Friday, April 12, 2024

Country House

Film: The Haunting of Bly Manor
Format: Streaming video from NetFlix on various players.

Horror, in general, is a short-form genre. It’s hard to maintain fear for a long period of time in media. As long as we care a little bit about the characters and they are in danger, we’re going to have something at stake in the way the story plays out. There’s a reason, though, that the longest horror movies tend to be anthologies, and a lot of them are 90 minutes or shorter. That makes the idea of a horror miniseries (like American Horror Story) kind of anathema, and it’s one of the reasons I find AHS to be vastly overrated in general. Mike Flanagan seems to have found the formula, though, and The Haunting of Bly Manor is a solid entrant into the genre.

The biggest knock against The Haunting of Bly Manor is that he hasn’t ever matched the power and the horror that he managed from his first mainstream horror miniseries, The Haunting of Hill House. Flanagan also did Midnight Mass, The Fall of the House of Usher, and The Midnight Club. I haven’t seen the latest two of those, but I almost certainly will. While Hill House is his best work (that I’ve seen) in this genre, it’s also the best work anyone has done (that I’ve seen) for a horror miniseries. That this is a step down is no insult; almost anything would be.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Down the Tubes

Film: Creep (2004); Death Line (Raw Meat)
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on Fire!

Sometimes, a horror movie is just a variation on a theme. You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a horror movie that is about some sort of subterranean humanoid or critter that hunts humans for one reason or another. Creep from 2004 is yet another entrant into this particular category of horror movies. The location here is the London Underground and the creature is some form of mutated human. This is a pretty standard entry in this genre; if you’ve seen Death Line, you’ve seen this in large part.

We start with Arthur (Ken Campbell) and George (Vas Blackwood) working in the sewers under London. They find a tunnel in one of the walls and Arthur goes to explore it. George eventually follows him and discovers Arthur injured and in shock. Moments later, a woman appears, screaming for help, only to be dragged off into the darkness.

Monday, April 8, 2024

Unreliable Narrator

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

I think it’s easier to be a hypochondriac today than it was a few decades ago. We have the internet now, and we have WebMD that tells us that every set of symptoms we type into it is indicative of cancer. Hypochondriac, from a couple of years ago, is honestly less about this sort of desperate fear of illness and belief of severe illness than it is about severe mental and emotional trauma. This is not a fun and cuddly horror film, but one that descends into those depths of mental illness unflinchingly.

It's also worth saying at the top that Hypochondriac is very much a gay movie. If you are going to watch this, you’re going to have to be very comfortable with not just gay characters but with full-frontal male nudity, and a baby step away from gay porn. I say this not in judgment, but as a sort of warning for people who are going to be upset by this. If that’s going to bother you, Hypochondriac is going to be a movie that you will not get through.

Saturday, April 6, 2024

What I've Caught Up With, March 2024

In terms of watching 400 movies by the end of the year, I dropped back a little in March, but I’m very much on pace to average a movie per day for the year. I also knocked out some of my Oscar list, including the longest film in the queue. Television-wise, I finished all 14 seasons of Archer and also managed the Wheel of Time series on Prime…and I might be done with that one. I genuinely don’t like the characters, even if the world building is spectacular.

Thursday, April 4, 2024

They Did the Mash

Film: The Monster Squad
Format: DVD from Bourbonnais Public Library through interlibrary loan on basement television.

There aren’t a lot of kid-friendly horror movies. There are a few that are rated so that kids can see them--The Haunting is rated G and Poltergeist is evidence that it’s possible to make a genuinely scary PG movie, but these are not movies I’d put in front of a sixth grade kid. Even ParaNorman and Monster House have some genuinely upsetting moments. This is where a film like The Monster Squad comes in, at least in theory. There’s a reason that this is very much a cult movie, though. The true market for the film is a pre-teen audience, and the film is rated PG-13.

This is admittedly a hard line to walk, which is why this didn’t hit the PG mark. There’s some swearing (including a five-year-old girl being called a bitch) and references to sex as well as the sort of violence that is necessary when dealing with creatures like Dracula and the werewolf. Honestly, there may not be a legitimate way to have done this and kept it PG. The fact that’s it’s PG-13 is due entirely to the fact that this was at least partially from the pen of Shane Black, who is always reliable.

