Geek's Log: February 2020

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Stardate 02.2020 (I know that’s not how works, Trekkie but go with me here) The first month of logging daily was a semi-success in January. It’s all there but I was often very late in doing so, staying a few days behind. This month I hope to keep up. We’ll see what happens in March when Bob starts grad school….

For those new to us – this page is a daily update of everything we care to log that we’ve watched or read, or otherwise. Mainly Bob, but the others are more than welcome. You’ll find short reviews and notes over each of these rather than a full blown review you’d see elsewhere on the site.

This should be fun – if you have any thoughts, comments, and/or suggestions, please leave them below. Send any complaints to Cody.

Feb 24th

Bob continues through Mystery Science Theater 3000 with the first Comedy Central episode – The Crawling Eye. Fun bad movie – love my creature features- and solid riffing. A good pick to start the show for wider audiences.

Bob finished The Amber Spyglass, the third of the His Dark Materials books. After the feels like bridging story of the 2nd book, the third is much bigger in scope but is weirdly slow in the plotting despite the grand nature of “lets go kill God” as all the forces start to meet up. Fascinating look at these worlds on the whole, especially the utter sadness of the Suburbs and the land of the Dead. Then other parts, like the battle/climax happen so incredibly quick it feels like I’m missing something. Soon I’ll start the next part of the series – of which 2 of the 3 books have been published.

Feb 23rd

Rambo: Last Blood; 2019; Written by Stallone & Matthew Cirulnick, Directed by Adrian Grunberg; Starring Stallone, Paz Vega, Yvette Monreal, Adriana Barraza. 89min. Library rental; Review by Bob; First time watch.

Well this is it. We’re at the end of the Rambo franchise. I’ve not been a fan as the reviews earlier this month will note. With a 26 on Metacritic, I came into the this – set to be the last – with very very low expectations. It’s better than my low expectations but not all that great of a flick. Rambo Last Blood feels like another script with some changes to it to make it a Rambo flick. It just feels generic and underdeveloped; a midrange TV pilot rewritten for Rambo and inspired by Taken.

We pick up 10 years after Rambo’s return home at the end of Rambo (iv). He’s settled down (finally), living at his farm with a friend and her granddaughter who has become a father to. She goes to Mexico to find her absent father, and gets kidnapped by a cartel. Rambo attacks the cartel, loses for once, and then sets up a Home Alone like series of violent traps in the paranoia tunnels under his property. I can’t tell you two things about the villains, except they’re Mexican. All but three of the Hispanic characters in this (all but Rambo are Hispanic) are evil, violent, and murderous. Add in weak borders and this is a Trump dream. Very xenophobic flick.

Throwing all that to the side – hows the action. It’s Rambo, so violent action is expected. For fans just wanting that – you’ll be let down. It’s a good 50 minutes until Rambo takes on the cartel the first time. And 1h7 before they blindly walk into his trap. That’s over about 7 minutes later. It’s bloody but just a videogame like slaugher.

Blah. Series starts strong and weakens entry to entry.

Feb 22nd

The Lodge (2020); More details when I write my review (and with today’s post, I’m caught up so expect it tomorrow.. I hope). The Lodge is a very well made, but hard to watch film. You’re mileage will vary depending how much you go for Aster or Von Trier like films – did you see the writer/director’s previous film Goodnight, Mommy?, and how much go along with things getting rather weird. It has so much atmosphere and tension. Not for everyone, but I was all on board.

Feb 21

After Earth; 2013; Sci-Fi; Written by M Night Shyamalan and Gary Whitta; Directed by M Night Shyamalan; Starring Will Smith, Jaden Smith, David Denman, Sophie Okonedo, Zoe Kravitz; 1h40; Library; First time watch. Review by Bob;

Finally catching up to the one Shyamalan movie I hadn’t’ seen for “How Did This Get Made?”- for an episode that came out the weekend of the movie’s release. A worthy movie for their comments. Let’s lead with Jaden Smith is just awful. Whatever accent he wants to do is so unnatural and his readings are just weird. BUT, he is acting against CG creatures and voiceover of an off-screen Will Smith. No doubt a hard thing to do for a newish actor (I recall liking him in Karate Kid the one time I saw that remake). However, before that, the multi-person scenes are really oddly made and performed by everyone. And directed by a once-great director at the bottom of his fall – before rebuilding (I hated Glass, but others dug it so there’s that). The adventure of young Smith working his way across the Earth landscape could have been interesting if it didn’t look so damned fake. Lots of weird lines, set-ups and payoffs. I grew bored most the way through.

