Pixar bucks their usual style but still delivers a solid movie.
Before I saw this movie, I was greeted by the headline “Why is Pixar bad now?” I admit that this seemed like a completely ridiculous question, given that their last film, Soul, felt like one of the best films Pixar ever put out, but it definitely made me very concerned about this movie. However, having now seen it, that title seems to have been completely clickbait. While I don’t think that this will rank among their most outstanding films, I still think this was a well-done film. It doesn’t follow most of the traditional Pixar formula, in the sense that it mostly stays in the primary location and doesn’t have much of an actual “journey,” nor does it have much in the way of supporting comic relief, but it is still a solid film that has strong emotional moments and a decent number of subversions.
The story starts with a feeling of familiarity as we see a family of “sea monsters” with a young son, Luca Paguro (Jacob Tremblay), who is fascinated with the surface world. Similar to a famous redheaded mermaid, his parents, Daniela and Lorenzo (Maya Rudolph and Jim Gaffigan), forbid him from journeying to the land and tell him to continue herding goatfish. Luca soon meets another sea monster, Alberto (Jack Dylan Grazer), who actually lives on an island off of the coast of Italy. It turns out that when sea monsters dry out, they become humans.
Alberto is also fascinated with humans and the surface world, particularly the image of a Vespa. The two become close friends and eventually journey to the human city of Portorosso, where they befriend a young girl named Giulia (Emma Berman) and her father Massimo (Marco Barricelli). They hope to help Giulia with her dream of winning the Portorosso triathlon and, in the process, to win themselves a Vespa. The only thing stopping them is the local bully Ercole (Saverio Raimondo) and, oh yeah, the fact that everyone in the town hunts sea monsters and water changes them from human back to sea monster.
This movie is much lighter in tone than many of Pixar’s other films, focusing mostly on childish hijinx that, while entertaining, often seem less important than say, WALL-E trying to appreciate art or the Incredibles dealing with the fact that they can’t be their true selves. The film reminds me a little of Onward in that I didn’t anticipate it having much of an emotional weight to it, but then basically blindsided me with a series of really strong moments that felt all the heavier because the film had been so light up until then. While it doesn’t have the “toys embracing the inevitable death because they’re together” kind of dark points, it manages to give the audience some strong shots to the gut.
In terms of animation, this movie is beautiful. It’s supposed to be a blend of Fellini and Miyazaki and I think they nailed that aesthetic. The film is set in the 1960s (although advertised as the 1950s for some reason), and the imagery of the seaside Italian village from that period is breathtaking. The cinematography is outstanding, particularly the many scenes involving the characters transitioning from ocean to land and the scenes of the characters traversing the city on bicycles.
Well, I made a list of fictional moms, so it only seems fair to do a list of fictional dads. Just like before, I picked a number, in this case 6, then picked 4 at random from a list of fictional fathers. These aren’t the “best” fathers, but they’re the ones I remember.
THE “CHANGE-OF-LIFE DAD” AWARD
George Banks (Steve Martin in Father of the Bride and Father of the Bride Part II)
We only see George Banks at two points in his life. First, when he finds out that his 22-year-old daughter is going to marry a man she only has known for six months. Despite the fact that George doesn’t particularly like his new potential son-in-law, it becomes obvious that he just always loved her being “daddy’s girl” and doesn’t want that to change. Still, by the end of the first movie, he’s accepted that it’s part of life that your kids will leave, but that they’ll still love him. The second time we see George, it’s as he becomes a grandfather and, at the same time, a father again. Managing to panic simultaneously about being too young to be a grandfather and too old to be a father, George really embodies two natural fears of most men at the same time.
Steve Martin’s performance in these films always managed to be hilarious while not being disingenuous. The things that George is feeling are the things that many people in his position would feel. Despite that, he is a loving, caring father and a decent husband, though his wife, Nina (Diane Keaton), is pretty much better than him at dealing with anything. George isn’t perfect, but he’s pretty real. Also, every scene of him bonding with his kids over basketball is gold.
THE “DAD YOU LEAST WANT TO MESS WITH” AWARD
William Munny (Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven)
Unforgiven is one of the best Westerns ever made, because it’s the anti-Western. Everything that always seemed noble and idealistic about the Western Genre is run through a blender and mixed in with heavy doses of reality. The central bounty in the movie, for example, is offered by a group of prostitutes after a man disfigures one of them for laughing at the size of his genitals. Not something I remember from Roy Rogers.
