Saturday, December 25, 2021

Weekend Open Thread (Merry Christmas!)


  1. Happy Holidays everyone! :-D Hope you're having a great time either with your loved ones and/or doing what you want with whoever you're comfortable with. I wish I could have been with my family for Christmas, but I was scheduled to work the graveyard shift over the entire holiday weekend. Unexpected "solution" to my problem? I got COVID 19 (the sucky type that hurts like hell to breathe despite me being double-vaccinated and boosted), putting me in isolation until I hopefully get a negative test in a few days. :-( Haven't told anyone (you're the first to know, because complete strangers! :-P) so I don't ruin my loved one's holiday weekend with my dumb sickness. Figures. Got a fridge full of food I can't eat because just swallowing my own saliva hurts like a motherfucker! Got a Christmas gift for my niece I can't deliver because it's coming from a COVID household. Got a new job I'm trying to make a good impression at I can't go to or risk contaminating co-workers. Worse thing is I had IMAX tickets to "The Matrix Resurrection" the evening I got my positive test. Didn't go, but I will watch "Resurrection" on HBO Max over the weekend. So congrats Time Warner. You got my theater money and Max subscription fee. You win. :'(

    I did catch Matthew Vaughn's THE KING'S MAN (2021, theater) along with a rewatch of SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME (2021, IMAX) earlier in the week. Ditching Jane Goldman's contributions to the first two "Kigsman" movies, Vaughn teams-up with screenwriter Karl Gajdusek ("Oblivion") to reign-in the franchise's descent into self-aware jokey camp by the end of 2017's "The Golden Circle." Rebooted to an origin story married to World War I historic fanfic, "The King's Man" is the type of father-son drama JB can't get enough of. Yes, there's a cabal of SPECTRE-type villains (with Rhys Ifans' Rasputin stealing every scene he's in; Tchaikovsky-scored fighting/dance choreography for the win!) to chase after and a British kingdom to keep from falling to the dark side... but the duel of wills between the Duke of Oxford (Ralph Fiennes) and his stubborn son Conrad (Harris Dickinson) is the heart and soul of a film that stands on its own without needing to see the previous "Kingsmans." Gemma Arterton and Djimon Hounsou are fine in serviceable supporting roles. Lousy timing to be released exclusively in theaters (sandwiched between "Spider-Man" and "Matrix" sequels while COVID makes a comeback), especially since "King's Man" deliberately chooses to play deeper and more intimate than its topping-the-topper predecessors. Wait for this one to hit 4K UHD or streaming.

    "No Way Home" doesn't lose any shine on repeat viewing. It's now a solid No. 3 favorite "Spider-Man" movie behind the still-amazing "Spider-Man 2" and rock-solid "Into the Spider-Verse." It's also a rare blockbuster beast in that I have trouble remembering any action set-piece over character conversations and/or intimate moments between the leads. I also can't remember a superhero trilogy that starts mediocre ("Homecoming"), stays mediocre ("Far From Home") and then jumps way up with No. 3 ("No Way Home"). Is the Statue of Liberty made of adamantium in the MCU Universe? That'd explain why it's still standing after the supervillains throw just about everything at it. The final 20 minutes of "No Way Home" feel like a dagger that slowly penetrates and crushes your soul... and I couldn't be more thankful for it. :'( Seriously, can't we give Andrew Garfield an "Amazing Spider-Man 3" crack again?

    1. That sucks. Hoping for a speedy recovery, buddy!

    2. Yo JM....get well soon!!! get lots of rest and maybe take in a movie or two at home. take care pal!!

    3. Thanks, Mashkee. πŸ₯°πŸ€•

  2. After getting the positive COVID result confirmed Thursday early evening, I've been on a binge of Christmas movies: DIE HARD (1988, 4K UHD) (the 'Ode to Joy' theme has never sounded/felt so magnificent and powerful; great watch-along with the sharp minds at Jury Room 4.0 hypothesizing Takagi's vault full of loot proves Nakatomi was as crooked as the "terrorists" trying to steal its riches), ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE (2018, EPIX) (just what I needed to help me wipe Spielberg's "West Side Story" off my mind forever; 'Hollywood Ending' remains one my favorite movie musical scenes, ever), NATIONAL LAMPOON'S CHRISTMAS VACATION (1989, Blu-ray) ('Merry Christmas. Shitter was full.' :-D), INVASION USA (1985, EPIX) (nothing says 'Merry Christmas' like Russian uber-terrorist Richard Lynch coming to your Christmas-decorated, All-American neighborhood or shopping mall with an RPG and blowing shit up real good!), etc.

