Monthly Archives: January 2022


A Texas Roughneck goes to France to advocate for his daughter whose been wrongfully sent to prison for murder. This is a story that I couldn’t miss. But there was something a little familiar with the setup, as if this might be based on a true story.

Matt Damon as Bill

True story or not, I couldn’t resist the idea of a gritty, working class, Texas man going overseas to navigate the judicial system of France. Well, having just put those words on the page makes me realize that I might be a California white collar snob.

Nevertheless, this movie does not disappoint. Bill the Roughneck is just as indelicate and awkward as you might expect. But he’s also polite and respectful, which are the qualities that make his survival possible. Bill wins over new friends, and he finds work to sustain himself while he works to prove his daughter’s innocence.

Bill does not let his lack of experience as a private investigator slow him down. He approaches his investigation with the kind of brute force that you might expect from a Roughneck. At some point you’re going to slap your forehead and cry out, “Oh no Bill, not like that!” Whatever his faults, Bill’s loyalty and determination will win you over.

Recommended, totally.

P.S. That story may seem familiar if you remember Amanda Knox in 2015.

The God Committee

The title of this film struck me as a rehash of the dreaded, and much hyped, “Death Panels” during the early days of the ACA debates. But the trailer got my attention with a glimpse into xenotransplantation research, which rings familiar with current events and the recent pig to human heart transplant in the news.

Julia Stiles as Dr. Taylor, Janeane Garofalo as Dr. Gilroy, and Kelsey Grammer as Dr. Boxer

I’ve spent my fair share of hours in conference rooms, staying awake while colleagues are jockeying for influence or selling their wares. The idea of a group of people politicking over who is next for a heart transplant sounds dreadful. It sounds just about as dreadful as a Death Panel.

This movie is set during two points in time. First, there is the setting of a particularly contentious decision between three patients in desperate need of a heart transplant and a single heart to offer. Second, there is the setting seven years later, where Dr. Boxer is racing the clock to make the “God Committee” obsolete by developing a viable means of transplanting organs from pigs into humans.

This is a story about walking the tightrope and balancing the dilemma of a greater good that comes for the price of compromised ethics.

This movie is sad, thought provoking, and really well produced.

Totally recommended.

The Sound of Silence

The trailer for this one suggested a love story set in New York, between a woman and a man with a peculiar profession. He is a “House Tuner”, who visit people’s homes to analyze the sonic environment and makes adjustments as needed. This peculiar character was enough to warrant hitting the play button.

Peter Sarsgaard as Peter Lucian

Peter the House Tuner, spends his spare time charting the sonic character of the various regions of New York City. His craft is built around his understanding of music theory, that various tones and sequences have the ability to evoke moods. While music can evoke moods by design, the incidental tonal qualities of a place will inevitably affect the mood of its occupants.

Although strangely fictional, the professional House Tuner starts to seem plausible when you think of him the context of therapists and professional fung-shui consultants.

Ellen is a new client for Peter, who is experiencing depression and hires Peter on the recommendation of a friend who is a big believer in Peter’s craft.

Rashida Jones as Ellen Chasen

Although a little skeptical, Ellen invites Peter in to survey her apartment. Ellen is taken by Peter’s professionalism, and his thoroughly considered beliefs about the importance of sound. Although Peter’s solution of replacing the toaster doesn’t seem to yield noticeable results, Ellen is attracted to Peter and continues to work with him.

It’s during his time with Ellen that Peter begins to question the foundation of his profession.

The trailer version of this story is that of a somewhat quirky love story. But there is actually some depth here, as it raises questions about the nature of individual free will and the process of coping with self doubt.

I liked this story and I recommend you check it out.

The Black Hole

This has been on my watch list for awhile. I never expected that this 1979 Disney dabbling into SciFi would be particularly good. But there was a lot of seventies SciFi that I enjoyed and still remember fondly. As I kid, I was a loyal watcher of Space 1999, BattleStar Galactica, and even a little Buck Rogers. There were movies that I still regard fondly, such as Fantastic Planet, Dark Star, Silent Running, Star Trek the Motion Picture, and even Star Wars. Having never watched this film seemed like a missing link in my background of SciFi appreciation.

Maximilian Schell as Dr. Hans Reinhardt

This movie has it all. It’s got exotic spacescapes, spaceships, laser shootouts, and explosions! It’s also got a villain who would turn everyone into an automaton to serve his pointless ambitions. Neat!

As a kid watching in 1979, I might have loved this movie as much as any of the other SciFi offerings of the day.

Today I am very picky. On one hand I am very interested in a story about a scientist considering the implications of deliberately entering a black hole. But I am not very entertained when that scientist’s thoughts are not grounded any modicum of reality whatsoever. Then pile on a generous helping of autonomous robots that shiver in fear, or shake their fists in rage, and the whole thing feels about as authentic as an episode of Bugs Bunny.

The emotive robots and the tacky villain are the hallmarks of a Disney production. So, what’s the big deal? Star Wars had those things too, right? Well, by comparison, Star Wars had more broadly a good guys vs. bad guys theme. I think what really rubs me the wrong way about The Black Hole is that it elevates the trope of the evil scientist vs. the nice people. This idea misses the mark in terms of what appeals to SciFi enthusiasts. The SciFi enthusiast dreams of the potential that the products of science have to offer. Vilifying the pursuit of science is reaching in the wrong direction. That makes this movie the product of an injection molded Disney tale adorned with space ships and laser guns.

All right, having said that, I didn’t completely hate this movie. The Black Hole is a fun, campy, adventure movie.

Check it out!