Tuesday, May 30, 2017


Why in the world did I bother to watch The Expendables 3 (2014)? I wasn't that crazy about part 2. But Ms. Spenser was away for the weekend, and I wanted to watch something she wouldn't and this definitely fit the bill. She can't stand Stallone, mainly.

To dispose of the plot, it seems that Mel Gibson was not killed in whatever previous movie he was in (was he in one of these?). So Stallone wants to go after him, but not to risk the team, so he fires Statham, Couture, Lundren, and - whoever else is left over. He then spends the first chunk of the movie recruiting new (expendable) partners, including Ronda Rousey, and no one else I recognize. Antonio Banderas tries to get onboard, but he's too old (joke, I guess?). He's pretty funny though.

Of course, that mission fails, and the old team comes back, along with Jet Li, Harrison Ford, Arnold Schwartzenegger, and whoever else is around (not Bruce Willis, he's dead or retired or something).

Now, my Blu-ray was having trouble playing, so for 3 or 4 of the audition scenes, it froze up and skipped to the next scene. That's too bad, because I bet those fights were better than most of the rest. But it got me to the end faster, so I couldn't complain.

Why didn't I listen to Ms. S?

I had some time left over, so I streamed Monkey King (2014). I wasn't sure if I'd seen it, but it was so goofy, I'm sure I would have remembered. Donny Yen stars, in a furry suit and monkey makeup, and runs around on his knuckles, and it's all very weird. Anyway, I fell asleep a lot. I thought this was somehow related to Stephen Chow's Journey to the West, but it isn't at all (except some of the same source material).

Monday, May 29, 2017

Peculiar Children and Where to Find Them

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (2016) is a kid's movie (young adult?) taken from a kid's fantasy series. This kind of movie always attracts me, but often disappoints (Percy Jackson, e.g.). This one, directed by Tim Burton, pays off.

Asa Butterfield (Hugo) is an ordinary kid living in Florida, when he hears that his beloved grandfather is in trouble. He rushes to his place and finds him dead in the woods, with his eyes gouged out. He may also have spotted a monster.

All his life his grandfather (Terence Stamp) has told him stories of globe-trotting adventures, all centered around a special school, full of odd children, like invisible Millard or the boy who was full of bees. With his grandfather dead, he needs to go find that school. He convinces/guilts his parents (father, mainly - Chris O'Dowd, played as a truly awful parent who can barely tolerate his son) to take him to the island in Cornwall where the school is located.

When he gets there, it is a wreck, destroyed by German bombs in 1943. But some kids from the school appear and take him there, and it is still standing, because he is back in 1943. Semi-spoiler: Miss Peregrine resets time to the morning of the day of the bombing, just before the bombing. So, Harry Potter, plus Groundhog's Day? Maybe more like X-Men, since it's a school for mutants?

Miss P. herself (Eva Green) doesn't appear until the movie is quite a ways along, which is too bad, since she is a sultry pipe-smoking schoolmarm, who can turn into her namesake bird. Sadly underused. We get a lot more of Ella Burnell, as the girl who is lighter than air, who has to wear lead shoes so that she doesn't float away. Creepy Finlay McMillan is the kid who can bring dolls and corpses to life, is also taken with her, which should be a big conflict, but kind of gets lost. He is also the most Tim-Burtony thing in the movie - his stop-motion animated dolls in particular.

The big bad is semi-ubiquitous Samuel L. Jackson, who's actually pretty fun. All the children use their powers to attack him, and he just laughs them off - even the boy full of bees.

I couldn't help but compare this to Fantastic Beasts. In that movie, I liked the catalog part better than the actual story. In this, the story prevails over the list of peculiar characters. The mythology is rich with silly rules, powers, and names, like imbrain (?) and hollowghasts. I was a little put off by the hollowghasts - they are described as monsters running around Poland during WWII (and someone correctly opines that the monsters in Poland were human). But doesn't that name sound a little too close to Holocaust?

