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Movie Time 2.0: TT mini reviews

Purple

(She/Her)
So I don't think I've ever said this about another movie before, but... The Black Phone really would have worked so much better as a videogame. Also frankly if you lopped off the first 40 minutes. It just spends WAY too much time just kinda vaguely establishing that it is the 70s and there is a kidnapper and there's this long uncomfortable child abuse scene which is really uncomfortable to watch, has nothing at all to the plot, and isn't followed up on in any way? The protagonist's dad just wails on his sister with a belt for like 5 minutes and then the rest of the movie kinda pretends that didn't happen? It feels like there was some sort of early draft where they were trying to do some kind of misdirect to paint Abusive Dad as the killer and then the movie just completely dropped any Whodunnit aspect and left this in for some reason? Super offputting. But anyway-

Once we really get into it the structure is we've got this kid locked in this very exaggeratedly unpleasant and weirdly spacious basement, trying to come up with a way to escape this guy who has killed 5 kids to date, and we have this very formalized structure where each past kid in general calls him on the titular black phone, which is just conveniently down here in the murder basement, unable to make or receive calls except from spooky ghost kids. Anyway each kid goes over what they learned on their escape attempt, and gives a semi-cryptic hint about where they hid an adventure game item, and then the protag has to putter around the basement a bit doing light puzzle solving to find them, and then combines them all in a really convoluted way to kill the killer. And just... seriously. The whole thing's begging to have a little use/combine/examine UI at the bottom and dialog trees.

There's also this whole mostly unconnected side plot with the protagonist's sister who swears like a sailor and reminds me of the little girl from Monster Squad. She has psychic visions which eventually lead to uh... her being around for a hug when the protagonist escapes purely with the aid of ghost tips? She's kinda the best thing in the movie and it's kind of a shame she doesn't actually make a meaningful contribution in the end.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Brain Damage is a weird little horror comedy. There's definitely comedy in there and it has the feel of a cheapo horror comedy but for every scene where a woman planning to give a blowjob ends up with a brain eating monster in her mouth, there's a lot that is basically just about the sadness of being a drug addict, where the drug is a phallic parasite. It feels more sad and sedate than anything. I think based on what little I knew about the director, I was expecting something transgressive and while the aforementioned blowjob scene is (in that it goes on a while and there is a monster going in and out of the actresses mouth for a while), a bit of unreal tone and an articulate monster voiced by 60s horror host Zacherly, the film is not quite the fun chaotic film I was expecting overall. But I think it's a good movie with some inventive scenes (one of the drug hallucinations is pretty great).
 

Violentvixen

(She/Her)
Remembered we had an expiring Disney+ trial and should use it, and watched Turning Red. This feels like a movie I should have liked a lot more than I did? I wonder if it had come out when I was 13-ish like the protagonist I would have liked it more. Also the "my panda my choice" line felt really out of place, but then I reminded myself this movie came out prior to the Roe v Wade decision and the line does seem to be a homage rather than mocking.

Maybe the pacing was off? I can't quite put my finger on what was wrong with it. There would be really good scenes but then I'd lose all interest, to the point I started getting off the couch at one point because I forgot I was watching the movie.

But the really good scenes are really good. Having your mom remind you about menstrual products in front of everyone? Mortifying yet happens so often and does come from a place of concern. The puberty scenes were just really well done. The grandma and aunties releasing their powers to join the fight? Holy shit I could watch that bit on replay. I want a spin off series that's just all of them fighting crime or helping people with emotional conflicts or whatever I don't care more of them please.

Maybe that's my issue? I think I found all the secondary characters far more interesting than the protagonist and her friends. Sandra Oh was brilliant and I really, really wanted more development of her relationship with the grandmother. And the scene where the dad reveals that she fought for her husband... I wanted to see that! Not the whiny teen sneaking out like in every other teen movie! Somehow a movie that looked like it should have so many new and exciting ideas and representation felt like so many other teen TV specials.

In terms of how to recommend it.. only to parents and kids 10 to late teens I guess? I think for kids who don't understand puberty or sexual attraction yet the movie wouldn't make any sense. There's not enough of the panda stuff to carry it alone it needs the emotional and growth weight to it that would go over younger kids heads. But after you're an adult it just doesn't really present anything new.
 