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

The Music, Man

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

Bradley Cooper appears desperate for validation. The man has 12 Oscar nominations, five for acting, but no joy yet. One has to imagine that there’s a part of him that is struggling mightily to live down his early years in front of the camera in some desperate attempt for legitimacy, but it’s not like other actors haven’t had to do this. Tom Hanks won consecutive Oscars, and the guy did Bachelor Party and The Money Pit. Maestro is Cooper’s latest attempt for Oscar glory, and while I’ve liked some of his work in the past, I’m unimpressed in general with this one.

The biggest reason for this is a variation of the reason I was so disappointed in The Theory of Everything. If someone is going to do a biopic of Stephen Hawking, you’d think that the focus would be on the man’s work—on the incredible things he was able to accomplish and the jumps forward he made in theory, but the film focused on his marriage. In much the same way, the biopic of Leonard Bernstein (Cooper) should focus on the man’s music—he redefined the American musical in significant ways—and it instead focuses on the fact that despite his marriage and three children, he evidently couldn’t get over his craving for “the d.”

Monday, April 1, 2024

Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?

Film: House of Whipcord
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on Fire!.

There was a time in the 1960s when a particular brand of movie fan wanting a thrill looked for a particular genre known as the “nudie cutie,” which is exactly what you think it was. Those who didn’t get enough of a thrill from basic titillation went for the similar but different subgenre known as “roughies,” which featured all of the nudity with a lot more violence. What we get in a film like House of Whipcord is essentially a roughie with a lot less nudity. The plot, though, is essentially a “beautiful women behind bars” story, but without the sex. After all, we still need to be mildly respectable for the British public.

House of Whipcord will be about the plight of Ann-Marie Di Verney (Penny Irving), a At a gallery showing, she is shocked to discover that her photographer boyfriend is displaying a photo of her being arrested for public nudity, a crime for which she had to pay a small fine. Embarrassed by this, she dumps her boyfriend, but then immediately finds herself attracted to another partygoer, a guy named Mark (Robert Tayman).

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

His Hair was Perfect

Film: Wolf
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on Fire!.

There’s something very teenager-y about a lot of the classic movie monsters. Nowhere is that more the case than with werewolves. Werewolves are the ultimate teenagers—they get filled with urges that they can’t control and they sprout hair all over their bodies. The fact that in Wolf it happens to a late-50s Jack Nicholson is beside the point. The fact that he becomes more or less a creature of his urges like the average horny 16-year-old boy is what makes it a classic werewolf story.

New York book editor Will Randall (Nicholson) is driving in New England and hits a wolf with his car. This is very much out of the normal range for wolves, and when he gets out to check on the animal, he is bitten. In a movie called Wolf, you can pretty much bet that the wolf that bit him wasn’t a normal wolf, and of course that’s going to be the case. We also discover that the publisher he works for has just been purchased by a billionaire named Raymond Alden (Christopher Plummer), who is making some changes. One of those changes is offering Will a significant demotion or no job; Will is being replaced by his protégé Stewart Swinton (James Spader). This is also where Will meets Laura Alden (Michelle Pfeiffer), Raymond’s wayward daughter.

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Dropping In

Film: Anatomy of a Fall (Anatomie d’une Chute)
Format: Streaming video from Hulu on rockin’ flatscreen.

Sandra Hüller had a really good 2023. She was one of the stars of The Zone of Interest, dwhich was nominated for Best Picture and won Best Foreign Language Feature. She also starred in Anatomy of a Fall, which was also nominated for Best Picture. In 2017, Michael Stuhlbarg was in three of the nine Best Picture nominees—a damn solid year. I think Hüller might have had the better year. While she was in 20% of the Best Picture nominees rather than 33%, she also managed a Best Actress nomination.

The inciting incident here is the fall of the title. Novelist Sandra Voyter (Hüller) has to postpone an interview with a student because her husband Samuel (Samuel Theis) starts playing music extremely loud. Their vision-impaired son Daniel (Milo Machado-Graner) takes his dog Snoop out for a walk. When he returns, he finds his father’s body on the ground, evidently having fallen from the third story of their chalet.

