Saturday, May 26, 2018

Off Script: Scream and Scream Again

Film: Scream and Scream Again
Format: Turner Classic Movies on rockin’ flatscreen.

I’d love to tell you that Scream and Scream Again was a ton of fun for me to watch, but that would be a lie. It’s not, despite featuring a cast that includes Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, and Peter Cushing. In fact, it’s an incomprehensible mess. While this was based on a novel and apparently sticks pretty close to the source material, it also seems like virtually every horror and science fiction trope from vampirism and golem creation to random vats of acid lying around have been cobbled together with something akin to a narrative to hang all the scenes together. It feels like a film that wants to hit every touchstone of the genre in the hopes that there will be something there to please any fan. And, as normally happens when someone tries to tick off all the boxes, it ends up a poorly-conceived mess.

And that’s kind of the problem for me. This is a film that is almost impossible to summarize in any way that is remotely coherent. There are murders that involve people being drained of their blood and people having limbs amputated, and there’s a whole weird subplot that happens in something like a communist country with a strange symbol. There’s also Vincent Price as an eccentric doctor who literally has a vat of acid on his property. Our evil killer jumps into it at one point, after escaping from the police by more or less snapping his hand off to escape his handcuffs.

Thursday, May 24, 2018


Film: Another Year
Format: DVD from Rockford Public Library on The New Portable.

Sometimes, what makes a movie interesting isn’t so much the story as it is the perspective from which the story is told. That’s absolutely the case with Another Year, a film that is, on its surface, a pretty standard slice of life drama that takes place over the course of roughly a calendar year. What makes this film interesting isn’t the stories it tells, since these stories are pedestrian and normal. It isn’t the people the stories are about, since they are not particularly unique or special in anyway. It’s that the stories are more or less told from the perspective of two people who are essentially tangential to everything that happens.

Tom (Jim Broadbent) and Gerri (Ruth Sheen) are a happily married couple who have a comfortable and happy life together. Yes, their names are Tom and Gerri, and yes, this comes up in conversation at least once. Tom works as a geologist and Gerri works as a counsellor. The two of them are the more or less stable center of a world of people experiencing a variety of problems and pains. Where Tom and Gerri are happy, pleasant, and caring, their friends are lonely, despairing, and emotionally torn apart.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Wednesday Horror: Warm Bodies

Film: Warm Bodies
Format: DVD from Rockford Public Library on laptop.

I’ve never been shy about the fact that I don’t much like Romeo and Juliet as a story. It’s what prevents me from really enjoying a movie like West Side Story no matter how objectively good it might be. That stood in the way of my watching Warm Bodies for the first time, since it’s so clearly a take on Shakespeare’s play with the additional twist of involving the undead. Still, nothing ventured, right? It turns out that I liked it more than I thought I would, so I was happy to revisit it here.

And really, that is the conceit with Warm Bodies. This is a version of Romeo and Juliet with a zombie Romeo. We start with our zombie, R (Nicholas Hoult), a hoodie-wearing 20-something zombie who wanders around the airport with a group of other zombies. R is a little different from the norm in that he collects things, which he stores in an abandoned airplane. These things he collects perhaps remind him of his former life or at least his former humanity. Periodically, he meets with his friend M (Rob Corddry), and the two wander off toward the city in the hopes of finding something to eat.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Shut Up and Deal

Film: Molly’s Game
Format: Blu-Ray from DeKalb Public Library on rockin’ flatscreen.

If you look back at all of the reviews I’ve put on this site, there are plenty where I got the movie from one library or another. Tons of those have come through interlibrary loan, but there are four libraries I use personally. My hometown library, DeKalb Public Library, doesn’t have a great movie collection, although it is slowly improving. Suddenly, out of nowhere, they have tons of current movies. I’m always a little surprised when something like Molly’s Game, a movie that almost no one has heard of, shows up. Okay, I realize that a lot of you reading this have heard of Molly’s Game, but we’re a self-selected audience of movie nerds. Mention this movie the next time you’re at work and almost everyone will look at you like your dog does when it hears a noise it can’t comprehend.

Molly’s Game is the story of Molly Bloom, a former world-class mogul skier who, thanks to a freak accident, was unable to fulfill her Olympic aspirations. Left with the sudden loss of a career that had taken up virtually her entire life, Bloom (Jessica Chastain) decides to put off law school for a year and instead head to L.A. and live on the couch of a friend from the U.S. Ski Team for a year. While here, she gets a job as a hostess at a high-priced club, and from here gets a second day job as more or less an office manager of a real estate developer (Jeremy Strong) who talks a good game but is actually hemorrhaging money. One way that he attempts to deal with that is with high-stakes poker games. As his essentially abused office manager, Molly is suddenly in charge of his poker game.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Not-So-Dangerous Liaisons

Film: The Affairs of Cellini
Format: Internet video on the latest internet machine.

There are plenty of actors in the world who seem to do little more than simply play themselves. That could come from several different factors. It might be that the person in question is being typecast and is just getting more or less the same role over and over. In some cases, though, it seems like the actor just doesn’t have much in the way of actual range. I think, for instance, of someone like Edward Everett Horton—an actor I enjoy quite a bit—but someone who more or less played the same guy over and over in the same sort of movie over and over. Based on his Oscar-nominated performance in The Affairs of Cellini, I can say the same thing about Frank Morgan.

Again, I want to go on the record as saying that I like Frank Morgan. The moment he walks on screen in The Affairs of Cellini, though, you know immediately who he is even if you don’t know who he is. In this film, he’s playing Alessandro, the Duke of Florence, but if you saw him, heard him speak, and immediately thought that Oz the Great and Powerful somehow ended up in Renaissance Florence, I would forgive you. Aside from the costuming and the facial hair, there’s not a molecule of difference between Oz and Alessandro. What this also means is that while there are moments of drama in this film, we’re not going to get a great deal in the way of seriousness.