    For whatever reason, though, the one Christmas movie that struck a chord with me this year despite me not liking it any of my previous viewings was Chris Columbus' HOME ALONE (1990, Disney+). It's the same 4K remaster as the 4K UHD, so the movie looks brand-new and super colorful. Second, I've come to appreciate the uniqueness and personality of Chicago-made movies thanks to F This Movie. While I still have problems with some of the characters being one-dimensional and/or full-on assholes (a typical flaw in supporting characters in most John Hughes-scripted/produced movies), "Home Alone" being made in Chicago (as opposed to the non-Chicago town/neighborhood in "Christmas Vacation") really elevates it.

    Catherine O'Hara is a national treasure, and she looks so young (as does John Heard!). Since we're both stuck at home I guess I now sympathize with Kevin (Macauley Culkin) defending his castle, but the whole subplot involving Roberts Blossom's old man Marley really hit me like a ton of bricks at the end. I've always loved John Williams' "Home Alone" score, but listening to that theme song swell when Kevin and his mom hug, then Kevin watches Marley reunite with his family... man, rivers of tears flooded out of me I never knew a "Home Alone" movie could pull off. Also appreciate that Kevin's home defense heroics are private and not known by any other character besides him and Marley after he rescues Kevin from the Wet Bandits. Most movies about boys end with the world knowing about their heroics and being rewarded for them. By giving Kevin the equivalent of a female hero's journey (an inner satisfaction knowing he's learned from his experience and will be a better young person because of what he did and went through), "Home Alone" offers far deeper satisfaction than I've ever experienced before. Now for the franchise's perpetually diminishing returns...

    Happy joyous weekend, y'all. :-P

    1. Oo, sorry to hear, JM. Hope you feel better soon! I like your point about Kevin's reward in Home Alone. Never thought about that.

    2. My father took my sister and me to see Home Alone in a theater in 1990. That was such a big phenomenon at the time.

      Hope you feel better soon, J.M. I had something recently that was not Covid (a negative test) yet still made life unpleasant for a couple of weeks.

    3. Thanks, Casual.πŸ˜ƒ Hope to see you soon on the other side of a negative test soon. 🀧😷

  3. Merry Christmas to those who celebrate than sort of thing and a happy weekend to those who don't!

    I watched a couple of Christmas movies this week (2006's Black Christmas is silly fun, The Santa Clause 3 sucks, and Love Actually made my skin crawl in places), but my favorite movie of the week was Sound of Violence, a Finnish-American co-production by a Finnish first-time director called Alex Noyer. It's a fun little indie horror about a young woman with synesthesia which triggers at the sight of violence. It goes to some pretty great (and somewhat gory) places towards the end and I loved it. I think I read on Twitter that it's on VOD in America, so a big recommend for fans of weird indie horror. Here's a trailer.

  4. First Up: Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to the ENTIRE F This family....contributors and site fans alike!!!!! I hope y'all are doing as good as you can do in these crazy times and wish you the best!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    A couple quickies:

    Spidey No Way Home 2nd viewing: No two ways about it, i adore everything about this movie. Some of my favorite experiences in the MCU come down to situations where i dont think ill connect all that much but OUTSTANDING writing wins me over (case in point, Civil War which i thought would be pure filler but is one of the best written stories in the series). This movie goes SO far beyond fan service and manages to do right by 3 generations of movie characters. The highest praise i can give is that 20m into my second viewing in opening week i thought to myself "cant wait to see this again!!!"

    Matrix Resurrection (HBOmax): Hrmm. I didnt hate it but its not great. Ill stay spoiler free and do some high level thoughts: Things I Liked: 1) that it exists, 2) the meta storytelling'll be divisive but i totally dug it. 3) pretty solid performances and character arcs by Neil Patrick and the new version of Agent Smith,4) Neo/Trinity scenes. Things I didnt connect with: 1) bringing back an actor from original trilogy to be an older curmudgeonly character, 2) entire crew of new version of nebekenezer...its like the original sequels..everyone is poorly written and bland compared to original crew, 3) fast edit action scenes, 4) mediocre story once things move to the Matrix. In the end i think of it very much like the sequels: Im glad it exists, im glad i watched, i have no real interest in ever revisiting, its all unnecessary in the shadow of The Matrix.

  5. WEST SIDE STORY (2021). Absolutely loved it. The movie is joyous and romantic at times, and tense and tragic at other times, without ever feeling incongruous. Definitely a best-of-year contender for me.

