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

Friday, September 23, 2016

Parker Watch: The Split (1968)



I'd been wanting to see The Split (1968) for a while.  Based upon one of my favorite Parker novels, The Seventh, it also starred Jim Brown, pro-football superstar turned movie star (and a generally much better presence on the big screen than you generally get out of other former athletes*).  I wasn't aware of the pedigree of the cast for this movie which is all but forgotten.  But when you have a movie with Jim Brown, Donald Sutherland, Julie Harris, Jack Klugman, Warren Oates, Gene Hackman, Diahann Carroll... and people don't remember it?

Well, it's not a great sign.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Hammer Watch: Dracula A.D. 1972


Full confession: I rented this movie entirely upon the promise of Caroline Munro who, it turned out, was a key character in the movie, but not in it nearly as much as one would hope (and I have some script notes on that which I am sure could be retro-actively applied).

Because otherwise I usually like my Dracula nice and Victorian.  Bringing Dracula into the modern age always amps the cheese factor for me (do not see Dracula 2000) and just reminds me that Dracula works best when Van Helsing and the gang don't have cell phones or modern medicine.  After all, the original novel of Dracula is sort of an exploration of the slow horror that was disease in an era when leeches and a good blood letting were about as much as your doctors were going to do for you while your body shut down on you in pretty awful ways.

In truth, I basically rented the movie for a laugh, not expecting much, and wound up genuinely enjoying the thing.  I absolutely love it when something turns out not to be the dud I thought it would be.  My exposure to Hammer Horror is limited, and while this one isn't exactly scary - it understands horror, vampires and the core of why they can be great villains when they aren't sparkling or sitting around looking like the H+M catalog exploded on a CW show.

Thus, this is a post about how I enjoyed Dracula AD 1972 (1972), a pretty-not-great movie that was sadly lacking in greater Caroline Munro screentime, but nonetheless a fun movie.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

90's Techno Watch: The Net (1995)



I remember seeing the commercials for the 1995 thriller, The Net, rolling my eyes, and making a firm decision that I would not see this movie.  Over the years, it's surprised me how many people have seen it, declared it terrible, and then expressed surprise that I hadn't seen it and never wanted to see it.

The kids will never understand what it was like in 1995, but we were on the teetering edge of a revolution in computing entering the lives of everyone on the planet.  Up to that point, computers had been, in the eyes of the public, a weird mix of science-fiction, radio-kit-bashers-gone-mad, a point of ridicule if people spend too much time with them outside of work, and seen as the key to god-like power as evidenced in everything from Weird Science to War Games to Ferris Bueller.  And, my God, such an overwhelmingly male-oriented hobby or interest.

My first introduction to what we'd wind up calling "the internet" was via the hand-waving plot explanations of War Games, but in real like, I only ever knew one kid, our own Groboclown, who had a modem in his house.  Aside from that, they were kind of a mystery.  By middle-school, I was aware of the "cyberpunk" literary movement, but mostly picked up the terms and ideas of "netrunners" second hand from my brother, who actually read the stuff.  But even at that - I got my head around the potential for use, for abuse, for second lives online (that would overtake meatspace).

When I got my first computer (a refurbished Pack-Bell 486 with Windows 3.1.  Like a @#$%ing BOSS, y'all!) and headed off to college, that was kind of an act of faith on the part of my parents.  They saw it as an over-powered Smith-Corona word processor, which was all we'd had in the house since I was 14 (the early Vic 20 and Apple IIe experiments had not made us computer whizzes).  And there was an assumption I'd do things with it, but no one could say what those things would be.

Fortunately at UT, I managed to move in down the hall from some guys who were already deeply computer savvy and who had actual modems and whatnot.  And, they weren't the kind of guys who sat in the dark and played Doom and didn't converse.  Instead, we were soon running wires down the hallway for networked play, and by Spring semester, with a used and battered 2400 baud modem installed in my computer and an account from UT, I was online.  Not that there was much to do online in 1994, but I was there!

