Spider-Man: Far from Home

 

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Just a few weeks after opening, we lucked into a private showing one morning last week…matinee prices, too. Going to the Movie Theater is GREAT without all the people!

I wasn’t feeling patient, so I was glad there were only four previews to sit through: Midway (maybe the only WWII film that’s piqued my interest), Blinded by the Light (it just looks WEIRD), Jumanji 2 (the kids are going bananas over this one – demanding to see it as soon as it comes out), and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (why is there a trailer for this in front of a PG-13 film – and does anyone even give a shit about Tarantino any more?)…

Far from Home was really fun – I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it, wait – didn’t I say the same thing about the first one? There were just so many laugh-out-loud moments, from the bad Whitney Houston PowerPoint, to Peter Tingle, to “I love Led Zeppelin!” I loved that the film took care to circle back to Iron Man and touch on not only the evolution of Tony, but all those around him. Never forget, Tony Stark was a dick, even up to the very end. I like that Marvel let Tony be a dick AND be redeemed – the two aren’t mutually exclusive. What more can I say that isn’t totally spoiler-y? Hmmm…not a goddamn thing. I especially don’t want to ruin the post-credits scenes, they are magnifique.

Jake Gyllenhaal, I’ve never been a big fan. I don’t hate him or anything…he just doesn’t moisten my mailslot. He was a good fit for Mysterio though, although I think Tobey Maguire would’ve been a hilarious choice for the role. It would’ve been a total stunt-cast, but so?

Like the first one, the soundtrack was really smashing. A good dose of The Ramones, plus The Specials and The Jam and some fun Euro tunes. I really gotta give it to whoever put this collection of tunes together – I put together a quick and dirty playlist on Amazon Music – thanks TuneFind!

Oh! And just like Homecoming, Far from Home dovetailed neatly into our recent NYC vacation. Our hotel, The New Yorker, was a block or so from Madison Square Garden, which my kids immediately recognized in a scene, having walked right by it days earlier. We even popped into that very same Duane Reede to buy bottled water! Why is Spider-Man following us on vacation???

Far from Home was a fitting postscript to Endgame, giving the audience a window into how the world rebounded after the unsnap, while also reminding us that not everyone loved/loves The Avengers. The post-credits scenes didn’t necessarily set up future films, as much as they set up a whole new Marvel Universe for Phase 4, with all new rules, new heroes, new villains. I’m looking forward to Phase 4…except for having to watch a whole boring ass movie about Black Widow, that is…

The Wizard of Oz (3D)

Never before have I written a second review of a film. Not so much out of pride or any kind of belief that my reviews exist as the “final word” on the worth of a film…it’s more because I’m kind of lazy. (Or quite possibly…really fucking lazy.) The 3D re-release of The Wizard of Oz deserves a second review…not only because my original review was written 15 years ago, but because it truly is like watching a completely new film.

The images were so crisp and clear that it was almost detrimental to the experience. Seriously, I could see the edges of every munchkin’s baldcap, the fine edge of the lion’s wig and even the tin man’s white undershirt! Obviously, 3D wasn’t a consideration when this movie was originally filmed, so there’s nothing flying at your face or whizzing over your head. Even so, adding 3D wasn’t a total waste. Glinda’s bubble seemed to be really hanging in the air above us. Any scene with red smoke looked like some asshole had dropped a smokebomb in the front of the theater. Simply dazzling.

In my original review, I whined about having to share my Oz experience with a theater full of people. I wouldn’t say I’ve mellowed over the past decade and a half – I still loathe most theater audiences. But my selfishness over Oz has certainly decreased. When I found out about the 3D re-release, my first thought wasn’t, “I’ve gotta go see this,” but, “I’ve gotta take the kids to see this!” That’s right, my kids are just as obsessed with all things Oz as I am. My son has seen nearly every movie even vaguely Oz related – for several months, he watched The Wiz every day. His newest fixation is Oz Monopoly. My daughter is going to be Dorothy with sparkly boots for Halloween this year, wearing MY Dorothy dress, from when I was 5. I’ve done quite a good job of brainwashing them…and even though they watch the DVD at least once a week, they sat there like me, eyes wide in rapt attention at the 3D version. No screaming at them to be quiet, the only talking was to demand more candy out of my gigantic mom purse. That right there was worth the $14 a head admission price.

The Lords of Salem

As the end credits rolled, I stood up and surveyed the emptying theater and said, “What the fuck?” Then my husband said “What the fuck?” And my best friend said “What the fuck?” And her man said “Yeah, what the fuck?”

