Movie review: "Knives Out" (2019)

“That’s some heavy duty conjecture…”

“It’s funny, [NAME REDACTED]. You skipped the funeral, but you’re early for the will reading.”

Movie review etiquette strongly advises I not reveal the killer whose identity lies at the heart of Knives Out, Rian Johnson’s delightful update for impatient, attention-addled contemporary audiences of the time-worn but still effective Agatha Christie “locked room” style of mystery. This is far easier said than done, since, in a fairly stunning twist that proves to be only the first of many the film will lob at us like a loaded ball machine ready for tennis practice, the culprit is actually identified around the halfway mark, yet the stately country manor house remains so conspicuously full of colorful, highly motivated suspects otherwise. Who among this snooty, sniping, self-interested rabble honestly couldn’t be a potential villain, and might they yet eventually still seize their moment, even with matters ostensibly settled? Continue reading “Movie review: "Knives Out" (2019)”

Movie review: "Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker" (2019)

“Oh, dear! My first laser fight!”

What does Star Wars mean to you? Is it or has it become an indelible part of your life, and, if so, how long ago/for how long? How far back do your memories go? Did you somehow snag the cardboard IOU placeholder display from Kenner as a kid, promising a quartet of otherwise missing in action action figures that weird but enchanted first Christmas, a time so very long ago (1977), in a galaxy comparatively far, far away? Did you go to sleep each night of your childhood beneath a Return of the Jedi comforter, in a matching bedroom suit? Did you play Episode One Racer for the Nintendo 64 each night until your exasperated parents ordered you to bed? Did you build Lego set after Lego set, or play with the ancient diecast Micro Collection, or spend your weekends haunting Old Republic MMORPG servers? Did you ever argue passionately with some (other) idiot on the internet about midichlorians, or the scourge of creeping Disney-fication, or the enervating fiction that Greedo ever shot first? Do you care? Continue reading “Movie review: "Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker" (2019)”

Movie review: “Joker” (2019)

“Do I look like the kind of clown that can start a movement?”

Temper your effusive praise of Todd Phillips’ Joker for a moment and ponder what its $1 billion box office take (and counting) might have to say about the world in which we live and your place as an audience member within it. “The times maketh the man,” goes the wise, old, unattributable quote. Or did I mean to say, “the clothes”? For The Joker, maniacal ancient scourge of Gotham City, both catalysts apply. Every new wave of filmgoers seems to get the Joker it deserves somehow, be they glib, if sinister, inveterate pranksters in the animated mold of Mark Hamill or, applying a slightly sliding scale, Cesar Romero, ugly, enigmatic loose cannons as in the late Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning portrayal, or, to an obnoxiously lesser degree, whatever the trashy nu-metal hell Jared Leto was trying to accomplish, or slick, cruel, strutting peacocks like Jack Nicholson’s 1989 paradigm shifter. No matter how committed or complete the performance, in the end they are still just especially vivid aspects of an unknowable greater whole. Continue reading “Movie review: “Joker” (2019)”

Dispatches from the 11th Annual “Shock Around the Clock” 24-hour Horror Marathon

Drexel Theater, Columbus, OH – October 12-13, 2019

“I may seem scary, but I have the heart of a small child…I keep it in a jar on my desk.”

-Robert Bloch, as quoted by Stephen King

There is always something cool going on in this town. 

After several years of unproductive hemming and hawing, including missed opportunities beyond my reckoning, 2019 marked my maiden voyage as an attendee of the annual “Shock Around The Clock” horror movie marathon. I couldn’t be happier I finally decided to take the plunge. Celebrating its eleventh year at Columbus, Ohio’s historic Drexel Theater, SATC takes place each October in a single, continuous session starting at noon on the Saturday of Ohio State football’s bye week and ending at or around noon of the next day. Well over 200 bores, ghouls, and children of the night piled into the Drexel and peacefully cohabitated for a festive day of sights, sounds, smells, and screams fit to thrill the living and wake the dead (if we weren’t already at capacity). Continue reading “Dispatches from the 11th Annual “Shock Around the Clock” 24-hour Horror Marathon”

Concert review: Iron Maiden

2018 by JOHN McMURTRIE 2018 Copyright TALLINN IRON MAIDEN

PPG Paints Arena, Pittsburgh, PA – August 17, 2019

The euphoric high that is the natural byproduct of any rock concert worth its salt lingers for an indeterminate time after, depending upon whom you just saw, how well he/she/they played, how comprehensively the house in question was rocked, etc., but it can be expected, at a bare minimum, to get you out the venue door with a smile. Anything beyond that is some degree of bonus, one that can vary wildly. I’ve coasted down interstates riding a magic carpet of post-performance bliss, watching three-hour, music-soaked return road trips disappear in little more than the blink of an eye. I’ve followed awesome dreams out of a contented sleep and awakened the morning after still wrapped in a pervasive warm and fuzzy feeling. There have been certain shows I simply wouldn’t, or couldn’t, shut up about days later, Continue reading “Concert review: Iron Maiden”

Movie review: “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” (2019)

“When you come to the end of the line, with a buddy who is more than a brother and a little less than a wife, getting blind drunk together is really the only way to say farewell.”

Earlier this August, I spent a fairly enchanting late morning exploring the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, New York. An unassuming space compared to New York City’s many higher profile museums, MoMI packs so much tangible, three-dimensional history into its limited imprint that the effect can be a little overwhelming to first time pilgrims like me, wide-eyed true believers in the religion of film. There’s no other plausible way to explain my reaction as, standing in a room flanked by opposing processions, almost military columns, of all size and manner of antique movie and television cameras as they had been deployed through the years, I found myself getting a little choked up. Movies and all their attendant magic have been the indispensable fact and safe harbor of my life Continue reading “Movie review: “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” (2019)”

Steelers Thoughts #18 (8/6/2019): The Abyss Stares Back

All eyes across the National Football League and associated media are fixated on the Cleveland Browns as training camp 2019 kicks off, and it’s not difficult to deduce that a good number of players for and supporters of their ancient blood rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers, greatly prefer it that way. These last two seasons in Pittsburgh have been erratic to the point of bloodletting, hair-ripping frustration, and not because Steelers fans have become overly conditioned to success and, as a consequence, deficient in perspective and possessed of unrealistic expectations. Well, not just because of that. The 2019 Steelers are yesterday’s news, goes today’s conventional wisdom. They had their chances, and recently, and blew them all. They had mind-blowing potential and squandered it. Continue reading “Steelers Thoughts #18 (8/6/2019): The Abyss Stares Back”