BQB here with a review of Marvel’s latest. SPOILER WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW!
With the tragic, untimely passing of Chadwick Boseman at the much too early age of 43, Disney/Marvel had some giant shoes to fill when deciding to carry on with the popular Black Panther franchise. They could have recast the role, rebooted the movie, gone the prequel route focusing on past panthers or what have you.
Would any of that have satisfied fans? Most likely not. Thankfully, writers/producers/director etc. stayed faithful to the original film by handing down the Black Panther claws not to a new cast addition but to the most likely heir, Princess Shuri (Letitia Wright.)
When King T’Challa passes, the royal family of Wakanda is devastated. Meanwhile, around the world, a vibranium arms race ensues, as various nations test Wakanda’s limits, believing that the loss of the Black Panther leaves the country vulnerable, and that plunder of the raw material that can lead to deadly technological devices and weapons is possible. To their dismay, Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett), now Wakanda’s ruler in the wake of her son’s loss, turns out to be an effective leader, able to foil many a plot to heist the precious metal.
As it turns out, there was another nation built on vibranium all along. Superpowered merman Prince Namor (Tenoch Huerta) leads an underwater dwelling civilization of ancient mer-people who were happy to remain hidden underwater for centuries until the world’s lust for vibranium leads to the construction of a vibranium detecting machine that leads U.S. operatives to search for it in the ocean.
Fearing his nation will be wiped out if he does not wipe out the world first, Prince Namor vows to strike first, and has the ability to reduce all nations of the world to rubble and ash. He urges Wakanda to join him as an ally, but warns they’ll be the first to destroyed if they decline. As you can imagine, from there, the war is on.
MIT student scientist RiRi Williams (Dominque Thorne) joins the cast as a female Iron Man (Iron Woman?), Julia Louis Dreyfus, heretofore only seen on Disney Plus shows as CIA Director de Fontaine (more or less the new Nick Fury) is front and center while Martin Freeman reprises his role as Everett Ross, the Wakandans’ CIA BFF who feeds them intel.
First movie faves such as General Okoye, M’Baku and Nakia (Danai Gurira, Winston Duke and Lupita Nyongo) all return.
STATUS: Shelf-worthy. It is very much a Shuri-centric movie and it is her challenge to figure out how to pick up her brother’s mantle and defend Wakanda, not in his way but in her way, coming into her own. At three hours long, the film is a time commitment though to its credit, it didn’t feel like it. Coming up on 3 weeks in theaters now, it still remains strong.
Truly, Chadwick Boseman’s passing was a blow to many, not just to his fans, but obviously to the family and friends who loved and knew him best. There were many directions Marvel/Disney could have taken, even just letting the franchise go, but it was too popular and they found a way to keep it going while remaining respectful to and honoring Boseman’s legacy.
BQB here with a review of the wacky rom com, Ticket to Paradise.
I gotta be honest. I have avoided this one for the following reasons:
#1 – I dislike most rom coms. Not because of the romance or the comedy or the blending of the two. It’s just while I love all kinds of crazy action sci-fi films with monsters and aliens and spaceships and heroes surviving massive explosions, I find these more believable than two people finding long lasting love despite all the odds, which tells you a lot about my jaded love life, or the lack thereof.
#2 – George Clooney is in his 60s. Julia Roberts is in her mid 50s. Both were in movies when I was a little kid yet they are trying to pull off roles as early to mid 40 somethings who met in college in the late 90s, got married quick, had a kid, then got divorced and spent the last 20 years despising one another. As someone who is in the age range they are playing, someone who did go to college in the late 90s, I kinda resent these oldsters playing early 40 somethings.
Seriously, when they put out the commercial where the kids are dancing and George and Julia are wallflowers till they ask the DJ to play something more their speed so he plays House of Pain’s Jump Around – “Bullshit!” I cried. Bullshit, I say. Pardon my French, but Bullshit. I remember the time when House of Pain was popular, G and J. George, you were killing vampires in From Duck till Dawn and Julia, you were the prostitute with a heart of gold in Pretty woman and I was still in freaking braces so stop it. You two are so far from being young enough to have danced to Jump Around at a college party, you AARP carrying geriatric schmucks.
OK but once we get past that, yeah, it’s actually a charming enough movie.
As mentioned above, Georgia (Julia) and David (George) Cotton were college sweethearts who got married right after graduation. Theirs was a fun, whirlwind romance at first but at last, as they got buried by work, bills and responsibilities, they grew to despise and resent one another, each believing the other had cost them opportunities, a great life, a great career, oh the greatness I could have had if I hadn’t met you, never realizing that perhaps their love was the greatness they were seeking all along.
For the past 25 years, they have only stayed in contact for the sake of their daughter Lily (Kaitlyn Dever). As an early scene where they attend Lilly’s law school graduation shows, whenever they are in the same room, they cannot help but heap large portions of insults upon one each other, many of which, to the film’s credit, are funny. The mental gymnastics they go through to blame each other for any little thing that goes wrong is a laugh riot, and sadly, not unlike many a dysfunctional relationship we have all likely seen at some point in our lives.
In true rom com fashion, Kaitlyn visits the tropical paradise of Bali as a post law school romp before she snags a big job at a law firm, yet those plans are derailed when she meets hunky Balinese seaweed farmer Gede (Maxime Bouttier), falls instantly in love, and the two decide to get married a mere two months later.
Naturally, Georgia and David are irate at this notion and so when they fly out to attend the wedding, they pledge to put their differences aside in the name of a truce designed to shut down the wedding at all costs and put Lilly back on the path to being a corporate lawyer.
Comedy hijinx ensue as the duo concoct elaborate schemes to tear their daughter’s romance asunder, all which blow up spectacularly in their faces. As is obvious even in the trailer, in the course of working together to deny their offspring love, the old flames of their long lost love are rekindled. Now that they are oldsters who have been knocked around by life quite a bit, do they realize that all the imperfections the refused to accept in each other when they were young are now acceptable because if its one thing old people understand, it is that you’ll wait forever if you wait for life to be perfect?