Sarcasmorator

Same as I ever was
(He/him)
We liked it well enough, but I don't think it really got rewatched more than once or twice, which is how you judge a favorite for kids.
 
then I reminded myself this movie came out prior to the Roe v Wade decision and the line does seem to be a homage rather than mocking.
The film also takes place in Canada, so they don't quite have the same problems we do down here.

Maybe that's my issue? I think I found all the secondary characters far more interesting than the protagonist and her friends.
It's a film that definitely has a target audience. And us not really being in it is fine. That said, I am not the target audience in that respect, but I am definitely part of the target audience that appreciates seeing Asian-American/Canadian/Diaspora experience reflected in major media. Especially in a major Pixar film like this. It feels like a big step up from Russell who was himself an acceptable step towards nice representation, but nothing about the character reflected he was from an Asian culture or celebrated that fact. Aside from his face his ethnicity was invisible.
 

Purple

(She/Her)
So rounding out this annual thing where a friend and I assign a bunch of horror movies to the other to watch, I just saw X. The Ti West thing from this year, not the CLAMP thing from way back when. It was terrible!

I think part of why it's terrible is that the director didn't want to make a movie, he wanted to make a trilogy of movies, and started in the middle, so this really just exists to establish where the character from the prequel ends up and where the character from the sequel gets started, but... none of the themes of what either of those movies seem to be going for are really into and we don't really learn anything about either of these characters and also the movie sucks. So I dunno, could probably have just skipped making this and glued the other two together with some final stinger/cold open sorta deal.

Anyway, this here is a slasher. Group of people rent barn from old farm couple to make a porn movie, get killed one by one. But... there's also a full hour before any killing happens, and what actually attempts to prop the whole movie up is hoping that the audience will just be inherently creeped out and disgusted by the fact that this very old woman is extremely horny and bi and a general vibe of "old people are inherently gross and scary." So it probably works really well if you're like, M. Night Shyamalan, but for me none of it landed at all.

And then once it gets around to the actual being a slasher it just kinda doesn't make any sense at all? Death #1 is the porn director who gets all huffy and possessive over his girlfriend wanting to be in his movie then the old woman hits on him and he's disgusted so she kills him, fine, that makes sense. But then she kills the producer who isn't being a creep, and who she doesn't even try to hit on first, so, eh? And then her husband kills the lead actor who is... straight up a really decent guy, and at the time is like, helping him out by diving into an alligator-infested swampy pond looking for his missing wife in the middle of the night and just generally being a real stand-up solid dude? And the husband is just like, "how dare you be here on my farm making my poor wife I can't have sex with horny!" and like... his wife had expressed no opinion on him at all, and is in fact horny for one of the girls, who her husband is perfectly happy to immediately then go and kidnap to be her sex slave I guess? Just zero consistent character motivation nor any clear morality play stuff going on.

Really bad old age makeup too.
 

Octopus Prime

Jingle Engine
(He/Him)
Mad God is 90 minutes of stop motion surreal nightmare imagery. What little plot there is is hard to follow as there’s constant flashbacks in admits a surreal montage of horrifying imagery, but it’s not really the kind of movie that’s trying to tell you a story so much as going, “Hey, check this out” and then blowing your mind with weird monster diaramas.
 

Violentvixen

(She/Her)
The film also takes place in Canada, so they don't quite have the same problems we do down here.
Good point.

It's a film that definitely has a target audience. And us not really being in it is fine. That said, I am not the target audience in that respect, but I am definitely part of the target audience that appreciates seeing Asian-American/Canadian/Diaspora experience reflected in major media. Especially in a major Pixar film like this. It feels like a big step up from Russell who was himself an acceptable step towards nice representation, but nothing about the character reflected he was from an Asian culture or celebrated that fact. Aside from his face his ethnicity was invisible.
This is true. But I also felt like the secondary characters had far more Asian culture representation (this is not quite the right wording, but I've typed and deleted three things and can't come up with anything better so I hope you get my general point) (edit: yikes okay this wording didn't work and came off as incredibly shitty and not at all what I meant and ugh) than Mei Ling. Still, absolutely huge leap and I agree.

