Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Baby, You Can...

Film: Drive My Car (Doraibu Mai Ka)
Format: DVD from DeKalb Public Library on basement television.

On a film nerd site like Letterboxd, it’s not a surprise when a critical darling and arthouse film like Drive My Car (or, in Anglicized katakana, Doraibu Mai Ka) comes in with 130,000 reviews at 4 stars and higher and about 325 reviews at the dreaded half star. A less artsy crowd—Rotten Tomatoes, for instance—is still overwhelmingly positive, but has user ratings at about 78%. That seems closer for this film. Sure, the audience for a slow, three-hour Japanese drama on grief is going to self-select in large part, but this is a film that moves at a snail’s pace.

We are initially introduced to Yusuke Kafuku (Hidetoshi Nishijima) and his wife Oto Kafuku (Reika Kirishima). Yusuke is a theater director and actor, and Oto is a successful screenwriter. Oto’s stories come to her during sex, and she narrates them during the sex act, asking Yusuke to remember them so she can write them down. After a performance of Waiting for Godot, she introduces her husband to Koji Takatsuki (Masaki Okada), a young actor she is working with. Yusuke eventually discovers Koji and Oto in flagrante delicto, but doesn’t tell anyone. Shortly after this, Oto dies suddenly of a cerebral hemorrhage.

Monday, September 5, 2022

Everything Bagel

Film: Everything Everywhere All at Once
Format: Blu-ray from Sycamore Public Library on rockin’ flatscreen.

A few months ago, trying to catch up on all of the MCU stuff that I haven’t watched. I tried to watch Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, but since I hadn’t watched WandaVision at the time, I realized I couldn’t follow what was happening. And so, I stopped, figuring I’d get back to it someday. But there was already a multiverse movie I could watch that didn’t have all of the necessary required viewing. That movie is Everything Everywhere All at Once.

I tend to focus on narrative in these reviews because it’s narrative that I find most interesting in movies and in general. I’m interested in story. Normally, that works, but for Everything Everywhere All at Once (which I will start shortening to EEAaO), where the story truly is the thing that this is entirely about, there’s so much that I don’t know where to start. This movie is all story, but that story is so complicated that I don’t think I can do it justice without spending several thousand words attempting to tease out all of the various threads of it. I’ll offer a few paragraphs, but I won’t go much more than that, because there’s just too much here.

Saturday, September 3, 2022

What I've Caught Up With, August 2022

I watched a lot more television in August. There are too many cultural references that I'm simply not getting without having at least a little television knowledge. In addition to Midnight Mass below, I also watched WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and also got through all eight seasons of Brooklyn Nine-Nine. As usual, less than I'd like, but I was also finishing up a huge work project this month--I had to work on a project pitch for people about five pay grades above me--I find out on Monday if my team is getting funded. So...fingers crossed.

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Answer the Call

Film: The Black Phone
Format: Blu-ray from DeKalb Public Library on rockin’ flatscreen.

When The Black Phone came out, there was a good amount of hype regarding it, and as a horror fan, I knew it was one I would get to eventually. So, when I finally saw it pop up on the new acquisition shelf at the local library, I snatched it up. All I really knew about it was that Ethan Hawke is in it and that he was playing the killer/bad guy, and that the masks he was shown wearing were immediately being entered into the Horror Movie Creepy Mask Hall of Fame. Seriously, these are really good masks.

We’re going to start with a large bit of creepiness here, because it’s soon evident that the killer in this movie, given the name The Grabber (Ethan Hawke) by the local media, is someone who is targeting children. The person we’re going to spend most of our time with is Finney Blake (Mason Thames), which means that eventually, Finney is going to be, well, grabbed.

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Riddle Me This

Film: The Batman
Format: Blu-ray from DeKalb Public Library on rockin’ flatscreen.

In 1989, my girlfriend and I went to see Batman on opening night. Sixteen years later, I saw Batman Begins. Now, another 17 years later, I am watching yet another iteration of the Caped Crusader, The Batman. Leaving out the animated versions of the character, in the course of my lifetime, the character of Bruce Wayne/Batman has been played by Adam West, Michael Keaton (my favorite Bruce Wayne), Val Kilmer, George Clooney, Ben Affleck, and now Robert Pattinson, and this is only the guys who have played the role in movies. This movie is also close to three hours long, and I really had to consider whether or not I wanted to subject myself this once again. How many times do I need to see this origin story? How many times do I need to watch Thomas and Martha Wayne get shot?

The other thing is that this is yet again a “dark and gritty” reboot of the franchise. Tim Burton did that originally, and while Keaton’s Batman had a touch of camp, it was a darker, more Gothic world that eventually reverted to camp thanks to Joel Schumacher. Nolan gave us a new, revamped dark and gritty Dark Knight series. And once again, we’re going dark and gritty with this one. But with all of this, there’s a great deal here to recommend this latest incarnation.

Monday, August 22, 2022

Catharsis?

Film: Men
Format: Blu-ray from DeKalb Public Library on rockin’ flatscreen.

I don’t always need to fully understand every movie I see, but I do want there to be some place where I feel like I am connected to the story and where I can understand what is happening. With Alex Garland’s Men, I don’t know that I ever really get there. This is a film that is highly allegorical and clearly allegorical, but is also pretty opaque. I’m happy to work at getting a meaning from something when I need to, but I really have to wonder if Men is worth the work I would need to put in to understand it.

The film is going to take a pretty roundabout way to tell its story, and we’re going to flashback a great deal, so I’ll smooth the path a bit here just so that what follows is a bit more linear. Harper (Jessie Buckley) has rented a house in the country in England to find a place for her to heal. Shortly before this, she had told her husband James (Paapa Essiedu) that she wanted a divorce, after which he told her that he would kill himself and it would be her fault. A fight ensued, he attacked her, and she kicked him out. Shortly thereafter, James forced his way into the apartment above and either intentionally or through misadventure, fell off the balcony to his death.

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Kung Fu Dracula

Films: The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires
Format: DVD from Reddick Library through interlibrary loan on rockin’ flatscreen.

Where has this movie been all my life? Think of the most ridiculous plot you can for a vampire movie, and you wouldn’t come up with what is presented in The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires. This is a Hammer horror movie—the last of the Hammer Dracula films. It is also equally a Hong Kong action cinema Kung Fu movie. I can’t believe that I’m saying this and that it’s taken me this long in life to watch this--The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires is a Peter Cushing Dracula movie that features Kung Fu battles. If I had known this movie existed when I was 15, it would have been my favorite thing in the entire world.

We get a short intro, where a Chinese man named Kah (Chan Shen) arrives in Transylvania, asking for help from Count Dracula (John Forbes-Robertson). Kah is the emissary of the 7 Golden Vampires, who hold sway in a remote area of China. But their power is fading, and Kah has come to ask for help. Dracula does help, but does so by essentially absorbing Kah, stealing his appearance, and going to take charge of the vampires himself.