Rated R because it really wanted to be R, not PG-13. I know. PG-13 movies make more money. But PG-13 horror movies often seem to be relegated into the second-class tier of horror. So they added a bunch of f-bombs to make it a hard-R. The rest of it is probably as disturbing as The Ring. I do admit that there's a fair amount of blood and on-screen death. I really have to stress that the movie is about suicide, which is treated as a casual topic here.
DIRECTOR: Parker Finn
You know what? Meh-leaning-on-dislike. If you are here for the big takeaway from the movie, I'm going to be the contrarian who didn't like the movie that everyone told me would be amazing. I'm going to try to rush this blog entry into publication because I didn't get my comfortable morning spot and I have too much going on to really give it the attention it deserves. I encourage you to keep reading because I have reasons for disliking this movie. But I'm sure that I'm going to make more mistakes than normal, so if you just want the quick version? Meh-leaning-on-bad.
Everyone is talking about this one. "Have you seen Smile?" (Okay, I hate using hyperbole, but colloquially it scans.) I didn't really want to watch Smile. The trailer didn't do a lot for me. Sure, the head falling down in the trailer got me pretty good. But this is one of those movies that really plays on specific imagery that is a scare-or-not option. I do applaud the viral marketing campaign that happened with MLB. That gave it points in my brain. But then people told me that I had to see this movie. Like with my MPAA section, I was told it was like The Ring. I mean, that advice was accurate and I do like the format of the film. It's like The Ring in the fundamentals, which I realize is become a new subgenre of supernatural horror. The protagonist has done something that seems innocuous. This protagonist then has a suspense-inducing amount of time before they fall to their death. They use this time to investigate the evil that they have stumbled upon while being tormented by whatever creature is punishing them. I remember loving The Ring. An even better version of this is It Follows, which slightly skews the trope.
But there's a real problem with the movie here. Dr. Rose Cotter makes an inappropriate victim. I almost said "awful", as if the actress did a bad job. Nope, Sosie Bacon. You did fine. I don't think that Dr. Cotter should be the focus of a haunting. There are real problems that come out of this. Okay, let's pretend that this movie couldn't be tied to allegory. I would be disappointed, but it makes the following criticism better. Dr. Cotter views the suicide of Laura, thus dooming her to commit suicide within the course of a week. Dr. Cotter didn't do anything wrong. With horror movies, there has to be some degree of culpability. There has to be a warning. The movie stresses that Dr. Cotter had very little time with Laura and never really made a choice that led to Laura's death. Her therapist says so. Okay, so why are we torturing this poor woman? Rose is the pinnacle of empathy. She pushes herself too hard for the good of humanity. Her major character flaw is that she cares too much. Are we punishing that? If horror movies often act as morality plays, are we teaching people to care only about themselves? If I really had to dive deep, which I tend to do on these things, is it about self-care? I don't see a direct line between self-care and punishing others because Rose is encouraged to just bury her feelings the entire movie.
But the even worse thing is that I do see allegory in Smile. As a horror movie, it's a bad idea to torture Rose, but as an allegory, there's a deeply upsetting message. Dr. Rose Cotter is not just a doctor; she is a doctor who deals with emergency mental health. It's a traumatizing job, but she does it so that no person has to deal with trauma by themselves like she did. The constant repetition of mental health makes for a potentially great storyline. I tend to be more critical of films when I see untapped potential and that's what's going on in Smile. Because Rose is a therapist, it is her job to stay objective when people say they are seeing things that don't exist. When Rose is forced to watch Laura's suicide, Rose is now the subject of trauma. Laura begs Rose to believe her, but Rose is not allowed to be believe her. After all, indulging the demons gives them power and Rose is there to de-escalate whatever is going on with Laura. (Again, why is she punished for this?) But the movie, as an allegory, gives Rose the opportunity to view mental illness through the eyes of their patients. It could be this interesting story about how we should have empathy for the mentally ill (and to a certain extent, it does).
