Amoeblog

Remember The Oscars?

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, March 26, 2020 04:05pm | Post a Comment

By Jon Longhi

It seems like the Oscars were a million years ago, but they were actually just last month. This column was supposed to run a while back but it’s been in limbo for the past few weeks as civilization has been collapsing. I wasn’t a fan of Joker, but the other two Oscar nominees/winners in this column are totally worth checking out during your virus lockdown. Parasite, especially, is not to be missed. It’s the best movie I’ve seen in the past couple years.

JokerJoker, Warner Brothers:
This steaming pile of Oscar excrement is the most torturous couple of hours I’ve spent in the past few months. Sure, Joaquin Phoenix grunts, weeps, spasmodically chuckles, and even interpretive dances his way through a role and that’s acting with a capital A; but most of the time I just feel like I’m watching a terminally constipated man squeeze out the world’s most reluctant turd. It’s acting with a capital A in a movie that’s a bummer with a capital B. The slow moving script is beyond ham-fisted; it’s like they grafted a herd of wild boars to their forearms. There are multiple layers of irony in the film, but the most annoying one is that a movie called Joker doesn’t have a funny moment in it. The whole thing is utterly grey and joyless. It’s like Cormac McCarthy's The Road, only more depressing. The pacing is glacial. At one point my wife said, “God, this movie is so slow,” and we were only ten minutes past the opening credits! There’s no super villains, fights, or explosions to break up the pace, just one excruciatingly sad scene after another. Unlike Marvel, DC seems to have given up on actually entertaining us. Not even Robert De Niro could save this. I mean, it’s well written and acted. The script had some literary sophistication to it. I appreciated the political and socio-economic metaphors and liked the references to the horrors we’re experiencing in the age of Trump, but at the same time you can see the major plot points coming from a mile away. When he lost his job, I turned to my wife and said, “I bet before the end of the night he’s going to have turned to a life of crime and 'Send In The Clowns' will be playing somewhere in the background." And sure enough… Joaquin Phoenix gives it his all until he pretty much breaks out in a sweat in every scene. I’m not saying he’s trying too hard, but by the last time in the movie he does a little interpretive dance I was ready to open a beer, not because I wanted to drink it but just so that I could throw the bottle at the screen.

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New Blu-ray & DVD Releases on Amoeba.com, 3/17/20

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, March 17, 2020 08:25pm | Post a Comment

By Audra Wolfmann

We're all in the same boat right now and, although that boat feels like it's on fire and slowly sinking, we're going to be fine as long as we stay away from public gatherings, practice social distancing, and DON'T FREAK OUT. I'm not exactly an expert on not freaking out, but one surefire way I've learned to avoid panic, anxiety, and generalized freak-outs is the pleasure of escape into music, movies, books, and really any kind of art for that matter.

Luckily, the post offices are still making deliveries, and Amoeba.com is open for business with free shipping on music and movies to the U.S. New releases continue to appear in the world, like freshly sprung sprouts after a destructive storm (or something like that), and I'll be here with you throughout this insanity, letting you know about the neat new titles that you can have delivered to your door.

Here's some new Blu-ray & DVD releases that came out today, Tuesday, March 17th:


Jumanji: The Next Level
A team of friends return to Jumanji to rescue one of their own but discover that nothing is as they expect. The players need to brave parts unknown, from arid deserts to snowy mountains, in order to escape the world's most dangerous game. Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, and Danny DeVito will keep your head in this game.

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Having a Movie Moment with Jon Longhi: Russian Ghosts & Japanese Monsters

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, February 21, 2020 05:49pm | Post a Comment

By Jon Longhi

Welcome to this month’s Having A Movie Moment With Jon Longhi where I review recent Blu-ray releases.

VIYViy, Severin:
This dark Russian fairy tale could easily make it onto a list of the best horror/ fantasy movies ever made. It's just a simple story beautifully told. In the fifties and sixties, Russia produced some psychedelic and surreal adaptations of fairy tales. Most of these were made for children, but Viy takes this unique aesthetic and applies it to a fable that is decidedly for adults. The movie is an adaptation of a classic novella by Nikolai Gogol and there is a literary feel to the screenplay that keeps the story on a tight narrative track. Director Mario Bava previously adapted this same Gogol novella as Black Sunday and, while it is an excellent movie, Viy is even better.

The film starts when a class of seminary students are sent home for vacation. Three of them lose their way and end up staying at a farmhouse owned by an old woman. During the night the old woman tries to seduce one of the students whose name is Khoma. When he rejects her advances, she puts him under a spell and begins riding him around the countryside like a horse. When they start flying he realizes she's a witch. When they finally land, he beats her to death with a stick. After death she turns into a beautiful young woman and Khoma runs back to his seminary. The next day, his Rector summons him and sends him to the house of a rich man to read prayers for his dying daughter. When he arrives, Khoma is horrified to discover that the daughter is same woman he killed the night before. The rich man tells Khoma if he stands vigil and reads prayers for his daughter for three nights in a row he will be richly rewarded; if he refuses, he faces severe punishment. Khoma basically has no choice but to agree. This is the basic setup of the story and the bulk of the film explores what happens each night as he sits vigil and is assaulted by ever greater supernatural manifestations and attacks. Each night, the underworld ante is upped until the third night becomes one of the most bat shit crazy things ever filmed in horror cinema history. It's literally like an Hieronymus Bosch painting brought to life with extra demons bussed in from one of Salvador Dali's nightmares. I have watched this ending many times and every time I view it I notice some new strange detail. If you ever want to see a cinematic representation of things going totally insane, just watch the end of this movie. It's one of the best and most unique scenes ever filmed. Severin's edition of Viy is a perfect movie release. The remastered picture looks stunning and allows you see all kinds of details in the ending insanity that weren't clear in earlier editions. There is an English dub as well as the subtitled version. The bonus features include interviews and a trailer. There's a nice little feature on the history of Soviet fantasy and sci-fi films called: From The Woods To The Cosmos. You even get a selection of three short silent films. This came out in December of 2019 and was easily one of the best releases of the year.

