Lisa’s Week In Review: 1/6/20 — 1/12/20


This was a good week for me.  I caught up on some of the movies that I missed last year and I even got to play out in the snow a little!

The Oscar nominations are going to be announced in just a few more hours and I’m nowhere near prepared for them this year.  This upcoming week is going to be crazy one!

Here’s what I did this week:

Films I Watched:

  1. 1917 (2019)
  2. The Aeronauts (2019)
  3. Beast From Haunted Cave (1959)
  4. Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo (1984)
  5. Bright Lights, Bright City (1988)
  6. Brittany Runs A Marathon (2019)
  7. Diane (2019)
  8. Domino (2019)
  9. The Edge of Democracy (2019)
  10. Gentleman’s Agreement (1947)
  11. Gloria Bell (2019)
  12. Green Book (2018)
  13. High Life (2019)
  14. I Lost My Body (2019)
  15. In Which We Serve (1942)
  16. Luce (2019)
  17. Parasite (2019)
  18. The Peanut Butter Falcon (2019)
  19. Raging Bull (1980)
  20. Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese (2019)
  21. The Snake Pit (1948)
  22. Tell Me Who I Am (2019)

Television Shows I Watched:

  1. 9-1-1
  2. The Bachelor 24
  3. Bewitched
  4. Diff’rent Strokes
  5. Facts of Life
  6. Fear Thy Neighbor
  7. Friends
  8. The Office
  9. Seinfeld
  10. Shipping Wars
  11. The Simpsons

Books I Read:

  1. Unsolved Mysteries of World War II (2019) by Michael Fitzgerald

Music To Which I Listened:

  1. Agnes Obel
  2. Blanck Mass
  3. Bob Dylan
  4. Cage the Elephant
  5. The Chemical Brothers
  6. Muse
  7. Phantogram
  8. Rob Zombie
  9. Saint Motel
  10. Sturgill Simpson
  11. Tegan and Sara
  12. Tiesto
  13. UPSAHL

Awards Season Links:

  1. PGA Nominations
  2. DGA Nominations
  3. The Dorian Awards
  4. The Hollywood Critics Association
  5. The Alliance of Women Film Journalists
  6. The North Dakota Film Society Nominations
  7. The Music City Film Critics Association

News From Last Week:

  1. Twitter will put options to limit replies directly on the compose screen
  2. Over 100 employees lose their jobs at CollegeHumor after parent company pulls funding
  3. Bill Wisener, who every day for 40 years ran iconic Dallas store Bill’s Records, died Saturday
  4. Bills in several states aim to help those in the gig economy. Some are worried they’ll lose work instead
  5. ‘Doctor Strange 2’ Director Scott Derrickson Drops Out
  6. Hollywood’s avenging angel: could Annabella Sciorra bring down Harvey Weinstein?
  7. Prince Harry, Meghan Markle Want To Be ‘Financially Independent’
  8. Czech-Born Director Ivan Passer Dies at 86
  9. Marianne Williamson announces she is suspending her presidential campaign

Links From Last Week:

  1. Ken Fuson, 1956 — 2020
  2. After Ricky Gervais at the Golden Globes, is this the end of the awards show host?
  3. Ricky Gervais Read America
  4. Unearthed Article from 1974 Recounts the Total Madness of Experiencing ‘The Exorcist’ in Theaters

Links From The Site:

  1. Erin profiled the Covers of Startling Detective Adventures and shared Pushover, Witch On Wheels, Walk Out On Death, True Confessions, Inside Detective, Hideaway, and French Model!
  2. Jeff shared music videos from Melle Mel, R.E.M, David Bowie, Genesis, David Bowie again, and Rush.  He reviewed Grambling’s White Tiger, Cyborg, The Visitors, Avenging Force, Dead By Dawn, Behind Enemy Lines, and Behind Enemy Lines II!  He paid tribute to Elvis, Lee Van Cleef, Buck Henry, and Walter Hill.
  3. Val reviewed the 1956 version of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn!
  4. Leonard shared the trailer for The New Mutants and reviewed Ratatouille and Underwater!
  5. Ryan reviewed Making Time, Rodin Du Jour, and Opal Fruit!
  6. I shared a music video from Rob Zombie and I reviewed The Golden Globes, Lenny, All That Jazz, Green Book, In Which We Serve, Raging Bull, The Snake Pit, and Gentleman’s Agreement!

