Friday, September 22, 2017

Thursday, September 21, 2017

If It's Thursday, This Must Be Italy

Film: The Four Days of Naples (Le Quattro Giornate di Napoli)
Format: Internet video on laptop.

Sometimes, I can’t always get a great version of a film to watch. That’s certainly the case with The Four Days of Naples (or Le Quattro Giornate di Napoli in the original Italian). The copy of the film that I found was a bit grainy, which I can deal with. A bigger problem was the inconsistent subtitles. There are chunks of the film that don’t have any subtitles, so the screen is filled with shouting Italians saying things that I can’t understand. I get that they are excited or angry or at least passionate, but I’m not always sure of the specifics of those emotions.

That said, The Four Days of Naples tells a truly interesting story. The film takes place in the latter part of World War II, and as the story opens, Italy has surrendered to the Allies, causing a brief celebration among the people of Naples. The city lies about mid-way up the Italian boot, a touch north and west of the ruins of Pompeii and southeast of Rome. So, while the Allies are marching up the Italian countryside, they haven’t reached Naples yet.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Wednesday Horror: Castle Freak

Film: Castle Freak
Format: DVD from NetFlix on laptop.

You’re not going to get a great deal of subtlety from a direct-to-video movie directed by Stuart Gordon. What you are going to get in this case, though, is plenty of Jeffrey Combs, and that’s never a bad thing. When the movie is named Castle Freak, you should have a pretty good idea of what is on offer. There’s going to be a castle, and there’s going to be a freak inside the castle. Honestly, I had a hard time not having “Super Freak” running through my head for most of the film’s running time.

Enter the Reilly family, John (Jeffrey Combs), Susan (Barbara Crampton), and daughter Rebecca (Jessica Dollarhide). John Reilly has inherited a castle in Italy. We learn soon enough that the Reilly family has suffered some significant tragedies at the hands of John. One night, while driving drunk, he got into an accident that killed his young son J.J. and blinded daughter Rebecca. Things are naturally tense in the family, with Susan blaming all of the problems, evidently quite deservedly, on John.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Off Script: Quatermass and the Pit; Quatermass 2

Films: Quatermass and the Pit (Five Million Years to Earth); Quatermass 2 (Enemy from Space)
Format: DVD from Northern Illinois University Founders Memorial Library on rockin’ flatscreen.

I tend to like movies from Hammer Studios in its heyday. Sure, they’re not all great, but there’s an earnestness to them that I appreciate. Quatermass and the Pit is later in their run, but it’s a fine example of what Hammer could do on a very small budget. This is actually the third Quatermass film, based on a character created for the BBC. Despite it being the third film, the character name didn’t have the same recognition in the States, so it was released here under the awesome title Five Million Years to Earth.

In London in the mid-1960s, construction is going on at a tube station in Hobb’s End when a set of skeletal remains are unearthed. Dr. Matthew Roney (James Donald), a paleontologist, is called in to examine them. He determines that the remains are of a pre-human ancestor and he estimates them at five million years old—far older than any other previous finds of definably human ancestry. Around the same time that Roney reaches this conclusion, evidence of something metallic is located. It is decided that this metallic object is likely an unexploded bomb from World War II, and a bomb disposal squad is called in.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Little, Chiron, Black

Film: Moonlight
Format: DVD from Sycamore Public Library on laptop.

Every year in January, the Oscar nominations are announced, and that means I need to get to work on knocking out the films that have been nominated on the blog here. I typically put some stress on Best Picture nominations because there are more of them than there are for the other categories, and because knocking out Best Picture nominees means that I’m usually reducing the numbers in other categories as well. I often watch the Best Picture winner soon after the awards, because there’s generally that brief span of time where I’m missing having viewed a single Best Picture winner. This year, I did the opposite, waiting to watch Moonlight last of the nominees.

I knew very little going in other than that it won. I knew it was the first LGBTQ-themed film to win Best Picture, or at least the first that had overt homosexual themes (you could argue, for instance, Midnight Cowboy had some leanings in that direction). I knew it was based on an unproduced play called “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue.” And I’d heard that Mahershala Ali was great, something kind of unsurprising given that he’s good in Hidden Figures and one of the two best things in the second season of Daredevil on NetFlix.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Homeward Bound?

Film: Ironweed
Format: DVD from NetFlix on laptop.

I’d love to tell you that Ironweed is a fun-filled romp of joy and happiness, but it is completely the opposite. This is one of those movies I have dubbed a “misery parfait” in the past, a film in which nothing good happens to anyone, and there is little but layers of sadness and misery piled one atop the other. That it stars both Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep only means that the misery we witness is going to be acted about as well as it can be. It’s not going to make it any easier to experience, but it is at least going to be done well.

It’s evident right from the start that we are in for this sort of experience. Francis Phelan (Nicholson) is a bum who has wandered around the country for a few decades. Now, in 1938 around Halloween, he has returned to Albany, NY, his old home town. Over the course of the first act, we learn a few things about Francis. We learn that he was married and had children, but abandoned his family because he dropped his infant son, killing him.