#Cats_the_mewvie. 2020; Documentary; 90m; Netflix. Bob;

No, not the Tom Hooper cat-astrophe of the end of the last year, but a new documentary on Netflix about the internet’s obsession with felines. As cat owners who loves to watch cat videos, of course my wife and I put this on. Light exploration of the subject, highlighting the history of cat-internet and the famous cats of the web.So many cute cats! It’s interesting to see the people behind the cats – and explores why they have tossed into the famous cat world – whether by accident (lil Bub) or trying to curry a life from their cats (a bunch of “influencers” I don’t remember). Kitties!

Feb 20

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil; 2019; Fantasy; Written by Linda Woolverton, Micah Fitzerman-Blue, and Noah Harpster; Directed by Joachim Ronning; starring Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Michelle Pfeiffer; 2h; Library rental; first time view; Bob

I really liked the 2014 look at the retelling of Sleeping Beauty. Bad CG, but good character work and an interesting new take on the story with a great set of performers to bring it to life. So I’m sad to say the sequel tosses all that out of the window besides the bad CG, which is doubled down on.

Everything and everyone becomes surface deep, pushing everyone into a minor character role in an underdone script Kinda weird when even the title character goes away a while. Everyone stumbles their way from plot point to plot point and no actor seems like they want to be there. It’s too busy and too green-screened. It’ll be on D+ soon enough I’m sure. If still hold interest, check it then while reading the internet.

Feb 19

Popeye; 1980; family musical; Written by Jules Feiffer from the E C Segar characters; Directed by Robert Altman. Starring Robin Williams, Shelley Duvall, Ray Walsto, Paul Dooley, Paul Smith; 2hr; Library Rental. Seen a bunch on tv as a kid but forgot most of it; Review by Bob

This film gave me nightmares. Not as a kid when I first saw it, but now, on the night of the 19th to 20th. Not kidding. Say what you will, it got into my head. Popeye is a weird film. It’s overly produced and designed to the point of insanity. The songs are oddly dropped in to the degree people forget it is a musical (as noted on our podcast, which is why I went back to see this again). Its jokes are often so stagy they feel over-rehearsed or as of asylum inmates performing the same action again and again without the ability to stop.

But Popeye is not a bad movie, despite the very odd and awkward feeling opening that made me think “this is going to be a long two hours.” I don’t know if it was shot in order, but as the film progresses, it settles into a tone and feel and starts to come alive. Popeye is the distillation of decades of newspaper strips and animated shorts given life as a live-action film. Remember this, and it is an enjoyable flick. It’s nostalgic and beholden to the youths of those involved; and replicates the characters and gags of these sources.

Throwing all this at the screen makes it a busy mish-mash but also a loving one. It’s obvious how much care was done to be true to the sources – particularly in Feiffer’s script – apparently shot word for word from the writing. The detail put in is astounding. Apparently every person on screen, every sign in the background, every building is from the world created by Segar. This alone makes for a more interesting film that some bland “let’s please everyone” update that eschews the creation for the widest-audience reach.

The casting is spot-on and game for what could be very silly. Robin Williams in his first leading film role as Popeye, Ray Walston as Pappy, Paul Dooley as Wimpy, and Paul Smith as Bluto are all great but holy shit Shelley Duvall is made to be Olive Oyl.

I came into Popeye this time as an adult expecting to have a hellish 2 hours of a mess but found myself really loving it. It’s an unconvential film on just about every level but it’s also a Robert Altman/Robert Evans movie so you kinda expect that.

Fantasy Island; 2020; Horror; etc

Like the others listed here in theatres, I’ll give this a review when I get caught up. But the basic take: an alright idea from the TV show of the 70s;, but an abysmal script and bad acting sink the film.

