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


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.

Monday, August 15, 2022

My Name is Luca; I Live on the Ocean Floor

Films: Luca
Format: Streaming video from Disney Plus on Fire!

There was a time when Pixar could do no wrong. That probably stopped around the time of the Cars movies, or perhaps The Good Dinosaur. Going into Pixar these days doesn’t come with that virtual guarantee of the near perfection of their earliest films. But, even a weaker Pixar film tends to be a lot better than a lot of cinematic fare for children, and it’s the rare Pixar that doesn’t nab an Oscar nomination for animated feature. This is why there are only a couple of their films I haven’t seen. I knew I’d get to Luca sooner or later.

I’ll drop the dime immediately; Luca is mid-range Pixar at best. It’s a fine movie, which is generally true of Pixar in general, but it doesn’t feel like it’s really doing a whole lot that is new. It did almost immediately become a movie that was embraced by the LGBTQIA+ community for reasons that are immediately apparent to anyone who isn’t completely thick. It evidently wasn’t made specifically to be a metaphor for what some of my friends proudly call the Alphabet Mafia, but it’s close to impossible not to see it that way.

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Something is Rotten in the State of Iceland

Films: The Northman
Format: Blu-ray from DeKalb Public Library on rockin’ flatscreen.

A lot of stories have a great deal of similarity to other stories. That can be accidental, but it’s often by design. There are plenty of people who had their minds blown when they realized that The Lion King is a Disney animated musical version of Hamlet. There’s no such surprises or shocks when it comes to The Northman. If you can’t figure out in the first 20 minutes that this is based on Hamlet, it’s because you’ve never seen or read Hamlet.

In fact, the story goes that The Northman is an adaptation of a story that Shakespeare used to inspire Hamlet. Much more than half of Shakespeare’s play is going to be present here—murdered king, throne usurped by a brother, queen taken in marriage by the usurping brother, banished prince, lots of death. We’re not going to have an adjunct of Polonius here, nor a Laertes in any real sense, and while there will be a love interest, the plot is going to be very different to her than Billy Shakes was to Ophelia. Still, it’s more than just the bones of Hamlet that we will be working with.

Monday, August 8, 2022


Films: Prey
Format: Streaming video from Hulu Plus on rockin’ flatscreen.

The original Predator movie is formative for science fiction/action films. Movies that have come after it are in one way or another either a reaction to it or attempting to distance themselves from it. I’ve seen the first sequel (years ago) but none of the others, and haven’t bothered with the AvP films that are tangential but clearly related. Prey, though, is one that interested me. Alien invasion movies are a dime a dozen, but we don’t get a lot where the aliens are showing up before the advent of modern technology. At the very least, the idea is a great one.

Prey takes place in the early 18th century somewhere on the Great Plains of North America (west of the Mississippi, east of the Rocky Mountains). A young Comanche woman named Naru (Amber Midthunder) believes she is ready to become a hunger despite her being trained as a healer. Her brother Taabe (Dakota Beavers) is good natured about this, both supportive of her desire to hunt but also enjoys teasing her as an older sibling. Naru believes that she has seen a thunderbird in the sky and that this means she is ready for a solo hunt, hunting something that is also hunting her, called a Kühtaamia.

Saturday, August 6, 2022

What I've Caught Up With, July 2022

July was a strange month. Not only did I go to a theater (the first time since Dune), but I also spent a week in St. Louis, during the flooding, pet/house sitting for my daughter. I did a lot of rewatching in July, and have also been trying to catch up on shows that I have missed. I have missed a lot of shows, which leaves me out of the loop in terms of pop culture. It’s slow going, but I’ve seen Castlevania, What If….?, and Squid Game, and I’ve been slowly working my way through a few others.