5.26.2017

ALIEN: COVENANT

So, who wants their homicidal, adaptive alien served up with a side of philosophy?  If you do, then you'll like Alien: Covenant a whole lot more than I did.   This entry in the Alien franchise tries for greater depth but proves boring.

After a discussion of creations and creators, we see the starship Covenant on its way to colonize a distant planet.  The trip is scheduled for seven years, with both passengers and crew in suspended animation, with synthetic Walter (Michael Fassbender) minding the systems.  But a cosmic event damages the ship, killing the captain and dozens of the passengers.  While conducting repairs, the crew picks up an automated message (actually a John Denver song), which leads them to a much closer, potentially inhabitable planet.

The new planet seems both perfect and mysterious: The environment is fine, but why is their Earth wheat growing there?  It turns out that this is where the ship from the movie Prometheus landed, and the only survivor is the synthetic David (also played by Michael Fassbender).  And worse, the members of the Covenant can get infected by the xenomorphs by spores, eggs, and other methods.  Who will survive?
The bigger question: Who cares?  All of the characters in Alien: Covenant have virtually no personality or characteristics, making them disposable and forgettable.  The xenomorphs are almost included as an afterthought, the killer ticking clock for the crew on the planet.  As for the issues of who creates life and what its purpose is, this movie spends a lot of time discussing this but won't be remembered for it.  This movie is a very weak entry in a generally strong franchise.

Overall grade: D
Reviewed by James Lynch

5.08.2017

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2

It's back to superheroes in space!  Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 continues the adventures of Marvel's baddest good guys, adding family issues, a universe-wide menace, and lots of comedy.

The movie opens with Star-Lord/Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (voice of Bradley Cooper), and the tiny Baby Groot (voice of Vin Diesel) protecting some valuable and powerful batteries that belong to the Sovereign, a gold-skinned and easily offended race.  The Guardians also have Nebula (Karen Gillan), Gamora's vengeful sister, as their prisoner.  The mission is a success, but when Rocket steals a bunch of the Sovereign's batteries, their leader Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki) wants them dead.
The Guardians are almost killed by Sovereign ships, but the heroes are saved by the sudden appearance of Ego (Kurt Russell) -- who's Star-Lord's long-lost father.  Accompanied by the empathic and innocent Mantis (Pom Klementieff), Ego wants to reconnect with his son -- and to show him the powers they both possess -- on his planet.  While Peter, Gamora, and Drax travel with Ego, Rocket and Groot remain behind to repair the ship.  Meanwhile, Ayesha has hired Yondu (Michael Rooker) to kill the Guardians, Nebula escapes, and things are hardly what they seem...

Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 is pretty entertaining, albeit slightly flawed.  The cast once again does a great job as the heroes who are still out for a profit, and the characters of Ego and Mantis are nice additions to this outer-space part of the Marvel Universe.  There's plenty of humor here, plus plenty of action from speedy space battles to hand-to-hand combat.  The movie is a little long -- one story line could have been shortened or cut out -- and the use of music from the '70s and '80s feels a little more heavy-handed than in its predecessor.  Still, Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 delivers plenty of laughs, thrills, and general fun.
Overall grade: B+
Reviewed by James Lynch

5.02.2017

THE CIRCLE

When it comes to social media and technology, how much power and access should companies and the online community have?  This is the driving force of The Circle, a fairly tepid suspense movie.

Mae (Emma Watson) begins the movie with a pretty dull existence.  She works at a temp job doing billing in a small town.  She lives with her parents Bonnie (Glenne Headly) and and Vinnie (Bill Paxton), the latter of whom is battling M.S.  And everyone thinks Mae should be romantically involved with Mercer (Ellar Coltrane), a local teen who makes his own art.
Things change when Mae's friend Annie (Karen Gillan) gets her a customer support job at the Circle, a Facebook-type company.  It seems ideal to Mae: good money, a cool environment, and lots of social activities on the job.  But everyone seems to know everyone else's business -- including founder Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks), whose latest product is a miniature camera and whose philosophy is that openness and knowing everything is the goal.   (During one company lecture, behind Bailey is the slogan "Secrets Are Lies.")  And when the cameras wind up saving Mae's life, she agrees to live a totally transparent life, broadcasting virtually everything she does online.
But not all is well in the world of the Circle.  Tech genius Ty (John Boyega, in a barely-there role) worries about the lack of privacy in the world of the Circle.  The company is fighting legal battles and seems to have recruited a Congresswoman totally to their side.  And while Mae enjoys being a sudden online celebrity, her family and old friends don't share her enthusiasm for the online world.