The main character of the film, William Munny, is a retired gunman who is convinced to take up the bounty because otherwise he’ll lose the farm and his children’s future. In order to spare his kids from ever having to do what he’s done, Munny tracks down the cowboys. However, at the end of the film, he has to face down an entirely different posse to ensure his family’s safety and to avenge a fallen comrade. The movie, which up until this point has gone out of the way to say that there is no “cowboy who rides into town and faces down a posse without dying” then proceeds to show Munny doing EXACTLY THAT. He kills a dozen men brutally all by himself, then returns home to his family, where he, again, swears off killing.
THE “BEST DAD, WORST HUSBAND” AWARD
Daniel Hillard (Robin Williams in Mrs. Doubtfire)
Daniel Hillard isn’t the best husband. He basically dumps every responsibility in the marriage on his wife and it really isn’t that surprising when she can’t take it anymore. Due to his instability, he’s only allowed limited time with his children, something that doesn’t sit well with him, but that anyone in social work would probably agree with. But, rather than, you know, working on getting a better job or making a better home environment for his kids, he decides to A) gaslight the hell out of his now-ex-wife and B) dress up as a 60-year-old English woman and be the children’s nanny. These are not the responses of a person who you want watching over kids, something the movie flat-out tells you when a judge restricts his custody further after he’s exposed.
There’s no doubt that Daniel loves his kids. At one point he compares them to air, because he can’t live without them. And that’s really the biggest redeeming thing in the movie. As Daniel says, he can only admit that his actions were crazy because he could not live in a world where he didn’t see his kids more and, being a creative person rather than a logical one, this was the best solution he could come up with. With almost any other actor, I think this movie would fail, but Robin Williams never wavers on this being a man doing what he thinks is right. So, yeah, he went overboard, but he’s still a pretty good father, especially by the end of the movie, where he’s finally taking more responsibility for his parenting.
THE “DAD WHO DEFINED OVERBOARD” AWARD
Clark W. Griswold (Chevy Chase in the Vacation Films)
Clark W. Griswold dreams big. Everything he does has to be big and bright and extreme, but it’s all because that’s how he thinks family’s bond. Credit to him, by the end of every film, the family does seem to be pretty tightly-knit, although his kids are usually recast by the next movie. From amusement parks to Europe to Vegas, Clark takes his family on wild adventures that often result in some form of legal trouble and marital strife, and it’s almost always directly his fault. And when they stay home for Christmas, well, as his wife Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo) notes “we’re all in hell.”
However, the best thing about Clark, for me, will always be his rants. Usually, at some point in the movie, something will go wrong that isn’t Clark’s fault, and Clark will snap. These are typically so hilarious that even the cast has trouble pretending to be scared by Clark’s conduct, rather than laughing their asses off. I end this entry with a quote from the best one: “Hallelujah! Holy Shit! Where’s the Tylenol?”
THE “CUTEST PAIR OF POPS” AWARD
Cameron Tucker and Mitchell Pritchett (Eric Stonestreet and Jesse Tyler Ferguson on Modern Family)
Cam and Mitchell are adorable. Mitch is an uptight, introverted, worrywart who is overly focused on work and his father’s approval while Cam is the free-spirit who loves to go out and make friends. Hell, any photo of the two of them kind of makes it obvious. Mitch usually wears something conservative while Cam’s outfit’s a little more flamboyant. I love the hell out of Cam’s shirts, too. Despite this, Mitchell is often the more sensitive when dealing with confrontation while Cam, who is a former football player for University of Illinois, is more blunt and willing to use his intimidating size. However, as cute as they are in their “opposites attract” marriage, they’re better as parents.
Cam and Mitch adopt their Vietnamese daughter, Lily, at the beginning of the series, and from then on are two loving fathers, constantly doting on their little bundle of joy. While Lily didn’t speak for the first two seasons, after she starts verbalizing, she quickly starts to pick up the funniest parts of both of her fathers: Cam’s over-the-top drama queen emoting and Mitch’s sarcasm and wit. The two often run into conflicts over how they want to raise their daughter, with Cam being more experimental and Mitch being more traditional, but they ultimately manage to give their daughter the best of both worlds.
THE “DAD EVERYONE SHOULD TRY TO BE” AWARD
Andy Taylor (Andy Griffith in The Andy Griffith Show)
Mayberry isn’t real, and neither is someone as almost unfailingly good as Sheriff Andy Taylor, but they weren’t supposed to be. Andy Taylor was a single father whose wife died shortly after childbirth and set out to raise his son, Opie (Ron Howard), with the help of the woman who raised him, Aunt Bee (Frances Bavier). Throughout the series, Andy always tends to be seen as folksy and naïve, but with a deep font of wisdom and virtue beneath, and those are the values he tries to pass on to his son. There’s already an entry on this site about one of the best examples of Andy’s parenting, but any given episode is likely to show an example.
