Virgin Witch

My horror movie podcasts’s next movie [that I had not already seen] was meant to be a grind house movie about a witch. My instant internal response was, does that even exist?? Turns out, there’s at least one! (And I’m betting not many more than that.)

Here’s how I knew this was a grind house movie: during the opening credits, every image was a still of a topless actress in some situation we would eventually see during the film. It was perhaps as brazen a series of movie credits as I’ve ever seen, but it definitely said “Buckle up, we’re not fucking around.”

Virgin Witch is a movie about two country mice sheltered sisters who have decided to run away from home and go be models in London. And look, I just cannot talk about this movie interestingly without spoilers, as there’s just too much. So if you want to watch it, (and it’s… it’s not precisely worth watching as a movie, but it might be worth watching as a spectacle. Train wrecks, after all, spectacular.) If you want to watch it, I was saying, stop here.

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Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F

What you have to remember is, Beverly Hills Cop was not an exploitation movie. The ’80s were just like that. What is the relevance of this opening non-sequitor, you ask? It’s this: although Axel F may be the fourth movie in a series, it is mostly a sequel to the first one. Because, you know, that’s the one people remember.

And it follows most of the rules of a good sequel. All the same characters? Yep. Sort of a whodunnit for the first 20 minutes, but mostly a how does he beat them once he immediately figures out who? Yep. Lots of secret identity chicanery that allows Murphy to mug for the camera? Absolutely. Gunplay and explosions galore? Check. I said “rules of a good sequel”, and what I meant was, “same movie all over again”. This is for sure a Beverly Hills Cop movie, and what else would anyone who turned it on have been looking for?

Except, of course, less exploitative. It no longer makes sense to have a scene in a strip club, just because. Murphy no longer lives in the world after Dr. King and Blazing Saddles when we thought we’d fixed racism and he could just be a black cop in a Detroit Lions jacket without that raising eyebrows in Beverly Hills, back before Rodney King showed us that not only were we wrong, but the police were maybe not so cool after all. And this movie could not just ignore that new reality, nor does it. Which is obviously good, but it makes it harder to believe in the purity of Axel Foley as a character, the way we could back then,

But most of all, this is a movie designed to make anyone who watches it feels old. Paul Reiser’s Jeffrey is fat and ready to retire and could not possibly be the same guy who suddenly realized that this is not his locker. Taggert looks just a little worse than the star of Weekend at Bernie’s, and Rosewood looks worse than that, because you expect Judge Reinhold to be young. Even Eddie Murphy himself is looking worn around the edges, and the scene where he starts to scam himself into a hotel room, then says, you know what, nevermind, I’m too tired for this? He speaks for the movie as a whole and anyone who was around to watch the originals in the theater.

It’s not that this is a sad movie that they should never have made, what were they thinking. It actually works for what it is[1]! It’s just that, as nostalgia mines go, this one at least has the courage to be honest about the state of the miners. I know they volunteered to show up and get paid, I do, but the underlying sadness of it all really seems to say, shame on you for letting us.

[1] A throwback action comedy with a bitchin’ soundtrack.

Still Wakes the Deep

Sometime after I learned that there’s a game about Lovecraftian horrors on an oil rig, I learned that there’s a TV show about strange goings on in the all consuming mist (which may or may not be Lovecraftian or for that matter Kingy[1]; I wouldn’t know, as I have tried to avoid spoilers for The Rig since it seems cool enough to look into), and I have no point other than that’s a weird coincidence. Like, even if they aren’t both Lovecraftian, what are the odds that two media regarding oil rigs would both come across my radar at the same time, much less of both tweaking my interest?

None of that is I suppose especially important to Still Wakes the Deep, a game named after a particularly evocative phrase from a Scottish poem and set on Christmas Day 1975 on an oil rig in the North Sea. This is how I learned that oil rigs are not just built in relatively shallow water, but that rather they float. It is horrifying in its own right to be floating on the surface of the ocean, connected to the surface below not by four legs, but just by the drill with which you are penetrating the earth’s sunken crust. Imagine how much more horrifying, then, were the pocket you opened to contain not oil, but instead colors out of space, growing tentacles, and madness.

Caz McLeary is a man on the verge of losing everything, and his new job as electrician on an oil rig is partly effect, partly cause of this imminent loss. At least, that’s what he seems to believe and what all the evidence in the early game shows us, as he reads an angry letter from his wife, and then faces a somehow even angrier boss waving an arrest warrant in his face. But moments after that scene plays out, we and he learn that in fact he was nowhere close to losing everything, at least not then. It’s all a matter of properly defining “everything”. …and for that matter, “lose”.

