Saturday, July 11, 2020

Woof!

Film: Dog Soldiers
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on the new internet machine.

There’s something particularly camp about werewolf movies, but there’s also something about them that is undeniably cool. Of all of the classic monsters, werewolves are a unique combination of feral ferocity and cunning. They often have the same pitiable quality as Frankenstein’s Monster but also have the relentless brutality and hunger of any pack of zombies. There are some genuinely great werewolf movies. What makes Dog Soldiers a member of that club is that it does something entirely different with the genre. We’re not going to have men conflicted about what they are becoming, but absolute combat between men and lycanthropes.

We have two initial scenes that are going to be meaningful. In one, we are introduced to the werewolves (kind of) with a couple of campers being viciously chomped. We’re also introduced to Cooper (Kevin McKidd), who is trying to join a special forces unit headed by Captain Richard Ryan (Liam Cunningham). He has done remarkably well, but fails out when he refuses to shoot a dog in cold blood, and is returned to his military unit.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Go, Speed Racer, Go!

Film: Ford v Ferrari
Format: DVD from NetFlix on Sue’s Mother’s Day present.

I make no bones about the fact that I do not care at all about sports in any stripe. It’s been a number of years since I have cared about sports; I’ve found that I don’t miss them at all, and not paying any attention to them hasn’t made my life any worse. Oh, I suppose I miss listening to a game on the radio sometimes, but I honestly can’t be bothered. There was a time when I was a sports fan, though. I lived and died with the Bears and Bulls, and would happily listen to a White Sox or Blackhawks game in the evening. But even when I was a fan of sports in general, I didn’t care at all about auto racing of any stripe. This made Ford v Ferrari a film I can’t say I was excited to watch.

My problem with racing is that I just don’t find it interesting. I’ve had plenty of people try to explain it to me—I know on a very real level that it’s more than just being fast. I realize that despite it looking like a contest about who has the best car that there’s a great deal of technique, strategy, and skill involved. I worked with a guy years ago who loved playing racing games on the computer. He would spend hours tweaking his car and running test laps; he’d make minor adjustments and run lap after lap to pinpoint the car for the specific track, eventually run the race, and then do exactly the same thing for the next track. I mean, good on him for having that interest, but I absolutely don’t have the inclination, the patience or the mind for it, either in the virtual world or the real world.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Working in a Coal Mine

Film: Black Fury
Format: Internet video on the new internet machine.

In the early days of Oscar, at least for a couple of years, voters were allowed to write in candidates for particular awards. This is why Paul Muni, who was not officially nominated for Black Fury in 1935, came in second to Victor McLaglen and ahead of all three nominated actors from Mutiny on the Bounty. This was an ability that was taken away from the voters after the next year. Anyway, it’s a film that really rises and falls on Paul Muni—something often true of Paul Muni’s films in general.

Honestly, I was kind of hoping for a gangster film along the lines of Scarface: The Shame of a Nation. Instead, I got something much closer to The Angry Silence that I watched a couple of days ago. Yes, this is a union picture involving strikes and scabs and corrupt officials. It’s called Black Fury not because of race or the “color” of someone’s nefarious deeds, but because it’s about coal miners, and one assumes that Black Lung Fury didn’t really sell in Peoria.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Super Punch-Out!

Film: The Patent Leather Kid
Format: Internet video on the new internet machine.

I’ve said in the past that I have difficulty with silent dramas. They don’t hold up nearly as well as silent comedies and silent horror movies. The reason is pretty simple. Silent comedies still work because a guy falling on his butt is funny whether you can hear it or not. Silent horror movies still work because good horror relies on things like atmosphere, and silent movies are loaded with that. Dramas from the silent era tend to involve a great deal of overacting and a great deal of melodrama, though, and so that’s a much harder sell. That said, I didn’t really know anything about The Patent Leather Kid other than it earned Richard Barthelmess one of his two Best Actor nominations for the first Oscars.

The Patent Leather Kid is a movie of three very literal acts. When it begins, the Patent Leather Kid (Barthelmess) is a boxer who has a particular reputation. Most boxing fans aren’t fans of his because of his attitude. Most of them want someone to knock a little humility into him. The second act concerns the Kid dealing with fallout of his own opinion against going to war when the U.S. enters World War I. He’s eventually drafted and deals with boot camp. The third act has him going to war and dealing with his own reticence at being in combat, overcoming that, and (of course) being wounded.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Wait...He Wrote More than Dracula?

Film: Shadow Builder (Bram Stoker’s Shadow Builder)
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on the new internet machine.

When I first put up the horror movie lists, I’m not sure when that was, but it was a considerably long time ago, I knew there would likely be a few that were hard to find. This was particularly true of the Fangoria list, since it was specifically a list of movies that were underseen in general. A couple of those movies have proven very difficult to track down, but I did finally manage to locate Shadow Builder (also known as Bram Stoker’s Shadow Builder). If you thought Stoker only wrote “Dracula,” you’d be wrong. But the short story of “Shadow Builder” is an odd one, reading in a lot of ways like the work of H.P. Lovecraft. But I was excited to see this, not the least of reasons being that it features Tony Todd and has Michael Rooker starring as a bad-ass priest.

We start with something along the lines of a satanic ritual that brings forth a demon set to destroy the world. A priest named Jacob Vassey (Rooker) breaks up the ritual, but not before it is completed—the creature has been summoned. Soon enough, the creature begins killing—and it does so by turning its victims into something like a solid shadow. Any victim of the creature touched by light is essentially dispersed. The creature itself, eventually called Shadowbuilder (Andrew Jackson), is also damaged by light, but as it acquires more and more souls, it becomes less able to be damaged by light sources. The goal of the creature is to sacrifice a particular child on an altar during a solar eclipse.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

The Lady with the Dog

Film: Dark Eyes (Oci Ciornie)
Format: Streaming video from Amazon Prime on rockin’ flatscreen.

I watched Dark Eyes (Oci Ciornie) a couple of days ago, and it’s taken me this long to get around to writing about it. I dislike reviewing movies like this one because there’s very little to actually talk about here. Dark Eyes is 136 minutes, a nice performance from Marcello Mastroianni, and nothing resembling much of a plot. Sure, it’s pretty to look at, but it’s not a hell of a lot more than that.

In truth, it’s a very long film version of Anton Chekhov’s “The Lady with the Dog.” I’ll offer you the quick run-down on the story, and you’ll get a very good sense of what the film is, with some minor issues. A man who is dissatisfied with his wife has numerous affairs. One day, while on vacation, he encounters a young woman with a small dog. Over the course of a week, the two strike up a friendship that turns into an affair, something for which she feels guilty, although he does not. Her husband (the reason she feels guilty for the affair) calls her home. He feels like the memory of the affair will fade over time, but it turns out it does not—he’s really fallen for her, so he goes to her home town to track her down.