Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 - We say good-bye to the year we all hated

Ah. man.

Where even to start?

Saying Good-Bye Double Bill: Star Wars (1977) and Singin' In The Rain (1952)

Before the year (and my break) ended, I wanted to watch a couple of films as we say good-bye to a pair of women we're all going to miss.

No write up.  It was actually great seeing them both in their pivotal roles again.  We'll have these films forever, even if we've lost the women who made them.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Bond Watch: A View to a Kill (1985)

On the social medias, Jake asked me if I thought Never Say Never Again was better than Octopussy, and I told him I'd think about it.  I'm gonna go with "Octopussy is the clearly more fun of the two movies, but Never Say Never Again is the better-thought-out and probably smarter movie.  Less clowns."  But what I will say is that both are much better than Moore's final outing as 007, A View to a Kill (1985).

"But, Signal Watch," you say.  "That's the first one I saw in the theater!  It was fun!  Christopher Walken!"  Yes.  Those are all *facts*.  It's why you're nostalgic for this movie.  But, my friends, I am sorry to say - this was not a great movie.  In fact - it was a bad movie.

What it does have is a killer theme song, courtesy Duran Duran + John Barry. The video is a bit weird as Rhino didn't seem to have rights to anything but the song itself, so, no the video is not broken. Just wait til the 1:17 mark for audio.

As I mentioned with Octopussy, it feels as if View to a Kill was made for children, which is weird, because Bond is still humping his way across the Northern Hemisphere and killing people.  So it's likely meant to be some entertainment Dad can take the kids to see and not feel too bad, and lord knows my mom dropped me and my brother off to see this one in the theater with no parental supervision.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Debbie Reynolds Merges With The Infinite

Actor, singer and dancer Debbie Reynolds has passed.  This would be something we'd cover under any normal circumstance, but, of course, Reynolds was also the mother of actor and author Carrie Fisher who left us just yesterday.  We can only imagine the tremendous loss Fisher's daughter, Billie Lourde, is experiencing at this moment.  She has our sympathies.

Reynolds is most famous for her part in Singin' In the Rain, one of the best remembered musicals of any era in Hollywood (and a heck of a film).  A few years back she appeared in Behind the Candelabra, a Liberace biopic, playing Liberace's oft-referred to mom. She was honestly pretty great.

Here's one of the show-stoppers from Singin' In the Rain, with Gene Kelley and Donald O'Connor.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Carrie Fisher Merges With The Infinite

We are devastated to say that actor and author Carrie Fisher has passed.


I can't say I knew much about Fisher as a person - same things as everyone else.  The Hollywood pedigree, the issues with substance abuse, the biting wit, her dog, Gary.

It had been a very, very long time since I'd re-watched Star Wars, which I did when The Force Awakens was released, and it's amazing to see how darn good she was in that first movie, fluctuating accent and all.  I love all the main characters of Star Wars, no doubt, but if my personal collection of Star Wars stuff is any indication, and as longtime readers will probably have figured out, I'm a fan of Princess Leia first and foremost.  

And, of course, her life seemed to be on such an upswing of late.  She would make Star Wars Episodes VII, VIII and IX, she had a book out that seemed to be moving a lot of copies, and from what I could see on social media, there was a generation of young women who were calling her "Space Mom", properly idolizing the character she'd imbued with tremendous strength, and building her social media army as she embraced them back.

She's leaving behind her daughter, Billie Lourd, a talented actress from what I hear.  Her mother, Debbie Reynolds, famed actress of the 20th Century.  Gary, too, of course.  And all of us, a planet of people who wished her the best not just as Princess Leia, but as Carrie Fisher, too.

I'm shocked she went so young and so suddenly, and I'm genuinely very sad.  You'd think this year would have toughened me up a bit.  I'm going to miss her on the talk show circuits, freaking out the robo-hosts when she goes on a tangent or drops some truth that makes them uncomfortable, or curls up on one of their over-stuffed couches, her shoes on the floor.  I liked this era of Carrie Fisher and General Leia.

She'll always be royalty to me.

Bond Watch: Never Say Never Again (1983)

I was supposed to be spending the evening writing up Shin Godzilla, but the weirdest thing happened, and when Paul, Jamie and I went to the movie, for some reason the hard drive the theater received had a piercing 1khz over the entire soundtrack.  So, we got a refund, went to the bar nextdoor for a couple of hours and then we headed home.

Jamie wanted to finally see this rogue James Bond movie - and try as I might, I never quite remember the details of how this movie came to be.  I know the ownership of the character - filmwise - was under contention or something, and that problem continued until they settled their differences and we got Casino Royale.  So all's well that ends well.

