#REVIEW: Greyhound (2020)

My dad and my brother and my sister-in-law came over yesterday to celebrate the boy’s birthday– he doesn’t get a party with his friends, unfortunately, because 2020– and toward the end of the evening my brother kind of randomly noticed that Greyhound was available through the Apple TV+ subscription I got the last time I upgraded my phone. I had never heard of it and initially scoffed at the idea of watching Yet Another Tom Hanks Movie, but I either got overruled or didn’t fight the idea too hard, take your pick– and, well, the short version is that you now have another reason to have an Apple TV+ subscription beyond basking in the crazy that is See. Which, for the record, we eventually finished, and I recommend on every level except the story, which never gets less dumb. If you can buy the basic premise, you should check it out.

But this piece is about Greyhound. The premise is refreshingly simple: it is 1942, not long after the United States entered World War II, and Hanks, who also wrote the screenplay, plays Naval Commander Ernest Krause. Krause commands a destroyer that, along with another four combat-capable ships, is escorting a convoy of troop carrier, supply and merchant ships across the Atlantic to England. It is Krause’s first such command.

The problem with that trip was the period of time– about three or four days– where the convoy is out of range of Allied air cover, being too far from both North America and England for planes to be able to make a round trip. This made convoys like this, if not easy prey for German U-Boats, at least a lot easier. And the Greyhound’s convoy catches more grief than most, first sinking a single U-Boat and then encountering a Wolfpack of six of them. The convoy takes multiple losses over the course of the film’s surprisingly terse and compact 90 minutes, and Krause neither sleeps nor eats at any point during the film– in fact, the movie makes a point of repeated attempts by the mess crew to get him to eat something, all of which are interrupted.

If you’re into World War II films, you could do an awful lot worse than this movie, and honestly for my money it’s better than Saving Private Ryan in every way except for the action scenes– this movie clearly didn’t have a Spielberg-level budget. The action’s not bad by any means, but the interesting thing about a movie entirely about fighting submarines is that so much of the threat is imaginary. There’s something lurking out there, trying to kill you, and these guys are literally trying to track submarines by listening real hard and keeping track of where they are and where they think the Germans are by using grease pens on glass. I know little about naval warfare and can’t really vouch for accuracy, but it feels right, for lack of a better word.

The simple fact is, in the hands of a lesser director or a lesser actor this movie could have been a serious mess. The movie only leaves Hanks’ perspective for very brief scenes, occasionally cutting to the sonar operator or a couple of other characters, but never for more than a minute or two, and we never see a single German soldier or have a single scene shot inside a U-Boat, although we do get to hear the German commander taunting the Greyhound over the radio a couple of times. Even Hanks’ dialogue is largely incomprehensible beyond pure function— I mean, I can imagine what “Full rudder right!” means, but I don’t know, and that’s the most comprehensible of his orders. I would say easily 75% of his dialogue is either barking orders or reacting to positional data relayed to him from sonar or radar. I feel like it shouldn’t work, but it does.

This probably isn’t worth actually picking up an Apple TV+ subscription for– but if you’re one of the people who, like me, upgraded your iPhone and got a free year of the service, definitely set aside an hour and a half on a Saturday night and give it a look. It’s suspenseful, well-directed, powerfully acted, and generally a solid and well-crafted piece of filmmaking. Give it a shot.

#REVIEW: ATOMIC BLONDE (2017)

I was in the mood for a movie last night, and I offered three options to my wife: Sanjuro, an Akira Kurosawa samurai movie starring noted badass Toshiro Mifune, Mad Max: Fury Road, a movie we’ve both seen but which I felt could stand a rewatch, and Atomic Blonde.

You may see a theme there, and it’s a sign of just how much of an action star Charlize Theron has become that I’m putting her up with Toshiro Mifune without even thinking about it. She’s an amazing actress and also seems to be an impressively genuine individual; I’ve seen several really good interviews with her and she’s always entertaining as hell. (She did a great interview with Howard Stern a few years ago, but I can’t find that online.)

