Showing posts with label movies 2012. Show all posts
Showing posts with label movies 2012. Show all posts

Friday, January 4, 2013

Movies 2012 - The Final Commentary

As mentioned before, I watched and blogged movies 147 times, sort of.  Anyway, the point is, I watched John Carter 3 times, and never regretted it.  Process everything in the rest of this post* with that in mind.

So, the actual experience of deciding to blog every movie for a year was sort of in line with other "for a year I shall..." plans I've had.  Like the year I went vegetarian, just to be difficult. Yes, I did this.

Honestly, I think I was probably way down on number of movies viewed this past year.  I don't know how many movies people normally watch, but I know that for the first time in 5 years, my attendance at the Alamo and Paramount this summer was significantly lower than usual.

All that also took a financial toll in past years, and I've been cutting back on Alamo visits to try to better maintain our finances.  I'm guessing I still hit the movies more than the average bear, but it did feel like a down year for being at the theater, but maybe I made up for that in Cable viewership and watching home video.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Movies 2012 - Breaking It Down

In 2012, I watched movies 147 times.

That's roughly 2.8 movies per week.  I don't know if that's low or high.  It probably explains why I don't watch as much series TV if that's 5 - 7 hours of TV viewing time per week.

You can read posts in which I discuss the movies of 2012 at the Movies 2012 label.


The number 147 includes only the movies I watched in their entirety - from beginning to end.  That number does not include partially watched movies.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The 2012 Not-a-List Rundown

author's note:  2012 is a year I have been looking to put behind me for quite a while for any number of reasons.  Obviously the events in my personal life marked a very sad end to the year for us at our house.  Perhaps we should declare 2012 Annus Horribilis and move on.

With recent events weighing so heavily on me right now (and with this post started a long, long time ago), I'm going to stick to pop culture and the original, intended tone of the post - and this blog - and take a look back instead at...  yeah, I guess comics and whatnot.

here we go.

The 2012 Not-a-List Rundown

My Totem for Everything About my Pop Culture Hobbies in 2012

My relationship fundamentally changed with my hobbies and past-times, and superhero comics have begun to dip below the horizon to the same place Star Wars went circa 2002.  Because of travelling and the fact I was sick a lot this year, I also didn't really make it out to the movies very often.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Signal Re-Watch: "Sunset Boulevard" and watching "Casino" on basic cable

Sunset Boulevard (1950)

I finally watched Sunset Boulevard about two years ago, and it's already become one of my favorite films.  I received a copy on BluRay for Christmas (thanks, Jason & Amy!), and gave it a whirl.  Frankly, I'm a bit shocked that I didn't do a lengthy write up of the movie during that time a couple years back when I first watched the movie in its entirety then went to the Paramount to see it, but I can't find a record of any formal prior discussion of the movie.

If you're not familiar, Sunset Boulevard opens on a murder in the Hollywood Hills (I guess, I don't know LA geography) and backtracks in pure noir style to how we got to this point.  A struggling screenwriter who tasted success and watched it fade stumbles upon the decaying mansion of a once great silent film star now living as a recluse, planning her return to greatness.  She has money, and plenty of it, and Joe is willing to take the money and deal with the insanity of the mansion and wretched screenplay she wants him to tidy up that will surely mean the return of Norma Desmond to an imagined legions of fans eagerly awaiting her return.

And then things get dark and weird.

The movie spawned a million quotes, and is best remembered for Gloria Swanson's stunning portrayal of Norma Desmond - a character that reflects what had happened to some extent to many stars of the silent era (and continues to happen to talent as they fade from the public eye in favor of the next new thing) - only, you know, amped up a bit.  Add on real-life former silent director Eric von Stroheim as Desmond's aloof butler, and you've got a really interesting dynamic going.

