Saturday, September 11, 2021

Weekend Open Thread


  1. Good weekend to everyone. Are you getting ready for Scary Movie Month? My list is too long already with new watches.

    Not able to do much this week with a sore shoulder, I sat around watching a lot of movies. What else better is there to do?

    Mahoning Drive-In: On Sunday I attended the last night of the annual celebration of slashers, Camp Blood. I watched two films with slasher elements: 1982’s SILENT RAGE and 1983’s Cannon sleaze classic 10 TO MIDNIGHT. Silent Rage is an awkward mish-mash of action, bikers, slasher kills, a Frankenstein story and sexploitation. The randomness of the script prevented me from enjoying the film. Maybe Chuck Norris’ blandness also played a part. As for 10 To Midnight, it is among the best productions of Cannon’s output. Charles Bronson and Gene Davis, who plays the frequently nude killer, give intense performances. Bronson’s final judgment on the killer got a strong response from the crowd.

    THE END OF SUMMER (1961, dir. Yasujiro Ozu) – Though the camera does not move once, there is a lot movement in this still movie. One could say that that stillness is beautiful. The use of color is also beautiful. As with any Ozu movie, The End of Summer is about family. Change is in the air for almost every character as they go about everyday life. The framing of shots is so simple yet very striking.

    THE GREAT ALLIGATOR (1979, dir. Sergio Martino) on Amazon Prime

    From the first frames it was abundantly clear that this is Italian exploitation. A Jaws rip-off is crossed with a cannibal film (without the cannibalism or animal deaths) to create this inane production about a giant alligator or crocodile (?) attacking a jungle resort. However, Sergio Martino was too good of a director to not inject professionalism into the film. Some shots do impress, and there were sequences that I thought were well done. The smile the film put on my face was worth the $1.00 rental.

    LINDA RONSTADT: THE SOUND OF MY VOICE (2019) – Typical talking-heads music documentary about the career of the versatile Linda Ronstadt. My favorite part of the doc is the conclusion. Robbed of the ability to sing by Parkinson’s Disease, Ronstadt talked about the challenge of going on with life without being able to do the things that once defined it.

    SEDDOK: L’EREDE DI SATANA (1960) on Youtube – Italian horror and science-fiction hybrid that is better known in its English dub, Atomic Age Vampire. The title translates to Seddok: Heir of Satan, which is a more than a little overblown. The main difference between the Italian and English versions is length; SEDDOK is fifteen minutes longer. The story of a disfigured stripper and the scientist trying to remove her scars immediately becomes random and strangely morphs into a Jekyll and Hyde plot. The Italian horror completist in me prompted me to watch it, but casual fans would not be missing much.

    GREENWICH VILLAGE (1944) – There is nothing wrong with a little Technicolor song and dance. As with a lot of 1940s musicals, the plot is not the important part of Greenwich Village. The musicals numbers are amusing, filled with lively colors and outfits. Carmen Miranda does her Latin schtick in several of them. I marveled at how she could move around in such high platform shoes. Fun musical fluff.

    1. Any mix of movies that includes a color Ozu, a Cannon sleazy-but-good exploitation flick, Chuck Norris karate-fighting a zombie, a Sergio Martino-helmed "Jaws" ripoff and a Technicolor musical from the 1940's covers just about all the bases. Thumbs up, super soldier! :-D

    2. I've spent the last couple weeks gathering titles for my annual doomed-to-fail 24 hour marathon. I'm super pumped for some of my first time watches like Paul Schrader's Cat People, Night School and Ravenous, and I'm excited to see what the Scream Factory transfer for Jack Sholder's Alone in the Dark looks like. I'm also going to try to check out some 2000s horror that I skipped out on when I was a teen like Joy Ride or The Hills Have Eyes remake.

      At the end of every October, I always think "well now I've surely seen every horror movie that interests me" and yet every September I have an arms-long list of movies I need to see.

    3. Night School is a fun slasher. I watched The Hills Have Eyes remake multiple times years ago when I had access to premium cable, and I prefer it over the original.

      Somehow there are always more movies to watch. I have not seen many horror classics yet, and there is plenty of second-tier or third-tier horror to be discovered. My SMM watches could easily be all new ones, but I know re-watches are inevitable.

  2. Put on your 3D glasses!

    SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS 3D (2021, theater) is basically a Marvel wuxia movie transplanted into the MCU. And while it mostly succeeds (a bus fight sequence even better than the one in Bob Odenkirk's "Nobody" sets expectations very high early on, Tony Leung making a sympathetic/complex antagonist to breakout star Simu Liu, etc.) it also fails spectacularly at reigning in the silly (Awkwafina's Sarah Silverman shtick, callbacks to "Iron Man 3" that outstay their welcome, etc.) when the story's built-in epic/intimate drama demands a tone shift. 3D effects are immersive, frequent and not silly; easily the best 3D stereo conversion released in '21 so far. Most importantly, the MCU continues its streak of competent, entertaining blockbusters that seldom amount to anything other than fun escapism with faces old (Michelle Yeoh) and new (Meng'er Zhang). Worth seeing on the big screen, especially in 3D.

