Nov 042022
 

Saloum is a 2021 movie set in Sengal. Three mercenaries, known as the Hyenas, are extracting a Mexican drug lord from a country during a coup-d’etat. The mercs consist of the leader, the muscle and the magic-user(!). Their small plane is sabotaged and they are forced to go down. That’s okay, because the leader knows of a small hotel/camp where they can stay and get repairs. All the have to do is blend in and not look suspicious.

That is complicated by the fact that a dear/mute woman immediately recognizes the mercenaries and demands to be taken with them or else she will expose them. It is further complicated by a visiting police chief who clearly does not believe their cover story. Even more complicating is that the owner of the camp is acting really suspicious and has a very curious relationship with the local villages.

Shit hits the fan like all great thrillers but then the REAL SHIT goes down as the spirit demons appear and turn this movie into a survival horror.

This movie is fantastic. It is so nice to see African characters with only the most marginal appearances by colonists. There is an incredible amount of tension as lies are told and exposed almost just as quickly. The three mercenaries are the coolest characters you will ever see. The leader is crafty, the muscle is a brute and the magic-user is everything you want out of a modern magician.

Did I mention that the movie is only eighty-four minutes long? That is an insanely short run time for a movie that has comedy, terror, tension, action and genuine pathos. Movies like this shouldn’t work but it does with perfect craftsmanship. It is the kind of movie that spoils you for other movies.

I don’t recommend this movie as much as I insist you you watch it because you deserve to see great movies.

Oct 312022
 

Reel Wild Cinema was a television show on the USA Network, hosted by Sandra Bernhard. It featured “The good parts” from exploitation movies of the 50-s and 60’s. This meant that often you would get a five minute version of these awful movies, showcasing the bad acting, silly special effects or moments of sleaze. Every hour long episode had a featured movie that would be truncated down to twenty or thirty minutes. In between clips, Sandra would interview guests like Dweezil Zappa, or discuss trivia involving the movies.

I absolutely loved it. It aired in 1995. This was a mystical time when we had the internet but weren’t quite sure what to do with it. You knew of cheesy movies but were at the mercy of your local VHS rental place. Blogs were not quite a thing yet and word of mouth was usually limited to what LordMovieScum69 talked about in an AOL Chatroom. In short, Reel Wild Cinema was the best way to find the worse movies of previous decades.

The show was cancelled after two seasons. Fortunately for us, Something Weird Video posted the entire series onto youtube. I am struck by how timeless the show is. It truly does break movies down to the good parts while also giving you a list of schlock to follow up on. Many of the movies can now be bought by digital downloads from the Something Weird Video site.

Oct 142022
 

The First Nudie Musical is a 1976 movie about a struggling movie studio. To make ends meet, Harry, the owner, has been reluctantly making porn movies. They have been flopping and he needs a hit to right now or else he will lose the studio. His secretary, played by Cindy Williams, jokingly suggests he make a porn musical. Because this movie is a musical, Harry launches into a musical number and decides to do just that.

What follows is a very good comedy about porn and movie making with more frontal nudity than I thought was legal back then. Since it is a comedy from the 70’s, I was expecting some exploitative humor but to my delight, this might be first sex comedy from that era that doesn’t turn women into the butt of the jokes. If anything, this movie enjoys dumping on the men, from the sleazy porn actor who can’t hook up with any of the cast to the idiot director forced onto the movie by one of the money lenders. This is a surprisingly progressive movie that holds up well today.

I am a sucker for musicals and movies about making movies so I was already inclined to like this movie. The smart comedy about porn and the likable characters of Harry and his secretary keep the movie going. The rampant nudity was nice to watch to. It was a joy to watch and I look forward to seeing it again.

Apr 012022
 
A fine, well, okay, well, mostly okay crew.

It is well documented that I love almost anything involving pirates. What might be less known is that I am a huge fan of Rhys Darby. Imagine my pure orgasmic delight when I found out that Rhy Darby was in a pirate comedy series produced by Taika Waititi. It is called Our Flag Means Death and is currently airing on HBO.

Rhys plays Stede Bonnet, one of history’s more peculiar pirates. Bonnet was a land-owner who had a midlife crisis so he bought a boat, hired some scum and tried his hand at piracy. It is a ludicrous idea, one perfectly suited for Waititi’s approach to comedy. Laugh at the idea of a Captain bringing a library of books onto a wooden ship and then laugh harder when you realize that the real Bonnet actually did that.