Sunday, March 17, 2024

Osage, Can You See

Film: Killers of the Flower Moon
Format: Streaming video from Apple TV on basement television.

My latest quarter in school ended Friday and my grades are due tomorrow, but I finished them this morning. It seemed like a good time to knock out the longest movie on my list, Martin Scorsese’s latest magnum opus Killers of the Flower Moon. I went into this expecting something like a mystery. Turns out that that’s not the case; Killers of the Flower Moon is a gangster movie. It’s just a gangster movie that takes place in 1920s Oklahoma, involves the Osage people, and is about oil. Still, it’s very much a gangster movie.

After World War I, Ernest Burkhart (Leonardo DiCaprio) shows up in Oklahoma at the behest of his uncle, William King Hale (Robert De Niro). King Hale runs a ranch, aided by Ernest’s brother Byron (Scott Shepherd). The ranch is in Osage country, and in previous years, oil was discovered on Osage land, making the people fabulously wealthy. And this is the problem—the Osage have the oil rights, but because they are native, they don’t have any real power. And so they start dying, and their deaths are not investigated.

Thursday, March 14, 2024

Christmas Breakdown

Film: The Holdovers
Format: Streaming video from Peacock on rockin’ flatscreen.

As my current quarter winds down, I’ve decided I need to start hitting the Oscar movies from the latest year rather than just thinking about it. There are a bunch I still can’t find (yet), but it’s worth knocking a few out. There are a few I’m looking forward to, but I figured I would start with The Holdovers, only because I got a late start tonight and I didn’t have time for anything much longer. This is one I’ve been wanting to watch since it showed up on Peacock, and tonight I finally got the chance.

The Holdovers takes place at the end of 1970 in the environs of Barton Academy, a New England boarding school for the scions of wealthy families. As the year winds to a close, the school takes a two-week break and most of the students go home to family. Five students are left behind—there were supposed to be only four, but the fifth, Angus Tully (Dominic Sessa), gets a last minute call from his mother, who wants a proper honeymoon with her new husband. The teacher being left in charge is Paul Hunham (Paul Giamatti). The only other person left at the school is Mary (Da’Vine Joy Randolph), the school’s cook, who has just lost her son in Vietnam.

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Boris the Spider

Film: Tarantula
Format: Internet video on Fire!

There’s an entire genre of giant monster movies, many of which appeared on Mystery Science Theater 3000. Movies like The Killer Shrews, The Deadly Mantis, The Giant Leeches, The Giant Gila Monster and more were all over the 1950s. Them! is one of the original greats, taking a normal creature and growing it to gigantic proportions. Even humans got into the act with The Amazing Colossal Man and Attack of the 50-Foot Woman. Tarantula is naturally in the same vein, and the monster in this case is not a surprise.

It’s also worth noting that Tarantula feature the talents of one John Agar in the main role. Agar originally made what bones he had playing second fiddle to John Wayne in films like She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and Sands of Iwo Jima and by being married to Shirley Temple for a few years. On his own, as a leading man, Agar was typically in B-movies, often as a scientist who knew everything and, more often than anything else, spouted a bunch of nonsense. Bluntly, most of his movies were terrible, or at least dumb. It’s hard to take someone seriously when the sweet spot of his career includes films like The Mole People and Attack of the Puppet People.

Saturday, March 9, 2024

May Thy Knife Chip and Shatter

Film: Dune: Part Two
Format: AMC Market Square 10

I was doing very well keeping up with a pace of 400 movies on the year, and then this past week happened. Work was an absolute beast this last week and among other things included a presentation to about three dozen people who, at least in part, are higher up in the food chain than I am. It was terrifying, and in the busiest week of my quarter, I lost about a full day preparing for it. I try to be done working by noon on Friday each week, and yesterday, I worked past 8pm. So, as a treat, I went to see Dune Part Two tonight with my wife’s cousin Jon.

