Showing posts with label 1990's. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1990's. Show all posts

Sunday, July 14, 2024

Richard Simmons Merges With The Infinite

He was one of the first people I remember recognizing on TV, and knowing their name as a real person and not a character.  The Richard Simmons Show encouraged clean living, healthy lifestyles and sensible eating.  I don't remember much more than it existed and was something I'd see on TV in the summer.

Once the show was over in about 1985, Simmons was just sort of omnipresent on television through, like, my 30's.  I remember tears from people talking about their struggles with weightloss, and Simmons, in workout duds, holding their hand and listening, absolutely sincerely.  Sure, at first you'd laugh like a snarky kid, but eventually, you had to say to yourself "this guy does this all the time.  He never breaks.  He maintains eye contact.  He listens and tries to help."  Like, you realizes he might be goofy in some ways, but at least that part was real.

He was also on celebrity gameshows, did guest appearances, was a late night TV staple, and sold millions and millions of VHS tapes to folks who didn't want to start working out at the gym or a Jazzercise class, they wanted to try it at home.  

In 1992-93, my high school drama class agreed to do "Sweatin' to the Oldies" once a week, as my drama instructor rightfully noticed, we were not the most active kids.  At the time it was the most notorious of Simmons' offerings, constantly advertised during daytime TV, playing music from the 60's as an army of, indeed, very sweaty people danced behind Richard in the background.  So, initially it was ironic.  But we all agreed - there was something to the videos.  Just enough to get you moving, but it wasn't like the Jane Fonda tapes that were a strenuous workout.  After that, I felt like I got his niche and what he was doing - providing a realistic lifeline for people to at least try to get moving, and make it fun.

Simmons retreated from public life around a decade ago, and after a lifetime of public engagement, eventually speculation about what he was up to begin to swirl.  But almost all allegations were denied or dismissed.  

I suspect we'll likely learn much more about Simmons' private life now that he's passed.

I don't know how much Simmons will be remembered by folks younger than myself.  He did have an online presence, but was fading for a decade before he officially disappeared.  And I don't know how many people will come forward with remembrances.  

Say what you will, and, yes, he made a lot of money selling tapes to people who probably watched them once, but he did offer some help and some hope, and he can't be at your house to get you to use your Deal-a-Meal cards, or find the 30 minutes for a workout.  I think he was probably an okay dude.

 I do still wonder if he owned any long pants.

Saturday, July 6, 2024

JLC Neo-Noir Watch: Blue Steel (1990)

Watched:  07/06/2024
Format:  Criterion
Viewing:  First
Director:  Kathryn Bigelow

Criterion Channel is showcasing Neo-Noir films this month, and I absolutely remember this coming out and not understanding what it was at the time, and then never hearing from anyone who ever saw it.

But here at The Signal Watch, JLC is one of our patron saints, and I was curious.

The movie is a curious mix of genres - certainly an homme fatale noir, but 100% a thriller.  And sets itself in the New York of the late 1980's where finance-dudes were of interest to audiences, as were blue-collar types.

Jamie Lee Curtis plays a young woman literally right out of the police academy who, on day 1, stumbles onto a hold-up occurring at a grocery, where she's forced to shoot the gunman.  Which she does in 1980's style, emptying her gun and sending the guy reeling through the front window.

Unfortunately for her, the gun the guy had goes missing, and no witnesses say they saw a gun.  And there's no tape?  In 1990 in New York?  But ok.  

She's on administrative leave when she meets a commodities exchange fellow who woos her.

But, uh-oh, he was at the scene of the crime, took the gun, and is now murdering people with the gun after carving her full name into the casings, that he leaves behind after killing innocent people.

One good cop (Clancy Brown) believes her while everyone else just wants to fire her or make her go away, but Eugene (Ron Silver) ups the ante, and eventually she figures it out just pre-coitus.  And then things get really nuts as she fights for anyone to believe her and he lawyers up while also murdering her friend (Elizabeth Pena, RIP) in front of her.  

On the whole - my take is this: 

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.

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.  

