The story of a boy, a girl, and a quest for an awesome car.
Wayne McCullough (Mark McKenna) is a violent teen from Massachusetts whose father is dying of cancer. He meets a local girl named Del (Ciara Bravo) who lost her mother and lives with her violent father and brothers. After Wayne’s dad passes, Wayne resolves to get back his father’s stolen 1979 Pontiac Trans Am that is in the possession of Wayne’s mother’s (Michaela Watkins) new husband (Kirk Ward). They’re pursued by two police officers, Geller and Ganetti (Stephen Kearin and James Earl), as well as Del’s father (Dean Winters), Wayne’s best friend Orlando (Joshua J. Williams), and his principal (Mike O’Malley).
This series came out on YouTube Premium back in 2019 and did pretty well for being on YouTube Premium, but, as the platform seems to mostly have stopped making original content now, didn’t end up continuing. They finally moved it to Amazon Prime and, having watched it, I really hope Amazon keeps it going. This show is an interesting blend of action comedy that we don’t often see on television, because it combines a dark, twisted sense of humor with a heavy dose of graphic violence. Of course, this was made by the same people that made Deadpool, so really we should have seen this coming.
The lead character is described throughout the series as a kind of Robin Hood or avenging angel figure. He is violent and probably a little psychopathic, but he always makes sure his targets have it coming. When he sees a woman being mistreated by her boyfriend, he can’t help but intervene, even at his own detriment. Early on, the principal indicates that Wayne, like his father, sometimes bullies people, but mostly protects the innocent by bullying other bullies. From a storytelling standpoint, this is brilliant, because we never feel bad about all of the horrible things Wayne does to people, and he does do some horrible things. It helps that we do get a lot of cute moments between him and Del in which it becomes apparent that he does have a very soft side underneath his mean exterior. McKenna’s performance has to carry a lot of narrative weight without a huge amount of dialogue, but he pulls it off flawlessly.
Similarly, Del is shown to be dealing with the tragic loss of her mother, with whom she was very close. Her mother was a con woman, leading Del to often have the same traits, but like Wayne Del has a strong moral center that appears to be born out of spiting her father’s criminal ways. She also is shown to want to stand up for the little guy and be a leader, initially selling cookies to supposedly raise funds for her mayoral run in five years, when she’s eligible. Of course, like most politicians, she’s also funding the campaign through theft. Bravo manages to be likable and demonstrate a connection to Wayne despite the fact that he’s violent and mostly emotionless.
The general theme of the series is that these two are rebelling. They’re good people but not the kind of “good” people that the world is prepared to accept. They don’t care about the rules and they really hate people who use the rules to hurt others. That’s what bonds them. Moreover, that’s what leads them to inspire many of the supporting characters to be more honest about how messed up things can be and to change it. It also includes just a ton of humor which is supplemented, rather than detracted from, by the violence.
Overall, this is a great show that everyone needs to watch so that we can maybe get more of it.
Nick Frost and Simon Pegg return to television and it’s pretty great.
Gus Roberts (Nick Frost) is the number one broadband installer for SMYLE, Britain’s biggest internet provider. His boss Dave (Simon Pegg), the head of the company, partners Gus up with new hire Elton John (Samson Kayo). Gus reveals to Elton that he is more than just an internet installer, he also runs a paranormal investigation web channel called “Truth Seekers.” Despite having little luck with finding ghosts in the past, Gus and Elton quickly find themselves uncovering numerous supernatural occurrences. They’re joined on occasion by Astrid (Emma D’Arcy), a formerly haunted woman, Gus’s aged father-in-law Richard (Malcolm McDowell), and Elton’s sister Helen (Susie Wokoma). Together, they uncover a plot involving ghosts, mad scientists, and a cult run by the mysterious Dr. Peter Toynbee (Julian Barratt).
