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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Watched Life After Beth, thanks to discovering Aubrey Plaza on Legion. I had a vague interest in it from the ad campaign when it first came out, which sold it as a black comedy.

But it's not. Despite the premise (girl comes back from the dead as a zombie, and everybody pretends she's not so as to not upset her) and the presence of comedian John C. Reilly, it's not funny at all. There are potentially funny set pieces, but they were played dead serious and came across as sad (vis-a-vis Beth) and a little scary (Beth not knowing her own strength and not being in her right mind). For example, Beth decides that a girl (played by a very young Anna Kendrick) is a potential romantic rival, and grabs her by the arm. The girl is terrified, and for good reason -- we just saw Beth perform wild acts of super-strength. It wasn't remotely funny -- the girl was in genuine peril, and it was played that way. And since the movie took time to let us get to like the girl, the audience was primed to fear for her, not laugh.

Perhaps it would have been funny if Plaza played Beth as wacky, instead of terrifying. But she didn't. Beth was a sort of enfant terrible, possessed of terrifying strength (and eventual hunger for human flesh) and the temperament of a toddler having a temper tantrum. Knowing how arch Plaza can play any given material, it's obvious that she chose not to here.

My wife liked it more than I did, so maybe if you watch the movie without preconceptions, you'll like it better.

We just saw The Post (2017), starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks as, respectively, the owner and chief editor of The Washington Post when what came to be known as the Pentagon Papers were released to the public, proving that the government had known that the Vietnam War was unwinnable since they first sent ground troops there. All of the actors are terrific.* The White House trying to control the press certainly resonates today.  

* Bob Odenkirk from Better Call Saul, Matthew Rhys from The Americans, Sarah Paulson from just about everything, and many others. 

We just watched The Death of Superman. It's quite different from the original comics version. There are references to a previous romance with Wonder Woman, a recent thing that I thought they had dropped. I don't think the Justice League was as involved in the original story, at least not to the extent they were here. I also think Green Lantern was beaten too easily. I do like the fact that they had J'onn J'onzz as part of the League in addition to Cyborg.

The previews show enough finished portions of the second part (of two) called Reign of the Supermen, involving the Cyborg Superman, Steel, The Eradicator and Superboy, to make me look forward to it. Cress Williams (Black Lightning) plays Steel.

I may have mentioned somewhere that the new Death of Superman has to be different from the original, just because of who was available. In the original, most of the original League wasn't active for some reason, so the group that battled Doomsday was an ad hoc bunch of second bananas. I mean, Maxima, Fire, Ice, Booster Gold, Blue Beetle, Bloodwynd and Guy Gardner didn't last very long. In the new movie, the classic lineup is available. Also, in the original Lex Luthor was "dead" and had downloaded his brain to a clone that pretended to be Luthor's own illegitimate son, and Supergirl was the Matrix blob from another universe. So there's two more classic characters that weren't available for the original story.

My wife and I watched Pandorum. It's not an award-winner, but it's not a bad Alien rip-off with a nice twist at the end. A UK-Germany production, it has Dennis Quaid in a big role and a bunch of actors most of us aren't familiar with -- almost. The lead woman was played by Antje Traue, who went on to play Faora in Man of Steel. This was her first appearance in an English-speaking movie.

We saw Crazy Rich Asians, and thoroughly enjoyed it. The love story of Rachel and Nick has the common, universal theme: People who can never please someone else, no matter what they do, because the person rejecting them will never accept who they are. That cuts across all cultures.

Plus, the insane opulence on display is fun to look at. Like one member of the family who goes on a shopping spree at a high-end jeweler, and gets earrings at the discount price of $1.2 million (the jeweler is so glad for the promotional value of having this client wear them, he sells them at cost) -- and comes home with those AND so much stuff, she needs six people to carry it all! These people are CRAZY rich!

Kathy & I saw BlacKkKlansman last night, and man, what a tense and powerful movie that was. It's funny, it's terrifying and suspenseful, and by the end of it I was curled up in revulsion & horror in my big reclining theater chair. It's a hammer to the heart, and well worth seeing. 

Rob Staeger (Grodd Mod) said:

Kathy & I saw BlacKkKlansman last night, and man, what a tense and powerful movie that was. It's funny, it's terrifying and suspenseful, and by the end of it I was curled up in revulsion & horror in my big reclining theater chair. It's a hammer to the heart, and well worth seeing. 

We saw BlacKkKlansman, too. It's the best Spike Lee has done in years, even as it's full of all the Spike Lee-isms that, well, make a Spike Lee movie a Spike Lee movie.

There's so much outlandish stuff in there it left us wondering what was real and what was the scriptwriter's invention, but we've seen enough movies that we could pretty much tell what was there just to make a better movie. But Lee's bigger point -- the more things change the more they stay the same -- was hammered home pretty effectively throughout. 

With a lot of movies "based on a true story" (or in this case, "fo' real, fo' real sh*t") I don't worry too much about what the actual facts on the ground were, and just watch for the storytelling. Which in this case, seemed to borrow quite a bit from The Battle of Algiers, another super-tense, super uncomfortable movie with a lot of cross-cutting between different organizations and a purse loaded with C-4. I look at movies like this as jumping-off points -- things that can pique my curiosity in case I want to find out more.  

Used to be, movies that made the claim they were "based on a true story" tried harder to stick to the facts, and could do so without sacrificing their ability to be entertaining.

Today, it's more correct to call them "ripped from the headlines," which doesn't promise fealty to the truth.

Heck, even the TV remake of Dragnet (circa 2003-2005) changed the claim "The story you are about to see is true; the names have been changed to protect the innocent," to "The story you are about to see was inspired by actual events."

I liked the disclaimer from Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid: "Most of what follows is true..."

I don't know if I agree with that. I think all through the time I was growing up, there were plenty of movies "based on a true story" that weren't particularly beholden to the actual facts. (Some adhered to them more closely than others, of course.) I've never read "based on a truth story" as a promise to adhere to the truth -- just that the story I'm going to see was inspired by something that happened, but streamlined into a movie narrative, with composite characters, dead-ends trimmed off, etc.

I mean, Mazes and Monsters was supposedly based on a true story -- and even when I was a kid, I knew that was hooey. 


I have discovered the perfect conditions under which to watch Marvel movies: while trapped on a plane. That way I don’t have to pay for tickets, nor buy the DVD, nor spend the time when I could be doing other things. I watched four.

BLACK PANTHER: This one was a bit of a disappointment, but only because my expectations had been raised so high by positive word of mouth. I preferred the glimpse of Wakanda shown in the recent Avengers movie. I’ll concede it was important for other reasons, but other than that, it was no better or worse than any other super hero origin movie I have seen. It’s been two weeks since I saw it and already I remember almost nothing about it.

DOCTOR STRANGE: I entered this one, OTOH, with very low expectations and was pleasantly surprised. It was an origin story (of course), which I didn’t particularly need. Most often, I will watch the first movie in a series (Captain America, Iron Man and Thor, for example), but none of the others. What I should have done was skip the first one and start watch after the origin was out of the way. Ultimately, though, there was just too much Doctor Strange (in comparison to the aforementioned Avengers movie where there was just the right amount).

ANT-MAN: Another pleasant surprise. My favorite part was the cameo appearance by Garrett Morris (TV’s “original” Ant-Man).

DEADPOOL II: Like Guardians of the Galaxy, I don’t really consider this one a “Marvel movie” because I never read the comic.

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