The issues brought up in The Circle are real and relevant in today's world, but the movie's treatment of those issues is pretty slight.  There's no real discussion of those issues, and lacking those and largely any action, this movie can be quite dull.  It's a bit fun seeing Tom Hanks playing a Bill Gates type of executive, but Emma Watson's ordinary Mae doesn't leave much of an impact.  The Circle should have been so much better.

Overall grade: C-
Reviewed by James Lynch

4.21.2017

PHOENIX FORGOTTEN

The horror movie Phoenix Forgotten is incredibly easy to summarize: The Blair Witch Project with aliens in the desert instead of a witch in the woods.  This found-footage horror movie often copies The Blair Witch Project but doesn't improve or add anything to the genre.

Phoenix Forgotten is shot as two different hand-held camera movies.  In the present, Sophie (Florence Hartigan) returns to her home in Phoenix, Arizona to shoot a documentary.  Back in 1997, at Sophie's sixth birthday party everyone saw a series of lights in a V formation appear and move in the sky.  Sophie's teenage brother Josh (Luke Spencer Roberts) -- who always has a camcorder with him and loves science fiction -- is convinced the lights are aliens.  He recruits friends Ashley (Chelsea Lopez) and Mark (Justin Matthews) to interview people and eventually head into the desert; after the latter, they were never seen again.  Sophie interviews the teens' parents (even hers), police officers, politicians, and even folks in the Air Force to try to figure out what happened to her brother and his friends.
The other "found footage" is from the camcorder recordings John was always making.  Most of it was benign interviews with folks in the town.  This being a horror movie, the "final" tape surfaces, showing what happened to the three teens.
There's very little to like in Phoenix Forgotten.  The characters are one-dimensional, the movie really copies far too much from The Blair Witch Project (from recurring symbols and hand prints to a finale set in an empty house and the recording device on its side) and delivers few scares beyond mystery sounds in the distance and odd ailments affecting the teens.  And a postscript trying to link the movie to real-life events feels a bit desperate.  This isn't a terrible movie, but it's not far off.  Pass.

Overall grade: D
Reviewed by James Lynch

4.19.2017

RIFFTRAX LIVE: SAMURAI COP

The Rifftrax folks love to make snarky comments about terrible movies -- and there's oh so much to make fun of in Samurai Cop, a bit of 1990s cheese that pretty much fails at every level.  So Rifftrax Live: Samurai Cop was a great evening of fun.

The movie opened with fake movie trivia, comments (including New Cop Movie Cliches), and comedy songs.  Then Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett, and Kevin Murphy took the stage.  They began with a black-and-white short film -- Manners in School -- where an animated chalk stick figure teaches an obnoxious kid about manners.  Fun as that was, things really kicked into high gear when the trio took on the feature.
 It's hard to describe just how terrible Samurai Cop really is -- and Nelson, Corbett, and Murphy jumped on virtually all the movie's flaws.  The "hero" gets nailed for everything from his long flowing hair ("Cher wig") to the banana hammock he sports through far too much of the end of the film.  His partner seems to specialize in making goofy faces; he's also the butt of a lot of ethnic "jokes," but as the hosts reassure us, "It's not racist if it's incoherent."  There's some sort of police war on Japanese gangs, and the body count is amazingly high.  Apparently samurai cops will ignore their guns to fight bad guys with martial arts or swords.  A villain is brought into a hospital room hidden in a hamper.  There's painfully sexist and explicit "flirting."  Lion heads appear for... some reason?  And the phrase "shoot him!" takes on hysterical meaning.

Rifftrax Live: Samurai Cop was a delightfully silly evening at the movies, from the opening fake credits to the final song about the feature.
Overall grade: A-
Reviewed by James Lynch


4.16.2017

TRAIN TO BUSAN

The zombie movie has its protagonists battling in a variety of ways and places -- but I don't think any of these have been on the train before.  The South Korean horror movie Train to Busan takes a more claustrophobic -- and emotional -- take on the zombie uprising.

