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guardians of the galaxy vol. 2 (james gunn, 2017)

Just about every Memorial Day weekend, my wife and I go to Santa Cruz, where we spent our honeymoon, to celebrate our anniversary. And just about every one of those weekends, we see a movie, more often than not some popular new movie. (Well, the movie we saw on our honeymoon in 1973 was Hitler, the Last Ten Days with Alec Guinness.) Which is why we were at a multiplex to catch Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.

I was not the biggest fan of Volume 1 (5/10), so I wasn’t exactly looking forward to Vol. 2. So I am happy to say I was pleasantly surprised. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I liked it very much. But the thing that annoyed me the most about the first one (Bradley Cooper’s raccoon) wasn’t as obnoxious this time, for some reason.

There were a couple of things I actively liked. Dave Bautista’s laugh was always fun ... he took such joy in the simplest things. And it’s always nice to see Karen Gillan, although to be honest I don’t remember her from the first Guardians movie. Overall, I guess the best thing I can say about the movie is that it gave me little reason to hate it.

Although it came close. The father/son stuff didn’t do anything for me. And while I appreciate the attempt to add humor, I was reminded of what I said about the first one: “the dialogue isn’t exactly Whedon-esque”.

So I’m missing out. I’d much rather Marvel had somehow managed to get another season of Agent Carter on ABC. But this was an improvement on Volume 1. 6/10.


the wall

I wrote this piece, about The Wall, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, 20 years ago. I think it still holds up.
 

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, popularly referred to as "The Wall," stands between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.. The decision to locate it between these two enduring testaments to America was a conscious one, and the design of the Wall reflects the importance of its presence in such honored company; the instructions for the original design competition which resulted in the wall required that it "harmonize with its surroundings, especially the nearby Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial." Maya Lin's final design is a two-winged wall, with each wing pointing to one of the other monuments. However, despite the intentions to connect the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial to Washington and Lincoln, a visitor is quickly aware of key differences between this memorial and the others.

Most obviously, the Wall is a testament to death, a list of 57,709 Americans dead or missing in action in the Vietnam War. There is little celebratory about the Wall; one does not experience it and think fondly of "The Father Of Our Country" or "The Man Who Ended Slavery." Instead, one enters into a personal relationship with Americans who died in the service of that country. The Wall invites us to contemplate the awfulness of all those deaths, to wonder what lives were lived by the tens of thousands named on the Wall, to wonder as well how our own lives are different because of the presence of so many dead.

While the Wall is a public memorial, to be visited alongside other people, it evokes many private feelings. For all the seeming endlessness of the names, there is nothing expansive about the Wall. Visitors turn inwards, alone with their thoughts and memories. The interactions are personal, not necessarily communal. The Wall does encourage interaction, in a way the monuments to Washington and Lincoln do not; one listens to tour guides at the Lincoln Memorial, but tour guides seem out of place at the Wall.

However, the Wall also draws individuals out of their shells. Your experience with the Wall might be private, but the presence of so many gifts, trinkets, war memories, letters, flowers, all left by visitors to the Wall, presents for the dead to be sure, but also presents for the living, are a way for us as individual visitors to be a part of the Wall community. When we leave something at the Wall, we are becoming co-creators of the work of art (and the Wall is, among other things, very much a work of art). In her competition submission, Maya Lin wrote, "The Memorial is composed not as an unchanging monument, but as a moving composition to be understood as we move into and out of it."

We come to the Wall as individuals or as families; we experience it in private, inwardly; yet we leave it as part of the community of America. The Wall has a tremendous, mysterious ability to make us feel part of something larger than ourselves, even as we confront it with our silent thoughts. The Wall brings us together. Bill Clinton, speaking at the Wall, once said, "Let us continue to disagree if we must about the war, but let us not let it divide us as a people any longer.... At this monument, can any American be out of place ... ? I think not."

