Lazy Sunday XCVI: More Movies: Movie Reviews, Part I

Way back in “Lazy Sunday LVI: Movies” I looked back on some movie reviews and posts analyzing movies.  That was long before I began Monday Morning Movie Reviews as a semi-regular feature on the blog.

Since then, I’ve dedicated more of the blog to discussing culture, especially music.  I’ve also written more about films and the cinema.  Even with large theater chains still closed and film-viewing shifting increasingly to streaming services, movies are still a powerful way to convey ideas and to shape cultural attitudes.  Indeed, I think the importance of film has only increased in The Age of The Virus, as we’re able to consume more and more of it in quarantine.  That our political elites have essentially recommended we just sit around watching television as some heroic form of self-sacrifice is suggestive—of what, I’m not sure, but it can’t be good!

Regardless, during this quieter, slower season, I thought it’d be fun to look back at some Monday Movie Reviews (to be be fare, not all of these were published on Mondays or in the morning, but they’re still movie review!—one out of three ain’t bad, to very loosely paraphrase Meat Loaf).

Here are three for your enjoyment:

  • Monday Movie Review: The Empire Strikes Back” – Seeing The Empire Strikes Back (1980) on the big screen reminded me powerfully just how great Star Wars used to be before the new trilogy ruined it with SJW nonsense and incompetent direction.  Empire is widely regarded as the best entry in the history of Star Wars films for a reason.
  • Morning Movie Review: Brazil (1985)” – This one had been on my RedBox wish list for some time, and I finally rented it on-demand back in October.  It’s a great, dreamlike flick about an excessively bureaucratic dystopia.  Brazil captures the thousand tiny tyrannies of bureaucratization beautifully—and scarily.  That we’re heading down a road towards mandatory vaccination passports and ever-growing globalist conglomerates suggests we haven’t learned the lessons of Brazil.
  • Movie Review: The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (1976)” – I stumbled upon this flick on Hulu, and it was one of those rare gems among the garbage that streaming service typically serves up (and yet, I continue to pay my $2.15 every month for the pleasure of streaming terrible horror movies and Bob’s Burgers).  It stars a very young Jodie Foster as a young teenager living completely on her own in a hostile New England town, attempting to avoid Martin Sheen’s inappropriate advances.  The film is a bit of a thriller, but also an endearing coming-of-age story in which the young Rynn—Foster’s character—learns that life isn’t meant to be lived alone.  As I wrote in the review, “It’s a lost gem, one worth unearthing.”

That’s it for this weekend.  Happy Sunday—and Happy Viewing!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

food snack popcorn movie theater

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SubscribeStar Saturday: Hammer Films II: Universal Horror Films, Part I

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Last April I wrote a detailed review (preview) of the Hammer Films Collection.  I’m currently making my way through Volume II of the collection, both of which feature Hammer Studios films that Columbia Pictures distributed.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to complete the second volume in time to review it today, but I will do so in a couple of weeks.  However, Christmas brought a bumper crop of films from the famous Hammer Studios, including a collection of four Dracula films distributed by Warner Brothers and an eight-film compilation of Universal Studios horror flicks.

I’ll be reviewing the first four films on the Universal Studios-distributed collection, The Hammer Horror Series, and reviewing the second four next Saturday. At the time of writing, the collection is only $17.21 on Amazon for the DVD ($34.99 for the Blu-Ray edition); at that price, I’d definitely recommend picking it up to enjoy these flicks yourself.

The collection includes eight films in total:  Brides of DraculaThe Curse of the WerewolfThe Phantom of the OperaParanoiacThe Kiss of the VampireNightmareNight Creatures, and The Evil of Frankenstein.  Today I’ll be reviewing Brides of DraculaThe Curse of the WerewolfThe Phantom of the Opera, and Paranoiac.

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Mississippi Meanderings

At the tail end of 2020—and into the New Year—I visited the small town of Lucedale, Mississippi, to meet my girlfriend’s family.  I flew in last Wednesday and we drove back Saturday.

