This Week in Geek (15-21/06/24)


In theaters: If you suffer from anxiety, 1) Inside Out 2 creates a pretty fair representation of what happens inside your head within the rules and lore set up in the first film, and 2) you'll be wondering why only teenagers have it (and the other "complex" emotions that arrive with puberty). The latter is addressed, actually, but the psychology in Inside Out is necessarily simplification + puns. The crux of it is that Riley's mental state is in upheaval when it hits and the emotions are flooded with new people with new (and to Joy) dangerous ideas about how to run things. It's certainly more relatable to adult audiences because those feelings are probably more foundational than "joy" and "disgust", honestly. Riley's sense of self is tested as she starts to worry about what other people think of her, which could have been a whole "Mean Girls" thing, popularity in school rigmarole, but making it a sports story instead (or arguably, in addition) is a good twist. Certainly some fine hockey action here. Ultimately, the statement about repression and mental health is valuable, and there are a lot of laughs along the way, especially as pertains to the weird allies Joy & crew get help from.

At home: 1989, senior year, wait, this sounds familiar. that was MY senior year! In Lisa Frankenstein, director Zelda Williams and writer Diablo Cody bring the fringe teenage wasteland of the era with a colorful-but-Goth coming of age romantic comedy - kind of a bubblegum Beetlejuice - that leans into the high-concept movies of the era (think Weird Science meets Heathers), supported by a great late 80s indie soundtrack (in fact, I'm probably going to listen to this one for a bit). Kathryn Newton is Lisa, a child of trauma, trying to fit in with a new stepfamily and new school (but not very hard), her power unlocked by the undead corpse of Byronic youth who she helps find body parts. Macabre, but often very funny (especially the arch satire of the high school experience). It would be true to say the movie is a bit of a Frankenstein's Monster itself, with echoes of different films (the aforementioned, but also Jennifer's Body, Scream, Méliès, The Corpse Bride, and non-horror teen comedies), never mind Mary Shelley's novel and the Universal movies based on it, but it's an original remix of those ideas that make for a cool, fun, dark fairy tale.

Though I know it was a target for MST3K's first non-network season, Phase IV a "cheesy movie, the worst we can find". Rather, it's a little as if you crossed 2001: A Space Odyssey with The Andromeda Strain and Empire of the Ants. The cosmic event has happened and ants have started evolving a higher intelligence. Two scientists - the amoral Nigel Davenport and empathetic Michael Murphy (to name them by their actors) - set a lab up in the desert to study them. There ARE fearsome ant attacks, but it's mostly a slow-paced scientific procedural, supported by a lot of close-up nature photography. And I do mean a LOT. There are times when you wonder if there are any humans or if this is a documentary. But it's an expertise that comes in handy when it's us versus them (or Them!, if you prefer). And because the year is 1974, it's of course heading for a depressing twist ending that, in this case, might make you want a Phase V to solve the mystery.

William Klein's Mr. Freedom is one of those satires that is so relentless, it comes off as loud and over-obvious, but its weirdness scores it a few points. Mr. Freedom himself is a trigger-happy, white nationalist, hyper-patriot in sports gear, brainwashed on the regular by Donald Pleasance (DOCTOR Freedom) and since this is a French movie, sent to France to investigate what happened to their neo-fascist hero Capitaine Formidable and deal with the Reds - with the help of Formidable's sidekick played by Delphine Seyrig (and now you know why I sought this out). Other well-known faces from French-language cinema appear, but often dubbed into English. Film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum once wrote that it was "conceivably the most anti-American movie ever made" and that distinction may still stand over 50 years later, so don't expect the title character to have some kind of redemption. He and his network are rotten to the core. What's most shocking is that 1968 is basically today, politically, and that the movie's satire is still relevant. What's most STRIKING is the design elements - also credited to Klein, who is, after all, principally a photographer - that include big, bold colors and superheroes built out of balloons.

My Companion Film of the week features Matthew "Adric" Waterhouse, and it's the only option... The Killing Edge is kind of as if The Road were terrible, and the "killer robots" in all the online descriptions probably came from someone thinking the "Terminators" were a reference to the James Cameron franchise. In fact, they're just soldiers working British suburbanites in camps in the only "green valley" left after they dropped the bomb. The plot amounts to the protagonist, a postapocalyptic Odysseus returning home after the war, meeting random people, befriending them (except the murderous, thieving Matthew Waterhouse, coming right off his stint in Doctor Who - so not much of a difference), and then seeing them get killed. It's bleak, which is fine, but deathly boring, which is not. A lot of people standing around in fields, and playing with airsoft guns. The main dude talks soulfully with a teddy bear, and that's about as interesting as it gets. Otherwise, it's very cheap, badly choreographed, and gets a lot of details wrong, like his house being deserted and untouched, despite being in a town awash in scroungers and army slavers. This is also movie that shows us nuclear winter on a bright sunny day - in other words, it doesn't know why dropping the bomb would create winter conditions.  When he finds his family, they seem to step right out of his flashbacks (and boy, are there are a lot of these - well, the same ones), so I thought it was a hallucination at first. But no. I'm really not sure what story they were telling here. Press snooze, wake me when it's safe to walk out of my bunker.

Books: Volume 1 of The World of Black Hammer collects two of Jeff Lemire's mini-series spinning out of Black Hammer, together spanning decades and deepening our sense of the world's history. Sherlock Frankenstein & the Legion of Evil has the future Black Hammer II interviewing villains who might help complete the picture of the day the heroes (and her dad) disappeared during Cris--I mean, the Cataclysm. it sets up a lot of Age of Doom. Doctor Andromeda and the Kingdom of Lost Tomorrows is a more stand-alone tale about BH's answer to Green Lantern, in which he comes to terms with ruining his family life with his superheroics. It's, like, really sad, folks. As usual, part of the joy IS discovering new twists on old ideas - Black Hammer is very much the DC/Marvel universes remixed and unmoored from continuity concerns - but there are also a lot of original ideas, usually growing out of bad puns brought to life by artists Dean Ormston and  David Rubín. You can read Age of Doom before these and still understand what's going on, you'll get more out of it with this in the mix.