I tried writing a review for Alex Garland’s latest horror offering, “Men,” but I couldn’t formulate enough words to make a “feature-length” review possible. That’s what led me to this. I figured I’d write what I could about “Men,” and then some of the other movies (old and new) that I’ve watched recently.
Alex Garland has the right idea. The very concept of men is the beginning of a buzzworthy 21st-century horror movie. But Garland (whose first two films, “Ex Machina” and “Annihilation,” were both major successes) keeps making his movies more and more inaccessible. It began at the end of “Annihilation,” I guess. Elevated is one thing, but “Men” is esoteric. Don’t get me wrong, it is frequently either creepy or downright scary. But I couldn’t figure out exactly what it was trying to say. That men are terrifying? Sure, but what else?
The Death of Dick Long (2019)
Like “Swiss Army Man” before it and “Everything Everywhere All at Once” after it, director Daniel Scheinert’s (going it alone this time, without co-director Daniel Kwan) “The Death of Dick Long” treats ridiculous ass stuff with utter seriousness. When their friend has an accident that sends him to the hospital, Zeke and Earl (Michael Abbott Jr. and Andre Hyland, making these deadpan lines sound better than they ought to) try their darndest to keep the cause a secret. Bumbling cops played by Janelle Cochrane (a septuagenarian sheriff with a cane) and Sarah Baker are only slightly more competent than these Alabaman criminals, who are eventually, inevitably, hilariously found out.
Top Gun (1986)
For a movie so universally beloved (or so I thought), “Top Gun” sure is a bad one. Lets start with the action in the air, which is so dizzying that it’s hard to know who’s who and what’s happening. Were they at war? Was there an enemy fighting back? I honestly couldn’t tell. The story on the ground isn’t much better. The only part that works even a little bit is the clandestine romance between Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis, and even that only works as a porn parody. Seriously, how many times could this movie play “Take My Breath Away” while Maverick goes in for a sloppy open-mouth kiss???
Stand By Me (1986)
From 1986’s leading box office offering to the movie that landed at number 13 that same year, “Stand By Me.” Director Rob Reiner’s adventure movie understood better than most that kids are people too. It treats these pre-teens with so much nuance, you honestly care about their well-being. Not just their safety, as they cross dangerous bridges and stand up to bullies, but their mental health. These are some troubled kids. Plus, voiceover narration (probably generously lifted from Stephen King’s novella) is as well-written as you might expect.
“Poser” is a confident directorial debut about an aspiring singer-songwriter, Lennon (Sylvie Mix), who tries to make friends in the Columbus indie music community by use of some immoral tactics. She’s a poser, copying what works and using it for herself. When she meets frontwoman Bobbi Kitten (played by the actual Bobbi Kitten, playing a version of her own persona), Lennon becomes obsessed with the singer. She wants to be her, and to have what she has. “Poser” has some decent bits, but it could have stood to have gotten closer to Lennon. We don’t know enough about her to know why she’s doing this. The movie doesn’t push its audience to take a side, so I wasn’t particularly rooting for anyone. Or caring about anyone. The movie stayed too far back and didn’t let us in.
The “Fast and Furious” franchise has gotten crazy…just crazy enough to work! I’m mostly kidding about that last part, but sometimes this ninth installment’s over-the-top antics keep it pretty exciting. That big chase featuring vehicles with powerful electromagnets on them, for example, is one of the most thrilling scenes any of these movies have ever had.
Barb Wire (1996)
The movie that Pamela Anderson hoped would propel her to movie superstardom (at least, if Lily James’s excellent portrayal in Hulu’s “Pam and Tommy” is any indication), “Barb Wire” is a thriller about a nightclub owner (Anderson) who reluctantly teams up with her ex-boyfriend (Temuera Morrison) to stop the fascist U.S. government from using a dangerous biological weapon. The movie is terrible, but it’s strange enough to warrant cult classic status. Plus, at least Pamela Anderson didn’t let a dystopian future stop her from looking like this. Maybe “Men” was on to something, after all. We are awful.