PG...somehow. Seriously, things were allowed to be R back in the '80s. But somehow, this absolutely insane example of PG might be going too far. It is kind of the worst of Chevy Chase, with the casual racism, deeply inappropriate homosexual stereotypes, Nazism, and just overall pride in political incorrectness. There's sexuality and murder that's part of the plot, coupled with some pretty blasphemous stuff. At least the latter has to do with the plot, but there are so many moments that just don't need to happen in this movie. PG.
DIRECTOR: Michael Ritchie
What? How? If you read my initial blog about Fletch, you'll read about me complaining that a bit too much Chevy Chase was allowed into the movie to stop it from being great. In my head, it must have been a nightmare working on this film. Sure, I don't really have a lot of evidence on that (which kind of makes me hate myself). But it just seems like Chevy Chase was just given carte blanche on things that he wanted to do with the movie. So much of this screams problematic-era Chevy Chase that it is barely a film.
And it's stuff that doesn't need to be in the movie. There's a really weird scene, mirroring the Lakers scene in the first movie. The Lakers scene in the first movie is this very odd dream sequence that has nothing to do with the plot, so much as it is used to get Chevy Chase into another outfit and tell a joke. If it was cut from the movie, you'd never know that there was a missing beat. If anything, it's a scene that pulls you out of what little verisimilitude the movie offers up to that point. In Fletch Lives, the dream sequence is now of Fletch owning a plantation. At least that scans with what the story is about. The plot surrounds him getting a plantation after the death of his Great Aunt. But the film can't help but grab the low hanging fruit there. Pulling from Lost Cause theory and the mythos of the Old South, Fletch fantasizes about being a plantation owner. And it's the following step that confuses the heck out of me.
They had to know that the whole "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" scene was going to be taboo and that it shouldn't have been done. Why do I know this? It shows that Fletch, sure enough, is a slave owner a'la the Uncle Remus stories, but every one of his happy slaves is a white person. Like, it's really weird. There had to be a production meeting of how they were going to make this scene. I can imagine Chase at a table, frustrated that the scene was even being questioned. So people are spitballing ideas on how to make a scene work without shutting down all of Hollywood. (Maybe part of me has too much belief in the politics of 1989, but that's a whole different blog.) Finally, they decide on making everyone happy and white. Not just in skin color, but clothes too. And then they got a whole bunch of extras who would be remarkably cool with playing a happy slave. That's the part that bugs me, by the way. It's the fact that Fletch's fantasy has all of the slaves be happy and white. In the most absurd way, it is almost a return to Blackface. No, you know what's even more on the nose? It's actual Whitewashing of history. Slavery wasn't so bad. Look at all these happy white people? Yeah. It's so much.
Luckily, the whole movie isn't straight up racism. But you know what? A lot of it is, so no off the hook for you. (At least it makes Nazis look bad, but not in a classy way.) There's a lot of glory of the Old South happening. I bet that the folks behind Fletch Lives thought that they were really lighting a fire under Southern stereotypes. But there's a way to do it well and then there's Fletch Lives. I'm looking at The Blues Brothers for how to do your Nazi send up. But it seems like Fletch Lives wants to be hip and it never really pulls it off. Like the role of Calculus (I know...I know. Everything hurts typing this.), he absolutely loves work while simultaneously being lazy? I get that he's Fletch's sidekick in this, but it doesn't really paint him in the best light either. Sure, he's the hero in the end. Love that. But Calculus embraces the notion of the placating Black man. He sees all this evil around him and his entire philosophy is "That's how it is and I like it." Honestly (and I get the irony of me writing this), it's like an entire group of white people said that they wanted to be edgy, so they get the Black guy to sign off on it. It's really weird.
Okay, I've established that I don't at all approve of the racism in this? (Even writing that sentence feels like me covering my bases.) I do want to talk about how Fletch Lives doesn't make me hate Fletch altogether. Like how Murder, She Wrote is absolutely absurd, it's weird that investigative reporter Fletch keeps falling into these absurd murder scenarios. Again, I write often how I have to shut off my brain. You kind of just have to. The entire premise is to get Fletch out of L.A. and down to LA (see what I did there?). But I do like that Fletch Lives is okay with being something a little different for Fletch. It's taking the same character (although with even more absurd costume changes) and allowing him to solve a different kind of crime. This one seems a little more standard whodunnit, even though it is pretty solvable (by formula) than some movies. There's a story that can kind of / sort of be followed, which makes the mystery element decent. So, like Fletch, the story is pretty good. It's just that...Fletch isn't that great.
There were lessons learned on the first movie. It's the stuff that I don't necessarily love that other people did. I'm sure that people really dug when Fletch got into silly costumes and adopted weird names and accents to get into places because this film doubles that idea and then keeps pushing them. Making my point, the film actually starts off with Fletch playing a maid with a Greek accent (I suppose I should add that to my list of inappropriate stereotypes that this movie embraces). It all goes down from there because many of those choices don't really make sense. For example, Fletch's most complex outfit is of a faith healer. He does the whole spray tan, wig, glasses, and teeth bit, coupled with a fancy pants suit while sneaking onto the Faith Healing Network. Okay, I get that he doesn't want to be recognized because he's been there before without an outfit. But he creates this persona that is only going to draw attention to himself. It gets him on television. Now, Fletch had originally suspected the bombastic pastor (actually really well-cast with R. Lee Ermey) as the killer, so he had to get close to him. Fine. But it's also clear that Fletch abhors the con-man faith healing that the network offers. So when he makes this absolutely absurd character to sneak on, he's only affirming the notion of faith healing to a group that is being preyed upon.
So, it's the character of Fletch that bothers me. I kind of dovetailed and shorthanded my last idea in my original Fletch blog. I was so put off by Fletch in my youth and I do enjoy the mysteries behind these movies more than I admit. But this is all for Confess, Fletch. Now I'm thinking, what if Confess, Fletch sucks? That's a very real possibility. Really, I'm watching for Jon Hamm where he is the comic lead in a serious situation. That's mainly what I might want. Hamm tends to play either dramatic or straight man to a comic lead. But the few times where he's allowed to show off his comic prowess, the man is a genius. And that trailer? It makes the first two Fletch movies seem quaint. And it all makes me think, is Fletch part of the cinematic canon? It seems like it has enough of a following to be able to garner attention and readers to this blog. But if people are starting to forget The Godfather (my theory, not a popular idea), how quickly is Fletch going to be forgotten?
Rated PG, which is important because we showed our kids this movie. Okay, everything except "The Tale of Sir Galahad." My son kept saying things were not appropriate and I am now aware that my kid is a better person than I am. He was more confused that I could laugh at an image of God talking to King Arthur. There's some cartoon nudity. There's a lot of blasphemous jokes. There's blood and talk about sex. It's got everything that I shouldn't forgive, but totally do. PG.
DIRECTORS: Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones
I almost swore that I wouldn't watch this movie again. I mean, what would be the point? I know every line. As a guy who has a theatre degree, you've heard this movie quoted by so many people that it practically ruined it for me at this point. It's kind of like Napoleon Dynamite, ruined because of fans. But then again, I have kids. I thought that my kids should see this movie before they stop listening to me. And that was more eye-opening than anything else.
I thought that my kids would not stop laughing. When I first saw this movie with my dad, I couldn't stop laughing. Some people are writing this off as the fact that the feeling that the movie is dated at this point. It was dated for me then. I wasn't born until 1983. I didn't watch it until probably 1993. I remember thinking that the movie just looked old. It looks really bad, even remastered. But I remember thinking that it didn't matter. I still thought it was genius. It safely might be the funniest movie ever made. Sure, I know the Python guys only consider Monty Python to be a chapter in their lives, but it really did have an impact on the comedic landscape. But there my kids were, constantly asking questions like, "What's going to happen?" or "Why is he doing that?" Did I screw up somewhere along the way? Like, outside of clearly family comedies, have they seen a comedy movie before? Even the basic stuff mostly flew over their heads. Don't get me wrong, there's a few bits where they chuckled. They did not like the monks hitting themselves in the head with palates. They thought it was inappropriate. I may have raised them to be too Catholic.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail is the perfect movie to come back to after you've had a break from it. Because I was Mr. Cool Guy back in grade school and high school, I had this movie memorized. As much as I throw stones at people who overquote this movie, at one point I was one of them. Trust me, if you want to make me really hate someone, remind me how I used to be that someone. But because it was a memorized movie, I started to get some real diminishing returns from it. Comedy works from an element of suspense and the full effect of dramatic irony. Like with horror movies and magic tricks, the effectiveness lies in knowing that there's going to be a turn, but not knowing where the turn is. Now, if you have memorized a comedy, you are laughing more at the memory of the joke than the joke itself. You have good times and that's something that is a good time. When my wife and I were watching this, we kept doing side glances at one another because there was a shared experience of what was happening. But if this was a staple in the house, I can't imagine really caring about the film beyond that point.
