Thursday, May 9, 2024

Jarmusch Watch: Night on Earth (1991)

Watched:  05/09/2024
Format:  Criterion
Viewing:  First
Director:  Jim Jarmusch

This is one I remember seeing advertised via trailers on VHS tapes of indie movies you'd rent in the early 90's.  But somehow I never got to it back then, and I think, having had now seen the movie, that's okay.  I think I would have gotten the vibe back then, but as a suburban kid from Texas, I would have missed the experience of riding in cabs, which I had not really done back then, and wouldn't do until the end of college.  

Generally, I'm not sure how much I support "auteur" as a concept.  Film is a collaborative medium, full stop.  But I do get it a bit more when you look at a writer/ director like Jim Jarmusch.  Small, talky indie movies that rely almost entirely on actors handling the scripts Jarmusch puts in their hands.  And the rest is the vibe he creates around those actors.  

Night on Earth (1991) is an interesting but of what became the explosion of indie film that carried the decade (not that we didn't have huge blockbusters, too).  Essentially five, unrelated stories, but all with the similar points of taking place in a cab, between sunset and sunrise, somewhere on the planet (LA, New York, Paris, Rome and Helsinki).  It's short vignettes, in rough real-time as cabs pick up a client and the interaction that ensues.  

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Geology Watch: Journey to the Center of the Earth (2008)

Watched:  05/08/2024
Format:  Max
Viewing:  First
Director:  Eric Brevig

So, this movie feels like an experiment, and given the year of release, 2008, Journey to the Center of the Earth might well have been Hollywood floating all the latest toys and the concept of "movie as amusement park ride" more than they were trying to make an actual movie.  But they also still wanted to be Hollywood, so, while it does feel almost like a Cliff's Notes version of a movie, it does have a legit star in Brendan Fraser.   

First - it's clearly intended to be seen in 3D.  And like other 3D features - from Creature to the Black Lagoon or Friday the 13th 3D, there are clear set-pieces intended for the experience that just look weird on my regular ol' flat TV.  Things are basically hurled at the viewer from time to time.  You get it.

Second - I checked, the movie was also an early entry for use in 4DX or whatever they call it.  This was when some theaters decided to add fancy-assed chairs that rumbled and maybe moved, and sprayed water in your face (no thanks).  And there are multiple places that the movie feels like it should be part of a ride at Universal Studios or something.

I'll editorialize and say:  I think this is a perfectly fine avenue for Hollywood to pursue.  It would be weird for many-a-movie, but I think there's a market for thrilling movies that are a bit of an interactive experience.  I would come up with a new name for the experience to differentiate it, but I would strap in for a Star Wars movie about X-Wing pilots zipping about.  Or car chase movies.  Or running around Tokyo whilst Godzilla strolls around.  But I don't think they'll work like a normal movie, and we just don't know what that would be, yet.

Stunt Performer Jeannie Epper Merges With The Infinite

Epper doubled for Carter for the three seasons of Wonder Woman, and was usually the woman in the red boots that you'd see as Diana leaped from great heights, climbed the side of a building, and any number of - honestly - pretty terrific super feats you'd see every single episode of the show.  You simply do not have Wonder Woman without the contributions of Epper.  

I'd read about her maybe twenty years ago, and learned she was part of the vanguard of the first women hired for stunt work.  Before that, they'd throw a wig on one of the guys and hope they shot it to not show off the mustache, I guess.  But you weren't going to be able to do that with Wonder Woman.  

One funny thing that has happened since the 1970's has been the rise of HDTV, and as we've great increased resolution in comparison to 70's CRT's, now you can see Epper's face, clear as day, in some Wonder Woman footage.  Or at least tell "I don't think that's Lynda Carter" - including in the opening sequence.  So, yeah, we kind of really do have two women playing Diana.

Monday, May 6, 2024

Superman 2025: First Look at the Costume

For all posts discussing the new Superman movie, you can check out the Superman 2025 tag.

May 6th, 2024 - James Gunn, DC and Warner Bros. released the first look at Superman star David Corenswet in full Super regalia.  The movie isn't set to be released til July of 2025, so we've got a wait.

I've been blogging since before Superman Returns hit in 2006, followed many a Super reveals with that film, Man of Steel, the Supergirl TV series, Superman appearing on Supergirl, cartoons, etc...  and it's always weird to go back and see what I felt based on a single image.  

I'm too old to have the sheer excitement I felt when we got our first look at Brandon Routh in what will likely be one of the last Super-suits during my lifetime to echo the circus strongman look with tights and briefs.*  The image was meant to evoke a return to the greatness of the first two Christopher Reeve-starring movies, with a modern polish.  And it worked!  If you were going to try to stay semi-in-continuity with Reeve's Superman, he was a great choice.

Ape Watch: King Kong Escapes (1967)

Watched:  05/06/2024
Format:  BluRay
Viewing:  First
Director:  Ishiro Honda

I tend to think of myself as someone who would like nothing better than a movie about a giant ape and a robot in the shape of a giant ape duking it out in Tokyo.  Literally, this should check all the boxes for me, but I think I hit the wall as far as Kaiju-tainment for a minute, or else this movie was as dull as it felt.

Honestly, the production history of this movie is more interesting than the final product, which seems impossible when this if your villain.  

he's got panache and joie de vivre!

But the movie has too much plot for it's own good, and I think the editing needs some help.  At just over 90 minutes, it feels like 180 minutes at times.  

