Friday, June 14, 2024

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

Watched:  06/14/2024
Format:  4K disc
Viewing:  Second
Director:  Adam Wingard

The thing about this movie is that, from the first minute, it's more or less the chaos I look for in the last fifteen minutes of the best popcorn movies.  

This movie is, technically, really dumb.  The "this story makes no sense" stuff I'll spend a post crying about most of the time isn't just there, it's the whole shooting match.  It's mostly just highly silly and unlikely things happening, scene after scene, and Rebecca Hall in a pixie cut saying out loud what is happening so the kids watching don't get lost.

And I could not be happier with the results.  

If you're looking for a recent Godzilla movie with a moral center and a story about the human condition - I have amazing news for you.  But this is not that movie.

Yes, yes, there's some nice stuff about mothers and daughters thrown in there.  But you're here to see Kong smack some other apes with a smaller ape.  You want to see Godzilla suplex Kong.  You want to see people flying around in a crazy spaceship thing blasting classic rock.  You want to see monsters duking it out in a major metropolitan area.  And mysterious people and their underground culture and maybe magic?  Sure.  Let's just say magic.  And Titan Dentistry (which is what I would call my practice if I became a dentist all-of-a-sudden).  

This movie is colorful, and loud and incredibly goofy, and I am not secretly glad it exists.  After the dour start to the Monsterverse, the direction of these movies has found out how to be something genuinely fun - because they were in no way nailing the "big monsters, big feelings for humans" thing they were trying.  

It will be interesting to see how they try to make this work with Season 2 of Monarch, because half of what Monarch brought to the table, this movie was like "ha ha!  NOPE!" and did its own thing.

Doc Watch: Brats (2024)

Watched:  06/13/2024
Format:  Hulu
Viewing:  First
Director:  Andrew McCarthy

I can remember a time in my life when I was weird about the non-John Hughes movies by "The Brat Pack".  I can't remember why.  I do remember people would say "oh, that's a Brat Pack movie" and I'd say "oh, then I won't watch that", but it was so long ago, I don't even remember what the reasoning was.  

When I figured out who was *in* the Brat Pack, I realized I was really not the market for those movies.  I was too young for the stuff produced before 1985 or so, and we didn't have HBO for me to watch those movies.  Add in whatever that vibe was, and I just never circled back to see them.  Anyway - the concept of the Brat Pack is pretty loosey goosey, with no exact filmography or even common understanding of who is in it.  We can debate that in the comments.

This doc is written and directed by former Brat Packer Andrew McCarthy, who is a writer these days, and a pretty good one.  He's digging into the fall-out and feelings of the clutch of actors discussed in a 1985 New York Magazine front page article called "The Brat Pack", written by then-young journalist David Blum.   

The article followed Emilio Estevez, Rob Lowe and Judd Nelson as they went about a night-in-the-life of young Hollywood during a period when there had been a spike in movies starring, and aimed at, younger people.  It is largely considered to be a hit piece, and by 1980's standards, I guess it is.  Now it just reads like a jealous dork seeing how these extraordinarily fortunate young people spend their time.  It lumps in other actors and co-stars not in attendance and slaps the sobriquet upon them.

Thursday, June 13, 2024

Godard Watch: Alphaville (1965)

Watched:  06/13/2024
Format:  BluRay
Viewing:  First
Director:  Jean-Luc Godard

My relationship with the films of Jean-Luc Godard is fraught.  On the one hand, I recognize his unique vision and what his films brought to cinema during the height of his powers - and that we're still playing catch up 60 years later.  On the other, I feel like he's a pretentious wanker who can't get out of his own way.  So watching his films can feel like doing homework or eating vegetables.  I know it's a good thing, and from time to time I'm enjoying myself, but other times I'm eating undercooked green beans, and I know green beans can be really good - just not like this.

That said, Alphaville (1965) has a prescience to it that feels deeply immediate here in 2024, as I am sure it did in 1965.   

The film is about an agent, with the unlikely and phenomenal name of "Lemmy Caution" (aka: Ivan Johnson), in a future world not too far from 1965.  He's entering Alphaville from the Outer Countries to find out what their plans are as Alphaville is secretive and weird and maybe wants to destroy everything that is not Alphaville - which is run by a computer known as Alpha 60 under the view of a Dr. Von Braun.

The people of Alphaville live in ways prescribed by the computer, an emotionless, bland existence where everyone gives the same greetings and operates as dictated by the computer, which applies what it considers logic to everyone's movements.  