Anyway, I wasn't really following the mythos. The time-jumping was handled more or less smoothly. In fact the whole thing went down smoothly. I understand that the movies do serious damage to the books, but I didn't read them, so that's just as well. I don't know if they will happen, but I will watch a sequel.

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Other Halloween II

We watched Halloween II (2009) because we liked the John Carpenter original, and I didn't notice that this was the sequel to the Rob Zombie reboot. Damn it!

It starts, we must assume, right after the events of the previous movie (which we didn't see). Sheriff Brad Dourif takes Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton) away from the horrors. In the hospital, she tries to go see her friend, Annie (Danielle Harris), who also survived the attack, although both of them are horribly injured. Then the blood starts to flow, and Michael Myers is back.

This is pretty brutal. Aside from the slashing and stabbing, our heroine has multiple broken bones to start with. There's no one around to help, and if anyone shows up, they get killed horribly. At one point, Laurie lands on a dumpster full of corpses. Other than that, this was pretty good.

Laurie is now living with the Sheriff and his daughter Annie. Annie has some bad facial scars, but Laurie is a mental wreck. Full of anxiety, popping pills and fighting with her psychiatrist, plus filling her room with tacky punk rock paraphernalia.

She works with Annie in a funky vintage shop, rocking out to Kick Out the Jams and goofing on the old hippy manager. She seems to have a fun life, except for the PTSD. She even goes out with her friends to a Halloween party when she is at her lowest point.

That is brought on by Malcolm McDowell, the doctor from the first movie (which we didn't see). He has cashed in on his encounter by writing a book, and he is in town promoting it. He is a horrible person, insulting and egotistical. He also reveals something about Laurie without telling her. Hence, her very bad day.

The party, however, is a very good party, with a great band, Captain Clegg and the Night Creatures. This is Jesse Dayton's shock-a-billy band, and they've got some great songs. I wished they were for real, not just for the movie. We'd listen to them any time.

There's also this thing where Michael Myers as a young boy and his mother and a white horse and ... never mind. My big take-aways:

  • Not a bad story
  • Laurie is very annoying
  • WAY too gory

Sunday, May 21, 2017

North Pole, Damn It!

Emperor of the North (1973) is a funny kind of film, brutal and funny. It starts in the 1920s with a train coming through a hobo camp, but most of the 'bos were to scared to hop aboard. When one manages, Ernest Borgnine, the train's captain named Shack, sneaks up behind him with a short-handled hammer and knocks him off. We see half a hobo on each side of a rail as the train passes by, then the credits roll.

Later, Lee Marvin, hobo A-Number-One, does manage to get on that train, but Keith Carradine, Cigarette, tags along behind and Borgnine spots him. Marvin realizes that they are screwed. He's a cynical old-timer. Carradine just brags that he's too smart to get caught. He's a young man full of talk and himself.

They make it out of the train through a dangerous trick, but Carradine is caught. The yardmen (including Elisha Cook, Jr!) don't believe he rode the that train, because Borgnine "would rather kill a man than let him ride free." They figure anyone who knows Borgnine will bet no one could ride his train, and then they'll reveal that someone has. In the commotion Carradine slips away.

Meanwhile, Marvin is convinced that if he can ride Borgnine's train to Portland, he'll be the greatest hobo in the land, the "Emperor of the North Pole." So he chalks his trips up on the watertower and the race is on. Will he make the trip? Will Carradine get to tag along? Will Borgnine kill one or both of them?

Robert Aldrich is a great choice to direct this, since he's a legendary tough guy, who directed Marvin and Borgnine in The Dirty Dozen. I associate him with the noir Kiss Me Deadly, but he did lots of fine color work. This has a clean, direct look, very well suited to the beautiful Oregon scenery and fine looking locomotives. It's full of that quaint old hobo feel, with Marvin's clever tricks - that endanger or kill more people than you might expect. Also, Borgnine is terrifying - teeth bared in a grimace, eyes bulging out of his head - not the McHale I remember.

I suspect the uneven tone is entirely intentional: The life of a hobo is romantic, free, and brutal.

