Book Review: “Melissa Etheridge’s Seminal 1993 Album Made of Two Overlapping Triangles Instead of One” by Nick Mehalick | Ethel Press (2021)

“This is not a prayer, but a swan’s song, the blasphemy done with intention,”

A work of self-discovery that evolves into one of spellbinding self-affirmation. Mehalick brings the reader with him on a path of rich confrontations with himself, a deity, family, music, etc., each piece either reveling in the traditions of form to firmly convey his perspective or outright exploding those traditions in the utmost punk style. Any veil between writer and narrator in these pieces feels especially thin, too, allowing readers a sort of comfortable access to the writer as he accepts, affirms, and meditates on his individual queerness. While it is an achingly personal work, it is also universal in its reflections. Readers are sure to find a bit of themselves in these stout pages, no matter who they may be.

My back cover pull-quote, tattered and folded underneath the seat of an El Camino: “Mehalick begins where many of the Final Fantasy video games end, fighting/addressing a God. In a bold twist to the JRPG formula, Melissa Etheridge’s Seminal 1993 Album Made of Two Overlapping Triangles Instead of One starts with that confrontation between man and supposed creator and then goes from there. This is cross medium conversation and intersectional genre discourse at its finest.”

Available to purchase now from Ethel’s shop!

Film Review: “The Green Knight” (2021)

“And the world is fit for all manner of mysteries.”

A fittingly strange and epic adaptation of the Arthurian tale, with lush cinematography and effects (practical skeletons galore) that capture just how bizarre these tales of yore could get. It’s sometimes easy to forget that storytelling has always been wild as fuck. Also a perfect Christmas/New Year’s movie that grasps the spookiness and soul weight of those introspective yule times.

The springish themes of renewal, birth, and connecting to nature are critical here too, though, with the radical botanics of the Green Knight at odds with the grim structures and interests of man. Alright, it’s a movie for all seasons. Except those weird couple weeks in February when it just sucks all the time. Don’t you dare watch this around then.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “At least as good as this weird version I watched in highschool English class that had Sean Connery as the Green Knight. I was convinced that I fever dreamt that version of the story until recently, but I guess not.”

Film Review: “Space Jam: A New Legacy” (2021)

“Sounds awfully familiar.”

Time is a flat circle. Here we are, twenty-five years later, saying similar things about Lebron’s Space Jam that the critics did about Jordan’s: uninspired, stupid, not enough Marvin the Martian, who is the best Looney Tune. But we were young back then. Children wearing those 90s “street” Looney Tunes shirts who enjoyed “stupid,” “uninspired” things. And now, we have a fondness for Space Jam.

Perhaps we have become the very thing we swore to destroy: old people with opinions.

The added corporate synergy is the real outlying negative in A New Legacy, as Warner Bros. just dumped cameos from every one of their owned properties into this thing because branding. But, like this year’s Mortal Kombat reboot, this is very much the exact same movie they made in 1996 just made in 2021. If Space Jam were never made before now, this is still the movie we would have gotten today. The trend of trading in nostalgia that’s been so successful this past decade, applied to an idea about the most famous basketball player of our time playing basketball with the Looney Tunes, can only end with a product like this in 2021. We have brought this on ourselves, and that’s okay. It doesn’t really matter what I think, though. How the children remember A New Legacy 25 years from now will truly determine the movie’s, uh oh, legacy and worth.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “Pennywise the Clown could have used a bit more screentime and development. Like, he probably wants to tear LeBron’s son Dom’s arm off, drag him into the sewer and eat him, of course, but that’s not really explored here so why even have him in the crowd at the basketball game?”

Film Review: “The Father” (2021)

“What’s to become of me?”

The Father is an impressive bummer of a movie that somehow makes me not want to have dementia when I’m old even more than I previously didn’t want to have it, which was already a rousing 100% heck no to that.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “My father never made it to old age, but if he had I would be worried about him becoming exactly like Anthony Hopkins in this movie, so committed to remaining in control of himself and his world, not realizing these things have already slipped away from him. It’s a trait I see in many of the older generations–that need for control–which makes it all the more heartbreaking when its wrested away from them by their own mind. It’s a tragedy that this film nails.

Anyway, I need to sit down for a while.”

Film Review: “Black Widow” (2021)

“I’m not the killer that little girls call ‘hero.'”

An entry into the MCU that touches on familiar themes but pulls the universe into the realm of spycraft with ease, which makes it feel different enough from (and comparitively fresh in relation to) the rest of the films in this sprawling series. More importantly, though, Natasha Romanoff is finally given substantial character development and time to be both human and, damn it, silly. Is it too late? Definitely, but better late than never.

Another place I think the film really succeeds is in its use of humor. While most MCU movies make jokes, even if they’re not comedies like Thor Ragnarok or Guardians, there is a dark undercurrent of trauma in Black Widow‘s jokes that I feel enhances out understanding of the characters’ (Yelena, especially) horrid experiences at the hands of the villain.