But this film is not by the Brocollis or at MGM.  As the film's credits rolled at the end, Talia Shire gets a special credit as a consultant to the producer, her husband, Jack Schwartzman.  Always glad to see Talia Shire is keeping busy.  And, of course, it starred a 53-year-old Sean Connery (really in terrific shape) coming back to the role that made him.

I was shocked to figure out I had never seen Never Say Never Again (1983), making this one of three I am positive I've never seen all the way through.  Or, if I have seen it, I have totally forgotten it, but that seems marginally unlikely as I've realized here and there what I've seen before as we've gone along.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

George Michael Merges With The Infinite

Utterly shocking if it weren't 2016 - today we found out that George Michael, the famed pop singer, had passed at the age of 53.

A lot of other people are going to memorialize Michael better than I could.  As much a singer and entertainer, the last couple of decades I've been impressed with how Michael pushed back on the MTV machine and made it through when his personal life was exposed in an era when coming out of the closet was something that could kill your career.

I liked some of George Michael's songs despite the fact he wasn't exactly in my wheelhouse, but my favorite was always Freedom! '90.  That's one of his "doesn't matter your genre of choice" songs.  It's just solid.

Let's remember George Michael today by wrapping up Christmas Day with some of his best.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)

We'll sign off for Christmas Eve with Darlene Love performing her classic "Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)".

I've said it before and I'll say it again - seeing Ms. Love perform this live was one of the greatest live music experiences of my life.

Merry Christmas.  May we have peace on Earth and goodwill to all.

Happy Christmas Eve from The Signal Watch

Jamie and I wish you a very merry Christmas Eve.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Wishing Carrie Fisher the Best

Like all of you, I saw the news about Carrie Fisher earlier today, and, yes, I also am heartbroken to hear she's ill.

I hope the love we *all* have for Ms. Fisher reaches her, can help her and speeds her recovery.  It can't hurt to have everyone on the face of the Earth pulling for you.

Here's to the lady who carries hope with her.

Christmas Watch: Arthur Christmas (2011)

I'm not going to write this up, because... well, whatever.  It's Christmas.  I got stuff I'd rather be doing.  But this movie was better than I thought it would be, and has some pretty funny stuff for the adults in a family-friendly/PG way.

I am kind of sick of the paramilitary strike force elf idea which seemed everywhere a few years ago, but if you can grit your teeth through the first part, lots of pay-off.

Musical Watch: La La Land (2016)

The fact that La La Land (2016) even exists may be the most stunning thing about it.  In a movie that should draw out superlatives about near every aspect of the film, that in an era of pre-awareness and Oscar Bait that usually equates to "who can tell the saddest kinda true story (but we cut so much stuff out)?" filling theaters in December - really, it's astounding to see anyone financing something there's no guarantee anyone will show up to see.  While Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are two of the best of their generation, the era of "star power" guaranteeing a hit is long over.

Hollywood still puts out the occasional musical, adapting a Broadway show here or there (example - Chicago or Hairspray), or the forthcoming melding of CG and live action with Beauty and The Beast.  Moulin Rouge may be the last original musical, and that was a collection of pop songs sung in period dress.

But this is a new movie, not an adaptation.  It's a fantasy of Los Angeles as the epic backdrop large enough for the widescreen adaptation of lives as they play in our heads, saturated in Technicolor, all the other players happy background roles as we cast ourselves as the protagonists in the romantic, astounding story of our lives.  And that's more than okay.

Before we even get started, I'm curious what JAL has to say on this film, as I thought of him many times during and afterwards as I've worked on this write-up.

Look, I don't know much about dating.  It's been a while - but if you're looking for a movie to see with someone you just started seeing?  Hot tip:  La La Land.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Happy Holidays From The Signal Watch

Right about now, most of you will be wrapping up your usual routine to begin setting in motion the rituals we go through at the end of the calendar year.  I don't expect that, by tomorrow, much of anyone will be making time to check with us here at The Signal Watch, if you haven't already had to put down the iPad for a few days as the in-laws are now arrived, etc...

So, while I have you - I want to wish you the Happiest of Holidays.

In this year of all years - no matter your creed or philosophy - I wish you peace, love, health and plenty.  And, as always, hope for a better tomorrow.

My wish for Christmas is for us to do something every day that I fail on a daily basis.  May we see the best in each other, treat one another as we would our loved ones, consider those we don't know as potential friends.  Let's do right by each other.  We're all we've got.

We can be a great people.  We can wish it to be.  We need only find the light within to show us the way.

