Quick-Thoughts: Steven Spielberg’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

Screened at Regal • 3rd Viewing

“You must be dead, because I don’t know how to feel. I can’t feel anything anymore.” 

The film is classic fairytale idealism, if not the origin for popularizing it, but in spite of such to this day inspirationally, through Spielbergian quietude and minimalism, preaches doing the right thing for others and not necessarily for your species or clan, because — let’s face it — if they did dissect E.T., determining his source of power, then perhaps cancer could be cured, injuries could cease to exist, we could have unlimited agricultural supply, the environment could flourish once more, heck! Humanity could’ve probably became Valhalla! Oops, but…

E.T. is correct, we are ALL residing right here. However, the world isn’t only ours. Taking some of it one by one is no miracle, but perhaps sharing it would be. We’re always coexisting whether or not humanity’s mission seems involved with trying to ironically avoid it via pilfering. Animals will always appear like extraterrestrials to one another, and they/we will always respond in contrasting ways to one another based on our nature and evolution. We come or stay in each other’s vicinities, and it can both excite yet compel us from applying common morality to the new and unknown. Everything beautiful we want to ourselves — a father who could accept just a piece of this world, the love of your life, an outer-space discovery — but the reality is we can’t control it all. We can’t have everyone’s power or advantages no matter how close we think we’re getting. Not everything should and admittedly does promote human welfare. And yet, even with that reality-check in mind, we can still control how we compensate for it so that we can keep on living better. There is always a place to look towards, from either home or someone else’s, from the tangible and all the way to the imagined. Voids can be replaced, especially if we’re willing to barter with one another, and maybe most importantly, ourselves. Doing the right thing usually starts with doing the right thing for yourself as demonstrated by the film’s lead when he’s compelled to help a stranger “phone home”. 

It’s natural for us to want to understand whatever is “alien”, but we forgot to feel for whomever or whatever during the attempt as well; rarely does an Elliot come by to do that for us. “This is reality, Greg!” 

Verdict: B

Steven Spielberg Ranked

“E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” is now playing in IMAX theaters. 

Bodies Bodies Bodies – This Generation’s The Thing

The writers of this need to cleanse the Scream franchise ASAP.

As someone born around the very dawn of the 21st century, I can attest that it’s very easy for our generation to feel as if the world is working against us. We’ve become conditioned to treat every social interaction, online debate, etc. as transactions set in a hostile, constantly judgmental environment. In doing so, we cover-up behind stereotypes that the world has deemed most popularly the “correct” ways to be and think, and throw ignominious new ones out to those whose ideologies clash with them. But why do we do it? Because it’s easier to act like the victim, to not take the blame, to, if the time comes, have the advantage via your current resume that understands the “formula of the year” best based on what’s been broadcasted over the media and spread between peers who want you to only agree with them and literally nothing else. We rather have weapons up our sleeves at all times than a voice that comes from the heart given how competitive America has become, even if it means other people’s livelihood, whether truly guilty or not, will drop in the process.

While not done uber-thoroughly, Bodies Bodies Bodies allegorizes this through both horror and satire. An example of this can be perceived in Halina Reijn’s strong use of simple handheld claustrophobic shots and a damp, impressively near pitch-black-lit setting (our judgment is blind, get it???) occasionally supported by thin, artificial neon glowsticks (our judgment is sensationalized and simplified get it???). The performances aren’t supported by MCU quirk-quippy dialogue like you often see polluted in young horror movie characters today, but rather by constant self-absorbed cringiness, making the social climate it’s inflating have not only a negative, impulsive, chaotic, and frightening presence, but also a frankly obnoxious and embarrassing one at that — for the better! The film had a personal thesis and furthermore a way to showcase it via an underrated brand of horror: BEING HIGH ASF DURING A CRISIS.

I’m also assuming that Rachel Sennott is going to continue carrying her, I guess, “anxiety-driven cinema” curse from film to film. Good!

