Escape (I Get Out When I Can)

So here we are again.

After a period of semi-activity, you may have noticed we went dark last week. There are reasons for this. Folks don’t seem all that interested in my nannydiddering about TV, the only posts that generate traffic are the Crapfest posts – and sadly, reality dictates that we cannot have one of those every week – and I just didn’t have anything to say. Add to that our current antic-driven government is determined to actively break reality by declaring every day to be Opposite Day, allies are enemies, enemies are allies. People who used to wonder about Germany not taking to the streets during the rise of the Third Reich need only look out the window at our own empty streets to get their answer. As a race, I don’t think we are capable of redemption, let alone deserve it.

Also, as you may have noticed, it’s been a while since I could afford my anti-depressants.

So let’s use some movies to get as far the hell away from our current situation as possible, eh?

Can’t be any worse than what’s happening outside my window

One definition of “as far the hell away as possible” is Sherlock Gnomes. I’ve been a Holmes fan since my early days, so why not test my mettle with this? By way of establishing a baseline, I’m okay with the Robert Downey Jr. movies (though that is largely because of Jude Law’s Watson) and am rather ambivalent toward the Benedict Cumberbatch version (increasingly dependent on wackiness). There. Now to this movie.

This is a sequel to 2011’s Gnomeo and Juliet, and if, like me, you did not see that, you’re going to be okay (my wife informs me it was “charming”). The setup, if nothing else, is going to be familiar if you’ve ever been in the same room as a Toy Story movie. We’re dealing with the realm of ornaments, which, like toys, must freeze if a human looks in their direction. Okay?

The movie’s versions of Holmes and Watson are, no surprise, garden gnomes themselves; Moriarty is a renegade mascot doll of a pie company, who delights in smashing gnomes, hence the conflict. At the film’s opening, Moriarty is preparing to drop a dinosaur skeleton on some gnomes trapped in pie filling, only to himself fall victim to the plummeting bones. The gnomes are saved, thanks largely to the super-competent Dr. Watson (though it’s Sherlock who gets all the praise). Our garden gnomes from Gnomeo (including those title characters) move into a council house in London just in time for the apparent resurrection of Moriarty and a mass kidnapping of all the gnomes in London. So Gnomeo and Juliet must join forces with Sherlock Gnomes and Dr. Watson to riddle out Moriarty’s scheme and save the gnomes.

Directed by John Stevenson, who helmed the rather boss Kung Fu Panda, this is a solid kid movie that, when it is allowed to be, gets quite creative and delightful. To get one clue, the team must infiltrate Curly Fu’s Emporium in Chinatown, where the ruler is an enormous golden Lucky Cat (and whose salt shaker spokesperson is a wonderful vocal cameo by James Hong); then a trip to a toy underworld run by Irene Adler, who is voiced by Mary J. Blige. Irene gets a song that, unique among musical numbers in kid movies, did not have me yearning for the fast forward button. The movie also has some non-CGI animation representations of Sherlock’s memory palaces, which are good ways to break up what could have been some visual monotony.

While we’re talking about the voices, I should mention that Johnny Depp is Sherlock Gnomes and Chiwetel Ejiofor is a cracking good Watson. If there is one criticism I would lower upon Sherlock Gnomes, it’s that the major plot driving forward the story is a straight lift from the late Charles Marowitz’s play, Sherlock’s Last Case, which might not be obvious unless, like me, you played Watson in a production, but is nonetheless there. If you cast back your memories a bit, you might recall I’m also the guy who criticized Brotherhood of the Wolf for plagiarizing Richard L. Boyer’s Holmes pastiche The Giant Rat of Sumatra.

I am an astounding repository of information that does me absolutely no good.

Hard science fiction has been in short supply of late. Don’t come banging on my door with what-abouts and but-there-was-es. Most of what is being called “science-fiction” these days is stories from other genres dressed up with zap guns and rocket ships (and, needless to say, laser swords, or “light sabers” if you prefer). You’d think that a successful hard science fiction movie like The Martian would have given us more of the same at the local cinema, but no. It’s expensive and requires some effort.

There’s a reason when I discovered The Expanse midway through its second season I embraced it wholeheartedly. But that only shows that you have to go seeking it on smaller screens. That, also, requires some effort.

I tripped over a trailer for The Beyond mostly by accident. Most genre aficionados know that title belongs to one of Lucio Fulci’s more famous horror movies, so finding it applied to a science fiction flick is… odd.

In the near future, an anomaly opens up in Earth orbit, sucking a spacewalking astronaut right off the International Space Station. Several spheres of an inky, cloud-like substance shoot from the anomaly and take up residence in the upper atmosphere. Typically, some trigger-happy nations fire on the spheres, to no effect. Observation of the anomaly, called “The Void” (another trouble-making possible title right there, there have been at least 14 movies called The Void released in the last couple of years) reveals what seems to be another planet – The Void is a wormhole. Obviously, the only way to find out what’s up with those black spheres is to journey to that planet and ask some questions. The major obstacle to that would be surviving the trip through the wormhole.

Wouldn’t you know, the deepest reaches of the deep state military has been working on an Enhanced Human project, dubbed Soldier 2.0; a tough cybernetic body housing a human brain. Now the trick is to find a willing subject with the skills and knowledge necessary for the mission, who is also willing to become a robot for the rest of his or her now probably very-elongated lifespan.

I enjoyed The Beyond enough to not engage in any real spoilers, except to say that as we enter the third act, the science becomes a little too fantastic and elastic and cosmic and boy do I have questions but all the same it’s pretty cool. This is the first feature film from Hasraf Dulull, formerly known only as a visual effects supervisor, and man, does that show. The budget is pretty low, but the movie has the visual punch of something that cost multi-millions more.

Dulull poking his head out of his assigned cubbyhole also opens him up to the usual offhand cruelties of the online world, probably the most blatant being stuff like “as a writer, Dulull is a good visual effects supervisor”. That’s a bit of unnecessary snark – there’s nothing wrong with this script. The format is unorthodox, as it starts as a in-house puff piece on the head of the space organization and morphs into a documentary about the events that unfold around the Void. That’s a tough format for storytelling, and I’ve only seen it used well a couple of times – but in this instance, that comment really seems a case of “I need to find something bad to say about this or I’m not doing my job as an online critic”.

Eh, I’m probably guilty of the same thing. I’m tired and under-medicated. I’m sure someone will be more than happy to dig up my hypocrisy and wave it around, if that’s the case.

Anyway. I liked it.

So let’s go on to Dulull’s follow-up, 2036: Origin Unknown.

Despite the title, we start in 2030, and a manned flight to Mars. Despite the aid of an advanced AI named ARTi (voice of Steven Cree), the ship encounters a massive magnetic and electrical phenomenon, and crashes.