But I should talk about the movie itself. I always treated Monty Python and the Holy Grail as a standard film. It had a beginning, middle, and end for me. But knowing what I know about Monty Python after the fact, Holy Grail is simply a collection of (admittedly) genius skits all sewn together. If anything, the film has more genetically tied to the variety hour than it does to traditional storytelling. The film gives Arthur a few bits where he is barely a character. He is running into some over-the-top scenarios and plays the straight man for these scenarios. (By the way, I'm aware that deconstructing the format of Monty Python and the Holy Grail is just the death of comedy, so please bear with me.) But then there's the Camelot bit, which is just a way to get all of the major players together. Within minutes, the film separates them again. Why? The backbone of Monty Python is sketch. There's something pervading the entire piece of collaboration. If Monty Python's Flying Circus lived-and-died on people coming together for sketches about anything, ...and the Holy Grail works because of limitations.
If anything, this might be Exhibit A for the argument that limitations builds creativity. When writing this film, the disparate members of Monty Python had to keep every joke about the Middle Ages and King Arthur. I think that there's this assumption that Monty Python's Flying Circus was brilliant because they're British. I like me some Flying Circus, but that show missed almost as much as it hit. Instead, by forcing the topic to be about the Grail legend, we really get to see the smartness of Python shine. Again, I could probably do a deep dive in how this movie was created. But it's funny how tonally similar some of the bits are in the movie. A lot of the scenes are about false wisdom or the ironic nature of wisdom in society, like how people discover witches or Dennis feeling repressed. But most of these bits are both silly and smart at the same time. Maybe absurdity thrives against a story that allows for some shorthand. For example, let's break down The Knights Who Say "Ni".
Yeah, I'm going to do it. No one can stop me and I need to find things to write about. If I'm using "Dennis Feeling Repressed" as a brilliant bit about politics in the Middle Ages, "The Knights Who Say 'Ni'" is the opposite of that. It's probably the most quotable because of its absurdity. The conceit is that there is a monster in the woods. Arthur, filled with terror, must traverse these woods. The Knights Who Say "Ni" kill anything with this absurd word, that clearly anyone can use, as shown by Arthur's treatment of the old woman. But the entire joke hinges on the juxtaposition of what is expected to what the actual terror is. (Honestly, the Knights Who Say "Ni" is the same joke as the rabbit and the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch. Both are expected menaces only to be dumbed down to the tiniest insignificance.) Everything that the head knight says gets significantly dumber. And that's the point. What is he going to do with a shrubbery? Don't worry about it. Cutting down a tree with a herring? It's so dumb that it actually makes Arthur self-aware of the farce that is going on. It's great.
So it's not really a movie. I'll tell you what. It's hard to write about the film as a film because it is just a collection of sketches. I know that the film ends on an intentional anticlimax. But that meta-narrative is the only way to really tell the story. I will say, as much as my kids kind of didn't get it (somehow), my daughter adored the opening credits. I suppose there's something for everyone. I don't want to slag off their generation because that's what old people always do. But I do wish that my kids got on board this movie. Maybe I'll try again in a few years. Maybe, like many comedies, it needed a bigger audience to make laughter contagious. But there's something absolutely brilliant here and it's really hard to write about that.
PG, but 1985 PG. It's got language and sexuality. There are some wildly inappropriate jokes, often with dated humor. It probably feels more offensive than it is, but I still wouldn't let my kids watch it. One of the central storylines is about drugs and police corruption. It's not exactly family friendly.
DIRECTOR: Michael Ritchie
For years --heck, most of my lifetime --I thought I hated Fletch. I didn't get what people saw in the movie. I'm not 100% turned around on it, despite the fact that it might be blasphemy for some people. When I was growing up, Fletch was a staple of early Comedy Central. I remember constantly having Comedy Central on and the limited programming on the network often was given relief by yet another showing of Fletch. I would give the movie a fair shake, considering that I was a pre-teen. After all, Chevy Chase was the guy from National Lampoon's Vacation. Surely, this movie has to be equally hilarious.
It would only be years later that I would realize that you could have a serious mystery in all elements except for the protagonist. Honestly, this specific subgenre would prove to be one of my favorites. I love movies like Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang; The Nice Guys; and Beverly Hills Cop. It's funny, because I liked Beverly Hills Cop movies back in the day. But there was something outright funny about Eddie Murphy in Beverly Hills Cop. Watching the beginning of Fletch, I get that the humor is there. But it isn't hilarious. Chevy Chase, for all of his falling over in chairs and over-the-top zaniness in some projects, has a different personality that he shows off in Fletch. Irwin Fletcher is Chevy Chase a'la Weekend Update, not Clark Griswold. The whole thing screams, "I'm Chevy Chase, and you're not." That Chevy Chase is a very specific brand of comedy that some people absolutely love. It's weird, because I am now completely on the up-and-up on Chevy Chase. At least, I'm as savvy as can be assuming every interview about him is accurate.
For those unaware, Chevy Chase is one of the most disliked celebrities in Hollywood. That "I'm Chevy Chase, and you're not" thing really went to Chase's head. Now, I think Chase is aware of his reputation. After all, he's gotten into physical altercations over his behavior. This kind of puts his audience in a weird sense of making a choice. Chase honestly doesn't perform very often. Post-Community, which left Chase's behavior publicly known, people have had to decide how to view Chase. Pierce Hawthorne on Community worked because a lot of that was Chevy Chase. It might be easier to swallow a Clark Griswold because it is a fantasy character. Chase is acting. And, sure, Griswold is problematic in his own right. But Griswold is pretty lovable. But Fletch? Fletch is a narcissist who you want to see win, which is kind of reflective of Chase on the whole. It's a very specific brand of humor that, if you allow yourself to understand, kind of works. As a member of an audience who avoided this movie for decades after Comedy-Central-saturation, knowing that jerk-Chevy is funny works.
Now, Fletch works for some very specific reasons. I don't think I'll ever understand the cult following behind Fletch. I think it comes from Chevy Chase fandom, not necessarily an appreciation of genius. But Fletch, similar to Shaft, is a response to a brand of detective story. I'm going to cite Klute as our foundational work, but there was the notion that you can market a detective story around a personality. The crime didn't matter. It was just a monosyllabic name that drew the attention of an audience. Who cares what the crime is? I want to see outside-the-system male take care of the problem. Because a lot of these stories are about the protagonist and the joy of watching him beat the system, the stories are lame. But I'm going to give a point to the people behind Fletch. Believe-it-or-not, these plots are kind of...good? Okay I'm having a beef with Fletch Lives, but I haven't gotten to writing about that one yet, so give me a minute.
You actually can watch Fletch for not-Chevy-Chase. His jokes enhance the movie for the most part, but the story kind of holds its own. Instead of being a whodunnit, it's more of a "how is this going to play out" mystery? The film sets a high premise: Fletch --unbeknownst to his benefactor as an investigative journalist --has been hired to help a man end his life at a very specific time. It's more of a puzzle box than a traditional mystery and that's what makes it a bit more fun than usual. We know --for the most part --who the bad guys are. But we're left without a motive or much background behind these choices. The bulk of the movie is trying to make sense of an absurd situation and it, mostly, works. The story is all there. It's pretty fleshed out. It's a little imperfect. Some of that beach stuff is almost left a bit ambiguous for lack of answers. But the big deal is that there's an escape room element to the film and that's pretty fun.
