Saturday, September 19, 2015

Dead Watch: The Evil Dead (1981)

As I recently read the Bruce Campbell memoir, If Chins Could Kill, it seemed fitting to revisit the 1981 film that got Campbell in front of audiences, The Evil Dead (1981).

Firstly, for the many of you who have seen the movie before, I picked this up in a restored HD BluRay transfer, and this is by far the best presentation of the movie I've ever seen.  The disc actually had two aspect ratio options for viewing, and I selected the original 1:33/ 1 ratio, because, why would I not?  The 1:88/1 ratio option is weird.

The sound elements and picture elements have been cleaned up enough that the muddiness I've associated with the movie for years have been sharpened up to the point you'd never know this was shot on 16mm.  The colors look great and the dialog has lost that "in a well" quality I felt it had last time I saw the flick, which, honestly was either on cable or VHS.

80's Watch: Repo Man (1984)

I've said it before, and I'll say it again:  Repo Man (1984) may be the best time capsule for a 1980's that's been mostly lost to time.   Co-opted and reprocessed into mall fashion (eat hot death, Hot Topic), and generally been intentionally run over and run into the ground since, the subculture of disaffected, aimless youth of the 1980's has no real footprint remaining aside from the occasional nod to The Circle Jerks somewhere on a music website.  We've sort of made up the 1980's in the image of John Hughes movies and a Reagan's America that doesn't include the nuclear annihilation threat or the stagnant economy.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Signal Watch Reads: If Chins Could Kill, by Bruce Campbell

I'd almost picked this book up at Borders during its hardback, first-release era, and didn't, and was pretty aware if I did buy it, I'd never sit down to read it.  So Bruce never got any of my money from this project, but I was chatting with PaulT about Bruce Campbell, and I think he recommended the book.  Anyway, I thought "well, if he reads it himself, this could be all right."

And, sure enough, in 2010 or so he did record an audiobook version.  It seems the digital version led to a new edition as there are essentially three endings in the audiobook, and I suspect that since the initial book came out in 2002 and we didn't get an audiobook til 2010, and there was a surprisingly lengthy section after I initially thought the book was over with about the book tour, something got added somewhere.

If you don't know Bruce Campbell, he's most famous for his role as Ash in Evil Dead, Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness.  If none of those movies ring a bell, we have nothing to say to one another.  I don't love horror, but its fair to say the Evil Dead trilogy transcends genre and is its own, hard-to-pin-down thing.

Bette Watch: Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964)

I've seen Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? a few times, but somehow never watched the follow-up, Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964).   If you've never seen Baby Jane, first, fix that situation in your life, then come back and finish this blog post.

Let's get this out of the way - the price of admission is worth it just for the cast.  Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland, Agnes Moorehead, Joseph Cotton, and Mary Astor in her final film role before retiring.  It also features a young Bruce Dern, George Kennedy, and even the kid who plays "Dill" in To Kill a Mockingbird shows up for a scene.

This movie isn't a sequel to Baby Jane, but it's definitely a case of a spiritual and creative follow-up to the more famous first film.  And, this movie earned something like 7 Oscar nominations.  Personally, I'm not sure it's quite as good, and it drags quite a bit - something Baby Jane does in spots.

But here's the thing - if you can get through some of that "where is this going?" aspect of the movie, it's a taught melodramatic thriller seeping with creativity and its a true Southern Gothic in the best sense of the idea.   Pair that with the performers recruited for the movie, and you're definitely doing well.

Happy Birthday to Cassandra Peterson (aka: Elvira, Mistress of the Dark)

Happy 64th Birthday to Cassandra Peterson, aka: Elvira, Mistress of the Dark.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Doc Watch: PBS's American Experience - Walt Disney, Part 1

True story.  The first birthday wish I remember making, and I'm not sure that I thought the mechanics of how this would work out or the sheer body horror of it all, but I distinctly remember wishing I'd become Mickey Mouse.  This went on for a few years until I read an article, probably in Dynamite! or something, about the fact there had been an honest-to-god guy named Walt Disney and it wasn't just a brand name like "Buster Brown" or "Cracker Jack".

Then, for a few years, I wished to become Walt Disney.  Then I wanted mutant powers or some such and all that went away.

I had a pretty good idea of what Walt Disney had done for entertainment.  Despite the fact the guy was dead (I was semi-obsessed with the fact that both Walt and Elvis were dead, but very present in our lives) I watched his cartoons, his TV network, his live-action adventure films, went to his amusement parks, watched his nature documentaries and I had a stuffed Mickey Mouse that was a pal.  My interest in animation and the entertainment industry continued, and at some point in high school I bought a Walt Disney biography and read one or two animation histories.  And not all of it was rosy.

In a lot of ways, reading up on Walt Disney was how I learned to reconcile the good with the bad when it comes to the folks we revere.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Super Watch: Superman IV - The Quest for Peace (Master Pancake Theater)

Oh, Superman IV.  You are not a good movie.

Maybe not the worst superhero movie ever put out, Superman IV was victim of severe budget cuts and shortfalls, overly ambitious filmmaking, muddled scripting and editing, and Jon Cryer just being a doofus.  I've written about the movie before.  At length.  So, go read that review.

For something like a decade, Austin has had it's own set of popular movie riffers in Master Pancake Theater.  It's sort of a cultish sort of thing to do in Austin, and they have their loyal legion, and while I like the idea, I've just never gotten off my butt to go see them.  After all, "riffed" movies are not something I've felt I've had a lack of access to in my lifetime after having grown up on Mystery Science Theater 3000 and still enjoying RiffTrax even today.

But I couldn't pass up this week's screening as it was, as you'll have guessed, Superman IV, a movie I have deep affection for, and am all too aware of its limitations.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Rice at Texas Home Opener - UT wins 42-28

After last week's disastrous performance against Notre Dame in South Bend, Texas fans were wondering how Charlie Strong would answer the challenges facing the team with the tools he's got on hand.  The reality of it is that, once that first game starts, it's not like he can go get new players or coaches until the end of the season.  It's a sane situation made crazy by the magical thinking of the sports press who still act as if coaches are grown ups, we're all kids and they will somehow produce magical results to kiss away our fears.

Jerrod Heard freaks us all out by actually adjusting to the situation on the field

Look, UT won this game 42-28.  But, as much of an academic and scholarly powerhouse as Rice University might be, no one has ever accused Rice of being in contention of a national football title.  They're on the schedule out of habit on both sides, because UT needs a team to play to work out some kinks, and because Rice gets some TV dollars out of the deal.

For once, I really do think UT was able to use the Rice game to sort some things out and to get a better feel for where we need to do some work.  The Notre Dame game was only a chance to witness the obvious lesson of "you need to work on looking like a Division I team."