Body Puzzle (1992)

This review was originally posted on Swampflix.com on February 24, 2016. The rating was 3.5/5 Stars. Image courtesy of Swampflix Editor Brandon Ledet.

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Body Puzzle is a 1992 giallo film directed by Lamberto Bava, the son of legendary Italian horror maestro Mario Bava and frequent collaborator of Dario Argento (having, among other things, been the assistant director of both Inferno and Tenebrae). The film follows the story of Tracy, a widowed manuscript editor who begins receiving body parts wrapped in wax paper following the revelation that her late husband’s body has been disinterred. Although the film as poorly received in its time, it holds up as a kind of last gasp of true giallo, even if the mystery of the film relies on a twist that doesn’t quite work.

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The House with the Laughing Windows (1976)

This review was originally posted on Swampflix.com on February 23, 2016. The rating was 3.5/5 Stars. Image courtesy of Swampflix Editor Brandon Ledet.

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The House with the Laughing Windows is a 1976 giallo film directed by Pupi Avati, and is the film in that director’s canon that has experienced the greatest visibility outside of Europe. The film follows Stefano (Lino Capolicchio), who has been invited to a small village in the Valli di Comacchio area in order to restore a fresco depicting the killing of Saint Sebastian, which is on the rotting wall of a church. The friend who helped him get the job, a conservatory scientist recovering from a breakdown of an undisclosed variety, becomes increasingly paranoid and warns Stefano that the village hides a dark secret, cryptically referring to a house with laughing windows. When this friend is killed before he can reveal the full truth, Stefano starts to wonder if all the threatening phone calls he’s been receiving are more than just pranks.

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Agents of S.W.A.M.P.F.L.I.X.: Thor 2 – The Dark World (2013)

In the words of Swampflix editor Brandon Ledet: “Superhero Watching: Alternating Marvel Perspectives, Fresh and Longterm, Ignoring X-Men, or S.W.A.M.P.F.L.I.X., is a feature in which Boomer (who reads superhero comics and is well versed in the MCU) & Brandon (who reads alternative comics and has thus far seen less than 25% of the MCU’s output) revisit the films that make up the Marvel Cinematic Universe from the perspective of someone who knows what they’re talking about and someone who doesn’t have the slightest clue.” This article was first published on February 23, 2016.

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Boomer: It seems silly now to think that the ongoing existence of the Thor franchise was not a given. Prior to the first film’s release, Kevin Feige announced that there would be a second Thor following the release of The Avengers, but Kenneth Branagh wasn’t so sure. In fact, his response to the news seems almost pessimistic, as he stated that he felt the audience would have to decide. At the time, there was gossip that this was a response to what must have been seen more and more by the individual directors as executive influence. Although our culture has a tendency to think of studio influence as an inherently negative contributor to a film’s overall quality (probably because its impact is negative in most cases), but there are examples of this kind of oversight working. Two prominent examples in this same genre are Star Wars and Star Trek: The Next Generation: in both cases, once the creator had full creative control the content took a nosedive, and the material itself vastly improved when the property was returned to more corporate oversight. Although this would later (famously) be the reason that Edgar Wright would leave the Ant-Man project, Branagh’s stated reasons for leaving Thor 2 were that he was hesitant to get straight back into production so shortly after the first film was completed, given the long lead times that effects-heavy films like the Marvel spectacles have.

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The Late Great Planet Mirth II: Revelation (1999)

This review was originally posted on Swampflix.com on February 17, 2016. The rating was 3.5/5 Stars, with a Camp Stamp. Image courtesy of Swampflix Editor Brandon Ledet.

Welcome to The Late Great Planet Mirth, an ongoing series in which a reformed survivor of PreMillenialist Dispensationalism explores the often silly, occasionally absurd, and sometimes surprisingly compelling tropes, traits, and treasures of films about the Rapture. Get caught up in it with us!

EPSON MFP imageRevelation, sometimes stylized as Apocalypse II: Revelation, is the first of three sequels to 1998 PPI release Apocalypse, and it is a massive improvement on the previous installment. Gone are the bargain basement community theatre actors who clogged up the works in the first flick, replaced by people you may have actually heard of before; gone is the soundtrack that consists almost entirely of Contemporary Christian Music artists, replaced by music that was actually scored for the film rather than haphazardly arranged behind it. Furthermore, the production value on Revelation is exponentially higher than that of Apocalypse, as this movie succeeds in actually looking like a movie and not a poorly produced television pilot shot on VHS. Although the proselytizing elements are still present in this film, they’re toned down significantly, and Revelation feels like it was conceived as a movie with the soapbox added as an afterthought, rather than the other way around.

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The Late Great Planet Mirth I – Introduction & Apocalypse (1998)

This feature introduction and review was originally posted on Swampflix.com on February 15, 2016. The rating was 1/5 Stars. Image courtesy of Swampflix Editor Brandon Ledet.

Before we get started, let’s get this out of the way: the opinions contained herein are strictly those of the author and do not reflect upon Swampflix or its editors. These opinions are born out of a lifetime spent being reared in a particular theological worldview and its intersection with academic and scholarly studies of religious doctrine and eschatology. The introduction below is provided solely to present the ideologies that serve to make up the mindset from which the film(s) reviewed were created. No harm is intended, and this should not be interpreted as an invitation to discuss religion, positively or negatively.

