Dec 5, 2020

"The Guest": Korean Shamans, Catholic Priests, Ghosts, Noodles, and Maybe Subtexts

Many Americans don't realize that Korea is not all Buddhist.  A large proportion of South Koreans belong to vairous home-grown religions that combine Christianity and folk beliefs.  So I was interested in a shaman-based Korean paranormal series, The Guest.

Besides, it was advertised with this image.  Looks like a gay couple.

Scene 1: "The Guest comes from the eastern see, and it possessess man."  Establishing shots of a beach crowded with happy vacationers.  Middle Aged Woman is trying to pass out fliers that say "Come get some hoe," but she is ignored.  Suddenly she is possessed by The Guest, and attacks a group of teenagers with the butcher knife she just happened to be carrying.

Scene 2: Twenty years ago. A group of people in white robes are preparing for a ritual, but Hwa-pyung, a little boy, prefers to watch tv instead.  He's afraid to come outside because there's a ghost out there -- a bald woman with a bloody mouth -- screaming at him.  

Dad yells at him.  Mom acknowledges that he can't help seeing dead people, but advises that he should pretend not to, so he will fit in with the communal-oriented society.

Scene 3: A colorful procession down a mountain, banging cymbals and carrying banners. A villager named Jong-Jin explains that the ritual is technically meant to ask the gods for good fishing, but it really has an ulterior motive: it is to keep away the evil spirit Park il-do, who possesses people and turns them into killers.

Scene 4: We actually see the ritual, Byeolsin-Gut: everyone chants and sways, the Shaman dances, and an offering is placed on a boat and cast off.  Suddenly Jong-Jin is pulled underwater by an unseen force.

Later that night, Jong-Jin starts stabbing people, and then blinds himself.  Hwa=pyung sees him and collapses.

Scene 5: Hwa-pyung is blind in the eye that Jong-Jin stabbed.  Plus he can see Park il-do (a gray cloud).  

Scene 6: Thinking that Hwa-pyung has been possessed, the villagers perform the Nullim-Gut, a ritual to "suppress spirits and their powers."  The Shaman dances, the people sway and clap.  But something goes wrong: the Shaman collapses in a pool of blood.  "He's too powerful!  You have to kill him!"

So, when is Hwa-pyung going to age into a hot adult?

Scene 7:
A bus stops at a deserted field, and two Catholic priests get out to examine Hwa-pyung.  Old Priests states that he's not possessed; maybe it's child abuse.  Young Priest (Choi Sa-hyung) gives Hwa-pyung his number, and invites him to come over if he wants to talk about anything.  Hwa=pyung pulls him close and whispers something in his ear.

Oh, boy, when Hwa-pyun grows up, he and Young Priest will live together and solve paranormal mysteries and be boyfriends.

Scene 8: Young Priest is shaken by the experience.  He goes home and tells his parents, "For the first time, I am confident in my faith." 

Scene 9:  Dad comes into Hwa-pyung's bedroom and tries to kill him. Could we revisit that child abuse explanation?  Mom restrains him, and Hwa-pyung runs from the house.  He looks at Young Priest's address.

Meanwhile Young Priest has just finished killing his parents.  Yoon, apparently his little brother, is locked in the bedroom.  Young Priest breaks the door down.

Scene 10: Hwa-pyung is staring at Young Priest's house..  A woman and her young son stop to see if he needs help, and he tells her "Down there!"  So she goes down to the house and knocks. (Or maybe call the police?)

Scene 11:  Guess what?  She's a police officer.  When Young Priest answers the door, she knows immediately that something is wrong.  (What tipped you off?  The glazed zombie eyes, or the blood on his clerical collar?). So she talks her way inside, and finds a room full of dead parents, and Little Brother hiding under the bed.  

The first rule of being in a house with a deranged killer -- don't turn your back.  Young Priest attacks, they fight.  Police Officer is killed, but Yoon escapes, and runs out to the car.

So now there are three little boys standing in the road outside the Murder House.  Fortunately, Police Officer called for backup, so they are all saved.  

Oh, boy, they'll all grow up together and investigate paranormal mysteries and become boyfriends!

