Category Archives: Other Media

Cinema Sat…er…Sunday, 6/20/21

Saint Maud

Year: 2019
Runtime: 1h 24m
Rated: R

Director: Rose Glass

Writer: Rose Glass

Stars: Morfydd Clark, Caoilfhionn Dunne, Jennifer Ehle

Initial: Saint Maud has been recommended to me by a few people. I’m expecting something fairly mind-bendy.

What Did I Think: (possible spoilers ahead)
Saint Maud was more straight-forward than I expected, probably because I put Maud/Katie into the category of unreliable narrator pretty early on in the film. That said, it’s a well-made film. This is the feature debut for writer/director Rose Glass and her cinematographer Ben Fordesman. Maud’s world is alternately dream-like/nightmare-ish and grungily real. The movie hangs on the performance of Morfydd Clark and Jennifer Ehle, and both actresses nail their characters with nuanced performances. I’m really interested Rose Glass’s future projects.


Extraction

Year: 2020
Runtime: 1h 56m
Rated: R

Director: Sam Hargrave

Writers: Ande Parks, Joe Russo, Anthony Russo, Fernando León González

Stars: Chris Hemsworth, Rudhraksh Jaiswal, Randeep Hooda

Initial: So I added a bunch of movies from different to-watch lists and randomly picked. First pick: Extraction.

Production Note: This movie was sort of a big deal when it came out last year, becoming a kind of proof-of-concept for a “big” film opening on a streaming service (not that it had much choice).

What Did I Think:
After Eric watched this movie, on my recommendation, he described it thusly: “It’s like a reverse trolley problem. There’s one person on the main track, but this plot switches rails to kill sixty people on the other track.” He’s not wrong…

This movie felt very retro to me, very 80s actions movie. There’s lots of violence. The bad guys are Evil. The good guy is honorable. There’s pathos! There’s humor! There’s an extraction team that doesn’t seem to be a very good extraction team… And there’s also an 10 minute “no-cut” action sequence. I am not a fan of the super rapid, choppy cutting that happens in many 2000s action films (the Transformer films stand out to me as being fairly egregious), but I’m on the fence about long, no-cut POV scenes too. On one hand, the lack of cut builds tension. On the other hand, it can fall into feeling like video game play. No doubt, stitching 36 scenes into one continuous sequence (which is what Hargrave does here) is a feat, I’m just not sure it completely serves the movie.


1BR

Year: 2019
Runtime: 1h 30m
Rated: TV-MA

Director: David Marmor

Writer: David Marmor

Stars: Nicole Brydon Bloom, Giles Matthey, Taylor Nichols

Initial: Random movie #2!

Production Note: The second feature debut of a writer/director in this post.

What Did I Think: (possible spoilers ahead)
First off, I’m tired of women getting tortured in horror films. It’s probably a trope that I just need to avoid. I’ve come to find it distasteful and lazy. Could the premise of 1BR work with a 20 year-old guy? Yeah, more or less.

Maybe you can fault me for this not being a good-faith argument, but Sarah (our protagonist) is doing fine at the beginning of this movie. She’s moved to Los Angeles on her own. Sure, she didn’t immediately break into costume design (she hasn’t been in LA long), but she has a job and she’s looking for an apartment. Other than lying about her cat, she doesn’t have any notable sins/vices that require cult-like reprogramming. Is the message of this movie that if you don’t have immediate success, you’re so broken you need intervention? Also, are apartment showings like that in LA? A dozen people milling around a one bedroom? It seemed bizarre to me. The bright spot is Nicole Brydon Bloom. She really does a fine job with the role.

A similar, better movie: The Invitation (2015).

Cinema Saturday, 6/12/21

Small Town Crime

Year: 2017
Runtime: R
Rated: 1h 31m

Directors: Eshom Nelms, Ian Nelms

Writers: Eshom Nelms, Ian Nelms

Stars: John Hawkes, Anthony Anderson, Octavia Spencer

Initial: Generally a fan of John Hawkes. I wouldn’t mind seeing him in a few more movies. Also I’m delving into a bit of neo-noir.

