Friday, February 2, 2024

Carl Weathers Merges With The Infinite

Here's what I think about when I think about Carl Weathers:

Sometimes you just like someone's vibe.  And then literally everything you learn about that person over a lifetime just reinforces or surpasses your early first impression.

I didn't see a Rocky movie til Rocky IV, and my introduction to Carl Weathers was seeing the great Apollo Creed fall in the ring.  He was, in my opinion, more likable and charming than our protagonist, enough so that seeing him die on screen in the first act was jarring.  Mission accomplished, movie.  You motivated Rocky and you got us to care, relying on Weathers' performance - and that was before I saw the other three Rocky movies, in which he's clearly, absolutely the star boxer the movies need.  

But of course Carl Weathers was also in action movies and generally around.  A few years later I was enjoying him in Predator and other movies.  I missed Action Jackson at the time, but caught it in recent years (it's not great, but he is).  

And then someone realized: you can put this guy in comedy.  People love this guy, and he's got a sense of humor.  And, so he started showing up in Happy Gilmore and Arrested Development.  I also was surprised to see him pop up in Friday Foster (I, too, enjoy a Pam Grier actioner).

What I'd missed was the whole Carl Weathers backstory of New Orleans kid who got a sports scholarship in high school and then college, and went pro as a football player - quitting to get into the movies.  And successfully doing so.  

But he was also behind the camera - and directed some of my favorite episodes of what I think is already a well-made show, The Mandalorian, in which he also starred in what may be my favorite role of his - Greef Karga, the shady businessman who finds a calling as a local leader (and has a vain streak you can't help but like).  I own at least two Greef Karga action figures, I admit.

Through that work was how I learned that Weathers had been busy behind the camera for a while, directing some TV, including some action programs.  Which - totally made sense.  I could see him dipping in and wanting to expand what he was doing and trying.

On a personal note, back when I was on twitter, I exchanged a tweet or two with Weathers, and the fact I'm still giddy about it should tell you where he ranked with me.  

I'm absolutely rattled at the sudden news of his passing, and wish his loved ones well.  I hope my impression of the man was correct, because he seemed like one of the good ones.    

Thursday, February 1, 2024

Minus Color Watch: Godzilla Minus One Minus Color (2023/ 2024)

Watched:  02/01/2024
Format:  Alamo
Viewing:  Third
Director: Takashi Yamazaki  
Selection:  Joint - Jamie & me

So, yes.  Third time is the charm for a re-watch of Godzilla Minus One (2023), which we wrote about when we saw it the first time and the second time, and then as part of my end of the year review.  

The version I saw was black and white (or, color desaturated to a monochrome, with plenty of tricks to make sure it works) in theaters for just a week, capping off the end of what was a surprisingly successful run.  On a reported $15 million budget, the movie has made over $105 million, and that's before digital and home video sales (will I buy some ridiculous deluxe version?  Why, most certainly).

After seeing it in Imax and in standard format, I figured: let's do this.  Plus, I saw one of the first shows in Austin, and now one of the last as I saw it both opening and closing night.

Is the "minus color" a goofy stunt?  Does it make sense to release a movie in black and white that was shot for color?  I don't know.  But based on the period setting, that Minus One feels like a 2023 echo to the 1954 original, and as a reflection of the 70 year history of Big G, I was willing to give it a whirl.  

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

G Watch: Godzilla v. Biollante (1989)

Watched:  01/30/2024
Format:  DVD
Viewing:  First
Director:  Kazuki Ōmori
Selection:  Me

For the most part, it's not that hard in our modern era to get your hands on most Godzilla movies.  In fact, you can find most of the Showa Era on Max and I've noted the Millennium era movies might be popping up on Hulu.  Plus, there's now that streaming Godzilla Channel on Pluto.  I have a pretty good run of the movies on disc on various formats, so I am good as long as those discs don't let their electrons scramble or something.  And, I've seen almost all of the Godzilla movies (one day I'll finish All Monsters Attack).

But Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989), in any format, eluded me for a long time.  It was out there on disc, but not through standard retailers.  You more or less had to go through eBay if you wanted to get a copy, and even those were pretty expensive as it hasn't been re-released in a decade.  And it never seems to show up on cable or streaming outlets.  It seems the distribution rights are weird on this one film for reasons I don't quite get, but it was originally put out by Miramax in the US, which is probably part of the problem.  

But, yeah, I found a disc cheap as I could, but still more than I wanted to pay, and finally just pulled the trigger.

Monday, January 29, 2024

Classic Comedy Watch: Operation Petticoat (1959)

Watched:  01/27/2024
Format: Prime
Viewing:  First
Director:  Blake Edwards
Selection:  Me, by rec

So, a colleague had recommended this one, and forewarned me that it is a product of it's time, and I could not agree more.  

