Saturday, January 13, 2024

Mystery Watch: Maggie Moore[s] (2023)

Watched:  01/12/2023
Format:  Amazon
Viewing:  First
Director:  John Slattery
Selection:  Consensus selection - me, Jamie, Dug

I was curious about Maggie Moore[s] (2003) when I saw the trailer in mid 2023.  Sure, it looked like it had a decent comedy set-up and I like a good crime movie, but it also had John Hamm, Nick Mohammed and Tina Fey.   And I figured they wouldn't jump at a bad script and they're three folks I like in general.  Throw in John Slattery giving it a go behind the camera and I put it on the list of things to see.

Unavoidably, one has to ponder how this movie really wants to be Fargo.  Which would be less of a deal - Fargo was 25+ years ago - if we weren't on Season 5 of Noah Hawley's Fargo show on FX.   We have inept criminals who got into crimes because of their incompetence in life, and a stone-cold killer amongst them.  There's a morally centered cop with a less competent colleague, and the promise this is based on real-life events.

But, yeah, beyond that, it does deliver on the promise of the casting and folks generally being a good group with whom to spend time. 

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Indy Watch: Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (2023)

Watched:  01/102/2024
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  First
Director:  James Mangold
Selection:  Jamie

I was aware that the critical consensus and box office on Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (2023) was not good.  Neither of those things are much a deterrent for me for watching or enjoying a movie (see the many Godzilla posts on this site), but it did catch me by surprise when it happened.  After the fan-lambasting and luke-warm critical reception of the last time Ford revisited the character in Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull, I figured if Disney was going to go back to the well and offer another movie (after that one at least had the decency to give us a particularly happy ending for Indy), they'd be working to make sure that this one was well worth the return for cast and fans alike.

At the top, this wasn't what I would have hoped for in a big-screen return of Indy.  If you liked it, and many people did, just a heads up.  But, as always, I am not here to tell you what to like or not to like, just how I took in the movie.

The thing I was not expecting out of an Indiana Jones film was to feel bored.  And at well over two hours...  that's a lot of looking at my watch.

There was a big opportunity here for Disney, owners of the Lucasfilm output, as Crystal Skull was widely disliked and a new finale to the series could revive the franchise somehow, maybe get some life/ money out of the franchise yet.  But, the window is closing on the value of that license with Ford now a guy in his 80's and the horrific realization that - just like Star Wars - there was going to be a response somewhere between "meh" and "you ruined my childhood" with a recast of the role.  

All they could really do was hope to test the waters on a new action hero to carry the torch, and the obvious choice was (checks notes) Fleabag's Phoebe Waller-Bridge.  And maybe they could keep Ford around for another picture or two to cement the hand-off.   

I don't know if that was the plan, but, man, the movie really leaned into wanting you to find Waller-Bridge's character an equal (or better!) to Indiana Jones.   The ten year plan can't be "count on a guy in his 80's to still jump around in 2032".

But that's speculation.  Looking at Dial of Destiny, the movie didn't work for me in a few fundamental ways:

Monday, January 8, 2024

G Watch: Godzilla 2000 - Millennium (1999) - but, really, a quick history of how I decided to like Godzilla again

Watched:  01/08/2024
Format:  Hulu
Viewing:  4th?  5th?
Director:  Takao Okawara
Selection:  All me, baby

I had to check, but somehow I've not written this one up, but I know I watched it during that circa 2020-era where I was dealing with the COVID lockdown by just watching an endless stream of Godzilla films.  

So, this movie is the key to my Godzillaissance.   

As a kid, I was a Godzilla fan via a few channels.  There was an American produced Godzilla cartoon that ran for a year or three.  I have some flickers of memories of watching Godzilla movies on TV with Steanso during long summer days.  We also had two key Godzilla toys.  My toy was the Shogun Warriors Godzilla, which I absolutely adored.  Steanso, however, had this amazing playset with Godzilla, a non-canon monster, a city backdrop and army vehicles, which I remember us setting up and having a good 'ol time playing with.  

But this was also the era of Star Wars, Tron and other fun, shiny stuff, and so Godzilla fell by the wayside.

Also, Godzilla was weirdly hard to come by.  Unless you were home to catch a movie on UHF, badly dubbed movies weren't something most channels wanted to run.  And you weren't going to get much in the theater.  

