Friday, December 18, 2020

Review – Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown

This is a reasonably good documentary about H.P. Lovecraft. It covers his life, his work and at least a little of his legacy. Some of the talking heads are better at spouting opinions than presenting facts, and the awkward issue of the author’s racism gets variable treatment. But overall this is a solid starting place for viewers new to the subject and an enjoyable parade of familiar faces for those of us with more extensive backgrounds. Mildly amusing

Review – Ghosts of War

Why is it so goddamn hard to combine the war and horror genres? They seem like they’d go well together. Yet this is the umpteenth attempt I’ve seen that starts out solidly enough but then can’t seal the deal. The plot drops a small group of WW2 GIs into a haunted mansion, and at first it plays as a standard ghost story. Then it starts to meander, becoming implausible even with the extra latitude due a supernatural tale. And as if the filmmakers realize it’s going off the rails, they lean into the skid with a shaggy dog twist. They might have gotten away with it if that had been the punchline that ended the joke. But it kept going from there. Perhaps they were trying to draw some kind of awkward parallel between Nazis and ISIS, but any point they were trying to make got lost in the inept storytelling. See if desperate

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Review - Scoob!

It takes guts to make a dumb cartoon aimed at 50-year-old audience members.  In keeping with the current trend for packing pictures full of inside jokes, just about everything here is a reference to some element or another of the original Scooby Doo Where Are You? series. Plus they’ve thrown in a bunch of other H-B characters in a fairly transparent attempt to kick-start yet another cinematic universe. There’s a bit of clever business to be found here and there, but for the most part this is a movie designed for a pre-teen mentality yet designed to make sure anyone that age now won’t get many of the jokes. Mildly amusing

Review - Underwater

This isn’t the first movie I’ve seen ruined by the “constant cliffhanger” approach to storytelling. But unlike many of the others that seemed to exist for no other reason than abusing their characters, this one could have been so much better if it had toned down the constant peril and given some of the other elements a chance. Such a shame, too. Of all the underwater Alien clones I’ve seen, the monsters in this one were by far the best. Production design was great. Even the cast was good. If only it hadn’t been such a relentless chore to watch. Mildly amusing

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Review - The Wiz

An oh-so-1970s Motown reimagining of The Wizard of Oz? What’s not to love? The cast is a who’s who of Black singers and actors from the era. The musical numbers are great fun. The production design creates an excellent blend of fantasy landscape and gritty New York City. And best of all, the adaptation retains the spirit of Baum’s book – in some ways even more faithfully than the original movie – while at the same time incorporating a whole new set of cultural references. This picture should have a place on any list of quintessential movies from its decade. Worth seeing

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Review - Cats

 This whole thing has a fascinating downward arc. It started with actual cats, which of course are excellent. Then in 1939 T.S. Eliot wrote Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. The poetry collection was entertaining enough, though surprisingly twee coming from one of the godfathers of moody modernism. In 1981 Andrew Lloyd Webber turned Eliot’s poems into a popular musical that – for better or worse – revolutionized the portrayal of felines by people in leotards. And now this. Despite the opportunity presented by nearly 40 years passing between the stage production and this screen adaptation, many of the artistic decisions seem ill-considered. The story leads off with an act of animal abuse. The effects, makeup and costuming create things that look neither like cats nor like people but rather some horrid hybrid designed to appeal only to audience members with a highly specific fetish. Technical problems abound; most noticeable is the characters’ scale variation from nearly human size to cat size to hamster size. With the assembled ensemble of talented singers, dancers and actors, a much better movie should have been made. See if desperate.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Abandoned - Capone

This movie starts out in the last year of Al Capone’s life, in his post-gangster, post-prison decline in his mansion in Florida. I waited for 20 minutes or so for flashbacks, plot twists or any kind of distraction from the slow deterioration of a tertiary syph patient. Nope. They might just as easily have made a movie out of the first year of the notorious criminal’s life. It would have involved the same amount of lying around, inarticulate babbling and shitting himself. But at least a baby would have been cheaper than Tom Hardy.