Seok-woo (Yoo Gong) is a hedge fund manager whose obsession with work has led to the end of his marriage -- and a great emotional distance with his young daughter, Soo-an (Soo-an Kim).  When he really blows things for her birthday, Soo-an insists on getting to visit her mother in the southern town of Busan.  So Seok-woo gets them train tickets, expecting to drop her off in about an hour.  The train has a variety of people: a tough guy and his very pregnant wife, a high school baseball team (including a shy guy and the cheerleader who teases him), a pair of elderly sisters, and several others.
Unfortunately, what should have been a quick trip is substantially changed by... zombies!  The infected are snarling, feral, disjointed, fast creatures who bite at the non-infected -- and who turn them into zombies within seconds.  In less than a day South Korea is a shambles, with massive devastation and military quarantine zones.  And it's hard to know what is worse for the passengers on the train: the possibility of being stuck in close quarters with a zombie, or the stops at train station, where the quiet is often broken by the attack of dozens, or even hundreds, of zombies.
While Train to Busan doesn't reinvent the zombie movie, it is a very effective entry in the genre.  There's an ongoing theme of altruism vs. selfishness, where people wanting to save everyone risk more, while those looking out only for themselves seem to last a lot longer.  These fast zombies are pretty scary, and even their one weakness just creates more tension.  The actors are all good, and the movie is quite unpredictable when it comes to telling who'll survive until the end of the movie (though the survivors' numbers get whittled down very quickly).  Train to Busan has scares, tears, and it'll stay with you long after the train ride ends.
Overall grade: A-
Reviewed by James Lynch


4.10.2017

Britney Spears, THE ESSENTIAL BRITNEY SPEARS

The "Essential" series of greatest hits albums are designed not to provide new material, but rather to provide the well-known songs fans (and most other people) know.  The Essential Britney Spears falls into this category, offering plenty of songs on its two-disc album but nothing really new.

Released in 2013, The Essential Britney Spears has music from Spears' 1999 debut album ...Baby One More Time to her 2013 single "Scream & Shout" with Will.I.Am.  There are multiple songs from each of her albums (including a few lesser known ones), plus singles from assorted sources: the Austin Powers in Goldmember soundtrack, the aforementioned single, and even songs from previous greatest hits collection.
Unfortunately, as with previous collections The Essential Britney Spears offers plenty of what came before.  While the two-disc format has plenty of room for all the hits and some smaller songs, there's nothing here that hasn't been released before.  There are no live tracks, no covers (apart from a mediocre version of "My Prerogative"), not even any sort of megamix.  The Essential Britney Spears does provide her greatest hits, and a few lesser known songs, but nothing beyond that.


Overall grade: C
Reviewed by James Lynch

DON'T THINK TWICE

So here's something different: a drama about comedy.  Don't Think Twice is less about laughs and more about the impact of limited success on friends and lovers.

Don't Think Twice focuses on a NYC improv comedy group called the Commune: Miles (Mike Birbiglia), Jack (Keegan-Michael Key), Sam (Gillian Jacobs), Allison (Kate Micucci), Lindsay (Tami Sagher), and Bill (Chris Gethard).  In addition to performing together, the group are friends, often riffing on what each other says, and hanging out when not performing; and Jack and Sam are romantically involved with each other.
The group has their share of problems as well.   Most of them have pretty menial jobs: Bill hands out free samples at a grocery store, Allison has been working on a comic book for years, and Miles teaches improv (and had taught several members of the Commune) -- and often sleeps with his young female students.  Bill's father is in terrible shape after a motorcycle accident.  And the studio where they perform will be closing down in a month.

The biggest change happens with an incredible opportunity: Jack and Sam get called in to audition for a Saturday Night Live-type show called Weekend Live.  Sam panics and skips the audition, while Jack gets hired -- the opportunity of a lifetime.  The other Commune members are initially happy for Jack, but soon they become both needy (wanting him to hand in their writing and pitch them to the show) and resentful.  They also find themselves questioning whether improv will give them the lives they really want
While the improv scenes are amusing, Don't Think Twice is more about the changes and growing among this close group of friends.  Unfortunately, as with so many ensemble movies, the movie focuses on a few characters (Miles, Jack, Bill) and the others become almost one-trait characters.  The movie is enjoyable, but also pretty basic: not bad, but not really deep or insightful.  Don't Think Twice is good for a lighter drama, with a bit of comedy sprinkled in.

Overall grade: B-
Reviewed by James Lynch

4.02.2017

CHAMPIONS: VILLAINY AMOK by Scott Bennie

Many role-playing game sourcebooks provide either a single adventure with lots of details, or general guidelines for a campaign without a lot of specifics.  Villainy Amok, a 2005 sourcebook for the Champions superhero RPG, manages to bridge the gap between these two areas.  It manages to provide lots of possibilities, along with adventure specifics.

