movies

Top five new-to-me movies of 2022 (so far)

How is it already nearly the end of July? This year has been an utter blur. Perhaps a fun sign of getting older?

I’ve watched so many good films this year. A big plus to going to the cinema more often. (Shout out to the Prince Charles Cinema for being my second home.) I’ve made an effort to watch more international films, and have been greatly rewarded for doing so.

So for the first six months of this year. Here are the five new-to-me movies that I’ve enjoyed the most.

Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022) dir. by Daniels

When I saw this at the cinema, the woman behind me was sobbing like a baby. Not much more needs to be said.

Okay. Actually, I have a lot more to say about this movie, which is largely about the immigrant experience. It’s hilarious, truly moving and utterly unforgettable. Michelle Yeoh is a treasure. As is Stephanie Hsu, Ke Huy Quan (IN THAT STUIT!!!!), Jamie Lee Curtis and James Hong… The cast is brilliant.

Black Dynamite (2009) dir. by Scott Sanders

“Your knowledge of scientific biological transmogrification is only outmatched by your zest for kung-fu treachery!”

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I began watching Black Dynamite, a parody of the Blaxploitation movies of the 70s. But it’s so funny and very clever. A true love letter to the genre.

If you’re fond of the films of that era, it’s a must-watch. Even if you’re not, the comedy is excellent. It’s a fun ride that keeps the pace moving at all times.

Mother (2009) dir. by Bong Joon-Ho

First off, shout out to my coworker who took the time to give me an excellent list of Eastern Asian movies to watch. It’s been an endless source of great

When I saw Mother in cinemas, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. But I left stunned and in tears.

It’s best to go blind into this one to avoid any expectations. But the story examines the lengths people (mothers) will go to protect their children, sometimes to the detriment of others.

The Snake Girl and the Silver-Haired Witch (1968) dir. by Noriaki Yuasa

If there’s one thing I’m excited to explore more of, it’s classic Japanese horror. The monsters are unlike anything I’ve seen in Western cinema.

I have, of course, seen many of Yuasa’s Gamera movies, but this fantasy horror outing is special. The Snake Girl follows a young girl who is reunited with her family after spending time in an orphanage. Though her family is not quite everything she hopes they would be.

This movie reminded me vaguely of the excellent A Tale of Two Sisters, which is also a story about family betrayal and secrets. But this one has witches and crazy ladies with snake necks!

Switchblade Sisters (1975) dir. by Jack Hill

I’ve seen some of Jack Hill’s movies before, but was so surprised by how engaging Switchblade Sisters was.

Based loosely on Othello, this exploitation gang movie follows a group of school girls who fight for power and leadership of the Jezebels. There’s betrayal, excellent outfits and plenty of violence.

Wicked (Wisconsin) Wednesda Pt. 2: Blood Hook

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I let last week be an easy one on me. Start off delicate and ease into things with the help of Mystery Science Theater 3000. That is not at all what I will be doing this week. Oh no. This week’s film I had watch all alone – 1987’s Blood Hook. This campy slasher was directed by James (Jim) Mallon and key grip by Kevin Murphy.

Ok so Murphy and Mallon would later go on to be writers for MST3K, but we will only briefly count that as cheating. This was the only thing that Mallon directed before he went on to create the show with Murphy and Joel Hodgson. What is the product like for these young men? Well, Blood Hook is a movie that has one beautifully literal title. A murderer goes on a rampage killer people with a hook from a fishing pole.

Oh we went there, Wisconsin.

The film opens with a young boy spending time with his grandfather at a lakeside cabin. Summer and fishing is a sweet and familiar memory for many people. Only probably not many people watch their grandfather bite the big one in front of them when he falls into the lake and drowns. Old Gramps seems to have heard a terrible sound that causes him to tip forward into the waters, never to emerge again.

Flash forward 17 years and rural Wisconsin is looking great! Everyone is heading north: teenagers and terrible families alike. After hearing people attempt a Northern accent, it’s pretty great to hear things that sound totally authentic like the “Ooooooh ya!”s and “Remember, the lake’s not a playground.”  But of course when the harbinger of doom shows up to give the latter warning to a visiting family, the blow off his warnings. Foreshadowing with the best of them.

It turns out the crowds are gathering in Hayward, where the Muskie Madness fishing contest is being held. There is even a giant muskie statue that is completely real, I shit you not.

“Hey, I like your pole.”

