non-natural three’s…

In looking over the movies I’ve been eyeing lately, I’ve decided that when looking at a movies rating in some general website, the following tends to be true:

Movies rated all 5’s are going to be boring

Movies rated all 1’s are going to be lame

Movies rated all 3’s will probably be watchable, if unmemorable…

Movies with Unnatural 3’s, meaning half the ratings are one star and half are 5 stars.. That is where the goodies lay!

Okay, they don’t technically have to be all ones and fives, but the kind of movie that a big chunk thought it was a masterpiece and another big chunk thought was terrible. To some extent, I think that there is an art vs entertainment issue with movies. Even Scorsese broached the topic recently when saying that superheros movies weren’t films. Well, a Film geek might say so but, in reality, movies are films, just like novels are literature. Not “only the good ones”. However, that doesn’t delete that fact that people should keep in mind… Many movies are just that, filmed depictions of something… But some movies are purely for entertainment, and some movies are just plain art. There’s nothing wrong with one of the other, and they don’t need different names. Transformer? Not art but purely entertainment (well, I don’t find them entertaining at all, but that’s what they’re for)… The Lighthouse, Not entertaining but art. They are for the same thing. You don’t watch The Lighthouse for screams laughs and special effects, and you don’t watch Transformers to ponder, tragically, the human condition… But they’re both legitimate movies, and films.


I was thinking about it a couple of weeks ago when put my last movie on here (How It Ends) and then when I was looking at The VVitch in preparation for ordering The Lighthouse, and then just now I watched Midsommer.

I also watched The Lighthouse in the last two days, ut I’m not going to get into that now. I’m not going to go into The Lighthouse. A great film! But not one I’ll recommended to anyone. A dark, brooding cess of the human condition… A true “guy movie” in all the wrong ways. But it’s great and I’ll certainly be watching it again! Not as much as I’ll re-watch The VVitch, which has become one of my favorites of all times, but at least a couple more times.

Midsommer. Now that… Art plus entertainment… After the fact I read some reviews at CommonSense media and it was quite, not eye opening. More “putrid excess and gore” Excess, unexplained and inexplicable (what’s with everything needing to be explained? It’s a movie!), terrible, worst, etc etc. Firstly, I didn’t think it was gory at all… But aside from that, it was great! Lame and douchy guys, a woman with too much baggage piled on her, a research trip that is not at all what it seems… It’s not often that you see a movie that in, in essence, a story of some anthropology grad students going on a trip to Sweden to see a ceremony. At times they are a bit too naive (“run like hell and don’t trust anyone!!!!” should have popped into their heads sooner)… But it all works.

The setup seems to involve so many of the classics tropes of pagan festivals, all done in clear daylight with brilliantly white and shiny clothes. The antagonists are hardly antagonistic at all (unless you find people who are perpetually positive and blankly smiling and singing to be a bit unnerving) … I love the village, the buildings, the art (Siv’s house blows me away), when things get druggy and confusing and anxious, you can really feel it… I loved the end. Really. It totally put a smile on my face, which was the first smile I had in the whole movie.



How it ends? Eh?

Well, call me a rare fool but I watched Netflix’s How It Ends and I actually liked it. I didn’t Google it until it was over, so I was able to like it unsoiled by the amount of dislike leveled at it.


The story was maybe a bit light, but, you know, sometimes life’s just like that. A couple in Seattle are planning to get married, so the fella goes to Chicago to ask for the blessing of the gal’s dad, who is a curmudgeonly, wealthy, retired marine who thinks that said fella is kind of a loser… Fella basically blows it at dinner with the folks and leaves without asking his big question. Next morning on phone to gal, some terrible unseen and unspoken disaster happens… Gal is seriously concerned about something outside her window, but then the call goes dead. Fella heads to the airport to catch his flight, but then all the power goes out and all the flights are cancelled and a newscast comes on about how something has happened on the west coast, but they don’t have any info about what it was. Fella heads back to gal’s parents apartment and finds dad preparing to drive out to Seattle to find his daughter. Of course, regardless of the dislike between them, they team up and head out to drive through the unknown from Chicago to Seattle in a caddy.

As one might imagine, civilization has taken a bit of a fall out west, so they encounter numerous bad guys along the way, lots of scenes of driving, and a supporting character who I really liked but didn’t last long… With the two main characters, Theo James is convincing as a guy who really just doesn’t know what to do or how to react to anything, Forest Whitaker is convincing as someone who knows all too well what to do and how to react (and knows that others don’t, yeah, kind of a jerk), so Grace Dove is appreciated as the only genuinely cool character in the movie.