I’ll be upfront that part of why I instantly took to this show is my love of all of Nick Frost and Simon Pegg’s previous collaborations, from Spaced to the Cornetto Trilogy (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World’s End). Even though Pegg is only a recurring character in this series, whenever they’re on screen together their natural chemistry takes over and brings a smile to my face. Frost and Kayo, though, also play off of each other masterfully and since they’re the majority of the show, that really elevates this above other “comedy version of the X-Files” series. It helps that all of the supporting characters are played with a huge amount of likability and with some great character development over the series. Helen, for example, is an agoraphobic cosplayer who also becomes fast friends with Richard, a tech-incompetent misanthrope. The interactions between the characters really get you invested in what’s happening to them and it pays off as the show goes on.
The actual plot of the show is a nice blend of episodic mysteries that tie into the larger plot thread. Almost everything that happens early in the show ends up paying off down the line. While that does make some of the first episodes a little slower, it’s a streaming series and you don’t really have to wait that long to get through it. It helps that a number of the “monsters of the week” are fun and creative, but really it’s the dialogue and the performances that will get you through the weaker parts. Since it’s only eight episodes long, you never really have to worry about having invested too much.
I will give the show credit for having some legitimately good horror to balance out the comedy. There are a few parts of the series where I was shocked at how far they were willing to push the envelope. The ghosts that follow the characters are often played straight with horrific wounds or disfigurements and the kind of jerky motions that we associate with the inhuman. There’s an episode involving possessed objects that was even more disturbing on a number of levels, but I don’t want to spoil it here. Similarly, the show has a number of solid dramatic moments that end up standing out when contrasted with the mainly comedic tone, but never feel like they’re conflicting with it.
Overall, I really liked the show. It also ended with a lot of potential for future plotlines, so I hope it keeps going. Give it a try.
Amazon brings us a story of a comic book conspiracy and a high body count.
A couple find a copy of a comic book inside of an inherited house and discover that the comic, Utopia, is a sequel to a comic called Dystopia. They set it up for auction, sparking the interest of a group of online enthusiasts including Becky (Ashleigh LaThrop), Ian (David Byrd), Wilson (Desmin Borges), Samantha (Jessica Rothe), and Grant (Javon Walton). These five believe that Dystopia was not just a comic book, but a series of coded messages describing future calamities, most of which have come to pass. They view Utopia as a warning of a near-apocalyptic problem which is coming soon and manage to get part of it. They find out that the main character of the comic, Jessica Hyde (Sasha Lane), is very real and is on their tail. It turns out that there is a killer named Arby (Christopher Denham) who is trying to eliminate anyone who had contact with Utopia. What this has to do with a famous scientist named Dr. Kevin Christie (John Cusack) and an epidemiologist named Michael Stearns (Rainn Wilson) is anyone’s guess.
This show should have been great. It’s a remake of a good British series, it’s about a national plague and debuted during a national plague, and it has a pretty solid cast. Unfortunately, it seemed to me to be just kind of generic and forgettable. The only thing that stands out to me is exactly how much this show is willing to kill off people. Buckets of blood are spilled by the various characters, and the show has a complete detachment to it. In a comedy or certain kind of satire this would make sense, but the dearth of emotions felt by the cast, and therefore the audience, about the deaths actually brings the viewer more in line with the perspective of the bad guys than what you would want from heroes.
It doesn’t help that most of the main characters don’t have a ton of characterization. They’re just nerds who are in over their heads and each of them ostensibly has a single trait that sets them apart, i.e. Wilson is the most paranoid, Becky has a disease, etc. The only character which seems to get any development really is Arby, but that’s only towards the end and it’s still not as much as the show needs. Jessica Hyde, who is revealed to be a girl who has literally lived her entirely life being chased by a massive covert organization, is interesting, but some of her actions are completely unbelievable and the way people react to her is even moreso.
The final reveal of what exactly the villains’ plot entails is pretty good, because it’s at least a little more ambitious than anyone would think. It has shades of “Thanos was right,” but not quite as well-defended. The show does a decent job of building up to it, but it also still involves a potential worldwide plague and that just doesn’t sit well in 2020.
Overall, I just didn’t care for this show as much as the original British show. Maybe just skip this one.