Naturally, there are a lot of plot holes to ignore. Lilly did all that work in law school only to throw it away, though it is indicated she only did it to make her parents happy and she now truly believes that being a Balinese seaweed farmer’s wife is her true calling. Even so, the hundreds of thousands of dollars of law school debt could only be absorbed by a kid with rich parents, which she is, but this is never mentioned outright. A sad reality of life is that higher education is a dangerous gamble, one which kids often belly up to the table at a time when they understand very little. They take out massive loans under the assumption the degree will lead to big buckaroos, only to suffer when they don’t find that high paying job, or they do but realize it isn’t for them and have to do it forever to pay those loans off or seek out something they do like but remain forever crushed by debt. Only when you have rich parents can you throw it all away and become a seaweed farmer.
STATUS: Fun. Funny. Not something you’d watch again and again but worth the time of one viewing. George and Julia are two of the last big movie stars so it’s nice to see them yukking it up on screen. In an era where talent is getting increasingly cheap, we may never see their likes again. Both are beautiful rich people playing beautiful rich people doing undignified things for laughs, so that’s surreal.
#1 – the film focuses on the theme that the best marriages require the perfect time, the perfect place and the perfect circumstances. Maybe you meet someone and you could have been great if you hadn’t been focused on building a career or a recent disappointment in life. Maybe you meet them but alas, you have to go home to LA and she to New York. Maybe you two could be happy if you lived together on a mountain goat farm but unfortunately you live busy urban lifestyles. So focus on building those things that make you happy and love will solve itself, noble reader.
#2 – The ever present conundrum of a kid deciding what will please their parents vs what will please them. I think often young people don’t understand that their parents harp on them to do practical things because they are old and have been knocked around by life. They know big bills and debt are coming your way and know in the long run, you’ll be happier if you can pay them than if you are living on the street giving hobo hand jobs for crack because you tried and failed to chase a silly dream.
The only caveat I’d add is that in today’s economy, trying to secure any job that pays a life sustaining salary requires the applicant to engage in a Mortal Kombat style battle royale for victory against any and all opponents. Ergo, when it’s a freaking uphill climb to get a job in the seemingly practical world of, say, auto insurance claims adjusting, then you might as well just make that uphill climb toward being an actor or an artist or some other thing that parents are mentally trained to tell you to avoid because you’ll totally make big bucks in the law or dentistry or HVAC repair. Mom and Dad don’t realize we’re in a Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome job market now, and it is a struggle to get almost any job.
A Christmas Story…Story? No way. Come on, Hollywood. You’ll shoot your collective eye out.
BQB here with a review.
Actually, it’s not so bad.
If you own a TV, then surely you have seen 1983’s A Christmas Story. TBS runs it 24 hours a day on Christmas and I can still recall laughing up a storm the first time I saw it. Even years later, having seen it a zillion times, it’s hard not to leave it on in the background while you go about your holiday merriment.
Alas, the sequels didn’t come until much later, presumably because the film didn’t really become the much beloved classic until cable TV started blasting the crap out of it over the airwaves in the 1990s. By then I can only presume all involved had moved on and unable to make a sequel. Either that or is a single ever possible for such a great film?
Ah but once the film grew a big fanbase, the sequels were attempted. 1994’s My Summer Story is largely unknown. 2012’s straight to video A Christmas Story 2 was cute but ultimately forgettable.
Thus I was surprised a new sequel was attempted this year.. It stars original Ralphie Peter Billingsley, though when I first learned that I doubted if that was enough to save it. Turns out, the answer is a resounding, “Not bad.”
The plot? in the 1970s, Middle aged Ralphie lives in Chicago with wife Sandy (Erin Hayes) and kids Mark and Julie. Ralphie has taken a year off to write an epic sci-fi novel, which seems like something Ralphie would do, given his love of pop culture and all things nerdy as a kid in the original film.
Alas, the publishing houses have all told Ralphie to eat the proverbial big one and as the end of the year draws nigh, he knows he needs to either publish or perish, to make money on a writing career or give up and take a boring old job and get a steady paycheck.
At least he has a planned Christmas visit with his parents to look forward to, but sadly, his old man, “The Old Man” passes and a loving tribute to the late Darren McGavin, who passed in 2006, is paid.
Ah, but the older we get, the more adults tend to, well I was going to say they don’t fear death but they still do, it’s just, by the time you’ve hit the elderly stage, you’ve run out of tears to cry, for you have experience so much loss already. This, Ralphie’s mom (played by Airplane comedy legend and owner of the sweetest voice ever Julie Hagerty who takes on the role as Melinda Dillon has retired from acting) urges Ralphie, Sandy and the kids to buck up and have the best Christmas ever, for this is what the Old Man would have wanted.
Comedy hijinx are mixed with somber moments. There are plenty of Easter eggs and references to the original film, while this one tries its best not to so much repeat old gags but play homage to them, or at least repeat running themes. Adult Ralphie still has a wild imagination that gets him into trouble and riddles him with anxiety as he pictures the smallest hangup leading to horrifying consequences. Bullies go to war with Ralphie’s kids who must learn to stand up for themselves. Comical injuries abound. Ralphie still wants to be an old west sheriff because what Baby Boomer didn’t?
A cavalcade of ex-child actors from the original film, now all grown up and in the middle of life, stop by, and it is surreal. Not knocking anyone but as you see adult actors reprise roles like Flick (the kid whose tongue froze to the light pole) or Schwartz (was he the kid who double dog dared him? I forget) and the once evil bully Scott Farkus (can bad kids mend their ways in adulthood?) you can’t help but think time is really a bastard. All these kids were so cute once and Hollywood was happy to capitalize on their cuteness, but sadly none of them really grew up with the looks that Hollywood wants to see in leading men. Even so, as a fan I’m happy to see them, like walking around your home town and bumping into an old friend. Even Ralphie’s little bro, an all grown up Randy drops by.
Does it all add up to something? I don’t want to give it away but if you think about how adult Ralphie yearns to be a famous writer, and author Jean Carroll leant his iconic voice to the original film but did so in the role of adult Ralphie telling the story of one wacky Christmas in his youth…OK I’ll let you figure it ou.
STATUS: Shelfworthy. If you have HBO Max, it’s free and worth your time. It won’t win awards. It won’t be something you’ll want to watch again and again. What it is is a loving tribute, a rare sequel that straddles the line between capitalizing on your love of the old flick but still remaining true to its spirit. There are sad moments, funny moments, emotional moments. If you’ve ever lost a parent, you know the pain adult Ralphie experience, the expectation of an adult to keep moving on even though a person who comprised a large part of their world has shuffled off the mortal coil. Everyone involved did well here.