But 1995's film, The Net, was less reflective of the techo-utopianism a lot of us were buying into thanks to pop publications like Wired.  The marketing and concept spoke a whole lot more to our parents' newspaper-headline driven concern over "this crazy, out of control technology", a future-shock echo that was rippling through the world that was just beginning to understand what it meant to suddenly start seeing monitors on every desk at every job and what was happening as we were having to give all those people our names, phone numbers, etc...

Those weren't just stand-alone ugly data-systems anymore, they were now on the Information Superhighway!*



My point is - the context of 1995 when The Net made it to cinemas everywhere with America's newest darling of the Star System-era of Hollywood, Sandra Bullock, was one of an already buzzing fear or discomfort.  Everything about the trailer reeked of the paranoia I could feel from my professors, from the general public and folks who were doing just fine in life without needing an email address, let alone a magic phone in their pocket that was a portal to all of human knowledge and able to access monumental computer systems to provide predictions and prescriptive behavior.*

Anyway, if The Net (1995) has one fatal flaw, it is not the absolutely terrible depiction of computing and the internet that boils away any goodwill the pretty-well researched first act sets up.  It is not a bad performance by Sandra Bullock, who is really very good in what limited amount of action she's given to take as a witness to her own life falling apart around her and a clunker of a script.

The movie is incredibly boring.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Happy Birthday, Lauren Bacall


Today marks the 92nd birthday of actress and screen legend Lauren Bacall.  She passed in 2014, just a month shy of her 90th birthday.

I don't often post pics of Bacall because stills never seem to capture her quite right, in my opinion.  I can't really think of any other actress who strikes me exactly that way, but I've long since quit trying to find the "right" picture of someone who was lovely as a picture, sure, but who's voice and nuances of expression were what made her work so very well in movies.

Happy birthday, Ms. Bacall.


Horror Watch: Suspiria (1977)


Suspiria (1977) is one of those movies that you see cited a whole lot for various reasons, usually around cinematography or as it exploited a trope of the horror genre that someone wants to discuss and class it up a bit.

For this reason, about a year ago I decided I wanted to see Suspiria, but as it wasn't on Netflix of available via Amazon Prime, my efforts were thwarted.  Luckily, Austin still has a movie rental company called Vulcan Video which recently moved it's South location to actual South Austin (Ben White, bitches!  Near both Blazer Tag and Jamie's dialysis clinic!).  I went and renewed my membership, discovering the last time I was in was July 20th, 2001.  Jamie believes we last rented "The Star Wars Holiday Special", which sounds about right.

When I've asked people if they've seen Suspiria, and they've answered in the affirmative, they usually also back it up with "it's interesting, but I'm not sure it's very good."  Which told me what I needed to know going into the film.

Anyway, point is - Suspiria was available.  I rented it  I watched it.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Catch Up Watch: Beauty and the Beast (1946)



I believe it was in 1994 or 1995 that our own JAL suggested I was Jean Cocteau's cinematic fever dream Beauty and the Beast (1946), or, as it's French, La Belle et la Bete.  I don't know why it took me so long to finally watch it when I've probably watched National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation at least three times during the same interval, but there you go.

Most of my knowledge of the story of the fable of Beauty and the Beast comes from (a) the Disney film I've seen about a dozen times and (b) half-remembered snippets from a unit in my second grade class where Ms. Miles read us fairy tales.  But I don't know if I've read any official versions of the story since childhood, I just remembered the "Belle's dad gives Belle a raw deal, something about a magic mirror, and Beast getting very sick because Belle leaves to go back home for a bit".  And, of course, that he turns into a handsome prince.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Bond Watch: The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)



The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) is one of my favorite Bond films.  If I had a top 5 pre-Craig Bond films, this would be hovering right next to Goldfinger.  It's peak Moore, when he's not just seemingly having a laugh in a tux, but he's funny as hell but still buyable in action sequences - of which this movie has some good ones.  It has one of my favorite title sequences/ theme songs after Goldfinger with Carly Simon's "Nobody Does It Better", and the pre-title's opening is directly tied to character motivations later in the film (and it's a bad-ass ski-chase with the best ending to a ski chase on film!).

