(AMC+/hoopla/kanopy/peacock/tubi/etc.) TRIANGLE is a sort of THE PHILADELPHIA EXPERIMENT meets TIMECRIMES horror-thriller that’s tautly and expertly woven by SEVERANCE (2006) writer/director Christopher Smith. It features Melissa George (best known by me via her time on ALIAS but she was also a lead in 30 DAYS OF NIGHT), and really, that’s all you need to know.
There’s a lot to unpack about the final season of BETTER CALL SAUL, so much so that one can almost forget about the foundation of the character of Saul Goodman and his issues with his brother, one of the best slow-burns I’ve ever seen on TV.
However, I want to call attention to one facet that I haven’t read much about: Kim’s shift. Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) was always the heart and soul of the show, a brilliant workaholic who always wanted to do good, but was often drawn towards the thrill of darker places, towards the power she could enact through her smarts and her voice and brazen, bold blonde ponytail.
However, at the end of the series she goes brunette, trades her signature ponytail for bangs, and is now in a relationship with the most milquetoast dude in the world. That’s not the worst of it, though: she has relinquished command of her voice.
“I don’t know?”
Past Kim was always declarative, decisive, but after seeing what her voice had wrought — the inadvertent death of Howard — she obviously made a conscious decision to stop using her coercive powers. Instead, she mutters indecisively or stuffs bland tuna fish sandwiches into her mouth. She even re-edits her own dull ad-copy on the website of the sprinkler supply company website she oversees.
What I have always loved about Kim is: she’s smart. She’s far smarter than Jimmy/Saul. Jimmy was the clever enabler, the slick man that made it fun for her to do bad things, and she finds that she -loves- to manipulate, loves toying with people, especially those she’s felt wronged by (and by simply being a woman in America, that list is very long).
By the end of BETTER CALL SAUL, we see her afraid of her own voice, her potential, her command, afraid of what she has wrought, afraid of what she’s capable of. She feels guilt, shame, but is still restless. We finally see her volunteer at a local legal non-profit, silently shuffling papers, a bit of a callback to her prior legal work. We see her telling her story, the events that lead to Howard’s death, through printed words, entirely unspoken but plain on the page.
Kim gets it. At the end of the day, it’s all about communication. And she checks out of it and checks into a life that doesn’t require it, for better or for worse.
DIETLAND was a one-season wonder from Marti Noxon (BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, MAD MEN, UNREAL) based on Sarai Walker’s novel. The show was canceled too soon, but was one hell of a ride, something that starts as DEVIL WEARS PRADA that turns into a woman-focused FIGHT CLUB.
DIETLAND is unabashedly about fashion-and-capitalism, faux-feminism and body positivity and faith and, while it’s uniquely about women, it wildly resonates.
I would have loved to have seen a second season, as I’m sure it would have been absolutely bonkers in all the right ways, and certainly take place in the future, but I’m happy that there’s at least one season.
As previously noted, my wife and I have a tradition where I draft up a selection of horror films for Halloween viewing, and she picks one from each group: Contemporary, Classic, and Cult, and I thought I’d share my suggestions this year. Today features cult horror films, and mostly features the exact text I sent her. And yes, I know, defining what is horror and what is considered ‘cult’ horror is like splitting hairs, but rule of three, folks!
Again, apologies for leaning on prior works. Again, Halloween weekend! I have other terrors to read, watch, and write!
HELLO MARY LOU: PROM NIGHT II (1987, AMC+/hoopla/peacock/Shudder/tubi/VOD/Vudu) or PROM NIGHT III: THE LAST KISS (1990, YouTube)
Previously suggested. “The first PROM NIGHT is fine, but mostly remembered because of how bare Jamie Lee Curtis gets, and for riffing on CARRIE. PROM NIGHT II twists the first film’s premise and goes for broke — also, a rare woman supernatural slasher, and they were clearly hoping some of NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET would rub off on the film — and PROM NIGHT III turns the franchise into an amazing, albeit often puerile, horror-comedy. They’re both very entertaining and smart in their own ways.”
