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June 1, 2019

Static Age #4

Jack Torrance (Steve Weber) in a frame from Mick Garris' The Shining (1997)
As nowadays I resort more and more to streaming rather than physical media, I decided to accompany the text mostly with relevant art and posters, rather than DVD and BD box-art, and I hope you enjoy!

The Shining (1997) DVD box art.
This Static Age’s spotlight goes to The Shining (1997) which is about recovering alcoholic writer Jack Torrance (Steven Weber) who moves temporarily with his wife (Rebecca De Mornay) and son (Wil Horneff) to an abandoned hotel in order to find inspiration for his next novel. However, what he finds is his personal demons that drive him mad as he becomes more and more dangerous for himself and his family. Based upon Stephen King’s legendary same-titled novel, this consists of 3 feature length episodes that were directed by his go-to guy Mick Garris, and they may be much more faithful to the source material than you-know which classic, but they’re not anywhere near as exciting.

I also caught up with the following recent shows…

Created and written by Nick Antosca, and based upon the ‘Search and Rescue’ story by Kerry Hammond, the 3nd season of Channel Zero (2016 – present) is about young woman Alice Woods (Olivia Luccardi) who just moved into a small American town in which people disappear during a series of happenings that may all be due to the superficial presence of some mysterious staircases. Starring Rutger Hauer, and featuring Riz Ortolani’s theme song from Cannibal Holocaust (1980), SyFy’s original terror series are offering one more winner season.

Black Mirror - Season 3
The 3rd season of Black Mirror (2011 – present) anthological series is offering three more horror stories/episodes inspired by the dangers of technology. The first episode, ‘Nosedive’ is about a gorgeous woman (Bryce Dallas Howard) who wants to increase her social media rating and popularity and in order to achieve that she is forcing herself into a fake world of likability and pretensions, so terrifying in fact, that it may ultimately destroy her, in what has to be one of the series’ most intimidating stories, due to the fact that we’re not actually too far away from becoming the world it depicts. ‘Playtest’ is about American traveller Cooper Redfield (Wyatt Russell), who ends up penniless in England, where he takes a job as a game tester, only to find out that his worse fears will come to life and then some. ‘Shut Up and Dance’ is about several seemingly random people that get cyber-bullied into a scheme during which they would have to complete several tasks (as ordered by an unknown messenger on their mobile phones) if they want their secrets to remain secret. ‘San Junipero’ is an interracial lesbian love story, and I can only wish it would have been better, because as it is, it is the weakest entry in this season. ‘Men Against Fire’ is about soldiers fighting against some creatures called roaches (resembling a cross between vampires and zombies) and it is as awesome as it sounds. ‘Hated in the Nation’ is a feature-length masterpiece about an online game the hashtag of which allows you to vote for the public figure you would like to see dying next, and afterwards it employs technologically enhanced bees to do the dirty work.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. - Season 5
The 5th season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2013 – present) kicks-off with a double episode in which the titular heroes find themselves entrapped in a spaceship in outer space, and from then on a variety of adventures ensue, in what has to be the darker season of the series so far and for that we should be thankful. Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) is a nerdy doll, as always. Plus, the season finale is so spectacular that would be worthy enough of a Marvel movie.

Powerless - Season 1
Created by Ben Queen, the 1st season of DC’s Powerless (2017) is set in a world where superheroes and super-criminals leave a lot of collateral damage behind them, and a company on the verge of bankruptcy is offering protection and prevention solutions, when young and ambitious Emily Locke (Vanessa Hudgens) is hired in a top managerial position with dreams of changing the viability of the company, the behavior of the stuff, and maybe the world itself. This satire of superhero movies comes at the right time as the market is literally saturated by them (even if the only real competitors are the Marvel and DC properties), but its low budget, short running time, awful CGI, caricature characters (the stupid boss, the moody secretary, the funny black guy, the funny Indian guy, etc.), and standard jokes doomed it into failure, and it was canceled after this, its initial season. This is a throwback to awful 1990s television and we didn’t really need one. Adam West makes a very welcome cameo though.

