[4.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

I think this is the first James McAvoy movie I've seen where I haven't wanted to give him a good slap. There's something about him…

But here "Slappy" plays [small spoiler alert] a couple dozen different characters. And, what do you know, he's actually very good at that.

Things kick off when he abducts three teenage girls; two, Claire and Marcia, are good-time partiers. But the third, Casey, is unplanned collateral damage, she's unpopular, dark, and moody, and is only in the mix due to a spontaneous ride offer from Claire's dad.

So who do you think will be the plucky heroine here? Good guess.

Also in the mix is Betty Buckley, playing the villain's shrink. It's through her that we gain insights as to what makes the bad guy tick. But she gets surprised at the sheer nature of his disorder. Right in time to be … too late. (Geez, didn't she play the same sort of role in Carrie, the Sissy Spacek one? Yup.)

The movie is written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, and it's kind of a return to form for him, after a string of poorly-performing movies. And here's another spoiler: the final scene reveals a surprising connection to a previous Shyamalan movie. And, oops, looking at IMDB shows that its actually a sequel setup. I'm in.

The Wave

[2.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

A choice out of the Netflix streaming queue, a Norwegian disaster film. Based on the fact that the (actual) tourist village of Geiranger is at risk of a tsunami, caused by a (theoretical) collapse of cliffs into the neighbring Geirangerfjord. Apparently, it's not a question of "if" but "when".

I'm not sure how the Geiranger Tourist Board feels about this movie. Because the movie says: let's see what would happen. And the answer is: (spoiler alert) a lot of tourists die. Locals, too, but hey.

That said, I was struck by the sheer number of disaster movie tropes herein: the guy who warns of imminent danger and is ignored; the (same) guy who must save his family; the quirkiness of said family that cause them to be in harm's way; various characters brought in just to be killed off; people futilely running from the much faster disaster; and of course the special effects (pretty good for Norway).

The Foreigner

[4.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Nearly ten years ago, I suggested that the Oscars establish a new award category: "Best Performance for Doing That Kind of Thing That Jackie Chan Does". Sadly, they have not taken my advice yet. If they had, Jackie Chan would definitely win for his performance here.

Just as an aside, Jackie Chan is a passionate defender of the Chinese Communist dictatorship. I find this both sad and disgusting. In fact, I think this uncontested fact is worse than some of the current accusations about sexual harrassment that are getting movie people blacklisted these days.

But should this affect my movie-watching? I don't know. It hasn't as yet.

Anyway, on to the flick: Jackie plays Ngoc Minh Quan, an ethnically Chinese restaurant owner in London, very protective of his only surviving family member, a teenage daughter. Not protective enough, however, because while getting a dress for the big dance, she gets seriously blown up by a terrorist bomb aimed at a neighboring bank. A faction of the IRA takes credit.

Quan is heartbroken, and (then) increasingly impatient with the pace of the investigation. Frustrated, he decides to confront an Irish politician, once a terrorist himself: Liam Hennessy, played by Pierce Brosnan. (Who actually is Irish, so I imagine the accent he puts on here comes naturally.) Hennessey denies any knowledge of the bombing, and tells Quan he can't help him.

But (it turns out) Quan has what Liam Neeson memorably called "a very particular set of skills". Including knowledge of explosives, weaponry, and (of course) ass-kicking. Also head-kicking, groin-kicking, abdomen-kicking,… Pretty soon, Hennessy finds himself playing Quan's game against his will.

It's an impressively complex plot, with lots of betrayal, revelations, and surprising twists. And a lot of brilliantly-choreographed Jackie Chan-style violence.

If I was Irish, though, I'd be pretty pissed. The bomb (it turns out) was set by a guy named "Patrick O'Reilly". The actual terrorist incidents in England last year were carried out by guys named Ahmed Hassan, Salman Abedi, Khalid Masood, Khuram Shazad Butt, Rachid Redouane, Youssef Zaghba, ….

URLs du Jour


Tread Upon Now What?

Proverbs 16:21, as near as I can tell, is another twofer…

21 The wise in heart are called discerning,
    and gracious words promote instruction.

… unless you can tell what those two conjoined phrases have to do with each other. I'm failing to see it.

