Friday, March 3, 2023

Friday Watch Party: Strangers on a Train

You've all suffered enough.  I mean, the past few weeks of watch parties have been a real gauntlet and test of intestinal fortitude.  And while "strangers on a train" sounds like something incredibly dirty, it's actually the title of a phenomenal movie directed by no one less than Alfred Hitchcock.  This is how we pivot at the Signal Watch.

I haven't seen this flick in decades, but I remember loving it at the time circa 1997.  It's a popular Hitch favorite, so let's get on that train and see who wants to swap murders.

Day:  03/03/2023
Time:  8:30 PM Central/ 6:30 PM Pacific
Cost:  $3-$4

(link live 10 minuts before showtime)

Noir Watch: Hunt the Man Down (1950)

Watched:  03/02/2023
Format:  TCM
Viewing:  First
Director:  George Archainbaud

For good or ill, there's more movie packed into the 70 minutes of Hunt the Man Down (1950) than in your average 3-hour Oscar Bait prestige film.  And, I'll argue, this movie is actually entertaining while carrying a message about how things *should* work that seems wildly progressive and cutting edge against decades of cynicism and trying to feel wise by having the lowest of expectations of humanity.

The set up is less than simple.  A guy tries to stick up a bar at closing, and the dishwasher stops him and saves the day.  The press puts the hero's picture in the paper (against his will), and it turns out he's a guy who was about to be convicted of murder 12 years prior, but he escaped his guard and fled the day before he was sentenced.  The cops pick him up and he's set to be retried using the original testimony of the witnesses.

Hearing the story of what transpired the night in question, the public defender (Gig Young) has to go back and find the original witnesses with the assistance of his father, a former cop who is reluctant to help spring a guy.  

And, hoo boy, has history happened in the past dozen years.  Alcoholism, madness, suspicious coupling, war heroes, puppetry, mysterious deaths and murder.  It's just slapping the noir-centric fates button for the witnesses as Gig Young locates each one and determines how their futures hinged on that night.

But what's remarkable is the unshakeable belief the movie has in every man's right to a day in court with vigorous defense.  Gig Young isn't even sure his guy didn't do it - but he's going to make sure he does the leg work that didn't happen in the years prior.  It's positively wild to see a movie that's not about people with crafty defense lawyers who can bamboozle a juror's box full of rubes and get their guy off and the poor prosecutor who must see justice done.  There's a real everyman quality to both Young and his client (and especially Young's dad) that appeals to what everyone should expect, and a recognition that not everyone who winds up behind bars is actually guilty.  There's a reason we have a system that's supposed to give you a shot.  And even if that system does fail, maybe it's because we bring a lot of baggage in with us as jurors - including the media we watch.

This movie is no 12 Angry Men, but I was shocked how *good* it was for what it was.  It uses every moment to push the story forward, it contains almost a dozen characters and you know who all of them are and how they function despite minimal screentime, and manages to get it's point across while being way less soap boxy than I got in the paragraph above.  But, hey, that post WWII idealism was not the worst thing in the world.

You can expect a certain level of film - this was the B movie to help fill a double-bill.  Not everyone here is star material, but it's not distracting.  And we do get Cleo Moore as a brunette, which is not a complaint.

There are plot holes.  Why would you stay in the same town where you could run into any number of people who could recognize you?  Why - when you were in the paper - wouldn't you sprint out of town? But.

Anyway - worth a watch some time.

If I have a beef - it's that:  despite the title, no man is hunted down.  The defendant is found by accident.  The witnesses just turn up one by one.  Like, I get that maybe it's about not treating defendants as prey, but.  Sometimes it feels like they just slap a name on these movies.

Thursday, March 2, 2023

Netflix Watch: We Have a Ghost (2023)

Watched:  03/02/2023
Format:  Netflix
Viewing:  First
Director:  Christopher Landon

Well, I was looking for something else on Netflix and saw the #1 streaming movie was something I'd never heard of but it starred Captain America, Jennifer Coolidge and Jim Hopper.  And I generally liked the premise of people catching evidence of a ghost and what that might actually mean in 2023.

We Have a Ghost (2023) feels, however, like a few movies that were shuffled together from different results from different writers all given the same prompt and characters but no guidance for what genre this movie was, who it was for, and especially no plot outline.  The result is a strange mish-mash of a film that wants to be funny, touching, exciting, a road movie, a haunted house movie, a teen romance, a wacky buddy comedy, a sci-fi flick...  and a touching story about family, father-child relations and probably ten more things.  I thought it was a kid's movie til about halfway through, and then was like... well, no.

