Hail to the Bandit, Baby

So there I was, tooling around, stacking up my reviews in advance of Hubrisween… and then Burt Reynolds up and died.

Whenever a famous person goes to their reward, I don’t usually do the “Well, I guess I know what I’m watching tonight” thing. The one exception I can think of was watching Head the night Davy Jones passed away, but then I don’t need much of an excuse to watch Head again. For some reason the passing of Reynolds was different. Maybe it was because I was approaching horror movie overload:

Remember, most recently watched is at the left. This is the obstacle I hit.

I wasn’t a big Reynolds fan. I didn’t dislike him, it’s just that, by and large, he decided to make movies that didn’t much appeal to me. When I did watch one, I was okay with the time spent. He was immensely likable and smooth in delivery. He was very good at what he did. But I watched him more in Dan August than I did on the big screen. Nonetheless, that was a legend passing, and I did have this $5 DVD of Smokey and the Bandit sitting around in its original shrinkwrap against just such an emergency.

And no, I had never seen it before. I have this snob reaction to popular movies, and man, saying Smokey and the Bandit was popular in 1977 is like saying Star Wars might have been popular around the same time (Smokey was #2 at the box office that year. guess what was first).  Oddly, I had no problems watching Star Wars multiple times…

Anyway, now I can say I’ve seen it. It was, as I expected, largely harmless redneck fun.

  • In case you passed over watching it as much as I did, Burt is the Bandit of the title, a trucking legend who, along with his partner Snowman (Jerry Reed) agrees to a challenge made by rich douchebags Big and Little Enos (Pat McCormick and Paul Williams), to run 400 cases of Coors Beer from Texarkana to Georgia in 48 hours for their big party.
  • It was impossible to get Coors east of the Mississippi at this time, as it wasn’t pasteurized and had to refrigerated constantly. Therefore, this was considered bootlegging.
  • As a lifelong Texan, I am amazed at this mythic quality attributed to Coors. It was available in Texas by the time I hit drinking age -18 in 1976 – and it was worshiped like a heathen idol. Eh.
  • Anyway, the plan is for Snowman to drive the truck with the beer way over the speed limit, and Bandit in a Trans-Am to run interference.
  • It is safe to say that Pontiac had a very good year thanks to this movie. My friend Scott points out that my opinion of the ubiquitous Trans-Ams on campus was “I want to either own them or blow them up.” I replied that was my attitude on a lot of things.
  • For the record, it still is.
  • On the way, Bandit picks up a literal runaway bride (Sally Fields), who will be his love interest for the rest of the movie and its sequel (and several years in reality).
  • I’d like to say that this viewing made me fall in love with Sally Fields all over again, but that would be a lie. I never fell out of love with her. She is just so goshdang adorable.

  • This pickup will also put him in direct conflict with Sheriff Buford T. Justice (Jackie Gleason), whose idiot son (Mike Henry) was the groom in the wedding Sally is running away from. Yes, this is the Smokey of the title.
  • They have adventures. There are many car crashes.
  • Besides Pontiac, makers of Citizen’s Band radios probably had a very good year.
  • God, remember CB radios? Never mind, you’re all children.
  • I wish Jackie Gleason had actually been given something funny to do. Richard Boone was up for the role, but Reynolds wanted someone who could actually be funny, and not quite such a drunk.
  • I have bad news for him about that. Gleason was a comedy genius, but whenever he asked his assistant to bring him a “hamburger”, he meant a glass of vodka.
  • This is director Hal Needham’s first movie – before this he had been a well-respected stunt guy (and this shows in his movies). This one of the least episodic of his flicks, but it’s still… pretty episodic.

Generally speaking, as mentioned above, I didn’t begrudge Smokey and the Bandit the time I spent on it. I probably resent the flood of truckers-as-modern-cowboys movies that followed more, like High-Ballin’ and Convoy. And The Villain. I will never stop resenting The Villain. Thank God Needham returned to car crash movies for most of his directing career (*cough* Megaforce *cough cough*).

Recovering from a Burt hangover

I’m more interested in how this derailed my planned movie watching for a while. As you can see below, I tried to jumpstart the Hubrisween train with Eaten Alive, which is a good documentary about Italian cannibal movies (Umberto Lenzi’s claiming to invent the genre is almost as entertaining as his claims in the similar documentary Yellow Fever that his giallo flicks are the best of all time), but obviously that didn’t take. Hence, Bikini Drive-in, which my Crapfest compatriots hardly suspect will be dropped on them at our next gathering (don’t tell them). That seemed to satisfy whatever beast had been awakened by the rural drive-in charms of Smokey, and I’ve got back into my questionable groove.

