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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GO WEST: Watched Go West last night while my wife programmed a new phone. Go West was actually the very first Marx bros. movie I ever saw, yet it was one that wasn't repeated ad infinitum on local TV (such as Duck Soup). Tracy found it more enjoyable than Animal Crackers and even laughed out loud once. (I laughed out loud several times during Animal Crackers.) I was reading through some Marx Bros. books while watching and noted that Groucho considered Go West to be one of their three worst films.

I watched ROOM SERVICE and AT THE CIRCUS over the weekend. The only good thing about the latter (according to Groucho) is the song “Lydia the tattooed Lady,” but Room Service, based on a non-Marx Brothers play, has even less to recommend it. It features Ann Miller and Lucille Ball, but it’s not particularly funny.

A very odd paring this week:

Where the Boys Are (1960): Given this film's reputation as the inspiration for the Beach Party movies, I was surprised at how well it holds up. It's a comedy/drama, with MGM production values, great colour, and some fairly strong content for 1960.

Phobe: The Xenophobic Experiments (1995): Back in the 1990s, one Erica Benedikty sought backing for a low-budget, full-length SF action film. She couldn't get it, but she worked for a local Cable TV station, so she borrowed equipment and filmed it for $250.00 with friends and relatives. It developed a cult following through local cable and at Cons. In 2017, it was released on DVD. The titular alien "Phobe" is a guy in a donated ghillie suit (she convinced some local businesses to pitch in) and a home-made mask and helmet. It's surprisingly watchable, despite being a somewhat less than polished work.

I've always thought the implication was that he was the actual devil. The whole paint the town red/welcome to Hell thing points me in that direction. Although I know this is the nameless stranger from the earlier films, I can't help but see it as a stand alone.  
Jason Marconnet (Pint sized mod) said:

I know the common thought is he was a ghost. Watching the movie I had no idea it was a revenge movie. I'm still undecided if it was the ghost of the marshal or if it was actually the marshal himself. He could have survived gone off in the wilderness changed his life and come back to the town for revenge. Either way it's a great movie.

Henry R. Kujawa said:
"Saw High Plains Drifter for the first time this weekend. That was a great movie."

With your having just seen it for the 1st time... I'd like to hear your (ahem) "interpretation" of what went on in it.


"I never did know your name."
"YES, you do..."

We just watched Bad Times at the El Royale. It has a lot in common with Coen Brothers movies and also with Tarantino's Pulp Fiction. Anyone who likes this type of movie as I do will enjoy it. Don't bring the kids.

I liked it too. I thought it was really clever. The way it unfolded really played nicely.

You could see that the director really wanted to make a Coen Brothers movie, but I thought it fell just a little short of that. He has a great future ahead of him.

Richard Willis said:

We just watched Bad Times at the El Royale. It has a lot in common with Coen Brothers movies and also with Tarantino's Pulp Fiction. Anyone who likes this type of movie as I do will enjoy it. Don't bring the kids.

Despite our better judgement, we saw Isn't It Romantic. Rebel Wilson takes her first starring role as Natalie, a schlub with low self-esteem who works at an architectural firm. When she was a child, her mom stomped on her heart for watching Pretty Woman; ever since she's hated romantic comedies.

At work one day, Natalie goes into a three-hour screed about how phony and unrealistic such movies are, with all of the same tropes: the Gay Best Friend, the Mean Girl Frenemy, how the lead is dazzled by Mr. Wonderful but doesn't notice the Boy Next Door, how the lead doesn't want the Boy Next Door until he is seduced by the Femme Fatale, how people spontaneously burst into song and dance in elaborate production numbers, etc., etc., and so forth. 

One day, Natalie gets bonked on the head while getting away from a purse-snatcher. Waking up in the hospital, she finds her life is transformed and everything that happens in a typical romantic comedy is now happening to her! And, as they say, hilarity ensues. 

It was amusing enough, in spite of the fact that I don't like Rebel Wilson very much. (While promoting the movie, Wilson claimed it was the first with a plus-sized woman in the lead. Wrong, lots of people pointed out; Queen Latifah and Mo'Nique got there first. Instead of acknowledging the fans were right, she first claimed that the movies Queen Latifah and Mo'Nique didn't count. When the fans came after her for that, she started blocking them on Twitter. Then people noticed she was blocking only Black people, not White people who were saying the same thing -- so many that it gave rise to the hashtag #RebelWilsonBlockedMe. After a weekend of this nonsense, her publicist must have taken her phone away because she made an actual apology, and even unblocked people.