It’s pretty telling that one of the most famous images of father-son bonding is the opening to the show, of Andy and Opie heading out to go fishing, Opie running ahead and playing with the rocks while Andy watches over him with a steady stride.
THE “DAD YOU SHOULD PROBABLY NOT BE” AWARD
Hal Wilkerson (Bryan Cranston in Malcolm in the Middle)
Malcolm in the Middle was a show about people who were pretty much failures. The eldest son, Francis (Christopher Masterson), is such a problem that he ended up dropping out of military school to go to Alaska, all in the name of spiting his mother. The next son, Reese (Justin Berfield), is a criminal to the extent that he has a regular cell at the jail and refuses any scholastic endeavors, intentionally failing to graduate once. Malcolm (Frankie Muniz), despite being a supergenius, is constantly in trouble and jeopardizing his future by trying to keep up with his two older brothers. The youngest son, for most of the series, Dewey (Erik Per Sullivan), is also extremely intelligent and talented, but is typically the victim of his big brothers’ antics. The kids are so misbehaved that it pretty much takes the iron will of their mother, Lois (Jane Kaczmerak), to keep them in line. And that’s because Hal doesn’t really step up much.
Hal’s not much of a disciplinarian, he often joins his kids in troublemaking, and he often gets so caught up in fads and obsessions that he ignores his family. Moreover, it’s all because he loves banging his wife. No, really, in one episode, Hal and Lois can’t have sex for 2 weeks and become successful parents and people. But, Hal’s not a “bad” dad. He loves his kids, even though they drive him nuts, and he does try to help them when they’re in trouble. At the end of the series, though, it’s revealed that everything he and Lois do is part of Lois’s master plan to have Malcolm become the best president in US History, which… makes it better, maybe?
THE “BEST ADOPTED DAD” AWARD
“Uncle” Philip Banks (James Avery on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air)
Philip Banks was a rebel in his youth. He was a civil rights activist in Selma in 1965, he heard Malcolm X speak, and he was the first black child to use a white toilet in North Carolina during segregation. Then, he got a scholarship to Princeton, then went to Harvard Law, and became super wealthy with a mansion in Bel-Air. He has three kids of his own, and then agrees to take in his wife’s nephew, Will (Will Smith), with whom he constantly spars. Will thinks that Phil is a sellout, while Phil says Will doesn’t show him enough respect for all the work he put in helping to advance race relations. This isn’t helped by Phil’s son Carlton (Alfonso Ribeiro), who acts like a stereotypical WASP. However, as the series goes on, Will slowly becomes a part of the family.
Then, there is the episode where Will’s dad, Lou (Ben Vereen), comes back. Now, up until this point, they hadn’t really addressed what happened with Will’s dad, but it turns out that he just abandoned his family after Will was born. He comes back, trying to bond with Will, who quickly grows close to him, before trying to leave again. Phil angrily confronts Lou about shirking his responsibilities as a father, which Lou quickly just says he “didn’t want.” Lou then leaves Will again, leading Will to tell him off in one of the most emotional scenes on TV, before finally hugging Phil, with Phil finally being the father Will never had.
THE “BEST DAD IN FILM” AWARD
Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird)
Atticus Finch will consistently top any list of best fictional lawyers, but I also have to put him on here as a great father. Atticus is one of the few people in fiction to really try to teach his children the lesson that it doesn’t matter what people think of you as long as you can look inside and know that you’re doing the right thing and that it’s never worth fighting someone just over name calling. In both the movie and the book, we’re shown how much it hurts his daughter Scout to think of her father as a coward, though she later realizes that’s the last adjective to put on him.
At the end of the film/book, Atticus has proven that he is the best man within the town, but, rather than ending with the trial or the departure of Boo Radley, the book ends with Atticus calmly holding his daughter before carrying her in to bed. That’s the real triumph, that, after the events of the story, Atticus returns to just being a normal father, devoted to his children from the beginning to the end.
I’m not considering the “sequel” book when making this determination, just the film. In Go Set a Watchman, people felt betrayed by Atticus Finch now being an advocate for segregation. What’s interesting is that, apparently, this may be because it was written first and Atticus Finch was based on Harper Lee’s father, who originally favored segregation before later supporting integration by the time Lee re-wrote the book into To Kill a Mockingbird. So, it’s possible that Atticus’s reversed opinions is based on the order of authorship being reversed. Still, at the end of that book, the message is that Scout still loves her father because her father loves her and has always been supportive of her even when they disagreed, so he’s still a pretty great dad.