    THE LOSERS (2010, Netflix) hails from a time when Jeffrey Dean Morgan's name could be above Chris Evans', and comic book adaptations of violent material (like this "A-Team" knockoff) could be further neutered by a PG-13 rating guaranteed to please nobody. The failure of this one at the box office sentenced director Sylvain White ("Stomp the Yard") to a lifetime of TV work, and continued producers Joel Silver and Akiva Goldsman's perpetual creative descent. It looks good (cinematographer Scott Kevan) and sounds okay (John Ottman), but there's no soul or beating heart to this assembly-line action flick that wastes Idris Elba, Zoe Zaldana, Jason Patric, Holt 'I'm flying' McCallany and, first and foremost, your time and mine. Pass.

    Ann Hu's CONFETTI (2021, theater) is 'an uplifting sad little movie' (put that on the poster!) about an illiterate Chinese mother ("Cloud Atlas'" Zhu Zhu) sacrificing everything so that her young daughter Meimei (Harmonie Hu) doesn't grow with the same disability that has haunted the former's life. Amy Irving and Helen Slater have choice roles, and Yanan Li quietly breaks your heart by emoting as little as possible. As convoluted as any Hollywood narrative, but at least its heart is in the right place. Worth seeing when it hits streaming.

    The same way the Tatosian family is irrevocably attached to "Sleepaway Camp" (listen to this commentary to know why), the family of actor Joseph Bologna (who appears in his final role as a Catholic priest) is the reason TANGO SHALOM (2021, theater) exists. A low-budget New York movie through and through, it embraces stereotypes as it tells its clichéd tale of a Rabbi (Jos Laniado) and a dancer (Karina Smirnoff) entering a televised tango competition for financial/personal reasons that the Hasidic community misunderstands. A harmless cartoon as long as you don't take it too seriously, though its nice to see a film showing religious leaders supporting one another without compromising their core beliefs.

    BTW, I saw "Confetti" and "Tango Shalom" back-to-back and got two pleasing, unexpected surprises. In a scene in the former when the Chinese mother/daughter arrive to New York City, you can see my apartment building where I've lived since 1999 prominently featured. And among the credits of "Tango Shalom" I recognized the name of line producer Ari Taub, an indie filmmaker who was a co-worker and the landlord of my first rent-controlled apartment on NYC's Central Park West back in the late 90's. Small world. :-P

    1. And yet they keep hiring Akiva Goldsman. At some point, someone must have thought: hey, this guy did Batman & Robin... maybe he's a terrible writer who writes garbage.

    2. If there is a poster child for failing upwards in Hollywood, Akiva Goldsman is it.🤢🤮

  3. Malignant (2021, dir. James Wan)

    Ahhh, this is what slick big budget horror movies feel like. I‘m not a fan of The Conjuring (or any “based on a true story” supernatural horror) and while Malignant starts with a creaky, dopey haunted house fare, by the time we get to the last act with off-the-wall action stunts (including a cameo by Tarantino’s favorite stuntwoman) it won me over. I did find the use of horror’s new motif-du-jour, gaslighting pregnant women, to be tiresome after having seen Invisible Man and False Positive this year. I suppose the movie is trying to make a point about “parasites” and toxic relationships, but it really works best when it is simply going for horror schlock. For the umpteenth time this year, I feel sorry for my struggling local theater now that HBO delivers me the same movie at home, at exactly the time I want it to start, and they lose out of my money.

    Bad Boys (1983, dir. Rick Rosenthal)

    No, not that Bad Boys. Sean Penn’s first leading role as Mick O’Brien, a delinquent from Chicago who ends up in a juvenile prison for his part in a botched robbery. There’s quite a menagerie of troubled youths in prison, including a young Clancy Brown and Esai Morales. There’s some plot turns that don’t need spoiling, but it’s a very effective prison movie, and one that doesn’t feel like jailsploitation or a very-special-episode-of affair. Sean Penn commands the lead of this movie so effortlessly, it must have felt inevitable that he’d become a superstar. The fight scene in the last act is marvelously full of tension and pays off great character bits from the rest of the movie. Very well done.

    Vi är bäst! [AKA We are the Best!] (2013, dir. Lukas Moodysson)

    A stellar and delightful coming of age story about three adolescent girls who aspire to be punk rockers in early ‘80s Stockholm. It’s a sweet (but not saccharine) drama about being the misfits, but it doesn’t dive into gratuitous misery as so many teen movies do; think of this as the anti-Christiane F. It’s really about friendship, feelings and the compulsion that every teenager feels about finding themselves in the stifling, cruel labyrinth that is junior high school. Big recommend, especially if you need a cinematic palate-cleanser.