Sunday, April 28, 2024

Horror Watch: Ghostwatch (1992)

Watched:  04/28/2024
Format:  AMC+/ Shudder trial
Viewing:  First
Director:  Lesley Manning

So, I was watching the Half In the Bag guys discuss Late Night With the Devil, and they brought up a BBC TV special (that for our purposes I'm calling a movie) from 1992.   I'd heard of Ghostwatch and seen it cited multiple places over the years, but I couldn't say exactly where or when.  What I recalled was that, much like the Mercury Theatre's famed War of the Worlds Halloween radio play that emulated a real broadcast, Ghostwatch did same on BBC, but with video, presaging both found footage movies like The Blair Witch Project, and the frenzy for supernatural investigation reality TV shows that I feel started with Ghost Hunters (which I watched, and there's a whole arc there).  

If I took Late Night With the Devil to task for not sticking with the bit, and it making things not work as a movie (and keep it from ever feeling scary) I'm doubling down on that idea.  Ghostwatch is clearly staged - the line delivery is too smooth, things are happening quickly and conveniently, etc...  But, dammit, they commit to the bit.  And they hired presenters instead of actors in key roles.

A few things that make this work:  the show originally ran on BBC on Halloween night 1992.  We were only a few years away from TV stunts like Al Capone's Vault at this time, wherein cameras would go live to some extraordinary event (although as someone who watched the vault business live, I can say - it could be a tremendous bust).  The show was hosted by Michael Parkinson, a legitimate television presenter.  This would have been a bit like having Barbara Walters host your made up Halloween special here in the US.  And they also have real presenters Mike Smith in studio and Sarah Greene as their reporter in the field - and Smith and Greene were well known TV presenters/ personalities already in 1992. 

Saturday, March 2, 2024

G Watch: Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993)

Watched:  02/29/2024
Format:  BluRay
Viewing:  Second?
Director:  Takao Okawara & Kazuki Ômori
Selection:  Jamie

So, Jamie had a medical procedure earlier in the day, and when it came time to figure out what she felt like doing that evening, she said "I can't do anything but watch a Godzilla".  And what was up next in our Heisei-era viewing was this little gem.  

You can definitely tell:  this movie was at least in part for kids.  The hero, Aoki, is an engineer whose hobby is pterodactyls.  He's been working on a sort of flying ship cannon dingus, but is sent over to the new MechaGodzilla project.   

By the way, the sequel title is sort of factual, but this movie - and all Heisei-era movies, ignore the movies after 1954's Gojira, so it's a weird bit of titling.  It is not the second movie with MechaGodzilla in it, and it's the first with an all-new take on MechaGodzilla in this era.  But no one asked me in 1993 what to name it, so here we are.

Based on wreckage from the mechanical head left by the re-furbished King Ghidorah from the prior film, this MechaGodzilla is armed to the teeth, and should be able to take down Big G.  It turns out fighting a living nuclear reactor doesn't go well all the time, tho, and MechaG is taken down.

Oh, but the BIG plot point is that a group of scientists find a gigantic egg (like 2 meters long and 1.5 meters tall on its side) on a radioactive island with a Rodan and Godzilla.  The scientists decide to (a) take the egg despite the fact it GLOWS from time-to-time (b) they then put it in a lab in the middle of the city (c) in a lab the size of an actual university lab, which is like, an apartment living room and (d) they never x-ray it for some reason to see what they have?  They just assume:  oh, yeah, it's a Rodan.  

It isn't.  Out pops a baby Godzillasaurus, because these are movies for children. 

Anyway, the plot gets very hazy very fast with characters yelling what is happening with absolutely zero supporting evidence to back up their claims.  "Rodan is his nest brother!"  IS HE?  WHY?  HOW?  No one seems concerned about WHO laid the Godzilla-egg.  Or the fact they have a baby Godzilla that maybe they should kill now while the killing is good.  The Japanese government seems convinced the baby Godzilla is an asset, but never says how or why.  

Anyway, baby Godzilla becomes a MacGuffin as Godzilla either wants to kill the baby or take the baby or something...  it's not clear.  Rodan same.  MechaG gets an upgrade to have the flying dingus attach like a backpack.  