I dedicate this to my own father, to whom I am a perpetual disappointment, but who I respect above all other men.
Somehow this was on the top ten movies this week on Netflix, which is just making me angry at this point.
Did you ever watch the movie The Descent, a film about a group of women who go cave diving and encounter humanoid monsters dwelling in the caverns? The movie worked well because it drove home that the claustrophobic conditions of the environment were just as terrifying as the mutated albino monsters. Well, this movie is that, but with some level of traumatic brain damage.
The movie starts off at an Appalachian mine in the 1970s and features a man named Schuttmann played by the massively underappreciated Will Patton losing his son to a monster of some kind. Now in the modern day, we have a group of people whose names are irrelevant driving through the same area trying to find a town called Shookum Hills, which, naturally, used to be a mining town before it “mysteriously vanished.” The supposedly Bad Ass Girl, or “BAG” (Alicia Sanz), is the mercenary hired as the guide for the expedition, which, again, is just into the middle of West Virginia, not Iran. Her main employer is Scientist Douche (Adan Canto) whose big twist will be that he’s doing exactly what you think he’s doing the whole time. They’re joined by Conspiracy Guy (Chinaza Uche) and Gonna Die (William Mark McCullough). You’d think that the film would be merciful enough to introduce these characters quickly and get on with it, but no, we have a while where we’re just watching each of them talk so that we can really be sure that all of these people suck except BAG, who has a past she’s trying to atone for.
Eventually they meet some people who are obviously trying to hide Shookum Hills, to the point that BAG uses their scheme to drive them away in order to actually locate it. The area is surrounded by a massive electrical fence despite the fact that no one lives there or mines there, but the group goes in anyway, somehow not taking this as a screaming warning to bail. They get there and discover a giant hole in the ground. They open it and take some measurements, only for Gonna Die to get pulled in and be dragged off. The locals show up to reveal that the whole area is secretly patrolled and monitored because the hole leads to an underground area where humanoid monsters live. There are apparently a lot of them and they keep trying to come up, but apparently can only use holes that humans dig. The movie glosses over this by referencing a suspected similar group of creatures in the Russian Kola borehole, which is 7 miles underground as opposed to like 300 feet. It’s a dumb reference is what I’m saying. Naturally, the whole town works to keep people away from the creatures and kill them, rather than tell the government about it or the public at large.
I wish I could at least say that the creature designs were good, but the movie blurs heavily whenever they’re onscreen, presumably because of their “toxin.” Realistically, I think it’s because they didn’t quite meet expectations. If you’re doing a monster movie and you don’t have a working monster, that puts a lot more pressure on your acting and filmmaking. Unfortunately, both are lacking in this film, driving home even more how much this was not a good experience. The motivations of the characters are all pretty dumb, as are their actions. They are annoying when they’re onscreen and their deaths aren’t even enjoyably creative. The only bright spot is Will Patton, and that is a small spot.
Overall, I hated this movie and I cannot believe it’s doing so well.
Mae Martin writes and stars in this comedy exploring how messed up life can be.
I love a good dark comedy and I especially love a comedy that’s aimed at trying to explore real-life issues. This show is the middle of that Venn diagram. Mae Martin, who you may have seen in their Netflix stand-up special, plays Mae, a character who is blatantly based on them. Mae is an English-Canadian comedian who is living in England and meets a young English woman named George (Charlotte Ritchie). The two quickly hit it off and begin dating. Eventually, they move in together, only for each to discover that the other one is hiding something. Mae has not admitted to George that they are a recovering drug addict while George did not tell Mae that she is still in the closet out of fear of her proper English family.
A lot of the series’ humor is derived from the fact that these two are both broken individuals, albeit in very different ways. George can’t be open about her bisexuality, to the point that she is constantly lying to her parents and friends about having a boyfriend. She can’t ever be her real self around anyone but Mae. Meanwhile, Mae is still a recovering addict who is not only ashamed of that fact but often bordering on being in denial. Their parents, Linda and Malcolm (Lisa Kudrow and Adrian Lukis), are a bit distant with her but also try to be supportive. They previously kicked her out when they were younger, leading them to live with an older man for a while, something that haunts Mae. Mae’s attempts to go through the steps of recovery often seem insincere because they sometimes seem unconvinced that recovery is real.
