Saturday, December 12, 2015

25 Days of Super Christmas - Day 12

Sci-Fi Watch: Tomorrowland (2015)

Before typing up anything, I had to re-read NathanC's take and Gerry's comments on Tomorrowland (2015).  Both are parents, both have an affinity for the Disney Parks that I get, but I am not in the same league.  I'd highly recommend you guys read their posts as Nathan and Gerry cover both the Disney aspect and other aspects of the context of the film in a way I'm just not going to.

Frankly, this movie is a mess - something that explained itself immediately when I saw the name Damon Lindelof appear in the credits as soon as the movie ended.  But it was the beginning of the movie, the clunky framing device of George Clooney's Frank Walker talking at the screen and being unable to decide where to start the story, where I felt my hackles first rise.  The conceit feels like an in-joke, like the creators couldn't figure out how to start their movie, and made their indecision part of the film.

From there on, I'd argue we have two or three completely different scripts competing for screentime, something I felt to be true of Lindelof's Prometheus script as well.  Is this a straightforward sci-fi thriller where we have a Chosen-One who has to outrun the baddies until the mystery of their special-ness is explained and they fulfill the prophecy?  Is it a talky sci-fi film exploring deeper ideals?  Are the characters wacky 2D stand-ins or three-dimensional people with motivations?

Growing Up With Star Wars - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

At five years old, I'm not sure I really understood the concepts of cliffhangers or ennui, so this was more or less my intro to those ideas.  I've read elsewhere about people my age who freaked out about how bleak they found The Empire Strikes Back (1980), or got wigged out that it didn't have a tight ending where the heroes saved the day.  And while I get that, I wouldn't say that was my take away.

Prior to the screening, I only vaguely recall being aware that there was a new Star Wars movie coming out because my mom ordered a Boba Fett toy through the mail (yeah, we were one of those families).   But one morning The Admiral grabbed my brother and I, tossed us in the car and drove us to a gigantic theater somewhere in Dallas (I've had Dallas-dwellers identify the theater for me a dozen times based on the description, but I can never remember the name), and we watched The Empire Strikes Back with hundreds of other people.

Friday, December 11, 2015

25 Days of Super Christmas - Day 11

And, lo, there was yet another X-Men film. Hopefully not one too disappointing.

I believe I'm now legally obligated to see this movie.  I'm not even sure I'm happy it exists, but I suppose I'll be catching a matinee at some point.

I kind of feel the way about X-Men movies the way I do about X-Men comics.  It's how I got into comics, but I kind of lost interest at some point, but I'd be sad if they went away.  Also, too much Wolverine.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Pixar Watch: Toy Story (1995)


I sure as heck am not bothering with a plot synopsis on this one.  If you're old enough to read, you've seen this one.

Disney had a special on Thursday evening talking about the production and legacy of Toy Story (1995), and it was well worth catching.  I'd forgotten Joss Whedon was on scripting duties for the movie, and its actually a bit of fun to remember the state of technology and animation from the era.  If you get a chance to catch the special on TV or on a DVD extra sometime, I suggest giving it a whirl.

This year marks 20 years since Toy Story hit the big screen and changed animation and entertainment forever.

25 Days of Super Christmas - Day 10

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Holiday Watch: Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

I think the first time I saw Miracle on 34th Street (1947) was in high school when some teacher or other was trying to kill time before Christmas break.  Between you, me and the wall, what I probably remember most from that first viewing was Maureen O'Hara.  Yes, I was a teenage boy.  Sue me.

But even with that viewing, I dug the spirit of the whole thing.  It's a great example of a true all-ages movie you could take the kids and Grandma to and enjoy it yourself.  It's a fantasy, yeah, but it's one that exists in the adult world of drunk Santas, incompetent counselors, exhausted parents, Bellevue Hospital, legal issues, politics and divorce.

25 Days of Super Christmas - Day 9

Monday, December 7, 2015

Holiday Watch: Krampus (2015)

Yeah, yeah.  Someone was going to go see this, so it might as well have been me.  SimonUK and I talk each other into all sorts of things.

I don't think I'd ever heard of the notion of The Krampus until sometime in the last decade, and I can't remember if the Venture Bros. were my first exposure to the character or not, but I remember being very, very excited about The Krampus.  It certainly wasn't part of American Yuletide tradition when I was growing up.  All we had was The Grinch, and that was a very, very different kind of story.

In a way, The Krampus is both enforcer of the spirit and meaning of Christmas and the antithesis of the Coca-Cola version of Santa that I think maybe people get a little worn out on, so the idea that there's a version of St. Nick/ Santa/ Father Christmas/ Papa Noel that goes around with a demonic jerk that will hit you with birch switches just sort of appeals, I guess.  After all, Christmas is a holiday of behavioral extremes.  This season of goodwill and charity is also topped off with family violence, Black Friday brawls over electronics, and spikes in depression.