I had thought from the previews that Atomic Blonde was basically going to be a Black Widow movie without actually having Black Widow in it; that is not entirely accurate. This is a spy movie set in Berlin during the last days of the Berlin Wall– the Wall actually falls toward the end of the movie, so the very last days of the Wall– and Theron plays a British agent sent in to recover a list of active agents being shopped around by a former Russian Stasi agent who is trying to defect. It’s a great example of the genre; other than the bit where it’s starring a woman this movie could have been made in any of the last three decades without any change, and other than needing to see into the future to predict the fall of the Berlin Wall I could totally see it having come out in the 50s or 60s as well. It’s got this timeless classic feel to it that I really liked, and the direction, set lighting, that sort of thing all has this great old-school thing going.

There is no trace of the superhero movie in this, though, is the thing, despite having been based on a comic book.(*) There are some great fight scenes, and one of the things that makes them great is that Theron’s character doesn’t have a single fight anywhere in the film that doesn’t take a toll on her. If she gets punched in the face, she acts like she’s been punched in the face, and the film uses a framing sequence where she’s being debriefed by MI6 where she is covered in bruises and looks absolutely beat to hell. There’s an absolutely amazing sequence toward the end of the film involving several waves of two or three bad guys at a time and several staircases. It’s probably close to ten minutes long and it’s all one shot, and by the end of it Theron has won (spoiler alert, I guess) but can hardly walk and frankly is only barely still alive. It’s one of the best fight sequences I’ve ever seen, and it takes what was already a pretty damn good flick and elevates it to something very close to a must-see for anyone who enjoys action films.

I feel like this movie went under the radar when it came out in 2017, so if you haven’t seen this yet, definitely take a couple of hours and check it out. It’s a $3.99 rental in a couple of different streaming services right now; you won’t regret it.

(*) I know nothing at all about the comic book other than the name, so I can’t really address how well this movie works as an adaptation.

On HAMILFILM, and a quick book review

I have already discussed my deep affection for Hamilton at least once on this site; my wife and I went to see the show in Chicago for our 10th anniversary a couple of years ago, and while that wasn’t with the original cast, I also have the soundtrack, which I have more or less memorized. We waited for the boy to go to bed last night before watching the filmed version in order to avoid fifteen thousand questions while we watched it, so I didn’t get to bed until after midnight and didn’t manage to get to sleep for a good hour and a half after that.

Worth it.

No surprises here, really; there are bits where cadence and inflection differs a bit from the soundtrack but it’s all the same people performing that I was used to, and this time I got the benefit of close-up camera shots so you can see facial expressions and the like much better. I feel like this really benefited Leslie Odom Jr.’s performance as Aaron Burr the most; I felt like I could really feel his emotions throughout the play and connected to him in a way that I didn’t quite manage in Chicago. I also still find myself preferring Tamar Greene’s George Washington to Christopher Jackson; he just seemed to physically fit the role better for me.

Either way, I’d just consider a month’s worth of Disney+ the cost to pay to rent this and watch it over and over for a while; it’s well worth it, especially if you’ve never seen the show in person before.


I’ve read one Tananarive Due book before, and really wasn’t hugely fond of it; it wasn’t necessarily bad so much as it didn’t really make an impact. I picked up her debut novel, The Between, as part of my 52 Books by Women of Color project, and I was happy to discover that I liked it a hell of a lot more than I did My Soul to Keep. I don’t necessarily want to do a full review of it, especially since I think it’s probably a good book to go into pretty blind, but this one is an unapologetic horror novel, and while it did take me a few days to get through it it also lost me some sleep on a couple of nights, so that’s a good thing. This is book 33 of the 52, and it’s the second book 33, because after reading an interview with Akwaeke Emezi after finishing Pet I discovered that she doesn’t identify as a woman and so that book (which is still really good, and well worth a read) shouldn’t count any longer.

(EDIT: Interesting, I apparently liked My Soul to Keep much more when I read it than my memory serves; it made my honorable mention list for 2016.)

I think I’m probably going to finish 52 books fast enough to be able to turn this into 52 authors, by the way; we’ll see where I’m at once I’ve finished 52 books and how many authors I’ve read more than one book from. I’ll probably be at four or five books just by N.K. Jemisin by the end of the year, so it might be several people, but something makes me think I can manage it.

