Thursday, February 28, 2019

Off Script: Friday the 13th Part 2

Films: Friday the 13th Part 2
Format: DVD from Cortland Public Library on The New Portable.

I’ve never been a huge fan of the slasher subgenre. There’s simply not enough to the films (my opinion) to warrant a lot of excitement about them. More or less they are just an excuse for a bunch of different extreme death scenes, and while I freely admit that some of them get pretty inventive, most of them aren’t. That being the case, I’ve never been a massive fan of the Friday the 13th series, because these are in many ways the quintessential slasher films. It’s easy to forget that they start slow. Jason isn’t the killer in the first movie. In that respect, Jason’s debut as the movie monster he would eventually become starts with Friday the 13th Part 2.

Because there isn’t a great deal of plot here, there’s a particular freedom that the movie has to tie up old business. To that end, about 1/7th of the running time is taking up by a preamble that concerns Alice (Adrienne King), the final girl from the first movie. Once she is taken care of, we’re going to get a great deal of set up for the new collection of victims. The story is that it’s taking place five years after the original story despite this movie coming out the next year. There’s a new camp opening up just down the road from where Camp Crystal Lake was located. Sure, the new group of camp counsellors knows all about “Camp Blood,” but no one cares. After all, the new camp is far enough away from the old one, right?

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Wednesday Horror: The Thing (2011)

Films: The Thing (2011)
Format: DVD from Sycamore Public Library on The New Portable.

When I first heard that there was going to be something like a remake of John Carpenter’s 1982 version of The Thing, I wasn’t much interested. Remakes tend to be problematic in the sense that most of them try desperately to capitalize off the success of the original without keeping a great deal of the heart that made the original great. When I heard that it was going to be more of a prequel than a remake, essentially the story of what happened in the Norwegian camp before the creature made it to the American outpost, I was mildly more interested, but not enough to watch the film until now.

With the story of this film being what it is, it shouldn’t need a great deal of set-up. If you haven’t seen Carpenter’s film, you shouldn’t be reading this review; you should be locating that and watching it, since it’s one of the truly great horror/science fiction films in movie history. That’s not hyperbole. That being the case, this would need to be a truly exceptional film to match it. That would be even more extraordinary in what was the director’s first (and to date, only) feature-length film. It will not be a surprise when I tell you that it’s not that.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

What a Difference a Year or Two Makes

Films: Husbands and Wives
Format: DVD from NetFlix on The New Portable.

This is not going to be easy. The world changed in 2017 with the #metoo movement, something that was overdue. But that didn’t make certain aspects of this easy to handle. It meant confronting difficult and ugly truths about people who might otherwise be admired. I can’t help liking the movies of Roman Polanski despite Polanski himself being a human shit. And the same is true of Woody Allen. I don’t like all of his films, but I like a lot of them, and when I watch one I really like (say Radio Days or Midnight in Paris), I’m reminded that sometimes monsters make art. I wasn’t sure what to expect with Husbands and Wives. Now, having watched it, there’s a part of me that wishes I’d seen it three or four years ago.

The reason for that is simple—this is the sort of Woody Allen film that tends to bother me in the best of situations. The Allen I tend to like best is when he’s more nostalgic and romantic. When everything is tied up in his own libido, I tend to check out pretty quickly. Husbands and Wives is one of those movies that is entirely about marriages falling apart and people deciding to move on with their lives because their sex lives are terrible. No one is ultimately going to be edified by anything. One marriage seems strong and breaks up. One marriage seems weak and ends up staying intact. Everyone is concerned entirely with their genitals the entire time.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Do Not Call List

Films: Sorry to Bother You
Format: DVD from Sycamore Public Library on The New Portable.

The Oscars are this coming Sunday, and for the first time in a few years, I’m probably not going to watch them. The controversy over the host, dropping several of the awards out of the show…it’s all cooled me to the actual ceremony. The biggest issue, though, is that evidently there are a metric ton of movies from 2018 that were ignored or significantly snubbed in some categories. Because of this, I’m making sure to watch and review an increased number of those films on the blog in the coming months. To that end, I watched Sorry to Bother You today, and have found a film that seems to have been snubbed by pretty much everybody.

I don’t know that I can adequately explain everything that is necessary to understand Sorry to Bother You, because this is a movie that goes in about 100 directions at once. This is not a complaint, though, because for as strange as this movie is, it’s completely coherent and understandable at all times. Cassius “Cash” Green (Lakeith Stanfield) and his girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson) live in the garage of Cash’s uncle (Terry Crews). Cash is behind on the rent and his uncle is on the brink of losing the house, so Cash gets a job as a telemarketer.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Wednesday Horror: Jaws 2

Films: Jaws 2
Format: DVD from Sycamore Public Library on The New Portable.

There are times when a great movie gets a great sequel. Spend five minutes thinking about it, and you can come up with more than half a dozen sequels that are better than or in the same league as the original film. Spider-Man 2, Terminator 2, Aliens, The Godfather Part 2, Evil Dead 2, The Empire Strikes Back, The Wrath of Khan, and on it goes. Most of the time, though, sequels are something of a letdown. Jaws 2 is one of those. Admittedly, it would have to be one hell of a sequel to match the original summer blockbuster, but it’s still a little disappointing that it’s such a step down from the original.