Indeed, the question of the night was, “What the fuck did we just watch?” A horror movie about witches…yes, but witches that performed little witchcraft, instead preferring to jam out in the woods like a pilgrim-era Nirvana. Apparently, the nearby pilgrims found the musical stylings of “The Lords of Salem” so appalling that they were quickly burned at the stake. Waiting over 300 years for revenge, The Lords…wait. If all the witches were female, why did they call themselves “The Lords of Salem”? Anyway, “The Lords of Salem” cut a record…don’t ask me how…and send it to a local DJ, played by Rob Zombie’s wife and muse, Sheri Moon Zombie. Then shit gets weird. There was a fucking sasquatch in one scene…what the fuck does sasquatch have to do with witches???

Before you ask…I’ll confirm that there is plenty of nudity in this film. Although there are many shots of Sheri Moon’s ass – Rob is obviously very fond of that ass and wants to share it with the world – most of the nudity is not good nudity. Imagine wandering into a Nudist Retirement Home in the Appalachians…THAT’S what kind of nudity Rob Zombie is sharing with us. I was consumed with curiosity as to why the witches in the flashback scenes, in all their naked glory, did not sport period-appropriate pubic hair. The remarkable lack of merkins was quite appalling – one witch had a landing strip!

I usually move quicker to write reviews on films I see in the theater, but I held off until Texas Frightmare Weekend, knowing that there would be a panel discussion. We did attend the panel discussion – which included Meg Foster, Dee Wallace Stone, Patricia Quinn, Judy Geeson and Bruce Davison – but the short discussion focused more on what it was like to work with Rob Zombie and how awesome he is, instead of what the fuck was going on with this damn movie. (Neither one of us could muster up enough courage to ask the panel about the remarkable lack of merkins…) But later that night, my bladder finally did me a solid by sending me into the ladies room at the exact time as Patricia Quinn and my best friend and I ended up chatting with her for about 20 minutes. (Maybe it helped that we were both wearing Rob Zombie shirts at the time?) After a nice discussion on why us Southerners insist on calling everyone “Ma’am,” we talked about The Lords of Salem. She told us how Rob was going to cut her palm-reading scene and how she, um, got him around to her way of thinking. Good thing she did, because that was one of the best scenes in the film, in terms of sheer uncomfortableness. She was amazing and I hope I look as drop-dead gorgeous as she does when I’m 69!

I’m gonna get real boring for a paragraph, so either bear with me or skip it. Having taken a dozen or so film classes in college, I was able to infer some of Rob’s inspiration for the film. The atmospheric horror movies of the 70s & 80s that rely of mood and foreboding, instead of cheap gross-outs – Hammer Horror, The Wicker Man, even The Shining. More than anything though, I was reminded of Polanski’s Repulsion, another film in which a young women feels the world closing in on her, with attackers that may or may not be all in her head. Even though I know what he was going for…his execution was flawed. I can’t pinpoint what the flaw in execution was, but I wasn’t able to immerse myself in enjoying this film. Throughout watching the film, I would go from bored to annoyed to obsessed with the actresses’ pubic hair. If I’m worrying about pubic hair grooming while watching a film, it’s a bad sign.

I didn’t 100% hate the film. I did appreciate the lack of computer effects in the film. The last 15 minutes of the film was really fun – fun like a bad mushroom trip, but fun nonetheless. The soundtrack was also kickass…except of course for the RUSH. Lots of Velvet Underground and Nico…Nico is hard to appreciate, much like this film. Maybe that’s why the theme song of the film seemed to be “All Tomorrow’s Parties”? Things that make you go hmmmmm…

   

Oz the Great and Powerful

So did anyone else notice that Oz the Great and Powerful basically has the same plot as Army of Darkness? No? Just me?

Think about it. A man is whisked away by a cyclone/swirling vortex and transported to another time and place. The locals immediately recognize the newcomer as their prophesied Savior. At first, the newcomer is only in it for the chicks and other benefits…but as he gets to know the locals, he decides to fight the evil that is threatening them. The newcomer rallies their defenses and trains the locals using his otherworldly technology. After a fierce fight, the newcomer defeats the evil and saves the day, ending with a kiss…that’s BOTH films in a nutshell. Of course, that’s an oversimplification of both films, but you see what I’m getting at…I couldn’t stop paralleling them right there in the theater as I was watching.

