HALLOWEEN KILLS is David Gordon Green’s movie, through and through

Because the Halloween movies are part of a long-running horror franchise, it’s natural that a new entry like Halloween Kills will be received as part of that legacy—even as the movie intentionally picks and chooses what’s part of its continuity, what’s sneaky homage, and what’s brand-new. Halloween Kills is a follow-up to 2018’s Halloween, which itself is not a remake of the original 1978 Halloween, but a 40-years-later sequel that ignores the many other sequels (and the 2007 remake, and its sequel). The new sequel takes some cues from the “original” Halloween II, but it’s not a remake of that one, either; at times, it seems to be consciously rebuking some of that old sequel’s most famous elements.

To a lot of critics and fans, Kills reverts its 2018 predecessor into slasher-sequel mode: more (and gorier) killing, additional backstory (or is it retconning?), more vaguely supernatural power emanating from the unstoppable masked killer Michael Myers. And the film undeniably has all of those elements. But Halloween Kills is more interesting than it sounds, because it represents another left turn in the career of director/cowriter David Gordon Green.

Green also made the 2018 Halloween (and is about to make Halloween Ends, the final movie in this trilogy, slated for release next October). That was a left turn, too, in a filmography full of them. He started out doing soulful, Terrence Malick-esque Southern indies like George Washington and All the Real Girls; tried his hand at stoner comedy with the well-received Pineapple Express and the less-beloved Your Highness; did some movie-star-gone-indie portraiture like Joe and Manglehorn; made a couple of true-life dramas including Stronger; and then signed on for this Halloween trilogy. Green has made a rich and prolific career of baffling different factions of his potential supporters.
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The Ten Best Music Cues on The Sopranos

In early March 2020, a coworker asked me what I might do if Chicago instituted a two-week lockdown to fight Covid. “I don’t know,” I joked. “Maybe finally watch The Sopranos?” It was a huge gap in my television viewing history, if an understandable one. I was twelve when it first began airing in January 1999, and while my family had a free year of HBO thanks to a cable deal, I was clandestinely absorbing the antics of Sex and the City rather than Tony and the gang. Despite later enjoying, to varying degrees, shows that owed the series a debt, from Mad Men to Breaking Bad to The Americans, I was always daunted by the idea of taking on The Sopranos. It felt like a project. Is it really worth it? And when would I find the time? Still, as Twitter flooded with sourdough starters and Duolingo prompts in the ensuing months, I resisted the modest goals I set for myself. I felt too unmoored and confused to accomplish even something as simple as watching a show. It wasn’t until a full year into the pandemic, the same year that Sopranos movie prequel The Many Saints of Newark was scheduled to release, that I pressed play on the premiere, but I was surprised at how quickly the show’s characters began to feel like companions. (Living alone will do that to you.) It can be easy to forget now, but The Sopranos truly was a game-changer, and one made with more care than the contrarian in me anticipated. The music is a huge part of that, much of which creator David Chase handpicked himself, to the point where even a casual fan of the show could come up with a unique top ten list. As a recent convert, I humbly offer mine on the occasion of Many Saints of Newark hitting theaters and HBO Max this week.

The 10 Best Music Cues on The Sopranos According to a First-Time Viewer in 2021

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NYFF59 Part 1: The Worst People

I’ve been trying and failing to wrap my head around Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn (Grade: C) and the enthusiastic reaction it’s received at New York Film Festival press screening sand elsewhere, wondering if I might have been more receptive had the content warnings before the movie not characterized it as a comedy. I admire its bizarre juxtapositions: It opens with graphic and unsimulated sex, in order to depict a leaked sex tape with maximum verisimilitude; it then follows Emi (Katia Pascariu), one of the tape’s participants, on a harried bunch of errands as she prepares for a hearing at the school where she teaches, the camera drifting through the COVID-affected spaces around her, eavesdropping on various phone calls; next, there’s an extended break for a wry illustrated glossary of various social and political terms; finally, an extended set piece in the form of the hearing itself, where a group of largely ridiculous parents air their grievances over Emi’s accidentally exposed private life.
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DEAR EVAN HANSEN has broken all contracts

The new stage-to-film musical Dear Evan Hansen tosses out established, unspoken contracts left, right, and center. It nixes the contract between stage production and audience, dictating that the energy of live theater overrides desire for literal realism in casting, sets, and developing relationships. It violates the contract between film musical and audience, where we accept the artifice of characters breaking into song and/or dance, so long as those songs or performances sweep us out of the dull constraints of the real world with emotion or spectacle. Perhaps most famously, it breaks, breaks, and re-breaks our collective agreement that it is permissible for actors well into their twenties to pretend to be teenagers on screen, so that we may enjoy the fruits of cruel 16-hour-a-day shooting schedules and more finely honed acting instincts.

