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 On the Count of Three on Hulu last night. I'd never heard of it, but I picked it out because I thought it was a 2022 movie, and I wanted to broaden what I've seen this year. Turns out it was 2021, so it's not going on my top 10 list. Would've made last year's, though! 

But before I say any more, this movie deals with suicide -- a LOT. If you think you'll find that triggering, please don't watch it.

That said, this story of two young men who delay their impromptu suicide pact to live one more day is terrifically watchable in all the right ways. The friendship between Val and Kevin is casual and lived-in; you feel like these guys really do have a couple decades of history between them. They're funny and likable, and their pain is palpable, both when they face it and as they try to keep it at arm's length. They've been betrayed by the world, and what are they gonna do about it?

I haven't seen Christopher Abbot or Jerrod Carmichael in anything before; this is also Carmichael's feature film directing debut. You can bet I'll be looking for more from both of them in the future.

 

Jerrod Carmichael was the lead in The Carmichael Show (2015–2017). It had three seasons (32 episodes) on NBC. As IMDB says, his character has a "very opinionated family." I found it to be a very funny show. Like On the Count of Three (which I need to watch), it's available on Hulu.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

I did not know that. I have only one Lambert, Hendricks and Ross album, Everybody's Boppin'. The trio is probably best-remembered for their rendition of Walt Kelly's Deck Us All with Boston Charliefrom Pogo.


The IMDB tells me she also dubbed Sarah Douglas in parts of Superman II. Apparently Douglas's voice is used more in the Richard Donner version.

Thanks, Richard -- I'll check it out!

We just watched The Northman and quite enjoyed it. Of course I did, given that it's based primarily on the legend of Amleth as written by Danish historian Saxo Grammaticus, and I do love me some Vikings. But Joan loved it too, given the mystical/pagan/witch elements, which she enjoys. Wikipedia informs me that the Amleth saga is also the basis for Shakespeare's Hamlet, which I did not know.

If this sounds familiar, it's because I posted in the wrong place -- TV -- and am putting it in the right place now.

Big movie day for me yesterday, as I saw three movies, nearly back to back.

First up was The Green Slime, a joint Japanese/US production (American actors on Japanese sets) that starts out as Armageddon and then veers into Alien territory. Fun cheese. It feels like a 50s monster movie throwback, while every now and then reminding us it's been filmed in 1968 -- either with the (extremely groovy!) theme song, the go-go party costumes, or an unexpected amount of blood. But every space model seems straight out of the toybox. (And then there's the love triangle. Settle down, boys -- you're BOTH assholes!) Currently on the TCM app.

Next, I ventured out of the house to see Black Adam. It’s... fine, I guess? It certainly delivers on big superhero fights, and finally presents the Justice Society onscreen. Pierce Brosnan as Dr. Fate is pretty great casting, and the depiction of his magic as yellow-tinted geometric shapes made his action distinctive and fun to watch. The other JSA members are well-portrayed, particularly Quintessa Swindell's Cyclone. (And shout-out to the Al Pratt cameo, one of the only surprises in the movie, but something that made me cheer.)

More than anything, though? For a movie starring the Rock, this has very little of his charm. Even though he eventually makes a couple jokes, Teth-Adam doesn't really have the emotional range of... well, Dwayne Johnson. Johnson tends to bring people together with a smile and optimism, and even doubters like me might want to believe him. Black Adam, on the other hand, is always dealing with a simmering anger, which leaves half of Johnson's strength on the sidelines.

And man, there were some lazy choices here, especially in the first half. My eyes rolled at the early battle sequence synched to the Stones' "Paint It Black." It felt like the tritest choice of music imaginable. Likewise, there’s a showdown sequence that echoed the shootout in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. In the space of 10 minutes, the movie was 2 for 2 in hitching itself to artwork with more integrity and gravitas, and Not Measuring Up.

I wrapped up the night with Kimi, a taut little Covid-era surveillance-age thriller from earlier this year. Angela (Zoe Kravitz) is an agoraphobic woman employed to monitor and correct miscommunications for a digital home assistant called Kimi (basically Siri or Alexa). Much like the lead characters in Blow-Up or The Conversation, she thinks she discovers evidence of a crime, so she digs into it further...eventually upsetting a whole applecart of misdeeds and putting herself in the crosshairs. Easily the best movie I saw today (although the competition wasn’t exactly fierce), and the only one I can recommend unreservedly. On HBO Max.