That said, Jaws 2 is probably better than you remember despite being a clear rehash of the original film. A big part of that is that virtually the entire cast from the first film has returned. Sure, there are other characters here and some new players (and new victims), but it’s still Roy Scheider as Chief Brody, Lorraine Gary as his wife Ellen, Murray Hamilton as the town’s mayor, and even Jeffrey Kramer as Brody’s deputy. Even some of the townspeople are the same. The only surviving main character from the first film is Hooper, explained away by him finally getting on the research vessel he was planning to get on in the first movie.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019


Films: Nell
Format: DVD from Cortland Public Library on The New Portable.

Nell is the sort of movie that I should like, since it deals significantly with language. More specifically, it deals with a language spoken by a single person, a sort of private language that has been learned and created through a series of accidents. I love stuff like this. Language creation, and languages like pidgins and creoles are fascinating to me. Based on that, this should be a movie not only that I love, but that I should have seen and loved years ago.

And yet here we are, with this being the first time I’ve seen this, and it turns out I’m not so much in love with it as tolerant of it. There’s a particular bit of…not irony, but something in that neighborhood with Jodie Foster’s nomination for playing Nell, the woman who speaks the unique language and who is diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome (which, based on her behavior, seems like a very mild diagnosis). Had this been called Neil, there’s a solid chance the role would have won an Oscar. The conventional wisdom is that men win Oscars playing someone who is mentally or physically challenged in some significant way.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Atari no Inu

Films: Isle of Dogs
Format: DVD from Cortland Public Library on Sue’s Mother’s Day present.

I was leery going in to Isle of Dogs for one main reason. I am a fan of Wes Anderson in the sense that I like most of his movies a great deal. Additionally, with Moonrise Kingdom and The Grand Budapest Hotel, I think he’s only getting better and better, exhibiting tighter and tighter control over his films. But I wasn’t a huge fan of Fantastic Mr. Fox, because I couldn’t figure out who (aside from himself) he made it for. And then there was some controversy about the film, so I wasn’t sure what I would think about this.

Honestly, I shouldn’t have worried. While I still think Fantastic Mr. Fox was a misstep, Isle of Dogs is the animated Wes Anderson film that Wes Anderson fans wanted. More importantly, while it maintains itself as being the quirkiest thing released in 18 months, it’s something that will genuinely work for kids.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Ride the White Horse

Films: Shoeshine (Sciuscia)
Format: DVD from NetFlix on The New Portable.

I said recently that there seems to be a reason that I have avoided certain films in the Oscar list for this long. I haven’t always known why, but for the last couple of months, the films have been ones that I haven’t enjoyed a great deal for one reason or another. In the case of Shoeshine (or Sciuscia, if you prefer the Italian), the reason was clear. Vittorio De Sica doesn’t make happy films, and I have to be in a particular mood to want to see a solidly depressing drama. Couple this with the fact that foreign films require a focus and concentration I’m not always capable of providing, and there’s a reason that it’s taken me half a decade to get here.

True to form, Shoeshine is a film that starts well enough but soon devolves into the sort of misery porn that director Vittorio De Sica made his bread and butter. We’re going to be spending the entire film with people who are desperately poor. In this case, we’re also going to get kids who are unknowingly committing crimes, being accused of much more serious crimes, and, while in their early teens, are getting thrown essentially into prison. Why? Because fuck you, that’s why.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Wednesday Horror: The 'Burbs

Films: The ‘Burbs
Format: DVD from Cortland Public Library on The New Portable.

There’s a certain mindset needed to pull off horror-comedy well. This is something I have railed about in the past. Most filmmakers, when faced with the challenge of a film that combines elements of both comedy and horror will side much more on the comedy side instead of the horror side. Even the ones that are well done--Shaun of the Dead, Slither, Dead Alive and a host of others are far more likely to lean harder on the comedy than the horror. What horror we get will often be of the gross-out variety because, well, it’s easy to blend that with comedy. In the case of The ‘Burbs, we’re not getting a great deal of horror and, honestly, not a great deal of comedy.

What I mean by that in this case is not that this is a Scary Movie-style spoof, but that it is very much a movie comedy before it is anything like the thriller it is pretending to be. Specifically, that means that The ‘Burbs is going to be filled with the sorts of characters that exist only in comedy movies. I might even go so far as to say that the characters here are specific to comedy films of the 1980s.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Annual, Physical

Films: Same Time, Next Year
Format: DVD from NetFlix on The New Portable.

It’s been an odd, recurring thing with these movies that I’ve left to the end on the large Oscar list. So far, in almost every case, there’s been something in this movies that has been like biting on tinfoil for me. It’s as if I avoided certain movies instinctively while knowing virtually nothing about them. That certainly seems to be the case with Same Time, Next Year. I knew the premise of this going in, which is probably why I avoided it until now. Had I known before what I know now, I’d have still avoided it, but for different reasons.