And then there's a really pretty solid fight at the end.  

Miki is also in this movie, just kind of appearing here and there.  Oh, and this movie posits Godzilla has a second brain in his butt, a bit like we were taught as kids about the anklyosaur, but which isn't, apparently, true.  But that doesn't mean Miki the Psychic doesn't find Godzilla's second brain with her ESP.

It's important to note that Godzilla in this and the prior films is a walking natural disaster and not seen as a balancing force, etc...  He's just a straight up unsolvable problem and no one knows what he'll do next or why.  It breaks a lot of Western (or at least American) screen writing rules, and can feel messy - but that's kind of missing the point.  Godzilla DOES have motivations, he just isn't monologuing and by the time our heroes figure it out, we've usually lost part of a major sea port.  

This movie does suggest he's not a complete jerk as, via Miki, he understands he needs to take care of the baby rather than eat it, I guess.  So off they swim.

I can't say I love the hero in this movie - but the scientist is pretty good.  And I enjoy the very 1.0 attempt at MechaGodzilla in the Heisei design, which becomes cooler in the Millennium movies.  This is also my favorite era of G's design, but that's by a fraction of a point.  Rodan is just a weird, big bird - and I have no real complaints.  I think I like him better here than the Monsterverse, but less than I like his OG look.  Miki's bangs are still a lot.

But the Kaiju battles in this are really pretty solid, and the FX on top of the kaiju costumes are well done, especially for the era.  Some money got tossed at this one.

Sunday, February 25, 2024

G Watch: Godzilla and Mothra - The Battle for Earth (1992)

Watched:  02/25/2024
Format:  BluRay
Viewing:  Second
Director: Takao Okawara
Selection:  Me

We decided to keep on our path of rewatching Heisei-era Godzilla movies in order.  We last watched this one about four years ago during our "hunker down and watch Godzilla because it's COVID-times" erratic sprint through Toho's G-output.  

Honestly, I didn't really remember this one at all until a scene would start.  There was a lot of "oh, yeahhhh..." as the movie unspooled.  And I attribute that to the fact the middle of movie is a mess.  The beginning is interesting enough, and the end is good Kaiju Kombat, but the middle feels like they're trying to make a point about stealing and environmentalism, but it's a little confusing as to how that's tying into our Kaiju problem.  And to further muddy the film, Godzilla - now a heel after the time-warp stuff of the prior film - isn't here to restore balance.  He's just... sorta... rampaging.  

What's funny is how it looks like the new Monsterverse stuff is taking cues from these movies.  This is the first of the Heisei movies to suggest ancient cultures knew of the Kaiju, and there was a balance to the world brought by the Titans.  But here they do it as an exposition dump *after* introducing The Cosmos (our faerie friends).  And the Monsterverse can't bear the thought of either the Cosmos or Mothra in her larval form - so I guess we're just stuck with the window dressing.

Curiously, one of the supporting actors looked so familiar I mentioned it to Jamie who figured out he was recast in Godzilla 2000 as a totally different character, but he had facial hair and a very different demeanor.  But I did feel less crazy (and he's actually in like four of these movies).  And that's just one of those things - I think everyone acting in Japan gets to be in 2-4 Godzilla movies if they play their cards right.

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Sports Watch: The Sandlot (1993)

Watched:  02/21/2024
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  First
Director:  David Mickey Evans
Selection:  Jamie

I was wrapping up my senior year of high school when The Sandlot (1993) hit.  At the time, I was more interested in adult-oriented movies, and not at all into baseball, so the movie came and went without much notice on my part.  I'd have forgotten about it completely, but it's since become an inter-generational favorite, especially with baseball fans (which is by far the best sport to put in a movie), and has become a meme-generating perennial.  "You're killing me, Smalls" has escaped the fandom of the film and made it's way into pop culture.

Jamie pitched it for our evening viewing, and wanting to know what the hubbub was about, we gave it a whirl.

