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

Friday, April 17, 2015

SW Watches: While the City Sleeps (1956)

I DVR'd While the City Sleeps (1956) off of TCM because I saw it starred Rhonda Fleming and Ida Lupino, and that Dana Andrews is no slouch.  But I like Lupino in particular, and while her part is gigantic in this movie, as always, she nails it.  And, hey, it also features Vincent Price in another playboy-layabout role, because that's more or less what he always did until he got recast as the master of horror.

Also, turns out this was directed by the always terrific Fritz Lang, and was one of his final projects as a director.

Rhonda Fleming = Production Value


Saturday, April 11, 2015

B-Day Watch: Guardians of the Galaxy and Superman - The Movie

This weekend marks my 40th birthday.  As such, I'm taking it easy and enjoying some of my favorite movies.

Last night was a recent favorite, Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), because it will be a while before I see Rocket Raccoon in anything, and I will rewatch Captain America 2 just prior to Avengers 2.

Es muy bueno!


It's actually a little surprising how well the movie holds up upon multiple viewings in a single year.  And, man, you don't hear much about it, but it's also a very pretty movie.  Space isn't a black field with white dots - it's a nebula cloud of Kool-Aid colors.



And, this morning I got up early and put on Superman: The Movie.  Not much new to see on a 50th or so screening of the movie, but I wasn't going to let a "Ryan gets to watch whatever he wants this weekend" window go by without Superman.

As the credits rolled, Jamie asked me if I'd seen it 100 times yet.  And, I don't think so...  but you never know.  It's possible.  I know I've seen it a few times per year every year since 2008 or so, and before that I'd watch it a lot more than that.  So...  yeah, I have no idea, really.

I also started Blade Runner last night and realized I was exhausted during the "let's kill the eyeball guy" sequence, so I didn't finish.  Sometime this weekend, though.

Oh, and Daredevil is pretty @#$%ing right on.  Check it out on Netflix.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Noir Watch: The Killer is Loose (1956)

This was an interesting one, starting off pretty dark and then just careening toward a nice, abysmal, jet black.

I'd read about The Killer is Loose (1956) a few years ago - I think in the Eddie Mueller book Dark City - and was quite thrilled it made it to TCM this month.


A bank is ripped off in broad daylight and the bad-guys get away.  The detective on the case, played by Joseph Cotten, figures it had to have been something of an inside job.  Following a lead, the cops go after one of the tellers and, upon finding out he's caught, their inside man locks himself in his apartment.

A tragic mistake later, and Cotten has put a bullet in the wife of the teller, Poole.  But the cops have their man.  At the trial, Cotten's new bride, played by Rhonda Fleming, is spied by Poole who swears revenge.  A daring and grisly prison escape later, and the unassuming Poole, played by Wendell Corey, is on the trail for Fleming, and mounts a substantial body count along the way.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Movie Watch: The China Syndrome (1979)

Back around 1997-2002, I worked in an upstart multimedia production group within the UT College of Engineering, comprised of me and a bunch of pals, some of whom I still pal around with to this very day (what's up, JuanD!).

Anyway, as part of this extremely lucrative career (ha!), one day I found myself standing on a narrow bridge over the top of a big, metal tub of water.  I was, basically, atop a nuclear reactor - one that most people in Austin don't know is there - snapping pics like Peter Parker.

The engineers turned the reactor on and off for the pics, and I got really neat images of the thing glowing what I remember to be a shade of blue, but it's been a while.  Mostly I remember one Prof telling me "yeah, it's cool.  You could swim in the first ten feet of water or so."
"And at the bottom?"
"Uh... don't swim at the bottom.  You'd cook like bacon."

Walking out, they checked this little, plastic radiation detection badge you wear, and everyone was fine.  Except me.

You'll know when Pennsylvania gets a radioactive hole in it


"Is it bad?"
The two students checking us out kind of looked at each other.
"So... what do I do?"
They looked back at each other.
"I'm cool with a hose down or whatever.  It's not like I want to be radioactive."
Blank stares.
"Has this ever happened before?"
"No."
"Really?"
"We don't think so."
There was a buzz of activity as the students summoned someone older and wiser, as well as the faculty member and they sort of kibbitzed for a while.
"So," one of them said, "You can go."
"Yeah, I was about to do that anyway.  It's not like I was going to live here from now on and you're not police."
"Tell us if anything happens."
"When I turn into The Hulk, you guys will be the first to know."
No one laughed.
Tragically for me, for you and for science, I never did Hulk out, and as near as I can tell, if you ignore the fact I can now move objects with my mind, not much has happened since.  But let's just say the whole experience made me feel that, while nuclear engineers know how to nuclear engineer like crazy, some of them may not handle it super well when things get outside of the punchlist, and they might be the one standing between you and a decontamination hose.

