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

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Magic Watch: Bell, Book and Candle (1958)

I won't ponder too long the lack of an Oxford Comma in the title of this movie, but I will say I lost a full two minutes making sure of comma placement in this post.

Bell, Book and Candle (1958) is one of those movies that you hear about a lot, but not one I ever had any particular interest in seeing, aside from a cast that includes some great talent.  A just-post Vertigo Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak (yowza), Elsa Lanchester (formerly the Bride of Frankenstein), and a pre-Some Like it Hot and The Apartment Jack Lemmon.  I actually quite like casual magic/ shadow magical cultures in my movies (see: Mary Poppins), but I dunno.  I watched Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie growing up, and I wasn't quite sure what all I'd get out of this that's different - aside from the cast.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Patriotic Watch: Johnny Tremain (1957)

When I was a wee lad, I remember being a fan of this 1957 Disney production.  Back in the day, Disney did a lot of live-action movies of varying quality (seriously, Disney, where the @#$% is my BluRay edition of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea?), and often featured stories set in the past.

Originally intended as part of the Disneyland TV series, Johnny Tremain ended up better than anyone was figuring, so Walt decided to repackage it for theatrical distribution.

The movie probably left a greater impression on me than I realized, because in rewatching the movie three decades later, I kept saying "oh, yeah, right!" and remembering scenes as they unfolded.  But I doubt I'd thought about the movie for at least the last fifteen years.  I do recall that we watched a lot of Wonderful World of Disney growing up (and early Disney Channel) and read our share of historical fiction, so we got a lot of the G-rated high adventure stuff in our diet that, wonder upon wonders, fit pretty neatly in with the Disney World "Liberty Square" look and feel for history.*  If it was intended to make a tri-corner hat wearing nerd out of me, mission accomplished, Walt.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Comedy Watch: Wet Hot American Summer (2001)

Jamie informs me that we're getting eight "episodes" of all-new Wet Hot American Summer on Netflix, and I have no idea what that means.  Because as far as I knew, until about 8:30 tonight, it was a movie I've seen once or twice and that I've always liked.

But way back in 2001, a pretty colorful group of actors and comedians came together to make a movie that, by all appearances, was intended to make them laugh, and if anyone else liked it, all the better.  The movie was a spoof on the cliches of both summer camp movies (a brand of movie that I suspect has died out except in weird echoes as kids movies.  I don't even need to Google it to know there has to be a Air Buddies movie where the puppies go to camp.)  But there was a time when there were enough of those sorts of movies that they had their own cliches, I guess.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Monster Watch: Godzilla, King of the Monsters (1956)

The film classic Gojira (1954) has a completely different version known stateside as Godzilla: King of the Monsters (1956).  Released a while after the movie's initial Japanese showing, it features Raymond Burr cut into the movie as journalist Steve Martin - providing US audiences with an American-minded perspective on Godzilla's debut Tokyo stomping.

I feel like I must have talked about Gojira at length in the past, so I'll shorten the plot synopsis:  a giant monster shows up in Japan, reaches Tokyo, f's it up something royal, a very cute girl is caught in a love triangle between a square and an eye-patched rogue scientist, they figure out how to kill Godzilla.  Until the sequel.

Lifetime Watch: A Deadly Adoption (2015)

I have now seen A Deadly Adoption, and... I can only tell you, it is something you must witness for yourself.

The thing about the movie is...  it's totally a Lifetime movie.  With other actors, nobody would bat an eye.  It's some of the particulars of the algorithmic dialog of the script and the presence of Ferrell and Wiig that tip the game in any way, shape or form.   There's no mugging, no pauses for laughs, just...  you know, that's Ferrell and Wiig and completely bizarre style of high-stakes domestic melodrama that Lifetime has made their trademark.

Not too long ago, Wiig and Ferrell participated in a short series called The Spoils of Babylon that emulated the epic TV miniseries of the 1970s and 80s.   There was no mistake what was going on there, and the framing device of Ferrell as fictional author/ director/ wine-enthusiast Eric Jonrosh reminiscing about the creation of the series just took it to the next level.

If this is the next phase in the Wiig/ Ferrell evolution, I'm all for it.

And, really, it says a lot about the network that they seem to have financed the movie and they're broadcasting it.  I tip my hat.