One often hears talk about "healing" when the Wall is discussed. A particular, specific, example of this came recently when a half-size replica of the Wall came to Berkeley as part of a nationwide tour. Longtime Berkeley resident, anti-war activist, and veteran Country Joe McDonald was one of the organizers involved in bringing the mini-Wall to Berkeley, and his participation emphasized the contradictions many found in the appearance of this memorial in such a leftist hotbed as Berkeley. This "Wall of Healing," like the original Wall, marks a new era in America's relationship to the Vietnam War, one where we reach the time of healing. (Jan Scruggs, the veteran who came up with the idea for a Vietnam veterans' memorial after watching The Deer Hunter in 1979, said that his hope was that it could "bring about some healing for the country.") This awful national nightmare, to borrow a phrase Gerald Ford used in a different context, needs to be over; we as a community must move beyond partisanship and recognize our common losses. The war itself was bad enough; what it did to the U.S. was frustratingly inescapable. We should not have to sustain our agony forever. We should finally be able to accept that time moves on, that in allowing the war to retain its power to fragment our society, we are still in effect "losing the war." As long as we let the old feelings gnaw at our national psyche, we will remain "losers." And so we move on, and the symbolism of the Wall's presence in Berkeley seemed to be an especially useful version of this needed reconciliation with our past. If a city of so much anti-war activism could finally open its arms to the Wall of Healing, then surely we have moved to a new and better place.

If, indeed, that is what is involved. We do desire closure, we do need to move on, we do need in some ways to bury the hatchets. There is something heartbreakingly human about these needs. However human those needs seem, though, they should not be accepted uncritically. We should not be too eager to buy into this latest attempt to corral us as a culture into believing the version of events presented to us, just because it makes it feel better. Feeling better may have everything to do with being human; it is unclear how much feeling better has to do with history, or with our future.

The design for the memorial was chosen via a competition, the rules of which were fairly simple. Contestants were told that the design must be "apolitical," to heal, not reopen old wounds. From the beginning, the memorial was seen as a monument to reconciliation. Again, the need for such a reconciliation is understandable, but the assumption that healing could be "apolitical" is problematic, since the desire to remove political content from the memorial was in itself a political move. The question becomes, what political purpose could it serve to insist upon apolitical meaning to a memorial to the Vietnam War?

An important part of this process of "healing" is the manner in which a memorial designed to honor the memory of valiant Americans is used to help us forget some of the essential reasons for the existence of the war that killed those Americans in the first place. The Wall eloquently asks us to remember all 57,709 dead or missing Americans, but the intentions of those who put together the Wall is that it be "apolitical," that is, to forget the past, rather than remember it. It places the thousands of forgotten soldiers at the front of our consciousness, and surely this is a good thing. It reminds us that every life is important, that we should never forget those who gave their lives in the name of us as Americans, and surely this is a good thing. It intentionally forgets the "politics" that placed Americans in this war to begin with, though, because this memorial is not only about remembering, but also about healing, and anyone who remembers the terrible turmoil which engulfed the nation during the war knows very well that such turmoil is not conducive to reconciliation, is not a good way to help heal a country and its people, and so the memorial is "apolitical." It brings individual mourners together as a community of healed Americans, with its wings pointing to Washington and Jefferson and our hearts and minds directed away from the disturbing "political" ramifications of the war.

The databases associated with the Wall, which make for easy searching through the 57,709 names, are magnificent tools for individuals obsessing about the Wall, its meanings, the names and the lives and deaths of those listed on it. Our attention may be directed away from the "political" aspects of the Wall and the war, but that attention must go somewhere, and these databases do an excellent job of collating information about all of the names. There are catalogs at the memorial site, where visitors can look up specific names and find their location on the Wall. The combined effect of all these databases is to allow us to bring individual soldiers to our consciousness. The physical and emotional immenseness of the Wall can overpower visitors; the sheer numbers can make it difficult to focus on individual people. ("These names," Maya Lin wrote, "seemingly infinite in number, convey the sense of overwhelming numbers, while unifying these individuals into a whole.") But the database focuses our attention. Let us stop for a second and consider some of the people whose names appear on the Wall.

Private First Class James C. Ward of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was born on January 26, 1948, coincidentally the date of my mother's 20th birthday. (The databases encourage this kind of random personal connection to the names, as if we might better know the lives of the dead if we can just attach them to events in our own lives.) On October 11, 1965, PFC Ward died. You can find his name on the East panel. At his death, he was 17 years, 8 months, and 16 days old. He was the youngest American casualty of the war. Eleven other Americans died in the war at the age of 17.

Kenna C. Taylor died at 62, the oldest American casualty.

Five thousand, five hundred and seventy-seven Californians died in the war. Three hundred thiry-eight men named "Steven" (with a "v") died in the war. Four people named Rubio died in the war. Seventeen Americans from Berkeley died in the war. Seven Americans from my home town, Antioch, California, died in the war. On September 28, 1968, the night of which I first kissed the woman who later became my wife, eighteen Americans died in the war.