Feb 18

Rambo (4); 2008; Action; Written by Stallone & Art Monterastelli; Directed by Stallone. Starring Stallone, Julie Benz, Graham McTavish. 93m; Library; First time watch. Review by Bob.

Coming back from a 20 year break, Rambo is now all about making people die with splatter and more splatter. In rescuing an idiotic team of missionaries from murderous rebels, Rambo is ninety minutes of murkily shot over blown action. Further removed from the original, this one is gleeful in its violence, splattering Burmese soldiers all over – it’s like they are made of blood bags and squibs. It’s weird I’m complaining about copious gore when I watch mostly horror flicks but there is no self-reflection or humor – as expected for Stallone. It’s purely gung-ho one-man-army paranoid fantasy.

Feb 17th

Rambo III; 1988; Action;Written by Stallone, Sheldon Lettich; Directed by Peter MacDonald; Starring Stallone, Richard Crenna, Kurtwood Smith, Spyros Fokas. 1h42m. First time watch; from Library; Review by Bob.

Following up on the 16th, we continue into the Rambo series. So, my good will from the first film is gone. I’m honestly annoyed. After the last film, Rambo has gained peace helping out monks rebuild their temple, moving past his violent life. And they start the film by telling him that’s all bunk, he’s a killer, a soldier, and he needs to do it again. Dammit movie, LET THE TROUBLED VETERAN LIVE IN PEACE. Of course, he doesn’t. Off to Afghanistan to fight the Russians to rescue Richard Crenna. He joins up with freedom fighters the US has armed and trained to repel the Russians. The name isn’t said, but yup… it’s the Taliban…. In this bloodsoaked, awfully made, lacking in anything truly interesting action film Rambo joins the Taliban. Ignoring what we know from history later, I didn’t like this at all. It’s silly, mindless, and by the end wholly ridiculous. Meh.

Chernobyl; 2019; Historical horror (it is horror); Written by Craig Mazin; Director Johan Renck; Starring Jared Harris, Emily Mortimer, Stellan Skarsgard. 320ish minutes. Streamed from HBO; Review by Bob

My wife and I finally finished the show, watching about an episode a month for a while. It’s a tough tough story to watch, and we had to be in the right frame of mind to watch. It’s a sad, true story. And one that causes anger, and tears, and horror. This is a horror show. No question. Truth can be stranger than fiction, and it is astounding how this all played out and occurred. I’m not sure how much is exactly right, what was changed for television story, and what is amalgamated (Mortimer’s character was, the end tells us that) but it’s important that it FEELS real and true, as crazy as parts can be. The detail is there. Strong writing explains detailed concepts very well, and it is naturally performed by amazing performers without feeling like exposition. Astounding as when you look at it, there is so much, nearly every line is. But when it doesn’t feel like it, it shows how great it was.

Feb 16th

Rambo: First Blood Part II; 1985; Action; Written by Sylvester Stallone and James Cameron (I had no idea he wrote this until watching); Directed by George P. Cosmatos; Starring Stallone, Richard Crenna, Charles Napier, Martin Kove.; First time watch; 95 minutes; Library disc. Review by Bob.

I watched First Blood for the first time over the summer and it was a great surprise. I expected a mindless action film but instead found a highly dramatic tale of a Vietnam veteran with PTSD being rejected by his own country, forced into violence by asshole rednecks. And it had well made action, with power behind each shot, to back it up. After watching Rambo: First Blood Part II, I see where my preconceptions of the character come from. Taken from prison (after the actions in the first film), John Rambo is given the chance to get closure and move on with his life with a secret mission to rescue some POWs back in the jungle. There’s some good stuff here, some smart snappy dialog and thoughts of Rambo’s headspace and gives voice to many (thanks Cameron), or starts off as such. But it also descends into a paranoid right-wing shoot-em-up by the end. It is possible for a character to devolve? The Rambo from the first film is no where to be seen by the end of this.

The Fast and the Furious; 1955; Vehicle action; Written by Jerome Odlum, Jean Howell, Roger Corman; directed by John Ireland & Edward Sampson; starring John Ireland, Dorothy Malone. 1h13m. On Tubi; review by Bob. First time watch.