More From Us:

  1. Ryan has a patreon!  Please consider subscribing!
  2. Over at Days Without Incident, Leonard wrote about writer’s block.
  3. Over at Pop Politics, Jeff shared Lessons From Last Night, Meghan and Harry Are Stepping Back From Their Royal Duties, 330-231, and Neil Peart, R.I.P.
  4. Over at my music site, I shared songs from Cage the Elephant, Saint Motel, Phantogram, Agnes Obel, Bob Dylan, Tiesto, and Sturgill Simpson!
  5. On her photography site, Erin shared Arapaho Station, Arapaho Center, Between, Campus, Distance, Meadows Fountain, and Confusion!

Want to check out last week?  Click here!

Behind Enemy Lines II: Axis of Evil (2006, directed by James Dodson)


After an intelligence satellite reveals that the North Koreans have built a nuclear missile that can hit anywhere in the world and that they’re currently pointing the missile right at the United States, the President (Peter Coyote) orders a team of Navy SEALs to parachute into North Korea and take out the missile site.  At the last minute, the mission is canceled but two SEALs have already jumped out of the airplane and two more follow because a SEAL leaves no man behind.

While the world sits on the brink of war, the stranded SEALs attempt to reach the missile site and knock it out of commission.  Unfortunately, two of the SEALs get killed by the North Koreans and the two survivors end up getting captured and are forced to undergo extreme torture.  With time running out, the president authorizes a military strike on the missile site, a move that could plunge the world into a nuclear war.  It’s now up to Lt. James (Nicholas Gonzalez) and Master Chief Callaghan (Matt Bushell) to escape from the North Koreans and complete their mission before the stealth bombers show up and do their thing.

Behind Enemy Lines II: Axis of Evil has nothing to do with the previous Behind Enemy Lines film, beyond featuring a Naval officer stranded in enemy territory.  Behind Enemy Lines II: Axis of Evil is one of those films that should be simple and easy to follow but it’s so frantically directed and edited that it’s actually difficult to understand what’s going on from scene to scene.  This isn’t a case where, as in Black Hawk Down, the film is deliberately confusing in order to show what it would be like to be under enemy fire.  Instead, Behind Enemy Lines II feels as if it was edited by someone who was getting paid per jump cut.  It becomes difficult to keep track of who is shooting at who and the overuse of the shaky handheld camera effect didn’t help.  Also, for some reason, there are some fantasy sequences that feel as if they belong in a different movie.

The scenes in Washington D.C., where the President and his advisers debate whether or not to plunge the world into war, are marginally better.  Peter Coyote has the right amount of moral authority to play the president and the great Glenn Morshower (you may remember him as Aaron of the Secret Service on 24) plays the admiral who suggests that maybe it would be a good idea not to hastily destroy the world.  Because this movie was made in 2006, the actress playing the Secretary of State is a dead ringer for Condoleezza Rice.

Behind Enemy Lines II is not a good movie but it made enough money to get a sequel, which I’ll review tomorrow.

 

Val’s Mini-Post: Why The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn (1955, dir. Herbert B. Swope Jr.) Is On My Worst List Of 2019


I mentioned in my annual post about the “25 Best, Worst, and Gems I Saw In 2019” that I wound up seeing 1,266 films. I’m not up to writing lengthly posts at the moment, so instead, I thought I would take advantage of the excessive number of movies I watched to write some mini-posts from time to time about certain aspects of the films that I saw.

