Tag Archives: comedy

Kingu Kongu tai Gojira

You may recall that the only reason I’m watching these Godzilla movies is to determine just how many Godszilla there are, having been betrayed by the first one. So anyway, the third movie in the series maintains us on Godzilla number two, while introducing a surprise guest star!

King Kong vs. Godzilla is the story of how rival Japanese television networks try to drum up ratings by pitting Godzilla (who has recently been freed from an iceberg that is approximately where he ended up in the previous movie[1], which is how I know it’s the same Godzilla) against King Kong (who has recently been kidnapped from his home in the Solomon Islands by the lower in the ratings of the two TV networks, in a bid to gain marketshare by showing him off to Japan).

No really, that’s the whole movie. Wake up Godzilla who will attack Japan because it’s a habit at this point. Kidnap King Kong for ratings. Notice that maybe since he’s tall, he could defeat Godzilla and save Tokyo. Notice that atomic fire breath sets giant ape skin on fire same as everyone else’s. Notice that, implausibly, where a million volts of electricity makes Godzilla say “ow” and wander off in a different direction, it makes Kong say “yummy!” and then flex like Popeye on a week-long spinach bender. Put them both on the slopes of Mt. Fuji for an electro-charged rematch. Profit?[2]

I’d say you cannot make this stuff up, but, singing Mothra twins? This doesn’t even scratch the surface of what you can make up. In conclusion, Godzilla’s fate at the end of the movie was uncertain, which means I still have to watch another one. Sheesh. At least it’s on Max, because having to settle for 1080p because my Plex server couldn’t deal with the 4K version of this movie was an annoyance and a half.

[1] by meddling Americans, of course
[2] In fact, yes, massive, massive profit in the Japanese market.

Free Guy

There’s nothing quite as satisfying as watching a movie that you expected to be, y’know, probably fine, and it turns out to be really good instead. But then again, I think it is also time to acknowledge that Ryan Reynolds, at this stage in his career, is one of those guys who doesn’t make bad movies. Plus, and I’m ranging a bit far afield of my point now, but his acting style is one I have hardly ever seen before. There are the people who vanish into their roles, and the people that are too famous to vanish but still you are impressed by their ability to be two people at once, and the people who are obviously just playing themselves. And then there’s this guy, unique in my memory, who plays himself, but in a funny game of what if. “What if I got to pretend to be Pikachu?” “What if I got to pretend to be Deadpool?” “What if I got to pretend to be an irrepressibly cheerful NPC in a sandbox video game?”

Free Guy is pretty much the movie you expect it to be, at first glance. Guy works at the Bank, which gets robbed several times a day by the People Who Wear the Glasses. Then, after an inciting incident with a girl humming a song, he starts taking control of his own destiny. I like video games, and I like Reynolds, so the premise was enough to get me to watch. But the thing is, the story is written much more thoughtfully than the previews implied, and the result is a timely, occasionally hilarious, and sweet-hearted look at what our games and indeed what our world could someday look like.

Barbie (2023)

Far, far later than intended, I finally saw Barbie. It’s always really annoying to see a cultural touchstone movie months after everyone else, because it means it was impossible for me to form my opinion in a vacuum as I prefer. Obviously it touched some nerves and was important, but it bugs me that now my review has to at least in part be about that, instead of solely about what I thought of the movie independently.

Oh well.

So it’s like this. A bunch of people named Barbie, a smaller but still significant number of people named Ken, a few people named Skipper, and one or two other folks all live in Barbieland, where Barbie is capable of doing anything and certainly does. But when generic Margot Robbie Barbie[1] starts to have weird feelings about death, she learns that the only way to keep her perfect life is to travel to The Real World[2] and meet up with the girl who owns her-as-a-doll to get that girl back into a good headspace. But when Ken[3] decides to tag along, the movie veers in wildly unpredictable directions, and soon the fates of both Barbieland and the real world are at stake.

Alright, I guess everything past here (and the footnotes I will leave above the break) are spoilers. Because you simply cannot talk about this movie without spoiling it. There would be no point.

[1] ie not an astronaut not a president not a McDonald’s employee, just Barbie
[2] There’s a map and everything. I remember people making a stink about the way the brief blip of a kid’s map of the earth was drawn because it betrayed some kind of woke agenda, and I just… I suppose I was going to have to deal with months of baggage about this movie in my review if I had watched it on opening day, wasn’t I?
[3] who the movie helpfully tells us in the first five minutes lives only for the brief moments when Barbie’s gaze falls upon him

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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

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.

Phantom of the Paradise

Based on no more evidence than what was on the videotape rental shelves at the Hastings in College Station, I’ve long believed that Phantom of the Paradise was a sequel to Phantom of the Mall[1], or possibly vice versa. The short answer is, I was wrong.

