Showing posts with label movies. Show all posts
Showing posts with label movies. Show all posts

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Alien Day Watch: Alien (1979)


It had been some time since I'd seen Alien, and I had never seen it on the big screen.  The Alamo Drafthouse was doing double-bills of Alien and Aliens, and then Alien3 and Alien Resurrection.  I showed up for the double-bill, but I've been exhausted all week, and when SimonUK, my movie buddy, announced he'd seen the two movies on 4/26, I felt like I had an out.  So, we watched Alien, grabbed a pint at the bar after skipping out on movie #2, and then I went home for 40 winks.


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Happy Aliens Day!

So, we're really doing this, huh?

It seems we're gonna now have a sci-fi holiday every few months, this latest being 4/26, in honor of the planet LV-426, where the Norstromo set down in Ridley Scott's sci-fi horror masterpiece, Alien.

I'm not due to watch the movie until a double-bill tomorrow night with pal SimonUK, but see both of the first two Alien movies I shall.


I saw Aliens the first time when I was in middle school when I was at an all-day Saturday academic competition and a parent accidentally put it on a video player in a "relaxation" room.  Something like 4 dozen kids silently agreed not to tell anyone we were watching a Rated-R action/ sci-fi/ horror film so we'd all get a chance to watch an R-Rated movie on someone else's dime.  Jason was there, so I assume it was when I was in grade 6 and he in grade 8.

I loved it.  I still recall that I came home, admitted to The Admiral that I'd seen this rated-R movie that he would totally dig, and we went and rented it, and, indeed, we all dug it together.  I then recorded the film off HBO, and proceeded to watch it a grand total of 32 times in one calendar year.  I could quote it line for line.

Weirdly, I wasn't that interested in Alien.  I finally watched Alien in 8th or 9th grade, and I liked it.  A lot.  But I wasn't much of a horror film guy, and the horror overtones never grabbed me in quite the same way that Ripley v. Alien Queen had captured my young mind.

Kind of an odd thing, in retrospect, that I never thought twice about our lead as a woman the same age as many-a-teacher or mom, who wasn't asked to do the Sybil Danning bit, but was exactly what she was supposed to be.  A competent do-er, the person with a head on her shoulders when the shiznit hit the fan.  And for a long time, when the question would come up "why aren't there more women in action roles" it wasn't that we'd point to Sigourney Weaver as proof that there were, but proof that "yeah, I dunno.  Sigourney Weaver is an exemplar of what an audience finds perfectly reasonable in a movie.  More of that, I think."

But, man, those Giger visuals, the pounding score, the phenomenally envisioned sets...  it's a hell of a movie.  A little startling when you go and watch Them! and realize Cameron more or less ripped off a lot of that movie for his picture, but both still work. Especially when you get that last, unexpected battle with the loader and Alien Queen.

That's the stuff, right there.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Doc Watch: Electric Boogaloo - The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films (2014)



I started watching this doc thinking I'd make it maybe 15 minutes in, get bored, and move on with my life.  But, really, my primary complaint about the film is that it seems like it could have run an additional 30 minutes or so, delving into more of the impact of Cannon Films on popular culture and where the movies found their audiences, and not ever felt like it was running long.

Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films (2014) is exactly what you see in the title.  It's a doc about the rise and fall of the independent movie studio responsible for an ungodly amount of the types of movies suburban kids consumed by the truckload back in the 1980's - particularly when our folks were off doing other things and not paying much attention to what we were watching.  Cannon was responsible for just a tremendous number of movies of all genres, and for a kid back in the 1980's, it was pretty typical to go rent a movie, come home, throw it in the VCR and see the Cannon logo scroll out before you.

The basic hook of the movie is that Cannon was fast, cheap and out of control.  They were making movies fast and furious, producing what they assumed was crowd-pleasing stuff, leaving decorum, taste and craftsmanship behind as they raced to give us an endless supply of films loaded with violence, nudity, ridiculous plots and a way to kill a couple of hours on a Saturday night.  They gave us everything from Breakin' parts 1 and 2 to The Last American Virgin to American Ninja to Bolero to Invasion USA to Masters of the Universe to Over the Top, and dozens and dozens of movies in between.  If you're over the age of 35 or so, it's highly likely you raised yourself on a steady diet of their output running on cable or from the local Mom & Pop video rental shop.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Raimi Watch: Darkman (1990)


I don't believe anyone in the movie actually calls the main character "Darkman", btw

What to say about Darkman (1990)?