As Christmas may not be your bag - Happy Holidays.  As it well may be, and because I hope your Decembers 24th and 25th are good days - Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Me in 2016

Me at the Start of 2016

Me at the End of 2016

What I think I better be ready for in 2017

Christmas Watch: Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

I've seen Miracle on 34th Street (1947) probably a dozen times, so it seems unlikely I haven't written it up before.  If you've never watched it, or the 1990's version, you should know that the 1990's version is mostly a treacly, charmless exercise in unearned sentimentality.  Which is weird, because the cast is pretty good, so you have to just dislike the changes to the story and the bland direction.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Star Wars Watch: Rogue One - a Star Wars Story (2016)

When those of us who grew up with the original Star Wars trilogy thought of what might happen in the long-awaited prequels, I strongly suspect most of us expected something a bit more like Rogue One (2016).   We'd only received glimpses of the pre-Luke Skywalker past, embedded in the story we'd heard about the Clone Wars, an Anakin Skywalker who was supposed to be some sort of edgy fighter pilot who becomes a Jedi...  I was expecting three movies that took place against the backdrop of The Clone Wars, which always sounded pretty rough, at least in my head.

I'd also observe - Much as the superhero comics we read grew up with us, I think maybe I was expecting a Star Wars that acknowledged the conflict from which Episode IV sprang and maybe cut a little deeper - maybe had a bit of a rough and tumble edge that Ewok-laden finales may have foregone.

So, I think it's true that the content and execution of the three Prequel films surprised a lot of us.

Rogue One, the second of these films directed by the generation that grew up on them, expands upon what we know, creating far less continuity difficulty than Lucas introduced in the Prequels, brings back familiar sights and sounds, while filling in gaps and giving us all new adventures and characters.  In this, I think you can say it succeeds with a solid A-, B+ (I spotted an issue or two, and my pal Matt brought one up I thought actually a pretty salient point).

That's not to say Rogue One hits all the right notes or was exactly what I was expecting (it wasn't).   It's interesting to see Disney seeking to expand upon the seemingly vast universe Star Wars always promised, but which we could only visit in 150 minute increments.  Here, they risk tonal differences, deliver only bits of familiar characters and try something a little uncomfortable, and, for the most part, they succeed.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Christmas Watch: Scrooged (1988)

Way back in the long, long ago of 1988, I saw Scrooged in a sold-out theater on opening weekend.  

There's not much else to tell.  I remember liking it well enough at the time, felt it was funnier than I expected, and went on with my life.  Sure, I've seen it a number of times over the years since then - enough so I couldn't even roughly guess.  And, it's one of those movies I'll watch just parts of as I flip channels.

But the thing is - and I don't know if I'm going out a limb saying this - Scrooged is a very, very good movie.  It is.  I don't mean that it's a really funny movie, though it is that.  Stepbrothers makes me laugh like a loon, but it's not necessarily a *good* movie although it succeeds at its goals.  But I tend to think of Scrooged less as a lightweight holiday comedy (see: Christmas with the Kranks.  Or, do not.), and more of a solid entry in the movies that earn a place in the Christmas movie pantheon.  

And, it just might be the best to-film adaptation of A Christmas Carol.  

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Marvel Yule Log Videos For Your Holiday Cheer (of Justice)

Well, this is fun! and Merry!

Steve's Apartment (wide angle):

Steve's Apartment (closer in - and wisely with a portrait of his best girl there on the table):

Marvel has produced several of these, including Iron Man, Thor, Groot and more!

Groot/ Guardians
Iron Man

Your Signal Watch Christmas Playlist 2016

Christmas is a holiday that impacts all the senses.  Twinkling lights, the smell of wassail, the chill of the air against the skin, the taste of peppermint.  Sleigh bells, of course.  And, man, the music.

I have my Christmas favorites.  White Christmas, Rudolph, and a surprising number of non-secular songs I sang growing up Lutheran.  If you've never been to candlelight service on Christmas Eve to sing Silent Night, you're missing out on a great, not-often-mentioned holiday tradition.

But this isn't a list of my favorite Christmas songs.  If it were just a list, it'd be quite long, and kind of pointless.  A playlist needs to be curated.  It's the heir to the mixtape.  Song content and order need to work together.  It can't just be your holiday tunes on shuffle (although serendipity can create some amazing combinations).

Bond Watch: Octopussy (1983)

Of all the Bond movies, this is the one I'd argue is the one most made for 13-year-old boys.  It's got James Bond fighting Russians, engaging with a circus, dressing as a clown, gorilla, roustabout and knife-thrower within about 45 minutes of runtime.  There's an all-girl island, a castle escape and a submarine that looks like a crocodile.

Not maybe coincidentally, I think I liked this one a lot more when I was 13 than when I was 41.

And, of course, the lead of the movie is the titular Octopussy (1983), a name sure to drive everyone into peels of uncontrollable giggling.

