Category Archives: Film

Godzilla (2014)

Back when they made that Godziilla remake, I still remembered the one with Matthew Broderick. You know, the one that basically killed his career?[1] So naturally I avoided with prejudice. Then later I saw Kong: Skull Island[2], and learned that these two movies were related? And they’ve made two sequels since then, of which I’ve seen one. I think? …nope, additional minor research indicates I’ve seen both, and, I don’t know, am just conflating them?

But for whatever reason, I never saw the movie that [re]started it all.

Godzilla has three distinct acts, connected linearly by the flow of time and not at all by theme. In act one, Bryan Cranston is [spoilers for the prologue] trying to figure out who murdered his wife. In act two, his son is taking a tour of the Pacific in the style of Raymond Burr. In act three, there is a final confrontation in San Francisco.

I do think that these movies find their footing, but this first one is interesting only insofar as you are entertained by fights with kaiju (80% of the movie) or shadowy government conspiracies regarding kaiju (20% of the movie). Otherwise, it’s kind of a shambling mess full of extraneous characters in service of a plot in which one rando is solely responsible for the salvation of humanity, even though the movie is named Godzilla.

But I mean… it was still mostly pretty cool to look at.

[1] I mean, is he still doing anything and I just don’t see it, or was that the coffin nail and now he’s retired on Ferris money? …or in that retirement home for Hollywood people who lost it all? Well. He’s probably not old enough for that.
[2] If you think I wanted to see that one on the strength of Peter Jackson’s remake, well, you’re at least partially right. but also I’ve always had a soft spot for King Kong.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife

Based on the strength of the nostalgia hit from the teaser trailer and no other knowledge, I’ve lowkey wanted to see the Ghostbusters requel[1] for two years now, but then they announced that Afterlife itself has a sequel, and my hand has been forced.

I want to feel guilty about getting on this bandwagon, instead of holding the boycott line for some hypothetical alternate universe lady ghostbusters sequel, but a) I sort of already did prior to when this sequel was announced instead of that one and the ship had officially sailed, but also b) man it’s hard to feel guilty about watching a movie that was basically Jason Reitman’s carbon copy clone of JJ Abrams’ Star Wars sequel. Because as we have all learned over the past ten or so years[2], nothing beats nostalgia-mining as a source of income, and the cleanest nostalgia mines are those where they make the exact same content that you fell in love with in the first place. Turns out the teaser trailer was a full steam ahead spoiler trailer all along, there was just no way to know at the time.

But the thing is… despite all that, I actually did like it, you know? Paul Rudd is always good, the kids were fine since they weren’t sidekicks, and I’m a sucker for a love letter to Harold Ramis.

[1] Like a Reese’s peanut butter cup, which I am somehow old enough to remember when that was a thing that needed to be explained, it’s both a reboot and a sequel. It’s a whole thing.
[2] Or probably I’m underestimating this


I’ve once again fallen to three years behind on my random horror movie podcast, but having watched Prevenge, maybe I’ll start to catch up again? Maybe!

So there’s this Australian widow, and she’s pregnant. And the voice of her baby is in her head, telling her to kill people. Is she[1] choosing them at random, just striking when opportunity knocks? Is she stalking anyone she happens to see who pisses her off? It’s really hard to tell what motivates these murders, which is part of the horror of it. When she’s not in the middle of the hunt or doing an actual murder (usually these interludes are prenatal appointments), she seems herself horrified by what she is doing. But whenever the baby smells [metaphorical] blood, it is most thoroughly on, by turns tragic, slapstick, or nearly demonic.

If I’m being real, this movie does not work on paper. Even after knowing how it ends, I don’t think I would buy it, except that Alice Lowe sells it so well. She’s the writer, director, and actually pregnant star, and she’s… it’s hard to say what I want to say without buying into the system, so let me say it from the system’s perspective: she would never make it as the star of a Hollywood adaptation of her film. She’s plain of face, did I mention actually rather than prosthetically pregnant, and she’s not conventionally funny. But the way she commits to the bit, both physically and emotionally… when it’s not funny trending toward hilarious, which it often is, it’s profoundly disturbing. The escalating desperation, the simmering anger, the bewildered horror, she portrays all of these and more, and in conclusion, I hope she writes more starring vehicles for herself. She definitely knows what she’s doing.

