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

Sunday, May 24, 2015

RoboCop Watch: RoboCop




Sometimes between viewings of RoboCop (1987) I think to myself, "Self, maybe you talk too much about RoboCop.  Maybe you should stop pestering people with RoboCop and maybe take a step back and realize that maybe all RoboCop really is is a mid-80's studio sci-fi action flick that may be pretty good, but it's not really as good as you tend to think."

And then I watch RoboCop again, and I say to myself, "Self, that was stupid and you should stop questioning RoboCop.  That movie is the absolute best."

Also, it completely and totally accurately predicted the future.  So if you ever need to know what I think the world looks like through my beady little eyes...  RoboCop.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Disney Watch: Big Hero 6

Well, wasn't this a very nice superhero story?



We missed this for whatever reason when it hit theaters.  Kind of wish I hadn't because it looks like they were really thinking in terms of 3D projection that my very 2D television did not replicate.

Well, c'est la vie.

Big Hero 6 is maybe the flipped opposite of what DC has been doing with their heroes, and while I am aware the movie did okay ($222 million domestic is impressive, and a total of $652 million internationally is great) I don't think it slipped into the zeitgeist in quite the way it might have.  But I also don't hang around little kids all that much.  So, parents, correct me.

But this is superheroing for the all-ages set in a very good way.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Capra Watch: Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)


A wartime Frank Capra movie, Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) was a popular Broadway show, and that's about all I know about it.  Except that the original play starred Boris Karloff as a guy who looks a whole lot like Boris Karloff (no, really), and I had to do a scene from it at high school drama camp (oh, really), which we did a little heavy handed, I guess, because no one got it was a comedy scene and on the last day of camp, one of the girls told me she was surprised to find out I wasn't a creepy stabby guy the way she felt I'd been in that scene.  So go figure.

The movie is more or less the play.  And the movie is about a drama critic (Cary Grant) who has fallen in love with the girl next door (Priscilla Lane, cute as a button) and gotten married at the local courthouse.  He's from an old-money New York family, who, apparently have a strain of insanity running in the veins.  An uncle who thinks he's Theodore Roosevelt, and two sweet old aunts (one played by Josephine Hull who was in everything during the 40's), he pops in on to tell he's off to Niagara Falls, only to learn they seem to have killed someone and put him in the window seat.  And that corpse isn't the only one.

Wacky hi-jinks ensue.  A sadistic older brother returns mysteriously after decades away - and he seems to have racked up a body count himself, and accidentally gotten the face of Boris Karloff during some quick plastic surgery to hide his identity.

The material is definitely of its time, and its a curiosity that they couldn't get Karloff for the movie and had to put someone else in Karloff make-up.  But, apparently, Karloff was still in the play at the time and was busy.  Who knew?

It's not my favorite screwballish comedy from the era.  There's something off in the pacing, and it feels oddly clumsy to me.  I'd only seen the movie once or twice before, the last time being at least fifteen years ago.  I'd wondered if I'd like it better now, and I guess I kind of did, but...  yeah.  There you are.  It has all the components of something I think I'd like better, but somehow it just never quite clicks for me.


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Movie Watch: Mad Max - Fury Road

Firstly, apologies to my brother, who asked I take him to see this movie at some point.  And I will!  And I am sorry I went to see it without on my first viewing, but Raylan texted me and said I should just go and when you make time, I'll go again.

Secondly, holy shit.


Saturday, May 16, 2015

Marvel Watch: Avengers - Age of Ultron

So... I had the benefit and/or handicap of seeing Avengers: Age of Ultron in its third weekend of release.  As always, a little context:

I was never a big Avengers reader growing up.  I was far more into Uncanny X-Men for my Marvel team book of choice, but I was also not a reader of Thor, Iron Man and most of the rest of the Avengers line up of characters, and only dipped in and out of Captain America, a book I had certain opinions about when it came to tone and what I was interested in reading.  Most of what I know about the Avengers comes from reading Marvel Super Heroes Role-Playing Game supplements and character guides, and via comic dork osmosis.

Thus, I don't have as many conceptual ideas regarding Avengers as I might about lots of other characters, especially from DC Comics.  But Marvel was always better about balancing character and plot, and so the Marvel characters have tended to be fixed points over the years in ways that DC characters so often seemed to struggle.  But if you ask me "what's Wanda Maximoff like?", I can give you a basic idea, and feel fairly confident, even if I only ever owned a dozen or so comics in which Wanda appeared.



The movie has taken it a bit on the chin from clickbait articles and folks looking to weigh in, and I was under the impression this installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe was likely to be something endured to make sense of coming MCU movies.

