Crouching Sindar, Witty Dragon

If PJ's plot liberties and roller-coaster rides put you off his first Hobbit movie, you won't like the second one any better. If his art direction and genius marriage of mo-cap and casting helped you forgive his sins, you'll enjoy this one just fine.


Batman: The Deal

I'm still trying to figure out what is signified by Batman's purple gloves.


Against Our Values—And Bad at Keeping Us Safe

That's the punchline: the low volume of terrorist attacks both makes it difficult to find patterns and fools us into thinking that becoming the Stasi keeps us secure. A win-win for Team Information Retrieval!


The Station Agent

Many people will tell you that this quiet little movie is about the difficulty of making friendships, or small-town ennui, or perhaps the sublime beauty of trainspotting.  They are wrong.  The message of this movie is Phones Ruin Everything.

Fin (Peter Dinklage) doesn't have a phone, and doesn't seem to want one, despite the fact that on the phone no one could tell that he is a dwarf.  Fin has resigned himself to double-takes, awkward silences, and puerile taunts, but he also reflexively keeps people at a distance.  When we meet him, his life has been fraught with inertia; his place and movements have been meticulously laid out.

We have to imagine how Fin became coupled to Henry (Paul Benjamin), his friend, employer, and perhaps landlord, but it's a comfortable life for Fin.  When Henry suddenly dies, his business is sold and Fin is left jobless and (we suspect) homeless.  But Henry's will leaves Fin a defunct train depot in Newfoundland, New Jersey (there's more than one?), and Fin apparently walks all the way from Hoboken.

Fin's new neighborhood isn't any more tactful in its reception of someone of Fin's stature, and now he has to put up with the cell phone conversations of Joe (Bobby Cannavale) in his front yard and the distracted driving of Olivia (Patricia Clarkson) on the sidewalk-less rural roads.  Joe and Olivia aren't really natives, either, but initially none of these refugees is able to maintain a connection to another.

By sheer daily proximity, Joe starts to bring the three of them together, only to be interrupted by his phone.  Olivia is haunted by her phones, and flees them whenver she can.  Joe's ebullience is the catalyst for the connections, but their relationships develop more when no one is speaking.  Of course, when people aren't talking they're usually smoking, so it's a bit of a race between friendship and lung cancer.

Fin and Olivia address their respective griefs, but I expected the big redemption to be occasioned by the passing of Joe's ailing father, who appears only by phone.  The movie ended before that, however; we leave these three friends in the wistful small hours of their second acts.

Don't pick up.