Showing posts with label 2020's. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 2020's. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Doc Watch: The Greatest Night in Pop (2024)




Watched:  02/14/2024
Format:  Netflix
Viewing:  First
Director:  Bao Nguyen
Selection:  Jamie

I was 9 years old (about to be 10) when "We Are the World" hit the airwaves.  And then played non-stop for what seemed to be about 6 months to a year.  I can't say when I first heard the song or saw the video, but I do remember unloading the car when my mom came home from shopping (that was one of our chores) and a copy of the vinyl record being in the back of the van.  

I also recall either that year or the next school year being brought into the cafetorium at Spicewood Elementary where we were shown a "making of" doc about the song and the famine in Ethiopia and nearby countries.  (This was the 1980's, VCRs were newish, and teachers were always finding some reason to show a film).  

We're almost 40 years out from the release of the record, so a lot has changed in that time.  And a lot of people have passed.*  And it's hard for me to imagine what this would look like now.  Do musicians even still do benefit work like this, or has streaming killed the potential for raising money?

But the doc, The Greatest Night in Pop (2024) - now on Netflix - is a neat exploration of what happened and why, how it came together and the bumps along the way.  

The film relies on first-hand accounts, pulling in top-tier talent that participated, from Bruce Sprinsteen to one of the masterminds, Lionel Richie.  And, because it was so star-studded, it also features a treasury of video shot from the event of the recording.  

Unfortunately, some of the key players either weren't available for a sit-down (Quincy Jones) or were very not available for a sit-down (Michael Jackson).  But you do get a very good picture of what it must have been like for the people who walked into the room, using interviews with Cindy Lauper, Smokey Robinson, Sheila E., to the camera crew and engineer.

Sometimes you watch a doc and they talk about the situation and the huge impact it had, and you know they're kind of playing it up.  After all, no one wants to watch a doc and at the end they're like "well, it didn't really work out that great."  But USA for Africa, at worst, raised awareness for how people could take action and not just be told that people were starving, and wasn't that too bad.  At best, it did get nutrional support to the people affected by the famine, as well as medicine and other aid.

From the point of view of the doc and the unique event that was USA for Africa, it's absolutely worth watching just to see all of these people in the same room, minus their support staffs and all the trappings of top-tier rock stardom in the 1980's.  It's not like "We Are the World" is still played on the radio, and it's been a minute since I didn't just say "oh, that's the song" and then mentally tune out again.  I'd forgotten you have Bob Dylan in the room, for example.  

But it's human without getting weird, and you're reminded - much as with the Beatles doc - these are people.  And in the 1980's, the media machine really wanted us to forget that pop stars were just good singers in funny clothes.  

When you're a kid, rock stars seem like a permanent fixture.  I didn't think of Huey Lewis as a *new* thing or that he might be star struck being in the room with these people.  But, really, aside from seeing each other at awards shows where they don't *really* interact all that much, when would this many people get together?  When do you get Ray Charles and Kenny Rogers sharing air? Or Dionne Warwick and Willie Nelson sharing a verse?

The doc has it's truly shining moments, and I won't spoil them.  It never does explain why Dan Aykroyd was there - and that someone specifically tried to get him is all the more baffling.  It also doesn't dwell on who wasn't there - beyond Prince.  But for every huge celeb, we're missing a Madonna.  But I also appreciate that they didn't talk about why people were left out.

Anyway, it's a fun one to watch.  

But, seriously, it's weird this didn't become an annual sort of thing. 




*we miss you, Tina  



Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Nuke Watch: Oppenheimer (2023)




Watched:  02/03/2024
Format:  Amazon
Viewing:  First
Director:  Nolan
Selection:  Jamie

I'd wanted to see Oppenheimer (2023) in the theater, but these days, finding the 4.5 hours it would take to see a three hour movie is not as easy as I'd like (once you add in travel time and previews).   That mission has now been safely accomplished via streaming services.