[1] The mother or the baby, take your pick

Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

We saw Death on the Nile as one of our rare theatrical outings last year, which inspired me to want to see Murder on the Orient Express[1], but then also to very promptly forget all about it, until Mary suggested it last weekend. Irony: now that we watched that one, she is getting Agatha Christie books to read.

I wonder if chronology bears out my theory that this movie is a sequel to the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby? Anyhow, Hercule Poirot, after hilariously solving a priest, rabbi, and imam joke in Jerusalem (I think), gets on a boat to Istanbul[2] to look at art, but then instead gets on a train to London, because he’s been summoned to solve something or other. The Orient Express is like five cars long, and that counts the food car and the engine (and probably the coal car), so you can tell that the super-luxury compartments for the multi-day journey are also extremely exclusive.

We never do get to find out what important business Poirot was called away from his vacation for, because an unexpected avalanche in (let’s say) Carpathia derails the train, upon which they find that one of the passengers has been murdered, and Poirot must determine who, you know, dunnit. Obviously that’s all I can say, but I do wonder if the books are as funny as Branagh makes the screen version be.

You guys. The mustache sleeping mask! Also, an unrelated thought: why was there a random The Last Supper callout?

[1] Or for that matter really anything Branagh has ever done. That man is acting gold.
[2] Which they did not call Constantinople, but for some reason did call Stamboul.

The Hunger (1983)

I was prompted by that podcast to watch The Hunger, a movie which inexplicably I’d never even heard of, even though it has David Bowie and Susan Sarandon in a lookalike contest, vying for[1] the affections of an Egyptian vampire. Vampiress? It is usefully descriptive, but I think it may be more reductive than it is descriptive.

So anyway, first she loves David Bowie, and then she apparently doesn’t, and then he experiences unforeseen (by him, at least) side effects, and meanwhile in what is maybe too much of a coincidence for how precisely similar Ms. Sarandon is to Mr. Bowie, she (the vampire) meets her (the sister of Chris Sarandon, who also once played a vampire, so that has to be weird at Sarandon family Thanksgivings) and feels-slash-creates an immediate connection to Bowie’s replacement. And then dramatic events unfold, but almost certainly not the ones you’re thinking of. Also, sexy-time events unfold, and these are the ones you’re thinking of, since all vampiresses are lesbians, at least in the movies.

You know what the movie really suffered from? If I hadn’t seen Let the Right One In first. There are some pretty crucial differences, not least of which is that this one is a little less plot driven than that one. Honestly, I think that’s why this was the wrong order. Because if I’m thinking of a Scandinavian movie which had snow as one of the three main characters and yearning for a similar movie to please get on with having something, anything, happen, well, you can see how that’s a bad sign.

It’s not that I didn’t like The Hunger, it’s that it didn’t meet my unjust expectations. If you want to watch a movie in which people mostly stare longingly at each other, punctuated by short bursts of violence and/or medical research, but also all the longing stares are performed by impossibly attractive androgynes?

Come to think of it, that’s every David Bowie movie, isn’t it?

[1] The summary blurbs they put in imdb and atop movies on streaming services, etc., would have you believe this “vying” thing is accurate, but I don’t think it was. Catherine Deneuve seemed strictly serial to me.

Inside Out (2015)

Posit a) that you have a toddler who is lightly sick and in need of low energy entertainment, and b) that said toddler has been announcing his emotions lately (which mostly consist of happy or sad, with a small side of mad[1]), mostly unprompted. If you’re me, you remember that one Pixar movie from a couple of years ago[2] that appears to hit the developmental sweet spot we’re going for, even though the character in the movie is, like, 11.

