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

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Sci-Fi Watch: Ex Machina (2015)

So, I think Randy has asked me no less than 3200 times if I'd seen Ex Machina (2015) yet.  Really I have no idea why this movie made him think of me in particular.  And I say that without the usual first paragraph snark.  I guess because I like robots.  He'll have to show up in the comments and explain his reasoning.

I finally decided to check out the movie, mostly to see Oscar Isaac in something where he wasn't Llewyn Davis or a space fighter pilot, and, yes, he's every bit as good here as you may have heard, and we're nowhere close to seeing everything he can do.  I'm really hoping the scripts come his way that can make the most of him and not let him turn into some weird Al Pacino-like parody of a self of him we've not yet seen ossified.

If I hadn't rushed out to see the movie, it was one of those times I looked at a trailer, identified a few plot points and filled in the rest, and was okay with whether or not I'd ever see the film. "Female Automoton Is Objectified, Gets Angry, is Metaphor?" was what I pulled out of the ads I'd seen.  And, truthfully, the movie itself was, more or less exactly what I expected it to be, plot-wise and narratively, but - and I want to be very clear on this - because I think my meaning was misconstrued with the Revenant write-up - if you were going to make that movie, this was as good as that particular movie was going to get.  That's not a knock, that's a "this is where I am as a movie-goer who has absorbed a lot of stories in 40 years on this spinning rock."

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Doc Watch: The American Experience - Murder of a President (2016, PBS Doc)

James A. Garfield.  He wore his beard honestly.

I don't watch as much of American Experience as I once did.  I actually go to sleep from time to time these days, so that leaves less time watching TV, I guess.  But when I heard The American Experience, PBS's long running documentary series on key events in American history, was making a doc based on Candice Millard's book, Destiny of the Republic (I believe suggested to me by Picky Girl), I had to check it out.

This week's episode, Murder of a President, covers the assassination of President James Garfield.

Yes, it's a case of "the book was better than the movie", but there was never any way a 2 hour doc was going to convey all the story Millard was able to get on the page.  And, while the doc does try to capture the true tragedy of the murder, I didn't feel hollowed out in the same way that I did by the time I finished Millard's book.  In fact, I teared up a few times getting through the book. Pretty remarkable for a non-fiction accounting of a President nobody talks about anymore.

Nonetheless, the doc is terrific and does a good job of understanding and translating Millard's work, and that of other historians and archivists detailing the story.  You can watch it now on the PBS website.  

Friday, February 5, 2016

Orson Watch: Falstaff (Chimes at Midnight) - 1965

I had more or less no idea what this movie was until about a half hour before I left to go see it.  PaulT and I haven't been able to hang much lately, so when he pitched going to see an Orson Welles movie I'd only heard of here and there, I said "yeah, sure!".  Because (1) hanging out with PaulT is always a good time and (2) I am truly trying to weight the number of movies I watch this year that are new to me at something like 70%.  Thus, I'm trying to be game for anything pitched my way, especially if it'll include a beer with a pal.

At this point, I am still not sure if this movie is called Falstaff or Chimes at Midnight or Falstaff (Chimes at Midnight).  I do know it was released in 1965.  It was not well regarded or received upon its release, and it doesn't get much play out there.

It's a strange adaptation of Shakespeare, and I actually asked my boss a few questions Thursday as she has a Masters from UT in English, and did her thesis on some aspect of Shakespeare, and my familiarity with The Bard is exceedingly limited.  Welles plays Falstaff, a recurring character in Shakespeare's plays, specifically Henry IV Parts 1 and 2, as well as The Merry Wives of Windsor.   I haven't seen any of these as movies or on stage, nor have I read them.  To me, Falstaff is an operatic character and one I mostly equate with Thor's buddy, Volstagg.  And, at that, I haven't thought much about the character other than that by my late 50's, I expect to be referred to as Falstaffian in stature and temperament.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Happy Birthday, Ida Lupino

Today is the birthday of Ida Lupino, born this day in 1918.

If you've never heard of Lupino, now is the time to look her up.  An actress from toddlerhood, Lupino appeared in dozens of movies and TV shows, alongside Bogart (High Sierra) and a host of other notables, and was wildly talented, but somehow never passed into modern ideas of classic-film royalty.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

We Watch "Grease: Live!"