SPOILERS

When it comes to the historical figure of J. Robert Oppenheimer, I haven't done much more than the occasional Google-dive over the years.  I'd learned his name and some about his late-career in the early 90's (if he was discussed in my presence in the 1980's, I was not paying attention or didn't grasp what people were talking about).  

Meanwhile, an armchair interest in "wait, what?" about quantum physics in college had me do a shallow dive into the name-players of 20th Century physics, which I think has a bit in common with other early-days scenes, from comics creation to rock and roll when it comes to a clutch of personalities really kicking things off and influencing everything that came after.  

And, so, yeah, I was aware of how the work from Einstein and Bohr led indirectly and directly to the Manhattan Project via their acolytes and the threat of Germany having access to their own herd of physicists.  And, I knew that Oppenheimer's career took a turn for the worse in the post-war McCarthy-era we're in such a rush to return to.

I mostly had not read anything about the film, and attempted to avoid conversation about the movie - three hours is a long time to be considering other people's opinions instead of just watching a thing.  I am also aware any movie by Nolan will have detractors who don't dig his subject matter or his evolving style - and that's a tough place to start from if you let it get in your head.  

Thursday, February 1, 2024

Minus Color Watch: Godzilla Minus One Minus Color (2023/ 2024)



Watched:  02/01/2024
Format:  Alamo
Viewing:  Third
Director: Takashi Yamazaki  
Selection:  Joint - Jamie & me

So, yes.  Third time is the charm for a re-watch of Godzilla Minus One (2023), which we wrote about when we saw it the first time and the second time, and then as part of my end of the year review.  

The version I saw was black and white (or, color desaturated to a monochrome, with plenty of tricks to make sure it works) in theaters for just a week, capping off the end of what was a surprisingly successful run.  On a reported $15 million budget, the movie has made over $105 million, and that's before digital and home video sales (will I buy some ridiculous deluxe version?  Why, most certainly).

After seeing it in Imax and in standard format, I figured: let's do this.  Plus, I saw one of the first shows in Austin, and now one of the last as I saw it both opening and closing night.

Is the "minus color" a goofy stunt?  Does it make sense to release a movie in black and white that was shot for color?  I don't know.  But based on the period setting, that Minus One feels like a 2023 echo to the 1954 original, and as a reflection of the 70 year history of Big G, I was willing to give it a whirl.  

Friday, January 19, 2024

High School Movie Watch: Bottoms (2023)




Watched:  01/19/2024
Format:  Prime
Viewing:  First
Director:  Emma Seligman
Selection:  Me

Pal AmyC had rec'd this one broadly to facebook over the summer, and I'd been curious.  And since, I'd heard in drips and drabs that this movie was really funny, but I didn't know anything about it other than "it's a high school comedy, but not like that".  And, honestly, I'm gonna pause you here and say:

go in cold on this one, because if you know anything ahead of time, you're doing yourself a disservice.  Just go check it out

I'll also throw in:  I want to re-watch this almost immediately, because (a) it was really solid, and (b) I know I missed about 1/4th of the jokes because there's weird little visual things all over the place and throw-away lines left and right that are hysterical.  

So, what is it?

Saturday, January 13, 2024

Mystery Watch: Maggie Moore[s] (2023)



Watched:  01/12/2023
Format:  Amazon
Viewing:  First
Director:  John Slattery
Selection:  Consensus selection - me, Jamie, Dug

I was curious about Maggie Moore[s] (2003) when I saw the trailer in mid 2023.  Sure, it looked like it had a decent comedy set-up and I like a good crime movie, but it also had John Hamm, Nick Mohammed and Tina Fey.   And I figured they wouldn't jump at a bad script and they're three folks I like in general.  Throw in John Slattery giving it a go behind the camera and I put it on the list of things to see.

Unavoidably, one has to ponder how this movie really wants to be Fargo.  Which would be less of a deal - Fargo was 25+ years ago - if we weren't on Season 5 of Noah Hawley's Fargo show on FX.   We have inept criminals who got into crimes because of their incompetence in life, and a stone-cold killer amongst them.  There's a morally centered cop with a less competent colleague, and the promise this is based on real-life events.

