Patron Pick – Kicking & Screaming

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

Kicking & Screaming (2005)
Written by Leo Benvenuti & Steve Rudnick
Directed by Jimmy Miller

I’ve wondered a lot over the last decade, was Will Ferrell ever actually good? Or was he just benefitting from other people’s strong writing when we thought he was. I have managed to avoid some of his more toxic recent movies; a Patron may choose one in the coming months now that I’ve typed that out. Like almost everyone, I first saw Ferrell on Saturday Night Live when the big mid-90s reboot happened. It suddenly felt like the quality of SNL has improved. I’ve revisited those episodes since, and they were not as good as I thought then. Ferrell was a definite stand-out, so it didn’t surprise anyone when he transitioned to movies. Night at the Roxbury never crossed my radar, so Anchorman was where I first saw him on the big screen. Looking back, I think I liked Adam McKay’s writing, not necessarily Ferrell’s performances.

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Movie Review – Glengarry Glen Ross

Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
Written by David Mamet
Directed by James Foley

Capitalism. What a nightmare. We don’t talk enough about avarice in America. That frenzied, hateful greed fuels some people’s minds & souls. They can never find fulfillment in contentment, being happy and appreciative of what they have, spurred on by institutions that depend on this hunger to never be satiated. Playwright David Mamet does an incredible job of depicting this inhumanity in Glengarry Glen Ross. His characters are trapped on a broken hamster wheel, given expectations they cannot possibly meet, and punished for trying to find a loophole in the system to avoid the inevitable outcome. Unemployment is not an accidental byproduct of capitalism but an intended outcome. It makes people live in terror that they will fall to the bottom of the ladder, and they learn to treat everyone else around them with hatred as they see them as competitors for the same crumbs.

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Movie Review – M. Butterfly

M. Butterfly (1993)
Written by David Henry Hwang
Directed by David Cronenberg

In 1986, France was caught up in a scandal involving one of their diplomats in China. Bernard Boursicot has been engaged in an affair with Peking opera singer Shi Pei Pu. Shi was a male singer who performed primarily in female roles, and Boursicot insisted that he believed Shi was a woman the whole time. This seems incredulous as both men admitted to having sex together numerous times. Furthermore, Boursicot claimed that Shi could retract his testicles and shape his genitals to resemble female anatomy. However, the French diplomat engaged in same-sex intercourse while in boarding school as a teenager. Only after graduation did Boursicot choose to be with women, as he claimed he thought homosexuality was a rite of passage among the youths at his school.

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Movie Review – The Glass Menagerie

The Glass Menagerie (1987)
Written by Tennessee Williams
Directed by Paul Newman

“Write what you know” is some advice often given to writers struggling to know where to start. Tennessee Williams was an artist who often practiced this, sometimes literally but also metaphorically. In the case of The Glass Menagerie, it was a very personal play that touched on his relationship with his mother and sister. He kept coming back to it in different forms until he found the way that worked, even writing a screenplay (The Gentleman Caller) that would be repurposed for the play. The result is a moving story of a family displaced from the American South struggling to find their way in an increasingly cold, cruel world.

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PopCult Podcast – Puss in Boots: The Last Wish/Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves

It’s attack of the IPs in this cineplex double feature. One movie is a spin-off of a trilogy of animated films which themselves have become an ongoing meme. The other is an adaptation of a beloved tabletop game using Marvel flavoring for every element in the movie.

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Solo Tabletop RPG Review – Ironsworn: Starforged Part Three

Ironsworn: Starforged (Mophidius)
Written & Designed by Sean Tomkin
Art by Joshua Meehan, Jeff Zugale, and Sarah Dahlinger

You can purchase the game here.

Read part two of this series here.

The Vigilant gracefully glides through the vast expanse of space, weaving its way through the remnants of long-abandoned planet-cracking mineral drills & shards of the ancient facilities that once dotted Orcus’ surface. As it approaches this floating graveyard, the hull groans under the stress of sudden turbulence as if protesting the eerie surroundings.

The graveyard itself is a haunting sight. Metal carcasses of massive, once-grand spaceships float listlessly in the void, their lifeless frames casting shadows in the darkness. Debris and wreckage are scattered everywhere, testaments to the violent ends of these colossal vessels. They had been coming here to pick up for distribution or in orbit, waiting for clearance to jump. Their crews never fully understood what was happening.

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Comic Book Review – Fantastic Four Epic Collection: The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine

Fantastic Four Epic Collection: The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine (2014)
Reprints Fantastic Four #1-18
Written by Stan Lee
Art by Jack Kirby

I’m not quite sure what Marvel Comics is anymore these days. They have gone all-in on making their books just variants of variants at this point. There’s the stable of adjectives they slap on books that don’t mean much (Uncanny, Astonishing, Immortal is one now with the upcoming Immortal Thor). There’s also the spamming of popular IPs with Spider-Man, Venom, Spider-Gwen/Ghost Spider, and Miles Morales being used in multiple comics a month in a way that I think is less about storytelling and more about keeping brands in front of the consumers at all times. While comics have always been a business about finding ways to keep people handing over their money for another monthly installment, in the “old days,” there was a certain freshness & creativity to it. These were comics being dreamed up by weirdos who had yet to determine if they would be popular with a big enough audience to make them economical. 

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Movie Review – Death of a Salesman

Death of a Salesman (1985)
Written by Arthur Miller
Directed by Volker Schlöndorff

Some pieces of art are monolithic in that you know some things about them even if you don’t actively seek them out. They just made such an impact on the culture and became interwoven into our language and our contemporary understanding. I can’t point to exactly when I first knew of Death of a Salesman, but one of my earlier memories was it being referenced in Seinfeld. In an episode, Jerry says George reminds him of Biff Loman from the play. I was a teenager and had never read the play, so I can’t say I ever fully comprehended that one. It made the play stick out to me, though, as it must be important, at a minimum, to understand some aspect of the “discourse.” But time flowed on, and I never sat down to experience Death of a Salesman until now.

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Movie Review – True West

True West (1984)
Written by Sam Shepard
Directed by Allan A. Goldstein

Sam Shepard was a playwright that seemed to know what to say about the time he was living in perfectly. He was particularly interested in the transformation of the American West from a mythic landscape used to feed the imaginations of Americans to its incorporation as just another part of the urban & suburban sprawl that took over the country. In his screenplay for Paris, Texas, his protagonist emerges from the desert only to disappear back into it at the story’s conclusion, in a parallel to John Ford’s The Searchers. People who cannot change their perspectives and, at minimum, understand the times they live in will be left on the sidelines, drifting away until forgotten. 

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Movie Review – The Iceman Cometh

The Iceman Cometh (1973)
Written by Eugene O’Neill
Directed by John Frankenheimer

You are not alone if you’ve felt increasing anxiety over world events in the last few years. Additionally, this is not the first time in human history that societal shifts have led people to become fixated on watching it unfold, standing on the sidelines, unsure of what to do. Eugene O’Neill wrote The Iceman Cometh between June and November 1939 while living in Danville, California. During this time, the Nazis invaded Poland, the Great Depression ravaged American workers’ lives, and Southeast Asia became fertile ground for the next salvo of the coming world war. O’Neill, in a letter to his daughter Oona said about this period, “The war news has affected my ability to concentrate on my job. With so much tragic drama happening in the world, it is hard to take theater seriously.” O’Neill had an understanding that he’d written something personal with The Iceman Cometh but also touched on universal anxieties of the era. He delayed production of the play until World War II ended because the playwright understood he had written something that spoke to people living in the wake of devastation.

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