Again, I feel like I should have liked it a lot more than I did because it's huge for representation of women and Asian characters, was Pixar's first female director, etc. I really am frustrated that I didn't like it that much, nothing about the film was bad but maybe I just expected more from it than what I got based on what I knew beforehand.
 
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This is true. But I also felt like the secondary characters had far more Asian culture representation (this is not quite the right wording, but I've typed and deleted three things and can't come up with anything better so I hope you get my general point) than Mei Ling. Still, absolutely huge leap and I agree.
Haha, so I'm not offended, but this can be a learning experience, lol. It's exactly that gap in what you express as 'more Asian culture representation' that makes it SUPER Asian-American/Canadian. That IS the Asian-Diaspora experience. Just because younger generations are not as outward expressively Asian, doesn't make us less Asian. Cultural identity isn't just how you dress, or speaking with an accent, or even certain values. It's about a shared experience.

When immigrants and their families spend enough time in a place, they tend to assimilate or integrate into those cultures as time goes on and as new generations emerge. It just happens naturally through cultural osmosis. Immigrants will come to a place, there will be language and cultural barriers with their new homes, they'll tend to more obviously look/sound/feel like immigrants because integration isn't easy when there are barriers like that in the way, and old habits die hard. And that's before you get to feeling like an outsider in a strange land, and not feeling comfortable with being a minority with all the pressures societies place on minorities to adapt and conform to the majority. When your entire life is a reminder that you don't fit into a place and belong, it can be a very alienating and stressful experience. Especially if that society has any ingrained hostility towards outsiders/other ethnic groups. Very often, conservative impulses kicks in when suddenly the cultural identity you've taken for granted feels under siege. Those inward inflective tendencies can be even easier to facilitate if you have access to an immigrant community where you can speak your native tongue, and not have to adapt yourself for. And when immigrants begin raising their children in their new societies, those impulses can become borderline toxic.

Because for kids who grow up the children of immigrants, or the children of those children of immigrants, there's often a weird tug-of-war at play. Where your family lives by one culture, but you go to school and mingle with an entirely different one. Mei here spends half her waking life in school surrounded by diversity,and mingling with kids from all walks of life. She's still young where language acquisition comes easier, so she speaks like everyone else does in school. Sometimes it's subconscious as people naturally code-switch, sometimes it's intentional if there's insecurities involved being ESL. In the movie we see Mei struggle with growing up in metropolitan Toronto. She feels at home and integrated into her school social setting. Maybe even more at home there versus her actual home, where her parents just don't get her in the same way her peers do. Because when she comes home, she has to conform to the conservative expectations of her mother who still values more traditional, conservative, Chinese social values. Something that affects both boys and girls, but can be especially harder on the girls who overwhelmingly get less leeway.

And then we learn that Mei's mom was really the same way and grew up with very similar experiences. But her generation was much closer to the point of immigration, and her upbringing was much more strict. And she can't help but pass her trauma (for lack of a better word) onto her daughter as a result. That's just kind of how families are in general, you know? But this is how it often gets expressed in Asian-American families. My old man grew up in a very conservative Asian-American household, swearing up and down he'd never grow up to be like his father. And while he's no carbon copy, he still ended up inheriting a lot from him anyways regarding values, disposition, temperament, etc in ways his younger self would have been appalled by. And it expresses itself in the movie by having Mei's mom's Panda-form be so gigant and out of control. She dealt with a much more strict and harsh cultural tug-of-war in her youth versus Mei who relatively had an easier go of it, growing up in a more modern time and with parents who understand what she's going through a little more. It was something I saw myself and my family in, in the film and it was really affecting to be able to see our experiences on a big screen like that.