But, yeah, beyond that, it does deliver on the promise of the casting and folks generally being a good group with whom to spend time. 

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Indy Watch: Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (2023)





Watched:  01/102/2024
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  First
Director:  James Mangold
Selection:  Jamie

I was aware that the critical consensus and box office on Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (2023) was not good.  Neither of those things are much a deterrent for me for watching or enjoying a movie (see the many Godzilla posts on this site), but it did catch me by surprise when it happened.  After the fan-lambasting and luke-warm critical reception of the last time Ford revisited the character in Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull, I figured if Disney was going to go back to the well and offer another movie (after that one at least had the decency to give us a particularly happy ending for Indy), they'd be working to make sure that this one was well worth the return for cast and fans alike.

At the top, this wasn't what I would have hoped for in a big-screen return of Indy.  If you liked it, and many people did, just a heads up.  But, as always, I am not here to tell you what to like or not to like, just how I took in the movie.

The thing I was not expecting out of an Indiana Jones film was to feel bored.  And at well over two hours...  that's a lot of looking at my watch.

There was a big opportunity here for Disney, owners of the Lucasfilm output, as Crystal Skull was widely disliked and a new finale to the series could revive the franchise somehow, maybe get some life/ money out of the franchise yet.  But, the window is closing on the value of that license with Ford now a guy in his 80's and the horrific realization that - just like Star Wars - there was going to be a response somewhere between "meh" and "you ruined my childhood" with a recast of the role.  

All they could really do was hope to test the waters on a new action hero to carry the torch, and the obvious choice was (checks notes) Fleabag's Phoebe Waller-Bridge.  And maybe they could keep Ford around for another picture or two to cement the hand-off.   

I don't know if that was the plan, but, man, the movie really leaned into wanting you to find Waller-Bridge's character an equal (or better!) to Indiana Jones.   The ten year plan can't be "count on a guy in his 80's to still jump around in 2032".

But that's speculation.  Looking at Dial of Destiny, the movie didn't work for me in a few fundamental ways:

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

WB Animation Watch: Scooby-Doo and Krypto, Too! (2023)




Watched:  01/02/2024
Format:  Max
Viewing:  First
Director:  Cecilia Aranovich
Select:  Me


It's not to say Scooby-Doo and Krypto, Too! (2023) is particularly good - it has issues.  But it was better than I figured, which is possibly damning with faint praise.  Look, I'm just not a huge fan of Scooby-Doo, which is hurtful to Scooby-Doo fans, but here we are.  But I do find myself checking out some Scoob from time-to-time as they do these guest-starring movies, like the recent one with Elvira.  

As a DC Comics nut, it has a lot to love.  There's deep cut jokes exploiting a breadth of DC comics and animation history.  You'll maybe recognize bits from cartoons and movies, and you'll see items like Kandor.  Lex Luthor is a really funny supporting character here.  No notes.  I laughed.

Of course I'm a Krypto the Superdog fan, and he's in the movie, but he doesn't talk - which, look, Krypto hasn't had so much as thought-bubble in the comics since the 1970's.  But that's a bit limiting for a show with other talking dogs.  So it kinda sorta works, but.  Maybe a bit confusing?  Still, I'm just happy to see Krypto, so bonus points.

As an animation fan, it has some challenges.  My Scooby-Doo was made in the 1960's - 1980's, by the cheapest animation house outside of Filmation, so this looks like Star Wars by comparison.  But my in-house Scooby-Doo expert has assured me that they've done better by Mystery, Inc. in recent years, so I'll just agree with that.  But for someone expecting Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? style art and maybe Challenge of the Superfriends, it's... fine.  Really, it looks like the art in DC's Scooby-Doo and Batman comics that I pick up once in a blue moon if Krypto or someone shows up.   

There's some funny bits in the movie - there was a Velma's glasses bit that kills.  And I liked some of the gags about, like, the valet at the Hall of Justice.  But some of the old, worn out gags from Scooby-Doo are no fresher in 2024 than they were in 1984.  And there was no gag they couldn't stretch until you were like "I get it.  Enough."

