This Week in Geek (20-26/09/20)


In theaters: I feel bad for Dacre Montgomery in The Broken Hearts Gallery. He does some pretty good acting for a piece like this, but everyone else gets to be so damn funny, while he's stuck in the brooding ingenue role who must eventually submit to the romcom gods. So yes, it's a romcom and it follows the formula, but the joy is never in the formula, it's in the specifics. And in this case, everyone who has at least two scenes is a fun character you could have walked off with to see what else they get up to when they aren't hanging out with the studmuffin or the fun quirky girl (and I don't want to dismiss Geraldine Viswanathan here, she's very charming and fun in the lead). In particular, watch for Hamilton's Phillipa Soo as a lesbian heartbreaker, and her double act with morbid Molly Gordon. Studly not-Chris-Pine-nor-Paul-Walker's married friends are also a hoot. But even a woman off the street who intersects the action gets to be a character. Oh, the story? Well, Viswanathan collects things from old relationships, making connections between objects and memory her thing for reasons we will discover, and ends up building her own art gallery with her mementos and others'. Flick's funny and heartfelt and I think worth the watch.

At home: While Enola Holmes is most definitely part of Netflix's current push at creating "pilots" for high concept movie series, it is more a more charming and wittier effort than, say, The Old Guard or Project Power. Millie Bobby Brown is a lot of fun as Sherlock Holmes' little sister and would deserve a sequel or sequels. I'm still not quite over the distracting casting of Henry Cavill as Sherlock, though I like the oddity of the Great Detective as a supportive older brother. He's a more introspective character, better suited to being in the background, but I can't unsee Superman in a Victorian jacket. Sam Claflin as Mycroft is the big jerk you love to hate. Having two dueling mysteries make this a bit longer than it needs to be, and I wish they'd done a better job of linking the two - did Enola actually stop her mother's plot by solving the other mystery? It would seem to me yes, but a confirmation would have been nice. And I am docking the movie half a star for a moment of shocking violence the general tone doesn't prepare us for.

Some movies really make you feel it that they are based on books. The Devil All the Time is such a movie, taking its good time unraveling how its disparate stories connect to one another, interspersed with lines from the novel, and coming off as a dank horror show of murderous dead ends. I found the first two acts of this piece of Southern Gothic rather tedious, all told, even if the concept is interesting. Though this isn't hammered home, as I see it, two soldiers come back from WWII with an infection of evil (though not overtly supernatural). It infects the stretch of road between their two towns and mayhem ensues until one gets off the track. But this gets a little lost early on, where PTSD is manifested in religious imagery that reminds one particular veteran of his experiences. Christian zealotry is definitely in the crosshairs here, the preachers in particular up to no good (including Robert Pattinson and his amazing accent), but there's a serial killer who is manufacturing his own spiritual experiences. There's also a strict crime subplot, which loses focus. The third act, in which Tom Holland gets righteous on everyone's asses, almost saves the film - I've been going back and forth on this - but in the end, I was more bored than interested, so I have to dock it half a star.

Laundry as feminist statement. As patriarchal control. As closed society. As folk art. As a memory. As a reality. Roberta Cantow's 1977 documentary, Clotheslines, is essentially 32 minutes of footage/photos of clothes drying on the line and other laundry-related action, soundtracked with testimonials from different women discussing that shared experience, parts of which were already disappearing (and many would say, good riddance) thanks to home electronics. I definitely found the top of this fascinating. There's something entrancing about the poetics of the mundane. There's a lull for me in the middle when we move on to ironing - yes, I agree, I don't have much of a connection to a chore I hardly ever do (my mom would be horrified), but it's also the thinnest (is that a joke) element of the doc - with things picking up again when discussing the folding. But clotheslines as an artifact to be dissected? I'm all about that.