It's a madhouse!  A madhouse!

So, that's more or less the perspective I came to the 1979 movie, The China Syndrome, a movie about nuclear reactors and the men who love them.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Doc Watch: Salesman (1968)

Salesman (1968) is one of those films that got referenced a bit in texts I had back in film school, and has certainly endured, but not with the same level of notoriety as the Maysles Bros. most famous film, Grey Gardens.  But, dang, if this isn't a pretty amazing bit of film.



A documentary following a team of door-to-door Bible salesmen working first in New England and then in Florida, it feels like the predecessor to not only reality TV shows covering people at work (and I don't mean "unscripted" shows, but the more documentary approach that seems to have fallen by the wayside) but also to the world of films like Glengarry Glen Ross, complete with the archetypes that would fill that movie and others like it.

You can't figure why some guys can close a sale and some guys can't, and you're always asking people who don't have money to hand over what they've got for something that's a luxury item, or at least maybe not a practical necessity.  In this movie we're seeing Bibles going for $30 - $50 in 1968, when the customers on camera are obviously doing the math regarding what the impact of the expense will have on the weekly budget.  They aren't in the homes of high-rollers, they're in middle to lower middle-class homes of working people of the era.

The salesmen are selling the book of faith, but the religion is the sale.  The supervisors expect sales slips, they don't want any backtalk, and they gladly point out how they've cleared out a few people for their attitude alone.  At night in depressing motor-lodge rooms, the salesmen come back to drink and smoke and sort out what's happening - they require the faithful as a customer base, and they know what buttons to push, but they're not selling with the zeal of evangelists - they're looking to see what it will take to put you into a new Bible today.

The movie is a fascinating record of a particular time and place and what people were like.  But it remains relevant as the pressure to produce, to deliver of anyone who ever had a job, and you see how different personalities approach the same problem with varying results - but there's no real clarity to why "The Bull" succeeds where "The Badger" can't get a break.  The desire to get ahead and to dream of doing well gives way to worrying about survival in a world where success or failure are mercurial even to the people in the thick of things.  

It's powerful stuff, and neither begins nor ends neatly.  I can't really recommend the movie enough.  Give a chance if you have the opportunity.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

SW Watches: Johnny Dangerously (1984)

Of the 1980's comedy staples, somehow I never saw Johnny Dangerously (1984) until I was well into college.  I suspect our family's lack of HBO during the window in which this would have run incessantly meant I never had the opportunity.  So, I don't have 1980's nostalgia for the movie.



Frankly, I don't really like it.  Which is weird, because I like everyone in it from Keaton to Boyle to Marilu Henner, but because Jamie does love the movie, I've seen it a number of times.  I think maybe two spots in it ever make me laugh (one of which is using a pricing gun on puppies in a pet store), and another I only laugh at because Jamie laughs so hard at it (Griffin Dunne yelling "Oh muh God!" as his car plunges down a hill).

I don't want to overly complain about it, because it's not actually painful to watch.  It's not like a mid-00's comedy like an American Pie III of whatever that I would just cringe my way through.  I just...  I dunno.  Maybe if I'd seen it when I was 11.


New Bond Trailer is up: "SPECTRE"

Very excited for another Daniel Craig Bond installment.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Ghost Watch: The Ghost Goes West (1936)

So, over the years I've occasionally seen the movie The Ghost Goes West (1936) referenced in passing, but nobody ever mentioned what it was about.  Just like "oh, he played stevedore #4 in The Ghost Goes West" sorts of comments.  And I always wondered:  what the hell genre is a movie called "The Ghost Goes West"?  What could it even possibly be about?

This poster is a nightmare of design, but I like it

I actually suspected it was about some sort of colorfully named detective leaving the East Coast and going to California.  And I was totally, utterly wrong.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Yesterday was Joan Crawford's B-Day


March 23rd marks the birthday of Joan Crawford.  She would have been 110 yesterday.

Complicated person, that Joan Crawford.  I tend to really like her in movies, and I think I've shared here and elsewhere how much I like Mildred Pierce, in particular (but who doesn't)?  Johnny Guitar is also worth a view if you want to see something out there on the edge of genre and expectation.

Happy b-day to a daughter of The Alamo City and one of the greats.


