Saturday, April 1, 2023

JLC Watch: Prom Night (1980)

Watched:  03/30/2023
Format:  Watch Party
Viewing:  First
Director:  Paul Lynch

We decided to watch another Jamie Lee Curtis movie for a Friday party watch.  This one is a post-Halloween JLC, when I guess folks pegged her as a scream queen.  But this is JLC, so she never really screams, she just kind of kicks ass when she's drawn into the action.

I'd not previously seen Prom Night.  When Prom Night II was meme-ing a while back, I tried to watch it first, even though the two are utterly unrelated. At that time, the movie wasn't available for some reason, but now it is, and while a career retrospective of an actor like JLC who is constantly working is difficult, why not try to check off the boxes?  

The actual plot of the movie, if you break down what it is, is really good.  I liked it.  But, man, the execution was all over the place.  Some parts were really solid, and some just dragged on when the outcome of, say, a girl chased by a killer, is never in doubt.  At this point in the slasher cycle, I assume the audiences would know that?  I dunno.  I was 5.  

The set up is that a bunch of kids are playing in an empty building in 1972 and one of the little kids, while playing a tag-like game, falls from a window to her death.  Because kids are all sociopaths, they make a pact to never tell anyone they were there and the death is supposed to be tied to a child molester who escapes.

So, there's a lot going on in the first ten minutes.  

Flash forward to 8 years later as the kids are getting ready for prom, the death of the girl remembered on the anniversary - and maybe that molester guy has returned?  

Anyway - all of that is gold, and possibly culled from the story the movie is based on.  But, man, the movie itself is kind of weird and draggy from the set up to the last 30 minutes or so, which is really pretty good.  Consequently, there's 45 minutes of the world's boringest 20-somethings posing as teens, romantic rivalries that only kinda work, a Carrie-ish riff from a meangirl, and maybe too many characters who only ever raise up to the mark of mildly interesting.  

What you can see is that JLC kind of shines in the middle of all this without doing a lot.  She's just got star power, and is projecting waves of energy, which culminates in a dance sequence at the prom (JLC can dance, apparently!) and then when she takes on the killer.  

Leslie Nielsen is in this playing a straight role as JLC's dad and the principal of the school.  I have literally no idea why he is in this.  He only seems to have been there for a few days of shooting and gets top billing.  

If the movie could have been as consistently good as the beginning and end, I'd recommend it.  I can see why they went daffy with the sequel.  This movie is, in many ways, a tragedy dressed up as a horror film, and it makes everything kind of a bummer as the thing wraps.  But it's also not a police procedural, so I can see why it works as it does with high school kids at the center and cops at the periphery.


Friday, March 31, 2023

Friday Watch Party: Prom Night

I'm still, as always, on my Jamie Lee Curtis kick, and I've been meaning to do Prom Night since we kicked off the ol' Covid lockdown.  So, let's do it.

I've never seen this thing, but it's got JLC, so we're assuming it can't be all bad.  But you'll have to axe her, I guess.

Hey, it was this or Virus, and apparently even JLC doesn't like Virus.  So we'll save that for when Dug is around.

Day:  Friday 03/31/2023
Time:  8:30 Central, 6:30 Pacific
Cost:  $2

(link live 10 minutes before showtime)
Special Help Instructions:  After clicking the link, you will see a "watch with ads" button and "More Purchase Options" button.  Click " More Purchase Options".  On that screen, select "Rent HD $1.99"

Belated Birthday! John Astin

Yesterday, March 30th, was John Astin's 93rd birthday.  He's been largely retired for a while, so younger folks might not know his work, but he's a gifted actor and just @#$%ing funny.  

Y'all go speak some Italian to your sweeties and celebrate John Astin this weekend!

The Play's The Thing Watch: Deathtrap (1982)

Watched:  03/28/2023
Format:  TCM
Viewing:  First
Director:  Sidney Lumet

We watched Deathtrap (1982) in 2 parts, watching the first 30 minutes or so the night before we wrapped it up, finishing the last hour.  In between, I made comment to some pals that you don't see many movies about plays and the theatre, especially based on plays.  There are some, but not a lot.  There's a gulf in many folk's knowledge of Broadway other than that the tickets are pretty expensive when Spamelot! comes to town, but you pay it.  I expect this is a bit different for New Yorkers or Londoners, which an overwhelmingly vast majority of us are not, so movies have to be careful and ensure folks living in the suburbs know wtf they're talking about.