If anything, I’d say the action is the weakest part of the movie and the action is actually pretty solid.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “Taskmaster is so damn cool. This version of Taskmaster, that version of Taskmaster, whatever version of Taskmaster. I’ve always wanted to be Taskmaster because I don’t want to work for years honing an ability to fight like Captain America, I just want to watch Chris Evans and be able to fight like him.”

Film Review: “F9: The Fast Saga” (2021)

“If this was a movie, this would be the part where the villain’s plan suffers a setback.”

The Fast and the Furious movies are just big ol live action anime mecha movies now with cars instead of giant robots. Tyrese is questioning whether or not they’re all invincible superheroes during the entire movie, but they’re not. They’re all just anime characters in a mecha movie, going through the dramatic motions until it’s time for the next big set piece when they can suit up and hop into their giant robots/cars to do impossible stunts while chasing some increasingly sci-fi macguffin or something. Plus family.

Fast10 better have a laser sword.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “Flashbacks to 1989 throughout the movie explore Dom’s father’s death and its effect on the Toretto FAMILY. The actor playing Dom’s father has a similar SoCal accent to the late Paul Walker, which suggests to me that Dom saw and heard a bit of his father in Brian when they met all those years ago and that helped build his trust in Brian. These movies have layers, okay?”

Film Review: “A Quiet Place, Part II” (2021)

“There’s nothing left.”

A less inventive sequel that has lost the novelty of the original but not the spirit or solid filmmaking. It relies too much on the ‘people making dumb decisions’ trope in horror movies, though, and doesn’t do enough to separate Cillian Murphy daddy figure from John Krasinski daddy figure. I’m definitely into the world, that main characters, and I’m looking forward to parts III – IX and beyond as long as it’s profitable. Like The Purge. Did you know there’s a new entry in the Purge series called The Forever Purge coming out?? What even is that?

My VHS cover pull-quote: “Spoiler, but let’s stop killing Djimon Hounsou in movies. He was a cool, chill character who died stupidly just because they needed him out of the way for the ending.”

Film Review: “The Sparks Brothers” (2021)

“My baby’s taking me home.”

Edgar Wright brings his brand of humor to the documentary format by exploring the infinite career hills and valleys of the iconic, weird, and long-running pop duo Sparks, a band I had no idea existed until seeing this movie at a special film fest showing near me. Which is wild because the talking heads in this documentary are members of Red Hot Chili Peppers, Duran Duran, New Order, The Go-Gos, Beck, and actors, comedians, and writers like Neil Gaiman (no actual Talking Heads, though). These successful artists knew about them, so now I feel have to pretend that I, too, always knew about these two quirky brother musicians who were more popular in Europe so I can lord it over people who don’t even know who they are.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “Oh my rock and roll christ, you don’t know Sparks? Then you don’t know music! They have influenced literally every pop musician since the early 1970s. I can’t believe you haven’t listened to Sparks. They’re all about the ART, man! Don’t even speak to me until you’ve at least streamed Kimono My House and Propaganda. Get some education.”

Disclaimer: One of Sparks’ songs is featured in the 1986 movie Rad, which I did somehow see when I was young in the early 00s. I just didn’t have the musical permanence to correctly retain that song amidst all the sick BMX style bike tricks breeding in my brain.

Place Review: Movie Theaters (2021)

“That looks good.”

Dark, big screen band-aids for my depression that sometimes smell a little weird but I love anyway. They’ve been away for a while, but I see them now in their empty parking lots, popping corn and pressing the button that releases cheese onto the nachos and into your heart.

The people talking during the most important part have been successfully shushed, though we have chosen the squeakiest seats. Someone spilled their popcorn, kernels tumbling towards the screen. They’ll pick them up after. No doubt they’ll do it again next time. Always. It’s expected.

We are flickering with the screen, now. Still during the quiet parts.

My VHS cover pull-quote, scrawled on the weird and frightening backside of the theater, where those direct exits are that disorient you and put you outside who knows how far from your car:

“The earliest movie ticket I still have from my youth is for a showing of Shrek in 2001, which I feel has dictated my life up to this point and far beyond. To the grave. Even beyond that.”

Film & TV Review: “Demon Slayer The Movie: Mugen Train” (2021) & “Demon Slayer: Season 1”

“How dare you go on living without a care.”

Delicious!

Demon Slayer works because of its animation, fight choreography, violence, and wacky anime hijinks, sure, but it’s the vulnerability of the characters compared to other shonen anime that really lets it stand out in the canon for me. The emotional toll the traumatic past has taken on the main characters (and even the demons they slay) is always palpable in their actions and thoughts. Perhaps most critically, tears flow so freely throughout the story, normalizing strong emotions in stereotypically strong individuals.

The downright stellar animation in Demon Slayer the Movie: Mugen Train bolsters heavy emotional character moments that move the characters forward in meaningful ways and pretty much destroy me and my tear ducts every time I think about them. While the film starts out feeling like just a batch of episodes strung together in a film format, the scale and weight of the overarching theme becomes clear about halfway through. This arc of the story needed to be a film, and I hope they use the feature length format again to at least cap off the series, if not earlier.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Season 4 finale ‘Restless’ continues to inspire dream narratives across the globe.”