Human Target - Season 1
Created by Jonathan E. Steinberg, the 1st season of DC’s Human Target (2010 – 2011) is about undercover bodyguard Christopher Chance (Mark Valley), who is assigned undercover to the most dangerous cases, involving breathtaking stunts. This is an all-around enjoyable action show that never fails to captivate its audience. McG was an executive producer. The show’s finale (an origin story of sorts, really) included a guest appearance by Armand Assante, but many other episodes benefit from guest appearances as well, by stars such as Lennie James, Mitch Pileggi, and William B. Davis.

The Day of the Triffids - Season 1
Based upon the same-titled Sci-Fi book, The Day of the Triffids (2009), directed by Nick Copus, is about a planetary event that blinds most of the Earth’s population, while in the meantime, the large and dangerous titular carnivorous plants escape from their facilities and prey among the human living. Radio producer/journalist Jo Playton (Joely Richardson) and Dr. Bill Masen (Dougray Scott) come to the rescue, but will they make it in this post-apocalyptic world? This television event (two feature length episodes) may be a bit rough around the edges (for example the CGI are really poor), but it is still captivating entertainment for fans of fantastic cinema. Although not exactly a masterful update, it thankfully comes with some clever casting choices (Brian Cox and Jason Priestley, for example).

But I also caught up with a few mainstream films as well…

Glass (2019) bored me to tears, and although it is not the only M. Night Shyamalan film that did so, it was the first Blumhouse Productions fare to achieve that, and I just hope the two don’t work together again. Sure, Samuel L. Jackson and Bruce Willis deliver winner performances, but right now they are both at their top of the game and they do this sort of thing in pretty much every film with which they are involved, so this cannot be enough of a reason for you to watch this. As far as superhero movies go, this is pretentious and formulaic, and you should pass.

Happy Death Day 2U (2019)
Blumhouse Production’s Happy Death Day 2U (2019), directed by Christopher Landon, returns to the original’s formula (albeit, a very original one at that), as we once again see the university’s promiscuous girl (the absolutely gorgeous Jessica Rothe) and her scientist nerd friends, trapped in another time loop, in which they will die several times, until the figure out a way to escape death once and for all. Combining comedy, commercial cinematography, and all around Americanisms, this is a joy to watch, as it is both quite unique within the slasher genre, and entertaining too.

Marvel’s Captain Marvel (2019) directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, is about the titular superhero (the gorgeous Brie Larson), who as she finds her own powers has to fight her ex-trainer and super-villain Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) and a horde of evil green aliens that resemble Nosferatu the vampire. Set for the most part in the 1990s, this is full of fun references to that decade, both technological (I really didn’t miss the computers of that era) and cultural (I really missed Garbage and Nine Inch Nails). The film’s build-up is very slow and boring, but the ending is quite satisfying. Oh, and Samuel L. Jackson is in it for a lot of its running time, instead of doing just his usual cameo.

Master of the Flying Guillotine (1976)
And when I get bored by the mainstream stuff I catch up with (on those rare occasions that I do catch up with them, that is), I quickly resort back to exploitation favorites, and this time my relief was found in writer/director Jimmy Wang Yu’s unsurpassable Master of the Flying Guillotine (1976), a masterwork of martial arts, featuring a flying guillotine master against an one-armed boxer! This is grindhouse gold, and you should watch it immediately, in the unlikely case that you have not already done so.

And finally, I enriched my bookshelf with the following books…

Roberto Curti’s Riccardo Freda: The Life and Works of a Born Filmmaker (2017, McFarland) is an excellent and lengthy study of the Italian genre film maestro’s life and career, taking us from film to film and featuring critical analysis as well as interview excerpts from interviews with several of the master’s collaborators. Although I am not a big fan of Freda’s work (I only enjoy an occasional title of his, or two), Curti’s book is the definite authority on the subject, it leaves no stone unturned, and as such it should not be missed.

Roberto Curti’s Mavericks of Italian Cinema: Eight Unorthodox Filmmakers, 1940s – 2000s (2018, McFarland), is featuring eight essays on as many obscure filmmakers, including Pier Carpi, Alberto Cavallone, Riccardo Ghione, Giulio Questi, Brunello Rondi, Paolo Spinola, Augusto Tretti, and Nello Vegezzi. Packed with information, but also maintaining an entertaining narrative throughout, this is the acclaimed author’s best work to date, and will remain so until he tops it with his next volume.

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