To note: very little to do with the vroom vroom franchise currently racing through your mind, but Universal did licence this film’s rights for the 1999 film. So kinda remake? not really. A vacationing woman with a Jaguar stops at a roadside diner where she’s taken hostage by a framed man. Together they argue, fight, and fall in love on the way to Mexico; where they will join a race that crosses the border. Standard drive-in fare. Enough charisma and interest from the main parties not to be bored but we’re talking Corman cheapie here too. A sense of fun comes through and I had a good time. Not likely to see again though.

Feb 15th

Pain and Glory, 2019; Autobiographical Drama; Written and directed by Pedro Almodovar; starring Antonio Bandaras, Penelope Cruz, Asier Etxeandia. First watch; Library rental; 1h55m; Review by Bob;

Bandaras’s Academy nominated performance drives a heartfelt look at a filmmaker looking back on his life. On the whole, I liked the film, but I also feel I’ve seen this same thing a few times, done better with more life and style by Jodorosky in his duology of his life. It’s not a fair comparison as focus is in different ways, but I can’t help but conect. I’m really enjoying the understated Badaras of later years- I hated Life itself, but he tried to do the best he could there. Pain and Glory itself is a fine film, somber and thoughtful. I need to see more Almodovar, perhaps when I do I’ll appreciate it more.

Parasite; 2019; Dark Comedy, Drama, even a little horror. Written and Directed by Bong Joon Ho. Starring Kang-ho Song, Sun-kyun Lee. 2nd watch; Theatrical; 2h12m; Notes by Bob.

Like a few other movies on here, I’m going to give this the full review soon. This is my second time and I’m glad to say it’s just as great and still stands as my #2 of last year. Still gripping. Still darkly hilarious. Still wowing. This time I was able to pay more attention to the details in the script and production design and how it all comes together. I’ve also read more of the cultural notes that I wouldn’t get. Now I know and it brings more to the film. This story of the haves and have-nots and how their world’s collide is expertly written and designed, sliding from one wild idea & genre to the next with ease, ramping up with a delicious wit and life.

I also saw Mary Pickford in Pollyanna, Poor Little Rich Girl, and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm over the last few days. Not a lot to say, interesting enough silents. Feel I’ve missed details as not familiar with the sources for each of them and many adaptations of the time are assuming the watcher has read. Pickford is wonderful and soooooo tiny!

Feb 14th – happy Valentine’s day!

Texas Chain Saw Massacre; 1974; Horror; Written by Tobe Hooper & Kim Henkel; Directed by Tobe Hooper; Starring Gunnar Hansen, Marilyn Burns, Ed Neal, Jim Siedow. With Joe Bob Brigg’s Dinners of Death on Shudder; who knows how many times I’ve seen it; 85m film, 2h40 with Briggs.

Has anyone reading these words (all two of you) not seen Texas Chain Saw Massacre? If you haven’t, go find and watch the classic flick. TCM still stands as one of the most utterly disturbing films. The amazing production and sound design, Daniel Pearl’s cinematography, and iconic performances by everyone involved build to a movie that is still tense, scary, and gripping after so many viewings. LOOK WHAT YOUR BROTHER DID TO THE DOOR!!

The Furies- 2019; Horror; Written and directed by Tony D’Aquinto. Starring Airlie Dodds, Linda Ngo. 83 minutes. Shudder; first time watch.

If you can see my face right now, you’d see a “welllllll” grimace. On the plus side, there is massive amounts of well made gore and blood. On the other side, much of it is context less violence against screaming women. And that’s the point of the movie. Women are captured to be hunted and killed. There is some fighting back, but still feels really misogynist, especially with the character’s actions.

Feb 13th

Bob and Tony saw CALL OF THE WILD

Bob watched SONIC THE HEDGEHOG alone.

Reviews coming for both. But I can give the same notes for much of it – middle of the road family flicks that work well in fits and spurts. But eve the parts that don’t work as well aren’t awful. Both feature CG leads – Sonic is as good as he could look and works. Buck the Dog doesn’t – he’s distracting and takes me out of the film. Neither are great films, but both are just fine afternoons for a family day at the movie and have no regrets about seeing either. Spoilers: both will get C+ reviews.