But, you know, I actually liked it better than the first Avengers movie.

Marvel Watch: Captain America - The Winter Soldier (2014)



I'm way past the ability to discuss this movie from a critical standpoint.  Y'all know I'm a fan of the character and concept of Captain America, and with this movie, I felt like Marvel really finally got to the Steve Rogers I dig.  And, you know, people, all I want to see is the shockingly earnest Steve Rogers bounce his mighty shield off the cranium of a HYDRA agent.  And, here, I get that.

We're off to finally see Avengers: Age of Ultron, so Jamie threw this in the BluRay player this evening so we could review, I guess.  Whatever the reason, I am always up for this flick.  Goofy techno-thriller with 70's government paranoia that intentionally or otherwise has some curious parallels to the real world that, holy god, nobody ever seems to notice or talk about, Robert Redford out to remind everyone he gave up on handsomeness some time ago, Jenny Agutter showing up because, hey... who doesn't like Jenny Agutter?*

Friday, May 1, 2015

Horror Watch: House of Wax (1953)

I have to get up and go on vacation at a super weird early hour, but I re-watched House of Wax (1953), and it's still a great movie.  Maybe not as great as when you watch it the first time when you're 14 because 26 years later you already know how the creeping horror of the movie winds up - but I think Price is just great in this movie.


And one day I'll see it in 3D and see the thrilling PADDLE-BALL scene the way it was INTENDED.

A Change from the Comics I'd Be Okay with in the New Avengers Movie

I'm going to be away for the first two weekends of the release of Avengers: Age of Ultron.  I'm fine with this.  It's not like I think the movie looks like it holds that many surprises for us comic nerds with a passing knowledge of Marvel Comics lore.

I'm pretty much a fan of fidelity to the comics, and I think Marvel can attribute a lot of their success to sticking with the core conflicts and traits of their characters and universe.  But...

By just using his voice for the villainous Ultron, aren't we wasting James Spader?

Now, bear with me - but I think most of us have seen Pretty in Pink and realized the only character who isn't kind of a loser in the movie is Steff played by the incomparable James Spader.  I mean, sure he went about courting Molly Ringwald poorly and maybe got mad when she rejected him.  The guy has feelings, too, you know.  And when you watch it again - she's kind of an idiot in this movie, isn't she?  She unwittingly strings along Ducky from the age of 5 like she can't read human interaction any better than an ATM, and then goes for this Blane guy who clearly isn't comfortable with what passes for class differences in a John Hughes movie.*  But he is rich, so....  he's better than Ducky fersure.

Steff, meanwhile, moves on, throwing parties, hooking up with ladies who appreciate him, belittling anyone and everything in his path, and beating up Ducky when the need arises.

To my point, Steff is awesome.

The secret hero of "Pretty in Pink"

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Noir Watch: Detour (1945)

At some point in your life, set aside 1 hour and 10 minutes to make it through Detour (1945), one of the grimiest, most uncomfortable, brilliantly economical movies you're likely to ever catch.  It's a short bit of distilled noir which kind of meanders for the first third, and then it starts to pick up.  And THEN Ann Savage shows up and holy @#$%.



I don't know what it says about me that I adore Ann Savage in this movie.  There's some matrix I need to devise of "what's wrong with me?" that I need to make with attributes of various Femme Fatales, including Savage in this movie, Peggy Cummins in Gun Crazy, Stanwyck in Double Indemnity and Babyface, Marie Windsor in everything...  But Ann Savage is a special kind of nuts in this movie, that veers almost into noir Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf-ish territory sometime in the back 1/3rd of the movie.

Comedy Watch: Let's Be Cops (2014)

Jamie and I watch the Fox sitcom The New Girl.  Shut up.  It's funny.

When I saw the trailer for Let's Be Cops (2014), it looked like more of same, and I wanted to see it, but I also have HBO for a reason.



Truly, this movie is exactly what I thought it was going to be, with, admittedly, less nudity (read: none.  At least by ladies) than I'd figured on.

The premise, two guys who did well in college have been in LA for a long time, and neither is setting the world on fire.  One can't seem to get his break in video game development and the other... it's never clear.  He's living off the money from a herpes medication ad and playing football with 10 year-olds.

Dressed in cop outfits they've worn to a costume party, they realize how folks react to the uniform and badge and hi-jinks ensue.  Damon Wayans Jr. meets a pretty girl, they stumble onto some very real crime, we all learn to respect what cops go through.

