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.

 

 

 

 

3 Comments

  1. Oh, you’ll like Immoral Tales, I think. The Beast made me laugh a wee bit too much, but I think Borowczyk would appreciate me snickering at the proper moments.

    The Recall sounds a *tiny* bit like Extraterrestrial with a lot more abduction and Wesley Snipes instead of Michael Ironside doing the special guest slumming.

    I need to get Blade Runner 2049 at some point on disc, but I think Geostorm will stay as a cable catch for when I’m bored. There’s only so much Deviln one can take (do not insert horse dong joke here).

  2. That is absolutely the right call on Geostorm – I don’t resent killing 90 or so minutes on it, but there is no reason to actually own it.

  3. It’s funny–I had the opposite reaction to both Blade Runners: whereas the former felt wonderfully humane, complete with the darkness that comes with that, I found the sequel extremely cold and empty. It also was way too direct for my tastes–I hate having things explained to me. Granted, my feelings for the original came from the director’s cut, sans happy ending, and I came out of the sequel thinking, “well, it’s pretty, but I’ll have to watch it again before I decide whether I liked it or not.”


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