Recently, my fourteen-year-old self knocked on my window in the dead of night and asked me to reconsider demon butlers. Or, rather, I went to watch Black Butler: Book of the Atlantic (a movie adaptation of one of the later arcs of the manga) in the cinema with a friend, where we were both promptly reminded why we’d loved this series so much as teenagers. The Black Butler manga is more than ten years old and still going strong, and the movie reeled me back into this world of supernatural action and Victorian Era finery with enough force and finesse that I was compelled to revisit the first few volumes of the manga—the “Jack the Ripper” arc, the storyline I remember being my favorite and starring my favorite pair of villains—and dive back into this story to see if it held up. Is it still good? Certainly. Is it also riddled with problems I’m much more wary of and attuned to now that I’m older and wiser? Absolutely. Spoilers for the arc ahead!
It’s almost the Fourth of July, and for those of us here in the United States, we’ll soon be celebrating our nation’s founding. For me, that often meant watching 1776 with my parents, and I have to say that I adored this musical. The film version of the musical 1776 came out in 1972, and the musical itself came out in 1969. It follows John Adams as he tries to get a difficult, cantankerous, and often divided Congress to agree on American independence.
However, if you are a Hamilton fan, this musical might be a disappointment for you. This movie is very white and almost entirely male, with the exception of two female cast members, only one of whom plays a significant role. Regretfully, while there are some great moments in this musical, as far as representation goes, it definitely falls short.
Having seen two out of the three abysmally bad Fantastic Four movies already, I figured that by now I was probably jaded enough to tackle the original 1994 version without risking my sanity. After all, the 2015 version was absolute rock bottom: so bad that it derailed before looping back around to “hilariously bad” and ended up in a fiery heap somewhere between terrifying and boring. Much to my relief, while the 1994 version is indisputably terrible, it’s the sort of terrible you can watch in relative comfort and have a giggle at. Some charming aspects are that it’s mercifully short, comically overblown, and features (genuinely) the best movie version of Dr. Doom we have. Some terrible aspects are that it feels like a high school kid did the final editing, it treats women like garbage, and while it’s technically fairly accurate to the comics, it chose specifically the worst faults of the comics to stay faithful to.
Sometimes when you rewatch children’s movies that you loved as a kid, you sadly realize how stupid they actually were. You may have loved the movie as a child, but as an adult you can understand why your parents hated when you would put it on. But every so often you rewatch one of your favorite movies from when you were young and are filled with a warm glow because it’s just as heartwarming and beautiful as you remembered. For me, this was the case with A Muppet Family Christmas, one of my all-time favorite childhood Christmas movies.
It has come to my attention recently that a lot of people have never seen A Muppet Family Christmas, and that just baffles me, because it is by and large the absolute best Muppet Christmas movie. Yeah, it is better than A Muppet Christmas Carol; it really is.
On my latest pre-Halloween adventure through the realm of nostalgia, I decided to revisit a movie that—for some reason—absolutely terrified me as a kid: 1994’s The Pagemaster. To say that any movie terrified me is really something, considering that I saw Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom at age five and Jurassic Park was my favorite movie at age six, but evidently watching a tiny, animated Macaulay Culkin scamper through an uncanny valley of living books was on another level of disturbing.
This uniquely 90s nugget of media is about a boy named Richard who is terrified of absolutely everything until he has to go on an adventure to escape from a library that has somehow been turned into a fantasy realm full of monsters and dragons and pirates and such. Helping him along the way are three anthropomorphized living books with creepy faces and weird little arms and legs. Are you not shaking in your boots yet? Come on.
We’re going a little deeper into the archives of science fiction this week, to pull out the 1964 Stanley Kubrick film, Dr. Strangelove or: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. The black-and-white visuals and Cold War imagery give the movie a dated effect, but I’m realizing how distressingly relevant the underlying message still is.
At the top level, the movie is a satire of mutually assured destruction and nuclear war. A rogue American general named Jack D. Ripper, consumed with paranoia, orders an unprovoked nuclear strike against the Soviet Union, and a fleet of bombers take to the air.
When news of the strike reaches President Merkin Muffley, he descends to the underground War Room, joined by the maniacal General Buck Turgidson, the Soviet ambassador Alexei de Sadeski, and the title character, a nuclear scientist from Nazi Germany now serving the United States. De Sadeski reveals the existence of a Soviet Doomsday Device, which will automatically destroy all life on Earth with a cloud of radioactive gas if an atomic strike on the USSR is detected. The Americans and the Russians work together to recall the bombers, but one, piloted by Major T.J. “King” Kong, has been damaged and cannot receive the radio signal, and prepares to deliver its payload.
Earth’s last hope is the failure of Kong’s bomb, spray-painted with the name “Hi There!”—which jams in the bay. But the dedicated pilot climbs on top of it, and jumps up and down on it until it deploys. Kong rides the bomb to the end of the world, gleefully whooping and waving a cowboy hat in the film’s most famous scene.
The Americans pause for a moment of silence, before planning to resume the Cold War after the apocalypse when they emerge from their bunkers. The credits roll with a montage of mushroom clouds set to Vera Lynn’s “We’ll Meet Again”.
I’m slowly working through all the old books on my bookshelf—the ones I remember reading and liking as a kid, but haven’t reread in years, and which I don’t quite want to put out for adoption without making doubly sure I’m not going to miss them. The upside of this project is that it’s lent me all sorts of fodder for Throwback Thursdays, and this week’s topic was yet another one of these keep-it-or-donate-it quandaries.
Before beginning to reread it, all I could I remember about Which Witch? by Eva Ibbotson was that it was about seven witches competing for a wizard’s hand in marriage. Upon rereading it, I did find it goofy, dark, and fun, but I’ve got mixed feelings about the messages it sends.