Sunday, October 1, 2023

Girlfriend is Better

Film: Stop Making Sense
Format: Classic Cinemas Charlestowne 18

A lot of high schools have a tradition, looked down on by faculty, of Senior Ditch Day. All/most of the seniors essentially blow off school for a day, typically a Friday, to get a three-day weekend. For where I grew up, the tradition for many was to spend a day at the Indiana Dunes, about a 2=hour drive from home. My friends and I, though, went to downtown Chicago and saw Stop Making Sense at the Music Box Theater.

Stop Making Sense is a concert film, and it’s nothing more than a concert film. It doesn’t need to be anything more than that, though, because this is a Talking Heads concert, and David Byrne’s style (and less so the rest of the group) is as much about the visuals as it is about the music. It’s about the full experience, something that shouldn’t be too surprising coming from a musical group where 75% of the core members met at art school.

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Split Personality

Film: The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on Fire!

The Doctor Jekyll story is one that everyone knows but that almost no one has actually read. It’s sort of like Robin Hood in that respect. We all know the basics—the scientist who discovers a formula that causes a bestial, criminal side to come out. The doctor struggles against his alter ego, torn between his morals and his desires, and is ultimately destroyed by this internal conflict. The Two Faces of Doctor Jekyll decides to have a little fun with the basic story, giving us an alter ego that is not what we’re used to.

In 1874, Dr. Henry Jekyll (Paul Massie) works with deaf children, but is detached in his personal life from his wife. Kitty Jekyll (Dawn Addams) feels abandoned by her husband. They fight about Henry’s friend Paul Allen (Christopher Lee), who is buried in gambling debts. Kitty argues that Henry is supporting his spendthrift friend. In reality, Kitty has run to Paul for affection, becoming his mistress and hiding that fact by pretending to hate him. Meanwhile, Henry has become detached from his wife (and everyone else) because he is attempting to create a chemical potion which he hopes will help him learn the truth of the inner workings of the human mind.

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Knock Knock

Film: Them (Ils)
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on Fire!

French Extremity films are generally a tough sell for me. While I tend find them meaningful and worth watching, they are also really difficult to watch a lot of the time. For anyone interested in the harder edge of horror without wanting to risk too much in the way of gore, Them (Ils in French) is a great place to start. This is a film that is very interested in scaring the audience as much as possible without dipping into the gore that tends to mark the style.

Our opening scene gives us an idea of what is ahead of us. A mother and daughter have an accident on a desolate road at night. As they attempt to repair their car, the mother vanishes. The daughter, attempting to keep herself safe soon discovers that who or whatever took her mother has the keys and is attempting to unlock the car doors. After a few more moments, the daughter is strangled from behind.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

J.G. Ballard's Stalker

Film: Annihilation
Format: Streaming video from NetFlix on Fire!

These days, if I watch a newer horror movie, I tend to post a review of it. This is more or less self-defense; you never know when one of those movies might appear on a list that I am pursuing. I didn’t do that the first time I watched Annihilation, which is why I watched it again today. In this case, I’m not really upset by this. Annihilation is a movie that really needs to be watched at least twice to fully grok, and even with that I’m not sure I’m all the way there.

I think that this is intentional. This is not a movie that makes a lot of sense from front to back, but that’s because it is much more a movie about feel than it is about an actual plot and story. It feels alien and unknowable because it doesn’t want to be explained. It wants to be experienced and felt deep in the bones with half-sensed truths and glimpses of things out of the corner of the eye.

Monday, September 25, 2023

Under Wraps

Film: The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on Fire!

Mummy movies, starting from the 1932 film featuring Boris Karloff through to all of the current films have essentially one basic story. The mummy gets discovered by intrepid explorers who scoff at the curse of the tomb inscribed on the tomb. Eventually, either through the reading of an inscription or the desecration of the tomb or for some other reason, the mummy comes back to life and starts killing off the people who stand in his way. The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb from 1964 is no different in this respect.

That basic plot seems to come in large part from the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamen in 1922 followed by the mysterious deaths of several of the participants in the discovery. The idea of a curse that destroys the living who disturbed the dead is a powerful one, and even manages to be interpreted in various modern way—at some level, Poltergeist follows this same formula. The formula just adds in the fun aspect of not merely an undead curse, but an undead avatar inflicting the curse.

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Dream House Not Included

Film: Barbie
Format: Phoenix Theaters, Dubuque, Iowa

I finally got a chance to go to the theater and see Barbie, the first half of the Barbenheimer double feather that was popular a number of weeks ago. Of course, I went into this knowing some things about the film, but I was surprisingly cold on the actual plot and many of the people involved. I was surprised, for instance, at the presence of Will Ferrell in the film, as I didn’t know he was attached to the project. Barbie became a cultural phenomenon, one that also got a lot of blowback from the political right because, as a film written by and directed by a clearly pro-feminist filmmaker, it’s going to ruffle a lot of conservative feathers.

We start with a 2001: A Space Odyssey parody that was the first point of anger I heard from the right—the little girls playing the parts of the pre-humans destroy their dolls much like the pre-humans smash bones in Kubrick’s film. From here we jump to Barbieland where, with a few exceptions, everyone is named either Barbie or Ken. That makes identifying some people here difficult, as different characters named Barbie are played by dozens of actors, and ditto for Ken.

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Bales of Cocaine

Film: Cocaine Bear
Format: Streaming video from Amazon Prime on Fire!

Sometimes, you know exactly what you’re going to get from a film simply because of the name. Cocaine Bear is that sort of movie. This is very loosely based on a story of a cocaine smuggler dropping a few bales of cocaine out of his plane and then jumping…and dying from a faulty chute. The cocaine was, the story goes, eaten by a bear, that quickly expired from eating enough cocaine to fuel an army and all of its logistics officers. Naturally, we’re going to take that real world “bear ate cocaine” idea and do a lot more interesting things with the bear.

Essentially, the start of the film is exactly that. Andrew Thornton (Matthew Rhys) tosses some bags of coke out of a low-flying plane and, as he is preparing to jump out of the plane after the coke, slips, bangs his head on the door, and slips out of the plane, unconscious and falling to his doom. The cocaine ends up spread across the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest while Thornton’s body splats onto someone’s driveway in Knoxville. Since Thornton was a known smuggler, he is quickly identified by local detective Bob (Isiah Whitlock Jr.), who determines that the cocaine found around the body belongs to St. Louis drug dealer Syd White (Ray Liotta, in his final film).