So where do I really have the problem? Don't get me wrong, there are times I really laughed at many of Fletch's bits. But there's also a complete need to suspend disbelief and most of that comes out of tonal choices. The movie really wants to treat the plot as serious, but let Fletch be anything he wants to be in the moment. The thing about Axel Foley in Beverly Hills Cop, any kind of hijinks that he was up to fit in the established world. He was a large character in a small world. But Fletch? Fletch is whatever Chevy Chase finds funny at the time, regardless if it serves the story or no. I know that Comedy Central always advertised Fletch as the equivalent of a Master of Disguise story. It was all about his multiple characters that he uses to gain information on people. Those are fun. But these characters go from grounded to fantastical. There's G. Gordon Liddy? He's got buck teeth and a wig? Why? Why go to those extremes? Fletch Lives will sin more fantastically in this regard. But it seems like maybe reusing personas would make more sense.
Then there's the notion that Fletch can score any woman he wants with little effort? My goodness, the women characters in these movies are underwritten. There's a bimbo stereotype and then there's what is going on here. Women are honestly treated as completely malleable regardless of situation. Gail Stanwyk accidentally finds out through Fletch's intervention that she's being bamboozled out of millions of dollars by her husband and that he's going to fake his own death after finding out that he's involved with the drug cartels. And yet, every scene she's happy as a clam? From being hit on by someone who clearly isn't Alan's buddy to the final result, she's just peachy when this bad news comes pouring in. How should someone react when their entire lives are being turned upside down? It's upsetting. I get that Bond girls don't have a lot of agency, but this is a new level. And part of me --and it feels like I'm picking on him at this point --feels like this is to stroke Chevy Chase's ego. The movie assumes that people who are just meeting Chevy Chase would be sexually interested in him. It's bizarre.
So I liked it better than I thought that I would. But a good movie it doesn't necessarily make. It's fun and I'm glad that I watched it. But can we share a secret, reader? I'm only watching these movies because I'm excited for Jon Hamm in Confess, Fletch. That movie looks great. Jon Hamm is way more palatable than Chevy Chase. It just needs a little more grounding a little less absurdity for me to get on board and I hope that movie offers it to me.
Rated R for more Scream specific violence. It's gonna be a lot of gore and a lot of stabbing. There's some fun use of vulgar language. There's going to be talk about sex, but no actual sex on screen and no nudity. If you've seen one Scream movie, the level of offensive content is exactly the same. R.
DIRECTOR: Wes Craven
Can I do it? I'm writing the last entry in my Scream collection at a remarkably distractible time. People tend to walk in and chat with me around this time of day. And I enjoy chatting. I enjoy chatting so much that I run out of time to write and then I start resenting people. But I'll take human contact any day. (That being said, I hope I have time to write this blog.)
Scream 4 is the only entry outside of the newest entry that I've only seen once. The newest entry, confusingly named Scream, I've only seen once because I tend to not rewatch movies that often because I'm constantly playing catch-up when it comes to media. But Scream 4 was a specific choice not to rewatch until now. Honestly, if I didn't have a Collections page that needed occasional updates, I probably wouldn't have rewatched Scream 4 this time. Scream 4 was always a bad movie to me. It was a vulnerable experience for me. Sometimes, you have to sell your spouse on date night movies. If you've been reading my other blogs involving Scream, you can guess that I overall like the franchise a lot. Considering that I only enjoy horror, but don't get obsessed with it, that's kind of saying something. But Scream 4 was the movie I convinced my wife to see in the theaters and, boy, did it stink. Now, I know that a lot of people actually like this movie a lot. Maybe I made that up, but I think I read something about a cult following around this entry in the franchise. Maybe it was just people's obsession with Kirby, which I don't get.
Okay, I kind of get Kirby. Listen, I'm going to probably tear Scream 4 a new one. But I have to get Kirby out of the way. Kirby is one character out of three that is representative of the immature male fantasy about women. It's going to get dicey, so please forgive me as I tip-toe across this minefield. I'm not saying that girls like Kirby don't exist. But I'm going to say that there's almost something pornographic about the way that Kirby and her friends act that doesn't really reflect reality at all. To a certain extent, the male version of this is pretty rare too, but there's always this suspension of disbelief when it comes to characters like Randy. What do I mean by "characters like Randy?" I'm talking about the otaku who somehow is part of the social elite. It's really weird that Randy would hang out with Sidney, Billy, and Tatum. Craven and Williamson spent a little time establishing that Sidney wasn't BWoC or anything like that. But she seemed fairly popular at school. (If you are going to cite the girls gossiping about her in the bathroom in the first movie, that's what I'm referring to as well.) But Kirby seems to be a hodgepodge of too many archetypes.
There's a scene where Marnie, Kirby, and Jill were all going to watch a whole bunch of horror movies that they'd seen too many times. These are girls who have perfect hair and perfect skin. There's nothing ironic about their clothes. If anything, their entire set and costuming reflected more of the CW than deep-dive nerd culture. I guess that's where I'm kind of going with this. With obsession, there's fallout. The notion of being the nerd and being proud of it is the idea that it explodes out in all directions. You just don't own the DVDs of movies that you talk about all the time. You have memorabilia. You have tee-shirts. You pride yourself on being counter-culture. Again, I'm painting with an inappropriately large brush here, but it's what I genuinely see in people who like something a lot. Sure, Jill has movie posters in her room, but they are more about the color coordination than they are the content. There's something very sanitary about these girls. So when people are clamoring for Kirby as the nerd obsession, I kind of don't believe it. I do want girl nerds, screaming loud and proud. But let them be a little bit of social outcasts. Don't just give them every personality trait in one. I feel gross writing this, so I'm going to move on. I feel like someone I don't like might have written something else, so please excuse me.
The biggest problem I have with Scream 4 is that it forgets what Scream is all about, despite the return of Kevin Williamson as writer. I has absolutely nothing to say, outside of a thinly veiled notion of "reboot." When I wrote about Scream, I talked about how the first movie used the allegory of the horror movie to tell a deep story between a mother who left a wake of destruction behind her. It was about the rise of the incel and how fandom ultimately became toxic. I am aghast that I placed it in my "perfect" movie category because I hate adding things to that pile. But as I've slowly binged (oxymoron, I know) these movies over the past month, the deep storytelling continued to disappear in place of only talking about the metatextual rules of a horror movie. But Scream 4 didn't even have much to say about the metatextual elements of the first films to hold the attention of the movie. I honestly think that Williamson had two ideas and that's it: 1) There are a lot of reboots nowadays and 2) kids are more rude than they used to be.
In terms of talking about reboots, the movie keeps saying "reboot" while basically making another Scream movie. Aesthetically, there's nothing different about these movies outside of the date. It looks like a Scream movie, which doesn't really make it a reboot. (Reboots often take advantage of the progression of technology to make things overly clean and cinematic. None of that happening.) There's a little talk about filming murders and putting them on the Internet, but is that really a trend that needs to be discussed because it is so prevalent? To a certain extent, I do like the notion that Jill is the killer. But it's not perfect. Do you know why Jill is the killer? It's the same reason that procedural cop dramas are so predictable. In the previous movies, we spend so much time with the protagonist that it makes it very difficult for that person to be the killer. When Sidney was the protagonist, the more time we spent with her, the more impossible it was that she had any involvement with the killer. After all, she was often alone and the killer was still going after her. Sure, you could pull a High Tension and make all of those moments hallucinations. But Scream 4 posits that Jill is the new protagonist. One of the few things that Williamson nails with the reboot commentary is that these films tend to set up for a new generation to take over the franchise. But we don't even know who Jill is for most of the movie. Jill is a blank slate. It's actually really annoying when we spend time with Jill.
And that's where the movie really falls apart. Golly, there's no great moment of "her?" when the killer is revealed. We have the two killers formula again: Jill the Alpha and Charlie as Stu. Charlie as Stu is even more weak tea, to quote Firefly. Charlie is barely a character at all in the story and his hatred of Kirby when she does give him attention is absurd. But Williamson is so obsessed with getting a killer who tied to Sidney that Jill is never allowed to become a character in herself. On top of that, it isn't even personal when Jill goes after Sidney. (Part of me really hoped that I forgot who the killers were because I wanted Jill's mom / Sidney's aunt to be the killer.) Jill should have a deep story about how Sidney constantly brought attention to her and Woodsboro. It would have built on the Maureen Prescott legacy of unintended consequences. But no. Jill just wants to be as famous as Sidney, which is...stupid? It's really stupid. It has nothing to do with anything. Okay, I'm starting to vent. Let me say it smarter.