Krampus (2015) is a product of Michael Dougherty, the same guy who wrote and directed Trick r' Treat, which we watched and quite liked just this last Halloween.  Unlike the latter film, Krampus is not an anthology film - it's a pretty straightforward pressure-cooker horror flick that, instead of going after sexy but dumb teenagers or college-kids, or yuppies in a secluded house, takes place in what seems to be the suburban mid-west and pretty much your typical American whitebread family Christmas get together.

25 Days of Super Christmas - Day 7

The Sequel I Didn't Know I Was Waiting For: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon - Sword of Destiny

Dear Michelle Yeoh,

Thank you for always being awesome.



Sunday, December 6, 2015

Bogie Watch: To Have and Have Not (1945)

Based on an Ernest Hemingway novel, To Have and Have Not (1945) stars Bogart and Bacall as two folks avoiding the war who stumble across one another on the French-Caribbean island of Martinique.  As near as I can tell from a quick glance at Wikipedia, in the 8 years or so from the book's publication and WWII led to the adaptation undergoing some significant alterations, changing up quite a bit, including Nazi-sympathizing Frenchmen, and basically - WWII in general.  I haven't read the book yet (actually getting through most of Hemingway's novels is a bucket list item for me, but I get so easily distracted), so I'll have to trust the internets.

The movie takes place on the French island of Martinique, a place in a precarious position as Germany has taken over France, and the influence is felt even this close to the United States.  Bogart plays a captain of a small fishing vessel who has successfully avoided participation in the war and is mostly interested in getting by and saving his own skin.  Bacall plays a pickpocket and hustler who has landed on the island with no money and no prospects except for grabbing the wallet of Bogart's latest client who owes him nearly $1000 (and who planned to skip without paying).  He's also being asked to help out some French Resistance locals, but doesn't want to get involved, but when the German-controlled authorities get into a shootout with the resistance, Bogart's customer dies in the crossfire before he can pay and the local police Captain seizes what money Bogart does have.

25 Days of Super Christmas - Day 6

Congrats to Mike Sterling on 12 years (in a row!) of Progressive Ruin (which is not an adjective-verb-combo in this case)

It probably was at least a decade ago that I first tumbled across Comics Blog Progressive Ruin.  Back in that era, I was kinda/ sorta doing a Comics Blog/ Comics-Lifestyle-Nerd-Back-When-That-Meant-Something site over at League of Melbotis.  I've quit numerous times, only to get bored and start blogging again, but for 12 years, Progressive Ruin proprietor Mike Sterling has been steadily producing content and talking comics when those of us with a lesser constitution can't remember the last time we wrote about an actual comic book.

Mike was a manager of a successful Southern California comic shop, but in recent history he took his experience and bank roll and has opened his own Southern California comics shoppe, Sterling Silver Comics.  Buy stuff from the eBay store.  It's not free, but it is easy.

In addition to a well-reasoned viewpoint I always find interesting, the site has a unique voice and some long time regular features such as End of Civilization, which details the more colorful contents of the Previews catalog.  He's also written for several other projects such as The Fake AP Style Book.

Mike's managed to retain a realistic but uncynical view of the Comics Industry, and has a long-view of comics that 99% of the folks writing about comics tend to lack.  He's been there for the up's and downs of stories, characters, industry, editorial... you name it, as reader, fan, critic and comics shoppe employee and owner.

The site features the sort of "Big Tent" approach I like, and he's got sort of a cast of characters that float around the site that we've had here from time to time.  To my complete surprise, he seems to be aware I exist, which is flattering and kind of fun.  The internet is an interesting place.

So, whether you're getting into comics, still into comics or were at one point, or you're just looking for a good read, I suggest going over there and make Progressive Ruin a regular part of your internet readings.

But don't go over there and embarrass me.

Holiday Watch: It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

My understanding is that, for a span of years, It's a Wonderful Life (1946) fell into some sort of legal limbo and the film entered the public domain.  Back when cable was still a relatively new concept and far more attention was paid to local affiliates, the movie became a staple for UHF channels to play over and over during the Christmas season.

That's not really my memory of the movie, but I came in on the tail end of that.  By the time I became aware of It's a Wonderful Life, it may have already been spoofed on Saturday Night Live and elsewhere.  It was already baked into the zeitgeist.

I actually do remember seeing the movie for the first time, but I'd have to do some math to figure out which year that would have been.  I know I watched the movie on a Christmas Eve when I was in middle school, and I recall I was in a mood because - as was usually the case - our house was packed with relatives and had become quite stuffy with that many warm bodies.  To make a showering and prep schedule work, I had been ordered to get cleaned up for Christmas Eve services very early in the evening.  This mission accomplished, I was sitting around in church clothes, overheated, hours before we were scheduled to leave.  So, I watched almost the entire movie, as I stewed in my least comfortable clothes, but I was absolutely rapt.  I loved the movie.  I won't say it saved Christmas for me (as long as I got to get home and get into street clothes again, I was good), but it certainly cast how I was thinking of the next few hours in a new light.