Saturday, June 19, 2021

Shudder Watch: Psycho Goreman (2020)




Watched:  06/19/2021
Format:  Shudder
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  Steven Kostanski

It's been a minute since I posted.  We had guests for the first time since COVID, and we've been watching a lot of baseball and Ted Lasso, so no movies of late.

It seems Psycho Goreman (2020) is a bit of a cult favorite at the moment among horror aficionados, and I was looking for something fun to watch on my Friday night.  But aside from "sorta like an 80's family movie", "sci-fi alien" and "hilarious", I didn't really know much about it, which is my preference going into most horror.

And, yeah?  It's horror-ish.  Horror adjacent.  Sci-fi.  Comedy.  Something.  

If you remember the many, many post-ET/ post-70's Disney movies about kids finding a wayward alien or bear or whatever that they need to deal with as it turns their world upside down, but also shakes up a family so they remember the meaning of love and family - this is that.   Only... yeah.  It's a winding and unexpected path to get there.

Our lost alien is a nameless "Archduke of Nightmares" who has been buried alive on Earth millennia ago after murdering planets full of alien-people.  He's dug up by accident by a brother and his little sister, who is maybe not wired right, who happen to have a device that will allow them to control the alien.  

I hate to tell much more.  You kinda need to just see the thing for yourself.  

There's other aliens, of varying quality of costume, creature-design and make-up, some of which is shockingly creative and fun, especially as it's 95% practical FX.

But, mostly, I just really dug the tone of the whole thing.  Refreshingly nihilistic, the movie never forgets what it is and always looks for an opportunity to make things worse in some of the most creative ways possible.  It kinda reminds me of the fun old days of Dead Alive, but reduce the gore by 300%.  Have some fun while you watch people exploding.

And, as has been detailed in mostly Godzilla discussion, I like me some chaos at the end of a movie, and this feels like it does that.  Like, I do not want to talk about how we get there or where it goes, but hats off.  

Anyway - this movie is not for everyone, and I expect some people will be offended or not get it or any manner of reactions, but I found it amazingly fun.  

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Ghost Watch: Extra Ordinary (2019)




Watched:  06/12/2021
Format:  Google Play Streaming
Viewing:  First 
Decade:  2010's

A supernatural comedy with an utterly specific and terrific tone, Extra Ordinary (2019) is an Irish comedy about a psychic who'd rather she wasn't, who has chosen a dull existence as a driving instructor until a confluence of events pull her back into the ghost-wrangling work she once performed with her father.

The movie co-stars Will Forte playing an incredibly Will Forte character of a former one-hit wonder and practicer of the Dark Arts who finds himself crossing paths with Rose Dooley, our ghost-wrangler.  

I'm realizing this movie is very hard to talk about without littering the post with spoilers, so just bookmark the movie or add it to your "will watch" column for some night when you need a light, goofy comedy.  



 

Ned Beatty Merges With The Infinite




Actor Ned Beatty has passed at the age of 83.

Beatty looked for all the world like she *should* have been a character actor.  But, instead he played a wild array of characters.  I mean, you've seen Network.  

If you've never seen the 1990 version of Captain America (yes, it's a feature length "movie" of sorts), Beatty is the one competent actor in the whole thing and you wonder what he thought of the final product, if he bothered to ever watch it.  

But as Otis in Superman: The Movie, he's provided me with no shortage of laughs.  It's a perfectly studied comedic part, and he's hilarious whether you're 3 or 43.  

Musical Watch: In the Heights (2021)



Watched:  06/10/2021
Format:  HBOmax
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  Jon M. Chu

A few years back, Jamie and I paid our money and saw a local stage production of In the Heights at the Zach Scott Theatre here in town.  It wasn't a touring show, but it was a professional show with a mix of local talent and hired talent from out of town.  The theater in question struggles, I think, because the audience is on the gray and silver side, and bringing in shows with a hip-hop tinge, or something like Hedwig (which we also saw there) seem to throw off the audiences that still pat themselves on the back for coming in for the Janis Joplin show they do there about three years.  

But the show was solid, not least because the actual source material is what it is.  In the Heights was the work that made Lin Manuel Miranda in the musical theatre world and enabled him to do something as ambitious as Hamilton.  And, I don't think I need to tell you a ton about where that carried him.  

The movie of In the Heights (2021) was supposed to be released summer of 2020, I believe, but was shelved until this summer, and is now enjoying both a theatrical release and a release on HBOmax.  

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Disney Watch: 101 Dalmatians (1961)



Watched:  06/09/2021
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  oh, man.  Who knows?
Decade:  1960's
Directors:  


You ever wonder what people from Dalmatia think about dogs being known better than people from their land?  Like, you live somewhere for thousands of years, and no one can find you on a map, but someone mentions a spotted dog and everyone gets really excited.

Anyway, I also get very excited thinking about spotted dogs, and growing up, this one was a favorite.  It had (a) talking dogs, (b) adventure, and (c) a very funny cat.   I found Cruella DeVil one of the better Disney villains, and since I'm not paying $30 to watch the new Cruella movie, I figured I'd rewatch this one and then maybe the Glenn Close movies.  

The movie is from the period at Disney in which Walt was still alive, but he wasn't really paying much attention to the animated films.  He had his amusement parks, some live action films going, and was letting animation just do its thing.  The Nine Old Men were running things, as near as I can tell.

If I'm being honest, as much as I love the film, you can feel that the story department was given a backseat to the animation department.  The movie is gorgeous, a huge technical achievement, and has phenomenal character animation.  But it's also got some bits that just go on too long and unneeded sequences that you can tell they just really enjoyed making.  The end result is a fairly brief film that has beats that can really drag.  

