Can't Stop the Movies - No One Can Stop The Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
8Apr/191

Patreon Post: Old Stone (2016) and the presumption of decency

Why do critics lean on unearned claims of "decency" in characters when their actions say otherwise? I look at Old Stone to explain why.

You can click the image above or this link to access the post on Patreon.

23Mar/192

Desperation hiatus, how I got here, and how I’m moving on

Before I get started, a couple of things I want to make clear.

-My household is in a desperate spot right now and I don't know if we're going to even make it through April. If you've appreciated my work these last nine years and are in a position to help PayPal is open, and in regards to the Patreon:

-What I'm writing about here does not have any impact on Patreon supporters. If anything, this is so I can clear up and focus on those who have been and continue to support me. I'm still working on the Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood piece and will be doing deep dives into Old Stone (a Chinese thriller from 2016) and Mishima: A Life In Four Chapters.

-This is also not going to be affecting development on The Boy Who Stole the Sun. Seth and I have been making excellent progress the last couple of weeks and gotten the game back on track. When there are updates we'll still be posting them here.

So.

14Mar/190

Unfriended: Dark Web (2018)

If you enjoy Can't Stop the Movies, contributions help me eat and pay rent. Please consider becoming a monthly Patron or sending a one-time contribution via PayPal.

Matias' new laptop will finally make connections easier with his loved ones. What he doesn't realize is that his new laptop hides secrets and connections to a vile world full of people ready to do what they want to Matias and his friends. Stephen Susco wrote the screenplay for and directs Unfriended: Dark Web, which stars Colin Woodell, Stephanie Nogueras, and Betty Gabriel.

The worst thing I can write about Unfriended: Dark Web (just Dark Web moving on), is that it's the exact kind of film I thought 2015's Unfriended was going to be. Dark Web has more excellent sound design, some creepy detours into internet vaporwave aesthetics, and chilling implications for the way our "always on" technology has continued to ingrain itself into our lives. But it lacks the moral and cultural punch of Unfriended with Dark Web's characters not having much at stake going into the terror they're about to experience.

The biggest problem is that Dark Web's main characters are, for the most part, innocent of the kind of wrongdoing that warrants punishment from an international criminal cabal. Aside from main character Matias' (Colin Woodell) laptop theft that kicks off the night, no one has much of a life - digital or otherwise - that weighs in on what happens in multitude of screens in Dark Web. They're little better than blank slates and it's hard to get invested in what happens when the only expected response from each is, "Oh my god," or, "Why is this happening?" in various combinations. We're just waiting for the next scare instead of being drawn in by the character's reactions to what's going on.

12Mar/190

Rocky and Bullwinkle (and Friends): Episode 3, Jet Fuel Formula parts 5 and 6

If you enjoy Can't Stop the Movies, contributions help me eat and pay rent. Please consider becoming a monthly Patron or sending a one-time contribution via PayPal.

Jet Fuel Formula Part 5

In which a scrooched moose becomes an important trophy for spies and moonmen alike.

Today's episode of Rocky and Bullwinkle is a fun lesson in how to read older works of art. There's a temptation among critics (myself included) to think that certain lines or images are more progressive or "woke" than their surroundings might suggest. This episode opens on a fantastic image of Moon Churchill addressing angry moon men holding the above sign, "Progress is our least important product!"

The temptation is to read this as a literal progressive critique against the isolationist moon men borrowing one image of 20th century opportunistic conservatism. What's more probable is that Churchill, at the time, was a man whose image in the anglo world was still riding high on beating back invaders and that makes for a good fit into the caricature-friendly world of Rocky and Bullwinkle. Cartoons can be great mechanisms for social commentary but it's highly unlikely this cartoon that shipped its animation to be cheaply produced outside the US to save those sweet advertiser dollars was thinking that progressively.

Anyway, discussions on whether something's progressive in a '60s cartoon aside, this is a punchier start to Rocky and Bullwinkle than the previous parts. There's fine snappy timing on display as Rocky and Natasha both want to claim the genius of their respective pairs then pass it off once the moon men threaten the geniuses with more scrooching. Then there's the fantastic image of Bullwinkle frozen mid-hypnosis having to be carted around by Boris, who must be all muscle considering the heft of the titular moose.

11Mar/190

Leaving Neverland (2019) and After Neverland (2019)

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Leaving Neverland, directed by Dan Reed, details how Michael Jackson groomed Wade Robson and James Safechuck for years of sexual abuse by his hands.

The deepest cut from Leaving Neverland comes from an expected medium but not the obvious source - the music by Chad Hobson. Michael Jackson's tunes play incidentally, part of the footage, commercials, and old behind-the-scenes bits that provide context to Dan Reed's film. But as Wade Robson and Jimmy Safechuck detail the years of sexual grooming and abuse Michael inflicted on them, Hobson's score joins with a helicopter shot over Jackson's Neverland Ranch in a tune eerily reminiscent of Disney's iconic theme before dropping into darker tones. The allure is right there, the initial pull, and if you don't watch or listen closely enough you'll be mired in darkness before you understand how you got there.

Reed's direction of Leaving Neverland doesn't have that problem. If anything, we've been flooded with information about Jackson's grooming process for decades and chosen not to care about it. I write choose because, even before Leaving Neverland, Jackson's grooming of future sexual abuse victims hasn't even been an open secret. It's been something we've decided to laugh about, making horrible jokes to keep the abuse at a comfortable distance while we jam out to whichever Jackson album we decided made the abuse okay. Reed's job with Leaving Neverland then isn't to put everything that we know into total context, examining the system that allowed Jackson to get away with this from top-to-bottom, and instead to provide as clear an image as possible for the two victims ready to tell their full stories.