Between this and X, the slasher genre might get the revival it alas deserves for which straightly-sold-as “modern reboots” just aren’t warranting. I’m tired of those movies advertising themselves as “*well-known thirty / forty-year-old title* for a new generation” despite them all being preoccupied with how perfect their creator was by literally just unproductively copying it, professing the deed as “paying tribute”, and bargaining little modernization besides the given of digital age filmmaking tactics and obviously a new time period that it has to establish by those same Gen-X writers who rather linger over the past than open up to the new generation which they’re required to hastily write about because we’re, by default, living in different times. If anything, Bodies Bodies Bodies is John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) for Gen-Z, but it doesn’t have to pretend like it’s so directly related because the filmmakers are clearly confident enough in their own re-envisioning as opposed to so many big-shot Hollywood writers today. 

Verdict: B-

2022 Ranked

“Bodies Bodies Bodies” is now playing in theaters.

Quick-Thought: The Slumber Party Massacre (1982)

Screened at The Alamo Drafthouse

“He’s so cold.”

“Is the pizza?”

It’s very clear here Amy Holden Jones understands that the genre she’s working with is infamously known for essentially being just a series of punchlines, and she decides to double-up on this satirical formula for which is so often depended on during this era of slasher horror. Slumber Party Massacre is a raid of goofy tension releases, intentionally comedic one-liners, and an absurd amplification of horror tropes. I used to think New Nightmare (1994) was the initial prototype for Scream (1996), but now I feel plain gullible. 

Definitely must’ve been a major inspiration for the tone of X as well. 

I really dug the slasher villain in this because he’s just a bare-bones serial killer who’s occasionally gullible which sinisterly mitigates the fact that he’s been broadcasted as this mass force of evil parading the town. There is a glimmer of motivation to him though which almost seems metaphorical for defenders of misogyny in horror cinema. The two sisters in this actually provide endearing and over-the-top chemistry, while on the other hand, the slumber girls are so overtly depicted as everyday people who happen to be objects that it becomes noticeable as so many shots linger unusually on them nude to a point where it actually feels rather unprovocative, therefore discomforting the cliché. 

So admittedly, quite ambitious methods to convey genre commentary through parodying that doesn’t always work that constructively nor legibly, but you do get at least an idea of what it’s trying to do which sparks enough admiration. It sure is f**king funny though and that’s really all you need to give it your time. Watch it with others for sure too.

Verdict: B-

“The Slumber Party Massacre” is now available to stream on VUDU Free, Tubi TV, and The Roku Channel.

Quick-Thoughts: Prey

Good or not, under two-hour-long blockbusters coming back is a W.

The Predator franchise, excluding Shane Black’s reboot, gets an unnecessary amount of flak for being consistently decent or serviceable. I’m honestly unbothered seeing this formula just keep on doing what it’s good at — usually made up of hyper-masculine dopamine gore and an immersive atmosphere of paranoia — while tweaking its premise up enough to offer the bare minimum of new. 

The 2022 prequel to John McTiernan’s original Predator (1987) is the least tweaked of them all, which is probably the reason why people seem to really vibe with it so far. It takes the saying “going back to its roots” very literally with another historical war and culture compared and contrasted again these fictional extraterrestrial hunters. Not to mention, even its plot is a borderline shameless homage to its maker.

So yes, on paper, this film sounds redundant, but in execution from 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016) director’s modern “clean-cut” technique, it’s made to be on par with its more ambitious predecessors. The setting and time period in particular that he elaborately brings to fruition grants a fresh enough appeal to the franchise. We get competently crafted historical fanfiction-esc fights that range from the barrels of muskets to the heaving of spears, as well as having our preliminary knowledge of the past atrocities in America that automates for us a clear side to root on. Not to mention there’s some solid expansion to the lore of the Predators’ combat gear that exalt the action sequences – which is really all I’m asking for from these films; new ways to blow s**t up equals new ways to hold my attention. Sure, it’s hard to still be enthralled as much as it was before with each coming rerun of this familiar blueprint, but for only ninety-nine minutes of your time, it’s even harder to find regret in experiencing this schtick again. Basically, Prey is just an added filter for the Predator story people already worship and love, but a kinda cool one at that?

Ohhh requels, haha. Or is this a pre-requel? I guess canonically people are calling it a straight-up prequel though. But really… let’s be frank, it’s a pre-requel. 

Verdict: C+

2022 Ranked

“Prey” is now available to stream on Hulu.