My only complaint is the title: It was originally Emperor of the North Pole, which was puzzling, but made sense in context. Emperor of the North is just as puzzling, but makes no sense. I guess they were afraid people would think it's about Santa Claus.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Rogue Like

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) had one job - to explain why a Death Star would blow up from one little missile in the exhaust port. It succeeds brilliantly.

It starts with Gregoryc Orso (Mads Mikkelson) being dragged off of his farm by Commander Fenwick to work on the Death Star, leaving his little daughter hiding behind. She grows up to be Felicity Jones

We find this out when Rebel agent Prince Caspian (Diego Luna) rescues her and Imperial pilot and defector Buddy (Riz Ahmed) from being taken to Imperial prison. Then they all take off with a reprogrammed Imperial droid KRS-One (Alan Tudyk).

OK, I'll stop with the jokey names. But seriously, that's about how much of the dramatis personae I was picking up. I also got kind of lost between all the planets the story visited, but they all looked great so I am not complaining. The story turns out to be simple. The Rebels are beginning to hear rumors about a planet-destroying megaweapon. But Jones' dad has secretly built a tiny flaw into the reactor core, and the Rebels need to get the plans to exploit it.

The planets are cool. The main characters are fun. The droid is great, a Star Wars version of Marvin from Hitchhiker's Guide. Later on, we get a blind mystic kung fu master, Donnie Yen, who chants "The Force is with me" like it was "Namu Myoho Renge Kyo", along with his big-gun badass buddy Jiang Wen. Forrest Whittaker plays Saw Gerrara, the radical revolutionary, almost a throw-away. It would be nice to see more, but -SPOILER- I don't think we will.

Right now, I'd say I enjoyed this more than Ep. 7, maybe more than any Star Wars movie since Ep. 4. I liked the rich texture, the cities and the crowds, the scenic planets. It hit all the Star Wars notes, but still stayed fresh, with only a few hints of R2-D2 and C3-PO, plus a digitally rejuvenated Princess. Oh, and the late Christopher Plummer plays Tarkin by CGI - tasteful, but looks a bit video game.

And Mr. Vader gets a great scene at the end, whooping it up with the force. All in all, a very satisying movie.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Priests and Preachers

We saw Priest (2011), thinking it was the movie version of the TV series Preacher.  You can see how that might work - similar names, both based on comics, both involving vampires. Never mind. Netflix has been recommending this forever, and we would have surrendered eventually.

It starts with an animated introduction, about how mankind had always fought the vampires, but finally, the church had found the ultimate weapon: Priests. These human fighting machines had put the last remaining vampires in reservations. The priests were then retired, to live in obscurity. We then see the last bit of the war, where Priest Karl Urban (Bones!) gets sucked into the hive and Paul Bettany can't hold on to him.

Then, a little family farm in the wastelands of Texas is overrun by vampires, and we're done with the setup. Bettany is living in a Metropolis/Bladerunner city, when the young sheriff comes to tell him his brother's farm had been attacked. Although he's retired, and the Church refuses to let him go, he reluctantly heads out for vengeance, and to save his niece, Lilly Collins, who is being held captive.

It takes a while to figure out, but these vampires aren't regular vampires. They are not undead humans, but CGI eyeless, hairless creatures. There are weird looking humans as well, called familiars, but they aren't really explained. But the leader seems to be ... Karl Urban, in Sergio Leone drag, with fangs! It turns out he is the first of a new race of human-vampire hybrids. He is using the girl to lure Bettany to get either revenge, or to enlist him as another vamp.

This is kind of mixed up. There's a Searchers sub-plot, where the sheriff fears that Bettany is going to kill Collins if she has been "polluted". But up to now, we haven't seen these vamps turn anyone except Urban. They just eat people. So what are they thinking? Am I misunderstanding the mythos? Are the writers?

