Beekeeper Review: Uncle Boonmee

Boonmee is the title character of the film Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives. He’s a Thai farmer who, as of the events of the movie, is suffering from a kidney illness that will lead to his death.

The film uses a dreamy logic to let one’s imagination run wild, which is neat and all, but it makes it hard for a humble Beekeeper Reviewer to get his facts straight. I like my Beekeepers to have supernatural powers, but it’s hard to judge here. For example, if Boonmee is, in fact, capable of recalling his past lives it doesn’t come up much beyond knowing that the cave in which he dies is one in which he was born in some other life. But reincarnation isn’t the only supernatural element in the film. In the time leading up to his death, Boonmee’s deceased wife comes to visit him as a ghost. Similarly, his long-lost son returns as some form of forest spirit. Before he dies he has a dream of a possible future. None of these occurrences are directly related to his Beekeeping (though he did create his apiary after his wife’s death because it was something she always wanted). He takes all such events in stride, though, which is nice.

It’s easier to judge Boonmee’s personality, and he seems like a nice guy. He appears to treat his workers well and he has less prejudice toward immigrants than others in his family. He considers his illness is a karmic retribution for having killed many communists in war, which I feel is a sign that he has prowess as a fighter (a plus in my reviews) and he has learned that violence isn’t particularly noble (also a plus in my reviews). Furthermore, he feels the karmic retribution is also for beetles he’s killed in protecting his farm, showing his respect for nature.

Before he dies, he tells his sister-in-law to take over his farm. He says “After I die, I will find a way to help you.” I kinda believe him.

3 Honeycombs out of Five.

Worth noting: The film is based on a book about a man who claimed to recall his past lives while meditating. I don’t know if that Boonmee was a beekeeper at all, but either way this movie is inspired by that man, but is not about that man, so the film’s version of Boonmee still counts as a Fictional Beekeeper.

More like Yawn of Steel

As should be clear by now, when I am interested in something, I go all in. For that reason, I have been trying to work my way through every podcast on the topic of Superman that I can find online. I’ve listened to hundreds of episodes of such by this point. There’s a lot of hours of people talking about Superman out there. It’s a lot to get through. I’m not gonna stop, but it is a struggle.

One thing that comes up so often is the movie Man of Steel that came out back in some year that starts with a 20-. It’s pretty damned divisive and everyone gets so worked up about it. I’ve only watched it only once, when it was in theatres, and I don’t remember liking it much. But I don’t feel nearly as strongly about it as the internet people do. My primary memory of the thing was that is was pretty boring except for action scenes that were too shaky for me to tell what was going on. I also hated (and continue to hate) the stylized bleakness represented by a dimming of colours which apparently people think is “realistic” even though just looking at the real world for a moment will show that it isn’t. I absolutely did not the film’s take on Pa Kent. But mostly it was a forgettable and overlong action movie, I thought.

But you know what everyone who rants about the movie cares about that I don’t? Superman killing Zod. This is the single biggest point of debate, and I’ve yet to hear anyone come at it from an angle I agree with.

First, there’s the people who argue against it because Superman should never kill anyone. Okay, sure. I prefer my Superman as a non-killer myself, but that isn’t a debate that came up in the movie before that point (or after, really, except that he screamed in anguish for a second). Again, it’s been years since I watched it, but whether he should kill or not wasn’t a theme of the movie. It was more concerned with whether he should do anything at all, which had basically been decided by that point. So the kill is sort of unearned drama at worst, but it doesn’t go against Clark’s character as portrayed within the film. If you’re against it because of your opinion of the character based on portrayals outside the film, sure, but that’s not the film’s fault. And this isn’t even the only depiction of Superman specifically killing Zod. There’s a million takes on Superman out there and I’m certainly not going to say this one is “wrong” based on this one aspect.

But also, I don’t agree with the people defending Superman’s murder choice often frame it as Superman doing what needed to be done to save people. I didn’t see that when I watched the movie. Zod was already defeated in that moment and he wanted to die.

Look, if Zod wanted to kill this family, he could easily have done so by moving his eyes slightly to his right, but he held off for moments without doing it. He was just threatening to do it. It wasn’t as if he’s straining to reach them with his laservision and just couldn’t do it because Clark held him out of reach. He was taunting Clark into killing him, as if saying “I’ll do it! Kill me, or I’ll do it!” And so Clark killed him. Superman fell for Zod’s “Suicide by Superhero” ploy.

At the time, my biggest complaint regarding the Zod’s death was that they always kill the villains in superhero movies. It felt that way to me then at least. Back then I’d seen a higher percentage of existing superhero films that were released, whereas now I see maybe a quarter of them. But I thought of how many times I’d seen Green Goblin or Joker* or Doctor Octopus or Two-Face or whomever else get killed off, and wanted something different. (* I specifically remember citing the time when they didn’t kill off the Joker and then the actor died.)

One of the best things in superhero comics is how long-running relationships between characters, including heroes and villains, grow over time. Back in those days I wanted to see more of that on film. I think they may do more of that these days, but I’ve mostly tapped out. Either way, Man of Steel just did what those movies did, I thought. And that just made it a boring choice. I can’t believe people still spend so much time arguing about it.