This was a 1955 TV Movie adaptation of The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn. They left out the character of Tom, The Slave. I couldn’t believe it and even pulled my copy of the book to make sure I wasn’t imagining this character existed in the novel. I’m positive this was because of censorship, but it left me wondering why they even bothered adapting the novel if they were going to omit that character. It basically turns the story into one of a kid who runs away with two con artists that proceed to do shtick for the course of the film. I can only guess that they were desperate to have a movie made for the week and The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn was not only pre-existing, but in the public domain. It’s kind of like when they used Jane Eyre to make I Walked With A Zombie (1941) expect it’s not creative or interesting. Despite seeing this during March of 2019, it stuck with me enough that I thought of it 9 months later.

Lisa Reviews An Oscar Winner: Gentleman’s Agreement (dir by Elia Kazan)


Earlier today, as I was watching the 1947 film, Gentleman’s Agreement, I found myself thinking about a conversation that I had in 2006.

This was when I was in college.  I was having lunch with some friends from one of my classes.  As we were eating, the conversation turned to the war in Iraq.  That, in itself, was not surprising because, in 2006, it seemed like every conversation somehow turned to what was happening in the Middle East.

One of the people with whom I was having lunch was Olivia, self-styled intellectual who fancied herself as the most knowledgeable person on campus.  To be honest, I can’t think of anyone who liked her that much but she had a skill for subtly weaseling her way into almost every conversation.  She was one of those incredibly pretentious types who started every sentence with “Actually….” and who had embraced Marxism with the shallow vapidness of someone who had grown up in Highland Park and who would never have to struggle to pay a bill.

On that day, Olivia announced to us all that the only reason we were in Iraq was because we were doing the bidding of Israeli lobbyists and then she went on to talk about how 9-11 was an inside job.  She repeated the old lie about Jews calling in sick on 9-11 and claimed that five MOSSAD agents were arrested in New York for celebrating after the collapse of the Twin Towers.

After Olivia said this, there was the briefest silence as everyone else tried to figure out how to react.  Finally, someone tried to change the subject by making a joke about our professor.  Realizing the no one was going to openly disagree with Olivia and risk an argument, I said, “That’s not true.”

“What’s not true?” Olivia asked.

“About Jewish people calling in sick on 9-11 and celebrating after the Towers fell.  That’s not true.”

Olivia looked a little bit surprised that she was being openly challenged.  Finally, she said, in a surprisingly sincere tone of voice, “I’m sorry.  I didn’t realize you were Jewish.”

I’m not Jewish.  I’m Irish-Italian-Spanish and pretty much all of my immediate ancestors were Catholic.  But, as far as Olivia was concerned, I had to be Jewish because why else would I object to her repeating an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory?  When she apologized (and, make no mistake, there was not a hint of sarcasm in her tone when she said she was sorry), it wasn’t for being a bigot.  Instead, it was for being a bigot in front of the “wrong” person.  It didn’t occur to her that I was upset because what she said was bullshit.

Anyway, I wish I could say that I threw a drink in Olivia’s face or that I stood up on the table and delivered an impassioned speech but, once again, the other people at the table hastily changed the subject.  Anything to avoid a conflict, I suppose.  That was the last time I ever had a conversation with Olivia.  For the rest of the semester, I ignored her and I felt pretty proud of myself for shunning her.  It’s only been recently that I realized that Olivia also didn’t really make any effort to really talk to me after that conversation.  I shunned her because of her bigotry and I can only assume that she shunned me because of her misconception about my ancestry.

Gentleman’s Agreement is about a Gentile reporter named Phillip Green (Gregory Peck) who, while researching a story about anti-Semitism, poses as a Jew and discovers that the world is full of people like Olivia.  His own fiancee, a self-declared liberal named Kathy (Dorothy McGuire), reacts to Phil’s plan by asking him, “But you’re not really Jewish …. are you?”  By the simple act of telling everyone that his last name is actually “Greenberg,” Phil discovers that he suddenly can’t get a hotel reservation.  People stop returning his calls.  When he and Kathy have an engagement party in a wealthy community in Connecticut, many of Kathy’s friends stay away.  (Kathy, meanwhile, begs Phil to let her tell her family that she’s not actually engaged to a Jew.)  When Phil’s son, Tommy (Dean Stockwell), is harassed at school, Phil is shocked to hear Kathy tell Tommy that he shouldn’t listen to the bullies not because they’re a bunch of bigots but because “you’re not actually Jewish.”