I hope whatever way you chose to give tribute to Reynolds’ career was as painless and somewhat nostalgic as mine.

Hubrisween is coming, so gird whatever version of loins you may possess.

There is Some Progress

Well, as you probably noticed from the last post, work is progressing on this year’s Hubrisween marathon. Progressing very well, in fact. Progressing so well that I briefly considered adding the more popular (and populated) Letterboxd event Hooptober (led by the redoubtable @Cinemonster, since there was the possibility of some overlap between the two lists…

And then I slapped myself back to sanity again. Because that would have been sheer madness. Hooptober does appeal to me, because it has a certain puzzle aspect to it. Here’s this year’s requirements:

That might have been fun – it was certainly fun coming up with a possible list that covered all those, but the overlap wasn’t big enough to make it feasible. There were a lot of movies on it I had intended to watch for some time, but I’ll have to find another way to force myself to find the time to watch them. Cinemonster’s full list is here if you’re on Letterboxd and so inclined.

The reason my Hubrisween stuff is going so swimmingly is twofold: first, I always try to write more on the lean side for marathons. I still find myself willing to go the blather route on some flicks, but overall I try to keep it brief. Add to that when I like a movie, I clam up even more. The discovery phase of a movie is very important to me, and it’s truly delightful when a movie surprises me, whether it’s by conceits or concepts or approaches or acting or imagery, so much so that I’ve started avoiding my beloved movie trailers (I had already been giving most production press a miss). I want you to have the same experience when I find a movie I like. And so far, I have liked almost every single movie I’ve watched.

Gosh, I wonder what movie it was that I hated?

In the interest of transparency, I should mention that’s only nine movies out of 26. Okay, so I only really liked six of those. Two were a “meh” and one I violently disliked. So a bit of truth-stretching is being engaged in here. But I’m ahead of my personal schedule, so much so that I’m taking tonight off because I scored a copy of the new Detective Dee movie, The Four Heavenly Kings, and I’m just

This is probably me and the rest of the movies on my list

going to soak in that. Overall, though, I’ve really enjoyed having structure applied to my blogging, so much so that, although I wasn’t stupid enough to do Hooptober, I’m looking at doing another marathon in December, and even considering bringing back March Movie Madness.

Yes, I really am that stupid.

There Are No Metaphors in Halloween Hell

Oh, hai there.

I’m medicated again.

It’s a sad truth in modern America that sometimes you try to go without your meds in order to pay other bills. Blood pressure pills seem pretty necessary, but we can probably go without this statin that’s seemed to have no effect for five years, we can probably tough it out without the mood elevator.

Until a week ago when I realized that I temporarily had a little extra money and likely the best thing I could do was get the refill on the mood elevator I had put off for two or three months. And I have to say that waking up the next morning without thinking of suicide was quite refreshing. (My doctor says it takes two or three days for the pill to take effect, but I’ve not found that to be the case. Maybe my serotonin imbalance was minor enough that it only needed a nudge in the right direction. In any event, one less dragon to fight)

While my writing has been the most visible casualty of the crushing mantle of despair, I haven’t exactly been slacking. Still watching Prestige TV With A Capital P, though Real Life work has put a crimp on the time allowable for that. Having finished the current seasons of Legion and The Expanse, my sense of symmetry told me I needed to find two other series to accompany the second season of Westworld, so it was time to start Sense8 and the first season of Luke Cage. I’d been putting Cage off to watch the Netflix Marvel series in order, but hit my usual getting-sick-of-Netflix-series-around-episode-8 wall with the first season of Daredevil. Really enjoying these series so far, although I’m only two episodes in of each.

DON’T DO IT DON’T DO IT DON’T YOU DO IT

Noted Canadian war criminal Doug Tilley (he made me watch Science Crazed) asked me to guest on one of his podcasts, Eric Roberts is the Fucking ManHe then asked me to be a participant in my own damnation by having me select the Eric Roberts movie we would be discussing. That’s harder than you might think – Roberts’ IMDb page lists 513 actor credits, with probably 200-300 in the last few years. He’s like the modern-day John Carradine.