We saw Five Feet Apart. It's a four-hanky romantic drama about a pair of sick teenagers who fall in love. You might be forgiven for thinking it's the same exact movie as The Fault in Our Stars, but it isn't.

The leads are Stella, played by Haley Lu Richardson, and Will, played by Cole Sprouse of Riverdale. They are in a hospital being treated for cystic fibrosis. Will is in a clinical trial to deal with a strain of bacteria; Stella is hoping for a lung transplant. Also at the hospital is Stella's childhood buddy, Poe, as the Gay Best Friend.

Boy meets girl, and they immediately don't like each other. Stella scrupulously follows her regimen of medications; Will is a young cynic who wonders why the effort is worth it. The lung transplant only buys you five years; the hope is that a cure for CF might be found before you need another one. 

Various things happen to drive Stella and Will apart, and then together -- and to make Stella the cynic and Will the hopeful one, so much so that he makes a painful sacrifice at the end. 

Five Feet Apart was directed by Justin Baldoni, who co-stars on Jane the Virgin. If you like tearjerkers, it's right up your alley.

Continuing my viewing of Marx Brothers movies in random order…

THE BIG STORE: I found a ranking of the 13 Marx Brothers movies online. The last six movies filmed are ranked at the bottom (The Big Store certainly belongs there), and the last four are numbers 10-13 in order of realse. I didn’t see The Big Store for the first time until the early 2Ks, and this was only my second time. Groucho himself rates the sang “Tenement Symphony” from the film as “one of the worst songs ever written.”

A NIGHT IN CASABLANCA: This is the second Marx Brothers movie I ever saw as a kid (following Go West), and I would rank it higher than the #12 it earned online. I always thought it would make a good double-feature with Casablanca. Speaking of which, Warner Brothers filed suit against Adventure in Casablanca (the film’s original title) as being too similar to their own Casablanca. MGM countered by changing the title to A Night in Casablanca, which was more similar to A Night at the Opera and A Day at the Races. that wasn’t the end of it, though. Later, when WB was filming a movie about the life of Cole Porter titled Night and Day, Groucho sent a letter telling them the title was too similar to their films.

I always considered Love Happy and  Room Service to be other peoples films with the Marx Brothers as guest stars. And I pretend A Night In Casabalanca never happened.

Thanks for the Marx Bros. tour, Jeff! I don't think I've seen them all. I already know they don't hold up that well, but I love them anyway. I remember watching The Big Store in high school and feeling embarrassed for them ... but I still watched it to the end.

The wife and I finally watched Gravity. Pretty predictable, but very pretty and with two of our favorite actors. My wife liked it, but her first comment was "we should have watched that on the big screen." She is right, of course.

“Thanks for the Marx Bros. tour, Jeff!”

You’re welcome! Continuing…

LOVE HAPPY: This is the last film the Marx Brothers made together, and it is ranked dead last online. It would be difficult to justify a higher ranking. According to Groucho, Harpo had the idea that he could become the next Charlie Chaplin and plotted the movie as a solo vehicle for himself. No studio had any interest in producing the movie unless all three brothers were involved. Besides, Chico needed money again, so Groucho reluctantly agreed. Groucho’s part took him only four days to film. He does not appear alongside his brothers until that last 10 minutes of the film, one scene with Harpo, one with Chico. Never are all three brothers on screen at the same time.

I forgot to mention the other day that The Big Store (1941) was to have been their last film. It was even promoted that way, but Chico ran out of money so they got together again for a second “final” film, A Night in Casablanca (1946). Their third and truly final “final” film was LOVE HAPPY (1940). It is widely known as Marilyn Monroe’s first film, but blink and you’ll miss her. She is in only one scene and delivers only one line. Also in the film are Ilona Massey and Raymond Burr, which I had forgotten. This is another Marx Brothers movie I have seen only once before, when I got it on DVD in the early 2Ks.

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