Quite the mix of releases this week for us. Up first is Happy Happy Joy Joy: The Ren & Stimpy Story, a documentary on the cult Nickelodeon cartoon from the 1990s. I was a big fan of the show, it hit just at the right time of my life. I always enjoyed cartoons and here was one for a bit older audience with a demented Chihuahua and lovable and abused cat. The documentary gets into how the show came about, all those involved, how Nickelodeon supported it (at first). There are interviews with its creator, John Kricfalusi, producers of the show, artists, writers, super fans like comedian Bobby Lee and so much more. Then it takes a turn. If you know about the allegations against John Kricfalusi it’s not surprising, but I was talking to a friend about it who didn’t know what I was talking about. The documentary does not hide anything. It talks with the woman who Kricfalusi lived with when she was very young. You get her side of the story, he admits she was too young, but he says he doesn’t see it her way. I respect that it doesn’t try to sugarcoat anything and he openly talks about it and another woman. If you are/were a fan of the cartoon this is a must watch. If you know about the allegations or know nothing about them it’s eye opening the level of what happened. But as a fan of the show I still enjoyed the documentary quite a bit.
Second we have The Curse of Hobbes House. The title sounds like it’s some supernatural, ghost movie, but I’m happy to report it’s not! I’m not a fan of paranormal movies so this being somewhat a zombie flick I was pleasantly surprised. A young woman gets a call her aunt dies and she must go to her aunt’s house, The Hobbes House, for the will reading. There she finds her estranged sister, her sister’s boyfriend, a Syrian man who looked after the aunt and the home and the lawyer reading the will. I’m not always a huge fan of British horror for some reason, but this gets a lot of originality points. It’s not great, but I enjoyed it and it brings something different to a much over done genre. These aren’t normal zombies, in fact I don’t believe they are even called zombies in the movie. They are undead guardians watching over the house because of a Pagan curse. The UK has such a great mythical history that you would think with that history they’d have great horror films based on Paganism or Stonehenge or any other mystical mythology like this does. The fact that this film does try to bring something new and different is a good idea in my book. You don’t get a ton of gore or kills, but if you are looking for something different out of the zombie genre, I’d give it a try. It won’t wow you with effects or production value, but I had fun with it.
Third we have the documentary White Riot. This is about 1970s England and the movement against racism, Fascism, xenophobia and all the other buzzwords people still use today. The UK at this time was moving towards the Right and this group of people helped start a movement with Rock Against Racism. Punk music was gaining popularity at the time and bands like The Clash had something to say about all of it. The people in the documentary are very proud of themselves for what they did and accomplished in their own eyes. We don’t get political on this site so I’ll keep any opinion of these people and events to myself, but I can see this documentary having an audience. People who use words like timely, necessary and essential will eat it up. It’s well made and does go deep into their movement showing old posters and news reports.
Keeping with political and period pieces, next is My German Friend. It opens in 1950s Buenos Aires where Nazis and Jewish families settled after World War II. We are introduced to Sulamit, a Jewish girl who is neighbors with Friedrich, a young boy of a German family. Her father dies and she moves away. He finds out a horrific family secret and moves to Germany to study and find out what his father did. She eventually moves there as well to study. They both get involved in political movements and he ends up in prison back home. She tries to help him and ends up leaving her boyfriend and life in Germany to head back home. It’s loosely based on people and events from the writer/director’s own life. The two leads are good and I wasn’t familiar with the story at all, but not sure if it’s something I’d watch again.
Next is Frau Stern, a film about a Holocaust survivor who wants to end her life. Frau Stern wants to decide when enough is enough on her own terms, asks around for a gun, let’s her doctor know she’s ready to go, but after spending time with her granddaughter and her friends, starts finding reasons to live. At first I thought it might have been a documentary because of how it was shot, but then realized it was an actual movie. Another film I’m not sure if I’d watch again, but the lead actress holds your attention as you question whether or not she should have the say in how she goes out. Pretty straight forward movie that gives you exactly what it sets out to give.
Where I Belong continues the run of politically based movies for the week. A young woman lives in 1950s England with her ailing father after leaving Austria during World War II. She wants to discover her own life, but her father wants her in at night and is fighting to get his old home back in Austria. An old friend of his he hadn’t seen in 15 years visits sparking a relationship between the friend and daughter. The lead actress is pretty great as you see her trying to live her life, have friends, lose a job, start an affair and be the daughter her father wants. Another film I most likely wouldn’t watch again, but probably the best of the 3 here.
The next few are Kino Lorber releases for the week as was the Ren & Stimpy documentary. Up first is Bodies, Rest & Motion starring Phoebe Cates, Bridget Fonda, Tim Roth and Eric Stoltz from 1993. A young Alicia Witt also makes an appearance. Despite the big cast, I had never heard of the film and watching it, I kind of know why. Fonda and Roth are in a relationship and planning on moving. Cates is their neighbor and friend. Stoltz plays a guy hired to paint their apartment after they move. Roth takes off leaving Fonda on her own and Stoltz is immediately interested. It’s based on a play and I definitely think it’s more fitted for the stage. It’s not bad or anything, but it’s rather forgettable as well. But I’m sure there are some diehard fans of the film because of the cast who will eat up this new Blu-ray release.
Next is Diary of a Mad Housewife, the 1970 film that opened the eyes of people to just what’s going on to housewives. Carrie Snodgress plays the wife of Richard Benjamin, a driven businessman who belittles his wife at home especially in front of their two daughters. He wants to live a certain lifestyle going to lavish parties and rubbing elbows with the elite. He throws a party at their townhouse with a caterer and all that to impress those around him. Meanwhile she starts having an affair with Frank Langella, a narcissistic writer. Snodgress was nominated for an Oscar for her performance. I was familiar with the movie, but had never seen it and all three performances are great each capturing their characters flawlessly. A great character study for the time and lifestyle.
Beasts Clawing at Straws is a multilayered Korean film about a bag of cash and all those involved. One guy finds the bag in a locker at the sauna he works at. He swipes it to take care of his mom and business. There’s another man who borrowed money from a loan shark, the woman who stole it, a cop investigating all of it plus other characters. It time jumps to show you how things played out without you realizing who is involved and when. I quite liked it. At under 2 hours, it doesn’t wander or lose its footing which keeps you invested in watching. I tend to like Korean crime dramas so this worked really well for me.
Last is Marseille: The Complete Series. This 4 disc set features both seasons of the French political drama starring Gerard Depardieu, Benoit Magime, Karen Strssman, Anne Yatco, Geraldine Pailhas, and Nadia Fares. I hadn’t seen the show before, but had heard of it. I believe it was on Netflix, but don’t quote me on that. The biggest positive is the backdrop. The locations and settings are just beautiful. As for the story, it definitely feels similar to other political shows, but I still enjoyed it overall. I binged it over a few days so it held my attention enough to want to watch. I liked the acting quite a bit, but the story seems very done before. If you were a fan definitely pick up this Blu-ray release.