Okay, now it’s 2036, and ARTi is so advanced it’s devised a means of Hyper-Light radio transmission, which means it is now possible to remotely control a roving device all the way from Earth. Katee Sackhoff (in the midst of that peculiar curse where, if you are in a popular role on a successful sci-fi series, you will thereafter only get work in indifferently-budgeted sci-fi movies) plays Mackenzie Wilson, the human supervisor on the mission. Julie Cox plays Lena, the head of the Space Corporation running the mission. Oh, and they’re sisters. And their father was on that doomed mission.

In the course of the mission, it is discovered what caused the crash, six years earlier: an enormous cube, which, when activated by an outside source – in this case, a Chinese satellite on a collision course being shot down over the cube – the dang thing causes another ruinous electric storm and vanishes – only to show back up again in Antarctica.

This time around, Dulull has another writer to help, Gary Hall, and the result is a more normal storytelling format, though one that is not interested in explaining itself overmuch. I have a lot of questions – a lot – after that third act, and any unraveling I might do over the massive wad of threads presented would be way more work than the movie deserves, frankly. After an hour and twenty minutes of interesting sci-fi thriller the movie turns a sharp corner into extreme cosmic hoo-ha that doesn’t serve anybody very well, but it sure is pretty.

I’m interested to see what Dulull does next, I really am. But 2036 Origin Unknown feels like a step down from The Beyond. Like somebody holding a money bag just out of reach said, “Well, that was nice and brainy, but people want something with a hero they can cheer for, a human villain they can boo and shit blowing up. Do you have anything with shit blowing up?”

To keep this from ending on a completely dour note, let me add that I’ve journeyed to the realm of theaters twice this past week (as in “Hey, didn’t you say you were going to use that MoviePass card until it imploded?”), and I felt good about it both times. Solo: A Star Wars Story was just as much fun as everyone said it was, except for those grumbling fan boys who wanted The Last Jedi to be directed by Zack Snyder on a males-only set. It mainly brought home to me how much I want see more movies in that universe that have absolutely nothing to do with space wizardry, Jedis and Sith. I was so into the story as presented that when a certain bit of fan service cropped up in the end, I actively resented it. My theater had this in one of their small auditoriums, only 39 seats. It was a showing for me and three other people.

Then, today I went to see Hotel Artemis, in a larger auditorium, but still only three other patrons. I had seen the trailers and thought, “Hm, quirky crime drama” and noted that I would likely see anything with that cast (Jodie Foster, Dave Bautista, Sterking K. Brown, Sofia Boutella, Jeff Goldblum, and a surprise appearance by Zachary Quinto). What I was not expecting was near-future science-fiction, a sort of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Cyberpunk! It takes place in 2028, and none of the tech is outlandish. Sadly also not outlandish is the background being a city-wide riot in Los Angeles because the privatized water utility has shut off everyone’s water. I liked it but I didn’t love it. Would recommend it, but you’re likely safe waiting for disc or cable.

Oopsie, got dour again. It happens.

Let Us Remember Crapfest

These are mine and you cannot have them.

If there is one thing that doing Crapfests for mumblemumble years has taught us, they are best with a fighting chance at having the following day off. Therefore, the Sunday before Memorial Day was deemed excellent, and all participated except Paul, who was busy dealing with Real Life. Erik was back, with his burrito bowls, which meant that I ate better than I had all week, and that was a week in which I had made meatloaf, mashed potatoes and gravy, and roast asparagus. In trying to support his efforts, I had made a bean salsa that was well received, and if nothing else, in the time while the chicken and other ingredients for the Bowls were cooking, I rediscovered the youthful joy making of my own nachos with this salsa and the chips and queso Rick had brought.

But, although I am sitting here with a smile of gustatory nostalgia on my face, you are saying Can the balloon juice, professor, what about the movies? You obviously do not care for the finer things in life, but then, neither do we, which is why we have Crapfests.

Max is home for the Summer, and this fest brought Max’s very first contribution, Who Killed Captain Alex? It is very difficult to describe Who Killed Captain Alex? with mere words. It is a Ugandan action movie, shot on a reported budget of under $200. Some of the guns are obvious toys, but most are carved wood and other odds and ends slapped together and painted black. One character, a mercenary from Russia (who is quite obviously not from Russia) has a bandolier of bullets which are patently sharpened sticks. The whole thing is very like when a bunch of friends get together and make a movie for a goof, and director Nabwana IGG treats it almost the same – he rendered it off to a DVD master and then wiped his computer clean so he could make another one, because it was obviously never going to be seen by anyone outside his village.

Enter the Internet.

About the hardest thing our little group of Wakaliwood virgins had to deal with was the Video Joker, VJ Lemmy, who keeps up a running commentary on the movie. As the Wikipedia entry on The Cinema of Uganda informs us (you can tell I was impressed by Who Killed Captain Alex? because I was moved to do research):

Audiences go to video halls where narrators called “video jokers” translate the dialogue and add their own commentary.

so Lemmy is basically a one-man MST3K. At one point he exclaims, “This is how we watch movies in Uganda!” and apparently it is. He also tells us what movie we are watching every ten minutes or so, which seems absurd on the surface but is likely for the benefit of folks who just walked into the video hall a few minutes before. Lemmy is subtitled in yellow, while the movie’s dialogue is in white.

You want a plot? Come on. Okay, the Tiger Mafia is in control of Kampala, so the government sends in their best soldier, Captain Alex, to take control of the commandos and stop the Tiger Mafia and their leader, Richard. Alex’s men arrest Richard’s brother after a pitched battle, and Richard – after learning about it from a special TV bulletin – declares war to get his brother back. Captain Alex is killed, but nobody knows who did it, so his brother – a Ugandan Shaolin Monk – takes on the case.

(Erik: “I wonder if his name is Bruce.” (five minutes later) “Holy crap, his name is Bruce.”)

That’s a great gun, dude.

It’s also only sixty minutes long.

The thing is, those action scenes are actually pretty good. The muzzle flashes and spurting blood may be introductory-level After Effects digital hoohah, but it’s all heartfelt, decently edited, and the CGI helicopter fights at the end… well, they have to be seen to be appreciated.

Have you been good? Do you truly deserve this? Okay, then.

Yeah, yeah, I know, you’re reading this at work (naughty!) and don’t have a hour. Fine. here:

For those of you did watch the full-length video – no, we have no idea who killed Captain Alex. Nobody does. That’s why it’s art.

The food was ready. We ate (not for the first or last time that evening), and Erik brought out his entry: The Man Who Saves the World, or as it is better known around these parts, Turkish Star Wars.