It's exactly what it was intended to be - a lower budget comedy that relies on the charm of the characters and actors to carry it through.  It has some good stuff not just from Damon Wayans Jr. and Jake Johnson, but also Natsha Leggero (who I always find hilarious and I'm a little surprised she's not a bigger deal), Rob Riggle and Keegan-Michael Key of Key and Peele.

I dunno.  It'd be an ideal airplane movie or something.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Marvel Watch: Avengers (2012)


What are you going to say about Avengers three years later and with 90% of the world's population now well aware of the exploits of Earth's Mightiest Heroes?  We watched it to get caught up for Age of Ultron, but I am realizing it's been a while since I've seen Thor II, and I don't own a copy of either Thor for some reason.  No, really, I like the Thor movie a lot.  They're super fun.

Of all the Marvel movies, I'm still not sure this one is even in my top 4.  It counts on the fact you really don't care that Loki's plan makes no sense whatsoever in order to keep up with the movie, and Loki makes his escape in the opening sequence from the back of a pick-up truck, like there should be banjo music playing.  There are some choices made that maybe weren't the best in retrospect, and there's a lot of standing around on the heli-carrier.  I mean, a lot of it.

The thing is, despite what I think are some scripting problems, editing decisions that could have been made differently, and the fact it features my least favorite of Caps' costumes (I really dig what I've seen in the trailer for Age of Ultron), it's still got so many good parts, you can overlook the deficiencies and still like it quite a lot.  If nothing else, the actors are all very specific and on-point in their performances.  That sort of team-effort in a movie can be what makes the difference making your Star Wars franchise hum versus the endless sea of forgotten franchises that had teams but focused entirely too much on any one character (I still remember being surprised when I read as a kid that Star Wars was Luke's story.  Of course it is, but, you know, I thought of him as one of a bunch of people) or where the actors lacked chemistry.

Anyway, it's big-screen fun, and it really does tie in with the movies before and after so seamlessly - if you ignore the useless army of forgettable villains and their ridiculous scheme.  But it doesn't matter, it does give our heroes something to overcome and come together, and that's what the movie is all about.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Noir Watch: They Drive By Night (1940)


Released in that precarious period as the Depression wore on, but while America hadn't yet stepped up and become involved in the wars brewing across the rest of the planet, They Drive By Night (1940) sits at an interesting crossroads.  It certainly features the sort of crime-story from the pulps of the 20's and 30's, but doesn't delve as deeply into moral ambiguity of the post-war film noir pictures nor a good Chandler or Hammett story.

Even the actors are at an interesting period in their careers.  Raft plays the lead and Bogart takes the back seat as his brother, Bogart becoming Hollywood royalty only a year later with The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca in 1942.  Raft certainly continued on as a popular actor for some time, but only one would remain a household name.  Ann Sheridan was also very popular during the era, but Lupino was just breaking out from the blonde dye and good-girl roles she'd been playing.  And she's really damn good here in a Femme Fatale role that casts the movie squarely into the categorization of film noir, even if it's a bit early for the genre (no doubt a version of this in the 1950's would have allowed Raft and Lupino to knock-boots off screen).

Thursday, April 23, 2015

"Bride of Frankenstein" at 80



I think that one time I spent a month doing posts on tumblr, or the multiple time I've covered the movie on this site, might have dropped a clue or two that I'm a fan of the 1935 movie, Bride of Frankenstein.  Yesterday marked the 80th Anniversary of the movie's release, a remarkably long time for a movie to remain vital and immediate, to be continually finding new fans.

To me, the appeal of the movie is obvious.  It's hilarious, horrific, bizarre, melodramatic, self-serious, grotesque, childish and completely dependent on a movie I enjoy almost as much to make any sense.  And it features a completely unnecessary opening framing device, clearly there to please the creative staff and no one else.



If the original Frankenstein film fails to capture the book, this one more or less throws the book away while  also laying claim to it, using small portions and ideas of the book to tell a new and unnecessary story, but somehow a deeply fulfilling one - and in the process makes a double-bill of Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein, really, the best way to see both pictures and consider it one long project with an interruption mid-way through.  Upon returning from that break, you'll notice a change in tone of the film to a grander sense of scale, weirder characters and poor Colin Clive seemingly more wrecked than in even the first movie, all the while everyone else seems to be having a grand old time putting on a show.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

80's Watch: The Hunger (1983)

I don't think I've watched The Hunger (1983) since I was living with pal CarlaBeth back in college, so - wow, almost 20 years ago.  Which means that Jamie, who I started dating at the time, has been saying "The Hunger of David Bowie!" then "I sure do fancy a cheeseburger!" at me in an iffy British accent for almost two decades.

My, how time passes.

