October 20, 2023

What We’re Watching: October 20, 2023


John Cusack will always be a favorite of mine after his string of fun, wacky, and great movies in the  1980s and 1990s, both comic and dramatic. Caught up on three of his I missed this week: High Fidelity (2000) This movie has been added to my Top 5 John Cusack movies. Can’t believe it took me this long to see this. Such a great movie, and a note-perfect performance by John Cusack. And clear to see why Jack Black took off after this. Serendipity (2001) has one of the all-time best and longest “meet cutes” in rom-com history, and then the premise hits and you’re like “wait – what now?! You’re willing to risk never seeing each other again?!” The opening act with Beckinsale and Cusack is so great that the goodwill carries the viewer through the next hour of plot machinations that keep them apart and bring them back together again. Throw logic and common sense out the window, and just roll with it as you watch another great lovesick Cusack character, and witness Kate Beckinsale become a movie star. Emile Hirsch and John Cusack obviously deserve better that Pursuit (2022), yet it is reasonable to understand how hard it might be for anyone to turn down a load of money for just a few days shooting a run-of-the-mill direct-to-video Geezer Teaser. But hey – this one did get a brief theatrical run in the UAE. So that is something.


Mike Flanagan has once again combined family drama with literary horror to complete a third and final House for Netflix, and the results are predictably terrific.I love how Edgar Allan Poe’s Fall Of The House of Usher (2023) has been modernized as an attack on the Sackler pharmaceutical legacy – a company who knowingly manufactured the opioid crisis to reap decades of financial gain. Here. a grim reaper identified as The Raven appears to avenge the addicted, and each of the eight episodes is designed to kill off the heirs as they blow their inheritance, and in the manner of a Poe short story.  Some tales fit more organically into the tragedy than others, and the results never quite reach the heights of Flanagan’s Hill House, but the cumulative effect is surprising, amusing, and ultimately quite powerful. High Recommend


I went Back to School (1986) with Rodney Dangerfield for the countless time this week, an evergreen favourite of mine that makes me laugh every time. This for me is Rodney’s best vehicle, Caddyshack might be a better funnier film overall but Rodney is not in it all that much, but here he’s the whole show as a likeable everyday guy who just happens to be stinking rich, and how he wields his wealth to gain entry into his son’s college. The supporting cast is amazing – Keith Gordon, Sally Kellerman, Ned Beatty, Robert Downey Jr, William Zabka, Terry Farrell, M. Emmet Walsh, Adrienne Barbeau, Sam Kinison and a tremendous actor we just lost this week – the late, great Burt Young as Dangerfield’s driver/bodyguard, who makes me laugh every time he appears on screen. It’s not high art but just a consistently hilarious ’80s comedy that still works today.


I finally got around to watching John Krasinki’s A Quiet Place (2018) this week. What an awful world that would be. And that’s perhaps my favorite part of the movie–the worldbuilding. Krasinski was able to sell me on a world in which most of humanity died because of monsters who hate loud noises. The sound design is nearly impeccable, matching the unrelenting world step for step, tone for tone. The creature design was not my favorite, reminding of something from a bad Aliensrip-off than something original in its own right. But the atmosphere, the tragedies, and some of the set-pieces were legitimately enthralling to witness. Solid recommend for this first entry in the growing series. Also, from two of the writers of several of the Saw sequels, The Collector sounds like a decent idea on paper, if maybe a little rote. You have a home invasion story, except instead of a master inventor-turned-serial killer, you have a silent man in a gimp costume. There are still deadly traps surrounding our protagonist, there are still gruesome deaths, and there are still some disturbing scenes. But The Collector ends up failing where Saw is at its strongest–the villain. The Jigsaw Killer makes the Saw movies. His quiet genius, his masterful traps, and his superiority complex make for one of the more compelling and memorable villains across the horror genre. But the Collector is none of that. He’s silent, he’s a bit strange, and nothing about him is ever explained. We never get why he’s doing what he’s doing, why he’s targeting this particular house (other than happenstance), and why he thinks these Home Alone-esque traps are the preferable mode of dispatching victims. As a result, everything feels meaningless. Even the Saw series managed to avoid that feeling. Usually. Solid not recommend for The Collector.

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