Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Wednesday Horror: Martyrs

Film: Martyrs
Format: DVD borrowed from a friend on The New Portable.

When I added the first three horror movie lists to this blog, I knew there were going to be some that were hard to find and some that were going to be extremely unpleasant. Martyrs is both of those things wrapped up in one grisly package. I’ve been dreading watching this, and have been kind of relieved that I hadn’t been able to get it through NetFlix. It’s the last movie on the Time Out London list, though, and so I knew I had to get to it. I requested it through interlibrary loan, when one of the librarians at a local library handed me the film—her youngest owned a copy. I’ve had it for two weeks, and it’s taken me until now to finally gut my way through it.

I’m not going to go into a great deal of plot here, because there isn’t a great deal of plot in the film. At the start, a young girl (Jessie Pham) seems to escape from somewhere terrible. We’re told eventually that it was a former abattoir-cum-torture chamber. The young Lucie grows up (and becomes Mylene Jampanoi) in the company of Anna (Morjana Alaoui). Lucie is never quite normal, though, and has frequent encounters with an emaciated and terrifying creature (Isabelle Chasse).

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Driving Doc Shirley

Film: Green Book
Format: DVD from NetFlix on The New Portable.

Oscar has a race problem, and Green Book, while not a symptom, is evidence of that problem. Oscar and the Academy loves to talk about race and about the dangers and problems of racism, and yet Oscar can’t quite overcome its own biases. Driving Miss Daisy won Best Picture for 1989 in part because it was a movie about racism and in part because it was a safe movie about racism. The audience knew when to smile and when to be outraged and when to be angry on behalf of the characters and when to be angry at the characters. Do the Right Thing from the same year asked better and more interesting questions. It was dangerous. It asked a lot of questions and didn’t provide answers for most of them, and all of the characters were simultaneously in the right and terribly wrong. Almost 30 years later, Oscar managed to reward the same sort of safe racism movie with another Best Picture award in giving it to Green Book.

Tony “Lip” Vallelonga (Viggo Mortenson) works as a bouncer at the Copacabana in the early 1960s. When the Copa is closed for renovation, Tony finds himself in need of a job for a couple of months. He is asked to interview for a job as a driver for Doctor Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali), a pianist planning a tour through the the Midwest and the Deep South. Given that this is from before the passage of the Civil Rights Act, there are parts of the South that would not have been safe for a black man.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Wednesday Horror: A Cure for Wellness

Film: A Cure for Wellness
Format: DVD from Sycamore Public Library on The New Portable.

There are a handful of movies that I have checked out from a library any number of times and haven’t pulled the trigger on watching. There are probably at least half a dozen that I have checked out in the double digits and simply haven’t watched. Until today, A Cure for Wellness fell into that category. I’m not sure exactly what prevented me from watching the film aside from the fact that it’s long and I wasn’t sure I wanted to spend that much time on a movie that got such mixed reviews. I don’t live and die by what critics or audiences have to say about a movie, but sitting for nearly 150 minutes for a movie that racked up a 41% on Rotten Tomatoes is a hard sell.

But, knowing that I had once again check the movie out and that it was due in the morning finally lit the fire underneath me that I needed to sit down and watch it. Now that I’ve seen it, I’m not entirely sure what to think of it. I hate to say that I need to watch it again, but that might be the case. Standing in the way for me is the presence of Dane DeHaan front and center. There’s something about DeHaan that I find upsetting. I’m not sure if it’s the giant eye bags that make him look like he wandered head-first into a wasp nest or the fact that his head is shaped like a garlic bulb, but there it is.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Power Corrupts

Film: Vice
Format: DVD from Cortland Public Library on The New Portable.

I’m going to warn you off the bat here: this is a political movie and I have political opinions. If you were a fan of George W. Bush or the current American president, you’re going to have problems with this review. This isn’t because I’m going to go on some kind of rant (I hope), but because Vice shows a precise template for exactly how, over the last 20 years, the American right has done everything it can to damage the democracy that we still enjoy. If you’re going to have a problem with me saying exactly that, the door is over there. If you’re going to go on a screed in the comments and use words like “libtard” and “cuck,” I’ll be deleting your comments. You’ve been warned.

Vice is more or less the biopic of Dick Cheney, who hovered around the halls of power during multiple Republican presidential administrations. While I can’t be sure, my guess is that Christian Bale was selected to play Cheney because he was able to slightly modify his Batman voice to be a little more understandable. Bale looks staggeringly like Cheney in a good portion of the film as well, something that can be mildly said for Sam Rockwell as George W. Bush and not at all for Steve Carrell as Donald Rumsfeld.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Mediocre White Men

Film: The Wife
Format: DVD from Rock Island Public Library through interlibrary loan on rockin’ flatscreen.

