Here in the U.S., it's Memorial Day, a day in which Americans remember those who died in service to the country and a reminder of the sacrifice many have made.
Monday, May 29, 2023
Friday, May 26, 2023
TV Watch: Mrs. Davis (2023)
Let me start by throwing whatever weight I may have to sway your viewing habits (which I assume is zero) into checking out Mrs. Davis, the 8-part TV series currently available on Peacock.
I can provide a cursory description of the show, but it will be just the barest of bones of what the show actually is, as I don't want to spoil anything (yet) and I don't want to mislead anyone.
What I can tell you is that it's somewhat about a nun living in a parallel timeline where 10 years ago and AI came online that can speak directly to people. In the years since its arrival, it's started to end war, famine, poverty, etc... and helped people find personal fulfillment. Maybe.
It also sends people on quests, which, if they succeed means they earn "wings".
Our nun, sister Simone, joined a convent just as the AI was coming into being and hates the AI, which she believes was responsible for the death of her father - a stage magician. As her world is rocked by a rapid series of events, Simone is reunited with a childhood friend, and takes on a mission to take the AI down no matter the cost.
It's an action comedy.
And I love it.
It's also remarkably prescient, given this was filmed some time ago, and released just on the heels of the ChatGPT explosion and very real reconsideration of what AI may do to our cultural landscape, let alone one that speaks directly to an all too willing public. We've all seen sci-fi stuff that seems eerily near-future and predictive, and this is that (in some ways).
I only really know Betty Gilpin from Netflix's wrestling show GLOW where she was amazing and a stand-out even in a cast of stand-outs. But she's quietly one of the funniest actors I can name, effortlessly conveying internal conflicts and spontaneous reactions that are wildly authentic for someone who has been on two fairly over-the-top shows. She's the rock that makes you believe the insanity, all without being a exactly a straight-man to the antics. But definitely our POV of sanity in an insane world.
Or maybe not. In this case, she's just our anchor POV in a world that is clearly mad. She's found her peace living among her sisters, bottling and selling jam. She has a bit of a romantic relationship she keeps to herself.
But the AI needs her, and it doesn't want to be ignored. And when doing things for the AI is the biggest clout-generator on the planet? Man.
Anyway, I am just scratching the surface, but the tone, zig-zagging narrative, willing embrace of total chaos in storytelling - while telling an air-tight, somewhat moving story... man. That's hard to do. All while making me occasionally laugh like a loon (often just Gilpin's "what now...?" expressions get the biggest moments for me). If you told me this is where the show was going from the first episode to the last, I would have been deeply confused, but yet it does it all, seamlessly. And hilariously.
I'll do another spoileriffic post later, but as we enter the long weekend, I wanted to put an offering on the table.
Thursday, May 25, 2023
Noir Watch: Dial 1119 (1950)
Director: Gerald Mayer
I went into this film with low expectations and finished it absolutely knocked over by the script, direction and actors - not to mention the camera work, attention to costume, etc... It's a dynamite package of a movie, and one I'd recommend for folks thinking of character detail done economically.
The movie takes place in near real-time as an escaped psychiatric patient steals a gun on a charter bus and then winds up taking a bar and its patrons hostage while things escalate outside. It's part of the noir subgenre of hostage-dramas that probably started before The Petrified Forest, but found footing there and worked it's way into a thousand scenarios (check our Key Largo if you haven't prior).
The cast is mostly folks who were not mainstream stars in 1950, though some became household names. In it's way, it's an ensemble picture, and feels influenced by theater of the first half of the 20th century, not least of which is the Pulitzer prize winning Time of Your Life. Only interrupted by a psychotic gunman.
Wednesday, May 24, 2023
Icon and Legend Tina Turner Has Merged With the Infinite
In the fall of 1996 I was at a party at Jamie's apartment, and someone said something about Tina Turner being passe, and - in the way only the right number of cocktails can steer you - I found myself giving an impassioned speech about the history, legacy and import of Tina Turner, and that we were lucky to share the planet with her.
I swear to god, I hadn't thought that hard about Tina Turner since sorting through the lyrics to Private Dancer as a kid. I hadn't ever even see What's Love Got To Do With It? because the idea of watching an entertainer I enjoy get beaten by fucking Ike Turner was in no way appealing. I should have seen it (still haven't for same reason. Fuck Ike Turner.)