This is a movie with an odd framing device - a US Navy Admiral returning to the submarine he skippered during the war on the morning the boat is set to head to the boneyard.  He sits down and reads his Captain's log from cover to cover in his former bunk.

By 1959 two things were apparently true:  
1) the US was ready to do light, sexy comedies about the war, including starting out with making Pearl Harbor a wacky incident that happened
2) the role of women in film - especially light comedies - had changed a lot, with the "can do" spirit of women in the war or even noir

There is not room in this post to discuss the rapid swing of women in pictures of the 1950's from tough-women-on-the-homefront to "don't let those daffy women near machinery.  That's for MEN." that I assume reflects the culture of the time.  But it's kind of a thing, and for as fast as it happened, it took a lot longer to eke our way back out.  

This movie is the Admiral's (Cary Grant) recollections of the submarine crew's post Pearl Harbor response, lifting the boat and getting it semi-seaworthy again thanks to shenanigans on the part of a new Lieutenant (Tony Curtis), a streetwise fast talker who has joined the navy for the uniform and social ladder climbing opportunities.

It's got a hint of Sgt. Bilko (which pre-dates the film) as some of the best gags are about Tony Curtis finding the materials needed.  Good stuff. 

But the main feature of the film is when the sub stops off at an island and finds they have to evacuate 6 female nurses.  Who are, of course, mostly stacked.  And then it's a lot of "boys will be boys" and "women don't belong on a boat!" humor that you either are going to have to get settled in with or you're going to want to choke a boat load of US servicemen.  

The humor is a brand of post-screwball wackiness that would continue to expand into the 1960's and be killed off by 1970s film while being embraced by 1970's TV, in its way.  And some bits are really good.  I did want to tell the editor to please leave Cary Grant alone and let him have his moments after something wacky happened, because that's where you get the laugh doubled down (see Grant in Bringing Up Baby).  There's not even exactly double-entendres but in an era that was sanitizing comedy, this must have felt pretty racy (you see a girdle and a bra!).  

Fun bit of casting - look for Marion "Mrs. Cunningham" Ross as one of the nurses.  And, fun fact:  there was a 1977 TV show that basically remade the movie starring John Astin in the Cary Grant role and had a very young Jamie Lee Curtis as one of the nurses.  I have absolutely no idea how this premise was carried off for two seasons of network TV.  

Anyway, it's a fascinating time capsule talking to the generation who was in the war now that they bought suburban houses as much as it's a comedy you can still put on and get most of the jokes.  

G-Watch: Godzilla versus Mechagodzilla (1974)

Watched:  01/26/2024
Format:  Max
Viewing:  Second-ish
Director:  Jun Fukuda
Selection:  moi

Look, this week at work was a rough one, and next week is looking to be more of same.  I am tired.  And so, after watching another episode of the phenomenal fifth season of Fargo,* I put on Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974).  

This movie is remarkably silly, makes no sense in parts, forgets its a monster movie for long stretches, and does nothing to develop or differentiate any of the characters, seemingly adding them as the movie goes along to help fill plot holes.

The real showcase is, of course, Godzilla versus a giant robot version of himself that space aliens for a black hole(?) have built in order to take over the Earth.  Or, at least, whatever part of Earth is near the robot.  Initially, it's disguised as Godzilla, but to what end?  I cannot say.  Because they almost immediately remove the facade, and it seems like a robot is just as much a problem as the real Godzilla in how it's being deployed - by rampaging.  

However, we're also dealing with a prophetic vision seen by a young woman priestess/ heir to a once great dynasty on Okinawa.  There's a prophesy to go along with it regarding two monsters joining forces to fight a great threat, but it seems odd the ancients knew Mechagodzilla was coming?  There's nothing magic about a giant robot, except the love we should all feel for Mechagodzilla.

Anyway, this movie's main, non giant kaiju feature is a villain in a shiny jumpsuit who keeps smoking cigars.  I love this guy.  He really enjoys his work.

The one caveat is that this is around when Toho thought they needed to add blood.  So things get weird when MechaG really messed up Anguirus (he's fiiiiine) and then G himself (also: fine).  Also:  melting alien faces.

It's a fun pic, and while I don't think there's big life lessons to be learned, and it's confusing sorting out who all of these people are from time to time, this first appearance by MechaG is pretty stellar.  Where else will you find a 20-story robot that shoots rainbows out of its eyes?

*Juno Temple and Jennifer Jason Leigh busily confirming they're somheow even better than you thought, and Richa Moorjani putting in a bid for "damn, put her in more stuff" in a fine breakdown of myth and Fargo's patented exploration of good and evil