I wasn’t expecting this to be a walking sim. That did not make it a bad game, but I sometimes wished for a little more control over events. Just a little, you know? Actually, as I think about it, the most proper audience for my plaintive request for more control over the events of December 25, 1975 is one Cameron “Caz”[2] McCleary, innit?

Is it apparent I liked this game? Well, I did. It was both mostly likable and immensely affective. Definitely worth a look.

[1] Why don’t we have a proper adjective for the way King writes? Probably because he doesn’t mostly write in a specific way, other than when it’s about the human horror of small towns. But it still feels like he deserves one, is all.
[2] British (in the imperial sense) people are really bad at name-shortening. Cameron = Caz? Jeremy = Jez? Come on, chaps, get it together.

Kaijû sôshingeki

Okay. Nine movies. I have watched nine movies, mostly to delve into the mystery behind how many Godszilla existed, to which the answer is, for now, still two. But at some point I also just wanted to finish. Skipping seven movies like I should have done is whatever. But skipping two movies after I’ve already seen five of them? (And before you ask: yes, it gnaws at me occasionally that I did not go back and watch the original Mothra movie and the original Rodan movie, before those characters were explicitly spun into the Godzillaverse. (Or were they there all along? I don’t know! Which is why it gnaws at me.))

But the point is, I’ve watched those nine movies, which means I’ve made it to Destroy All Monsters, which means I can go back to my horror movie podcast, finally! …yeah, this was a mistake, but nevertheless, here we are.

What has not existed in these movies so far is a timeline. Like, the early movies were obviously in the middle of the atomic age, set for when they came out. Some of the later movies involved deep space travel of the kind that we were not ready for in the mid ’60s, but which then again who knows, what with the advances that would have naturally sprung from having to fight giant monsters birthed or awakened in atomic fires. Irrespective of all that, I can say with certainty that this one is set in the distant future of the year 2000, where all giant monsters are safely collared and contained on Monster Island. There’s a moon base, and in all other apparent ways, we have reached utopia.


Oops, the monsters are wandering around destroying everything again, and also asteroid aliens want to take control of the world and run it themselves, and hmm could these facts be linked? Mostly, I’m just relieved that they got back to basics, if by basics you mean alien invasions and alien monsters vs earth monsters and a big showdown on Mt. Fuji. Which I very much do. This is I think a good place to drop out for now.

Kaijûtô no kessen: Gojira no musuko

Son of Godzilla is the last movie I have to watch to bridge the gap between the original film and second one that will be covered in the double feature episode of the podcast I used to listen to, you know, back before I took a seven movie digression. It will be weird to get back to that, perhaps.

On the one hand, this movie is every bit as weird as some of the prior recent ones, and for some of the same reasons[1]. I think the reason it doesn’t work here is because the writers are no longer taking themselves seriously. Godzilla should not be a punchline, and yet he has become one. I mean, in this case he has not specifically become one, but since his son is, it feels like nearly the same thing.

Let me break it down. 1) There are scientists on an island trying to build a weather control balloon, to make things cold, to… I forget why. To transform deserts into livability? To harvest water? Something related to climate change before that was quite a thing, anyhow. 2) There’s a reporter who just randomly parachutes onto islands in search of news stories, which on the face of it sounds ridiculous, but then when you remember that some islands have frozen Godszilla and some islands have miniature twin prophets preaching the good news about Mothra, maybe it’s fair to say that this is a reasonable way to build a career in the northwestern Pacific. 3) There’s a mysterious lady on the island that none of the scientists know about, and possibly vice versa? 4) There’s a big egg. 5) Something goes wrong with the weather balloon experiment (again, not entirely clear on what, which is a defect in my character rather than the film’s), and when that something goes wrong, instead of making things cold, it makes things both hotter than ever and also radioactive, because why not? 6) So now there are some newly giant praying mantises attacking the egg, which hatches to reveal Godzilla’s son. Why Godzilla is only referred to as male and his pudgy kid is also only referred to as male are mysteries beyond mortal ken, especially when you consider that an egg is a plot point.

The rest of the movie is Godzilla’s son making pratfalls, and kind of bonding with the mystery lady, and learning how to breathe atomic breath, while a giant but not apparently recently-grown-due-to-radioactivity spider re-proves that Godzilla’s main weakness is being coated in silk.

What I still don’t know: does this mean there’s a third Godzilla coming when the old one dies or nobly sacrifices himself or something and then the son grows up, or does it mean the son will eventually expire in some similar way, or does it mean forever after until the series ends that there will be two of them? And man, can you imagine a teenaged Godzilla? That will be a bad time for everyone.

[1] Which are mostly: let’s see just how many disparate details we can cram into a single plot.

