Weekly Wonderings – April 19th, 2021

The journey of our eventual move keeps trucking along. This week has seen a significant upsurge in selling off furniture and belongings. I’ve been selling board games on eBay; I sent one out this morning with two more going out tomorrow. We have a person coming over to purchase a coffee table and couch. It’s feeling nice to see things emptying out. Once pretty much everything is clear, then we have some house flippers interested in buying the place. I have no problem pitting them against each other and see what the best bid we can get is. We get these mailers every week, and we’d much rather do this than go through the realtor situation.

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Movie Review – Violation

Violation (2021)
Written & Directed by Madeleine Sims-Fewer & Dusty Mancinelli

I have not seen A Promising Young Woman, but I think this film covers the same ground and goes a lot more extreme than what I know of that picture. It isn’t a success, though, and ultimately I felt very cold and unmoved, which was not what I expected going into the film. Violation is undoubtedly stylish in its structure and visual choices, and I think they distracted from the humanity of the characters for me. I’m never one to shy away from a brutal and incendiary film because, at the end of the day, it will evoke some emotion. Sadly, what I felt most after this picture was boredom and a distance from the characters. There are some fabulously well-acted moments, but overall, the movie falls apart.

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Comic Book Review – Immortal Hulk Book One

Immortal Hulk Book One (2019)
Reprints Immortal Hulk #1-10 & material from Avengers #684
Written by Al Ewing
Art by Joe Bennett, Ruy Jose, Le Beau Underwood, & Rafael Fonteriz

When I was a five-year-old living in Central Illinois, I can vividly remember watching NBC Saturday mornings, and my favorite shows were Spider-Man & His Amazing Friends and The Hulk. I would play-act, by myself usually being these heroes, and the transformation from Bruce Banner to Hulk was always one of my favorites. The shoes splitting open as his feet grew, shoulders expanding to split my shirt. Hulk, like dinosaurs, is one of those empowering figures for little kids; they represent an ability to unleash anger & strength in a world where your size and lack of knowledge make you vulnerable. However, as I got older, I didn’t find Hulk to be that compelling of a character. There were moments during Peter David’s epic run that piqued my interest, but after he left the book, it felt like there wasn’t much to say about Hulk other than retread that territory. Then Al Ewing came along.

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TV Review – The Falcon and Winter Soldier Episode 5

The Falcon and Winter Soldier Episode 5 (2021)
Written by Dalan Musson
Directed by Kari Skogland

This episode was a bit of an improvement from the last couple, but the show is still far from being as good as it could be. One of the most glaring problems with the mini-series is how bloated the narrative has become with characters. In this one episode, we have scenes with Sam, Bucky, Isaiah Bradley, his grandson Elijah, John Walker, John Walker’s wife, Lamar’s family, Sam’s sister, and his nephews, Zemo, the Dora Milaje, Joaquin Torres, Batroc, Sharon Carter, Karli Morgenthau & the Flag Smashers. Plus, they introduce a new character, the Contessa de Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus). The Zemo narrative appears to be over as he’s taken into Wakandan custody, but I just don’t see a thoroughly satisfying conclusion to all these arcs next episode.

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Movie Review – Fiddler on the Roof

Fiddler on the Roof (1971)
Written by Joseph Stein
Directed by Norman Jewison

By this time in his career, Norman Jewison had become dismayed over the political climate in the United States. It was clear that the government was meeting the multiple cultural uprisings and movements with hostility and brutality. He decided to move his family to England, which is where his subsequent few productions were based. Having gained considerable clout for his work on In the Heat of the Night and The Thomas Crown Affair, Jewison was offered to direct a film adaptation of the Broadway musical Fiddler on the Roof. The themes of Fiddler seem right in Jewison’s wheelhouse, but it was his first musical, so that aspect of the film remained to be seen until its release. The result is one of Jewison’s best pictures.

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Patron Pick – Chef

This is a special reward available to Patreon patrons who pledge at the $10 or $20 a month levels. Each month those patrons will get to pick a film for me to review. They also get to include some of their own thoughts about the movie, if they choose. This Pick comes from Matt Harris.

Chef (2014)
Written & Directed by Jon Favreau

I can’t say I have ever loved the work of Jon Favreau. I watched and moderately enjoyed his early career. I am one of those people who was confounded by the adverse reaction to Made. I think it was one of the few times I laughed at Vince Vaughn. His cringy dumb guy who thinks he is smart schtick made me laugh. I never found his studio pictures like Elf, Zathura, or Iron Man very remarkable. It could undoubtedly be an age thing when it comes to those pictures. So when Chef originally came out, it zoomed past my radar with zero interest in watching it. The world would keep spinning. However, my brother and patron Matt chose this for his April pick, so I sat down and watched the thing.

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Movie Review – The Thomas Crown Affair

The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)
Written by Alan Trustman
Directed by Norman Jewison

In the late 1960s, filmmaking was undergoing a transformation. It was happening both in the counter-culture, becoming prominent in the content but also in technological changes. At Expo 67, the World’s Fair held in Montreal, a pair of films showed off the revolutionary split-screen technique pioneered by Christopher Chapman. Chapman was a Canadian-born cinematographer that created the multi-dynamic image technique or “the Brady Bunch effect.” This allowed him to composite multiple film images into grids of varying sizes. This allowed a single scene to be shown from various angles and character perspectives. After Norman Jewison saw the films in exhibition at Expo 67, he wanted to use it in his new movie The Thomas Crown Affair, seeing it as useful when showing the heist scenes.

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Movie Review – In the Heat of the Night

In the Heat of the Night (1967)
Written by Stirling Silliphant
Directed by Norman Jewison

In the Heat of the Night was a huge film in terms of its pop-culture resonance for a few decades, yet it is almost forgotten in our current age. I was aware of the seven-season television sequel that premiered in 1988. I recently discovered Sidney Poitier continued to play the character of Virgil Tibbs in two sequels. There are also seven novels in the Tibbs series. Now I’m sure not all of this media is as great as this movie, but it’s so strange for a character to have been that prominent only to have entirely vanished from the cultural discourse. As presented in this film, the character is so compelling that I have to believe the following productions just didn’t live up to the bar set by In the Heat of the Night.

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Weekly Wonderings – April 12th, 2021

The second episode of the PopCult Podcast went up yesterday. I’m enjoying making these and already planning on tweaking the format a little on the next one. I think I’ll be cutting most of me talking solo and keep it more to a conversation with Ariana. I know I always enjoy podcasts more that are a back and forth. I was happy to see the first episode got 10 listeners, which is 10 more than I expected. Ariana picked the Top 5 list for the third episode, and we’ll be having a conversation about Them on Amazon Prime. Oh boy, that show is something. It should be an interesting talk.

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Movie Review – Shiva Baby

Shiva Baby (2021)
Written & Directed by Emma Seligman

As I get older, my personal definition of what makes a horror film both expands and retracts. The funhouse jumpscare-a-thons that have been accepted as what horror is in major theatrical releases misses the whole point of the genre for me. I think Ari Aster’s pictures are as close to popular horror that I enjoy. I think what’s missing from most of these movies is the building of atmosphere. There are tense strings on the soundtrack, and then a loud burst with something that might be related to the horror or not popping onto the screen. Shiva Baby feels like a personal horror movie to me, the story of a person whose decisions in life have caught up to her and play out almost in real-time. It has those same strings playing on the soundtrack, but they rarely give us the climax we’re expecting and just keep needling at the sanity of our protagonist. It’s one of the tensest movie-watching experiences I’ve had in 2021 so far.

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