You can do this kind of thing forever when poring through the databases. You can get lost in the numbers, the names, the dates, the minutiae. You're drawn in, much as you're drawn in to the memorial itself when you first arrive at the top of one of the two wings. In every case, the haze into which your mind enters insulates you momentarily from the "real world." This is yet another way in which the Wall elicits personal, private responses. This most public of all events, an unpopular war played out nightly on the teevee news, is recalled in solitary, away from the tumult which accompanied the war when it actually happened.

And perhaps this is part of the healing process, as well, although the databases, obviously, are not the Wall. Still, the Wall puts the names into granite, gives them substance, unifies them, in Lin's words, into a whole. The databases, many of them online, at least one, "Beyond the Wall: Stories Behind the Vietnam War," on CD-ROM, allow us to peruse the names at our leisure, to relive our experience of the Wall as the Wall allows us to relive our experience of the war. To the extent these experiences allow us the opportunity to re-examine our ideas about the war, they are fruitful beyond mere healing (although healing is anything but mere, and my intention is not to belittle the need for healing and reconciliation). The problem arises, though, that any honest re-examination of the Vietnam War would necessarily include an appraisal of the political roots of that war, a war that people on all sides seemed to agree was a disaster, although their reasons for thinking it a disaster varied considerably. And once we move to an appraisal of the political ramifications of the war, we've moved beyond the healing process, we're right back where we started, grumbling and fuming and suffering, reliving the antagonisms and the hatreds. It's easy to see why this would be counter-productive to the process of healing. But it should also be clear at this point that we can not just choose to forget the parts of our past that make us uncomfortable, that we can not allow our desire for reconciliation to change how history is written.

The Vietnam war was a terrible thing. This trite statement needs to be said. It was a terrible thing because 57,709 Americans died in it. It was a terrible thing because many, many more Vietnamese died in it. It was a terrible thing because imperialism is a terrible thing, it was a terrible thing because we, as a nation, made some hugely regrettable political decisions about our place in the world and our role in Southeast Asia. Many Americans thought this war was a terrible thing while it was happening, and their public expression of their despair, their attempts to change the political climate of the United States of America, led to near-cataclysmic upheaval in American society. Among the victims of this upheaval were those veterans who returned home from a bad war to find they were underappreciated by their countrymen. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial does its part towards re-integrating those veterans, and the 57,709 who were left behind, into our society once again, and we must welcome them back with open arms.

But we must be vigilant; we must remember. We must remember it all. We can not let the healing process blind us to the political ramifications of our presence in Vietnam. A memorial helps us to remember; we honor the Vietnam Veterans Memorial when we refuse to forget.

One recurring aspect of the various presentations of the Wall is the reading of the names. Speakers working in shifts read the names off the Wall, one by one, from first to last. This marathon of name-reading reminds us, almost as much as the Wall itself, of the enormity of lives lost. In the spirit of those readings, and in honor of all who died in Vietnam, I would like to read here, on May 2nd 1997, as part of the California American Studies Association convention, the names of the 37 Californians who died in Vietnam on May 2nd.

Paul L. Abraham
Terry J. Allen
Jose C. Alvarez
O.D. Brunner
Steve Butorovic
Daniel Carrasco
Willie C. Clark
Frank R. Corona
Michael D. Craig
Thomas E. Diefenderfer
Lawrence J. Englander
Edward A. Escobar
John A. Frick
Eugene Gastelum
John M. Henderson
Larry Herrera
Nathaniel H. Jackson
Daniel C. Johnson
Richard R. Landers
Michael D. Lee
Thomas W. Mallon
William A. Mansergh
Glenn R. Mearns
Jon L. Messer
Otto P. Meyer
Willie L. Moses
Lloyd F. Mousseau
Douglas E. Partridge
Dale K. Porterfield
Robert A. Romo
Leopoldo P. Serna
John C. Sherman
Geoffrey R. Taylor
Ismael J. Valdez
Clyde J. Valstad
Thomas M. Walker
Alonzo D. Woods

 

it was 24 years ago today

We were going through some old stuff ... I was posting pictures of our wedding on Facebook ... and Robin came across a sealed envelope for her with a handwritten date: May 26, 2013. Her name is in my handwriting, the date is in her handwriting, so I’m thinking we read this, sealed it, and forgot about it. Until today.

She opened it and found two pages of single-spaced writing from yours truly. Some excerpts:

[I] remember that when we were in high school, and sometimes even when we were first married, and I’d be fucking up like usual and you wouldn’t be able to get me to understand, and so you’d sit at home while I was gone and write me these letters that would tell what you’d been thinking about and you would always tell me that you loved me the most.