Feb 12th

Serpent Island; 1954; Adventure horror; Written by Tom Gries; Directed by Tom Gries and Bert I Gordon. Starring Sonny Tufts, Mary Munday; 63 Min. First time watch; Owned disc. Review by Bob

The first (uncredited) film from Bert I Gordon offers little of what makes his movies cheesy fun. Like its discmate Monster From the Ocean Floor (see below), Serpent Island finds a woman on vacation in an exotic place when danger comes through. She hires two men to take her to Haiti to reclaim “her family treasure.” I put that in quotes as it’s clear the former slaves and indigenous people reclaimed what is there’s. It’s called out but dismissed. The film itself is a dull slog of bad acting and melodrama mixed with the Gordon staple of stock footage.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire- 2019; Drama. Written and directed by Celine Sciamma; Starring Noemie Merland, Adele Haenel, Luana Bajrami, Valeria Golina. 2h1m. Theatrical release.

I’m putting this on the slate for a full review when I get caught up (I say that a lot but I will!). Beautifully made, gorgeously shot, impeccably acted, and sharply written – Portrait of a Lady on Fire is one of the best films I’ve seen in the last few years. It’s a film that digs into your heart and mind as you watch it and doesn’t let go. It’s riveting. I’ll cut myself off except to see it as soon as possible as it rolls into your town.

Feb 11th

Crucifixion; 2017; Directed by Xavier Gens; Written by the Hayes Brothers; Starring Sophie Cookson; Corneliou Ulici; 90m; First time watch; Shudder; Review by Bob

A very annoying journalist travels to Eastern Europe to investigate an exorcism that killed a nun, looking to highlight the dangers of zealotism in religion leading to deaths. Of course, she finds it may be realer than that. Are you surprised? Of course not. This exorcism film offers little new to chew on, is highly repetitive, and just lacks any thing to recommend. I’d expect something a bit smarter from the writers of Conjuring, but then again, they also wrote this year’s The Turning and Whiteout (I did like their House of Wax). I’m reminded of the spate of mid-00s cheap horror films that were filmed in Eastern Europe. Interesting real locations – I would love to explore the abbey (I swear in some shots it looked like the one from The Nun) – and lots of people acting oddly. Oddly in our English lead tries to act through an American accent and all the locals in the film are acting in not-their-native language so it comes off weird and stilted. Everything about it is weird and stilted.

In books, Bob finished two. A Lion Among Men (317 pages; wife’s book) is the 3rd of Gregory MacGuire’s Wicked books after that one and Son of A Witch. Having read these three, Lost, and Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister – I’ve finally come to the conclusion I don’t like MacGuire’s writing and storytelling at all. I also finished Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarcyuk (272 pages; library). I liked this a great deal more. Fantastic use of character voice to approach a murder-mystery in a different manner. An odd woman gets herself involved in trying to solve murder/accidents around her secluded Polish village.

Feb 10th

For Sama; 2019; Documentary. Directed by Waad Al-Kateab and Edward Watts; Bob; Amazon Prime. 96min

This Oscar-nominated documentary follows a few years years in the lives of hospital personnel in eastern Aleppo, Syria though the lens of a documentarian making a journal for her daughter Sama, a toddler when filming ends. Fascinating film that puts real faces, voice, and lives to those who are often just glanced by in the news when it speaks of the Syrian civil war. We see amazing good-hearted people who live and breathe, who fight against what the regime and Russia throw at them, who deal with the traumas that come from the fighting (in many heartbreaking and infuriating scenes noting the results of the violence). But we also see the happy moments in their lives, of family and community, of weddings, children, and attempts to find mirth in their situation. Watch this on Amazon Prime to get a look at the lives of those on the ground over there.

Monster from the Ocean Floor; 1954; Creature Feature Horror; Written by Bill Danch; Directed by Wyott Ordung; produced by Roger Corman. Starring Anne Kimbell, Stuart Wade, Dick Pinner (sounds like a wrestling porn pun name). 64 minutes; from owned disc. First time watch.