With many of the secondary killers in the Scream movies, the alpha has a direct connection to the plot and is doing this out of frustration. Billy Loomis lost his father. Mrs. Loomis lost her husband. Roman lost his mother. (I already forget who the killer was in the fifth Scream. Guess I gotta watch it again.) The secondary killer, if there is one, is there for the thrill of it all. They want fame and/or infamy. Stu was obsessed with movies. Tommy (?) was already a serial killer online. Roman didn't have a second. And again, I don't remember Scream 5. But this movie had Charlie, who also wanted fame and was obsessed with movies. What's the message of that? And here's where the movie becomes Boomer candy. If there is a takeaway from this movie, it's this:
This generation is more immature than the previous generation. That's crap, by the way. It's not like the kids in the previous Scream movies were role-models of behavior or empathy. But every single teenage character in this one was self-involved and incapable of basic human emotion. With the other Scream movies, there were characters who behaved inappropriately in the face of death. Stu threw a party because the principal died. Sidney's boyfriend's fraternity kidnapped him, despite his girlfriend being in peril. The cast of Stab 3 had a wrap party for a movie that wasn't going to finish. But they were exceptions to the true heroes of the story. Say what you will about Gale Weather's doppleganger, she was really concerned about people dying. Sidney's roommate stayed with her at all times, making sure she was okay. Tatum let Sidney sleepover. They were doing the good thing in the face of tragedy. But in Scream 4? Only the OG characters showed anything resembling something human. Every single teenager was so self-obsessed that they even had to continue their Stab marathon, despite the fact that people they knew died at the first part of the Stab marathon. That's gross. When the killer reflects those motivations, it feels like Williamson is just taking his frustration out on early Zoomers.
I want to love the intro to this movie. If writing these things so close together has made me realize anything, it's that I like a little bit of a wink to the camera without depending on that wink to be there. The beginning of Scream 4 comments about how meta the Stab movies are, like how meta the Scream movies are. But I'm going as far as to say, it doesn't make sense. I don't want to trash this section too much for personal reasons, but I need to stop having the movie tell me how meta it is. Let me reach that conclusion organically.
Scream 4 is just rough. I don't care about it. It offers nothing new and seems to be whining about itself more than it celebrates itself. It's a bummer because Wes Craven wouldn't direct another Scream movie after that. I don't know what hand he had in the TV show, but this is the end of an amazing legacy he left behind. Part 4s are tough. If anything, this movie shows that maybe it should have quite while they were ahead. I enjoyed the next one, but there's something now woefully imperfect about the franchise.
PG-13 for typical Marvel violence. Okay, there's one moment that is especially harrowing, where a character gets a spear through them. And this is the movie that isn't afraid to kill off major characters. But the thing that maybe makes this for older audiences is the intentional lack of humor that the movie has. It's the same visuals we had before, but often without the cathartic laugh to accompany that violence. PG-13.
DIRECTOR: Ryan Coogler
I didn't want to write about another 2022 movie. I'm grumpy when I should be relieved. I'm writing about a movie that I really liked, but ultimately was pretty dour. I'm just going to be feeding a beast with this blog entry. But do you know what part of my personality will be satiated? My commitment to organization. Because I watched Black Panther: Wakanda Forever before Scream 4, I know that I'm being as a pre-crastinator versus a procrastinator. I don't even know if that's accurate. I just Googled "antonym for procrastinator" and found a whimsical article that's full of it.
Major directors love dunking on Marvel movies. It's a bummer because Marvel Studios are keeping movie theaters in business. Sure, it must be frustrating knowing that you have an original work in the pipeline, but people are more exciting to see the thirtieth sequel of a movie instead. But I want to specifically focus on James Cameron's recent rally against Marvel Studios. Despite the fact that Avatar: The Way of Water was being promoted during Wakanda Forever in the form of a trailer, Cameron rallied against Marvel saying that there were no real stakes in Marvel movies. It's appropriate that something like Wakanda Forever is the movie to clap back at that because I have a vibe that Wakanda Forever will have far more stakes than The Way of Water. Every so often, cinematic trends tend to align. With James Cameron and Ryan Coogler, we're going to see intense family action movies that involve blue people who live underwater. Cameron's argument is that superheroes never adapt and put family in front of superheroing, but that's almost exclusively what Wakanda Forever is all about.
It's really appropriate that, in the title, Black Panther is very small while Wakanda Forever seems to dominate. This isn't a Black Panther movie as much as it is about the people of Wakanda. To be as sensitive as possible with this, it comes down to the loss of Chadwick Boseman. Similarly with how one of the Fast and the Furious movies spiritually became about the death of Paul Walker, this movie hinges on the death of Chadwick Boseman. It absolutely has to be tricky to make a movie, especially a big budget movie, about the real life death of an actor. There's the temptation to constantly mention it, but also making it reverent enough to remind audiences of the void left by the passing of the central character. Ghostbusters: Afterlife did a good job. I think that Wakanda Forever is the more mature version of that same idea. We have to remember that Ghostbusters was made to be a comedy, so the approaches have to be different. When Boseman passed, Black Panther 2 was already in pre-production. There was a plan for this film that did not involve Boseman leaving the franchise.
It's not that there was a story that needed to be told. It's that there was a conscious decision made not to recast Boseman nor to use CG to bring the actor back. And I wondered how they were going to go about that. Black Panther has a very specific plot device that almost requires Boseman to be in the movie, the Land of Djala. The Land of Djala is an afterlife for the people of Wakanda. When a new person inherits the mantle of Black Panther, they visit the afterlife and receive the blessing of the fallen ancestors before awakening as Black Panther. When Boseman died and the announcement came that they would not be trivializing Boseman's death with recasting or CG, I didn't know how the story would go on. I mean, that had to be a tempting moment, didn't it? Having a CG moment embracing Shuri, who goes through the wringer in this movie? Instead, I now have the deepest respect for Ryan Coogler and Kevin Feige who stuck by it. The life of Chadwick Boseman was more important than their story and they simply worked harder to find a way around it. When Killmonger appeared instead of T'Challa, that said something about what Shuri had become and it was what the story needed. It's absolutely brilliant and overtly respectful to a man's legacy.
Yeah, the movie is bleak. I have to talk about that. It's not a fun movie to watch. There is action. There's also only about three jokes. The movie starts with mourning and returns to the motif of mourning throughout. Again, I can't stress enough how James Cameron really painted with a heavy brush when it came to saying Marvel movies don't know how to understand stakes because this movie was sad. But as sad as it was, it also reminded itself that Marvel can do great things. The first Black Panther movie turned what could have been an isolating movie for a niche audience into an epic. While I don't believe that the first movie should have been up for an Academy Award for Best Picture, I would have a hard time defending against Wakanda Forever being a Best Picture.
The first Black Panther movie was an extremely good action superhero movie. It's great and the visuals were impressive. But ultimately, it was a very Marvel story. Like with Phase One Marvel, there was a hero who had a copy of himself. Killmonger might have been one of the better mirrored villains, but there is this limited scope to the story. Killmonger wanted power. His reasoning was interesting, but it was just a power grab, like the first Ant-Man movie. Honestly, through a teeny-tiny skewed lens, Black Panther was just the first Ant-Man done better. But what worked in that first movie was the world of Wakanda, which the sequel let grow and become the central idea. But then Coogler did something that I didn't think possible. He took all of the grandeur of his impressive mise-en-scene and he did it again. Instead of just Wakanda, he created the Kingdom of Talokan --the world of Namor. What made Wakanda work is that it had this fictional-based-on-history culture. The same thing holds true of Talokan. If Killmonger acted as a mirror to Black Panther, then Talokan was going to act as a mirror to Wakanda.
