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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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. 

Yesterday: The trailer for this looked interesting, and one of us was very hyped about seeing it. It's basically a romantic comedy with a science-fiction premise.

To wit: Our hero, one Jack Malik, is a mediocre, struggling singer-songwriter whose No. 1 fan is his childhood friend and long-suffering manager, Ellie. After a disappointing gig, Jack resolves to pack it in and find a regular nine-to-five. 

Then a global blackout strikes. Unfortunately for Jack, it strikes while he's riding his bike and passing in front of a bus.

After he wakes up, Jack celebrates his discharge from the hospital by playing "Yesterday," to the delight of his friends ... who marvel at "his" new song. Not only are they unaware that he didn't write it, they have no knowledge of who did. A Google search for "Beatles" turns up insects and Volkswagens.

Jack spends some time transcribing all the Beatles tunes he can remember and starts playing them in his act and makes a demo CD which gets him notices. Soon, he's invited to be Ed Sheeran's opening act on his tour of Moscow, and attracts the notice of a devilishly charming agent, played by that charming devil, Kate McKinnon. Seeing a global superstar in the making, McKinnon offers Jack more fame and riches than he can handle. But what good is it without the love of a good woman -- that is, Ellie, who is afraid of being left behind and wonders why she never got out of The Friend Zone.™

The movie works to the extent that you believe The Beatles were The Greatest Band EVER(!). I do not believe this. I could just as well watch, and almost would prefer, a movie based on the notion that nobody remembers Stevie Wonder, a loss I would find a greater threat to all existence.

Thinking back on it, the romance in the movie is a little undercooked, as more attention is given to Jack's growing discomfort with being a 21st century Milli Vanilli.

Oddly, the movie posits that singer-songwriters are the kings of the entertainment world , which is hardly true. There are lots of songwriters and songwriting teams, like Irving Berlin or Holland-Dozier-Holland, who wrote lots of songs that were performed by others. And there are numerous singing stars who never wrote a note of music. 

Plus, whatever you might think of the music of The Beatles, their songs alone didn't make them fondly remembered talents. Their charm and cheeky wit had a whole lot to do with it, too. These qualities were something Jack Malik did not have. Himesh Patel was an okay actor as Jack, but Jack definitely needed the makeover his record label wanted to impose on him.

Which is not to say I didn't like the movie. It was entertaining. There's a running gag of Jack looking up things on Google and not finding the obvious answers because they're missing in this alternate universe. Kate McKinnon, I'm sure, left the set each day in handcuffs because she effortlessly stole every scene she was in.

And, yeah, there is all that Beatles music, which is pretty good. I read a Q and A with director Danny Boyle, who said he was a Beatles fan -- but not the superfan scriptwriter Richard Curtis is -- and found that the key to making the movie work was to find a lead actor who could sing music everybody knows in a fresh way, and he found that in Himesh Patel. So you might like this movie even if you aren't the greatest Beatles fan in the world. 

The advertising for Breakthrough and Yesterday don't inspire me to see either.

If you're going to make a movie about heavenly intervention, the incident in Breakthrough isn't unique. Many people, especially children, have come back from near-drowning in icy water. The heartbeat slows down and brain damage is usually none or almost none.

As for Yesterday, like you I think the success of the Beatles' songs depends upon their capturing peoples' imagination by building upon previous hits and their personalities. If the songs came from some guy nobody ever heard of, it's unlikely they would have been anywhere near as successful. Sadly, his being  a guy from India would have counted against him with the record companies.

Richard Willis said:

The advertising for Breakthrough and Yesterday don't inspire me to see either.

If you're going to make a movie about heavenly intervention, the incident in Breakthrough isn't unique. Many people, especially children, have come back from near-drowning in icy water. The heartbeat slows down and brain damage is usually none or almost none.

Yeah. ER did it a lot better more than 20 years ago.

Richard Willis said:

As for Yesterday, like you I think the success of the Beatles' songs depends upon their capturing peoples' imagination by building upon previous hits and their personalities. If the songs came from some guy nobody ever heard of, it's unlikely they would have been anywhere near as successful. Sadly, his being  a guy from India would have counted against him with the record companies.

It's far more likely the record companies would have bought the songs from Jack and parceled them out to artists already on their rosters. Not only is he some guy nobody ever heard of, and from India, he didn't have the kind of pop-star good looks or bubbly personality that the marketing machine would get behind -- but in this movie they do it anyway.