Now for the $64,000 question – did I love the film? To quote every Romantic Comedy ever made, I loved the film, but I’m not IN love with the film. I’m IN LOVE with The Wizard of Oz and there can never be another. That being said, I did enjoy Oz the Great and Powerful, liked it and will probably buy the DVD. It might not be better than Return to Oz, but then again, it might be. Nostalgia fuzzes my mind and I have to remind myself that I’m not IN love with every film I loved as a kid. (Howard the Duck, I’m looking at you.)

I loved almost everything about the film though. I loved starting off the film in black and white like the original, but totally dispensing with the “it was all a dream” nonsense, which has always annoyed me. I liked Raimi’s not-so-subtle nods to his past films – “You’re all going to die!” and those rather rapey trees…and of course, Bruce himself. I liked the cast. Michelle Williams was underwhelming, but Mila Kunis was good enough to make up for it. Although she’s no Natalie Portman, I would totally have a girlcrush on her…if not for her exasperatingly disgusting taste in men. In fact, there was only one thing that sent a colossal bug up my ass…the romance. Denouement driven by romance sends me over the edge into bugshit nuts territory. Unless it’s The Princess Bride, I absolutely do NOT want to see a film ending with a…I’ll stop before I get carried away and say too much.

I was shocked by the remarkable restraint in marketing tie-ins with the film. I actually only noticed two – World Market sent me a few emails referencing a contest and my absolute favorite make-up – Urban Decay – released Glinda and Theodora themed eye shadow sets. WANT!

Of course my kids loved it, although the five year old had a bit of a problem keeping her 3D glasses on for the whole film. She made it about halfway through. The 3D effects were pretty to look at – especially the paper-cut style opening credits, but I’m looking forward to seeing how it looks on the TV at home. I’m guessing it will hit cable by the end of the summer? Oh…and they already announced a sequel. Hmmmm…where can they go with this story?

  

The Blair Witch Project

Scariest film I have ever seen…even scarier than Showgirls.

No one gets impaled, no one gets decapitated, there isn’t even any blood (okay, there’s the tiniest, tiniest bit). But let me tell you, sticks and stones can do a lot more than break your bones…they can scare the ever living shit out of me and all my friends. I wanted to sleep with the lights on after seeing it. My best friend’s boyfriend insisted on keeping a loaded gun under the bed the night they saw it, not to mention barricading the bedroom door. And apparently, most of the nation has felt the same way. What is it about The Blair Witch Project that has scared the shit out of America? I believe it can be condensed into one line from the film, “This is America. It is impossible to be lost for very long in America.” Is it? Maybe and that’s enough.

Yes, I knew that it’s not real when I went to see it. I realize that a lot of dumbasses did not. Doesn’t matter. Still scary as shit. The PR blitz that surrounded this film was far more clever than any Taco Bell cup topper or MTV music video. A Sci-Fi channel ‘mockumentary,’ a cool web site and a kick ass soundtrack didn’t do jackshit. Word of mouth is solely responsible for the success of the Blair Witch. And with a good film, that’s all you need.

 

The Wizard of Oz

Absolutely, positively, undeniably my favorite film ever. No other film comes even close. Screw all those people that think Star Wars is the best film ever made. There would be no Star Wars if it wasn’t for The Wizard of Oz. (After that statement, I guess I should expect to get hate e-mail…)

I was Dorothy until about 6 or 7 years old. (Okay, sometimes I was Cinderella or Wonder Woman, too.) Anyway, my Dad would have the hardest time picking me up from Sunday school. He would come asking for Lara, but they would say, “No, that’s Dorothy,” and he would have to convince them otherwise. I had ruby slippers (okay, they were red shoes), the blue gingham dress, I even had a dog that looked like Toto. In other words, I was in complete denial of reality. I never heard of anyone going crazy like that over Luke Skywalker….okay, no more about Star Wars!

I was so excited when I heard about the re-release of The Wizard of Oz. I knew that it had been re-released before, but never in my lifetime, so this is pretty special. It was downright weird seeing it in the theater. It had always been my own experience before, having always watched it in my own living room, either taped or on TV. But this time, I had to share it with a whole theater full of people and I did not like it one bit. Don’t get me wrong, it was amazing seeing it on the big screen. The colors were brighter than they ever could be on my crappy TV and it pretty much blew me away. I just couldn’t get over the feeling that every single person in the theater was invading my space. Selfish, huh? Exactly. It was almost as if I was betrayed by a lover – no one should get to see Oz but me…

But of course I am glad that others have gotten to see it. A whole new generation of children have been exposed to The Wizard of Oz, whereas they might not have been otherwise. Even though I think that it was re-released more as a marketing ploy (are the Oz beany babies that I saw at WalMart really necessary?), it is truly wonderful to see the Wizard again.