This isn't, by any stretch, one of the best Bond movies, and it may be one of the least memorable Bond films in general.  It has a couple of good set-pieces, and a few set-pieces that probably sounded better than they were in execution, but mostly the plot is a bit whispy and blandly convoluted.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Yippee Kai Yay Watch: Die Hard (1988) - movie party at the Alamo

I've really embraced the idea that Die Hard (1988) is a Christmas movie.

In theory it takes place on Christmas Eve despite the fact the Nakatomi Corporation is having its holiday party on Christmas Eve, which...  What Dickensian rules is your company playing by?  And why is Holly leaving her kids at home with her poor nanny who probably has friends and family of her own she'd rather be with?

Monday, December 12, 2016

X-Watch: X-Men & X2 - X-Men United (2000 & 2003)

I had no intention of watching either of these movies this weekend, but we have basic cable and they were on.  I have no further real explanation for what happened.  I guess after watching X-Men: Apocalypse, it was just x-destined to x-be.

At this point, watching these early X-films serves as an interesting view of the state of the art for superhero films circa 2000 and 2003.

One mission I have for this site is to be the old guy telling the kids how it was back in the day - and if you're not pushing 40, you're not old enough to remember what breakthrough movies the first two X-films were for superhero comic books moving to the big screen.  It's hard to understand in a universe with an Ant-Man movie what it was like to see Marvel's cinematic efforts suddenly take off after decades of embarrassing and half-assed attempts.  It still wasn't Iron Man, which would totally change the game, but it was significant.

X-Men (2000) arrived shortly after Blade (1998) made a little-known (even by comic fans) character into a pretty great cinematic action hero.  It didn't hurt that Wesley Snipes was pretty awesome in the role and he killed so, so many draculas.  I still remember how nuts the crowd went for Blade when I saw it opening weekend, cheering and yelling in all the right places.

I was cautiously optimistic about X-Men.  I knew director Bryan Singer from his 90's-classic Usual Suspects, a crime thriller that had garnered good reviews and rode the hip-crime-movie wave started by Tarantino to pretty great box office.  It seemed inconceivable a superhero movie would receive a director of that sort as "serious" directors did not take on superheroes, or - at least they made it clear it was a lark for a paycheck.

But clearly X-Men was different.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Noir Watch: Cry of the City (1948)

We were asked to review Cry of the City (1948) by NathanC over at Texas Public Radio.

Click on over there and read my review and Nathan's review of Boomerang (which I've never seen, but now I want to).   A thousand thank-you's to Nathan.  I had a great time watching the film (which I really, really liked.  But I also think Mature and Conte are Mitchum cool.), and it was a great pleasure getting to contribute to

I'll post a draft of the review here in the future, but for now, please do click over to

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Okay. Time to talk a bit about "Westworld" - A non-definitive discussion.

Note:  I'm going to talk about HBO's 2016 series, Westworld, as a whole.  If you're avoiding spoilers, this is not the place for you.  

There's a great deal to like about the 10 episodes of HBO's sci-fi series, Westworld.  It's been interesting to find out how many people haven't seen the original Westworld film by Michael Crichton - a name which is pobably just an echo to Millennials but which was a hosuehold name through the 1990's.  I'll cop to having not seen (or don't remember seeing) Futureworld (1976) or the TV series Beyond Westworld (1980).

I am sure the original 1973 film felt like futureshock at the time, or maybe sci-fi silliness to many.  The first time I watched it back before high school, which would have been the late 1980's, 70's hair-stylings aside, it seemed to work very well as a thriller, even if it didn't seem to run deep with the complexities of Blade Runner or other AI films.  Well into the 1980's, our relationship with technology and computers wasn't as everyday as it's become, and fiction treated computers a bit like the genie's lamp right up through the late 1990's.

What the movie does that still holds up is create an adult theme park that is both impossible, yet seems like something that people would be up for whether we want to admit it or not if the wild success of Las Vegas is any indication.  It's a world of sex and violence with only the most minor of repercussions as one fulfills fantasies and indulges whims in a familiar place, but one separated enough from our own day-to-day that you'd lose your bearings.  And steeped in the inherent violence of the filmic west, it's a world in which you'd be more likely to shoot first and question later.

X-Watch: X-Men - Apocalypse (2016)

In many ways, the entire point of this movie is to show how Charles Xavier lost his hair.  I mean, they had to do it sometime, so why not at the two-hour, ten minute mark of a very, very long movie where nothing really works very well?

I got into superhero comics when I was about 11 or 12, right about the time of the Mutant Massacre storyline in X-Men, X-Factor and New Mutants.  Of the literally 10's of 1000's of comics I've read, the comics I read in that first year or two are pretty well burned into my brain.  Just before I got into comics, the villain Apocalypse made his first appearance in X-Factor, and would show up again to exploit the injured Warren Worthington III, aka: Angel, and make him into the 1980's requisite "Wolverine of the group" when he returned to X-Factor.  I actually really liked those comics.

