DVD Reviews Archives - Page 2 of 117 - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
18Feb/193

Halloween (2018)

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Laurie Strode's waited over forty years for the moment her brother, Michael, might come slashing his way back into her life. With Halloween again on the horizon she waits while her disbelieving daughter and sympathetic granddaughter struggle to understand what she's going through. They'll know soon enough. David Gordon Green directs Halloween, with the screenplay written by David Gordon Green, Jeff Fradley, and Danny McBride, and stars Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, and Andi Matichak.

David Gordon Green, the once consistently now sporadically poetic director who seemed the heir to Terrence Malick, is at first blush an odd choice to helm the latest Halloween. Dig a bit deeper into Green's career and you'll find Undertow, Green's oozing with Southern Gothic take on the fantastic classic The Night of the Hunter.  Green can do seemingly invincible monsters with murder on their minds and he can do it with aplomb. But that was before the stoner comedies, the inconsistent creative input of co-screenwriter Danny McBride, and before our culture continued its exodus away from sincerity.

So the quality of this Halloween is suitably volatile considering the series' tumultuous production history with Green's effort frustratingly close to something great. The biggest problem is that Green's Halloween is trying to fit the inconsistent tone of the series into a single film. Green's Halloween is trapped between the traumatized caricatures of Rob Zombie's films (and I write that with love, no one does caricature like Rob Zombie), the cracked out 4 through 6 installments, making a space for the surviving Laurie Strode of John Carpenter's original, and the bit-too-goofy self-awareness of Green's work with McBride.

11Feb/190

Roma (2018)

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As the tumult builds in Mexico City, Cleo works to keep her employers happy and needs fulfilled. Alfonso Cuarón wrote the screenplay for and directs Roma, which stars Yalitza Aparicio.

Over the course of two hours and some change, Roma drip-feeds us a steady intake of gorgeous poison. The patient cinematography, courtesy of director Alfonso Cuarón, pans repeatedly with an impassive eye as Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) navigates rooms with sturdy beams keeping each dweller in their own universe. She's little more than a pet to the family that employs her as each resident has motivations as separate and sturdy as the pillars that keep the home up. Across the rooftop there's another servant doing the same, and the camera pans more to reveal another, and another, and another. All trapped in the same cycle of servitude and pain.

This reads cynical but Cuarón's carer is peppered with cynicism. Roma, for all its beauty, takes place in a world no less apocalyptic than the one Cuarón created in Children of Men. There, at least, was a film that suffocated us in despair until a single cry from one baby is enough to stop a war that's been boiling under the surface. With Roma a baby is just another baby, not worth stopping the world over, and the machinations of privilege that keep Cleo from living a safe and happy life continue on after the credits have dropped. Here is reality with no savior within sight.

22Dec/180

Rocky and Bullwinkle (and Friends): Episode 2, Jet Fuel Formula parts 3 and 4

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Jet Fuel Formula Part 3

In which a (literally) unseen third player in the cake baking rocket fuel saga emerges to threaten our heroes with scrooching.

In its second full episode and third part of "Jet Fuel Formula", Rocky and Bullwinkle hits a low then high point with its ramshackle animation. The dialogue jumps straight to the action even when the figures are doing little as we hear our heroes talk but there is no mouth movement. It's distracting, even with the Narrator doing his best wrangle some wry fun out of the surroundings with amusing and accurate summations like, "Well Rocky and Bullwinkle really started something just by trying to make a cake." Rocky and Bullwinkle's long-term reputation includes it being seen as little more than a radio play with some images and the opening of part three reinforces the notion.

Then the limited animation gets two characters who will make great use of the volatile quality. Gidney and Cloyd are two little green moon men ("They must be Congressmen," Bullwinkle muses) with a shaky grasp on their ability to turn invisible. Their appearance is both a bit unsettling and hilarious as their furrowed expressions become visible before the rest of their bodies do with their figures moving in and out of view according to some floaty animated logic we're not privy to. It's a fun effect, letting the Rocky and Bullwinkle team lean into the cheap production creatively by introducing two characters that don't need to be consistently animated at all - give or take the bushy mustache and gun capable of "scrooching" (what that is still to come).

