Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Wednesday Horror: Hereditary

Film: Hereditary
Format: DVD from Rockford Public Library on rockin’ flatscreen.

I admit that sometimes I have trouble getting through a movie on a first try. Hereditary was that movie for me until a few days ago. It wasn’t fear, but a realization of a particular scene that I knew was coming up. Suffice it to say that I have real issues with cruelty happening to children in a lot of films. I don’t know if this is simple empathy or because I am a parent, but when I know something terrible is going to happen to a child, I frequently balk.

However, I recently had the house to myself, and knowing that Hereditary is the sort of film that would force me to kick the rest of my family out of the living room for a couple of hours, I decided it was time to gut through the scene in question and watch the film. Frankly, I’m glad I did. It’s not a movie I would really want to watch again in the near future, but it’s strangely powerful and is an acting class from the entire cast, particularly Toni Collette. I say this with the caveat that I am a big Toni Collette fan.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Oh Hai, Movie!

Film: The Disaster Artist
Format: DVD from Sycamore Public Library on The New Portable.

Spend enough time around movies and you’ll run into the people who celebrate the junk side of cinema. In my case, I befriended a number of them, and guested multiple times on the now-retired Lair of the Unwanted podcast where I discussed some truly shit movies with Jason Soto and Nolahn. That was their schtick, and both of them had me watch some serious trash over the years. That’s okay, though. I embrace the entirety of the cinematic universe, or at least as much of it as I can. The Lair boys had a unique relationship with The Room, even doing a script read at one point (with myself as humble narrator). Now, finally getting around to The Disaster Artist, I’m not sure I could get through this without mentioning Jason and Nolahn and talking a little about my relationship with that Titanic of a movie.

While both Jason and Nolahn made me watch movies in the past, neither of them introduced me to The Room. The guilty party there was my former podcasting partner and the third leg of the “Your Face” movie website troika, Nick Jobe. Nick and I gave each other movie challenges, and, years ago, he made me watch The Room. I did, and I had a…unique reaction to it. I mean, I get that it’s truly terrible, that it’s Ed Wood-levels of shit. I understand why people love it, and once I watched it, I wanted to watch it again right away. At the same time, it pisses me off that this lumbering shitgibbon named Tommy Wiseau is lauded for being completely incompetent at movie making. His piece of shit movie reportedly cost $6 million, which could have financed at least half a dozen interesting and unique indie films.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Swing(er) Your Partner

Film: Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice
Format: DVD from NetFlix on rockin’ flatscreen.

Before I delve too deeply into Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, I want to remind long-time readers and inform newer readers of just how much I hated The Big Chill. I say this because these two movies have a significant element in common. The characters here are of the sort who cannot seem to help but indulge in whatever they think is worth indulging in. In a lot of ways, this is sort of The Big Chill for the early part of the Baby Boomer generation. It’s the movie for those people who were just a little too old to fall in with the Hippies but didn’t want to miss out entirely on all of that free love goodness.

We’re going to start in the company of Bob (Robert Culp) and Carol Sanders (Natalie Wood), who are at some sort of retreat where they are being “open” and “honest” about their feelings. They emerge from the weekend with some sort of spiritual awakening of being completely open and honest with each other. They reveal this truth to their friends Ted (Elliott Gould) and Alice Henderson (Dyan Cannon), who find this change in their friends a bit startling.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Wednesday Horror: The Autopsy of Jane Doe

Film: The Autopsy of Jane Doe
Format: DVD from Sycamore Public Library on The New Portable.

I love horror movies, and yet I remain squeamish about a lot of medical stuff. There’s just something about it that really bothers me a great deal. Because of that, I came to The Autopsy of Jane Doe not really thinking it was going to be a movie I wanted to watch. I didn’t relish the thought of spending just under 90 minutes feeling nauseated and queasy. Still, the film stars Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch, so it comes with a solid cast.

We start at a crime scene where the local sheriff (Michael McElhatton) uncovers the body of a young woman apparently buried. This is Jane Doe (Olwen Catherine Kelly), who is clearly dead but has no identifiable mark on her and no apparent cause of her demise. Because of this, she is sent to the local coroner, Tommy (Brian Cox) and his assistant son, Austin (Emile Hirsch). Before we get to the autopsy of our Jane Doe, though, we’re going to make sure there’s plenty of gore right off the top. We get to watch part of an autopsy on someone who was badly burned. Since we want to get our money’s worth here, we need to have a full investigation of various parts of the body because our corpse may have burned, but died another way, which requires poking around in crispy body parts and gooey innards.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Off Script: Paranormal Activity 2

Film: Paranormal Activity 2
Format: DVD from Cortland Public Library on The New Portable.