And that included the finale "fight" that went on what seemed as long as any DC superhero movie ending - ie: way past the point where it wore out its welcome.  Which may have been a gag unto itself.  And, of course, any DC fan worth their salt could telegraph the ending twist.

I did have a couple of moments watching this cartoon that made me just sort of stare at DC over the past twenty years or so and want to ask "why do you make it so hard when this is so simple?"  Like, DC needs a Superfriends cartoon, or some version of the Justice League on Max or Cartoon Network, aimed at kids.  I know they have some marketing research that tells them "this is for people between 16 and 24", but that is *nonsense*.  They haven't even tried since I was in middle school.  And I'm old now.*

And seeing all the villains piled on Metropolis, which is treated as a gag, also made me realize why I don't give a shit about most DC events in the comics.   They aren't just the straight up Legion of Doom vs. Justice League match-up that wouldn't just feel like some wank-fest that will be meaningless to most readers.  

If they can make DC Comics work better in a Scooby-Doo cartoon - where the characters don't even really appear - than in most DC media, it may be time for a rethink.

*say what you will, but the 00's-era Justice League cartoon was airing at 7:00 at night.  That was not aimed at kids.  And they buried Justice League Action, which was great, at like 6:00 AM.  It was insane.







Saturday, December 30, 2023

Post Christmas Watch: The Holdovers (2023)




Watched:  12/29/2023
Format:  Peacock
Viewing:  First
Director:  Alexander Payne

A couple of folks had recommended The Holdovers (2023) to me, but I didn't have time to go when it came out back in November.   It's now streaming on Peacock (an underrated and inexpensive streaming service), so if you can sit through 4 minutes of commercials, you get a new movie to watch.

This fall, it was kind of interesting seeing the trailers for both this movie and Saltburn around the same time, as both were trying to reclaim a kind of movie I hadn't seen produced in a decade or so, and both occurring at elite (as in, rich people tend to go there) educational institutions and were period pieces.  I had less interest in Saltburn, and sort of raised an eyebrow at The Holdovers existing at all.  I didn't think these kinds of movies would never get made again, but it had been a while.

And, if I'm being honest, I was pretty sure I could guess the big strokes on both movies just by getting the trailer put in front of me.  But I'm not always looking for narrative novelty - sometimes execution is more important than seeing something twisted or different from my expectations.  One mistake I think we made coming out of the 90's was thinking putting a particularly dark twist on something could make it seem "more realistic" or "more important". *

Anyway, I really liked The Holdovers.  

Friday, December 29, 2023

Doc Watch: A Disturbance in the Force (2023)





Watched:  12/28/2023
Format:  Amazon
Viewing:  First
Director:  Jeremy Coon, Steve Kozak

I don't remember exactly when I became aware of the Star Wars Holiday Special.  I vaguely remember hearing Boba Fett had appeared in something on television back in the day, maybe back in high school (pre-1993), but while I was a fan of the 3 movies (and back then, there were only 3), I wasn't someone who read the books or obsessively read about the movies.  

Everything that wasn't the movies kind of didn't work out, in my opinion.  The Marvel Comics were not great, the live-action Endor movies were a weird combo of depressing and bad, and the Ewoks and Droids cartoons were oddly clunky.  

But by college I was well aware of the special existing, and its reputation.  And a couple years after college, right after Jamie and I got married, I was at Vulcan Video and they had the bootleg of the Star Wars Holiday Special on the shelf.  

We put it on, and for two, long, hours (it included the commercials) we groaned our way through the thing.  I've since seen it another time or three, at least once with Rifftrax.  

But if you're here, you're at least aware of the Special.  If not, here you go.  Behold.

Monday, December 25, 2023

G Watch: Godzilla vs. Kong (2021)





Watched:  12/23/2023
Format:  4K disc
Viewing:  Second
Director:  Adam Wingard

This is the first Monsterverse movie that finally understood why people show up for a Godzilla movie.  That seems remarkable given the money spent, audience participation in prior films, etc...  This was maybe the first one not made for the edgelord 18-24 y.o. market in mind.  