I discounted all the movies where he played “The Devil” – there are several – as that meant he was likely on set for twenty minutes or so. But there was one that drew my eye, and that was Halloween Hell, where he is listed as playing “Count Dracula”. And it was on Prime Video. You can listen to that episode of the podcast at the site above, but you’re already here, so I might as well use my notes and grumble about the stuff I never got to in the podcast. (ERITFM likes to clock in at an hour, which is something I appreciate in a podcast, my fanboy love for The Projection Booth notwithstanding)

We start with a bunch of kids wandering through a warehouse with a video camera (you are going to become very familiar with this warehouse). They find a misshapen black statuette with Sculpey fangs (ditto the statuette). These teens are three guys and two girls, basically the Scooby Gang without the budget for a Great Dane with a speech impediment. One girl freaks out and tries to run, resulting a door magically slamming shut and The Demon (I think it’s a Type IV) appearing from the statuette and offing the kids one by one.

  1. We start with a disembowelment, shot at floor level, behind the victim. Classic movie cheat.
  2. A throat slash. First appearance of CGI blood, notable for its neon color.
  3. The demon presses a face mask on a girl’s head, then pulls it away, revealing that the other side of the mask was coated with blood. Oh, wait, I think he was supposed to be pulling her actual face off.
  4. The last girl starts flailing around on the floor and screaming while hoses pump blood through her clothes. This will be our first example of death by overacting.
  5. The last guy almost gets away, but the Demon shows up and get our B-movie deal sealed by my old favorite: facial lacerations are fatal.

Blah. Blah.

Eric Roberts tells us those deaths were “years ago” and remained unsolved. He then informs us that he is Count Dracula, and he is hosting a once-in-a-lifetime Internet event: He has the statuette, carved by Haitian slaves “from lava from the depths of Hell”. It houses a demon, and there will be six contestants who will spend 24 hours in a camera-festooned room with it, those 24 hours being midnight-to-midnight on Halloween. Each will earn $100,000 for getting through the day. The cost for the pay-per-view is a mere $24, “One dollar for each hour.”

The contestants are basically what used to be defined in Dynaman as “six good-looking young friends from all walks of life”:

  1. Nerd Boy, who wants the money to open his own high tech company and become Bill Gates
  2. Gothia, a Russian import and stripper exotic dancer, needs $100,000 worth of clothes and make-up
  3. Jessie – “The All-Star’s sweetheart”, who is given no motivation for the money
  4. Toby – who wants the money to start his country music singing career
  5. Rose – an undocumented immigrant who wants the money to go to nursing school and help her brother open a car repair shop (no stereotypes here)
  6. Mr. Jones – our token black who intends to use the money for an independent film

It’s the tusks that get me.

The statuette is in a room in that damnable warehouse which has been tricked out with the entire contents of somebody’s storage locker where they stuffed their Halloween decorations each year for the past decade or so. This is, I guess, meant to be ironic, but god it is cheesy.

Toby the country boy was obviously instructed to go over the top and given no further direction. When you do something like that to an actor, they keep trying to find the top, and getting no further instruction, keep going further and further out. In short, Toby looks like he’s being prepped to be the first to die, just to give us some relief. However, as Mr. Jones points out, “The Brother Man is always the first to go.”

This brings us to another bizarre sidetrip: Dracula is also running a website where you can bet on who will die and in what order. The janitor for the building where Drac is hosting his part of the show logs on to bet that Mr. Jones will be the first to die, causing the Demon to manifest and kill him by making blood gush from his scalp. In a few scenes, a woman will come in looking for the janitor, find his body, and she will be our next Death by Overacting.

Neither of these scenes are long enough to actually qualify as the sort of padding you do when your picture is not an agreed-upon length for distribution. It asks the question, is this happening to everyone who bets on the site? If it is, it would certainly mean more money for Dracula, since he’ll never have to pay out, but that’s never explored. If the Demon can just manifest anywhere, why the hell is the statuette even necessary?

Back at the reality show: we’re basically trying to make what is known as a “submarine film” here, with all the action taking place in a single room. The thing about those are they’re cheap, but you need to have crackling dialogue, something interesting for the characters to do. We don’t get the former, and for the latter, we have Toby singing a song, and strip poker. At least Friday the 13th had the class to switch that up with strip Monopoly.

(At one point, one of his “brides”, either “The Dragon Lady” or “Nectar-feel-ya”, asks Dracula “Where did you get him?” about Toby. “Texas! Where else?” which led me to a hearty “Fuck you movie!” which had been building up for at least a half-hour. Then I realized I could pinpoint within 30 miles which town Toby came from)

“You’re getting CGI everywhere!”

Mr. Jones does indeed get his throat slashed, with a fair amount of CGI blood sweetening so they don’t get the couch he’s lying on messy. Rose demonstrates why she needs to go to nursing school by attempting CPR on a guy with a cut throat. Jessie stabs herself in the eye with some dagger that was obligingly stuck in the wall. Toby and Nerd Boy start yelling to be let out or an ambulance to be called, allowing Roberts to have the best line of the whole movie, “Children of the night! What music they make!”

