Saturday, November 4, 2023

What I've Caught Up With, October 2023

I did a lot better catching up on movies in October. It helped that I had already pretty much set up the Halloween reviews, so I wasn't pressured into watching movies for that. In addition to the eight movies below, I knocked out a few others that got full reviews, notably Gaia and John Wick IV. I also caught up on a little TV--the latest season of Good Omens,and a few seasons further into The Blacklist, as well as most of both seasons of The Bear. As the year starts to wind down, I'm looking forward to the possibility of a few quiet weeks..not that this is likely to happen.

What I’ve Caught Up With, October 2023:
Film: The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 (2011)

I was born in 1967, which is where this documentary starts in discussing the Black Power movement and the push for continued civil rights after the Civil Rights movement, so this is nothing that I have conscious knowledge of in terms of memory. The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 is a Swedish documentary that looks at this period and the struggles of the Black American population. Interviews with important members of the movement—Angela Davis, Stokely Carmichael, and more—as well as more current thinkers are included. It’s a fascinating document, and a frustrating one at the same time. For as far as this society may have come racially, we honestly haven’t come that far.

Film: Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023)

Sometimes when I watch a newer movie, I do a full review. Sometimes, as is the case here, the film isn’t worth it. The Marvel films, aside from Spider-Man, have felt really unfocused since Endgame. I know they are building to something, but they all feel disconnected aside from hints about the Multiverse. The real thing is this—I like the Spider-Man characters. And, while I like Paul Rudd, I don’t give a damn about any of the characters in the Ant-Man-iverse. More than any MCU property to this point since the original Iron Man when all of this was just a thought, this feels like a stand-alone film, and feels like a film I don’t care about.

Film: House Party (1990)

There’s a great deal of connective tissue between House Party and Friday. Essentially plotless, this features rap/comedy duo Kid ‘N Play (Christopher Reid and Christopher Martin) as high school students preparing for a party at Play’s house while his parents are gone. Kid collects trouble—a trio of gangsters at school want to beat him, his father wants to punish him for getting into a fight, and both he and Play are fighting over two girls, Sharane (A.J. Johnson) and Sidney (Tisha Campbell). Hijinks ensue. There’s also a few racist cops—a trope that has sadly not aged, as well as a lot of homophobia, which has definitely aged poorly.

Film: Leave No Trace (2022)

Any organization the focuses on children has the potential for abuse. We’ve certainly seen this with not merely the Catholic Church but with religious organizations in general. It’s also something that we have seen with The Boy Scouts of America. Leave No Trace is a documentary about the Boy Scouts and the abuse scandal. The filmmakers talk to victims and to employees of the BSA as they explore how this happened. The parallels with the Catholic Church are disturbing, frequent, and deep, including the way that the organization shifted scout leaders to different communities rather than confront the thousands of instances of abuse. It’s dark, but the sunlight of a documentary is the start of what clears this up.

Film: Apollo 10 ½: A Space Age Childhood (2022)

A sort of fantasy that posits that the first moon landing was actually earlier and piloted by a lone child because the lunar module was built too small, this is really a slice of nostalgia for the late 1960s. I’m not quite old enough for this to be nostalgic for me, but I very much get the sense of it. It’s a love letter to those years, and the landing we’re told is young Stan (Milo Coy in the story and Jack Black as the narrator) is really the actual moon landing. It’s sweet, and while it touches on social elements of the time—Civil Rights, Vietnam—the focus really is on the landing and the world that it occurred in. The animation is rotoscope-ish, and it only adds to the story.

Film: Strange World (2022)

About as subtle as a kick to the groin, Strange World has clearer environmental message than Wall-E did. A father/son explorer team (Dennis Quaid and Jake Gyllenhaal) split when the son discovers a plant that provides electrical power. Years later, that plant seems to be dying off, necessitating an expedition to discover why. This leads to a whole new undiscovered world. While the message is definitely there, this is definitely a movie that wants to focus on the visuals more than anything else. Better than its reputation; it has a lot of 1-star reviews because it features Disney’s first openly-gay main character.

Film: Baby, the Rain Must Fall (1965)

This feels like Steve McQueen’s version of Cool Hand Luke, although this came out first by a couple of years. A singer named Henry Thomas (McQueen) gets out of prison after stabbing someone in a bar fight. His wife (Lee Remick) comes to meet up with him, bringing their daughter (Kimberly Block). Henry wants to restart his career, but is beholden to the woman who raised him, who demands to give up singing and get a straight job. Henry might not be able to do it, though, and can’t seem to reconnect with his wife. A story about a troubled soul, the biggest issue is that McQueen was clearly dubbed for the singing.