Production Notes: Eshom and Ian Nelms also wrote and directed the Mel Gibson Santa Claus film, Fatman.

What Did I Think:
First off, this movie isn’t as funny as the trailer wants to make you think it is. It’s not grim-dark—there are moments of levity—but it’s not hilarious either. That’s a nit-pick with the trailer which I didn’t bother watching until I started writing this post.

In general, this film is fine. Mike, Hawke’s alcoholic former cop, is a flawed character and prone to doing short-sighted and ill-advised things. The plot unspools in a logical manner. Filmed in Utah, the movie has the feel of “small town” being one of the rural-ish areas of California, rather than, say, Small Town, Iowa. Indeed the Nelms brothers were inspired by Central Valley, California. The characters really are the highlight of film. The cast and writing give the characters a little something that is more memorable than the rest of the movie.


Nocturnal Animals

Year: 2016
Runtime: 1h 56m
Rated: R

Director: Tom Ford

Writers: Tom Ford, Austin Wright

Stars: Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon

Initial: A much-lauded neo-noir film that I’ve been meaning to watch for a while.

Production Notes: Being face-blind means not realizing that Amy Adams and Isla Fisher are different people…

What Did I Think:
I wanted to like this movie. It has things that I like: Jake Gyllenhaal, a writer character being meta, a West Texas setting (at least partially). But there’s something about Nocturnal Animals that leaves me a little cold. Maybe it was the obese naked cheerleaders at the beginning… Okay, I get that choice, sort of. It’s meant to present Adam’s character of Susan Marrow as that sort of upper class elite museum person that will present distasteful art in the name of being “challenging.” Unfortunately, it presents Tom Ford and this movie in that way too.

Nocturnal Animals is a revenge movie. Susan’s ex-husband, Edward (Gyllenhaal), sends her his manuscript—a novel about a man whose wife and daughter are raped and killed after a car-jacking. The character in the novel (also Gyllenhaal), feeling helpless and weak, is bullied onto a revenge path by a dying investigator. In the “real world” portion of the movie, Susan reads the novel and we are shown in flashbacks how she had wronged Edward during their marriage. Susan feels that perhaps she can restart her relationship with Edward, fleeing her unhappy life, but Edward has his revenge too. It’s a mostly people being awful to each other. No wonder I didn’t care for it.

Monday Miscellanea, 5/31/21

Programming Note

I’m always tinkering around with my blogging “schedule;” I think reviews work better for me later in the week, so I’m moving my Miscellanea posts to Monday, where also the obvious alliteration is.

From Around the Internet

Via Dominic Noble on YouTube: The First (and Worst) Adaptation of The Hobbit
Oh, the things that are done in the name of retaining rights…

Watching

I didn’t have a Cinema Saturday post because I watched no movies in the past week. Instead I’ve been watching two series.

The first is Intelligence.

This is a Canadian series from 2006, centered around organized crime in Vancouver. The plots are intricate without being baffling; the characters are compelling and articulate. It’s one of my husband’s favorite shows, but this is my first watch-through. It’s currently streaming on Nextflix.

I’m also rewatching The Haunting of Hill House series (2018). Now that I now what’s going on, I can appreciate the non-linear timeline more. I still don’t see the background ghosts though. It turns out that people with face-blindness are less susceptible to pareidolia.

Getting Back to It

Our air conditioning has been on the fritz. Again. There was obviously a refrigerant leak in the system somewhere. They “topped it up” last year, which was fine since it was at the beginning of the pandemic and that was handled without anyone coming into the apartment. When the situation was the same this year, our landlady decided to have the unit replaced. The one we had was a ’95 model, so it was probably time. Apartment #1 in our building had theirs replaced near the end of last summer. The AC guys are here as I write this, so I’m looking forward to a cooler apartment later today and hopefully slightly lower electric bills this summer.