Super Watch: Superman (1978)

So, yesterday, I journeyed to the Alamo South Lamar for a "Kid's Club" screening of Superman: The Movie (1978).

It's impossible to know how many times I've seen Superman, but I figure I'm pushing triple-digits at this point.  Or maybe it's been a mere 70 times.  Who knows?  I've seen it in the theater so many times I've lost count - but I figure it's at least 10 at this point, and I would have skipped this one, but after going to Metropolis and reading that Larry Tye book, it just felt like serendipity that the movie was screening, and I should probably go.

"Kid's Club" screenings are always fun.  As much as I enjoy the evening throw-back screenings of movies at the Paramount and Alamo, seeing movies with the original intended audience is always amazing.  Superman runs something like two and a half hours, and I didn't hear a single anxious kid nor a peep out of anyone aside from some mild excitement during properly exciting scenes.  There's a sweet spot you can hit where the movies are not as dull as some kids movies, but without over-stimulating kids with just too darn much going on up there on the screen - because I have absolutely witnessed that phenomenon, even in a Harry Potter movie, and the kids start just blanking out and futzing with their chairs or asking for Cheerios or whatever.  And despite our weird idea that "kids are so advanced these days"*, the kids certainly don't know about or understand the difference between CGI FX and in-camera or practical effects.  They just don't care, even if they're vaguely aware this doesn't look like other movies.  And I've seen this again and again, including favorites like The Time MachineFantastic Voyage and Batman '66.

The kids even totally dealt with the "Can You Read My Mind" scene at face value.  No ironic snickering, no groans of disapproval.  It was kind of nice.

One other weird factoid about "Kid's Club" - they show the movies in 35mm, so the print yesterday was beat to hell, discolored in places and had audio issues, but nobody cared, including the kids.  It may be the last time I get to see Superman in 35mm, so it was a nice treat.

Anyhow, it was a fun screening.  I may want a break between screenings for a while as I did just watch the movie, like, three months ago, but I didn't regret going.  Got to hang with Simon and his lady-friend, Tiffany, and we got some nifty plastic Superman rings from Toy Joy.

*what?  Kids got better at being kids?  That doesn't even make sense.  They're just fine with adapting to the world they were born into that has stuff their parents didn't have at the same age.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Shark Watch: Jaws (1975)

I kind of said everything I had to say about Jaws (1975) the other night, but hadn't had opportunity to watch the movie.  Apparently my post readied Jamie for a viewing, so I popped a disc in the ol' DVD player and gave it a whirl.

Not much else to add, so, enjoy your own screening.  Or don't.  I don't know why you wouldn't.  It's a pretty good movie.

Of course, you can't go wrong with the sequel.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Sci-Fi Watch: Logan's Run (1976)

I watched Logan's Run one other time, circa 1999, but a bottle of something with an angry animal printed on the label was consumed then and stood between me and any firm memories of the movie.  Except for Carousel.  And, if I'm being honest, Jenny Agutter.

In the future, we'll all live in airports

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

James Horner Merges With The Infinite

I don't need to tell anyone who follows this site how important music is to a movie.  You guys know.  And I know I don't need to tell you how important James Horner was to movies of the last few decades.  The man's IMDB page reads like a list of movies we've all seen in the theater since we were kids.

Tragically, Horner seems to have died in a plane crash.  

Rather than talk about who James Horner was and what he worked on, I'm going to invite you to drop your favorite of his works in the comments.  If you want to add a why and wherefore, feel free to do so.

I will say the first score of his that I remember consciously really paying attention to and wondering "who did that?" was the score for the 1989 Civil War film, Glory.  Certainly the score wasn't the only thing Glory had going for it. but it set a new standard for the music in historical epics and I often feel like both documentaries and more recent movies have lifted from that score, or at least learned its lessons.

and, of course, I'm a fan of many more of his works.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Spielberg's "Jaws" at 40

I'm on the road for work (hello, Houston!), and am not going to be watching any movies or be doing much reading, so I thought I'd write something up on the 40th Anniversary of one of my favorite movies, the 1975 Spielberg directed shark opus, Jaws.