At any rate, The Between is an effective, scary horror novel. It’s a good read.

#Review: BLOODSHOT

My wife and I decided we were in the mood for a movie last night after we put the boy to bed. It’s entirely possible that you don’t even know Bloodshot exists in the first place; it’s based on a comic book character, but from the Valiant universe, and if you’re not already a comic book person you do not know the Valiant universe exists. I am a comic book person and literally the only things I knew about Bloodshot going into the movie was that he was created during the 90s, which is the era when “Bloodshot” was something you decided to name your characters (I’m pretty sure the word is never once uttered in the film) and that he used guns and could regenerate. That was it.

The movie also had the deep misfortune to come out on March 13, which was the exact weekend that all hell broke loose and everything started getting cancelled. My last day at work was March 16, the following Monday. I don’t think they were really expecting gangbusters numbers out of this or it wouldn’t have released in March in the first place, but it flopped, and flopped hard. And it was sitting on a rather pathetic 33% rating on the TomatoMeter. We were both in the mood for a dumb action movie, though, and I am a huge Vin Diesel fan regardless of what he’s in, so what the hell, I’ll burn $5.99 to rent this on a Saturday night. It doesn’t need to be art, it needs to entertain me for two hours.

Y’all.

Not only is Bloodshot at least a solid movie, it’s an interesting one on a lot of different levels. The direction, in particular, makes the film worth watching all by itself– this is not a thing that I often say about movies, but the color palette the movie uses is a fascinating choice for an action movie, and there is a fight at the end that takes place in an elevator shaft on the outside of a skyscraper that was just outstanding. The rest of it is shot more like a drama than an action movie, which sounds like a criticism but isn’t. Bloodshot himself tends to be a little lumbery and Frankenstein-ish; like, dude, I know you’ll regenerate and gunshots aren’t likely to kill you, but maybe don’t just walk straight toward the guys that are shooting at you? Like, save the regeneration for when you need it.

There is also a Big Twist, but the Big Twist happens at about the 1/3 mark of the film, which … is not how that usually works? And I’m going to suggest that you withhold judgment until you get to that Big Twist, because it’s going to recast everything you just saw and some things that maybe didn’t make a ton of sense at first are going to click. And pay attention before then, because you get some interesting hints at what’s going on scattered here and there.

Vin Diesel is Vin Diesel; you kind of know what to expect there, and Guy Pearce continues to be a chameleon. There are a couple of weak spots in the cast; the bad guy’s muscle is underwritten, including one guy who is angry all the time for no clear reason, and I don’t know who decided that the guy who played Winston on New Girl should do his entire character with what I think was supposed to be a Cockney accent, but Jesus, his accent is so terrible that after a while I decided that the character was from Chicago and the whole thing was an elaborate prank.

… which, if you’d ever watched New Girl, you know that would have been just about the best movie moment of all time. Prank Sinatra, baby!

So: Bloodshot is not going to change your life or anything like that, but it’s a solid B as a film, which I was not expecting from something at 33% on the critical reviews. It’s a great Saturday night rental if you’re in the mood for an action movie. Check it out.


11:01 AM, Sunday June 14: 2,075,840 confirmed cases and 115,458 Americans dead.

In which I let the hivemind decide

Six years ago I watched a certain movie and had some opinions about it. I, as I am occasionally known to do, put those opinions on the interwebs for other humans to see. That post is still the number one Google result if you search for the words “Snowpiercer stupid,” and is, somehow, still my highest-traffic regular post on a day-to-day basis:

You may be aware that they have decided to make a television program out of this very silly movie, and that that television program is currently airing, which is responsible for the current surge in pageviews– the post never died; there has been one day since 2015 where it didn’t get any views at all– but I’m not used to it being back up to having three-figure days again.

So here’s the question: do I watch the show? I’m not actually interested in watching the show, but I’m willing to do it for science, if the Internet wants me to.

So, uh, let me know?


3:54 PM, Wednesday May 20: 1,539,633 confirmed cases and 92,712 American deaths.