On the other end of the spectrum is a light early Corman B-picture. While he wrote a draft and was a credited producer on Highway Dragnet (review on Feb 4th), this was the first he was heavily involved with in every aspect; as so far as performing many tasks such as being the set truck driver, setting up in the mornings and tearing down at night. Outside of the Corman’s start trivia, there isn’t much to recommend for this one. A woman is on vacation in Mexico and meets up with a manly scientist – complete with the Science! dialog well parodied in Lost Skeleton of Cadavra who is surveying a bay with his Scuba-submarine. Prepare to see a lot of that sub. So much slow underwater vehicle moving, I felt like watching Thunderball. They hang out, listen to a new legend of a monster eating the locals (new as this is an atomic sourced monster) and eventually get some shots of a one-eyed giant amoeba. It flails around oddly with the drawn on the film itself eye and dies. Very slow moving film, but I did really like Anne Kimbell, who thankfully isn’t written as a damsel in distress. Her career only went 4 more years, and it’s a shame because she has a nice B-movie charm.

Feb 7th — I have nothing to report for the 8th and 9th. I watched the Oscars. so there’s this.

Marriage Story; 2019; Drama; Written and directed by Noah Baumbach. Starring Adam Driver, Scarlett Johannson, Laura Dern, Alan Alda, Ray Liotta. 2h17m. Review by Bob; Netflix.

It took me to Oscar weekend to watch. Late, I know. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to put myself through the no-doubt emotional ringer of Baumbach’s story of the dissolution of a marriage. It was a hard film, but a damned fine one. It had an honest script that only a few times felt like it wasn’t truly drawn from life – mostly when we get speeches. I think I’m the only one who didn’t care for Laura Dern’s Mary/motherhood speech. Took me out of the naturalness in everything else. Adam Driver and ScarJo where wholly believable. And fuck Ray Liotta’s character. That guy ruined everything, as I honestly cared for both of our leads. While I feel the movie is more in Charlie’s side, the film is mostly balanced as not not be good-guy/bad-guy and important as through everything Charlie and Nicole love eachother and that’s important. I don’t think it’ll crack my top ten when I update but comes darn close.

Timmy Failure, Mistakes Were Made. 2020; Family Comedy; Written and Directed by Tom McCarthy, from the book by Stephan Pastis; Starring Winslow Fegley, Ophelia Lovegood, Wallace Shawn. 1h39m. Disney+, First time watch, Bob.

Timmy Failure, Mistakes Were Made is a very fun, incredibly charming story of imagination and the fun of a odd-outlook on life. It’s adapted from the book written by Stephen Pastis, creator of newspaper comic Pearls Before Swine, so you know there will be a strong, often-slightly-demented and odd sense of humor (hell, it is in Portland Oregon and leans into its setting’s oddity) through this story of an 11-year-old detective. Timmy has a bad-haircut and a heck of an imagination, he talks to his (thankfully) voiceless imaginary polar bear, and has imaginary story cut-aways like Doug or JD on Scrubs. He seems himself as an Encyclopedia Brown, coming up with an elaborate plot going on his town. It’s sweet and fun and a great family flick. The relationship he has with his mother Lovegood (she was the titular character in Autopsy of Jane Done, good to see her up and about!) is true. There is a dark cloud in their lives of her money-troubles and other issues, and that allows a truer nature to this flick. Yeah, I recommend it.

Yesterday; 2019; Written by Richard Curtis; Directed by Danny Boyle; Starring Himesh Patel; Lilly James; Joel Fry; 1h56m; From the Library, 2nd time watch.

Three for three in movies I really liked today. I saw this in theaters and absolutely loved it, left the auditorium crying like a baby. I have no qualms to admit crying at movies. Another sweet, positive movie about celebrating imagination and creativity. Patel gives a star-making turn as a failing musician who, after a world-wide black out, seems to be the only one who remembers the music of the Beatles. So he takes it upon himself to make-an-unfailure by passing them off as his own. Patel is utterly charming as a man trying to find his place with a whole new world placed in front of him. Should he keep with the lie and take the fame, scale back a while, or just stay in town with his manger/bestie Lily James, obviously nursing a crush on him. James has a rather thankless role but she’s great as always, and I try to steer away from this but I can’t help it, cute as all hell. We see the love and pain in her eyes and performance.