The They Shoot Zombies, Don’t They list was just updated, which means that all sorts of things moved around. When this happens, it means that I have to make a bunch of changes, too. I have to update the website (which I still have to do) and I have to renumber the reviews that I have written and simply haven’t posted yet. Doing that, I discovered that the review I thought I had written of Paranormal Activity 2 evidently didn’t save and is missing. What that means is that I have to rewrite it. So I’m not just pissed off that I watched this stupid movie, I’m doubly pissed off that I have to write about it a second time. The shit I do for this blog.

So, Paranormal Activity 2 turns out to not be a sequel of the first film, but a prequel. What this means is that we’re going to get a great deal more of the backstory of Katie and Micah (Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat) from the first movie. This is not going to be about them, though—it’s going to be about Katie’s sister Kristi (Sprague Grayden) and her husband Daniel (Brian Boland). When the film starts, the couple, along with Daniel’s daughter from a previous relationship Ali (Molly Ephraim) bring home their new son Hunter (William Juan Prieto and Jackson Xenia Prieto) from the hospital. Shortly thereafter, things start acting strangely around the house.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Wednesday Horror: The House of the Devil

Film: The House of the Devil
Format: DVD from Rockford Public Library on The New Portable.

If you were alive in the United States in the 1980s, you probably remember the Satanic Panic. Out of nowhere (it seemed), everyone thought that Satanists were everywhere. They were in the music industry and the movie industry, attempting to control the thoughts and ideas of impressionable children everywhere. Kids who played Dungeons & Dragons (as I did) were at risk of being captured by demonic forces, according to respected church leaders. Even my mom had concerns about D&D, and my mom is light years distance from religious fundamentalist. The 2009 film The House of the Devil plays on the ideas of the Satanic Panic. Essentially, the plot is “what would it be like if what people believed about Satanists were true?”

The House of the Devil, while made in 2009, takes place in 1983 and the attempt is to make the film look as close to coming from 1983 as possible. The film uses technology and techniques from the early 1980s, and the credits look exactly like they come from a made-for-television movie from 1981. The font looks like it belongs one of those white t-shirts with the red or blue sleeves.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Busy Making Other Plans

Film: Mr. Holland’s Opus
Format: DVD from NetFlix on The New Portable.

Of the movies I have left to get through, Mr. Holland’s Opus was the only one still on the list that I had already seen. I can’t say that I was looking forward to going through it again. There are a couple of issues with this movie that bother me a great deal. The first is a smaller problem: it’s far too long for the story it tells. Mr. Holland’s Opus approaches 2 ½ hours for a movie that is essentially about a music teacher teaching music. However, as Roger Ebert once said, no good movie is ever too long, so this is a problem that I can live with. The bigger issue is one that we’ll get to eventually.

The plot isn’t much more than what I just said. Glenn Holland (Richard Dreyfus, who manages to age 30 years over the course of the film) is a musician. At 30, he and his wife Iris (Glenne Headly) have decided to settle down. No more touring clubs and playing late nights. It’s time for Glen to get to his real desire: writing music. To help make this a reality, Iris picks up work when she can and Glenn has agreed to teach music at the local high school. The plan is that Glen will need to do the job only for four years before the two can live the lives they want.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Viral Videos?

Film: Ralph Breaks the Internet
Format: DVD from Rockford Public Library on The New Portable.

When Wreck-It Ralph came out, I was incredibly excited for it. It was very much one of those films that felt like it was made for me. It was a huge chunk of nostalgia for me, something that felt like a chunk of my past put on a movie screen. It was a big enough hit that a sequel was almost guaranteed to happen. And the closer that the reality came to fruition, the less I was excited about it. So, while I knew I was going to have to watch Ralph Breaks the Internet.

We can start with the name. I realize that “breaks the internet” is the saying that gets used, but seriously, they couldn’t call this Ralph Wrecks the Internet?

Thursday, May 9, 2019

It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp

Film: Hustle & Flow
Format: DVD from NetFlix on The New Portable.