Our protagonist is there to find out what it plans, and to try to recall one of their own agents who has risen to become the leader of Alphaville, Von Braun.  Along the way he meets Natacha, the daughter of Von Braun, and the two begin a sort of relationship which threatens them both as she learns about concepts forbidden to anyone in Alphaville - love, a conscience, poetry....

The film is a mix of Godard's intense styling, showing the modernist Paris of 1965 as a sci-fi dystopia, and a sort of not-quite Grahame Greene or le Carre spy thriller.  All stuff with which I am onboard.  The clean, computer perfect world of Alphaville now, of course, has the vibe of post-WWII technology and a booming world moving very fast as computers and technologies I think of as modern are coming into being - and the style of architecture that began pre-WWII with Bauhaus and Brutalism is becoming Mid-Century Modern.  The giant office buildings and their tiny squares of light indicating a person insider are appropriately ominous.  

But, holy hannah, watching this movie where the computer has gotten rid of art and poetry and feeling, but under the watchful eye of humans who think *this is great*, it sure hits different in an era where executives think ChatGPT is the cure to all ills, including making our art and poetry for us.  What would have felt like an abstraction 10 years ago now feels like a concrete clear and present danger.  That was not something I expected.

Yeah, I don't know that reciting poetry is going to free the world from the machinations of the evil machine, and some of that feels like some very-1960's thinking, but I get the sentiment.  And our hard-boiled agent getting the girl at the end certainly has hints of Rick Deckard making his way out of Los Angeles.

Anyhoo.  Glad I took the challenge and finally watched it after it's sat on my shelf for a couple of years after an impulse buy.

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Adventure Horror Watch: The Mummy (1999)

Watched:  06/12/2024
Format:  Peacock
Viewing:  third?
Director:  Stephen Sommers

Okay.  I am aware that this movie is a favorite of many-a-folk.  I think it played really well with people of a certain age as a cable-rewatch or DVD favorite.  I was 24 when this came out, just out of film school, and spent 1997 learning about the Universal Monster films, so I came in with *opinions*.   I saw this once in the theater, saw the sequel somewhere along the line, and skipped all the subsequent Stephen Sommers output until Van HelsingAnd Simon and I discussed that movie at length.    

If you want to go on with your life not listening to someone who is going to not spend a review effusing about this movie, I get it.  Do what you have to do.

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Vamp Watch: Slay (2024)

Watched:  06/11/2024
Format:  Tubi
Viewing:  First
Director:  Jem Garrad

It's Pride Month, and so I guess (1) Google TV thought I should watch Slay (2024) and (2) Tubi is apparently releasing original comedy horror movies now.  So, thanks, Google TV and Tubi.

This movie is exactly what you think it will be, and that's not a complaint.  It's a horror-comedy about four drag queens who accidentally book into a biker bar in the middle of nowhere.  Meanwhile, it turns out vampires are real, and they're going to decide this bar, on this night, is where they need to be.

If you're expecting excellent puns, double-entendres and camp, yes, this movie will deliver.  Also a pretty boiler-plate Night of the Living Dead-style set up, yes, that's what you're getting.  But that's...  exactly what this movie wants to be and it's what it delivers on what I'm guessing was not the world's largest budget.

I don't personally follow drag, but my understanding is that Trinity Tuck, Hiedi N. Closet, Crystal Methyd and Cara Melle are stars in the drag world, and I'm not shocked.  They're funny and watchable.  What I didn't expect was the supporting cast of bikers, tough guys, bar flies and locals absolutely understands the assignment and is solid.   

A local pair of LGBQT+ folks toughing it out here in red-neck land has shown up for something they can't believe is coming to their bar, and the aging bartender is maybe more delighted to have them the show there than he wants to let on.   Anyway, these actors had to do a lot and sharing the spotlight with our four leads is tough, but everyone does it.

In the end, *unlike* Night of the Living Dead, the movie is really about overcoming differences and working together to... kill a bunch of vampires.  And accept who each other are.  There's also a nice tag about accepting each other as we change, and that having some decency and love in your heart can save the day.  And along the way, we're going to see some blood and use pool cues to dispatch the undead.

I would love to see what this group and Jem Garrad could have done with $10-20 million more than what hey had.  I bet it would be great.  For now, this one is a Tubi original (who knew?) and free to watch with a few ads.

So, happy Pride, y'all.  