Doc Watch: Darkon (2006)



When I was in high school, I'd quit playing officially sanctioned sports about 3 games into the basketball season my sophomore year (that's a whole other story, but let's just say - that was my first experience in recognizing an adult had no idea what they were doing).  I was kind of between activities at one point, and somehow heard about this thing where people were hitting each other with foam swords and shields - Society for Creative Anachronism.  I briefly considered getting involved - I mean, who doesn't want to smack someone with a sword? - but then had a thought that maybe this was not going to be the thing I would do, even if it were fun.  It sounded like something that would start off exciting and then devolve into nonsense.

Watching 90 minutes of the 2006 documentary film Darkon has not cleared up much of how that would have gone for me.

Darkon (2006) follows the better part of a year of an intricately designed and played Live Action Role-Playing game (aka: LARPing) and the lives of the folks who partake in the... activity?  Lifestyle?

"Darkon" is the name of the fantasy continent inhabited by the players of the game.  They keep a map of spaces broken out into hexes (a common sight to anyone who played table-top RPG's) and battle in real-space for those hexes with a set of seemingly well-agreed upon battle rules.  Armies of folks representing nations (armies seeming between 15 and up to 75 people) whack at each other with foam covered weapons and an array of objects meant to represent everything from catapult missiles to wizard-cast "fireballs" or, more infamously, "lightning bolts".

The players take on characters - lots of Lords of Realms and whatnot.  Magical beings.  Wizards.  If it showed up in a fantasy novel in the past 40 years, it's probably something someone is pretending to be.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

50 Years of Star Trek



Here's to 50 years of Star Trek, in television, movies and beyond.

September 8th, 1966 saw the premier of Star Trek on network television.  The episode was "The Man Trap" (the Salt Monster one).  The show lasted for three seasons and blazed trails before spinning off into weirdly wild success in syndication.  Of course, Star Trek: The Next Generation cut out the middleman and went straight into syndication.

I am not a real Trekker, and I'm okay with that.  I never really watched much Deep Space Nine, Voyager or Enterprise.  Not the way I watched original series or Next Generation.  I like all the movies with the original cast for one reason or another, even if I mostly enjoy Star Trek V as camp.  I even liked Star Trek Beyond quite a bit  (Karl Urban was fantastic).

Where Star Wars broke me circa 1999, ending it's drought in 2015 with The Force Awakens, there's always been enough Trek to keep me invested, willing to go to bat and try another movie, TV show, episode, what-have-you.  But I've never felt fan enough to attend a Star Trek convention or the like.  Which is weird.  I guess I've just always been aware that I'm a fan, but I've seen the real fans, if you know what I mean (I do not know a single word of Klingon, for example).

The original show sparked my imagination when I became a regular viewer of episodes at 5:00 PM on the local UHF channel when I was about 10.  The idea of moving through space, of not just constantly fighting some antagonist over and over, but exploring, of discovery - that got my interest.  Also, Lieutenant Uhura.  But flying around in a ship I still haven't gotten over, not necessarily shooting or punching to solve the problem of the week, of trying to find a better tomorrow out on the edge of known space...?  Sign me up.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Super Watch: Superman - The Movie, Superman III and Superman IV


On Labor Day, the El Rey Network was showing a Superman 4 movie marathon.  I basically turned on the TV and left it on the El Rey Network all day and into the evening, doing other things, but watching a whole lotta Superman.

They started with Superman: The Movie, and then started a Superman reverse marathon, showing Superman's IV, III, II and then Superman: The Movie again.  I watched Superman: The Movie from the point where young Clark throws the green crystal into the ice to the end, then watched all of Superman IV, then all of Superman III, then I went and moved around a bit, but came back to watch the part of Superman: The Movie I hadn't yet watched.