It is called that because, rather famously, it nakedly rips off space battle footage from Star Wars and waves it in your face. Herein lies the very first problem, and probably the reason my only other attempt to watch this movie, many years ago, resulted in failure. We have a lot of cultural baggage associated with that footage, of course – we know who’s flying those ships, what the histories are behind them. The Man Who Saves the World makes no attempt to tell us which of the many vessels whizzing about are being flown by our two heroes, Turkish superstar Cüneyt Arkin and Aytekin Akkaya. They get shot down despite being our heroes, wind up on a desert planet ruled by a spiky Darth Vader wannabe, and aaaaaah who cares. Visit the Wikipedia page for the plot, because that’s the only way I – and hundreds (if not thousands) of others, including the guy who translated it into English – could figure out what was going on. Arkin also has the screen-writing credit, so blame him. Blame him early and often.

Spike Vader has a bunch of Cylon knock-offs and some life-size muppets who are disturbingly easy to pull apart and beat with their own disembodied arms and legs. There’s a mute woman and a prophecy and the most impractical freaking design for a magic sword ever (that comes with its own brain) which Arkin winds up melting down for armored gloves so he can relive his Lion Man glory days, anyway.

This makes me long for the high-tech majesty of Police Robot L in Starcrash.

Turkish cinema of the period (obviously) had a very noncommital and abusive relationship with International Copyright Law, and when we saw the movie was not going to meet us halfway with any sort of actual plot, the survival game became identifying what movie the soundtrack was lifted from at any given moment, Raiders of the Lost Ark being the main victim, but it was joined by Flash Gordon (even ripping off Max von Sydow’s laugh at one point), The Black Hole, and Silent Running.

It also had the first appearance that evening of the character I only refer to as “The Hippie from Birdemic”, a character who appears to offer an info dump that may or may not contain anything pertinent to the story, but certainly fills out the running time. This time it’s a priest who babbles on and on about Islam and lost tribes. Then we’re back to a welter of stolen space warfare and I think the good guys won, maybe.

Now it was time for Dave’s entry, or as he put it, “You don’t get to go yet, because Max counts as you.” This might seem reasonable, but it was still no excuse to put on 1978’s Matilda. Dave has seemingly become the guy who brings up movies played ad infinitum in the afternoon on HBO and Cinemax back in the day (see his earlier selection, Teen Witch).

Clive Revill, Elliott Gould and Art Metrano try to figure out how to get out of this movie.

Elliott Gould would like to forget that he plays down-on-his-luck fight promoter Bernie Bonnelli, who lucks onto the title character, a boxing kangaroo that can take on and best all comers. This leads into a plot where Gould has to convince Boxing Commissioners to allow sanctioned matches, as portrayed by Roy Clark (was it Alan or Rick who observed “This is probably the type of movie that won’t let Roy anywhere near a guitar”? Whichever it was, he was far too right), avoid the bumbling henchmen of mobster Uncle No-No (Harry Guardino), and completely screw over the worldview of his love interest (Karen Carlson), who works for the ASPCA, but eventually admits that exploitation of animals is A-OK, especially if that animal is a man in a suit.

A boy and his demon.

The “Hippie in Birdemic” character was under our noses the entire time in the person of Matilda’s caretaker, Billy Baker (Clive Revill) who reveals that if a boxing kangaroo is ever actually hit, it will never box again just before the climactic match with the world heavyweight champion. Nice timing, Clive.

You might have noticed I have spoken little of our title character. As mentioned, Matilda is a man (Gary Morgan) in a costume. This is spectacularly obvious from the get-go, no effort is made to conceal this fact, although Morgan does bounce up and down in every scene in a nod to method acting. The costume doesn’t even have the decency to try to mask Morgan’s legs, which, being human, the knees bend in the wrong direction. The head is immobile, impassive. If Quint were describing it, he would mention that it has “dead eyes, a doll’s eyes” which doubtless roll up when the kangaroo gets its first taste of blood.

Max found it frankly terrifying.

“Fook ‘im oop, Matilda!”

The IMDb does cough up this bit of trivia:

Producer Albert S. Ruddy once said of this movie: “We debated over using both a real kangaroo and an actor in costume and opted for the latter as cross-cutting proved too jarring for the viewer. However the costume was a $30,000 investment that paid off as it not only allowed freedom of movement, but we were able to program it with transistors to allow us to direct the actor’s tiniest gesture”.

If by “tiniest gesture” you mean “absolutely none”, then that is not a totally delusional quote. Matilda does manage to get in a few ear twitches and blinks, but doesn’t manage a curl of the lip until after the final fight. Maybe it took that long for the operators to get the hang of those $30,000 transistors.

Here, try to ignore that Robert Mitchum is somehow involved in this, and that in that final shot Matilda is staring DIRECTLY INTO YOUR SOUL:

So now it was my turn, and after Turkish Star Wars and Matilda, I was not about to apologize for what I was going to do, and what I was going to do was R.I.P.D.

I could tell you the plot of R.I.P.D., but it would be easier to just say “take the plot of Men in Black, substitute dead people for aliens, Ryan Reynolds for Will Smith, Jeff Bridges for Tommy Lee Jones, Mary-Louise Parker for Rip Torn, and omit the talking pug.” It is fair to say that this movie was the point at which America was actively begging Hollywood to stop trying to make Ryan Reynolds happen. I guess that path eventually leads to the Deadpool movies, but man, that period was rough going.

This is also the year that Jeff Bridges decided he was going to use all his funny voices.

Here’s that mercenary from Russia to remind you of back when we were having fun.

R.I.P.D. was one of the few times I’ve brought a movie to Crapfest without viewing it first; Max knew I had a copy (bought used, and I scrawled “Please! We’ll pay YOU!” over the price tag. Great fun at parties!) and asked that I wait until his return to show it. It’s not a truly baaaaaad movie, just excessively predictable, and kinda pathetic in that way that you can’t even make fun of it. How the hell you manage to do that with a movie that stars Jeff Bridges and features James Hong and Kevin Bacon is beyond me (please, nobody bring up Seventh Son). And now Alan hates me because he paid money to see it in the theater.

Aaaah, he probably hated me anyway. Also, Erik has unfriended me on Facebook.

It was decided that we could cram in one more movie before we all turned into pumpkins, and Dave thoughtfully provided The Great Bikini Off-Road Adventure. A return to Crapfest basics, as it were (as I told you last time, the roots of ancient Crapfest can be found in huge marble tablets that read, simply, T&A) .

We’re in Utah, and Uncle Duke’s (Floyd Irons) jeep tour business is in trouble, and you can bet it’s all due to the company that wants to strip-mine the desert (boooo!) He asks his niece Lori (Lauren Hayes) for advice (since she just got her “lawyer license”), as he needs to come up with ten grand in a month to stave off Evil Capitalists Inc. Lori and her vacationing girl pals take over the jeep tours, then discover that they can charge twice as much when they conduct the tours in their bikinis ($8! The Community Center is saved!). Then each tour ends up basically being a Playboy video, so God knows how much they’re charging by that point. Maybe as much as ten bucks!