But what is also true is that it gives the film the worst solution imaginable to the horror. Rose, in her investigation, discovers that, like It Follows, that the demon moves through spreading it to other people. Rose spirals, knowing that she will A) commit suicide and B) force this demon to someone else given the opportunity. So instead of seeking proper mental treatment, everything in this movie is about encouraging her to deal with her problems herself. I do understand that the movie should make it feel like Rose would want to handle her problems by herself. That all tracks with the allegory. The problem is that the solution doesn't come from other people. The movie leaves us with the understanding that Rose should just deal with her problems herself, leading her to killing herself in isolation. What kind of message is that? The one thing about suicidal ideation is that it needs to be shared before things get out of hand. Suicidal thoughts and tendencies aren't a contagious disease. That's such dangerous storytelling and I really dislike the movie because of that.
And the thing is...she fails? What? When someone offers to help her at the end, she spreads it to that guy because the movie wanted to end on a potential for this to continue. If anything, the film leaves Rose in a position of being one of the more forgettable hosts for this demon because she did nothing to stop it or slow it down. Horror movies are meant to deal with our taboos. I mean, there's something really sadistic about wanting to watch people go through absolute torture that tickles parts of our brains. I don't deny that I want to be scared at times. I may be moving out of my horror movie phase, despite the fact that I've written about more horror movies this week that I might have written for the entire month of October. But I always liked that great horror movies planted subconscious messages in our brains. The good triumph and the naughty are punished for their own lack of repentance. Sure, it didn't always have to be one-for-one. But Rose is someone who had a crappy life. Rose blames herself for her mother's death, which is something that makes her less-than-perfect. But it was something that she was trying to fix both in herself and in others. What the heck, movie? Why is that such a bad thing?
I want to rant about this forever, but it is causing me to shy away from the most superficial element that I need to talk about: "But is it scary?" It's fine. If you hate jump scares like my wife hates jump scares, then yeah, it's real scary. I tend to like them. I will say that, while the smile doesn't really scare me that much, it is effective. It's the same combination of innocence juxtaposed with the sinister that lots of horror movies like, like It, or Leprechaun. I really liked the over-the-top finale version of mother. I know it is imagery we've seen before. It doesn't change how effective it is. But there is one moment that may have lowered the movie a whole star for me. The best part about the demon is how quiet it mostly was. At best, it said your name in a whisper or a scream. But when the demon is the psychologist? Man, this scene took me out of the movie. It starts talking in a demon voice and I just thought it didn't effectively communicate terror in the way that the movie wanted to.
All of this leaves me with a movie that was only kind of scary, mostly a bummer, and offers some dangerous messages. It's not good. I don't know. I don't get what people are losing their minds over. Maybe if I was a different age and in a packed theater, that might be something different. But for me? This is irresponsible filmmaking.
Rated R for a lot of language, violence, blood, alcohol abuse, and drug use. It's listed as a horror-comedy (a point I'll talk about later), but I would sooner classify it as a murder mystery in a bottle with very funny parts. Yeah, there's blood and gore and people keep dying. But almost every death happens off-screen and there isn't a point to gore the movie out. Still, a well-deserved R.
DIRECTOR: Halina Reijn
I have so many thoughts that it actually hurts to start. (Okay, it literally doesn't hurt. You know what I mean.) I really wanted my wife to watch Bodies Bodies Bodies with me. I had heard so much good stuff about this movie and it was trending in the right circles. Then I got a copy at the library and that absolutely sealed the deal for me. I got to watch it for free just as it came out on DVD? Yes and yes! Somehow, the movie was exactly what I thought it would be and nothing like it whatsoever.
I'm almost 40. My thirties were mostly a nostalgic look at my childhood and teen years. There were some really notable movies about generations after me, like Superbad, Booksmart, and mid90s. There has been a need to really talk about this current slate of Zoomers because, like early versus late millennials, there's a fundamental difference. I haven't really watched a lot of movies that look like Bodies Bodies Bodies, but I know that they exist. (I'm very sleepy and can't think of the movie with James Franco, but I know that it exists.) But Bodies Bodies Bodies might be the best entry into this very specific subgenre: the late-Zoomer satire.