That said, it's weirdly watchable.  It may not be great, or even particularly good, mainly because it bounces so fast from idea to idea that nothing ever really sticks - but it does have some crazy talent in the movie and so you get to see how that can prop up a very shaky film.  David Harbour never even really talks, and still gives a genuinely moving performance.  Anthony Mackie reminds you why he gets cast in so much stuff playing a guy hitting middle-age who thinks maybe he finally struck oil, Jennifer Coolidge is Jennifer Coolidge (if she were a TV ghost-psychic).  Tig Notaro plays the scientist - who seems to have a backstory they left on the cutting room floor - who is mixed up in ghost-chasing, the government G-Men and everything else.  

Our lead is young actor Jahi Di'allo Winston who is very good.  But, man, the movie sure takes its time making it clear you should like his character.  

I don't want to dwell on it too much.  It had a lot of issues.  But I also felt like it got weirdly violent for a minute or two, and it didn't really know a movie can say something, not just be a series of events that unspool.  There's no subtext - this movie is all text.  

The most promising bit of the film, and where I thought it was going before it decided it was not that, is immediately after the evidence of the ghost hits the internet.  You get to see humanity - filtered through the modern internet - doesn't know if the ghost is real-real or not, and makes him into something meme-able and for discourse and all the dumb shit we do as people.  But then the film spins off into something about government overreach, lasers, and a tragic back story I don't know anyone was sitting around hoping for based on the premise.  


I also was just like - did Anthony Mackie really get taken out by a very old man with a pan?  Like...  no one saw that and said "this isn't working."  They just let it be a thing that happened in a movie we all watched.  

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Ricou Browning Has Merged With the Infinite

Ricou Browning, the man inside the Gill Man, has passed.  Browning was 93.

Many of you know The Creature from the Black Lagoon is part of my personal film canon.  And, so, we need to take a moment to address the loss.  

Browning wasn't just a one-hit wonder.  He was involved with several things you know - he did stunt work on Sea Hunt and started the show Flipper! as well as had involvement with the show Day of the Dolphin.  His work included item I genuinely love, like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Thunderball.  Browning remained in touch with the massive CFTBL fanbase til the end.

I have several action figures in the house and a picture of the Creature in my living room (signed by co-star Julie Adams), so Browning has been in my world all my life as a 70's kid given monster content, and has continued on as a fixture, often on a daily basis one way or another.

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

PodCast 234: "The Raid: Redemption" (2011) - Action Watch w/ MikeS and Ryan

Watched:  02/17/2023
Format:  Amazon
Viewing: Second
Decade:  2010's
Director:  Gareth Evans


We Have Company - Mike Shinoda and Joseph Trapanese
Putting a Mad Dog Down - Mike Shinoda and Joseph Trapanese 

Action Films

Marvel Watch: Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022)

Watched:  Early February?
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  First
Director:  Ryan Coogler

We watched this at the beginning of February when it was released.  I am holding comment until we re-watch and podcast it.  I won't spoil you on the movie or - I guess - what we'll say about it.

But I do need to note that we did see it, so here's a post.

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Watch Party Watch: In the Line of Duty 2 - Super Cops (AKA: Yes, Madam!) (1985)

Watched:  02/24/2023
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1980's
Director:  Corey Yuen

This movie was very bad.  Well, this is actually two different movies stapled together, neither of which was thought out terribly well or given an ending.  I have no idea what was lost in translation, or if this was an edit.  But, woof.

We watched the movie for (a) a pre-fame Michelle Yeoh and (b) Cynthia Rothrock kicking the shit out of people.  And we got those!  And I liked that part.  Plus, really seeing how from 1985, Michelle Yeoh was obviously a star, from her martial arts prowess to her grace on screen to being able to rock some rad 1985 looks (what *can't* she do?).  

But Yeoh and Rothrock are only in maybe 3/7ths of the film.  The rest is handed over to three dum-dums who seem like they're in a kid's film minus the extraordinary amount of foul language the voice-over saddled them with.  

The basic story is that Yeoh's maybe boyfriend? from England is assassinated because he has evidence on film of forged documents from the world's jolliest badguy.  Two dum-dum's accidentally steal the evidence, and hand it over to a dipsit named Fingers who outfits crooks.  Rothrock - who is ADR'd by Lady Matt Barry - is made sort of cruel?  And I think we're supposed to get a good cop/ bad cop pairing between she and Yeoh, but there's so little time spent on it in favor of watching the three dumb-asses mug, it's just bizarre.

The film also just... ends.  Like, there's a lot to unpack after the 90 minutes you just spent with the characters, and a pivot to one of the dummies picking up a gun and committing cold blooded murder was a twist, certainly.  But our heroes are all going to jail at the end.  

I dunno.  It feels like they just forgot to write an ending and were like "oh, Dave.  We ran out of money to finish the third act, so we're going to just have you grab this gun and murder Barry.  Okay?"  And everyone wanted to go home, so they agreed.

I don't hate the movie  but I can't think of anything I enjoyed that wasn't Yeoh or Rothrock related.  (edit:  not true.  I enjoyed the mirthfulness of the chief baddie and the facial hair of his henchman, Wolf.)