The movie is set in it's own version of events, but that isn't so much a bug as a feature.  While it's not the worst movie I've ever seen, it's just so weighed down with characters and not-terribly-interesting plot developments and a runtime it doesn't earn, it's hard to get excited about the movie.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Trailer for "Spider-Man: Homecoming" is the Spidey we need

Yep.  That'll work.

Astronaut and Senator John Glenn Merges With The Infinite

Astronaut and United States Senator John Glenn has merged with The Infinite.

Truly one of the giants of the 20th Century, John Glenn was part of the Mercury 7, America's first manned spaceflight program.  He had served as a Marine in two wars and as a test pilot and would remain a Marine while working with NASA. He would become one of the most famous names in space exploration before continuing in public service as a US Senator, elected in 1974.  He would leave the Senate in 1999.

As an astronaut, Glenn was the first American to orbit the planet, orbiting the Earth 3 times before plunking down in the Atlantic, proving Americans were on a par with the astounding Russian space program, and setting the stage for the Gemini and Apollo missions.

As a kid, thanks in part to the film The Right Stuff, we spoke the names John Glenn and Chuck Yeager with reverence.  These were the guys who lived the lives we dreamed of but didn't even aspire to.  Even in college when I'd hear Glenn was associated with some political decisions I didn't agree with, you still said "well, man, he's John Glenn.  I assume he knows what he's doing."

How the man was not elected President, I will never know.  Bad timing in the Reagan-era, I guess.

In the Fall of 1998, I was recently graduated from college and running a distance learning broadcast studio at the University of Texas.  News came down that NASA was sending Glenn back into space to test the rigors of space flight against the physiology of older adults.  Whatever the excuse, man, it was amazing to see Glenn back in the suit, showing America how it could be done.  I talked the instructor who was teaching at the time of the launch to let me pipe in a broadcast of the take-off, mostly because I wanted to see it, but he must have wanted to see it, too, because I watched it on my monitors while the space shuttle took off on the screens up in the classroom.  No one said a word until they were safely out of the atmosphere.

Glenn lived to the age of 95.  We will not see his like again in my lifetime.

Godspeed, good sir.

From the outstanding film The Right Stuff, played here by the always excellent Ed Harris:

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Checking in on DCTV: Supergirl and The Flash

Season 2 of Supergirl moved to The CW network, which was already home to DC's Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow and iZombie, and the move has been nothing but good for the series, so far as I can tell.  Whatever dictates Season 1 had upon it as a show on a major network, moving to the less-major CW Network has meant the show feels less like it's bucking TV formulas and now it's matching The Flash for melding DC lore with crafting it's own mythology and character arcs.

This season I've enjoyed the shake-up and escape from CatCo, especially if Cat Grant isn't even going to be around and the far more fulfilling role for Win.  And, hey, Kara isn't being defined by which boy she'll pick, which is kind of remarkable on TV.  While Alex's "coming out" storyline felt a bit rushed, crammed in there in-between cyborgs and fiery aliens, alien fight clubs and whatnot, it's interesting to see the show stake it's claim on big-tent "Supergirl is for everyone" and just move forward without turning the show into a melodrama we all have to slog through.

In fact, the CW shows are pretty remarkably good at not doing the things that TV has traditionally done that drove me crazy - namely: have have characters keep secrets from people they otherwise trust when keeping a secret makes literally no sense and drag it out over whole seasons of a show or until they just forget to resolve the storyline.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Christmas Watch: The Shop Around the Corner (1940)

No lie, Jimmy Stewart is one of my favorite actors of all time.  I've thought the guy was brilliant since high school when I caught Harvey on VHS.  The Shop Around the Corner (1940) is a bit of pre-war brilliance on Stewart's part, working from a pretty great script under a renowned director and with an excellent cast working as a team.

It's true the movie is steeped in social constructs of the early 20th Century, and so may be dated in too many ways for many viewers, but I tend to think the conflicts and humor of the movie transcends those qualities.  It's not a sweeping, amazing movie, but it is a good movie for putting on during the Yuletide Season for you and your sweet woogums.

Lust for a Vampire (1971)

Editor's Note (12/5/2016):  Sometimes we sort of half-watch a movie while we're on our computer, and sometimes we aren't paying correct attention.  This has, from time to time, meant that we've totally misunderstood plot-points, found movies unengaging, etc...  

I was a bit embarrassed to learn from someone via twitter that, despite the fact I thought Christopher Lee was in this movie, he is not.  Which is weird.  I like Christopher Lee.  I know who he is.  And I thought it extremely odd he was so lightly used in this film (see below).  Which puts me in a bit of a position.  What did I watch?  

