The Cornetto Trilogy

Two weeks at home. Honestly, I’m good, for the most part, at least while I’m in the moment. I’ve said before, but I thrive on my own, and I’m very much a homebody so I’ve been enjoying this time with my cats and my movies and myself. If I start thinking about the future and how long theaters will be closed (which will directly impacts the company I work for) and thinking about the disease itself, then I start to experience some existential dread. But for now, we’re good, we’re healthy (Mom in Texas too), and we’re making the best of it.

Starting to settle into some routines. Mile walk around the block-ish in the morning. Work. Lunch break with an episode of Firefly. More work. Another walk. Two movies. I would have liked to get yoga in there, but not on the daily until my asthma is controlled. I think the walking is good anyways. For days off (currently just weekends, but very likely to soon include Wednesdays), I’m making myself be productive in the morning. Clean something. Groceries. Organize things. Whatever. And attempt some yoga. Then I can sit on my ass for the entire afternoon with some crochet and a movie marathon. Part of my productivity morning also includes a blog post. So here we are.

Right as this whole thing started, I raided the 5 dollar filter on Best Buy. I haven’t even touched those movies. Instead, what I’m doing is any time that I think of something that I would enjoy watching, I pull it from my wall and add it to the pile. Then at movie time, I’m picking just from the pile (which runs about 12 deep, plus the new stack). I’m trying to use the opportunity to revisit things that I should know better. One of the first I tackled was The Cornetto Trilogy.

Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, The World’s End. Written and directed by Edgar Wright. Starring Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and an assortment of other great British actors who appear in some combination of the films. All featuring Cornetto ice cream in some random scene. The internet tells me that Cornetto sent a supply to the filmmakers after its appearance in Shaun. So they added a reference in Hot Fuzz to try and repeat. They didnt follow thru. But they did send in a supply after World’s End.

Here’s my general feeling towards the Cornetto trilogy (pre-last weekend). When I first watched them, my response was “meh”. I didn’t find them as funny as the rest of the world. They just weren’t my style. But they’ve become such a big part of the cultural zeitgeist that I can’t help but notice them. And I do enjoy seeing them in small bits and references. Hell, that’s also how I feel about Scott Pilgrim, so it might just be more my connection to Wright than the UK. I do unequivocally love Baby Driver, tho. Anyways, Cornetto.

First Shaun. I actually have a couple of stories from trying to watch this back in the day. When it was released, it was a big hit back at the ol’ college dorm. Everyone loved it and would talk about it all the time. So when I went home at Christmas, I rented it from Blockbuster (dating myself) to watch with my Daddy. We got about halfway thru the movie, we’re both staring in silence. He eventually breaks it with “Why are we watching this?” “I heard it was funny. Although now I realize I don’t care for British humor” “Yeah me neither” and we sat thru the rest in silence.

Some time later, a hall mate gifts me the DVD for my bday. He’s so proud of himself that he found a movie to buy me that I didn’t already have (if only he could see the movie wall now). I thanked him, but didn’t let on that it wasn’t my thing. A few days later, I put it on while I’m doing some homework (p-sets for the MIT crowd). I usually liked to put on films I didn’t need to pay attention to. He walked by, and got excited I was watching, and sat down with me. I still kept up the charade that it was a great present. That only lasted so long tho. Some time later I was telling some friends about my movie study strategy and he overheard and pieced it together.

How did this second watch go? Much better! I feel like I already knew all of this movie, just out of order, from how many times I’ve seen it referenced. The individual pieces were clever. My expectations were also different. Instead of thinking “OMG this movie’s gonna be hilarious” it was more “oooh this is the part where…” It’s still not quite laugh out loud funny (that’s gonna be a trend) but I could still appreciate its charm. And I fully support it for its originality and place in pop culture.

Moving on to Hot Fuzz. No interesting story from the first watch, cause I don’t even remember it. I bought it cause I felt like I had to. Watched it and didn’t pay attention. I couldn’t have even told you a single thing about it other than Pegg and Frost are cops and there’s likely ice cream somewhere.