We all know the music of The Beatles is something special, and the film brings that joy of their music in a new way, using them as a celebration of music and love. On this second viewing, it does feel a little of the length in the 2nd act after an astounding first. Many are upset over the end, but I think it works. The actually end is an utter joy, but there is a particular scene with a particular person that is sob-city.

Feb 6th

Troop Zero: 2020; Comedy; Written by Lucy Alibar; Directed by Bert & Bertie; Starring McKenna Grace, Viola Davis, Jim Gaffigan, Allison Janney; PG; 94m; first time watch; Amazon Prime; Review by Bob.

I wanted to see this when it screened at SIFF 2019, but missed it. Glad to have it pop up now. Troop Zero is a sweet family flick, led by McKenna Grace – a strong young actress making a splash recently in Annabelle Comes Home and The Haunting of Hill House. She plays one of a group of misfit children starting their own Not-Girl-Scout troop in rural Georgia in 1977. They face off against snobbish girls led by Allison Janney and of course learn about themselves and gain self-confidence along the way. Troop Beverly Hills vs Ernest Goes to Camp? It’s a bit twee at times, but has a lot of heart and sweetness throughout.

Birds of Prey- Review

Boy Erased; 2018; Drama; Written and directed by Joel Edgerton from the memoir by Garrand Conley. Starring Lucas Hedges, Nichole Kidman, Joel Edgerton, Russell Crowe. 1h55m; First time watch; Library; Bob

Gay conversion therapy is abuse. No dancing around it. It’s awful, demeaning, dangerous and should be outlawed. Fuck you Mike Pense for pushing for it. Anyway, this true-story drama concerns a young college student sent to gay conversion therapy after he’s outed by another gay college student who raped him. As he is the son of a Baptist preacher, this news doesn’t come home well and the boy and his mother go for two weeks. We see how awful these places are – diminishing the self-confidence of young people, telling them they are worthless and beating them with cherry-picked Bible verses. It’s heartbreaking how much hate is thrown at them. Edgerton, who previously directed the disturbing in a different way The Gift, gets the message across without being too “preachy” at those opposed to homosexuality, trying to give a reasons why and their battle against themselves (especially in Crowe). I will say, Hedges keeps getting nominations, but I don’t see it. I find him an uncharasmatic block of wood actor, starring out with a clinched jaw and little emotion until he gets to yell in everything. He reminds me of Jesse Eisenberg minus the Jeff Goldbumness.

Feb 5th

Miss Americana ; 2020; Documentary; Directed by Lana Wilson; Starring Taylor Swift. 85 Minutes. Netflix. First time watch.

Yes, I – Bob, watched the Netflix Taylor Swift documentary. Willingly. And I liked it. It’s easy to hate on TaSwizzle. But she’s a great musical artist. Really. And yes, this documentary is very much a PR thing. Taylor is the main interview subject and she’s all over. So don’t expect a warts and all sort of thing. In fact, it slides right on over the criticisms against her – we all know the joke of series of boyfriends (no shame; as any person is apt to date a bunch of people in their lives) and others. Swift mostly comes out alright – it shines on a light on her life and balancing living and fame and how cognacent she is on all things. I believe she’s an honest, good person; a very intelligent woman and a hell of a song writer. It does get a bit self-congratulation when it comes to her political stance and voicing her opinion in 2018. She should voice her thoughts – she has a platform and it should be used. But there is a heck of a lot of patting herself on the back. But yes, this was an enjoyable doc and I learned insight on her, although filtered through her.

The Last Chase – another KTMA MST3k with Lee Majors and Burgess Meredith. In the future after a gas crisis, a former racer comes across a working car and a nefarious plot. It’s nonsense and boring.

Feb 4th

Sanshiro Sugata; 1943; Marial Arts; Written and directed by Akira Kurosawa (from the novel by Tsuneo Tomita); 1h19 min (used to be longer, but 17 min have been lost); From the Library

Continuing my look at the early works of famous writers/directors/producers, today we see Kurosawa’s first, about one of the first Judo fighters, as he trains and learns humility. As noted with Ghost Stories, there is something lost in culture for many of the character moments, but this is a damned fine movie and it’s no wonder Kurosawa became KUROSAWA. Many of his trademarks are notable, and there are strong characters and moments. He has great control over his scenes and camera. His third film was a sequel to this. Look forward to it.