I'm not exactly what you'd call a "musical theater guy", but I don't turn my nose up at a good musical on screen nor stage.  And, frankly, I kind of think it's weird that we're at a point in history where people singing through a story is suddenly seen as "unrealistic" when the combo of song and story has been a major force in storytelling in almost every culture.  If you watch anything but documentaries, your argument that people don't just break out into song is an artificial construct and you don't like artificial constructs in your story, your argument is invalid.*

Ever since the debacle that was Carrie Underwood as Maria in NBC's live broadcast of The Sound of Music, I've been chasing that high where I could find it.  My GOD, how I like a good disaster.

NBC has now also done Peter Pan, which I missed, and The Wiz, which was basically pretty much a solid performance and free of glitches or shameful moments, and had some really good performances, Queen Latifah.

But we're here to talk about Grease: Live!, which aired tonight on Fox.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Caine Watch: The Ipcress File (1965)

The Ipcress File (1965) is one of those movies you see mentioned a lot, especially in conjunction with the name "Michael Caine", but I'd never actually seen it, myself.  Just as Bond movies were taking off, Bond producer Harry Saltzman decided to launch a competitor to Bond's sexy, sly cartoonish spy adventure and gave us a spy somewhere between Bond and George Smiley.*  His world is not about bureaucracies being very sneaky against each other, nor is Harry Palmer going to drive a high end sports car with a smoke screen and rockets, either.

What really stood out for me, though, was that Harry Palmer - at least in this film (and he's in 3-5 films, depending on how you count them) - feels like a very real sort of person in comparison to James Bond.  Chalk this up to Michael Caine's talents or a very clever script, but Harry Palmer is a semi-ne'er-do-well who is happy having a government check, finds all this easier than working for a living, and is riding out this "spy" gig he's got going on until the gravy train runs out.  In the meantime, he peeps on people and doesn't particularly care for the rest of the rubbish paperwork.

Until he's changed offices and put on a real assignment.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Abe Vigoda Merges With The Infinite. Or, the Infinite Merges With Abe Vigoda.

I know.  None of us believed it actually possible, but Abe Vigoda has passed.

Most famous for his roles in The Godfather and the TV series Barney Miller, where he played Fish, a cop who acted exactly how you'd expect a cop who looked like Abe Vigoda to behave - Vigoda somehow became pretty famous and well-loved.  Almost all of his other roles since Barney Miller were more or less "holy @#$%, is that Abe Vigoda?" when he'd walk on screen.  He also kept invading the sets of late night talk shows for a while in the 90's.

I'll miss Vigoda.  It was always nice to know he was out there being Abe Vigoda, a role no one else will be able to fill.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Bond Watch: Thunderball (1965)

this poster does a surprisingly good job of summing up the movie

This was the one Bond movie that, even during the 7th grade sprint of renting Bond movies back to back all summer, somehow I never picked up.  I don't know why.  It's possible it was checked out.  Even stranger, I always assumed I'd run into it on cable or at the Paramount during the summer, but it never showed, or I never came across it.

So, here in 2016, I finally watched the movie.

Unfortunately for me, I had triple-checked the plot of Thunderball (1965) over the years to make sure I really hadn't seen it, and - yes, that movies absolutely was the one where the guy crashes a Vulcan with two atomic bombs into the ocean near The Bahamas and ends with a wicked underwater fight.

Don't worry.  If I had that spoiled for me over and over and still enjoyed the movie, you'll be fine.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Screwball Watch: The Awful Truth (1937)

It seems like this is the 3rd of 4th movie I've seen from about this era in which the theme is "rich people in New York ponder divorce, remember they like each other.  Everyone is polite.  Big Laughs."

It is funny.  It works.  Both Cary Grant and Irene Dunne are really terrific.  Irene Dunne is quite lovely and wears a wide array of architectural dreams as gowns.  It's all very light and fluffy and fun, and I will remember nothing about the movie later, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't recommend it.  Because it also has a very cute dog named "Mr. Smith".

