A mishmash of superhero stories and a triumphant tale of love and rock music are this week’s picks.
Hey, real quick:
I haven’t seen “Captain Marvel” yet because what even is free time anymore, but I’m glad it had a massive opening weekend. Internet trolls (how this has become a badge of honor for some people, I will never understand) tried to bring it down before it even opened, dropping its Rotten Tomatoes audience score to 27%, but it didn’t matter, and thank goodness. The same thing happened with “Black Panther” and “Wonder Woman,” too, among others. See a pattern there?
As a white dude, I ask: Can’t we get over ourselves already? Not everything needs to revolve around us. Not everything needs to have a message you relate to, not that a general “female empowerment” message should be controversial in the first place. There’s something about the need to not just ignore a film you don’t like, but actively try to destroy it that sickens me. It’s “if I can’t have what I want, nobody can” entitlement, and it’s sad, frankly. It’s immature and hateful.
Thankfully, companies like Letterboxd are taking steps to silence these trolls, even though they’re already ineffective. I hope that one day this BS will end, but I fear it will only get worse.
Prove me wrong, guys. Show me how big of people you are.
“The Umbrella Academy” (2019)
Netflix, TV-14, 60 minutes, 10 episodes
You have seen “The Umbrella Academy” before, or at least its myriad parts.
You have seen a group of super-powered children learn to harness their powers under the watch of a cold father figure, like in “X-Men.” You have seen normal-looking men turn into freakishly strong behemoths, sometimes inhuman ones, like in “The Incredible Hulk” or, again, “X-Men.” You have seen shady organizations keep watch over the time continuum, making sure everything falls into place, in shows like “Fringe.” You have seen people told they aren’t special when their peers are, only to discover that the “normal” people are the most special of all. (This happens in too many series to name.)
You have seen bad guys wear children’s masks as they fire their automatic rifles, looking to scare as much as physically harm. You have seen action sequences set to 1980s bops. You have seen heroes tasked with figuring out how to stop the apocalypse in a short amount of time or the world as we know it will cease to exist.
Also, there’s a talking monkey.
You have seen all of this and more — except maybe the monkey — but you haven’t seen it packaged quite like this. I don’t feel compelled to provide a plot summary because you probably get it by now, anyway. The pull of “The Umbrella Academy” is the performances of its stars (particularly Ellen Page and Robert Sheehan, both of whom are excellent), its visuals (which are purposefully overly-dramatic) and its source material.
See, “The Umbrella Academy” is based off a comic book series written by Gerard Way, who you (Well, not you, if you are a typical Observer reader, but the public at large) may remember as the lead singer of 2000s emo/alt. rock kings My Chemical Romance. Funny this is coming up, because I was listening to “MyChem” the other day, and I have to say --
Ryan, hold up. Is this section on “The Umbrella Academy” just a backdoor way of writing about My Chemical Romance? Are you hijacking Binge Blog to talk about something other than film and TV again?
Reader, you are correct in your analysis. I am abusing my powers, but that seems to be the norm in certain political offices these days, so I feel no remorse.
Anyway, I feel like people need to give MyChem more respect. Especially in the wake of “Bohemian Rhapsody” and its success. (Here, more movie talk. Happy?) I know most people only think of “Welcome to the Black Parade” when they think of the band — That is a perfect song, for the record — and they were easy to hate on because of the flamboyant outfits, etc., but their whole “The Black Parade” album sounds like if Queen was founded in the ’00s and their lyrics took a more depraved bent. It is, in my opinion, one of the high points of rock and roll this millennium. Listen to “Disenchanted” and tell me you couldn’t see Freddie Mercury belting it out while its crowd of lost souls sings along (mild language warning):
Or picture Brian May ripping the guitar solo on “Famous Last Words”:
The band’s other defining characteristic is its ever-changing style. Their final album, 2010’s “Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys,” mixed their emo roots with dance and pop influences, getting positive results. Their sophomore album, “Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge,” sounded how (good) Tim Burton movies look. Both are worthy of recognition.
My hope is that, as today’s teens discover “The Umbrella Academy,” they also discover Way’s band. He had a hand in the show’s music after all, including a sweet cover of “Hazy Shade of Winter” with MyChem guitarist Ray Toro.
Even if it’s not the most original story, the show is a fun distraction and hopefully can pave the way for Way to write more “out-there” material in the future. If his musical past is any indication, he certainly has it in him.
Also, again, there’s a talking monkey. Don’t take that for granted.
“Sing Street” (2016)
Netflix, PG-13, 106 minutes
Sticking with the music theme — Have I mentioned how much I love music movies? — “Sing Street” is one of my all-time favorites in the category.
Set in 1980s Dublin, Ireland, “Sing Street” is about a boy and a girl and a band. The boy is Conor, or “Cosmo” (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo). When he’s not getting bullied at school, he’s learning about cutting-edge music from his older brother Brendon (Jack Reynor) or listening to his parents’ marriage fall apart.
The girl is Raphina (Lucy Boynton). Cosmo meets her walking home one day. She’s older than him and exponentially cooler, so Cosmo decides to woo her by telling her he’s the singer of a band, and she would be perfect to star in its next music video. Either out of sincere interest or pity, Raphina agrees to star in it. It might be a mix of both: Raphina is trying to start a modeling career of her own, and dreams of becoming a star in London.
The exchange only leaves Cosmo with a few issues to work out, small things, like forming a band, writing a song and filming said video. That band becomes the band, the titular Sing Street, and off we go.
The most important criteria for a music movie is getting the music itself right, and “Sing Street” absolutely does. The songs Cosmo and his band create are legitimately great and I listen to them often. Not a surprise, since they were written by, among others, Gary Clark, Glen Hansard and Adam Levine — yes, he’s a good songwriter when he tries, I promise. Other than the original songs, the soundtrack is filled with bangers from bands like Duran Duran, The Cure, Hall and Oates and Metallica.
Outside of the music, this is a film about chasing dreams no matter the obstacles in your way. It’s a film that could easy fall on the wrong side of the cheese line, but instead, director John Carney tightrope walks it to perfection. I would be lying if I said the film’s ending hasn’t had me wiping my eyes each time I have watched it.
It’s also weirdly inspiring as someone who creates art. (Binge Blog is art, I don’t care.) “Sing Street” makes me want to finish the five novels I have started and abandoned while telling my haters to take a nap/generally go away. Or, as the movie says: “This is life. Drive it like you stole it.”
I don’t know. Do you like things that are funny? Do you like love? Do you like good music? This movie is perfect for you. Go watch it. Now. Binge Blog is over. Go, go, go. NOW.