This time around, I really did enjoy it as well. I liked the story and the mystery of it very much. While on the surface it seems like the most basic and unoriginal of the three premises, it’s the one that had my attention the most. Again, no real LOL moments, but some light “ha!” here and there. Bonus points for Olivia Colman in the cast, because any movie she’s in is infinitely better.

The World’s End, I’ve actually written up before, because it’s the only one I’ve seen in theaters. That’s prolly why it’s the one that I was the most into, because I was focused in a theater. I also really relate to the first half since I used to go on a pub crawl in Boston every year along the Freedom Trail. The first half of the film brings back some very fun and happy memories.

The rewatch highlighted the big problem with the film tho, which is that for me, the second half is so much weaker than the first half. Once it devolved into what it devolves into (no spoilers) it’s just not as interesting to me anymore. And on this watch I found the characters (mostly Pegg’s) to be kinda obnoxious. I think that comes from seeing the films in rapid succession. They’re clearly trying to differentiate Pegg’s character and take him a little too unlikeable.

Two weeks ago, I would have ranked the trilogy 1-World’s End, 2-Shaun, 3-Hot Fuzz. Now I’d invert that. I liked Hot Fuzz the best, prolly because it was the most unexpected. World’s End just didn’t do anything for me, much like how the other films had previously done.

And with that, I think I’ve fulfilled the blog portion of my productivity goals for the day. I guess I should go clean things now.

Burden

I didn’t go into this expecting it to be the last movie I’d see in theaters for the foreseeable future. I’d had a ticket for The Birdcage the next afternoon at Alamo that I later reconsidered. There were other Drafthouse screenings I was eyeing. I didn’t even really need to see this movie, I could just fit it into my schedule. I’d felt completely comfortable at Drafthouse the night before, so I figured this sleepy little Marina theater would also be appropriate for social distancing. I watched the trailer one more time in bed that morning and confirmed I was interested enough. Not only would it be my last movie, it would be my last non-essential outing for a while.

Garret Hedlund (whom I’ve loved since Four Brothers) has been raised in the deep south, taken in by a man who leads a local KKK chapter. That mentality is all he’s ever known. He starts dating a young woman (Andrea Riseborough) who tries to get him to turn away from that life, including abandoning the KKK museum that his mentor just opened. For help, he turns to an African American pastor (Forrest Whitaker) who has been protesting the museum.

It’s pretty by the numbers. Interesting story (that I didn’t realize was true until the end credits) but not as powerful as I was hoping. Sure, nothing is ever gonna touch American History X on that front, but I still wanted a little more from this. Honestly, the whole experience is dampered for me by what this final trip to the movies meant that I can’t even think too objectively about the film itself.

So yeah, with that, God only knows when I’m next going to the theater. You bet your ass I’ll be there as soon as they reopen, which I hope is quick. Not just because I miss the movies (honestly, as an introvert I’m kinda thriving in my little cave and am perfectly happy to stay here) but because it’s my livelihood. You may recall I’m currently employed by a company that provides software for a large share of theaters across the world. With theaters shut down, they can’t pay their bills, one of which is us. So here’s hoping we all come out together on the other side. If we get to the point where we’re in trouble, I fear it’s indicative of an even larger trouble for the world and country as a whole.

Well I don’t wanna pause this blog on such a bleak note. I am getting in A LOT of movie watching at home (hence why I said I’m thriving here). I don’t have specific blog plans yet, but we’ll see what I’m inspired to write about. I’m sure there’ll be something noteworthy I watch. Until then, stay safe, stay inside, and keep on keeping on.

Bloodshot

Well this is a very different world we’re living in that I’m writing this vs when I saw this movie. It was our first WFH day, as part of an experiment to see how feasible it was. Part way thru the day, we get the order that WFH will continue for everyone for the next two weeks. The next week we’d be told it was indefinite. I opted to make the trek across town to what I did not know then would be my last trip to Alamo Drafthouse for the foreseeable future. Sure, I could go to the AMC’s nearby, but this is why I had my season pass. Until they shut down the theaters, I’d be there (I actually changed my mind on this later that weekend).

