Monday, November 28, 2022

Holiday Watch: Spirited (2022)




Watched:  11/26/2022
Format:  Apple+
Viewing:  First
Director:  Sean Anders

So, at our house, there are two very different stances on Dickens' A Christmas Carol.  To me, the book is a near-religious text and an annual reminder that one can make good on a life ill-lived, that every year is a chance for change and a reminder of how we can improve the lot of those around us.  We are a product of our lives, but at the end of the day, it's the choices we make daily that define how we impact the world.  To Jamie, it's this thing that's on at Christmas that people keep remaking as movies of varying quality.  I think both of these viewpoints are true.  

I'll need to give it another viewing, but it's possible Spirited (2022) will enter the very nichey canon of my favorite adaptations of the story, which include the George C. Scott version, the Patrick Stewart version, Muppets Christmas Carol and Scrooged.  Given the way this year's Thanksgiving has gone down, I may just be raw and in need of a boost that this movie provided, but here we are.

While I'm more than done with movies investigating the mechanics behind Santa's operations (Fred Clause and Arthur Christmas are maybe my highlight of that genre), no one had really taken on the same idea with A Christmas Carol.  And if I'm being honest with myself, I don't know if I'd put any thought into it other than it's a ghost story and this is how they work.

The movie follows The Ghost of Christmas Present (Ferrell) as he has another successful Christmas haunting someone into goodness, could retire now but won't, and wants to take on a case marked "Irredeemable" in the file - as in, no amount of haunting will help this guy.  We're treated to a view of the operations for the ghosts, which includes plenty of research, design and development.     

But, look, you're either in for Ryan Reynolds and Will Ferrell turned up to 11 or you're not going to like it.  It's a smart enough movie to know Scrooged owns the modern update and namechecks the movie as events unfold, but it also knows there's more to explore about how (a) being better doesn't happen as a single lightning flash, and (b) it doesn't mean you don't live with your worst choices.  

That said, it's a comedy.  And a funny one, even if it takes the familiar path to a pretty dark place for our Perp.  The leads are joined by Tracey Morgan voicing the Ghost of Christmas Future and Sunita Mani  (who I think is great) as GC Past. The comedy is a weird meix of awkward Will Ferrellisms and Ryan Reynolds' patented rapidfire delivery, but as character stuff, it works.

And, look, this movie is also a musical, and a lavish one at that.  The songs are maybe less memorable than they could be (minus Good Afternoon, which I would have lost my mind over in 8th grade.  Or at age 47).  But, man... the dancing going on in the movie is insane.  

Again - I need to watch this again, but I think I liked it a lot.  There's some stuff that really gets at the core of the Dickens material, so you know it's been properly vetted and understood in a way not every Scrooge movie goes for.  

   


Saturday, November 26, 2022

PodCast 222: "Home Alone 1 & 2" (1990, 1992) - Holidays 2022 w/ SimonUK and Ryan


 

Watched:  11/05 and 11/12/2022
Format:  Disney+
Viewing: Second/ First
Decade:  1990's
Director:  Christopher Columbus




Simon and Ryan ponder two of the biggest money makers of the 1990's, a pair of movies that caught the world by surprise and took cartoon violence, family strife, abandonment, and hanging with old people and found their Christmas box office miracle. As the movies are now staples of the Holiday, we take a look to see what's under the tree. Will we get a sweet present or hit in the face with a @#$%ing bowling ball?

Fairy Tale Watch: Disenchanted (2022)





Watched:  11/24/2022
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  First
Director:  Adam Shankman

If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story. - Orson Welles

There's a lot of good in Disenchanted (2022), but it's a weird film.  Perhaps it's an unnecessary film?  

As much as I, too, wondered how Giselle - she of the cartoon kingdom - was going to adjust as a fish-out-of-water in New York, a fairy tale princess who now has to live in the Big Apple in a place with varying races, religions, opinions, illness, war, injustice...   I'm kind of wondering now - Maybe we didn't need to check in?  Maybe "happily ever after" is the ending this story needed.  After all, this movie starts to push on the edges of what it means to live happily ever after as it continues the tale of Giselle and Robert as it asks "what next?  What about ennui?  What about missing one's homeland and the way in which they were raised?  Isn't life deeply imperfect?"

I don't think it's wrong to limit the challenges of the movie to teen-angst, mean moms, commutes sucking and other suburban and relatable concerns within the control and world of your average schmo.  We have enough to deal with when it comes to the magical challenges of the film that will fill the runtime and primary concerns of the movie's A-plot.  

Charles Schulz at 100




Today marks the 100th birthday of cartoonist Charles Schulz, creator of pop culture force, comic strip and animation favorite Peanuts.  

The Peanuts characters are embedded into American and Western culture in ways that will mean they last for a few more generations at minimum - becoming indelibly associated with holidays thanks to cartoons playing each year for the past nearly 60 years.  These days, the cartoons live on over on Apple+, but there's also plenty of decoration and ornamentation that includes the staple characters, and who doesn't know the beats and moments of the specials, even if just by osmosis?

When Apollo 10 was mounting up, NASA asked to use Snoopy as their safety mascot.  Since, they've adopted Snoopy as a mascot for safety writ large and just kind of in general.  Even as we cross this 100th birthday, there's a Snoopy doll floating around inside Artemis as it circles the moon.  That's pretty amazing.  