I want to say, like, twenty things right now, so bear with me if ideas get jumbled up. I really want to point out that there's a weird marketing element to this movie, especially in terms of quotes pulled from reviews. Almost every tag on the front reminds you that this is a horror-comedy. That's fine. I get why they are doing it. It honestly helps the movie a bit if you reshift your focus onto the fact that it is a comedy. (Since I'm here, I'm going to talk about horror-comedy, but I don't want to lose my train of thought, which you can tell is all over the place today. For a lot of the movie, I had a hard time telling that it was a comedy. I watched the first hour unbroken and then finished it yesterday with about half-an-hour left. The first hour, I judged it harshly. I considered it "fun", not "funny." 100%, the movie is fun. It's a little bit of a sendup of the current generation. They say slightly ironic things. But then again, most movies poke fun at cultural norms. I didn't really get the comedy element of it so much as the tonal vibe of the whole thing. During my self-regulated intermission from the film, I talked about the movie to both a friend who had watched it and the target audience for this movie, one of my students. Part of me worried that I was just not getting the humor. After all, I spent a lot of the movie smiling, but not guffawing. (The tags on the box needed to slow down with those comments.) I was informed that it wasn't necessarily my age, but the movie itself. I shouldn't be so pressured by the box to laugh.
And then I watched the last half-hour. That's when I started laughing. Honestly, within the first minute or two of watching the last half-hour, I found myself continually laughing. Not gut-busting or anything, but it was genuinely funny. This isn't even taking into account the end, which I actively applauded. I'm talking just about the dialogue. Now, one of two things happened and both are fighting for dominance. One) The film legitimately got funny at that point. All the cards were out there, so characters were allowed to say things that probably couldn't have been said in the first hour. OR Two) I had changed my expectations. By being given permission to just enjoy without the pressure of belly-laughing, something in my brain flipped that allowed me to enjoy the comedy elements far more than I had in the first hour. I don't know. Why am I writing all of this? Maybe this is helping someone watch or rewatch the movie with a different context. I tell you right now, you are allowed to just enjoy it without depending on the laughs. Maybe if you watch it with that attitude, the entire movie might be hilarious.
But that horror-comedy tag does actually do a lot of heavy lifting and I can kind of see why the marketing guys kept throwing those tags on the box: the end. Listen, this is a very spoiler-heavy blog. I talk about all kinds of stuff here and sometimes I don't like keeping it vague. This blog has been incredibly vague and, if I cared more, I would purge this whole entry. But I'm going to talk about the make-it-or-break-it ending. The film has such a polarizing ending that if the movie didn't have the phrase "horror-comedy" written all over it, I could see some people getting genuinely mad. Because the theme of the film surrounds a self-involved generation (it's the film's belief, not mine!) unable to grasp that something doesn't involve them that hey can't possibly see the evil being something mundane, they kill each other, we never really are able to grasp that this is a "The Monsters are Due on Maple Street" situation. I think that's why the second half may be funnier than the first half, because it is setting me up for an absolute cracker of an ending. David died on accident doing something incredibly dumb. Everyone in the house killed each other because they all believed that they were special. No one in the house was special. They were all terrible people willing to do awful things to one another because there was no real friendship.
God, the gun? The gun sequence. When Bee attacks and kills Greg, it almost seems sympathetic. Because we know formula and how films work, there's no scenario that Greg was the cause of the misery surrounding them. But still, there's something sympathetic about Bee's attack of Greg. He was being a bit too much of a wild card. He did have a weapon. But the movie builds the premise up to a point where Jordan is able to shoot Alice and still try to justify her actions. While a lot of that last act is positively brilliant, there's a line that sums up the whole movie for me. Jordan shoots Alice in the knee. Alice says something along the lines of, "You shot me." Jordan then denies it? It's this moment where objective truth directly confronts what is possible and it still loses. Everyone in this story, including Bee, think that they are the moral center of the universe. That bickering about ableism is a wonderful flavor bringing out the subtlety of tone. We all think we're good and it doesn't matter how much evidence to the contrary we are shown, our brain doesn't allow us to view ourselves as villains in the moment. Sure, if Jordan survived, maybe she could have had introspective moments that contextualized what had happened. But in that moment, when Jordan denied shooting Annie, I nearly applauded. It was so good.