The Boys are back and America is in trouble. Those things aren’t related.
SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free for Season 2)
After the events of Season 1, the Boys are now fugitives. Billy Butcher (Karl Urban) survived his encounter with Homelander (Antony Starr), who impregnated Billy’s wife Becca (Shantel VanSanten), resulting in their son Ryan (Cameron Crovetti). Hughie (Jack Quaid), Mother’s Milk (Laz Alonso), Frenchie (Tomer Capon), and the Female (Karen Fukuhara) are all underground. Hughie’s paramour Starlight (Erin Moriarity) is still a member of the Seven, along with Queen Maeve (Dominique McElligott), Homelander, Black Noir (Nathan Mitchell), and newcomer Stormfront (Aya Cash). They’re now being directly overseen by Mr. Edgar (Giancarlo Esposito), the head of Vought International. The Boys have to deal with both the superheroes and the newly-minted supervillains, while also finding a way to get themselves out of trouble with the law.
I really don’t want to spoil things in this article, but it’s almost impossible to talk about one of the best parts of the season without spoiling it, so I’m going to briefly say the following:
This show took a big swing this season and it paid off. If you didn’t like the first season of the series, you might still like this one. It ratcheted the social commentary up to eleven and it was merciless. Rather than just satirizing superheroes and the superhero film industry, this season satirized America and American politics. The performances remain excellent, the show’s violence remains over-the-top enough to be almost comically entertaining while also being devastating when the narration calls for it. The dialogue isn’t the best, but it’s a bit better than the first season.
Without spoilers, I really recommend this season even if you weren’t thrilled with the last one.
This season’s about America’s relationship with white supremacy. It’s not subtle. Stormfront, a character named after the former largest white supremacy publication in the US, is revealed to be a racist who murders minorities for fun and claims they died of other causes. However, when she first appears, she just seems confident, outspoken, and in favor of “law and order.” Naturally, she uses the internet to make herself more popular and to fully muddy the truth of any of her actions. Later, when Homelander murders someone on film, she’s able to shift public opinion back towards him by use of these troll farms and masterful public relations. She and Homelander become romantically involved, with her being one of the only people capable of standing up to him and capable of making him submit to her wishes. But the real revelation is that she’s not a new hero. In fact, in the 1970s, she was operating in the South as a hero named Liberty who was removed from circulation because she kept murdering minorities. She’s just been rebranded as “Stormfront” and given a heavy internet cult following. Moreover, the Liberty persona was not her original self either. She’s actually a Nazi and the first person given superpowers by Compound V.
By intertwining her history and existence with Homelander’s, the show gives us a strange commentary on the relationship between the USA and racism. Homelander’s formation was based on DNA from Stormfront. In other words, his existence always contained traces of racism. Then, she rebranded herself based on the American image and used it to secretly try and destroy African-Americans, but eventually she risked getting exposed and had to go underground. Now, thanks to the internet, she can rebrand herself again. By marketing herself just right, she can be out in public and tie herself directly into the supposed movement to support America. In other words, she’s made it so that people supporting patriotism are supporting racism and those that condemn racism are accused of being unpatriotic. This is, of course, only a fictional world and none of this is happening right now in reality. No one kneeling to protest racism, for example, would ever be accused of being unpatriotic, particularly since the right to protest was one of the most fundamental ensconced in the Constitution.
Overall, though, this show does a great job of giving some commentary about the nature of racism in America. I look forward to seeing Season 3.
One of the few sequels I like better than the original.
Gomez and Morticia Addams (Raul Julia and Anjelica Huston) welcome their third child, Pubert (Kaitlyn and Kristen Hooper). Unfortunately, the older siblings, Wednesday and Pugsley (Christina Ricci and Jimmy Workman), don’t take well to the new child, attempting to murder him, as Addams are wont to do. To help, the Addams parents hire a nanny named Debbie Jellinsky (Joan Cusack) who is, in reality, a serial murdering black widow. She seduces Gomez’s brother, Fester (Christopher Lloyd). When Wednesday becomes suspicious, Debbie has her and Pugsley sent to summer camp under relentlessly chipper Counselors Gary and Beck Granger (Peter MacNicol and Christine Baranski). Fortunately, the Addams family can handle more than a mere serial killer and a summer camp. Also featuring Christopher Hart as Thing, Carel Struycken as Lurch, and Carol Kane as Grandmama.