It's hard to categorize as "good", and I think my affection for it is rooted in nostalgia and the electric current I got seeing this very, very strange movie when I was 15.  It came out just shortly after I'd moved to Spring, TX, where I'd live from grades 10-12.  I was vaguely aware of a movie called Evil Dead 2 that you were supposed to see, but I hadn't seen it yet, and I'd never heard of Sam Raimi.  I just took Darkman for what I thought it was and what I'm sure the studio brass also thought they had: a royalty-free superhero movie they could make cheaply and quickly to ride on the coattails of Batman (1989) and America's awakening interest in superhero movies about "dark" heroes.

Why Did I Do This? Watch: Can't Stop the Music (1980)



"I can't believe you haven't seen this movie," my boss said to me.  "It's terrible."
And, me, never one to shirk from a challenge, saw that it was, indeed, free on Amazon Prime.
Sigh.
Hubris is always punished, my friends.

To complain about a movie that convinced a group of people to found The Razzies is a somewhat pointless endeavor.  But, yeah, you can absolutely see how this movie would have convinced someone to make sure the ineptitude of the filmmaking got its own special notice.  It's a movie so bad, you kind of feel like maybe you'd go crazy if forced to watch it two or three times in a row - a designation I reserve for a very few films of the Manos: The Hands of Fate variety.

In some ways, it feels like a 1940's Mickey Rooney/ Judy Garland film, as a songwriter (Steve f-ing Guttenberg) and former model (Valerie Perrine) put together an act and put on a show, recruiting their upstairs neighbor (who happens to always dress as a a Native American stereotype) and some guys they know from the disco (a portion of what is to become The Village People).  The old-timey tone may make sense when you find out it was directed by Rosie, the Bounty Towel pitch-lady/ Rhoda's mom/ comedienne who appeared with Mickey Rooney in films, Nancy Walker.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Disney Watch: The Jungle Book (2016)



As kids, most of us caught Disney's post-Walt release of The Jungle Book, based upon the works of famed British writer Rudyard Kipling.  When it comes to Kipling, I have no real opinions.  After all, I've never Kippled.

But thanks to a love for Disney animation and Jamie's deep fondness for the movie, I've seen the 1967 cartoon a number of times.  It's not my favorite Disney animation, and my appreciation for the movie swings between adoration and annoyance, depending upon the sequence.  Balloo = Yes.  Kaa = irritation.

It does have one of the strongest sing-along soundtracks of any of the movies, and is up there with the best when it comes to "Bear Necessities" and "I Want To be Like You", even if the latter is in a portion of the movie I found just kind of confusing as a kid.

But it's also got an underrated villain in Shere Khan.

I've also seen the 1990's Jason Scott Lee version of the movie (but don't remember it in the slightest), and a good portion of a 1942 release, which is much better than you'd guess.

I wanted to be skeptical of this version, but Jon Favreau's name was attached as director.  As goofy and normal as Favreau comes off in his roles and in interviews, he's a smart guy and already turned into as solid a director as you were going to find way back when he put out Elf, and then two Iron Man movies in a row that I quite liked (yes, I like Iron Man 2.  Shut up.).

But, man, that's some tough source material, and these days, when it comes to family entertainment, the forces at work seem to be a mix of risk-averse accountants, shrieking parents groups terrified their kids might find out how things work outside their carefully helicoptered environs and a fear of being seen as anything less than a perfect exemplar of safety first.  The idea of a story taking place in a world ruled by tooth and claw seems like it would catapult this kind of story into the same PG-13 arena as the Marvel superheroes.

The first trailer made me more skeptical than excited, but a very recent trailer that came out maybe a week or two before the film's release turned me around a bit, and, of course, I was cheered by a very positive Rotten Tomatoes score (floating around the mid-90's last I checked).

I'll be honest, I loved this movie.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Today Marks the 81st Anniversary of the Release of "The Bride of Frankenstein"



I've already written plenty about Bride of Frankenstein, but - let's get real - it's one of my favorite movies of all time.  I'm going to talk about it whether anyone cares or not.

The movie was released on April 22nd, 1935.  I've now seen it, probably 16 or 17 times, and every time I watch, like all great movies, I don't just enjoy it, I get something new out of it.  In short, I can't recommend it enough.  And, if you do watch it and don't like it, or if you don't see what I like about it, I'm always happy to chat on the topic.