Sunday, March 22, 2015

SW Watches: Waiting for Guffman (1996)

I don't know that I've seen every one of Christopher Guest's films, but Jamie and I agreeing on Waiting for Guffman (1996) was a good sign when we were in our early courtship, and they've become a bit of a staple ever since.



I never did community theater, but I did participate in high school drama, doing some acting (I was so good, y'all) and stage work like lighting and building sets (I always liked the hammer and nails bit more than acting).  Jamie's family was heavily involved with community theater in the Lawton, Oklahoma epoch of their lives.   If you've not seen the movie, it's a pretty great character-driven, improvised comedy in the faux-documentary style of This is Spinal Tap or Best in Show.  The "doc" follows the good folks of Blaine, Missouri as they set about putting on a play to commemorate the Sesquicentennial of the town (that's 150th birthday for you folks who have never lived through your region celebrating the b-day).

Horror Watch: The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)

After visiting Austin's Sfanthor! sci-fi/fantasy/horror shop and classic horror wax museum, I began pondering the fact that I'm probably more familiar with Vincent Price as the amiable but possibly murderous roles in noir films like Laura and His Kind of Woman.  But I quite like House on Haunted Hill and House of Wax.  I've been aware of the cult following for The Abominable Dr. Phibes since I watched a few minutes of it on the TV at Vulcan Video circa 2001.  But, it just never crossed my path.



Despite promises to do otherwise (and go full in on a BluRay set), I picked up a cheaply priced DVD boxed set that included Dr. Phibes and which I'll, no doubt, be bothering you guys with for a while.

This movie is British set and produced, but for international appeal, they cast Price as our lead villain and one of my favorite actors of his generation, Joseph Cotten as one of the guys on Phibes' trail.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

SW Watches: Most of "Major League"

Somehow this movie gets circulated a lot.  I guess there aren't that many successful baseball comedies as the only two other baseball comedies I can think of that aren't Major League, Major League II or A League of Their Own are the Bernie Mac movie Mr. 3000 (that I'm not sure anyone has ever actually seen), and the Tom Selleck flick, Mr. Baseball, which no one really remembers.



I'm just not sure this is a very good movie.  maybe it is.  I can't tell.  It's certainly something people have seen and quote infinitely ("just a bit outside...").  It has good bits, and it does have Rene Russo in a thankless girlfriend role to a mulleted Tom Berenger, so at least she's in it.  It does have an early career Wesley Snipes, Charlie Sheen and Dennis Haysbert as well as an established Berenger and Corbin Bernsen.  And, of course, baseball's Bob Ueker and the gravel-voiced James Gammon.

SW Watches: Three Amigos!

With Disney's Three Caballeros behind us, our Friday movie was the 1986 triple-buddy comedy, Three Amigos!.



Much like The Naked Gun, it's a movie we all grew up on and, frankly, we all know the jokes and gags before they happen.  But if you're a fan, that just makes them better.  Who doesn't look forward to the "My Little Buttercup" scene?  Or Dusty Bottoms saying "the lips will be fine"?

But maybe ten minutes into the movie, I suddenly realized that Galaxy Quest essentially lifted the Three Amigos! plot, which made me wonder which other movies are about actors stumblling into a real-life situation they've been aping.  If you can think of any, let me know.  It's an interesting thing to ponder, because it's a movie that can easily be held up to the critical eye and say the movie is racist - except if we're being honest, that's not really how the movie works (except when it does in that casually racist way Hollywood still deals with Latinos).  It's a cartoon, certainly, and the residents of Santa Poco are sweetly naive, the bandits are cartoonishly rogueish, the producer is a cigar-chomping corporate stereotype.  And, of course, our heroes have no idea what they're doing.   Apply that to Galaxy Quest, and, well...   Just something to kick around.

Aside from that, I really don't feel that there's anything new to say about Three Amigos! that we didn't say when we were in 8th grade.  If you don't like Steve Martin, Chevy Chase and Martin Short, there's not much I can do to help you out, but I do think that while this may not be the smartest of any of their movies (it features a singing bush voiced by Randy Newman), it's still one of the funniest (it features a singing bush voiced by Randy Newman).

As a sign that life just isn't fair, El Gaupo actor Alfonso Arau really didn't do much else in American cinema after this, when he should have become a household name.  That dude is hilarious.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Cartoon Watch: Three Caballeros (1944)

Lysergic acid diethylamide was first discovered in 1943 and introduced to the public in 1947,but not popularized until the mid-1960's.   So we're going to assume that whatever inspired the 1944 Disney feature length film, Three Caballeros, was more likely a byproduct of a lovely tour of Latin America and either the psilocybin mushroom or the peyote cactus.



