Sunday, January 8, 2017
I'd only become aware of the existence of Katherine Johnson and the "computers" at NASA in the early days of the US side of the space-race within the last four or five years. The internet is pretty terrific when it comes to sharing the sort of information that used to get buried in footnotes or left out of the common narratives shared of our history.
I was pleased to find out that our noon-time showing of the movie on a Sunday was sold-out, so at least the folks in my neck of the woods seem interested in hearing what the movie had to say. You never really know how a docu-drama is going to play, but it was interesting how many families had come out to see the movie. And, honestly, it's a good one for the kids to see.
The movie follows the stories of three women who were pioneers in a world that was breaking boundaries as mankind sought to escape the bonds of earth and reach space. And, while no doubt how the realities are framed will be debated, the overriding drama of the film is how these women pushed back against the racism and cultural norms of 1960's America that very much could have stood in their way.
Saturday, January 7, 2017
So, this was one of the Bond movies I was absolutely positive I hadn't seen before. I would have been 14 when it came out, and for the life of me, I have no idea how I missed a Bond movie coming and going over the summer when I was that age, except for family vacations and summer camp colliding to make it difficult. I even remember reading about how this wasn't a typical Bond movie, and that sounded kind of interesting.
But, you know, it didn't work out. Never saw it.
Well, we finally arrived at the second and final Timothy Dalton Bond, and while I will go to the mat supporting Dalton, it's hard to know exactly what was going wrong as they put these things together, but it's an oddball of a movie, certainly. And you can see what they had in mind for this movie, and how the 1980's influenced everything about this movie rather than Bond influencing other action movies as it had once upon a time.
But at least Q actor Desmond Llewelyn got a tropical holiday out of it all.
Friday, January 6, 2017
It's not often I watch a whole Godzilla movie. I probably watched 3/4ths of about 3 or 4 of them last year, but they never showed up on my movie-list as I don't watch them from beginning to end. Usually I stumble in 1/4 of the way in, have no idea what's happening, and just keep on watching.
And that's kinda too bad.
I never quite recovered from missing Shin Godzilla in the theater this year (twice I had tickets! TWICE!), but over Christmas, the El Rey network celebrated the holiday with "Kaiju Christmas", which was something like 36 hours of Godzilla movies. In fact, I wrapped up Christmas Day night watching the second half of Godzilla vs. Destroyah.
I'd never seen Godzilla: Tokyo SOS (2003), but heard it was a fun one, and, indeed it was.
Wednesday, January 4, 2017
This movie doesn't have the best ratings, but there's a lot to like in The Living Daylights (1987). Maybe not everything is grand, and I feel like the back 40 minutes got away from them, but all in all, I enjoyed this the most of any Bond we've watched since For Your Eyes Only.
Look, I may like Roger Moore as much as the next person who grew up with him as Bond, but he made some very, very silly Bond movies (lest we forget Moonraker) and by View to a Kill, I was firmly believed this was a man who should not be running anywhere without a spotter, let alone that Tanya Roberts would be throwing herself at Grandpa Roger. That he did not openly wink at the camera seems somehow unbelievable.
I can't say I need my Bond more grounded. I love The Spy Who Loved Me, and that has a sneaky kidnapping boat and an undersea villain's layer. But I also want it to feel like maybe my Bond is not treating itself like a parody. And with The Living Daylights, we get back to what feels like good old fashioned international intrigue, a plot that holds together very well (if not entirely a mirror to our own world), and makes Bond feel like a secret agent rather than a gentleman who gets into ridiculous scrapes.
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.
Wednesday, December 28, 2016
Actor, singer and dancer Debbie Reynolds has passed. This would be something we'd cover under any normal circumstance, but, of course, Reynolds was also the mother of actor and author Carrie Fisher who left us just yesterday. We can only imagine the tremendous loss Fisher's daughter, Billie Lourde, is experiencing at this moment. She has our sympathies.
Reynolds is most famous for her part in Singin' In the Rain, one of the best remembered musicals of any era in Hollywood (and a heck of a film). A few years back she appeared in Behind the Candelabra, a Liberace biopic, playing Liberace's oft-referred to mom. She was honestly pretty great.
Here's one of the show-stoppers from Singin' In the Rain, with Gene Kelley and Donald O'Connor.
Tuesday, December 27, 2016
We are devastated to say that actor and author Carrie Fisher has passed.
I can't say I knew much about Fisher as a person - same things as everyone else. The Hollywood pedigree, the issues with substance abuse, the biting wit, her dog, Gary.
It had been a very, very long time since I'd re-watched Star Wars, which I did when The Force Awakens was released, and it's amazing to see how darn good she was in that first movie, fluctuating accent and all. I love all the main characters of Star Wars, no doubt, but if my personal collection of Star Wars stuff is any indication, and as longtime readers will probably have figured out, I'm a fan of Princess Leia first and foremost.
And, of course, her life seemed to be on such an upswing of late. She would make Star Wars Episodes VII, VIII and IX, she had a book out that seemed to be moving a lot of copies, and from what I could see on social media, there was a generation of young women who were calling her "Space Mom", properly idolizing the character she'd imbued with tremendous strength, and building her social media army as she embraced them back.
She's leaving behind her daughter, Billie Lourd, a talented actress from what I hear. Her mother, Debbie Reynolds, famed actress of the 20th Century. Gary, too, of course. And all of us, a planet of people who wished her the best not just as Princess Leia, but as Carrie Fisher, too.
I'm shocked she went so young and so suddenly, and I'm genuinely very sad. You'd think this year would have toughened me up a bit. I'm going to miss her on the talk show circuits, freaking out the robo-hosts when she goes on a tangent or drops some truth that makes them uncomfortable, or curls up on one of their over-stuffed couches, her shoes on the floor. I liked this era of Carrie Fisher and General Leia.
She'll always be royalty to me.
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.