Yes, the movie is supposed to be funny, so you may feel okay about laughing.  If you ever see Una O'Conner show up in anything, it's okay to laugh.  Yes, the film is supposed to be weird in both the modern and classic sense of the word, and it's generally the uncanny atmosphere of the movie I relish more than anything resembling a scare.  But, yes, it's mildly scary, sometimes, I guess.  And sad.  Only Dr. Pretorius here is having any fun.  Both Frankenstein the Doctor and Being are caught up in a world that torments them despite their better intentions and honest desires.

A complete story in only 80 minutes or so, even if I think you're selling yourself a disservice not watching Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein back-to-back for a good 3 hour movie.

Below are some posters for the picture - not the Mondo posters, many of which I quite like, but the original posters.  And, then, some of photography from stills and the film itself - one of the best visually imagined of the Universal Horror movies - or any movie in any year.


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

John Williams Appreciation Post: Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Finale)



You're gonna need to block out fifteen minutes for this one.  Sorry.

A few years ago The Alamo Drafthouse was running a series based on a local radio show, "Film Score Focus", where the host of the show came, talked a bit about the score for the movie you were about to see, and I think maybe again afterwards.  The screening we attended was for Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

It's a fascinating score, one that saves a movie that could have been terrifying and turns it into a work of wonder.  After all, it's a movie about communicating with beings from another world/ plane/ what-have-you, via the power of music.  We may not have a similar written or spoken language, or other form of communication, but we can peacefully share notes back and forth to show our good intentions.

Host of Film Score Focus, Brian Satterwhite, rightfully pointed out that - if one listens - the score is constantly blending a few things.  Yes, that child-like piano riff we all think of with Close Encounters, but also Disney's "When You Wish Upon a Star", which makes itself heard fully at around the 10:50 mark of this clip.

It's a nice bit of work, that.


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

90's Watch: Hackers (1995)



In February of 1919, some of the greats of the silent era - Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and D.W. Griffith - came together to found their own studio: United Artists.  The studio was formed in reaction to studio and artist friction over salaries and creative control.  One could say that the idea of an artist's ability to produce an independent vision is baked into the DNA of UA, and, over the years, that spirit has brought us new perspectives to the silver screen, bold proclamations of artists unhampered by the small minds of businessmen, free from the the penny-pinching dream killers of accounting.

So, it should come as no surprise that, some 76 years later, UA would bring us a truly unique dream of the 90's, a clarion call to a generation, a mirror held up to reality showing us truths about ourselves in only the way we can truly get from a masterpiece like Hackers (1995).

This is maybe one of the worst movies I've seen in the last ten years.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Star Wars Watch: Star Wars - The Force Awakens (2015) round 4



I finally busted out my disk of Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) (or, Star Wars VII as the kids are calling it).

I'm pleased it held up so well upon a fourth viewing and a non-theatrical viewing at that, where distractions abound and I'm more likely to lean back and take a more critical view of a movie.  And, now knowing the plot reflects many milestone elements of Episode IV, all of that really falls into the background and I can just enjoy what the actors are doing, the sets, the vehicles, and all that stuff you get to like about a movie you watch over and over like Star Wars or Star Trek or, in my case, Captain America or the Superman movies.  

It's also funny to see how I relate to the new characters in comparison to the Episode IV - VI characters I grew up with.  My feelings regarding Rey and Finn are oddly... paternalistic.  My "empathy" characters, the ones I understand or relate more to at this point in my life are still Han, Leia, Chewie and Luke.

I'm incredibly impressed with the talent of John Boyega and Daisy Ridley and love the characters created by the actors and behind-the-lens crew.  These are fun characters to follow, not an obligation because that's who the camera is pointed at in a movie called "Star Wars".

Certainly, one can imagine Lawrence Kasdan and his contemporaries involved know a bit more about kids, failed marriages, etc...  now than they did 30 years ago.  And, at its heart, Star Wars is a family melodrama about a very messed up clan.  So there's quite a bit for the old favorites.

But I watch Finn and Rey discovering the Millennium Falcon and even finding each other not with skepticism, but excitement at the passing of torches, of new characters I can enjoy, if not identify with (or, wish to be).  Alas, my heart doesn't go pitter-patter for a girl young enough to be my daughter, but still for Princess Leia stepping off that Resistance command ship.  But, man, watching Finn has all the hallmarks of how I saw myself faking it as a younger me.  "We'll use the force!"