Absolutely, I was reminded of the era, circa 1980-84, when my family lived near a cul-de-sac in Spring, Texas, in the halcyon summer days when kids were kicked out of the house after breakfast, drank out of hoses, and would set up games of baseball to play all afternoon.  We used the cul-de-sac as our diamond, and our certainty we were terrible at baseball ensured we weren't putting out any windows.  My neighborhood was chock full of kids around our age, so getting a handful together to play was never a big deal.  In some ways, I was primed.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

G Watch: Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991)

Watched:  02/20/2024
Format:  BluRay
Viewing:  Third?
Director:  Kazuki Ômori, Koji Hashimoto, Katsumune Ishida
Selection:  Me

I'm finally trying to watch the Heisei movies in order-ish (we tried to watch Return of Godzilla and couldn't finish it.  It's a slog.), but after watching Godzilla vs. Biollante, we were ready to return to Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991), which is bananas in the best way, and which I remembered fondly.

Work has been busy, so I was also ready for some kaiju kollisions on my television, and this one absolutely delivers.

Re-reading my post on the film from 4 years ago, I agree with myself here, so I'll skip summaries and whatnot.  

The movie *does* jettison the idea that Ghidorah is from space, which even the Monstervese films picked up.  It also low-key implies the villains are white Americans who have traveled through time to show up the Japanese of the future and remake the world in their image - and, man...!  OUCH.  But fair!

*Not All White Guys* is represented by a white guy robot (Jamie theorizes was inspired by T2, which seems very possible, even if just based on trailers the Toho guys had seen), and a sea-faring scientist in the 3rd act.  

The appearance of the US Navy in 1944 is treated as an invading force that's being repelled, which is... true-ish.  As seems to so often be the case with finding anglo actors for Toho movies, the Captain of the US navy battleship is curiously cast, but seems to be having a grand time.  I would love to know what the story was there.

Japan's role in WWII happening is often left murky in Godzilla films, but the war is frequently referenced.  

And this is somewhat why I wanted to get to this movie.  I was maybe five minutes into Godzilla Minus One when I started pondering this movie.  The two have very little in common, but it's hard not to draw a comparison between the appearance of a pre-atomic Godzilla facing off with the military in both movies, and soldiers having life-changing experiences with the beast and then have to reconcile seeing the same dinosaur roaming about at 20 times the size they last saw.  I mean, Godzilla Minus One is pretty good, but you can say it lacked in robots with super-speed and iffy make-up FX.

I do want to say:  the time travel in this movie has no internal logic, and I found it a bit baffling.  Everyone seems pretty aware of Godzilla even though he's been removed from the timeline, and our hero - a rapscallionish journalist - plans to write a book on Godzilla, who no longer exists at one point in the movie.  And clearly Toho was just like "whatever, man.  That's how time travel works."

Anyway, fun times.  

Sunday, February 11, 2024

U.S. G-Watch: Godzilla (1998)

the actual dick joke on the poster was probably the tell this movie was going to be straight garbage

Watched:  02/10/2024
Format:  Max
Viewing:  Fourth?
Director:  Roland Emerich
Selection:  I have only myself to blame

Back in 1998, I saw Godzilla opening day with Jamie.  I'd been pretty excited about what a US studio could do with the concept.   We were five years out from Jurassic Park, so CG was a thing.  And seeing some actors we liked (who were not Raymond Burr) getting involved with the big guy seemed like a neat idea. 

I'd argue that at the time of the film's release, it had been since the mid-80's that a Toho movie really landed in the US, so there was some context for Godzilla for your average US movie-goer, but not a lot.  Mostly spoofs and lightly racist parodies.  Everyone knew Godzilla, but it was like... everyone knew Superman had comic books, but no one had read an issue since elementary school.  You knew the general look and some details, but... that was about it.

Looking at the box office, it's crucial to recall the movie had an absolutely gigantic marketing campaign.  This was back when movies didn't just advertise, they did a half-dozen corporate tie-in's, so Godzilla was going to be inescapable no matter what.  Heck, I very much remember the omnipresent Taco Bell chihuahua selling Big G.  

Tri-Star was going to make sure you were going to see this movie whether it was good or not.