Everything of Talokan was gorgeous. I've always had a hard time getting on board Namor comics. To a certain extent, he was always just Marvel's Aquaman, despite being around for so long. His voice, in my mind, was always deep and shouting "Imperius Rex!" Yeah, his basic plot was the same as the movie, defending the people of Atlantis from the surface world. But he was ultimately vapid. He was a force of nature. He took down Wakanda in the comics because he was beefing with T'Challa. Instead, Namor comes across like a jerk, but a well-meaning jerk. He knows that Wakanda and Talokan share similar frustrations with the rest of the world. Shuri even points out that she wants to watch the world burn for being so selfish. And Namor embraces that frustration, knowing that Wakanda could be a real threat to Talokan. The pervading theme of the world being so corrupt that politics become what divide us runs through the story again. Killmonger's frustration with Wakanda grew from technological advancement that could have prevented needless Black deaths across the world. Namor's frustration with Wakanda comes from Wakanda's stressed non-interference will ultimately spiral into the world getting stronger unstoppable weapons. Sure, the Killmonger-was-Right crowd was a bit much, but both of these characters make sense.
And in the center of this: Shuri. When I saw Letitia Wright as Shuri in the first movie, I could not wait to see her get a bigger role. She was the fun part of Black Panther. I knew that she would eventually embrace the role of Black Panther. And to give me what I wanted would have been a mistake for this character. Instead, we got a broken Shuri. We saw someone so full of life and instead of harping on a dead brother the entire time, the shorthand worked so much better --Shuri had to grow up really fast. That's the story. Right there. Death forces us to grow up faster than we'd like. She's angry at her newfound responsibility, but not in a childish way. People want her to be her brother and she's not mad at the role; she's mad at no one being able to be her brother. It's this really strong choice for the movie to take. I thank God that the movie ends on a hopeful note, or I wouldn't know what to do with myself.
There is one thing that bothers me. I keep coming back to this well, but it is something that does bug me about movies. It's when the actor becomes the story. I'm not talking about Chadwick Boseman. I'm talking about Letitia Wright and her Covid-denying nonsense. It's especially considering that Shuri is the advocate for science in the World of Wakanda. That's her character and she's playing this role that her character would abhor. It's a bummer and it does pull me out of the film for a while.
But the movie is too good to let that bother you. Black Panther is barely an element of this movie and it's remarkably smart to play the movie about fallout. I adored it and James Cameron doesn't have a foot to stand on after this movie. Especially considering that no one really cares about Avatar.
What? What did I say?!
TV-14, but it's fairly tame. It's Weird Al. He's the first comedian that we teach our kids about. Yeah, there's sex. I don't quite want to let my kids watch it. But in terms of wildly offensive material, there's not much here. I suppose there is a little violence. But all of it is treated with such a level of absurdity that I would be befuddled to find the audience who would be offended by this.
DIRECTOR: Eric Appel
The first thing I thought while watching this movie is that I was flabbergasted by the fact that I haven't seen a truly silly new movie in ages. There used to be all kinds of silly movies. There are still comedies (I'm having a hard time finding an example), but nothing as goofball as Weird. The problem is that I'm going to have to call out the 400 lb gorilla in the room. There are a lot of people saying that Weird Al broke new ground with Weird...and he didn't. So much of this movie owes something to Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story that I just need to get that out of the way. But because of Weird Al's immaculate track record (please don't make this blog dated and uncomfortable, Weird Al!), we can forgive that Walk Hard did it first and they can both exist simultaneously.
I'm writing in an almost futile void. I know I'm only going to have a few minutes to add to this, so I apologize if this is going to be another of my disjointed entries. I think I'm part of the crowd of people who like Weird Al in concept more than the throngs of adoring fans out there. Honestly, people love Weird Al. Some of those people are fans of his song parodies. Some think of him as the mind behind UHF or The Weird Al show. But Al Yankovic has carved such a niche fandom for himself that I simply sit in awe in what this ultimately counter-culture character has brought about for himself. Throughout Weird, coupled with the reality of the world of humor itself, it's understood that absolutely anyone could make a song parody. (I don't know how good these parodies would be, but it's not like someone owns the rights to making song parodies. And, yes, I'm aware of how self-aware that sentence is.) Weird Al is his own beast. There's an odd paradox with the notion of this film existing because it is a celebration of both how it shouldn't exist, yet the subject matter is completely deserving of a biopic.
It's not that Weird Al lived a hard life, as far as I can tell. Maybe it is because his real life is so mundane that makes this biopic worth telling. Starting as a Funny-or-Die skit ages ago that I kinda-sorta remember seeing, Weird is intentionally more fiction than fact. It revels in the fact that Weird Al has no rules and that's what makes him wonderful. Even the closing credits include an original song by Weird Al, a guy who A) only does parodies and B) died in his own biopic. What makes Weird such a compelling watch, and one that I've kept promoting to friends, is the idea that everything in the movie is both expected and completely out of left field. This isn't necessarily a parody of Weird Al, but just the notion of biopics. (See why I brought up Walk Hard so quickly?) It's funny in a wholly meta way. Could this movie work without a working knowledge of Weird Al? I don't think so. I'd like to think that this generation (me being an old man, I look at current generations as lesser) knows who Weird Al is. But, like a good parody should, this movie asks people to have a working knowledge of the source material.
This is probably not the most interesting take on the whole Weird movie, but having a Roku original is just odd. I'm about to flash my privilege pretty hard right here, but there is no such thing as a Roku premium account. Roku is and always will be sponsored by commercials. (Like I ask Weird Al not to embarrass me by becoming a monster, I also ask Roku to hold up their free model loaded with commercials. Weird is not a cheap looking movie. This movie really does scream cinematic in the silliest way imaginable. But it actually detracts from the movie by watching commercials. I know. I know. This is grousing to put more content in there. How can I detract from the movie when the people who made the movie didn't have much to do with commercials? Maybe this is a way to advocate for the continuation of supporting theater chains. Scorsese, Cameron, and Lynch have all rallied about the death of the movie theater. Spielberg, for the longest time, considered streaming services to be the death of cinema. I know that Weird might not be that movie to enter the cinematic canon, but it also might be the prime examples how commercials and streaming can impact a film.
The thing about comedy is that it really is about the timing. Yeah, I'm nothing if not a cliché. But when the film starts building a rhythm, and then is interrupted by commercial, there's something to be said about it. It's not necessarily about Weird, but how can that not be part of it? Until this comes out in physical media, this is the only way to absorb it for most people? But ultimately, this is me grousing. I have nothing to say to improve this. If Roku didn't make this, maybe it wouldn't have been made. I mean, I remember when this movie was announced, people didn't believe that Daniel Radcliffe would be Weird Al. Sure, they had the proof of concept. But on the other hand, I'm sure that there were people skeptical of a comedy skit that would be extended into a two-hour movie. So as much as I whine about the delivery service for Weird, I'll take stuff like this often. There's quality coupled with seriousness. There's something wholesome and rebellious at the same time. Because I hadn't seen something like this in a while, it became something special. It's good movie and I'm going to keep on recommending it.
PG-13 and that's mostly for action violence. I suppose that people die and children are exploited, but I don't necessarily know what makes this movie skip from PG to PG-13. It's not even that I am arguing against the PG-13 rating as having a hard time determining what makes it so. My kids watched it with only minor terror.
DIRECTOR: Harry Bradbeer
What is it that makes me like the same things differently at different times? I remember fairly disappointed with the first Enola Holmes story. It was that righteous anger that accompanies the feeling of being able to do something better than the filmmakers could. But that might be unfair. Again, I criticize myself as being a blogger that writes about movies simply for therapy. But the first movie got me quite irate versus this movie, which is a lot of the same stuff happening, that I mostly approve of.
It's not that Enola Holmes 2 is great. It isn't. It's fun and I'll go as far as to say that it's pretty good. But what makes me question myself when I write with Holmes 2 is the fact that I liked that that lowered the stakes. The movie almost goes out of its way to stress that the stakes are miniscule in this movie. With a quick bout of exposition, the eponymous Enola tells us that she had opened and then quickly closed her detective agency. I don't think the movie ever makes the broad claim that solving this mystery would keep the business afloat. If anything, the movie is about Enola's sense of self-worth. If I was to take that to a natural step further, I would add on to the concept of self-worth of "her self-worth in a patriarchal society." That's what Enola Holmes is about. Enola can do what Sherlock does, but without being toxic about it. But with the business already closed, the film creates a sense of morality around what Enola is doing.
