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.