Yeah, I'm not Gen Z. I work with Gen Z every day. To a certain extent, it feels accusatory of Gen Z. But I don't think it is meant to say that this generation is worse than any other. I think that it is a very Gen Z way of saying that teenagers are awful people and this is how this generation vocalizes that terribleness. Bodies Bodies Bodies did for Gen Z what Scream did for my generation. My student viewed this as both a criticism and a celebration of Zoomer culture and I can't disagree. Yeah, they suck, but doesn't everybody suck? It's not that Zoomers suck. It's just that most people aren't exceptional and would make stupid mistakes because everyone is self-involved.
Except me. Continue reading my blog.
Not Rated, but it is fundamentally about adultery, child murder, and suicide. It's one of those movies that has a vibe like Psycho. You think you see a lot, but upon further thought, it's actually pretty tame in terms of visuals. But it is still a pretty upsetting movie all the way through.
DIRECTOR: Kim Ki-young
If I can make mornings work, I feel so much more productive. I still kind of putzed this morning, so I don't know if I'll be able to get this whole thing done. Just be patient with me. I'm going to try to knock this out and enjoy it at the same time. This movie kind of got a hard-knock. I was really into it, watched it for two days, got to the last four minutes, and...
...took a week off. My mom was in town. I didn't exercise while she was there because the basement becomes her domain. It was an excuse not to exercise, but also I don't necessarily regret it because it would have made things awkward. Still, the movie got shortchanged. So if I forget major parts of the film, I genuinely apologize. There was one moment that I feel like I blanked out and no summary is really giving me an explanation to what happened. But just know that I'm going to beat myself up about it because, oddly enough, this might be my favorite entry in the first Martin Scorsese's World Cinema Project box.
I don't know quite what makes Korean drama so interesting. Anything I say will be a broad generalization, coupled with a novice's understanding of what Korean cinema actually is. It's just that I wasn't prepped for this kind of movie to come out of 1960 Korea. The other movies in the box set were not-this and this movie made me want to push forward into the other box sets almost immediately. And, if I'll be honest, I was getting a little burned out on the Scorsese World Cinema box. Trances did almost nothing for me, so a genuinely good film to close up the box was a smart movie. I mean, I own two more boxes of this World Cinema Project, so they'd get watched eventually. It's just that it was a perfect dismount for a set that was starting to get a little tiresome. (I love how blessed I am. I can complain about the burden of getting through luxuries that I actually mostly enjoy. I haven't even started my Agnes Varda box set, which stares at me from my shelf, intimidating me daily. )
But because it is easier to write about things that irked me, I'm going to complain about the movie for a while. Understand that everything I'm about to gripe about is contextually tethered to the knowledge that I think this movie is great and I might actually watch it again. The lowest hanging fruit is the absolute end, which I'm going to chalk up to being a cultural thing. As I mentioned, I didn't watch the last four minutes until a week after the watching the end of the movie. It's the freshest thing I have to talk about and I have thoughts. To me, where I left off would have been a perfect ending. Dong Sik-kim and Myung-Sook double suicide, leaving Mrs. Kim free of the blackmail that has been pressuring them the entire time. If I had never come back to finish the final four minutes of the movie, it would have ended in a brilliant place. Instead, I come back. He crawls to Mrs. Kim. Fine. He tells her what happens and that he loves her. Fine. Then, the whole thing ends up being a hypothetical scenario by Dong Sik-Kim about the dangers of having younger women around older men.