Blackface Dynamite! Ask for it by name!

There’s an Evil Capitalist henchman whose job it is to sabotage the jeep tours, but fortunately for our heroes, he’s taken Bill Murray’s character in Caddyshack for his role model. Fortunately for him, the dynamite he keeps slinging around and inevitably sitting on is not the lethal variety, but cartoon blackface dynamite.

Soooo there’s a lot of boobage, some largely inept villainy, and a last-minute plot injection to get us to the finish line, when the Hippie from Birdemic informs us that a rock about to be dynamited by two more inept and theoretically comedic Evil Capitalist henchmen is a protected cultural artifact! There has also been an Indian shaman who shows up every now and then to gather the cast-off bikini tops; his appearances are always announced by that dramatic twang that opens Peter Gabriel’s “The Rhythm of the Heat”. He does some questionable magic to save the rock. Everybody lives happily ever after, and that included us, who went home satisfied, well-fed, and still hating Ryan Reynolds.

(Not so) Amazingly, YouTube does not have a trailer for this, but here is the very same version Dave employed. Join us in saying “Hi-Fi!” everytime those words appear.

“Hi-Fi!”

 

 

 

Another Interlude

Okay, I found the Man of Steel disc I alluded to in the last interlude, so I gave it another shot, as promised. I hate it a little less.

“Wait… there’s a building I haven’t knocked over yet.”

There are still some things I will not get over, no matter how much Internet urging washes over me. The fact that apparently, the one time Ma and Pa Kent joined the Smallville Library Book Club the selection was Atlas Shrugged; Kal has several opportunities to carry the fight to less populated areas, but doesn’t (how else are we going to get our spectacle, our 9/11 as performed by aliens?); and, of course, the killing of Zod. The script, at least, probably felt like it did a good job justifying that – but, as I’ve kvetched before, it is such a blatant, lazy shock tactic, the negating of 80 years of character development and mythos.

In Man of Steel‘s favor was my recent watching of the Extended Edition of Batman v Superman. The former movie now feels like an extremely focused and serious entry. And this time, forearmed and able to ignore these points I listed above, I was at least able to appreciate the hard work that went into all those visual FX.

And Michael Shannon’s voice really annoys me, which I realize is totally unfair to him.

Also pretty amazed they manage to rebuild Metropolis so quickly. I’d say Superman probably helped, except that this Randian version wouldn’t; he probably used that time to read The Fountainhead. Yes, I went for the low-hanging fruit concerning Zack Snyder’s next announced project.

Now, back to The Great Experiment in the Land of TV.

S2E2 of Legion has me asking some hard questions and not liking the answers. It felt largely like some poorly motivated filler. We finally meet Amahl Farouk face-to-face (and wonder of wonders, is an actual Middle Eastern actor, Iranian Navid Negahban). I am concerned that there seems to be some “Oh yeah, we’re expected to be weird” going on here when it’s not, strictly speaking, necessary.

S3E2 of The Expanse continues to impress with a space chase and battle that’s almost episode-length. The series has done sequences before about the stress of extended high-g travel on the human body, and this time uses some poorly-secured tools during battle maneuvers for nice suspense. The non-space sequences mainly center on a new character played by Elizabeth Mitchell (talk about your sudden Lost flashbacks!), the Reverend Anna Volovodov, whom I really like, a contentious moral compass in the events Earthside. It also ends with a cliffhanger that sorely tested my plan to just do one episode of each series a week.

And I was warned:

Great. Actually, I suppose that’s a good problem to have.

Westworld S1E2 continues to play the long game, and I’m really appreciating that. Also appreciated is more insight into Delos’ day-to-day, as we are introduced to who I guess are our equivalent characters to 1973’s James Brolin and Richard Benjamin – Simon Quarterman and Jimmi Simpson, I believe. Anthony Hopkins is up to something because Anthony Hopkins is always up to something. Ed Harris’ Man in Black is still being a complete bastard in search of something deep within Westworld, and his quest demonstrates that there are remote sections of Westworld that the clients have probably never yet encountered, yet the androids perform their story duties, day in and day out. Intriguing.

Westworld is another series that’s sorely testing my no-binge vow.

But I stood my ground, so I deserved a reward. And that reward was adding on to my task. In other words, I added another series. But that series was Ash vs Evil Dead.

Yeah, you’re probably saying, “What do you mean you haven’t been watching Ash vs Evil Dead?” Well, having cut the cable long ago, seeking out shows like this is something of a process (usually involving Amazon Prime or Netflix or even – how primitive! – physical media). That, and – much as I love Evil Dead 2, a top 10 horror movie for me – I didn’t care for Army of Darkness. There, sue me.

Anyway, age has not rendered Ash any less of a horse’s ass than he was in that movie, and for some reason he is toting around a copy of Necronomicon ex Mortis (isn’t that “Book of the Dead of the Dead?”), gets stoned while trying to make time with a poetry-loving hippie chick and reads the incantation. Because, remember, Ash is an idiot. Luckily, he is an idiot who still has his shotgun and chainsaw because his trailer park is about to become wall-to-wall demons.

Sam Raimi directed the first episode, so it’s got a fair amount of hyperkinetic gore. So far Ash has two assistants from the knock-off Best Buy he worked at, and there’s a compelling parallel storyline with a cop who encountered that earlier hippie chick, now in full demon mode.

Seemingly, Raimi only directed this first hour-long episode, but the rest are all a half-hour. This will be a nice cool-down from the other, more thoughtful series. It’s been cancelled after its third season, and it seems that was a bit of a relief for Bruce Campbell. Really, there’s not much left for him to do with the character, and I’m sure the desire to just do something else for a while is pretty strong.

The Catch-Up: Somewhere in There Was a Crapfest

I guess the title says it all, eh? I unfortunately had a Saturday off, so a Crapfest was thrown together. Due to its thrown-together nature, a couple of the regulars couldn’t make it: Erik and Paul, leaving David, Alan, Rick, my son Max (having arrived that same day for Spring Break), and myself. Erik usually handles the meal for the evening with great aplomb, and Alan stepped in to fill the void with an exceptional chili with several different meats: beef, steak, venison, narwhal, sasquatch, and I believe I detected the slight tang of unicorn.

Yes, obviously a Jackie Chan movie.

Alan made up for that largesse by bringing Cannonball Run, claiming that it was due to the fact that Max had likely never seen it (he hadn’t) and so it began.

(There was an odd dynamic about this Crapfest – David, Alan and Rick have known each other since high school, so this event was largely a chance for them to catch up and shoot the breeze. Not much movie watching was accomplished by that side of the room.)