I am a fan of the original Barry Sonnenfeld Addams Family movie from 1991, but it’s more for the stand-out scenes than the film as a whole. The plot of the original film was pretty incoherent and is wrapped up by one of the strangest series of dei ex machinae in history. Still, the cast was so good that it was still incredibly fun. This film has the same cast, but also comes up with more entertaining things to do with them and a more compelling plot. It doesn’t hurt that the slightly lighter tone here allows for some more varied, but actually ultimately darker, humor.
I really can’t understate how perfect the casting was for this film. I don’t think I will ever envision Morticia Addams as being anyone other than Anjelica Huston. She was born to play the role. I mean, I loved Carolyn Jones in the live-action series, but Huston nails it as hard as Hopkins nailed Hannibal. Raul Julia and John Astin are both very different but equally good portrayals of the ultimate loving husband, although Julia unfortunately was sick during filming and it does make his performance a little less energetic than the first movie. Christina Ricci proved herself to be an incredible Wednesday in the first film, but in this movie she also has to play Wednesday dealing with both puberty and her captivity within a camp that promotes “normalcy.” Honestly, the scenes of the kids rebelling against the counselors are some of my favorite gags. Christopher Lloyd’s portrayal of Fester always surprises me because it’s so very different from any of his other iconic characters, but he disappears into it just as much. In this, he has to be the lonely man who believes he’s found love and is willing to constantly overlook the obvious red flags. Speaking of red flags, Joan Cusack was a great addition to this cast. Her ability to play a sociopath who is able to put up with the oddities of the Addams family and, in fact, able to manipulate them presents an actual, believable obstacle to the perfect family.
It also is impressive that this movie can get away with so many of the jokes it does. The older Addams children repeatedly attempt to murder a baby, only to be thwarted in borderline slapstick ways. If it weren’t for the cartoonish nature of their attempts, we might be put off by the infanticide. Similarly, after Wednesday leads a revolt at the summer camp, it’s implied that at least some of the children have been killed and that the counselors are going to be roasted to death on a spit like Saint Lawrence, but it’s mostly offscreen and played for laughs by every character, so you can ignore it. The darker and more dryly humorous tone of the first movie only allowed for dark references to the horrors, this movie gets to show them off.
Overall, just a great movie and a fantastic sequel. It’s still my favorite incarnation of the Addams family.
This was one of the funniest dark comedies of the year.
Three delinquents named DJ Beatroot, Dean, and Duncan (Viraj Juneja, Rian Gordon, Lewis Gribben) are taken to the Scottish Highlands by a teacher named Mr. Carlyle (Jonathan Aris) in order to try and win the Duke of Edinburgh award. They are joined by a shy kid named Ian (Samuel Bottomley) and given a map of the Highlands that they must navigate in order to qualify for the award. Carlyle drives off to the campsite that they’re supposed to reach and leaves the boys, who reluctantly set out while getting high. Unfortunately, a well-dressed man wearing a mask (Eddie Izzard) and his masked wife (Georgie Glen) are both watching the boys. It turns out that in the Highlands, someone is out to hunt the most dangerous game: stoned teens.
This film is a solid blend of slapstick, trippy visuals, and satire with a dark premise like “rich people hunting poor teens for sport.” Well, not exactly for sport. It turns out that there are certain British people who just enjoy culling the population of “underachievers” and, being rich and bored, they decided the fun way to do that is to hunt them down in Scotland with antique rifles and weird masks. It’s obviously not a fair fight, as they have guns and the boys have a “well-sharp” fork, but it probably doesn’t help that the main characters are all pretty stupid. Despite that, they do sometimes come up with creative solutions to their problems, which is, appropriately, what they were sent on the walk to do.
