Five Cool Things and Punky Brewster

Here are the cool things I consumed this week.
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Last weekend, I went for a walk around the neighborhood with my wife and young daughter.  Along the way, she saw some of her friends playing in the yard.  One of them ran over to my daughter to give her a hug.  I had to shout at her, screaming that they shouldn't be touching each other.  Later this week, my daughter had her birthday.  All things considered, it was a good day.  We Facetimed the grandparents to let them see her open her presents.  Many of her friends did drive-bys; they pulled up to the curb and she got to chat with them for a minute while they stayed in their cars.  Late in the afternoon, one of the neighborhood friends came by.  We let her in the house so my daughter could show off her toys for what I thought would be just a minute or two.  I thought my wife was watching them, she thought I was doing the same, and a good fifteen minutes rolled by before I realized the friend was still upstairs playing.  I immediately went up and told her to get out.

I hate this virus so very much.

When I first started writing this column, my idea was to shed just a little light.  At the time, it seemed like the world was full of darkness and everywhere you turned was anger, violence, and horror.  Little did I know that we'd soon all be cooped up in our own homes for who knows how long hoping the world doesn't end.  I don't know who reads my little column in this little corner of the internet.  I don't pretend to be making any kind of a difference.  But I still try to highlight things that make me happy, to maybe introduce someone to something cool they might not have known about before.

And with that, here we go.

Love Among the Ruins

Katharine Hepburn and Laurence Olivier star in this made for TV movie from director Geroge Cukor.  She's a rich, old widow who has gotten herself into a legal bind and he's the great barrister come to save her.  To complicate matters, they had a brief but intense affair decades earlier, something he has pined over ever since and she seems to have completely forgotten.  It is a bit slow in the early stages but by the final act, the fireworks are exploding and those two masters of the stage and screen show us all what great acting really is. You can read my full review here.

Doctor Who: Warriors of the Deep

doctor who - warriors of the deep.jpgThe local college television no longer plays Classic Doctor Who on Friday night.  For years now, we'd made it a ritual to order a pizza and watch those old stories.  Amazon Prime no longer streams the New Who stories either.  Luckily, I own all the new ones on DVD/Blu-ray and I have a pretty good collection of Classic Who in that format as well.  Lately, we've been running through the new series again but last night, I whipped out this classic and had a lot of fun with it.

Warriors of the Deep is the third part of an informal trilogy that also includes Doctor Who and the Silurians (1970) and The Sea Devils (1972).  Those two series introduced two types of creatures who used to rule the Earth long before humans came on the scene but have been forced underground for centuries.  In this story, they work together to destroy all human life.

It takes place inside an underwater sea base in the year 2084.  Two major human powers are at constant war with one another and the sea base is designed to help keep the peace.  The Silurians - reptilian-like creatures - and the Sea Devils - also reptilian but with gills to swim in the water and a rather large mean streak - capture the base and attempt to use it to lure the other side into a nuclear war. Luckily, the Fifth Doctor along with Tegan and Turlough arrive to stop them.

It is basically a siege story and when it sticks to that, it works quite well.  I'm a sucker for that type of story and it's lots of fun watching the characters try to figure out how to stop the "bad guys" from getting to them.  But like a lot of Doctor Who stories, this one overloaded with ideas and characters.  We not only have two alien races (although I think both of them are technically Silurians, the Sea Devils look and act differently than the regular ones) but two companions, plus numerous other humans with speaking parts.  And there is a subsection of humans working for the other side.  All of which adds up to too many things going on to make the story as tight as it ought to be. 

The creature designs are pretty rough.  The Silurians have a little light on the top of their heads which lights up when they speak, a device stolen from the Daleks that basically exists to let us know which guy in a rubber mask is talking.  But it looks foolish.  The Sea Devils have elongated necks for some reason which looks ridiculous and also causes their heads to topple over quite often.  But what's Classic Who without some silly creature designs?  It is all part of the fun and there is plenty of fun to go around in this story.

Blow the Man Down

blow the man down poster.jpg

With movie theatres being closed for the indefinite future, it is interesting to see how studios are finding ways to release new movies.  Several movies that had just been released into theaters before Covid-19 hit are now being released as VOD.  Most big movies are just being postponed until this is all over and others seem to be landing on streaming services like Netflix and Amazon.  Blow the Man Down had its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival and was quickly bought up by Amazon.  This means it likely wouldn't have ever seen a real theatrical run, but now it definitely will not.  But many others sit in limbo with studio execs desperately trying to figure out how to sell their product to people who cannot come to the theater.