Now Cannonball Run – if, like Max, you were not alive during that period of HBO/Cinemax showing it 24 hours a day – is a supposedly comedic retelling of a high-stakes and illegal transcontinental race that actually existed. The first half of the movie shows the gathering of the contestants and star Burt Reynolds’ and Dom DeLuise’s quest to find the vehicle that will score him the million dollar prize. He finally settles on a souped-up ambulance (director Hal Needham had actually run the race in just such a vehicle), but he needs a doctor and a patient to make the ruse work (so did Needham), Enter the movie’s MVP, Jack Elam, who so effortlessly upstages everybody that I wanted him to get a standalone sequel. The patient role is supplied by Farrah Fawcett and her nipples (the bar where Reynolds first spots her must have been very cold). The fact that Fawcett is essentially kidnapped and transported across state lines by Reynolds and crew is only one of the problematic aspects of the movie.

Our last chance against Thanos.

Among the other participants: Adrienne Barbeau and Tara Buckman as racers who use their spandex outfits to get out of any traffic stops (until they run into a female cop); Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. as gamblers disguised as priests; Jamie Farr as a sheikh who just sort of vanishes; Jackie Chan as a Japanese driver with an experimental high-tech car (being cast as Japanese reportedly pissed Jackie off); and Roger Moore as a guy who thinks he’s Roger Moore and has a different girlfriend in every scene (who, when they are allowed to talk, are all voiced by June Foray).

He, too, would like to hit Dom Deluise.

This section of the movie concerns the dirty tricks played by the racers on each other and the various subterfuges to avoid the law. The whole thing has no significant plot to speak of, just an excuse for comic vignettes (and, to be fair, some pretty damn good stunts). I’d only seen this movie piecemeal over the years, and my experience of it this time remains just as piecemeal. I was wondering if Needham’s comic chops had improved since The Villain, and…

Well, most of our amusement that was not Jack Elam-based was shouting at the screen for Reynolds to hit Dom DeLuise again.

This pissed off David enough (really, anything pisses off Dave enough to justify his choices) that he sprang Incubus on us. Not the Cassavetes horror movie, the Shatner Esperanto one. (Paul later admitted that a contributing factor to his non-attendance was the possibility of Shatner, so there is a Crapfest insider trading scandal brewing)

Kia (Allyson Ames) is a succubus who lures men to their doom at Big Sur (although the ambience is 16-17th century European). They’re all wicked men, though, so she finds the work boring, and wants to test her mettle against a good man – Marco (Shatner). The results are disastrous – Kia passes out from the exertion and the innocent Marco carries her into a church to recover. The succubus world regards this as an act of rape and they summon the Incubus (Milos Milos) to deal with him. Kia turns to the light side of the force to protect Marco (Polo) and is attacked by Black Phillip (a cameo which I must admit surprised me). The end.

Talky films are death at a Crapfest, and talky films in a foreign language, well… This is where the kaffee klatsch nature of the other side of the room truly kicked in. Most of the time was spent in using Google Translate to find out what “Shatner is a dickbag” is in Esperanto (Shatner estas pikilo, if you were wondering) and other such wonders while occasionally asking Max to explain what was going on in the movie.

Incubus is actually fairly intriguing, and I’m still not sure why Esperanto was used, except that it was 1966 and stuff was starting to get weird. Shatner was reportedly an enthusiastic supporter of the man-made language, but everybody in the flick learned their lines phonetically, and the more serious Esperanto community is very critical of their skills. Shatner, being Canadian, is habitually defaulting to the French pronunciation for several words, for example. It remains a curiosity at best, but it is far better than its reputation, its inclusion in Crapfest, and the trailer below would have you believe.

And everybody who complains about Woody Allen’s earlier mature films being overly imitative of Ingmar Bergman really needs to see Incubus. Or ĉiuj, kiuj plendas pri la antaŭaj maturaj filmoj de Woody Allen, kiuj tro multe imitas de Ingmar Bergman vere bezonas vidi Incubus, if you will.

It was my turn, and I admit that I phoned it in. If you look at the chronological listing of Crapfests, you will note that its origins lie in the realm of R-rated drive-in movies, or to use the (appropriately) vulgar, T&A. If I was into the introspection thing, I might wonder if I took the lazy route because I knew there would be fewer people to hurt with my choice. In any case, I brought Orloff and the Invisible Man, a movie which I hate, but it has to be admitted, has lots of T&A. There is one lengthy sequence where a servant girl undresses for bed to convince her loutish boyfriend to go grave-robbing, and when he agrees, undresses again to don her grave-robbing clothes. It also has the most luxuriant thatch of pubic hair seen this side of actual vintage porn. All ignored, probably because they were still translating stuff like “luxuriant thatch of pubic hair” (luksa tegmento de publikaj haroj) into Esperanto on their phones.

Hell, even the big pay-off, that the Invisible Man is actually a guy in a cheap gorilla suit, went unnoticed.

Bah.

The Original

Dave wrapped things up with the definite high point of the evening, and I wasn’t even displeased about having to watch Revenge of the Sith againIt’s a bit of internet lore about a (bootleg?) version of the movie with subtitles translated into Chinese, then translated back into English via Google Translate (there it is again), with hilarious results. This is the origin of the “Do Not Want” meme.

That’s good enough, but someone went to the trouble to actually re-dub the movie using these mammocked subtitles. The result is astoundingly disorienting at first, because it’s really well done – the guy they found to dub Christopher Lee is spectacularly on-target. Yoda may have somehow become an old woman, but that’s part of the fun. The other part of the fun was figuring out what certain repeated phrases meant – “Sector Ratio” for “General Kenobi” and the Jedi Council’s transformation into “the Presbyterian Church”.

The rest of the fun was listening to the other side of the room bitch about how many years they had looked forward to the final showdown between Anakin and Obi-Wan and the many ways in which they were dissatisfied with what they got. “Do not want!” indeed.

We will be having another Crapfest this coming Sunday, with hopefully better attendance and a better choice from me (no promises). Max will be bringing his first selection, and new vistas of hurt will open for everybody, I am sure.

 

 

The Catch-Up: Interlude

“So how did that grand experiment you alluded to in your last blog post go?” asked nobody. (C’mon, pay attention to me! It’s not like our country is being burnt to the ground or anything)

That experiment was: while I’m catching up on reviews of movie watched during my hiatus, watch episodes of some TV series on Friday nights instead of three or four movies, alleviating the buildup. Simple.

(Hold for laughter)

Have you seen me?

Cold turkey didn’t work this time. Last week’s entry, in fact, wherein I excoriated Batman v Superman (and trust me, I cut myself short), prompted a bit of discussion on Facebook where there was some spirited defense of Man of Steel (there was also a complete lack of name-calling and similar drama because my friends are not dicks). There was enough that I thought maybe, just maybe, I should peek back in on that disc to see if I had actually missed anything.