Eddie Izzard, the biggest star in the film, doesn’t get a ton of focused screen time, but when he does it is used to the utmost. He plays his character, who the boys believe to actually be the Duke of Edinburgh, as the perfect blend of upperclass twit and raging sociopath. He never breaks his calm and happy demeanor, even when the boys do manage to successfully counterattack. Instead, he and his “wife” just continue to joke about the situation.
One of the funniest parts of the film is how it represents the local police officers who get caught up in the events. They’re so rural that their biggest concern at the beginning is the local bread thief. As they get more involved with the case, they continually misunderstand the already ridiculous events and it just keeps getting funnier every single time until it finally comes to an insanely satisfying conclusion.
Overall, I really recommend this film. It’s pretty hilarious.
I take a look at the craziest premise since Killer Sofa.
Duke (Steve Rimpici) is a carousel unicorn who is sentient. Unfortunately, he is trapped on a carousel until one day Laurie (Se’ Marie) brings her gross little brother Lunchbox (Teague Shaw) to the park while she’s supposed to be babysitting. Lunchbox wipes his… probably everything, honestly, on the unicorn, finally convincing Duke to get off the carousel and seek bloody revenge. The only one who knows how to stop him is the park’s mascot Cowboy Cool (P.J. Gaynard). Unaware, Laurie and Lunchbox head to a party hosted by Sarah (Haley Madison) and Preston (Chris Proud), two local unicorn fans. The other guests include a host of stereotypes (and oddities) and they’re soon joined by Pizza Guy Joe (Director and Writer Steve Rudzinski). However, Duke soon shows up trying to get to Lunchbox and he’s willing to kill anyone who gets in his way… or in his vicinity.
If you guys remember my review of Killer Sofa, I genuinely found the movie enjoyable because it was so ridiculous to watch a sofa attempt to stalk and kill people like Michael Myers. This movie instead decides to make the joke of having a carousel unicorn, which cannot move, kill people like a combination of Jason Vorhees and the bad guy from Revenge of the Ninja. I’m not even kidding, he actually has shuriken and random weapons that he can somehow not only use but is extremely proficient with. Because of that, almost all of the kills in this movie are creative, graphic, and entertaining as hell. Duke monologues in a way that expresses a dispassion and dissatisfaction with his existence right from the beginning. He is having an existential crisis related to being considered an object while still being sentient which gives him an honestly kind of interesting backstory for the killer in a cheap horror movie. It’s not expanded on much beyond a few monologues, but it’s still more than many of these films give us.
The human characters honestly seem to be every stereotype exaggerated beyond the point of absurdity. Preston is a Bro who is obsessed with that universe’s equivalent of My Little Pony, making him a literal brony. His girlfriend Sarah is so obsessed with unicorns that she is responsible for at least two of the more disturbing scenes in the film (yes, because she has sex with a carousel unicorn). Laurie isn’t just the slutty girl, she’s so slutty she’s willing to have sex in front of her little brother and is willing to make dozens of double entendres to the pizza guy. The French siblings, who are actually revealed to be Quebecois, are snooty and incestuous. Then there’s Joe, the Pizza Guy, who spends almost all of the film on his quest to get $42.35 plus tip (I think that was the number) for delivering pizzas. He completely misses or rejects any of Laurie’s attempts to seduce him in the name of completing his delivery and keeping his job. It’s actually pretty hilarious at times. Unfortunately, the scenes between the humans sometimes go on for a bit too long and you just start wondering why a movie about a killer unicorn isn’t getting to the killing already.
