Category: Movies & TV

December Movie Marathon

I would make a terrible movie critic because I enjoy most movies. I’m very forgiving in my ratings. If it’s a movie my wife hated, I’ll give it 3 stars because it is the movie it promised. Maybe it wasn’t good, but it was exactly what I had expected so I give it credit for that. There’s always more credit awarded for offering something beyond expectation.

I’m on Letterboxd as peroty. Let’s be friends! I’m enjoying the “what your friends are watching” list to see what other people are watching. There’s so many places to watch movies and TV these days. My wife and I joke our favorite thing to watch is “trying to decide what to watch.”

Since the pandemic started, I have time off work so it’s time to light a fire, break out the whiskey and settle into a movie marathon. Over the past two days we’ve watched a pile of movies. I enjoy movies. My motto for 2020 has been “I miss going to the movies.” There is nothing better than getting a treat and escaping the world into the land someone else has created for me.

Snow White and the Huntsman ⭐⭐

Synopsis: After the Evil Queen marries the King, she performs a violent coup in which the King is murdered and his daughter, Snow White, is taken captive. Almost a decade later, a grown Snow White is still in the clutches of the Queen. In order to obtain immortality, The Evil Queen needs the heart of Snow White. After Snow escapes the castle, the Queen sends the Huntsman to find her in the Dark Forest.

This was a beautiful movie. The cinematography was breath-taking and the sets were gorgeous. The acting and story left much to be desired. Before we started it, I looked it up on Letterboxd to see what the overall rating was. It was a 2.5 and this bit of information paid off.

white horse shows up at the perfect time  “Oh. Right. 2.5”

girl screams at troll and stops it from attacking another charaters “2.5”

“I guess the 2.5 is for the cinematography. It is a beautiful movie.”

A Nasty Piece of Work ⭐⭐⭐

Synopsis: A mid-level corporate employee finds out he’s not getting the Christmas bonus he was expecting, but his boss invites him to earn a promotion by beating his professional rival in a violent competition.

This movie was a Blumhouse film. Their general movie theory is “make a lot of films. They won’t all be hits, but enough of them will do well to pay for the others.” And this one is a lot of fun. It’s been awhile since I saw a good use of title cards between scenes. I enjoyed them and this film.

Anna and the Apocalypse ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Synopsis: A zombie apocalypse threatens the sleepy town of Little Haven – at Christmas – forcing Anna and her friends to fight, slash and sing their way to survival, facing the undead in a desperate race to reach their loved ones. But they soon discover that no one is safe in this new world, and with civilization falling apart around them, the only people they can truly rely on are each other.

Move over Elf! Out of the way Kevin! There’s a new queen of Christmas movies. Ella Hunt sings and smashes her way through this film. This movie had:

  • Unecessarily sexy Christmas school song

  • Rap song about fish

  • Zombies

  • The saddest “Merry Christmas” ever captured.

  • Candy cane melee weapon

I absolutely loved it and would rewatch it every year. The film feels authentic. Each one of the characters were an archetype I could place from my high school. They’re making decisions I would make. They’re not heroes. They’re impulsive and live the day one moment at a time.

The songs are fun and catchy. This one has been stuck in my head.

(•_•)
<) )╯ WHEN IT COMES TO KILLING ZOMBIES
/ \

\(•_•)
( (> I'M THE TOP OF MY CLASS 
/ \

(•_•).   WHILE YOU’VE BEEN HIDING
<) )>   I’VE BEEN KICKIN SOME ASS
/ \

Happiest Season ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Synopsis: A young woman’s plans to propose to her girlfriend while at her family’s annual holiday party are upended when she discovers her partner hasn’t yet come out to her conservative parents.

Kristen Stewart and Mackenzie David (took my while to place her from Halt and Catch Fire) are the focus while Aubrey Plaza and Alison Brie are relegated to minor characters. It was a romantic comedy with an excellent cast. Dan Levy is the friend we all hope we have when we need them most. Maybe without the tracking.

“Any luck on getting a man’s permission to take ownership of an adult female woman?” – John (Dan Levy)

Black Christmas (1974) ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Synopsis: A sorority house is terrorized by a stranger who makes frightening phone calls and then murders the sorority sisters during Christmas break.

The algorithm kept pushing the 2019 remake of this film that wasn’t well-reviewed. However, the 1974 film has excellent reviews and was the first(?) slasher movie.

The plot partially centers around a series of obscene phone calls and boy are they. It also gives us the spectacular line:

No, it’s the Mormon Tabernacle Choir calling with their annual obscene phone call.