Now, I started my argument by stating that this feels like it is a cultural norm. In many films noir, there has to be a scene where evil is punished. It was part of keeping the movie to code, so these movies had to have these antiheroes encounter justice. It accidentally made all these movies great because they were such downer endings. I have a feeling that there's a version of that going on in Korea. For most of The Housemaid, it is a psychological thriller where everything goes badly. It's one of those movies that I automatically love because they don't mind killing kids in horrible ways. (I don't necessarily love child murder so much as I hate when children become indestructible in ridiculous situations.) They undo the death at the end. Everyone is happy. And then, AND THEN, Dong Sik-Kim breaks the fourth wall, addresses the audience, and has a light-hearted comment about how all men fantasize about younger women (ESPECIALLY THE ONES DISAGREEING WITH HIM). If I compared The Housemaid to Psycho, I can see where the tonal thing happening kind of works. (It doesn't, but give me a second.) For Alfred Hitchcock Presents, the eponymous Hitch would often have a macabre joke which would be mimicked in a lot of horror anthology. But with The Housemaid, it doesn't feel so much like a joke as a direct morality lecture to the audience. It really sullies a lot of the movie, but I also get the vibe that Kim Ki-young had to make a lot of concessions when it came to making such a dour film. There feels like some arm twisting in that last section because it is so tonally backwards to the rest of the film.
But that ending also exposes some raw nerves when it comes to the themes of the movie. If the end of the movie is about addressing ideas that the audience must have when leaving the movie, the role of women is kind of upsetting in Korean society. Before I had watched the end, there were elements where I could see the movie going two ways. In one version, I saw that men are terrible to women, forcing them to abandon morality for a place in society. It was a stretch, but considering that all of the adult characters were morally awful, it kind of scanned if I pretended hard enough. But the alternative, which is confirmed by the end, is that women are absolutely the worst and that they spend their entire lives trying to trap men. Don't get me wrong. This is what I thought the message of the movie was when I was watching it. But I like the idea of there being some ambiguity when it came to such an uncomfortable idea. The movie starts off with two women trying to seduce a married man. While I don't agree with the HR's response to this note being sent to Dong Sik-kim, the idea of firing someone for feeling sexually manipulated at work kind of scans.
But then, the movie continues to make every female adult in this movie, with the exception of the very pregnant Mrs. Kim, a complete sex-crazed nutjob. Sexuality becomes warfare. Women's role in this world is to take married men away from their spouses. If these men don't relent, women will escalate the world into killing. Yes, the married man relents, only after discovering a conspiracy and gaslighting. And even then, it makes almost no sense that Mr. Kim would sleep with his maid. He just spent a lot of emotional energy booting his piano student who was lying to him. Why would he turn to the maid with whom he has almost no chemistry? Up to that point, he considered her incompetent and was quite rude to her? If you take the finale's message, the takeaway is that any man can be seduced if the seduction is aggressive enough. That's really weird. Also, as much as I like the movie, that's not a thing that women do. These women are so far gone with gender-based warfare that they want Mr. Kim fired because the fired girl committed suicide. Dude, everything that she was doing was inappropriate.
Let's take this a step further. (Remember, this is a movie I really like!) Mr. Kim is the one to tell the tale of the seductress maid. That means all of the events are from his imagination. He's telling the story to his wife, who has inspired this tale with gossip. That means that he is actively telling his wife that he would sleep with a younger woman if she wanted to enough and that it wouldn't be his fault. That's some Mike Pence nonsense. He tells her that his kid would die and that she would have to live with them for the sake of keeping his job? And let's talk about cultural differences in honor. Mr. Kim, after impregnating the maid, is worried about losing his job because of his extramarital relationship. I get it. It was 1960's Korea and cultural differences are cultural differences. But the decision to allow the maid to continue seducing him is made immediately after the maid kills Mrs. Kim's son. She poisons him and he flies down the step. (I was tempted to rewind and watch that scene over and over because it is a very Meet Joe Black moment.) I get that there are concepts of honor and privacy in other countries, but how are you possibly covering up the death of your little boy? He was poisoned and fell down the stairs? Are there no police? There's no investigation when it comes to a young kid just dying? And all of this is done to keep a job and respect? There's a fine line between soap opera and plausibility.