And, yes, I still take a little kid's delight in all the spaceship battles, whether its the amazing "graveyard" sequence with the Falcon on Jakku or a squadron of X-Wings coming in low over a lake on Takodana or storming Starkiller Base, and watch lightsaber battle with popped eyes, especially among rookies taking up the only fight that matters.

Here's to Star Wars being back and something I care about all over again.

Trailer for "The Legend of Tarzan"



Dude.  I kind of vaguely knew this was coming out, but hadn't seen any trailers.  If you're going to make a Tarzan movie in 2016, this is the one I want to see.  I think.

Dear God, do not let this be as terrible as it probably will be.

John Williams Appreciation Post: Jaws



Ah, the primordial terror of the theme to Jaws. That low sound of the monstrous heartbeat quickening, joining with strings and woodwinds and horns like the sound of alarm over the whole thing, and giving way to Williams' fanfare of adventure for Roy Scheider.

As a kid, this was among the first songs I knew that wasn't a nursery rhyme, disco hit or the Star Wars Theme, or Queen (I don't know why, but we had some Queen in the house).  It was also the one you could plunk out on the family's upright if you messed around long enough to find the right combo of keys.

Yeah, this is the one you can find people shouting at each other about - "did Williams steal from Dvorak?" - and I don't doubt there's influence there.  You can do worse than to borrow concepts from a famed composer, and it seems disingenuous to suggest someone with Williams' background wasn't familiar with Dvorak and it's all a coincidence.  But, they are two different pieces in the same way everything out of Nashville for the past two decades has been essentially the same three songs, but nobody seems to mind much.*

Anyway, it's maybe the first Williams score that I'm aware of that became cultural shorthand around the planet, that you can still hum in a swimming pool to produce an unwarranted sense of danger.


*seriously - how can you even listen to New Country?  Bleh.  I am judging you, Country Music fans.

Dog Watch: Air Bud (1997)



I really have no explanation for why I watched about 90% of Air Bud (1997) on Saturday night.  I was supposed to be at a baseball game for our local minor league team, The Round Rock Express, but I was taking my 86 year old uncle, and once its tarted drizzling, we just went and grabbed dinner instead.

Well, that meant I was home by 8:15, because 86 year olds like to eat dinner kinda early.

So, I walked in the door and Air Bud was on TV, and I started watching it ironically, but, you know, I kinda liked it.  It's not that hard to believe it got watered down into the movies we eventually got and spun off into the Buddies series.  But, yeah, it was okay.  And it was generally better in execution than most low-budgety stuff made for kids.

I really thought I'd seen it before, but I think I caught maybe the last five minutes.  I really hadn't seen it.

It's a movie about a sad kid living with his mom and baby sister in a new town who meets a dog that can shoot baskets.  Like, there was a real dog that could do that, and they filmed him and we had a movie about a kid overcoming some minor obstacles, the meaning of teamwork, friendship, bad coaching, sports dads being jerks, responsible pet ownership, the evil of clowns and how cool it really is when you train a Golden Retriever to shoot baskets.

It wasn't going to win any Oscars, but it wasn't totally stupid.

Weirdly, I still haven't watched my BluRay of Star Wars: The Force Awakens yet.  Toonight, maybe?

Noir Watch: Phantom Lady (1944)



Movies produced during the height of WWII are always interesting.  You certainly get to see who signed up to serve and who stayed stateside.  That's no judgment, everyone had reasons they did what they did.  Just a couple of weeks back, for the first time I saw the government docs telling my own grandfather he was not going to be signing up as his civilian job was considered vital to the war effort.

So, we get Franchot Tone, not really the biggest star to come out of Hollywood, and hardly a household name in 2016 (he was married to Joan Crawford for several years, so may God have mercy upon his soul).  I don't think I know Alan Curtis except for looking familiar enough he must have been in something I saw (ah.  High Sierra.).  And Ella Raines is both very good in the movie and terribly attractive, so its a bit odd this movie in particular didn't launch her further along.

Noir fans will, of course, delight to see Elisha Cook, Jr. show up in a movie doing anything, and hear he plays a lecherous jazz drummer.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

John Williams Appreciation Post: Jurassic Park (1993)



The best thing about this is that when I was picking a clip to use, Jamie added in her own brontosaur calls from the other couch at pretty much exactly when they appear against the music in the movie.