    THE MATRIX (1999) Saw this in prep for the new one, but haven't found time for new one yet. Awesome movie of course, and yet I still think of the Tick every time we get to "There is no spoon."

    HOME ALONE (1990) "Why are you dressed like a chicken?"

    DIE HARD (1988) Can't praise this enough. In addition to all the action thrills and memorable lines, I've always enjoyed how every side character has their own little story arc throughout the film. So many great character bits!

    BLACK CHRISTMAS (2019) I enjoyed this one a lot more on second viewing. Now that I know what the movie and what its message is, this time I was able to better get into its vibe.

    KRAMPUS (2015) A wonderfully weird one. It's a little anxiety-ish in how this family is such jerks to each other, but the monster carnage is nonetheless pretty wild.

    And all alone on Christmas night, I went ahead and put on the original STAR WARS (1977). Wretched hive of scum and villainy, etc.

    1. Watching Die Hard for FThisMovie Fest this year reinforced my own love for the film. It definitely is the characters that make it so entertaining. Hans Gruber is among the best villains in cinema.

      Krampus will likely be a watch next holiday season.

    Beautifully done by Jane Campion! I love how Kirsten Dunst ages and you love her as someone you've known and loved all your life and you want to keep growing old with. I heard the book was great and, though Campion did an amazing job, she didn't have time go into all the other themes and backstories of the characters from the book. For ex - I heard Phil's character is not actually closeted? (What!) I was really surprised about that. I'd like to read it someday.

    Saw it a second time, from the beginning, and did not like it nearly as much as when I saw it last week. For me Spielberg's Jets (including Riff) are the weak point. And it made me realize how good those establishing shots are in the original, panning over the blocks in NYC.

  7. Like J.M., this week I went on a Christmas film binge. I found some have not seen that I actually have an interest in. Adding a little horror certainly helps the cinematic holiday medicine go down better.

    SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT (1984) – Utterly hilarious! I could not stop chucking throughout the film. It’s also very sad, too. Full of bad taste and schlocky filmmaking, this is not a great work of cinema, but it is something I found very entertaining. I also learned that Return of the Living Dead is not the first film Linnea Quigley dies after spending a considerable amount of time nude.

    CHRISTMAS IN CONNECTICUT (1945) – As contrived as any Hallmark Christmas movie is but made with the talent of Golden Age Hollywood. Barbara Stanwyck plays a magazine writer who is nothing like the domestic diva she portrays herself as in her articles. When she is called upon by her boss to create one of the meals she writes about, trouble is inevitable. I was entertained because of the cast. S.Z. Sakall, who plays the Hungarian chef, steals any scene he is in.

    BLACK CHRISTMAS (2006) – Though I applaud the decision to give this remake its own identity, the style of the filmmaking is not one that I enjoy. The quick and jumpy editing was the main issue for me. On the positive side, the cinematography was very atmospheric and there were some tense scenes. What stood out for me in the story is the absence of any discussions of social media. Times have changed a lot in a decade and a half.

    GREMLINS (1984, dir. Joe Dante) – I had not watched this in more than thirty years. Seeing Gremlins in 2021, there is a 1980s cinematic magic that carries me through some of the more far-fetched moments. The film really entertains, the practical effects are fun to watch, Gizmo is beyond cute, and Stripe is a very memorable villain. I liked how the gremlins scenes satirize the worst aspects of human behavior. I remember an ex-girlfriend telling me about going to a theater to see Gremlins when it came out. Being a young child, she was very frightened by it. I completely understand.

    RARE EXPORTS (2010) – I found this to be a weird movie, but it is one that I had a great time watching. Santa Claus as an ancient evil is an intriguing concept, and his band of naked male elves adds more than a bit of strangeness to the proceedings. This is definitely a film I will go back to. The short films that inspired Rare Exports were on the DVD and are well worth seeing. I think the story concepts work better in those films, actually. RARE EXPORTS paired very well with DEADLY GAMES, my double feature last night while dog sitting.

    DEADLY GAMES / DIAL CODE SANTA CLAUS (1989) – A French film that is a recent acquisition from Vinegar Syndrome. I cannot say I have watched anything like this before. Not many films blend Christmas horror, 1980s action tropes, and family drama. A disturbed man fancying himself as a friend to children decides to become Santa Claus (PΓ¨re NoΓ«l in French) and terrorizes a boy and his grandfather. To make things more interesting, the boy is obsessed with Rambo and sets up numerous traps to thwart Santa Claus. It’s Home Alone before Home Alone was made, actually, but much sadder.