Watching movies in South Carolina

So during my South Carolina trip, C and her son and I wound up watching an assortment of movies to pass the time—

I actually caught SHIRKERS (2018) before I left and thoroughly enjoyed it. This oddball documentary by Singapore-born Sandi Tam looks back at how as a twentysomething film buff she decided to write and direct her own movie with her friends, aided by the camera work of film teacher George Cardona. At first it appeared the chameleonic, enigmatic Cardona (“He said he was the inspiration for James Spader’s character in Sex, Lies and Videotape.”) hadn’t actually shot any footage, only for it to turn up years later. A strange but absorbing yarn, and like Corrupted Hands it has the added interest of showing a foreign country I barely through the eyes of its own people. “There are makers, there are shakers, there are … shirkers.”

Even though 2014’s THE LEGO MOVIE is just a big piece of product placement, it turns out to be quite entertaining. Chris Pratt plays the world’s most ordinary LEGO piece, only to learn from mystic Samuel Jackson that he’s the Chosen One destined to defeat President Business (Will Ferrell), though warrior-woman sidekick Wild Style (Elizabeth Banks) wonders why it isn’t her (this seems to be a riff on Trinity from Matrix). All of which turns out to mirror a power struggle in the human world of LEGO builders over whether LEGO should be Serious Adult Stuff or Fun Kid Stuff. Fun, though at times the product placement did get too much (I can’t see any reason DC superheroes and Ninja Turtles would be Master LEGO Bzuilders otherwise). “We can’t track him because he’s so average he looks identical to every fugitive in our database.”

ROMANCING THE STONE (1984) now looks quite the period piece: we have author Kathleen Turner constantly looking for a landline to contact people, not to mention dropping off a hard copy manuscript of her newest novel (written on a typewriter no less!) with her publisher. Nevertheless, it remains an absolute charmer, with Turner and Michael Douglas transforming from insecure, shy writer and self-centered merc to the kind of characters romance films are made about (I don’t think Michael Douglas has ever reminded me more of his father, not just in looks but in body language). It’s a shame they didn’t do more films like this, and even more of a shame that when they did it was Jewel of the Nile. “Your books sell very well in those macho countries.”

Adapted from a stage play, THE GHOST COMES HOME (1940) has shipwreck survivor Frank Morgan (he got drunk on the dock and never boarded) return home only to discover that his family is now at risk for insurance fraud over the ten grand they made off his supposed death. At first he hides up in the attic, then he begins threatening to walk out in public as a way to bully and dominate everyone. Pleasant fluff with a decent cast including Ann Rutherford, Billie Burke and Nat Pendleton, but it runs out of steam when it starts throwing in some added plot elements. My Favorite Wife would be an obvious double-bill. “Both my husbands just dropped dead.”

ZOOTOPIA (2014) rewatches well as an idealistic bunny (Ginnifer Godwin) and a conniving fox (Justin Bateman) become partners investigating the reason anthropomorphic carnivores are devolving into their savage ancestors. Not as visually striking as Shrek (as I said the first time I watched it) but a great deal of fun. “It’s called a hustle, sweetheart.”

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