If you haven’t heard, Larry Cohen passed away on Saturday, March 23rd at the age of 77. There’s so much to say about the maverick filmmaker. I feel bad I haven’t written more about the acclaimed cult writer/director on this blog. I have reviewed Cohen’s 1974 killer baby film (no, that’s not a typo) It’s Alive along with his 1985 satirical sci-fi dark comedy The Stuff but there’s so much more to dive into. There’s Cohen’s years as a blaxploitation pioneer with films like Black Caesar and Hell Up in Harlem. There’s God Told Me To, a trippy religious sci-fi flick. Q, a movie about the ancient god Quetzalcoatl taking the form of a stop-motion dragon and taking over the Chrysler building. I haven’t even got to the Maniac Cop series.
There’s a lot to admire about Cohen as a filmmaker but for me, two things come to mind. 1) Cohen was the “King of the Concept”. All his films had such bizarre yet tantalizing premises. They sound like awful B-movies from the fifties, yet they were smart and satirical pictures with great characters and even better monsters. 2) Cohen was the original guerrilla filmmaker. This is a man who would film killing sprees and cars speeding down the sidewalk in the heart of New York City. Cohen was a risk taker a “Whatever-it-takes” to get the shot kind of guy. He was passionate about his stories.
Cohen was never a household name but he had a long and fruitful career. From his early years, creating TV shows like Branded and Coronet Blue while still in his twenties, all the way to writing thrillers in the 2000s like Phone Booth for Joel Schumacher. The man was prolific and beloved among so many fans of so many sub-genres. There are so many stories about Cohen that writer/director Steve Mitchell made an excellent documentary about the man two years ago called King Cohen: The Wild World of Filmmaker Larry Cohen. Which is available on Shudder at the time of this review. Or better yet, check out a Cohen film. I think you’ll find he has the STUFF.
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Original Review: O Captain! My Captain! (three and a half stars)
The one thing stopping my MCU Retrospecticus from being in chronological order is Captain America: The First Avenger, which is mostly set way before the dream of the Nineties in stupid World War II. Way to ruin it for me, Cap! Actually, chronology gets super complicated later on, you’ll have to read a bunch of Wikis to find out when exactly movies like Guardians of the Galaxy and Doctor Strange take place. And that’s without even mentioning how confusing things get thanks to the “eight years later” thing in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Nonetheless, historically, I’ve had an odd apathy for the first Captain America MCU movie.
Huh. Guess we’re in full Retrospecticus mode here. Here’s one that probably features way less things you’ve heard of…
There was something very satisfying about seeing the modest success of Ex Hex at the halfway point of this decade, seeing as it was a long time coming for the band’s frontwoman Mary Timony. Sure, she had some indie level success in the ‘90s with Helium, perhaps on about the same level as Ex Hex. But something about Rips just meant a little more, since in the wake of the ‘90s, she just kept toughing it out, making music in relative obscurity before finding a more simplified, anthemic formula to transmit her immense talent through.
As I said, it was a long time coming, and it’s pretty interesting to traverse the road that Timony took to finally get there. It’s not often you find an artist who first finds success sounding fairly unconventional, then becomes even more unconventional, and then eventually morphs into something resembling mainstream rock. Yet, that’s the path that Mary Timony forged, and without ever compromising her prowess as a guitarist and songwriter.
For this Retrospecticus, I’ll be looking at basically every album she was heavily involved with. Many of her bands released EPs, which I’m choosing to skip even if some of Timony’s projects only released EPs (like her first side project with Carrie Brownstein, The Spells), and therefore will not be featured. Also, that would’ve required more work, and I had enough on my hands, considering I’d only extensively listened to Timony’s 2010s albums prior to my research for this post. Oh, and if you hadn’t assumed already, Ex Hex has a new album coming out in a few hours… Let’s get started. Continue reading
Original Review: n/a
Thor was the last MCU movie shot on film, and you can tell. I mean, yes, the jokes about how Kenneth Branagh seems to think comic books = Dutch angles are funny, but this is a great-looking film. The opening scene, in which Anthony Hopkins’ Odin recounts Midgard and Asgard’s war with Jotunheim, is basically the super hero version of the opening of Peter Jackson’s The Fellowship of the Ring. It is some stunning, epic stuff! Which is probably why I get the impression some folks didn’t realize that Thor is a comedy.
Original Review: Da Podcasket Iron Man 2 Special (unrated)
Robert Downey, Jr. fully realized his big comeback in 2008. Not only was Iron Man a massive hit, with a sequel almost immediately greenlit, but just a few months later he delivered an Academy Award-nominated performance (in blackface) in Tropic Thunder. He followed that up in MCU-less 2009 with another massive win, Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes. It seemed like he couldn’t stop winning, especially since in 2010 he would be teaming up with one of the biggest comedy stars of the time, Zach Galifianakis to make a buddy road film called Due Date and bringing in the hotly anticipated Iron Man 2.
And then there was Mickey Rourke. Like Downey, 2008 was a banner year for this troubled actor, who gave probably the best performance of the year in The Wrestler. But Rourke never shook his reputation for being a bit off-putting and couldn’t find a good direction to pivot his redemption in, making super forgettable action flicks like Killshot and 13 as well as whatever the hell The Informers was. 2010 was stretching the limits of his good vibes, but he had to sure-fire hits to keep him going: Iron Man 2 The Expendables. Whoops.
The Incredible Hulk (2008)
Original Review: Doing the Monster Smash (unrated)
I think it’s funny that at the end of John’s Incredible Hulk review he wrote, “this kind of flick is truly what I look forward to with the summer season” because I ended my Iron Man review a month earlier with basically the same sentence: “Iron Man is one of those great summer escapist movies.” I think that speaks to the low expectations we still had for super hero movies back in 2008 (and our own writing). The Incredible Hulk is most certainly summer fair, but it is far from being a great escapist experience.
Solange – When I Get Home
Solange probably knew that whatever her latest release was would have to stand in the shadow of 2016’s masterful A Seat At The Table, so you have to respect the fact that she leans into it. From the similar album artwork to the meandering tracklist to the spoken word interludes, it all bears a striking resemblance to her last album. So much so that it feels a bit like a companion to it. And yet, it once again finds an artist so comfortable in her own skin and so willing to abide by her own musical whims, that it’s easy to get lost in the subtle soundscapes she paints without it ever feeling too familiar. Continue reading