Meanwhile, Phil’s friend, Dave Goldman (John Garfield), has returned from serving in World War II, just to discover that he can’t even rent a home for his family because many landlords refuse to rent to Jews.  When Phil learns that Katy owns a vacant cottage, he suggests that she rent it out to Dave.  Despite her sympathy for Dave, Kathy is shocked at the suggestion.  What will the neighbors think?

Gentleman’s Agreement was produced by Darryl F. Zanuck, who took on the project after he was refused membership in the Los Angeles Country Club because the membership committee assumed that Zanuck was Jewish.  It was considered to be quite a controversial film in 1947, as it not only dealt with American prejudice but it also called out two prominent elected anti-Semites — Sen. Theodore Bilbo and Rep. John E. Rankin — by name.  Zanuck often claimed that the other studio moguls asked him to abandon the project, saying that a film would only inspire more of what it was trying to condemn.  Still, Zanuck stuck with the project and it was not only a box office hit but it also won the Oscar for Best Picture.

Seen today, Gentleman’s Agreement has its flaws.  In the lead role, Gregory Peck is a bit of a stiff and Elia Kazan’s directs in an efficient but bland manner.  Because this film was made in 1947 and a happy ending was a must, Kathy is given a rather convenient opportunity at redemption.  The film’s most compelling performers — John Garfield, Celeste Holm, and June Havoc (playing Phil’s Jewish secretary, who had to change her last name before anyone would even consider hiring her) — are often underused.

And yet, with all that in mind, Gentleman’s Agreement is still a very effective film.  Gentleman’s Agreement understand that there’s more to prejudice than just the morons who go to rallies or the degenerates who shout slurs across the street.  Gentleman’s Agreement understands that, for prejudice to thrive, it also needs people like Kathy or Olivia, people who have that prejudice so ingrained in their system that they don’t even think twice about it and Dorothy McGuire does a very good job of playing a self-satisfied liberal who is blind to her own prejudice.  Gentleman’s Agreement understands that bigotry isn’t just about the openly hateful.  It’s also about the people who silently tolerate it and who refuse to stand up against it.  It’s about the people who respond to prejudice not with outrage but who instead attempt to change the subject.

In the UK, one of the two major political parties has basically surrendered itself to anti-Semitism.  Here in the US, Congress can’t even bring itself to condemn the frequently anti-Semitic comments of two of its members.  Elected leaders and pundits only offer up the weakest of condemnation when Jewish people are viciously attacked in the streets.  When a man attacked a group of Jews on Hanukkah, many excused the man’s attack by trying to say that he was just upset about  gentrification.  For many reasons, Gentleman’s Agreement is still relevant and important today.

Quick Review: Underwater (Dir. by William Eubank)


Underwater-movie-poster

“There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations.” – Mark Twain

I wasn’t entirely sold on William Eubank’s Underwater after leaving the theatre.

I’d seen that kind of film before in movies like Alien, Resident Evil, The Abyss, Leviathan, Deep Rising and Deep Star Six. It didn’t feel like it was giving me too much of anything new (especially when compared to last year’s genuinely jumpworthy Crawl), but I have to admit I did spent quite a bit of the film watching it from between my fingers. I’ll give it that. Additionally, I have to give the movie credit for taking no time to get things moving and staying pretty even throughout. Within 5 to 10 minutes of the movie’s start, you’re thrust right into a mix of terror from the unknown and claustrophobic environments. For someone with an attention span as short as mine, it’s impressive to see a film hit the ground running like that. It’s the kind of opening one would expect from one of the John Wick films. Longtime readers here on the Lens know that January really isn’t the month for the greatest films, though every once in a while, you’ll have one or two that dowell.

