Thursday, October 6, 2016

Oh my GOD Watch: Roar (1981)

Let's not screw around.

Why I wanted to watch this movie:  it really, honestly features dozens of live big cats with minimal training, just sort of being big cats.  And by big cats, I mean lions, tigers, panthers, jaguars, pumas...  all in one film, all intermingled with actors trying to perform scenes both engaging with the animals and around the animals.  The animals even get a screen-writing credit because, hey, animals gonna do what animals are gonna do - and that clearly drove the story.

It's not a freakshow, but it is absolutely nerve wracking to watch as every bit of your well-honed DNA of thousands of generations of ancestors starts screaming out at you that this is a very, very bad scene, even as the movie is insisting "we should learn to love the big cats and live in harmony with them."

Thanks to, I think, a Hollywood lifestyle bit I was watching about Tippi Hedren back around 2001, I'd been aware of the movie, but good luck finding it back then.  Or much information about it.  Just the casual mention of "oh, she has a lion sanctuary and this one time she made a feature film with dozens of wild big cats called 'Roar', so, anyway, she's Melanie Griffith's mom..."

It also features Speed director Jan de Bont as a cinematographer, and, apparently he was one of the 70 people injured working on the movie.  And, in fact, de Bont was gravely injured when a lion took his scalp clean off his head.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Halloween Watch: Frankenstein (1931)

My Halloween viewing is a little slowed by the arrival of Luke Cage on Netflix, but Sunday night TCM presented a Frankenstein Triple Feature.  They'll be showing Frank movies all October on Sundays (and Christopher Lee, star of the month on TCM, will be Mondays, so check for Hammer Horror).

This year marks the 85th Anniversary of the release of James Whale's screen classic, Frankenstein (1931).   So, I appreciate the Franken-centric approach to Halloween that TCM is going for all month long.

Turner Classic kicked it off right with the three Frankenstein pictures that defined the monster and mad scientists for the 20th and early 21st Centuries.  They showed the Universal movies that started with the 1931 Universal feature, Frankenstein, starring Boris Karloff as "The Monster".  Then, of course, TCM went right into Bride of Frankenstein and Son of Frankenstein.*

I've seen Frankenstein numerous times since first watching the film back in college, and I've written on the topic often enough that I've given Frankenstein it's own tag on the site.  I'm a fan, and I watch the movie at some point every October.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Signal Watch Reads: Breakout (a Parker novel, 2002)

This was the Parker novel I accidentally skipped when I grabbed Nobody Runs Forever off the shelf and plowed through that one.  While I was more than able to follow Nobody Runs Forever - the books are episodic enough that you can tell Stark never counted on anyone having had read the other books, let alone in order - thematically, this book points toward Parker's state in life, and maybe something author Richard Stark realized was far more inevitable in the early 00's than in 1962 when Parker first walked across a bridge into New York.  By 2002, technology had made heisting far harder, the work of cops far more efficient, and the likelihood of escape from a high-profile job that much harder to swallow for the general public.

So, Breakout (2002), is less about a heist and, instead, about Parker getting caught by the law and the difficulties of extracting himself from the situation as complication after complication rears up.  You can almost see how Stark/Westlake might have wanted to use the concept for comedic purposes - the almost insane domino effect of getting compromised within first two or three pages, with nothing following going particularly well.  The premise could make for a trials of Job situation or it was going to make for a white-knuckle thriller and Stark chose the latter.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Doc Watch: Vampira and Me (2012)

It's nothing like news that a lot of folks' personal Hollywood stories end badly.  For many a-starry-eyed actor, all the positive thinking in the world doesn't mean financial or personal success.  Exploitation of hopeful people (and their ideas) is woven into the fabric of show business at such a deep level, it's more or less S.O.P.

At some point, you start to notice that actors have a limited shelf-life in Hollywood.  As the years pass, those talented girls you found so attractive in movies just stop appearing in anything, even though they were kind of a big deal and in quite a few pictures for a stretch there.  The birth of IMDB really brings the idea home if you do what I do mid-way through most movies and start checking up on actors you're enjoying in a movie but haven't seen in much else - where did they go?  There's almost always a petering out of roles and then *poof* some final role and then nothing.  They threw in the towel rather than play yet another character called "So-and-So's Mom" or the equivalent.  Some go on to other lives (Justice Bateman just got her CS degree.  I mean, talk about a kick-ass second chapter), some marry well, and some - even screen legends like Veronica Lake - have sad, obscure ends that don't ever seem to get remembered.

But that's not the sort of Hollywood messed up story that Vampira and Me (2012) tracks.  That's a story of illusion, delusion and the disposable nature of fame for (especially) female actors when a dream is realized in part, but is taken away.  

It's hard to call the movie a documentary, exactly, and it certainly isn't journalism.  It feels like a bit of a memoir, an apology and a posthumous plea for sympathy for a third-tier icon most people have never heard of or forgotten about except as a shadowy Halloween-type bit of imagery not associated with anything in particular.