The Good, The Bad and The Critic

Established on March 19th, 2012 and pioneered by film fanatic Michael J. Carlisle. The Good, The Bad and The Critic will analyze classic and contemporary films from all corners of the globe. This title references Sergei Leone's influential spaghetti western The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.

Monday, August 3, 2020

Cats (2019) Review

Title: Cats
Year: 2019
Director: Tom Hooper
Country: UK
Language: English

I haven't always been a cat person, but since my spouse moved in with their ginger one (named Silver) in 2014 I absolutely fell in love with felines. A year after, in 2015, we got a tortoise colored kitty named Bonnie. With my newfound fondness for those pets, I decided to check out the long-running musical Cats (1980) and was quite bizarre. I did like the music numbers, like Mr.Mistoffeles. In 2019, it was announced that a big screen adaptation directed by Tom Hooper would hit theatres and...WOW. 

A tribe of cats called the Jellicles must decide yearly which one will ascend to the Heaviside Layer and come back to a new Jellicle life.

This movie MIGHT have worked in the 70's when people were stoned out of their minds, but Cats (2019) is THE fever dream of fever dreams. Such an iconic ensemble of actors (how do you make Taylor Swift, an iconic singer, look BAD in a musical!?) whose talents have been wasted at the hands of a director who has no business in Hollywood (I HATED Hooper's version of Les Miserables too!)

Where to begin? The choice of costuming is hideous. The cast of the broadway show used a realistic looking costuming and make-up, whereas this is filled to the brim with cheap CGI (why a human nose and no whiskers on a cat?) The set design makes my head hurt. The spatial relation & size of objects make very little sense. The singing is so laughably bad (*stares at Rum Tum Tugger) 

The broadway musical at least had a weird, but curious sexuality about it. This movie...well, it tries, but comes off as goofy and awkward. Hooper's complete misdirection is baffling; making Cats a critical and commercial failure that was only viewed by people desiring to laugh AT it. I must admit though; some of the dancing is decent, albeit the frantic cuts border on Moulin Rouge "ADHD child buzzed out on sugar" territory. 

Cats ultimately is worse than Moulin Rouge, because at least that film has a cool moment or two (cue Roxanne scene). Both films are absolutely dreadful though; Watch only if you want to laugh at the misfire. 

No Rating (ZERO)

Dirty Dancing (1987) Review

Title: Dirty Dancing
Year: 1987
Director: Emile Ardelino
Country: US
Language: English

The Rev (Rev. Rachel Twigg) wrote about her recent rewatch of Dirty Dancing (1987) in her latest blog post (click HERE to read the post) comparing Baby's uncertainty to being a minister during the pandemic. Upon deciding which film to review next my spouse realized, "Hey! You haven't reviewed Dirty Dancing yet!" So therefore this is my official review of the 80's classic. 

Spending the summer at a Catskills resort with her family, Frances "Baby" Houseman (Jennifer Grey) falls in love with the camp's dance instructor, Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze)

The Rev begins her post by mentioning the taboo nature of the film; "we didn’t want anyone to know we were watching it." When I was an adolescent Dirty Dancing was forbidden to view in the house. The dirtiest VHS I could find was Titanic (1997) I had to wait until my late teens to watch it and, well, even though men aren't supposed to admit they liked this film (we are programmed to say "Footloose is better ya know!") I actually liked it a lot!  It's a marvelous blend of the, perhaps unintentionally, corny & the serious. 

"I've had the time of my liiiiife" Dirty Dancing, thanks to the remarkable casting of Grey and Swayze, oozes of charm & chemistry. I've had to fan myself down a few times. Phew! The soundtrack, which sold 32 million copies and is one of the best selling soundtracks of all time, contains both original music made for the film ("I've had the time of my life") & some previously composed ("Love is strange") It is a great mix of 60's rock & 80's ballads.  

Beautifully filmed and excellently choreographed, Dirty Dancing is an enjoyable film that men should appreciate more. Though some of the film is fairly dated in 2020 (I could do with better dialogue) & can come off as a little cheesy, it is hard to deny the cultural impact this film had on North American cinema. More musicals like this please! *glares at Cats (2019)

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Super Sick: Making Peace With Chronic Illness- Book Review

Title: Super Sick
Year: 2020
Author: Allison Alexander
Publisher: Mythos & Ink

While I don't have a chronic illness, I do have a congenital heart condition (Transposition of the Great Arteries) that comes with many barriers & thus many topics in Super Sick: Making Peace with Chronic Illness, such as dealing with chronic fatigue, really speak to me. I have to thank Michael W. Boyce (Academic Dean of Booth University College) for introducing me to Allison Alexander's fascinating work.

Allison Alexander, who has struggled with a chronic illness since she was a child, wants to see herself in her heroes and searches for examples of sick characters in pop culture. Super Sick is an attempt to make peace with her illness despite a culture that suggests she’s worthless unless she’s healed.