In general, I don't love movies about Hollywood making movies, but sometimes the industry turns the eye back on itself and is willing to admit a few things about itself that make for a great story or provide an opportunity for great performances - even if there's maybe not a sense of a universal human experience or some such idea.  But I do think the ideas about self-delusion, dreams of stardom and relevancy and what it means when it fades, what we're willing to do for a buck, and more... are recognizable if not relatable.

Plus, man, Billy Wilder's dialog.

"...we had faces!"

There are a LOT of extras on the disc.  Probably too many, but you can't say it's not fairly complete when it comes to talking about the film and reminds me of the difference between access to a film via a streaming service and why you might want to own a copy of your favorite movies.

The movie itself is one of those things that will continue to reveal bits of Billy Wilder's brilliance for several more screenings, and my appreciation for how all of the pieces fit together just grows with every viewing.  I appreciate the devotion to Hitchcock (and also received the Hitch BluRay box set for Christmas that I am dying to crack open), but I think film school could do worse than to point that eye at Wilder and his ability to leap from genre to genre and redefine it as it goes.  As they point out in the bonus features, he not only managed genre - he moved outside of genre and created his own kind of film with Sunset Boulevard.

Casino (1995)

Casino is not a short movie, clocking in at about 3 hours, but I've still seen it probably 8 or 9 times.  And, I argue, it's one of the best reasons to reconsider Sharon Stone as something other than the somewhat Norma Desmond-esque figure she's hellbent on becoming.

you kids who work with video will never know the night mare of lighting this for film

The movie rolls out DeNiro as DeNiro, Pesci as Pesci and a whole herd of hoodlum and thug stereotypes from the Eastern US and drops them in Nevada in the wake of the Rat Pack.

Based on something approximating the real-life events of Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal leaving Chicago and illegal gambling to establish mob foundations in a town where everything is legal - the movie presents the story using a fictionalized version in Sam "Ace" Rothstein (DeNiro) as a mobbed-up bookie who finds he can make a fortune as a legitimate businessman in the wilds of Vegas.  How much is true, how much is speculation and how much is fabrication - probably best Scorsese himself doesn't know.  Pesci, not so long since he tried mainstream credibility with My Cousin Vinny plays mob thug Nicky Santoro, the muscle Ace needs in the early days, but who becomes a liability the minute respectability becomes a necessity.  Stone plays DeNiro's showgirl wife/ greatest distraction and liability.

Fantastically shot, meticulously detailed, Scorsese captured the last of old Vegas before it was subsumed with Vegas' secondary major industry - construction.  (If you've never been to Vegas, it changes completely about every 8-10 years).

this one time in 1995, Sharon Stone made a movie in which she was terrific

It's an epic film that isn't shy about a sprawling cast and intricate relationships presented in sketchy detail, but Scorsese keeps it easy to follow, using the template started in Goodfellas as a jumping off point.  The story stretches over a decade or more, following the rise and fall of key characters who ignite the Vegas scene and make the world there possible before being subsumed by corruption outside, inside and something resembling the actual forces of the justice via the US Justice Department and a lot of bad karma.

Anyway, on this go-round I was really struck by how well the movie presents all of the characters, their motivations and points of view, and even if we want to root for Ace, he's maybe as bad or worse than Nicky in some ways - at least Nicky is honest about his nature and seems to want for things to work out - he just doesn't have the big picture vision that Ace seems to have in spades.

And, by the way, if you're a James Woods fan, this is one of his smaller, wonkier roles and every time it makes me laugh a little bit.

I did watch the movie on basic cable.  Why?  I don't know.  I have a copy on DVD.  But it was fascinating watching them edit the living heck out of Jos Pesci's dialog while allowing for bats to collide with skulls and running ads for The Untouchables where the ad was entirely the infamous "teamwork" scene.

Oh, American TV standards.  You are so weird.