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Star Wars and Mythology via Marketing

A curious thing has happened in the past month of the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  Most of my facebook friends are in my age range, and they've got kids in a wide range of ages.  Not all, but many of them, made sure they and their family partook in a screening of Star Wars.  That's a normal thing.  (A) If I have learned one thing, it's that parents mostly take kids to the movies for the possibility of silence and peace in their lives for 20- 90 minute stretches, otherwise unknown while the kids are awake, and (B) people take their kids to see Star Wars, in particular.

But I saw the families dressed up in Jedi garb, the post-Christmas-Day pics of kids in Kylo Ren masks waving $10-40 plastic lightsabers, and the joy in the posts as people proudly showed off how they'd passed down Star Wars - something I've seen even with the weaker Prequels, which I am always amazed to hear the kids like just fine.*

We are certainly in the age of multi-generational media.  Or, rather - we have re-entered an age of multi-generational storytelling.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Bear Attack Watch: The Revenant (2015)

About five minutes after the bear attack in The Revenant (2015), I started to get a sinking feeling, and as the movie unspooled, the sinking feeling grew deeper and deeper.  I like to think I have middle-of-the-road taste in movies.  I like to think I can appreciate a dumb slapstick comedy - but I'll almost never pay to see a new one.  I like to think I can enjoy a standard actioner - but I don't know that I've gone to see one in the theater in years.  I've not seen The Expendables franchise and, sorry team, the Fast and the Furious franchise holds as much interest for me as hearing you describe your dreams at length.   I like to think I can muddle my way through art-house, but rarely bother.  And Oscar Bait movies generally bore me to tears.

What hit me as the movie progressed is:  I've become an arbitrarily picky movie watcher.  There's no science to my taste, no real sense to it.  But, oh my god, am I hard on anything that actually tries.

I'm the guy who didn't particularly like The Revenant.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Bowie Watch: The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976)

I had not previously seen The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976).  Something about the description on the back of the VHS box I used to consider made me pretty sure I knew what this movie was going to be, and...  I was about half-right.  It's an innocent-comes-to-earth-and-reveals-we're-kind-of-lousy-because-of-how-we-treat-him movie.  There's less in the way of sexual misadventures for our alien than I was expecting.  And a huge lack of actual David Bowie music, which I just wrongly assumed would score the movie.

Honestly, this wasn't really my cup of tea.  Not terrible, but I feel like I've seen this story done before and with both more narrative economy and with more focus.  Bowie himself is actually pretty good.  I'm just not sure this movie was as good as it thinks it is.  But it's also a product of it's time, and it's a necessary stepping stone that pushed sci-fi a bit further in cinema.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Alan Rickman Merges With The Infinite

This week is going down as a week I'll remember for all the wrong reasons.

News has hit my feed that Alan Rickman has passed.  Like Bowie, he was 69 and it was cancer.

We all know Rickman from his many roles, and, at the end of the day, when we think about it - there really weren't too many actors working in our favorite movies that showed his range or depth.

He will be sorely missed.

Bowie Watch: Labyrinth (1986)

We watched this one for obvious reasons.  It's been a while, and I was surprised how well I actually liked the movie.  I don't really remember how I felt about it upon release, and as it's essentially a long allegory for a young woman learning important life lessons about the transition from childhood to young adulthood - maybe being 11 was not the right time to be getting some perspective.  But I remember liking Bowie in the movie.

Of course I've seen it since.  Heck, we own a copy (seems like a Jamie purchase if ever there was one), but we haven't seen it in years.

A bit sad, of course.  Henson passed decades ago.  Bowie has gone into the cosmos.  But for the kids who want to see some amazing visual effects, practical FX and how it was done in a pre-CGI era, this is a heck of a movie.  Yeah, yeah.  The owl is CGI in the opening.  I know.  But you know what I mean.  And, hey, Bowie looks like he's having good fun with his pals.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Superman Watch: The Death of "Superman Lives" - What Happened? (2015)

Of course in Superman nerd circles there was a lot of noise about the documentary The Death of "Superman Lives" (2015) when it was going around on Kickstarter and other fundraising sites.  It's a film about the failed 1990's Jon Peters produced Superman movie, a flick that never quite made it into production and has, in recent years, achieved a sort of legendary status among nerds as "wouldn't that have been awesome?" sort of project.  Most of this opinion is garnered from 20 and 30 somethings who only know Nic Cage from the post Con Air era, and think of him as the "not the bees!" guy who makes shitty action movies and has a seemingly absurd personal life.  They do not know the Leaving Las Vegas Nic Cage or the Adaptation Nic Cage or even the Wild at Heart Nic Cage.  It seems impossible most have seen Moonstruck.