As I believe, like with the RoboCop franchise, watching the movies in reverse order means you end on a high note instead of trailing off into a lot of bad decision making and slashed budgets - this may be the ideal way to watch the movies once you're overly familiar with them.

There's not much new to write, and, frankly, I was doing other things - like writing up Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice - while watching Superman's IV and III.  But it was a good palette cleanser, Superman wise.

Also, Superman IV is just terrible.  All four movies have issues, sure, and Superman III is actually grating in parts (Richard's Lester and Pryor are a toxic combination), but it also has some small bits of genius, like the Bad Superman vs. Clark Kent fight.  Superman IV has the one speech by Lois Lane to the ailing Clark Kent, and that's it.  Before anyone thinks I can't bag on these movies - my friends, I absolutely can and will - because everything about Jon Cryer in Superman IV is some of the worst decision making ever put to celluloid, and Superman III is so troubled in it's conception, it makes my eyes hurt to think about the actual plot.

Still, you gotta like Christopher Reeve.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Batman vs. Superman Bonus Post: A Few More Questions



In my recent post on the 2016 smash hit Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, in discussing the movie, I tried to stick to what I saw as over-arching issues from a character and structural perspective.  I wouldn't say I cherry-picked, but I tried to focus on recurring issues indicative of the larger problem of Snyder and Goyer's take on their universe.  I didn't want to get too nitpicky about plot holes.  But...

I do still have some plot-related questions, some loops that could be closed.  Let's explore together, shall we?


1a.  Batman is waiting for Lex's people to come off the White Portugese.  I forget how he knew what they had (I'll assume they explained that - probably on the mystery drive), but didn't the Cherry Jolly Rancher scene make it clear that Lex received legal clearance to bring Kryptonite into the country?  So - Batman was essentially killing guys for legally moving a government approved research specimen into the country.  Can that be right?  

1b.  So, if Superman lets Batman just kill all those people and then flies off, then what is happening there?

2.  The security protocol on the Kryptonian ship (which speaks English, of course) is to state "well, the council doesn't want you to create this terrible abomination which, for some reason, we keep record of how to do in our database", but if you respond without any kind of password protected override of any kind and an unverifiable verbal instruction that the council is no longer in place, the ship will help you make a horrible monster?  Wasn't this a chance to show that Lex was some sort of genius by understanding xenotech and by-passing all of that encryption, etc...?

Monday, September 5, 2016

Obligation Watch: Batman v Superman - Dawn of Justice (theatrical cut, 2016)



So, I was in no rush to ever see Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016).

In summer of 2013, despite the many positives of having a Man of Steel movie even existing, a stellar score by Hans Zimmer and Amy Adams cast as Lois Lane, I never cottoned to the movie, and, in fact, despite the fact my completionist self purchased a deeply discounted BluRay of the movie, it's never found it's way onto the platter for a spin.

But, you know, WB and DCE seemed aware of their problems with Man of Steel.  It was a little hard to ignore when adults watching the movie started saying "holy @#$%.  Did I just watch a movie where Superman was turning presumably occupied buildings into rubble and started his public career by snapping the neck of the bad-guy?  Yeesh."  So, despite the return of Zack "I don't understand characters or motivations" Snyder as director and the casting of Jessie "Two Modes of Nebbish" Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, I'd tried to withhold judgment until the reviews hit.  And, mostly, the reviews were not kind on many levels.  So, I'd stayed away.

But, ha ha ha.  One of you (JimD) decided to just send me a copy of the BluRay in the mail.  Over the course of two evenings, I watched the movie, trying not to open my computer or look at my phone when the movie got dull (which was more or less 90 of the 150 minutes).  I tried to make note of what I liked and didn't like, but - I guess unsurprisingly - the movie offered little to enjoy that was not Amy Adams.

It's not the worst movie I've ever seen.  for example -  Suicide Squad was just a dumber movie.  But BvS:DoJ felt positively adolescent in some ways, and had the storytelling instincts of a five year old relating the events of the day.  But it has some interesting stuff in it, too, as far as DC Comics lore.

