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.