Saturday, September 2, 2023

What I've Caught Up With, August 2023

It would be nice for my life to calm down for a week, and I'm hoping (as usual) this will happen in a couple of weeks when I get a break from work. Family issues--my father's slow descent into dementia and my wife's long COVID have not eased up, and naturally I've been given extra duties at work in the form of an extra class, meaning extra grading and extra lectures. Not a lot of movie watching this month, but things are actually looking up. Things change dramatically for me at the end of the year when I give up a significant time sink. At least fall is on its way.

Friday, September 1, 2023

Day of the Tentacle(s)

Film: It Came from Beneath the Sea
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on Fire!

If you watch a science fiction movie from the 1950s, horror or not, you’re going find something very interesting about the way that the plot works. Regardless of what the threat is to mankind and society in general, there’s going to be a love story attached to it, and possibly a love triangle. This is the case for movies as diverse as The Deadly Mantis and Revenge of the Creature, and it’s true of It Came from Beneath the Sea. In fact, in this movie, the love story is so forward that we deal with almost none of the fun stop-motion giant octopus until the second half of the film.

True to its era, It Came from Beneath the Sea is going to also be forward about the advances of Science! when it comes to telling this story. In this case, we’ll be learning all about the new American atomic submarine that is purported to be the new ultimate weapon in keeping the U.S. safe from the dirty, dirty commies. As the film starts, it’s going through its shakedown cruise. During its travels, the ship encounters something unknown and is briefly captured. When it returns to Pearl Harbor, something biological is discovered wedged in the sub’s dive planes.

Monday, August 21, 2023

Operators are Standing By

Film: 976-EVIL
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on Fire!

As someone who came of age in the 80s, there are some elements of culture that don’t really translate to younger generations. Older Millennials will remember some of these specific sensory and cultural touchstones, but for anyone mid-30s and younger, experiences like the smell of purple mimeograph ink, pulling off the strips of tractor feed printer paper are not anything that can be specifically described or understood. They had to be experienced. Part of that was our relationship with phones. Calling collect was its own thing and 976 numbers were the scourge of late-night television. 976-EVIL is a film that is very reflective of that time and because of that, doesn’t really translate to a modern audience.

For those not old enough to remember, 976 numbers were reserved for pay services, most famously used by the Psychic Friends network shilled by Dionne Warwick. These numbers were used for novelty services like kids calling Santa Claus, but also stranger and more prurient services as well. That’s the conceit here—there’s a 976 line that is essentially being operated Satan himself to lure in lost souls. Essentially, people call the number (which is naturally 976-EVIL), get their “horrorscope,” and find that the predictions they get come true. Eventually, though, they have to pay for their sudden good fortune with their lives (insert ominous thundercrack).

Thursday, August 10, 2023

Coming to You Live

Film: Ghostwatch
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on Fire!

The made-for-the-BBC film Ghostwatch puts me in mind of a number of things I have seen in the last couple of years. This film is from 1992, but it very much has a found footage feel to it; this feels in a way like a precursor to a film like The Blair Witch Project. It also has some things in common with a film like Deadstream or Host (which specifically cites this movie as an influence) from the last couple of years. There is a sense of what is happening going on live while a huge audience is watching. There are also shades of a series like Dead Set, again, with something happening life. It also has shades of The Stone Tape, another BBC production. The important thing to remember about Ghostwatch, though, is that it predates all of these except for The Stone Tape.

The conceit of the film is, more or less, akin to the Orson Welles broadcast of The War of the Worlds. Some folks at the BBC spin a tale about a house whose residents have had experiences with what they claim to be a poltergeist. The BBC has sent a crew to the house to investigate the phenomenon in a live broadcast, hosted back in the studio by long-time presenter Michael Parkinson as himself. In studio with him is Dr. Lin Pascoe (Gillian Bevan), who is put forth as an expert in the paranormal.

Saturday, August 5, 2023

What I've Caught Up With, July 2023

It's been a month. My father, who is 88, has been diagnosed with some cognitive impairment. It affects his short-term memory more than anything else, but it's also made him very aware of his mortality, and that's being expressed by him wanting all of his kids to come visit him...or him coming here. We're working out a plan, but it's exhausting. I also spent more than a week in St. Louis in July, which just threw me off my game. I don't know what it is--everyone I know seems to be "going through it" right now, and everyone I know needs about a week of sleep, a massage, and a bottle of booze. I hope August is better.

Thursday, July 27, 2023


Film: Nope
Format: DVD from Sycamore Public Library on the kid’s television.

I’ve been in St. Louis since last Saturday. Like last year, I’m pet sitting my daughter’s dog while she is on vacation with her boyfriend’s family. I’ve been watching sitcoms mostly for the week while I’ve been grading papers, but now that I’m pretty much done with my papers for the week, it was time to sit back with a movie. Naturally I brought some discs with me, and I figured this would be as good a time as any to finally catch up with Nope, Jordan Peele’s third film.

Musicians often have a sophomore slump because all of their best songs that they’ve worked on for years go on the first album, and the second one ends up feeling rushed. Movies tend to drop off in the third film these days—think of all of the trilogies you can. With rare exceptions like the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the third movie tends to be where things drop off. It’s true of most genres, goes back at least as far as the Star Wars trilogy, and is true of unconventional trilogies like Edgar Wright’s Cornetto trilogy. It’s also true of Jordan Peele’s first three movies.

Thursday, July 20, 2023

I Go Swimming

Film: Infinity Pool
Format: DVD from DeKalb Public Library on rockin’ flatscreen.

A friend of mine is a librarian who has many similar tastes in movies. She likes a good horror movie, and while she doesn’t really mind gore that much, she’s also not a fan of gratuitous gore. I tend to go to some darker and harsher places than she does when it comes to what I will watch, but her son Tom doesn’t merely go to those darker places but seeks them out. Tom enjoyed Infinity Pool and told his mom that it wouldn’t be her tastes. Having now seen it, I agree with Tom’s assessment. This is not an easy watch for a number of reasons.

We can start with the subject matter. Infinity Pool is very clearly about hedonism, and the sort of destructive hedonism of conspicuous and malicious consumption that is the privilege of the top 1% of the top 1%. It’s been said that if the penalty for a crime is a fine, then it is only a crime for the poor. Infinity Pool gives us a world where this is potentially true of every crime—where there may be no limit to the dark pleasures someone can engage in if they have the money to do so.

Monday, July 17, 2023

Obligatory Monty Python Reference

Film: Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves
Format: DVD from Cortland Public Library on rockin’ flatscreen.

I am an old-school gamer. I have an original box set Dungeons & Dragons from the 1970s, a ton of books and, as far as I know, the largest private collection of GURPS (Generic Universal Role Playing System) books in the state of Illinois. For a long time, tabletop RPGs were the premier nerd hobby and looked down on by everyone, but now it’s gone mainstream. People who are cool play D&D, and ironically, I no longer have a lot of time for it. However, even though I’m not as involved as I used to be, I still worried about the release of Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves. This is despite a cast that includes Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, and Hugh Grant.