My reading tells me that this was some oddball effort fired off by none other than Rudolph-wranglers Rankin-Bass, who were making a King Kong cartoon at the time, that when I saw stills, I think I recall seeing as a small child.  I guess Rankin-Bass - who were outsourcing some animation efforts to Japan - went to Toho, after Toho made the 1962 film King Kong vs. GodzillaRB and Toho jointly went to Universal, and since everyone likes money, they went ahead and made the movie.

I've only seen the US cut released by Universal - Toho has a slightly longer cut they released in Japan - and of course this version is dubbed, with one of our two American-born performers overdubbed by someone not them.  I assume real US kaiju aficionados have their Toho copies, but not I.

Anyway, the plot is that an un-named Eastern-hemisphere country has sent Madame X to work with Dr. Who (yeah, I know) whom she has hired to mine for the mysterious Element X (which I think is probably super-uranium).  Who has stolen plans from a clever... submarine leadership team? to build a giant replica of the legendary King Kong in order to perform the mining.  This is not a sequel to the prior King Kong vs. Godzilla film, but hints that the 1933 OG Kong film was inspired by a real gorilla-guy, and that's OUR guy here.  

That same submarine team, made up of actor Rhodes Reason and his more handsome counterpart, Akira Takarada, hang out a lot with Lt. Susan, the ship nurse, played by Linda Miller (who has some fun interviews online).  


Anyway, there's some stuff that echoes OG Kong, way too much espionage/ James Bond inspired stuff.  Madame X is up to no good.  There's ape hypnosis.  I dunno.  It just goes on and on before we finally get to the big ape fight, which is pretty good, tbh.  Who doesn't want to see that?

The budget on this film seems high.  The detail on the Kong suit is good (if goofy) and the sets are many and highly details, for man and kaiju alike.  And Dr. Who's capes couldn't have been cheap.  And Madame X's couture was excellent. 

I think this one demanded to be watched with other people, and I watched it solo.  This was a mistake.  I may make Jamie watch it with me later this year.  

Sci-Fi Watch: "The Expanse" ReWatch - Season 4

Season over season, The Expanse manages to use genre changes to better expand its world and fill in the ideas the novels were trying to communicate - I assume.  I mean, this is what the show does, and the show follows the basic beats of the novels.

Season 4 is essentially broken into 4 separate storylines, with two of those storylines having sub storylines.  

In the wake of the Ring Gates opening at the end of Season 3, humanity is ready to see what else is out there as the gates seem to be opening onto mostly human habitable worlds.  Ships full of eager settlers have begun heading towards the ring in our solar system, hoping to make claims on the 1300-ish other worlds out there.  

While Earth, Mars and the Belt ponder how to manage the almost magical occurrence and ponder the inherent dangers of worlds that have never known human kind, there's also the vast wealth that seems just on the other side for the bold willing to risk it all.

Desperate Belters are rushing blockades in hopes of staking a claim before official channels screw them out of opportunity.  Meanwhile, Avasarala has been made Secretary General of the UN and is now sort of President of Earth - and with her experience has no interest in moving too fast.  She's already barely avoided a cataclysm with the Eros incident, and who knows what's on the other side? 

And after generations of Mars trying to terraform and do this the hard way, Martians see 1300 perfectly livable planets suddenly available.  And the dream of Mars suddenly seems... not worth it?

The four stories follow

Sunday, May 5, 2024

Shark Watch: Sharknado 4 - The Fourth Awakens (2016)

Watched:  05/04/2024
Format:  Amazon
Viewing:  Second
Director:  Anthony C. Ferrante

So, in honor of May the 4th, which is the day everyone says "ha ha, May the Fourth be with you" - I made Jamie, Dug and K watch Sharknado 4: The Fourth Awakens because I am that guy.  

It is not a real movie, it's a Sharknado.  And I think there's something fascinating about where we were at as movie consumers, what the SyFy channel could afford, and -in particular- the movies made by The Asylum, and how all that led to the first Sharknado movie.  And people forget this, but Mia Farrow's delighted real-time tweets helped make Sharknado a thing the night of the first broadcast, took that lightning in a jar and held it up for all to see.

In the decades years prior to Sharknado the First, SyFy had given up on making *good* programs, discovering the might of things like a Mansquito and Giant Shark movies, which were mostly Z-list actors standing around talking about the creature at hand, but rarely seeing it.  Because seeing the creature cost money.  The Asylum rode this wave by producing an ever evolving array of usually very-large animals to attack submarines or campers.  And there was often a straight-to-video component of the company that was making off-brand versions of whatever was coming to the cinema.  Transmorphers.  Shurlock Homes.  You get the idea.  But all cheap and cheerful.

Stunt Watch: The Fall Guy (2024)

Watched:  05/04/2024
Format:  Alamo Drafthouse
Viewing:  First
Director:  David Leitch

Certain parties will say "you only went to see this because Hannah Waddingham was in it," and to those people I say "how dare you?" and "it was a major reason for me to go see this movie, but not the only reason."  

It's been an odd weekend for me, movie-watching wise, as I feel like I'm stuck in "did you get the reference?" land - from Unfrosted to this film to the one I forced people to watch, Sharknado 4: The 4th Awakens.  And, really, The Fall Guy (2024) is one of the more explicitly textually meta movies I can recall.  

The Fall Guy ostensibly borrows from the 1980's TV show (starring Lee Majors, Heather Thomas and Douglas Barr) about a stunt man who worked as a bounty hunter between gigs.  But aside from using two character (first) names from the show and the color palette on a truck, the film really doesn't have much in common with the program other than the lead being a stunt man.  The Lee Majors show was part of our family's viewing habits, and I have fond memories of it, but in that vague way one remembers liking something when they were eight years old.  I don't remember many details.