The movie will also have my undying respect for casting Don Rickles in a straight role in a movie.  I mean, who does that?  Brilliant.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Signal Watch Watches: "Trekkies 2" and "The People vs. George Lucas"

I watched these two docs back-to-back, trying to clear out some of my Netflix queue, but also to try to wrap up the number of docs I'm willing to watch about folks obsessing around a particular bit of geek-culture.  It seems like there's a built in audience around these things, so they get made and we can have movies about ourselves as geeks, and that's okay.  Having a movie that reflects the culture built up around a franchise is relevant if not important in understanding the context of that bit of media and why and how it fits in with the broader culture.

The two movies catch two powerful franchises and their fanbases at about the same period, around 2009ish, as Star Trek was more or less out of production and the audience is - you hate to say it - probably in decline as it aged out and maybe moved on as the content had both diminished over a few less-than-stellar series and hadn't had a great movie in quite a while.  Star Wars was, of course, Star Wars, and the final installment (at time of filming) had left audiences with mixed feelings.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Yes, we watched: Santa Paws 2 - The Puppening

A lot of discussion followed the viewing of this, the second installment in the Santa Paws franchise.  Santa Paws 2 is a spin-off of a spin-of of the 1990's harmless movie about a Golden Retriever who could shoot free throws called Air Bud.  Since 1997, I believe this is the 17th movie in the franchise/ shared universe of Air Bud.  No, I am not kidding.

really, I have no one but myself to blame.

I saw part of the first Air Bud movie on cable once, and its really very sweet.  If you're playing along at home, Bud was a real dog that COULD shoot free throws, so they made a movie using this dog, because...  holy @#$% - that dog could shoot free throws!  But as dogs do, he died.  They got other dogs and made more movies in which the dog played sports, and then, at some point, the franchise wasn't cute enough, so the script called for Bud to put some other Golden Retriever in a family way, and out came a herd of wise-cracking golden puppies and an entirely new and far more annoying franchise.

After a few of those movies, Disney (yes, Disney) insisted on a Christmas version, and our heroes joined with Santa's dog's son, I believe, Puppy Paws in Santa Buddies. This begat The Search for Santa Paws.  Which begat this installment.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Signal Watch Watches: Heathers (1988)

Yup.  The little movie about teenagers murdering each other and rolling in the media's late 80's obsession with teenage suicide like a pile of autumn leaves.

It is, of course, impossible to imagine anyone bankrolling this movie any time after about 2000 A.D., and it's entirely likely the receipt of this script to a studio in this day and age would mean FBI alerts and investigations.  Still, there was a time when a guy in a trenchcoat pulling a .357 out of his pocket and firing blanks in the faces of two burly jocks in the high school cafeteria was considered hilarious.

sometimes I still miss VHS as a format

I consider myself privileged to have experienced high school in an era before metal detectors, clear plastic backpacks, helicopter parents, "Teen Mom", 24/7 News Cycle angst. and a celebration of popularity on each and every teen-oriented show on TV.  I did not avoid blaming metal bands for the ills of society, and the phrase "juvenile delinquency" still carried some cachet before we decided, en masse, to pretend that all kids are special snowflakes.  And this movie is a product of the era around when I entered grades 9-12.

It's fair to say that the film hasn't aged well, even as it continues to look like the jokes told out back of high schools all across America where moody teens tried not to get caught smoking, the shadow of a decade of dead bodies in public schools looms over the movie and - in its way - doesn't exactly presage actual violence, but doesn't resort to blaming video games, gay marriage and name-a-pundit's-personal-poison, and rather looks at the ecosystem somehow we pretend to not know was there, when high school is, really, the last common denominator of a shared experience for the vast majority of Americans.  

It's also gratifying to see "nerds" and "geeks" in a movie from an era before the idea was co-opted.  

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Signal Watch Watches: A Bullet for Joey (1955)

I considered listing this one as a noir, but it's more or less really a 1950's G-Man thiller mixing gangsters, fifth columnists, monkeys and Audrey Totter.