Seriously, you can’t be reviewing a movie this old, BQB.
Yes, I am…and don’t call me Shirley.
A review? What is it? It’s a summary and commentary of a feature film, but that’s not important right now.
This is one of those movies that a child of the 1980s knows by heart. Growing up, even well into the 90s and early 2000s, it was on TV all the time. You’d catch bits and pieces of it and have a good laugh. It really is a silly masterpiece, the likes of which had never been seen before, and will undoubtedly ever be seen again. Many have tried, but the team of the Zucker Brothers and Jim Abrahams were a one of a kind trio. They went on to more success with Leslie Nielsen in the Naked Gun series as well as the Top Gun parody Hot Shots. Others would go on to try parody movies that would only fizzle. A number of parody flicks released in the 2000s by lesser talents were so God awful that the parody genre pretty much died out in that decade.
What is a parody? Take an established film and give it a mocking re-write. Throw in as much mocking as you can about other movies and or subjects as you can. The uninitiated may not be aware that Airplane is itself, a parody of the 1957 film Zero Hour! That film’s legit plot was about ex-WWII pilot Ted Stryker, called upon to make a split second decision that got a lot of his fellow pilots killed. Years later, he is torn apart and wracked by guilt, unable to function, often fired from several jobs. His wife, Ellen, an airline stewardess, dumps him with a note, saying she will start a new life in a new city her airline job will deliver her to. Ted buys a ticket and hops aboard, hoping to beg her for one last chance. The crew and pilots get sick from food poisoning. Ted is the only one who has flown and must land the plane. He does so while being talked down by an ex air force colleague who hates his guts over his war mistake. In the end, Ted lands the plane, is redeemed, loved by his wife and can move on to a happier life.
Airplane! is literally that same movie, except with lots of shenanigans and silliness. In fact, I believe the rights to Zero Hour! were bought just so ZAZ could make a silly re-do for Paramount.
Don’t call me Shirley. I take my coffee black like my men. Jim never orders a second cup of coffee at home. Stewardess, I speak jive. The list of hilarious jokes goes on and on. So memorable. So quotable. And yet, sitting down and watching it from beginning to end, I hadn’t done that in a long time. Even the lesser known jokes and bits are pretty hysterical. It is a laugh riot.
And it brought back memories. Sigh. Oh, as a little kid I really loved comedy and hoped maybe I’d be a comedian one day. I worshipped ZAZ, between Airplane and the Naked Gun, to the point where I tracked down a copy of their first foray, the lesser known Kentucky Fried Movie. Not their best, but they were just getting started. Basically just a series of dumb sketches tied together.
Eh, but I grew up. Went the so-called practical route. I say so-called because the practical route was supposed to be easier yet nothing in life is easy so the older I get, the more I wonder if it all just isn’t a crap shoot and if it’s hard to make a living as a ditch digger or an accountant or a bus driver or a teacher or a cop or a pharmacist or a podiatrist or what have you then you might as well do what you love and try to find a job in the silly movie game.
But that ship has long sailed. At least I have my silly blog.
Cue the obligatory, “Oh, this movie would never be made today in these woke times” rant.
Nope, it wouldn’t. First, there are naked gratuitous titties. In one scene where the passengers flip out and run around the plane going nuts, a woman runs by for a close up of her jiggly bosoms. Harvey Weinstein’s evil doings put an end to that. Harvey was a sex fiend for 30 years so now every director in Tinsel Town is afraid to ask an actress to take her top off. You’ll never see a set of nude sweater puppets on film ever again. Thanks Harvey. Jackass.
Second, there’s the funny scene when the woman flips out. Starts shouting, “I gotta get outta here!” One person slaps her. The next shakes her. Suddenly, there’s a long line of people brandishing weapons waiting for their turn to torture her. I never really saw this as a joke about abusing women. ZAZ pokes fun at movie tropes throughout this flick, and here they are mocking the movie trope where someone freaks out, so another person slaps them or shakes them and yells at them to calm down. I mean, seriously, is that really the best move? Someone is cracking under pressure, I don’t think smacking them would really help. It’s like no one who ever wrote a movie thought that if a person is flipping out, maybe you ought to put your arm around them and say, “There, there. It’ll all be OK.” But no. Every character in movie world is somehow trained to see a person suffering a panic attack and sock them in the jaw like they’re a wannabe Sugar Ray Leonard.
There’s the sick little girl who makes funny faces, near death because the stewardess playing a song to cheer her up on the guitar keeps accidentally slapping out her IV whenever she moves the guitar around. That would be seen as ableist hate speech now.
Don’t even get me started on the scene where Ted joins the peace corps, visits a tribe in Africa, hands them a basketball and the tribesmen start dribbling and dunking with the skill of the best NBA players.
Stewardess, do you have any light reading? How about this one page leaflet? Famous Jewish Sports Legends.
The Jive guys speaking Jive like it is a foreign language with subtitles.
Sigh. Jokes that would never make the cut today. I suppose we can debate whether or not that’s a good thing. As I watch the film, I get the sense that here is an airplane full of people of all different races, colors, creeds, religions, backgrounds, ages. They all came together to survive a doomed flight, and the ZAZ team made fun of everyone, not in an attempt to be mean, but maybe just maybe in the sense that if we can learn to laugh with (and not at) each other, then maybe we can learn to get along.
Gotta be honest though. When I was a kid, I just thought the pilot asking the boy if he’d ever seen gladiator movies was just a strange, silly man. Today as an adult I realize, yeah the joke is that the pilot is a sex pervert attempting to “groom” the boy. Sigh. Parents, keep your kids away from adult men who like gladiator movies.
Bonus points that the film took known Hollywood tough guys like Robert Stack, Lloyd Bridges, Leslie Nielsen and Peter Graves and got them to basically do their same tough guy schtick, but while delivering silly lines in their tough guy style. Leslie Nielsen, long a serious actor, would go on to a longer second act as a comic actor due to this film.
Double bonus points for Julie Haggerty. She really is the perfect combination of beautiful and sweet. Maybe it’s just the character she is playing, yet deep down every man wants a wife who is beautiful yet kind. Often times in our society, the beautiful don’t have any reason to be kind. Eh, then again, there are a lot of mean ugly people too.