The elevator pitch for this movie is that two people, George (Alan Alda) and Doris (Ellen Burstyn) have a chance meeting at a California hotel in the 1950s. Despite being married to other people, they spend a night of furious passion with each other, and despite the guilt feelings the next morning, decide to meet at the same place the following year. Essentially, they are unfaithful to their spouses with each other for a single weekend every year.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Growing Pains

Films: Incredibles 2
Format: Streaming video from NetFlix on the new internet machine.

It was not lightly that I entered in to watching Incredibles 2. I am a huge fan of the original, so my expectations going into this sequel were…unsure. On the one hand, sequels frequently don’t measure up, often leaving the fans of the first disappointed. On the other hand, this is Pixar we’re talking about, and Pixar doesn’t make a lot of mistakes, and many of their sequels are at least pretty good. But again, my expectations were hopeful, but guarded.

Incredibles 2 picks up immediately at the end of the first movie. The Parrs, Mr. Incredible/Bob (Craig T. Nelson), Elastigirl/Helen (Holly Hunter), and kids Violet (Sarah Vowell), Dash (Huck Milner), and baby Jack-Jack (Eli Fucile), along with fellow superhero Frozone/Lucius Best (Samuel L. Jackson) are attacked by a new supervillain who calls himself the Underminer (John Ratzenberger). They battle, and the Underminer not only successfully robs a bank, he sets his machine against the surface world, causing a great deal of destruction.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Off Script: The Ruins

Films: The Ruins
Format: DVD from Sycamore Public Library on rockin’ flatscreen.

Much of the best of modern horror eschews the gross out in the main and instead aims for something truly terrifying. Gore in the best of horror movies is used for a momentary shock that enhances the rest of the film. There’s a single gore moment in It Follows, for instance, and that film is really effective. The same could be said of The VVitch. Green Room uses (mostly) realistic gore in shocking and brutal ways to enhance the claustrophobia and terror of the situation. And then you get movies like The Ruins, where the screenwriters seem to have decided that gore is an appropriate substitute for real scares. Sure, I’ll admit that seeing gross things on the screen will cause a reaction, but for me, that sort of gratuitous gore doesn’t elicit horror. Revulsion is not the same thing as horror.

A group of four American college students are on vacation in Mexico. These students come in the form of two couples: Jeff (Jonathan Tucker) and Amy (Jena Malone) and Stacy (Laura Ramsey) and Eric (Shawn Ashmore). While hanging out by the pool on their penultimate day, Amy realizes that she has lost an earring. It is returned to her by Mathias (Joe Anderson), a German who is waiting for the return of his brother, who is investigating an ancient Mayan ruin that is not on the maps.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Wednesday Horror: The Lost Boys

Film: The Lost Boys
Format: DVD from Cortland Public LIbrary on The New Portable.

There are certain movies that define particular points in time. There are, for instance, movies that feel like they belong to specific decades. With that in mind, I present to you The Lost Boys, arguably the most 1980s film in the history of movies. If it’s not the most 1980s film ever, it almost certainly is the most ineffably 1980s horror film, and I say this as someone who loves both Fright Night and Night of the Comet. Seriously, what other horror movie has a shirtless saxophone player?

Recently-divorced Lucy Emerson (Dianne Wiest) moves herself and her two boys Michael (Jason Patric) and Sam (Corey Haim) to the California beach town of Santa Carla to move in with her father (Barnard Hughes). The boys are less than enamored with the move, while Lucy starts looking for work on the boardwalk. She picks up a job at a video store (See! Pure ‘80s!) run by Max (Ed Herrmann) while the boys try to figure out how to fit in. For Sam, this means hanging out at the local comic book store where he meets the Frog Brothers, Edgar (Corey Feldman) and Alan (Jamison Newlander). For Michael, it means pursuing Star (Jami Gertz), who he sees on the boardwalk.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

And Baby Makes Four

Film: Georgy Girl
Format: DVD from NetFlix on The New Portable.

Where do I start with Georgy Girl? Lynn Redgrave being nominated for this marks one of those rare occasions where sisters competed for an Oscar; Vanessa Redgrave was nominated this year as well. I could start with it having the sort of cast most directors would kill for. In addition to Lynn Redgrave we have Alan Bates, James Mason, and Charlotte Rampling. Or I could talk about the fact that everyone in this film is a miserable piece of human shit, epitomizing the idea of selfishness to such a degree that I find it difficult to think of an equal in anything remotely calling itself a drama in any form.

Georgina (Redgrave) is in her early 20s, and while she is cheeky and seemingly worldly when it comes to things like flirting and sex, she absolutely is not. She’s still a virgin, and has never had a boyfriend, something she chalks up to her plump-ish figure and plain looks. She has grown up as the daughter of two servants of James Leamington (James Mason), a man with a loveless and childless marriage to the sickly Ellen (Rachel Kempson). He has long looked upon Georgy as something like a daughter, at least until recently. At his 49th birthday party, he propositions her, offering her a legal contract that would make her his mistress. Georgy, not really ever taking anything seriously on the surface, puts him off as best she can.