The movie opens on Montreal (?) where an organ grinder and monkey wait outside a building at McGill University where they snap picks of an unsuspecting French-Canadian scientist from a camera hidden in the hurdy-gurdy.  A cop spots the iffy organ grinder, and gets straight-up murdered by the oddly dated stereotype.

Turns out our organ grinder is a Fifth Columnist gathering info on a physicist, and then it gets complicated.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Dang, there's a lot of "Scrooge" movies

Like most folks in US/ Canada/ England and other parts of the Dickens-reading world, I'm a fan of Dickens' shortest and most-on-the-nose work, A Christmas Carol.

On Sunday evening one of my favorite movie versions, the 1984 A Christmas Carol starring George C. Scott, was on AMC.  It was a good era for special effects, before things went crazy with CG and filmmakers knew how to work within their limitations but had made art out of editing, shadows, light and fog machines.  As Scrooge, George C. Scott doesn't come off as goofy or immediately redeemable, but he does appear human - the smiles at Fezziwig's made all the more meaningful as they crack the ossified grimace, or the realization of what is coming as he witnesses his own future.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Signal Watch Watches: Lincoln (2012)

I'm feeling a little punchy, so let's make this clear:  I liked this movie, and I think you might enjoy it, too.  I was a bit afraid my less than reverent tone might suggest I did not like the movie, but that's not true.  

Jamie, Juan and I finally caught Lincoln (2012), the recent release about Old Penny-Face.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Signal Watch Watches: I sort of watched "Hondo" and "The Mistle-Tones" and all of "The Blues Brothers"

I watched the movie Hondo, a John Wayne oater I hadn't seen since high school.

It's not my favorite movie, and if you're going to watch a western with John Wayne, this is one of them.  It also stars Geraldine Page, who was apparently the wife of Rip Torn and a well known Broadway star.  It's Apache v. the white folk with a bit more of a sentimental streak for the Apache, even as the movie ends with everyone agreeing "well, that's going to be about it for The Apaches."

By and large I recommend skipping this one and going straight to The Searchers.

I also watched parts of several Lifetime and Hallmark Channel holiday movies, but watched the better part of something called The Mistle-Tones, which was not very good.  It did check off the boxes of an over-worked single person finding romance, someone who loves Christmas too much, a dead relative who also loved Christmas, Tori Spelling and one of the girls from Sister, Sister.

This morning I got up from going out last night and having a drink called an "Orange Whip".  I was, of course, very excited about the Orange Whip, because for twenty years, thanks to this scene, I've wanted an Orange Whip.

Well, I drug myself out of my post-Orange Whip evening and found the 1980 classic The Blues Brothers playing on cable.

Blues Brothers is one of those movies that's probably not, technically, the best movie, but it's nonetheless a great movie.  Terrific walk-ons from legends of American music, great gags, and the best car chase to ever occur in any movie, ever...

The deadpan delivery by Aykroyd and Belushi is legendary, and it's a terrifically quotable film.  If you've not seen it, see it.  f you've seen it, you know of which I speak.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Signal Re-Watch: Skyfall (2012)

Not much to say.  I met The Admiral at the movies and we watched Skyfall, me for the second time.

I think on this go-round I got to appreciate a little more of Sam Mendes' direction and how taught the movie is as a Bond actioner.  I pondered getting up and hitting the men's room, but there was never a place in the movie I thought it'd be all right and I wouldn't miss anything.  That might be too much info, but it's a pretty good sign that I didn't want to miss 180 seconds or so of a movie I watched just a couple of weeks ago.

It's not a flawless movie, but, gosh, I still like it.  It has a lot of the traditional Bond issues tied up in Bond's misogyny, and I'd like to see that tackled a bit differently just to shake things up a bit in a future installment, without inserting some Mary Sue she's-better-then-him-at-everything-wink-cute character.