The worry, I think, was pretty well founded. D&D has not done well in mainstream media, starting from the terrible Tom Hanks movie of decades ago to the quickly curtailed Saturday morning cartoon show to the three (yes, there were three of them) movies from the previous two decades. So with a new movie coming out, with a budget, and with the real possibility of being as terrible as the one from 2000, I had some serious concerns.

Saturday, July 15, 2023

How I Met My Mother

Film: Petite Maman
Format: DVD from DeKalb Public Library on rockin’ flatscreen.

I don’t tend to watch a lot of movies that have time travel as a central component, and yet I find myself having watched two of them today (the other will show up here around Halloween). While the first has clear horror themes, Petite Maman is about as far from a horror movie as you can get. This is a sort of fable, a little story of loss and family told with a measure of childlike wonder. This should not be too shocking, coming from Celine Sciamma, who also directed Portrait of a Lady on Fire a few years ago with the same gentle touch.

When the film begins, the grandmother of young Nelly (Josephine Sanz) has died. Nelly’s mother (Nina Meurisse) is naturally depressed as she, Nelly, and her husband (Stephane Varupenne) go to the grandmother’s house to clean it, go through everything, and prepare to empty it out. This proves too much for Nelly’s mother, who disappears the next morning, needing to be away.

In the meantime, Nelly goes exploring in the nearby forest, where she has heard that when she was a child, her mother had something like a treehouse, albeit one that was on the ground. As she looks for a suitable spot, she discovers a young girl about her own age. Marion (Gabrielle Sanz) invites Nelly back to her house, where Nelly discovers that it is identical to that of her grandmother. More upsetting in the moment is that it actually is her grandmother’s house, somehow back in time, and Marion is actually her own mother, but 23 years in the past.

That is the crux of the movie, and what happens from here could go in a number of directions. Petite Maman’s choice is to take this in a rather wholesome way. Nelly and Marion quickly become friends, having a great deal in common. Nelly also gets a chance to interact with her grandmother at a much younger age. Over time, Nelly has to determine if she will reveal to her friend that she, Nelly, is actually her daughter from the future, and if she does, how it might affect their relationship. Along the way, she must deal with the loss of her grandmother and the realization that her mother truly was a child as she is now, something we all know about our parents without perhaps truly believing it.

Petite Maman is, as I said above, a small film. This is not a story of earthshaking consequences or the toppling of dynasties. This is about love and loss, and about coming to terms with who we are and who the people we love are as well. As such, the movie is the opposite of epic length—it’s a mere 73 minutes. It’s honestly exactly as long as it needs to be to tell the story it wants to, but it was sweet enough that I would be pleased to have seen it go a bit longer. As for my part, I was genuinely pleased that I didn’t have to deal with convoluted plots and intersecting timelines. There’s just this sort of connection to the past that works and doesn’t need to be overthought or explained.

There are odd connections here to other films for me, both mentally and emotionally. There are elements here that are kind of reflective of My Neighbor Totoro in terms of the setting, the absent mother from much of the narrative and the overall feel of the fantasy. There also feels like a connection to something like Celine and Julie Go Boating, and I’m not sure why.

The entire film rests on the performance of the two girls, and they are a treat. There are a number of times where it genuinely feels like they aren’t working off a script but are simply being a couple of sisters (or mother and child, if you prefer) being kids together. There is very much a sense of simply existing in the world around them, of being there without necessarily needing to put on a performance. It comes across as natural and lovely, and it truly makes the film work well.

Roger Ebert once said that no good movie is ever too long, and he was right. There are, though, plenty of good movies that are too short, and I think Petite Maman is one of them. This is not a film that needs to be longer for the poem that it is offering its audience, but it is a film that creates a world I want to spend more time in.

Why to watch Petite Maman: It’s a truly lovely little story.
Why not to watch: It’s so short!

Sunday, July 9, 2023

Who's There?

Film: Knock at the Cabin
Format: DVD from Sycamore Public Library on rockin’ flatscreen.

Remember 1999, and how much promise M. Night Shyamalan had? When The Sixth Sense came out, it felt like there was a new, powerful voice in film, and Unbreakable was interesting as well. And then, well, his career started to drop off pretty dramatically. People still allow him to make movies despite the fact that his name is on both The Lady in the Water and The Last Airbender, which is arguably the worst television-to-movie adaptation in history. That being the case, I went into Knock at the Cabin with some worries.

The problem with Shyamalan is not that his ideas aren’t good, but that his follow-through is often lacking. He makes some bad choices, frankly. A lot of that is because, thanks to his first few movies, it seems like he finds it necessary to cobble in a twist near the ending of the film, and that often happens to the story’s detriment. Twists are great, but they’re also really risky, and Shyamalan came up snake eyes a bunch of times in a row. It’s also worth saying that because this is a Shyamalan film and he lives or dies on those twists, you should expect the rest of this to be under a spoiler tag.

Friday, July 7, 2023

The Cure for Quiet Desperation

Film: Living
Format: Streaming video from NetFlix on various players.

Of all of the Oscar nominations, aside from the Avatar sequel, none worried me as much as Living. The original Kurosawa film, Ikiru, is a masterpiece, and I’m always leery about watching a remake of a film that is genuinely one of the best films of its decade, of its genre, and of its national cinema. Ikiru is a beautiful story, tragic and sad but hopeful and uplifting at the same time. It’s a remarkable piece of work, and don’t know that it can be improved upon. And yet, here we are.

What I’ve discovered here is that Living, while very clearly based on the same story as Kurosawa’s film, is also a very different take on that story. The skeleton of the story is exactly the same, as are many of the details. It is, ultimately, a very good remake of the base story. I remember some of Ikiru quite differently than this, especially toward the end, but no matter.

Saturday, July 1, 2023

What I've Caught Up With, June 2023

I don't have a ton to say about June. With the kitchen remodel finally done, we've put the house back together and are now going through the 20+ years of stuff we have accumulated in this house. That's taken a lot of my focus right now because there's just so much to do. I also managed to get through the latest season of Black Mirror, which has taken a turn toward straight horror and away from vicious cyberpunk. I have so many holes in my television viewing!

Thursday, June 22, 2023


Film: The Whale
Format: DVD from Franklin Grove Public Library through interlibrary loan on basement television.