When it comes down to it, the biggest problem with this movie is that it sometimes is trying to be ironically so bad it’s good and succeeds and sometimes it’s trying to be legitimately funny, but much of the time it’s not quite pulling off either. I will say that almost every scene with Duke is amusing as hell, but the scenes with the humans in the movie sometimes go on for way too long. There are some great jokes peppered in, including another serial killer randomly being in Duke’s path, as well as most of Duke’s one-liners, but the characters needed just a little more polish before they got on screen. Then again, it’s a low-budget horror movie about a killer unicorn, so maybe I’m overthinking it. Either way, at 70 minutes, you aren’t losing too much if you give it a try. Just maybe grab a drink sometimes when the humans have been onscreen for more than 2 minutes straight.
Overall, if you’re a fan of low-budget goofy horror, this is right up your alley. If you’re sensitive to gore or gross-out humor, you might want to catch the next ride.
I watched the first of the Audience picks, and I still like it.
It’s the Summer of 1963, the British Invasion isn’t happening for a few months, and 17-year-old Frances “Baby” Houseman (Jennifer Grey) is vacationing with her family in the Catskills. It turns out that Max (Jack Weston), a friend of Baby’s father, Jake (Jerry Orbach), runs the resort and has instructed the wait staff to seduce the daughters of the guests. One night, Billy (Neal Jones), one of the locals, invites Baby to a secret dance party that the staff throws after hours. There she meets and briefly dances with Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze), a 26-year-old dance instructor at the resort. Yes, he’s more than one-and-a-half times her age, but I guess it was the 60s?
Johnny’s dance partner, Penny (Cynthia Rhodes), gets pregnant after sleeping with Robbie (Max Cantor), one of the staff who goes to Yale Med School. Robbie quickly starts to move onto Baby’s sister Lisa (Jane Brucker) and abandons Penny. Baby borrows money from her father to get Penny an abortion, but Baby has to take Penny’s place at a dance performance at another resort. Baby and Johnny train together repeatedly and do a decent job, aside from not being able to pull off the finale. However, Penny’s back-alley abortion turns out to be done by a hack and she starts to bleed out. Baby gets her doctor father to stabilize her, but Jake assumes that Johnny was the father and bans Baby from seeing her. They continue to see each other in secret.
Johnny gets hit on by a cheating wife, Vivian (Miranda Garrison), but he rejects her. She sleeps with Robbie instead, which fortunately turns Lisa off of Robbie when she catches them. Vivian sees Baby leaving Johnny’s cabin, however, and tries to frame him for theft as revenge for turning her down. You’d think the fact that she got laid anyway would have assuaged her anger, but I’m guessing Robbie is crap in bed. Also, missing out on some Patrick Swayze lovin’ is probably going to anger any woman. Fortunately, Baby alibis Johnny to save him from being arrested and the real thieves are caught, but Johnny gets fired for sleeping with Baby.
At the talent show at the end of the Summer, Jake gives Robbie a recommendation for med school, but then retracts it because he admits he got Penny pregnant. Also, he’s just a jackass in general. Johnny arrives and declares his love for Baby, leading him to inform her father that “nobody puts Baby in a corner.” They end up performing the dance that they’d practiced but this time they nail the final lift, which is so powerful that Dr. Houseman apologizes to Johnny and Baby and apparently classism ends forever.
The prompt here was a movie which began with my first initial (D). I let you all nominate films and I picked a movie using a random number generator. The first time, I let the films be weighted by how many people nominated them and got this movie. I decided to try just assigning one number to each movie to see what would win that way and… this movie won again. So, apparently, the universe wanted me to watch this again.
It’s only when I attempt to summarize this film that it fully hits me just how ridiculous much of this movie is. I know that a ton of people have made fun of it before, but the idea that Dr. Houseman is the bad guy for forbidding his daughter from sleeping with a guy who would be a statutory rapist in some states does not age well. While it’s clear that he’s a bit overprotective and doesn’t have great communication with his children, I’m pretty sure every parent with a high-schooler would be wary of her banging a guy who is pushing 30. Of course, to balance this movie putting the idea that this is okay in the audience’s head, we have Lisa’s journey trying to lose her virginity to Robbie, the elitist jerk, and only being spared that presumably terrible moment of regret by catching him with another woman. On the other other hand, Robbie was literally ordered by his boss to have sex with the customers, so maybe Max is the real crapbag of this film. I was shocked that I’d remembered that we were supposed to hate Robbie but had completely forgotten about Max.