And since I don’t know what else to do, I’m writing you a letter now, like you used to write to me, and when I’m done maybe you’ll know that I love you the most!

I think when I was miserable all the time I probably told you more about what I was thinking than I do now, because in those days I would get where I couldn’t take it anymore and I’d freak out and we’d have a long talk and I’d confess stuff. Since I don’t freak out as much as I used to, I don’t confess as often. Somehow it ends up that the more normal I get the less I tell you, or something like that....

[I]t’s hard for me to decide if you think the first 20 years of our marriage have been the best, because I’m not quite certain what you have wanted from those years. That’s not quite it; what you want seems so low-key that I keep thinking you want something more and it’s my fault that I don’t know what it is.

I haven’t the foggiest idea what I want. I’m sure I’ll come up with something by the end of this paragraph, and I’ll mean it when I say it, but I’m not much for long-range planning. I just let stuff happen for the most part. For all my navel-gazing I sure don’t spend much time thinking about anything real, do I? But if I am honest, I can at least say that I couldn’t imagine the last 20 years without you, anymore than I can imagine the next 20 without you. I don’t know what love is, but when you can’t even imagine life without a certain someone special, it must be something like love, don’t you suppose? ...

[H]ere I am, writing and writing, and who would have thought it, but as I near 40, we have basically established that I am a dork with few skills and useless talents ... but I know how to write. And so this letter is kinda like if I was a carpenter and I built you a bathtub. (Who builds bathtubs, anyway?) ...

And I couldn’t have gotten to the place I am now, without you. I’m sorry this is turning out to be more about me than about us, but I guess that’s how is always turns out when I’m doing the talking, and I can’t help but look back on our 20 years of marriage and think how lucky I am to have you, and how little my life would have meant without you. Everyone else I know, no matter what else they do, when they go home, they don’t get to go home to you. I do. That’s why I’d rather be me than them, why I’d rather be me than anyone ... because I get to be with you....

Maybe you could stick this letter in your purse or something, and put a date on the outside that reads “May 26 2013” and then when that date comes we can open it up and read it again and laugh about how silly we were way back in 1993. I know it seems silly to think about us in 1973. We didn’t know shit, but we turned out pretty good, don’t you think?

 


music friday: our 44th anniversary

Got married on May 26, 1973.

post-wedding

The #1 song in the U.S. that day was:

And at the wedding, I recited the lyrics to this song:

The lyrics:

I scare myself just thinking about you
I scare myself when I'm without you
I scare myself the moment that you're gone
I scare myself when I let my thoughts run
and when they're running
I keep thinking of you
and when they're running
what can I do?

I scare myself, and I don't mean lightly
I scare myself, it can get frightening
I scare myself, to think what I could do
I scare myself -- it's some kind of voodoo
and with that voodoo
I keep thinking of you
and with that voodoo
what can I do?

but it's oh so so so different when we're together
and I'm oh so so so much calmer; I feel better
For the stars have crossed our paths forever
and the sooner that you realize it the better
then I'll be with you and I won't scare myself
and I'll know what to do and I won't scare myself
and I'll think of you and I won't scare myself
and my thoughts will run and I won't scare myself


the 100 season 4 finale, and me

I am not one to indulge in direct public revelations about my life. My “memoirs” as represented on this blog consist largely of my thoughts on movies and television and music. I purposely don’t spend much time exposing my “inner self”. This is, perhaps, a character flaw. Certainly, I have a tendency to look away from the problems of others. I am too alienated from the world to make the proper connections to my fellow humans.

My wife had a tough day at work, and she asked if we could go out to a nice restaurant for dinner, which we did. Donald Trump did something stupid ... I can’t say what, in fact as I type this I don’t know what he did today that was different from the stupid thing he did the day before. Some of my friends are doing well, but others are struggling.

But, if I am being honest, the only thing that really mattered to me was that The 100 would be airing their Season Four finale.

In too many ways to count, the characters on TV shows and in movies are more real to me, more important to me, than the human beings I know. I know this isn’t right, but there it is.

There is room for both our interaction with the world and our experience of works of art. But I’m aware that there is an imbalance for me, that I’m more intensely involved with the art than I am with the real.

