Friday, November 6, 2015

Duke Watch: The Cowboys (1972)

It's interesting to see The Duke in a lead role in a 70's-era Western.  If the 1960's ushered in the modern era of filmmaking and the Spaghetti Western turned the genre on its ear, by the 1972 release of The Cowboys, the western had been fertile territory for telling stories stripped down to their essence.   By the late 1960's and into the 1970's, "realism" in violence on the screen had begun to creep in, or, at least, the horror of being shot had become part of the package.

The Cowboys is a bit of a fascinating movie, maybe not flawlessly executed, but it does double duty as both a coming-of-age film and a reminder of both the lives of our forebears in a fictional context (kids were working stiffs up until the 1940's), and of what we thought of as reasonable content for an all-ages audience in 1972.

In short, the movie would never, ever get made today, and it's likely that showing the movie to kids the same age as the ones in the film, despite the PG rating, would likely get you fired.

Turkey Day 6

Bond-Watch: Spectre (2015)

So, I'm not entirely certain how to write about this film, because it is absolutely a continuation of the last three Bond movies, which I enjoyed a lot, but I can't say I've rewatched them a dozen times.  So, first recommendation - while you don't have to have seen the last few movies (there's exposition), if you have time to rewatch them real fast before showing up, certainly can't hurt.

Luckily, I've seen Skyfall a few times, so I remembered, for example why that building in the middle of London had a hole in it.

I also don't want to spoil a movie I'm certain most of you will go see.  So... yeah.  But, in general, Jamie, SimonUK (who loves Bond the way I love Superman), and Jake all liked the movie okay.  Well, not Jake.  He fell asleep.  Long day for Jake.

You guys likely know I'm a fan of Daniel Craig as Bond and the current take on the franchise.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Signal Watch Reads: Hocus Pocus by Kurt Vonnegut (audiobook)

When listening to an audiobook of a Kurt Vonnegut novel, something I've now done about 5 times, I'm always acutely aware that I'm missing the doodles and whatnot that sometimes appear in Vonnegut's work.  The truth is, I do most of my "reading" these days via Audible, so I've always accepted that if I want to "read" any Vonnegut before I die, I'm okay with the compromise.

I actually finished this book a week ago and just realized today I'd never written anything about it.  And, here's a secret - my audience for this blog is myself.  I more or less write up posts so I have some time to think about whatever I just watched or read, so I have an opportunity to break it up a bit and not just let media wash over me, watch it or read it and forget it.

For good or ill, I also haven't read anything new yet, so it's still relatively fresh.

This book arrived late in Vonnegut's career, published in 1990, his second to last book.

Turkey Day 3

Evil Dead Watch: Ash vs. Evil Dead Season 1, Episode 1

It was with absolutely zero trepidation that I plunked down my subscription for the otherwise seemingly useless Starz channels that I could watch the new TV series, Ash vs. Evil Dead.  I'm not a grade-A screwhead, but I am a fan of the Evil Dead movies, star Bruce Campbell and director Sam Raimi.

We also get Dana DeLorenzo and Ray Santiago as the new generation to ride shotgun with Ash.

It certainly didn't hurt my decision to get onboard that the show would co-star Lucy Lawless, who - spoilers - does not actually appear in the pilot aside from her credit.  So, sorry about that.

What the pilot does have is a remarkable mix of comedy and horror in the Evil Dead 2 tradition, a supporting cast that seems to fit well into the Evil Dead spirit, and a parallel storyline with actress Jill Marie Jones, who looks vaguely familiar because she was briefly on Sleepy Hollow.

I don't really know what you people want to hear.  It's a first episode, and much like Supergirl, it's working itself out as a show, but it's one that will rely perhaps on less of a single tone for the characters.  Because if Bruce Campbell has figured anything out in this life, it's how to be Ash and what will make his fans cheer.  The show is a hard-MA or R rating, and the gore factor is tuned up to Evil Dead 2 levels with improbable amounts of blood in the human body, and Raimi clearly happy to exploit CGI to get more creative exploding heads and whatnot.  While the non-practical FX take a beat to adjust to, of course it makes sense that the show would exploit the potential there.

Ash seems to have accidentally unleashed hell on Earth once again, but rather than doing so in a secluded cabin, he's let it out in suburban Michigan in a way that, frankly, it seems surprising he hasn't done in the previous 30 years since the events of Evil Dead 2 and his return to the world, which we can pin to 1985, meaning his return from Army of Darkness occurred during the correct timeframe.