Scene 12: Finally we get to modern-day Sangyong, Korea, where the grown-up Hwa-pyung (I assume)is driving a cab.  He picks up a couple, and notices that the young woman is dazed and resistant: "That's not your girlfriend, is it?  Be careful -- her brother's a cop. Besides, you're married"  He explains that he has psychic powers.

The guy flees.  Hwa-pyung takes the dazed girl home. Darn, now they'll start dating and...

She's upset because she was actually trying to seduce the guy, not the other way around. Huh?

Scene 13: Young Priest walking through an alley.  Why is he still young, after 20 years?  He accosts a homeless guy: "You're not the one I'm looking for."

Scene 14: Hwa-pyung knocks on a door.  Middle-aged, effeminate shaman Yuk-gwan answers: "Your eyes are full of lust.  You'll be chasing women until you're old." 

He barges in, helps himself to some noodles, and asks "Heard anything about possessed people?"

No, and none of the other shamans have, either.  Or the Catholic priests or Buddhist monks.

Scene 15:  Hwa-pyung goes home to a room plastered with newspaper articles about possessed people killing their families.  He lights a candle on the altar to his dead mother and prays to her: "I promise I'll get him (Young Priest)."

Wait -- Hwa-pyung's mother wasn't killed by Young Priest.  He killed Police Officer and his own mother.  Which of the three boys by the side of the road is this?

Scene 16: Hwa-pyung sees a body in an aquaduct, and asks a passerby to call the police.  Two officers investigate.   Suddenly they see a young woman, Kang Gil-young, parked nearby, and curse: "Goodness! What's she doing here?"  She's under disciplinary review for beating up a suspect, and not supposed to be investigating cases.  

Ok, I get it. One of the boys by the side of the road was actually a girl, who has grown up to be a tough, plays-by-her-own-rules detective.  That leaves Yoon, Young Priest's brother, unaccounted-for.

Scene 17: Young Detective interviews employees at the cleaning business the victim owned.  There was an incident a couple of months ago: an independent contractor was "slightly injured," and blamed the boss.  Aha, a suspect!

Scene 18: Hwa-pyung investigates, too.  The contractor is in a wheelchair, and can barely speak.  Quite an accident!  He shows him a picture of Young Priest, and the poor guy goes beserk!  

 Scene 19: Young Detective interrogates Hwa-pyung.  Why was he at the aquaduct, and then at the contractor's house?  Hwa-pyung comes clean about his psychic powers.  She doesn't believe him.

Oh, no, they're going to work on cases together and fall in lo-oo-ve.  Heterosexism triumphant.  And where's Yoon, Young Priest's little brother?  The actor gets top billing on IMDB.

Scene 20: The Independent Contractor has mysterious scars on his hands and says "Let's all die."  Then he levitates and kills his wife.  At the police station, Hwa-pyung has a vision of the murder.  

He rushes to the house.  Young Detective is already there. They investigate.  The end.

Beefcake:  Only in the opening scene.

Other Sights: The Shamanic rituals are very colorful.

Gay Characters:  The swishy shaman, definitely. It remains to be seen whether Hwa-pyung buddy bonds with the grown-up Yoon or does the Mulder-Scully routine with the grown-up Detective.

Plot Holes: There's just one demon, not a legion of them.  So how can it possess Young Priest and the Independent Contractor at the same time?  And why did it possess Hwa-pyung, but then leave him for Young Priest?  He was too young to kill people?  Psychic powers were too strong?  

Starting Too Early:  Definitely.  It would be a much cleaner, more concise episode if we started with Scene 12, and relegated the opening eleven scenes to a few flashbacks.  

My Grade: It will depend on who Hwa-pyung falls in love with.

Dec 4, 2020

Popeye: Finding a Non-Traditional Family

Critics panned the 1980 movie musical Popeye, starring Robin Williams and Shelley Duvall, but I loved it.

I loved the world of Sweethaven, a tiny, cramped, desolate seaport, cut off from the rest of the world, where everyone is trapped, like the castaways in Lost or Gilligan's Island:

Sweet Sweethaven
God must love us
Why else would He have stranded us here.