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

90's Watch: Quiz Show (1994)

Watched:  01/15/2024
Format:  Amazon
Viewing:  Second
Director:  Robert Redford
Selection:  Jamie

It's been 30 years since Quiz Show (1994) was released, and probably 29 since I've last seen it.  I'm now much older than Ralph Fiennes and Rob Morrow as our leads, and in the intervening years, the real Charles Von Doren, Richard Goodwin and Herb Stemple have passed (oddly with little in the way of news or media mention).

Sometimes watching younger film reviewers on YouTube or reading the film discussion of younger film enthusiasts, it's interesting to note the tilt to genre pictures of prior eras, and it's easy to forget that genre was largely in the margins thirty years ago.  At the time, something like Quiz Show was happily released by Disney when they had multiple outlets for producing movies for general and adult audiences - this one released through Hollywood Pictures (see also Touchstone and whatever their deal was with Miramax).  And we had name directors doing prestige pictures that were a thing to go see.

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.

Sunday, November 12, 2023

90's 70's Watch: The Brady Bunch Movie (1995)

Watched:  11/10/2023
Format:  Amazon
Viewing:  Unknown
Director:  Betty Thomas

November of 2023 is about 28 years from when The Brady Bunch Movie (1995) was released.  Which is funny, because the TV show, The Brady Bunch, which this movie spoofs, ran from September 1969 to March 1974, meaning the movie - which was sending up the show was only separated from the final air date by 21 years.  That's some math, but we're~7 years further out now from this movie than we were from the show when the movie arrived.

While the US is too large and has too many people to have a monoculture, due to the nature of broadcast TV, and then early cable, in the 20th Century there was a shared experience for the youth of the United States in the form of mass entertainment.  With a minimum of programming aimed at youth, for millions of us, the politely banal episodic adventures of The Brady Bunch, playing in mid-afternoon reruns, were a common touchpoint.  As were a handful of other shows, to be sure.*

Musical tastes of the time could vary - you might like country or R&B or rock or metal - but you only had so many channels to pick from.  I cannot imagine today's kids have a concept of wanting to unwind after latch-keying oneself into your empty house after a long day at school and watching some TV, and, really, there's maybe two options across your 4 to 30-odd channels (if your folks sprung for cable).

So it was that, thanks to the power of cheap syndication, for about 20 years, The Brady Bunch aired daily, sometimes multiple episodes, as the six kids, two parents and their maid acted like weird, alternate-reality stepford wives and children, making mountains out of mole hills and speaking in an almost otherwordly way that became a common cultural currency for kids to discuss, make fun of, etc....  The tendency of TV execs to want to sanitize the world was so harsh and weird, it was like bleach had killed anything resembling actual life. 

Sunday, October 29, 2023

HalloWatch: The Craft (1996)

Watched:  10/27/2023
Format:  Amazon
Viewing:  Second
Director:  Andrew Fleming

One thing I very much recall from the 1990's - perhaps a product of the era or just the age I was at the time (I would have been 21 seeing this movie) - was that there was what was going on, and then there was the LA regurgitation of what was happening.  The LA version was invariably stripped of the spirit of the source, and churned out product for a mass-market and to have a fast-fashion version.*  Often, folks didn't necessarily get the nuance or difference.  It's why mall-store  "Hot Topic" is absolutely hilarious to Gen X'ers of a certain stripe, and earnestly beloved by Millennials of a similar stripe. 

I think there's a whole book to be written on how anything and everything was co-opted and commercialized to the masses, stripped of its origins and meaning, and basically is now considered the Poochie-fication of mass media and product marketing

The Craft (1996) Poochifies the era and it's attempts to capitalize on multiple threads, from the exploding alt-rock scene, and the easy access to, and interest in, occult material - the inevitable result of being raised at the height of the Satanic Panic.  It's also *very* much a 1990's teen movie, replete with sex, drugs and rock and roll.

Sunday, October 22, 2023

HalloWatch: Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992)

Watched:  10/21/2023
Format:  Amazon
Viewing:  Second, I think
Director:  Francis Ford Coppola

Firstly, this isn't Bram Stoker's actual Dracula.  This is Francis Ford Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992).

