Five Cool Things and the New Mutants

Cinema Sentries

It was an eclectic week for old Mat Brewster and his consumption of cool things. We’ve got new horror movies, a Christmas musical comedy with zombies, Tony Curtis, New Mutants, Studio Ghibli and the Grateful Dead. So without further ado let’s get to it.

The Invisible Man (2020)

An update on the classic H.G. Wells story for the #MeToo generation. Elisabeth Moss stars as Cecilia, a woman who is trying to escape from an abusive relationship. The film begins with her drugging the husband, Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), then running away in the middle of the night. She stays with a cop friend, slowly trying to mentally recover. For the first few days, she can’t even leave the house to check the mail.

Then she learns that he’s died of an apparent suicide. She doesn’t believe it because he wasn’t the type. All of her friends tell her to move on, that he’s gone. Except he’s not gone, of course, he’s invisible. Slowly, he starts tormenting her, but only when she’s alone. Naturally, no one believes her story. They think she’s going crazy.

Director Leigh Whannell does a great job of slowly ratcheting up the tension. He has the camera focus on mundane objects in the room, then has Elisabeth Moss stare at it as if the Adrian might be sitting there. Never have I been so creeped out by empty chairs in a movie. There are a few moments when she’s being tossed around the room by Adrian that look really fake, but mostly the action sequences are really effective. All in all, it is a really well-crafted bit of horror filmmaking.

40 Pounds of Trouble

Tony Curtis stars as a meticulous casino manager whose life gets turned upside down when a deadbeat dad leaves his young daughter in the casino hotel and never returns. The kid is awfully cute and Curtis is at the top of his charming game. It is super fun up until he decides to take the kid to Disneyland at which point it turns into a 20-minute commercial for the theme park. But up until that point, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. You can read my full review here.

Anna and the Apocalypse

A Christmas musical comedy with zombies? Yes, please. If you think a mash-up of Shaun of the Dead with Glee sounds like fun, then this film is for you. There is a lot of Shaun of the Dead’s DNA in this film. The scene from that film in which Shaun walks down a street completely unaware of the zombie apocalypse going on around him is stolen completely in Anna and the Apocalypse except here instead of the protagonist being a little hungover, she’s singing an original song.

There’s a lot of teenage melodrama and plenty of gore-filled zombie action, and perhaps a few too many breaks for songs. It is a film I liked a lot, though not quite as much as I wanted to. The songs are pretty good but more Broadway-pop than the stuff I normally listen too. The actors are great, but it runs just a tad too long. So, yeah, a lot of fun if you are into that sort of thing

Grateful Dead – Europe ’72, Vol. 9: Jahrhunderthalle, Frankfurt, West Germany (4/26/1972)

In the Spring of 1972, the Grateful Dead embarked on their first big tour outside the United States. They did 22 shows in Britain, Scandinavia, France, and Germany. It was legendary. That tour found the band in transition. Mickey Hart, one of two drummers who had played with them since the early days, had departed a few months earlier when his father, Lenny Hart, the band’s manager had absconded with every cent in the band’s coffers. With just one drummer, the band became looser, able to turn on a dime, which fit the new, jazzier songs the band had just written perfectly.

Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, the biker-looking bluesman, was slowly fading away due to years of alcohol abuse. This would be his last tour. In his place came the Godchieuxs, Keith on keys and Donna on vocals. Keith replaced Pigpen’s trademark organ for a piano, which made their music even more jazz sounding.

With a bucketload of new songs and those lineup changes, the band was ready to take Europe by storm. And they did. Every member was on fire. They played like a band with a mission. It is generally considered one of the band’s very best tours in their storied careers.

In 1995, they released a two-disk set called Hundred Year Hall featuring most of the songs they played on April 26 in Frankfurt. It was one of the first albums released in what was known as their From the Vault series. It was also the first live album of the Dead’s I ever owned. I had just become a Deadhead the year before. I’d heard a few of my friend’s bootlegs, but dipping into this fantastic tour with pristine sound was a revelation. It remains one of my favorite shows. The band is jamming on all cylinders and it sounds amazing.

A few years back, the Dead released a gigantic boxed set featuring the complete Europe 1972 tour, with every song of every show being presented. It was crazy expensive and this poor boy did not purchase it. Just this week, I got my hands on a copy of the Frankfurt shows that had been edited down to fit on two disks for Hundred Year Hall. Hearing the show in its entirety is a real treat.

It is also the beginning of Jerry Garcia week. He was born on August 1 and died on August 9 and Deadheads usually take the week in between to celebrate his life and music. Which makes it a perfect time to listen to this show.

Whisper of the Heart / The Cat Returns

After watching Princess Mononoke two weeks ago, we decided to start watching some other Studio Ghibli films (at least until we got distracted by my daughter’s Stay-At-Home Girlscout Camp which was all about Harry Potter). We landed on these two films which are stylistically very different but share the character of Baron Humbert von Gikkingen, an anthropomorphic cat who sometimes turns into a statue.

Whisper of the Heart is a very earnest and very sweet coming of age drama about a 14-year-old girl who forms a crush on a boy she’s never met, or at least thinks she’s never met. The boy seems to have checked out every book she checks out from the library (because she sees his name on the library card tucked at the back of the book something we had to explain to our 9-year-old as that is now a relic of the past). She figures any boy who likes the same books she likes ought to be really cool. In real life she finds her self increasingly annoyed at a boy at school who keeps running into her and teasing her. Guess who that boy turns out to be?

While walking home one day she spies a cat prancing around the streets. She follows him halfway across the city to a little antique shop where she meets The Baron, a lively looking cat statue. Later she has a dream that the cat is really alive (and voiced by Cary Elwes). The annoying boy turns out to be the grandson of the owner of the shop.

And so on. Very little happens in the movie, it is simply a story of a girl having minor adventures. But it is so sweet and so kind it is hard not to fall in love with it.

The Cat Returns is a big adventure story in which another little girl saves a cat’s life only to find out that cat is the King of Cats who rewards her kindness with loads of things that would only be considered rewards to cats. To keep him from killing her with kindness, she finds her way to a magical cat village where she befriends the Baron (once again voiced by Cary Elwes) and they have a grand adventure trying to stop the King Cat from rewarding her anymore.

Where Whisper of the Heart was slow and warm-hearted, The Cat Returns is non-stop action. But it maintains that sense of Studio Ghibli heart.

The New Mutants

The San Diego Comic Con had to cancel this year’s festivities due to Covid-19. At least the in-person version. Instead, they hosted a bunch of online panels. I didn’t watch any of them but I have started watching the various trailers and news that came out of it. One of the more exciting ones is for this film. I’m a pretty big fan of the X-Men franchise, but the films definitely need some blood. This trailer doesn’t give us much except for a bunch of random action sequences (which I always find boring) but the cast includes Maisie Williams, Anna Taylor-Joy, and Charlie Heaton which is enough to get me excited.

Mat Brewster

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