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December 1, 2019

Static Age #7

Carl Kolchak (Darren McGavin) in a frame from Kolchak: The Night Stalker (1974 - 1975)
This Static Age is focusing on Kolchak: The Night Stalker (1974 – 1975) which lasted for one season only and 20 episodes in total. It continues the story of the two well-known TV-movies that became a phenomenon and bears the same aesthetics. Carl Kolchak (Darren McGavin, who played the same character in the movies as well) is a reporter who investigates a series of crimes or events in Chicago that may be or may be not supernatural. The only issue I have with the series is that in most episodes the conclusion is lasting for only a few seconds, and you may miss something if you blink; but that was a common thing in television series back then anyway.

The first episode, called ‘The Ripper’, is pretty much a rehash of the first film, but this should be expected as viewers that had not seen the films would have wanted a bit of familiarizing. ‘The Zombie’ is about voodoo and the resurrection of the dead, although the most jaw-dropping scene is the one in which the protagonist puts a female reporter in the trunk of his car, in order to get rid of her after the suggestion of a police officer; man, the 1970s were weird. ‘They Have Been, They Are, They Will Be…’ is a very clever episode about a series of murders of both humans and animals whose bone marrow is missing, what could possibly be the connection between those hideous crimes and a series of metal deposits thefts by an invisible force? ‘The Vampire’ is an excellent episode about a super strong female vampire. ‘The Werewolf’ is set on a ship and it is about a – you guessed it – werewolf that causes mayhem for no apparent reason; Paul Naschy would be proud. ‘Firefall’ is about the ghost of a gangster that has a taste for classical music and a series of bizarre explosions that trouble the protagonist. ‘The Devil’s Platform’ is about a dog that is involved in a political conspiracy that includes several suspicious explosions (and maybe a bit of good old-fashioned Satanism). ‘Bad Medicine’ is a really boring episode about a Native American that can turn into a crow, and the connection he may have with some stolen diamonds. ‘The Spanish Moss Murders’ is about a sleep clinic that accidentally unleashed a Cajun monster that lurks in Chicago’s wells. ‘The Energy Eater’ is about the eponymous ghost that feeds on the energy of a hospital that was built upon its grave. ‘Horror in the Heights’ is about swastikas that mysteriously appeared in the walls of a Jewish neighborhood, while its streets are terrorized by a demon that can be transformed into your most-trusted person. ‘Mr. R.I.N.G.’ is about an A.I. anthropomorphic robot that is malfunctioning and quite accidentally kills people. ‘Primal Scream’ is about an ape that goes into a killing spree. ‘The Trevi Collection’ is about a series of murders that are happening in the fashion world (it was so fashionable back then anyway) that may be connected to witchcraft. ‘Chopper’ is about a headless biker ghost that is beheading its victims with a sword! ‘Demon in Lace’ is a particularly scary episode about a succubus. ‘Legacy of Terror’ is about a bunch of Aztecs that remove the hearts of their victims. ‘The Knightly Murders’ is about a medieval museum that when it is about to be turned into a discothèque, a knight is resurrected and kills people. ‘The Youth Killer’ is about a lady that sacrifices people to ancient Greek gods in order to stay young and beautiful. The final episode, ‘The Sentry’, is one of the best, and it is about a human-sized reptile monster that is killing construction workers in a miles-long underground tunnel site.

And now, let’s switch our focus towards some recent shows…

Black Mirror - Season 5
The 5th season of renowned British series Black Mirror (2011 – ongoing) consists of 3 masterful episodes. ‘Striking Vipers’ is about two childhood friends that have moved on with their lives, until they meet again within an updated version of their favorite video game, in which instead of fighting they discover their sexuality, that is being gay and having an attraction for each other. ‘Smithereens’ is about a bitter man (that is high in intelligence and low on income), that kidnaps a man, but it will take a while for the authorities to figure out his motives. ‘Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too’ is about pop star Ashley O (the gorgeous, real-life pop star Miley Cyrus) and her evil aunt that controls her life and career via the aid of pills and manipulation, but it is also about fandom and how it can save the people it worships. Highly recommended.