Never mind, that's not what's important. What's important is Paul Bettany with a huge cross tattooed on his face. Turbine engine motorcycles racing across the desert towards huge Babel-sized vamp hives. Bad-ass long coats. Karl Urban in a cowboy hat and serape (looking so much lie Deforest Kelley - remember, he was in a lot of westerns). Crucixes used as shuriken. You know, comicbook stuff.

So, it was fun, but not that much fun. We'll see what the Preacher TV series is like.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Curse of the Night

Night of the Demon/Curse of the Demon (1957)  is a Jacques Tourneur horror film, with a twist - you get to see the monster. Not like in Cat People!

It starts with Professor Harrington begging a begging Dr. Karswell (Niall MacGinnis) to lift the curse, saying that he is sorry to have doubted him. Karswell, a chubby fellow with a beard like a billy goat, makes some soothing noises and gets rid of him, and goes back to playing cribbage with his mother. In a shocking development, we see a huge monster appear and kill him.

Now, American Dana Andrews is arriving in England to present at a conference about psychology (?), and to debunk Karswell's satanic cult. At the same time, Peggy Cummins, Professor Harrington's niece has also arrived.

It seems that Karswell can place a curse on you by slipping you a piece of paper without your knowledge. Your only hope is to sneak it back into the cursor's possession. Andrews starts out laughing and gets more and more spooked. Karswell starts out looking like a joke and gets scarier and scarier. Andrews and Cummins go to meet him and find him dressed as a clown, doing magic tricks for the local kids. When Andrews and Cummins don't take him seriously, he conjures a fierce storm - still done up in clown makeup. It's quite a scene.

The horror is real, but mostly psychological. We never meet more than one or two of the supposed cultists, and they aren't very impressive. But the way Tourneur builds suspense, conveying the inevitability of the curse, is masterful.

This isn't as great as some of the Lewton-produced Tourneur, but it's pretty good.

Viewing note: The two movies on this disc are the original, Night, and a cut-down version, Curse. At 95 minutes, the long version is short enough.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Don't Crush that Dwarf!

Phantasm (1979) is the latest in the horror retrospective, sponsored by Ms. Spenser. We've enjoyed several of Don Coscarelli's movies, especially Bubba Ho-Tep and John Dies at the End. But we hadn't seen his classic horror, so I queued it up.

It starts with a guy getting laid in a cemetery. The beautiful woman on top of him them proceeds to kill him with a knife, momentarily turning into a tall ugly man (Angus Scrimm) in the process. the next day we meet Bill Thornbury, the dead guy's buddy, and his teen brother, Michael Baldwin. Their parents were killed and Thornbury moved back home to raise his kid brother. Now his buddy died and he is getting ready to go to the funeral. Little Michael spies on the ceremony and sees the tall man lifting a coffin into the hearse as if it weighed nothing. That's his first clue that something isn't right. Also, that coffin was supposed to be buried.

He decides to investigate further, and breaks into the the funeral home to check it out. He is attacked by tiny people in Jawa robes, but fights them off. Then, in a marble-lined columbarium (look it up, that's the word), the tall man spots him and sends a horrible weapon after him: a flying chrome ball with hooks on it that latches onto your face, drill a hole in your head, and drains the blood out a spout in the back.

If you know anything about this movie, you know about the chrome ball thing. It is one the posters, along with Scrimm's face. But notice that we have now seen several menaces from the tall man:
  • Super strong
  • Turns into a sexy lady and kills guys while having sex in the graveyard
  • Attack dwarves
  • Flying kill-ball
I kind of fell like that is too many threats, with no central theme.

There are some other weird deadends in the movie. For ex, the kid goes to a fortune teller who basically gives him the Gom Jabbar test from Dune - "Fear is the mind killer". Since big brother hangs out at the Dune Cantina, you think this is leading to something, but it isn't. Still, it's kind of cool.