Actually, that’s one of the things that surprised me most on re-watch, how much of this movie really gets forgotten about while we mostly remember Patrick Swayze flexing and Jennifer Grey being thrust into the air. A back-alley abortion that was so poorly done that it almost killed the mother is a large plot point in this film. Having to bring Baby’s father in to save Penny’s life is responsible for Baby and Johnny being separated for the second half. I don’t know if it was intentionally trying to make a point, but this film is one of the rare instances of media pointing out how desperate women would seek abortions even when it was illegal and that it would often go horribly because of the clandestine nature.
Also, I had forgotten exactly how horny this movie was. I know it’s a film that’s famous for conflating dirty dancing and sexuality, but that’s kind of ignoring the unbelievable amount of actual sex that’s in the movie. Everyone in the catskills wants to get it on, from the guests and the wait staff to Lisa and her burning desire to lose her virginity to Johnny and Baby to Vivian the adulterous housewife. Sex so permeates this movie that I am shocked how many parents let their kids watch it. Hell, I think I saw it before I was 10. I think it’s because the dancing sequences are so overwhelming that people literally just forget about all of the wanton sexuality. Given that the movie is set in 1963, it stands to reason that this is really just on the gap between the uptight social mores of the 1940s and 1950s (which consisted of banging people but not admitting to it) and the free love movement of the 1960s (which consisted of banging people and telling everyone about it).
The performances in this movie are solid, no question. The characters are pretty simple (poor guy with heart of gold, poor little rich girl), but there’s a reason why Swayze and Grey are icons for the roles. She has a natural ability to convey her desire through a mask of being a meek good girl. On the other hand, Swayze has a natural earnestness that makes him seem heroic while he has so much charisma that it practically oozes off of his shirtless body. It gives them the perfect balance.
The soundtrack to this movie is so good that, if it had not won the vote, it would be a strong contender for Day 6’s “best movie soundtrack.” Aside from the iconic “The Time of My Life,” which will forever be associated with this film (for which it was composed), the background music is a litany of great 50s and 60s songs. There’s Otis Redding, The Drifters, The Four Seasons, and the Ronettes, and they help convey the setting far better than most of the other aspects of the film. The hairstyles and outfits make this the most 80s version of the 60s ever, but at least the soundtrack puts it on track. A weird thing I’d never noticed before is that they use The Blow Monkeys’ cover of “You Don’t Own Me” rather than Leslie Gore’s original version. While Gore made it into a powerful feminist anthem, the Blow Monkeys sing it from a man’s point of view, which is really odd since the famous line is “nobody puts Baby in a corner,” not “nobody puts Johnny in a jail cell.” I just think it’s a weird twist.
Overall, still a great film. It’s got a lot of stuff in it that I just plain didn’t remember about it, but it’s got so many iconic scenes that it deserves its status as a perennial watch.
Gemma (Imogen Poots) and Tom (Jesse Eisenberg) are a couple who are looking to buy their first house together. Gemma is a schoolteacher and Tom is a landscaper. They visit a real estate agent, Martin (Jonathan Aris), who tells them of a new development called Yonder. Yonder is revealed to be filled with identical houses, all of them empty except for number 9. Martin disappears while showing them the location, and when Tom and Gemma try to leave, they can’t find an exit to the suburb, eventually running out of gas. No matter what they try, they can’t get out of the maze of houses. They end up finding a box filled with food, and a second box filled with a baby, with instructions that if they raise the baby, they will be released. Unfortunately, the child (Côme Thiry/Senan Jennings/Eanna Hardwicke) proves to be just as unnatural as Yonder itself.