I very much remember Coppola, with whose work I'd just become acquainted at age 15 or so, announcing he was going to remake the Universal Monster stuff using the source material.  And as a teen, I was jazzed.  Let's kick the dust off, ditch the stuffy 1930's stylings (I'd never seen the movies at this point) and lets make a Dracula for the 90's!  

All I can really remember from that first movie is that it was... a lot.  The reviews were mixed, but everyone was going to see it, and I was in a packed theatre when I watched it myself.  

Honestly, I remember thinking "well... that was a lot.  And I get why the reviews were mixed."  Halloween night of '93, I went to see the original, and was like "oh, wow.  This is rad.  I get why people love this." and, in fact, my interest in horror movie monsters I'd had as a kid was reignited (along with a VHS copy of Phantom of the Opera) to the point where I'm annoying about it to this day!

Over the years, I've not returned to the Coppola movie because (a) I didn't like it all that much to begin with, and (b) there's so many Draculas.  And one gotta catch 'em all.  

Monday, October 16, 2023

Hallo-Watch: Village of the Damned (1995)

Watched:  10/13/2023
Format:  Criterion, I think
Viewing:  Second
Director:  John Carpenter

So, Friday night I was wrestling with the two vaccines I'd had injected earlier in the day and wanted to watch something I'd already seen so it wouldn't really matter.  Plus, I wanted something Halloween-ish.  A quick scroll landed me on the John Carpenter directed 1995 remake of Village of the Damned.  

Now, here in 2023, I still have not seen the original.  But in the mid-90's, I kind of saw everything, and this starred Christopher Reeve and was directed by Carpenter, so I was curious.

What I remembered from the movie:  
  • Kirstie Alley looking smashing and chain smoking to great effect
  • Christopher Reeve giving it his all despite the fact this is nonsense
  • Mark Hamill as a pastor?
  • Creepy kids who just won't listen
And these things were all accurate.

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Hallo-Watch: The Exorcist III (1990)

Watched:  10/15/2023
Format:  Criterion
Viewing:  First
Director:  William Peter Blatty

Way, way back in the 1980's my brother and I went on a spree of renting "movies you should watch" that included Blade Runner, A Clockwork Orange, The Shining and The Exorcist.  It was... a lot for my 14-year-old self, and it was quite the impactful set of viewings as we watched the movies in pairs but over just 2 weekends.  

I can't remember which I watched with The Exorcist.  What I do remember is that there was a lightning storm while we watched it, and at some key point in the film I pushed back the curtain in the living room to look at the weather, and lightning hit nearby, making me see my own reflection in the glass, and I about wet myself.

The movie worked.  I won't say The Exorcist is my favorite horror film, I've only seen it twice.  But I get why it's held in such high regard and in no way do I dispute those arguments.  

Following that viewing, I was told "nah, the sequels are bad, and don't watch them", so I did not.  But this last month with the release of Exorcist: The Believer, aficionados popped out of the woodwork to discuss the franchise, and it seemed that folks were in agreement that The Exorcist III, based on the novel Legion by Exorcist novelist and screenwriter William Peter Blatty - and written and directed by same, was a slam dunk.

Again, I'm hard pressed to disagree.

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Hallow-Watch: Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight (1995)

Watched:  10/02/2023
Format:  Criterion
Viewing:  Second
Director:  Ernest Dickerson

I didn't have HBO during most of the years when Tales From the Crypt was on television, so I was aware of the show, but didn't catch it very often.  In general, I wasn't really wired for it at the time (I wasn't into horror), but in 1995, I was sort of going to see everything that came out.  

My memory of the movie is that it's... fine.  It seems like maybe it could have been better, and a 90 minute run-time, even with Crypt Keeper book-ends, was still maybe a bit much and at some point, you feel like you get it, and this could have been 75 or 80 minutes.  The show was usually 30+ minutes, so you're essentially doing tight stories built on ironic twists, the hand of fate, etc...  the kind of stuff you may be familiar with from any number of anthology shows that preceded it.

Here, they needed to tell a longer story, and so we get a bit of an actioner on top of the horror, and a larger cast.  And what a cast!  How weird.

