Monday, November 11, 2019
Decade: 1970's/ 2010's
If asked to compile a list of the greatest popular American singers of the 20th Century, I'd assume Aretha Franklin would make the top few - if not the number one slot - for much of the US populace.
We lost Franklin in 2018, and it's unclear who can begin to fill her role in the zeitgeist, but maybe it's too soon, and maybe we don't need to. Maybe she was a singular talent.
Shot in 1972 and unreleased until the last 12 months or so, Amazing Grace (2019) is an attempt by Sydney Pollack to record and capture the experience of Franklin recording a live Gospel album at a church in Los Angeles over the course of two nights. Backed by a local choir and supported by the Reverend James Cleveland, Franklin takes to the pulpit and - as one would expect - nails every song before her.
Sunday, November 10, 2019
Format: Alamo Slaughter Lane
Look, I'm on the record going to the mat for the first two Terminator movies. And way, way less so for T3 and whatever the Christian Bale one was called. And I never saw Genisys. I did like the TV show, The Sarah Connor Chronicles.
Sunday, October 20, 2019
Format: Amazon Streaming
Look, this is one of the most written about movies of the past decade. I'm not really sure I have anything new to add. But I finally saw it, and it was very good. Frankly, it was exactly what I was expecting from seeing the trailers, and I only was marginally off in two guesses I made while watching the film. Still, it's an ambitious film and an uncomfortable film, and I can see why Peele is Hollywood's favorite new director.
Amazon Streaming is including the alternate/ original ending of the film, and, frankly, I think they should have kept that as the final word, but no one is asking me.
Monday, October 14, 2019
Of late, if someone is going to mention a television show to you, it often comes with a wild look in their eye I recall occurring most elsewhere when my glance would occasionally meet that of the Hare Krishnas who used to roam The Drag in the 1990's.
One does not "enjoy" a show anymore, they area devotee. They advocate for it. They seek converts.
So, lately, has it been with Fleabag, the short-seasoned show from England that, as was discussed at my house over the weekend, on paper, does not at all sound like my cup of tea. Self-immolating, possibly alcoholic and definitely caustic young woman behaves badly, who runs up against the people she loves, and who love her, with poor results. And does it whilst literally winking at the camera.
I mean, sure, fine, but is there at least a robot she drinks with? Then we might have something.
Sunday, September 22, 2019
I am well aware that Zach Galifianakis is not a fit to everyone's comedy palette. I may be one of two people I know who is sad that the FX series Baskets has drawn to a conclusion (and both of those people live in this house), and while I am aware people liked him as a supporting player in The Hangover films, that hasn't necessarily translated into leading-man-comedian status after several mid-budget Hollywood films came and went.
Not long ago, SimonUK and I were discussing the difference between American comedy and British comedy, and the conversation boiled down to "I think Americans like a trickster underdog who gets it over on a pompous bully, and Brits like a buffoon who has no idea he is his own problem." Galifianakis's Funny or Die based web-series Between Two Ferns sits somewhere uncomfortably in the middle - Galifianakis playing a version of himself as a local basic cable public access host who somehow lands everyone from Charlize Theron to former (and then sitting) President Barack Obama. It's punching up comedy - he's deflating any sense of self-importance a Hollywood-type might have - but doing so as a buffoon lacking any notion of the impact of his questions, and - amazingly - he's pretty irritable with his guests.
The web series makes for a fascinating watch, partly because you can see which Hollywood folk are comfortable enough in their own skin to actually sit through one of the interviews, which can actually deliver some devastating questions (the only direction the guests seem to be given is: deadpan). Some engage, returning the favor, others simply go blank, and it's always just a long, awkward gag.
There's something of a story to Between Two Ferns: The Movie (2019) - essentially it posits that Galifiankis is a NC-based public tv host who has been picked up by Funny or Die, and coked-up CEO of FoD, Will Ferrell, sends his Hollywood pals to do the access show as a gag and to drive clicks. A taping goes horribly wrong, but as the outcome, Ferrell sends Zach and his crew on the road to get 10 new episodes recorded in 2 weeks. If he makes it, he gets a fancy late night talk show.
As one would assume, the film is more or less a road picture as the crew heads East to West, catching celebrity interviews along the way (Jon Hamm, Benedict Cumberbatch, Brie Larson, etc...), en route to deliver the episodes to Ferrell's desk. So, if you like rough sketches on the road and the web-interview format of Between Two Ferns, I have some good news for you.