The first few “social distancing” orders were going out, so I’d expected the city to be dead. It wasn’t. Traffic still took an hour (not everyone had started WFH yet) and there were plenty of pedestrians to dodge pulling into the parking structure. The theater was closer to empty tho. I had a row to myself and only a couple parties were there. Unsure whether that was due to social distancing or the film itself. I was torn between the healthy food option or the less healthy but more satisfying one. I decided that I should enjoy the junk while I still could (it also would end up being one of my last such meals) and support the theater and staff (I tried to tip a little extra). What about the movie?

I only saw the trailer for this once. Initially, I’d been thinking that “Vin Diesel comic book movie” might be enough to get me to go, but without really knowing what it was or hearing good buzz, it wouldn’t make my must list. Then I did catch the trailer in a theater and hey this story looks interesting. He’s built and trained up as a super soldier and goes rogue to get revenge for his wife’s death. But it’s not all as it seems. The trailer kinda gives away the story, but I hesitate to do so. I feel like it might have been more interesting to discover in the moment.

And this movie could use all the help it could get for being interesting. Cause the word that kept on coming to mind was “bland”. Honestly, I was trying very hard to enjoy the film, but all I could do was judge it. The storytelling was very uneven, stretching out act one for more than half the movie, then rushing thru the rest. Vin Diesel is great tough guy, but he’s not so great when he’s “acting”. I saw him on the late night circuit afterwards being a total goofball, and it made me want to see some of that personality in his work. Nothing’s coming across.

I did like the idea of the super soldiers on his team, and wanted more of them. They were introduced as having these cool abilities and then we hardly saw them used. The action was very run of the mill. A few cool looking effects, but nothing that blew me away. I just wanted more from this film. For something that’s trying to launch a franchise (sidebar: I hate when single films try to launch a franchise without seeing how it goes. Most of the best long running franchises happened because they were just that good and kept going, or they were carefully planned out and rolled out patiently) it’s not putting a very good foot forward to start.

Bloodshot – \m/ \m/

The Hunt

I love a good movie controversy, and this one was a doozy. Shoulda been released months ago, but it’s politically charged story offended people (gasp). So it got pulled. And then rereleased with a great poster that I’d want for my wall if I enjoyed the movie more. Turns out, its bark was more effective than its bite.

The latest take on The Most Dangerous Game pits red vs blue. An assortment of rednecks and deplorables and such are rounded up and set loose on a mysterious manner, where they’re to be hunted by some elite snowflakes. Nobody comes out of this looking good, so obviously you could see why people were upset just from the premise when no one had even seen the movie yet.

There were some things I liked. The humor is pretty twisted. The violence is heavy and unexpected. Betty Gilpin (you may know her from Glow) is fantastic. But overall, it felt like it was trying too hard to be controversial without really knowing what it wanted to say. It’s very much an equal opportunity offender, but didn’t feel like it had much of a mission besides upsetting people. It doesn’t take sides (which could be a good thing if done right) but doesn’t go further than “Hey look at this self righteous person!” “Now look at this one!” I wanted it to give me something to think about, not roll my eyes at.

The Hunt – \m/ \m/ \m/

Near Dark

This is the type of movie I got my Alamo Season Pass for. Something I’ve never seen, but would like to. But don’t NEED to such that I’d spent money on it. I was actually quite proud of how I scored this ticket. The screening had been sold out, as they typically are, for a couple weeks before this Terror Tuesday. I can only use my season pass within seven days of the screening. A day or two before the window opened, I noticed a couple of tickets were released for the two showtimes. There was hope. I happened to wake up at 1 AM one week before the screening. In other words, an hour into the window. I know that I can get up for bathroom and water in the middle of the night and fall back to sleep without issue if I don’t do anything else. If I so much as touch my phone, it’ll take me an hour to crash. I went for it. Got the very last ticket for the (preferred) early screening. Fell back to sleep an hour later.

