Monday, August 15, 2022

My Name is Luca; I Live on the Ocean Floor

Films: Luca
Format: Streaming video from Disney Plus on Fire!

There was a time when Pixar could do no wrong. That probably stopped around the time of the Cars movies, or perhaps The Good Dinosaur. Going into Pixar these days doesn’t come with that virtual guarantee of the near perfection of their earliest films. But, even a weaker Pixar film tends to be a lot better than a lot of cinematic fare for children, and it’s the rare Pixar that doesn’t nab an Oscar nomination for animated feature. This is why there are only a couple of their films I haven’t seen. I knew I’d get to Luca sooner or later.

I’ll drop the dime immediately; Luca is mid-range Pixar at best. It’s a fine movie, which is generally true of Pixar in general, but it doesn’t feel like it’s really doing a whole lot that is new. It did almost immediately become a movie that was embraced by the LGBTQIA+ community for reasons that are immediately apparent to anyone who isn’t completely thick. It evidently wasn’t made specifically to be a metaphor for what some of my friends proudly call the Alphabet Mafia, but it’s close to impossible not to see it that way.

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Something is Rotten in the State of Iceland

Films: The Northman
Format: Blu-ray from DeKalb Public Library on rockin’ flatscreen.

A lot of stories have a great deal of similarity to other stories. That can be accidental, but it’s often by design. There are plenty of people who had their minds blown when they realized that The Lion King is a Disney animated musical version of Hamlet. There’s no such surprises or shocks when it comes to The Northman. If you can’t figure out in the first 20 minutes that this is based on Hamlet, it’s because you’ve never seen or read Hamlet.

In fact, the story goes that The Northman is an adaptation of a story that Shakespeare used to inspire Hamlet. Much more than half of Shakespeare’s play is going to be present here—murdered king, throne usurped by a brother, queen taken in marriage by the usurping brother, banished prince, lots of death. We’re not going to have an adjunct of Polonius here, nor a Laertes in any real sense, and while there will be a love interest, the plot is going to be very different to her than Billy Shakes was to Ophelia. Still, it’s more than just the bones of Hamlet that we will be working with.

Monday, August 8, 2022

Kühtaamia

Films: Prey
Format: Streaming video from Hulu Plus on rockin’ flatscreen.

The original Predator movie is formative for science fiction/action films. Movies that have come after it are in one way or another either a reaction to it or attempting to distance themselves from it. I’ve seen the first sequel (years ago) but none of the others, and haven’t bothered with the AvP films that are tangential but clearly related. Prey, though, is one that interested me. Alien invasion movies are a dime a dozen, but we don’t get a lot where the aliens are showing up before the advent of modern technology. At the very least, the idea is a great one.

Prey takes place in the early 18th century somewhere on the Great Plains of North America (west of the Mississippi, east of the Rocky Mountains). A young Comanche woman named Naru (Amber Midthunder) believes she is ready to become a hunger despite her being trained as a healer. Her brother Taabe (Dakota Beavers) is good natured about this, both supportive of her desire to hunt but also enjoys teasing her as an older sibling. Naru believes that she has seen a thunderbird in the sky and that this means she is ready for a solo hunt, hunting something that is also hunting her, called a Kühtaamia.

Saturday, August 6, 2022

What I've Caught Up With, July 2022

July was a strange month. Not only did I go to a theater (the first time since Dune), but I also spent a week in St. Louis, during the flooding, pet/house sitting for my daughter. I did a lot of rewatching in July, and have also been trying to catch up on shows that I have missed. I have missed a lot of shows, which leaves me out of the loop in terms of pop culture. It’s slow going, but I’ve seen Castlevania, What If….?, and Squid Game, and I’ve been slowly working my way through a few others.

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Shell Game

Films: Marcel the Shell with Shoes On
Format: Marcus Ronnie’s Cinema, St. Louis.

I’m winding up my week in St. Louis dog/housesitting for my daughter, so last night I gave myself a rare treat: I went to the movies. I saw Marcel the Shell with Shoes On because I knew it would never open within 30 miles of the corn town I live in. The theater, sadly, was mostly empty, although that did mean that I had a great choice of seats. But I have to say that I think I know a part of the reason the theater was so empty—it was $14.54 for a ticket to a 5:00 show. Sure, the seat was nice and everything, but that’s an insane price for a ticket.

Anyway, Marcel (which is how I will refer to this now—the full name is long enough that typing it out fully is tedious) is the story of a tiny inch-high seashell with a single eye, shoes, and an animated mouth. Marcel (voiced by Jenny Slate) and his grandmother Connie (voiced by Isabella Rossellini) live together in a huge house that is used as an Air B&B. Amateur filmmaker Dean (actual director and ex-husband of Jenny Slate Dean Fleischer-Camp) moves into the house during a separation with his wife where he encounters Marcel and decides to make a documentary about him.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

The Godfather of Fashion

Films: House of Gucci
Format: DVD from DeKalb Public Library on the kid’s television.

Before Oscar season this year, I expected House of Gucci to be on my list of Oscar movies. There was enough going on here that I thought there would be at least a Best Picture nomination. However, that’s not at all what happened. Instead, I’m watching this on my own because its lone Oscar nomination was for hair and makeup, a category I don’t address on this blog. Now that I’ve watched it, I have to agree with the Academy; this didn’t live up to the hype.

On the surface, House of Gucci is the story of Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga) and her marriage to, divorce from, and eventual contracted murder of her husband, Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver), the heir to half of the Gucci fashion empire. And, on the surface, it’s hard not to expect that there will be a lot here to like. The cast is a good one and this is helmed by the generally reliable Ridley Scott. Even better, House of Gucci is very much a mob film at its heart. There are a lot of parallels here to The Godfather films, for instance.

Sunday, July 24, 2022

The Measure of a Man

Films: Cyrano
Format: DVD from DeKalb Public Library on the kid’s television.

When I first saw that there would be a new version of the story of Cyrano de Bergerac, I was intrigued. It’s a hell of a good story, and I’m always a sucker for a sad romance. The story of Cyrano is one of the truly tragic romances. The basic story is that a truly great spirit, guardsman Cyrano de Bergerac, is a true Renaissance man, a warrior poet as gifted with the pen or wordplay as with the sword. But, the story goes, he is cursed with a giant nose, which prevents him from being loved, or so he believes. The twist in 2021’s Cyrano is not that the story has been turned into a musical but that the title character is played by Peter Dinklage.

And that really is the story. We open with one of the classic scenes of the Cyrano story. We are introduced to Roxanne (Haley Bennett), who is both poor and beautiful. She is being wooed—unsuccessfully—by Duke De Guiche (Ben Mendelsohn), who has a great deal of money to waste on her. He takes her to the theater to see Montfleury (Mark Benton), the most celebrated actor of his day, but the performance is interrupted by Cyrano (Dinklage), who dislikes him intently. While the actor runs off, Valvert (Joshua James) challenges Cyrano to a duel. Cyrano humiliates him, chants at him in rhyme, and eventually runs him through.