PROM NIGHT II trailer:
PROM NIGHT III trailer:
Shh, don’t tell anyone but, as it’s practically impossible to stream a legal version, here you are:
A Joe Dante (GREMLINS, INNERSPACE) work, which means warm-hearted love for misfit youths and being scared by B-movies, while still having a subversive political voice and viewpoint. It was one of the first post-lockdown films I saw at the Music Box, but it’s endlessly re-watchable.
(Editor’s note: I cheated a bit here, as I normally would consider this contemporary and not cult, although I fully believe it’s destined to become a cult film. I also lifted most of it for my write-up.)
This one really surprised me: it’s a darkly comic fusion of THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME with Christie’s AND THEN THERE WERE NONE, with an amazing cast that includes Andie MacDowell, Samara Weaving (Thea, from BILL AND TED FACE THE MUSIC), Adam Brody (probably don’t need to write this but: from THE OC, JENNIFER’S BODY, GILMORE GIRLS), Melanie Scrofano (Wynonna in WYNONNA EARP), and Kristian Bruun (Donnie from ORPHAN BLACK). It’s a surprisingly well-executed film. I recently happened upon a promotional READY OR NOT shirt I received for the film when I left a 24-hour film fest early last year, and opted to keep it as a nostalgia shirt, sitting alongside my BLAIR WITCH PROJECT shirt.
Even though I don’t believe in spoilers, I would stop the trailer after the first minute. There are a ton of fun surprises in the film that work great with the trailer, but even better if you experience them in the film itself.
(AMC+/Shudder/tubi/VOD/Vudu) An intriguingly economical Canadian thriller from Zach Gayne. For once, I’m going to use the official description (with a few tweaks) because too many details might spoil some of the fun: “Middle-aged Linda (Precious Chong) befriends youthful Michelle (Alex Essoe), but one becomes obsessed with the other.”
The script was penned by Gayne, as well as the two leads (Chong and Essoe). It has a charismatic verve to it that I can’t help but appreciate, and while you may suss out the ending before the film expects you, it’s still a wild ride.
(AMC+/DirecTV/Shudder/VOD) This is the second in a three-part series of recommendations regarding films about Mary Shelley. Unlike MARY SHELLEY, A NIGHTMARE WAKES is far more about Mary writing FRANKENSTEIN, often through surreal vignettes, although first-time feature writer/director Nora Unkel also focuses on Mary’s tragic pregnancies and miscarriages. Unsurprisingly, the act of writing FRANKENSTEIN is rather bluntly portrayed in a way that may feel obvious, but works within the context of the film.
I was lukewarm about this take on Mary Shelley when I first watched it. It seemed rather reductive, and the plotting and visuals — especially the color timing — felt heavy-handed. However, after watching MARY SHELLEY, I saw them as two sides of the same coin. Each film neglects certain facets of her life, while highlighting what each filmmaker wanted to extoll and/or examine. Mary Shelley is a fascinating figure in that you can piece together her life in a myriad of ways; one can practically stitch together any narrative you want from her life. Consequently, it is far more telling about the writer/director than about Mary Shelley herself, and often about using the back-story of a person as a springboard for further social and cultural scrutiny.
I feel the ‘biopic’ label is one that viewers ascribe to films when they know it’s based on someone’s life, regardless of whether the film or work is intended as such; viewers often expect it to hew as close to reality and historic facts as possible. That’s not necessarily the case. I can understand some folks feeling ‘betrayed’ when the persona presented doesn’t align, and there are definitely moral quandaries that come with misrepresenting one’s life to tell your own tale.* However: these auteurs are adapting pre-existing works, except that the pre-existing work is someone’s life story.