I didn't fall in love with Jaws until college.  Frankly, I can't say I'm sure if I saw it all the way through until then.  There was some sunny afternoon where I was drinking beer with my brother discussing the movie and realizing, "you know, that really is a hell of a movie when you think about it."  And I picked up the DVD at some point, but hell if I know where it is now.

Of course I love the fact that Jaws plays on cable each summer almost as much as the Vacation movies.  It's the perfect summer movie, especially for those of us who kind of need a push to get to water that isn't a public pool.  Jamie's a big fan, too, so she'll always take in a viewing if that's what we're doing.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Happy Birthday to Jane Russell

Born this day in 1921 in Bemidji, Minnesota.

Sci-Fi Watch: The Thing From Another World (1951)

I'm a big fan of the 1982 John Carpenter sci-fi horror flick, The Thing, but I'd never seen Howard Hawks produced The Thing From Another World (1951) - the movie upon which the Carpenter film was based.

I recorded it off TCM at some point and finally got around to watching it, which was well timed as I'd been having a twitter-convo with some of y'all about whether remakes and sequels were really out of control.*

Screwball Watch: Bringing Up Baby (1938)

So, we started watching a different movie last night, gave up, and when I was about to start up Monkey Business (1952), Jamie mentioned she'd never seen Bringing Up Baby (1938).  Which...  we've been together for 20 years, so I'm not clear on how that happened.  I know I've seen it a couple of times, but I also remember watching it with my roommate back in film school, so that accounts for at least that screening.

So, we fired up the Roku and Amazon streaming services and watched the Katharine Hepburn/ Cary Grant, Howard Hawks-directed comedy.

if you ever want to see the world's worst Katharine Hepburn impersonation, I'm your man
Very much of the school of both Hollywood screwball comedies and the Broadway domestic comedies of the 30's and 40's, Bringing Up Baby is not, as you would expect, about a young couple fumbling with an actual baby.  It's about a daffy paleontologist who meets an even daffier socialite who immediately falls in love with him and isn't going to let the fact he's supposed to get married the next day slow her down.

As rings all too true from working at a university, Cary Grant's scientist is in pursuit on $1 million for his museum, plus he's receiving the final bone for his brontosaurus in the mail.  Golfing with the attorney of his potential patron, Grant meets Hepburn (or, David meets Susan), there's some confusion, destruction of a car, etc..  Susan, deciding she's in love with David, involves a tame leopard her brother has sent her from South America - a leopard who happens to be named "Baby" and who really likes the tune "I Can't Give You Anything But Love".

Anyway, just watch it.  As with many screwball comedies, describing it will make you feel like a lunatic.

I have some very favorite scenes from the movie, including the dinner sequence.  For whatever reason, this sort of comedy really works for me.  Sure, I love a good Mel Brooks movie with the cheap gags and all, but there's something pretty great about original formula for situation comedies that rely more heavily on absurdity and character-driven gags, and it's not necessarily the set up/ laugh/ set up/ laugh of the television sitcom.  It can be as complicated as keeping up with a Raymond Chandler story to keep the threads straight, even as characters are very clear about their motivations.

It's a pretty darn good movie, and there's a reason people keep coming back to it well after 1938, whereas, I'm not sure we'll still be revisiting the American Pie franchise in 20 years.  Then again, the kids keep surprising me when they're building the mythology of their own definition of classics.*

*@#$%ing Space Jam?  Really?

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Comedy Watch: Caddyshack (1980)

I'm not a die-hard Caddyshack fan.  As much as I enjoy pointlessly killing time in ugly pants, I don't play golf, but the movie doesn't require any tremendous knowledge of the game to enjoy it, nor must one find themselves playing golf in order to find opportunity to quote the movie.

I really don't know when the last time I watched Caddyshack, but it's been at least a decade.  Possibly two.

The movie offers up a great snapshot of comedy in the US circa 1980.  Chevy Chase at his Vacation-era best, Bill Murray doing that thing, Ted Knight as Ted Knight, Rodney Dangerfield as Rodney Dangerfield, Harold Ramis directing, Bryan Doyle Murray playing Bryan Doyle Murray and also lending his talents to the script.  And let us not forget Cindy Morgan, who totally made sense in context.