Quick-Thoughts: Peter Weir’s Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)

Screened at The Frida Cinema

What a strange movie. I mean really, this takes the jokingly “touch grass” saying into a whole new orbit with its revolutionary atmospheric drama and abstruse ornamentation of surreal circumstances. A coming of age tale about how discrete disconnections between what’s organized or routined and what’s intrinsically complex in introduction — but likely organized as well, simply obscured as such by our lack of knowledge on it — forge the bipolar cycle of humanity. It certainly had a direct influence on auteurs such as Sofia Coppola, and films such as Daughters of the Dust (1991) also come to mind when thinking of Peter Weir, Cliff Green, and Joan Lindsay’s dreamlike storytelling aesthetics which must’ve been game-changing to experience during the 70s.

If you wanted to go the most obvious route in a movie full of ones to choose from, Picnic at Hanging Rock is a functional allegory of surpassing institutional order and no longer depending on the timeline of others. Nature here represents our personal instincts calling to us, but upholding college regulations or befriending someone by proposing common social gestures *liquor!* would rather be our cultural instincts calling to us. New order is weaved by the obtrusion between each other’s convergence like when the two young men’s progression in the search begins recoding their moral compass, while the old ones are then destroyed like with the tragedies that befall upon the headmistress and her students. On a hundred different undercurrents too this has puberty and religious-institution metaphor written all over it, insinuating sexual exploration as something challenging the old order, threatening its fertility.

There are three ways people usually encounter plausible independence: becoming either lost from — perhaps even forever —, refusing, or embracing whatever’s restricted in this sole order we’ve faired allegiance to our whole lives. Honestly, it’s all quite relatable as someone currently surrendering to college yet wishing for the courage to just head up the rock instead, hoping to wear that red cloak by the end but being humbled throughout nonetheless by all of its possible outcomes and obvious social risks that come of breaking order. I guess in that case, this movie kind of works as a cynical “motivator”.

Verdict: B-

“Picnic at Hanging Rock” is now available to stream on The Criterion Channel and HBO Max.

Quick-Thoughts, Again: Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Samouraï (1967)

Screened at The Frida Cinema • 2nd Viewing • Warning: Spoilers Ahead

“I like it when you come around, because you need me.”

The first time Jef hijacks a car he is seen visibly composed, rhythmically trialing through his ring of keys until the right one fits. Perhaps it’s because this job is just a job to him, and means nothing beyond another means for payment. 

He is on his way to kill somebody.

The last time Jef hijacks a car he is seen visibly timid, anxiously trialing through that same ring of keys until the right one fits. Perhaps it’s because this is the first time Jef feels as if he actually has something to lose. His routine has been compromised so now he must independently decide and act on how to make honorable of the dilemma given the circumstances. 

He is on his way to kill nobody but himself.

I like to think that Le Samouraï left open these distinct gaps of intentional character ambiguities for other artists to recreate its plot and fill them in with their own personal grasp on the situation. The Conversation (1974), Taxi Driver (1976), Ghost Dog (1999), Drive (2011), and as the list goes on through over fifty years of film canon the story begins to brace with these other stories, and this figure of protagonist, even perhaps a reality for many individuals, begins to flesh-out as well for us to better understand its possibilities. Melville has handed down to every inspiring narrative writer that watches this their own pen and notepad, enrolling them as detectives to try solving this case with each viewing. 

Stuck in a cage waiting for death. Your time will come and when it does, you will have control like no other despite it being destiny. A bit dark. A bit tragic. But at the same time, a bit wholesome?

Verdict: A

All-Time Favorites, Jean-Pierre Melville Ranked, My Original Article on Le Samouraï

“Le Samouraï” is now available to stream on The Criterion Channel and HBO Max.”

Quick-Thoughts: RRR (Rise Roar Revolt)

Screened at The Frida Cinema

This is the most bro movie I’ve ever seen.

Ever wanted to see a blockbuster maximize every minute drop of logos, ethos, pathos it has into gloriously exaggerated segments, inserting as many plot conveniences necessary so you can witness two lead characters persistently commit some of the most badass physics-defying instances in cinema whether they be from dance-offs, a posey of carnivorous animals, etc.? Well, RRR is your more than obvious answer. A movie this carefully engineered to be a nonstop crowd pleaser of wickedly amplified tropes really has no reasonable excuse at this point not to be populated into all American theaters and furthermore sought out by its inhabiters. 