Of course it all started with a comic strip, and Schulz drew almost 18,000 installments over 50 years.  He created household names, concepts (Lucy pulling the football away, kite-eating trees), brought diversity to the comics page and delivered a lot of joy into people's lives.  In an era of splintered interests, it's hard to understand how something like a daily comic strip could cross generational, geographic and sociological divides as a surprisingly smart reflection of the world.  

Schulz himself went by "Sparky", a name picked up from a comic strip, Barney Google (Spark Plug was the name of a horse in the strip).  He had comics in his blood and managed to keep his strip on track, and the translations of his characters to other media remarkably consistent.  It's hard to imagine fifty years of work, but he did it.  And the strips still run in papers across the country.

Schulz passed on February 12, 2000, but here we are, with Snoopy circling the moon.  Let's hope there's a Snoopy snack bar when folks are living up there.






Friday, November 25, 2022

Noir Watch: City of Fear (1959)




Watched:  11/19/2022
Format:  TCM Noir Alley
Viewing:  First
Director:  Irving Lerner

A low-budget crime thriller noir for the nuclear age!  Now this would be stretched into eight episodes of prestige TV, but this taught 81 minute film uses short-hand and focuses on the minute-by-minute crisis that unfolds when a pair of prisoners use a riot as cover to escape, believing they've smuggled out a canister of heroin that they think was being used to experiment on prisoners (there's your exciting B-plot as a brave journalist blows the lid off this story!  But not in this movie.).  

But that ain't heroin.  Vince Edwards - our POV character and an all-around-heel - has accidentally grabbed a sealed container of the highly radioactive Cobalt-60.  

Vince Edwards was a pusher before he got popped, and now he's looking to unload what he things is a fortune in horse and make good his escape, and maybe have his frankly foxy and loyal-to-a-fault girlfriend (Patricia Blair) catch up with him.  

Meanwhile, the cops, FBI and various other federal agencies are on the hunt as Edwards has no idea what he has, or that if he manages to open the sealed container, he's going to wipe out LA (see that title, City of Fear).  

In general, the movie is better than a lot of poverty row pictures, and while it feels cheap for a movie, if this were TV in 1959, it'd look and sound swell.  It has a soundtrack by a young Jerry Goldsmith, and it is definitely Jerry Goldsmith, so it feels oddly highbrow if you've been trained to enjoy his scores.  

I don't know if this is a recommended film, but it's a great curiosity of a picture.  Kiss Me Deadly does the nuclear bit perhaps better, but this one gets the threat in front of you minute one and stays focused, making you cringe every time Edwards tries to crack the canister.  And you fully get why the cops agonize over what to tell the public as a public alarm seems necessary, but may also f'-up their search and cause undue calamity if they can find that canister first.

Anyway - not all bad!  



Monday, November 21, 2022

Fairy Tale Watch: Enchanted (2007)


Watched:  11/29/2022
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  First
Director:  Kevin Lima

Jamie wanted to watch the new straight-to-Disney+ Disenchanted, and I said "I've never seen Enchanted (2007), though."   This led to some small debate.  Jamie had seen it, and thought that we'd seen it together (we had not) and so we had some comedic back and forth before she gave up and let me just put on Enchanted to see if it would ring any bells.  

I had not seen it.

Look, I don't care.  Amy Adams and Idina Menzel are in both movies, so I'd watch whatever.  But it's nice to start at the start.  I'm assuming Jamie saw the first one with her secret boyfriend.

I'm glad Enchanted was still a Disney movie and didn't feel like it needed to go "edgy".  I think I've kind of seen the joke of running sweet characters through a PG-13 meat grinder enough, and, instead, welcome bringing some of that Princess magic to the real world.  Sure, there's a version of this that's double-entredres and boner jokes that one could make and I might chuckle at, but - and maybe I'm a horrible person - but I never feel like they go dark enough if that's what they want to do.  And the results are usually kind of dumb.  As a result, I found charm in the high road version of this film (even if it absolutely winked at the audience on a key idea about the importance of a kiss).  

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Noir Watch: This Gun For Hire (1942)




Watched:  11/18/2022
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  Unknown
Director:  Frank Tuttle

It's probably the only Noir-vember watch party screening we were going to work in this year, but I'm glad we did this one for Veronica Lake on the week of her 100th birthday.  

Anyway, I'm positive we've written this one up before.  Go watch it.  It's ground zero for a lot of the "assassin who seems that way because he's detached from humanity" stuff you see in everything from Le Samurai to any number of American films where an assassin comes to grips with the fact they might be human.

Curiously, not many more movies where they decide "Gorton's Fisherman" is a hot look for a lady.

PODCAST 221: "Batman: Mask of the Phantasm" (1993) - in memoriam, Kevin Conroy - w/ Stuart and Ryan



Watched:  11/18/2022
Format:  HBOmax
Viewing: Unknown
Decade:  1990's
Director:  Kevin Altieri, Boyd Kirkland, Frank Paur



Stuart and Ryan get together to discuss the 1993 animated film that featured the voice talent of Kevin Conroy, the voice of Batman to multiple generations. We talk about the performances, art, and craft of the 1990's animated Batman material, and the tremendous impact of the cartoon and Conroy.


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Music:
Main Title - Shirley Walker, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm 


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