At any rate, there’s a scene where Ted (Robert Hayes) is in the hospital after the war and he does a spit take. Julie just sort of takes a gallon of spit to her face, shakes her hands and cringes like she expected it (not that she knew the spit was coming as an actress but that her character knew this was what Ted was like so knew the spit was coming) and just goes right on talking. Hard to explain. You just have to watch it.
BTW, I can’t count the number of times when I or another kid I knew growing up would pretend to have hard time drinking a glass of water and be like, “Ha ha! I have a drinking problem!”
STATUS: Worthy of the highest shelf! I can’t go on long enough about how great this film is and how it inspired me as a kid, even inspires me today. We will never see its like again, not just because the ZAZ team thought they could never top it, and not because of how many wannabes tried and failed, but alas, these jokes are out of style.
Surely, we can debate long and hard over whether that’s a good thing…and don’t call me Shirley.
Catch it on HBOMax.
SIDENOTE: Woke problems aside, there’s also the issue of audiences being less willing to suspend disbelief and less appreciative of good humor. So many of the jokes are just word play. The running joke is someone says something, the other says what is it, the first gives a definition but that’s not important now.
Stewardess – there’s a problem in the cockpit.
Ted – The cockpit? What is it?
Stewardess – its the little room at the front of the plane where the pilots sit, but that’s not important now.
I was flipping through HBO Max’s selections the other day and this one popped up. James Caan, who passed this year, is the star, so I figured I was overdue for a re-watch. I hadn’t seen it since a kid.
The plot? Famed horror novelist Stephen King brings to life his worst nightmare, likely with a douse of parody of his most bothersome fans. We’re not talking about the typical fan who asks for an autograph. We’re talking about the nutjobs who live, breathe and think about their favorite author’s writings so much that they a) lose their minds and b) believe they have the right to dictate what the other does with their favorite characters.
Case in point. New York City based novelist Paul Sheldon has become rich and famous from a series of romance novels about the character Misery Chastain. In an early scene with his agent, played by Lauren Bacall, yes she of Casablanca fame, Paul laments that he feels the Misery series is schlock, and though he’s grateful it gave him a name and a fortune, he intends to write one last book where Misery is killed off so he can move on to write novels that would be less commercially successful but more critically acclaimed to show off his brilliance.
Off he heads to Colorado, where his longtime practice is to hole himself up in a countryside hotel away from the world and focus his writing. When his new novel is done, he sets out on the long drive back to NYC, only to accidentally run his car off the road during a snowstorm.
Local Nurse Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates) happens upon the wreck and carries Paul to safety. He awakes days later, confined to a bed in Annie’s house. His legs are broken, leaving him to either stay in bed or move about in a wheelchair.
At first, Annie seems a godsend. How lucky was Paul that a nurse found him and fixed him up? She comes across as a fan of his books, but merely of the starstruck variety. Yes, of course I’d be happy to answer all your questions about my books, Annie, and sure you can read my new manuscript. You saved my life, after all.
Alas, what starts as a series of little white fibs turns into boldface lies as Paul realizes that Annie has no real intention of ever letting him go and that due to his immobile condition, he is dependent on a wack job if he wishes to keep living. The first day or two, “the roads are still covered with snow and the phone lines are down so the hospital is unreachable and no one can send an ambulance” is believable but when she’s still singing the same old song and dance weeks later, Paul knows something is up.
From there it is a game of cat and mouse. Paul contrives schemes to take Annie out only to be foiled. Annie tortures and punishes Paul until she eventually drops the pretense of snowy roads and downed phone lines and just openly admits he is her prisoner and she will never allow him to leave. Old newspaper clippings indicate she has been suspected of, yet never convicted by, local law enforcement of all sorts of evil doings in the past.
Everything culminates in a final showdown over Paul’s new book. Psycho fan Annie is uber pissed when she learns that Paul has killed Misery off and orders a re-write, pronto. Paul declines at first, but eventually sees a re-write as the distraction he just might need to lull Annie into a false sense of security so he can strike.
All in all, I have to assume that Stephen King has had his share of psycho fans in his day, people who enjoyed his books but got way too personal and creepy about it. This was his way at poking fun at them, as well as the jerk fans who aren’t so crazed that they’d kidnap him or anything but they feel like they have a right to boss him around about his creative decisions, tell him to write this, don’t write that, freak out over his decisions, etc.
This was a boon for both actors. James Caan saw great success with his role as Sonny in the Godfather, but his career waned in the 80s before this film helped him resurface. Somehow, he straddles the line between coming across as an intellectual type capable of literally prowess and the rough and tumble type who has no compunction about bashing his captor over the head if that’s what it takes to escape.
Meanwhile, Kathy Bates, a relative unknown at the time (and I hate to admit it but obviously not the typical Hollywood hottie actress Tinsel Town is known for rallying around) soared to super stardom in the 90s, all thanks to Stephen King’s creation of a psycho nurse who loves reading romance novels but gets depressed that she’ll never have a life as exciting as the characters she reads about, so takes out her frustrations with a double life of murder and mayhem, all the while maintaining the persona of a nice lady who refuses to say naughty words. Murderous fits of rage are fine but naughty words? Never.
STATUS: Shelf-worthy. A 32 old film that holds up to modern woke standards. Nothing really stood out to me as violating today’s rules of wokery. If anything, it is exceedingly woke for casting a woman as a psycho murderer and being strong enough to get plenty of licks in during gruesome fight scenes with a man who once played a notorious mobster. So yeah, one might say this film was ahead of its time.
SIDENOTE: Dude, seriously. We often laugh at today’s superhero movies where the tiny five foot tall, 90 pound waif-like starlet taps a 300 pound brute with her pinky finger and he goes flying, but when you watch this, there are scenes where Annie comes at Paul like a football linebacker high on crack, PCP and bath salts. There is a legit sense of fear and danger, a distinct possibility that Paul might be overcome in the fight and end up beaten to a pulp by a female.
Hmm. How can I put this delicately? Hollywood, if you want believable fight scenes where women look like they are actually kicking a man’s ass (instead of just requiring us to believe they are defying the laws of physics), hire larger women to fill these butt kicking roles. Somewhere out there, a large woman was robbed of the Black Widow role by Scarlett Johanson.