First of all, both of the leads in this movie are fantastic actors who I have loved in other films, including The Art of Self-Defense, their previous collaboration. They’ve both got a knack for balancing dramatic roles with a heavy dose of relatability and humor. This movie takes full advantage of that by having just the right amount of levity to drive home how horrible their situation is. We see two people whose relationship is suffering not necessarily because of their own actions, but because they are in a situation which is literally driving them both insane. The third lead role belongs to Senan Jennings, who I have never seen in anything before, but who absolutely nails his role as the Boy. Not only is his voice constantly unnerving because it sounds so adult despite his young age (I think he was only like 8 when filming this), but everything about him seems like a mockery of humanity. Since he ultimately seems to be just trying to copy Gemma and Tom in order to better understand how humanity acts, much as how the suburb is set up to be a pale imitation of how humanity lives, this is just perfect.
That’s really where this movie shines. It’s uncomfortable. It’s not that Gemma and Tom are really being tortured most of the time, although having a crazy child that is rapidly aging would be disconcerting for anyone, but their existence is not really existence. The food they have doesn’t have taste. The house they live in doesn’t have any real smells. There’s even a great scene of them going into their car just because it’s the only thing they have left that still feels “real.” The houses are too identical. Even the clouds aren’t right, because they just look like clouds. It’s like living in a twisted caricature of reality. Watching how much it starts to drain the psyche of our leads, particularly Poots, just drives home that this is a torture which is more cruel than any thumbscrews could ever be.
The one big problem I have with the movie is that it might be a bit too direct in trying to tell everyone what it’s “about.” The film opens with footage of a cuckoo bird’s life cycle, which consists of being placed in another bird’s nest as an egg, hatching before the other eggs and developing faster than most species of birds, which allows the adolescent cuckoo to knock the other chicks out of the nest. Having killed their competition, the cuckoo is then raised by the mother bird until it’s an adult. So, that’s a bit of a massive spoiler about this film’s arc. Also, the title tells us that the neighborhood is supposed to be a Vivarium, a place where life is grown while observed as part of data collection or experimentation. I think the film was clear enough, so it feels unnecessary to have it spelled out so much, but maybe that’s nitpicking.
Overall, this was a solid horror film. I recommend giving it a try.
There’s a documentary about a strange pageant that isn’t strange enough.
Every year since 1958, in Sweetwater, Texas, the Sweetwater Jaycees conduct the world’s largest rattlesnake roundup. Hundreds or even thousands of rattlesnakes are captured and turned into exhibits, boots, and, of course, delicious snake meats. The festival includes a gun and coin show, a literal giant tub of snakes, and the Miss Snake Charmer beauty pageant.
If you’re from a small town you’re probably familiar with a festival like this. I’ve been around Florida to many of their festivals, ranging from watermelon to railroad to ‘possum (not to be confused with opossum, which is how it’s spelled by Yankees). All of them are usually fun, local events that are designed to boost the local economy. Much like the Rattlesnake Roundup, there’s often a beauty pageant or a similar contest associated with it. Sadly, the Miss Snake Charmer pageant is pretty much the same as those: Cute and unconventional, but only moderately interesting.
When this documentary started, I imagine that the people filming it assumed that any festival dedicated to capturing hundreds of rattlesnakes must inherently be staffed by the kind of crazy people that we usually see only in Christopher Guest movies. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Most of the people featured, ranging from the festival hosts to the pageant contestants, are painfully normal. Despite the fact that they hold a festival dedicated to poisonous snakes, the citizens of Sweetwater are mostly just regular folks, most of whom only value the festival for the fact that it clears out snakes and brings in revenue. Given that the town of less than 11,000 people gets an $8.3 Million boost from the festival, that’s understandable.
While, yes, the media day for the pageant does include having the girls kill and skin a rattlesnake, the other parts of the event are fairly mundane. It’s not that it’s not a nice pageant, it’s very well done, but it’s not likely to be what you envision when you hear “Miss Snake Charmer.” It would likely have been more fun to follow a snake handler church service. Honestly, the roundup looks fun, it just doesn’t have anything too out of the ordinary.
Overall, the documentary is a bit of a letdown, unless you want to see a literal tub of snakes. This seems like the kind of thing that needs to be seen live to be fully enjoyed.