June something something movie pun


Future War (1997) / MST3K: Future War (1999)

Incredibly, this is the first time since I started writing about Every Feature, in 2013, that I've watched a full episode of MST3K. So now I'm having to figure out how this'll fit into the template. How's this look?

Anyway, this is one of the worst movies I have ever seen, even comparing it to other MST3K entries. The script was awful, the effects embarrassing, the acting incompetent. And yet you know just looking at it that at least some of the people working on it really believed in the movie. That makes me sad.

Some of the jokes made me laugh and some of them made me google proving what I always assumed---they're aimed at people ten years older than me. (I wonder if that's still true?)

Ella Cinders (1926)

I first heard of Ella Cinders yesterday and this took me to Wikipedia which eventually led me to this film. Tada! I might not have watched it even though Colleen Moore looks beautiful and I'm intrigued by Cinderella variations and the poster on Wikipedia is a wonder except that it has been selected for preservation by the National Film Registry which was commendation enough to push me over.

The film kept going after I thought it was finished and turned into a backstage Hollywood picture before returning to the traditional Cinderella plotline. I was bummed Ella gave up her career to marry her prince but otherwise I was surprised by the feminist slants the film took.

Also, if you're into this sort of thing, I'm pretty sure Disney borrowed this moment from Ella Cinders.

library dvd
Sullivan's Travels (1941)

Having enjoyed O Brother with the oldest, I immediately put Sullivan's Travels on hold at the library, which the two oldest watched with us tonight and thoroughly enjoyed. Plus, now #2 wants to watch O Brother and #1 is all for watching it again. This all sounds great to me.

Incidentally, it has a very long silent sequence. Probably not as long as Rififi's, but long.

I believe this is the first Preston Sturges film I have rewatched. As expected, I think it's better on rewatch. But that doesn't make it easier to know whether I should rewatch Unfaithfully Yours next or finally watch The Miracle of Morgan's Creek.

But back to Sullivan's, a quick shoutout to Jess Lee Brooks who plays the preacher in the Deep South Black church that invites the prisoners in to watch the picture show (fun fact: Sturges wanted Chaplin but couldn't get the rights so had to settle for Mickey Mouse). In a very real way, he is the emotional and moral core of the movie. In just a few minutes of screentime, he demonstrates more goodness and charity than all the other characters combined. He's the reason the picture isn't just a parcel of self-love from a comedy director but means something a little bit more. It must be one of the great bit parts in all of filmdom.

Billu (2009)

This is only my second modern Bollywood film, best I can recall, so while I think that a lot of the movie stuff in Billu is farce, I can't be sure.

Here's the idea: a movie is being shot in a small village. A local barber has told his children that the famous star of the film is an old friend of his. Now that the star is in town, his children are telling the story to everyone. But is the story true? And just how true is it?

Everything in this film takes too dang long my American standards. It's not Tree of Life! Let's pick up the pace!

I'm not talking about the extended dance numbers that are, most of them, irrelevant to the plot. That's to be expected. Musical reality (although only one of the songs is natively musical) means the normal rules of pace are rendered mute for the length of the dance. What I'm talking about is a number of speeches characters give. They often take to long to get where they're going or last longer than necessary once they've arrived.

All that said, it may be often dumb, but it's more often fun. And the while the emotional payoff isn't a bank-breaker or anything, it works. Americans don't make big lavish brainless entertainments of this sort anymore. But it doesn't mean people don't want then.

Two asides. Aside 1: So much of this movie was injokes I didn't get. But I did get the two-Khan rivalry thing, so that was nice.

Aside 2: According to Wikipedia, the story is a retelling of Sudama and Krishna. Which explains why all the hedonistic dance sequences had just religiously themed lyrics.

The Errand of Angels (2004)

This is the other mid-aughts missionary movie I always intended to see but never did. Every once in a while I check streaming services to see if it's free anywhere and it finally showed up! On Tubi. Which is even better when you have an adblocker.

Beside the good reviews at the time, I wanted to see it because I had a high opinion of star Erin Chambers. Lady Steed and I had seen her in a theatrical version of Jerome K. Jerome's "Passing of the Third Floor Back" and she was excellent. She wasn't as great here. I thought it might be that she was new to film (but that's not so) or it might be Vuissa's fault. I don't know. A couple times she played it too big; several more she the timing was off. Maybe it was editing? I don't know. Anyway, she is lovely and capable and I wish she appeared in more things I was interested in.

