My friend who likes to laugh at bad movies dragged me to “Transformers” in 2007, but I’ve forgotten everything about that movie and haven’t followed the franchise since. The prequel “Bumblebee” (2018) gives people like me a new entry point into the saga as it tells of an “E.T.”-style friendship between 18-year-old California grease monkey Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld) and relatively small (and therefore cute) and mute Autobot Bumblebee.
Eye in the Sky” (1957) is one of Philip K. Dick’s most influential novels – or at least prophetic of what future authors would explore – as he delves into subjective realities. Also explored in his short story “The World She Wanted” (1953), “subjective reality” is the idea that everyone’s perception of the world comes from inside themselves rather than outside.
After launching “Season 4” of “Roswell” in book form with “A New Beginning,” Kevin Ryan also writes the second “episode,” “Nightscape” (July 2003). He continues putting the teens into genre situations not found in the TV series; “A New Beginning” is a small-town kidnapping mystery and “Nightscape” is a haunted-house horror story.
Ilove the two “Sin City” films (2005, 2014), so the existence of “The Spirit” (2008) is both good and bad. On one hand, it’s another hardboiled movie in the style of a black-and-white comic (along with red and some washed-out colors). On the other hand, it’s a much lesser installment in this little subgenre, even though it’s written and directed by “Sin City’s” Frank Miller.
For the fourth “Rambo” film, simply titled “Rambo” (2008), director/co-writer Sylvester Stallone taps into one of the world’s longest-running civil wars. The Burma (aka Myanmar) military’s attempt to extinguish the Karen ethnic group has been going on since 1949, right after Burma gained its independence from Britain. What better location for the most violent “Rambo” film than a country whose entire independent history has been perpetual violence?
Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” (NBC) isn’t “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” … or “Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist” … or “Zoey 101.” Watching the pilot episode of the series (which will return Feb. 16, in its regular Sunday slot), I could never forget that it is trying to cash in on the current popularity of musicals and that it uses a title that evokes things people already like. That said, this series — whose producers include “Freaks and Geeks’ ” Paul Feig and “The Perfection’s” Richard Shepard (who directs the first episode) — is far from terrible.
Philip K. Dick is known for wild ideas, so sometimes I anticipate them from the title. Before reading “The Man Who Japed” (1956), I would’ve guessed “to jape” means to jump through time or dimensions, and while the book does touch on that concept, it actually means “to pull a practical joke.” It should be noted PKD didn’t invent “jape” – Merriam-Webster says it originated in the 14th century and had a resurgence in the 19th century – but I think it’s fair to say he resurrects a forgotten word.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy watching “Ad Astra” (2019). Director James Gray’s film blends a solar system travelogue with the family drama of Brad Pitt’s Roy McBride hoping to connect with his estranged father, Clifford (Tommy Lee Jones). Clifford is on a spaceship orbiting Neptune as Roy starts off from Earth. “Ad Astra” is one big metaphor about a gulf in a relationship, but its space-porn visuals and the delicate, somber music from Max Richter made it irresistible for me. (Other viewers will find it too slow; this is a matter of taste.)
Executive producer Jason Katims says in the DVD commentary for the series finale of “Roswell” that a theoretical fourth season would’ve found the teens on the road, helping people with their powers while staying a step ahead of the Special Unit. The closing image of Max and Liz getting married at a rural church is a nod to what Season 4 might’ve been.
Nearly two decades after M. Night Shyamalan popularized – if not introduced – the stealth/“real world” superhero movie with “Unbreakable” (2000), director/co-writer Julia Hart expands the subgenre with “Fast Color” (2019). It flew under the radar during its limited theatrical release, overshadowed by “Glass” and “Brightburn,” but perhaps it will find its audience on Amazon Prime. I’m kind of surprised it hasn’t gotten awards-season buzz, because it’s such a confidently directed art film anchored by great cast chemistry.