Stop Making Sense – This Talking Heads concert film from 1982 is a lot of fun to watch, and I already liked the music, so I’d say it’s a winner. David Byrne’s jerky movements are pretty entertainingly weird, as when he runs around the stage to the beat of the drum machine during the first song, “Psycho Killer.” The giant suit that Byrne wears was apparently inspired at least partially by Japanese Noh theater. Reading the Wikipedia page about the movie, I found some interesting trivia about how the film was presented that I didn’t really think about while watching, like how they tended to show the entire stage at once and de-emphasize the audience.
How to Train Your Dragon – The main themes addressed in this movie, that of coming of age and of realizing pretty much everything you know about an enemy is wrong, are pretty common but still relevant. I’m still not so keen on how humans look in computer-animated movies, and this is no exception; but the dragons themselves looked cool, and there was a good variety of them. I liked how the one nerdy kid kept referring to everything in Dungeons & Dragons style statistics, although it’s kind of weird that he was the only fat child when most of the adults were overweight. I suppose old stereotypes die hard. The success of the film seems to be part of a resurgence of Vikings in the past few years, which isn’t to say Vikings were ever uncool, just that they now seem like they might be more of a thing than pirates or ninjas.
The Secret of NIMH – This came out when I was a kid, but I never saw it. I believe I did watch a little bit of it at school, but that’s all. Beth had remembered it as being disturbing, and yeah, it really is. It features a mouse named Mrs. Brisby (Mrs. Frisby in the book it was based on, but apparently there was some problem with the similarity to the name of a certain flying disc) who has a husband who disappeared, a son with pneumonia, and a home in a field that’s about to be plowed by the local farmer. Since she can’t move her family due to her son having to recover, she visits a secret society of super-intelligent rats in hopes that they can help her move her entire house. We see flashbacks to these rats being subjected to medical testing, and we learn that some of them died trying to escape the laboratory. Their leader, Nicodemus is crushed to death by the leader of a rebellious faction within the rats’ society. It’s nothing new for children’s stories to explore some dark themes, but this one hardly ever lets up. Beth told me that her friend Suzanne considered naming a child Nicodemus after the character in this movie, although she eventually had a son and named him something else.
Texas Chainsaw – Released in theaters at Texas Chainsaw 3D, but it now seems to be listed without the “3D” part. Beth had wanted to see this in the theater, and still blames my wanting to see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey for our never doing so. Horror franchises are rather bizarre when it comes to continuity. Some at least try to keep things fairly consistent, while others are all over the place. Then you’ll get a remake that tells the same story but misses everything that made the original interesting. I guess it’s not just horror series that are like this, but they’re particularly known for it. After a series of four movies, a remake, and a prequel to the remake, this one goes back and follows the original 1974 movie but not any of the others. While TCM2 had most of the Sawyer clan survive, this one tells us that they were all killed shortly after the events of the first film, with only Leatherface himself and a baby girl getting away. The girl grows up with adoptive parents and eventually inherits her grandmother’s mansion in Texas. Since she’s too careless to immediately read the letter the lawyer gives her, her friends are all killed. She was probably the type who threw away the instructions to all her toys before playing with them. Anyway, the movie tries to address the idea of whether the mob that killed the Sawyers is really worse than the killers themselves, which might be more interesting if we hadn’t already seen it in a bunch of other horror films. That said, it was all right, and the filmmakers really did seem to have genuine affection for the original movie. Gunnar Hansen, the original Leatherface, had a cameo as part of the extended Sawyer clan; and Marilyn Burns, who played Sally, appears as the grandmother. Beth pointed out that they fudged the timeline quite a bit, as this obviously took place in fairly modern times. This would apparently make the heroine about forty, but she isn’t. Apparently dates referring back to events from the first film were purposely obscured.