Sunday, November 22, 2020

They'd Never Try This in Queens

Film: Vampires vs. the Bronx
Format: Streaming video from NetFlix on the new internet machine.

While there are plenty of zombie films since George Romero failed to copyright Night of the Living Dead, There is probably no movie monster with more movies than the standard vampire. Because of this, it’s hard to do something really new with the monster. There are particular tropes we expect when it comes to vampires, and then there are tropes we expect for movies that attempt to do something different. Vampires vs. the Bronx is much more of the first variety. This is, essentially, Attack the Block but with vampires instead of aliens.

We’re going to spend most of our time with Miguel, also known in the area as Lil Mayor (Jaden Michael) and his friends Bobby (Gerald Jones III) and Luis (Gregory Diaz IV). The three of them more or less grew up in the local bodega, run by Tony (The Kid Mero). But the neighborhood is in trouble. More and more of the buildings are being purchased by a new real estate company called Murnau. And, it shouldn’t come as a shock that Murnau is actually run by vampires (after all, it’s named after the guy who directed Nosferatu). The vampires are assisted during daylight hours by Frank Polidori (Shea Whigham) while the kids, especially Miguel, do what they can to save the neighborhood.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

All Wrapped Up

Film: The Mummy’s Ghost; The Mummy’ Curse
Format: DVD from Cortland Public Library on basement television.

I’m continuing to find my way through the Universal monster films, and have now made it to the end of the Mummy franchise, more or less. With The Mummy’s Ghost, we’re going to get a great deal of movie packed into a one-hour running time. We’re also going to get Lon Chaney Jr. playing the title character. It would seem that eventually, all roads lead to Lon Chaney Jr. in the Universal monsters world.

We’re going to start with a lot of exposition, giving us the back story of how Kharis (Chaney) become the undead monster he is. It’s the way all of these movies start, more or less. We learn about Kharis and his love for Princess Ananka. An attempt to raise her from the dead gets Kharis cursed for all eternity, and naturally his tomb was eventually discovered and his body brought to America. Now, his new high priest, Yousef Bey (John Carradine!) must retrieve the body of Kharis and Ananka and bring them back to Egypt.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Marlboros and Sweat, Perhaps?

Film: Her Smell
Format: DVD from Cherry Valley Public Library through interlibrary loan on the new portable.

There are actors who define generations of film. Meryl Streep is clearly one of those actors. I think the same will be said of Saoirse Ronan, but it’s also increasingly something that I think needs to be said of Elisabeth Moss. Best known for her role in “The Handmaid’s Tale,” Moss has been putting together a string of performances that demonstrate just how good she is in just about any role she’s handed. I expect her to be nominated for an Oscar in 2020, either for The Invisible Man or for Shirley, but we really should have been talking about her a couple of years ago in Her Smell.

Her Smell is an episodic story about a punk rock star with the stage name of Becky Something (Moss), one of the truly great punk names ever created, along the lines of Jello Biafra, Cherry Vanilla, and John Doe. Becky’s band Something She is formative for punk, and specifically for women-driven punk. Along with bandmates Ali van der Wolff (Gayle Rankin) and Marielle Hell (Agyness Deyn), Something She has become a force in the music world. But, as the film starts, the entire enterprise is starting to break down.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Cheaters Sometimes Prosper

Film: The Guardsman
Format: Internet video on laptop.

Adolysti has come through once again. Just as I was resigned to leaving the Oscar list at “all but 8,” Adol found The Guardsman online. Not only does this get me that one step closer (and almost certainly the final step from these earliest years), it completes both Best Actor and Best Actress for 1931/32 for me. In fact, it completes the entirety of the 1930s for both of those categories.

My initial experience with this was similar to the one I had with Libeled Lady. I went into The Guardsman completely cold. In both cases, my first thought was that the movie was going to be serious. The original picture I had found for The Guardsman looked like it was a serious, tragic romance. It’s not. It’s a farce and a screwball comedy, and it’s a very good one, very much like Libeled Lady in that regard.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Under the Streets of Paris

Film: As Above, So Below
Format: DVD from Rockford Public Library on The New Portable.

I’m not a huge fan of the found footage subgenre. In fact, one of the only things that makes them remotely tolerable for me is that they tend to be pretty short, so they don’t hurt my brain and eyes that much. As Above, So Below manages to buck that trend, sadly, running just over 90 minutes. It also follows a very different path from the typical found footage movie. This is not going to just be running around with an unfocused camera always getting to what is happening a few seconds late.

In the way the story works, there are a number of parallels I can draw to As Above, So Below. The first and most obvious connection is that it’s very much an escape room. A group of people are put into a terrible and dangerous situation and more or less have to think their way out of it. Naturally, not everyone makes it out. What we’re going to get is a lot of puzzle solving while weird and supernatural things are happening. There are also similarities here to books/movies like The Da Vinci Code in that we are dealing with ancient relics and secret codes designed to keep a particular treasure hidden, which means there’s a touch of National Treasure here as well. There are elements of the Indiana Jones style films here as well—booby trapped passages and weird occurrences make this a natural connection.