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A group of young kids arrive, promising fisherman ‘Finner’ among them. The rest of the lot are make up of the dreaded people from Illinois! They are all staying at a cabin where they are introduced to some of the local crazies. Or as I like to call them: Wisconsinites. Turns out the cabin belongs to Peter van Cleese (played by Jonathan Richman Mark Jacobs), the boy who watched his grandfather die all those years ago.

It isn’t long before the first victim is tackled (ha ha). The loon-crazy mother from the camper van is literally hooked and killed. The notion of the killer attacking with a fishing pole is actually pretty hilarious if you allow yourself to laugh at it. While the death scenes aren’t always really graphic, just imagining being dragged hook, line and sinker seems to be pretty uncomfortable. Since everyone in this film is pretty terrible, it is quite enjoyable to watch them get picked off one by one in an increasingly bizarre manner.

From there the plot pretty much continues by the slasher movie formula: death, plot build, death, police don’t believe anyone, death.

There is also a strange sub-plot involving music that makes people go crazy. It’s the sound of nature, with the cicadas combining with other forces to create the devil’s tritone. Or perhaps it’s vibrations related to ‘the war’. This is a pretty weak motive, admittedly. Though it is pretty fun that the killer is just doing this just because they’re nuts.

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Now Blood Hook isn’t mind-blowing, but it can be pretty fun. It’s clear that the better work for Mallon was yet to come, but there are so many glimers of greatness here. Though sometimes this humour is a bit subtle. They keep making total crap jokes, but I have to assume it was on purpose because no one writes a script that says “something’s fishy around here” at a fishing competition without a hint of irony attached.

The final third really has some good bits – especially in that dialogue. The girlfriend seems completely resigned to being murdered, and her boyfriend hardly seems convinced he wants to save her. He actually sits in the boat all night totally unwilling to go and save the day. But let’s just say the final face-off is pretty damn hilarious.

Blood Hook was at its best when it’s at its silliest. This is definitely one of the weirdest premises for a slasher film, but it is done pretty enjoyably here. This is definitely a film that will strike a chord with some and not others. If you value humour and originality with your slasher cheese, this is definitely a movie to check out.

It’s a feelin’ that ain’t too groovy – watchin’ werewolves without you

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After nearly three months away, I’ll be back in London in a matter of weeks. My visa is finally all squared away. Final conclusion? Moving countries permanently is not for the weak of heart. It’s a strange feeling being detached from your life for months at a time. But thankfully I’ll be going back to home with plenty of things to look forward to. Possibly the most exciting in the next few months is a pair of showings at the Prince Charles Cinema in Leicester Square. Both films have a bit something special in common…

The first is a showing of the director’s cut (one of many) of the gorgeous Blade Runner. It’s been a movie the Prince Charles has been trying to get for ages. And it’s clear why it’s in such high demand – this is the type of film that is meant to be watched on a massive screen. The cinematography is so stunning and really is larger than life. Even three decades later, Ridley Scott’s vision of the future still looks remarkable.

The second film later in the month is True Romance on 35mm film – a not-so-easy bit to procure. This Quentin Tarantino penned-crime bit, is one of his best. It’s romantic and super violent. An excellent juxtaposition. Watching it on film is going to be incredible. Especially Gary Oldman’s dreadlocks.

Now for those of you living outside of the capitol (and in lands beyond the oceans), there is a long healthy tradition of of these types of film screenings elsewhere. In my old stomping grounds of Milwaukee, there is a monthly screening of Rocky Horror Picture show with Sensual Daydreams – the longest continuous showing of the movie in the world.

The Midwest loves this sort of thing. One thing we still hold dear is the drive-in movie theater. Skyway in Door County still shows the old projection slides and cartoon advertisements that were used in the 50s. It’s almost exactly has it has been all these years (despite upgrading the toilets) and even watching newer movies, there is still this shared excitement that you feel people decades before you had.

I’ve seen Gremlins at the Prince Charles, but one day I hope they offer the double-feature of the original and New Batch. To be completely honest, though, my dream movies to see one day would be The Creature from the Black Lagoon in its original 3-D format and to watch my favourite film – Pretty in Pink in all its delightful glory.

People love to pay to see old films in theatres. Why? Because people often feel a sense of nostalgia, whether it was a memory they want to relive or just something they wish they could have experienced. Granted, not everyone feels this way and most will stick to their DVDs and Netflix.

But like vinyl collectors or people who still buy books, there’s something so tangible about going to a cinema. That entire experience isn’t something than can be replicated at home, and it’s lovely. So why should anyone miss out on that special experience just because they were born a decade after their favourite movie was released?

In an increasingly isolated world, having a shared understanding with a group of people watching Empire Records isn’t such a bad thing.