I quite liked the pacing of it: driving, countryside, moments of evasion, some strange and mysterious sights in the air, and then more driving. Kind of like Damnation Alley in concept, but not dumb and corny like Damnation Alley. I liked the ending as well, but we don’t walk about those things here. It’s a road trip movie, a bonding movie, an Armageddon movie (maybe), a post-apocalypse movie (maybe), and a disaster movie in which you don’t know what the disaster is.

Though there were some potentially implausible action escapes, it doesn’t have all of the stupid, over-the-top action stuff and mumbo jumbo that Hollywood usually uses to make these sort of movies boring and unbearable. Just some people trying to get somewhere and not willing to stop at anything to get there,



pandemic viewing one…

As soon as this all started I had a strong need to watch 28 Days Later. Though it’s my favorite Zombie movie (regardless of the fact that it contains no zombies), it is also my favorite virus movie and always a fun kick in the pants.

Thinking about how the fed’s prepared us for the pandemic, I thought of the scientist in the first scene… He really could have tried harder to convince the activists to not let the monkeys out “they’re Infected!” pause “With rage!” is going to be kind of meaningless to most people. “We’ve given the monkeys a virus that fills them with rage. Let even one of those monkeys out of its cage and they will attack us viciously and we will all be dead” would have been a much more straightforward way to communicate the issue.

And the lead character, not only is pretty annoying, but is also sort of a bad omen as, whenever he shows up people leave their “safe” situation and head out into the world to end up being killed. But I still love it! Except for the end…

I’m convinced that the movie was actually supposed to end at the gate-crashing scene and that the rest of it was added on to appeal to audiences. It should end at the gate. First time I saw it, I knew that was the end… But then it kept going…

Secondly, I tried to watch Outbreak. I’ve seen it before and recalled it being watchable… But this time, no. I maybe made it half way through… It’s just a lame movie. Everything overly-hollywooded and corny. It really should stop appearing on lists of the “best” pandemic/disaster movies.



gone and not completely forgotten…

In my DVD heyday of the late 90’s and early aughts, one of my main sources of inspiration was Glenn Erickson’s DvdSavant blog at Dvdtalk.com. I haven’t checked it out in many years, but this morning I looked again. It’s gone and moved, now at its own renamed site, cinesavant.com, but it had the same effect… I got into wondering about all the movies I’ve parted with, which I wish I hadn’t, which of those I should maybe try re-getting? Anyway, I figured I’d post a list of the movies I had, that I don’t anymore… Note that on this list, the numbers before the titles and the wording of the titles is taken from filmaf.com, as that’s where I keep all of these catalogued…

Note that anything with an asterisk is something I’d like to still have, and anything with (alt) means that I got rid of it because I’d replaced it with a different version.

GONE

0025728 Alucarda – Special Edition (1978)

0062035 American Psycho (102 Minute Unrated Version) – Killer Collector’s Edition (2000)

0024789 American Soldier, The (1970)

0057650 Amityville Horror, The – Special Edition (1979)
Read more »



50/50 equals return of the jedi times 2

Ah, so I’ve seen Rise of Skywalker now.


I haven’t much discussed the latest batch of Star Wars movies here, and I won’t start now. However, for the sake of completionism, you can find those ramblings here: Star Wars at Mr Wford.

But back to the present, with some spoilers. RoS is the final movie in the Luke Skywalker saga, so it was interesting to see how it ended. As for the movie itself, it’s fine, you know? Like Return of the Jedi, it was 50% cool and 50% corny. There were some parts I liked quite a bit: more first 5 or so minutes, some other scenes that were well shot, seeing Rey’s powers grow and manifest themselves, more evidence that Leia was in fact a force user of Jedi caliber, Zorii Bliss and the scenes on Kijimi.

Scenes I didn’t like? Pretty much anything that reminded me of RoTJ (aside from the Death Stars scenes, I liked those), how overdone the Final Order fleet was, the overdone and mushy ending, the ridiculous looking scenes in the air above Exegol…

In both of the Star Wars trilogies, the three movies followed similar plans… Star Wars/Force Awakens, light-hearted, kinda corny, but serious, adventure movie. Empire Strikes Back/Last Jedi, more serious and glum and, in each series, the best of the three. And RotJ and RoS… Half cool evil empire stuff, half just corny.