Anyway, I'm pretty much in the bag for this one, so don't expect a lot of critical viewing of this show.  My biggest fear was it would be neither funny nor scary, and before we ever even get the title up, bother were more than taken care of.

Oh, the show must have drawn in a massive flood of Starz subscribers, because it was renewed before it ever even aired.  So, look forward to two seasons of Evil Dead mayhem.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Supergirl TV Watch: Season 1, Episode 2

Okay.  As I suspected it might be, Episode 2 was a far cry better than the pilot.  So, everybody settle the heck down.

Yes, the episode was still rife with issues within the episode, and it's hard to see how some of the story elements are going to avoid narrative traps and holes, but I wasn't just grimacing my way through the episode and, despite the bleached out lighting and utter lack of eyebrows on Calista Flockhart (she had eyebrows in the 90's.  I suspect Harrison Ford has taken them.), her dialog wasn't just setting me on the edge this go-round.

I don't get why DC Entertainment can't seem to decide what the hell the "S" stands for.  You just spent millions on an ad campaign telling people the "S" stood for "Hope" and now you're saying it stands for "Stronger Together", which is kinda corporate-retreaty-trust-fallsy.  Hope was fine.  I was kind of telling my TV "please don't do this...  please just say 'Hope' and move on."  But, nope.  This is why people wind up hating comics.

Turkey Day 2

Sunday, November 1, 2015

"Preacher" trailer arrives from AMC

The first trailer has arrived for AMC's adaptation of the 90's Vertigo comics series, Preacher.

Here you go:

The series was written by Garth Ennis with art by Steve Dillon for, I believe, every regular issue and most of the Preacher one-shots, back when DC had a wing that was responsible for actually doing some fairly creative things under the watchful eye of Vertigo mastermind Karen Berger.

I don't write about his work a lot, and I probably should, but sometimes I think Garth Ennis is the last of that 90's-era bunch who has managed to stick it out, continue to get better specifically at comics writing, and is the last of the generation that believed comics were on an upward climb toward telling stories that people would care about rather than churning through nostalgia, giving comics form to internet memes, and maybe becoming a respectable form of literature rather than pop-culture artifact and detritus.

Sure, he dabbles in some of that, too, but even when Ennis has written superheroes, he's written some really damn good superheroes, from his stint on Hitman (his Superman/ Tommy Monaghan interactions were pure gold), and he did some excellent work with Punisher.   I may not have found The Boys particularly my thing, but, man, any war comic he does is well worth the read.  War Stories and Battlefields are both just absolutely stellar titles, as well as his work with Enemy Ace at DC and Phantom Eagle at Marvel.

He's able to swing effortlessly between some jet black gallows humor, shocking violence and genuinely heartfelt moments, often all in the same comic.

In short - he's one of the best writers working today, and maybe ever, in comics.

To say that Preacher spoke rather well to me when it hit the stands while I was in college is a bit of an understatement.  Between Preacher and Morrison's Invisibles, I felt like I was getting made-to-order comics, or - more realistically - comics that gave me something new I didn't know I'd be interested in.

Where The Invisibles sometimes lost me in British or dated references I couldn't yet follow, Preacher - despite (or especially because it was) the fact that the creators weren't American or Texan - made a hell of a lot of sense to me.  Scenes took place all over, but the heart of the comic was in Texas, with roots in Louisiana.  Scenes took place on Congress Avenue in Austin and just outside The Alamo in San Antonio.  I, too, had out of control friends and whatnot.

In retrospect, I hate to say how much influence Preacher and The Invisibles had on my 1997-penned screenplay for Screen Writing class, The Hypothetical Elevator.  I was absolutely unaware of the influence at the time, but, boy howdy - yes.

I'm not sure what to think of a TV series.  Of course I'll give it a shot, and I trust AMC to try to do something interesting with the ideas from the series.  I can see bits and pieces of the characters in the trailer, even if it's clear, already, that they have no intention of sticking with the comics on a page-to-screen basis.  That's fine, it's worked out okay for The Walking Dead.  And you really don't want everyone spoiling the TV series by just picking up the comics - which ran about 75 issues if you include the specials, I guess, and had a concrete conclusion.  No need to get folks deciding that they don't need to watch the show already.

Sure, I will absolutely be tuning in.  Should be colorful stuff if they do anything like the comics, but it's going to be some seriously MA-Rated TV in the process.

Turkey Day 1

it begins...

Happy Halloween 2015 from The Signal Watch