Friday, March 29, 2024

Kaiju Watch: Gamera the Giant Monster (1965)

Gamera just stepped on a Lego

Watched:  03/29/2024
Format:  Amazon
Viewing:  First
Director:  Noriaki Yuasa
Selection:  Jamie, kind of

We've both seen a lot of Godzilla movies, but I confess to a Gamera gap.  I have not ever really watched Gamera movies outside of MST3K.  

Gamera is from Daiei Film, a competitor to Toho, one supposes.  And it's not like Japan has the lock on movies riffing on popular ideas from other studios.  It's a way of life for popular media here in these United States.  

Anyhoo...  Gamera: The Giant Monster (1965) is the first Gamera movie of what Wikipedia tells me is a dozen films.  It's... a rip-off of Godzilla in some ways, and it's own weird, wacky thing, so you can see how it took off and found it's own voice and following.

The basic gist is that the Russians are flying over the arctic where some scientists are hanging out with what I believe are supposed to be Inuit people trying to determine... something about turtles or something.  I don't know.  Anyway, they're engaged by the USAF who shoot one of the Russkies out of the air, crashing a nuclear payload into the ice.  Which frees Gamera, just in time for the title sequence.  

G Watch: Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire (2024)

Watched:  03/28/2024
Format:  AMC Dolby (apparently the seats vibrate?)
Viewing:  First
Director:  Alex Wingard
Selection:  This is a Godzilla house

As soon as the credits rolled, Jamie turned to me and said:  "this movie understood what the series needed was more frogs and dogs and bears and chickens and whatever".  And I agree.  100%.

So.  I'm not going to guarantee everyone will like this movie.  It is loud, and it is crazy and it is probably more than a little dumb.  But that doesn't mean I didn't have a great time at the movie, and get exactly what I wanted out of it.  

I've entered into that "I can't actually see a Godzilla movie and just watch it as a normal movie, I only can see it in the context of 70 years of Godzilla films" thing that I also do with some other media, like Superman.  So, based on that, I think Legendary/ The Monsterverse has finally really sorted out their strengths.*  

They absolutely get how the first two Godzilla movies wanted to do this in a way that suggested a serious film but then kept tripping over themselves en route, whether it was giving us the most boring possible hero or the least sympathetic family possible to follow for the runtime.  

Thursday, March 28, 2024

G Prep Watch: King Kong v. Godzilla (1963) - US Version

Watched:  03/27/2024
Format:  BluRay
Viewing:  First of this version
Director(s):  original formula - IshirĂ´ Honda / US recut - Tom Montgomery
Selection:  Joint, Jamie and me

We have tickets to see Godzilla x Kong on Thursday the 28th, and we decided to do a little bit of homework prior to the film.  It had been a while since I'd watched King Kong vs. Godzilla (1963), and I was met by a surprise when putting the film on.  

Like Gojira/ Godzilla: King of the Monsters and Godzilla 1984/ Godzilla 1985/ Godzilla Returns - this movie had a cut for the US audiences which is edited, includes new footage and has American talent cut into the original film.  I think I'd only ever seen the Japanese cut of the movie, so I was a little thrown when the movie was framed as a newscast hosted by a genial white American dude, and leaped into action to see what was what.

The version we watched was... insane.  There's so many tones being hit, so many ideas, characters, locations, etc...  Any theme that was originally present (apparently originally a satire on the programming on television and the corporate relationships to that programming) is flattened as the American version literally uses television as the framing device - inserting American-based news anchors to ponder the events unfolding.

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Uncanny Valley Watch: Beowulf (2007)

I have no idea how to feel about them putting heels on Grendel's mommy

Watched:  03/26/2024
Format:  Paramount+
Viewing:  First
Director:  Robert Zemeckis
Selection:  Me

When Beowulf (2007) was released, all it did was make me feel guilty I'd never read the book.  I never had it as a class assignment, and despite owning a copy, I just never prioritized it.  However, it would still be 2023 before I finally got around to blowing through what is a quick read via audiobook.  

But then I forgot to watch the movie, which I have now finally taken care of.

First:  I had no idea the whole movie was animated - I'd only heard about animated, naked Angelina Jolie which is a YMMV proposition.  

Once I figured out Robert "Polar Express CGI Nightmare Fuel" Zemeckis was in charge of this venture, I settled in.  

Look, I'm not a Norse Mythology scholar.  Nothing close to it.  Neil Gaiman, one of the two screenwriters on the film (the other being Roger Avary) is, actually, a Norse Mythology scholar, so I bow to him on the many and significant changes he made to the brief story.  I don't know what his motivation was, but it's a re-shaping of the story that has an impact on the sparse themes and point-of-view of the original poem.  Which is a fair thing to do with a text that's about a 1000+ years old.  And it's highly unlikely the version we've been handed down was anything like the original 500 or so oral-tradition tellings of the story.