The long answer is, well, long. Longer than usual for here, honestly. And it will ramble. …not more than usual for here, as I am, in fact, a Ramblin’ Man. Mid-pandemic, 2021, my niece and her partner, Irish, moved into our house. They were already living together in a parental house, and had tried moving out into an apartment before, with unexpectedly violent results[2]. They could no longer live at any parental house, for various reasons, and were discussing maybe going to homeless living out of car status, so they moved in with us instead,

My son spent most of his second year of life around our roommates, and because of COVID and our best-effort safety measures, he was around almost nobody except family, so Irish was really his first friend. And I don’t solely mean happenstance, Irish was good around the boy. Eventually, they decided to move to Austin, since we basically had to kick them out once the girl’s birth was imminent, last year. I don’t know how well Mary and I succeeded at preparing either of them for being on their own and responsible for taking care of themselves, but we tried. They were basically teenaged adults when they got to us, so I’m hoping the earlier start will give us better luck with these two, the children of our loins[3].

After moving to Austin, Irish got an internship (and later job) at the Austin Film Society, and also made the affirmative decision to proceed with her transition, which included a new name, Lucky. I saw one of Lucky’s films last night, a music video of sorts starring my niece. I cannot do it justice, it was a stop-motion thing over a song called Leprosy by a band I am far to unhip to have ever heard of. It was dark and sexy without question better than some things I’ve seen on MTV. (And if it’s on youtube, I can’t find it. I wish it were.)

To bring things back around to the nominal reason you’re here, I also saw Phantom of the Paradise. It was definitely not what I was expecting to see, but I’m not at all surprised to learn it was Lucky’s favorite movie. There’s this guy who is writing a glam rock opera about Faust, and he runs afoul of another guy who has moved from young Elvis rock star status to aloof, incredibly rich music producer status. That guy, the bad guy, steals the opera to use as the centerpiece of his soon-to-be-opened rock palace, the Paradise.

The first act is slapstick, as Winslow loses his life’s work, learns he has lost it, and tries to get it back. Even the points at which he is horribly disfigured to achieve phantom status are played for dark humor. The rest of the flick might have been horror movie revenge, but instead he finds his Christine and decides to ensure she becomes the star of his Faust. And then things get strange. I know I’ve undersold this last point, because I did not and could not accurately describe just how over-the-top glam rock everything else has been up to now. In a weird way, it reminds me of Jesus Christ Superstar, the scene with Pharisees dancing around on scaffolding while deciding whether or not Jesus is a threat to occupied Israel. Same energy, for sure.

The movie was good, and I’d like to watch it again, as I think there’s more to catch. But yesterday was hard. We drove to Austin, including over an hour of wreck traffic on I-35, got there basically 45 minutes late, handed off the kids to Laylah to babysit[4], and rushed to the theater for Lucky’s memorial. I drove back last night, while Mary stayed to help our niece pack to move out of the old apartment, and now I’m here at home, just thinking about things. Mary says the proper terminology is that we lost Lucky to mental health issues, last month. I guess it might be a stigma thing around other phrases? I do not see that stigma, or rather, I think the stigma is on all of us who survived, not on Lucky who didn’t.

The world is a big, scary, fucked up place, and I wish we were better at taking care of each other than we are. Our niece is also in danger, less danger than she was a few weeks ago when she called the police for a health check and learned what had happened, but in danger nonetheless. I think I have maybe as many as two regular readers here, which makes the thought of posting a gofundme link to help her deal with the bills and the move in the wake of this tragedy feel a lot more pointed and targeted than I want it to feel, but all the same, i’m going to go ahead and post it.

Take care of yourselves, and each other when you can. (Basically nobody took care of Winslow Leach (our phantom), and it shows.)

[1] Viewed earlier this season on The Last Drive-In, and therefore not reviewed. Joe Bob talks too much for me to believe there’s a possibility of an unbiased review, as I’ve probably said before.
[2] Committed against them, to be clear. Nothing life-threatening, but too frightening to go through with the move, as a result.
[3] I know. I’m sorry.
[4] Thank you, again, should you happen to see this.

The Super Mario Bros. Movie

I’ve played rather a lot of Nintendos starring Mario Mario and/or Luigi Mario, plumbers by trade, golfers, racecar drivers, and (arguably) heroes by hobby. I’ve played these games going back 40 years. And only now have they made a movie, although I am pretty sure I remember about some cartoons back before the death of Saturday morning.

The Super Mario Bros. Movie is… I mean, it’s exactly what you would expect it to be. I don’t really understand crypto mining. Like, I get that something is money if enough people agree that it is, but I don’t understand what was special about bitcoins in the first place, that they were worth mining for. But if it’s anything like nostalgia mining, then man did these people make a mint. At bitcoin I mean, although probably at cinema too? It’s, um, likely that this metaphor got away from me.