Dune: Part Two

Dune: Part One was honestly a pretty solid movie. It introduced a far-flung future that is implausibly focused on a medieval past, but it made up for that implausibility by the accompanying concepts being fun to imagine. And said future is chock full of interesting characters with wildly divergent motivations that are worth watching clash against one another. Shadowy prophecies, a macguffin that you can really understand why people care so deeply about it, betrayals, chases, escapes… I begin to consider that these movies should not be classified as science fiction. Well, whatever, unimportant.

Part Two, on the other hand, is a complete enigma of a film. It clocks in at nearly three hours, and two of those hours are Paul Atreides learning how to Fremen better than any Fremen has ever Fremened before, in fulfillment of messianic prophecy that was apparently set in motion by the Bene Gesserit, which makes it not entirely trustworthy[1], except for how it all keeps coming true nevertheless. And it’s not that these two hours are, moment over moment, bad. It’s that they somehow manage to simultaneously be boring in aggregate while still also managing to feel rushed. I don’t know if that means the five hour version of this movie would fix all the problems or heighten them to the point of absurdity, but it’s pretty definitely one or the other, and I’d like to at least know which, you know?

Then in the remaining hour we see the machinations behind the brutal climax of part one, leading into a brutal climax of part two, which… just straight up did not feel like the end of a story. I think I might have been better able to give long stretches of boring sand punctuated by worms and romance and guerrilla tactics followed by a climactic ending that perversely resolves nothing and arguably leaves things even worse than before, if I had known this was the middle third of a trilogy.

As it is… solid spectacle, lovely acting, total feh at the storytelling.

[1] I don’t mean in the “is it real?” sense, because I don’t know enough about the BG, and the movie does not reveal enough about them, to determine where their knowledge (if indeed they have any special knowledge in the first place) comes from. I mean it in the “is it a trap?” sense, because it would appear that anything they do benefits themselves before anyone else. Also the Kwisatz Haderach, which is probably meant to be something more than a creepy pair of words, but is not particularly elaborated upon in any deeper way in these two movies.

Dune (2021)

A couple of years ago, I watched maybe half of the Dune remake, but it was at night and I fell asleep. And then I never got around to returning. Which, I mean, plenty of time to make up before part two came calling. Which brings me to last weekend, wherein I did in fact watch the movie for real and true. And you know what? Not bad!

See, there’s this noble family, we’ll call them the Starks. And they are asked by the Emperor of All Cosmos to take over production of spice[1] from a different noble family, who we’ll call the Lannisters. The Lannisters are super rich and also not fond of having their golden goose forcibly taken away, so they plan a trap. But that’s not important right now. What’s important is that Paul Stark is possibly the first male Aes Sedai since the end of the Second Age, as evidenced by the fact that he is having prophetic dreams about Mary Jane Aviendha and by the fact that when he sticks his hand inside a ter’angreal that causes pain, he doesn’t pull his hand out. (Although arguably he was coerced by the threat of murder into leaving it there.)

So anyway, Paul goes off to desert world, where… oh, hey, *Dune*! I get it. Nice one.

He goes there, I was saying, with the rest of his family, to start harvesting spice. And they learn about the giant sandworms who leave behind teeth that you can turn into crysknives if you have a scroll of enchant weapon, and they learn about the blue-eyed desert people who are not fans of the Lannisters, and right as it seems like they might be able to get the hang of this whole spice-harvesting gig even though all the equipment keeps breaking down and may have been sabotaged, that turns out not to matter, because Baron Lannister and his nephew Drax “Sting” Lannister launch a surprise attack and kill every single last Stark. Weirdly, nobody got married.

Wait, sorry, I’m being informed that Paul Stark and his mother Moiraine survived, and wandered off into the desert to hook up with Mary Jane and the rest of the desert people so they could lay low until it’s time for their counter-revenge in part two. Which we’ll probably watch tomorrow!

Although I have been glib in the above review, it is worth mentioning that a) the ornithopters are extremely cool, b) I very much want to know what happens next, even though I kind of do know, and c) the entire aesthetic of the first movie is A+. You can really tell the difference between what Lynch was able to accomplish in 1984 and what Villeneuve has been able to now, from a technological stance. From an adaptive stance, well, Lynch definitely adapted a book, while this guy is putting the book on screen.

I guess the important difference is that Lynch makes me giggle continuously, albeit in a good way, while Villeneuve makes me watch.

[1] Spice is what makes warp speed possible. (Also, it improves food I assume.)