It was kind of amazing.

I love me some Jurassic Park, and the theme to the movie is filled with the sense of wonder I think we all felt the first time we saw those dinosaurs rambling into view, sharing in Dr.'s Grant and Sattler sense of awe and amazement.  As impactful as we all found the visuals, Williams soundtrack captured and amplified that sensation, the majesty of nature and science giving birth to astounding life - and whether you mean cloned dinosaurs or what CGI accomplished, either way, it works.

Friday, April 15, 2016

John Williams Appreciation Post: Star Wars - The Force Theme



One of the curious things about watching all 16 hours of Richard Wagner's Ring Cycle of operas was realizing (a) Williams may have had some idea how he could pull this thing off by looking at an old pro dealing with a multi-generational story, magical themes and heroic quests and (b) how themes and motifs can really work to convey story in ways both overt and subliminally.  In short - the music tells the story.

That's not a knock on Williams.  Too few composers have applied this hard won knowledge effectively in the world of film.  In fact, I think we should be quite satisfied with applying the term "Space Opera" when it comes to Star Wars.

"The Force Theme" is not the fanfare of the titles or the finale awards ceremony.  "The Force Theme", to me, rings with a certain melancholy, maybe that same look that's all over Luke's face there at the end of The Force Awakens.  There's greatness there, but it comes with a sense of tragedy, perhaps derived from the weight of responsibility and the gift's inherent "otherness" that will set you apart now.  There's a swelling undercurrent in the music, a ring of promise that comes after the opening bars, but it's muted, expressing something beyond joy or anger or sorrow.

It's a hell of a piece, and it's the tear jerker of the Star Wars music for nostalgic reasons, sure, but there's something there that hits you dead center as it pushes the story along.

Toho Releases "Godzilla Resurgence" Trailer, Life Worth Living Again



(this is the actual, longer trailer from Toho. Sorry about the abbreviated trailer earlier)

Thursday, April 14, 2016

John Williams Appreciation Post: Indiana Jones Theme



Today we post the Indiana Jones theme, a rousing tune that, in my book, is what the call to high adventure sounds like.


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

John Williams Appreciation Post: Theme to "Superman" - 1978



Yesterday I way overslept and slid into my desk at 9:26 AM.  I was panicky, because Nathan Cone was DJing the Spring telethon for Texas Public Radio out of San Antonio, and he'd promised he'd play the Superman theme just for on my B-Day at 9:30 AM sharp.  I fired up the website, and in a couple of minutes, I got to hear Nathan give me (and the site!) a shout out, and then he played selections from the score to Superman: The Movie (1978).

As much as the movie defines Superman for me in a multitude of ways, I'll never get over the score.  It's got all the drama and adventure and fun of a Superman comic at its best built right in.  And for that, we need to thank John Williams.

We all love John Williams.  He provided the score to our film-going lives and is, arguably, the most important composer of the age.  He's certainly taken up more of my headspace than nearly any other composer, and I've bought more of his work than nearly any other musician.

So, we're going to start posting some of Williams' work here for a bit.  Nothing to overwhelm you, just something to listen to and enjoy yourself.

And, yes, I re-upped my membership with Texas Public Radio.  Nathan is diabolical that way.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Slam Evil Watch: The Phantom (1996)



In 1989, Michael Keaton put on a terrible-looking rubber cowl with ears, got dropped onto fantastic looking sets with Jacks Palance and Nicholson, Jerry Hall and Kim Basinger, and the world went bat-shit.  Warner Bros. made a ton of money off not just the movie, but the merchandising.  Batman, overnight, became America's favorite superhero.

All the studios scrambled to see what else that looked like a comic books that they could exploit, but without spending a ton of money (this was a pre-CGI era).  And for about 10 years, man, there was a lot of stuff coming out.  A lot of stuff of varying quality.

I'm actually a fan of The Shadow from 1994 or so, and I love Disney's The Rocketeer.  Both super fun movies, even if The Shadow kinda hams up, then softens up the whole concept.  Marvel, for their part, laid some eggs in their straight to video Captain America and Punisher films, circa 1990.

During this era, a vision in purple spandex strode onto screens across America.  And, for reasons I cannot put into words, felt compelled to see this movie then and a few times since.  The Phantom (1996)!!!