But the movie still slays. Yeah, the end is deeply problematic for me. But in terms of suspense coupled with the right amount of absurdity, it is pretty great. It takes all these chances and keeps doubling down on a premise that I didn't know could handle that kind of weight. I might actually watch this one again one day.
Rated R for being both visually and tonally uncomfortable. This is one of those movies that borders on a specific kind of torture porn. Admittedly, there is a narrative and discussion to be had, but much of the film really teeters on the edge of being really uncomfortable. I know the book is worse, but I had a bunch of cringe moments in it. It also could be easily considered a blasphemous film. Oh, and I can't forget the sex scene in the film as well. Rated R.
DIRECTOR: Sebastian Lelio
I didn't write over Thanksgiving break. Is that a crime? I don't write on weekends either. I'll tell you what, though. I also didn't watch a lot of movies over Thanksgiving break either, so it is going to be interesting to see what I can write about this week. I had an amazing writing experience with Fletch Lives because I wrote in the morning, so I'm really trying to get my butt into gear and write while I can. I have to give a little background specifically on The Wonder. My wife read this book and told me all about it. It sounded really gross, but at least it kept my interest. We're about to sit down and watch a movie and I had gotten Bodies Bodies Bodies from the library. My wife says she has no interest in watching a horror movie and then chooses The Wonder. I have yet to see Bodies Bodies Bodies. But I can't imagine that it is more upsetting than watching The Wonder.
The Wonder is one of those movies that prides itself on making you uncomfortable. I kept comparing it during the movie to the A24 phenomenon that I might be over. (Ironically, Bodies Bodies Bodies, the movie I wanted to watch, is an A24 film, so color me continually hypocritical.) There's something beautiful in these movies. It treats the macabre as something cinematic and I kind of dig that. But it also begs the question, why am I watching this stuff? I hate to throw around the phrase "torture porn" because I don't like writing it on my blog, but there is a certain element to that with this movie. Now, I'm really forced to confront some real issues by throwing down this damning title. If I told you the plot of this film, that a girl was being tortured for the religious convictions of the town, and told you that you were going to watch her rot away from starvation, you could see my torture porn criticism. But this is another story by Emma Donoghue, the author of Room. Both this and Room are about the victimization of women. They both have a point to the abuse. That's where I don't like the word "porn" to be thrown around.
So you can look at this two ways. At this moment, I made the connection with the criticism that a lot of true crime gets. The Wonder kind of feels exploitative with the understanding that "we're telling important stories." With true crime, there's the noble platform. "These women were victimized. We're making sure that their voices are heard." That is noble. But most people don't watch or listen to true crime for the sake of honoring the victims. They are voyeurs. They want to know the upsetting nitty-gritty about what happened. It's about the shock value. The Wonder does an admirable job of fictionalizing a very real phenomenon: fasting saints. While the exact case of The Wonder does cover this trend of women being starved to death or secretly fed for the sake of uncovering a newfound saint, Anna as portrayed in the film is a fictional character. But would people watch The Wonder if it didn't promise to get at least a little bit gross? I think that Lelio, the director, would hope so. It doesn't get as gross as the book does. Donoghue seems actually be closer to Chuck Pahalniuk in terms of visceral description that Lelio does to Donoghue. But it still is pretty darn brutal. Heck, Lelio even adds some cutting and drug use to Lib to make it almost more upsetting.
But this leads to something completely undercooked. In an attempt to elevate the film beyond torture for two hours, Lelio adds this very intense fourth wall break. Lelio wants the film to say that, even though this is a period piece, the torture of women still happens today. I kind of love the idea of the message, but the quality of the message is lost in this film completely. It is easy to assume that "we were so backwards back then" when it comes to the torture of women. After all, The Crucible has the same situation. Writing stories as allegory is wise, but the intended audience often stays blind to the importance of the work in itself. With The Wonder, the film starts and ends with a Hollywood set. The film is initially narrated by the woman who plays Maggie Ryan. When we meet Ryan later in the film, she stares at the camera and reminds us that this is a movie, not a documentary. That's all fine and good. But it rarely keeps you in that Brechtian world of breaking the fourth wall. The biggest question I have is the choice of Maggie Ryan to act as the narrator. She's the element that continues to connect the world of the film to the world of the audience. Why Maggie? She's a servant in this story. Apparently, she plays a bigger (and very different) part in the book. But it almost is thrust upon Maggie? Is Maggie culpable for standing by? I mean, we see that Lib (is that a choice of a name, by the way. I might explore that in a minute) fights full force against a society that oppresses women and leaves the film unpaid and burned. What is Maggie supposed to do? There are stronger characters in the film?
