Sunday, March 3, 2024

What I've Caught Up With, February 2024 Part 2

I caught up a lot on television in February as well. I finally finished 30 Rock, and I also finally go through the end of The Blacklist (because I had to wait for it to show up on NetFlix streaming). I've been watching Archer lately, which is wildly inappropriate but also ridiculously funny. Let's see where March goes.

Saturday, March 2, 2024

What I've Caught Up With, February 2024 Part 1

I ended February with a total of 65 movies watched on the year, which is one short of the pace to hit 400 for the year. Based on the last couple of years I’ve had, that’s actually surprisingly good. I took a bunch of films off the list in February—there’s a solid dozen that will be reviewed today and tomorrow, but a few of the full reviews I’ve put up this past month have been from the big list as well. Additionally, there are a few more that are likely to show up around Halloween. Honestly, I’m surprised I got this many watched. Look for more tomorrow.

Friday, March 1, 2024

Incursion of the Torso Grabbers

Film: The Changed
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on Fire!

I get the desire to play with the ideas of an established story. You can connect to your audience by giving them something they already have a connection to. You have to do a lot less work because you are already playing with not merely established tropes but with established plot points and concepts. And, importantly, you can feel like you’ve added something meaningful to an established piece of fiction. Look at The Lion King picking the corpse of Hamlet, for instance. This brings us to The Changed, a movie that desperately wants to play with the ideas of Invasion of the Body Snatchers without saying it’s doing so in so many words.

I’ve seen multiple movie versions of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and I’ve read the book a couple of times. I recommend the book; it’s fantastic, and the audiobook is a great version of it, too. There’s a sequence in the book as well as the original film where the pod people confront the doctor and his girlfriend and more or less explain what has happened and the reality of the invasion. It’s a great scene because it shows the insidiousness of what is happening and the new reality of those who have been converted. Now, imagine that scene blown up to the length of a feature film. That, friends and neighbors, is The Changed.

Thursday, February 29, 2024

Broke(n) Back Mountain

Film: The Spine of Night
Format: Streaming video from Amazon Prime on Fire!

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when I loaded up The Spine of Night today, but whatever my expectations were, they weren’t what I got. I don’t know if there’s a clear way to describe this except to suggest that it is as close as possible to a sequel to Heavy Metal as you can get without actually being a sequel. It feels exactly like a much more violent version of the Tarna story at the end of the film. If you’ve seen Heavy Metal, you know exactly how violent the final story is, and it’s not a patch on what happens in The Spine of Night.

There’s a lot here that reminds me of Heavy Metal starting with the rotoscoped animation. Traditional rotoscoping runs at 12 frames/second, so it always looks a little jittery. It also, while it tells a specific story, feels episodic in nature. We start with Tzod (Lucy Lawless), a new swamp priestess climbing up huge mountain to find a man called the Guardian (Richard E. Grant). She confronts the Guardian about a magical plant called the Bloom, one that he is sworn to protect, but she reveals that she has the same flower.

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Among Us

Film: Werewolves Within
Format: Streaming video from Hulu Plus on Fire!

I’ve seen an interview with Joe Dante talking about The Howling specifically as a film that he had to more or less hide the subject matter from the public on. If people knew it was about werewolves, he said, they would think it was hokey. Of course, The Howling is actually a pretty great werewolf movie. We’ve gotten past that “It would be hokey” mentality, because Werewolves Within is clearly not hiding the fact that it is indeed a werewolf movie. It’s also a comedy, and it manages to walk the line between the two genres pretty well.

In the small town of Beaverton, VT, Finn Wheeler (Sam Richardson) is appointed the new ranger. He shows up to his new position and is soon introduced to pretty much the whole town. Not unlike the town of Perfection in Tremors, Beaverton has about a dozen or so residents, each of them nuttier than the last. Finn is walked around town by Cecily (Milana Vayntrub), the new mail carrier. The biggest news in the town isn’t the arrival of the new forest ranger, but the controversy over a new pipeline set to run through the town. Some of the townsfolk are desperate for the pipeline to go through because they’ll make a good deal of money from it. Others want to preserve the town as it is. This is a tension that will continue throughout the film.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Super Mario Shortcut

Film: How to Blow Up a Pipeline
Format: Streaming video from Hulu Plus on Fire!

I don’t tend to talk politics a lot on this blog because there’s no real reason to do so. It comes up now and then, and there are films I will refuse to watch because of their source, but other than that, this blog is mainly apolitical. It’s impossible to be apolitical when discussing How to Blow Up a Pipeline, though. This is a film where you will either throw in your sympathy wholeheartedly for the group of young people attempting to, well, blow up a pipeline, or you will do the opposite and want to see them thrown to the wolves. Just to make it clear at the top, I’m 100% on the side of the people blowing up the pipeline.

We’re going to get a main narrative of a group of people meeting up, creating explosives, and conspiring to destroy pieces of an oil pipeline in west Texas. Along with this, we’ll get a few side stories introducing us to the people involved. There are a number of intertwined stories here. Xochitl (Ariela Barer) is frustrated with the slow speed at which activism moves and argues for more direct action. This catches the attention of Shawn (Marcus Scribner), who is in the same environmental campus group. Xochitl’s best friend is Theo (Sasha Lane), who is dying of cancer most likely contracted because of oil spills and pollution. Theo is in a relationship with Alisha (Jayme Lawson), who objects to this kind of action. Meanwhile, in the course of making a documentary, Shawn meets Dwayne (Jake Weary), a rancher who has lost some of his family’s land to the pipeline thanks to eminent domain statutes. We’re also going to meet Michael (Forrest Goodluck), a native American who has learned to make explosives, and Logan and Rowan (Lukas Gage and Kristine Froseth), a hippy-like pair who have been recruited for a reason that isn’t immediately apparent.