Sunday, January 29, 2017
The Alamo Ritz was showing The Dark Crystal (1982) in 70mm, and while I like The Dark Crystal, Jamie is a bonafide fan of the movie. No lie, in this case, Jamie appreciates The Muppets on a much deeper level than me.
There's no reason for me to re-hash the plot or tell you anything you already know. If you grew up within a certain age-range, it's highly likely you saw this weirdo movie at some point. But even as a kid I think I always appreciated the movie as a technical achievement and artistry writ large more than I got really into the characters and their issues. And tonight, after 35 years of seeing this movie on and off, I think I figured out why.
Jen is a total weiner.
Monday, January 2, 2017
Welcome to the 2016 Krypto Awards. This isn't just for movies, but that's where we're gonna start - by looking back at the Good, Bad and Ugly of 2016 movie-watching here at The Signal Watch. If you haven't seen our post on what all we watched this year, numbers-wise, you can check it out here.
It's tough to say "Best Picture" means a whole lot, but we'll try to narrow it down some. We're only really talking about the movies we saw for the first time in 2016, which really narrows the field here from 160+ to 88 films.
Of course, we didn't just want to heap congrats on things we adored. We kind of hated some things this year, so we'd be negligent if we didn't discuss what didn't work for us and take some cheap shots on our way out the door.
So - Let's get to it.
Time to crunch the numbers.
In 2016 I tagged every movie I watched from beginning to end with "Movies 2016". I did not include movies I only watched in part. I also did not include any Hallmark Channel holiday movies as I intended to do a post on those movies, but once again did not get my act together.
It is likely this is off by a count here or there, as I am not too worried about this being 100% accurate, but a snapshot of what I watched this year.
To view my numbers and a complete list of movies, you can look at the spreadsheet by clicking on this link.
We'll talk about the actual movies themselves in a follow-up post.
Total times a movie was watched: 165
Movies "new to me": 88
My goal for this year was to watch more movies that would be new to me, and I actually managed to watch a majority of new movies instead of just watching old movies as comfort food. If I re-watched a movie that was new to me (example: Rogue One), it only counted once as a "new" movie. So I think I did okay.
Given how much baseball I wound up watching this year, the number of movies I watched in October while I know I was watching tons of ball - I kind of wonder how much I left the house that month. But I do think it helps account for why I watched roughly 20 fewer movies this year than last year.
My last movie of the year I knew about well ahead of time. Way back in September or so, SimonUK and I made a pledge to see Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) together, and by November realized that it wasn't going to be us hand-in-hand on opening night as SimonUK actually works at the Alamo Drafthouse, and would be taking orders and whatnot during the first week, more or less non-stop. So, we made a date for New Year's Eve Day.
I knew I'd see this movie again in the theater unless it dropped to Episode I depths (the only Star Wars I've only seen through once is Revenge of the Sith).
I've already written this movie up, so I'll keep my comments to what I noticed on the second screening.
Saturday, December 31, 2016
Before the year (and my break) ended, I wanted to watch a couple of films as we say good-bye to a pair of women we're all going to miss.
No write up. It was actually great seeing them both in their pivotal roles again. We'll have these films forever, even if we've lost the women who made them.
Thursday, December 29, 2016
On the social medias, Jake asked me if I thought Never Say Never Again was better than Octopussy, and I told him I'd think about it. I'm gonna go with "Octopussy is the clearly more fun of the two movies, but Never Say Never Again is the better-thought-out and probably smarter movie. Less clowns." But what I will say is that both are much better than Moore's final outing as 007, A View to a Kill (1985).
"But, Signal Watch," you say. "That's the first one I saw in the theater! It was fun! Christopher Walken!" Yes. Those are all *facts*. It's why you're nostalgic for this movie. But, my friends, I am sorry to say - this was not a great movie. In fact - it was a bad movie.
What it does have is a killer theme song, courtesy Duran Duran + John Barry. The video is a bit weird as Rhino didn't seem to have rights to anything but the song itself, so, no the video is not broken. Just wait til the 1:17 mark for audio.
As I mentioned with Octopussy, it feels as if View to a Kill was made for children, which is weird, because Bond is still humping his way across the Northern Hemisphere and killing people. So it's likely meant to be some entertainment Dad can take the kids to see and not feel too bad, and lord knows my mom dropped me and my brother off to see this one in the theater with no parental supervision.