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Jon Longhi's Best of 2019

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, December 27, 2019 05:07pm | Post a Comment

By Jon Longhi

I could have written about 20 or 30 Blu-rays and CDs this year, but here are just a few of my Best Of/favorites from 2019. In my case, “best of” often means “most entertaining.” I watch a lot of Oscar-winning movies every year but that’s not necessarily what I end up plopping down my money on and watching over and over. As the shark movie I’m about to review proves, taste is in your mouth.

47 Meters Down: Uncaged, Lionsgate:
Dumbest shark movie ever! We're talking Sharknado sequel level dumb! I'm not sure if this is a best or a 47 Meters Down: Uncagedworst of 2019 review. The first half hour of any shark movie is a tiresome chore I refer to as "getting to know the bait." This movie starts by introducing you to four of the most annoying teenage girls in cinema history. Seriously, you just can't wait for these people to die. I was tempted to fast forward through their character exposition just to see them get eaten quicker. After the agony of getting to know them, you see these girls make a series of cascadingly bad scuba diving decisions. I'll just lay out a few of them: First they leave the dive boat expedition they are supposed to be on so no one knows where they are. Then they go to some hidden water hole in the middle of the Mexican jungle where no one REALLY knows where they are. They think there's a path down to the watering hole but instead they just jump in off the sheer cliffs because who cares about getting out again? There is a raft in the middle of the watering hole covered with scuba gear that has been left for archeologists who are going to explore the underwater Mayan ruins beneath the surface. They decide to use the gear to check out the ruins themselves, because hey, two of the girls have never dived before and the other two are amateurs and cave diving is the most dangerous diving there is because you go ten feet into a cave and make a wrong turn and then are lost in the darkness where you drown but hey, life is short and even shorter when you're a total idiot like these girls. They make their way into the underwater ruins and then they run into a plot twist that's even dumber than their bad decisions. It turns out that the cave is home to a species of blind giant Great White sharks that became trapped in the submerged catacombs in the distant past and have evolved to the lightless conditions. Now I don't know how these sharks evolved into twenty to twenty-five foot apex predators with no seals to feed on and only little cave fish to eat but by this time we've suspended our belief to the point that we would believe up is down so who cares? Despite the ridiculous premises and unlikeable characters you still find yourself rooting for these idiots just because the producers manage to create an entertaining amusement park ride where you find yourself jumping and shrieking at one shark after another looming out of the Mayan darkness. Because this is a sequel, the film makers feel they really have to ramp up the ridiculousness in the last half hour and we are treated to an over the top thrill ride that gives even the last Sharknado sequel a run for its title of Stupidest Shark Movie Ever. I'm beginning to think this movie is a cinematic masterpiece in disguise because it actually got me to care about these people and sit through a roller coaster ride of utter stupidity till the final credits rolled. Despite being utterly manipulated to the point where I feel deeply ashamed of myself, I have to admit that I loved this movie.

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Having A Movie Moment with Jon Longhi: Godzilla Box Set Warts and All

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, December 20, 2019 05:35pm | Post a Comment

By Jon Longhi

Welcome to the last Having A Movie Moment of 2019. This year I go out with bang and review one über box set...

Godzilla: The Showa Era Films, 1954-1975, The Criterion Collection:
This is arguably the biggest Blu-ray release of 2019. It is the one thousandth Criterion Collection release, Godzilla Box Setand what could be a bigger subject matter for a big release than a Godzilla box set? This is all fifteen films from the original classic era of Godzilla. Godzilla is probably the world's most well-known monster. Only Dracula or Frankenstein are on the same level. Godzilla is the ultimate metaphor of the Cold War and the atomic era, an uncontrollable monster that we ourselves created by our warlike ways. Only a few other pop culture creations resonate this strongly in the modern mind of the human race. Over the course of the past 65 years, this giant radioactive lizard has stomped his way through 35 movies. There is a good reason he has been dubbed "King Of The Monsters." Generations of children and adults have grown up watching his movies. For decades they were the staples of Saturday late night horror shows and afternoon matinees. I don't think I've ever met a person who hasn't seen a Godzilla film.

The Big G has always had a special place in my life. I've been obsessed with his films since early childhood and watched them on television whenever they aired. I've bought every Godzilla movie ever released in the US in every format going back to Super 8. When I was in fourth grade, our year-end project was to give a fifteen minute speech to the entire school on a subject we had heavily researched. The topic I chose was Godzilla and his cultural relevance. I gave a good speech and got a good grade, but I'm not sure that everyone in the audience got or agreed with my point. So this Criterion Collection release, and a release of such importance, feels like a kind of personal validation to me. My fourth grade self was right.

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