As I get nearer and nearer to the end of my Oscar lists, it seems to get harder and harder to get a movie watched. I still watch half a dozen or so movies every week; it just seems like a struggle to cross movies off the diminishing list. With Hustle & Flow, the reason is simple: I don’t like rap, so a movie about someone trying to break into the rap game doesn’t interest me that much. Honestly, it’s the same issue I had with Altman’s Nashville when I was finishing the 1001 Movies list: I don’t like country music, so a movie about the industry really didn’t interest me.

Hustle & Flow concerns DJay (Terrence Howard), a pimp, trying to survive the mean streets of Memphis. This is not a case where he’s a pimp in the sense that he’s trying to hook up. He’s an actual pimp with a stable of three women. Those women are Shug (Taraji P. Henson), who is pregnant; Lexus (Paula Jai Parker), who works a strip club; and Nola (Taryn Manning), his white hooker who he has working the street. DJay also deals weed, often in a club run by Arnel (Isaac Hayes). Arnel tells him that former Memphis rapper Skinny Black (Lucacris) is coming back to town for the Fourth of July, and DJay needs to bring his best product to the party. Around the same time, DJay accepts an old Casio keyboard from a junkie in exchange for some drugs.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Wednesday Horror: The Brides of Dracula

Film: The Brides of Dracula
Format: Turner Classic Movies on big ol’ television.

I hate to be the one to say things like this, but there are times when movies just blend together and don’t leave much of an impression on me. The Brides of Dracula is one such movie. I like Hammer horror films, and I like the ones that deal with the classic monsters, but there’s a massive hole in The Brides of Dracula. That hole is named Christopher Lee, who decided not to reprise his role for this. In fact, the movie starts with the statement that Dracula is really dead, but that’s not going to stop us from having vampires galore in this one. After all, even though the “Dracula” in the title is misleading based on the vampires we do get, we’re told that there are going to be multiple brides.

So, true to the Hammer ideals, The Brides of Dracula is going to be set in roughly the Victorian era. Also, we’re not going to be in London this time, but actually in Transylvania. Young French schoolteacher Marianne Danielle (Yvonne Monlaur) is coming to Transylvania because she has accepted a teaching position at a school there. But, of course, as she nears the place of her new employment, many of the locals appear to be wary of outsiders and terribly superstitious. She is abandoned at an inn by her coach driver. Shortly after this, Baroness Meinster (Martita Hunt) arrives and offers Marianne a place in her castle for the evening.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Off Script: Trilogy of Terror

Film: Trilogy of Terror
Format: DVD from Rockford Public Library on The New Portable.

Trilogy of Terror is one of those legendary little horror movies that everyone has heard of for a specific reason. Right now, you’re almost undoubtedly thinking of that Zuni doll that is the feature of the third story. And that’s just it—there are two other stories in Trilogy of Terror. I mean, of course there are; it’s Trilogy of Terror, after all. The question that needs to be answered by the viewer of this movie is why everyone remembers the Zuni doll. Is it because the third story is really that great or is it because the first two stories are just that weak?

The answer is a little bit of both. Our third story is the only one that is a true horror story. It’s also an odd choice that all three of the stories aren’t so much named after what happens in them and aren’t given clever titles. They’re just named after the character played by Karen Black.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Wednesday Horror: Personal Shopper

Film: Personal Shopper
Format: DVD from DeKalb Public Library on The New Portable.

There has to be a substantial amount of freedom in being the focus of a huge cinematic series. Plenty of actors have, after starring in something huge, retired and done something different (Jack Gleeson, for instance, retired from acting in his early 20s after playing Joffrey Baratheon on Game of Thrones). Others have used that fame and the lack of need for money to do only projects that interest them. Daniel Radcliffe and Elijah Wood are great examples of this. They’re now doing arthouse films and unusual projects. And now, the same can be said of the stars of the Twilight movies. Robert Pattinson has started doing work like Good Time and Kristen Stewart, after being the butt of endless jokes, has started directing. She’s also started doing movies like Personal Shopper that are everything the crass materialism and bullshit romance of Twilight is not.

Personal Shopper is something like a horror movie in the sense that it deals with spirits and the afterlife in some respect, but this is not anything like a traditional horror movie. There are a few supernatural-style scares, but most of the unsettling things happening here have a source that is ultimately unknown. While there is always a sense of there being something unsettling happening, it’s a much more vague feeling of dread than it is anything else.