The supporting cast of Jiavani Linayao, Ryan Gaul and Lauren Lapkus really are pretty hilarious, but so are a lot of the interviewees, whether it's the interview clips or the ostensible documentary footage that we're supposed to be watching. Special hat tip to Chrissy Tiegen for her part (and, of course, John Legend). And I hadn't seen Mary Scheer in anything in a decade, but I swear she makes the absolute f'ing most of her 2 minutes of screentime. holy cats.
I dunno. I thought it was hilarious, but this is a true Your Mileage May Vary film. I assume many people do not care at all for Between Two Ferns, in which case... this isn't going to improve that for you.
Saturday, September 14, 2019
Format: Amazon Streaming
I wouldn't say this movie was mismarketed, exactly. But how reviews I read described it made it sound exceedingly joyless, but interesting. The premise held enough promise that I planned to get to it eventually, but wasn't in a mad dash to do so. However, Jamie watched it somewhere along the line when I was off at a breakdance party or whatever I do, and informed me it was very much in my wheelhouse, and, indeed, she was correct.
Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018) is the true story of Lee Israel, an NYC based writer of bios of celebs of bygone eras (she's working on a Fanny Brice book during the movie's circa 1991 timeframe), which don't really sell, so she tries to hold copy-editing positions, etc... to pay the bills. But as a caustic, misanthropic drunk, turns out holding a job can be tough.
She becomes re-acquainted with a down-on-his luck bon vivant, played by the always-amazing Richard E. Grant (a charming drunk, here), just about the time she has some bills due (cat gets sick), and has to make some money, quick. Through a series of small discoveries, she learns of the world of memorabilia and letter collectors, and begins forging letters supposedly penned by luminaries long since passed, including everyone from Noel Coward to Louise Brooks.
Melissa McCarthy stars as Israel, and it's not exactly a revelation to see her this good - I think she's kinda brilliant as a comic actor, so seeing what she can do with a dramatic part was a "well, sure" revelation. She's always been so specific, with undercurrents and layers of sympathy, pathos, and thoughtfulness, even in goofy stuff like The Heat (which I really enjoy, y'all), doing same but for a dramatic role makes sense. And, it seems, the work done here by she and Grant earned them both Oscar nods.*
Because the arc of the film is fairly obvious, I'll refrain from spoilers. Instead, I'll just tip my hat to the actual technical work, character work, and script. Director Marielle Heller has a sparse directing and acting filmography, but seems to know how to get a performance, and I'm now doubly interested in the A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood Mr. Rogers biopic coming, as she's the one wearing the puffy director's pants there, too.
I also quite liked the DP work by Brandon Trost, and almost laughed out loud seeing this is the same DP as the Crank movies, which I'll just let all of us ponder if we think we ever have someone's style nailed down.
Anyhoo... I'm just recommending this one. Give it a go.
*which... honestly, we should be expecting movies with these levels of performance in movies all the time, but that's reserved for TV these days.
Saturday, September 7, 2019
|be careful. Even under the sea, you can step on a Lego|
Format: Google Fiber Streaming
In all fairness, at least two of you people warned me.
I didn't care much for 2014's Godzilla, the first in the series to relaunch Big-G from an American studio, leaping from Toho Studios to WB/ Legendary. It didn't help that the movie was pitched as a Bryan Cranston vehicle at the height of Breaking Bad's popularity, and then removed him from the story about 1/3rd of the way in leaving us with an uninspired story about two characters who never were much beyond their wardrobe of "soldier" and "nurse". We got Ken Watanabe in practically a walk-on role and Sally Hawkins as his sorta side-kick, but neither was given much to do but stare in awe at screens.
The movie was followed by Kong: Skull Island (2017), which I was in the minority as finding kind of boring and relying too much on Toho's take on prior renditions of King Kong rather than the 1933 original, for which I have a deep love. I didn't find the way it "borrowed" from Apocalypse Now particularly charming or even appropriate. The movie turned Brie Larson into a talking tank top, and if you asked me what happened in the movie to whom, I couldn't tell you. Something something MONARCH. But it also assembled a wild array of A and B list talent including Marvel heroes and villains taking a side-gig. Ditching the notion that Kong would leave Skull Island in this episode, instead we're stuck with "look how many ways soldiers and scientists can die over the span of 90 minutes", which is a formula I mostly find deadly dull.
Tuesday, September 3, 2019
Format: HBO Streaming on Amazon
We launch our Kryptonian Thought-Beast series with an (exhausted) examination of our fishy friend's blockbuster cinematic success! And we ask "Why? Why did people like this movie? For it is not a good movie." Join Jamie and I as we discuss the dude-bro who would be king of 3/4ths of the Earth.