    Lastly, I got through Jean-Luc Godard’s Weekend and have very little to say about it, other than it’s a film about car crashes, sociopathic yuppies and cosplaying revolutionaries. I… don’t quite know how I feel about it.

    1. Weekend may have the best cinematic traffic jam.

      It has been a long time since I watched any of Godard's films. I do not know if I would have the patience for a film like Weekend now. I have to be in a specific mood to watch European arthouse movies.

    2. Even better than Falling Down?!


  4. Anyone want to talk about The Matrix 4 theories after the trailer just dropped just for fun

    Here is mine...


    I have a feeling there is not enough humans in the Machine City to generate enough power to run the machines. So multiple versions of the same people are grown and that is what is in the pods. Multiple versions of everyone like Neo, Trinity, ect, this is why in the trailer Trinity and Neo are alive and OK but they have not met before because these two literally have not yet met. They are new clones fresh from the battery compound. But being connected spiritually to all there other clones still stuck in the pods and the versions of themselves that have died they can still feel connection's to there other clones like twins feel connection's too and to each other even though they don't yet know why? The big reveal is the 7 versions of The One who tried and failed before was all also clones of Neo. But this version of Neo in this film is The One version of Neo still connected to all the other previous incarnations and because he can see how they failed he can therefor see how he can win! My Clone theory works perfectly with what you see in the trailer. This version of Neo could be the last Clone. The One Clone left to bring peace between humans and the machines. This new last Clone would feel connection's to Trinity through the other clones connection's and could easilly explain his lucid dreaming remembering what they have been through and his issues with needing therapy, he does not yet know why he has other peoples memories his head.

    The Matrix within a Matrix theory or Neo being okay because they just restarted the program is just unimaginative and makes no real sense.

    I've give this theory a lot of thought and i cant find any holes in it?

    1. Love the theory Dennis. Going with clones makes a ton of sense because it meets the need for "fuel" and provides a great storytelling device via the method you describe which permits some kind of conscious connection across clones. It will also allow for a lot of moments where we may not be with the version of the character we think we are.

      The trailer has me stoked. I like that it didnt give too much away but sets a premise of familiar characters from different times trying to piece it all together.

  5. JUMANJI (1995) This movie is marketed as a whimsical family film, but is it secretly a horror movie? All the animals and jungle whatnot aren't causing slapstick mischief, they're just trying to kill everyone. I like the movie, broke-looking CGI monkeys and all, but on this viewing I was struck with how death-happy it all is.

    OUR HOSPITALITY (1923) Buster Keaton goodness!

    INSIDE OUT (2015) This one is an all-timer. Funny, clever, visually dazzling, and oops I got a tiny speck of dust in my eye. When I first saw it, I recall the BingBong character being, lets say, a bit much. But I didn't mind him this time. I like that his cool black jacket keeps him from being too cutesy. Yeah, a great movie.

    1. "Inside Out" is a building block staple in Pixar storytelling prowess. There'd be no "Soul" or "Luca" without "IO." 🥲💖

  6. Avengers Endgame (2019 bluray)

    First...just to establish a baseline..this was not my first viewing. My first viewing was back-to-back watches opening night from Dolby to IMAX. Also worth noting, upon reflection those viewings were two of my all time..ALL time favorite theatrical experiences (which says alot from a movie uber fan of several decades). Since then ive seen it at least 6 more times. However tonight was a first time viewing with my family. We just finished and honestly i could write pages and pages of thoughts. But i wont. In the end i will say this. Avengers Endgame is one of the most amazing, perfect, beautiful, poignant, fulfilling, and downright enjoyable movies ever made...and realistically ever to be made...provided you are a fan of the core flicks that preceeded it. If not, i get it, its not your thing, no harm, no foul. BUT. If you found something to connect with in the original Iron Man movie...and have joined in on the ride since...Endgame is above and beyond anything one could hope for. It is somber, and sad, and reflective, and fuking beautiful, and a PERFECT ending. I dont know how many times i cried during it but it was a LOT. Im hard pressed to identify favorite moments but heres a few: 1) just one word..."Liar"...i swear i get chills every time i see it. Its the scene early in the movie when tony is rescued from space but reiterates the rift between him and cap (which was EXPERTLY crafted in Civil War, which i consider the best (2nd best?) written story in all of the MCU movies. 2) When tony pulls up to Avengers compound to reveal hes figured out time travel. Itsthe moment where Tony and Cap realize they need to work together. 3) "No amount of money ever bought a second of time". This is my favorite moment in all of MCU. Tony gets a chance that none of us revisit with a lost loved one...and reflect on the good. 4) Cap Hammer. I dont need to say anything else. I can confirm that i will never, ever, forget the explosion of fandom in the theater opening night for this scene. 5) the ultimate sacrifice and cheeseburgers. I could go on for pages but at this point, if you are a fan, you get me. For now i just wanted to document that sharing this movie with my wife and son was an INCREDIBLY special moment that i'll never forget.

    Peace .n. Avengers....assemble.