Five Cool Things and Holiday Guests

After a week of fighting off a nasty viral infection I’m now out of town visiting the in-laws. I’m still hacking and coughing but im on the mend. Time at my in-laws is always nice but a little dull. We will watch a movie or two and I do a lot of reading but mostly it’s a lot of sitting around and talking. Which is good for the soul but not so good for Five Cool Things. Which is why I’m bringing in some help this week. But first here are the cool things I consumed this week.

Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

While I didn’t watch nearly as many Christmas movies this month as I had hoped we did catch this classic on Christmas Eve. I’d never seen it before and while I’m glad I finally did see it, I’m not sure what all the fuss is about.

It is a well-made bit of Christmas time cheer but not much more. Maybe it’s because we never pretended that Santa exists to my daughter but the whole plot point about the mother being kind of a monster for not believing in Santa didn’t really hit home with me. The performances are good and it is heartwarming but next year I think I’ll stick with It’s a Wonderful Life.

King Kong (1933)

Now here is a classic I can get behind. I know I’ve seen this, the original King Kong, but it has been so long ago I remembered none of it. The more recent remakes are closer in my mind but neither of them is that great. The story here was familiar but the effects are just brilliant. It’s a long set up to get everybody to the island but once there it’s glorious. Man versus dinosaur. Kong versus T-Rex. Kong versus giant snake thing. Kong versus man. Kong climbs the Empire State Building. The stop-motion effects are certainly of their time but they are still awe inspiring.

238 Movies Watched in 2018

I keep meticulous tabs over everything I watch each year. Last year, I blew my watch record out of the water with 231 movies watched and this year I beat that with 238. I have to admit that my TV binging has taken a hot bit it’s been lots of fun digging deep into cinema history.

Dave Hollingsworth: Hereditary

I didn’t a get a chance to this film in theaters; then again, I’m not able to get out much. Anyway, for me, it was definitely worth the wait. I bought it on Blu-ray, and it was a highly unnerving experience to get through, in a very good way. It was terrifying, creepy, sinister, and pretty bleak as hell. I was also struck by the accurately that director Ari Aster captured in the sense of loss, guilt, regret, and family dysfunction. You see things that you’ve never seen before, and sometimes never want to see again. Toni Collette deserves every award there is for her blazing performance. Her character is a woman who goes through a lot of emotional and very physical pain, which is putting it very mildly. I think this is proof that the Horror genre still has life to it. It doesn’t have to be blood and guts all the time; it can be so much more.

Mark Buckingham: The Babysitter (2017)

I put this Netflix Original movie in my queue quite a while ago, probably around the time it came out, and there it sat until I was looking for something to watch on my tablet while doing dishes and other chores around the house. Didn’t expect much, and the first 10 minutes or so didn’t grab me, but once the relationship between Cole (Judah Lewis) and his titular babysitter Bee (Samara Weaving) is established, there’s no looking away. It reminded me a bit of The Girl Next Door with Weaving and Lewis taking the places of Elisha Cuthbert and Emile Hirsch, but rather than a domineering porn producer mucking up the happily ever after, here we learn that Bee belongs to a demonic cult and has been involving Cole in her rituals without his knowledge. Once Cole learns of this, it turns into a game of cat and mouse with unexpectedly hilarious ramifications. I went in expecting horror, and got upgraded to horror-comedy for free, in the vein of Army of Darkness, Zombeavers, or Tucker and Dale vs. Evil. Surprised me again and again, made me laugh, made me cringe (some of the deaths are pretty rough), and made me want to watch it again as soon as it ended. It probably had some flaws, but I was having too good of a time to notice.

David Wangeberg: Mary Poppins Returns

It has been some time since I have watched the first Mary Poppins film, and I didn’t think it was necessary for Disney to make a sequel. But, you know what? This is absolutely delightful. Emily Blunt takes over the titular role, made famous by Julie Andrews, and absolutely nails it. She’s sassy and quick-witted, and is totally into the role. It’s perfect casting. This time around, the Banks children are grown and facing some personal issues. So the famed nanny makes a comeback to help them out. The songs are catchy, although none stick as well as those from the original. The scenery is gorgeous, and the movie, as a whole, is a ton of fun. Color me surprised.

Shawn Bourdo: Isle of Dogs

I missed it in theaters but it’s recently arrived on HBO. I’m a fan of Wes Anderson’s films. I can see where they are not for everyone. He’s got the feel of an exacting director who has a vision and wants what we see onscreen to match what he sees in his mind. I’m a huge fan of Fantastic Mr. Fox and how he adapted Roald Dahl’s work. When I saw the previews for Isle of Dogs, it felt like a paean to Japanese monster films and some of his favorite anime.

What I saw on the screen was neither of those. Mr. Anderson has created another world very much worth living in for two hours. It’s a story that doesn’t focus the way his adaptations have in the past. The film is about dogs. That’s true. In Japan in the future, dogs have been banned from the mainland and banished to Trash Island. Young Atari arrives on the island to find his dog, Spots. With the help of Chief, Boss and King, and other dogs along the way, Atari goes on his quest to find his dog and to eventually bring dogs back to the mainland. The movie is much more something akin to Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums. The quirky characters and events are interesting. The scenes taken by themselves are compelling. The animation is detailed and fascinating. The story isn’t. But ultimately I’m drawn to the work as a whole. Wes may be suffering from the need of a story editor to focus him away from making symbolic points of our current political climate and more on character development. But in the end, you get an artist doing what artists are supposed to do – make art. In a year of cookie cutter, predictable mainstream films – enjoy something off the beaten (dog) path.

Mat Brewster

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