I don’t go to the theater that often. In fact, I think you can probably count the number of movies I have seen in the theater since Dune Part One on one hand. Regardless, because of my bizarre connection to the Dune-iverse, I knew I was going to see this when it came out, albeit a week or so after it opened. I’ve been looking forward to this since last year, when the release date was moved from November of last year to this March.

Sunday, March 3, 2024

What I've Caught Up With, February 2024 Part 2

I caught up a lot on television in February as well. I finally finished 30 Rock, and I also finally go through the end of The Blacklist (because I had to wait for it to show up on NetFlix streaming). I've been watching Archer lately, which is wildly inappropriate but also ridiculously funny. Let's see where March goes.

Saturday, March 2, 2024

What I've Caught Up With, February 2024 Part 1

I ended February with a total of 65 movies watched on the year, which is one short of the pace to hit 400 for the year. Based on the last couple of years I’ve had, that’s actually surprisingly good. I took a bunch of films off the list in February—there’s a solid dozen that will be reviewed today and tomorrow, but a few of the full reviews I’ve put up this past month have been from the big list as well. Additionally, there are a few more that are likely to show up around Halloween. Honestly, I’m surprised I got this many watched. Look for more tomorrow.

Friday, March 1, 2024

Incursion of the Torso Grabbers

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

I get the desire to play with the ideas of an established story. You can connect to your audience by giving them something they already have a connection to. You have to do a lot less work because you are already playing with not merely established tropes but with established plot points and concepts. And, importantly, you can feel like you’ve added something meaningful to an established piece of fiction. Look at The Lion King picking the corpse of Hamlet, for instance. This brings us to The Changed, a movie that desperately wants to play with the ideas of Invasion of the Body Snatchers without saying it’s doing so in so many words.

I’ve seen multiple movie versions of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and I’ve read the book a couple of times. I recommend the book; it’s fantastic, and the audiobook is a great version of it, too. There’s a sequence in the book as well as the original film where the pod people confront the doctor and his girlfriend and more or less explain what has happened and the reality of the invasion. It’s a great scene because it shows the insidiousness of what is happening and the new reality of those who have been converted. Now, imagine that scene blown up to the length of a feature film. That, friends and neighbors, is The Changed.

Thursday, February 29, 2024

Broke(n) Back Mountain

Film: The Spine of Night
Format: Streaming video from Amazon Prime on Fire!

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when I loaded up The Spine of Night today, but whatever my expectations were, they weren’t what I got. I don’t know if there’s a clear way to describe this except to suggest that it is as close as possible to a sequel to Heavy Metal as you can get without actually being a sequel. It feels exactly like a much more violent version of the Tarna story at the end of the film. If you’ve seen Heavy Metal, you know exactly how violent the final story is, and it’s not a patch on what happens in The Spine of Night.

There’s a lot here that reminds me of Heavy Metal starting with the rotoscoped animation. Traditional rotoscoping runs at 12 frames/second, so it always looks a little jittery. It also, while it tells a specific story, feels episodic in nature. We start with Tzod (Lucy Lawless), a new swamp priestess climbing up huge mountain to find a man called the Guardian (Richard E. Grant). She confronts the Guardian about a magical plant called the Bloom, one that he is sworn to protect, but she reveals that she has the same flower.

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Among Us

Film: Werewolves Within
Format: Streaming video from Hulu Plus on Fire!

I’ve seen an interview with Joe Dante talking about The Howling specifically as a film that he had to more or less hide the subject matter from the public on. If people knew it was about werewolves, he said, they would think it was hokey. Of course, The Howling is actually a pretty great werewolf movie. We’ve gotten past that “It would be hokey” mentality, because Werewolves Within is clearly not hiding the fact that it is indeed a werewolf movie. It’s also a comedy, and it manages to walk the line between the two genres pretty well.

In the small town of Beaverton, VT, Finn Wheeler (Sam Richardson) is appointed the new ranger. He shows up to his new position and is soon introduced to pretty much the whole town. Not unlike the town of Perfection in Tremors, Beaverton has about a dozen or so residents, each of them nuttier than the last. Finn is walked around town by Cecily (Milana Vayntrub), the new mail carrier. The biggest news in the town isn’t the arrival of the new forest ranger, but the controversy over a new pipeline set to run through the town. Some of the townsfolk are desperate for the pipeline to go through because they’ll make a good deal of money from it. Others want to preserve the town as it is. This is a tension that will continue throughout the film.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Super Mario Shortcut

Film: How to Blow Up a Pipeline
Format: Streaming video from Hulu Plus on Fire!