There's a fine line between Enola and Sherlock Holmes that can get a bit blurry. Both Enola and Sherlock aren't bound by detecting. They do so because they show a natural inclination for it. It is somewhat easy for them, despite the fact that we watch both characters flounder for answers at times. (There needs to be a story, so the characters must have moments of frustration.) But Sherlock, being male and emotionally stunted, detects because it defines him. He enjoys the success, albeit he claims not to care about it. His cockiness is one of his virtuous traits. There's a gag where Sherlock borderline stares down cops who get in his way. But that's something that Enola doesn't really have in her arsenal. Everything is uphill for Enola because she is a girl. The movie may take a few more liberties than I would like interchanging Enola's gender with her age. After all, I too would be nervous to hire a high school aged girl to solve important crimes, especially crimes that may land her in trouble like the story ultimately does.
But Sherlock has devolved to a place where he doesn't view the cases in terms of morality / right and wrong. It's a game for him. The fact that the term, "The game is afoot" stresses his cavalier attitude to people's plights. And yet, Sherlock's cases tend to be far larger than Enola's. It's only though coincidence that Enola's and Sherlock's cases merged into being the same case. From Enola's perspective, she's simply solving a missing person's case that is linked to a poor match girl. But Sherlock and his case are about reputation as the world's greatest detective (not Batman, in this case). When Sherlock is stymied by the puzzle that Moriarty has presented, it is because he is never stumped that frustrated. It's what causes him to turn inwards, setting up the potential joining of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson. But Enola is a different beast entirely. When she is recruited by the match girl, Enola has no reason to actually say yes to the case shy of empathy. This isn't a case that will bring her fame or notoriety. Enola is aware that the job won't pay anything and her life won't be any better. Because it is a movie, the stakes are raised. But this isn't a story that ties to her mother, a driving factor from the first movie.
And I like that. Mom is back, in her own way. I'll never really understand why Mom acts the way she does, outside of the fact that it drives the story in a weirder way than most stories go. But the first film tried attaching some very personal stakes to something completely arbitrary. By removing any personal quest items here, Enola Holmes 2 sets itself up to be the template that Sherlock Holmes stories have been enjoying for years while giving us a character to actually care about. Great detective stories don't necessarily live or die on the notion of how great the mystery was. (I suppose that can be debated.) We care about Sherlock Holmes both for the reveal, but also for the big personality behind the detective. Enola Holmes, however, with her ability to break the fourth wall and the universal nature to her quirky personality, makes her far more interesting than Holmes. Perhaps, to a certain extent, she is a dime a dozen, but Sherlock has always been aloof. Yeah, I love what Moffett did with the character on his show and this Henry Cavill version is pretty likable. But there's always a wall between Sherlock Holmes and all other characters. Not only does that wall not exist for Enola, but she chooses to break a fourth wall that other characters hold sacred.
The Moriarty reveal is fun, but I also don't think that it is enough. Sherlock Holmes always feels the need to bring in Moriarty as a story element. I don't blame them for bringing in Moriarty. It is the franchise's Joker. For every superhero, you need an even better supervillain. But I also feel there's a bit of adding checkmarks to your story. Enola Holmes and its sequel tried to make Victorian England more inclusive and I love it. But when you relegate your Black female character to the cool-but-often-unseen villain of your piece, is that really such a triumph? The clear third entry in the series will have white Sherlock Holmes and white Enola Holmes tracking down Black female Moriarty. I know that it is hard to go back in time and change things. But if the franchise was really gutsy, we'd have Black Sherlock Holmes and Black Enola Holmes. To a certain extent, Doctor Who delivered that with the Paternoster Gang. But I can't give Moffett too much credit for that because he, too, has a mostly white cast for the main characters.
The more I think about it, the mystery in Enola 2 is take it or leave it. I solved a lot of the elements pretty early (and that's me bragging because I found a way to shoehorn that in). It's not the puzzle is easy or challenging. it's just that I don't really think that all of the pieces necessarily fit together as cleanly as some of Arthur Conan Doyle's original detective mysteries would. There are rough edges in the puzzle here that are done for shock value, but make little sense in the reality of the world of Sherlock and Enola Holmes. That's kind of why I am going off on the characterization. I like Sherlock and Enola Holmes in this movie. They have a great rapport which makes the movie worth watching. Yeah, it's style over substance, but I ultimately don't really care. It's a fun movie.
PG-13 for suicide. While the topic of suicide is throughout the piece, including seeing two separate people commit suicide, the rest of the content is almost making up for the fact that there isn't much offensive material in this. If one truly wanted to be bothered by the content, there are discussions that imply sexuality, but nothing actually sexual happens on screen. But the suicide thing isn't to be ignored. I'm actually kind of floored that The Hours managed to avoid an R-rating.
DIRECTOR: Stephen Daldry
Oh Lord. I'm writing on an empty tank. I want to collapse and run away from the world, which is appropriate when writing about Virginia Woolf. I've always had a hard time with Virginia Woolf. Virginia Woolf is...difficult. When people praise her works, it's not that I'm coming from a place of disrespect. I am always in awe of how her work challenges me. But I also have a hard time distancing elements of Woolf from my own personal moral philosophies and upbringing.
It's a challenge, let me tell you. In the back of my head, I'm struggling with the following phrase: "If you dislike Woolf and similar feminist novels, you cannot be a feminist." To that, I don't have much retort. There are waves and splinter philosophies of feminism. To drop a specific branch of feminism to which I ascribe, I would be lacking. It's just that Woolf and similar writers always frustrated me. I understand the goal. I empathize and support the goal. However, there's something about Woolf that always seems to glorify suicide. Part of what is leading me to that result is the outcome of history. Woolf, as shown in the opening scene of The Hours, kills herself. Like Sylvia Plath, it's part of her mystique. Can I really say that is something that Woolf is about when she's still contextually within her own history? I don't know. Woolf was suicidal for an unfortunate amount of her life. She dealt with mental illness and ultimately succumbed to that mental illness. But part of me wants to hold Woolf to the fire when it comes to suicide. It's not that I'm unsympathetic. Quite the opposite, in fact. I'm overly-sympathetic. It's just that we see these thoughts in the followers of Woolf.
Lord knows I have been frustrated with Kate Chopin's The Awakening. I keep being told that it is a work of brilliance and yet the idea of abandoning one's life and commitments always gets under my skin. I will never know what it truly means to be a woman. I may indulge traditionally feminine traits. I may consider myself an ally. But I'll never know enough of what it means to be a woman to speak from a place of authority. But these stories are more depressing and despondent than they should be. With The Awakening, Monsieur Pontellier definitely sucks. And a lot of it has to do with the historical context, but his suckiness is never really reflected back at him. From an outside perspective, we see these toxic elements and we beg him not to indulge these behavioral choices. But Mrs. Pontellier? She rarely vocalizes her frustrations with mental illness and the burdens of being a mother. When she abandons her family and eventually kills herself, any critical analysis may consider the question, "Why did she do that?" From Mr. Pontellier's perspective, this all just seemed so random and unhinged. The same kind of holds true for Woolf and me.
There's something glamorous about mental illness in feminism. While Woolf's suicide has been analyzed and deconstructed numerous times, the other stories in The Hours also harken to a need to escape the burdens of family. Laura goes to a hotel to kill herself by overdose. Richard, a gay man, kills himself in a stunning display of mania. (If I had the patience or time, I wouldn't make the quick connection between Richard's homosexuality and feminism.) Clarissa wants to flee the confines of a restricted marriage and parenthood. That need to flee is overwhelming. But I wonder if The Hours takes the same ignorant perspective on mental illness that I do. I can't deny that The Hours is smart. It worships at the altar of Virginia Woolf. The portrayal of the character and her need to die is never directly criticized. But my frustration with the feminine plight is the fallout that comes in the unwritten epilogue. It bothers the heck out of me what comes out of the glorified suicide. And maybe the film is a bit critical of that.
Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway is the Macguffin of the story. It's almost this cursed object, similar to the Ark of the Covenant. It's something of great beauty, but it ultimately poisons the beholder. Laura is reading the book and seems sad a lot. I kind of get where the book might appeal to her. She feels smothered by this relationship to a dumpy husband, played by John C. Reilly. Poor John C. Reilly. He's the dumpy husband who can't bring his wife happiness. From all evidence, Dan is trying to be the supportive husband. He doesn't criticize his wife. He buys flowers for her, unlike Mrs. Dalloway's wayward spouse. It's even his birthday. He has low expectations which he never verbalizes. Yet, Laura has an almost hatred for his attempts at perfection. She doesn't express that outwardly, but she gives the vibes that she can never live up to the expectations of society. She's criticized for never being able to bake a cake. But she does these small, almost silent cries of help. She romantically kisses her neighbor, who doesn't view that as something inappropriate. (I know that there are different personalities than me, but I can promise you that I've never been so overwhelmed by someone other than my wife that I have to kiss them.) We are absolutely meant to sympathize with this lonely housewife. But look how that directly correlates to Richard.
Richard commits suicide. Laura never kills herself (despite the absolutely shameless mislead), but she leaves him. There's this binary answer that the story provides that implies that troubled women have two choices: commit suicide or abandon your family. Chopin's Awakening merges those two options. But Richard's life is dictated by his mother's leaving. When Laura returns upon Richard's death, there is a pall of shame cast over her. It's not absolute. It's there, but Claire Daines treats her with dignity and understanding. Clarissa probably sympathizes with Laura's decision to leave her child, who worshipped her. Is there poison in worship, I wonder? Both Dan and her child worshipped Laura and she hated them for that. Maybe not hated, but held it against them. Virginia verbally assaults her husband for trying to keep her alive. It's a form of worship and we are punished for trying to keep our gods alive. But yet, from any other perspective, we would see these family members bending over backwards to protect a loved one as noble.
It's just this big muddied message and I kind of like it more than I thought I would. But I also feel like The Hours stoops itself to my stupid level. It does feel like it doesn't forgive women for leaving or for committing suicide. There are repercussions. This leads me to my weird final thought. Is the message muddied because it is made entirely by men? The novel was written by a man. The screenplay was written by a man. It was directed by a man. It starred women. What an odd approach to something that should have a degree of nuance. Of course I'm going to applaud the discussion of fallout because that casts judgment upon these women for taking what would be considered a cowards way out for a man. I've been avoiding saying that because it's a bit of "whataboutism", but it's on my mind. These women needed mental help. And the film's ultimate message should be that the 1920s and the 1950s needed to have proper mental health services. But they didn't. But 2002 did have proper mental health services. And yet, the cycle continues. It's dark and it's brooding and it feels like it was made by dudes.
So I liked it, but I almost feel like I wasn't supposed to. Is the glorification of Virginia Woolf a condemnation of her as well? It's well acted (for the most part) and it's well made. But it isn't the complex piece that some people make it out to be. I think it has the problem of wanting to play both sides of the argument. But that's okay, because that's what I do.
Rated R for slasher movie violence. Again, Scream tends to stay away from the outright nudity, but the notion of sexuality isn't something it shies away from. If anything, the overall repeating motif of sexuality is central to the story, even if it doesn't quite seem like it. The language is pretty typical for a Dimension Films horror movie, so keep all of this in mind when watching.
DIRECTOR: Wes Craven
I don't regret watching this one for a second. I mean, I thought I was going to regret watching this one. Scream 3 was always the stinker in the series for me. For a guy who really dug the Scream movies as a doorway to horror movies, the third entry always seemed like a disappointment to me. I didn't realize that Kevin Williamson didn't write this one, but it definitely feels like someone else with some different sensibilities took over writing on this movie. Everything that made Scream special was somehow tacky in this one. The ending, with Roman being the sole killer, somehow read as stupid to me. And I'm not saying that Scream 3 is a genius movie. But I will tell you...Scream 3 might have been a gutsier movie than what I thought it was back in 2000.
I'm not sure what direction I want to take this blog. I think I'm going to talk about the elephant in the room, and then end on the disappointments that this movie presents as a movie in-and-of-itself. This movie watches so much better in 2022 because Ehren Kruger was writing something so darned confrontational that I can't believe that the movie was being made. It's a full-on attack on Hollywood that we took to be one big meta joke. The problem is, it kind of wasn't a joke? Please forgive me, because I'm going to be speculating quite a bit while writing this. I'm looking at Kruger's other credits and none of them stand out as original or particularly amazing. I mean, people really preach Top Gun: Maverick, but it's a direct knockoff of Star Wars. So what I will be writing may very well be an alternative history to what was going through Ehren Kruger's mind. (Sidenote: Wes Craven is directing a movie written by someone named "Kruger"?)
The movie is a full-on assault of Hollywood sex scandals, in particular Harvey Weinstein. Now, this is where we go on two different timelines. One read of the movie is tongue-in-cheek, laughing at the "boys will be boys" attitude of the studio system. That's the way I viewed it in 2000. I apologize. I was in high school and also living in 2000, a beacon for political incorrectness. I don't want to forgive a social sin, but everyone viewed this stuff as normal. But I'd like to think that Ehren Kruger saw the trope of the casting couch and really wanted to say something about it. I want to believe this reality because he brought it to the Weinsteins to make. Harvey Weinstein, the monster whose crimes inspired the #metoo movement, directly oversaw a film where a movie studio producer would rape girls in exchange for choice movie roles. His sexual assault on women led to lives being destroyed in its wake. Roman would never have been rejected, leading to the survival of Maureen Prescott. Billy Loomis may have had a normal life, under the caring parentage of both a mother and a father. All of the events of the Scream movies find their origin in the avatar for Harvey Weinstein and his sex dungeon.
Now, we can't use Scream as a documentary. It's clearly a work of genre fiction. But using John Milton (okay, that's a pretty lazy name) and his privilege as a starting point for a conversation works really, really well. It's the notion of fallout. From Milton's perspective, he's doing what Hollywood royalty has always done. Meeting Rina Reynolds / Maureen Prescott was borderline forgettable to him. If Maureen Prescott wasn't murdered in a public way, Rina Reynolds would have been lost to history. When Sidney confronts Milton, he's defensive because he doesn't really see how any of this has to do with him. While what he says is played up for a joke, Milton's pleading with Roman stresses his complete naiveté towards his culpability in the story. He offers Roman fame and creative control over movies. He can't imagine that his actions had led him to this moment. And maybe one of the reasons that we can't understand that is that the movie doesn't really let us.
This is where the alternate interpretation of Kruger's script comes in. Milton is a bit part in this movie. In all of the Scream movies, we have deaths that overall don't contribute to the overall narrative. They're often for the sake of body count and to keep the film suspenseful. I'm talking about Principal Himbry from the first film. Cece Becker in the second movie is there to connect dots to the first film, but she has nothing to do with the story. John Milton is there as a tertiary plot point. Kevin Williamson kept a lot of things to the background of the Scream movies. But Milton is key to the motivation of Roman to do all the things he does in the film. Because Milton is treated as almost a joke or a walking corpse, it makes Roman completely unhinged in that last sequence. Roman and Cotton Weary actually have a lot in common, acting as lost opportunities for storytelling. As I mentioned in my Scream 2 entry, Cotton Weary should really have a great story and characterization behind him. The same is true for Roman.
Roman is perhaps one of the more forgettable killers in the franchise. He's the first one who is a solitary killer. Okay. That's fine. But we're never really allowed to empathize with Roman, despite the hand holding in the final moments of the scene. (I'm going to go as far as to say Roman's final, predictable scare undoes what little sympathy Craven imbued to the character.) Roman grew up unprotected by the monsters around him like John Milton. If it helps, keep reminding yourself that John Milton is an avatar for Harvey Weinstein, the producer of the movie. He's an artist, albeit a troubled one. And he sees men destroy women and those women destroying families. I do want to criticize the portrayal of Maureen Prescott in this movie, but give me a minute. He begs for normalcy and the evil keeps on happening. I don't want to excuse a serial murderer, but from a fictional world, he should come across as nuanced and tired. Instead, Roman is a character screaming with gleeful sadism. He's killing Sidney, yes, out of jealousy. But he's also ending the legacy of Maureen Prescott. There should be something suicidal about Roman's march on the Prescott lineage.