I guess the speech stuck with Jamie, because a few months later she produced Tina Turner tickets for us to see her at the Alamodome in San Antonio. And, friends, that show was amazing.
The crowd was made up of all demographics. I had never seen the concept of "dress" before, but it was on full display there (I was a dopey 22 year old in college-kid concert clothes) and I immediately got it and was aware I was improperly attired. Folks from the aged to children were in attendance. And Jamie had bought seats at about the 13th row, dead-center facing the stage. The view was phenomenal.
I still think about that show and Nutbush City Limits maybe once a month. And GoldenEye, because, I mean, y'all know me and Bond and Bond themes, and it was wildly sexy, to boot.
In 1984 when Turner exploded back into the pop culture consciousness with the single and video for What's Love Got To Do With It?, I was 9 and pretty much unaware of who she was. I think she'd been on MTV for a while when my dad made mention of "Oh, Tina Turner" and I got that she was not a new act and this was, in fact, a sort of return to prominence for the artist. I sort of vaguely had ideas of what her stage show and persona had been via descriptions from people, but this was all years before YouTube, and so it wasn't until the film came out that I got what she'd been with Ike when TV ran clips.
And then, of course, YouTube had clips pretty early on.
Man, she's just amazing
Admittedly, maybe I should have watched that movie because it wasn't until the 2021 documentary Tina was released that I got the full picture of Turner's life, and of the abuse and career devastation that followed until 1984. I highly recommend the doc, which we discussed when it was released.
Turner was so popular that I never bothered to buy her records until the aforementioned concert. She was just on the radio all the time or on VH1 and MTV. I find it odd that she doesn't get the same play as other 1980's and 1990's artists on oldies stations as she was so a part of the soundtrack of everyday life for so long, and I don't quite get how she's been shelved to the point where I'm not sure folks ten years younger than me get who she was and the scope of her stardom. But she'd also pivoted out of the world of R&B to rock in the 1980's, and that's probably a whole other discussion about rock's legacy.
I'm the guy who thinks she was awesome in Thunderdome, and was welcome wherever she showed up. If I can recommend one record to get, or put on your streaming service of choice, it's Simply the Best. Which is a greatest hits which prominently features one of her best hits, The Best.* Which has been my favorite Turner song for 25 years now. Wowsers.
I can't put my finger on exactly what I liked about Turner. Clearly the stage show I saw cemented her in my mind. But her voice was perfect for both rock and R&B. Her presence was elegant and exuberant at the same time. She was gorgeous and could dance like mad. Really, she was one of the most complete packages of American musical performance talent I can think of.
Turner married a Swiss gentleman quite some time ago, and the pair retired to Switzerland in more recent years. Tina did her farewell tour and sort of stuck to it. I salute that.
In 2021, she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. There's a musical based on her life that's a Broadway show that's now also touring.
I don't think Turner is anywhere near forgotten or will be. Her place is secure for the next several decades.
But, yeah, I'm crushed to hear of her passing. She was the best.
Y'all take some time and listen to some Tina tonight.
*which, yes, Schitt's Creek took the song and made it their own
Tuesday, May 23, 2023
Marvel Watch: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023)
Director: James Gunn
On Friday night I watched the mostly panned Ant-Man & The Wasp: Quantumania, and on Saturday spent an ungodly amount of time discussing the film with Danny for the Superheroes Every Day podcast. Spoiler: it wasn't my favorite movie. And so it was that here, deep in Marvel Phase 5, that I finally saw Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023).
You'd have to listen to the podcast and read between the lines on other posts to know how I feel about Marvel these days. It's an affection, but one that knows where we're at in the scheme of creation and the realization that what always worked will not always work, and that they're now on to properties that have always struggled within the Marvel portfolio, while still not dishing up a Fantastic Four movie that we all know is coming.
As has been largely agreed upon, James Gunn's Guardians of the Galaxy solidified the lessons of Iron Man (and to a lesser extent, Thor) and re-positioned how Marvel designed its films into action-comedies with heart. GotG somehow, against all odds, managed to make you care about a tree with one line of dialog, an asshole space-raccoon, a manchild with knives, a mass-murderer, and a slacker with delusions of grandeur. Plus a redneck pirate! The heart part was a bit surprising as we watched our leads kill a ship full of pirates, etc... Not the usual side of superheroes.