I guess the series is most famous for it's semi-surreal, dream-like quality, and maybe also it's extreme cheapness. Fair enough, but my favorite parts were Thornbury just being a guy, maybe a little rebellious, dreaming about leaving town, picking up out-of-town women at the Dune, playing music with his friend, Reggie Bannister. Actually, they play pretty well together - I wouldn't have minded a few more scenes of that. At least, we get plenty of Reggie, who plays an ice cream man, and wears a natty bow tie for a lot of the movie.

Another nice point is that the kid has real proof of the whole thing, and Thornbury and Bannister believe him pretty much right off.

Ms. Spenser's favorite part, however, was the sweet, black 1971 Hemi 'Cuda that the brothers are restoring. She digs them muscle cars.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Crying Wolf

i'm sure I have mentioned the happy years we spent in the early 80s, watching Japanese movies at the Coolidge Corner Theater in Brookline. We'd get a season's pass and watch one or two double bills a week. We only watched one Lone Wolf and Cub (1972) film, and actually didn't care that much for it. But I thought I'd give it another try.

It stars Tomisaburo Wakayama as the Lone Wolf. He starts out as the shogun's executioner - actually, his official "second", the person who decapitates someone when they commit seppuku. This relieves them of the agony of disembowelment, and also makes sure they are dead, so someone condemned to kill themselves can't wimp out. He gets embroiled in political intrigue, and his wife is killed. Then he is framed in a plot to kill the Shogun, and forced to go on the run with his infant son.

He first gives the kid a choice. He sets out a ball and a sword. If the boy picks the ball, he will be sent to join his mother (in Heaven). If he chooses the the sword, he will join his father on the road to Hell - revenge. Since he picks the sword, our hero and the boy will roam Japan, seeking revenge.

In this installment, he heads for a hot springs that has been taken over by criminals. The first person he meets is a crazy woman who thinks that his baby is hers, and nursing him. This is an odd mix of eroticism, maternity, and madness - it all adds up to exploitation. That mood gets worse when the bad guys force Lone Wolf  to publicly semi-rape a prostitute to degrade them both. He does so with such gentle manliness that she falls in love with him.

Then he kills everyone, the end.

There's a lot of sordid sex and ultra-violence in these movies. There's a lot of zen warrior philosophy, with Wolf reminding Cub that they were already dead, so there is nothing to be afraid of. This is a very stylish movie, as well as a silly one (come on, killer baby carriage?). It was fun to watch, but we only watched the first movie - there were two one the first disc - and we probably won't order any more. That kind of confirms what we thought the first time around.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Fantastic Find

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016) is not a Harry Potter film, but it is a "prequel". It mostly had a different feel - goofier - and we liked that.

It's set in America, 1920s. Wizard Eddie Redmayne arrives on these shores with a suitcase full of fantastic beasts, with a wonky latch. He soon meets up with Dan Fogler (Balls of Fury), a regular guy who is looking for a loan to start a bakery. He has a suitcase full of pastry samples. These suitcases don't get mixed up - yet. But I did get a yearning for a kolache.

When they are watching a group of anti-witchcraft fanatics, they attract the attention of Katherine Waterston, a spunky agent for the Magical Congress (FBI for magic) - in disgrace, we learn later. After some fun with beasts, magic, and a bank vault, they all hide out at Waterston's place where we meet her telepathic sister, Samantha Morton. Morton plays the sister with a Marilyn Monroe whisper, and is a great magical cook. Soon, her and Fogler are making eyes. But Redmayne is on a mission, and Waterston doesn't trust him.

This, in my mind, is the fun part of the movie. The sweet love affair between a chubby no-maj (American for muggle) and gorgeous telepath, the prickly screwball attraction between Redmayne and Waterston, the goofy monsters in the suitcase (which holds a whole menagerie - bigger on the inside).

But there is also the "real" story: Magical politician Colin Farrell (who is in everything, it seems) is trying to weaponize an invisible beast created by the frustrated magic of the fundamentalist anti-witchcraft folk. This gives us a set of villains, which I guess is important. When this crew scapegoats Redmayne and friends, they all get the death penalty, so, stakes. But I just didn't care much about all this. I wanted to get back to the fun part, with Redmayne trying to re-capture a floopasaurus by doing a silly mating dance, or Fogler getting involved in another heist.