Watching the pair grow both together and separately through the series is interesting. Mae and George are an adorable couple, but they also are bad for each other as often as they are good. Both of them are often selfish and their attempts to “help” the other one are really just thinly veiled excuses to further their own ends. The show isn’t just a story about how these two get to their happy ending, in fact it’s possible it won’t end that way, but it does manage to balance some of the nihilist and cynical moments of its characters with moments of emotional growth or warm honesty.
A pure-hearted man is given the chance to change his life.
I find it appropriate that this is a Chinese-centric version of the story of Aladdin, along with some elements from the famous Disney animated film, because in the original story of Aladdin and the Magic Lamp in The Book of One Thousand and One Nights, Aladdin was actually Chinese. It just happened to be a version of China which seemed to be completely identical to Arabia, including having a Sultan running the area. While apparently the creators of this film denied that they were directly inspired by that story or any of its adaptations, I refuse to believe it’s a coincidence that the main character is named “Din.” (Jimmy Wong).
The main character, Din, is a working class Chinese student who is clearly very intelligent (he does people’s homework for them and aces all of his exams without going to class). He works extra jobs trying to save up money so that he can finally reconnect with his childhood friend Li Na (Natasha Liu Bordizzo). The two grew up together, but Li Na’s father, Mr. Wang (Will Yun Lee), managed to start a business and moved with his daughter to a nicer neighborhood and, eventually, a nicer life. Din’s fortunes change when he is given a tea pot by what appears to be a crazy homeless guy (Ronny Chieng). The pot contains Long (John Cho), the wisecracking and cynical dragon who is bound by magical law to give Din three wishes. Unfortunately, it turns out that other parties are very interested in the teapot, namely the martial arts master Pockets (Aaron Yoo) and his two goons (Bobby Lee; Jimmy O. Yang). Apparently in Mandarin, Niu Junfeng and Jackie Chan voice Din and Long, respectively.
This movie isn’t exactly going to be a new experience for most viewers, unless they’re really young, but it has enough solid scenes to make things interesting. Hell, at one point, Long literally grants Din the wish of “turn me into a prince,” just to drive it home (although, amusingly, that turns out not to be what Din wanted). Din is a bit too naive, something that even the other characters call him out for, and he is genuinely not very creative in his use of the lamp. It’s not that I don’t like the “pure of heart” lead, but when Long keeps pointing out that money will solve most of his problems, Din doesn’t seem to even consider it, even though money WOULD probably make it easier to see Li Na… or maybe at least help his mom (Constance Wu) out, since their neighborhood is being demolished.
The best parts of the movie, though, are actually the scenes of Din and Li Na together, because they seem to have genuine chemistry. Aside from that, many of the scenes with Long are pretty entertaining, owing in no small part to John Cho’s ability to come off as a somewhat likable a-hole.
Overall, not a bad movie for kids. I recommend it for family movie night.
I didn’t hear anything about this show for two seasons, so I’m spreading the news.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like if you made a Super Troopers TV show… well, keep wondering, because that’s not exactly what this is. However, if you’re wondering what would happen if you took some of the minds behind Super Troopers and gave them a TV show about wacky people working at a fire station, then wonder no more. This show was created by Kevin Heffernan and Steve Lemme, two of the members of Broken Lizard, and in addition to writing and directing most of the episodes, the pair star as the leaders of the firehouse Chief Terry McConky and Captain Eddie Penisi. While both characters have the exaggerated qualities you might expect from Broken Lizard, they’re toned down a bit and humanized more, allowing for some episodes to actually have decent emotional moments. McConky is a bit of a blowhard but loves a good time and wants to be liked and Penisi wants to be having a good time, all the time, which usually gets him in trouble.
The rest of the cast are similarly flawed and yet funny characters: The medic who is often a bit of a cynic, Granny Smith (Marcus Henderson); the part-time stripper and full-time lunkhead Ike Crystal (Gabriel Hogan); and the shy and insecure Andy Miyawani (Eugene “Pillboi” Cordero). After a few episodes, they’re joined by McConky’s go-getter daughter Lucy (Hassie Harrison) and the show explores a lot of the nature of sexism in firefighting through their interactions. Despite clearly having to work harder than many of the guys in order to get respect, Lucy also often chooses to play harder than them as well.