In fact, when Godzilla Returns/ Godzilla 1985 was released, I *wanted* to see it, but it came and went so fast, it wasn't until my 11th birthday party that I used my "I can rent whatever I want" pass to rent the movie.  What I don't remember is Godzilla films from Toho on the shelf.  I just have zero memory of Blockbuster carrying the movies, or the Mom & Pop places before Blockbuster.  That may have been an artifact of sorting out US distribution or me being distracted by trying to unlock the mystery of what was happening in those Sybil Danning movies on the shelf.  But given that I would rent stuff like Robot Jox without blinking, given the option, it seems like I would have picked up a Godzilla movie or two.

Happy Birthday, David Bowie

Here's to the great David Bowie on his birthday.  

The picture above is from about 2004, which is around when Jamie and I saw him in concert for the second time.  

What struck me about that show was how different it was from when I'd seen him on the Outside tour, where he was doing a thing tied to the music, and was being a very serious rock god.  In 2004, he was playing new stuff and playing the hits and having fun bantering.  Which, in it's own way, was kind of weird as it so defied my expectations.  But, man, it was a fun show.  

Here's to the The Thin White Duke.  The world literally hasn't been the same since we lost him.

Noir Watch: Pickup (1951)

Watched:  01/07/2024
Format:  TCM
Viewing:  First
Director:  Hugo Haas
Selection:  Me by way of Noir Alley

As happens a lot at the start of the year, I was fired up to break the Christmas movie cycle and watch some non-Christmas-type stuff.  I've also been missing noir films, from the original period as well as everything up to today, and wanted to get back on that train.  Luckily, Noir Alley was on TCM Saturday and Sunday, so I set the DVR to record a movie I'd not yet seen.  

It's easy to say Pickup (1951) is a riff on The Postman Always Rings Twice.  And there's definitely some truth to that, but so are a number of movies from the era.  What I found interesting was that there's enough different here that it pivots the whole concept.  While we still have the remote home/ workplace, the older husband, the sexy wife and the yearning employee, this is less the story of the troubled, star-crossed lovers in over their heads, and more the story of "Hunky", the older husband.  And, it's worth saying at the outset, Beverly Michaels' Betty is not the sympathetic figure Lana Turner cut as Cora.  

Sunday, January 7, 2024

Mystery Watch: A Haunting In Venice (2023)

Watched:  01/06/2024
Format:  Hulu
Viewing:  First
Director:  Kenneth Branagh
Selection:  Me

At first, a third Poirot movie directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh was something I looked at with perhaps a bit of a jaundiced eye.  I'd enjoyed Murder on the Orient Express well enough, but Death on the Nile felt a bit self-indulgent and just didn't manage to ever keep me terribly engaged.  But, this installment had at two members of the cast who were a sell (Michelle Yeoh and Tina Fey) and that was enough to get me to not dismiss the movie.

A Haunting in Venice (2023) received stunningly little promotion (Jamie reminds me that this was released during the strike, but even for that, seemed it barely got a whisper) and was dropped in the busy horror Halloween season, where I think it was immediately lost in the shuffle.  While I understand the thinking - the movie takes place on Halloween night and is about a seance and ghosts - the trailers didn't really make *anything* particularly clear or compelling.  And Poirot, a character folks know from PBS spots, is not famous as a ghost chaser or breaker.  So one could assume before even starting the movie that this detective, who is the consummate deductive genius, would be disproving ghosts and ghouls, and it all felt a bit ill-conceived as a Halloween flick.*

The title itself seems an attempt to tie the movie into the "A Haunting" series of films and trick the youths into watching it, and while there are worse fates, it's kind of odd.  But it also loses the tie to the actual novel, moves it to Venice from England, and can make you wonder what tax incentives Italy was offering for filming there?  Or if this was a "postcard picture" for all involved.  And, btw, from a quick glance, this story is about 65% new, using only the raw materials of the novel, Hallowe'en Party.

But, I'd heard from Simon that the movie was pretty solid, and then two more folks (hi Mike and Laura) watched it within a day of each other and said that, yes, it was worth a watch.  And, with the promise of Michelle Yeoh, we found it on Hulu.

Cindy Morgan Has Merged With The Infinite

Morgan is remembered at The Signal Watch primarily for her roles in Caddyshack and Tron, where she played Dr. Lora Bradley/ Yori.