DOUBLE SIDENOTE: I watched this as a kid and thought it was scary, you know, because it is about a crazy woman who holds a man hostage and beats him and tortures him. Today, I found it scary because I am now so old that Kathy Bates’s Annie looks young to me. That’s less of a complaint about this film than it is about Father Time, though.
BQB here with a review of what may be the year’s best horror film.
Generally, I’m not a big horror movie fan. I have enough horror going on in my own life to invite more.
However, once in awhile there’s one that gets good buzz and you watch it and discover it is crafted well enough with enough mystery and intrigue that you have to tell the 3.5 readers of your blog about it.
So let me tell you about it, 3.5 readers.
Actually, I can’t tell you much. Like many horror movies, there’s a house with a scary basement. When a visitor makes the dumb decision to venture into said scary basement, even scarier things happen. If I were to tell you what scary things are lurking down there, it would give the whole movie away.
However, most horror movies aren’t just about the monsters, killers, or creatures that kill with reckless abandon. They are allegories for something deeper. Halloween was about an America where it was becoming less safe to leave your doors unlocked. Scream was about 1990s angsty teenagers with no purpose finding evil purpose in murder. Saw in a macabre way was about appreciating life, and if you’d be willing to murder others if trapped in a sadistic puzzle box just to save your precious life, then why don’t you, you know, do the good things every day to preserve your life like eating your veggies and working out and making good decisions for yourself and those you love?
Here, the twin horrors are “toxic masculinity” and the urban decay that allows bad things to go unnoticed by the police and government.
Georgina Campbell stars as Tess Marshall, a documentary researcher who has rented an Air BNB while in town for a job interview. Alas, the property has been double booked, for when she arrives, she finds the house already occupied by Keith (Bill Skarsgard). Amplifying how women have to worry more than men about certain situations, Tess finds herself having to make the difficult choice between going back out into a dangerous neighborhood or staying in the same house as a complete stranger.
Blah, blah, blah, shenanigans ensue and as it turns out, there are stranger, worse doings afoot in the basement. Justin Long rounds out the cast as AJ, a pervy Hollywood director and the rare horror movie victim you might actually cheer for when he gets got.
STATUS: Shelfworthy, but just remember, you might want to go into this one on an empty stomach. Catch it on HBO MAX.
I saw this movie last night and was shocked to read the reviews today. The critics hate it, calling it the worst movie of the year thus far, a hot, meandering, chaotic mess. Strange, because I walked out of it thinking it was the first Oscar contender of the year. I found it charming, part-mystery and part-comedy that gave me some of the first legitimate laughs in a movie theater in…I can’t even remember.
How could I, your humble blog host and the professional movie watchers be so divergent in our view? Hold that thought. I’ll speculate on it later.
In 1910’s France, toward the end of World War I, misfits Dr. Burt Berendson (Christian Bale), Harold Woodman (John David Washington) and Valerie Voze (Margot Robbie), meet and become fast friends. Valerie is an art-loving nurse who treats Burt and Harold for their war wounds, while they defend her from local French folk disgusted by her penchant for digging shrapnel (metal scraps) from soldiers and forging it into art.
After peace breaks out in Europe, the trio take a detour on their way home to America, finding peace and acceptance in Amsterdam, a sweet sense of bliss they never found in their homeland of the United States. Each has their own personal war waiting for them at home. Burt is half-Jewish, half-Catholic and (SPOILER ALERT) as he laments in a line that had me slapping my knee, openly guffawing, “I think my in-laws sent me to war to get rid of me.” He is estranged from his wife, who defers to her high society parents and their open hatred of her husband, who they consider to be of a low pedigree.
Valerie is a free spirit who lives for creating masterpieces through the brush and photography. In other words, she’s at risk for being stamped “crazy” with a crazy stamp on her forehead and treated that way, free-spirited women being considered bonkers at the time.
Harold is the most level-headed of the trio, but he’s black, and well, we all know the history of how black people were treated in the early 1900s.
Alas, all good things must come to an end. The trio eventually closes their Amsterdam vacation and return to the states, where they go their separate ways, yet they forever see their time in Amsterdam as a state of mind, a yearning to just be themselves without guilt, remorse, or trying to please all the unpleasable people in their lives.
Flash forward to the 1930s. Harold is now a lawyer, fighting for the civil rights of African Americans, poor veterans, and downtrodden folk at large. Burt does this in his own way, starting a practice where he treats the less fortunate who are scoffed at elsewhere and charging little. The dynamic duo come together at the behest of Liz Meekins (Taylor Swift) to investigate the untimely demise of their old Army general, who his daughter theorizes was the victim of foul play.
And so, down the rabbit hole of mystery the friends go, searching for clues and unraveling a far flung, worldwide conspiracy involving fascism, dictators, ornithology scandals, a wacko hitman, and well, if I tick off the other boxes, I’d give the rest of the story away.
Christian Bale, who rivals Daniel Day Lewis in his ability to transform into someone else, does it again here. His character, Burt, is a doctor of the people with a heavy Brooklyn accent. He laments his lot in life, feeling like he can do no right in the eyes of his family, yet soldiers on anyway, caring his injured fellow veterans. He is partly the comic relief and partly the heart of the movie, inventing new drugs, which he argues, the world needs but the medical community is unwilling to develop. He may be right, but he constantly falls flat on his face mid-sentence, the result of being his own test subject. The glass eye he received to replace the one lost in the war is forever popping out only to be found again. I almost want to say the character is reminiscent of Seinfeld’s Kramer, if Kramer had a medical license.
John David Washington excels as the straight man, the brains of the bunch who keeps the trio focused on the case and away from devolving into too much tomfoolery. It’s clear his character would have gone further in life had he not been born in such an openly racist time, yet he refuses to be defined or denigrated by those who dislike him simply because of the color of his skin.
Robbie is a delight, her smile can really warm up a movie theater. She’s not crazy, but suffers the false allegations of craziness with a stiff upper lip.
Who are the stars? Literally everyone. Anya Taylor Joy. Mike Myers. Michael Shannon. Timothy Olyphant. Rami Malek. Chris Rock. Robert DeNiro. That’s all I could think of in one sitting. There are more. It’s as if everyone in Hollywood stopped by the set to get their five minutes in this flick.