I’ve driven through Mississippi before, and was in Jackson a couple of years ago for a friend’s wedding.  This time I was much further south, as Lucedale—located in George County—is very close to the Gulf Coast, and about fifty minutes from Mobile, Alabama.  It reminded me a great deal of my dear South Carolina—pine trees and deciduous forests; ample farmland; small, rural communities flung across open land between larger municipalities.  In many ways, it felt like my home, just with small regional variations.

For example, my girlfriend’s family eats black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day, like any good Southerner does (for them, the black-eyed peas represent good luck; for us, they represent pennies and wealth), but instead of collard greens (also for wealth—they’re the dollars), they ate coleslaw.  I suspect that’s because none of her family liked collard greens, but the difference goes further:  my girlfriend’s father had never heard of Hoppin’ John.  For my Yankee readers, Hoppin’ John is a mixture usually consisting of black-eyed peas, tomatoes, and okra, and served over white rice.  It’s good.

Other than a world without Hoppin’ John, Mississippi also had some local chains I’d never heard of before.  My girlfriend’s mother kept raving about Dirt Cheap, which I think is like a Lowe’s-meets-Ollie’s that sells mostly “dirt cheap” home improvement supplies.  There’s also a regional chain called Foosackly’s, which is essentially a smaller-scale Zaxby’s with clever advertising and a hilariously bizarre name.  My girlfriend quickly became annoyed with my fascination with this obscure chicken joint.

One highlight of the trip was building a fire with my girlfriend’s dad.  He is a man of few words, clad in suspenders, and incredibly resourceful—he maintains much of their land himself, and has built several sheds and garages.  He also has added to their home, which has been in the family at least two generations, and will stay there (his mantra:  “never sell land”).

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TBT: The Worst of 2019

Well, 2020 is, after today, in the books, and we can breathe a collective sigh of relief.  Of course, all the problems of 31 December 2020 will still be there tomorrow when we wake up to 1 January 2021, but there is some optimism that an arbitrary flip of the calendar based on the Earth’s rotation around the Sun will set us up for a better calendar year.  With Biden the Usurper assuming the throne in twenty-one days, I don’t share in that optimism, but I’m looking forward to a music- and art-filled 2021 nonetheless.

At the end of 2019, I painstakingly went through the stats to find all the posts I’d written with just one view in 2019—the ultimate reminder to be humble, and to not expect huge pageviews right away.  I imagine that some of these were read in e-mails sent to followers, so I don’t get pageview counts for those, but that means the number of eyeballs reading these posts was depressingly low.

Of course, it being a Thursday, I pretty much have to give myself the easy way out and feature a TBT, so why not look back at the failures of a prior year?  And, in the spirit of yuletide wealth redistribution, maybe we can show these posts some holiday love.

Here is 31 December 2019’s “The Worst of 2019“:

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SubscribeStar Saturday: End-of-Year Reflections 2020

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It’s hard to believe that another year is in the books—and what a wild year it was.  In keeping with last year’s “End-of-Decade Reflections” (subscriber link), I decided to reflect again on the swiftly expiring year.

Indeed, technically 2020 is the last year of the long Teens decade, with 2021 marking the beginning of the 2020s, just as 2001, not the year 2000, is the first year of our current century and millennium.  But no one thinks about it that way, so I did end-of-decade reflections last year.  My post this year will take a more humble scope and just focus on the year 2020 itself, not the ten preceding it.

Besides, 2020 has contained a decade’s worth of events inside its twelve months, as every Internet wag and memester has already noted.  There’s enough to consider in this year to fill up a SubscribeStar Saturday post:  distance learning, Universal Studio trips, teaching music, the challenges to indie musicians, running for Town Council, etc.  The world—already a rapidly changing place—has changed substantially in just a few short months.

What to make of those changes is the real challenge going forward.  What happens next?