And that brings us to the fact that while a lot of people hone in on the obvious Mei turning into a Red Panda as a metaphor for puberty, it's also simultaneously a metaphor for Mei kind of exploring her own cultural identity as well. In school, she presents as a typical, ordinary, fully assimilated kid. But kids can be very perceptive and sensitive to their surroundings and how they do or don't fit in with the group in school. There are strong social dynamics at play in school settings that manipulate kids into conformity, and tons of immigrant kids get easily embarrassed by even the visual presence of their families when they say, have bossy/nosey parents show up at the school and act/dress differently from the other parents, or get send to school with a lot of smelly ethnic foods instead of something 'normal' like a sandwich. And now, she's got this symbol of her heritage that shows up that's almost impossible to hide and she freaks out about it because she's afraid people won't accept her if they know she's different from them in strange ways.

But... then they do anyways! Because her friends are dope, and modern society is on average a lot more accepting of cultural differences than it used to be a generation or two ago. Her friends think what makes her different and unique is dope. Partially because they're open minded, but also because they love and accept her no matter what. Watching her peers fawn over her Panda-form gave me weird flashbacks of when some of my peers would discover, "Oh, you're Japanese!? I love anime and sushi!" She begins to embrace being different with her syncretic identity because it's both liberating and empowering. But she feels she has to hide it from her family because as much as the family prizes maintaining their Asian cultural values at home, older generations can definitely feel paranoid about expressing their culture on a public stage in a way that makes them targets for ostracizing and hate. Mei's family sealing their Panda-forms away and immediately trying to do the same for their child felt like a very obvious expression of that. Be the Model Minority, don't rock the boat or complain, work hard, smile, and don't give the white people reasons to be afraid of you, and life will be good. That's a distressing number of caveats to always be worried about in order to live a happy life that people in the majority never have to even contemplate in order to fit in. But here Mei is, flaunting her differences and even profiting off of it in ways that terrify/appall her conservative mother.

Non-Asians might not pick up on any of this, but we see it. And it's immeasurably valuable. I wish I'd had movies like this as a kid growing up, instead of insulting shit like Karate Kid. It can feel pretty isolating growing up split between cultures and it's always comforting and empowering to know other people out there experience what you have and that there are ways to thrive and make what feels like a handicap into a strength. I had to come to those conclusions on my own through a lot of pensive self-reflection; I hope there are kids today who can take shortcuts through seeing themselves in films like this and growing up with more natural confidence and self-acceptance. Especially when you're a member of a relatively small minority like most Asian-Americans are.

Oops, I accidentally effortposted lol
 

Violentvixen

(She/Her)
Non-Asians might not pick up on any of this, but we see it.
Oh dang, my wording was clearly very, very wrong because none of this is what I meant at all and I'm legit horrified it sounded like I meant something so stupid. I'm really sorry that I made it sound like I was so insensitive and dismissive of this and if I hurt you in any way.

I'm mortified it sounds like I'm not aware of the things you said and the idea that I'd be oblivious to it makes me sick and embarrassed. Please don't think this all went over my head. I'll try and do a better wording and am going to make some notes on my original post. Please do keep yours up in case someone else missed it because it is an awesome post and might help someone else who isn't aware of what it's like to be the child of immigrants and have to navigate everything.

I really can't express enough how my post was not in any way insinuating that someone was "not Asian enough". That is a horrifying, awful thing to say to someone and I really can't express how much what I was saying did not mean that. Fuck that was a stupid way to write that.
 
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Violentvixen

(She/Her)
And to be clear, thank you for calling that statement out. The fact that I have misrepresented myself on this board so badly that it could even be entertained that I'd mean something like that gives me a lot to think about. Maybe I'm hiding some parts of myself from this board I shouldn't, but I'm not sure about that yet.
 
lol I wasn't trying to call you out, I know you didn't mean anything by it and wasn't offended. There's no reason to beat yourself up. I presume good faith here, and you've always been a real stand up person. Words are just hard sometimes haha. But separate of that I just wanted to relate the experience in the film and what it means to a lot of us that the average movie-goer probably doesn't see or understand. Because even if you don't see something at first, seeing it later because someone explained what it means to them can still help people get it.

The idea of being "not Asian enough" is also really important and pertinent to the themes of the film as well and are worth discussing. Because it's very common for immigrant parents to see their children, or children to see their peers as not Asian enough and that's a whole minefield for kids grappling with their identity to navigate to begin with.
 