Cinema Saturday, 5/22/21

Alien

Year: 1979
Runtime: 1h 57m
Rated: R

Director: Ridley Scott

Writers: Dan O’Bannon, Ronald Shusett

Stars: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, John Hurt

“You are my lucky star. You… Lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky.”

Initial: A rewatch, though I’ve probably only seen Alien once or twice in the past. I’ve seen Alien³ more often.

What Did I Think:
A couple of observations:

I feel like Alien has gained such a reputation as a horror film that it’s thought of disconnected from the science fiction genre. Given the trailer above, that is what they were going for in the marketing in the first place, but first half of the movie does contain many of the “grandeur of space” scenes that I often associate late 1970s science fiction. You can find the same sweeping shots of stars, moons, and planetscapes, accompanied by an appropriately majestic musical score, in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) and StarTrek: The Motion Picture (1979).

James Cameron does such a good job playing off of small details in the sequel, Aliens. Aliens is such a different movie in style, but it’s the little details that keep the two in the same universe: lighting choices, background sounds, cornbread, suspicious artificial humans… I think I mentioned a similar thing when looking at The Terminator (1984) and Terminator 2 (1991). The audience knows these details, even if they’re not necessarily things that stick out.


Army of the Dead

Year: 2021
Runtime: 2h 28m
Rated: R

Director: Zack Snyder

Writers: Zack Snyder, Shay Hatten, Joby Harold

Stars: Dave Bautista, Ella Purnell, Ana de la Reguera

“Somewhere between leaving your ass and saving my own, I developed a conscience. It’s exhausting.”

Initial: After watching Peninsula (2020) last month, I figured I should watch the other heist zombie movie.

Production Notes: (Spoiler-ish) Everyone probably knows this by now but… Late in production, allegations of sexual misconduct where brought against Chris D’Elia, who had already filmed his scenes. He was digitally replaced *in the entire movie* with actress Tig Notaro, who was filmed in front of a green screen. The replacement ends up being a little awkward in places, mainly because Notaro has a different energy than the rest of the cast in certain scenes. It would have been fun to have seen her as actually part of the cast.

What Did I Think:
I am not a fan of Zack Snyder. I really haven’t ever forgiven him for making the Persians into deviants in 300 (2007). (You don’t read Xenophon as an undergraduate without having opinions about the ancient Persians.) He over-burdens his films. We can’t have Superman without Supes being a conflicted alien, and we can’t have a heist zombie film without it also being about quarantines and confinement camps.

(Seriously, what’s the deal with the quarantine camp? It’s been long enough since the Las Vegas outbreak for Dave Bautista to be given a medal of honor and then go back to being a short-order cook (and for his daughter to grow up?). Shouldn’t all of these former Las Vegans be relocated?)

And the zombies have to be more than zombies. Which I don’t think are as scary as force-of-nature zombies, really. In Peninsula, the zombies are an obstacle, but an obstacle that can be manipulated. Peninsula‘s story does come down to being “man is worse than zombies,” but also that man can help their fellow man. There is an aspect of fun and hope to Peninsula that is (not surprisingly) absent from Army of the Dead.

This film is about an hour longer than it needed to be, but I do give Snyder props for making it with a budget of $70M–90M.

Cinema Saturday, 5/8/21

The Bourne Legacy

Year: 2012
Runtime: 2h 15m
Rated: PG-13

Director: Tony Gilroy

Writers: Tony Gilroy, Dan Gilroy, Robert Ludlum

Stars: Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton

“What kind of weapon system is this guy operating?”

“He’s probably got a rifle.”

“It’s a high-powered rifle.”

Initial: I’m still recovering from my month-long horror-o-thon. I finished watching The Good Place and decided on a rewatch.

