Saw a Takashi Miike picture called The Great Yokai War. "Yokai" is a Japanese term for monsters from folklore, as opposed to the more familiar kaiju. It's a kids' picture, about a young boy from Tokyo sent out to live in the countryside with his older sister and his intermittently senile grandfather. When a vengeful spirit appears, the boy gets caught up in a war between warring groups of yokai and must find his courage to become the "Kirin Rider", the hero who will set everything to rights. It's not a bad picture - nothing deep, but an amusing story. Some of the yokai are really trippy, Japanese folklore can get pretty "out there", apparently.

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I watched The Box last night. I had never even heard of this, but I was familiar with the Twilight Zone episode on which this movie is based, "Button Button."

This movie was interesting. Definitely not a great film, but it did toy with some concepts that were not in the TV episode. It went in some new directions; in fact, the end of that episode is sort of the launching point for most of the movie. It's not what you'd expect, but I do think that most people on this board will find it far more fascinating than I did.

After a long week at work and a long and eventful first half of my weekend, I have taken advantage of the start of my solitary time by watching a film I've never seen before, Planet Terror. I love the way Robert Rodriguez took advantage of the Grindhouse theme and used all of those silly film shortcuts and embraced them. Sure, if this movie hadn't been featured in such a celebratory 70's manner, it would have seemed cheap. But I loved it for everything that it was. Zombies, scientists, militaristic bad guys, and the hodgepodge crew of fighters that brought the trophy home at the end of the day--they made this film work in a great, entertaining way.

Now I'm watching the second part of the Grindhouse feature, Death Proof. This is an awesome duo of movies.

THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GREY (1945): Despite it being adapted in Dark Shadows and "Oscar Wilde" being a main character in Cerebus, I have never read the book nor seen this movie until last night. It's sort of "thinking man's" horror, very well directed. It's in b&w, but every once in a while a close-up of the painting is in technicolor. A stiking effect! Best known in the cast today would be Angela Lansbury and Donna Reed.

We saw The Sun Is Also a Star and really enjoyed it. Most of it takes place over one day in New York City and, as it opens, Natasha Kingsley is all nerves and urgency. On the morrow, she and her family are to be deported to Jamaica. As she has lived in the States half her life, since the age of 9. New York is the only home she knows. Her parents are resigned to the deportation, but she wants to stay and fight, and has a meeting with an Immigration and Naturalization Service officer to plead for some kind of last-ditch intervention.

Daniel Bae has an appointment too, with a Dartmouth alum who can give him a favorable admissions recommendation. He's a lot more leisurely about it, mostly because he doesn't really want it; going to medical school is his family's dream, not his.

Natasha's and Daniel's paths cross on the way to their respective appointments, and he is instantly smitten  Natasha is charmed but afraid, knowing tomorrow really is not promised to her. The INS agent can't help her, but he does pass along the business card of a lawyer who specializes in cases like hers. On that slim hope, Natasha and Daniel make their way around town and into each other's hearts

Natasha is Yara Shahidi of black-ish and grown-ish, and of course Daniel instantly falls for her -- she is warm, personable, and exotically beautiful. Daniel is Charles Melton, whom we know as Reggie on Riverdale. He is charming and earnest as he tries to win Natasha over. 

This is one of those kinds of movies where New York is, as they say, another character in the story. Fully half the budget must have gone to establishing shots of various neighborhoods and the city skyline from different vantage points. The movie revolves around different vantage points; there are even consultants on Korean culture and Jamaican culture listed in the credits. 

It's a pleasant love story, well photographed and told.

This weekend, I continue my Robert Rodriguez kick, watching both Machete and Machete Kills. For a franchise based on a fake trailer, this is relentlessly entertaining, big dumb fun.

BREAKING AWAY (1979): Wow! I really liked this movie. It's been some time since I've seen it, but I probably liked it more this time than before. If you like Hoosiers, you'll probably like this Indiana-set film, too, maybe even more. Dennis Christopher plays recent high school grad, Daniel Stohler, who is unsure about his future but is obsessed with the Italian cycling team to the point he adopts an Italian accent and sings Italian as he bikes through town. He and his three friends, played by Dennis Quaid, Daniel Stern, and Jackie Earle Haley, run afoul of some Indiana University students and get an opportunity to race in the University Foundation's "Little 500."  Barbara Barrie is very good as Daniel's mom, and Paul Dooley pretty much steals the movie as his dad.

MEET JOE BLACK (1998): This may have been a pretty good movie, but the music was so overdone that it drowned out the dialog.

