Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016)

Newt Scamander, British wizard zoologist and a fish out of water in backwards America, is an awkward person’s awkward person, and charming in spite of himself.

The CGI beasts, however, are the real stars; the movie’s purpose, though it also deals with the consequences of abuse and repression, seems to be to drum up support for the environmentalist idea that we should learn more about animals, respect them, and protect them at all costs.

Okay, I guess… I mean, give me a four-winged gryphon—better yet, an iridescent blue snake with wings—and I will protect the heck out of it, for sure. If I’m honest, the pyrogenic rhino, the kleptomaniac platypus, and even the friendly twig, are way less appealing. There’s a reason the WWF logo is a panda and not the Pacific lamprey: the latter looks like a mini version of a sandworm from Dune. In other words, not all endangered animals are cute.

Some of the plot points seemed weak, but overall I enjoyed the movie more than I expected to. Future films are planned; now that the world-building has been done, I hope and expect there will be better plot and less eye-candy.

Buddies in India (2017)

This is a “buddy movie”. The word is right there in the (sub)title! In English! In a font that looks like but isn’t Hindi!

The spoiled and lonely heir to a wealthy and successful real estate development company must travel to India to fetch his deceased father’s will, but his father’s last wishes were for him to travel there with a bodyguard, specifically, a monkey trainer—actually an incarnation of the monkey king—who, by refusing to leave his home, is thwarting the company’s plans to develop a valuable piece of property. Can they get along until they reach their destination?

“A martial art master must protect the heir of the Bao Tang Company from imminent danger or face having his house torn down. (This is a Mandarin film shown with English subtitles)”

The movie had a couple of scenes with bizarrely costumed Taoist deities, and also had the developer’s heir riding atop a hoverboard, wearing what looked like a Power Ranger’s costume, fighting the kung fu master. There was also a fight scene in a sari factory, and a chili pepper eating contest. Strange movie.

Want to learn about “nail houses”? See below.

Continue reading Buddies in India (2017)

Despicable Me 3 (2017)

Thankfully, the minions were relegated to the second subplot, and the plot and first subplot had interesting things to say about brotherhood and motherhood, respectively.

Despicable Me 3 was silly, very silly, but fun. The villain was a grown-up 80s child star resentful of his fall from favor in his teen years, and still embodied the fads and styles of his best years. I’m an old millennial, and I buy movie tickets… bring on more of this 80s nostalgia, I say!

Turn on headlights when raining

I saw this message displayed on a programmable sign over a highway, prefaced by the notation “Georgia Law”.

Obviously, the message is

Turn on [your] headlights when [it is] raining.

The intent is clear, but the syntax is awful.

Syntactically, the implied subject of both the verbs “turn” and “rain” is “you”, so technically the sentence means:

Turn on [your] headlights when [you are] raining.

I don’t have any particular suggestion for how to “improve” the sign. Signs aren’t written in normal syntax because of space constraints, so any alternate version would have to be really short. Writing “If it is raining, turn on your headlights” is obviously longer and not obviously better, because even when space is not limited, we expect signs to be written in a terse style that lacks pronouns.

Ah well. Pronouns in English are problematic anyway.

Best Mad Libs story ever!

If you’ve never heard of Mad Libs, it’s basically a kind of kids’ activity book that helps you create silly stories. The booklet asks for examples of different kinds of words (parts of speech like “adjective” or more specific kinds of words like “color”). The words will be used in a specially written story, but you don’t know exactly how they will be used. After all the words have been written down, you copy them into the story and read it aloud to see how it sounds.

Every once in a while, I tell someone the story of the time my mom and I did a Mad Libs story that made us laugh like crazy. In fact, there’s already a blog post about it. See below for more on that story, which I rediscovered on my recent trip to Atlanta.

Continue reading Best Mad Libs story ever!

Passengers (2016)

My dad no doubt wished my mom and brother and I had chosen something different from Redbox, though I somewhat doubt the whole catalog had anything all four of us would have liked.

Passengers was kinda like Wall-E: a slow, lonely, quiet, sci-fi/romance movie with approximately two characters, and an embedded message that plants are more important than technology. It was also kinda like Titanic: a rich girl falls for a poor boy on a damaged ship.

My dad kept hoping aliens would show up. I don’t blame him; I think the main character’s major choice early on in the story was pretty unforgivable, and the ending would have been better off going in a different direction altogether.