Monday, March 25, 2024

Jamie's B-Day Watch: The Sound of Music (1965)

Watched:  03/25/2024
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  Unknown
Director:  Robert Wise
Selection:  Jamie's birthday choice!

I have no idea when I last watched The Sound of Music (1965).  I've documented most of the movie's I've seen since 2012 - with a break in 2013-2014.  So it's possible I watched it in that window, because it seems like I've seen it more recently than 2011.  Or I just forgot to write it up.  That happens.

It's probably a fool's errand to talk about the movie at length.  It's a bonafide classic, one of the two great American musicals directed by Robert Wise, and the music has permeated culture far beyond the boundaries of the film.  A Few of My Favorite Things has somehow become a Christmas song, which, sure.  Why not?

From a personal standpoint, when I watch this movie, I am about 75% sure this is what my mom wanted out of having kids.  Matching outfits, adventures, happiness and singing.  And while she did an amazing job of mothering, she still wound up with two sarcastic, grumpy, gigantic boys who kind of moseyed through family adventures with a grunt and an eyeroll.  Sorry, Ma.

The Sound of Music is based (extremely loosely) on the real life Family Von Trapp, who were an Austrian family who left their homeland after Hitler invaded.  It was, in it's own way, as dramatic as anything, but also not the short, exciting escape depicted in the film.

It is worth going back and watching for a few reasons.  1)  If your memory of the films is essentially kids prancing around the hills with their governess, it means the last time you saw this movie you went to bed at Intermission.  2)  Putting those songs from the musical into the narrative context of the film is kind of a good idea.  It also tells you a lot about how a musical is supposed to work.  3)  The movie is just masterfully choreographed and shot - and edited.  The entire film looks phenomenal, and clearly no expense was spared for locations, camera placement, time on location, extras, etc...  But also the framing and use of visual language in this movie is kind of mind-boggling.  Check out the Do-Re-Me sequence.  It's phenomenally well done for everything it conveys and the way it's shot and edited.  4) It's not much fun to think about vis-a-vis parallels to current threats to democracy, but at least the Georg in this movie is deeply anti-Nazi and sees the tide rising while everyone else kind of rolls over.  5)  The Lonely Goatherd is an all-time banger.

Watching the film now, I'm always probably more sympathetic than the film wants me to be to the Baroness, who gets tossed aside for the virginal manic pixie dream-nun.  Also, God bless 'em, but they shouldn't have cast the late Charmain Carr as the naive, 16-year old Liesl.  She was probably 21 or 22, looks 24, and it's almost visually confusing seeing her with the actual children.  Meanwhile, a near-30-year-old Julie Andrews is playing a novice, so I'd guess she *should* about 18 or so.  And, btw, Christopher Plummer was about 13 years older than Carr and barely older than Andrews.*  And he's 7 years younger than Eleanor Parker, who plays the Baroness.**  Anyway, once you look at it again, the movie can feel a wee bit jarring and I don't know the in's and out's of why they cast who they did.  

Still, if you want to absolutely want to cock-punch a dude named Rolfe, this is the movie for you.  (man, Rolfe just sucks so fucking bad.  Liesl, NO.)

This is a Robert Wise movie, and I'm going to just keep saying "Robert Wise does not make bad movies".

Anyhoo, I *do* think we're hitting an interesting point as the Gen-Z kids haven't been part of the ritual of watching The Sound of Music on TV once a year or so, and generally people don't really talk about movies with their kids.  So while I'm sure a percentage will have seen this movie, it's no longer the cultural shorthand it was.  And actual Nazis probably seem a whole lot more like something out of a movie than actual people we'd been at war with 20 years prior to the release of this movie.

*apparently the real-life age gap between Georg and Maria was 25 years
**Parker had been in her career peek from the mid-1940's to the mid-50's, but was working consistently til about 1990.  She was the established star in the movie with Academy Awards and whatnot, and she just kills it in this film.  And is not funny looking.

Joanie Watch: Sadie McKee (1934)

Watched:  03/25/2024
Viewing:  First
Format:  Amazon
Director:  Clarence Brown
Selection:  oh, definitely me

In honor of Joan Crawford's birthday, I decided to take in one of her movies.  

This turned out to be slightly more of a chore than I thought.  I checked all of the services to see if anything was streaming as part of the cost of my service.  Honestly - I was kind of shocked that nothing was really out there.  And then, I remembered - Amazon bought the MGM catalog.  And Crawford was signed to MGM for the first phase of her career.  So, you can count on most of Crawford's pre-Mildred Pierce films to be at MGM where she was from 1925 to late 1943 (she was loaned out once or twice).  

Based on absolutely nothing - except that I hadn't seen it and that it comes up from time-to-time - I picked Sadie McKee (1934).  Listed as a "comedy" on Amazon, it's far more of a melodrama with some comedic elements, and has the spunk and fire in the Sadie McKee persona that female characters were given in movies starring a studio's best and brightest in the early sound era.