Tuesday, December 27, 2016
Jamie wanted to finally see this rogue James Bond movie - and try as I might, I never quite remember the details of how this movie came to be. I know the ownership of the character - filmwise - was under contention or something, and that problem continued until they settled their differences and we got Casino Royale. So all's well that ends well.
But this film is not by the Brocollis or at MGM. As the film's credits rolled at the end, Talia Shire gets a special credit as a consultant to the producer, her husband, Jack Schwartzman. Always glad to see Talia Shire is keeping busy. And, of course, it starred a 53-year-old Sean Connery (really in terrific shape) coming back to the role that made him.
I was shocked to figure out I had never seen Never Say Never Again (1983), making this one of three I am positive I've never seen all the way through. Or, if I have seen it, I have totally forgotten it, but that seems marginally unlikely as I've realized here and there what I've seen before as we've gone along.
Friday, December 23, 2016
I'm not going to write this up, because... well, whatever. It's Christmas. I got stuff I'd rather be doing. But this movie was better than I thought it would be, and has some pretty funny stuff for the adults in a family-friendly/PG way.
I am kind of sick of the paramilitary strike force elf idea which seemed everywhere a few years ago, but if you can grit your teeth through the first part, lots of pay-off.
The fact that La La Land (2016) even exists may be the most stunning thing about it. In a movie that should draw out superlatives about near every aspect of the film, that in an era of pre-awareness and Oscar Bait that usually equates to "who can tell the saddest kinda true story (but we cut so much stuff out)?" filling theaters in December - really, it's astounding to see anyone financing something there's no guarantee anyone will show up to see. While Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are two of the best of their generation, the era of "star power" guaranteeing a hit is long over.
Hollywood still puts out the occasional musical, adapting a Broadway show here or there (example - Chicago or Hairspray), or the forthcoming melding of CG and live action with Beauty and The Beast. Moulin Rouge may be the last original musical, and that was a collection of pop songs sung in period dress.
But this is a new movie, not an adaptation. It's a fantasy of Los Angeles as the epic backdrop large enough for the widescreen adaptation of lives as they play in our heads, saturated in Technicolor, all the other players happy background roles as we cast ourselves as the protagonists in the romantic, astounding story of our lives. And that's more than okay.
Before we even get started, I'm curious what JAL has to say on this film, as I thought of him many times during and afterwards as I've worked on this write-up.
Look, I don't know much about dating. It's been a while - but if you're looking for a movie to see with someone you just started seeing? Hot tip: La La Land.
Tuesday, December 20, 2016
I've seen Miracle on 34th Street (1947) probably a dozen times, so it seems unlikely I haven't written it up before. If you've never watched it, or the 1990's version, you should know that the 1990's version is mostly a treacly, charmless exercise in unearned sentimentality. Which is weird, because the cast is pretty good, so you have to just dislike the changes to the story and the bland direction.
Monday, December 19, 2016
When those of us who grew up with the original Star Wars trilogy thought of what might happen in the long-awaited prequels, I strongly suspect most of us expected something a bit more like Rogue One (2016). We'd only received glimpses of the pre-Luke Skywalker past, embedded in the story we'd heard about the Clone Wars, an Anakin Skywalker who was supposed to be some sort of edgy fighter pilot who becomes a Jedi... I was expecting three movies that took place against the backdrop of The Clone Wars, which always sounded pretty rough, at least in my head.
I'd also observe - Much as the superhero comics we read grew up with us, I think maybe I was expecting a Star Wars that acknowledged the conflict from which Episode IV sprang and maybe cut a little deeper - maybe had a bit of a rough and tumble edge that Ewok-laden finales may have foregone.
So, I think it's true that the content and execution of the three Prequel films surprised a lot of us.
Rogue One, the second of these films directed by the generation that grew up on them, expands upon what we know, creating far less continuity difficulty than Lucas introduced in the Prequels, brings back familiar sights and sounds, while filling in gaps and giving us all new adventures and characters. In this, I think you can say it succeeds with a solid A-, B+ (I spotted an issue or two, and my pal Matt brought one up I thought actually a pretty salient point).