It's just not a terribly good movie.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Murphy Watch: Coming to America (1988)



Back when I was 13 or so, Hollywood was doing pretty darn well.  It was pretty common for middle-class folk to load the crew into the family truckster and go on down to the local mall or wherever and catch a movie at the cineplex.  I saw Coming to America (1988) on opening weekend, and what I remember is: so did everyone else.

This movie was absolutely huge with me and my friends, but my parents watched it more than once (once it hit home video), and it still gets a lot of play on basic cable.  In fact, we parked ourselves on the sofa after getting home from vacation and watched the movie just to give ourselves some decompression time.

At this point, the movie has grossed almost $130 million that Box Office Mojo knows about, which isn't bad for a movie that likely cost about $20 million to make.

In the manner of the best 1980's comedies - from Ghostbusters to Naked Gun, it's an imminently quotable movie, or seemed so at the time.  At least it became that through repeated viewings.  Not that surprising from a movie put together by Eddie Murphy and John Landis, I suppose.

I don't just think Coming to America is a funny movie (I think it's hilarious), I think it's a fantastically written and perfectly executed all-ages movie, from direction to performances to editing and music cues.  And all that's a reminder of what a set of talents we had in Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, John Landis, John Amos, James Earl Jones, Madge Sinclair and Eriq La Salle and everyone else (Louie f'ing Anderson is in this!).

I also think it's really funny that Black Panther will need to really think think about about what it's doing for a script and abandon the original Black Panther trope of King T'Challa to the U.S. undercover as a student lest we end up with a suspiciously familiar story.

Maybe most remarkable is that the movie has such an overwhelmingly Black cast and then and now it's not discussed in terms of being a "Black" movie, and not because it was white-washed.  I'd argue it's a movie that - while it has a lot of edges knocked off to reach an all-ages audience - makes no bones about being by and about Black people, and it's hard to say exactly why it was massively successful across the planet (the movie has a very large international box office).  Maybe it's the fairy-tale nature of the story?  Prince Hakeem and Semi's familiarity as protagonists?  I dunno.

Anyway, what's to say? If you don't like this movie, you're a little dead inside.


Monday, August 29, 2016

Gene Wilder Merges With The Infinite



Gene Wilder has merged with The Infinite.

Included in everyone's list of favorite movies, you'll find Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein.  Like you, I watch both with alarming frequency, just dropping in for 30-45 minutes or more when I see them on cable.  We watch Young Frankenstein a day or so before Halloween every year as a break from actual horror movies.

What to say?

There really wasn't anyone who was like him before and there certainly isn't anyone like him now.  Who else brings such a thoughtful, skilled, deftly nuanced approach to comedic roles in quite the same way - the punchlines sometimes going by so quietly you almost missed them on the first go-round - or delivered with such staccato bombasity you barely have time to register what's happening before you find yourself laughing.  And that's part of what makes the movies work so well on watch after watch after watch.  He managed to wrangle the cartoony freneticism Brooks brought to the screen in Blazing Saddles, but he was never the straight-man.  He was just funny in his own right, and he knew how to make a scene work far better than it should, even when the jokes were so broad you could drive on them.

Of course, his Willy Wonka came seemingly out of nowhere, a manically perfect performance not intended to comfort children but there for them to understand when, maybe, they got a little older.  That weariness and dissatisfaction of the genius among mortals, that keeper of the faithl in the land of the wicked, just brilliantly played.

I'll always like Young Frankenstein best, but that won't come as a surprise.  There's nothing in the film he does I'd say doesn't work.  He's in perfect sync with everyone in the cast, holding all their various tones together and making for one of my favorite comedies in any medium.

I'm very sorry to hear Mr. Wilder has passed, but am so grateful for what he brought us, and I'm cheered by the massive outpouring in social media.  I hope he knew, and I hope his family knows, how much love people had for him and his work.