Genny Savastano (Salvatore Esposito) in Gomorrah
The 4th season of Gomorrah (2014 – ongoing) continues from where the last one ended, with Genny Savastano (Salvatore Esposito) mourning the death of his childhood friend Ciro and haunted by nightmares. Additionally, with pretty much all the older crime bosses dead as well, the landscape of power and control in Naples and its provinces will change, with Genny’s messenger Patrizia (Cristiana Dell’Anna) now appointed the head of his businesses, while help from the gangster’s broader family will be sought; that is, in order for the crime boss to purse more high profile projects, such as the construction of an airport and other endeavors that require influence in the Italian government. Italy’s ultra-successful series continues its drama of backstabbing and murder, proving that the illicit businessmen are no different at all to employees of a company that try to put each other down if only to merely win a little more money, and the only reason we don’t get to sympathize with the gangsters, is because we – the civilians – are as much terrible human beings as they are. Combining art-house sensibilities and the practicality of the television format, this is a unique experience that is highly recommended to all fans of the genre.

Set in a world where superheroes are a commodity, generating millions from appearing in movies and saving the world in general, the 1st season of The Boys (2019 – ongoing) is about store clerk Hughie Campbell (Jack Quaid) who lost the love of his life by one of the costume-wearing freaks. He is approached by mystery man and overall tough guy Billy Butcher (Karl Urban) who wants to take down the Supes and have them pay for all the collateral damage they cause and expose the life of excess that they live in secret. After so much superhero mythology from Marvel and DC and the billions they made for the film industry, it was inevitable that something like this would get made, namely a high profile comedy with glorious special effects and splatter. What’s more, the soundtrack employs classics such as ‘Neat, Neat, Neat’ by The Damned, and ‘Cherry Bomb’ by The Runaways. It is fun, and maybe more so than many of the myriad brand superhero series that are out there right now. Simon Pegg plays the protagonist’s father.

Iron Fist - Season 2
Set in New York, the 2nd (and thankfully final) season of Marvel’s Iron Fist (2017 – 2018) is only barely better than the previous one and it finds the eponymous superhero, battling Chinese organized criminals, as well as the scum that have taken over his father’s company, while employing martial arts and his superpowers. The main arch villain is Davos (Sacha Dhawan), essentially another iron fisted (a double one at that) warrior with whom the protagonist was affiliated in the past. A strong contester for becoming Netflix worst series ever.

In the 5th season of Peaky Blinders (2013 – ongoing) the titular gang’s head, Thomas Shelby (Cillian Murphy) doubts himself in regards of his power and control, and goes as far as having suicidal thoughts. Taking place amidst the Wall Street Clash and the impact this has, the Black Country criminals get involved with politics (taking a socialist stance in particular, of all things), but their problems come in the form of Billy Boys, a Scottish gang of criminals that is known for backing up fascists, as well as putting their dead enemies on a cross. The series, taking the approach that tells us that the other gangsters are worse than the protagonist ones creates the expected interesting dramaturgy, but not much else. So, will the good bad guys win the baddie bad guys this time around? On a final note, the soundtrack is excellent as always, and aside of the title song (Nick Cave and the Bad Seed’s ‘Red Right Hand’), it also includes Black Sabbath’s ‘Planet Caravan’.

And finally, please allow me to speak a word or two about some recent mainstream films…

Dark Phoenix (2019)
Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) develops unmatchable powers and becomes the titular menace in Marvel’s Dark Phoenix (2019), and it is now up to the X-Men, and Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) in particular, to control her before she becomes a greater danger to herself and others. This is nowhere near as bad as mainstream reviewers wanted you to believe it is, and it is quite unfair that it didn’t do well at the box-office (it grossed $252.4 million, on a $200 million budget), because in reality it is an excellent superhero drama that is very often enjoyable too. Sure, the special effects are the standard stuff you expect from this sort of thing and they had me thinking that they could have been achieved by any of Marvel’s TV series on half the budget the present film had, but what we have here is still above average.

