It's Time to Get Back to Work

I'm back from the Caribbean.

This was the first cruise Sandra and I have taken. We had a great time, and will be taking more of these in the future. For now, I have a huge pile of work to get back to. Except it's Tuesday, so I'm seeing a matinee of Everest in IMAX 3D, for $5.00.

Nothing encourages bargain hunting quite like spending a week on a cruise ship.

I’m Sorry. That Will Have To Wait Until I Return from The Caribbean.

This Saturday Sandra and I fly to Florida, and from there embark upon a Caribbean cruise with our friends from Writing Excuses, and about a hundred fellow writers.
The event is the 2015 Out of Excuses Writing Workshop and Retreat. We've done this twice before, but this is our first time taking it to the seas with a larger crowd. I'm excited, and a little anxious.
I need to finish scripting, penciling, and inking a week of comics before I depart, and I must also read some things that require critiquing, and front-load myself with materials for Planet Mercenary so I can get some work done.
I've been led to understand that internet connectivity aboard ship is something that is paid for in dollars-per-byte, in much the same way that my 1972 Buick Electra 225 (link: a photo of one that was not mine) measured its fuel economy in dollars-per-mile. For this reason I'm going to be disconnected most of the time.
(Note: I got rid of the Buick in 1987, long before its value as a "classic car" could be cited as a justification to offset the incredible expense of driving something that seemed to be about as long as a cruise ship. Parallel parking that thing required two tug boats and a call to the USCG.)
Which brings me to the title of the article. Whatever it is that you might be asking, my stock answer is "I'm sorry. That will have to wait until I'm back from the Caribbean."
I'll be getting as much mileage from that line in the next five days as I got from the Buick for the entire time it was mine.
(UPDATE: No, I will NOT be present at Salt Lake Comic Con. Given the choice between setting up a table and camping in a giant concrete box full of 100,000 people, or a Caribbean cruise, I opted for the cruise.)

The Transporter: Refueled

Let's get this out of the way.  The Transporter: Refueled, is 2002's The Transporter, rebooted. It's not really a refueling of the franchise, and I can't help but think "booting" as that thing with the wheel lock that allows parking enforcement to impound a car in place while they wait for a tow-truck.
There came a point in the movie when I had the feeling that it had been going on too long, because I was getting kind of bored. I checked my watch. That was the 68-minute mark. This is a good litmus test for a movie that is failing to entertain me.
We have a kitchen-sink arsenal of "stylish action movie" tropes here: mysterious femmes fatales, murderous Eastern European mobsters, career prostitutes who look like supermodels, a grizzled ex-spy, the French Riviera, impossible vehicle physics, and an amoral hero who is very good at everything he does.
In this stylish action movie the filmmakers fuse an underdog heist with the high-concept of  2002's The Transporter. Our overpaid, overdressed, over-trained automobile courier gets drawn into a scheme that runs contrary to his contractual code, and of which he is merely a player, not a planner.
How well does it work? There were some really cool moments in the film, like the hydrant scene from the trailers which is what got me to plunk down money for tickets. Ultimately it was too linear and predictable for a heist, and there were not enough car scenes for the Transporter franchise. The villains were cardboard cutouts, our female leads were presented in a way that made them unfortunately interchangeable, and the extremely skilled actor who was told to fill Jason Statham's shoes seemed to be doing everything right with the part, while not actually seeming right FOR the part.
A three-word summation of the film's failures is "style over substance." The Transporter: Rebooted falls below my Threshold of Disappointment, entering my 2015 list ranked at #23, a position that suggests it was not as much fun as Minions, but was more enjoyable than the numerical F-twins, Fantastic Four and Furious Seven.
(Note: Several of this year's films have played directly into the super-spy genre: Spy, The Man from Uncle, Kingsman: the Secret Service, Mission Impossible—Rogue Nation, American Ultra, Hitman: Agent 47, and now The Transporter: Refueled. They're not interchangeable, but if I wanted to ruin the genre for someone, I'd make them watch all of those during a movie-marathon weekend.)
(cross-posted from

American Ultra

I saw American Ultra just one day after seeing Hitman: Agent 47, and the similarities between the two are misleading:
  • Super-agent(s) with amazing abilities
  • Physics-defying stunts
  • Protagonist who is unaware of their latent super-agent abilities
  • Mentor who helps them unlock those abilities
  • Everybody wants to kill the protagonist(s) because of who they are, rather than anything they've done
I say "misleading" because that list might make you think they're the same movie. They're not. American Ultra is far better. It didn't clear my Threshold of Awesome, but that's a different scale than the one I'm using when I say "better."
American Ultra says things—interesting and important things—about the human condition. It revels in gun play like any spy movie does, but it does so in ways that let us count the cost. Also,  it's funny. Not all the time, but at the right times.
The result is that this is not the sort of over-the-top spy movie that fans of spy movies sit down for, and that's where my other scale comes into play. This movie was better, and more fun, than Hitman: Agent 47, but came nowhere near being as much fun as Kingsmen: The Secret Service or Spy on my fun-o-meter.
Eisenberg and Stewart were perfect in their roles, and while I've seen Eisenberg shine before, this marks the first time I've felt that way about Kristen Stewart.
American Ultra enters my 2015 list at #16,  a spot from which it really was quite close to climbing the final steps across the Threshold of Awesome. Close, but not quite.
(cross-posted from

Hitman: Agent 47

Hitman: Agent 47 does nothing to set itself apart from other action movies, and is kind of predictable from start to finish. Still, it didn't actually disappoint me, so it enters my list at #17, safely above the Threshold of Disappointment.
Rupert Friend's performance as the titular 47 is pretty good, but he wasn't given much to work with. Zachary Quinto was great, but under-utilized. Hannah Ware was awesome, and kept the movie fun and interesting. I enjoyed the way the story was told through her eyes, and I suspect that this same story with a less skillful actor in her place would have been unwatchably dull.
There are far too many things wrong with this film for me to catalog them. I had fun in spite of them. Your mileage will almost certainly vary.
UPDATED TO ADD: Armed with a pair of coupons, I saw this movie Monday morning, soda in one hand, and popcorn in the other, for $2.50. At that price it would have been difficult to disappoint me. Had I burnt $20 and a Friday night on it, this review might have had a completely different tone.
(cross-posted from
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