Of course, the "dark" part is the most Harry-Potter feeling - and also carries the "message" of acceptance. But it doesn't really fit with the sillier tone of the Redmayne/Waterston/Fogler/Morton sections.

I should also say that Redmayne looks great in the part but wildly overplays the shy deference - he keeps his eyes averted to an excessive degree. Fogler, on the other hand, was spot on, right out of a 30s screwball - like Billy Gilbert without the sneeze gag.  I said some mean things about him (second-rate Jack Black, more or less) and I take them all back. Samantha Morton is something else too.

So, yeah, we'll be watching all the sequels.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Train in Vain

Someone on TV mentioned famous action movie The Train (1964) so we queued it up. I had heard about it from The Projection Booth podcast - Burt Lancaster got John Frankenheimer to direct after having good luck with him in Birdman of Alcatraz. And someone called it the first of "One Man Army" movie. All good signs.

It takes place in France near the end of WWII. Nazi officer Paul Scofield as been collecting "degenerate" art in a museum outside Paris: Degas, Renoir, Picasso, Dufy, Gauguin, van Gogh, and on and on. As the Allies advance on Paris, he plans to pack them up and load them on a train to Germany. Burt Lancaster is a French dispatcher (?) at a the yard near the museum. He has to follow the German's orders, but Scofield's general won't release a train for mere art, and refuses to cut orders for the train.

It seems this is loosely based on a true story. In the real world, the French Resistance used German bureaucracy, red tape, and paperwork to keep the train from getting out of Paris. In the movie, Scofield gets it moving, dragooning irrascible, fat old Papa Boule (Michel Simon) as the engineer. Burt and the rest of the gang fear that this will get him in serious trouble and they are right. But that's just the beginning.

The movie starts a little slow, but there are some amazing set pieces - when the train stops at the first station, Lancaster sneaks off like a ninja and hides in Jeanne Moreau's hotel, who's pretty pissed about it. Burt Lancaster does most of his own stunts, and gets shot in the leg in towards end to account for a limp he picked up golfing.

But this really doesn't play like an action movie. It plays like an art movie. It is filmed in black-and-white, and is full of gorgeous compositions - lines of soldiers next to long trains making diagonals in perspective, harshly lit faces in night-time scenes, empty stations - some of the scenes reminded me of de Chirico more than Picasso or Renoir. There's an almost Last Year at Marienbad quality to some of it. This makes the almost-Hogan's-Heroes prank in the middle a little disconcerting.

I've never been a big Burt Lancaster fan, but he makes a good Frenchman here, and his athleticism helps out in the action scenes. But we mostly liked it for the cinematography.

In conclusion, they got the shots of the railyard getting bombed by actually blowing up a railyard that was scheduled for demolition. Saved the railway some money!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Title Says It All

Zen Noir (2016) is a very silly movie, and not very long. It may be very deep, I wouldn't know. But I'm glad Netflix suggested it.

It starts with a detective. We know he's a detective, because he wears a hat. The gun and bottle of booze on the table are also clues. His phone rings and someone says, "Get to the temple. Someone is going to die." When he finally finds the Zen temple, he busts in on three monks meditating, and one corpse. "Don't anybody move!"

So, if you think a guy with a gun telling a group of people meditating, "Don't move!" is funny, then you'll like this movie.

The temple is pretty small: dead Chinese guy, young Caucasian man, cute (bald) dame, and old wise man (Kim Chan) - maybe wise guy is closer, because every time the detective asks him a question, he pulls out an orange. In fact, oranges are a theme in this movie. We see repeated close-ups of an orange burning, or being chopped up.

There are also almost no sets - the detectives room, one or two nondescript rooms at the temple, a few flashbacks of Malibu. Only five characters. The movie is 71 minutes long, and a lot of that is burning orange padding. Still, it has jokes and koans, a mystery that is solved, and even the orange thing pays off.