I always keep a box of tissues near when watching an Ozu film, but Late Autumn turned out to be a comedy... and it STILL got me. Well no surprise, Setsuko Hara never fails to break my heart, here as the widowed mother of a 24-year-old girl who refuses to get herself married despite the efforts of three old, meddling family friends. Mother and daughter (Yôko Tsukasa) are well matched in performance, making them a believable family unit, and Ozu revisits the clash between traditional and new Japan by telling a story of arranged marriages subverted by modern young women who are really deciding what happens. Monolithic establishing shots evoke not loneliness so much as autonomy. But while Ozu gets me weepy in the denouement, he also drew some laughs from me once I'd figured out the joke running through the film. It's a play on the title. This isn't late in autumn, it's an autumn that comes late, and similarly, the daughter is delaying her leaving home, her maturing if you will. The joke is that there are many restaurant and bar scenes in the film, and no matter what, the waiter or waitress has to apologize for making the patrons wait. Once I caught on and expected it to happen, it had me in stitches. Look, it's Ozu. Everything is understated, but somehow he gets emotions out of me. FAVORITE OF THE WEEK

Crossbreed is really in love with the Blade Runner aesthetic, and there are certainly worse things to model yourself after (in this case, also Alien and Star Wars, much less successfully), but the movie quickly turns into a boring and not very well shot shoot-em-up inside some kind of industrial space, where cookie-cutter mercs get offed one by one by some kind of alien hybrid. You've seen it a hundred times before, usually in a better guise. Too bad because it looked kind of cooler than that from the first few scenes. In true B-movie fashion, Vivica Fox is given a lot of real estate on the poster, but probably did a half-day's work as Earth's president. One of the Baldwins who isn't one of the main ones gets to play second banana to her. The more time I spent in this world, the less I cared about it, so when it sort of held out its hand to beg for a sequel at the end, I became a hardened Mr. Bumble to its Oliver Twist. Sorry guv, you didn't quite earn it.

Some classic MST3K movies, regardless of comedy commentary... The Rebel Set is a beat generation heist with an almost clever mastermind and a crime that's almost solved by a train conductor detective... you can almost dance to it, but not really. A Warhol triptych order Jaws to turn humanity into brittle androids in The Human Duplicators; they are as lifeless as the film (between the transporter and the similarities to What Are Little Girls Made Of?, did Gene Roddenberry see this a year before he made Star Trek?). Horrifyingly amateurish sound makes Monster-Go-Go an even more tedious drive-in teen trap than it already is, a boring almost monsterless monster movie. Mad Max meets 1984 in Warrior of the Lost World, but don't ask me what's happening or why... best guess is that unemotional people are fighting Donald Pleasence because he wants to make people unemotional? And Steve Reeves' first Hercules movie is really about... uhm... Jason, isn't it?

Role-playing: Our biweekly Star Trek Adventures session gives us an R&R/character-building episode, the techie B-plot to be announced next time. There were two things my character wanted to accomplish. One was dressing down but simultaneously promoting an officer who just didn't have faith in his leadership (Skoid was given a field promotion to Chief of Security). The exploration there was to see what the highly social Bolian could express as a management style. He's supposed to be super friendly and loved, but my OWN impulses are to feel aggravated by characters' shocking lack of respect (man, our chief engineer is a JERK, but not my problem to deal with necessarily). The second thing was to make a friend of the arrogant scientist who I've been extremely dismissive of 'til now (again, in character, but against my own reflexes), and I've found a way in, but resolving that conflict is really more of a button to put on the episode when it wraps in a future session. The character was also named official Morale Officer and in charge of integrating the extra 300 people the ship picked up before being stranded in the tail end of the Gamma Quadrant, but I really didn't want to role-play my admin plans for the ship. It's all in a report I wrote and sent to the group last week. Maybe I'll post it here sometime if I find a way to make it interesting to the reading public...


Anonymous said...

I hope you didn't spoil Enola Holmes. I'll just have to un-remember the review. Regardless- Always fun to read (and listen to) you!

Siskoid said...

I believe I calibrated it so it's just vague enough not to be a spoiler.

Aaron Morrow said...

Yes, the fact that there is a plot involving Enola’s mother is introduced in the first 5-15 minutes. I won’t spoil things by saying the in-universe reason I think the answer to your question is yes.
I found out that Enola Holmes: The Motion Picture was originally planned to be distributed to theaters by Warner; in retrospect, I suspect that’s why different aspects of the film (plot, cinematography, casting) seemed “better” to me than the average Netflix Original. I guess everyone wants sequels, though, and in this case I’m down for more.


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