Anyway, my most controversial belief now: Superman’s never had a movie that goes above mediocre and yes I’m including the Christopher Reeve stuff. Good night!

Oh yeah, there was that Superman/Batman movie…

I just realized that back when I first watched the Superman/Batman movie (The 7th of April 2016), I sent my thoughts to Marq as I was watching. I have now copied them and paste them below, typos and all, devoid of any context. Just rest assured that Marq didn’t know what I was talking about either. I went in fully knowing the movie’s reputation and about the Martha scene and stuff. I may refer back to these thoughts in a future Superman Thoughts post, but mostly this is just for posterity:

Is there any reason that Bruce’s employee “Jack” who gets blown up isn’t a version of Lucious Fox? I’m not saying that woud be better necessarily, but it seems like it might have been an easier way to play up the importance of the death to the audience of the last few Batman movies.

18 Months Later. One of those time skips that are always ruining comics from what I hear.

There’s no way this archaeologist or whatever is going to be Lana’s father is there?

I’m going to assume Lois is in the bathtub because it shows us how close she and Clark are. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.

Okay, this is where I’m starting to feel old already. I already don’t know what’s going on. Lois says the people at the hearing are saying something, Clark cuts her off saying he doesn’t care what they’re saying. I genuinely don’t know what they’re saying. Are they unhappy because Superman saved her? Because the terrorists got killed by those motorcycle guys? I’m not sure who is unhappy or why.

Batman brands people? Wasn’t that the schtick of one of the old pulp heroes? Nightraven or something?

Alfred’s really drilling the hatred of Superman into Bruce. Is this movie actually Alfred vs Superman?

So Lex Sr. grew up in East Germany?

At least the movie seems to be okay with using the name Superman, unlike Man of Steel with that damn cough joke I still don’t understand.

Wait, it’s only 18 months from the last movie and there’s already a statue of Superman? He really must have stepped up his game between movies.

Why did Lex just put a candy in a guy’s mouth? I tried to give him a chance, but I’m going to agree with the others who said this version of Lex is not great.

“Superman acted like some rogue combatant to rescue her” is the official problem the government has with Superman? I still don’t get it. Are they just upset that he doesn’t work for them, or are they saying Superman shot all those people? They do know that guns would be pretty unnecessary for him to use, right?

Affleck is one of the three actors I am most frequently compared to, and probably the handsomest of the three.

Gotham and Metropolis are across a harbour from one another? I think there are some Silver Age comics with that setup. But why, then, are they so acting like the heroes are so attached to their particular cities, then? Batman doesn’t fight crime if running water gets in his way? Superman won’t fly across the harbour to put out a fire?

I’m sure if wheelchair guy were being set up to be Metallo, I would have heard of it alredy, so I am sure he is not.

The action scene where Batman fights Superman soldiers and bug guys is absolutely free of quick cuts and shaky cam. I almost feel like someone listened after my opinion of the first movie.

The superheroes acting like jerks and the frequent dreams are more similarities to the Silver Age.

“He is not our enemy,” Alfred says. So, did I misunderstand what Alfred was saying earlier? Going back to check, Earlier Alfred said “Everything’s changed. Men fall from the sky. The gods hurl thunderbolts. Innocents die. That’s how it starts, sir. The fever, the rage, the feeling of powerlessness. That turns good men cruel.” All said while showing images of Superman. I dunno.

Wilhelm Scream. Maybe they are willing to try to have fun? I mean, Wilhelm Screams are lame, but they’re also not super serious.

This car chase scene is pretty coherent as well. Are my memories of how bad the action was in Man of Steel flawed?

Oh, nobody told me the fight was over the fact Superman busted up the Batmobile. He deserves what he gets.

Seems like making a tracking device that blinks on the end that you’re trying to track is just begging for it to get noticed by the person you’re tracking.

“Does he act by our will, or his alone?” Okay, so I guess the whole problem is their uncertainty about his motives.

“The desert was a set-up. Someone wanted Superman to look guilty.” Oh, so they do think Superman shot all those people? Surely Lex could faked heat vision or something?

Ah, Lex’s skinny assistant is Mercy. Nice touch, I guess.

Well, at least they can’t say the movie doesn’t foreshadow its jars of urine.

Also, I guess Mercy is dead.

“All this time, I’ve been living my life the way my father saw it.” “Superman was never real. Just the dream of a farmer from Kansas” No! Jonathan Kent specifically told you to not help people because it would put you at risk! That’s the thing I most hated about the first movie!

So Pa Kent is in the movie after all (dream, I assume). Okay, scene over and he has not offended me. I’ll accept this Pa Kent appearance without complaint.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Lois Lane falling from a great height it one of the least suspensful things ever, so I am glad this one didn’t drag it out. He was there almost instantly.

And then the movie takes a break while Wonder Woman browses commercials for upcoming DC movies.

“If I wanted it, you’d be dead already.” The truest fact about Batman/Superman fights.

Luckily, we flash back to Bruce’s origin again. I had forgotten what had happened there.

Is there a reason that Kryptonian/Human mix is stronger than both instead of somewhere in between?