You have to know going in that The Whale is not going to be a happy movie. Darren Aronofsky, who made Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler, Pi, and Black Swan does not make happy movies. His movies are deep, the stories are intense and interesting, but they are not happy. Many of Aronofsky’s films are about people who are extreme in some way—in their appetites, in their actions, and The Whale is no different. Brendan Fraser rightfully got a great deal of hype for this role, and this is a film that centers entirely on his performance, aided ably by his entire supporting cast.

Charlie (Fraser) is an online English teacher who tells his students that the camera on his laptop is broken. The truth is that he refuses to turn on the camera because he is morbidly obese. Charlie isn’t merely fat, but 700 pounds fat, unable to easily rise from his chair or move without a walker, blood pressure double a safe number obese. From what we can see, Charlie is a pretty good English teacher and seems to genuinely care about his students.

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Water Tribes

Film: Avatar: The Way of Water
Format: Streaming video from Disney Plus on rockin’ flatscreen.

Well, I knew I was going to have to watch this eventually. I very much didn’t want to watch Avatar: The Way of Water, and had it not been for my personal commitment to watch every Best Picture nominee that I can, I would not have watched it. For starters, I don’t have that much interest in it, nor any real desire to remember the mythology from 2009. Second, and importantly, this thing clocks in at 196 minutes. If ever there was a poster child for runtime bloat, it’s this.

We’re going back to the planet of Pandora, and thankfully this time we won’t be dealing with the ridiculousness of looking for a mineral called unobtanium. We’re going to spend the start reintroducing ourselves to our main characters. On the one side, this is going to mean getting reacquainted with Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) and his wife Neytiri (Zoe Saldana). It’s years later, though and now they have kids. These are sons Neteyam (Jamie Flatters) and Lo’ak (Britain Dalton), and daughter Tuk (Trinity Jo-Li Bliss). It also includes adopted daughter Kiri (Sigourney Weaver), born from the inert avatar of Dr. Grace Augustine (also Weaver) from the first film. Also in the mix is Miles “Spider” Socorro (Jack Champion), a human child who we learn is the son of Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang),the bad guy from the first film.

Thursday, June 15, 2023

Seriously? More Nazi Zombies?

Film: Shock Waves
Format: Streaming video from Amazon Prime on Fire!

There is a surprisingly robust horror subgenre of Nazi zombie films. The Dead Snow films are probably the best know, but Overlord (which I reviewed earlier this month) is the most recent example that I know of. Shock Waves from 1977 is one of the earliest exemplars of the subgenre. Oh, you can point at King of the Zombies and the sequel Revenge of the Zombies from the war years, but both of these involve voodoo zombies. The Creature with the Atom Brain from the ‘50s is closer, involving a Nazi scientist creating zombies, but doing so for revenge rather than the war. In that respect, Shock Waves might well be a first.

We start with a woman named Rose (Brooke Adams) being rescued in an open boat. What follows is her story, told initially and at the end in voiceover. We flashback to her experience, which starts on a small pleasure boat with a few other guests and a small crew. The boat loses its navigation with the arrival of a bizarre orange haze. The ship also encounters a huge freighter that appears as if out of nowhere, running without lights. Because of this, the boat runs up on a reef, stranding the group.

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Rock Bottom

Film: To Leslie
Format: Streaming video from NetFlix on various players.

I don’t love going to the gym, but I go now six days a week. Part of the reason I go is because sitting at a desk for 20 years without exercise isn’t good for you. Part is because I inherited genetically high cholesterol from my mother and a blood clotting disorder from my dad (thanks, folks). On days I use the treadmill, I tend to watch television shows, but I’m not always in the mood. This is a long and roundabout way of saying that I watched a good percentage of To Leslie on my phone while walking uphill at four miles per hour.

You may or may not remember the controversy surrounding To Leslie at the Oscars earlier this year. The problem stems from the reason that I watched this film—the nomination of Andrea Riseborough for Best Actress. The controversy didn’t stem from the fact that the role and performance weren’t worthy (they were and are) but the fact that Riseborough had received no acclaim or notice in all of the awards leading up to the Oscars, and her nomination felt like a snub for others, especially Viola Davis in The Woman King.

Saturday, June 10, 2023

Talk is (Not) Cheap

Film: Women Talking
Format: DVD from DeKalb Public Library on basement television.

My goal every year is to finish all of the movies on my Oscars list by the end of the year. Suddenly, out of nowhere, I’m buried in films on that particular list that I can watch—I need to average just one a month to finish in December, but I can be close to done by the end of next week. I decided to start with Women Talking for no reason other than the librarian who checked it out to me recommended it highly. Now that I’ve seen it, I get why she recommended it.

You would be forgiven for thinking at the top that this is a movie that takes place a hundred or more years ago. Instead, it takes place about a dozen years ago in a Mennonite community somewhere (likely) in Canada, since that’s where the book the movie is based on was written. It would also be completely understandable if you thought that Women Talking was based on a stage play and not a novel, because it very much looks like it could have been a play, and this film could be easily adapted for the stage. It also reminds me of the joke, "What was the Amish girl disfellowshiped?"

Monday, June 5, 2023

Bigfoot Ain't Got Nothing on Me

Film: The Legend of Boggy Creek
Format: DVD from DeKalb Public Library on basement television.

Until recently, I had never seen The Legend of Boggy Creek, but I had seen Boggy Creek II: The Legend Continues, which is inexplicably the third movie in the Boggy Creek oeuvre. I’ve seen the second/third film in this series because it was featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000, and to be fair to Mike and the bots, they made the right choice. I’m not going to sa which of these movies is worse, but I will say that Boggy Creek II is more entertaining for a number of reasons. For whatever reason, there’s a copy of this at my local library, so I figured it was time to watch.

I was originally going to save this review, banking it until I need 40 horror-related reviews at the end of October, but sometimes, you just have to go with what you have in front of you for one reason or another. In this case, there’s a moment in this movie that absolutely required that I post this immediately and not save it (and potentially forget this moment) months down the road. I promise that we’ll get there soon. I have to say that this moment—it’s just after 33 minutes into the film—is one of the most surreal things I have ever had happen to me while watching a movie. If you want to experience this for yourself without it being spoiled, stop reading here—don’t click to get past the break.

Sunday, June 4, 2023

Not Another Nazi Zombie Movie

Film: Overlord
Format: DVD from DeKalb Public Library on basement television.

Genre mash-ups are fun when they’re done right. Combine Westerns and science fiction and you can walk out the other side with Serenity. Of course, you can also combine Westerns and science fiction and walk out the other side with Wild Wild West or Cowboys and Aliens. You have to be careful when you’re blending genres. Add in a third genre, and things can get very strange indeed. And that’s where we’re going to pick up Overlord, an alternate universe World War II movie that is going to throw in some weird science and some zombies for a war/sci-fi/zombie horror Neapolitan ice cream of cinema.