And I couldn’t find the disc. That bothered me more than it should. After all, I’ve gone on record as actually hating that movie, I shouldn’t be surprised that I was lackadaisical about its location in my collection. My database says it’s still there, but it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve lent out or even given away a disc that I had no further use for, without noting it. I am, in fact, annoyed at myself for being annoyed that I can’t find a movie I hate.

That’s three discs, people! THREE!!!

So I defaulted to another Facebook thread from a week or two earlier, wherein I stated (on the subject of worst Marvel movie) that I would watch The Incredible Hulk again before another viewing of Iron Man 2. So, since I couldn’t watch one hated movie, I watched another. And it’s the 3-Disc Special Edition, bitches. I am serious about this stuff.

My opinion of The Incredible Hulk remains unchanged; I think it’s a pretty good Hulk movie. This opinion may be suspect, in that I’m not a Hulk fan. But I’m also not a Spider-Man fan, and I still recognize that the first two Raimi movies and Homecoming are good Spider-Man movies. The tropes are all there: Thunderbolt Ross continuing to run operations that are guaranteed to make Bruce Banner’s heartrate skyrocket and become the Hulk; the seeking of a cure that only winds up creating more Gamma monsters; and, of course, wanton destruction.

The CGI is ten years old, and is adequate, largely unembarrassing. As the second movie in the MCU, this is valuable mainly for the things it does not have. I couldn’t help but think about how – were the movie made more recently – certain action sequences would have been slicker, better staged and paced. There would be more humor. But it’s not terrible. It’s a shame that the MCU has ignored the movie, retaining only William Hurt’s General Ross, and tossing Liv Tyler’s Betty, The Abomination and The Leader down the memory hole. There was a mention of the Battle of Harlem in one of the Netflix Marvel shows, and that seems about the extent of admission of the movie’s canon-icity.

Also it doesn’t get near enough credit for running the Hulk’s origin story under the opening credits. That’s something we all know, and that saved ten-fifteen minutes or more screen time.

And then I could finally get down to the Great Experiment.

The second season of Legion is even trippier than the first, and sometimes self-consciously so. I don’t mind that at all – the trippiness is what I’m here for. Having not read the comic book, I can’t testify as to how much is derived from the comic and how much madness is coming from Noah Hawley. But in a lot of ways Legion is what I wanted from Twin Peaks: The Return and often got, but in a continuous, high-pressure firehose stream.

Not much Aubrey Plaza or Jemaine Clement yet, though. Sad!

Who knew I’d end up really liking Bobby?

The third season of The Expanse remains solid science-fiction, which is to say solid drama with a nice hard science background. The crew of the Roci remain the unluckiest SOBs in the solar system, and they just renamed the ship, so that’s going to take a while to adjust. Relationships continue to grow and evolve. The penultimate episode of season two gutted me, and the next day Syfy announced it was not coming back after season three. Double Whammy! There’s lots of fan turbulence over its cancellation, so maybe I’ll get to enjoy it past this season. That would be a good thing. (Good Things Do Happen Dept: while I was typing this, Amazon announced they would be carrying Season 4)

Westworld is going to be a hard sell for me, but the first season’s premiere episode is a good start. It’s – no surprise – based on the 1973 movie, concentrating more on the androids and the technicians of the Delos parks. The basis for the events in that ’73 flick seem to be laid out in this episode, and much more. I’m impressed with the amount of screwing with audience perception that’s going on, and appreciate the attention being paid to the day-to-day operation of the park (though that also leads me to some questions that may or not be answered in future episodes. Guess we’ll see).

I like Bernard, so I figure he’s not long for this world.

Why should this be a hard sell to me? I don’t have a good history with these prestige TV series. I’ve yet to actually finish a Netflix series – 8 episodes seem to be my limit. Miss me with Game of Thrones, the first episode landed with a dull thud. The record holder so far is Deadwood, with two seasons under my belt before I got exhausted. Westworld, though, has presented me with enough hard science fiction puzzle boxes to give me hope.

One of the questions I had immediately was if this version of Delos only had the Westworld attraction, but I see from some social media that Shogunworld has entered the series. Of course social media is also coughing up entries that amount to “Y’all are still watching Westworld?!” This doesn’t dismay me. I stuck with Lost until the bitter end. I still have hopes for Westworld.

So the Grand Experiment was a success, mostly. Besides the fact that I’m here writing about what I watched instead of catching up on those older reviews.

Crap.

 

The Catch-Up, Part Two (Speaking Of Edition)

I may have accidentally stumbled onto how I can actually set an endpoint to this Catching Up business, and hasten the phenomenon of actually seeing a pinprick of light in this seemingly endless tenebrous tunnel: I’ll watch TV.

See, Friday nights that I don’t have a show are the nights where I can settle into my movie chair and watch three or more movies in a row. This is by necessity more than inclination: scheduling rather than solicitude. Last Friday, as a bit of a warm-up, and because it’s now in its second season and cropping up on my timeline again, I decided to watch the first episode of Legion before moving on to stuff on my Movie Watchlist. You know, find out what the shouting was about.

This is my brain on Legion.

I am not a binge watcher. I like to watch an episode of a TV series, then think about it for a while (you know, the way the format was originally intended).

Last Friday I watched the first six episodes of Legion‘s first season before dragging myself to bed at 2am.

Hey, everybody from my timeline a year ago saying how great and confounding and downright amazing it was, you were right. So now I will kowtow to my magic DVR and – unless showrunner Noah Hawley sucks me in again, no promises – alternate it with episodes of the recently-cancelled The Expanse which I have been hoarding like bullets in a Mad Max movie. I guess I should find some way to lay my hands on the first season of Westworld, too. Maybe this will stem the ever-regenerating list of back-filed reviews waiting to be written.

Speaking of which:

Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)

Well, what you have here is your bona fide classic, re-issued in a stunning blu-ray by Warner Archive. Spencer Tracy is one-armed WWII veteran John MacReedy, who gets off the train at the titular town, claiming he’s “only going to be here a day”. Black Rock is a desolate little desert community that’s incredibly tense about this stranger’s arrival. And that’s all I’m gonna tell you, because I find myself in the odd position of not wanting to talk about a 60 year-old movie. There are two mysteries at play in Bad Day, and unraveling both is essential to your enjoyment of the film. Director John Sturges makes sure we are in the same boat as the movie’s characters: we know as much about what Black Rock is hiding as MacReedy, and we know as much about MacReedy as the townspeople – which is nothing in both cases. And the solutions are pretty satisfying.

If nothing else, the cast alone should convince you this movie needs to be watched. Besides Tracy, there’s Robert Ryan as the town boss, Ernest Borgnine and Lee Marvin as his two bully boys, Dean Jagger as a worthless drunk of a sheriff, and Walter Brennan as the town doctor and undertaker. That’s five Oscar winners right there. Anne Francis runs the local garage, and John Ericson is her brother who runs the hotel.