Which brings me back to the start of this review. Everyone in Tinsel Town apparently believed in this flick enough to be in it, so why did the critics give it ye olde raspberry?
Admittedly, the plot is convoluted and meandering. As often happens in so many mysteries, the characters pull a thread that leads to another thread, that sometimes leads to four or five separate threads. At some point, you the audience member are left to decide whether you want to whip out a pen and jot notes, maybe even a flow chart on the back of your popcorn bag, or if you just want to shrug your shoulders and assume the writers know what they’re doing and you can look up any questions you were stumped on online later.
It has a lot of heart. The friendship between the three main characters is very sweet. Three people who were not accepted at home find acceptance abroad. I wonder if early 1900s Amsterdam really was that much of an accepting place, or if it was just a matter of the trio going to a new place where no one knew their past and this allowed them to reinvent themselves. There is a romance between Harold and Valerie, but it’s genuine, not tawdry. There’s no titillating sex scene, rather you can tell they legitimately enjoy each other’s company, and by extension, the company of their BFF Burt. Relationships built on sex, money, social standing etc., never last. In life, you’re lucky if you find maybe a handful of friends who accept you as you are, warts and all, and love you all the more for it.
Strangely, unconditional love is the message of the movie. Love the veterans who fought for their country only to be disposed of like garbage when the time came for the country they fought for to pay for their medical bills. Love the African Americans who are just looking for their piece of the pie. Love the women who want to be free-spirited and don’t drug them up under false allegations of being a crazy dame. Love the schmucks who don’t seem to fit in anywhere but who keep showing up anyway, even when their glass eyes fall out.
STATUS: Shelf-worthy. The critics are wrong here. This film is a throwback to Oscar winners of the past, large, ambitious, far-flung historic pieces. Comedy ensues, though most of the jokes shine a light on the mistreatment the downtrodden faced during a terrible time in history where if you weren’t a rich white man then society just treated you as being in the way. Admittedly, you could take away the mystery as it basically just serves as a framework for so many actors to meet and riff of one another, but then again, aren’t most films about the search for the elusive MacGuffin? I would like to see Hollywood make more movies like this, though I fear the critics have grown so accustomed to the streaming bologna sandwich schlock served up by streaming services that they have no idea what to do when a steak of a film like this is set before them.
You decide. BQB here with Rob Zombie’s modern take on the monster family classic.
This movie is unlike anything I have ever seen. It’s an almost 2-hour long sitcom episode. Hacky, 1960s-esque jokes, puns and quips abound. Suddenly, I appreciate the concept of the laugh track, that old trick of piping in canned laughter (or in studio audience laughter) to let us know which lines are intended to be funny and which are meant to be serious. Humor, after all, is in the eye of the beholder, or perhaps the ear of the listener.
It reminds me of Elvira, or any of a plethora of old timey monster movie shows where the flick would be interspersed between commercials as well as a wacky, poorly produced host dumping on the movie while dealing with creatures of his or her own.
Ultimately, I have no idea what to make of it. Part of me loves it, because if it’s one thing I always complain about, it’s when reboots completely ignore the source material. This one practically worships the original, to the point where I wonder if the writers and producers of the original fell into a time warp and served as Rob Zombie’s consultants. Sure, the Munsters could have just been shoved into modern times, forced to deal with any number of pop cultural happenings and political trends with a few celebrities stopping by for a silly cameo. Then again, the Addams Family has done that again and again.
Part of me hates it because the joke a minute pace in which all pithy remarks seem like they fell straight out of a book entitled “The Undead Dad’s Joke Book.” We’re talking humor that isn’t just on the nose, but way up, such that you can see the boogers and all. Why would I hate this? Because darn it, that’s the kind of humor I use in my poorly sold books, leaving me to wonder if I’m no better than the lesser (or more-er, depending on your POV) of America’s top two sitcom based freaky families.
The plot? (Yes, there is one.) Mad scientist Dr. Henry Augustus Wolfgang (Richard Blake) and his flunky Floop (Jorge Garcia) seek to bring dead flesh to life in the form of their very own Frankenstein-esque monster. The doc seeks the brain of recently deceased super genius, Shelley von Rathbone, but alas, the incompetent Floop swipes the brain of Shelley’s dimwitted, poorly reviewed, hacky stand-up comic brother Schecky, who quite coincidentally, died the same day, leaving both bodies at rest in the same funeral parlor.
The result is, well, you know him, you love him – Herman Munster (Jeff Daniel Phillips), who uses the late Schecky’s brain to become a more popular entertainer than Schecky ever was. He sings. He dances. He jokes. He becomes the toast of Transylvania, where this tale takes place. He even captures the undead heart of vampiress, Lilly (Sheri Moon Zombie), who lives a hum-drum life in the castle of her schticky father, The Count (Daniel Roebuck.)
The good news? Herman and Lilly fall madly in love and get married. The bad news? Dimwitted Herman is tricked by his new wolfman brother-in-law Lester (Tomas Boykin) into signing the castle over to evil fortune teller Zoya (Catherine Schell), all part of a revenge plot as Zoya is one of the Count’s many ex-wives who claims the fanged one done her wrong.
It all culminates in the spooky family moving to America and I assume Netflix and Zombie will be collaborating to bring us more Munster flicks in the future, perhaps with a furry bundle of joy on the way. We know The Count better as Grandpa, after all.
I gotta be honest. I’ve never been a big horror fan and have never been a Rob Zombie film fan, as he really does lean into the genre. The occasional scary movie? Fine. But scary movies with blood and gore and frights so twisted you want to poop your pants? Hey, it’s a free country, and anyone else can feel free to have at it, but I’ll pass.
But RZ got me on this one and I wonder if maybe Rob grew up on a steady diet of such sitcom schlock as he handles it with love, or whatever qualifies as love in a world where a Frankenstein can marry a vampire and produce a werewolf baby.
Kudos to the cast. They walk a fine line between doing an impression of the original cast. Jeff Phillips provides a voice of his own while still delivering homages to the late, great Fred Gwynne. Meanwhile, Sherri Moon Zombie (isn’t that kinda cool when you create a fictional last name and your wife takes your fictional last name?) deviates from Yvone De Carlo’s femme fatale style Lilly and gives us a sickeningly sweet Lilly, undead and evil yet somewhat naive, kind and lovable, like the vampire girl next door you’d want to introduce to your mother if you weren’t sure she’d bite her.