Villainy Amok has several chapters, each dealing with a different aspect of superhero adventures: bank robberies ("Hands in the Air!"), preliminary alien invasion (The Threat Beyond), granting superpowers ("Ask Your Doctor if Metatron Is Right for You!"), fires ("Burn Baby Burn!"), experiments ("It Came from a Mad Scientist's Lab!"), miniaturizing the characters ("Honey, I Shrunk the Superheroes!") and superhero marriage (My Big Fat Caped Wedding), plus more general situations in the Plot Gallery.

While it would have been simple to just give an adventure for each of these areas, Villainy Amok provides something extra: numerous possibilities for them.  A bank robbery might be simple, but what if a magician makes the money come to life, or a metal-manipulating villain wants the vault door?  Does shrinking characters mean they become an inch high, microscopic -- or get turned into little children?  What about the numerous reasons -- from financial to religious to scientific -- for giving numerous people superpowers?  Each chapter goes beyond the obvious setups to offer plenty of imaginative possibilities.

The chapters also have plenty of information.  There are NPCs and technological descriptions (easily modified for other RPGs), a full-length adventure, and "Ten Unusual [area] Scenarios," each about a paragraph long and offering different directions for that area of superhero adventure.  And the Plot Gallery provides general ideas to tie into characters' interests and qualities: Personal Dilemmas, Secret Identity Scenario Hooks, and even Ten Bits of Gossip to Spread around at a Superhero Party!

Villainy Amok is well written, with a love and knowledge of the superhero genre mixed with a fun sense of humor.  My one criticism is that there are a lot of typos scattered throughout the book.  That noted, Villainy Amok is a must-have for anyone who wants to run a superhero RPG, even if it's not Champions.

Overall grade: A
Reviewed by James Lynch

3.23.2017

THE BELKO EXPERIMENT

The philosophical/hypothetical question "Is it better to kill a certain number of people if twice as many people will be killed otherwise?" gets the big screen treatment in The Belko Experiment.  This movie, written by James Gunn, takes a dark (and sometimes darkly comic) look at what people will do when given an impossible choice.

It's a strange start to the day for the employees at Belko Industries.  On the way to the office building in Bogota, Colombia, armed guards search every vehicle and turn away the locals.  We get to know some of the 80 employees there: romantic couple Mike (John Gallagher Jr.) and Leandra (Adria Arjona), responsible boss Barry (Tony Goldwin), awkward and creepy guy Wendell (John C. McGinley), maintenance men, the stoner employee, the hostile woman, etc.
Things get much worse when steel walls rise up and seal everyone in the building, and all communication with the outside world is cut off.  A voice over the office intercom tells the people that they have to kill two people, or four people will be killed.  The employees nervously think it's a joke, until four people's heads explode.  It turns out that when the company put tracking chips in people's skulls in case of kidnapping, they were really explosives that can be detonated by remote control; the company also has cameras all over the building to spy on the employees.  The voice on the intercom then gives an ultimatum that's the basis for most of the movie: The employees have two hours to kill 30 people, or 60 people will die.

The employees react to this in different ways.  Mitch doesn't want to kill anyone and focuses on escaping.  Barry gets a bunch of people and arms them, to do what he thinks must be done.  Some people hide, some arm themselves (with kitchen and office supplies), and everyone has to decide what to do as the deadly deadline gets ever closer...
The Belko Experiment is a basic yet enjoyable big-budget B movie.  The characters are fairly generic, but that's largely the point: to see how they react in this suddenly homicidal experiment.  The movie could have used more dark humor, but it certainly delivers plenty of bloodshed --first accidentally, the deliberately -- as the characters face the demand put on them.  While The Belko Experiment could have done more with its dark premise, it's still entertaining.

Overall grade: B
Reviewed by James Lynch

3.16.2017

BATMAN: ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK

There are times when bad or silly movies have good soundtracks.  Batman: The Movie (from 1966) was every bit as campy and goofy as the TV series, but its music works quite well.  Batman: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack has all the music from the movie, plus a few extra songs.

Composed by Nelson Riddle, the songs on Batman: OMPS have a very jazzy feel to them.  The 29 songs from the movie are all based on scenes from the movie; one can tell the plot of the movie just from reading the track listing.  It's easy to recognize the songs focusing on the villains -- the Penguin's waddle, Catwoman's seductive side, etc.  -- and elements of Neil Hefti's Batman television show theme creep into many of the songs.  (That theme is one of the three bonus tracks on the album.)

