brandi again when she plays my dream concert co-headlining with Jason Isbell.

Brandi Carlile playing music

BSO Pulse with Moon Taxi

Last Thursday I went to the final BSO Pulse concert of the season with Moon Taxi. I’ve written about these concerts before in which the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra plays, followed by a set from an indie band, and finally a collaboration in which the BSO backs the band on a few of their songs.

I haven’t been to all of these concerts, so I don’t know for sure if this one was different from all of the others but it was at least somewhat different than the other ones I’ve been to. What I tend to think about when I think of a band playing with an orchestra is a lot of strings, which has been the case for the other shows I’ve been to. This one however was all brass and percussion. Rather than one or two movements, this time the BSO played a number of shorter pieces including the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey, the Olympic Fanfare, and a Handel piece written to accompany the Royal fireworks in Britain.

Moon Taxi is one of those bands that has been around for over a decade doing their thing, but is finally getting some real recognition six albums in. They were a super fun band to watch. Their lead singer, Trevor Terndrup is a fantastic performer. They were super energetic and got the crowd into it. Everyone was grooving. I was a fan of their music going in and now I’m even more sold on them. I would definitely go see them live again the next time they’re in the Baltimore area.

The decision to make arrangements with brass and percussion for the BSO to back Moon Taxi was perfect. Nicholas Hersh, the BSO’s Associate Conductor who conducts these concerts is always super fun to watch as a conductor, but this was extra awesome. He was totally grooving while he was conducting.

They also announced that they will be coming back for a Season 4, which makes me really happy. I wasn’t sure if there would be anything beyond Season 3 because I know they had a 3 year grant to do this. I really love these shows and am excited there will be more of them.

Songs I Love: Born in the Right Country by River Whyless

It’s been awhile since I’ve written about any songs I love here. It’s not because there haven’t been many songs entering my world that are worthy of being written about but as I’ve said before that my mental energy to write has been almost non-existent hence the few and far between posts around these parts. But I’ve been on a vacation from work, Twitter, and Baltimore and have restored my energy for a few days at least.

River Whyless is a band that I should really listen to more but for some reason just don’t. I like their music and I loved seeing them perform at the Newport Folk Festival a few years ago, so I’m not sure why they haven’t been a band I pay more attention to. Their newest song may just change that. “Born in the Right Country” is the first single off the forthcoming new album Kindness, A Rebel. I would completely dig this song based on the beat and guitar work no matter what lyrics went along with the music. In a time when it becomes more clear every day that the idea of the American dream is a lie this song speaks to the fact that where you end up in life is very much determined by where you are born in life and the systems that are in place are designed to keep people who are already in power in power. Not exactly a cheery song, but one that speaks the truth and to a great tune.

 

 

Cobra Kai

The other week on Facebook I said something to the effect that I hate how Hollywood is just continuously eating its own tail at this point and doing what seems like nothing but  prequels, sequels and reboots. Obviously they keep doing it because the market is there, so I hate myself a little every time I contribute to their reasoning. Despite saying that there was no way I was not going to watch Cobra Kai, the sequel to the Karate Kid movies created by YouTube Red.

I feel like most people I know talk about what movies they watch over and over again Shawshank Redemption is always on the list. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen that movie exactly once. The movies I’ve seen a billion times are not nearly as high brow. My most watched movies list consists of Overboard, When Harry Met Sally, Can’t Buy Me Love, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, and of course The Karate Kid. So YouTube Red wins. They hit right on my nostalgia button to make me finally set up an account with them. At least I got to watch it all via a free trial.

The series picks up in the present day following the characters of Johnny Lawrence and Daniel LaRusso and where they are now 35 years later. In some respects they have switched places from where they were in the movie. Daniel is now the well-to-do one who owns luxury car dealerships and is married with two kids. Johnny is down on his luck going from one menial job to the next, divorced, and a dead beat dad. Despite their different circumstances both of them are still stuck in the past in various ways.

Johnny decides to open up a Cobra Kai karate dojo, but instead of the cool kids that were part of Cobra Kai when he was a teenager his students are now the losers of the school. Meanwhile Daniel unbeknownst to him begins mentoring and teaching karate to Johnny’s estranged son. Neither one of them has let go of what they think the other one did to the other back in high school and are using their respective proteges to fight their own drama.

I did not have high hopes for Cobra Kai actually being any good, but it surprised me a little. Granted it’s still relying at least 60% if not more off of your nostalgia for the original movie. I’ll be interested to see how I feel about it during its second season when they don’t have all the callbacks to rely on because they’ve already used them all.

It’s certainly not high art, but I enjoyed watching it. I will not lie. Most of my favorite moments were tied to callbacks to the original movie. I definitely cheered a little for every one. But the show is not solely relying on those. They’ve actually done a decent job of developing the characters. I especially loved Daniel’s wife who called him out every time he started acting like a high school idiot again. She had my favorite line of the whole first season in the final episode. There is also a lot more nuance in looking at who is actually right and who is wrong as opposed to the very clearcut good vs. evil in the movie.

I will definitely keep watching when it comes back for another season. If you don’t have a strong attachment to the original Karate Kid movie I’m not sure I would bother watching this, but if you loved it like I did I would say it’s worth 6 hours of your time.