Shorties #19

Did you know I'm 5'5" on a good day? That must mean it's time for some good ol' fashioned Shorties!

#1: The D Train: I believe this mostly-ignored 2015 movie appeared on my radar thanks to the AV Club, and I thought its premise - small town yutz Jack Black tries to lure a famous high school classmate (James Marsden) back for the reunion and complications ensue - sounded intriguing enough to give it a whirl. Why? Because Marsden's character is bisexual and sleeps with Black's character on a whim, and I thought that would add an interesting wrinkle to an otherwise pedestrian story. Nope. By turns dull and mean-spirited, it barely held together well enough to be a Laundry Movie. (Grade: C)

#2: Food Wars (Season 1): In the last Shorties entry, I mentioned that I'm starting to try to get into some anime at my other nerdy friends' suggestions. The first season of Food Wars (2015) is currently streaming on Hulu, and it's really difficult to explain. 90% of it is the story of Soma, who's trying to follow in the footsteps of his father, a famous chef known the world over. Soma transfers into the most cutthroat culinary school in Japan, where he and his classmates are constantly being tested. The other 10% is oddly pornographic. Soma's food is often so good (or intentionally bad) that the taster's clothes burst off in surprise. One of his classmates wears nothing but a flimsy apron all the time. Another has boobs so big they threaten to burst out of the bikini tops she favors at every turn. That said, it's an inexplicably magnetic show. Some of the food animation makes me actively hungry, and even inspired me to try some Asian experimentation in the kitchen. While the first half of the season was better than the second half, I'm still giddy with anticipation for the next batch of episodes. Want to buy me the naked guy's apron in the meantime? (Grade: B+)

#3: Mud: In 2012, two movies kicked off the Matthew McConaughey comeback. One was Magic Mike. The other was this one, a drama that got writer/director Jeff Nichols a lot of attention. It's about a couple of kids who live in a poor community on the edge of a river and agree to help a charming drifter (McConaughey) reunite with his lost love (Reese Witherspoon), all while evading the bounty hunters who are after him. The first two thirds were very good, if a little slow. Slow can be a positive thing sometimes, though, and the sleepy way the plot unfolds works well with the characters and the world they inhabit. The last bit kicks into high gear and turns into a violent firefight right out of No Country for Old Men, and struck me as jarring and unnecessary. It wasn't a bad movie, overall, but I was expecting a lot more from it. (Grade: B-)

#4: Do I Sound Gay?: I've fallen behind on keeping up with documentaries, and obviously have a vested interest in the topic of this 2014 one, which explores the stereotype of the gay voice. Writer/director David Thorpe wonders what can and should be done about how people think of how gay men talk, what with the high pitch and the lisps. He interviews various people about the subject, and everyone from George Takei to Tim Gunn to Dan Savage has a different perspective. Thorpe also goes to a speech coach to see if the "gay voice" can be trained out. Some parts of the movie are a little contrived, but others are genuinely educational and affecting. As a gay man who's not overly thrilled with his own speaking voice, I'd give it a solid recommend. (Grade: B)

#5: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl: This is one controversial movie, and not because it's about anything explosive like abortion or gun control. This 2015 film is the relatively gentle story of an awkward teen who makes dumb movies with his friend and who is importuned by his mother into hanging out with a classmate who has just been diagnosed with cancer. What makes it controversial, then? Reviewers have been taking it to task for making all the characters cardboard background to the problems of the straight white male protagonist who has supportive parents. While Greg (Thomas Mann) wrings his hands over his future and unrequited-but-becomes-requited crush on the popular girl, his film partner Earl (RJ Cycler) and even the titular dying girl Rachel (Olivia Cooke) seem to exist only to talk him through his angst. Those problems aside, it's still a decent movie, and Molly Shannon gives a particularly standout performance as Rachel's mom, who's never seen without a glass of wine and is trying to put a brave, brassy face on the impending grief she knows is headed her way. If only more of the movie had been about those kinds of storylines, and not Greg's whining over college admissions. (Grade: B-)


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