As a missionary story, it's pretty pedestrian. It takes honest beats and the cast is uniformly mostly good and it has a couple of really good moments (the all-faiths couple revealing their position, meeting the getting-baptized woman) and I love this shot (ripped off from Wes Anderson):
Sister Jaeger

Raya and the Last Dragon (2021)

What an abysmal, abusive movie this is. I don't think I've been this offended by cheap storytelling in a long, long time. Apparently the latest Disney renaissance, the one that began with Tangled, is over.

I was looking forward to this film. I didn't have high expectations, but the South Asian aethetic looked cool and why the heck not? Why shouldn't it be, at least, good? But it's not.

This is like Legos purchased from Goodwill. Just a bunch of story bricks assembled into some nonsense that feels vaguely intentional. Now, I don't know, people sob at the end of the movie. The movie tells you just when to. But I refused. I don't like being so cheaply manipulated.

Among other thefts, I saw character business lifed from The Incredibles and The Iron Giant and The Last Unicorn. I saw story or character or design elements lifted from The Neverending Story, Black Panther, the Marvel gauntlet doowop, Winter Soldier, Tangled, Moana, Frozen, Miyazaki, Mulan (1998), and (maybe) Hero.

Speaking of Hero, that's another big disappointment this movie gives us. It should have counted, among its influences, the grand tradition of beautiful combat from Asian film. But I didn't see much evidence of that. Just normal American rockemsockem.

The dialogue was lazy, the editing was meh. All the cool stuff was either derivitive and nonsensical. The worldbuilding barely held together. They need to hire some actual fantasy writers if they want to keep doing this.

What a disaster.

Note to self: say something nice.

Okay. Um. The baby character was kind of innovative? Had a lot of potential? They didn't explore that potential at all but at least I don't know what it might have been lifted from? Does that count as nice?

library dvd
A Quiet Place (2018)

Finally getting around to watching this so we can see II which has been difficult. (You'll note we already watched Sullivan's Travels from the library; what you don't know is that we picked up a LOT of movies from the library and these are the only two we'll get to see before we hit the road.)

Anyway, even with a couple phone interruptions for Lady Steed's birthday, it was still a terrific movie. And just as great a movie about parenting and family as people said. This movie has a real shot at being remembered for a long, long time.

I'm sure there are videos talking about everything wrong with A Quiet Place or whatever (I have a list about the creatures ready to go, if that's your game) but overall I think the world and the monsters were very well crafted. I have no complaints. (Except that the stupid library edition has no making-of special features. I would love to hear about the creatures' evolution as they worked out their appearance.) It's a daring movie and it DEFINITELY breaks Rafifi's no-talking stretch!

Luca (2021)

Luca proves that even when Pixar decides to market a series of cliches it can move beyond the material and into something that is wonderful. I also loved that this was so much more cartoony than most Pixar movies. I wish they'd pushed it further.

The viewing circumstances were not ideal so I can't express a full opinion of yet, but I definitely enjoyed it and the pop of the color was wonderful. Just what we need mid-2021. Fresh air and sunshine and a new friend.

Previous films watched


jan feb mar apr may
jun jul aug sep oct nov dec










Comics and Cults, Columbus and Kael


052) Vertigo CMYK, finished on June 5

Apparently first published in four quarterly pieces, CMYK consists of four sets of nine eight-page stories. Each set proclaims a focus on one of the basic colors of printing, Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and blacK.

This is the sort of thing I might have just picked up had I seen it at the library, but the reason I got it in covid times is that it came up in the library search when I was collecting Sweet Tooth.

And K did include a bonus Sweet Tooth story. It was a good one. But Y and K included a higher percentage of good stories than the earlier two sets. I wonder if because the later writers had a chance to read the earlier writers' pieces and see what did and did not work? I don't know. But the only one I thought was good with C was the final piece (by Fabio Moon, whose work I've enjoyed before, and who tells parts of the same story at the end of all four volumes---these four pieces make my favorite part of CMYK). By K, a significant percentage of the stories were good (or at least interesting). And no, I do not think it was me changing. Pretty sure it was the quality of the stories.

a week

053) Plutona by Jeff Lemire and Eme Lenox and friends, finished on January 5

I believe this is the last of the Jeff Lemire books that were put on hold while I was collecting Sweet Tooth (see above). It's another good one---a good reminder that Lemire's a quality writer and not just amazing with ink. (Although Lenox clearly based the grandmother character on Lemire's art.)

Anyway, five kids find the dead body of a superhero in the woods near their neighborhood. Four of the five are junior-high-aged monsters of varying types. And it seems like we're going to get a nice coming-of-age story. And that's mostly right. But the backblurb comparing it to Stand By Me should have warned me that nice might be overstating it.