It's the heart of the Depression.  People have no jobs; they must wear second-hand clothes and live in decrepit houses.  They spend their days drinking bootleg liquor, boxing, "horse racing" (without horses), and philosophizing on the futility of life: one day you're alive, full of hope for the future, and the next, you're food.

Everything is food, food, food

To make matters worse, the town is ruled by a Big Man (literally), Bluto (Paul L. Smith, top photo, bear-hugging Bruce Lee).  He levies arbitrary taxes, forecloses on houses, and beats up people at random.

He is engaged to Olive Oyl (Shelley Duval), whose parents run the local boarding house, but she really had no choice in the matter.  She tries in vain to think of a reason to like him:

He's tall...goodlooking...and large.

"Large" would actually be a plus for me.  Extra-large, even moreso.

Into this lost, shipwrecked world comes the one-eyed sailor Popeye (Robin Williams), not the sophomoric star of 1960s cartoons, but the ultimate individualist from the E.C. Seegar comics of the 1930s, whose mantra was remixed by Gloria Gaynor and became a gay anthem:

What am I?
I am what I am!

At first reluctant to get emotionally involved, Popeye befriends Olive Oyl and her family and decides to help out.

 He wins a boxing tournament to forestall foreclosure, and trounces both Bluto and a giant octopus.  On the way he adopts a founding child and re-unites with his long-lost father.

And there's a gay connection: there's no indication, anywhere in the movie, that Popeye and Olive Oyl have fallen in love.  Olive Oyl is ecstatic to finally find someone who "needs me," but Popeye, similarly, sings "Everybody needs somebodys," to his son Swee'Pea.

They work together to raise a child that neither has had a biological role in producing.  They are a non-traditional family.

 The movie is about finding a family, finding a home, not necessarily in a heterosexual embrace, but among people who care about you.

Dec 2, 2020

"Wayne": A Modern-Day Holden Caulfield, A Gay-Subtext Couple, and a Lot of Weirdness


Amazon Prime splashes its streaming products as aggressively as Netflix: "Spectacular!  A triumph!  A masterpiece!  The greatest work of art the world has ever known!  On your death bed, you will remember watching this tv show as the high point of your life!"

Ok, Wayne: A 16=year old Dirty Harry with a heart of gold and his girlfriend Del head to Florida to recover a stolen car (a wicked=hot car)!  Sounds more like Holden Caulfield, and intensely heterosexist, if not homophobic.  

But I read through the episode summaries to be fair.  

"Episode 8: Cole and Orlando's strange relationship."  Relationship?  Same-sex romance, although pegging it as "strange" is homophobic.

"Episode 9: "Calvin and Reggie refuse to set out the welcome mat."  They must be a gay couple, or a boy-girl couple where the girl has a boy's name (I've been fooled by that before).

So I watched Episode 9.

Scene 1: Wayne breaks into a deserted house, barricades the door, yells "fuck!" a lot.  Suddenly he's attacked and beat up quite severely.

Scene 2: Del (Clara Bravo) breaks into a community swimming pool.  The security guard offers to let her spend the night.

Scene 3: This must be the day before. Wayne comes down to breakfast with Reggie (Francesco Antonio), a muscle man who eats an entire box of cereal in one bowl, but no milk -- because it comes from the breasts of female cows.  Wow, even in West Hollywood, we didn't reject the feminine that much.

Reggie's Mom Maureen comes in with a shopping bag, complaining about alligator crap.  Wayne tells her that his girlfriend Del left.  

Ok, Maureen is Wayne's Mom too, so Reggie must be his older brother. 

Maureen wants the extra bedroom for her candle-making business but Calvin refuses to give up his "man-cave."  

So is Calvin Reggie's boyfriend or Maureen's boyfriend?  Probably Maureen's.  Gay men don't usually have man-caves.

Scene 4: 
Cole (Mike O'Malley) and Orlando (Joshua J. Williams) are driving somewhere, bickering about directions like a married couple.  These are the guys with the "relationship" in Episode 8.  

Cole notes that back in the day, Wayne's Mom had "great legs."  Orlando gets angry, and he backtracks: "She's not my type.  I only date black women."