At least it’s on Netflix, but I’d recommend the watching-with-a-packed-crowd route instead.

Verdict: B-

2022 Ranked

“RRR” is now playing in select theaters and available to stream on Netflix.

Quick-Thoughts: Satoshi Kan’s Perfect Blue (1997)

Screened at The Alamo Drafthouse

Awe, good old duality. I just rewatched Persona (1966) and Lost Highway (1997) in theaters a couple days ago so this happens to be a more than fitting follow-up to those two.

Headache-giving “is it reality or fiction?” cinema is usually great and Perfect Blue is no exception. I think seeing Satoshi Kon’s debut in this age of social media really emphasizes just how relevant it’ll be even onward: the cancelation of the host of a facade after they sincerely reveal to be more complex or, better yet, the unflattering conditioning of the consumer seeing the celebrity as a human, not just a media appearance. You see it all the time in cancel culture with the amount of repeated shock constantly exhibited when we witness that people with power can be pieces of s**t — wow, who would’ve thought? Kon is clearly interested in this cultural aversion of the idea that humans are multi-faceted. He breaks it down too, making a point with increasingly distorted patterns of either glamorized or normalized settings and events that reveal the struggle of regulating personas in the public environment of individual biases and favoritisms, critical dislikes towards personal evolutions with compulsions towards conservatism of the idol or even instinctive preservation of its innocence. The worlds become scrambled, and therefore a bloating burden to navigate. 

Anyways, if you’ve ever wanted to see a movie about the infamous Björk stalker, this is the closest to it that I’ve seen so far. It may be animated, but Perfect Blue feels incredibly real.

Verdict: B+

“Perfect Blue” is now available to rent on Amazon Prime.

Quick-Thoughts: Seijun Suzuki’s Tokyo Drifter (1966)

Seijun Suzuki Marathon Part IV of V

I KNOW THIS THEME SONG. WHERE ELSE HAVE I HEARD IT BEFORE???

Nahhh, Seijun Suzuki definitely tripped acid to make this, at least during post-production. This is some seriously new wave-y hodgepodge-d s**t with its almost incomprehensible surrealist’s continuity. By the millisecond this thing can hop from being a Jean-Pierre Melville picture to a Mel Brooks one, and is fragranced in a psychedelia of angelic-looking set pieces enhancing the audacity of it all. Regarding the protruding elephant in the room, Quentin Tarantino himself must’ve jotted the f**k down in his stealer’s notepad during initial screenings of this cartoony western meets crime genre paroxysm. Not sure if it’s as enjoyable, especially story or character-wise next to an actual Melville, as it is just baffling to a degree of being inspired, such as a Godard, but sometimes the best films are only crafted the way they are because films like Tokyo Drifter decided to recklessly make a move first. Great tunes also. The shootouts don’t hurt it either. 

Worst blocked Suzuki movie so far though, partially compensated nonetheless by its out-of-pocket cutting. Jarring… but with style! 

Verdict: B-

Seijun Suzuki Ranked

“Tokyo Drifter” is now available to stream on The Criterion Channel.

Quick-Thoughts: Seijun Suzuki’s Story of a Prostitute (1965)

Seijun Suzuki Marathon Part III of V

“He’s a high-ranking officer. Whatever he does, I don’t feel anything.” 

Paths of Glory (1957) meets Romeo and Juliet (1597). “Never let wine or women distract your mind”, says the sergeant, and yet, that’s exactly the kind of temptations that the army is willing to directly provide for their soldiers. As this recital continues we hear the thoughts of its reciters, with minds clearly as “lost” in other affairs as the chant tells them not to be, a sign of the extreme idealism in the army’s demand of what their soldiers should be. Just keep projecting a facade of honor at all costs.

Has some potent mixes of slow-mo and real-time audio, imposing and exaggerated monochrome lighting, and the freeze-framing: yes! As to be expected the blocking is also phenomenal and the camera movement is full of diction. Overall though, not on par with the previous two of Suzuki’s I saw but still, I like how I happened to follow up his post-war Gate of Flesh with his depiction of the war itself.  

Verdict: B-

Seijun Suzuki Ranked

“Story of a Prostitute” is now available to stream on The Criterion Channel.