I don’t tend to talk politics a lot on this blog because there’s no real reason to do so. It comes up now and then, and there are films I will refuse to watch because of their source, but other than that, this blog is mainly apolitical. It’s impossible to be apolitical when discussing How to Blow Up a Pipeline, though. This is a film where you will either throw in your sympathy wholeheartedly for the group of young people attempting to, well, blow up a pipeline, or you will do the opposite and want to see them thrown to the wolves. Just to make it clear at the top, I’m 100% on the side of the people blowing up the pipeline.

We’re going to get a main narrative of a group of people meeting up, creating explosives, and conspiring to destroy pieces of an oil pipeline in west Texas. Along with this, we’ll get a few side stories introducing us to the people involved. There are a number of intertwined stories here. Xochitl (Ariela Barer) is frustrated with the slow speed at which activism moves and argues for more direct action. This catches the attention of Shawn (Marcus Scribner), who is in the same environmental campus group. Xochitl’s best friend is Theo (Sasha Lane), who is dying of cancer most likely contracted because of oil spills and pollution. Theo is in a relationship with Alisha (Jayme Lawson), who objects to this kind of action. Meanwhile, in the course of making a documentary, Shawn meets Dwayne (Jake Weary), a rancher who has lost some of his family’s land to the pipeline thanks to eminent domain statutes. We’re also going to meet Michael (Forrest Goodluck), a native American who has learned to make explosives, and Logan and Rowan (Lukas Gage and Kristine Froseth), a hippy-like pair who have been recruited for a reason that isn’t immediately apparent.

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Don't Miss the Butter Cow

Film: We’re All Going to the World’s Fair
Format: Streaming video from Hoopla on Fire!

When we dive into the stranger end of the cinematic swimming pool we have to be prepared not just for things to be strange, but for a lot of what we’re seeing to be metaphorical. That’s certainly the case with We’re All Going to the World’s Fair, a film that has been suggested to be about, essentially coming out, something confirmed by the writer/director Jane Schoenbrun, who is nonbinary. There are also potentially themes of gender dysphoria in this, and that’s not too hard to see.

There’s plenty in this movie that is going to pick the bones of some other classic horror. Specifically, this plays in part with the Bloody Mary myth or, movie-wise, Candyman. No one is looking in the mirror and saying the name five times, but there is something very similar happening here, and once it starts, we’re going to go on a very strange ride.

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

That's an Unusual Doorbell Noise

Film: The House that Screamed( La Residencia)
Format: Streaming video from AMC on Fire!

It’s not a shock that there would be some similarities between Italian horror and Spanish horror. The House that Screamed (originally La Residencia) is a film that makes that connection very clear. The film takes place at a girls’ boarding school in France where a series of grisly murders are going to take place. In a sense, this feels like a Spanish Suspiria in large part. It’s a lot more sexually charged, though, with elements of women in prison movies, young girls showering (while clothed, which is oddly more sexual), and some lesbian overtones. I wasn’t sure what to think going into this one, but the reality of the film is very different from what I expected.

Before I talk about this, I need to talk for a moment about where to find the film. It’s currently available on Tubi TV, but the transfer is terrible. It’s grainy and hard to watch, and more importantly, there is a noticeable and terrible hiss. It’s barely watchable. I got about 30 minutes in before I looked for a better version of it, which is available.

Sunday, February 11, 2024

And So We March

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

I tend to try to be more proactive with Oscar nominations once they are announced, but I’ve been slacking off for the past few weeks. It’s time for me to try to get at least a couple done per week since the ceremony is now exactly four weeks away. A lot of the movies aren’t available yet, which means I have to be a lot more selective how what I’m seeing. I figured Rustin, a biopic about Civil Rights organizer Bayard Rustin, would make a good place to start. No need to dive head-first into Best Picture just yet.