The actor in question is Mike Raven, who bears a passing resemblance to Mr. Lee, especially in facial hair.  I'm now genuinely feeling like I did not give the movie a fair chance and may need to give it a whirl again to reconsider.  When I am wrong, I am wrong, and I try to be open to that idea, especially when I'm so rudely dismissive to a film, book, what-have-you.

Thanks to Judy Jarvis for the correction.

So, I hated this movie.

I was grabbing a few movies at Vulcan and was looking for Vampire Circus (which they literally only had on VHS, so...) or another Ingrid Pitt movie in their Hammer section and saw they had this sequel, and figured "ah, what the hell.  Why not?"  And, why not?, indeed.

I'd argue Lust for a Vampire (1971) is boring, overly long, devoid of even psychological drama, has dull leads, and is a poor successor to it's predecessor, The Vampire Lovers.   That movie was based on a novel with a few centuries under its belt, and, yeah, this was a fresh story about the same vampire coming back to life and being put in a girls' school.  But they replaced Ingrid Pitt as the lead character, which I was willing to accept, and forgot to not just write scene after boring scene where nothing happens.

So, Lust for a Vampire (1971), has some goofy love story where an author falls for Carmilla and so maneuvers his way into teaching at her girls' school where... I dunno.  It doesn't matter.  Even the sex scenes are awkward and boring, and the vampire scenes don't really exist.  Just turning over bodies to see puncture wounds.  AND, unbelievably, it features Christopher Lee and he's basically in a supporting role anyone could have filled in.  Maybe he was just hanging around?

Saturday, December 3, 2016

RiffTrax Watch: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)

Thursday night Jamie and I met up with SimonUK for a Fathom Events screening of Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964).  Way, way back in 2012 I watched the movie on BluRay to review the film for Texas Public Radio, and so I see no real need to write the film up again.  I'm actually weirdly proud of that review and I don't have much to add.

The screening was actually a RiffTrax performance from 2013, rebroadcast as part of a double-bill with a whole bunch of holiday shorts - originally broadcast in 2009.   And as much as I like RiffTrax at home, it can be pretty fun in a theater with lots of other folks, too.

Bat-Christmas Watch: Batman Returns (1992)

So, I was at work and I DM'd Jamie.

Me:  You want to watch a Christmas movie tonight?
Jamie:  Yeah.  "Batman Returns"?
Me:  *a single tear of joy rolling down my cheek, certain I married the right woman*

I didn't immediately get to see Batman Returns (1992) upon its release.  I was at a (sigh) 7 week drama camp for high schoolers that was well worth the money as, in week 2, I realized I absolutely did not want to major in drama when I did go to college.  So when I got home and more or less immediately drove to go see the movie, I was aware it was "weird", "not as good as the first one" and the other things people were saying at the time.  My memory of seeing the movie that first time was primarily of (a) Catwoman and (b) my girlfriend at the time laughing at me as my 40 oz of soda spilled all down the floor of the theater.  Great girl.

It's been a long, long time since I watched this movie.  It's nowhere near one of my favorite films, superhero or otherwise, and it's always been a bit of a mess.  Sure, it features things I love in theory - a Circus of Crime, penguins loaded down with missiles and helmets, the Batmobile, Michelle Pfieffer...  but it also feels like too many cooks were in the kitchen deciding what this movie would be.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Happy Birthday, Jimmy Olsen!

November 29th is, it seems, the birthday of one James Bartholomew Olsen, Superman's Pal.

It's nearly impossible to capture all the different interpretations of Jimmy, especially as he first appeared as a major character not so much in the comics - where he was an unnamed copyboy - but in radio.  In the 1950's, Jack Larson played Jimmy on The Adventures of Superman, and the character really took off.  National Comics responded by launching a comics which would run for almost two full decades, Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen.

I couldn't tell you exactly why I'm a fan of the character, but there's no question he's a fascinating character across a wide field of media.  And, yes, his comics are absolutely mind-bending as National tried to figure out what to do with the character in issues after issue.  Never underestimate the creative power of an unwinnable situation.

Even more so than Superman, Jimmy can change and bend to meet the needs of a story, so long as he's the youngest and most naive guy in the room.  And as a lead protagonist, the reader feels two steps ahead of our hero.  A lot of actors have had a lot of takes on Jimmy, and I have my favorites, but they've all brought something unique to the character.

Happy birthday, Jimmy.  I hope someone got you a cake.

Jimmy in "The Adventures of Superman"

Monday, November 28, 2016

Disney Watch: Moana (2016)

This will be an easy movie to write up.  (1) I assume most of you who are the target audience (parents of young 'uns) will have seen this movie, and (2) I sort of lost any critical eye I might have had for the movie about five minutes in.