Gidney and Cloyd also lean into Rocky and Bullwinkle's amused annoyance with then-modern life, which still resembles the now-modern life (which as of this writing is December 2018). Their training involved listening to loud music, dodging traffic, and having to inhale smog. These days we could just go outside in a major metropolitan city to get the same experience as being locked in with airborne pollutants. It's not crushingly insightful stuff, but their annoyed and beleaguered expressions enduring the annoyances of post-industrial life are well felt.

20Dec/180

Rocky and Bullwinkle (and Friends): Introduction with Episode 1, Jet Fuel Formula parts 1 and 2

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Flashback: 1992, Universal Studios, Orlando Florida, and an 8-year old me has the honor of sitting next to a living legend. The legend is one Dudley Do-Right of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, who climbed all the way to the top to greet me and my mother while enjoying a live-action version of The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show together. Dudley Do-Right deftly answers lightly teasing questions from my mom about where Horse and Nell are while my attention is split between a living cartoon sitting next to me and the one playing out on stage. It all ends with a bang, Boris Badenov gets shot out of a cannon meant for Rocky and Bullwinkle, and I turn to see a smoky Boris stuck in an adjacent building while the show wraps up and Dudley gives me a salute before he goes off into the credits.

Dear readers, it was at that moment I learned magic exists and my adult mind remains steadfast that Dudley Do-Right is real, and strong, and my friend. A quick trip to the gift shop and a small plush facsimile of Rocky came home with me to be my companion as I wore down the multiple VHS copies of The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show we owned. Sometimes I'd get up early enough to catch a syndicated glimpse of the stories that didn't make it to VHS, such as "Metal-Munching Mice" or "Bullwinkle's Testimonial Dinner".

Put differently, and why I'm going to be spending the next couple of months writing about The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, there is no "me" without the moose and squirrel. It introduced me to serialized storytelling, metafictional fourth-wall breaking, snappy dialogue, animation that made the most of a limited budget, and an unyielding reservoir of positivity with an excellent feel for puns. 2018's been a difficult year and trying to keep up with art that hasn't excited my senses, combined with a litany of horrible things that just kept happening, and the cumulative affect of the last few months has left me adrift in my depression.

After re-watching a few episodes to determine if this is a good way of spending my time I can safely say there is nothing like The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle. I'm not planning on watching or writing about the new series that launched but with enough time and distance into this project, maybe I'll give it a shot.

For now, as Bullwinkle put it, there's always room for one more! So please join me on this episode-to-episode breakdown of The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle.

21Nov/180

BlacKkKlansman (2018)

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Confident and determined, Ron Stallworth is ready to prove his mettle as the first black officer of the Colorado Springs police department. His opportunity comes when a casual inquiry into an advertisement from the Ku Klux Klan pulls him into a web of connections he didn't imagine. Spike Lee directs BlacKkKlansman, with the screenplay written by Spike Lee, Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, and Kevin Willmott, and stars John David Washington, Adam Driver, and Laura Harrier.

Why should we trust anything we see in Spike Lee's BlacKkKlansman? The narrative comes from a memoir penned by Ron Stallworth, revealed decades after the events of both film and memoir, and is poised to comment directly on our slide into white fascism. Spike addresses any suspicion with a pair of parallel stories told by Jerome Turner (Harry Belafonte) and pseudoscience peddled by the vile David Duke (an excellent Topher Grace). On the side of Mr. Turner we listen and watch a crowd of black humans coming into themselves over oral tradition, settling on twin philosophies of never again and power to all people. Duke begs credibility in the form of a Nobel Peace Prize winner's eugenic research that conclusively proves white humans are better than black.

The oral tradition is backed by historical fact and bolstered through community uplift. Spike's closing scenes, which shocked me even with advance warning to emotionally guard myself, reinforce that oral tradition as the warning constantly echoed but rarely heeded. Black stories have warned us of the evil behind phrenology and eugenics which roll right into today's incel community embrace of skull size as a determination of what your standing will be in life.

What is it going to take to get us to listen?