Friday, 29 November 2019

Won't You Be My Neighbor? (2018)

Being British and having grown up in the UK (except in 1987 where I lived with my parents in the US for that year) I don't really have any experience with Mr. Rogers and his long-running show. I know of Mr. Rogers, I have heard of Mr. Rogers, but I never grew up with Mr. Rogers so I am unable to deliver any real childhood memories. Even when living in the US for that one year I never recall watching his show (as far as I can remember).

I have always put Mr. Rogers in the same kind of category as Sesame Street or Blue Peter here in the UK. One of those long-running legendary shows for children that has amassed epic levels of respect, praise, awards, and memories for so many of all backgrounds (although the UK shows haven't run as long as the US ones). Some of the very few television programs that will live on forever (in their respective countries) having truly made a difference in so many people's lives. That's how I tend to look at it anyway.

I guess the first thing that surprised me was the fact that Rogers was in fact the same Mr. Rogers you saw on TV. It almost seemed too good to be true that the kind, pragmatic, casual yet well-dressed person you saw TV was the same person off TV. Behind the curtain Rogers was indeed still the same man who cared for educating and listening to children in a sensible way whilst upholding his strong religious Christian beliefs...and not in a creepy way. Mind you I say that but I can't deny that watching this biopic did make me question the man at times. He came across as so sensitive and in-tune with kids that doubts couldn't help but form in my mind. Not to mention all the odd little quirks and rituals he had.

Another thing that surprised me was the content Rogers would confront children with. There was me thinking his show was a kind of long-running early variety show with different acts, cartoons, and guests. Turns out Rogers dealt with serious issues. He didn't shy away from talking to the kids about such things like death, divorce, love, depression etc...Sure he did so with the aid of various puppets, songs, and some guests all within a little imaginary model neighborhood, but he still spoke about these subjects. Rogers was able to connect with kids at a very personal level by seeing them as people, simple really. Yes kids aren't adults but they aren't completely stupid, they still understand things, they still feel and obviously have emotions. Rogers had a gift and was able to tap into that, he could communicate with kids about serious matters.

But it wasn't just kids, Rogers did the same for adults apparently too. Maybe not as much and maybe with not as much success but he still did his best. We see that he actually worked with prison inmates at one point. There was also a time when he met a fully grown gorilla and engaged in some pretty amazing sign-language conversations. He subtly taught kids about race, equality, and tolerance in a segment where he simply paddled in a kids pool with one of his regular show guests (who was African American). And he would address (now historical) disasters with kids so they understood what was happening simply because Rogers believed kids needed to learn the truth and not be shielded. The fact that not telling the actual truth can be actually more scary for kids. Gotta hand it to the guy, he had balls.

I think one of the hardest segments to watch in this film was seeing Rogers struggle to address the 9/11 attacks in New York. Clearly he knew he had to talk about it, you can hear others saying so in the film. But the sight of Rogers genuinely trying to find the words to try and deal with such a horrific disaster was heartbreaking. It was as if he was beaten at that moment, there was nothing he could say to soothe the pain.

All that aside I did find this biopic slightly slow at times I can't deny. There is a lot of archive footage (obviously) showcasing Rogers back in the day as he talks about his goals and beliefs. There is a lot of archive footage (obviously) of the show from when it first started, through the decades from black and white to colour, and all the various elements within. We see various guests, the puppets, the model neighborhood, behind the scenes, the sets, the crew, Rogers wife etc...Very much in the same vein as any solid extra you'd get on a new Bluray release. Whilst this is all interesting for the most part, not [b]all[/b] of it is totally engaging. Gotta be truthful here. Especially from a visual perspective, the later shows in colour are far more engaging than the admittedly slow and dull looking black and white era shows. There's nothing quite as iconic as watching Rogers stroll on set and proceed to change into his trademark sneakers and red colour. Retro (and modern) US TV has a distinct look about it that I can't really explain. It always seemed much more colourful, as if it had been shot in Technicolor from the 1950's.

So in conclusion, this is a film where you will most probably choke up at some point. It's hard to pinpoint where and why to be honest, unless you are a lifelong adult fan reliving your childhood memories. But this biopic is so warm, heartfelt, and full of positivity that at times it just makes you cry, it's practically inevitable. In the end, I think what I find the most ironic and sad is that in this current day and age a man like Mr. Rogers would probably find himself under attack (from certain groups) for his race, his gender, his close work with children, and his religion. Twitter would probably horrify him. Mr. Rogers would not work in this present day, and that's the saddest truth of all.


Monday, 25 November 2019

Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)

This movie was my introduction to this classic 80's horror franchise back when I was an underage kid who definitely shouldn't have been watching it. The ironic thing being, I didn't watch this sneakily behind my parents back, oh no. I actually saw this one night with my dad! I can't remember how or why this happened but I think it happened to come on one night and my dad (who normally would never watch anything like this) decided...oh what the hell. I think he must have thought it was OK for me to watch seeing as he was there. Either that or he just forgot I was there or didn't realise what the movie was about, probably the very latter. Anyway, it scared the shit outta me alright, bad move dad.

So I don't really think I need to go into the plot, but just in case. The movie (kinda) picks up from the previous sequel with an adult Tommy Jarvis (Thom Matthews this time) heading back to Crystal Lake in order to make sure Jason is dead. Tommy makes his way to the cemetery with his friend, and future Jason fodder, Allen. They both proceed to dig up Jason's corpse (because Jason being buried isn't enough?) much to the hesitation of Allen. Upon seeing the corpse Tommy has a flashback and gets a tiny bit upset, so he proceeds to stab at the corpse with a metal railing he easily pulled off the metal fence.