So what exactly is this movie that I was willing to sacrifice an hour of sleep (but not sixteen bucks) for? It’s a 1987 vampire movie (oh okay, ’nuff said), horror western mashup by Kathryn Bigelow with Bill Paxton. What?! Yeah okay makes sense now.

Heroes’ Adrian Pasdar is a young cowboy type living in small town Texas. He meets a pretty young thing who whisks him away and bites his neck. Now he’s a vampire, and he joins his PYT’s gang which also includes Paxton, a kid vampire, and a few other motley vampires. Meanwhile his father and sister are on the trail, trying to bring him home. This movie moves fast. 90 minutes. Jumps right in. Doesn’t stop. Keeps it simple. A little too simple for me tho, I felt like it could have used a little more going on.

By far, the best part of this film was Bill Paxton’s Severin. He joins the elite ranks of vampire bad boys with Lestat, Spike, Damon Salvatore, David, and others that we love even though we know they wouldn’t give a rip about us. He is all swagger and one liners and I wanted so so much more from him. Alas, this wasn’t his movie. It was Pasdar’s Caleb, who is your tortured vamp. Think Louis or Angel or Stefan or oh god Edward. The tortured vamp usually is the one that makes it interesting, bringing up the moral conflict and complications, but he was pretty straightfoward. True, he just seems cookie cutter now that so many more have followed, but except for the twang, I don’t know that he particularly stands out.

As far as vampire movies go, it was fun, but nothing really wowed me. At least not while I was watching. As per usual, I went thru IMDB trivia afterwards and read up on the aesthetics and strategy of it. There is a lot of blend of western, not just the setting but the character tropes. The vampire lore is very muted. The “V” word is never said. Some basics are established (sunlight, drinking blood, impervious to human weapons) but other basics are never explored. This is why I love collecting vampire films. I love seeing how they handle the mythology in their world, and this does feel different from the others. I just wish it excited me more

Emma.

I wasn’t gonna see this. Period pieces aren’t my thing. But I decided that if the stars aligned just right, I would. They did. There is one reason I was specifically interested in Emma and that’s that I absolutely love Clueless. I’ve long since heard that Clueless was based on Emma, and I’ve always been curious about how that worked. I was finally gonna answer that question.

Played by Anya Taylor-Joy, Emma is a handsome, clever, and rich young English lady. Her joy is in making romantic matches between her friends and acquaintances, without giving much thought to her own prospects. She’s taken a young friend Harriet under her wing as her latest project, and soon finds that love is more complicated than she would have thought.

Okay so Emma is Cher, she’s super close to her Dad, Harriet is Tai. I identified Josh, Elton, Travis, Miss Guiest and Mr Hall. Just from the intro describing Emma I realized that yes she absolutely is completely Cher. The Harriet storyline plays out almost identical to Tai, from the whole thing with Elton (including him taking her portrait) to dancing with the Josh character, all of it. The basic story really does translate to modern times so well, and I’m impressed with the adaptation.

But Clueless aside, what about Emma? Still not my thing. It’s only because I knew Clueless so well that I could tell what was going on and what it likely meant. I was kinda bored and jokes were going over my head. The rest of the audience seemed to enjoy it. There was laughter and a general vibe of merriment, but mostly just “huh?” from me. Granted, I was at first distracted by what should have been a Southwest Chicken bowl that was actually nachos. Then I was distracted by trying to undo the velcro on my knee brace as quietly as possible.

The film ultimately did grow on me as we got towards the end, mostly because I was happy at seeing how it all came back together into something familiar. And it looked great. The costumes and production design overall are exquisite. Was also impressed with Anya Taylor-Joy. I thought it’d be weird seeing her in a bubbly and joyful film (as opposed to something creepy like The VVitch or Split), but she fit the world and character better than I expected. It’s just not my genre. And that’s fine. It was clearly somebody’s

Emma. – \m/ \m/ \n

The Way Back

First time I use my Alamo Drafthouse season pass for a movie that I coulda just used my A-List on. But it was worth the extra hour of traffic so I could use my bday freebie popcorn and drink (oooh brown sugar lemonade).