STATUS: Shelf-worthy. I’m still shaking my head, not sure what to make of it, but I’ll give it this. By giving us more of what it was, it stands out in a crowd of everything that currently is.
Always remember these three important rules of life, 3.5 readers:
#1 – Don’t trust Whitey.
#2 – The Lord loves a working man.
#3 – See a doctor and get rid of it.
BQB here with a review of this classic comedy of Steve Martin’s most hilarious film.
NOTE: This is a review for people who have seen the movie. Ergo, if you want no SPOILERS, look away. Go watch then come back.
I saw this movie on a list of films that couldn’t be remade today. I instantly remembered how much it made me laugh back in the day and had to rewatch it again. I’m not sure what that list was talking about because I would argue this is a rare comedy that has stood the test of time, 43 years in fact.
The premise? Steve Martin, in his first major film role, plays Navin Johnson, the white son of African American sharecroppers in Mississippi. He loves his family and they love him, but on one fateful birthday, he, to his shock, discovers that he is white (yes, even though he is well into his thirties.)
Navin’s mother explains that the family adopted him when he was left on their doorstep as a baby and raised him as one of their own. Realizing that he isn’t getting younger, Navin decides he must venture forth from the family homestead and out into the world, seeking to find fame and fortune of his very own.
From there, the flick is a string of skits and gags, all surrounding Navin’s adventure into the great unknown, with cameos by various stars of the day helping or hindering him as the case may be.
Back in the day, Roger Ebert gave this film 2 stars. You can read that review here:
Now, here’s the thing. I admire Ebert because he built a great career doing what I love, namely, watching and picking apart movies. He’s the Mike Tyson of movie critics. So far be it from me to criticize him, but I think he got this one wrong.
As Ebert argues, comedy is subjective (so if he didn’t find it funny then I suppose in his view he wasn’t wrong). He goes on to explain there is funny for the sake of funny and situational funny. He goes on to say sometimes a character wears a funny hat and that’s the joke and sometimes there’s a silly situation that requires the character to wear a funny hat. The latter, according to Ebert, is way funnier.
Thus, to our veteran critic, Martin is all hat and no cattle, just a doofus doing doofusy things. Truly, he did and one might say he’s a pioneer of screwball comedy, making silly faces long before Jim Carrey.
However, what I believe Ebert missed is this film is one great big allegory for the fallout that occurs when youthful (or even not so youthful), naive optimism crashes into cold, hard reality. Forget Dr. Seus’s “Oh, the Places You Will Go!” Every high school graduate should get a copy of The Jerk.
Think about it. The high school grad thinks they’ve got the world by the horns when they head off to college. They think they know everything. Then they encounter the lousy roommate, the demanding professor, the first boss who dresses them down over a mistake. The student loan payments are due and the job interviews are going nowhere. I did all this studying to be a barista? You’ve got to be kidding me.
Compare this with Navin’s mistake filled journey. Navin is full of uninformed assumptions that blow up in his face due to his lack of experience. Navin thinks he’ll easily hitchhike across the USA, only to stand in front of his family’s home all day, well into the night. Navin gets a job at a gas station and thinks he’s hoodwinked a crook by tying said fraudster’s car to a church, only for the ne’er-do-well to take off down the drown dragging half the church, guests at a wedding still inside, behind him.
Navin is overjoyed when he is listed in the phone book, only for a homicidal maniac to pick his name at random and go on a murderous rampage against him. Navin joins a carnival, meets Patty the slovenly, over-sexed motorbiked stuntwoman and assumes he has found a ticket to free, no strings attached sex, only to discover that Patty is so attached she’s willing to commit violence to keep him.
The Navester comes on too strong with love interest Marie and she bolts. He invents the opti-grab grip eyeglass attachment that makes him a billionaire, only to be bankrupted by a lawsuit from irate customers when the product makes them go cross-eyed.
Bottomline – In life, mistakes are guaranteed. You think you won’t make them, but it’s not a matter of if you’ll make them but when. You’ll make assumptions. You’ll make decisions. Your actions will blow up in your face. You can fall apart and give up, or you can learn from your mistakes, vow not to repeat them and do better.
Had Navin not been such a dum-dum, he might have seen many lessons in his mistakes. He should have walked out to a main road to hitchhike, or heck, earned some money to buy a bus ticket. He should have left to crook to the cops. Not all publicity is good. Don’t have sex with someone you don’t want to commit to lest you hurt their feelings. If you sell a product, make sure you test it first.
Yes, wide-eyed, unbridled optism will surely always crash against the hard wall of reality, but all you can do is pick yourself up, dust yourself off, figure out what you did wrong and not do it again.
In the end, the only lesson Navin learned is home is where the heart is. Sometimes, the greatness we seek is right in our own backyard, coming to us in the form of the people who love us the most, that we love in return. When Navin hits Skid Row, it’s his sharecropper family who find him, clean him up, and bring him back to the place he thrived the most, and an ending credit scene where he dances while his family sings shows us he couldn’t be happier.
Two cringeworthy things that don’t fit today’s modern wokeness. 1 Is when a group of mafiosos use the N word, Navin defends his family’s honor in perhaps the funniest bit of the film when he says, “Sir, you are talking to an n-word!” then magically channels the spirit of a kung-fu warrior as he kicks the asses of all the racist single handed (with the exception of Iron Balls McGinty.)
I would argue this joke gets a pass due to context. Navin loves his family so much. His love for them is the sweetest part of the movie and perhaps the most redeeming quality of an otherwise dimwitted dullard. The n word is only used to pave the way for a bit in which a man who loves his family kung-fus a bunch of racists into thinking twice about saying such nasty slurs. But ok, context is a dead concept when it comes to humor now, so this joke doesn’t hold up.
Second, the family at the end sings “Pick a Bale of Cotton,” a song that references slavery days. All are so happy as the family sings and plays instruments while Navin dances joyously to celebrate his return home for good. In context, one might remember that in slavery times, slaves sang such songs to keep their spirits up when forced against their will to do punishing labor. In 1979, there were no slaves alive but it is possible that Navin’s father, given the time period, might have, as a child, known an old person or two who lived with slavery times or even was a slave. I assume the point of the film was the family is singing a song that was passed down through the generations of their family though yeah, it surely would have been better if the family had sung a happier, less racially charged song.