So, I think it’s fair to say this did not work out exactly as I intended, even though the boy incurred a great deal of enjoyment from the movie. I say this in part because it was probably too mature for him by at least a little bit and in part because for sure the actual message of the movie (it’s okay to feel sad sometimes, and forcing that emotion out is definitely bad for you) isn’t really one he needs to hear. He’s perfectly fine being sad, when need be. In last part, I thought there would be perhaps more explanation of emotions than there turned out to be, that one division between joy and sadness notwithstanding. Alas.

Still, though, I like what Pixar did with digging around in someone’s brain and trying very hard to explain accessibly how people perhaps tick. Also, that one scene with Bing Bong was absolutely heartwrenching. Not quite Up levels, but you can tell they didn’t blow their load on making the audience feel something in that one sequence, is what I’m trying to say.

[1] “scared” happens with more frequency than mad, but is almost always in reaction to what’s going on in the book we happen to be reading him
[2] I’m sorry, I’m being informed that Inside Out was released eight years ago, a number which seems essentially impossible to credit.

Lo Squartatore di New York

It might be time for me to watch a non-horror movie. Not apropos of The New York Ripper, or indeed especially of anything, just a random thought I had while gearing up to write this down.

Lucio Fulci is, with 93% certainty, not the only other director of Italian gialli films after Dario Argento. But I think it’s fair to say that if a random non-specialist in the field is making a list of giallo directors, they’d come up with Argento, and then probably, oh yeah, the other guy. Argento is certainly better, and generally more stylish. Fulci, on the other hand, is down and dirty.

Take this movie, which is nominally about a new entrant in the serial killer craze of the late 20th century, whose special power while murdering young (and young-adjacent) women is to talk in a Donald Duck voice, and eventually to taunt the police with said voice. But that’s not the actual point of the movie. The point of it is to cram in as many sex and masturbation and naked torture scenes as possible, justified by its allowance of the cop and the shrink to claim that the killer only goes after women with active sex lives.

Which, if you know how everything ends up, is incredibly fucked up in retrospect, although by then the script seems to have forgotten why this would be troublesome. In its nominal oeuvre, it’s mediocre at best. If you want to see some attractive, nude Italian women pretending to live in New York City and can ignore (or compartmentalize) high doses of misogyny, then have I got a deal for you!

[1] Not for nothing, but there are some seriously NSFW poster options for this movie. I showed… restraint.


At some point, my horror movie podcast will come across a stretch of movies I have seen, all in a row. Or I’ll catch up to them, but that actually seems less likely. Anyway, “this” week, they are talking about Ticks, a movie which I have surely heard of, but had forgotten existed. Also, I definitely haven’t heard of it since I became aware of who Seth Green was. It predates his popularity, post-dates Peter Scolari’s[1], and falls right in the center of Carlton’s, though he played about as far against type as you can get from that role.

Anyway, Peter Scolari leads a band of misfit kids and his girlfriend for some reason out of Los Angeles and into the woods, so they can camp and, I don’t know what exactly. Get counseling? Have all of their problems solved by The Land? Run into evil pot farmers[2] who are spraying their crops with liquid steroids to improve crop production and growth speed, with who can even begin to guess what unintended consequences? The point is, they’re there, and nerdy Seth Green is making some moves on Scolari’s daughter (but then again she had the same “maybe I’m into this” look in her eyes after the silent girl caught a fish, so I may have who was making what moves backward), and Carlton is acting all tough and hanging out with his dog, and the “Do I look Mexican?” kid and his blonde girlfriend are catching some rays, and basically everything is fine for the entire movie, with a zero percent of, say, Clint Howard and a bunch of rubber arachnids ruining their weekend.

Here’s the problem, though. I’ve made that movie sound good, because how could that movie not sound good? I’ll tell you how, and yes with spoilers, but it’s for your own good. The way to ruin that movie, full of cheap monsters and squooshy special effects though it be, is by killing essentially nobody.