Well, Orlando is black, so he's got the race right.

Cole swerves to avoid a dog in the road, and crashes the car.  He gets out.  There's no dog.  "Not again!" he screams.

Scene 5: Wayne is working on changing the spare bedroom into Mom's candle-making studio, when Calvin (Kirk Ward), a tattooed biker type, storms in and yells at him.  He's obviously Mom's boyfriend, not Reggie's.  But Reggie hasn't expressed any heterosexual interest -- maybe he's gay.

 Calvin goes downstairs and issues Mom an ultimatum: "Get him the fuck out of here, or get the fuck out of here with him." These people say "fuck" as often as they say "the."

Scene 6: Cole sits in the road, whining: "I'm cursed.  I'm on a mission to save Wayne, but he should be saved from me."  

Scene 7: Del spent the night at the pool.  It's morning, and there are a lot of kids splashing around.

Scene 8: Wayne has finished the candle-making studio.  Mom starts packing up to sell her candles at a  swap meet in Tampa, but Wayne doesn't want her to go.  With Calvin in the house, I understand why. They argue, Wayne throws candles, she storms out.  

Wayne goes downstairs and tries to steal their car, but Reggie and Cole catch him and beat him up.

 Scene 9: Hey, there really was a dog!  Cole, Orlando, and the dog walk down the highway.  "Things are looking up!" Cole exclaims.  "We're going to find Wayne!  I can feel it!"

Scene 10: Del tries to get a bus ticket out of Ocala, but she doesn't have enough money, so she starts begging.  Meanwhile Cole, Orlando, and the dog come into the bus station.  Del knows them!  "You're my fucking principal!"

Scene 11: 
Reggie and Calvin have Wayne tied up and hanging from a hook. They're planning to blow torch him to death, but they're interrupted by Officer Geller (Stephen Kearns) and his partner.  "Wayne?  Oh, he's hanging around here somewhere." Calvin quips. Then he clobbers the partner and invites Officer Geller into the garage to see Wayne.  

Well, that was unexpected.

Scene 12: Cole, Orlando, and the dog treat Del to breakfast. They are trying to find Wayne and bring him back to Brockton.  "Sure, his house burned down, and his dad with it, but he's got us." 

So Cole and Orlando are planning to adopt Wayne?  I don't care if Cole likes women, they're a gay couple.

Scene 13: Officer Geller strips so he won't get his clothes all bloody.  Scrawny body, not attractive.

He tells the story of a guy he fell in love with, who framed him for a crime that cost him 817 days in a Thai prison.  Cakvub is not interested in his "queer experience."  Just get on with it!   Then Geller reveals a body covered with violent tattoos.  

Scene 14.
  At the diner.  While Cole pays the check, Orlando has a heart-to-heart with Del.  She asks how he met Wayne, and he tells the whole story in flashback: a kid was being blackmailed about a revealing video, so Wayne hired him to erase it from the internet.

Scene 15: I thought Officer Geller was going to kill Wayne, but instead he fights Calvin., and  annihilates him.  He cuts Wayne loose and says "You're under arrest." The end.

How does this all tie in to the first scene?

Beefcake: Reggie wears a muscle shirt.

Discussions of shit: Three.

Discussions of how good Wayne's Mom is in bed: Three

Gay Characters:  Officer Geller.  And Cole and Orlando are an obvious gay subtext couple.  I fast-forwarded through Episode 10: Wayne's Mom tries to kiss Cole, and he pulls away while Orlando looks on, smiling. He knows he has nothing to worry about.

Nov 29, 2020

"Max Reload and the Nether Blasters": Not Heterosexist, Not Interesting


Max Reload and the Nether Blasters!
  Horrible title.  I assume it's either a Christian movie with a "life-affirming" heterosexual message or a retro "teen nerd wins The Girl."  But it stars the hunky Lukas Gage, so I stream it on Amazon Prime.

Prologue: Two ancient Egyptian gods are playing chess on a map of the constellations, I guess.  I dunno. Bursts of power flow into a pyramid and spell out the opening titles.