Musical Watch: West Side Story (1961)

the plot in a nutshell

If you haven't seen the 1961 film, West Side Story, coming into it cold in 2015 will feel like you're watching a movie about an alien world, but it's a musical that comes from a time and a place, and I'd hope that at least the music, choreography and cinematography would work for you.  Maybe not.  The oh, so clever audiences of the modern era have cleverly deduced that people don't actually sing and dance spontaneously and have rejected the genre.

For those of us who kind of grew up with the play and/ or movie (I saw it the first time at a local theater in Austin when I was about 13, the movie at least twice in high school and have seen the movie now about five or six times by my reckoning), it can be easy to take a lot of the actual story for granted.  I know I was shown the movie in high school alongside Romeo and Juliet as we compared and contrasted the two stories as a class, and that's a good starting point.  But I can't help but notice that being 40 and watching a story about the passion of teen-aged romance is a whole other burrito from watching the movie when your hormones are firing a million miles an hour and wanting to talk to girls and punch things are the two driving factors in your teen-age brain.*

Friday, June 19, 2015

Noir Watch: Nightmare Alley (1947)

I like a movie that starts at the circus, and especially anything that starts on the Midway.  Probably because I know that if I were born 100 years prior, I'd have been some roustabout working behind the scenes of a freak show and hanging around the pinheads.

Nightmare Alley (1947) stars a whole lot of people I'm not overly familiar with, from Tyrone Power (who I think of as being a pirate-y and shirtless), and Colleen Gray.  The movie also stars a 41 year old Joan Blondell as a formerly hugely successful mentalist now working the circus sideshow circuit with her former partner assisting (now a shambling drunk) and Tyrone Power flirting with her/ trying to figure out her angle for his own gain.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Noir Watch: Gun Crazy (1950)

This is, I believe, the fourth time I've watched Gun Crazy (1950), a movie about a guy, a girl, their guns and how it all gets a smidge out of control.  It's a movie both entirely of its time, but points the way for movies that would come along within 20 years from studios who learned to take chances as the 60's steamed along (Bonnie and Clyde), and maybe reached it's wildest point with Natural Born Killers (1994).

I'd label the movie safely noir.  Two people that can't control themselves who, through their actions and inactions, get in way over their heads with no path out.  When Bart Tare (John Dall) meets Annie Laurie Starr (Peggy Cummins), it's the worst possible combination for both of them as their obsession with guns gets mixed up in greed, sex and an inability to find a groove in square living.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Friday Night, don't forget to catch "Gun Crazy" on TCM

I know I already pitched this at you, but one more time: Gun Crazy is on TCM on Friday, hosted by Eddie Muller.

A great movie.  Hugely influential and with some terrific cinematography, not to mention a tremendous performance by both Peggy Cummins and John Dall.

Check it out.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Christopher Lee Merges With The Infinite

This is a tough one.

Actor Christopher Lee passed away this week at the age of 93.

Christopher Lee is one of the first actor's names I remember, which is weird, because I knew him from a book I read and reread as a kid about movie monsters, but I didn't see his Dracula movies until fairly recently.  And, seriously, he's phenomenal.  Hammer Horror has it's own style, and at the heart of the best of those movies, you could often find Christopher Lee as a Dracula or Mummy or Frankenstein.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Set Your DVR's - "Gun Crazy" is on Turner Classic this Friday!

Eddie Muller, the Czar of Noir, takes the captain's chair at TCM for several Fridays this summer.  You can read up on the program, dubbed "Summer of Darkness", and maybe learn a bit more about Noir and Muller himself.

He's recently released a book on the a cult favorite in Noir circles, the 1950 feature Gun Crazy, starring John Dall and the phenomenal Peggy Cummins.  

I'll go ahead and recommend this one.  I've seen it a few times, and I'll definitely watch it several more.  It's a remarkable movie.  Wonderfully shot, well acted and just extremely well put together story about two people who never should have met - a spiritual predecessor of the 1967 Bonnie and Clyde.

I really wanted to hit Noir City XI in San Francisco as Ms. Cummins was the guest of honor at a screening of the movie, and was present for an interview.  Our own J_Swift scored me a signed poster by Ms. Cummins, which is a prized item in my household.

So set that DVR for this Friday.  Or, better yet, make a date and watch it.  It's a hell of a movie.