On this point, I wondered—as I think others have—whether in a way, Dear Evan Hansen might be extraordinarily effective. Most teenage-misfit stories produced by major Hollywood studios feature misfits who have, at best, slightly obscured their supernatural-yet-conventional attractiveness with costuming, or “overcome” any perceived deficiencies in catalog-model attractiveness with boundless charisma. I haven’t seen the stage version of Evan Hansen played by Ben Platt, but his cinematic incarnation is genuinely, thoroughly, irretrievably off-putting, and also played by Ben Platt.

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Acting, My Dear Boy: THE EYES OF TAMMY FAYE and BLUE BAYOU

In The Eyes of Tammy Faye, a new sort-of biopic about the spouse of disgraced televangelist Jim Bakker, Jessica Chastain gives us the visible-acting works. She does stuff to her voice, taking on a pinched midwestern sing-song, and does stuff to her face, using both her expressiveness and a ton of makeup—the latter used first to emulate the ritual face-slathering undertaken by her subject, and then to replicate the shifting contours of her actual face. It’s an approach that I’ve sensed may be going out of style—at least among some viewers, who are more attuned than ever to the shifty politics of “transforming” actors into shapes, sizes, and bodies (plus, in the not-especially-distant past, races and genders!) that don’t much resemble their own. It’s called acting, sure, but questions nag at these monuments to dedication and, yes, actorly ego: Must the same small pool of beautiful people be tasked with portraying the full range of humanity?
Continue reading Acting, My Dear Boy: THE EYES OF TAMMY FAYE and BLUE BAYOU

The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: Top Movies of Summer 1991

As promised, the SportsAlcohol.com panel of summer movie experts is back and bigger than ever, with no fewer than seven all-star contributors assembling (virtually) to discuss the biggest and not necessarily best movies of summer 1991. The panelists are Marisa, Ben, Nathaniel, Sara, Becca, Jeremy, and Jesse. The movies of summer 1991 include R-rated sci-fi action hits that also generated playground buzz from the preteen crowd; a jetpacked retro superhero; Billy Crystal having a midlife crisis; a whole lotta fire; and Kevin Costner in a mullet. And that’s not all! You’ll also find out how Becca’s dad preferred to watch Backdraft, how Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves changed Marisa’s life, how Boyz n the Hood holds up thirty years later, which beloved blockbuster(s) that Ben actually kinda hates, and more, more, more!

If you love hearing us talk about the movies of summer 1991 and long to hear different combinations of us discussing other summer movies of yore, here’s the complete history of this project:

1990
1994
1995
1996
1997
1998
1999
2000
2001

We are now up to SEVEN (7) different ways to listen to a SportsAlcohol podcast:

  • You can subscribe to our podcast using the rss feed.
  • I’m not sure why they allowed it, but we are on iTunes! If you enjoy what you hear, a positive comment and a rating would be great.
  • I don’t really know what Stitcher is, but we are also on Stitcher.
  • SportsAlcohol.com is a proud member of the Aha Radio Network. What is Aha? It’s kind of like Stitcher, but for your car.
  • You can download the mp3 of the Black Widow/Cruella episode here and the streaming-biz discussion episode here
  • Our most recent episode or two will sometimes be available on our Soundcloud. We don’t always have it working right but there’s good stuff there regardless!
  • You can listen to the episode in the player below.

REMINISCENCE shows why Hugh Jackman can’t go back to Wolverine again

Ryan Reynolds is at it again: A new round of press for his new movie Free Guy has meant another parallel round of Reynolds goofing on his former co-star of X-Men Origins: Wolverine—not least because Jackman does quick vocal cameo in the mostly video-game-set comedy. As it happens, Jackman also has a new movie out this month, so his press rounds for Reminiscence have included him discussing how much Reynolds wants to do a Deadpool/Wolverine team-up, and how Jackman doesn’t think that’s in the cards.

Reynolds and Jackman did, of course, team up briefly during that Wolverine prequel that introduced the wisecracking mercenary Wade Wilson, played by Reynolds (as well as the mutated and muted version that re-appears at that film’s misbegotten climax). Since then, Reynolds has resurrected Deadpool as an extremely popular and self-referential R-rated superhero, while Jackman has gone on to make two Wolverine movies that were actually good-to-great. Seems like everything worked out for both of them, but in the spirit of nothing being left alone, it makes sense enough that Reynolds would like a reunion that hitches Deadpool’s insouciant wisecrackery to Wolverine’s gruff irritability. It would probably be a fun and funny variation on the X-Men series that fans would enjoy.

