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FILM / Captain Canada's Movie Rodeo / February 2019 / Gabriel Ricard

dick miller.jpg

The films reviewed in Captain Canada’s Movie Rodeo are pulled from a list of films that was started when the column started. The list covers everything I’ve seen for the first time between 2012 and the present.

For probably the last 30 years of my life, I have dreamed of seeing the world. That desire influenced the movies and other things I absorbed. As a kid, I wanted to see more than Vancouver Island. Film and books made that possible on a certain level. Perhaps, film even more than literature. I would watch things just for the opportunity to see the rest of the world with my own eyes. I still watch movies for that reason. There are other reasons, but that remains one of the biggest.

Why am I thinking about this? I’m pretty sure we’ve covered film and travel in the past at this movie rodeo. I’ll let one of you check the archives. 87 columns and counting. Nonetheless, I find myself thinking about it now. That’s probably because movies still let me travel. They enhance my empathy in the bargain, but they also just remind me that the world is still a large, occasionally glorious place.

In the present, movies have come to be a means of traveling to the places that I will likely never see.

By that, I’m just doing some math. I’m working on a Green Card. By the time I can get a passport that will let me travel beyond the United States, I will probably be in my mid-40s. There goes the dream of traveling as a young man. If I’m lucky, I’ll be in my mid-40s. If I’m even luckier, the world will still be standing, as well.

I’ve been thinking about these things more and more. There are people in our lives who are trying to make the world smaller in the worst possible ways. They are building walls and screaming about the foreign hordes that are allegedly coming to get us. I can only do so much to counter such people. At the end of the day, I can only try to be empathetic. I can merely do my best to remember that the world is vast and impressive at times. Keeping that in mind helps me to be a better person. It shows me what I can do to make things better for those around me.

Actually traveling the world would be the best way to achieve that. Unfortunately, I can’t, so I stick with movies.

I guess my point is this: In 2019, film is more important than ever. What occurs to you, when someone says something like that? Let me know on social media.

Glass (2019): B-

Image© Warner Bros.

Image© Warner Bros.

Starting with 2015’s The Visit, which was very good indeed, M. Night Shyamalan has been largely playing it safe as a director. You could certainly argue it’s been working out for him. 2016’s Split, which turned out to be part of the same universe as Shyamalan’s 2000 film Unbreakable, continued the director’s slow return to making movies that won’t make you want to headbutt a brick wall. Glass, which finishes the trilogy started by Unbreakable, shows Shyamalan taking chances again.

It works out for the most part. Glass is messy, slightly confusing, and mildly overwrought. I see it getting several bad reviews from major and minor publications alike. I don’t know what to say to that, except that I apparently had more fun than they did. What’s interesting about Glass, which has strong, distinctive performances from its cast (Charlayne Woodard steals every scene) is that it’s ambitious, but not pretentious. Despite the movie’s chaos and occasional moments of absurdity, the movie is at least straightforward about these things. There’s an enthusiasm to this weirdness that somehow makes the movie a lot more entertaining than it perhaps should be. It’s also just fun to see Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson together again. Let’s get that Grumpy Old Men reboot, fellas. It’s time.

That Guy Dick Miller (2014): A+

Keeping with the theme of stuff about old men, That Guy Dick Miller is an effortlessly charming documentary. It’s easy to hit that mark, when your subject is one of the most fascinating, experienced, and varied character actors in movie history. Dick Miller is probably best known for appearing in movies like Gremlins, The Terminator, and Night of The Creeps. A regular in Roger Corman’s movies for many years, Miller has appeared in dozens of other films and TV shows. Through the many decades he has worked, Miller is one of the most famous of those people you recognize but can’t quite place. There is nothing surprising or revolutionary about this documentary. It just lets Miller and other discuss his long career and various contributions to some of the best and worst movies of all time. If you like tributes to living examples of film history, you’ll be in paradise with Dick.

Last Night at the Alamo (1983): A-

Directed and cowritten by Eagle Pennell (with Texas Chainsaw Massacre alumni Kim Henkel), Last Night at the Alamo can’t help but exist as a fascinating time capsule. It captures a time and place that simply do not exist anymore. In this case, it’s a dive bar in Houston, Texas in the early 1980s. Last Night at the Alamo is also about a group of rednecks, oddballs, and straightforward alcoholics who have descended upon their favorite spot for its last night on earth. As you appreciate the low-budget intimacy and believable, low-key atmosphere the film permeates, you also wind up becoming invested in the characters. This is particularly true with Sonny Carl Davis (as Cowboy) and Lou Perryman (as Claude). I don’t know if you’re going to fall in love with these guys. Probably not. But they are fascinating, equal parts impressive and depressingly mediocre in their aspirations and lives. This movie draws you in, and certainly leaves you wondering where everyone went the next night.

Even Dwarfs Started Small (1970): B-

Werner Herzog’s second feature film has a reputation for being weird. I honestly don’t think calling Even Dwarfs Started Small weird covers just how fucking bizarre this movie really is. Describing the movie isn’t that hard. A group of dwarfs, imprisoned on a remote island, decide to break out and go ballistic. That’s pretty much the movie. Everything after that is just a series of scenes that take us deeper and deeper into the madness of this situation. The movie is strange enough to be interesting. However, what might be the weirdest thing about the film is the fact that it’s not an exploitation film, despite the concept and premise. You will laugh, but more at the sheer audacity of everything going on. Even Dwarfs Started Small is both surreal and difficult to categorize. Those two things make it irresistible.

Halloween (2018): B-

Image © Universal Pictures

Image © Universal Pictures

Certainly, if nothing else, this 2018 sequel to the 1978 classic (which ignores all sequels and reboots) is the best Halloween movie since quite possibly the fourth one. I guess that depends on how you felt about H20 (I didn’t care for it). You can feel however you want about the fact that 2018’s Halloween opts for a different timeline after the events of the first movie. Alternate universes exist in film all the time. That might be the best way to approach this, if you feel strongly about the sequels and/or Rob Zombie’s controversial reboot.

If you just want a good horror movie, I think you’ll be pleased. This version of Halloween gives Michael a presence he has sorely lacked in his last few appearances. It also showcases quite possibly the best performance of Jamie Lee Curtis’ career, which is certainly saying something. Halloween 2018 isn’t a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination. It’s still a lot of fun, and it still has a lot more to say than you might think. Rounding out Curtis’ intense portrayal of Laurie is Judy Greer (who still deserves better than thankless characters/roles like these) and Andi Matichak. Halloween also features a welcomed appearance from character actor Will Patton as the sheriff of Haddonfield.

Simply put, unless you have very specific ideas about how a Halloween movie should be handled, you will probably like what this sequel/soft-reboot has to offer. The inevitable sequel will probably suck, but at least everyone can say, among other achievements, they made Michael Myers relevant again.