When I was in “all the movies!” mentality, of course I was gonna see Batfleck’s new movie. But in the week or two leading up to it, I cooled on the film. It looked pretty generic, and not really worth my time. Then the early buzz started trickling in and Batfleck was getting rave reviews for his performance. See also: freebie popcorn available

Ben Affleck stars as an alcoholic with little to live for until he receives a call from his old high school. They need a new basketball couch. Affleck was once the star of the team, but walked away from the sport as a young adult and never looked back. Could this be the thing that pulls him from the brink? It’s framed as an underdog sports movie, but it’s really just an underdog movie. The sports are secondary. We only get glimpses in to the team and the games, they’re not center stage. Center stage is Affleck.

And yes, that performance he gives truly is worth the hype. It’s so good because it’s so authentic. And it’s authentic because Affleck has lived this. It’s no secret that he’s battled alcoholism and much of the same demons as his character. He brings that personal experience into the film with no reservations and no ego. You truly believe that this man has hit bottom and is sincerely trying to work his way back. The rest of the film is pretty generic, but it’s a good reminder that Affleck is still here. And he’s still fighting.

The Way Back – \m/ \m/ \m/

Onward

Sometimes I should think before I movie. Like if it’s nearly 10 years to the day since I lost my Daddy, I’m gonna go see a movie about some kids who just wanna spend one more day with theirs, maaaaaybe I should wait until I have a support system to come with me. Otherwise, I just end up being a snotty mess in the theater, trying to hide my tissues so it doesn’t look like I’m patient zero, and then I have to drive home with eyes full of tears. Not that those things wouldn’t have happened anyway, but somehow doing that with people around is better? I wouldn’t know. I’m an introvert with social anxiety.

Once long ago the world was magical, and it basically resembled a Dungeons and Dragons campaign (is that what you call it? I grew up during the Satanic Panic, so I wasn’t allowed to play). But overtime, people (by which I mean trolls and elves and such) stopped putting in the effort to learn how to wield their magical powers and instead chose the convenience of invention. Centuries later, a pair of elven brothers (Chris Pratt and Tom Holland) are gifted a magical staff by their late father and a spell to bring him back for 24 hours. Of course they’re out of practice (because they’ve never practiced) and the spell goes wrong, only being half completed (the spell and the dad). They must go on a quest to find a new McGuffin to complete the spell before it wears off.

Obviously I was a weepy mess throughout the whole thing. First off, Pixar. Second, dead dad stuff. I know what that feeling is, to want just one more day with him. Hell, earlier that week, I had a dream that we got to have one last movie night at home. Dream Daddy chose Deadpool 2. By the final act I was weeping uncontrollably into my cup that once held contraband hot chocolate.

There was one early scene where young Ian was playing a tape recording of his dad over and over. I’ve been there. My Daddy’s voice is still on our old answering machine, and only because I had the rare rebellion against his request for me to record it. I flat out refused. I just did not wanna say “Praise the Lord, this is…[generic phone message]…Jesus loves you and we do too”. Nope, wasn’t gonna do it. So Dad relented and recorded it himself. Mom and I spent so much time trying to figure out how to digitize that and save it. Every so often, I still get a panicked call from her thinking she’s erased it. Come to think of it, I’m not sure where I currently have that saved for myself. Really hoping it’s on one of those eternal drives of mine…

But let’s talk about this on the Pixar scale. For any other studio, this movie is great. By Pixar standards, it’s good, but it’s not quite up to snuff. But wait Dawn, didn’t you say you cried thru the whole thing? Isn’t that Pixar’s MO? Well they had an unfair advantage. If you really dig into it, this film was kinda simplistic. It didn’t have the layers or nuances that really hit you in your core.