Gojira · Ebira · Mosura: Nankai no daikettô

Ebirah, Horror of the Deep, is… on the one hand, it’s a lot less weird than recent Godzilla movies I’ve watched, in that it’s not batshit crazy. But on the other hand, it’s actually weirder in some ways, because it’s heavily James Bond influenced I think? And also, this was probably the moment where Godzilla made the transition from anti-hero to good guy, which… I certainly see how it has affected all the future stories, making this clear delineation that he will never again be an existential threat. But I’m still not convinced in the contexts of these movies that it was a good idea, is all.

So get this. This dude’s brother is lost at sea, so he tries to enter a dance-a-thon to win a yacht, but since it’s already three days in, they won’t let him join. So instead, he and two other failed contestants and a third guy all steal a yacht together, semi-accidentally. Then they see a giant crab thing and shipwreck on an island, which is inhabited by a supervillain lair, except without a specific obvious supervillain. Instead, there’s a scientist (I think?) working on nukes, and an eyepatch guy who leads a group of henchmen with machine guns from place to place all over the island, just randomly firing at our heroes but always missing them. It is also inhabited by slaves from Infant Island (famously the home of Mothra) and by a comatose Godzilla, the latter of which is too coincidental for words, and yet here we are.

So anyway, these guys try to figure out how to escape, and how to free the Infants, and how to deal with the giant crab monster (who I believe is referred to exactly once by name?), and eventually there’s a lot of kaiju-fighting, to dance-a-thon music. Oh, and in case you were wondering, Mothra 2 finally grew up and is no longer a caterpillar.

Little Kitty, Big City

I’ve been playing Jedi Survivor, but then I saw that the game I recommended for my wife looked a little more low key and fun for the week, and thusly I instead invested a few nights into Little Kitty, Big City. See, you’re this cat living a highrise life, when suddenly disaster strikes!, in the form of gravity. Now you’re on the ground, surrounded by people and dogs and birds and, by far worst of all, by puddles of water. How will you get home?!

Well, by completing quests[1], and collecting various bits and bobs, and avoiding all the beings who wish to do you, if not harm, at least a series of unpleasant wettings and/or barkings at and/or chasings away. And by knocking things over, let us not ever forget.

It’s basically Untitled Goose Game, but with more of a plot, and a lot more teleportation and reverse causality. At six or eight hours[2], it does not wear out its welcome, and if the graphics are a little below top of the line, and if the controls for some of the jumps can be a little janky, well, that’s how indie games go, y’know? Nothing that drove me away, although it’s fair to say a little less jank might have resulted in me chasing a few more achievements,

[1] Sample quests including jumping in all five boxes, or sleeping in all five A+ nap spots, or taking the ducklings home
[2] and then only if you’re trying pretty hard to do a lot of the things; I spent hours after I reached the point of “you can go finish now if you like” before I actually proceeded to try to finish.

Dragon Keeper

It has been a minute since I read a Robin Hobb book in that one series with all the Elderlings. So I’m not sure if she is softening as she ages, or if I’m hardening as I age, or what. But the first volume of The Rain Wilds Chronicles was not what I expected.

Dragon Keeper returns us to the Bingtown and the Rain Wilds Traders, last seen surviving an invasion due to a timely alliance. Now, brief years later, they are chafing under the terms of that alliance, mainly because its principal member got a boyfriend and stopped hanging around. I’d say more about why that’s an added burden, but it would involve pretty big and unexpected spoilers, so I shan’t.

Our main characters are 1) an unexpectedly married scholar of dragons, 2) a not quite Liveship Trader who has engaged himself in a morally troubling endeavor, and 3) a Rain Wilds teen with no real future, until the option to become eponymous is thrust in front of her. Well, and there’s also a fourth main character who is not strictly human at all as such, although she is the subject of scholarly pursuits.

And here’s the thing I was talking about in the first place: it didn’t feel all that miserable to me? I mean, in the sense that the hallmark of these books to date is how unrelentingly dark they can get, with only occasional flashes of hope and/or success. Do all of the characters have pretty huge problems to overcome? Yes, for sure. But it’s weird that it kind of feels like they can, and maybe even will in some cases.

A couple more weird things, rattling around at the bottom of the barrel. One is, okay, yeah this is a four book series instead of a three book series. Even still, it felt like this was 85% setup, and then 15%… not payoff like you’d expect, but rather 15% the start of the next book, because she was told she could not just have a book that was all setup. Whoever told her that was wrong, because the end we got was weirdly forced and artificial, and the ending we’d have gotten with all setup would have made rather a lot of sense, payoff or no. And two is, at the back of this book, I learned that Robin Hobb also has the pen name Megan Lindholm, which is the same person as a Steven Brust co-author on a book I haven’t yet read but am now much more excited to pick up.

But not, y’know, next. Or indeed anytime soon.