How do we live in a world where Glenn Close doesn’t have an Oscar? Seriously, this is someone who has had such a substantial career playing virtually anything conceivable, and doing it so well as to be believable no matter what the role. In that respect, her role in The Wife is perhaps the one that she has been destined to play. This is a story where her character has lived her entire life in the shadow of her husband, always in the background and always overshadowed.

Our main couple here is the Castlemans, Joe (Jonathan Pryce) and Joan (Close). As the film begins, Joe Castleman is nervous and restless. The reason is soon evident—the phone rings and he receives the news that he is being awarded the Nobel Prize for literature, and suddenly their lives are thrown into a strange and surreal moment of turmoil. People naturally come out of the woodwork to congratulate him, and to a much lesser extent, his almost cliché-level long suffering wife. We also learn that their daughter (Alix Wilton Regan) is pregnant and their son (Max Irons) is beginning his career as a writer.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Wednesday Horror: Tucker and Dale vs. Evil

Films: Tucker and Dale vs. Evil
Format: DVD from Sycamore Public Library on The New Portable.

I’ve discussed the problem with horror comedies before. The biggest problem with them is that they tend to push the comedy over the horror. What this means is that they generally aren’t scary, often opting for gore instead of actual horror. And, they aren’t that funny most of the time, which means they fail in every aspect. There are good movies in this subgenre. There are even good movies that push the comedy and go for real horror instead of cheap gore. Such a movie is Tucker and Dale vs. Evil. Well, that’s true at least in terms of comedy.

Many a horror movie uses the trope of uneducated, essentially feral hillbillies attacking our more civilized heroes. That’s the basic plot of Deliverance and The Hills Have Eyes and a couple of dozen other films. The difference is that in this case, our two heroes are the hillbillies themselves. Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine) are uneducated backwoods crackers, but they aren’t dumb. They’re just awkward when presented with attractive young college students. Especially Dale, who doesn’t do well with women.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

You Can't Pick You Family, but You Can Pick Your Anime

Film: Mirai
Format: DVD from NetFlix on The New Portable.

There have been 74 movies nominated for Best Animated Feature at this point in Oscar history, 73 of which I had seen before yesterday. Of those 73, I like 65 of them, or almost 90%. Mirai is going to bring that average down—so of the full 74 films nominated, I still like only 65. I didn’t know if I would find a nominated animated picture that I disliked on the same level as I did Brother Bear, Shark Tale, or Happy Feet, but here we are.

Mirai is the story of an entitled little kid named Kun (voiced by Jaden Waldman) who is blessed/cursed with a baby sister named Mirai. Kun is obsessed with trains and doesn’t like his sister, which means that Kun is going to attempt to hit his sister with his toy trains multiple times. When Kun is not attempting to hit Mirai with a train, he is yelling, screaming, crying, whining, or sometimes whimpering. There’s a lot of whimpering in this movie. A lot of it.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Wednesday Horror: Child's Play 2; Child's Play 3

Film: Child’s Play 2; Child’s Play 3
Format: DVD from Cortland Public Library on rockin’ flatscreen.

When people talk about great horror properties, eventually, they’ll get to the Child’s Play series. There are at least seven films in the series, which gives it some considerable staying power, especially considering that the series has existed for more than thirty years and the seventh film was released in 2017. The first Child’s Play is a true classic. True to the way most horror series work, Child’s Play 2 came out a couple of years after the first film and picks up pretty much directly after the first film, give or take a few months.

Actually, it is a few months along. Our hero from the first film, young Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent) is now in the foster care system because his mother is under psychiatric care for backing up Andy’s story about a killer doll. As the film starts, Andy is placed in the Simpson home with parents Joanne (Jenny Agutter) and Phil (Gerrit Graham). The Simpsons have evidently taken a number of kids over the years, and are currently fostering Kyle (Christine Elise), who is just about old enough to be out of the foster care system for good.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Inside and Out

Film: If Beale Street Could Talk
Format: DVD from DeKalb Public Library on rockin’ flatscreen.

Typically, I write a review of a movie on the same day that I watch it. While that’s not 100%, it’s common enough that it’s more or less my standard process with this website, even if I end up storing the review to post at a later date. As it happens, I have dozens of unposted reviews that will show up here someday. In the case of If Beale Street Could Talk, I’m writing this review almost 24 hours after watching the film. This has nothing to do with my schedule, and everything to do with the fact that, once I was done, I realized that I had nothing to say about it.

This sounds like I didn’t like the movie, and that wouldn’t be an accurate assessment. I literally had nothing to say about it, either positive or negative. If Beale Street Could Talk more or less washed over me as a story I felt like I had seen before any number of times. And so I’m desperately conflicted about it. It’s well made. I love the pace at which the story is told, and the dream-like quality that comes up throughout the film makes the experience all that much more effective. But this is a very simple story of race and injustice, and it’s a story that we’ve all seen before a number of times.