Still, you can do it and get away with it.  I can't name one of the movies we kicked around that I'd seen (Noises Off!, Rosencrantz and Gildenstern, Chorus Line) that I don't like.  Probably should have squeezed in Cabaret for good measure.  

And, of course, I'm a Michael Caine stan, and the co-star is Christopher Reeve.  Plus: Dyan Cannon!  

It's a movie with a small cast, with Caine on screen > 75% of the time.  Sticking to the stageplay, it mostly takes place inside a single location of an East Hamptons house - something I assume means something to people from NYC and only marginally something to folks from Austin, TX.  

It's Caine as a failing playwright of comedic thrillers, his wealthy wife Dyan Cannon, and Christopher Reeve, who has written a brilliant play on his first go.  Caine realizes he can steal the play if he bumps off Reeve and takes it, putting his own name on it.

The set-up and set allows for amazing staging with props left over from Caine's prior shows scattered around, also his vintage collection of weapons, etc... 

For a play about plays, it doesn't get too in the weeds, I think, even as it probably was making jokes I wasn't quite getting referring to the theater scene.  It also has a very tight grip on the mechanics of thrillers - as it both is a thriller and talks about thrillers, and sometimes passes through the looking glass in a single scene where it becomes clear the action is mounting even as the characters discuss mechanics as they perform them.

That is really the astounding bit.  Loved it.

It's a sort of light-chuckle comedy for the most part - that's part of the mix when you're also writing a script with the fairly serious business of murder for personal gain.  Cannon's character is a Simon character with daffy quirks you know aren't just set dressing, and tossing in a psychic with an accent is a lot, but in it's better moments the thing works splendidly.


But the last scene was... not great.  Already it's hard to deal with a thriller that requires a wacky character to have what seems to be functioning ESP.  You've just entered magic into your thriller, plus a complete lack of boundaries from a stranger in a way that feels dishonest.  

Ha ha.  Got it.  She used her abilities to suss out the situation and made a buck off the two guys bumping each other off...  it's just not narratively very satisfying.  But it also feels very much like something in 1980 people would have found cute.  And cute is a weird f'ing turn for this movie to pursue in the final minutes of run time.  

Overall, I liked the movie, but it's really weird to watch something and feel like the movie absolutely fumbled on the one yard line.  Maybe a re-watch would get me to reconsider, but I don't know how inclined I am to a re-watch.

That said, Caine is typically phenomenal Caine, Reeve is fucking great, and Dyan Cannon is an absolute delight.

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

PodCast 238: "Vertical Limit" (2000) - a SimonUK Cinema Series Episode w/ Ryan

Watched:  03/19/2023
Format:  AMC ondemand
Viewing: First
Decade:  2000's
Director:  Martin Campbell

Why would we watch this movie? Because it's there! SimonUK and Ryan scale a mighty wall that is this 2000-era bonafide hit that has disappeared into thin air. Join us as we cling to the rock face of pre-Google movies, leap to conclusions, and feel our lungs filling with 90's-style action! It's not the Stallone movie from like 8 years earlier! It's the other mountain movie!



Opening - James Newton Howard, Vertical Limit OST 
MacArthur Park - Richard Harris

SimonUK Cinema Series

Sunday, March 26, 2023

Musical Watch: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)

Watched:  03/25/2023
Format:  YouTube
Viewing:  Unknown
Director:  Howard Hawks

Just a heads-up:  this movie is streaming for free on YouTube right now.  If you've never seen it, give it a whirl.  

I'm going to keep this short because maybe 2/3rds of the way through this viewing, I realized this would be a fine movie to podcast sometime.  So, regular podcast contributors, hit me up if you want in.

It's funny - for a movie that's very, very famous, I don't see the actual story or characters of the movie discussed all that much, let alone the themes, subversions, etc...  Maybe I just hang in the wrong circles.  They focus on Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend, which, fair enough...   Monroe redefined sexiness for the Western world in a single musical number.  But the whole movie is solid, smart and @#$%ing funny.

Anyway, if you happen to think Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe are a generally good idea (and I do), this may be the movie for you.

greatest walking to a table scene ever put to film