This fits the category of “horror movies that could have ended very quickly with competence.” Every character is unique. There’s no interchageable pieces. This entire film is a mood. It perfectly embodies the loneliness of being alone at Christmas (a theme that runs through every holiday film we watched.) I’m curious to watch the remake now to see how they handle certain parts and how sensibilities have changed between 1974 and 2019. Those are some obscene phone calls.

Surviving Christmas ⭐⭐

Synopsis: Drew Latham is an executive leading an empty, shallow life with only wealth on his side. Facing another lonely Christmas ahead, he revisit his old childhood home in the hope of reliving some old holiday memories – but he finds that the house in which he was raised is no longer the home in which he grew up.

Ever been so lonely on Christmas you paid the family who lives in your childhood home a quarter of a million dollars to spend a few days with them?

What about if that family was James Gandolfini and Catherine O’Hara? They amost make the film watchable. Almost.

Ben Affleck is so unhinged and manic throughout. I saw this review and thought about it. A lot.

It was never quite clear if Affleck’s character was meant to be mentally challenged. – Review by fizzybenilyn

It’s hard to know where being an absolute dick ends and mental issues may begin.

Into the Woods (2014) ⭐⭐

Synopsis: In a woods filled with magic and fairy tale characters, a baker and his wife set out to end the curse put on them by their neighbor, a spiteful witch.

This movie may have had potential. But it just kept going…

This is a pretty good 90 minute movie. Unfortunately it was 125 minutes.

When Rapunzel and her prince leave, you should too. The first hour or so is solid and enjoyable. But then it just keeps going to the point we groaned at every new song. And when we thought it must be nearly over, there were 45 minutes left!

Refreshment Center

Described by my wife as “Peak Carl.”

I am laying in bed watching 75 minutes of drive-in movie ads and laughing my head off at some of them.

There’s a Dr. Pepper ad where men “ride horses” and it looks like they’re on pogo sticks (without the pogo sticks).

Lots of ads reminding me to go to church. So many hot dogs and children taking big bites of them. Popcorn. Coke. Popcorn. Dr. Pepper. Coke. Popcorn. Candy. Popcorn. Coke.

Pepsi. For those who think young.

There are a disturbing number of clowns. Especially early on. Not nearly as many racist animations or pictures as I feared.

So many car speaker and car heater ads and instructions on use. Bernz-O-Matic will allow this theatre to stay open all year. Do you have a drizzle guard? It will keep rain off your windshield. It will save your battery and wear & tear in your car. Don’t sizzle in a drizzle!

If you have information on drive-in speaker theft, report it for a $50 reward.

Lots of brands Toddy. Flips. Watch the Manley machine work it’s magic on Manley’s popcorn! Nepco Frankfurt. Flavos Shrimp Rolls. They’re Shrimply delicious! Deeds Bros. Dairy.

There was an ad decrying the horrors of Pay TV! Not enough people signed the petition to keep Free TV from turning into Pay TV!

One instance of pop-corn. And a final reminder to Vote. Tell your friends to study the records of all candidates and choose the best one!

I was disappointed to learn there is a drive-in theatre near where I grew up but somehow never learned about it as a kid. Possibly because a movie ticket was $5 and a $20 could buy you dinner, a movie and snacks.

It wasn’t until years later I learned the Family Drive-in was in Stephens City. I’ve now been a number of times and enjoyed it every single time. I can’t say watching these ads tonight made me nostalgic for the ads when I was younger. But I do dearly miss going to the movies.

Marshawn Lynch: A History

Compression, concision, velocity are my three watch words. And you could say that’s true of Marshawn as well.

Lynch: A History is a documentary about American Football player Marshawn Lynch.

I learned about it from Austin Kleon’s tweets this morning. I’d been aware of Lynch and his refusal to speak to the media, which I had never realized was part of the contract professional athletes sign. One day he stopped talking to them. Stopped giving interviews. Stopped playing into the professional sports game of things like we played hard out there or we didn’t do enough tonight to get the win. There’s so much utter nonsense about the interviews after games.

The team either won or they lost. There’s not a lot of deep thought that needs to go into why. They were outscored or they outscored the opponent. Done. Why do we need this “analysis” after the game? Why talk to the tired, sore and frustrated/pleased athletes after they performed for us?

It’s streaming on Kanopy, (likely available free through your local library), so I watched it this evening. Making a film about a man, but without the man himself must have been a challenge. When filmmaker (author and professor) David Shields approached Lynch he was told no, but they wouldn’t stop him from makin it. So the result is a video collage.

