It was back-to-school week for my daughter, which means some adjustments for everybody. Baths need to be taken every night (we let her slide a lot more often on vacation days) and bed times are earlier. The mornings go from lazy to frantic and we have to remember to pick her up in the afternoon. But the days are free, which allows for more mature lunchtime viewings and those early bedtimes mean more time for movies for me. It wound up being a week full of review material. I had initially planned January to be a month of Oscar movies I’d never seen, but the review pile said, "No." Maybe next week I’ll get those award winners going.
Until then, here’s some cool things I caught this week.
The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion
Luciano Ercoli’s first film is more psycho-sexual drama than gialo but it still manages to thrill. A woman is attacked on a nightly stroll by a man who says that her husband is a murderer and she’d better be careful. She scoffs at first but when a man in her husband’s employ dies and the stranger provides an audiotape of him plotting to kill him, she believes. The stranger demands payment for keeping his mouth shut and that payment is her body. When she agrees, he then blackmails her with photos of the tryst. Each day he demands more and more degradation from her to keep the husband and herself out of trouble. It's a fairly bloodless affair and the plot is more straightforward than these things usually are, but Ercoli provides plenty of atmosphere and some eerily evocative set designs making it a lot of fun to watch. I'll have a full review up soon.
This sequel to the long running, and rather confusing horror franchise essentially wipes out all previous sequels and imagines that Michael Myers was captured after the events of the first film in 1978. For forty years, he’s been in a mental hospital while Laurie Strode tries to deal with the trauma stemming from those murders. She lives in a secluded, heavily armed compound and trains for his return every night so she can get her revenge. Meanwhile, her estranged daughter and granddaughter try to forge their own lives. Of course, Michael escapes and once again starts stabbing people in Haddonville, including the granddaughter's friends while ultimately looking to get back at Laurie. It's full of callbacks to all the movies in the franchise and deals surprisingly well with the concept of trauma and post-traumatic stress. You can read my full review here.
Let the Corpses Tan
A visual stunning, but entirely exhausting modern update of the Spaghetti Western by way of 1970s gialli as filtered through the lens of Tarnatino and Sergio Leone. The plot is about a gang of thieves hiding out in Mediterranean compound who get into a violent scuffle with the police, but this film is all about style over plot. It's got quick editing, hallucinogenic visuals, and loads of graphic violence. You can read my full review here.
I just discovered this British show that is now on Netflix and immediately fell in love with it . Naturally, the first season is only six episodes long and thus far its not been picked up for a second season. It's about a cute blonde girl living a perfectly normal life until one day she finds out she’s special and now must save the world from a demon menace. Call it a British Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It's stylish and quick witted, full of action and so much fun. Don’t let the stupid title keep you from watching it like it did me for far too long. Crazyhead is crazy good television.
I’m a fan of Nick Hornby’s writing when he’s either writing personal essays or writing fiction that contains a character who is just as socially awkward, musically obsessed, and witty as himself. When he strays to far from what he knows, he tends to get preachy. Well, he gets preachy even when I like his books but at least then his characters feel real and his stories remain interesting.
Juliet, Naked was a bit of a come back for him in my opinion. It's about Duncan, a middle-aged guy who is completely obsessed with a musician named Tucker Crowe. Tucker made a brilliant album called Juliet several decades previous and then suddenly just disappeared from the scene never to be heard from again. Duncan runs a fan site about Tucker Crow, has posters of him all over his room, and collects bootleg tapes from every concert he ever performed.
One day a CD arrives in the mail full of rough cuts from Juliet. Tucker’s the kind of guy to obsess over this sort of thing and also who gets pissed at his long-time girlfriend Annie for listening to it before he does. And to cheat on said girlfriend because she doesn’t like the thing he likes exactly the way he likes it.
When Annie writes a negative review of the demo tape on Duncan’s blog, she receives an e-mail from Tucker Crowe agreeing with her. The two then form a loving e-mail relationship. Romantic comedy ensues. The film stars Rose Byrne as Annie, Chris O’Dowd as Duncan, and Ethan Hawke as Tucker. All of whom are marvelous. It has a myriad of story flaws but is quite funny and it really gets the weird, obsessive culture of dudes who really like certain musicians. I ought to know, I am one.
I think its safe to say Jordan Peele surprised everyone when he switched from making a comedy show to directing one of the smartest, most socially relevant, most terrifying horror movies I’ve seen in a long time with Get Out. Now he’s back with Us another horror movie about…well, just watch it. I can’t wait to see it.