Blood Quantum,
and a few more films

#224  [archive]
NOV. 26, 2023
Blood Quantum (2019)

I am not a zombie flick aficionado, and this is a zombie flick, but it's from Jeff Barnaby, who earned a BIG YES from me for Rhymes for Young Ghouls.

Like Rhymes, this takes place on the fictional Red Crow natives' reservation, with a mostly native cast, which is great and all, but what matters is what's on the screen.

What's on the screen mostly rocks.

The zombie apocalypse begins with fish — there's a great scene where a guy is gutting his day's catch, and the sliced fish start flopping around on the table, falling off and flopping around on the ground. It's a terrific moment, and not the only one.

Soon there are zombie people everywhere, but in a clever twist of cosmic vengeance, natives are immune to the disease. Red meat tastes good, so the zombies will eat natives, but once dead a native stays dead.

Eventually a small band of survivors gather in a haphazardly-built fortress that keeps the living dead on the other side of its walls. Survivors come, and if they haven't been bitten they're — well, not exactly welcome, but tolerated.

"Speaking of which, what about this place? Some of these fuckers ain't local. They've never seen a brown person since their grandparents owned one. And they outnumber us, too. How long before it comes to pass they get tired of being herded by a bunch of Indians?"

It's a zombie movie, so don't get your hopes too high, but Blood Quantum stays smart and fresh to the end, with enough blood and violence to earn its place in the genre, but not enough to bring up lunch.

It's a good movie, and the last from Jeff Barnaby, who died of cancer in 2022, age 46.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Brainwaves (1983)

Decent idea, but extremely poor execution: A woman gets her skull smashed in a wreck, and to fix her up a mad neurosurgeon wants to wire her brain into the same circuit as the brain of a woman who's been electrocuted. The bad news is, memories get transferred, too.

The real bad news, though, is that this movie is overstuffed with stupid. What's the speed limit in a parking garage — 5 mph? The movie meanders well under that limit. It's crammed with scenes that add nothing and stumbling dialogue no human would speak.

There must've been swindling or extortion involved with casting, because Keir Dullea, Tony Curtis, and Vera Miles star. Dullea and Miles have their pride, and give it a solid 3/4-effort, but Curtis delivers the performance the film deserves, meaning, he's awful.

Verdict: BIG NO.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Room Service (1938)

This is the only Marx Brothers comedy made for RKO, and it has a cute animated opening sequence which might be the best bit in the movie.

It's also their only outing not written specifically for the Marxes. It was a Broadway play, Marxless, then rewritten and Marxified by Morrie Ryskind (A Night at the Opera, My Man Godfrey), but there aren't a lot of laughs.

Groucho plays a stage producer with the unfunny name Gordon Miller (and there's your first indication of trouble — Groucho's characters are supposed to have wacky names). Miller is a penniless swindler who owns the rights to a play but has no money to hire actors, crew, or a stage. Chico and Harpo are trying to find ways to raise the needed cash.

Meanwhile, they're all staying at a swanky hotel where they haven't paid rent, and can't, and here comes the playwright, a smiling mannequin-faced man in what might've been the Zeppo role. 

Crammed into a plot that doesn't fit them, the Marxes try, but Harpo doesn't play the harp, Chiico doesn't play the piano, and Margaret Dumont wasn't invited. Lucille Ball and Ann Miller co-star, but neither are given anything funny to do. Groucho does his wacky walk and raises the eyebrows, but nothing feels inspired.

Toward the end, the all-white cast sings the negro spiritual, "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot." Then, they sing it again. There's also a flying turkey, which Harpo tries to bludgeon with a baseball bat.

Show this to anyone as their first Marx Brothers movie, and they'll never want to see a second.

Verdict: NO.

♦ ♦ ♦

Who Farted? (2019)

Billed as the first climate change comedy, this documentary is an hour and a half of fart jokes tangentially related to the 'cows and methane' problem.

Takes a long time getting to the cattle, though. First we get fart cartoons, whoopie cushions, a fart-themed story from The 1001 Arabian Nights, and urgent philosophical questions such as: Should one be embarrassed at farting? Should one allow oneself to fart in the presence of one's dearest love?

Most folks, I daresay, have these questions answered by their second date.

There's a brief interview with Dr Rui Wang, fartologist, and buckets and buckets of childish jokes, so I think children might mildly dig this movie, even come away a little more aware of climate change and the joy of farting.

For adults, though, it's a bore. The narrator isn't funny, and says everything he says far too slowly, and the only jokes are fart jokes.

Verdict: MAYBE.


• • • Coming attractions • • •

Army of Shadows (1969)
Auto Focus (2002)
Barton Fink (1991)
Between the Lines (1977)
Cellular (2004)
The Dark Glow of the Mountains (1985)
Gods of Times Square (1999)
Frankenhooker (1990)
Greystoke (1984)
Hugo (2011)
The Importance of Being Earnest (1952)
The Lawyer (1970)
Not of This Earth (1957)
The Saint in New York (1938)
Same Kind of Different as Me (2017)
The Shooting (1966)
The Spook Who Sat by the Door (1973)
The Train (1964)
Welcome to New Orleans (2006)
Winter Soldier (1972)

... plus occasional 
schlock and surprises 

There are so many good movies out there — old movies, odd or artsy, foreign or forgotten movies, or do-it-yourself movies made just for the joy of making them — that if you only watch whatever's on Netflix or playing at the twenty-plex, you're missing out.

To get beyond the ordinary, I recommend:

AlterCineverseCriterionCultCinema ClassicsDocsVilleDustFandorFilms for ActionHooplaIHaveNoTVIndieFlixInternet ArchiveKanopyKinoCultKino LorberKorean Classic FilmChristopher R MihmMosfilmMubiNational Film Board of CanadaNew Yorker Screening RoomDamon PackardMark PirroPizzaFlixPopcornFlixPublic Domain MoviesRareFilmmScarecrow VideoShudderThoughtMaybeTimeless Classic MoviesVoleFlixWatchDocumentaries • or your local library

Some people even access films through shady methods, though of course, that would be wrong.

— — —

Illustration by Jeff Meyer. Reviews are spoiler-free, or at least spoiler-warned. Click any image to enlarge. Arguments & recommendations are welcome, but no talking once the lights dim, and only real butter on the popcorn, not that fake yellow stuff. 
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