Part of the central gag of the show is that Tacoma, Washington has such a moderate climate and high rate of rainfall that fires aren’t much of a risk. Most of the time the calls that the firefighters are responding to are bizarre incidents involving things like Alpacas, raves, popcorn fires at a haunted house, and the occasional sex shop arson. However, a lot of what the show explores is how all of these people deal with their downtime and the bureaucracy of a mid-sized city. The show’s greatest strength is in reflecting how frustrating it can be to try and deal with the less-glamorous aspects of certain jobs and giving the characters ways to vent those frustrations in hilarious scenes. The humor is a little less stoner-y than in most Broken Lizard films, but it’s still pretty zany. If that’s not your taste, you probably won’t like it, but at least you’ll find out pretty fast. Personally, I think the characters are all pretty great when they’re interacting and the dialogue and situations are amusing.
Overall, give it a try. I think this show does a good job of giving us a more emotionally relatable version of Broken Lizard’s comedy.
What if you were the chosen one but also just sick of all this bullsh*t?
If there is one massive positive that Netflix has had on media, it’s that they’ve given a lot of creative people from countries that don’t usually get international distribution a platform (also South Korea, which is starting to get a lot more distribution, thankfully). This show combines the mythology and social setting of the Philippines with the Anime-inspired look that Netflix has been going for with many of its original series. It’s nice to start exploring other mythologies rather than just importing them into a Western setting or trying to rehash European vampires for the 3000th time.
At a glance, the show has some elements of supernatural detective series like a blend of Constantine and Supernatural, with a touch of the Dresden Files books. Alexandra Trese (Shay Mitchell/Liza Soberano) is the last survivor of a line of “Trese,” which are people who guard the balance between the supernatural world and the human one. There are laws about what can and can’t be done to humans, but, naturally, a lot of the evil spirits would prefer to just ignore those and declare war. She’s got enough magical ability for it to be useful, but not enough that guns aren’t usually a quicker solution. Her assistants and bodyguards are the Kambal (Twins), Crispin and Basilio (Griffin Puatu/Simon de la Cruz). They both often wear creepy happy and sad face masks, which makes it even funnier that they’re the good guys. Trese is an official consultant for the police, as the existence of magic seems to be more of an “open secret” in the area. Her main contact is captain Guerrero (Matt Yang King/Apollo Abraham), who is smart enough to usually bring an RPG and a shotgun when dealing with the supernatural, as opposed to the usual police consultant who tries to play by the rules in shows like this.
The characters are pretty well written and designed in this show, particularly Trese herself (the badass longcoat she wears is a blend of Eastern and Western styles and seems reasonably functional). The monsters are really well done, often being cartoonish when non-threatening and then disturbing when they decide to turn it on. An exception are the spiders with baby heads, which are creepy no matter what they’re doing. Between this and 30 Monedas I’m beginning to think that a lot of countries have latched onto “baby with a spider body” as the go-to creepiest thing out there and I’m not sure they’re wrong.
The mythology the show explores is interesting, particularly when you start to get a feel for how the Philippines treats their myths. There is no central “Phillipines Mythology,” by which I mean there are a lot of smaller groups that each hold their own beliefs and they often are directly conflicting. This is part of why the evil spirits in the show, often just called the Aswang, are shapeshifters that can serve as either vampires, zombies, ghouls, or whatever other part the plot requires. Since each ethnic group viewed them a little differently, they can be almost anything that exists to hurt others. There are, naturally, also demigods and more powerful beings that can pose threats as well, and they’re usually more tied to one particular group than to the country as a whole.
Overall, solid show. Give it a shot if you like supernatural detective series.
If you’re not familiar with In the Heights, it’s the musical that first brought Lin Manuel Miranda to the attention of all of the people who watch the Tonys. In 2008 it debuted on Broadway and, much like his later, better known play Hamilton, it managed to combine elements of traditional musicals with hip-hop. It tells the story of the mostly Hispanic neighborhood in the Bronx called Washington Heights which is slowly being gentrified out of existence. Miranda grew up in Inwood, which is the neighborhood right next to Washington Heights that also is part of the Little Dominican Republic. Miranda himself played the lead role of Usnavi on Broadway, but, being that 13 years have passed since then, the role wisely went to Anthony Ramos, who played the role later on, in this screen adaptation. Ramos, who grew up in Bushwick, another mostly-Hispanic neighborhood in New York, perfectly portrays the nostalgia for the old days when speaking as the “older” Usnavi that narrates the events of the film. Miranda plays the guy selling Piragua, which is basically a Puerto Rican snow-cone.