I think it’s worth mentioning that Bill Finger was one of the screenwriters for The Green Slime.  Saw this as a double feature with Wild, Wild Planet at the drive-in when I was a kid.

Its Love I'm After (1937)

The title wouldn't have attracted me, but IMO you can't go wrong with a Bette Davis movie. especially from her younger years. She and Leslie Howard* are playing against type in a laugh-out-loud comedy (really). Howard is funnier as a famous actor constantly pursued by women (who usually catch him). Davis is his acting partner and lover/enemy. She holds up her end, but he and his dresser/butler provide most of the laughs. Olivia de Havilland** plays the latest starstruck young girl, engaged to another, who wants him desperately. The actor (who just got engaged to his lover) and the girl's fiancé conspire to change the girl's mind. Lots of hijinks ensue. Watched it on TCM

*He who would later play the idiot whipped by Scarlet O'Hara in Gone with the Wind, who would die heroically for the unnamed KKK.

**Who also had a wimpy role later in GWTW.

DARK SHADOWS (2012): For Hallowe'en. Tracy wanted something light. We had see it only once before, in the theater. It's one of those adaptations that utilizes the original characters, but grafts a new story onto them. I am impressed by the production values and the sets and locations, but am saddened that Dark Shadows now exists in public perception only as a spoof. 

Watched two horror movies last night -- both of 'em corkers.
Started out with John Hancock's 1971 debut Let's Scare Jessica to Death -- a perfect title if there ever was one. And it's pretty much a perfect low-key 70s horror film. Zohra Lampert is exceptional as Jessica, recently released from a mental hospital to live at an apple orchard in the country with her husband and their friend. Should be idyllic, right? But the townsfolk are immediately unfriendly -- because they view the young newcomers as hippies, or is it something more? -- and there's a squatter in their house, Emily (Mariclare Costello) that Jessica is simultaneously drawn to and threatened by.
I want to draw attention to the sound design of the film. The incidental music is top-notch, striking discordant notes of unease even in otherwise innocuous scenes. We're in Jessica's head, and Jessica simply can't trust herself. She's suffered from auditory and visual hallucinations in the past, so even when she sees something unusual, she'll try not to mention it unless she gets confirmation that others have seen it too. And then there are the voices Jessica hears, overlaid masterfully over the action. We hear Lampert's own voice, sometimes speaking Jessica's thoughts, and sometimes speaking words others, particularly Emily, are communicating to her, as if telepathically -- which of course are her own thoughts, too. Her brain can't be trusted.
But what if something's actually wrong? Really, really, wrong? What then?
Next up was this year's Barbarian, written and directed by Zach Cregger, about a woman who winds up double-booked at an airbnb with a handsome stranger she doesn't know. And the airbnb turns out to have an expansive basement, that keeps going down and down and down.
That's all I knew from the preview. I saw the trailer in the theaters, said a quick "nope" and forgot about it -- until friends started talking it up. And yep, it's a terrific little horror movie, twisty and repulsive in all the right ways. Georgina Campbell is super appealing as our heroine, Tess, who's rightfully apprehensive from the start, but whose heroic heart keeps her from abandoning others.
Also, there's a short stretch where Justin Long's character doesn't realize he's in a horror movie -- despite everything around him -- that is absolutely delicious.
So, two horror movies, and two recommendations. Not a bad Halloween!

Oh, right, I meant to mention that! That's what drew me to the movie in the first place! (Tom Peyer mentioned it on Twitter, and I went right to TCM to check it out!)

Dave Palmer said:

I think it’s worth mentioning that Bill Finger was one of the screenwriters for The Green Slime.  Saw this as a double feature with Wild, Wild Planet at the drive-in when I was a kid.

Watched the new All Quiet on the Western Front. I've never read the book or seen the 1930 adaptation that won a couple of Oscars, but I was somehow familiar with the outline of the plot. Anyway, this version was made by Germans, and we watched it in German with English subtitles. (Otherwise the mismatch between lips and words gets distracting for us. YMMV)

And boy howdy, was it ever good. Like with 1917, the production standards were so good that I felt like I was immersed in 1) 1917 and 2) The Great War. Which is not a happy thing, nor is it a happy movie. But it's verdammten gut.

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