But, yeah, I still very much like it, but sometimes you do wonder "what is happening here?"  It's not as bad as The Aristocats, which I find unwatchably dull, but...  I do have notes.  

But if I ever get a cat again, I'm naming it Sgt. Tibbs.  

X-Watch: The New Mutants (2020)




Watched:  06/09/2021
Format:  HBOmax
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  Josh Boone

So, way, way back when in the long ago of the mid-80's, I picked up either my first New Mutants comic, or one of my first New Mutants comics, during the "Mutant Massacre" storyline that wove between the X-Titles and a few other comics.  Seeing a bunch of high school kids who were sneaking out and getting involved in the cataclysmic events of the storyline - and absolutely shook by what they saw - absolutely registered with me.  

I was a bit of a New Mutants fan for a few years, but (a) always knew I'd missed the truly weird beginning of the comic series of the actual students at Xavier's Academy, and (b) I became irritated enough with where the comic went post-Claremont that, at some point I wrote my first letter I intended to send in.  However, rather than send in something that was just a list of grievances, I decided "maybe I can just stop reading the comic instead", and did.  I was long gone by that final, Liefeld-fueled phase.

But I genuinely liked those characters, so I didn't want to give up on them when I did.  The New Mutants in the 80's were written as high school kids going through a very weird path to adulthood, but still very much teens.  They didn't have things sorted out, they behaved often like teenagers with petty outbursts, and generally had their own soap opera going on from month to month as they sorted through psychic powers, the death of a friend, and living in the shadow of the X-Men.  But, yeah, they dated, had a rival school they clashed with, and had complicated relationships with their families.

I've since read a collection of the issues that comprised The Demon Bear Saga from which the movie borrows, and it's some pretty good stuff.  Recommended.  

I'm not sure what to make of the movie of The New Mutants (2020).  

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

New Wave Watch: Breathless (1960)




Watched:  06/08/2021
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1960's
Director:  Godard

Sigh.  

Look, I don't dislike "New Wave" exactly, but the one time I watched a Godard movie previously it was so hilariously up it's own ass, it was pretty much unspoofable (for the record, it was Godard's King Lear).  

I've also been aware that thanks to Godard and his buddies, we even have the term "film noir".  They loved the same crime melodramas of the post-war period that I tend to enjoy.  They wrote about them and got people to think about that glut of crime movies in a different way.  

Crawford Watch: Possessed (1947)

 


Watched:  06/07/2021
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM on DVR
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Curtis Bernhardt

I'd watched this one a few years back, and - with more Crawford pics, more Van Heflin, and more cinema in general to inform me about the movie - I very much wanted to revisit the film.  

Much like High Wall, released around the same time and with a fraction of the budget, the movie is interested in the origins, effects and possible solutions to mental disorders.  Unlike High Wall, Possessed (1947) doesn't all feel like a lot of nonsense to give gravity to a standard pulp-derived pot boiler.  

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Teen Watch: High School Hellcats (1958)




Watched:  06/05/2021
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's (and how)
Director:  Edward Bernds


TEENS.

TEEN GIRLS.

TEEN GIRLS IN A GANG.

A gang that TRICKS YOU INTO WEARING SLACKS WHEN THAT IS STRICTLY AGAINST THE DRESS CODE.

High School Hellcats (1958) is part of the post WWII shock and awe that occurred when the Greatest Generation had their own kids, and since we were in our first real generation where kids weren't sent to a field or factory or married off at age 14, we accidentally invented "the teenager", and then, immediately, "the juvenile delinquent" when those teens used their free time and allowances to cause a ruckus by dancing to rock AND roll down at the soda fountain.

This movie is dumb as hell, following the dumber-than-a-bag-of-rocks protagonist/ heroine "Joyce" as she is moved to a new town.  Borrowing from Rebel Without a Cause (3 years earlier), Joyce's parents are distracted with lawyering and Bridge Club, and just want for her to behave, be home for supper and not date boys.  Also, pointedly, for a now kinda not exactly a slip of a girl to not run around the house in her underwear.  In truth, Joyce is a moron and a boor, so you kinda understand why dad wants her on a short leash.

She moves to a new school which is apparently segregated by gender, and she's immediately bullied into joining a gang called "The Hellcats", who seem to both seem hate her and insist on her membership and loyalty.  Yes, they neg her into joining.  Their big initiation is tricking her into wearing pants, which she isn't supposed to do.  When her teacher says "oh, yeah, we don't do that at this school.  Not a huge deal.  Do you have a skirt?" in tears she runs out of the school and seeks solace in the person of a local soda jerk who claims he's going to college and denies having any personal attachments, so he'll just focus on Joyce, thank you.  Entirely on Joyce.*

The gang is made up of some real winners and  insists Joyce get nothing higher than a "D" for a grade, and is otherwise obsessed with parliamentary procedure.  Joyce is all in.  If she's going to randomly decide who to people-please while acting shocked that anyone else has some pretty basic expectations of her as a human, throwing in with the down-slope of the bell curve is absolutely the way to a brighter future.

I'm not clear on what The Hellcats existed to do.  There's no organized crime, there don't seem to be threats of violence from which Joyce needs protection  - except the Hellcats themselves, and then it seems like telling a teacher or principal "hey, those girls just threatened me.  Is this normal?" would start the needed conversation.  We're told the school is crawling with gangs, but...  it's not apparent this is true or why or what for.  So, in the manner of all people searching for a reason to exist when there is none - they really do get hooked on their internal rules.  And as we all know, nothings says "rebel" like coming up with new and arbitrary rules!

Look, this movie is prime quality MST3K/ RiffTrax/ Friday Watch Party material.  At the same time, knowing how sneaky and dumb high schoolers can be (and more than occasionally homicidal), it's hard to say "oh, this is so unbelievable".  Y'all, if you told me all this was based on real events, I'd just say "yeah, okay.  Man, high schoolers are dumb."  Not all of them, but, you know, a LOT of them.  This is where we get dumb adults.  

I HIGHLY recommend High School Hellcats.  It's short, mind-bending, an absolute time-capsule, and shows what happens when you cross a second-banana who knows she's absolutely peaking before graduation.

Out of nowhere, it gets really dark really fast, and just gets darker from there as everyone on screen makes wildly stupid choices but which would make for a keen set-up for Season 2 of Mare of Easttown.

*it's a reminder that back in the day, anyone over the age of 14 was, apparently, fair game.  And why we have certain laws in place.  

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Whoops Watch: Gun Crazy (1950)




Watched:  06/05/2021
Format:  TCM
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1950's
Director:   Joseph H. Lewis

Well, I turned on the TV and Gun Crazy (1950) was on TCM and at the part where an adult Bart meets Annie Laurie at the sideshow, and the next thing I knew I was finishing the movie.  

So, yeah.

Sensible Watch: Sense and Sensibility (1995)




Watched:  06/05/2021
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  1990's
Director:  Ang Lee

It's kinda wild how much the basic structure of a Jane Austen novel doesn't just work for modern audiences, it's still one of the gold standards for how you tell a story about complicated paths to romance.  Parents must be dead or checked out, usually our female protagonist is on the poor side (poor being wildly relative in an 18th Century story about people who weep and weep over moving from their mansion into what seems to be a 2 story, 5 bedroom house, with some amount of domestic help in service).  There's a sexy, fun guy who is a problem, and a seemingly aloof or disjointed fellow who is, of course, the non-threatening right choice.  

There's nothing wrong with it, and unlike Pride and Prejudice, this one doesn't rub it in your face that the lead winds up marrying, like, the literal richest and most eligible possible bachelor (I'm talking movie versions here).  Like, I get that it's all fantasy, but if you want to convince people "money is less important than other characteristics", Sense and Sensibility is probably the better choice.  How hard is it to love a handsome guy with abs who can and wants to provide for your every extravagant desire?*

The talent associated with the movie is insane.  Ang Lee as director, Emma Thompson wrote the script and stars, a career-making early role for Kate Winslet, Alan Rickman, Hugh Grant, Hugh Laurie and an army of "that lady" and "that guy" actors.  

Watching this movie for the first time in quite a while, I enjoyed it a lot more.  And I liked it the first time.  I'm mellowing in my middle-age, and generally being irritated with 18th century class-based social mores is now a framing for a movie for me rather than an overall annoyance that makes me kida side-eye everybody.  

But, look, I'm trying to watch stuff that's a bit out of my wheelhouse.  Not everything is superhero action-comedies and mid-20th Century kinda sexy crime dramas.  And if you're going to check out genres not-meant-for-you, you might as well take in some of the very best.  Plus, anyone who doesn't like Emma Thompson is probably a bad person.  


*I confess I sorta landed the male-fantasy equivalent of this with the wife who is gorgeous, and just wants to play with dogs, watch baseball and Marvel movies and TALK about all of these items

Friday, June 4, 2021

Totter Watch: High Wall (1947)




Watched:  06/03/2021
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  1940's
Director: Curtis Bernhardt

I watched this film a few years ago, and it seemed to bare a re-watch.

In the mid-40's, movies started to dabble a bit in the field of pop psychology.  Now, I'm not a psychologist and I am pretty unfamiliar with the practice, but I do recognize clunky, semi-pedantic approaches to delivering ideas.  And chucking those ideas in the 3rd reel in the name of plot.  

High Wall (1947) is a pretty solid noir mystery that wants to exploit the latest trends in exploring the maze of the human mind, but also has one foot in "I dunno, do some hand waving about some medical stuff to expedite the story" that has always been par for the course for movies (and television).  And, of course, throws medical ethics out the window when a lady gets romance-feelings for a possible murderer.  

Thursday, June 3, 2021

SimonUK Watch: Dead Heat (1988)

Watched:  06/02/2021



Format:  DVD
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1980's
Director:   Mark Goldblatt

In 1987 or 1988, when this movie *should* have been aimed directly at me, I saw the trailer for Dead Heat (1988) and took a hard pass.  I never cared much for Joe Piscopo, and I can say I had no idea who Treat Williams was in 1988.  So, alive or dead, I didn't really care to see a buddy-cop comedy starring these two.

Mostly, I'd totally forgotten this movie existed until about two years ago when Simon suggested I watch it.  But I did remember it.  Joe Piscopo.  Cops.  One of them was dead.  Probably Piscopo.  

So, last night was the first time in a year or so Simon has been to our house for a movie night (hooray, vaccines!).  Si brought an assortment of films, but I decided finally watching this movie was a thing we should do.  

Look, Simon really, really likes this movie and was generous enough to share it with me.  And I will say this - it does have a bonkers final 20 minutes.  I liked the last 20 minutes.  

It is directed by the same guy who directed the 1989 Punisher movie that me and like 20 other people have ever seen.  But apparently he's an amazing editor.  Terminator 2 and other credits.  But, man, it just *feels* like a Corman movie as much or more than anything else that came out of New World Pictures in the late 80's.  

Anyway, Simon really likes this movie, and there's no reason for us to take a knock at it.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Musical Watch: Meet Me in Las Vegas (1956)




Watched:  06/02/2021
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's
Director:  Roy Rowland

Cyd Charisse is Star of the Month on TCM.  We're on record that Cyd Charisse is a pretty good idea in general, and so we're going to watch some of these movies we've not seen before (they're airing on Tuesdays in June).  

This one felt more or less like an excuse for a variety of talents and Vegas floor shows to do a little something here and there in a showcase tucked between the paper-thin story of a Vegas gambler/ rancher and a ballerina who meet and fall in love.  That ballerina is, of course, Charisse.  You won't know the gambler/ rancher.

But the movie also has Agnes Moorehead as an earthy ranchwoman, Jim Backus as a casino manager, George Chakiris as a young romantic, Paul Henreid as Cyd's manager, Frankie Lane as Frankie Lane, and... most exciting of surprises... Lena Horne as Lena Horne.  

It's... dopey and fine.  I don't love it.  Charisse is amazing in every one of her numbers, not the least of which is a "Frankie and Johnny" performance (with narration by Sammy Davis Jr.).  

Anyway, I wouldn't rush out to see it, but it's... fine.


Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Horror Watch Party: Burnt Offerings (1976)




Watched:  06/01/2021
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1970's
Director:  Dan Curtis

I liked this one!  A haunted house movie filmed in the country house I'm familiar with from A View to a Kill.  But Burnt Offerings is in the mode of haunted house film I quite like, from The Haunting to The Shining.  But maybe a lot more indirect than those films?

The cast is small, but contains Burgess Meredith (briefly), Bette Davis, Karen Black, Oliver Reed and Anthony James.  Also, the kid who grew up to become Jeff in Girls Just Want to Have Fun.  

I have also realized talking about the movie any more will spoil it, so I'm gonna shut up.

Phenomenal Movie Watch: Gremlins 2 - The New Batch (1990)




Watched:  05/31/2021
Format:  HBOmax
Viewing:  Oh, god.  Who knows...
Decade:  1990's
Director:  Joe Dante

Surely I've talked about Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990) before.  Or should podcast on it.  

But, yes, I know you all love Gremlins, but this is the better movie by a country mile.  I'm not sure I much more than generally like Gremlins,* but Gremlins 2 is an amazing film on every level.  Not the least of which is a Haviland Morris level (I'm not sure we're supposed to say that out loud, but here you, me and 15-year-old-me are).  

Anyway, Gremlins 2 does not give a @#$%, and you should rewatch it sometime.

*it's fine.  I like watching it every once in a while.

Monday, May 31, 2021

PODCAST: "RoboCop" (1987) - A Signal Watch Canon PodCast w/ JAL & Ryan



Watched:  05/24/2021
Format:  BluRay (Arrow)
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1980's
Director:  Paul Verhoeven



Dead or alive, you're listening to this PodCast! JAL and Ryan stay out of trouble and talk a 1980's sci-fi action drama satire that's way the hell better than it should be. We look at the movie that may have had way more about to say about our present day back in 1987 than near any other sci-fi of the last 50 years. Join us as talk what we love about a movie about a guy we call "Robo".




Music: 
Drive Montage -  Basil Poledouris, RoboCop OST


Signal Watch Canon:

Parker Watch: Point Blank (1967)



Watched:  05/31/2021
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1960's
Director:  John Boorman

It's been some time since I'd revisited Point Blank (1967), and I'm glad I'd had a few years in between.  I'd seen the movie years ago while I was reading the Parker cycle of novels by Richard Stark - maybe the only series I've ever read in its entirety - and this movie is based on the first in the series, The Hunter.  

But it's been a while since I read The Hunter, a book that obviously left an impression on me as I did read the subsequent 20-odd books, and I was able to better separate Point Blank and Boorman's ideas versus constantly running a mental check of how the film and movie differed.  And they absolutely do differ, saying different things.  There's a reason Richard Stark (better known as Donald Westlake) wouldn't allow anyone to use the name "Parker" in a movie, even as he let them adapt the plot and use supporting character names.  Lee Marvin's "Walker" isn't Parker.  And that's fine... It's good, in fact.  

Now, one day I *want* a straight HBO-style treatment of the Parker novels by someone who *gets* it.  Each one is probably worth 3 episodes of something.  But I dig what Boorman did here - that rather than operating from pure rage and cold revenge, Walker may not be exactly sure why he's doing this.  Rather than coming to life and changing motivations after being shot and betrayed, he really did leave something at Alcatraz.

Maybe borrowing from the quasi-non-linear standard of both noir and the Parker novels, Boorman does some interesting stuff here with flash-forwards and flash-backs, maybe stepping it up a bit to do in shorthand what noir traditionally would do in extended scenes.  There's a lot of exposition that has to be delivered, and it's a smooth way to do it - but in the case of the film versus the book, Walker seems to have had warmth at one point and feelings for Lynn.  He attends things like "reunions" and seems to have had loyalties and friendships - all of which is not in him when he escapes death.  He may have been fearsome before, but now he's something else, unrecognizable even to himself. 

Anyway, I'm sure I've talked about Point Blank a few times.  Several years ago I attended Noir City in San Francisco where they'd invited up Angie Dickinson who spoke about the movie and Lee Marvin (and looked like a million bucks).   It's just a favorite at this point, and I definitely recommend it.


Sunday, May 30, 2021

Inexplicable Watch: Tammy and the T-Rex (1994)




Watched:  05/30/2021
Format:  Shudder
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1990's
Director:  Stewart Raffill

Until very recently, in whatever spot in my brain that houses barely-remembered covers of VHS tapes from my college years, I had filed Tammy and the T-Rex (1994) as a children's movie.  It is NOT.  And I wonder how many parents put this on for their kids without realizing what it is.

I've seen it, and I can't tell you what it is.

Apparently the copy going around that I saw on Shudder is the original cut of the movie, which may have been seen in Italy.  The American version was cut down to PG-13, but this version is definitely an R for gratuitous gore.  This version's titles also insist this is "Tanny and the T-Rex".  I don't know if the word "Tammy" in Italian means something else or just sounded strange.  Or was a type-o.  I'd believe anything, because no one in this movie is trying.  It's not the kind of movie where people did try.

Regret Watch: Star Trek V - The Final Frontier (1989)




Watched:  05/29/2021
Format:  Amazon Prime
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  1980's
Director:  William Shatner

I always like me some Trek, but the last time I watched this movie was in 1989, and it was the last time I saw it for a reason.  

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier is a weird mess of a film, with no coherent plot or threat, or goal.  Coming off the Star Trek II - IV trilogy, which had run the gamut from revenge-driven space battle to whale wrangling comedy, coming up with what was next for our crew as they now had The Next Generation nipping at their heels was going to be a tall order. And, over and over again, the movie just fails to deliver as an adventure, a sci-fi premise, a philosophical exploration or a comedy.  

Horror Watch: Maniac Cop (1988)




Watched:  05/30/2021
Format:  Shudder
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1980's
Director:  William Lustig

Guys.  Guys.  Two guesses what this movie is about.

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Catch-Up Neo-Noir Watch: Layer Cake (2004)




Watched:  05/28/2021
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2000's
Director:  Matthew Vaughn

For a moment there, Britain was exporting some hip crime movies that Americans decided were a pretty good idea.  For a number of reasons, I missed Layer Cake (2004) when it hit the States in the summer of 2005.  And just never saw it afterwards.  Which is crazy.  We're Daniel Craig fans in this house.

It's a plot-heavy, occasionally cheeky gangster movie that served as an accidentally good pairing with The Brothers Rico, which I'd watched the night before.  Both films are about guys who are doing well enough in legitimate business that they want to leave the life behind them - but in Layer Cake, we aren't there yet.  We're just considering retiring after years packaging and selling cocaine in London when our nameless lead, played by Daniel Craig (and - it's clear this is the movie that inspired someone to give him Bond), gets pulled in as an errand boy by his boss, to find a missing girl and to broker a deal with a wild-card hoodlum who has a million hits of ecstacy he's stumbled into and is looking to sell.  

Noir Watch: The Brothers Rico (1957)




Watched:  05/27/2021
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's
Director:  Phil Karlson

For gangster and crime film fans, there's a lot to like in The Brothers Rico (1957), and I have to wonder how many future gangster pictures were influenced by this one.  A story about family loyalty, gang loyalty, and where the two intersect, it's a tough picture.

Fortunately, it stars Richard Conte, who plays Eddie Rico, the eldest brother, pitch perfect.  A former mob accountant, Eddie's gotten out, left NYC and is running a laundry company handling industrial jobs like hotels.  He's married to a girl from the old neighborhood who talked him into getting out - and he's domesticated and ready to adopt a child when he's reminded he's still taking orders from New York.  And on the heels of that, he finds his brothers have been involved in a hit, and aren't following the mobster playbook.  One of them fell in love and grew a conscience.  

Throw in an old school Italian mother (Argentina Brunetti) who sees her ties to the mob as a good thing for she and her family, when not genuflecting, and it's more than the usual mob story, and hints at what's coming in mob fiction.  

There's no white-knight cop in this, nor any sign of law enforcement.  Nor is there anywhere to go where the New York mob hasn't syndicated operations.  As noir, it's about a character's belief in people, despite the fact they run a system that was always murderous, violent and corrupt.  He may have walked away as a friend in his mind, but he had never truly walked away - especially with his brothers remaining entangled.

There are some phenomenal scenes in the film (Conte waiting all day with the local boss in his hotel room), and Conte's scenes with his mother.

But at the end of the day, the film has a very weird Hollywood ending that just doesn't fit everything we saw before.  And absolutely can't have been what was in the original novel by Simenon or in the original screenplay.  

Still, worth watching.  Sometimes it feels positively modern.

Monday, May 24, 2021

PODCAST: "The Descent" (2005) - a Signal Watch Canon PodCast with SimonUK and Ryan



Watched:  05/18/2021
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2000's
Director:  Neil Marshall



Simon and Ryan delve deep and explore the dark passageways of one of Simon's favourite films. You never know what lurks around all the corners and what we'll take a bite out of next as we ponder the first big success by director Neil Marshall.




Music:
Into the Cavern - David Julyan, The Descent OST
Alone - David Julyan, The Descent OST


Signal Watch Canon:

Noir Watch: Phantom Lady (1944)




Watched:  05/22/2021
Format:  BluRay (Arrow)
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Robert Siodmak
Producer:  Joan Harrison

I enjoyed this movie a lot the first time, but *really* liked it on a second viewing.

I just picked up the book Phantom Lady:  Hollywood Producer Joan Harrison, the Woman Behind Hitchcock - and as I finished chapter 1, figured I might as well re-watch another of Harrison's movies.  

The "phantom lady" of the title does not refer to my Canadian girlfriend I swear I had in high school.  Instead - the film follows a man who has hit a sour spot with his wife and is out on the town having a drink, when he meets a woman who is, herself, distraught, but doesn't want to talk about it.  Agreeing not to share names, the two spend an evening on the town (there's no romance, just companionship), but when he arrives home, his wife is dead and the cops are waiting for him.  

No, I don't know how the cops knew to be there.

The man admits he and his wife were quarreling, and when the man can't turn up "the phantom lady", he's off to jail and a swift trial.  

His secretary, Ella Raines, isn't buying it and starts up her own investigation, with the support of cop Thomas Gomez and her boss's best pal, Franchot Tone, just returned from Brazil.

The movie looks great with classic noir high-contrast lighting, but also some interesting ideas in set design (Tone's apartment) and framing (the famed "erotic" drumming sequence).  I don't particularly want to list every scene and how and why it works, but the thread pulling everything together is Ella Raines' "Kansas", the intrepid secretary who won't let injustice lie, at threat to her life and limb - but she's also smarter than the average bear.  

She's no Marlowe - she's operating out of loyalty and a long-hidden love for her employer, not as a professional detective with a sense of duty.  But that makes her interest and drive all the more buyable.  And I think Ella Raines - whose career was curiously short for someone who was starring in good films - is pretty terrific here, playing some challenging stuff.

Anyhoo - glad to watch it again.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Noir Watch: Touch of Evil (1958)




Watched:  05/22/2021
Format:  Noir Alley on DVR
Viewing:  Unknown - 4th?
Decade:  1950's
Director:  Orson Welles

Jesus, this movie.  

For anyone who wants to talk about the great days of America and imagines the 1950's as some period of Leave It To Beaver simplicity, knowing that the era could also produce a movie that every corrupt cop movie has tried to stand up to since is a hell of a reality check.  In an era where even the noir films were being relit for eventual television distribution (less in content than in visuals), Welles' final Hollywood backed opus hits some of the darkest notes in a noir of the entire era.  

I've written before about how anxious Touch of Evil (1958) makes me, and that's still true.  I'd previously attributed most of that anxiety to the frustration and sympathy with Janet Leigh's young bride character who seems to be (a) the only one with a clear-eyed view of the situation, (b) in absolute peril from multiple forms of assault, and (c) utterly ignored by the macho men playing cops and robbers around her - she's an absolute prop, even to her own husband.

SPOILERS

Monday, May 17, 2021

80's Cult Watch: Eating Raoul (1982)




Watched:  05/17/2021
Format:  TCM on DVR from forever ago
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1980's
Director:  Paul Bartel

Well, I loved this movie.  

Ridiculous, mean-spirited and a lot of fun - what else can you want from a 1980's pop black comedy made on the edge of the Hollywood studio system?  It's also a fascinating time capsule of the long-gone sub-cultures of the 1980's - the Boomer's own fascination with pop-nostalgia and the fetishization of everything from the 50's and early 60's in everything from media to decor to glassware.  

But also the fascination with the oddities of conformity often at odds with the excesses of the 70's and into the 1980's.  

Writer/ Director Paul Bartel plays one half of a husband and wife team - the other half played by former Warhol-girl Mary Woronov.  If I had to explain what the two are playing to a Millennial or Gen-Z'er, it'd be a little difficult to get the full context across, but they're weirdly like two drones from a 1950's sitcom in a sexless marriage sleeping in separate beds - and totally happy-ish.  If only they could raise the money they need for their restaurant.  

Unfortunately, Paul and Mary live in an apartment building that is also filled with swingers parties, which they see as perverse and beyond the pale - but where else could they move with so little money?

One night fate deals them a hand in the form of a swinger's party guest who Paul kills (somewhat nonchalantly) with a cast iron pan when the guest tries to force himself on Mary.  Pocketing the man's money and easily disposing of the body, and inspired by a dominatrix who was at the swinger's party they realize - hey, this could be a business.  And place an ad as a honeytrap so they can knock off "degenerates" and take their money.  Soon, the titular Raoul is involved and assisting in removing the bodies.

Anyway - it's all pretty nuts, and sold completely through Paul and Mary's even-keeled deadpan delivery.  Of course everyone along the way is, in contrast, not matching their energy and LA over-the-top, and it makes for phenomenal intentional camp. 

It's some seriously dark comedy, and the tone is not going to sit well with everyone.  There's also constant and unremarked upon threat of sexual assault to Mary.  And, of course, sociopathic murder every few minutes.  So, just be aware of what you're getting into.

The movie has cameos by Buck Henry, Edie McClurg and Ed Begley Jr.  But, it also stars Robert Beltran as Raoul before he'd go on to play Chakotay on Star Trek Voyager.  

btw - I was actually familiar with the Paul and Mary characters from their brief appearance in opening scenes from the Corman-produced goofy "horror" favorite, The Chopping Mall.  

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Thriller Watch: The Two Mrs. Carrolls (1947)




Watched:  05/16/2021
Format:  TCM on DVR from forever ago
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Peter Godfrey


Well, we often talk about how you can see the roots of Lifetime movies in the films of the past, and I'd certainly argue The Two Mrs. Carrolls (1947) absolutely fits the bill here.  

SPOILERS

This one wants to be a slow-burn gothic thriller/ murder story, and has a collection of the pieces necessary, but it's so... wacky, it plays better as near-camp in 2021.  Stanwyck is a woman inperiled, but, by god, she's going to look like a million bucks in Edith Head gowns while bed-ridden and menaced by her own husband.  

Knowing nothing about the movie ahead of time, I thought I'd signed us up for a melodrama - which is fine, but not my jam so much - about a man stuck in a loveless marriage who meets a woman he does love.  Instead, we figure our Mr. Carroll has, instead, murdered his first wife with whom he has a ridiculously precocious child, so he will be free to marry Stanwyck.  The slow death of his wife as he poisons her also gives him fuel for a now famous painting of his wife as "The Angel of Death".  

Well, all is well til Bogart starts a tryst with Alexis Smith (who looks amazing here in some outstanding outfits), and he starts up on the "better murder the wife" scheme again.  

I mean, it's the kind of movie where I confidently shouted, "lady, get outta there" at the TV, and felt fine doing so.  It's not that Stanwyck isn't doing a good job of look terrified that her husband is likely slowly murdering her, but that the whole set-up feels kind of bananas and complete with a set of supporting characters that feel like someone shook them out of a pre-war comedy.  

Also - everyone but Bogart is supposed to be English, and for some reason Stanwyck just sounds like Stanwyck.  

I had a good time watching the film - it's paced well, has a lot of tension baked in, and you certainly feel for Stanwyck as she figures out what's happening.  And Smith and Stanwyck's outfits in the overly ornate set are something to behold.  But Bogart is playing wild-eyed crazy and hoo-boy, did he need to dial it back some.   And, of course, his character is The King of Red Flags.

But, at least he got to just be crazy and not have a lot of goofy "we explain crazy as a brain science problem!" couching like we'd see soon after.

And, hey, Alexis Smith can really rock a leopard print coat, is my big takeway from the movie.

Neo-Noir Watch: The Limey (1999)



Watched:  05/16/2021
Format:  Amazon Prime Streaming
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1990's
Director:  Steven Soderbergh

This is a catch-up watch, one of about ten crime movies from this era I didn't see because life is not always what it should be. 

Anyway, I was so distracted, I didn't know who was in the cast or that this was a Soderbergh movie - and I like Soderbergh movies.  All I knew was "Terence Stamp tearing shit up for 90 minutes".  And, indeed, that is true.  But, The Limey (1999) also features Peter Fonda, the perpetually underutilized Lesley Ann Warren, Luis Guzman, and an uncredited but terrific Bill Duke.  

Friday, May 14, 2021

Noir Watch: I Love Trouble (1948)




Watched:  05/12/2021
Format:  TCM Film Fest
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's
Director:   S. Sylvan Simon

I'd actually had a bit of trouble tracking down I Love Trouble (1948), a film I'd seen often referenced in writing about noir, but it just never crossed my path.  I've seen reference to the film being lost for a few decades, but TCM was able to air it as part of the 2021 TCMFF.  Honestly - the print is not great, but I've seen worse.  

The plot itself is a windy murder mystery and from the same school as a Chandler mystery, but with more than a hint of Hammett.  The cast is headlined by Franchot Tone, a guy who was a bug movie star at one point, but I tend to know as "that guy who was married to Joan Crawford in the 1930's"*.  

I absolutely cannot talk about the plot without spoiling the movie - other than it's very much a quality gumshoe caper with all the trimmings.  Tone as our shamus is actually rock solid here.  I liked what he did as "Stuart Bailey" - an enjoyable riff on a familiar sort of tune, and playing the fast-talking PI with the moral code working his way through the underbelly of society.  

He's joined by a bunch of actors you've likely never heard of - although noiristas will remember Janis Carter from Night Editor, Adele Jergens from Armored Car Robbery, Glenda Farrell from Little Caesar, Steven Geray from Gilda, and Tom Powers from... everything.  

I'd love to see this one again sometime to enjoy watching it work rather than keeping up with details of the mystery.  



*I mean, well done sir

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Watch Party Watch: Space Truckers (1996)


 

Watched:  05/11/2021
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  First (complete viewing)
Decade:  oh, so 1990's
Director:  Stuart Gordon

Way back around 2001 or 2002, one day I noticed a movie called Space Truckers (1996) was showing on HBO.  If you've been hanging around this blog since 2003, then you know:  I immediately tuned over and caught something like 30 minutes of it.

I was shocked to see name actors Stephen Dorff, Dennis Hopper and Debi Mazar in what appeared to be a mid-budget sci-fi comedy that I'd never heard of, galivanting around space in a long-haul space-truck.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

80's Watch: Fletch (1985)




Watched:  05/11/2021
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  unknown
Decade:  1980's
Director:  Michael Ritchie


I mean, it's Fletch (1985).  

I think eventually we're supposed to do this on the podcast, so I'll hold thoughts til then.

Noir Watch: The Won't Believe Me (1947)




Watched:  05/08/2021
Format:  TCM Film Fest 
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  1940's
Director:   Irving Pichel

I actually watched a cut of this film fairly recently (just in October), so I'm not inclined to write this up again.  What I will say is that this was a more fully restored cut with several extra minutes that fleshed out the characters and whatnot.  And - as happens often - while I certainly liked it the first time, I enjoyed the film even more on a second go-round, which confirmed my feelings on it from the first viewing.  

Honestly, I thought the movie flew by at the extended 95 minutes from 80 and I figure this is the cut I'll reach for if I'm watching the film again.  


Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Watch Party Watch: The Apple (1980) - @#$% this movie




Watched:  05/07/2021
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  First (and last)
Decade:  1980's
Director:  Menahem Golan

Well, I've now seen The Apple (1980), the sci-fi, near-future dystopian musical religious and political allegory.  And while watching, this is roughly how I felt:

Monday, May 10, 2021

PODCAST: Amadeus (1984) - a Signal Watch Canon Episode w/ Alfredo and Ryan




Watched:  05/03/2021
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1980's
Director:  Milos Foman


Alfredo returns to discuss a movie that goes way back to make a household name a lot more understandable to us modern folk. It's a fabricated fantasia of a biopic about two guys with very different skill levels at their jobs, competition in the workplace, and what happens when you get notes on too many notes. Join Alfredo and Ryan as we take on a cinema classic, and get a little classical ourselves.



Music:  
Written by WA Mozart, scored by Neville Mariner, performed by St. Martin in the Fields
Symphony No. 25 in G Minor. K. 183 & Requiem Confutatis
Rock me Amadeus - Falco, Falco 3


Signal Watch Canon:

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Doc Watch: The Last Blockbuster (2020)




Watched:  05/08/2021
Format:  Netflix
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's


This one was kind of weird.  And this post is mostly about how much I hated Blockbuster and didn't care when it folded.

Look, by the time Blockbuster Video went out of business, I'd intentionally not gone of my own free will into a Blockbuster in 10 years and had pretty much broken with Blockbuster as far back as the mid 1990's.  

So, a feature length doc talking about the death of Blockbuster as some sort of tragedy that was just an accident but something we all loved?  I was pausing the movie and making Jamie listen to me as I debated the film's non-stop nostalgia and love of the corporate behemoth, which - starting in the summer of 1994, I saw as actually very bad for movies when I tried to rent Breakfast at Tiffany's and (a) the clerk had never heard of it, and (b) looked it up and explained to me they used to have it, but they got rid of it.  But they did have 45 copies of Pauly Shore in Son In Law.  

Like, you don't have to be a snob to find that a little sad.

Neo-Noir Watch: The Grifters (1990)




Watched:  05/08/2021
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1990's
Director:  Stephen Frears

Just in time for Mother's Day I finally (finally!) watched the 1990 film, The Grifters.

SPOILERS

Friday, May 7, 2021

Friday Night Watch Party - The Apple


We are going out on a high note!  By going for the lowest note.  Universally reviled, and from what I've seen, this looks truly, truly terrible - we're watching this sci-fi musical whatever it is.  

Anyway, this if the final Friday, so join us in the dark future of 1994 for a rock'n'roll fantasy that is sure to, uh... anyway.  It's a movie! 

Day:  05/07/2021
Time:  8:30 Central



Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Trek/ Cattrall Watch: Star Trek VI - The Undiscovered Country (1991)




Watched:  05/02/2021
Format:  Amazon Prime Streaming
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1990's
Director:  Nicholas Meyer

This is... my third favorite Trek movie?  Pretty remarkable for a movie that has very few ship-fetish shots and plays like a 3-part episode of the TV series.  But, man, it just works.  

I believe it was advertised as the final movie for the original crew from Star Trek before The Next Generation gang took over, but as an excitable 16 year old, I thought "nah, they just got their mojo back on this one.  They'll make more."*  

So, yeah, shocker, I am into a tight murder mystery set in space with the fate of the galaxy in the balance.  Throw in ship-to-ship combat, several rad supporting cast members beyond the usual crew, plus Sulu as Captain of his own ship (and, my god, had they just given Takei a spin-off series back then...), \more wildly over-the-top Klingons in the form of Plummer's Shakespeare spouting warrior, Chang (love everything about this character) -  and it's like Trek was just punching "Ryan will like this" buttons.  

And, of course, Kim Cattrall as Lt. Valeris.

Monday, May 3, 2021

Watch Party Watch: Teen Witch (1989)




Watched:  04/30/2021
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  1980's
Director:  I don't care


We're wrapping up our Friday Night Watch Parties this coming week, and maybe that's all for the best.  For - I may never top Teen Witch (1989) as an offering.  It's all downhill from here.  

It's one thing when people make a movie and try and it doesn't live up to expectations.  It's another when you can tell someone was pushing out garbage to take advantage of a place in the market and literally seemed to not care how the movie turned out.  And that's being generous, because the alternative with Teen Witch is to accept that adults made this film and this was their moonshot, and then we have to wonder: do you know how movies work?

Animation Watch: The Mitchells vs the Machines (2021)


Watched:  05/01/2021
Format:  Netflix
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  Michael RiandaJeff Rowe 

I'm not going to bother writing this up.  Another terrific Lord & Miller produced animation with a terrific voice cast.  Hysterical, moving, gorgeously animated...  very glad this is out there.  

But I figure everyone with a Netflix account will have seen it, so just go nuts on your own on this one.

I don't have kids, and I got this one.  I imagine a lot of you parents were choking back some feelings watching this one.

International Watch: The Handmaiden (2016)




Watched:  05/02/2021
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2010's
Director:  Chan-wook Park

Look, this movie is impossible to discuss without spoilers - so, look out

SPOILERS

Saturday, May 1, 2021

2010's Watch: Everybody Wants Some (2016)




Watched:  04/28/2021
Format:  Amazon
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2010's
Director:  Richard Linklater

I remember the trailers for Everybody Wants Some (2016) were almost confusing.  They made no argument for why anyone should get off their ass and get to the theater to see the movie - a film about a bunch of baseball players at the fictional East Texas State University, kind of screwing around, and...  

It seemed the ads almost counted on a knowledge of how Linklater's other movies worked, and counted on you wanting more with different characters.  But in 2016, an all-male cast of dudes acting like dudes seemed almost tone-deaf, and the population who would be nostalgic for the college years circa 1980 was mostly home watching Downton Abbey.  

Honestly, the first fifteen minutes or so - I wasn't sure I was on board.  It *is* an all-male cast being dudes.  I'd like to say college dudes are not that crass, but some sure are, and the things you let slide...