More interesting to me is how much representation is in this series. They have gay pirates that and a major story line revolves around it! There is a bit of cross-dressing. We have some odd people who may be on the spectrum. There is an entire episode of how terrible the Europeans were for the native people. There are pirates of different races rather than the lily white folk we see in too much pirate fiction.

I like the show a lot. It is funny but it carries a lot of heart. Bonnet is an idiot but more importantly, he’s a nice guy just trying to find his happiness. That is a relevant concept in any age and maybe more so today.

Feb 182022
 

Like Ben Rumpson in “Paint Your Wagon”, have been known to get the melancholy now and again. There is no real reason or cause, so it is just something I have come to live with. It usually goes away on its own but sometimes it goes away because I watch or read something that hits my funny bone just right. Lately, it was Murderville on Netflic.

Murderville stars Will Arnett as Terry Seattle, a grizzled homicide detective who investigates a murder every episode. He doesn’t solve them though. Every episode, Terry gets a new guest star to be his partner and that partner has to solve the crime. The thing is, everything is scripted but the guest star doesn’t get a script. The guest star has to improvise and figure out who the killer is while dealing with outrageous events.

So yeah, it is an improv show without an audience. Well, the audience is often the guest star trying their best to stay in character while responding to weird challenges. The guest star is improving and the regular cast as improving as they react. On top of that, the mystery itself are usually fair and clues abound.

Some guest stars are good, like Annie Murphy or Marshawn Lynch. Others are freaking fantastic like Sharon Stone or Ken Jeong. Their mileage will vary from star to star but no one was a dud.

I don’t know if this show will cure your bout of melancholy but it went a long ways towards helping mine.

Feb 112022
 

I am a sucker for travel shows. Stuck at home during a pandemic, I live vicariously through other people’s travels. Give me new food, new places and new ideas to explore.

Midnight Asia is a different kind of travel show. Every episode focuses on a different Asian city and it’s nightlife. More interestingly, it turns its focus to certain individuals rather than a location like a restaurant or a dance club. about five or more people are profiled in each episode and it bounces back and forth between them to create a tapestry of characters.

I say characters because it reminds of the supplements you buy for a role-playing game. They would give you characters for your players to interact with. Midnight Asia is a source book for your writing and your imagination. You can’t see a 85 year old woman who moonlights as a DJ and not get inspired to include someone like her in your next story or role-play scenario.

The other nice thing about this series is how relaxing it is. Despite being about nightlife, the music and presentation leans towards the meditative. There are some gorgeous liminal shots mixed in with the jumping dance club patrons. It makes for a perfect material to watch before going to bed.

Jan 282022
 

Dan is a genius film restoration artist. He can take burnt, moldy, water-logged tapes and restore them to viewable quality. His family died in a tragic house fire when he was eight, which is why he has serious trust issues as an adult. Still, he is great at what he does and he does have one friend who runs a mystery podcast.

Because of Dan’s talents, he gets approached by a mysterious rich guy who wants him to restore some video tapes recovered from an apartment fire in the 90’s. due to vague confidentiality reasons, all the works has to be done at a remote location in the Catskills, and he is going to be all alone with shitty cell reception and no internet. The land line works, but tends to crackle and pop because of the very obvious wiretap.

That is the premise for Archive 81, an eight episode series on Netflix. It is also just the frame story, because the real story is what is in those tapes. A young woman went to go live at a creepy apartment building to interview residents and learn the history of the place. The residents are weird, no one is allowed on the 6th floor and there is rhythmic chanting coming from the radiator pipes. Weird shit is going on.

This series checked a lot of boxes for me. There is found footage, restoration work, a mystery from the past and the mystery of who and why was Dan hired for this job. It is not a spoiler to say there is something occult going on. Better yet, the occult side is well done and not reliant on any Lovecraft Mythos or other familiar works. This is it’s weird thing.

The series is based on a podcast, which I have not heard. I enjoyed the series on its own and the ending was a bit open-ended for a second possible season, but also tied up enough that I was happy if it doesn’t get renewed. It is eight really creepy episodes about family, occult mysteries, and the hard work of non-detective investigators. I enjoyed it a lot.

Jan 142022
 
I love these jerks so much.