For the RotJ connections (some spoilers)… Covers: we see Endor again, we see Death Star 2 again, the Emperor returns, dramatic descendant vs descender battle with lightning bolts, corny and unneeded celebratory scenes at the ending, too many scenes of Jedi ghosts, some worm thing that lives in the ground… Nuff said. However, with a new movie I’ll need to update my list of Star Wars films in order of favorites:

1. Star Wars
2. Empire Strikes back
Pre. Rogue One
6. The Last Jedi
-. Solo
4. The Force Awakens
5. Rise of Skywalker
3. Return of the Jedi



outings, or maybe innings next time…

We do not have a lot of chances to go “out”. we have limited time during the week, limited baby sitter options, and limited wherewithal to arrange anything. That said, last month we did the arranging and actually went out to see a movie. A movie that we didn’t know much about, but had seen the preview and it looked rather entertaining… The Dead Don’t Die.



Heading into it was a bit of a mixed bag. Of course, Zombie comedies are a mixed bag on their own… Most are bad, but Shaun of the Dead and Return of the Living Dead are timeless classics, so there is certainly potential.

And I don’t really like Jarmusch’s movies. The ones that I’ve seen (Down By Law, Mystery Train, Night On Earth, Coffee and Cigarettes) have basically felt like boring movies that have a few interesting scenes (most notable was the unexpected thrill of seeing Screaming Jay Hawkins show up in Mystery Train). Coffee and Cigarettes would be the only one that I would have an interest in re-watching. So I wasn’t exactly excited about it being a Jarmusch movie, but I figured that might make for an interesting zombie movie.

Anyway. so this movie… It stars Bill Murray (who I love but who has been known to do some questionable things), Adam Driver (who I only know as Kylo Ren and was interested in seeing him do something else), Chloe Sevigny (who I generally like and respect her typical take no crap attitude), and a number of other people of merit who I assume are doing this just for kicks (Danny Glover, Steve Buscemi, Tilda Swinton, Iggy Pop, RZA, etc etc). I enjoyed Adam Driver’s dry frankness, Bill Murray was fine as Bill Murray, and I liked RZA’s Wu-dropping appearance as a delivery driver.

But, beyond that, it was rather annoying. Way way too much breaking the forth wall (in ways that felt dull, trite, and totally unneeded), Chloe’s girlie girl role was too girlie girl for Chloe to play (it just came off as insulting or a weird joke), Tilda Swinton seemed as if she was just here passing time between takes in some other movie (through she was pretty refreshing at times compared to many of the others), Iggy Pop’s parts were silly, Tom Waits part is, sadly, forgettable. A lot of the “angle” was overly contrived and got a bit hard to bear at times. Obviously it is intended as a political and social satire, but that is made way too obvious. Yes, Jim… We get it… Over and over again. People are robots, society is stupid and trite, politics is a ridiculous scam. Yes, thanks. Anyway, just not my cup of tea… I think I would have preferred it as a 20 minute short.



stepping back behind the curtain, or, the travails of too much reality left consigned to fiction

Well, well, well… Six years and here I am again. Okay, and then some. I actually started this post eight months ago and got one paragraph into it…

Anyway, back then, I went to a movie gathering with some friends and it got me to thinking about movies in a more social sense again…

Originally, I wanted to do a little blurb about Science Fiction movies. I ended up doing something and put it on my current blog, but, hey, may as well start this up again as, for the umpillionth time, thinking about it made me want to reopen this blog and see if I can keep it going. I always had fun with it. So let’s see if I can figure it out…

The movie that we saw socially was Gravity. Now, we’d seen it before, but all I could remember about it was that it was non-stop and rather stressful. The second time around? The same… Non-stop and stressful. It was nicely shot and quite exciting, but there were two things that I found super distracting… First, George Clooney’s attitude. So unbelievably casual and unprofessional. It was a bit hard to take him seriously as an astronaut when he kept carrying on like he was just in the midst of being a jerk in the playground. Secondly, the nearness of everything. Space is huge, orbits are set off from each other, different things are at much different altitudes, and those things that they hopped between (Hubble, ISS, and Chinese station), are no where near each other. Maybe just little things done in the name of making the movie work, but those kind of things gnaw at me and distract me from getting into it. However, it’s still pretty fun to watch, if you can stand the stress.

But, on to other movies. Since I can’t really sum up seven years of missed movies, I’ll mention what is probably the movie I’ve watched the most in those years… Interstellar.