If you know even a little World War II history, you’re probably aware that “Overlord” was the codename for the D-Day invasion of Normandy. In this alternate history, we’re showing up on June 5th, the day before the invasion. A group of paratroopers are preparing to drop behind enemy lines with the goal of taking out a radio jamming tower to help with air cover for the following day. We can tell this is an alternate history right away because our paratrooper unit is racially integrated.

Saturday, June 3, 2023

What I've Caught Up With, May 2023

So I went almost two weeks without watching a movie in May, something I don’t think has happened in ages. We (my brothers, our spouses, and I) took our mom to Bar Harbor, ME this month, a place that she’s always wanted to go. It was a nice trip, but I’ve still got classes, so my non-vacation actions were spent grading papers. Then, once we got home, it was catch-up time, and movies didn’t fit there, either. Despite this, I knocked out just over a half dozen for this post as well as a few that turned into full reviews.

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Family (and) History

Film: House of the Long Shadows
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on Fire!

So, I’m back. Last year for Christmas, my siblings and I decided to get our mom a trip that she’s always wanted. Three of us, including me, went with her to the coast of Maine, where it was very cold and a bit more expensive than I was prepared for. But, it was a nice trip and she enjoyed herself, which is really what was most important. That has meant that I haven’t been around—haven’t even looked at this blog—for almost two weeks, and also haven’t watched a movie in almost two weeks. That changed last night when I caught up with House of the Long Shadows.

This is one of those movies that attempts to pack in as many stars of the genre as it can. The classing House of Dracula did this with monsters; we got Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, the Wolfman, etc. House of the Long Shadows does this instead with classic actors of the Gothic horror genre and Hammer films. We’re going to get Vincent Price, Peter Cushing, John Carradine, and Christopher Lee stomping across the screen, and that in and of itself is enough to recommend the film. It’s a little sad, though, that they are doing this in service to Desi Arnaz Jr.

Friday, May 19, 2023

Like and Subscribe

Film: Deadstream
Format: Streaming video from Amazon Prime on Fire!

I don’t tend to like found footage and found footage-style films that much. I don’t love shaky cam in general, and a lot of found footage features the sort of shaky cam footage that I find people really hard to watch—people running and the camera bouncing around. There are exceptions, of course. I loved [•REC], by way of example. I went into Deadstream with a basic idea of the plot, but not really understanding that this was going to be not exactly found footage, but very much shot in the same style.

We are going to start by being introduced to Shawn Ruddy (co-author/co-director Joseph Winter). Shawn is sort of a YouTube version of the show Jackass (and in the context of the movie, YouTube is replaced by something called LivVid). The conceit of his channel is that he does stunts specifically based on overcoming his fears. We see a couple of examples and then discover that Shawn has been demonetized for some racially and otherwise insensitive stunts.

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Pliers and a Blowtorch

Film: Red White & Blue
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on Fire!

In the movie world, there are two types of revenge pictures. The most common variety is the sort of 1980s heart of Schwarzeneggar’s career. Films like Commando, Raw Deal and even The Running Man are the staple of action films, the sort of standard burger and fries of movies. Your hero is a big, muscley dude, former (or current) military, who gets wronged by someone and goes on a quest to kill off the bad guys one by one. You get pithy one-liners, and at the end, the bad guys are gone and all is right with the world. Rarer are films like Last House on the Left, where the revenge is taken but the resolution is just the emptiness of revenge being taken, but loss still being felt. And then you get Red White & Blue, a film that combines the retributive aspects of the first type with the bleak nihilism of the second.

It should also be said that Red White & Blue is a film that feels like two films in one. This is not because there are two parallel stories for the first hour or so. This is because when we get to the end of the second act and the beginning of the third, this movie is going to take a very hard left turn. There are clear and obvious parallels to Audition. Red White & Blue starts out much like a tragic romance and ends as an exploration of horror and terrible revenge.

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

SAN Check

Film: The Void
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on Fire!

For the first time in two years the They Shoot Zombies, Don’t They list has been updated. A full 112 movies have been added to the list, 52 of which are entirely new. It took me a couple of days to re-do the relevant page on this blog and rework at least some of the Excel files I use to keep track of things. When you’re pursuing a huge list for a long time, the influx of new things is exciting—suddenly, there’s more than the same-old, same-old unwatched movies. That, more than anything, is why I decided to watch The Void today: it’s a new addition.

This is a movie that dives into the deep end of body horror very early and it stays there for a very long time. We’re going to open with a couple of guys shooting someone and then lighting her on fire, something we’ll get back to eventually. But, by the time we’re 15 minutes into the film, we’ve got someone flaying her own face off and killing someone via scalpel-to-eye.

Sunday, May 14, 2023

Release the Kraken

Film: The Sea Beast
Format: Streaming video from NetFlix on basement television.

It took me a disturbingly long time to figure out what the intent behind The Sea Beast was. Kids movies always have a moral to them, and I thought I knew what the moral was going to be, and I was right. The Sea Beast, like many a kids’ movie, is about tolerance. The problem isn’t that. Kids’ movies are always going to be at least a little easier to read simply because of the audience. While kids can certainly pick up on nuance, you have to be careful with it. No, the problem here is that this is a movie that you have absolutely seen before.

So walk with me for a minute. Imagine, if you will, a society that is plagued by dangerous, giant creatures. These creatures are dangerous, large, and a huge problem for the society in question. In fact, the people in the society have teams of warriors who, in this case, head out on ships to fight these massive creatures. But it might be that a young child from that society will discover that the creatures are actually peaceful, that the war that is being fought is one caused more by misunderstanding than anything. Can she, and the adult who allies with her, get the society to realize their terrible mistake before more lives are lost? What does this sound like?

Saturday, May 6, 2023

What I've Caught Up With, April 2023

April was a down month for me on this front, and I'm hoping that May will pick up. However, since I'll be out for a good week at some point, that seems unlikely. Having the kitchen finally done helps, so things are winding down, not that this has made my work life any easier.

Thursday, May 4, 2023

Lights, Camera,...

Film: The Fabelmans
Format: DVD from Sycamore Public Library on basement television.

A number of years ago, a random passer-by on this blog was upset that I wasn’t completely blown away by the film The Color of Pomegranates. In that rant, in addition to spelling the name of the director wrong, that commenter also told me I should spend my time with easier, less challenging films, like the works of Steven Spielberg. I always thought that was a weird insult—say what you will about Spielberg, the man makes a good movie. Seriously, go with Michael Bay or Tony Scott if you’re shooting for lowbrow. Anyway, I was reminded of this when I sat down with The Fabelmans.