Aquaman Theme - Power Records, Sounds and Stories about the Justice League of America
Kryptonian Thought Beast PodCast Series
Thursday, August 15, 2019
Format: Amazon Streaming
I just checked Box Office Mojo and if you want to weep for humanity, this movie made $190 million and Minions made over a billion dollars. I think I'm beginning to understand how we reached our current state as a people.
If you haven't seen Lego Movie 2: The Second Part (2019), it's now streaming, so now's a second chance.
With the device revealed at the finale of the first Lego Movie, and a reasonable assumption being that we understand that the adventures of the movie are in part a kid playing with Lego and in part a kid working things out - the movie is able to play a bit more with the premise.
Saturday, August 10, 2019
I haven't actually read Garth Ennis's The Boys series. I read the first trade and always intended to follow up to see where it went from the set-up, but never quite got there. I'll make up for it now, but it's gonna take some purchasing power, I guess.
Flat out, Garth Ennis is one the three or four best writers in comics, and, on some days, I think he's just "the best". Some of us stumbled upon him due to his bizarre ability to make gore and violence absolutely hilarious (in the right context) but stayed for the amazing characterization, astounding turns to genuine sympathy for unsympathetic characters, and his ability to grasp humanity and the tragedy and comedy of his characters enough that they feel can feel three-dimensional. All while existing in profane, graphically violent, sexually frank or ridiculous situations that seems like it would send many-a-comics-twitterer running for some pearls to clutch.
Thursday, July 25, 2019
Format: Hallmark Channel's Christmas in July
I was suffering a fever and whatnot over the weekend, and that's part of why this happened.
Around July 1, The Hallmark Channel began running Christmas movies 24/7, and I guess that's the gameplan through the end of the month. It's clearly a trial balloon to see if they should just go ahead and launch a fulltime Christmas movies channel, as in - all year it's Christmas. Which would make Jamie snap, and, thus, I support this idea.
Friday, July 19, 2019
In some ways I'm amazed I haven't totally turned on this show. It can be twee, it's a lot too precious in some scenes, and the "look, we're doing the 1980's!" while getting a lot of details wrong should have pushed me over the ledge.*
Sometimes I wish they'd just turn to David Harbour and Winona Ryder and ask "is this actually right? As someone who was a young person in 1985, is this accurate?" Because it works *better* for those of us who were around this age when the show is on. And it is on *a lot*. But when it's off, it takes you right out.
The horror was more or less abstracted to a general horror-movie sort of problem this season, giving the characters less specific rules-sorting to do, which I support. At times the visual and filmic references to other things was so heavy handed, though, the show almost folded in on itself.
Still, somehow, the show works. I still really enjoyed it, and I know why.
Saturday, July 13, 2019
Y'all, I @#$%ing love Mary Poppins.
I already talked a bit about this movie back in December when we went to go see it as a holiday-timed family outing.
Honestly, as much as I liked it the first time, on a second viewing, I liked it even more. Once you're past the "what am I looking at?" aspect of such a big production and get over everything they're throwing at you and can process it as a movie with a story and things happening and songs you're not hearing one after another for the first time and dance sequences you're just trying to process...
Honestly, it's really a very well put together bit of entertainment and a fine companion piece to the original. And I like it quite a bit.
Yes, you can still both absolutely map the movie scene for scene as a remake of the original, but it is, in fact, a sequel, so it also has a new plot and new problems and works in elements of the original as plot points, creating some terrific continuity. I *liked* the songs the first time, and on a second viewing, I really liked the tunes. They may not have the immediate impact of soft-rock favorites in the manner of Moana or Frozen, and they remain so much in the vein of the Sherman Bros., we aren't going to get a Broadway showstopper akin to Let It Go, but the song-craft is still tremendous and the songs almost as powerful as carrying the story forward as Moana.
And, of course, Emily Blunt's take on Mary Poppins is... well, she's pretty great.
Anyway - I won't belabor it. I rewatched the film, enjoyed it again, and will watch it again in the future. This movie could have been a trainwreck and dimished the original - instead, the level of attention of detail in recreating the world of a movie from 60 years prior and updating it to a different period is phenomenal. Not to mention the recreation of Disney's 2D circa 1960 animation house style brought into this new film. The spirit is so much the same from head to tail on this movie, it's an astounding feat.
And whether it's the Julie Andrews original film or this belated follow-up, I still @#$%ing love Mary Poppins.
