Grg Lstr's linkdump and thoughts on science, family and things in the ocean that would kill you if given the opportunity.

Category: Uninformed Critic (page 1 of 3)

Quick Reviews: The Crimes of the Crimes of Grindelwald (spoilers)

I think I want to get in the habit of cataloguing my media consumption here. I generally get just a few opportunities to view a pictures on a screen (I was going to say watch television, but that isn’t strictly true any longer)–while working out on my elliptical machine in the basement, on the weekends if I catch a movie with the kids, and falling asleep while my wife watches a show next to me.

It turns out I can fall asleep while holding up a phone or tablet so she can see it.

So, let’s kick this off with something I watched with the kids this weekend: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.  I’ve read all the Harry Potter books to the kids, with the exception of the last one. For some reason, they just didn’t want me to read The Deathly Hallows to them, and I know they’ve read every other Potter book on their own. I haven’t gotten a good reason why, but I suspect the death of Dumbledore hit them pretty hard and that they have heard noises about more death in the last book.

Collectively, the Lstr household thought the first movie was uneven but fun. Bottom line: This movie was uneven and somewhat joyless. That’s despite the fact that I enjoyed each and every actor on the screen, particularly Jude Law.


  • My daughter uttered the phrase “They are not going to kill that baby, are they?” twice during this film. And the phrase “This movie murders babies” at least once.
  • Pretty much the entire ending of the first movie was undone through unconvincing exposition. Jacob’s memory? Wasn’t wiped. The death of creepy kid? Didn’t happen. Newt’s love interest? Estranged via awkward lack of communication. I wonder if the thunderbird is back in Newt’s box somewhere.
  • Both the Ministry of Magic and Dumbledore want Newt as a their secret agent against Grindelwald because, essentially, he’s so weird and awkward that nobody would suspect he’s anything but the Magical Steve Irwin/Doctor Who mashup that he is. Did nobody else see the first movie where he exposed Grindelwald? No, I guess the first movie didn’t happen and we’re doing this who retcon thing now.
  • Speaking of the big G. How did Grindelwald become a husky-eyed fauxbino? Maybe too much polyjuice. In the Harry Potter movies he was your standard British character actor. Couldn’t JK kept with the No Americans rule?
  • Did this movie somehow take the position that Magic Nazis wanted to prevent WWII?
  • How poorly contrived and overly complicated was the switched/drowned baby story? I love Rowling’s storytelling, but she’s gotten too big for an editor. She’s crossed the Lucas horizon.
  • So, is Dumbledore’s long lost, previously-never mentioned brother now the anti-Potter?

New to Me in 2018: Camera Thief

So, I get to cheat a little with this one. Joe Duffey and his brother Brendan aren’t new to me. I see them all the time all over town. Joe saved my [soccer] life this year as we started up a new U11 travel team. Joe’s music isn’t all that new to me either, as his previous band, Underwater Window Garden, released a fantastic album a few years back entitled The Greatly Divided, which you should buy.

Joe is a great guy, and I’d be a fan of him whether or not he played in band. As it is, his new band Camera Thief crushed it at the local arts fest this year. They’re working on a new album, but its increasingly looking like it won’t happen in 2018. Fortunately, they’re on SoundCloud with a handful of songs now.

This one, Starting Fires, legitimately gives me chills:

I love this video because a) public domain Superman from Fleischer studios,  b) it is a good tune and, c) Joe did the editing himself. See for yourself:

New to Me in 2018: The Beetle

Hey kids, what was the top-selling horror novel of 1897?

No, not that one…the other one: Richard Marsh’s masterpiece, The Beetle

Like this but bigger, is occasionally trying to kill you and is often a person

What? Never heard of it? Don’t worry, outside the UK, which occasionally reinterprets it as a radio play, it really hasn’t lingered in the popular culture.

The Beetle is a complex telling of a simple revenge tale with a whole lot of themes of sex and gender identity running throughout. It will remind you of Dracula, but I think it is a tad easier for modern readers to grasp. Instead of ancient vampires you get an ancient Egyptian pagan cult prone to orgies, human sacrifices, and werebeetlery.  It begins with mind control, nerve gas and a comedy of errors, and ends with a chase that must have made British trainspotters squeal with glee. I enjoyed it, and I suspect you might as well, if you are into this sort of thing.

Structurally, it is told as four entangled tales told in the first person. Marsh does a good job of developing unique voices for each of the characters, although the story threads are interwoven functionally but not necessarily smoothly.  In fact, each narrator is a fun little archetype: the doomed, noble bum; the mad inventor; the rebellious young woman trying to find love, identity and purpose in an honor-driven patriarchy; and a hard-boiled detective. Good stuff, generally well told.

You can find it in a variety of formats on   Project Gutenberg and listen to it on LibriVox. I have a fondness for public domain fiction, particularly that of the horror, scifi and weird variety, so this ranks right up there. One of my goals of 2019 is to start up a podcast on the topic. Of course, that was also a goal of 2018.


Review: Hotel Transylvania

This past Sunday, I called in the rainy day option and took the kids to see Hotel Transylvania.


Here’s the capsule review:
Did the kids like it? Yes. There was decent slapstick, with no real violence or scary shocks.

On the plus side, it was directed by Genndy Tartakovsky with music by Mark Mothersbaugh, whom I know from DEVO and whom my kids know from Yo Gabba Gabba.

On the negative, despite what GeekDad thought, I couldn’t get beyond the fact that it was Adam Sandler doing a Bela Lugosi impression throughout. Sorry. The essential Sandlerness was reinforced by the presence of his comic cronies David Spade and Kevin James.

I think my enjoyment of the flick was colored by two unfavorable comparisons. First, a DVD preview of Arthur Christmas, which was a fantastic Aardman production from last year, served to remind me how good computer-animated films Not Made by Pixar can be. (I enjoyed their recent Pirates! movie–a clay stop-motion affair–more than my kids did, despite their love of Shaun the Sheep.) Hotel Transylvania wasn’t poorly animated, by any means, but it just didn’t sell itself as anything special. It was serviceable and not awful, and that’s the best I can think to say of it.

Second, the animated end credits–done in “traditional” (I was going to say non-computer, but it was likely done on computer somehow) style–served to remind me how masterful Tartakovsky works traditional animation on TV.

That aside, it was a nice effort, story-wise. After the death of his wife by angry mob (which we are shown briefly in flashback-form), Dracula builds a hotel refuge for monsters where he raises his daughter. Now, on her 118th birthday, she wants to get out and see the world, but her goofy old man is a mite overprotective. Enter a young American backpacker Dude and, oh boy, movie happens. There are some fun sequences and all the monsters are cute. Dracula is non-threatening (they even go out of their way to tell how he drinks blood substitute…yet for some reason still eats mice), despite the fact that all of his servants are reanimated corpses. Most of the goodwill generated by the movie is taken back by a gratuitous song at the end that, while not as awful as when everyone sings a pop tune at the end of a Shrek flick, uses much too much autotuning to be enjoyable.

Handwriting recognition on the iPad

A new app claims to answer the one major objection I had to buying an iPad: where’s handwriting recognition? So this means I’m buying an iPad, right? No, are you kidding? They’re expensive. I’ll manage without…for now…

…and when I get one, it’ll have this:

Hokey smokes!

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