Five Cool Things and Peter Mayhew

My wife and I become first-time homeowners about three years ago. Our little house isn’t perfect but it meets our needs and the price was right. As any homeowner will tell you, there is tons of maintenance involved. There are yards to mow, fences to fix, plumbing issues, and a constant stream of things that need your time, attention, and money. We’ve been mostly lucky thus far as the things we’ve needed to repair haven’t been too bad.

This week that luck ran out. First, the little doohickey that lets you move the ice from the freezer and into your cup broke. Next, the freezer sprung a leak, causing a slow but steady stream of water to fill our kitchen floor. Then, the dishwasher stopped working altogether. And finally, the garage-door opener broke. Individually, none of these things are too terrible or costly, but happening all at once, they are putting a strain on our lives and check book.

 Still, it is better than apartment living with the constant headaches of neighbors and pleadings with management to fix whatever breaks.

As per usual, my comfort is culture and I managed to watch some cool movies, listen to some cool music, and get really excited about some upcoming TV. So let’s get to it.

Fantomas Trilogy

Fantomas is a hugely popular character in France. He was first created in the early 1900s in a series of book but his stories have been adapted to radio, TV, film, and comic books ever since. In the 1960s, they made a trilogy of films that turned the rather serious stories into some James Bond-inspired silliness. Binge watching them was a bit much for me, but taken as singular entities over a bit more time, I’m sure they will be super fun. You can read my full review.

Sonic Youth – Daydream Nation

I am a member of Generation X which not only means that I am some kind of disgruntled slacker but that the music that first had a true impact on my life comes from the alternative onslaught of the early 1990s. Bands like Pearl Jam, Nirvana, and Dinosaur Jr. are the music of my nostalgia. Though they were pioneers of that alt-rock sound, I never really got into Sonic Youth. I’d heard a few songs here and there and I think I owned a copy of Dirty, but for whatever reason, I never really got into them.

Buy Sonic Youth – Daydream Nation

I’ve always heard that their 1988 album Daydream Nation was their masterpiece, but again, for one reason or another, I never got around to actually listening to it. The other day I was listening to some alternative station on Amazon Music and it played “Teen Age Riot” from that album and I was really digging it. I’m actually pretty sure I’ve heard that song before but I’d never placed it on that album.

 Later, I decided to finally give the album a listen.

Now the thing is I am no longer 18 years old, sporting long hair and flannel shirts. Musically, I’ve moved on from my hard-edged days. Which means the album is something that I could critically enjoy. I could appreciate what the band was doing and how innovative it was. While at the same time, I have to admit that it’s not something I necessarily enjoyed. It is an album that I’m glad I finally sat down with. I will definitely return to it from time to time. But it’s also something that will not likely become into my heavy rotation. 

Dragged Across Concrete

S. Craig Zahler’s neo-exploitation flick is both a button-pushing, triggering piece of racist trash and also really good piece of filmmaking. Zahler clearly loves his ’70s genre movies and pushing various envelopes to piss people off. His first film, Bone Tomahawk, is a western that features Native Americans as brutal cannibals who literally rip someone apart. His next film, Brawl in Cell Block 99, has Vince Vaughn punching, kicking, and smashing the faces in of everyone he meets in a vile, dirty prison in order to save his wife from a horrible drug lord. 

With Dragged Across Concrete, he’s hired Mel Gibson to play an old, racist cop who isn’t above smashing his boot heel into the throat of a perp and can’t quite come to terms with how the culture has moved away from the old way of doing things. Gibson, who not too long ago ran into his own trouble spouting off racist rants, seems both perfect for the role and a controversial choice. It is also filled with blatant misogyny and extreme violence. 

Yet, all three of these films are really well made and totally entertaining. If you dig old genre films but wish they’d been made by filmmakers who knew what they were doing, then Dragged Across Concrete will likely totally be for you. Read my full review.

Experiment in Terror

I had a lot of movies to watch that were in my review pile this week (most of which were not very good, which is why I’m not talking about them here) so I didn’t have much time to watch anything on my beloved Criterion Channel. This was my one exception.

Buy Experiment in Terror Blu-ray

Blake Edwards decided to follow up Breakfast at Tiffany’s with this dark, moody film noir starring Lee Remick as a young bank teller being traumatized by a man forcing her to steal $100,000 from it. Glenn Ford is the FBI agent trying to help her out.

 It begins with Remick’s character driving home from work, pulling into her garage, and being accosted by a wheezing man who comes up behind her, grabs her by the throat, and threatens to kill her if she doesn’t behave. After telling her about the robbery he wants her to perform, he notes that he’ll contact her at a later date with details but that he’ll be watching her to see if she calls the cops. As soon as he’s gone, she grabs the phone and phones the FBI only to find out he was telling the truth about watching her when he knocks her unconscious. The film hardly lets up from there.

 Edwards fills it with great shadows and loads of tension. It’s a great little film I’d never heard of nor would have ever likely bothered with were it not being featured on The Criterion Channel, which is exactly why it is so important to film lovers. 

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

We are big fans of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. at my house. It is a series that shouldn’t be as good as it is. It airs on ABC, which is not a channel I ever watch. For a while, it was way too beholden to the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe, something it had to pay attention to and tie into, but that never actually got much use out of (except for the occasional Samuel L. Jackson cameo). Yet despite all this, it turned into a really great show, full of action and comedy and some actually moving drama. 

My understanding had previously been that this upcoming sixth season was going to be both a shortened one (with only 13 episodes rather than the usual 22) and its last. I also thought that it was going to be without Clark Gregg who plays Agent Coulson since they basically wrote him a giant out at the end of Season 5. All this being true (or so I thought), I wasn’t really that excited about this season. 

Clark Gregg was the heart of the show. He played the leader of the team and without him, I didn’t have high hopes for the series. The trailer for this season just dropped and everything I thought was true appears to be false. Gregg is back, but playing a different character. From this preview, it looks like what they are doing with him could be really interesting. Also it appears this is not the final season as they renewed it for a seventh. Count me as very excited now.

Peter Mayhew (05/19/44 – 04/30/19)

The 7’3″ tall Mayhew was best known as Chewbacca in the Star Wars films. He played the character in all of the live-action movies up until The Force Awakens after which he retired from the role. Unable to get much work outside of Chewbacca, rather than let this get him down, the actor seems to have reveled in being able to play one of the most beloved characters of all time. Never given any lines other than his characteristic roar and covered head to toe in fur, Mayhew still made Chewbacca into an icon of good humor and utter charm. May the Force be with you, Mr. Mayhew. Always.

Mat Brewster

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