EPSON MFP imageI have a real fondness for media pertaining to that particular brand of Christian eschatology that centers around The Rapture. I was raised in a church that was highly obsessed with Christ’s ever-nearer return, and being born into and reared in that environment had an intense effect on me, as we were always preparing for the Second Coming and expecting it to happen any day now. From the outside, it’s impossible to understand just how deeply the conviction that the Glorious Return will play out exactly as depicted in the Left Behind series of books runs, but suffice it to say that the true believers of this worldview are true believers, and there’s not a lot of room for discussion or alternate opinions/interpretations on/of the subject.

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Agents of S.W.A.M.P.F.L.I.X.: Iron Man 3 (2013)

In the words of Swampflix editor Brandon Ledet: “Superhero Watching: Alternating Marvel Perspectives, Fresh and Longterm, Ignoring X-Men, or S.W.A.M.P.F.L.I.X., is a feature in which Boomer (who reads superhero comics and is well versed in the MCU) & Brandon (who reads alternative comics and has thus far seen less than 25% of the MCU’s output) revisit the films that make up the Marvel Cinematic Universe from the perspective of someone who knows what they’re talking about and someone who doesn’t have the slightest clue.” This article was first published on February 7, 2016.

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Boomer: In 2014, director Jon Favreau released the indie critical darling Chef, in which he appeared as a man who tired of the world of elite haute cuisine that values style over substance, a man who forsakes that world to fix up an old food truck and take a more “back to basics” approach to food. As has been pointed out by other critics, this can be seen as a metaphor for Favreau’s fatigue with the Iron Man franchise, as he bowed out of directing the third film, although he reprised his role as Hogan (if spending 80% of the film comatose can be considered a reprisal). Instead, the reins were handed over to Shane Black, whose resume as a writer includes Lethal Weapon, Monster Squad, and The Long Kiss Goodnight, and as such was already well-regarded before he began directing with 2005’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

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Movie of the Month: Big Business (1988)

The post from which this was excerpted was originally published on Swampflix.com as part of that site’s “Movie of the Month” feature, in which one contributor makes the rest of the crew watch a movie they’ve never seen before, and the staff discusses it afterwards. For February 2016,  Britnee made me, Brandon, and Erin watch Big Business (1988).

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I’m not much of a fan of comedies of error in which the humor relies too heavily on farcical near-misses, and there was a point in this movie where I lost heart as I realized that the film was saving the inevitable serendipitous union of the City and Country Mice for the end of the film. Once I had this epiphany and stopped waiting for the film to get to that point, I found myself enjoying the movie more straightforwardly, and was pleased that the mistaken-identity elements weren’t played for cringe-comedy as much as I had expected. As has been noted, this is a classic Hollywood farce, which really serves to demonstrate to what extent Old Hollywood was still working from a centuries-old storytelling paradigm; this isn’t really an Old Hollywood Farce so much as it is a Old Globe Farce, based on William Shakespeare’s genre-defining Comedy of Errors. In essence, Big Business is a throwback to a time when films were based almost entirely on dramas that were ancient even then, making the film old-fashioned by default, not that this is necessarily a bad thing. My major problem with the film comes from the way that its antiquated nature shows through in the film’s moral.

When viewing the four main characters, only Poor Rose and Rich Sadie seem truly suited for their positions in life, with Rich Rose and Poor Sadie being reasonably well-adjusted but largely unfulfilled. Ignoring the two women who are in their “rightful” lives, Poor Sadie’s desire for a more exciting life than pig wrasslin’ and yodeling can provide evokes more empathy for her than the audience can really muster for Rich Rose, who certainly has the financial means to forsake her supposedly incomplete life for the purported pleasures of rural domesticity. As such, Rich Rose is the character who gets the least characterization, really only developing once Roone shows up in the third act. This would be a fine exploration of the nature/nurture dichotomy, were it not for the fact that, ultimately, Poor Sadie comes to the decision that not only is the way of life in Jupiter Hollow worth preserving, it’s worth praising as well; she forsakes her biological sister’s urban and urbane world to return to performing percussive cow milking alongside toothless men whose musical expertise is limited to playing moonshine jugs, and we, as an audience, are supposed to feel gratified by this conclusion. Rural living is the right fit for everyone, except the shrewish antagonist.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I got plenty of laughs out of Tomlin and Midler’s performances here, and even the potentially painful farce worked for me. I was just hoping for one more twist (for instance, that the Sadies were actually the children of the Ratliffs and that the Roses were the Sheltons’ daughters) that would make the film less overt in its praise for downhome simplicity over metropolitan cynicism. To a man, all of the New York-based characters that are not Rich Rose are foppish, conceited, untrustworthy, manipulative, and greedy, with the implication being that Rose feels unfulfilled because she is genetically predisposed toward “goodness,” being the child of salt-of-the-earth outlanders. But the “goodness” of rural living is enough to almost completely deprogram Poor Sadie, who is tempted by the carnal delights that ensnare and comprise Rich Sadie’s identity and existence but is able to reject them. It just doesn’t sit well with me.

Erin, am I reading too much into this, or allowing my perception of the film to color my enjoyment of it too much? Is there something that mitigates this seeming moral that I may have overlooked? And what do you think about the Old Hollywood elements–do they work?

Read the full discussion on Swampflix.