Way back in April of 2021, Godzilla enthusiast Stuart and I discussed the movie for the podcast.  I invite y'all to listen to that podcast at your leisure.

On a rewatch, and knowing what I was getting into, it's still a fun watch.  I don't know if I'd say "this is a good movie" because it's definitely YMMV territory.  It's big and ridiculous, and, arguably, there's way too much continuity in these films and not enough "hey, a new monster for Godzilla to fight".  Like, Godzilla existed over at Toho for decades and decades just showing up from time to time, and no one was trying to worry about 10,000 years of Titan history.  Godzilla just was, and everyone had to deal with it.

But when I get to see Kong slug Godzilla across the jaw while both are standing on an aircraft carrier, I almost want to stand up and salute these filmmakers for giving me the thing I did not know I needed to see in a movie, but had waited my whole life to see.  

Saturday, December 9, 2023

G Watch Take 2: Godzilla Minus One (2023)




Watched:  12/7/2023
Format:  Alamo
Viewing:  Second

This is the first time in years I've seen a movie twice in the theater.  I intended to see Marvels again, but, hasn't happened.  

My reasons for returning to the cinema were two:
  1. I could tell that when I effused about the movie, Jamie was like "yeah, you'll watch anything with Godzilla in it.  Stop telling me it's a good movie." so I wanted to just get her in a seat.  Thus, I lured her there with Alamo's chicken nuggets.*
  2. I wanted to see everything again so I wasn't just dealing with the audio and visual input being shoved in my eyes on a first viewing and see how the movie sat with me when I knew what was coming.
I am happy to report that, much as I'd been told by Stuart who had already seen it twice, the movie may work even better on a second viewing.  

That's not to dismiss the impact of the first viewing, but I can say my first watch was pretty visceral in nature.  There's a lot going on.  World War II, after-World War II, subtitles, grief, a 15-story atomic monster...  So I was curious how it would hold up, and how it would feel different knowing how the movie works and ends.

SPOILERS

Sunday, December 3, 2023

Straight to Streaming Christmas: Candy Cane Lane (2023), Genie (2023) and Noelle (2019)





Watched:  CCL 12/01/2023, G 11/27/2023, N 12/02/2023
Format:  Amazon Prime/ The 'Cock/ Disney+
Viewing:  First for all
Director:  Reginald Hudlin / Sam Boyd / Marc Lawrence

We have a lot going on, and so we've been seeking out comfort-food-movies.  As this is the Holiday Season, that means Christmas-related movies.  

Yes, we've watched a shit-ton of Hallmark movies, enough so that I've forgotten all that we've watched and I'm not sure I'll post on it.  Instead, I'm taking a look at three of the "well, it's free on the service" movies we watched this week.  

I don't understand what the story is/ was on Noelle (2019).  It was listed as a 2019 release, and maybe it was.  I mostly remember it as one of the first "originals" I saw listed on Disney+, but not something I'd gotten around to watching (this makes me want to rewatch Togo, which I remember really liking).  But no one ever mentioned the movie to me, and so it just kind of fell into the background.  But maybe it had a theatrical run? 

But, this being 2023, we finally got to it.  

Saturday, December 2, 2023

G Watch: Godzilla - Minus One (2023)





Watched:  11/29/2023
Format:  AMC IMAX
Viewing:  First
Director:  Takashi Yamazaki

Where to start?

Over the years, Godzilla has been many things.  Like Batman, he's been a children's character while also being a thing adults could appreciate.  But he's also been cast as a walking analogy in two very, very good films (Gojira and Shin Godzilla), a villain in others (Godzilla Returns and Raids Again), a dad (Son of Godzilla) a hero (most of the Shōwa era), a goof, a buddy, a ruffian...  