For lack of a better way to put it, this is Steven Spielberg making his own fictionalized biopic of his early life and birth as a filmmaker. If you like, it’s akin in some ways to 8 ½, or perhaps more closely Woody Allen’s Radio Days. We’re going to see the young Spielberg stand-in Sam Fabelman (Mateo Zoryan initially, then Gabriel LaBelle for the bulk of the film) introduced to the idea of movies by his parents, Mitzi (Michelle Williams) and Burt (Paul Dano) in the form of The Greatest Show on Earth. Sammy seems upset by the train crash sequence, but also fascinated by it to the point that he asks for a train set for Hannukah that year.

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

I Had to Edit this for Content...

Film: Glorious
Format: DVD from DeKalb Public Library on basement television.

It feels like ages since I’ve watched a movie, and to be honest, it really has been like a full week since I’ve sat down with a film. Our kitchen remodel is essentially finished and we’re just starting to put the house back together, which is going slowly for one reason or another. Work issues, life issues…you know how it goes. I’ve been meaning to sit down with a number of films, but Glorious is a couple of days overdue at the library, so knocking it out made the most sense today. Can’t let those fines get higher, after all.

Glorious is a film that has a pretty rough sell going in. This is, at least on the surface, a film about a demonic gl*ryhole in a rest stop bathroom in the middle of nowhere. That’s at least kind of the truth, and for a way into the basic plot of the movie, it’s going to be hard to do a lot better than that. And, to be fair, this is going to be a make or break for you. If that sounds interesting to you, you’re already in. If not, nothing I say is going to bring you into the fold.

Monday, April 24, 2023

Another List Completed

Film: The Boneyard
Format: Internet video on Fire!

If you had told me when I put Fangoria’s 101 Best Horror Movies You’ve Never Seen list as a collection of movies I was going to watch that I would end with a film that featured Phyllis Diller and Normal Fell, I would have believed you, but I would have been at least a little shocked. The Boneyard is in some ways the perfect way to finally close out this list. It’s a better movie than you might think going in, but it’s also a movie that you probably haven’t seen for a very good reason.

The Boneyard is very much a low-budget film, and it’s one that put all of its budget into the special effects. One of the ways you can tell this is low-budget is that the most famous people in it are, well, Phyllis Diller and Normal Fell. Another way to tell is that it essentially takes place in a single location—a morgue. There are a few moments here and there outside of the morgue, but all of the real action takes place there.

Saturday, April 22, 2023

Like and Share

Film: Sissy
Format: DVD from DeKalb Public Library on basement television.

I have said before on a number of occasions that for me to really connect with a movie, I need to have a character with whom I can have some sort of connection. That’s not always the case in the sense that there are going to be a few exceptions here and there, but if I find the entire cast of characters to be non-sympathetic, the film is a really hard sell for me in general. That’s definitely the case with Sissy, an Australian Gen-Z horror/slasher. The idea here is fantastic, but I genuinely dislike all of the characters, which made it a tough watch.

We’re going to meet Cecilia (Aisha Dee), who makes a good enough living as a social media influencer/woo peddler. Cecilia, we learn, does meditation, positivity, and life affirmation on one social media platform or another (YouTube or Instagram, probably), and has amassed a solid collection of 200,000 followers. She seems to affirm her own value by the constant stream of positive replies from her viewers and followers.

Saturday, April 15, 2023

Dig In!

Film: The Menu
Format: DVD from Sycamore Public Library on basement television.

I like to cook. I’m not what anyone would call a foodie by any stretch, and I’m nothing like a gourmet chef, but I like working in the kitchen. I have a disturbingly large collection of cookbooks, and I do actually use them pretty regularly. I say all of this at the start because The Menu is about food, at least on the surface. It’s about a hell of a lot more, but it’s the food that’s going to get us in the door.

We begin with Tyler (Nicholas Hoult) and Margot (Anna Taylor-Joy), waiting for a boat. Tyler is a foodie and the two of them are going to an island restaurant for an incredibly exclusive meal. A world-renowned chef named Slowik (Ralph Fiennes) runs a restaurant on the island. They serve to about a dozen people a night, service takes about 4 ½ hours, and it costs $1250 per person. We see a few other people getting on board the ship. These include a famous actor (John Leguizamo) and an influential food critic (Janet McTeer).

Friday, April 14, 2023


Film: Amsterdam
Format: DVD from Sycamore Public Library on basement television.

At some point in watching Amsterdam, you are almost certainly going to wonder how in the hell it happened. On the surface, Amsterdam is a film with an incredibly cast, the sort of cast that used to appear in epic films where everyone in Hollywood took a role. I can’t begin to count the Oscar nominations in this group, nor the Oscar nominations to come in future years. And yet the film itself is so flat. If I had to guess, it’s the screenplay where all of this falls apart.

Amsterdam tells a fictionalized version of the Business Plot, a 1933 conspiracy to replace FDR with someone who would be more Nazi-friendly at the top of the U.S. Fortunately, the person tapped to take over, the awesomely-named General Smedley Butler, spilled the plot. Amsterdam wants to tell this story, but it takes a long time getting there and includes a great deal that has nothing to do with it. There’s a veneer of wackiness over the story here, and we spend most of our time with characters who are forced into the center of the story for no clear reason.

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

But Not so Quick

Film: Jack Be Nimble
Format: Streaming video from Amazon Prime at the office.

Last month, I finally caught up with Ice Cold in Alex, a film I had looked for for some time. It was a film that managed to live up to my expectations, at least in the main. This month, I found that Jack Be Nimble was streaming on Amazon. This is one of the final two movies from the original horror movie lists I posted years ago, and one that I have not been able to find for close to a decade. I’ve been looking for this movie for some time, and while I expected it to be middle of the road, I did have some hopes for it.

Suffice it to say that Jack Be Nimble did not really live up to what it could have been. For a film I’d been looking to watch for years, I could have hoped for a great deal more. This isn’t to say that this was a bad film by any stretch. It’s not; it’s just less than it could be. It definitely has a point that it wants to make, but it takes a long time getting there, and it feels like not a lot happens along the way.

Tuesday, April 4, 2023


Film: Mad God
Format: Streaming video from Amazon Prime at the office.

What follows might well be the shortest full-length review I have ever written or will ever write. That’s not because there are specific problems with Mad God, but because there isn’t a great deal to write about it. This is an experimental film in every way that word can be used to describe a film. It’s also one of the closest things I’ve ever seen to a pure hellscape. This is the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch come to life through a lens of terrible technology, an animated horror of Tetsuo: The Iron Man. This is the same sort of birth/death/rebirth series of images as in a film like mother! with the added psychedelia of the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey at the end (even including the obelisks).