The music on Batman: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack will never be jazz classics, but it is a fun, breezy album that's fun to listen to.

Overall grade: B
Reviewed by James Lynch

3.08.2017

LOGAN

With Hugh Jackman taking on the role of Logan/Wolverine one last time, it makes sense that Logan is a pretty bleak movie.  This is a very atypical superhero movie that works pretty well.

It's been several years since the last X-Men movie, and the world is a pretty depressing place.  No mutants have been born in decades, and the X-Men are gone.  Logan has his own problems: He doesn't heal as quickly as before, his frequent coughing indicates some deep health issues, he needs glasses to read, and he may be an alcoholic.  He also takes care of Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), who needs medication to stay focused and has seizures that can paralyze (or worse) people in his vicinity.  Logan works driving a car, saving up enough money for him and Charles to sail away.  Charles is also helped by Caliban (Stephen Merchant), a sun-sensitive mutant who can track other mutants.

Things change when Pierce (Boyd Holbrook), a cybernetic hunter who leads a bunch of similarly enhanced mercenaries called the Reavers, wants Logan to find "the girl" and deliver her to him.  It turns out that she is Laura (Dafne Keen), a young mutant with healing abilities and metal claws much like Logan has -- as well as a near-feral combat rage.  When her rescuer is killed, Logan becomes a reluctant hero once more, avoiding the Reavers and traveling with Laura and Charles to Eden, a location near the Canadian border where Laura can meet up with other young mutants.
I give Logan credit for eschewing bright spandex costumes and simple solutions for this created world.  Hugh Jackman is terrific, as usual, as Logan seeks a simple life in the face of all his problems, yet winds up a hero again.  Dafne Keen is quite good as the quiet, sullen teen who seems to be on the same path as Logan once followed.  And Patrick Stewart is fine as the much older, profanity-spewing former genius who still has hope in the future for mutants.  Stephen Merchant doesn't have much to do as Caliban, and Boyd Holbrook is a very dull, bland villain.

It'll be interesting to see whether there are more X-Men movies, or if Laura becomes X-23, the successor to Wolverine.  In the meantime, Logan is a fitting (if somewhat flawed) swan song for Wolverine -- or, rather, Logan.

Overall grade: B+
Reviewed by James Lynch

2.28.2017

GET OUT

Some of the best horror movies go beyond simple scared to engage in social issues or commentary.  Get Out, written and directed by Jordan Peele, adds a layer of racial knowledge and concern to the horror genre -- with terrific results.

Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) and Rose Armitage (Allison Williams) have been dating for a while, and it's time for the event most boyfriends dread: meeting her parents.  He's concerned that she hasn't told them he's black, but she insists it's no big deal.  So the two leave the city for the suburbs, with Chris staying in touch with his TSA agent buddy Rod (LilRey Howery) by phone.
At first, things are expectedly awkward with the parents.  Dean Armitage (Bradley Whitford) is a slightly dorky guy who keeps calling Chris "my man."  Missy Armitage (Catherine Keener) is concerned that Chris smokes around their daughter.  They're both very accomplished -- he's a neurosurgeon, she's a psychiatrist specializing in hypnosis -- and live in a pretty isolated home.  It's not thrilling for Chris, but he can handle it.
But little things seem to keep building on each other.  The Armitages' black groundskeeper Walter (Marcus Henderson) and maid Georgina (Betty Gabriel) seem a bit... off.  Rose's brother Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones) seems a bit aggressive towards Chris.  When there's a big family gathering, the Armitages all seem to treat Chris differently, as he tells Rose, it's like they never met a black man who didn't work for them.  And Missy had hypnotized Chris without his consent, leaving him without the desire to smoke -- along with who knows other effects.
Get Out works pretty well.  The movie takes the discomfort of being black in a largely white group of people (even if they all say they all would have voted for Obama a third time and Tiger Woods is the greatest) and builds it into a borderline paranoia with something behind it.  Daniel Kaluuya is a fine horror lead, and the rest of the cast do a good job of being almost indefinably off.  Get Out is a creepy, interesting horror movie.

Overall grade: B+
Reviewed by James Lynch

2.24.2017

DEVIL IN SPRING by Lisa Kleypas

There's a strong element of predictability in the romance novel genre, as stories head inevitably to the Happily Ever After (HEA) ending -- but that is fairly forced in Devil in Spring, book 3 in the Ravenels by Lisa Kleypas.  This historical romance has opposites attracting for most of the book.