It would also place the sensibilities of two major stars directly at odds. And not necessarily in the usual, familiar buddy-comedy way.
Continue reading REMINISCENCE shows why Hugh Jackman can’t go back to Wolverine again

The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: Summer Movies of 2001

We’ve recorded a whole lot of podcast episodes here at SportsAlcohol.com, but it’s safe to say our most popular episode format has been our annual exploration of the top summer movies of the past — specifically, 20 years past, which means this year we’ve reached summer 2001. (And also, in a few weeks, 1991, because we’ve expanded to 30-years-ago summers in an attempt to sweep the corners on the entirety of the 1990s.)

The summer movies of 2001 are all about sequels, stars, and bad ideas! So in some ways, it’s a lot like most summer movie seasons; in others, it’s a peek into a different world between the more adult-oriented entertainment of the ’90s and the superhero dominance that was lurking just around the corner. Listen in as Marisa, Nathaniel, Ben, Jesse, and Jeremy talk about our own histories with Vin Diesel, apes, dinos, Lara Croft, so many sequels, and the terrifying genesis of dance party endings. We also try in vain to save the Point Break talk for the next episode.

If you need to catch up before checking out the latest and greatest, here’s the complete history of this project:

1990
1994
1995
1996
1997
1998
1999
2000

We are now up to SEVEN (7) different ways to listen to a SportsAlcohol podcast:

  • You can subscribe to our podcast using the rss feed.
  • I’m not sure why they allowed it, but we are on iTunes! If you enjoy what you hear, a positive comment and a rating would be great.
  • I don’t really know what Stitcher is, but we are also on Stitcher.
  • SportsAlcohol.com is a proud member of the Aha Radio Network. What is Aha? It’s kind of like Stitcher, but for your car.
  • You can download the mp3 of the Black Widow/Cruella episode here and the streaming-biz discussion episode here
  • Our most recent episode or two will sometimes be available on our Soundcloud
  • You can listen to the episode in the player below.

The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: Black Widow & Cruella

This summer has seen the release of two entries in two of Disney’s biggest franchises, both starring major female stars who are both once-and/or-future fake redheads. Doesn’t that seem like enough to warrant a big discussion of Black Widow and Cruella?! Marisa convened a SportsAlcohol.com podcast to discuss how Black Widow fits into both the MCU and ScarJo’s career, and to figure out what the hell is going on with Cruella and why it’s a surprising fit for star Emma Stone.

During our chat, we wound up further discussion the mysterious viewership and economics of the pivot to streaming, which, in true franchise-friendly fashion, we spun out into a separate bonus episode, also available below!

We are now up to SEVEN (7) different ways to listen to a SportsAlcohol podcast:

  • You can subscribe to our podcast using the rss feed.
  • I’m not sure why they allowed it, but we are on iTunes! If you enjoy what you hear, a positive comment and a rating would be great.
  • I don’t really know what Stitcher is, but we are also on Stitcher.
  • SportsAlcohol.com is a proud member of the Aha Radio Network. What is Aha? It’s kind of like Stitcher, but for your car.
  • You can download the mp3 of the Black Widow/Cruella episode here and the streaming-biz discussion episode here
  • Our most recent episode or two will sometimes be available on our Soundcloud
  • You can listen to the episodes in the players below.

Black Widow & Cruella:

The Disney Plus Premier Access Experiment:

THE GREEN KNIGHT is a gnarly dorm-room poster I don’t know how to review

Usually, I delight at the opportunity to write about a new movie in a simple new-release-review format, preferably at one of the outlets that care to indulge me in that regard, but sometimes on this website, where I don’t have to pitch my pre-constructed take on a particular film or filmmaker keyed to the zeitgeist, or a more specific demographic than “people who want to read a review of a new movie that they might watch at some point.” Those kinds of essays can be fun to write and turn out wonderfully; sometimes they are trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Faced with the opportunity to write what I wanted about The Green Knight, however, I longed for the sense of purpose one can assign the fitting of a square peg into a round hole. For whatever reason, thinking about what to say about The Green Knight has felt like throwing a series of square pegs into the Grand Canyon.

This is not to say that The Green Knight is a film of vast, inimitable, impossible beauty (though it is beautiful). This is also not to say that I at all disliked David Lowery’s take on an Arthurian legend (maybe call it an Arthurish B-side?). For the most part, I liked it quite a lot; am I allowed to just come out and say that in a movie review? There are some parts in the first half-hour where too many characters have too many hushed conversations inside too many dim castles, and I briefly grew drowsy. But even this was weirdly effective, as so much of the rest of the movie plays like an actual dream, during which I was quite lucid, and delighted by the movie’s visual boldness and glorious unpredictability. (Perhaps now is a good time to admit that I was not familiar with this particular oft-told tale.)
Continue reading THE GREEN KNIGHT is a gnarly dorm-room poster I don’t know how to review