What Did I Think:
The Bourne Legacy is one of my comfort movies, which means I love it more than it probably deserves. I admire its chutzpah: a Bourne film without Bourne. I love its exposition: there’s a lot of it and it generally does nothing to elucidate the plot. And, despite its uneven pacing, I’m along for the ride because it’s double competency porn. Ed Norton and company don’t fail because they’re incompetent; they’re just less competent than the operative they’ve created. I also appreciate the Frankenstein overtones. Dork turned bad-ass Rachael Weisz is a scientist who has to face the consequences of Doing Science.

And besides, isn’t a movie about a grand bio-engineering government conspiracy exactly the movie I want to watch after getting my second mRNA vaccine shot?

Production Notes: If you want to watch a more well-regarded Tony Gilroy film (and one of my husband’s frequent rewatches), I recommend Michael Clayton (2007) with George Clooney and Tilda Swinton.

Cinema Saturday, 5/1/21

I spent all of April with an unusual (for me) posting schedule: (nearly) every day with Horror Movie A to Z posts as well as a couple of Reading Notes posts. But I wanted to get back to my regular schedule. So, here we are. It’s Saturday which means it’s Cinema Saturday!

First, I want to list my top five favorites from April’s event:

  • The Orphanage (‘El orfanato’, 2007, Directed by J. A. Bayona, Spain)
  • Rigor Mortis (‘殭屍’, 2013, Directed by Juno Mak, China & Hong Kong)
  • Blue My Mind (2017, Directed by Lisa Brühlmann, Switzerland)
  • La Llorona (2019, Directed by Jayro Bustamante, Guatemala)
  • Peninsula (‘반도’, 2020, Directed by Yeon Sang-ho, South Korea)

Honestly, I don’t go looking for international films. My criteria when I was making my A to Z list was 1.) films I hadn’t seen (or hadn’t seen in a long, long while) and seemed interesting/I’d heard of, 2.) newer films, and obviously, 3.) films with a certain first letter.

I actually didn’t watch any other movies during April. I did watch last year’s The Great British Bake-Off and am watching/catching up on The Good Place, since we currently have Netflix. I did watch one other documentary (thus far) on Shudder, Horror Noire, which I definitely recommend.

A to Z Blogging Challenge 2021: Horror Movies Z

#AtoZChallenge 2021 April Blogging from A to Z Challenge letter Z

Zoo

Year: 2018
Runtime: 1h 35m
Rated: PG

Director: Antonio Tublen

Writer: Antonio Tublen

Stars: Zoë Tapper, Ed Speleers, Antonia Campbell-Hughes

Initial: Remember the early days of the pandemic when couples suddenly realized they were going to have to spend *a* *lot* of time with their significant other?

Production Notes: Danish/Swedish production.

What Did I Think:
On one hand, this is a well-acted and generally well-made film that probably had a micro budget. Antonio Tublen is not only the writer and director, but wrote the soundtrack and is the editor. I’m reminded of Viggo Mortensen’s quip about his movie Falling (2020) where he filled a similar number of roles—it was one less person he had to pay if he could do the job himself. I also thought the premise was rather good. Karen and John’s relationship is in shambles after Karen’s pregnancy a year ago ended in a stillbirth. She’s ready to leave the marriage, but now they are forced to shelter-in-place while a zombie apocalypse is happening.

What left me a little cold was, unfortunately, the characters. Karen (Zoë Tapper) is almost an enjoyable psychopath—the type of person who, when all other entertainment has been exhausted, reveals a stash of drugs she’d stolen when she worked in evidence room (she’s former police?). But that sort of undercuts any serious thoughts about her mental health. I want to feel sympathy towards her, but honestly, she is so much of a psycho that I’m not quite sure why John (Ed Speleers) isn’t more weirded out by his wife’s surprising behaviors. The movie is dependent on these two characters, but I never felt on solid ground with either of them.

So, my A to Z ends on a bit of a sour note. I think I’m going to go watch Zombeavers now for a pick-me-up.

All the posts for this challenge. Or, find me on Letterboxd.