For this blog, though, the problem is that there is no real narrative structure here. I’ve said that before about other films, usually meaning it to suggest that there isn’t a lot of plot—something like Train to Busan has a plot that fits on a matchbook with room to spare. But Mad God has literally no narrative structure. There is a series of events, of visions, and of places that the film visits, but they connect in the same way that skits in Monty Python shows did, one blending into the next, and us as the audience following something else for a time before we move on once again.

Monday, April 3, 2023

Wish I May, Wish I Might

Film: Puss in Boots: The Last Wish
Format: Streaming video from Peacock at the office.

We’ve been doing some remodeling, and that’s put us in a situation with needing to have workers in the house while we deal with yapping dogs while trying to have meetings. Because of that, we’ve rented some temporary office space, and my wife and I take turns going there with the dogs. It was my day today, and while I sat at my laptop, I figured it was as good a time as any to knock out an Oscar film. There are only a couple streaming for free at the moment, so Puss in Boots: The Last Wish it is.

Puss in Boots is a character in the sort of extended Shrek-o-verse, having appeared in the second movie. A successful spin-off yields a sequel, and the universe of the film is rich enough and the character interesting enough to support a new story. This time, we open with Puss (Antonio Banderas) partying with a town to the chagrin of the governor. Eventually, this leads to a protracted battle with a giant that results in an accident that should kill him, but he appears to be fine.

Saturday, April 1, 2023

What I've Caught Up With, March 2023

Today is April Fool’s Day, a day that I genuinely dislike. It’s been my experience that many of the “jokes” that are played on this day are needlessly cruel, so it’s a day where I tend to avoid other people as much as I can, including social media. That’s neither here nor there with this blog, except to say that this post isn’t an April fool—it’s just my regular recap of the movies I’ve caught up with. There were more than listed here, though, because I did full reviews of a bunch of my catch up movies. In fact, almost half of the movies I removed from the giant list ended up with full reviews.

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Castle Freak Out

Film: Dawn Breaks Behind the Eyes (Hinter den Augen die Dämmerung)
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on Fire!

I get interested in a movie for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, it’s the director or the people involved. Sometimes it’s as simple as an evocative name. That was definitely the case with Dawn Breaks Behind the Eyes (called Hinter den Augen die Dämmerung in the original German, which oddly translates as “Twilight behind the eyes”). I wanted to see this because the name is unusual and hinted at a number of possibilities.

It's also a film that is really difficult to fully explain in any narrative sense. That’s not to say that there isn’t a narrative here (there is), but that it’s one that moves in a lot of different directions at the same time. It’s also a narrative that features a guy literally having his junk torn off his body, so be aware that that’s something that is going to happen at one point.

Saturday, March 25, 2023

...and the Spiders of Mars

Film: Moonage Daydream
Format: DVD from Sycamore Public Library on basement television.

As a casual fan of David Bowie, I wasn’t really sure how to approach Moonage Daydream, the approved documentary film on Bowie using a substantial amount of archival footage. It’s nearly impossible to be my age and not know at least something about Bowie, of course. In terms of my musical tastes, Bowie was less important to me early on than the other prog rock acts my brothers listened to when I was very young. It was probably around the Let’s Dance era that I listened to him more in earnest, despite knowing the earlier work through my brothers to some extent.

It's hard to say that Moonage Daydream is a warts-and-all biopic, because it’s not really that sort of movie. It’s a movie that is very much from Bowie’s own point of view. So, while this is going to provide a particular perspective on his life and work, it’s also going to be a perspective that feels honest and important. Much of what makes this interesting is the fact that David Bowie reinvented himself regularly; the same guy who did Ziggy Stardust also did Modern Love and further reinvented himself into a Nine Inch Nails-like band with Tin Machine.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Battle of the Sexes

Film: Doghouse
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on Fire!

It’s not easy to make a new and original zombie movie these days. Zombieland or Shaun of the Dead were relatively original, and The Girl with All the Gifts was very different in many respects, probably the pinnacle of innovation in the subgenre for the last decade. Innovation isn’t always necessary, of course. Train to Busan is straightforward and almost entirely plotless, and it’s fantastic. And that brings us to 2009’s Doghouse, a film that desperately wants to ride on the Shaun of the Dead coattails, albeit half a decade after the fact.

The big innovation for Doghouse is that our zombies are exclusively women, so our main characters are going to be exclusively male. Vince (Stephen Graham) is going through a divorce. His friends decide to cheer him up by taking him to a tiny little village called Moodley, where the women are said to outnumber the men four-to-one. Friend Mikey (Noel Clarke) has managed to secure his grandmother’s house for a few days, and so off the crew goes. In addition to Vince and Mikey, we have Neil (Danny Dyer), Matt (Lee Ingleby), Patrick (Keith-Lee Castle), and Graham (Emil Marwa). The seventh member of the group, Banksy (Neil Maskell) has a number of problems and won’t show up until the third act.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Southern Gothic

Film: Ghosts of the Ozarks
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on Fire!

Movies can be the most frustrating thing sometimes. Ghosts of the Ozarks is a really good example of this. This is a film that desperately wants to have an interesting story to tell and does a lot of things right. And when we get to the end, it spoils all of that with perhaps the most contrived ending possible. There’s a tremendous sense of mystery here that holds promise right up to the point where that mystery is revealed, and it really damages the entire movie.

I’m calling this a Western because there very much is a sense of this being a part of that genre despite it taking place in Arkansas. A doctor named James McCune (Thomas Hobson) is recruited by his uncle (Phil Morris) to attend their community. James goes, but is accosted along the way by a man who, when a red mist comes through the forest, is dragged away by something unseen. James soon locates the town of Norfork, which is hidden behind a massive wall. It’s here that he learns about the ghosts, the creatures that surround the area and both protect the town and harass anyone who goes out at night.

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Everything Gets a Reboot Eventually

Film: Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers
Format: Streaming video from Disney Plus on Fire!

A lot of people have told me in one way or another that the Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers movie was something I should really watch. I honestly don’t watch a lot of animated movies that aren’t specifically on the Oscar list these days, mostly because my kids aren’t hoe any more. I like animation, but it’s not necessarily a style that I seek out. Given all of the hype that I got about it, though, it seemed like it would be a huge mistake to not watch it.

I’m going to drop the take now, so that if you don’t want to read the full review, you don’t have to click the like. It’s good. I enjoyed it a great deal. The voice work is good, the characters are smart, and it’s just self=aware enough to be winking at the audience without really dancing around the points its making. It’s also a film that is very much made for a particular age—later Gen-X and perhaps early Millennials.