Though I'm not quite up to date with certain pop culture (I've never played Final Fantasy) , Allison's use of exploring characters in relation to chronic illness, setting up each chapter in preparation to dive deely into seemingly taboo territory, proves quite effective. Most readers would not have made such a connection prior (such as using Dr.Who as a platform to being communicative about the ability to have children) and thus Super Sick proves both engaging and informative. 

Sincere, personal, and, at times, funny (I found myself laughing when Allison describes the side-affects of medication to treat nausea "this is all from just one drug") Super Sick helped me be more empathetic to those with chronic illness, while also be forgiving with myself. Her early example of Dr.Strange's anger when he finds himself useless really resonated with me, as there are days when I'm horribly fatigued yet haven't accomplished much. Allison reminds the reader not to wallow in self-pity, but to find your own way to be empowered.

The only barrier to this material might be the pop culture references. I don't know if my grandmother would be excited over reading about Fire Emblem or My Hero Academia. Heck, I barely know what My Hero Academia is and I'm the right age demographic. This is a trivial critique compared to the overall quality of the book. Still, diverse eras of pop culture references (The Honeymooners in relation to fatigue?) might bring in a larger age range of readers. 

Allison leaves no stone unturned, as even seemingly "controversial" (normies don't like us to talk about it publicly) subjects like bowel movements are addressed in an insightful, creative, and respectful manner. She also gives a unique female perspective to some of these issues, which was an eye opener for me as the majority of disability literature is male focused. Super Sick is a great read that I will certainly recommend. 

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Never Rarely Sometimes Always (2020) Review

Title: Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Year: 2020
Director: Eliza Hittman
Country: US
Language: English

There are many who find having children miraculous & life-affirming, but I've never felt that way. Even prior to watching Rosemary's Baby (1968) pregnancy has always been a scary topic for me. I don't know what I would choose (or encourage since I'm a wombless male) if I/mypartner were in that situation. Though I'm pro-life I know that abortion would be extremely mentally difficult to do. Thus I got a vasectomy in May so I don't have to choose/encourage that. Unfortunately, the character in Never Rarely Sometimes Always doesn't get that choice. 

Autumn (Sidney Flanigan) and Skylar (Talla Ryder)  travel from Rural Pennsylvania to New York City to seek out medical help after an unintended pregnancy.

Not having had to look for an abortion, I wasn't fully aware of the difficulties women face when seeking one. Never Rarely Sometimes Always was eye opening in regards to how bureaucratic & frustrating the option is. Autumn has to deal with the well meaning anti-abortion Christian lady, innacurate pregnancy tests, travelling to uknown destinations, sleepless nights and protesters, among other obstacles. Even I was exhausted by her difficulties. 

The film also exposes how creepy men can be. Even seemingly innocent genstures, such as a "hello" from a young man, comes off as weird. Perhaps Director Eliza Hittman's point was that women always have to be on edge, because every "normal" encounter is met with more perverted ones. It really makes me review how I've behaved, if my gestures caused harm & if there's anything I can do about it. 

Never Rarely Sometimes Always is a necessary film that ought to do a lot of social good if a lot of people see it. It exposes the reality of living in the US and is likely a truth in many other countries as well. 25% of all the countries in the world haven't legalized abortion! It's not an easy film to get through, but watch it for your own good. 

Da 5 Bloods (2020) Review

Title: Da 5 Bloods
Year: 2020
Director: Spike Lee
Country: US
Language: English

Do you like Treasure of the Sierra Madre? Are you excited about the Black Lives Matter Movement? Then Spike Lee has a film for you! Da 5 Bloods is a live wire trickling with Spike Lee's usual electricity as it exposes society's unequal treatment of African Americans, especially when it pertains to war-time. Hollywood rarely ever shows a POC in a war film, even though they represented a large % of soldiers. This is a disgrace that Lee attempts to correct in this picture. 

Four African American vets battle the forces of man and nature when they return to Vietnam seeking the remains of their fallen squad leader and the gold fortune he helped them hide.

Da 5 Bloods opens with footage of Muhammad Ali from 1978, telling members of the press that he won’t fight in Vietnam because “they didn’t rob me of my nationality.” Lee’s use of this real-world imagery creates a conversation, but it doesn't come off as preachy & it still maintains a high degree of entertainment. Lee's story is accessible, yet doesn't follow convention too closely as old wounds don't get healed, but rather fester until moods boil over. 

Though not quite as epic feeling as Apocalypse NowDa 5 Bloods has the tone and imagery of a war movie. We see broken bodies, dangerous jungles, boats going down river. We get foreshadowing dialgue & a slowly foreboding atmosphere. Lee shows us the ugly truth of war, shocking viewers with realistic depictions of atrocities and bloodshed. 