Film: Fallen Angel (1945)

Drifter Eric Stanton (Dana Andrews) wanders into town and immediately falls for diner waitress Stella (a sultry Linda Darnell). Wanting her for himself but knowing she will demand everything from him, he woos local rich girl June (Alice Faye) so he steal her money and run off with Stella. But when Stella turns up murdered, Eric’s plans change. A very strange noir and a very strange love triangle, Fallen Angel takes some time to get going and includes a weird side plot abut a spirit medium (John Carradine) that serves as a way to introduce June, but goes a long way for that small reward. Not bad, but definitely not what is expected from the style.


  1. The only films I've seen are House Party (which is awesome, I refuse to watch the remake as Lebron sucks) and Ant-Man & the Wasp: Quantumania as the latter was a major disappointment. Not only were some minor characters from previous films like Scott's ex-wife and her husband, Luis, Kurt, and Dave not in the film as I really liked those characters. The humor at times was forced and there wasn't enough urgency into the suspense. Jonathan Majors and Michelle Pfeiffer were awesome but Kang was in the wrong film as I had a lot of issues with the script as it's the one film in the MCU so far that I don't think I want to revisit.

    1. I'm with you on Quantumania. It felt like a kind of dumb stand-alone film. Honestly, it felt a lot like the remakes of Jumanji, but not as fun or as funny.

  2. There are several of these I’ve yet to see, or in some cases I’ll never see, but The Black Power Mixtape is the most intriguing to me of those unseen. I’m a bit older than you and remember how incendiary Angela Davis was considered at the time (almost but not quite on par with Bernadette Devlin in Ireland) and how both revolutionary and unsettled the world seemed on that front.

    I also like Paul Rudd and much to my surprise I liked the first Ant-Man film but that was enough! Stop already.

    Of the rest I’ve only seen the last two. Steve McQueen gives an interesting performance in Baby the Rain Must Fall and is as always wildly charismatic but as much as he tries and as good as his work is I can’t help but feel he was the wrong actor for this particular part. Had Elvis Presley not cashed in his chips by this time as far as any significant desire to make serious films he would have fit the role well. Plus playing against a performer as skillful as Lee Remick and being guided by director Richard Mulligan would have challenged him to work towards a real performance as it did when he made King Creole with Michael Curtiz and was up against Carolyn Jones and Walter Matthau. As the film stands now Steve is good but the standout is Lee Remick as the ever hopeful always disappointed but steadfast Georgette. The film is a bit rambling, but Ernest Laszlo stark black and white cinematography captures the dusty small-town Texas setting in a way color never could.

    I think I liked Fallen Angel a bit more than you, but I agree it does lose its way after a certain point. That point would be when Linda Darnell exits the picture. I know I’m prejudiced in her favor but this time I think it’s fair to say that she is the picture’s MVP. Stella is the most interesting character in the film and Linda gets under her skin more than any of the other performers do with their roles exposing both her avarice and vulnerability. She jolts the film to life when she enters the scene and once gone the film never regains its footing. Dana Andrews is solid but as much as I love Alice Faye she doesn’t belong in this movie. It was actually a turning point for her. She had wearied of being 20th Century Fox’s Technicolor musical queen (with Betty Grable assuming that mantle) and wanted to do more serious films waiting until she found a script she liked. This was the one she selected but behind her back Zanuck cut it to spotlight Linda over her to her fury. She walked out on her contract and didn’t make another film for over 15 years.

    1. You might find Apollo 10 1/2 interesting, since a great deal of it is pure nostalgia for that time. You likely have some more solid memories of this than I do. Even a couple of years older than me puts you aware of the moon landing, which is just a bit before my time--I was about 2.

      Elvis would have been very interesting as Henry Thomas. He'd have the musical chops to pull it off and he'd match well with Lee Remick. I like Steve McQueen and am predisposed to like him in films, but I agree he's the wrong choice for this one, even though the performance is fine.

      I think my one-word description of Fallen Angel is "misfocused." The film is fine, and I agree that Darnell is the standout. She's by far the most interesting character on screen, if only because she rises above the stereotype that the role seems to want to touch on and avoid. She makes that work, and the film does suffer when she's not on screen.