I just straight up liked this movie.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

MST3K Watch: The Corpse Vanishes (1942)

I forgot to write this one up when we watched it a while back.  It happens.

For a long time I thought the first MST3K episode I'd ever seen was Bride of the Monster, the Bela Lugosi-starring picture by Ed Wood with Lugosi playing a mad scientist living in a spooky old house with a slow-witted assistant and pursued by an eager girl reporter out to prove her mettle.  But I actually remembered one of the jokes from the first time I saw MST3K, and as I've subsequently watched Bride of the Monster more than once, I've realized:  nope, that joke wasn't used with that film.

So, I have very particular memories of the day I first saw MST3K which helped me track down the correct episode.

Star Wars Watch: Return of the Jedi (1983)

For no particular reason, we watched Return of the Jedi this evening.

It seems dumb to write up a Star Wars movie, so I won't.  We were going to watch A New Hope, but decided to wait til after Rogue One.

But, man, Luke is the world's biggest back-seat driver.

Fidel Castro Merges With the Infinite

Well, 2016, you finally got one I'm not going to shed a tear over.

I'm not going to eulogize Castro, but it would be disingenuous not to note the death of someone who had such a pivotal role in international politics for so many decades.  You guys have Wikipedia, so I'll leave you to look him up on your own.

We seem to inch towards a free Cuba, year by year.  Perhaps with Castro's passing, our neighbors are that much closer to a better tomorrow.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Regret Watch: Rollergator (1996)

In our house, a visit from The Dug is a holiday tradition, and part of that visit is always filling two hours of my life with regret.  I don't go in for terrible movies quite the same way I used to, but I'm still willing to roll up my sleeves and dig back in a few times per year.

To refer to Rollergator (1996) as a "movie" is a bit of a stretch.  Shot on, at best, 3/4" tape (but I strongly suspect it's S-VHS) over what may be, at longest, 3 days, it's nearly impossible to tell if the movie has a script, who this movie was intended for, and what anyone involved was thinking.

For something like 80-85 minutes, this thing just keeps happening, and it's all you can do by the 15 minute mark (even with the benefit of Rifftrax) to not start slamming your head in a car door to make the weird, dull pain behind your eyes go away.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Checking in - and Happy Thanksgiving (if I'm not back online before then)

It's been a busy week for us here at League HQ.  I had two separate trips out of town between Monday and Sunday, to Waco and then Ft. Worth.  In my 1.5 days in the office, I was catching up and adjusting to both a new office and a standing desk (we're gonna have to work on the standing desk arrangement.  Complications have arisen from the fact I'm about 6'5" and this desk thinks that's too tall for a reasonable desk jockey.

I even went into work today for about three hours even though I'd asked for Monday - Wednesday off - but I didn't want to not show my face around the office for that long.

Today Dug and K arrived at our house for the Thanksgiving holiday, so I expect to be in low content mode while I pay attention to our house guests.

I hope you all have a great Thanksgiving.  I am not sure I'll be online or posting, but I also didn't want you to think I'd fallen off the face of the Earth.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Disney Re-Watch: Zootopia (2016)

I was glad to get a chance to re-watch Zootopia (2016), which I'd last caught on a plane from Austin to London, and that's never an ideal viewing environment.  You can read my write up here.  I also think that whatever version I saw on the place was the British version, which was maybe called Zootropolis, because in the version we watched last weekend I'm pretty sure they called the city Zootopia.


Anyway, I still liked the movie just as much.  It's not the same instant myth-making as Frozen or Beauty and the Beast (and did y'all see that trailer for the live action version?  Pretty keen.), it's too high concept and plot-driven.  In it's way, it's dealing with a lot of cultural abstractions that, pretty clearly, a lot of people are not quite internalizing and dealing with in the adult world, which makes the all-ages nature of the film kind of a peculiar fit.

But, yeah, I still like the movie quite a bit.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Hammer Watch: The Vampire Lovers (1970)

Ah.  Okay.  So.

I had a free rental for some reason at Vulcan Video, so I wanted to continue down the path of watching some additional Hammer Horror.  I was vaguely aware of the movie The Vampire Lovers (1970), maybe from a suggestion from one of you fine people.  I don't know.  What I did know was that the Hammer aficionados have a warm spot in their hearts for Ingrid Pitt, and this one was heavily featuring Ms. Pitt, so who was I to not watch this movie?

Well, goodness.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Arnie Watch: Kindergarten Cop (1990)

At one point in my life, I was an Arnold Schwarzenegger completionist.  If Arnie put out a movie, I was seeing it.  This went right up through his pre-Governator movies that were of middling quality.  It is true I fell down on the job and didn't see Jingle All the Way during it's theatrical release, but I did rent it with my mom the following Christmas, and we yukked it up together to the antics of Arnie and Sinbad.