(There is a funny moment in which Jack has a meeting with the record label, at a gigantic conference table surrounded by yes men and yes women. At the head is a label exec babbling marketspeak, saying how they needed to tweak some elements. "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"? Lovely song, but too many words in the title. "The White Album"? Racist. That kind of thing.)

Good point. Even if they liked all of the songs, a song writer gets the writer treatment, not the star treatment.

I am a Beatles fan, and the premise of Yesterday didn't appeal to me. That supports the point being made by you guys, that it was more than the music that made them superstars.

OTOH, I didn't watch Across the Universe, or any other post-Beatles homage/celebration. I like the music, I listen to it when I'm nostalgic (or want to be), because it takes me back to a long-gone era when the world was young and the future unlimited. But I have to live in today,. not (ahem) Yesterday.

OK, so "Johnny Comes Late to the Ball" went to see "Godzilla, King of the Monsters". There may be spoilers, so if you haven't seen it but want to, beware.

In another post, I noted that my faith in the giant monster venue had been shattered after seeing the first (in this series) Godzilla film (you know, the one with the MUTOs). I had truly believed that the time in my life when giant monsters duking it out would hold my interest had indeed, gone. But then, I added, "Kong, Skull Island" filled me with hope that my youth had not entirely fled me. "Kong" was an enjoyable film. The trailers for "Godzilla, King of the Monsters" only bolstered that hope. Naturally, I finally got around to seeing it; and, I was happy I did.

Now, at this point, I had to wonder why a genre that I felt I had outgrown was beginning to again peak my interest. The answer was this: Both "Kong" and the "Godzilla, King of the Monsters" were as much about the human characters as they were about the stars themselves. "Kong" without John C. Reilly (who seemed to be an anachronism rather than a WW2 era soldier) and Samuel Jackson (who seemed right on cue for the time period Kong was set in) would have been nothing more than a WWE slug fest with CGI characters. Likewise, "King of the Monsters" without the man who lost his world, the woman who misguidedly wanted that world back, her lackey, and the voice of reason, her daughter, would have been the same. But, it wasn't. During both films, I took a genuine interest in the human component, without feeling as if the "stars" undercut. Human and monster had a connection, which made for a balanced blend in each story line. And, oh yeah, it was awesome to see my childhood favorite monsters in glorious CGI, finally looking like something that actually could be real.

Godzilla has always been a cautionary tale: "Stop screwing with the Earth or the Earth will screw back"; but, and it may just be me, "King" seemed to have a twist to the traditional message. I was left feeling as if I were told "Stop trying to fix it, you'll only make it worse". Not very re-assuring, but comforting in a strange way.

In summation, I enjoyed this film, although, it did seem longer than it needed to be. Towards the end I found myself thinking, "I know how this ends, just get on with it" (was the car chase really needed? You knew justice would be served). More importantly, it left me looking forward to a blending of the two best films in this series (forget the first Godzilla film, really). Although, I can't help but think the ending has already been revealed. "Kong" has yet to be called "King Kong"; and, I'm afraid that's the direction that may be taken. Of course, the film makers could always take the original route taken, filming two different endings to suite two different audiences. In Japan, Godzilla will reign as "King of the Monsters". Here in the US, "Kong" will be "King".  

I agree with many of your comments, though you do revive a partial urban legend. It's true the Japanese and American versions of King Kong vs Godzilla differ, the endings don't really show different victors, though one version nudges a tiny amount towards Kong, sort of kinda. Apart from the obligatory (and accurate, as far as I can tell) wiki article, this account explains the differences fairly well.

JohnD said:

In summation, I enjoyed this film, although, it did seem longer than it needed to be. Towards the end I found myself thinking, "I know how this ends, just get on with it" (was the car chase really needed? You knew justice would be served). More importantly, it left me looking forward to a blending of the two best films in this series (forget the first Godzilla film, really). Although, I can't help but think the ending has already been revealed. "Kong" has yet to be called "King Kong"; and, I'm afraid that's the direction that may be taken. Of course, the film makers could always take the original route taken, filming two different endings to suite two different audiences. In Japan, Godzilla will reign as "King of the Monsters". Here in the US, "Kong" will be "King".  

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