Super Krime Double Bill: The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932) and The Castle of Fu Manchu (1969)



The Alamo is an interesting place because they do show exploitation films, they do show controversial material, and at those special screenings, they usually have a host put a frame around what you're about to see.  This movie was shown as part of the "Super Krime" series which also contained last week's Danger: Diabolik, but was the riskier showing, certainly.  For pop-cultural anthropologists, there's a lot to chew on here from the casting to the racial issues to the pre-code genre-ambiguity and content and - for modern pop-culture which so often includes super-villains in the mix, Fu Manchu lays out the blueprint for so much of what would come afterwards.

By today's standards, your grandparents were racist as hell.  Even if they were hip, bohemian folks - by the rules of what non-awful people consider decency and mannered public discourse, what you'd hear come out of Grandma and Grandpa's mouths was likely to get them the side-eye at Thanksgiving - but we're all a reflection of a time and a place.  Attitudes change.  Society, hopefully, advances.  Insert your own election-related joke here.

I am not a paid or professional film historian or scholar, but I have an interest in the history of pop culture and the film industry as well as genre film and whatnot.  A few years ago, I came across a picture of Myrna Loy playing the daughter of Boris Karloff in a film I'd never seen.  The catch: they're both in yellowface as the nefarious Fu Manchu and his daughter.

A bit more digging told me that this movie was once a favorite, included in some circles as a premier classic horror film of sorts.

But you can't get access to a Fu Manchu film all that easily (and there are many), and it's something that doesn't screen all that often - a bit like the President's Day sequence in Holiday Inn (which they simply excise when they show it as it doesn't advance the plot, but it does feature a whole lotta your beloved Hollywood favorites in black face*).  And, yeah, I saw the movie featured yellowface, and cast most of the Eastern hemisphere in a nasty light, so it made a bit of sense to me that the studio was in no big hurry to remind the world they had the film in the collection.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Yesterday was the 70th Anniversary of "The Big Sleep"


I missed this until just now, but The Big Sleep, one of the best noir films and probably one of the best adaptations of a Raymond Chandler book, turned 70 on August 23.  So, my Dad shares a pretty good week with Bacall and Bogart, this being his 70th B-Day and all.

Here's to a hell of a movie and to two terrific actors in one complicated film.


TL;DR: "Stranger Things", "Suicide Squad" and Storytelling in the 21st Century

I had to have a picture, so... here you go, Barb-Heads


It's funny.  Way, way back when I was a young Signal Watch back in film school, one of my instructors proposed the idea that, in the very near future, story would not matter.  This was, of course, preposterous, but something that has come back to haunt me over and over again in the years that have followed.

It wasn't entirely clear what my instructors meant by "story will not matter", and so it became easy to dismiss, even as people lined up for Michael Bay movies and we were all vaguely aware that one does not show up for, say, a Kung-Fu movie specifically to see how events will unfold so much as to see Jet Li perform aerial stunts and kick people in the sternum for 90 minutes.  The change was blamed a bit on video games which, in the mid-90's, had yet to really evolve much past Doom or side-scrollers.  And, frankly, were thought of quite differently from movies in the zeitgeist - although that quickly changed (I guess) with games like Wing Commander (which I never played but people seemed to love) and certainly with the early 00's-era Grand Theft Auto.

Muddying the waters, "it lacks a story" was often the vague criticism of the tastemakers from the 70's through the 90's.  Nothing took the wind out of your sails quite like watching something you'd enjoyed only to have either a tweedy-type or someone whose opinion you cared about come along and say "well, it didn't have much story now, did it?" and you'd be considering "well, it had characters, a beginning, middle and an end.  There was an arc or two in there."  And, man, "lack of story" was a favorite dig at superhero faire at one point by folks with jobs at newspapers, and that was where I learned to more or less understand.  Because it often meant "it didn't have a story that resonated with me, a person who doesn't think a story about a mad scientist needing to be stopped by the swift right hook of justice is equal to a story about people very politely going through a divorce while wearing tweed coats and having a humiliating and/ or unlikely sexual encounter or two."

And that's okay.  It just means you need to look at "it doesn't have much of a story" as a criticism as sort of a smoke screen unless we're getting specific.