Da 5 Bloods is the 2020 Best Picture that won't win Best Picture. Blackkklansman was a great movie, but it lost to The Green Book. Do the Right Thing was even better and it lost to Driving Miss Daisy. I found this film quite profound & I urgently ask viewers to see Lee's masterful work immediately on Netflix. 

The Vast of Night (2020) Review

Title: Vast of Night
Year: 2020
Director: Andrew Patterson 
Country: US
Language: English 

A film for audiophiles and lovers of Rod Sterling's The Twilight Zone, Vast of Night proves a Midnight Madness force to be reckoned with as we dab into 1950's science fiction with inspirations from The Conversation (1974) and Blow Out (1981). With a modestly sized production, first-time director Andrew Patterson has tapped into our nostalgic veins with this one. 

On one fateful night in New Mexico, young switchboard operator Fay (Sierra McCormick) and charismatic radio DJ Everett (Jake Horowitz) discover a strange audio frequency that could change their small town and the future forever.

Complete with long takes, fluid camera movement & sharp dialogue, Vast of Night proves to be an imaginative picture that unleashes the inner sci-fi geek in all of us. It's a smart film that blends conspiracy and technology, capturing its audience in an aura of mystery and suspense. Each word has us leaning closer, slowly rising our intrigue to an all-time high. 

During some scenes Vast of Night fades to black, allowing the audience to focus on the tone of the people speaking alone. Though this is odd tactic for a visual medium, I must admit that it was successful in keeping my attention. Every detail mattered. Every sentence added to the compelling story unfolding. 

Vast of Night also succeeds in bringing back the 50's. Every visual detail, such as the clothes, cars & even decorations in the house,  evokes the time period. The film definitely succeeds in taking its audience to a vastly different setting and time. I will watch this many more times in the future. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Weird Science (1985) Review

Title: Weird Science 
Year: 1985
Director: John Hughes
Country: US
Language: English

So many immature comedies from the 1980's have dated terribly & don't work well in 2020. Porky's (1981), for instance, comes off as repulsive and date rapey rather than charming (if it was ever considered "charming"). I've heard of Weird Science (1985) but was hesitant to watch it because, well, it has to be ridiculously misogonistic, no? I couldn't imagine this film appealing to the #metoo crowd. Surprisingly, it's far more tame than I expected. 

Two high school nerds (Anthony Michael Hall & Ilan Mitchell Smith)  use a computer program to literally create the perfect woman (Kelly LeBrock), but she turns their lives upside down.

What would YOU do if you created the perfect woman? Take her dancing, show her off to your parents and uh...go to the mall? Huh? I think my perverted expectations were too high; I expected more Russ Meyer and less, well, John Hughes. Weird Science (1985) is a warm-hearted, well rounded picture but its basic horny premise is wasted with this PG-13 rating. I opened my review complaining about how tasteless Porky's is, but I have to admit this film needed more sleaze to be satisfying. 

The "perfect" woman is no doubt, drop dead gorgeous, but it's a bit creepy (in a freudian context) the way she acts like their mother. Instead of the boys learning their lesson about treating women with more respect on their own, through their own mistakes, the "perfect" woman needs to scold them and insist that they generally be more brave. What does the lesson have to do with the plot? I have no clue. At some point killer mutants show up and wreck a party that the boys didn't even want. "You need to be more popular". Too many half-baked "lessons". 

Weird Science (1985) is quite a bit of fun, if you don't mind shutting your brain off. It's not as meaningful as Hughes other films, like Breakfast Club, and, I feel, doesn't do enough with its gimmick. There's a much better movie lurking in here, but Hughes wasn't the one to bring it to full form. 

Last Year at Marienbad (1961) Review

Title: Last Year at Marienbad
Year: 1961
Director: Alain Resnais
Country: France
Language: French

Upon its release Alain Resnais' Last Year At Marienbad was awarded the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, while later being nominated for an Oscar. It received a tremendous amount of praise, but also was equally hated; famed critic Pauline Kael claimed it was an "aimless disaster". Incredibly polarizing, audiences are divided over whether this is a bonifide masterpiece or too artsy farsty for its own good. 

In a strange and isolated chateau, a man (Giorgio Albertazzi) becomes acquainted with a woman (Delphine Seyrig) and insists that they have met before.

Last Year at Marienbad is quite a cerebral experience; a masterclass of tone and mood that pushes boundaries and redifines what a "film" can be. It's an elegant puzzle with no clear solution. The mystery keeps us engaged long after the run-time has ended & has us asking "what did I just watch?" Understandably, this can be frustrating for many as one can feel like they wasted their time. I'd like to think I saw a profound film, but its hard to convince myself. 