For three summers in the mid-1990's, I worked at the Disney Store.  The soundtrack to the store was always a laser disc, or - more specifically - one side of a laser disc that played over and over in about a 45 minute loop.  For at least one of those summers, part of that loop was the titular song to Three Caballeros, performed by Jose Carioca, Panchito and Donald Duck.  I loved that frikkin' song.*  But I'd never seen the movie, and it hasn't ever really been readily available.

This weekend TCM played a bunch of stuff from the Disney vault, and luckily NathanC turned me on to the fact Three Caballeros was playing, so I finally DVR'd it and watched.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

SW Watches: The Right Stuff (1983)

I was lucky to be born into an era when the job everyone aspired to was "astronaut".  As you got older, if you were me, you realized you were going to be too tall, wear too many glasses, be just amazingly awful at pre-Calc, and maybe develop a crippling fear of heights.  I was just never going to be astronaut material.



But, yeah, like a lot of people my age and older, I was pretty space-crazy growing up.  We were living on the edge of the world of Buck Rogers and Star Trek.  And, to be a part of that seemed like being a part of the future more than anything you could do (we can quiz Matt A. on the veracity of this childhood fantasy later, but it seemed right at the time).

On my 6th birthday, the Space Shuttle Colombia took off from Kennedy (STS-1). I was well aware it was a coincidence, but it still felt like a pretty good birthday present.  Watching it with the fam is still one of those indelible childhood memories.




Two years later, the Philip Kaufman directed movie The Right Stuff (1983) was released to theaters.  Based on a Thomas Wolfe novel, it's certainly not a movie aimed at kids, but The Admiral was also not one to let the two little miscreants he'd sired run around ignorant of one of the greatest periods (if not THE greatest period) of technical achievement in human history.  Nor would he let it pass that we would not know of the flawed, insanely brave men who sat atop those rockets and came back safely.  Let alone, we might not know the name of Chuck Yeager.

I remember seeing many movies in the theater from my childhood, and certainly the memory of seeing The Right Stuff is still vivid.  While the movie was not the sort of thing I was running around play-acting afterward, I knew I'd seen something quite different and kind of astonishing.

In the years that have passed, I have no idea how many times I'd seen it, but I caught it again while Jamie and I were dating, and I remember really realizing for the first time how damn good the movie really is.  I'm always shocked not just by the mixed reactions you can get at the mention of the film, but that it's not mentioned in the same breath with other films that routinely make great movie lists.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Franken-Watch: The Bride (1985)

Ever since I was a kid, I'd be meaning to watch the 1985 movie, The Bride, but was first told it was "too adult" or something, and later, "it's not very good".  And, you know, that second one is far more correct than the first rationale for skipping this film.  But between my interest in the Frankenstein story in general and because the movie Bride of Frankenstein is easily in my top 5 or 10 movies (especially when paired with Frankenstein itself, for a neat, under 3 hour package), I figured that if I could watch Christmas Vacation over and over, I could make time for a movie I hadn't seen.

If our trend this week is about failed marriages, we can twist that idea a bit to include how the doctor lost his lady friend, Jennifer Beals.



The movie features a fascinatingly 1980's cast, probably meaningless to the kids today, but you Gen X'ers and post Gen X'ers will probably at least raise an eyebrow.  Cast as Doctor Frankenstein (who I don't know ever receives a first name in this version) is former rocker/ current adult contemporary wunderkind, Sting, who was transitioning as the Police collapsed for the fifteenth time and as he made a stab at an acting career in some offbeat movies during the era (like Dune!).  As the titular Bride/ Eva, the movie casts Flashdance star Jennifer Beals, most likely as she and Elsa Lanchester are both the proud owners of gigantic, dark eyes, lots of hair and striking features.  Not too distant from his role in The Highlander as the Cossack, Clancy Brown plays Viktor/ The Monster (yeah, artistic license), but well before he became Mr. Crabs of SpongeBob fame.  And, David Rappaport, who you'll recognize from Time Bandits, plays a new character, Rinaldo the dwarf, a guy who befriends the monster as he wanders in the woods and helps him realize personhood.  And, a young Cary Elwes shows up, all fresh faced and prettier than everyone in the room.

SW Watches: The Odd Couple (1968)

I plan to catch up on a few episodes on the new Thomas Lennon/ Matthew Perry starring The Odd Couple TV series reboot*, and I realized that - while I'm familiar with the general idea, I have never seen the movie in its entirety (and I am not going to rewatch all of the Tony Randall/ Jack Klugman series).  The movie is currently streaming on Netflix, so I gave it a whirl.