I only really remembered Billy Zane, but we also have a very young Jada Pinkett (pre-Smith), Thomas Haden Church, CCH Pounder, William Sadler, Dick Miller, Charles Fleischer, Brenda Bakke and Traci Bingham is in there somewhere as a "Party Babe".  It seems like the studio was like "hey, we're doing a Tales from the Crypt movie, and-" and everyone said "yes!".

The basic set-up is that William Sadler plays a guy on the run from an hilarious Billy Zane, who is a sort of Demon-guy.  Sadler is protecting "the key" which will turn Earth back to a pre-"let there be light" state and release demons and darkness onto the world.  He's trapped in a hotel (they keep calling a motel) built out of an old church along with the employees and residents of the motel, as well as some cops.

You've seen similar before as the cast bickers and fights and has their own little arcs and desires, which are exploited by Zane who uses their inner-most desires to get inside their heads and physically into the motel.  And he's funny and charming as he does so.

The movie takes place in just a few locations over a single night, which helps wrangle the story, characters and budget.  And makes for good horror-stuff.

There's a sort of post-80's/ we've-seen-Evil Dead 2 approach to some of it, and it's a pleasure to see so much done with puppets, creature design and practical FX.  The demons running around are given animal-like legs I can't believe the actors could walk on, but they even climb stairs.  There's some gore, but it's not, like, endless.  It's more of a punchline and tone setting.

All-in-all, it's a fun movie.  I'm not sure the format of Tales from the Crypt begs for a movie-length treatment, but it did make me think - there's no reason Max couldn't revive this show.  Horror does great, in general, and it would be terrific to see stuff that relies on the sorts of plot twists and ghoulish morality tales that made TV horror and sci-fi work for decades.  I don't know how much more I can get from another zombie-based TV show taking place in a world where they've never seen a zombie TV show before.

And, of course, it's kinda nice to have the Crypt Keeper making fun of the proceedings and the horrible fates of the characters instead of insisting this should all be taken very seriously, indeed.  I'm a firm believer in the horror-host, from Elvira to Crypt Keeper to Count Floyd.  We need a horror host we can all rally around, and who better?  Well, Elvira, but I think she hung up her dagger belt.

Sunday, September 3, 2023

PodCast 251: "Drop Dead Fred" (1991) - a SimonUK and Ryan Episode

Watched:  08/28/2023
Format:  Amazon
Viewing:  3rd?
Decade:  1990's
Director:  Ate de Jong

Ryan and his imaginary British friend delve into their respective inner children and try to figure out who is responsible for all the mess. We take a look at an early 90's cable staple!



Drop Dead Fred Suite - Randy Edelman 

SimonUK's Cinema Selections!

Monday, August 28, 2023

Riff Watch: Time Chasers (1994)

Watched:  08/27/2023
Format:  Amazon
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1990's


Jamie started scrolling through options and decided we were watching *something* by the RiffTrax or MST3K guys.  She settled on something called Time Chasers, which had been covered by MST3K at some point, but RiffTrax had covered it again during a live show a few years back, and that's what we watched.

Look, if this movie was good, it *probably* wouldn't be a RiffTrax selection.  

Edit: hours after watching this, a making-of YouTube video showed up in my algorithm, and I watched the first part.  It turns out, the movie was written and directed by a 19-year-old.  So, I am impressed in some ways.  I assume no real film school, and a lot of moxie.  And yet...

It's a movie that both really takes the concept of time travel seriously and works through the implications, but also has a plot that requires the characters be utter morons who have *not* thought out the implications - such as, hey, maybe selling your time travel device to a corporation could have consequences.  

It's your usual no-budget, big-dreams, let's use all the things we can borrow from friends, sci-fi indie feature that was a staple of MST3K programming and shoot-your-shot movie-making of the era.  Cast with people who were the best to audition, usually with regional accents, and the actress who looked closest to what a Hollywood actress might look like.  

Like a community theater production of a play that you realize isn't quite working, you still want to cheer everyone on.  Until you realize, no one has told anyone involved that this script needed some work, and you're allowed to leave things on the cutting room floor.  

Anyway, you get the picture.  

The Riff is a lot of fun, and I recommend.