I can name many things which lack story that seem to nonetheless delight people, often earning a rabid, nigh-manic fanbase who is immune to your accusations of lack of story (hello, Dragonball Z fans!).  And there are lots of folks who are really, really into, say, Mario, despite the fact that his storyline is "plumber who does very, very little plumbing".  And that all feels to me a bit like getting really into, say, Tony the Tiger because every commercial has a fifteen second story arc where a kid masters a sport thanks to Tony and sugar.

But I digress.

In a very short window I watched both DC's third entry in their superhero universe, Suicide Squad, and Netflix's summer darling, Stranger Things.  In varying ways, both made me wonder if my instructor back in film school had a point.

Monday, August 22, 2016

More About Bees and the 1970's

So, Nathaniel asked me why I forgot to mention the giant, hallucinatory bees in 1978's The Swarm.   And, he's right to ask, because it's probably the most stunning/ least magical visual special effect in the movie.


What's most interesting is that the bees inject a venom into their victim that make them not just hallucinate, but hallucinate a very large bee.

Now, as a kid I saw an ad for The Swarm on TV as the Late Late Movie on local UHF, and they kept showing the clips of the hallucinations.  Unfortunately, at age 11 or so, I was not qualified to stay up for the midnight to four AM shift, so I missed the broadcast and never saw the movie I assumed was all about giant bees.  At some point when SimonUK suggested we watch this movie, like, two years ago, I eagerly said "you mean the movie about the giant bees?"
"No, the one with Michael Caine."
"Right!  With giant bees!"
"Well... no."

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Caine Watch: The Swarm (1978)



No one is going to accuse The Swarm (1978) of being a great movie.  Or, really, even a good movie.   Or, you know, a movie.

It may be a bit odd the movie isn't that good as it it's directed by producer of disaster-porn Irwin Allen, but maybe he should have stuck to producing.  The movie follows the logic of many-a-disaster movie,  which people my age know mostly from Independence Day.  Multiple storylines.  Scientists trying to understand what's happening.  Lots of people die.  Lots of famous faces in roles big and small.

Our disaster here?  BEES.  Which, I really shouldn't make fun of, because this is the kind of shit that is, in fact, going to take humanity out.  But... BEES.  SWARMS OF KILLER BEES.

Our all-star cast is anchored by Michael Caine who plays The Scientist, or - more specifically - the bee scientist.  Other honest-to-god big names include Katherine Ross as The Doctor, Richard Widmark as The General, Richard Chamberlain as The Other Scientist, Cameron Mitchell as The Pentagon Official, Olivia de Havilland as The Aging Beauty, Fred McMurray as deHavilland's SUITOR #1 and Ben Johnson as SUITOR #2.  Jose Ferrer as the manager of a nuclear power plant.  Patty Duke as a waitress.  Slim Pickens as a sad city worker.  And a clearly very deaf Henry Fonda shouting lines as YET ANOTHER SCIENTIST WHO DOES NOT KNOW THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD OR BASIC MEDICAL PROTOCOLS.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Super Krime Watch: Danger - Diabolik (1968)



For years I've been aware there's a movie called Danger: Diabolik (1968), but I didn't know much about it.  You'd see references to it in comics and hear film buffs mention, but details were scant.  The movie is based on some Italian comics I've never actually seen in the wild, and of a genre that's never really managed to cross over the Atlantic and with which I've barely any awareness - a sort of super-criminal fantasy.

The Alamo Drafthouse Ritz is currently running a series their calling "Super Krime", which is a series about "super criminals", ranging from the silent era to the modern era, with some Bond tucked in there.  If you're going to do a series about "super criminals", there's hardly a better fit than Danger Diabolik.  The movie is entirely about a master thief and robber, a sort of dark-mirror Batman.  He's a brilliant, quiet mastermind with a subterranean hide-away where he plans his heists and makes time with his Robin, who - in this case is a sexy blonde who knows how to wear go-go boots.