Which is exactly what this movie is about, by the way.



I was a bit surprised to see the movie show up on Turner Classic.  I mean, yeah, it's more than 3 decades old, but I have no recollection of TCM previously throwing caution to the wind and going ahead and showing partial nudity or that much blood.  And, this being a vampire movie, boy howdy is there a lot of blood.  And Bauhaus!  Those Andy Hardy movies are way low on their offering of Bauhaus.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Sci-Fi Watch: The Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

I am not a Tom Cruise fan.  I think the first Mission Impossible movie started my turn on the guy, but I remember just groaning my way through The Last Samurai, and I've mostly only seen Cruise movies under duress for about a decade.  I'm sure many of you feel the same way about some actors that I like, but you're wrong, and you're going to have to live with that knowledge.



So it was that I had no intention of seeing Edge of Tomorrow (2014).  And, apparently, I wasn't alone, because it tanked so hard at the box office that they retitled the movie for the home video release to the, let's be honest, entirely more accurate Live. Die. Repeat.  

And then you people all started saying "yeah, no, I saw that thing twice in the theater" and "it's way, way better than you'd expect".   And because I actually do listen to you people from time to time, and I have HBO, I gave it a whirl.

The movie is a curious mix of Groundhog Day and watching someone else play (badly) through a video game, which doesn't really sell the movie, but that's what I've got.  And it's both a strength and weakness of the movie.  It's a novel concept to see Tom Cruise get killed over and over only to pop up alive again with the knowledge he's gained and be able to move forward, or sideways, or whatever direction will keep him alive a bit longer.  

And, like a video game, there's not much in the way of character development or complexity to the story beyond the conceit.  It's a sort of very interesting two hour movie parlor trick that, I think, mostly works very well.  But, nonetheless, it barely holds itself together, assuming thousands of deaths for the same person would not have left them a quivering mess, or the sheer repetition would not have driven him mad to the point of embracing annihilation.

This truly does feel like the first movie I've seen by the generation of people raised on video games to the point where the structure of the game is, in itself, part of the narrative.  Like I said, it does occasionally feel like watching someone else play a video game they keep failing at, which is a sort of weird way to watch a movie, and something that very occasionally gave me pause during the movie.*  You have to bear in mind, I don't actually play video games, so read into that whatever you like.

That said, Edge of Tomorrow is definitely worth checking out.  The movie, thankfully, doesn't take itself terribly seriously and seems to know what it is.  I see why folks embraced the movie.  I'm not sure it will launch a new genre of movies or copycats out there, but I think as it plays on cable, people will find it and it'll find the audience that missed it the first go-round.

Oh, and Tom Cruise isn't totally annoying.  He's actually pretty likable, as is his co-star, Emily Blunt.

So, yeah.  Good action, novel plot contrivance and interesting ideas sprinkled in to make it a bit better than it had to be.  And pretty fun, really.  So, good call, y'all.




*I'm currently reading Ready Player One, and when I finish it, I'll talk a bit about some of my challenges enjoying that book for some related reasons

"Batman vs. Superman"and "Star Wars VII" - avoiding the open-ended questions

I've already gotten one or two "hey, whaddayathink about the new Batman/ Superman trailer?" messages from people who know me, know I like me some Superman and Batman, and who know I was not a fan of the last Superman adventure by the same creative team.  And, likewise regarding Star Wars, which I've not been all that into for the last decade, I guess.

So, with the HD trailer now released for Batman and Superman are Going to Punch Each Other in the Rain and the certainty even my dad will now have seen the trailer - rather than answer the same open ended question in short bursts of tweets or Google Hangouts or whatever, here we go:


Ah, man.  We know you're doing your best, buddy.


The DCU that WB is working on for the movies does not jive well with the overall DCU I've liked for 30-odd years of my life (or 37 if you want to want to count when I got into Superman: The Movie and Super Friends - or, heck, before that if you're partial to Adam West, and I am).

There are pretty obvious lessons the WB execs believe they learned from the success of the Dark Knight trilogy and failure of Green Lantern and Superman Returns (although any kind of thoughtful evaluation that didn't require execs saving face just wasn't going to happen on the WB lot).   And in that lesson-learning, much like DC Comics believed with the New 52, everything had to be Batman.  And not just Batman, but the same Batman that shows up in Arkham Asylum video games.

Anyway, I tend to think that the point of Superman and Batman running up against each other is not just a question of the the tone of the characters coming into conflict - it's also the world and worldview colliding and reflecting off one another.  And this isn't that.  This is someone mistaking grim'n'gritty as an ends unto itself.

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 not 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.