When Roman is killing these people, he leaves behind pictures of a young Rina Reynolds. These are things that Gale Weathers never touched on. I really have to stress that I'm not defending Roman so much as forcing us to look at the character from his perspective. From his perspective, he's the hero of the story. He has this legacy in front of him. (Oddly enough, the sequels to his movie stay away from Roman's master plan because Scream 3 is considered one of the lesser Scream movies, but that would make almost no sense from Sidney's perspective.) If he's the hero of the story, he's shedding light on the monster factory that is Hollywood. He's fashioned his entire persona as director to try to shut down sex scandal after sex scandals. He's trying to stop future Maureen Prescott morality plays. Yes, he goes off the deep end, choosing the selfish narrative of destroying Maureen's actual legacy. But I find it odd that John Milton is not his primary focus. He understands the victimization that Maureen / Rina went through, and yet chooses to redirect that energy into Sidney? I mean, I guess. It does make him mighty villainous.
Okay, so I got that argument out of the way. It wasn't well done and I acknowledge that. But I do have to talk about why Scream 3, unfortunately, kind of sucks? In terms of actual genre storytelling, Efran Kruger and Wes Craven really like something that Kevin Williamson does not: ghosts. Williamson's entire treatise is grounding the slasher genre. Yes, it goes off the rails eventually. But if the Scream movies are commentary for horror in general, there needs to be a grounded element for it. The idea that Sidney is going to hallucinate her dead mother doesn't really work. Couple this idea that Roman is going to play up these hallucinations by setting up scenes with the dead Maureen is a bit of a stretch. In the first Scream, the story of Maureen Prescott is in the background. Yeah, I can see that, in the epic conclusion of a trilogy, that one might want to bring that to foreground. But all it did was make the story tacky. Ghosts and moving corpses doesn't really scream Scream (I'm proud of that, by the way).
Also, Randy should have been the mastermind.
Rated R for nudity, sex, violence, and language. If the original Shaft felt a little tame, this is Gordon Parks letting a bit more loose. By no means is it necessarily vulgar or shameless, but it is definitely less ashamed to be what it is. I'm going to make the comparison to James Bond a lot in this blog, so just be aware that Bond also pushes the envelope a bit more.
DIRECTOR: Gordon Parks
I am struggling for air. There was some dramatic news today at work that might affect if I can ever write this blog again. Blogging about every movie I watch is one of those habits that is good for me, but is part of my stress. It's not that I won't choose to do it. It's just that I don't know if I will have time to do it. Do you know how some people say that you make time for the important things? If things go poorly, finding time to write a blog about every movie I see will be like squeezing water from a stone. But let's make the most out of it while I can. Sure, I'm emotionally drained, but maybe I'll find joy from writing for half-an-hour.
Now, this is what I thought Shaft was all about. I sometimes see people wearing Superman T-shirts or having Superman decals on their cars. I don't want to gatekeep. If Superman is just the logo to them, that's completely reasonable. We kind of understand that Superman, as a concept, transcends Superman as either a cartoon, a movie, or a comic book character. For a long time, that's what Shaft was for me. It was the Isaac Hayes thing. It was an element of cultural literacy. He was the face of Blaxspoitation and he just seemed really cool. But my first real exposure to Shaft was the 2000 movie with Samuel L. Jackson. Sure, he was cool then, but it was more about seeing Samuel L. Jackson beat dudes up to the Shaft theme song. When I finally watched the first movie, Shaft became something very different for me. It was an MGM film that kind of fed into what a lot of the '70s were already feeding me. It was a detective story that didn't make a lot of sense. The name was supposed to sell it, kind of like I mentioned with Klute. I was actually pretty disappointed to find out that the Criterion for Shaft came with Shaft's Big Score! because I wasn't planning on writing on all of the Shaft movies. But I might just have to change that.
I told you that I would be making comparisons to James Bond and here's the pay-off. What Shaft's Big Score does for Shaft is what From Russia with Love does for Dr. No. Everything about Dr. No, divorced from the cultural understanding of what James Bond would eventually become, is actually kind of a forgettable movie. I'm sorry. I like it, but it definitely reads as a detective novel based upon the world of Ian Fleming. Bond's jokes are blunted. He doesn't really have that many flings so much as women are interested in him. While the eponymous Dr. No is doing some heavy hitting crime, the world of that crime is basically localized to Jamaica. It all feels...small, for a James Bond story that is. But when From Russia with Love came out? Everything changed. Everything gained a sense of scope that made us realize that James Bond was not just one thing. The hero would be the same, but the stories would be different. The irony of everything that I have written is that Bond would eventually become a formula. But Shaft never really had that many movies. It didn't really have time to fall into the realm of formula.
I mean, it's like they took the Bond playbook and applied it to Parks's film. Even down to the fact that there's a second theme song that is not nearly as well known as Isaac Hayes's classic is kind of a testament to what was going on with this movie. The story actually kind of makes a lot of sense. I'll go as far as to say that the first Shaft has a lot of the same plot problems that Dr. No has. The characters kind of just end up where they are supposed to be, take a lot of damage, and save the day. But with Shaft's Big Score!, there's a story that absolutely works and has some sense of cohesion. I'm not saying I get every beat. I really don't. The whole subplot with Kelly playing off the separate criminal groups is a bit confusing. But the story of Shaft trying to beat out everyone to finding the lost money? Holey moley it works. On top of that, everything just feels tighter when it comes to storytelling and editing. I'm actually kind of shocked that Shaft's Big Score! gets kind of ignored considering that it was just considered a bonus feature on a Criterion double disc set.
In the last Shaft blog, I talked a little bit about Shaft's murky morality. Shaft enters this area of Grey Jedi (I'm going to make a confession. I haven't actually seen that season of The Clone Wars yet, but know enough to fake it) where that kind of becomes his code. Much like a Ronin, Shaft has to dabble in questionable morality for him to succeed. For the sake of the story that the audience watches, Shaft is the good guy. The movie actually locks in that he's a good guy by saving the money for the Bronx children's hospital or center. (I now forget and refuse to look it up.) But Shaft also is quickly comfortable with buddying up with bad dudes in this one. Yeah, he ends up taking them all out, but only once they abuse their relationships with him. I do appreciate, once again, the Bondian influence of bad guy in this one. There's a guy whose entire persona is playing the clarinet and being polite. And Shaft beats the living daylights (pun intended) out of him. It's just so on brand for what I understood Shaft to be that I can't help but smile while watching the movie.
But my biggest takeaway from this movie is Gordon Parks himself. Gordon Parks did the first film. He does a pretty good job. He made the studio a lot of money. He quickly turns around and makes another Shaft movie. It's adapted from a series of books, so it at least makes sense how he can get a script together in an absurdly short amount of time. But Parks was kind of a revolutionary. I read the insert from the Criterion Blu-ray, something I never do. (I appreciate the books and booklets, but who has the time?) Parks is genuinely being a filmmaker here. He fights an uphill battle to get Shaft part of the mainstream, but then makes a movie that ramps up all the stakes? I mean, Shaft chases a helicopter, drives a boat, flees a helicopter on foot? How does this movie exist? It becomes way more of a fun movie. Yeah, the first film ends with Shaft massacring a hotel full of bad guys. But there's almost no choreography in that sequence. (Except for the rappelling in through the window, which is admittedly peak Shaft.) Sure, it gets absurd that Shaft doesn't die in this sequence, especially when chased on foot down a path that the guy can't miss. But that sequence would hold its own against a Bond movie any day. It's really fun and the whole film is just a good time.
I went from being "Let's get his over with" to actively watching this and wanting to finish the franchise. I mean, I admitted to having already seen the 2000s edition. Why not watch it again with the cultural context I drastically needed? Shaft's Big Score is good enough to merit watching Shaft in Africa and the reboot of Shaft. That might be a testament to the film itself.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.