Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Wednesday Horror: Cemetery Man (Dellamorte Dellamore)

Film: Cemetery Man (Dellamorte Dellamore)
Format: DVD from NetFlix on rockin’ flatscreen.

Cemetery Man (also known as Dellamorte Dellamore) is a couple of things at the same time. It’s a bit of a cult film in that it’s the sort of film that film nerds and horror geeks know and not a lot of other people do. It’s also part of the subgenre of horror comedy. So far, so good. Where it hits a roadblock for me is that it’s also Italian horror, and there we have some potential problems. I don’t love Italian horror in general. It’s stylish, but often devoid of substance or even coherence. Dario Argento is the king of this; his films are visually fascinating and frequently make no sense on a basic plot level.

Francesco Dellamorte (Rupert Everett) works more or less as the groundskeeper for a cemetery in Buffalora, Italy. He and his assistant Gnaghi (Francois Hadji-Lazaro) dig the graves, put the bodies to rest and, after seven days, put many of them back in the grave when they rise again. Francesco doesn’t know if this is something happening only at his graveyard or at graveyards around the country or world. What he does know is that he seems to be the gatekeeper against a potentially rising horde of undead.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Helping Hands

Film: Vera Drake
Format: DVD from personal collection on laptop.

There’s a generation or so of British actresses that I love in just about everything. Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Helen Mirren, and Joan Plowright come to mind. Imelda Staunton is a bit younger than that group, but she’s just about in the same league. What Staunton can do that the others don’t do as well is play what the Monty Python crew called a “pepperpot,” a stereotypical middle-aged British housewife. That’s absolutely the case in Vera Drake, where, aside from the seriousness of the drama at play here, she could have stepped out of a skit about Mrs. Premise and Mrs. Conclusion.

It’s some time into the film before we really get a sense of what is happening. Vera Drake (Imelda Staunton) works as a domestic for a number of families in post-World War II London. She also spends a good deal of her time looking after people who need help, including her infirm mother and a neighbor named Reg (Eddie Marsan), who she invites to tea, perhaps surreptitiously hoping that Reg might become attracted to her painfully shy and mousey daughter Ethel (Alex Kelly). Vera and her husband Stan (Phil Davis) live a normal life as much as they can in the still-rationing world of 1950s London, a fact that their son Sid (Daniel Mays) plays to his advantage. His job in a clothing shop gives him access to nylons, which he trades to his friends for small luxuries.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Gangster Squad

Film: The Racket
Format: Turner Classic Movies on rockin’ flatscreen.

First off, please forgive any typos. My left hand is a bit messed up at the moment, so I’m not sure how accurate my typing will be. I may even be more accurate than normal today because I’m aware of it. Anyway, there’s a collection of movies that I’m unlikely to ever see on my various Oscar lists because I just can’t get them. I was excited when TCM scheduled The Patent Leather Kid for its 31 Days of Oscar, but they pulled it last minute. The did run The Racket, though, a film that was thought lost until a single copy turned up in the vaults of Howard Hughes.

The Racket is an old school gangster film that features a couple of different factions butting heads. There are the gangsters, of course. One group of bootlegging thugs is led by Nick Scarsi (Louis Wolheim, who seriously looks the part). The rival gang is headed by a thug nicknamed Spike (Henry Sedley). The only good thing we can say about Spike is that he’s not Nick Scarsi. The only thing good we can say about Nick is that he’s sent his brother Joe (George E. Stone) off to college and wants to keep him out of the rackets.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Tell Them I Love My Wife

Film: Loving
Format: DVD from NetFlix on rockin’ flatscreen.

It’s only been a couple of days since I’ve written up a movie, but it feels like a month. I have several really bad weeks every year with work and I’m close to the end of one of them now. This blog is always the first casualty of these weeks. I did manage to sneak in a viewing of Loving, though, if only because I get jittery if I go too long without watching a movie. I was curious to see this, since Loving is the story of the marriage that ultimately destroyed anti-miscegenation laws in the U.S., which makes it a precursor to Obergefell v. Hodges from a couple of years ago.

And really, I’ve just offered you the entire plot. Taciturn bricklayer Richard Loving (Joel Edgerton) and mixed-race Mildred Jeter (Ruth Negga) fall in love, and soon enough Mildred is pregnant. Richard is happy about this—about as happy as he ever expresses in the film, at least, and decides that he and Mildred should be married. He buys a plot of land and decides to build a house on it. However, since mixed race marriages are illegal in Virginia, the two head off to Washington D.C. for the ceremony and return to Caroline County as man and wife.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Wednesday Horror: John Dies at the End

Film: John Dies at the End
Format: Streaming video from NetFlix on The Nook.

Every now and then, I watch something that almost completely defies description. That is very much the case with John Dies at the End, a film that that psychoactive drugs watch when they want to get stoned. I realize that a large part of this blog is going through narrative structure and looking at why films and stories work the way they do. That’s one of my main interests in movies, after all. I like looking at the whys and wherefores of stories, figuring out what makes them tick, and whether or not they actually work. John Dies at the End has a narrative and it’s something that can be easily followed despite the number of twists and turns it takes. The problem is that I think I’m almost completely incapable of explaining both what it is and how it works.

The framing story has David Wong (Chase Williamson) sitting at a table in a Chinese restaurant speaking to a reporter named Arnie Blondestone (Paul Giamatti), telling his story. This story involves the ability to read minds, tell specific facts about the past and future, the ability to slip in and out of time, alternate dimensions, a massive sentient computer, and a drug called “soy sauce” that gives those who take it unique abilities and also frequently kills the people who take it.