Can't Stop the Movies - No One Can Stop The Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
14Mar/190

Unfriended: Dark Web (2018)

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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

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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.

4Mar/190

Fahrenheit 11/9 (2018)

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How the hell did we end up with Trump? Michael Moore's latest documentary, Fahrenheit 11/9, tries to make sense of the conditions that allowed for his rise and neutered those looking to resist.

Michael Moore just had to start Fahrenheit 11/9 with that goddamn song. "Fight Song". The song performed by a cavalcade of celebrities for the 2016 Democratic National Convention in a spectacle that gave me severe pause that the Democrats had my interests in mind. That was when the idea of Donald Trump as President seemed a terrifying but distant possibility. Then the months rolled by, Hillary Clinton lost, and Trump began carrying out (at my time of writing) 2+ years of absurd and abhorrent policy.

If you want Fahrenheit 11/9 to make sense of these last two years, or function as a no-holds-barred assault on Trump, then you need to watch a different film. There's plenty of effective Trump bashing but Moore has something more affectively difficult in mind. Fahrenheit 11/9 is a snapshot of our mental and emotional condition reinforced by facts both about the Trump candidacy then Presidency along with the Democratic failures that led to his ascension. Those who have spent the last few years cogent and improving need not apply, this is a film for those who need to know someone with some power empathizes with pain.

Whether Moore is the appropriate ambassador for this communication is sometimes in question during Fahrenheit 11/9. In front of the camera, he's often the same uneven and impish provocateur as ever. An ineffective moment has him filming himself spraying water from Flint, Michigan (at least that's what's written on the tank) over then-Governor Rick Snyder's lawn. It plays too silly and considering Moore's criticism over wasting resources I couldn't help but think that someone of his means should at least have been able to decontaminate that water to provide for his fellow Flint townspeople. But that same impish quality fuels his fearlessness as he attempts a citizen's arrest of Snyder while filming a stammering aide to the office offer limp explanations to why Flint's crisis is well on its way to ending (as of my writing, again, it hasn't).

25Feb/190

Sorry to Bother You (2018)

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Cash needs cash. He's stuck in his uncle's garage, tired of not being able to get privacy with his girlfriend, and takes a job at a call center to make some sales. When he turns out to be better at this than even he thought he finds himself at the center of a growing union struggle and the company that seeks to exploit him. Boots Riley writes the screenplay for and directs Sorry to Bother You, which stars Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Steven Yeun, and Armie Hammer.

Sorry to Bother You's reputation preceded my eventual viewing. I read about how it's an unashamedly leftist stab at capitalism, hollow art, being beaten down by the increased exploitation of those without means, and call centers. While I'm passionate about all those subjects it's the call center bit that grabbed me. I worked at an insurance center for five years and one of the first things I experienced on the floor was a boyfriend calling in to find out if his girlfriend's policy would cover the damage he caused in a rage after killing her cat.

When Sorry to Bother You works, it's because writer/director Boots Riley understands how we end up in situations of ethical and emotional extremes that makes dealing with cat murderers the only option. He spares no one above the minimum wage, creating grotesque caricatures of ruthless management and floors of perpetual depression bathed in blue while each worker struggles to make the light of a sale shine for once. His is a world of shit jobs ruled over by shit humans while shit conditions consistently fail to improve because everyone's mired in shit.