My dear friend and fellow critic Tim Gordon always has something interesting to say about movies. I love to talk to him after screenings about what we’ve just seen and how it compares to some of our favorites (and least favorites).
He has posted his list of 21 top romantic movies and it has some great choices, mixing popular classics like “Titantic,” “Love Actually,” and “Bull Durham” with neglected gems like “Love and Basketball” and “Jason’s Lyric.” Every one on the list is well worth seeing — and sharing with someone you love.
The 40th anniversary of Comic-Con is this week and I am thrilled to be attending. It long ago expanded its range from the original gathering of comics fans and now includes sneak peeks at everything that is going to be cool in the popular arts over the next year or two. We will see previews of the big movies (including “iron Man 2” and “Toy Story 3”) and get a chance to hear from the performers and creators. Joss Whedon will be there. So will Tim Burton. I’m hoping to get to interview one of my favorite actors, Eric McCormack. And, yes, many Klingons and Han Solos and Harry Potters. Last year’s most popular costume was the Joker. Any predictions on what this one’s will be?
I will be tweeting and posting blog updates. Take a look at the schedule and let me know if there’s anything you think I should not miss.
Seattle-based teachers-turned-music group Recess Monkey came to Washington DC to play at XM Radio and Jammin’ Java this week and I was lucky enough to see them perform before a wildly enthusiastic crowd of very excited kids and very happy parents.
Jack Forman, Andrew Holloway, and Daron Henry are three elementary school teachers who write songs based of their everyday interaction with kids and their equal passions for children and for tuneful pop. They know what kids care about most — when they will get a pet, when that tooth will fall out, what kind of backpack they need, and, of course, how many very, very silly jokes they can tell. One song is about a “Knocktopus,” an octopus who tells knock-knock jokes that are real groaners. The music is tuneful and catchy and the lyrics are witty and reassuring. Highly recommended!
This story about a retro performer itself has a very retro feeling, as though it is a recently rediscovered artifact. The likable Colin Hanks plays Troy Gabel, who drops out of law school with some vague thought that he would like to write. To support himself, he applies for a job as assistant to Buck Howard (John Malkovich), known professionally as The Great Buck Howard. He is also sometimes known as a magician, which he is not. He is a mentalist, someone who astounds the audience with feats of mind-reading and hypnotism. He was once popular and successful. He guested over 60 times on “The Tonight Show,” back when it was the real “Tonight Show,” the one with Johnny. But somehow, he lost his place on the A List and now performs in small, half-filled venues.
While he can be bitter about his lack of recognition and demanding of Troy, when he is on stage he seems perfectly happy and at home, always apparently genuine with his signature greeting, “I love this town!” And Troy, well aware of the cheesiness of an act that seems more suited to the days of Ed Sullivan than the era of YouTube, can’t help admiring Buck’s showmanship and resilience. A young pr executive (Emily Blunt) arrives in Cincinnati to coordinate the press for Buck’s dramatic new effect. And both Buck and Troy learn something about what really matters to them.
Hanks is a likeable onscreen presence with an easy affability, and he does as much as he can with a character that is written with only one dimension — if that. His best scenes are with his real-life father, Tom Hanks, playing his on-screen father, who disapproves of his decision to leave law school. Malkovich has a lot of fun with his role as Buck, enthusiastically pumping the hands of everyone he meets and showing the character’s mingled sense of entitlement and insecurity, acute awareness of how he comes across to an audience and lack of awareness of how he comes across one-to-one. Its old-fashioned structure and unpretentiousness give it some extra appeal. And even though it is all pretend, it is fun to see Buck’s act.