I look forward to seeing who shows up as the next villain and what sort of plot/ issues we'll see in the next film.  I don't see Daniel Craig's Bond in a Moonraker repeat or fighting dudes with submersible secret bases - but I think Mendes and Craig can put out a compelling Bond without going totally sci-fi.

Anyway, Connery will probably always be Bond in my head, but I am pleased that a new generation can think of Daniel Craig as "their" Bond.  I'm a fan.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Noir Watch: The Unsuspected (1947)

A few points:

1.  Everyone is familiar with Claude Rains from some of his bigger pictures like Casablanca, but he was truly the Michael Caine/ Gene Hackman of his time.  He was a terrifically talented performer who fit neatly into film after film, and despite the fact he is obviously and indelibly Claude Rains, he just works in every role, no matter how good or bad the film.  

2.  A special thanks to Jenifer out in San Fran for making sure I paid attention to Audrey Totter.  I still haven't seen that many of Totter's film, but she's a terrific talent.  

The Unsuspected (1947) played a few nights ago on TCM and I managed to record it.  It's an interesting film, and I don't think host Robert Osbourne was wrong to make comparisons to Laura prior to the film starting.  It may borrow an idea or three from the film, but director Michael Curtiz (of Mildred Pierce, Casablanca and many, many other films) instills the film with his own vision and more than enough suspects and twists to keep you going for the duration.  It may not be one of his better known efforts, but it is extremely well directed, even as it hinges on "new technology" to tell its stories - something that often doesn't age well with movies.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Signal Watch Watches: Killer School Girls From Outer Space (2011)

So, life is funny how it surprised you sometimes.

Not that long ago I was sitting in my office at work making digital libraries happen when a guy from my building who I talk to now and again, mostly "howdy" and "hello" as we pass, asked me about some posters from Mondo I have hanging up in my office.

"You like sci-fi?"
"Yeah!  It's kind of my thing.  Not so much the modern stuff, but I kind of dig mid-century stuff and maybe up to the 80's the best."
And we parted ways.
A few days later Bill appeared in my doorway with a DVD in his hand.
"A while back, my son and I made this movie."
My stomach dropped.  I like a good Birdemic trainwreck, but I like it from a casual distance.  I do not like to have to nod and smile and say "that was super!" when it was not super at all.  Then I looked down at the cover.

" that Ron Jeremy?"
Bill nodded.  "Yeah, we hired him for a day.  All green screen.  He was really nice."
"This is...  like, everything awesome about movies."

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Noir Watch: Hotel Noir (2012)

The story on this movie is that it's a low-budget affair and a passion project that's made it's way to In-Demand on cable before theaters or BluRay.  The movie sports some pretty big names from Danny DeVito to Robert Forster to Carla Gugino and the perhaps too always-game Rosario Dawson.

The film is a tribute to various offshoots of the noir genre, recognizing the occasionally laconic pacing and low-rent nature of many of the stories in these films, of low-level cops and grifters making bad decisions for sex and money or some combination of the pair.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Holiday Watch: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)

editor's note:  This review appears in a different format at the Texas Public Radio website.  We were provided a review copy of Kino Lorber's BluRay release of the film, for which we are tremendously grateful.  

While the Lifetime and Hallmark networks will duke it out for weeks ahead of Christmas, airing competing schmaltzy movies in which divorcees find love under the mistletoe, there has long been a tradition of quickly and cheaply produced Christmas movies intended for the kiddies. These movies usually assume that no adult will even attempt to watch the flick, and so all bets are off when it comes to bothering with appealing to anyone with more than two digits in their age.

To better understand the pleasantly cynical take on making some green during your White Christmas, it is not hard to imagine an entrepreneur sitting on his cot, looking up at the ceiling and trying to make two things kids like go together into one entirely new package. In our case, the space race is on, and, heck, who doesn’t like Santa?

Signal Shame Watch: Liz & Dick (2012)

Well, that was most certainly a movie with Lindsay Lohan in various Liz Taylor Halloween get-ups.