My point is, if you want to see an homage to Mario Bros., or to Mario 64, or to MarioKart, or to… well, whatever it is you expect to see, you’re probably going to see it. If you want to hear a familiar musical cue over equally familiar imagery, you’re probably going to hear it. I could give you a sentence-long summary of the plot, but let’s be real. If you are the target audience for the movie, you don’t need me to give you that. Because what you’re already imagining? Yep, that is correct. (That said, Jack Black was pretty great.)

In conclusion, I didn’t hate it, except that the spooky skeleturtles are probably a little too scary for my toddler. Maybe next year?

Braindead

That horror discussion podcast by the people who make Welcome to Night Vale watched Dead Alive, an early Peter Jackson film that I’d never seen, and so here we are.

Honestly, I have very little to say. Except for the fact that Army of Darkness came out a year later, I would say this movie was heavily influenced by that one. …but it is probably fair to say it was influenced by Evil Dead 2, so, kind of the same thing in some ways. I was also thinking that the precipitating scene on Skull Island was funny, in that they used the King Kong island name for their insufficiently spooky setting to catch a monkey with a zombie disease amidst cliched natives. But no, Jackson is on record for loving King Kong well enough to make its second remake, so, that actually tracks.

I could probably go on, but really what this reads as is a movie made by someone without a lot of budget[1] but with a lot of love for schlock cinema. It certainly doesn’t have the polish of The Frighteners, is nowhere near the seriousness of Heavenly Creatures, and doesn’t have the budget that the Tolkien-based movies spent on fireworks alone. But you can still see the talent underlying it all. And bravo on whoever saw that talent in prospect rather than retrospect and gave him more money for the next thing he made. It worked out pretty well.

Oh, um, other than forward and backward looking influences, I’ve said nothing. It’s basically a horror movie that aspires to be a romantic comedy, except the hero’s mother keeps getting in the way. …I had intended to say more, but, no, that really sums it up.

[1] And most of it spent on building WETA[2] so they could do a little stop motion animation, with all the funds left over going to several industrial barrels full of gore.
[2] I have no idea when WETA happened, so don’t quote me on this timeline in wikipedia or anything.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

My mother-in-law was in town for my son’s birthday, and due to a coincidence of chronology, my birthday is one day later, with the upshot being we had childcare available for my birthday! As a further result of which, we went to see the semi-recently released newest Marvel movie, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.

If you’re worried about plot spoilers, do not be, because I legitimately could not remember who or why the bad guy was, until I spent several moments of concentration trying to. Which sounds like a strike against the movie? But no: I come not to bury Gunn, but to praise him. Because, plot or no plot, what the movie had was a ton of heart, and even more tons of concern for its characters. The only real problem I had with it, in an overarching sense, is that it made most of the recent previous movies[1] worse just by virtue of its existence. Because this is what has been missing since Endgame. Not a specific direction, or a replacement for Thanos. Just… heart.

Anyway, I do remember what happened, more or less. Like everything that has ever happened in any Guardians of the Galaxy movie, the past shows up to bite everyone in the ass. The only things I will say are that a) this is maybe the weirdest take I’ve ever seen or can imagine seeing on Adam Warlock, to the extent that I feel like maybe they shouldn’t have actually thanked Jim Starlin in the credits; and b) the take on the bad guy, whose presence I will not spoil, is so accurate it reminds me of Ultimate Reed Richards.

[1] Essentially all of them in the age of COVID except No Way Home.

Everything Everywhere All at Once

I’m not sure there’s a point in talking about the plot or storyline or character beats of Everything Everywhere All at Once. It would be some combination of entirely spoilerful and also incomprehensible. Which is not to say that the movie is incomprehensible, so much as that I’m just pretty sure it works much better on screen than it would in print. As an example: there is no way I could explain mid-life lesbian relationship with hot dog fingers world and make you believe it was kind of glorious. So now you know why I’m not going to try to talk about things that legitimately matter about the movie, if I can’t even explain that.

(You should watch it, though, if that was not yet clear.)

Here’s what I find interesting: it won best picture. Did it deserve to win best picture? I mean, it’s the best 2022 movie I’ve yet seen[1]. But it’s a sci-fi comedy about Chinese immigrant inter-family politics. Last time I checked, that kind of movie doesn’t win best picture at the Academy. …or maybe it does? I haven’t been paying attention for a little while. But it certainly did not used to do such a thing. And it’s like, the family drama part actually felt like Oscar-bait[2], but what blows me away is that the voters made it far enough into the film to see that part and bite on it.

Anyway: I’m glad to see this kind of movie be acclaimed, and I loved it, and you should still go watch it. It’s just surprising, is all.

[1] I might like No Way Home as much or more, but that doesn’t make it a better movie, if you see what I’m saying. Also, oops, I’m being informed that was a 2021 movie anyhow, so, uh, yeah. Man, I didn’t see much of anything last year, did I?
[2] not in the bad way