That's not to say Rogue One hits all the right notes or was exactly what I was expecting (it wasn't). It's interesting to see Disney seeking to expand upon the seemingly vast universe Star Wars always promised, but which we could only visit in 150 minute increments. Here, they risk tonal differences, deliver only bits of familiar characters and try something a little uncomfortable, and, for the most part, they succeed.
Sunday, December 18, 2016
Way back in the long, long ago of 1988, I saw Scrooged in a sold-out theater on opening weekend.
There's not much else to tell. I remember liking it well enough at the time, felt it was funnier than I expected, and went on with my life. Sure, I've seen it a number of times over the years since then - enough so I couldn't even roughly guess. And, it's one of those movies I'll watch just parts of as I flip channels.
But the thing is - and I don't know if I'm going out a limb saying this - Scrooged is a very, very good movie. It is. I don't mean that it's a really funny movie, though it is that. Stepbrothers makes me laugh like a loon, but it's not necessarily a *good* movie although it succeeds at its goals. But I tend to think of Scrooged less as a lightweight holiday comedy (see: Christmas with the Kranks. Or, do not.), and more of a solid entry in the movies that earn a place in the Christmas movie pantheon.
And, it just might be the best to-film adaptation of A Christmas Carol.
Thursday, December 15, 2016
Of all the Bond movies, this is the one I'd argue is the one most made for 13-year-old boys. It's got James Bond fighting Russians, engaging with a circus, dressing as a clown, gorilla, roustabout and knife-thrower within about 45 minutes of runtime. There's an all-girl island, a castle escape and a submarine that looks like a crocodile.
Not maybe coincidentally, I think I liked this one a lot more when I was 13 than when I was 41.
And, of course, the lead of the movie is the titular Octopussy (1983), a name sure to drive everyone into peels of uncontrollable giggling.
This isn't, by any stretch, one of the best Bond movies, and it may be one of the least memorable Bond films in general. It has a couple of good set-pieces, and a few set-pieces that probably sounded better than they were in execution, but mostly the plot is a bit whispy and blandly convoluted.
Tuesday, December 13, 2016
I've really embraced the idea that Die Hard (1988) is a Christmas movie.
In theory it takes place on Christmas Eve despite the fact the Nakatomi Corporation is having its holiday party on Christmas Eve, which... What Dickensian rules is your company playing by? And why is Holly leaving her kids at home with her poor nanny who probably has friends and family of her own she'd rather be with?
Monday, December 12, 2016
I had no intention of watching either of these movies this weekend, but we have basic cable and they were on. I have no further real explanation for what happened. I guess after watching X-Men: Apocalypse, it was just x-destined to x-be.
At this point, watching these early X-films serves as an interesting view of the state of the art for superhero films circa 2000 and 2003.
One mission I have for this site is to be the old guy telling the kids how it was back in the day - and if you're not pushing 40, you're not old enough to remember what breakthrough movies the first two X-films were for superhero comic books moving to the big screen. It's hard to understand in a universe with an Ant-Man movie what it was like to see Marvel's cinematic efforts suddenly take off after decades of embarrassing and half-assed attempts. It still wasn't Iron Man, which would totally change the game, but it was significant.
X-Men (2000) arrived shortly after Blade (1998) made a little-known (even by comic fans) character into a pretty great cinematic action hero. It didn't hurt that Wesley Snipes was pretty awesome in the role and he killed so, so many draculas. I still remember how nuts the crowd went for Blade when I saw it opening weekend, cheering and yelling in all the right places.
I was cautiously optimistic about X-Men. I knew director Bryan Singer from his 90's-classic Usual Suspects, a crime thriller that had garnered good reviews and rode the hip-crime-movie wave started by Tarantino to pretty great box office. It seemed inconceivable a superhero movie would receive a director of that sort as "serious" directors did not take on superheroes, or - at least they made it clear it was a lark for a paycheck.
But clearly X-Men was different.
Sunday, December 11, 2016
We were asked to review Cry of the City (1948) by NathanC over at Texas Public Radio.
Click on over there and read my review and Nathan's review of Boomerang (which I've never seen, but now I want to). A thousand thank-you's to Nathan. I had a great time watching the film (which I really, really liked. But I also think Mature and Conte are Mitchum cool.), and it was a great pleasure getting to contribute to TPR.org.