On the surface this is a biopic, but it’s much more of a memoir. The way Capote was a film about the writing of In Cold Blood, Rustin is about the creation and execution of the March on Washington, where a quarter of a million people converged on the capital and, among other things, listened to the I Have a Dream speech, arguably the most important and effective oratory of the last 100 years, at least in the U.S.

Saturday, February 10, 2024

Feedback Loop

Film: You Hurt My Feelings
Format: DVD from DeKalb Public Library on basement television

Some actors get typecast, or get known for a specific role and can’t seem to get away from it. Julie Louis-Dreyfus is, for almost everyone in the world, Elaine Benes from Seinfeld. That’s got to be a little frustrating, to have a career that for almost everyone in the world boils down to a single role. I don’t feel sorry for her, mind you—she’s clearly going to be able to live off the residuals if she lived to be 200. But I would imagine that she’s got to want to break away from that sometimes, which is how we get to You Hurt My Feelings.

or High concept movies tend to be action films, but this is a comedy/drama that can be easily summed up in a single sentence. An author working on her second book discovers that her husband doesn’t actually like her book. And really, that’s it. The film is an exploration of that event, but also the idea of honesty and how relationships work.

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Spins a Multiverse, Any Size

Film: Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse
Format: Streaming video from NetFlix on Fire!

Ask a lot of people what the best Marvel movie is and you’ll get a number of different answers, but for my money, you don’t have to look further than Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. It’s a great introduction to the idea of the MCU multiverse (although I don’t really love what they’ve done with it since), so I was interested in the follow-up film. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse picks up kind of where the first one left off, and features the same kind of visual style that made the first film such a surprise.

In fact, there are a number of aspects of this film that can only be described as “frenetic.” We’re going to spend a lot of time in a world where there are hundreds of Spider-people from a variety of dimensions, and many of them will be animated in completely different styles. In that respect, this is kind of like Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

Sunday, February 4, 2024

What I've Caught Up With, January 2024 Part 2

So, here's the rest of what I picked up in January. Eventually, I'll get the list of to-see movies down to something manageable (since it's over 1100 right now). Also worth noting that both Dumb Money and Polite Society were on this list, but got full reviews, so they naturally don't appear here.

Saturday, February 3, 2024

What I've Caught Up With, January 2024 Part 1

Last year was filled with a lot of personal drama, which meant fewer movies watched. Some of that is going away, and I rededicated myself to getting some movies watched, even if I didn't put up a lot of posts. And I did, in fact watch slightly more than a movie per day in January, enough that I have to split this post in two. That means there will be another chunk of movies tomorrow. I also managed to get through all but the last seasons of The Blacklist and 30 Rock, watched the second season of What If...? and also the new Castlevania series.

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Hodl to the Moon

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

No one would ever mistake me for knowing anything much about money. My wife handles the bills because if it were up to me, I’d be late on a bunch of them. Everyone has their talents and mine don’t lie in that area. Because of this, movies like The Big Short tend to go a little over my head. I have to pay a lot of attention to keep up with financial stories because it’s just…beyond me. That makes me kind of the target market for a movie like Dumb Money because I am very much named in the title.

This movie is based on the story of GameStop. More specifically, this is about the GameStop stock explosion that happened during the pandemic. According to the film, and I honestly don’t know how much of this is actually real, a guy named Keith Gill (Paul Dano) noticed that some major investors were shorting GameStop, including hedge fund managers who put significant money into shorting the stock. As I understand it, shorting is basically a bet that the stock will tank—a future promise to buy the stock created by “selling” the stock now. If you “sell” the stock at $10 and it drops to $5, you’ve just made $5 per share. If you think the company is going under—and GameStop certainly looked like it was going to—you sell for whatever the price is and buy it for essentially zero. So Keith decided that the stock was undervalued and started telling people on the Wall Street Bets subreddit on Reddit.

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Closing the Curtain

Film: Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things
Format: Streaming video from Hoopla on Fire!

One of the better ways to get an audience interested in a movie is to have a title that really tells the audience what to expect. There’s absolutely no mistaking what you’re going to get with a film called Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things. This is not going to be a drawing room comedy or a cute rom-com. No, we’re going to be dealing with dead bodies almost certainly coming back to life and causing problems for the “children” too dumb to let the dead rest.