I think enjoying Underwater may be dependent how much comparing is done between it and older films. If you walk in blind, not expecting anything and are just looking to be entertained, you may enjoy the film more than I did. Do you absolutely have to rush to a movie theatre to see it? No, I don’t feel you do. Give it 3 months and you’ll have it on Digital/Blu-Ray. Would I run back to it in the theatre? Nah. If you’re a Kristen Stewart fan, or if the film’s something you’re genuinely interested in, have at it.

A group of miners find themselves struggling to survive after their rig suffers intense damage. Their goal is to reach a set of escape pods that can take them to the surface, but reaching it poses a set of challenges. The team comes to find that they may not be alone in the depths, which adds to their problems.

underwater-trailer

Kristen Stewart navigates the ocean depths in William Eubank’s Underwater.

The cast does well as can be expected, with Kristen Stewart (Charlie’s Angels) taking the lead as Norah, the team’s engineer. Joining her are Vincent Cassel (Eastern Promises) as the Captain, Jessica Henwick (Marvel’s Iron Fist) as  the biology scientist, John Gallagher, Jr. (Hush), Mamoudou Athie (The Get Down), and JT Miller (Deadpool) as the comic relief.  JT Miller in particular voices what would be the audience’s take as a fellow who just wants to get out of the situation. It’s Stewart and Henwick that carry the most weight with the film, and they handle it well. Their characters are smart and try their best to make it through the situations presented to them.

Visually, Underwater’s deep sea sequences have an interesting feel to them. Some of them feel more like the shaky cam shots from As Above So Below. There’s a bit of claustrophobia with watching certain scenes from behind the helmets. The monsters themselves are reminiscent of the ones you’d find in Cloverfield or The Mist with a number of jumpscares throughout. There’s very little in the way of blood and gore, since the film is PG-13.

I would have liked a larger body count. For the size of the rig, part of me expected to see more then just the 6 or 7 characters we have. Seeing more individuals face the creatures or the crumbling buildings could have added a bit of weight. That’s just a nitpick. The Nostromo was huge, yet only had a crew of seven.

Overall, I enjoyed Underwater more than I thought I would. It spends a lot of time doing things that other films already did, but does so in such a way where it’s not entirely wasted.

 

Music Video of the Day: Living Dead Girl by Rob Zombie (1998, dir by Joseph Kahn and Rob Zombie)


It’s Rob Zombie’s birthday so happy birthday, Rob and let’s all enjoy Living Dead Girl!

Myself, I’ve always assumed that this song was named after the classic Jean Rollin film, The Living Dead Girl.  Admittedly, I haven’t been able to find any specific proof of that but I’m still going to choose to believe it.  The song, after all, is full of references to films like Lady Frankenstein, Daughters of the Darkness, Last House On The Left, and at least one of the Dr. Goldfoot films.  So why not borrow the title from Jean Rollin?

Living Dead Girl was the 2nd single to released off of Hellbilly Deluxe, which was Rob Zombie’s first solo album after originally coming to fame as the co-founder of White Zombie.  White Zombie broke up around the same time that Living Dead Girl came out.  Why did White Zombie break up?  Nobody’s saying.

As for the video, it’s an homage to The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, with Rob Zombie playing the Doctor and Sheri Moon Zombie playing the Living Dead Girl.  The video does a pretty good job of capturing the feel of Caligari, which is one of the most effective of the old silent films.  (I actually had a nightmare after I watched The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari for the first time.  I dreamt that the doctor was trying to break into the house.)

Both Rob Zombie and Joseph Kahn are credited with co-directing this video.  Kahn is an amazingly prolific video director who has done videos for just about everyone, including Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez, The Chemical Brothers, and …. just about everyone!

Rob Zombie, of course, has gone on to direct several horror films.  There’s a tendency among a certain snobbish type of horror fans to be dismissive of Zombie’s films but I’ve always felt that his film was undeniably effective and, if nothing else, they stayed true to his own vision.  I mean yes, Halloween II was disappointing but 31 was better than many give it credit for being.

Anyway, happy birthday, Rob Zombie!

And enjoy!