My assumption has always been that the “musical” parts of the film are derived from Usnavi’s memory being recolored by the rhythm of the streets he remembers, with the music encapsulating the spirit of the people who lived there. Usnavi, the owner of the local bodega, naturally sees everyone on their way to start their day. We’re introduced to them all at the beginning: Abuela Claudia (Olga Merediz), the elderly matriarch of the neighborhood; Kevin Rosario (Jimmy Smits), the owner of a local dispatch company and whose daughter, Nina (Leslie Grace), is back from Stanford; Benny (Corey Hawkins), Kevin’s chief employee and Nina’s ex; Vanessa (Melissa Barrera), Usnavi’s crush; the “Salon ladies” Daniela, Carla, and (film-exclusive character) Cuca (Daphne Ruben-Vega, Stephanie Beatriz, Dascha Polanco); and Usnavi’s cousin and sole employee Sonny (Gregory Diaz IV). While Usnavi is the narrator, as the film’s title suggests, it’s a story about the neighborhood. I don’t know if it’s the New York setting or the fact that it takes place during a heat wave, but I often find myself comparing it a little to Do the Right Thing, in the sense that the main character is only there to give us an excuse to experience the entire community.
My opinion of director John M. Chu is a bit complicated. On the one hand, he did Step Up 2: The Streets and Step Up 3D, which are pretty decent dance films with terrible scripts. On the other hand, he did G.I. Joe: Retaliation, which was at least not as bad as the previous G.I. Joe movie but was still not good, and Jem and the Holograms, a movie that not only was terrible but went out of its way to hurt the fans of the series it was based on. Then came Crazy Rich Asians, which was flat-out great and well directed. So, going in, I was not sure if this was going to be a masterpiece or a trainwreck. Fortunately, start to finish, everything he did in this film works.
All of the changes from the original play work well (admittedly, it was usually described as having a weak book), all of the numbers are done bigger and bolder than they could be in a theater, and the added visual effects make us feel more deeply what the characters are going through and dreaming of. We also get a number of shots of local residents which both add a level of distinction from the stage show and also drive home that this is the story of a community and their dream more than any person. It does exactly what an adaptation should do: Furthers the themes, enhances the visuals without destroying the focus of the play, and shows you things bigger than what you could have gotten on stage. In short, it’s exactly the things that Cats and Les Miserables did wrong. Someone needs to tell Tom Hooper to watch this… or force him.
Overall, just a fantastic movie. Better on the big screen, but still great on the small one.
As the world falls apart, one young boy tries to make his way.
Well, it’s the apocalypse, again. This time it comes in the form of a virus that mostly spreads because people don’t take it seriously. Eventually, the virus proves to be extremely lethal and that is only compounded by the government’s poor response and the mistrust of various groups based on their reactions to the situation. This was in production before 2020, so don’t think this was commentary, it just happens that people being shitty started before a pandemic. At the same time that the virus is ravaging humanity, people start giving birth to “hybrids,” human babies which also have animal traits. One such baby is Gus (Christian Convery), a half-deer hybrid.
Gus is raised by his father, Pubba (Will Forte), on a preserve away from society, being told to avoid people at all costs, for ten years. Unfortunately, the preserve is eventually found by the “Last Men,” a group of hybrid hunters whose military force appears to be among the most powerful in the US after the “great crumble.” Without his father, Gus quickly starts to journey beyond the fence, hoping to eventually find his mother, Birdie (Amy Seimetz). The first person he encounters is former football player and mercenary Tommy “Big Man” Jepperd (Nonso Anozie). Despite Big Man’s dislike of hybrids, he eventually starts to take a liking to the young deer-boy, even nicknaming him “Sweet Tooth” due to Gus’s love of sugar. They are eventually joined by “Bear,” the leader of a pro-hybrid army played by Stefania LaVie Owen.
Naturally, a big part of this show is watching the impact of a massive pandemic on the population. People naturally start being less trusting of others because anyone can be a threat. Despite that, we see that people mostly believe that “certain people” are the ones who will die from the disease and thinking that they are the exception. We see neighborhoods of yuppies throwing parties (despite knowing a wave of the virus is coming again) and then burning the suspected infected alive. We witness this through the eyes of deuteragonist Dr. Aditya Singh (Adeel Akhtar) and his wife, Rani (Aliza Vellani). Dr. Singh has been working on a cure for the virus for a decade and his wife is the longest-surviving infected person. His arc is one of the most interesting in the show, because even though he is trying to save humanity, it’s clear he mostly just wants to save his wife at almost any cost.
There is also a third series of events with yet another deuteragonist named Aimee played by Dania Ramirez. Aimee runs a secret sanctuary for hybrids, particularly her adopted daughter Wendy (Naledi Murray), who is one of the rare hybrids who can speak normally. It’s not certain if hybrids are actually incapable of normal cognition or if they are just kept away from people so much that they don’t develop the ability to speak human language. Aimee’s sanctuary is being hunted for by the leader of the Last Men, General Abbot (Neil Sandilands). Also, James Brolin narrates the series, but hasn’t been on the show in person yet.
