To some degree, it feels like all of pop culture is still in full recovery mode post-Infinity War, which might be why May seemed like a bit of a dead month to me. Sure, we got Deadpool 2 and Solo, and those who don’t go in for comic book material had Overboard, Life of the Party, and Book Club to enjoy. Plus, May seems to have been when everyone finally switched over to BBC America’s amazing Killing Eve, and if you are someone who still watches normal broadcast and cable TV May was probably a time of a lot of season finales for you. But it’s June as I am writing this and people are still obsessing over Infinity War and Avengers 4 theories while the world has already declared Solo a lost cause.
In truth, though, May 2018 is always going to be the time when I went to the Texas Frightmare Convention in Dallas. Between catching several panels, including a Child’s Play reunion, to picking up the House II Blu-Ray from Arrow Video to meeting the Shock Waves podcast people to taking in several truly crazy old horror movies (ever heard of Shocking Dark?), Texas Frightmare was my clear pop culture highlight of the month.
Here’s everything I liked last month:
- Tully – “Every time Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman get together they make a movie about growing up – Juno’s about growing up too fast, Young Adult about waiting too long to grow up. Now, Tully tackles how to accept adulthood and say goodbye to who you used to be, for better and for worse. It might just be their best and most mature effort yet.”
- Deadpool 2 – The X-Force sequence alone is one of the best things I’ve seen in any movie this year. So sad that this is to be the end of Fox and Ryan Reynold’s ingenious marketing stunts, but, come on, who are we kidding? They’ll probably get back to it soon enough because no Deadpool movie ever dies, not when Reynolds is forever keeping up the act on social media.
- The Child’s Play Franchise – After attending the Child’s Play reunion panel at Texas Frightmare, I picked up a box set and re-watched every film through Seed of Chucky, stopping there since I watched the two newer films (Curse and Cult) on Netflix just two months ago. I went into the marathon remembering loving Child’s Play 3 and Bride of Chucky, liking Child’s Play and Child’s Play 2, and hating Seed of Chucky, and that’s based off of having only ever seen all of those movies once or twice before. For whatever reason, this has never been a franchise I paid much attention to. Upon rewatch, it was interesting to see how much of the first film is a mystery/police drama as opposed to horror, and how I failed to notice the first time around that the new kid in Child’s Play 3 is clearly way too old to still be playing with dolls. Also, there are parts of Seed of Chucky that actually spark with an inspired satirical edge. Of course, then there’s Chucky driving Britney Spears off the side of a road. So, it’s not like my opinion of the film has radically changed. It’s more I moved from hating it to thinking “eh, it doesn’t completely suck.” Still, the absolute highlight of the franchise remains Bride of Chucky.
- Dolls – My Child’s Play re-watch brought me to an old review which mentioned Stuart Gordon Dolls as a film which had done something similar to the original Child’s Play a year earlier. Luckily, Vudu had Dolls as a free-to-watch-with-commercials option last month. Turns out, Dolls does hit some of the same territory as Child’s Play – an innocent child no one believes, ankle-level point of view shots for the killer playthings, etc. However, Dolls is a completely different beast. Filmed in Italy around the same time as Gordon’s Re-Animator follow-up From Beyond, Dolls is more of a gateway horror comedy with haunted house and fairy tale elements. A collection of people traveling through the English countryside end up sheltering from a thunderstone in a gothic mansion belonging to two elderly toymakers. Except, of course, they’re more magical than simple craftsmen, and the dolls throughout the mansion are all alive. Once people start dying, the film gets a lot of mileage out of pairing the innocent little girl with a screeching manchild. He is spared from death at one point because the dolls, who have a rule against harming children, can’t tell if he’s an adult or a child in disguise. I loved that joke and just about everything else in Dolls.
- Everything I Saw at Texas Frightmare – This includes a rare Texas-made horror anthology movie called Tabloid, Takashi Miike’s characteristically bonkers As the Gods Will, a completely shameless Italian Aliens/Terminator rip-off called Shocking Dark, and the world premiere of an enjoyably terrible horror movie, starring Mischa Barton and Denise Richards, about a haunted RV.
- Killing Eve – Phoebe Waller-Bridge…really, after Fleabag, that’s all I need to say. Whatever she’s in (like Solo) or whatever she writes for other people to be in, I’m interested. Killing Eve is like her own Mindhunters, except instead of Fincher somberness she sprinkles her tale of a female assassin and the woman hunting her with unexpected humor, recognizably human and thus flawed people, and a killer soundtrack of vintage Europop. Sandra Oh is, of course, fantastic as the titular Eve, but it is Jodie Comer I found to be the true revelation as Villanelle, the bored, sociopathic assassin who finds Eve’s pursuit of her invigorating. This is my first exposure to Comer, and I imagine blockbuster roles await her, much as Waller-Bridge herself leveraged Fleabag into Solo.
- The Terror – A haunting, bleak ending for a truly haunting and bleak series. From the get-go, we knew everyone was probably going to die. This is based on a real historical mystery with no survivors, after all. Still, saying goodbye to Dr. Goodsir was a bigger gut punch than I expected.
- Arrested Development – The season 4 remix and first 8 episodes of season 5 are, for better or worse, a flashback to 2006 and the days when this was a sitcom virtually unrivaled by anything else on TV. The sense that the show is a little far up its own ass (Ron Howard should NOT be a character in the show) is a bit harder to avoid, though.
- Westworld – At times, I wish Jonathan and Lisa Joy Nolan would be a bit more okay with simply making something purely entertaining as opposed to a complex puzzle box which aims to make grand statements about the nature of humanity, master/slave dynamics, gender politics, and the moment of self-actualization. But, damn, their ambition, filmmaking, and eye-popping production values has my rapt attention, even if I didn’t quite care as much about the Shogun World stuff as everyone else.
- James Cameron’s Story of Science Fiction – Yes, there’s plenty of thoughtful reflection on the history and future of science fiction, and talking heads, ranging from filmmakers and actors to journalists and podcasters like Amy Nicholson, offer often quite insightful analysis and reflection. That’s all fine and good, but what I most enjoy about this show is the sometimes cringe worthiness of James Cameron’s interviews and the annoyed, but patient looks it inspires on the faces of people like Steven Spielberg and Christopher Nolan. Like any William Shatner-directed documentary, the Cameron interviews are often more about him than the people he’s interviewing, leading Arnold Schwarzenegger to respond to one of Cameron’s overly detailed question about time travel with a laugh and a “I’m sure you will figure it out for me.” Of course, Cameron stages the interviews more as conversations between filmmakers than traditional Q&A sessions, but the sight of the “I’m the king of the world!” man often finishing people’s sentences for them or interjecting is great cringe-entertainment.
Honestly, I was boring with my podcast listening in that I kept listening to all the shows I like. That leaves me with little to highlight that I haven’t previously praised in one of these types of articles. So, I will simply say that We Hate Movies, Shock Waves, and Pod Save America continue to deliver solid work.
Deadpool Vs. Thanos – A 2015 team-up book from writer Tim Seeley. I picked it up for cheap during Deadpool 2’s opening weekend when any Deadpool-related comic book was on discount. It’s also on Marvel Unlimited, btw, and it’s exactly as entertaining as you’d expect from such a perfectly matched pair of opposites. Still giggling a little over Thanos interjecting during one of Deadpool’s signature catchphrases to ask what exactly a chimichanga is.