Pandora Ravenel is pushed to go husband-hunting during the London Season, but she has no interest in marrying.  She has the goal of publishing her board game (with the store owner from a previous book pre-ordering 500 copies) and believes, rightly for the time, that marriage would give her husband complete control over all her professional activities.  She tends to go on numerous verbal tangents, invents words, and is almost hyperactive at times.  And an old ear injury leaves her often unsteady (no waltzing) and hard of hearing on her left side.

In the novel's "meet cute," when Pandora is trying to obtain an earring, she gets stuck facing downwards.  When well-known rake Gabriel, Lord St. Vincent, tries to help, the pair are discovered, assumed that Gabriel "compromised" Pandora, and also assumed they have to marry to avoid the scandal.  Pandora and Gabriel insist that they're incompatible -- she still has her qualms about relinquishing her freedom, he thinks she's completely unsuitable for handling the duties of marriage -- but the two keep getting tingly when around each other.

And that's the very vast majority of Devil in Spring.  The "we can't be together, but wow are they attractive" gets tired pretty quickly, yet it takes up so much of the book.  The change in pace is forced near the end, as dual threats arise just to add a different type of conflict to the book.  And we never get any details about the board game that's such a vital interest of Pandora (though we are told Pandora knows about all the glues needed to put them together).  There are moments of levity here (mainly Pandora's notes on her daily activities) and fans of Kleypas' earlier book Devil in Winter will enjoy the return of that book's Evie and Sebastian.  But Devil in Spring is tiresome and wears out its welcome pretty quickly.

Overall grade: C
Reviewed by James Lynch

2.18.2017

FIST FIGHT

There are some comedies that have a central idea and never do anything creative or unexpected with it.  This is the cast with Fist Fight, a fairly predictable comedy.

It's the last day of school at a public high school, and English teacher Andy Campbell (Charlie Day) has quite a lot going on.  He's worried about all the staff cuts Principal Tyler (Dean Norris) is making -- and his meeting with the principal in the afternoon.  His very pregnant wife is past her due date, and his little girl needs him to help her in her talent show performance that afternoon.  The teachers are a pretty eccentric bunch.  And the students are out of control, pulling lots of pranks on both students and teachers.
Then there's Ron Strickland (Ice Cube), a history teacher feared by teachers and students alike for his short temper.  When Strickland smashes a student's desk with a fire ax, Campbell winds up getting him fired.  Strickland is furious, and challenges Campbell to a fist fight outside the school at three o'clock.  This being a movie, news of the fight spreads like wildfire, and everyone is talking about the fight.  Cmapbell keeps trying different ways to weasel out of the fight, while Strickland seems to get scarier and scarier.
There's really not much going on in Fist Fight.  Charlie Day delivers his usual stammering nervousness, while Ice Cube plays the big scary black man.  There is a talented supporting cast -- Jillian Bell as the guidance counselor who does meth and lusts after the young students, Tracy Morgan as a befuddled gym teacher, Kumail Nanjiani as an inefficient security guard, Christina Hendricks as a sexy French teacher with a psychotic side -- but the humor is pretty broad and often juvenile.  The movie heads to a predictable ending (the similarities to Fight Club are pretty basic) and while Fist Fight isn't bad, neither is it memorable.

Overall grade: C
Reviewed by James Lynch

2.16.2017

SPORTS ILLUSTRATED SWIMSUIT ISSUE 2017

February brings Valentine's Day, either the continuation or lessening of snow, and the folks at Sports Illustrated abandoning sports in favor of sexy women in (or at least holding) swimwear.  The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue 2017 continues the latter tradition -- with a few changes.

This issue features several familiar models -- the most famous being Kate Upton (who appears on all three covers, though not wearing a full swimsuit on any of them) and Chrissy Teigen -- plus familiar faces from previous issues, new models, and even the return of Christie Brinkley (who may be the oldest model in the issue) and her daughters.  There are also international locations, body paint, and athletes like Serena Williams and some gymnasts.  And the issue also diversifies a bit with several plus-sized models, including in the body paint pictures.
As with every year, the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue is a joy to behold.  Sticklers may point out that many of the photos don't actually have the models wearing swimsuits -- or they may be none in the shot -- but I am not one of those people.  Instead, I just enjoy the sheer beauty of amazing models in exotic locations.
Reviewed by James Lynch