Wednesday, May 17, 2023
PodCast 243: "Gremlins 2" (1990) - a Ryan Canon Film PodCast w/ SimonUK
Director: Joe Dante
Simon and Ryan once again break the three rules and now it's chaos in the big city! Join us as we discuss a sequel that maybe outshines the original and is always a joy to watch. It's a movie that was ahead of its time no matter what year it came out, and a throwback to an era that probably never existed. A satire, a spoof, a comedy and a monster movie. And, of course, it gave us Marla Bloodstone.
|this is a pro-Marla website|
Gremlin Credits - Jerry Goldsmith
New York, New York - Tony Randall and the Moonlight Gremlins Orchestra
Key & Peele - Gremlins 2 Brainstorm
Ryan's Random Cinema
Tuesday, May 16, 2023
Noir Watch: The File on Thelma Jordan (1950)
Director: Robert Siodmak
What's not to like? A Hal B. Wallis production, directed by Robert Siodmak, shot by George Barnes and starring Stanwyck. No notes. Well done.
The movie was written by a pair of women, one on story (Marty Holland) and one on script (Ketti Frings), who understand the assignment and put together characters in trouble before the action even starts.
Wendell Corey plays an Assistant DA, an up-and-comer, whose wife has slotted him as caretaker and figurehead but who has made him a stranger in his own home by refusing to hear him on anything, but in the sweetest and dimmest way, all wrapped up with good intentions. Meanwhile, Stanwyck - at the end of her rope - has moved in with her elderly aunt as a companion. The two meet under boozy circumstances, and soon strike up an affair.
Sunday, May 14, 2023
We Watched Eurovision 2023 (from the US. Texas, no less.)
I will be accused of only watching Eurovision 2023 because this edition was co-hosted by actor/ singer/ performer Hannah Waddingham of Ted Lasso fame. First - how dare you. Second - she looked amazing.
We've all heard of Eurovision, but until recently, it didn't air here in the US that I'm aware of. In recent years we'd see twitter going bananas for it, but it was during daylight and work hours in the US, and it was very unclear what was occurring over there. But folks of all ages and walks of life seemed into it, so I think that piqued the curiosity of some of us.
Right at the start of COVID, I remember watching the Eurovision movie starring Will Ferrell, and it gave me *some* clue as to what was happening and how it worked, but, honestly, raised more questions than it answered.
Saturday, May 13, 2023
Angry Animal Watch: Cocaine Bear (2023)
Director: Elizabeth Banks
EDIT: After posting, I was reminded that Banks also directed Pitch Perfect 2 and Charlie's Angels. I want to thank the commenter here (Nate C!) and the one on tumblr who mentioned this. Also, a big reminder to check IMDB before I hit publish.
Sometimes a movie is exactly what you thought it was going to be, but is also what what you were *hoping* it would be, while also being *better* than what you expected. It's a peculiar equation, but in the middle of this particular triangle of expectation vs. reality, we find Cocaine Bear (2023).
Now, Cocaine Bear is not for everyone. I read a few reviews that were quite cross about "nothing happens, it's just a bunch of sequences". And, sort of. But, also, that's exactly the point. This is a movie about the joy of a rampaging bear fucking people up. And, frankly, if you think the *many, many* movies about people getting picked off one-by-one are deep character work with the bear/ shark/ what-have-you as merely a framework, I have some property to sell you in Arizona. A few are, 90% of them are filling time. Elizabeth Banks, here in her first feature directorial effort, utterly understands the assignment.
Banks cuts out any character development to the "bare" minimum. The bear is not a metaphor. It is not retribution. It is not even a force of nature, for in nature, bears do not do massive amounts of coke. While technically "man vs. nature" is our conflict, nature has consumed massive quantities of cocaine.
Wednesday, May 10, 2023
PodCast242: "Deep Rising" (1998) - An Angry (Sea) Animals PodCast! Jamie, SimonUK and Ryan
Format: Amazon Prime
Director: Stephen Sommers
SimonUK, Jamie and Ryan head for the high seas, and think deep thoughts on things from the deep! We take a look at a forgotten late-90's gem that floats on an ocean of charm and will surprise you from all new angles. Join us as we get aboard this suspence, sci-fi horror voyage!
The Signal Watch PodCast · 242: "Deep Rising" (1998) - An Angry (Sea) Animals PodCast! Jamie, SimonUK and Ryan
Main Titles - Jerry Goldsmith
The Girl from Ipanema - Walter Wanderley
Playlist - Angy Animals
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