Francis’ presence as the sole woman in evidence in Black Rock is the one detail that gnawed on me during my viewing; finding out later that  Sturges cut out all background characters to make Tracy seem even more isolated and outnumbered didn’t do much to diminish that gnawing, but it at least made it more understandable.

Shot in CinemaScope, Bad Day really forces you to confront the remoteness of the location (odd that leery MGM suits insisted that a standard 4:3 version be shot simultaneously) (and even odder that it was accompanied by a 4 track stereo soundtrack on a movie with almost no score). That blu-ray does it full justice, and if you don’t have access to an actual repertory house theater, that’s the way to go.

The Phantom Tollbooth (1970)

And speaking of Warner Archive…

The opportunity to see a feature film directed by Chuck Jones was irresistible. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster is a well-regarded children’s book; it’s the tale of latchkey kid Milo (Butch Patrick in the movie), whose school has crushed him into a youthful pile of ennui. Finding a magic tollbooth in his living room, he drives a toy car though it (in the movie, turning into a cartoon), and journeys to the land of Dictionopolis, where he gets involved in your standard heroic quest to save the kingdom, rescue princesses, and learn the value of knowledge. The book is a clever affair, full of puns and wordplay, and has been justly compared in that respect to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz.

An actual problem in its translation to screen is that Juster’s novel, which is itself a satirical take on the state of education, somehow becomes drab and preachy, even if the color palette becomes brighter. There is too much HERE IS YOUR LESSON, STUPID KIDS, and far too little allowing Jones to inject some humor into the proceedings. I thought I was going to really enjoy this during the first self-conscious song during the live action sequence, where our Sandpiper-esque chorus croon about “What will happen to Milo” but then we descend into Dictionopolis and thereafter every song is absolutely dreadful, only compounding the misery.

It’s really a shame when you’ve got some heavy hitters in the voice department doing their usual best – Mel Blanc, June Foray, Daws Butler, Hans Conreid, Les Tremayne. The movie was actually completed in 1968, but MGM’s ongoing financial woes delayed its release, with minimal promotion, until 1970. I was honestly watching TV with an eye towards movie trailers in those days, and I recall only a 10 second ad for The Phantom Tollbooth, featuring Butch driving through that gate and turning into a cartoon. I guess it was effective enough that I remember it fifty years later. MGM closed its animation department almost immediately after the release.

Juster reportedly hated the movie. I can see why.

Chuck Jones’ legacy as a creator of quality shorter fare is unassailable, at least.

The Ritual (2017)

Speaking of people shouting about things (we were two movies ago): this was getting a buzzy moment on social media when it cropped up on Netflix, so yeah, sure, why not? You may have noticed, I do like a good horror movie.

Hm.

You’ve got five friends (Rafe Spall, Arsher Ali, Robert James-Collier, Sam Troughton and Paul Reid) out for a lengthy hike/camping trip to honor a dead friend (tragic backstory that will get mined thoroughly, you can be sure). One gets injured, cutting the trip short, but instead of heading back down the trail they used, it is decided to cut through the forest, which will only take one day instead of two.

Everyone who thinks this is a bad idea, raise your hands.

Of course, things like compasses don’t work in the woods, there are strange runes on the trees, a night in an abandoned cabin yields weird nightmares, and there is something in the woods following them.

As I said, I like a good horror movie. This means in the past decade I’ve watched a lot of movies with people wandering around lost in some creepy woods. It’s like my Dracula fatigue: I’m in almost desperate need of something besides Blair Witch with a dash of Lovecraft’s “Dreams in the Witch-house”. Most of the reviews I’ve sampled don’t like the third act, which is the only part I really liked – it’s the point at which The Ritual finally gains its own identity. It just arrives too late for me to recommend it.

Speaking of wandering through creepy woods:

Annihilation (2018)

  • This is director Alex Garland’s follow-up to his 2014 Ex Machina, which, as is traditional, I will be watching later in the year.
  • A meteor crashes to Earth, bringing with it “The Shimmer”, an expanding field that changes the environment as it expands. Five women (Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason-Leigh, Tessa Thompson, Gina Rodriguez and Tuva Novotny) go into the Shimmer in an attempt to find out why the earlier teams never came back – except for one (Oscar Isaacs), Portman’s husband, who is now dying for unknown reasons.
  • Smarter people than me quickly pointed out that this is basically Lovecraft’s “The Colour Out of Space”.
  • That’s a very strong cast all bringing their A+ game to a story that requires some really questionable decisions on their characters’ parts.
  • It also has some king-hell horror movie moments.
  • The strongest of these, known as “The Screaming Bear”, is a creature straight out of Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun series: a predator that speaks in the voice of its last victim.

It may be this last item that got my goat and refused to give it back, in combination with The Ritual: I’ve lost count of the number of writing projects I’ve given up because I finally decided they could be seen as derivative of other works, not original stuff dredged up from my psyche. I should apparently get over myself and write those damned stories, because other people that do get them made into movies (even if Garland didn’t re-read Jeff VanderMeer’s novel before writing the screenplay).

Annihilation is still worth a watch, even if I can’t give it the enthusiastic referral I had hoped.

Oh, hey, speaking of not-enthusiastic referrals:

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Extended Edition (2016)

My pal Dave told me that this version added some character beats that actually made him feel better about the movie. So blame this on Dave.

  • It does.
  • The movie is still a goddamn mess.
  • So much of a mess that anybody that comes to me complaining that Avengers: Age of Ultron is a mess for trying to set up the MCU’s Phase Three is going to be strapped to a chair and forced to watch this Clockwork Orange-style. All three hours and two minutes of it.
  • I was really hoping for some illumination as far as what the hell Luthor’s endgame was supposed to be because I’m a gullible sap.
  • I can only assume that every time I see people on the Interwebs talk about how this was the best movie of the year, they are speaking in such heightened irony that I almost can’t hear it, but my dog can.

Zack Snyder v Superman (2016, Warner Brothers)

I am never, ever going to get over my essential bitterness toward Zack Snyder’s interpretation of these characters. From Superman killing Zod in Man of Steel to his pre-production statement of “This Batman kills”, those are major violations of the ethos of the characters I grew up with. Yes, this is a fat old fanboy moaning that his childhood has been violated, but for a better reason than “girls have cooties” (obligatory jab at Star Wars “fandom”, come at me, bro). Superheroes are aspirational characters, and the MCU’s Captain America has been a better Superman than Henry Cavill has ever been allowed to be (at least until Justice League). A major part of that aspiration has been going to great lengths to avoid taking life.

Gosh, this getting ranty.

*sigh* At least it gave us Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman. Even if it did murder Jimmy Olsen. And Mercy (again). And…

Crap. Should have quit while I was ahead.

Well, now I’m into the beginning of March of this year. That’s something.