Monday, June 10, 2024

Disney Watch: Swiss Family Robinson (1960)

Watched:  06/10/2024
Format:  Disney BluRay
Viewing:  Unknown
Director:  Ken Annakin

A long time ago now, Stuart gifted me a BluRay of Swiss Family Robinson (1960), a kind-of-hard-to-secure item.  I'd expressed to him my fondness for the live-action Disney films that more or less informed a lot of the spirit of Disney in a certain era, from this film to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea to Treasure Island to Johnny Tremain and more.

Most of these I saw on The Wonderful World of Disney and a collection of other places.  

I'm not at all surprised I took a shine to this movie as a kid.  It had too many pets (including two Great Danes), it's shot in a beautiful location (Tobago), has a lot of zoo animals from tigers to elephants to zebras, a set that's so cool, they recreated it as a great attraction at Disney World and Disneyland, which was a must-do for me as a kid (and adult, when it was turned into Tarzan's house or some nonsense).  

But the basic set-up is that a Swiss family is moving to New Guinea - somewhat fleeing Napolean and what's happening in Europe - and wind up shipwrecked somewhere in the "East Indies" which I put in quotes not because it's not real, but that's a pretty big area to guess about.  

There's pirates about, tigers in the woods, etc...   The two elder boys seek to circumnavigate the island when they stumble upon a Captain and his cabin boy, held by pirates.  Of course the cabin boy is a girl (it is so obviously a girl), which they discover after liberating her.  And with no other women or girls on the island who aren't their mother, they make their way home, while tensions mount.

Sunday, June 9, 2024

Mars Watch (Revisited): John Carter (2012)

Watched:  06/08/2024
Format:  BluRay
Viewing:  I've lost track.  5th?
Director:  Andrew Stanton
Selection:  Joint household

You can see prior posts on John Carter books and movies here.

Back in 2012 when this movie came out, I'd read the novel A Princess of Mars at least twice.  It's a breezy, fun read, the first of Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter of Mars/ Barsoom novels.  If you can get past some very not-21st Century politics and concepts, they're an interesting read, and I recommend.

Those books were almost 100 years old when the movie was released, so, suffice to say, folks have enjoyed them for a while.  And there's something to be said for any novels that last a century, and double that appreciation when it comes to any genre material that manages to last beyond a few decades.  There's something there.   So it came as a bit of a surprise to me at the time that this movie got the critical lambasting it received, currently residing at a 51 on Metacritic.   And most of the folks who saw it at the time told me "oh, I hated that."  

Look, your faithful blogger has just enough ego to assume it's everyone else who is wrong sometimes, but this was a case where I said "ah, well, it's working for me.  I dunno." and moved on with my life.

But, to be truthful, it's been quite some time since I re-watched this movie or read that first novel, and with some separation, I now more or less get why this movie got the reaction it did.  And TheWrap put out a fascinating history of the film, that I consider good reading.    

To be blunt, I was familiar enough with the book that the movie was just seeing portions of the book come to life, and knowing there were many more books, I thought they were just moving things forward in order to make a more seamless narrative.  


There's essentially two large problems with the movie in my mind at this point -

Happy 90th Birthday, Donald Duck!

Today, pals, is the 90th anniversary of the first appearance of Donald Duck.

Here at The Signal Watch, we have an affection for the duck in the sailor suit and with the speech impediment.   To us, Disney's "Mickey and Friends" characters work because they're different aspects of "the everyman".  Mickey is the spunky, energetic underdog we may see ourselves at in our youth - and, in some appearances, the center of gravity holding chaos together.  But Donald is us just trying to get through the day with its infinite frustrations and what we know we're like when we aren't handling our challenges with grace.  He can also be a tad vain, and would love to be the star, but, you know... Donald be Donald sometimes.

He first showed up in the short "The Wise Little Hen".

The funny thing is that these characters have been around so long, and can be interpreted through so many lenses, I keep the Donald of "Mr. Duck Steps Out" in my head right alongside the gag/ joke character and adventuresome Donald of Carl Barks and Don Rosa.  While also knowing one of my favorite Donald bits is his agent of chaos in "The Band Concert" (apologies for the short clips.  YouTube doesn't carry the full cartoons.) 

I think most folks in the US are aware that Donald Duck appeared in comic books - most folks of a certain age can recall spinner-racks with Disney characters included.  But what most only caught a glimpse of was the work of Carl Barks and Don Rosa that Disney has turned into Ducktales.