Allen watches bemused by Tommy's actions. Then before you can say...this is freaking me out, lightning strikes the metal bar and brings Jason's corpse back to life. Initially everything seems OK and the duo prepares to leave. But wouldn't you know it, old Jason climbs out of the grave, kills Allen, and starts off after Tommy. What follows is Tommy's desperate and unsuccessful attempts to warn the locals of Jason's return and Jason's highly successful ever-increasing body count.

Now I haven't seen many of these iconic slashers for some time, but I know without a doubt that this movie is by far my favourite...and in my opinion the best example in the series of a classic 80's horror (with 'Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan' a close second). It took some time for this franchise to really get into gear in my opinion. It's like they didn't realise that the franchise worked better when being more tongue-in-cheek and almost comicbook-esque. The first few movies were too serious whilst not being particularly scary; and of course we didn't actually get the iconic hockey mask until the third flick. Until that point it was a block running around with a flippin' burlap sack on his head (looked shit).

K so let's have some fun here. We know this franchise was initially trying to ride the coattails of the 'Halloween' franchise and luckily the people in charge knew they couldn't carry on doing that. Hence we have this gloriously stupid yet wholly entertaining entry to save the day. Setting aside the fact that Tommy digs up Jason's corpse and then stabs at it over and over, the actual corpse is at first completely unrecognisable. There is no face, no muscle, no anything! Just a vaguely human-shaped mound of decayed flesh covered in worms cobwebs and earth. At this point Jason is essentially a fragile-looking mummy. Yet the minute the corpse is struck by lightning it somehow gets eyeballs that work. And the next minute he's bounding out of the grave looking like he's been drinking protein shakes for the last six months.

From here on its a Jason tour de force as he effortlessly kills plenty of innocent yet very stupid people in various silly ways. But hold on, where did Jason get his clothes? Pretty sure his corpse didn't have anything on, it would have rotted away. So where did he find such perfect fitting attire? From his boots to his gloves, did he pop into a local store? Lucky for Jason Tommy brought his favourite hockey mask along too huh, otherwise he'd have to pick up a balaclava or something. Speaking of the various stupid victims, twas also pretty lucky that one just happened to have a machete on-hand eh. Not sure why you'd need a machete when you're paintballing though.

Did anyone ever wonder why so many people were out and about at night, in the woods, when the weather is clearly bad? Like one of Jason's victims were a couple literally having a picnic in the middle of the woods at night. Who does that? Then there was the other couple driving a shitty Volkswagon Beetle down some dirt track through the woods at night, like you do. There is the old grumpy drink obsessed gravedigger who seems harmless enough but that doesn't matter to Jason. And what 80's slasher horror is complete without the stereotypically good-looking young couple having sex that end up getting killed gruesomely.

It's also highly amusing and annoying how the local Sheriff (David Kagen) absolutely refuses to listen to Tommy at any point in the movie, literally until he actually sees Jason in the flesh (ahem) before his own demise. The guy is obsessed that Tommy is behind all the recent murders that are popping up everywhere despite the fact that for half the time Tommy is locked up in his jail! Ha! You keep thinking how on earth this cop is coming to these conclusions. Simple geography and physics put Tommy in the clear but this guy ain't having none of it. Doesn't help that he's also obsessing over his hot blonde daughter Megan (Jennifer Cooke) who's been eyeing up Tommy the whole time. She loves a bad boy behind bars I guess. Turns out she's the bad girl while Tommy is the only down to earth person in the area (the Sheriff's Deputy is obsessed with his 'Terminator' laser sight gun).

The movie finally comes to a close back at Camp Crystal Lake which this time actually has kids at the camp. One by one the young adults are taken out by Jason as the kids cower under their beds. Is Jason evil enough to murder little children? Well I guess he isn't or he just doesn't quite get around to it because other better targets keep popping up just in the nick of time. Again looking back it is amusing seeing these cabins. I say cabin but they look like basic garden sheds for Pete's sake. They look like a high wind would knock them down. The slightest bit of cold weather and you'd freeze to death, doesn't matter about the single fireplace geez! You call those thin things windows?? Feck me!

So Tommy knows that he's gotta kill Jason in the lake where he originally died, because occult-like reasons, don't question it. So luring Jason into the lake Tommy (on a boat) manages to wrap a chain with a large boulder attached (how on earth did he manage to get that to the boat?) around Jason's neck. The silly part is at no point does it actually look like that chain is tight around Jason's neck. It looks like he could just remove it quite easily. You also have to wonder if Jason couldn't maybe break the chain seeing as he now has super zombie strength in this movie. It's also weird how when sunk at the bottom of the lake, Jason simply floats there and doesn't attempt to free himself. Not to mention the fact he is still able to grab Megan's leg, this lake must be shallow! Luckily the boat propellor is able to reach Jason (eh?) and seemingly cut him up, even though at the very end he still looks in one piece.

I tend to put this movie in the same category as 'Evil Dead 2' in the sense that its a classic in the franchise, a cult, and a good movie within the genre. Whilst no one is gonna say this movie is a great movie outside the genre, within the genre it's definitely a cracker. As I've already said, this movie is basically the epitome of 80's horror. There is an even balance to the horror and humour. The humour itself is at times self-aware whilst at other times a bit goofy. Whereas the horror can swing from pretty creepy to also being somewhat goofy. The effects and visuals are solid and the cast do their job well enough despite their characters all being pretty hollow. Continuity and just run with it. Director McLoughlin clearly knew what he wanted to do and how to go about it (possibly taking inspiration from earlier horror-comedy classics). Look out for a wicked rock tune from Alice Cooper in the end credits.