Since I stumbled upon this, her name is Lib? It didn't at all strike me during the film, even though the movie kind of makes a big deal about "Lib" and "Nan" being their chosen names. The film rallies against the Catholic Church. As awful as mother comes across in the film, the strings of what causes mother and daughter to do these awful things is pegged directly at the Church. In the film, there's a need for Anna to be saintly. It actually creates this intriguing trap that forces Anna to continue to starve herself. But the fact that Elizabeth Wright chooses the name "Lib", which seems to be a stretch for Elizabeth is fascinating to me. I don't know if you've seen the Fox News crowd, but they love throwing that term around as an insult. The film being about science versus religion makes the name "Lib" a little bit on the nose. As much as Lib rallies to save Anna from starvation, she's fighting a patriarchy that is based on religion and conservative values. The sheer number of times that I heard the term "You just don't understand us" or some variation screams the faux oppression that we heard today.
In terms of quality, there's something there. I don't know if Lib's drug use is something that is absolutely necessary to the story. Maybe the parallel notion of the protagonist poisoning herself while Anna kills herself might have something to say. But I don't know if that is made directly clear. Perhaps Lelio is trying to "both sides" the argument. But that doesn't really work, now does it? After all, Lib is clearly the hero in this story. Science absolutely trounces religion in this story. Why give her the fault? And to tie back to the notion of "You just don't understand us", does the drug use imply that Lib knows more about these people than the movie cares to let on? Is her self-destruction the same as what Anna puts herself through? I don't know. But I digress. The quality! Man, Netflix movies are getting pretty. It's an absolutely gorgeous movie that is well acted. Again, I'll watch Florence Pugh in practically anything. She's such a talented actor and she holds the film together, considering how much of the movie has her in it.
I don't like the ending. There. I'll say it. My wife prepped me for a pretty great ending and I don't think that's true. In fact, I'm really glad I thought of this because Anna is unreasonably dumb. Okay, I get it. She's sheltered and the film really rides on the notion that the religious tell their children an alternate version of reality. But much of the movie absolutely needs Anna to make absurd choices. Okay, Anna really thinks that God is keeping her alive. Okay, I'm cool with that. It works for me. But she also is a human being who understands that the manna comes from her mother's mouth. That's not something l can see. The story completely hinges on the notion that Anna can't act like a person. To a certain extent, her indoctrination is so complete that it makes sense. But Anna's logic is to clean. Lib comes up with this idea to "kill Anna" spiritually to raise nine-year-old Nan. It's this great epiphany to her. But nothing up to that point scans. It is because, and this is a bit harsh, the entire film treats religious people as stupid and easily manipulated. To a certain extent, there is a certain level of manipulation. But when it comes to faith, these are concrete ideas, often leading to stubbornness. I want to go even a step further. Who is Nan when Anna is dead? I also don't see Nan as a potential solution to the problem. It's not like other people are holding Anna down and forcing her not to eat. (Quite the opposite, according to this film.) It's that she is doing penance for the incestual relationship she had with her brother. What part of faith allows for a whole person to have a do-over? The end kind of leaves us with this notion that Catholics would do anything and believe anything when the opposite is true. Catholics would probably do very little and believe only a very specific amount of things.
So the movie is fine, I guess. I didn't regret watching it for quality acting and cinematography. But while all the disparate elements of Room worked, there's a lot of forced storytelling happening with this one.
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.
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.