The American-produced Godzilla movies have done well financially, but, to me, struggled with an actual story until Kong vs. Godzilla.  But it would be misleading to say the Toho Studios produced films didn't struggle with same.  The Toho movies responded to the challenge by getting progressively crazier as the need to fill screen time with something other than expensive monster fights (models and custom 7' rubber suits are not cheap) became a clear necessity. 

To fill that run time*, both US and Toho films needed a story for humans - humans that Godzilla likely will not even be aware of during the course of the film  - that is compelling and meaningful.  But, man , have the results been mixed.  You get aliens, faeries, conspiracies, what-have-you.  And some of that is great!  Final Wars is like a party of a movie.  Watch it sometime.

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Disney Holiday Watch: Dashing Through the Snow (2023)




Watched:  11/19/2023
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  First
Director:  Tim Story

First, the name of this movie is terrible and sounds like it was changed by Disney at some point, giving it a nonsensical, generic holiday name.  Dashing Through the Snow (2023) is not what one should name a movie filmed in a part of the American South which rarely sees snow.  And while a few flakes fall in the movie, it feels tacked on when it happens, and, of course, there is no accumulation.  Ergo: while dashing absolutely happens, no dashing occurs in or through the snow.

This is your standard family movie about a parent who does not believe in Santa, has a child who does, and, of course, Santa is real and takes them on an adventure where Dad learns to believe in Santa, Christmas, family, etc...  via shenanigans.  That this is a predictable formula feels weird, but here we are.

But that doesn't mean any movie is *bad*, it just means we have a framework, and that means it's about execution.  Written and directed by Tim Story, one of the workingest directors in Hollywood, Dashing Through the Snow brings the formula to Atlanta and casts Chris 'Ludacris' Bridges as Eddie, our skeptical dad.  He's on the outs from his wife (played by The Marvels' Teyonah Parris* and officially the tipping point for why I chose to watch this movie) who leaves his daughter with Eddie - a busy, work-aholic dad who is a mental health crisis counselor who takes the calls from the cops when someone might jump.

Friday, November 10, 2023

Marvel Watch: The Marvels (2023)




Watched:  11/09/2023
Format:  Alamo Drafthouse
Viewing:  First
Director:  Nia DaCosta

Marvel has been having some issues, of late, with quality and maintaining a fanbase.  I'm not sure why having a fanbase for sci-fi/ fantasy stuff means eventually that the absolute worst people on Earth feel like their opinions should dictate what the rest of the planet sees and what constitutes a "good" Marvel, Star Wars or whatever movie.  But I suppose it's the same reason that people think they get to tell other people they're the only *real* Americans.

I don't want to define the film Captain Marvel or TV show Ms. Marvel by the audience that manages to mix misogyny and racism into rocket fuel for social media, but I will say - in the event of this year's strike by SAG-AFTRA, it's been tough to get much in the way of promotion out there for The Marvels other than dropping trailers, and that's left a gap in the conversation those folks have filled.  It's more likely we'll see the occasional hit-piece by a major industry publication looking for clicks than Disney doing anything worthwhile to actually promote the film on their own.  We coulda really used the lead cast hitting Hot Ones and Good Morning America.

Look, I agree:  Marvel has put out too much content since Endgame, and that's had a deleterious effect on the overall quality of the material.  Even I have been asking "will this be necessary?" as I hear about each new Marvel thing still in the pipeline.  And sometimes you're watching, say, Loki Season 2, and you're thinking "I literally do not care what happens here" because something like "oh noes, the timelines will all collapse" is both meaningless, up it's own ass of the story being about itself, and insanely old hat to us aging comic nerds who've seen timelines and multiverses collapse and expand over and over for our *entire lives*.  And, yes, Superman will still get printed every month.

Movie superheroes still have to have an antagonist, and they still have to wind up in a big crescendo of a finale, but we've seen this dozens of times in the past fifteen years.  You can polish it, put a new coat of paint on it, but eventually it's someone in a slugfest with their evil opposite who has the advantage on paper (but not the heart of a hero).

So what you have left is what you can do with characters.

And that brings us to The Marvels (2023), Marvel Studios' latest offering.  