I wasn't planning to watch Liz & Dick (2012), the much hyped Lindsay Lohan-as-Liz Taylor biopic, but Twitter was having enough of a field day under the #lizanddick hashtag that I had to check in and see what was what.  And a trainwreck it was, indeed.

I don't actually know anything about the history of Richard Burton and Liz Taylor, and I've only seen a rare few of each of their movies.  Aside from finding each to be fine actors and finding Liz Taylor in her prime quite fetching, I don't know that I've spent as long as the duration of this movie thinking about Liz Taylor and Richard Burton.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Noir Watch: The Set-Up (1949)

This is the third time I'd watched this movie, but every time it's been years apart.  

The Set-Up (1949) is the story of an aging fighter, well past his prime, but still taking to the ring on a low-class circuit, fighting at the bottom of crummy bills in shoddy venues.  Robert Ryan played a lot of heavies, but here he plays the fighter who truly only knows how to do one thing - and that's get up and get back in the ring again and again, not yet shaken off the promise of the one-in-a-million shot, now with much smaller dreams of respectability.  

Audrey Totter plays Julie, the woman in his life who has seen his string of losses and watched every fight, seeing the man she loves beaten and bloodied.  As the movie begins, they've hit a cross-roads - though it's possible Ryan's "Stoker" doesn't yet fully realize the gravity of the situation.

Meanwhile his manager, who can count on Stoker to lose in every bout, takes a pay-off promising Stoker will take a fall, but cuts his own fighter out of the deal, considering it a no-brainer that his guy can't make it and wont' get lucky.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Signal Watch Watches: Skyfall (2012)

The trick with any franchise character is that, after a while, they can take the path* of becoming less a character and more a collection of quirks and ticks that become recognizable to the audience, but there's not really much of anything there behind the catchphrases, costume, etc...  It's pretty common in sitcoms.  And you can sort of tell when a character (or, heck, public persona of a real person) has hit this point when they become readily satirized and spoofed with a few tell-tale signs.

I think, in a lot of ways, Bond had become a sort of nebulous concept of "things that happen in a Bond movie".  Particularly during the tail end of the Moore-era and again in the Pierce Brosnan era, you can blame the actors to some extent, but the scripts and directing never sought to do much but move the Bond-shaped character through Bond-like situations that were pretty awesome when Connery brought it to the big screen, but by the time I was watching Pierce Brosnan driving around in a tank in a tux with perfect hair, I think I hung it up on Bond after GoldenEye.**

I'm not reporting anything new in remarking that Daniel Craig in Casino Royale completely rejuvenated the Bond concept for a lot of us, and despite many missteps that harkened back to the doldrums of circa 1980-era Bond, Quantum of Solace had its moments - even if it didn't live up to the promise of Casino Royale.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Signal Watch Watches: Toy Story 2 (1999)

By 1999, "Buzz" and "Woody" had become household names.  It would be another three years before I'd be skipping out on a day of a conference at Disneyland and stop short, realizing that the two characters were as cemented in the minds of most people as Mickey and Donald when 6'5" versions of Buzz and Woody wandered past me at the Happiest Place on Earth.

In 1999, the sequel to Toy Story arrived and was met with a sort of exclamation point of surprise that somehow - against all expectations - a beloved kid's movie had turned in a sequel that was its own story/ film and which pushed the characters forward with genuine narrative purpose.

There's a certain existential undertone to the Toy Story movies that this film acknowledges, and which the 3rd film fully realizes: toys are a disposable part of a human lifecycle and toys are at the mercy of the giants above them.  Childhood doesn't last forever, and children one day put away toys.  The theme is tied in with the idea presented in the second installment in unwanted fourth wheel toy "The Prospector" who never had an opportunity to be loved by a child, sitting on a shelf somewhere, unsold.

But the toy that's been loved and abandoned?  It tells us that sooner or later, all toys meet a tragic fate of some sort or other.