The key to the show is really the cute optimism of Gus contrasted with the pessimism of the Big Man and the cynicism of Bear. While it seems like another “surviving the apocalypse” show, the sincerity of each of their viewpoints comes through and makes everything feel a bit more personal. While the three plotlines don’t actually intersect until the very end of the season, which clearly sets up for a major second season, the interplay works great. They aren’t always thematically connected, but we see how many of the acts of each character end up impacting the others. We also see them all confront the big question of what is acceptable in the name of survival.
There are times in your life when you see something so majestic, so beautiful, and so mysterious that you just can’t help but stare with your mouth agape. This movie’s title was that for me. I mean, I remember the period in the 90s when they churned out a bunch of fairy tale-themed horror movies like Pinocchio’s Revenge and Snow White: A Tale of Terror or the video game American McGee’s Alice, but I definitely didn’t think we’d reached the point of doing a folk hero horror film. It’s kind of brilliant, because Paul Bunyan is exactly what this film’s title promises: A giant with an axe. He’s basically a villain from a D&D campaign but wearing the clothing of a Midwestern dad. My biggest question is whether or not this is going to be the start of a folk hero horror shared universe. Will we soon be talking about an undead Pecos Bill gunning down teens and cyborg John Henry taking revenge on humanity? Will this lead to the horror version of that movie Tall Tale in which all of them battle to the death? As this movie is now eight years old, I’m guessing not, but hope springs eternal.
The movie starts off with a flashback of a group of loggers whose outfits definitely don’t match the time period eating a massive wall of meat. If you can’t guess where this is going, don’t worry, the movie only gives you about 90 seconds before a giant man (Chris Hahn) murders all of the loggers. It then jumps to the modern day where a bunch of kids in a reform program for first-time offenders are being sent into the woods under the supervision of Sergeant Hoke (Tom Downey) and guidance counselor Mrs. K (Kristina Kopf). The five kids are Marty, Trish, Zack, Rosa, and CB (Clifton Williams, Jill Evyn, Jesse Kove, Victoria Ramos, Amber Connor). Their personalities range from bad boy to bad girl to generic horror protagonist (CB). If you’re looking for depth, good news, other movies exist. These characters are here to die in interesting ways involving a giant man and they don’t need to be believable for that.
While in the woods, the group encounters local crazy hermit Meeks (Joe Estevez), but after he earns his cameo money as the only name in the film, he is driven away. While hiking the next day, two of the teens find a skull from a giant ox and steal a horn. Naturally, this was Babe the Blue Ox’s resting place and they’ve just pissed off Paul Bunyan. He follows them and kills Trish by bisecting her vertically, which is admittedly the kind of stuff that makes these movies worthwhile. When Hoke tries to fight back, Bunyan kills him by splitting him in half horizontally, because he’s not an axe giant if he doesn’t use that axe. The survivors escape to a cabin, but Bunyan destroys their van. They’re joined by Meeks who tells them that Bunyan was born with a condition that makes him gigantic and also long-lived. He was imprisoned for murder when he killed the loggers for eating Babe. He got bigger since then.
They try to return the horn, but Bunyan just uses it to kill one of the teens, because he does NOT care anymore. Bunyan smashes up the cabin and kills yet another of the teens, so now we’re just down to CB, Marty, and Mrs. K. They’re joined by CB’s dad, who is the sheriff of the town, and he incapacitates Bunyan with tranquilizers. Meeks takes Bunyan’s side and shoots Marty, but Bunyan continues not to care and murders Meeks. The giant chases all of the remaining cast over a bridge in time to be shot to death by a militia. Turns out that a big human still doesn’t do well with hundreds of bullet holes. And now he’s dead, since, again, sequel unlikely. Also, since the writer/director, Gary Jones, hasn’t done anything since, I’m guessing he’s not building his own cinematic universe.
This isn’t the worst B-movie I’ve seen by a long shot, but it definitely was trying a bunch of stuff that it did NOT have the budget for. Some of the scenes of Bunyan holding people or interacting with them look super fake. I will say that Bunyan himself actually looks pretty good for the money. The design looks like a person who is both deformed and also has been suffering from living outdoors for a century. The characters are mediocre, but at least the kills are kind of fun.
Overall, it’s not a top-tier B movie, but it’s fun.