I'll post a draft of the review here in the future, but for now, please do click over to TPR.org
Saturday, December 10, 2016
In many ways, the entire point of this movie is to show how Charles Xavier lost his hair. I mean, they had to do it sometime, so why not at the two-hour, ten minute mark of a very, very long movie where nothing really works very well?
I got into superhero comics when I was about 11 or 12, right about the time of the Mutant Massacre storyline in X-Men, X-Factor and New Mutants. Of the literally 10's of 1000's of comics I've read, the comics I read in that first year or two are pretty well burned into my brain. Just before I got into comics, the villain Apocalypse made his first appearance in X-Factor, and would show up again to exploit the injured Warren Worthington III, aka: Angel, and make him into the 1980's requisite "Wolverine of the group" when he returned to X-Factor. I actually really liked those comics.
The movie is set in it's own version of events, but that isn't so much a bug as a feature. While it's not the worst movie I've ever seen, it's just so weighed down with characters and not-terribly-interesting plot developments and a runtime it doesn't earn, it's hard to get excited about the movie.
Sunday, December 4, 2016
No lie, Jimmy Stewart is one of my favorite actors of all time. I've thought the guy was brilliant since high school when I caught Harvey on VHS. The Shop Around the Corner (1940) is a bit of pre-war brilliance on Stewart's part, working from a pretty great script under a renowned director and with an excellent cast working as a team.
It's true the movie is steeped in social constructs of the early 20th Century, and so may be dated in too many ways for many viewers, but I tend to think the conflicts and humor of the movie transcends those qualities. It's not a sweeping, amazing movie, but it is a good movie for putting on during the Yuletide Season for you and your sweet woogums.
Editor's Note (12/5/2016): Sometimes we sort of half-watch a movie while we're on our computer, and sometimes we aren't paying correct attention. This has, from time to time, meant that we've totally misunderstood plot-points, found movies unengaging, etc...
I was a bit embarrassed to learn from someone via twitter that, despite the fact I thought Christopher Lee was in this movie, he is not. Which is weird. I like Christopher Lee. I know who he is. And I thought it extremely odd he was so lightly used in this film (see below). Which puts me in a bit of a position. What did I watch?
The actor in question is Mike Raven, who bears a passing resemblance to Mr. Lee, especially in facial hair. I'm now genuinely feeling like I did not give the movie a fair chance and may need to give it a whirl again to reconsider. When I am wrong, I am wrong, and I try to be open to that idea, especially when I'm so rudely dismissive to a film, book, what-have-you.
Thanks to Judy Jarvis for the correction.
So, I hated this movie.
I was grabbing a few movies at Vulcan and was looking for Vampire Circus (which they literally only had on VHS, so...) or another Ingrid Pitt movie in their Hammer section and saw they had this sequel, and figured "ah, what the hell. Why not?" And, why not?, indeed.
I'd argue Lust for a Vampire (1971) is boring, overly long, devoid of even psychological drama, has dull leads, and is a poor successor to it's predecessor, The Vampire Lovers. That movie was based on a novel with a few centuries under its belt, and, yeah, this was a fresh story about the same vampire coming back to life and being put in a girls' school. But they replaced Ingrid Pitt as the lead character, which I was willing to accept, and forgot to not just write scene after boring scene where nothing happens.
So, Lust for a Vampire (1971), has some goofy love story where an author falls for Carmilla and so maneuvers his way into teaching at her girls' school where... I dunno. It doesn't matter. Even the sex scenes are awkward and boring, and the vampire scenes don't really exist. Just turning over bodies to see puncture wounds. AND, unbelievably, it features Christopher Lee and he's basically in a supporting role anyone could have filled in. Maybe he was just hanging around?
Saturday, December 3, 2016
Thursday night Jamie and I met up with SimonUK for a Fathom Events screening of Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964). Way, way back in 2012 I watched the movie on BluRay to review the film for Texas Public Radio, and so I see no real need to write the film up again. I'm actually weirdly proud of that review and I don't have much to add.
The screening was actually a RiffTrax performance from 2013, rebroadcast as part of a double-bill with a whole bunch of holiday shorts - originally broadcast in 2009. And as much as I like RiffTrax at home, it can be pretty fun in a theater with lots of other folks, too.