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.