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TBT: O Little Town of Bethlehem and the Pressures of Songwriting

Christmas is looming large—a mere eight days away—and I have been enjoying an unexpectedly quiet exam week.  After returning from Orlando Monday evening, I’ve enjoyed some sleepily productive time at home, writing Christmas postcards and letters, watching movies, and enjoying the warm glow of my Christmas tree.  I’ll be spending next week with family, and all the hustle and bustle of my niece and nephews, so this quiet time at home has been a welcome calm before the joyous storm.

Despite the lack of serious deadlines (other than waiting for final exams to roll in so I can grade them), I’ve managed to get quite a bit done, and I hope to get a bit ahead on the blog.  I enjoy writing daily posts, but it’s nice knowing I have a few posts squared away some days in advance, as it relieves some of the pressure to produce.  I’ll be doing more throwback posts and the like as Christmas approaches, as it’s the time of year when we’re all scaling back our efforts and taking a bit of a break.

That all goes to the point of this TBT post, “O Little Town of Bethlehem and the Pressures of Songwriting.”  The story behind the sweetly iconic carol is one of last-minute inspiration and hasty songwriting.  There is something about the intense pressure of a time-crunch that turns the coal of writer’s block into glistening diamonds.  Not every songwriter works this way, but I know for myself that a hard deadline does wonders for motivating this songwriter’s pen.

Indeed, during the height of distance learning in the spring, I fully anticipated I’d be churning out new hits, maybe even finalizing a long-delayed follow-up to my piano-and-vocals debut, Contest Winner – EP.  Instead, I squandered my newfound time (well, “squandered” is a strong word—I quite enjoyed taking that time to work on the blog, to travel, and to do the other things I’m usually unable to do).  Without a deadline pushing me to create, I didn’t get anything done!

Or maybe that’s just my excuse.  Regardless, I imagine it’s something many songwriters can relate to, and it’s certainly the story behind “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”

With that, here is December 2020’s “O Little Town of Bethlehem and the Pressures of Songwriting“:

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Universal Studios Trip No. 4

Against all odds, I recently took an unprecedented fourth trip to Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida this past weekend.  The occasion was visiting my girlfriend’s family, and to take advantage of an Orlando Informer meetup.

Apparently, Orlando Informer is a blog dedicated to the major theme parks in Orlando—Disney World, Universal Studios, Sea World, etc.—and various deals and special events in the parks.  In scrolling through their website on our trip, I found, for example, a post about a one-day-only Beetlejuice haunted house that Universal slapped together for Halloween (I was able to get to the other two, longer-running houses on my last trip).  For theme park enthusiasts, it seems like a great website.

The publication also organizes vacation packages, as well as twice annual “meetups,” special after-hour events that give guests extended park time and—and this one is huge—unlimited concessions.  We had passes for the 12 December 2020 meetup, which meant we could stay in the park until 1:30 AM.  Access with the passes began at 3 PM, so we used our Seasonal Passes to enjoy the park beforehand.

It truly made for an unforgettable—and long—park experience.  We hit Islands of Adventure around 9 AM Saturday morning, and did a long stretch there until we went to get our meetup passes (we did manage a late lunch at Mythos, a must-visit on any trip to Islands of Adventure).  As we were essentially in Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios for fifteen hours—essentially two park days—we managed to hit up almost everything we wanted to ride and see on Saturday (other than the ever-elusive Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, which is virtually impossible to get into via the Virtual Line feature).

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Monday Movie Review: Unhinged (2020)

I’ve been on the road this weekend to my fourth Universal Studios trip in the calendar year. I’ll be writing about that more tomorrow, but the time on the road reminded me of a flick I picked up on RedBox last week, Unhinged, starring Russell Crowe.

The movie’s premise is terrifyingly simple: a harried single mom, running late to get her son to school after being fired from her job for excessive tardiness, ticks off the wrong driver.  When a large truck fails to pull out from a green light, the mom lays on the horn and swerves around the distracted driver.  He then pursues her for the rest of the day, systematically killing her family and friends.

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