Anyway, I thought it was really good. And I loved how the artist was just right for the job. I admire a writer who can do that.*

one early morning

054) The Age of Movies: Selected Writings of Pauline Kael edited by Sanford Schwartz, finished on June 9

Including the intro, this is over 800 pages of writing. Yes, I read an 800-page book and in just a matter of months! Which is wild.

Naturally, I didn't intend to read the entire thing. At first, I read reviews of movies I knew (E.T.) or was already interested in getting to know (Pennies from Heaven) just to see Kael's take on them. But I really did enjoy reading her. At least as much as I'd anticipated, maybe more. And so I started reading chunks of essays. And then I had to mark what I'd read so I could read what I had not read. Finally I read the final essays followed by the opening essays followed by the introduction followed by the first essay (which I had thought was another introduction).

This is the Library of America collection and it follows her career chronologically, from the '50s to the '90s. It's also incredibly generous (see that page count). Following her career over such a long stretch (and reading it out of that order) reveals certain themes she held from the beginning, others she refined over time, and even some she came to see in new ways.

And, over all, I just enjoyed her company. I'm not convinced she's right about everything but I came to respect all of her opinions. And there's no doubt that 800 pages of Pauline Kael will affect my own critical opinions for a long time to come. Fair warning.

I just flipped through the book after writing that last paragraph, thinking I might include some quotations. I dogeared all the pages I had previously marked to make them easier to find (but I'm sure I missed most of them) and noticed that over half the words I highlighted came from her essay "Trash, Art, and the Movies." It's long but maybe start there. Me, I fully intend to teach it next spring.

six months or maybe more or maybe less

055) Pastwatch: the Redemption of Christopher Columbus by Orson Scott Card, finished on June 11

This is one of the Card novels people are most likely to claim as their favorite. I've heard it many times but I was always a bit leery of the novel. Perhaps the idea of redeeming Christopher Columbus is unpleasant? Perhaps the title felt a bit academic? Maybe I didn't love the cover? Who knows. But it was a longstanding disinterest. But then the older two boys took it on their backpacking trip last summer and loved it and so it was time for me to try.

I will admit there was one vignette near the beginning that I was never able to fit into the novel as a whole, but perhaps that is the result of Pastwatch being my car book in a year where the car never really went anywhere. This would be the longest I've taken reading a Card book except I still haven't finished Keeper of Dreams (more on that here). I bought the book new thirteen years ago and one of the early tales is a story about Pastwatch---I misremembered the provenance of the story when the time came to read Pastwatch and so thought it was a sequel of sorts, but in fact it is an expansion of an early event. And considering how much I loved that Noah story, one might think it wouldn't take me over a decade to read the companion novel. Another way in which I, a human, make no sense.

Anyway, I don't want to spend much time on plot, but I love how humanistic the novel is. It really does provide a redemption for Columbus---Columbus and, by implication, all of us. Card, at his best, understands people in a deep and holy way. He sees the villains and finds their moral core. In a way, this redeeming of one of history's great villains, is the task he's set himself in, say, the Ender books or any of his finest fictions.

Anyway, in recent weeks, Eugene England's review of Pastwatch has been getting play in my circles as one of the great works of criticism in Mormon letters. So I'm going to go check it out now, then return and report.

(Link, so you may do the same, if you wish.)

Okay. Yeah. That was really good. As one might expect, Gene took my vague inchoate thoughts and assembled them into something coherent and reasonable.

Also, now I feel called to spend more time with Spencer W. Kimball. Every time I bump into him, I think he might be even better than I had previously thought.

Love and sacrifice are the way to make a world.

maybe ten months maybe more

056) American Cult edited by Robyn Chapman, finished on June 12

For some reason, the pandemic led to me supporting a lot (a lot) of comics projects on Kickstarter. This is the first to arrive and it was a great read. Short nonfiction comics about a variety of American cults from Oneida to the Branch Davidians and a bunch of stops before and after and in-between.

Some of the stories are pure research (no one alive remembers Johannes Kelpius) and some are born of personal experience. Something I was happily surprised by is that most of the stories make a real attempt to treat the cultists---both leaders and followers---as fully human. The stories aim for sympathy and understanding and I think all but one were mostly (even entirely) successful.

As you might expect, many of the stories are filled with sex and violence. Some treat it more directly and some let it linger between panels, but cult life is life exploded into largeness while confined in darkness. That conflict makes even the most academic stories sparkle with tension.

a couple months

Previously . . . . :