Realized that it was already in my Netflix favorites, and watched it tonight. I only vaguely remember the Twilight Zone episode (not one of the originals, and I don't know the remakes as well). Pretty good, but it definitely went in some odd directions. Not sure I really get the point of it all, but it was worth watching.

I just located "Button Button" (had to go to YouTube, since all the streaming services I have seem to have dropped the later Twilight Zone series). I vaguely remember the episode, now that I've seen it. It's much more of a classic Twilight Zone plot then the movie: a short tale with a twist at the end. The movie probably explains too much by going into the background of the mysterious man who delivers the box, but the complications are interesting. According to the Wikipedia entry, writer Richard Matheson (who wrote the short story it's based on) disapproved of the story. His story had the husband die at the end: did his wife really know him?

Wandering Sensei: Moderator Man said:

I watched The Box last night. I had never even heard of this, but I was familiar with the Twilight Zone episode on which this movie is based, "Button Button."

This movie was interesting. Definitely not a great film, but it did toy with some concepts that were not in the TV episode. It went in some new directions; in fact, the end of that episode is sort of the launching point for most of the movie. It's not what you'd expect, but I do think that most people on this board will find it far more fascinating than I did.

ELECTRA GLIDE IN BLUE (1973): The documentary "The Terry Kath Experience” led me to the song “Tell Me,” and “Tell Me” led me to the movie “Electra Glide in Blue.” Produced by the same guy who produced Chicago’s early albums, it is the most unusual “cop” movie I have ever seen. In addition to Robert Blake, the movie stars Royal Dano, Mitchell Ryan and Elisha Cook, Jr. as well as four members of Chicago in prominent roles.

There's a bunch of movies we've seen I haven't mentioned, so I'll try to do that.

Little: The inverse of Big. Even the logo uses the same font. The ever-reliable Regina Hall is Jordan Sanders, a hard-charging tech mogul who is routinely belligerent to everyone, including her long-suffering assistant April Williams, played by Issa Rae. But Hall runs afoul of a tween magician who puts a curse on her to make her "little."

The next morning, Sanders wakes up and finds she's once again a gangly 14-year-old with big hair and bad eyesight. Worse, thanks to a nosy neighbor and the kind of contrivance that can only happen in a situation comedy, Sanders must , enroll in school -- she same middle school where she was a preteen outcast, where she finds herself among the current bunch of misfits. Can she help her new classmates elevate their social standing, save her company, and reverse the curse?

Like any movie with a kid in the lead, if you don't buy the kid in the role, it all falls apart. Little works thanks to Masai Martin as the teenage Jordan, who not only is the co-lead but also is executive producer -- at 14! You go, girl!

Rocketman: This was tagged as having several surface similarities to Bohemian Rhapsody. Both are about British rock stars who hit their peak in the '80s, who both grappled with their sexuality before coming to acceptance about being gay, who both lived lives of sybaritic excess and had precipitous downfalls, who both had the same villainous manager (!)

Also, both movies had the same director of record, Dexter Fletcher. Bryan Singer did the heavy lifting for Bohemian Rhapsody, but didn't get along with star Romi Malek and was fired. After Fletcher came aboard to finish the film, everyone pretended Singer had nothing to do with it ... especially after a fresh round of sexual assault allegations about Singer began to surface in the news.

And there's some carping about how close either movie hews to the facts of their subject's lives. But Rocketman has a solid excuse for its deviations from Elton John's history; it bills itself not as a biopic, but as a musical. Elaborate song-and-dance numbers break out at odd moments, like the brawl that happens to the tune of "Saturday Night's All Right for Fighting" while John is a struggling lounge pianist. 

I'd say don't expect documentary accuracy and just enjoy it. 

Breakthrough: This is one of those faith-based movies that tries to proselytize as much as it tries to entertain, and is based on a true story to boot.

The plot: A teenage kid falls through the ice of a frozen lake in Missouri one winter; he's underwater for more than 15 minutes before rescuers can find him; he is raced to the hospital in a coma; and his mother pushes the whole community to pray really really hard for his recovery. The end.

This isn't much more than a glorified TV movie. Indeed, it's full of TV actors: Marcel Ruiz (the One Day at a Time revival); Mike Colter (The Good Wife; Luke Cage) as the EMT who fishes the boy out of the lake; Josh Lucas (The Mysteries of Laura) as the boy's dad; Dennis Haysbert (The Unit, lots of Allstate commercials) as his doctor; Topher Grace (That '70s Show) as the family pastor; and Chrissy Metz (This Is Us) as the boy's mother. 

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