Interstellar Move This has turned out to be one of my all-time favorite movies. A dystopian future in which food is running out, things are wearing out, and people are just trying to survive on what’s left. Things like the space program and anything else considered frivolous have been tossed aside. However, a farmer, who happens to be a former test pilot from the old days when people wasted their time with stuff like that, is informed by his daughter that a ghost is talking to her. In this new era of dying crops and everything running out, everything is very dusty, which is unpleasant and unhealthy but very helpful for her ghost. It turns out that is becomes obvious that some kind of communication is coming to her…. And once they try to decipher it, everything changes…

The story of sending a ship through a wormhole to a different galaxy in the hopes of finding some place for humanity to survive. It is a great romp. A fun, yet very serious, realistic-feeling space adventure. With some romance, and betrayal and murder and really unique looking robots. But what really takes off is the science. The planets on the other side of the wormhole orbit a black hole, and the science and gravity and time effects of the black hole are covered in many fascinating ways, as it the black hole itself and the singularity and the meaning of time and space and, hold on, Gravity!



next in line…

Yes, it is catch-up time again (super twice catch-up, as I wrote this draft in 2012 and didn’t publish it until 2019)…

In brief…

Dead Man BluesDesperate Man Blues…
A Documentary about Joe Bussard, a record collector since way back with an enormous and unique collection of old americana records. The film is a fascinating tale of the history of record collecting and the appreciation of the music, starting long before it was considered collectible. He discusses how he started collecting records in the South of the 1950’s, a time in which these were considered pretty worthless by most. He would just stop by people’s houses looking for unwanted records and he could get 400-500 in a day. But, even more so than his stories, some of the high points of this movie are the many times when he plays some of the great things from his collection: Charlie Patton, Dave Macon, Jimmie Rodgers, film of Son House (I’ve never been a big fan of Son House, but watching him play guitar is pretty amazing), Clarence Ashley, and even an original Robert Johnson record!

Desperate Man Blues


Bussard is quite charismatic in a way as he is an incredibly enthusiastic fellow whose collection is not only fascinating, what with the old blues, bluegrass and jazz records from the 20’s and 30’s, but is also an important archive of American music, one which he wants to share… Even to the extent that, as a teenager, he started a radio station in his house, until the FCC came and visited him and shut him down.

He also quite opinionated, voicing such sentiments as: “rock is a cancer of music, it killed everything.” and “1933 was the last jazz record. 1955 was the last country record”. Sentiments that may be a bit hard to take at face value but, considering the source, one assumes that there must be some merit to the opinion. All in all, I would say a must see movie for anyone who is serious about classic american music or record collecting. Just a great story.


Un FlicUn Flic.
Another Melville classic! This 1972 crime caper has everyone’s favorite frenchman, Alain Delon, working on the side of the law (for once…) to track down a notorious bank robber, and nightclub owner, played by Richard Crenna.

It starts right off with a memorable scene of four men in a Plymouth in the lead up to a bank robbery on a rainy waterfront street. Everything is tinged blue and quiet. In fact, I find the whole movie to feel quiet and memorable. Through the movie we quietly follow the thieves as they go about trying to avoid being caught by the flic on their tail. And, no matter how it ends up for them, I find it to be very nice to watch it unfold … Who needs gratuitous gore and scary music when you’ve got class and style?

PredatorPredator
We’re all gonna die…

Yes, it’s a classic, but you have to make it through the first ten minutes, where we are treated to a slow moving festival of a group of super dudes going comically out of their way to look as macho as possible (while we also get assaulted with a slew of some of the worst one-liner‘s that have ever graced the silver screen) as they are flying into the jungle in a helicopter. Once they get on the ground though, the situation improves dramatically… Okay, the stuff with Carl and Arnold is pretty bad so maybe once they get into the jungle the situation, at least for us lucky movie goers, improves dramatically.

Oh, but the story? Well, for anyone who doesn’t know, a bunch of macho dudes (Arnold, The Body Ventura, Sonny Landham, Bill Duke…) are flown into the jungle on a mission to rescue some diplomats downed behind enemy lines. Of course, as with anything involving the government, that story is just a cover up. They get joined by Carl Weathers and run off into the jungle where they start getting pursued by an invisible super-hunter from outerspace. This hunter, or predator shall I say, makes them look pretty silly as he picks them off with his cool alien technology, including some classic ridiculous scenes such as when Mack just starts shooting into the jungle, then he is joined by everybody else shooting and they shoot hundreds of rounds into the same little area mowing down tress. Yes, it’s a dramatic bit, but it is safe to know that all of these guys know that if there was anything there it would have been taken out early in the fireflow and that most of that time they had just been wasting ammunition for dramatic macho sense.

With his usual smarmy attitude, old style MTV t-shirt and a gun that is like a lawnmower cannon against the jungle, The Body was one of the most entertaining aspects of the movie. However, the most memorable scenes involve Bill Duke and Sonny. Anyway, what the hell can you say? It’s a classic.



i gots wreckeded… and more late memories.