Jeopardy! champ Tom Nichols takes to the pages of the WaPo to expound on Trump’s first year: A damage assessment.

Trump’s presidency has done daily damage not only to the Republican Party and the conservative movement but, more important, to our constitutional system of government. The president is eroding the unwritten norms that serve as the civic girders beneath our political and legal infrastructure. And his foreign policy, insofar as he has one, is diminishing our global standing and jeopardizing our security.

It is sometimes difficult, in the wind tunnel of noise created by Trump’s most hysterical critics, to distinguish what is merely appalling from what is genuinely dangerous. Not everything the administration has done is wrong or disastrous — it has even gotten a few things right, such as the strike last year against Syria. But it is clear that Trump has already left so much destruction in his wake that it may be hard to put the pieces together again after he’s gone.

Tom is a smart guy, and even (or maybe especially) Trump fans should check him out.

But unfortunately, at least as I type, there's an embedded video with his article. The WaPo teases the video with a few seconds of Trump giving what appears to be a Nazi salute. A few frames make it clear that it's not; he's just waving. But the initial impression is unmistakeable. Talking about "the wind tunnel of noise created by Trump’s most hysterical critics"!

[Amazon Link]

■ At NRO, Shoshana Weissmann writes on The Underlying Cognitive Dissonance of the Left and the Right. In case you were unconvinced by (or didn't see) my take on the recent book by Brink Lindsey and Steven M. Teles, The Captured Economy: How the Powerful Enrich Themselves, Slow Down Growth, and Increase Inequality, maybe Shoshana will convince you to check it out. Her bottom line:

The Left complains of the undue political influence bought by wealthy special interests, but it regularly trusts the actions and intent of the very government that is subject to that influence. Meanwhile, the Right complains that big government is overly intrusive and burdensome, but it denies the existence of the systemic inequality that results from its overreach. Maybe we should all focus on correcting our own hypocrisies before we turn to those of our political opponents.

Let me just put an Amazon link over there… there!

■ Speaking of wealthy special interests: As we look forward to Superb Owl LII, Steven Malanga and City Journal tell the tale of Minnesota, Plundered by Vikings.

Fans of the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles will travel to the frigid northern city this week because the NFL granted a Super Bowl to Minnesota as a reward for stepping up with more than half a billion dollars in subsidies for the home-state Vikings’ U.S. Bank Stadium, which opened in 2016. For a city whose mayor recently described it as a “shining beacon of progressive light and accomplishment,” this is some feat, and a reminder that the NFL, whatever its troubles, maintains a firm hold on the taxpayer’s purse in many places.

Cronyism is doing just fine in Minnesota. Also lutefisk. Cause and effect? I think so!

■ The State of the Union Address is tonight! I'm so excited, I'll be watching a TiVo'd episode of Scorpion instead. Should you need another reason not to watch, Reason's Nick Gillespie provides one: All the President's Human Props: Welders, Cops, Vets Will Be Trotted Out During SOTU. Among the President's invitees there are, Gillespie notes, "crime victims, veterans, entrepreneurs, and beneficiaries of various Trump actions."

Ronald Reagan is to blame for the nauseating twist on the annual presidential report that's mandated by the Constitution. Back in 1982, the master showman highlighted the heroism of Lenny Skutnik, a Congressional Budget Office staffer who pulled a drowning passenger out of the Potomac River after an Air Florida plane crashed in that slow-moving cesspool. Ever since then, almost every State of the Union address has featured one or more "Skutniks," or Americans who somehow embody everyday heroism, stoicism, victimhood, or identity politics. I've got nothing against Skutnik, who was indeed a hero, but this is a tradition hammier than an Easter dinner. Past Skutniks have included such luminaries as Second Lady and would-be music censor Tipper Gore, steroid-popping and bat-corking baseball slugger Sammy Sosa, and epically corrupt and incompetent Afghan leader Hamid Karzai.

I count 15. And of course, the various CongressCritters in attendance (including my own) have invited their own props.

Last Modified 2018-12-28 4:45 AM EDT