The main thing different from the film title and the film is the nature of the children. We are not going to be witnessing 10-year-olds playing with body parts. Instead, this is going to be the story of an acting troupe wandering in a graveyard at the behest of their director and owner, Alan (Alan Ormsby, who co-wrote the screenplay). Alan is arguably the smuggest wanker to appear in film in the 1970s, and I realize that is saying a lot. One of the ways that he demonstrates how much more important and awesome he is compared with his actors is that he calls them “his children.”

Thursday, January 11, 2024

Who Wants Ice Cream?

Film: The Incredible Melting Man
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on Fire!

I’ve heard it said before that people shouldn’t remake good movies. We already have good versions of those stories, so it’s fair to ask how many additional, potentially good versions of that story we need. There have been what, four different Spider-Man series in the last three decades or so? And how many times do we need to see Bat-man’s origin? No, what we need is remakes of bad movies. Give a story that might have had some legs a second chance if it was screwed up the first time. And then, we get a movie like The Incredible Melting Man, and we learn that this might not be such a good idea after all.

See, this movie feels very much like a remake of a number of terrible science fiction movies from the ‘50s and ‘60s. Any movie from that era where men come back from space and something terrible happens to them (The Crawling Hand) or we get attacked by a single, slow-moving creature (The Creeping Terror), or a nuclear accident makes someone go crazy (The Beast of Yucca Flats) can be seen in this one. But, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, the movie that this is the closest to is the grade-z clownshow Monster a Go-Go.

Sunday, January 7, 2024

Three, Seven, Ace

Film: The Queen of Spades
Format: Streaming video from Amazon Prime on Fire!

There are times when I will get kind of locked onto a particular movie that I can’t find because of the name. That’s definitely been the case for some reason with The Queen of Spades, a late-1940s film that has a number of horror elements. This is very much a period piece, and it has the sort of connection to horror that many films of the time did. This isn’t genuinely scary in any real sense, but it touches on the supernatural and at least tells the audience that there are demonic forces involved. For post-war society, that was probably enough to get people squeamish.

The film takes place in 1806 Russia, in both military and societal circles. The military men spend their time playing a game they call faro, and it seems to be based on a real game. While it’s never fully explained, the game seems to work like this. One player picks a card from his own deck of cards and places it face down. The dealer then goes through his own deck of cards, separating it one by one into two piles. If the player’s card comes up in the dealer’s half of the deck, the dealer wins. If it comes up in the player’s half, the player wins. While the men play, engineer Captain Herman Suvorin (Anton Walbrook) watches, intrigued, but never betting. We learn soon enough that he is far from wealthy, a fact that he attributes to his lack of upward mobility through the ranks.

Saturday, January 6, 2024

What I've Caught Up With, December 2023

I'd love to tell you that my lack of posting last month was because I became entranced with a bunch of movies of my big list of things to watch, but that would be a lie. The truth is that I crossed off only three movies last month, and all of those after Christmas. And, in reality, only two of these were new to me; I've seen Rush Hour at least twice in the past. To put just how bad last month was for me, I've already watched three movies off the list in January.

Thursday, January 4, 2024

Matchmaker?

Film: Polite Society
Format: Streaming video from Amazon Prime on Fire!

It must genuinely be exhausting defining your world by the things that you hate. Polite Society is the sort of film that will absolutely piss off the same crowd that had a temper tantrum at Barbie and boycotted Keurig for being “woke.” Why? Because the main characters are British-Pakistani, and it’s very much a sort of action-fantasy. It’s a fever dream of a film, a ridiculous plot taken completely seriously in the context of the film, and because it does, it works entirely.

Ria Khan (Priya Kansara) is a British teen whose aspiration in life is to become a stunt performer in films. She calls herself “The Fury” and makes videos with the aid of her sister Lena (Ritu Arya), an art school dropout living back at home. While Lena supports her, Ria’s parents Fatima and Rafe (Shobu Kapoor and Jeff Mirza) would prefer a more traditional career and life for her.