In Wrecked, we have Adrian Brody as the unfortunate survivor of a car accident. He wakes up after said accident to find the car in the woods at the bottom of a tall cliff, his two companions dead, and his leg stuck under the dashboard.

Alive but alone and with no way to get out of the car, or to signal anyone, we watch the progression of his suffering until after some hallucinatory moments, the memory of the events leading up to the crash slowly and painfully start returning to him.

I don’t know if i liked it or not, but it sure kept my attention. In fact, I think I did like it. It was an interesting, odd and engrossing film… though I have a hard time imagining someone deciding to give it a theatrical run.

Also we finally got around to viewing Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, an engaging story of an Australian who finds himself in his forties, overweight and in overly-medicated ill-health. All of which leads him to decide to go on a 60 day juice fast… In the USA, of course, spending the first half in new york and the second half driving around the country with his juicing supplies in the back of his SUV, offering juice, and his story, to any who will listen. Along the way we get to watch his health improve dramatically and we encounter a couple of people who take his message seriously and begin juice fasts themselves. There is one particularly relevant moment when he talks to a man who speaks unconcernedly about how old he may end up getting (55, 65 if he’s lucky), while sitting at a table with his own father and his young son. It is an entertaining film reminding us, yet again, that diet is the key to health and the fresh foods and whole grains lead to good health, and that animal products and processed foods lead to bad health. There is also good follow up in the movie of the stories of some of the people who are involved in this juice-fast thing.

Then we also watched Forks Over Knives, which is a similar topic and spirit, but a much different movie. In Forks Over Knives, we follow two scientists who, in the 50’s and 60’s started studying nutrition in a highly scientific way. Using the results from many exhaustive tests and case subjects, they also come to the conclusion that most of our most dangerous health ailments: heart disease, cancer, diabetes… Can be prevented by eating whole food, plant-based diets. At this point, I assume that everyone knows this though. Movie after movie, study after study. But, you know… It is hard to get the inclination to eat that way when most aspects of our society are designed to get you to eat, well, the other way.



family affair…

Gumby On my commute home yesterday, I received a text stating that last night would be family movie night. Family movie night means a couple of things around these parts… It means a quick drive down to the Star Theater to pick up a large tub of “movie” popcorn and a pack of Twizzlers, and it also means that we will be (most likely) scrounging Netflix for whichever kid movie my daughter wants to watch. The selection this time was unexpected for multiple reasons… Gumby 1 (aka, Gumby: The Movie). Firstly, I had no idea that there was any such thing as a Gumby movie. Secondly, once I learned of it I assumed that it would be just another big Hollywood pilfering and altering of our cultural icons. Boy… Was I wrong.


Gumby 1 is most certainly the real thing. A low-budget genuine claymation film about Gumby and Pokey made by the guy who actually invented Gumby. And, for that, it is just great!


It seems that not all is well in clayland! Gumby has a band, The Clayboys, and the amount of time that he spends with them is making poor old Pokey feel down in the dumps. But who cares about that because then two exciting things happen! An agent discovers the band and wants them to film a video, and the band decides to have a benefit concert to help some farmers who are facing repossession! All of this goodness is spoiled, ala Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park, by the Blockheads who decide to kidnap the band (including the manager and their mascot dog) and replace them with robots!!!


Well, you’ll have to watch it to find out what happens, but there is lots of driving in and out of books and just great old school claymation. Strangely, there is a lot of music in it which has a surprisingly hard rock feel to it. Hmmm… Who’d of thunk that’s what Gumby was into. And there are also plenty of positive thoughts and reflective statements to give the kids that sort of good moral development that they are craving.

SpiderholeAfter this movie and the family going off to bed, I followed it up with Spiderhole. A British horror film about four young folks who set of to find a house to take over with Squatters rights (gah, can people really still do that?). They find a good house but, of course, contrary to appearances, the house that they break into isn’t as abandoned as it appears. And, you are expecting, they become the prey of some ruthless and mysterious figure! Bad things happen to these kids, in reasonably grisly ways that are nicely done. Not too corny nor overbearing. And they do a good job of keeping the antagonist somewhat unknown and maintaining a good maze-like feel to the set. Not in the really dumb way made popular by Saw, but it a reasonable way… Sometimes it reminded me a bit of the original Texas Chainsaw house… But with a richer color palette. All in all, I thought it was pretty good, enough to keep me interested and not so underdone that I would be embarrassed and bored by watching it.



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