STATUS: Shelf-worthy. When I was a kid, I just thought Steve Martin was a doofus doing doofy things in this film. As an adult, I see it as a silly growing up tale, teaching young as well as old that whenever they take on a new encounter, they will inevitably make mistakes, fall on their face, have to pick themselves up and try, try again. In the end, the only real losers are those who keep making the same mistake over and over.
I do think this is a rare old comedy that holds up in modern times, save for two scenes that don’t keep with modern woke standards. I’m not saying “give it a pass” but if you consider context and intent, the scenes were meant to show a white man who loves his black family so much, more than anything in the world, and ultimately it is this love that is the best part of him.
Bonus points for a cameo by Jackie Mason who plays Navin’s first boss, the gas station owner. As a kid, I was a fan of all kinds of comedy and wonder if I was the only kid who would repeat Mason’s Yiddishisms. I dare say the man did more to popularize the use of words like oy vey, fakakta, and schmuck than anyone.
Double bonus points for Steve Martin. So many comedians rise up the ladder as anyone does in any profession. They get a small part here or there, many a medium sized role that leads to a big break. Martin had already been a popular SNL host and a comedian who sold out shows in major venues. He also wrote for Smothers Brothers. So by the time this, his first movie, came around, he was a veritable PHD in funny holder. Even though Martin was a Great Bambino level comic by the time this film came along, it is still rare for a comedian to knock their first movie out of the park.
I think we have a contender for the Razzie Award for Worst Film of 2022. When I first saw the trailer, I wanted to like it. The premise is pretty simple yet scary. A father takes his young daughters on a photo safari of remote African wilderness. Alas, various problems ensue and the family ends up stuck in an immobile car, about to become lion chow if they venture too far outside for too long. In other words, it’s Cujo but with a lion instead of a rabid dog.
The film has a lot when it comes to special effects. Flicks are using CGI animals more and more, the good news being that real animals no longer have to be treated like furry, feathery clowns for our amusement. (They never did but that’s a longer convo.) The downside is that filmmakers need to learn to use restraint when it comes to having CGI animals do ridiculous things a real animal would never do. While I understand that every film requires a certain suspension of disbelief, an early scene where two CGI enormous adult lions hug and romp with Sharlto Copley, embracing him like friendly housecats rather than rip him to shreds is absurd.
The problem is there is very little plot to back the film up. What little plot there is, is very contrived and not enough to flesh out the film’s short run time of 90 minutes. Essentially, Idris Elba plays Dr. Nate Samuels, a medical doctor whose wife Amahle recently died after a period of estrangement between the couple.
Nate brings his daughters Meredith and Norah (Iyana Halley and Leah Jeffries) on a trip to their mother’s homeland, hoping to find, I don’t know. Spiritual enlightenment. Reconnection with their lost matriarch. A chance to get away from it all. Typical movie brat Meredith treats her old man like garbage, blaming her father for quote unquote “not being there” in typical fashion of a young person who hasn’t been knocked around by the world enough times to realize that expectations never quite match up to reality and bottomline, if Mom didn’t want Dad to be there, then he couldn’t have been there. The reason for the separation is never given other than a vague idea that the couple wasn’t getting along.
The Samuels family’s tour guide of Africa is Martin Battles, played by none other than white South African actor Sharlto Copley. There’s a bit of irony in this casting choice. Given today’s uber woke world, one can’t help but scratch their head at the idea of a white man acting as the protector of a black family during their trip to Africa. However, Copley has been an actor and filmmaker for years, much of his work devoted to a love of the land he grew up in and ultimately, putting issues of race aside, the Samuels family are a bunch of city slickers from New York while Battles is an expert when it comes to African wildlife, having put in years of helping to conserve native species.
In other words, one might look at the premise through a different type of woke lens, that being race doesn’t automatically make one an expert in one subject or another. The Samuels are New Yorkers who know little of the Savannah, but Dr. Samuels is a practiced medicine man called upon to save lives at various parts in the film. Battles is white, but grew up in the area and through experience, learned all about fighting poachers, speaking native languages, keeping one step ahead of hungry lions.
But yeah, I get why viewers of African descent might roll their eyes at that early scene where the lions hug and romp with Sharlto as if he’s a modern-day White Lion King, Tamer and Friend to all African Wildlife he surveys.
At any rate, once the crappy plot is out of the way, the Samuels must survive the attack of a lion on the prowl for revenge after his pride is shot by poachers. An even earlier scene tells us this is no ordinary lion as it slashes through a pack of poachers with a vengeance. There’s one strange part where one poacher gets caught in a snag wire only to become lion food and I can only assume the idea is that he was hoisted on his own petard, i.e. he forgot where his pals laid the wire. Yeah, not gonna lie for a minute I had to pause it, scratch my head and think, “Did that lion lay that trip wire?”
If you can suspend, and I mean really suspend disbelief, then this flick is a nice brief diversion. I wouldn’t bother renting it. Wait for streaming. Though there are some scary scenes, there are also eyerolling scenes where Idris Elba somehow magically uses, I don’t know, father’s love strength to kick the ass of this killer cat rather than become lion food, as we all would, because it is a damn lion.
STATUS: Not shelf-worthy. With a little more flushing out of the plot, this might have been better. I’m not sure if Elba had to be in this movie or if it was just a payday, but he’s too good for such drek. Frankly, Copley is too good for this drek. Even the young actresses playing the daughters were too good for this drek. Dang it, even the CGI lion was too good for this drek.
SIDENOTE: I think the nuclear proliferation of streaming services is turning films into drek. When I saw this trailer, I immediately predicted it would be drek because I had a hunch the filmmakers wouldn’t take it seriously but rather, would throw together a haphazard plot then make the movie largely dependent on some scares courtesy of a CGI lion. One of the girls wears a Jurassic Park shirt, perhaps a tribute to another film where kids ran and hid from CGI beasts, but at least there was some substance, some intrigue to the madness. In other words, give us more. Maybe the family gets tricked into entering the lion reserve or something. I don’t know. Ultimately, streaming media = Hollywood feels the need to churn out the schlock at a rapid pace and the substance is lost. There were good actors and actresses here. There were good special effects here. It just needed a better script, and perhaps more time and money to back that script up.