What to Watch on the Plane: Summer 2018

The two things I do the most are...well, probably sleeping and bragging about how well-rested I am. But the third and fourth thing I do the most are watch movies and fly on planes. So, I am uniquely qualified to recommend some selections on your next flight to maximize your in-air viewing time. (Pro-tip: most of these movies are also On Demand, so you can watch them from home for a few bucks. But why relax on your couch when you could be perched in a limited-recline seat with your knees squeezed into your boobs eating the tiniest packet of Doritos on Earth?)

My Top In-Flight Movies This Month: 

Death of Stalin

This film was released in March 2018 and must have gotten overlooked in the post-Oscars doldrums of bad movies. That's a shame, because this delightful dark comedy is worthy of attention. It's ensemble cast play real-life soviets (Steve Buscemi as Nikiti Kruschev, Monty Python's Michael Palin as Malenkov) who are set spinning when dictator Stalin, you guessed it, dies. The grapple for power that ensues is both heavyweight political satire and silly, near-slapstick. There hasn't been a dark political comedy this good since Dr. Strangelove. Grade: A+

Isle of Dogs

Isle of Dogs is Wes Anderson's (Royal Tenenbaum's, Grand Budapest Hotel, etc.) second foray into stop-motion animation (he directed a 2009 adaptation of Roald Dahl's The Fantastic Mr. Fox). The setting: Japan in a psudeo-apocalyptic near-future where all dogs are infected with a terrible dog flu (cue adorable tiny dog sneezes). The evil, cat-loving mayor orders that all dogs be unceremoniously quarantined on a trash island. But a group of scrappy pups, voiced by the likes of Edward Norton, Jeff Goldblum, and Bryan Cranston, refuse to let sleeping dogs lie and, together with a tenacious little boy dog-lover, set out to break free.

There are some problems with this film, I'll admit. It's meticulous details seem to swallow it's broader plot and it can often be slow and even confusing. The Japanese characters in the movie speak in Japanese, largely without subtitles, which is alienating (and culturally insensitive, as is the movie's red-afro'd American foreign exchange student hero, who provides most of the English language dialogue.) More than that, it's just, well, weird. And I'm a weird-loving weirdo who doesn't say that lightly (if I've demanded that you watch Hedwig and the Angry Inch at my house late-night, you can vouch). It's so weird that it's almost inaccessible; you never quite feel the love and empathy too root for the human characters that would make this a great adventure film. But, if you're a dog lover, it's worth a watch. Grade: B


Imagine a world that was so corrupt that a would-be politician could get away with literally anything -- anything -- just because he was rich and powerful. Imagine a politician whose own inner circle, much less his constituents, would refuse to hold him accountable for grievous crimes. Imagine a politician who could literally murder someone without derailing his political career. That sounds like Henry VIII, not modern America, right? (Har har.)

Well, you're wrong. And it's not who you're thinking of. Chappaquiddick is the oddly-timed story of a young Ted Kennedy who drunkenly crashes his car into a closed bridge and kills his passenger, a promising a young campaign staffer. The movie takes place over the several following days where his robust circle of lackeys and advisors mobilize to cover up the manslaughter, explain Kennedy's increasingly irrational behavior, and keep their eye on the national election prize.

Jason Clark is excellent as Kennedy. Ed Helms offers a great performance as Kennedy's beleaguered moral compass, though I'm ready to see Helms get cast as something other than the nay-saying, buzzkill, self-righteous nerd. Kate Mara admirably fleshes out the young victim, despite not having much screen time, and despite the fact that I unreasonably Just Don't Like Her (ever since she tried on Claire's dress on House of Cards). Overall worth a watch. Grade: A-

How to Be a Latin Lover

Alright, this one's just fun. You're on a long flight, you've already paid your dues with Chappaquiddick or maybe Dunkirk, you've got your second vodka soda, whatcha watching? I recommend How to Be a Latin Lover. This silly comedy doesn't try to be something it's not, which is more than I can say for the main character, Maximo. Maximo (played by Eugenio Derbez, whom you may recognize from this summer's gender-reversal Overboard reboot, which despite my love for both him and Ana Faris, I recommend you skip) is a former hottie and a longtime kept man who's made his living (and lifestyle) seducing older women. When his elderly flame dumps him, he realizes he's a middle-aged, pot-bellied loser with no skills and no education. What results is 100 minutes of old-school, rags-to-riches, heart-warming hilarity. If you really want to enjoy this one, make it a double. Grade: B+ (for what it is, man. For what it is.)

Honorable Mentions: 

Comedy: Blockers; The House

Drama: I, Tonya; Red Sparrow

(Do yourself a favor and DON'T watch The Shape of Water on a plane. It's a fabulous movie and I was thrilled that it won best picture, but it really demands a screen bigger than a dinner napkin.)

TV: The entire first season of Feud: Betty and Joan; Season 2 of HBO's Divorce.

If you like this series, let me know, and I'll make in-flight recommendations a (semi)regular thing. Thanks!
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Write comments
ed tessaro
September 3, 2018 at 8:00 PM delete

Agree on Stalin and Chap, though a family member didn’t like the former, even with Buscemi’s star turn. Oh well...

Hope you’re watching Ozark and Halifax...

And why does J L spend so much time in forgettable movies?


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