Saturday, June 29, 2019
You'd think I'd have less to say on a third viewing of the movie, but I was genuinely surprised how much more I liked this film on a third viewing. In many ways, I now think the ad campaign for Captain Marvel and my prior knowledge of the character really got in the way of seeing a lot of what the movie does in bringing us along on Carol's journey - frankly, showing the destruction of the Kree ships in the trailer was crazy and shouldn't have happened.
And while I liked and appreciated the messages the movie makes regarding Carol coming into her own and pushing out the voices of those who would contain and control her - this time I also got a much better feel for the step-by-step journey to Carol's always intact sense of justice and the slow transformation to trusting herself as she learns what sort of people/ aliens she should be trusting.
I've made comment before that it's super-fun to have a Superman-level hero in the Marvel movies, it's also a joy to have someone who reflects the core of what's made Superman stand out since the inception of the character: someone with the moral centering to do the right thing who has the power to act on it without compromise or fear for their own skin, and who will not use that power for self-gain.
Anyway - fun to rewatch the movie again (and, I am sure, again and again in the future).
Friday, June 21, 2019
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Format: Amazon Streaming
Jamie and Ryan get small with a hero of dynamic proportions. It's "Ant-Man" (2015), Marvel's post "Avengers: Ultron" tone reset. Part heist, part retro-sci-fi, part superhero - it's the Gen-X superhero with a whole lot of supporting cast and the best van in superherodom.
Plain Song - The Cure, Disintegration
Avengers Chronological Countdown Playlist
Sunday, June 16, 2019
One of my earliest memories is being about three, hanging from the inside of the garage door and singing "We Will Rock You" and kicking the garage door to the beat. Who knew a 3 year old would have that kind of appreciation for a Brian May guitar lick?
It's hard to piece together what I knew about Queen and when. It doesn't help that time for kids is so distended, and what were minor hiatuses for the band were epic blocks of time to me back then. I do remember them coming back into my consciousness with "Radio Gaga". I remember a bit of Live Aid on playback (but not live). I remember Freddie passing.
And, of course, anyone around at the time remembers the post-mortem, Wayne's World supported explosion of "Bohemian Rhapsody", a song I can't say I'd heard before.
Sunday, June 9, 2019
I really didn't know what to expect when DC announced their second show in their DC Universe app exclusive line-up would be Doom Patrol. From the pictures shared, the comics would be roughly based on the late 1980's/ early-90's-era Grant Morrison-penned (with art by Richard Case, Doug Braithwaite, Scott Hanna, John Nyberg, Carlos Garzon) comics. But with a slightly different line-up, what with Rita Farr there front and center.
My initial exposure to Doom Patrol as a team was via issue #1 of this series - Morrison had come on in the mid-30's - written by Paul Kupperberg. Frankly, I'd been completely enamored with the first couple of issues (long since disappeared from my collection, even before The Purge). It was so weird and dark and uncomfortable - starting at a point where people were assembling, talking about a team that had preceded them had died. Badly. Somehow it felt more adult and frank than the way X-Men never seemed to quite exit high school.
Friday, June 7, 2019
Viewing: Third? Fourth?
Jamie slogs through a movie she does not care for and about which Ryan is ambivalent. It's the second outing for Earth's Mightiest Heroes as we come face to face with an AI that's kind of a self-replicating Mean Girl. Join us as we puzzle through Avengers: Age of Ultron, the one you haven't seen in a while and that you only sorta remember.
The "Avengers Chronological Countdown" Playlist
Wednesday, June 5, 2019
|I'm ready for this buddy picture|
Format: Alamo - Slaughter Lane
Well... I dunno what to tell you people. We wanted to make sure we saw this again in the theater, and, indeed, we did.
Of course this time I noticed some new things, enjoyed some new stuff, appreciated what I'd seen before and generally had a good time of it watching the movie again.
The movie still flies by, and I'm still a bit drained by the time it ends. I have a few corrections I need to make where I made some mistakes on the PodCast, so... you know, eventually we'll get to that.
|oh, Pepper. I can't quit you.|
Saturday, May 25, 2019
Format: Alamo Mueller
I'm not sure what to say about the John Wick franchise. It is what it is. A celebration of cinematic violence in a world set up specifically to support deeply stylized violence with no sense of consequences (despite what the movie keeps trying to say is the theme, but which, in no way, resonates with anything we're seeing). Essentially a self-playing videogame, the movies are about the glamour of killing, and being unkillable in a world where the only real humans are a few named characters, with a sub-class of nameless henchmen, and then NPC's of the rest of humanity sort of appearing as shapes and colors the assassins can disappear into, but who aren't really there.