But somehow, I missed out on Kindergarten Cop (1990).  I don't know how or why.  It's kind of odd, really, because it came out during a window when I went to the movies on a weekly basis, and movies were in the theater for usually about a month or more before disappearing back then.  And Kindergarten Cop did pretty well.  Lots of people saw it.

Further confounding my how's and why's, the movie co-stars Penelope Ann Miller, who was a draw for me back in the day in a post The Freshman world (and even pre-The Shadow).   The only thing I can think is that movie came out in December 1990, shortly after I'd moved to Houston but before I had a driver's license.  So, it's possible I couldn't get to the cinema and I didn't have anyone to go with.

So, I finally watched the movie.

And it is terrible.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Sci-Fi Watch: Starcrash (1978); or "the most amazing movie I've seen in 2016"

I don't know where to start or what, exactly, to say about Starcrash (1978).

I'd heard of the movie decades ago as it was always in with the sci-fi/ fantasy movies at video rental shops, but with Caroline Munro in a vinyl bikini on the box cover, I knew better than to bother to rent the movie.  When I was young enough to have to ask my parents to rent something for me, I didn't want to put up with the questions and then the reporting my parents would gleefully do given the first opportunity (my family looooooves a good embarrassing story, and a 10 year old Ryan standing there with a video with a buxom space-lady on the cover would have been fodder for them for weeks, if not years).

When I got older and was renting movies on my own, and, I know it seems counter-intuitive if you've been following this site for a while, but I already knew any movie relying on a bikini-clad off-brand actor on the cover wound up as a terrible decision.  Yes, it was also the kind of thing that became fodder for Mystery Science Theater 3000 in it's later years when the cheaply produced post Star Wars/ post Mad Max knock-offs were showing up over and over at the video store, but without Joel or Mike to guide me through, it wasn't worth it.*  And, I don't mind that at one point in my life I was subconsciously trying to understand what was and was not a good movie.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Jungle Re-Watch: Tarzan (2016)

No real write-up.  We re-watched The Legend of Tarzan (2016), which I wrote up this summer.

It's too bad this film didn't perform better and get more attention, because I quite like where they were going with Tarzan here.  It's a leap from the books and various other incarnations, but it was a version I would have gotten me back to the theater for a sequel, and it was at least as fun as Doctor Strange, while also having something of a point to it (which I'm not sure you can say about Marvel's latest entry).

It's also weird to think a movie can make $356 million and be seen as a "meh" performance, but that's today's Hollywood.  If a movie isn't part of a system like the Marvel franchise where they can build and build on even a middling performer (see Ant-Man or even the first Captain America movie), it's really tough to get a second go or, weirdly, even to get any attention.  I mean, it's kind of funny we'll take Doctor Strange seriously (it's at $350 million after a week!  Go, Doc Strange!), but without the Marvel label, we'll shrug off Tarzan.

In short: that Marvel brand is a powerful thing.  Being seen as old or legacy is not.

It's not a perfect movie or even a great movie, but it's certainly okay.  I wish it did some things it didn't, but it did lots of things that surprised me, and gave me the first Jane Porter outside of the books or comics I've really liked.

Ah, well.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders (2016)

Had this movie not been released the week of the election, I expect this movie would have made a bit bigger splash in the media, maybe even gaining some mainstream media attention.

If you're looking for some pure, escapist fun to watch with the kids* (and you want to guarantee they'll enjoy the action while you enjoy the jokes), I really can't recommend the newly released Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders (2016) enough.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Alien Watch: Arrival (2016)

What an inexplicably timed movie.

I'd gone into Arrival (2016) with very little knowledge other than it was about "first contact" and starred Amy Adams as a linguist, and at this point, I'll more or less pay to see Amy Adams read the phone book.  So, throw in some aliens, some hand-wavy hard science fiction and I was in.

This movie is in line with The Day the Earth Stood Still or the themes of Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  Alien vessels arrive, truly alien, and a very good looking linguist must be put to the task to help the military communicate with the visitors.  Of course there are eleven more of these ships scattered across the planet, and everyone is trying to speak to the aliens to find out if they mean us harm.

In the Wake of Election 2016

Well, this is the strangest twenty-four hour period I can recall in quite a while.

I've been steering clear of talking too much because so much has already been said, and, what have I got to add at this point?  I've not been engaging with folks much online - I don't really know how to respond.  I'm used to seeing my candidates take it on the chin - I live in Texas after all - but I'd bought the pollsters telling me how this was gonna go, and I kind of figured enough of America knew a boorish charlatan when they saw one, and we were going to see a bit of grudging sanity play out.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016