Ok, maybe some of the laughs are cheap (sexy bald dame isn't a monk, she's a layperson. That's a person who can get laid). And I don't think anyone will be enlightened watching this. Mostly, it's a cute story for an audience of (mainly) American students of Zen - like us! So we liked it. We give thanks to writer/director Marc Rosenbush who made this sucker on a shoestring and a mantra. It's Zen and it's Noir.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Not Afraid

Ms. Spenser wanted to see some Guillermo del Toro, so I looked to see what was on Netflix that we hadn't watched. I immediately queued up Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (2011), and Netflix put it in the mail just that quick. Even before I noticed that del Toro did not direct - he co-wrote. Oh well. I also didn't realize it was a remake.

It starts creepily enough, with an old man calling his maid down to the basement. He kills her with a hammer and chisel and puts her teeth as an offering in a stove. Then something pulls him in and down into the ashpit.

But that was in the past. In the present day, Guy Pearce and his girlfriend Katie Holmes live in the house. They are refurbing the house, and have all their money and professional reputation tied up in it. His ex-wife sends their young daughter (Bailee Madison) to live with them - and doesn't care what they or her think about it.

She thinks the place is pretty creepy, and doesn't exactly warm to Mom's girlfriend, but seems like she's willing to work with what she's got. She's on some kind of medication, so maybe she has some problems, but they don't seem too severe. When she hears voices in the walls, she thinks they might be fun to play with, but they are not.

The gremlins start making trouble, which Bailee gets blamed for. They scare her, which makes her seem unstable. In the original 1973 TV movie this is a remake of, it is the wife, Kim Darby, who is threatened, who everyone thinks is crazy. Women and children, we never believe them, especially in horror movies.

I thought this was all pretty scary, although -minor spoiler- when we see the creatures, they are kind of silly. Ms. Spenser was not impressed. I still owe her a scary movie.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Who Knows What Evil?

We watched What We Do in the Shadows (2015) in part to prep for Thor: Ragnarok, to be directed by Taika Waititi (who directed What We Do...). Also, it looked like fun - a documentary about four New Zealand flatmates who happen to be vampires.

Waititi himself is sort of the lead character. He's a dandy, a bit fussy, about 300 years old. Jonny Brugh's is a sexy vampire - at least he thinks so. Jermaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords) is the bad-boy leather jacket type of vampire. Brugh and Clement don't do chores, which leads to some friction in the flat. There's one more (Ben Fransham), but he is a Nosferatu - just growls and drinks blood. They don't even try to get him to do chores. He's a thousand years old anyway.

This sort of starts out kind of predictable - flatmates can't get along AND they're vampires! Also, vampires are supposed to be scary, but these guys are kind of pathetic. There's an extended scene about their clubbing activities. They dress up in their vampire finery and look kind of goofy. They go to the hot clubs, but can't go in because the bouncers won't invite them. Their usual hangout is a sad empty dump, where they dance listlessly. It's well done, so we didn't mind that it was a little predictable.

There's a recurring motif of the vampires knitting or playing music together. Like in The Hunger, but instead of lovely chamber music, it's bloody awful trumpet and balalaika.

But it gets better. First, they run into trouble with their Renfield, Jackie van Beek, who they need to scrub the blood off the floors. Then, they accidentally turn a civilian (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer) into a vampire, and he's just a little too into it. He also has a mate, Stu (Stu Rutherford), who is not a vampire, and they all agree not to eat him, even though he has a very ruddy complexion and is probably full of delicious blood.

Stu is an ordinary boring bloke who works as a computer consultant. He's kind of shy and quiet, and I think this is because he is played by an actual computer consultant. He showed up thinking he was going to work on the computers and they put him in the film.

This is a very improvised movie, and it kind of shows. But it also has an arc, stuff happens that has consequences and isn't just erased for the next joke. But also, plenty of jokes - there seems to be a particular type of New Zealander humor about the low standards you have to put up with in a small isolated country. But what do I know? I've never been. Too many vampires, I hear.