Visually, the picture is splendid. The cinematography is brilliant. Dark, then white, giving a blinking effect at times; and constantly switching between different locations. The score is haunting; a church organ adds to our overall uncertainty of the situation. The pace is quite deliberate, which may put off many, but for me it was essential in getting me transfixed into this, at the very least, bold film. Few films dare to abandon story-telling tradition quite like Last Year at Marienbad does.

Despite writing this review, I'm still uncertain in regards to if I actually enjoyed Last Year at Marienbad, It was a surreal eerie experience that doesn't come across that often in cinema, but I'm not quite confident I can comprehend everything I just watched. Did they meet a year ago? Does it matter? I'm intrigued and would love to revisit it in the future. 

Monday, June 15, 2020

The Kid Brother (1927) Review

Title: The Kid Brother
Year: 1927
Director: Hal Roach
Country: US
Language: English

In 1927 the film industry shook as Warner Brothers' The Jazz Singer introduced audiences to "talkie" pictures. Studios changed course from their silent ideals almost immediately, as many could see sound in cinema as more than a gimmick. Some, like Lloyd, Chaplin, and Keaton were less receptive and held onto the silent era even as profits dwindled. The Kid Brother would be Lloyd's first feature in this new world; thankfully it would maintain Lloyd's quality and still be fairly commercially successful. 

In this, sheriff's milquetoast son (Harold Lloyd) has a chance to prove himself when a medicine show run by con artists comes into town.

Lloyd's pictures feel less complex than that of his contemporaries; Chaplin and Keaton's pictures were filled with large statements about society as a whole (such as the state of the American immigration system in Chaplin's The Immigrant) , whereas Lloyd's The Kid Brother is charming in its simplicity. It's a romantic comedy wherein the motivation of Lloyd is to prove himself worthy enough to get the girl. Lloyd is lighthearted escapism at its finest. 

Filled with clever gags throughout its runtime, The Kid Brother offers imaginative sights without Keaton's sense of real danger. Keaton will break his neck for a laugh, Lloyd can get his humor established in a much safer way. The Black Ghost sequence and the many fights within it prove to be memorable cinema & will leave you asking "how did he shoot it?" 

I love the three masters of silent comedy (Lloyd, Chaplin & Keaton) & look forward to every picture I discover of theirs. They are all different (Keaton is more daring, Chaplin is more political & Lloyd is more escapist) and thus I can find myself rooting for any one of them as I watch their pictures. The Kid Brother was a fantastic film and I would certainly watch it again. 

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Surf City Acid Drop - Book Review

Title: Surf City Acid Drop
Author: Craig Terlson
Year: 2015
Country: Canada
Publisher: Ethelbert House

[Purchase Surf City Acid Drop on Amazon]

Canadian Craig Terlson has had a 26 year career of illustration, working for magazines and newspapers across the country. His fiction has been published in literary journals in Canada, the US. UK and South Africa. His 2017 novel Fall in One Day gained him a McNally Bestseller status, and a nomination from the Manitoba Book awards. Currently he is the Design Manager at Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg. MB.

In Surf City Acid Drop Luke Fischer is hired to find people – even when he denies that he is a detective. When Luke finds a dead junkie in his hotel room, he knows his lazy days of Mexican beer, surf rock, and Cholula soaked peanuts are about to end. Fearing the local policia will tie him to the murder, Luke bolts from Puerto Vallarta and abandons his search for his client’s wandering brother.

Surf City Acid Drop is remarkably engaging; I originally had planned to give myself small breaks per hour of reading, but found that I could not put the book down & read the entire book in one long sitting. It's a neo-western neo-noir crime mystery drama w/ a touch of comedy that would have made an excellent film adapation in the 1970's (double feature with Chinatown?). There are many surf-rock references & one could easily form a soundtrack in their mind to compliment this book. Craig ought to make a soundtrack available online for fans of this mesmerizing novel. 

Craig's work is a light read- mainly because his characters, scenes, dialogue are so well crafted. It's easy to get lost in the captivating words and form a grand picture in your mind  The mysteries within Surf City Acid Drop unravel slowly, yet keep the audience invested with tense situations and gut hitting, sharp witted dialogue. We're never really sure who's side each character is on, their motivations and their allegiances (if any) It helps that secondary characters, such as Mostly Harold, are just as engaging as our main "protagonist" (if you can call him that) Luke Fisher. I hope Craig's future books include more of Harold. He reminds me of Javier Bardem in No Country For Old Men. 

In an interview with Weyburn Review Terlson mentioned the difference between "plotters", those who do full outlines before writing, and "pantsers", those who fly by the seat of their pants. “I’ve got nothing against plotters." He remarks "It just doesn’t work for me,” Surf City Acid Drop is so imaginative, so enthralling, that it seems like any other style, other than "fly by pants" would have hindered such a unique vision. I could easily see this adapted by Hollywood and making a ton of money in the process.