This is a safe place, right? I have to admit that I am not a big fan of anime in general. There are some shows that I loved when I was younger but for the most part, I find anime to be formulaic and the art a little boring. I don’t hate anime like other people my age, but I am less inclined to watch it. Also, a lot of the series are way too long and I am a commitment-phobe sometimes.

Which means I have only ever seen one episode of the anime Cowboy Bebop and that was last month. I liked it! My wife less so. In a compromise, we watched the Netflix live action version which she was more interested in. We tore through the series over the holiday break.

It’s good! It features two partners, Jet Black and Spike Speigel, two bounty hunters with different pasts flying around the solar system taking on weird bad guys in weird places. Things really pick up when Faye Valentine joins the group and things slow down when we have the inevitable long scenes where the bad guys are bad to each other. Science fiction stuff happens and at one point they pick up a dog. Most of the villains look like they were created by the designers of the 1966 Batman TV series.

What I can’t convey with mere words is how stylish this series is. Every location is over the top with great colors like a Luc Besson movie. The music is fantastic jazz and keeps everything moving. The technology is futuristic but also mass-produced clunky and beat-up. The total effect is a wonderful vibe that saturates the series with fun and energy. I want to live in this world and stay awhile.

Sadly, you can’t stay because the series is cancelled. The upside is that the story is resolved by the last episode and although the main characters aren’t talking to one another, you can easily imagine getting the band back together in a hypothetical next season. So don’t let the cancellation put you off. This is a great series that we won’t see the likes again for a very long time. You got to treasure what we got.

Dec 102021
 
That laptop full of porn is a costar in this show.

Eve Fletcher, played by the wonderful Kathryn Hahn, is a 40-something divorced woman who’s douchebag son is going to college. She finds it hard to let go but the asshole kid is more than willing to leave her behind and not return her calls. By the end of the first episode, she is alone in an empty house and bored out of her mind. Lucky for her, there is a lot of porn on the internet and she dives right in.

That is the short version of the television show, Mrs. Fletcher. Running seven episodes, we follow Eve as she struggles with overwhelming sexual fantasies, her crush on a man her son used to bully in high school, and her incredible need to get fucked. There is a lot of masturbating. There are some other plots and characters, like her best friend who’s husband is unfaithful and the writing class she is taking but I’ll be honest, Eve’s surging sex drive is the reason to watch.

Unfortunately, the other half of the show concerns her truly detestable son. We watch as he goes to college, treats women like shit and refuses to grow as a person. I swear, every episode finds a new way to make me hate this kid. In the end, he gets called out on what he does and humiliated, but this piece of shit is so narcissistic, he just feels victimized and doesn’t learn a damn thing.

Now maybe that is the point. Maybe this show about a woman’s midlife sexual crisis is supposed to also teach young toxic men a thing or two about themselves. I can almost see that. It just wasn’t any fun to watch and humiliation without growth feels empty.

So yeah, talk about your flawed pieces of art. There is a lot to love in Mrs. Fletcher and I would love to read some erotica inspired by Eve’s adventures, but I cannot recommend literally one half of the show. I never say this because I am something of a completionist, but if you watch this show, feel free to fast-forward through the son’s parts.

Nov 222021
 

Joe Pera is a middle school choir teacher who appears to be 30-something but has the posture and energy of an 80-something. he would like to talk to you about some of his favorite things. That includes iron, winter sports, hiking and choosing the right breakfast. His talks are almost always interrupted by life and flashbacks, but that’s okay. Interruptions is what life is made of.

There is little on the air like Joe Pera talks with You. It is a gentle show that averages about eleven minutes in length. Despite being on Adult Swim, it is a show that revels in calmness and beauty. Technically it is a comedy but the jokes wouldn’t exist outside of the kind and gentle world the show takes place in. Every episode has a small piece of drama, but the overall destination is one of safety. Over the course of a season, we see Joe fall in love, meet new neighbors and find joy in discovering a new-to-him band called The Who.

What I love most about this show is that Joe is a nice guy with a few quirks, but this not a show that makes fun of him. There is no irony to be found here. This show celebrates kindness and being a little different in a way that feels inclusive. There is the occasional asshole character to be found, but they are often to be pitied, not emulated.

I wish I knew this show was on the air during the pandemic. Discovering it right before the holiday season works just as well. Watching this show is like snuggling on the couch with a sleeping pet as you watch the snow fall.

Oh wait, I just described Joe Pera Talks You to Sleep, a stand alone animated special.