However Blow the Man Down came to streaming video, it is well worth seeking out.  It is a Fargo-esque tale in which two young women get caught up in murderous schemes and quickly find themselves in way too deep in a small-town world full of darkness and menace.  The two women are played by Morgan Saylor and Sophie Lowe who get into some trouble after burying their mother. Trying to get out of that trouble only gets them in deeper.  I don't want to spoil the plot as that's half the fun, but I will say that Margo Martindale is involved and she's as great as ever.  Like something out of David Lynch's brain, Blow the Man Down digs into the underbelly of small-town life and while it isn't a perfect film, it is quite good and well worth your time. 

Also, it is filled with men singing sea chanties.  You can't beat that.

Marnie

marnie poster.jpgMy go-to director in times of boredom or times of being tired of trying to pick something out to watch is Alfred Hitchcock.  I've never seen a bad film by the director and I usually find his films to be quite good.  I've seen pretty much all of his absolute classics that he made during the middle of his career but I'm pretty light in watching his earliest films.  I've been slowly catching up on the films he made at the end of his life and was happy to finally check of Marnie from my list.

Hitchcock was always interested in psychology, sexuality, deviant behavior and how all those things intertwine. Trouble was, for most of his career he worked in an arena in which he could not be as explicit as he wanted to be in exploring these ideas. Or maybe it isn't such a troubling after all because he made some of the world's greatest films exploring these themes while still adhering to the censorship of the time.

By 1964, when he made Marnie, times had changed. The sexual revolution was changing the culture and cinema was becoming more risque. In that same year, Sean Connery would star in Marnie and in Goldfinger. Three years later, The Graduate would be packing theater seats. Hitchcock was finally able to explore his pet themes in more explicit terms and yet his style of filmmaking was now seen as old fashioned. It is also an odd mix of his more typical thriller and a psychological character study.

Marnie (Tippie Hedren) is a young woman who has been taking jobs at various offices and then stealing from them.  She takes a new job at Mark Rutland's (Sean Connery)  company.  He actually knows she's a thief as he does business with the company she stole from last, but he thinks he can save her.  He woos her then forces her to marry him (or else he'll tell the cops about her thievery) then tries very methods to cure her.  There are all of the classic Hitchcock themes being blended together and he's finally able to state things more outright, instead of only alluding to them as he'd had to do in the past, but somehow this makes it messier. 

Knowing that Hitchock did treat Tippie Hedren quite poorly on the set of The Birds and watching Sean Connery do the same on screen is a weird bit of real-life meeting art. This isn't to say that it is a bad film, not at all in fact. It is quite good with some really interesting ideas. But it is a film that came at a weird time for Hitchcock and Hollywood, causing it to feel a bit out of place in his filmography.

Underwater

underwater bluray.jpgKristen Stewart stars in this underwater Alien rip-off.  She's an engineer working on an underwater oil rig when an earthquake starts to tear it apart.  She bands together with her coworkers in an attempt to make it over to another underwater building where there might be some rescue pods.  Along the way, she'll battle the rig falling apart, a possible nuclear melt-down, and some creepy monsters of the deep.

It is a goofy mishmash of monster movie and disaster flick that doesn't work all that well as either but is pretty darn entertaining in its utter ridiculousness.  At least until T.J. Miller opens his mouth.  You can read my full review here.

Punky Brewster

Take a look at my byline for a minute and then look at this next cool thing.  I was eight years old when Punky Brewster first hit television screens and twelve when it left them.  That's prime time for kids to make fun of your name and let me tell you I got called "Punky" more times than I can count.  It didn't stop when the show ended either.  I was called that name by guys thinking they were cute all the way through college.

Thing is, I loved that show.  I'm sure our shared last name had a lot to do with that, but I have very fond and very vague memories of watching it every week.  I honestly don't remember anything about it now other than it starred a very cute and funky girl.  That girl has grown up into the very adult-looking Soleil Moon Frye and since everything gets rebooted and updated these days, so is Punky Brewster.

Now I have no doubt if I went back and watched the old shows, I'd think they were quite dumb.  Just as I have no doubt that this update will be really cheesy.  Just watching this trailer makes me cringe.  But darn-it that cringe is full of nostalgia.  In times like these, we could all use a little nostalgia.

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