The Catch-Up, Part One

Now that I’ve opened the floodgates, it’s time to see if I can’t successfully clear out my backlog of commentary. Probably most of these are going to be capsule-type instead of my usual incisive in-depth criticism (hold for laughter).

For instance:

Geostorm (2017)

  • Guys, I am still not sold on Gerard Butler as a leading man.
  • The science on display here is so incredibly suspect they might as well call it magic.
  • If you’re an aficionado of  Devlin and/or Emmerich scenes of vehicles outracing natural disasters, you’re in luck, because Devlin pulls that shit twice.
  • Similarly, if you feel movies are sorely lacking in characters saying the title over and over again, boy, do I have a flick for you.
  • Since there has to be a human villain behind the events, and Morgan Freeman isn’t in the cast, it’s going to be incredibly obvious who it is from the get-go.
  • Still, if you’re pining for an Irwin Allen-style multi-character disaster flick, you could do worse. For instance, by actually watching an Irwin Allen-style multi-character disaster flick.

The Beast (1975)

Trying to get back into my once-lofty goal of watching all the high-falutin’ pieces of world cinema I had been ignoring for decades, I pressed play on this one, which got some newfound infamy a few years back with a blu-ray release. I knew only two things going in: one, it had originally been conceived as a chapter in director Walerian Borowczyk’s earlier Immoral Tales (which I’ll be watching later, because, remember, I tend to back into filmographies – I prefer to think of it as a motif, rather than a pathology), and two, it’s, shall we say, somewhat explicit.

So I spent about the first twenty minutes of the movie fearing I was going to spend the rest of my life thinking of it as Horse Dong: The Movie. This prodigous member has such prominence in our first act.

If all the furor around The Beast had led you to expect a salacious re-telling of Beauty and the Beast, you are going to be mighty confused by all this horse-dongery, but there is some method here. The story proper takes place in the present day (or at least 1975). The noble l’Esperance family is in decline, and their only hope to avoid financial ruin is a long-arranged marriage with the wealthy industrialist Broadhurst family. The daughter, Lucy (Lisbeth Hummel) is to wed the brutish Mathurin (Pierre Benedetti), who is more at home in the family stables (where, you know, the horse dongs live). Lucy is pretty gung-ho about this, unaware that the flowery romantic letters she has been receiving are actually written, Cyrano-style, by Mathurin’s father, Pierre (Guy Tréjan). And that is only the most minor of the machinations Pierre is juggling to make this wedding happen.

Before a fractious dinner, Lucy is told of a mysterious encounter centuries earlier between the Countess Romilda l’Esperance (Sirpa Lane) and the infamous Beast of Gévaudan. That night, wearing the platonic ideal of a sheer nightgown, Lucy has visions of Romilda’s story (after contemplating her polaroid of everybody’s favorite horse dong). We see Romilda follow a lost lamb into the woods, only to find it devoured by The Beast, who has yet another titanic tallywhacker. It chases Romilda as the surrounding bushes and trees are suddenly complicit in tearing off her clothing, and roughly rapes her. She decides she likes it and apparently proceeds to screw the Beast to death. Take that, oppressor!

During breaks in this vision, the barely and then not-at-all clad Lucy keeps sneaking into Mathurin’s room, where he is sleeping off a tremendous drunk, before she is startled off and returns to more visions of furry pr0n. All this is leading up to a series of revelations that will doom that arranged marriage, the l’Esperance family, and the manipulative and even murderous Pierre.

Booga booga!

When you finally stop thinking of this as Horse Dong: The Movie and start getting into the actual story, it becomes a pretty scathing absurdist comedy, like Buñuel but with a better emotional core, and Borowczyk really impressed me with his careful setup of several unexpected jokes. Every woman below the age of 30 in this movie is eventually going to be extremely naked, so it would be easy to cynically dismiss this as a porno film for people who would like to pretend that they had just seen an art film. But The Beast has a lot more to offer, and it is rather amazing to contemplate that such a movie, so explicit and yet so artful, even exists.

And now, true to my usual self-destructive bent, I guess I should track down the sequel-in-Sirpa-Lane-only Italian cheapie The Beast in Space, and throw away all that goodwill.

Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

  • What, you were expecting a full-blooded review? I’m gonna have to watch it again for that, and this is a three-hour movie.
  • I liked it. I liked it better than the original, which I found very pretty (and undeniably influential) but completely unengaging.
  • My favorite form of science-fiction uses a technological advancement to facilitate the story, and the best instances of this explore how the advancement changes society, and all the different ways that advancement is utilized. Making the protagonist a replicant trying to rise above his origin, and interacting with other replicants trying to do the same, is great.
  • That improved AI subplot is also really good, and affecting.
  • To muddy the waters a bit, the Netflix series Altered Carbon does an excellent job of extrapolating how society will find different ways to exploit and fuck up a good idea. But like seemingly all Netflix prestige TV series, I lost patience around episode 8.
  • When I first saw Blade Runner, my date, at the end (with the footage taken from The Shining), asked, “Why would anyone live in that city if this was outside?” 2049 does a better job of answering that with its blighted wastelands of a dying Earth.
  • If Roger Deakins hadn’t finally gotten his Oscar for this, there should have been rioting in the streets.
  • What a cast. I would have liked to see what David Bowie could have done with the Jared Leto role, but I actually rather liked Leto in this.
  • One day I will have the time to watch this again. I look forward to it.

The Recall (2017)

  • This is for all the people who say “I really miss when you used to review crappy movies.”
  • Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but five friends (RJ Mitte, Jedidiah Goodacre, Laura Bilgeri, Niko Pepaj and Hannah Rose May) head out to a weekend at an isolated lake house.
  • At the traditional Texas Chainsaw rural gas station, they encounter The Hunter (Wesley Snipes), who doesn’t much care for snot-nosed whitebread kids.
  • Wouldn’t you know it, there’s an alien invasion that weekend.
  • These aliens have been here before; they abduct humans, make some improvements, then release them. No one knows why, and this time they’re abducting even more.
  • Well, whaddaya know, The Hunter is one of those former abductees – an astronaut kidnapped off the ISS, and he’s been booby-trapping the woods against the aliens’ return. Of course, this means a team-up with the kids.
  • SPOILER ALERT
  • The kids all get abducted and altered, anyway.
  • Speaking of which, Eduardo Sanchez’s Altered did this much better.
  • Good thing they now have super powers, because after the aliens go away, the government is rounding up all the abductees and killing them.
  • The end.
  • The CGI is… not entirely successful, shall we say. Practical effects in the abduction sequence are similarly a mixed bag. Again, Beyond Skyline did this stuff much better. I also suspect they had a lot more money, though.
  • Speaking of money, I have a sort of rough respect for a crew that has to light night scenes in a forest and finally just says fuck it and starts setting up white lights where they couldn’t possibly be.
  • Wesley: good to see you onscreen again, man. I hope your next movie serves you better.