And so, as I watched the extremely tense season finale of The 100, I cared, deeply, about what might happen to the characters and their world. If you are unfamiliar with The 100, it takes place around 100 years after a nuclear apocalypse. Season Four has focused on an impending second nuclear apocalypse, and the attempts of the remaining survivors to cope with that situation. There was excitement in watching our heroes and heroines showing their strength in the face of the potential end of the human race. It must be said that part of the excitement came from knowing that the people behind The 100 have never been shy about killing off popular, important characters, so that no one’s survival was guaranteed. (This is not quite true ... there is one character, arguably two, that won’t be dying any time soon.) In fact, death on a major scale is an integral part of the series. Of course, the built-in premise is that only a few people survived the initial apocalypse. But as the show progressed, characters were forced to make decisions with no good answers that often meant pulling the plug on hundreds of people. This video, made after only two seasons had aired, shows how the main character, Clarke, has been responsible for the deaths of more than 900:

I am deeply invested in Clarke, and the other characters on the show, especially her relationship with Lexa ... although I am nowhere near as invested in that relationship as some fans:

OK, I lied. I was right there with those fans.

I don’t quite understand it. There are better shows than The 100 ... The Leftovers is probably the best of what is currently running, or The Americans. But none of those other shows connect with me the way The 100 does. More to the point of this post, nothing in real life affects me the way The 100 does.


casual: hulu's back in town

I dropped Hulu when Criterion moved their collection to FilmStruck. Thought I wouldn’t miss it, since I mostly used it for the Criterions, but today, the Hulu series Casual began its third season. Given that my wife was kind of hoping I’d re-up with Hulu so we could watch The Handmaid’s Tale, I gave in.

Based on the first episode of the new season, I am still not sure why I’m watching Casual, or even writing about it. I had a couple of things to say, but then I looked at earlier posts and saw I’d said it already:

There are television shows (and movies, for that matter) that my wife tends to avoid because they have no characters to “root for”. It’s not about a contest, it’s just that she likes to have a least one person who has some chance of becoming a good person, if they aren’t there already....

Casual, a Hulu series which just finished its second season, is about a woman who is breaking up with her husband and moves, with their daughter, into her brother’s home. Once we meet the siblings’ parents, we understand why they are having such trouble as adults ... they had a rough childhood in a psychological sense. And over two seasons, the three main characters work gradually towards becoming better people. All three of them are extremely self-absorbed, but when they step outside of themselves we see some pretty decent people. The characters feel real, with all of their flaws, and we root for them.

Except ... the brother is the #1 amongst equals when it comes to self-absorption. He tramples on the lives of others, always thinking that he is the one who is suffering (in fairness, he often is). I know this kind of person ... I am this kind of person. And I try to do better, as does the character. But he is so horrible that, using my wife’s criteria, he is practically unwatchable. The writing is good, the acting is good, but I simply can’t stand that guy. I don’t even like when he gets a comeuppance, because I know it will lead to more scenes where he thinks only of himself and his traumas.

Let’s just say he hits too close to home for me. It’s a good show, but I can’t say I enjoy it much.

That first episode of the new season gave me no reason to change my mind. Yet here I am, back for another round.


stalker (andrei tarkovsky, 1979)

I recently took part in a poll asking for our favorite “road movies”, such films being loosely defined. My top five, in order, were Bonnie and Clyde, Breathless, L’Avventura, Y Tu Mamá También, and The Wizard of Oz. Topping the poll was Badlands. My own fave, Bonnie and Clyde, finished third. Second was Tarkovsky’s Stalker, which gave me an excuse to add another of his films to my list. I admit I was hesitant ... I haven’t exactly loved the ones I’ve seen, and Stalker is almost three hours long.

To recap: I liked Ivan’s Childhood and Andrei Rublev, thought less of The Mirror, and have terrible memories of Solaris. For me, Stalker was closer to the first two than the latter two.

There is a plot to Stalker, but I don’t think anyone cared about it too much. It plays a bit like an artier, more philosophical version of Linklater’s “Before” movies. There are essentially three characters, known by their professions ... The Stalker (a guide who takes seekers through The Zone), The Professor, and The Writer (the latter two being the seekers). As they walk through The Zone, they partake in philosophical discussions about not only their own lives, but also the state of all humankind. It’s three hours of existential angst that sinks deep, not only because of the acting and dialogue, but also because of the look of the film, which is at times beautiful but it almost always stark. Add the setting, some kind of post-apocalypse world of blasted landscapes and leftover tanks that look like dinosaurs. It is bleak ... this is a bleak film, with little room for any kind of hope. The vagueness of the narrative, and the lack of explanation for what has happened to the physical world, forces us to narrow our focus to the discussions with the three men.