I’ll give you one guess who they did kill, which makes my complaint even stronger.

It’s a pity, because on paper it should have been so much better than this. I mean, okay, it’s still hilariously bad. It’s just, when the credits roll, your focus is on bad instead of hilarious.

[1] Just imagine. In 1993 Peter Scolari made Ticks, the same year for which Tom Hanks would win the first of his two back-to-back Oscars. That is a man who fame was unkind to.
[2] Dear people of the future: 30 years ago when Ticks was made, not only was marijuana illegal everywhere except maybe Amsterdam, but people who grew and distributed it were generally considered villainous. I know it’s hard to credit this in today’s semi-permissive United States, but it’s true!

Blood Vessel

Blood Vessel is, I think, one of those scripts that practically writes itself. It is one part Night of the Living Dead, by way of a group of disparate characters brought together by dire need. In this case, the dire need is that their WWII-era ship sank, and they are the survivors on the lifeboat who have almost lost hope. There’s, and forgive me if I don’t remember everyone, basically every character from a different country at first pass; the American, the Brit, the Australian, the Russian, and maybe one or two more. And then at second pass, there’s the black dude (American), the lady (British), and the Captain[1] (maybe also American?); the point is, everyone is different[2], so there’s no chance you’ll get anyone confused with anyone else. But also so there can be Conflict, and Drama.

And then mix that with two parts Dracula (or, if you prefer, Nosferatu), in that their lifeboat comes across a German military vessel, and they try to signal for help, since a) maritime law but mainly b) if they’re going to die of exposure or thirst, at least worst case the Germans will be quick. Unfortunately, there are no Germans on board, which means they got it wrong, what the worst case scenario might be.

And now they’re trapped on a boat with a bunch of strigoi, because Hitler sure does like to collect supernatural things. So, for the viewer, it’s just a game of “guess the survivor!”, with a side helping of gore and explosions. You know the type.

Was it good? I mean, no. Was it good within the constraints of its core concept? Still no, not as such. Was it worth the 93 minutes I spent on it? I don’t want to jump immediately to “no” again, but it’s worth noting pointing out that the movie is rated TV-MA, rather than R or even PG-13.

[1] If you’re asking, wait, why didn’t he go down with his ship? Don’t worry, he might as well have.
[2] Try not to think too hard about how people from that many backgrounds could have wound up on the same ship during a world war.


I feel like this is a movie I should have heard of before it came up as the next podcast movie, or maybe I did and later forgot? The Host, a title I do not believe I understand[1], tells the story of a chemically mutated fish monster that rises from the depths of the Han River in Seoul, South Korea, and terrorizes, well, obviously the whole city and sort of the country and the world, but specifically a very diversely talented family: the grandfather who owns a food truck down by the river, his daughter who is an Olympic class archer, his son-in-law who is a bit of a layabout, his teenaged granddaughter who is the child of the previous two, and his alcoholic son. They are terrorized, specifically, by the monster choosing to take and devour the granddaughter.

There’s honestly a lot to unpack in this movie. Fears about pollution and the continued US presence in South Korea are front and center, but also fears of central authority, a theme I’ve seen running throughout almost all of the Korean horror (film or TV) I’ve watched over the past several years. But all of that is thesis material I’m just not up to thinking about at the depth it deserves. I bet this dude I know named Trent has some opinions, though.

Really, what it mostly is is an old-fashioned rollicking monster movie, a la Them or Gojira. The effects are dated, but the monster itself is fantastic, and I cared about the family. Will the archer get over her her crippling perfectionism? Will the layabout and the alcoholic overcome their natural proclivities? Will the government stop getting in the way? The more I think about it, the more of a throwback movie it becomes in my estimation. But, you know, in a good way.

The runtime is probably 30 minutes longer than it needed to be, though.

[1] Gwoemul translates as Monster, a title that makes a lot more sense. *shrug emoji*