The result is almost jazz-like: pulling together more than 700 video clips and a handful of literary quotes, “Lynch: A History” forms a collage around the athlete that spirals out with greater and greater aims. The movie jumps quickly, sans narrator or an overt guiding hand, and yet it tugs its viewers through time, linking sports to mythology to biography to history and back.

Watching the film is like riding on Lynch’s shoulder as he twists and spins his way through blockers and kicks into high speed. It’s a frenetic ride that goes hard for 84 minutes without stopping to breathe. The collage is about race and athletes. The insistence that entertainment and politics should be separate by a vocal minority and how athletes (often black men) are told to Shut Up And Entertain.


With 700 clips, I hadn’t even considered the fair use implications of making this film. There would have been no way to get clearance (or afford it) to make this film, so as Shields had his lawyer on speed dial brevity was key. Use as little of a clip as possible. This exercise in artistic restriction shaped the film into the bruising ride it became. This film is an amazing balancing act.

And then a third thing for us — just sort of boringly but crucially — was just sort of fair-use considerations. I had my intellectual property lawyer on speed dial and he explained to us over and over again that it’s crucial that all clips be as brief as possible, and that they all be making a commentary, and that the cultural commentary be legible to so-called average viewer.


Two things I was curious about that while the film didn’t answer, subsequent stories about the film did.

Has Marshawn Lynch seen the film?

A couple of months ago I sent a vimeo link of the film to Marshawn’s entertainment agent, at the agent’s request, and now I asked Marshawn if he had watched it and what he thought; he said, “I wanted to hate on you, but I couldn’t, ’cause you did a good job with it.”

What’s up with the Skittles?

“You’re not just dating Skittles,” Waggoner told Lynch. “You love Skittles.”
“We intimate,” replied Lynch. “We done became one.”

His love started young.

It was during his prep years that his mother, Delisa Lynch, began giving him “power pills” — or Skittles — during games to keep his stomach settled.

I wish Lynch: A History would have gone deeper but without his participation, there was little chance of that. It’s an interesting project and a fascinating piece of art. I’m glad to have watched it and tells a story that needs telling.

Uncut Gems needs cutting.

Uncut Gems movie poster

I was skeptical about seeing this movie because it starred Adam Sandler. I took a chance on it because it wasn’t an Adam Sandler Movie. It had high scores on Letterboxd and I had seen a couple of people I follow online mention it was enjoyable.

I could say something about the plot. But it was unmemorable. Man makes series of extremely poor decisions. Outcome is as expected. I didn’t hate this movie for any of the reasons I was prepared to.

The Sound Mixing.

What happened? When mixing sound, the point is not to layer sounds upon sound upon sound and call it done.

When you have a room full of shouting people, layering all of those shouts and then adding music from your old Atari on top of that isn’t a good idea. It was so loud and discordant and painful to endure.

At one point there’s a fountain. You’ve seen fountains before, yes? They’re found outside office buildings as this one was. When you walk near it as the water flows through it, does it sound like a roaring ocean sweeping away everyone in the street? Perhaps you’ve awaiting The Rock’s appearance landing a Chinook on the corner? No? Then why did you make the fountain sound as if Sharknado was around the corner?

The best part though had to be a scene where our hero is hiding in a closet texting his love interest. And we are to believe the DING DING is not audible across the room. I’m pretty sure the people in the next theater over heard those texts coming in.

I don’t know exactly what it was about the sound (other than the volume turned up to 11) but I felt anxious the entire time. I spent the entire film fidgeting and crawling out of my skin. It was a painful, uncomfortable experience to sit through this film.

There were many shots in the film that… went… on… way… too… long… for no good reason. Here’s Adam Sandler walking away. There he goes… There’s a car driving down the road. Why? We needed to make this movie hit 2 hours 15 minutes. When it could have been 75-90 without losing anything.

Plot: Meh

Sound: OMG NO!

I have never enjoyed the silent elevator ride back to the lobby and silent walk across the street into the misty night after this aural assault.

WonkaPiercer – A Film Theory

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is one of my favorite movies ever made. I voraciously read through every children’s book Roald Dahl wrote. The story of Charlie Bucket is one of my favorite stories.

The story of Snowpiercer is that of a post-apocalyptic train racing through a frozen world. The passengers of that train are the last remaining humans in a world frozen by humanity.

Are these two films related? Is Snowpiercer a sequel to Willy Wonka?

I don’t know (and neither do you) but it’s fun to think about. I will link two videos below. If you’re familiar with both films it will be a fun ride through a theory that is either completely true and compelling. Or a silly walk through finding correlations because you’re looking for them.

Why SNOWPIERCER is a sequel to WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY.
Snowpiercer = Willy Wonka Sequel? (Rhino Stew followup)