Saturday, March 11, 2023


Film: Blonde
Format: Streaming video from NetFlix on Fire!

I can’t say I went in to Blonde with anything other than trepidation. I’d heard enough about it, and nothing really that good about it, so I watched it mostly out of obligation. I decided to get as many movies as possible watched before the Oscars ceremony tomorrow (I’ll still have a lot to do), and this was the longest one I had left that I have immediate access to. And, aside from the Avatar sequel, it’s the one I didn’t want to watch the most.

I’ll say about Blonde something I said about Elvis. Critic Mark Kermode, in his epic takedown of Sex and the City 2 commented that in 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick took us from the birth of the human species to the birth of the next species in 2 hours and 29 minutes, while SatC 2 is 2 hours and 26 minutes and goes essentially nowhere. Blonde is 2:47, nearly three hours.

Friday, March 10, 2023

Mirror Mirror

Film: The Night House
Format: Streaming video from Hulu Plus on Fire!

Is there anything in the world more frustrating in movies than a film that doesn’t live up to the promises of the first two acts and ends with a lackluster third act? That’s the situation I have with The Night House, a film that is in that rare group of stories that in places made all the hair on my arms raise up. This starts with such a great premise and builds on it, going in some truly unexpected and wonderful directions, and then ends with such a tame conclusion that I ended up wonder how it could have lost such power.

Beth (Rebecca Hall) lives alone in a house on a lake. We learn soon enough that she is recently alone and that her husband Owen (played in memories and the like by Evan Jonigkeit) took a boat out on the lake and shot himself, leaving a cryptic note. She does her best to hold things together, but her friend and coworker Claire (Sarah Goldberg) and her neighbor Mel (Vondie Curtis-Hall) are concerned about what has happened and the toll it is taking on her.

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Witchy Woman

Film: Hellbender
Format: Streaming video from Amazon Prime on Fire!

Indie films are such a crapshoot sometimes. Sometimes you get The Evil Dead and sometimes you get The Room. Horror is a genre that works really well for indies, though, and for low-budget filmmakers. If you’re making your own thing, you can take stories in a lot of strange directions. If you don’t have a studio breathing down your neck, you can avoid the sort of narrative tropes that are demanded of you for monetary reasons. Hellbender is that sort of vision. It’s a film that has a singular vision and is carried out by its creators, who happen to be a family; most of the cast and main crew of this film are related to each other.

We are presented with teenaged Izzy (Zelda Adams) and her unnamed mother (Toby Poser, who is actually Zelda Adams’s real-life mother). They live in a house in the forest, isolated from the rest of the world; Izzy is homeschooled and we eventually learn that she has been told that she has a serious immunodeficiency, although we will also learn that what she is told she has is general experienced only by genetic males and usually causes them to die in childhood. Among the things that Izzy and her mother do, aside from eating what they can forage from the forest, is play original heavy metal as a bass/drum duet in a band they call Hellbender. They rehearse in full costume, which usually involves heavy makeup, but because of Izzy’s condition, they never play out anywhere; it’s just for them.

Sunday, March 5, 2023

Eat the Rich

Film: Triangle of Sadness
Format: Streaming video from Hulu Plus on various players.

Every year, I have good intentions of watching as many of the Oscar movies that are relevant to me before the ceremony as possible. I usually fail pretty miserably and am still struggling to complete the short list at the end of the year (or even in January, as happened this year). So, I was excited to see Triangle of Sadness appear on Hulu the other day, because it was another one to cross off the list, putting me at more than half of the Best Picture nominees with a few weeks still to go. That’s pretty good for me.

I went into this completely cold. I knew nothing about it, and didn’t even know that this is a comedy. It is, but it’s going to take us some time to get there. It starts as a sort of ugly romance between two very superficial people. We’re going to be dealing with Carl (Harris Dickinson) and Yaya (Charlbi Dean), who are both professional models. Yaya is also an influencer, which is a big part of how the two of them live. What we learn early on is that the two of them are a couple, but it’s in large part for show. Yaya, despite making more money than Carl, expects him to pay for everything. We also learn that Yaya is with Carl in large part because it helps her get more followers on Instagram. Her eventual goal—her “way out of this life”—is to snag a very wealthy husband and live as a trophy wife, a fate that Carl decides he will save her from.

Saturday, March 4, 2023

What I've Caught Up With, February 2023

So February was interesting. We've been remodeling our kitchen, which has thrown life in disarray. It looks like another two weeks to finish things up. That kind of affected my movie consumption, but not terribly. I also made it through all of Elementary and we finished Ted Lasso until the next season drops. It never feels like I make any real progress on the big list, though--every time I watch a movie, someone else suggests a new one.

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Next Stop: Violence

Film: Bullet Train
Format: Streaming video from NetFlix on Fire!

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last decade plus watching movies that would often be classified as important and meaningful. I’m okay with that, but sometimes you don’t want to think or have deep feelings. Sometimes, you just want to watch things blow up. Fortunately for those of us who sometimes just want to watch the world burn, one of the few things that we have done well in the last 10 years is that we have just about perfected the action movie. While I wouldn’t call it Exhibit A, we need to put Bullet Train on that list.

For the record, I think this trend probably started with Die Hard and has continued (but is not limited to) Dredd, Mad Max: Fury Road, and The Raid: Redemption among others. Bullet Train is very much an action-comedy. What this means is that we’re going to have a lot of fights and a substantial number of deaths, but a lot of it is going to be done (successfully) for laughs.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Deliverance II

Film: Rituals
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on Fire!

“Fish out of water” films are a real thing, and they are an odd little sub-category of horror and horror-tangential films. Probably the most famous of them is Deliverance, but it would be a mistake to think that Deliverance clones like Southern Comfort aren’t in some way a response to that film. Even The Descent has some connection—put city folk in the wilderness and, essentially, see what happens. The Hills Have Eyes, Cabin Fever, and even movies like The Naked Prey, Straw Dogs, and Wake in Fright have some connection to the subgenre. Stuck right in the middle of these, almost exactly between Deliverance and Southern Comfort is Rituals, which was also released under the much more B-movie title The Creeper.

Rituals is very clearly a film that wants to be Deliverance. In fact, it is essentially a Canadian version of that film with a lot less star power, since our main star is Hal Holbrook, and that’s about all we’ll get for major players of the time. We have a group of doctors who knew each other in med school who get together for a yearly trip, the planning of which rotates between the people in the group. This time, the planning was done by D.J. (Gary Reineke), and the trip is a fishing/camping/hiking vacation in northern Ontario. Along for the trip are Harry (Hal Holbrook), Mitzi (Lawrence Dane), D.J.’s brother Martin (Robin Gammell) and Abel (Ken James).