Sarcasmorator

Same as I ever was
(He/him)
Watched The Night House. Overall good and spooky, and I loooooved Rebecca Hall's performance. But it weirdly does not follow up on the whole "my husband was murdering girls who looked like me for years to stave off the supernatural whispers telling him to kill me" thing at all in the end (one assumes she alerts authorities later). It's basically a catalyst for her discovering why he did that, and he's not really judged for it; the movie is kinda saying "this was bad but his heart was in the right place." I guess it doesn't need to, her horror at the discovery was clear, but it makes the focus on her grieving fall apart a bit. I'm not sure finding out your husband is a serial killer but only for your benefit really blunts the blow much.
 

Octopus Prime

Jingle Engine
(He/Him)
Watched Bloodsport for the first time.

Did not really appreciate the degree that Johnny Cage was based on Jean Claude Van Damme before now; because yeah… same guy.

If Dux started chucking green fireballs at the end I would have accepted it at face value.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Watched Bloodsport for the first time.

Did not really appreciate the degree that Johnny Cage was based on Jean Claude Van Damme before now; because yeah… same guy.

If Dux started chucking green fireballs at the end I would have accepted it at face value.
Octo... You owe it to yourself to look up the "true story" this film is based on.

Amazing, this """"""""True""""""""" story.
 

Rascally Badger

El Capitan de la outro espacio
(He/Him)
Speaking of that "true" story, have Seanbaby's columns from Cracked.com been archived on a website that does not seem like it is going to give my laptop syphilis?

I watched Rosaline on Hulu. It tells the story of Romeo & Juliet from the perspective of the girl that Romeo was pining for when he met Juliet, reimagined as a woman he was actually in a relationship with. Its a good idea, taking a classic story and re-centering it on a new character, but the movie doesn't do a whole lot with it. Now its just a vaguely period set teen rom com that makes some allusions to Shakespeare.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Speaking of that "true" story, have Seanbaby's columns from Cracked.com been archived on a website that does not seem like it is going to give my laptop syphilis?
From time to time his daily patreon site 1-900-Hot-Dog reprints some of his Cracked stuff, as well as the other writers who work on the site. But they aren't all there yet.
 

Octopus Prime

Jingle Engine
(He/Him)
What, are you implying that there’s a possibility that Frank Dux was not the reigning champion of a secret Hong Kong death fight that nobody/everybody knew about and was a CIA assassin?
 

Rascally Badger

El Capitan de la outro espacio
(He/Him)
I ended up enjoying Black Adam quite a bit. It does drag a little near the start of the third act, and if you are thinking about how The Rock refuses to take an 'L' in any fight, this movie will not show you any evidence to the contrary. But it had reasonably satisfying fights and solid character work and Pierce Brosnan in a silk robe and ascot combo as he unwinds after a big superhero fight. Also, I'm a real pervert for obscure DC superheroes.
 

Octopus Prime

Jingle Engine
(He/Him)
I had weirdly high hopes for Tammy and the T-Rex, a film that only exists because the director had access to a pretty convincing animatronic tyrannosaur. It purports to be a horror comedy, but it… really does a terrible job at both. For about half the movie it looks like it’s going to be a supernatural revenge movie, with a tyrannosaurus getting back at the people who left him to die back when he was Little Tiny Paul Walker, but that plot gets resolved way too quickly.

If you’re going to watch a violent horror comedy with a scene that implies interact between a woman and a dinosaur, Velocipastor at least had some jokes that landed.
 

Octopus Prime

Jingle Engine
(He/Him)
Conversely, here’s my 1000 word review of Carnosaur, the other super violent dinosaur themed horror movie released in the wake of Jurassic Park


IMG_3015.jpg
 

Vaeran

perfect world
(he/him)
I just watched The Rental, which is a slow-burn horror with what will sound like a clichéd premise -- four friends rent a house in the middle of nowhere for the weekend and bad shit happens -- but the characters are unusually well-developed with complicated relationships to each other, and for a while it's not clear where the movie's actually going even as the tension keeps ratcheting up. Really really good.
 