Now, that's not to say I haven't seen large chunks of the movie, and, in fact, in 8th grade I actually did a fairly lengthy scene from the original play for my final in the drama class I took that semester.  I think I was Oscar, but I don't actually remember.  I mostly remember having to act like I was on a date at a time when talking to girls made me start sweating like a pig.

After just watching Love Crazy, I didn't really go out of my way to a watch a second movie about divorce a day later, but I guess I better watch Kramer v Kramer tomorrow.  But it is interesting to see that the social stigma around divorce was changed by the time The Odd Couple (1968) was playing theaters, versus the "oh, the shame!" aspect of it in Love Crazy from 27 years prior.

I'm doubly surprised that I hadn't seen the 1968 movie because I genuinely really enjoy both Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, and it's kind of like saying you like McCartney and Lennon's solo work, but you never listened to "Revolver".  Here, both are in top form, and swing between hilarious and maddening and pathetic in ways that I am sure community theater has been royally butchering for four decades now.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

SW Watches: Love Crazy (1941)

The relationship America had with movie stars was a bit different back in the day.  For actors like Myrna Loy and William Powell, I suspect the pair were considered a bit like to-flight sitcom talent from the 90's.  And as the concept of episodic stories at the time were confined to the radio and matinee serials, outside of the Thin Man series (which, if you've never watched them pour yourself a whiskey and enjoy), the two were paired repeatedly due to their chemistry, but as new characters in new settings.



Love Crazy (1941) was the fifth movie in a Loy/ Powell box set Paul gifted me a while back, and one I'd somehow just forgotten to watch.  It's comfort food from jump, a movie for folks who'd been fans of Loy and Powell since before The Thin Man would cement their place in cinema history.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

SFANTHOR opens in Austin: Sci-Fi/ Fantasy/ Horror museum and shop on South Congress


For reasons I cannot firmly recall other than fanboyishness, I follow Vincent Price on facebook.  So, I was a little surprised on Friday to see the folks managing the account - managers of the Price estate - be the ones who broke the news to me via a link to an Austin Chronicle article that the weird castle that's been under construction on touristy South Congress was not a hipster medieval bar, but a WAX MUSEUM AND HORROR-THEMED STORE.  

I had no Saturday plans, so I grabbed JuanD and he and I braved the usual Saturday traffic and crowds of South Congress (it's the kind of place where you stand in line for 45 minutes for a magical Austin ice cream - hint, it's just Marble Slab - or 2 hours for a @#$%ing cheeseburger.  G**damn this town), and went to check it out.

I was maybe two feet inside when I wished Stuart were here to see this.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

SF Watch: Explorers (1985)

As a kid I remember not exactly loving this movie.  At the time, I thought it was kind of boring and anti-climactic.  As of last night I kind of think that, like the ship the boys fly in during the movie, it's also a mess assembled out of used garbage piloted by people who have no idea what they're doing.

For example - when you title your movie Explorers (1985), you may want to try including the concept of "exploration" not getting hi-jacked briefly before coming right back home.



I don't mean to be so harsh, but, man...  Back in the 1980's, an era that brought us E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, The Goonies, Monster Squad and other movies about adolescents getting caught up in a magical world of imagination and adventure and maybe learning something about empathy and themselves along the way, this movie ended up as a bit of a renter after not really doing great at the box office.  And it seemed like it should have been great.  Kids doing it for themselves.  Computers.  Space travel.  Aliens!

It feels like this movie kind of knew what the pieces were that went into these coming-of-age movies, a genre enough unto itself that the 2011 JJ Abrams movie Super 8 sought to recreate the feel.  The films required a backdrop of kids not doing great at home - divorced parents, dead parents, grieving or troubled parents.  But the parents were present, if a bit distracted.  The 80's gave us kid rooms that were messy that contained things real kids' rooms of the era might contain like mangled comics, toys, posters strewn around.  Kids weren't particularly nice to each other, even as friends.  The lead would maybe have a crush on some nice girl who wore lots of purple or pink.  And, these were never the cool kids.  They were average, or maybe a little nerdy.

Sure enough, Explorers features 3 outsider kids - the romantic sci-fi nerd (Ethan Hawke), the science-minded nerd who other kids just want to beat the crap out of (River Phoenix in dad-glasses), and the Junior John Bender (the guy you never heard from again but who is actually better than Ethan Hawke in this movie) team up to float around in a pile of garbage inside a space marble and then....