Highway Dragnet; 1954; Crime drama thriller; Written by Roger Corman, Herb Meadow, Jeome Odlum; Directed by Nathan Juran; Starring Richard Conte, Joan Bennet, Wanda Henderson; 71 minutes; YouTube. First time watch.

And now it’s Roger Corman’s turn, with the first thing he was directly involved with producing (and co-wrote with a zillion others). Highway Dragnet is a B-picture through and through – a Korean War vet is falsely accused of a murder and leads the police across California with two women stuck in his drama. Surprisingly tense with a unexceptional but tight and serviceable script that follows the beats you’d expect. I loved it.

Feb 3rd

9 to 5; 1980; Comedy; Written by Patricia Resnick and Colin Higgins; Directed by Colin Higgins; Starring Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Dolly Parton, Dabney Coleman. 1h49m; First time watch; Library rental

I’m glad to finally see this fondly-remember comedy, but of course heard the Academy-Award nominated song from Dolly Parton a zillion times (including it’s use in the R-cut of Deadpool 2; didn’t make it into the PG-13 cut). Anyway, I really loved this, and wish I had seen it earlier. A wonderful take down of sexist bigoted corporate culture with three amazing leads. Dolly Parton in her first role would have easily stolen it if not for Tomlin and Fonda both feeding off her energy. everyone’s timing and tone is just perfect. The sequence around body-stealing (something I didn’t expect to find in this) had me rolling. And now the song is back in my head… working Nine-to-five…

February 2nd

Bob saw the 2020 Oscar Nominated Short Films: Review.

Ghost Stories (2020); Horror: Written and directed by Zoya Akhar, Dibakar Banerjee, Karan Johar, Anurag Kashyap. Netflix; 2h24m. First time watch. not the British same-titled film of 2017.

This collection of Indian ghost stories didn’t work for me. I love to read and hear about the legends and what scares other cultures (Japanese ghosts are frickin’ terrifying), so I was excited to watch this flick. But it was draggy and messy, with each story taking too much time to tell their thread bare narrative. The last one was the only one that came through. I do feel I missed something but not knowing the culture behind many of the lines and legends (I want to learn more about the ghost-werewolf-monsters of the 3rd story). That’s fine, but not the reason I didn’t care for it – I loved The Wailing despite the feeling if I knew the culture more, I’d have a better appreciation – but I still loved it. Ghost Stories, however, feels amateur and under done; like no one involved really knows how a horror film works.

skip it and watch the UK title. I give it a D.

Hickey and Boggs; 1972; Action; Written by Walter Hill; Directed by Robert Culp; Starring Robert Culp, Bill Cosby (…). 1h51m; First time watch; owned disc.

Yes, Cosby is in this. Noted, moving past. He stars with his I, Spy partner Robert Culp (who directed as well) in Walter Hill’s first sold screenplay. This Los Angeles neo-noir detective flick is pretty standard for the genre, but was likely not as rote in 1972. Two private dicks get involved in a case of corruption, murder, bribery and the like, watching as trail of witnesses goes missing or murdered, they sniff in the wrong places and get the bad guys on their tail. They bicker, they piss off their lovers, etc. I like this type of film, so I didn’t mind. Hill has a keen sense of the characters and their world, creating a mold for Shane Black to runaway with later. Culp gives a great style and energy. I dig it. Wish in retrospect we can take Cosby out and put in Plummer.

February 1st

Bob and Cody attended the Grave Plot Film Festival: Run by our friends over at Grave Plot Podcast, Tony and Taylor presented 17 shorts at the Ark Lodge Theater! Fun times and awesome people – we also saw Steve of Bone Bat! Review..

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. Commentary 2. … you know all the details and know I’ve seen it a zillion times. A solid commentary that’s really more of a collection of interview snippets than scene specific. Didn’t really learn anything new as have listened to it previously and read all about it over the last lifetime. But still fun to hear the anecodes, background, ideas and shifts. Movie is just as good as ever. I think my wife got annoyed as I chose this time to quote all the lines that were spoken over.

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