Rascally Badger

El Capitan de la outro espacio
(He/Him)
So I watched a couple of movies from a couple of the most celebrated comedy directors of the last decade or so.

I watched Judd Apatow's The Bubble, which has a great cast and as far as I can tell no jokes. Which is an interesting choice with a comedy. Not one that pays off. Karen Gillan, Keegan-Michael Key, and David Duchovney all do their best with just actively unfunny material. Pedro Pascal kind of makes it work. To be fair, what The Bubble lacks in being funny, it makes up in being more than 2 hours long.

Then I watched The School for Good and Evil, directed by Paul Fieg. This fucking movie, which is more than 2.5 hours long, is just nonsense. I mean, I think Charlize Theron and Laurence Fishbourne are having fun, but the central conceit just doesn't work. They have a school for fairy tale characters that occasionally pulls in real people. If you fail the good school, you get turned into a monster or something? There are a lot of rules, but very few of them are explained until after they matter. And then they don't. Its bad.
 

YangusKhan

does the Underpants Dance
(He/Him/His)
I have now seen Scream 5 twice and I think it might be the best Scream sequel? Or Scream-quel, if you will (I won't).
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Watched 3 terrible dinosaur movies:

Tammy and the T-Rex I've heard is kind of cheeky fun but it largely isn't. I wish it was. I appreciate it is going for big and weird but none of the jokes land and frankly the film loses steam when the T-Rex avenges itself in the middle of act two. The main villain really wants to be Mel Brooks and I can't fault him for it. It's weird because it feels like a family film but with blood and guts.

Carnosaur is wild and bizarre but I feel like I needed to watch it with someone to get the proper "so bad it's good" feel that this has. It's a ridiculous premise (dinosaurs born out of chicken eggs) and there's a dinosaur hand puppet used but it's a slog. I do appreciate that this dumb dino movie went for a ridiculously bleak ending.

Raptor is a movie that uses a LOT of footage from Carnosaur but is directed by the guy who did Chopping Mall. It is more fun than Carnosaur but also hornier and there's a sex scene that goes on for seven minutes... but maybe that one scene was re-edited on the Archive.org video I found while the rest was untouched. It was ridiculous because it's clearly reusing the same footage a lot and it feels like a youtube shitpost but... I also know the director is kind of gross and horny, so maybe not. The film tries to be more fun than Carnosaur and it is but it's also even more eyerolling when it thinks it's bon motts are clever (they aren't) and does not earn it's twist ending.
 

karzac

(he/him)
I watched Judd Apatow's The Bubble, which has a great cast and as far as I can tell no jokes. Which is an interesting choice with a comedy. Not one that pays off. Karen Gillan, Keegan-Michael Key, and David Duchovney all do their best with just actively unfunny material. Pedro Pascal kind of makes it work. To be fair, what The Bubble lacks in being funny, it makes up in being more than 2 hours long.

So what you're telling me is that it's a Judd Apatow movie.
 
Watched 3 terrible dinosaur movies:
Carnosaur is wild and bizarre but I feel like I needed to watch it with someone to get the proper "so bad it's good" feel that this has. It's a ridiculous premise (dinosaurs born out of chicken eggs) and there's a dinosaur hand puppet used but it's a slog. I do appreciate that this dumb dino movie went for a ridiculously bleak ending.
I think this is the film that taught me about downer endings as a child. I’m sure it’s goofy as hell, but the only thing I remember is the ending.

Because you posted about it, I rewatched Brain Damage this weekend. I’d seen it when I was very young. Had no idea what to make of it (wasn’t laughing, mostly depressed/enchanted) or like what a what a blowjob was so that never stuck, but I did also remember the ending and the death of the girlfriend. Couldn’t believe that… (when I was 10) Anyway, I’m really glad I rewatched it. I think it’s really good and has such an interesting tone. And I found it funny this time.

Also saw Tár this weekend. Great. No notes.
I have now seen Scream 5 twice and I think it might be the best Scream sequel? Or Scream-quel, if you will (I won't).
It’s not my favorite sequel (3, mostly because Parker Posey and Courtney Cox are so fun there) but I think this is the most consistent horror franchise. All Screams are good…
 
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