I hope that the R-rated version of the movie just gives Doomsday some junk.

Okay, Doomsday does get some bony protusions. I’m not big on him flying and heat-visioning, but it does fit this origin.

Bruce to Clark regarding Wonder Woman: “I thought she was with you.” You literally emailed her Bruce. Like two hours ago.

I think Wonder Woman just smiled! I don’t think superheroes are allowed to do that here!

See, if I were Clark, I might have, like, thrown the spear, or maybe even given it to Wonder Woman. I’ll just blame it on being a heat of the moment thing, though.

And here’s my problem with these movies, I don’t care that Clark is dead right now. I have no attachment to him. This version of Superman has barely had a consisteny personality for me to attach myself to. I guess I’m supposed to just transpose my existing feelings for the character onto this version, but I can’t do that. This Clark was never got past the cipher stage for me. This would probably have been helped if there had been a second movie, one that showed Superman becoming the beacon of virtue Lex claimed he was. One that showed why people were willing to build a statue to him. One that had ANY scenes of his relationship with Lois at all. One with Bibbo. Just because.

They shave Lex’s head. That’s something, I guess.

One thing this funeral is missing is mobsters attacking Jimmy Olsen while about three dozen superheroes are about ten feet away. Those were truly the smarted mobsters ever.”

Movie Thoughts: Demon Knight

I just watched Demon Knight. Movie Thoughts came into my head while I did so, so here they are:

Movie poster? More like a movie post-MORTEM-er. Or a movie GHOSTer. Or a movie DECOMPOSE-ter. And what have you.

First and foremost, I’ll point out that it was a perfectly serviceable schlock horror experience. I’d recommend it to people who have the exact taste in movies that I do.

But what set my mind a wandering during this movie is something that actually applies less to this movie and more to serious attempts at horror fiction. Demon Knight, being a Tales From the Crypt production, is presented with a framing sequence featuring everyone’s favourite cryptkeeper, the Cryptkeeper. It has that double layer of fiction. The Cryptkeeper is already a fictional character and he is relating to us another story, which is therefore Extra Fictional. You see what I’m saying? I’ll come back to that a few paragraphs from now.

One of the ways that I often disagree with Horror Discussers on the internet is that a percentage of them (it feels like a large percentage, but probably actually isn’t) want to feel like they are scared for themselves while watching the horror movies. I can’t relate to that. I’ve never got that feeling once that I can remember. What I want from horror movies is to care about the characters enough to feel worry that they may not make it through the story. This is something that horror movies often fail.

The people who want to feel scared by horror stories also tend to say they prefer non-supernatural horror, because that way it can be something could really happen. A ghost bear isn’t scary because ghost bears aren’t real, they say. A normal human killer with a knife is scary because one of those might break in and kill me while I’m watching the movie. Well that could happen any time, whether you’re watching a movie or not, so if you want to be scared of that, be scared of it. If I’ve knowingly put a fictional movie on to watch I’m not worried about either the ghost bear or the normal human killer in the movie, because they’re both equally fictional actually. And ghost bears would make for a movie infinitely cooler than a human with a knife.

Anyway, while watching the Cryptkeeper introduce Demon Knight I began to wonder if he, and other similar horror comic hosts, were introduced to allow a sort of distancing from the supernatural elements of the horror stories they presented. You don’t get to pretend the story isn’t fictional when the undead guy making terrible puns tells you right from the start that it’s a story. It’s like a gate that only lets in people who can accept the weird supernatural stuff. If so, good job, Cryptkeeper.

Movie Thoughts: Wind Chill

I watched Wind Chill. I had thoughts while I watched it, and here they are:

Wind isn't so chill.

This is a supernatural horror movie, blah blah, whatever. The main thing I took away here was that I just did not care for the protagonists. Not at all. They were not people I wanted to spend time with.

The story begins when the one woman and the one man meet up to share a car on a trip or something. They bicker a strange amount for two people who ostensibly just met to share this car. I thought that they were supposed to be some former friends who had bad blood between them or something, but nope. That’s just how they are. And it turns out that the man is also basically a stalker. My main feeling while watching was that I didn’t want to be watching them. That can’t be the intended effect.

There’s a frequently occuring trope in horror movies, especially the slasher movies, to have the protagonists be unlikeable jerks so that we are all happy to see them all get murdered. I don’t approve of that line of thought either, though at least I understand their reasoning. They are thinking the point of those films is that thrill of seeing people get slaughtered and if they are unlikeable it is all the better. That is probably true for a large portion of the audience. It isn’t for me, though. What I like about such films is seeing characters I like, or at least am interest in watching, as they try to get through the bad situations. I want to be happy when they succeed and saddened when they fail.

But that’s slasher movies anyway. This isn’t one of those. This is a movie about two people in a car and I don’t like those people and it takes way too long to get to the supernatural stuff. This is sharing a ride with two annoying strangers and it takes to long to get where I’m going.

I admit, the story does try to redeem the characters, have them grow as people and maybe get better, but it all happened long after I cared if they got better. By the time the stuff I wanted started happening, I did not care about how these two reacted to it.

Anyway, that’s it.