I did really love the world building here. The mix of old fantasy in essentially today’s world looked really cool and had some great humor woven in. I don’t wanna spoil it with examples, but it truly makes this film unique

I also wanna take a second to call out Chris Pratt’s older brother character Barley. I absolutely adored him, but there was one trait in particular that I found very admirable. He’s the one who was obsessed with magic and the old world, but when it came time to actually practice magic, it was his little brother Ian who had the power. Ian who never gave a second thought to the subject or had any interest whatsoever. In any other story, you’d expect big bro would do the toxic thing of being jealous and upset and find it unfair. Not Barley though. He is beyond excited that his brother has this ability, and he jumps right in to teaching him everything he knows and sharing his passion. It’s beautiful to watch, and something kids need to see more in their films.

Onward – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/

Guns Akimbo

There are few Hollywood careers I respect like Daniel Radcliffe’s. He established himself and made his money in HP. Since then, he hasn’t done any high profile money makers. He’s done lots of indie and quirky stuff. Things that allow him to show his range (Jungle, Imperium), try new skills (How to Succeed… on Broadway), or just have some quirky fun (Swiss Army Man). So when photos started surfacing of him in a bathrobe holding guns with a crazy expression, I knew whatever that movie was I’d have to see it. Even if it mean that there were only 10PM screenings for one weekend only. As soon as I saw the trailer it was a done deal. This was a ME movie in the most bonkers way.

Radcliffe is a disaffected millennial, who thinks of himself as a superhero for trolling all the trolls online. He finds a new forum, the comments section of a live streaming death match in the streets, where he trolls the wrong person. They break into his home, surgically attach guns to his hands, and give this normal dude 24 hours to try and take down a psycho killer opponent. This film lives somewhere in the Venn diagram of Crank, Upgrade, Hardcore Henry, and Nerve.

This film delivered everything the trailer promised on, namely a twisted sense of humor and relentless bonkers violence. Very appropriate for me to use my freebie bday ticket from Arclight. There really isn’t much more to it than that. It’s all the adrenaline I was hoping for (sadly not enough to keep me fully awake, as hard as I tried, but it’s not my fault the film started at my actual bedtime). I want more movies like this

Guns Akimbo – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/

Fantasy Island

The premise of this intrigued me so much, I was ready to prioritize it for a couple weekends ago. Except for some unknown reason, there were no Thursday night preview screenings, and I couldn’t make it any other day that weekend. Then the first reviews started coming out, and it made sense why there were no word of mouth screenings–the word of mouth was terrible. I de-prioritized it for the following weekend. However, I was still curious. The next weekend, I was pretty booked up, and wasn’t even considering squeezing this in. But then I ended up systematically downsizing my weekend plans cause I just wasn’t up for doing much, and I realized this movie was still a possibility. Hooray? Sure.

In a loose re-imagining of the classic TV series, a group of lucky travelers are granted a stay at Fantasy Island, where their most secret desires and fantasies will come to life. However, fantasies don’t always play out how you’d expect, often to deadly consequences. And seeing as how this is brought to us by Blumhouse, very deadly indeed.

I’m not gonna say this was a good movie. The reviews coming in weren’t wrong. The story is rather ludicrous and full of plot holes and absurdities and things that should not work. And yet I was very entertained. There was a mystery around the whole thing. How did the island know their fantasies? How do these fantasies play out? What brought these people to the island? What’s really going on? I’m a sucker for a good mystery and I was sucked right in. It was very similar to some of the reasons I love the Saw franchise, but on a much lower level of quality. Instead of wanting to know their sins and the games, I wanted to know their past and their fantasy. And there wasn’t as much gore as Saw either, by a long shot.

It also had great tie ins to Fantasy Island, at least ones that I identified after reading up on the series’ Wikipedia article. Although I think waaaay too many people said “The Plane! The Plane!” I think this was a great concept and a fun film, just poorly executed. Some more thought into the writing would have gone a long way. I still enjoyed it, but I get why most others didn’t

Fantasy Island – \m/ \m/ \m/