The movie has mediocre reviews and is tracking to open badly.  I haven't read the reviews, because (a) I already had tickets and was going, and (b) I kinda wanted to write this before I saw what Chris Spectacles of the Akron Observer thought of the film.*  And I didn't want this review to be me addressing the concerns of reviewers.  

I saw it in a 2/3rds full theater on opening night, and with not a child in sight.  I will say the following up top:  

First - there's no post-post-credits sequence to wait for.  Go home after the first couple of them.  This is not a trick.

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

D&D Watch: Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (2023)

I don't know who that @#$%ing dragon is, because he's not in the movie




Watched:  11/07/2023
Format:  Amazon
Viewing:  First
Director(s):  John Francis Daley & Jonathan Goldstein

Ok.  So.

Back when I was probably too young to be playing, my brother picked up the basic boxed set of Dungeons and Dragons rules in the fall of 1982.  From probably 1982 to around 1987 or so, we played the game regularly, making our way swiftly to Advanced D&D and the much more fun rule books and catalogs of monsters, spells, what-have-you that comprised D&D in the 1980's.  

We didn't so much quit playing Dungeons and Dragons as move on to other games.  Our interest in the fantasy world and complex rule systems of that game depleting as we found sci-fi games, games based on popular comic books, movies, etc...  

I could not tell you when I last played D&D itself, but I assume probably 7th grade.  And, I don't think I've touched a tabletop RPG since college.  I don't have a problem with them, but we all just sort of stopped making time for them.  Clearly I am into dork stuff that often shares retail space with RPG materials, so it's not that.  I just don't hang with people who game, I guess.

There's a lot of water under the bridge with Dungeons and Dragons itself, which has been sold and resold as a property, and now belongs to an offshoot of Hasbro.  I won't get into the history of D&D here, or why everything is stupidly complicated, but we'll just leave it at: people are complex and companies often make bad decisions.

But a curious thing happened.  

Saturday, October 28, 2023

HalloWatch: X (2022)




Watched:  10/27/2023
Format:  Paramount+
Viewing:  First
Director:  Ti West

A xerox of a xerox of movies you've seen before, the greatest sin of X, the 2022 horror smash, is that it's fundamentally boring.  

Look, I don't make the movies, I just watch them, and when you're drawing obvious comparisons to your own movie, in the movie, and you choose to draw the audience's attention to Psycho (which I happened to have just watched), you're soft-breaking the cardinal movie rule of not showing a better movie during your own movie.  But, yes, the movie is a slow build for literally the first hour of people making a porn film in a rustic cabin on some farmer's property in the middle of East Texas nowhere, with some light hints that something is up with the elderly owners of the farm/ ranch-land where the filming is taking place.

The problem with this, imho, is that Writer/ Director Ti West is under the impression that by borrowing Psycho's slow build and pivot, which he calls out, he's doing the same thing.  But we're 62 years on, we've all seen a lot of movies, and at this point I was looking at my watch instead of the movie when we don't get our first kill til 58 minutes into a 105 minute film.  I don't know how to tell Ti West - my man, Hitch did this 30 years into perfecting tension in movies.  This ain't that.

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Hallo-Watch: No One Will Save You (2023)




Watched:  10/10/2023
Format:  Hulu
Viewing:  First
Director:  Brian Duffield

There's a type of movie that I call a Roller Coaster film.  I don't think this is a common term, I think I made it up, but who knows?  Maybe I stole it from somewhere and forgot.  I use the term to refer to movies that offer a visceral experience on a first viewing, often something you likely can't repeat on a second viewing.

These movies rely on a lot of sheer thrill and pacing more than plotting or character exploration.  They'll insert some tidbits and whatnot as the movie progresses so it's got something of a story, but you're there for the experience, not to learn a little moral homily.  One of my favorites of this type of film was seeing Gravity in 3D.  That was awesome on the big screen with stuff flying everywhere, and I'll never watch it again as I'll never see it in 3D again.  I'd also point to the Crank movies as rocket rides.  There's a lot of examples, and I'm sure you can point to a few.