Way, way back in the mid-90's when the project was in pre-production, I was of the solid opinion that: No.  This is not going to be awesome.  And, in 2016, I stand by that same notion.  Much better to look at the art produced and hear people talking about what could have been than get dragged through a movie that could have accelerated Superman's loss of cachet in the pop-consciousness and, who knows?  Could have prevented the entire cycle of superhero movies we've enjoyed since X-Men and Spider-Man back 15 years ago.

Hats off to this very small production for landing interviews with big names associated with the project, from legendary producer Jon Peters to Tim Burton to Kevin Smith and a host of crew members (who are still passionate about the work they did), and a few comics luminaries including an intro with Grant Morrison summing up Superman in a few sentences.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Future-Noir Watch: Blade Runner (1982)

I'm now old enough that the dates casually thrown around in the sci-fi of my youth are starting to show up on my wall-calendar at work.  Already we've passed the dates of Back to The Future 2, and - as was impossible to avoid online yesterday - the inception date of Roy Batty, the antagonist (I refuse to call him a villain) of the famed Ridley Scott sci-fi noir android movie, Blade Runner (1982).   While January 8th, 2016 is a few years prior to the events of the movie, it's also impossible not to note that in 1982, the idea that we'd have off-world colonies for the wealthy and healthy looking to get away from this back-water rock of a planet didn't seem that far-off.  Or that genetic engineering would advance to a degree that we'd be on a Nexus 6 version of artificial life-forms.

We do have some pretty good videogame systems, Google can find stuff for your computer and we can take pictures with our pocket computers, so I'm calling it a wash, technology-wise.

I was about thirteen the first time I saw Blade Runner.  I was aware of the movie prior to this time, and, rightfully so, it was considered a bit adult for me to check out and I self-selected against renting it until then.  Frankly, I wasn't expecting much, more of a Tom Selleck in Runaway or even a RoboCop sort of "we've sorta dressed up the present, put weird ties on people and called it the future" sort of movie.  And there's nothing wrong with that, but, much like Star Wars, part of what makes the thing greater than the sum of its parts is the fully immersive experience.  From retro-fitted buildings to flying cars sensibly limited to police prowlers, to overpopulated streets, class-based fashion and architecture, and the monolithic structures - the soaring hubris of progress and wealth.  All of it alien, all of it recognizable.  That was the work of the artists working on movies in this era, the Syd Meads, David Snyder, Lawrence Paull, Michael Kaplan and just countless others.

And don't forget that score by Vangelis.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Wonderland Watch: Alice in Wonderland (1933)

Well, this was an interesting one.  I meant to tune in for the first fifteen minutes to see what this movie was like, and then realized I'd watched the whole thing.

Happy Birthday, Roy Batty

The internet tells me that, according to the movie Blade Runner, today is Roy Batty's incept date.

Happy birthday, Roy.  You gave 13-year-old me a lot to think about when it came to my mortality.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Hunter Watch: Broadcast News (1987)

Who doesn't like Holly Hunter?  You?  To hell with you, then.

What a strange artifact of a movie.  This thing wouldn't make a ping on the cultural radar in 2015, but in 1987 it made, like, $50+ million, which was nothing to sneeze at back then and was lauded and honored.  It was nominated for, like, 10 Academy Awards, but seemingly won none of them.  You know what did win?  Harry and the Hendersons for make-up, and Innerspace for visual effects.  Makes you think.

And the entire credits last, like, 45 seconds because we didn't used to need 800 people making CGI coffee cups and digitally removing that one fly-away on Holly Hunters hair in one scene.

The 1980's were a weird time for movies.  I'm not sure if the kids today properly understand a world in which people's parents owned John Updike books whether they read them or not, divorce was a genteel activity for upper middle class white folks, people drank white wine un-selfconsciously, and there was a huge market for movies aimed at your parents to go see without their children, usually about people who read John Updike, drank white wine and got divorced in terribly civilized tones.

It all seems so impossible right now.