I’d love to write more about similar extrapolations regarding recreating people’s lives and events (for another recent example, see: ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI… — no one knows exactly what went down when Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Sam Cooke, and Jim Brown met that night), whether this sort of personal pseudo-non-fiction is fan-fiction, the history of this sort of narrative handling, and how folks react differently to fictional portrayals of real people depending on the medium, but instead I’ll post a link to the A NIGHTMARE WAKES trailer:
“I feel like it’s a story. My story.”
I am not a Mary Shelley scholar — I only know the basics of her life — so I can’t speak as to whether MARY SHELLEY or A NIGHTMARE WAKES betrayed her. I’ll note that I did previously recommend SHIRLEY, which I initially believed to willfully misrepresent Shirley Jackson’s life to tell another’s tale. However, I believe I was guilty of assuming the film would play by traditional biopic rules, and not be its own work, and later on ‘rediscovered’ the film regarding its intent.
(AMC+/VOD)? This is the first in a three-part series of recommendations regarding films about Mary Shelley.
At this point, I’ve seen more films about Mary Shelley than I’ve seen FRANKENSTEIN adaptations. That makes sense though, as Mary Shelley is endlessly fascinating. This take on her life is from Haifaa Al-Mansour (WADJDA, and the previously recommended THE PERFECT CANDIDATE) and starts off surprisingly early in Mary’s life, before she meets Percy, immediately giving Mary her own autonomy.
I’m sure many have their image of what they expect for someone portraying Mary Shelley, but I don’t, and I have no qualms with Elle Fanning’s portrayal. It’s sharp, and Fanning exudes a haunted quality, and how she darts her eyes in specific scenes plays rather effectively.
Al-Mansour rightfully leans on how much of a dick Percy (Douglas Booth) is — especially concerning his constant bullying about having an open relationship — but she also casts Mary’s stepsister Claire (Bel Powley) in a rather unglamorous light, portraying her as a foolish girl who latches onto Mary and simply won’t let go until she latches onto Lord Byron (Tom Sturridge). In short, this is less a piece about Mary Shelley writing FRANKENSTEIN and more about Mary herself, and it’s a welcome relief.
While the majority of the film is finely executed, the end narratively dodges quite a bit in order to squarely land something resembling an uplifting ending. While it doesn’t feel entirely disingenuous, it does feel far too neat.
“There is always another way. And when we make such choices, there are inevitably consequences.”
(AMC+/Shudder/VOD) Back when I recommended 12 HOUR SHIFT last month, I mentioned that writer/director Brea Grant was one of the hardest working people in genre film, and here she is starring in a screenplay she wrote, one of the rawest psychological thrillers I’ve seen in some time. Here she and director Natasha Kermani seem to be channeling Charlie Kaufmann or Repulsion-era Roman Polanski in the best way possible, as this is one very surreal exploration of assault and victimhood. It’s a shockingly original film that makes the most of exploiting slasher tropes, and I can’t wait to see what Grant does next.
If I have one quibble, one complaint about the film, it’s that no author signs the slipcover of a book and, every time I witness it via the trailer or in the film, it’s like nails on a chalkboard. (I fully realize they had her sign the slipcover because this allowed them to only have to print up slipcovers, rather than fake the innards of a book, but it still irks me!)
(AMC+/fubo/VOD) RECTIFY is leaving Netflix on March 3rd, when I imagine it’ll pop up on AMC+, so you have less than a week to watch this heartfelt exploration of a man — Daniel Holden (Aden Young) — found guilty of killing a girl, sentenced to death, acquitted of murder, and his re-entry into society.
Rather than RECTIFY being about society re-embracing him, it darts the other way. This is not about whether Daniel Holden is guilty, but is about him trying to find peace with his community, family (including TIMELESS’ Abigail Spencer), and himself. It’s a singularly human drama from DEADWOOD’s Ray McKinnon that had a surprisingly long life thanks to the Sundance Channel, and is well-worth making time for before it leaves Netflix.