Distributed by Blumhouse, The Gallows (2015) is awful, but clocking at 80 minutes (including end credits) it is short enough to not become a torturous experience. An introductory video lets us know that during a school play in 1993 tragedy ensued leaving one actor hanged. Fast forward to the present day (i.e. 2013), a bunch of students of the same school attempt to perform the same stage-play, and as it is to be expected by such fare, the consequences will be deadly. This employs the dreadful ‘found footage’ format, which is fine for 1 minute long Instagram videos (especially when the subject matter is cute cats or funny dogs), but it is simply way too boring when it is stretched to feature length. I really don’t understand how this blending of conventional narrative with amateur video aesthetics could appeal to anybody, but what do I know, as the film grossed $43 million on a $100,000 budget, which means that – you guessed it – a sequel is in the works. Maybe the best thing about it is the validation that happy endings are now passé.

Iron Sky: The Coming Race (2019)
A sequel to the same-titled film 2012, Iron Sky: The Coming Race (2019) is set twenty years later and after the near extinction of human kind which resulted to the inhabitation of a base in the moon that was previously under Nazi ownership. If you find plots about evil Nazis that were secretly refuging in the dark side of the moon (and why should you not, if you tend to like fare that is similar to the usual SyFy material), you may like this, but I couldn’t help myself thinking that all this massive budget (17 million euros – the film does indeed look like a super-production) was wasted on crap like this. The best thing about it is Udo Kier, playing once again a German.

Happily married couple of successful professionals Scott (Michael Ealy) and Annie (Meagan Good) buy a house from Charlie Peck (Dennis Quaid), in The Intruder (2019), but the problem is that the seller has a sketchy past and will not let go of his house at any cost, even if this means murder. Although it is actually well-cast, this standard thriller is laughable at times (the plot is often unbelievable) and the end result is nearly unwatchable.

Ma (2019) poster
The titular middle-aged lady (Octavia Spencer) in Blumhouse Productions’ Ma (2019) lures a bunch of teenagers from the local high school to party at her house, but it soon becomes apparent that her motives are not that innocent. Inducting discussion about bullying and its consequences as well as being left out and the desire to fit in, this horror film is both intelligent and entertaining. Plus it stars Diana Silvers (quite possibly her generation’s cutest girl) and Juliette Lewis (actually her generation’s hottest woman). Made on a modest budget of $5 million, this proved a winner at the box-office as it went on to gross $60.6 million.

Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) poster
The titular superhero (Tom Holland, excellently cast, despite complaints by many fans) of Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) travels to Europe, where he will fight with (at first) and against (finally) Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal), assisted of course by the ever-knowledgeable Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). This is tedious at times (at over 2 hours long it is oftentimes boring) but the fights are Marvel-ous and they feature the best CGI money can buy, which only makes sense when your budget is $160 million.

Crawl (2019) poster
Ultimately though, the coolest film of the year is Crawl (2019), which is set in Florida, amidst a Category 5 hurricane. The story is focusing on Haley (a very gorgeous Kaya Scodelario), who ignores the police’s orders and goes on a mission to save her estranged father Dave (Barry Pepper); the duo will join forces in order to fight against the many hungry alligators. Produced by Alexandre Aja (who also directed), Sam Raimi (no introduction needed), and Craig J. Flores, this is expectedly full of impressive visuals, but what was not expected was that a little ‘nature attacks’ horror flick that cost $13.5 million to make, would gross $88.5 million! If you fancy crocodile movies, you really can’t find anything better these days, and the crocodiles do indeed look amazing here.

There really is no plot to speak of in writer/director Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood (2019), which is essentially a movie about 1969 (a setting) and not much else. However, the cast is great (Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Dakota Fanning, Bruce Dern, Al Pacino, Michael Madsen, and so many others) and the overall aesthetics employed are so pleasing, that you can’t take your eyes of it for its two and a half hours. The ending is bananas as well.

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