Now luckily, as our cast keeps getting whittled down, Nerd Boy, before showing up, had gone to a “Voodoo Lady” to find out about demons. “Voodoo Lady” is never given a name, so I dubbed her “Mama Machina” (first name Deus, middle initial X). She gave him some “magnets” (which look more like those stick-on lights for your closet you see on late-night TV)  and a steel urn to capture the Demon.

Guh.

This was written and directed by Ed Hunt, who I was familiar with from Starship Invasions, which I admit I had only seen because it was shown at a Crapfest. He also did Bloody Birthday and The Brain, which are both better regarded (I’ve seen neither, though). This is his first movie since 1988, make of that what you will.

Roberts makes sure Hunt gets his day rate’s worth. Almost all the rest of the money went for that Demon makeup, which is pretty damned good – which is fortunate, because he gets more screen time than Roberts. Also thrifty is the design choice that from the waist down he’s CGI flames, a type III floating torso, as Ray Stantz would say. As for the rest… I’ve seen worse. The script does them no favors.

Really, the tagline of this blog should be, “I’ve Seen Worse”. That doesn’t mean you have to.

 

 

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: 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.

 

Oh. Hi.

Yeah, I’m still alive. January was ridiculously busy for me, and now that I’ve got a little downtime, I’m feeling remarkably decrepit. Standing up is a major production. Stairs are an invention of the devil. That’s one reason I’ve not been around here so much. I’ve been sinking a fair amount of time into just watching some movies and performing my primary function, being a pillow for my Monkey Dog.

Another stumbling block: there I was, writing right along on what was supposed to be the second post of January, when I was stopped dead; I was trying to get back into my groove of watching Important World Cinema That I Had Been Ignoring, and was struck by the singular terror of writing something about a fairly well-respected film.

This has happened to me before, of course. The last time it was this bad was back in the days when I was writing The Bad Movie Report, and decided to do a series on the classic Universal horror movies that were being reissued on VHS at the time. I started working on Frankenstein, my personal favorite, and was again stopped dead. What more could possibly be said about a sixty year-old flick? What new? Why was I even trying? This crisis shut down the site for quite some time.

I eventually climbed back on the horse, and will do so again. I do keep watching movies, leading to yet another thread of percolating anxiety in my life. When am I going to be able to write about them all? Why am I even doing this?

I also think cold, dreary February is fertile ground for existential nannydiddering like this.

I’ve been called in to work this evening, covering for a sick co-worker. I could mumble there goes more writing time, but I’d be lying. I’d probably watch another movie. And then not write about it. And seethe about not writing about it. And next week’s gonna be another busy one.

See you in a bit. Sooner rather than later, I hope.

 

 

December Already

There is an odd perceptual trick that as you get older, time goes by faster. This phenomenon likely has its roots in the crush of past experience pressing up against the present moment, with a constant increase in supposedly adult matters burning away your time. I suppose the current administration was the solution for that, as there were instances when time ground to a maddening crawl, like a perpetual few seconds just before the impact of a car crash. Hurricane Harvey was only three months ago; it feels more like a year.

Life definitely feels like a circus act where you’re pressed up against a board and some idiot with a blindfold keeps throwing knives at you. December’s always hectic, and I doubt it’s going to calm down until the year is nearly over. Maybe not even then.

I think you’re getting at least one more post out of me this year. In the meantime – since I have a few minutes to catch my breath – here’s the few movies I’ve had the chance to watch:

The Limehouse Golem is based on a Peter Ackroyd novel, and delights in moving the timeline back and forth as Inspector John Kildare (Bill Nighy) is a sacrificial detective set up by Scotland Yard to investigate the Limehouse Golem murders, a series of bloody mutilations that predate and outdo Jack the Ripper for sheer ghoulishness. His investigations run counter to the murder trial of music hall star Lizzy Cree (Olivia Cooke), whose poisoned husband seems a very likely suspect for the Golem.

The world of the English music hall wasn’t something I was expecting to be immersed in when I started the movie, and that was a pleasant surprise. Douglas Booth, as music hall superstar Dan Leno, is a continuing thread through the story as it unfolds, enabling the unique story structure. I’ve not read Ackroyd’s novel, but that structure feels uniquely literary, and director Juan Carlos Medina pulls it off well. While I can’t hand it an enthusiastic recommendation, I can still say it’s definitely worth a look. If you’ve not had your fill of Edwardian murder mysteries, you can certainly do far worse.

