Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for the ‘Movies’

The things I love about the myth of King Arthur are not in the movie

May 22, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Movies No Comments →

The best part of Medieval English Lit class, where one could become catatonic from reading Piers Plowman, was studying the many versions of the story of King Arthur. I have loved T.H. White’s The Once and Future King since I saw Walt Disney’s The Sword in the Stone, and I enjoyed reading the sources of the tales, including Geoffrey of Monmouth, Chretien de Troyes, the Mabinogion, and later, Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur.

These source materials do not figure in Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur, not that we expected them to. The movie is blithely unaware that it takes place in the Middle Ages. There is no point in reviewing this King Arthur, which is the laddie movie reunion of Charlie Hunnam and Aiden “Littlefinger” Gillen of Queer As Folk. Monty Python and the Holy Grail is more faithful to the sources (seriously). So is John Boorman’s Excalibur, though the acting makes it campy (Merlin, please). So are Robert Bresson’s meditative Lancelot du Lac and its very colorful tights, and in its way, Terry Gilliam’s The Fisher King. We will not mention any TV series.


Colossal is bizarre, funny, and messy, the way life often feels.

May 18, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies No Comments →

Colossal’s premise is weird: a woman’s anxieties are manifested as a monster stomping a city on the other side of the world. But Nacho Vigalondo’s movie aims for more than that Wii connection. It takes Godzilla-like monsters and giant robots, the staples of our protracted adolescence, and uses them to make its protagonist confront the uglier parts of her personality. Are the problems of one person so important that the people of Seoul have to suffer for them? Is this not wish fulfillment for the super self-absorbed (the ultimate making-this-about-me)? Then again, when we have personal problems our sense of proportion is the first faculty that gets vaporized.

So it’s an extended metaphor about facing the monster inside you, but it’s funny, unsettling, and comfortable in its absurdity. Also I didn’t feel like watching Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur without a row of friends to elbow and make snide remarks to. Anne Hathaway is terrific in Colossal—I’ve forgotten why everyone turned on her. Jason Sudeikis is funny with an edge of malice, and Dan Stevens seems to be in every movie these days.

Weekly Report Cards 14-19: Embarrassing parents, secretive wives, and adorable uncles

May 13, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Movies 6 Comments →

Week 14

Book: A Venetian Affair by Andrea di Robilant. A packet of old love letters is the entry point to a fascinating history of 18th century Venice, full of scheming politicians and courtesans, grand palaces, masked balls and intrigue. A true story. Recommended for readers who like Venice, history, and tales of forbidden love.

Movie: Toni Erdmann. A careerist’s overscheduled life is shaken up by the arrival of her father, who likes putting on false teeth and playing practical jokes. Maren Ade’s low-key comedy topped the Sight & Sound critics’ poll last year. It’s less funny-ha ha than oddly touching, especially when it evokes the loneliness of our supposedly connected world. Recommended for viewers who live in fear that their parents will embarrass them in front of their colleagues. Like, everyone.

Alien: Covenant—Back into the slimy dark we go

May 10, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Cats, Movies No Comments →

Michael Fassbender does the uncanny valley.

In the not-so-distant future, assuming the species survives its current stupidity, humans might colonize other planets. Before they do I hope they see the Alien movies (and its ripoffs) and think hard about security protocols, especially those concerning contamination. And that they develop powerful portable floodlights because so much mayhem could be avoided if people could see where they were walking.

But back into the murky, slimy dark we go, and once again our guide is Ridley Scott. The movie opens with a flashback to events before Prometheus. Critics didn’t love that movie, either, but I enjoyed it a lot: it raised questions that prompted other questions that got weirder and weirder. In this prologue, the synthetic David (Michael Fassbender) has a discussion with his creator, Weyland (Guy Pearce). David, you will recall, modelled himself on David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia, down to the hairstyle of that glamorous imperialist. David is disappointed in his creator and his puny species—he, the creature, is obviously the superior being. Here’s where the Alien movies merge with Blade Runner (which Denis Villeneuve is resurrecting): they are the descendants of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein’s monster. Later David even quotes a poem by Mary’s husband, which any Breaking Bad fan should be able to identify.

Vive la France

May 08, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Current Events, Movies No Comments →

Fine, you are superior.

I was going to post the scene from Casablanca again (must be plenty of people doing that today) but remembered a similar scene from perhaps a greater film, Renoir’s Grand Illusion. In a German camp, the French prisoners of war are putting on a show when they get news of a French victory.

It’s a beautiful anthem, the model for the Philippine, never mind the stuff about bathing in the blood of enemies.

We still have Paris.

A totally unnecessary review of the extremely amusing Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2

April 26, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies No Comments →

Yes, it’s a blast, almost strenuously cheerful.

1. It’s funny and the opposite of self-serious.

2. There are unexpectedly affecting moments, most of them having to do with father-son relationships. Gamora’s relationship with Nebula also gets some attention. Captain America is all about politics, Spider-Man is about adolescence, X-Men is about nerds and Guardians is about family. (Fantastic Four should’ve been about family, but they never figured it out.)

3. It has even more music in it than the first Guardians; you could view it as an exhausting series of very expensive music videos. The poster looks like an album cover.