Saturday, July 23, 2016

Bourne Watch: The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

Tickets are already purchased for Jason Bourne for next Sunday, and so it was time to wrap up the original trilogy here at home. Eventually I'll make time for the Jeremy Renner Bourne movie, but... anyway.

The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) wraps up the storyline started in the first movie, answering the questions of "who is Jason Bourne?" and gives Pam Landy a conclusion to her arc as the non-compromised CIA agent trying to do right within the agency.

It has some incredible car chases and whatnot, and I highly recommend it if you've seen the first two and want more of same, but it's not like it's an incredible story on its own. It does feature Albert Finney and David Strathairn with about 30 seconds of Scott Glenn.

Texas Watch: Texas Carnival (1951)

Some forms of comedy just don't work for me, and it's safe to say that I'm not a huge fan of Red Skelton.  I know the guy was huge in his day, but whatever he's up to always feels a bit like he's opted for the obvious, crowd-pleasing, least offensive choice.  If we were active today he'd be on a sitcom with an improbably good looking wife who would always be putting her hands on her hips and saying, "Oh, Red!"

I watched the movie for two reasons.  (1)  It took place in Texas in the 1950's, and I wanted to see what Hollywood thought Texas was like in 1951.  (2)  Ann Miller is in a smaller role in the movie as a girl with showbiz dreams and also ready to marry the first idiot who comes along.

The marquee names are Red Skelton and Esther Williams, the bathing beauty famous for her aquatic acrobatics and perfect make-up at 10 feet below sea-level.  Which is an odd fit for the deserty Texas where the action occurs.

Look, I basically wanted to see what numbers they'd give Ann Miller, which was one song and dance number you can already find on YouTube.  The rest of the movie, including an effects sequence with Esther Williams superimposed "swimming" around a bar as Howard Keel thinks about how much he's in love with her, is barely memorable.

There's an element or two that requires the movie take place in Texas, but 90% of the movie takes place anywhere but the titular carnival.

So.  You got that going for you.

What was kind of funny was that i gave up on the movie, thinking it had about ten minutes of denouement left to work through and I'd catch it later.  So I turned it back on this evening and it had literally 30 seconds left to go.  I guess that tells you how much I felt invested in the movie.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Ghost Watch: Ghostbusters (1984)

I wasn't feeling well on Wednesday night.  Allergies, I think.

Anyway, by the time Jamie turned around to see what I was watching, I was 15 minutes into Ghostbusters (1984), which I'd been curious to re-watch since catching the 2016 remake.

There's not much to say other than that I was paying a lot of attention to Harold Ramis in particular this go-round, partially because of how different his take on the mad scientist character was than Kate McKinnon's Holtzmann.

It's interesting to consider that Ramis is credited as a co-writer, and that he also has a writer credit on Animal House, Meatballs, Caddyshack and Stripes, all of which feature a sort of devil-may-care, wise-cracking protagonist(s) always played by other people, such as Bill Murray or Chevy Chase.  When he did appear, Ramis himself took a back seat as the quiet, brainier/ more sensitive guy with a lower-key sense of interaction, clearly aware of where his sweet spot really was as a performer.   Fans of the movie aren't surprised to hear Egon Spengler's side remarks, or his "Your mother!" as one of the laugh out loud moments of the movie, but, man, Egon is a really, really funny character.

It was funny, I was watching that scene after the Ghostbusters catch Slimer where Bill Murray seems to be pulling the prices out of thin air, and I had the thought "where did they come up with those prices?" when Jamie said "hold it".  So I paused the DVR and backed it up, and though I have seen Ghostbusters no fewer than 25 times, I had never noticed - when Murray is rattling off the prices for proton pack charging, etc...  Spengler is actually indicating the prices to him with his fingers.  It's fully in shot, but I'd never seen it before.  You probably have, but I had not.

It's not like people don't appreciate Ramis as performer, writer and director, but it may be that a lot of what I've attributed to Bill Murray in some of those earlier pictures was a collaborative effort in a way maybe I didn't give enough credit where it was due.  We all know the early drafts of the Ghostbusters scripts were envisioned very differently as Dan Aykroyd/ John Belushi weirdo movies, and it may be that Ramis' touch for the absurd in the mundane mixed with Aykroyd's wild ideas and with all the performances put together is where we wound up with the Ghostbusters we think of when we're not thinking of Kristen Wiig and friends.

Here's to Ramis.  That guy was all right.

new poster for Wonder Woman movie

Still praying this will be good...

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Still pretty jazzed about "Rogue One"

I forgot to post the new footage shared at the Star Wars Celebration. I've only really talked to JuanD about the footage so far.

But it's safe to say my enthusiasm remains for this offshoot first film.

While it's becoming an increasingly remote possibility that this movie is all X-Wing action, and, in fact, seems to have no X-Wing action, everything else about this makes me happy as a fan of the original Star Wars trilogy, the new trilogy and film-making.

The decision Kathleen Kennedy seems to have made to make these movies on real locations and with constructed sets rather than against green screens has given the actors the tools to imagine their scenarios and give the universe the lived in, semi-plausible concrete world of living beings that was always part of the Star Wars aesthetic.  While the culture is a mish-mash from planet to planet, seeing trees and buildings actually constructed - seeing Storm Troopers on a beach - it's all part of the scope and scale of war and war films.

While we use the words "star" and "wars" together, we sort of more think of this as a cosmic family drama/ buddy adevnture, but by pulling out and following this band of literal rebels, we're going to get another peek at the greater Star Wars Universe in filmic form, and see this as a war film.  To me, that's exciting as hell.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Signal Watch Reads: The Return of Tarzan (by ERB, 1913)

What's most surprising about reading a 1913 Tarzan novel is, really, in many ways how modern it feels.  Whether ERB was reflective of a particular brand of cliff-hanger storytelling or whether he shaped a lot of what I think of as a feature of modern adventure entertainment - it's pretty amazing how much you can see of how the adventures of Tarzan work, structurally, in comics and adventure television of all stripes (and probably books, but I don't read that much of this sort of thing).

Tarzan's origin is detailed in the first half of the first book, most of the rest of the book providing the set-up for the ensuing adventures (or, more of the origin, I guess).  This second book picks up shortly after the conclusion of the first as Jane takes off with not-Tarzan, aka: William Clayton (but Tarzan's cousin, who is Lord Greystoke as far as the world is concerned).

It's important to point out that ERB's Tarzan is not the "me Tarzan, you Jane" of the Johnny Weissmuller films.  He's a hyper-intelligent super human who picks up languages the way I pick up unnecessary action figures.  You kind of have to dump everything you've ever read about actual feral-children, maybe one of the saddest things you're likely to read about, and buy into the premise that Tarzan is a really well-adjusted guy in many ways for someone who eats raw flesh and speaks gorilla.

That said - the arc of this second novel is about Tarzan deciding who and what he will be.  And, putting up with a shady Russian who keeps turning up like a bad penny.