And it isn’t always easy to remain interested in those discussions. Some are better than others, but eventually you wish the damn thing was about an hour shorter.

As usual, Tarkovsky makes the film he wants, and leaves it to us to come to him ... he’s not coming to us. Take this segment from the film’s Wikipedia page:

Upon its release the film's reception was less than favorable. Officials at Goskino, a government group otherwise known as the State Committee for Cinematography, were critical of the film. On being told that Stalker should be faster and more dynamic, Tarkovsky replied:

“[T]he film needs to be slower and duller at the start so that the viewers who walked into the wrong theatre have time to leave before the main action starts.”

The Goskino representative then stated that he was trying to give the point of view of the audience. Tarkovsky supposedly retorted:

“I am only interested in the views of two people: one is called Bresson and one called Bergman.”

Fine aspirations. But my name is neither Bresson nor Bergman, which leaves me once again in the awkward position of trying to figure out a work by an artist who doesn’t care if I get it figured out or not. And this makes Stalker into one of those films that I admire much more than I actually like it. And my admiration is muted by Tarkovsky’s lack of interest in that admiration. Most critics can get past this ... it’s #59 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the top 1000 films of all time. 7/10.


music friday

Hat tip to Alex McNeil. A handful of classics buried in here, along with some oddities.

 

The Youngbloods, “Dreamer’s Dream

Victor Lundberg, “An Open Letter to My Teenage Son

Rotary Connection, “Ruby Tuesday

Stevie Wonder, “I Was Made to Love Her”. If you only watch one video, make it this one.

The Ronettes, “I Wonder

The Beau Brummels, “Play With Fire

Traffic, “Paper Sun

The Incredible String Band, “Way Back in the 1960s

The Kinks, “See My Friends

Lorraine Ellison, “Stay With Me


by request: biker boyz (reggie rock bythewood, 2003)

Bythewood and his wife, Gina Prince-Bythewood, have done a lot of work on television (most recently with Shots Fired). Prince-Bythewood has a bit more film work, including Beyond the Lights. What I’ve seen of their work is good enough to make me interested in what’s next. Reggie wrote and directed Biker Boyz, Gina was a co-producer.

Biker Boyz has one of those “everyone is in it” casts: Laurence Fishburne, Derek Luke, Orlando Jones, Djimon Hounsou, Lisa Bonet, Larenz Tate, Terrence Howard, Kid Rock, Meagan Good, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Kadeem Hardison, Eriq La Salle, and more. All of the cast are good, even Kid Rock. But Derek Luke makes the movie worth watching, rising above the clichéd plot to deliver a powerful performance as an 18-year-old with daddy issues.

Unfortunately, the film isn’t up to what Luke offers. Based-on-a-true-story of underground biker gangs (they aren’t the Sons of Anarchy variety) who race each other, trying to be The King of Cali. Think The Fast and the Furious on motorcycles. Two things happen in Biker Boyz: people race motorcycles, and people try to get in touch with their inner selves. The latter is simple boilerplate ... kid’s father dies, King of Cali tries to watch out for him, kid rebels, etc. It’s nothing you haven’t seen 100 times before, which means those motorcycle races better be good. But they aren’t. They’re boring. All of them look the same, and because they are short (kind of like drag racing), the individual races don’t leave much room for the buildup of suspense.

Still, Derek Luke is terrific. He’s been around ... his first film was Antwone Fisher, for which he won several awards, and over the past fifteen years he’s been in all sorts of things, some of which I’ve seen ... playing Katie Holmes’ boyfriend in Pieces of April, turning up in a Tyler Perry movie, in the first Captain America movie, and lots more. And he’s been active in television, as well ... among other things, he had a short run in The Americans. So I’ve seen him, but I didn’t recognize him in Biker Boyz. Partly it’s that he was 29 years old when he played the teenager in Biker Boyz, but he looked the right age. So I find it hard to believe that Luke is now 43 years old, and he played an important part in 13 Reasons Why, which a lot of us have obsessed over the year. If I’d seen Biker Boyz in 2003, I’d say “look out for that Derek Luke, he’s good!” Instead, he’s been good all along and I didn’t notice.

Biker Boyz isn’t awful, but there is nothing new, and I could take it or leave it. 6/10.

And here’s a brief scene with Derek Luke from 13 Reasons Why: