Sunday, September 24, 2023

80's Re-Watch: The Naked Gun (1988)




Watched:  09/22/2023
Format:  Max
Viewing:  Unknown
Director:  David Zucker

Great movie or GREATEST MOVIE?




Saturday, September 23, 2023

Sirk Watch: Imitation of Life (1959)



Watched:  09/21/2023
Format:  TCM
Viewing:  Second
Director:  Douglas Sirk

Sometimes you just need a good cry.  This is the movie to make you do it whether you like it or not.

Way back in the mid-90's when I was going through film school, we, of course, had screenings of films.  The movies were curated and representative of a variety of eras, forms, genres, etc...  all tee'd up to illustrate whatever the instructors planned to discuss that week.  It's a weird way to do homework, but we saw some great stuff.  Also, I got to learn to sit with films that were never going to be my cup of tea, especially at age 19 or so.

One of the films shown was Imitation of Life, a 1959 melodrama spanning decades and following a young, widowed white woman, Lora (Lana Turner), who teams up with an African-American single mother, Annie (Juanita Moore), to jointly raise daughters of a similar age.  

It's actually a remake of a film I haven't seen from 1934, starring Claudette Colbert and Louise Beavers.  And one day I'll watch that one, too.

During the same meet-cute where Annie and Lora meet, Steve (John Gavin) appears as a photographer, indirectly getting Lora her first gig and - as this is Lana Turner - deciding to woo her.  Lora welcomes Annie and her daughter into their humble apartment, and as Annie settles into triple role of housekeeper, best friend, co-mother, Lora's dreams of success on the stage suddenly take off. 

Thursday, September 21, 2023

PodCast 253: "Justice League: The New Frontier" (2008) - SimonCanada and Ryan talk Comic Book Movies



Watched:  09/09/2023  
Format:  Max
Viewing:  Unknown.  Probably fourth 
Decade:  2000's
Director:  Dave Bullock




An all-new Simon from an all-new nation joints us on an all new frontier! We talk a 2000's-era comic and animated superhero classic. Join us as we jump back to a different era to look toward a better superhero tomorrow!


SoundCloud 


YouTube


Music:
The Flash Theme - Kevin Manthei, Justice League: New Frontier Soundtrack 
Green Lantern Theme - Kevin Manthei, Justice League: New Frontier Soundtrack 


Playlist: DC Comics and Movies 

Monday, September 18, 2023

Bat Watch: The Dark Knight (2008)




Watched:  09/15/2023
Format:  Drafthouse
Viewing:  Unknown
Director:  Nolan

SimonUK and I attended a 15th Anniversary screening of The Dark Knight, arguably one of two films that set superhero movies on their current trajectory from 2008 (Iron Man being the other), as DC and Marvel made their way from "huh, superheroes are a fun novelty" to "please stop it with the superheroes".

It has been years and years since I've returned to The Dark Knight (see what I did there?!), and there's a lot of water under the bridge.  But it's also a movie I saw so many times between 2008 and 2012 or so that I also have a hard time just slipping back into the movie.  

It still has the wildly confusing discussion at the end, that does, in fact, make sense if you squint and go along with the premise of what will, in fact, sway Gothamites to stand with law and order.  But it's arguable the film needed to be more clear in the moment.  Clearly, Nolan's capable of that messaging - because he really, really sticks the landing on "actually, people aren't murderous trash, Joker, you dick."  But that last scene really scrambles on the whole "Batman went on a murderous rampage, not Harvey" bit so that they make Harvey the symbol of justice as a martyred hero.

It's an odd bit of legacy that the Joker is seen as a "mad dog chasing a car".  He's clearly not that at all in this movie, but we take what people say in movies at face value instead of literally all of the evidence piling up.  He says he's no schemer, but he intentionally gets arrested and sews a bomb into someone's stomach so he can get to the guy in the holding cell in the middle of police headquarters.  I mean, that's... wildly more interesting than Jared Leto's dipshit with the face tattoos.  

But, man, is some of the dialog in this movie clunky.  It's people speaking in trailer quotes and ensuring that their reason for existing as part of this iconography is clearly understood.  Some of it works, but, you have to let yourself sink into the fact that this is a modern myth and not someone's attempt at realism.  We're conveying *ideas* here, not worrying about Batman's inner-life.

Also - man, does the Batmask not work.  I don't know who decided it's essentially a fake nose, but it is.  And in close-up, it looks insane and makes Bale's very normal mouth look very not normal.  Paired with the Bat-voice, it's a lot.

"maybe I don't want to breathe through my nose..."



Despite all this, Ledger's performance is one for the ages.  That's not news.  I should really watch that Joaquin Phoenix movie sometime, because I expected it might suffer by comparison, but apparently did not.  Who knew this guy would become Oscar bait?


Boner.

heh.

Anyway, I still like the movie.  It's not aged into a curiosity quite yet, and it still has massive impact on superhero cinema.  If you look at the myth-building and argument of ethical models as the story, I'm not sure it's been topped.  After all, we're still crawling out from the DCEU that was formed in its image and from a WB who learned all the wrong lessons from this movie's success.  But it also was part of that 2008 one-two punch for a reason.

All that said, I do hope the new Batman movie series and whatever happens with Bats in the Gunn-driven DCU work out.  

I'm still blown away we got what we got out of these films.  And I am sure in a few years I'll be back here defending The Dark Knight Rises.












Sunday, September 17, 2023

TLDR Watch: Babylon (2022)




Watched:  09/15/2023
Format: Prime
Viewing:  First
Director:  Damien Chazelle

So...  

I was aware of several things going into Babylon (2022).  

It's an original story (of sorts) about the late Silent Era of the film industry and beyond.  It's clearly referencing Kenneth Anger's infamous, and not super-accurate, book, Hollywood Babylon, which I have not read, but I did listen to a whole season of You Must Remember this, which covered the subject matter and sought to split fact from legend.

I won't get into the book here, but it's a recounting of possibly/ maybe/ probably-not/ absolutely-not true stories from the era during which the film industry moved to Los Angeles from the East Coast and went kinda bonkers.  Sex, death, drugs, mayhem, etc... followed.  

If you have a casual interest in Hollywood history, even without specific stories to recall, you could be well aware of this era, of meteoric rises and cataclysmic falls of actors and behind-the-camera talent.  It makes today's tabloid stuff look like middle-school melodrama.  And, because Hollywood loves a good story, especially one that sounds true, they've been passed down, year after year until Anger codified them in his book.  And now we have a nice little package that I remember hearing bits and pieces of in college and whatnot.

Going into the movie, I was also aware that the movie was at least three hours.  It was all fictional but referenced the real world of Hollywood from about 1927-1935 or so, and that no one seemed to like the movie all that much.   It had a $110+ million budget, and did poorly at the box office.

Having had now seen the movie, it's a three hour movie that is beautifully shot and acted.  The design is... interesting.  

But it feels so weirdly derivative, the story is delivered by bullet point, and it seems so surprised by things that seem obvious on their face here in the 2020's, that by the film's end - 3 hours later, I have no clue what Chazelle was trying to say or why he wanted to say it.  

If this movie is for a broad audience, it feels too specific in what it's covering while filling in no details to give them the full picture of the era while also taking a very, very long time to get to the point with his storylines, while still not making you ever care about the characters.  

If this movie is for film history buffs, someone with my cursory knowledge is clearly going to wind up with so many questions, their hand will involuntarily raise repeatedly throughout the film.

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

PodCast 252 A & B: "The Flash" (2023) - Earth1 and Earth2 Editions! - Stuart and Ryan talk comic movies



Watched:  09/02/2023
Format:  Max  
Viewing: First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  AndrĂ©s Muschietti



Special Note:  We had a whole adventure where we thought we'd lost the first recording of the podcast.  After purchasing a new computer and recording a second version, we learned we actually had recovered the unprocessed files from the first try.  So, as everything these days is about multiverses, especially The Flash, we're offering both versions.

Earth1
Stuart and Ryan race toward the end of the DCEU as we know it, with this long-in-development, long-delayed, long-discussed movie about a guy who runs pretty quickly, if you look closely. Join Stuart and Ryan as they ponder what wound up as another string of disappointments in DC's long string of disappointing people. And you'll believe a man can quit.

Earth2
Stuart and Ryan race back in time to correct the mistakes of the past! Believing all is lost, they must save the day/ podcast and make sure the world knows all about their Flash opinions! Because these two, unlike Barry Allen, do not see giving up as the best solution.


SoundCloud 

Earth1 Version

Earth2 Version


YouTube

Earth1 Version

Earth2 Version


Music:
Are You Actively Eating That Candy Bar? - Benjamin Wallfisch
Into the Singularity - Benjamin Wallfisch


DC Movies and Television Playlist


Thursday, September 7, 2023

Noir Watch: The Secret Fury (1950)




Watched:  09/05/2023
Format:  TCM
Viewing:  First
Director:  Mel Ferrer


What a weird, weird movie.  

And not *good* weird.  

The movie features the great Claudette Colbert and Signal Watch fave Robert Ryan, but the story itself is a mess, leaning almost to camp.  

Part crime drama, all melodrama, The Secret Fury (1950) follows a society woman (Colbert) moments from saying I do to her beau (Ryan) when someone DOES say "I object", claiming Colbert is already married.  To her knowledge, Colbert has never been married, but when multiple witnesses claim she was married - and not that long ago - she now believes she may have gone mad, losing time.

The very premise, however, makes no sense and is based on the notion that people really get married after knowing each other for about 8 hours, which was quite the Hollywood trope for the first 70 years or so.  And it also assumes Colbert wouldn't see whomever murdered someone right before her eyes.  And that Ryan's character would make a completely unbuyable decision to leave Colbert alone with a strange man claiming to be her husband.

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Vamp Watch: Daughter of Dracula (1972)




Watched:  09/04/2023
Format:  BluRay
Viewing:  First
Director:  Jess Franco

If the 1970's brought us anything in cinema, it was sexy vampires.  I mean, there's no shortage before.  Ask me about Brides of Dracula.  But by the time we got to the 1970's, we had moved into a weird twilight zone of art film/ exploitation film/ horror film where nudity was rampant and sex was not just implied in knowing cut-aways.

As far as I know, of the Jess Franco movies, I'd only ever seen Vampyros Lesbos.  And, somewhat (in)famously, Franco was one of the foremost purveyors of cheap, wandering "horror" films that bordered on a Cinemax late-night entry and what cable would play on weekends in the 1980's while also absolutely existing as in-no-way-scary horror films.

The movie is one of five directed by Franco in 1972 alone.  Whatever the market was, it was quantity over quality, and I suspect few scenes were actually scripted or anyone really did much to prep for the movies after getting a set of fangs, a Dracula cape and a location.  The movie uses a lot of 1970's film language, from racking focus into a scene (usually onto some natural object) and lots of lingering shots of people walking and not saying much.

Sunday, September 3, 2023

PodCast 251: "Drop Dead Fred" (1991) - a SimonUK and Ryan Episode





Watched:  08/28/2023
Format:  Amazon
Viewing:  3rd?
Decade:  1990's
Director:  Ate de Jong




Ryan and his imaginary British friend delve into their respective inner children and try to figure out who is responsible for all the mess. We take a look at an early 90's cable staple!


SoundCloud 


YouTube


Music:
Drop Dead Fred Suite - Randy Edelman 


SimonUK's Cinema Selections!

Monday, August 28, 2023

Riff Watch: Time Chasers (1994)




Watched:  08/27/2023
Format:  Amazon
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1990's

Sooooooooooo.....

Jamie started scrolling through options and decided we were watching *something* by the RiffTrax or MST3K guys.  She settled on something called Time Chasers, which had been covered by MST3K at some point, but RiffTrax had covered it again during a live show a few years back, and that's what we watched.

Look, if this movie was good, it *probably* wouldn't be a RiffTrax selection.  

Edit: hours after watching this, a making-of YouTube video showed up in my algorithm, and I watched the first part.  It turns out, the movie was written and directed by a 19-year-old.  So, I am impressed in some ways.  I assume no real film school, and a lot of moxie.  And yet...

It's a movie that both really takes the concept of time travel seriously and works through the implications, but also has a plot that requires the characters be utter morons who have *not* thought out the implications - such as, hey, maybe selling your time travel device to a corporation could have consequences.  

It's your usual no-budget, big-dreams, let's use all the things we can borrow from friends, sci-fi indie feature that was a staple of MST3K programming and shoot-your-shot movie-making of the era.  Cast with people who were the best to audition, usually with regional accents, and the actress who looked closest to what a Hollywood actress might look like.  

Like a community theater production of a play that you realize isn't quite working, you still want to cheer everyone on.  Until you realize, no one has told anyone involved that this script needed some work, and you're allowed to leave things on the cutting room floor.  

Anyway, you get the picture.  

The Riff is a lot of fun, and I recommend.  

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Arleen Sorkin Merges With The Infinite



Actor and voice actor Atleen Sorkin has passed.

When Batman: The Animated Series premiered back in the early 1990's, I was a skeptical Bat-reader, but literally by the end of the credits, I was in.  By the time I saw Batman getting dragged behind Man-Bat through the skyline of Gotham, I was out of my mind.  In many ways, I think the show is the epitome of Batman as a concept, but it also went beyond adapting a comic and movie concept to a cartoon, it restored and built upon the decades of Bat-mythology.  And chief among those addition was Dr. Harleen Quinzel, aka: Harley Quinn.  

We're still reeling from that addition.  And brought to brilliant life through writing, art, animation and the unforgettable voice of Arleen Sorkin.  

Sorkin was probably best known as an actress as Calliope Jones on Days of Our Lives, where she appeared for decades across hundreds of episodes.  

 As much as comic characters could be identified by their silhouettes, cartoon characters need to be specific and memorable to really work - and that was something voice director Andrea Romano brought to fore with BTAS.  But with Harley Quinn, they'd found absolute gold in Sorkin. 

A face of a Bat-villain might drive a certain thought process, but Harley was new, an invention of the show, and maybe the logical extrapolation of what the difference is between comics and animation - suddenly you can do new things with a voice alone.   For comic fans and Batman fans, Sorkin's voice and character would be the magical ingredient.  A kind of Brooklyn-ese taken to extremes.  Funny, crazy, a little sad.  High energy, with the potential for violence.  A crack in the voice here or there could say it all.  An octave jump something else.  

Anyway, as soon as the show hit and Harley appeared, the doors of fandom were thrown wide open to Harley as a new addition, and she was soon appearing in comics as well as the show.  If there was resistance by die-hard Batfans, those voices were drowned out.  Harley became so popular, DC eventually realized they had to transform her.  No more chasing after a killer clown, seeking his love.  She'd become a sort of agent of chaos within the DCU, sometimes on the side of the angels, and sometimes... less so.

The voice of Harley by Sorkin would go on to survive art changes, changes in leadership in WB animation, and make the jump to video games.  She's the voice you hear in your head when reading the comics, and what Margot Robbie borrowed across three feature films as a live-action version of the character.  

Like Kevin Conroy before her, she passed way too young.  But she also will have left millions of people with the memory of her voice, instantly recognizable, and which will be imitated by others for decades to come.

90's Watch: The Fugitive (1993)




Watched:  08/19/2023
Format:  Max
Viewing:  Unknown
Director:  Andrew Davis

It's hard to convey to The Kids exactly how popular The Fugitive (1993) was upon its release.  I didn't see it for a week or so because it was sold out, but I did finally catch it in the theater, I think with my parents just before I headed off for college.  It went on to get Oscar nominations for Best Picture and other things, but snagged Tommy Lee Jones a Best Supporting actor, cementing Jones in a persona he'd take straight to No Country For Old Men.  

But in the intervening years, I'd argue it's not been forgotten by the original audience, but it's also not a movie I hear people talk about, rewatch as part of any canon, or pass down to The Kids as a pretty good movie.  It had its time as a popular renter and cable staple, but like a lot of movies aimed at a teens-and-up audience of the day, it's just sort of faded as adults don't imprint on movies and make them part of their world-view in the same way as a kid seeing a Star War.  It wasn't part of the character-driven indie movement which would catch fire at this same time, nor was it part of the FX extravaganzas that started appearing in the wake of Jurassic Park, released a few months earlier.  

But, also, even at the time, I thought the movie was just... strange.  These days I have my head wrapped a bit more around how movies work, and I stand with the choices made for this movie.  It's logical and lends a sense of realism to the movie - but, also, the filmmakers decided that our hero would have no friends and no one to talk to for most of the runtime of the film.  So, that weird feeling I had about the movie was really centered on the oddly-loose-fitting fiction-suit that was Richard Kimble.  

Saturday, August 26, 2023

Western Watch: Rio Bravo (1959)




Watched:  08/26/2023
Format:  Max
Viewing:  First
Director:  Howard Hawks

Sometimes a movie just works, and there's a reason that folks keep watching it, decade over decade.  Rio Bravo (1959) has a bit of a reputation as Dean Martin's best role, or at least that's what I recall hearing, and I always assumed I'd get to the movie, but just had not.  

Had I known it also stars Angie Dickinson, I would have gotten to it more quickly.  But it surprised me to learn this was Howard Hawks, not John Ford, and that Leigh Brackett had been involved with the screenplay.  So, you've got a lot of things going for the movie right out of the gate.

I'm also aware that John Wayne is now considered a terrible human by folks younger than myself, but if you want to be mad about (a) things that are likely a myth, and (b) every opinion and attitude of generations prior that do not match your own - we're going to be here all day.  

For going on a decade, I've compared the superhero film to the Western.  It's a broad category encompassing a lot of movies that share common elements, but it's also a dubious and overly broad categorization, and no indicator of quality one way or another.  Plenty of terrible superhero films are released, just as plenty of terrible westerns were made, but there are also great, thoughtful superhero film just as there are phenomenal movies made featuring characters who wear hats and six-shooters.  

Predator Rewatch: Prey (2022)



Watched:  08/25/2023
Format:  Hulu
Viewing:  Second
Director:  Dan Trachtenberg

With the recent announcement that the direct-to-Hulu film, Prey (2022), was coming soon to BluRay and 4K, I wanted to re-evaluate how much I liked the movie, which I had a fondness for on a first viewing.  

On a second viewing, I liked it even more.  There's nothing in the film I thought didn't work.  Lovely stuff.  You can't have this movie without prior Predator films, but it exists as maybe as an exercise in merging more filmic elements with the action film and one enhances the other.  As an 80's-kid, Predator stands tall in my mind alongside Aliens as the merging of sci-fi and high-octane action.  

I'd refer to my first post on the film for a lot of the nuts and bolts of what I thought about the movie.  I won't say that changed much since (checks link) last August.  After a year away, and not watching a movie just to follow it, I want to add additional respect for the cinematography in this movie, the overall acting of the cast, and the soundtrack - which is quite good.  

But, really, it's insane that Amber Midthunder is not slated for a million more things immediately.  She's so fucking good in this, acting more than half the movie against a dog or by herself, and delivering the character in understandable, definitive terms.  When she is with other actors, every bit of it works - and that's a testament to director Dan Trachtenberg and the mostly unknown cast pulled together for the movie.  Anyway, I'm now officially a fan.

There's plenty to say about the story and structure of the film that makes it inherently more interesting than a lot of similar films, from the movie's underdog of a hero to the multitude of threats present in the movie.  But I am sure you can fill in those blanks yourseld.

Anyway - I can currently see the film any time I want on Hulu, so the purchase of a disc may not be in my immediate future, but I'll also be keeping my eye open to see what bonus features get included.  I don't think I did a 2022 movie wrap-up, but it was certainly one of my favorites from last year, and a review tells me that opinion has only doubled-down.








Bob Barker Merges With the Infinite



Bob Barker - the man, the myth, the pal for millions of us having a sick day from school or work - has passed at the age of 99.  

Not a soul in America living in the back quarter of the 20th Century hadn't seen Barker at one point or another, appearing daily on The Price is Right, possibly America's real favorite game show.  Among a hundred different games on the program, and surrounded by "Barker's Beauties", Bob was our genial uncle, walking contestants through the motions and managing chaos with a light chuckle, a peculiarly thin microphone and a voice gifted by the gods. 

Barker was a kind of gentlemen that no longer exists, a part of a different age.  The Kids will have only known the modern, post-modern gameshow host, maybe minus the soon-to-retire Pat Sajack, the guy who can't believe he's hosting a gameshow and refuses to take it seriously.  And while I don't think Barker had any illusions about what he was doing, he was never above it.  

Anyway, never write off a sharp suit, a good haircut and an unflappable demeanor.  

Have your pets spayed or neutered!



Sunday, August 20, 2023

Cubs Watch: Rookie of the Year (1993)




Watched:  08/20/2023
Format:  Max
Viewing:  First
Director:  Daniel Stern

So, every year before baseball starts, I tell myself "I gotta watch The Sandlot and Rookie of the Year", and then, I do not watch them.  I've never doubted they're fine movies, but both came out when I was not really watching non-animated kids movies, and baseball wasn't my jam at the time.

But movies were part of my interest in baseball.  I loved Field of Dreams and Eight Men Out (you have John Sayles to thank for my interest in the sport).  A League of Their Own is one of my "I'll sit and watch this" movies when it comes on TV.  

Anyway, I kind of had an idea of what this movie would be - and it was not that.  It's actually really funny and goofy in a way that sells the absurd concept, bordering on cartoonishness.  In a good way.

TEST 13

 


Testing to test the testy thing.   This is copy.  Copy goes here.

Test 12


Una Chin Riley in engineering, helping out my test

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Happy Birthday, Julie Newmar

 


Happy birthday to 5'11" of a good idea, Julie Newmar.  

Newmar is a star of stage and screen (silver and small), and has left an indelible impression on Batman-fans (as one of the actors to play Catwoman) and movie buffs alike.

She does lots of appearances and is generally out and about, if you can catch her.



Happy Birthday, Madonna Ciccone!



Happy birthday to Ms. Ciccone!

Sounds like she is rapidly recovering from what was reported as a serious illness and has rescheduled her coming tour dates.  That's excellent news.

We're going to put on The Immaculate Collection and be a true blue fan.

Normally I try to post a recent picture of folks I'm wishing a happy birthday, but me and Instagram weren't getting along.  Anyway, for someone who was recently ill, Madonna looks like Madonna.

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

PodCast 250: "Crocodile Dundee" (1986) - a 1980's Watch w/ SimonUK, Jamie & Ryan



Watched:  08/05/2023
Format:  Amazon
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1980's
Director:  Peter Faiman




G'day! We watch this very long Australia tourism promo, ponder the 1980's, New York City, thongs, bidets, sophisticates crushing on hicks, and what it took to be huge 40 years ago. It's a revisit of a massively popular movie and cultural moment! Jump in the boat, make an ox lie down, and ruin someone's party favors. It's a whole scene!


SoundCloud 


YouTube


Music:
Main Titles - Peter Best
Overture from Crocodile Dundee - Peter Best 


SimonUK Cinema Series

Saturday, August 12, 2023

Croc Watch: Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles (2001)




Watched:  08/11/2023
Format:  Amazon 
Viewing:  First
Director:  Some Guy

In 2001, I recall the arrival of Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles and my own reaction of "what?  why?"  

In 1986, I was an enthusiastic viewer of the original Crocodile Dundee and a dutiful watcher of Crocodile Dundee II a scant two years later.  We're releasing a podcast on Crocodile Dundee this week, and after watching, Jamie showed enough curiosity about the threequel that I was willing to give it a go.  Maybe find answers to that "...but why?"

Honestly - I don't think anyone, even Paul Hogan, really knows why they made this movie.  It's not evident from the film that they had a story to tell or anyone was particularly enthusiastic about the idea.  There's no compelling narrative, but a series of listless and sluggish fish-out-of-water gags that make no sense given the 2 years of Dundee in New York, and a few that are just "hey, you'd also be confused if you were in a high end bathroom with a remote with no instructions" wacky moments.  It's essentially trying to repeat gags from the first movie (substitute a jacuzzi tub for a bidet) to worse effect.  

Whereas the first movie is bifurcated between the outback and Manhattan, this movie spends at least 2/3rds in LA.  Weirdly, it tries a framework of Sue being put in charge of the LA bureau by her dad and swiftly uncovers the guy she's replacing was possibly murdered - but... nobody cares.  Not really.  No one mourns the guy who died, and Sue only seems tepidly interested.  If clues didn't keep shoving themselves in her face, she wouldn't care one way or another.  And Mick's interest seems mostly based in having literally nothing better to do.

So, the rest is, like, Mick stabbing an animatronic snake.  Mick meeting Mike Tyson (if this movie hoped for celebrity cameos, all they get is Tyson and George Hamilton).  Mick using magical powers to wrangle a chimp on a set.

If the first film was all about a big city gal finding charm in the ultra-masculinity of a hickish backwoodsman (and fair enough as a plot.  We discuss this in the podcast and we accept it) this movie has only the faintest echo of that charm.  Linda Kozlowski seems disinterested and uncomfortable in her own skin in a way she absolutely was not in the first two films.  It's like she agreed to be in the movie for continuity, but wasn't really *that* interested in being in it, so she's there in body if not in spirit.

But that can be said for everyone.  

The excuse for the plot we compared to Brigadoon.  It would appear every 30 minutes throughout the movie, as if from the mists, and then retreat for Reader's Digest level non-chuckles for incredibly long stretches.  I don't know what the story is, but the pacing of this movie is glacial.  Like every cut has long pauses between lines and way, waaaaaay too long from start of a scene to the punchline, that just never really pays off.  

The director has done stuff I thought was "fine" to "could have been worse" before this.  Here, he must have been doing work-for-hire and running.

Part of the problem is that Mick isn't supposed to be dumb, but he is.  He's supposed to be clever, but he makes mistakes like a dumb asshole who can't read the room and then leaves the room after causing chaos, mostly unaware of what he's done.  That tension worked in the first film and was moot for the second (if memory serves) as they reversed flow and returned to Australia so Mick could become bushwhacking Batman.  But here?  He's been living with a sophisticate for 15 years.  He's just choosing to be a dummy.

Anyway, the gag doesn't work, and that's all it is.  Introducing a kid into the movie doesn't really improve things, and, in fact, signals the "why" of the softening of some of the humor.  Except that this movie also wants you to know it's about Mick being sexy if knife-wielding saddle bags are your jam.  And your kid commenting on a woman's ass is a good, wry chuckle.

Add in some old white guy racism, sexism and the patented queer-panic and transphobia of the first film, and it really may be that Hogan and Co. were stranded in the outback since the mid-80's.  But you gotta hit those same beats from the first film.

I guess I kind of hated this movie.  

Apparently law suits were thrown around about who had written this, but the only reason that happened was because the writers needed full credit for full pay.  They really didn't want to be associated with the film.




Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Superheroes Every Day Guest Spot: Iron Man (2008)



Watched:  07/22/2023
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  Unknown
Director:  John favreau

We guested over at Superheroes Every Day!  

Host Danny Horn was kind enough to have me on for a convo re: the first real Marvel Studios film.

Join us for all three acts of Iron Man (2008)!

Act I:


Act II:


Act III:

Sunday, August 6, 2023

Birthday of Lucille Ball



Today marks the 112th birthday of one of the greatest talents of the 20th Century and a true pioneer, who had an immeasurable impact on the world that continues to be felt every day.

If you're my age, you know Lucille Ball from the one endless reruns of I Love Lucy, one the of the templates for television comedy we're still referencing and still trying to top.  Prior to her show, she was a model and movie star - but wasn't aimed to be one of the greats.  If you've seen any of her films, she seems like she's too big for what they're giving her whether it's a comedy or a drama (she appears in a couple of crime movies I've seen).   But my guess is they didn't know what to do with her in a male-forward Hollywood of the time.  

In musicals and comedies, it's weird to see her not given the lead.  I grew up with Lucy as a huge star, so you're retroactively thinking "why can't they give her more screentime?"  

She honed an act with husband Desi Arnaz, and it more or less created the basis for what would become the show they'd take to the networks.  And much like Seinfeld, because it was her show and not one she was cast for, as it became a hit, she was able to build more and more of an empire, setting up Desilu Studios.  

I was reminded that today was Lucille Ball's birthday by Star Trek social media, who has never forgotten that if it weren't for Lucy championing the show and everything it stands for as head of Desilu Productions, we either get no Star Trek or a very watered down show that wasn't what we think of as Star Trek.  And they're still making that show.

But go back and watch some I Love Lucy.  The show is so... good.  Sure, it's a multi-camera show and it doesn't always fit with everything we expect out of a modern sitcom, but in addition to being a female-led show (and produced as Lucy was very involved in *everything*, more so than Desi) it's amazing to see how we're still working bits from the show now.   It's a classic for a reason.

And, very indirectly, Ball is responsible for TCM.  When the network was coming together and they recruited Robert Osbourne to be Robert Osbourne, it turns out that he was a friend of Ball's who had been given the opportunities in Hollywood he'd had because of her largesse paired with his know-how and encyclopedic knowledge of Hollywood history.  And you do not get the TCM of today without Osbourne, pals.










Saturday, August 5, 2023

Noir Watch: Shockproof (1949)




Watched:  08/04/2023
Format:  TCM
Viewing:  First
Director:  Douglas Sirk

I was a bit relieved to hear Noir Alley host Eddie Muller mention Tomorrow is Another Day, a movie I'd previously seen, because it turns out that movie just decided to borrow the third act of this movie to wrap up their film.  And that's not the only similarity.  Women change hair color, folks are on the run for reasons that are maybe not entirely their fault.  And neither has a satisfactory conclusion.

But, of course, I was well into the film before the thought of similarities crossed my mind, because there is quite a bit different.  

Cornel Wilde plays a probation officer who is put in charge of a woman just released for a murder charge.  It's widely believe she took the murder rap to cover for a fella who has lived as a smooth gambler and shady guy.  Don't you know it, she's a dish, a bit hardboiled, and morally ambiguous.  

Wilde puts her up in his own home to keep her away from the guy, and begins to fall for her.  And, as luck would have it, she realizes she's falling for him.  Though it's against her parole, the two marry.  But that shady guy is about to call the cops and tell them what his ex is up to when she appears, they struggle and a gun goes off.  

Soon, she and Wilde are on the lam as he refuses to give her up and let her go back to prison.  It's a hell of a decision and what takes the film in an exciting direction.

Like a lot of these films, before they figured out they needed to bring them in for a smoother landing to appease the Breen Office, this one clearly was headed in a darker direction.  Prior to studio interference, this was headed for a Gun Crazy ending that feels the inevitable from the mounting tensions of the film. But studio chiefs demand a happy ending for their star players, and it veers into some law-and-order friendly nonsense.   The ending is both too clever for its own good and utterly unsatisfactory.

All in all, it's an entertaining and tense film, it just pivots way too hard in the last ten minutes into a different, cheesier film from Sam Fuller's intended story.  But I think Patricia Knight is a compelling co-lead, and seeing Wilde's descent is good stuff.

This is a Douglas Sirk film, but it's not what I tend to think of as Sirk.  The gorgeous palette is instead lovely black and white, and it's not a female-driven melodrama.  This is pretty well in the wheel house of what would come to be known as noir, with desperate runs for the border, guys making insane decisions for a woman, and misfired guns.  It's very well directed and never feels like less than an A picture, if not a big budget one.  It's ten years after he fled from Germany, and a few films into his American career, but six years prior to All That Heaven Allows.  

I mean, she just looks like noir



I haven't seen all that many Cornel Wilde films, but I like him.  He seems to be doing more than indicating and I buy him in every scene.  His then-wife Patricia Knight is also, honestly, pretty solid in this film, at least as much so as actors who had lengthy careers.  I'm assuming she had some baggage or was an issue in some way I don't know about, because she's great on camera/ gorgeous.  But, she was in like 10 things and then disappeared shortly after splitting from Wilde.*

It's hard to say which I like batter between this and Tomorrow is Another Day.  I guess it's even-steven for me.  Just two takes on same in their own way.  And both would have been better if they'd not let everyone off the hook in the final reel.



*Wilde had tried to leverage his stardom to get Knight into movies before their divorce, to no avail, so we have to assume there was something else at play, not that he got her blackballed



Thursday, August 3, 2023

Jean Hagen at 100




Today marks the 100th birthday for actress Jean Hagen.  She passed in 1977 at only 54.  

Hagen is best known for her role as Lina Lamont in Singin' In the Rain, but she worked in radio before moving to movies and, eventually, television - co-starring in the early hit, Make Room for Daddy with Danny Thomas.



While esophageal cancer would take her life, Hagen was an alcoholic, and it derailed her professionally as well as very personally.  However, after she became gravely ill in 1968, falling into a coma, she managed to stay sober for the remaining years of her life.

Hagen left her mark on the films I've seen her in, and is often a highlight, even in something like Asphalt Jungle where she's one of a dozen memorable performances.  Personally, I think what she was doing was ahead of its time - or maybe would have been best served on the stage in grittier work.  But she also clearly had a knack for comedy - which she managed to parlay into television and numerous other projects.  

But seeing she's in The Big Knife, I really need to get ahold of that movie and watch it through, and I think I will try to for Hagen's centennial.

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Mattel Watch: Barbie (2023)




I should start by saying:  I really liked Barbie (2023).  But I am not going to write about everything in this movie.  It's too big.

Our lives have been busy lately and so it was hard to find a minute to go see a movie at all, and right now there's a crazy amount of options, any of which I was equally excited to check out.  But Barbie was something I personally wanted to see heading into the summer, mostly because we live in a fascinating era of massive budgets and writer/directors with excellent credentials being handed the reigns to "franchise" pictures.  Giving Greta Gerwig access to the untouchable Barbie empire seemed bonkers.*

I can make neither heads nor tails of a Mission: Impossible film not meeting expectations at the box office.  I have no idea why people show up for a movie in a world where there's another @#$%ing Troll dolls movie about to hit - that will surely make the GDP of a small country.  But I guess we were ready for Barbie when the movie came, because it's currently at $580 million after a couple of weeks.  Go, Barb!

The movie stars the omnipresent Margot Robbie, and that's a good thing.  She's a talented actor, charismatic and fits the bill, physically, for what's needed here.  She's nailed complicated stuff since I first saw her in Wolf of Wall Street, and I generally think she's just really a star in the best sense.  She's paired with Ryan Gosling, who is just weirdly really good, always underplaying to amazing effect.  I can only imagine what Ken was like in other hands, but as Ken Prime, he's terrific.  But so is everyone.  Issa Rae is just a @#$%ing delight, America.  Oh, and America Ferrera!  Lovely.  Terrific!  

Monday, July 31, 2023

Paul Reubens Merges With the Infinite




Man, this is some sad news I did not expect at all.

Paul Reubens, better known as Pee-Wee Herman, has passed at the age of 70.

Reubens was a member of The Groundlings and became part of the class of breakout stars of his era, alongside Cassandra Peterson and others.  

Reubens created the unique and beloved character of Pee-Wee Herman, a persona who wound up in TV specials, movies, and the excellent Pee-Wee's Playhouse - one of the best things ever on Saturday mornings.  He's responsible for Tim Burton's early big screen success, and co-starred with everyone from Laurence Fishburne to Lynn-Marie Stewart and John Paragon on the Saturday morning show.  

Pee-Wee's run was cut short in the 1990's, but he returned in the age of social media, releasing a final movie, Pee-Wee's Big Holiday, that was as funny as anything he'd done, and maybe freer?

What has surprised me most about Pee-Wee over the years has been that the movies, specials, etc.. get *funnier*.  My first viewing of Pee-Wee Herman content was in elementary school, and every time I watch one of his movies or review clips of any of his work, it doesn't just hold up, it shines a little brighter.  

Reubens also appeared in numerous other projects, playing a wide range of characters.  He's great in Mystery Men, 1991's Blow, and he got the biggest laugh of the movie from me in the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  

On social media, he was very plugged into the same sort of cheerful "look at this weirdo thing" stuff I tend to want to forward to Jamie, all of it in fun.  Lots of retro, lots of outlandish goofiness.  The kind of stuff that would look at home beside Mr. T cereal and pterodactyl puppets.

We'll miss Paul Reubens, and we'll miss Pee-Wee Herman.  Taken way too soon.



Happy Birthday, Arnie



Yesterday was the 76th birthday of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

I don't know if Arnold is necessarily having a moment right now - he has two top-rated shows on Netflix - so much as Arnie is always having a moment of some sort.  And, here in his 70's, he's taking stock of his life and telling his story.  And, during covid, he became much more active on social media and online, and Arnold being Arnold, is turning that into something.

Arnie has always been an easy mark.  Muscle-bound, never the world's best actor, and with an accent he was never going to shake, his place in Hollywood was always strange, even as audiences lined up for whatever movie he was in, action or comedy (or both).  It made it easy to forget - he was born in the wake of WWII in a defeated Austria, became a bodybuilding champion on a few continents before winning the world/ Mr. Universe.  He made his way into real-estate and movies, and wound up somehow marrying a Kennedy.  Somehow, he found his way to the Governor's mansion in California, and wound up doing a good job.  He's an American success story if ever there was one.

Lately he's been working on Arnold's Pump Club, a fitness app and podcast.  And he's got a newsletter that's... really great?  I mean, it is.  Full of sound advice for taking care of yourself and with a convincing level of positive energy that feels oddly authentic in an era of mangled therapy-speak.  

Poor Jamie has to hear about Imaginary Uncle Arnold now, just as I made her go see Eraser when we started dating.  

Anyway, I did not see myself still caring about Arnold Schwarzenegger here in 2023.  But here we are.  Good ol' Uncle Arnie.

Friday, July 28, 2023

Happy Birthday, Elizabeth Berkley Lauren


Give up a birthday shout for Elizabeth Berkley!

She's done two rounds with Saved By the Bell, both the one you watched in the early 90's and then the one that was on Peacock that was under-watched and over-delivered (it was genuinely funny).

Berkley is currently kicking around Hollywood and recently released items on her website that reclaim her starring role in Showgirls as well as Jessi Spano, and make them her own.  She is one well-adjusted person.

She's also been in a ton of movies, and continues to appear in a variety of projects.

Anyway, for her birthday, I'm gonna point out that, like Bowie, Berkley has two different colored eyes. 

I know!  You never noticed, but there it is.

Happy birthday, Ms. Berkley Lauren!  

when Jessi Spano went full Nomi Malone


Happy Birthday, Hannah Waddingham

 


Today marks the birthday of actor, singer, performer and, I suppose, presenter, Hannah Waddingham.

Eagle-eyed readers, followers of my socials and fans of the podcast will note I became a fan of Waddingham while watching Ted Lasso, and I continue to enjoy her work and joie de vivre. 

This year, Waddingham completed Season 3 of Ted Lasso where she played the complex and often very funny owner of Richmond AFC, Rebecca Welton.  She also co-starred in a BBC/ PBS version of Tom Jones, where she played the manipulative but vivacious Lady Bellaston (and more or less stole the show).  She's been Emmy nominated for both parts.

Last Fall she had a key but small part in Hocus Pocus 2, and a cameo role that was maybe the best part of the Disney+ Willow series. 

Waddingham also hosted the Oliviers (the British Tonys) and Eurovision 2023.  This Christmas, she has a holiday special coming to Apple+ that was recorded a while back, and, according to those who were there, is pretty great.  So keep your eyes open for that.  She's also leant her voice to the upcoming cartoon, Krapopolis, from Dan Harmon.  She mentioned a possible album this year as well.  We'll see.  Oh, and she'll be in the next Mission Impossible movie and The Fall Guy next year.

She's selling Pepperidge Farm cookies (they're pretty good, y'all), and has been part of a collab between Johnnie Walker, the Women's Sports Foundation and Justwomenssports.com to encourage people to watch women's sports.  And drink Johnnie Walker, presumably.  Done and done.  And, she's out there on the SAG-AFTRA picket lines.

Anyway, busy year for Waddingham, but all good stuff.  Not bad for someone you didn't hear of before 2020 unless you were hitting a lot of West End shows (I was not).

I have no idea what she'll be up to next, if Ted Lasso is truly over, etc...  But we'll keep tuning in.