I finally watched Atomic Blonde, and I’m sort of glad I didn’t get over my animosity toward theaters to see it. It’s a pretty good retro spy movie, taking place just before and during the fall of the Berlin Wall. Charlize Theron is Lorraine Broughton, an asskicking troubleshooter for MI5 tasked with finding a wristwatch containing microfilm with the names and records of every agent on both sides of the Cold War, including a double agent known only as Satchel. She meets up with the local handler, Percival (James McAvoy), who has gone native in a big way. She spends most of the movie getting the crap kicked out of her, but you should see the other guy(s). What’s left of them, anyway.

Let’s be frank, Charlize Theron just plain owns me, and has for years. She is incredible as the agent James Bond would rightly be afraid of – except incredible doesn’t really cover it, she is credible in the role. Great supporting cast, too – John Goodman, Sofia Boutella, Toby Jones, Eddie Marsan. Incredible soundtrack. Great editing. Pretty much what you would expect from David Leitch, who was one of the directors of the original John Wick.

My only real complaint is that the movie feels over-extended at nearly two hours, giving me far too much time to figure out the true identity of Satchel. Minor complaint. Some directors would have stretched it out to two and a half hours.

That same day I saw Takashi Miike’s Blade of the Immortal, so I must have been in the mood for a fight. If you dug on the 45 minute long battle scene that ended 13 Assassins, good news! This is basically a movie-length version of that! In the very first segment, Manji (Takiya Kimura) informs a mob of about a hundred lowlife bounty hunters – who just slaughtered a girl for fun – that he is going to kill each and every one of them. And does. As he lays dying from his wounds, he is infected by bloodworms, which will heal any wound, even rejoining severed limbs to his body.

As Blade is based on a long-running manga series, I don’t know if there is ever a good reason given why a mysterious old woman gives Manji this curse/blessing – it still hurts when he gets injured, and the healing is far from instantaneous. He just can’t die from his wounds. He eventually takes up the cause of young Rin (Hana Sugasaki), whose family was killed by a group of rogue martial artists who want to take over the Imperial Guard (a ploy familiar to fans of “rule the world of martial arts” movies). The story gets somewhat involved from there, with plots, counterplots, a bloodworm poison that significantly slows down Manji’s healing, many colorful opponents, and my second two exhausted, bloody combatants still taking each other on fight scene in one day.

Overall, I liked it, but I wanted to love it. Miike’s samurai flicks are really good, though – see it and make your own decisions.

I watched two more movies, but I promised the review for one to Daily Grindhouse, so you’re going to have to be satisfied by closing things out with S&M Hunter.

I’m always downloading movie trailer collections and watching them at my leisure; one group was some movies available from PinkEiga, which specializes in Japanese “Pink” movies – so called because they involve nudity. That’s a subject that has a Wikipedia page all to itself, so I’ll direct you there for the broader picture. Pun definitely not intended, by the way. S&M Hunter caught my eye with its outrageous stylization and definite kinkiness (it’s right there in the title, after all), so I sought it out.

A man comes to “The Pleasure Dungeon” and chooses to whip a submissive dressed (briefly) as a nun until she faints. The Dungeon Master states “You are not a true sadist. I can see it in your eyes.” (Never mind that both men are wearing sunglasses) It turns out that new customer has a massive hate on for women because he’s gay and his lover has been kidnapped by a high school girl gang and is being used as their sex slave. Enter the dungeon’s superhero, S&M Hunter, dressed as a priest with a skull eyepatch, who agrees to rescue the boy. His super power is an amazing – and like all super powers, essentially impossible – mastery of rope tricks and the fact that every woman he is up against gets pleasure from the act of being tied up.

S&M Hunter would be classified in the realm of “Pinkie Violence”, I guess, but the whole setup is so silly and over the top that it comes off as a lighter parody of that genre. S&M Hunter has his own spaghetti western theme song. The Hunter’s archenemy feels it necessary to dress up in a gestapo uniform, complete with Nazi flag. The Dungeon Master has all the good lines. It’s only an hour long.

I was considering this for a Crapfest entry. But. It still remains a sex film, and that’s a level of tawdry I’m not willing to subject the fest to – titillation is fine, but S&M Hunter, while not explicit, still crosses that line. It is a pretty subversive entry in that genre, though, as the only truly loving, normal relationship is the homosexual one. Here, have a censored version of the trailer that sent me on this odd sidetrip:

Things only get busier from here on out. Hope to see you betwixt Christmas and New Years, if some moron doesn’t get us all killed. Happy Holidays, everybody, as possible.