No One Will Save You (2023) is absolutely a Roller Coaster movie, but I might rewatch it some time.

Saturday, October 7, 2023

Hallo-Watch: Disney's Haunted Mansion (2023)





Watched:  10/05/2023
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  First
Director:  Justin Simien


So, like many-a-product of the second half of the 20th century, I have a fondness for the Disney Parks and, especially, The Haunted Mansion ride.  I can easily recall my first time on the thing, sometime around 4th grade, and riding in a "doombuggy" with The Admiral and having a grand old time (core memory, as the kids say).  Since, I've been to Disneyland and The Magic Kingdom, and have no preference for which is which.  Both have excellent Haunted Mansion rides.  So, yeah, I'm predisposed on this IP.

Following the crazy success of making a story and movie around the ride and putting it in theaters with Pirates of the Caribbean, Disney tried to do this again a few ways.  Though, I have no idea how there is not a Space Mountain movie  I mean, come on.  But they did previously try a different Haunted Mansion movie starring no less than Eddie Murphy, and that movie did - fine at the box office.  It is exactly what you think a 2003 attempt at such a thing might be.  I think.  At least the first fifteen minutes is utterly predictable, unfunny and I didn't make it further than those first fifteen minutes before giving up.  But this post isn't about that movie.

There's also a 2021 Disney+ direct Muppets Haunted Mansion thing, which is cute and understands the ride and Halloween, plus Muppet humor.  And it has Taraji P. Henson, so it has my vote.  

Hope for box office springs eternal, and while Disney only made, like, $180 million on the first movie, meaning it wasn't the massive, unbelievable success of Johnny Depp playing Keith Richards in a hat, they decided to go again for 2023.  And, friends, Disney's Haunted Mansion (2023) absolutely tanked.  It made only $114 million on a budget much higher that that.  And that difference you're noticing between the 2003 and 2023 box office does not account for inflation.  So, yeah.

Sunday, September 17, 2023

TLDR Watch: Babylon (2022)




Watched:  09/15/2023
Format: Prime
Viewing:  First
Director:  Damien Chazelle

So...  

I was aware of several things going into Babylon (2022).  

It's an original story (of sorts) about the late Silent Era of the film industry and beyond.  It's clearly referencing Kenneth Anger's infamous, and not super-accurate, book, Hollywood Babylon, which I have not read, but I did listen to a whole season of You Must Remember this, which covered the subject matter and sought to split fact from legend.

I won't get into the book here, but it's a recounting of possibly/ maybe/ probably-not/ absolutely-not true stories from the era during which the film industry moved to Los Angeles from the East Coast and went kinda bonkers.  Sex, death, drugs, mayhem, etc... followed.  

If you have a casual interest in Hollywood history, even without specific stories to recall, you could be well aware of this era, of meteoric rises and cataclysmic falls of actors and behind-the-camera talent.  It makes today's tabloid stuff look like middle-school melodrama.  And, because Hollywood loves a good story, especially one that sounds true, they've been passed down, year after year until Anger codified them in his book.  And now we have a nice little package that I remember hearing bits and pieces of in college and whatnot.

Going into the movie, I was also aware that the movie was at least three hours.  It was all fictional but referenced the real world of Hollywood from about 1927-1935 or so, and that no one seemed to like the movie all that much.   It had a $110+ million budget, and did poorly at the box office.

Having had now seen the movie, it's a three hour movie that is beautifully shot and acted.  The design is... interesting.  

But it feels so weirdly derivative, the story is delivered by bullet point, and it seems so surprised by things that seem obvious on their face here in the 2020's, that by the film's end - 3 hours later, I have no clue what Chazelle was trying to say or why he wanted to say it.  

If this movie is for a broad audience, it feels too specific in what it's covering while filling in no details to give them the full picture of the era while also taking a very, very long time to get to the point with his storylines, while still not making you ever care about the characters.  

If this movie is for film history buffs, someone with my cursory knowledge is clearly going to wind up with so many questions, their hand will involuntarily raise repeatedly throughout the film.