Scene 1: Max (Tom Plumley),  Reggie (Joey Morgan), and Lizzie (Hassie Harrison) are playing a Dungeons-and-Dragons-style video game.  Reggie and Lizzie, clerks in a video game store, are interrupted by rude customers.  Max is playing at home.

They play for a very long time, while the audience watches.

Scene 2: It's  6:15,  time for Max's shift, so he gets dressed and rushes into the kitchen to grab breakfast/lunch/something (swigging orange juice directly from the bottle).  A scruffy guy grabs him and points a gun at his head. 

Surprise!  They were playing a game.  Scruffy Dude suggests that he apply to tech school so he can learn to design video games instead of just playing them: "Be a hero in your own life."  

Aha!  Scruffy Dude is his Grandpa, raising Max after his parents died.

Sccne 3: Max's car won't start, so he takes a bike to work.  On the way, he is accosted by Seth (Lukas Gage), a bully from a 1980s teen nerd movie, who insult hims by implying that he's a woman ("Maxi-pad") and gay ("your little boyfriend Reggie").  Max counters by criticizing his game-playing skills and the size of his penis. 

At least Lizzie has already broken up with him, so Max won't have to spend the entire movie trying to Win the Girl.

Scene 4: At the video game score, Lizzie is explaining how to acquire "hookers, heroin and homicide" to a preteen player, while his mother looks on, horrified.  When Max arrives, she explains that Seth is jealous because he is a better gamer and coder, and of course much hotter.

Chuck the Cool Boss (Kevin Smith)doesn't mind Max coming in late.  Lizzie complains that Max always gets away with everything, because....well, they all seem to understand why, but I don't.  Because Max is hot?  Or because he's good at gaming?

 A lengthy scene where they discuss gaming stuff that I don't understand.  

Steve the Delivery Guy (Jesse Kove) delivers some heavy boxes of virtual-reality costumes.  Reggie flirts with him, but is rebuffed.

Next we spend a lot of time watching Max strap Chuck into his costume.  I don't know why.; maybe it will be important to the plot later?  

Max looks disgusted while strapping up Chuck's crotch.  That could mean he's straight, or that he doesn't find Chuck's crotch attractive.

Scene 5:
Steve the Delivery Guy asks Lizzie to join him at the gym for a workout.  She agrees.  Uh-oh, competition for The Girl.  So Max, naturally, waits until he leaves and then makes fun of him: he has poor gaming skills and goes to a gym.  What a loser!

Criticizing someone for being muscular?  Max must be straight.

They discuss video game developers. For a long time. Max's hero is Eugene Wylder, who developed the Nether Realm game in 1984. 

I'm bored.  I'm fast forwarding.

Eugene Wylder and Grandpa join Max, Reggie, and Lizzie to fight some glowing-eyed zombies.  

Reggie and Max have a heart to heart: "We're all proud of you."  

Lizzie kissex Max on the cheek. 

 Grandpa hugs Eugene. 

They cosplay their characters for a climactic final battle.  

Final scene: Max, Lizzie, and Reggie join the E-Sports league as the Nether Blasters.  Meanwhile, Eugene and Grandpa are being interviewed: "We will bring Nether Realm to the next level," with Max and his team as lead developers.  Chuck is jubilant: "This game is gonna change history!"

 This is more important than saving the world from glowing-eyed zombies?

Beefcake: No.

Heterosexism: Max and Lizzie are standing on opposite sides of the group.  There is no fade-out kiss.  They are obviously not a couple (unless they had a heart-to-heart while I was fast-forwarding).  

This scene does not appear in the movie.

Dirty Double Entendres: "Nether Blasters" sounds dirty, but otherwise everyone seems squeaky-clean.  Even a mildly off-color phrase gets Lizzie reprimanded.

Gay Characters: As far as I can tell,  there are no romantic entanglements of any sort, which is a relief.  Max, Reggie, Grandpa, Eugene, Chuck -- any of them could be gay.  Or none of them.  It's not LGBT representation, but it's not heterosexist, either.

Endless, Excruciatingly Dull Discussions of Gaming: Yes.

They Think Gaming is More Exciting than Fighting Monsters: Yes.

My Grade:  B if you are a gamer, F if you aren't. 

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...